God’s Grace & Submission, part 2

Slaves are frequently mentioned in epistles (1 Corinthians 7.21-23; Ephesians 6.5-8; Colossians 3.22; 1 Timothy 6.1-2; Titus 2.9; Philemon). This seems to indicate that many of those who comprised the first century church were in a condition of servitude or were owners of slaves. In this section (2.18-25), Peter focuses exclusively on “household servants” to encourage those who perhaps needed the most encouragement to live godly lives while facing difficult circumstances.

Submission as Slaves (2.18-25)

18Servants, be subject to your masters with all respect, not only to the good and gentle but also to the unjust.

Servants: Gk oiketai, household servants. No comparable institution exists in modern Western society so it is difficult to accurately translate this word. However, “semi-permanent employee without legal or economic freedom” comes closest (Grudem 124).

Be subject…all respect: cf. v. 13. Present tense indicates these Christians slaves were to continue to submit themselves to their masters “with all fear” (NKJV). Fear (Gk phobo) is to be directed toward God, therefore, this is “for the Lord’s sake” (v.13), not out of fear of their masters.

Not only…the unjust: Generally speaking, slave (both in the house & out) were treated good & gentle by their masters. They were trained to perform important domestic, business, & public tasks. Doctors, teachers, musicians, & managers were slaves. Rome had passed much legislation protecting the 60 million slaves within her boarders. However, there was abuse by “harsh” (NIV) masters who lived in “pampered idleness” (Barclay 249). Some slaves were mistreated, denied pay, kept in awful conditions, etc. Even to these masters Christians slaves submit.

Submission to “unreasonable” (NASB) & “perverse” (NET) masters by Christian slaves is perhaps the most difficult instruction in 1 Peter. Obedience to harsh masters must have been somewhat deflating & disappointing to the Christian slave who had come to a Christian worldview where all men are equal in God’s sight. Of course, like with the government, submission of slaves had limitations; if a master ordered a slave to do something against the will of God, the slave should refuse in order to obey a higher authority. Nevertheless, short of sin, the slave was to submit & obey even dishonest & crooked masters in all things out of respect & fear of God.

19For this is a gracious thing, when, mindful of God, one endures sorrows while suffering unjustly.

For this is a gracious thing: For signals that Peter is going to explain the reason for the radical submission of v.18. God looks with favor upon those who suffer unjustly while trusting Him.

When…suffering unjustly: The slave is mindful of God, that is, God’s will & presence, even his/her duty toward God. God approves of this because the slave chooses God’s authority over his own comfort & security, enduring sorrows & suffering unjustly (or wrongfully) for His will. Both the physical pain & mental anguish are in view here.

The Christian is to have a “trusting awareness of God’s presence & never-failing care” as they endure suffering, esp. when we suffer for doing the right thing, i.e. God’s will. Our faith is rooted in the knowledge that one day God will right all wrongs & vindicate the patient endurance of the Christian. This is what enables Christians to submit to injustice without bitterness and despair. It will also enable us to avoid improper responses like rebellion, revolt, hateful rhetoric, or misplaced fear.

20For what credit is it if, when you sin and are beaten for it, you endure? But if when you do good and suffer for it you endure, this is a gracious thing in the sight of God.

For what…you endure?: A rhetorical question—there is no honor in the patient endurance of rightfully deserved punishment for wrongdoing.  Many who sin and do wrong expect some kind of punishment should they get caught. That’s why they do all they can to avoid getting caught!

But if…sight of God: It could be that they did the right thing fro their master & still suffered for it; more likely this has to do with doing the right thing as a Christian when their master wanted them to do otherwise & they were knocked about being beaten with the fist. Doing the thing that pleases God & suffering for it will open new avenues of “grace from God.”

Peter gives two reason for patient endurance through unjust suffering: 1) God’s grace (18-19) & 2) Christ’s calling (20-25).

21For to this you have been called, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you might follow in his steps.

For…been called: cf. 1 Thess 3.3. Christians are destined for wrongful affliction. Why? Because unjust suffering is at the heart of Christianity in the model of Christ whom Christians are to imitate. This is the example Peter focuses on for Christian slaves who serve unjust masters, even the servant of YHWH. His is the supreme of unjust suffering by the hands whom He came to serve.

Because Christ…in His steps: Christ’s example is proof positive that God looks with favor upon those who patiently endure through unjust suffering. Of course His example is even greater because it was for you (Gk uper umon, lit. on behalf of all you). Nevertheless, Christ also suffered for you even as now you suffer for Him. Christian slaves follow in His steps when they endure unjust suffering from their masters.

NOTE: While Peter is focused on Christian slaves, the instruction can certainly apply to every Christian. Christ is our example (Gk hupogrammon) over which our lives to be placed & traced.

22He committed no sin, neither was deceit found in his mouth.

He committed no sin: cf. Isa 53.9. Never once did Christ sin, a fact of the gospel strongly attested in the New Testament (2 Cor 5.21; Heb 4.15; 1 John 3.5) & earlier in 1 Peter (1.19). He was the sinless servant of YHWH (see Isa 52.13). He is distinct from believers in this & because of His sinlessness is able to be our vicarious sacrifice.

Neither was…His mouth: Deceit is something Christians are to put away (v.1). Here is why: Christ. “If Jesus as the servant of the Lord did not sin or use guile, despite suffering intensely as the righteous one, then believers should follows His example and refrain from sinning or using deceit when they are mistreated as Christ’s disciples” (NAC).

23When he was reviled, he did not revile in return; when he suffered, he did not threaten, but continued entrusting himself to him who judges justly.

When…in return: A possible allusion to Isa 53.7. Jesus the “lamb without blemish” “led to the slaughter…opened not His mouth.” Though He was slandered & insulted He did not hurl invective back. He remained silent. Even those times during His ministry when He did defend Himself it was all spoken out of deep love for those who opposed Him.

When…threaten: It seems slaves were of a mind to be “argumentative” (Titus 2.9) & invoke divine retribution when caused to suffer. But not even Christ did this, choosing rather when the pain the worst to say “Father, forgive them; they don’t know what they are doing” (Luke 23.34).

But…Him who judges justly: Peter has already spoken of God as the just judge (1.17). Himself is supplied in most English translations & appears to be correct given what Peter says in 4.19 (“those who suffer…entrust their souls” to God). At the same time, the imperfect tense & His example from the cross seem to indicate that every dimension of His life was entrusted to God by Christ.

Our natural response when someone has injured us or hurt us to even the score by hurting them back &, if possible, hurt them more. If we can’t get even right away, we may threaten with violence later. “I’m gonna get you!” Or if they’ve hurt & we know there is no way we can get a hand on them, we might threaten divine retribution – “God will get you for this!” But these are natural responses for natural people. Instead, we believe in a God who is in control of everything & we follow the example left by Christ who “kept on entrusting” not just Himself but also His followers and even the wrongdoers and the entire situation “to Him who judges justly.” The imperfect tense indicates this was the regular practice of Jesus throughout His ministry. His attitude was one of faith in the just, fair Father of us all.

At the same time, we as believers trusting in the just Judge know that God will vindicate & reward us while judging & punishing our enemies (see Romans 12.19-20). In fact, it is because we leave justice in the hands of the righteous Judge that we can live like Christ without engaging in or even threatening retaliation. Jeremiah is an OT example this very thing (Jer 11.18-23). “Let me see your vengeance upon them,” he says, “for to you have I committed my cause” (20b). So Jesus was God’s gentle lamb. And we too follow that gentle lamb example.

24He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed.

He Himself…on the tree: cf. Isa 53.4, 5, 6, 11 (“borne our griefs…borne our iniquities”). Here is the vicarious nature of Christ’s atoning work—Him in our place for our sins. While Christians are to follow Christ’s example in suffering, we must also remember His suffering had this unique quality as the basis for our salvation. The Lord “laid on Him the iniquity of us all.” This took place on the tree (Gk xylon), that is, the cross, Peter preferring “tree” to connect his audience to Deut 21.22-23 & the curse upon those hung on a tree for judicial punishment.

That we…righteousness: Here is the purpose for Christ bearing our sins—living to righteousness.  A new kind of life is the goal of the sacrifice of Christ on our behalf & for our sins. This new life is marked by a cessation from sin which began at baptism (aorist).

By His wounds you have been healed: cf. Isa 53.5. By the wounds of Christ on the cross we have been healed of our moral wounds, i.e. sins. The punishment that was due us, that we deserved, Christ took upon Himself in the flesh to make us well.  Sin is the disease, Christ the Cure!

25For you were straying like sheep, but have now returned to the Shepherd and Overseer of your souls.

For you were straying like sheep: Cf. Isa 53.6. For explains we deserved punishment for wandering. This was the past condition of these Christians, indeed, the condition of everyone before coming to salvation in Christ. We wondered off the path of righteousness & onto the way of sin.

But have now…your souls: Gk alla, strong contrast. But now our fortunes have changed because of Christ. We are no longer lost, wandering sheep. We have returned to our Shepherd and Overseer. In the Old Testament, YHWH is the Shepherd of the flock, i.e. Israel (Psalm 23.1; 80.1; Isaiah 40.10-11). In the New Testament, Christ is the Good Shepherd (Johhn 10.11) & the Chief Shepherd (1 Pet 5.4). Likewise, in the Old Testament, YHWH is seen as the Guardian (NASB) of His flock (see Ezekiel 34.11, where “seek them out” is translated episkepsomai). In the New Testament, Christ is the Overseer who “seeks out” His sheep. All of this is firm testimony that in Christ YHWH came near.

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The Great Benefits of Our Gracious God – Psalm 103

A career with benefits. Some of you have a job which has benefits (perks) which you enjoy: maybe a company car, expense account, retirement stuff, bonuses, etc. Maybe you don’t have a career with benefits and want one. As Christians we have a career with benefits: our career is our Christian walk which we daily engage in and the benefits are manifold from our gracious God. Someone has called Psalm 103 “Heaven’s benefits package.” Our gracious God is worthy of praise for His great benefits He gives. What are the various benefits of our gracious God? In Psalm 103, David highlights several benefits YHWH provides His people.

1Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless his holy name!

2Bless the Lord, O my soul, and forget not all his benefits,

The Psalmist calls on “all that is within me” to remember “all His (Gods) benefits” (1-2). “God’s all cannot be praised with less than our all” (Spurgeon 2: 276).

Benefit #1: Salvation (3-5)

3who forgives all your iniquity, who heals all your diseases,

Forgiving (3a): certainly God has forgiven in the past, but He continues to forgive (pres. Tense). It’s continual – He is still forgiving. The scope of forgiveness is “all iniquity.” All wrongdoing is removed. From His immense steadfast love (v.12) He removes all our sins, transgressions, and iniquity (v.13).

Healing (3b): the term “diseases” is used figuratively (poetically) for the sickness of sin. Further, the parallelism of this verse combined in the larger context of v.3-5 and Psalm 103 generally points to spiritual sickness & healing.

Note: I do not, though, wish to minimize the healing power of YHWH, the God of health. “Among the greatest blessings which we receive of God is recovery from sickness” (Pulpit 8.2.382). Whether by natural or supernatural means, God is able to work healing (See Psa 30.2). That’s why, when we one of us gets sick, we pray. And there is NT precedence for this (James 5.14).

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

Redeeming (4a): “redeems your life from the pit” seems to be language that would be familiar to the Jewish mind concerning the patriarch Joseph. God redeemed Joseph from the pit thru the Ishmaelites. Rescue by ransom.

Adorning (4b): with steadfast love and mercy. More in #2…

5who satisfies you with good so that your youth is renewed like the eagle’s.

Satisfying (5): “good” things come from our good God and He “satisfies” us with them. The people of God are the only satisfied people on earth. While unbelievers search in vain for satisfaction, Christians have found true satisfaction from the only source of satisfaction. See 1 Timothy 6.17.

Benefit #2: Steadfast Love (4b, 8, 11, 17-18)

Intentionally in the middle (of the sermon) because this is the lynch-pin to this Psalm.

4who redeems your life from the pit, who crowns you with steadfast love and mercy,

The Crown of Steadfast Love (4): exclusively reserved for His people who enter into covenant with Him (“us”). Not a crown of jewels and gems, but of grace and “lovingkindness” (ASV, KJV). This is something which God continues to do (“adorning”), He is continuously pouring our His steadfast love (and mercy, too!) upon our heads.

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

11For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him;

The Cornucopia of Steadfast Love (8, 11): He’s got lots of it! So great is His is love, it is inexhaustible! Like the horn with all the food and vegetables coming out we often see at Thanksgiving, so God’s love is pictured as overflowing. What’s it like David? Verse 11.

17But the steadfast love of the Lord is from everlasting to everlasting on those who fear him, and his righteousness to children’s children,

18to those who keep his covenant and remember to do his commandments.

The Conditions for Steadfast Love (17-18): 1) Fear YHWH – that reverential awe and respect of the one true Creator. 2) Faithfulness (keep covenant) – even as God keeps covenant; God says, “I will be your God” to which the people say, “We will be you people.” Involved in this is a standard of conduct shaped by principles and values established by God. 3) Obedience (remember commandments) – perhaps some parallelism here; we remember His commandments when we keep covenant.

Note: Nelson Glueck on Heb. Hesed “in its secular usage as ‘conduct in accord with a mutual relationship of rights and duties’; he also emphasized the mutual or reciprocal and the obligatory character of the term in its religious usage for persons in relation to each other and to God.” “Israel understood God to be committed to the community in covenant relationship as the One who provided for all needs, yet One also always free and uncoercible.” This Hebrew term “compactly incorporates all three of these dimensions (commitment, provision for need, freedom) in a single word” (ABD 4: 377). Unconditional? Hardly! See Ex 20.5-6, 2nd commandment.

Benefit #3: Slow to Anger (8, 13-16)

Does He get angry? Oh, yes. We read about the wrath of God. But of His slowness… 2 Peter 3.9; Romans 2.4

8The Lord is merciful and gracious, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love.

13As a father shows compassion to his children, so the Lord shows compassion to those who fear him.

14For he knows our frame; he remembers that we are dust.

15As for man, his days are like grass; he flourishes like a flower of the field;

16for the wind passes over it, and it is gone, and its place knows it no more.

YHWH the Father (13): While Jesus would come to show us God the Father, even in the OT, the concept was there. David recognizes the paternal patience of YHWH, like a father is patient and compassionate with his children.

YHWH the Creator (14): He knows and remembers certain things about us (our frame, we are dust). How does He know these things? He’s the one who created us! And since He knows us, He knows we are “frail children of dust” (esp. seen in 15-16) and cannot withstand His holy, righteous anger.

Since God is the Father and since He is the Creator, He is slow to become angry. He treats us, His children, with compassion, mercy, and grace.

It’s the greatest benefits package in the world. And it’s ours! So it’s no wonder David closes this with a doxology of praise to God. Everything needs to praise God because He’s given us salvation, shows us steadfast love, and is slow to anger.

WORKS CITED

Freedman, David Noel. The Anchor Bible Dictionary. New York: Doubleday, 1996. CD-ROM.

Spence, H.D.M. and Joseph S. Exell. The Pulpit Commentary. 23 vols. Grand Rapids: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1962. Print.

Spurgeon, Charles. The Treasury of David. 2 vols. Nashville: Nelson, n.d. Print.

The Janitor’s Psalm – Psalm 84

James Montgomery Boice calls Psalm 84 “The Janitor’s Psalm.” Psalm 84 is another Psalm of the sons of Korah. They wrote a total of a dozen (42-49, 84-85, 87-88).Permeating this Psalm is the language of those whose hearts delight in God. They delighted in joyful service rendered unto God. God is interested in the simplest tasks of the simplest men. Who were the sons of Korah? Let’s build the background for this Psalm before looking at it.

The Janitors of the Temple – The Sons of Korah

Rebellion: Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders (See Numbers 26.9-11). Their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise…

Religion: 1) Music: Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. 2) Doormen: or janitors, if you will. In 1 Chronicles 26, men of “great ability” and who were “qualified” were set over the east, north, south, & west gates of the temple. Korahites were among those whose duty involved the menial task of watching the gates.

The Janitors’ Worship (Psalm 84)

Sanctuary (1-4): the beatitude of the house-dwellers (v.4). The bliss of God belongs to those who are forever the houseguests of God. They are singing about the dwelling place (residence) of YHWH. Since God lived at Zion, those who lived there were the most blessed of all people on earth.

1How lovely is your dwelling place, O Lord of hosts!

2My soul longs, yes, faints for the courts of the Lord; my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God.

Body (2): My whole nature, the very essence of my being has a holy homesickness, lovesickness for the King’s courts. Mind you, these are guys who worked and lived at the temple, but even then, they still craved God.

3Even the sparrow finds a home, and the swallow a nest for herself, where she may lay her young, at your altars, O Lord of hosts, my King and my God.

Birds (3): Both the sparrows & the swallows find their place in God’s sanctuary. They built nests in the eaves of the temple. These birds sometimes actually nested inside the sleeping quarters of the priests. There is such security for these birds that their young are safe. So the psalmist is say that the people of God can find such security for themselves with no fear of enemies. There may even be some symbolism in the birds mentioned: typically the sparrow is used to symbolize worthlessness (were they not sold for small, copper coins of little value, Mt 10.29). Swallows seems to symbolize restlessness, flying here and there (Prov 26.2). So our souls away from God are restless until they find rest in Him.

Note: “My King and My God” – notice how personal this is, with the double “my.” It is as if the psalmist seeks to take hold of God with both hands.

4Blessed are those who dwell in your house, ever singing your praise! Selah

 

Strength (5-8): The beatitude of those whom God strengthens (v.5). The bliss of God is for those who do not rely upon their own strength. Since the focus on this Psalm is on getting to the place where God lives, then the strength provided here is to get the weary traveler to Zion.

5Blessed are those whose strength is in you, in whose heart are the highways to Zion.

6As they go through the Valley of Baca they make it a place of springs; the early rain also covers it with pools.

The Valley (6): of Baca or weeping. This was a barren, desolate desert place. Those making a pilgrimage to Jerusalem would have ventured thru this rough terrain. But those who rely upon the blessing of God’s strength turn even that dry place into a valley of springs & pools of water.

7They go from strength to strength; each one appears before God in Zion.

The Victory (7): Since God is our Strengthener, we receive grace upon grace, strength upon strength to make our pilgrimage thru the Valley and up to Jerusalem where God is. So we appear before God in Zion. As we go to our heavenly Zion (a city with foundations), we are strengthening one another & blessing those we meet.

8O Lord God of hosts, hear my prayer; give ear, O God of Jacob! Selah

Shield (9-12): The beatitude of those who trust in God (v.12). The bliss of God belongs to whose faith in in God & God alone (not self or some other).  Typically our notion of a shield is for battle, a defensive part of the armor of a soldier. So God shields His people from the enemies – both material & spiritual. There is a second sense of this concept of shield tho. When a man seeks to kindle a fire, he may shield the flickering flame from the wind. So the God of Jacob did when He kindled a flame which would bless the whole world

9Behold our shield, O God; look on the face of your anointed!

10For a day in your courts is better than a thousand elsewhere. I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God than dwell in the tents of wickedness.

Just One Day (10a): Remember: these are the sons of Korah who literally did dwell in the tents of the wicked rebels. But no more. Just one day in joyful service in His courts is greater than 1000 days elsewhere. “Earth holds no treasures but perish with using, However precious they be;/ Yet there’s a country to which I am going: Heaven holds all to me.”

Janitor Work (10b): You’ve probably heard someone say before, “I don’t care if I have to scrub toilets in heaven as long as I’m there!” That’s essentially what the psalmist is saying: give me the most menial, small task – that lowly station in God’s house is better than the highest position among the godless

11For the Lord God is a sun and shield; the Lord bestows favor and honor. No good thing does he withhold from those who walk uprightly.

Good Things (11): God is sun (only place in the Bible God is called “a sun”) & shield, the fire starter (light source) & fire keeper. He gives grace (favor) & greatness (honor). His grace enables us to “walk uprightly” before Him; this secures for us the many & various good things (i.e. blessings). Matthew 7.11; Romans 8

12O Lord of hosts, blessed is the one who trusts in you!

Everything we do, no matter how small or mundane it may seem, is important to God. Even the birds of heaven find their home in God’s dwelling. Are we not much more valuable than the sparrow? We must learn to seek & trust God. Life in God & with God is blessed

Desiring God – Psalms 42-43

Book 2 of the Psalms begins with this desperate desire for God expressed by men who shouldn’t even be alive. Psalm 42 is the 1st of a dozen Psalms (42-49, 84-85, 87-88) written by the sons of Korah and is intended to be coupled with Psalm 43 (cf. 42.5, 11; 43.5 – same chorus). Their daddy (or distant relative) led a rebellion against Moses with 250 community leaders. See Numbers 26.9-11, their daddy & his band died, but the sons of Korah did not die. In fact, Korah was one of five major Levitical families (see Numbers 26.53; 1 Chronicles 6.31-33). The sons of Korah are a family of Levites David organized into a musical guild; they were a Levitical family of singers. In gratitude to God they devoted themselves to producing praise. God is the craving and desire of the depressed and despairing soul. How vital is knowing God to the saint? Psalms 42-43 reveal how vital God is to the soul.

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). Psalms 42, 44, 45, 52-55, 74, 78, 88, 89, & 102 are also maskil Psalms.

Desire for God (42.1-5)

 

1As a deer pants for flowing streams, so pants my soul for you, O God.

2My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. When shall I come and appear before God?

Thirst (1-2): “My soul” speaks to the Psalmist’s inmost self, his deepest life, his essential being; this is what is most desperate for God. This desire for God is just as vital as the body’s need to drink. Is communion with God an urgent need of your soul, even as drink is vital to your body?

3My tears have been my food day and night, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Tears (3): Tears are the bread of the brokenhearted & the drink of the despairing (cf. Psalm 80.5). Tears come because of the hatred of his enemies

4These things I remember, as I pour out my soul: how I would go with the throng and lead them in procession to the house of God with glad shouts and songs of praise, a multitude keeping festival.

Tabernacle/Temple (4): Although the temple may yet to be built, they certainly had the tabernacle as the house of God. Regardless, this verse communicates the Psalmists intense desire to be in God’s presence & seek His face. Essentially he says he was the 1st one through the doors when they were opened. He probably would have lingered as long as possible, being the last one out the door when the shouts & songs were over. What about us in the temple of the Lord today? Do we have this intense longing for God’s presence? Wild dogs couldn’t drag us away from being here!

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation

Chorus (5, 11; 43.5): “Cast down” is the language of depression. “Why?” Persecution? Sure, v.3, 9-10; 43.1 all indicate this is the case. Deprived from word & worship of God? Absolutely, v.1-2 indicates this is probably the primary reason for a downcast disposition. Ever been here? Drowning in tears, with a heavy heart. Feelings of sadness like a prison you can’t break free from?

Depressed Over God (42.6-11)

6and my God. My soul is cast down within me; therefore I remember you from the land of Jordan and of Hermon, from Mount Mizar.

7Deep calls to deep at the roar of your waterfalls; all your breakers and your waves have gone over me.

8By day the Lord commands his steadfast love, and at night his song is with me, a prayer to the God of my life.

9I say to God, my rock: “Why have you forgotten me?

Abandoned by God (6-9a): This is how the Psalmist feels. Verse 6: “Jordan…Harmon…Mount Mizar” are all places east of the Jordan River & are a long way off from Jerusalem. It is as far as you can go and still catch just a glimpse of the Promised Land. “God, I feel far away from you” whether physically or figuratively. Verse 7: Billow upon billow like he is lost as sea with the waves crashing upon him. The Psalmist is overwhelmed by trials. Rarely is it just on trial, one problem; it is not single file trials, but a battalion of billows. Verse 8: I know He loves me & I sing songs of His steadfast love every day. Verse 9: God is not acting quickly enough; it feels like He has forgotten me.

Why do I go mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?”

10As with a deadly wound in my bones, my adversaries taunt me, while they say to me all the day long, “Where is your God?”

Attacked by His Enemies (9b-10): Builds from verse 3. “When you need Him your God is absent!” All day long they taunt. Non-stop.

11Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Reasons People Get Depressed: Even the saints of God can struggle with depression. “Why?” Could be because of temperament, physical conditions (weather, environment), down reaction following great blessing, attacks from Satan, attacks from unbelievers, unbelief (in self or others), disappointment with life, personal failure, burden of growing old. In these Psalms there are several reasons also: 1) Absence from God’s presence (1-2); 2) Challenges from unbelievers (3, 10); 3) Remembering better times (4); 4) Overwhelming trials (7); 5) Impatience with God acting (9) – God is not acting quickly enough; 6) Attacks from ungodly people (43.1). These and other reasons are why people struggle with depression.

How to Overcome Depression: Not only does this Psalm give reasons for depression but it also gives us hope in overcoming it. 1) Long for God (1-2) – run to the living water just as a deer flees to the flowing streams. 2) Remember (4): Those happy memories are meant to help not hurt you. 3) Self-reflection (5, 11; 43.5): “Why do I feel this way?” Think about your thinking, identify the lies & replace those with truth. 4) Hope in God (5, 11; 43.5): He is a recourse for your soul. 5) God still loves you (8): We are reminded of His “steadfast love” upwards to 50 times in Scripture for a reason. 6) Wait for God’s defense (9; 43.1-2): We don’t like to wait, esp. when times are hard. We get impatient & want to fight our own battles. But it is God who justifies. 7) Worship (43.4): The soul is nourished by coming into His presence & seeking His face.

Defense from God (43.1-5)

1Vindicate me, O God, and defend my cause against an ungodly people, from the deceitful and unjust man deliver me!

2For you are the God in whom I take refuge; why have you rejected me? Why do I go about mourning because of the oppression of the enemy?

Remember God’s Defense (1-2): Let God fight your battles.

3Send out your light and your truth; let them lead me; let them bring me to your holy hill and to your dwelling!

4Then I will go to the altar of God, to God my exceeding joy, and I will praise you with the lyre, O God, my God.

Rest in God’s Goodness (3-4): Come taste His goodness & worship Him.

5Why are you cast down, O my soul, and why are you in turmoil within me? Hope in God; for I shall again praise him, my salvation and my God.

Revel in God’s Hope (5): “Why?” is asked over & over. It is the question which won’t go away. After each one – “Hope in God.” A stunning, surprising declaration. He is the answer which won’t go away. We are surprised by hope in God who saves & secures us. For us under the New Covenant we have the added promise of the peace of Christ (Phil 4.6-7).

We were dead in our trespasses & sins; we are not supposed to be alive & yet we live forevermore because of God. If by grace God has spared us a fate worse than death, wouldn’t we desire to be in His presence, thirsting for His living water?

At its heart this is a psalm for the depressed, those down in the dumps, those saints of God who are feeling blue. In gratitude, praise God for His mercy & grace.

When You Blow It – Psalm 6

Psalm 6 is the first of what are known as the penitentials (32, 38, 51, 102, 130, 143); these are Psalms of great lamentation over sin. This one is probably not as well-known as the others (32, esp. 51), but it communicates feelings I believe we can all identify with: the feeling of failing God. What do we do when we have failed God, sinned? This Psalm tells us there is hope when we bow it spiritually. Psalm 6 provides hope for when we’ve blown it morally. Two things to mention initially: 1) though the sin is not mentioned, the conscience is clearly stricken; and 2) though the sin is unnamed, the Lord knows what it is.

Psalm 6 (ESV)

To the choirmaster: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.

1O Lord, rebuke me not in your anger, nor discipline me in your wrath.

2Be gracious to me, O Lord, for I am languishing; heal me, O Lord, for my bones are troubled.

3My soul also is greatly troubled. But you, O Lord—how long?

4Turn, O Lord, deliver my life; save me for the sake of your steadfast love.

5For in death there is no remembrance of you; in Sheol who will give you praise?

6I am weary with my moaning; every night I flood my bed with tears; I drench my couch with my weeping.

7My eye wastes away because of grief; it grows weak because of all my foes.

8Depart from me, all you workers of evil, for the Lord has heard the sound of my weeping.

9The Lord has heard my plea; the Lord accepts my prayer.

10All my enemies shall be ashamed and greatly troubled; they shall turn back and be put to shame in a moment.

When You’ve Blown It

A Lurking Sense of God’s Displeasure (1-3): The Psalmist speaks of “Your anger…Your wrath” (v.1). The wrath of God over sin is very real. Sin is no small matter, lightly overlooked. The true gravity of sin is seen in what it cost God to redeem us from sin: His unique Son, Jesus.

A Lost Sense of God’s Presence (4-5): “Turn” or “return” says come back. Why? Implication is the Psalmist feels as tho God has departed due to sin. But the return of YHWH will mean salvation & deliverance. So yes – come back! Don’t stay away forever! Restore me that I may praise you.

A Lacking Sense of God’s Peace (6-7): Notice the Psalmist is up all night, every night mourning his sin (every night I flood my bed with tears). Sleep eludes the conscience stricken person. Indeed, his whole being – mind, body, soul – is in distress. There is no rest, no peace, even if you are a king like David was. Have you ever experienced this kind of spiritual & bodily fatigue – unable to get out of bed, too tired to go to work, too worn out to clean the house, maybe even too depressed to go to church, read the Bible, even pray? I know some have. Perhaps the only thing you can pray is v.3 – How long, O Lord?

A Longing for God’s Deliverance (8-10): How long until I am delivered from this? From my enemies (all you workers of evil), esp. the spiritual forces of darkness which are probably at the source of many of our troubles. You want it so desperately. You plead & pray for God to deliver.

What Do We Do When We’ve Sinned

Feel the Guilt (1-3): Godly grief produces repentance unto salvation (2 Cor 7.10). We ought to feel guilty when we sin. If we do not, we’re in trouble. Lack of guilt is indicative of a seared conscience. 1) The Psalmist feels the guilt & knows he deserves rebuke just “not in Your anger,” discipline but “not in Your wrath” (v.1). 2) The Psalmist is “languishing,” that is, he is withered like a plant or flower; lit. he is one who droops (v.2). 3) The Psalmist seems absolutely worn out by his grief; so weary in fact, that he can’t finish the sentence. “How long?” he asks without specifying for what. See Habakkuk 1.2; given v.9, this makes sense.

Pro Top Tip: When someone comes forward following a sermon I am very mindful to not minimize the action of one by lumping it in with the masses. Saying things like “We all have…” minimizes their repentance when instead, they need to feel the weight & gravity of this.

Pray to God (4-7): “Save me,” cries the Psalmist to God. Also, notice how often God is mentioned in these opening verses – my count is five (5) times in four (4) verses. He is the only and best hope we have for these dark nights of the soul: YHWH. He is the hope of the David & He is our hope as well. This is the turning point – when David, by habit, training, or sheer desperation, hurls himself to God and calls upon God.

Repent (8): Verse 8 is the turning-point of this Psalm. The grief & guilt should lead to true repentance. “Depart from me, all you workers of evil” – this is the language of practical repentance. You sweep out the wicked, purge yourself of the impure so that you are holy unto the Lord. The change of mood continues into the next verses. Why? God has heard my prayer!

Know God Hears (9-10): Though you sin, you are still a child of God. Unless you up & leave home,  live in open, willful rebellion…that’s a different story. But when a child of God fails the Father, know you still have the Father’s ear. When Simon (the Magician), a child of God, fails the Father thinking to buy the miraculous demonstration of the Holy Spirit with money, what does Peter tell him to do? Acts 8.22, though he has sinned, he still has the Father’s ear. Back in Psalm 6, notice the three-fold assertion – “YHWH has heard…YHWHW has heard…YHWH has accepted…” this denotes absolute conviction. No doubt about it.

When Others Blow It

Be Gracious (2): Even as we desire for God to be gracious us so we ought to be people who show grace to one another. Remind them of the hope we have in Christ Jesus. Pray with & for them.

Mourn (6-7): We should agonize over sin in our brothers & sisters. Especially if they persist in their sin. “Cemeteries are quiet places where damp earth covers dumb mouths” (Spurgeon). Now is the time to remember God.

Remember God’s There (8-10): God is not lost, those who rebel against Him & reject Him are. God was always there, even when we’ve blown it. He’s still there for our brothers & sisters who choose to walk away from the Father.

When you sin, you should feel guilty, but do not therefore feel lost. In the dark night of the soul, when we have failed to live up to the high, holy standard, call upon God. Request light. God is our light & pathway through the darkness.

Grow in the Will of God, part 2

Paul has just defined what the mystery of God is (3.6) and now turns his attention to his role in making known God’s mystery as “a minister.” He will also give special attention to the church’s cosmic role in relation to the mystery as well.

The Propagation of the Mystery (7-13)

The church is steward of the mystery and makes it known in both the physical & spiritual realms.

7Of this gospel I was made a minister according to the gift of God’s grace, which was given me by the working of his power.

Of this gospel…gift of God’s graceMinister (Gk diakonos) is the word from which we get “deacon.” It was by grace that Paul was a servant of the mystery of the gospel.

It is still by the grace of God that we 1) have our current work for the kingdom & 2) carry out our ministry to the glory of God. The task to which Paul was called “needed no mere human strength and patience and power of endurance” (Foulkes 103). So too with us we need the power and grace of God in all our labor for the kingdom. Far too often we depend upon our own strength and power. What does that look like? Well, perhaps it shows up when we are grateful we survived another year of VBS without tearing off someone’s head. Is that really what we’ve been called to in the church? To survive? Or to thrive? And to actually enjoy comradery with one another as we rally around a common cause in a spirit of love. When we depend upon our own power, we merely survive thru church functions; when we rely upon the power of God, we thrive together being built up in love.

Which was…His power: “Paul gratefully acknowledged that all the power of his ministry was God’s, not his own” (PC 105). This is true both in the equipping for and the exercise of it (Col 1.29). “By the grace of God he was called and received as a servant of the gospel, and by the power of God he did all that was effective in that service” (Foulkes 103-104).

8To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ,

To me…grace was given: Paul makes a similar statement about his unworthiness in 2 Corinthians 12.11. Here Paul emphasizes all the saints, i.e. he is least in the church at large. This attitude is born out of his reflection upon the marvel of God’s grace working in his life.

There are too many Christians who view themselves as the greatest gift God gave His church. Barclay puts it like this, “The tragic fact in churches is that there are so many who are more concerned with their own honour and prestige than with the honour and prestige of Jesus Christ; and who are more concerned that they should be noticed than that Christ should be seen” (147). To which I say, “Please, hear Paul on this.” He calls himself the least which is not false deprecation. I believe he meant it and truly viewed himself as least. But when you really adopt the role of a servant and the mind of Christ, naturally (or supernaturally) you become least.

To preach…riches of Christ: Grace is not merely something to be received but to be shared with others and so Paul evangelized to the Gentiles with the glorious gospel of grace. The riches of God’s grace in Christ are unsearchable or “unfathomable” (NASB). That is, they are beyond comprehension and understanding. Yet Paul sought to search out the unsearchable. Cf. Job 5.9; 9.10.

9and to bring to light for everyone what is the plan of the mystery hidden for ages in God who created all things,

To bring to light…the mystery: In addition to his preaching, Paul was enlightening everyone (Jew & Gentile) to the plan (Gk oikonomia, same word as v.2) of God in the mystery. So Paul’s function is to explain how God has dispersed His grace to both Jews and Gentiles through Christ.

Hidden for ages…all things: The mystery had been kept secret for ages, inaccessible because it was in God. God’s role as Creator is mentioned to not only affirm the existence of God or deny Darwinian evolution, but to indicate God’s purpose was hidden during those past times from creation until the New Testament church age and prepares us for the next verse…

Textual Note: Some mss have “through Christ Jesus” at the end of this verse, however, many of the ancient mss do not have these words, though it is a Biblical concept (see Hebrews 1.2).

10so that through the church the manifold wisdom of God might now be made known to the rulers and authorities in the heavenly places.

So that through the church: Now Paul addresses the church’s glorious mission and role in the grand scheme of redemption. This is the purpose of the church now established through the gospel.

The manifold wisdom…made known: In the blood bought body of Christ God’s wisdom is manifested in a myriad of differing ways. God is putting His genius & intellect on display not only for men, but for…

To the rulers…in heavenly places:  Every created being is watching what God is doing in the church, being enlightened concerning His work in human redemption. While the church’s responsibility is to evangelize the world, the emphasis of this verse is on the spiritual relam. So God’s “master plan” has unfolded throughout this section: first, it was made known to Paul (v.3); then, it was revealed to the apostles and prophets (v.5); next, everyone was enlightened to the plan (v.9); finally, it was made known to the spiritual forces in the unseen heavenly realms (v.10). So Paul brings us full circle from where he started in 1.10: Christ uniting all things in heaven and on earth.

Some might ask, “Why wait?” Why did God wait until the NT times to reveal His master plan? Simply, to glorify Himself. Everything in heaven and on earth and under the earth has now focused on what God is doing through the church, uniting Jew & Gentile, all of them redeemed by the blood of Christ. But this work continues in history as God unites Sunni & Shiite Muslims, American capitalist & Chinese communist, slave & free, black & white, educated & illiterate, democrat & republican – all men into one holy body, the church. And the angels marvel. And the demons shudder. Because this God is so wise. Romans 11.33.

11This was according to the eternal purpose that he has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord,

According to the eternal purpose: Literally, this is the “purpose of the ages.” It answers to v.9 “hidden for ages;” though hidden, God was still in history working out His purpose and putting on display his “manifold wisdom.” “Behind all the events of this world’s history there is an eternal purpose being worked out” (Foulkes 106). This is the reason some suggest we call it His-story. All of human history was driving toward the glorious entrance of Christ. Since it is the eternal purpose, it extends from eternity before time began to eternity when time is no more.

In just a few brief words, Paul puts to bed whatever notions premillenialism has concerning the church being merely an afterthought, a Plan B, a parenthesis, an audible called at the line of scrimmage. Christ’s church has always been Plan A in the “eternal purpose” of God. According to Paul in Ephesians, God planned a work and worked His plan; God purposed a purpose and accomplished that purpose in Christ and the church. See Job 42.2. Maybe Left Behind left out that verse!

He has realized in Christ Jesus our Lord: Jesus is the agent by which God “accomplished” (NIV) His eternal purpose. From eternity, God purposed that human redemption would be realized in the cross of Christ (cf. Rev 13.8). If the plan is both eternal and Christocentric, then Christ Himself is from eternity. Indeed, the three-fold name speaks to His eternality: Christ indicates his preexistence, Jesus points to His incarnation, & Lord shows His exalted position in the universe. This enhances our understanding of His work.

What an awesome love God has for His people that before He created time, He loved man. Knowing full well man would rupture that perfect relationship in the beginning and turn his back on God and fall helplessly into the hands of Satan, He loved us. And He loved us so much He devised to save us through Christ. However we say it, it is the greatest love story ever told.

12in whom we have boldness and access with confidence through our faith in him.

In Whom…with confidence: Here is a practical benefit of the eternal purpose of God: prayer. Lenski calls this the “crowning gift.” We have is indicative of the Christian’s present reality in addressing the Father. Though He is Almighty God whose purpose & plan encompasses time and eternity, heaven and earth, He is not aloof and far off, but we have His ear. Christ is our access to the Father (cf. 2.18). He is the reason we can have boldness (freedom to speak, even in intimidating circumstances) and confidence (the trust of being heard). There is no fear or shame for either Jew or Gentile to approach when they are in Christ.

Note that the word for “access” was a word used of the High Priest when we entered the Holy of Holies. So all Christians have what a scant few had under the Old Covenant: direct access to the holiest of all, even the throne room of God. This is the whole thrust of the epistle to the Hebrews, but see esp. 4.16 & 10.19.

Through our faith in Him: “Obedient trust in Christ is the condition upon which the blessings of boldness and confidence become reality” (Malone 47). In Christ “we have redemption through His blood” (1.7) and experience “the immeasurable riches of His grace” (2.7) which makes possible our access to the Father.

13So I ask you not to lose heart over what I am suffering for you, which is your glory.

So I ask…for you: Implicit in this request of Paul to his readers is that they were becoming or had become discouraged because the apostle to the Gentiles was imprisoned for preaching the gospel to them (cf. 3.1). So Paul makes a heartfelt entreaty to them to realize that his suffering is to their gain. Note: Some see here a prayer of Paul to God for these brethren.

Think of all the brethren the world over who are suffering for the sake of the gospel. Imprisoned, beaten, tortured, etc. for Christ. Like Paul, they are prisoners and yet are seated with Christ in the heavenly realms. What can we do? Lobby Washington to urge their release immediately? Sign petitions to be hand delivered to the respective ambassadors of the countries where these brethren are held? Pray for their release? Perhaps Paul could enlighten us: Eph 6.18-19. All Paul wanted from these brethren was that they pray that he would have boldness to speak when opportunity afforded itself.

Which is your glory: Paul’s suffering imprisonment for the Gentiles is the Gentile’s glory inasmuch as it shows 1) God’s immeasurable love for the Gentiles, & 2) enables Paul to rejoice in suffering for Christ (cf. Col 1.24). The Gentiles hear the gospel and Paul preaches Christ. Herein lies a glorious activity.

Grow in the Will of God, part 1

Paul began this epistle with praise (1.3-14) and prayer to God (1.15-23) before discussing what God has done in the church (2.1-22). He will continue to pray for his readers (3.14-21). But first he explains 1) the mystery of God, 2) his role with the mystery, & 3) the church’s cosmic mission.

The Revelation of the Mystery (1-6)

Paul had the mystery revealed to him & he delivered it in this epistle, viz., the union of Jews & Gentiles into one body. The Father (ch.1), the Son (ch.2), & now the Holy Spirit (ch.3).

1For this reason I, Paul, a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles—

For this reason: This phrase is in reference to the foregoing theological ideas just emphasized. As in 1.15, Paul starts a thought but is diverted (v.2-13) by mention, here, of the Gentiles.

I, Paul, a prisoner…you Gentiles: Not just “a prisoner” but literally “the prisoner,” as if there is no other. Paul is in Roman custody, yet he says in truth he is Christ’s prisoner. His imprisonment for (or possibly by) Christ is for the sake of the Gentiles; in fact, it was his preaching to the Gentiles which landed him in prison. He will refer to himself as a prisoner later also (4.1).

It is all in how you look at you circumstances. “One man will regard his prison as a penance; another man will regard it as a privilege. When we are undergoing hardship, unpopularity, material loss for the sake of Christian principles we can either regard ourselves as the victims of men, or as the champions of Christ. Our point of view will make all the difference” (Barclay 142).

2assuming that you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace that was given to me for you,

Assuming that you have heard: Seems to indicate that the readers were unfamiliar with Paul personally, indicating that this was a circular letter among the churches in the Lycus River Valley. Several scholars do not see doubt, but certainty (i.e. “since…”); they heard from Paul himself.

The stewardship…for you: Stewardship (Gk oikonomian) was used in 1.10 for Christ. Paul had been entrusted with God’s grace which was a gift given to him (see v.7). He served to dispense that grace to the Gentiles through his role as apostle for you, that is, the “nations.”

In a similar fashion, we, brethren, have been entrusted with the grace of God. We have the gospel of grace. We must be faithful stewards of God’s grace by “dispensing” it to those around us (i.e. evangelism).

3how the mystery was made known to me by revelation, as I have written briefly.

How the mystery: The musterion is the eternal counsel of God kept hidden from man for generations until the times had reached their fulfillment (see p.5). Here especially in this context it is closely related to the gospel being for Gentiles as well as the Jews.

Was made known to me by revelation: The mystery was made known to Paul at some point in his past (aorist tense). Perhaps Paul is thinking of when Jesus appeared to him on the road to Damascus and Jesus revealed to him “I am sending you” to the Gentiles (Acts 26.17-18). Cf. Galatians 1.12. The nature of revelation is some truth is uncovered or disclosed by special communication.

As I have written briefly: see 1.9-10. He now expounds upon his brief comments earlier.

None of us had a bright light from heaven blinding us and disclosing some saving secret like Paul did, but we possess the saving secret of God. As the initiated and illuminated of God, we know the mystery of God and can make it known not merely to men but also to spiritual powers in the heavenly places (see verse 10).

4When you read this, you can perceive my insight into the mystery of Christ,

When you read [this]: This is supplied in English for clarity but is lacking in the Greek. When you read what Paul has written briefly (v.3)…

You can…the mystery of Christ: The word musterion is found 21 times in Paul’s literature with 6 of those in Ephesians (1.9; 3.3, 4, 9; 5.32; 6.19). He will explain it fully in verse 6. So Paul is safe in writing that his readers can understand the mystery just as he understands it.

5which was not made known to the sons of men in other generations as it has now been revealed to his holy apostles and prophets by the Spirit.

Which we not…in other generations: The purpose of God has always been the same though man’s knowledge of His purpose has been limited. The revelation of that grand purpose has been gradual; while the mystery may have been revealed in part in the past, now through the apostles and prophets it has been made fully known.

There were glimpses of God’s grand scheme of redemption, but the full glory of His marvelous plan had yet to be made known fully.

As it has now been revealed: What was once concealed has now been revealed by God. Again, God’s purpose to include Gentiles was not unknown entirely in the Old Testament (cf. Gen 12.3; Isa 49.6); but the full measure of God’s toward the Gentiles was not fully known until now.

To His holy apostles and prophets: Like Paul, these New Testament messengers have been entrusted with the sacred secret of the Savior. That the apostles and prophets are holy speaks to the dedication of their lives to and by the will of God (see 1.1).

By the Spirit: The Spirit alone is able to search “even the depths of God” and only He “comprehends the thoughts of God.”  But the Spirit is also able to teach in words so that man might understand the mind of Christ (1 Cor 2.10-16).

Why don’t we have modern-day prophets? Barnes explains, “They were persons endowed in this manner [i.e. inspired of the Holy Spirit] for the purpose of imparting to the newly formed churches the doctrines of the Christian system. There is no evidence that this was designed to be a permanent order of people in the church. They were necessary for settling the church on a permanent basis, in the absence of a full written revelation, and when the apostles were away. When the volume of revelation was finished, and the doctrines of the gospel were fully understood, the functions of the office ceased.”

6This mystery is that the Gentiles are fellow heirs, members of the same body, and partakers of the promise in Christ Jesus through the gospel.

This mystery is: These words are provided for clarity. Paul states the substance of the mystery.

Gentiles are fellow heirs: with the Jews, that is. The emphasis here is upon receiving an unearned gift, especially the blessings God has for His people (1.3) and the same inheritance (1.11-14). Note the present tense—Gentile are the following. This is present reality.

Members of the same body:  This is a single word in the Greek (susoma) and is unique to Paul later church writers. Literally it is co-body. There is but “one body” (4.4) and both Jews & Gentiles are part of it.

Partakers…through the gospel: The promise most scholars point to is that made to Abraham (Genesis 12.3) and is confirmed in Galatians 3.7-14. “They do not get this blessing indirectly through the Jews, or by becoming Jews, but directly, as Gentiles” (PC 105).  Only in Christ Jesus can Jews and Gentiles partake of this blessing; only through the gospel are they invited and admitted.

It is still “through the gospel” that we gain access to the promise, body, and inheritance today. We must believe, accept, and obey “the gospel of your salvation” (1.13) to be incorporated into Christ Jesus. As Christians, we need to value the gospel. “If we do not value the gospel as revelation from God, it will not impact our lives.”[1] Think of the parable Jesus told about the pearl of great price (Mt 13.44-46). We have that which is of ultimate value; it was all Paul and all we have. “We must give attention to the gospel, be defined by the gospel, and solve our problems by applying the gospel.”[2] And the gospel is not merely about getting to heaven; it is about life here and now as well as over yonder. It captures our initial conversion and our daily walk as disciples. It touches on our forgiveness and how we ought to forgive others. It speaks to God’s unfathomable love for us and how we ought to love one another. With so many implications upon life right now, it is no wonder Paul calls it “the unsearchable riches of Christ” (v.8). And then we gather with the saints once or twice a week and think we’ve got it. No, we only start unwrapping the gift here; you take it home and finish the job the rest of the week.

[1] Snodgrass 169.

[2] Ibid 170.

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.

Rejoicing in Partnership for the Gospel

After explaining how the Philippians can maintain pure conduct before God (Philippians 2.12-18), Paul turns his attention to two brothers in Christ who have meant a great deal to him during his ministry: Timothy and Epaphroditus. These passages are often overlooked by Christians, but they communicate the deep heartfelt affection of Paul for his fellow laborers in the faith.

Timothy’s Service (2.19-24)

Timothy is an example of selfless service in the gospel with Paul pursuing Christ’s interests

19I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, so that I too may be cheered by news of you.

I hope…to you soon: His hope was not in himself—his power, intelligence, abilities, etc. Paul’s confident expectation in the Lord Jesus was to send Timothy to the Philippians. Even as he was convinced of his remaining, coming, and helping of the Philippians (1.25-26), so he was expecting to send Timothy.

So that…news of you: Here is the purpose for sending Timothy—Paul wants to hear about how the Philippians are doing. Timothy will help the Philippians by his presence and counsel and will help Paul with his report of their Christian life.

20For I have no one like him, who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare.

For I have no one like him: Lit. like-minded or equal in soul. Paul and Timothy are of the same mind and attitude. Think of all the traveling companions the apostle Paul and then consider this statement. Timothy was a man after Paul’s own heart.

Who will be genuinely concerned for your welfare: Paul’s heart was for the Philippians; so too was Timothy’s. They shared the same concern and interest in the Philippians’ spiritual wellbeing. They faced the daily anxiety for all the churches (cf. 2 Cor 11.28).

21For they all seek their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ.

For they all…of Jesus Christ: That is, all those available to him. It seems doubtful that Luke would fall under this category; perhaps he was minister elsewhere and was not with Paul. While those around Paul are “brothers” (4.21), they are apparently not as willing as Timothy to spend and be spent for the sake of others. Another theory: this is a sorrowful statement about the present condition of the world (full of selfishness and self-seeking) and having a brother like Timothy is a rare thing.

22But you know Timothy’s proven worth, how as a son with a father he has served with me in the gospel.

But you know Timothy’s proved worth: “know” is the kind of knowledge which comes by experience (Gk root ginosko). In fact, he had been to Philippi at least once (Acts 16).

How as a son…in the gospel: It was fitting for Timothy to labor (lit. slave, from Gk douleuo) like this with Paul since he was Paul’s “true child in the faith” (1 Tim 1.2; 2 Tim 1.2; 1 Cor 4.17). The kind of service mentioned here is done in a humble manner at the demands of another, i.e. slave. This is the kind of work Paul and Timothy engaged in as father and son. Timothy “was both a son and servant of St. Paul, and also a fellow-worker with St. Paul, both being slaves of God” (Caffin 63).

23I hope therefore to send him just as soon as I see how it will go with me,

I hope therefore to send him: Whenever Paul wanted information about a congregation or wanted to encourage and build-up brethren and he personally could not go, Timothy went.

Just as soon…with me: Whether he will be released from prison or face a martyr’s death. This way Timothy would bring the report of Paul’s fate. This indicates there is no certainty about his future at the time of his writing.

24and I trust in the Lord that shortly I myself will come also.

And I trust…will come also: This is similar to what he said in 1.25-26. Paul is persuaded that what is needful is for him to continue in the body. He has come to this conclusion and holds to it (perfect tense). Only in the Lord can he look to the future with such confidence. “We do not know certainly what he meant by the term shortly. The uncertainty as to what whim might strike Nero was an uncertain thing to count upon” (Lipscomb 193). Coffman thinks this hope was probably fulfilled, pointing to Titus 3.12 as evidence.

Epaphroditus’ Sickness (2.25-30)

God spared Epaphroditus so that he could render further service to Paul & his brethren

25I have thought it necessary to send to you Epaphroditus my brother and fellow worker and fellow soldier, and your messenger and minister to my need,

I have thought…Epaphroditus: Epaphroditus is known only by this verse and 4.18. He is a different person that Epaphras, another co-worker of Paul’s—Epaphroditus was from Philippi, Epaphras was from Colossae. This man Paul was compelled to send back home.

My brother…minister to my need: Paul uses five (5) phrases to describe the usefulness of Epaphroditus. First, he is Paul’s (“my”) brother in Christ. Second, he is Paul’s fellow worker (Gk sunergon); he worked with Paul in the furtherance of the cause of Christ. Third, he is Paul’s fellow soldier; they had been through severe trials and tests together. Fourth, he is the Philippians’ (“your”) messenger (Gk apostolon); that is, he had been sent by the church. Fifth, he was Paul’s minister (Gk leitourgon, cf.v.17) on behalf of the Philippians. By conveying their contribution which is “a fragrant offering” (4.18) he renders a sacred service.

26for he has been longing for you all and has been distressed because you heard that he was ill.

For he has…he was ill: Barclay gives a reconstruction of the events surrounding this narrative. Epaphroditus was sent to Paul by the Philippians with their gift (see 1.5, 4.17-18) and in Rome he became sick (possibly with fever, which was common then). The sickness is not stated. Epaphroditus is eager to get back (and Paul eager to send him, v.28) to assuage the brethren’s fears. He longs for these Christians as Paul does (1.8); he is distressed as the Savior was (Mt 26.37).

27Indeed he was ill, near to death. But God had mercy on him, and not only on him but on me also, lest I should have sorrow upon sorrow.

Indeed, he was ill, near to death: Whatever Epaphroditus came down with was serious.

But God had mercy on him: “But” draws sharp contrast (Gk alla) – not death, but life from God. Paul recognizes that God is the giver of life and health.

Not only on him…sorrow upon sorrow: There is the sorrow of his brother’s illness and, if he had died, the sorrow of his death which would have affected Paul. God’s mercy spared him these sorrows and made him “unsorrowful” (“less anxious,” v.28).

28I am the more eager to send him, therefore, that you may rejoice at seeing him again, and that I may be less anxious.

I am the more eager…I may be less anxious: the reunion of the Philippian saints with Epaphroditus would be a time to rejoice. Thus, Paul is sending back his brother to them, wanting them to experience the joy God gives at such reunions. Also, the reunion of the Philippians and Epaphroditus would give occasion for Paul to be “less anxious” (Lit. more un-grief).

29So receive him in the Lord with all joy, and honor such men,

So receive him in the Lord: Since Epaphroditus fulfilled his mission, his life spared by God, and he’s coming back home—welcome this broth back with arms wide open as the Lord Jesus welcomes us into His presence (cf. Rom 15.7).

With all joy, and honor such men: With heartfelt, unalloyed joy they are to welcome him. But also they are to esteem Epaphroditus and recognize how invaluable he is. Why? V.30

30for he nearly died for the work of Christ, risking his life to complete what was lacking in your service to me.

For he nearly died for the work of Christ: because when it comes to the work of Christ, Epaphroditus is a man who will risk life and limb to get the job done.

Risking his life: lit. handing life over. He was willing to expose himself to hazard.

To complete…your service to me: Epaphroditus risked his life so act as a ministering priest, presenting the sacred offering of their contribution to Paul. Others point to the presence of Epaphroditus as making up for the lack of presence of the Philippians (cf. 1 Cor 16.17).

Special Study—Why didn’t Paul heal Epaphroditus?

Paul had healed others miraculously (see Acts 28.8). Why not Epaphroditus? First, maybe he did. The text is relatively ambiguous and God could have used Paul as a conduit of his mercy (v.27). But the consensus among scholars is that Paul did not heal Epaphroditus and the why-question remains. Epaphroditus is not the only companion of Paul who was not healed (Trophimus in 2 Tim 4.20). Even though he had miraculous powers, the exercise of those powers were for a specific purpose (Mk 16.20) and were to be used at the discretion of God. That’s why certain companions were not healed and why Paul did not heal himself when afflicted (cf. 2 Cor 12.7-9).

Fellowship with God is rooted in the advocacy of Jesus

We continue to discuss the fellowship principles which John is communicating to the church. We’ve seen fellowship is rooted in the apostolic witness of Christ’s life and fellowship is rooted in the moral nature of God. In John 2.1-14, we will see four (4) more fellowship principles.

1 John 2.1-2 (ESV), My little children, I am writing these things to you so that you may not sin. But if anyone does sin, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. He is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world.

My little children – the aged John affectionately referring to the members of the body, endearment.

These things – v.5-10, concerning who God is (light, absolute moral perfection), the fellowship we have (presently) with God as a result of what Christ has done (His blood shed for our forgiveness), and what we need to do (walk in the light, a condition of forgiveness).

so that (purpose) you may not sin – John will address the practice of sin later in this epistle (3.4, 6, 8-9). Here John is focused on the act (singular) of sin. A walk in the light is not a perfect walk – we do stumble. Here is what John writes to in this verse – not only the habit of sin should be put away but work to put any and every sin. If God is the standard and he calls us to that standard, he wants us to be morally perfect.

“It is clear the author [the apostle John] is not simply exhorting the readers not to be habitual or repetitive sinners, as if to imply that occasional acts of sin would be acceptable. The purpose of the author here is that the readers not sin at all, just as Jesus told the man he healed in John 5.14 – Sin no more!”[1] The grace of God and the blood of Jesus are not reasons for our continued disobedience/rebellion/sin! Rather, if we truly understand Calvary and redemption, these should be deterrents from sin and encourage clean living.

But if anyone (Christian) does sin – and we will. Try as we might to live according to that standard of perfection, practically we fail. What are we to do?

We have an advocate (lawyer, attorney) with the Father (Judge), Jesus Christ the righteous (Or, righteous Jesus Christ) – Jesus is (in this sense) our legal advocate; hence, John is sure to stress that he is righteous and right in his intercession in this regard. He is one we can call alongside us when we do sin and stand before the righteous Judge, the Father.

He (Jesus) is the propitiation for our sins – propitiation is satisfaction of the wrath of God. Christ on the cross is taking the wrath due us in His own body. By His sacrifice, atonement is made and forgiveness available.

The sins of the whole world – everyone who would come to Him by faith can find the wrath of God against satisfied in Christ.


[1]Biblical Studies Press, The NET Bible First Edition; Bible. English. NET Bible.; The NET Bible (Biblical Studies Press, 2006; 2006).