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John Commentaries & Sermons

Apostle John


Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See another Chart on Gospel of John from Charles Swindoll


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BY GOSPEL OF JOHN (shaded area)

Click chart to enlarge

Focus more on
WHAT Jesus taught and did
Focuses more on
WHO Jesus is
Focus mainly on
our Lord's
public discourses
Focus more on His private conversations,
His verbal conflicts with Jews,
His closer teachings with inner disciples
More FactualMore Doctrinal.
Begin with a human genealogy and
fulfillment of Jewish prophecy
Begins with a Divine revelation and
eternal existence


of Christ
BeginningBegin with a human genealogy and
fulfillment of Jewish prophecy
Begins with a Divine revelation and
eternal existence
Matthew = 42%,
Mark = 7%, Luke = 59%
92% Unique
Seven "I Am" Statements
DiscourseMore Public
Focus is on Jesus
& the crowds
More Private
Focus is on Jesus
& individuals
More on ethical, practical
WHAT Jesus Taught
More on Person of Christ
WHO Jesus is
Main Geographic
Focus of Ministry
Mainly in North
around Galilee
Mainly around Jerusalem
at time of Feasts
FeastsOnly 1 Passover recordedRecords 3 Passovers
Mt = fulfilled
Mk = immediately
Luke = Son of man
Mt 21:5: Behold your King
Mk 10:45: To serve
Lk 19:10 - To Seek & to save
Jn 20:31
Portrayed As
Mt - King
Mk - Servant
Lk - Son of Man
Son of God
Portrayed As
of God
JewsRomansGreeksAll Men
Key Word"Fulfilled""Immediately""Son of Man""Believe"
Key VerseMt 21:5Mk 10:45Lk 19:10Jn 20:31
Percent Spoken
By Christ
Old Testament
Old Testament
Unique Material42%7%59%92%
Main Emphasis
About Jesus
Synoptic Gospels (see together)
His Humanity

JOHN 1-12

to wine
Jesus' power over qualityThe disciples-Jn 2:1-11
Healing son of OfficialJesus' power
over space
The official and his household-Jn 4:46-54
Healing the
Jesus' power
over time
Paralytic??The JewsJn 5:1-9
Feeding the
Jesus' power
over quantity
Some in the
Jn 6:26-66
Jn 6:1-15
Walking on
Jesus' power
over nature
The disciples-Jn 6:16-21
Healing man born blindJesus' power
over adversity
The blind
Jn 9:1-12
Raising LazarusJesus' power
over death
Martha, Mary,
Many Jews
The Jewish
Jn 11:1-16

From Dr Thomas Constable

Select Verses
Compiled by Bruce Hurt, MD

Newest Additions - Spring, 2020 - These verse by verse comments are works in process so chapters will be in varying stages of construction. The goal is to work through the Gospel of John verse by verse. A similar project is ongoing in the synoptic Gospels.

John 1 Commentary

John 2 Commentary

John 3 Commentary

Precept Ministries International Inductive Study

Lesson 1 of each part can be downloaded below as Pdf

  • John Part 110 lessons covering John 1-6 with Lesson Six a study on Being Born Again and Lesson Ten a Topical Study on Jesus' Disciples
  • John Part 28 lessons covering John 7-11. Includes Topical Study on the Feasts (Lessons 2-4) and Topical Study on Sheep
  • John Part313 lessons covering John 12-21. In John 12-21 Jesus draws His disciples aside to teach them—and you—what it means to follow Him. This study will also teach you about His death, burial, and resurrection.

Greek Testament Critical Exegetical Commentary
Gospel of John

Read Henry Alford's(1810-1871) fascinating brief biography and Phil Johnson's related comments.

Charles Haddon Spurgeon - Alford's Greek Testament “for the use of Theological Students and Ministers,” is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to ALFORD’S NEW TESTAMENT FOR ENGLISH READERS,* which is also a standard work. (Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Editorial Note: If you are not proficient in Greek, you will find this work considerably more useful than the following work by Alford, because in this volume he translates the Greek and Latin into English. While the "The Greek New Testament" is longer (e.g., English version of 1John = 66 pages compared to Greek version = 94 pages in part because the latter includes comments of more technical nature), the substance of the commentary is otherwise similar to that found in the "NT for English Readers".

The New Testament for English Readers
Gospel of John Commentary

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament...though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors)

Daily Study Bible Commentary
Gospel of John

D Edmond Hiebert comments - (Barclay) Prints the author's own translation. A series of popular studies well adapted to the lay reader. Barclay is strongest in his study of word meanings. Contains good illustrative material. (An Introduction to the NT)

See caveats regarding Barclay's theology.

Commentary Notes
Gospel of John

Gospel of John

Frequent sermon illustrations. Recommended

Studies in Gospel of John

Each study is about 5 pages for a total of ~140 pages. These are well done. 


Gnomon of the New Testament (1877)
Gospel of John Commentary

Note: If not proficient in Greek, see Critical English Testament below.

The Critical English Testament
Gospel of John Commentary

Represents Combination of Bengel's Gnomon + Comments by other expositors (in brackets) to make this more useful for those who do not read Greek.

James Rosscup writes "This work (Gnomon), originally issued in 1742, has considerable comment on the Greek, flavoring the effort with judicious details about the spiritual life. It has much that helps....." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors)

C H Spurgeon -- "'A Critical New Testament, so compiled as to enable a reader, unacquainted with Greek, to ascertain the exact English force and meaning of the language of the New Testament, and to appreciate the latest results of modern criticism.' Such is the professed aim of this commentary, and the compilers have very fairly carried out their intentions. The whole of Bengel’s Gnomon is bodily transferred into the work, and as one hundred and twenty years have elapsed since the first issue of that book, it may be supposed that much has since been added to the wealth of Scripture exposition; the substance of this has been incorporated in brackets, so as to bring it down to the present advanced state of knowledge. We strongly advise the purchase of this book, as it is multum in parvo, and will well repay an attentive perusal. Tischendorf and Alford have contributed largely, with other German and English critics, to make this one of the most lucid and concise commentaries on the text and teachings of the New Testament" (Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Gospel of John Commentary

Gospel of John Commentary

Gospel of John Commentary

Expositional Sermons

Expositional Sermons
Gospel of John

Excellent Resource - functions like a verse by verse commentary. This materal was preached by Pastor Cole over almost 2 years! Each sermon is the equivalent of a 10 page Pdf which means that these sermons represent over 1000 pages of Biblically sound doctrine to aid your study, teaching and preaching of the Gospel of John!

  • 1: The Nature and Purpose of John’s Gospel (John 20:30-31)
  • 2: Jesus: Revealer of God (John 1:1-5)
  • 3: God’s Witness, Your Verdict (John 1:6-13)
  • 4: The Word Became Flesh (John 1:14)
  • 5: Why You Should Believe in Jesus (John 1:15-18)
  • 6: Who Are You? (John 1:19-28)
  • 7: Who is Jesus? (John 1:29-34)
  • 8: Friends Bring Friends to Jesus (John 1:35-51)
  • 9: Meeting Jesus (John 1:35-51)
  • 10: The Joyous Salvation that Jesus Brings (John 2:1-11)
  • 11: Jesus Cleans House (John 2:12-17)
  • 12: How to Come to Jesus (John 2:18-22)
  • 13: Does Jesus Believe in You? (John 2:23-25)
  • 14: Why Religion Can’t Save You (John 3:1-7)
  • 15: Why You Need the New Birth (John 3:6-13)
  • 16: How Jesus is Like a Snake (John 3:14-15; Numbers 21:4-9)
  • 17: God’s Shocking Love (John 3:16-18)
  • 18: Why People Reject Christ (John 3:19-21)
  • 19: A in Humility (John 3:22-30)
  • 20: Once More: Why Believe in Jesus? (John 3:31-36)
  • 21: Living Water for a Thirsty Woman (John 4:1-14)
  • 22: Coming to Salvation (John 4:15-26)
  • 23: The Priority of True Worship (John 4:23-24)
  • 24: The Witnesses God Uses (John 4:27-42)
  • 25: From Foxhole Faith to Saving Faith (John 4:43-54)
  • 26: The Impotence of Religion, the Power of Christ (John 5:1-16)
  • 27: Is Jesus Crazy or is He God? (John 5:17-23)
  • 28: Eternal Life or Judgment? (John 5:24-30)
  • 29: The Witnesses to Jesus (John 5:30-40)
  • 30: What Keeps People from Christ (John 5:39-47)
  • 31: How Christ Meets Needs (John 6:1-15)
  • 32: Growing to Know the Lord for Who He Is (John 6:14-21)
  • 33: Seeking Jesus Rightly (John 6:22-36)
  • 34: The Certain Success of Jesus’ Mission (John 6:35-40)
  • 35: A Lesson in Witnessing to Skeptics (John 6:41-47)
  • 36: What Are You Eating? (John 6:48-59)
  • 37: The Antidote to Spiritual Defection, Part 1 (John 6:60-71)
  • 38: The Antidote to Spiritual Defection, Part 2 (John 6:60-71)
  • 39: What Do You Think About Jesus? (John 7:1-13)
  • 40: God’s Time or Man’s Time? (John 7:1-13)
  • 41: Jesus: True, Yet Rejected (John 7:14-24)
  • 42: Don’t Be Confused About Jesus! (John 7:25-36)
  • 43: Rivers of Living Water—for You and from You (John 7:37-39)
  • 44: The Divisive Jesus (John 7:40-52)
  • 45: Caught in the Act (John 7:53-8:11)
  • 46: Jesus: Light of the World (John 8:12-20)
  • 47: Terrible Words from the Loving Savior (John 8:21-29)
  • 48: True Freedom (John 8:30-36)
  • 49: True and False Children of God (John 8:37-47)
  • 50: Challenging Jesus (John 8:48-59)
  • 51: The Light of the World in Action (John 9:1-12)
  • 52: How Do You Know? (John 9:13-34)
  • 53: The Blind See, but the Seeing are Blind (John 9:35-41)
  • 54: The True Shepherd and His Sheep (John 10:1-6)
  • 55: The Door to Abundant Life (John 10:7-10)
  • 56: Why Follow Jesus? (John 10:11-21)
  • 57: Secure Forever (John 10:22-30)
  • 58: Reasons To Believe (John 10:30-42)
  • 59: Loved, But Suffering (John 11:1-6)
  • 60: Using Time Rightly (John 11:7-16)
  • 61: Overcoming Faith (John 11:17-27)
  • 62: The Teacher’s Tears (John 11:28-37)
  • 63: Believing is Seeing, but Seeing is not Believing (John 11:38-57)
  • 64: Wasting Your Life on Jesus (John 12:1-11)
  • 65: Following Jesus for the Right Reason (John 12:12-19)
  • 66: We Wish to See Jesus (John 12:20-24)
  • 67: Why You Should Hate Your Life (John 12:24-26)
  • 68: Christ Lifted Up (John 12:27-36a)
  • 69: Why People Don’t Believe in Jesus (John 12:36b-43)
  • 70: The Final Notice (John 12:44-50)
  • 71: Love, Humility, and Cleansing (John 13:1-11)
  • 72: Do You Wash Dirty Feet? (John 13:12-20)
  • 73: From the Light into the Night (John 13:21-30)
  • 74: Loving as Jesus Loved (John 13:31-38)
  • 75: Comfort for Troubled Hearts (John 14:1-11)
  • 76: Doing Greater Works Than Jesus (John 14:12-14)
  • 77: How to Do Greater Works than Jesus (John 14:15-20)
  • 78: Knowing Christ More Intimately (John 14:21-24)
  • 79: Joy and Peace for Troubled Times (John 14:25-31)
  • 80: Fulfilling Your Purpose in Life (John 15:1-6)
  • 81: Growing Closer to Christ (John 15:7-11)
  • 82: Are You A Friend Of Jesus? (John 15:12-17)
  • 83: What To Expect In The World (John 15:18-27)
  • 84: Witnessing To A Hostile World (John 16:1-11)
  • 85: How the Holy Spirit Works (John 16:12-15)
  • 86: Sorrow Turned into Joy (John 16:16-24)
  • 87: Overcoming Spiritual Failure (John 16:25-33)
  • 88: Doing God’s Will in a Hostile World (John 17:1-5)
  • 89: The People God Uses (John 17:6-12)
  • 90: What in the World is Worldliness? (John 17:13-19)
  • 91: Understanding Christian Unity (John 17:20-23)
  • 92: Blessings Now Plus Heaven Ahead! (John 17:24-26)
  • 93: Jesus In Control (John 18:1-11)
  • 94: When You Fail The Lord (John 18:12-27)
  • 95: What Will You Do With Jesus? (John 18:28-19:16)
  • 96: Jesus, the King of Truth (John 18:33-38a)
  • 97: Friend of Caesar or of Christ? (John 19:12-16)
  • 98: So Great a Salvation (John 19:17-30)
  • 99: The Cross and Our Commitment (John 19:31-42)
  • 100: The Evidence for Jesus’ Resurrection (John 20:1-10)
  • 101: From Sorrow to Hope (John 20:11-18)
  • 102: Mission: Possible (John 20:19-23)
  • 103: The Aim of the Gospel (John 20:24-31)
  • 104: Blessing for Believers (John 20:29-31)
  • 105: Serving Christ Effectively (John 21:1-14)
  • 106: Loving and Serving Jesus (John 21:15-17)
  • 107: Trusting the Sovereign Lord (John 21:18-25)
  • 108: John: A Final Flyover (John, Various Texts)

Commentary on John


  • John 1:1-2 THE INCARNATION
  • John 1:1-3 CHRIST, THE WORD OF GOD
  • John 1:6 THE GOD-SENT MAN
  • John 1:1-3 CHRIST, THE WORD OF GOD
  • John 1:1-14 THE DEITY OF CHRIST
  • John 1:1-14 THE GLORY OF THE LORD
  • John 1:14 THE GLORY OF THE LORD.
  • John 1:15-17 FEEDING THE LAMBS
  • John 1:19-34 JOHN THE BAPTIST
  • John 1:19-34 THE LAMB OF GOD
  • John 1:29-37 BEHOLD THE LAMB OF GOD
  • John 1:35-42 GOD’S USHERS
  • John 1:35-42 ANDREW
  • John 1:36 COME AND SEE
  • John 2:1-11 THE FIRST MIRACLE
  • John 2:13-22 THE REAL SUPERMAN
  • John 2:13-22 THE REAL SUPERMAN
  • John 2:13-20 CHRIST, THE POWER OF GOD
  • John 3:14-15 THE SERPENT OF BRASS
  • John 3:1-15 THE BRAZEN SERPENT
  • John 3:1-12 HOW CAN GOD RE-CREATE ME?
  • John 3:22-23 THE BAPTISM IN WATER
  • John 4:24 WHAT GOD IS LIKE
  • John 4:35-38 HARVESTING SOULS
  • John 4:19-26 WHAT GOD IS LIKE
  • John 4:27-38 THE SCARLET WOMAN
  • John 4:9-14 ABOUNDING LIFE
  • John 5:4 WHAT IS THE BIBLE?
  • John 5:25-29 OUR BELOVED DEAD
  • John 6:47-58 LIFE IN OUR LORD
  • John 6:24-60 HIS FLESH AND BLOOD
  • John 6:53 THE LORD’S SUPPER
  • John 6:66-69 THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH
  • John 6:31-50 OUR LORD AS BREAD
  • John 6:61-69 THE GREAT DESERTION
  • John 6:66-68 THE TRUTH OF THE FAITH
  • John 7:17 THE WILL OF GOD FOR US
  • John 8:32-36  SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
  • John 8:28-36 SLAVERY AND FREEDOM
  • John 8:28-36 SLAVERY OR FREEDOM
  • John 8:32-36 WHOSE SLAVE ARE YOU?
  • John 8:32 THE TRUE FREEDOM
  • John 9:1-41 LIGHT FOR THE SOUL
  • John 9:1-11 THE WORKS OF GOD
  • John 9:1-41 LIGHT FOR THE SOUL
  • John 9:4 THE WORKS OF GOD
  • John 10:1-10 THE GOOD SHEPHERD
  • John 10:1-18  THE GOOD SHEPHERD
  • John 10:1-18 THE GOOD SHEPHERD
  • John 10:9-18 THE ABUNDANT LIFE
  • John 10:10 LIFE ABOUNDING
  • John 10:22 THE FEAST OF LIGHTS
  • John 10:21-30 SAVED FOREVER
  • John 10:22 THE FEAST OF LIGHTS
  • John 10:22-23 THE FEAST OF LIGHTS
  • John 10:27-30 ONCE SAVED ALWAYS SAFE
  • John 10:27-30 ONCE SAVED, ALWAYS SAFE
  • John 10:27-30 HOW CAN GOD SAVE ME FOREVER?
  • John 10:27-30 SAFE IF SAVED
  • John 11:11-26 CHRISTIANS NEVER DIE
  • John 11:23-29 CALLING FOR THEE
  • John 11:18-26 SALVATION NOW
  • John 11:23-26 THOSE WHO NEVER DIE
  • John 11:35 THE TEARS OF JESUS
  • John 11:28 THE CALL OF CHRIST
  • John 11:14-17  WHO CAN RAISE LAZARUS?
  • John 11:28 THE CALL OF CHRIST
  • John 11:35 THE TEARS OF JESUS
  • John 11:39 TAKE AWAY THE STONE
  • John 12:21 JESUS LIVING IN US
  • John 13 WASHING FEET
  • John 13:4-17  THE SERVANT CHURCH
  • John 13:1-17 THE SERVANT CHURCH
  • John 13:21-30 JUDAS
  • John 14:5-6 THE WAY TO GOD
  • John 14:5-6 CHRIST, THE WAY
  • John 14:3 THE BLESSED HOPE
  • John 14:5-6 CHRIST, THE WAY TO GOD
  • John 14:3 THE LIGHTS OF HOME
  • John 15:1-8 BEARING MUCH FRUIT
  • John 15:11 THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY
  • John 15:11 THE CHRISTIAN’S JOY
  • John 16:7-11 WHEN THE SPIRIT IS COME
  • John 16:7-11 WHEN THE SPIRIT IS COME
  • John 16:5-11 WHEN THE SPIRIT IS COME
  • John 17:20-23 LOTTIE MOON
  • John 18:1-11 THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
  • John 18:1-11 THE SHADOW OF THE CROSS
  • John 18:33-37 THE COMING KING
  • John 18:33-37 THE COMING KING
  • John 18:33-37 THE COMING KING
  • John 18:33-37 JESUS IS OUR COMING KING
  • John 18:33-37 THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
  • John 18:37 THE COMING KING
  • John 18:38 I FIND IN HIM NO FAULT
  • John 18:38 I FIND NO FAULT IN HIM
  • John 18:33-37 THE COMING KING
  • John 19:5 ECCE HOMO
  • John 19:28-37 THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
  • John 19:5 ECCE HOMO
  • John 19:5 ECCE HOMO
  • John 19:14-22 THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
  • John 19:23-35 CRIES OF CRUCIFIXION
  • John 19:28-37 THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
  • John 19:23-20 IT IS FINISHED
  • John 19:25-27 THE MOTHER OF JESUS
  • John 19:34-37 THE CRIMSON FLOW
  • John 19:25-27 IN MEMORY OF MOTHER
  • John 19:30 SAVED FOREVER
  • John 19:31-32 JESUS OUR LORD: HIS WOUNDS
  • John 19:16-22 HOW CAN GOD DIE FOR ME?
  • John 19:5 ECCE HOMO
  • John 19:16-22 HOW COULD GOD DIE FOR ME?
  • John 19:17-22 THE CROSS AND THE CROWN
  • John 19:34-35 THE CRIMSON FLOW
  • John 19:34 THE WOUNDS OF JESUS
  • John 19:25 THE MOTHER OF JESUS
  • John 19:25-27 THE QUEEN OF GLORY
  • John 20:19-29 THE LIVING PRESENCE
  • John 20:26-31 THE DEITY OF CHRIST
  • John 20:28 THE DEITY OF CHRIST
  • John 20:22  A POWER OR A PERSON?
  • John 20:24-29 KNOWN BY HIS SCARS
  • John 20:25 THE HANDS OF JESUS
  • John 20:24-31 THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE
  • John 20:24-29 JESUS LIVES
  • John 20:24-29 JESUS LIVES
  • John 20:30-31 THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE
  • John 20:24-29 JESUS LIVES!
  • John 20:24-29 THE LIVING PRESENCE
  • John 20:22 A POWER OR A PERSON?
  • John 20:24-29 KNOWN BY HIS SCARS
  • John 20:25 THE HANDS OF JESUS
  • John 20:24-31 THE DEITY OF CHRIST
  • John 20:30-31 THAT YE MIGHT BELIEVE
  • John 21:6 FISHERS OF MEN
  • John 21:15 FEEDING THE LAMBS

Sermons on John

Commentary on John

Teacher helps for Lifeway Series on John

Commentary on John
Marcus Dods

Commentary on John

These are brief but well done notes. Recommended.

Exegetical Commentary on John

Professor of New Testament Studies at Dallas Theological Seminary

Great Texts of the Bible
Expositions in the Gospel of John

These are lengthy studies - usually >15 pages


See also John Sermon Illustrations - Our Daily Bread

Commentary on John
Rodney A Whitacre

Sermon Notes
Gospel of John

Another souce

  • John 20:30-31  The Word
  • John 1:1-5  The Word of God: The Ages Past
  • John 1:6-13  The Word of God in History Among the Jews
  • John 1:14-18  The Word of God in History Among the Believers
  • John 1:19-29  The Witness of John the Baptist
  • John 1:29-34  John the Baptist and the Son of God
  • John 1:35-42  The Call of the First Disciple
  • John 1:43-51  Angels Ascending and Descending
  • John 2:1-11  The First Sign: Water into Wine
  • John 2:12-22  The First Cleansing of the Temple
  • John 2:23-3:15  Jesus and Nicodemus
  • John 3:4-8  Born of Water and Spirit
  • John 3:9-15  The Serpent and the Son of Man
  • John 3:16  The Greatest Text of All
  • John 3:17-21 Sent to Save
  • John 3:22-30  The Secret of Joy
  • John 3:31-36  He That Cometh From Above
  • John 4:1-15  The Leaping Fountain of Living Water
  • John 4:16-26  True Worship
  • John 4:27-42  How to be Wise
  • John 4:43-54  Healing of the Nobleman’s Son –
  • John 5:1-18  The Healing of the Impotent Man
  • John 5:19-30  The Dead and the Voice of the Son of God
  • John 5:31-47  A Seven-Fold Testimony to Christ
  • John 6:1-14  The Feeding of the 15,000
  • John 6:15-21  The Walking on the Water
  • John 6:22-33  Working the Works of God
  • John 6:34-40  The Bread of Life
  • John 6:41-51  Human Inability and Divine Ability
  • John 6:52-71  To Whom Shall We Go?
  • John 7:1-13  Before the Feast of the Tabernacle
  • John 7:14-24  Our Lord’s Defense of Himself
  • John 7:25-31  From Nazareth, Yet From the Father
  • John 7:32-52  Rivers of Living Waters
  • John 7:53 –8:11  The Woman Taken in Adultery, or Misery and Mercy
  • John 8:12  The Light of the World
  • John 8:13-20  The Authority of Jesus Christ
  • John 8:21-29  The True Messiah
  • John 8:30-38  Free Indeed
  • John 8:37-47  The Fatherhood of Satan and the Brotherhood of Man
  • John 8:48-59 The Day of the Ancient of Days
  • John 9:1-7  The Healing of the Blind Man
  • John 9:8-41  The Progress of a Man’s Faith
  • John 10:1-6  The Shepherd of the Sheep
  • John 10:7-10  Christ the Door
  • John 10:11-15  The Good Shepherd
  • John 10:16  Christ’s Other Sheep
  • John 10:17-18  The Father’s Love for the Redeeming God-Man
  • John 10:19-31  Shall Never Perish
  • John 10:32-42  The Charge of Blasphemy Refuted
  • John 11:1-27  The Resurrection and the Life
  • John 11:28-45  Lazarus Loved and Raised
  • John 11:46-57  The Prophecy of Caiaphas
  • John 11:55-12:11  The Supper at Bethany
  • John 12:12-19  The Triumphal Entry
  • John 12:20-26  The Coming of the Greeks: A Dispensational Signal
  • John 12:27-36 Christ Drawing All Men
  • John 12:37-50  The Mystery of Unbelief
  • John 13:1-17  The New Commandment in Symbol
  • John 13:18-30  Judas’ Last Chance
  • John 13:31-35  The Eleventh Commandment
  • John 13:36-14:11  Three Puzzled Persons
  • John 14:12-21  The Promise of the Paraclete
  • John 14:22-24  Our Heart, God’s Home
  • John 14:25-31  Peace!
  • John 15:18-16:14  Rejoice Ye Pure in Heart
  • John 15:18-16:4  The Believer in the World
  • John 16:5-11  The Spirit and the World
  • John 16:12, 15  The Spirit and the Believer – John
  • John 16:16-24  The Outcome of the Resurrection
  • John 16:25-33  Trials and Triumphs Through the Triumphant Christ
  • John 17:1-5 Christ Praying for the Son
  • John 17:6-10  Jesus Praying for the Apostles, part I
  • John 17:11-19  Jesus Praying for the Apostles, part II
  • John 17:20-26  Jesus Praying for the Family
  • John 18:1-11 The Betrayal and Arrest (Not Available)
  • John 18:12-14, 19-24  Christ Before Annias
  • John 18:15-17, 25-27  Peter and Romans 7
  • John 18:28-32  Pilate and the Jews
  • John 18:33-19:16  Pilate and Jesus Christ
  • John 19:16-24  The Father in the Cross
  • John 19:25-30  The Messiah Dying
  • John 19:31-42  The Delivering Power of the Messiah’s Death
  • John 20:1-20  John’s Testimony to the Resurrecton
  • John 20:11-18  Mary Magdalene and the Resurrection
  • John 20:19-31  Doubting Thomas: the Supreme Example of Faith
  • John 21:1-14  The Service of God and the Unseen Companion
  • John 21:15-25  The Public Restoration of Peter

Sermons on John

These Function Like a Verse by Verse Commentary. Recommended

  • Repentance in the Gospel of John
  • Declaring and Defending the Deity of Christ
  • John 1:1-5 Jesus: The Divine Word
  • John 1:1-18 The Word Made Flesh
  • John 1:6-13 Jesus: The Divine Light
  • John 1:14-18 Jesus: Glory, Grace, and God
  • John 1:14-18 We Beheld His Glory
  • John 1:19-37 The First Testimony Concerning Jesus, Part 1
  • John 1:19-37 The First Testimony Concerning Jesus, Part 2
  • John 1:38-51 The Disciples’ Testimony Concerning Jesus
  • John 2:1-11 The Beginning of Miracles
  • John 2:12-17 Zeal for My Father’s House
  • John 2:18-22 Deity on Display
  • John 3:1-3 Jesus Teaches the Teacher
  • John 3:3 The Blueprint for Being Born Again
  • John 3:1-10 God's Role in Regeneration
  • John 3:1-10 The Divine Summons
  • John 3:6 A 15-Year Retrospective on the Lordship Controversy
  • John 3:11-21 Twin Truths: God’s Sovereignty and Man’s Responsibility
  • John 3:11-14 Simply Believe
  • John 3:15-21 Belief, Judgment, and Eternal Life
  • John 3:22-30 Humility Is the First Law of Ministry
  • John 3:31-36 Jesus Is Superior to John
  • John 4:1-15 Messiah: The Living Water, Part 1
  • John 4:16-26 Messiah: The Living Water, Part 2
  • John 4:27-42 Messiah: The Living Water, Part 3
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 1
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 2
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 3
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 4
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 5
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 6
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 7
  • John 4:20-24 True Worship, Part 8
  • John 4:43-45 Contemplating Unbelief
  • John 4:46-54 Saving Faith in a Herodian Household
  • John 5:1–16 The Damning Power of False Religion
  • John 5:17–20 The Most Startling Claim Ever Made, Part 1
  • John 5:21–24 The Most Startling Claim Ever Made, Part 2
  • John 5:25–29 The Dead Will Hear Christ
  • John 5:30–37 Testimony to the Deity of Christ, Part 1
  • John 5:37–40 Testimony to the Deity of Christ, Part 2
  • John 5:41-­47 Testimony to the Deity of Christ, Part 3
  • John 6 The Pathology of False Disciples, Part 1
  • John 6 The Pathology of False Disciples, Part 2
  • John 6 The Pathology of False Disciples, Part 3
  • John 6:1-15 Jesus Feeds the Multitudes
  • John 6:1-34 Characteristics of Spiritual Defection
  • John 6:16-21 True and False Disciples, Part 1
  • John 6:22-27 True and False Disciples, Part 2
  • John 6:28-34 True and False Disciples, Part 3
  • John 6:32-59 I Am the Bread of Life
  • John 6:51-58 Bread from Heaven
  • John 6:66-71 Characteristics of Spiritual Defection, Part 1
  • John 6:35-71 Characteristics of Spiritual Defection, Part 2
  • John 6:28-34 True and False Disciple, Part 3
  • John 6:37 (et al) Common Questions About Lordship
  • John 6:44 No One Comes to Christ…Unless
  • John 6:51-58 Bread from Heaven
  • John 6:53-56 Are We Called to Literally Eat Christ’s Flesh and Drink His Blood?
  • John 6:66-71 Divine Sorrow over Spiritual Defection
  • John 7:1-13 Keeping the Divine Timetable
  • John 7:14-24 Embracing the Claims of Christ
  • John 7:25-36 Shut Out of Heaven Forever
  • John 7:37-52 The Glorious Gospel Invitation
  • John 8:3-11 Jesus the Friend of Sinners
  • John 8:12-21 I Am the Light of the World
  • John 8:21-25 A Plan for Dying in Your Sins
  • John 8:21-30 The Simple Gospel
  • John 8:21-25 A Plan for Dying in Your Sins
  • John 8:21-30 Four Ways to Miss Heaven
  • John 8:21-30 4 Marks of a Hell-Bound Man

James Commentaries & Sermons

Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
See also Overview Chart by Charles Swindoll

Faith for Living

The Place of Works:
Outward Demonstration of Inner Faith
Jas 1:1-18Jas 1:19-2:13Jas 2:14-25Jas 3:1-12Jas 3:13-4:12Jas 4:13-5:12Jas 5:13-19
Trials &
Word &
Faith &







and the

and our


Key Words -- See importance of key words - learn how to mark key words and the associated discipline of how to interrogate them with 5W/H questions.Practice "interrogating" key words as well as term of conclusion (therefore), term of explanation (for), terms of purpose or result (so that, in order that, that, as a result), terms of contrast (but, yet), expressions of time (including then; until, after) and terms of comparison (like, as). You will be amazed at how your Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will illuminate your understanding, a spiritual blessing that will grow the more you practice! Be diligent! Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit. See also inductive Bible study  - observation (Observe With a Purpose), Interpretation (Keep Context King, Read Literally, Compare Scripture with Scripture, Consult Conservative Commentaries), and then be a doer of the Word with Application. Do not overlook "doing the word" for if you do you are deluding yourself, and are just a "smarter sinner," but not more like the Savior! As Jesus said "blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it." (Lk 11:28+, cf James 1:22+), 

See discussion ofmarking key wordsObservation Worksheet on James with double spaced text for marking Key Words, Making lists, taking notes that you can later transfer to your Bible

  • Perfect - James 1:4 James 1:17 James 1:25 James 3:2
  • Sin - James 1:15 James 2:9 James 4:8 James 4:17 James 5:13 James 5:15 James 5:16 James 5:20
  • Riches - James 1:10 James 1:11 James 2:5 James 2:6 James 5:1 James 5:2
  • Faith (faith 16x/12v) - James 1:3 James 1:6 James 2:1 James 2:5 James 2:14 James 2:17 James 2:18 James 2:19 James 2:20 James 2:22 James 2:23 James 2:24 James 2:26 James 5:15
  • Believe - James 2:19, James 2:23
  • Works - James 2:14 James 2:17 James 2:18 James 2:20 James 2:21 James 2:22 James 2:24 James 2:25 James 2:26
  • Do -  James 1:16; James 2:1; James 2:7; James 2:11; James 2:16; James 2:19; James 3:14; James 4:2; James 4:3; James 4:4; James 4:5; James 4:11; James 4:14; James 4:15; James 4:17; James 5:9; James 5:12
  • Judge - James 2:4 James 2:12 James 2:13 James 3:1 James 4:11 James 4:12 James 5:9 James 5:12
  • Law (12x/8v) - James 1:25 James 2:8 James 2:9 James 2:10 James 2:11 James 2:12 James 4:11 James 4:12
  • Say - James 1:13 James 2:3 James 2:14 James 2:16 James 2:18 James 2:23 James 3:2 James 4:6 James 4:13 James 4:15
  • Bless/Blessed/Blessing - James 1:12 James 1:25 James 3:9 James 3:10 James 5:11
  • Fruit - James 1:18 James 3:17 James 3:18 James 5:18

Introduction to James by Dr John MacArthur: Title, Author, Date, Background, Setting, Historical, Theological Themes, Interpretive Challenges, Outline by Chapter/Verse. Excellent overview.

James, with its devotion to direct, pungent statements on wise living, is reminiscent of the book of Proverbs. It has a practical emphasis, stressing not theoretical knowledge, but godly behavior. James wrote with a passionate desire for his readers to be uncompromisingly obedient to the Word of God. He used at least 30 references to nature (e.g., “wave of the sea” [1:6]; “reptile” [3:7]; and “heaven gave rain” [5:18]), as befits one who spent a great deal of time outdoors. He complements Paul’s emphasis on justification by faith with his own emphasis on spiritual fruitfulness demonstrating true faith.

There are a number of ways to outline the book to grasp the arrangement of its content. One way is to arrange it around a series of tests by which the genuineness of a person’s faith may be measured.

  • Introduction (James 1:1)
  • I. The Test of Perseverance in Suffering (James 1:2–12)
  • II. The Test of Blame in Temptation (James 1:13–18)
  • III. The Test of Response to the Word (James 1:19–27)
  • IV. The Test of Impartial Love (James 2:1–13)
  • V. The Test of Righteous Works (James 2:14–26)
  • VI. The Test of the Tongue (James 3:1–12)
  • VII. The Test of Humble Wisdom (James 3:13–18)
  • VIII. The Test of Worldly Indulgence (James 4:1–12)
  • IX. The Test of Dependence (James 4:13–17)
  • X. The Test of Patient Endurance (James 5:1–11)
  • XI. The Test of Truthfulness (James 5:12)
  • XII. The Test of Prayerfulness (James 5:13–18)
  • XIII. The Test of True Faith (James 5:19, 20)

The International Standard Bible Encyclopaedia states: “The Epistle of James is the most Jewish writing in the New Testament. The Gospel according to Matthew was written for the Jews. The Epistle to the Hebrews is addressed explicitly to them. The Apocalypse is full of the spirit of the Old Testament. The Epistle of Jude is Jewish too. Yet all of these books have more of the distinctively Christian element in them than we can find in the Epistle of James. If we eliminate two or three passages containing references to Christ, the whole epistle might find its place just as properly in the Canon of the Old Testament as in that of the New Testament, as far as its substance of doctrine and contents is concerned. That could not be said of any other book in the New Testament. There is no mention of the incarnation or of the resurrection, the two fundamental facts of the Christian faith. The word ‘gospel’ does not occur in the epistle. There is no suggestion that the Messiah has appeared and no presentation of the possibility of redemption through Him.”

Douglas J. Moo, in his commentary on James, writes about the background of the epistle: “The epistle of James has had a controversial history. Along with 1 and 2 Peter, 1, 2 and 3 John, and Jude, it belongs to that category of New Testament epistles called ‘general’ or ‘catholic’ (in the sense of ‘universal’) (See catholic epistles). This designation was given to these seven letters early in the history of the church because each appears to be addressed to the church at large rather than to a single congregation. These letters also shared an uncertain status in many areas of the early church. Along with Hebrew and Revelation, several of them were the last to achieve generally recognized canonical status. In the case of James, it was not until the end of the fourth century that both eastern and western Christendom acknowledged it as Scripture...James, said Luther, ‘mangles the Scriptures and thereby opposes Paul and all Scripture’ … and he characterized the letter as ‘an epistle of straw.’ Along with Jude, Hebrews and Revelation, therefore, Luther consigned James to the end of his German translation of the New Testament. But, while Luther obviously had difficulties with James and came close to giving the letter a secondary status, his criticism should not be overdrawn. He did not exclude James from the canon and, it has been estimated, cites of half the verses of James as authoritative in his writings. Even ‘the epistle of straw’ reference must be understood in its context: Luther is not dismissing James as worthless, but contrasting it unfavorably with the ‘chief books’ (John’s Gospel, 1 John, Paul’s epistles [especially Romans, Galatians and Ephesians] and 1 Peter), which show you Christ and teach you all that is necessary and salutary for you to know, even if you were never to see or hear any other book or doctrine.’ Therefore, Luther says of James elsewhere, ‘I cannot include him among the chief books, though I would not prevent anyone from including or extolling him as he pleases, for there are otherwise many good sayings in him.’ Few of the other reformers followed Luther in his criticism of James. Calvin, for instance, while admitting that James ‘seems more sparing in proclaiming the grace of Christ than it behooved an apostle to be,’ notes that ‘it is not surely required of all to handle the same arguments.’ He accepted the apostolic authority of James and Paul on the issue of justification. Calvin’s approach is surely the correct one. In hindsight, we can see that Luther’s excitement over his ‘discovery’ of the doctrine of justification by faith and is polemical context prevented him from taking a balanced approach to James and some other New Testament books. With greater knowledge of the Jewish background of James, and at a distance of several centuries from the battles Luther was fighting, we can appreciate the way James and Paul complement one another. Their opponents are different, and their arguments accordingly different, but each makes an important contribution to our understanding of faith.”

J Sidlow Baxter - We can scarcely agree with those who say that the epistle is "almost impossible to analyze." It is not simply a chain of one-after-another thoughts; there are easily distinguishable areas.

  • Chapter 1 is decidedly about temptation and considerations associated with it (see James 1:2,12,13,14; then James 1:17, which assures us that, other than temptation, only good comes from above). The first proof of true faith, says James, is endurance of temptation.
  • Chapter 2 is equally clearly devoted to impartial benevolence, as a further proof of true faith (see specially verses 1-4,14-18)
  • Chapter 3 follows with its unsparing, graphic deliverance on control of the tongue, as another proof of true Christian faith. It has been truly said that there is scarcely a more "burning and scorching" paragraph in the New Testament.
  • The remainder of the letter (James 4:1-5:6) exhorts us to godliness in all things-in a series of flashlights on successive aspects.

There is no need here for a closer analysis. Let us clearly see the central stem and its main outreachings:

THE EPISTLE OF JAMES  Theme: The Proofs of Faith 

  • Proof 1 - ENDURANCE OF TEMPTATION (James 1).
  • Proof 2 - IMPARTIAL BENEVOLENCE (James 2).
  • Proof 3 - CONTROL OF THE TONGUE (James 3).
  • Proof 4 - GODLINESS IN ALL THINGS (James 4:1-5:6).
  • Final encouragements,James 5:7-20. (Explore the Book-J. Sidlow Baxter-recommended)

Henrietta Mears- The book of James is the most practical of all the Epistles, and has been called “A Practical Guide to Christian Life and Conduct.” This book is the Proverbs of the New Testament. It is filled with moral precepts. It states the ethics of Christian faith. It is full of figures and metaphors. It is often quite dramatic in style. It compels the reader to think. Hebrews presents doctrine; James presents deeds. They go together in vital Christian faith.  Some people have suggested that there is a conflict between what Paul and James have to say, but only superficial reading of both would warrant that accusation. Paul says, “Take the gospel in.” James says, “Take it out.” Paul saw Christ in the heavens, establishing our righteousness. James saw Him on the earth, telling us to be as perfect as His Father in heaven is perfect. Paul dwells on the source of our faith. James tells about the fruit of our faith. One lays the foundations in Christ; the other builds the superstructure. Christ is both “the author and finisher” (Hebrews 12:2) of our faith. Not only believe that fact, but live it! Although Paul lays great stress upon justification by faith, we have noticed in his epistles, especially in Titus, that he emphasizes good works. It is an astounding fact that while Paul uses the expression “rich in good works” (1 Timothy 6:18), James uses “rich in faith” (James 2:5). It is good to notice, too, that when James seems to speak in a slighting way of faith, he means a faith that is mere intellectual belief that does not produce works, not a “saving faith” that is so essential. James exalts faith. He says that its trials produce patience in a person. James begins and ends with a strong encouragement to pray (see James 1:5–8; 5:13–18). Prayer is one of the easiest subjects to talk about but one of the hardest things to practice....

Spiritual arithmetic is of value, and the arithmetic of the Bible is important enough that none of us can afford to ignore it. James invites Christians to count: “Count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations” (James 1:2). We usually count it joy when we escape temptation and sorrow. In addition, we should count testing as a glorious opportunity to prove our faith, just as the car manufacturer knows that the best proof of the car’s worth is the road test. Why we must “count it all joy” is not because of the trial itself but because of what it will work out. In other words, use your trials. What is the purpose of testing? God uses our trials to give us blessings (see James 1:3). Too often our trials result in our impatience, but God will give us grace so that His real purpose will be accomplished. Patience is necessary more than anything else in our faith life. We forget that time is nothing to God, for with Him a thousand years is as one day; and one day, as a thousand years (see 1 Peter 3:8). Christ’s purpose for our lives is that we will be perfect and complete, wanting nothing....

JAMES 1:22–2: OUR ACTIONS REFLECT OUR FAITH - Don’t be merely listeners to God’s Word, but put the gospel into practice. What is the good of people saying they have faith if they do not prove it by their actions? We must not be satisfied with only listening. We must be doing (see James 1:22). People who are listeners and not doers are like those who look at themselves in a mirror and then go away and forget what they looked like (see James 1:24). James says we must keep looking into the mirror of God’s Word to remember how we look, to find out the sins in our lives. Those who look carefully into the Scriptures and practice them will be blessed in what they do. The religion of those who think they are religious but don’t control their tongues is vain. The religion that does not influence the tongue is not a true or vital one. An uncontrolled tongue in a Christian is a terrible thing—guard against it. And control your temper. It is dangerous. When you undergo a trial, be slow to speak. Close off the air to a fire and the flames will go out (see James 1:26).

What are we to do with the Word?

    •      Receive it—James 1:21
    •      Hear it—James 1:23
    •      Do it—James 1:22
    •      Examine it—James 1:25

James 3 - Our Words Reveal Our Faith - Our speech reveals what we are and who we belong to. It expresses our personality more than anything else....We should not with the same tongue praise God and curse people who are made in His likeness! Cruel words have wrecked homes, broken friendships, divided churches and sent untold millions to ruin and despair. Many people who call themselves Christians don’t seem to make the slightest effort to control their tongues, and this is wrong.

James 4 - The world consists of all the things around us and the spirit within us that are blind and deaf to the value of spiritual things and care nothing about doing the will of God. The devil has organized this world on principles opposed to God in every way. They are principles of force, greed, ambition, selfishness and pleasure. The believer should be crucified to this world (see Galatians 6:14)....

How easy it is for us to plan without God, yet how futile! Let us submit all our plans to the Lord and see what His will is in every matter—“if the Lord will” (James 4:15). One of the most amazing things in all of God’s Word is that though He holds the whole universe in His hands, He has a definite plan for each one of our lives. Our lives are a series of surprises for us. We live just one day at a time. We don’t know what tomorrow will bring, but God does (see 1 John 3:1–2). What a wonderful God we have! (What the Bible is All About - Recommended Resource)

Wiersbe: "The Epistle of James was written to help us understand and attain spiritual maturity (James 1:4b)… James used the word perfect several times, a word that means 'mature, complete' (see James 1:4, 17, 25; 2:22; 3:2). By 'a perfect man' (James 3:2) James did not mean a sinless man, but rather one who is mature, balanced, grown-up."

Talk Thru the Bible - Christ in James—James refers to the “Lord Jesus Christ” (1:1; 2:1), and he anticipates “the coming of the Lord” (5:7–8). Compared to other New Testament writers. James says little about Christ, and yet his speech is virtually saturated with allusions to the teaching of Christ. The Sermon on the Mount is especially prominent in James’s thinking (there are c. fifteen indirect references; e.g., James 1:2 and Matt. 5:10–12; James 1:4 and Matt. 5:48; James 2:13 and Matt. 6:14–15; James 4:11 and Matt. 7:1–2; James 5:2 and Matt. 6:19). This epistle portrays Christ in the context of early messianic Judaism. (Bruce Wilkinson)

Charles Swindoll - In the opening of his letter, James called himself a bond-servant of God, an appropriate name given the practical, servant-oriented emphasis of the book. Throughout the book, James contended that faith produces authentic deeds. In other words, if those who call themselves God’s people truly belong to Him, their lives will produce deeds or fruit. In language and themes that sound similar to Jesus’s Sermon on the Mount, James rails against the hypocritical believer who says one thing but does another. For James, faith was no abstract proposition but had effects in the real world. James offered numerous practical examples to illustrate his point: faith endures in the midst of trials, calls on God for wisdom, bridles the tongue, sets aside wickedness, visits orphans and widows, and does not play favorites. He stressed that the life of faith is comprehensive, impacting every area of our lives and driving us to truly engage in the lives of other people in the world. While James recognized that even believers stumble (James 3:2), he also knew that faith should not coexist with people who roll their eyes at the less fortunate, ignore the plight of others, or curse those in their paths.

More than any other book in the New Testament, James places the spotlight on the necessity for believers to act in accordance with our faith. How well do your actions mirror the faith that you proclaim? This is a question that we all struggle to answer well. We would like to point to all the ways our faith and works overlap but too often see only gaps and crevices. As you read the letter from James, focus on those areas that he mentioned: your actions during trials, your treatment of those less fortunate, the way you speak and relate to others, and the role that money plays in how you live your life. Allow James to encourage you to do good, according to the faith you proclaim. (Insight for Living)

DOUGLAS MOO - James, Theology of - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary

The Letter of James is a practical exhortation, assuming more theology than it teaches. Some claim that the letter has no theology. The validity of this assertion depends on what is meant by "theology." On the one hand, James has little to say about most Christian doctrines, nor does he consistently relate his exhortations to the person of Christ. In fact he mentions Jesus Christ only twice (1:1; 2:2), and only once as the object of belief (2:1). If, then, by theology we mean a system of belief that consistently refers to the person and work of Christ as a major focal point, then the Letter of James does indeed lack a theology.

This is, however, too narrow a definition of "theology." Understood as the set of beliefs that are explicitly stated and implicitly assumed as the basis for its exhortations, theology is very much present in the letter. James, after all, is writing to Christians who already know the basics of the Christian faith; his purpose is to bring their conduct in line with those beliefs. Moreover, we must not overlook the specific theological teaching that is found in James. His letter makes an important contribution to our understanding of issues such as the relationship of faith and works, prayer, the nature of God, and materialism. All these are set in a practical context, but it will be a sad day for the church when such "practical divinity" is not considered theology.

Therefore, while the occasional and homiletical nature of the letter prevents us from sketching a theology of James, we can survey his contribution to several important areas of theology. (Click for full article - Baker's Evangelical Dictionary)

H A Ironside notes a  comparison of James' epistle with the gospel by Matthew

  • James vs. Matthew
  • James 1:2 - Matthew 5:10-12
  • James 1:4 - Matthew 5:48
  • James 1:5 - Matthew 7:7
  • James 1:6 - Matthew 21:21
  • James 1:9 - Matthew 5:3
  • James 1:20 - Matthew 5:22
  • James 1:22 - Matthew 7:21; Matthew 7:24
  • James 2:8 - Matthew 22:39
  • James 2:10 - Matthew 5:19
  • James 2:13; James 5:7 - Matthew 6:14-15
  • James 2:14 - Matthew 7:21-23
  • James 3:17 - Matthew 18:5; Matthew 18:9
  • James 4:4 - Matthew 6:24
  • James 4:10 - Matthew 5:5
  • James 4:11 - Matthew 7:1-5
  • James 5:2-3 - Matthew 6:19
  • James 5:8 - Matthew 24:33
  • James 5:10 - Matthew 5:12
  • James 5:12 - Matthew 5:33-37



  • Whyte's Dictionary of Bible Characters James the Lord's Brother
  • Bridgeway Bible Dictionary James, letter of
  • Holman Bible Dictionary James, the Letter
  • Fausset Bible Dictionary James, the General Epistle of
  • Smith Bible Dictionary James, the General Epistle of
  • The Jewish Encyclopedia James, General Epistle of
  • American Tract Society James, the Epistle of
  • Easton's Bible Dictionary James, Epistle of
  • Hastings' Dictionary of the Bible James, Epistle of
  • International Standard Bible Encyclopedia James, Epistle of
  • McClintock and Strong's Bible Encyclopedia James, Epistle Of
  • The Nuttall Encyclopedia James, Epistle of


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from recommended resource Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

James Commentary
In Depth On Site
Verse by Verse
Bruce Hurt, MD

The following are in depth verse by verse comments on the entire chapter 

The following are additional commentary pages

James: — Precept Ministries International — Inductive Bible Study
15 lessons - Lesson 1 can be downloaded as Pdf
(Click link)

James Commentary
The New Testament for English Readers

Read his fascinating brief biography - Henry Alford and Phil Johnson's related comments

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament...though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works).

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (see his comments in following entry on Alford).

Editorial Note: If you are not proficient in Greek, you will find this work considerably more useful than the following work by Alford, because in this volume he translates the Greek and Latin into English. While the "The Greek New Testament" is longer (e.g., English version of 1John = 66 pages compared to Greek version = 94 pages in part because the latter includes comments of more technical nature), the substance of the commentary is otherwise similar to that found in the "NT for English Readers".

James Commentary
The Greek Testament

James Rosscup writes that "This was the great work in the life of the versatile Dean of Canterbury. An outcome of this production was the New Testament for English Readers (4 vols.). Alford was a Calvinist, conservative and premillennial, though not dispensational. He takes a literal interpretation of the thousand years in Rev. 20 and has a famous quote there, is strong on sovereign election as in Ro 8:29, 30 and 1Pe 1:2, but, unfortunately, holds to baptismal regeneration in such texts as Titus 3:5 and John 3:5. He shows a great knowledge of the Greek text and faces problems of both a doctrinal and textual nature." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

John Piper writes ""When I’m stumped with a...grammatical or syntactical or logical [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford...comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes that this text "is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to Alford’s New Testament for English Readers,* which is also a standard work." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Sermons and Studies
The Book of James

Bethany Bible Church


AUDIO - Click here for the audios of the 12 lessons on James listed below averaging about 41 minutes each...

  • 1 James 1:1-12 – Study 1 41:15
  • 2 James 1:13-18 – Study 2 39:38
  • 3 James 1:19-27 – Study 3 40:48
  • 4 James 2:1-13 – Study 4 40:18
  • 5 James 2:14-26 – Study 5 43:53
  • 6 James 3:1-12 – Study 6 37:15
  • 7 James 3:13-18 – Study 7 40:40
  • 8 James 4:1-12– Study 8 43:11
  • 9 James 4:13-17 – Study 9 33:44
  • 10 James 5:1-6 – Study 10 40:14
  • 11 James 5:7-12 – Study 11 39:48
  • 12 James 5:13-20 – Study 12 41:40

Teacher Notes on James

More Notes on Each of the Preceding Studies

A Devotional Commentary
Epistle of James

Good quotes and illustrations - See example of an outline below

James - A Devotional Commentary — Nine Tests of Genuine Faith - 93 page Pdf

I. Character of Faith

A. (James 1:1-12) Persevering under Trials     >>> Will

B. (James 1:13-18) Progress of Temptation

C. (James 1:19-27) Planting the Word             >>> Word  

D. (James 2:1-13) Personal Favoritism            >>> Works

E. (James 2:14-26) Performance of Faith

II. Control of Faith

A. (James 3:1-12) Power of the Tongue           >>> Words  

B. (James 3:13-18) Portrait of Pure Wisdom   >>> Wisdom

III. Conflicts of Faith

A. (James 4:1-12) Perversity of Pleasures     >>> Worldliness

B. (James 4:13-5:6) Pride of the Rich            >>> Wealth

IV. Consummation of Faith

A. (James 5:7-12) Patient Endurance            >>> Wait

B. (James 5:13-20) Prayer and Restoration  >>> Wholeness

Here are several examples of quotes you will find throughout Apple's outline commentary

  • Allen: "Problems Purify my Faith… James uses the word 'testing' - as in testing gold and silver. You would heat them up very hot until the impurities were burned off. Job said, 'But God knows the way that I take, and when he has tested me, I will come out like gold.' Job 23:10 (NCV) God is not interested in watching our faith get torpedoed. God desires that our faith would be 'approved.' A student who is accepted by the admissions office of a college can say, 'I am a student.' But until that person takes tests and exams, no one can actually affirm that he is worthy of the name 'student.' They only way to determine the validity of a student’s work is to see the performance on exams. Christians are a lot like tea bags. You don’t know what’s inside of them until you drop them in hot water. Your faith develops when things don’t go as planned. It purifies your faith."...Today, there are numerous ideas being tossed around regarding trials and hardships. Some believe they’re a form of punishment from God. Others dangle before us the promise that if we can just reach a certain level of maturity, trials will disappear and we’ll live happily every after. Life will be one big Disneyland. And still others are out there trying to convince us that there’s really not such thing as adversity. Trials such as death, pain, sickness, emotional hurt, are a figment of our imagination.
  • Chromy: "The double-minded man has reservations about being completely yielded to God. You are double-minded when you want your own will and God’s will at the same time. God wants you to trust him completely and allow him to take care of you throughout difficulties."
  • Barclay: "If life is so uncertain, if man is so vulnerable, if the externals of life are so perishable, then calamity and disaster may come at any moment. Since that is so, a man is a fool to put all his trust in things --like wealth--which he may lose at any moment. He is only wise if he puts his trust in things which he cannot lose. So then, James urges the rich to cease to put their trust in that which their own power can amass. He urges them to realize and to admit their own essential human helplessness, and humbly to put their trust in God, who alone can give us the things which abide for ever. He is pleading with men to glory in that new humility which realizes its utter dependence on God."
  • Wiersbe: “Our values determine our evaluations. If we value comfort more than character, then trials will upset us. If we value the material and physical more than the spiritual, we will not be able to ‘count it all joy!’ If we live only for the present and forget about the future, the trials will make us bitter, not better.”
  • Mooney: "Learn to Grow Through Adversity …When faced with adversity we will also discover some things about ourselves. We will discover what our view of God really is. We will discover what our weaknesses and our strengths are. We will discover how mature we are. We will discover what our priorities really are. God’s command or my comfort."
  • Luck: "Patience is usually thought of as calm resignation to God's will in face of the inevitable. But Christian patience, as spoken of in the New Testament, is more than this. It is true that calm submission is a part of it, but this is only the negative side. On the positive side there is a steady and determined perseverance, in spite of difficulties, toward the right--toward the goal of God's will for our lives."
  • Racer: (James 1:1-4) The Power of Pressures to Perfect Us Introduction: Plumbing Illustration – when you attempt to fix a plumbing problem, the real test comes when you turn the water back on and put pressure on the system … then you find out whether the system can hold up. Trials pinpoint the weaknesses in our system that still need to be addressed. Life might appear all well and good until God sends just enough pressure so that we can’t handle things on our own; then we blow a gasket and need to turn to Him for help. Opportunity in this passage to examine how we respond to pressure – different options: being built up, blown up by the pressure, or blowing up at the pressure
  • Wiersbe: "No temptation appears as temptation; it always seems more alluring than it really is. James used two illustrations from the world of sports to prove his point. Drawn away carries with it the idea of the baiting of a trap; and enticed in the original Greek means 'to bait a hook.' The hunter and the fisherman have to use bait to attract and catch their prey. No animal is deliberately going to step into a trap and no fish will knowingly bite at a naked hook. The idea is to hide the trap and the hook."...Re "lusts" -- "Some people try to become 'spiritual' by denying these normal desires, or by seeking to suppress them; but this only makes them less than human. These fundamental desires of life are the steam in the boiler that makes the machinery go. Turn off the steam and you have no power. Let the steam go its own way and you have destruction. The secret is in constant control. These desires must be our servants and not our masters and this we can do through Jesus Christ."
  • Vaughan: "The suggestion is that man's lust, like a harlot, entices and seduces him. Man surrenders his will to lust, conception takes place, and lust gives birth to sin."
  • Ross: "The mere fact of our being tempted does not involve in itself anything sinful. It is when the desire of man goes out to meet and embrace the forbidden thing and an unholy marriage takes place between these two, that sin is born. Once sin is born, it grows, and, unless it be counteracted and mastered by the grace of God, when it is fullgrown, it brings forth death, death in all the breadth of the meaning of that dread word, death spiritual and death eternal, the death that lies beyond physical death for the ungodly. Thus, we have here the two destinies of man, in James 1:12 the fullness of life that is to be the portion of those who love God and the death that is to be the inevitable doom of the persistent haters of God."
  • Zodhiates: "The heavenly bodies change, they move about in space, and their benevolence to us varies, but not so with the One who is light, who is space, who is time, who is the Creator of them all, and no one can cast a shadow on Him… There is no night so dark that His light cannot shine upon you. 'I am the Lord, I change not' (Mal. 3:6). 'God is light, and in him is no darkness at all' (I John 1:5)."...."In the Old Testament the first fruits, therefore, were the peculiar possession of God. Among His entire creation we are peculiarly His possession, for we were not only created by Him, but also re-created. A little boy who had lost his toy boat found it for sale in a store, and when he bought it, he took it in his hands and hugged it, saying 'My little precious boat, you are now twice mine; once I made you and once I bought you.'"
  • Wiersbe: "One of the enemy's tricks is to convince us that our Father is holding out on us, that He does not really love us and care for us. When Satan approached Eve, he suggested that if God really loved her, He would permit her to eat of the forbidden tree. When Satan tempted Jesus, he raised the question of hunger. 'If your Father loves You, why are You hungry?' The goodness of God is a great barrier against yielding to temptation. Since God is good, we do not need any other person (including Satan) to meet our needs. It is better to be hungry in the will of God than full outside the will of God. Once we start to doubt God's goodness, we will be attracted to Satan's offers; and the natural desires within will reach out for his bait."
  • Apple - God gave you two ears and only one mouth so that you would listen twice as much as you talk. Some people just babble on; hard to get a word in; they are thinking only of their response instead of listening. (Zeno quoted by Barclay)
  • Zodhiates: "Once a young man came to that great philosopher Socrates to be instructed in oratory. The moment the young man was introduced, he began to talk, and there was an incessant stream for some time. When Socrates could get in a word, he said, 'Young man, I will have to charge you a double fee.' 'A double fee, why is that?' The old sage replied, 'I will have to teach you two sciences. First, how to hold your tongue, and then, how to use it.' What an art for all of us to learn, especially for Christians."
  • Barclay: "The tribute was once paid to a great linguist that he could be silent in seven different languages. Many of us would do well to wait and listen more, and to rush in and speak less."
  • Zodhiates: "Sin in our lives is like having wax in our ears; it prevents the Word of truth from reaching our hearts; for if it cannot penetrate through the ear, it will not come down to the heart."
  • Barclay: "The teachable spirit is docile and tractable, and therefore humble enough to learn. The teachable spirit is without resentment and without anger, and is, therefore, able to face the truth, even when the truth hurts and condemns. The teachable spirit is not blinded by its own overmastering prejudices, but is clear-eyed to the truth. The teachable spirit is not seduced by laziness, but is so self-controlled that it can willingly and faithfully accept the discipline of learning. Prautes describes the perfect conquest and control of everything in a man's nature which would be a hindrance to his seeing, learning and obeying the truth."
  • Wiersbe: "It is not enough to hear the Word; we must do it. Many people have the mistaken idea that hearing a good sermon or Bible study is what makes them grow and get God's blessing. It is not the hearing but the doing that brings the blessing. Too many Christian mark their Bibles, but their Bibles never mark them! If you think you are spiritual because you hear the Word, then you are only kidding yourself."
  • Tasker: "It is not therefore something imposed upon the believer from without in the form of a code of external rules and regulations. It is not for him a dead letter but a living power. It would seem to be called the law of liberty partly because it enables men to find their true freedom in the service of God's will, and partly because the believer accepts it without any compulsion. The Christian loves God's commandments and is eager to obey them."
  • Wiersbe: "The emphasis in this section is on the dangers of self-deception: 'deceiving your own selves' (James 1:22); 'deceiveth his own heart' (James 1:26)… Many people are deceiving themselves into thinking they are saved when they are not… But there are true believers who are fooling themselves concerning their Christian walk. they think they are spiritual when they are not… Spiritual reality results from the proper relationship to God through His Word. God's Word is truth (John 17:17), and if we are rightly related to God's truth, we cannot be dishonest or hypocritical.
  • (For more quotes see James - A Devotional Commentary)

James Commentary

Hiebert - Barclay holds that our book of James is the substance of a sermon preached by James, the Lord's brother, taken down by someone else and translated into Greek with a few additions. Barclay's own translation is printed at the beginning of each of the paragraphs into which the epistle is divided. Most valuable for its word studies and background material.

See Critique of Barclay who is not always fully orthodox

Notes on the New Testament

James Rosscup writes that Barnes "includes 16 volumes on the Old Testament, 11 on the New Testament. The New Testament part of this old work was first published in 1832–1851. Various authors contributed. It is evangelical and amillennial...Often the explanations of verses are very worthwhile." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

C H Spurgeon "Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are of comparatively little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday-school teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading, endowed with enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil....Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday-school teachers." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

John Cereghin - Valuable commentary that had a wide sale when first published by this Presbyterian pastor.

Calvary Chapel, Murrieta
Sermon Notes on James

Nice outline format with pithy sayings and practical application - here is a sample from James 1:1 -11

Intro:James is a very practical book that discusses “living the Faith”! It’s the N.T.’s book of Proverbs; you’ll hear bits of the Sermon on the Mount in it; & you’ll see many O.T. word pictures & references. James refers to: Abraham, Isaac, Rahab, Job, & Elijah, & alludes to 21 O.T. books! It’s main point – “True Faith is a Faith that Works!”If we truly practice our faith it will be seen in: How we face trials (ch.1); How we treat people (ch.2); What we say (ch.3); How we deal w/ sin in our lives (ch.4); How we Pray (ch.5). It deals w/the crucial relationship between faith & active works! It’s balancing right belief w/ right behavior. How will we study this book? “See Christianity must not only be believed, it must be lived!”  The type of Christianity that has “no experience of a changed life”, is no Christianity at all!  The proof of real faith is a changed life! Here is plenty of practical advice on Christian living! You could call it the “How-To” Book on Christian Living! (Christian Living for Dummies!) “The true seed of saving faith is verified by the tangible fruit of serving faith.” Will you take the challenge this morning (& each Sunday morn) to be a “doer” of James words? We will not be the same at the end of this book if we prayerfully ask the Spirit to apply what we learn. E. J. Goodspeed called James, “just a handful of pearls, dropped one by one into the hearers mind.”


James Commentary
The Critical English Testament

Note: Represents Combination of Bengel's Gnomon  and Comments by more modern expositors (in brackets) to make this more usable for those who do not read Greek.

Spurgeon comments on the goal to make Bengel's Gnomon (listed above) more accessible -- "Such is the professed aim of this commentary, and the compilers have very fairly carried out their intentions. The whole of Bengel’s Gnomon is bodily transferred into the work, and as 120 years have elapsed since the first issue of that book, it may be supposed that much has since been added to the wealth of Scripture exposition; the substance of this has been incorporated in brackets, so as to bring it down to the present advanced state of knowledge. We strongly advise the purchase of this book, as it...will well repay an attentive perusal. Tischendorf and Alford have contributed make this one of the most lucid and concise commentaries on the text and teachings of the New Testament" (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

John Wesley said of Bengel "I know of no commentator on the Bible equal to Bengel" and referred to him as "The great light of the Christian world."

James Commentary
Gnomon of the New Testament

Note: If not proficient in Greek, see related Critical English Testament below.

James Rosscup writes "This work (Gnomon), originally issued in 1742, has considerable comment on the Greek, flavoring the effort with judicious details about the spiritual life. It has much that helps, but has been surpassed by many other commentaries since its day." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)


Spurgeon - Adopted by the Wesleyan Conference as a standard work, and characterized by that body as marked by “solid learning, soundness of theological opinion, and an edifying attention to experimental and practical religion. Necessary to Methodist Students.

Resources that Reference James


Spurgeon - We liked Burkitt better when we were younger. He is, however, a homely and spiritual writer, and his work is good reading for the many. Burkitt is somewhat pithy, and for a modern rather rich and racy, but he is far from deep, and is frequently common-place. I liked him well enough till I had read abler works and grown older. Some books grow upon us as we read and re-read them, but Burkitt does not. Yet so far from depreciating the good man, I should be sorry to have missed his acquaintance, and would bespeak for him your attentive perusal.


Spurgeon on Calvin - Of priceless value....Calvin is a tree whose “leaf also shall not wither;” whatever he has written lives on, and is never out of date, because he expounded the word without bias or partiality.


By E H Plumptre

D Edmond Hiebert- A valuable commentary on these epistles for the lay student by a conservative British scholar of the past century. Important introductions and concise notes on the text. (An Introduction to the New Testament)

Logos - A concise book that is packed with practical application, the New Testament book of James is discussed in-depth by E. H. Plumptre. From the author of the epistle, to the date it was written, to the analysis of the book as a whole, Plumptre brings his readers a critical look at James. This engaging commentary expands on the doctrines found within this small epistle, and is infused with scriptural cross-references.



Click critique of his theological persuasion.

James Rosscup - This old, conservative Wesleyan Methodist work is good devotionally and aggressive for righteous living. Laypeople can find it still valuable today. It is Arminian in viewpoint and thus helpful, for example, in showing the reader how this approach deals with texts involving the eternal security question. The work contains much background material from many sources on all books of the Bible.

Spurgeon - Adam Clarke is the great annotator of our Wesleyan friends; and they have no reason to be ashamed of him, for he takes rank among the chief of expositors. His mind was evidently fascinated by the singularities of learning, and hence his commentary is rather too much of an old curiosity shop, but it is filled with valuable rarities, such as none but a great man could have collected....If you have a copy of Adam Clarke, and exercise discretion in reading it, you will derive immense advantage from it, for frequently by a sort of side-light he brings out the meaning of the text in an astonishingly novel manner. I do not wonder that Adam Clarke still stands, notwithstanding his peculiarities, a prince among commentators. I do not find him so helpful as Gill, but still, from his side of the question, with which I have personally no sympathy, he is an important writer, and deserves to be studied by every reader of the Scriptures. He very judiciously says of Dr. Gill, “He was a very learned and good man, but has often lost sight of his better judgment in spiritualizing the text;” this is the very verdict which we pass upon himself, only altering the last sentence a word or two; “He has often lost sight of his better judgment in following learned singularities;” the monkey, instead of the serpent, tempting Eve, is a notable instance.

Sermons on James

Highly Recommended. These sermons are the same material found in Pastor Cole's book if you prefer Kindle or Paperback format.  Notice that his book has 8 customer reviews and all give it Five Stars! Click to read some of the reviews. Great tool if you are leading a Bible study, are preaching through the book of James or simply studying it on your own. 

Excerpt - Many writers claim that there is no unifying theme to James, but that it is just a series of unrelated, random exhortations. But, as difficult as it may be to outline the book, I think that the contents may be arranged under this theme of true faith. James is giving a series of tests by which one may determine whether his faith is genuine or false (D. Edmond Hiebert makes this point, “The Unifying Theme of the Epistle of James,” Bibliotheca Sacra [135:539, July-September, 1978], pp. 221-231). I offer this outline:

Introduction: Author and recipients (1:1).

1. True faith responds with practical godliness under testing (1:2-27).

  • A. True faith responds with joy when it faces testing (1:2-4).
  • B. True faith seeks God for wisdom in times of testing (1:5-8).
  • C. True faith adopts God’s eternal perspective in both poverty and riches (1:9-11).
  • D. True faith perseveres under testing, not blaming God for temptations (1:12-18).
  • E. True faith obeys God’s word, even when provoked (1:19-27).

2. True faith shows itself in practical obedience (2:1-26).

  • A. True faith does not show partiality (2:1-7).
  • B. True faith practices biblical love (2:8-13).
  • C. True faith proves itself by its works (2:14-26).

3. True faith controls the tongue and acts with gentle wisdom (3:1-18).

  • A. True faith controls the tongue (3:1-12).
  • B. True faith acts with gentle wisdom (3:13-18).

4. True faith resists arrogance by humbling oneself before God (4:1-5:18).

  • A. True faith practices humility in relationships (4:1-12).
  • B. True faith practices humility with regard to the future (4:13-17).
  • C. True faith practices humility by waiting for God to judge the wicked who have wronged us (5:1-11).
  • D. True faith practices humility by speaking the truth apart from self-serving oaths (5:12).
  • E. True faith practices humility by depending upon God through prayer (5:13-18).

Excerpt - Joni Eareckson Tada, as most of you know, was paralyzed from the neck down in a diving accident when she was 17. She wrote this about her suffering (Joni [Zondervan], p. 154):

God engineered the circumstances. He used them to prove Himself as well as my loyalty. Not everyone had this privilege. I felt there were only a few people God cared for in such a special way that He would trust them with this kind of experience. This understanding left me relaxed and comfortable as I relied on His love, exercising newly learned trust. I saw that my injury was not a tragedy but a gift God was using to help me conform to the image of Christ, something that would mean my ultimate satisfaction, happiness—even joy.

That is God’s wisdom on how to endure a major trial with joy! She did not get that wisdom from the world. She did not make it up herself. It came from God, through His Word. If you need God’s wisdom for how to endure any major or minor trial with joy, ask Him in faith and He will give it.

Excerpt - The famous evangelist, George Whitefield, once told of seeing some criminals riding in a cart on their way to the gallows. They were arguing about who should sit on the right hand of the cart, with no more concern than children arguing about who sits where in the car (in Elisabeth Dodds, Marriage to a Difficult Man [Westminster Press], p. 113). Here were men about to die that very day, arguing over who got the best seat! James would have us see that life is a vapor (4:14). We’re all going to die soon. To focus on accumulating wealth if we lack it or to expend ourselves in amassing more wealth than we already have, would be rather shortsighted. Rather, we should focus on the crown of life that the Lord has promised to those who love Him. That eternal focus will enable us to persevere in trials with joy.

Excerpt - A man was on a diet and struggling. He had to go downtown and as he started out, he remembered that his route would take him by the doughnut shop. As he got closer, he thought that a cup of coffee would hit the spot. Then he remembered his diet. That’s when he prayed, “Lord, if You want me to stop for a doughnut and coffee, let there be a parking place in front of the shop.” He said, “Sure enough, I found a parking place right in front—on my seventh time around the block!” As Robert Orben said, “Most people want to be delivered from temptation but would like it to keep in touch” (Reader’s Digest [8/86], p. 35). Allow me to state the obvious: You will not make it as a Christian if you do not learn to overcome temptation.

Excerpt - A current popular myth in evangelical circles is that salvation is based on a personal decision for Christ and that such a decision may or may not result in a changed life. In this paradigm, a child from a Christian home may make a decision at summer camp “to invite Jesus into his heart.” He goes forward at the closing song after a meeting. He gets some follow-up, is given a Bible and told to read it every day. Perhaps when he gets back to his church, he is baptized. He attends church every Sunday, because that’s what his family does.

But as he gets older, he finds church to be boring and irrelevant. He prefers having fun with his worldly friends to hanging out with the church crowd. His friends introduce him to drinking, drugs, pornography, and sex. He drops out of church. He never reads his Bible. He has no desire to know Christ in a deeper way. And yet his parents will say, “But he’s saved, because he made a decision for Christ as a boy at church camp!”

But the important question in situations like this is, “Is there any evidence of a changed heart or new life in Christ?” As we saw in James 1:18, salvation is a matter of God imparting new life through His word of truth. Just as a newborn baby gives clear evidence that he is alive and well, so a new believer gives evidence of his new life in Christ. His desires change. He was a God-hater, alienated from God, hostile toward Him. Now he is a God-lover, reconciled to God, receptive to the truths of God’s word.

Jesus’ parable of the sower (Matt. 13:3-9, 18-23; Mark 4:3-20; Luke 8:4-15) shows that genuine faith in Christ is not just a flash in the pan. Faith in Christ endures and produces fruit. 

Excerpt - Pastor Stuart Briscoe was teaching the principles of Bible study. He showed how to pick out the promises and the commands in Scripture, and what to do with them. Finally, he reviewed and asked, “Now, what do you do with the commands?” A little old lady raised her hand and said, “I underline them in blue.” Underlining the Bible’s commands in blue might make for a colorful Bible, but the point of the commands is that we obey them. Unfortunately, there are many people in evangelical churches who have their heads filled with information from the Bible, but they don’t obey what the Bible commands. That may sound harsh, but surveys commonly show that there is substantially no difference between evangelical Christians and the population at large on most moral and social beliefs and behavior. For example, pollster George Barna (in World [12/6/03], p. 33) found that one out of three “born-again Christians” (defined as “those who report having made a personal commitment to Christ and expect to get to heaven because they accepted Jesus”) accept same-sex unions. Thirty-nine percent believe it is morally acceptable for couples to live together before marriage. And, born-again Christians are more likely than non-Christians to have experienced divorce (27 to 24 %)! James would be aghast!

Expository Notes
Book of James

Sermons on James

Study on James

Blue Jean Faith: A Study of James for Wise Women

Study Notes on James

The Tests of True Religion:
A Study of the Book of James


These make excellent sermon illustrations. 

These devotionals are arranged by chapter - C H Spurgeon, G Campbell Morgan Our Daily Bread, F B Meyer

To show how one might use this devotional page, here are several examples of illustrations that can be found on the page of devotionals listed above...

  • Illustration of James 3:6 The Point of No Return - It wasn’t as simple as just crossing another river. By law, no Roman general could lead armed troops into Rome. So when Julius Caesar led his Thirteenth Legion across the Rubicon River and into Italy in 49 bc, it was an act of treason. The impact of Caesar’s decision was irreversible, generating years of civil war before Rome’s great general became absolute ruler. Still today, the phrase “crossing the Rubicon” is a metaphor for “passing the point of no return.”Sometimes we can cross a relational Rubicon with the words we say to others. Once spoken, words can’t be taken back. They can either offer help and comfort or do damage that feels just as irreversible as Caesar’s march on Rome. James gave us another word picture about words when he said, “The tongue also is a fire, a world of evil among the parts of the body. It corrupts the whole body, sets the whole course of one’s life on fire, and is itself set on fire by hell” (James 3:6).
  • Illustration of James 1:2 - Fire can be one of the worst enemies of trees. But it can also be helpful. Experts say that small, frequent fires called “cool” fires clean the forest floor of dead leaves and branches but don’t destroy the trees. They leave behind ashes, which are perfect for seeds to grow in. Surprisingly, low-intensity fires are necessary for healthy growth of trees.Similarly, trials—pictured as fire in the Bible—are necessary for our spiritual health and growth (1 Peter 1:7; 4:12).
  • Illustration of James 1:2-4 - HIGHER MATH - Mathematical formulas work well with numbers, but not with people. That's why this equation in James 1 sounds unworkable: FAITH + TRIALS = PATIENCEOne might better try to mix oil and water. But what makes this formula work is confidence in God's unfailing love, which allows for all the human emotions that come with life's trials.
  • Illustration of James 1:1-4 - A University of Michigan microbiologist tells his students that the human body is made up of ten trillion cells, which are home to some 100 trillion bacteria. He supports this claim by citing studies conducted by University of Pennsylvania researchers who once estimated that a dime-sized patch of skin may hold up to two million bacteria. The presence of all those little critters might seem to be an over­whelming threat to our health. But scientists who have come to understand and appreciate the role of bacteria say that we would actually be sicker without them than we are with them. They appar­ently help ward off other bacteria that cause diseases. This is not an argument for careless personal hygiene. But it is an interesting parallel to the setting in which Christians are called to live. Contrary to what we might think, we can actually benefit from a hostile environment.
  • Illustration of James 1:1-12 Trial By Fire - F. B. Meyer explained it this way: “A bar of iron worth $2.50, when wrought into horseshoes is worth $5. If made into needles it is worth $175. If into penknife blades it is worth $1,625. If made into springs for watches it is worth $125,000. What a ‘trial by fire’ that bar must undergo to be worth this! But the more it is manipulated, and the more it is hammered and passed through the heat, beaten, pounded, and polished, the greater its value.” Christian, are you wondering about the trials through which you are passing? With impatient heart are you saying, “How long, O Lord?” The heat of the flame and the blows of the hammer are necessary if you are to be more than an unpolished, rough bar of iron. God’s all-wise plan, though it calls for the fire, produces the valuable watch spring of maturity. His very best for your life has behind it His perfect timing

Below are links to a collection of devotionals from Moody Bible's "Today in the Word." The introduction to each devotional frequently begins with an illustration related to the specific passage.

Biblegateway devotionals - click for link to multiple devotionals on James. They are of variable quality to Be a Berean. Here are some examples...

John Piper - Is God’s Love Conditional?. (James 4:8)

This verse means that there is a precious experience of peace and assurance and harmony and intimacy that is not unconditional. It depends on our not grieving the Spirit.

It depends on our putting away bad habits. It depends on forsaking the petty inconsistencies of our Christian lives. It depends on our walking closely with God and aiming at the highest degree of holiness.

If this is true, I fear that the unguarded reassurances today that God’s love is unconditional may stop people from doing the very things the Bible says they need to do in order to have the peace that they so desperately crave. In trying to give peace through “unconditionality” we may be cutting people off from the very remedy the Bible prescribes.

Let us declare untiringly the good news that our justification is based on the worth of Christ’s obedience and sacrifice, not ours (Romans 5:19, “as through the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, even so through the obedience of the One the many will be made righteous”).

But let us also declare the biblical truth that the enjoyment of that justification in its effect on our joy and confidence and power to grow in likeness to Jesus is conditioned on our actively forsaking sins and forsaking bad habits and mortifying lusts and pursuing intimacy with Christ, and not grieving the Spirit.

Quest Bible -  Is faith enough? James 2:14–24

Are we saved by grace through faith alone (see Eph 2:8–9) or do we also need good works?

James does not argue that good works are required for salvation. Nor does he say that deeds are more important than beliefs. Rather, he insists that there are two kinds of faith—one legitimate and the other illegitimate; “faith … made complete” (v. 22) and “faith without deeds” (v. 20). Both are “belief” in one sense of the word. But legitimate faith goes deeper than “right thinking” to “right living.”

Confusion may arise, however, when we recall that Paul writes that we cannot earn salvation. He uses Abraham as an example of one who received God’s promise, not through human effort, but through faith (see Gal 3:6–12).

James also uses Abraham as an example, but his focus and emphasis are different than Paul’s. He skips over the futility of human effort to discuss the futility of deficient faith—faith that stops at the intellectual level. Even demons have that kind of “faith,” James exclaims (v. 19)!

James’s point, then, is that Abraham exercised authentic faith—demonstrated by his actions. Abraham’s deeds earned him nothing, but they proved his faith was genuine: Right faith led to right actions. If he had not trusted God, Abraham could never have offered his son—the fulfillment of God’s promise—on the altar (vv. 21–22). Paul uses Abraham to show that people are justified on the basis of real faith; James shows that Abraham’s faith was proven to be real because it worked (compare Gal 5:6).

So then, we don’t need anything but faith—the right kind of faith—to be saved by God. And our behavior will show what our faith is made of, whether or not it is legitimate.

Believer's Chapel Dallas

150 pages of transcripts

Click here if you would rather listen.

James Sermons

Epistle of James

Click here for the devotionals below.

  • James 1:1-8 Getting
  • James 1:9-11 God Is Not Impressed
  • James 1:12-15 The Birth That Brings Death
  • James 1:16-18 God Enjoys Giving!
  • James 1:19-21 Open Ears - Closed Mouth
    James 1:22-25 Have You Looked in the Mirror?
  • James 1:26,27 The Religion God Wants
  • James 2:1-13 God's Royal Law
  • James 2:14-26 Not Words but Works
  • James 3:1-6 A Matter of Life and Death!
  • James 3:7-12 The Secret of a Controlled Tongue
  • James 3:13-18 Wisdom From Heaven
  • James 4:1-3 The War Within
  • James 4:4-7 Don't Court the World
  • James 4:8-12 You Get Nearer by Getting Lower
  • James 4:13-17 God Will Guide You
  • James 5:1-6 Prices or Values?
  • James 5:7-12 He Is at the Door!
  • James 5:3-16 Sickness and Sin
  • James 5:17-20 Prayer That Works

The Book of James

James: Responsible Faith

Older Explore the Bible Series

The Book of James
Alfred Plummer

James Rosscup writes - This is a good study in the Greek text.

Cyril Barber - Worth consulting, but does not deserve to be placed high on the preacher's priority list. (The Minister's Library, Vol 1)

  • Introduction
  • James 1 Commentary
  • James 1:1 The Author of the Epistle: James the Brother of the Lord
  • James 1:1 The Persons Addressed
  • James 1:2-4 The Relation of This Epistle to the Writing of St Paul
  • James 1:12-18 The Source of Temptations
  • James 1:22-25 The Delusion of Hearing Without Doing
  • James 2 Commentary
  • James 2:1-4 The Christology of St James
  • James 2:5-10 The Iniquity of Respecting the Rich and Despising the Poor
  • James 2:14-26 Faith and Works
  • James 2:19, 21, 25 The Faith of the Demons
  • James 3 Commentary
  • James 3:1-8: The Heavy Responsibilities of Teachers
  • James 3:9-12 The Moral Contradictions in the Reckless Talker
  • James 3:13-16 The Wisdom that is From Below
  • James 3:17, 18 7,18 The Wisdom that is From Above
  • James 4 Commentary
  • James 4:1-13 Lusts as the Causes of Strife
  • James 4:4-6 The Seductions of the World
  • James 4:7-10 The Power of Satan and Its Limits
  • James 4:11, 12 Self Assurance
  • James 4:13-17 Presuming Upon Our Future
  • James 5 Commentary
  • James 5:1-6 The Follies and Iniquities of the Rich - Their Miserable End
  • James 5:7-11 Patience in Waiting
  • James 5:7-11 The Prohibition of Swearing
  • James 5:13 Worship the Best Outlet
  • James 5:14-15 The Elders of the Church
  • James 5:16-18 Confession of Sins
  • James 5:19, 20 The Word of Converting Sinners

Commentary on James

James Commentary
W E Oesterley

D Edmond Hiebert- Greek text. A technical commentary providing grammatical information and important word studies. Often cites rabbinic sources. Defends Petrine authorship and dates the letter at A.D. 64. (An Introduction to the New Testament)


James Rosscup - Gill (1697–1771), a pastor of England, wrote these which are two-column pages, ca. 900–1,000 pages per volume, Originally they were 9 volumes, folio. He also wrote Body of Divinity, 3 volumes, and several other volumes. His commentary is evangelical, wrestles with texts, is often wordy and not to the point but with worthy things for the patient who follow the ponderous detail and fish out slowly what his interpretation of a text is. He feels the thousand years in Revelation 20 cannot begin until after the conversion of the Jews and the bringing in of the fullness of the Gentiles and destruction of all antiChristian powers (volume 6, p. 1063) but in an amillennial sense of new heavens and new earth coming right after Christ’s second advent (1064–65), and the literal thousand years of binding at the same time. He feels the group that gathers against the holy city at the end of the thousand years is the resurrected wicked dead from the four quarters of the earth (i.e. from all the earth, etc. (1067).  

Spurgeon - Beyond all controversy, Gill was one of the most able Hebraists of his day, and in other matters no mean proficient...His ultraism is discarded, but his learning is respected: the world and the church take leave to question his dogmatism, but they both bow before his erudition. Probably no man since Gill’s days has at all equalled him in the matter of Rabbinical learning.

He preached in the same church as C. H. Spurgeon over one hundred years earlier. Yet most people today have never heard of John Gill. This is unfortunate, since his works contain priceless gems of information that are found nowhere except in the ancient writings of the Jews. 

Commentary Notes on James

Conservative, modern commentary from Calvary Chapel pastor. 



Spurgeon - A Christian man wishing for the cream of expository writers could not make a better purchase. Ministers, as a rule, should not buy condensations, but get the works themselves.

James Rosscup - This evangelical work, devotional in character, has been in constant demand for about 280 years. Its insight into human problems is great, but it often does not deal adequately with problems in the text. The one-volume form eliminates the Biblical text and is thus less bulky. It has sold very well. The late Wilbur M. Smith, internationally noted Bible teacher, seminary professor and lover of books, tabbed this “The greatest devotional commentary ever written”. Henry was born in a Welch farmhouse, studied law, and became a Presbyterian minister near London. He wrote this commentary in the last 13 years before he died at 52 in 1714. The first of six volumes was published in 1708. He completed through Acts, and the rest of the New Testament was done by 14 clergymen. (Ed: Thus James are not the comments of Matthew Henry).

Sermons on James

Frequent illustrations. 

To Book of James

See also Our Daily Bread

Epistle of James
George M. Stulac

James Rosscup - A Presbyterian pastor provides a clear, refreshing survey that shows often how to apply truth. This is one of the top three or four popular expositions, though teachers, pastors and students can need more grappling with details to bolster discussions, as in R. Martin, J. B. Mayor, P. Davids, J. Adamson, R. C. H. Lenski, etc. At times, Stulac’s work gets fairly detailed on views and arguments, as in 4:5. In 5:14–16 physical illness may also involve sin.

Richard J Krejcir

Informative notes.

Epistle of James

Published 1871 - Probably best older commentary on prophetic passages as it tends to interpret more literally.

James Rosscup - This is a helpful old set of 1863 for laypeople and pastors to have because it usually comments at least to some degree on problems. Though terse, it provides something good on almost any passage, phrase by phrase and is to some degree critical in nature. It is evangelical....Especially in its multi-volume form this is one of the old evangelical works that offers fairly solid though brief help on many verses. Spurgeon said, “It contains so great a variety of information that if a man had no other exposition he would find himself at no great loss if he possessed this and used it diligently” (Commenting and Commentaries, p. 3). Things have changed greatly since this assessment! It is primarily of help to pastors and lay people looking for quick, though usually somewhat knowledgeable treatments on verses.

Spurgeon - A really standard work. We consult it continually, and with growing interest. Mr. Fausset’s portion strikes us as being of the highest order. 

John Cereghin -  A conservative exposition. He defends Petrine authorship (xlixff); argues for the deity of Christ (619); holds that assurance in Scripture is doubly sure (622); identifies the elements as “the world’s component materials” (627); holds that Paul’s Epistles were already known as “Scripture” (628).


Epistle of James

433 page commentary

Cyril Barber - A classic in the field. Published originally in 1871. A must for the expository preacher.Buy it! (Ed: click it = it's free online) These concise studies faithfully expound the Greek text and provide a solide foundation for a series of message. Works of this nature are rare and should obtained and used by every Bible-teaching preacher. (Bolding added) (The Minister's Library. Volume 1 and 2)

Spurgeon comments - "A very useful, scholarly, and readable book."

  • James 1:1-4 Joy in Trials
  • James 1:5–8 Wisdom through Prayer,
  • James 1:9–12 Rich Poor and Poor Rich,
  • James 1:13–15 Genesis of Sin,
  • James 1:16, 17 Good Gifts from God,
  • James 1:18 Regeneration,
  • James 1:19–21 Receiving the Ingrafted Word,
  • James 1:22–25 The Spiritual Mirror,
  • James 1:26, 27 True Religious Service,
  • James 2:1–7 Respect of Persons,
  • James 2:8–11 Unity of God’s Law,
  • James 2:12, 13 Judgment by the Law of Liberty,
  • James 2:14–19 Faith without Works,
  • James 2:20–26 Justifying Faith a Working Faith,
  • James 3:1, 2 Responsibility of Teachers,
  • James 3:3–6 Power of the Tongue,
  • James 3:7–12 The Tongue Untameable and Inconsistent,
  • James 3:13–16 Earthly Wisdom,
  • James 3:17, 18 Heavenly Wisdom,
  • James 4:1–3 Origin of Strifes,
  • James 4:4–6 Worldliness Enmity to God,
  • James 4:7–10 Submission to God,
  • James 4:11, 12 Evil Speaking and Judging,
  • James 4:13–17 Vain Confidence regarding the Future,
  • James 5:1–6 Woes of the Wicked Rich,
  • James 5:7, 8 Patience through the Blessed Hope,
  • James 5:9–11 Murmuring against Brethren,
  • James 5:12 Swearing,
  • James 5:13–15 Prayer and Praise,
  • James 5:16–18 Confession and Prayer,
  • James 5:19, 20 Error and Conversion,


D Edmond Hiebert on Fronmuller - Prints author's own translation. An exhaustive exposition by a conservative interpreter which has stood the test of time. Important for the expositor of 1 Peter. A careful interpretation of these epistles with a mass of material of a practical and homiletical nature.(An Introduction to the New Testament)

James Rosscup - The treatments of books within this evangelical set (Lange's Commentary) vary in importance. Generally, one finds a wealth of detailed commentary, background, and some critical and exegetical notes. Often, however, there is much excess verbiage that does not help particularly. On the other hand, it usually has something to assist the expositor on problems and is a good general set for pastors and serious lay people though it is old.

Expository Sermons on James

Functions Like a Verse by Verse Commentary

  • James Introduction - Title, Author, Date, Background, Setting, Historical, Theological Themes, Interpretive Challenges, Outline by Chapter/Verse.
  • James 1:1 An Introduction to James, Pt. 1
  • James 1:1 An Introduction to James, Pt. 2
  • James 1-2 Dead Faith, Part 1
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 2
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 3
  • James 1:2-12 How to Endure Trials, Part 1
  • James 1:2: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 1
  • James 1:2-4: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 2
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 1 Study Guide
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 2 Study Guide
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 3 Study Guide
  1. Also in Study Guides above - The Purpose of Trials
  2. Also in Study Guides above - James 1:13-17 Whose Fault is our Temptation?
  3. Also in Study Guides above -James 1:18  Born to Holiness
  • James 1:5-12: From Trouble to Triumph--Pt 3
  • James 1:13-17: Whose Fault is our Temptation?
  • James 1:18: Born to Holiness
  • James 1:18-22 Submitting to God's Word
  • James 1:19-27 Responding to the Word
  • James 1:19-21 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 1
  • James 1:22-25 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 2
  • James 1:26-27 The Belief That Behaves, Pt. 3
  • James 2:1-4 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 1
  • James 2:5-7 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 2
  • James 2:8-13 The Evil of Favoritism in the Church, Pt. 3
  • James 2:14-26 Dead Faith, Part 2
  • James 2:14-20: Dead Faith
  • James 2:21-26: Living Faith
  • James 3:1-5: Taming the Tongue--Pt 1
  • James 3:5-12: Taming the Tongue--Pt 2
  • James 3:13-18 Spiritual Wisdom
  • James 3:13 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 1
  • James 3:13 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 2
  • James 3:14-18 Earthly and Heavenly Wisdom, Pt. 3
  • James 4:1-2 The Danger in Being a Friend of the World, Pt. 1
  • James 4:2-6 The Danger in Being a Friend of the World, Pt. 2
  • James 4:6-7 Drawing Near to God, Pt. 1
  • James 4:8-10 Drawing Near to God, Pt. 2
  • James 4:11 The Blasphemous Sin of Defaming Others, Pt. 1
  • James 4:11-12 The Blasphemous Sin of Defaming Others, Pt. 2
  • James 4:13-17 Responding to the Will of God
  • James 5:1-3 Judgment on the Wicked Rich, Pt. 1
  • James 5:1-3 Judgment on the Wicked Rich, Pt. 2
  • James 5:7-11: How to Face Trials Patiently
  • James 5:12 Stop Swearing
  • James 5:13-18 The Power of Righteous Praying
  • James 5:13-18 Bearing Up the Weak in Prayer
  • James 5:19-20 Saving a Soul from Death


Sermons on James

James Rosscup - This evangelical work is both homiletical and expository and is often very good homiletically but weaker otherwise. Helpful in discussing Bible characters, it is weak in prophecy at times because of allegorization. It is not really as valuable today as many other sets for the serious Bible student. The expositions are in the form of sermons.

A Practical Exposition of James

In Depth Verse by Verse Comments (>150 pages on James 1!)

An Estimate of Manton by J. C. Ryle

Spurgeon's comment on Manton's work - In Manton’s best style. An exhaustive work, as far as the information of the period admitted. Few such books are written now.

Cyril Barber: First published in 1693, these exhaustive studies highlight the special relevance of this epistle to the situations facing the church. (The Minister's Library. Volume 1)

Joseph Mayor
The Epistle of James
The Greek Text with Introductory Notes and Comments

James Rosscup: First issued in 1892, this commentary of more than 600 pages gives the reader almost 300 pages in introductory explorations about the identity of the writer James, the date (he says near the end of the A. D. 40’s), the relations to other New Testament books, grammar and style, etc. It is a work of towering scholarship and exhaustive detail. From the standpoint of the Greek text it is the best older and one of the best at any time on James. (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An annotated bibliography)

Cyril Barber: An encyclopedic work on the Greek Text. Regarded by many as the most important critical commentary on this portion of God's Word. Technical. (The Minister's Library. Volume 1)

Cyril Barber: A work of massive scholarship that ranks among the most important exegetical works ever published on this epistle. (The Minister's Library. Volume 2)

F B Meyer
Our Daily Homily on James
One from Our Daily Walk (ODW)

Resources on James
Conservative, Evangelical


  • James 1:2-12 - Suffering in James 1:2-12 - Tracy Howard
  • James 1:18 - James 1:18 and the Offering of First-Fruits - F H Palmer
  • James 1:22-25 - Mirrors in James 1:22-25 and Plato, Alcibiages 132C-133C - Nicholas Denyer
  • James 1:17, 27, 3:9 Father-God Language and OT Allusions in James - E Y Ng
  • James 2 - The Rich Man in James 2: Does Ancient Patronage Illumine the Text? - Nancy J Vyhmeister
  • James 2:13 - Mercy Triumphs Over Justice: James 2:13 and the Theology of Faith and Works - William Dyrness
  • James 2:14 - The Soteriology of James 2:14 - Gale Heide
  • James 2:14-26 - Faith, Works, and the Christian Religion in James 2:14-26 - Mark Proctor
  • James 2 - "Saved by Faith [Alone]" in Paul Versus "Not Saved by Faith Alone" in James - Robert H Stein
  • James 2:14-26 - James 2:14-26: Does James Contradict the Pauline Soteriology? - Robert Rakestraw
  • James 2:21-24 - James 2:21-24 and the Justification of Abraham - R Bruce Compton
  • James 5:14-20 - An Exegesis of James 5:14-20 B J Forrester
  • James 5:13-18 - The Significance of Elijah in James 5:13-18 Keith Warrington
  • James 5:13-18 - The Waiting Church and Its Duty: James 5:13-18 - Mark a Seifrid
  • James 5:14-16a - Will God Heal Us--A Re-Examination of James 5:14-16a - Gary S Shogren
  • Preaching from the Book of James - George Davis
  • The Theological Message of James - Simon J Kistemaker
  • The Law in James - M J Evans
  • The Christology of James - Robert B Sloan
  • Christology in the Epistle of James - William R Baker
  • "A Right Strawy Epistle": Reformation Perspectives on James - Timothy George
  • Commenting on Commentaries on the Book of James - David Dockery
  • Dating the Epistles
  • The Main Theme and Structure of James - William C Varner
  • True Piety in James: Ethical Admonitions and Theological Implications - David Dockery
  • A Perfect Work: Trials and Sanctification in the Book of James - Ron Julian
  • The Wisdom of James - Robert W Wall
  • The Wisdom of James - John Burns
  • The Wisdom of James the Just - Dan G McCartney
  • The Spectrum of Wisdom and Eschatology in the Epistle of James and 4Q Instruction - Darian Lockett
  • Faith According to the Apostle James - John MacArthur
  • First Response to "Faith According to the Apostle James" by John F MacArthur, Jr - Earl D Radmacher
  • Second Response to "Faith According to the Apostle James" by John F MacArthur, Jr - Robert L Saucy
  • Doctrine of Faith - Journal of Biblical Literature, Vol. 19, No. 1 (1900), B W Bacon
  • Christ, Community and Salvation in the Epistle of James - Michael J Townsend
  • The Theology of Prayer in James - C. Richard Wells
  • James' Instructions to Ill Christians - P G Nelson
  • Cessationism, "The Gifts of Healings," and Divine Healing - Richard Mayhue
  • The Rich and Poor in James: Implications for Institutionalized Partiality - Duane Warden

BEST COMMENTARIES - Epistle of James

James Rosscup comments on the James Commentary by Zane Hodges - He takes what has been called a “non-Lordship” view that those who have eternal life by grace may lose faith and not persevere in good works, but the eternal salvation remains intact; lack of works do not reflect on professing believers possibly not having genuinely received life as a gift...In James 2:14–26, only the saved are in view, so the faith that is dead without works is an “ineffectual, unproductive faith” of the saved (Ed: This is an amazing statement in light of James clear statement that "Even so faith, if it has no works, is dead, being by itself.")..

HENRY MORRIS - Defender's Study Bible - Excellent, conservative, literal study Bible notes from a leading Creationist.



  • NET Study Bible Excellent resource, includes NETBible notes and Thomas Constable's notes that synchronize with the Scriptures.


A Comparison of James 2:24 and Ephesians 2:8-10 





J LIGON DUNCAN and Gabe Fluhrer 

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  3. Magnitude vs direction

Hebrews Commentaries & Sermons

Commentaries, Sermons, Illustrations, Devotionals
See Disclaimer

Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Hebrews - Swindoll

The Epistle
to the Hebrews

Hebrews 1-10:18
Hebrews 10:19-13:25
Superior Person
of Christ
Hebrews 1:1-4:13
Superior Priest
in Christ
Hebrews 4:14-10:18
Superior Life
In Christ
Hebrews 10:19-13:25
Hebrews 1:1-4:13
Heb 4:14-7:28
Heb 8:1-13
Heb 9:1-10:18



ca. 64-68AD

Key Words -- See importance of key words - learn how to mark key words and the associated discipline of how to interrogate them with 5W/H questions.Practice "interrogating" key words as well as term of conclusion (therefore), term of explanation (for), terms of purpose or result (so that, in order that, that, as a result), terms of contrast (but, yet), expressions of time (including then; until, after) and terms of comparison (like, as). You will be amazed at how your Teacher, the Holy Spirit, will illuminate your understanding, a spiritual blessing that will grow the more you practice! Be diligent! Consider the "5P's" - Pause to Ponder the Passage then Practice it in the Power of the Spirit. See also inductive Bible study  - observation (Observe With a Purpose), Interpretation (Keep Context King, Read Literally, Compare Scripture with Scripture, Consult Conservative Commentaries), and then be a doer of the Word with Application. Do not overlook "doing the word" for if you do you are deluding yourself, and are just a "smarter sinner," but not more like the Savior! As Jesus said "blessed are those who hear the word of God, and observe it." (Lk 11:28+, cf James 1:22+), 

Key Words/Phrases: (Click for complete listing of Key Words in Hebrews)

Better, Blood, Faith, Eternal, Once, Sacrifice, High Priest, Jesus, Covenant, Perfect, Eternal, Partaker, Ministry.

My personal favorite phrase in Hebrews is "He is able" - Meditate on Hebrews 2:18 and Hebrews 7:25 to see what Your Great High Priest is able to accomplish for you, dear child of God!

Key Verses: Hebrews 4:14, Hebrews 4:12, Hebrews 10:19-22

Type of literature: Letter or epistle - a "word of exhortation" (Heb 13:22). Exhortations introduced by "Let us" (Hebrews 4:1, 11, 14, 16, 6:1, 10:22, 23, 24, 12:1, 28, 13:13, 15).

Author: Unknown. Paul is often mentioned.

Recipients: Hebrew Christians-genuine and professing (specifically those tempted to lapse into Judaism)

Old Testament Quotations (or Allusions): click for OT passages in Hebrews



Henrietta Mears writes...

We as Christians have that which is better—better in every way. The key word to the book of Hebrews is "better." It occurs thirteen times (in the KJV)....

How often when you take a trip for the first time over a new road, you drive straight along anticipating where it will lead, and what difficulties you may encounter. It seems to be the thing to do. Coming back over the same road, you look around and notice things. Do this in studying the book of Hebrews. Read it through, and do not be overanxious about the things you cannot understand. Then you can go back over the road in your reading and take notice of the many things along the way. You could spend months in Hebrews. It presents so many wonderful truths. At the first reading, you will be impressed by one fact above all others: that Jesus Christ is prominent on every page...

This book was written to strengthen the faith of wavering believers. Paul's great argument is the superiority of Christ over all others.

Do we know the real difference between having Christ as a Savior and as a Priest? Well, this book answers the question.

The book of Hebrews proves that we can never understand the Old Testament without the New, or the New without the Old....

Consider Jesus -This is our weakness. We look at ourselves and our own weakness. Consider Him (Hebrews 3:1). This is the astronomer's word. Set your telescope to the heavens and gaze upon Him....

Joshua could not lead the children of Israel into this perfect rest and trust in God, but Jesus did. Cease from self-effort and yield yourself to Christ (Hebrews 4:10). Trust Jesus as your Joshua and "enter in" to His land of promise. Cease struggling and place all in His hand. (Read Psalm 37:5.)

From What the Bible is All - recommended 

J Sidlow Baxter writes...

I shall not forget my first sight of Mont Blanc towering up beyond the Chamonix Valley, king among Alpine giants, crowned with a sun-transfigured majesty. One may well feel a similar, reverential wonder with this transcendent "Epistle to the Hebrews" opening up to view. It is one of the greatest two theological treatises in the New Testament. (Ed: Romans being the other)

Here is Baxter's Outline entitled:


Jesus the God-Man - better than angels (Heb 1:1-2:18).
Jesus the new Apostle - better than Moses (Heb 3:1-19)
Jesus the new Leader - better than Joshua (Heb 4:1-13).
Jesus the new priest - better than Aaron (Heb 4:14-7).
New covenant has better promises (Heb 8:6-13).
And it opens up a better sanctuary (Heb 9:1-14).
And is sealed by a better sacrifice (Heb 9:15-28).
And it achieves far better results (Heb 10:1-18).
Faith the true response to these "better" things (Heb 10:19-39)
It has always been vindicated as such: examples (Heb 11:1-40).
Is now to endure, patiently looking to Jesus (Heb 12:1-13).
Is to express itself in practical sanctity (Heb 12:14-13:21).
Parting words Heb 13:22-25.
From Baxter's Explore the Book - Recommended Resource - excellent overview of the Bible

A M Hodgkin (Christ in All the Scriptures) writes: The glories of our Savior are exhibited in this Epistle; it is one of the most precious books in the Bible. It has been called “The Fifth Gospel.” Four describe Christ’s ministry on earth, this describes His ministry in heaven. It was written to Hebrew disciples, probably of Jerusalem, to avert the danger of their drifting back into Judaism. They are exhorted to let go everything else, in order to hold fast the faith and hope of the Gospel. The Epistle is attributed to Paul, and though many question this, there is abundance of evidence in its favor. To give one example only, the concluding salutation, “Grace be with you all,” is Paul’s “sign-manual” in every Epistle.

The Key-note is the High-Priesthood of the Lord Jesus...Throughout this Epistle we note that whatever Christ touches He makes eternal. Trace the word “eternal” throughout (Hebrews 5:9, 6:2, 9:12, 14, 15, 13:20). (Ed: There is another "time word", once, which speaks of finality in Hebrews - see Hebrews 6:4, 7:27, 9:7, 12, 26, 27, 28, 10:2, 10, 12:26, 27)

Hebrews 1-2. Christ better than the angels both in His deity and His humanity.

As our great High Priest, Christ is able to understand all our need, because He is perfect Man. He is able to meet all our need, because He is perfect God. The central point is Christ’s eternal Priesthood and all-availing sacrifice for sin. The Epistle dwells upon the supreme importance and power of the blood of Christ in obtaining eternal redemption for us, in purging the conscience, in opening to us the heavenly sanctuary.

Hebrews 3. Christ better than Moses.

Hebrews 4. Christ better than Joshua.

Hebrews 5, 6, 7. Christ better than Aaron.

Hebrews 8. A better Covenant.

Hebrews 9. A better Tabernacle.

Hebrews 10. A better Sacrifice.

Hebrews 11. Examples of Faith’s better choice.

Hebrews 12. Call to follow this glorious company and the great Captain Himself in the path of outward loss for eternal gain.

Hebrews 13. Call to go forth unto Him without the camp bearing His reproach.

Daniel Wallace in his introduction writes...

Philip Edgcumbe Hughes opens the introduction to his commentary on Hebrews with some insights into this very enigmatic book:

If there is a widespread unfamiliarity with the Epistle to the Hebrews and its teaching, it is because so many adherents of the church have settled for an understanding and superficial association with the Christian faith. Yet it was to arouse just such persons from the lethargic state of compromise and complacency into which they had sunk, and to incite them to persevere wholeheartedly in the Christian conflict, that this letter was originally written. It is a tonic for the spiritually debilitated.… We neglect such a book to our own impoverishment. (Hebrews Introduction)

Leonard S. Walmark writes that...

The theological epicenter of the Epistle to the Hebrews may be summed up in one word: Christology. No biblical document outside of the four Gospels focuses as totally and forcefully on the Person and redemptive achievement of Jesus...For purposes of analysis the epistle may be divided into two major sections. In Hebrews 1:1-10:18, the primary theme is the superiority of Christ as eternal High Priest. He is declared ultimately superior to the most cherished institutions of the ancient Hebrew faith. He is superior to the word of God spoken through the prophets since He Himself is God's ultimate redemptive Word. He is superior to the angelic hosts because no angel can boast of being the Son of God, fully Divine (Heb 1:4-14), and yet fully Human (Heb 2:5-18). These two factors qualify Him uniquely to be the faithful and perpetual sin-bearer of His people. On the basis of that same uniqueness of being, He is as superior to Moses the great lawgiver of Israel (Heb 3:1-6), as Creator is to the created. The spiritual rest from dead works offered by Jesus is superior to that temporal one represented in Moses and Joshua through the occupation of the promised land (Heb 4:1-11; esp. Heb 4:9-10). Beginning with Hebrews 5:1 the central theological concern of the epistle emerges: the eternal spiritual priesthood assumed by Jesus through offering up Himself as the once-for-all sacrifice for sins. It is infinitely superior to the temporal earthly ministry exercised by Aaron and his descendants (Heb 4:14-5:11; 7:1-10:18). (Hebrews Theology)

Inductive Bible Study

 Bruce Hurt, MD

Onsite - Literal, conservative, millennial, evangelical perspective

Hebrews: Looking Unto JESUS

Click the link below to open 344 page Pdf and Enter the Page Number to go to the Chapter of Interest

Hebrews 1:1-4 The Doctrine of God……………………………………...6
Hebrews 1:5-14 His Superiority Should Inspire Us…………………….16
Hebrews 2:1-4 His Superiority Should Warn Us…………………….....28
Hebrews 2:5-9 A Lesson on Angels Should Challenge Us…………...42
Hebrews 2:10-13 Who We Are Because of Who He Is………………..57
Hebrews 2:14-18 Christ the Partaker…………………….……………...75
Hebrews 3:1-6 Whom Should We Consider……………………...........89
Hebrews 3:7-19 Do Not Be Hindered by Unbelief ……………………104
Hebrews 4:1-10 Rest……………………………………………….........119
Hebrews 4:11-16 Cure for Unbelief…………………………………....134
Hebrews 5:1-5 A Further Look at the Great High Priest…………….148
Hebrews 5:6-10 The Order of Melchisedec…………………………..162
Hebrews 5:10-14 When Truth is Neglected………………………….176
Hebrews 6:1-6 Let Us Go On…………………………………………..189
Hebrews 6:7-20 The Rain, the Seed, and the Anchor……………...205
Hebrews 7:1-28 Let Melchisedec Show You Jesus…………...........223
Hebrews 8:1-13 Good Math……………………………......................241
Hebrews 9:1-10 The Earthly, the Eternal, and the Enduring Priesthood Pt 1.....256
Hebrews 9:11-28 The Earthly, the Eternal, and the Enduring Priesthood Pt 2...269
Hebrews 10:1-18 No Pleasure……………………………......…….....279
Hebrews 10:19-39 Let Us Draw Near With a True Heart…………..288
Hebrews 11:1-40 Faith’s Hall of Fame………………………………..298
Hebrews 12:1-17 Looking Unto Jesus………………………………..310
Hebrews 12:18-29 The Two Mountains………………….......….......321
Hebrews 13:1-25 A Final Challenge To Holy Living…………………335

Hebrews Commentary
The New Testament for English Readers

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament...though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works or Logos)

John Piper writes ""When I’m stumped with a...grammatical or syntactical or logical [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford...comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes that this text "is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to Alford’s New Testament for English Readers,* which is also a standard work." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Hebrews Commentary
The Greek Testament

Various Studies

Lectures on Hebrews - Click here for list of all 24 lectures

Teacher Notes

Hebrews Study Notes - Over 1000 pages of material!


What a Way to Go! - "When I go to heaven..." were Jack Arnold's last words before dying instantly in the pulpit from a heart attack. The extraordinary event made international headlines. and was picked up by the AP wire, CNN, and even Paul Harvey." (Click for more detail) (Watch memorial service - Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5). 

Over 280 pages of material. 

Daily Study Bible
Commentary on Hebrews

D Edmond Hiebert- Prints the author's own translation. Barclay defends Petrine authorship of 1 Peter but not of 2 Peter. Valuable for its numerous helpful word studies and background material. Barclay holds that Christ's descent into Hades gave those who there heard Him a second chance.

Comment: I appreciate Barclay's unique insights on Greek words and culture, but clearly his teaching about a "second chance" is NOT sound doctrine! Be an Acts 17:11 Berean with Barclay. Barclay is not always orthodox. See discussion of his orthodoxy especially the article "The Enigmatic William Barclay".

Hebrews Commentary
Notes on the New Testament

James Rosscup writes that Barnes "includes 16 volumes on the Old Testament, 11 on the New Testament. The New Testament part of this old work was first published in 1832–1851. Various authors contributed. It is evangelical and amillennial...Often the explanations of verses are very worthwhile." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

C H Spurgeon "Albert Barnes is a learned and able divine, but his productions are unequal in value, the gospels are of comparatively little worth, but his other comments are extremely useful for Sunday-school teachers and persons with a narrow range of reading, endowed with enough good sense to discriminate between good and evil....Placed by the side of the great masters, Barnes is a lesser light, but taking his work for what it is and professes to be, no minister can afford to be without it, and this is no small praise for works which were only intended for Sunday-school teachers." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

John Cereghin - Valuable commentary that had a wide sale when first published by this Presbyterian pastor.

Sermon Notes
The Epistle to the Hebrews

Calvary Chapel, Murrieta

Same resource in different format

Hebrews Commentary Notes
The Critical English Testament

C H Spurgeon wrote that Bengel's NT commentary "is the Scholar's delight! Bengel condensed more matter into a line than can be extracted from pages of other writers."

John Wesley said of Bengel "I know of no commentator on the Bible equal to Bengel" and referred to him as "The great light of the Christian world."

Hebrews Commentary
Gnomon of the New Testament

James Rosscup writes "This work (Gnomon), originally issued in 1742, has considerable comment on the Greek, flavoring the effort with judicious details about the spiritual life. It has much that helps, but has been surpassed by many other commentaries since its day." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)1 Peter 1 Commentary

Spurgeon comments on the goal to make Bengel's Gnomon -- "Such is the professed aim of this commentary, and the compilers have very fairly carried out their intentions. The whole of Bengel’s Gnomon is bodily transferred into the work, and as 120 years have elapsed since the first issue of that book, it may be supposed that much has since been added to the wealth of Scripture exposition; the substance of this has been incorporated in brackets, so as to bring it down to the present advanced state of knowledge. We strongly advise the purchase of this book, as it...will well repay an attentive perusal. Tischendorf and Alford have contributed make this one of the most lucid and concise commentaries on the text and teachings of the New Testament" (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Hebrews Commentary

Spurgeon - Adopted by the Wesleyan Conference as a standard work, and characterized by that body as marked by “solid learning, soundness of theological opinion, and an edifying attention to experimental and practical religion. Necessary to Methodist Students.

Hebrews Commentary
Sermons, Homilies, Illustrations

Commentary on Hebrews

Spurgeon on Calvin - Of priceless value....Calvin is a tree whose “leaf also shall not wither;” whatever he has written lives on, and is never out of date, because he expounded the word without bias or partiality.

James Rosscup - Calvin was not only a great theologian but also a great expositor, and his insight into Scripture contributed to his grasp of doctrinal truth. His commentaries are deep in spiritual understanding, usually helpful on problem passages, and refreshing in a devotional sense to the really interested reader. He usually offers good help on a passage. The present work skips Judges, Ruth, Samuel, Kings, Chronicles, Ezra, Nehemiah, Esther, Job, Ecclesiastes, Song of Solomon, II and III John and Revelation. Calvin is amillennial on long-range prophecy, but in other respects usually has very contributive perception on passages and doctrinal values edifying to the believer. He also can be very wordy, but the serious and patient glean much. 

D Edmond Hiebert - Valuable for insights into Reformation day views.

Expositional Sermons on Hebrews

These function like a 500+ Page Commentary! Highly Recommended. Very well done.

Commentary on Hebrews
Expository Notes

Sermons on Hebrews

It is surprising that Criswell preached no messages related to the warning passages in Hebrews 6. 

Sermons on Hebrews

Each lesson on this study of Hebrews is designed fit into the whole of the book. The attached Powerpoint and audio were given during the teaching of these lessons. The attached word document (study guides) are questions for the congregation, handed out the week prior to the lesson. They are intended for reflection and self study before reading/listening to the lesson.


Devotionals on Hebrews by Chapter and Verse. These make excellent sermon illustrations. Most of this first group are from Our Daily Bread devotionals which always begin with an illustration. 

Here are a few examples of the type of illustrations that can be found on these pages of devotionals...

  • Hebrews 2:9-18 At the southern tip of Africa, a cape jutting out into the ocean once caused sailors great anxiety. Many who attempted to sail around it were lost in the swirling seas. Because adverse weather conditions so often prevailed there, the region was named the Cape of Storms. A Portuguese captain determined to find a safe route through those treacherous waters so his countrymen could reach Cathay and the riches of the East Indies in safety. He succeeded, and the area was renamed the Cape of Good Hope.We all face a great storm called death. But our Lord has already traveled through it safely and has provided a way for us to do the same. By His crucifixion and resurrection, Christ abolished eternal death for every believer and has permanently established our fellowship with Him in heaven. Although this "last enemy," physical death, can touch us temporarily, its brief control over our earthly body will end at the resurrection. The sting of death has been removed!
  • Hebrews 4:15 A man put up a sign in his yard that read: “Puppies for Sale.” Among those who came to inquire was a young boy. “Please, Mister,” he said, “I’d like to buy one of your puppies if they don’t cost too much.” “Well, son, they’re $25.” The boy looked crushed. “I’ve only got two dollars and five cents. Could I see them anyway?” “Of course. Maybe we can work something out,” said the man. The lad’s eyes danced at the sight of those five little balls of fur. “I heard that one has a bad leg,” he said. “Yes, I’m afraid she’ll be crippled for life.” “Well, that’s the puppy I want. Could I pay for her a little at a time?” The man responded, “But she’ll always have a limp.” Smiling bravely, the boy pulled up one pant leg, revealing a brace. “I don’t walk good either.” Then, looking at the puppy sympathetically, he continued, “I guess she’ll need a lot of love and help. I sure did. It’s not so easy being crippled.” “Here, take her,” said the man. “I know you’ll give her a good home. And just forget the money.”

  • Hebrews 4:16 - A preacher was delivering a sermon before a large congregation. He pointed out that believers aren't exempt from trouble. In fact, some Christians are surrounded by trouble—trouble to the right, trouble to the left, trouble in front, and trouble behind. At this, a man who had served the Lord for many years, shouted, "Glory to God, it's always open at the top!"
  • Hebrews 10:36 Scottish physician A. J. Cronin (1896-1981) was forced by illness to take a leave of absence from his medical practice. He then decided to write a novel. But when half done, he became disheartened and threw his manuscript into a garbage can. Totally discouraged, Cronin was walking the Scottish Highlands and saw a man digging in a bog, trying to drain it for use as a pasture. As Cronin talked with him, the man said, "My father dug at this bog and never made a pasture. But my father knew and I know that it's only by digging you can make a pasture. So I keep on digging." Rebuked and remotivated, Cronin went home, picked his manuscript out of the garbage can, and finished it. That novel, Hatter's Castle, sold three million copies. Cronin left his medical practice and became a world-famous writer. At times, you and I may feel trapped by circumstances that demand patience and persistence. Are we willing to keep digging away at whatever "bog" God has assigned to us?

  • Hebrews 12:1-2 In The Complete Disciple, Paul W. Powell describes a picture of a rugged wagon train painted by a famous artist of the American West. It is night, and the wagons have been drawn into a circle for protec­tion. The men are gathered around the campfire, and the wagon mas­ter has a map spread out before him. On the map a heavy black line traces the zigzag course they have followed. They had swung north a little, then south, but always toward the west. An argument seems to have erupted about which way to go next. But the leader, with weary determination, has placed one finger on the end of the black line. With his other arm he is pointing toward the shadowy mountains. He seems to be saying, "We may have to go south around a mountain, or north across a river, but our direction will always be west." Every Christian should have a similar resolve. Running the Chris­tian race is not always easy. High mountains may stand in our way as we continue on the course God has marked out. Difficult circum­stances and temptations may cause us to veer in one direction or another. But if we keep our eyes on the goal by "looking unto Jesus," we will not stray from the path He has outlined. As we stay true to the Lord, we will keep heading toward our goal.

  • Hebrews 12:1-2 Keep on Swimming Florence Chadwick was the first woman to swim the English Channel in both directions. On the Fourth of July in 1951, she attempted to swim from Catalina Island to the California coast. The challenge was not so much the distance, but the bone-chilling waters of the Pacific. To complicate matters, a dense fog lay over the entire area, making it impossible for her to see land. After about 15 hours in the water, and within a half mile of her goal, Chadwick gave up. Later she told a reporter, "Look, I'm not excusing myself. But if I could have seen land, I might have made it." Not long afterward she attempted the feat again. Once more a misty veil obscured the coastline and she couldn't see the shore. But this time she made it because she kept reminding herself that land was there. With that confidence she bravely swam on and achieved her goal. In fact, she broke the men's record by 2 hours!

Our Daily Bread Devotionals On Site: Some duplication of above listing


Luke Sermons

Luke 1:53  How To Receive From God 
Steven Cole

“Am I mentioned in the will?” the nephew asked anxiously. “You certainly are,” replied the lawyer. “Right here in the third paragraph your uncle says, ‘To my niece Sarah, I bequeath $100,000; to my cousin Janice, $50,000; and to my nephew Charles, who was always curious to know if he was mentioned in my will, I say-Hi, Charles.’” (Reader’s Digest [11/77], p. 44.)

Well, I’ve never had a rich uncle or a rich relative of any sort. The only thing I’ve ever inherited was an old TV set from Marla’s grandmother. But if I did have a rich uncle, I’d want to be on good terms with him so that I’d be at least on his Christmas list, if not in his will.

We all enjoy receiving gifts at Christmas. But the greatest gifts we can receive are not from rich uncles, but from God. He made us; He alone knows what we all need most. As a loving God, He is ready to give us the best gifts. But He does not give His gifts indiscriminately. Both in the Bible and in our experience we see that some receive the blessings God offers while others go away with nothing. We would do well, therefore, to understand clearly how to receive from God so that we are not among those who miss out on the best gift of all.

The virgin Mary was one who received God’s blessings. In reference to her being chosen to be the mother of our Lord, she exclaimed, “For behold, from this time on all generations will count me blessed. For the Mighty One has done great things for me” (Luke 1:48-49). What a great thing to know, that future generations would count you blessed because God has done great things for you! Mary’s song (Luke 1:46-55, called the Magnificat, from the first word in Latin) tells us how to receive God’s blessings as Mary did. In an earlier study of Luke, I covered the whole song. Today I’m going to focus only on verse 53: “He has filled the hungry with good things; and sent away the rich empty-handed.” This verse tells us how to receive from God:

God satisfies the spiritually hungry but He sends the self-satisfied away empty.

This is a basic spiritual principle that runs throughout Scripture. It is often expressed as God humbling the proud and exalting the humble (Luke 1:51-52). Dozens of verses emphasize this truth, but let’s look at just a few.

Mary’s song is similar to Hannah’s song (1 Sam. 2:1-10), which expresses Hannah’s praise after God answered her prayer for a son. God wanted to give Hannah a son because Israel needed a prophet to speak God’s word to His people. Hannah’s rival, her husband’s other wife, had many sons and daughters (1 Sam. 1:2, 4), but Hannah was barren because God had closed her womb (1:5). Closing Hannah’s womb may seem like a strange way for God to provide her with a son. Yet that is often the way God works. He promised Abraham and Sarah a son, but He waited until after they were well past childbearing years to give them Isaac. The principle is that God brings us to the end of ourselves, where we have lost our proud trust in our own ability. Then we cast ourselves on the Lord and He provides to show us His grace [read 1 Sam. 2:4-7].

The same theme governs Psalm 107. It shows four vignettes of people whom God put in impossible situations so that they would come to the end of themselves, call out to God, and then praise Him for His lovingkindness when He delivered them [read vss. 4-9, noting vs. 9]. Jesus taught the same truth in the Beatitudes, where He said that the mourners would be comforted, the hungry filled, and the meek would inherit the earth (Matt. 5:3-12). Paul expressed the same principle when he said that when he was weak, then he was strong, because his weakness forced him to rely on the Lord (2 Cor. 12:9-10).

The reason I emphasize this principle so much at the outset is that it runs counter to what most people think, that “God helps those who help themselves.” That familiar “verse” is not in the Bible. It is based on human pride and runs counter to the biblical principle that God helps those who come to the end of themselves and cast themselves upon Him. I often read articles that promote the popular view, that you’ve got to believe in yourself. Sadly, many Christians buy into this sort of thinking. But Scripture pointedly states, “Cursed is the man who trusts in mankind and

makes flesh his strength, and whose heart turns away from the Lord” (Jer. 17:5). To trust in yourself is to turn away from trusting in the Lord!

Trusting in God does not mean that we sit around and do nothing. But it does mean that before we can do anything for God, we must recognize our own inability and rely on God for His grace and strength, so that He gets the glory. That’s the principle Mary expresses in Luke 1:53. Let’s examine the first half of the proposition:

1. God satisfies the spiritually hungry.

Mary is not speaking primarily of physical hunger or riches, but is using metaphorical language to speak of the spiritually hungry and the spiritually rich, or self-satisfied. Mary clearly saw herself as spiritually needy. She was not born without sin. She recognized God as her Savior (1:47), implying that she was a sinner. God didn’t chose Mary to bear His Son because she was without sin. She mentions her humble state (1:48) and God’s mercy (1:50). Mary was a spiritually hungry woman whom God had sovereignly blessed because of His mercy. Note three things:

 A. The ones God satisfies are marked by spiritual hunger.

That is the qualification to receive from God-to be spiritually hungry. As Jesus said, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied” (Matt. 5:6). Righteousness refers to God’s holiness as personified in Jesus Christ. In reference to the Christian, it refers both to justification-to be declared right before God, which happens the moment a person believes in Christ; and, to sanctification-to live rightly before God, which is progressive over a lifetime and is never perfected until we stand before Christ. Jesus was referring to the person who has a deep desire to be like Him, to live a holy life in thought, word, and deed. That person will be satisfied.

There are many people, even many professing Christians, who desire happiness, but not righteousness. If God can make them happy, they’ll follow Him; but if not, they’ll look elsewhere. A couple who attended the church I pastored in California professed to be Christians. The wife suffered chronic back pain. When I

heard that they were going to a Science of Mind “healer,” I talked to the husband about the spiritual danger. He replied, “My wife is in pain; we’ll go where she can get relief.” They stopped coming to the church. Truth didn’t matter to them. The living God didn’t matter. They just wanted relief wherever they could find it. I’ve known other professing Christians who walk out on their marriages or get involved in immorality because they’re seeking happiness above seeking God’s kingdom and righteousness.

Commenting on “those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,” Martyn Lloyd-Jones says, “I do not know of a better test that anyone can apply to himself or herself in this whole matter of the Christian profession than a verse like this. If this verse is to you one of the most blessed statements of the whole of Scripture you can be quite certain you are a Christian; if it is not, then you had better examine the foundations again” (Studies in the Sermon on the Mount [Eerdmans], 1:74).

Of course every true child of God is aware of many shortcomings in this regard. We’re all easily led astray by the selfishness that dwells within our sinful hearts. We have to fight it constantly. But if the pattern of our lives is that we violate God’s holy standards to pursue self-fulfillment, then we are fooling ourselves to call ourselves Christians.

Mary says that God fills the hungry with good things. To be hungry is to be aware of a desperate need. Relieving hunger is not a luxury; it’s a matter of survival. Probably none of us has ever experienced this level of need on a physical plane. Starving people aren’t interested in new stereos or computers, unless they can somehow sell them to buy food. Hungry people have one focus where to find food. It consumes their whole existence from the time they wake up until the time they go to bed. They need food.

That’s how we should hunger for God! Do you feel desperate to have your sins forgiven and to come to know God? If you have had your sins forgiven at the cross, do you now sense that whatever else in life you have, you must know God? The ones God satisfies are marked by that kind of spiritual hunger.

B. God alone can satisfy our hunger.

The “He” of verse 53 is God. He alone is able to meet our deepest needs. If we want to be satisfied, then we must seek God for the fulfillment of our spiritual hunger. He made us; He understands us thoroughly. He alone can meet the deepest needs of every human heart. So if we recognize our hunger, we must seek God to fill it.

To seek elsewhere is to seek that which can never satisfy completely. As the Lord speaks through Isaiah, “Why do you spend money for what is not bread, and your wages for what does not satisfy? Listen carefully to Me, and eat what is good, and delight yourself in abundance. Incline your ear and come to Me” (Isa. 55:2-3). God alone can satisfy the hungry heart.

David knew this. He was in the Judean wilderness, running for his life from the mad King Saul. Samuel had anointed David as Saul’s successor, but for the time being, David was a hunted fugitive. If I were David, I probably wouldn’t be writing songs at a time like that or if I were, the theme would be, “God, get me out of here! Give me relief!” But at just such a time, David wrote, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek you earnestly; my soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, in a dry and weary land where there is no water” (Ps. 63:1). As he seeks God there in that barren wilderness, David exults, “My soul is satisfied as with marrow and fatness, and my mouth offers praises with joyful lips” (63:5). He knew what it meant to be satisfied with God alone, even when God had not yet provided him with physical comfort or with the position as king that God had promised.

Beware of seeking fulfillment apart from Jesus Christ. Satan offers all sorts of subtle temptations that seem to fulfill your needs, but they aren’t centered in Jesus Christ. They satisfy temporarily, but ultimately they do not nourish. The one who fills up on them will starve. It’s as if you were physically hungry and you came to me for food. Suppose that I had perfected a process for infusing the taste of steak and potatoes into old newspapers. It tasted great, but it was nutritionally useless. If you ate it, you would enjoy the taste and your hunger would go away. But you would starve to death. That’s what happens to anyone who seeks to be satisfied with anything other than God.

We’ve seen that the ones God satisfies are marked by spiritual hunger. Also, God alone can satisfy our hunger. Third,

C. God satisfies the hungry.

I’m focusing here on the word “filled.” It’s in the past tense (Greek, aorist) because Mary is quoting from Psalm 107:9 (106:9 in the LXX) which looks at how God has met the need of those who have called out to Him. But it points to His characteristic way of dealing with all who seek Him. He satisfies them or fills them full (the meaning of this Greek verb). It means that God doesn’t just give partially; He meets our needs fully. It’s the same word used in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:12), where it says that after everyone was filled, they picked up 12 baskets full of leftovers. Everyone ate until they were satisfied, a feeling that many of us can identify with at this season of the year!

Of course there’s a sense in which we are both satisfied and yet still hungry in Jesus Christ. We who have tasted of God’s banquet in Christ are satisfied in the sense that the longing of our soul has been met. Our sins are forgiven; we enjoy peace with God; we have the joy of the Holy Spirit; we are ready to meet the Lord. In all of that and in much more, we are satisfied. And yet in another sense, as long as we’re in this body, we will be hungering and thirsting to know more of God, to experience more of what He has provided for us in Christ. Since God is infinite, we can never exhaust the delight of knowing Him.

Also, note that God satisfies the hungry with good things, not with junk food. God fills you with Himself, the source of all that is good and beautiful. “The good things” of our text does not refer to what our society calls “the good life.” Mary wasn’t referring to material prosperity, to a life of freedom from suffering, or to a feeling of self-fulfillment. She was referring to the satisfaction of the soul in God Himself, which transcends circumstances.

Many years ago a great monarch, Shah Abbis, reigned in Persia. The Shah loved his people. To understand them more clearly, he would mingle with them in various disguises. One day he went to the public baths dressed as a poor man. There in a tiny cellar he sat down beside the man who tended the furnace. He talked with the lonely man as a friend and at meal time, he ate some of his coarse food. In the weeks that followed, he visited the poor man often until the man came to love him dearly.

Then one day the Shah revealed his true identity to the poor man. The Shah waited, expecting the man to ask some favor or gift from him, but the commoner simply gazed in astonishment. Finally, he said, “You left your palace and your glory to sit with me in this dark place, to partake of my coarse food, to care whether my heart was glad or heavy. On others you may bestow great riches; but to me you have given a much greater gift-yourself. I only ask that you may never withdraw the gift of your friendship.”

Friendship with God in Jesus Christ is what truly satisfies the soul! Mary affirms that God fills or satisfies the hungry soul with good things, namely, with the ultimate good thing of knowing Him. All that I’ve said thus far is to try to explain and apply the first half of this verse. But we must look briefly at the second half:

2. God sends the self-satisfied away empty.

This is a shocking reversal of the natural order! In this world, the rich are the full; the hungry are the empty. But in God’s order, the rich are the empty; the hungry are the full. Note three things:

A. God sends away the self-satisfied.

By rich, Mary means those who have no felt needs before God. Perhaps she is specifically referring to those who were the self-proclaimed spiritual leaders in Israel in her day. When God picked a family for His Messiah to be born in, He didn’t pick the family of the chief priest or of one of the leading rabbis. He went to a poor, unknown carpenter and his wife in Nazareth. The “rich” in Jerusalem were overlooked.

The surest way to receive nothing from God is to be satisfied with where you are at. The Pharisees didn’t see themselves as needy sinners before God. They saw themselves as righteous because of their good works. They saw themselves as better than “the sinners.” But they didn’t see themselves as God saw them! They were “proud in the thoughts of their heart” (Luke 1:51), and their pride blinded them to their true spiritual condition.

The church of Laodicea was like that. They had become lukewarm about spiritual things because they were complacent.

Their view of themselves was, “I am rich, and have become wealthy, and have need of nothing.” God’s description of them is a bit different: “You are wretched and miserable and poor and blind and naked” (Rev. 3:17). How would you describe yourself spiritually? God sends away the self-satisfied, who do not see their true need before Him.

B. God actively sends them away.

What a startling thing! The text doesn’t say that God ignores the rich or that He gives nothing to them. It says that He actively sends them away empty-handed. What a frightening thought, that God would send a person away! You may wonder, “Why would God do this? Doesn’t He want everyone to come to Him?” Yes, but they must come on God’s terms, not on their terms.

A Newsweek cover story several years ago [12/17/90, pp. 50- 56] reported on the baby-boomers who were coming back into church now that they realized the need for religious values for their kids. But the article made it clear that these self-confident people are coming to God on their terms, not on His. “They don’t convert-they choose.” They want to know, “What’s in it for me?” They’re picky consumers, shopping for churches they like that offer services they want. The message to the churches is, “If you want to grow, you’d better cater to the customers’ needs.”

A similar article in Time [4/5/93, pp. 44-49] observed, “Increasing numbers of baby boomers who left the fold years ago are turning religious again, but many are traveling from church to church or faith to faith, sampling creeds, shopping for a custom-made God.”

You can custom-make an idol. But you can only come to the living God on His terms or not at all. His terms are that you recognize your sin and that you cannot save yourself. You must see yourself as hungry and starving unless God intervenes. He isn’t in the business of working out deals with self-confident young urban professionals. He actively sends the proud away.

C. God sends them away empty-handed.

What despair, to be sent away by God empty-handed! If God sends you away empty-handed, you have absolutely nothing. Paul expressed the same truth by saying that such people have no hope

and are without God in the world (Eph. 2:12). What good are material riches in this life, if you spend eternity in that place Jesus described as “where their worm does not die, and the fire is not quenched” (Mark 9:48)? What good is passing pleasure or romance in this life, if you spend eternity in the place Jesus described as “outer darkness,” where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matt. 25:30)? The worst thing that could happen to anyone is to be full of the passing pleasures of this world, but to be empty-handed when you stand before God at the judgment.


What is the solution? How can we avoid having God send us away empty-handed? D. L. Moody said, “Christ sends none away empty but those who are full of themselves.” To the church at Laodicea, God said that they needed to see their true condition as He saw them and to repent, to turn from their sin to Him. It was to that church that Jesus said, “Behold, I stand at the door and knock; if anyone hears My voice and opens the door, I will come in to him and will dine with him, and he with Me” (Rev. 3:20). He will truly satisfy the hunger of anyone who acknowledges his true spiritual need and who seeks Him.

Don’t seek happiness. Don’t seek fulfillment. Don’t seek pleasure. Hunger after God and His righteousness and He promises that He will fill you with good things.

Discussion Questions
  1. How can a Christian develop a deeper hunger for God?
  2. What is the proper balance between seeking God Himself versus asking Him to meet our needs?
  3. To what extent should our evangelistic approach try to meet the felt needs of lost people?
  4. Is it wrong to try to “market” the church? Why/why not? 

Luke 2:8-11   The Best News In The World 
Steven Cole

A wife said to her husband, “Shall we watch the six o’clock news and get indigestion or wait for the eleven o’clock and have insomnia?” One wag put it, “The evening news is where they begin with ‘Good evening’--and then tell you why it isn’t.”

We live in a world filled with tragedy. If there’s anything this hurting world desperately needs, it is good news. Not only the world in general, but individuals need good news because their lives are strewn with suffering and sorrow. The Christmas story as told by Luke offers not only good news, but the best news in the world: The angel told the shepherds, “I bring you good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

The best news in the world is that Christ the Lord has come as the Savior for all.

Maybe you’re thinking, “That’s nice, but to be quite honest, it doesn’t relate to the problems I’m facing. It may give people a brief feeling of hope and peace every Christmas, but then we have to get back to reality. To be honest, this story doesn’t touch the pain I feel or the tragedy I struggle with on a daily basis.”

But if you’re thinking that, you don’t understand the significance of this news as it relates to you personally. The news that “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord,” is absolutely the best news there is or ever could be.

1. This is the best news because it centers on the most unique Person in history.

“There has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (v. 11). I’ll focus in a moment on the fact that He is the Savior. For now, consider that ...

A. Jesus is the Christ.

The word is Greek for “anointed one” (the Hebrew is “Messiah”). It means that Jesus is the one sent and anointed by God the Father for His mission of salvation. He was anointed as a prophet to preach the gospel, as priest to offer Himself as the sacrifice for our sins, and as king to reign. He alone is able to reconcile sinful people to God through His sinless life, sacrificial death and resurrection.

B. Jesus is the Lord.

The same word is used in verses 9, 22, and 23 to refer to Jehovah God. What a mystery, yet true: The Savior born in Bethlehem is God in human flesh. If He had been only a man, He could not have died for the sins of the human race. If He had been an angel, He could not have borne human sins. But He was Christ the Lord, God! God alone is great enough to deal with our sins.

C. Jesus is a man.

He was born in Bethlehem. He didn’t descend from the sky, fully grown. He was conceived miraculously by the Holy Spirit in Mary’s womb and went through the stages of development just like any other human baby. What a wonder! As a man, the representative Man, He could bear the sins of the human race.

As God in human flesh, Jesus Christ is unique in all the world. He alone qualifies to be the Savior of the world. If you doubt the uniqueness of Jesus, I invite you to read the Gospel accounts with an open heart, and you will be convinced that He can be nothing other than fully God and fully man united in one person. That makes the news He brings about salvation the best news in the world, “good news of a great joy.”

2. This is the best news because of the type of news it is.

 A. It is the best news because it is the most important news in the world.

Jesus did not come as a nice man offering a new philosophy about life. He did not come as a great moral teacher, giving some interesting tips and helpful insights on how to live a happy life. He came as the Savior! The only people who need a Savior are those in great peril. Even though you may not be aware of it, without Jesus as your Savior, you are lost, under God’s judgment! If you die without Him as your Savior, you are eternally lost!

A number of years ago, a toddler fell down a narrow well. Her mother went looking for her as soon as she realized she was missing and was horrified to hear her daughter’s voice coming from this deep, dark shaft. Fire fighters and other rescuers soon swarmed on the sight. News media arrived and for hours the attention of the nation was riveted on that field where desperate attempts were being made to rescue that little girl before it was too late.

That little girl didn’t need anyone to give her some ideas on how to live a happy life. She was doomed if someone didn’t save her from certain death. The most important news that desperate mother could hear in that situation was, “The rescuers have reached your daughter and she has been saved!”

You could have walked up to that mother as she anxiously awaited the outcome and told her, “I just heard on the evening news that it’s going to be sunny and warmer tomorrow.” Big deal! That’s nice news, but it’s not important when your child is lost down a deep well. You could have reported to her, “They just said on the news that the economy is on an upswing.” Wonderful, but trivial compared to the only news that mattered to that mother. When someone is lost and within hours of death unless they are saved, the only news that matters is that a savior has come who can rescue that doomed person.

That’s why the good news that a Savior has been born who is Christ the Lord is the best news in the world, because it deals with the most important issue of all, namely, where a person will spend eternity. Each person in this world is lost without the Savior. It is only a matter of time until they die without Christ and enter eternity under the judgment of a holy God. But in His mercy, God sent Jesus to save us from our sins. That is the most important news in the world!

B. It is the best news because it is true news.

Good news is only good if it is true. If I told you, “You’ve just inherited a million dollars,” you would only regard it as good news if it was true. If I was just making it up, it isn’t a cause for great joy.

The news that Jesus Christ is born as a Savior is nothing more than a sick joke if it is not true news. If it’s just a nice legend that warms our hearts every Christmas, forget it! If it’s not absolutely true, then it only offers false hope for eternity, when really there is none. But if it’s true that Jesus Christ can save us from our sins so that we do not come under the judgment of a holy God, then we must believe and act on it.

The Christmas story is not a fairy tale. It happened in history: “Today in the city of David there has been born ...” (Lk 2:11). It happened on a particular day in history in a geographic location that was prophesied centuries before. The shepherds went and saw a live human baby. We’re not talking make-believe; we’re talking true history.

Luke begins his gospel by telling us that he investigated everything carefully from the beginning (Lk 1:3). Most scholars think that Mary, the mother of Jesus, was Luke’s direct source for the information in the birth narrative (Lk 2:19). To doubt the veracity of these events as recorded is to pit your word against that of a woman of integrity who was personally closer to these events than anyone else.

The historical accuracy of these events is further confirmed by the witness of the shepherds. There was no reason for them to fabricate a story about seeing the angels. Mass hallucinations of this sort are highly unlikely. In verse 20 we’re told that the things the shepherds heard and saw were “just as had been told them.”

The things they heard and saw--a common couple and their baby in a stable--were not the sort of things one would fabricate. If you were going to make up a story about the birth of the Savior, surely it would have sounded more like a fairy tale in a palace, with royal attendants and a baby that had a special glow around him. Instead we read of a common couple and a baby lying in a feeding trough.

Yes, there were miracles--the virgin conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb; the angels appearing to the shepherds. But these events are presented matter-of-factly, not embellished in a way that sounds make-believe. Unless you rule out miracles because you assume they can’t happen, there is no reason to doubt these reliable eyewitness accounts.

The truth of the narrative is further confirmed by the fulfilled Old Testament prophecies. Luke states that Jesus was born in the city of David. Micah 5:2 had prophesied 700 years before that Bethlehem would be the place of Messiah’s birth. In Luke 1, Zacharias’ prophecy shows how the birth of John the Baptist fulfilled Isaiah’s prophecy and would be followed by the coming of Messiah. In Luke 2:29-32, Simeon recognizes that this child fulfills the Old Testament hope for Messiah. In Luke 3, Jesus’ lineage is traced back through David, thus fulfilling God’s promise to David 1,000 years before.

We live in a culture that has largely abandoned the notion of absolute truth. Truth, for most Americans (and for many who claim to be evangelical Christians), is whatever works for the individual. If Zen Buddhism works for someone, then it is true for him; if Christianity works for another, then it is true, too, even though the two systems are mutually contradictory. The notion of objective truth has been replaced with subjective experience.

But if Jesus was born in history to the virgin Mary, if He is the fulfillment of prophecies made hundreds of years before His birth, and if the events surrounding His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are verified by hundreds of reliable eyewitnesses, then you can’t shrug it off as a nice story that is true for some but not true for others. Believing in Jesus as your Savior is not just one option among many. It’s not something you can believe if it helps you to feel good inside, but if it doesn’t work, you can discard.

If Jesus is who the prophets predicted, who the angels proclaimed, who He Himself claimed to be and verified by His miracles, then your eternal destiny depends on your response to Him.

 C. It is the best news because it is timely news.

News isn’t really exciting news if it’s old or if it relates to something in the far-distant future. If you tell me that President Kennedy was shot, it doesn’t greatly affect me, because that’s old news. If you tell me that I will inherit a million dollars when I turn 70, that’s great, but it’s so far off that it doesn’t help me much right now. The best news is news that relates to me right now.

Notice the words in the story that give a sense of urgency to this message to the shepherds: “today” (Lk 2:11); “Let us go straight to Bethlehem” (Lk 2:15); “they came in haste” (v. 16). The good news about Jesus the Savior is timely, urgent news because it comes to people who, like these shepherds, sit in darkness and the shadow of death (Lk 1:79). Last Sunday, Don Massey didn’t know that it would be his last time in church. He went home, began to shovel snow, had a heart attack, and died at age 34. If he had died outside of Christ, he would have been lost.

Scripture implores us, “Now is the day of salvation” (2 Cor. 6:2). You may not have tomorrow. It’s not something to put off for another day. It also promises, “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you shall be saved” (Acts 16:31). As many Scriptures show, God saves you the instant you believe in Jesus Christ as your Savior. You need not clean up your life first. You don’t have to attend classes to learn more. No matter how great a mess you’ve made of your life, if you will turn to Christ as your Savior now, He will save you now.

If you’re putting off trusting in Christ as your Savior, you don’t understand your true condition before God. To put it bluntly, if you’re outside of Christ, you’re terminal! Like the little girl trapped in the well, it’s just a matter of time until you die. Can you imagine her telling her rescuers, after all the effort they went through to reach her, “I think I’ll stay down here a while longer, thanks”? If you know you’re doomed, you’re greatly relieved when a rescuer arrives, and you grab the life line they throw to you.

Some people once told Jesus about some Galileans who had been ruthlessly murdered by Pilate. Jesus must have startled them when he responded, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish.” Then He related a situation where some people were killed when a tower fell on them, and repeated His warning, “Unless you repent, you will all likewise perish” (Luke 13:3-4). He meant that we all are like the little girl trapped in that well. We soon will die, and unless we repent before then, we come under God’s judgment and will perish. It is to doomed people that this urgent good news comes, “Today ... there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ, the Lord.”

Thus the news about Jesus is the best news in the world because it centers on the most unique Person in history, Jesus the Savior, who is Christ the Lord; and, because of the type of news it is: important, true, and timely news. Finally,

3. This is the best news because it comes to all people.

The angel announces it as “good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people” (v. 10). No doubt these Jewish shepherds understood that to mean the Jewish people. But there is also no doubt that Luke, a Gentile, would have his readers know that “all the people” means that there is no one to whom this good news does not apply. It is a fact of history that the good news of Jesus applies to all and transforms all who will believe. Savage tribesmen have been converted into peaceful missionaries through believing the good news about Christ. Civilized, educated savages as well have been transformed through believing this simple good news.

Shepherds were a despised group in Israel. They were not considered fit to be witnesses in court. Their work rendered them ceremonially unclean. The fact that God chose to reveal the Savior first to these shepherds shows that God often chooses the foolish things of the world to shame the wise. He often picks common, working people--shepherds and fishermen--in whom to display His grace.

The fact that these shepherds were sitting in darkness is symbolic of the whole human race, lost in the darkness of sin (Lk 1:79). It reminds us that the good news about Christ is only for sinners. As He told the self-righteous Pharisees, “I have not come to call the righteous but sinners to repentance” (Luke 5:32). The sudden bright light of God’s glory terrified the shepherds, as is always the case when sinners encounter the holy light of God’s presence. But the angel quickly relieved their fears and told them this incredibly good news. As John Newton put it in his classic hymn, “Amazing Grace,”|

    ‘Twas grace that taught my heart to fear, And grace my fears relieved;
    How precious did that grace appear The hour I first believed!

But the best part of this good news is not that it is for all people in general, but that it is for you personally: “there has been born for you a Savior” (v. 11). That means that this good news requires a personal response. Each person must respond as these shepherds did. They didn’t say, “Wow, that was really some experience, seeing all those angels,” and sit there the rest of the night with their sheep. They didn’t sit around discussing theology after the angel spoke to them. They didn’t say, “Thanks for the news, but we’ve always believed this” and stay where they were at.

No, they responded to the news by believing what God had revealed to them through the angel. Their faith was demonstrated by their going straight to Bethlehem to see it for themselves and then to return glorifying and praising God (Lk 2:15, 20). And what did they see? “Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger” (Lk 2:16). No halo. No angels hovering there. Jesus didn’t look like a Savior. The place smelled like a barn, because that’s what it was. Very common, very simple. They could have scoffed and stumbled over it, as many do.

What about you? Will you scoff or stumble over the simple but profound message that the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem, whose birth was announced by the angels to these simple shepherds, is Christ the Lord, a Savior born for you? That is absolutely the best news in the world, no matter what your situation in life. Jesus didn’t leave heaven and come to this earth and go through the suffering of the cross just to give you a boost or a few tips on how to have a happy life. He knew that you desperately need a Savior. He alone can save you from the penalty of God’s wrath because of your sins.


A sergeant was explaining to a group of soldiers about to make their first parachute jump what to do if their main chute did not open: “Snap back immediately into a tight body position. Then pull the rip cord of your reserve chute, and it will open, bringing you safely to the ground.”

A private nervously raised his hand. “What’s your question, soldier?” the sergeant called out.

“Sergeant, if my main parachute doesn’t open, how long do I have to pull my reserve?”

The sergeant looked directly into the young private’s eyes and replied earnestly, “The rest of your life, soldier. The rest of your life.” (Reader’s Digest, [2/82].)

How long do you have to respond to the good news that Christ the Lord has come as your Savior? The rest of your life! And since you’re already on your way down, but you don’t know how long before you hit the ground, I’d advise you not to delay!

Discussion Questions
  1. Some say, “It doesn’t matter what you believe, just so you believe.” Why is the content of faith crucial?
  2. How can we know that there is such a thing as absolute truth? How can we know what that truth is?
  3. Is it necessary to feel lost in order to get saved? How can we share the gospel with people who don’t know they’re lost?

Luke 2:10-11 The Joy of Christmas |
Steven Cole

A family during the great depression was unable to afford anything but the bare necessities. One day the news came that a circus was coming to town. Tickets cost one dollar. The little boy came running home excited and eager to get the money from his dad. The father regretfully told his boy that he could not provide him with that much money, but if he went out and worked on odd jobs, he might make enough to purchase a ticket on his own. The dad promised to match what the boy could earn.

The boy worked feverishly and, just a few days before the circus came to town, he found that he had just enough, including his dad’s contribution. He took the money and ran off to town to buy his circus ticket.

The day the circus came to town, he grabbed his ticket and rushed to the main street, where he stood on the curb as the circus parade went by. He was thrilled to watch the clowns, elephants, and all of the performers. A clown came dancing over to him and the boy put his ticket in the clown’s hand. He eagerly watched as the rest of the parade went by.

After the parade, the boy rushed home and told his father that he had been to the circus and how much fun it was. The father, surprised that the boy was home already, asked him to describe the circus. The boy told of the parade that went down the main street and of giving his ticket to the clown. The father sadly took his son in his arms and said, “Son, you didn’t see the circus; all you saw was the parade.”

That boy reminds me of many people at Christmas time. They get caught up with the carols, trees, lights, and gifts. They think that they are experiencing what Christmas is all about. But really, all they’re doing is seeing the parade and missing the main event, the true joy of Christmas.

I want each of you to know the real joy of Christmas. The angel announced the source of that joy to the shepherds on that first Christmas night: “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you

good news of a great joy which shall be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord” (Luke 2:10-11).

The great joy of Christmas comes through receiving God’s gift of the Savior, Christ the Lord.

Even if you haven’t received Christ as your Savior, you may have some good feelings at this season. It is a wonderful time of the year. It’s always good to be with family and friends, to enjoy good food, and to exchange gifts. But I’m talking about something different, something deeper. The true joy of Christmas lasts all year long. It is the abiding joy of knowing for certain that things are right between you and God. It is the contentment that comes from knowing that you have a hope that holds constant beyond the uncertainties of this life. That kind of lasting joy comes only to the one who has personally received God’s gift of the Savior.

Why did the angel describe the news about the Savior as “great joy”?

  1. The news about the Savior brings great joy because it is good news for sinners.

Imagine how frightening the shepherd’s experience would have been. They had been sitting in the dark night, perhaps with only the light of a flickering fire, when suddenly the sky lit up like noontime! Add to that the sudden appearance of the angel. It was enough to scare anyone!

The shepherds sitting in darkness picture the lost human race, sitting in the darkness of sin and the shadow of death (1:79). When the glory of God in His holiness suddenly breaks in on people who live in the darkness of sin, the only response is great fear. In the Bible, even when godly people encounter God or His holy angels, fear is the only response. When God appeared to Moses on Mount Sinai, the mountain shook and there were lightning flashes, thunder, a thick cloud, and the sound of a loud trumpet. The people were so afraid that they dared not come near the mountain. When the godly Isaiah saw God through a vision, he cried out, “Woe is me, for I am ruined.” Suddenly, he realized that he was a sinner (Isa. 6:5). It is always a fearful thing for a sinner to see a manifestation of God and His glory.

But I fear that in our pagan culture, or even in the church nowadays, far too few know anything of the fear of God’s impending judgment on sinners. We have pulled God down and made Him out to be a benign old man who is tolerant of our sins. We think that the only ones He will judge are the worst of the worst-murderers, child molesters, and the like. And, we have lifted humanity up, so that we mistakenly think that most people are basically good. As a result, we don’t understand what the Bible teaches about God’s terrible wrath against sin and the great danger that threatens every person outside of Christ. Thus, we don’t really appreciate the good news of the coming of the Savior.

I often illustrate it this way: Suppose I were standing in a long line at the bank and you rushed in, grabbed me by the arm, and dragged me out of the bank. I probably would not appreciate it. I would shout, “What do you think you’re doing?” You replied, “I’m saving you from the bank!” I would say, “That’s very nice of you, but I don’t need saving. I’m not in any danger. You tore my shirt, you hurt my arm, and you made me lose my place in line.” I would not be very grateful.

But, suppose that a mob of terrorists had just taken me hostage in the bank and you rushed in and got me safely out of the bank. In that case, I would be most grateful, even if you tore my shirt, hurt my arm, and made me lose my place in line. Why the difference? Because in the second instance, I was in grave danger and I knew that if somebody didn’t save me, I was doomed. In the first instance, there was no perceived danger.

The Bible says that if you have not received Jesus Christ as your Savior, whether you realize it or not, you are in the greatest imaginable danger-eternal danger. If you should die without Christ, you will have to stand before a holy God against whom you have committed many offenses. The Bible says, “It is appointed for men to die once and after this comes judgment” (Heb. 9:27). After death it is too late to repent. No amount of good works or good intentions on your part will help in the day of judgment. And so, like these shepherds sitting in darkness and suddenly seeing this blinding light, you should be terribly frightened at the thought of God’s holy presence.

Against that backdrop, the message that the Savior has been born is the best of all possible news, because it brings the promise of eternal life to those who are under God’s judgment. So the news that a Savior has been born who will deliver all who receive Him is truly “good news of a great joy.”

2. The news about the Savior brings great joy because it is true news.

Good news is only good if it is true. If I told you, “You’ve just inherited a million dollars,” and you said, “Really?” I replied, “No, I’m just kidding.” You wouldn’t rejoice. That news is worthless because it’s not true.

The news that Jesus Christ is born as the Savior is nothing more than a sick joke if it is not true news. If it’s just a nice legend that warms our hearts every Christmas, then let’s eradicate it once and for all, because it is offering hope for eternity where there is none. But if it is true news, then we must believe and act upon it.

Luke wants us know that this news is true. In Luke 1:3, he states that he had investigated everything carefully from the beginning. His gospel was the fruit of careful research. Most scholars believe that Mary, the mother of our Lord, was Luke’s direct source for the information in the birth narrative. Luke 2:19 reports that Mary “treasured up all these things, pondering them in her heart.” To doubt the veracity of these events recorded by Luke is to pit your word against that of a woman of integrity who was personally closer to these events than anyone else.

The witness of the shepherds further confirms the historical accuracy of these events. There was no reason for them to fabricate a story about seeing the angels. Mass hallucinations of this sort are highly unlikely. Verse 20 affirms that the things that the shepherds heard and saw were “just as had been told them.”

The things that they heard and saw-a common couple and their baby in a stable-were not the sort of things one would fabricate. If people were going to make up a story about the birth of a Savior, it would have sounded more like a fairy tale, with a palace in Jerusalem, not a stable in Bethlehem. The Savior would have had magical or mythical qualities. But there is none of that. Rather we find the straightforward reporting of events as they happened.

Certainly there are miracles: the virgin conception of Jesus in Mary’s womb; the appearances of angels. But these events are presented matter-of-factly, not in a way that sounds like make-believe. Unless one arbitrarily rules out miracles by assuming that they cannot happen, there is no reason to doubt these reliable eyewitness accounts.

The truth of the narrative is further confirmed by the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecies. Luke states that Jesus was born in the city of David. Micah 5:2 prophesied 700 years before that Bethlehem would be the place of Messiah’s birth. In Luke 1:67-79, Zecharias’ prophecy shows how the birth of John the Baptist fulfilled many of Isaiah’s prophecies and would be followed by the coming of Messiah. Luke 3:23-38 demonstrates that Jesus’ lineage goes back through David, thus fulfilling God’s promise to David a thousand years before.

Francis of Assisi built the first Christmas manger scene in 1224. His purpose was to get the people thinking of Christ as a person who really lived, rather than as a mysterious, fictional deity. People in our day need to understand what Francis was trying to get across, namely, the historical truth of the Christian faith. Our culture promotes the idea that if you want to believe in Christianity, that’s O.K. for you. But it’s not for everyone. Whatever you believe is true for you, and whatever I believe is true for me. But there is no such thing as absolute truth in the spiritual realm.

But if Jesus was born in history to the virgin Mary, if He fulfilled prophecies made hundreds of years before His birth, and if the events surrounding His birth, life, death, resurrection, and ascension are verified by hundreds of reliable eyewitnesses, then you cannot shrug it off as a nice story that is true for some but not for others. Jesus Christ is the Savior who was born in history, the living God in human flesh. If God has so acted in history, then it is really good news. If it is all legend, then it is terrible news, because it is purporting to be God’s revelation to man on the matter of our eternal destiny.

So the news about the Savior brings great joy because it is good news and it is true news.

3. The news about the Savior brings great joy because it is news of Christ the Lord.

He is a unique Person! Consider the uniqueness of this Savior born in Bethlehem.

*He is the Christ. Christ is Greek for “anointed one” (the Hebrew is “Messiah”). It means that God the Father sent and anointed Jesus for His mission of salvation. He was anointed as prophet to preach the gospel, as priest to offer sacrifice for sins, and as king to reign. He alone is able to reconcile sinful people to God through His life, His sacrificial death and His resurrection.

*He is Christ the Lord. The same word is used in Luke 2:9 and 23 to refer to God. The Savior born in Bethlehem is God in human flesh. If He had been only a man, He could not have saved us, because His death would not have had merit beyond Himself. If He had been an angel, He could not have borne human sins. But He was Christ the Lord, God! God alone is great enough to deal with the problem of our sins.

*He is a man. He was born in Bethlehem. He did not descend from the sky. He was conceived miraculously in Mary’s womb and went through the stages of development just like any human baby. What a wonder! As a man, the representative Man, He could bear the sins of the human race.

As God in human flesh, Jesus Christ is unique in all the world. He alone qualifies to be the Savior of the world. If you doubt the uniqueness of Jesus, I invite you to read the gospel accounts with the prayer, “God, if Jesus is God in human flesh, reveal that to me and I will believe and obey You.” You will discover that He can be nothing other than fully God and fully man united in one person. That makes the news He brings good news of a great joy.

4. The news about the Savior brings great joy because it is for all people.

The angel said that this news was not just for the shepherds, but for “all the people” (2:10). No doubt these Jewish shepherds understood that to mean all the Jewish people. But there is also no doubt that Luke would have his readers know that the good news is for Jew and Gentile alike, for any and all who will call upon the name of the Lord (Rom. 10:11-13).

It is a fact of history that the gospel applies to all and it transforms all who believe. Savage cannibals have been converted into peaceable missionaries through the good news of Christ. I read of a skeptic who was on a South Sea island. He was mocking Christianity. A local tribesman said to him, “If the missionaries had not brought us the gospel and we had not believed, we would have eaten you for dinner by now!” Wherever it goes, the gospel transforms sinful hearts. The gospel “is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes” (Rom. 1:16). Put your name in verse 11: “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.”


I read a touching Christmas story about some poor country children who were eagerly awaiting their father’s arrival from his job at a foundry in the city. Every year when he came home for Christmas, he brought with him presents and goodies to eat and a fresh Christmas tree. But this year, the dad had been laid off and there were no presents and, most disappointing, no tree.

The kids still held out hope that their dad would come up with a tree. The dad promised that he would do what he could. He went into the garage and emerged some time later carrying a two-by-four, about five feet tall, with holes drilled on each side. He went down the street to a neighbor whose property was bordered on three sides by a row of evergreen trees. He asked permission to cut some of the branches, which he brought home and inserted into the holes in the two-by-fours, making a “tree.”

He was trying, but by no stretch of the imagination could this be called a Christmas tree. While the kids were trying to deal with their disappointment and the little girl who grew up to write the story was looking out the window and praying, there was a knock at the front door. The woman and her son from the property down the street with the trees were standing there with the tallest, most beautifully shaped Christmas tree that the children had ever seen. It filled the doorway. The woman also kindly presented the children with a number of small presents that meant a lot, since it was all that they got that year.

Every year that she was growing up, the woman who wrote the story saw a gaping hole in the row of evergreen trees around her neighbor’s property and she remembered that act of kindness and how God had answered her prayers. (From a story by Irene Lukas, Guideposts, Dec., 1976.)

Now I want to ask you a question: How would the neighbor have felt if she had cut down her tree for that family, and when she brought it over, the family said, “Oh, thank you, but we can’t accept that. We really aren’t interested”? And they politely shut the door. Don’t you think that the neighbor would rightfully have felt hurt? And by refusing the gift, that family would have missed the great joy of that Christmas. A gift only brings joy if it is received.

How do you think God feels after sacrificing His own Son so that you could have eternal life and be spared from judgment, only to hear you say, “Thank you, but I can’t accept that; I’m just not interested”? It doesn’t matter how politely you turn down an offer like that. Any refusal of such a sacrificial offer is an insult at best. The world may give you superficial happiness, but it won’t last. The only way to know the deep, abiding joy God wants you to have is to be reconciled to Him by receiving His gift, the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. It’s the greatest gift you could ever receive, but it only brings great joy if you accept it. Will you accept God’s gracious gift to you right now?

Discussion Questions
  1. John Piper states, “God is most glorified in us when we are most satisfied in Him.” In light of this, why is joy an essential quality for believers?
  2. What is the difference between joy and happiness? How can we increase God’s joy in our lives?
  3. We are commanded to “rejoice always” (1 Thess. 5:16). Is it wrong, then, to be sad? Is depression sin? Defend your answer with Scripture.
  4. What would you say to someone who said, “If Christianity works for you, that’s great, but it’s not my thing”

Luke 2:10-11 The Question You Must Answer 
Steven Cole

A four-year-old boy and his family were sitting outdoors enjoying lemonade and cookies when a bee started buzzing around the table. The boy was very upset and his mother tried to calm him. “Nathan, that bee is more afraid of you than you are of him,” she said. “Look how much bigger you are. Besides, if that bee stings you, his stinger will fall out and he’ll die.”

Nathan considered this for a moment and then asked, “Does the bee know that?” (Adapted from Reader's Digest [06/93], p. 20.)

That was a good question! There are important questions in life that we need to ask and answer correctly: “Is there a God?” “How can I know Him?” “Is there life after death?” “Do heaven and hell exist?” “If so, where will I go when I die?” “How can I know for certain that I’m right about the answers to these questions?”

At the root of all these important questions is a crucial question that every person must answer. In fact, every person will answer this question, either now or at the judgment. But if you wait to answer it until the judgment, it will be too late! You will answer it correctly there, but the answer will condemn you to an eternity in hell without God. So you need to answer it correctly now!

The question you must answer and respond to correctly is, “Who is Jesus Christ?”

The correct answer to this question will answer all of the questions I just asked: “Is there a God?” Jesus came to reveal the Father to us. “How can I know Him?” You can only know God through His Son Jesus Christ. “Is there life after death?” Jesus tells us authoritatively how to go to heaven and avoid hell. “How can I know for certain that I’m right about the answers to these questions?” Are the accounts about Jesus and His claims true or false? Is there adequate evidence to believe these accounts? Especially, is there historically valid evidence that Jesus arose bodily from the dead? The apostle Paul did not hesitate to hang the entire Christian faith on the answer to that one question (1 Cor. 15:14, 17).

You will have times when you struggle with doubts that stem from difficult questions: How can a loving God permit the terrible suffering and injustice in the world? How can God be three persons and yet one God? How can certain biblical accounts that seem to contradict each other be harmonized? These and many more questions may trip you up. But if you come back to the correct answer to the question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” it will be the bedrock to stand on as you work through your doubts and questions.

You will also have times when you are strongly tempted to sin. How can you resist? It seems like sinning will bring you happiness and pleasure. If you forget who Jesus is, you will probably succumb. But if you remember who He is, you will be able to withstand the temptation.

You will also have times when you will go through difficult trials. It will seem as if God has forgotten you. You won’t understand why these things are happening. In your grief, you will be confused. But coming back to this crucial question will give you perspective to sustain you through your trials.

So the correct answer to this question determines how you think and how you live. It determines where you will spend eternity. Thus it is not surprising that the answer to this question is the major focus of each of the gospel narratives. John, for example, plainly states that he wrote his gospel (20:31), “so that you may believe that Jesus is the Christ, the Son of God; and that believing you may have life in His name.” Arguably, the identity of Jesus is the focus of the entire Bible. But for sake of time, I want to examine this question, “Who is Jesus Christ?” in the context of Luke and then zero in on the words of the angel to the shepherds.

Luke hits the matter of Jesus’ identity early and then throughout the book. Luke begins his gospel by telling his original reader, Theophilus, that he has researched these matters carefully (Luke 1:1-4). He claims to write this account so that Theophilus will know the exact truth. In other words, Luke is writing an accurate historical account. This is not fiction!

First, Luke gives the account of the birth of John the Baptist, the prophesied forerunner of the Messiah. Then he follows with the visit of the angel to Mary. He revealed to Mary both the miraculous means of her conception and the identity of her offspring (Luke 1:35): “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you; and for that reason the holy Child shall be called the Son of God.”

We will come back to the angel’s announcement to the shepherds. But just after Jesus’ birth, both Simeon and Anna bore witness to the fact that this child was the Lord’s Christ, the Savior, and the redeemer (Luke 2:26, 30, 38). When the crowds wondered if John the Baptist might be the Christ, he denied it and stated that he was not fit to untie the thong of Jesus’ sandals because Jesus was far mightier than he (Luke 3:16).

Even Satan tacitly acknowledged Jesus’ identity when he challenged Him (Luke 4:3), “If You are the Son of God, tell this stone to become bread.” Again he taunted from the pinnacle of the temple (Luke 4:9), “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.” He was trying to use the truth to camouflage his temptation. At the beginning of Jesus’ public ministry, the demons also recognized that He is “the Holy One of God” and “the Son of God” (Luke 4:34, 41). Although they were not and could not be subject to Him, they still knew the truth about who He is.

When Peter experienced the miraculous catch of fish, he instantly recognized that Jesus is the holy Lord and that he had no basis to be in His presence. He cried out (Luke 5:8), “Go away from me, Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!” When Jesus forgave the paralytic’s sins (prior to healing him to prove His authority to forgive sins), the Pharisees grumbled (Luke 5:21), “Who is this man who speaks blasphemies? Who can forgive sins, but God alone?” Who indeed?

Later, when John the Baptist was in prison, he struggled with doubts. He sent messengers to Jesus asking (Luke 7:19), “Are You the One who is coming, or do we look for someone else?” Jesus sent back the reply, based on a Messianic prophecy in Isaiah 35, (Luke 7:22-23), “Go and report to John what you have seen and heard: the blind receive sight, the lame walk, the lepers are cleansed, and the deaf hear, the dead are raised up, the poor have the gospel preached to them. Blessed is he who does not take offense at Me.” Jesus’ miracles and teaching revealed His identity.

Later, when Jesus was having dinner with a Pharisee, He forgave the sins of the woman who anointed His feet. The other guests grumbled (Luke 7:49), “Who is this man who even forgives sins?” Luke repeats the same crucial question after Jesus calmed the storm. The disciples fearfully asked (Luke 8:25), “Who then is this, that He commands even the winds and the water, and they obey Him?” Later, Herod heard about the miracles that Jesus was performing. He worried that maybe John the Baptist had risen from the dead. So Herod said (Luke 9:9), “I myself had John beheaded; but who is this man about whom I hear such things?” He asked the right question, but he never answered it correctly!

Later, Jesus asks the twelve (Luke 9:18), “Who do the multitudes say that I am?” After they give some of the incorrect answers, Jesus pointedly asks (Luke 9:20), “But who do you say that I am?” Peter responded with his confession, “The Christ of God.” Yet even then, the disciples had many erroneous notions about who Jesus was. They did not understand that the Christ had to suffer before He entered into His glory (Luke 24:26). The ultimate confession comes from God the Father, who testified at Jesus’ baptism (Luke 3:22), “You are My beloved Son, in You I am well-pleased.” And, again at Jesus’ transfiguration, the Father testified (Luke 9:35), “This is My Son, My Chosen One; listen to Him!”

If we had the time, we could work our way through the entire Gospel of Luke (as well as the other Gospels) and see the words and deeds of Jesus, all of which testify to His identity. After His resurrection, Jesus explains to the disciples that all of Scripture testifies to Him (Luke 24:27, 44).

But I want to focus briefly on Jesus’ identity as the angel proclaimed it to the shepherds on the night of Jesus’ birth (Luke 2:10-11), “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people; for today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” This is a unique statement, in that the word “Savior” is only used two other times in the gospels. In Luke 1:47, Mary said that she “rejoiced in God my Savior.” It occurs once in John 4:42. Other than that, “Savior” in the Gospels only occurs here at Jesus’ birth. Also, the words “Christ the Lord” translate a Greek expression found nowhere else in the New Testament (Leon Morris, Luke [IVP/Eerdmans], p. 85). It is literally, “Christ Lord.” So the angel’s pronouncement should arrest our attention.

1. Jesus is fully human.

Luke, who probably interviewed Mary, gives more detail to the miracle of the virgin birth than any other New Testament author, explaining that the Holy Spirit performed this miracle in Mary’s body (Lk 1:34-35). In this unique way, God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Jesus was born in the city of David, which is Bethlehem. Luke will go on to show that Jesus grew up as a boy, gradually attaining maturity (Lk 2:40-52). Luke also traces Jesus’ physical genealogy all the way back to Adam, showing that Jesus was descended from David (Lk 3:23-38).

All of these historical details mean that the Christmas story is not a legend, but rather is a true account of the life of a real man. It is based on the eyewitness testimony of credible people. We need to emphasize this in our day. So many legends, such as Santa Claus, have become intertwined with the Christmas story that people lump them all together and forget that the birth of Jesus Christ as reported in the Bible is true history.

Some may ask, “Who cares if it’s history or not? The story about Joseph and Mary, the Christ child, the angels, the wise men, the shepherds, and the manger, is a heartwarming tale that children love to hear. It helps everyone focus on peace on earth for a few days every year. So what difference does it make whether it’s really true or not?”

It makes all the difference in the world! If it’s just a heartwarming legend, you can choose to believe or disbelieve it, based on how it makes you feel. It’s a completely subjective decision, binding on no one.

But if the story actually happened as Luke reports, then the birth of Jesus confronts every person with objective facts that cannot be shrugged off as personal opinion. The fact that these events happened means that God exists and that He truly broke into human history in the birth of Jesus in fulfillment of many prophecies. The fact that God sent Jesus as a Savior implies that people without the Savior are alienated from God and desperately need to be reconciled to Him through the forgiveness of their sins.

These facts mean that you don’t just believe in Jesus because it makes you feel warm and happy inside, or because He helps you face life’s problems or because you like the Christian traditions. It means that you believe the Christian message because it is true. Even if it brings you persecution and death, you cling to it because it is authentic history. Jesus came to earth as a man to bear our sins.

2. Jesus is the Savior.

The angel tells the shepherds that this good news of great joy for all people is that a Savior has been born. The name “Jesus,” revealed to Joseph by the angel (Matt. 1:21), means, “Yahweh saves.” Jesus did not come as a nice man offering a new philosophy about life. He did not come as a great moral teacher, offering some helpful insights on how to live a happy life. He came as the Savior!

A number of years ago, a toddler fell down a narrow well. Her mother went looking for her as soon as she realized she was missing and was horrified to hear her daughter’s voice coming from this deep, dark shaft. Fire fighters and other rescuers soon swarmed on the scene. News media arrived and for hours the attention of the nation was riveted on the desperate attempt to rescue that little girl before it was too late.

That little girl didn’t need anyone to give her some ideas on how to live a happy life. She was doomed if someone didn’t save her from death. The most important news that that desperate mother could hear in that situation was, “The rescuers have saved your daughter!” When someone is lost and within hours of death unless they are saved, the only news that matters is that a savior has come who can rescue that doomed person.

The good news that a Savior has been born who is Christ the Lord is the best news in the world, because it deals with the most important issue of all, namely, where you will spend eternity. If you die and do not have Jesus Christ as your Savior, you will spend eternity under the judgment of a holy God (John 3:36). But in His mercy, God sent Jesus to save us from our sins!

3. Jesus is the Christ.

“Messiah” is the Hebrew and “Christ” is the Greek word for “Anointed One.” It refers to Jesus as the Anointed King and Priest, who brings God’s salvation to His people. In the Old Testament, the only two office bearers to be anointed were the King and the High Priest. Jesus brought both of these offices together in one person. The title, Christ, especially focuses on the fact that Jesus is the One who fulfilled all the Old Testament prophecies about the promised Savior. He alone is able to reconcile sinful people to God through His sinless life, sacrificial death, and bodily resurrection. He is coming a second time, not to offer salvation, but to judge the world and reign in righteousness. Since Jesus is God's Anointed One, we dare not ignore or reject Him!

Thus Jesus is fully human. He is the Savior. He is the Christ.

4. Jesus is the Lord.

The title means that Jesus is God. What a mystery, yet true: The man Jesus, born in Bethlehem, is God in human flesh! A mere man could not have died for the sins of the human race. If He had been an angel or some super-human being, He could not have borne human sins. But as the sinless God-man, He alone could bear our sins.

The Jehovah’s Witnesses and the Mormons say that Jesus is the Savior, but they deny that He is God. But we must interpret Lord in light of its use in the Old Testament and in light of its context in Luke. In the Old Testament, the Lord clearly is Yahweh, the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob! It is used over 6,000 times in the Septuagint to translate “Yahweh” (Darrell Bock, Luke 1:1-9:50 [Baker], p. 218). It refers to Jesus’ sovereignty and deity.

Luke uses the same word in Lk 1:43, where Elizabeth refers to Mary, who is carrying Jesus, as “the mother of my Lord.” She also adds that Mary was blessed because she believed the word spoken to her by the Lord (Lk 1:45). In the next verse (Lk 1:46), Mary breaks into praise, exclaiming, “My soul exalts the Lord....” When Elizabeth gives birth to John, everyone heard that the Lord had displayed His great mercy toward her (Lk 1:58). As the child grew, Luke states that the hand of the Lord was with him (Lk 1:66). When Zacharias broke into praise, he blessed the Lord God of Israel (Lk 1:68). In Lk 2:9, Luke says that the angel of the Lord stood before them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them. He uses it in Lk 2:23 to refer to “the law of the Lord” and “holy to the Lord.”

If Lord means something different in verse 11 than it does in these many other references in chapters 1 & 2, surely Luke would have clarified it. The angel means that Jesus, born to the virgin Mary, is none other than God in human flesh. The Savior had to be man to bear the sins of humans; but He also had to be God so that His sacrifice had merit before God’s holy throne. Only Jesus is that unique Savior.

So the correct answer to the crucial question that you must answer is, “Jesus is fully human, He is the Savior, He is the Christ, and He is the Lord God.” But, you can answer that question correctly and yet go to hell. As we’ve seen, the devil and his demons know the correct answer to that question, but they are not saved.

5. You must respond to Jesus as your Savior and Lord with personal faith and submission.

The angel announces that this good news of the Savior’s birth is for all the people (Lk 2:10). But then he gets personal (Lk 2:11), “there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” You must respond personally by trusting Jesus as the only one who can save you from God’s judgment and by submitting to Him as your Lord.

Use these shepherds as an example of how you should respond. They didn’t say, “Wow, that was really some experience, seeing all those angels,” and sit there the rest of the night with their sheep. They didn’t sit around discussing theology after the angel spoke to them. They didn’t say, “Thanks for the news, but we’ve always believed this,” and stay where they were at.

No, they responded to the news by believing what God had revealed to them through the angel. Their faith was demonstrated by their going straight to Bethlehem to see it for themselves and then to return glorifying and praising God (Luke 2:15, 20). And what did they see? “Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger” (Luke 2:16). No halo. No angels hovering there. Jesus didn’t look like a Savior. No palace. The place looked and smelled like a barn, because that’s what it was. They could have scoffed and stumbled over it, as many do.

What about you? Will you scoff or stumble over the simple but profound message that the baby Jesus, born in Bethlehem, whose birth was announced by the angels to these simple shepherds, is Christ the Lord, a Savior born for you? Jesus didn’t leave heaven and come to this earth and go through the suffering of the cross just to give you a boost or a few tips on how to have a happy life. He knew that you desperately need a Savior. He alone can save you from the penalty of God’s wrath because of your sins. But, how will you respond to this good news?


So the crucial question that you must answer and respond to correctly is, “Who is Jesus Christ?” One day, everyone will get it right. The apostle Paul says (Phil. 2:10-11) that “at the name of Jesus every knee will bow, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

But some will bow on that great day in terror as they hear the Lord say (Matt. 25:41), “Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels.” They responded too late to the question we all must answer, “Who is Jesus Christ?”
But you can respond correctly right now! You can welcome Jesus Christ as your Savior from God’s judgment. You can bow before Him now as your Lord. Then on that day you will hear Him say (Matt. 25:34), “Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.”

Application Questions
  1. What would you say to the person who said, “If Jesus works for you, that’s great, but that’s not my thing”?
  2. Why is it crucial to affirm the full humanity and full deity of Jesus Christ? Can a person be saved who denies Jesus’ deity?
  3. How does answering the question about Jesus’ identity affect how we think and live?
  4. Is it necessary to feel lost in order to get saved? How can we share the gospel with those who don’t feel lost?

The Simplicity Of Christmas 
Luke 2:8-20
Steven Cole

A man was bothered with continual ringing in his ears, bulging eyes, and a flushed face. Over a period of three years he went to doctor after doctor. One took out his tonsils, one removed his appendix, another pulled out all his teeth. Nothing seemed to help. He still had ringing in his ears, bulging eyes, and a flushed face.

Finally a doctor told him that there was no hope; he only had six months to live. The poor fellow quit his job and decided to live it up in the time he had left. He went to his tailor and ordered several suits and shirts. The tailor measured his neck and wrote down the size: 16. The man corrected him: 15. The tailor measured again: 16. But the man insisted that he had always worn a size 15 collar on his shirts.

“Well, all right,” said the tailor, “but don’t come back here complaining to me if you have ringing in your ears, bulging eyes, and a flushed face!”

Sometimes the solutions to life’s problems are more simple than we think. Our world has incredibly complex problems: wars, terror-ism, famines, catastrophes. People have complex problems: physical, emotional, and family problems. Sometimes we despair as we try to help others or to deal with our own problems. At times the proposed solutions seem so complex that we aren’t sure we can implement them.

But God provides a simple solution for all of the complex problems we face in this world. It is the simple solution of the Savior, whose birth we celebrate at Christmas.

Some would scoff and call it a simplistic solution, one that really doesn’t work. Others would say that it’s a nice legend, harmless enough; but they would never consider it as a serious solution to any significant problems.

God knows that the basic problem with the world is the sin of the human race. Any solutions that leave out dealing with the sin problem are the simplistic solutions. The only solution that offers true hope and help is that which takes into account the sinful hearts of people and offers a practical solution to that universal problem.

God’s Christmas message to us offers such a solution. The Savior whose birth we celebrate was to be named Jesus (Jehovah saves), for He would save His people from their sins (Matt. 1:21). The Christmas story as told by Luke, especially the story of the shepherds who went to see the Lord Jesus on the night of His birth, reveals that ...

God’s simple solution for man’s complex problems  is a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The first thing that strikes us about this familiar story is:

1. The Christmas message is for simple people.

Have you ever considered why the text does not read (Luke 2:8), “Now there were in the same region scribes and Pharisees, keeping watch over their scrolls and religious rituals”? Nor does it say, “There were in the same region kings and princes keeping watch at the palace.” God chose to reveal the birth of the Savior to simple shepherds who were going about their job. Why shepherds?

That God chose simple shepherds to be the first to know of the birth of the Savior is even more strange by human standards because in Israel, shepherding was a lowly task. Shepherds had not been schooled in the law and thus were considered ignorant. Their work made them ceremonially unclean. According to one Jewish treatise, shepherds were not trustworthy enough to be used as witnesses. According to another, help was not to be offered to shepherds and heathen (see Godet, Luke [I. K. Funk & Co., 1881], p. 81). So why did God choose shepherds as the first ones to receive the angels’ revelation concerning the Messiah’s birth?

In the first place, God chose shepherds to show that...

A. The gospel is for the simple, not for the sophisticated.

God puts His cookies on the bottom shelf. Because of that, the sophisticated and scholarly sometimes miss the truth of it. They’re looking too high; it’s beneath them to stoop to the lowest shelf, and so they miss what God offers freely to all.

If it were any other way, men could boast before God. If the gospel were some complicated philosophy that required a high I.Q. and years of study to grasp, then those who had attained it could congratulate themselves on how much more intelligent they were than the rest of the population. Those who were illiterate or not as intellectually gifted as others could never hope to qualify for salvation.

But the beauty of the good news about Christ is that it was first announced to lowly shepherds. They probably couldn’t read and write. They weren’t leadership material. But God’s love in Christ extended to them. The danger is that we will miss the gospel because it is so simple (1 Cor. 1:26-31).

Every time I think about this truth, I am reminded of a fellow I used to know in Seal Beach, California. Everyone called him “Seal Beach James.” Although he was in his twenties, he had the mental capacity of a child. But James knew and loved the Lord Jesus. Every day he would ride his bicycle, with a basket on the handlebars full of tracts, down to the beach and talk to people about the Lord. He would boldly go up to the muscle-bound beach bums playing volleyball and ask, “Do you know the Lord Jesus Christ?” The amazing thing is that sometimes one of them would actually stop and listen to James!

James’s mother, who had normal intelligence, did not know the Savior. If you were at a home gathering where James was, he would dial his mother on the phone, then hand it to you if you were standing near him, as you heard him tell his mother, “Mom, here is Steve Cole. He’s going to tell you about the Lord Jesus Christ.” And you were on!

To my knowledge, James’s mother died without putting her trust in the Lord Jesus. Perhaps it was foolishness to her. Too simple! But in the grace of God, her mentally handicapped son will one day be standing before the throne of God with myriads of saints singing, “Worthy is the Lamb!”

How about you? Have you given up your pride and come to the Savior who is Christ the Lord? No human merit is allowed at the foot of the cross where the Baby of Bethlehem died. He did it all. Only those who are simple enough to accept His gift will see the salvation of God.

In the second place, God chose shepherds as the first to receive the good news because...

B. The gospel involved the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

We do not know the exact date of Jesus’ birth, but a December date is reasonable (Harold Hoehner, Chronological Aspects cf the Life cf Christ [Zondervan, 1977], pp. 25-27.) It is probable that the very sheep these men were tending in the fields that night were being prepared for slaughter at the Passover in Jerusalem a few months later. Thus it is symbolic that the shepherds who were watching the Passover lambs would be invited to Bethlehem to view the Passover Lamb of God, provided for the salvation of the world.

The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death (Rom. 6:23), eternal separation from God. A holy God cannot accept sinners in His presence unless their sin has been paid for. If He did, He would not be just. In His love for us, God sent His own Son, born sinless through the miracle of the virgin birth, to be the atoning sacrifice for our sins. Just as when the Jews were delivered from Egypt, and were spared from the angel of death if they had the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts, so every person who applies the blood of Jesus Christ, the Lamb of God, to his life will be saved from God’s judgment.

So God revealed His good news to shepherds because (A.) the gospel is for the simple, not the sophisticated; and (B.) the gospel involved the sacrifice of the Lamb of God.

C. The gospel provided us with a Good Shepherd and calls us to shepherd others.

God has always had a special place in His heart for shepherds. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob were shepherds. King David was called from tending the sheep to shepherd God’s people. As such, David was a type of his promised descendant, who would reign upon his throne, who said of Himself, “I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep” (John 10:11).

As the Good Shepherd, the Lord Jesus will care for you as no other can. He watches over you more carefully than any earthly shepherd could watch his sheep. He knows your deepest needs. He will protect you from wolves and thieves who would destroy your soul (Ps 23:4; John 10:10-13).

Of course, if the Good Shepherd has called you to Himself, then He also wants you to shepherd others. You may not be called as a pastor in the church. But like these shepherds of Bethlehem, the ordinary people God calls to the Savior are sent back to shepherd the sheep. It may be a Sunday school class, or a group of boys in Boy’s Brigade or girls in Pioneer Girls. It may be your family or a new Christian God brings across your path. As you grow to be more like the Good Shepherd, you will become a good shepherd over a part of His flock.
So the Christmas message is for simple people.

2. The Christmas message is simple in content.

How simple and yet how sublime is God’s means of salvation! Who would have thought that Messiah would be born as a baby, and in such humble circumstances, at that! I would have thought that God would send His Savior as a full-grown man, a mighty warrior riding on a white stallion. Or if He were to be born as a baby, I would have looked in the palace, expecting to see the infant wrapped in fine purple, lying in an ivory and gold cradle, attended by servants.

Many would have stumbled over the angel’s directions (Luke 2:12): “You will find a baby wrapped in cloths, and lying in a manger”-a feeding trough! It smelled like any barn. Contrary to many artists’ conceptions, there was no halo over the baby’s head. Contrary to the children’s Christmas carol, the baby did cry. There were no photographers from the Jerusalem Post; no TV news crews; no dignitaries from the Temple. Just a plainly dressed carpenter and his young wife from the hick town of Nazareth. It wasn’t quite the way you would expect God to launch His Messiah into this world!

Who was this baby whom the shepherds found in such a common setting? The angel tells us (Lk 2:11): “For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” Micah (Mic 5:2) had prophesied about 700 years before that the Messiah (= “Christ,” God’s “Anointed One”) would be born in Bethlehem, the city of David. This baby fulfilled that prophecy, plus dozens of others. He was the Christ.

That He was fully human was clear to all who saw Him. His mother obviously had just given birth. But the angel said that this human baby was also “a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.” A Savior, not a Judge; one who would deliver His people, not destroy them. For the angel to call this baby “the Lord” meant that the baby was over the angel. “Lord” is tantamount to Jehovah God. It is the same word used in Luke 2:9, where it says that the glory of the Lord shone around the shepherds. The same word is used in Luke 2:23 in reference to “the Law of the Lord,” and “holy to the Lord.” If, in Luke 2:11, the word means some-thing different than the same word used in Luke 2:9, 23, surely Luke would have noted this. The baby in the manger of Bethlehem is none other than the Lord God in human flesh!

Nothing could be more simple and yet more inscrutably profound! God brings salvation to Adam’s fallen race by taking human flesh on Himself, yet without sin. Then, as our sinless substitute, He bore our sin to satisfy the righteous justice of God, so that God may be both “just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus” (Rom. 3:26). How simple! Children can understand the simplicity of the gospel, and yet learned theologians cannot fathom its depths!

The Christmas message is for simple people. It is simple in content. Finally,

3. The Christmas message is simple in its obligations.

How should we respond? Just like the shepherds respond-ed. They believed the word of God through the angel, as shown by their leaving their flocks and going to Bethlehem. They told others what they had seen. And they went back to their sheep, glorifying and praising God.

A. We must believe in the Savior, who is Christ the Lord.

The shepherds could have heard the angel’s proclamation and said, “Isn’t that interesting! What do you suppose it all means?” And they could have had a stimulating theological discussion around the fire that night. They could have sent a delegation to the rabbis in Jerusalem to get their interpretation of things.

Or they could have said, “We’ve always believed these truths. After all, we’re Jews, you know! Every good Jew believes that the Savior will come from the city of David. Thanks for telling us!”

What I’m getting at is that true belief is more than just intellectual assent. True belief always results in obedient response. The shepherds heard the angel, they left their flocks, and went straight to Bethlehem to see that which the Lord had made known to them. Their lives were never the same for it.

When God reveals Christ to your soul, you must take Him at His word. You must personally believe the revelation which God has given concerning His Son. If you have truly believed in God’s Son, you won’t be going on about life just as you were before. There will be changes in the way you live. No one is saved by good works, but saving faith always results in good works.

What are these good works? They are many and varied, but the shepherds show us two types of works:

B. Having believed, we will tell others.

Lk 2:17 states: “And when they had seen this, they made known the statement which had been told them about this Child.” What had they seen? Verse 16 tells us: “Mary and Joseph, and the baby as He lay in the manger.” But remember, they saw with the eyes of faith. When you see God’s Son with eyes of faith, you cannot be silent. It was not a “silent night” once the shepherds visited the manger! They told others what they saw.

If they had stopped to think about it, the shepherds could have come up with a lot of reasons to keep quiet. Remember, shepherds weren’t trusted as witnesses. Nobody would believe them. And it really sounds kind of crazy: “You saw a bunch of angels, huh? This baby belonging to this poor couple out in the stable is God’s Messiah? Right!”

Not everybody is going to respond positively to the gospel. But if we’ve believed in God’s revelation concerning His Son, how can we be silent? This One is the Savior! He is God’s simple solution for every need of every human heart! If we really believe that, we’ve got to make it known!

C. Having believed, we will glorify God in the place He has called us.

Note Lk 2:20: “And the shepherds went back and signed a book contract to tell all that they had heard and seen. They appeared on TV; they began a ministry called ‘Shepherds’ Vision’; they started traveling; they became famous.”

No, “... the shepherds went back, glorifying and praising God for all that they had heard and seen, just as had been told them.” Went back where? To tend their sheep. What a letdown! They didn’t set up tours to the shrine in Bethlehem. They didn’t sign on as the public relations men for Messiah Ministries, Inc. They didn’t put on seminars on how to have visions of angels. They went back to the place God had called them, but now their lives were marked by praise.

Thirty long years went by before this Child of Bethlehem even began to preach. By then, the younger shepherds from that night were middle age. Why didn’t God move faster? Why didn’t He use these men to get some action going for Jesus while He was still a boy?

We American Christians often buy into a version of Christianity that’s not much like the simple Christianity of the Bible. We seem to have a need for the spectacular and big. People flock to miracle services, they listen to some guy’s supposed trip to heaven and hell, they idolize famous people who happen to be Christians, they feed on the latest seminars and popular cultural fads.

Maybe we ought to get back to the simplicity of steadfast Christian living, centered on “the simplicity and purity of devotion to Christ” (2 Cor. 11:3). Maybe we need to see that God is the God of the normal, not just the spectacular. He calls us to be Christians who glorify Him as we tend our sheep or swing our hammer or keep house. God calls us to live in the real world as His people, glorifying and praising Him for His gift of a Savior. It’s not always spectacular. But it is how people who have met the Savior are to live.

The kids were putting on the Christmas play. To show the radiance of the newborn Savior, a light bulb was hidden in the manger. All the stage lights were to be turned off so that only the brightness of the manger could be seen. But the boy who controlled the lights got confused and all the lights went out. It was a tense moment, broken only when one of the shepherds said in a loud stage whisper, “Hey! You switched off Jesus!”

I wonder if you could have accidentally switched off the simplicity of Jesus? Whatever problems you face, He is God’s simple solution-the Savior, who is Christ the Lord. He was born so that you can be born again. Will you receive Him as God’s gift for you this Christmas?

Discussion Questions
  1. Is it overly simplistic to say that Christ is God’s solution for every problem? What does that mean in practice?
  2. Why are American Christians so enamored with the spectacular? How can we develop God’s simplicity in our lives?
  3. A neighbor has a nominal “belief” in Christ. How would you explain to him the difference between his “faith” and saving faith?

Luke 2:25-35  Christ, the Hope of the World 
Steven Cole

During World War II, six pilots took off from an aircraft carrier in the North Atlantic to scout some enemy submarines. While they were gone, the captain of the carrier was forced to issue a blackout alarm. The ship went totally dark.

When the pilots tried to return, they could not find the ship. They radioed, “Give us some light, we’re coming home.” The ship’s radio operator replied, “Order: blackout. I cannot give you light.” In turn, each pilot desperately radioed the same message: “Just give me some light and I’ll make it.” Each time, the operator had to radio back, “No light-blackout!” Because there was no light on that ship, six young pilots went to their graves in the icy North Atlantic (adapted from, Paul Tan, Encyclopedia of 7,700 Illustrations [Assurance Publishers], # 5366).

We live in a dark world that desperately needs light. The birth of Jesus Christ, who is God’s salvation, brought the light that offers hope to a world of despair.

Soon after Jesus was forty-days-old, His parents brought Him into the temple in Jerusalem, in accordance with the Law of Moses, to offer the appropriate sacrifice for Him as their firstborn male (Lev. 12:8; 5:11; Exod. 13:2, 12). It was a common sight. Most people in the temple precincts that day ignored this poor, common couple and their baby. But the face of one old man, Simeon, lit up with rapturous joy. He came up to this couple, took their baby in his arms, looked heavenward, and exclaimed (Luke 2:29-32),

Now, Lord, You are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word; for my eyes have seen Your salvation, which You have prepared in the presence of all peoples, a light of revelation to the Gentiles, and the glory of Your people Israel.

Here is an old man with true light and true hope, centered in that little baby, the Lord Jesus Christ. Simeon did not possess unusual genius or powers of perception. The text (2:26) says that the

Holy Spirit had revealed to him that he would not die until he had seen the Lord’s Christ. The Spirit led Simeon into the temple that day at precisely the time that Joseph and Mary came with the baby Jesus (Lk 2:27). The Spirit obviously revealed to Simeon, “There He is! That little baby is the One!”

If Simeon had been relying on his natural powers, he would have missed Him. He would have been looking for a royal procession, with all of the pomp and circumstance attending the child of the king. The high priest and the Sanhedrin would have been swarming around the procession.

Instead, all that he saw was a carpenter, his young wife, and their baby. There was no halo over Jesus’ head. But the Spirit directed Simeon to approach this ordinary-looking couple and their ordinary-looking baby. With eyes of faith, Simeon saw in their arms the Light of the world, born to bring hope to all peoples. To see Him today, you must also look with eyes of faith that have been opened by God’s Spirit. Pray that God would grant you eyes to see what many miss (Luke 10:21-24).

Before we look more carefully at this story, I want to remind you that it is not a fairy tale or legend. Luke begins his Gospel by telling his first reader, Theophilus, that he has investigated everything carefully and written it out “so that you may know the exact truth about the things you have been taught” (Luke 1:1-4). Luke probably interviewed Mary to get the details about these early events in the life of her Son. This account is factual history, not make-believe. That’s important to keep in mind, because hope based on fairy tales is not solid hope. Hope built on truth will do for you what it did for Simeon: It will release you to die in peace.

I want to answer the question: What does it mean to hope in Christ? How can we know the hope that flooded this old saint about 2,000 years ago? His story shows that...

To hope in Christ is to recognize and personally trust Him as God’s salvation.

In order to hope in Christ, first...

1. We must recognize Jesus for who He is: God’s Christ, the only way of salvation.

The most crucial question in life for each person to answer is the one Jesus asked His disciples: “But who do you say that I am?” (Matt. 16:15). Everything hangs on the correct answer to that question! If Jesus is who He claimed to be, then we must bow before Him as the Sovereign Lord and yield all that we are and have to His service. If He is not who He claimed to be, then our faith is worthless. You’re free to live as you please (1 Cor. 15:14, 32).

Peter gave the correct answer to Jesus’ question: “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” Jesus affirmed that answer, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven” (Matt. 16:16 17). To recognize and believe in Jesus as God’s Christ, the Father must open our blind eyes. Jesus, born of the virgin Mary in Bethlehem in fulfillment of prophecy (Mic. 5:2), is the Lord’s Christ.

Christ and Messiah are synonyms for the word anoint (Christ from the Greek; Messiah from the Hebrew). Jesus is God’s Anointed One, promised for thousands of years in the Old Testament. Psalm 2 identifies God’s Anointed One as His Son and promises that He will rule the nations with a rod of iron (Ps. 2:7, 9; Rev. 19:15).

Luke says that Simeon was looking for “the consolation of Israel,” a term for the Messiah taken from Isaiah 40:1-3:

“Comfort, O comfort My people,” says your God. “Speak kindly to Jerusalem; and call out to her, that her warfare has ended, that her iniquity has been removed, that she has received of the Lord’s hand double for all her sins.” A voice is calling, “Clear the way for the Lord in the wilderness; make smooth in the desert a highway for our God.”

That last verse refers to the forerunner of Christ, John the Baptist (Luke 3:4-6). The Holy Spirit had revealed to Simeon that this baby in Mary’s arms was “the Lord’s Christ, the consolation of Israel”! Simeon’s prayer reveals three essential truths about Jesus:

 A. God prepared Christ as a light for revelation to the Gentiles and the glory of His people Israel (Lk 2:32).

God prepared salvation. This means that it comes totally from Him, according to His purpose for the ages. It is not the result of brilliant men philosophizing about how we can get to heaven.

Rather, it is God’s revelation of the plan of salvation that He devised. “All peoples” (Lk2:31) refers to the whole world. God’s salvation through Jesus is not exclusively for the Jews, but through them to all the nations. Lk 2:32 is probably best understood to mean that Christ, who is God’s salvation (2:30), would be light for all people, but in particular, revelation to the Gentiles and glory for Israel (Darrell Bock, Luke [Baker], 1:244). In Luke 1:78-79, Zecharias had prophesied that Jesus was “the Sunrise from on high” who would “visit us, to shine upon those who sit in darkness and the shadow of death, to guide our feet into the way of peace.” Israel, as well as the Gentiles, needed the light of Christ.

The Bible is clear that as fallen sinners, both Jews and Gentiles are spiritually blind (Matt. 13:14-15; 15:14; John 9:39-41; Eph. 4:18). As such, they cannot know what God is like by philosophy or reason. Not knowing what God is like, they cannot exercise their “free will” to come to God, any more than a blind man can choose to see. Spiritually blind people need an infusion of supernatural power in order to see.

In the Old Testament, God chose to reveal Himself to the Jews, and through them to bring the Savior who would be a light to the nations. He told Israel (Isa. 42:6-7),   “I am the Lord, I have called you in righteousness, I will also hold you by the hand and watch over you, and I will appoint you as a covenant to the people, as a light to the nations, to open blind eyes, to bring out prisoners from the dungeon and those who dwell in darkness from the prison.”

So Jesus, God’s Christ, is the light to the whole world, but He is in particular the glory for Israel in that “salvation is from the Jews” (John 4:22; see also, Rom. 9:1-5). But, as we know, and as Simeon alludes to (Luke 2:34-35), the Jews as a people would reject their Messiah.

But as Paul explains (Romans 11), God used Israel’s rejection of Christ to open the door of salvation to the Gentiles. He brought a temporary hardening on Israel, until the times of the Gentiles are fulfilled. But then, all Israel will be saved (Rom. 11:25-26). I understand that to mean that just prior to Christ’s return, there will be a widespread revival among the Jews. Today, the Jews in Israel are about 80 percent atheistic and most of the rest, like the Pharisees, reject Jesus and trust in their own legalistic righteousness. But, the day will come when, as the Lord says (Zech. 12:10; 13:1), I will pour out on the house of David and on the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the Spirit of grace and of supplication, so that they will look on Me whom they have pierced; and they will mourn for Him, as one mourns for an only son, and they will weep bitterly over Him like the bitter weeping over a firstborn.... In that day a fountain will be opened for the house of David and for the inhabitants of Jerusalem, for sin and for impurity.

Thus Jesus is the Light, and His coming served as “revelation to the Gentiles.” He revealed God’s way of salvation to all the nations in a way that was revealed only to the Jews before His coming. He also serves as “the glory of [His] people Israel.” His coming fulfilled God’s many promises to bring the Savior through the nation of Israel (Isa. 46:13; 60:1-3). But, also,

B. God prepared Christ to bring judgment on all that oppose Him.

Simeon tells Mary (2:34-35), “Behold, this Child is appointed for the fall and rise of many in Israel, and for a sign to be opposed-and a sword will pierce even your own soul-to the end that thoughts from many hearts may be revealed.” This is the first hint in Luke’s Gospel that Christ’s coming would not bring salvation and peace to everyone. Note first the word, appointed (2:34). That word assures us that the evil men who opposed and crucified Jesus did not somehow thwart God’s sovereign plan. He appointed Jesus for the cross, and yet those that crucified Him were responsible for their evil deeds (see Acts 2:24; 4:27-28).

Scholars debate whether verse 34 refers to one or two groups. If the former, the meaning is that those who stand in their spiritual pride must fall before Jesus before they can rise in salvation. If the latter, it means that Jesus will divide men. Those who oppose Him will fall in judgment. Those who accept Him will rise in salvation (Leon Morris, Luke [IVP/Eerdmans], p. 89). While both views are true spiritually, probably the second view is the sense here (Bock, p. 247).

The next phrase, “a sign to be opposed,” underscores the fact that although Jesus is the Christ, the hope of Israel, many would oppose and reject Him. He would also reveal the “thoughts from many hearts.” Thoughts has the nuance of hostile thoughts (Bock, p. 250). Jesus’ life and ministry would expose the inner hostility of those that opposed Him.

The point is, you can’t be neutral toward Jesus Christ. He draws a line in the sand and demands that you take sides. Either you acknowledge Him as God’s Christ, submit your life to His absolute lordship, and “rise” in salvation. Or, you think, “I’ll do it my way,” and you will “fall” in judgment. Everything hinges on the correct answer to the question, “Who do you say that I am?” Simeon’s words point to a third truth here:

C. God prepared Christ to bring salvation through His death.

Simeon parenthetically tells Mary, “a sword will pierce even your own soul.” There are at least ten views of what this may mean (Bock, pp. 248-249). I believe that it refers to the extreme anguish that Mary felt when she saw her Son rejected and crucified (Alfred Plummer, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Luke [Charles Scribner’s Sons], pp. 70-71).

Immediately after Peter’s confession, Jesus declared that, “He must go to Jerusalem, and suffer many things from the elders and chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and be raised up on the third day” (Matt. 16:21). God’s plan in sending His Son in human flesh was that He would die as the sacrifice that God’s justice demands for our sins. “The wages of sin is death” (Rom. 6:23), which means, eternal separation from God. Either you trust Jesus’ death as payment for your sins now, or you will pay that penalty yourself.

So the first thing is to ask God for eyes to see Jesus as God’s Christ, the only way of salvation.

2. We must personally trust Christ as God’s salvation.

Simeon had already trusted God’s Christ as his salvation before he saw the baby Jesus. His hope rested in God’s promise to send the Savior. When he saw Jesus, he recognized Him as the fulfillment of God’s specific promise, that he would not die before he had seen the Christ. Thus he could exclaim, “Now Lord, you are releasing Your bond-servant to depart in peace, according to Your word” (Lk 2:29). In seeing Jesus, Simeon saw God’s salvation (Lk 2:30).

Simeon had to see Jesus by faith. There was nothing physically extraordinary about Jesus or Mary and Joseph. There was no halo and no parade of dignitaries marching behind this baby. All that Simeon had was God’s word and the Holy Spirit’s revelation. Simeon trusted God’s word, and therefore he overflows with hope in this little baby as God’s Christ, His salvation.

If you have looked to Jesus in faith as your only hope of God’s salvation, then with Simeon, you are ready to depart from this earth in peace. If you have not done so, if you view Jesus as perhaps a great religious leader, but not as God’s salvation, you are in spiritual darkness, opposed to Him. Your response to Jesus Christ reveals the thoughts of your heart (Lk 2:36).


Maybe you’re wondering, ´How can I know if my hope and trust are truly in Christ?" A glance at Simeon’s life (this is the only time he is mentioned in Scripture) shows us seven characteristics of the person who trusts Jesus as God’s salvation. Not all of these qualities will be immediately evident, but they will be developing in the one who hopes in Christ. Check yourself against this list:

(1) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you seek to live a righteous and devout life.

Simeon is described as “righteous and devout” (2:25), which refers to his character. Righteous means that his behavior in the sight of God and towards his fellow man was in accordance with God’s standards. Both in private and in public, Simeon sought to obey God. Devout has the connotation of reverent or careful. Simeon was careful about his relationship to God. While we can skim over those two words in an instant, they reflect a lifetime of cultivation. These qualities do not just happen accidentally. They reflect a deliberate commitment to live in a manner pleasing to God.

(2) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you live in the fullness of the Holy Spirit.

The Holy Spirit is mentioned three times in Lk 2:25-27. It is obvious that Simeon’s life was marked by dependence on God’s Spirit, and this was before the Day of Pentecost! Since that day, all that trust Christ as Savior possess the Holy Spirit (Rom. 8:9). We are commanded to walk by the Spirit (Gal. 5:16), which means consciously to depend on Him in every step we take. Would you have missed the Spirit if He had withdrawn from your life last week?

(3) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you view yourself as God’s servant.

Simeon (Lk 2:29) calls God by a title that is not used often in the New Testament, “Sovereign Lord” (NIV; NASB, “Lord”). We get our word despot from it. It has the nuance of “absolute ownership and uncontrolled power” (Thayer's Greek English Lexicon of the New Testament [Harper & Brothers, 1887], p. 130). Simeon refers to himself as the Lord’s bond-servant. Bond-servants were the property of their masters and had no personal rights. Everyone bought by the precious blood of Christ recognizes, “you are not your own[?] For you have been bought with a price” (1 Cor. 6:19-20).

(4) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you have insight into spiritual truth.

Through the Holy Spirit, Simeon understood far more than the religious leaders of the day. He knew that this child in his arms was the promised Christ. He knew that not all would welcome Him, but that there would be much opposition, resulting in deep anguish for Mary. He knew that God’s Messiah was also given as a light to the Gentiles, something that the early church had to grapple with up through the Jerusalem Council! Paul explains that while the natural man cannot understand the things of God, the spiritual man appraises all things, because “we have the mind of Christ” (1 Cor. 2:14-16).

(5) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you bless God for sending Jesus to this earth.

When this dear old saint held the baby Jesus in his arms, he blessed God for fulfilling His promises. Everyone who has trusted Christ as Savior is filled with thanksgiving to God “for His indescribable gift” (2 Cor. 9:15).

(6) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you are satisfied with Jesus alone.

All that Simeon needed in life was to hold Jesus in his arms. That one moment in the temple, holding God’s Savior, made all his life worth living. It satisfied his soul so that he had accomplished all that he aimed at in life. With the psalmist, Simeon could say, “besides You, I desire nothing on earth” (Ps. 73:25b). With Paul, Christ was Simeon’s “all in all” (Col. 3:11). When you have trusted Christ, you are satisfied with all that He is to you!

(7) If you recognize and trust Christ as God’s salvation, you are ready to depart this life in peace.

Simeon’s words picture a sentinel who had been given the assignment of keeping watch through a long, dark night for the rising of a special star. Finally, he sees the star rising in its brightness. He announces it to his commander and has fulfilled his duty. He can now take his rest (Norval Geldenhuys, Commentary on the Gospel of Luke [Eerdmans], p. 119). When you’ve trusted in Christ as Savior, you know that you are right with God. Your eyes have seen the light of His salvation. When He gives the word, you are ready to depart this life and be with Him forever.

Jesus Christ is the hope of the world, but you must put your hope in Him personally. To hope in Christ means recognizing and personally trusting Him as God's salvation.

If Christ is your salvation, you can have hope no matter how difficult your circumstances. During World War II, some American prisoners in a German concentration camp secretly received word of the Allied victory three days before the Germans heard of it. During those three days, their circumstances were no different. They still suffered all the hardships that they had become used to. But their attitude changed dramatically. A wave of hope spread among the prisoners. Victory and liberation were assured! They could endure those last three days because they had hope.

Whether you’re suffering from a difficult disease or grieving the loss of a loved one or facing overwhelming trials of some other nature, you can have hope if you will trust Jesus Christ as God’s salvation for you. He has won the victory. Those who hope in Him will not be disappointed!

Discussion Questions
  1. Why is “who do you say that I am?” the most important question in the world?
  2. Some say that if spiritually blind people do not have the ability to open their eyes, God is unfair to judge them for not opening their eyes. How would you refute this error (with Scripture)?
  3. How can a believer be filled with the Holy Spirit? Is it a growing process or a “pull the lever” kind of matter?
  4. Can a person “accept Jesus as Savior,” but not as Lord? Why must the two always be joined?

Luke 2:36-38 On Wasting Your Life 
Steven Cole

Life is short and uncertain. I am 56 years old, and the older I get, the more I think about the question, “Am I spending my life in such a way that when I stand before the Lord, I will hear, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant’?” How do you know whether you are wasting your life or investing it in the things that really matter?

In America we have several yardsticks by which we measure a life. One is usefulness. We are pragmatists at heart. We feel that if a person does something useful for society, whether it is a profession or a trade, he or she spends his or her life well.

Another yardstick we use is busyness or sheer activity. Our lifestyles reflect our values here-we’re all busy people. Our weekly calendars are full to the brim. We have the notion that if you just sit around and do nothing, you’re wasting your life.

We also gauge our lives by adventure and excitement. If we can’t get it firsthand, we pick it up vicariously on TV or at sporting events. Our heroes lead exciting lives, either through romance or life-and-death risk taking. We read magazines that tell us about the rich and famous, secretly wishing that our lives could be like theirs. We generally think that money and fame define success.

Often the world recognizes that having warm personal relationships is at the heart of a life well spent. If you read the obituaries, usually they mention a person’s work and hobbies. But they also mention the people whose lives were affected by the departed one. As Christians, we would concur that loving relationships with family and friends are an important measure of a life well spent.

Behind all of these yardsticks is that of personal happiness. Even if a person dies poor and unknown, if he or she was happy or content, that is what matters.

Against these yardsticks of a life well spent, I direct your attention to Anna. We meet her in the narrative about the dedication of the baby Jesus in the temple. She is described in three short verses, is not even quoted directly, and is gone. If we met a modern-day Anna, we would probably find her a bit odd. Her values clearly are out of sync with those of modern America. Can you picture a reporter for People magazine interviewing her?

Reporter: What is your name?

Anna: Anna, daughter of Phanuel, tribe of Asher. I’m Jewish.

Reporter: Whose daughter? How do you spell that? How old are you, Ma’am?

Anna: I’m 84.

Reporter: Well, I’ll bet you’ve lived an interesting life. What have you done with your life?

Anna: Like most Jewish girls, I got married in my teens, but my husband died when I was in my early twenties, before we had children. I’ve been going to the temple almost every day since then.

Reporter: You go to the temple every day? That’s amazing! What do you do there?

Anna: Well, I fast and pray a lot. And, I’m a prophetess, so I hear messages from God now and then.

Reporter: Right! (He thinks to himself, “Maybe this story belongs in the Guinness Book of World Records, not in People magazine!”)

What does the brief glimpse of Anna’s life teach us?

You will not waste your life if you spend it in devotion to God.

By our American standards, we might look at Anna’s life and think, “What a waste! Over sixty years spent in the temple fasting and praying! That’s not the kind of life I want to live.” I’ll grant that we’re not all called to devote ourselves to a ministry of prayer and fasting. Obviously, God had called her to that ministry, and she lived accordingly. But if we look just below the surface, we see that Anna lived fully devoted to God. God commends her life to us. In the Bible, every fact is confirmed by the testimony of two or three witnesses. Along with Simeon, God chose Anna to bear witness to the infant Jesus as the Messiah. Her life was well spent.

1. Devotion to God is really all that matters.

Isn’t it? Think about it-what else matters in this life? The Pharisees and scribes thought that their religious duties were what mattered. They scurried around the temple precincts that day performing their rituals, oblivious to this unique baby who was being dedicated to the Lord. They took pride in saying, “All my life I have kept God’s commandments.” But they missed the Messiah because they were really more devoted to their religion than to God. There is a difference, you know!

The Sadducees thought that political influence and power were what mattered. “Life after death,” they scoffed, “is just pie in the sky when you die. What matters is here and now!” A group of them passed within yards of the child and Anna as they debated the latest edict from Rome.

The temple merchants thought that a good income was what mattered. They hawked their temple money and sold their officially approved sacrificial animals within earshot of this carpenter, his wife, and their newborn son. They lived well and left a nice inheritance to their children when they died. But they missed God’s Savior that day.

In contrast to all of these, Anna knew that devotion to God is all that matters. She recognized the child as God’s promised Messiah. She was wiser than all the religious leaders in Jerusalem!

I read once about a computer company that went public and its president became an instant millionaire. Hours later he lost control of his Ferrari, crashed through 20 feet of guardrail, and was killed. The Los Angeles Times reported, “Until the accident at 4:30 Wednesday afternoon, it had been the best of days for [the president] and the thriving young company, ...” The same week another obituary for a Chinese politburo official, who died of a heart attack, stated that his “death came one week before he was expected to be elected vice president of China.” If either man died without Christ, we should ask, “What does it profit a man to gain the whole world and lose his own soul?”

I once read of a man who thought that he knew how to live to be 120. I thought, “Okay, what if he succeeds? Then what?” Even if we could figure out how to live to 900, like the early patriarchs, we still have to die and face eternity. In light of that, devotion to

God is really all that matters in this life! With it, we can enjoy earthly blessings if God grants them. Without it, we’ve really wasted our lives. The fact is, not everyone can attain the things that the world labels as success. But,

2. Devotion to God is available to everyone.

No matter what your station in life, you can devote yourself to the Lord, and that makes whoever you are and whatever you do count in light of eternity. Take Anna, for example.

Anna was a woman. While Jewish women enjoyed more respect in that day than women in other cultures, there still was a fair amount of discrimination against them. The rabbis did not approve of the same amount of instruction in the Torah being given to girls as to boys. They regarded women’s minds as not adapted for such investigations (Alfred Edersheim, Sketches of Jewish Social Life [Eerdmans], pp. 132-133). Women were restricted to an area of the temple called “The Women’s Court.” They could not enter the inner court where the ceremonies were performed. According to Josephus, women and slaves could not give evidence in court (cited by Roland de Vaux, Ancient Israel [McGraw-Hill], 1:156).

And yet the Lord is pleased to include the testimony of Anna concerning Jesus. God is no respecter of persons. He is pleased with the devotion of any person, male or female.

Anna was a widow. In fact, she had been widowed at an early age. She easily could have grown bitter toward God. She could have complained of her loneliness. Widows in that culture didn’t have much opportunity to get an education and learn a business or trade to provide for themselves. They were often the target of unscrupulous businessmen. No doubt Anna had experienced a difficult life. And yet she did not turn her back on God. In fact, God declares that He has a special concern for orphans and widows: “A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation” (Ps. 68:5). Anna took refuge under God’s protective care. Her trials drove her to deeper devotion to God, not away from Him.

Anna was elderly. While the elderly were more respected in that society than they are in ours, they were still subject to abuse. In our pragmatic society, the elderly are often viewed as a useless burden on society. They can’t take care of themselves. They can’t make a living. But, thankfully, God does not view the elderly that way, and neither should we! If an elderly person is devoted to God, their life and death is precious in His sight (Ps. 116:15).

The point is, no matter what your station in life-male or female, young or old, rich or poor-you can devote yourself to God and He will be pleased with your devotion. The world may ignore or despise you, but God always has had such a godly remnant. They are the salt of the earth; they preserve the whole mass from corruption. You can be counted among them.

Thus, devotion to God is all that matters; it is available to all.

3. Devotion to God takes many outward forms, but it always involves worship, witness, and waiting.

A. Devotion to God involves worship.

Probably Anna did not live in the temple, but Luke means that she was there all the time. The word translated “serving” (NASB) has the nuance of worshipful service to God. Anna’s worship took the form of “fastings and prayers” (Lk 2:37).

Fasting usually means going without food for some period of time for the purpose of seeking God in prayer. For the Jews, the most common fast lasted from sunrise to sunset, although the Bible mentions longer fasts. The Day of Atonement was an annual national fast. Otherwise, fasting was done in times of personal or national distress, or as preparation for special times of seeking the Lord. If you’d like a challenge, read (as I did this year) John Piper’s A Hunger for God [Crossway Books], subtitled, “Desiring God Through Fasting and Prayer.” I confess that I am no where near Pastor Piper in his experience with fasting. I have, though, found it to be a beneficial way of seeking the Lord when I needed to know His will and in times of crisis. (Donald Whitney, in Spiritual Disciplines of the Christian Life [NavPress], has a helpful chapter 9, “Fasting” for the Purpose of Godliness.”)

Anna’s worship also took the form of prayers. God gifts some of His saints by enabling them to devote large blocks of time to the ministry of prayer. Part of that time involves interceding for others, but part of it also consists of praise and thanksgiving. The main thing in prayer is to seek God and commune with Him.

Even if the ministry of worship through fasting and prayer is not your area of gift, you still should set aside time to seek the Lord as Anna did. Whether it is a half-day each quarter, one lunch hour each week, or an hour or two each weekend, I encourage you to put it on your calendar. Spend the time in devotion to the Lord. Read His Word, sing some hymns or praise songs, and pray. I have found that if I don’t put it in my schedule, other things crowd it out and I don’t do it.

B. Devotion to God involves witness.

Anna couldn’t keep it to herself; she “continued to speak of Him” to others (Lk 2:38). If your cup is brim-full, you can’t help but slop some of it on others. If your heart is full of thankfulness to God, who sent His Son to save you from your sins, people around you will know about it. Some believers justify not witnessing by saying, “I don’t talk about it; I just live the message.” But part of living the Christian life is talking about it!

We all talk about the things we love. Have you ever been around a sports fanatic? What does he talk about? “Did you see that game last night!” Have you ever been around a young man or woman who has just fallen in love? What do they talk about?

Yes, you need to be tactful and sensitive. Yes, you need to wait on the Lord for the right opening. But, most of us don’t err on the side of being too bold. The order, by the way, is important: Worship first, then witness. The reason Anna was telling everyone about the Lord Jesus was that she spent much time in private devotion with the Lord. All too often, the reason that we do not bear witness is that we have lost our first love.

C. Devotion to God involves waiting.

Not only Simeon and Anna, but others also were “looking for the redemption of Jerusalem” (2:25, 38). While that phrase has nationalistic overtones, it also refers to the spiritual redemption that God had long ago promised and now was bringing to fruition for His people (Isa. 40:1, 9; 52:9; 63:4). J. C. Ryle (Expository Thoughts on the Gospels [Baker], 2:74-75) observes that although these people lived in a wicked city, they “were not carried away by the flood of worldliness, formality, and self-righteousness around them. They were not infected by the carnal expectations of a mere worldly

Messiah, in which most Jews indulged. They lived in the faith of patriarchs and prophets, that the coming Redeemer would bring in holiness and righteousness, and that His principal victory would be over sin and the devil.” With Jacob, all who are devoted to God cry out, “For Your salvation I wait, O Lord” (Gen. 49:18).

Devotion to God is really all that matters. It is available to everyone. It takes many outward forms, but always involves worship, witness, and waiting for His final redemption to come.

4. Devotion to God is one and the same with devotion to Jesus Christ.

Anna was devoted to God, but the instant she saw the baby Jesus, she thanked God and began to speak of Jesus to all who were looking for the redemption of Jerusalem. Note:

A. God the Son and God the Father are inextricably joined in Scripture.

Jesus said, “I and the Father are one” (John 10:30). He said, “He who has seen Me has seen the Father” (John 14:9). The mystery of the Christmas story is that the eternal God took on human flesh in the person of Jesus. Through the miracle of the virgin birth, Mary’s offspring is Immanuel, which means, “God with us” (Matt. 1:23). While we can never fully understand the nature of the Trinity, we must affirm the revealed truth of Scripture, that the one God exists as the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit.

This means that you cannot know God the Father apart from knowing Jesus, God the Son. In John 8:19, Jesus told the Jews, “You know neither Me nor My Father; if you knew Me, you would know My Father also.” First John 2:23 states, “Whoever denies the Son does not have the Father; the one who confesses the Son has the Father also.” You cannot separate God and Jesus Christ. Those who say they worship God, but who deny the deity of the Son of God, are badly mistaken. Jesus claimed, “He who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent Him” (John 5:23).

B. God the Son is the Redeemer of God’s people.

Anna was looking for “the redemption of Jerusalem,” and she found it in Jesus. The entire human race is in bondage to sin and under the just condemnation of God’s law. But God sent “Christ [to redeem] us from the curse of the Law, having become a curse for us ... in order that in Christ Jesus the blessing of Abraham might come to the Gentiles, so that we might receive the promise of the Spirit through faith” (Gal. 3:13-14).

The concept of “redemption” implies three things. First, redemption implies antecedent bondage. A free person does not need redemption; slaves need redemption. Every person is born enslaved to sin and under the curse of judgment imposed by God’s holy law. Second, redemption implies cost. A price must be paid to buy the slave out of bondage. Since the wages of sin is death, that was the price to redeem us from our sins. A sinless substitute had to die in our place to satisfy God’s justice. Jesus Christ did that on the cross. Third, redemption implies the ownership of that which is redeemed. Since Christ bought us with His blood, we are not our own. “For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body” (1 Cor. 6:20).

When the slave trade was active in West Africa, the traders would go into the interior and capture hundreds of people. They would put an iron collar around the captives’ necks to keep them in check until they arrived back at the coast for shipment. A chain went from one iron collar to the next, so none could escape.

As the captives marched through the villages on the way to the coast, a villager sometimes recognized a friend or relative among them. If he were financially able, he could redeem that person with a payment of silver or gold. He delivered him from bondage by the payment of a price. Scripture says, “you were not redeemed with perishable things like silver or gold from your futile way of life inherited from your forefathers, but with precious blood, as of a lamb unblemished and spotless, the blood of Christ” (1 Pet. 1:18-19).

We see God’s great love in that He sent His Son to this earth to meet the demands of His holy justice. What God required, He provided at great cost to Himself. Jesus came to offer Himself as the price of our redemption. If you have not been redeemed through Christ’s blood, then whether you realize it or not, you are enslaved to sin and headed for God’s eternal judgment. You are wasting your life. Receiving by faith God’s gift of redemption is the beginning of a life of devotion to Him.


On his deathbed at age 52, Matthew Henry, whose commentary on the whole Bible is still widely used almost 300 years later, said to a friend, “You have been used to take notice of the sayings of dying men-this is mine: that a life spent in the service of God and communion with Him, is the most pleasant life that anyone can live in this world” (source unknown).

Anna would agree. A life devoted to God is not wasted. It is a life well spent. A life devoted to anything else, no matter how noble or how highly praised in the world, is a life ultimately wasted. Here is an action point for the New Year: Read John Piper’s excellent new book, Don't Waste Your Life [Crossway]. It’s about how to lose your life for Christ’s sake, and thereby not waste it. I wish I had read it when I was 20. Whether you are young or old, you will find reading it to be a profitable use of your time!

Whatever you do for a living, make sure that devotion for Jesus Christ is at the heart of why you are living. To live for anything else is to waste your life.

Discussion Questions
  1. Would you agree with or dispute the statement, “Devotion to God is really all that matters”? What are the implications of this biblically?
  2. If a person is fully devoted to God, will he or she go into “full-time” Christian service? Why/why not?
  3. Should every person seek to find fulfillment in his or her job? Why/why not?
  4. How can a Christian know where and in what capacity God wants him or her to serve?
  5. How can we maintain fervent devotion to Jesus Christ in the midst of life’s pressures?

Luke 9:23-24  Daily Christianity 
Steven Cole

Melody Beattie dedicates her best-selling book, Codependent No More [Harper/Hazelden] to “me,” that is, to herself! She suggests that God’s commandment to love your neighbor as yourself is the problem; the solution is the title of her chapter 11: “Have a Love Affair With Yourself” (p. 109). The entire book is about loving yourself, affirming yourself, accepting yourself, asserting yourself, forgiving yourself, and believing in yourself.

Popular recovery guru, John Bradshaw, offers a similar message. This former Roman Catholic priest tells his audiences that Kierkegaard teaches us that “I came into this world for ME!” He tells his followers, “You are wonderful! You are unique! Be You!” And, “If you have something you call God, give him or her thanks for being you!” He declares, “I love me because I am so eminently lovable!” (Cited by Richard John Neuhaus, “Singing the Song of Myself,” SCP Journal [18:3:94], pp. 13, 14.) He says that we should say loud and often, “I love myself. I will accept myself unconditionally” (Healing the Shame that Binds You [Health Communications, Inc.], p. 158).

It is not surprising that such messages are gobbled up by our narcissistic culture. The amazing thing is that both Beattie and Bradshaw have sold widely among Christians and that there is an entire Christian “recovery” movement promoting essentially the same message with a few Bible verses thrown in for support! This movement promotes Jesus as the means to self-fulfillment, self-love, and self-esteem.

This emphasis on self is not only prevalent among the average Christian churchgoer. It is also dominant among the upcoming crop of Christian leaders, which means that you’re likely to hear it more and more in whatever church you attend in the years to come. James Davison Hunter (in 1982) and David Wells (in 1993) surveyed students studying for the ministry in a number of conservative evangelical seminaries. They both found that these students “are oriented toward self-fulfillment, self-expression, and personal freedom to a degree that often exceeds that of the” general population (Wells, God in the Wasteland [Eerdmans], p. 201).

Wells reports, “In our 1993 survey, 40.2 % of the respondents affirmed that ‘realizing my full potential as a human being is just as important as putting others before myself.’” Wells goes on to observe, “Had Christ held this belief, ... it would have ended all prospects of the incarnation.”

The reason that the American evangelical emphasis on self-affirmation is so astounding is that Jesus plainly taught just the opposite! A. B. Bruce, in his classic, The Training of the Twelve (Kregel, p. 180) observed, “For the whole aim of Satanic policy is to get self-interest recognized as the chief end of man.” He was quite right! In fact, the very core of what it means to become a Christian and to live daily as a Christian is 180 degrees counter to the message being promoted in many evangelical books and pulpits today. I can sum up the biblical truth this way:
If you’re living for self, you’re not following Jesus.

To follow Jesus as spelled out by the Lord Himself requires three things: To deny self as a basic attitude toward life; to die to self daily; and, to obey Jesus daily.

1. To follow Jesus requires denying self as Savior and Lord.

“And He was saying to them all, ‘If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, ...’” (Luke 9:23a). The first thing to note is that in the immediately preceding verses Jesus was speaking privately to the disciples. But here He speaks to all (Mark 8:34 makes this distinction even more plainly). This is not some secret requirement for the committed core only; this is an essential basic message for everyone: Following Jesus is precisely the opposite of affirming self and living for self. From start to finish, following Jesus means denying self as a basic attitude toward life.

A. Following Jesus means denying self as Savior.

The biggest lie that Satan has foisted on the human race is that we are capable of saving ourselves from God’s judgment by our own efforts, our own goodness, and our own worth. Millions of Americans who have a general knowledge of Christianity mistakenly think that if we are sincere, if we try our best to be good, to love others, and to keep the Ten Commandments, to follow the Sermon on the Mount, etc., then we will go to heaven when we die.

Most of these people can’t quote more than two or three of the Ten Commandments and they have no idea of the impossibly high standard Jesus set forth in the Sermon on the Mount. They may congratulate themselves because they have never murdered anyone, but Jesus rips off their mask of self-righteousness by asserting that if we’ve even been angry with another person, we have committed murder by God’s holy standard. They may think they’re good enough for heaven because they have never committed adultery, but Jesus again unmasks their hypocrisy by declaring that to look on a woman with lust is to commit adultery in God’s sight.

In his great theological treatise to the Romans, the Apostle Paul charges every person as guilty before the bar of God’s holiness when he writes, "There is none righteous, not even one; there is none who understands, there is none who seeks for God; all have turned aside, together they have become useless; there is none who does good, there is not even one (Rom. 3:10-12).

So the first step in becoming a follower of Jesus is to renounce yourself as your savior from God’s righteous judgment and to put your trust in Jesus Christ, whose death on the cross is the only means of satisfying God’s justice. As Paul puts it (2 Cor. 5:21), “[God] made [Christ] who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him.” The way that God’s righteousness is applied to any person is not by self-effort, self-righteousness, self-improvement, or anything else based on self. It is by renouncing self and believing in what Jesus did when He died in our place. “But to the one who does not work, but believes in Him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is reckoned as righteousness” (Rom. 4:5). Following Jesus means denying self as Savior.

B. Following Jesus means denying self as Lord.

Colossians 2:6 states, “As you therefore received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in Him.” We receive Christ by denying self and trusting in all that Christ is on our behalf. We walk with Christ by denying self and trusting in all that Christ is on our behalf. When Jesus tells us to deny ourselves, He doesn’t mean that we should deny ourselves some little pleasure, such as giving up chocolate for Lent. He is talking about a basic attitude in which we renounce self-exaltation (pride) and instead live to exalt God. We renounce self-will (directing our own lives, calling the shots according to what we want in life) and instead live to do God’s will. We renounce self-seeking (living for my goals, my pleasure, to fulfill my wants apart from God) and live instead to seek God, His kingdom, and His righteousness.

Many people who sit in church week after week and who would identify themselves as Christians are not truly Christian according to Jesus’ words here because they are not submitting their lives to His lordship. Rather, they are using God, Jesus, the Bible, church, etc. to fulfill what they perceive to be their own needs. In other words, at the hub of their lives is self. God just happens to be one spoke in the wheel of a happy life. Career, family, recreation, health, and many other spokes round out the picture. But the hub isn’t God; it’s self. But to live for self is not to follow Jesus! Following Jesus requires denying self as Savior and as Lord.

2. To follow Jesus requires daily death to self.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him ... take up his cross daily” (9:23b). To understand what Jesus meant here, we must remember that the cross in His day was not an ornament that graced the top of steeples on church buildings. Nor was it a piece of jewelry you wore on a necklace. Many Christians think that to bear their cross means putting up with a difficult mate or with a painful malady, such as arthritis. But the cross wasn’t an implement of irritation, inconvenience, or even suffering. The cross was an instrument of tortuous, slow execution. Jesus’ hearers knew that a man who took up his cross was, for all practical purposes, a dead man. A man bearing his cross gave up all hope and interest in the things of this world, including self-fulfillment. He knew he would be leaving this world in a very short time. He was dead to self.

Jesus says that this death to self must be a daily thing. In other words, it’s not something you accomplish in an emotional moment of spiritual ecstasy or dedication. You never arrive on a spiritual mountaintop where you can sigh with relief, “I’m finally there! No more death to self!” Nor are there any shortcuts or quick fixes to this painful process. The need for dying to self is never finished in this life; it must be a daily thing. A Christian writer from the past century, A. T. Pierson said, “Getting rid of the ‘self-life’ is like peeling an onion: layer upon layer--and a tearful process!”

One of the main problems I have encountered in my 17+ years of shepherding God’s people is that we are spiritually lazy and so we’re susceptible to anybody who comes along selling spiritual snake oil to cure our problems. Someone says, “Have this spiritual experience and you’ll be transported beyond all your problems and live a happy life.” So we buy it and try to tell ourselves that we really are much better. But we’re playing games with ourselves. We’re still just as enslaved to sin and self as we were before. Why? Because we’re looking for miraculous, instant deliverance from a problem that Jesus said requires a daily, painful solution, namely, daily death to self.

What we lack and don’t want to develop (because it’s not easy) is spiritual discipline. Paul told Timothy, “Discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness” (1 Tim. 4:7). Discipline isn’t miraculous or instantaneous and it’s not easy. The problem with discipline is, the minute you stop working at it, you start getting flabby. No top athlete gets in shape by eating a dose of some miraculous natural food. Nor does he work out for a few days and declare, “I’m in shape now!” It takes weeks, months, and even years. Neither does he finally get in shape and then kick back and say, “I’ve arrived! I’m in shape now, so I don’t need to work out any more.” It’s no different spiritually. Just as flabby muscles set in the day an athlete stops working out, so self asserts itself the day the Christian stops putting it to death.

In Titus 2:11-12 Paul wrote, “For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation to all men, instructing (lit., training) us to deny ungodliness and worldly desires and to live sensibly, righteously and godly in the present age.” Please note that this process of self-denial is not opposed to God’s grace, but right in line with it. I say this because some might accuse me of being legalistic when I say that you must daily die to self through disciplined spiritual living. But that is not so. God’s unmerited favor (grace) shown to me, condemned, hopeless sinner that I was, should motivate me now to train myself to say no to all ungodliness and worldly desires and to replace that kind of life with sensible, righteous, godly living.

It starts on the thought level, denying and forsaking sinful thoughts and attitudes, and replacing them with godly thoughts and attitudes as revealed in Scripture. If you deal with sin on the thought level, then it never gets any further. When greedy thoughts invade your mind, you instantly judge them and pray, “Lord, I don’t want to desire the things of this world that is passing away, but to seek first Your kingdom.” When sexual lust wells up within you, you yank out your eye (to use Jesus’ words, Matt. 5:27-29) and pray, “O God, fill my vision with the purity of Jesus and His righteousness!”

When selfish thoughts crowd your mind, such as, “I have my rights!” or “I don’t have to take this!” you nail them to the cross by praying, “Lord Jesus, You gave up all Your rights and took on the form of a servant and became obedient to death on the cross for me. Help me right now to display that same attitude” (Phil. 2:5-8). That’s how daily Christianity works, not living for self, but daily dying to self in order to follow Jesus.

3. To follow Jesus requires continual submission to Jesus personally as Master.

“If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him ... follow Me.” It’s a present imperative, pointing to a continual process of walking behind Jesus, going where He goes, doing what He does. It means not calling our own shots or doing our own thing, but submitting to Jesus’ commands and doing His thing.

As Godet remarks, “The chart of the true disciple directs him to renounce every path of his own choosing, that he may put his feet into the print of his leader’s footsteps” (A Commentary on the Gospel of Luke [I. K. Funk & Co.], p. 267).

We’ve already noted the daily, ongoing nature of this process, so I won’t comment further on that. We’ve also noted Jesus’ Lordship, that we must submit to Him and obey Him and His Word if we would follow Him. But we need to notice the personal aspect of the process: “Follow Me.” Jesus didn’t mean simply, “Follow My commands,” although that is vital and cannot be dismissed. If someone claims to be following Jesus, but at the same time is living in disregard of His commands, the person is deceiving himself and will someday hear those awful words, “I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness” (Matt. 7:23). So obedience is not optional.

But we need to remember that obedience ought always to be connected to the personal relationship we enjoy with our Savior and Lord. He says to the disobedient who outwardly did all sorts of things in His name, “I never knew you.” They lacked the personal relationship. But to the obedient Jesus promised,

“He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.... If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him, and make Our abode with him” (John 14:21, 23).

Suppose a young woman takes a job as housekeeper and cook for a young bachelor. He gives her a list of the tasks which he expects her to do: cleaning the house, fixing his meals at certain times, etc. She performs those tasks in a satisfactory manner as his employee. But then the two fall in love and get married. She may now have to do many of the same tasks, but she does them out of a relationship of love, not out of performance. That’s the difference between mere outward obedience and obedience from a personal relationship. To follow Jesus means continual obedience to Him as Lord, but obedience in the context of an intimate personal relationship with Him as our Bridegroom and Savior, who gave His life so that we could be with Him, both now and in eternity.


I read of a young nurse named Sheila who summed up her personal philosophy as “Sheilaism,” explaining, “It’s just try to love yourself and be gentle with yourself.” I’m afraid that a lot of American Christians are deceiving themselves, thinking that they’re following Jesus when really, they, like Sheila, are just into themselves.

Maybe you’re thinking, “Everything you’ve said sounds so negative--denying self, taking up your cross!” Let me remind you, I didn’t come up with those requirements. Jesus did! But there’s a blessed irony when you take Him at His word. He gives it in verse 24: “For whoever wishes to save his life shall lose it, but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.” When you die to self to follow Jesus, He graciously gives you the ultimate in fulfillment as the by-product: the joy of eternal life and of being affirmed by Jesus before the Father when He comes in glory (9:26)! That’s something the world can’t ever give!

Robert Morgan

There’s a well-written article in the current issue of Contact Magazine by a young man named Joshua Crowe who told of an experience he had in Chicago.  While working for a temp service, he was assigned  to a particular office to stuff and mail envelopes.  Two young ladies were also working with him, and, in an effort to witness, Joshua managed to steer the conversation toward Christianity.   Suddenly one of the young ladies, Angie, blurted out the $64,000 question:  How can you be so sure that of all the religions in the world, you have figured out which one is right?”

That’s the question we all need to be prepared for.  How do we know that Christianity is right?  How do we know Christianity is true?

Our January series of messages has taken up that question, and so far we’ve looked at the evidence for the truthfulness of Christianity as seen in:
•        The Creation of the Universe
•        The Resurrection of Christ
•        The Fulfillment of Prophecy
•        The Transformation of Human Nature
•        The Uniqueness of Christ
•        The Uniqueness of the Scripture

And today I’d like to deal with the historical reliability of the Bible, and I’d like to go back to Luke 1 for our Scripture reading:

Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.  Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught (NIV).

I said last Sunday night that the Bible gives powerful internal evidence of being a supernatural book.  It was written over a period of 1400 years by over 40 authors in 3 languages on 3 continents covering hundreds of difficult subjects; yet it all fits together like a brilliant novel with a cohesive plot written by a master-author.  Only it isn’t a novel—it’s a story of truth and reality.

But there are also powerful external evidences for the truthfulness of Scripture, and I’d like to deal with this from two perspectives today.

Accurate in Its Composition
First, the Bible is accurate in its composition.  Is it historically reliable?  Were the biblical documents written by biographers and historians who told the truth and who actually lived during the times they describe? 

Some people claim that the Gospels, for example, were pieced together by unknown authors or editors from oral traditions and from various fables that may or may not have factual basis in history.  "We don't really know who wrote the Gospels,” they might claim, “and we certainly can't believe all the miracles and the material about the Jesus-figure.  It's part legend, part fable with maybe a shred of history somewhere in the shadowy past."

But it takes time for fables and legends to develop, and we have copies and fragments of the Gospels dating to within a generation of the apostles. Increasingly, liberal thinkers who had dated the composition of New Testament books in the 2nd and 3rd centuries have been forced by recent scholarship and archaeological discoveries to push their dates back to the first century. 

A few years ago, one scholar demonstrated that an early collection of Paul's letters (P46) should no longer be dated at AD 200 but a full hundred years earlier, to the late first century.  Two other scholars in a controversial book entitled Eyewitness to Jesus,claimed that the date of three scraps of parchment housed at Magdalen College, Oxford and containing fragments from Matthew’s Gospel can be dated to the first century.  Their conclusions have created a stir.

We don't have space to study each New Testament book, but one is particularly illustrative, the Gospel of Luke.  Few scholars question the traditional authorship of Luke. It is generally agreed that the third Gospel and the book of Acts were written by the physician Luke, and it is widely admitted that Luke wrote his Gospel prior to writing the book of Acts.  Acts can be dated some time in the early 60s of the first century, so the Gospel of Luke must be dated somewhat earlier.  Notice the way he begins his Gospel:  Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word.

Luke was explaining that many accounts of the life of Christ were in circulation in the mid-first century.  Many biographers and writers had published works about Jesus, some of them actually based on eyewitness accounts.  Others, however, were less reliable.

Therefore, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, it seemed good also to me to write an orderly account...

Luke was undeniably brilliant, possessing remarkable literary abilities and a deep knowledge of the Greek language.  He was the only non-Jewish author of the Bible, yet he wrote more of the New Testament than anyone else—28% of it.  He was a physician and a scientist.  He was a writer and a medical missionary.  And he has proved himself a historian of first rank.  Here he tells us that before writing his Gospel, he did the work of an investigative journalist, recording his findings in orderly manner based on careful investigation. seemed good also to me to write an orderly account for you, most excellent Theophilus, so that you may know the certainty of the things you have been taught.

Did Luke deliver?  Absolutely.  He tied everything into history and gave us historical anchors all along the way, both in his Gospel and Acts.  His historical pegs have proven accurate even in minute points.  For example, notice the way he began chapter 2:  In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world.  (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)  And everyone went to his own town to register.

Luke didn't just say that Joseph and Mary traveled to Bethlehem.  He said they traveled there because of a census instituted by Caesar Augustus, and that this particular census occurred while a man named Quirinius was governor of Syria.  A hundred years ago, critics had a field day with that, finding no evidence in history to suggest that Caesar ever issued such a decree; furthermore (critics charged) there is nothing to suggest that Quirinius was ever governor of Syria at the time prescribed by Luke.

Then a series of discoveries were made.  Sir William Ramsay, the Scottish archaeologist, dug up first century documents showing that the Roman Empire conducted a regular taxpaying census every fourteen years, that this system originated in the days of Caesar Augustus.  Another document was found in Egypt, an edict of G. Vibius Maximus written on papyrus, describing the procedure used in such a census, directing taxpayers to return to their ancestral towns to register.  Another inscription discovered by Ramsay in Antioch showed that with brief interruptions, a man named Quirinius functioned as military governor in Syria from 12 BC to AD 16.

Notice in the next chapter, Luke 3, how meticulously Luke nails down his historical references:  In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea, Herod tetrarch of Galilee, his brother Philip tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis, and Lysanias tetrarch of Abilene — during the high priesthood of Annas and Caiaphas, the word of God came to John son of Zechariah in the desert.

Sound like misty legend and fabricated fable?  Anything but!  Luke tacks John's ministry to the wall of history using six different pins.  John the Baptist appeared when:  (1) Tiberius Caesar was in his 15th year of rule; (2) Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea; (3) Herod tetrarch of Galilee; (4) Herod's brother Philip was tetrarch of Iturea and Trachonitis; (5) Lysanias was tetrarch of Abilene; and (6) Annas and Caiaphas were sharing the office of high priest.  Most of these are easy to verify, but a couple of them caused problems.  A hundred years ago, critics were attacking Luke’s reference to Lysanias, saying "The only Lysanias mentioned in history was killed in 36 B. C., sixty years before John the Baptist."  But the critics were stilled when archaeologists excavated an inscription near Damascus, stating that a man named Lysanias was indeed tetrarch of Abilene at the time mentioned by Luke.

The skeptics also made hay with Pontius Pilate.  For most of modern history his name has been absent on every historical document we have from the ancient world.  Critics charged that Pilate was a fabrication.  But a stone excavated in Caesarea has the name Pontius Pilate plainly engraved for all the world to see.  He was governor of Judea during the very time given by Luke, and he was headquartered at Caesarea.  I mentioned in an earlier chapter how William Ramsay traveled to the Middle East to disprove Luke's historical references, and how, to his great surprise, he found the writings of Luke accurate in their tiniest details. This is even more remarkable when we consider that every other historian in the ancient world—men like Polybius, Quintilian, Xenophon, Josephus, and even Thucydides—didn't hesitate to mis-record the facts to suit their own purposes.  But in Luke we find the singular historian from antiquity who has been proved right at every point.

In summary, we have documents reaching to within a generation of the original writers, and the details that emerge from the New Testament's pages show them to be historically reliable and well-researched documents.  They were accurate in their composition That leads to our second question: is the Bible trustworthy in its transmission?

Trustworthy in Its Transmission
When we say the Bible is inspired, infallible, inerrant, and without error, we're talking about the original books and parchments—the actual, original documents produced by the inspired authors themselves.  The original autographs, as they're called.  We don't claim that all the copies of those documents are inerrant.  If I wanted, for example, I could transcribe Psalm 23 right now and deliberately add or subtract words and make an errant copy.  So while the originals were inerrant, it is possible that mistakes and distortions have crept into our text during the transmission process through the centuries.  The copies are not necessarily infallible, only the originals—which we no longer have.

By transmission, we mean the process by which the biblical documents were copied and recopied through the ages from the original autographs down to the age of the printing press.  Were the handwritten copies and the copies of copies kept reasonably pure, so that we have a Bible that, practically speaking, reflects accurately the words of the original autographs?

What about the Old Testament?  Until recently we had the problem of few known ancient Hebrew manuscripts, for the Jews destroyed tattered and worn copies out of reverence for the Word of God.  We also know that prior to AD 900, Jewish history was in turmoil, and national life was disrupted by war, banishment and dispersion.

But we also know that scribes and copyists were meticulous beyond belief.  They even devised elaborate systems for numbering every letter and word; if a scribe was off by even one letter, they would destroy the whole manuscript.  We had good reason to believe that the Old Testament had been faithfully transmitted; but nonetheless our oldest extant copy of a Hebrew manuscript dated from about AD 1000, and there was no way to compare it to more ancient copies to see if errors had intruded.

Until 1948.  A boy in the Dead Sea village of Qumran threw a rock at one of his goats.  When the stone flew through the opening of a small cave, the boy heard a shattering sound.  He climbed up the cliff and into the cave to make one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time — the Dead Sea Scrolls—ancient scrolls hidden in clay jars in caves near the Dead Sea to preserve them from the invading Romans.

For the first time, we had Hebrew manuscripts from pre-Christian times.  Fragments of almost every book in the Bible have been found, and the book of Isaiah is preserved in one complete copy and in another tattered copy.  The result?  Gleason Archer says, "Even though the two copies of Isaiah discovered in Qumran Cave 1 near the Dead Sea in 1947 were a thousand years earlier than the oldest dated manuscript known (AD 980), they proved to be word for word identical with our standard Hebrew Bible in more than 95 percent of the text.  The 5 percent of variation consisted chiefly of obvious slips of the pen and variations in spelling.”

Dr. R. Laird Harris compared our oldest Hebrew manuscript of Isaiah 53 with the tattered Isaiah found at Qumran.  He found seventeen letters that were different.  "Ten of these are mere differences of spelling, like 'honor' or 'honour,' and make no change at all in the meaning.  Four more are very minor differences, such as the presence of the conjunction which is often a matter of style.  The other three letters are the Hebrew word for 'light' which is added in verse 11.  Out of 166 words in this chapter only this one word is really in question [after 1000 years of transmission], and it does not at all change the sense of the passage.  This is typical of the whole manuscript.”

We have other ways to affirm the quality of the textual transmission of the Old Testament.  About two hundred years before Christ, for example, a group of Jewish scholars in Alexandria translated the Bible from Hebrew into Greek.  We can compare the ancient Greek versions with the Hebrew text of the Old Testament.

We also have an ancient Samaritan Pentateuch, and the Targums (oral paraphrases of Old Testament passages).  All of these sources provide enormous evidence that the Hebrew text of the Old Testament has been preserved in trustworthy fashion; and though there are variations here and there, no major doctrine is impacted.  The variations, for the most part, involve matters of spelling, style, and grammar.

What about the New Testament?  Here we're on even firmer ground, for we have an abundance of ancient manuscripts on which painstaking research has been performed.  The original autographs and the earliest copies were written on papyrus, and they were read and read until they wore out.  In the 4th century, copiers began using a more durable material, parchment, made from the skins of animals.  Parchment became the primary writing material for a thousand years, before paper began to be widely used in the 13th century.

It would be fascinating to know what happened to the original autographs.  Turtullian wrote about AD 208 that the apostles "own authentic writings" (authentica) were read in the churches.  We don't know whether he meant that Paul's actual originals were still being read, or that the church was using faithful copies.  At any rate, our oldest fragment of the New Testament reaches almost back to the days of the Apostles themselves.  The Ryland Fragment, dating from the early 2nd century, contains five verses from the Gospel of John.  Scholars date it at approximately AD 125.  Since the Gospel of John was probably written about AD 100, this particular fragment was in circulation within a quarter-century or so of the original.

It's interesting that the German higher critics and the European textual critics of the 19th century shook the faith of many by claiming that John's Gospel was written by an unknown author one or two hundred years after John's death.  They claimed that the theological symbolism and depth of John's Gospel would have taken that long to evolve, and thus it wasn't really written by John and doesn't really date from the first century.  Then the Lord allowed this little fragment to be discovered in Egypt, and it happened to contain verses from the Gospel according to John.  With one small discovery, thousands of skeptical lectures, books, articles, and dissertations were blown down like a scarecrow in a storm.

In addition to this and the other 5000 Greek manuscripts, we have many ancient translations or versions, including Jerome's Vulgate—the New Testament translated into Latin in the late 300s.  We have old Syriac and Latin translations dating to about AD 150, and an early Egyptian translation made about 200.  We have countless quotations from the New Testament preserved in the writings of church fathers of the first, second, and third centuries, and in the Lectionaries (readings used in public worship).

In short, the number of manuscripts in support of the reliability of the New Testament text (and their chronological proximity to the original writings) is far beyond anything else known in human literature.  There are only nine or ten good manuscripts of Caesar'sGallic War, for example, and the oldest extant manuscript is 1000 years away from the original.  There are only seven copies of Plato, and the time span between the original and the copy is 1,200 years.  Thucydides lived about the time of Malachi, and he wrote his history near the end of the Old Testament era.  The earliest extant copy we have of Thucydides dates from AD 900, 1300 years later than the original.  How many ancient copies of Thucydides come from AD 900 or later?  Only eight.  And yet no one questions Thucydides.  He is viewed as a first-rate historian.

But we have not ten or eleven manuscripts, but 5000 Greek manuscripts of the New Testament, dating to within twenty-five years or so of the actual writings.  And we have translations and quotations and readings going back to the earliest times of the Christian church.  "From the standpoint of literary evidence," writes Professor Berkeley Mickelsen, "the only logical conclusion is that the case for the reliability of the New Testament is infinitely stronger than that for any other record of antiquity.”

When we compare all these manuscripts, we do find occasional variations in the style and spelling and sometimes in wording. That's why many translations have footnotes, showing that a certain word or passage here and there can be rendered in an alternate way.  There are actually two different families of Greek manuscripts, and New Testament scholars spend much of their time discussing the differences between them.  Yet the vast majority of verses are identical, and the manuscripts provide a unified witness.  No key doctrine of the Christian faith is in any way invalidated or threatened by textual uncertainty.

Does this prove the Bible is the inspired Word of God?  No.  But it show us that the Bible provides a reliable foundation for our faith.  It's trustworthy, both in its accurate composition and in its reliable transmission. "Many people say the Bible is a myth," Vance Havner once quipped.  "But they're myth-taken, myth-guided, and myth-erable."

When you hold the Gospels in your hand, you are holding documents that give us reliable accounts, well-researched by biographers and writers including the most imminent historian of the ancient world, of a man from Nazareth who lived thirty years as a village carpenter.  He preached for the next three years, making claims for himself that no other had ever made, and driving home his claims with so much evidence that he overturned the Jewish theology of his audience and convinced them that he was, in fact, the Messiah of Israel and the Master of the world.  He healed the blind, raised the dead, and filled the hopeless with joy.  He allowed himself to be executed in a most excruciating manner; and then his grave was found vacated.  He showed himself alive by many infallible proofs, and so changed the world that today, after 2000 years of human history, his message is more widely believed than every before.  These things were investigated thoroughly from the beginning and written in an orderly account that we might have a solid basis for faith, that we may know the certainty of the things we have been taught.

Hammer away ye hostile hands.
Your hammers break; God's anvil stands.

Luke 1:34-35
Rob Morgan

Many years ago, I was teaching the Bible in a teen camp in New York State.  One day I asked the young people to write an answer to this question:  “Who is Jesus Christ?”  As I read their answers later that day, I was intrigued by their diverse understanding of Christ; but one answer in particular has stayed with me all these years.  A teen boy wrote these words:  “Who is Jesus Christ?  He is the God who made my relationship with my dad peaceful and meaningful.”

That young man knew two things about Christ.  First, he knew that Jesus is God.  Second, he knew that Jesus has the power to change our lives and our relationships.  That young man knew more about Jesus Christ than many of the millions who crowd into church every Sunday.  Jesus is God, and He has the power to change our lives and our relationships.  And the thing that makes all this possible is an event in human history that we call the Annunciation.

The great museums of Europe and America are filled with beautiful paintings of incalculable worth stretching back through the centuries, all of them bearing the same title:  The Annunciation.  This momentous scene has been visualized and painted many different ways.

The Annunciation (literally, the Announcement) is the title given in Christian history to the encounter between the angel Gabriel and the Virgin Mary in Luke 1:26-38.  On the historic church calendar, the Annunciation is a holy day that is observed every March 25—exactly nine months before December 25. 

Most of us, however, revisit this scene every year during the Christmas season because it is so bound up with the story of the birth of Christ.  During the Advent Sunday of 2004, we’re studying this passage in an extended way, and so today I would like for us to read it together, and then we’ll focus in on two particular verses.

In the sixth month, God sent the angel Gabriel to Nazareth, a town in Galilee, to a virgin pledge to be married to a man named Joseph, a descendant of David.  The virgin’s name was Mary.  The angel went to her and said, “Greetings, you who are highly favored!  The Lord is with you.”

Mary was greatly troubled at his words and wondered what kind of greeting this might be.  But the angel said to her, “Do not be afraid, Mary, you have found favor with God.  You will be with child and give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus.  He will be great and will be called the Son of the Most High.  The Lord God will give him the throne of his father David, and he will reign over the house of Jacob forever; his kingdom will never end.”

“How will this be,” Mary asked the angel, “since I am a virgin?”

The angel answered, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the Holy One to be born will be called the Son of God.  Even Elizabeth your relative is going to have a child in her old age, and she who was said to be barren is in her sixth month.  For nothing is impossible with God.”

“I am the Lord’s servant,” Mary answered.  “May it be to me as you have said.”  Then the angel left her.”


In today’s study of this text, we’re coming to verses 34 and 35, and to one of the deepest and highest and broadest mysteries of the ages—the virgin birth of Jesus Christ.  After Gabriel told Mary about the wondrous characteristics of her predicted Son, the Virgin asked a sensible question:  “How will this be since I am a virgin?”

The angel’s answer is sublime, brief, curious, and simple:  “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.”

That is the Bible’s answer to the question, “How can this be?”  We dare not go beyond those words in trying to explain the mystery of the virgin birth.  It is too high and holy a matter to speculate.  I don’t even want to digress into the use of other terminology or nomenclature.  It is sufficient for us to use the Bible’s own language to clearly state that which we cannot fully understand.

One of the things that surprised me as I studied the subject of the Virgin Birth in the Scriptures is how seldom the Bible really talks about it.  It is not as frequently mentioned in Scripture as I would have expected, and I’m really not sure why.  It is sort of like the subject of the existence of God.  The Bible doesn’t try to prove that God exists; it just states it as a matter of fact and assumes it.  That’s the way with the Virgin Birth.  There are really only three primary passages dealing clearly with this in the Bible.

The first is Isaiah 7:14, where we have a powerful prophecy about the coming Messiah:  Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign:  The virgin will be with child and will give birth to a son, and will call him Immanuel.

Those words were spoken by Isaiah seven hundred years before the events in first century Nazareth.  It took seven centuries to do what we can do in about fifteen seconds—turn from Isaiah 7 to Matthew 1.  When we open first chapter of the New Testament, we find the second major passage dealing with the virgin birth—Matthew, chapter 1:

But after he (Joseph) had considered this, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary home as your wife, because what is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will give birth to a son, and you are to give him the name Jesus, because He will save His people from their sins.  All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet:  “The virgin shall be with child and will give birth to a son, and they will call him Immanuel,” which means, “God with us.”

Then in Luke’s Gospel, we have the third and final great passage on the Virgin Birth of Christ, the words of the Annunciation that we’ve already read. 

There are other passages in which we find references and allusion to the Virgin Birth, and the entire life of Christ is presented against its backdrop; but it isn’t a subject that is specifically articulated as often as we might think.  Yet there has never been a question in historic and orthodox Christian theology as to the Virgin Birth. We find the Virgin Birth a part of Christian worship creeds and liturgies from the earliest eras of Christian history.

The earliest Roman Creed we possess, dating to about A.D. 100, says, “He was born of the Holy Ghost from the Virgin Mary.”[1]

The Church Father Ignatius said, “For our God, Jesus the Christ, was conceived in the womb by Mary, according to a dispensation of the seed of David but also of the Holy Ghost.”

There has always been an understanding that this is a critical and crucial teaching as it relates to the identity and person of Jesus Christ.  I like the way Dr. Howard A. Kelly, far-famed doctor of an earlier generation, put it:

The Virgin Birth is the great key to the Bible storehouse.  If I reject the Virgin Birth, the New Testament becomes a dead, man-made letter, recounting the well intentioned imaginings of honest but misguided men….  He who violently wrenches the narratives of the Virgin Birth from the New Testament in order to be consistent must also uniformly expunge all other miracles and with them the atoning death, the Resurrection, the Ascension, and the present mediatorial office of our Lord.  The Virgin Birth is a fact fully established by competent testimony and abundant collateral evidences, believed by men through all the ages as a necessary factor in their salvation, secured by an ever-living, ever-acting Savior, viewed with wonder by angels in heaven and acknowledged by the Father.”[2]

As I’ve studied the Scriptural truth of the Virgin Birth, it seems to me that there are four overwhelmingly important implications to this truth.

Jesus is Timeless
First, because of the Virgin Birth, we can say that Jesus is timeless.  He existed before His birth.  That can be said of no other person in human history, but Jesus said, “Before Abraham was born, I am…  I have come down from heaven.”  The prophet Micah, in predicting the birth of the Messiah in Bethlehem, wrote:  But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, though you are little among the thousands of Judah, yet out of you will come forth to me a ruler in Israel, whose goings forth are from of old, even from everlasting (Micah 5:3, NKJV).

John described the Virgin Birth in theological terms when he wrote, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.  He was with God in the beginning….  And the Word became flesh and made His dwelling among us.  We have seen His glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father, full of grace and truth” (John 1:1-2, 14).

Hebrews 10:5ff, quoting from Psalm 40, says: “Sacrifice and offering you did not desire, but a body you prepared for me; with burnt offerings and sin offerings you were not pleased.  Then I said, ‘Here I am—it is written about me in the scroll—I have come to do your will, O God.’”

There was once a great Chinese Christian named Sundar Singh who in his travels once came to a river.  No boat was available, and he wondered how he would get across.  Then he saw a deflated water-skin.  He inflated it with air and crossed the river safely.  Later, as he preached, he used that incident to describe the incarnation of Jesus Christ.  “The thought came to me,” he said, “that there was plenty of air all around me but it was incapable of helping me in my difficulty until it was confined in the narrow space of a water-skin.  Even so, the incarnation was necessary to our salvation.”[3]

God is all around us.  He is omnipresent, and He inhabits eternity.  But with the Virgin Birth of Christ, He came down into the limited space of a human being in order to live for us, to die for us, and to rise again on our behalf.”  Romans 4:25 says, “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.”  Hebrews 2:14 says:  “Since the children have flesh and blood, He too shared in their humanity so that by His death He might destroy him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death.  For surely it is not angels He helps, but Abraham’s descendants.  For this reason He had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that He might become a merciful and faithful High Priest in service to God, and that He might make atonement for the sins of the people.  Because He Himself suffered when He was tempted, He is able to help those who are being tempted.”

Jesus Christ, the Second Person of the Trinity, is timeless, ageless, dwelling eternal in the heavens, and His comings forth are from everlasting to everlasting.

Jesus is Peerless
Second, the Virgin Birth tells us that Jesus is peerless.  No other person in human history has entered the world in such a miraculous and mysterious way.  This is one of the reasons it is so momentous and marvelous.  Since this is a one-time miracle, we have no other point of reference, no analogy in the life of humanity as we know it.  One of my favorite theologians, Henry Theissen, put it this way:  “The study of the Person of Christ is so difficult because in this respect He is suit generic:  There is no other being like Him, and so we cannot reason from the known to the unknown.”[4]

But it was this virgin conception that fused together humanity and deity, so that Jesus Christ could be called the God-Man.  I remember the moment I first realized this as a sophomore in college.  I was in a Bible study using materials developed by an organization known as the Navigators, and in was during that study that I first realized that Jesus Christ was fully and completely God, yet fully and completely a Man.

This is the second greatest mystery of the Bible.  The second greatest?  What’s the first?  The first and greatest mystery is the doctrine of the Trinity.  How can there be one God who eternally exists in three persons?  That is the greatest marvel in human understanding and education.  We can state the doctrine of the Trinity, but we can’t comprehend it.  That is mystery number one.  The second greatest mystery is the doctrine of the duality of Christ.  How can there be one person, yet two natures—one person possessing a divine nature and a human nature?

What do we mean when we say that Jesus is the God-Man?

We do not mean that He is half-God and half-Man, like the characters in Greek and Roman mythology.  Hercules, for example, is said to be half-man and half-god.  The god Zeus deceived a woman named Alcmene by impersonating her husband.  He came down in the form of Amphitryon and had relations with Alcmene, and as a result Hercules was born, half-man and half-god.

The biblical doctrine of the incarnation is sublime and superior, and it rises above the profane rubble of ancient mythology like the sun rising over a junk pile.  Jesus is fully God with all the attributes and characteristics of God, and yet He became fully human—a man to die.

Nor do we mean that Jesus had two personalities.  A couple of years ago, I attended a conference in Edinburgh, and while there I met an old codger who was an expert in the city’s history.  We spent much of an entire day together as he showed me around the city on foot, pointing out fascinating sites.  Near the University of Edinburgh alongside an old stone wall was a little grassy spot with some unmarked graves.  Taking me there, he pointed to one of them.  Few people know this, he said, unless they’ve lived in Edinburgh for a long time.  But buried here in this grave is Deacon William Brodie, a man who lived in the 1800s.  Brodie was an outstanding citizen by day, but a mad-man by night.  He was a carpenter and cabinet-maker by day, but by night he was a thief and gambler, one of the most notorious criminals in Edinburgh’s history.  This dual personality became the inspiration for Robert Louis Stevenson’s famous novel, The Strange Case of Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.  Since that time, doctors and psychologists have been fascinated by the concept of dual or multiple personalities.

But when we say that Jesus had two natures in one person, we don’t mean that He was half-god and half-man like Hercules, or that He had a split personality like Dr. Jeckyll and Mr. Hyde.

We mean that the Word became flesh and dwelt among us.  We mean that God Himself descended to earth through the mechanism of the Virgin Conception, so that Jesus Christ was both fully God and fully man.  We mean that the Holy Spirit came upon Mary and the power of the Most High overshadowed her, so that the Holy One born to her was God Himself, God the Son.  The great Roman Catholic hymnist, Frederick W. Faber, put it very clearly when he wrote:

Jesus is God! The glorious bands
Of golden angels sing
Songs of adoring praise to Him,
Their Maker and their King.
He was true God in Bethlehem’s crib,
On Calvary’s cross true God,
He Who in Heav’n eternal reigned,
In time on earth abode.

Jesus is God! Let sorrow come,
And pain, and every ill,
All are worthwhile, for all are means
His glory to fulfill;
Worthwhile a thousand years of woe
To speak one little word,
If by that “I believe” we own
The Godhead of our Lord.

Jesus is God! O! could I now
But compass earth and sea,
To teach and tell the single truth,
How happy should I be!
O! had I but an angel’s voice,
I would proclaim so loud,
Jesus, the good, the beautiful,
Is everlasting God.

It is the Virgin Birth—or more accurately—the Virgin Conception of Christ that somehow integrated and amalgamated the divine and human natures of Christ into one seamless person.

Jesus is Sinless
Third, the Virgin Birth of Christ means that Jesus is not just timeless and peerless; He is sinless.  This is one of the most mysterious and marvelous aspects of Jesus of Nazareth.  He is the one and only person in human history who lived on this earth, a life of eating and drinking and socializing and working and talking and sleeping—and yet remained absolutely free from sin.  There was no moral failure in His life, and He was untainted by evil.  He was pure and perfect to the depths of His being, and He maintained that perfect purity every moment of every hour of every day of every year of His life.  How can we explain the fact that a human being came into a world that is utterly contaminated with win without acquiring a sinful nature from His mother?  She was certainly a member of this sinful human race, and yet her sinfulness was not communicated or passed down to Him.  How could that be?[5]

It is because of the Virgin Conception.  Look at verse 35 of our text:  The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.  So the holy one to be born will be called the Son of God.

It is a mystery of mysteries, and I cannot explain it except to quote this Scripture, but the Bible teaches that because of the mechanism of the Virgin Conception of our Lord, He was holy and pure, untainted by the blood disease called sin that has infected every other man and women on this sin-spinning globe.  This is vitally important, for Jesus Christ could not die for our sins unless He were pure and faultless and able to make a perfect sacrifice.  The Bible says, “(God) made Him who knew no sin to be sin for us, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him” (2 Corinthians 5:21, NKJV).

Jesus is Selfless
Finally, the Virgin Birth tells us that Christ is selfless.  He had no selfish motives; it was for you and for me that He left the ivory palace of glory and entered the world through the commandeered womb of a teenage girl. 

He left His Father’s throne above
So free, so infinite His grace—
Emptied Himself of all but love,
And bled for Adam’s helpless race:
’Tis mercy all, immense and free,
For O my God, it found out me!

God Himself became a man, the God-Man Christ Jesus, in order to shed His blood and die on the cross, providing a basis for total forgiveness, total reconciliation with the Almighty, and total life both now and forever.  Though He was in very nature God, He did not count equality with God as something to be grasped, but made Himself nothing, taking the very form of a servant and was made in the likeness of men.

The Bible tells us we should consider the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, how though He was rich, yet became He poor; that we, through His poverty might become rich.  As Wesley put it:

Christ, by highest Heav’n adored;
Christ the everlasting Lord;
Late in time, behold Him come,
Offspring of a virgin’s womb.
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;
Hail th’incarnate Deity,
Pleased with us in flesh to dwell,
Jesus our Emmanuel.

One of the most interesting characters in all of Christian history was the British evangelist Henry Moorhouse who is called “the man that moved the man that moved millions,” referring to his influence over Dwight Lyman Moody.  As a young man, Moorhouse was incorrigible, landing in jail on several occasions.  By age sixteen, he was a gambler and gang-leader, and he was wild and beyond control. He was also suicidal and carried a pistol for the purpose of killing himself should he decide to do so.  One day, he passed by a busy intersection in Manchester, England, where a man named Richard Weaver was preaching.  He heard only one word shouted out by Weaver, but that one word stopped him in his tracks and led to his conversion.  It was the word “Jesus.”

No one can change your life like Jesus.  He is timeless, peerless, sinless, and selfless. 

We sing, Immanuel, Thy praise,
Thou Prince of Life and Fount of grace,
Thou Flower of heaven and Star of morn,
Thou Lord of lords, Thou virgin born.

[1] Wilber M. Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 90.

2 Howard A. Kelly, A Scientific Man and the Bible (Philadelphia, 1925), pp. 89, 90, 94, quoted in Wilber M. Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 101.

3 E. Myers Harrison, Blazing the Missionary Trail (Wheaton, IL:  Van Kampen Press, 1949), p. 141.

4 Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), p. 304.

5 Wilber M. Smith makes this point very well in The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 88.

[1] Wilber M. Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 90.

[2] Howard A. Kelly, A Scientific Man and the Bible (Philadelphia, 1925), pp. 89, 90, 94, quoted in Wilber M. Smith, The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 101.
[3] E. Myers Harrison, Blazing the Missionary Trail (Wheaton, IL:  Van Kampen Press, 1949), p. 141.

[4] Henry Clarence Thiessen, Introductory Lectures in Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids:  Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co., 1949), p. 304.
[5] Wilber M. Smith makes this point very well in The Supernaturalness of Christ (Grand Rapids:  Baker Book House, 1974), p. 88.

Luke 1:26-38
Robert Morgan


Austin sermons precept

Mark Commentaries & Sermons

John Mark
Acts 12:12+


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll-right side of page


Click chart to enlarge
Chart from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission


Completed October 16, 2020


















54 sermons preached at Wake Cross Roads Baptist Church 2011-2012 - over 600 pages of exposition! 

The New Testament for English Readers
Mark Commentary

Read Alford's fascinating brief biography and Phil Johnson's related comments

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament...though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (see his comments in following entry on Alford).

Editorial Note: If you are not proficient in Greek, you will find this work considerably more useful than the following work by Alford, because in this volume he translates the Greek and Latin into English. While the "The Greek New Testament" is longer (e.g., English version of 1John = 66 pages compared to Greek version = 94 pages in part because the latter includes comments of more technical nature), the substance of the commentary is otherwise similar to that found in the "NT for English Readers".

The Greek New Testament
Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

James Rosscup writes that "This was the great work in the life of the versatile Dean of Canterbury. An outcome of this production was the New Testament for English Readers (4 vols.). Alford was a Calvinist, conservative and premillennial, though not dispensational. He takes a literal interpretation of the thousand years in Rev. 20 and has a famous quote there, is strong on sovereign election as in Ro 8:29, 30 and 1Pe 1:2, but, unfortunately, holds to baptismal regeneration in such texts as Titus 3:5 and John 3:5. He shows a great knowledge of the Greek text and faces problems of both a doctrinal and textual nature." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

John Piper writes ""When I’m stumped with a...grammatical or syntactical or logical [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford...comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes that this text "is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to Alford’s New Testament for English Readers,* which is also a standard work." (Spurgeon, C. H. Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
Daily Study Bible

D Edmond Hiebert - Prints the author's own translation.  Valuable for its numerous helpful word studies and background material. Barclay holds that Christ's descent into Hades gave those who there heard Him a second chance.

Comment: I appreciate Barclay's unique insights on Greek words, but clearly his teaching about a "second chance" is NOT sound doctrine! Be an Acts 17:11 Berean with Barclay. See discussion of his orthodoxy especially the article "The Enigmatic William Barclay".

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark
Notes on the New Testament

Sermons on Mark

Links below Duplicate Material Above but in a different format


Gnomon of the New Testament

The Critical English Testament

Combination of Gnomon above + Comments by other expositors [in brackets] (Recommended if not conversant with Greek)

Resources that Reference Mark

Sermons on the Gospel of Mark

Pastor Bill's sermons are recommended as they focus on Scripture with frequent illustrations, quotes and practical applications.


The Expositor's Greek Testament
Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Rosscup writes - "This is an excellent liberal study of the book from the standpoint of the Greek. There are excellent cross-references on key words, and usually serious efforts to explain the meaning." (Ed note: The word "liberal" is cause for considerable discretion if you use this work but see Hiebert's note below.)

Hiebert - Greek text. A volume of continued usefulness for the Greek student by a noted British scholar of the past generation. Generally conservative in viewpoint.

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Note: Calvin combines the synoptic Gospels and thus does not have a completely separate commentary on Mark



Devotionals on the Gospel of Mark

Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Click for caveat on Clarke

Expository Notes and Commentary
Conservative, Millennial

Sermon Notes on the Gospel of Mark

Notes on the Gospel of Mark
Dr Henry Morris

Click links on right side of page for notes.


  • 1. Why Mark, Rather than Matthew, Luke, or John? (Mark 1:1-13)
  • 2. Who's In Charge Here? It's All About Authority (Mark 1:14-45)
  • 3. In the Shadow of the Cross (Mark 2:1-3:6)
  • 4. The Most Unusual Message You Will Ever Hear on Mothers Day (Mark 3:7-35)
  • 5. Why Jesus Spoke in Parables - Part 1 (Mark 4:1-20)
  • 6. Why Jesus Spoke in Parables - Part 2: The Parable of the Soils (Mark 4:1-20)
  • 7. Why Jesus Spoke in Parables - Part 3: Sermons from the Sea (Mark 4:21-41)
  • 8. What Demons Dread (Mark 5:1-20)
  • 9. Divine Delays (Mark 5:21-43)
  • 10. Familiarity Breeds Contempt (Mark 6:1-29)
  • 11. Connecting the Dots: A Defense of Expository Teaching (Mark 6:30-52)
  • 12. Why Judaism Was All Washed Up (Mark 6:53-7:23)
  • 13. Does God Ever Like to Lose an Argument? (Mark 7:24-37)
  • 14. Learning from the Leftovers (Mark 8:1-26)
  • 15. The Most Important Question in the World (Mark 8:27-38)
  • 16. A Glimpse of God's Glory (Mark 9:1-29)
  • 17. Learning to Lead, God's Way (Mark 9:30-50)
  • 18. Learning to Lead, God's Way, Part 2 (Mark 9:30-50)
  • 19. The Divorce Debate (Mark 10:1-12)
  • 20. How to Get to Heaven (Mark 10:13-31)
  • 21. Prayers Jesus Will Answer... And Those He Won't (Mark 10:32-52)
  • 22. How Do You Spell Success? (Mark 11:1-11)
  • 23. Tree Huggers and the Dark Side of Jesus (Mark 11:12-26)
  • 24. All About Authority: Who Does Jesus Think He Is? (Mark 11:27-12:12)
  • 25. Why We Know Jesus' Opponents Wore Hanes (Mark 12:13-27)
  • 26. The Relationship Between the Law, Love, and the Lord Jesus (Mark 12:28-37)
  • 27. When Less is More (Mark 12:38-44)
  • 28. Temple Talks (Mark 13:1-13)
  • 29. The Abomination of Desolation (Mark 13:14-23)
  • 30. The Dark Side of the Second Coming (Mark 13:24-37)
  • 31. Working Like the Devil Serving the Lord (Mark 14:1-11)
  • 32. How to Ruin a Dinner Party (Mark 14:12-25)
  • 33. What Jesus Feared (Mark 14:26-42)
  • 34. Jesus Arrested; Follower 'Barely' Escapes (Mark 14:43-52)
  • 35. The Savior's Silence and Peter's Profanity (Mark 14:53-72)
  • 36. Pilate, Politics, and the Prince of Peace (Mark 15:1-21)
  • 37. The Crucifixion of Christ (Mark 15:22-47)
  • 38. He's Alive! (Mark 16:1-20)

Sermons on the Gospel of Mark

  • 1. Intro: Baptist, King And The Devil Mark 1:1-13
  • 2. The King, Subjects And Authority Mark 1:14-31
  • 3. The King, Crowds And The Leper Mark 1:32-45
  • 4. King, Paralytic And Power To Forgive Mark 2:1-12
  • 5. Feasting, Fasting And Sabbath Keeping Mark 2:13-28
  • 6. Conflict, Cures And Commission Mark 3:1-19
  • 7. Beelzebub’s House And Christ Family Mark 3:20-35
  • 8. The Parable Of The Sower Mark 4:1-20
  • 9. Kingdom Parables And Calm Sea Mark 4:21-41
  • 10. Legion, Liberty And Love Mark 5:1-20
  • 11. Lord Over Death Mark 5:21-43
  • 12. A Prophet Without Honor Mark 6:1-13
  • 13. John’s Martyrdom Mark 6:14-29
  • 14. The Banquet In The Wilderness Mark 6:30-44
  • 15. Ghost Or God On The Water Mark 6:45-56
  • 16. God’s Word And Men’s Traditions Mark 7:1-23
  • 17. He Has Done All Things Well Mark 7:24-37
  • 18. Bread, Signs And Leaves Mark 8:1-21
  • 19. Opened Eyes And Peter’s Confession Mark 8:22-30
  • 20. The Imperative Of The Cross Mark 8:31-38
  • 21.The Transfiguration Mark 9:1-13
  • 22. Leaving The Mountain, Walking Mark 9:14-32
  • 23. Who Isaiah The Greatest? Mark 9:33-50
  • 24. Let No Man Put Asunder Mark 10:1-12
  • 25. Entering The Kingdom Mark 10:13-22
  • 26. The God Of The Impossible Mark 10:23-34
  • 27. Greatness In Service Mark 10:35-45
  • 28. Miracle In Jericho Mark 10:46-52
  • 29. The Triumphal Entry Mark 11:1-11
  • 30. Tree Cursing, Temple Cleansing Mark 11:12-36
  • 31. Authority Questioned Mark 11:27-12:12
  • 32. Taxes And The Resurrection Mark 12:13-27
  • 33. The Greatest Commandment Mark 12:28-34
  • 34. David’s Son, Clergymen And Widow Mark 12:35-44
  • 35. The Birth Pangs Mark 13:1-13
  • 36. The 70th Week And The 2nd Coming Mark 13:14-27
  • 37. Be On The Alert Mark 13:28-37
  • 38. The Anointing At Bethany Mark 14:1-11
  • 39. The Last Passover And The 2 Ways Mark 14:12-21
  • 40. The First Lord’s Supper Mark 14:22-25
  • 41. Failure Foretold Mark 14:26-31 Mp3 only
  • 42. The Garden And The Cup Mark 14:32-42 Mp3 only
  • 43. Betrayed, Arrested And Forsaken Mark 14:43-52
  • 44. Christ Before The Sanhedrin Mark 14:53-65
  • 45. Peter Before The Servants Mark 14:66-72
  • 46. Christ Before Pilate Mark 15:1-15
  • 47. Christ Before The Soldiers Mark 15:16-20
  • 48. Christ On The Cross Mark 15:21-32
  • 49. Orphaned Son And Torn Curtain Mark 15:33-41
  • 50. The Rich Man And His Tomb Mark 15:42-47 Mp3 only
  • 51. The Women And The Empty Tomb Mark 16:1-8 Mp3
  • 52. The Conclusion Of Mark Mark 16:9-20 Mp3

Gospel of Mark

Gospel of Mark
G A Chadwick

Sermons on the Gospel of Mark

Gospel of Mark


Commentary on the Gospel of Mark

Great Texts of the Bible
Messages on the Gospel of Mark"

Note: These are in depth


This expositional Bible study of the Gospel of Mark was written by Dr. Daniel Hill when he was the Pastor of Southwood Bible Church in Tulsa, Oklahoma. He taught the complete book, verse by verse. These are well done and have frequent points of practical application.


Uses frequent illustrations.


Sours: has a quick reference verb tool and maps keyed to Bible timelines

Philippians Sermons

NOTE: These notes represent background material used to prepare expository verse by verse messages preached at Wayside Communities Church in Austin, Texas. These are sermon notes not sermon transcripts. This material hopefully will help you if you are leading a small group, teaching a Bible class or preaching a series on Philippians. 

Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission

Philippians 1:12-18

Let’s do a quick review to help set the context for today’s message

Proverbs 23:7 says “as he thinks within himself, so he is.” Do you remember Paul’s “state of mind” in his opening words in this letter? Or to ask it another way what is Paul’s perspective and priority even though he is in prison?

We have seen that he is prayerful, joyful, thankful, filled with confidence that God would complete the work He began in each one. How could Paul be prayerful, joyful, thankful and confident in prison? Is that even humanly possible? Of course not, it’s IM-possible, but it is HIM-possible. What do we mean by HIM-possible? What have we learned about Paul? Who fills Paul and controls Paul and supernaturally empowers Paul? You know the answer - The Holy Spirit. Paul is a wonderful example of a Spirit filled man able to live an abundant life even in prison-like circumstances! He has his priorities lined up – Jesus, Others, Yourself (which spells joy). Jesus is mentioned 18 times in chapter 1 and Gospel 5 times. If Paul were standing here today I think he would say to us what he said to the saints in Philippians 3:17-note “Brothers (and sisters), join in imitating me.” So as we study this passage today, keep alert for Paul’s pattern, so that enabled by the Spirit you might follow it and experience prayer, gratitude, joy and confidence in Christ.

Let me ask you one more time because this principle is so important --- What “prison” are you in today? There may be no literal bars in your face or chains on your hands but you find yourself in circumstances that are so overwhelming that they make you feel like you are chained in a prison? Beloved, take heart! Paul is showing us there is a way to be prayerful, joyful, thankful and confident, even in our most adverse circumstances. As an old preacher once said “You are either in trial, have just come out of a trial or are just getting ready to go into a fiery trial. So may God grant that each of us learns more and more in a practical, experiential way what it means to be filled with Spirit and walk by the Spirit that He might enable us to rise above our circumstances and consider it all joy when we encounter various trials. We desperately need You to do this Lord. Amen

Philippians 1:12-18 ESV – Observe three key words = (1) Gospel (“it,” “the word”, "preach Christ,” “proclaim Christ,” “Christ is proclaimed”) (2) Christ (Lord), (3) imprisonment (“chains”) – three times

As we read did you notice Paul repeatedly emphasizes 3 truths in these 7 verses - Christ(Lord), the Gospel (and synonyms - “the word”, etc) and imprisonment. Do you see any simple relationship?

Every verse says something about advancing the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ!

Brothers and sisters, When our eyes are fixed on Christ, His Gospel, and its advancement, whatever is our “prison,” takes on an entirely new perspective, ultimately becoming a means to advance the Gospel.

12 I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the Gospel,

13 so that IT has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment(chains) is for Christ. (in Christ)

14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the Word without fear.

15 Some indeed preachChrist from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the Gospel.

17 The former proclaimChrist out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice. Yes, and I will rejoice

So here is our outline for today and God willing and enabled by His Spirit we might get through each of these powerful points. I’ve entitled this message…

Philippians 1:12-18

Comment: This section is the “Romans 8:28-note” (cf Ge 45:8, 50:20) of Philippians: “God causes all things to work together for good to those who love God”. Paul's circumstances were difficult, but he knew that God was in control, and that He was working the difficult circumstances our for his good and God’s glory! You can be confident He will do the same in your difficult circumstances dear child of God. And so this section could be subtitled “The Fortune of Misfortune”

Let me give you some other titles:

(1) A Pauline Perspective on Pain and Pettiness 

(2) “Contagious Christianity!” 

(3) The Fortune of Misfortune

(4) Bonds Destroy Barriers 

(5) Chains Set the Gospel Free.

(6) John MacArthur’s title for Phil 1:12-18 - The Joy of Ministry in Spite of Trouble and Detractors

Paul Bound but Word not Bound - In his last letter ever written Paul reminds us why he is in jail writing “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my Gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment (chains) as a criminal; but the word of God (THE GOSPEL) is not imprisoned (chained). (2 Ti 2:8-9-note) The verses today will show how the Gospel cannot be imprisoned! The Gospel is living and active and mighty to save! Paul may be chained up but not the Gospel!

So let’s look at “The Advance of the Gospel”

A) (Phil 1:12) Afflictions Promote the Gospel

B) (Phil 1:13-18) Pioneer Advance of the Gospel

1) (Phil 1:13) Gospel to the Guards = (Communicating to Captors)

2) (Phil 1:14) Gospel Boldness to the Brethren = (Contagious Courage) (Causing the Weak to Witness)

3) (Phil 1:15-18) Gospel Preaching with Mixed Motives = (Critics Exposed) (Preaching with Pettiness)

Beloved, God has an exciting, encouraging, edifying Word for each of us today. As we read and unpack these 7 great verses, may the Holy Spirit take the words read and spoken and drive them deep into our innermost being so that we walk away changed from the inside out, more like Paul and especially more like our blessed Savior Christ Jesus. Amen.

Let’s read Philippians 1:12-13

I want you to know, brothers, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel, so that it has become known throughout the whole imperial guard and to all the rest that my imprisonment is for Christ.

Luke gives us some background to help us understand the effect of the Gospel on the Roman soldiers and also how “most of the brethren” were motivated to share the Gospel--

And he stayed two full years in his own rented quarters and was welcoming all who came to him (surely many of the saints in Rome - the ones that gained courage to preach the Gospel), preaching the kingdom of God and teaching concerning the Lord Jesus Christ with all openness, unhindered. (Acts 28:30-31)

Here Paul was chained by an 18” handcuff, one cuff on his wrist and one cuff on a Roman soldier, 24/7 for 2 full years!

First notice the phrase advance the Gospel. The word for advance gives us a great word picture for it was used of an army of pioneer woodcutters who would go ahead of the regular army, cutting a road through an impenetrable forest, thus making possible the pioneer advance of the army into regions they otherwise could not have gone.  So in our context, Paul's uses of the word advance implies that the Gospel had obstructions that needed to be removed. In using this word advance, Paul assures the Philippian saints that his circumstances have not only failed to curtail his missionary work, but they have actually advanced it and brought about a pioneer advance in regions where otherwise the Gospel could not have gone. And beloved, it is so in our lives. Our God-ordained or God-permitted circumstances are used of God to provide for a pioneer advance of the Gospel in our Christian service.

SIDE OBSERVATION: Notice the phrase the “Gospel...has become known throughout the whole imperial guard” That describes a phenomenal spread of the Gospel from ONE MAN! Numbers vary but several sources say there were some 15,000 imperial guards in Paul’s day (Wikipedia)! A new guard would be chained to Paul every 6 hours which would mean Paul had exposure to about 3000 guards over 2 years (assuming no repeat guards). That leaves 12,000 who never personally heard Paul and yet the inspired Word of God says the Gospel became known throughout all 15,000 elite guards! One Spirit filled man living with one purpose to proclaim Christ! What would God do with each of us if we had a similar mindset and life purpose? May Paul’s example stir a passion in each of us to proclaim Christ in wherever platform God appoints for us.

Let me ask you a trick question -- Where is Paul as he writes this letter? In prison? Well you are only partially correct! Look at the little phrase “FOR CHRIST” which in Greek is literally IN CHRIST.  Paul is in “2 locations at once!” One natural, the other supernatural. One temporal, the other eternal! Can you see how where Paul sees himself, changes his perspective on his suffering? Yes he is in chains, but he knows that more importantly he is in Christ. And the same dynamic is true in our lives, for we all have two addresses -- our temporal home in Austin and our eternal home in Christ. May the Spirit use that simple truth to transform the way we  think about trials and suffering in Christ and for His Name’s sake. Amen.

Now, just imagine the scene - Paul a captive, chained to an elite Roman guard. Do you see the incredible paradox? Paul a captive with a captive audience! How many preachers would love to have that problem! And to add to the paradox, the captive (Paul) was free in Christ and would be condemned only to temporal death, whereas the Roman soldier was in bondage to sin and Satan and ultimately condemned to eternal death. But as alluded to earlier the phrase throughout the whole praetorian guard suggests some soldiers were set free in Christ upon hearing the Good News! Paul's Gospel was like a rock thrown into a pond sending out ripples of waves until the entire praetorian guard had heard the Gospel. I wonder how many elite Roman soldiers we will meet in heaven? We get a clue from how Paul signs off his letter - “All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar's household (which includes soldiers).”  (Phi 4:22-note ESV) The fact that the Gospel permeated these battle tested elite Roman soldiers should encourage all of us to “throw the rock in the pond,” that the Gospel might ripple forth. Only in eternity future will we see how many souls were impacted by the ripples produced by your Spirit enabled boldness to speak of Christ crucified, buried and risen.

Let’s take that little phrase “what has happened to me.” Three points on this phrase:

(1) Why does he even speak about what had happened? Epaphroditus (Php 2:25-note, Php 4:18-note) had come from Philippi and told him they were worried for they had heard about his imprisonment and surely thought that was the end of Paul’s missionary activity.

(2) If I had written this I would have said something like this “I want you to know what has happened to me and how I have been thrown into prison (albeit "house arrest"), chained to a smelly Roman guard with stinking Roman goulash for breakfast, lunch and dinner! Not Paul. He had been given lemons so to speak but had chosen to make lemonade (aka "Road blocks are stepping stones to rise above our circumstances."). If you really want to know “WHAT HAPPENED” to Paul, you can fill in the blanks by reading Acts 21-28 where you read about his unjust imprisonment, his shipwreck (Acts 27:41-44), his being bitten on the hand by a deadly viper (Acts 28:3), etc, But he wanted to focus not on the specific events in Acts 21-28 but how God was able to take those events and cause them to work together for good like it says in Romans 8:28-note. In short all those things that happened had “really served to advance the Gospel.” The Gospel was Paul’s PRIORITY and this gave him proper PERSPECTIVE on his current condition of being in chains for Jesus’ sake. Beloved, when the advance of the Gospel is your highest priority, it will change your perspective on your “prison-like” circumstances! Paul was a man who lived Hebrews 12:2-note “fixing (his) eyes on Jesus, the Author and Finisher of our faith.” (Great word picture - FIXING in Greek  [click aphorao for more illustrations] = means looking away from all distractions and focused on one goal and is in the present tense = continually. E.g., horses with blinders to keep them from being distracted and keep them focused on the road, the "journey".)

(3) Paul could have been bitter, because in Ro 1:15-note he had written about 2 years earlier from Corinth to the Roman Church “I am eager to preach the Gospel to you also who are in Rome.” And now God had granted his desire by bringing him to Rome as a prisoner instead of preacher. And yet he knew that whatever comes into our life is either sent or allowed by God’s permissive will. Or stated another way, if you are a follower of Christ, a child of God, your Father filters everything that comes into your life through His loving, omnipotent hands, always seeking our good and His glory in all the circumstances of our life! That may be difficult for you to believe today as you consider your circumstances, but that is why we need to let Paul’s PERSPECTIVE on PRISON-LIKE circumstances sink into our mind and our heart, so that the Holy Spirit might renew our mind and supernaturally change the way we view our painful circumstances that seem to us like a prison from which there is no escape!

If you are experiencing prison-like circumstances, is it possible that God might use your circumstances to for the pioneer advance of the Gospel? It never hurts to ask God to show you praying something like “Show me if my adverse circumstances are opening some new area in which I can spread the message of Good News.” Amen 

Let me read you a little poem that relates to what we are discussing today (read twice and point out the change of letter in first line)…

DisappointmentHis appointment,
Change one letter, then I see
That the thwarting of my purpose
Is God’s better choice for me.

We need a Spirit enabled Pauline Perspective on Pain and Prisons so that we might all come to see our DISAPPOINTMENTS as HIS APPOINTMENTS!

Let me give you an illustration of the practice of this principle from the life of “the prince of preachers” and how God used a “prison like” circumstance to advance the Gospel…

Everyone has heard of Charles Haddon Spurgeon, the famous British preacher, but few know the story of his wife, Susannah. Early in their married life, Mrs. Spurgeon became an invalid. It looked as though her only ministry would be encouraging her husband and praying for his work. But God gave her a burden to share her husband’s books with pastors who were unable to purchase them. This burden soon led to the founding of the “Book Fund.” As a work of faith, the “Book Fund” provided literally thousands of other pastors with tools for their work in proclaiming the Gospel. All this was supervised by Mrs. Spurgeon from her home. It was a pioneer ministry.


“John Bunyan’s preaching was so popular and powerful, and so unacceptable to leaders in the seventeenth-century Church of England, that he was jailed in order to silence him. Refusing to be silent, he began to preach in the jail courtyard. He not only had a large audience of prisoners, but also hundreds of the citizens of Bedford and the surrounding area would come to the prison daily and stand outside to hear him expound Scripture. He was silenced verbally by being placed deep inside the jail and forbidden to preach at all. Yet in that silence, he spoke loudest of all and to more people than he could have imagined. It was during that time that he wrote The Pilgrim’s Progress (book and notes by John Piper), the great Christian classic that has ministered the Gospel to tens of millions throughout the world. For several centuries, it was the most widely read and translated book in the world after the Bible. Bunyan’s opponents were able to stop his preaching for a few years, but they were not able to stop his ministry. Instead, they provided opportunity for it to be extended from deep within a jail in the small town of Bedford to the ends of the earth.” (from John MacArthur)

(2) Phil 1:14 And most of the brothers, having become confident in the Lord by my imprisonment, are much more bold to speak the word without fear.


Paul’s chains not only gave contact with the lost, but gave courage to the saved. Paul’s courage was contagious!

Notice several things about this verse:

Most of the brothers – “Most of the brothers and sisters” not just the men but the women. He is speaking of the believers in Rome.

Are much more bold to speak – The word is speak not preach! Notice these believers in Rome were emboldened by Paul’s example to speak more openly about Christ in their day to day conversations. They weren’t preaching to their peers, they were simply speaking openly of their Savior and His good news. All to often I am guilty of PREACHING to someone rather than SPEAKING to them! Now where does this boldness come from? Did they just eat a bowl of Cheerios, the breakfast of champions, that morning? Of course not – they had heard of Paul’s boldness to speak of Christ to men with swords in their hands! But there is undoubtedly another source of their boldness as we see in the Book of Acts. Let’s read Acts 4:31 which is a description of the brothers and sisters in the early church (Wayside in Jerusalem).

“And when they had prayed, the place where they had gathered together was shaken, and they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and began to speak (Laleo, the same word used by Paul in Php 1:14) the word of God with boldness.”

We see this same pattern all through the book of Acts – filled with the Spirit, speaking boldly to others about Jesus and His Gospel. Even Paul himself asks for prayer to speak boldly…

(Pray) also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the Gospel, for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak (Again same word for speak in Php 1:14). (Eph 6:19-20-note ESV)

A couple of illustrations how suffering of one saint stimulated in other saints a desire to spread the Gospel...

Martin Luther’swork was spurred on by the courage of John Huss, who was burned at the stake for his faith in Jesus. In fact listen to John Huss’ words to his executioner - “You are now going to burn a goose (meaning of Huss’ name), but in a century you will have a swan whom you can neither roast or boil!” Martin Luther came about 100 years after Huss encouraged by his martyrdom. What is fascinating is that Luther had a swan for his coat of arms!

The ministries of John Wesleyand George Whitefield were built on the courage of John Bunyan, who wrote Pilgrim’s Progress. Bunyan suffered thirteen years in prison for preaching the gospel on the streets of Bedford. When asked if he would cease to preach, his valiant reply was, “Release me today and I will preach in the streets tomorrow.” So his enemies kept him in prison.

Alexander Maclaren - A soul all on flame has power to kindle others. There is an old story of a Scottish martyr whose constancy at the stake touched so many hearts that ‘a merry gentleman’ said to Cardinal Beaten, ‘If ye burn any more you should burn them in low cellars, for the reek (smoke) of Mr. Patrick Hamilton has infected as many as it blew upon…. The history of the Church has largely consisted in the biographies of its saints, and every great revival of religion has been the flame kindled round a flaming heart.

Modern Example - After Jim Elliot and his four missionary friends were brutally martyred by the Auca Indians in South America in 1956, a large number of Wheaton College graduates offered themselves as missionaries in the years following (Elliot had graduated from Wheaton). (Elliot said "He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.")

Beloved, you can write it down in gold ink…

COSTLY Christianity always inspires COURAGEOUS Christianity!

APPLICATION OF Philippians 1:12-14 -  Three applications:

(1) Let’s pray for ourselves and for each other to be bold to speak the Gospel to the lost. If Paul in prison asked for prayer to be bold to share the Gospel (Eph 6:19-20) can we do any less?!

Francis Chan asks "Why are we cowards when it comes to speaking the Gospel? Could it be because there’s a deeper conflict going on? Could it be that speaking the gospel is warfare? I think so (see 2 Cor 4:3-4-note). Let us pray for great courage as we make the Gospel known to people. Let us think on the affliction of other missionaries and pray for God to grant us boldness in making the gospel known. (Christ-Centered Exposition)

(2) Enabled by the Spirit, let’s seek to be contagious Christians like Paul proved to be “contagious” to the brothers and sisters in Rome. As someone has said “Enthusiasm for Christ is contagious!” Has anyone caught this sense of excitement and passion from being around you? Don’t be too hard on yourself – practice Paul’s pattern of J.O.Y – and the Spirit will stir the passion and excitement in your heart!

(3) Perhaps you’ve been a believer for years, maybe even decades, and you’ve lost that Pauline passion to share the Gospel – let me suggest you get around some very new believers and listen to them speak passionately of their desire to share Jesus and the Gospel with others. I think you will find their passion for Jesus contagious. Proverbs says “Iron sharpens iron, so one man sharpens another.” (Pr 27:17) Too often I have seen older believers say to young believers who are bubbling over with Jesus that they just need to get a grip and tighten their lip a bit. Talk about quenching the fire of the Holy Spirit!

(4) One practical suggestion on how we can “proclaim Christ” - Our day to day (Monday-Saturday) walk (especially, our attitude in difficult circumstances) always has an effect, not only on the lost, but also on the Lord’s people. Both groups are watching us - Are we always grumbling (cf Php 2:14-note)? Or are we joyfully trusting in the loving sovereignty of God in the midst of difficult trials proclaiming the reality of faith in Christ both to the lost and the saved. Lost people will want to know why we’re different, why we don’t complain like everyone else. The Lord’s people who are discouraged will see our faith in God in the midst of trials and be encouraged to trust Him and bear witness for Him.

Dr W H Houghton, pastored Calvary Baptist Church in NYC and later served as president of Moody Bible Institute. When Dr. Houghton became pastor of the Baptist Tabernacle in Atlanta, a man in that city hired a private detective to follow Dr. Houghton and report on his conduct. After a few weeks, the detective was able to report to the man that Dr. Houghton’s life matched his preaching. As a result of Houghton’s faithful life, that man became a Christian. There are more flies caught with honey than with vinegar, and there will be more souls led to heaven by a man who wears heaven in his face than by one who bears death in his looks.

Adoniram Judson - Many years ago when the great missionary Adoniram Judson was home on furlough, he passed through the city of Stonington, Connecticut. A young boy playing about the wharves at the time of Judson’s arrival was struck by the man’s appearance. Never before had he seen such a light on any human face. He ran up the street to a minister to ask if he knew who the stranger was. The minister hurried back with him, but became so absorbed in conversation with Judson that he forgot all about the impatient youngster standing near him. Many years afterward that boy—who could never get away from the influence of that wonderful face—became the famous preacher Henry Clay Trumbull (The life story of Henry Clay Trumbull). In a book of memoirs he penned a chapter entitled: "What a Boy Saw in the Face of Adoniram Judson." That lighted countenance had changed his life. Even as flowers thrive when they bend to the light, so shining, radiant faces come to those who constantly turn toward Christ! (Read original story)

Now let’s look briefly at the last 4 verses...

(3) Philippians 1:15-18 Preaching with Mixed Motives (Critics Exposed)

15 Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will.

16 The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel.

17 The former proclaim Christ out of rivalry, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment.

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed

Alexander MacLaren - It comes, then, to be a testing question for each of us, have we learned from Paul this lesson of tolerance, which is not the result of cold indifference, but the outcome of fiery enthusiasm and of a clear recognition of the one thing needful? Granted that there is preaching from unworthy motives and modes of work which offend our tastes and prejudices, and that there are types of evangelistic earnestness which have errors mixed up with them, are we inclined to say ‘Nevertheless Christ is proclaimed, and therein I rejoice, Yea, and will rejoice’? Much chaff may be blended with the seeds sown; the chaff will lie inert and the seed will grow. Such tolerance is the very opposite of the carelessness which comes from languid indifference. The one does not mind what a man preaches because it has no belief in any of the things preached, and to it one thing is as good as another, and none are of any real consequence. The other proceeds from a passionate belief that the one thing which sinful men need to hear is the great message that Christ has lived and died for them, and therefore, it puts all else on one side and cares nothing for jangling notes that may come in, if only above them the music of His name sounds out clear and full.

Wiersbe - It is a matter of historic record that the two great English evangelists, John Wesley and George Whitefield, disagreed on doctrinal matters. Both of them were very successful, preaching to thousands of people and seeing multitudes come to Christ. It is reported that somebody asked Wesley if he expected to see Whitefield in heaven, and the evangelist replied, “No, I do not.” “Then you do not think Whitefield is a converted man?” “Of course he is a converted man!” Wesley said. “But I do not expect to see him in heaven—because he will be so close to the throne of God and I so far away that I will not be able to see him!” Though he differed with his brother in some matters, Wesley did not have any envy in his heart, nor did he seek to oppose Whitefield’s ministry. Criticism is usually very hard to take, particularly when we are in difficult circumstances

We can overcome this harmful attitude, but first we must identify it. Jealousy believes that someone else is getting what we deserve—whether money, popularity, wisdom, skill, or spiritual maturity. Second, we must confess it. Call it what it is—sin. And third, we must give thanks. The moment we see someone enjoying any advantage, we must accept it with gratitude. We can keep jealousy in check by refusing to compare ourselves with others. As we learn to find our satisfaction in God, His grace enables us to rejoice with those who rejoice. When we do that, we have little room for envy. Besides, when we turn green with envy, we are ripe for trouble!

Have you ever been jealous of God effectively using someone in ministry? Don’t worry I won’t ask for a show of hands, but If we are honest, we would all answer “yes.”

PRINICIPLE - Paul is not concerned about vindicating himself or being vindictive to the petty preachers. In showing us this attitude he gives us a perfect example of Php 2:4-note "do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others." The "others" he was looking out for were those lost souls who had never heard the Gospel preached and were at least hearing it from these men with sorry motives but a sound message!

APPLICATION - The clear application from this text for all of us in ministry (and every saint is in ministry) is to check your motives. Why do you do what you do in ministry? Check them now for they will be checked later!

Therefore do not go on passing judgment before the time, but wait until the Lord comes who will both bring to light the things hidden in the darkness and disclose the motives of men’s hearts; and then each man’s praise will come to him from God. (1 Cor 4:5)

PRINCIPLE – The INTRINSIC power (dunamis) of the Gospel - Paul's detractors preached the true Gospel, and it had an impact not because of the petty messenger but because of the powerful message for the "Gospel is the power of God (not of wrongly motivated men) for salvation to everyone who believes. (Ro 1:16-note)

A selfishly motivated preacher can still be used of God, though not as much as he could be otherwise. The power of the Gospel is more powerful than the package it comes in.

Phil 1:15 - Who is my life "preaching"?

The clear application from this text for all of us in ministry (and every saint is in ministry) is to Check your motives.

Why do you do what you do in ministry?

Ask yourself, Am I constantly comparing myself with others in ministry?

Do I rejoice when my friends succeed, or do I grow jealous?

Do I resent it when others are praised?

Does it bother you when others are praised, promoted, and more recognized then you?

What about if they try to tear you down in order to build themselves up?

Solution? (Phil 1:18). The way you overcome your spirit of envy and rivalry and even desire to afflict another person in ministry is by practicing the “J.O.Y.” RULE (enabled by the Spirit - Jesus first, Others next, Yourself last) like Paul – He focused on Jesus, His Gospel and His glory.

We need to practice the words of that great old Hymn –

Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face,
And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace. Amen? Amen!

Paraphrase - What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed

Philippians 1:18 But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. (Phi 1:18 NIV)

Here are a few LESSONS FROM Philippians 1:15-18

  1. We need to constantly check our motives in ministry, and continually seek to proclaim Christ. (Remember when we turn green with envy, we are ripe for trouble!)  As an aside note that in these verses Paul is contrasting fleshly preaching versus Spirit filled preaching. Why do I say that? Because “envy and rivalry (strife)” are the rotten fruit of the flesh in Gal 5:20-21-note whereas “LOVE” (Php 1:16) is the supernatural fruit of the Spirit in Gal 5:22-note. So if you are experiencing envy and strife, what’s the secret of eradicating that rotten fruit from your life? Confess it as a sin and then yield to and “Walk by the Spirit and you will not gratify the (evil) desire of the flesh.” (Gal 5:16-note) 
  2. Respond to those who criticize your ministry by singing a hymn! Imitate Paul = “Turn your eyes upon Jesus, Look full in His wonderful face, And the things of earth will grow strangely dim, In the light of His glory and grace.” Amen? Amen!

    John MacArthur says that the aspect of ministry that "most distresses (him) is being falsely accused by fellow preachers of the Gospel. For whatever reason, there are men who seem to desire to discredit the ministry of others. As a result they falsely accuse other ministers, not because those they attack are unbelievers, but simply to discredit them....The pain runs deep when preachers of the Gospel slander, malign, misrepresent, criticize, accuse, oppose, or belittle your ministry."

  3. Petty messengers do not invalidate a powerful message! 
  4. The Gospel has intrinsic power to save. Romans 1:16-note says (a great verse to memorize) "I am not ashamed of the Gospel, for (Paul explains why he is not ashamed) it is the POWER OF GOD (the dynamis of God, the inherent supernatural divine power) for salvation to everyone who believes to the Jew first and also to the Greek." 
  5. And so the effectiveness of the Gospel is dependent on God's power not our polished presentation. This truth of the intrinsic power of the Gospel should encourage you - you may not be the most eloquent speaker, but remember God is not looking for Gospel messengers with ability but with availability. We are to speak the simple, but powerful message that Jesus died for our sins, was buried, was raised on the third day (don’t omit the resurrection!) That's the Gospel in brief. If you speak that message in your casual conversations, don't worry about how eloquent you are, but take heart that God's Gospel will not return void without accomplishing what He intends. We are like a bunch of farmers, casting Gospel seeds into the soil of human hearts. As Paul said "I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth." (1 Co 3:6) Beloved, be faithful to speak the Gospel of Jesus and you will be fruitful and will hear Jesus say “Well done, My good and faithful servant.”  (Mt 25:21 ESV)” 

Let’s review the main points we have covered in Philippians 1:15-18:

  1. God can use your suffering circumstances to advance the Gospel.
  2. Seek to be a Spirit filled contagious Christian.
  3. Pray for Spirit enabled boldness to proclaim Christ.
  4. Check your motives (at the door) when you minister.
  5. Trust in the power of the Gospel, not your polished presentation.
  6. AND REJOICE! (Ben will cover that next week).


CHEERING THE ADVANCE OF THE CAUSE - Joe Stowell - One thing we have to get over if we are going to honor Christ in our work is our competitive spirit. The goal of serving Him is to advance His cause, not our reputation or ministry.
One Easter Sunday, a church across town decided to set a record attendance by having a “Friends Day” and throwing an Easter egg roll on their front lawn for all the kids who came. To be candid, I felt a sense of competition with this particular church and was quietly critical of its approach to ministry.
What really bothered me was the fact that many of the friends their people called to invite to their service were members of our church. My heart was reproved by Paul’s attitude in Philippians 1:18, where he spoke about others who were more successful than he, even though the motivation for their ministry was competitive and less than pure.
A woman in our church came to me one Sunday evening in great frustration as she blurted out, “Pastor, do you know how many they had at Temple Baptist Church this morning? They had more than fifteen hundred there, and many of them were our own people. I don’t think that’s right or fair, do you?” It was a test of my motives. I wish I could always be this on target, but thankfully the Word had done a remedial work on my carnal perspectives and I found myself saying, “Are you telling me that more than fifteen hundred people in our town heard the gospel of Jesus Christ this morning? Isn’t that the best news you’ve heard in a long time?” She was stunned and verbally backpedaled to “Well . . . well . . . yes, I guess it is.”
When our focus is on the glory of Christ and the gain of His kingdom, it doesn’t make a whole lot of difference who facilitates the goal. If Jesus is lifted up, our hearts should rejoice—unless we think our life and ministry are all about us.
Are you a competitor with other Christians or a colleague in the cause? Do you rejoice when they succeed? (Strength for the Journey)


Phi 1:18-26

18 What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.

Yes, and I will rejoice,

19 for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death.

21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,

26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.



A story is told about a man who preached an impressive sermon, seeking to be the pastor of a new church. Everybody loved it and voted for him to become their new pastor. They were a bit surprised, however, when he preached the same sermon his first Sunday there—and even more surprised when he preached it again the next week. After he preached the same sermon the third week in a row, the leaders met with him to find out what was going on. The pastor assured them, “I know what I’m doing. When you start living out this sermon, I’ll go on to my next one.”

Today’s Scripture includes one of the most sublime, profound statements ever uttered by a human being = “To live is Christ, to die is gain.” One could say this is Paul’s “LIFE VERSE” and so we’ll talk about it today. Remember that to hear a message on God’s work in Paul’s life is one thing but being willing to live the message as Paul did is quite another.

My prayer is that enabled by the Spirit we might all be changed by the preaching of God’s Word, that Christ might become more and more our greatest desire, our Pearl of great price, and that we would live out this Gospel truth in such a way before the lost world that they would ask us why we are different (1 Pe 3:15). Amen


OPENING ILLUSTRATION - A young man came to W. E. Gladstone when he was Prime Minister of England and said,

“Mr. Gladstone, I would appreciate your giving me a few minutes in which I might lay before you my plans for the future. I would like to study law.”

“Yes,” said the great statesman, “and what then?”

“Then, sir, I would like to gain entrance to the Bar of England.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?”

“Then, sir, I hope to have a place in Parliament, in the House of Lords.”

“Yes, young man, what then?” pressed Gladstone.

“Then I hope to do great things for Britain.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?”

“Then, sir, I hope to retire and take life easy.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?” he tenaciously asked.

“Well, then, Mr. Gladstone, I suppose I will die.”

“Yes, young man, and what then?”

The young man hesitated and then said, “I never thought any further than that, sir.”

Looking at the young man sternly and steadily, Gladstone said, “Young man, you are a fool. Go home and think life through!”

This illustration begs the question "WHAT ARE YOU LIVING FOR?" ARE YOU LIVING FOR TIME OR FOR ETERNITY? You answer will determine the direction of your life. If you are living for the wrong purpose, your direction will be wrong. If your purpose is vague or fuzzy, your direction will be fuzzy. If you don’t know your purpose, you’ll just be swept along by the currents of our age, doing what seems to bring you happiness. It is crucial that you be clear and correct in answering the question, “What are you living for?” As the story of the young man and Mr. Gladstone illustrates, the correct answer to that question must include some thought about the fact of death and what lies beyond. It must also include consideration of the uncertainty of life, so that whenever death may come, it doesn’t thwart your purpose, for if your purpose is God's purpose for your life, for you are immortal until your work on earth is done! That's part of the Good News of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul was clear on his purpose. I would submit that the purpose for which he lived is the only purpose that takes eternity into account, so that whether we live a long life or whether it is cut short, that purpose will be fulfilled. In short, Paul’s purpose was, “For to me, to live is Christ” (Php 1:21). That's what we will be talking about today "What is your purpose for living?"

Philippians 1:18b – In this I rejoice

This looks backward at the circumstances (including the spread of the Gospel in the Roman elite troops, the increased courage of the saints in Rome and the petty preachers) and he is able to rejoice because Christ is continually being proclaimed.

John MacArthur writes that "One of the surest measures of a Christian’s spiritual maturity is what it takes to rob him of his Spirit-bestowed joy. Paul’s maturity is evident in the present text as he makes it clear that difficult, unpleasant, painful, even life-threatening circumstances did not rob him of joy but rather caused it to increase. Although it is a gift from God to every believer and administered by the Holy Spirit (Galatians 5:22), joy is not always constant and full. The only certain cause for loss of joy in a believer’s life is sin, which corrupts his fellowship with the Lord, who is the source of joy. Such sinful attitudes as dissatisfaction, bitterness, sullenness, doubt, fear, and negativism cause joy to be forfeited. Consequently, the only way to restore lost joy is to repent and return to proper worship of and obedience to God. Anything other than sin—no matter how difficult, painful, or disappointing—need not take away the believer’s joy. Yet even minor things can do so if believers react sinfully to them. A change for the worse in health, job, finances, personal relationships, or other important areas of life can easily cause believers to question the Lord, His sovereign wisdom, and His gracious provision. When that happens, joy is one of the first casualties. Believers are especially vulnerable when such things happen suddenly, taking them off guard. Their response is often one of anger, doubt, distrust, fear, self-pity, ingratitude, or complaining. In such cases, events that are not sinful in themselves lead to sinful responses that steal joy.

Paul is in prison but he is a Spirit filled prison of Christ Jesus and so he is continually enabled to rejoice in the midst of trying circumstances. 

Jean Nicolas Grou (1731-1803) said that “The chief pang of most trials is not so much the actual suffering itself as our own spirit of resistance to it.” (Might want to read that again.)

Let’s turn this excellent statement around, in a way that helps explain the joy of the apostle Paul by saying that “The Christian’s joy in the midst of trials is not to be found in the suffering itself (which would be mere masochism), but in the privilege of taking part in the good ends God has foreordained to come about through these trials.” Of course to do so means we need to trust God’s “good ends” out of “bad beginnings!” (from Bob Deffinbaugh)

Philippians 1:18b-19 - Yes, and I will rejoice, for I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance,

POWER OF I WILL REJOICE looks to what the future holds and enabled by the prayers of the saints and the lavish (not skimpy) supply of the Spirit makes the choice to rejoice.

  • Paul says that he “will” rejoice in the future. How does this challenge you?

I KNOW – This specific verb speaks of Paul’s absolute, unhesitating assurance and confidence in his eventual deliverance in life or in death.

THROUGH YOUR PRAYERS (Gk = deesis) - Php 1:19 tells us that Paul was joyful in part because of the prayers of God’s people. It gave him great comfort to know that Christians were praying for him. Friend, never underestimate the importance of intercession. In 1 Thessalonians 5:25, Paul asked the church in Thessalonica to pray for him and in 2 Thessalonians 3:1, he linked prayer with the proclamation and spread of the gospel: “Finally, brothers, pray for us that the message of the Lord may spread rapidly and be honored, just as it was with you.” He asked the Ephesian believers to pray that he would “make known with boldness the mystery of the gospel” (Ephesians 6:19). Paul spoke of the effect of the prayers of praying saints in his second letter to the Corinthian, writing

You are helping us by praying for us. Then many people will give thanks because God has graciously answered so many prayers for our safety. (2Co 1:11 NLT)

Christ Centered Exposition - James reminds us that prayer is effectual (Jas 5:16). In the book of Acts we have numerous examples of the church praying for boldness and endurance in trial (e.g., Acts 12). Paul told the Corinthians that God was using their prayers to help them in his great trials (2 Cor 1:5,8-11). He also implored the Romans, the Ephesians, the Colossians, and the Thessalonians to pray for him (Ro 15:30; Eph 6:18-19; Col 4:3-4; 1 Th 5:25; 2 Th 3:1). So this reference to the Philippians isn’t some passing comment. Paul really believed, like the other apostles and early saints, that God uses the prayers of His people to provide strength to His servants. So then, let’s ask others to pray for us. And let’s pray for others. What an encouragement it is to know that people are praying for you, and how important it is that you are praying for others. (Christ-Centered Exposition Commentary – Exalting Jesus in Philippians.)


  • Don’t miss the connection between how prayer leads to provision to men and praise to God.
  • As someone has well said, “Prayer ON earth leads to power IN heaven.” Is this mysterious? Of course! But it is Scripturally true!
  • What does this passage teach us about the importance of intercessory prayer?
  • For whom have you interceded this past week?
  • Are you praying for your pastors and elders like the Philippian saints were praying for their "former pastor?"

Here is a modern example of the power of intercessory prayer to encourage you to intercede (especially for Unreached People Groups):

Latin American Prayer for Pashtuns by KC - “If you are wondering whether prayer really makes a difference, in this particular case we have the proof,” says missionary David Taylor. A Christian radio ministry had been broadcasting for years to the unreached Pashtun people of Pakistan and Afghanistan (>30 million). They were receiving about 60 responses to their program each month. “As soon as thousands of churches in Latin America began praying for the Pashtuns, this radio program began receiving hundreds and then thousands of responses each month,” Taylor exclaims. “Like the Bible story of the disciples whose nets could not handle all the fish, this ministry is now asking for help from others to handle this unexpected interest in the gospel!” This miracle did not happen overnight. About five years ago, Guatemalan missionary Rigoberto Diguero began working with the Adopt-A-People movement to encourage Latin American believers to regularly pray for one unreached people group. That people group was the Pashtuns. He worked especially hard with his own denomination, Assembly of God. Five years later, we are hearing about the results. There are many other mission agencies and denominations in Latin America that can do the same. Just think what will happen when they begin to adopt the Tibetans, Brahmins, and Japanese! Pray for this prayer movement, which began in El Salvador, to spread to every mission agency and every country in Latin America. (Global Prayer Digest entry May, 19, 2017)

HELP OF THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST – The Greek word the ESV translates “help” (epichoregia - related verb epichoregeo) gives us our English word chorus. Whenever a Greek city was going to put on a special festival, some would pay for the singers. This donation had to be a LAVISH one to assure the festival would not be hamstrung or crippled by lack of funds! Thus this Gk word came to mean “to provide generously and lavishly.” Paul was not depending on his own dwindling resources (for deliverance); he was depending on the generous resources of God the Holy Spirit.

The thought is that no expense was spared in order that a top notch performance might be achieved. How beautifully this word picture ties into what follows!


  • We need to adopt the same approach as Paul when we find ourselves in difficult circumstances! We need to renounce self-reliance and rely on the Spirit's supernatural sufficiency!
  • Are you learning Paul’s secret of contentment which we will talk about in Php 4:11-13-note?

DELIVERANCE – The Greek word (soteria) means rescue from grave danger (e.g., martyrdom in Paul’s case) and can also refer to salvation (heaven in Paul’s case). Whatever the precise meaning, Paul knew that what he was going through was just temporary. This is similar to what he wrote in 2 Corinthians 4:17-18 (in the NLT paraphrase):

For our present troubles are small and won't last very long. Yet they produce for us a glory that vastly outweighs them and will last forever! So we don't look at the troubles we can see now; rather, we fix our gaze on things that cannot be seen. For the things we see now will soon be gone, but the things we cannot see will last forever. (2Co 4:17-18NLT-note)

Many commentators believe Paul was eventually released, traveled to Spain and then was arrested again before he was martyred. It’s fascinating that the phrase, “this will turn out for my deliverance” is an exact quote from the Septuagint (Lxx), which is the Greek translation of the Old Testament of Job 13:16. Just as Job knew that he would eventually be delivered, whether out of death, or through death, so Paul knew that he would win either way. Here is the point of Paul quoting Job a righteous man in the OT who was also confident God would deliver him through life or death -- Paul trusted in the Word of God. The Word of God had so permeated his being that he would reach into the "concordance" of his heart and pull out this quotation from the book of Job!

So Paul was confident of his deliverance based on 4 things (1) the prayers of the saints, (2) the provision of the Spirit, (3) the trustworthiness of God's Word and (4) past experiences with God. Where do we see that? Paul says in Php 1:20 "Christ will even now, as always (AS HE HAD ALWAYS BEEN BEFORE IN THE MANY DIFFICULT AND DANGEROUS TRIALS HE HAD EXPERIENCED), be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death."

Also do not miss the connection between how prayer is associated with the provision of the Spirit. Yes the Spirit is sovereign, but yes, God answers the cries of His interceding children. How God's sovereignty and man's responsibility work together seamlessly is a mystery but it is rock solid truth we can count on. Someone  said it this way -- “Prayer on earth leads to power in heaven.” C S Lewis adds that "God could have chosen to do His work on this earth in any fashion He wanted, but He chose in His sovereignty to do it in response to prayer."

Personal Application -- Don’t hesitate to ask others to pray for you when you are in difficult circumstances. Fill out a request card and drop it in the collection box and rest assured you will be prayed for. Let us know if you want to keep the request confidential for the pastors and elders. And when you see things transpire that can only be ascribed to God, let us know so we can together give God all the glory!

Here are some other applications of Philippians 1:19 -

  • Are you fixing your eyes on your difficult circumstances or upon your dynamic Deliverer Christ Jesus? (cf Heb 12:2-note). Ask God for the grace to do the latter.
  • Do you ask others to pray for you when you are suffering through a trial or do you go it alone? The great apostle Paul did not hesitate to ask for prayer - (1 Th 5:25 “Brethren pray for us.” 2 Th 3:1, Eph 6:19-20) Be willing to humble yourself and ask for prayer, for God says He is opposed to the proud but gives grace to the humble. (Jas 4:60-note)
  • Do you believe that the specific prayers by righteous saints on your behalf are powerful and effective? (cf Jas 5:16)
  • Are you learning to rely on our Father's lavish provision of the Holy Spirit to enable you to do supernaturally what you cannot do naturally (like Joy in the midst of trying circumstances)?

Philippians 1:20 as it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage (complete boldness) now as always Christ will be honored (exalted) in my body, whether by life or by death.


What is Paul saying in this passage? Paul was bold and unashamed and was concerned only that Christ would be magnified in his body regardless of what awaited him--life or death. There was no wavering on his part.

KEY POINT: Instead of bringing shame to our Lord, we exalt Christ in our Bodies!

How are you doing? Did you exalt Him in your body this past week? Remember if you are a believer, your BODY is no longer your own Paul in fact commands to glorify ("exalt, magnify") Christ in our BODY! (1 Cor 6:19-20-note).

Practically speaking, how do we exalt (or not exalt) Christ in our bodies?

This is a very practical question. It means that we may either exalt Christ or bring shame to His name by our attitudes, our words, and our behavior.

  • How do you use your eyes? A lustful glance at a woman or even at a sexy picture does not exalt Christ.
  • How do you use your ears? Do you listen to music that defiles you or music that exalts Christ? Do you listen to gossip or slander?
  • How do you use your tongue?Your hands?Your feet?Your countenance?
  • Do you use your body in purity or for sensuality?
  • What about your personal appearance?
  • Do you dress to be seductive or to attract attention to yourself? Or, do you exalt Christ?

To “live (is) Christ” means to exalt Him through everything we do.

How would this be possible? Where does Paul get the power to always honor Christ in his body? Through the lavish supply of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Paul describes here the performance he is aiming for through the "lavish supply" of Christ's Spirit.

Paul's "body" is the theater and the production is "the magnifying of Christ--whether by life or death."

EAGER EXPECTATION - Earnest expectation" (apokaradokia) is a word "composed of the preposition 'away,' the noun 'head,' and the verb 'watching,' and indicates watching something with the head turned away from other objects. It indicates the concentrated, intense hope which ignores other interests and strains forward as with outstretched head. It’s only other use is in Romans 8:19-note in the beautiful phrase “For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. (ESV).” Creation is eagerly awaiting the day our bodies are GLORIFIED! Hallelujah!

In other words, this word pictures "the eager, intense look which turns away from everything else to fix on the one object of desire; to watch with head outstretched." (You could stretch your head out looking intently out a window to illustrate this word picture). The word was used of watchmen looking into the darkness for a beacon of light. Paul fixed his eyes on Christ the Light of the world (Jn 8:12) and was determined that in nothing would he be ashamed. He would be a witness for Jesus Christ. Paul knew he must appear before the Lord someday and did not want to be ashamed. (cf 1 John 2:28-note)

IT IS MY...HOPE -  Hope (elpis) as used in the NT almost always means not a "hope so" but a "hope sure" and speaks of an absolute assurance of future good or an absolute certainty that God will do good to me in the future! So when Paul spoke of hope in this passage, he was not expressing uncertainty. When someone asks you if the Spurs can beat the Warriors, you might reply, "I hope so!" This is not what Paul meant. To him, a Christian's hope was a reality, a certainty! What was Paul's hope? (1) That he in no way would be ashamed and (2) that no matter what happened to him personally, he would "win!"

Why would he need to be bold (and not ashamed)? He is in enemy territory, he also has some preachers in Rome who wish him distress in prison – So where does Paul’s boldness come from? The same place his hope comes from - the intercessory prayers of the saints (do you really believe prayer works?), from the empowering presence of the Spirit and from his previous experience with Jesus (we get that from the phrase "as always").  

Regarding the word "help" (ESV) it is better rendered by the lavish enabling provision of the Spirit of Jesus Christ. Why do I say that? Because the word "help" implies I have some strength in myself to hope or to be bold and all I need is a little push! We don’t just need “HELP” from the Spirit. We need the Holy Spirit to give us both the desire and the power to hope and to be bold as Paul explained in the next chapter...

“For God [THE SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST] is working in you, giving you the desire and the power to do what pleases Him.” (Phil 2:13NLT-note The NLT is an excellent paraphrase of Php 2:13)

Let’s unpack that phrase “CHRIST WILL BE HONORED IN MY BODY” as it is filled with practical application for our lives.

In summary Paul's passion in life can be well summed up from this verse: ALL OF CHRIST THROUGH ALL OF ME AT ALL TIMES IN ALL CIRCUMSTANCES. Note what the purpose of the lavish supply of Christ's Spirit is for--the magnifying (lit.- enlarging) of Himself. God only funds His own projects!

HONORED – The Greek word means to make great – Ponder this a moment. We as redeemed sinners, have the unspeakable privilege according to Paul in some way to “make Jesus great.” Obviously HE IS GREAT, IN FACT THE GREATEST, but we have an opportunity of a lifetime to show Him off so that He is glorified in and through our lives to the world, both saved and lost! And where are we to exalt Christ? In our bodies! In truth our bodies are not ours but belong to Christ!

Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify (aorist imperative - see explanaton) God in your body. (1 Cor 6:19-20-note)

It is fascinating to note that (in Mt 23:5) the same Greek word for HONORED was used to describe the Scribes and Pharisees lengthening (making great) the tassels of their garment. Why? To draw attention to themselves! Remember the “J.O.Y.” pattern? Jesus-Others-Yourself -- Jesus first, then others, us last! Paul said we make Jesus great by placing Him first in our lives! John the Baptist in John 3:30 said it this way – Jesus must continually, daily be increasing, we must ever be decreasing. This is not one stop shopping but a life long journey of sanctification, of becoming more and more like Jesus as we take in His living Word and transformed by His life giving Spirit – The lost world desperately seeks to glorify their Self, but we seek to glorify the Savior. Not us glorified but Jesus is glorified, Jesus magnified in our life. It’s not just a song we sing on Sunday, but a life lived in the power of the Spirit on Monday (and all week long)!

Let me illustrate the principle of “MAKING JESUS GREAT” by taking you to the Sistine Chapel and Michelangelo’s classic masterpiece.

(1) ILLUSTRATION - Michelangelo (PAINTING THE SISTINE CHAPEL) is said to have often painted with a brush in one hand and a shielded candle in the other to prevent his shadow from covering the masterpiece he was creating. As God works through us to craft His glory and gain, we must be careful that our shadows are not cast across the canvas of His work.

God’s glory through us is the visible expression of His marvelous character in our lives (1 Corinthians 6:19–20; Ephesians 1:11–14). We display God’s glory when His mercy, grace, love, justice, and righteousness are actively evident. As we live to glorify Him, He becomes evident through us and His cause is advanced. In Philippians 1:20 Paul declared: “I eagerly expect and hope that I will in no way be ashamed, but will have sufficient courage so that now as always Christ will be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death.” Sadly, given our tendency to be taken with ourselves, we are more prone to live for our own glory. The goal is to follow the example of Paul, who said, “For to me, to live is Christ . . .” (Philippians 1:21).

No one can have it both ways. We either live to ENHANCE our own significance or live to EXALT our own Savior!
Enabled by the Spirit, consider doing something this week that magnifies Christ in and through your life. Demonstrate the significance of an aspect of His character—love, justice, mercy, grace, truth—and then give Him the credit.

Let me ask you –

  • In what ways does your life reflect His glory and advance the life and Gospel of Jesus?
  • Do you need to make any adjustments? Living for Christ makes life worth living.
  • Do you need to make a mid-course (life) correction?
  • In light of the fact that Paul lived to “make Jesus great,” when people look at you do they see the greatness and glory of Christ, or do they see you?
  • Are you making Christ bigger or smaller by the way you’re living?

Psalm 34:3 says, “O magnify the LORD with me, and let us exalt His name together.”

(2) ILLUSTRATION - BEING A LENS FOR JESUS - Each of us is a lens that magnifies what we live for. People can look at and through our lives and see what is really important to us. The athlete magnifies his sport, his team and his winning record. The musician magnifies the instrument he plays. The scholar magnifies his discipline. As God's people, we should magnify the Lord. The sinner's great desire is to magnify one's self. The saint's great desire should be to magnify our Savior. The Apostle Paul said, "Christ will be magnified in my body, whether by life or by death" (Phil. 1:20).

  • Are you magnifying the Lord today?
  • Can people listen to your words, look at your life, measure your actions and say, "She belongs to the Lord. He belongs to the Lord"?
  • It's important that people see the Lord, not us.

The most important quality of a lens is cleanliness. When the lenses of my glasses get dirty, I see the dirt. So I have to clean them. When we are dirty, people see us rather than the Lord. Let's keep our lives clean today. Let's magnify the Lord together; He is worthy of all praise. Christians are on display before the world. What an opportunity and responsibility you have to impact others for Christ! If you love the Lord, you will want to magnify Him. Watch your words and actions. Are you living for Jesus? Keep the lens of your life clean so that He may be magnified through you.

(3) ILLUSTRATION - George Atley, a young Englishman with the heart of a hero, was engaged in the Central African Mission. He was attacked by a band of hostile tribesmen. He had a Winchester repeating rifle with 10 loaded chambers. The tribesmen were completely at his mercy. He concluded that if he killed them it would do the mission more harm than if he allowed them to take his life. So, as a lamb to the slaughter he was led; and when his body was found in the stream, his rifle was also found with its 10 chambers still loaded. He had made the supreme sacrifice, motivated by his burden for lost souls and his unswerving devotion to his Savior. With the apostle Paul, he wanted Christ to be magnified in his body, "whether by life or by death."

Philippians 1:21 – For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.


Probably no verse better summarizes Paul's life purpose and passion (except perhaps Gal. 2:20). While still on earth, Paul saw life as inextricably bound up in covenant union with Christ, much like a marriage covenant that links the two spouses as one flesh!


Paul commands us to imitate him as he imitates Christ in 1 Cor 11:1. And remember that God’s commandments always include His enablements! What are His enablements? Two things: Filled with the Spirit, Filled with the Word.

And what is the Word we should be filled with in this present context? It is the incredible word of Paul’s Secret to Spiritual Success here in Php 1:21! In Latin it is Paul’s Summun Bonum (Highest Good). In French Paul’s Raison Detre (click to pronounce) which means “his purpose for existence!”

  • WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “LIVE CHRIST”?  In brief, to “live Christ” means to live in union with Christ, so that He becomes my all in all.

Php 1:21 is Heaven’s version of Hamlet’s quote “To Be or Not to be, that is the question” (as he contemplated suicide), but to Paul the answer to life's most profound question of Why am I here? is, "To live Christ, and to die gain". Note that there is no verb for “is” in the Greek so his declaration is even more dramatic – TO LIVE CHRIST. Christ was His life! And beloved, He is also our life, through His Spirit, the Spirit of Jesus Christ (Php 1:19).

Let's read Php 1:21 in the Amplified Version:

For to me, to live is Christ [He is my Source of joy, my Reason to live] and to die is gain [for I will be with Him in eternity] (Ed: I would add "for I will be like Him for eternity"! - see 1 John 3:2-note)

  • Christ really is all we need.
  • We must grow to know experientially what it means to “live Christ.”

Listen to Paul’s similar thought in Colossians – As I quote it note that the first clause speaks of our LIFE, the second clause speaks of our DEATH. Listen carefully and I will repeat it….

Col 3:4-note When Christ, [who is = Not in Gk] our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.

Col 3:4 When Christ, our life (TO LIVE IS CHRIST), is revealed, THEN you also will be revealed with Him in glory (TO DIE IS GAIN).

In Php 1:21 TO LIVE CHRIST. In Col 3:4 CHRIST OUR LIFE. This helps understand Paul’s great affirmation in Galatians 2:20

“I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.


How can Paul say “to live is Christ?” How did Christ live in Paul and in us today?

As he said in Php 1:19 by the lavish provision of the SPIRIT OF JESUS CHRIST. This begs the question –

Does the Spirit of Jesus Christ live through me each day?

Do I get up on Monday morning and pray something like…

(if you can carry a tune, you could sing these words to the congregation or just read them)

Spirit of the Living God (link to classic 1926 spiritual song)
Fall afresh on me.
Melt me, mold me, fill me, use me.
Spirit of the living God,
Fall afresh on me.

Before going on, let’s take a little quiz. How would you complete the following sentence?

“For to me to live is ____.”

  • What word, phrase, passion, hobby, etc would you put in the blank?
  • Don’t miss the point that no one leaves that sentence blank.
  • Everyone finishes it with something.
  • So I will ask again if you don’t fill the blank with Christ, what do you put there?

Here are four questions to help you “fill in the blank”:

  1. Where do I tend to spend spare time and money? Mt 6:21-note
  2. What objects or persons give emotional delight as I mentally brood over them?
  3. Where do my thoughts flow in my spare time?
  4. To what or whom do I turn during times of emotional upheaval or crisis?

Let’s all be very honest – If you filled in the blank with “Christ” well I say PRAISE THE LORD! But in truth very few of us are at the point of spiritual maturity described by Paul, but that should not keep us from striving to fill in the blank with CHRIST, alone.

Let me give you a simple way to unpack one of the most profound statements ever written (Php 1:21a) with 3 words…


Victorious Christianity is personal, "to me." It is practical, "to live." It is also possible, "is Christ."

ILLUSTRATION: Missionary Bill Wallace, a doctor in China, loved Php 1:21. When he was arrested by the Communists and brutally treated, he would scribble this verse and others on the wall of his cell to help keep his sanity. After months of interrogation and abuse, he was found dead. The Communists claimed that he hanged himself, but his body showed signs of having been beaten to death. His friends buried him with honor and inscribed over his grave the words they felt described the motivation of his life: "For To Me To Live Is Christ." Notice that in Bill Wallace’s death he fulfilled Paul’s desire in Php 1:20 “Christ will be honored in my body, whether by life or by death!”

ADDENDUMSteven Cole asks and addresses the critical question

WHAT DOES IT MEAN TO “LIVE CHRIST”? To “live Christ” means to live in union with Christ, so that He becomes my all in all. The concept of being “in Christ” was vital to Paul’s understanding of what it means to be a Christian. He addresses this letter “to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi” (Php 1:1). The instant a person truly believes in Jesus Christ as Savior, he is joined organically in a living, real union with Christ the Head as a member of His body, the church. To be “in Christ” means that all that is true of Christ is true of the believer. As Paul writes (Rom. 6:10, 11), “For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus.” The believer is in union with Christ. While that is our true standing before God, we must grow in our experience of the reality of that standing, so that in our daily lives, we live in fellowship with Christ, communing with Him and depending on Him for everything. It means growing to know Christ intimately (Phil. 3:10). It means growing to love Christ with all of my heart, soul, mind, and strength (Mark 12:30). It means submitting all of my thoughts, emotions, words, and deeds to the lordship of Christ, so that I seek to please Him in all respects (Col. 1:10). It means growing to experience Christ as my “all in all” (Eph. 1:23; Col. 3:11). Every aspect of life must be centered around the Lord Jesus Christ. The glorious person of Christ, and nothing less, is the Christian life. Of course, our experience of “living Christ” is a process that is never fully realized in this life. As Paul says (Phil. 3:12), “Not that I have already obtained it, or have already become perfect, but I press on in order that I may lay hold of that for which also I was laid hold of by Christ Jesus.” Even the most godly Christians have times when Christ seems distant and the soul is dull and sluggish. In this life we never reach a point where we are not tempted by sin, where we do not have to battle the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16). But, each of us who are truly children of God will have as our focus to live in an experiential way the fact of our union with Christ, so that He becomes our all in all.

  • For more discussion of what it means and what it looks like to be able to say "To live Christ" see commentary notes on Philippians 1:21. 


Spurgeon once said "It is not death to die if the death of Christ be but the life of the soul."

Did you catch what Paul is saying when he says “to die is gain”? It is easy to miss it! Paul goes on to state that death is THE ENTRANCE to "gain," NOT the exit from living. Sadly, most of us see it as the latter, as what we are losing or leaving behind and not what we are gaining!

Let me read you a little poem that beautifully expresses Paul’s sentiment:

It is not death to die
To leave this weary road
And 'midst the brotherhood on high
To be at home with God.

It is not death to close
The eye long dimmed by tears
And wake in glorious repose
To spend eternal years.

It is not death, to bear
The wrench that sets us free
From dungeon-chain to breathe the air
Of boundless liberty.

It is not death to fling
Aside this sinful dust
And rise on strong, exulting wing
To live among the just.

Jesus, thou Prince of life
Thy chosen cannot die
Like Thee, they conquer in the strife
To reign with Thee on high.

Notice also that there is a close connection between the first half of this verse and the second. The more fully our life is bound up in the person and program of Christ, the greater "our gain" in heaven. (2 Cor 4:17-18)

So let’s probe a little deeper and ask from the verses in context what is the GAIN to which Paul refers?

Look at Php 1:23 the phrase “My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.” The Greek word for “with” is not beside Christ (which will also be true!), but intimately united with Him in an eternal unbreakable covenant giving us perfect union and perfect communion with the Lover of our souls…FOREVER! That is your and my GAIN, BELOVED!

Second, let’s expand a little more on the word “gain” in “to dies is gain”…

The Greek word for gain was a monetary term meaning to make a profit on an investment. If you play around with the Stock Market, you understand the word GAIN.

Here is the point –Paul’s (and our) GAIN is not temporal trinkets, but timeless treasure!

To die for an unbeliever is to give up all your possessions, but to die as a believer is to gain your greatest Possession!

J Vernon McGee explains it this way -- "Gain is always more of the same thing. If to live is Christ, then to die would be more of Christ!”

Why are we so easily tempted to dabble with the passing pleasures of this passing world?

At death we collect the "dividends" from the Spirit enabled investments of our earthly, temporal life and Christ pays the richest dividends and will pay them throughout eternity! It is therefore no surprise that Paul said…

Therefore we also have as our ambition, whether at home (in our earthly body) or absent, to be pleasing to Him, FOR we must all appear before the judgment seat (BEMA) of Christ, so that each one may be recompensed for his deeds in the body, according to what he has done, whether good or bad (NOT SPEAKING OF SIN WHICH IS PAID IN FULL BUT OF USELESS ACTIVITIES). (2 Cor 5:9-10)

We will gain both in what we lose (sinful body, temptation, sorrow, sufferings, enemies, etc.) and in what we gain (glorified body, personal presence with Christ as we discussed, boundless joy, precious reunions with departed relatives and friends and the list goes on and on). To make the most of today, keep Christ, heaven and eternity constantly in mind because as someone has well said we are not ready to live until we are ready to die.

Paul knew that death is not a defeat to the Christian but is merely a graduation to glory, a "net gain" (so to speak) in accounting terms! When a Christian dies, he or she really finally and fully begins to live, for he or she passes into the perfect, eternal, glorious union with Christ, unhindered by the world, the flesh and the devil. The unbelieving world thinks we are placed in a cemetery when in fact we are ushered into a sanctuarY! We like Paul will enter the presence of Christ at the moment of death and this will be our ultimate “gain”.

People wonder what the purpose of life is today and what they are here for. Paul says to live is on this earth is Christ and to die is gain. Jim Elliot understood this purpose in his short life for he was killed at age 29 by the Auca Indians whom he had gone to tell about Jesus wrote in his journal words that sound a lot like the apostle Paul…

“He is no fool who gives up what he cannot keep, to gain what he cannot lose.”

The Apostle Paul would agree. Once you decide that your life won’t last forever, you are free to invest it in a cause greater than yourself. You give up what you can’t keep so that in the end you gain what you can never lose. This is what Paul meant when he said, “Whether by life or death.”

Among the ruins of ancient Carthage there is an inscription carved by a Roman soldier:

“To laugh, to hunt, to bathe, to game—that is life.”

I doubt if this is one of the soldiers that had the good fortune to be chained to a prisoner named Paul!

“For to me to live is to hunt, go to the baths, and party!”

It is the same today because most will fill in the blank of “For to me to live is____” with anything but Christ. According to the tabloids and celebrity magazines, “for to me to live is” to fornicate, to accumulate, to dine well. Or on a more prosaic (everyday, ordinary) level, “for to me to live is” to golf, to work, to garden, to travel, to watch TV, to ski—to shop ’til I drop. Of course, if this be our life, then death is the loss of everything.

When Queen Elizabeth I, the idol of European fashion, was dying, she turned to her lady-in-waiting and said, “O my God! It is over. I have come to the end of it—the end, the end.”


If for me to live is Christ, then to die is gain, but…

  • If for me to live is money, then to die is to leave it all behind
  • If for me to live is fame, then to die is to be forgotten
  • If for me to live is pleasure, then to die is to miss all the fun
  • If for me to live is ambition, then to die is to become insignificant
  • If for me to live is possessions, then to die is to have them all rust and fade away

Alexander MacLaren describes how death can be a gain.

  1. We lose everything we don’t need – the world, the flesh, and the devil. We lose our trials, troubles, tears and fears.
  2. We keep everything that matters – our personality, our identity, our fruit.
  3. We gain what we never had before – heaven, rewards, the presence of God, fellowship with other believers.


Here lies Lester Moore;
Four slugs from a .44,
No Les, no more.

That’s bad theology for Les is still more somewhere, either in heaven or in hell.

Our second tombstone is from Montgomery, Alabama and reads:

Under the clover, and Under the trees,
Here lies the body of Jonathan Pease.
Pease ain’t here, only the pod,
Pease shelled out and went home to God.

That's not bad theology.

There’s another tombstone in Indiana with this epitaph:

Pause, Stranger, when you pass me by,
As you are now, so once was I
As I am now, so you will be,
So prepare for death and follow me.

An unknown passerby read those words and underneath scratched this reply:

To follow you I’m not content,
Until I know which way you went!


What will death be like for you?

You can never say “To die is gain” unless you can also say “For to me to live is Christ.”

If you cannot say “To live is Christ,” how can you be sure that “to die is gain?”

(Source: Pastor Brian Bell)

C. S. Lewis said “Aim at heaven and you get earth thrown in. Aim at earth and you get neither!”


  • So how do you fill in the blank “To live is ____?
  • What is your passion in this short life?
  • What are you aiming for?
  • Are you living for heaven? If yes, how would you prove your answer if you were to evaluate the way you spend your time, money, and talents?
  • Make a list of earthly things that might be keeping you from pursuing eternal priorities. Ask the Lord to focus your heart on heaven in such a way that you will have no regrets when you see Him face to face!
  • Take some time to think about how you would feel if you knew this were your last day on earth. Who would you talk to? Would any of the items on your to-do list (YOUR “BUCKET LIST” as they call it) be worthwhile activities in light of eternity? Ask God by His Spirit to enable you to redeem the time for the days are evil (Eph 5:16) and to number your days so that you may present to your Lord a heart of wisdom (Ps 90:12), a life lived wisely and Biblically and in the power of the Spirit of Jesus and for His glory alone!
  • If you chose eternal heavenly treasure over temporal earthly trinkets, you will have no regrets in time or eternity!

Philippians 1:22 If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labor for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.

The Christian's Vision: Being with Christ - Php 1:22-26

Paul's Dilemma - Php 1:22-23a

Paul's Desire - Php 1:23b

Paul's Decision - Php 1:24-26

How could Paul be so confident that he will be fruitful if he continues to live on earth? He was not relying on Paul but he One Who indwelt Him, the Spirit of Christ Jesus. Paul as a Spirit filled man knows that if he keeps living in the physical flesh, the Spirit will bear fruit in his life. And so Paul expands upon the options of life or death. If he continues his sojourn on earth--"But if I live on in the flesh"--then he sees it as an opportunity to bear more fruit through his Gospel focused, Christ centered, Spirit filled ministry. Again we see Paul's strict singlemindedness (he had the mind of Christ)--he saw himself as an instrument for the unleashing of God's glory as long as time permitted (cf Acts 9:15, 20:24, 2 Ti 4:17). However, this unleashing would be a costly process--"fruit from my labor" so the prospect of leaving the battlefront and going home was appealing indeed. So appealing, in fact, that he adds, "Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell (lit.--I do not know)."


It helps to know what spiritual fruit (see fruit - Gk = karpos) is according to God's Word. Scripture describes 3 general kinds of spiritual fruit all of which yield an everlasting reward (Jn 15:16).

1) Spiritual attitude fruit – (GOOD ATTITUDE) As described in Galatians 5:22-23. Galatians 5:22-23 describes the fruit of the Spirit,attitudes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control. This spiritual attitude fruit precedes spiritual action fruit. If the spiritual attitudes are present, the fruit of good deeds will invariably follow.

2) Spiritual action fruit – (GOOD WORKS) In Colossians 1:10 Paul prayed for the saints to be filled with or controlled by the knowledge of God's will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding so that they might walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, pleasing Him in all respects and bearing fruit in every good work.

3) Spiritual converts - 1 Co 16:15 “the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia”

The key to being a good “spiritual fruit farmer” is to abide in Jesus receiving the “sap” of the Spirit for as Jesus said…

FRUIT BEARING IS OUR JOB - “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you. (John 15:16)

ABIDING IN CHRIST IS OUR NEED - “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing (ABSOLUTELY NOTHING OF ETERNAL VALUE). (John 15:5)

DEPENDING ON THE SPIRIT IS OUR POWER - It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh profits nothing; the words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life. (John 6:63)

  • How do we abide in Jesus? Sounds like a broken record but it is truth – Filled with His Word and Filled with His Spirit coupled with trust and obey.
  • What value do we place on producing fruit for Christ as opposed to our own comfort in living?

Philippians 1:23 I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.

We could title this verse PAUL’S DILEMMA – TO STAY OR GO and our subtitle might be THE LUST OF A GODLY MAN’S HEART, a phrase I will explain in a moment and which teaches us a powerful principle of how to fight the good fight of faith!

Here Paul further explains his dilemma of going home (to be with Christ) or to stay on the battlefield (do you see this world as a spiritual battlefield?).

HARD PRESSED (sunecho/synecho) – A great word picture as it was used of a traveler in a narrow passage with a wall of rock on either side. Paul feels “hemmed in by both directions to stay and to depart.

MY DESIRE  - The word he uses for "desire" (epithumia) is the same word for "lust." In fact, this is only one of the two times Paul uses this word in its noun form in a positive sense (1 Th 2:17 being the other). Thus we see one of the "lusts of a godly man's heart"--to be with Christ. In a very real sense Paul yearned for death in order that his union with Christ might be tasted and savored to the full. Is this the desire of our heart? It should be! It can be as we grow in grace and the knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. And as an aside, given our day of horrible internet trash and temptation for both men and women, Paul's mindset teaches us the powerful principle of the "expulsive power of a new affection." (from Thomas Chalmers' sermon by the same name). In short, LUST to be WITH CHRIST effectively nullifies, neutralizes and makes ineffective the LUST OF THE FLESH to be with something or someone else, whether vicariously or literally!

Other Christians through the ages have also felt this same strong stirring in their breasts.

The great British evangelist George Whitefieldsaid it this way...

"I go to my everlasting rest. My sun has risen, shone, and is setting--nay, it is about to rise and shine forever. I have not lived in vain. And though I could live to preach Christ 1,000 years, I die to be with him, which is far better."

Puritan Thomas Watsonsaid –

‘Spiritual things satisfy; the more of heaven is in us, the less earth will content us.... Fly aloft in your affections, thirst after the graces and comforts of the Spirit; the eagle that flies above in the air, fears not the stinging of the serpent; the serpent creeps on his belly, and stings only such creatures as go upon the earth’ (The Art of Divine Contentment).

BETWEEN THE TWO – To stay alive or to fall asleep in Jesus, which was in fact his desire, because that was FAR BETTER. - Note that Paul did not qualify this statement. It is simply far better…that anything!

DEPART - This Greek word (analuo) was used for striking a camp of the Roman legions or the pulling up of the anchor and sailing of a ship. When the Roman army set up camp, they would form a rectangle wall of brush as high as ten to twelve feet. When the soldiers departed and moved on, they left the make-shift fortress behind, a mute testimony that they had been there. When we go on to be with the Lord Jesus, we will leave our "mark,” our “stack of brush” so to speak! All that is not useful is left behind. All of the sin, selfishness, pain and anguish of the world are abandoned. We are freed from the cares of this world. Death in Christ is raising the anchor and setting sail for the shores of Heaven. Death for the Christian brings solutions and answers to earth's questions and mysteries. Like a prisoner freed of his shackles, we are finally free of the burdens of our fleshly desires and the struggles and battles of this life.

The Gk word depart (analuo) means to unloose and was used of a ship being loosed from its moorings and allowed to sail back home. If God was finished unloading cargo through the apostle's life then Paul was keen to get back home. Death is a setting sail, a departure on that voyage which leads to the everlasting haven and to God. The reason is clearly given--" . . . and be with Christ, which is far better." This phrase should literally be translated, "much more better"; which intensifies the personal benefit he would experience. Indeed the joys and glories of heaven will thoroughly obliterate the heartaches and sorrows of earth in comparison. Ro. 8:17,18.

Ps 16:11 is apropos - "In Your presence is fullness of joy; at Your right hand are pleasures forevermore." Ps 16:11.

Adoniram Judson (missionary to Burma) said it well - "I am not tired of my work, neither am I tired of the world; yet when Christ calls me home, I shall go with the gladness of a boy bounding away from his school. Perhaps I feel something like the young bride when she contemplates resigning the pleasant associations of her childhood for a yet dearer home--though only a little like her, for there is no doubt resting on my future."

William Rutherford - Live in Christ, and you are in the suburbs of Heaven. There is but a thin wall between you and the land of praises. You are within one hour’s sailing of the shore of the new Canaan.

ONE MORE POINT ABOUT THE STATEMENT “TO DEPART AND BE WITH CHRIST” - This means that there is no such thing as “soul sleep” or a place of probation called purgatory. When a believer dies, he is ushered immediately into the presence of Christ. That’s what Jesus said to the thief on the cross in Luke 23:43: “I tell you the truth, today you will be with me in paradise.” 2 Corinthians 5:8 makes the same point: “We are confident, I say, and would prefer to be away from the body and at home with the Lord.” Spurgeon said “Death is the waiting room where we robe ourselves for immortality.” I love what the famous evangelist D L Moody once said:

Some day you will read in the papers that D L Moody of East Northfield is dead. Don’t you believe a word of it! At that very moment, I shall be more alive than I am now. (Amen!)

That reminds me of a young business owner who was opening a new branch office, and a friend decided to send a floral arrangement for the grand opening. Due to a mix-up at the florist, the card that was attached said, “Rest in peace.” After complaining to the florist, the florist said, “Look at this way – somewhere a man was buried under a wreath today that said, “Good luck in your new location.” We really do go to a new location when we leave this one, don’t we? For the Christian, death is nothing more than a change of address.

WITH CHRIST – A little phrase we could easily overlook, but that would be to our loss. First note that Paul is saying when we die we are WITH CHRIST. Mark it down dear believer – when you die, you are WITH CHRIST. Beloved, we have absolutely no reason to fear death, for death is but a door into eternal life WITH CHRIST, a passage out of a prison and into a palace, an exchange of rags for a robe! Death may be the king of terrors, but Jesus is the King of kings!

The English translations miss a profound truth in the phrase WITH CHRIST. There are 2 words in Greek for “WITH”, one (meta) meaning by the side of. The other word, the one Paul uses (sun/syn > “synergistic” “symphony”) speaks of unhindered intimate union between us and our Lord Jesus Christ! No wonder Paul wants to depart and be with Christ for that is far better!

FAR BETTER – (Amplified = “FAR, FAR BETTER”; NAS = “VERY MUCH BETTER” because Paul piles up three comparative words (polus = “much” + mallon = “more” + kreisson = “better” – so literally “much more better!”) Paul is expressing the highest superlative possible – while Scripture leaves much mystery about our life after death, this central, crucial truth is clear – when the believer dies he is WITH CHRIST and that state is unspeakably better than anything we can imagine now! This is truth you can count on dear believer. May this great truth transform our earthly oriented thinking into heavenly minded thinking! Do it for Thy glory Lord! Amen

  • The more you look forward to heaven, the less you’ll desire on earth.
  • Remember that heavenly-minded people like Paul are those who do the most earthly good.
  • To make the most of your time on earth, always keep heaven in mind.

Notice also that Paul did not compare his declaration with anything! In other words, he did not say “FAR BETTER THAN ____.” He simply said far better -- The clear implication is that being WITH CHRIST is FAR BETTER than anything on earth, better than anything we could even imagine in our widest dreams!

“No eye has seen, no ear has heard, and no mind has imagined what God has prepared for those who love Him." (1Co 2:9 NLT)

There is no place like home—especially when home is heaven. Our heavenly home is our "real estate."

To see His face, this is my goal,
The deepest longing of my soul;
Through storm and stress my path I’ll trace
Till, satisfied, I see His face!

ILLUSTRATION – ECLIPSE OF THE SUN (SON) - Solar eclipses are amazing for as the moon slides between the earth and the sun, the sun’s brilliance gradually fades. Its light grows dim, as if there’s a layer of dust on everything you see. The effect is most dramatic on a bright cloudless day. While the eclipse is in full force, it’s easy to forget that the sun is still there in all its force and glory. As amazing as a solar eclipse may be, more amazing is the fact that as followers of Jesus we too often live with heaven eclipsed in our hearts. I don’t know what you think of when you think of heaven, but count on it, heaven is a glorious destination and, as Paul described, because of Christ’s presence there, it is far better than anything we could experience here (Philippians 1:23). But heaven’s glory and the excitement of getting there often fades in the light of our dim view of heaven and the lure of lesser stuff here on earth.


  • Pray and ask the Lord to keep the light of the Son (“S. O. N.”) of heaven alive in your heart so that with eyes of faith you see Him continually with “20/20” spiritual vision!

ILLUSTRATION – SMUDGY WINDOWS - Joe Stowell tells this story - My friend Bud Wood is the founder of one of the finest homes in America for mentally challenged children and adults, ministering to many afflicted with Down’s syndrome. The staff makes a concentrated effort to present the Gospel to these children and many have come to believe in Christ as Savior and in a heaven that will be their home. Bud told me that one of the major maintenance problems they have is dirty windows. I asked, “Why?” His answer surprised me!

“You can walk through our corridors any time of the day and you see these precious children standing with their hands, noses, and faces pressed hard against the windows, looking up to see if Christ might be coming back to take them home and make them whole.” 


  • When was the last time you glanced heavenward (either literally or figuratively) anticipating that this might be that long-awaited day when we finally come face to face with Him Who is our FAR BETTER? Perhaps our lack of longing for heaven says something about our lack of earth-side fellowship with Him.
  • Are there any “smudges on the windows” of your heart?

Philippians 1:24 But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account.

Notice that Paul’s desire is to depart, but he dies to self for the sake of the saints in Philippi. And so Paul now explains why he should prolong his pilgrimage here on earth. God still has more cargo to unload to the Philippian believers through him. Paul is willing to temporarily forestall his desire (going home to be with Christ) in order to fulfill their need and to “finish (his) course and the ministry which (he) received from the Lord Jesus.” (Acts 20:24)

  • It’s only when we’re ready to die can we really live.
  • Those who are most prepared to depart are most prepared to delay.
  • When we die we leave behind all we have and take with us all that we are.

Dear believer you can mark this truth down -

A Christian is immortal until his work on earth is done.

Think about that for a moment. Death cannot touch us until God is through with us. Why? “For we are His workmanship (masterpiece), created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them. (Eph 2:10) When we have walked in the good works He prepared for us from the foundation of the world, He will say “Son/daughter, it’s time to come. Well-done, My good and faithful servant.”

Look at this way.

  • Why are you and I still here?
  • Why didn’t God just take us home when we became believers?
  • Because He has work He wants us to do!
  • If you’re a Christian, you’ll go to heaven when you die so why not use your time here to get others ready to join you?

Philippians 1:25 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,

Paul’s purpose was the “progress” (prokope) of others. He wanted to help Christians on their journey to joy

A quote from Henry James could have been the comment on this verse for he said

“The best use of your life is to invest it in something that will outlast it.”

Philippians 1:26 so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again.

Paul is convinced he will continue with them for their progress (prokope) and joy in the faith, which is a description of sanctification or their continuing growth in Christlikeness. The question of whether Paul ever got to see them is not answered in Scripture. We’ll find out in Heaven!

I will close with a quote from the Life Application Commentary –

Some people hold tightly to this life. Afraid to lose or let go, they in effect become slaves to their mortality. In contrast, those who do not fear death, seeing it merely as the door to eternal life, are free to live with purpose, meaning and commitment to a cause”

  • We must avoid two errors. One is to work so hard that we lose sight of heaven.
  • The other is to focus on heaven so much that we stop serving.

There is an old hymn This World is Not My Home that has good words to end this message on to live is Christ, to die is gain….

Lord, Oh Lord, I have no friend like You.
If Heaven’s not my home, O Lord, what will I do?
Angels beckon me from Heaven’s open door,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

Over in glory land, there is no dying there,
The saints are shouting victory and singing everywhere,
I hear the voice of them that’s gone on before,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.

They’re all expecting me, that’s one thing I know,
I fixed it up with Jesus, a long time ago.
I know He’ll take me through, though I am weak and poor,
And I can’t feel at home in this world anymore.


“Have you fixed it up with Jesus?”

You can never say “To die is gain” unless you can also say “For to me to live is Christ.”

If you cannot say “To live is Christ,” how can you be sure that “to die is gain?”

So let me ask it again “Have you fixed it up with Jesus?”

If you have not speak with the pastors or elders after the service for how to fix it up with Jesus.


In Lewis Carroll’s Alice in Wonderland, Alice asks the Cheshire Cat, “Would you tell me, please, which way I ought to go from here?” The Cat replies, “That depends a good deal on where you want to get to.” “I don’t much care where--” says Alice. “Then it doesn’t matter which way you go,” says the Cat. “You’re sure to get somewhere--if you only walk long enough.”

  • Where do you want to get to? 
  • If you want to get to heaven, then you need to consider the question, “What am I living for?” 
  • Complete the sentence: “For me, to live is _____.” What? Money? Success? Happiness? Pleasure? Fun? Good times? Family? Self? 
  • If your answer is any of the above, then to die will be a terrible loss, not a gain. 
  • But if, with Paul, you can honestly say as you evaluate your life, “For me, to live is Christ,” then you can also say with all the confidence of God’s Word behind you, “to die is gain!”






  • Every Christian has the choice of being humble & being humbled. Lord You never crushed a soul that was laying prostrate at Your feet.

OUTLINE - Brian Bill

  • Phil 2:1 Fathom the Excellence of what we have
  • Phil 2:2-4 Fulfill the Expectations of what we must do

(a) Resolve to pull together (Php 2:2). 

Strong appeal to unity.

(b) Resist selfishness (Php 2:3a). 

“…but in humility consider others better than yourselves.” This is a tough one because most of us secretly believe that we’re better than those around us and that our music preference should be prescribed for everyone. But humility is a prerequisite for unity. “To consider others better” is a mathematical term which means, “Think about it and come to a conclusion.” We are to count what is really there, add it up, and find out what is true. A wonderful biblical example is found in Genesis 13 where we read that Abraham allowed Lot to choose whatever land he wanted. He thought more highly of his nephew than he thought of himself and verse 8 says Abraham did it for the sake of unity: “Let’s not have any quarreling between you and me, or between your herdsmen and mine, for we are brothers.” When’s the last time you specifically did something to avoid an argument? 

(c) Remember the needs of others (Php 2:4) - 

“Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.” To“look” is to fix one’s attention on, with great interest in. Some of us need to take our eyes off ourselves and literally lift them to look at others.


  • Appeal for Unity - Php 2:1-2
  • Appeal for Humility - Php 2:3-4


  • 4 - Fold Incentive for Unity (Php 2:1)
  • 4 - Fold Directive for Unity (Php 2:2)

Look at how the 4 Incentives (Php 2:1) link with the 4 Directives (Php 2:2).

[1] Since there is consolation in Christ - be like-minded.

[2] Since there is comfort of Love - having the same love.

[3] Since there is fellowship of the Spirit - being of one accord. {accord = ”harmony of souls”, souls that beat together in tune w/Christ & w/each other}

[4] Since there is affection & mercy - be of one mind. {like clocks that strike at the same time}


1. Admonition for Unity (Php 2:1-2a)

(a) The Lord we serve - consolation in Christ

(b) The Love we Share - comfort of love

(c) The Life we Live - fellowship of the Spirit 

(d) The Load we Bear (1)   if any bowels and mercies. 

2. Attributes of Unity (Php 2:2-4)

(a) Harmony - Php 2:2

(b) Humility - Php 2:3

(c) Hospitality - Php 2:4

(Source - has more detail under each point and subpoint - Conformed to Unity)

ANOTHER OUTLINE - Adrian Rogers 

I. The Motive for Unity

A. Our Common Lord - Php 2:1a
B. Our Common Love - Php 2:1b
C. Our Common Life - Php 2:1c
D. Our Common Load - Php 2:1d

II. The Method of Unity Phil 2:2-4

A. Harmony
B. Humility
C. Helpfulness

III. The Model for Unity: The Mind of Christ - Phil 2:5-11

A. The Mind of Voluntary Service
B. The Mind of Vicarious Sacrifice
C. The Mind of Victorious Significance

ANOTHER OUTLINE - J B Phillips - Paul's Approach to the Example of Christ (Php 2:1-4)

A) His Distress (Php 2:1-2a) 

1) The Basis of His Appeal (Php 2:1)

First there is the supreme basis - "Consolation in Christ... comfort of love."

Second there is the supernatural basis: "Fellowship of the Spirit"—

Third there is the supporting basis: "Bowels and mercies"—

2) The Burden of His Appeal (Php 2:2) "Make my joy complete"

B) Their Discord (Php 2:2b-4)

1) The Need for Likemindedness (Php 2:2b) 

2) The Need for Lowliness (Php 2:3)

The Cause of their Discords - Php 2:3a

The Cure for Their Discords (Php 2:3b)

3) The Need for Largeness (Php 2:4)


An ad in the Lawrence, Kansas, Journal-World, purported: “We will oil your sewing machine and adjust the tension in your home for only $1.” (In Reader’s Digest [5/85], p. 190.) Who cares if they oil the sewing machine--if only someone could adjust the tension in our homes, I’ll bet we’d all gladly pay $100! We all crave harmonious relationships, but they seem to be a rare commodity. We enter marriage with high hopes for harmony: “This adorable creature I’m marrying is so easy to get along with! We’re in love, so we won’t have any serious problems!” But then a few months into reality, I discover that she’s not quite as adorable as I had thought! In fact, she’s got a few problems that I need to help her work on. One of her main problems is that she doesn’t see things my way! As I seek to help her with her problems, I discover that she has another problem, namely, that she is stubborn and won’t change.

We want harmonious relationships with our children, and yet the alienation between parents and their teenagers is proverbial. We want harmony in our church, but those people at church are so unloving! “Why, do you know what so-and-so said to me? I don’t know who she thinks she is! After all the times I’ve helped her, and then she acts like that toward me! See if I ever do anything for her again!”

I’m glad that the Bible was written to real people with real problems. It doesn’t paper over their problems and offer superficial answers. The church at Philippi was a good church, but it wasn’t perfect. None is. If its first three converts were any gauge, it was a motley crew that gathered for worship in Philippi: a sophisticated, wealthy businesswoman; a career Roman military man; and, a former slave girl who had been into the occult. It was a built-in formula for conflict, and some tensions were surfacing among the members (Phil 4:2). So Paul gently urges them to work through their differences and he gives some principles for har-monious relationships that apply both to the church and to the home.

But, I’ll warn you: It’s a painful, difficult cure! Like chemotherapy, you may wonder at times if the cure is worth it. But it’s the only cure and if you don’t take it, the disease will ultimately cause great suffering and result in death. Briefly stated, the principle is: The key to harmonious relationships is to put self to death and to regard others more highly than myself for Jesus’ sake. (Source: Pastor Steven Cole)

Pastor Adrian Rogers - I want to talk to you about the thing that I want us to preserve perhaps more than any other thing except our orthodoxy—and that is our unity and our fellowship. The devil would love to divide this church, but I think one of the great marks of Bellevue Baptist Church is her unity and the wonderful, wonderful, glorious spirit of God that we feel when we come here together. The Bible calls that fellowship. It comes from the Greek word koinonia; it means, "to be of one mind and of one spirit."
There was a great basketball coach that many of you know about: Coach John Wooden. Coach Wooden was formerly the basketball coach at UCLA, and he, indeed, was a legend in his own time. And, somebody asked this coach, "Coach, what does it take to have a winning team?" Now, you would expect that he might give some great explanation or some convoluted answer, but his answer was so simple that it sounds simplistic. But yet, if you think about it, you can understand why he was such a great coach. He said, "There are three things that are essential to have a great team: number one—you must get the team into condition; number two—you must teach them to play together; and number three—you must teach them the fundamentals of the game." It's that simple. Get them in condition; teach them to play together; and teach them the fundamentals of the game.
Now, the Apostle Paul said that being a Christian is a lot like an athletic endeavor.
And, it takes exactly those three things that Coach Wooden said to make a great basketball team, to make a great coach, and to make a great church: number one—get the people in condition; number two—teach them to play together; and number three—teach them the fundamentals of the game. Or, if you'd like for me to put it in a little bit more spiritual language: get the folks sanctified (that's getting them into condition; number two—build a fellowship (that's teaching them to play together); and number three—do discipleship (that's teaching them how to play the game). Sanctification, fellowship, and discipleship will make a great church, will it not? Same three things, but we're just putting them, now, into spiritual language. Well, I want to take that middle word—that word of teaching them to play together, unity; or, if we want to use the spiritual term, fellowship—and I want us to think about this.

It seems that Paul had detected a slight flaw in this wonderful church, this church at Philippi. It seemed like that, perhaps, there was beginning to be just a little drift in the fellowship. For example, if you would look in 4:2: "I beseech Eudoias, and beseech Syntyche, that they be of the same mind in the Lord" (Philippians 4:2). And, evidently, there were a couple of ladies here who were miffed at one another. And so, he said, "Now listen, ladies: Be of the same mind in the Lord." So, I want us to think a little bit about unity in the church, tonight.

INTRODUCTION TO CHAPTER 2 - The apostle Paul was a menace to the devil. Satan did not know What to do with him. Lock him up in prison, the evil one may have thought, and he will win his jailers to Christ and write letters that will influence the thinking of millions for ages to come. Set him free and he will win whole continents to Christ. Kill him and he will win a martyr's crown. Paul's triumphant spirit rang out in the first chapter of Philippians as he pealed the bells of our joy in Christ. In the second chapter he introduced other triumphant figures into his letter. (John Phillips Commentary Series – Exploring Philippians: An Expository Commentary)

Adrian Rogers description of UNITY - – You know, there are three words that sound alike: one is unity; one is union; and one is uniformity. Now, it's unity that we're looking for, not union. Somebody has well said, "You can take two tomcats, tie their tails together, and hang them over a clothesline, and you have union, but you don't have unity." And, you can kind of conjure up that picture in your mind. We want more than union. We want to be more than wired together, or rusted together, or frozen together—that's union. And then, uniformity. What is uniformity? Uniformity comes from without—everybody saying the same thing, looking alike, and doing the same things. That uniformity comes by pressure from without. Unity comes from within, where we have the same Spirit and the same Lord. We're not brought together by rules. We're not brought together by threats. We are bound together by love of the Lord Jesus. And so, there's to be harmony. i

OPENING ILLUSTRATION ON HUMILITY - Dr. Harry Ironside was once convicted about his lack of humility. A friend recommended as a remedy, that he march through the streets of Chicago wearing a sandwich board, shouting the scripture verses on the board for all to hear. Dr. Ironside agreed to this venture and when he returned to his study and removed the board, he said “I’ll bet there’s not another man in town who would do that.”

1. Our pride is as silly as the donkey that had Jesus on his back, thinking that they put garments & palm fronds on the ground for him!

2. Perspective: How to stay humble? Picture yourself as simply a kite in a hurricane. When Jesus is the hurricane, it’s kinda hard not to fly!

Last Chapter - Good Ol Paul: Lock him up in prison - & he’ll win his jailers to Christ & write letters that will influence the thinking millions for ages to come! Set him free - & he’ll win whole continents to Christ! Kill him - & he’ll win a martyr’s crown! (Phillips)

This Chapter - Paul’s goal here is Unity for the Philippian church.

To get Unity you need Humility! To get Humility, you need an Example…the best example is Jesus!

The words of Jesus from John 17:20-23: “I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one, Father, just as you are in me and I am in you. May they also be in us so that the world may believe that you have sent me. I have given them the glory that you gave me, that they may be one as we are one: I in them and you in me. May they be brought to complete unity to let the world know that you sent me and have loved them even as you have loved me.”

Ephesians 4:2-6: “Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace.

There is one body and one Spirit- just as you were called to one hope when you were called- one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all” and verse 13: “Until we all reach unity in the faith and in the knowledge of the Son of God and become mature, attaining to the whole measure of the fullness of Christ.”

By way of background, the Philippian Church had very few problems.  There was no doctrinal heresy or immoral conduct.  However, if the Devil cannot reach Christians one way, he will try another.  In the church at Philippi, there were some insipient forms of fighting and feuding among the congregation so that their testimony to the world was being hindered.  In 1:27, Paul appeals to these Christians to stop wrangling and “stand firm in one spirit, contending as one man for the faith of the gospel.”  Christian unity is not an option but a necessity if the local church is going to make an impact upon the world for Christ.  NOTE:  As much as we Christians intellectually know we should be striving for unity, many of us are not doing much about it.  We somehow rationalize that our critical attitude is all right, our negative spirit is acceptable, and our gossip is not so bad as long as we are doing it against someone else but not he to us.  Unity comes when there is one mind, one spirit, one heart and one bond in the gospel cause.  Fighting within the local church destroys the power of Christ in the midst of His people, and the outside world mocks Christ because of the carnal actions of Christians.

H. A. Ironside used to tell a story that is appropriate to the rights question.  When he was a boy of only eight or ten years of age, his mother took him to a business meeting of Christians.  Two men were having a quarrel --  he didn’t remember what it was about --  but one of them stood up and pounded on the desk and said, “I don’t care what the rest of you do, all I want is my rights.”  sitting in the front row was a dear old Scottish man, somewhat hard of hearing, who cupped his hand behind his ear, leaned forward and said, “Aye, brother, what’s that you say?  What do you want?”  The fellow said, “Well, I just said that all I want is my rights, that’s all.”  And the old Scot replied, “Your rights, brother, is that what you want, your rights?  If you had your rights, you’d be in hell.  The Lord Jesus didn’t come to get his rights, he came to get his wrongs.  And he got them.”  The fellow who had been bickering stood transfixed for a moment.  Then he sat down and said, “You’re right.  Settle it any way you like.”

In Philippians 1:27 Paul makes a major shift in this letter, going from information to exhortation. Prior to this he has been explaining to the the worried saints at Philippi that prison has not hindered him, but to the contrary has provided and opportunity for the progress of the Gospel. Paul was imprisoned but as he wrote in 2 Ti 2:9 "word of God (Gospel) is not imprisoned." Prison became his pulpit for proclamation of Jesus. In fact in the first 26 verses Paul mentions Jesus or Christ some 15 times out of a total of 36 times in the entire letter.Clearly Paul's focus in prison was on the Person of Christ and as we have seen in the mnemonic for "J.O.Y." Philippians 2 then moves to the "O" of JOY - Others! 


Unity - an undivided or unbroken completeness or totality with nothing wanting. The quality of being united into one. When there is unity, people are in agreement and act together for a particular purpose.The quality of being one in spirit and purpose. Harmony. We are to be like a symphony, composed of many different instruments, but all focused on one goal or purpose -- to create a beautiful sound to the hearer. The church is to be like that because the world is listening, and sadly they hear (and see) much disharmonious music coming from churches because of divisions and discord. 

Unity is not uniformity. Think about this -- the word Uniformity has within it the word uniform. The idea then of that word is we dress alike, look alike, sound alike, think alike, act alike. But that is neither healthy nor biblical. Unity comes from deep within as Paul writes in Ephesians exhorting the church at Ephesus to be "diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace. (Eph 4:3). It is the inner desire to conduct oneself in a cooperative manner, to be on the same team, to strive together for the same objectives, for the benefit of one another.  Phil 1:27

That “one heart and mind and purpose” suggests unity, a genuine Spirit-filled unselfishness that breeds strength and spreads cheer. Is this suggesting uniformity? Does it mean we always have to agree on everything? Is that what harmony is all about? No. There is a difference between unity and uniformity. Uniformity is gained by pressure from without. As Harry A. Ironside said, "It is very evident that Christians will never see eye to eye on all points. We are so largely influenced by habits, by environment, by education, by the measure of intellectual and spiritual apprehension to which we have attained, that it is an impossibility to find any number of people who look at everything from the same standpoint. How then can such be of one mind? The apostle himself explains it elsewhere when he says, “I think also that I have the mind of Christ.” (1 Cor 2:16KJV) The “mind of Christ” is the lowly mind. And, if we are all of this mind, we shall walk together in love, considering one another, and seeking rather to be helpers of one another’s faith, than challenging each other’s convictions." 


  • What types of attitudes threaten the unity and solidarity of our local assembly?
  • Are we secure enough in our unity together that we can be aggressive in reaching out to others with the gospel and contending for the faith or are we primarily passive and focused on protecting ourselves?
  • What difference is there between union and unity?
  • Think of the parallel to a soccer team … what types of attitudes make for a good player vs. a player who actually hurts the team?

Steven J. Cole Philippians 2:1-4 Harmonious Relationships

1. In any conflict, I need to look to my own relationship with Christ: Am I motivated by His great love (Php 2:1)?

2. In any conflict, I must look to my attitude: Am I seeking unity or am I seeking my own way (Php 2:2)?

3. In any conflict, I must look to my view of myself: Am I being selfish and conceited or humble (Php 2:3)?

4. In any conflict, I must look to my view of others: Am I putting their interests above my own (Php 2:4)?

A secular psychologist did a study in which he asked his subjects to list ten people he knew best and to label them as happy or not happy. Then they were to go through the list again and label each one as selfish or not selfish, using the following definition of selfishness: “A stable tendency to devote one’s time and resources to one’s own interests and welfare--an unwillingness to inconvenience one’s self for others.” The results showed that all of the people labeled happy were also labeled unselfish. He wrote that those “whose activities are devoted to bringing themselves happiness ... are far less likely to be happy than those whose efforts are devoted to making others happy” (emphasis in original, cited by Martin & Deidre Bobgan, How to Counsel from Scripture [Moody Press], p. 123).

The key to harmonious relationships is not to esteem self, assert self, or stand up for self. It is, rather, to put self to death and to regard others more highly than myself for Jesus’ sake. If we would apply this to our homes and church, we would experience much more harmony and much less conflict. It’s a painful cure; but it’s the only cure given by God’s Word of truth. (Philippians 2:1-4 Harmonious Relationships)

PHILIPPIANS 2:1  Therefore if there is any encouragement in Christ, if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship of the Spirit, if any affection and compassion,

Other translations:

Amplified - Therefore if there is any encouragement and comfort in Christ [as there certainly is in abundance], if there is any consolation of love, if there is any fellowship [that we share] in the Spirit, if [there is] any [great depth of] affection and compassion,

Barclay - If the fact that you are in Christ has any power to influence you, if love has any persuasive power to move you, if you really are sharing in the Holy Spirit, if you can feel compassion and pity,

The key to understanding this and other statements about love is to know that this love (the Greek word agape) is not so much a matter of emotion as it is of doing things for the benefit of another person, that is, having an unselfish concern for another and a willingness to seek the best for another.

Encouragement in Christ

In Christ is a key Pauline doctrine, one that is intensely practical. When you see this phrase ("in Christ Jesus") in many of Paul's uses, the first thought that should pop in your mind is your "union with the Lord." When the Father looks at you, He sees your "position" in His Son. You are in oneness with His Son Christ Jesus. You are in covenant with Jesus today and throughout eternity. Nothing can change that great truth. He is the Vine and we are the branches and just as His very life flows through us via His indwelling Spirit, we have the glorious potential to do everything in total dependence upon His power. This is a learning process, but it is our privileged position.  In total dependence on the Spirit of Christ is the only way to life a supernatural life, a life on a "higher plane!"  There is simply no possibility apart from  practicing this simple phrase of “in the Lord” – don’t want you to leave frustrated or discouraged … what we are talking about is totally unrealistic and unattainable apart from being plugged into the Lord’s grace and power and mindset and purposes

Examples of in Christ in Philippians

Php 1:1 - Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, to all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi,

Adrian Rogers on fellowship of the Spirit - Look in Philippians 2:1: "If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit" (Philippians 2:1). There again, not only fellowship of the gospel, but koinonia of the Spirit. You say, "I feel like an outsider. I'm not a part of Bellevue. I don't have that warm fellowship." I'll tell you how to get it. Try some fellowship of the Spirit. Get a prayer partner. Get somebody that you meet with. Study the Word of God with that person. Get in a Sunday School class, and get somebody out of that Sunday School class, where you two get some people on your heart, and begin to pray for those people. Let the Spirit of God just melt you together. So many churches are wired together, or rusted together, or frozen together. They need to be melted together by the Holy Spirit. It's a fellowship of the Spirit. I'm going to tell you something else, dear friend. Two people who pray together are never, ever the same. There's something about it—I'll just guarantee it. If you say it's not true, you don't have a prayer partner. You just get a prayer partner. You get down on your prayer bones with somebody, and really begin to pray with them, and you're going to find out there is something called the koinonia of the Spirit.

Chris Benfield on Encouragement in Christ - That is very simple and yet strikingly profound. An awareness of the Lord should be reason enough to strive for unity among the church. We too have received great consolation from the Lord. He has been faithful to meet our needs and continually deals with us according to His grace and mercy. Our love for the Lord ought to create a burning desire to serve alongside fellow believers in unity. We cannot please our Lord apart from unity. He remained committed to the will of the Father, going all the way to the cross, bearing our sin and securing our salvation. There was no rebellion or lack of unity within Christ. That alone should motivate our unity!

b. The Love we Share (1) – If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love. Paul also mentions the comfort of love possessed by those in Christ. Here the word comfort speaks of “strength.” Paul admonishes – if your love is strong, if it is real for one another, then unity will come natural. Those who share a common love, being strengthened by that love, would strive to maintain unity, and grow together!  This presents a great challenge to the church today. I fear that far too many of our churches lack genuine love for one another. If our love is lacking, we will not possess unhindered unity. If our love is strong, and we are being strengthened through that love, we will possess unity. Our love for one another will dictate our lives and unity will be a natural by-product of our love. Genuine love will create an atmosphere of unity among the church. 1 John 4:11 – Beloved, if God so loved us, we ought also to love one another. John 15:12 – This is my commandment, That ye love one another, as I have loved you.

c. The Life we Live (1) – If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit…Next Paul mentioned their fellowship in the Spirit. As believers they all shared the same Spirit, not a similar spirit, but they all possessed the Spirit within. Such a common bond would create a common fellowship through the Spirit and directly affect the lives they lived. With the Spirit abiding within, and guiding their lives, He would keep them united in fellowship. When one experienced pain, the others felt it too. When one rejoiced, the others were compelled to rejoice as well. As long as they walked in fellowship with the Lord, they would enjoy fellowship with one another.  Sadly it doesn’t always work this way because we tend to allow sin into our lives which clouds our vision and creates division, but I am thankful for the fellowship I have experienced within the church. As we walk in awareness of the Lord, focusing on our love for one another, the Spirit leads us according to the divine will of God. As we follow His lead, we enjoy fellowship with one another and great unity in the faith. We have the guidance and help necessary to possess continual fellowship and unity if we will follow the Spirit.

d. The Load we Bear (1) – If there be therefore any consolation in Christ, if any comfort of love, if any fellowship of the Spirit, if any bowels and mercies. Finally Paul deals with our compassion and care for one another. He refers to a phrase – bowels and mercies. This literally speaks of “our tender mercies for one another.” It deals with being so united in our zeal for the Lord and love for one another that we feel the hurts and burdens of fellow believers. When they are under a heavy load, we are compelled to come alongside them and help carry their load. It is motivated action generated by love. There are those outside the church who seek to help others when they are burdened, but this is amplified within the church. We are united within the family of God, being filled with the Spirit, and walking together in the faith. Such a close relationship creates a heart that is moved with tender mercies toward those who are struggling. I have experienced it many times in my life and witnessed such mercies being shown from you. When others hurt, we hurt; when they are under a heavy load, we feel the weight as well and want to lighten their load if possible. Gal.6:2 – Bear ye one another's burdens, and so fulfil the law of Christ. (For full exposition see Conformed to Unity)

To paraphrase Wiersbe, the secret of joy in spite of circumstances (Chapter 1 Paul in prison) is maintaining a single mind (focused on Christ) and in Chapter 2 the secret of joy in spite of people is maintaining a submissive mind. In chapter 1 we find “Christ first” and in chapter 2 we see “others next.” Using "J.O.Y." as an acrostic we see "J" for Jesus first, "O" for others next and finally "Y" for yourself last. A good order in order to maintain order but a "tall order" to carry out consistently. (cf Php 4:13 for how it is possible) Let this formula rule in your life (enabled by Php 2:13) and the "fruit" you will bear (Gal 5:22) will be supernatural "J.O.Y."!

Every Christian, regardless of their praise preferences, has received these blessings. Paul’s point is this:

Since you’ve been given all this, shouldn’t you grant grace to others and do whatever it takes to promote peace and embrace unity?

PHILIPPIANS 2:2 make my joy complete by being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose.

Make my joy complete - this is a command (aorist imperative) which conveys the sense of urgency and can be rendered "Do this now!" "Don't delay!" "The need is urgent!") The spiritual wealth Paul reminds them of Philippians 2:1 calls for a "worthy walk" (same thing we say in Php 1:27). Our spiritual privileges call for appropriate spiritual practice. The revelation in 2:1 gives us the responsibility of Php 2:2-4. Remember that the only way to obey God's commandments (like make my joy complete) is by rejecting our tendency to do it in our natural strength and to learn to rely wholly on the Holy Spirit's supernatural power. 

So Phil 2:1 gives "Four reminders of their resources". After telling the saints their spiritual resources, then Paul issues the command in Php 2:2. In essence Paul was saying in Php 2:1 these 4 items are the grounds on which you will be able to fulfill my command to make my joy complete.

When believers are not rejoicing in the Lord they will be marked by divisiveness, pride, and selfishness. To correct the situation, Paul issued a direct command: 'Fulfill ye my joy' (Php 2:2)."

  • Phil 2:1 = How God sees us in Christ
  • Phil 2:2-4 = How the world should see Christ in us

Joy - A good definition of joy is this: it's the flag that flies on the castle of the heart when the King is in residence. 

What kind of church pleases God and man?  A church where there is harmony, love and fellowship among the Christians.  This can happen in a small church or a large church because it is a matter of attitude not circumstances.

A T Robertson on being of the same mind – (Ed: sumpsuche - makes me think of a symphony") “harmonious in soul, souls that beat together, in tune with Christ and with each other

GREAT ILLUSTRATION OF FELLOWSHIP OF THE SPIRIT -  Adrian Rogers elaborates on the tuning of instruments...

Now, we have a piano here, and we have a piano here. Those pianos ought to be in tune. And, Jim, I was listening this morning—they are; you'll be happy to know that. Those pianos ought to be in tune. Now, I don't know a lot about tuning pianos, but I've read this, and I believe it to be true: that it is virtually impossible to tune one piano to another piano. But, if you get a tuning fork, and tune that piano to the tuning fork, and tune this piano to the tuning fork, do you know what happens? Ipso facto—they're in tune with one another—isn't that true? When you're in tune with Jesus, and I'm in tune with Jesus, then, friend, you're going to be in tune with me, and I'm going to be in tune with you. I mean, that's what happens when we pray—we're seeking God together.

(Ed: Bring a tuning instrument to show what happens to the sound of a piano or guitar that is out of tune! Now think about the "music" made by a local Body of Christ which is OUT OF TUNE! Instead of a "symphony" [a harmony of sounds!] it becomes a "cacophony [loud confusing disagreeable sounds]!" Woe!)

To have the “same love” gets to our feelings and our unconditional commitment to every Christian, whether we like them or not – and whether we like their music or not. To be “one in spirit and purpose” touches on how we relate to one another. The Greek is helpful here because this phrase literally means, “same-souled.”

Henry adds that we need to "be severe upon our own faults and charitable in our judgments of others, be quick in observing our own defects and infirmities, but ready to overlook and make favourable allowances for the defects of others. We must esteem the good which is in others above that which is in ourselves; for we best know our own unworthiness and imperfections.

Wiersbe sums up this section with the thought that "Paul is saying to the church, “Your disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your fellowship. It isn’t going to be solved by rules or threats; it’s going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ and with each other.” Paul wanted them to see that the basic cause was selfishness, and the cause of selfishness is pride. There can be no joy in the life of the Christian who puts himself above others.

Illustration We need to be a team

Lee Iacocca once asked legendary football coach Vince Lombardi what it took to make a winning team. The book Iacocca records Lombardi’s answer: There are a lot of coaches with good ball clubs who know the fundamentals and have plenty of discipline but still don’t win the game. Then you come to the third ingredient: if you’re going to play together as a team, you’ve got to care for one another. You’ve got to love each other. Each player has to be thinking about the next guy and saying to himself “If I don’t block that man, Paul is going to get his legs broken. I have to do my job well in order that he can do his.” The difference between mediocrity and greatness, Lombardi said that night, is the feeling these guys have for each other.

In the healthy church, each Christian learns to care for others. As we take seriously Jesus’ command to “love one another,” we contribute to a winning team.

-- Christopher Stinnett, Leadership Magazine, Vol. 15:3,Walled Lake, Michigan, Summer 1994, p. 49.

PHILIPPIANS 2:3 Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves;

NOTHING! - How many? Now just try to accomplish this relying on your own power! Flesh will not cast out flesh! We absolutely must depend on the Spirit's supernatural power to "do nothing..."!

The phrase “selfish ambition” means strife that comes from ugly self-promotion and a competitive spirit that destroys unity by dividing the church into groups and cliques.  Selfishness and pride are at the root of every sin. 

Paul doesn’t promote self-hate, but advocates self-forgetfulness!

Illustration - Cross-country Drive

Four men are driving cross-country together: one from Idaho, one from Iowa, one from Florida, and the last one is from New York. A bit down the road the man from Idaho starts to pull potatoes from his bag and throws them out the window. The man from Iowa turns to him and asks, “What are you doing?” The man from Idaho says, “Man, we have so many of these darned things in Idaho. They’re laying around on the ground, I’m sick of looking at them!” A few miles down the road, the man from Iowa begins pulling ears of corn from his bag and throwing them out the window. The man from Florida asks “What are you doing that for?” The man from Iowa replies, “Man, we have so many of these darned things in Iowa. I’m sick of looking at them!” Inspired by the others, the man from Florida opens the car door and pushes the New Yorker out.

Many commentators feel that from the nature of Paul's exhortation (against selfishness) one can infer that there were budding factions among the saints at Philippi. In a gracious way, Paul is saying to the church, “Your disagreements reveal that there is a spiritual problem in your fellowship. It isn’t going to be solved by rules or threats. It’s going to be solved when your hearts are right with Christ and with each other.”

D. L. Moody said, “Selfishness is tearing others down and vain conceit is building ourselves up.” 

J B Phillips on with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves - Paul was not saying that we should consider everyone else to be more gifted or more capable than we are. It is a false humility that depreciates any acknowledgment of one's gifts. C. S. Lewis showed that true humility is evident when a man who designs the most beautiful cathedral in the world—and knows it is the most beautiful cathedral in the world—would have been just as pleased if someone else had designed it (Screwtape's Letter XIV).

To pretend not to have abilities we know we do have is not humility, but hypocrisy. If we esteem others better than ourselves, we do not consider everyone else to be superior to ourselves, but we do want everyone else to have preferential treatment.

Humility is the opposite of conceit and selfish ambition. Humility is concern for the advancement of others. The man who reigns in the affections of God's people is not the bossy, pushy man, but the quiet, godly, unassuming man who is always seeking the good of other people. Barnabas was such a man. (The John Phillips Commentary Series – Exploring Philippians: An Expository Commentary)

Humility of mind - Do you know how to forget others' faults? By remembering your own! Woe!

Humility you might say, “that’s for weasels, I’m an eagle!” Then this quotes for you {“Eagles may soar,…but weasels aren’t sucked into jet engines!”}

Here in Php 2:3 Paul gives us practical advice on how to integrate a Christlike Attitude into every day living.

[1] Never let selfishness or conceit be your motive!

[2] Regard others as more important than yourself.

  • Php 2:3 deals w/our Attitude;  
  • Php 2:4 deals w/our Actions!

Don't misinterpret what Paul is saying. His exhortation does not mean that we are to have a denigrating or disparaging view of our own gifts or talents. For example, you may be a much better singer than someone else. Paul is not saying to think of yourself as an inferior singer but to consider the other person as deserving of preferential treatment in general. The upshot is that our consideration for others must precede our concern for ourselves. You've probably seen the little acronym for "joy" - J (Jesus) O (others) Y (yourself).

The local church which pleases God must have a spirit of oneness, unity and harmony.  This is a oneness around the gospel or the work of Jesus Christ.  If all are submitted to Christ, there will be submission to one another.  Paul is calling for unity of thought, unity of feeling, unity of Spirit and unity of purpose.

We have all heard the saying, “Idle hands are the Devil’s tools.”  This can apply to spiritual activity as well.  Christians soaking in God’s Word and not giving it out will become the Devil’s tool, for they will develop a stagnate and critical attitude.  Christians should be very active in spiritual works such as praying studying the Bible, teaching, visiting, witnessing and socializing.  

Empty conceit  (kenodoxia from kenos = empty, vain, hollow, groundless + doxa = glory, praise or opinion) is used only here in the NT and literally means “vain glory”, "empty praise" or "hollow opinion" all describing in essence something which has an appearance but lacks the reality. It is a graphic description of the glory this world affords us which to the natural man appears "beautiful" and desirable, but which is literally devoid of any good or any eternal value. Kenodoxia describes the person who is conceited without reason, deluded, ambitious for his own reputation, challenging others to rivalry, jealous himself and willing to fight to prove his idea is right.

The idea of kenodoxia includes a highly exaggerated self-view. It is a passion for empty personal glory which contrasts sharply with humility.

Illustration - Merv Griffin and the body builders – what do they do with all that muscle?

One afternoon on the Merv Griffin Show, years ago, Merv interviewed some body builders. Merv was standing there, looking at those guys who had muscles on their muscles, and he asked the obvious question, “What do you use all these muscles for?” One guy answered by flexing his muscles in a typical body-building pose. Merv, taken back by the response, replied “You don’t understand me. I asked, what do you use all those muscles for?” The same guy said, “Here, I’ll show you.” And he posed again for the camera. For the third time Merv asked the question again. He was obviously growing irritated. “No, No. You still don’t understand my question. Read my lips. What do you use those muscles for.” And for a third time the guy posed again. -- Tim Hansel, Holy Sweat, p. 26-27.

Be careful when you find yourself seeking attention. Attention really doesn’t do that much for you. It’s just something to show off. - Rich Cather

Wuest on humility of mind  "The word is used in an early secular manuscript of the Nile River at its low stage, “It runs low.” Expositors defines it: “the lowliness of mind which springs from a true estimate of ourselves—a deep sense of our own moral smallness and demerit.”

John gives us a good pattern in Jn 3:30 "He must (present tense - continually) increase, but I must (present tense - continually) decrease." The order is important for as we see Jesus higher and higher we get a proper perspective of our self. True humility is not putting ourselves down but rather lifting up others. If we concentrate on lifting up others, putting down ourselves will take care of itself. As we go through life exalting Christ and others, then genuine humility will be inevitable. If we exalt ourselves then God will take care of our humiliation for He promises to humble the proud. It is much less painful to do it the first way. The true way to be humble is not to stoop until you are smaller than yourself, but to stand at your real height against some higher nature that will show you what the real smallness of your greatness is. Humility is not simply feeling small and useless—like an inferiority complex. It is sensing how great and glorious God is, and seeing myself in that light.

Illustration - Key to unity - humility

R.C. Chapman, a pastor and teacher back in 19th century England, wrote a book called “Agape Leadership”. He has a couple of great quotes about “unity”:

“Pride nourishes the remembrance of injuries: humility forgets as well as forgives them.”

“When mutual intercession takes the place of mutual accusation, then will the differences and difficulties of brethren be overcome.”

“Humility is the secret of fellowship, and pride the secret of division”. - Rich Cather

Illustration - regard one another as more important - Honor others Leave your crown at home.

At a reception honoring musician Sir Robert Mayer on his 100th birthday, elderly British socialite Lady Diana Cooper fell into conversation with a friendly woman who seemed to know her well. Lady Diana’s failing eyesight prevented her from recognizing her fellow guest, until she peered more closely at the magnificent diamonds and realized she was talking to Queen Elizabeth! Overcome with embarrassment, Lady Diana curtsied and stammered, “Ma’am, oh, ma’am, I’m sorry ma’am. I didn’t recognize you without your crown!” “It was so much Sir Robert’s evening,” the queen replied, “that I decided to leave it behind.”


President Reagan used to have a sign on his desk that read: “There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.” - Rich Cather

Selfishness kills relationships It’s what separates marriages.


A reader of People Magazine wrote a letter to the editor about actor Kevin Costner’s plans for divorce from his wife Cindy after 16 years of marriage. She wrote: Kevin is quoted as saying, “I wish I could stop and raise my family, but this is my time.” Poor Kevin. When was Cindy’s time? When she helped him form his career, when she had his three kids, or when she raised them by herself?

-- Sally Wood, People Magazine, November 28, 1994, p. 6.

God wants to stretch our hearts, not shrink them.


The widest thing in the universe is not space; it is the potential capacity of the human heart. Being made in the image of God, it is capable of almost unlimited extension in all directions. And one of the world’s greatest tragedies is that we allow our hearts to shrink until there is room in them for little besides ourselves. -- A.W. Tozer in The Root of the Righteous. Christianity Today, Vol. 34, no. 3. - Rich Cather

D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones -  The way to become poor in spirit is to look at God.

Andrew Murray quipped that "The humble person is not one who thinks meanly of himself; he simply does not think of himself at all! Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it.

Humility is that grace that, when you know you have it, you have lost it! The truly humble person knows himself and accepts himself (Ro 12:3-note). He yields himself to Christ to be a servant, to use what he is and has for the glory of God and the good of others. “Others” is a key idea in this section as the believer’s eyes are turned away from himself and focused on the needs of others.

ILLUSTRATION - Think of others

The greatest illustration of this is the Lord Jesus Christ.

He thought more of our needs than His own.

He saw that we needed someone to deal with our sin, and He stepped in and paid the price by dying on the cross in our place.

It’s actually a very healthy thing for us.


Years ago, Dr. Karl Menninger of the Menninger Clinic was asked, “If someone felt a nervous breakdown coming on, what would you suggest that he do?” “If you feel a nervous breakdown coming on, I would urge you to find somebody else with a problem—a serious one—and get involved with that individual, helping him solve his problem.” In helping him to solve his problem, then in reality your own problem is going to disappear. You’re no longer thinking internally. You’re no longer letting things gnaw at your stomach. You’re no longer getting disturbed about yourself because you’re not thinking about yourself. You’re thinking about others. I don’t know what your objective in life might be, but there is something each one of us can do.

I think this is one of the keys to a healthy marriage, learning to think more of the other person’s needs than of your own. - Rich Cather

Illustration - Dr. Willard Harley in his book entitled His Needs, Her Needs points out the priorities of the sexes in the order of importance:

A man desires:

1. Sexual fulfillment

2. Recreational companionship

3. An attractive spouse

4. Domestic support

5. Admiration of his wife

A woman desires:

1. Affection

2. Conversation

3. Honesty and Openness

4. Financial Support

5. Family Commitment

I find it interesting that none of the “needs” on “his list” are the same as the “needs” on “her list”. If these were your spouse’s needs, how well are you doing at meeting them? What do you think your spouse would say? These may not be your spouse’s exact needs, but do you know what your spouse’s needs are? We must learn to understand each other’s needs and work to meet those needs. - Rich Cather

It should also be remembered that the minds of different believers are not to be pressed into a single mold of thinking--this is not what is meant by being "likeminded" (Phil. 2:2).

Rather, God imparts to us the matchless mastermind of Christ, so each believer will be a distinct person in himself.

Believers will be likeminded inasmuch as they will seek to reach similar goals, but they will not each seek the same way, and they may not always agree as to how a particular goal can best be reached.

"Let us therefore follow after the things which make for peace, and things wherewith one may edify another" (Rom. 14:19).

Christ's solution for pride is the only cure:
consider others better than ourselves.

HUMILITY - The word “humility” really means “lowliness of mind.”  In lowliness of mind, Christians are to consider others better than themselves.  How do we interpret the thought of “better?”  Obviously, some Christians are smarter than others, some are more educated than others, some are more talented than others.  Are we to ignore these facts?  No, because Paul is talking about “importance.”  The NASB translates this, “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind let each one regard one another as moreimportant than himself.”  We are to view every other Christian as more important to the body of Christ than we are.  It is very difficult to say, “That person is better than me” when he may not be in various ways, but we can say, “That person’s interests are more important than mine.”  NOTE:  Each Christian must realize that all he has is by the grace of God and if he is in any way superior to another Christian, it is all God’s doing (1 Cor. 4:7:  For who makes you different from anyone else?  What do you have that you did not receive?  And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not?).  Each Christian is to think of himself as the least important Christian in the church.  This is what real humility is.  Humility is not, “Ah, shucks, I’m really nothing.  I’m nobody.  I’m a worm.”  NOTE:  A mind of humility is giving up personal rights and wants for the rights and wants of others.  So often we hear Christians say or imply, “I have my rights and I’m going to cling to my rights no matter what any other Christian does or says!”  That is not a mind of humility. 

Unselfish - who comes to mind when you here that word?  Maybe this “unknown man in the water” from 1982. As disasters go, this one was terrible but not unique, certainly not among the worst on the roster of U.S. air crashes. There was the unusual element of the bridge, of course, and the fact that the plane clipped it at a moment of high traffic, one routine thus intersecting another and disrupting both. Then, too, there was the location of the event. Washington, the city of form and regulations, turned chaotic, deregulated, by a blast of real winter and a single slap of metal on metal. The jets from Washington National Airport that normally swoop around the presidential monuments like famished gulls were, for the moment, emblemized by the one that fell; so there was that detail. And there was the aesthetic clash as well—blue-and-green Air Florida, the name a flying garden, sunk down among gray chunks in a black river. All that was worth noticing, to be sure. Still, there was nothing very special in any of it, except death, which, while always special, does not necessarily bring millions to tears or to attention. Why, then, the shock here? But the person most responsible for the emotional impact of the disaster is the one known at first simply as “the man in the water.” (Balding, probably in his 50s, an extravagant mustache) He was seen clinging with 5 other survivors to the tail section of the airplane. This man was described by Usher and Windsor as appearing alert and in control. Every time they lowered a lifeline and flotation ring to him, he passed it on to another of the passengers. “In a mass casualty, you’ll find people like him,” said Windsor. “But I’ve never seen one with that commitment.” When the helicopter came back for him, the man had gone under. His selflessness was one reason the story held national attention.

Rich Cathers on Becoming “other” centered. - The sad thing about marriage counseling is that you rarely ever get to talk to people who are having a happy marriage. Instead, you always get to talk to people who are having trouble in their marriage.

One of the common things that I come across whenever there is conflict is that usually one or both parties are thinking strictly about their own needs.

If I ask a husband and a wife to write down what they think they need in a marriage, they can fill up a couple of sheets of paper with their own needs. But if I ask them what their partner needs in the marriage, there is usually a lot of silence and scratching of the head.

Do you know what the needs of your partner are? Do you REALLY know, or would your list of things just be what you hoped they would be?

For example, husbands, what would you say your wife’s needs are? Would you tell me that she has this great need to cook you a great supper every night, to have it ready when you come home from work, that she needs to greet you with a great big wet, juicy kiss and just stare silently at you with goo-goo eyes all night while you watch football? Those might be some of your wife’s needs, but more likely they’re just your needs.

If we played that old “Newlywed Game”, and I had each of you make up a list of what the wife’s needs were in a marriage, would your two lists agree at all? How about the husbands needs?

This is much great than just dealing with marital problems. Paul is talking about people in the church getting along with each other.

When you have a conflict with any other person, how often do you stop and think to yourself, “What is that person needing right now?”

Rich Cathers on Put others ahead of you. Think of others first.

It goes against our nature to think of others. We all tend to be by nature very selfish people. We tend to be mostly concerned about one person – “me”.

They say that if you want to be successful in learning to carry on a conversation with another person, just learn to get them to talk about themselves. Ask them to tell you all about themselves.

Yet doing this is pretty hard, especially when you want to be talking about yourself!

God wants us to be concerned for the other person and not just thinking about what we’re going to get out of a relationship.


A story is told of Jesus and His disciples walking one day along a stony road. Jesus asked each of them to choose a stone to carry for Him. John, it is said, chose a large one while Peter chose the smallest. Jesus led them then to the top of a mountain and commanded that the stones be made bread. Each disciple, by this time tired and hungry, was allowed to eat the bread he held in his hand, but of course Peter’s was not sufficient to satisfy his hunger. John gave him some of his.

Some time later Jesus again asked the disciples to pick up a stone to carry. This time Peter chose the largest of all. Taking them to a river, Jesus told them to cast the stones into the water. They did so, but looked at one another in bewilderment.

“For whom,” asked Jesus, “did you carry the stone?”

One of the scary things about selfishness is to think that others are watching me and copying me.


There’s a story told of a pastor who was officiating at a funeral. When he was done, he was asked to lead the funeral procession as it made its way to the cemetery. So he got into his car, and he started driving at the head of the funeral procession. He flipped on his radio and became preoccupied, lost in thought; he forgot where he was going. About that time, he passed a K-Mart and thought about something he needed to pick up.

So he turned into the parking lot. As he was looking for a parking space, he just happened to glance into the rear-view mirror—and saw a string of cars following, all with their lights on! So self-absorbed, and then so humbled.

-- Mary Graves, "Getting Sober for Christmas," Preaching Today, Tape No. 135.

Are there people following your example? Jesus gave us the example that we ought to follow.

Pastor Brian Bill on Humility - Humility - tough subject.

1. I don’t claim to be there, nor as having been there.

2. So like Paul, I’ll use Jesus as our example this evening.

3. Let’s commit to Pursue humility together; Practice humility together; Grow in Humility together.

4. We cannot attain full Humility here. The best we can say is, “as a proud person I am pursuing humility.”

5. Augustine said, Pride is the mother of all sin. It is pregnant w/all sin. a) Pride is the root sin that leads to the fruit of sin.

6. Conversely then Humility is the mother of all Joy!


  • Humility is to the Christian what ballast is to the ship; it keeps him in his proper position and regulates all his thoughts and feelings.
  • Swallowing of pride seldom leads to indigestion.
  • The easiest way to dignity is humility.
  • God can only fill valleys, not mountains. (Think of filling with His Spirit)
  • If we learned humility it might spare us humiliation.
  • The lowliest Christian is the loveliest Christian.
  • The true secret of spiritual strength is selfdistrust and deep humility. J. C. Ryle
  • It was pride that changed angels into devils; it is humility that makes men as angels. - Augustine
  • Humble hearts lie in the valleys where streams of grace are flowing, and hence they drink of them. C. H. Spurgeon
  • The higher a man is in grace, the lower he will be in his own esteem. C. H. Spurgeon
  • Nothing sets a person so much out of the devil’s reach as humility. Jonathan Edwards
  • All God’s thrones are reached by going downstairs. C. Campbell Morgan
  • Not until we have become humble and teachable, standing in awe of God’s holiness and sovereignty … acknowledging our own littleness, distrusting our own thoughts, and willing to have our minds turned upside down, can divine wisdom become ours. J. I. Packer
  • I sometimes think that the very essence of the whole Christian position and the secret of a successful spiritual life is just to realize two things … I must have complete, absolute confidence in God and no confidence in myself. D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones
  • Think as little as possible about yourself. Turn your eyes resolutely from any view of your influence, your success, your following. Above all speak as little as possible about yourself. Samuel Wilberforce


“Ambition” - You may get to the very top of the ladder and find it has not been leaning against the right wall.

Q: Do these 2 verses go against our natural tendencies?

Q: How do they go against the spirit of society?

WOULD MAKE A GOOD CLOSING ILLUSTRATION  - DO WE HAVE AS MUCH SENSE AS BIRDS? (We often hear the term "bird brain" - well, here is a story that counters that statement! It's called Geese Sense! “Why the V formation?

As each bird flaps its wings, it creates an uplift for the bird immediately following. By flying in a V formation, the whole flock adds at least 71 percent greater flying range than if each bird flew on its own. Whenever a goose falls out of formation, it suddenly feels the drag and resistance of trying to go it alone, and quickly gets back into formation to take advantage of the lifting power of the bird immediately in front. (If we have as much sense as a goose, we will stay in formation with those who are headed the same way we are going.) When the lead goose gets tired, he rotates back in the wing and another goose flies point. The geese honk from behind to encourage those up front to keep up their speed. (What do we say when we honk from behind?) Finally, when a goose gets sick, or is wounded by a shot and falls out, two geese fall out of formation and follow him down to help and protect him. They stay with him until he is either able to fly, or until he is dead, and then they launch out on their own or with another formation to catch up with their original group.

ILLUSTRATION - When F. B. Meyer pastored Christ Church in London, Charles Spurgeon was preaching at Metropolitan Tabernacle, and G. Campbell Morgan was at Westminster Chapel. Meyer said, "I find in my own ministry that supposing I pray for my own little flock, ‘God bless me, God fill my pews, God send my a revival,” I miss the blessing; but as I pray for my big brother, Mr. Spurgeon, on the right-hand side of my church, ‘God bless him’; or my other big brother, Campbell Morgan, on the other side of my church, ‘God bless him’; I am sure to get a blessing without praying for it, for the overflow of their cups fills my little bucket."

ILLUSTRATION - The opposite of humility of mind is illustrated by the story of the young Scottish minister who walked proudly into the pulpit to preach his first sermon. He had a brilliant mind and a good education and was confident of himself as he faced his first congregation. But the longer he preached, the more conscious everyone was that “the Lord was not in the wind.” He finished his message quickly and came down from the pulpit with his head bowed, his pride now gone. Afterward, one of the members said to him, “If you had gone into the pulpit the way you came down, you might have come down from the pulpit the way you went up.”

Below are six ways to encourage someone - When was the last time you encouraged someone in any of the following ways? Have you ignored some gentle promptings by the Spirit to encourage someone? Perhaps today you might ask God to whom you might send a note or make a call? Yes, dear brother or sister in Christ, it does cost to encourage another (eg, it always costs our time, our "agenda", etc), but it might just be the most wisely invested moment of your day!

1) Provide materially – meet their material needs.

2) Drop a line – send notes of encouragement.

3) Reach out and touch – give an appropriate touch such as a pat, hug, etc.

4) Listen up – listen actively. (Oh my, I need to heed this one!)

5) Empathize – comfort others in their pain.

6) Give of your time – give your undivided attention.



Now discussing:

Matthew Commentaries & Sermons

Apostle Matthew


Click chart to enlarge
Charts from Jensen's Survey of the NT - used by permission
Another Chart from Charles Swindoll

BY MATTHEW (shaded area)

Click chart to enlarge

Verse by Verse notes On Site
Bruce Hurt, MD








Inductive Study Notes on Sermon on the Mount


Matthew 9

Matthew 10 Commentary - not complete

Matthew 11 Commentary

Matthew 12 Commentary

Matthew 13 Commentary

Matthew 14 Commentary

Matthew 15 Commentary

Matthew 16 Commentary - Not complete

Bruce Hurt, MD


MATTHEW 5-7 - click for sermons below

  • Happy Are The Humble Matt. 5:1-3
  • Happy Are The Hurting Matt. 5:1-4
  • Happy Are The Harnessed Matt. 5:1-5 
  • Happy Are The Hungry Matt. 5:1-6 
  • Happy Are The Helpers Matt. 5:1-7
  • Happy Are The Holy Matt. 5:1-8
  • Happy Are The Healers Matt. 5:1-9
  • Happy Are The Harassed Matt. 5:1-12
  • Salty Saints Matt. 5:13 
  • This Little Light Of Mine Matt. 5:14-16
  • Jesus and His Bible Matt. 5:17-19
  • Goodness That Isn't Good Enough Matt. 5:20
  • Heart-Murder Matt. 5:21-22
  • Something More Important Than Worship Matt. 5:23-26 
  • Hidden Lust Matt. 5:27-30
  • Jesus Teaches On Divorce Matt. 5:31-32
  • To Tell the Truth Matt. 5:33-37
  • Releasing Our Rights Matt. 5:38-42
  • Loving Your Enemies Matt. 5:43-48
  • Religious Exhibition or Sunday Is Not Showtime Matt. 6:1-5, 16-18
  • Getting Ready To Pray Matt. 6:5-8
  • Focus On the Father Matt. 6:9-13
  • Honoring Your Heavenly Father Matt. 6:9-13 
  • Watching For Kingdom Advances Matt. 6:10
  • Desiring God's Will In Our Life Matt. 6:10
  • Daily Bread Living Matt. 6:11 
  • Receiving and Practicing Forgiveness Matt. 6:12
  • Our Heavenly Guidance System Matt. 6:13 
  • A Beautiful Doxology Matt. 6:13 1
  • Fasting without Fanfare Matt. 6:16-18
  • Investing For Eternity Matt. 6:19-24 
  • Why Do You Worry? Matt. 6:25-34 
  • Are You a Faultfinder? Matt. 7:1-5 
  • Dogs and Hogs Matt. 7:6 
  • Knocking On Heaven's Door Matt. 7:7-11 
  • The Golden Rule Matt. 7:12 
  • The Road to Heaven Matt. 7:13-14
  • Beware of the Wolves Matt. 7:15-20 
  • Professors of Possessors Matt. 7:21-23
  • Building On the Rock Matt. 7:24-29 

MATTHEW 8-28 - click for sermons below

  • 1. Touching the Untouchable Matthew 8:1-4
  • 2. A Man Whose Faith Amazed Jesus Matthew 8:5-13
  • 3. The Cost of Discipleship or Fickle Followers Matthew 8:14-22
  • 4. Facing the Storms of Life Matthew 8:23-27
  • 5. Releasing Your Demons Matthew 8:28-34
  • 6. The Forgiveness of Sins Matthew 9:1-8
  • 7. Matthew's Personal Testimony Matthew 9:9-13
  • 8. The Lord of the Harvest It's Harvest Time Matthew 9:35-38
  • 9. Jesus' Ordination Sermon to His Disciples Matthew 10:1-11:1
  • 10. Depressed and Impressed Matthew 11:1-15
  • 11. This Generation Matthew 11:16-19
  • 12. The Great Invitation Matthew 11:28-30
  • 13. Why Parables? Matthew 13:10-17, 34-35
  • 14. Broadcasting the Gospel Matthew 13:1-9, 18-23
  • 15. Counterfeit Christians Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
  • 16. The Wheat and the Weeds Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43
  • 17. Is Bigger Better? Matthew 13:31-32
  • 18. The Case of the Sneaky Housewife Matthew 13:33
  • 19. God's Personal Treasure Matthew 13:44-46
  • 20. The Pearl of Great Price Matthew 13:45-46
  • 21. The Dragnet Matthew 13:47-50
  • 22. The Church That Jesus Built Matthew 16:13-19
  • 23. The Absolute Necessity of the Cross Matthew 16:21-23
  • 24. Don't Forget Your Cross Matthew 16:24-26
  • 25. A Preview of our Lord's Majesty Matthew 17:1-13
  • 26. Bring Him to Me! Matthew 17:14-21
  • 27. Straight From the Fish's Mouth Matthew 17:24-27
  • 28. Kids in the Kingdom Matthew 18:1-6; 19:13-15
  • 29. A Search and Rescue Mission Matthew 18:5-14
  • 30. Restoring an Offending Brother Matthew 18:15-20
  • 31. Forgiveness From the Heart Matthew 18:21-23
  • 32. Jesus Speaks About Divorce Matthew 19:1-12
  • 33. The Rich Young Ruler Matthew 19:16-26
  • 34. That's Not Fair! No, That's God's Grace Matthew 20:1-16
  • 35. What's In It For Me? Matthew 20:17-28
  • 36. What Do You Want Jesus to Do For You? Matthew 20:29-33
  • 37. Jesus' “First” Triumphal Entry Matthew 21:1-11
  • 38. His House Matthew 21:12-17
  • 39. The Two Sons Matthew 21:28-32
  • 40. Murder in the Vineyard Matthew 21:33-46
  • 41. The Greatest Commandment Matthew 22:34-40
  • 42. You Might Be A Hypocrite If … Matthew 23:1-13
  • 43. Eight Woes of False Religion Matthew 23:13-36
  • 44. Safe Beneath His Wing Matthew 23:37-39
  • 45. What on Earth is Going to Happen? Matthew 24:1-3
  • 46. General Signs of our Lord's Return Matthew 24:1-14
  • 47. Tribulation Preachers Matthew 24:14
  • 48. The Worst Day on Earth or Matthew 24:15-20;
  • 49. The Abomination of Desolation 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12
  • 50. The Second Coming of Christ Matthew 24:29-31
  • 51. Freedom From Fear Matthew 24:32-51
  • 52. Don't Be Foolish Matthew 25:1-13
  • 53. Use What God Has Given You Matthew 25:14-30
  • 54. Sheep on the Right – Goats on the Left Matthew 25:31-46
  • 55. Living in the Shadow of the Cross Matthew 26:1-5
  • 56. Extravagant Love Matthew 26:6-13
  • 57. The Sins of Judas Matthew 26:14-16, 20-25
  • 58. The Last Supper Matthew 26:17-20, 26-30
  • 59. Prelude to Denial Matthew 26:31-35, 69-75
  • 60. The Agony in Gethsemane Matthew 26:36-46
  • 61. The Arrest in Gethsemane Matthew 26:47-68
  • 62. Sin When It Is Finished Matthew 27:1-10
  • 63. Jesus Before Pilate Matthew 27:1-2, 11-14
  • 64. Jesus or Barabbas? Matthew 27:15-26b
  • 65. The Suffering and Death of Jesus Matthew 27:26-50
  • 66. Pondering at the Cross of Jesus Matthew 27:35-36
  • 67. Calvary Miracles Matthew 27:45-54
  • 68. The Burial of Jesus Matthew 27:57-66
  • 69. Resurrection Lies Matthew 28:11-13
  • 70. Three Days Matthew 28:1-10
  • 72. The Great Commission or The Great Omission Matthew 28:18-20


Cyril Barber - Published posthumously in 1861 and covering (in detail) only chapters 1-16, this volume contains the same richness of thought and close attention to detail that is found in Alexander's other commentaries.

INDEX - Note that chapters 17-28 are only brief summaries. 

The New Testament for English Readers
Matthew Commentary

Read his fascinating brief biography - Henry Alford and Phil Johnson's related comments/p>

Comment by Alford on Mt 24:21 describing the "Great Tribulation" showing that he is at least in part "futuristic": "Our Lord still has in view the prophecy of Daniel (Da 12:1), and this citation clearly shews the intermediate fulfilment, by the destruction of Jerusalem, of that which is yet future in its final fulfilment: for Daniel is speaking of the end of all things. Then only will these words be accomplished in their full sense."

James Rosscup writes that Alford's series on the New Testament "contains much that is valuable in the Greek New Testament… though all of the Greek New Testament words have been changed to English throughout." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

Charles Haddon Spurgeon (see his comments in following entry on Alford).

Editorial Note: If you are not proficient in Greek, you will find this work considerably more useful than the following work by Alford, because in this volume he translates the Greek and Latin into English. While the "The Greek New Testament" is longer (e.g., English version of 1John = 66 pages compared to Greek version = 94 pages in part because the latter includes comments of more technical nature), the substance of the commentary is otherwise similar to that found in the "NT for English Readers".

The Greek New Testament
Matthew Commentary

Interprets Mt 24:15 as fulfilled in 70AD.

James Rosscup writes that "This was the great work in the life of the versatile Dean of Canterbury. An outcome of this production was the New Testament for English Readers (4 vols.). Alford was a Calvinist, conservative and premillennial, though not dispensational. He takes a literal interpretation of the thousand years in Rev. 20 and has a famous quote there, is strong on sovereign election as in Ro 8:29, 30 and 1Pe 1:2, but, unfortunately, holds to baptismal regeneration in such texts as Titus 3:5 and John 3:5. He shows a great knowledge of the Greek text and faces problems of both a doctrinal and textual nature." (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

John Piper writes ""When I’m stumped with a… grammatical or syntactical or logical [question] in Paul, I go to Henry Alford. Henry Alford… comes closer more consistently than any other human commentator to asking my kinds of questions."

Charles Haddon Spurgeon writes that this text "is an invaluable aid to the critical study of the text of the New Testament. You will find in it the ripened results of a matured scholarship, the harvesting of a judgment, generally highly impartial, always worthy of respect, which has gleaned from the most important fields of Biblical research, both modern and ancient, at home and abroad. You will not look here for any spirituality of thought or tenderness of feeling; you will find the learned Dean does not forget to do full justice to his own views, and is quite able to express himself vigorously against his opponents; but for what it professes to be, it is an exceedingly able and successful work. The later issues are by far the most desirable, as the author has considerably revised the work in the fourth edition. What I have said of his Greek Testament applies equally to Alford’s New Testament for English Readers,* which is also a standard work." (Lectures to my Students, Vol. 4: Commenting and Commentaries; Lectures Addressed to the students of the Pastors' College, Metropolitan Tabernacle)

Bethany Bible
Sermon Notes on Matthew

Literalist Interpretation

Messages on Matthew

What a Way to Go! - "When I go to heaven..." were Jack Arnold's last words before dying instantly in the pulpit from a heart attack. The extraordinary event made international headlines. and was picked up by the AP wire, CNN, and even Paul Harvey." (Click for more detail) (Watch memorial service - Pt 1, Pt 2, Pt 3, Pt 4, Pt 5).

  • Matthew 13:1,2,10-17 Mysteries of the Kingdom
  • Matthew 13:3-8,18-23 The Parable of the Sower
  • Matthew 13:3-8,18-23 The Cares of the World
  • Matthew 13:3-8,18-23 The Real Thing
  • Matthew 13:24-30, 18-23 The Parable of the Wheat and Tares
  • Matthew 13:31,32 The Parable of the Mustard Seed
  • Matthew 13:33 The Parable of the Leaven
  • Matthew 13:44 The Parable of the Hid Treasure
  • Matthew 13:45,46 The Parable of the Pearl of Great Price
  • Matthew 13:47-50 The Parable of the Dragnet
  • Matthew 13:51,52 The Parable of the Householder

Commentary on Matthew

D Edmond Hiebert- Divides the gospel into brief sections intended for daily study. The author follows his own translation; his comments "aim to make the results of modern scholarship available to the non-technical reader in a form that it does not require a theological education to understand." Word studies and refreshing insights abound, with a stress upon the relevance of the gospel for modern life. Liberal in spots.  (from Hiebert's critique of Barclay on Peter's epistles - "Barclay holds that Christ's descent into Hades gave those who there heard Him a second chance.")

Comment: I appreciate Barclay's unique insights on Greek words, but clearly his teaching about a "second chance" is NOT sound doctrine! Be an Acts 17:11 Berean with Barclay. See discussion of his orthodoxy especially the article "The Enigmatic William Barclay".

Sermons on Matthew
Calvary Murrietta

  • Matthew 1 Knots in Jesus’ Family Tree
  • Matthew 2 Redeemer, Refugee, IDP
  • Matthew 3 Advance Man
  • Matthew 4:1-11 Led By God - Tempted as man
  • Matthew 4:12-25 Punching Holes in the Darkness
  • Matthew 5:1-3 Because I’m Happy
  • Matthew 5:4-7 Happy Are the Sad
  • Matthew 5:5 The Meek are Not Weak
  • Matthew 5:6 Thirsty Souls & Hungry Hearts
  • Matthew 5:7 Men of Mercy
  • Matthew 5:8 Pure Hearts See God
  • Matthew 5:9 God's Silent Sentry
  • Matthew 5:10-12 I Never Promised You a Rose Garden
  • Matthew 5:13 White Gold (Salt)
  • Matthew 5:14-16 You Are God's Light
  • Matthew 5:27-32 Pandemic
  • Matthew 5:33-48 Spiritual Germination
  • Matthew 6:1-4 Games Christians Play
  • Matthew 6:5-15 Secret Place
  • Matthew 6:16-18 Soul-Fattening Fasting
  • Matthew 6:19-34 Where Do You Keep Your Valuable
  • Matthew 6:34 Today's Mercies for Today's Trouble
  • Matthew 7:1-12 Sonship Prayers
  • Matthew 7:13-29 Fork in the Road
  • Matthew 8:1-17 Willing and Able
  • Matthew 8:18-27 I Have Decided to Follow Jesus
  • Matthew 8:28-9:8 Healing Miracles
  • Matthew 9:9-17 New Wine for a New Way
  • Matthew 9:18-26 Fingers of Faith
  • Matthew 9:27-38 Comrades in the Dark, Companions in the Light
  • Matthew 10:1-4 Baker's Dozen
  • Matthew 10:5-29 3 Groups of Disciples
  • Matthew 10:27-42 Get A Life
  • Matthew 11:1-19 Christianity… 200 Proof
  • Matthew 11:20-30 Soul Rest
  • Matthew 12:1-21 Sabbathtage
  • Matthew 12:22-37 The Source
  • Matthew 12:38-50 Space, Time, & Grace
  • Matthew 13:1-22 Landscaped with His Word
  • Matthew 13:24-43 A World of Wheat n Weeds
  • Matthew 13:44-46 The Treasure Hunter & The Merchant
  • Matthew 13:47-58 The Good, the Bad and the Ugly and Everything in B
  • Matthew 14:1-21 You Give Them Something
  • Matthew 14:22-36 911, what’s your emergency?
  • Matthew 15:1-20 When Cleanliness is next to Godlessness
  • Matthew 15:21-39 Christ Crumbs
  • Matthew 16:16-28 Peter’s Beatitude
  • Matthew 17:1-13 Show Me Your Glory
  • Matthew 17:14-27 A Boy w/a Demon & a Fish w/a Coin
  • Matthew 18-1:14 BIG Lesson from a little Child
  • Matthew 18:15-20 We Can Work it Out
  • Matthew 18:21-35 490
  • Matthew 19:1-15 To Tie The Knot or Not
  • Matthew 20:1-16 Service, or Serve Us
  • Matthew 20-17-34 A Love that Serves
  • Matthew 21:1-22 Riding Donkeys - Cleaning Temples - Counting Figs
  • Matthew 21:23-46 Coming to Terms w/Jesus or Coming to Jesus w/Terms
  • Matthew 22:1-14 RSVP
  • Matthew 22:15-46 Dual Citizenship
  • Matthew 23:1-12 High on Talk, Low on Walk
  • Matthew 23:13-39 Outwardly Religious. Inwardly Corrupt.
  • Matthew 24:1-14 Thy Kingdom Coming
  • Matthew 24:15-31 Forewarned is Forearmed
  • Matthew 24:32-51 Don’t Lose the Best by Living for the Good
  • Matthew 25:1-13 Preparation or Procrastination?
  • Matthew 25:14-30 Wise Investing
  • Matthew 25:31-46 Mercy Ministry
  • Matthew 26:17-30 Venomoid Communion
  • Matthew 26:31-56 Your Sword or His Cup?
  • Matthew 26:57-75 Rooster Warnings
  • Matthew 27:1-26 Not Guilty
  • Matthew 27:27-44 Love is Messy
  • Matthew 27:45-66 a Sponge, a Curtain, and a Cross
  • Matthew 28:1-15 Love Is as Love Does
  • Matthew 28:16-20 A World-Size Role for Global Christians

Same Material but Alternative Source

Sermon on the Mount

"Pulpit Pages"



Commentary Notes on Matthew
The "Gnomon of the New Testament" (1877)

Note: If not proficient in Greek, see Critical English Testament below. Not Futuristic on Mt 24

James Rosscup writes "This work (Gnomon), originally issued in 1742, has considerable comment on the Greek, flavoring the effort with judicious details about the spiritual life. It has much that helps… " (Commentaries for Biblical Expositors: An Annotated Bibliography of Selected Works)

Preface Commentary

The Critical English Testament
Commentary on Matthew

Represents Combination of Bengel's Gnomon (above) and Comments by more modern expositors (in brackets) to make this more usable for those who do not read Greek. Interprets Mt 24:15 as fulfilled in 70AD.

C H Spurgeon -- "'A Critical New Testament, so compiled as to enable a reader, unacquainted with Greek, to ascertain the exact English force and meaning of the language of the New Testament, and to appreciate the latest results of modern criticism.' Such is the professed aim of this commentary, and the compilers have very fairly carried out their intentions. The whole of Bengel’s Gnomon is bodily transferred into the work, and as one hundred and twenty years have elapsed since the first issue of that book, it may be supposed that much has since been added to the wealth of Scripture exposition; the substance of this has been incorporated in brackets, so as to bring it down to the present advanced state of knowledge. We strongly advise the purchase of this book, as it is multum in parvo, and will well repay an attentive perusal. Tischendorf and Alford have contributed largely, with other German and English critics, to make this one of the most lucid and concise commentaries on the text and teachings of the New Testament" (Ibid)

Multiple Resources on Matthew

720 Pages Packed with Material from Various Authors

Sermons on Matthew


  • Matthew 1:1-25 Genealogy of Jesus
  • Matthew 2:  The Two Responses To Hearing About Jesus Christ:  The Magi Verses Herod"
  • Matthew 2:1-23 The Magi Visit Baby Jesus 
  • Matthew 3:1-17"The Calling And Ministry Of John The Baptist" 
  • Matthew 4:1-11 The Temptations Of Jesus" 
  • Matthew 4:12-25 Jesus' Ministry To The Galileans & Calling Of The First Disciples
  • Matthew 5:1-6 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount
  • Matthew 5:7-12 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  The Beatitudes Concerning Motivational Attitudes" 
  • Matthew 5:13-16 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  About Being Salt And Light" 
  • Matthew 5:17-20 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  About Not Abolishing The Law And Prophets
  • Matthew 5:21-30 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  True Righteousness Involves Thought Life Also
  • Matthew 5:31-37 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  About Divorce, Making/Keeping Vows" 
  • Matthew 5:38-47 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  About Being Taken Advantage Of And Not Taking Personal Revenge
  • Matthew 5:48-6:8 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount: Be Perfect
  • Matthew 6:9-15 Jesus Teaches His Disciples The Model Prayer"
  • Matthew 6:16-24 Jesus States That We Should Never Do Good Deeds To Be Seen By Men
  • Matthew 6:25-34 Jesus Teaches His Disciples Not To Worry Or Be Anxious
  • Matthew 7:1-11 Jesus' Sermon On The Mount:  About Judging
  • Matthew 7:12-18 Jesus Teaches The Golden Rule
  • Matthew 7:19-29 Jesus Warns His Disciples About False Teachers And Professors
  • Matthew 8:1-17 Jesus Heals A Leper, A Centurion's Slave
  • Matthew 8:18-27  Jesus Gives Requirements To Those Who Would Desire To Follow Him
  • Matthew 8:28-9:8 Jesus Heals A Demon-possessed Man Who Is Both Blind And Dumb
  • Matthew 9:9-17  The Calling Of Matthew
  • Matthew 9:18-26 A Woman Grabs The Hem Of Jesus' Garment And Is Healed
  • Matthew 9:27-38  Jesus Heals Two Blind Men Who Cry Out For Mercy
  • Matthew 10:1-8 Twelve Apostles Are Named
  • Matthew 10:9-15  Jesus Gives More Practical Ministry Advice Prior To Sending Out The Twelve
  • Matthew 10:27-42  Jesus' Hardest Sayings On Discipleship
  • Matthew 10:42ff Further Discussion On Jesus' Hardest Sayings On Discipleship
  • Matthew 11:1-6  John The Baptist Sends His Disciples To See If Jesus Really Is The Christ 
  • Matthew 11:7-19 Jesus Begins To Tell The Multitudes Who John The Baptist Was In God's End-times Scheme
  • Matthew 11:20-30  Jesus Pronounces 'Woes' On The Cities That Rejected Him,
  • Matthew 12:1-14 Jesus Gives Five Rebuttals To The Pharisees
  • Matthew 12:15-32  Jesus Withdraws From The Multitudes, 
  • Matthew 12:33-50 Jesus Teaches That Spirituality Is Based Upon Fruits
  • Matthew 13:1-23  Jesus Teaches The Parable Of The Sower
  • Matthew 13:24-32 Jesus Teaches Two Kingdom Parables:  Tares Among The Wheat And The Mustard Seed  
  • Matthew 13:33-44  Jesus Teaches Two Kingdom Parables: Leaven Hidden In The Meal & Treasure Hidden In the Field
  • Matthew 13:45-58 Jesus Teaches Two Kingdom Parables:  Pearl Of Great Price And The Dragnet Of Fishes
  • Matthew 14:1-13  John The Baptist Confronts Herod Antipas
  • Matthew 14:14-21 Jesus Feeds The 5,000  
  • Matthew 14:22-36  Jesus' Disciples Become Fearful In the Boat
  • Matthew 15:1-20 Pharisees Come To Jesus And Ask Him Why His Disciples Don't Wash Their Hands
  • Matthew 15:21-38  Jesus Casts A Demon Out Of A Syro-Phoenician Woman
  • Matthew 16:1-12 The Pharisees And Sadduccees Come Together To Ask Jesus To Show Them A Sign
  • Matthew 16:13-20  Jesus Asks His Disciples Who They Think He Is,
  • Matthew 16:24-17:9 Jesus Teaches That A Follower Must Take Up His Cross And Be Willing To Lose His Life
  • Matthew 17:1-23  Jesus Is Transfigured,
  • Matthew 17:24-18:11 Jesus Tells His Disciples To Pay Taxes And Miraculously Pays Their Taxes
  • Matthew 18:12-20  Jesus Teaches About The Father As A Shepherd Who Seeks After A Lost Sheep
  • Matthew 18:21-34 Peter Asks Jesus If He Should Forgive A Brother Up To Seven Times
  • Matthew 19:1-12  Jesus Contends With The Pharisees And Their Questions On Divorce
  • Matthew 19:23-30  Jesus Teaches His Disciples About How Hard It Will Be For A Rich Man To Go To Heaven
  • Matthew 20:1-16 Jesus Teaches About Living Under Grace
  • Matthew 20:20-28  The Mother Of James And John Asks Jesus To Put Her Sons One On Each Side Of Him
  • Matthew 20:29-21:11 Jesus Heals Two Blind Men Then Makes His Triumphal Entry Into Jerusalem
  • Matthew 21:12-22  Jesus' Acts In Jerusalem After Initially Entering During His Triumphal Entry
  • Matthew 21:23-46 The Chief Priests And Elders Put Jesus To A Test
  • Matthew 22:1-14  Jesus Teaches His Disciples The Parable About The Wedding Feast
  • Matthew 22:15-32 The Pharisees, Sadduccees, And Herodians Ask Jesus Test Questions To Try And Trap Him
  • Matthew 22:33-46  The Pharisees Test Jesus Asking Him What The Greatest Commandment
  • Matthew 23:1-12 Jesus Begins To Openly And Broadly Condemn The Pharisees And Scribes  
  • Matthew 23:13-24  Jesus Begins To Pronounce 'Woes' On The Pharisees And Scribes
  • Matthew 23:25-39 Finishing Up The 'Woes'Matthew 24:1-8  Intro To Jesus' Olivet Discourse
  • Matthew 24:9-14 Jesus Tells His Disciples The Signs Of The Times Leading Up To His Coming, Part 2
  • Matthew 24:15-27  Olivet Discourse:  The Dramatic Signs That Occur During The Tribulation
  • Matthew 24:28-35 Jesus Teaches His Disciples About The Cataclysmic Signs That Will Occur During The Tribulation
  • Matthew 24:36-51  Jesus Teaches His Disciples About His Imminent Return
  • Matthew 25:1-13 Jesus Tells His Disciples The Parable Of The Ten Virgins
  • Matthew 25:14-30  Jesus Tells His Disciples The Parable Of The Talents
  • Matthew 25:31-46 Jesus Tells His Disciples About The Sheep And Goats Judgment At The End Times
  • Matthew 26:1-13  Jesus Forewarns Of His Crucifixion
  • Matthew 26:14-30 Judas Plans To Betray Jesus To The Pharisees
  • Matthew 26:31-46  Jesus Tells The Twelve He Will Be Crucified & Rise Again, And That Peter Will Deny Him
  • Matthew 26:47-65 Jesus Is Arrested And Let To Appear Before Caiaphas And The High Priest
  • Matthew 26:66-27:10  Jesus Appears Before The Chief Priests And Scribes
  • Matthew 27:11-31 Jesus Is Tried Before Pilate
  • Matthew 27:32-56  Simon Carries Jesus' Cross / Jesus Is Crucified  
  • Matthew 27:57-66 Joseph Of Arimathea Obtains Jesus' Body And Places It In A Tomb / The Pharisees Place A Guard
  • Matthew 28:1-20  The Events That Occurred When Jesus Was Resurrected 

Commentary on Matthew

James Rosscup writes that "In many ways it is the finest and most satisfying overall older commentary on Matthew. It helps the student on almost every verse. Broadus deals frontally with problems and gives much rich material that throws light on the text. His citations from other sources are often very helpful. From the standpoint of the Greek text, he is also sound. This 1886 work, long a part of the American Commentary on the New Testament series, is still one of the best in detailed explanation of the text where it counts." (Ibid)

Rosscup rates this as the #2 best detailed exegetical commentary on Matthew.

Cyril Barber - Very complete. Tackles interpretative problems honestly. Provides "Homiletical and Practical" suggestions for preachers. Adopts an amillennial interpretation of Christ's parables and teaching about the Kingdom. Valuable.

D Edmond Hiebert- One of the ablest American commentaries on Matthew from the past century and still valuable for the systematic interpretation of the gospel. It is the work of an accomplished conservative scholar.

Note: Broadus does interpret Mt 24:15 as fulfilled in 70AD.


Note: Calvin interprets Mt 24:15, 21 ;as fulfilled in 70AD - literal reading of the passage strongly argues against his interpretation. Be a Berean especially with older commentators such as Calvin, Henry, Jamieson (JFB is one of the best older works), Gill.

Sermons on Matthew

Well Done expositions. 

Sermons on Matthew

Fullerton Calvary Chapel. 

Frequent Illustrations: Below are four examples of illustrations from the notes on Matthew 7:

  1. Illustration Related to Matthew 7:1: Too Many Umbrellas - The story is told of Mr. Jones who picked up the wrong umbrella in a hotel lobby and was about to walk out when the rightful owner called attention to his mistake. Embarrassed, he offered his apologies. Finding his own, he went on his way. The incident, however, reminded him that he had promised to buy both his wife and daughter an umbrella. To his delight he found that a local store nearby had them on sale, so he bought two. Just as he was getting into his car with his unwrapped purchases, he saw the man he had encountered earlier. He was eyeing him suspiciously. Seeing the three umbrellas hooked over his arm, the stranger exclaimed sarcastically, “I see you had a good day after all!” Although Mr. Jones blushed, he was not guilty of any wrongdoing. Things are not always what they seem. We need to be reminded that our first impressions, even many impressions, may be misleading.
  2. Illustration Related to Matthew 7:11: In The Whisper Test, Mary Ann Bird writes: I grew up knowing I was different, and I hated it. I was born with a cleft palate, and when I started school, my classmates made it clear to me how I looked to others: a little girl with a misshapen lip, crooked nose, lopsided teeth, and garbled speech. When schoolmates asked, “What happened to your lip?” I’d tell them I’d fallen and cut it on a piece of glass. Somehow it seemed more acceptable to have suffered an accident than to have been born different. I was convinced that no one outside my family could love me. There was, however, a teacher in the second grade whom we all adored—Mrs. Leonard by name. She was short, round, happy—a sparkling lady. Annually we had a hearing test. ... Mrs. Leonard gave the test to everyone in the class, and finally it was my turn. I knew from past years that as we stood against the door and covered one ear, the teacher sitting at her desk would whisper something, and we would have to repeat it back—things like “The sky is blue” or “Do you have new shoes?” I waited there for those words that God must have put into her mouth, those seven words that changed my life. Mrs. Leonard said, in her whisper, “I wish you were my little girl.” God says to every person deformed by sin, “I wish you were my son” or “I wish you were my daughter.” You may not always understand it, but God does love you. He will give good gifts to those who ask Him.
  3. Illustration Related to Matthew 7:12:A recently divorced woman is walking along the beach contemplating how badly treated she got in the divorce settlement, when she spies a magic lamp washing up onshore. She rubs the lamp, and out pops a magical genie. The genie notices her anger and lets her vent her troubles to him. As a consolation, the genie informs her that he will give her three wishes. But he cautions her that because he does not believe in divorce, he will give her ex-husband ten times the amount of whatever she wishes. The woman is steaming mad, thinking that this is hardly fair, but she makes her first wish. The first wish was for a billion dollars. The genie grants her wish and she finds herself sitting in pile of one billion one-dollar bills. The genie then reminds her that her husband is now the recipient of 10 billion dollars. The woman can barely contain her anger when she makes her second wish. The second wish was for a beautiful mansion on the shore of her own private beach. In an instant it was granted, but the genie then reminds again that her ex-husband now owns ten of what she wished for, and points out to a small development of ten such mansions down the beach. Upon hearing this, the woman takes her time to contemplate her last wish. Just as the genie was about to give up on her, the woman informs the genie that she wants to make the last wish. But before she can do this, the genie again warns her that her ex-husband will get ten times what she wishes for. “No problem,” said the woman as she grinned in ecstasy. “For my last wish, I’d like to give birth to twins.” Be careful what you wish for …How do you want others to treat you?
  4. Illustration Related to Matthew 7:12: Mr. Charles Schwab was one of the first men ever to earn a million dollars a year. Why did Andrew Carnegie pay Schwab more than $3,000 a day? Because he knew more about the manufacture of steel than other people? No. Schwab said that he had many men working for him whose technical knowledge surpassed his. Schwab was paid such a handsome amount largely because of his ability to deal with people. Here is the secret set down in his own words: “I consider my ability to arouse enthusiasm among the men the greatest asset I possess, and the way to develop the best that is in a man is by appreciation and encouragement. There is nothing else that so kills the ambitions of man as criticisms from his superiors. I never criticize anyone. I believe in giving a man incentive to work. So I am anxious to praise but loath to find fault. If I like anything, I am hearty in my approbation and lavish in my praise.”

My Utmost for His Highest

Devotionals related to Matthew

Matthew Commentary


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