The Gospel of Matthew: Adultery.

27 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28 But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” (Matthew 5:27–28 ESV)

In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus continued to quote from the Old Testament (Exodus 20:14; Deuteronomy 5:14). He amplified the extent of obedience God required. In today’s text, Jesus addressed the subject of adultery.

“Christ’s exposition of the seventh commandment in Matthew 5:27–30 indicates how the biblical teaching on adultery goes contrary to much of what our society wants to tell us about sex. Most people, at least in our culture, are unlikely to have consummated an extramarital affair. Single people are not even capable of committing adultery in the narrow sense of an affair unless they are sleeping with a married person. However, few, if any, could ever say that they have never looked at another person with lust in their hearts. We live in a pornographic society that relishes and encourages all manner of illicit sexual activity,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Adultery is not only the breaking of the marriage vows by engaging in sexual behavior with another individual other than one’s spouse. Adultery involves lustful, or desirous, thoughts, emotions and willful intent. The issue is not only bodily behavior but also the condition of the soul. The phrase lustful intent (Gk. pros to epithymēsai autēn) literally means “for the purpose of lusting for her.” 

“Once again the Pharisees’ teaching was concerned only with the outward act. They said the only way one could commit adultery was through an act of sexual union. They correctly quoted the commandment, but they missed its point. Adultery begins within one’s heart (looking lustfully) and follows in the act. The lustful desire, in the heart, as wrong as the act, indicates that one is not rightly related to God,” explains biblical commentator.  

Adultery involves any sexual activity, actual or voyeuristic, that violates God’s standard, which is a heterosexual, monogamous relationship between a binary male and female. Isn’t it interesting that such qualifications need to be made in the current secular and religious culture?

“Adultery was considered an extremely serious offense (cf. Ex. 20:14) because, in addition to violating another person, it broke the marriage covenant (Mal. 2:14) that was a reflection of the relationship between God and his people,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

“Lust begins in the heart, the center of a person’s identity and will. It is not enough to maintain physical purity alone; one must also guard against engaging mentally in an act of unfaithfulness. Jesus is not adding to OT law but correctly interpreting it, for even in the Ten Commandments God had required purity of heart (Ex. 20:17; cf. 1 Sam. 16:7Ps. 19:14; 24:4).”  

As it is with anything God has created, including the male and female species, the fallen world seeks to remove itself from the Lord’s authority and establish its own. Any rejection by anyone to anything the sinful, woke culture advocates is met with swift and strong rebuke; this includes eventual censure of such objections. This is particularly evident in the area of sexuality.

“Lust is not sexual desire in and of itself, for sexual desire is part of God’s good creation and the consummation of it is entirely lawful within marriage (Gen. 2:23–24). Moreover, lust is not the mere recognition of physical attractiveness. The Lord made us to recognize beauty, and Scripture itself speaks, without breaking God’s law, of the beauty and handsomeness of some of the people it describes (Gen. 29:171 Sam. 16:12; 25:3). Instead, lust may be defined as the desire to engage in or enjoy illicit sexual activity. Given this definition, a whole host of things qualify as lust, including the viewing of pornography, adulterous fantasies, homosexual behavior, incest, sexual abuse, rape, bestiality, and other perversions. In prohibiting lust, our Creator prohibits all of these things,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

May the Lord give each of us a spirit of repentance and faith in living for Him. This is especially so in the area of human sexuality that is obedient to God’s Word.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Anger. Part Three.

25 Come to terms quickly with your accuser while you are going with him to court, lest your accuser hand you over to the judge, and the judge to the guard, and you be put in prison. 26 Truly, I say to you, you will never get out until you have paid the last penny.” (Matthew 5:25–26 ESV)

Jesus taught that it is not only sufficient to confess anger as sin, but also to make things right with an offended brother or sister in Christ. This involves not only our discipline within the believing community but also in the greater societal community. How quickly must reconciliation be done by the believer with their accuser?

“While Matthew 5:24-25 deals with the reconciliation of an offended brother, vv.25-26 appear to address the problem of conflict in larger society; in this case, legal conflict. Christians are to work for reconciliation in all areas of life,” states Dr. R. C. Sproul.   

Jesus taught the believer was to quickly come to terms with an accuser. The phrase come to terms (εἰμί εὐνοέω; eimi eumoeo) means to settle the case. It is an emphatic command involving not only the individual’s attitude but also behavior. In other words, the entire person. A believer in Christ cannot achieve reconciliation if they are insincere. If they are sincere, then they will do all they can to achieve reconciliation. See Romans 12:9-21.

“The importance of reconciliation is illustrated by the example of the person who is about to be judged in court. Not to be reconciled will have disastrous consequences on a human level but much more so if one is not reconciled to God,”  explains Dr. John MacArthur.

“Such wrongful attitudes should be dealt with and made right. Reconciliation between brothers must be accomplished whether the “innocent” (5:23–24) or the “offending” (vv. 25–26) brother takes the first step. Without such reconciliation, gifts presented at the altar mean nothing: Even on the way to a court trial a defendant should seek to clear up any such problem. Otherwise the Sanhedrin, the Jewish court of 70 members, would send him to prison and he would be penniless,” explains commentator Louis A. Barbieri.

Have you ever been in conflict with someone? Perhaps, it may have been with a company that you hired, or your insurance company did, in order to correct a problem, or damage, to your automobile or house. The result may have been litigation between the insurance company and the organization they hired on your behalf; and you are caught in the middle of the situation.  

As much as it depends on you personally, be at peace with all people (Romans 12:18). Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Anger. Part Two.

23 So if you are offering your gift at the altar and there remember that your brother has something against you, 24 leave your gift there before the altar and go. First be reconciled to your brother, and then come and offer your gift” Matthew 5:23–24 ESV)

Jesus taught that it is not only sufficient to confess anger as sin, but also to make things right with an offended brother or sister in Christ. This involves not only our discipline within the believing community but also in the greater societal community. Today’s text addresses the former.

When we enter into the place for corporate worship, and remember that there is an unreconciled issue with another believer in Christ, then we need to immediately resolve to reconcile with that individual. Our worship will not honor and glorify God if we fail to correct the sinful situation. Reconciliation in this situation brings honor and glory to God. It becomes an example of worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24).

“Reconciliation with the person who has something against you must take precedence even over offering one’s gift in worship. The one who initiates the reconciliation here is the one who has wronged the other person,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

It should be noted that today’s text does not say if you have something against another brother in Christ, but rather if another believer in Christ has an issue with you. Individuals are quick to recognize when someone offends them, but slow to acknowledge when they offend others. We need to do what is necessary.

However, it must be admitted that there are people who become offended whenever someone does something in which they disagree or find fault. It may be eating red meat, wearing shorts, listening to contemporary Christian music, playing nine holes of golf on Sunday, or not only watching television but even having one in your home. These individuals always have an opinion, and in their view their opinion is always correct.

“Judaism stressed reconciliation between individuals; God would not accept an outward offering if one had oppressed or mistreated one’s neighbor and did not make it right. In the Old Testament God accepted only sacrifices offered with a pure heart toward him and one’s neighbor (Gen 4:4–7; Prov. 15:8; Is 1:10–15; Jer. 6:20; Amos 5:21–24),” explains commentator Craig Keener.

There will always be self-appointed legalists who believe it is there mission and ministry to point out the faults of others. Discernment from the Lord is needful in such situations and with such individuals. Jesus encountered them and so will we. Let us resolve not to be one.

I encourage y0u to read Romans 12:9-21. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Anger. Part One.

21 “You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22 But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brother will be liable to judgment; whoever insults his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hell of fire.” (Matthew 5:21–22 ESV)

Beginning with today’s text, Jesus begins an extended treatise involving six practical examples of godly living. If an individual is truly converted by grace alone, through faith alone in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone, the following scenarios provide ample ways to prove such a conversion exists. True conversion results in true obedience.

There is a recurring refrain that Jesus used. It was, ““You have heard that it was said”…” But I say to you” (vs. 21, 27, 31, 33, 38, 45). Jesus was not altering the authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. Rather, He was invoking His own authoritative clarification and application of the biblical commands. In contrast to the rabbinical teachings, Jesus claimed His own divine authority.

The first example involved the subject of murder (Ex. 20:13). Murder (φονεύω; phoneuo) in this context is a future, active indicative verb. It means to kill someone with premeditation of intent and malice ((Matt. 5:21; 19:18; 23:31, 35; Mark 10:19; Luke 18:20; Rom. 13:9; James 2:11; 4:2; 5:6). Whoever does such an act is liable for judgment. Murder then, as now, was/is a capital offense or crime.

However, Jesus went beyond the act and addressed the attitude behind such violent behavior. He explained that anger and insulting language towards another individual created in God’s image is just as wrong. Jesus taught that the angry attitude was as bad as the act.

Jesus’ warning extended to even insulting language.” Furthermore, becoming angry and assuming a position of superiority over another by calling him a derogatory name (such as the Aram. Raca or You fool!) demonstrates sinfulness of the heart. A person with such a sinful heart obviously is a sinner and therefore is headed for the fire of hell (“hell” is lit., “Gehenna”; cf. Matt. 5:29–30; 10:28; 18:9; 23:15, 33; 7 of the 11 references to Gehenna are in Matt.). “Gehenna” means valley of Hinnom, the valley south of Jerusalem where a continually burning fire consumed the city refuse. This became an apt name for the eternal punishment of the wicked,” explains Dr. John Walvoord.

Have you ever been angry with someone? Have you ever insulted anyone? I’m sure we can recall when people have been angry and insulted us. However, the questions posed are about our anger and sinful language. Confess these sins in light of the probing and convicting truth of Scripture.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: An Inner Obedience of the Soul; Revisited.

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19–20 ESV)

In light of yesterday’s blog, I sensed the need for further clarification regarding Jesus’ statement that the believer’s righteousness must exceed that of religious leaders. This would include the scribes and Pharisees in Jesus’ day and pastors, missionaries and seminary professors in our own.

The following are some insightful quotes I discovered from several qualified biblical scholars; both past and present. I pray that you will find them edifying and beneficial.

“As the sermon progresses, we realize that Jesus did not expect His disciples to surpass the scribes and Pharisees at their own game; rather, He redefined righteousness. The scribes and Pharisees sought to codify righteousness, prescribing proper behavior in minute detail for every foreseeable situation,” explains commentator Daniel M Doriani. “Jesus protested this view of righteousness, which was legalistic. He addressed the heart, the mind, and the motives of obedience.”

“Whoever shall break, Christ here speaks expressly, of the commandments of life, or the ten words, which all the children of God ought to take as the rule of their life, He therefore declares that they are false and deceitful teachers. They do not restrain their disciples within obedience to the law. They are unworthy to occupy a place in the Church. They weaken, in the slightest degree, the authority of the law; and, on the other hand, that they are honest and faithful ministers of God, who recommended, both by word and by example, the keeping of the law,” explains John Calvin.

“Neither Jesus nor Paul had a problem with the law. Paul wrote that his gospel of grace upholds and establishes the law (Rom. 3:31)—even God’s laws in their negative form, since the “grace of God . . . teaches us to say ‘No’” (Titus 2:11–12 NIV). And remember Jesus’ words in Matthew 5:17–19? Our attitude to the law is a litmus test of our relationship to the kingdom of God,” pastor and teacher Dr. Sinclair Fergusson expounds.  

“So what is the problem? The real problem is that we do not understand grace. If we did, we would also realize why John Newton, author of “Amazing Grace,” could write, “Ignorance of the nature and design of the law is at the bottom of most religious mistakes.” There is a deep issue here. In Scripture, the person who understands grace loves law,” concludes Dr. Ferguson.

May each of us today who identify ourselves as believers in Christ echo the words of the psalmist who wrote, “Oh how I love your law! It is my meditation all the day.” (Psalm 119:97 (ESV)

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: An Inner Obedience of the Soul.

19 Therefore whoever relaxes one of the least of these commandments and teaches others to do the same will be called least in the kingdom of heaven, but whoever does them and teaches them will be called great in the kingdom of heaven. 20 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:19–20 ESV)

The examination of Jesus Christ’s Sermon on the Mount continues with today’s text. Upon Jesus’ declaration that He came to fulfill Old Testament Scripture and not abolish it, He then transitioned to a warning to anyone who would consider doing the opposite; abolishing the Old Testament instead of obeying it.

The word least (ἐλάχιστος; elachistos) means the trivial or the insignificant. It refers to the unimportant. Jesus stated that anyone who would disobey or abolish the least significant of the Old Testament commandments would by comparison be called least in the kingdom of heaven. This warning included those who would teach others to do likewise. This was a statement directed to the Jewish religious leaders; the Pharisees. Contrastingly, anyone who would obey the Old Testament, and teach others to do the same, would be called great (μέγας; megas) or important in the kingdom of heaven.

“These commandments refers to all the commands in the OT (although many will be applied differently once their purpose has been “fulfilled” in Christ; v. 17). The rabbis recognized a distinction between “light” commandments (such as tithing garden produce) and “weighty” commandments (such as those concerning idolatry, murder, etc.). Jesus demands a commitment to both the least and the greatest commandments yet condemns those who confuse the two (cf. 23:23–24). The entire OT is the expression of God’s will but is now to be taught according to Jesus’ interpretation of its intent and meaning,” explains one commentator.

Jesus then concluded that unless an individual’s righteousness was greater than the scribes and Pharisees, there was no hope to even enter the kingdom of heaven. Jesus was calling His disciples, then and now, to a different quality of righteousness. This was a righteousness not centered on just outward conformity to the Law of God, but also rooted to inner purity; an inner obedience of the soul.

“They (the scribes and Pharisees) took pride in outward conformity to many extra-biblical regulations but still had impure hearts (see 23:5, 23, 27–28). But kingdom righteousness works from the inside out because it first produces changed hearts and new motivations (Rom. 6:172 Cor. 5:17Gal. 5:22–23Phil. 2:12Heb. 8:10), so that the actual conduct of Jesus’ followers does in fact “[exceed] the righteousness of the scribes and Pharisees.”

“Jesus did not criticize the Pharisees for their strict observance of the Law but rather for their emphasis on outward conformity to it without a proper inner attitude,” states Dr. R.C. Sproul.

What about you? Is your righteousness simply an outward conformity to God’s Word when people are observing you in public? Or is it also a heartfelt and inner obedience to God even when you are alone? May the Holy Spirit reveal to each of us an honest evaluation.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Gospel of Matthew: Fulfillment.

“Do not think that I have come to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I have not come to abolish them but to fulfill them. For truly, I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not an iota, not a dot, will pass from the Law until all is accomplished.” (Matthew 5:17-18 ESV)

There are those who preach, teach and believe that the Old Testament is not applicable to believers in Christ today. In other words, many are convicted that all that matters is to be a student of the New Testament. They say the Old Testament is not important.

This is not a new heresy. In church history it was called Marcionism.  Marcionism is the belief that the Old Testament is not authoritative in matters of Christian doctrine and morals, Marcion, the son of a bishop from the first century, was one of the most successful heretics in the early church. He grew in prominence for preaching a version of the faith that distanced itself from the Old Testament.

Jesus Christ would not have agreed with Marcion. In today’s text, Jesus affirmed that He did not come to abolish the Old Testament Law or the Prophets. Jesus neither gave a new law or modified the old one. Rather, Jesus explained and fulfilled the moral significance of the Mosaic Law and the Prophets; the entirety of the Old Testament.

To abolish (καταλύω; katalyō) means to infinitely destroy and to demolish. In this context, it refers to the destruction of the Old Testament Scriptures. Jesus refuted the very notion that is what He had come to earth to accomplish.

Jesus stated that not even the most minute punctuation in the Hebrew language, an iota or a dot, would pass from the Law until all the Old Testament revealed would be fulfilled.

“It is necessary to appreciate the abiding truthfulness of the law of Moses because Jesus is the fulfillment of this law (5:17; see Rom. 10:4). Jesus does not nullify it, but comes so that everything in it will be accomplished (Matt. 5:18). He does this through His entire representative obedience. Thus, though the teaching of Jesus is challenging to the core, Jesus did not come to encumber us with impossibly heavy burdens (11:28–30; see 23:4). Only Jesus, the last Adam and perfect Son of God, is able to fulfill God’s law perfectly (3:15) and therefore is able to pour out His blood for the forgiveness of sins (26:28; see 1:21; 20:28),” explains commentator Brandon Crowe.

“This does not mean Christians should have no concern to follow God’s law. Christ frees us to obey it. Jesus’ disciples are called to a genuine love of God and neighbor (22:37–40; see 7:21). This is a lofty calling, but Jesus Himself embodied it throughout His life. Through His obedience, Jesus releases us from the burden of trying to earn our salvation. We are to be merciful because of the mercy Jesus has shown to us (5:7; 9:13; 12:7; 23:23; see Hos. 6:6Matt. 18:33). In sum, the law of God is an abiding witness to the person and work of Christ, and through Him we are able to call this law our delight,” concludes Crowe.

The Old Testament is completely trustworthy. It is the Word of God.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: You are the Light of the World.

14 “You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hidden. 15 Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a basket, but on a stand, and it gives light to all in the house. 16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven. (Matthew 5:14-16 ESV)

What is the Christian’s identity? In other words, what is the believer’s identity in Christ? Thus far, Jesus described believers in Christ as the salt of the earth (Matt. 5:13). However, that is not where the direct comparison concludes. Believers in Christ are also the light of the world.

The word light (φῶς; phos) refers particularly to the light of the sun. It may also refer to the heavenly bodies (James 1:17). Light is indispensable to life. Light is associated with life (cf. John 1:4), and as universal beneficence, with God and the Messiah (cf. John 1:8, 8:12), &c. (cf. John 12:36, Eph. 5:8): τὸ φῶς, the (bright) fire (Mark 14:54, Luke. 22:56).

“The second metaphor describes believers as light in this world. I have a common first-century lamp that was used in Jewish households to provide light in their homes. The lamp is small and unassuming. One day, I put a small amount of oil in the lamp with a wick, turned off the lights, and lit the wick to experience how people in the first century, without the benefit of modern electricity, lit their homes when it was dark. This lamp, though small, enabled me to see throughout the entire room. Jesus expresses how inappropriate it would be in a dark place to hide a lamp under a bowl. The intention of light is to provide a way for people to see where they are going (John 11:9–10). This is precisely what Jesus is after in calling believers “light”: they show people the way to salvation in a dark world,” explains Pastor Christopher J. Gordon.

Believers in Christ are to display the light of God’s Gospel in an increasingly dark world. There cannot be any compromise. The Apostle John stated, This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin.” (I John 1:5-7 ESV)

“A godly life gives convincing testimony of the saving power of God. That brings him glory. Cf. 1 Pet. 2:12,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

We live in a dark and evil world. Let us brightly shine the light of the Gospel.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: You are the Salt of the Earth.

“You are the salt of the earth, but if salt has lost its taste, how shall its saltiness be restored? It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet.” (Matthew 5:13 ESV)

What is the Christian’s identity? In other words, what is the believer’s identity in Christ?

 “Think of the struggle we are witnessing in our culture over the question of identity. Today, people are on an endless quest of finding an identity in those things that they believe will make them happy. The culture tells people to turn inward and follow the desires of the heart to define one’s identity. And once people believe they have found their true identity, notice how passionate they are to make it known,” explains Pastor Christopher J. Gordon.

Jesus stated that His disciples, then and now, are the salt of the earth. That is our identity in Christ. Rather than something to pursue, the believer is presently compared to the characteristics and properties of salt. Salt is who we are. What did Jesus mean by this metaphor?

“Salt in the ancient world was used to prevent the decay of foods and flavor them for better taste. People commonly knew that gypsum and other minerals would dilute the potency of salt and make it useless in the preservation of foods. Jesus used this familiar phenomenon with the added concern that if the salt loses its taste, it is “no longer good for anything except to be thrown out and trampled under people’s feet” (Matt. 5:13). Believers are like salt in this world. Their distinctive character, through good works, preserves and flavors this world to prevent its decay,” states Gordon.

It is an unfortunate characteristic of the contemporary church that its leaders seek to make it as compatible as possible to the current culture. Whatever the fallen world is selling, so to speak, there are those in church leadership who are quick to buy; and who want their congregations to do likewise.

“Matthew 5:13. Ye are the salt of the earth. What belongs to doctrine is applied to the persons to whom the administration of it has been committed. When Christ calls the apostles the salt of the earth, he means, that it is their office to salt the earth: because men have nothing in them but what is tasteless, till they have been seasoned with the salt of heavenly doctrine. After having reminded them to what they are called, he pronounces against them a heavy and dreadful judgment, if they do not fulfill their duty. The doctrine, which has been entrusted to them, is shown to be so closely connected with a good conscience and a devout and upright life, that the corruption, which might be tolerated in others, would in them be detestable and monstrous,” states John Calvin.

What was true for the apostles is true for every believer in Christ. All who are in Christ are the salt of the earth. May our saltiness be seen by all today; and always.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Blessed when Reviled and Persecuted.  

11 “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. 12 Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.” (Matthew 5:11–12 ESV)

The final Beatitude that Jesus spoke was specifically directed to His disciples; then and now. Rather than generic principles for all, today’s text is pointedly applicable to those who follow Jesus in this fallen world.

“Just as Jesus experienced opposition and persecution, his disciples can expect the same. Their reward may not come on earth, but it surely will be theirs in heaven. Throughout history, beginning with Cain’s murder of Abel (Gen. 4:8; cf. 1 John 3:12), there have been those who oppose God’s people,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.  

To revile (ὀνειδίζω; oneidizo) is to be insulted for Christ. To persecute (διώκω; dioko) means to encounter harassment because of faith in Christ. The phrase utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account refers to when people say wicked and evil lies about you as a believer in Christ.

Why would, and should, a believer in Christ find joy in such circumstances? It is because of the accompanying promise. Jesus provided the basis for the believer’s encouragement in the midst of the storms of spiritual persecution. He said, “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

“The suffering that is blessed here is suffering for righteousness’ sake—being persecuted for doing the will of our Master. To embrace the promise of this beatitude, the persecution must be for doing His righteous will (1 Peter 3:8–17),” explains commentator Michael Glodo.

“When we are persecuted for righteousness’ sake and wonder if it is worth it, we can remain resolute that the kingdom of heaven is ours. Second, it is a source of joy because in it we are identified with our Lord (Matt. 10:25Acts 5:41). Third, it is a signpost guiding us along the path of Jesus. The way of the cross is not an elective in the school of Christ (Matt. 10:24–25). There is no other path to life except the cruciform way. Fourth, it invites us to take inventory when we aren’t experiencing persecution. All who live a godly life will be persecuted (2 Tim. 2:12). We are to be wary of ourselves when the world has only good to say about us (Luke 6:26). Absence of persecution may be because we are fitting in too well with the world. As Dietrich Bonhoeffer put it, it may mean that we have exchanged discipleship for citizenship,” concludes Glodo.  

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Persecuted for Righteousness Sake. Part 2.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV)

The Scriptures have much to say regarding the persecution of believers in Christ. There is no doubt that when one serves the Lord Jesus, opposition will occur.

The word persecuted (διώκω; dioko) is a present passive particple. This means the believer in Christ is receiving the action from another. To persecute means to harass and to pursue to oppress. However, the persecution should only be because the believer is righteously following and identifying with the Lord Jesus Christ. I Peter 4:15-16 says, 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name.”  

When persecution happens, and it will, the Lord assures us that we belong to the kingdom of heaven. To encounter persecution for Christ is one of the marks of true citizenship in God’s kingdom.

“Many of the Old Testament prophets suffered in bringing God’s word to Israel (e.g., Jer 26:11); Jewish tradition amplified the number of prophetic martyrs further and made it a major emphasis. The burden of proof was always on the prophet who spoke what people wanted to hear (Jer. 28:8–9; cf. 6:14; 8:10–11; 23:17),” explains commentator Craig S. Keener.

“Most Jewish people did not believe that prophets still existed in the Old Testament sense, so Jesus’ comparing his followers to the prophets indicated that they would have an extraordinary mission. To suffer for God was meritorious (Ps 44:22; 69:7), and Judaism highly honored martyrs for God’s law; yet no other rabbi called disciples to die for his own teachings or name.”

“People possessing these qualities (the Beatitudes) would naturally stand out in the crowd and would not be understood by others. Thus they would be persecuted; others would speak evil of them (v. 11). However, Jesus’ words encouraged His followers, for they would be walking in the train of the prophets, who also were misunderstood and persecuted (v. 12; cf. 1 Kings 19:1–4; 22:8; Jer. 26:8–11; 37:11–16; 38:1–6; Dan. 3; 6; Amos 7:10–13),” states commentator Louis Barbieri.

Are you standing out in the crowd at work, home or at school? Do people know that you are a dedicated believer in Christ? If you are, they will.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Persecuted for Righteousness Sake.

10 “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.” (Matthew 5:10 ESV)

The Scriptures have much to say regarding the persecution of believers in Christ. There is no doubt that when one serves the Lord Jesus, opposition will occur. Take note of the following biblical references.

18 “If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you. 19 If you were of the world, the world would love you as its own; but because you are not of the world, but I chose you out of the world, therefore the world hates you. 20 Remember the word that I said to you: ‘A servant is not greater than his master.’ If they persecuted me, they will also persecute you. If they kept my word, they will also keep yours. 21 But all these things they will do to you on account of my name, because they do not know him who sent me. 22 If I had not come and spoken to them, they would not have been guilty of sin, but now they have no excuse for their sin. 23 Whoever hates me hates my Father also. 24 If I had not done among them the works that no one else did, they would not be guilty of sin, but now they have seen and hated both me and my Father. 25 But the word that is written in their Law must be fulfilled: ‘They hated me without a cause.’ (John 15:18–25 ESV)

31 Jesus answered them, “Do you now believe? 32 Behold, the hour is coming, indeed it has come, when you will be scattered, each to his own home, and will leave me alone. Yet I am not alone, for the Father is with me. 33 I have said these things to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you will have tribulation. But take heart; I have overcome the world.” (John 16:31–33 ESV)

Count it all joy, my brothers, when you meet trials of various kinds, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach, and it will be given him. But let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind. For that person must not suppose that he will receive anything from the Lord; he is a double-minded man, unstable in all his ways.” (James 1:2–8 ESV)

12 Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery trial when it comes upon you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 13 But rejoice insofar as you share Christ’s sufferings, that you may also rejoice and be glad when his glory is revealed. 14 If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you. 15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer or a thief or an evildoer or as a meddler. 16 Yet if anyone suffers as a Christian, let him not be ashamed, but let him glorify God in that name. 17 For it is time for judgment to begin at the household of God; and if it begins with us, what will be the outcome for those who do not obey the gospel of God? 18 And “If the righteous is scarcely saved, what will become of the ungodly and the sinner?” 19 Therefore let those who suffer according to God’s will entrust their souls to a faithful Creator while doing good.” (1 Peter 4:12–19 ESV)

More to come regarding the subject of persecution. Be encouraged in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!  

The Gospel of Matthew: The Peacemakers.

“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.” (Matthew 5:9 ESV)

What does it mean to be a peacemaker? Does this beatitude pertain to politics, business, home, school, social relationships, church, or all of the above? Peacemaking involves all human relationships, regardless of their particular category.

The word peacemaker (εἰρηνοποιός; eirenopioi) means to be one who works for peace. It means to be a reconciler in all relationships; whether they be political vocational, educational, familial, social or ecclesiastical. Peacemaking involves every aspect of the believer’s relational life. There are no exceptions.

Romans 12:9–21 (ESV) has much to say about the discipline of peacemaking. This discipline marks the true believer in Christ.  

Let love be genuine. Abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good. 10 Love one another with brotherly affection. Outdo one another in showing honor. 11 Do not be slothful in zeal, be fervent in spirit, serve the Lord. 12 Rejoice in hope, be patient in tribulation, be constant in prayer. 13 Contribute to the needs of the saints and seek to show hospitality.”

14 Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse them. 15 Rejoice with those who rejoice, weep with those who weep. 16 Live in harmony with one another. Do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly. Never be wise in your own sight. 17 Repay no one evil for evil, but give thought to do what is honorable in the sight of all. 18 If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all. 19 Beloved, never avenge yourselves, but leave it to the wrath of God, for it is written, “Vengeance is mine, I will repay, says the Lord.” 20 To the contrary, “if your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink; for by so doing you will heap burning coals on his head.” 21 Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.”

The key verse in this extended text is Romans 12:18: “If possible, so far as it depends on you, live peaceably with all.” We may not be able to control another individual’s behavior, but we can control our own; with the assistance of the Holy Spirit.

Peacemaking is also a Fruit of the Spirit. 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.”

Earlier, I wrote that peacemaking is the mark of a true believer in Christ. This is supported by the latter half of today’s text from Matthew 5:9. Peacemakers will be called the sons of God. This is because God is a God of peace. Believers in Christ not only have the peace of God, but also peace from God and peace with God (Romans 5:1-2; Phil. 4:6-7; Isaiah 26:3).

“Conflict among individuals, races, and nations comes from our alienation from God. Jesus is the great peacemaker through His wall-destroying death (Eph.2:14-18). In Matthew 5:44-45, Jesus calls the children of God to make peace, even with their enemies,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

With the Holy Spirit’s invaluable help, let each of us strive to be a peacemaker. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Those Hungry and Thirsty.

“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6 ESV)

In His Sermon on the Mount, Jesus provided a panoramic journey for those who are members of the kingdom of heaven. The passage for sinners began with an awareness of their spiritual poverty, a mourning over their sin, resulting in a sincere and profound humility. Respectively, the spiritually poor become citizens of the kingdom, the mourners are comforted and meek inherit the earth. The first beatitude leads to the second, and the second to third; and so on.

Following spiritual poverty, mourning and meekness comes hungering and thirsting for righteousness. Hungering (πεινάω; peinaō) is a present, active participle referring to an individual believer’s earnest desire and appetite for righteousness. Thirsting (διψάω; dipsaō) is also a present, active participle meaning to desire and crave righteousness. Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη; dikaiosynē) refers to a divine righteousness that is imputed to the sinner by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (Rom. 3:21-26). This is the result of repentance and faith in Christ.  

“This is the opposite of the self-righteousness of the Pharisees. It speaks of those who seek God’s righteousness rather than attempting to establish a righteousness of their own (Rom. 10:3Phil. 3:9). What they seek will fill them, i.e., it will satisfy their hunger and thirst for a right relationship with God,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

The promise God gives that those who hunger and thirst for righteousness will be filled. To be filled (χορτάζω; chortazō) means to be satisfied. This filling is a contentment, a fulfillment and a gratification in Christ that the world does not understand or want. In fact, the world hates individuals who possess this filling from the Lord.

“To hunger for righteousness is to yearn for God’s rule in our lives (Matt. 6:33). It is to have a thirst for God’s Word and for the company of the godly. In Scripture, righteousness has several aspects.

First, there is the personal righteousness, which we just stressed. This hunger leads us to uproot our sin by the power of the Holy Spirit and be-come more like Jesus. This is sanctification,” explains commentator Daniel Doriani.

“But since our quest for righteousness always falls short, we think next of the righteousness of Christ, bestowed when we believe in Him. This is justification. Justification confers legal righteousness, so believers can stand before God the Judge on the last day. Justification wipes away all sin and guilt, whatever our level of sanctification.”

“Third, disciples long for social righteousness, for God’s cleansing of society. Hunger for righteousness leads disciples to promote God’s cause in business, education, politics, and more. Further, we look to the day of Jesus’ return, when He will set creation right, Satan will be overthrown, and God’s righteousness will cover the earth,” concludes Doriani.

Have you encountered this filling from God that completely satisfies your spiritual hunger and thirst? Such filling is found solely in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Repent!

17 From that time Jesus began to preach, saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” (Matthew 4:17 (ESV)

Perhaps you have had discussions with people over the subject of repentance. I have. The dialogue usually centers on whether or not it is necessary for salvation that an individual repents of their sin. What does it mean to repent and did Jesus find it necessary for sinners to repent?

Repentance is literally a change of mind; not about individual plans, intentions, but rather a change in one’s attitude and belief about God. Such repentance accompanies saving faith in Christ (Acts 20:21). The change in one’s attitude and belief system (worldview) evidences itself in a change of behavior. Repentance from sin, and faith alone, in Christ alone, by grace alone results in conversion.

“It is inconsistent and unintelligible to suppose that anyone could believe in Christ yet not repent. Repentance is such an important aspect of conversion that it is often stressed rather than saving faith, as when Christ said that there is joy in heaven among the angels over one sinner who repents (Lk 15:7). The apostles described the conversion of the Gentiles to Christ as God granting them “repentance unto life” (Acts 11:18). Evangelical repentance and faith in Christ are in fact inseparable, though a convert may be aware of one aspect more than another,” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

Today’s text reveals that repentance was a central message in Jesus’ preaching. He said ““Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” Repent (μετανοέω; metanoeo) is a present, active imperative verb. It means to obediently and continually change one’s way of living because one has faith in Christ as Savior and Lord.

“Such penitence is not an isolated act but a disposition of the mind, providing a spur for behavior that accords with God’s declared will. Recognition of daily sins and shortcomings provides the occasion for renewed acts of penitence and for fresh exercises of faith in Christ. One of the deepest and most noteworthy expressions of such penitence is David’s account of his adultery with Bathsheba (Ps 51). Whole churches are, on occasion, called to repent (Rev. 2:5),” states the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

Jesus stated that the sinner must repent because the kingdom of heaven was near. The kingdom of heaven is not only God’s rule and reign in the hearts of disciples, but also His eternal reign of heaven and earth.

“Repentance is not the cause of new birth or regeneration, it is the result or fruit of regeneration. Though repentance begins with regeneration, it is an attitude and action that must be repeated throughout the Christian life. As we continue to sin, we are called upon to repent as we are convicted of our sin by the Holy Spirit,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“When repentance is offered to God in a spirit of true contrition, He promises to forgive us and to restore us to fellowship with Him,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

May we continue to offer a spirit of repentance unto our Lord. Have a blessed day in Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: From Darkness to Light. 

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16 (ESV)

“Scripture often uses light to refer to the knowledge of God and obedience to Him (Ps. 119:105Prov. 4:18). As the light of the world (John 8:12), Jesus gives us true knowledge of our Creator (John 12:44–50) and frees us from sin’s oppression (Rom. 6:17–18), which makes us unable in and of ourselves to serve the Lord.”      — Dr. R.C. Sproul.

While Matthew recorded Jesus’ ministry in Galilee geographically, there was also an underlying, spiritual significance to this occurrence. Matthew described as follows; “the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” The apostle was quoting from an ancient prophecy found in Isaiah 9:1-2.

The northern regions of Zebulun and Naphtali were the first to suffer under the oppression of the Assyrian invasion in 732 B.C. (2 Kings 15:29). The rest of the northern kingdom of Israel would suffer a similar fate in 722 B.C. (2 Kings 17:6-23). Over 27,290 inhabitants of Israel were deported to distant locations. It marked the end of the northern kingdom (I Chron. 5:25-26).

The inhabitants of the Galilean region were believed to be living in darkness and under the shadow of death during Isaiah’s day. This was true for several reasons. First, the area was close to where Gentiles lived. The Jewish inhabitants were susceptible to invasion and attack. Second, the Galileans lived a great distance from the cultural and religious center of Jerusalem in Judea.   

“Isaiah’s prophecy, while writing about the coming of the Messiah, was that a light would dawn in their region. Matthew shows that Jesus is that light. He shines brightly in the land of darkness known then as “Galilee of the Gentiles.” Instead of coming first to the “well lit” region of Judea, Christ comes first to the people living in darkness,” explains one commentator.

Isaiah 9 is often read around Christmas. Though the prophecy was about the peoples of Galilee, it was also true that the incarnation of Jesus Christ brought spiritual light into a world filled likewise with darkness. Of the Messiah, Isaiah 9:6 says, “For to us a child is born, to us a son is given; and the government shall be upon his shoulder, and his name shall be called Wonderful Counselor, Mighty God, Everlasting Father, Prince of Peace.”

“Now we know that the kingdom of Christ is spiritual, and therefore, the light of salvation which it brings, and all the assistance which we derive from it, must correspond to its nature. Hence it follows, that our souls are plunged in the darkness of everlasting death, till He enlightens them by His grace. The prophet’s discourse relates no doubt, to the destruction of the nations, but presents to us, as in a mirror, what is the condition of mankind until they are delivered by the grace of Christ. When those who lay in darkness are said to have seen a great light, a change so sudden and remarkable is intended to enlarge our views of the greatness of salvation,” explains John Calvin.

Has the Lord delivered you from darkness of your sinful existence? Has He brought you into the light of His salvation by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone? I pray that He has. I also pray that He will.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Jesus Begins His Ministry.

12 Now when he heard that John had been arrested, he withdrew into Galilee. 13 And leaving Nazareth he went and lived in Capernaum by the sea, in the territory of Zebulun and Naphtali, 14 so that what was spoken by the prophet Isaiah might be fulfilled: 15 “The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, Galilee of the Gentiles— 16 the people dwelling in darkness have seen a great light, and for those dwelling in the region and shadow of death, on them a light has dawned.” (Matthew 4:12–16 (ESV)

Following John the Baptist’s arrest by Herod Antipas (Matt. 14:1-12; Mark 1:14; Luke 3:18-20) Jesus withdrew into the region of Galilee and began His ministry when He was about thirty years old (Luke 3:23). Matthew recorded that Jesus spent some time in Nazareth (Luke 4:16-30) before He went and lived in Capernaum. Capernaum was located on the northwest side of the Sea of Galilee (Gennesaret) and became the headquarters of much of Jesus’ ministry. Capernaum was located in the region populated by the Jewish tribes Zebulun and Naphtali.

“Capernaum was an important settlement, with a Roman garrison, adopted by Jesus as his own city after his rejection by Nazareth (Matt 9:1). Here he was at home (Mk 2:1) and performed many miracles (Mark 1:34): the healing of the centurion’s servant (Mt 8:5); the healing of Peter’s mother-in-law (Mark 1:31); and the exorcism of the unclean spirit (Mark 1:23; Luke 4:33). Thus highly favored by the ministry of Jesus, there was also a heavy curse imposed on the city because of its unrepentance: “And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You shall be brought down to Hades” (Matt. 11:23, rsv),” explains the Tyndale Bible Dictionary.

Jesus’ departure into the Galilean region was not a coincidence. It was sovereignly directed by God the Father and revealed by the Holy Spirit through the Old Testament prophets (2 Tim. 3:16-17; 2 Peter 1:20-21). Matthew specifically referred to Isaiah 9:1-2; 42:7; Job 3:1-5; Psalm 23:4; and Amos 5:8.

“Upon hearing of John the Baptist’s arrest, Jesus returns to minister in Galilee (Matt. 4:12). It is important to note that this is a “new phase” of ministry, for our Savior does not enter Galilee immediately after His baptism. According to John’s gospel, Jesus has already spent time ministering in Jerusalem and Judea after His baptism (1:29–42). In fact, the ministry of our Lord and His forerunner actually overlap (3:22–24), if only for a brief period,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

“When Jesus comes to Galilee, He settles in a small village on the northwest edge of the Sea of Galilee named Capernaum (Matt. 4:13). Matthew tells us this fulfills biblical prophecy, specifically the words of Isaiah 9:1–2, which the evangelist paraphrases in Matthew 4:15–16. The original setting of Isaiah’s text helps us understand how Christ fulfills this passage. Isaiah predicted that God would use the Assyrian empire as His rod to judge the northern kingdom of Israel (chap. 7–8), and as was foretold, Israel fell and the people were exiled over a period of many decades culminating in 722 b B.C. (2 Kings 15:29; 17:7–23).”

“Scripture often uses light to refer to the knowledge of God and obedience to Him (Ps. 119:105Prov. 4:18). As the light of the world (John 8:12), Jesus gives us true knowledge of our Creator (John 12:44–50) and frees us from sin’s oppression (Rom. 6:17–18), which makes us unable in and of ourselves to serve the Lord,” concludes Dr. Sproul.

Today’s text is another example of God’s sovereign grace. Take time today to thank Him for the graciously you the light of the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Takeaways of Temptation. Part Three.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

What are some takeaways about temptations in the Christian’s life that we can glean from Scripture? There are several principles regarding the subject that can be taken from today’s text.

First, temptations will happen in our lives. We may not know when, how, or by whom they will occur. What we do know is that temptations will occur.

Secondly, God is faithful. For God to be faithful means that He is always trustworthy, dependable, committed and praiseworthy. Not only is God faithful when life is good, but the context of today’s text indicates that He is also faithful when His children face temptations from the world, their sinful nature (flesh) and the devil.

The Lord will not only not allow His children to be tempted beyond their ability to resist, He will also provide a way of escape. Once again, the sovereignty of God is clearly taught in the text. He is in sovereign control of all that happens in our lives. The word escape (ἔκβασις; ekbasis) refers to the means for a getaway. In other words, a way out of the circumstances and the situation.

Why does God provide the way for an escape for believers in Christ when they are tempted? It is so we “may be able to endure it.” To be able (δύναμαι; dynamai) is best defined by the word “can.” God gives us the capability to endure. To endure (ὑποφέρω; hypophero) means to bear up under and stand up under pressure (1Co 10:13; 2 Tim. 3:11; 1 Peter 2:19). This is God’s personal promise to each believer in Christ.

“You will remember that one of the main problems with the Corinthians’ eating in pagan temples was that they thought it was a display of their own spiritual strength. Because they knew other gods do not exist as gods and because the act of eating was indifferent in itself, they believed that they could not possibly be guilty of idolatry if they ate alongside pagan worshipers in pagan temples (ch. 8). But as Paul notes in I Corinthians 10:12, such confidence in their own spiritual strength was misplaced. When Paul says that those who think they stand should take heed lest they fall, he is basically saying: “Don’t think that you are so strong that you will not be guilty of idolatry if you do not stop eating in pagan temples. The Israelites thought they would be fine when they associated themselves with paganism, but they fell into apostasy,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

We see, then, that although God glorifies everyone whom He justifies (Rom. 8:29–30), we have a part to play in persevering in saving faith. We must not think ourselves so strong that we cannot fall into grievous or impenitent sin, but we must take heed of ourselves lest we fall. Christ will be faithful to complete the good work of salvation in everyone whom He regenerates (Phil. 1:6), but He does this by working in and through us so that we work out our salvation in fear and trembling, continuing to trust Jesus and repenting of our sin until the day we die (2:12–13). There is no contradiction between God’s guaranteeing the salvation of all those who have true faith and the need of the truly converted to keep watch on their hearts,” Dr. Sproul concludes.

“Those whom God has promised to save, he has promised to render watchful,” Charles Hodge comments,

We need not fear that the Lord will not enable us to resist temptation. He promised to do so. God always gives His people a way out of succumbing to temptation.

We resume our study in the Gospel of Matthew when next we meet. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Takeaways of Temptation. Part Two.

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

What are some takeaways about temptations in the Christian’s life that we can glean from Scripture? There are several principles regarding the subject that can be taken from today’s text.

First, temptations will happen in our lives. We may not know when, how, or by whom they will occur. What we do know is that temptations will occur.

Secondly, God is faithful. For God to be faithful (πιστός; pistos) means that He is always trustworthy, dependable, committed and praiseworthy. Not only is God faithful when life is good, but the context of today’s text indicates that He is also faithful when His children face temptations from the world, their sinful nature (flesh) and the devil.

Additionally, God in His faithfulness “will not let you be tempted beyond your ability.” This statement reveals that God is sovereign and in control of our lives; especially when temptations occur. He actively will not allow or permit us to be tempted beyond our ability (ὑπέρ; hyper), or to a greater degree, than we can handle at that particular time. This means that our temptations are compatible to our spiritual strength.

“Ancient teachers often pointed out that adversities come to everyone, and that one should not be proud but submit to what comes one’s way. But whereas pagan writers emphasized human will, Paul emphasizes God’s faithfulness,” explains commentator Craig S. Keener.

“While this verse is challenging, encouraging, and hopeful, most of all, I find this verse incredibly humbling. There’s one phrase in the verse that stops me in my tracks and makes me want to let out a long, deep sigh. It’s the part about whatever temptation I’m fighting being “common to man,” states Melissa Kruger, director of women’s content at The Gospel Coalition. “Most days, I don’t view my temptations as common. In fact, I want people to understand how terribly uncommon my struggle is so that they’ll sympathize with me when I don’t take the way out provided. Secretly, I want to tell them my tale of woe as a means to escape the guilt of my own sinful choices.”

“The notion that whatever temptation comes knocking at my door is typical silences my inner justifications. My temptation isn’t special. My circumstances are not cause for disobedience. Others have faced this very thing and by the Spirit have faithfully endured. My pride protests, “Anyone facing this circumstance would give in!” But the Spirit faithfully reminds me that there’s a way of escape. By God’s grace, obedience is possible,” Kruger continues.

“Whatever temptation you face, the power of Jesus is available to help. His Spirit is alive in you. God knows exactly what you can bear, and He’s actively arranging all the details of your life to provide a way out so you may endure. Whatever you face today is a common struggle. The grace He provides in the midst of the struggle will strengthen and protect you,” Kruger concludes.

I am praying for you as you face temptations. I would appreciate your prayers.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Takeaways of Temptation. 

13 No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your ability, but with the temptation he will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it.” (1 Corinthians 10:13 (ESV)

What are some takeaways about temptations in the Christian’s life that we can glean from Scripture? There are several principles regarding the subject that can be taken from today’s text.

First, temptations will happen in our lives. We may not know when, how, or by whom they will occur. What we do know is that temptations will occur.

The Apostle Paul wrote, “No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man” Temptation (πειρασμὸς; peirasmos) within the context refers to a solicitation unto evil. It is a trial designed to make an individual stumble in their walk of faith (Luke 4:13; Acts 15:26).

The word overtaken (λαμβάνω; lambano) means to take hold of. Within the grammatical context, it refers to a temptation that has taken hold of your life in the past and continues in the present. It may be either the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, or the boastful pride of life (I John 2:15-17).

Second, temptations are commonplace (ἀνθρώπινος; anthropinos). They happened to people in the past, they do happen in the present, and they will happen in the future. The temptations our ancestors faced are the evil solicitations we face and our children and grandchildren will face (Rom. 6:19; 1 Cor. 2:13; 4:3; 10:13; James 3:7; 1 Peter 2:13+; 1Tim. 1:15). All believers in Christ face the temptation to compromise and commit sinful disobedience.

“Every difficult circumstance that enters a believer’s life can either strengthen him if he obeys God and remains confident in his care, or become a solicitation to evil if the believer chooses instead to doubt God and disobey his word,” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

What kinds of temptations are common in your life? What evil solicitation, either from the fallen world, your own remaining sinful nature, or the devil, trips you up the most in your walk of faith in Christ?

When we pray to the Lord, we not only are to adore Him, thank Him and bring our requests to Him. Believers in Christ are also to confess sin unto Him (I John 1:9). While temptations are not sinful, they become so when we succumb to the solicitation. Therefore, when you are tempted to sin, take that moment to place that temptation into a conversation with God. Use that temptation to energize your prayer time with God, and your intercession for others.

Whatever temptation you may be facing, know that other faithful believers in Christ have faced the same struggle you are encountering. Ask God to give you the strength to resist the devil (James 4:7), to no longer conform to the fallen world system (Rom. 12:1-2), and to put sin to death in your life (Col. 3:5).

I am praying for you. Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Lust of the Eyes. 

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. And he said to him, “All these I will give you, if you will fall down and worship me.” 10 Then Jesus said to him, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” 11Then the devil left him, and behold, “angels came and were ministering to Him.” (Matthew 4:8–11 (ESV)

 “Satan tests God’s people by manipulating circumstances, within the limits that God allows him (cf. Jb. 1:12; 2:6; 1 Cor. 10:13), in an attempt to make them desert God’s will. The NT knows him as ‘the tempter’ (ho peirazōn, Matt. 4:3; 1 Thes. 3:5), the implacable foe of both God and men (1 Pet. 5:8; Rev. 12),” explains J.I. Packer.

The focus today is on the temptation of the lust of the eyes. It is the evil of coveting what we see and honoring it above, or equal to, the Lord. It is not only wanting what we see and fixate upon, but also to have resentment for the one who possesses what we see and want and cannot have righteously and in the will of God.

The devil showed Jesus all the kingdoms of the world and their glory. What a sight that must have been. There were no limitations to what the devil offered Jesus. However, there was only one stipulation. Jesus would have to bow down and worship the devil.

“Satan’s final test related to God’s plan for Jesus. It was and is God’s design that Jesus Christ rule the world. Satan showed Jesus the kingdoms of the world with all their splendor. These kingdoms presently are Satan’s, as he is “the god of this Age” (2 Cor. 4:4) and “the prince of this world” (John 12:31; cf. Eph. 2:2). He had the power to give all these kingdoms to Jesus at that time—if only Jesus would bow down and worship him. Satan was saying, “I can accomplish the will of God for You and You can have the kingdoms of this world right now.” This of course would have meant Jesus would never have gone to the cross. He supposedly could have been the King of kings without the cross,” explains commentator Louis A. Barbieri Jr.

Jesus would not do this. He knew the path to kingship included the cross. He also knew that the only one worthy of worship was the One True God: Father, Son and Holy Spirit.  

Again, Jesus quoted Scripture, from Deuteronomy 6:13, to resist the devil. He said, “Be gone, Satan! For it is written, “‘You shall worship the Lord your God and him only shall you serve.’ ” The devil immediately obeyed Jesus’ command and left Him. It was at that moment that angels came and ministered to Jesus.

“Interestingly Satan’s temptations of Eve in the Garden of Eden correspond to those of Jesus in the desert. Satan appealed to the physical appetite (Gen. 3:1–3; Matt. 4:3), the desire for personal gain (Gen. 3:4–5; Matt. 4:6), and an easy path to power or glory (Gen. 3:5–6; Matt. 4:8–9). And in each case Satan altered God’s Word (Gen. 3:4; Matt. 4:6). Satan’s temptations of people today often fall into the same three categories (cf. 1 John 2:16). The One who had identified Himself with sinners by baptism and who would provide righteousness proved He is righteous, and revealed His approval by the Father. Satan then left Jesus. At that moment God sent angels to minister to His needs,” Barbieri concludes.

In which of the three areas of temptation do you find the most difficult to resist? Perhaps like many believers in Christ, you may struggle against all three. Pray that the Lord will bring to your mind Scripture by which you can resist the devil and his temptations (James 4:7).

Have a God honoring day today.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Pride of Life Temptation.

Then the devil took him to the holy city and set him on the pinnacle of the temple and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, throw yourself down, for it is written, “ ‘He will command his angels concerning you,’ and “ ‘On their hands they will bear you up, lest you strike your foot against a stone.’ ” Jesus said to him, “Again it is written, ‘You shall not put the Lord your God to the test.’ ” (Matthew 4:5-7 ESV).  

Temptations began in Genesis 3:1-7. They are solicitations to disobey God; either in our thinking, speaking or behavior. Although God never tempts anyone (James 1:13), they are included in God’s plan for lives (I Cor. 10:13). Temptations occur from the fallen world system, our remaining sinful nature (the flesh), and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).

Temptation’s core purpose is to not only disbelieve (Gen. 3:1-3), but also to deny what God has said (Gen. 3:4) resulting in disobedience. An individual does not sin when tempted. It is only when the individual gives in to the temptation that sin occurs (James 1:12-15).  

There are three areas of temptations. They are implicit not only in the Genesis account, but also Matthew 4 and Luke 4. The three areas of temptation are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They involve our physical drives, the desire for possessions and a sense of entitlement.

The Apostle John explicitly refers to them in I John 2:15-17 where he writes, 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.”

The focus today is on the temptation of the pride of life. It is the evil solicitation to exalt oneself. “Hence, it is evident that the stratagems of the enemy were intended to induce Christ to exalt Himself unduly,” explains John Calvin.  

Today’s text also reveals that the devil also knows the Word of God. While he does not submit to it, he can, and does, use it for his intended purposes (Gen. 3:1-7). He did so in this context by quoting from Psalm 91:11-12. It stands to reason that if the devil knows Scripture, believers in Christ better know it as well.

However, the devil twisted Scripture in a way that was opposite to its original meaning. He used Psalm 91:11-12 as a proof text carefully avoiding the verses immediately preceding and following the quoted verses. False teachers do the same thing as do many immature believers.

“The second test by Satan appealed to personal display or popularity. This test built on the first, for if He is the Son of God and the Messiah, nothing could harm Him. Satan took Him to … the highest point of the temple. Whether this was actual or simply a vision cannot be determined dogmatically. Here Satan made a subtle suggestion to Jesus as the Messiah. In effect he was reminding Jesus of Malachi’s prophecy (Mal. 3:1), which had led to a common belief among the Jews that Messiah would suddenly appear in the sky, coming down to His temple. Satan was saying, in essence, “Why don’t You do what the people are expecting and make some marvelous display? After all, the Scripture says His angels will protect You and You won’t even hurt a foot as You come down,” explains commentator Louis A. Barbieri.

Psalm 91 stresses the importance of trusting God and not testing Him. That is why Jesus quoted from Deut. 6:16 and Isaiah 7:12. We are not to put God to the test.  

“Satan may have thought if Jesus could quote Scripture to him, he could quote it too. However, he purposely did not quote Psalm 91:11–12 accurately. He left out an important phrase, “in all Your ways.” According to the psalmist, a person is protected only when he is following the Lord’s will. For Jesus to cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple in some dramatic display to accommodate Himself to the people’s thinking would not have been God’s will. Jesus responded, again from Deuteronomy (6:16), that it would not be proper to test … God and expect Him to do something when one is out of His will,” states Barbieri.

The pride of life temptation is particularly strong for students, teachers, professional speakers, leaders and planners who think of themselves more highly than they should (Romans 12:3). Remember, “Pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall,” (Proverbs 16:18 ESV).  If we are too confident in our own abilities, providential circumstances will show us that we are not as good as we think.

Today, ask Jesus to provide you the strength to resist the devil; knowing he will flee (James 4:7). Jesus has already provided us the example.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Lust of the Flesh Temptation.

And the tempter came and said to him, “If you are the Son of God, command these stones to become loaves of bread.” But he answered, “It is written, ‘Man shall not live by bread alone, but by every word that comes from the mouth of God.’ ” (Matthew 4:3–4 (ESV)

Being fully confident of the Lord’s truth, however, Jesus never gave in to Satan’s lies,” Dr. Sproul concludes.

Temptations began in Genesis 3:1-7. They are solicitations to disobey God; either in our thinking, speaking or behavior. Although God never tempts anyone (James 1:13), they are included in God’s plan for lives (I Cor. 10:13). Temptations occur from the fallen world system, our remaining sinful nature (the flesh), and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).

Temptation’s core purpose is to not only disbelieve (Gen. 3:1-3), but also to deny what God has said (Gen. 3:4) resulting in disobedience. An individual does not sin when tempted. It is only when the individual gives in to the temptation that sin occurs (James 1:12-15).  

There are three areas of temptations. They are implicit not only in the Genesis account, but also Matthew 4 and Luke 4. The three areas of temptation are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They involve our physical drives, the desire for possessions and a sense of entitlement.

The Apostle John explicitly refers to them in I John 2:15-17 where he writes, 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.”

Today’s text highlights the temptation of the lust of the flesh. It is the lust of fulfilling the cravings caused by physical and bodily desires. Hunger, sex, and freedom from pain are all examples of this solicitation when fulfilling them violates God’s Word and will.

Hunger is not sinful but gluttony is ((Number 11:18-34Psalm 78:26-31). . Heterosexual sex between a husband and his wife is not sinful, but any other type of sexual behavior is (I Thess. 4:1-8). Freedom from pain, whatever form it may be, can result in ingested or injected intoxicants to alleviate the pain resulting in a dulling of the senses but possible addiction (Prov. 20:1; I Cor. 6:12-13; 10:23-33; Eph. 5:18).

The devil tempted Jesus to turn stones into bread; in order to alleviate His hunger (Matt. 4:1-2). While this would not be a temptation for normal human beings, because we lack the power to turn stones into bread, it was a real temptation for Jesus. Being God (John 1:1-4), He could turn stones into bread.

The devil’s ploy was for Jesus to prove that He was the Son of God. However, in so doing He would be violating the will of God the Father. The ultimate purpose for Jesus’ temptations were to prove that He could not sin. To give into the devil’s request, would violate that purpose; resulting in sin. This Jesus could not, and would not do.

“The first test pertained to the matter of Sonship. Satan assumed that if He (Jesus) were the Son of God, perhaps He could be persuaded to act independently of the Father. Satan’s test was subtle for since Jesus is the Son of God, He has the power to turn the stones all around Him into bread. But that was not the will of His Father for Him. The Father’s will was for Him to be hungry in the desert with no food. To submit to Satan’s suggestion and satisfy His hunger would have been contrary to God’s will,” commentator Louis A. Barbieri, Jr. explains.  

How did Jesus respond to this temptation? He quoted Scripture appropriate to the particular temptation. The quoted text was Deuteronomy 8:3, which is contained in today’s text. While satisfying physical hunger is not necessarily sinful, it can be if satisfying one’s hunger violates God’s Word. The greater satisfaction is to fill one’s soul with the Word of God.

“Jesus therefore quoted Deuteronomy 8:3, which affirms that man does not live on bread alone, but by God’s Word. It is better to obey God’s Word than to satisfy human desires. The fact that Jesus quoted from Deuteronomy showed that He recognized the inerrant authority of that book, one often criticized by scholars,” Barbieri concludes.

“Temptation invites a man or woman to take something that is good, when for some reason the person tempted does not have the right to that good thing or cannot, at that moment, use it properly. When Jesus did not drink, He got thirsty. When He ate nothing for forty days, He grew hungry. He knew He could use His powers selfishly, to turn those stones to bread, but He refused. Both the temptation and the response fit the fabric of Jesus’ life, a real human life. As a man, Jesus was susceptible to temptation (Hebrews 4:14-16),” commentator Daniel M. Doriani states. As God, He would not, and could not, comply.

Today, ask Jesus to provide you the strength to resist the devil; knowing he will flee (James 4:7). Jesus has already provided us the example.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Temptation of Jesus.

1Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil. And after fasting forty days and forty nights, he was hungry.” (Matthew 4:1–2 (ESV)

Temptations began in Genesis 3:1-7. They are solicitations to disobey God; either in our thinking, speaking or behavior. Although God never tempts anyone (James 1:13), they are included in God’s plan for lives (I Cor. 10:13). Temptations occur from the fallen world system, our remaining sinful nature (the flesh), and the devil (Eph. 2:1-3).

“If we overcome temptations, we are strengthened. If we succumb, we recognize more clearly our need for further sanctification,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.

Temptation’s core purpose is to not only disbelieve what God has said (Gen. 3:1-3), but also to deny what He has said (Gen. 3:4) resulting in disobedience. Temptations involve a lack of trust, commitment, dependence and worship of God when we give in to them. An individual does not sin when tempted. It is only when the individual gives in to the temptation that sin occurs (James 1:12-15).  

The temptation of Jesus parallels the testing of Israel in the wilderness. The forty days for Jesus corresponds to the forty years for Israel (Num. 14:34). Israel’s experience foreshadowed Jesus’ temptation in the wilderness following His baptism.

“At Jesus’ baptism, the Holy Spirit commissioned Him for ministry (Matt. 3:16–17). What was Christ’s first act? Matthew 4:1 gives us the answer: “Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.” Of all the things that our Lord could have done after His baptism, He undertook a grueling temptation by Satan in the wilderness. Anyone who is the least bit familiar with the biblical storyline cannot help but think of Adam’s temptation in the garden when they read of our Lord’s encounter with the devil,” states Dr. Sproul.

There are three areas of temptations. They are implicit in not only the Genesis account, but also Matthew 4 and Luke 4. The Apostle John explicitly refers to them in I John 2:15-17 where he writes, 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.”

The three areas of temptation are the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes and the pride of life. They involve our physical drives, the desire for possessions and a sense of entitlement.

“Jesus underwent a test that was similar to Adam’s, but it was actually far more difficult. Adam met Satan in paradise, where life was easy. Jesus met Satan in the desert wilderness where the environment was hardly friendly. Adam enjoyed the company of his wife, Eve. Jesus was alone. Adam was well fed from the trees of Eden. Jesus was fasting. In short, Adam failed even though he had everything going for him, but Jesus succeeded even though, humanly speaking, the odds were stacked against Him (Gen. 3Matt. 4:1–11). Like Adam, Jesus was tempted to disbelieve God’s Word, to pit one part of it against another and to think that the Father was not telling Him the whole story. Being fully confident of the Lord’s truth, however, Jesus never gave in to Satan’s lies,” Dr. Sproul concludes.

In which of the three areas of temptation are you most susceptible? Pray that Lord would give you the strength to resist and not succumb.

Have a blessed day in the Lord.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Baptism of Jesus.

13 Then Jesus came from Galilee to the Jordan to John, to be baptized by him. 14 John would have prevented him, saying, “I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” 15 But Jesus answered him, “Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” Then he consented. 16 And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”(Matt. 3:13-17 ESV)

Matthew does not record for us the length of time between the narratives of Matt. 3:1-12 and today’s text. Eventually, Jesus came from Galilee in northern Israel and traveled south to the Jordan River Valley in order for John to baptize Him.

John was immediately reluctant to do so. He said, ““I need to be baptized by you, and do you come to me?” John recognized that Jesus had no need for repentance. However, Jesus responded by saying, ““Let it be so now, for thus it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness.” What did Jesus mean by this statement?

“In order for all righteousness to be fulfilled, Jesus had to be identified with His people as the bearer of their sins (2 Cor. 5:21). Isaiah foretold that God’s righteousness servant would make ‘many to be accounted righteous’ as He was ‘numbered with the transgressors’ (Isaiah 53:11-12). Ultimately, John’s baptism points to Jesus, for only Jesus’ death on the cross, which He called a ‘baptism’ (Luke 12:50), can take away sins,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.  

It was at that moment that John consented and baptized Jesus. Matthew then stated, “And when Jesus was baptized, immediately he went up from the water, and behold, the heavens were opened to him, and he saw the Spirit of God descending like a dove and coming to rest on him; 17 and behold, a voice from heaven said, “This is my beloved Son,[b] with whom I am well pleased.”

The testimony from heaven, not only by the Holy Spirit but also God the Father confirmed Jesus Christ as the Messiah; the royal Son of God (Psalm 2:1-7; Ex. 4:22). Jesus was the Suffering Servant spoken of by Isaiah (Isaiah 42:1).

“God’s kingdom (His sovereign rule in salvation and judgment) is defined by His righteousness. Jesus teaches the perfect righteousness that God requires (Matt. 5:20, 48). He (Jesus) also secures God’s righteousness for sinners. His baptism points to His death as a ‘ransom for many’ (Matt. 20:28) and shows the perfect obedience in which he fulfills all righteousness (Jer. 23:5-6). Remission of sins and the gift of righteousness are received through faith in Jesus (Matt. 8:10; 23:23),” concludes Dr. Sproul.

Have you received the remission of your sins and the gift of righteousness by grace alone, through faith alone, in the person and work of Jesus Christ alone (John 1:12-13)? This is God’s gracious gift to sinners like you and me.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Man and the Birds: A Christmas Story.

I mean that the heir, as long as he is a child, is no different from a slave,1 though he is the owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by his father. In the same way we also, when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles2 of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons.” (Galatians 4:1-5 ESV).

God sent His Son at the right moment in human history. God’s providential oversight of the events of the world directed and prepared peoples and nations for the incarnation and ministry of Christ; and for the proclamation of the Gospel.

Editor’s Note: The origin and author of The Man and the Birds Christmas Story is unknown.

The man I’m going to tell you about was not a scrooge, he was a kind decent, mostly good man. Generous to his family and upright in his dealings with other men. But he just didn’t believe in all of that incarnation stuff that the churches proclaim at Christmas time. It just didn’t make sense and he was too honest to pretend otherwise. He just couldn’t swallow the Jesus story, about God coming to Earth as a man.

He told his wife I’m truly sorry to distress you, but I’m not going with you to church this Christmas Eve. He said he would feel like a hypocrite and that he would much rather just stay at home, but that he would wait up for them. So he stayed and they went to the midnight service.

Shortly after the family drove away in the car, snow began to fall. He went to the window to watch the flurries getting heavier and heavier and then he went back to his fireside chair and began to read his newspaper.

Minutes later he was startled by a thudding sound. Then another … and then another. At first, he thought someone must be throwing snowballs against the living room window. But when he went to the front door to investigate he found a flock of birds huddled outside miserably in the snow. They’d been caught in the storm and in a desperate search for shelter they had tried to fly through his large landscape window. That is what had been making the sound.

Well, he couldn’t let the poor creatures just lie there and freeze, so he remembered the barn where his children stabled their pony. That would provide a warm shelter. All he would have to do is to direct the birds into the shelter.

Quickly, he put on a coat and galoshes and he tramped through the deepening snow to the barn. He opened the doors wide and turned on a light so the birds would know the way in. But the birds did not come in.

So, he figured that food would entice them. He hurried back to the house and fetched some bread crumbs. He sprinkled them on the snow, making a trail of bread crumbs to the yellow-lighted wide-open doorway of the stable. But to his dismay, the birds ignored the bread crumbs.

The birds continued to flap around helplessly in the snow. He tried catching them but could not. He tried shooing them into the barn by walking around and waving his arms. Instead, they scattered in every direction … every direction except into the warm lighted barn.

And that’s when he realized they were afraid of him. To them, he reasoned, I am a strange and terrifying creature. If only I could think of some way to let them know that they can trust me. That I am not trying to hurt them, but to help them. But how? Any move he made tended to frighten them and confuse them. They just would not follow. They would not be led or shooed because they feared him.

He thought to himself, if only I could be a bird and mingle with them and speak their language. Then I could tell them not to be afraid. Then I could show them the way to the safe warm … to the safe warm barn. But I would have to be one of them so they could see … and hear … and understand.

At that moment the church bells began to ring. The sound reached his ears above the sounds of the wind.

He stood there listening to the bells, Adeste Fidelis, listening to the bells pealing the glad tidings of Christmas.

And he sank to his knees in the snow … Merry Christmas.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Who was John the Baptist?

Now John wore a garment of camel’s hair and a leather belt around his waist, and his food was locusts and wild honey. Then Jerusalem and all Judea and all the region about the Jordan were going out to him, and they were baptized by him in the river Jordan, confessing their sins.” (Matthew 3:4-6 ESV)

One of the principles of proper, biblical interpretation is the maxim Scripture interprets Scripture. Therefore, the other three Gospels provide more information concerning John the Baptist; most notably the Gospel of Luke.

John was the son of the Jewish Priest Zachariah and his wife Elizabeth, They ministered in the time of Herod the King (Luke 1:5). They were both righteous people who sought to obey all the commandments and statutes of the Lord (Luke 1:6). However, they were old and without children because Elizabeth had not been able to conceive. This was perceived by many in the culture to be a sign of God’s disfavor.

It was at this time that the angel Gabriel appeared to Zachariah when he was in the temple offering incense to the Lord (Luke 1:8-11, 19). The angel told Zachariah that he and Elizabeth would have a son and they were to call him John (Luke 1:12-13). John would be a source of joy and gladness; not only for them but also for the people of God (Luke 1:14).

Gabriel explained, 15 for he will be great before the Lord. And he must not drink wine or strong drink, and he will be filled with the Holy Spirit, even from his mother’s womb. 16 And he will turn many of the children of Israel to the Lord their God, 17 and he will go before him in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to the children, and the disobedient to the wisdom of the just, to make ready for the Lord a people prepared.” (Luke 1;15-17 ESV)

Matthew described John as wearing a garment of camel’s hair with a leather belt. His diet was locusts and wild honey. Locusts were a permissible food (Lev. 11:22). Living in the wilderness of Judea, John’s clothes were durable and practical; even though they were not fashionable or comfortable.

John attracted quite a crowd. Perhaps the people were curious because John was the next new thing. Or, perhaps they were identifying John as one who would come in the spirit and power of the Prophet Elijah (2 Kings 1:1-8). The Jews were expecting a prophet like Elijah before the Day of the Lord (Mal. 3:1; 4:1-6).

John’s ministry centered not only what he preached, but also what he did. He baptized. It was likely that this baptism of repentance had its roots in the Old Testament purification rituals (Lev. 15:13).

“John’s startling declaration of the nearness of God’s kingdom draws even city dwellers out into the wilderness. “Baptize” (Gk. baptizō) means “to plunge, dip, immerse,” and John was immersing people in the river Jordan. When people were baptized by him, going under the water symbolized both the cleansing away of sin and a passing safely through the waters of judgment and death (cf. Gen. 7:6–24Ex. 14:26–29Jonah 1:7–16; Rom. 6:1-41 Pet. 3:21),” explains one commentator.

The common people flocked to see and hear John. What about the religious leaders; the Pharisees and the Sadducees? How did they respond and react to John’s message and ministry? That is what we will study when next we meet.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: John the Baptist.

“In those days John the Baptist came preaching in the wilderness of Judea, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.” For this is he who was spoken of by the prophet Isaiah when he said, “The voice of one crying in the wilderness: ‘Prepare the way of the Lord; make his paths straight.’” (Matthew 3:1-3 ESV)

All four gospels mention John the Baptist, or baptizer, who was present at the beginning of Jesus Christ’s earthly ministry (Mark 1:2-14; Luke 1:5-25, 57-80; 3:3-20; John 1:6-8, 19-39). It was John who identified Jesus as the Lamb of God who takes away the sin of the world (John 1:29).

John’s ministry occurred in the wilderness of Judea. If you have ever taken a trip to the Holy Land, you probably observed that this southwest geographic portion of Israel remains a wasteland and desert. It is dry and desolate. How fitting that God would produce spiritual fruit in a geographically fruitless region.

“The region to the immediate west of the Dead Sea—an utterly barren desert. The Jewish sect of the Essenes had significant communities in this region. But there is no biblical evidence to suggest that John was in any way connected with that sect. John seems to have preached near the northern end of this region, close by where the Jordan flows into the Dead Sea (Matt. 3:6). This was a full day’s journey from Jerusalem and seems an odd location to announce the arrival of a King. But it is perfectly in keeping with God’s ways (1 Cor. 1:26–29),” explains Dr. John MacArthur.

John’s message and preaching was clear and concise: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”The command from God to repent was no mere change of one’s thinking. It was not mere regret or remorse. Rather, it was an inward change to radically turn from sin. This change involved one’s thinking, emotions and will. Jesus’s first sermon contained the same command (Matt. 4:17).

Why did John command the people to repent? It was because God’s rule and reign, or kingdom, was near. It was about to appear in the person and work of Jesus Christ. John appealed for people to reject the sinful obstacles from their lives that would hinder their reception of the Messiah and his kingdom.

Repentance is an acceptance of the will of God and a resulting obedience evidencing that acceptance (Gal. 5:1-6; James 2:14-26). All true repentance occurs because of God’s sovereign grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Cor. 7:9-10; Eph. 2:5-7). Without such grace, repentance is futile and will not occur (Jer. 13:23). John was God’s instrument to bring about true repentance to Israel.

As is Matthew’s characteristic, he referred to Old Testament prophecy to validate John’s ministry. He explained that John was the individual of whom Isaiah the Prophet spoke of many centuries before (Isaiah 40:1-5). All four Gospels declare that this passage from Isaiah applied to John the Baptist. John was preparing the people while at the same preparing the way for the Messiah; Jesus Christ.

“The ultimate fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy did not occur in 538 BC, when the exiled Judahites began returning to the Promised Land, but nearly six hundred years later, during the first century AD. As we will see, the initial returnees were not faithful to God, so the hard conditions of exile persisted until He finally visited His people in the person of Jesus Christ. Through Isaiah, the Lord called the people to prepare themselves, but they could not do so. A mightier move of the Holy Spirit through John was needed to get the people ready for the Messiah,” explains Dr. R. C. Sproul.  

The Holy Spirit continues His work of bringing people to repentance by sovereign, monergistic regeneration (John 3:1-8; Titus 3:1-5). God commands believers in Christ to herald the Gospel (Matt. 28:16-20) while He alone brings spiritual life to those who are spiritually dead (I Cor. 3:5-9; Eph. 2:1-7).

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: The Return to Nazareth.

19 “But when Herod died, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared in a dream to Joseph in Egypt, 20 saying, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel. 22 But when he heard that Archelaus was reigning over Judea in place of his father Herod, he was afraid to go there, and being warned in a dream he withdrew to the district of Galilee. 23 And he went and lived in a city called Nazareth, so that what was spoken by the prophets might be fulfilled, that he would be called a Nazarene” (Matthew 2:19–23 ESV).

We do not know how long Joseph, Mary and Jesus remained in Egypt following King Herod’s slaughter of the boy children in Bethlehem and the surrounding area. We do know that it was around 4 B.C. because that is historically when Herod the Great died.

When Herod died, an angel of the Lord again appeared to Joseph in a dream. The purpose was for God’s messenger to give Joseph new revelation in light of the king’s death.

The angel said to Joseph, “Rise, take the child and his mother and go to the land of Israel, for those who sought the child’s life are dead.” 21 And he rose and took the child and his mother and went to the land of Israel.” The young family’s sojourn was over.

However, when Joseph heard that Herod’s son, Archelaus, was reigning over Judea he was afraid to go there and settle. Perhaps this was because Archelaus was as evil as his father.

“Archelaus was Herod’s son by Malthace, a Samaritan woman. He was educated along with his brother Antipas at Rome. He inherited from his father a third part of his kingdom viz., Idumea, Judea, and Samaria, and hence is called “king” (Matt. 2:22). It was for fear of him that Joseph and Mary turned aside on their way back from Egypt. Till a few days before his death Herod had named Antipas as his successor, but in his last moments he named Archelaus,” explains one commentator.

Once again, God warns Joseph in a dream not to dwell in Judea but rather settle in the district of Galilee. Joseph, Mary and Jesus settled in a small town called Nazareth. God the Father’s providence is evident because settling in Nazareth would fulfill the Old Testament prophecy from Isaiah 53:1-3 which describes the Messiah as despised and rejected. Most people from Nazareth were despised and rejected. See John 1:43-51.

“Nazareth, an obscure town 70 miles north of Jerusalem, was a place of lowly reputation, and nowhere mentioned in the OT. Some have suggested that “Nazarene” is a reference to the Hebrew word for branch in Isa. 11:1. Others point out that Matthew’s statement that “prophets” had made this prediction may be a reference to verbal prophecies nowhere recorded in the OT. A still more likely explanation is that Matthew is using “Nazarene” as a synonym for someone who is despised or detestable— for that was how people from the region were often characterized (cf. John 1:46). If that is the case, the prophecies Matthew has in mind would include Ps. 22:6–8Isa. 49:7; 53:3,” Dr. John MacArthur writes,

Dr. R. C. Sproul writes, “Note how the evangelist (Matthew) has taught us about God’s providence. First, we should see that Herod’s hatred of Jesus and slaughter of the young boys in Bethlehem (vv. 16–18) parallel Pharaoh’s attempt to kill Moses (Ex. 1:8–2:10). Moses was the mediator of the old covenant, and in ordaining the circumstances of the birth of Christ to be so similar to Moses’ birth, our Father has prepared His people to receive Jesus as a new and greater Moses, the mediator of a new and better covenant (Heb. 7:22).”

“Secondly, the dreams of warning that Joseph and the magi experience (Matt. 2:12–1319–2022) show that God has sovereignly overruled man’s attempt to destroy His Son. Herod’s attempt to kill Jesus has been unsuccessful. In fact, it is Herod who dies (in 4 B.C., dating the Savior’s birth therefore between 6 and 4 B.C.), enabling Joseph and his family to return to Palestine (v. 21). After learning that Archelaus is ruling in Judea, Joseph takes Jesus and Mary to Nazareth in Galilee (v. 22). This is wise, for Archelaus can be as ruthless as his father Herod and might very well be a threat to Jesus.”

As we have seen, God the Father was in complete control of the events surrounding Jesus’ birth and early childhood. He is also in complete control of our own lives. May each of us rest in God’s sovereign providence.

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

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: A Shrewd Inquiry.

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him.” (Matthew 2:7–8 ESV)

Herod was a methodical schemer. He was really not what he seemed to be on the surface. While superficially charming, he possessed a deep-rooted hatred for any enemy; real or imagined. This applied to even those within his immediate family. You can be sure that Herod already made his mind up that Jesus was his mortal enemy who he needed to destroy.

Herod summoned the Magi and met with them secretly. Why? Perhaps it was to hide his true intentions and to limit the Magi’s investigation to only him. Regardless, in his meeting with the Eastern visitors he discovered from them how long they had been traveling since they saw the star. Remember, Herod had a reason for everything he asked and did.

“Herod has so far succeeded in his murderous design: he has tracked the spot where lies his victim, an unconscious babe. But he has another point to fix—the date of His birth—without which he might still miss his mark. The one he had got from the Sanhedrim; the other he will have from the sages; but secretly, lest his object should be suspected and defeated. So he inquired of them diligently—rather, “precisely” what time the star appeared—presuming that this would be the best clue to the age of the child. The unsuspecting strangers tell him all. And now he thinks he is succeeding to a wish, and shall speedily clutch his victim; for at so early an age as they indicate, He would not likely have been removed from the place of His birth. Yet he is wary. He sends them as messengers from himself, and bids them come to him, that he may follow their pious example,” Dr. John Walvoord explains.

Herod sent the Magi to Bethlehem to find the Christ child. This ensured safe conduct for the Magi. To search diligently meant to accurately and carefully question and ask for the precise location of the child.

Herod added that the Magi were to return to him with information of where the baby would be found. Herod’s overt reason was to worship the child as the Magi intended. However, Herod’s covert plan was to destroy the child along with anyone who stood in his way.

There are people today who profess religious loyalty to Christ, only to turn against Him and any of His followers when things do not go their way. What about you? Are you a Christ follower or just a pretender?

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

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: A Discovered Prophecy; A Disinterested Investigation.

and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet: “‘and you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’” (Matthew 2:4–6)

King Herod wanted to know where the newborn king of the Jews was to be born. What city, town or hamlet? He did not know the answer so he summoned all the chief priest and scribes. Following their arrival to the king’s palace in Jerusalem, he asked them where the Christ was to be born. It is interesting that Herod did not know the biblical answer.

“The chief priests belonged mainly to the wealthy aristocracy of Sadducees. “Scribes” applies to experts in the Jewish law, most of whom were also teachers of the law. Herod exercised a great deal of influence over the prominent leaders of the people, having forcibly removed most of his political opponents, the IVP Bible Background Commentary of the New Testament says,

However, the chief priests and scribes certainly did know the biblical answer to Herod’s question. They told Herod that the Messiah was to be born in Bethlehem, according to the Prophet Micah. They even quoted Micah 5:2 which says, “and you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah, are by no means least among the rulers of Judah; for from you shall come a ruler who will shepherd my people Israel.’”

“This ancient prophecy from Micah 5:2 was written in the eighth century B.C. The original prophecy, not quoted in full by Matthew, declared the deity of Israel’s Messiah: “from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose coming forth is from of old, from ancient days.” The other portion of Matthew’s quote actually seems to be a reference to God’s words to David when Israel’s kingdom was originally established (2 Sam. 5:21 Chron. 11:2). The Greek word for “ruler” evokes the image of strong, even stern, leadership. “Shepherd” emphasizes tender care. Christ’s rule involves both (cf. Rev. 12:5),” one commentator writes,

It is ironic that the chief priests and scribes knew the exact answer and location of the Messiah’s birth. What they did not have was even an idle curiosity to travel the distance from Jerusalem to Bethlehem (5 miles) to see if indeed Micah’s prophecy had come true. What a shame.

“The apathy of the teachers and priests s pathetic, but all too typical. “Religious people were often the last to receive Jesus. If the pagans had seen Jesus’ signs, if they had heard His preaching, Jesus says they would have repented (Matt. 11:20-24; 12:41-42). But the religious people saw no need of repentance. It was true then and remains all too true today. Sometimes those who most know the faith in the mind know it least in the heart. They should have joined the Magi and traveled to Bethlehem,” states commentator Daniel M. Doriani.

I Corinthians 2:14 says, “The natural person does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are folly to him, and he is not able to understand them because they are spiritually discerned.” The chief priests and scribes were religious but apparently, they did not have a heart for the Lord as demonstrated by their inaction.

What about you? Do you only know Christ in your mind? What about your emotions and your will?

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

Soli deo Gloria! 

The Gospel of Matthew: Herod’s Really Bad Day.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; “(Matthew 2:1–3 (ESV)

We previously examined the life of Herod the Great. He was a ruthless, paranoid king who was not above killing real, or suspected, rivals to his throne. He would stop at nothing, including eliminating members of his own family, to ensure that he kept his power.

When Herod heard about the Magi’s quest and inquiry into the new born king of the Jews, he was troubled. He quickly paid attention to what was being said and he didn’t like what he was hearing.

The word troubled (ταράσσω; tarasso) means to be disturbed and to experience great mental distress. Herod’s mind was stirred. In fact, the Greek word for troubled can mean a riot going on in one’s mind. Herod experience acute emotional distress and turbulence. In short, Herod was not happy.

The text also says that all Jerusalem was troubled along with Herod. Why? It was because the Jewish populace in Jerusalem knew what Herod was capable of when he suspected his power was threatened. They knew he would do everything and anything he could to destroy any challenger. No one was safe.

Perhaps Herod’s fear and disquieted reaction to the news of the Magi’s search is best explained by one commentator. “It is no surprise that King Herod … was disturbed when the Magi came to Jerusalem looking for the One who had been “born King” (v. 2). Herod was not the rightful king from the line of David. In fact, he was not even a descendant of Jacob, but was descended from Esau and thus was an Edomite. (He reigned over Palestine from 37 b.c. to 4 b.c.). This fact caused most of the Jews to hate him and never truly to accept him as king, even though he did much for the country. If someone had been rightfully born king, then Herod’s job was in jeopardy.”

While 2,000 years separates us from Herod, there remains to this day people of power who will do anything they can to humiliate or destroy those with whom they feel threatened. This can happen not only politically, economically, militarily but also even religiously. This occurs when people who hold sway within an organization will exert their power and influence to hire and fire anyone indiscriminately. This creates an unhealthy environment; whether it is within a business, government, or a local church.

Are there King Herod’s in your life? Are there people who you know who will do anything to justify their behavior and to keep their power and influence over you and others? Remember that their authority, whether real or imagined, is no match for the sovereign God of the universe. What was true in Herod’s day remains so in our own.

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

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Matthew: Where is He, Born King of the Jews?

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” (Matthew 2:1-2)

In Matthew 2:2, we observe from the Magi a question as they searched, a reason behind their search and a purpose for their search. Let’s look at each of these items separately.

What was the Magi’s question as they searched? It was, “Where is he who has been born king of the Jews?” This question is what the Magi continued to ask when they arrived in Jerusalem. They must have presumed that a new born king of the Jews would be born in the Jewish capital of Jerusalem. They were mistaken.

The reason behind their search was that they “saw his star when it rose. What was the star of which the Magi referred?

“Astronomers have offered various proposals for the appearance of this star in the first decade b.c. The ancients thought comets and falling stars predicted the fall of rulers; some emperors even banished from Rome astrologers who issued such predictions. By this period many Jewish people accepted the idea that the stars could accurately predict the future. Even though these Magi were pagans, God had chosen to reveal himself to them,” explains one commentary.

“This special revelation may simply have been in the sky, as might be indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East with copies of Old Testament manuscripts. Many feel the Magi’s comments reflected a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). Whatever the source, they came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews, “Dr. John Walvoored speculates.

The word star (ἀστήρ; aster) may refer not only to a physical star, but also a planet or even a supernatural light for leading. This third meaning seems to be the star to which the Magi referred and which Matthew later describes as leading the Magi to the exact location of Jesus and his human parents.

What was the ultimate purpose for the Magi’s search? The text says, “For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him.” Their purpose was worship. Worship is defined as the action, expressed by attitude and possibly by position, of one’s allegiance to and regard for deity.

The Magi came to worship God. What a wonderful and biblical idea. May the Lord’s truth and grace be found here.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: The Magi.

“Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem,”  (Matthew 2:1 ESV).

Matthew. Matthew’s point of view regarding Jesus is that He is the prophesied King of the Jews (Genesis 49:10; Numbers 24:17; Matt. 1:1-17; 18-25). Therefore, it makes logical sense that Matthew would provide the account of the visit from the Magi.

Who were the Magi? There is a lot of speculation regarding their identity and origin. Were they really kings as the familiar Christmas Carol We Three Kings of Orient Are states? What about King Herod. Who exactly was this ruler and what were his feelings; not only about the Magi but also the news regarding the birth of Jesus Christ?

To begin with, the word Magi (μάγος; magos) has various meanings. These include wise man, priest, sorcerer or magician. We do know from the text that there were more than one Magi; the word is in the plural form. They grammar also indicates that they were men.

“‘Magi’ (not “wise men”—KJV) were pagan astrologers whose divinatory skills were widely respected in the Greco-Roman world; astrology had become popular through the “science” of the East, and everyone agreed that the best astrologers lived in the East. The Old Testament explicitly forbade such prognostication from signs (Deut. 18:11; cf. Isaiah 2:6; 47:11–15), prescribing true prophecy instead (Deut. 18:15),” explains Dr. John Walvoord.

“The number of wise men is not given. The traditional notion that there were three stems from the number of gifts they brought. These were not kings, but Magi, magicians, or astrologers—possibly Zoroastrian wise men from Persia whose knowledge of the Hebrew Scriptures could be traced back to the time of Daniel (cf. Dan. 5:11),” Dr. John MacArthur explains.

The Book of Daniel applies the word Magi to a group of wise men who interpreted dreams from the gods (Dan. 1:20; 2:27; 5:15). In the Acts of the Apostles, the title included all who practiced magical arts (Acts 8:1-9; 10-24; 13:1-8).

The exact identity of the Magi is impossible to determine, though several ideas have been suggested. They have been given traditional names and identified as representatives of the three groups of peoples that descended from Noah’s sons, Shem, Ham, and Japheth. More likely they were Gentiles of high position from a country, perhaps Parthia, northeast of Babylon, who were given a special revelation by God of the birth of the King of the Jews. This special revelation may simply have been in the sky, as might be indicated by their title “Magi” (specialists in astronomy) and by the fact they referred to a star which they saw. Or this revelation could have come through some contact with Jewish scholars who had migrated to the East with copies of Old Testament manuscripts. Many feel the Magi’s comments reflected a knowledge of Balaam’s prophecy concerning the “star” that would “come out of Jacob” (Num. 24:17). Whatever the source, they came to Jerusalem to worship the newborn King of the Jews,” Dr. Walvoord concludes.

Why would the Magi come to Jerusalem? To begin with, it was Israel’s capital city. King Herod resided there. As we shall see as we continue in the text, where else would you look for a newborn king then the city where the Jewish king’s palace is located. However, God always defied people’s expectations. He still does!

Soli deo Gloria!   

The Gospel of Mathew: The Obedience of Joseph and Mary.

24 When Joseph woke from sleep, he did as the angel of the Lord commanded him: he took his wife, 25 but knew her not until she had given birth to a son. And he called his name Jesus.” (Matthew 1:24-25 ESV)

Faith, or to believe, means to trust in, commit to, depend upon and honor God. The evidence of such faith and belief is obedience. Joseph displays his sincere faith and belief in God, and His Word, by his obedience. Joseph does what God commands him to do.

Immediately after the angel’s message in his dream, Joseph rose from sleeping and “did” (ποιέω poieō) as the angel of the Lord commanded him. Joseph obeyed with a complete compliance to the will of God. There were no heal-hearted measures in this man. He was totally committed. While the circumstances had not changed, his perspective had. His obedience involved not only what he would do, but also what he would not do.

First, he took Mary as his wife. The two of them officially became husband and wife. They participated in the wedding ceremony. “His submission to God was as powerful and complete as that of Mary, who also offered herself as the servant of the Lord (Luke 1:38). Joseph refused to be led by shame or anger. He laid aside the plausible plan of divorce (Matthew 1:19) and took Mary as his wife,” states commentator Daniel M. Doriani.

Second, Joseph did not have sexual relations with Mary until after she had given birth to Jesus. In every aspect, and in every way, Mary remained a virgin.

Third, Joseph named the child Jesus. He did so just as the angel instructed him (Matthew 1:21).

“What a picture of living faith! Mary and Joseph listened to God. They silenced their emotions of fear and shame and obeyed the Lord. Why? Because they understood that God is with His people to save. They show us how to listen and how to obey the voice of God rather than our impulses,” explains Doriani.

May we as believers in Christ receive, submit, and give all of our dreams, plans and hearts to Him. May we trust in, commit to, depend upon and honor the One, True God. This is the essence of saving faith.

Soli deo Gloria!

The Gospel of Mathew: God with Us.

22 All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had spoken by the prophet: 23 “Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall call his name Immanuel” (which means, God with us).” (Matthew 1:22-23 ESV)

The phrase, “All this took place to fulfill,” is a recurring literary style of Matthew. “Matthew points out fulfillments of OT prophecies no less than a dozen times (cf. 2:15, 17, 23; 4:14; 8:17; 12:17; 13:14, 35; 21:4; 26:54–56; 27:9, 35). He quotes from the OT more than 60 times, more frequently than any other NT writer except Paul in Romans, explains Dr. John MacArthur.

Nothing concerning the incarnation of Jesus Christ was left to chance, fate or luck. Every detail was with the providence of God the Father.

The prophet of whom Matthew refers is Isaiah. The texts are Isaiah 7:14 and 8:8-10. Not only did the prophet reveal the circumstances surrounding the birth of the Messiah (a virgin incarnation), but also His name (Immanuel); God with us. Even Isaiah noted that gender of the coming Messiah indicating the supernatural, revelatory nature of His birth.

There are those interpreters who state that Isaiah 7:14 applies solely to the Jewish King Hezekiah. This is wrong.

“We expound this (Isaiah 7:14) as relating to Christ in the following manner: You, the whole posterity of David, as far as lies in your power, endeavor to nullify the grace which is promised to you;” (for the prophet expressly call them, by way of disgrace, the house of David, Isaiah 7:13); but your base infidelity will never prevent the truth of God from proving to be victorious. God promises that the city will be preserved safe and unhurt from its enemies. If His word is not enough, He is ready to give you the confirmation of such as sign as you demand. You reject both favors, and spurn them from you; but God will remain steady to His engagement. For the promised Redeemer will come, in whom God will show Himself to be fully present with His people,” comments John Calvin.

But in Christ, the actual presence of God is with His people. He came to His own people, but tragically they did not receive Him (John 1:10-11). He was despised and rejected (Isiah 52:13-53:12).

“His name Immanuel. The phrase, God is with us, is not doubt frequently employed in Scripture to denote, that He is present with us by His assistance and grace, and displays the power of His hand in our defense. But here we are instructed as to the manner in which God communicates with men. For out of Christ we are alienated from Him; but through Christ we are not only received into His favor, but are made one with Him,” concludes Calvin.

The presence of God in the incarnation of Jesus Christ is greater than any other kind of revelation given to the ancient people. God is manifested in the flesh and bone of a human body (I Timothy 3:16). God has given Himself to sinners in Jesus Christ.

Soli deo Gloria!

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!