Robed in Majesty

The LORD reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns, let the earth rejoice; let the many coastlands be glad!” (Psalm 97:1, ESV)

The LORD reigns; let the peoples tremble! He sits enthroned upon the cherubim; let the earth quake!” (Psalm 99:1, ESV)

The LORD (Heb. YHWW, the covenant God of Israel) reigns. Therefore, YHWH is King. That YHWH is King is a thread which is all over the OT. Indeed, God’s kingdom is an eternal kingdom (2 Peter 1.11, which speaks of the kingdom of the Lord Jesus Christ, i.e. Christ’s kingdom is NOT almost 2,000 yrs old as some in the brotherhood have claimed). Psalms 93-99 picture the majestic King & what it means for YHWH to be King. YHWH is the majestic King. But what does that mean?

The Majesty of Seeing God

Ezekiel (ch.1): Ezekiel sees the chariot of God, God’s Rolls Royce, a living vehicle transporting the living God. Then God rides up and notice that the best Ezekiel can do is use simile to describe the majesty & glory of God (esp.v. 26-28). He is beholding the glorious majesty of God.

Daniel (ch.7): We typically come to Daniel 7 because of the vision of the eternal kingdom of the Son of Man (i.e. Jesus), running straight for the interpretation; however, I want us to pause here and note the glory of the Lord described here. Here is God – the Ancient of Days – and Christ – the Son of Man – in heavenly glory, majesty. Daniel gets a glimpse and records it.

Transfiguration (Matt 17.1-8; Mark 9.2-8; Luke 9.22-27): Building on the Son of Man motif, the gospels record the glory of Jesus as His humanity is pulled back & His deity shows forth for a moment in time.

Revelation (chs.4-5): Described here is heaven, even the throne room of God. Words fail to completely capture what John sees and like the prophets of old, he struggles to capture the majesty of God.

These written accounts serve to describe the glorious majesty of God, picturing God “robed in majesty” as the King YHWH.

The Majesty & The Earth (93.1; 96.10)

The Lord reigns; he is robed in majesty; the Lord is robed; he has put on strength as his belt. Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved.” (Psalm 93:1, ESV)

Say among the nations, “The Lord reigns! Yes, the world is established; it shall never be moved; he will judge the peoples with equity.”” (Psalm 96:10, ESV)

Immovable, Unshakeable: God does this; He makes the earth established. We know from the NT He does this thru Christ (Heb 1.3, “sustaining all things by His powerful word”). He holds absolute sway over the world and everything in it. Nothing disturbs it unless God allows it to do so. Notice, the earth is happy about that (97.1) – it rejoices & is glad God is in control. So too should we be happy. We should adore God for His majestic power. “Atheism is the mother of anarchy; the reigning power of God exhibited in true religion is the only security for the human common-wealth. A belief in God is the foundation and corner-stone of a well-ordered state.” (Spurgeon 2:135).

Earthquake! Then the holy splendor of God causes the earth to quake. His glory is earth shaking! Let the whole world be moved to adoring awe, every tribe, language, people must bow before His infinite majesty.

The Majesty of God’s Vengeance (94.1)

O LORD, God of vengeance, O God of vengeance, shine forth!” (Psalm 94:1, ESV)

Revenge? No, not revenge, which denotes an evil intention, delighting in the return for injury for injury. Throughout the NT we are told “See that no one repays anyone evil for evil,” that is, do not seek revenge. Certainly God is not in the revenge business. However…

Avenge: When it comes to upholding justice & righteousness, God will avenge and mete out vengeance upon those public wrongs. We must understanding that this serves to preserve a society. For example, the punishment of a criminal by the state is what is necessary to maintain law & order – it is not revenge, but it does seek to uphold justice by avenging bad (evil) behavior. So God, robed in majestic justice & righteousness, perfectly judges the earth and repays the wicked what they deserve for their evil behavior.

The Majesty of the King’s Holiness (99.3, 5, 9)

Let them praise your great and awesome name! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:3, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God; worship at his footstool! Holy is he!” (Psalm 99:5, ESV)

Exalt the LORD our God, and worship at his holy mountain; for the LORD our God is holy!” (Psalm 99:9, ESV)

Let us tremble – not at His power, or His greatness but at His holiness. Notice the triple “holy, holy, holy” in Psalm 99. This seems to correspond to the “holy, holy, holy” of the seraphim in God’s throne in Isa 6. “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.”

Holiness Rules According to the Perfect Standard: “God is light” and His holy reign will be absolutely (morally) perfect. cf. Psa 19.7-9

Holiness Works Toward Highest Ends: God is infinitely wise and infinitely good. These combine so that He always seeks what is best for all men, esp. His people. “God so loved the world…” to see Christ in us.

Holiness Sees Patient Suffering: We’ve seen a number of Psalms where the psalmists are right on the brink of throwing in the towel. But God sees this & everything. And He sustains them and us through it; you have breath in your lungs because He allows it.

Holiness Elicits Worship from Creation: “Worship at His holy mountain…at His footstool.” How could we do otherwise? The angels of heaven are praising His holiness even as we speak.

Behold your King! This same King left the splendor of heaven, put on flesh, lived among us a perfect life and died on a cross so that we might have the right & privilege of enter into His rule & reign as citizens. One day we will meet Him – we’ll have our Revelation 4, Ezekiel 1, Daniel 7 moment and see the King face-to-face.

The Two Ways – Psalm 1

The Road Not Taken

By Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,

And sorry I could not travel both

And be one traveler, long I stood

And looked down one as far as I could

To where it bent in the undergrowth;

 

Then too the other, as just as fair,

And having perhaps the better claim,

Because it was grassy and wanted wear;

Though as for the passing there

Had worn them really about the same,

 

And both that morning equally lay

In leaves no step had trodden black.

Oh, I kept the first for another day!

Yet knowing how way leads on to way,

I doubted if I should ever come back.

 

I shall be telling this with a sigh

Somewhere ages and ages hence:

Two roads diverged in a wood, and I –

I took the one less traveled by,

And that has made all the difference.


Robert Frost’s “The Road Not Taken” is the poetic idea of what Psalm 1 is depicting. Jesus likewise spoke of two gates, two ways, two trees & two types of fruit, two houses, & two foundations (cf Mt 7.13-27, esp. 13-14). What are the two ways before every person? Psalm 1 is actually the first full expression of this idea in the Bible. It is clear, concise, and yet carefully crafted…

The Godly (1-3)

The blessing of delighting in God & His Word.

1Blessed is the man who walks not in the counsel of the wicked, nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;

Purity before God (1): Maintaining purity before God is contingent upon the way in which you walk. 1) The Wicked Way: Notice the progression – from walking to standing to sitting. There is even progression in the company – the wicked (or ungodly) are those who have no fear of God before their eyes and are perpetually restless in their self-will; the sinners are those who indulge in open sin; the scoffers are those who ridicule religion and laugh at those who fear God. Said another way, the wicked/ungodly are unconcerned with religion, even apathetic; sinners have a particular way of transgressing (i.e. drunkards, etc.); scoffers have brought an end to all religious & moral impulse in themselves (“he is a believer in all unbelief”). The progression goes from forgetting about God (“wicked”), to habitual violation of God’s commands (“sinners”), to becoming a professor & promoter of sin to others (“scoffers”).  2) The Righteous Way: The righteous person will avoid all this progression down the pathway of wickedness. Instead, a) He will walk in the council of YHWH; b) He will stand in the way of God; c) He will sit at the feet of the Almighty.

2but his delight is in the law of the Lord, and on his law he meditates day and night.

Pleasure in God’s Law (2a): He loves it! Consider also, just how little of God’s word David had when he wrote this: Pentateuch and a few Psalms. Today we have the complete written word of God; how much more should we prize this volume and think deeply on it!

Pondering on God’s Law (2b): He carries the law of God with him in his mind all day & all night; turning it over, ruminating, musing, thinking. He treats Scripture like hard candy, savoring it all day,, not a candy bar quickly devoured.

3He is like a tree planted by streams of water that yields its fruit in its season, and its leaf does not wither. In all that he does, he prospers.

Picture (3): Not planted by chance or self; the righteous are “planted” by the Father, rooted in Christ (Col 2.7), by these flowing streams of living water (cf. Jn 7.38-39). He is the One who establishes us so we are fruit-bearing evergreens. “Prospers”: Adversity, yes, however, it is the best life there is.

Not long ago I was visiting with a member who had recently repented and rededicated himself to the Lord. He shared with me that “When I do things His way, life is good.” “How about that?” I replied. How about that indeed!

The Godless (4-6)

The fate of those who neither know God nor follow after His ways.

4The wicked are not so, but are like chaff that the wind drives away.

Worthless: Chaff was the dead, worthless stuff which came off the grain. So the wicked are like chaff, carried away. The contrast is sharp: the righteous are planted firmly by God whereas the wicked are blown away. By the way, these are the novices of evil (wicked), the first phase of spiritual degradation; if this is their fate, how much worse will it be for the sinners and scoffers.

5Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment, nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Judgment: “The judgment” here seems to be the final judgment by God on the last day. Of course, no one will be standing because “every knee will bow” but here the inability to stand is connected to their guilt. Sinners will be cast out of the presence of the saints (i.e. heaven, though how much David knew about that is not known). And scoffers…are not mentioned, probably because if the wicked & sinners are not going to make it, there is no need to mention the scoffers.

Charles Spurgeon says, “Every church had one devil in it.” Weeds grow up with the wheat (cf Matt 13.24-30; 37-43). But there is coming a day when the “congregation of the righteous” will be purged, the weeds will be burned, but the wheat goes into the barn. May God grant that we find our place there!

6for the Lord knows the way of the righteous, but the way of the wicked will perish.

Known: “Knows” carries the idea of constant awareness. No one is going to game God who has marched down the way of the wicked nor will anyone be forgotten who has tread the way of the righteous. God is constantly watching over the way of the righteous; Yea, though we walk thru the shadow of death!

Application

Purity & Pleasure: Some may lay hold of the purity of verse 1 and avoid the path of the wicked, avoid sin. But do you delight in God’s word as verse 2 says? This beatitude (“Blessed,” v.1) is two-fold: purity & pleasure in pondering God’s word. Do you love God’s word? Do you seek to be alone with your Bible to read & study?

Meditate: Mentally chew the cud, like what a cow does. Get the sweetness & virtue out to nourish the soul & grow. This is hard candy, not a candy bar; it is a sucker, not a Snickers. Constant meditation upon God’s word has always characterized God’s people. It should characterize us today!

Fruit-Bearing Evergreens: In seasons of doubt we bear the fruit of faith; in seasons of worry, we bear the fruit of contentment; in seasons of trial, we bear the fruit of patience; in seasons of temptation, we bear the fruit of dependence on God. We bear fruit in its season!

Theme: This Psalm sets the tone for all the Psalms. The theme contained in this Psalm is found through the Psalms. No matter how bad it is, the righteous are known by God and the wicked perish. “Yeah, but it is really bad, Lord!” He says, “I got you!” God defends the Godly & destroys the godless.

The rest of the Psalms serve as exposition of this principle. But we have before us two portraits with the unspoken question looming: Which are we? Are we the righteous one which knows God, knows God’s law, and is known by God? Or are we the wicked, useless, with only impending destruction awaiting?

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!

Holding the Faith, part 2

As mentioned in the previous section, this entire second chapter seems to an appeal from James to his brethren to “hold the faith in our Lord Jesus Christ.” How that shows up is by not showing partiality to people who walk into the synagogue. Built upon the preceding context about treating all people the same (treat all men well, right, justly), James ties all this to the “royal law” which is found in the Bible. He has appealed to their sensibilities, asking pointed rhetorical questions of his brethren. Having shown them the folly of favoritism, he turns their attention to the sinfulness of partiality. He makes an argument based upon the word of God.

James 2.8-13 (ESV)
8 If you really fulfill the royal law according to the Scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself,” you are doing well.
9 But if you show partiality, you are committing sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors.
10 For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it.
11 For he who said, “Do not commit adultery,” also said, “Do not murder.” If you do not commit adultery but do murder, you have become a transgressor of the law.
12 So speak and so act as those who are to be judged under the law of liberty.
13 For judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy. Mercy triumphs over judgment.

The Scriptural Argument (v.8-11)

James presents an argument which is intended to be somewhat of a test for his readers which answers the question as to which camp they belong to – the “well-doers” or the “transgressors.” The method he uses to communicate this is “on the one hand…on the other hand…” Coupled with an appeal to Scripture (Lev 19.18) and James’ argument packs a powerful punch.

It seems best to understand the “royal law” as being distinct from the Scripture passage. There are those who say that the “royal law” is the heavenly legislation issued by the King of heaven contained in the book of Leviticus. However, while James quotes from the Old Testament, his habitual practice is to reference Jesus in making exhortations to his fellow Christians. Indeed, Jesus sums up the Law and the Prophets in “love the Lord your God” and “love your neighbor as yourself” (see Matt 22.37-40). While rooted in the Scripture and reaffirmed by the Savior, the “royal law,” which is synonymous with the “perfect law” (1.25) and “the law of liberty” (v.12), seems to be that kingly law issued by the King of Kings whereby the citizens of His kingdom walk.

Realization (v.8-9): James says that on the one hand, if you “fulfill” the “royal law” which is codified in the Scripture (Lev 19.18), “you are doing well.” On the other hand, if you are showing partiality, you work a sin and are shown to be a transgressor. James is calling for his brethren to realize the seriousness of showing partiality – to do so causes you to stand convicted before Almighty God as a transgressor, that is one who over steps the boundaries. But to fulfill (stronger than “keep” in v.10) the royal law is to live “according to the Scripture” – “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” In this James shows (even as Christ did through His teaching) that the royal law which is the law of the kingdom of heaven “does not replace, but takes up within it the demand of God in the Old Testament” (Moo 94).

What a fantastic thing James has called his fellow brethren and even the church today to especially when we consider it in the context of the teaching of Jesus. Our neighbors would not only include our Christian brothers, but also “perfect strangers” (Luke 10.29-37) and even our enemies (Matt 5.43-44). But to “fulfill” or “complete” the royal law according to the Scripture carries the blessing for the Christian that he/she is doing well (present tense). In other words, you are making it you habitual career to do that which is well pleasing to God. Indeed, one does the very thing for which he was made – obedience to the King. There is a rightness to keeping the law.

Explanation (v.10): Verse 10 begins with “for” (Gk gar) and carries the force of “let me tell you why.” James seeks to explain why showing partiality carries such a heavy penalty even causing one to stand condemned by the law as a transgressor. Most scholars believe this verse has a Talmudic reference: “If a man do all, but omit one, he is guilty for all and each.” Perhaps James, the good Jew that he was, was familiar with Talmudic teaching and knew that his readers were equally versed to some degree. However, this seems to a principle linked with the word of God. Israel was to keep all of God’s Law (Lev 19.37). Jesus touched upon the need to keep the whole law (Matt 5.19). James is merely saying “amen” to what God and Christ have already issued. Further, what is seen in this verse is the unity of the “whole law.” Someone has said that the law is a golden chain whose completeness is broken if you break one link. The unity of the law lies in the Lawgiver – He is One (cf. Deut 6.4). So failure at one point (in this case a very major point – love) leaves one “guilty of all.” That is, he has become and stands guilty before God.

Illustration (v.11): James’ illustration is thoroughly Jewish. It was common for a rabbi or in Jewish texts to juxtapose two commands – one “light” and one “heavy” – to show that it is equally serious to violate either. But James cuts right to the heart taking two commandments from the Ten Commandments of seemingly equal “weight.” It is interesting that he uses these two commandments: in chapter 4 he will call his audience “adulterous” (4.4) and Jesus’ own teaching concerning the sixth commandment equates anger with murder. Seemingly James is calling his brethren who show partiality essentially murderers (cf. 1 John 3.15). Nevertheless, he uses these two commandments to make a point: violation of one commandment is tantamount to violating (transgressing, going beyond) the whole law. You may not commit adultery, but if you murder you have transgressed the law. It almost smacks with James’ intensity characteristic in this work – by your partiality you are murdering!

A Salvific Appeal (v.12-13)

Having laid the groundwork concerning holding the faith and how that shows up manifesting love for one’s neighbor which is fulfillment of the royal law of the kingdom, James reaches a crescendo in which he makes an appeal to his brethren. Two present imperatives are given in verse 12: speak and act. James is calling for these Christians to make it their habitual practice to speak and act in such a manner that is in keeping with 1) the coming judgment and 2) the law of liberty.

First, the perfect and royal law is also the law of liberty (or freedom) for by it one is liberated from the yoke of bondage (Law of Moses, cf. Gal 5.1), either bondage of the Law or bondage to sin, death and hell. This is the law of the kingdom set down by the King of Kings. It is not freedom to do (anything and everything); it is freedom to be (children of God, disciples). So in light of the law of Christ, be mindful of your mouth and your manner.

Second, be aware of the coming judgment. At the judgment, the law of Christ will be our standard for judgment. So if we have been merciful, mercy will be shown us (Matt 5.7). If not, then the law has no mercy for us. This is wrapped in the context of partiality shown in Christian meetings to the rich and not showing mercy to the poor. How you treat visitors in the worship can have an effect on the judgment day. Hence, James’ final ejaculation in verse 13: “Mercy triumphs (or “glories”) over judgment.” That is to say our showing mercy in this life is proof positive of the Christ living in us and through us. This union with the fulfillment of the law, our Lord Jesus Christ, will be our only plea at the final judgment. How vital it is, then, to show the mercy of Christ to all men. At the judgment we will cry “mercy”; but have we shown mercy ourselves? If we have, then God’s mercy will triumph on our behalf at the judgment. John Chrysotrom says, “Mercy is clothed with the divine glory and stands by the throne of God.”

Jesus Interrogated

In his commentary on Mark, Burton Coffman suggests that there are six mockings of Jesus: 1) by the High Priest’s servants, 2) by Herod Antipas, 3) by the soldiers of the Roman garrison, 4) by the general public, 5) by the priests and scribes, 6) by the two crucifed thieves (see Coffman’s Commentary on Mark 15.16). There can be no doubt our Savior endure much ridicule and reviling as the our of His death draws near. In Luke 22.63-71, we find one of these times of mocking as well as a beating which Jesus endures at this time by those men who have custody of Him. He is asked three questions during this time.

Question 1: Who is striking you?

The first of these questions in in verse 63-65 where Jesus is mocked “as they beat him.” He is blindfolded and struck presumably about the face, although the text is no specfic. These men who are holding Jesus are probably Jewish, no doubt officers of the temple guard (v.4). Their cruelty knows no bounds and their hatred is on clear display. As the beating continues, with their mocks and blasphemies, their railings, they pose a question: “Who is it that struck you?” This is a sick and twisted game these Jews are playing with Jesus. “Prophesy” they demand. Indeed, He is a prophet, but these men are blinded to this, caught in their devious desires of degrading the Son of God.

Here we see a defining characteristic of Jesus and a quality He exhorted for His disciples to have: meekness. Meekness is not weakness; it is strength and power under control. Most illustrations focus on a wild horse that is broken or a Corvette driving the speed limit. Here is Jesus, the cosmic sovereign Creator of the universe refusing to fight back, refusing to zap these cruel men out of His universe or blast them out of existence. Here is true meekness. See, a broken wild horse will buck when you stick an ice pick in its neck; but the Son of God will take three “ice picks” (probably more like railroad spikes) in His flesh before this is finished.

Question 2: Are you the Christ?

From the cudgelling to the courtroom, Jesus is taken once again before the Jewish authorities. Early daylight is dawning as the assembly of the elders came together. This group is composed of the elders of the people, the chief priests and scribes. Collectively, these three comprise the Sanhedrin. Roman rule had striped them of their ability to carry out captial punishment, hence, their bringing Jesus before Pilate (23.1-5). Here, in their secret council meeting, they ask Jesus the second question: “Are you the Christ?” This question has political implications inasmuch as this is a claim to Messianic royalty.

Jesus answers their question with a statement (v.67b-69). “If I tell you, you will no believe.” You who have seen my life, heard my teachings, and seen the works and signs, even if I tell you, you will not believe. “If I ask you, you will not answer.” In essence Jesus is saying they’ve made up their mind and determined that no matter what He answers, affirmative or negative, they will put Him to death. Verse 69, though, is basically an answer in and of itself: this is a direct claim to divine glory. To sit at the right hand of the power of God as the Son of Man is that special claim to be vested with the same absolute dominion as Him who sits on the throne. And these men knew what these words from Jesus meant, there was no mistaking it: Jesus has claimed to be the Messiah.

Question 3: Are you the Son of God?

So there is one final question they have which really builds on what they have been asking. “All” of them ask, insist that Jesus answer this last question: “Are you the Son of God, then?” “Then” because they understood the preceeding verses as a Messianic claim. But this is a good question which every person must ask and answer: Is Jesus the Son of God? When you weigh the evidence, not only the claims Jesus made but eh miracles he performed to back up His word; when you look upon the love, compassion, mercy, and grace of this man; when you consider the brilliant clarity of His teachings and the authority with which He taught; when you examine the purity of His life and conduct while on earth; when you look fully into narrative recorded in the pages of the New Testament, what do you say about Jesus? Is He the Son of God?

Jesus says, “You say that I am.” This is not a sophomoric, smart-aleck response from Jesus; Coffman says the force of this is “Yes, at last you have seen the point of what I am saying!” It was a statement used often by rabbis when the one who is interrogated accepts his own affirmation of the question put to him. It is as plain an assertion of Jesus that He is divine as any in Scripture. Indeed, verse 71 shows that the Sanhedrin understood the import of Jesus’ words: they had sufficient evidence against to make their ruling – death. “We have heard it ourselves from his own lips.” In their minds, He is guilty of blasphemy and worthy of death. But again, they have no power to execute men since this has been taken from them by Rome. So if they would put Jesus to death, they must seek a Roman execution. Enter Pontius Pilate.

Last Supper with Jesus, pt. 2

There is much darkness and gloom brooding over this tiny band. But it will get much darker as Jesus will draw their attention to a betrayer among them. In Luke 22.21-30, Jesus turns his attention to disciples and their future. For one, his future is bleak as he will betray the Son of Man. His name is Judas. Jesus turns His attention to this sad topic.

The Disloyalty of a Disciple

Right on the heels of the institution of the Lord’s Supper, Jesus tells his band of followers there is a betrayer among them. There are some who contend that these verses (v.21-22) have been transposed and should come before v.19. Even if that be the case, the truth of Jesus’ words is not affected. There is a betrayer among them, even sitting at the table with them. And it is interesting, that even while Judas is sitting there at the table with Jesus, he is betraying Him. Jesus explains why it must be so in v.22: “For the Son of Man goes as it has been determined…” The path Jesus has been on (and even at this point is on) has lead Him to this point and will terminate in the cross. This path “has been determined” for Him. By whom, we may ask? The answer is God. Elsewhere is the writing of Luke he talks about how it was according to the “definite plan and foreknowledge of God” which Jesus went to the cross (Acts 2.23). This plan to save man was formed in the mind from before time began, even in eternity. Then, through His Son, He worked that plan to its conclusion. 

So then Judas’ freewill was violated in that he was “forced,” as it were, to betray Jesus? No. Jesus points to the responsibility of the betrayer in the rest of v.22: “but woe to that man by he is betrayed” (ESV).  Writes Leon Morris, “The fact that God overrules the evil that bad people do as he brings his purposes to pass does not make them any less evil. They remain responsible people.” Hence, Jesus’ words are not meant to be vindictive but words filled with grief and hurt that his betrayer is a friend. It would seem Judas has covered his tracks so well that none of the disciples caught on to what he was doing. The disciples collectively begin to question one another concerning who it was going to be.

The Dispute among the Disciples

It would seem this continued questioning led to an argument among the disciples. Think about it: here are several men who are all pointing the finger of accusation at one another. “Was it you?” “No but I think it was Peter.” I heard that! How dare you accuse me! Besides it was probably James or John.” “Who do you think you are accusing us?” And on it went until there was a full blown argument. At some point, the discussion turned toward greatness: “Why I would never betray Jesus. Think of what a great disciple I am.” “Well, I’m an even greater disciple than you!” “Yeah, well I’m the greatest of all!” Their like children and it makes me wonder if Jesus ever just rolled His eyes before calling a time out (as he does here).

It is interesting that the word used for their dispute literally means “love of strife” (Gk. philoneikia). It carries the idea that the topic of greatness was always a topic ready for dispute and argument among these men. In fact, elsewhere in Scriputre we find record of this very same discussion among these same men (Matt 20.20-24; Mark 9.34; 10.37-41). And this not the first time Luke has recorded a dispute arose over the exact same thing (cf. 9.46). They seem to constantly be seeking the primacy and preeminence. Again, it was a topic they were eager to dispute.

So Jesus remind them about true greatness in the kingdom of God (v.25-27). As if His demonstration of servant leadership earlier in the evening was not enough (see John 13.1ff), He now imparts more teaching on the nature of servant leadership. He draws their attention to the Gentiles and their practice. Those in authority are called “benefactors” or a person who helps people subject to him. In the world, its all about getting credit for what they have done. Indeed, the word Jesus uses (Gk. euergetai) was the name of one of the Ptolomies of Egypt (Ptolomy Euergetes). But in the kingdom of God, its different. “Not so among you.” The first part of the explanation in v.26 sounds similar to Jesus in Luke 9.48 about children. The next part is similar to teaching found elsewhere in the gospels: “the leader [among you become] as one who serves.” The message was unmistakable especially when coupled with the object lesson given before the meal with the feet washing. Jesus, their leader, had become their servant.

And if they missed it there, Jesus reiterates it once more and in specific language (v.27; cf. Matt 20.28)). Naturally, the thinking would be that the one dining at the table was greater than the one serving. And yet Jesus was one who came and served them. Again, the John 13 feet washing has clear ties to this in Luke. In these statements, Jesus effectually puts to rest any dispute they may have had. Also, their love for this dispute ought to be put away. This is not proper kingdom citizen discussion. Greatness in the kingdom is only found in serving.

The Domain of the Apostles

There is some honor, though, which Jesus wishes to impart to His disciples on this occasion. He explains that they have been with Him through his “trials” (or temptations). They had been with Him throughout the many hardships of His ministry here on earth. They had been with Him when rejected in Samaria. They had been there when He was ridiculed by the leaders. They knew He had no place to lay His head. They knew it because they were there. So he “assigns” them “a kingdom.” What’s Jesus saying? His time, His life is drawing near to its end. He is setting His affairs in order. This is the meaning behind the word “assign.” This is langauge used (in those days) for a will. He is assigning his possessions (in this case the kingdom assigned to Him from the Father) to His followers. They will be the ones who carry on His work when He has ascended back to the Father.

As discussed before, a kingdom is primarily defined not as territory or land but as a dominion, rule, reign. Hence, Christ’s kingdom would be administered by them. All of them. Not just Peter (tenet of the Catholic Church) but all of them would collectively proclaim and propagate the kingdom of Christ. Because of their work in this regard, they would “eat and drink at my table in the kingdom” and “sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.” The former expression I believe captures the fellowship aspect. The latter seems to touch on the follow-ship aspect. First, as citizens of the kingdom and as those who reveal the kingdom in their teaching, the apostles would enjoy fellowship with Christ. Indeed, those who hold to the teachings of the apostles can themselves find fellowship with Christ and God.

Second, we see that for following Christ and even enduring the same trials and temptations as Jesus, they will have unique authority in the kingdom. Some say this judgment the apostles have is done by their teaching. Others say it is like when Ninevah and the queen of Sheba condemned the Jews in times past, so will the apostles in the kingdom dispensation (present time). Still others say the apostles will sit as co-judges with Christ in the judgment. Again, others say the apostles will have special preeminence in the kingdom after the second coming. According to H. Leo Boles, “There may be some truth in all of these positions.” What we know is that the sitting on thrones the apostles will do was yet future when Christ spoke these words. How far into the future is uncertain. But it would be a reality should the apostles remain faithful. In this author’s opinion, this is something that took place in the first century when the apostles proclaimed the kingdom of God and people began to enter into the rule and reign of God. When men and women began to bow the knee to Christ and accepted the rule of God in their lives from the throne of their heart, that is when the apostles began to judge Israel. And by their continued disobedience to the gospel, those Jews who refused entrance into the kingdom were condemned even while they lived.

Jesus at World’s End, pt.4

As we approach Luke 21.29-38, we see the final words of Jesus concerning His coming in judgment on Jerusalem. As we have seen in part 1, part 2, and part 3, Jesus is warning his disciples about the impending doom yet to come upon the Jews for their continued rebellion toward God. He concludes His warning with a parable, a favorite tool for teaching of Jesus.

A Fig Tree

The fig tree is a plant indigenous to Asia Minor and the Eastern Mediterranean region. Its blooms appear before the leaves do in the spring. Jesus uses this example from the creation in order to drive his point home: Just as certain as summer follows spring, the season when the fig tree puts forth its leaves, so also you may be certain that “when you see these things taking place” (all the things in v.10-28) you can know the fall of Jerusalem and the end of the Jewish world is right at the door. Jesus, in v.31, says the kingdom of God is near. That is, the rule and reign of God, His sovereignty over nations and peoples to bring them up and tear them down. What you see in the destruction of Jerusalem is an exercise of God’s sovereignty in human history.

Jesus reiterates His point in case anyone missed it: this thing is going to happen soon; so soon that the present generation (those people alive in the first century, some of them standing in front of Him) would not die until it had taken place (v.32). Hence, those expositors and commentators who try to shove this passage (and it’s parallel passages) into the future do so erroneously. Jesus is not talking about something millenia in the future; this is something right at the door for the first century disciples. If this has not yet been fulfilled, either Jesus lied (since that generation passed away without this prophecy fulfilled) or we should still have 2000 year old people walking around still waiting for the fulfillment. Neither of these is a reality nor possible – hence, Jesus’ prophecy was fulfilled just as he described in the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70. Indeed, Jesus makes this very point in v.33 when in essence he says “No word of mine will ever pass away unfulfilled.”  

A Final Tip

Jesus wraps up this discourse with a final warning and exhortation to His disciples. “Watch yourselves” (v.34) and “stay awake” (v.36). First, watch yourselves, especially in regards to their hearts. Something big and bad is coming down the pike…and now is not the time to mess with their Christian walk. Jesus mentions some very specific activities to avoid. “Dissipation” which has to do with drinking (alcohol) and the unrestraint behavior that usually accompanies that activity. How many people know the results and consequences of excessive alcohol consumption? Judgment and morality fly out the window and that is what Jesus is addressing. Avoid this. Next, “drunkeness” which is alcoholic intoxication. Indeed, there is absolutely nothing with abstinence from alcohol. And finally, the “cares of this life” are those things which divide our alligence to Christ and God. They pull us from being worshippers to being worriers. Jesus’ word to His disciples is guard yourself from these things. If you do not, “that day” (the day of destruction reserved for Jerusalem) will come upon them “suddenly like a trap.” I believe the imagry is self-evident.

Jesus further explains why they should watch themselves in verse 35. Many will use this verse in order to shove this whole context into the future. Indeed, it can present some difficulty. “For it will come upon all who dwell on the face of the whole earth.” Well, this would pretty well point to the scope of this judgment being universal, right? Not necessarily when you consider that the world for “earth” can (and in this context should) be translated “land.” Hence, all those who dwell in the land of Judea will suffer this judgment of God. Young’s Literal Translation provides this translation and Adam Clarke in his commentary makes mention of this point.

The next warning is stay awake at all times. In other words, keep yours eyes open and be on watch. What should a watchful disciple be doing in anticipation of this coming day? Pray. For what? Strength to escape all the horrible, terrible things that are coming which Jesus has just predicted. Indeed, it will get very bad. But also, pray that they would be able to stand before the Son of Man. The coming judgment is upon wicked Jerusalem. They will not be able to stand in judgment. But the disciple ought to be able to stand blameless at the coming of the Son of Man. They would then be free from the coming calamity.

One day He’s coming back. We often talk about the “second coming of Christ;” perhaps it is better called the “final coming of Christ.” One day he come back for the final time for final judgment. Ought we to listen to the words of the Master? He predicted physically judgment to be poured out in human history and told His disciples how they can prepare themselves for that day. Much more should we prepare for the Day when Christ will proclaim spiritual judgment upon all men and women. Ought also to stay awake and watch ourselves lest we fall into dissipation, drunkeness, and/or the cares of life? Our alligence must be wholeheartedly to the Son of Man if we would stand in final judgment.

The Faithful Teacher

Luke gives us a glimpse into the life of Jesus in v.37-38. Every day Jesus is teaching in the temple. We have seen Him sere before (see Luke 19.47). No doubt His message is still the same: “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matt 4.17).  He is still teaching during the day, but at night He’s sleeping on the mountains, the Mount of Olives. Mountains appear to be a special place for Jesus. They seemed to be His place of prayer and renewal (see Luke 6.12; 9.28). What’s Jesus every night before he turns in? Probably praying. His time is drawing ever closer and he needs the strength to carry out the mission. We’ve just seen Him warn His disciples to pray for strength; certainly the teacher is modelling for his students what this looks like. But you know where to find Jesus the next morning. Early in the morning He’s back at it, in the temple teaching all the people who came to hear Him.