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HEBREWS 11:17-40

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 11, VERSES 17 TO 22:

11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,
11:18  Of whom it was said, That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:
11:19  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.
11:20  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.
11:21  By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.
11:22  By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

Section (d)    Verses 17-22    Faith in relation to death.

We must not lose sight of the fact that the chapter is designed to fortify the Hebrew believers in their faith, despite the opposition they faced.  They are to be like Habakkuk and wait in faith for the revelation of Christ in glory.  Meanwhile they must live by their faith, and press on to what is before them.  But they will have to face the fact that they might die before Christ comes- how will they face death?  This is the matter dealt with in the next section.

11:17  By faith Abraham, when he was tried, offered up Isaac: and he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son,

By faith Abraham, when he was tried- we have already learnt lessons from Abraham, for verse 8 introduced us to him.  Now he is alluded to again to present another aspect of faith.
There is no suggestion here that Abraham’s faith was only tried once.  Rather, this is the supreme trial, and we are now told how Abraham reacted to the test.  James tells us that by this trial of faith Abraham’s faith was perfected, or “brought to completeness”, confirming the statements of the Old Testament that Abraham was a man justified by faith and also the friend of God, James 2:21-23.
We read of Abraham in Genesis 21 as he enjoyed a life of contentment and ease by the oak in Mamre.  Then, like a bolt from the blue, the word of God comes, “Take thy son…offer him for a burnt sacrifice”!  Abraham had everything, but now God says to him in effect, “Give Me thy dearest and best”.  We learn here that having faith does not mean we are exempt from trial, whether from the world or from God.  The trial of faith is designed to yield that which shall be to the praise, honour and glory of God in eternity, 1 Peter 1:7.
Offered up Isaac– Hannah gave her son Samuel to God, but this did not involve his death.  This does, and Isaac will become just a pile of ash.  God does not ask for Ishmael, the dispossessed son, but Isaac.
And he that had received the promises offered up his only begotten son- the writer is adding reason after reason why Abraham might well have resisted God’s demands upon him.  He might have argued that to slay a son was unethical- why could he not bring an animal offering instead?  And why must it be Isaac, in whom are vested all the promises of God to him, and on whom depends the coming of the Seed?
It was Isaac as his only begotten son that he was to be offered.  This title emphasises the deep affection that Abraham had for his son.  Isaac is the only one called this in the epistle, for the Lord Jesus is presented as God’s firstborn throughout.

11:18  Of whom it was said, “That in Isaac shall thy seed be called:”

Of whom it was said, “That in Isaac shall thy seed be called”- Abraham had progressed in faith since he asked God that Ishmael might be blessed, as if the promise just given that Sarah would bare Isaac could not be fulfilled, Genesis 17:17,18.  And even on the occasion of the weaning of Isaac, and his presentation to the world as Abraham’s son, Abraham was grieved that Sarah cast Ishmael and his mother out, Genesis 21:9-11.  It was at this point that God said to Abraham, “in Isaac shall thy seed be called”.  In response to this Abraham sent Hagar and Ishmael away, no doubt at last coming to terms with the fact that God’s purpose was centred in Isaac as the seed.  Soon after, God demanded that God slay Isaac!  Human reason would say this was madness; faith says it must be done.  Abraham knew by faith that no word of God can contradict another of His words.  The way he thought about it is told us in the next verse.

11:19  Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead; from whence also he received him in a figure.

Accounting that God was able to raise him up, even from the dead- this is the crowning-point of Abraham’s faith, the day when it was “made perfect”, to use James’ words.  At last Abraham is resting unreservedly on God’s word, despite what the natural mind would think.  If God had promised that through Isaac the promised Seed would come, then Abraham knew that nothing, not even the death of Isaac, could thwart the fulfilment of that promise.
And he had reason to believe that, for God had brought Isaac out from the virtually dead bodies of himself and his wife Sarah.  The apostle Paul shows in Romans 4:13-25 that Abraham’s faith was in one who quickeneth the dead.  He also applies the lesson that those who believe the gospel believe in the one who raised up Jesus Christ from the dead.
Even death is not an obstacle to faith, for faith is the evidence of things not seen, and Abraham looked beyond the thought of Isaac reduced to ashes, to Isaac raised again from the dead.
Notice the word “accounting”, for it has as its basis the word that gives us logic.  Faith does not abandon logic, but assembles facts about God through His word, and comes to conclusions.  Faith is not unreasonable, but it does allow the word of God to govern its thinking, and hence comes to conclusions that to the natural mind seem unreasonable.
From whence also he received him in a figure- it is interesting to notice that Abraham said to his servants as they went towards Moriah, “I and the lad will go yonder and worship, and come again unto you”, Genesis 22:5.  And so it came to pass, for Isaac did return with Abraham, a virtually resurrected man.  Of course the way it happened was that a ram was found for a substitute, after Abraham’s faith had passed its supreme test, and the knife was uplifted in his hand to slay his son.  It would occur to the Hebrews that God’s only-begotten Son had been offered at Calvary, and God had not spared Him, (there was no “ram caught in a thicket” for Him), but rather had freely offered Him up for us all, Romans 8:32.  Having really died, He was really raised, the guarantee of all that God has in view for His people. 

11:20  By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come.

By faith Isaac blessed Jacob and Esau concerning things to come- we now arrive at a point where the Old and New Testaments give to us a different view of the same event.  If we only had the Old Testament record of Genesis chapter 27, we would emphasise that Isaac was deceived by Jacob into granting him the blessing.  From Hebrews 11, however, we learn that, despite being deceived by Jacob, Isaac did in fact act in faith at the end of the incident by blessing Jacob above Esau, (hence the younger is put before the older in this verse). 

It would be helpful if we have in our minds the sequence of events leading up to this incident:

Genesis 25:21  Rebekah conceives twins by Isaac.
Genesis 25:22 The children struggle in her womb.
Genesis 25:22 She enquires of the Lord about this.
Genesis 25:23  The Lord tells her that two nations are in her womb, and “the elder shall serve the younger”.
Genesis 25:24-26 Esau and Jacob are born, in that order.
Genesis 25:28  As they grow up, Isaac loves Esau, and Rebekah loves Jacob.
Genesis 25:29-34  Jacob persuades Esau to sell him his birthright.
Genesis 27:1  Isaac, thinking he is about to die, intends to give Esau the blessing that goes with the birthright.
Genesis 27:5 Rebekah overhears this, and devises a scheme so that Jacob will receive the blessing.
Genesis 27:6-29 The scheme succeeds, and Isaac gives the blessing to Jacob, thinking he is blessing Esau.
Genesis 27:30-32 Esau presents himself to Isaac as firstborn son.
Genesis 27:33 “And Isaac trembled very exceedingly”, then says, “Yea, and he shall be blessed”.
Genesis 27:34-40 Isaac gives Esau a lesser blessing.

So Isaac feels that he is about to die, and therefore wishes to bless his sons, in effect giving them a verbal will, yet not so much bestowing his possessions on them, but, as a patriarch, calling down God’s blessing upon them in the future.  He should have given priority to Jacob in this, for he must have known that Esau had sold his birthright to him, and therefore Jacob was the firstborn, and had claim on the better blessing that went with the birthright.  He allowed his senses to govern him, however, for he smelt, touched, tasted, heard, and dimly saw, but his natural senses deceived him.  Many of the Hebrews were doing this, and the vestments, impressive buildings and awe-inspiring ceremonies of the temple worship were beckoning them.  To abandon them in favour of Christ would be an act of faith.  Sadly, many believers are still impressed by a religion of the senses.
What if Isaac’s blessing had gone to Esau and his seed?  The blessing involved five things:

First, that peoples would serve him.
Second, that nations would bow down to him, (with the word “bow” being the homage that befits royalty or God).
Third, he would be lord over his brethren.
Fourth, his mother’s sons would bow down to him.
Fifth, he would be able to count on God’s watchful care over him, even though he would have enemies ready to curse him. 

This would have made one of Esau’s descendants the Messiah, with Jacob’s descendants bowing to him, owning him lord, and giving him homage!  No wonder when he found he had been deceived, Isaac “trembled very exceedingly”, as he contemplated what his mistake would have meant if God had not intervened.
Isaac’s faith came to the fore, however, when, having found out he had blessed Jacob and not Esau, he realised his mistake, and refused to retract the blessing.  And this is what Hebrews 11 highlights, for the faith of Isaac rises above his former mistake, and acts in line with the word of God to Rebekah long before, “the elder, (Esau), shall serve the younger, (Jacob), Genesis 25:23.
The lesson for the Hebrews is clear.  God has centred every blessing in His Son, His Firstborn.  Some of the Hebrews had made the mistake of thinking that the blessing was elsewhere.  If they were genuinely believers they would own up to the enormity of their error, as Isaac did, and return to Christ as the true Firstborn with the blessing.  Our writer will return to the subject of Esau in 12:16,17, and again warn the Hebrews of the danger of despising their birthright.  For the church is the church of firstborn ones, 12:22.
Thus the grave mistake of Isaac is turned into an important lesson as God over-rules in the situation.  This does not make God complicit in the deception carried out by Rebekah and Jacob, but it does show that He is in total control of every situation, and safeguards the line of the Messiah.  So Isaac did bless Jacob and Esau, and in that order, but the reference is not to what he did whilst he was being deceived, but what he did after he had realised his mistake. 

11:21  By faith Jacob, when he was a dying, blessed both the sons of Joseph; and worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff.

By faith Jacob, when he was a dying- here is another aspect of faith in the face of death.  Abraham showed he believed in resurrection; Isaac showed he believed that the coming seed would be supreme in the earth; now Jacob shows that he understands the principle of the firstborn’s rights, and ensures that the Seed will have a complete nation to reign over.  Again, it would be helpful if we noticed the sequence of events in Genesis 48:   

Genesis 48:1,2
Joseph takes his two sons, Manasseh and Ephraim, to see Jacob, who was sick.

Genesis 48:3,4
Jacob recalls God’s covenant with him about the nation and the land.

Genesis 48:5
Jacob claims Joseph’s two sons as his own.

Genesis 48:8,9
Jacob declares his intention to bless them.

Genesis 48:10-20
Jacob crosses his hands so that his right hand is on Ephraim’s head, thus making him firstborn, even though he was born second.

Like Isaac before him Jacob was unable to see clearly, but he guided his hands wittingly, showing that, unlike Isaac, he was aware of what he was doing.  Isaac had been dull-witted and out-witted, but Jacob is sharp-witted.  Rebekah had tried to switch sons, and make out Jacob was firstborn, but when Joseph presents his firstborn son to Jacob’s right hand, it is Jacob who switches sons by crossing his hands, for he has learned his lesson.
Blessed both the sons of Joseph- this blessing consists of being counted as Jacob’s sons, a privilege granted to both.  It is not a question at this point as to who is the firstborn.  Being a prophet as well as a patriarch, (as we see from Genesis 49:1), Jacob knew that two of his sons would be deprived of a full inheritance in Israel.  Levi and Simeon are singled out for censure in Jacob’s death-bed pronouncements, and they were to be divided in Jacob and scattered in Israel, Genesis 49:7.  So it was that Levi was given no land as an inheritance, but had cities throughout Canaan, and Simeon was given a portion within the confines of the inheritance of Judah.  To safe-guard the idea of the twelve tribes, therefore, Jacob blessed both the sons of Joseph with a full place in the land.  The fact that he made Ephraim the firstborn by crossing his hands is not prominent here; simply that both sons would make up the deficiency of others.
Even though Manasseh would be a ring-leader in defection once they reached the land, and even though Ephraim would give his name to the breakaway ten tribes, and be carried away first into captivity, nevertheless Jacob looks beyond that, to when Messiah will unite the nation together under His headship, as Ezekiel 37:15-22 and Hosea 1:11 indicate.
And worshipped, leaning upon the top of his staff- when he had obtained a promise from Joseph that he would ensure he was buried in Canaan, Jacob bowed himself on the bed’s head, no doubt in relief, Genesis 47:31.  Here, however, he rises higher, and worships.  He does so, however, leaning on the top of his staff.  We are not told this in Genesis, but the Epistle to the Hebrews is just as inspired as that book is.  There is no good reason for confusing this incident with that of Genesis 47:31.
Jacob’s staff had become a symbol of his pilgrimage through life, for he had said to his brother, “with my staff I passed over this Jordan; and now I am become two bands”, Genesis 32:10.  Jacob is saying that he crossed Jordan alone on his way to Padan-Aran to find a wife, and now he has become a multitude of people by God’s goodness.  How fitting that as he contemplates the further multiplication of the nation through the incorporation of Manesseh and Ephraim into it, (Moses would speak of “the ten thousands of Ephraim, and the thousands of Manesseh”, Deuteronomy 33:17), he again should draw attention to his staff, no doubt worshipping God for His gracious intervention in his life.  He does not need to lean on his staff to help him along, for his pilgrimage is over.  What he does do is lean on the staff as the symbol of God’s faithfulness to him during his life.  He was leaning in faith upon God as he is about to die.  This reiterates what was said in verse 13- “these all died in faith”, for they died as they lived, trusting God and strengthened by His promises.  This is the best way to die.
Needless to say, the notion that Jacob worshipped his staff is totally contrary to Scripture, and is mere superstition, which should have no place in a believer’s thinking.
The Hebrews would surely not miss the significance of a non-Levite worshipping, nor the fact that Abel had offered sacrifice without a tabernacle system.  They are being reminded that an earthly building and a tribal priesthood is not necessary for the worship of God.

11:22  By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel; and gave commandment concerning his bones.

By faith Joseph, when he died, made mention of the departing of the children of Israel- Joseph had grasped the significance of God’s words to Abraham:
“Know of a surety that thy seed shall be a stranger in a land that is not theirs, and shall serve them; and they shall afflict them four hundred years;  And also that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge: and afterward shall they come out with great substance.  And thou shalt go to thy fathers in peace; thou shalt be buried in a good old age.  But in the fourth generation they shall come hither again: for the iniquity of the Amorites is not yet full.  And it came to pass, that, when the sun went down, and it was dark, behold a smoking furnace, and a burning lamp that passed between those pieces.  In the same day the Lord made a covenant with Abram, saying, ‘Unto thy seed have I given this land, from the river of Egypt unto the great river, the river Euphrates'”, Genesis 15:13-18.

Laying hold of this word, Joseph’s faith made it real, and he could look beyond the present, not just to the near-future when the Israelites would return to Canaan, but long-term, for he made mention of his bones, and was therefore anticipating resurrection.
It is important to understand what God is saying when He speaks of the period of four hundred years.  The verse does not say that the Israelites would be in Egypt for four hundred years.  It is the affliction that lasts four hundred years, and this period begins with the mocking of Ishmael, the son of the Egyptian slave-woman when Isaac was weaned, Genesis 21:9. 

The time line is as follows:
Galatians 3:17; Acts 7:6
God makes a covenant with Abraham.  Abraham is a stranger in the land of Canaan.
The beginning of a 430 year period ending with the Exodus, Exodus 12:40,41, Galatians 3:17.

Genesis 15:13; Acts 7:6
Isaac is installed as firstborn and seed, and Ishmael, son of the Egyptian, mocks.  Now Abraham’s seed also is a stranger in the land of Canaan.  Beginning of the 400 year period of affliction.

Genesis 47:1
Jacob comes into Egypt.
Beginning of a 215 year period until the Exodus.  71 years without slavery, then at the death of Joseph and rising up of a new Pharoah, 144 years in slavery.  The birth of Moses was 64 years after the death of Joseph.

We know from Exodus 12:41 that careful record was being kept of the passage of time, for the exodus occurred on the anniversary of God’s covenant with Abraham, “even the selfsame day”.  Joseph would know, because he accepted God’s word in faith, that the Exodus was 144 years ahead.
And gave commandment concerning his bones- Joseph acted upon this belief, and made sure that his bones would be carried up out of Egypt.  No doubt he could have had a royal burial, but he chose to associate with the people of God.  He was embalmed and put in a coffin, but not buried.  He knew that only his bones would be left by the time the departure from Egypt came; he knew also that it would not be so long that he would have crumbled to dust.  All this shows that Joseph took the word of God to be literally true- it was not an allegory.
We might think that it did not matter where his bones were, but the commandment concerning his bones not only show his strong belief that God would honour His word, but the presence of his coffin in the midst of the nation for 184 years would sustain them in their faith in the promise, too.  For Joseph was not only anticipating a departure from Egypt, but also an entry into the land forty years later.  He knew the date of the first, but he might have been surprised if he had known how long the wilderness journey would take. 

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 11, VERSES 23 TO 31:

11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.
11:24  By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;
11:25  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;
11:26  Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.
11:27  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured, as seeing him who is invisible.
11:28  Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.
11:29  By faith they passed through the Red sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.
11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.
11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

Section (e)        Verses 23-31    Faith in relation to the world.

We now come to a new section, which shows the attitude that believers had to the world, as represented by Egypt. 

Verse 23 The faith of Amram and Jochebed.
Resistance to the world.
Verses 24-26 The faith of Moses as an individual.
Refusal of the world.
Verse 27 The faith of Moses as God’s representative.
Rejection of the world.
Verse 28  The faith of Moses as the people’s leader.
Redemption from the world.
Verse 29 The faith of the Nation.
Release from the world.
Verse 30 The faith of the Nation.
Ruin of the world.
Verse 31 The faith of Rahab.
Rescue from the world.

11:23        The faith of Amram and Jochebed

Resistance to the world.

11:23  By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents, because they saw he was a proper child; and they were not afraid of the king’s commandment.

By faith Moses, when he was born, was hid three months of his parents- although the sentence begins “By faith Moses”, he is not the one who demonstrates faith here, but his parents.  This Scripture says his parents hid him; Stephen says he was “nourished up in his father’s house three months”, Acts 7:20; Exodus 2:2 says that he was hidden by his mother.  So we may see here that the husband and the wife were united in the defence of their child.  It is good when Christian parents are united in the way they bring up their children for God.  The sure way of being united is to be governed by the Word of God alone in the matter- there is no double-mindedness there.
Moses had been born under threat of death, because Pharoah was worried that the Hebrews would multiply so that they outnumbered the Egyptians. Because they saw he was a proper child- Stephen says he was “exceeding fair”, or as the words are literally, “beautiful to God”.  This sort of expression is used of “whatever can in any way be likened to God, or resemble Him in any way”, Grimme. There must have been revealed to Moses’ parents that the child was destined for greatness, and they acted accordingly.  It was not that he was in the line of the Messiah, for he was of the tribe of Levi; nonetheless there was something about his features that alerted them to the fact that he was special.  They had not seen these features in Aaron, his older brother.  Perhaps there was something about the alertness, the facial features and the eyes of Moses that alerted his parents to something different, (remember Moses was still alert and of good eyesight at the age of 120, Deuteronomy 34:7).  They would enquire of the Lord about this, (just as Rebekah enquired about her unborn sons, Genesis 25:22), and no doubt they saw he was a proper child with spiritual insight as the Lord made known His purpose for the child.
And they were not afraid of the king’s commandment- whatever other parents were doing, they would not destroy the life of their son.  They obeyed God, (who values life), rather than men, (who were, and are, indifferent to the value of life).  Faith always runs counter to the world on moral issues, for the world by definition is opposed to God.  Says John, “this is the victory that overcometh the world, even our faith”, 1 John 5:4.  Just as great things were achieved by Amram and Jochebed because their faith rose above the opposition, so the Hebrews of the New Testament could imitate them, and rise above the religious opposition of Judaism.
When they could no longer hide him from the Egyptians, Moses’ parents did exactly what Pharoah had commanded, for the edict from the king was “cast out” into the Nile, Acts 7:19, and so they did indeed “cast him out” into the Nile, Acts 7:21.  So they obeyed the king, but also obeyed God whose law says “Thou shalt not kill”.  In this way they did not have to employ situation ethics, as Rahab did when she lied about the spies, Joshua 2:2-7.  Amram and Jochebed have a clear conscience that they have honoured the king, and honoured God as well.
We would do well to pray that we might not be forced into a situation where the only way of escape, (so we think), is to lie and deceive.  It is God who makes a way to escape when we are tempted, 1 Corinthians 10:13.  In no circumstances is lying an option for a believer, Ephesians 4:25.  We should be prepared, if necessary, to “swear to our own hurt”, Psalm 15:4.
Because they acted in faith, Amram and Jochebed were guided by God to lay him in his ark by the river’s edge at a place where Pharoah’s daughter came to bathe.  The Egyptian palace would no doubt be furnished with the facilities for bathing, but this was different.  The Nile was revered as a god, for did it not annually flood, and deposit on the land the fertile silt that enabled Egypt to prosper?  So the Nile was considered sacred, and able to impart fruitfulness and prolong life- where better to bathe if you are a childless and idolatrous princess?  To bathe in such a river was to devote ones-self to the god.  We might almost say to be baptised unto it.  The temples that stood on the banks of the Nile had a portion of river enclosed just for this purpose, so that bathing was safe.  It is in all probability here that Moses’ parents hid the child, with Miriam their daughter at a discreet distance away.  The princess comes with her maidens to worship the river-god, and lo, the god has given her a child!  The fact that Moses was taken to be her son seems to indicate that she was childless.  To her superstitious mind, the gods have favoured her.  She calls him Moses, which is made up of two Egyptian words, “mo”, water, and “uses”, rescued from water.  Ever after Moses is called by that name.  So it is that Amram and Jochebed obeyed God and gave away their son, but God saw to it that they received him back again for a time.  And God so over-ruled that they were paid to bring up their own child!  Truly God is the rewarder of those who diligently seek Him, as verse 6 of our chapter has told us.

Verses 24-26   The faith of Moses as an individual

Refusal of the world.

11:24  By faith Moses, when he was come to years, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter;

By faith Moses, when he was come to years- forty years have passed, and Moses has been in the palace for most of them.  He has been taught the wisdom of the Egyptians, Acts 7:22, yet that has not dulled his appreciation of the wisdom of God.
Refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter- the point has come when he must decide where his allegiance lays.  Whether there was some process that he was facing which would further entrench him in Pharoah’s house we are not told.  What we are told here is that he stood firm.  He might have argued naturally that he had some sort of obligation to Egypt for giving him such a life-style as he had enjoyed as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.  He might have argued that it was ungrateful to the princess who had saved his life.  He might have reasoned that to remain where he was would give him better opportunity to help his fellow Israelites.  Like Daniel after him, he might have great influence on the affairs of the king.  This was not God’s will at this time, however.  Daniel was in an abnormal situation, with the kingly tribe, (of which he was part), dispossessed of the land of Israel and the throne of David, so that made his position different.  We should always take into account the way God is acting in this age, for we cannot necessarily transpose what Old Testament saints did into our situation.  For instance, shall we raise an army like Gideon and rout the enemy?  Or shall we heed the words of the Lord Jesus, “The Son of Man came not to destroy men’s lives”, Luke 9:56?

11:25  Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God, than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season;

Choosing rather to suffer affliction with the people of God- Moses knew from the making of the covenant with Abraham that a burning lamp had passed through the pieces of the sacrifice during the horror of a great darkness.  In other words, God was with His people in their affliction, not distant from them.  “In all their affliction He was afflicted”, Isaiah 63:9.  How could Moses distance himself from the Hebrews when God did not?
Notice that he made a deliberate choice here.  It was not forced upon him by circumstances.  Indeed, the circumstances all tended to confirm him as the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
It is affliction with the people of God he chooses.  It is with the things of God that his sympathies lie, for the palace life has not deflected him in his faith.  The wisdom of Egypt has not converted him.  The faith of the believer gives him victory over the world, 1 John 5:4.  We begin the Christian life by turning in a different direction to the world, and this is how we continue, if we are consistent.
Sadly, Moses went about this associating with the people of God in a faulty way, for he tried to legislate between an Egyptian and an Hebrew, and in the process killed the Egyptian.  This was not an act of faith, and resulted in him fearing the wrath of the king, (which forty years later he did not, verse 27), and spending forty years in the wilderness away from the people of God.  Moses faithfully records this in the Book of Exodus, but the writer to the Hebrews omits it, for it was not an exhibition of faith.  In the same way he omits the forty years of the wilderness experience of Israel, because that was a period marked largely by unbelief.  Moses and Israel do not give examples of faith in these instances, and therefore they are not appropriate for the sort of chapter Hebrews 11 is setting out to be.
Than to enjoy the pleasures of sin for a season- Moses could have reasoned that the Exodus was only forty years away, (for he knew the time-span God indicated in His word to Abraham, Genesis 15:13), so why not enjoy the life-style while he could, and then associate with God’s people at the end?  Why make things difficult for ones-self in the meantime?  Had not God intervened so that he was adopted by Pharoah’s daughter?  Is not renouncing this to go against the will of God?  This is how Moses might have reasoned; but even if he did think like this initially, he soon came to the conclusion that it was God’s will for him to make a break with Egypt.
We need to remember that what God’s will at one point in our lives is not necessarily going to be His will throughout our lives.  This would have a lesson for the Hebrews.  It was the will of God for their forefathers that they offer animal sacrifices, in Old Testament times, but that will of God has been displaced by another will, equally of God, as Hebrews 10:9,10 explains.

11:26  Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt: for he had respect unto the recompence of the reward.

Esteeming the reproach of Christ greater riches than the treasures in Egypt- Moses had discerned that the lamp that passed between the divided pieces of the covenant victim when God made covenant with Abraham was a symbol of the Messiah.  Isaiah 62:1 would later record, “For Zion’s sake will I not hold my peace, and for Jerusalem’s sake I will not rest, until the righteousness thereof go forth as brightness, and the salvation thereof as a lamp that burneth”.  This is one of the places in the Old Testament where the word salvation is the word “yeshua”, the equivalent of “Jesus”.  He is the lamp therefore.  Moses seems to have insight into this, (and it will be confirmed to him at the burning bush),and despite the implication of the horror of a great darkness that the seed will pass into, Genesis 15:12, Moses is prepared to suffer reproach.  Because that reproach concerns God’s promise, in symbol, that the Messiah will be the one who will ensure the covenant is stable, (for normally the two covenanting parties passed between the pieces of sacrifice, but in this case it was just the lamp), then association with those who are in that covenant relationship with God, (the “people of God”), is the reproach of Christ, the Messiah.
Moses thought of this as a valuable thing.  He treasured it in his heart above all else.  Surrounded for forty years by the opulence and splendour of the palace of Pharoah, he was unmoved, and his heart was set on spiritual realities, even though they involved reproach and hardship.  How easy it is for us as believers to cast envious eyes at the luxuries of the world.  We should remember, however, the riches of God’s grace, expressed to us as they are by the vast inheritance He has given to us, detailed for us in such passages as Ephesians 1:1-14.  As the apostle exhorted in Colossians 3:1,2  we should set our affection on things above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God.  For “where your treasure is, there will your heart be also”, Matthew 6:21.  What our hearts are occupied with is an indication of what is valuable to us.
For he had respect unto the recompence of the reward- Moses knew that God would see to it that the land would eventually be theirs, and they would have the great privilege of being in it under the righteous reign of the Messiah.  This to him far outweighed any temporary advantage that Egypt’s royal court might give him.  The writer to the Hebrews has already exhorted his readers to “Cast not away your confidence, which hath great recompence of reward”, Hebrews 10:35.  They may have suffered the spoiling of their goods because of their stand for Christ, but this was of little account when compared to the compensating reward that God will give for faithfulness to Him.
So we may say that the refusal of relationship with the princess of Egypt involved the recognition that the Hebrews were the people of God.  This in turn resulted in reproach, yet this would be certainly followed by recompence.

Verse 27        The faith of Moses as God’s representative

Rejection of the world.

11:27  By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king: for he endured as seeing Him who is invisible.

By faith he forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king- Moses himself tells us specifically that he feared after he had killed the Egyptian and the fact was known, even though he had sought to bury the body unnoticed.  He had “turned this way and that way” before he did this, the sure sign of a man with a guilty conscience.  This verse tells us of a point where he did not fear the wrath of the king, and connects with it a forsaking of Egypt.  Having been forty years in the land of Midian, Moses is sent into Egypt to lead God’s people out.  He is given a sight of a burning bush, and hears God speak to him out from it.  The bush burns, but is not consumed, for God will be in the midst of His people, even when they are in “the iron furnace”, Deuteronomy 4:20, and He will see to it that they are not consumed by the trial.  Fortified by God’s word to him, Moses in principle forsook Egypt.
Various details show us that Moses did not fear the king.  Remember that the Pharoah is different now, for God told Moses that “all the men are dead which sought thy life”, Exodus 4:19, and this would include Pharoah the father of his adopted mother, the princess.  It may well be that the new Pharoah had reason to see Moses slain, as being a possible rival to the throne if he reversed his decision to not be called the son of Pharoah’s daughter.
First, we note God’s word to Moses, “I have made thee a god to Pharoah”, Exodus 7:1.  How could a “god” fear a man?
Second, we note the position Moses adopted when he spoke to Pharoah in Exodus 7:15, for God told him to stand by the river’s brink before Pharoah came.  No doubt coming to worship the river, or bathe in it, Pharaoh finds that his way is blocked by an intrepid Hebrew!  How dare this man interpose between Pharoah and his god!  To add insult to injury Aaron lifts his rod over the river and turns it to blood, the sure sign of judgement.  Years before, the river had been the deathbed of many Hebrew children, and now the time of retribution has come.
Third, we note that Moses and Aaron constantly enter the presence of a heavily guarded Pharoah, despite the fact that his land is being increasingly ruined by the plagues they are inflicting on it.  Yet no hand is laid on them.  The rod of God is of more authority than the rod of magicians.
Fourth, Moses is not afraid to enter the palace, despite the fact that Pharoah was reckoned to be a god, and demanded worship. . This Moses would refuse to give him.  Pharoah was the virtual ruler of the world, and, being an object of worship, was the god of this world.  In these things he is a symbol of Satan himself, who is the god of this world and its prince, 2 Corinthians 4:4; John 14:30.  Each of the plagues was an attack upon an Egyptian object of worship, yet Moses is unafraid.
Fifth, we read in Exodus 10:6 that “Moses turned himself and went out from Pharoah”.  Despite the king’s bodyguard that surrounded and protected Pharoah, who at a word from the monarch would slay him, Moses calmly turned and left the presence of Pharoah without a hint of deference to him.  He is confident that the God who told him that he would be the one to lead the people out, will protect him from a dagger in the back.
Sixth, the climax came when he issued an ultimatum to Pharoah, and warned him that all the firstborn sons of the Egyptians, including his own, would be slain.  This would ruin Egypt, and would be just recompence for the destruction of the Hebrews’ children forty years before.  Then we read, “he went out from Pharoah in a great anger”.  This is surely the moment when he “forsook Egypt, not fearing the wrath of the king”.

Verse 28    The faith of Moses as the people’s leader          

Redemption from the world.

11:28  Through faith he kept the passover, and the sprinkling of blood, lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them.

Through faith he kept the passover- given the anger of Pharoah, Moses might have panicked and left Egypt and celebrated the Passover in the wilderness.  After all, God had told Moses that he would serve Him on Mount Sinai, Exodus 3:12, and Moses interpreted this as keeping a feast in the wilderness, which is how he put it to Pharoah, Exodus 5:1.  Why not wait until Israel was safely in the wilderness, and then keep the feast in peace?  Faith obeys God, and trusts Him for everything.  If they had not kept the feast the night they were told to, the destroying angel would have found their houses unprotected.  So it is that the night the angel of death visited Egypt, Israel were still in the land of Egypt, yet because they were obeying God in all things, they were safe.  The original readers of this epistle may rest assured that to follow God’s guidance is always the safest course.  Their situation is full of danger for them as they are persecuted for their faith, but they should rest in God.  We are reminded by John as he introduces the upper room ministry that the Lord Jesus was on a journey via Calvary to the throne of God; He knew also that the intention to betray was already in Judas’ heart.  Notwithstanding He met with His own and gave them much teaching to prepare them for His absence.  Even though the cross was but a few hours away, He lingered with His own.  He knew that everything was under control.
Moses has learnt the lesson that if the people of God are going to be delivered from their taskmasters, it must be by the seemingly foolish method of the blood of a helpless lamb.  Forty years before, Moses had tried to help his brethren, but that was by carnal methods and deeds.  He has learnt his lesson.
One of Christ’s disciples, Simon, was a Cananite, Matthew 10:4, which does not mean he came from Canaan, but that he was a Zealot, dedicated to the overthrow of the Romans.  The Lord Jesus called him from that to work for the kingdom of God.  (Of course, Matthew was at the other end of the spectrum, working for the Romans and collecting their taxes- he was called away as well).  Peter was a fisherman, but, in zeal for his Lord, wielded a sword in Gethsemane- he was rebuked, for he had to learn the same lesson as Moses, that “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal”, 2 Corinthians 10:4, and, “the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God”, James 1:20.
It is Moses that is said to keep the Passover, whereas the nation is referred to, (“them”), at the end of the verse.  Moses is acting on personal conviction, but he is also acting as an example to the nation.  His parents had been an example to him as they resisted the decree of the king, and now he is likewise being an example to others.  As the one with “the rod of God”, Exodus 4:20, he represented the authority of God, and should be listened to and followed, just as the apostle Paul exhorted the believers to be a follower or imitator of himself, quickly adding, “as I am of Christ”, 1 Corinthians 11:1.
There are those who suggest that to “keep” the Passover means to institute the Passover.  However, in Matthew 26:18 we read of the Lord Jesus keeping the Passover, but He did not institute it then.  The point is, (since the word “keep” in both Exodus and Matthew means to make), that all the detailed arrangements were carried out carefully and calmly.  The apostle Paul exhorted the Corinthian believers to “keep the feast”, 1 Corinthians 5:8.  In that chapter he is using as an illustration the Passover and its accompanying Feast of Unleavened Bread to press upon the believers the need to deal with the evil in their midst.  “Christ our Passover is sacrificed for us”; in other words, the work of Calvary by which redemption was obtained, is done, but it remains for us as believers to live out the meaning of the feast that is inseparably connected with it, that of unleavened bread.  Just as Israel were to purge out literal leaven from their houses, so the saints are to purge out the moral leaven of immorality and false doctrine from the house of God, the assembly.  Deliverance from the world has lost its meaning if the evil of the world is still in our midst.
And the sprinkling of blood- to kill the Passover lamb, but not sprinkle its blood, was folly in the extreme.  No doubt the Egyptians looked on in puzzlement as the Israelites daubed their doorways with blood.  But this was Divine wisdom, for the blood was the evidence that the life of another had been forfeited, so that the firstborn inside the house could be safe.  It was either the lamb or the firstborn that died; the difference lay in the exercise of faith.  There would have been very few houses in Israel where there was no firstborn son, even if he was an old man, (for there seems not to be any indication that the firstborn son must be young), and the only means of safety was through the blood of the lamb; blood, moreover, that was to be sprinkled, for the death of the lamb, (the work achieved), must be followed by the sprinkling of the blood, (the work applied).  Just as now, it is not enough that Christ has died, there must be the receiving of the truth by faith in personal application, in order that what happened two thousand years ago may become real to the soul now.
Lest he that destroyed the firstborn should touch them- as far as those who had sprinkled the blood were concerned, God had not only passed through the land of Egypt to smite the firstborn, but He had also passed over their houses, Exodus 12:12.  This means that the selfsame Lord that judged the firstborn sons, had already been satisfied by the death of the lamb, and He could righteously shield those houses where the blood was sprinkled.
We should not think of God passing over the house as meaning He simply passed by the house.  The Hebrew word is “pesach”, meaning to leap over.  So instead of simply passing by the houses with blood-stained door-posts, God actually protected those inside from the death that was striking the firstborn sons of Egypt.  It is said that the Egyptian word which most nearly corresponds to the word for passover, is “pesh”, meaning “to spread the wings out over so as to protect”.  This reminds us of the words of the Lord Jesus when He wept over Jerusalem, and said, “how often would I have gathered thee, as a hen doth gather her chickens under her wings, but ye would not”, Luke 13:34.
Eighty years before, the Pharoah of the time had ordered the death of all new-born Hebrew sons.  He did not limit the decree to firstborn sons.  Now is the time of recompence.  It may have been a long time coming, but come it did.  God is not mocked, for whatsoever a man sows he will reap, sooner or later, Galatians 6:7.
To destroy the firstborn son is to destroy the very heart of Egyptian society.  And the threat was not limited to ordinary people, for it extended to the successor of Pharoah on his throne.  God was destroying Egypt, and showing His supreme power as He did so.  He had promised to do this when He covenanted with Abraham four hundred and thirty years before, with the words, “that nation, whom they shall serve, will I judge”, Genesis 15:14, the word “I” being emphatic- He would not delegate it to another.
There is a warning here to the unbelievers in Israel, for they should be complacent, and rest on the fact that they belonged to the Hebrew nation.  They must “sprinkle the blood of the lamb” if they are to be safe.  To ignore the message of John the Baptist, “Behold the lamb of God”, and to fail to act in faith, is to miss out on redemption.  Moreover, to fail in this way is to be no different morally to the Egyptians, who spurned the power of the sprinkled blood.  Indeed, it is to be worse than they, for they would be counting the blood of Christ an unholy thing, Hebrews 10:29.
So it is that the Israelites were redeemed from Egypt by the blood that they must have thought of as extremely precious; it was so valuable that it had purchased their freedom from Egypt.  Believers of this age, however, have been redeemed from a far more terrible situation, for they have been redeemed from this present evil world.  And far more precious blood has secured their release, the blood of Christ, “as of a lamb without blemish and without spot”, 1 Peter 1:18,19.  This perfection is not just in the physical sense, but in the moral sense, for Christ is free from all sin, whether inherited or acquired.  As one who is without blemish, Christ has no shortcomings at all, being sin-free entirely as to His nature.  As one who is spotless, He has no stain on His character.  So it is that those who are full of blemishes and character-stains, are protected by the blood of God’s spotless lamb, when His death is laid hold of by faith.

Verse 29    The faith of the Nation

Release from the world.

11:29  By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land: which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned.

By faith they passed through the Red Sea as by dry land- to faith, the passage through the Red Sea was no different to a passage through the sand dunes of the arid desert, such was the thoroughness with which God had prepared their path.  But the pathway was of no use if they did not tread it, and this they did by faith.  We read at the end of the crossing of the Red Sea that “the people feared the Lord, and believed the Lord, and His servant Moses”, Exodus 14:31.  At first, Israel feared Pharoah’s cavalry, as it bore down upon them.  But just as at the Passover God Himself had protected them, so now.  For the pillar of fire removed itself and stood between them and the enemy, Exodus 14:19.  But more than that, as it passed from the front to the rear of the column of marching Israelites, they were baptised in it, and the New Testament says they were baptised to Moses, 1 Corinthians 10:2.  They were committing themselves to the man with the rod of God in his hand; the rod that had wrought such wonders in Egypt over the past few weeks, and which had been lifted up over the sea to divide it.  They knew that he was in touch with God, and on the basis that he had the word of God, they obeyed him.
They pass through the Red Sea by faith, and not in desperation.  It is true that they feared Egypt’s army, for it was ruthless and cruel, and specialised in cutting off the hands of its prisoners as a way of counting them, and then offering them to their gods as a thank-offering.  They fear God more, however.
Their faith in God is rewarded, for they venture onto the sea-bed and find it bone-dry.  They do not have to pick their way through pools of water, as if God was not able to completely defeat the sea, but they walk on dry ground.  So much so that when God caused the chariot wheels of their pursuers to come off, Exodus 14:25, their axles dug into hard ground; they did not slide through the mud.  It might even be that God used the hardness of the ground to shake the chariot wheels off.
What an encouragement the remembrance of this would be to the Hebrews in receipt of this epistle.  They seemed to be hemmed in on every side, as their forefathers had been; their foes, the Judaisers, persecuting them as those who had left the fold, and the world opposing them as believers.  Just as Israel of old had two options, so have these.  They could either turn back, and face the wrath of the enemy, or go forward in faith.  Said our writer in 10:39, “we are not of them who draw back unto perdition; but of them that believe to the saving of the soul”.  In the case of the Hebrews of AD 68, the wrath they faced was the wrath of God against those who despise His Son.
Those who venture forward in faith find that what seemed an insurmountable obstacle is in fact their salvation, for the very sea that opened up for them to pass through, then returned to drown their enemies.  The Hebrews who wavered should take note of this, and move forward in faith.  They will find that their Messiah has been through the waters before them, and has dried up the waters of judgement for them.  For He had an exodus too, and Moses and Elijah spoke with Him about it on the mount of transfiguration, Luke 9:31, (“His decease” uses the Greek word for exodus).  He, too, was hemmed in on every side.  He spoke of it in these terms, “I have a baptism to be baptised with; and how am I straitened till it be accomplished”, Luke 12:50.  Unlike Israel, however, the Lord Jesus was hemmed in or straitened by the will of His Father, from which He refused to deviate.  He knew that a baptism awaited Him, the immersion into the experience of God’s wrath, (corresponding to the judgement of Passover night, with the death of the first-born, except that the first-born who died was Himself), and the subsequent emergence into resurrection conditions, (corresponding to the passage through the Red Sea, until the other side was reached).  So it is that His decease is accomplished at Jerusalem, for the city that saw Him die, is the city that holds His empty tomb.  The city that is the centre of Judaism, is the city that He left, carrying the cross they gave Him.  And it is accomplished, for the journey into wrath and death, and out of it, is over.  Both Moses and Elijah had unusual departures from this world, but neither went out of the world as Christ did, as one who had died and had risen in triumph.  Those who believe in Him are not only dead with Christ, but are also risen with Him, Colossians 2:12, and they signify this by their baptism in water.  For them there is no immersion into the wrath of God.
Which the Egyptians assaying to do were drowned- to apparently tread the same pathway as the people of God, and yet not do it in faith, is to meet with disaster.  So the Egyptians found, and so would some in Israel find who only appeared to believe in God, all the while refusing the Son that God had sent to them for their blessing and salvation.
So it is that Israel gained release from the world that had oppressed them for so long; yet all who believe are released from a far greater oppression, and are brought into association with a risen Christ, free from condemnation.  Yet the trials of life remain, but they are tempered by the fact that there will be another exodus from this world, when the Lord comes to “take His waiting people home”.  This will be the logical climax to the moral exodus they have already experienced.

Verse 30        The faith of the Nation

Ruin of the world.

11:30  By faith the walls of Jericho fell down, after they were compassed about seven days.

By faith the walls of Jericho fell down- if Egypt represented the world seeking to prevent the slaves making their exit from it, Jericho represents the world as seeking to prevent entry into the inheritance of the sons.  This opposition is represented by the walls of Jericho.  The king and his city are in fear because Israel surrounds them, and they make no attempt to issue forth to attack them.  As Joshua 5:1 says, “their heart melted, neither was there spirit in them anymore, because of the children of Israel”.  This is not enough to make the walls fall down however; for that, faith is needed.  The Hebrews too faced seemingly insurmountable obstacles, (and some of them no doubt would soon find themselves within the beseiged city of Jerusalem in AD 70), but they had only to move in faith and God would give them deliverance.  The obstacle might not be destroyed, as Jericho was, but they would be given the way of escape from their difficulties.
So it was not battering rams that destroyed Jericho’s walls, for “the weapons of our warfare are not carnal, but mighty through God to the pulling down of strongholds”, 2 Corinthians 10:4.
Infidels might have their own ideas about what caused the walls to fall.  Say they, it must have been an earthquake, perhaps even triggered by the great shout that the Israelites made.  Or perhaps the walls were not well-built anyway.  In fact this latter idea has embedded itself into the English language, and badly-built buildings are labelled “Jeri-built”.  Neither of these things was the cause; it was simple faith in God that caused the walls to fall, because God always responds to faith.  This is why even faith no bigger than a grain of mustard seed is enough to move a mountain, for the faith is in the God who made, (and can move) the mountain, Matthew 17:20.
After they were compassed about seven days- in obedience to God the Israelites persisted.  No matter how laughable the method seemed to be to the natural mind, they persevered, and the desired result was achieved.  God’s ways and man’s ways are far apart, and the natural mind has no inkling of what God is able to do.  By marching round the city once for six days, and then seven times the seventh day, the number thirteen, the number of rebellion, was impressed upon the event.  But it was the rebellion of Jericho, not Israel.  So the Hebrews must decide which side they are on, either the side that rebels against the person and work of Christ, or the side that opposes that rebellion in faith, and by that faith pulls down the stronghold of unbelief. 

Verse 31        The faith of Rahab

Rescue from the world

11:31  By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not, when she had received the spies with peace.

By faith the harlot Rahab perished not with them that believed not- not only was Jericho rebellious, but it was unbelieving.  They had no time for God and His people, even though they were in fear of them.  We come now to the second woman in the chapter of faith.  Not now Sarah the distinguished wife of the equally distinguished patriarch Abraham, the “Friend of God”, but a Gentile harlot.  Yet God takes note of the faith of them both, and by her faith Rahab is found in the same chapter as Sarah.  For Matthew chapter 1 shows how that, because she married Salmon, she became the mother of Boaz, of the line of the Messiah.  Great things happen to those who go contrary to the world and gain the victory by faith.  The Hebrews might well heed the lesson, and go contrary to the world of Judaism in like faith, and hence gain the victory over it, and find themselves vitally involved with the Messiah.
The difference between Rahab and the rest of Jericho was that she was trusting what the scarlet line represented, the promise of God through the spies.  Their word to her was God’s word to her, and she believed it and acted upon it.  And this, as the first verse of the chapter has told us, is the essence of faith.
When she had received the spies with peace- no doubt the spies deliberately chose a harlots house, since it would not arouse suspicion if a stranger entered there.  But they were noticed, and this was gave occasion to Rahab to act in faith.  But the Scripture is careful to tell us that she hid the men in the flax laid out on the roof, and also that she came to them “before they were laid down”.  This would not have been her normal behaviour when men came to visit her; now she is a changed person, and what has changed her is faith.
To her, at the beginning, the men were spies, but she receives them in peace because she believes in their God now.  The rest of Jericho would have received them with execution- she is different.  When James is using this incident, he emphasises Rahab’s works, the evidence of her faith, and hence calls the men messengers, James 2:25.  He also uses a different word for “receive” which means “to give hospitality to”, thus pointing out the trouble she took as she acted in faith, and by works expressed that faith.  The word used in the verse we are considering is simply to allow into one’s house, itself an act of faith.
She did not say, “Depart in peace, be ye warmed and filled”, but rather gave them “those things that are needful for the body”, James 2:16.
It will not be lost on intelligent Hebrews that there is a contrast between two spies, Joshua and Caleb, whose word was not believed with disastrous consequences, (as chapters 3 and 4 of this epistle have showed), and the two spies who came to Rahab, and who were believed by her, with blessed consequences.  The Hebrews should learn a lesson from this, and mix the word with faith when they heard it, Hebrews 4:2.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 11, VERSES 32 TO 38:

11:32  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:
11:33  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.
11:34  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.
11:35  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:
11:36  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment:
11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;
11:38  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

Section (f)    Verses 32-38        Faith in relation to affliction.

Having shown how to live by faith, and how to die by faith, then how to react to the world that opposes them, our writer now prepares his readers for even more affliction than they had already experienced.  The siege and destruction of Jerusalem is just a year or two ahead, (if the epistle was written in AD 68), and they must be prepared for it.  So it is that various traumatic experiences are listed, some in Old Testament times, and some in the period between Malachi and Matthew when God seemed silent.  Faith sustained the people of God even in those times too, for Malachi prophesies that there would be those who would speak often one to another, Malachi 3:16, and when the New Testament opens we find people like Anna speaking of Him, Luke 2:38.

This closing section may be divided as follows:

(a) Verse 32  Unlikely heroes. 
(b) Verses 33-35(i) Unusual happenings.  Ten exploits of faith.
(c) Verses 35(ii)-38 Unjustified horrors.    Ten extremities of faith.
(d) Verse 39 Unrealised hope.
(e) Verse 40 Unrevealed hope.

(a)    Verse 32    Unlikely heroes

11:32  And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell of Gedeon, and of Barak, and of Samson, and of Jephthae; of David also, and Samuel, and of the prophets:

And what shall I more say? for the time would fail me to tell- if these words were originally given as addresses in a synagogue, we may easily see why, as he records what he said, he writes “time would fail”, and not “space would fail”.  He was originally limited by time as he discoursed.  The word for “tell” means “to narrate to the end”.  This chapter also conforms to the style of one part of the synagogue service, when a speaker would recount God’s dealings with the nation, (see, for instance, the addresses of Paul in the synagogue in Acts 13, and Stephen in Acts 7), and especially the trials the people had gone through.
We would expect this list to be full of kings and priests, but it is not.  It is true David is mentioned, but he is put before Samuel, as if his experiences before he became king are in view.  So we have three judges, an army commander, an anointed king on the run, Samuel, and unnamed prophets.
Of Gedeon- this man gains a place in the list here, even though he was fearful at first.  He questioned God, suggesting His presence was not in evidence, Judges 6:13; he had an inferiority complex about the poverty of his family, verse 15; but he learnt to trust God.  His faith came to a climax when he refused to be made king over Israel, Judges 8:22,23.  He knew God’s word on the matter of the kingly tribe and refused personal advantage by faith.  The Hebrews might think that they were in a weak position, for they had taken the spoiling of their goods, just as Gideon had been impoverished by the Midianites, but they, like him, could triumph in faith.  And do so, moreover, without disregarding the rights of the Messiah.
And of Barak- this man tends to come off badly when comments are made about him.  He is disparaged for seemingly only being prepared to act if a woman did so first, for he said to Deborah, “If thou wilt go with me, then I will go: but if thou wilt not go with me, then I will not go”, Judges 4:8.  We should remember, however, that Deborah was the judge of Israel at the time, and as such represented the authority and presence of God.  So Barak’s words are like Moses’, when he said to God, “If Thy presence go not with me, carry us not up hence”, Exodus 33:15.  In confirmation of this we find that both Deborah and Barak sing a song of victory to the Lord afterwards, Judges 5:1.  Barak had obeyed the apparently suicidal command to fight the battle in the Plain of Jezreel, ideally suited to the tactics of the nine hundred iron chariots of the opposition, but through that plain flowed the river Kishon, and when God sent the rain, the chariots were immobilised, and the enemy routed.  Such is the triumph of faith.
And of Samson- this man also is much criticised, and rightly so, in the main.  He is marked by up-and-down experiences, and lacks consistency.  He is sometimes thought of as an illustration of Christ, but this is a mistake.  It is best to think of him as an illustration of Israel, with its troughs and peaks throughout history.  Samson did triumph at the end of his life, however, just as Israel will emerge from the seemingly devastating experience of the great tribulation, when the “lords of the Philistines”, (Antichrist and his associates), will seem to have them in their power.
And of Jephthae- like Barak and Gideon, Samson and Jephthah are mentioned in the reverse of chronological order.  Perhaps it is because Gideon began well and Barak finished well that the two are combined by our writer by means of the literary device of reversing their order.  The Hebrews should finish as they began, with faith in Christ sustaining them.  Samson on the other hand finished well even though his life was variable as regards faith in God.  The Hebrews should be encouraged by the fact that even if their faith in God has been weak, they may still finish well.  Jephthae shows a fine grasp of the history of the dealings of God with the people of Israel, as is seen in his long speech recorded in Judges 11:14-27.  Faith takes encouragement from God’s past dealings, and goes forward in confidence.
Of David also- almost as an afterthought David is mentioned, (and there is no mention of Solomon).  But it is before Samuel, so it is David the fugitive, dependant upon God as he seeks to avoid Saul.  It was on one such occasion that David penned Psalm 34, and the last verse says, “And none of them that trust in Him shall be desolate”, Psalm 34:22.  And when the Lord had “delivered from the hand of all his enemies, and from the hand of Saul”, Psalm 18 title, then David could write, “My God, my strength, in whom I will trust”, verse 2.  He is resolved not to be self-sufficient even when his enemies are all destroyed.  And these words are quoted of the Lord Jesus in Hebrews 2:13, and show Him as a man of faith too.  By going on in faith the Hebrews would be following not just the footsteps of David, but of the Messiah also.
And Samuel- this man is noted for his life of prayer.  As we see from Jeremiah 15:1 he was remembereded for this in Israel long after he was gone.  He regarded it a sin to not continue praying for the people, even though they rejected God as their king,1 Samuel 12:33.  He is a faint illustration of the one who “ever liveth to make intercession for us”, Hebrews 7:25.  But prayer is a powerful expression of dependence on God, and as such is an act of faith.
And of the prophets- when the Lord asked who men said He was, part of the answer was, “one of the prophets”, Matthew 16:14.  This was not surprising, even though it was inadequate as an answer.  The saints of old time must have possessed eternal life, or else they could not have communed with God and served God.  But the Lord Jesus is eternal life personified, as 1 John 1:1-4 indicates.  It is not unexpected then that some of the features of Christ should be seen in the prophets.  Like Christ, they spoke the word of God to a largely unresponsive audience, yet remained faithful to God through it all.  James exhorts, “Take, my brethren, the prophets, who have spoken in the name of the Lord, for an example of suffering affliction, and of patience”, James 5:10.  The prophets were sent by God mostly when the nation was failing, and needed to be brought back to God.  This was why their mission was so difficult.
As we think of the men listed here, we see that we have to sift their lives, and select that part which is an example of faith.  We shall learn in the next chapter, however, that Christ is the author and finisher of faith.  His life was wholly given over in devotion and dependence.  There is nothing at all about Him that is best forgotten. 

(b)    Verse 33-35(i)    Unusual happenings.  Ten exploits of faith.

11:33  Who through faith subdued kingdoms, wrought righteousness, obtained promises, stopped the mouths of lions.

Who through faith subdued kingdoms- we are not told who did what in these verses, as if to say that any one of these exploits is open to faith.  None need opt out.  We think of Barak, Samson, Jephthah and Samuel as examples of the subduing of kingdoms that oppressed Israel in the times of the judges.  The point is they did it through faith, and not through military prowess.  Their trust was in God, not their own ability.  Of course it is not the task of believers in this age to subdue kingdoms, either by recourse to war or politics; our citizenship is in heaven, and we are called to further God’s interests, not that of one particular country of the world.  Much damage has been done to the cause of Christ through the centuries of this present era by those who tried to set up Christian political systems.  The only sacral state established by God was the nation of Israel in Old Testament times.  A sacral state is one where the law of the land is the religion of the land.
Wrought righteousness- both the judges and the prophets sought to bring the people back to the law, in order that righteousness might exalt them as a nation.
Obtained promises- the judges mentioned above all gained undertakings from God of what He would do for them if they trusted Him.
Stopped the mouths of lions- Samson stopped the mouth of the lion by slaying it, Judges 14;6.  Daniel stopped the mouth of lions without touching them, but simply by faith, and God sent His angel to ensure that the lions were rendered harmless, Daniel 6:22. 

11:34  Quenched the violence of fire, escaped the edge of the sword, out of weakness were made strong, waxed valiant in fight, turned to flight the armies of the aliens.

Quenched the violence of fire- no doubt a reference to Daniel’s three friends, cast into the fiery furnace but preserved to such a degree that there was not even the smell of the fire on them and their clothes were not singed, Daniel 3:27.  Before they were thrown into the furnace, these three worthies asserted, “our God whom we serve is able to deliver us from the burning fiery furnace, and He will deliver us out of thy hand O king.  But if not, be it known unto Thee, O king, that we will not serve thy gods”, Daniel 3:17,18.  So whether they avoid the furnace or endure the furnace, these men are resolute in faith.  In fact both happened unto them, for they were put in the furnace, but delivered from it too, in the sense that they escaped unscathed.  Thus their faith was rewarded.  Daniel’s friends picture the nation of Israel in a future day when they pass through the fire of the great tribulation, but the promise of God to them is, “When thou walkest through the fire, thou shalt not be burned; neither shall the flame kindle upon thee.  For I am the Lord thy God, the Holy One of Israel, the Saviour”, Isaiah 43:2,3.
Escaped the edge of the sword- this was David’s experience when he was on the run from Saul.  Even though he was the anointed king, David was hunted as if a transgressor.  In all his troubles God was with him, and finally delivered him from them.
Out of weakness were made strong- Barak was seriously vulnerable in the face of nine hundred chariots of iron massing on the Plain of Jezreel, ideal conditions for a cavalry attack, but faith triumphed, and the enemy was defeated.  Gideon was weak socially and pyschologically, yet through faith he was able not only to cut down his fathers idol-grove, but also defeat the Midianites with a small band of men.  The Hebrews might feel like Gideon, but their faith could triumph for God if they were exercised.  The apostle Paul wrote, “When I am weak, then am I strong”, 2 Corinthians 12:10.  In other words, to feel and acknowledge one’s own weakness is the first step on the road to dependence on the power of God.
Waxed valiant in fight- Barak was encouraged by Deborah, and rose to the occasion, defeating Sisera decisively. The apostle Paul exhorted Timothy to “fight the good fight of faith”, 1 Timothy 6:12.
Turned to flight the armies of the aliens- David, the despised shepherd lad, with just his shepherd’s instruments, a sling, a bag, and small stones, was more than a match for the mighty Goliath.  But his secret was that whereas Goliath cursed David by his gods, David came to him in the Name of the God of Israel.  No wonder the Philistine army turned and fled when they saw what faith in God can do, 1 Samuel 17:51.

11:35  Women received their dead raised to life again: and others were tortured, not accepting deliverance; that they might obtain a better resurrection:

Women received their dead raised to life again- the widow of Zarephath and the woman of Shunem both had their sons restored to them.  It was indeed an act of faith on the part of Elijah and Elisha respectively that this happened, as they prayed to God that life might return, but it was an act of faith on the part of the women to go to the prophet for this blessing.  They might have been resigned to the death of their child, and accepted the inevitable.  Their faith rose to the occasion, however, and expected great things from God- and received them.

(c)    35(ii)-38    Unjustified horrors.  Ten extremities of faith

Having listed ten exploits of faith where faith seemed to succeed, we now learn of ten extremities that believers endured, when faith seemed not to succeed, and there was no relief.  This will prepare the Hebrews for the horrors of the fall of Jerusalem, so soon to come upon them.  They may take courage from the fact that many of those who believed amongst the nation in former times, although seemingly overwhelmed by their sufferings, nonetheless triumphed through faith in God.  In chapter 12 they will be reminded of the supreme man of faith, who “endured the cross”.  None shall surpass Him in His trials.

And others were tortured, not accepting deliverance- even though they were being beaten to death, these worthies refused to give in and deny the faith.  We are now in the period between Malachi and Matthew, hence no names are given, for they would not mean anything to us.  Even though heaven seemed to be silent during those many years, God was taking note.  As Malachi had said before that period began, He was writing a book of remembrance of their faithfulness to Him, Malachi 3:16, and we are privileged to discover here some of the things recorded in that book.
That they might obtain a better resurrection- they were already sure of being raised at the resurrection of the just rather than the unjust, because they were believers.  There will be rewards for faith after that resurrection, however, and we are told here that they will obtain a better position in the kingdom through their faithfulness even unto death.  Speaking of this event, John tells us, “And the four and twenty elders, which sat before God on their seats, fell upon their faces, and worshipped God, saying, We give Thee thanks, O Lord God Almighty, which art, and wast, and art to come; because Thou hast taken to Thee Thy great power, and hast reigned.  And the nations were angry, and Thy wrath is come, and the time of the dead, that they should be judged, and that Thou shouldest give reward unto Thy servants the prophets, and to the saints, and them that fear Thy name, small and great; and shouldest destroy them which destroy the earth”, Revelation 11:16-18.  The Lord Jesus spoke of believers who would be recompensed at the resurrection of the just for the good things they had done, Luke 14:14.

11:36  and others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings, yea, moreover, of bonds and imprisonment:

11:36  And others had trial of cruel mockings and scourgings- mocking is mental pain and scourging is the physical equivalent.  When commenting on the fact that Ishmael had mocked Isaac, the apostle Paul defines that mockery as persecution, Genesis 21:9; Galatians 4:29.  The Lord Jesus was scourged, and the ancients called that punishment “the first death”, for often the victims did not survive the experience, and were spared crucifixion.  If we take the word trial in its judicial sense, we see what an unrighteous way justice is being administered here, with the case decided on the basis of torture.  At the so-called trial of the Lord Jesus many of the rules of Jewish justice were broken, so eager were they for Him to be crucified.  The Lord warned His followers to expect this sort of treatment also, “But beware of men: for they will deliver you up to the councils, and they will scourge you in their synagogues”, Matthew 10:17,18.
Yea, moreover of bonds and imprisonment- after a false trial comes false imprisonment in chains.  Jeremiah experienced this in his day, Jeremiah 37:12-16, as his own people turned against him.

11:37  They were stoned, they were sawn asunder, were tempted, were slain with the sword: they wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins; being destitute, afflicted, tormented;

They were stoned- this is the Jewish method of execution, so it is not the random throwing of stones towards a person in mild anger, but stoning as a means of execution.  They were treated as evil-doers, being given an evildoer’s death.  This is an outrage to justice and to the good consciences of true believers.  Yet by faith they accepted these things, knowing that God was on their side.  The Lord Jesus warned of a time when “whosoever killeth you will think that he doeth God service”, John 16:2.
They were sawn asunder- it is said that Isaiah suffered this, so there was no respect for saintliness, piety, and old age, (for Isaiah’s ministry as a prophet spanned some sixty years, so he must have been old when he died).  The prophet of salvation was despised at the last.  The Hebrews should remember that their nation had despised the one Isaiah spoke of, and crucified Him.
Were tempted- this would refer to the extreme pressure that some were put under to try to make them give up their faith.  The classic example is recorded by Josephus as he wrote of the death of a Jewish mother and her seven sons, and the way in which she refused to recant so that her sons could be spared.
Were slain with the sword- this is the Gentile method of execution, so it was not just apostate Israelites who persecuted God’s faithful people.  It is also, incidentally, the Moslem mode of execution, and it is worth remembering that there are many Christians being persecuted even today, in the ways that are listed here.  The sword of justice is indeed put into the hand of man, but only so he may punish evildoers, Romans 13:4.  The events described here are an abuse of that power if done by the authorities, and the usurping of that power if done by private persons. A Jewish rabbi said once that killing for religious reasons said more about the person killing than the one killed.
They wandered about in sheepskins and goatskins- they had to make do with whatever protection they could find, even if it was only the cast-offs of slaughtered animals.
Being destitute, afflicted, tormented- as a result of the foregoing, their condition is three-fold.  Destitute as to the necessities of life; mentally and emotionally stressed; and tormented with fever and illness as they shivered in the cold.  They were in extreme hardship financially, emotionally, and physically.

11:38  (Of whom the world was not worthy:) they wandered in deserts, and in mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth.

(Of whom the world was not worthy:)  Outraged as he thought of these things, our writer breaks off to pass comment on the world that inflicted such atrocities on God’s faithful people.  But faith looks on to the time when God’s city shall be their home, as it descends from heaven to hover over an earth ruled righteously by Christ.  Then man’s world and man’s day shall have come to an end, and the Day of the Lord will have begun.  The world of that day will be worthy of them, as today it is definitely not.
They wandered in deserts, and in mountains- during the day they endured either the cold of the mountains, or the heat of the deserts, the only places where they could be safe from their enemies.  They wandered, not having any settled place, and not daring to have one, lest they be discovered.
And in dens and caves of the earth- at night they shared the shelter of either man-made dens, or natural caves, with the wild animals.  Their fear of them was less that the fear they had of their pursuers, who were worse than wild animals for cruelty and heartlessness.  They would remember the time when David, the anointed king, had to live in the Cave of Adullam for fear of Saul, 1 Samuel 22:1.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 11, VERSES 39 AND 40:

11:39  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:
11:40  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 

(d)    Verse 39        Unrealised hope

11:39  And these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise:

And these all, having obtained a good report through faith- as they came to an end of their lives, God’s report about them was good.  He had taken note of their sufferings, and although in His wisdom He had not intervened to relieve them, nevertheless He will surely recompence these who suffered because of their trust in Him.
Received not the promise- like Abraham and the others of the first part of the chapter, they did not receive the promises in the plural, verse 13.  Here the promise is in the singular, and takes us back to the promise of the coming of the Messiah that began the section on faith, in 10:37.  The word of God is that after they have done the will of God they will receive the promise, 10:36.  The coming of the Messiah is held out to those who suffer as the ultimate answer of God to their afflictions. 

(e)    Verse 40    Unrevealed hope

11:40  God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect. 

God having provided some better thing for us- in the context, the better thing must be the coming of Christ for His saints.  These Hebrew believers were to have part in that, for they had exchanged being Jews for being Christians, and as such were in a more privileged position that even those who received a good report through faith in the chapter we have been looking at.
The word “provided” has the idea of seeing beforehand, reminding us that according to Ephesians chapter 3 the mystery of the church and its associated blessings was not known in the Old Testament, but it was known to God in eternity.  Those who triumphed by faith during those times did so without the hope of the church before them.  The coming of Christ for the church is a much better prospect, for it will usher into the heavenly inheritance, which is far superior to anything that was promised to Israel.  The apostle Peter speaks of “exceeding great and precious promises”, 2 Peter 1:4.  The promises to Israel are great promises, but the promises to the church are exceeding great.
That they without us should not be made perfect- in the next chapter millenial conditions are described, and one of the features mentioned there is that the spirits of just men will have been made perfect.  In other words, the just men of Old Testament times, who had lived by faith but had not seen their hopes realised, will be brought into the things they hoped for, and thus they will be in a state of completeness, having reached the goal they looked for.
Here we are told that that will not happen without believers of this age being made perfect.  This will take place when the Lord comes for the church, and all our hopes will be realised.  So it is that we shall come with Christ when He comes to reign, and just men, by then with resurrection bodies, will be perfected also.  But the point is they cannot enter into that perfection unless we have already done so.
So it is that the section ends where it began, for in Hebrews 10:37 the coming of Christ is in view, and the believer lives by faith as he awaits that coming.  When He does come, the believers will “receive the promise”, and enter into their “great recompence of reward”, verse 35.  Having been changed and perfected, church saints will come with Christ when He comes in glory to the earth, and all believers of other ages will be brought into the longed-promise blessing of God through the Messiah.

HEBREWS 11:1-16

SETTING OF THE CHAPTER

The chapter is introduced by the last verses of chapter 10. Reference to that passage, and also Habakkuk 2 which is quoted there, will show that the prophet mentions tarrying in two senses. In one sense the (fulfilment of the) vision would tarry in the sense that it would be a long time before it came, but in another sense it would not tarry in the sense of being late. The vision in question being the sight of Christ coming in glory to judge the earth. There are two attitudes that will be adopted whilst the time of the coming of Christ is awaited. Some will be lifted up in pride, as they think that God will not judge their sin.  These would correspond to the adversaries mentioned in 10:27 whom God will judge. Others will live by faith. As we might expect, there are also two reactions by God to these attitudes. Those who are proud He is displeased with; those who press forward in faith meet His approval. There are two results to these attitudes as well, there is a drawing back to perdition, and there is the believing to the salvation of the soul. Obviously the writer to the Hebrews would wish to encourage his readers to be of the second sort, and this he does by giving examples of Old Testament faith for them to imitate.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER:THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE HEBREWS CHAPTER 11, VERSES 1 TO 16:

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged him faithful who had promised.

11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.

Section (a) Verses 1 and 2 Introduction to the subject of faith
Section (b) Verses 3-12 Faith in relation to God.
Section (c) Verses 13-16 Comment about those of previous section.

Section (a)     Verses 1-2     Introduction to subject of faith.

11:1 Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.

Now faith is the substance of things hoped for- this is not a definition of faith, but rather a description of what faith does. Faith may be defined as “a firm persuasion based on the word of God”. It is by this faith that a man is justified and is reckoned righteous by God. In chapter 11, however, it is not faith for righteousness, but faith for a good report.

Faith is not wishful thinking. Some think that Christians believe things are true because they hope they are true. They want the things to be true so much that they persuade themselves they are. Nothing could be more wrong. When the Bible is approached by those who have an unbiased mind, and who earnestly seek the truth, then it is the promise of Christ Himself that they will be convinced. He said, “If any man will to do His will, he shall know of the doctrine, whether it be of God, or whether I speak of Myself”, John 7:17. This is the best argument of all, for it does not depend upon other people convincing us by their reasoning, but the Bible self-authenticating and self-accrediting itself.

Faith is not relative. Christians do not believe the Bible because this is their personal preference. They believe it because they have been convinced it is true. Unbelievers are often prepared to allow Christians to believe the Bible, as long as they do not insist that they should do so also. But truth is not relative, so belief in the truth is not relative either.

Faith is not a substitute for evidence. Some would suggest that whereas scientists believe in “evidence”, Christians believe because they do not have any evidence. This is completely wrong, however, for Christians do have evidence, and it is found in the Word of God. What better evidence could there be? Whether it be matters natural or spiritual, the Bible is the best authority. In fact on matters spiritual it is the only reliable authority. So faith is not “a leap in the dark”, the act of one who is uninformed and reckless; rather it is the act of one who has approached the Word of God with the earnest desire to know the mind of God, and who has found that He is true to the promise He made long ago when He said, “And ye shall seek Me, and find Me, when ye shall search for Me with all your heart”, Jeremiah 29:13. Such people do not leap in the dark, for they walk in the light.

We notice that faith is the opposite of drawing back, according to 10:39. It is something that makes progress therefore, and presses on to what is before. This is what Habakkuk did, for he was given a vision of the return of Christ in glory, and walked by faith in the light of it. He was living his life in view of what God’s word said. So as we proceed into chapter 11 we shall find that all who are held up as examples of faith had the word of God in their minds and hearts, and they acted in faith because of that.

So verse 1 is telling us that faith is the substance of things hoped for. Because our faith rests on the sure word of God, what we believe has substance and reality. Future things that have been promised in God’s word are brought out of the future into our hearts. It is not that we believe them because we hope they are true, but because faith knows they are true, for faith is an intelligent thing.

The evidence of things not seen- because unseen things are promised in God’s word, when they are believed they become real in the soul, and our faith, based as it is on a solid foundation, is sure. In this way what we believe becomes the evidence within us that they shall come to pass. The faith and the hope merge into one. We shall find that the worthies mentioned in this chapter all had their eye on the future, but it was a future they could not see with the physical eye, only with the eye of faith.

11:2 For by it the elders obtained a good report.

For by it the elders obtained a good report- those who were spiritually mature and godly and set a good example in Old Testament times, were commended by God, for He bore witness to their faith. They worked out their inner faith by outward works, and thus gave expression to their belief. Because their faith was centred on commendable things, their faith was itself commendable to God. Such is the certainty of Divine things that it is no credit to anyone to believe them. It is simply the logical thing to do. But in His goodness God credits that faith with value, and commends the believer for it.

Note that the elders of a former age are here given as an example to the Hebrews, so there is no despising of Old Testament saints. This is important, for the epistle has given many reasons why the saints of old time were less privileged than we, but they still maintained strong faith in God.

Section (b)   Verses 3-12   Faith in relation to God.

11:3 Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God, so that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear.

Through faith we understand that the worlds were framed by the word of God- so faith has an understanding; it is not “through understanding we believe”. Faith is not a second-rate position, taken up by those who have no intelligence about matters. It is well-informed, because it is Bible-informed. Those who are prepared to accept the plain statements of Scripture are more enlightened than the best unbelieving scientist, for the believer is in touch with the God who “invented” science. It is true that the Bible is not a science textbook; it does not set out to be, but it is not anti-science, nor unscientific. It was only a misunderstanding about the Bible that caused religious people to believe the sun revolved around the earth. The believer has an understanding about the universe the unbeliever does not have, simply because he accepts the testimony that God has given in His word.

It is worth remembering that the Big Bang theory is not proven. It is only one way at looking at the universe, and an atheistic way at that.

Note that having spoken of the elders of a past day, and intending to further speak of them in the rest of the chapter, the writer speaks of “we”. He is linking past and present times together, and showing that faith is always relevant, and also always pleasing to God. Because faith is based on the word of God, it accepts the testimony God gives about creation; it does not seek to modify it in the light of supposedly final statements of scientists. We all know that that which is confidently asserted as scientific fact one day, is just as likely to be dismissed as a mistaken theory the next. “The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away, but the Word of the Lord endureth for ever”, 1 Peter 1:24.

So that things which are seen were not made of things which do appear- in other words, the worlds were not hidden away, and then by the spoken word of God caused to appear. They were not, and then they were. This is an important principle to understand in view of the examples given in this chapter. If we believe, (because the word of God says it), that non-existent things were brought into view, how much easier is it to believe that existing things, (although not seen as yet), shall also be brought into view. Faith lays hold of the future and brings it into the present, for the future things are real, being promised by God, and faith is the evidence of things not seen.

It is clear from this verse that there is no such thing as eternal matter, for the word for world used here is aionas, the worlds in relation to time. When God created all things, He did so, by His own testimony, (and this is the only testimony possible, in the nature of the case), at the beginning. Now this is a time-word, denoting when time started. God created by His eternal power, Romans 1:20, so the power was there, for He was there, but He chose the point at which to put it forth. Before that He existed in His solitary grandeur. It is important to notice that the Lord Jesus, when referring to the making of male and female and the institution of marriage, said, “But from the beginning of the creation God made them male and female,” Mark 10:6. The making of man and woman on the sixth day, therefore, was in the beginning of the creation, and not millions of years after Genesis 1:1. There is no room in this for a gap-theory, allowing countless years to roll by- how can the making of man be at the beginning of creation when it is millions of years after creation?

11:4 By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, by which he obtained witness that he was righteous, God testifying of his gifts: and by it he being dead yet speaketh.

By faith Abel offered unto God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain-faith is so important, and drawing back so disastrous, that we are given many and varied examples in this chapter of its exercise. Having seen faith in principle in verses 1-3, we now see faith in practice. By offering a sacrifice of which God approved, Abel shows he knew what the Divine requirements were. How was this? By the word of God. And how did the word of God come to him? From his father Adam, who had witnessed what had happened in the garden after he had sinned. He had seen an animal lose its life in order that he might be clothed, and thus made fit for the presence of God. This was a powerful testimony to the eventual sacrifice of Christ at Calvary, by which the believing sinner may be accepted in the sight of God through the merits and sacrifice of another. The sacrifice took the character of a burnt offering, for it is that offering alone which provides clothing for man, as Leviticus 7:8 compared with 4:11 would indicate. But Adam would be able to pass on more to Abel, for he could inform him that God said, “I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; it shall bruise thy head, and thou shalt bruise his heel”, Genesis 3:15. There is promised here a deliverer from the one who instigated man to sin, but only at the cost of being bruised Himself. So we have a double indication in these events; there is the principle established that man can be acceptable in God’s sight by means of sacrifice, and that the evil one that caused him to sin will be dealt with. The Sacrifice and the Seed, the work and the person, the Seed Born, (for He is of the woman), and the Seed Bruised, are clearly set out by God. And Abel would have these things passed on to him by his father.

On the basis of the revealed mind of God, then, Abel’s gave expression to his faith by offering to God a sacrifice. Now Cain had the same information available to him as Abel did, but he chose to not believe, and he gave expression to his unbelief by bringing of the fruits of the ground, as opposed to a sacrifice involving blood-shedding and the provision of a covering. Now no doubt Cain’s offering was of the best- his pride and self-reliance would not allow him to bring anything less, but we learn that Abel’s sacrifice was more excellent than Cain’s. Cain’s was excellent physically and materially, but Abel’s was more excellent, being spiritual in character. Of course we would have to say about Christ’s sacrifice that it was most excellent, being personal and final. Abel and his offering were distinct from one another, but Christ was His offering.

By which he obtained witness that he was righteous- this reminds us that Abel was not justified because he brought an acceptable offering to God. Rather, he brought and offering to God because he was righteous. He had believed God, and it had been accounted to him for righteousness, and now he responds to God in a proper way. The apostle John assures us that “he that doeth righteousness is righteous, 1 John 3:7. It is not that he becomes righteous who does righteous things, but the reverse. After all, how can an unrighteous man do righteous deeds, for he has no capacity to do them. The accepted sacrifice of Abel was the visible sign of his invisible faith, for faith is always ready to give expression to its existence; it is not a lazy thing, but living and lively.

God testifying of his gifts- it is possible that Abel’s sacrifice was consumed by fire that came down from God. Some interpret the words “the Lord had respect unto Abel’s offering”, Genesis 4:4, as meaning “the Lord kindled into a flame”. Whether this is so or not, it is certainly true that when referring to Abel’s sacrifice, God said to Cain, “and if thou doest well, shalt thou not be accepted?” implying that Abel had done well. It delights the heart of God to receive the sacrifices of His people, whether those sacrifices take the form of worship, Hebrews 13:15; service, Philippians 2:17; the offering of self in devotion to God, Romans 12:1; or financial offerings, Hebrews 13:16. All these are forms of worship, and gratify the heart of the One who seeks worship, John 4:23.

And by it he being dead yet speaketh- the matters we have just mentioned are all brought to our notice through the sacrifice of Abel. It was an expression of worship; it represented service to God on his part; it meant that he was surrendered to God; and it involved the sacrificing of animals that he could otherwise have bartered or sold for other goods, (for meat-eating was not permitted at this stage). All these things are relevant to the readers of the epistle, and also to us today.

11:5 By faith Enoch was translated that he should not see death; and was not found, because God had translated him: for before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God.

By faith Enoch- whereas Abel looked forward to the coming of the Messiah in grace to be the sacrifice appointed, Enoch looked on to the coming of the Messiah in judgement, for he prophesied that the Lord would come with ten thousands of His saints to execute judgement, as Jude 17 records. No doubt the partial fulfilment of this was at the flood which came upon the ungodly after Enoch was taken.

Was translated that he should not see death- so he was translated because of the particular quality of his faith, for Abraham had faith but was not translated. Enoch walked with God, and upon the birth of his son Methuseleh it must have been revealed to him that the flood was coming, for he gave his son this name because it means “when he is dead it shall be sent”. And sure enough Methuselah lived on and on for 969 years, (eloquent testimony to “the longsuffering of God which waited in the days of Noah”, 1 Peter 3:20), and then died the year the flood came. Enoch was a prophet, according to Jude 14, so he had insight into the mind of God, and was convinced that something lay beyond the coming judgement, for he appreciated that the judgement was simply the preliminary to better times, once the Messiah had come. He knew from Genesis 3:15 that the evil being that had brought sin into the world was going to be dealt with and the reward of his faith was that he was taken away from the judgement of the flood, and transported to better scenes.

And was not found, because God had translated him- those who were limited to the things of time and sense sought for Enoch, but he could not be found. This tells us that even his body was taken. His faith had received its logical outcome, for he had laid hold of future things, and they had become the strong evidence in his own soul that they were real. Those who had not this faith could only look for material things.

For before his translation he had this testimony, that he pleased God- notice that his translation was a result of him pleasing God, hence the word “for”, explaining why he was translated. He pleased God because he walked by faith, and this is the reason he was taken, as the beginning of the verse also affirms. The New Testament equivalent of this is the rapture of the saints when the Lord Jesus comes into the air to take them to heaven. In 1 Thessalonians 4, the chapter that deals with this subject, believers are exhorted to walk and please God, verse 1, and then are told that the taking of believers to heaven is “if we believe that Jesus died and rose again, verse 14.” Whilst the rapture is not dependant on works, it does depend on the fact that those who are taken are believers, for no others will be affected at this time. So Enoch walked with God, Genesis 5:22, and also pleased God, Hebrews 11:5, and we are exhorted to do these two things too.

Notice that he had a testimony before he was translated. The time for testimony to God is now, and not hereafter, and this solemn thought should challenge us greatly.

11:6 But without faith it is impossible to please Him: for he that cometh to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him.

But without faith it is impossible to please Him- we are left in no doubt that there is no alternative way of pleasing God. Those Hebrews who were tempted to go back to Judaism would do well to remember this, especially as God specifically says that He is not well-pleased with animal sacrifices, 10:8. Whilst it is true that there are many things believers may do to please God, the root of their action is their faith. It is only because they act in faith that any works are acceptable and pleasing to God.

For he that cometh to God- we have already been warned against drawing back to perdition in 10:39, and the alternative to drawing back, as Habbukuk made clear, is going forward in faith, for “the just shall live by his faith”, Habakkuk 2:4. Such people “come to God”, for they have God as their goal in their life of faith.

Must believe that He is- this is not simply belief in the existence of God, for no-one would start to come to God if they did not believe He existed. This is belief that He is what He claims to be. Faith responds to the revealed character of God, what He is in Himself, and therefore seeks to act in accordance with that character. This is certain to please God, for He delights to see a reflection of Himself in His people. The believer is created “after God in righteousness and true holiness”, Ephesians 4:24, and this is the outworking of that truth.

And that He is a rewarder of them that diligently seek Him- God graciously rewards with His approval those that are exercised to seek Him so as to gain light about His character. The true believer seeks to conform to the righteousness and holiness He sees perfectly in His God. There needs to be a diligence about this seeking, for faith is an active and energetic thing.

11:7 By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet, moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.

By faith Noah, being warned of God of things not seen as yet- it is very likely that it had never rained until the time of the flood, or else the rainbow would have been commonplace and not of any great significance. So when Noah was told by God that there would be a flood upon the earth, he realised that something was coming that he had not seen before. Being a man of faith, however, Noah accepted what God had said and acted upon it. He also saw the other side by faith, or he would not have built an ark to get there. He knew that the Seed promised in Genesis 3 had not yet arrived, and so there must be a fresh start after the flood.

Moved with fear- this is the reverential fear of a believer, that mixture of love and fear which adores Him and is in awe of Him. This fear is very practical, because moved by it, Noah acted in faith and obedience.

Prepared an ark to the saving of his house- Noah realises that if only he and his family are to survive the flood, then one of his sons must be of the line that shall produce the seed. So he prepares the ark to save his house so as to preserve the line of the Messiah. Noah, like Abel, receives and believes the word of God as to the coming Seed.

By the which he condemned the world- the only thing that could have saved the world in Noah’s day would have been universal repentance, as with Nineveh. As it was, they were condemned by the preparing of the ark, for it was an evidence that God was bringing judgement upon the earth. Noah preached as he built, so his ark became an object lesson. Enoch condemned the world by his preaching, Noah by his preaching and working.

And became heir of the righteousness which is by faith- Noah was a righteous man by faith, not by building an ark. He was also a preacher of righteousness, 2 Peter 2:5, and thus testified to his belief in the righteous dealings of God, which involved judgement upon sin. He showed that he preferred righteousness to sin, and God rewarded him by allowing him to step out into a cleansed earth after the flood. He inherited what he longed for, and that which by faith he was entitled to as part of his inheritance.  He would also realise that if God was able to cleanse the earth of sin and bring in radically changed conditions, then He could do so again, but this time with the Messiah present to govern that earth.  That situation is what Noah becomes heir to.

11:8 By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went.

By faith Abraham, when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance, obeyed- we might not think there was instant obedience if we limit ourselves to the Genesis record. We must allow not only this passage, but also Genesis 11 and Acts 7 to have their due weight.

Genesis 11:31 reads, “And Terah took Abram his son, and Lot the son of Haran his son’s son, and Sarai his daughter in law, his son Abraham’s wife; and they went forth with them from Ur of the Chaldees, to go into the land of Canaan; and they came unto Haran, and dwelt there”.

Genesis 12:1,4 reads, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house, unto a land I will show thee…so Abraham departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him'”.

Acts 7:2-4 reads, “The God of glory appeared unto our father Abraham, when he was yet in Mesopotamia, before he dwelt in Charran, and said unto him, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and come into the land which I shall show thee’. Then came he out of the land of the Chaldeans, and dwelt in Charran: and from thence, when his father was dead, He removed him into this land, wherein ye now dwell”.

We must notice that the first passage records the “generations of Terah”, not that of Abraham his son. So we are not surprised that Terah is taking the initiative in that passage. When we come to Genesis 12 however, this marks the beginning of the generations of Abraham which extends up to Genesis 25:10 with the account of his burial. So we now have the action of Abraham himself as he moves in faith and obedience.

Stephen’s address in Acts 7 makes it clear that the God of glory appeared to Abraham in Ur, before he lived in Haran, verse 2. Having heard the voice of God, Abraham left Ur of the Chaldees, and this coincided with the decision of his father to go to live in Haran. So Abraham has obeyed the first part of the command. He has not moved because his father has moved, but because he is responding to the command of his God. When his father died he continued to obey God’s command, and now left his kindred and his father’s house.

If God had wished Abraham to do all three things at once, that is leave Ur, kindred and father’s house, surely they would have been listed in the reverse order. So  Abraham would have left his father’s house first, said goodbye to his relations, and then crossed the border of the land of the Chaldees. But Abraham’s kindred were not in Ur, but in Haran. We learn this by reading the account of the search for a bride for Isaac. The servant went to the city of Nahor, Genesis 24:10, which does not mean the city named Nahor, but the city where Nahor lived, (as we learn from the account of Jacob’s search for a wife), but was named Haran, Genesis 28:2. Whether it was named after the brother of Abraham we are not told. So it is that he left his country first and went to Haran, in Padan-Aram. Terah is soon to die, so in deference to his father, he waits for him to die before leaving his kindred in Haran, listed in Genesis 22:20-24. He then left his father’s house not so much in a physical sense, but in the sense that he now set out on his own to establish his own household. He has obeyed God in the order in which God required obedience, and is now on his way to the land God has promised him.

This is summed up for us in Genesis 12:1, “Now the Lord had said unto Abram, ‘Get thee out of thy country, and from thy kindred, and from thy father’s house'”. This is exactly what he did, and in that order. Notice that there is not a list of three things to be done at once necessarily, but the word “and” separates them, suggesting progressive actions. It can rightly be said in Genesis 12:4, “So Abram departed, as the Lord had spoken unto him”.

We must not think that Abraham had to have a second call, as if he had not responded properly to the first one in Ur. The expression “The Lord had said” is of a construction which involves the use of the Hebrew word “vau”, (normally meaning “and”), with the long tense. To quote Newberry’s Introduction, “More frequently, however, the vau is employed to stamp perpetuity on narratives of the past, forming what may be called ‘the Hebrew perfect’- a permanent record for time and for eternity”. So, far from saying, in effect, “The Lord had said “Get thee out” but Abraham had not completely obeyed”, the phrase is marking, at the beginning of the personal history of Abraham, the great and momentous thing that God was doing, as He separated Abraham from all the nations, tribes and families of the earth.

Into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance- in Genesis 11:31 it is made clear that Abraham did set out for Canaan, even though he stopped for a while at Haran. It is described by God as “a land I will show thee”. It seems he knew the name of the land when he left Ur, unless it is that Moses as he writes of these things includes that fact. But it is a land he has not seen before, and yet one day God will say to him, “Lift up now thine eyes…for all the land thou seest, to thee will I give it”, Genesis 13:14,15.

Obeyed; and he went out, not knowing whither he went- we have Scripture support for thinking that Abraham obeyed God; he was not hesitant in his obedience. Noah was told specifically to build an ark, and was given the specifications for it, but Abraham was simply told to get out of Ur, and this he did. There is a close connection between faith and obedience, as the apostle makes clear when he writes of “the obedience of faith” in Romans 1:5, 16:26. Abraham no doubt took the recognised trade route from Ur to Haran, and Haran to Canaan, so he knew the road but he did not know where the road was eventually leading. This was faith indeed, trusting God to lead the way and bring him safely to the promised land.

11:9 By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country, dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob, the heirs with him of the same promise:

By faith he sojourned in the land of promise, as in a strange country- a sojourner is one who has not put down roots yet, and this was true of Abraham, for he knew that the land would not be his settled place until the promised Seed had come. The Lord Jesus said that “Your father Abraham rejoiced to see My day: and he saw it, and was glad”, John 8:56. There was confidence in Abraham’s heart that even if he died, he would nonetheless see Messiah’s day of glory.

When Sarah died, Abraham purchased a portion of land in which to bury her, confessing to the Canaaites, “I am a stranger and a sojourner with thee”, Genesis 23:4, thus acknowledging that he as yet had not absolute right of possession. It was no different than if he had been in any other country in the world; Canaan was just like a foreign country to him.

Dwelling in tabernacles with Isaac and Jacob- Abraham was 100 years old when Isaac was born, and 160 years old when Jacob was born, and he died aged 175. So he literally lived with both of them for 15 years. But the main point is that they shared with him the same attitude of sojourners; he had now built up a family of God-fearers, having left his idol-worshipping forbears behind, Joshua 24:2.

The heirs with him of the same promise- they did not need another call, just a reaffirmation of the promise to Abraham. In that confidence they were content to live in tents, as befitted their sojourner character. It is probable that when Genesis 33:1 says of Jacob that “he built him a house”, the “him” refers to Esau, who has been mentioned in the previous verse. In verse 19 Jacob pitches his tent on a parcel of ground he has purchased, so he still maintains his sojourner character, (tent), and his stranger character, (bought a parcel of field). The apostle Peter describes believers as strangers (to what is behind us and around us), and pilgrims, (as to what is ahead of us), 1 Peter 2:11, and thus they walk in the steps of their father Abraham, Romans 4:12.

11:10 For he looked for a city which hath foundations, whose builder and maker is God.

For he looked for a city which hath foundations- this is what sustained him as he moved in the land. He had insight into fact that one day heaven and earth would be joined by a highway between earth and the holy city of Jerusalem, Revelation 21:9-22:5. If it is asked how Abraham knew this then surely the answer must be that he was the friend of God, so God did not hide from him the things he planned in the future, see Genesis 18:17, Isaiah 41:8.

So Abraham was content to pitch his tent, a comparatively flimsy structure, and one which was only lightly attached to the earth, having no foundations, for he knew there was city ahead of him.

Whose builder and maker is God- Abraham had left a city whose builder and maker was man; a city, moreover, dedicated to the moon-god, the moon being the ruler of the darkness. He gladly exchanged that city for one which shone with the glory of God and Christ. God in His wisdom has designed that city, (builder means designer), and God in His power has made it, so it is eminently to be preferred to anything of man.

11:11 Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed, and was delivered of a child when she was past age, because she judged Him faithful who had promised.

Through faith also Sara herself received strength to conceive seed-we now come to the first woman in the chapter. She is considered as to her own faith, for it is “Sarah herself”, not “Sarah the wife of Abraham”. It is good when the believing sisters are strong in faith because of personal exercise, and not simply reliant on the faith of their husbands.

As a 90 year old woman, who is also barren, Sarah was strengthened through faith to conceive a child. She had acted in unbelief before, and suggested that Abraham should have a son by Hagar his servant girl, and this he had done with disastrous results, which extend even to this day. Also, when told she would have a son herself, she laughed unbelievingly. She changed, however, and here can be commended for her faith.

And was delivered of a child when she was past age- she not only is strengthened in faith to conceive, but also to carry the child until his birth. She had laughed in mockery at the thought of having a son, but now she is able to laugh in a godly manner, for God has fulfilled His word. Abraham called his name Isaac, meaning “laughter”, and Sarah said, “God hath made me to laugh, so that all who hear will laugh with me” , Genesis 21:6.  Her laughter was now the sort that could be fittingly shared with others, and not the laughter of unbelief. 

Because she judged Him faithful who had promised- this is how her faith expressed itself, for she believed that God would be faithful to the promise He had made that she should have a son. It was not simply that she believed she would have a child, but that she would have the child because God had promised it. She did not believe her having a child at that time was a coincidence.

11:12 Therefore sprang there even of one, and him as good as dead, so many as the stars of the sky in multitude, and as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable.

Therefore sprang there even of one- so Sarah’s faith complemented Abraham’s, for Sarah bore the child in faith, and there sprang a child of Abraham, thus furthering the purpose of God. It is God’s intention that a man and his wife should complete one another, or as Peter puts it when using Sarah and Abraham as an example of a good marriage, be “partakers together of the grace of life”, 1 Peter 3:7.

And him as good as dead- this truth is used by the apostle Paul in Romans 4 to illustrate the fact that just as Abraham and Sarah believed that God was able to bring life out of their virtually dead bodies, so He has brought Christ out from being really dead. The faith of Abraham and Sarah brought them great blessing, and so also great blessing comes to those who “believe on Him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead; who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”, Romans 4:24,25.

So many as the stars of the sky in multitude- this is an allusion to the words of God when He made a covenant with Abraham in Genesis 15, before ever he had a child by Sarah. Showing him the stars in the sky above him, God said to Abraham, (who has just stated that he is going childless, or in other words, is about to die without a son and heir), “so shall thy seed be”, Genesis 15:5. There follows Abraham’s classic exercise of faith, which is emphasised in the New Testament, “Abraham believed in the Lord; and He counted it to him for righteousness”, verse 6.

And as the sand which is by the sea shore innumerable- this alludes to God’s words to Abraham after he had shown himself prepared to offer his only son as a sacrifice, which thing was the climax of the faith he had in Genesis 15. James tells us that by offering Isaac the faith of Abraham was made perfect, and reached its true goal, James 2:22. So Abraham began by believing God could give Him a son, and then believed so firmly in God that he was sure God would give him to him again, but this time from the dead. At the start the birth of Isaac is emphasised, at the finish the “death” of Isaac is to the fore. It is very probable that there are as many stars in the heavens as there are grains of sand upon earth’s seashores, so the two metaphors are in proportion. Even though Abraham would only be able to see a few thousand stars, He who had placed the stars in the sky knew they were as innumerable (as far as man is concerned), as the grains of sand.

There are those who see in these two expressions a reference to the heavenly part of the believing seed of Abraham, and the earthly. The problem is that God also speaks of the seed as being like the dust of earth, Genesis 13:16, when Abraham was commanded to walk through the land. Perhaps a better way of looking at these three figures of speech is to say that the dust of the earth is the dust of the land of promise, so that when the seed of Abraham eventually possess the land, and it is under their feet, there will be the constant reminder that God has promised it to them. As they look above, they are reminded that their blessing comes from heaven, and that He who has set the stars in the sky has set them in their inheritance. And as they walk along its seashores they will recollect that God has promised to protect them, so that the sea of the Gentiles shall never overwhelm them again.

Section (c) Verses 13-16 Comment about those of previous section..

11:13 These all died in faith, not having received the promises, but having seen them afar off, and were persuaded of them, and embraced them, and confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth.

These all died in faith- the writer now pauses to summarise what he has said so far about the heroes of faith. He has told us Abel sacrificed by faith, that Enoch walked by faith, that Noah built by faith, that Abraham left Ur by faith, that Sarah bore a son by faith. But they all crowned their life of faith by dying in faith, so they died as they lived. The God they had proved in their lives, was the God who would care for them in death. And more than this, would bring them into the fulness of which they had only seen a part. They did not give up as time went by, and things seemed not to work out as fast as they thought. 

Not having received the promises- clearly this means they had not received the plenary fulfilment of all that God had promised them. They had received the word of promise from God, but not the full substance of the promise.

But having seen them afar off- having told us what they did not do, namely, receive the fulfilment of the promises, we are now told four things they did do. The chapter begins with the statement that faith is the evidence of things not seen, but this is a development, for these believers had so laid hold of God’s promise that they did see the fulfilment, albeit from afar. Their faith had brought the unseen things into the realm of the seen.

And were persuaded of them- faith, by definition is “a firm persuasion based upon hearing”. These had heard the word of God in some way, whether directly in the case of Enoch, Noah, Abraham and Sarah, or indirectly, in the case of Abel. And because the word was from God they were convinced it was true.

And embraced them- this is a further development; from being unseen, to seeing afar off, and then being persuaded that they were not mistaken in what they saw, they now clasp those far-off things to their bosom in believing embrace, welcoming them as if they had already arrived.

And confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth-we see this illustrated in the words of Abraham when he bought a plot in which to bury Sarah, “I am a sojourner with thee”, Genesis 23:4. He thereby confessed that he had not entered fully into what God had promised, for the Seed had not yet come. He was a stranger in his own land, and yet he was travelling on as a pilgrim to the time when he would inherit the land. He was not a stranger and pilgrim in quite the sense believers are now. We travel through the earth as strangers to it permanently, and are pilgrims to a better land, heaven itself, for “our conversation  is in heaven, Philippians 3:20, (where the idea behind the word “conversation” is citizenship).  Abraham was a stranger because he could not possess the land in the fullest sense before Messiah the Seed came, for He is the Ultimate Heir. Abraham was a pilgrim until such time- he could not settle if Messiah was not resident.

11:14 For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country.

For they that say such things declare plainly that they seek a country- the things they say are that they are strangers and pilgrims. By the very act of making this confession they indicate they anticipate something ahead. That “something” is a country; literally, a native-country, one they can really call their own in every sense of the word. Having originally been called out of his country, Chaldea, by God, Abraham was looking for a different sort of country. Not one polluted by idols and vice, but one where Christ was King, and ruling in righteousness and holiness.

11:15 And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out, they might have had opportunity to have returned.

And truly, if they had been mindful of that country from whence they came out- if they had not been moving by faith, with their eye on the future, they might have looked back with longing to the comforts and conveniences of Ur of the Chaldees. No tent-life in the harsh desert for Abraham there.

They might have had opportunity to have returned- the Devil was opposed to the idea of Abraham dwelling in the land, and he might very well have presented reasons to him why it would be a good idea to go back to Ur, especially if he found Abraham at any time considering that as an option. But Abraham, Isaac and Jacob resisted this temptation. The latter may have gone to Padan-Aram for a wife, but he did not return to Ur, but Canaan.

11:16 But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly: wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God: for He hath prepared for them a city.

But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly- there is a contrast between the word “now” and the word “opportunity” of the previous verse. The latter word means a season, a period marked by certain features. If Abraham had longed after Ur, his life would have been characterised by that; he would have acted in line with his desire. This verse tells us, however, that with Abraham there was a constant “now” of obedience to God and His purpose. The reason why he was so resolute was that the country he looked for was heavenly in character. This by no means suggests that Abraham was looking to go to heaven. God had promised him the land, and unless he lives on that land the promise has failed. When Messiah reigns the land of Israel will indeed be a heavenly land, for He will put His stamp upon everything. The prayers of God’s people will have been answered, and the will of God will be done on earth as it is in heaven, Matthew 6:10.

Wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God- God is pleased to associate with those who take Him at His word, and live accordingly. Abraham has exchanged the vain gods of Chaldea for the true and Living God of heaven, and has come into such a relationship with Him that He belongs to him in truth. Moreover there is no embarrassment for God in Abraham having that relationship.

For He hath prepared for them a city- beginning with “for” as it does, this phrase explains why the writer is sure that God is not ashamed to be called their God- He has prepared for them a city because He wishes to be accessible to them. If God walked with Abraham, Enoch and Noah when they were in the flesh, how will He not wish to company with them when they have their resurrections bodies? So it is that there shall be a way between earth and the heavenly Jerusalem come down from heaven and from God, and the righteous shall walk that way into the heavenly city. The city is prepared with that in mind, which is why it has so many gates, and why those gates are emblazoned with the names of the tribes of Israel. See Revelation 21:12; Isaiah 35:8-10. 

The eternal security of the true believer

Many believers have anxious thoughts at times as to whether they are truly Christians.  This can be as a result of listening to preachers who exhort their audience to examine themselves on this question.  It is indeed a good exercise to do this, but it needs to be done in accordance with Scripture.  If done otherwise, merely trusting to feelings or experiences, there is a danger that the soul will be cast down and depressed even further than it may have been before.  In this way as healthy spiritual exercise degenerates into obsession with self.
We will consider this matter in two parts.  First, the assurance that God gives in Scripture as to the eternal security of the true believer.  Then, second, the tests that may be applied to confirm that one is a believer.

Introduction
Many true believers are confident that they were “once saved”.  They doubt, however, whether they are “always saved”.  This situation can come about for several reasons.  Some honestly think it arrogant to be sure of heaven.  Others have misinterpreted and misapplied passages of Scripture which deal with those who only profess faith, and are not genuine.  Still others are conditioned to look to personal experiences for assurance.  When these experiences fail to come up to their expectations, then anxious fears arise.
The root cause of these anxieties is an over-occupation with self, instead of occupation with the Saviour; a failure to turn from looking within and around, to looking above and beyond.
If these lines can help anxious souls to a calm appreciation of the sufficiency of the person and work of Christ, to God’s glory, then they will have achieved their object.
The Scriptures would indicate to us that there are various sorts of faith, and we need to be aware of these differences, for they are of vital importance.

Incorrect faith
This is the sort of faith that they have who trust in themselves that they are righteous, as the Lord Jesus indicated in Luke 18:9.  Faith in works, “church” attendance, or the words of a minister of religion, whether over a cradle or over a coffin; these are the things that some sinners believe in.  Such people are not eternally secure.

Insincere faith
The sort of “faith” that is professed for the sake of advantage, perhaps to please parents, friends, or even the electorate in the case of politicians.  Such people are not saved.  It is with the heart that man believeth unto righteousness, Romans 10:10.  The heart, morally considered, is the centre of man’s being, from which everything else issues, Proverbs 4:23.

Impulsive faith
In the parable of the sower as recorded by Luke, the Lord explains that “they on the rock are they, which, when they hear, receive the word with joy; and these have no root, which for a while believe, and in time of temptation fall away.” Luke 8:13. It is those who receive the word with gladness, but who wilt under the heat of trial and testing, who only have temporary faith.
We might think that to “receive the word with gladness” is a good thing.  If, however, it denotes that there has been no genuine repentance, and only a belief about Christ, rather than an earnest belief in Him, then such faith is only for a while, and is valueless.  It is true that on the Day of Pentecost “they that gladly received his word were baptized: and the same day there were added unto them about three thousand souls.” Acts 2:41.  It is important to notice, however, before dismissing these people as temporary believers, that verse 37 records that they had already been pricked in their heart.  Clearly the sin of crucifying their Messiah had come home to them with force, and they had repented.

Incomplete faith
John 2:23-25 reads as follows: “Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, and needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man.”  He who knew the hearts of men was aware that they believed on Him only as a miracle-worker.  It was Passover time, and the religious excitement of the people was at fever pitch.  At the first Passover time, God had done great works through Moses- was this Jesus of Nazareth another great man of God like him?  Because the people were in this frame of mind, He did not trust Himself to them. Their faith was an incomplete faith, and needed further light to become saving faith.  It was not enough to believe that Jesus was a holy man of God, that He was able to work miracles, perhaps by the power of prayer, and that He was an able teacher and a fine example.

Important faith
The Lord Jesus is too concerned about the welfare of the souls of men to leave them to think of Him only as one able to perform miracles.  He went on to explain, therefore, in His conversation with Nicodemus as recorded in John 3:1-21, that the faith that saves is faith in a crucified Saviour.  “And as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, even so must the Son of Man be lifted up: that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have eternal life.  For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in Him should not perish, but have everlasting life,” John 3:14-16.  It is as one lifted up upon a cross that we must believe on Him.  The reference to the serpent lifted up in the wilderness gives the clue to the meaning of this lifting up.  It was because of Israel’s sin and rebellion that God provided the remedy of the serpent lifted up, Numbers 21:4-9.  And it was because of the sin and rebellion of the whole world that the Lord Jesus needed to die upon the cross to deal with sins.  Faith in a crucified Saviour results in everlasting life for the one exercising it.  Such is the sure promise of the Saviour Himself.  Those who believe like this are eternally secure.

Faith and repentance
True faith, then, is neither partial nor temporary.  It involves the receiving of the Word of God without reserve, not seeking to escape from its convicting power.
When a sinner realises not only that his state is hopeless and dangerous, but also that Christ is able to give full salvation through His work upon the cross, and then commits himself to Him with true repentance for sin, real faith is in evidence.

It is to such persons that the Scriptural doctrine of the eternal security of the true believer can come with all its comforting assurance.  In considering this doctrine, we shall think of it in connection with the new birth, the will of God, the unity of the Godhead, the Spirit of God, the present position of Christ and His people, and then finally, the purpose of God.

Eternal security and the new birth
We have already alluded to the promise of eternal life to those who believe in the only begotten Son of God, whom God has given at Calvary. It is through the death of the Son of God upon the cross that eternal life is gained by those who look to Him in faith.

In His words recorded in John 17:2,3, the Lord Jesus contrasted men in the flesh, with all their frailty and mortality, with those who have eternal life. he said, “As Thou hast given Him power over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as Thou hast given Him.  And this is life eternal, that they might know Thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom Thou hast sent”. Clearly, then, there is a marked difference between natural life and eternal life.  Natural life, which gives us the ability to know natural things by natural senses, is the result of being born into the family of Adam.  Eternal life, on the other hand, gives us the ability to know Divine things, and comes through being born of God.

John 1:12,13 makes it very clear that the will of man cannot effect the new birth; it is solely God’s doing.  We read of “them which believe on His name: which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.”  Neither Christian parentage, religious ceremony, self-will, or the will of others, are of any avail to bring it to pass.
On the other hand, verse 12 also makes clear that man has the responsibility to receive the Lord Jesus by faith, “But as many as received Him, to them gave He power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on His name.”  God is sovereign.  That means He reigns on His own, with none to dictate to Him.  In the exercise of His sovereignty He has decreed that only those who willingly believe in His Son shall be blessed with eternal life.

Those who are born of God, then, are amongst His children, and share His life.  One of the reasons the Lord Jesus came was to manifest this life in the world of men.  “The life was manifested, and we have seen it, and bear witness, and show unto you that eternal life, which was with the Father, and was manifested unto us,” 1 John 1:2.  He has this life because He is equal with the Father, whereas believers have this life because God has graciously granted it to them.
Just as those who are born naturally cannot be “unborn”, so those who are born of God are His children for ever.  Since their new birth is the result of the exercise of His sovereign will, and God never changes His mind, then their position in His family is secure, and secure for ever.  The life He gives is eternal life, and the word translated “eternal” is used in Romans 16:26 of “the everlasting God”, so it cannot mean anything less than enduring for ever.

Eternal security and the will of God
“I am the bread of life: he that cometh to Me shall never hunger: and he that believeth on Me shall never thirst,” John 6:35.  These words are part of Christ’s explanation of the miracle of the feeding of the five thousand.  Just as manna had come down for Israel in the wilderness, so Christ has come down to earth as the Bread of God to give life to the world.  When He came, however, they said “Is not this Jesus, the son of Joseph, whose father and mother we know?” John 6:42.  They saw Him, but did not realise who He was.  This was so like the response of the people of Israel when the manna was given, for they said, “What is it”, for they did not know what it was, Exodus 16:15.

The total inability of the natural man to appreciate the person of Christ, and to realise that He is worthy of trust, does not frustrate God’s purpose.  The Father will ensure that there are those who come to Christ, as they are drawn to Him by the teaching of the Scriptures.  Those who hear, and learn from the Father through His Word, are sure to come.  His words were, “All that the Father giveth Me shall come to Me;” John 6:37, and, “Every man therefore that hath heard, and hath learned of the Father, cometh unto Me.” John 6:45.

The Saviour makes a firm promise to those who come to Him.  John 6:37 reads, “him that cometh to Me I will in no wise cast out.”  The Lord looks upon those who come to Him in genuine faith as a gift from His Father.  Is it conceivable that He would refuse such a gift?

The Son of God came down from heaven expressly to do the Father’s will.  His words were, “For I came down from heaven, not to do Mine own will, but the will of Him that sent Me.  And this is the Father’s will which hath sent Me, that of all which He hath given Me I should lose nothing, but should raise it up again at the last day,” John 6:38,39.  That will, then, involves keeping those who have been entrusted to Him.  This keeping extends to the resurrection of the bodies of His people.  If Christ was concerned about fragments of loaves, and instructed His disciples to gather them up “that nothing be lost”, verse 12, then how much more will He be concerned about the bodies of His people.  They, too, shall be gathered up again, for He is determined to lose nothing of that gift His Father has given Him.

Eternal security and the unity of God
John 10 contains the teaching of the Lord Jesus regarding His relationship to His people under the figure of a shepherd and his flock.  In verse 11 the Lord makes one of the “I am” statements in John’s gospel- “I am the good shepherd: the good shepherd giveth His life for the sheep.”  He adds nothing, in this instance, to His plain statement.  Elsewhere in John where we find other “I am” statements, there is a certain responsibility placed upon others, such as to believe, to come, or to follow.  Here, the total responsibility rests upon the Saviour Himself, and since He is the good shepherd, we may rely absolutely upon what He does.
The foundation of blessing and security for the flock is the giving up of the life of the shepherd as His own willing act, in obedience to the will of His Father  This in itself should be enough to reassure His people of His devoted care for them.  He goes further, however, and rests their security upon another basis, that of His Deity.  He has spoken of those who are enemies of the flock, and now shows that He and His Father are united in their care and protection of that flock.
The flock of God has many enemies.  First, in John 10:5, there is the stranger, “and a stranger will they not follow, but will flee from him: for they know not the voice of strangers.”  He represents those who bring “strange doctrines” Hebrews 13:9.  Even little children in the family of God recognise those who teach error that dishonours their Saviour, and which will seduce them, I John 2:18-27.  Then there are thieves and robbers, verses 8,10, who come not “but for to steal and to kill, and to destroy.”  These picture those who “spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ”, Colossians 2:8.  A further enemy is the hireling, verse 12, whose only interest in the sheep is personal gain, or as Peter graphically puts it, “filthy lucre”, I Peter 5:2.  Finally there is the wolf, verse 12 again, which comes to catch and scatter the sheep.  The apostle Paul warned of men who, like “grievous wolves”, will stop at nothing to disrupt and spoil the flock of God, Acts 20:29.  The Good Shepherd is more than a match for all these enemies.  His voice is so attractive to His sheep that they wish to follow no stranger.
He gives life, and that abundantly, in contrast to the stealing, killing and destroying of the robbers.  He gives His life for the sheep, and this shows Him to be no hireling, who would do the opposite, and give the sheep for his life.  And He gives His word that the wolf will never succeed in snatching His sheep from His hand.  His statement is clear, “I give unto them eternal life; and they shall never perish, neither shall any man pluck them out of My hand,” verse 28.

The confidence of believers in Israel was expressed by the psalmist in the words “And we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.” Psalm 95:7.  The reason they give for their confidence is significant, “For He is our God.”  This, too, is the confidence of the Christian, for the shepherd heart of the God of Israel has been manifested to perfection by His Son, who is equal with God.

Having explained in John 10:28 that none can pluck the sheep out of His hand, (echoing the mention of “hand” in Psalm 95:7), the Good Shepherd then reinforces the truth with His statement, “My Father, which gave them Me, is greater than all; and no man is able to pluck them out of My Father’s hand.  I and My Father are one,” John 10:29,30.  The Father is greater than the enemies of the flock as well, so the sheep are doubly, divinely, secure.

The Jews understood perfectly well the implications of the statement, “I and My Father are one”, for we read they immediately took up stones to stone Him, saying, “for a good work we stone Thee not; but for blasphemy; and because that Thou, being a man, makest Thyself God”.  It is nothing less than a claim to Deity, and coming as it does in the context of the safety of the sheep, is the strongest possible assurance of their complete security  If it is possible to sever the persons of the Godhead from one another, then it is possible to sever Christ’s sheep from Him and His Father.  To sever the persons of the Godhead, however, demands a power superior to Divine power, which does not and cannot exist. The Godhead is safe, and just as safe are the sheep.

Eternal security and the Holy Spirit
Just as it is true that the unity between the Father and the Son is a guarantee of the safety of the believer, so the other person of the Godhead, the Holy Spirit, is involved in this too.

One of the distinctive features of this present age is the fact that every believer is indwelt by the Holy Spirit.  This was not the situation before the Lord Jesus was glorified, as John 7:39 makes clear, “But this spake He of the Spirit, which they that believe on Him should receive: for the Holy Spirit was not yet given; because that Jesus was not yet glorified.”  Of course it is true that men of Old Testament times had been empowered by the Holy Spirit for specific tasks, but now that Christ is glorified in heaven, He is given in a new way.

Especially relevant to our present consideration is the statement of the Lord to His own, “And I will pray the Father, and He shall give you another Comforter, that He may abide with you for ever,” John 14:16.  Note it is not “shall abide”, but “that He may abide”.  So it is not only that the Spirit would abide in the future in a new way, although that is true, but also that the very purpose for which the Spirit is given is to abide for ever.  In contrast to Christ, who was leaving them to go back to heaven, the Spirit would stay in them for ever.

Every true believer has the Spirit of God within.  Romans 8:9 is very clear on this point, “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ he is none of His.”  His abiding presence is not in virtue of anything the believer has done, but solely because of God’s grace.  The question of the apostle in Galatians 3:2, “Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?” can receive only one answer, namely, “by the hearing of faith.”  The presence of the Spirit of God within the believer is therefore due to the grace of God entirely; He is neither earned nor merited.

When preparing His own for His departure to heaven, the Lord spoke of the Spirit as dwelling with them already, John 14:17.  This was true because the Lord, full of the Spirit Himself, was personally with them, and in that sense the Spirit was alongside of them.  His promise for the future, however, was that His personal presence would be made good to them by the Spirit of God indwelling them.
One aspect of this indwelling which is particularly relevant to the subject of eternal security, is presented to us in Ephesians 4:30.  There the apostle speaks of being sealed by the Holy Spirit of God  Just as a document is sealed for security, so God has sealed His people by giving them His Spirit.  This sealing is “unto the day of redemption.”  One day the bodies of the saints shall be redeemed from all traces of contact with this old creation.  The sealing, however, is not simply “until” that day, but “unto” it.  When the sealing is done, (and Ephesians 1:13,14. makes clear that this is when faith is exercised), the redemption is already in view as far as God is concerned.  The sealing bridges the interval between initial faith and final redemption.  Once the sealing is done, the redemption is certain.  As far as God is concerned the deed is done, and this should settle the matter for the believing heart.

Eternal security and association with Christ
The second chapter of the Epistle to the Ephesians opens with sinners dead in trespasses and sins, walking according to this world, dominated by Satan himself, walking in lust and self-will, and facing the prospect of God’s wrath. The words of scripture are:
“And you hath He quickened, who were dead in trespasses and sins; Wherein in time past ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air, the spirit that now worketh in the children of disobedience: Among whom also we all had our conversation in times past in the lusts of our flesh, fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind; and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others,” Ephesians 2:1-3.

This is not security, but vulnerability!  But then we are taught that in the purpose of God the position He has given to Christ is shared by all who are united to Him in faith.  It does not matter whether they were Jews or Gentiles before, those who know God’s rich salvation are together in a place of safety in Christ.  The apostle writes:
“But God, who is rich in mercy, for His great love wherewith He loved us, Even when we were dead in sins, hath quickened us together with Christ, (by grace ye are saved;) And hath raised us up together, and made us sit together in heavenly places in Christ Jesus: That in the ages to come He might shew the exceeding riches of His grace in His kindness toward us through Christ Jesus. For by grace are ye saved through faith; and that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God: Not of works, lest any man should boast.
For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus unto good works, which God hath before ordained that we should walk in them,” Ephesians 2:4-10.

Introduce God and His mercy into a situation, and everything changes. His mighty salvation is detailed for us, and the apostle takes us stage by stage through the process.  Were sinners dead?  So once was Christ, for He died for our sins, but God quickened Him, and quickened believers together with Him.  That which was true on the resurrection morning, as far as God was concerned, comes into effect for the believer as soon as initial belief takes place.  Were sinners in the world?  So once was Christ, as He lay lifeless in the tomb.  But He has been raised from the grave and given heavenly glory, and believers are associated with Him in this too.  Were sinners walking according to the prince of the power of the air?  Christ has defeated that foe, and been exalted above all principality and power, Ephesians 1:21.  Linked with Him in His exaltation, His people are safe from the Evil One’s grasp.  Finally, the ultimate triumph, for instead of being associated with this present world-system, believers are now involved in God’s plan, even to the extent of being seated in heavenly places in Christ.  His place is their place.  He occupies it by merit, they by Divine grace.  Formerly they could only expect God’s wrath in the future, but now in the ages to come they shall be the showpiece of God’s grace and kindness.

With these glorious truths on the page of Holy Scripture, what believer will doubt his security?  The believer is as secure as Christ is, for there is a vital and Divinely-made link between them both.

Eternal security and the purpose of God
In his heart the apostle Paul was persuaded of the truth of the believers security, and was filled with confidence as he penned the closing verses of Romans chapter 8.  Wherein lay his confidence?  In the purpose of God.  Note his words, “For whom He did foreknow, He also did predestinate to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren.  Moreover whom He did predestinate, them He also called: and whom He called, them He also justified: and whom He justified, them He also glorified.  What shall we then say to these things? If God be for us, who can be against us?  He that spared not His own Son, but delivered Him up for us all, how shall He not with Him also freely give us all things?  Who shall lay any thing to the charge of God’s elect? It is God that justifieth.  Who is he that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us.  Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?  As it is written, For thy sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.  Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors through Him that loved us.  For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, Nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord”, Romans 8:28-39. 
As far as God’s purpose is concerned, those whom He has called by the gospel, and justified by the blood of Christ, are already glorified.  So certain is the believer’s future glory, that God speaks of it not even as a present thing, but a past thing.  And that glory involves being conformed to the image of His Son.

Again, what gave the apostle confidence was the fact that God had given His Son at Calvary, not sparing Him any of the sufferings which dealing with sins entailed.  This is the sure pledge, writes the apostle, that God will freely give all things, and this includes the glory of heaven.  It is elementary mathematics that the whole is greater than the part.  If nothing could stop God giving the greatest gift, under the worst circumstances, then there is nothing that will stop Him giving lesser things.  And amongst these is a place in heaven for His people.

The apostle confidently challenges any to successfully bring an accusation against God’s elect people.  The only one who has a right to do this is God Himself, but far from accusing His people He has justified them.
The only one who has the right to sit in judgement and condemn God’s people, is the very one who died for the sins that merit judgement; who rose again to prove those sins were dealt with; who is in the place of supreme authority at God’s right hand; and who constantly intercedes for them before His Father, to safeguard them from the accusations of the Devil.

The conclusion of the matter
We have reviewed some of the passages of Scripture which tell of the total and eternal security of true believers.  Born again by the will of God, the God who does not change His mind, their position in the family is settled.  Drawn to Christ by the teaching of the Scriptures, they have found a ready welcome, and the assurance that they will never be rejected.  Part of Christ’s flock, and therefore protected by the persons of the Godhead in united defence against every wily foe.  Indwelt by God’s Spirit, and that for ever, sealed as His until the day of final redemption.  Linked to Christ in His unassailable and glorious position at God’s right hand.  Involved in God’s purpose which can never be frustrated, and defended from every attempt of the Adversary to accuse.  Well then might all God’s people join with the apostle as he rejoices in the triumphs of God’s grace, “For I am persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor powers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 8:38,39.

DOCTRINES OF SCRIPTURE: Resurrection of Christ

INTRODUCTION:

 The resurrection of the Lord Jesus from the dead is a fundamental part of the Christian gospel, as Paul makes clear in 1 Corinthians 15:1-8. That He really died is seen in that He was buried, that He really rose is seen in the fact that He appeared (not simply was seen, but deliberately confronted people). His resurrection had been prophesied in the Old Testament, hence the apostle says He was raised according to the (O.T.) Scriptures. See Psalm 16; Psalm 21:2-6; Psalm 22:21-31; Psalm 40:1-3; Psalm 118:22; Isaiah 52:13, 53:10,11. It was also prophesied by the Lord Jesus Himself, although His disciple did not grasp the fact. Only Mary, who sat at His feet and heard His word, saw that He was going to die, and so anointed Him for His burial whilst He could appreciate it. She must also have seen that He would rise, for she did not go to the sepulchre to seek to preserve His dead body, as the other women did. So the Old Testament views Christ’s resurrection prophetically, the Gospels view it historically, whereas the epistles view it doctrinally.

1.    Romans 1:4: ‘”And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the Spirit of Holiness, by the resurrection from (of) the dead”. Note the change of verb from verse 3, where Christ is made of the seed of David by incarnation. Here it is not something He was made in time, but what He is eternally is declared by resurrection.  He is ever the Son of God, for “to be the son of” means “to share the nature of”. Since the Father’s nature is eternal, so must the Son’s be, therefore He is the eternal Son of God. This is declared by resurrection. Note that it is not the resurrection from the dead, but rather the resurrection of dead persons, for the word dead is plural. Every time the Lord Jesus raised a person from the dead; every time a sinner is raised from death in trespasses and sins; when saint’s bodies are raised at His coming; when sinner’s bodies are raised  just before the Great White Throne judgement, then on each occasion there is a declaration of His Deity. This is in line with His words in John 5:19-29, where the right of the Lord Jesus to grant life and to raise from the dead, is vested in His equality with the Father.

And then of course there was the declaration of His Sonship when He Himself was raised from the dead. He had said “when (after) ye have lifted up the Son of Man, then ye shall know that I am He”, John 8:28. They should have known He was Son of God by the supernatural events at His crucifixion, for the centurion came to this conclusion, Matthew 27:54. They should have known by His rising again, for Saul of Tarsus was convinced, Acts 9:20.

2.    Romans 4:15: “Who was delivered for our offences, and was raised again for our justification”.  The apostle has been deriving principles from the experience of Abraham and Sarah, who as far as having children were concerned, were dead. Yet they believed God, and as a result He intervened and brought Isaac out of the sphere of death. Whereas Abraham believed God was able to do this in the immediate future, we look back to the distant past and believe that the true “Isaac” has been brought out of the sphere of death to guarantee the promises of God. Paul in effedct asks two questions: “Why was Christ found in death anyway?” and “Why was He raised from the dead?” The answer to the first is our offences, whilst the answer to the second is because of our justification, which means that He was raised again because God was satisfied that His work upon the cross was enough to justify believing sinners.

3.    Romans 5:10: ‘”For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of His Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by His life”. Verse one speaks of peace with God, so that those once enemies of God because of sin, are now reconciled to Him. Now if the work which forms the basis of that reconciliation was done for us whilst we were still God’s enemies, what blessings will He not bestow now that we are friends? And more than this, if Christ’s work of reconciling enemies took place when were in sin, surely we shall be saved from every sort of penalty at the judgement day, for the one who saved us from sin is still our saviour, preserving us eternally from the judgement of God. Because Christ lives eternally in resurrection, the believer is eternally secure. If the suffering and agony of the cross did not put Him off from taking up our case, surely the glory He has now will not prevent Him living to preserve those who believe in Him.

4.    Romans 6:4: “Therefore we are buried with Him by baptism into death: that like as Christ was raised up by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life”. Paul is showing why it is not in order for believers to continue in sin, i.e. continue to respond to the sin-principle within. The reason here given is that we are buried, and therefore cannot continue in sin. The burial took place when we were baptized, and we were identified with Christ in His (state of) death. But our baptism has a positive purpose, it is not just a negative putting out of sight, but association also with Christ in His resurrection. Christ was raised from the dead because the glory of the Father demanded that such a person should be raised, and not left in the grave. It was not so with us personally, however, so our emergence from the watery grave of baptism is solely because of association with Christ. Having been raised, we have a responsibility to walk in a different sort of way, which is compatible with the new place we have with Christ risen.

5.    Romans 7:1-6: “Wherefore, my brethren, ye also are become dead to the law by the body of Christ, that ye should be married to another, even to Him who is raised from the dead, that we should bring forth fruit unto God”. The apostle is showing that the believer is not under the Law of Moses, nor will trying to keep that Law result in a victorious Christian life. He uses two illustrations to prove his point. First, that when a person is dead, the dominion of the law, any law, is gone from him. Second, that when a woman’s husband dies, she is free from the law of the husband. He then applies these two principles, namely one’s own death delivering from law, and another’s death delivering from law. Christ has died, and we have died in association with Him, so on both counts we are dead to the Law of Moses. The body of Christ was hung upon a cross, and there He bore the curse of a broken law for us. But His body was also placed in a tomb, and subsequently rose from the dead. By association with Him in these things we are delivered from the law by association with what happened to Christ in His body.

6.    Romans 8:11:”But if the Spirit of Him that raised up Jesus from the dead dwell in you, He that raised up Christ from the dead shall also quicken your mortal bodies by His Spirit that dwelleth in you”. The Spirit of God is here described as the Spirit of the God of resurrection. Not only does the Spirit of God empower us so that we are able to live proper Christian lives now, but He is the guarantee that we shall share in the resurrection of the body hereafter. The epistle to the Romans emphasises truth which enables us to live upon the earth, hence we are looked at in this verse as being alive on the earth when Christ comes. When dead saints are raised, then those alive on the earth will share in the same sort of change, even though they have not died. The certainty of this is found in the presence within of the Spirit of God.

7.    Romans 8:34: “Who is He that condemneth? It is Christ that died, yea rather, that is risen again, who is even at the right hand of God, who also maketh intercession for us”. The only one who could possibly condemn God’s people is Christ, for all judgement has been committed to Him. But far from condemning, He is the very one who defends and supports them. He does this in a four-fold way, because of the four events mentioned here. He died to deal with our sins that would have meant our condemnation. He was raised again  to demonstrate to all who would accuse us that the work of the cross dealt effectively with sins. He is ascended to the right hand of God, the most influential place in the whole of the universe where He wields all power. And He intercedes for us to defend us from the charges the adversary, Satan, would level against us, Revelation 12:10.

JOHN 12:20-50

John chapter 12 is a pivotal chapter, marking as it does the transition from Christ’s dealings with His own, the nation of Israel, 1:11, and His disciples, also called His own in 13:1.  He had come to His own land, as the True Isaac, His own throne, as the True David, and His own people, as the True Abraham.  His claim to the land and the throne was undisputed, but His people refused His claims.  As a result, God’s wider purpose towards the Gentiles was unfolded, and the Greeks of verse 20 are an earnest of this.  We are presented with a series of contrasts at the beginning of the chapter.  A contrast between the recognition that Mary gave to Christ, and the rejection of Him by the Jewish authorities.  The latter plotted His death, whereas Mary believed He would soon rise from the dead, and therefore would not need elaborate embalming to preserve his body.  Mary gave Him that which was precious, whereas Judas went out from that supper to ask the question, “What will ye give me?”  Attitudes at the end of the public ministry of Christ have become polarised, with strong devotion to Him on the one hand, and outright rejection of Him on the other.  This rejection, however, did not mean that Christ had relinquished His claim to be their king, so He rode into Jerusalem in that capacity, and thus fulfilled the prophecy of the scriptures, but also gave a foretaste of what would happen in the future when the whole nation rejoices, and blesses Him that comes in the name of the Lord, Matthew 23:39.  It is in this context that John introduces us to certain Greeks, which will provide an opening for the Lord to set out the terms on which He is leaving the nation of Israel, and the terms, also, on which He will be willing to receive an individual, Jew or Gentile, who will come with personal faith to Him.

STRUCTURE OF THE PASSAGE

(a) Verses 20-33 The interest of certain Greeks cultivated.
(b) Verses 34-41 The indifference of the nation of Israel condemned.
(c) Verses 42-50 The individuals in the nation of Israel challenged.

STRUCTURE OF SECTION (a)  The interest of certain Greeks cultivated.

Verses 20-22 The desire to see Jesus.
Verses 23-24 The nearness of Christ’s death.
Verses 25-26 The results of Christ’s death.
Verses 27-28 The verdict on Christ’s life and death.
Verses 29-33 The consequences of His death.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 12, VERSES 20-33

12:20  And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast:

 12:21  The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus.

 12:22  Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus.

 12:23  And Jesus answered them, saying, The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified.

 12:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you, Except a corn of wheat fall into the ground and die, it abideth alone: but if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit.

 12:25  He that loveth his life shall lose it; and he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal.

 12:26  If any man serve Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall also My servant be: if any man serve Me, him will My Father honour.

 12:27  Now is My soul troubled; and what shall I say? Father, save Me from this hour: but for this cause came I unto this hour.

 12:28  Father, glorify Thy name. Then came there a voice from heaven, saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.

 12:29  The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to him.

 12:30  Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes.

 12:31  Now is the judgment of this world: now shall the prince of this world be cast out.

 12:32  And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me.

 12:33  This He said, signifying what death He should die.

 

Verses 20-22          The desire to see Jesus.

12:20  And there were certain Greeks- Solomon had prayed for those from the Gentiles who would come up to the temple, see 1 Kings 8:41-43.  The greater than Solomon is now in its courts.  Among them that came up to worship at the feast:- they associate with the Jewish worshippers, evidently impressed by the temple services.  Have they also seen the Lord purge the temple, and been impressed by His courage?  Greeks would appreciate courage and manliness.  They have much more to learn about Christ, however.

12:21  The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee- Philip is a Greek name, and Bethsaida of Galilee was a city of the Decapolis influenced by Greek culture.  And desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus- Note their respectful tone, and their earnest request.  Religious observance had failed to satisfy their search for God, even though the religion was of God.  This day is the fourth before the Passover, the day on which the Passover lamb was to be selected, and scrutinised until it was slain.  Unwittingly, these Greeks were requesting to be part of the scrutiny of the true Passover Lamb, 1 Corinthians 5:7.

12:22  Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus- Did Philip feel that he needed moral support from Andrew, (whose name is Greek too), because the Lord had said that He was not sent but unto the lost sheep of the house of Israel?  He had instructed His servants not to go into the way of the Gentiles.  Philip did not yet realise that God was going to reach out to Gentiles so that they might be blessed without becoming Jewish proselytes.

Verses 23-24 The nearness of Christ’s death.

12:23  And Jesus answered them, saying- the answer was to Philip and Andrew, but indirectly to the Greeks.  The time had not come for direct contact on Christ’s initiative; this would come after Pentecost, Ephesians 2:17; John 10:16.  The hour is come, that the Son of man should be glorified- the request of the Greeks brings the whole of God’s future purpose to Christ’s mind.  Note that it is not just His death that is in view, but the whole process by which He would be glorified, including His death, but also including His resurrection, ascension, and return to earth as the Son of Man  This is typical of John’s gospel, where everything is seen in the light of what God’s glory demands.  The title Son of Man relates Christ to the whole of mankind, not just to Israel.  It tells that He is not only true man, but also the man of God’s choice to rule men.  See Daniel 7:13,14.

12:24  Verily, verily, I say unto you- a formula unique to John’s gospel, emphasising the certainty of Christ’s word, as the Son of God.  Except a corn ground fall into the ground and die- to the Greeks, death was the ultimate failure, so they must learn that God’s wisdom is contrary to man’s, for His death is the path of victory.  See 1 Corinthians 1:17-25, written initially to Greeks.  To the Jews, the death of their Messiah would be a failure, but in fact it is the path to the throne. Passover time was in the month Abib, which means “green ears”, for the corn was not yet fully ripe.  Christ’s life, however, had run its full and true course.  When corn starts to fall out of the ear and drop to the ground, it means the farmer has missed the window of opportunity to harvest his grain.  So for Israel, the harvest was passing, the summer was ended, and they were not saved, Jeremiah 8:20.  Note that the corn falls to the ground before it dies, signifying the way in which the nation of Israel would plot and effect His downfall.  It abideth alone- as long as a grain of corn remains in the ear, it is not in suitable conditions to grow and reproduce.  But if it die, it bringeth forth much fruit- note that the bringing forth of fruit depends on the dying, and not so much on the falling into the ground, although that is necessary.  The treatment of Christ by men as they brought Him into the dust of death was secondary.  The primary point is that He died, just as a seed dies once it finds itself in the darkness, warmth and moisture of the soil.  The much fruit means the many who will come into salvation through the death of Christ.  Only by this means can He reproduce Himself in others- it cannot happen only by His life, precious as that is to God.  See Galatians 4:19.  What men are naturally in Adam must be dealt with by His death, before new life can be granted.

Verses 25-26 The results of Christ’s death.

12:25  He that loveth his life shall lose it- the principle that Christ laid down for those who would follow Him, is now repeated, but with the implication that He is governed by this law too.  He will allow men to take Him and crucify Him because He does not conserve his life, but gives it in the spiritual interests of others.  The word for love is the one which means to be fond of, to like.  The notion of hating one’s life would be completely contrary to Greek culture, so these Greeks are learning that what they are naturally is of no use to God.  They could engage in religion in a natural state, but they cannot be Christians in that state.  Believers who spend their life on self, will find that at the judgement seat of Christ all that is unacceptable to God in what they have done and been, will be consumed in the fire, and they will lose it all.  And he that hateth his life in this world shall keep it unto life eternal- those who live for God, and thus hate the idea of living for self, will find recompense in heaven in an enhanced appreciation of eternal life, which involves the knowledge of God.

12:26  If any man serve Me- so “seeing Jesus”, (which is what the Greeks wanted to do), is not a casual thing, but involves earnest commitment.  The Greeks would perhaps prefer to be served, for that would indicate that they had made progress in life.  Let him follow Me- this will ensure that the eye is kept on Christ, and self’s interests will recede.  By following Him we only go where He would be prepared to go.  And where I am, there shall also My servant be- wherever Christ chooses to be, those who follow Him will be at hand ready to serve Him in that situation.  Compare Elisha’s servant, who left his master to run after Naaman for gain, 2 Kings 5:20-27.  Gehazi loved his life, and lost it, for he was smitten with leprosy.  Philip and Andrew, on the other hand, were available for Christ to use.  If any man serve Me, him will My Father honour– not only is there the privilege of serving Christ in the here and now, but there is the prospect of reward in the hereafter.  So commitment to Christ has its eternal compensations.

Verses 27-28 The verdict on Christ’s life and death.

12:27  Now is My soul troubled- the word for soul here is the same as life in verse 25.  Christ is the perfect example of one who makes His own soul subservient to the service of God, and the needs of others.  His commitment in this was total, even to the troubling of His soul as He anticipated the ultimate sacrifice, when His soul would be made an offering for sin, Isaiah 53:10.  And what shall I say?  Father, save Me from this hour – He is still speaking to Philip and Andrew, giving them insight into the workings of His mind.  Would they conclude from what they had seen and heard of Him during the previous three and a half years that He would consider for one moment seeking to avoid the cross?  But for this cause came I unto this hour- A Greek would want to be delivered from trouble, but Christ was conscious of His mission from the Father.  The whole of His life was a coming to the hour.  Even at His naming, the question of sins being dealt with came up, Matthew 1:21.

12:28  Father, glorify Thy name- this expresses the real response of Christ to the coming of His hour at Calvary.  Even in such grim circumstances the glory of the Father was maintained and enhanced.  Then came there a voice from heaven- there was three words from heaven about Christ.  At His baptism, giving the Father’s approval of His private years.  This was for Him and for the people, as is clear from the different wording in Matthew, Mark and Luke.  At the transfiguration, there was given the Father’s approval of His public years, and also anticipating the kingdom.  And the third one here, which gives the seal of approval not only of the past, “I have…glorified it”, but also the future, “I will glorify it again”.  Saying, I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again- “He that speaketh of himself seeketh his own glory: but He that seeketh His glory that sent Him, the same is true, and no unrighteousness is in Him”, John 7:18.  We too are expected to do all to the glory of God, 1 Corinthians 10:31.

Verses 29-33 The consequences of His death.

12:29  The people therefore, that stood by, and heard it, said that it thundered: others said, An angel spake to Him- The Lord Jesus had spoken for three and a half years, but they were still not able to recognise a voice from heaven.  How sad that they think a mere clap of thunder, or an angel’s voice, is all that He deserved!  Would an angel have answered, when Christ had spoken to His Father?  Would an angel have announced that the Lord’s ministry had glorified the name of an angel?  Would a thunderclap, a sign of judgement, 1 Samuel 7:10; Revelation 10:1-4, be an appropriate response to Christ who had come in grace?  In any case, these people had never heard an angel, so how did they recognise the voice as such?  All these considerations tell of a people ignorant of Divine communications, and who are in the dark as to what merits Divine approval.  This is just another illustration of the fact that having ears, they heard not.  A physical sound came to them, but they knew not the true nature of it.

12:30  Jesus answered and said, This voice came not because of Me, but for your sakes- The Lord Jesus was ever conscious of the approval of His Father, but He was given it nonetheless.  The main point of the word from heaven was that the people, even at this late stage, might realize that they were in danger of` rejecting the One who had glorified the God of Israel in their midst.  They are close to “treading under foot the Son of God”, Hebrews 10:29.

12:31  Now is the judgment of this world- This sign of ignorance on the part of the people shows that the climax of this world’s history is near.  If the covenant people, blessed with Divine interventions of various sorts for centuries is not able to understand a word from heaven, especially when it came expressly for them and to them, then there is no hope for the rest of the world.  Judgement = krisis, the critical point at which a decision is made.  The world would make its final decision about Christ, and God would give His final verdict on the world.  Note the “now is”, and then the “now shall”; the judgement on the world was current, for the death of Christ would take place very shortly, but the casting out of the prince of this world, whilst based upon the victory of Christ at Calvary, would, in the wisdom of God, be delayed.  Now shall the prince of this world be cast out- At Calvary, the Lord Jesus deliberately put Himself into a position of vulnerability.  He could say, “This is your hour, and the power of darkness”, Luke 22:53, and He was “crucified through weakness”, 2 Corinthians 13:4, at the mercy of those who arrested and condemned Him.  It was at this point of apparent helplessness, that the Lord Jesus, faced with the vicious fury of the most evil force in God’s universe, gained His greatest triumph.  When Satan, as the one who had the power of death, thought He was entirely in his grip, then Christ utterly defeated him.  He did this by showing that He was able to go into death voluntarily, and not by force of circumstances.  No other man has power in the day of death to retain his spirit, but Christ could not only retain His spirit, but dismiss it as well, for He had authority to lay down His life, John 10:18.  He also demonstrated that the Devil was a defeated for, by rising in triumph from the dead, and ascending up far above all principalities and powers, Ephesians 1:20,21.

12:32  And I- having spoken of the world, and the prince of this world, Christ now speaks of Himself, with an emphatic “I”, emphasizing who it is shall effect the casting out of this world’s prince.  If I be lifted up from the earth- The lifting up from the earth is mentioned three times in John’s gospel, 3:14; 8:28, and here.  John’s gospel presents the Lord Jesus as one who came to the world that He might leave it, having manifest God in it, so even His death is seen as a stage in his return to heaven.  Verse 34 shows that the people understand He means His death.  Will draw all men unto Me- because He is lifted up as Son of Man, the event has significance for all men, and not just for Israel.  The Greeks will be able to come into the good of what was done at Calvary.  This is the answer to their request to see Him.  Being lifted up implied death by crucifixion, which was a Gentile mode of execution.  To the Greeks, such a death would be a disgrace, and utter defeat, so to them naturally it would be an act of folly to accept Him as a Crucified Saviour, and not as a Conquering Hero, see 1 Corinthians 1:23.  The Greeks must see Him in that way, and by an act of faith come into the good of His death. 

12:33  This He said, signifying what death He should die- The Lord makes it very clear that by “lifted up” He does not mean lifted up in exaltation to a throne of glory, but rather lifted up on a cross of shame.  He is making the terms on which He is to be believed very clear.  There were those at the beginning who only believed because of His miracles, John 2:23-25, but saving faith goes further, and believes Him as the crucified One. 

(b) Verses 34-41 The indifference of the nation of Israel condemned.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 12, VERSES 34-41

12:34  The people answered Him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man?

 12:35  Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you. Walk while ye have the light, lest darkness come upon you: for he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth.

 12:36  While ye have light, believe in the light, that ye may be the children of light. These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them.

 12:37  But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him:

 12:38  That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled, which he spake, Lord, who hath believed our report? and to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?

 12:39  Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again,

 12:40  He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them.

 12:41  These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him.

STRUCTURE OF  SECTION (b)

Verses 34-36 Jesus hides from the nation of Israel.
Verses 37-41 The nation of Israel hardens its heart.

Verses 34-36       Jesus hides from the nation of Israel.

12:34  The people answered him, We have heard out of the law that Christ abideth for ever: and how sayest thou, The Son of man must be lifted up? who is this Son of man? – The “we” is emphatic, and so is the “Thou” that follows.  They are clearly setting their knowledge of the Messiah against His.  They are also placing reliance on the Rabbis, for they say “We have heard”, and they also seem to make a difference between the Son of Man they read of in Daniel 7, and the Lord Jesus, who called Himself the Son of Man.  As Caiaphas was to soon discover, they are one and the same, see Matthew 26:63-65.

12:35  Then Jesus said unto them, Yet a little while is the light with you- far from abiding for ever amongst them the time was soon coming when He would be absent from them.  This should have jolted them into fresh thinking about Him.  The abiding for ever was during the kingdom age, when the morning without clouds would have arrived, and the sun of righteousness had risen with healing in his wings, 2 Samuel 23:4; Malachi 4:2.  The light of His grace towards them was to be withdrawn temporarily, during their national unbelief.  Walk while ye have the light- there was still the opportunity to walk in the light of His person and teaching.  Lest darkness come upon you- the darkness of national rejection after AD 70.  See Isaiah 50 about walking in darkness.  For he that walketh in darkness knoweth not whither he goeth- they had heard things out of the law, but if they reject His light, they would be in the darkness of blindness of heart, Romans 11:10.  The Sun of Righteousness must set in death, before a new day can dawn, based upon His resurrection.  For the believer the darkness is past, and the true light now shineth, 1 John 2:8.  He is a son of the day and a son of the light.  The sun always shines, but it is not always day.  So for the believer the sun is shining, but the day awaits Christ’s return to the earth.

12:36  While ye have light, believe in the light- this explains what walking in the light involves, even personal faith.  They thought that the light of the Messiah would shine upon them simply because they were of the seed of Abraham.  That ye may be the children of light- believing in the light brings with it the responsibility of taking character from the light in terms of purity, holiness, and the shunning of evil.  These things spake Jesus, and departed, and did hide Himself from them- thus He gives them a brief interval when they may learn what it is like to not have Him amongst them, so that they may realise they cannot do without Him.

Verses 37-41 The nation of Israel hardens its heart.

12:37  But though He had done so many miracles before them, yet they believed not on Him- the miracles He had performed were signs, illustrating doctrine, and therefore giving light as to His person.  As always in the gospels, (except in John 5:24, where faith is in relation to the Father), the pronoun John uses is “eis”, meaning unto.  His person held no attraction for them and they were not prepared to move to associate themselves with Him.

12:38  That the saying of Esaias the prophet might be fulfilled which he spake- the prophecy which is now quoted shows that the national rejection of Christ was wholly expected, so that their unbelief fulfilled the prophecy.  Lord, who hath believed our report?- the question is in the form that expects the answer, “Not many”.  The word Lord is from the Septuagint version, and was perhaps added to explain the “we”.  Isaiah was speaking for the Lord, and so the prophet’s testimony was God’s.  This makes the unbelief of the nation all the more inexcusable.  The prophet is writing as if the earthly ministry of Christ was over, and an assessment of its impact can be made.  This makes the quotation particularly apt for this point in John’s gospel, where the Lord is about to leave the nation, His mission to them over for the time being.  By describing his prophecy as a report, something heard to be passed on, Isaiah indicates that his prophecy is from God Himself, again justifying the insertion of the word Lord.  And to whom hath the arm of the Lord been revealed?- how few there are who have seen in Christ the power of God in action!  Note the connection with the “many miracles” of verse 37.

12:39  Therefore they could not believe, because that Esaias said again- this inability to believe was a direct result of not believing the report that Christ gave of God.  There was nothing else for God to bring forward to induce their faith.  In the face of this fact, they could not believe, since, having rejected God’s ultimate revelation to them, there was nothing further to believe.  That individuals had lost the capacity to believe is not the sense, for in the next verse we find Jews believing, and Paul and other Jews came to faith, a fact which the apostle uses in Romans 11:1,5.  The point is that a far as God having dealings with the nation as a whole was concerned, He had nothing more to say for them to believe.  Compare Isaiah 5:4, “What could have been done more to my vineyard, that I have not done in it?”

12:40  He hath blinded their eyes, and hardened their heart; that they should not see with their eyes, nor understand with their heart, and be converted, and I should heal them- This passage is quoted in other parts of the New Testament.  In Matthew’s equivalent to John’s transitional passage, the emphasis is on refusing to see and hear, for the nation had rejected the miracles they could see, and the teaching they could hear, see Matthew 13:10-17.  In Matthew, the judgement on their national unbelief took the form of the Lord beginning to speak in parables, thus hiding the truth from those who were not interested.  In Acts 28:25-29, just two or three years before the rejection of the nation at the destruction of Jerusalem in AD 70, the apostle quotes Isaiah 6 to the Jewish leaders that came to him in such a way as to emphasise the closing of their eyes and ears to the truth, for they had had further opportunity to receive it.  See the parable of the fig tree in the vineyard, Luke 13:6-9.  In this place, however, the words are more severe, and the Lord is said to close their eyes and harden their heart, for the governmental anger of God was towards them because of the rejection of His Son.  Compare the similar idea in Matthew 23 where, in the parable, when the beloved Son was rejected and killed, God sent His army to destroy their city.  So the Roman army becomes God’s army to destroy Jerusalem because of their rejection of His Son.

12:41  These things said Esaias, when he saw His glory, and spake of Him- Isaiah saw the glory of the Lord as one who would sit in His Millenial temple as a king-priest, and the whole earth would be full of His glory, Isaiah 6:1-1-3.  By rejecting Christ, the nation was rejecting their King.  Isaiah also spake of Him, not only as a result of seeing the vision of chapter 6, but also because of what he foresaw in chapter 53 of his book with regard to the person of the Messiah.  In Isaiah 6 He is glorified, in chapter 53 He is rejected, and Isaiah spoke of both things.  By refusing Christ’s testimony, they became blind to Christ’s glory.  If they had seen his glory, they would have confessed their sins, as Isaiah had done. 

(c) Verses 42-50 The individuals in the nation of Israel challenged.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL OF JOHN CHAPTER 12, VERSES 42-50

12:42  Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him; but because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:

 12:43  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God.

 12:44  Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me.

 12:45  And he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me.

 12:46  I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness.

 12:47  And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world.

 12:48  He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not my words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day.

 12:49  For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak.

 12:50  And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak. 

STRUCTURE OF SECTION (c )

Verses 42-46 Challenge to those who hesitate.
Verses 47-50 Challenge to those who believe not.

Verses 42-46        Challenge to those who hesitate.

12:42  Nevertheless among the chief rulers also many believed on Him- this shows that national blindness as described in previous verses does not prevent individual members of the nation from believing in Christ.  But because of the Pharisees they did not confess Him, lest they should be put out of the synagogue:- the sanctions imposed on those who believed in Christ were severe.  To be put out of the synagogue meant to be cut off from the economic, social and religious life of Israel.  Their reluctance to confess Christ must be seen in this light, and does not necessarily indicate that their faith was not genuine.  Nicodemus and Joseph of Arimathea were of this sort, and yet in the end came out openly, so it is to be hoped that the men of this verse did the same.  The fact that these people are to an extent distinguished from the Pharisees may indicate that not all of them were of this party.  If some were Sadduccees, then their professed faith is all the more remarkable.

12:43  For they loved the praise of men more than the praise of God- the fear of man bringeth a snare, Proverbs 29:25.  John does not give as the reason that their faith was not genuine.  Accustomed to public adulation, see Matthew 6:2; 23:5-7, they had not learnt the lesson of self-abasement.

12:44  Jesus cried and said, He that believeth on Me, believeth not on Me, but on Him that sent Me- the individual is addressed here, as opposed to the nation in verses 34-41.  The fact that Jesus cried shows His strong feeling about the matter, and his desire that men realise the implications of believing in Him.  If they did, they would openly confess him.  To believe on Christ is to believe on the Father who sent Him, for they are one in essence and nature.

12:45  And he that seeth Me seeth Him that sent Me- Isaiah’s experience is open to any who will look in faith to Christ.  To see Him is to see the Father, 14:9.  The special reference is to the miracles He performed, which unfolded who He was.  This statement is not only an encouragement to faith, but also a warning against unbelief, for to reject Christ is to reject the God of Israel.

12:46  I am come a light into the world, that whosoever believeth on Me should not abide in darkness- in verse 35 the warning was to the nation, that if they rejected Him, then the darkness of God’s rejection of them as a nation would overtake them.  Here the promise is to the individual, that the national darkness can be escaped through faith in Christ personally.  Note the reference to the world, reinforcing John’s theme throughout his gospel that Christ is not just for Israel.

Verses 47-50 Challenge to those who believe not.

12:47  And if any man hear My words, and believe not, I judge him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world- a further encouragement to faith, for the previous words about rejecting Him and abiding in darkness might have sounded severe, as if there was no hope.  There is space given to men to hear Christ and believe on Him, before the day of judgement comes.  If in verse 45 it was a question of seeing, now it is a question of hearing, the two actions that Israel sinned about, for they closed their eyes and shut their ears, and therefore their hearts refused Christ. 

12:48  He that rejecteth Me, and receiveth not My words, hath one that judgeth him: the word that I have spoken, the same shall judge him in the last day- just as not to respond to Christ’s miracles was not to see who He really was, so not to respond to Christ’s words was not to understand who He was.  These words are spoken lest any should misunderstand the words, “I judge Him not: for I came not to judge the world, but to save the world”, of verse 47.  There are consequences of not believing, but the carrying of them out awaits the day of judgement.  Note that the one who judges is the word He spoke.  So what Christ said and what He is are one, as John 8:25 had already indicated.  The word spoken when Christ was here on earth will still have validity in the judgement day, some 3000 years later.

12:49  For I have not spoken of Myself; but the Father which sent Me, He gave Me a commandment, what I should say, and what I should speak- this statement highlights the extreme seriousness of not believing the words of Christ, for they are words He spoke in full harmony with His Father’s commandment to Him.  As one who became subject to His Father when He became man, perfect obedience marked Him, and this should give us confidence to believe His words, for they the Father’s words through him.  The word “say” emphasises the meaning and substance of the words.  “speak” emphasises the words that convey the utterance.  So not only were the thoughts given to Him by the Father, as Divine Persons communed together, but the right words to express those thoughts also.  Compare the process by which the Spirit moved men to write the inspired scriptures, 1 Corinthians 2:13.

12:50  And I know that His commandment is life everlasting: whatsoever I speak therefore, even as the Father said unto Me, so I speak-  Christ was fully aware that what the Father communicated to Him were words that would impart eternal life to those who believed them, hence His care in speaking to the world those things which He had heard from the Father.  He did this “even as” the Father said unto Him so the transmission was accurate and therefore is to be relied upon.  On the other hand, to reject these words is a serious matter, for Divine persons have spoken.  How gracious of Christ to leave the nation whilst still offering them as individuals the great gift of eternal life.

THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS- THE GOSPEL DEFENDED

The Epistle to the Galatians was written by the apostle Paul to counteract a very dangerous error.  There were those in his day who did not realise that the Law of Moses as a rule of life has been set aside by the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ.  The Scripture says clearly, “Christ is the end of the law for righteousness to every one that believeth”, Romans 10:4.  In other words, by His coming, the Lord Jesus has introduced those who believe to a new way of life.  Not one dominated by a hopeless attempt to please God by works of merit, but rather, a life that is lived in association with Christ and His death, burial and resurrection.  The Spirit of God empowers those who are true believers to live a life which is well-pleasing to God their Father.  He does this by enabling them to live like Christ.  Such believers do not have the Law of Moses set before them as their rule, but rather, the example of Christ.  The apostle declares that those who live like this “fulfil the law of Christ”, Galatians 6:2.  No longer are they in bondage to the law, but they know the  liberty of  the Spirit, enabling them, in their measure, to imitate Christ.

This is not to say that the Law of God through Moses is no longer valid, for nine out of the ten commandments are binding on believers still, and they are able to fulfill the righteousness of the Law as they  walk  by the Spirit, Romans 8:4.  It does mean, however, that no longer is God making the keeping of His law the way of gaining blessing.  The blessings that God gives in abundance to those who believe are based solely upon the merits and sacrifice of Christ, and not at all on the efforts of men.

If this idea is strange to you, may we suggest you first read the posting entitled “How can we get right with God?” which you will find under “Pages” on the right of the screen.

To access the notes on the epistle, pleae click on the appropriate chapter in the menu bar on the right hand side of the page.

GALATIANS CHAPTER 3

We now come to that section of the epistle where the apostle brings forward seven reasons why grace is superior to law.  It extends from Galatians 3:1-5:26.  The seven reasons are presented in the form of contrasts between law and grace as follows:

1. 3:1-14 Grace results in blessing, whereas the law brings a curse.
2. 3:15-29 Grace makes us heirs, law makes us transgressors.
3. 4:1-10 Grace makes us sons, law is for infants.
4. 4:11-18 Grace makes the apostle like an angel, law makes him like an enemy.
5. 4:19-31 Grace makes us sons of free woman, the law, sons of slave woman.
6. 5:1-15 Grace helps us progress, the law only hinders.
7. 5:16-26 Grace results in the fruit of Spirit, the law results in works of flesh.

By means of these reasons, the apostle deals with the errors of the three parties of law-teachers that opposed the gospel.  These were:-
 Unbelieving Jews who taught that men should reject Christ and remain with the law of Moses.  They are answered by the first five verses of the epistle.
 False brethren who taught that Gentiles should be put under law before they believed the gospel, Acts 15:1.  These are answered by the remainder of chapter 1 and the whole of chapter two.
 Believers who were formerly of the Pharisees, who taught that believers should be circumcised and keep the law of Moses, Acts 15:5.  These are answered by chapters three to five inclusive.

Each of these variations represents an attack on both the sufficiency of the work of Christ, and the grace of God.  Just as the apostle gave no ground to Peter in chapter 1:11-21, so he gives no ground to these others.  We should remember in this connection the words of Jude, telling us that the faith, (the body of Christian doctrine), has been delivered to the saints so that they contend for it.  This may be done by preaching and teaching, or by conduct, as the truth is expressed in our lives.

REASON ONE           GALATIANS 3:1-14   
GRACE BRINGS BLESSING, LAW BRINGS CURSING

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 1 TO 14

3:1  O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you, that ye should not obey the truth, before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been evidently set forth, crucified among you?

3:2  This only would I learn of you, Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

3:3  Are ye so foolish? having begun in the Spirit, are ye now made perfect by the flesh?

3:4  Have ye suffered so many things in vain? if it be yet in vain.

3:5  He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?

3:6  Even as Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness.

3:7  Know ye therefore that they which are of faith, the same are the children of Abraham.

3:8  And the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, In thee shall all nations be blessed.

3:9  So then they which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham.

3:10  For as many as are of the works of the law are under the curse: for it is written, Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things which are written in the book of the law to do them.

3:11  But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God, it is evident: for, The just shall live by faith.

3:12  And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them.

3:13  Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us: for it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree:

3:14  That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ; that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith.

STRUCTURE OF THE SECTION

(a) Verse 1 Christ crucified
(b) Verses 2-5 The Spirit received.
(c) Verses 6-9 Abraham blessed.
(d) Verses 10-12 Law-breaker cursed.
(e) Verse 13 Christ made a curse.
(f) Verse 14 Gentiles blessed.

(a)    3:1    Christ crucified

3:1    O foolish Galatians, who hath bewitched you- The apostle has not referred to the Galatians since 1:11, after he has marvelled that they had moved away from grace.  In that chapter he pronounced a curse on those who were leading them astray with another gospel which mixed law and grace.  Now he turns to the Galatians themselves, and condemns their foolishness for listening to the false teachers.  They should have proved all things, and only held fast that which is good, 1 Thessalonians 5:21.  Christ has cancelled the wisdom of this world, whether it be Jewish or Gentilish in origin, and He is made unto us wisdom, 1 Corinthians 1:30, which is communicated to us by the Spirit of God, 1 Corinthians 2.  To turn from this is, by definition, folly, hence his description of them.  The word bewitch reminds us that the flesh is fascinated by error, and only the teaching of the Spirit can counteract this.  That ye should not obey the truth- gospel truth is presented to men for the obedience of faith, Romans 1:5; 16:26, and since the just shall live by faith, (that is, shall live as Christians on the same principle as they became Christians), then obedience should mark the believer at all times.  Note that the apostle will not have it suggested that the Christian life is lawless, which is part of what the law-teachers would be saying.  Before whose eyes Jesus Christ hath been set forth, crucified, among you?- Superstitious people around them would believe in “The evil eye”, the malign influence of evil spirits, to counteract which they would fix lucky charms to the walls of their houses.  Believers do not fear the evil eye, however, for they know the power of evil was broken at the Cross.  The setting forth of Christ crucified before their minds was enough to shield them from evil.  Not in the form of an image or mascot, however, but in the preaching of the gospel.  The apostle may also be referring to the marks on his body which he received because of allegiance to Christ crucified, see 6:17.  The apostle borrows a word from civic life to convey the thought behind the word “set forth”.  When a notable criminal was executed, the magistrate who dealt with the case would go to the marketplace and announce the fact publicly.  This is what the apostle had done when he went to Galatia; announced, not the death of a criminal, but the crucifixion of Christ between two criminals, for He was numbered with the transgressors, Isaiah 53:12; Mark 15:28.  Note that it is the crucifixion of Christ that is emphasised here, for the following reason.  Our old man was crucified with Christ, so that what marked us before we were saved is gone as far as God is concerned.  The apostle had used this truth in 2:20 to show that he, a man zealous for the law in former days, is crucified with Christ, and his life under the law is ended.  Here there is a similar thought, but not as with the apostle the ending of his past as a Jew under the law, but the cancelling of the flesh, which proudly thinks that it can keep the law.
We might list some reasons why it was necessary for Christ to die by crucifixion:
1. It shows the length to which Christ will go in love to His Father, being prepared to suffer the excruciating pain of crucifixion.
2. It shows the length the Father will go in love to the world, for He spared not His own Son the horrors of Calvary.
3. It identifies Him as the sacrifice for sin, for the sin-offering of old was burned in the outside place, and so Christ was crucified outside the city walls of Jerusalem.
4. Shows the extreme hatred of man towards Him, that they executed Him in such a way.
5. Christ was placed in a position of weakness, so that He might defeat evil at that time.  If He defeats evil when weak, evil will never succeed now that He is strong in resurrection.  See 2 Corinthians 13:4.
6. He was crucified in a public way, to be like the brazen serpent in the wilderness, see Numbers 21:4-9; John 3:14,15.

(b)    3:2-5    The Spirit received.

3:2    This only would I learn of you- The answer to this question will settle the matter.  It is a question of several parts.  Having called them foolish because they had listened to the wisdom of the world, he now implies that they had enough Spirit-taught truth to answer his question.  Each part of this question will take them progressively through their Christian experience, and show that God acted consistently at every stage.  He begins with their conversion, then moves on to their desire to make progress in their new-found life in Christ.  Next he refers to the persecution they suffered as a result of these things, then moves into the present, (“ministereth…worketh”- present tense), and the ministry of God by the Spirit they currently knew.  Received ye the Spirit by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?- The word “by” in both parts of the sentence is “ek”, meaning “on the principle of”.  The references to the Spirit here after the mention of Christ crucified in verse 1 remind us that not until our old man has been crucified with Christ can the Spirit take up residence within us.  He is holy and righteous, and cannot dwell where there are conditions contrary to His nature.  The holy anointing oil, (a figure of the Spirit of God, see Zechariah 4:1-6), was not to be poured on man’s (literally rendered, Adam’s) flesh, Exodus 30:32.  The incident of the Brazen Serpent, (an illustration of the work of Calvary, John 3:14), was followed by the Springing Well, in Numbers 21:4-18.  The benefits of the crucifixion of Christ are received by faith, and on that same principle God gives the Spirit.  This settles the question as to whether every believer has the Spirit, and on what condition.  The apostle is very clear in Romans 8:9- “Now if any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His”.  This would not be a valid test if some believers did not have the Spirit.

3;3    Are ye so foolish?  Having begun in the Spirit are ye now made perfect by the flesh?- To receive the Spirit at the moment of initial faith in Christ is to be henceforth reckoned by God to be “in the Spirit”, Romans 8:9.  It is our responsibility to work this out in practice, so that we are not only “in the Spirit” as to standing, but also walk after the Spirit, following His leading.  By doing this we shall perfect ourselves; that is, bring ourselves progressively into conformity with the perfect standing that God reckons us to have.  But going over to law for sanctification necessarily involves the effort of the flesh, for the law does not extend its influence beyond death, and believers are risen with Christ.  We are dead to the law by the body of Christ, for the process of death, burial and resurrection which the body of Christ experienced is our process too, for we are identified with Him, see Romans 7:1-6.  The path to perfection, or full maturity, is not by way of law-keeping, but rather by the reproduction of Christ in our hearts and lives by the power of the Spirit.

3:4    Have ye suffered so many things in vain?-  Those who turned to Christ were liable to be persecuted by the Jews, as the Lord Himself had warned when He was here- “But before all these, they shall lay their hands on you, and persecute you…and ye shall be betrayed…and ye shall be hated of all men for My name’s sake”, Luke 21:12,16,17.  So convinced were the Jews that He was an impostor, that they took every opportunity to show their hostility to Him.  Now that He was gone from their midst, they turned their attention to those who believed in His name.  The light that Christ brought into the world exposes the dark deeds of men, and so they hate the light, John 3:19-21.  Believers are to shine as lights in the world, Philippians 2:15, and when they do this they attract the same hostility as Christ did from those who hate the light.  “If they persecuted Me, they will also persecute you”, John 15:20.  King Saul not only threw his javelin at David, but at Jonathan also, when he realised he had sided with David, 1 Samuel 18:10,11; 19:9,10; 20:32,33.  It is not a vain thing to suffer in this way, for it bears testimony to the reality of salvation, which in turn is a token to the adversaries of the gospel that they are on the way to perdition, Philippians 1:28.  This coupled with the fact that suffering is part of God’s process of refining our faith, and will result in praise for Him and His Son in a day to come, 1 Peter 1:7, shows that suffering for Christ is not a vain or pointless thing.  If it be yet in vain- the Galatians would have suffered in vain if they reverted to Judaism, for they could have started off with the law, and avoided the trouble which receiving the grace of Christ brings.  By continuing with grace, they could show that they were genuine, and their former sufferings would be to purpose and gain.

3:5    He therefore that ministereth to you the Spirit, and worketh miracles among you, doeth he it by the works of the law, or by the hearing of faith?- The apostle has already made it clear in verse 2 that the Spirit is received initially when a person believes.  Subsequently, the “Supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ”, Philippians 1:19, is made when the need arises, the supply being, not the Spirit Himself, but the power He gives to the believer to react to circumstances in the same way as Christ did.  Paul, confined to prison, had heard that there were those who preached so as to add affliction to his bonds.  Lest he react to this situation in a way that is not Christ-like, he requested the Philippians to pray that a further supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ might be given him, to enable him to respond to circumstances as Christ did.  So also in Ephesians 1:17, where the apostle prays that the believers, (whom he has already said have received the Spirit when they believed, verse 13), may be granted the Spirit of wisdom and understanding.  In other words, that the Spirit may be known in His wisdom-imparting role.  Those who are already believers, then, may have Spirit ministered unto them further in this way. And worketh miracles among you- was it the law-teachers who were able to work miracles, or those who came with the gospel of God’s grace?  The answer is, of course, the latter, and affords proof from the present experience of the Galatians that God was at work on the principle of faith, not works.  The law was confirmed by the judgement of law-breakers, whereas grace is confirmed by miracles and wonders and signs, Hebrews 2:2-4.  So when the apostle asks the question, “On what principle does God minister further help by the Spirit, and also give the power for miracles to be done by the power of the Spirit?”  The answer can only be, “On the same principle as He gave the Spirit to them initially, even on the principle of faith”.

(c)    3:6-9    Abraham blessed.

3:6    Even as “Abraham believed God, and it was accounted to him for righteousness”- This is the first of seven quotations the apostle makes in this chapter.  Abraham, of course, lived long before the law was given, as the apostle will state in verse 17, and therefore if he was blessed of God, and became the father of those who believe, he did so, not through law-works, but through faith.  The fact that God responded to Abraham’s faith by accounting him righteous, shows that faith is what God is looking for, not works.  See Romans 4:1-5.

3:7    Know ye therefore- the apostle wants the Galatians to take in the implications of what happened to Abraham, for it had relevance to them.  They would get to know the truth, and so be delivered from their foolishness.  That they which are of faith, the same are the children (sons) of Abraham- at around the age of 13, a Jewish boy went through a ceremony which made him a “Son of the Law”, and he committed himself to keep the Law.  In effect, this is what the law-teachers wanted the Gentile Galatians to do.  The amazing truth, however, is that Gentiles may become the sons of Abraham, in a spiritual sense.  God had said to Abraham that he would become the father of many nations, Genesis 17:5, and this has come to pass, for, all believers, whether Jews or from the nations, take character from Abraham the man of faith, and sonship involves the sharing of character. 

3:8    And the Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith- Known unto God are all His works from the beginning of the world, Acts 15:18.  Preached before the gospel unto Abraham- since the gospel concerns God’s Son, then to announce blessing through the One who would come through Abraham was to preach the gospel.  Compare the preaching of good tidings about Canaan to the Israelites, in Hebrews 4:2.  Peter, in Acts 3:25, quotes from Genesis 22:18, “In thy seed shall all the kindreds of the earth be blessed”, for he is emphasising that the first kindred to which Christ was sent was that of Israel, see verse 26.  Here, however, the quotation is from Genesis 12:3- Saying, “In thee shall all nations be blessed”- for Abraham would be a blessing to all nations as he gave to them the example of faith.  Other ways he would be a blessing are as follows:-
 The worship of the True God, in the midst of universal idolatry. 
 The tabernacle system of sacrifices, foreshadowing Calvary.
 The prophets and their writings.
 Christ Himself.
 The preaching of the apostles and their writings.

3:9    So then- in fulfilment of the prophecy of Scripture just quoted.  They which be of faith are blessed with faithful Abraham- note the way the word faithful is used here, meaning full of faith.  Every true man of faith from amongst the nations of the earth who takes his stand alongside Abraham as he believes God, is blessed like Abraham was blessed.  The Gentile does not have to come via the law.

(d)    3:10-12        Law-breaker cursed

3:10    For as many as are of the works of the law- who take their stand, so to speak, alongside of Moses rather than Abraham.  Are under the curse- far from knowing the blessing Abraham knew, they know the opposite.  In verse 8 there was glad news, now we have bad news.  For it is written, “Cursed is every one that continueth not in all things that are written in the book of the law to do them”- This is the last curse that was to be recited from Mount Ebal when the children of Israel reached the land of Israel, Deuteronomy 27:13, Joshua 8:30-35. 

Note that nothing less than perfection is demanded here-

Every one All the people.
Continueth not All the time.
In all things All the commands.
To do them All the heart.

              
To do them- this is an unusual phrase, and is found again in Hebrews 10:7,9, “I come to do Thy will O God”.  The idea is not simply carrying out God’s will, but doing so with the utmost devotion.  Wanting to do that will, not just complying out of a sense of duty.

3;11    But that no man is justified by the law in the sight of God is evident- Only those who perfectly carry out the will of God as expressed in the Law would ever be justified that way.  This rules everyone out.  The only One who kept the law perfectly, was the only One who did not need to be justified.  For, “The just shall live by faith”- the principle by which a believer lives is the principle of faith.  It follows, therefore, that the principle upon which his life was received in the first place was faith also.  Note that the apostle does not quote what we might have expected, namely “In thy sight shall no flesh living be justified, Psalm 143:2, even though his words “in the sight of God” might have led him to do so.  He is not so much concerned with the impossibility of keeping the Law to God’s satisfaction, but with the principle involved in keeping the law, which is contrary to the principle of faith.  Law-keeping depends on our efforts, whereas faith realises our efforts can never be enough, given that we are marked by failure, and depends on the work of God. 

3:12    And the law is not of faith: but, The man that doeth them shall live in them- faith rests, law-keeping involves constant working- the two are incompatible.  To live “in” the works of law, means to live in virtue of the merit gained by doing them.  The contrast is between living by faith in God, and living by supposed merit gained by ourselves. 

(d)    3:12,13        Christ made a curse

3:13    Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law- verse 10 has already stated that those who seek to please God by law-keeping are under His curse because of their failure to fully keep the law.  Man is under obligation to God for his failure, yet has no means of discharging his debt of responsibility.  This is why the apostle calls the principles of the law “beggarly elements”, 4:9, for they bring to poverty and bondage. The answer to man’s bankrupt state as well as his state of bondage because of his failure to keep the law, is the redeeming work of Christ.  In Old Testament times, a man who was hopelessly in debt could be rescued by a near-kinsman who had both the wealth and the willingness to redeem.  Also, if a man was sold to be a slave, he could be rescued by his kinsman redeemer.  By saying “us” the apostle first of all means believers who before had been Jews under the law; but in a secondary sense, Gentile believers are redeemed from the curse in the sense that they shall never know it in the future.  Note that we are redeemed when we exercise initial faith in Christ, whereas the being made a curse happened at Calvary.  In other words, we are redeemed at conversion, Christ was made a curse at Calvary.   Being made a curse for us- instead of simply being cursed of God for our law-breaking, the Lord Jesus was made that curse.  In other words, He is reckoned by God to be that which men are when cursed of God.   We may learn something of the meaning of this when we remember that there were four main consequences threatened if Israel failed to keep the law, as detailed in Deuteronomy 28. 
 There was a financial penalty, their crops would fail.  The Lord Jesus became poor at the cross, for He was cut off and had nothing, Daniel 9:26, margin, 2 Corinthians 8:9.
 There was the physical curse, with disease and illness brought upon them.  The Lord Jesus suffered physically as no other has done, as He endured the agonies of the cross.
 There was governmental judgement, with no answer from heaven, which would be as brass to them.  We learn from Psalm 22 that Christ was not answered when He cried to God at Calvary, and far from rescuing Him, God abandoned Him. 
 There was the political judgement, and Israel would be handed over to their enemies.  So Christ was delivered to the Gentiles, and suffered a Gentile form of execution.
Note He had to be made a curse, for in no way did He bring ill upon the people.  In fact, Peter says of Him, “God sent Him to bless you”, Acts 3:26.  For it is written, Cursed is every one that hangeth on a tree”- The reason for this curse in the case of an Israelite hanged on a tree, was that his body defiled the land of Israel.  In this case, the cursed man brought disgrace on the people as his sin was recompensed by his death.  Because of this he was accursed of God.  In the case of Christ, however, it is not that His hanging on a tree brought a curse to us- the reverse is the case, for he absorbed the consequences of our law-breaking in Himself, so that only blessing results.  So the quotation is not prompted by the words “made a curse”, but rather, by the expression “curse of the law” found in verse 13.  God has transformed an act which normally brought disgrace on Israel, into an act which brought blessing within their reach.  He is a curse for us, not to us.  Note that this quotation begins in exactly the same way as the one in verse 10, “Cursed is every one”.  By being made a curse, the Lord Jesus was reckoned by God to represent all that our law-breaking deserved, and was treated accordingly. 

(f)    3:14    Gentiles blessed

3:14    That the blessing of Abraham might come on the Gentiles through Jesus Christ- it is only through Christ that Gentiles may have a claim on the blessing that Abraham knew.  The way it happens is described in subsequent verses, where the apostle explains that we are linked to Christ so closely, that we can be described as Abraham’s seed, just as He can be so described.  Two things must happen before the Gentiles can be blessed in this way.  First, it must become evident that Israel, with all their advantages, cannot keep the law, verses 11,12, and second, that there is one who can deal with the curse that a broken law brings, verse 13.  These two matters now being settled, the obstacle to the blessing of the Gentiles is removed.  That we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith- the promise of the Spirit is the promised Spirit- it is the Spirit that is received, not just the promise.  Compare Luke 24:49; Acts 1:4; 2:33.  The selection of the gift of the Spirit is significant, since His is the power by which the Christian life is lived, not the energy of the flesh which the law used, Romans 8:3.  Note the double use of the word “that”, indicating two distinct results of Christ’s death.  First result, the blessing of Abraham, which was imputed righteousness; second result, the gift of the Spirit, which Abraham perhaps knew nothing of. 

REASON TWO    3:15-29
GRACE MAKES US HEIRS, LAW MAKES US TRANSGRESSORS

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 3, VERSES 15-29

3:15  Brethren, I speak after the manner of men; Though it be but a man’s covenant, yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, or addeth thereto.

3:16  Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made. He saith not, And to seeds, as of many; but as of one, And to thy seed, which is Christ.

3:17  And this I say, that the covenant, that was confirmed before of God in Christ, the law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect.

3:18  For if the inheritance be of the law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise.

3:19  Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.

3:20  Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one.

3:21  Is the law then against the promises of God? God forbid: for if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law.

3:22  But the scripture hath concluded all under sin, that the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe.

3:23  But before faith came, we were kept under the law, shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed.

3:24  Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith.

3:25  But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster.

3:26  For ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus.

3:27  For as many of you as have been baptized into Christ have put on Christ.

3:28  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither bond nor free, there is neither male nor female: for ye are all one in Christ Jesus.

3:29  And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise. 

STRUCTURE OF THE SECTION

(a) Verses 15-18 The promise to the Seed.
(b) Verses 19-25 The purpose of the Law.
(c) Verses 26-29 The position of the believer.

(a)    3:15-18        The promise to the Seed

Verse 16 The promise is confined.
Verse 17 The promise is confirmed.
Verses 17 and 18 The promise is constant.

3:15    Brethren, I speak after the manner of men- the apostle argues from the case of a human situation, to one in which God was involved.  Though it be but a man’s covenant- even though a covenant may only be between mere mortals.  Yet if it be confirmed, no man disannulleth, nor addeth thereto- once a matter is agreed, then no cancelling or adding is considered proper.

The promise confined
3:16    Now to Abraham and his seed were the promises made- the literal order of the words is “Now to Abraham were the promises made, and to his seed”; this serves to distinguish the promises made to Abraham personally, and those made to his seed.  Having established that a man-to-man covenant is stable, the apostle now brings in a God-to-man covenant, the one made with Abraham, and repeated subsequently.  The word “made” means spoken, and now we learn the words that were spoken.  He saith not “And to seeds”, as of many- there are various groups and individuals that are called Abraham’s seed, and they are:-
 Isaac, “In Isaac shall thy seed be called”, Genesis 21:12. 
 Ishmael, “He is thy seed”, Genesis 21:13.
 Natural descendants of Abraham, “I know that ye are Abraham’s seed”, John 8:37.
 Christ, “And to thy seed, which is Christ, Galatians 3:16.
 Spiritual sons of Abraham, “And if ye be Christ’s, then are ye Abraham’s seed”, Galatians 3:29.

The context, and statements made in the New Testament, must decide who is in view in each case.  But as of one, “And to thy seed”, which is Christ- The apostle makes clear here that God’s promise to Abraham’s seed was not to be shared.  Only the one God had in mind as He promised would receive the blessing.  Whether Abraham realised who was being spoken of is not possible to determine, except that we know that he rejoiced to see Christ’s day, John 8:56, and so may have been given insights into this matter, especially as he was the “Friend of God”, James 2:23, and God was willing on another occasion to inform him of His intentions, Genesis 18:17.  The apostle is making clear that the promise of blessing was not made to any other than Christ, and He shares the blessing not with natural children of Abraham who are wedded to the law, for they are of their father the Devil, John 8:44, but with those that He now calls His own, John 13:1, “If ye be Christ’s”, verse 29.  “His own”, (meaning the nation of Israel), received Him not, John 1:11.  It is important to see that the apostle is establishing a principle with regard to a specific promise to Abraham.  He will then apply that principle to believers now, but without implying that all that God promised to Abraham becomes the believer’s.  For God promised the land of Canaan to Abraham- he does not promise that to believers of this age.

The promise confirmed
3:17    And this I say, that the covenant, which was confirmed before of God in Christ- This reminds us of the way in which the covenant made to Abraham was confirmed by God.  The covenant victims were slain, and the carcases of the animals divided.  Usually, after this, the parties entering into the covenant would walk between the pieces of the sacrifices, indicating that the covenant had been ratified in the death of the sacrifices, and also that if either party defaulted, then they deserved to be cut in pieces as those sacrificial victims had been.  On this occasion, however, there was a difference, for God caused a deep sleep to fall upon Abraham, Genesis 15:12.  Instead of Abraham walking between the pieces, it was a burning lamp that passed between them.  Now Isaiah looks on to the day when the covenant with Abraham will be fulfilled, and speaks of salvation going forth from Jerusalem as a “burning lamp”, Isaiah 62:1.  But as is the case on several occasions in the Old Testament, the word for salvation is Yeheshua, the equivalent to Jesus.  He it is then that guarantees the covenant, so we can see why the apostle states that the covenant is confirmed in Christ. 

The promise constant
The law, which was four hundred and thirty years after, cannot disannul, that it should make the promise of none effect- if a covenant between men is not alterable, how much more so a covenant between God and men.  So nothing that was said by God at the giving of the law can cancel what He had previously said to Abraham, the father of the nation that was given the law.  The four hundred and thirty years extends from the time of the original promise to Abraham in Genesis 12:7, BC 1921, and the giving of the law, in BC 1491.  We are not told the precise date when God actually spoke the words of Genesis 13:15 quoted in verse 16 of this chapter.  This shows the importance of the literal order of the words in verse 16, which serve to allow for the fact that the promise to Abraham and the promise to the seed in the words of Galatians 3:16, were at different times.  The dates actually given in the Scriptures are precise- we should beware of thinking of them as rough approximations. 

3:18    For if the inheritance be of law, it is no more of promise: but God gave it to Abraham by promise- it is important to notice the word for “gave”.  It contains within it the idea of grace, so God gave the promise to Abraham on the basis of His grace.  Clearly, the promise cannot be of law and promise at the same time.  So of this promise we may say:-
 It is given by God in grace, verse 18.     
 It is received by faith, verse 14.
 It cannot be cancelled by the law, verse 17. 
 It is available even to Gentiles, verse 29.

(b)    3:19-25        The purpose of the Law

Verse 17 Not to cancel
Verse 19 To condemn.
Verse 21 Not to compete.
Verse 23 To confine.
Verse 24 To control.

Law is given to condemn
3:19    Wherefore then serveth the law?- what purpose was served by giving the law to Israel, when the promise to Abraham was already confirmed?- There is a double answer to this question.  First: It was added because of transgressions- that is, literally, to create transgressions, “That sin might take on the character of transgression, and with consciousness of sins aroused, the desire for redemption would be intensified”, Grimme.  The law was not added to the promise, (for that is ruled out in verse 15), but was added to God’s ways of dealing with men.  The second reason: Till the seed should come to whom the promise was made- the law was an interim measure, regulating and holding the people in check, until such times as Christ the seed should come in grace.  And it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator- the law was given by the disposition of angels, as Stephen said, Acts 7:53.  Paul is emphasising here that the law was not an arrangement between God and men directly, but angelic agents and a human agent, Moses, interposed.  The arrangement of the law was not a personal and direct one, such as Abraham knew.

3:20    Now a mediator is not a mediator of one, but God is one- As just noticed, the law involved several parties; God, angels, Moses, and the people of Israel.  The very fact that there was a mediator indicates this.  With God’s arrangement with Abraham, however, one party was asleep, and the covenant was confirmed not by him passing through the pieces, but the burning lamp, a figure of the Messiah, doing so.  But Messiah is equal with God, so the Godhead alone is responsible for the fulfilment of the promise contained in the covenant.  The unity of the Godhead is the guarantee of the fulfilment, just as the unity of the Godhead is the guarantee of the security of the believer, John 10:27-30.  The covenant of the law depended on man’s effort, whereas the covenant to Abraham depended on God’s oneness.

Law is not given to compete
3:21    Is the law then against the promises of God?- Is there a competition between the covenants, both of which were brought in by God? God forbid- that cannot be the case, for God does not conflict with Himself.  For if there had been a law given which could have given life, verily righteousness should have been by the law- the purpose of the giving of the law was not to enable man to be righteous, but rather to show up the fact that he was unrighteous.  Abraham believed God and was accounted righteous, and that is the abiding principle. 

3:22    But the scripture hath concluded all under sin- this is a similar statement to that in Romans 3:19- “Whatsoever things the law saith, it saith to them that are under the law, that every mouth may be stopped, and all the world may become guilty before God”.  The scripture is the whole of the Old Testament considered as giving a united testimony.  That the promise by faith of Jesus Christ might be given to them that believe- when the sinner realises that his only hope is faith in Christ, not faith in his own efforts through works of law, then when faith is exercised, the promise becomes good to him.  So far from being against the promises of God, the law has a part to play in the conviction of the sinner.

Law is given to confine
3:23    But before faith came- before faith in an incarnate, crucified and risen Christ was a possibility, or in other words, in Old Testament times.  We were kept under the law- notice the way in which the apostle uses “we” and “ye” in these verses.  By “we” he means “We who are Jews by birth”, and by “ye”, he means “You who are Gentiles by birth”.  The nation of Israel was protected and guarded by the law from the wild excesses of the nations all around them.  This is why they had to be so ruthless in their dealings with the nations already in the land of Canaan when they arrived under Joshua.  The iniquity of the Amorites had become full, and the inhabitants of the land were not fit to live.  Shut up unto the faith which should afterwards be revealed- Israel was not only protected from things around, but also enclosed in view of things to come, the opportunity of faith in a manifested Christ.  The were in a room with only one exit, that marked “faith in Christ”.  When Christ was revealed, so faith in Him was revealed as God’s way of blessing.  The law and the prophets prophesied until John, and he exhorted the people that “They should believe on Him who should come after him, that is on Christ Jesus”, Acts 19:4.  The “should afterwards be” does not mean “ought to be”, but rather “was to be, by Divine appointment”.

Law is given to control
3:24    Wherefore the law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ- a schoolmaster in those times was one responsible for the well-being of the child under his care.  It is not that the law is able to bring to Christ, (“To bring us” is in italics), but rather it was an interim measure, protecting Israel’s interests until Christ arrived.  That we might be justified by faith- the apostle here defines what the result of the faith of verse 23 is.  Abraham was reckoned righteous by God, and justification is the act of reckoning a person right. 

3:25    But after that faith is come, we are no longer under a schoolmaster- as will be shown in the next verses, maturity comes in through Christ, and therefore the schoolmaster in charge of Israel in their state of immaturity, is no longer needed.  To cling to the law is to fail to realise that God’s purposes have moved on to their consummation in Christ.

(c)    3:26-29        The position of the believer

Verse 26 New status.
Verse 27 New start.
Verse 27 New standard.
Verses 28,29 New situation.

New status
3:26    For ye are all the children (sons) of God by faith in Christ Jesus- the apostle sees in the fact that those who were of Gentile birth have come into full maturity, (sons), a proof that Israel’s time under the schoolmaster, the guide for the immature, is over.  Note it is not now, as in verse 7, that they were sons of Abraham, which indicated they followed Abraham’s example of faith.  Here the point is that with the coming of the Son of God Himself, it is possible to become a son of God by faith.  Note it is Christ Jesus that their faith is in, the Risen and Ascended Man.  As will be made clear in verse 28, the position given to the believer is one outside of this world system, and also outside the law system.

New start
3:27    For as many of you as have been baptised into Christ have put on Christ- this does not suggest that some of them were not baptised, but rather, that every one that was baptised into Christ has indeed put on Christ.  It is not possible to be baptised unto Christ and not put Him on.  Having been baptised, they pass, morally, out from the sphere where the law operates, and into the sphere where Christ is all.  The word of God to Joshua was “Moses my servant is dead; now therefore arise, go over this Jordan”, Joshua 1:2.  With the representative of the law gone, the promise to Abraham of a land can begin to be fulfilled.  The land of Canaan was named after the man Canaan.  When Israel were “baptised” in the river Jordan, they emerged into a territory which had the name of a man upon it.  So we have been baptised into Christ, and have emerged out of the waters of baptism into a sphere where the name of Christ is all-pervading. 

New standard
According to the custom of the day, when a child came to maturity, a cloak would be placed upon his shoulders.  This was called the cloak of manhood.  When we are baptised, we pledge to display the character of God’s Son in our lives, as if the cloak of His manhood is put upon us. 

New situation
3:28    There is neither Jew not Greek- the word “there” is an adverb with the same force as the preposition “in”.  There is there, (that is, in Christ), neither Jew nor Greek.  All such distinctions are irrelevant as far as our position in Christ is concerned, for that position is a heavenly one, whereas they relate to differences on earth.  There is neither bond nor free- the distinctions of privilege which have come about as a result of the Fall are irrelevant.  As the next verse will show, every believer is an heir; the fact that a slave had nothing, and that a free man only had riches of this world, is of no account.  There is neither male nor female- there is a slight difference in the wording here, obscured in the Authorised Version.  The words are literally, “There is not ‘male and female'”.  In other words, the apostle is quoting directly from Genesis 1:27.  Since to be in Christ Jesus is to be part of a heavenly sphere, even such basic things as gender differences are not relevant in this context.  We have noticed that the apostle does make a distinction between “we” and “ye” in these verses.  He elsewhere gives instruction as to the conduct of bond and free, and he maintains the distinction in the assembly between male and female.  So the differences mentioned here are not completely eradicated, or else there would be no marriage between believers.  The point is that in this context they are irrelevant, for the reason he now gives.  For ye are all one in Christ Jesus- however diverse they were before, they are, in Christ Jesus, a new entity.  He will say in 6:15 that they are a new creation.  Here, in context, they are the seed of Abraham. 

3:29    And if- the words are “but if”, carrying the argument forward from the statement of verse 28, and bringing it to a climax.  If ye be Christ’s- if Christ recognises you as His own, even though you were once Gentiles.  He disowned the nation of Israel as a whole, even though it claimed to be the seed of Abraham, John 8:37.  In 4:9 believers are said to be known of God, whereas here they are owned by Christ.  Then are ye Abraham’s seed- here is a further dimension to the idea of Abraham’s seed, and is the logical outcome of being the sons of Abraham by faith.  This is a staggering statement, that Gentiles are Abraham’s seed!  Zealous Jews would find this very difficult to accept, but John the Baptist had prepared them for the idea when he said that God was able to raise up children unto Abraham from the stones, Matthew 3:9.  If He can do this with stones, He can do it with Gentile sinners.  And heirs according to the promise- there is no definite article here, so they are heirs according to promise, which reminds us of the distinction made in verse 14, see notes on that verse.  They are heirs on the principle of promise, implying God’s working, and certainly not heirs according to their works.

GALATIANS CHAPTER 2

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE GALATIANS CHAPTER 2

 2:1  Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas, and took Titus with me also.

 2:2  And I went up by revelation, and communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles, but privately to them which were of reputation, lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain.

 2:3  But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised:

 2:4  And that because of false brethren unawares brought in, who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus, that they might bring us into bondage:

 2:5  To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not for an hour; that the truth of the gospel might continue with you.

 2:6  But of these who seemed to be somewhat, (whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me: God accepteth no man’s person:) for they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me:

 2:7  But contrariwise, when they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter;

 2:8  (For he that wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)

 2:9  And when James, Cephas, and John, who seemed to be pillars, perceived the grace that was given unto me, they gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship; that we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision.

 2:10  Only they would that we should remember the poor; the same which I also was forward to do.

 2:11  But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed.

 2:12  For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles: but when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision.

 2:13  And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation.

 2:14  But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel, I said unto Peter before them all, If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of Gentiles, and not as do the Jews, why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?

 2:15  We who are Jews by nature, and not sinners of the Gentiles,

 2:16  Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law, but by the faith of Jesus Christ, even we have believed in Jesus Christ, that we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law: for by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified.

 2:17  But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ, we ourselves also are found sinners, is therefore Christ the minister of sin? God forbid.

 2:18  For if I build again the things which I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor.

 2:19  For I through the law am dead to the law, that I might live unto God.

 2:20  I am crucified with Christ: neverthless I live; yet not I, but Christ liveth in me: and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave himself for me.

 2:21  I do not frustrate the grace of God: for if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain. 

SURVEY OF THE CHAPTER
If in chapter one Paul details his movements, showing that he did not make constant contact with the apostles, except for a courtesy call on Peter, in this chapter he details the contact he did have subsequently.  First of all there was the right hand of fellowship, as the other apostles recognised his call from God, then there was a confrontation, because Peter and others had been influenced by those who taught that believers should put themselves under law.

STRUCTURE OF THE CHAPTER 

 

2:1-2 Paul was not summoned He was sent to Jerusalem by God, not by the apostles
2:3-5 Paul not subject He refused to circumcise Titus the Greek
2:6-9 Paul not silenced The apostles recognise his call to preach the gospel to the Gentiles
2:10 Paul not stony-hearted The law commanded love, grace inspires love
2:11-13 Peter’s change of behaviour  
2:14 His action was against logic  
2:15-16 His action was against his beliefs  
2:17 His action was against Christ  
2:18 His action was against his vision  
2:19-21 his action was against the gospel  

2:1-2 PAUL NOT SUMMONED
2:1 Then fourteen years after I went up again to Jerusalem with Barnabas- Paul was saved about AD 36, and died about AD 69, so for half of his Christian life he was fairly unknown.  The same is true of Moses, John the Baptist, and, pre-eminently, Christ Himself.  It is salutary to think how much he achieved for the sake of Christ in a relatively short time.  And took Titus with me also- Titus provided a test-case, to demonstrate that circumcision is not necessary for the believer.  Note he took Titus also, meaning that Paul took Barnabas, not vice versa.  Previously Barnabas had gone to Jerusalem to assure the believers that their former persecutor was genuinely saved, see Acts 9:26-28. 

2:2 And I went up by revelation- He was not summoned by the apostles to give account of himself, but is directed by a revelation from the Lord, showing he was in harmony with the Lord in his life.  He is not behind Moses the lawgiver in this, who spake with God directly, Numbers 12:8; Deuteronomy 34:10.  Perhaps the reference to revelation is not simply a word about a particular journey he should take, but rather, the more extensive matter of the revelation he had received from God about the nature of the present age, as detailed in Ephesians 3.  For an exposition of this chapter, click on EPHESIANS 3 on the menu in the home page.  And communicated unto them that gospel which I preach among the Gentiles- not in the sense that he told them what they did not know, but laid it out before them in all its aspects, so they could see he was not preaching a mixed gospel.  But privately to them which were of reputation- Paul is concerned that those in responsible positions amongst the saints should be happy with what he was preaching.  He was not intent on making a party for himself, but was in full fellowship with the apostles.  He did this privately, not in a church council, which might look as if he were being called to account.  When it was the truth of the gospel at risk, rather than his own service, he withstood Peter publicly, “Before them all”, verse 14.  Lest by any means I should run, or had run, in vain- he was concerned that his activity should be useful in the future, and if it had not been in the past, he was ready to make amends.

2:3-5 PAUL NOT SUBJECT
2. 2:3 But neither Titus, who was with me, being a Greek, was compelled to be circumcised- Those who advocated a return to law-keeping, had to require circumcision if they were to be consistent.  Circumcision had become a sign of submission to the law of Moses, even though it was “of the fathers”, John 7:22, that is, was known and practised by the patriarchs from Abraham onwards. Circumcision is nothing, and uncircumcision is nothing, but the keeping of the commandments of the God (is everything)”, 1 Corinthians 7:19.  This verse is best understood as a parenthesis, so that verse 4 is a continuation of the line of thought in verse 2.  Paul uses the matter of Titus as a test-case, to show that circumcision is not necessary now.

2:4 And that because of false brethren unawares brought in- If there were those who infiltrated the ranks of the believers in those early days, how careful we should be in these last days, when perilous times have come.  The word unawares is used in classical Greek of enemies brought into a city by the help of traitors already within.  Who came in privily to spy out our liberty which we have in Christ Jesus- The Lord could say, “in secret have I said nothing”, John 18:20, and Paul could say, “This thing was not done in a corner”, Acts 26:26.  The words “spy out” are used in 2 Samuel 10:3, when the princes of Ammon said David had “sent his servants unto thee, to search the city, and to spy it out, and to overthrow it”.  That they might bring us into bondage- they came with the intention of assessing the way Jewish believers were living, now that they were saved by grace, and far from desiring to share in this liberty, they came to persuade the Galatians to embrace the Law, and so go back to bondage.

2:5 To whom we gave place by subjection, no, not even an hour- Paul realised that the whole of God’s purpose would be frustrated if believers reverted to the law in any way.  That the truth of the gospel might continue with you- he is sure that law and gospel do not mix; sure, also, that the gospel is truth, just as much as Law.

2:6-9  PAUL NOT SILENCED
2:6 But of these who seemed to be somewhat- those who were in positions of authority and influence, such as apostles who had been with the Lord when He was on earth.  (Whatsoever they were, it maketh no matter to me, God accepteth no man’s person:)- this does not mean that the apostle was indifferent to the influence of these people, but simply that what they once were as disciples of the Lord before the Cross, was not the point, for that did not give them any advantage over Paul, or the Galatians.  God does not accept a person because of his privileges, but because of his relationship with Christ Risen; all are equal in this connection.  Peter described believers as those who had obtained like precious faith with the apostles, 2 Peter 1:1, so in that respect apostles are no different to other believers.  For they who seemed to be somewhat in conference added nothing to me- this is why the former privilege of these men was not the point, for they did not add anything to Paul’s knowledge of the gospel when he conferred with them.

2:7 But contrariwise- the reverse was the case.  When they saw that the gospel of the uncircumcision was committed unto me, as the gospel of the circumcision was unto Peter- there are not two gospels, but God did give Peter special responsibility to preach to Jews, (which makes the choice of him to preach to Cornelius all the more remarkable, although the Lord did give him the keys of the kingdom of heaven, one of which he used on the Day of Pentecost, and the other in the house of Cornelius), and Paul special responsibility to the Gentile world, for which he was admirably fitted by upbringing and outlook.

2:8 (For He who wrought effectually in Peter to the apostleship of the circumcision, the same was mighty in me toward the Gentiles:)- the expression “wrought effectually” is the same as “mighty”, so exactly the same power is put forward by God in the case of each servant.  There is no need for either of them to add the influence of the law to their gospel preaching.  Note Paul’s recognition of Peter’s leading role- there is no personal jealousy.

2:9 And when James, Cephas and John, who seemed to be pillars- there is no irony in the word “seemed”;  they were recognised as prominent leaders in the testimony.  They seemed to be pillars because they were.  Perceived the grace of God that was given unto me- the grace is not only God’s favourable help in the exercise of gift, but the gift itself.  It was obvious to these spiritual men that Paul was greatly used of God.  Believers are sometimes slow to recognise the gift God has given.  On the other hand, it is possible to lay hands on a believer too hastily, 1 Timothy 5:22.  A balance must be maintained.  They gave to me and Barnabas the right hands of fellowship- note the plural hands, for each of these three was willing to associate with Paul and Barnabas, which is why it is the right hands of fellowship.  We tend to shake hands as a formality, but this is not the case here.  That we should go unto the heathen, and they unto the circumcision- so the personal mode of service was recognised.  It was not that Peter, James and John would not preach if there were no Jews in the audience, but rather, that to evangelise their own nation was their special task, always remembering the gospel must be preached to every creature. 

2:10 PAUL NOT STONY-HEARTED
2:10 Only- this is the only stipulation they gave to Paul and Barnabas, for they were in total agreement on the truths of the gospel.  Grace, however, might be thought of as careless of works, hence this injunction.  That we should remember the poor- it is especially relevant, given the way the Jewish believers has taken joyfully the spoiling of their goods, Hebrews 10:34.  The same which I also was forward to do- Paul was “zealous of good works”, Titus 2:14, and this suggestion from the other apostles presented no problem to him.  An appreciation of the grace of God should prompt us to far exceed the stipulations of the law as regards giving.  God is the God of the fatherless and the widows, but He most often supplies their needs through His people.  Grace should exceed the law in its generosity, just as God in grace has given His Son, whereas under the law He only gave tables of stone.

2:11-13  PETER’S CHANGE OF BEHAVIOUR.
2:11 But when Peter was come to Antioch, I withstood him to the face, because he was to be blamed- Antioch was the first assembly formed after regular preaching to Gentiles was established, hence the freedom of grace was specially enjoyed here, see Acts 11:19-21.  The purpose of God was that the tidings of grace should flow out from Jerusalem to the nations, now here the bondage of the law is being brought from its centre, Jerusalem, Galatians 4:25.  It was from Antioch that relief had been sent for the poor saints at Jerusalem, by the hands of Paul and Barnabas, Acts 11:27-30.  That was the liberty of grace in operation, but Peter now, sadly, brings the bondage of law to Antioch from Jerusalem.  Note that an apostle is here exposed as being in the wrong.  The apostles were inspired of God to preach and write, and when they did this they were infallible, but at other times they were liable to error, in the measure in which they depended on their own strength.  The idea of Papal Infallibility is completely without support in the Scriptures. 

2:12 For before that certain came from James, he did eat with the Gentiles- as his vision had indicated it was permissible for him to do, for Peter himself had said in Cornelius’s house, “Ye know how that is an unlawful thing for a man that is a Jew to keep company; or to come unto one of another nation; but God hath showed me that I should call no man common or unclean”, Acts 10:28.  But when they were come, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing them which were of the circumcision- Peter, the ardent and forceful leader amongst the apostles, is here giving way to the influence of men.  “The fear of man bringeth a snare”, Proverbs 29:25.

2:13 And the other Jews dissembled likewise with him; insomuch that Barnabas also was carried away with their dissimulation- Dissimulation is hypocrisy, play-acting, appearing to be other than what you really are.  Note the increasing consequences of Peter’s action, for no man liveth to himself, Romans 14:7.  They were truly free men, but were acting as if they were in bondage.

2:14 PETER’S ACTION WAS AGAINST LOGIC
2:14 But when I saw that they walked not uprightly according to the truth of the gospel- Peter had strayed from the straight path of righteousness.  That path of righteousness is now set out by the truth of the gospel, for the law of righteousness, holy and just as it is, did not supply the power to live righteously, but the gospel does.  I said unto Peter before them all- the matter was of such concern, and was so harmful to the progress of the gospel, that it could not be dealt with privately.  Fresh from his commendation by Peter, James and John, and as the apostle to the uncircumcised Gentiles, Paul had a special interest in contending for the truth in this way.  Sometimes, no matter how revered the brother involved, and how much temporary disturbance there might be, it is the best course to deal with matters straightforwardly and openly.  If thou, being a Jew, livest after the manner of the Gentiles- despite his temporary change of policy, Peter was committed to the truth that those outward things of mere religion which once divided Jew from Gentile, are no longer valid.  Paul no doubt had the gift of discerning of spirits, and could tell that Peter’s change of behaviour was not from conviction.  And not as do the Jews- it is not that Peter has combined a Gentile manner of life with a Jewish one, but has turned wholly from his religious observance.  Why compellest thou the Gentiles to live as do the Jews?- to live as do the Jews is not simply to adopt Jewish customs for the sake of a varied lifestyle, but in principle to put oneself under the law as a code of conduct for the believer.  The matter of diet may seem to be of small account, but it represented a distinction between Jew and Gentile, which at a fundamental level involved commitment to the law which prescribed the diet.  It was not logical, then, for Peter to renounce the law, then adopt legal customs of separation from Gentiles.  Nor was it logical for him to expect Gentiles to virtually live like Jews when they were not Jews.

2:15,16  PETER’S ACTION WAS AGAINST HIS BELIEFS
2:15 We who are Jews by nature- Peter and Paul were both born of Jewish parents, and had been brought up to live as Jews, so that it was part of their nature to live like a Jew.  They were not converts to Judaism, who might be less zealous of Jewish customs.  There is neither Jew nor Gentile in Christ, 3:28, but as those brought up in the customs of israel, and before conversion to Christ, there was this distinction, hence the use of the word “Jew” in the previous verse.  And not sinners of the Gentiles- whilst it is true that Peter and Paul were “sinners of the Jews”, nonetheless their upbringing had shielded them from the unrestrained excesses of the nations around. 

2:16 Knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the law- despite their upbringing, they had come to realise, (and the prophets would tell them this, as well as their own hearts when they failed to keep the law), that all attempts to be just by works would fail.  But by the faith of Jesus Christ- this gospel truth had reached their ears, and they knew that for them, law and all its attendant customs and rites, must be left behind.  Even we have believed in Jesus Christ- despite their upbringing under a God-given law, they had turned to Christ in faith.  That we might be justified by the faith of Christ, and not by the works of the law- so their understanding of what was involved when they believed was clear- they had no reservations about leaving “law for righteousness”, for Christ is the end of that as far as believers are concerned, Romans 10:4.  For by the works of the law shall no flesh be justified- a quotation from Psalm143:2, which confirms from the Old Testament that the stand they had taken was a wise one.

2:17  PETER’S ACTION WAS AGAINST CHRIST
2:17 But if, while we seek to be justified by Christ- the “but if” indicates that the apostle is arguing as if he and Peter are where the Judaizers wanted them to be, and where Peter, by his change of practice, had put himself; namely, brought up under the law, and only embracing Christ as a supplement.  See Acts 15:5, where the false teachers were saying that Christ was not enough, there must be law-works as well.  This is why the apostle uses the word seek, for those who seek have not found what they are looking for, and this is the position of those who say that other things apart from Christ are necessary for justification.  We also ourselves are found sinners– whenever the law tests us, it finds us wanting, even as believers.  See Romans 7:7-25 for a demonstration of this.  Paul, in this hypothetical situation, was seeking and not finding, for the law exposed his sinfulness, and discovering it, “found him a sinner”.  Is therefore Christ the minister of sin?- in this scenario, Christ is unable to fully save, and the law is needed for complete salvation.  Until such time as he does achieve salvation, a man is still a sinner, and Christ’s inability to fully save is responsible for that.  Note that he does not say even in this theoretical situation that Christ was the minister of sin, but only that it might lead to that question being asked, and he does not want even that to happen.  God forbid!- this is unthinkable, and therefore the situation Paul has imagined, is not the true one, and it is otherwise with the believer than that he is in any way helped by the law.

2:18  PETER’S ACTION WAS AGAINST HIS VISION FROM GOD
2:18 For if I build again the things I destroyed, I make myself a transgressor- Far from Christ being the minister of sin, it would be Paul who was the transgressor, for if he went back to law in any way, then that law would expose him as a transgressor of that law.  Before he had his vision at Joppa, Peter would not have even gone into a Gentile’s house.  He was taught by God, however, that this was not the Christian way, see Acts 9:27-29.  As a result of learning this important lesson, which had far-reaching consequences, Peter was happy to have to do with Gentiles.  He destroyed the old restrictions, for the best possible reason, God had destroyed them- “What God hath cleansed, that call not thou unclean”.  For Paul, this was like breaking down the “middle wall of partition” that separated the Court of the Gentiles from the rest of the Temple enclosure, see Acts 21:27-29; Ephesians 2:11-18.  By reversing his decision, Peter would be building the middle wall of partition again.  But Paul uses the personal pronoun “I”, for he is not yet certain that he can include Peter in his realisation of the gravity of building again what God had pulled down.

2:19-21  PETER’S ACTION WAS AGAINST THE GOSPEL PAUL BELIEVED
2:19 For I, through the law, am dead to the law- as far as Paul was concerned, (and also as far as Peter was concerned, too, in principle, but not now in practice), the law had made its demands against him as a sinner.  These demands he could not meet, but Christ met them for him, accepting the consequences of Paul’s law-breaking, and paying the penalty for it.  But Paul was “dead to the law by the body of Christ”, Romans 7:4.  In other words, the process which Christ went through in the body, namely, of paying the penalty for other’s law-breaking on the cross, being placed in a tomb as one who was really dead, and then rising again bodily, (the sure sign that the penalty the law demanded was paid), was the means of deliverance for Paul, for God was pleased to associate him with the death burial and resurrection of Christ, Romans 6:1-11.  So by the process the body of Christ went through, Paul was dead to the law, for the law only has dealings with living persons, see Romans 7:1-4, and Paul died with Christ.  This position, however, came about because the law made its demands, so Paul can say that he is dead to the law by the law.  That I might live unto God- Christ lives unto God, Romans 6:10, and Paul is risen with Him, and thus also lives unto God.  But the significant thing is that he lives unto God without being under the law.  It is significant that there is no record of any reply by Peter to these statements.  He must immediately have been convinced by Paul’s argument.

2:20 SAUL OF TARSUS DIED.  I am crucified with Christ- The man who was born and brought up under the law is dead, for God has associated him with Christ when He died on the cross.  He could not escape from the law by himself, only by Christ and His death.  Paul was crucified with Christ, and that was an action in the past with present results.  In is not without relevance to remember that Christ was crucified at the instigation of the representatives of the law.
PAUL THE APOSTLE LIVES.  Nevertheless I live- Christianity is positive, not simply death to former things, but real life through Christ.  The Good Shepherd came to those in the fold of Judaism to lead them out of it, and give them life abundant, John 10:10.  Paul lives in the present good of what happened in the past.
 SAUL OF TARSUS IS NOT REVIVED.  Yet not I- association with Christ risen prevents a return to old things, for “If any man be in Christ, he is a new creation”, 2 Corinthians 5:17.  The word “Yet” as used here is a time-word- no longer I (emphatic), or in other words, the old person, Saul of Tarsus, is no longer alive, in God’s reckoning.
CHRIST LIVES IN PAUL.  But Christ liveth in me- “If any man have not the Spirit of Christ, he is none of His.  And if Christ be in you…” Romans 8:9,10.  “That Christ may dwell in your hearts by faith”, Ephesians 3:17.  “At that day ye shall know that I am in My Father, and ye in me, and I in you”, John 14:20.  These scriptures indicate that because the Spirit of God dwells within the believer, Christ can be said to dwell, too, for Divine persons are One.  Because this is so, the features of Christ may be manifest through a believer’s life and character, and thus Christ is formed in us, Galatians 4:19.
PAUL LIVES A SPIRITUAL LIFE IN A NATURAL BODY.  And the life which I now live in the flesh- such is the power of the gospel that a true Christian life can be lived here and now, with no need to wait until we get to heaven.  The law was weak through the flesh, Romans 8:3, and used the flesh to bring a person into bondage, Romans 7:5.  By the power of the indwelling Spirit, however, the believer is enabled to live a victorious life, even though the flesh is still present with him as a hindrance.  We should distinguish between living in the flesh, which in this verse means living in the body on earth, and living after the flesh in the Romans 8:9,12 sense, for the believer is not in the flesh but in the Spirit.
PAUL LIVES BY FAITH, NOT WORKS.  I live by the faith of the Son of God- faith of the Son of God is first of all, faith which associates with the Son of God, then secondly, faith as expressed in the life of the Son of God down here.  He was full of grace and truth, as He expressed eternal life in His person, and of His fullness have all we received, John 1:14,16.  Note it is the faith of the Son of God, not of Jesus, for Paul will later show that we are sons, and have the Son of God Himself as our example of dignity and responsibility. 
 PAUL’S SALVATION LIES IN CHRIST’S WORK, NOT HIS OWN.  Who loved me, and gave Himself for me- the law demanded that man love God and his neighbour, whereas grace presents Christ loving men.  This love was not theoretical, but practical, for He willingly surrendered Himself to the cross in the supreme act of grace.  If Paul in any measure loves and gives, whether to God or men, it will be because Christ first loved and gave.  “We love Him, because He first loved us”, 1 John 4:19.                          2:21 PAUL DOES NOT SET ASIDE THE GRACE OF GOD.  I do not frustrate the grace of God- frustrate may either mean set aside, or think lightly of.  Neither attitude is appropriate in view of what God in grace has done for us through Christ.  For if righteousness come by the law, then Christ is dead in vain- The life which he lived by faith was a life oF righteousness, but if that could have been achieved by the works of the law, then Christ need not have died.  To frustrate the grace of God, then, is to suggest that the death of Christ was not necessary.
Note the contrasts in these verses:
Crucified or living.
Not Paul but Christ.
Life in the flesh of the life of faith.
Christ Himself, given for Paul.

Note also the prepositions used:  Crucified “with” Christ…Christ “in” me…Faith “of” the Son of God…gave Himself “for” me.

JOHN 2:13-25

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NOTES ON JOHN 2:!3-25

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE GOSPEL ACCORDING TO JOHN, CHAPTER 2, VERSES 13 TO 25:

2:13  And the Jews’ passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem.

2:14  And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting:

2:15  And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables;

2:16  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise.

2:17  And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten me up.

2:18  Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign shewest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things?

2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.

2:20  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days?

2:21  But He spake of the temple of His body.

2:22  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said.

2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did.

2:24  But Jesus did not commit himself unto them, because He knew all men,

2:25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man. 

(b) 2:13-22   In the temple at Jerusalem, the Passover at hand

2:13  And the Jews’ Passover was at hand, and Jesus went up to Jerusalem. 

John is careful to tell us that what in Old Testament times was called the Feast of the Lord, has now become the feast of the Jews.  Sadly, the festival had become man-orientated, and God’s interests were secondary.  This can happen with believers today.  The apostle Paul rebuked the Corinthians because the Lord’s Supper had become their supper, 1 Corinthians 11:20,21.  Instead of being for the glory of God, the assembly gathering had become a social occasion.  We should guard against this self-centredness creeping in amongst the assembly.  It can do so in subtle ways, such as by hymns that constantly use the word “I”, when in the assembly gatherings it should be “we”, the collective thought.  Also by occupation with our blessings and privileges, rather than upon the one who gained them for us at such a cost.
The temple services had become man-centred, but this is about to change, as Christ intervenes as one who has His Father’s interests at heart at all times and in all ways, and He becomes central.  John has already referred to Christ coming to His own things, 1:11, and here is a case in point.  The temple is His Father’s House, and as the Son of the Father it is His house too, although He does not claim this now.  Malachi spoke of a day when the Lord would come to His temple, Malachi 3:1, and here is a preview of that day.  He had been tempted to come suddenly, when the Devil suggested He should cast Himself down from the pinnacle of the temple, Matthew 4:5-7.  He had refused to tempt God by doing this, but now comes to the temple as guided by His Father, and not provoked by the Devil.  Jerusalem was ideally the “Place of the Name”, where God was honoured, but that name was tarnished.  Christ goes to Jerusalem to remedy this.
It was required of Jewish males that they appear before the Lord at three seasons of the year, at Passover time, Pentecost, and the Feast of In-gathering, for the seven feasts of the Lord were clustered around these principal feasts, Deuteronomy 16:16,17.  The Lord Jesus magnified the law and made it honourable, and so was found faithfully appearing before God at these times.  Whilst for the Christian set feasts and a religious calendar are not the order of the day, yet there should be the exercise of heart to gather with the Lord’s people in accordance with the New Testament.  “Not forsaking the assembling of yourselves together, as the manner of some is”, Hebrews 10:25.

2:14  And found in the temple those that sold oxen and sheep and doves, and the changers of money sitting: 

John’s Gospel especially emphasises the burnt offering side of things, so it is significant that he mentions the three classes of animal that were offered as burnt offerings, the sacrifice of a man who was devoted to God.  It is as if the Lord is “taking away the first”, that He may “establish the second”, see Hebrews 10:5-9.  The expulsion of the animals is the act of One who knows that His Father has no pleasure in them, since they are offered by the law, and offered in circumstances that are not glorifying to God.  He Himself mentions His body in verse 21, but there as a temple, in this section it is a potential sacrifice.
Clearly, the visitors to the temple have not come only to offer a Passover lamb, but to bring their other sacrifices as well, particularly if they lived in foreign lands.  These latter would need the service of the money-changers, in order to buy their animals.  We might wonder why the Lord expelled them therefore, so the explanation is given for us in the next verses.
These money changers were sitting, for they did not have to move about trying to find trade.  The pilgrims had no option but to use the licensed money changers, so all these latter had to do was sit and wait for their customers to come.

2:15  And when He had made a scourge of small cords, He drove them all out of the temple, and the sheep, and the oxen; and poured out the changers’ money, and overthrew the tables; 

The word for cord means a rope made of bulrushes, so the scourge is symbolical only, an emblem of authority and judgement.  The temple was in chaos morally, and this is shown graphically and visibly by the Lord’s action here.  We must never think that the Lord did these things in a fit of temper.  He had been many times to these temple courts, and had seen what went on, and now, after long years of patient waiting, He moves to expose the wrong in a righteous and controlled way.

2:16  And said unto them that sold doves, Take these things hence; make not My Father’s house an house of merchandise. 

The dove sellers are especially singled out, because they would have dealings with the poor, (the dove-offering being the sacrifice the poor could make, Leviticus 5:7), and consequently would be more likely to take advantage of their vulnerability.  There is no mention of the second cleansing of the temple in John’s gospel, for in the synoptics the idea is of the continuance of the principle of an earthly temple, and the things which must be changed if Messiah is to be at home there in the future.  In John however there is an emphasis on the heavenly Father’s House, and fitness for a place there.  This is in line with the truth that Christ gave to the Samaritan woman.  True worship will be centred on heaven, not any earthly location.
Zechariah assures us that in the Millenial temple, there will no more be the Canaanite or merchantman in the house of the Lord, Zechariah 14:21, for self- interest will be displaced by the desire to glorify God alone in His temple.
Note that whilst he drives out the sheep and oxen, the Lord does not scatter the doves, only commands the dove-sellers to take them away.  Sheep and oxen are used to being driven, but He will not disturb the gentle dove.
In this first cleansing, the charge is making merchandise out of Divine things, and thus getting gain for themselves.  In the second cleansing, the charge is more severe, that of robbing God of His due.  The situation is all the more sad because it was the priestly family of Annas and Caiaphas who leased out the stalls in the temple courts, and these should have certainly known better, for “the priest’s lips should keep knowledge”, Malachi 2:7.
We should be very careful not to give the impression that the unsaved may contribute anything, including finance, to the Lord’s work, lest it should be thought of as a house of merchandise.  “taking nothing of the Gentiles” should be our motto in this regard, 3 John 7.  See also Ezra 4:1-3. 

2:17  And His disciples remembered that it was written, The zeal of Thine house hath eaten Me up. 

Note that the disciples are learning to relate Old Testament scriptures to the Lord’s actions.  Psalm 69 is not especially Messianic, because it contains a confession of sin and foolishness, and this could never be on the lips of the Holy Son of God.  It is significant that Psalm 69:30,31 says that to magnify the Lord’s name is better than an ox or a bullock which has horns and hoofs, and this the Lord Jesus was doing by His actions at this time, as ever, John 12:28.
The duty of the Israelite heads of houses was to purge out the leaven found there, in preparation for the feast of unleavened bread which followed immediately after the feast of Passover.  As the Son representing His Father, the Lord Jesus undertakes to purge the leaven from the House of God, the temple at Jerusalem.
Today the House of God is the local assembly, 1 Timothy 3:15.  Can it be said of us that the zeal of that house consumes us?  Are we totally committed to furthering the interests of the Lord’s people in the assembly, or have we time only for our own interests, and rate the assembly as a secondary matter?  And do we ensure that we do not introduce into it anything that can be classed as leaven?  The Corinthians had introduced the leaven of immorality into the assembly, and the apostle commands them to purge it out, 1 Corinthians 5:6-8.  The Galatians had allowed the introduction of the leaven of evil doctrine, and they are commanded to cut off from themselves those who had done this, Galatians 5:7-12.

2:18  Then answered the Jews and said unto Him, What sign showest Thou unto us, seeing that Thou doest these things? 

Note the difference in reaction of these Jews in authority, to that of  the disciples.  His asserting of His authority had left them amazed and powerless.  The Jews require a sign, said the apostle Paul later, in 1 Corinthians 1:22.  They wanted proof that He was acting for God in His radical actions.  They asked a similar question at the second cleansing of the temple, but then the Lord refused to tell them His authority, for He had given ample proof during His ministry as to who He was and what His authority was.  By His actions and words here He in fact ensured they would slay Him at last, and the Divine response to the Jewish demand for a sign is always Messiah’s death and resurrection, Matthew 12:38-42.

2:19  Jesus answered and said unto them, Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up. 

These are words which would be brought up at His trial, and twisted to try to gain His conviction, Matthew 26:26-61.  The Lord is speaking on two levels here.  By crucifying Him, they would secure the destruction of the city of Jerusalem and the temple.  But Hosea had spoken of a period of three days after which God would raise up His people Israel again from the grave of the nations, Hosea 6:1,2. See also Deuteronomy 32:39.  Together with His dead body would they rise, Isaiah 26:19, or in other words, they would be associated with and believe in His resurrection at long last, and gain the benefits which His rising again brings to those who believe.  It was the Sadducean party which controlled the temple, and they did not believe in the resurrection of the body.  They will recognise this statement by Christ as an attack upon their doctrine.

2:20  Then said the Jews, Forty and six years was this temple in building, and wilt Thou rear it up in three days? 

Not realising He was uttering a prophecy which involved the destruction and fall of the nation and its subsequent rise, they thought only in terms of physically building the temple.  They contrast Herod’s labours for 46 years, with the short period of 3 days.  Herod commenced the restoration and embellishment of the temple in 20 BC.

2:21  But He spake of the temple of His body. 

There is a vital link between the crucifixion of Christ, and the destruction of the city of Jerusalem in AD 70, and various Scriptures suggest it, as follows:
1. Daniel 9:26 speaks of the Messiah being cut off, and then the city and sanctuary being destroyed.
2. Jacob prophesied of the time when the sons of Levi, the priestly tribe, would, in their anger, slay a man, and in their self will they would dig down a wall, Genesis 49:5-7.
3. The parable of the marriage of the king’s son vineyard involves the city of those who killed the messengers being destroyed, Matthew 22:1-7.
4. The Lord also linked the treatment meted out to God’s messengers, with the house being made desolate, Matthew 23:37-39.
So there is a vital connection between the destiny of the temple, and that of His body, the temple of the Holy Spirit.  Both will be destroyed, but both will rise again.  In the case of Christ’s body the destruction would mean the separation of His body, soul and spirit in death, and significantly, when that happened the vail of the temple was rent. It was as if the destruction of the Temple had begun!

2:22  When therefore He was risen from the dead, His disciples remembered that He had said this unto them; and they believed the scripture, and the word which Jesus had said. 

The disciples were slow to learn the truths that the Lord Jesus taught them, and they had to be rebuked for that slowness on more than one occasion.  After the resurrection things became clearer, especially when they received the Spirit at Pentecost, for the Spirit took of the things of Christ and revealed them unto them, as the Lord said He would, John 16:12-15.  Then they were not only able to understand what He had said to them when with them, but were also able to relate it to the Old Testament, and to do so in such a way as to recognise that His word and the Old Testament are of equal authority. 

(c) 2:23-25  In Jerusalem at the Passover

2:23  Now when He was in Jerusalem at the Passover, in the feast day, many believed in His name, when they saw the miracles which He did. 

Passover time was a commemoration of the deliverance God had effected for the nation in their downtrodden state.  It was also a reminder that Moses and Aaron were able to perform miracles to demonstrate that they were acting for Jehovah, the God of heaven.  The prophets had used this ancient deliverance as a symbol of the future deliverance of the nation under the Messiah.  Taking all these things together, we see that the time of Passover was one when expectations were raised considerably.  When one came who seemed to have authority, even in the temple courts, and, moreover, was able to work miracles, the people began to wonder whether the Messiah was in their midst.  Of course, it is true that the miracles the Lord Jesus did were indications that He was the prophesied Messiah, as a reading of Isaiah 35:5,6 and Hebrews 6:5 will show.  But it is not miracles alone that present this proof, but miracles accompanied by doctrine.  And it is the doctrine that went alongside the miracles, and was demonstrated by the miracles, that the natural heart of man was not willing to accept.

2:24  But Jesus did not commit Himself unto them, because He knew all men, 

We might think that this situation was just what Christ was looking for.  Not so.  His kingdom is a spiritual kingdom, even that aspect of it which will be known upon the earth in a day to come.  The kingdom of God is not meat and drink, but righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit, Romans 14:17.  Carnal expectations of a political deliverance had no place in the thinking of Christ.  The Lord knew their hearts, that they believed on Him only in this carnal way; the same way in which any political figure may be believed in, as one able to produce results.

2:25  And needed not that any should testify of man: for He knew what was in man. 

Jeremiah 17:9,10 reads- “The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: Who can know it?  I the Lord search the heart, I try the reins, even to give to every man according to His ways, and according to the fruit of his doings”.  It will become increasingly evident as the months go by that this is the case. 

IMPORTANT NOTE
It important to realise that there are different sorts of faith.  The ability to believe has been built into man by His Creator.  This is seen from two things.  First, the terrible consequences of not believing.  If a man is not able to believe, how can God be just when He condemns him to eternal damnation for not believing?  Second, Paul traces the cause of man’s unbelief to the work of the god of this age, Satan himself, 2 Corinthians 4:4.  If man can only believe when God gives Him faith, why does Satan need to blind men’s minds lest they believe?

So the reason there are different sorts of faith is because man is corrupted by sin, and prefers his own thoughts to God’s.  When the word of God is made known, however, the Spirit of God applies that word so that true and saving faith is exercised.  The Spirit does not produce the spurious forms of faith we shall look at now.

There is incorrect faith, when a person believes in their own ability to earn salvation, whether by religious ritual, or by good works.  They “trust in themselves that they are righteous”, Luke 18:9.  Or when a person believes about the Lord Jesus, but does not consciously repent and believe on Him in the gospel sense.

Then there is insincere faith, where a person makes a profession of faith for the sake of some advantage which he believes he may gain from it, or to please Christian parents or friends.

There is the impulsive faith that the Lord Jesus spoke of in the parable of the sower, where there was a plant which grew up in the shallow, rocky soil, and the same sun that caused it to quickly grow also caused it to wither, for it had no root in itself, the root being evidence of life within.  Such “for a while believe, but in time of temptation fall away”, Luke 8:13.  The true believer thrives on tribulation, Romans 5:3.  We might think that those of Acts 2 were like this, for they quickly responded to the gospel, but the genuineness and permanence of their faith is seen in them being “pricked to the heart”, for the word of God had produced true repentance and faith, Acts 2:37-40.  The apostle Paul warned the Corinthians about believing in vain, 1 Corinthians 15: 2, by which he meant believing without due consideration, and with a flippant, unthinking attitude.  Those who preach the gospel should preach a solid message, firmly grounded on the truth of Scripture, and one which appeals not to the emotions, (although the emotions cannot be totally excluded from conversion), but to the conscience, (2 Corinthians 4:2), heart, (Romans 10:10), mind, (2 Corinthians 4:4), and will, (Romans 1:5), of those listening.

Then there is the faith in Christ as a miracle-worker, the sort of faith being exercised in these verses.  This is imperfect faith, which the Lord does not despise, but rather seeks to turn into faith of the right sort.  Nicodemus was at first one of these, as his words in the next chapter show, (“we know Thou art a teacher come from God, for no man can do these miracles that Thou doest, except God be with Him”).  He was led on to see that it is as one given by the Father to the cross that he must believe in Christ.  Surely he reached that point, for he saw Christ hanging on the cross, and immediately came out from his secret discipleship to boldly go to Pilate and ask for the Lord’s body, so that he might bury it with dignity, John 19:38.

Such are the spurious forms of faith for which the Spirit of God is not responsible. There is however, that important faith, the faith that saves, and on the principle of which a person is reckoned right before God, as detailed in the Epistle to the Romans.  Now this faith is presented to us in the New Testament in three aspects, for different prepositions are used in the Greek in regard to it. We need therefore to consult our concordance and see the actual prepositions that are used.  We should remember as we do so, that Greek prepositions first of all tell of a physical position, and then a non-physical meaning which can be derived from this. 

So there are three prepositions used in this matter of faith in Christ.
There is the preposition “Eis”, which has to do with motion towards an object.  In relation to faith, this indicates that a person has Christ before him when he believes, so Christ is his object.  This preposition is used in regard to faith in Christ in the Gospels, the Acts, and the Epistles.  Christ is presented to men for their faith, and faith is directed towards Him as the object.  In some cases in the Scriptures this faith in Christ is incorrect, insincere or imperfect faith, and sometimes important, saving faith.  The context must decide.

There is the preposition “Epi”, which has to do with resting on an object.  In relation to faith in Christ, this indicates that Christ is the one on whom faith rests, so Christ is the foundation.  This preposition is used in the Acts and the Epistles, but not in the Gospels.  It is used after Christ died, rose again, and returned to heaven.  Christ is rested on as one proved to be a stable foundation. 

The following are the scriptures that use “epi”, meaning “upon”. 

“Forasmuch then as God gave them the like gift as He did unto us, who believed on the Lord Jesus Christ; what was I, that I could withstand God?” Acts 11:17.

“And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved”, Acts 16:31.

“And whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed”, Romans 9:33.

“For the scripture saith, Whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed”, Romans 10:11.

“Howbeit for this cause I obtained mercy, that in me first Jesus Christ might show forth all longsuffering, for a pattern to them which should hereafter believe on Him to life everlasting”, 1 Timothy 1:16;

“Wherefore also it is contained in the scripture, Behold, I lay in Zion a chief corner stone, elect, precious: and he that believeth on Him shall not be confounded”, 1 Peter 2:6.
Note that three of these verses quote from Isaiah 28:16.

There is the preposition “En”, which has to do with being in a place or position within an object.  In relation to faith, this indicates that a person is fully surrounded by Christ, so Christ is his security.  Such an one believes from within this secure place.  This preposition is used 7 times, but only in the Epistles, after the work and person of Christ has been fully manifested, and the secure position of the believer is set forth.

The following are the scriptures which use “en”, meaning “in”.

“Ye are all the children of God by faith in Christ Jesus”, Galatians 3:26.

“Wherefore I also, after I heard of your faith in the Lord Jesus, and love unto all the saints”, Ephesians 1:15.

“Since we heard of your faith in Christ Jesus, and of the love which ye have to all the saints”, Colossians 1:4.

“And the grace of our Lord was exceeding abundant with faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”, 1 Timothy 1:14.

“For they that have used the office of a deacon well, purchase to themselves a good degree, and great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus”, 1 Timothy 3:13.

“Hold fast the form of sound words, which thou hast heard of me, in faith and love which is in Christ Jesus”, 2 Timothy 1:13.

“And that from a child thou hast known the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus”, 2 Timothy 3:15.

Note that in six cases the faith is in Christ Jesus, the risen, glorified man in heaven, and once it is in the Lord Jesus, the one with all authority.  Faith in Him is well-placed.

 

ROMANS 1:1-17

THE GOSPEL DEFINED

Concise Notes on the Epistle to the Romans 

 

The Epistle to the Romans is a masterly exposition of the doctrines relative to the gospel of God. Under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit the apostle Paul was guided to unfold those truths which it is necessary to know and believe in order to be reckoned right in the sight of God, and also to live a life which is righteous before God and before men. 

Central to this gospel is the Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of God, by whom the work of redemption which is the foundation of the gospel was effected at Calvary. It was there that He died for the ungodly, and subsequently rose from the dead and ascended to heaven to intercede for those who believe on Him. 

No preacher should venture to present the gospel to sinners without first gaining a working knowledge of at least the first eight chapters of this epistle. No believer should seek to testify in a personal way without such a knowledge, either. And certainly no unsaved person should dare to enter eternity without first becoming acquainted with the saving truths this epistle contains. Since the moment of departure from this world is unknown to us, it is important to gain this acquaintance as a matter of great urgency.

“Because there is wrath, beware lest He take thee away with His stroke, then a great ransom cannot deliver thee,”  Job 36:18. 

 

Like the rest of the Holy Scriptures, the epistle to the Romans is structured and orderly. We would do well to consider the general scheme of the epistle by way of introduction, for it will help in understanding the truth contained therein.

The epistle as a whole may be divided into three parts, each beginning on a personal note from the apostle, and each ending with a note of praise:-

Chapters 1-8.

 

GOD’S RIGHTEOUSNESS IMPUTED. 

Personal note: “I am ready to preach the gospel”, 1:15

Key phrase: “Him that justifieth the ungodly”, 4:5.

Concluding praise: “For I am persuaded”, 8:38.

 

[Chapters 1-8 may be further divided into two major sections as follows:-

1:1 to 5:11 THE SINS OF THE PERSON

The remedy- the blood of Christ;

The result- redemption and righteousness. 

5:12 to 8:39 THE PERSON WHO SINS

The remedy- death, burial and resurrection of Christ;

The result- identification and assurance.]

 

 Chapters 9-11. GOD’S WAYS DEFENDED. 

Personal note: “I have great heaviness”, 9:2.

Key phrase: “His ways past finding out”, 11:33.

Concluding praise: “For of Him, and through Him, and to Him, are all things: to whom be glory for ever. Amen”, 11:36.

 

Chapters 12-16. GOD’S SERVANTS INSTRUCTED. 

Personal note: “I beseech you, therefore, brethren”, 12:1.

Key phrase: “Him that is of power to stablish”, 16:25.

Concluding praise: “To God only wise, be glory through Jesus Christ for ever. Amen.” 16:27. 

 

ROMANS CHAPTERS ONE TO EIGHT MAY BE DIVIDED INTO FOURTEEN SECTIONS AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1 ROMANS 1:1-17

The Person of Christ is central to the gospel

SECTION 2 ROMANS 1:18-32

God’s wrath against men as their Creator 

SECTION 3 ROMANS 2:1-16

God’s wrath against men as their Moral Governor

SECTION 4 ROMANS 2:17-3:20

God’s wrath against men as their legislator

SECTION 5 ROMANS 3:21-26

The work of Christ is central to the gospel

SECTION 6 ROMANS 3:27-4:25

God’s grace towards men as their justifier

SECTION 7 ROMANS 5:1-11

The glory of God is central to the gospel

SECTION 8 ROMANS 5:12-21

Christ and Adam compared and contrasted

SECTION 9 ROMANS 6:1-23

The believer’s past and present position

SECTION 10 ROMANS 7:1-6

Deliverance from the law

SECTION 11 ROMANS 7:7-25

Defence of the law and despair under the law

SECTION 12 ROMANS 8:1-17

Life in the flesh and life in the Spirit

SECTION 13 ROMANS 8:18-27

Present suffering and future glory

SECTION 14 ROMANS 8:28-39

Overwhelmed or overcoming

 

There is a great need in these days to recognise that the gospel is God-centred, and Christ-centred, and not sinner-centred. The apostles “ceased not to teach and preach Jesus Christ”, Acts 5:42. Having taught who He was, they were then in a position to preach that He should be believed in and relied upon. It would be a useful exercise to note the number of verses about sinners and the number of verses about Christ in the gospel addresses recorded in the book of Acts.

THE WORDS OF THE BIBLE, THE CHRISTIAN SCRIPTURES, AS FOUND IN THE EPISTLE TO THE ROMANS CHAPTER 1, VERSES 1 TO 17

1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ, called to be an apostle, separated unto the gospel of God,

1:2  (which He had promised afore by His prophets in the holy scriptures,)

 1:3 Concerning his Son Jesus Christ our Lord, which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh;

1:4 And declared to be the Son of God with power, according to the spirit of holiness, by the resurrection from the dead:

1:5 By whom we have received grace and apostleship, for obedience to the faith among all nations, for his name:

1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ:

1:7 To all that be in Rome, beloved of God, called to be saints: Grace to you and peace from God our Father, and the Lord Jesus Christ.

1:8 First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, that your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world.

1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of his Son, that without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers;

1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you.

1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift, to the end ye may be established;

1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me.

1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto,) that I might have some fruit among you also, even as among other Gentiles.

1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the Barbarians; both to the wise, and to the unwise.

1:15 So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also.

1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ: for it is the power of God unto salvation to every one that believeth; to the Jew first, and also to the Greek.

1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed from faith to faith: as it is written, The just shall live by faith.

 

SECTION 1: ROMANS 1:1-17

THE PERSON OF CHRIST IS CENTRAL TO THE GOSPEL

STRUCTURE OF SECTION 1

The person of Christ in relation to:

1 (a) 1:1                   Paul.

1 (b) 1:2                  The prophets.

1 (c) 1:3                  The people of Israel.

1 (d) 1:4                  God.

1 (e) 1:5                  People of all nations.

1 (f) 1:6,7               The people of God.

1 (g) 1:8-12            Paul’s ministry.

1 (h) 1:13-15         Paul’s motives.

1 (i) 1:16-17           Paul’s message.

 
SUBJECT OF SECTION 1

Having introduced himself as the writer of the epistle, Paul goes straight into his theme, which is the gospel of God. He shows that this gospel was promised in Old Testament times as the prophets foretold the coming of Christ. He has now come, and is preached as being relevant to all men. Having assured the believers at Rome to whom he writes that he has a great desire for their blessing, Paul then asserts his strong belief in the ability of the gospel of Christ to save those who believe it.

1:1 Paul, a servant of Jesus Christ- as a servant-slave, Paul was captive to Christ’s will, ready to be told “what thou must do,” Acts 9:6. Called to be an apostle- appointed by Christ’s call, Galatians 1:1; an apostle is a “sent one,” sent out from the presence of his superior to do what he commands. Separated unto the gospel of God- commissioned for Christ’s service, and committed to it, Acts 22:21. Singled out, and single-minded.

1 (b) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PROPHETS

 1:2 Which He had promised afore- since Christ is the subject of gospel, to promise Him, (as God did through the Old Testament prophets), is to promise the gospel. By His prophets- because they were His, they spoke for God with authority. “But those things, which God before had shewed by the mouth of all His prophets, that Christ should suffer, He hath so fulfilled,” Acts 3:18. “And beginning at Moses and all the prophets, He expounded unto them in all the scriptures the things concerning Himself,” Luke 24:27. See also Luke 1:69,70. In the holy scriptures- the writings of Old Testament are holy, for they express God’s holy will, and are completely separate in character from all other writings, being utterly reliable and trustworthy; “the holy scriptures, which are able to make thee wise unto salvation through faith which is in Christ Jesus. All scripture is given by inspiration of God…” 2 Timothy 3:15,16.

1 (c) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF ISRAEL

1:3 Concerning His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord- as God’s Son, the Lord Jesus shares the nature of God the Father, see on verse 4. Jesus is the name He was given when He came into manhood to save His people from their sins, Matthew 1:21. As Christ, He is the Anointed One, the Messiah of Old Testament predictions, see 1 Samuel 2:10; Psalm 2:2; Daniel 9:25. As our Lord, He is the One whose will is sovereign, and to whom believers readily submit themselves, Romans 14:7-9. Which was made of the seed of David according to the flesh- was made means “having come”, the same word as Galatians 4:4, “made of a woman.” As One who is of the seed of David, the Lord Jesus is qualified to bring in a future righteous kingdom on earth, see Luke 1:30-33. But the three main principles of that kingdom will be “righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit”, Romans 14:17, and these also sum up the blessings that come to those who believe the gospel. The apostle is careful not to alienate the Jewish element amongst his readers, so reminds them that the line of David clearly reaches to Christ, as Matthew chapter one shows. In fact, “according to the flesh” may include the idea that even a unbelieving man might consult the temple records and see this to be true. But he is also careful to point out that since Christ has become flesh, He is relevant to all men, not just Israel. He became real man, and as such is God’s Ideal Man.

1 (d) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO GOD

1:4 And declared to be the Son of God- note the change of verb; not made, but declared, for He is ever the Son of God, sharing the Father’s eternal, unchanging nature. The Lord Jesus indicated in John 10:30,36 that to be Son of God was to be one in essence and nature with the Father. If He had meant anything less than this, the Jews would not have tried to stone Him for blasphemy. With power, according to the Spirit of holiness- the declaration of Christ’s Deity is a powerful one, and is made in relation to the Spirit of holiness. Views differ as to whether this is a reference to the Holy Spirit, or to the spirit of the Lord Jesus. If the former, then the Holy Spirit empowers the declaration, but if the latter, then Christ’s own spirit, marked as it is by holiness, and by which He communed with His Father, is set in contrast to His being of the seed of David according to the flesh, by which means He associated with men on earth. Note the contrast with the unholiness of the men described in the second half of the chapter. By the resurrection of the dead- not resurrection from among the dead, but the resurrection of dead persons, Himself included. See for instance, John 11:4. Every time a dead person was raised by Christ, when He Himself was raised, and when the dead are raised at the resurrection, there is a powerful testimony to His Deity. See John 5:17-31.

1 (e) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF ALL NATIONS

 1:5 By whom we have received grace- grace is unmerited favour, and believing sinners are shown this when they are saved from their sins; but there is a constant need for the believer to receive Divine favour, in order that the Christian life may be lived effectively. “without Me ye can do nothing,” John 15:5. And apostleship- grace is the common portion of all the people of God, whereas apostleship was granted to only a few, who must have seen the Lord Jesus personally, 1 Corinthians 9:1. Divine favour was needed by apostles also for the discharge of their responsibilities. Note the incidental testimony to the Deity of Christ in that the grace which elsewhere is said to be the grace of God, 1 Corinthians 15:10, is here said to be from Christ Himself. For obedience to the faith- one object of the preaching of the gospel is to bring men to an obedient faith in Christ. The person of the Lord Jesus is presented to men that they may believe on Him and submit obediently to His Lordship. Among all nations- the epistle emphasises the universal need of man to hear and believe the gospel. See also verse 13. For His name means for the good of His name. The object of the apostle’s preaching was not just that sinners might be saved, but that the name of God’s Son, Jesus Christ our Lord might be honoured.

1 (f) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO THE PEOPLE OF GOD

 1:6 Among whom are ye also the called of Jesus Christ- the preaching of the gospel is the means by which Jesus Christ calls men and women to Himself, that they might enter into the blessings which He obtained at infinite cost when He died upon the cross at Calvary. The call is not only to Himself, but also away from self and the world.

1:7 To all that be in Rome- as is clear from the next statement, this means all the believers in Rome. Beloved of God- they were the object of Divine affections. Beloved is a title of the Lord Jesus, telling of the active love of the Father for Him; here it is used of believers. “Thou…hast loved them, as Thou hast loved Me,” John 17:23. Called to be saints- this means that they were constituted saints or separated ones by the call of Christ, not that they were called to develop into saints, although it is true that believers are to perfect holiness in the fear of God, 2 Corinthians 7:1. All true believers are saints, or holy ones, as far as their standing before God is concerned, but their current state of holiness varies with the individual. Grace to you and peace- grace has been described as “the fount of all mercies,” and peace “the crown of all blessings.” Grace (“Charis”) was a Gentile greeting, whereas peace (“Shalom”) was a Jewish salutation. Here they are combined in the apostle’s greeting to all believers in Rome, whether Jew or Gentile. In Christ there is neither Jew nor Greek, Galatians 3:28. From God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ- a further testimony to the Deity of Christ in that Divine blessings come equally from the Father and the Lord Jesus.

 1 (g) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MINISTRY

 1:8 Verses 8-10 emphasise Paul’s attitude Godward, verses 11-15 his attitude towards believers. First I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all- giving thanks through Jesus Christ for their energetic faith and testimony. Note that even a leading apostle needed the Lord Jesus as mediator between himself and His God. That your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world- living as they did in the capital city of the Roman Empire, they were in a good position to spread the gospel, and this they had done diligently.

1:9 For God is my witness, whom I serve with my spirit in the gospel of His Son- the preaching of the gospel is a spiritual activity, and nothing of man or self must be allowed to intrude into it. It is also a priestly activity, as the word for serve indicates, so the preaching must be with dignity and holiness, with God’s glory as the end in view. That without ceasing I make mention of you always in my prayers- it is just as important to pray for converts after they are saved as it is to preach to sinners so that they may be saved. Note the apostle prayed for these believers even though he did not know many of them personally. See 1 Samuel 12:23.

1:10 Making request, if by any means now at length I might have a prosperous journey by the will of God to come unto you- in the ordering of God he was prevented for many years from visiting them, see 15:23, with the result that we have the benefit of his epistle to them, in which he sets out what he would have said if he had come. Note he subjected his movements to the over-riding will of God.

1:11 For I long to see you, that I may impart unto you some spiritual gift- the gifts he had were for the edifying of the believers, not the advancing of self, Ephesians 4:11,12. To the end ye may be established- sound doctrine is vitally necessary if believers are to be firmly grounded in the faith, Ephesians 4:13-16.

1:12 That is, that I may be comforted together with you by the mutual faith both of you and me- the apostle is at pains not to elevate himself above them. He would be comforted by evidences of their genuine faith, and so would they be comforted by evidences of his faith.

1 (h) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MOTIVES

 1:13 Now I would not have you ignorant, brethren, that oftentimes I purposed to come unto you, (but was let hitherto)- he had been let, or hindered, from coming to them by his desire to fully preach Christ elsewhere. He was concerned to preach Christ where others had not, Romans 15:20-24. Those at Rome had heard from others, see Acts 2:10. That I might have some fruit among you also- fruit means results for God’s glory from the making known of His truth. A tree does not produce fruit for itself, but for its owner, so Paul sought glory only for God in his service. He could only be fruitful through Christ- “He that abideth in Me, and I in him, the same bringeth forth much fruit: for without Me ye can do nothing.” John 15:5. Even as among other Gentiles- Paul was commissioned to concentrate on preaching to Gentiles, Galatians 2:9, Acts 22:21.

1:14 I am debtor both to the Greeks, and to the barbarians- it did not matter whether men were cultured or otherwise, Paul was concerned to discharge his debt of obligation to preach the gospel to them, for Christ had died for them all. Both to the wise, and to the unwise- those who sought God through philosophy, or those who were unthinking, all had a claim on his time and attention. “for necessity is laid upon me; yea, woe is unto me if I preach not the gospel!” 1 Corinthians 9:16. Note that the gospel is for all sorts of men, of whatever nationality, culture, or natural ability. 

1:15   So, as much as in me is, I am ready to preach the gospel to you that are at Rome also- as far as it depended on Paul, he stood ready to preach in Rome, for the message of the gospel is urgent, and is also of universal relevance.

1 (i) THE PERSON OF CHRIST IN RELATION TO PAUL’S MESSAGE

1:16 For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ- the preaching of the gospel is foolishness to men, 1 Corinthians 1:18, but those who have been saved know it is nothing to be embarrassed about. “and whosoever believeth on Him shall not be ashamed,” Romans 9:33. For it is the power of God unto salvation- the men of the world are perishing all the time they refuse the gospel, whereas believers not only know initial salvation from sin and judgement when they receive the gospel by faith, but are constantly saved from the pitfalls along the way by that same gospel. To everyone that believeth- this is the principle on which God acts in His dealings with men. To believe and to have faith mean the same, namely a firm persuasion based on hearing the word of God. See later passages in this epistle, such as 4:1-8; 10:8-13. To the Jew first- in the rich grace of God, the very nation which cast out the Son of God and crucified Him, is given the first opportunity to believe in Him. “And that repentance and remission of sins should be preached in His name among all nations, beginning at Jerusalem,” Luke 24:47. And also to the Greek- by Greek the apostle here means non-Jew. Since the common language throughout the Roman Empire was Greek, the Gentiles were known as Greeks.

1:17 For therein is the righteousness of God revealed- the expression “the righteousness of God” is used in two senses in this epistle. Here, the phrase means that Divine righteousness which is reckoned, or imputed, to those who believe, see 3:21,22; 4:3-5. Elsewhere, it means God’s attribute, that which He possesses intrinsically and eternally, see 3:25,26. Instead of God demanding that man become righteous by his own efforts, (a thing the apostle will show later in the epistle he cannot do), God is prepared, in grace, to reckon to be righteous those who receive the gospel. From faith to faith- literally “out from faith (on the principle of faith), to faith (with faith as the expected response).” God is prepared to reckon righteousness to a person, provided they come to Him on His terms. The sinner must abandon any idea that he can earn God’s favour, and rely totally on the person and work of the Lord Jesus, who died at Calvary so that his sins might be forgiven, and he might be made right in the sight of God. As it is written, “The just shall live by faith”- the truly just or righteous man is he who has spiritual life within on the principle of his faith in God, as is shown by the fact that he lives out that life by the same principle. The apostle had claimed at the beginning of this section that the gospel was promised through the prophets, and now he proves his point as he brings the section to a close by quoting Habakkuk 2:4. He thus disposes of any idea that he is teaching a new doctrine of his own devising.