A Psalm that is Repeated – Psalm 53

Psalm 53 is nearly identical to Psalm 14.

If God says something once it is important; it is His word after all. If He says it twice, we must give it special attention. But what if God says it thrice? This Psalm is quoted by Paul in Romans 3.10-12. “This demands out keenest concentration, contemplation, assimilation, and even memorization…we are to ‘read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest.’” (Boice). There is no vain repetition with God. Spurgeon suggests that David wrote the 14th when he was young and turned his attention to it later in life for a “revision” of sorts. What he found was that men were no better later in life as they were when he was younger. Yet God takes care of the faithful who live surrounded by sin & evil. How bad is it really in the world? According to Psalm 53, it is really, really bad. We might say it’s a bad, bad, bad, bad world.

“To the choirmaster: according to Mahalath. A Maskil of David.” The superscription of this psalm calls it “a maskil.” A maskil could mean this is 1) a contemplative song [think about it, hmm…]; 2) a psalm imparting moral wisdom; 3) a well-written psalm (NET).

The Fountain of Sin (1a)

1The fool says in his heart, “There is no God.”

“Fool”: this word is typically used to describe a moral deficient person, an impious individual. A fool is one who “finds pleasure in evil conduct” (Prov 10.23, NIV). Not intelligence but impiety is in view. This personal rebellion is what stimulated their “repentance” about God’s existence.

“Heart”: The moral corrupt person must first convince him/herself there is no God. So here is self-deception. So they “suppress the truth in unrighteousness” (Romans 1.18).

“No God”: Ultimately, then, this is a choice to disbelieve in God. There may certainly be real challenges to their faith & attempts to make atheism appear reasonable or rational, but at the heart of atheism is personal rebellion.

The Filthiness of Sin (1b)

They are corrupt, doing abominable iniquity; there is none who does good.

“Corrupt”: Here is the deceptiveness of sin – it masquerades as something beautiful & desirable. Like how homosexual behavior is simple another alternative lifestyle or being for abortion is “pro-choice” (who would want to take away options?). Sin makes men altogether filthy.

“Vile”: or “have committed abominable injustice” (NASB). Is there really any greater injustice men can commit than to make sin seem attractive?

The Fact of Sin (2)

2God looks down from heaven on the children of man to see if there are any who understand, who seek after God.

“God Looks Down from Heaven”: Holy God, perfect & sinless, sitting upon His majestic throne looks down upon the earth. What does He see? A planet full of sinful men & women. All our sinful hearts & lives are open before Him.

The Witness of God: Do any seek after Him? When Paul quotes this verse in Romans 3.11 the answer is “no one understands…seek for God.”

The Fault of Sin (3)

3They have all fallen away; together they have become corrupt; there is none who does good, not even one.

“Fallen Away”: Is sin really that bad? YES! It is iniquity, unrighteousness, there is nothing good in it, it is evil. It is turning away from the right path, the path of life, to the path of death.

No One Does Good: Not only have we turned from God & corrupted ourselves, our interpersonal relationships are ruined because of sin. We do not do good to others.

The Folly of Sin (4)

4Have those who work evil no knowledge, who eat up my people as they eat bread, and do not call upon God?

“no knowledge…do not call upon God” is language indicative of those who never made time for God in their lives and their foolishness will ultimately find them out. Listen to the excuses people make when it comes to knowing God…

“I didn’t know you existed”: God has gone to great lengths to reveal Himself in the world & the Word – how will this sound to Him?

“I didn’t think you were important”: How insulting to God! What was more important? TV, fantasy football, Facebook, work?

“I didn’t have time for you”: Yet you had time for every other frivolous, meaningless thing; everything you believed was important, but wasn’t.

The Fruit of Sin (4b)

“…who eat up my people as they eat bread…”

Barbarity: these “eat up my people as they eat bread.” These devour the weak & the poor that they might become strong & rich. This is an apt description of the dog-eat-dog world that then was and still is.

Cruelty: when the deceitfulness of sin hardens men’s hearts we should expect to see even the family unit being destroyed. Just plain mean, acting  like junk yard dogs toward one another.

The Fear (and Shame) of Sin (5)

5There they are, in great terror, where there is no terror! For God scatters the bones of him who encamps against you; you put them to shame, for God has rejected them.

God their Enemy: Here is the main variation between this and Pslam 14. “great terror where there is no terror.” Their own consciences frighten them, their imaginations fill them with terror. There is a very real fear that cannot be erased: God is & God fights against them.

“God has rejected them”: They are right to fear because it is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. “The wicked flees when no one pursues” because in reality God is hunting them!

The Faith of the Saints (6)

6Oh, that salvation for Israel would come out of Zion! When God restores the fortunes of his people, let Jacob rejoice, let Israel be glad.

The Present Evil World: Sin abounds here & has made men barbaric & cruel. Our experience is one where sin wins: the righteous are vilified & destroyed. It’s as common as men eating bread. (Romans 3.10-20; 21-25)

Look Upward: First, our Savior has come & delivered us from the bonds of sin. We are no longer corrupt & vile because of Jesus. Second, we wait in anticipation for when Christ comes back to set to right all that is wrong:

This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering— since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. To this end we always pray for you, that our God may make you worthy of his calling and may fulfill every resolve for good and every work of faith by his power, so that the name of our Lord Jesus may be glorified in you, and you in him, according to the grace of our God and the Lord Jesus Christ.” (2 Thessalonians 1:5–12, ESV)

We are surrounded by sin & evil in this world. The world hates us but God has rejected them. When Jesus comes He will demonstrate that finally & fully. May we be found worthy when Jesus comes.

(Outline adapted from Matthew Henry)

Conclusion – Ephesians

“Better is the end of a thing than its beginning” (Ecclesiastes 7.8). Paul closes this epistle with a final farewell of blessing and benediction (6.21-24). The general language and lack of personal greetings would indicate that this epistle was intended as a circular letter, the target audience being not just those in Ephesus, but Christians throughout the Cayster River valley (see Introduction).

Blessing (21-22)

Paul is sending Tychicus to these saints to bless them with encouragement.

21So that you also may know how I am and what I am doing, Tychicus the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord will tell you everything.

So that…what I am doing:  Both concerning his physical situation (in chains in Rome) as well as his spiritual condition (personally as he preaches under house arrest and also how the church in Rome is doing). These brethren want to know & Paul wants them to know how he is. (cf. Col 4.8)

Tychicus…tell you everything: Tychicus was an Christian from Asia Minor who accompanied Paul (along with Trophimus) on his journey to Jerusalem (Acts 20.4).  He was probably a native of Ephesus or Colossae. He no doubt acted as courier of this epistle as well as Colossians & Philemon. Paul calls him a beloved brother and faithful minister (Gk diakonos) in the Lord (key phrase). This loveable and faithful brother would make known all that these Christians wanted to know about Paul.

Would Paul say about us what he says about Tychicus – that we are not only beloved brothers or sisters, but that we are faithful ministers? We need to love one another and also be loveable ourselves. Every Christian is a minister, a servant unto the Lord (not just the preacher). We need to be found faithful in our service to our God. Like Tychicus…

  1. We need to be devoted to the service of Christ
  2. We need to co-labor with our brothers in Christ
  3. We need a disposition which seeks to encourage brethren

22I have sent him to you for this very purpose, that you may know how we are, and that he may encourage your hearts.

I have sent him…encourage your hearts: cf. Colossians 4.8. Paul purpose in sending Tychicus is the same as why he sent him to the Colossians: so that these Christians would know not just Paul’s well-being, but that of those with him (how we are) and that Tychicus might encourage or “comfort” (NASB) these brethren with how God has preserved Paul, even in chains.

Our lives are open books to one another. Paul was eager to share news of the wonder work of God in his life with these brethren knowing that this news would strengthen their hearts. Comforted, they themselves could pursue ministry bolstered in their faith.

We need more Tychicus’ today – those who heal the hearts of saints by the good word and encouragement they share. There are too many Christians who are sour faced curmudgeons, killjoys who believe their sole purpose is to point out how others are doing things “wrong,” and by wrong they mean they are not doing things the way they think it should be done. Tychicus was not a wet blanket saint, a Debbie Downer who only dragged people down. He called people up and built the brethren up. He sought opportunity to share a gracious word with God’s people. He told of the grace, love, and peace God brought to Paul and that imparted grace, love, and peace to His fellow brethren. Yes, we need more people like Tychicus in the church and fewer with Debbie Downer syndrome.

Benediction (23-24)

Paul offers a final prayer of peace, love, faith, and grace for these saints.

23Peace be to the brothers, and love with faith, from God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Peace be to the brothers: This was the usual and common form of salutation of the time, especially among the Jews (Heb. Shalom).

Love with faith: Love is the fruit of faith, both of love to God and love toward one another. Where peace exists among brothers, love can flourish, stimulated by faith.

From God…Jesus Christ: The Father is the source of all these virtues and the Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, is the mediator of our peace & love. Both are the objects of our faith.

As Paul has detailed (2.13-17), Christians have peace with God thanks to the blood of Christ and peace with one another due to the same means. Further, God shows us His faithful love by sending Christ into the world to die and into our lives to live. All these virtues come from God: we love because He first loved us; we know peace because He gives us peace; we have grace because He is gracious.

24Grace be with all who love our Lord Jesus Christ with love incorruptible.

Grace…Jesus Christ: Whereas verse 23 is a specific benediction (“to the brothers” of the local church), here it is more general aimed at all who love our Lord Jesus Christ. Paul seeks the grace which he has spoken so often of in this epistle to be with all Christ-loving Christians.

With [love] incorruptible: or “with undying love” (NET, NIV). Here is the kind of love every Christian should have toward Christ. This is a rare word used only a handful times in the New Testament and typically in association with the resurrection (Romans 2.7; 1 Corinthians 15.42; 2 timothy 1.10). Used here it speaks of the abiding, unfailing love for Christ that marks genuine Christians. It “is not a passing gleam, like the morning cloud and the early dew” (PC 261).

The riches of God’s grace is immeasurable (2.7). But if we have no love for the Lord, this grace eludes us. No wonder Paul says elsewhere “If anyone has no love for the Lord, let him be accursed” (1 Cor 16.22). When you are outside of the grace of God because your love for Christ has died there is only a curse! So it is no wonder Paul has prayed for these Christians to know the unknowable love of Christ (3.19); when we know His love then our love for Him can flourish and grow. There will be no decrease or decay in it.

Note: all four (4) of these virtues have been discussed throughout this epistle: Peace (1.2; 2.14, 15, 17; 4.3; 6.15), love (1.4, 15; 2.4; 3.176, 19; 4.2, 15, 16; 5.2, 25, 28, 33), faith (1.1, 15; 2.8; 3.12, 17; 4.5, 13; 6.16, 21), and grace (1.2, 6, 7; 2.5, 7, 8; 3.2, 7, 8; 4.7, 29).

Grow in Your Walk with Christ, part 1

Ephesians can be divided into two main parts: the first three chapters explicate Christian doctrine while the latter three chapters explain Christian duty. Chapters 1-3 put forth our riches in Christ; chapter 4-6 point to our responsibilities in Christ. Beginning in chapter 4, Paul begins to unpack the normal Christian life.

A United Walk (1-6)

Christians are to walk together with Christ in unity and peace.

1 I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called,

I…prisoner for the Lord: see 3.1. Literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Therefore points back to all that Paul has written concerning the rich salvation provided in Christ (chs. 1-3).

I…urge you…have been called: Paul earnestly requests his brethren to soberly consider their calling from God in Christ and walk accordingly. To walk in the NT typically has reference to the whole lifestyle of the person. So a worthy walk would be one in keeping with appropriate Christian behavior. This is similar to what Paul told the Corinthians: “Consider your calling” (1 Cor 1.26). Think about the “holy calling” (2 Tim 1.9) you have received of God. Earlier in Ephesians (1.18) we get a glimpse of this calling: the confident expectation that we are the glorious inheritance of God. Since this is such a high/holy calling, live a life fitting or proper in regards to that calling. “True grace in the heart must show itself by true godliness in the life” (PC 146).

“Obedience is always a response to grace” (Snodgrass 194). God acts first; we respond. God calls us through the gospel; we align our walk accordingly. Since God has acted in history through Christ (chs.1-3), we have an obligation to live a holy lifestyle (chs.4-6). The orthodoxy (right theology) and orthopraxy (right practice) are inseparable and in fact are closely tied together throughout this epistle. The problem with some Christians is that we have a million dollar salvation and a five-cent response. They seem unimpressed with God’s salvation or bored of it or just really don’t care. If any of us has held a low view of God’s calling, repent.

with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love,

With all humility and gentleness: Humility is thinking of self in a right or true way in relation to 1) God & 2) fellow man. Don’t think to highly or too lowly of yourself. Think rightly & live accordingly . Gentleness or “meekness” (KJV) is a gift of the Spirit (Galatians 5.23) cultivated in Christians to maintain unity. It is a disposition of submissiveness & consideration toward others.

With patience…in love: Patience has to do with endurance of injury & perseverance. “A long holding out of the mind before it gives room to action or passion” (Trench). Paul says we need this with one another,”i.e. with brothers/sisters in Christ. We are patient and bear with one another in love. We are seeking the highest purpose and greater good of one another. The highest purpose and greatest good for all of us is of course to see Christ in one another.

This verse is about our relationship to one another. Christianity is relational by nature. We are not spiritual Rambos/Chuck Norris’; we are part of the community of the redeemed which means we must interact with others. So we humility, gentleness, patience, love. We need to get rid of self-centeredness, hostility, our own agendas and hobby horses, even our own self interests if are going to properly demonstrates these Christian virtues. We should recognize that all of us at times have been a burden and a pain to others. It happens; we’re human. But we are bound to our brothers in Christ and we must determine not to let them go. “Oh, love that will not let me go…” While that is talking about God’s love, it is certainly appropriate for our love to one another.

eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.

Eager…the Spirit: These Christians have this unity; they got it from the Spirit. The Holy Spirit is the Author of this unity. Christians are continually pursuing or guarding this unity, ready and willing to exert energy and effort in order to maintain the unity of the Spirit.

In the bond of peace: Peace is wrought by Christ (2.14-17). Whatever hostility there may have been between men before Christ saved them is eliminated. Combativeness & carelessness have no place in the church. What remains is the cord of peace tied with the knot of Christ’s blood.

The proper practice of verse 2 feeds into verse 3. In their day, Jews & Gentiles together sought to maintain what God had procured in Christ: the unity of the Spirit. Today, we have an obligation to do the same. To fulfill this obligation requires the obliteration of self. “Self kills peace” (Barclay 165). When we deny self and crucify self, Christ can live in and through us. The church then can fully maintain the unity and oneness God has achieved.

There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call—

There is one body: throughout the Ephesian epistle, Paul uses this image for the church and of which Christ is the Head (e.g. 5.23).

One Spirit: the Holy Spirit of God through whom we have access to the Father (2.18). He animates the body. Soma cannot live without pnuema.

Just as…to your call: The Christian’s hope is the glorious enjoyment awaiting us in heaven. To this we have been called (1.18, 4.1). It’s personal – you were called to this.

one Lord, one faith,one baptism,

One Lord: Jesus Christ

One faith: in Christ. Debate exists about whether this is the body of truth or one’s belief in Christ.

One [immersion]: into the possession of the Father, Son, & Holy Spirit (see Matthew 28.19).

one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

One God…in all: the supreme Being of all, the Father, who is the fountain of all being. the unity of the Spirit which we the church “maintains” is centered on seven (7) ones. Paul paints, stroke by stroke, the basis of unity upon which the admonition rests. Pictured here is a God who is actively involved in His world. He is supremely sovereign over all things and yet He is “through all” providentially at work in the world. No person is beyond His reach. He is “in all” as He sustains everything. Barclay puts it succinctly: “It is the Christian belief that we live in a God-created, God-controlled, God-sustained, God-filled world” (168).

These seven (7) ones show us that Paul is not talking about unity at any cost. Unity is founded upon Christ – our faith in Him and knowledge of Him. So there are limits to unity. Should someone deny one of these seven “ones” then there is an interruption in unity. For example,

  1. Body: Should someone say “one church is as good another,” we should respond that there is but one body, the church, not a multiplicity of rival societies.
  2. Spirit: Should someone claim that the Holy Spirit is not a person but a force, like electricity, we should respond that like the Father or Son the Spirit is a person of the Godhead.
  3. Hope: Should someone say all the righteous will just end up on a renovated earth, we should reply that we will be with the Lord where He is someday.
  4. Lord: should someone “deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ” (Jude 4), then of course we should take issue as Jude did in his day.
  5. Faith: Should someone claim that all faiths are just different roads up the same mountain, we should respond by pointing out that only faith in the one Lord will suffice.
  6. Immersion: should someone deny that baptism is essential for salvation, then we should likewise take issue.
  7. God: If someone claims that there is a plurality of gods or no God at all…

Grow in the Work of Christ, part 1

Some say that all of chapters 1-3 is a prayer of Paul (see 3.14; 1.15). So this section (2.1-10) is a recitation of the spiritual history of the Ephesians and all who come to obedient faith in Christ. This text can be seen to track with Genesis 1: We have the chaos (v.1-3) out of which God brings order (v.4-9) and a new creation (v.10).

Access to His Grace (1-10)

God made us alive in Christ when He saved us by grace through faith unto good works.

1And you were dead in the trespasses and sins

And you were dead: And indicates this section is connected with the previous verses in ch.1. You is emphatic. Paul is using a historical present tense (lit. you being dead) to remind these Christians of the filth from which they have come, that is spiritual death.

All people outside of and away from Christ are the walking dead. They are spiritual zombies, “dead even while [they] live.” Isa 25.7, they wear casket clothes. Those we walk by every day, who we work with, eat, with, commute with, perhaps even live with – they are dead! Just like you used to be. But God…even as God worked a work in your life, so He is able to work a work in theirs!

In the trespasses and sins: Two terms for offenses against God. 1) Trespasses—a term which points to boundaries set by God which we are not go beyond or barriers set up to keep us from harm (esp. the Law and conscience). 2) Sin—”missing the mark” by failing to do what God said to do or doing something which God said not to do. Both trespasses and sins have the same killing effect.

2in which you once walked, following the course of this world, following the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that is now at work in the sons of disobedience—

In which you once walked: Or how they lived, going about with their dead lives. Walking is a figure used later in this epistle (v.10, 4.1; 5.2, 8, 15) and elsewhere in the NT (Col 4.5; 1 Jn 1.7).

Following the course of the this world: Here is the 1st antithesis to life with God. This is “earthbound motives” which are typical of the world. It is an ethic which stands juxtaposed with “the coming ages” (v.7). This system does not consider God and is opposed to God (cf. 1 John 2.15-17).

Following…of the air: Here is the 2nd antithesis to life with God. “Satan is here pictured as the ruler of the demons and other agencies of evil” (Robertson). Formerly, these Christians had their lives shaped by the master of evil as they followed his bidding. That these beings are of the air indicates that they are immaterial, spiritual beings, not necessarily that they “haunt” the atmosphere.

The spirit…the sons of disobedience: present tense, the devil is still working in the world, namely in “children in whom is no faithfulness” (Dt 32.20). He fans into flame their dislike for the will of God. Though he fell like lightning from heaven (Luke 10.18), is judged (John 16.11), and will soon be crushed under our feet (Romans 16.20), Satan energizes those not surrendered to God.

Those who are not surrendered to God are subject to Satan. There are only two energizing forces in this cosmic battle for the souls of men: God and Satan. And if a person is not surrendered to God, he is surrendered to the forces of darkness of whom Satan is the head. “And if people are surrendered to the power of evil, they become those whose habit of life is contrary to the living God, and so they are rightly called the sons of disobedience.

3among whom we all once lived in the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, like the rest of mankind.

Among whom…our flesh: We all once lived points to Paul including himself with the Ephesian readers as among the sons of disobedience. Lived (or “conducted ourselves,” NKJV) stresses daily behavior. So the daily behavior of the unregenerate person is the gratification of “the longings and impulses of the self-centered life” (Foulkes 79). This is the pattern of life which emerges when left to our own natural desires and proclivities. Neither Jew nor Gentile are exempt.

We “all” did this before Christ. If you say you did not, there is no hope for you. We all gave into the base, carnal, earthy, selfish desires and appetites. That’s sin in its basic definition – gratify the selfish desires.

Carrying out…the mind: our habitual practice was to fulfill the will of the flesh and mind. “Lusts lead to acts” (Lenski). So not only self-centered passions, but the actual doing of those desires, both in the flesh and in our thoughts. Indeed, from our thoughts issue forth our fleshly practices.

Were by nature…the rest of mankind: Before becoming the children of God or light (see 5.8), we were by nature children of wrath. There was a Jewish thought that the Gentiles were ignorant of God “by nature” (see Wisdom 13.1). Paul affirms that all men—Jew or Gentile—are subject to divine wrath due to disobedience. Because of what they did, they were under the judgment of God. Like the rest of mankind could speak of Gentiles, but it seems best to understand it as the former state of these Christians before coming to obedient faith in Christ. All men, if left to themselves, develop the habitual practice (i.e. nature) of self-gratification (i.e. sin).

We see here three (3) fatal guides: 1) The world (v.2, “the course of this world”), 2) The devil (v.2, “the prince of the power of the air”), & 3) The flesh (v.3, “the passions of the flesh”). When one follows these guides, heeding their voice to “trespass” and “sin” against God, it leads to a very dark condition for man: 1) Morally dead (v.1, 5, “dead in trespasses and sins”), 2) Practically worldly (v.2, “following the course of this world”), 3) Satanically ruled (v.2, “following the prince of the power of the air”), 4) Wickedly associated (v.3, “the sons of disobedience among whom we all once lived”), 5) Carnally debased (v.3, “the passions of our flesh, carrying out the desires of the body and the mind”), & 6) Perilously situated (v.3, “children of wrath”). Here is the bleak picture of life outside of and away from God and Christ.

4But God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us,

But God: When the night was darkest, in broke the light! God entered the fray.

Being rich in mercy: Mercy is not getting what we deserve (wrath, v.3). No doubt God’s mercy is immeasurable like His grace (v.7). It is our in abundance and overflowing.

Because…He loved us:  It is God’s infinite love which is the ground of our salvation.

“Mercy takes away misery; love confers salvation” (Bengal). God sees our deadness and offers us life in Christ. There is longing in the heart of God for us to be restored to life and vitality. You cannot have verse 4 without verse 1-3.

5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved—

Even when we…our trespasses: Repeat of the reality of verse 1; spiritual death by trespassing. There were “No Trespassing” signs up and we crossed the line, climbed the fence and we paid the penalty for trespassing – spiritual death.

Made us alive together with Christ: As Christ was raised bodily by the power of God, so we are raised spiritually by God’s power. So we have new life with Christ, even eternal life (cf. Rom 6.4).

By grace you have been saved: At the heart of spiritual resurrection is God’s grace., i.e. His unmerited favor. The construction of this phrase (also in v.8) reaches forward & backward in time while also touching the present. We have been saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved—all by God’s grace. This is ubiquitous in the New Testament: Acts 15.11; Romans 3.24; Titus 2.11.

6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus,

And raised us up with Him: Having been revitalized (v.5) with new life we have also been resurrected with Christ. As Christ walked out of the tomb, so we vacate our spiritual sepulchers. As Christ ascended after His resurrection, so the Christian ascends out of the “domain of darkness” and into “the reign of the Beloved Son” (Col 1.13).

And seated us…in Christ Jesus: Or enthroned us. What happened to Christ (1.20) has happened to the Christian also. “We are joined to him so that we are where he is” (Snodgrass 102). The heavenly places refers the spiritual realm where we “reign with Christ” (Revelation 20.4, 6).

Salvation is presented as an event which has occurred in the past (i.e. baptism) and a present possession and reality experienced by those in Christ. To enjoy salvation requires being joined to the Savior. The gift cannot be separated from the Giver.

7so that in the coming ages he might show the immeasurable riches of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.

So that in the coming ages: that is, those periods and times from apostolic days until the second coming of Christ or the church age. Indeed, God’s grace has flowed freely and fully in history.

He might show…in Christ Jesus: throughout church history God has made known His grace in the example of the Ephesians and Paul (“us”). The riches of his grace must be immeasurable if He can show kindness (or love in action) toward such sinners! Grace is only found in Christ Jesus.

If God can show mercy, grace, and love toward the Ephesians and Paul, then couldn’t He show us the same? Haven’t we tasted the immeasurable riches of God’s grace in our own lives? God in kindness has freely and fully given us miserable, wretched sinners His grace.

8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God,

For by grace…through faith: Here Paul expands upon what he mentioned parenthetically in v.5. Here divine sovereignty and human responsibility meet in the rugged realm of redemption. Grace is God’s part; faith is ours. God’s grace appeared and brought salvation and teaches us the appropriate and right response to all that God has done on our behalf (cf. Titus 2.11ff).

This is…the gift of God:  That is, salvation by grace conditioned upon faith is a gift from God.  Man is unable to save himself. Further, man neither initiated nor accomplished salvation. God did and He offers the gracious gift of salvation to man who receives it unto himself by obedient faith. We were saved, are in a saved state, and are being saved by God’s continued favor upon us as we continue to trust Him for all things.

9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.

Not a result…no one may boast: If salvation were by works grace would no longer be grace (see Romans 11.6). Whether the works of the Law of Moses or any works man might attempt to perform to placate the divine fury—it does not matter. All man’s righteous works are filthy rags before holy God (see Isaiah 64.6). It is the law of faith by which boasting is excluded (Rom 3.27).

There are a lot of people today who believe that “if you’re just a good person, God will overlook all the bad you do and take you to heaven.” This heresy is straight from the pit of hell! Salvation by grace through faith is not of works. No amount of good deeds can atone for even one sin. “I’m basically a good person” is the statement of someone who does not know that Jesus says “No one is good except God alone” (Mark 10.18). Further, the Bible says, “None is righteous, no not one…no one does good, not even one” (Rom 3.10, 12). So, according to God’s word, no one is “basically a good person” and no amount of good works will save us because our good works are really polluted garments.

10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.

For we are His workmanship: Or His masterpiece. Lit. We are that which God has made. This is language which harkens to God’s creative power. But though the creation of the world was grand, the new creation is grander! To bring a world out of nothing is great; to restore that world from chaos is greater! We have been made anew by God (cf 2 Cor 5.17). So we are His people, possession, prize, (see Psalm 100.3).

Created…for good works: Good works will not save us. But in Christ Jesus we are made to engage in good works. Having been spiritually renewed we can fulfill God’s purpose in our lives.

Which God prepared beforehand: From eternity, God purposed that those whom He would create new in Christ would engage in good works (as opposed to evil works). “Before the foundation of the world it was ordained that whoever should be saved by grace [thru faith] should walk in good works” (PC 64).

That we should walk in them: In time, God has a blueprint for our lives which we are to live by. This walk is the habitual practice, the career of those saved by grace. “He who is not holy in his life is not saved by the grace of Christ” (Adam Clarke). “If we are not living a life of good works, we have no reason to believe that we have been saved by grace” (PC 64). “Boast not of Christ’s work for you, unless you can show the Spirit’s work in you” (Ryle 47). One cannot claim to be saved but refuse to serve.

If we would become the masterpiece of God (“His workmanship”), we must be “in Christ Jesus” and “saved by grace through faith.” Further, to truly be God’s masterpiece, we must engage in the works He has prepared beforehand for us to walk in.

Introduction & Greetings – Ephesians

Ephesians 1:1–2 (ESV)

1Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, To the saints who are [in Ephesus,] and are faithful in Christ Jesus:

Paul: see Author. Paul is named as the author and so he is.

An apostle…by the will of God:  Paul is writing in an official capacity so he uses the official title “apostle.” This epistle, then, carries apostolic weight. He is a representative, an ambassador of Christ, sent as His emissary in harmony with the will of God. This was not something that was conferred onto Paul by any man or which he took for himself; Paul was an apostle according to the desire, intent, and purpose of God.

To the saints…[in Ephesus]: or “to those who are saints and faithful in Christ Jesus.”  The Ephesians are both saints and faithful. They have been set apart unto God and put their faith into action. This is true of all Christians—they are saints and they are faithful. For more on “in Ephesus” see Introductory Material.

And are faithful in Christ Jesus: This phrase indicates that Paul intended a larger audience than just those Christians in Ephesus. The phrase “in Christ Jesus” appears 176 times in Paul’s writings, 36 of which are in Ephesians. This is obviously the keystone to Paul’s theology.

2Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Grace to you and peace: This is the Christian rendering of the greeting with which letters in antiquity generally began. It combines the Greek greeting (grace, Gk charis) with the Hebrew greeting (peace, or shalom). Grace is God’s unmerited favor. We don’t earn it or deserve it. Paul invokes God’s grace upon this community (pl. “you”).  not merely the absence of war but the subtle understanding that God is in control of everything. Grace brings peace. Taken together they are Paul’s customary form of greeting (see Rom 1.7; 1 Cor 1.3; 2 Cor 1.2).

From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: God the Father & Son are the source of both grace and peace. So Paul equates (but does not conflate) the Father and Christ. The distinction is not one of nature but of relation to the recipients of the grace and peace: God is Father, having made them children by adoption; Christ is Lord as Head of the Church. Grace comes from the God who is rich in grace (cf. 1.7). Peace must come from the “God of peace” (4.9).

Rejoicing in Purity Before God

After the glorious heights of vs. 5-11 which captures in hymnody the exalted nature of Christ, Paul seeks to encourage his brethren toward continued obedience to the Lord in Philippians 2:12–18.

Working Out, Working In (2.12-13)

As Christians are working out their salvation God is working in them.

12Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling,

Therefore: Lit. “So then” and ties directly back to 2.1-4. Paul is continuing his admonition of how they are look to the interests of others.

My beloved: This not a mere military call-to-arms; Paul includes his personal love for these brethren in his appeal. Paul’s commands are not burdensome, nor are God’s (1 John 5.3).

As you have…in my absence: The Philippians have been a marvelous testament to the missionary efforts of Paul. The greatest tribute a newly formed church can offer the missionary who leaves to continue his work elsewhere is to continue to obey God after the departure of the missionary. Paul encourages these brethren to further faithfulness though he is not there and may not be able to come ever again.

Work out your [own] salvation with fear and trembling: the word “own” is supplied in several English translations (KJV, NKJV, ESV). However, in keeping with his continued appeal from 2.1-4, it seems Paul is calling Christians to collectively work out our salvation (which includes not only the act of rescuing but also the state of safety). We are not only working out our own salvation; we are in this struggle for holiness together. Further, that this is a salvation which encompasses the church as a whole is seen in terms of Christ as Savior of His body, the church (see Eph 5.23) and Paul’s mention of “your salvation” (Phil 1.28). As Martin puts it: “After the great passage of 2:5-11 it would be singularly inappropriate to stress personal salvation” (116). The whole congregation, in fearful trembling before the Lord God Jesus Christ, seeks to help one another on the path to ultimate salvation when Christ returns. Not slavish terror but a reverential desire to do right.

13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

For it is God who works in you: God is ho energon, the Energizer, in you (pl.) or among you, enabling the church’s work at salvation. God began the work; the church seeks to carry on to end what God began. Christ work of atonement is finished; we work from the cross to carry out sanctification by the Holy Spirit. “The grace of God is alleged as a motive for earnest Christian work” (Caffin 62). Not only does God give us the gift, but the means and will to put that gift into practice.

Both to will and to work: God’s inward energy impacts both the decision of the will (volition) and the practical deeds (Gk to energein). “God gives power to will, man wills through that power; God gives power to act, and man acts through that power…The power to will and do comes from God; the use of that power belongs to man” (Clarke). “So divine sovereignty and human responsibility time and again meet each other in the life of the redeemed” (Muller 92). “Paul makes no attempt to reconcile divine sovereignty and human free agency, but boldly proclaims both” (Robertson). God does all, and we do all.

For His good pleasure: Even as the self-emptying of Christ was for the “glory of God the Father” (v.11), so the Christian community cooperating with God, who is working within or among us, and with fellow Christians, who are working at carrying out to full completion salvation with one another, is for God’s good pleasure. This pleasing to God.

Blemishes Out, Blameless In (2.14-18)

Holding fast the word of life promotes a life free from impurity and ready to be a (living) sacrifice to God.

14Do all things without grumbling or disputing,

Do all things without grumbling or disputing: Present imperative. In other words, this is a command. Everything we do must be without complaining (NIV, NKJV) or arguing. We should not murmur (like Israel in the OT) or argue (like apostles in the NT—Mk 9.49).

15that you may be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish in the midst of a crooked and twisted generation, among whom you shine as lights in the world,

That we may be blameless and innocent: Herein lies the purpose why we do everything without grumbling and arguing—the preservation of holiness.  Blameless means living a life which does not have an accusatory or critical finger pointed at it—to be faultless. Pure carries the idea of unmixed, like a metal which contains no alloys which could weaken it—no evil should be mixed in the Christian’s life. Together, these words provide somewhat of a commentary on living a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” (1.27).

Children of God…twisted generation: They are to be holy children of the Father in the world but not of it (cf. John 17.15-16). Cf. Deut 32.4-5—Paul adopts and adapts a description of apostate Israel to stimulate these brethren on to faithful living. While the generation around them may be dishonest and engages in serious wrongdoing, these Christians are to be morally upright, even following after the Father who is a “God of faithfulness and without iniquity.”

Among whom…in the world: like when God created the stars to give light on the earth and shine in darkness (cf. Genesis 1.15, 18). In similar fashion, Christians are “the light of world” (Mt 5.14) which shine forth our own light (our own goodness, ideas, etc.); ours is borrowed light from “the Light of the world” – Jesus (Jn 8.12). We are “light-bearers” in a dark world; we are the vessel or vehicle through which the true Light shines forth.

16holding fast to the word of life, so that in the day of Christ I may be proud that I did not run in vain or labor in vain.

Holding fast to the word of life: Present tense means they are to continue to hold fast what they have. Here is how we “shine as lights” in the “crooked and twisted” world. We are the lamps and God’s word is the flame. Christians are lights because they hold fast and hold forth the word of Life. The world does not have life’s Word and the church fulfills her glorious God-given mission when possessing and presenting God’s word. While the world must hear the word, they must also see the light present in our lives. “Their saintly lives testify to the power of the word of life” (Muller 95).

So that in the day of Christ: Paul’s has skin in the game because they are his fruit prepared for the coming harvest. The phrase “day of Christ” is unique to this epistle. It is more commonly the “day of the Lord” but both phrases appear synonymous.

I may be proud…labor in vain: Paul, looking forward to the final coming of Christ, anticipates glorying in his “joy and crown” (4.1) and in their salvation. He does not want to be disappointed in his brethren because they have not been living a life “worthy of the gospel of Christ.” Two images capture the kind of heart-wrenching disappointment: 1) completing a race only to learn of disqualification & 2) planting crops that never produce. Both imply strenuous exertion.

17Even if I am to be poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrificial offering of your faith, I am glad and rejoice with you all.

[But] Even if …your faith: “I am poured out as a drink offering” is a single word (Gk spendomai) and appears in only one other place in the NT (2 Tim 4.6) though he captures the same idea elsewhere (2 Cor 12.15). Paul is using highly figurative language to capture the possibility of his martyrdom. Paul would joyfully face a violent, bloody martyr’s death for the Philippians’ faith. If that is what it would take for their faithfulness in “sacrifice and service,” so be it. His life would then be a drink offering poured “upon” their sacrifice and service. Some see here an allusion to the fact that his audience is predominately pagan versus Jewish. Jews would pour a drink offering next to or around the altar and sacrifice; pagan rituals required pouring the drink offering over or upon the sacrifice. Paul will do whatever it takes to stimulate these brethren to faithfulness.

I am glad and rejoice with you: This scene of martyrdom is faced with glad acceptance by Paul for he pleased to have God’s will accomplished in his life. Further, as Paul has already made known, “to die is gain” (1.21). Christ is honored in and through life or death.

18Likewise you also should be glad and rejoice with me.

Likewise…rejoice with me: These are actually imperatives. Paul charges his readers to joyfully face future suffering and persecution even as he faces potential martyrdom.

Textual Note

“Glad and rejoice with” are related terms (Gk chairo kai sunchairo) which should both be translated “rejoice.” Joy is here connected with a proper perspective concerning Christian service.

Rejoicing in Participation in the Spirit

Having deduced that he will remain in the flesh and possibly reunite with his brethren, Paul’s attention turns to the confidence of sharing in the Spirit with these brethren. How we treat our brethren is contingent upon our assumption of the mind of Christ. This section covers Philippians 1.27-2.11.

Strive for the Faith (1.27-30)

Participation in the Spirit requires striving with the brethren for the faith despite suffering for the sake of Christ.

27Only let your manner of life be worthy of the gospel of Christ, so that whether I come and see you or am absent, I may hear of you that you are standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel,

Only let your…gospel of Christ: marg. “behave as citizens worthily.” Lit. “Only let your life as citizens be worthy of the gospel of Christ.” “Only” is emphatic and means “above all” or “at all costs.” The Philippians lived in a free Roman colony and would understand what it means to live like citizens. As Christians they were citizens of the imperial city of Christ (cf. 3.20). As members of that holy community they have obligations one to another and to Christ the Lord. A life “worthy of the gospel of Christ” is a frequent theme in Paul’s epistles (cf. Rom 16.2; Eph 4.1; Col 1.10) and denotes the obligations the gospel imposes, the privileges it brings, and the high calling to fulfill. The obligations of the gospel are obedience and holiness; the privileges are salvation and blessedness; the high calling is a manner of life like Christ’s.

The purpose of a holy life as a citizen of God’s kingdom is…

So that whether…am absent: Paul anticipated being reunited with these brethren (v.25-26) having reasoned to this conclusion, but Paul is neither omnipotent nor has he had this knowledge revealed to him as a surety. Hence, his statement here of whether he comes to them or is unable to come to them, whatever happens to him or them.

I may hear of you…in one spirit: though he may not be able to be with these brethren in the flesh, he hopes that news would at least reach him about how they are conducting themselves as worthy citizens and standing firm in one Spirit. This seems to be equivalent to standing firm “in the Lord” (4.1; 1 Thess 3.8) and standing firm “in the faith” (1 Cor 16.13). The idea of standing firm is prevalent throughout Paul’s epistles (see also Rom 14.; Gal 5.1; 2 Thess 2.15) and has roots in the Old Testament (Isa 7.9). This standing is grounded in God.

With one mind striving…of the gospel: These brethren are to be united in “one mind” (Gk psuche). That is, there is not to be any division or rivalry within the body which is characteristic of the opponents (v.15, 17, 28). This is key later to the Euodia-Syntyche argument. United, these Christians were to struggle or wrestle (Gk sunathlountes from which we get “athlete”) against a common enemy for the faith of the gospel (i.e. Christian truth).

28and not frightened in anything by your opponents. This is a clear sign to them of their destruction, but of your salvation, and that from God.

Not frightened…by your opponents: either 1) those already mentioned who are rivals of Paul (v.15, 17) or 2) introduction of “enemies of the cross” (3.2ff, 18). Either way the Philippians faced them not frightened (like a skittish horse) since they are standing and striving.

This is…their destruction: The courage these brethren face their adversaries with is evidence and proof of the opponents loss of eternal life unto eternal misery (i.e. destruction).

But of your salvation, and that from God: Standing firm and striving are evidence of these Christians gaining eternal life unto eternity with God. God did this.

29For it has been granted to you that for the sake of Christ you should not only believe in him but also suffer for his sake,

For it…suffer for His sake: God have given the Philippians a marvelous “gifts of grace” (“granted”). First, God granted them to believe in Christ (“not only believe in Him”). A key example from among them is Lydia who’s heart the Lord opened (Acts 16.14). Second, God granted them to suffer for His sake. There is a blessing attached to this (see Matt 5.11-12). Herein is faith in action.

30engaged in the same conflict that you saw I had and now hear that I still have.

Engaged in the same…I still have: “Conflict” here is agon from which we get our English word “agony.” Here it has shades of the military, conflict which an army would engage in. Even as Paul suffers the struggle of persecution, so too the Philippians share in the suffering of persecution. They are soldiers under the same Commanding Officer; each had a share in the conflict.

Paul moves from outside to inside, now explaining the Christian’s relationship to the brethren (2.1-11).

Serve in Humility (2.1-4)

Participation in the Spirit requires humbly serving while regarding others’ interests as greater than our own. There is shift of focus from opponents to brethren.

1So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy,

So: or “therefore” (NASB, NKJV) indicates Paul is expanding on his exhortation (1.27ff).

If [there is] any encouragement in Christ: That is, if your communion with Christ has the power to stir the heart and emotion. From spiritual union with Christ came divine help.

If any comfort from love: or persuasive power from love. Love is a power motivator and certainly the love of Christ would be a powerful motivator toward unity.

If any participation in the Spirit: if the indwelling of the Holy Spirit is a true reality.

If any affection and sympathy: could be translated “any merciful compassion” as a hendiadys. “Affection” (Gk splaxchna) means compassion; “sympathy” (Gk oiktirmoi) means mercy.

“If these spiritual experiences with which the Philippians are acquainted are present, they have to serve as basis for the deeper oneness of heart and soul to which the apostle exhorts them.”

2complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.

Complete my joy: that is, fill full. Paul’s cup of joy is already quite full, but the Philippians unity in thought and feeling would serve to fill to the brim his cup of joy.

By being of the same mind: lit. contemplating the same thing. Paul’s desire is for these brethren to think the same thing. What thing are these Christians (even all Christians) to contemplate? Whose mind are we to have? Verse 5 give the imperative of this verb.

Having the same love: “towards God and Jesus Christ, and in Him mutually towards each other” (Muller 74). This answers to the love of v.1 which brings motivation for unity.

[Being] in full accord: from a single Greek word (sunpsuchoi) which literally means together in soul. Christians are to be harmonious, with souls which beat together in tune with Christ and with one another. This kind of harmony is connected with…

[And] of one mind: This belongs with the preceding idea and so can be rendered “together in soul contemplating the same (one) thing.” Even as they were with “one soul” (1.27) to stand firm against the opponents of the faith, so they were now to be like-minded in love, soul, and contemplation. This is a lofty of Christian unity, the ideal we continue to strive for even today.

3Do nothing from selfish ambition or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.

Do nothing…conceit: Connected with the idea of what a Christian should contemplate, “selfish ambition” has to do with parties and factions (read: division) in the church. When it comes to division (in order to gain some kind of advantage), don’t even think about it. This is connected with “conceit” or “vainglory” (KJV) which is pride without basis and so is empty. “If selfish ambition is the symptom of the malady the root cause may be seen in vain conceit.” Morris

But in humility…yourselves: How then should the Christian think of him/herself in view fellow Christians? “Humility” has to do with thinking rightly about one’s self—that is, we do not think too highly nor too lowly of ourselves. 1 Peter 5.6 is the best commentary on humility—a right understanding of Who God is will enable us to think rightly about ourselves. “Only by a wise and lowly estimate of ourselves [can] we come to know what is due others” (Lipscomb 179). We honor one another above ourselves (Rom 12.10, NIV). Note how this works: I consider you more significant and you consider me more significant. The church becomes a “marvelous community in which no one is looked down upon but everyone is looked up to!” (Lenski 767)

4Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.

Let each of you look not [only] to his own [interests]: Paul is calling for selflessness rather than selfishness among these brethren. Christ is the supreme example of this (v.5-11).

But also to the [interests] of others: whatever efforts we exert to gain insight into the lives of our brethren ought to be so that we respond appropriately to their needs.

Seize the Mind of Christ (2.5-11)

Fellowship (unity), in the Spirit and in the church, is rooted in having the mind of Christ.

5Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,

Have this mind…in Christ Jesus: This is an imperative command—keep on thinking. This calling to think like Christ will enable Christians to serve one another in humility (v.1-4). Paul presents Jesus as the supreme example of humility.

6who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,

Who, though He was in the form of God: Lit. who is existing in [the] form of God. The present tense indicates He continues to be God. “Form” (Gk morphe) means the essential attributes, nature, and character. Hence, Christ Jesus was/is possessor of the essential attributes, nature, and character of God.

Did not count…to be grasped: Though He is eternally in the form of God, He did not regard equality with God a prize to be tenaciously retained or something He had to desperately cling to. It was always His by right of being God the Son. Unlike the1st Adam who sought to grasp equality with God through pride and disobedience, the 2nd Adam sought the pathway of lowly obedience on His way to exaltation (v.9-11).

7but emptied himself, by taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.

But emptied Himself: “But” in the Greek (alla) draws a sharp distinction. “Emptied” (Gk. ekenosen) is where scholars debate. What did Christ empty Himself of? Divine prerogatives such that He would have to depend on the Spirit during His life (as must we in His footsteps). This was His own voluntary act; He chose to suspend His divine privileges and prerogatives. It must be noted that Christ never ceases from being God; He suspends His glory (see John 17.5).

By taking the form of a servant: He empties Himself of the manifestations of His Godhood (i.e. glory, which is rightfully His) and takes up the essential attributes, nature of a slave.

Being born in the likeness of men: He was/is God; He became man. He took on human nature. Hence, He is one Person with two natures in perfect harmony and balance.

8And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

And being found in human form: “Form” (Gk schemati) is different than v.6, 7 and has to do with His external outward appearance. He was a man like others. “The Word became flesh” and Jesus says, “I became dead” (John 1.14; Revelation 1.18). The word “became” is indicative of behavior and action which is not normative for deity. That is, it is not the nature of deity to have flesh or die. Yet, Jesus died.

He humbled himself…death on a cross: The humiliation of Christ extends from His entrance into this world all the way to the inglorious climax on the cross. In His empting, in His incarnation, in His becoming a servant, in His dying, and that in the most ignoble way! And so we have gone from the highest height (God in eternity) to the deepest depth (God on a cross). Consider the humiliation of Christ 1) in becoming a man (Paul mentions the humanity of Jesus four times) and 2) in dying like a man. This is our example for it is the mind of Christ which is ours.

9Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,

Therefore: Since Christ was willing to condescend through humble emptying servitude…

God has highly exalted him: Exaltation is what follows His humiliation. In fact, the word is a superlative: He is exalted beyond a high status, even to the right hand of God (Acts 2.33).

And bestowed…above every name: God has “graced” Jesus with the highest name—Lord (v.11), the term used to translate the divine name in the LXX (YHWH=kurios).

10so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,

So that…should bow: This is universal recognition and acknowledgement of the majesty and might of the Lord Jesus Christ. Note the connection to Isaiah 45.23; the same worship given to YHWH God in the Old Testament is now rendered unto Christ.

In heaven and on earth and under the earth: All rational beings are classed into thre groups: (1)  the whole host of heaven recognize Jesus’ Lordship, (2) all people living on earth should recognize His Lordship, & (3) all those in the Hadean realm acknowledge His Lordship.

11and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.

And every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord: The “name above all names” is here revealed as the name which all must agree with God concerning Jesus as Lord. Angels and demons, living and dead, saved and unsaved—every tongue will acknowledge His Lordship.

To the glory of God the Father: This is the grand end of the Son’s humiliation—the glory of the Father. This is the unique purpose of all things. Since Jesus Christ is Lord we owe him worship, praise, and adoration as the second person of the Godhead. He is absolutely worthy of our worship. Further, we owe Him our confession of His lordship. Either we will render that confession to Him now to our benefit and for our eternal salvation or else we render our confession to Him later on the day of judgment to our detriment and eternal condemnation.

It is to our advantage that we bow the knee and loose our tongue to the Lord Jesus Christ now rather than later!

Fellowship with God is rooted in Confidence in Intercessory Prayer

Just a casual reading of the gospel of John and then the epistles of John will undoubtedly strike the reader with similarities between the gospel and epistles. There is however a marked difference in the purpose of the gospel and this first epistle: the gospel is intended to produce faith in Christ so that one might have eternal life in his name (Jn 20.31) and the epistle is written so that Christians might know (fully) that they have eternal life.

13I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God that you may know that you have eternal life.

I write—lit. “I wrote” or “I have written” (NET), i.e. in the sum of this epistle. This corresponds directly to 1.4 (“I write”): completed joy = full knowledge of having eternal life.

These things—contained in this epistle: walking, obeying, antichrist, love one another…

To you who believe in the name of the Son of God—i.e. Christians, those begotten-ones of God (5.1; Jn 1.12). “In the name” is eis to onoma (Greek). “The name” points to the very character or nature of the person; this is the object of faith. To “believe in” the name is to put your full trust/faith in the nature and character of that person; here it’s Jesus. To those who continue to put their faith and trust in the full character of Jesus, the Son of God John has written…

That—or “so that”; here is the purpose of John’s having written this epistle to these Christians.

You may know that—perfect subjunctive of oida, that full and absolute knowledge. John has developed a tight and detail argument for these Christians and against the anti-christians. It is all for the purpose of convicting and convincing his brethren to true knowledge. Know for certain!

You have eternal life—present indicative. These Christians have (present real possession) eternal life. We right now possess eternal life. This is the real possession of eternal life. You have it and continue to have inasmuch as you continue to trust in the Son of God.

14And this is the confidence that we have toward him, that if we ask anything according to his will he hears us.

And this is the confidence—or “boldness.” This is the freedom to speak. Prayer is speaking to, talking with God. John says we have freedom to speak to Almighty God. This has been a common theme of this epistle (3.21; 4.17) – the confidence of God’s people before God, both on the day of judgment (2.28; 4.17) and  in prayer (3.21; 5.14).

That we have toward him—This is nearly identical grammatical arrangement as 3.21. Hence, we have (present indicative) this confidence “before Him” who is God.

That if we ask anything—”that” is explanatory. In other words, this is our confidence.  Even as “we ask” whatever it may be, “he hears” (both pres. Tense). There is no timidity and we can present before Him “anything.”

According to his will he hears us—so, if what we ask for isn’t according to His will, He doesn’t hear us? I thought He always hears us. So then wouldn’t this exclude “anything”? We can only ask for those things which are “according to his will” as revealed in His word.

15And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.

And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask—”know” is oida that absolute knowledge. And we do know that he hears us, v.14, no matter what we ask.

We know—oida, full and absolute knowledge.

That we have the requests… – present indicative. “requests” or “petitions” is the noun form of the verb “to ask.” We ask and we have our askings. In other words, He answers.

We have asked of him—perfect tense verb. We have asked and continue to ask, continue to bring it before God (cf. Lk 18.1ff). Don’t lose confidence in prayer or in God’s ability to answer

John will next illustrate this point in v.16 when he seems to treat the greatest thing one could for—a brother in sin. Implies we shouldn’t sweat the small stuff (like gold Cadillacs).

16If anyone sees his brother committing a sin not leading to death, he shall ask, and God will give him life—to those who commit sins that do not lead to death. There is sin that leads to death; I do not say that one should pray for that.

If anyone sees his brother—It seems John is resuming the style common in this epistle for exposing religious error. It is somewhat akin to “If we say..” earlier in the epistle. ”Brother” is fellow Christian, not your brother of the world community. “Sees” is aorist tense—if you happen to see on some particular occasion.

Committing a sin—lit. sinning [a] sin. This is a sin that is becoming a habitual practice. Is this person lost? No, he is still your brother; fellowship exist. But this sin can jeopardize his salvation.

Not leading to death— lit. sin unto/toward (Gk. Pros) death. Pros is a directional preposition; this brother is not “toward death” but is toward life, light. This brother is striving to please God, however there is some sin in his life that could eventually be “unto death.”

He shall ask—”Anyone” shall ask, a Christian who sees his brother sinning will pray (intercessory) for his brother. John picks the greatest thing a Christian can pray for to illustrate v.15: God hears us whatever we ask. This asking is urgent pleading, even demanding.

God will give (to) him life—lit. “he shall ask and he shall give.” First, who is “he”? Seems to me that whoever “he” is both asks and gives life. In other words, once you have finished praying, go to your brother and tell him his sin. If he listens, you have won your brother (Mt 18.15; cf. Lk 13.6ff; James 5.19-20). What should we ask for? Strength, words. To whom is life given? “Anyone” or the “brother”? Seems like John makes it clear that “anyone” is giving life to his brother.

There is sin that leads to death—rather, “there is sin unto death.” Sin that is toward death, facing death. In other words, sin that is committed outside of fellowship with God/brethren.

I do not say that one should pray for that—This person has walked away from God. He has been told repeatedly to repent and has not. Fellowship has been broken on earth for fellowship was broken in heaven (Cf. Mt 18.15ff)

17All wrongdoing is sin, but there is sin that does not lead to death.

All wrongdoing is sin—or all “unrighteousness” is sin. John does not downgrade the utter terribleness of sin. Sin is terrible. However, there are sins unto death and sins not unto death.

But there is sin not unto death—it depends on which direction you are facing: toward death or toward life; toward light or toward darkness. This is a fellowship thing also. These are sins committed when in fellowship with God/brethren and of which Jesus’ blood cleanses us.

Fellowship with God is rooted in the New Birth through True Faith

Verse 21 of chapter 4 ended with this statement: “whoever loves God must also love his brother.” The question may arise: Who is my brother? Well, it makes sense that if we are a family, even the family of God, a birth must have taken place. John picks up where he left off addressing this question (so it seems) of who is my brother.

1Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him.

Everyone who believes—present active part. Everyone who keeps on believing that…Here’s your brother, O Christian!

Note: John isn’t talking to unbelievers about what they must to be saved; he’s speaking to Christians under heretical assault.

Jesus is the Christ—that is He is Messiah, the subject and fulfillment of OT prophecy. To believe anything about other than Him being the Messiah is antichristian (2.22; cf. 4.3). Indeed, Cerinthain Gnostics denied this key doctrinal point (from Cerinthus), the identity of Jesus.

Has been born of God—”has been born” is perfect tense (past completed action, present continue results). It is in the passive voice (meaning we are being acted upon [by God]). We are born “out of God.”  Here is my brother: the one who has been born of God believing Jesus to be the Messiah.

Everyone who loves the Father—present active part. Everyone who keeps on loving God. In this phrase, John focuses on the paternity aspect of God: He is the Father.

Loves whoever has been born of God—If you love the Father, you will also love His children. These have been born of God the same as you. Hence, they are your brothers.

Note: one writer called this verse a sorites, an argument composed of propositions linked together which ultimately unite the first and last. “To believe in the Incarnation involves birth from God. To be born of God involves loving God. To love God involves loving His children. Therefore to believe in the Incarnation involves loving God’s children.” (Pulpit Commentary)

2By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments.

By this we know— “By this” i.e. by what follows in this verse (“when…”). Here is the “proof” (as it were) that we love God’s children. ”Know” is ginosko, that experiential knowledge.“ These are the words, not merely of an inspired apostle, but of an aged man, with wide experience of life and its difficulties.”

We love the children of God—and therefore, our brothers. We desire to Christ formed more perfectly in the heart and mind of our brethren.

When we love God—present tense. Hence, we keep on loving God. What does love for God look like? Verse 3…

And obey his commandments—What commandments? Walk in the light, walk as Jesus walked, practice righteousness, and, of course, love one another.

3For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome.

For this is the love of God—that is, the believer’s love for God. This is based on the forgoing verse where the believer’s love for God is evidently under discussion. John clearly defines what it means to love God.

That we keep his commandments—there can be no question about what loving God looks like: an obedient life. Compare 2 John 6. “Love for God is not an emotional experience so much as a moral commitment” (Stott).

His commandments are not burdensome—So many (of the world and even in the church) have the opposite view of John. They see commandments (and commandment keeping) as legalistic requirements and “intolerably burdensome.” God’s commandments are not burdensome or grievous. They were not designed to keep us from being happy, poop our party. They do not produce grief; breaking them is a source of all our grief. It is men who make them burdensome (Scribes and Pharisees, Matt 23.4 same word used for “heavy”); Jesus’ burden is easy (Mt 11.30). God’s will is “good, pleasing, and perfect” (Rom 12.2). Indeed, when our will is united with God’s will, the Christian will not find obedience taxing.

4For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world—our faith.

For everyone who have been born of God—”For” is hoti, preposition of explanation. Why are the commandments of God not burdensome? Because everyone born of God has overcome (conquered) the world. There is power in the new birth. This is exclusive for the children of God collectively (use of neuter in Gk points to universality of this). Most see John emphasizing the church collectively overcomes the world. We are the born of God ones; we were born of God and we is born of God.

Overcomes the world—present tense, keeps on overcoming. Gk. Nika from which we get Nike (she was the Greek goddess of victory). This is victory. One person has said that Christians have Nike shoes on in which we are outrunning the devil/world. Overcoming the world is vital to the Christian for it is not from the Father (2.16), passing away (2.17), and it lies under the control of the evil one (5.19).

This is the victory—same word as “overcome” (Nike). Unfortunate translation but we get the idea. We (collectively) win and overcome the world. We are victorious people. Only time this appears in NT.

Overcomes the world—above was the present tense. Here, though, is the aorist tense. Past tense snapshot. The victory is pictured as having already taken place. There the assurance we need in this world! We are overcoming, indeed, we have overcome. How? By what means?

Our faith—lit. the faith of us. A singular noun with a plural pronoun. The church gathers around this one banner and by it we gain the victory and are victorious. Faith must have an object. “Our faith” in what/whom? In Jesus Christ, the incarnate Son of God.

5Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?

Who is it that overcomes the world—Or “Who is it that keeps on overcoming?” Perhaps clarification is needed concerning “our faith.” John does not leave his readers in the dark. You want victory? Who overcomes?

The one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God—Overcoming is tied up in what you believe about Jesus. In v.1 we must believe He is Christ; here John also presents Jesus as the Son of God. Jesus, the man from Nazareth, is (present tense; He’s not stopped being the Son of God) the Son of God. Here is humanity and deity in one person.

6This is he who came by water and blood—Jesus Christ; not by the water only but by the water and the blood. And the Spirit is the one who testifies, because the Spirit is the truth.

This is he who came— “Is” present tense; He still is Christ! Aorist tense. John points his readers to the historical reality of Jesus having come (past), something Gnostics dismissed.

By water and blood—Gk. Dia, through water and blood. See special study.

Not by the water only—”by” or “with” (ASV). Not only at His baptism where God the Father and God the Holy Spirit give their approval and are present.

But by the water and the blood—Again, “by” or “with.” In baptism and on the cross (which Gnostics made light of or even denied), Jesus is the Christ through and through.

The Spirit is the one who testifies—or “the Spirit is the one testifying,” present tense.

Because (hoti) the Spirit is the truth—there can be no higher testimony than the truth.

7For there are three that testify:

Three that testify—under the law, the requirement was two or three witnesses; John is establishing full legal testimony (see Deut 19.15).

8the Spirit and the water and the blood; and these three agree.

The Spirit—some say this is from prophetic word (even John Baptist) others the moment the Spirit lighted upon Jesus at His baptism. Clarke says it is the confirmed written word which is inspired of the Spirit. Either way, the living Divine testimony comes first.

The water—Christ’s baptism, historical reality

The blood—Christ’s death, historical reality

These three agree—lit. “the three into one are.” Bad English, good Greek? They agree that Jesus was/is Christ, second person of the Godhead. “The false witnesses at the trial of Jesus, seeking to discredit him, did not agree (Mk 14.56, 59); the true witnesses, however,… seeking to accredit him, are in perfect agreement.” (Stott) They converge upon one truth.

9If we receive the testimony of men, the testimony of God is greater, for this is the testimony of God that he has borne concerning his Son.

If we receive the testimony of men— and we do. This can be fallible witness

The testimony of God is greater—this is infallible witness, therefore we should receive it.

For (hoti) this is the testimony of God—It is one and the same with the three: Jesus is the Son of God, the Messiah and was such throughout His entire life.

That he has borne concerning his Son—”he has borne” is a perfect tense verb indicating either that the witness continues or that in the past the testimony was borne and it is on record at present time.

Note: verses 6-9, the Trinity’s activities—the Son came, the Spirit testifies and the Father has testified

10Whoever believes in the Son of God has the testimony in himself. Whoever does not believe God has made him a liar, because he has not believed in the testimony that God has borne concerning his Son.

Whoever believes in the Son of God—present tense part. “The one who keeps on believing in the Son of God.” Not merely faith in the fact, but faith in the person of Jesus the Christ. This is one who is also begotten of God (v.1), loves God (the Father, v.1) and the other begotten-ones of God (v.1).

Has the testimony in himself—present tense verb. “Continues to have the testimony (of God) in himself.” How? Some say by the indwelling Spirit bearing His witness in us (cf. v.6). Others say this testimony of God abides in the heart of the believer “as an additional source of evidence, supplementing and confirming the external evidence” (PC). Still others say faith is this testimony, serving as its own witness in the hearts and minds of Christians and confirmed in the objective evidence God has provided in the Spirit, water and blood.

Whoever does not believe God—present (reality) rejection of the Son-ship and Messiah-ship of Jesus which God has testified to objectively/historically.

Has made him a liar—perfect tense verb, permanent/present condition as a result of past failure to trust the testimony.

Because he has not believed in the testimony—perfect tense verb, points to a past act which perpetuates itself in the present condition of the unbeliever. He disbelieved God in the past and continues to disbelieve the testimony at present.

That God has borne concerning His Son—namely, His Son-ship and Messiah-ship.

11And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

And this is the testimony—John explains the content of the testimony of God and which the three (Spirit, water, blood) bear witness to.

That God gave us eternal life—aorist tense points to the historical fact of the giving of eternal life. God is the giver and we receive this life from Him through the Son. When did God “gave” us eternal life? Some say in the giving of His Son, either at birth or on the cross. Others says it is when the believer first put Christ on in baptism.

This life is in his Son—only! There is no other person, god, or Jesus (Gnostics) who can supply us with life eternal. Our possession of eternal life in His Son is present reality (v.13).

12Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life.

Whoever has the Son has life—Present tense part. Followed by a present tense verb. John indicates the present reality of the believer’s possession of life eternal. Its ours now! The possession of the life is emphasized in this phrase. In the next, the life is emphasized.

Whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life—No man can have “the life” (RSV) apart from the Son for this life is found only in the Son (v.11). This was the message of Messiah while on earth (Jn 5.24; 14.6). You can lose possession of the life (v.16b).

Fellowship with God is rooted in our understanding of our status as children

John has detailed how fellowship with God is rooted in love for God (2.15-17) and apostolic epistemology (2.18-27). Now he broaches the subject of the Christian’s relationship with God as Father and how fellowship is realized and enriched when God’s children understand that status.

1 John 2:28–3:3 (ESV)

28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming.

Little children—term of endearment/affection of the aged John to these Christians-2.1,12,18

Abide in him—same exhortation as we have seen in v.27: keep on abiding in Him (only). Him who? God? Christ? In one sense, yes. But specifically (contextually), I lean toward God (v.29). Here is the exhortation from John—in light of His coming, remain in Him.

So that (purpose) when he appears—Not sure when, but He will come, no uncertainty.

We may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame—John commonly juxtaposes counter positions and here is another example: boldness v. shame. The person who abides in Him has confidence (though standing in the intimidating presence of God) and does not need to be ashamed from Him (here is the shrinking back). Fear not, you who abide in Him.

At his coming—Lit. in His presence. Though in the presence of Almighty God, there is no need to be afraid, ashamed if we abide in Him. It would seem that John has the final coming of Jesus in mind.

29If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him.

If you know that he is righteous—”know” is perfect tense from oida, that knowledge that is absolute. It is absolute knowledge that God (He must be God the Father based on latter part of this verse) is righteous, right, just.

You know the one practicing righteousness—lit. the one doing right(ness). You are doing the same thing God and it is you habitual practice to act like God (walk in the light). Children of God will act like their Father.

Has been born of him—”has been born” is perfect tense passive. We were born (in the past) and stand begotten of God. Further, it is God who made us children of God. This verse speaks not to the means by which one becomes a child of God but rather speaks to the evidence that shows one is a child of God.

1See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

What kind of love the Father has given to us—”what manner of love,” lit. “of what country.” This kind of love is of divine origin; it is out of this world. And God gave it and continues to give it to us.

That we should be called—this is an appeal to the conscious nobility of the readers: you have been given a great title, name, even God’s name.

Children of God—Paul often speaks of Christians as “sons of God” and this points to the adoption aspect of our conversion. Strictly speaking, though, the word used by John speaks to the actual parentage involved. Coupled with “the Father” who has called us and the picture is set.

The world does not know us—present tense, the world could perceive that we are of God if they would but know God first.

It did not know him—aorist tense, seems to point back to Jesus. This is the same point Jesus made while on earth (see John 15.18; cf. 1 Jon 3.13).

We are children of God. Therefore the world does not know us for the world does not know God. God is known/seen by seeing/knowing Christ (John 14.8-9).

2Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is.

We are God’s children now—in this present age/world, this is the present reality.

What we will be… – though our present state is known, the future state is unknown. It simply has not yet been manifested even as Christ has not yet been manifested (2.28).

We know…we shall be like him—though there is much we do not know, what we do know is that we’ll be like him (Jesus), of the same or similar nature/kind.

We shall see kim as he is—present tense, Christ has exchanged mortality for immortality and is presently with the Father functioning in His salvific roles (1 Tim 2.5; Heb 7.25; et al).

3And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.

Everyone who thus hopes—to be like Him, with Him.

Purifies himself—present, keeps on purifying body and spirit (2 Cor 7.1). Christ, the Son is pure; what about the rest of God’s children, us?