“Don’t Stop Trusting in Me!” – John 14:1

John 14:1 – Do not let your hearts be troubled; trust in God, trust also in me. (ESV)

According to U.S.A. Today, “More than 20 percent of American adults took at least one drug for conditions like anxiety and depression in 2001 … including more than one in four women.”

The Anxiety and Depression Association of America reports “Anxiety disorders are the most common mental illness in the U.S., affecting 40 million adults in the United States age 18 and older (18% of U.S. population).”

In our text today, Jesus has indicated one of the disciples is a deceiver (John 13:21) and predicted Peter will deny knowing Him at all (John 13:38; Luke 22:34).

While Jesus wanted Peter pre-warned of his failures, He also wanted him to know, on the front end, that it would be all right. “Don’t let it worry you or destroy you” is the message.

The basis for being untroubled was faith in God and Christ. Probably a better translation of this phrase is for both statements to be imperatives or commands. They did not understand at all what was happening at this point in Jesus’ life.

His answer is this, “Trust Me.” We do not all go through the same trial they did. But all of us face times when we just do not understand what is happening.

Jesus later told the disciples why he gave them glimpses of the future that would soon follow: “I have told you now before it happens, so that when it does happen you will believe” (14:29 niv). They would not need to be afraid because all that he promised would come true.

Jesus has just told Peter that he would deny him three times and the other ten would scarcely fare any better. They are visibly shaken. So Jesus tells them to stop being troubled. With two more imperatives, Jesus gives the solution: Trust in God; trust in me!

Jesus said they had an option. They could be heart troubled by what he said. Or, they could trust him. The antidote to a troubled heart is faith in Jesus.

If this seems too simple, these are the words of the Lord Jesus Christ to troubled hearts. Either His words are true or they’re not.

I would ask you to consider whether perhaps you just haven’t applied these words before you conclude that they are simplistic or impractical.

And I also point out that Jesus’ words have given genuine comfort to countless believers in the midst of horrible trials over the past 2000+ years of church history. So before you shrug them off, consider whether or not you have truly applied them to your troubled heart

Faith is only as good as its object. Trusting in a faulty airplane won’t make it fly! As we’ve seen repeatedly, everything in the Christian life depends on the correct answer to Jesus’ question (Matt. 16:15), “Who do you say that I am?”

If Jesus is who He claimed to be and who all of Scripture proclaims Him to be, then He is absolutely trustworthy in every trial that you encounter.

If He is not who He claimed to be, then eat and drink, for tomorrow you will die (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19, 32).

“If Christ is raised, nothing else matters. If Christ is not raised, nothing matters.”

In Jesus’ day the kardia/heart was seen as the center of human volition or will. When he says, “Do not let your hearts be troubled,” it would be something like a modern person saying, “Don’t be wavering in your determination.”

This is why he follows this up with another command, “Believe in God and believe in me.” This is more than advice to trust God at a time of crisis. It is a perpetual command of Jesus for his disciples: Believe, Believe, Believe, and never stop Believing.

Do You Trust me? Faith is a living well-founded confidence in the grace of God, so perfectly certain that it would die a thousand times rather than surrender its conviction.

Such confidence and personal knowledge of divine grace makes its possessor joyful, bold, and full of warm affection toward God and all created things — all of which the Holy Spirit works in faith.

Hence, such a man becomes without constraint willing and eager to do good to everyone, to serve everyone, to suffer all manner of ills, in order to please and glorify God, who has shown toward him such grace. We have trusted many people and many things:

Personal nature: We often trust our families, we have trusted our friends

Public nature: We have trusted our transportation services

We trusted our national security services

We trusted our military services

What do all of these things have in common? Sometimes they fail our trust.

 God wants you to trust Him.

  • Moses trusted God to deliver the Israelites at the Red Sea.
  • Joseph trusted God while he languished in the Pharaoh’s prison.
  • David trusted God for a victory when he was facing down Goliath.
  • Jonah trusted God to answer his prayer in the belly of the whale.
  • Peter and John trusted God as they stood before the Sanhedrin and gave their defense of the Christian faith.

The words recorded in chapter 14 are intended to minister to the troubled spirits of the disciples—but not to give them immediate comfort.

Have you ever noticed that virtually every advertisement for pain relievers claims the same thing—fast relief? I have yet to find any advertisement which says: “Our product will not give you quick relief. If you purchase it and take the recommended dosage, nothing will happen for some time. …”

The “relief” which our text offers is not “fast” relief. The Upper Room Discourse is not a “play by play” account of the events that took place in the Upper Room, as the disciples experienced and perceived them at the time.

The Upper Room Discourse is a reconstruction of these events, recorded years later, after the death, resurrection, and ascension of our Lord.

These words were written by John after the Holy Spirit’s coming at Pentecost, who enabled the disciples to recall and understand what they had seen and heard in their last hours with the Lord (see 16:12-16).

The immediate effect of our Lord’s words to His disciples was confusion and sadness. I would like to suggest that this was exactly what our Lord intended them to produce—for the moment.

Suppose the disciples really did grasp what Jesus was about to do. Suppose, for example, that the disciples understood that Judas was about to betray our Lord and to hand Him over to the Jewish authorities, so that they could carry out a mock trial and crucify the Son of God on the cross of Calvary.

I think I know what Peter would have done—he would have used his sword on Judas, rather than the high priest’s slave.

I believe the disciples would have attempted to prevent what was about to happen, had they known what that was. But the confusion our Lord’s words produced threw them off balance.

The result was that when Jesus was arrested, they fled. They did not die trying to defend the Savior, and in part this was because they were utterly confused by what was happening.

Jesus’ words were not intended to produce instant “relief,” but eternal joy. The confusion and sadness that the Upper Room Discourse created in the disciples enabled Jesus to die just as He knew He must, just as it had been planned, purposed, and promised long before. The disciples were surely not “in control” at this point in time, but, as always, the Master was.

What does it mean to trust?

Webster: Basic dependence on someone or something, Belief that something will happen or someone will act is a prescribed way

Trust is found in our unswerving belief that the God of Heaven will indeed work on our behalf to bring His perfect will for our lives into being

Far too often in life we become completely focused on the trials and difficulties of life and we lose our focus on Christ. When Peter walked on the water with Jesus he was doing well until he took his eyes off of Jesus and looked at the waves.

The same is true of us today. God can get us through the most impossible situations but we must keep our focus and trust on Him. How can we ever expect to find help and healing when we are still focused on our difficulties and not our deliverance

Jesus was calling the disciples to trust God through any and every circumstance of life. He was  about to be crucified and they would be scattered. Jesus was telling them to trust even when they did not understand because God was still at work

If I were to ask you individually, most of you would very quickly say that you trust God but there are times when trust is not so simple. Trusting God means we believe in that which we cannot see and sometimes may not understand

Trusting God is literally against our human nature. Trusting God means that we have to admit that we are not in control of our lives

We need to place our trust in something or someone and we do it every day. We trust our cars to get us to our destination. We trust our employers to deliver paychecks. We trust our doctors top heals our illnesses.

How much more should we trust God?  Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, and he will make your paths straight. Proverbs 3:5-6

Disasters strike and tragedies happen in our lives. Life can indeed be hard. Life can be uncertain. Life is beyond our control. In times like this, life is beyond our understanding. We are left with raw emotions and tough questions.

Answers are beyond us as we grapple with the question of why.

God asks the question: Do you trust me?

“Nothing and I mean nothing that we go through in life is beyond God.” The truth is that we can and must rely on God in every situation in life. Times that just don’t make any sense in human terms; we need to trust in God. The more senseless life becomes the greater our need to trust in God.

The writer of Proverbs states it simply and clearly that God wants your full and complete trust. Trust God with all of your heart. We must hold nothing back and surrender to Him all that we are, all that we have, all that we may become because without the presence and guidance of God we will go nowhere.

God wants you to trust even when you don’t understand. When life just doesn’t make sense. God wants us to follow Him when the future seems uncertain. It is only when we completely trust God that He to give us the power of His direction and the power of His presence.

The LORD is a refuge for the oppressed, a stronghold in times of trouble. Those who know your name will trust n you, for you, LORD, have never forsaken those who seek you. Psalm 9:9-10

When we feel weak, God is our strength. When we are pressured by life, God is our relief. When we need security, God is our refuge. The full resources of God are at our disposal when we place our trust in Him

If you do not place your trust in God, there is no access to His power, His mercy or His love. When trials arise and we go through difficulty; it is then that we must place our trust in God. Without trust in God there is no comfort, no peace, no strength and no relief.

Once my hands were always trying; Trying hard to do my best; Now my heart is sweetly trusting, And my soul is all at rest. Once my brain was always planning, And my heart, with cares oppressed; Now I trust the Lord to lead me, And my life is all at rest. Once my life was full of effort, Now ’tis full of joy and zest;  Since I took His yoke upon me, Jesus gives to me His rest.  — A.B. Simpson

God has made a promise that He will never forsake those who seek Him. The promise that God made so long ago is still valid today because God has never broken a promise yet.

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Posted by on June 5, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Judas Iscariot: From the Light into the Night – John 13.21-30

21After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night.

We see Jesus’ glory in the trouble He went through for our souls. Some reasons that Jesus was troubled in spirit on this occasion:

  • He was troubled because of the unrequited love of Judas
  • He was troubled because of the ingratitude in Judas’ heart
  • He was troubled because He had a deep hatred of sin and it was sitting right next to Him, sin incarnate
  • He was troubled because He was shrinking about from contact with the one about to betray Him
  • He was troubled because He knew of the eternal destiny in Hell
  • He was troubled because He could see with His omnipotent eye Satan moving around Judas
  • He was troubled because He had a knowledge of the sin of the betrayer and the terrors of his eternal punishment
  • He was troubled because He sensed all that sin and death meant
  • He was troubled because He had an inner awareness that Judas was a classic illustration of the wretchedness of sin, sin which He would have to bear in His own body on the next day, sin for which He would be made responsible, and would die for.

30 And it was night.

John has a way of using words in a most poignant way. It was night for the day was late; but there was another night there.

It is always night when a man goes from Christ to follow his own purposes. It is always night when a man listens to the call of evil rather than the summons of good. It is always night when hate puts out the light of love. It is always night when a man turns his back on Jesus.

If we submit ourselves to Christ, we walk in the light; if we turn our backs on him we go into the dark. The way of light and the way of dark are set before us. God give us wisdom to choose aright—for in the dark a man always goes lost.[1]

  • John’s little phrase carries a tremendous impact when you remember that light and darkness are important spiritual images in his Gospel.
  • Jesus is the Light of the world (John 8:12), but Judas rejected Jesus and went out into darkness; and for Judas, it is still night!
  • Those who do evil hate the light (John 3:18–21).

So Jesus was reaching out to Judas right up till the end. There is a mystery here in that Judas was betraying Jesus in fulfillment of Scripture (John 13:18; cf. Ps. 41:9).

In that sense, Judas’ sin was foreordained. And yet, Judas was fully responsible for his sin.

Judas—Putting the Pieces Together

Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others.[2]

  • Judas is chosen as one of the 12. Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
  • Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
  • Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29). He begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
  • [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
  • Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
  • Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).

A great many people within the religious world believe that a child of God cannot fall from grace. This view is summed up by the words of Sam Morris, in a booklet published at the beginning of this century, “We take the position that a Christian’s sins do not damn his soul. The way a Christian lives, what he says, his character, his conduct, or his attitude toward other people have nothing whatever to do with the salvation of his soul.”

This teaching of the “impossibility of apostasy” is a doctrine commonly rejected by those who follow the New Testament pattern for their work, worship, and doctrine. Why have we chosen to be so uncommon by rejecting this teaching?

Where Did It All Come From?

  • Plato had a view of God and His sovereignty that was taken to develop a philosophy holding matter to be evil and spirit to be good.
  • The epistles of John were written against the teachings of the Gnostics, who came to practice this entirely
  • Augustine, much influenced by Plato, disassociated works done in the flesh from having anything to do with salvation—how could that which was thought to be evil do any useful thing?
  • Calvin further developed Augustine’s theology to come up with a concept of God’s sovereignty that left no place for humanity to contribute anything, even secondary contributions—he believed any contribution man might make would compromise God’s exalted place over the creation.
  • Though not believing there were any conditions to salvation, he avoided universalism by having God simply pick some to be saved and some to be lost.
  • Since man had nothing to do with the process, there were no conditions, the gift was only offered to those God willed to have it, it could not be rejected by the elect or embraced by the non-elect, and you could not lose it after you got it.

Salvation is a gift from God offered to all mankind. We are free to accept or reject salvation. Once we accept salvation, we are still free to make choices. We can become unfaithful and lose our salvation or we can remain faithful until death and receive a crown of life. (Revelation 2:10)

Most of the New Testament was written to Christians encouraging them to remain faithful and receive eternal life. If a man could not lose his salvation, why write all these letters encouraging him not to lose it?

It has long been my personal view that no one who has put their faith in Christ should fall from grace…they almost have to ‘want’ to be lost (based on their habitual choices) since God is so willing to forgive us!

In short, a view of man’s nature from Greek philosophy, rather than from the Bible, came to influence the way people viewed Christianity.

First, Some Clarification.

We do not mean that a Christian has no security. Faithful Christians do have security.

(1 John 5:13)  I write these things to you who believe in the name of the Son of God so that you may know that you have eternal life.

(1 Corinthians 10:13)  No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it.

(1 John 1:7)  But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.

However, we believe the Bible teaches that a faithful Christian can become habitually (it become the pattern of their life) unfaithful:

(Hebrews 10:26-31)  If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left, {27} but only a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God. {28} Anyone who rejected the law of Moses died without mercy on the testimony of two or three witnesses. {29} How much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished who has trampled the Son of God under foot, who has treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified him, and who has insulted the Spirit of grace? {30} For we know him who said, “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” and again, “The Lord will judge his people.” {31} It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.

Neither do we mean that the works of a Christian are the basis of his/her salvation. Works cannot save in the primary sense, only in the secondary sense.

In the primary sense, the sense that accounts for salvation and pays the price for it, we cannot be saved by works (Rom. 4:1-8). Only through Christ can we who are sinners be saved (Rom. 3:21-27).

Works relate to our salvation in the secondary sense, the accessing of the gift of salvation. Faith without works is dead (James 2:26). In the sense of merit, our works have nothing to do with our initial or continued salvation.  In the sense of faith in God, our works are a necessary expression of true faith.

We do what we do as Christians out of appreciation and due to maturity…not in order to earn salvation. It’s the idea of “bringing our salvation to maturity.”

In a common sense answer: why were the epistles written except to teach, encourage and warn first century Christians in regard to their life in the world. If it doesn’t matter what one does after becoming a Christian, why so much emphasis on that most important aspect of our life?

(2 Timothy 3:16-17)  All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, {17} so that the man of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Bible Clearly Teaches That A Child Of God Can Fall From Grace.

Those who trust in law keeping can fall from grace (Gal. 5:4).

 (Galatians 5:4)  You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace.

Those who become partakers of the Holy Spirit can fall from grace (Heb. 6:4-6).

(Hebrews 6:4-6)  For it is impossible for those who were once enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have become partakers of the Holy Spirit, {5} and have tasted the good word of God and the powers of the age to come, {6} if they fall away, to renew them again to repentance, since they crucify again for themselves the Son of God, and put Him to an open shame.

Those who escape the defilement’s of the world can fall from grace (2 Peter 2:20-22).

(2 Peter 2:18-22)  For they mouth empty, boastful words and, by appealing to the lustful desires of sinful human nature, they entice people who are just escaping from those who live in error. {19} They promise them freedom, while they themselves are slaves of depravity–for a man is a slave to whatever has mastered him. {20} If they have escaped the corruption of the world by knowing our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and are again entangled in it and overcome, they are worse off at the end than they were at the beginning. {21} It would have been better for them not to have known the way of righteousness, than to have known it and then to turn their backs on the sacred command that was passed on to them. {22} Of them the proverbs are true: “A dog returns to its vomit,” and, “A sow that is washed goes back to her wallowing in the mud.”

Our response?

Realize the worst situation a person can place their soul’s condition in—is to be an unfaithful Christian. There is no hope at all because they have rejected the one hope that is offered to the sinner!

(Galatians 6:1-2)  Brothers, if someone is caught in a sin, you who are spiritual should restore him gently. But watch yourself, or you also may be tempted. {2} Carry each other’s burdens, and in this way you will fulfill the law of Christ.

The Greek word is “kartartizo” and is the same word used in:

(Matthew 4:21)  Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them,

(Hebrews 11:3)  By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible.

Imagine the picture of mature Christians working diligently to mend or form or restore the lives of individual brothers and sisters in Christ who are struggling and “drifting” away.

We see Jesus’ glory in His patience and love toward Judas right to the end.

Even though Jesus knew that Judas was going to betray Him, He did not remove him from the apostolic circle.

He treated Judas with the same patience and grace as He treated the other disciples, since none of them suspected that Judas was the betrayer.

We see Jesus’ glory in the same way today. He endures the hostility of sinners against Him (Heb. 12:3) with amazing patience and love. When I see the wickedness of this world, especially the blasphemies that are brazenly spoken against Jesus, I want to cry out, “Lord, just blast these evildoers off the planet!”

That day will come. As Peter points out (2 Pet. 3:10), “But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up.”

But to back up one verse, Peter explains why that day is delayed (2 Pet. 3:9): The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Judas’ betrayal of Jesus should give us deeper understanding of the terrible depths of human sin. Martyn Lloyd-Jones (Darkness and Light [Baker], p. 52) observed: “It is people who have the deepest understanding of sin and what it means who have the greatest understanding and appreciation of the love and the grace and the mercy and the kindness of God. A superficial view of sin leads to a superficial view of salvation, and to a superficial view of everything else.”

In a similar vein, he wrote elsewhere (God’s Way of Reconciliation [Baker], p. 201): “In order to measure the love of God you have first to go down before you can go up. You do not start on the level and go up. We have to be brought up from a dungeon, from a horrible pit; and unless you know something of the measure of that depth you will only be measuring half the love of God.”

So let’s “go down” by learning five lessons from Judas’ sin so that these lessons will give us a greater understanding of God’s love and grace:

A. Judas shows us the awful nature of sin.

Think of what Judas had witnessed in his three years of close association with Jesus! He had heard Jesus’ teaching, both in public and in private. He had witnessed most of Jesus’ miracles.

He had seen Jesus’ grace and love toward the ungrateful and unlovely. He had never seen any hint of sin in Jesus, whether in public or in private. And yet he betrayed Jesus to the Jewish leaders for a few lousy pieces of silver!

James Boice (The Gospel of John [Zondervan], 1-vol. ed., p. 894) points out that Judas teaches us that sinners need more than a good example to be saved. Judas had the best example who has ever lived, but he was still dead in his trespasses and sins (Eph. 2:1).

B. Judas shows us that Jesus supplies religious sinners with a solemn warning.

Judas is one of many warnings in the Bible that especially apply to religious people. Religious people are often blind to their need for the new birth. They grew up in the church. They know all the religious jargon. They can quote Scripture. They have served in various ministries. Perhaps they even have theological training. But, like Judas, they have never repented of their sins.

C. Judas shows us that we can expect to find hypocrites among the followers of Jesus.

Often skeptics will say that they don’t believe in Jesus because of all the hypocrites in the church. You should answer them, “Yes, and there are hypocrites in the world, too.

There was a hypocrite among the original disciples. But that doesn’t invalidate who Jesus was. The key issue is who Jesus is, not whether some of His professed followers are hypocrites. Just make sure that you’re not a hypocrite!”

Keep in mind that Judas didn’t look like a villain in a dark coat, gloating over how he was going to profit at Jesus’ expense. When Jesus announced that one of the twelve would betray Him, the other eleven didn’t all turn toward Judas.

Hypocrites can fool other people, but they never fool God, who looks on the heart. We shouldn’t be shocked, although we often are, when a respected church leader turns away from the faith. It doesn’t shock the Lord, who knows and keeps all who are truly His. He warns the disciples in advance so that Judas’ defection will not shake their faith. Keep your focus on Jesus, not on those who fall away. Do not let someone outside of God’s will discourage you from doing God’s will!

D. Judas shows us that we should never walk away from the opportunity to receive the love of Christ.

He offered Judas the opportunity to repent right up to the end. But Judas walked away from the love of Jesus.

Matthew 27:1-4 (ESV) When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. 2  And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. 3  Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, 4  saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.”

Judas felt remorse, but not repentance. He threw down his betrayal money in the temple, went away, and hanged himself.

Don’t reject the love of Christ! No matter how badly you may have sinned, the Lord Jesus graciously reaches out to you, even right now through this message, with His love. He invites all thirsty sinners to come and take the water of life without cost (Rev. 22:17).

Let Judas teach you the bitter end of those who walk away from the love of Jesus. Come to Him now and you will be satisfied with His grace.

[1] William Barclay, ed., The Gospel of John, vol. 2, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 147.

[2] This sequence may not be flawless, although I think it comes close to reality, but let the reader judge for himself.

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Posted by on June 1, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Jesus is in control: His relationship with Judas – John 13:18-30

19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he.

Before we look with some detail at this section in our study of the Upper Room discourse, we need to acknowledge that Jesus was completely aware, and in control, of everything that was happening, and all that would happen. It was not a surprise to Him!

John wants us to see that all this was prophesied ahead of time. He wants His disciples to know that much prophecy will not be understood at the time it is being fulfilled, but in hindsight, it can be seen clearly.[1]

Jesus is not telling His disciples these things so that they will understand Him and believe what He has said at that very moment. He tells them these things which will occur in the future so that they will believe when these prophecies are fulfilled. Then His disciples will know that Jesus was in full control, bringing about that which the Father had purposed in eternity past. In His earthly sojourn, Jesus was always in control. He was never, a helpless victim.

        1I am not speaking of all of you; I know whom I have chosen. But the Scripture will be fulfilled, ‘He who ate my bread has lifted his heel against me.’ 19 I am telling you this now, before it takes place, that when it does take place you may believe that I am he. 20 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever receives the one I send receives me, and whoever receives me receives the one who sent me.”

One of You Will Betray Me

  21 After saying these things, Jesus was troubled in his spirit, and testified, “Truly, truly, I say to you, one of you will betray me.” 22 The disciples looked at one another, uncertain of whom he spoke. 23 One of his disciples, whom Jesus loved, was reclining at table at Jesus’ side, 24 so Simon Peter motioned to him to ask Jesus of whom he was speaking. 25 So that disciple, leaning back against Jesus, said to him, “Lord, who is it?” 26 Jesus answered, “It is he to whom I will give this morsel of bread when I have dipped it.” So when he had dipped the morsel, he gave it to Judas, the son of Simon Iscariot. 27 Then after he had taken the morsel, Satan entered into him. Jesus said to him, “What you are going to do, do quickly.” 28 Now no one at the table knew why he said this to him. 29 Some thought that, because Judas had the moneybag, Jesus was telling him, “Buy what we need for the feast,” or that he should give something to the poor. 30 So, after receiving the morsel of bread, he immediately went out. And it was night. [2]

In this life there are a good many things that are very difficult to understand or to explain. In our text, the disciples found it extremely difficult to comprehend what Jesus was saying when He told them that one of them was about to betray Him.

When we read John’s account of this event in John chapter 13, we find it hard to understand why the disciples didn’t quickly grasp what Jesus was telling them. We marvel at the “dullness” of the disciples.

We are tempted to read the Gospels like I watch my favorite movies. We know the entire story, from beginning to end. And thus, when we read any one text, we know what came before, just as we know how it all will end.

We know, for example, that Jesus is going to be arrested, found guilty, and crucified—all within a few hours. We also know that He is going to be raised from the dead, and that He will ascend into heaven and return to the Father.

But what is so clear to us in hindsight was not at all clear to the disciples. They heard Jesus say that He was about to be betrayed by one of them. Peter even inquired of Jesus (through John, it would seem) about just who the betrayer was.

Jesus told John that it would be the one who took from His hand the piece of bread that He dipped into the dish. Yet when Jesus dipped the bread into the dish and gave it to Judas, who took it, no one did anything. No one even seemed to grasp what Jesus had just indicated. You have to understand that what Jesus was saying was so far from what they expected, they simply could not grasp what seemed to be clearly indicated.

Judas—Putting the Pieces Together

Each of the Gospel writers has chosen to include certain details about Judas and to exclude others. It may be helpful for us to begin this lesson by reviewing what we know about Judas in sequential order:[3]

  • Judas is chosen as one of the 12 (Luke 6:12-16; Mark 3:13-19).
  • Judas is sent out as one of the 12 (Matthew 10:4).
  • Judas accompanies Jesus with the other 11 disciples, beholding our Lord’s character and power, and hearing Him teach and claim to be the Messiah (Mark 3:14).
  • Judas is put in charge of the money box (John 12:6; 13:29).
  • Judas begins to steal money from the money box (John 12:6).
  • When Mary anoints the feet of Jesus, Judas is incensed by her extravagance, and is distressed that Jesus would allow such “waste” when this ointment could have been sold, and the proceeds given to the poor. He apparently manages to convince his fellow-disciples, so that they verbally harass Mary also (John 12:1-8; Matthew 26:6-13; Mark 14:3-9).
  • [At this same point in time the chief priests and Pharisees are panic-stricken by our Lord’s growing popularity, as a result of the raising of Lazarus and then the triumphal entry (John 11:45-53, 57; 12:9-11). They wanted to seize Jesus privately, but not during the feast of Passover, lest they stir up the crowds (Matthew 26:3-5; Mark 14:1-2). They become so desperate they decide to kill not only Jesus (John 11:53), but Lazarus as well (John 12:10). The time was “ripe” for Judas to come to them with his proposal of betrayal.]
  • Shortly after this incident with Mary, in which Jesus rebukes Judas and the other disciples, Judas goes to the chief priests and strikes a deal with them to betray Jesus and to hand Him over to them (Matthew 26:14-15; Mark 14:10-11).
  • Judas begins to look for the right moment to hand Jesus over to the chief priests and Pharisees (Mark 14:11).

Judas—Who Would Have Ever Thought …

I’m glad I don’t know what the Father is doing with other people. John 13:27–28: “Then after the morsel, Satan entered into him and Jesus said to him, ‘What you’re going to do, do quickly.’ Now, no one at the table knew why he said this to him.”

If you’ve ever seen da Vinci’s The Last Supper, it was kind of like that. There was a U-shaped table, and Jesus, the host, sat in the center. They’re reclined on couches, and there were two places of honor as people sat around the host. One was to the host’s right, and one immediately to the host’s left. Now, it’s obvious from the text that a man by the name of John was sitting to the right of Jesus. They were on couches and literally leaned on the breast of the person to their left. And so John was on the right of Jesus eating with his right hand and leaning on Jesus.

Now when you read the text carefully, who is sitting to the left of Jesus? Judas. And I can see Jesus going to Judas before the dinner saying, “Judas, sit with me tonight. Sit here beside me tonight.” Now, if John was leaning on the breast of Jesus, Jesus was leaning on somebody’s breast. Whose was that? Judas’s. Let me tell you something else. Whenever a host wanted to particularly give honor to a guest in the household, right before the meal he would take a piece of bread or piece of meat and dip it in the wine dish, and then he would give it to the beloved guest. Did you note the person to whom the morsel was given by Jesus? Judas. What was Jesus saying? He was saying, “Judas, don’t do it. Judas, it’s not too late to change your mind. Back off.” It was an amazing appeal of royal love to the center of hatred.

Think of all the miracles which took place before the eyes of Judas. He witnessed the casting out of demons, the giving of sight to the blind (even a man born blind—John 9), and the raising of the dead (e.g., John 11).

He was there when Jesus stilled the storm (see Luke 8:22-25) and when He walked on the sea (John 6:19-21). He took part in the feeding of the 5,000 (John 6:1-14) and then of the 4,000 (Matthew 15:29-39). Each of the other disciples grew in their faith at each new manifestation of our Lord’s power, love, mercy, and holiness. Not so with Judas.

And yet Judas seems to be the last one any of the disciples would have suspected of being the betrayer of whom our Lord was speaking. He seems to have been seated in the place of honor at the Last Supper, beside our Lord.

He quotes from Psalm 41:9: “Even my close friend, whom I trusted, he who shared my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.”

Jesus was concerned that Judas’ treachery would not weaken His disciples’ faith. This is why He related it to the Word of God: when the disciples saw all of this fulfilled, it would make their faith stronger (see John 8:28). Judas had been disloyal, but He expected them to be loyal to Him and His cause.

After all, He was God the Son sent by God the Father. They were the Christ’s chosen representatives; to receive them would be the same as receiving the Father and the Son: “I tell you the truth, whoever accepts anyone I send accepts me; and whoever accepts me accepts the one who sent me.”

It was a very significant thing to sit at a man’s table and to eat his bread. In the ancient world, sharing a meal together was almost to make a covenant (in fact covenants were often made in association with a meal).[4]

To share a meal with guests was to offer them not only provisions, but protection. In the ancient Jewish (and perhaps more broadly, the Near Eastern) culture, inviting a man into one’s home and to his table was a most significant act. If the host made such commitments to his guest(s), one would expect the guest to reciprocate in some way. And yet the one who sat at our Lord’s table and ate His bread actually betrayed Him. What a horrible thing Judas is about to do to His Master, and immediately after eating His bread.

“After he had said this, Jesus was troubled in spirit and testified, “I tell you the truth, one of you is going to betray me.”

As I read the text, our Lord’s distress is not self-centered; He is distressed over the spiritual condition, conduct, and destiny of one of His own. How easy it would have been for our Lord to reveal the identity of His betrayer, or at least to expose him as a thief. I can imagine that Peter would have happily used his sword on Judas, if he had known what would happen in the next few hours.

But Jesus remains silent, determined to die as the Father had purposed. At the same time, Jesus was greatly distressed over the destiny of Judas.

For the moment, Jesus focuses His attention on Judas. Jesus dipped a piece of bread in the dish and handed it to Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon. What an incredible, defining, moment this was! Jesus and Judas must have locked eyes. Judas had to have known that Jesus knew everything. Jesus knew Judas was the betrayer. He knew Judas had already reached an agreement with the chief priests. He knew that Judas would soon go to the Jewish authorities, and lead them to Him, to arrest Him. In spite of all this, Judas reached out and took the bread, knowing what that meant.

Judas leaves, but Jesus is still in charge, not Satan. Keep in mind that Judas knew what he was doing and that he did it deliberately. He had met with the Jewish religious leaders and agreed to lead them to Jesus in such a way that there would not be any public disturbance (Luke 21:37–22:6).

The instant Judas was gone, the atmosphere was cleared, and Jesus began to instruct His disciples and prepare them for His crucifixion and His ultimate return to heaven.

The same sun that melts the ice only hardens the clay.

  • Judas leads the soldiers to Jesus, where he identifies Jesus as the One they are to arrest by kissing Him (Matthew 26:47-50; Mark 14:43-46; Luke 22:47-48; John 18:1-9).
  • Matthew 27:1–5 (ESV) When morning came, all the chief priests and the elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death. And they bound him and led him away and delivered him over to Pilate the governor. Then when Judas, his betrayer, saw that Jesus was condemned, he changed his mind and brought back the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and the elders, saying, “I have sinned by betraying innocent blood.” They said, “What is that to us? See to it yourself.” And throwing down the pieces of silver into the temple, he departed, and he went and hanged himself.
  • At a time when our Lord could have been obsessed with His own imminent suffering and death, He devoted Himself to serving His disciples by preparing them for the things which were to come. I think of Paul and Peter, as they wrote their last Epistles, knowing that the time of their departure was at hand. They did not focus attention on themselves, but upon others. They sought to prepare the saints for the time when they would be gone. That is what I see in our text. Our Lord is here preparing His disciples for what lies ahead. When one sees suffering (for God’s sake) as glory, then one need not dwell on his pain or sorrow. He or she is freed to focus on others, even in the last hours of our own life.

We should be constantly amazed at the way, in secret, God deals with other people. This morning the Father is working. Now. There are men, and women, girls and boys, married couples and singles as well…that are pondering God’s will for your life. Right now.

He’s wanting us to put Him first in all things. He’s wanting us to realize the importance of the church, of which He is head, and choose to be more a part of the community…family…aspect of the church.

God’s is doing business in this place with a man who’s made much money….and trying to decide what he’s going to do with it before it burns a hole in his heart.

It behooves us to back off because we can’t see that. Let him do his thing—this morning and tomorrow and the rest of the week.

Conclusion: No story but your own. In The Chronicles of Narnia you will remember that Aslan is the symbol for God. In one of the books, The Horse and His Boy, one of the children asked Aslan, God, the lion, about another child. And this is what Aslan says: “I’m telling you your story, not hers. I tell no one any story but his own.”[5]

[1] See Isaiah 48:5-7.

[2] The Holy Bible: English Standard Version (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Bibles, 2016), Jn 13:17–30.

[3] This sequence may not be flawless, although I think it comes close to reality, but let the reader judge for himself.

[4] See Exodus 24:9-11.

[5] Christianity Today, Today’s Best Sermons: 52 Sermons on Holidays & Special Events, vol. 3, Today’s Best Sermons (Christianity Today, 1988).

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Posted by on May 29, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


Follow the Leader: A lesson on Holiness – John 13:6-11

     “He came to Simon Peter, who said to him, “Lord, do you wash my feet?” Jesus answered him, “What I am doing you do not understand now, but afterward you will understand.” Peter said to him, “You shall never wash my feet.” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.” Simon Peter said to him, “Lord, not my feet only but also my hands and my head!” 10 Jesus said to him, “The one who has bathed does not need to wash, except for his feet, but is completely clean. And you are clean, but not every one of you.” 11 For he knew who was to betray him; that was why he said, “Not all of you are clean.”

Do You Wash Dirty Feet? John 13:12-20

Robert Service begins his well-known poem, “The Cremation of Sam McGee”: “There are strange things done in the midnight sun, by the men who moil for gold….”

If I may take off on that line, there are strange things done under the sun by the men who claim to be Christians. And one of the strangest was the story of Simeon the Stylite.

Simeon was born about 390 A.D. He lived in a monastery in northern Syria. Then around 423 he started to live on top of a platform on top of a pillar. Gradually he increased the height of the pillar until it was about 60 feet off the ground. Simeon lived up there by himself as an ascetic for 36 years! Don’t ask how he took care of basic bodily functions! I’m reasonably certain that the pillar was not equipped with modern plumbing! But he thought that he was being holy by being separate from the world. People flocked from miles around to listen to him preach from the top of his pillar. His example led to a movement that lasted for centuries, where others dwelled on top of their own pillars.

Strange! But, maybe Simeon was onto something! Think how much less conflict there would be in the local church if we all built our own pillars out of shouting distance from each other (with no phone or email)!

Yet, while we aren’t living on top of our own respective pillars, sometimes Christians, at least here in America, are an independent, isolated bunch. We view the Christian life as each of us having our own relationship with God, which is essential. But then often we isolate ourselves from other believers.

We go to church on Sundays like we go to the movies. We walk in, nod to others we don’t really know, sit through the program, and go home. Except on a superficial level, we have little personal contact with other believers throughout the week.

It’s not unusual for me to counsel someone about a personal problem. After listening, I’ll ask, “Do you know any other believers closely enough with whom you can share these things and pray?” Often the answer is, “No.”

But if we’re not close to one another, we can’t obey Jesus’ command (John 13:14-15), “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet. For I gave you an example that you also should do as I did to you.”

To wash someone’s feet requires pretty close personal contact!

Now right away my thought is, “Foot washing is something I can do quite well by myself, thank you.” In fact, I’d rather do it myself! It’s kind of personal, especially if my feet are really dirty! So, please, just let me do it myself. And, I’d really prefer not to wash your dirty feet either. I’ll give you the basin, the water and the towel and let you do it. But I’d rather not wash your dirty feet, either.

But that’s not what Jesus said. He didn’t say, “Provide the basin, the water, and the towel so that everyone can wash their own feet.” He said, “You wash one another’s feet.”

But that’s asking us to get a bit too close for comfort, isn’t it? Yet, down in verse 35, Jesus says, “By this all men will know that you are my disciples”—not by you all living sanctified lives by yourselves on top of your own pillars. “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

And so this act of washing one another’s feet is certainly a picture of the love that we should have for one another in the body of Christ. The main idea is: Jesus commands us all to wash one another’s feet.

But that raises some questions: What do you mean, “wash one another’s feet”? How do we do it? And, why should we do it?

What does it mean to wash one another’s feet?

He was pointing to a symbolic meaning behind what He had just done. Paul commends widows who have washed the saints’ feet (1 Tim. 5:10).

Peter is silent on this in his letters, but he does instruct us to clothe ourselves with humility toward one another (1 Pet. 5:5). I believe that that is the overall idea here, which we can view in four parts:

1. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness, cleansing, refreshment, and humble service.

A. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness.

As we saw in our last study, Jesus’ washing the disciples’ feet pictured the relational forgiveness between each of them and Himself. It is paralleled by 1 John 1:7, “… the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin.”

This refers to a repeated application of God’s once-and-for-all forgiveness to our ongoing sins. We confess our sins to God and ask His forgiveness, not to secure our position with Him as His children, but to restore our relationship with Him as our Father.

Ephesians 4:32 commands, “Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.”

We are to extend the forgiveness that we have received from God through Christ to those who have wronged us. In that way we symbolically “wash their feet.”

It makes me sad when I see believers who do not forgive other believers who have wronged them. Granted, the other person needs to ask for forgiveness before you extend it verbally. But we are required to root out all bitterness and forgive the offender in our hearts so that we are ready to extend forgiveness verbally the instant the offender repents.

When you forgive, you wash the offender’s dirty feet.

B. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of cleansing.

In Ephesians 5:26, Paul talks about Christ cleansing the church “by the washing of water with the word.”

When we share the Word with one another, we wash off the sin and filth of this world.

Sometimes a brother has fallen into some sin. When that happens, Paul instructs (Gal. 6:1), “Brethren, even if anyone is caught in any trespass, you who are spiritual, restore such a one in a spirit of gentleness; each one looking to yourself, so that you too will not be tempted.”

One of the most effective ways to restore a sinning brother is to use God’s Word.

At other times, maybe a brother has dirty feet not because of sin, but just because he’s been walking in this dirty world. To share a verse that God has used in your life or a verse that you’ve memorized and applied to some problem can be a source of cleansing.

But as someone has pointed out, when you wash someone’s feet with the water of the Word, make sure that the temperature is right!

Some sanctimonious believers love to wash their brothers’ feet with scalding water! “Here, brother, stick your feet in this basin!” “Yeoww!” That’s why Paul says that we are to restore in a spirit of gentleness. Don’t blast someone with the Word. Restore him so that he will feel cleansed, not scalded! That leads to…

C. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of refreshment.

When you came in off the dusty roads with dirty feet, it was refreshing to get them washed.

In 1 Corinthians, Paul mentions three men who had come to him from the Corinthian church. He adds (1 Cor. 16:18), “For they have refreshed my spirit and yours.” He tells Philemon (1:7), “… the hearts of the saints have been refreshed through you, brother.”

Have you ever known someone like that? A person who is always fresh with the Lord, so that when you get around him, you feel refreshed.

Do you do that with others? Do they feel refreshed in the Lord after being with you? What about at home? That’s the test!

D. Washing one another’s feet is a ministry of humble service in ways that may be unpleasant to you.

Having a foot-washing ceremony where you wash already clean feet is relatively easy. But Jesus’ command here to wash one another’s dirty, smelly feet is not so easy. He meant that we should do unpleasant tasks that serve others in their area of need. As I said last week, this means that no task should be beneath us as we serve others for Christ’s sake.

One practical way that we all can serve here on Sundays is to pick up litter that you see around the building. Maybe you’re thinking, “Doesn’t our custodian do that?” Yes, he works hard at it. But it shouldn’t be his job only. He’s got a lot to do.

You can serve the Lord and that visitor by picking up the trash that you see…Mark Mathews was here early last week painting over some graffiti on the wall in the parking lot.

Another way you can humbly serve others is, if you’re healthy, don’t grab the closest parking spot unless you have a lot of stuff to carry inside. Leave the closest spots for visitors and get some exercise!

We wash one another’s feet by being humble servants of Christ and by being in close relationships with others.

Being humble servants of Christ deals with our focus and motivation; being in close relationships looks at the practical requirement for obeying Christ’s command.

In verse 16, Jesus says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Clearly, Jesus is the master (“Lord,” John 13:13, 14) and we are His slaves. He gives the commands and we are to obey without questioning or grumbling. No task was beneath a slave’s dignity to do.

As Jesus taught (Luke 17:7-10): “Which of you, having a slave plowing or tending sheep, will say to him when he has come in from the field, ‘Come immediately and sit down to eat’? But will he not say to him, ‘Prepare something for me to eat, and properly clothe yourself and serve me while I eat and drink; and afterward you may eat and drink’? He does not thank the slave because he did the things which were commanded, does he? So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’”

So here He states (John 13:17), “If you know these things, you are blessed if you do them.”

“These things” refers back to the example and commandment that He has just given, that we are to wash one another’s feet. We are humbly to serve one another in ways that may be unpleasant to us.

But obedience requires more than just doing it while you grumble under your breath.

Obedience requires doing it cheerfully and thankfully, out of love for Christ, who gave Himself on the cross for you. It’s all about your mindset and your motivation.

One other thing that Jesus’ example shows us is that we need to wash one another’s feet without looking for or expecting a favorable response from others. In other words, we don’t serve others hoping that they will reciprocate or express their deep gratitude. Often they don’t.

Jesus washed Judas’ feet, but he went out and betrayed Jesus. He washed Peter’s feet, but he denied Him that night. He washed Thomas’ feet, but he doubted Jesus’ resurrection. He washed all the disciples’ feet, but they all deserted Him and ran when He got arrested.

If you humbly serve Christ in any capacity, I can guarantee that you will not receive the appreciation you deserve from those you serve. You’ll probably get some appreciation, but you’ll also catch some undeserved criticism. And it won’t come from those outside the church. It will come from believers.

So you have to keep your focus on your Master. You are His slave because He bought you with His blood. You serve others for His sake.

We wash one another’s feet by being in close relationships with one another.

As I mentioned earlier, foot washing can’t be done if we’re all sitting on top of our individual pillars, with no contact with one another. It can’t be done by sending a robot across the room to wash others’ feet.

It requires a rather uncomfortable closeness to wash someone’s feet and to allow them to wash your feet. It requires being vulnerable and honest. You have to let the other person see just how dirty your feet really are.

It’s easy to come to church, smile at everyone and say hello, and go home without ever divulging to anyone that your feet are dirty. I’m not suggesting that you share your innermost struggles with everyone you meet. There needs to be an appropriate relationship of trust before you share where you’re hurting.

But the point is, we need to be developing some close, trusting relationships so that we can serve one another by washing each other’s feet. Get involved in a home fellowship or small group. Ask God for a godly brother or sister in Christ that you can get to know well. You can’t wash others’ feet or have your feet washed from a distance.

But then, once you’ve grown close to someone, you’ve still got to do it. You’re blessed not just by knowing that you should wash one another’s feet, but by doing it (John 13:17). It’s not enough to find out that the other person is hurting, and then to say, “I’ll pray for you,” and walk away. You’ve got to get your hands dirty by trying to help. Do it gently, not with boiling water, as I said. But, do it!

You can ask, “May I share from God’s Word some ways that I’ve been helped?” Pray with the person. Don’t judge or condemn. Remember, you’ve got dirty feet, too! But the point is to grow close enough in relationships so that we can offer genuine encouragement, help, and refreshment through God’s Word.

So washing one another’s feet is a ministry of forgiveness, cleansing, refreshment, and humble service. We do it by being humble servants of Christ and by being in close relationships with one another.

Why should we wash one another’s feet?

We should wash one another’s feet because the Lord and Teacher has washed our feet.

Jesus said (John 13:14), “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher, washed your feet, you also ought to wash one another’s feet.”

In other words, because Jesus has cleansed your sins by His death on the cross, because He is the Lord of all, and because He is the Teacher from whom you learn how to live, you serve others in love because He commanded you to do so.

Or, more succinctly, your salvation is the reason why you serve Jesus Christ. He bought you with His blood. Now you’re His slave.

“From now on I am telling you before it comes to pass, so that when it does occur, you may believe that I am He. Truly, truly, I say to you, he who receives whomever I send receives Me; and he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me.”

Jesus is saying, “Don’t despair when Judas betrays Me and I am crucified. Remember that I told you this in advance. Keep believing that I am He (John 14:19). You will be My ambassadors and whoever receives you receives Me; and “he who receives Me receives Him who sent Me” (John 13:20).


I heard about a successful doctor in Southern California who met Jesus Christ and left his lucrative practice to serve in a primitive country. His non-Christian partner couldn’t believe that he would do this. On one of his trips around the world, he stopped by to see his former partner. The Christian doctor was performing surgery on a poor woman in very primitive circumstances. The non-Christian said, “Don’t you remember how much you would have made doing this surgery in Southern California?”

“Yes, many thousands.” “Then why are you doing it?”

“Several reasons: See her clenched fist? In it are several coins that she will give to our mission. See those kids in the other room? They will be forever grateful if I can save their mother’s life. But there’s one more thing: I hope to receive from my Lord someday the words, ‘Well done, good and faithful servant.’”

That’s why you should wash others’ dirty feet. You do it because the Lord and Teacher washed your feet. You do it for Him.

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Posted by on May 25, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


A lesson on humility – John 13:1-5

We all can relate to Linus in the “Peanuts” cartoon strip when he shouts in frustration, “I love mankind; it’s people I can’t stand!” It’s easy to love the human race in the abstract, but when it comes to loving specific irritating people that we can’t avoid, the process becomes a lot more difficult!

In our text we see the Lord Jesus loving men who did not deserve it. Luke 22:24 tells us that at the Lord’s Supper, just after Jesus announced that one of them would betray Him, the disciples got into a dispute about which of them was the greatest.

But sometime during the supper, Jesus got up and performed a task, which normally was the job of servant-slaves.

Not only were the disciples bickering; also Jesus knew that Judas was about to betray Him, Peter was about to deny Him, and all the disciples would desert Him (John 13:2, 38; 16:32). All of these show that the disciples did not deserve Jesus’ love.

They dirty feet reminds us of their need for cleansing from sin. And, we’re just like them. We all have dirty feet that Jesus needs to wash. In fact, the very reason Jesus came was to die in the place of dirty sinners so that they can be cleansed.

Also, His example of humility in washing the disciples’ feet gives us a practical example of how we can love those who do not deserve it, even as He has loved us.

From time to time, we are faced with the task of “saying goodbye” to a congregation, some employees, or even our employee of many years. It is never easy.

All of us have had our share of “dirty work,” and I doubt that we have really enjoyed it. Some of those “dirty work” experiences could range from “changing dirty diapers” to “cleaning grease traps” while in the military.

John’s mention of the Passover draws attention to the fact that Jesus is our Passover lamb. Just as the Jews put the blood of the Passover lamb on their doorposts and lintel to protect them from the angel of death, so Christ’s blood protects us from the wrath of God. The mention that Jesus knew that His hour had come reminds us that God ordained the cross.

While the sinful men who crucified Jesus were responsible for their awful deed, at the same time the cross was predestined by God (Acts 4:27-28).

It didn’t take Jesus by surprise. He deliberately laid aside His glory, just as here He laid aside His garments. He took on the form of a slave and became obedient to death on the cross.

Then, after His resurrection from the dead, He returned to the Father in glory. But don’t miss the point: Unless Jesus is your Passover lamb, unless you have applied His shed blood to your heart by faith, then you are under the curse of death, which means, eternal separation from God.

John also emphasizes that Jesus’ disciples were “in the world.” Jesus was about to depart from this world, but His disciples were still in it.

As Jesus will pray (John 17:15-18), He doesn’t ask the Father to take these men out of the world. That is the sphere of ministry to which He sends them. But they are to be distinct from the world. But walking in this world means that you get your feet dirty. Thus the need for cleansing.


Two verses out of five focus on the actual washing of the disciples’ feet by our Lord. Three of the five verses provide us with background information, which John believes his readers need to know in order to properly understand the Lord’s actions.

Verses 1-3 provide us with information that gives us insight into all of their “state of mind.”

John emphasizes that Jesus knew His earthly mission was nearly complete, and that He was returning to the Father in heaven. He knew that everything had been given over to Him by the Father.

In other words, He knew that everything was as it should be, and that He was in complete control. It is our Lord’s sovereignty that is being stressed here, and not His suffering.

When John the Baptist desired to give expression to his feeling of unworthiness in comparison to Christ, he could think of no better way to express this than to say that he deemed himself unworthy of kneeling down in front of Jesus in order to unloose his sandal straps and remove the sandals (with a view to washing the Master’s feet).”

Apparently, they were so shocked that they sat in stunned silence, until Jesus came to Peter.

He probably verbalized the thoughts that the others had been afraid to say when he protested (John 13:8), “Never shall You wash my feet!” But as Jesus will go on to explain (John 13:14-15), He did this to give us an example of how we should humbly serve one another.

When men find themselves in this position, they are tempted to behave very differently: “Jesus called them and said to them, ‘You know that those who are recognized as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and those in high positions exercise authority over them’” (Mark 10:42).

In spite of who He was; in spite of the fact that all authority had been given to Him, Jesus washed the feet of His disciples.

In spite of the fact that He could have required men to minister to Him, catering to His every whim, Jesus humbled Himself by washing the feet of His disciples.

Humility requires thinking of others more highly than of yourself. The disciples hadn’t washed one another’s feet because they were arguing about who was the greatest.

Two women in the church in Philippi were having a dispute. Paul wrote to that church (Phil. 2:3-4), “Do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit, but with humility of mind regard one another as more important than yourselves; do not merely look out for your own personal interests, but also for the interests of others.”

He went on to cite the example of Christ, who willingly took on the form of a servant and went to the cross for our sakes. So many quarrels in the church and in our homes would evaporate if we would, with humility of mind, regard the other person as more important than ourselves!

It is Christ’s example of humility that Paul appeals to in his exhortation to serve one another: Philippians 2:3-8: “Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. {4} Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others.  {5} Your attitude should be the same as that of Christ Jesus: {6} Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, {7} but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. {8} And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death– even death on a cross!”

* He got up from the meal–just as He’d left the throne of heaven

* He took off His outer garments–just as He’d divested Himself of heaven’s robes

* He wrapped a towel about His waist–just as He’d clothed Himself with humanity

* He poured water in a bowl, got on His knees and began to wash feet–just as he would pour out His life on the cross.

Jesus in effect said: “I’m God. I spoke the universe into existence. I have all power and glory, yet I came to serve! And if you’re to follow me, you must emulate my example.”

Humility requires getting your focus off your rights and your needs and onto others’ needs.

He wasn’t focused on His needs or His rights, but rather on their needs. They not only needed their dirty feet washed, but they also needed this lesson in humble service.

How many quarrels at church and in our homes would stop before they started if we would take our eyes off ourselves, our rights, and our needs, and instead think about the other person’s needs!

A husband thinks, “I’ve worked hard all day, putting up with hassles at work so that I can provide for my family. Don’t I have a right to some peace and quiet when I come home at night?”

Maybe, but that’s the wrong focus. Your focus should be on how you can serve your wife and children.

The wife thinks, “I’ve been changing diapers, shopping for groceries with screaming kids, cleaning up messes all over the house, and trying to get dinner in time. Don’t I have a right for a little time by myself?” Maybe, but that’s the wrong focus. Humble service requires getting your focus off yourself and onto others’ needs.

Jesus knew that “His hour was come.”

It was the time when He would be glorified through His death, resurrection, and ascension.

* Jesus also knew that Judas would betray Him.

Judas is mentioned eight times in this gospel, more than in any of the other gospels. Satan had entered into Judas (Luke 22:3), and now he would give him the necessary thought to bring about the arrest and crucifixion of the Son of God.

* Jesus knew that the Father had given Him all things.

There are at least two reasons why Jesus chose this activity:

  • Their feet were dirty.
  • Their hearts were proud.

Jesus’ disciples were ready to fight for a throne, but not for a towel. He gave them an unforgettable lesson in humility, and by His actions rebuked their selfishness and pride.

The more you think about this scene, the more profound it becomes. Confucius called humility “the solid foundation of all the virtues.” The Greek word means “low” or “to stoop low,” and it carries the idea of serving another person.

It might be explain by a Malay proverb: “the fuller the ear is of rice-grain, the lower it bends.”

It has well been said that humility is not thinking meanly of yourself; it is simply not thinking of yourself at all! We need to be careful that we’re not filled with a worldly spirit of competition or criticism.

Humility is unannounced.  It is also willing to receive without embarrassment. It is not a sign of weakness and it does not play favorites (in the example of Judas).

Humility requires receiving, not just giving.

It’s easy to serve or to give to those in need out of pride. Peter’s unwillingness at first to let Jesus serve him did not stem from humility, but from pride. It embarrassed him to think of Jesus washing his feet.

That implied that his feet were dirty and in need of washing! It would have served Peter’s pride much more if he had washed Jesus’ feet. But Jesus explained that if He didn’t wash Peter’s feet, then he had no part with Him.

Many people are offended by the gospel or don’t see their need for it because they’re proud of their good works. They’re proud of all that they do for others. They view themselves as having clean feet.

It would embarrass them to admit that their feet are dirty and that Jesus needs to wash them.

But to receive the gospel, you’ve got to recognize that your feet are filthy and that no one gets to heaven by washing his own feet or by washing others’ feet. You only get to heaven when you let Jesus wash your feet.

Cleansing is necessary because of who Jesus is.

Limiting ourselves to our text, we see that Jesus is the eternal, omniscient one. He knew that His hour had come and that He would shortly be returning to the Father, with whom He had dwelled before the foundation of the world (John 13:1). He knew that Judas would betray Him (John 13:11). He knows each of us thoroughly.

Also, Jesus is the loving one. In spite of our failures and sins, which He knows in advance, He loves us as His own children.

Further, Jesus is the sovereign one. The Father has given all things into Jesus’ hands. He was in complete control of His own death. Neither Satan nor Judas could thwart God’s sovereign plan through the cross, but rather inadvertently fulfilled it.

Lastly, Jesus is the suffering servant who died for our sins. When you come into the presence of the Holy One of God, you instantly recognize your need for cleansing. With Peter, you fall down at His feet and cry out (Luke 5:8), “Go away from me Lord, for I am a sinful man, O Lord!”

Cleansing is necessary because of who we are.

We all are guilty sinners in need of cleansing: “All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23). Jesus is saying, “I must wash away your sins by My atoning death or you have no part with Me.”

Cleansing is necessary because of where we walk.

We walk in this sinful world, so our feet get dirty. Again, if you have trusted in Christ through being immersed in water so your sins can be forgiven, you are never so dirty that you need a complete bath again.

But at the same time, although you have trusted in Christ, you are never so pure that you don’t need to get your feet washed again. It’s an ongoing process to maintain your relationship with the Lord.

Sometimes, your feet get dirty because of deliberate sin. You choose to do what you know God’s Word forbids you to do. At those times, you need to confess your sin and appropriate the forgiveness that Christ secured for you by His death.

At other times, you just feel defiled because of contact with this dirty world. Maybe you’ve been bombarded with sensual advertisements or just the magazine covers at the supermarket checkout.

Perhaps you’ve had to deal with worldly people at work, so the lusts of the flesh, the lusts of the eyes, and the boastful pride of life (1 John 2:16) have left you feeling defiled. Those are the times to open your Bible and let “the washing of water with the word” (Eph. 5:26) cleanse and refresh your soul. Let Jesus wash your feet!

Conclusion. So ask yourself three questions:

(1) Do I consistently experience Christ’s undeserved love? If not, you need to figure out why not and get that problem resolved.

(2) Do I consistently follow Christ’s example of humble service? If not, jot down some specific ways that you can begin this week.

(3) Do I consistently come to Christ for cleansing from my sins and from the filth of this dirty world? If not, He’s waiting with the basin and the water of His word to wash your feet!

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Posted by on May 22, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


The Badge of Discipleship – John 13:1, 34-35

For many of my 44+ years of ministry, I have chosen to “spend time with Jesus” as we would enter the fall and begin pointing to the end of another calendar year. I wanted this special time so we’d “fall in love with Jesus all over again.”

I want us to spend time with Jesus in two ways: in our Sunday morning class, we’ll study many of the miracles of Jesus, and in our time through lessons here during our worship time, we’ll study John 13-17, which is our Lord’s “farewell message” to His beloved disciples [climaxing with His intercessory prayer for them and for us. (Other farewell addresses in Scripture were delivered by Moses (Deut. 31-33), Joshua (Josh. 23-24), and Paul (Acts 20)].

However, Jesus added a significant “action section” to His message when He washed His disciples’ feet. It was an object lesson they would never forget…we’ll spend time there next week.

I’d like us to see the long-view today, especially since we begin a reorganization of Life Groups here with a group that will meet on the first Sunday of each month and another group that will meet on the 3rd Sunday of each month.

We’re asking all members here to choose to be part of one of these groups, and fully expect the need to add a 2nd Sunday group and even a 4th Sunday group because of your willingness to be part of this effort.

I quoted Charles Hodge a few weeks go in another lesson…remember? He once said “we should stick with those we’re stuck with.” We smiled when we heard it and some of us have thought of it since.

Today? “A fellow observed: “Christians don’t drink, don’t cuss, don’t smoke, and some Christians don’t like each other.” This is sad but true.

Jesus summed up Christianity in 13:34, 35 (it’s been called “the badge of discipleship”): A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, and you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.

The badge? The badge is not the building, it’s not projects, it’s not doctrine, it’s not attendance, it’s not even good morals…it’s “love as Jesus loved.”

This can demoralize us. It is not “Were you baptized?”; “Can you pass our religious test?”; “Do you attend?”; “Do you give?”; “Do you teach a class?”; “Do you serve as a church officer?” No! It is, “Do you love your brother?”

It begins with servanthood.

John 13:3-5 (ESV) Jesus, knowing that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come from God and was going back to God, 4  rose from supper. He laid aside his outer garments, and taking a towel, tied it around his waist. 5  Then he poured water into a basin and began to wash the disciples’ feet and to wipe them with the towel that was wrapped around him.

Jesus taught others through the towel and equally reminded Himself. “The hour” had come.”

The emphasis in John 13:1–3 is on what our Lord knew, and in John 13:4–5 on what our Lord did.

Jesus knew that “His hour was come.” More than any of the Gospel writers, John emphasized the fact that Jesus lived on a “heavenly timetable” as He did the Father’s will. Note the development of this theme:

2:4—“Mine hour is not yet come.”

7:30—“His hour was not yet come.”

8:20—“His hour was not yet come.”

12:23—“The hour is come that the Son of man should be glorified.”

13:1—“Jesus knew that His hour was come.”

17:1—“Father, the hour is come.”

What was this divinely appointed “hour”? It was the time when He would be glorified through His death, resurrection, and ascension. From the human point of view, it meant suffering; but from the divine point of view, it meant glory.

He would soon leave this world and return to the Father who sent Him, Jesus having finished His work on earth (John 17:4). When the servant of God is in the will of God, he is immortal until his work is done. They could not even arrest Jesus, let alone kill Him, until the right hour had arrived.

In the Garden, His sweat had dropped like blood. Only the attitude of the towel would have the ultimate representation of a cross. Only with the attitude of the towel in Christians is Christ relived in the church. An unhappy church will not wash feet.

What Jesus knew helped determine what Jesus did. Jesus went into action. Action, many times, precedes attitude. “The right attitude is doing a thing even though you have the wrong attitude.” If you wait until your attitude is right, little will be done.

Take, for example, “Love your brother.” Jesus did not use the word “like.” This would be a burden no man could bear. We tend to confuse “like” and “love.” Many say, “Since I don’t like him, I will be a hypocrite if I am nice to him!”

That is wrong. Agape (love) says otherwise! “It is in the will, not the glands.”

I will serve the best interests of that person I do not like, regardless. God wants a servant church, not a success church. We are most like Jesus when serving.

Peter heard verses 32 and 33: “If God is glorified in Him, God will also glorify Him in Himself, and will glorify Him immediately. Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek me; and as I said to the Jews, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come,’ now I say to you also.”

He never heard verses 34 and 35: “. . . love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

We need to be patient with Peter. For 3.5 years, Jesus had been his entire life. He thinks, “Jesus is leaving?” Listen to verses 36 through 38: Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, where are You going?” Jesus answered, “Where I go, you cannot follow Me now; but you shall follow later.” Peter said to Him, “Lord, why can I not follow You right now? I will lay down my life for You.” Jesus answered, “Will you lay down your life for Me? Truly, truly, I say to you, a cock shall not crow, until you deny Me three times.”

Peter was shattered.  Love Like Jesus “Little children, I am with you a little while longer. You shall seek Me; and as I said to the Jews, I now say to you also, ‘Where I am going, you cannot come.’ A new command-ment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, . . .” (13:33–35).

There was nothing new about love. Jesus talked about it often. But because of the example and emphasis of Jesus, there is now a new dimension: love “as Jesus loved.”

He loved the apostles to the end: Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.

He washed their dirty feet. If you are not growing spiritually, you are not developing relationships. Nothing is more profound than knowing you are known, yet still loved. To be loved as a celebrity in distant places is not reality. This is why the early church practiced the holy kiss and hospitality.

The key to the early church was fellowship. “I sought my God, but my God I would not see. I sought my soul, but my soul eluded me. I sought my brother, and I found all three.”

Family Relationship Love.

The church is a family. There are no “Lone Ranger” Christians. We are members in a body. We are “one of another.” In a family you do not get to pick your brothers or sisters. In a family you are stuck! The difference in an institution and a family is love.

Most congregations all basically say and do the same things; some grow and others die. What is the difference? Love! Some love; some do not. Without love churches die.

Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor (Romans 12:10).

Let no one seek his own good, but that of his neighbor (1 Corinthians 10:24).

Consequently, he who rejects this is not rejecting man but the God who gives His Holy Spirit to you. Now as to the love of the brethren, you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves are taught by God to love one another (1 Thessalonians 4:8, 9).

And hope does not disappoint; because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:5).

There are two John 3:16’s in Scripture: John 3:16 and 1 John 3:16! Because Jesus died for us, we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren!

Some people I cannot love, but Jesus can, and the Holy Spirit can (Romans 5:5 (ESV) and hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us). Jesus can love through me.

A place where many are doing great church work does not mean there is family life. It requires two years for new members to become part of the family. This is why meals are so important. John 13 is in the middle of two meals! The church in Acts ate together. We’re pretty good at eating, aren’t we? We don’t often miss a meal, and we especially enjoy them with our physical family.

Tragically, we are not very good with love! We need to share meals with our spiritual family!

“We are foolish, yea, fakes with love.” We are scared of love. We will always be amateurs at love.

Paul wanted to cry in 1 Corinthians 3. The carnal, little brethren could not act like men. Some pout and refuse to speak. You speak to them and force them to grunt! Jesus even spoke to Judas during the betrayal.

Why do we encourage this? Self-seeking is a relationship killer. We must love or be lost! The only cell that lives for itself is a cancer cell.

I believe strongly that we as a congregation will never be what we could be unless we spend more time together in smaller groups…that is accomplished in Sunday, Monday and Wednesday classes…in monthly men’s and women’s devotionals, in attending a baby shower, as some will do this afternoon in the fellowship hall…eating together, listening to one another, laughing together, talking to someone I’ve never really talked with before (or at least in a long time)…you get my point.

George Gallup has said, “Americans are among the loneliest people in the world.” In the midst of busy lives, overcommitted schedules, and congested cities, we feel alone. Yet we are a culture craving relationship. In the midst of our crowded existence, many of us are living lonely lives. We live and work in a sea of humanity, but we end up missing out on benefits of regular, meaningful relationships.

That is not God’s intention! We were never meant to live in a state of functional isolation. We were created to be relational beings. None of us was meant to live alone, away from meaningful connection.

It seems God creates inside this man a kind of “human-shaped-void” that God himself will not fill. Living life alone does not accurately reflect the One whose image we bear. Alone and isolated were never to be used to describe His children.

Henry Cloud says it well: God created us with a hunger for relationship – for relationship with Him and with our fellow people. At our core we are relational beings.” He goes on to say, “The soul cannot prosper without being connected to others.” I believe one of God’s biggest dreams for us is authentic community – the kind of meaningful relationships that are best characterized by oneness with Him and with one another.

As important as it is for each follower of Christ to give and experience this unique kind of relational life, the benefits go beyond ourselves. They influence a watching world. Notice Jesus’ concluding words: “…so that the world may believe that you have sent me.” Do you feel the weight of that statement? Jesus is saying that  the  credibility  of  His  life  and  message  in  the  eyes  of unbelievers is dependent upon the way we as His followers relate with one another.

I believe that life change happens within the context of intentional relationships.


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Posted by on May 18, 2023 in Upper Room Discourse


“A Woman Worthy of Praise” – Proverbs 31:10-31

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When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you hang my first painting on the refrigerator, and I immediately wanted to paint another one.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you feed a stray cat, and I learned that it was good to be kind to animals.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make my favorite cake for me, and I learned that the little things can be the special things in life.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I heard you say a prayer, and I knew there is a God I could always talk to and I learned to trust in God.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you make a meal and take it to a friend who was sick, and I learned that we all have to help take care of each other.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you give of your time and money to help people who had nothing, and I learned that those who have something should give to those who don’t.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw you take care of our house and everyone in it, and I learned we have to take care of what we are given.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw how you handled your responsibilities, even when you didn’t feel good, and I learned that I would have to be responsible when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw tears come from your eyes, and I learned that sometimes things hurt, but it’s all right to cry.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I saw that you cared, and I wanted to be everything that I could be.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I learned most of life’s lessons that I need to know to be a good, and productive person when I grow up.

When you thought I wasn’t looking, I looked at you and wanted to say, “Thanks for all the things I saw when you thought I wasn’t looking.”

It was early one Friday morning; a husband was busily getting ready for work and just before heading out for the day he looked over at his beautiful wife who was just waking up and she had a big smile on her face.

She said, ”Honey, I’ll bet you don’t know what day this is!” Her husband, who had a horrible time keeping dates straight in his head and was notorious for confusing or forgetting special days, smiled back, brain momentarily paralyzed, said, ”Sweetheart, how could I ever forget. This is a special day for us!” Then, he quickly walked out the door to work.

He was in mental fog all day. He couldn’t focus on his work because he kept trying to figure out what was so special about that day. For the life of him, which may very well have been at stake, he could not remember his wife’s birthday or their anniversary. As the day wore on, he became more and more nervous. He did not want to go home and face his wife. He didn’t want to disappoint his wife.

He devised a plan. On the way home, he stopped by the florist and picked out an expensive and beautiful bouquet of flowers. He called the fanciest restaurant in town and made a reservation for two. Then, he called and managed to get tickets to the Broadway musical that was in town. He pulled in the driveway, rushed in the house, gave his wife a big kiss and told her to put her favorite dress on because they were going out for a night on the town to celebrate.

On the way home, his wife leaned over, put her head on his shoulder and said, ”This was a great evening.” And, it was. They had a wonderful evening. They had an expensive evening. He’d spent $500 to celebrate this special day even though he still didn’t know what they were celebrating. Then his wife said, ”Best Ground Hog Day ever!”

Well, we know what today is. It’s not Ground Hog Day. It’s Mother’s Day. I want to challenge and encourage our wives and mothers. We’re calling upon a man whose name is mentioned only once in scripture, yet this choice portion of literature seems to last forever in our minds as we look for a godly woman.

His name was King Lemuel, and he had a good mother.  In verse 10, King Lemuel offers both a question and a declaration:

Question: a wife of noble character, who can find? Answer: she is worth far more than rubies!

Verse 30 sums it all up: “Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the Lord is to be praised.”

Many times these verses are presented in such a way that a great deal of guilt is brought forth on the part of the woman and mothers listening. If you do not get up early and buy-and-sell land or provide your family with hand-sewn clothing…these verses are still for your encouragement.

Instead of listing items of activity which should be part of the Christian woman, it is listing characteristics which are then applied to the culture in which we walk and work. The idea: be this kind of woman in your character and your activities will be determined by the particular circumstances which do apply to your life.

  1. She is diligent (vs. 13, 17-18, 27)

Proverbs 31:13: “She selects wool and flax and works with eager hands.”

Proverbs 31:17-18: “She sets about her work vigorously; her arms are strong for her tasks. {18} She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night.”

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

This trait seems to be mixed with a pleasant spirit and a good attitude. She seems to possess pride in what she does…she’s not happy just to “get by” but in doing a good job. She looks for the best buys, she realizes a profit, and works even into the night.

  1. She’s industrious and efficient (vs. 14, 16, 24)

Proverbs 31:14: “She is like the merchant ships, bringing her food from afar.”

Proverbs 31:16: “She considers a field and buys it; out of her earnings she plants a vineyard.”

Proverbs 31:24: “She makes linen garments and sells them, and supplies the merchants with sashes.”

She’s a thinking individual. In the investment of her time, she looks for dividends and returns. Instead of focusing on the grind, she looks to the benefits her work will bring.

  1. She’s compassionate (vs. 20, 26).

Proverbs 31:20: “She opens her arms to the poor and extends her hands to the needy.”

Proverbs 31:26: “She speaks with wisdom, and faithful instruction is on her tongue.”

She has a soft heart that can be touched. And this makes her unique and distinct when contrasted to the man: an illustration….a child is hurt and the two responses:

Mother: How are YOU doing? What can I do? (the caring one)

Dad: Why were you running? You scratched the wall! Who’s fault was it? (the investigator).

  1. She has inner beauty (vs. 22, 25).

Proverbs 31:22: “She makes coverings for her bed; she is clothed in fine linen and purple.”

Proverbs 31:25: “She is clothed with strength and dignity; she can laugh at the days to come.”

IF MARRIED: She’s a devoted wife:

  1. She maintains her husband’s confidence (vs. 11a)

Proverbs 31:11a: “Her husband has full confidence in her….”

He’s comfortable in being transparent with her. He can share his feelings of insecurity, inadequacy, and disappointment and know she will keep them to herself.

  1. She meets his needs (vs. 11b).

Proverbs 31:11b: “…and lacks nothing of value.”

She’s supportive and affectionate. She encourages his pursuits, and is committed to him and his efforts.

Remember when God looked at Adam and said: “It is not good that man should be alone.” He made a help-meet that would make him complete. Woman was a special creation of God but also a “corresponding part.”

  1. She seeks his good (vs. 12)

Proverbs 31:12: “She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

  1. She adds to his influence (vs. 23)

Proverbs 31:23: “Her husband is respected at the city gate, where he takes his seat among the elders of the land.”

IF A PARENT: she’s a dependable mother.

  1. She is disciplined (vs. 15, 18-19).

Proverbs 31:15: “She gets up while it is still dark; she provides food for her family and portions for her servant girls.”

Proverbs 31:18-19: “She sees that her trading is profitable, and her lamp does not go out at night. {19} In her hand she holds the distaff and grasps the spindle with her fingers.”

  1. She’s organized (vs. 21).

Proverbs 31:21: “When it snows, she has no fear for her household; for all of them are clothed in scarlet.”

This verse presents a sense of planning. She takes the challenge of a family as just that, a challenge, and seeks to meet it. It’s not just “a cross to bear.”

  1. She’s dedicated (vs. 27).

Proverbs 31:27: “She watches over the affairs of her household and does not eat the bread of idleness.”

What will be the results of this kind of woman (28-31).

Proverbs 31:28-31“Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.” {30} Charm is deceptive, and beauty is fleeting; but a woman who fears the LORD is to be praised. {31} Give her the reward she has earned, and let her works bring her praise at the city gate.”

* Her children will bless her! * Her husband will praise her!

* Her peers will be challenged by her! * Her works will bring their own praise!

* Her Lord will be honored by her life!

A husband’s relationship to his excellent wife: (vs. 11-12, 28-29)

Proverbs 31:11-12: “Her husband has full confidence in her and lacks nothing of value. {12} She brings him good, not harm, all the days of her life.”

Proverbs 31:28-29: “Her children arise and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praises her: {29} “Many women do noble things, but you surpass them all.””

  1. He trusts her (vs. 11). He has no cause for suspicion for her. Deep within, he holds confidence in her.
  2. He benefits from her (vs.11).
  3. He’s affirmed by her (vs. 12).
  4. He’s impressed with her and sings her praises (vs. 28-29).

Young men – look for this kind of woman!

Young ladies – strive with God’s help to be this kind of woman!

Fathers and married men – Thank God if you have this kind of woman!


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Posted by on May 15, 2023 in Special days


‘Step out of the boat:’ entered full-time ministry May 13, 1979

On May 13, 1979, Terry and I ‘stepped out of the boat’ and entered full-time ministry. I had been a sports writer since graduating from MTSU for over seven years, but took the opportunity to return to our alma-mater to be the campus minister at the Middle Tennessee Christian Center. Even though there have been many ‘ups and downs,’ it is a decision I have never regretted, and I now enter my 44th year.

Certainly the blessings of ministry far outweigh the realities listed below, yet ministry is definitely not easy. That is why ministry must be a calling and not simply a “job”. If you can’t reconcile with these difficult realities and challenges concerning ministry, then perhaps you should avoid it all together (some apply, others not so much).

My dad told me plenty of things as we discussed this crucial decision, but both he and Mom were full of encouragement, though Mom acknowledged after a few years that she felt I should have followed my dad’s example and kept my “full-time job” and been a part-time minister/teacher. He did say one thing that I have always laughed about: “Gary, Sundays come around really fast when you are preparing two lessons and two Bible class studies per week.” I have found that to be absolutely true, though I usually cannot wait for Monday morning to come around so I can ‘begin again.’

I have learned much from some special people in my life, Lately, one of those dear friends asked me “why would you accept criticism from someone you would never go to for advise?” Amen! And often people find it ‘convenient’ to agree with you only when you follow their advise, when, in actuality, they are accepting you only for what they see in you that duplicates/mirrors them. Impossible! A most recent lesson? I try daily not to micro-manage someone else’s personality…wishing that others would follow that idea in regard to me.

I was both a preacher’s kid (PK) and an elder’s kid (EK), so I’ve felt ‘eyes on me’ throughout most of my life. I also was (am) concerned that my five children (and seven grand children) must have ‘felt those eyes on them’ as well. It is a shame that has to be the case, and I understand some of the reasoning…but others should have no right to expect a higher standard for me or Terry and my children/grandchildren than the one they have for themselves. Jesus Christ puts a high standard on ALL of us. On my desk are two statements: (1) To err is human; to blame it on the other guy is even more human. And, (2) thank you for not minding my business.

I am still negotiating this thing we call ‘ministry.’


I find these timely reminders to be useful when one decides to enter ministry…wishing I had learned some of these sooner in my life (MANY have NOT applied to me, thankfully, but presented here as ‘food for thought’):

  1. You will probably begin by ministering to a church that is barely growing (if at all), is opposed to change, doesn’t pay well, has seen ministers come and go, doesn’t respect the position as Biblically as they should, doesn’t understand what the Bible says a minister’s or a church’s jobs are, and will only follow you when they agree with you (thus, they’ll really only follow themselves).
  2. You will feel very lonely on a consistent basis, feeling like no one truly knows you or cares how you feel, because you do not want to burden your family, and trust-worthy peers are few and far in-between. Because of the ”super-Christian” myth accredited to ministers literally, you will find it extremely difficult to disclose your deep thoughts and feelings to others. Thus, you will struggle with loneliness.
  3. You will be persecuted for preaching the truth, mostly from your brothers and sisters in the pews. You shouldn’t be surprised by the sight of your own blood. You’re a Christian, after all (Matt. 16:24).
  4. You will think about quitting yearly or monthly, if not weekly or even daily…do not make important decisions on Mondays, since they are a day with ‘let downs’ after the ‘high’ of Sunday worship.
  5. You will be criticized, rarely to your face, and frequently behind your back. This criticism will come from those that love you, those that obviously do not like you, and often from shepherds and Christians that barely know you.
  6. Not everyone will respond positively to your preaching, teaching, or leadership. You will bring people to tears with the same sermon: one in joy, another in anger (I have done this).
  7. You will fight legalism and liberalism, along with laziness, ignorance, tradition, and opposition. Yet, your greatest enemy will be your own heart (Jere. 17:9).
  8. You will feel like a failure often, and when you do appear to succeed, the fruit that is produced cannot be accredited to you. God alone gives the increase (1 Cor. 3:7). Thus, there is little “sense of accomplishment in ministry” that you may be accustomed to in other vocations. I have always mowing my yard, since it gives me ‘a beginning and an end.’
  9. You will make people angry regardless how godly you handle yourself; it comes with the position.
  10. Not everyone will like you.


I worked as a copy boy on weekends at the News-Free Press as a junior in high school and a sports writer during my senior year of high school and then was the sports editor of the MTSU Sidelines school newspaper seven semesters.

During my freshman year, I also wrote a weekly article on MTSU football for the Nashville Banner. After my freshman year, I worked during the summer in sports department at the Chattanooga Times.

I was the Christian Center student president my junior year…we got married on July 2, 1971 and worked our senior years before graduating (1972) and moving to Chattanooga to work with the Chattanooga News-Free Press for seven years.





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Eric and Tonia would often go over to the Main House on Friday/Saturday evenings and just see who was around before it was bedtime


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Board members with Dr. Wiser (front right) when we introduced a plaque honoring past leaders at an annual fund-raising banquet. To this day, I am the only person who was a student, student president, and director at the Christian Center.

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A picture of the Main House when they renovated it several years later (it is no longer there, being replaced with a new Christian Center)

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Gary King was the student president during my first year as director. The students were always so friendly/nice to our children…I think they enjoyed having a family around since they were away from home in college


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I did the publications while the director and we had some successful fund-raising efforts

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During my photography class, I super-imposed this shot of Terry over one of the campus buildings

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After a busy week, I would often sit under a shade tree in our front yard to read/enjoy the time (the backyard was usually muddy and not inviting at all)

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This was the ‘doll house,’ where Terry lived with other girls while we were students and we lived in it while there as director

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Terry was again a great model for me during my photography class

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This was taken in April 1980 when Gregory joined our happy family

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Ray Bevans enjoying time with Tonia (I think Ray was the first ‘crush’ she had on a boy)

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The students loved coming by our house on their way to/from classes to see Eric and Tonia ‘hanging out’

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Posted by on May 12, 2023 in Family


The Cities of Refuge Deuteronomy 4:41–43; 19:1–13

The people of Israel were greatly blessed. They had the Lord God for their King, a wonderful land for their home, and a holy law for their guide, and yet they faced some of the same problems that society faces today. But human nature being what it is, nations will always have to deal with “man’s inhumanity to man,” because the heart of every problem is still the problem of the heart.

Laws are necessary to bring order to society, to restrain evil, and to help control behavior, but laws can never change the human heart. Only the grace of God can do that.

If this section of Scripture emphasizes anything, it’s that God holds human life precious and wants us to treat people fairly, for they are made in the image of God (Gen. 9:1-7).

God’s concept of justice and the value of life is illustrated by the provisions made for six cities of refuge to be designated after the conquest of Canaan.

Deuteronomy 4:41-43 (ESV)
41  Then Moses set apart three cities in the east beyond the Jordan,
42  that the manslayer might flee there, anyone who kills his neighbor unintentionally, without being at enmity with him in time past; he may flee to one of these cities and save his life:
43  Bezer in the wilderness on the tableland for the Reubenites, Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.

In the nomadic societies of Moses’ day, the possibility of an immediate blood revenge, carried out by the next of kin, sometimes prevented a proper trial. Jehovah’s concept of justice is first introduced in Exodus 21:12, 13: “He who strikes a man so that he dies shall surely be put to death. But if he did not lie in wait for him, but God let him fall into his hand, then I will appoint you a place to which he may flee.”

God’s wisdom is seen in His provisions for His creation. His provisions are realistic, for He knew offenses would come. He provided a way of escape for the innocent. The cities of refuge were provisions for justice. A regard for human life is far more important than a regard for private property.

God’s thoughtfulness for human life is impressive. No life was to be impatiently wasted. The entire nineteenth chapter deals with justice for the defenseless: justice for the unintentional killer (19:1–13), justice for the landowner (19:14), and justice for the accused (19:15–21).


Deuteronomy 19:1-13 (ESV)
1  “When the LORD your God cuts off the nations whose land the LORD your God is giving you, and you dispossess them and dwell in their cities and in their houses,
2  you shall set apart three cities for yourselves in the land that the LORD your God is giving you to possess.
3  You shall measure the distances and divide into three parts the area of the land that the LORD your God gives you as a possession, so that any manslayer can flee to them.


The Quaker poet John Greenleaf Whittier called justice “the hope of all who suffer, the dread of all who wrong.” That’s the ideal, but it isn’t always achieved in real life. Without justice, society would fall apart, anarchy would take over, and it wouldn’t be safe for people to leave their homes. Israel didn’t have the elaborate police system we have today, so locating and punishing guilty criminals depended primarily on the elders and the judges. By singling out the “cities of refuge,” the Lord promoted justice in the land.

The cities of refuge were part of the distribution of the Promised Land among the twelve tribes of Israel. Only one tribe, the Levites, was not given land to develop. Instead, they were to be the priests of the Lord and the overseers of the tabernacle and all its rites and furnishings. Only the Levites could carry and set up the tabernacle (Numbers 2:5-13).

As the Levites were to have no territorial domain allocated to them like the other tribes in the conquest of Canaan, they were to be distributed throughout the land in certain cities appropriated to their use. Part of their inheritance consisted of forty-eight cities spread throughout the land (Numbers 35:6-7). Of these forty-eight cities, six were designated as cities of refuge. The cities were Kedesh, Shechem, Hebron, Bezer, Ramoth, and Golan (Joshua 20:7-8).

The Mosaic Law stated that anyone who committed a murder was to be put to death (Exodus 21:14). But for unintentional deaths, God set aside these cities to which the murderer could flee for refuge (Exodus 21:13). He would be safe from the avenger—the family member charged with avenging the victim’s death (Numbers 35:19)—until the case could go to trial.

The congregation would judge to find if the attacker acted unintentionally. If he did, he would return to the city of refuge and live there safely until the death of the high priest who was in office at the time of the trial, at which point he could return to his property. If the attacker left the city of refuge before the death of the high priest, however, the avenger would have the right to kill him (Numbers 35:24-28).

After Jehovah had cut off the enemies of Israel in Canaan and Israel was living in the cities and houses of the former inhabitants, Moses stipulated: You shall set aside three cities for yourself in the midst of your land, which the Lord your God gives you to possess. You shall prepare the roads for yourself, and divide into three parts the territory of your land, which the Lord your God will give you as a possession, so that any manslayer may flee there (19:2, 3).

The first three cities were to be set apart in the midst of the land. They were to be within easy reach so that anyone who killed a man would be able to flee to them for temporary protection. Moses specified that these cities were to be equally spaced geographically. The land was to be divided into three parts, and the cities were to be placed in each area.

No part of the land would be more than thirty miles from one of these cities. They were to build roads to make them accessible for those in need of immediate sanctuary. It is emphasized that the Israelites should take care that a slayer who killed ignorantly was within easy reach of a city of refuge (19:3, 6).

Kedesh in Naphtali, Shechem in Ephraim, and Hebron in Judah were set apart in Canaan as the first cities of refuge (Joshua 20:7). Provision was made in the law for more cities of refuge as Israel acquired more territory.

4  “This is the provision for the manslayer, who by fleeing there may save his life. If anyone kills his neighbor unintentionally without having hated him in the past—
5  as when someone goes into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down a tree, and the head slips from the handle and strikes his neighbor so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live,
6  lest the avenger of blood in hot anger pursue the manslayer and overtake him, because the way is long, and strike him fatally, though the man did not deserve to die, since he had not hated his neighbor in the past.
7  Therefore I command you, You shall set apart three cities.
8  And if the LORD your God enlarges your territory, as he has sworn to your fathers, and gives you all the land that he promised to give to your fathers—
9  provided you are careful to keep all this commandment, which I command you today, by loving the LORD your God and by walking ever in his ways—then you shall add three other cities to these three,
As Israel’s territory was enlarged with the destruction of the two Amorite kings, three other cities were to be added to those found in Canaan. In 4:41–43, in a parenthetical statement, Moses, while Israel was on the plains of Moab, set apart three cities of refuge on the east side: “Bezer in the wilderness on the plateau for the Reubenites, and Ramoth in Gilead for the Gadites, and Golan in Bashan for the Manassites.”


Moses revealed the primary purpose for the cities of refuge in these words: lest innocent blood be shed in your land that the LORD your God is giving you for an inheritance, and so the guilt of bloodshed be upon you.
11  “But if anyone hates his neighbor and lies in wait for him and attacks him and strikes him fatally so that he dies, and he flees into one of these cities,
12  then the elders of his city shall send and take him from there, and hand him over to the avenger of blood, so that he may die.
13  Your eye shall not pity him, but you shall purge the guilt of innocent blood from Israel, so that it may be well with you.

These sanctuaries were in no way to be an interference with the proper procedure of justice. The word “manslayer” or “slayer,” in 19:3, refers to intentional or unintentional killings. The term “manslayer” is the participle of the verb rasah, which seems to denote anti-social killing rather than killing in war or in the administration of justice.

The word “murder” does not seem to be an accurate translation, since rasah covers both cases of murder and of accidental killing. The cities of refuge would be open to either for temporary safety. They were not appointed to provide permanent asylum for the intentional manslayer, but they did assure that every man who killed his neighbor might find protection until the time of his trial.

The manslayer who fled to the city would live as one who killed his neighbor unintentionally or ignorantly and without any previous feelings of hatred toward his neighbor. To illustrate the difference between a willful murder and an unintentional murder, Moses gives an example in 19:5: As when a man goes into the forest with his friend to cut wood, and his hand swings the axe to cut down the tree, and the iron head slips off the handle and strikes his friend so that he dies—he may flee to one of these cities and live.


Murder was one of several capital crimes in Israel. Others were idolatry and sorcery (Lev. 20:1-6), blasphemy (24:10-16), violating the Sabbath (Num. 15:32-36), willful and repeated disobedience to parents (Deut. 21:18-21; Ex. 21:15, 17), kidnapping (Ex. 21:16), bestiality (22:19), homosexuality (Lev. 20:13), adultery, and the rape of an engaged maiden (Deut. 22:22-27).

Israel was a theocracy and her laws were God’s laws. To break the law was to sin against the Lord and defile the land, and the people needed to understand the seriousness of such actions. In 1972, the United States Supreme Court declared capital punishment unconstitutional but then reinstated it in 1976. Capital punishment may not restrain every would-be murderer from taking a life, but it does magnify the preciousness of human life as well as honor the law.

The cities of refuge offered protection “lest the avenger of blood pursue the manslayer in the heat of his anger, and overtake him, . . .” (19:6).

The avenger was the nearest male relative, the one responsible for redeeming a relative’s property (Leviticus 25:25), for marrying a relative’s widow and rearing children in the name of the deceased (Ruth 3:12, 13; 4:5–10), and for avenging the death of a relative (Numbers 35:19).

The kinsman was directed by law to pursue the manslayer and to seek the payment of life for life. It was not a feat which would be lightly undertaken. In fact, it was one of those duties which a person would shirk if he could.

It would take an individual who had courage and self-denial to fulfill this part of the Mosaic code.

This rough ministry of justice which was fulfilled by the avenger was needed in the early days. It strengthened the family ties. It fostered a spirit of brotherhood. It was a shield for the weak and defenseless.

Vengeance under the law seems dreadful to many of us because we live in an organized system of public justice. But if we were translated to some uncivilized country where each one is forced to fight for his own family, we would regard it less painfully. We must recognize it as a necessary assertion of judgment. “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord” (Romans 12:19) seems dreadful only to those who have not appreciated the need of a good and somewhat reliable civil justice.

This divine law of vengeance, through the avenger, was perfect in the sense that there was and could be no appeal. If one man had slain another, the presumption was that it had been maliciously done, and prompt vengeance was prepared for him. He needed to make a serious flight from the sudden reprisal that could come even “though he was not deserving of death” (19:6).

Immediately after the death of the friend, the slayer could be killed in a hasty decision while “the avenger of blood pursue[d] . . . in the heat of his anger” (19:6).

He had to bid a hasty adieu to his family and travel quickly for the nearest refuge city. He had to constantly be on guard because behind every bush and rock the avenger might be lurking in ambush.

The cities of refuge were Levitical cities which would give further security for the manslayer (Numbers 35:6). There would be men who knew the law and could apply it objectively.

The manslayer was able to come to the gate of the city and explain his case to the elders of that city. If the elders were satisfied that the death was unintentional, he would be provided with lodging, and they would not turn him over to the avenger of blood. There he would be protected from the relatives of the deceased who would otherwise seek revenge. If granted asylum, he would be expected to stay there.

If he were found elsewhere, the avenger of blood would be allowed to kill him. The manslayer lived in lonely exile until the death of the high priest. Upon the death of the high priest he could, if he chose, return to his own home (Numbers 35:25–28). The milder sentence, however, was preferable to a violent death. The opportunity was afforded of examining himself and of being penitent for his sins.


The fugitive might yet be handed over to the executioner even though he arrived at the city. What the city of refuge gave was an opportunity for full investigation. It safeguarded a suspected man if he was innocent of a greater crime. It taught men to draw a clear line between unintentional injury and premeditated murder. It shielded the innocent from useless and needless death.

Trial of the escaped manslayer was provided, and the guilty were turned over to the avenger. God did not intend to provide protection for the one who killed out of greed, hate, or jealousy. A willful murderer was not granted asylum, but was surrendered to the elders of the slain man’s hometown. They were responsible for the final decision (9:12). The elders were in a position to decide the guilt of the man without being emotionally involved or influenced by a sense of loss. If the elders found him guilty, they delivered him to the kinsman who would exact blood revenge. The avenger of blood was the divine instrument designated by the law to carry out the death penalty.


The sojourn in the city of refuge corresponds spiritually to those who have taken themselves to Jesus under a sense of their sin and blood guiltiness to find under His wings protection from condemnation (Romans 8:1). If the manslayer had left the city of refuge, he would have still been liable to the avenger.

Likewise, one must abide in Christ or still be liable for his transgressions. “Life in Christ” is indicated by the sojourn in the city of refuge. But liberty through the death of Christ is indicated by the release at the death of the high priest (Hebrews 4:14–16; 6:18–20).

It takes many relations to bring out the truth as it is in Jesus. He is our avenger, as we have seen: “‘Vengeance is Mine, I will repay,’ says the Lord.”

He is our city of refuge. He is our high priest whose death secures the return from exile. While cities of refuge protected only the innocent or unintentional killer, Christ provides salvation for the penitent, even though guilty. Judgment is not removed.

There will be a day of reckoning and destruction of the wicked. There is a way of escape in Christ, to whom we flee in refuge. He is within reach of us all. As there was an equal number of cities on each side of the Jordan, so there is equal salvation to Jew and Gentile, bound and free. Each must avail himself of this escape. “Be saved from this perverse generation!” (Acts 2:40).

The cities of refuge can be seen as types of Christ, in whom sinners find a refuge from the destroyer of our souls. Just as a person could seek refuge in the cities set up for that purpose, we flee to Christ for refuge:

Hebrews 6:18 (ESV) so that by two unchangeable things, in which it is impossible for God to lie, we who have fled for refuge might have strong encouragement to hold fast to the hope set before us.

God confirmed his promise with an oath (6:17), because these two things are unchangeable. Why are they unchangeable? Because it is impossible for God to lie. God provides us security because of his own character. Patience is our part whereby we hold on to his promise with confidence.

The phrase “we who have fled to him for refuge” pictures a person who fled to one of the cities of refuge that provided protection for someone who accidentally killed another (Numbers 35). Christians also have fled for safety to the place of security and protection from the punishment against them. Christ provides the safest place, the hope we count on, the encouragement we need.

6:19-20 We have this hope as an anchor for the soul, firm and secure.

We run to Christ to escape the danger we are in from the curse and condemnation of the law, from the wrath of God, and from an eternity in hell. Only Christ provides refuge from these things, and it is to Him alone that we must run. Just as the cities were open to all who fled to them for safety, it is Christ who provides safety to all who come to Him for refuge from sin and its punishment.

For the Christian, “God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble” (Psalms 46:1). The first word in the verse directs us to the infinite, all-wise, all-powerful, all-loving, all holy, and just being. It is emphatically declared that, for troubled times, God is our refuge, our strength, and our help.

Who else can always be called on to understand and sustain in times of trouble? Is God a source of comfort for your troubles? Can you, with confidence, call Him to your aid? Or, due to your present state of rebellion and disobedience, is He your enemy?

What must you do to enlist Him on your side in order to assist you with your troubles? The Son of God said, “Come to Me, all who are weary and heavyladen, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you, and learn from Me, for I am gentle and humble in heart; and you shall find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy, and My load is light”


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Posted by on May 11, 2023 in Sermon


The Necessity of a New Body – 1 Corinthians 15:50-53

50 I tell you this, brothers: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God, nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold! I tell you a mystery. We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. 53 For this perishable body must put on the imperishable, and this mortal body must put on immortality. 54 When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written: “Death is swallowed up in victory.” “O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

I like the way the New Revised Standard Version begins verse 50: “What I am saying, brothers and sisters, is this: … .” In other words, Paul is now getting to the bottom line. All of what Paul has been saying boils down to this: flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God. The expression, “flesh and blood,” is found only five times in the New Testament (the expression is not found in the Old).[1] It consistently refers to men (mankind), and in the context of our passage, it refers to the natural human body. The last half of verse 50 simply repeats the same truth in different words: “Perishable bodies cannot dwell in an eternally imperishable environment, where perishing is not permitted.”

Many restaurants have a sign in the front window, which reads something like this: “No shoes, no shirt, no service.” This means that one’s appearance and attire has to meet certain standards, or they are not welcome. That is the way heaven is. Heaven is a place where there is no pain, no sorrow, no sickness, or death. These mortal bodies which we possess here on earth are not suited for heaven. The death and burial of our earthly bodies is not an unfortunate circumstance; it is a necessity. Recently, we watched the movie “Apollo 13.” The lunar module (LM), Aquarius, which helped keep the astronauts alive in outer space, had to be abandoned before the astronauts could reenter the earth’s atmosphere. The Aquarius was simply not designed for reentry. It was designed for outer space and specifically for a lunar landing. Our earthly bodies were not designed for the kingdom of God. They have to be left behind, because they are not suited for eternal habitation.

For us to dwell eternally in the presence of God, we must have different bodies. As Paul repeats in verse 53, “this perishable body must put on imperishability, and this mortal body must put on immortality” (NRSV). We cannot dwell in heaven in these bodies. It is just that simple. If we are to dwell in God’s presence for all eternity, we must have imperishable, incorruptible bodies, and that means we must trade in these earthly, perishable bodies.

For those who have died, this will happen at the resurrection of the dead. That is what Paul has been saying in verses 35-49. At the resurrection of the dead, our natural bodies are exchanged for spiritual bodies; our earthly bodies are transformed into heavenly bodies; our perishable bodies are transformed into imperishable bodies. The resurrection of the dead is the means by which bodies unfit for heaven are miraculously transformed into bodies which are perfectly suited for heaven.

But what of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s return? In verses 51 and 52, Paul adds yet another category, those who are alive at the time of Christ’s coming. The resurrection of the dead is a truth which was revealed in the Old Testament Scriptures (see Job 19:25-27; Psalm 73:23-24; Isaiah 26:19; Daniel 12:1-2). What was not so clearly revealed was the transformation of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s return. This is what the Bible calls a mystery. A mystery is not a secret which no one has ever heard about before, but something about which some information has been given without being understood.[2] If our earthly bodies are not suited for the kingdom of God, then it is not just dead bodies that need to be raised. We need a transformation of our earthly bodies, whether living or dead.

This is the mystery which Paul now reveals. We shall not all “sleep” (die). Paul uses the term “sleep” just as our Lord did (see John 11:11, 13) because death is not a permanent state. Just as those who sleep “wake up,” so those who die will rise again. But not all men will die. The kingdom of God begins with the return of our Lord to this earth. Those alive at the time of His return will not “sleep,” Paul says, but we shall all be changed. This word is not the word usually rendered “transformed,” but it is a fascinating word. In Romans 1:23 and Psalm 106:20 (105:20 in the Greek Septuagint), the word is rendered “exchanged.” I believe it could be thus rendered in Psalm 102:26 (101:26 in the Septuagint) and Hebrews 1:12. Our bodies will be “changed,” and in fact they will be “exchanged.” Those who are alive get an instant trade-up.

Paul employs two expressions to describe the speed of this change which those living at the time of our Lord’s coming will experience. The second is one with which we are all familiar, the “twinkling of an eye.” The first expression is even more graphic and dramatic. Those of us who are fascinated with computers compare various pieces of hardware in terms of their speed. My first hard drive had an access time of something like 70 milliseconds. The one I now use is right around 10 milliseconds (thousandths of a second). The speed of memory is measured in nanoseconds, billionths of a second. Now that is a very small piece of time. But the word Paul employs is that word which we would transliterate “atom,” and my lexicon defines it as an indivisible moment of time. That’s so small it cannot get any smaller. And that’s how fast the change will occur for those living at the time of our Lord’s return. There will be no one waiting in line for this change!

The sequence of events is spelled out in verse 52. It will begin with the sounding of a trumpet, the “last trumpet.” There is a great deal of discussion about which “trumpet” this is. Dispensationalists think it is a very different trumpet than do the non-dispensationalists. For the moment, let us agree that there is to be a trumpet blast. This blast is something like the starting gun at a race. When the trumpet sounds, things begin to happen. Our Lord returns to the earth (although this is not specifically mentioned here). The dead in Christ are first raised from the grave, the old body being transformed as it is raised so that what was sown as a natural body rises as a spiritual body. After the dead in Christ are raised, those alive at this time are instantaneously changed in body so that their perishable bodies are now imperishable, their natural bodies are now spiritual bodies. In but the twinkling of an eye, Paul says, we become just like those whose bodies have been raised from the dead.[3]

15:50 What I am saying, dear brothers and sisters, is that flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These perishable bodies of ours are not able to live forever.NLT After describing the different natures of the two types of bodies—those before resurrection and those after—Paul explained his point. The resurrected bodies have to be different from these present, physical bodies because flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God. These bodies cannot go into God’s eternal kingdom because these present bodies were not made to live forever—otherwise they would. So God has prepared new bodies that will live forever. The resurrection is a fact; new bodies ready for life in eternity is also a fact.

Everyone faces limitations. Those who have physical, mental, or emotional disabilities are especially aware of this fact. Some may be blind, but they can see a new way to live. Some may be deaf, but they can hear God’s Good News. Some may be lame, but they can walk in God’s love. In addition, they have the encouragement that those disabilities are only temporary. All believers will be given new bodies when Christ returns. And these bodies will be without disabilities, never to die or become sick. Let this truth give you hope in your suffering.

15:51-52 Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed—in a flash, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet. For the trumpet will sound, the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed.NIV With great emphasis Paul passed on to these Corinthians a mystery—knowledge given to him by divine revelation from Christ. This information should transform their lives as they look forward to what God had promised them. If flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom (15:50), then what about those who are still alive at the return of Christ? Paul answered the implicit question. The phrase “we will not all sleep” means that some Christians will still be alive at the time of Christ’s return. They will not have to die before they get their new resurrection bodies. (For further discussion of these new bodies, see 2 Corinthians 5:1-10.) Instead, they will all be changed, transformed immediately, in the twinkling of an eye (see 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). A trumpet blast will usher in the new heaven and earth (Revelation 11:15). The Jews would understand the significance of this because trumpets were always blown to signal the start of great festivals and other extraordinary events (Numbers 10:10). At that time, when the trumpet sounds and Christ returns, the dead will be raised imperishable, out of the graves with their new bodies. Those still alive will be changed, also receiving their new bodies. This change will happen instantly for all Christians, whether they are dead or alive. All will be made ready to go with Christ.

15:53 For our perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die.NLT Because “flesh and blood cannot inherit the Kingdom of God” (15:50 nlt), and because Christians are promised eternal life in God’s kingdom, then their present perishable earthly bodies must be transformed into heavenly bodies that will never die. The perishable bodies will not be thrown away or abandoned; instead, they will be “transformed.” Each person will still be recognizable, will still be the person God created him or her to be, but each will be made perfect with a body that will be able to live forever in the kingdom.

Christ’s Triumph (and Ours) Over Death (15:54-57)

54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “Death is swallowed up in victory. 55 O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

When these transformations take place, Old Testament prophecy is fulfilled. Paul turns to the prophecy of Isaiah to show that the resurrection of the dead and transformation of the living is, indeed, the same victory over death which he spoke of in verses 20-28. The last enemy to be defeated and abolished by our Lord is death (15:26). This is accomplished by the resurrection of the dead and the transformation of the living. And thus Paul sees this as the fulfillment of Isaiah’s prophecy in chapter 25:

6 And the Lord of hosts will prepare a lavish banquet for all peoples on this mountain; A banquet of aged wine, choice pieces with marrow, And refined, aged wine.  7 And on this mountain He will swallow up the covering which is over all peoples, Even the veil which is stretched over all nations.  8 He will swallow up death for all time, And the Lord God will wipe tears away from all faces, And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth; For the Lord has spoken (Isaiah 25:6-8).[4]

Isaiah 25 is about the coming of the kingdom of God. What refreshing and welcome news this would be to those who were about to be sent into captivity in a foreign land. The first 5 verses of chapter 25 describe the defeat and judgment of those nations who have rejected God and persecuted His people. Beginning at verse 6, Isaiah begins to describe the restoration of the nation Israel at the commencement of the kingdom of God, brought about by the return of Messiah. The kingdom is described as a lavish banquet set before the people of God. On the mountain (which looks like Jerusalem) where this banquet is served, God will “swallow up the covering which is over all peoples” (verse 7). This covering may well be a shroud like that which is put over a dead body. If so, this is a symbolic way of saying what will be clearly stated in verse 8, that God is going to swallow up death by His victory. No wonder Paul speaks of death being swallowed up in victory; this is just as Isaiah prophesied.

The distinctive of the prophecy to which Paul refers is that in this text, Isaiah not only speaks of the resurrection of the dead (as we see in 26:19), he speaks of the end of death. Death is done away with. Death is exterminated. Thus, Isaiah’s prophecy is fulfilled in the events Paul describes.

But wait, there’s more (as the television commercial goes). Paul now turns our attention to the words of the prophet Hosea: “I will ransom them from the power of Sheol; I will redeem them from death. O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight” (Hosea 13:14).[5] Isaiah’s words indicate that the coming of the Lord and the resurrection of the dead (including as well the transformation of those who are alive at the time of our Lord’s appearing) is the final defeat of death itself. Paul then uses Hosea’s words to convey the believer’s triumph due to this victory our Lord has won.

This victory will not be understood until we first grasp the grip which death has over men. That death grip is depicted in the second chapter of Hebrews:

14 Since then the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil; 15 and might deliver those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted (Hebrews 2:14-18).

Of all the obsessions and fears named these days, one almost never hears of the fear of death. Yet it is this fear which makes virtual slaves of all men. The writer to the Hebrews tells us that the devil has a grip on men through their fear of death. Death is the destiny of all men. The Son of God took on humanity, flesh and blood, at His incarnation, and then by His death and resurrection rendered death and the devil powerless. Those who have trusted in Christ need no longer live in fear of death. Death and the fear of death have been swallowed up by the triumph of our Lord over them.

Paul’s taunt seems to reverse matters. Paul asks death where its victory is and where its sting is. Isn’t it just the opposite? Doesn’t Paul elsewhere write that the “wages of sin is death” (Romans 6:23)? Yes, this is true, but this is not Paul’s point here. Death is the final enemy of our Lord, and ultimately for us. Does death have the last word? For the Christian, the answer is a resounding “No!” Death has lost its sting and its victory. Death is as frightening for the Christian as a scorpion whose stinger has been plucked out or a deadly viper whose fangs have been removed. This is because our Lord “de-fanged” death in at least three ways.

First, Christ died for our sins.

3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures (1 Corinthians 15:3).

21 But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, 22 even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; 23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24 being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; 25 whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; 26 for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, that He might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Romans 3:21-26).

8 But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us (Romans 5:8).

17 Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. 18 Now all these things are from God, who reconciled us to Himself through Christ, and gave us the ministry of reconciliation, 19 namely, that God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and He has committed to us the word of reconciliation. 20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God were entreating through us; we beg you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. 21 He made Him who knew no sin to be sin on our behalf, that we might become the righteousness of God in Him (2 Corinthians 5:17-21).

We need not suffer the penalty of death which our sins deserve because Christ suffered that penalty in our place. He died for us, paying the death penalty for our sins. Death has no claim on us because our debt has been paid, by the Lord Jesus Christ.

Second, Christ died to sin. Christ died for our sins, taking our sins, their guilt and punishment, upon Himself and thus freeing us from the penalty for sin—death. Christ also died to sin, so that all who are in Him by faith have been freed from sin’s power:

3 Or do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with Him through baptism into death, in order that as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life. 5 For if we have become united with Him in the likeness of His death, certainly we shall be also in the likeness of His resurrection, 6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, that our body of sin might be done away with, that we should no longer be slaves to sin; 7 for he who has died is freed from sin. 8 Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him, 9 knowing that Christ, having been raised from the dead, is never to die again; death no longer is master over Him. 10 For the death that He died, He died to sin, once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God. 11 Even so consider yourselves to be dead to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus. 12 Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body that you should obey its lusts, 13 and do not go on presenting the members of your body to sin as instruments of unrighteousness; but present yourselves to God as those alive from the dead, and your members as instruments of righteousness to God. 14 For sin shall not be master over you, for you are not under law, but under grace (Romans 6:3-14).

Sin has no power over a corpse. Sin overpowers those who are alive (see Romans 7). By dying to sin in Christ, we are delivered from sin’s power over us. Death owned us through sin, our sin. But by faith in Jesus Christ, we have died to sin in Him. Death has no power over us. Death has no claim on us. Death has no victory over us. Death has no sting for us. Think of it. Death no longer owns us; in fact, we own death:

22 Whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or things present or things to come; all things belong to you (1 Corinthians 3:22).

Death cannot keep us from the love of God (see Romans 8:31-39). The only thing death can now do is to hasten the day when we are forever in His presence. Death actually does us a favor:

1 For we know that if the earthly tent which is our house is torn down, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. 2 For indeed in this house we groan, longing to be clothed with our dwelling from heaven; 3 inasmuch as we, having put it on, shall not be found naked. 4 For indeed while we are in this tent, we groan, being burdened, because we do not want to be unclothed, but to be clothed, in order that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. 5 Now He who prepared us for this very purpose is God, who gave to us the Spirit as a pledge. 6 Therefore, being always of good courage, and knowing that while we are at home in the body we are absent from the Lord (2 Corinthians 5:1-6).

21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain. 22 But if I am to live on in the flesh, this will mean fruitful labor for me; and I do not know which to choose. 23 But I am hard-pressed from both directions, having the desire to depart and be with Christ, for that is very much better (Philippians 1:21-23).

Third, Christ died to the law. If a police officer pulls us over, he cannot write us a ticket for breathing or for humming along with our radio. This is because there is no law against breathing or humming. The only power a police officer has is that power which is given to him by the law. Death’s power likewise comes from the law. The wages of sin is death, and the law defines sin. Thus, to break the law is to be in death’s power. But if there is no law, there is no crime, no sin.

The power of sin is the law,” Paul has said (verse 56). The law is “holy, and righteous, and good” (Romans 7:12). Nevertheless, sin abuses the law in such a way that it is used to condemn us to death. The good news is that Christ died to the law, and thus those who are in Christ have died to the law in Him—and to its power to condemn us: “Therefore, my brethren, you also were made to die to the Law through the body of Christ, that you might be joined to another, to Him who was raised from the dead, that we might bear fruit for God” (Romans 7:4).

I must remind you that this freedom from death, sin, and the condemnation of the law is only true for the Christian. Death does own the one who is outside Christ, who has never acknowledged his sin and trusted in the work of Christ on Calvary. Think of the rich man in Luke 16:19-31. While death ended the earthly suffering of Lazarus and brought him into eternal blessings, death ended the earthly bliss of the rich man and brought him into eternal torment. Death now made this man an eternal captive, whose plight could not be reversed (see also Hebrews 9:27). And even resurrection was of no use to this man or to his lost family members (Luke 16:27-31). Death had a sting for this rich man; death had a victory. It is only those who are in Christ by faith who can taunt death as Paul does, for it is a defeated enemy.

Once again we must remember that Paul is dealing with things which defy language and baffle expression. We must read this as we would read great poetry, rather than as we would dissect a scientific treatise. The argument follows a series of steps until it reaches its climax.

(i) Paul insists that, as we are, we are not fit to inherit the Kingdom of God. We may be well enough equipped to get on with the life of this world, but for the life of the world to come we will not do. A man may be able to run enough to catch his morning train and yet need to be very different to be able to run enough for the Olympic games. A man may write well enough to amuse his friends and yet need to be very different to write something which men will not willingly let die. A man may talk well enough in the circle of his club and yet need to be very different to hold his own in a circle of real experts. A man always needs to be changed to enter into a higher grade of life; and Paul insists that before we can enter the Kingdom of God we must be changed.

(ii) Further he insists that this shattering change is going to come in his own lifetime. In this he was in error; but he looked to that change coming when Jesus Christ came again.

(iii) Then Paul goes on triumphantly to declare that no man need fear that change. The fear of death has always haunted men. It haunted Dr. Johnson, one of the greatest and best men who ever lived. Once Boswell said to him that there had been times when he had not feared death. Johnson answered that “he never had a moment in which death was not terrible to him.” Once Mrs. Knowles told him that he should not have a horror for that which is the gate of life. Johnson answered, “No rational man can die without uneasy apprehension.” He declared that the fear of death was so natural to man that all life was one long effort not to think about it.

Wherein lies the fear of death? Partly it comes from fear of the unknown. But still more it comes from the sense of sin. If a man felt that he could meet God easily then to die would be only, as Peter Pan said, a great adventure. But where does that sense of sin come from? It comes from a sense of being under the law. So long as a man sees in God only the law of righteousness, he must ever be in the position of a criminal before the bar with no hope of acquittal. But this is precisely what Jesus came to abolish. He came to tell us that God is not law, but love, that the centre of God’s being is not legalism but grace, that we go out, not to a judge, but to a Father who awaits his children coming home. Because of that Jesus gave us the victory over death, its fear banished in the wonder of God’s love.

(iv) Finally, at the end of the chapter, Paul does what he always does. Suddenly the theology becomes a challenge; suddenly the speculations become intensely practical; suddenly the sweep of the mind becomes the demand for action. he ends by saying, “If you have all that glory to look forward to, then keep yourself steadfast in God’s faith and service, for if you do, all your effort will not be in vain.” The Christian life may be difficult, but the goal is infinitely worth the struggle.

“A hope so great and so divine, May trials well endure; And purge the soul from sense and sin, As Christ himself is pure.” Practical Plans[6]

Conclusion (15:58)

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord.

Paul’s concluding sentence contains some very important applications. Let us briefly consider them.

First, the comfort which Paul communicates on the basis of our Lord’s death and resurrection is intended to comfort only Christians. Paul’s sentence begins, “Therefore, my beloved brethren, …” And then he says that their toil is not in vain “in the Lord.” One of the saddest things to observe at a funeral is a preacher giving comfort to non-Christians by using Bible texts addressed to Christians. These words are addressed to Christians, and the hope which Paul speaks of is for Christians only. Death has no power, no sting, to those who are “in Christ.” I must ask you, my friend, do you know for certain that you are “in Christ,” and that you will spend eternity in the presence of God? If not, then receive God’s gift of salvation in the person and work of Jesus Christ, who suffered, died, and rose again in your place.

Second, true doctrine (the doctrine of the gospel, of the resurrection of Christ, of the resurrection of the dead) gives us stability, even in the midst of troubled times and in the face of false teaching. False teaching destabilizes Christians; true doctrine stabilizes us:

3 A man will not be established by wickedness, But the root of the righteous will not be moved (Proverbs 12:3).

24 “Therefore everyone who hears these words of Mine, and acts upon them, may be compared to a wise man, who built his house upon the rock. 25 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and yet it did not fall, for it had been founded upon the rock. 26 And everyone who hears these words of Mine, and does not act upon them, will be like a foolish man, who built his house upon the sand. 27 And the rain descended, and the floods came, and the winds blew, and burst against that house; and it fell, and great was its fall” (Matthew 7:24-27).

1 Now we request you, brethren, with regard to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and our gathering together to Him, 2 that you may not be quickly shaken from your composure or be disturbed either by a spirit or a message or a letter as if from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord has come (2 Thessalonians 2:1-2).

14 As a result, we are no longer to be children, tossed here and there by waves, and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by the trickery of men, by craftiness in deceitful scheming (Ephesians 4:14).

Third, true doctrine inspires diligent service, while false doctrine leads to passivity. The teachings of Scripture related to the second coming (not to mention the remainder of biblical truth) are intended to stimulate our service. There are those who abuse doctrines (such as the sovereignty of God and the second coming) by making them an excuse for passivity. Paul concludes this chapter, devoted to prophecy, by encouraging diligent and persistent service. Let us take these verses in the spirit in which they were intended, which is to motivate us to diligence.

Fourth, the certainty of the coming of the kingdom of God in the future assures us that what we do “in the Lord” in this life is not in vain. The reason we can diligently serve God in this life is that we know that in so doing we are “laying up treasure in heaven.” To die is not vain, but gain. To live is not vain, but gain. If we are “in Christ,” we are willing to suffer any earthly loss, because of the heavenly gain which awaits us:

16 Therefore we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day. 17 For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison, 18 while we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen; for the things which are seen are temporal, but the things which are not seen are eternal (2 Corinthians 4:16-18).

7 But whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of Christ. 8 More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain Christ, 9 and may be found in Him, not having a righteousness of my own derived from the Law, but that which is through faith in Christ, the righteousness which comes from God on the basis of faith, 10 that I may know Him, and the power of His resurrection and the fellowship of His sufferings, being conformed to His death; 11 in order that I may attain to the resurrection from the dead (Philippians 3:7-11).

Several other applications of this chapter come to mind, which I would like to share with you in conclusion.

Faith in Jesus Christ frees us from the fear of death and thus from our slavery to the devil. This truth comes to us from our text in 1 Corinthians 15, as well as from the second chapter of Hebrews. We need no longer be held hostage by the fear of death. Death is a defeated foe.

Death is the way to life, and it is to be the way of life for the Christian. I was initially inclined to think that Paul’s words in this chapter gave us permission to put death out of our minds. We should certainly not worry about death or fear it, but we should not cease thinking about it. Death really is the way of life, both for the apostle Paul and for our Lord.

Let us begin with Paul. Notice how much death and dying is imbedded in his thinking, motivation, and ministry:

9 For, I think, God has exhibited us apostles last of all, as men condemned to death; because we have become a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men (1 Corinthians 4:9).

31 I protest, brethren, by the boasting in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily (1 Corinthians 15:31).

9 Indeed, we had the sentence of death within ourselves in order that we should not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead; 10 who delivered us from so great a peril of death, and will deliver us, He on whom we have set our hope. And He will yet deliver us (2 Corinthians 1:9-10).

10 Always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body. 11 For we who live are constantly being delivered over to death for Jesus’ sake, that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our mortal flesh. 12 So death works in us, but life in you (2 Corinthians 4:10-12).

9 As unknown yet well-known, as dying yet behold, we live; as punished yet not put to death (2 Corinthians 6:9).

23 Are they servants of Christ? (I speak as if insane) I more so; in far more labors, in far more imprisonments, beaten times without number, often in danger of death (2 Corinthians 11:23).

20 According to my earnest expectation and hope, that I shall not be put to shame in anything, but that with all boldness, Christ shall even now, as always, be exalted in my body, whether by life or by death. 21 For to me, to live is Christ, and to die is gain (Philippians 1:20-21).

24 Then Jesus said to His disciples, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow Me” (Matthew 16:24).

9 The great multitude therefore of the Jews learned that He was there; and they came, not for Jesus’ sake only, but that they might also see Lazarus, whom He raised from the dead. 10 But the chief priests took counsel that they might put Lazarus to death also; 11 because on account of him many of the Jews were going away, and were believing in Jesus.

12 On the next day the great multitude who had come to the feast, when they heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem, 13 took the branches of the palm trees, and went out to meet Him, and began to cry out, “Hosanna! Blessed is He who comes in the name of the Lord, even the King of Israel.” 14 And Jesus, finding a young donkey, sat on it; as it is written, 15 “Fear not, daughter of Zion; behold, your King is coming, seated on a donkey’s colt.” 16 These things His disciples did not understand at the first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things were written of Him, and that they had done these things to Him. 17 And so the multitude who were with Him when He called Lazarus out of the tomb, and raised him from the dead, were bearing Him witness. 18 For this cause also the multitude went and met Him, because they heard that He had performed this sign. 19 The Pharisees therefore said to one another, “You see that you are not doing any good; look, the world has gone after Him.”

20 Now there were certain Greeks among those who were going up to worship at the feast; 21 these therefore came to Philip, who was from Bethsaida of Galilee, and began to ask him, saying, “Sir, we wish to see Jesus.” 22 Philip came and told Andrew; Andrew and Philip came, and they told Jesus. 23 And Jesus answered them, saying, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains by itself alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. 25 He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. 26 If anyone serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if anyone serves Me, the Father will honor him.

27 “Now My soul has become troubled; and what shall I say, ‘Father, save Me from this hour’? But for this purpose I came to this hour. 28 Father, glorify Thy name.” There came therefore a voice out of heaven: “I have both glorified it, and will glorify it again.” 29 The multitude therefore, who stood by and heard it, were saying that it had thundered; others were saying, “An angel has spoken to Him.” 30 Jesus answered and said, “This voice has not come for My sake, but for your sakes. 31 Now judgment is upon this world; now the ruler of this world shall be cast out. 32 And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:9-32).

This passage is worth a great deal more consideration than given in this lesson, but it illustrates very beautifully how our Lord saw death as the means to the completion of His calling, and to the completion of the calling of those who would be His disciples. In chapter 11, Jesus had raised Lazarus from the dead. Many had witnessed this miracle, and many others had heard of it. This caused the enemies of our Lord to seek to solve the problem He posed for them by putting both Lazarus and Jesus to death! But when Jesus made His triumphal entry into Jerusalem, many of those who hailed Him as Messiah did so because of the raising of Lazarus (see 12:9, 17-18). Jesus was, at that moment, at the peak of His popularity.

It was at this point in time that some Greeks approached Philip wanting an audience with Jesus. No doubt these Greeks were God-fearers, those who believed that “salvation was of the Jews.” They sensed that Jesus might be the Messiah, and they wanted to meet with Him. Philip and Andrew didn’t know what to do when these Greeks asked to see Jesus. They did not yet understand the role that death would play in our Lord’s earthly ministry. And so they went to Jesus with this request. I wonder if they thought to themselves, “Wow, this may be our big chance to go international!”

Our Lord’s answer is fascinating, all the more so because of its similarity to Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 15:36-38. In answer to the Greek’s request for an interview, Jesus replies that it is time for Him to be glorified. And then He goes on to say that a grain of wheat cannot bear fruit until it falls into the earth and dies. Afterward, it will bear much fruit. Jesus then applies this principle to His disciples. “He who loves his life loses it; and he who hates his life in this world shall keep it to life eternal. If any one serves Me, let him follow Me; and where I am, there shall My servant also be; if any one serves Me, the Father will honor him” (John 12:25-26). After God speaks from heaven, Jesus goes on to say, “And I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men to Myself” (John 12:32).

Do you see it? It looked as though Jesus would draw the Greeks to Himself by meeting with them in Jerusalem. Jesus refused to do so. Jesus indicated that the way for Him to bear fruit was to die. And then He applied this same truth to His disciples. Those who love their lives will lose their lives; those who hate their lives in this world will keep them eternally. The way Jesus would “draw all men to Himself” was by being lifted up on the cross of Calvary. Jesus taught that the way to life was the way of the cross. By means of His death, burial, and resurrection, we have been given life by faith in Him. Now, as Christians, we are to apply the same principle to our earthly life. We are to take up our cross, to hate our life, to die to self, and in this way, we will obtain life eternal. Here is an entirely unique approach to life. It is one you will never find originating from unbelievers, but you will find it repeatedly taught in the Word of God. Death is a defeated enemy; indeed death is our friend, and our way of life. To God be the glory!

 [1] See also Matthew 16:17; Galatians 1:16; Ephesians 6:12; Hebrews 2:14.

[2] See Daniel 2:18, 19; Romans 11:25; 16:25; Ephesians 1:9; 3:3, 9; 5:32; Colossians 1:26; 4:3; 1 Timothy 3:9; Revelation 1:20; 10:7; 17:5, 7.  Daniel 2 is a good illustration of a mystery because the “mystery” was Nebuchadnezzar’s dream.  He knew what his dream was, but he did not know what it meant.  This revelation was a “mystery,” which Daniel revealed to him.

[3] Paul uses the term “we,” which certainly allows for the possibility of Paul and those living in his day being those who were alive at our Lord’s return.  Allowing for this possibility does not mean that this was a necessity and that Paul wrongly assumed he would be alive at our Lord’s return.  Our Lord had made it clear to His disciples that it would be some time before the kingdom of God was established (see Matthew 24; Mark 13; Luke 21; John 21:15-23).

[4] Notice also the prophecy concerning resurrection which follows in chapter 26: “Your dead will live; Their corpses will rise. You who lie in the dust, awake and shout for joy, For your dew is as the dew of the dawn, And the earth will give birth to the departed spirits” (Isaiah 26:19).

[5] Translators differ as to how this verse should be translated.  A later edition of the NASB translates Hosea 13:14 this way: “Shall I ransom them from the power of Sheol? Shall I redeem them from death? O Death, where are your thorns? O Sheol, where is your sting? Compassion will be hidden from My sight” (Hosea 13:14). Paul employs these words as a triumphant taunt.  Death is mocked, because it has lost its grip.

[6] William Barclay, ed., The Letters to the Corinthians, The Daily Study Bible Series (Philadelphia, PA: The Westminster John Knox Press, 1975), 159–161.

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Posted by on May 8, 2023 in Resurrection

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