The RFC Commentary on the Bible

Books of the Bible

Genesis

2 Kings Isaiah Nahum Romans Titus

Exodus

1 Chronicles Jeremiah Habakkuk 1 Corinthians Philemon

Leviticus

2 Chronicles Lamentations Zephaniah 2 Corinthians Hebrews

Numbers

Ezra Ezekiel Haggai Galatians James

Deuteronomy

Nehemiah Daniel Zechariah Ephesians 1 Peter

Joshua

Esther Hosea Malachi Philippians 2 Peter

Judges

Job Joel Matthew Colossians 1 John

Ruth

Psalms Amos Mark 1 Thessalonians 2 John

1 Samuel

Proverbs Obadiah Luke 2 Thessalonians 3 John

2 Samuel

Ecclesiastes Jonah John 1 Timothy Jude

1 Kings

Song of Solomon Micah Acts 2 Timothy Revelation

Abbreviations used in this Commentary.

Notes on difficult or puzzling problems.

Notes on special topics: gender, prayer, prophecy.


Genesis  [Forward to Exodus]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50


Chapter 1  [Next chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    Seven times God viewed some part of his creation, and "saw that it was good." (v. 4, 10, 12, 18, 21, 25, 31).

Verse:
    1. John Stott says the first four words of the Bible ("In the beginning God ....") tell us that the religion of the Bible is a religion of the "initiative of God." Before humans existed, God acted. Before humans seek God – are even able to seek God – God sought humans. John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 11.

    27. See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    28. God commanded man to subdue and dominate the earth and all living things.

    29, 30. Man and animals were to be vegetarians. Cf. 9:3.

Chapter 2  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    17. How could Adam know what it meant to "die"?

Chapter 3  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4. Wasn't the serpent right? Cf. 2:17; 3:16-17.

    6. She yielded when she looked at the fruit. We should never gaze on forbidden fruit. The battle of temptation is won at the first skirmish. The fruit appealed to the woman as (1) food for her physical desires; (2) beauty for her aesthetic desires; and (3) wisdom for her intellectual desires. Cf. the temptations of Jesus.

    9. God seeks out those who go astray.

    10. Adam hid because he was afraid. What was he afraid of? See 2:17. He said he was afraid because he was naked. Did he think that God didn't know what he had done? If so, he gave himself away by talking about nakedness, something he had never realized before.

    12. Adam not only blamed Eve ("she gave me ....") but even tried to implicate God ("the woman whom thou gavest to be with me ...."). It is so difficult to be honest where self is concerned or imperiled. We always have an excuse ready – an explanation that implicates someone else, or in some way lessens our guilt.

Chapter 4  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    7. God commands Cain to "rule over" sin. (ASV)

    8. Why did Cain kill Abel? God was the one who had rejected Cain. Do we "get back at God" by hurting someone closer to him than we are?

    9. Individualism vs. responsibility for others. A tremendously profound question. Here's where capitalism ends.

    13. Cain showed no contrition. He was sorry for his punishment, not for his sin.

    15. Who else was alive except Adam and Eve?

Chapter 5  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]

Chapter 6  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1-4. Aren't these verses myth?

    2. Who are the "sons of God?" Moffat translates this as "angels."

    3. The New Bible Commentary says the 120 years was the respite from judgment before the flood. (Abraham lived 175 years, 25:7).

    11. New Testament references to the flood: Mt. 24:37-39; 1 Pet. 3:20; 2 Pet. 2:5.

    15. Moffat gives these dimensions: 450x75x45 feet.

    18. This is the first mention of a covenant that God will establish.

    22. Cf. Heb. 11:7. Noah was obedient even though it must have been really hard. Think of a man building a huge barge on dry land, then rounding up a menagerie and stuffing pairs of animals in the barge – what a brawling, cackling, hooting, screeching pandemonium that must have been! The men around Noah (even his brothers and sisters, for his father had other children after Noah was born; see 5:30) must have thought he was nuts.

Chapter 7  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. Salvation by works?

    4. This sounds like a universal flood.

Chapter 8  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    14. Noah was in the ark 1 year, 10 days. See 7:11.

    22. The promise is only for the duration of the earth – it will not last forever.

Chapter 9  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    3. God gives humans meat to eat as well as produce. Cf. 1:29.

    4. See Acts 15:20, 29.

    6. He who lives by the sword shall die by the sword. An argument for pacifism? Also for capital punishment.

    9. Is a covenant like a unilateral contract? God is bound to it as long as man relies on it?

Chapter 10  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    5. In giving the genealogy of Japheth, this verse says his descendants "spread out into their territories by their clans within their nations, each with its own language." Cf. 11:1a "Now the whole world had one language and a common speech." This not necessarily an inconsistency, because chapter 11 seems to be looking far into the future, whereas 12:1 is at a particular point in time, presumably before the migration described in 10:5.

    32. See Acts 17:26.

Chapter 11  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. Cf. Gen. 10:5.

    4. The sins here seem to be pride, ambition, egoism. Weren't they also disobeying God's command to replenish the earth (8:17)?

Chapter 12  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4-9. God commanded and promised; Abram obeyed and praised ("called upon") God.

    4. See Heb. 11:8; see also Acts 7:1-4.

    13. Abram apparently married his half-sister. See 20:12. Abraham told the same lie (or half-truth) when he sojourned in Gerar; see Gen. 20:2, and his son Isaac lied about his wife Rebekah being his sister. Gen. 26:7-11. See notes on difficult or puzzling problems.

    19. KJV says "might have taken her" but ASV, RSV, NEB, and NIV all say "took her."

Chapter 13  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    2. God is not always against the rich.

    8. Abram was a peacemaker.

Chapter 14  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    Abram's character:
        1. Devout – he built many altars to God and called on his name (12:7, 8; 13:4, 18) and he tithed (14:20).
        2. Obedient – he followed God's commands (12:4; 22:2, 3).
        3. Peaceful – he wanted no conflict with Lot (13:8).
        4. Humble – he offered his nephew Lot first choice of land (13:9).
        5. Generous – in addition to offering Lot first choice of land, Abram also declined a share of the spoils after battle (14:23) and insisted on paying full price for a burial field for Sarah (23:9, 16).
        6. Loyal – he rescued his nephew Lot who had been captured (14:14-16).
        7. Courageous – he battled four kings to rescue Lot (14:14-16).
        8. Intelligent – he apparently devised the strategy of dividing his men and attacking at night (14:15). Also, his refusal to take spoils of war for himself while letting his allies share in the spoils was wise (14:23-24).

    But Abram was not entirely honest (12:13-20 – having Sarai tell the Egyptians that she was his sister rather than his wife). Also, he was not perfect in faith (17:17 – he laughed when he heard the prophecy that Sarah would bear a son), although even here he obeyed immediately (17:23-27).

Verse:
    13. Abram made friends among his neighbors.

    18. This is the first mention of a "priest" in the Bible. See Heb. 7:1-17.

    20. This indicates that tithing existed before the Mosaic law. See Deut. 14:22-29.

Chapter 15  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    6. Faith = righteousness.

Chapter 16  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    Sarai's character:
        1. Little faith – doubed that she would have a child (16:2; 18:12).
        2. Vindictive – blames Abraham for carrying out her request for him to take Hagar (16:5) and then treats Hagar harshly (16:6; 21:10).
        3. Dishonest – denied laughing (18:15).

    But see 1 Pet. 3:6 (Sarah commended for being submissive to Abraham, obeying him and calling him her master).

Verse:
    12. KJV just says "wild man." NIV says "wild donkey of a man."

Chapter 17  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    17. Even though Abraham laughed and doubted God, he went and obeyed immediately – see v. 23.

Chapter 18  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    3. Rich, powerful Abraham saw himself as a servant (or was this just a cultural expression?).

    19. Here God says he has chosen Abraham "that he may charge his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice." (RSV) See also v. 25. This verse also suggests that if Abraham does this then God will "bring about for Abraham what he has promised him." Does this mean that Abraham's blessing is conditioned on his obedience?

    25. "Shall not the Judge of all the earth do what is just?" (NRSV) or "... what is right?" (RSV) How can Abraham, a mere mortal, question almighty God? Isn't it because Abraham has been learning the lesson expressed in v. 19? God wants Abraham to "do justice" because He himself is just, and Abraham wants God to "do justice" because that is what he has a right to expect given God's nature. In other words, Abraham does not want to find out that God is a hypocrite, teaching one way and acting another.

    Abraham has the capability to be just because he was created in God's image. Gen. 1:27. He does not always or instinctively act justly because God's image in him was distorted by the entry of sin into the world (Gen. 3), but he still has the capacity for justice.

Chapter 19  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    5. The prophet Ezekiel did not seem to think that homosexual practices were the main problem in Sodom. See Ezek. 16:49-50.

    21. Does this imply that, except for Lot's request, Zoan would have been destroyed too?

    24. NBC suggests that the destruction was caused by an eruption or earthquake in that "volcanic and sulphurous" country.

    29. God rescued Lot for Abraham's sake, not Lot's.

    30. Lot's "better choice" (13:10-11) didn't turn out so well. Why isn't incest condemned here? See notes on difficult or puzzling problems.

Chapter 20  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    2. Sarah was actually Abraham's half-sister; see v. 12. Abraham told the same lie (or half-truth) when he went to Egypt; see Gen. 12:13-20, and later his son Isaac lied about his wife Rebekah being his sister. Gen. 26:7-11. See notes on difficult or puzzling problems.

    But why would Abimelech take Sarah, since she was old, too old to even have children? See 17:17 (90 years old); 18:11-12.

Chapter 21  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1-2. The lesson is: God is faithful; He did what he promised to do even though that was beyond all human expectation.

    12. Casting out Ishmael, which seems harsh, is an example of God's sovereignty and the doctrine of election. See Rom. 9:6-9; Gal. 4:28-5:1.

    15. Ishmael must have been about 14 years old; see 17:25. The Pocket Commentary says he was 17, and a Berkeley translation note says 18, apparently figuring about 3 or 4 years until weaning (see v. 8). But if he was that old, how could his mother "cast the child under one of the shrubs" (ASV)? Perhaps he was fainting from hunger and thirst.

    17. Twice this verse notes that God heard the voice of the child, Ishmael.

Chapter 22  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    The way God tested Abraham's faith was to see whether he would obey a difficult command. The command was especially difficult to obey because, if obeyed, the result would be against God's former promise – that through Isaac Abraham should be multiplied as the sand of the sea, etc. Abraham resolved this apparent contradiction by blindly obeying God, believing that if God had given Isaac to a 90-year-old woman, He could also raise him from the dead after he had been sacrificed. This seems to be the great quality in Abraham, unswerving obedience when God spoke. Faith manifests itself in obedience! (See Heb. 11:17-19).

Verse:
    3. No "buts" by Abraham.

    13. Did God provide the ram (v. 8)? It didn't float down from heaven. Can we say that some of God's miracles are purely matters of timing and location? The ram "just happened" to be entangled in the thicket at that time and place.

    17-18. The older translations refer to "seed" rather than "offspring." Both words are used for singular and plural descendants; see 13:16; 17:9; Deut. 1:8. But see Gal. 3:16, making the argument that "seed" refers to Christ, since it does not say "seeds" (plural).

Chapter 23  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    6. RSV says "mighty prince." Abraham had a good reputation among his neighbors.

    9. Abraham didn't take advantage of his position. See also 14:23.

    13-16. An oral real property transaction, yet as well-witnessed as possible. Abraham didn't try to negotiate the price; he paid the full amount stated by the seller.

    17. The "deed" mentions the field, the cave, and the trees in the field and along its borders. Pretty good drafting!

Chapter 24  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    12. Abraham's servant trusted God. This speaks well for Abraham's witness to his own household.

    14. The servant believed that God was leading the whole way; that He had already picked out the girl! His job was just to discern God's choice.

    63. Note what Isaac was doing just before he met Rebekah. "He went out to the field ... to meditate ...." I wonder if he was meditating about his future with a woman he had never met, picked out for him by a servant!

Chapter 25  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    9. Ishmael must have kept in touch with his family, despite his rejection.

    26. Isaac had to wait 20 years for any sons to be born (v. 20). Was this to test his faith?

    28-34. Neither of the brothers looks good here. Jacob seems selfish and grasping, and Esau cares only for his belly. Jacob also deceives and lies (27:19-24).

    34. See Heb. 12:16-17.

Chapter 26  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    3. The first promise God gives after he issues commands is for his presence! See also v. 24. Isn't that the most important one? Cf. Jn. 16:32b.

    7. Isaac follows his father's example (though it was long before he was born); see Gen. 12:13-20; 20:2-12. See notes on difficult or puzzling problems.

    8. The ASV says Isaac was "sporting with" his wife; the RSV and Moffat say "fondling," and Berkeley and NIV say "caressing." He was obviously acting in a way that would be unseemly with a sister.

    34. Cf. 28:9; 36:2-3.

Chapter 27  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    6-10. Was Rebekah trying to do God's work by underhanded means (25:23)? Or was she simply trying to carry out her personal favoritism by underhanded means? A note in the Berkeley translation suggests that she didn't gain anything by it, as she apparently never saw Jacob again after her had to flee.

    38. Esau surely seems in the right here. His plea is heartbreaking. See Heb. 12:17.

    39. Most translations say Esau's dwelling will be "away from" the earth's fatness or riches and "away from" the "dew of heaven," but the ASV says it will be "of" the fatness of the earth.

    46. Rebekah is very self-centered here. She just cares about herself.

Chapter 28  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. Isaac readily forgave Jacob.

    4. God gave the land, but it was yet to be inherited. Isn't this the way of salvation? It's God's gift (Eph. 2:8) but we have to work it out (Phil. 2:12). Maybe it's the difference between having title and possession.

    8-9. Esau seems to really want to please his parents.

Chapter 29  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    17. The NIV and RSV say that Leah's eyes were "weak," but a marginal reading in NIV says "tender." Moffat translates it as "dull" and Berkeley says "had no sparkle." The New Bible Commentary says this "probably indicates some eye soreness which disfigured her."

    23. Jacob deserved it! He impersonated Esau to get his father's blessing (27:19) and now his father-in-law deceives him.

    31. Was this to teach Jacob a lesson about favoritism? See. v. 30.

Chapter 30  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    15. Mandrakes were supposed to be a remedy for barrenness, which is probably why Rachel wanted them.

    37-39. The New Bible Commentary suggests that Jacob made use of a physiological principle" and implies that it really works. A note in the NIV Study Bible indicates that it was just a superstition on the part of Jacob, and that what happened with the sheep was God's intervention. See 31:9.

Chapter 31  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Chapter 32  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    10. Jacob begins his prayer by confessing his unworthiness.

Chapter 33  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4. Cf. Lk. 15:20.

    9-11. Esau declines Jacob's implied gift of flocks and herds (surely he was not offering his wives and children to Esau, which can also be implied from the text) by saying, "I have enough, my brother; keep what you have for yourself." Then Jacob pressed his gift upon Esau, saying, "God has dealt graciously with me" ... "I have enough." Perhaps that can be taken as an implied rebuke to Christians today, who seem reluctant to say, "I have enough!" Of course, both Esau and Jacob were wealthy men, leaders of large clans, with all the trappings of wealth (servants, livestock, etc.), while some, but not all, Christians today are wealthy. But cf. Phil. 4:11-2 ("I have learned to be content whatever the circumstances").

Chapter 34  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    Moffat reorganizes this chapter into two separate narratives, separated by 35:5.

Chapter 35  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    10. Jacob's name had already been changed; see 32:28.

Chapter 36  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    2. There seems to be a real discrepancy here; cf. 26:34; 28:9.

    24. KJV says he found "mules."

Chapter 37  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    3. The famous "coat of many colors" is translated as a "richly ornamented robe" in NIV. See also RSV ("long robe with sleeves"); NEB ("long, sleeved robe"); ESV ("robe of many colors").

    4. Family favoritism is a mistake. See 25:28.

    28. Did his brothers sell Joseph to the Ishmaelites, as stated in the NIV, or did the Midianites find and sell Joseph before the brothers could carry out their plan. RSV and Berkeley translations indicate clearly that the Midianites, not the brothers, sold Joseph to the Ishmaelites. Moffat finds two sources, one having the brothers selling him and the other having the Midianites taking him to Egypt.

    35. They comforted him, but they wouldn't tell him the truth.

Chapter 38  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    2. See 24:3-4.

    23. Moffat says, "Let her keep the pledge."

Chapter 39  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    10. He didn't weaken, nor did her court disaster.

    20. See Ps. 105:17-18. God was with Joseph, but that didn't keep harm from coming his way. The evidence of God's presence was not a "life of roses" but a godly response to the troubles of life.

22. Joseph, the master executive!

Chapter 40  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    7. Joseph seems to really care about people.

    8. Isn't Joseph claiming a relationship to God here?

    14-15. Joseph has a godly response to his imprisonment, but he still seeks to be released, and justifies his behavior.

Chapter 41  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. Joseph must have been in prison for more than two years.

    16. Joseph gives God the credit. ASV says, "an answer of peace;" RSV says "a favorable answer."

    33. Joseph smoothly moves from dream-interpreter to king-advisor. Did he have himself in mind for the job?

Chapter 42  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    18. The secret of Joseph's success.

Chapter 43  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    23. Interesting comment for a steward to make.

Chapter 44  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4. RSV inserts at the end of this verse, "Why have you stolen my cup?" See RSV note.

Chapter 45  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    Joseph illustrates the work of Christ, in that his brothers tried to destroy him, but God turned this attempt into the means of their salvation. Then the brothers were all invited to come and live in the land of plenty. They, of course, could still have refused to come to Egypt, or even to accept the grain that Joseph offered, but God had made survival possible if they wanted it. Of course, in accepting it, they would have to face and acknowledge what they had done to Joseph, and live in his forgiveness.

Verse:
    5. Joseph sees God at work in his brother's evil actions.

    9. He also sees God at work in his success in Egypt. See also 50:20; Rom. 8:28.

Chapter 46  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    12b. The New Bible Commentary says these great-grandchildren must have been born in Egypt, as Perez was only four years old at this time. (?)

    26. Both Rachel and Leah died in Canaan, and did not go down to Egypt with Jacob. See 35:16-19; 49:31.

Chapter 47  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
General comments
    According to this chapter, Joseph got for Pharoah (1) all the money in Canaan and Egypt; (2) all the cattle of Egypt; (3) all the land of Egypt except the priests'; (4) all the people of Egypt; and (5) one-fifth of all the crops. Wasn't Joseph actually aiding Pharoah in oppressing the people?

Verse:
    21. The ASV says that Joseph moved all the people from the countryside into cities, perhaps for easy distribution of grain, but most other translations say that he "made slaves of them from one end of Egypt to the other" (RSV) or "reduced the people to servitude" (NIV).

Chapter 48  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    5-6. The New Bible Commentary says this means they would become full-fledged tribes, with the other sons. Simeon became absorbed into Judah, so there were still 12 tribes. See Josh. 19:1-9.

    12. RSV says "removed them from his knees."

Chapter 49  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4. See 35:22.

    6b. See 34:25-29.

    7b. Simeon was absorbed in Judah. Josh. 19-1-9.

    10. This apparently refers initially to David and ultimately to the Messiah. See Ezek. 21:27.

    24. Joseph is the only one who is mentioned as related to God.

Chapter 50  [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [Books of the Bible]
Verse:
    4. Joseph had "found favor" in a tremendous way; see v. 7-9.

    14, 15. Are these verses juxtaposed? The brothers had already traveled to Canaan and back with Joseph to bury their father.

    20. Evil from others can be God's good. So don't hold it against others. See also Phil. 1:17-18 (while he is in jail, Paul's rivals preach Christ out of selfish ambition, to "stir up trouble" for him, but he rejoices anyway because Christ is being preached).

    26. But he was later moved and buried near Shechem; Ex. 13:19; Josh. 24:32.


Exodus   [Forward to Leviticus]  [Back to Genesis]   [All books of the Bible]
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Chapter 1  [Next chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Jacob's descendants begin to multiply in Egypt, to such an extent that the new Pharoah, who did not remember Joseph, became alarmed and started to take drastic action. He ordered the Hebrew midwives to kill all the male children as they were born, and when they refused to obey, he ordered all the people to throw the Hebrew male children into the river.

Verse:
    15. There must have been more than two midwives for all the Israelites.

Chapter 2  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Moses is born, and after three months is hid in a little basket on the river. While being watched by his sister, Moses is found by Pharoah's daughter, who decides to keep him. His quick-witted sister asked Pharoah's daughter if she wanted a Hebrew nurse for the babe – and went and got her mother. So Moses' life was not only spared when Hebrew male babies were being killed, but his mother was paid out of Pharoah's treasury to care of her son! Surely God had his hand on the life of this baby!

When Moses grew up, he saw an Egyptian abusing a Hebrew, so he killed the Egyptian and hid his body. This act brought its inevitable consequences, as Moses was called a murderer by a Hebrew whom he tried to keep from beating another Hebrew, and Moses then had to flee to avoid Pharoah's wrath. He went to Midian, and there settled down with Reual, a local shepherd who had seven daughters, one of whom he gave Moses as a wife. She bore him a son. Meanwhile, God had not forgotten the plight of the Israelites in Egypt. He heard their cries for help, he knew their condition, and help was on the way from Midean!

Verse:
    7. Quick thinking – or God's miraculous provision?

    12-14. Evil does not overcome evil.

    18. Here the daughters' father is named "Reuel" but in 3:1 he is called "Jethro." NBC says that the word translated "father-in-law" in 3:1 may mean "brother-in-law," but that the more likely explanation is that Jethro is another name of Reuel.

Chapter 3  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

While tending his father-in-law's sheep, Moses saw a bush that was on fire but did not seem to be consumed. When he stepped aside to see it, God confronted him – and told him his plans for bringing the Israelites out of Egypt. When God told Moses that he was to go to Pharoah, Moses objected: "Who am I that I should go to Pharoah?" God answered, "But I will be with you ...."

God promised to bring the Israelites to a "good and broad land, a land flowing with milk and honey." When Moses asked what his reponse should be when people queried him about who this god was who had sent him, God said, "I am who I am .... say this to the people of Israel, 'I am has sent me to you.'" Also, "The Lord, the God of your fathers, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob, has sent me to you." God wants no mistake about his identity, as hard as it is to identify him.

God foretells that Pharoah will not let the Israelites go, and he says he will show them "wonders" until he does let them go (with Egyptian silver and gold). Moses' request of Pharoah was to be for a three-day journey into the wilderness for a sacrifice – but this was just a starter.

General comments:
Five times Moses tried to get out of his call:
    (1) Who am I, to do this? (3:11)
    (2) Who are you, to send me, or, what is your name? (3:13)
    (3) They won't believe me, or, I won't succeed. (4:1)
    (4) I am not eloquent, or, I am not equipped to do this. (4:10)
    (5) Send somebody else. (4:13)

Verse:
    4. When God called, Moses answered!

    11-12. Moses said to God, "Who am I?" but God did not answer that question. He replied, "I will be with you." In other words, it doesn't matter who I am; if God is with me, that's all that matters.

    17. God promises not only a negative benefit – freedom from Egyptian slavery – but also a positive benefit – a land flowing with milk and honey.

    22. God provides not only deliverance, but deliverance with riches!

Chapter 4  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

God commissions Moses, but more as an unwilling conscript than an eager volunteer. Moses first raises the objection that the people won't believe him or that God appeared to him. To overcome that objection God gives him three miracles, demonstrating two and describing the third. Moses' rod or staff could be cast down and turn into a snake, and then turned back into a rod; Moses' hand could be turned leprous by putting it in his bosom, and healed the same way; and water poured from the Nile could be turned into blood.

Moses then objects that he is not eloquent, and God replies, "Who made man's mouth?" The Lord assured him that he would put the right words in his mouth.

But Moses still objected. "Send someone else," he begged, and God was displeased. But he placated Moses by appointing his brother Aaron to be his mouthpiece.

When God orders Moses to go back to Egypt, he tells him that he won't succeed at first because God is going to harden Pharoah's heart. Does this mean that Pharoah was so controlled by God that he had no choice? And therefore no responsibility? Or does this mean that God merely permitted Pharoah to "go the limit" in refusing Moses' – and therefore God's – requests?

Verse:
    2-9. God gave Moses three "magic tricks" to influence the Israelites: (a) changing a rod into a serpent; (b) changing Moses' hand from healthy to leprous and back again; and (c) changing river water into blood.

    13. RSV says, "But he said, 'Oh, my Lord, send, I pray, some other person.'"

    24-26. These verses are a mystery to me. God met Moses on the way to Egypt and tried to kill him, but Moses' wife, Zipporah, apparently saved his life by circumcising his son and throwing the foreskin at Moses' feet – a grisly remedy. NBC suggests that Moses had neglected to circumcise his son, and that God punished him, possibly with a severe illness. (?)

Chapter 5  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Moses and Aaron go to Pharoah to request the three-day vacation for the Israelites so they can go into the wilderness and sacrifice to God. But this request backfires; not only does Pharoah deny the request, he also increases the Israelites' work by requiring the same number of bricks per day without providing straw – they had to scavenge straw for themselves. When the Israelite foremen were beaten for not producing their quota, they appeal to Pharoah, and when Pharoah makes it clear that this demand was laid on them because of Moses' request, they reproach Moses and Aaron for going to Pharoah. And Moses reproaches God: "Why have You done evil to this people? Why did You ever send me? You have not delivered your people at all." Moses had to learn that God's timing is not our timing, and that things may look worse before they get better, even when God is in control.

Verse:
    17. Pharoah blames idleness for Moses' request.

    20-21. Pharoah and the Israelites are both against Moses.

    22. Here Moses asks, "Why, Lord?" His question is answered in 6:1 – so that God's power will be revealed.

Chapter 6  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

When Moses complains that God failed to deliver his people, God answers, "Now you shall see what I will do to Pharoah." God said Pharoah would not merely let them go; he would drive them out. Why, then, the delay? This seemed to be in order that God could fully reveal himself to his people. He points out that He appeared to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob by one Name – God Almighty – but not as the "Lord." God says that when He does compel Pharoah to drive them out, the Israelites "shall know that I am the Lord your God, who has brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians." (v. 7) This is God's plan of redemption for the Israelites, and it includes a revelation of God.

Moses, when commanded by God to go to Pharoah, again makes excuses and tried to beg off: "If the people of Israel haven't listened to me, how will Pharoah pay any attention to me, especially when I'm such a poor speaker?"

The word "redeem" is used in his chapter for the first time in the Bible, according to the New Commentary. Also, this commentary claims that God was not announcing to Moses a new name by which He was to be called; He was saying that now they should experience the aspects of God most illustratedc by this name; i.e., that fulfilled in the covenant relationship. (?)

Verse:
    6. According to NBC, this is the first time the word "redeem" appears in the Bible.

    12. Moses is full of self-doubt. Here he says to the Lord, basically, "Who, me?" See also v. 30.

    16-20. Levi, one of the 12 sons of Jacob, had a son, Kohath, who became the father of Amram. Amram apparently married his aunt, Jochebed (v. 20), and their sons were Aaron and Moses.

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Chapter summary:

God says to Moses that he will be as a god to Pharoah, and Aaron will be his prophet. God will give them miracles to use to coerce Pharoah; at the same time God will harden Pharoah's heart so that he won't let the Israelites go. Does this relieve Pharoah of responsibility, if God is making him obdurate? Or is it actually permissive, that God is allowing Pharoah to exert his stubbornness?

Moses and Aaron use two miracles, both of which are said to be duplicated by Pharoah's magicians: turning a rod into a serpent, and turning the Nile into blood. Query: If Moses had already turned all the water into blood, how could the magicians duplicate this?

The reason for all the miracles seems to be stated in v. 3-5: Pharoah will not relent under the plagues, but when the Lord "by great acts of judgment" brings out his people, then "the Egyptians shall know that I am the Lord." If Pharoah had released the Israelites without waiting for miracles, he would never have acknowledged the Lord of Israel; for that matter, the Israelites probably wouldn't have either. God wanted a witness of himself.

Verse:
    5. God's glory is to be revealed to other peoples, here the Egyptians.

    11. The magicians of Egypt mimic the miracles of Moses (see also v. 22, 8:7), but ultimately they could not keep up – see 8:18.

    22. If the magicians of Egypt performed the same miracle, why didn't they purify the water? See also 8:7.

Chapter 8  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Three more plagues – frogs, gnats, and flies. Pharoah's magicians were apparently able to duplicate the plague of frogs, though I would think they'd bend their efforts toward getting rid of frogs rather than producing more. But they could not bring forth gnats, although they tried. Perhaps this is to show that the world can duplicate some of the lesser efforts of God, but cannot do all that God can (but is producing gnats more difficult than producing frogs?).

Pharoah is weakening more and more, but keeps hardening his heart after each plague, and refuses to let the Israelites go.

Verse:
    7. Why did they produce more frogs? Why didn't they get rid of the frogs?

    19. Note that the magicians of Egypt acknowledged the power of God after they failed to replicate one of Moses' miracles. But Pharoah would not even listen to his own magicians.

Chapter 9  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Three more plagues descend upon Pharoah and the Egyptians – a plague that kills all the Egyptians' cattle, a plague of boils, and a plague of hail. Problem: the first plague in this chapter killed all the livestock of the Egyptians, but the second brought sores on "man and beast" in Egypt, and the third killed all the Egyptian cattle left in the field. Query: aren't these plagues in chronological order? Or did the Egyptians take the Israelites' cattle after their own died? If so, seems as if Moses would have mentioned it.

The Lord's purpose is clearly revealed in the plague of hail: "that you may know there is none like me in all the earth." (v. 14); "but for this purpose have I let you live, to show you my power, so that my name may be declared throughout all the earth." (v. 16)

Pharoah is brought to the point of confessing his sin, and acknowledging that the Lord is in the right, but when the plague is removed, he forgets his promise to let the Israelites go.

Verse:
    6. It's hard to understand how all the Egyptian cattle could have died, when they are repeatedly referred to afterward; see 9:19-21, 25; 11:5. NBC suggests that "all" means "all that were in the field." Since Pharoah was given a day's warning, perhaps those who feared Jehovah took their cattle out of the field (see v. 20).

    15-17. God says, "I couldjust as easily have killed allof you, but I have kept you alive for a purpose – to demonstrate my power and have my name declared throughout the earth." See RSV.

    19. What cattle? See v. 6.

Chapter 10  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

The Lord again tells why he is sending the plagues – so that the Israelites will know that he is the Lord! Two more plagues are described in this chapter, the plague of locusts and the plague of darkness. Pharoah begins to relent, first telling Moses that the men of Israel can go and worship God but no one else, and then agreeing that all the Hebrews can go, but not take their cattle. (It's surprising that he did not confiscate their cattle after the Egyptian cattle were destroyed.) This was not enough, however. Finally, Pharoah in anger banishes Moses from his presence.

Verse:
    24. Cf. v. 11.

Chapter 11  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Moses warns Pharoah of the final plague – the first-born in every Egyptian family will die. But among the Israelites not so much as a dog will growl, "that you may know that the Lord makes a distinction between the Egyptians and Israel." (v. 7)

The Lord told Moses to tell the people to ask gold and silver of their neighbors. Would this ward off the plague? Wasn't this an invitation to later idolatry?

"The Lord hardened Pharoah's heart" – a great problem in free will vs. divine determinism. Berkeley version says, "the Lord encouraged Pharoah in his own way." Is this accurate, and if so, does it explain much?

Verse:
   
Chapter 12  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

The Passover is instituted. This, like circumcision, is to be a memorial forever (v. 14). Again the question: how then were the Jews to accept the early Christian teachings against legalisms?

The first-born of all the Egyptians were slain as the final, crushing plague. Then they drove the Israelites out, laden with gold and silver. The Pocket Bible Commentary points out the similarity between the Passover feast and the passion of Jesus. It also mentions the idea of dispensations as solving the problem of the memorials instituted "forever," but its explanation does not satisfy me completely.

Verse:
   
Chapter 13  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

To commemorate the deliverance of the Israelites from Egypt, God told Moses to instruct the people to consecrate all the first-born to Him. This chapter also gives further instructions on the Passover.

God led the people of Israel on their journey out of Egypt with a pillar of cloud by day and a pillar of fire by night. The land of the Philistines was avoided, although that would have been the shortest way to the land of Canaan, because the Israelites might want to return to Egypt if the Philistines declared war on them.

Verse:
    13. Is this the first example of a sacrificial lamb in Scripture?

    17. Good illustration of free will. God recognized that his people might choose to reject the freedom He was offering them.

Chapter 14  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

The Israelites cross the Red Sea. The scriptural account leaves room for natural explanations – the east wind blew all night. When the people saw the Egyptians marching after then, they were ready to quit. (v. 12) "It would have been better for us to serve the Egyptians than to die in the wilderness," they complained to Moses. But after this miracle, "the people feared the Lord; and they believed in the Lord and in his servant Moses." (v. 31)

Verse:
    12. We told you so!

    15. Move out!

    21. This was not an "instant" miracle. Did God use natural phenomena?

    31. Why did the people believe? Because they saw God work!

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Chapter summary:

Moses and his followers sing a hymn of praise to the Lord for delivering them from the Egyptians. Moses then led the Israelites from the Red Sea into the wilderness, or desert, of Shur, and in only three days the people were moaning and grumbling at Moses. This occurred when they found that the water at Marah was too bitter to drink. So Moses cried out to God, who instructed him to cast a certain tree into the water, which made it sweet. Then God told them how to avoid diseases which had afflicted the Egyptians: if they diligently followed the Lord, keeping all his commandments, he would protect them from disease. Perhaps this is one of the sources of our idea that disease or affliction comes from sin (cf. Jn. 9:1-3).

Verse:
   
Chapter 16  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

A month and a half after leaving Egypt, the Israelites started grumbling that Moses had brought them out in the wilderness to die of starvation. So God makes miraculous provision for them – quails are brought in the evening, and "manna" in the morning. Manna is a flaky powder that covers the ground. The quails are only mentiioned specifically for one day, though it says they ate manna for 40 years. Two restrictions: only one day's supply at a time to be gathered, except on the sixth day, when a two-day supply was gathered; none was to be gathered on the seventh day. Yet of course people tried to violate both; some held manna over for the second day, and it became wormy, and some tried to gather on the Sabbath, but there was none to gather.

Verse:
   
Chapter 17  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

When the people start to moan about a lack of water, Moses cried out to the Lord, and He again made miraculous provision for the Israelites. Moses struck "the rock at Horeb" with his rod, and water gushed out.

Amalek and his warriors then attacked Israel, which was defended by Joshua and his hand-picked crew ("choose for us men"). Agian a miraculous delivery, apparently, for when Moses, overlooking the battle from the top of a hill with Aaron and Hur, held aloft the rod of God, the Israelites prevailed; when he lowered the rod, theAmalekites prevailed.

The Lord said to write down in a book that He would blot out the remembrance of Amalek from under heaven. But didn't this very act perpetuate the name of Amalek? Perhaps He meant the Amalekites as a people.

Verse:
    8. Amalek was descended from Esau; see Gen. 36:12.

Chapter 18  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Jethro, the father-in-law of Moses, came to the Israelites to visit with Moses' wife and two boys, who had apparently been sent to Jethro earlier by Moses, perhaps when the hardships became difficult. Jethro offers sacrifice to the Lord and rejoices when he hears all that God has done for Israel.

The next day Moses sat as judge for the people all day, and people stood around him waiting for him to settle their disputes. Jethro then made a sound administrative recommendation. He proposed that Moses appoint leaders over the people, over groups of thousands, hundreds, fifties, and tens, and that Moses only reserve the most difficult cases for himself and let these other leaders decide the less important cases. This in effect set up a court system, and defined areas of jurisdiction.

Verse:
    11. RSV: "when they [the Egyptians] dealt arrogantly with them."

    13-22. Leadership: not what you can do, but what you can get others to do. Organization is the key.

    23. Figure out a plan, ask God's approval, then go ahead. Don't sit around waiting for a plan to be revealed.

    26. The courts of justice are always open. Moses is the supreme court.

Chapter 19  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

When the Israelites reached the wilderness, or desert, of Sinai, they camped before the mountain, and Moses conversed with God. God reiterated a premise: If the Israelites would obey his voice and keep his covenant, he would make them his own possession, a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. When Moses reported this to the people, they caid, "All that the Lord has spoken we will do."

Then the Lord had them consecrate themselves for three days, and approach the base of the mountain (but not go up it on penalty of death), where the Lord appeared at the summit, surrounded by smoke. Moses went up to him, and was sent down with another warning for the people not to climb the mountain, and to get Aaron. The language describing this is colorful: "the Lord descended ... in fire," "the whole mountain quaked greatly," "God answered him in thunder."

Verse:
   
Chapter 20  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

The Ten Commandments are given to Moses and the people. God announces himself as "the Lord your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage."

After the second commandment, prohibiting graven images, God describes himself as a "jealous God." He says that he visits the iniquity of fathers upon the third and fourth generation, whereas he just says he shows "steadfast love to thousands of those who love me and keep my commandments." Is this illustrative of the nature of good and evil? Not equals, but evil is a corruption in the good; therefore the corruption could easily extend its effects to three or four generations, but good could not because it is always vulnerable to corruption. In this sense, God would not be punishing innocent children for what their fathers did; the children would suffer because of the nature of sin and its effects.

God repeats his prohibitions against making images of silver or gold in verses 22-23, and adds some instructions about building altars.

Verse:
    1 et seq. See Deut. 5:1-21, where the ten commandments are repeated in a somewhat different form.

    13. See also Ex. 21:13 (excusable homicide); Num. 35:23 (accidental homicide); and Ex. 22:2 (justifiable homicide).

    26. Apparentely ascending steps would reveal some bare leg, whjich would not fulfil the requirement of modesty and respect. Moffat translates this, "lest you expose your limbs."

Chapter 21  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

A number of ordinances or laws are given concerning acts of violence, duties to slaves, etc. The law seems harsh and blunt, but is straightforward and rational. A Hebrew slave was to be set free after six years, with his wife if he had one when he became a slave, but he could choose to remain a slave for life.

The basic criminal code of an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth is laid down (v. 23-25). Capital punishment is authorized for several offenses, murder (v. 12-14), assault upon parents (v. 15), kidnapping (v. 16), cursing parents (v. 17), permitting a vicious ox to kill a man (v. 29). These ordinances recognize man's responsibility for both his criminal acts and his torts. They also permit slavery, which, however, was probably more like being an indentured servant at this time.

Verse:
    6. Berkeley translates this: "to the gods" and cross-refers to Jn. 10:34-36.

    18. Damages for personal injuries.

    22. Punitive damages?

    23-25. The Old Testament penal code. But perhaps it was not applied literally. NBC says that even in Moses' time this was commuted to a money judgment, except in the case of murder. (Num. 35:31)

    29. Strict liability.

    33-34. Wrongful conversion of chattels.

    36. Note that the penalty was according to the knowledge of the owner. The more he knew, the more he was held accountable. Cf. v. 13-14, 28-29.

Chapter 22  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Further laws, both criminal and civil. Basically they require responsibility and recompense for fault. The law concerning burglary allows the burglar to be killed in the act, if it was at night, thus recognizing the greater danger posed by breaking in at night (v. 2-3). There is strict liability for animals grazing (v. 5) and fires (v. 6). A man is required to pay dowry for seducing an unbetrothed virgin, and must marry her unless her father refuses permission (v. 16-17).

Several crimes call for capital punishment: sorcery (v. 18), sodomy (v. 19), idolatry (v. 20). In addition, God says He will kill those who afflict widows or orphans (v. 22-24).

God reveals more of Himself: "I am compassionate" (v. 27), and requires the offering of the harvests and of eldest-born sons and oxen and sheep (v. 29-30).

Disrespect for human authority is prohibited, as well as blasphemy (v. 28).

Verse:
    2-3a. Is this the origin of the night and day distinction between common law burglary and breaking and entering?

    3b-4. The RSV and Moffatt translations put this material (about restitution) right after v. 1, which does seem to make sense. The NEB also rearranges these verses.

    5-6. Liability for negligence.

    8. Moffatt inserts "at the local sanctuary" after "God". However, apparently the Hebrew is not clear as to whether the owner of the property must appear before "God" or before the "judges." The former interpretation appears in most of the translations (ASV, RSV, NEB and ESV), but in the margin they usually say "or the judges." The NIV reverses this, translating the Hebrew word as "the judges" but including a marginal note saying "or before God."

    16. Can we draw any kind of parallel for today? When an unmarried man gets a girl pregnant, should he marry her?

    22-24. This seems to be extra strong language. Could it be that God is more disturbed at "afflicting" a widow or orphan (which could conceivably be done without breaking civil law) than at, say, stealing?

    25-27. Cf. Jas. 5:1-6.

    28. See Acts 23:5.

Chapter 23  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Further laws and injunctions. Stress is placed on honesty, especially in support of the courts (v. 1-3, 6-8). "Love your enemy" is at least implied from v. 4-5, where the commands are given to return straying animals to an enemy, and to assist an enemy who is struggling to free his animal from a heavy load.

The Sabbath is emphasized, as well as a Sabbath for the land every seven years. Various feasts are required.

In the latter part of the chapter, promises are given concerning the Lord's protecting and guiding his people, and giving them the Promised Land.

Verse:
    4-5. In other words, love your enemies, and do good to those who hate you. Cf. Mt. 5:44.

    20. NBC says this can be translated either "angel" or "messenger."

Chapter 24  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

God commanded Moses, with the elders of Israel, to come up the mountain and worship him. Moses alone was to come all the way up, the elders were to come part-way, and the people were to wait below.

When Moses gave the people all the laws and instructions God had given him, the people were unanimous in agreeing to follow them (v. 3). Moses then sealed the covenant with blood sacrifices.

Verse:
    10-11. Moses and the 73 others who went up with him saw God (v. 10-11). Cf. "No man has seen God at any time" (Jn. 1:18; 1 Jn. 4:12). How could they see God and live? Cf. 33:20 ("you cannot see my face"); see also 32:30; Judges 13:22-23.

Chapter 25  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Moses received instructions from God for taking a voluntary offering to use in constructing an ark with a mercy seat and cherubim, a table and a lampstand, all covered with gold. The ark and the table were to be made with carrying poles, to make them portable. In the ark were to go God's commandments to the Israelites, and God told Moses that he would meet with him above the mercy seat between the two cherubim.

Verse:
    2. This was not a tax; it was a voluntary offering. See 2 Cor. 9:5, 7.

Chapter 26  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Instructions for constructing the tabernacle.

Verse:
   

Chapter 27  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Instructions for constructing the tabernacle.

Verse:
   

Chapter 28  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Aaron and his four sons – Nadab, Abihu, Eleazar, and Ithamar – are appointed as priests of God, with detailed instructions for making their garments "for glory and for beauty."

Verse:
   

Chapter 29  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Detailed instructions for the ordination of Aaron and his sons as priests. These included sacrifices, with a prominent place given to sprinkling blood. Various offerings described. God promises to "dwell among the people of Israel, and ... be their God."

Verse:
    37. Moffatt translates this, "Whosoever touches the altar shall be doomed." But ASV and RSV say "holy" and Berkeley says "dedicated."

Chapter 30  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

Instructions for making a small gold-plated altar to burn incense on. Each person, when a census was taken, was to give half a shekel, presumably to finance the altar and the expensive incenses they were to make.

Verse:
   

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Chapter summary:

God appoints artists and craftsmen to make all that has been commanded. Also, a reminder is given that no work is to be done on the Sabbath, and that death is the penalty for breaking this commandment. God then gave to Moses the "two tables of the testimony."

Verse:
    2. God calls people for jobs he has fitted them for. Was Bezalel any less pleasing to God than Moses, if each obeyed his call?

Chapter 32  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Chapter summary:

When Moses was delayed on the mountain with God, the Israelites persuade Aaron to make a golden calf for them to worship. Aaron did so, apparently without any objection, and then later, when questioned by Moses, he lied about how it was made. ("I threw it into the fire, and there came out this calf." v. 24). Certainly questionable conduct for God's high priest!

God indicated that He was going to destroy the people for this sin, and then Moses "talked him out of it." Hard to conceive of God "repenting of the evil" He had planned to do to his people (v. 14). Moses then became enraged when he came down the mountain and found the people in immorality dancing around the calf. He smashed the tables of the law, burned up and ground up the golden calf, and then called all those on the Lord's side to him. All the tribe of Levi responded, but the passage doesn't mention any others. These then went forth throughout the camp and killed 3,000 Israelites at Moses' order. Presumably these were the ones most seriouosly involved in immoral conduct. Moses went back up the mountain to attempt to find atonement for the people, and even offered that his own life be blotted out of the book of God. God ordered him to return and lead the people; the sinners would be punished.

Verse:
    4. Cf. v. 24.

    24. Aaron tries to avoid his responsibility in making the calf (see v. 4) – with a whopper of a story!

    27. This sounds like random killing, but presumably the ones doing the killing are those who have allied themselves with the Lord (see v. 26) and those who are killed are those who refused to follow the Lord.

    32. Moses' love for Israel!

    35. ESV: "Then the Lord sent a plague on the people, because they made the calf, the one that Aaron made." This seeming contradiction actually portrays the truth. Aaron made the calf (v. 4) but the people ordered or desired it (v. 1). The NIV disguises this by rendering it "because of what they did with the calf Aaron had made."

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Chapter summary:

God tells Moses to go up to the land that had been promised, that He would send an angel to clear the way, but that He himself would not go with them, for He would "consume them on the way" if He did go. Moses, however, goes out to the Tent of Meeting, which was pitched outside the camp, and pursuades God to go with the Israelites. "For how shall it be known that I have found favor in thy sight, I and thy people?" Moses asks. "Is it not in thy going with us, so that we are distinct, I and thy people, from all other people that are upon the face of the earth?" (v. 16) Then Moses asks God to "show me thy glory," and God replied that no man can see his face and live, but that Moses could see God after He passed by.

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Chapter summary:

The Lord tells Moses to cut two tables of stone, to replace the ones he had broken, and to come up the mountain again to meet with God. Moses does so, and stays 40 days and nights. God renews his covenant, though not in the same words. He tells Moses that He will do marvelous things for the Israelites, including driving out six tribes or nations of the land to which they were going. Some commandments are repeated, including a review of all the feasts the Israelites were to keep.

When Moses came down the mountain, his face shone, so that after he shared with all the people all that God had commanded him, Moses put a veil over his face.

Verse:
    6-7. How can God be "merciful and gracious" and yet visit the iniquity of the fathers on their children and grandchildren?

    12-17. How did the Israelites obey these commands? See 2 Kings 17:7-15.

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After a preliminary warning about keeping the Sabbath, Moses gives instructions for constructing the tabernacle and its accessories. The people bring voluntary gifts, not tithes, and brought more than could be used.

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    2. Berkeley: "every one with enough ambition to report for work."

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    24 et seq. According to Moffatt, they used 2800 pounds of gold, 9655 pounds of silver (96 pounds of silver for each socket or pedestal), and three tons of bronze. Berkeley says 3700 pounds of gold, 12,000 pounds of silver (116 pounds of silver for each socket), and "nearly three tons" of bronze. Those figures seem astronomical to me.

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    24. Why pomegranates? What significance did they have?

Chapter 40  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    9-15. Note the strong emphasis on purity and holiness.


Leviticus   [Forward to Numbers]  [Back to Exodus]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27

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    12. Heb. 9:22 says that without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sins. NBC notes that when flour was used it was burned on the other offerings, thus mixing blood with it.

    17. Ignorance of the law is no excuse.

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    2. The sin is first against the Lord, and then against the neighbor. Restitution-plus is the remedy (v. 4-5).

    18. Here and in v. 27 Moffatt translates, "shall be taboo."

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    1. ASV translates "guilt offering" as "trespass offering."

    15. NBC suggests that this requirement was to encourage a generous spirit, to invite others to share. See Dt. 12:12.

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    22. See Num. 6:22-26.

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    6. RSV: "Do not let the hair of your heads hang loose." NIV: "Do not let your hair become unkempt."

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    7. This is why Jews do not eat pork.

    21. Moffatt says "jointed legs."

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    16. Some translations, such as ASV and RSV, refer to the second goat as "Azazal," but KJ and NIV say "scapegoat." Moffatt says, "Azazal the demon."

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    11. Moffatt: "For the soul of any creature lies in its blood, and I have appointed blood as your means of expiation on the altar; blood expiates by reason of the soul in it."

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    5. But is this possible? See Gal. 3:10-11.

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    9-10. Cf. Jas. 5:1-6.

    18. This does not mean that one can seek revenge or bear a grudge against outsiders or foreigners. See v. 34.

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General comments
    This is the "I am the Lord" chapter. Nine times that phrase is used.
Verse:
    17 et seq. Not every offering is acceptable, and offerings are no good without acceptance.

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    22. Cf. 19:9, 10; Jas. 5:1-6.

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    14. Thus, there would have to be witnesses produced in public Also, this would ensure that those who heard the blasphemy would learn the lesson.

    22. The law may have been strict in some ways, but it did not discriminate against foreigners.

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    6. Moffatt says, "The natural produce of the land shall serve as food for you."

    21-22. This apparently covers the jubilee year as well, for otherwise there would be no need for the sixth year's crop to bring forth fruit for three years rather than two.

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Chapter 27  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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Numbers   [Forward to Deuteronomy]  [Back to Leviticus]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36

General comments:
    The Hebrew name of this book is "In the Wilderness," which gives a more accurate picture of its contents than "Numbers." (NBC) This book describes the Israelites' journey from Mount Sinai to the borders of Canaan.

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    39. See note in NBC, p. 167.

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    7. Note that the sinner had to confess and make full restitution, plus one-fifth.

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    29-32. According to NBC, Hobab probably accepted Moses' offer, since his descendants are recorded as being in Canaan at a later time. Judges 1:16; 4:11.

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    1. RSV: "and the fire of the Lord burned among them, and consumed some outlying parts of the camp."

    7-9. Cf. Ex. 16.

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    1. For "Cushite" (ASV) Moffatt says "Ethiopian."

    3. Moffatt: "Now the man Moses was a most devout creature, the most pious of all men upon earth." Berkeley says "gentle."

    13. Moses' prayer was answered, but not for seven days (v. 15). Does God have a purpose in (sometimes) delaying answers to prayers?

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General comments
    See Deut. 1:19-46 for a parallel account.
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    17 et seq. Why did they have to scout out the land? God had promised it to them. Maybe so they could take the land with the least loss of life?

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    17. Moses reminds God of his promises. Why? Was it really so that Moses and the people would be reminded of them, and see God's part in all that was going to happen?

    24. See Heb. 3:7-19.

    34. The people were punished one year for every day of the scouting trip. This was for their grumbling and unbelief. But the ten bad spies were immediately punished by death (v. 37). (Moffatt says by a "stroke".)

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    29-30. No discrimination in applying God's law.

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    4-5. Moses committed the controversy to the Lord.

    32. But apparently not Korah's sons – see 26:11.

    46. Necessity of atonement.

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    20. Moffatt: "I am your property, I am your share in life, among the Israelites."

    29. The best part of the offerings were to be God's – not the leftovers!

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    23-24. Moffatt indicates that this was directed against both Moses and Aaron. How were Moses and Aaron "faithless" (Moffatt) at Meribah? Apparently in striking the rock with the rod, instead of speaking to it, as they were commanded to do (v. 8).

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    5. RSV: "we loathe this worthless food."

    9. See 2 Kings 18:4; Jn. 3:14-15.

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    7. Moffatt: "taking the usual fee for cursing."

    22. This doesn't seem fair in the light of v. 20.

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    9b. Moffatt: "a folk who live secure, who reckon themselves above all races."

    13. Balak misunderstood that the essence of the curse (God's sovereign will; see v. 19), not the mechanics (where it is done, etc.), is important. See also v. 27.

    27. Cf. v. 13.

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    7. NBC says that "Agag" was probably a hereditary name for the kings of the Amalekites, like Pharoah was for the Egyptians.

    11. What is honor? See v. 13.

    15-24. For further discussion of these verses, see NBC, pp. 189-190.

    17. David fulfilled this prophecy – see 2 Sam. 8:2, 14.

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    11. Moffatt says "the sons of Korah did not die out."

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    13-17. After God told Moses that he was going to die, his first concern was for the children of Israel, that they might not be without a leader.

    17. See Mt. 9:36, where Jesus apparently quoted these words.

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    39. Not all gifts were by the "letter of the law."

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    8. Balaam apparently turned against the God he professed to serve so faithfully. See v. 16; ch. 22-24.

    17. It's hard to believe that God willed this.

    40. What happened to these 32 girls? Perhaps they served the priests.

    49. RSV: "there is not a man missing from us."

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    3. RSV: "went out triumphantly;" Moff. "marched confidently."

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    30. It took two witnesses to convict of murder.

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Deuteronomy   [Forward to Joshua]  [Back to Numbers]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34

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    16-17. Instructions to judges.

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    31. An example of the mysterious interaction of faith and works. God begins to act, and we must begin to respond.

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    17. "Chinnereth" is the Sea of Galilee.

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    3. The covenant was not just history; it was always contemporaneous, always relevant.

    9b. "those who hate me" – Doesn't this indicate that those who worship false gods hate the true God?

    22. Moses did not carve the Ten Commandments in stone – God did. How? We don't know.

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    8-9. Orthodox Jews take these verses literally, by strapping little scrolls of Scripture, called phylacteries (Greek) or teffilin (Hebrew) on their foreheads during morning prayers, and by placing a mezuzah, a small parchment containing certain verses, enclosed in a decorative case, on the door frame of their houses or apartments.

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    2. See Gen. 10:15-20 for an account of the origin of these nations.

    7-8. God's grace is revealed in the Old Testament. He did not choose Israel because of her greatness or goodness (see 9:4-6), but because of his gracious love and the faithfulness he shows to the promise made to the patriarchs.

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    16. Moff. "... tht he might teach you your need of him and prove you, in order to make you prosper in the end."

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    4-5. This helps answer the question about how God could have commanded the extermination of nations – because of their wickedness. God's grace is involved, for he gave the land to the Israelites because of his love (see 7:8), and not because of Israel's righteousness (see 9:24; 18:12).

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    12-13. This makes clear that keeping the commandments was not the only or even the first responsibility of God's people in the Old Testament. See Moff. "And now, Israel, what is the Eternal your God asking from you but to reverence the Eternal your God, always to live his life, to love him, to worship the Eternal your God with all your mind and all your heart, and to obey ...."

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    29b. See ch. 27.

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    31. This was not a case of substituting one religion for others, Gopd hates false religions for what they do to their adherents. "Every abomination" apparently included cult prostitution (23:17-18).

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    3. When a private prophecy or leading is directly contrary to God's written word, then the written word must prevail.

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    26. The word translated "strong drink" (ASV) or "fermented drink" (NIV) comes from the verb "to be drunk" and according to HSB was probably beer, since the Israelites did not have distilled liquors.

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    4. This verse expresses God's will that "there should be no poor among you." However, see v. 11.

    11. Here, a few verses after saying that there should be no poor people among the Israelites, God predicts that there will always be poor people in the land. But note that God says this is a reason to give to them, not to withhold giving: "Therefore I command you to be openhearted toward your brothers and toward the poor and needy in your land." (NIV) Thus when Jesus told his disciples that there would always be poor people (Mt. 26:11; Mk. 14:7; Jn. 12:8), he was certainly not saying that to relieve them of their duty to be generous to the poor.

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    12. See 9:5.

    15. Does this refer to Christ? See Acts 3:22; 7:37. See also comparison between Moses and Christ, NBC, p. 214.

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    15-18. Annihilation of the peoples surrounding the Israelites was apparently (1) to punish them for wickedness, and (2) to prevent Israel from being contaminated by them.

    19b. But see 2 Kings 3:19.

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    7-9. Note that sin is not purely an individual's concern; it has corporate implications. See also v. 21.

    15. Apparently there was no stigma to bigamy.

    23. Thus Christ because a curse for us. Gal. 3:13.

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    18. The Hebrew for the second thing not to be brought into the house of the Lord is the "wages of a dog." (So translated in ASV, ESV) Kenneth Bailey speculates that this has to to with hiring dogs to lick sores for medicinal purposes! See Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 385.

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    1-3. See Mt. 5:31; 19:7-9.

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    5. See Ruth 1:11-13; Mt. 22:23-33.

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    29. According to this verse, there are "secret things" that belong to God alone, but there are also "things revealed," which belong to God's people. The New Testament indicates that the secret things have to do with the end times. See Mt. 24:36 (no one knows the "day or hour" when Christ will return); Acts 1:7 (when his disciples asked Jesus, toward the end of his earthly life, if he was then going to "restore the kingdom to Israel," Jesus said it was not for them to know the "times or dates" that God the Father has set).

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    16-18. Why did the Lord predict that evil was going to come upon the Israelites? He said it was because they were going to break the covenant they had agreed to and serve other gods. But note the response of the people: "have not these disasters come upon us because our God is not with us?" (v. 17) In other words, God abandoned us and so we are suffering, but they got it backwards. They rejected the Lord and then evil followed.

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    18. See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

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    8-9. Apparently the meaning of this strange phrase ("He said of his father and mother, 'I have no regard for them.' He did not recognize his brothers or acknowledge his own children ....") is that those of the tribe of Levi were to be so dedicated to serving the Lord that, relatively speaking, they would ignore their own families. In other words, their sacred obligations in the ceremonial worship of God far outweighed all familial obligations. Cf. Lk. 14:26 ("If anyone comes to me and does not hate his father and mother, his wife and children, his brothers and sisters – yes, even his own life – he cannot be my disciple.")

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    13-14. Joshua was preparing to fight the Canaanite army when he was confronted with one he thought was a human soldier with a drawn sword. Joshua obviously didn't recognize him, so he asked, "Are you for us or for our enemies?" The sword-bearer identified himself as "commander of the army of the Lord," and said he was not on one side or the other.

    Doesn't this mean, at a minimum, that God is not a Democrat or a Republican, not on one side or the other in any human conflict? No matter how sure that we are right and our opponents are wrong, it is just not black-and-white. We can never assume that we have all the truth; i.e., that God is on our side.

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    26. This prophecy was fulfilled; see 1 Kings 16:34.

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    12. RSV: "because they have become a thing for destruction." By taking what was to be God's, Israel was to be destroyed.

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    3. Moff. says 3,000.

    12. See v. 3. Didn't Joshua set this ambush the night before?

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    7. What happened to the Gibeonites (v. 3)? See 11:19.

    14. This was their big mistake.

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    13. Moff. says "Book of Heroes."

    15. HSB points out that this verse, which is identical with 10:43, is out of place here, for if Joshua had returned to Gilgal, the kings would not have had to hide in a cave.

    21. RSV says that all the people returned "safe."

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    19. Does this imply that Israel would have accepted offers of peace?

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    4. See Num. 27:1-11; 36:1-12.

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    9. According to HSB, the tribe of Simeon was absorbed into Judah and was seldom mentioned thereafter. This was prophesied in Gen. 49:5-7.

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    18. See v. 31.

    31. They had learned that the whole community suffers for the sin of the individual. See v. 17-18, 20.

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    9. Deborah predicts that a woman, not Barak, will gain the glory for vistory over the Canaanite army under Sisera. Although Sisera was killed by a woman (Jael; see v. 21), many years later the prophet Samuel said the Lord sent Barak (not a woman) to deliver Israel from Sisera. See 1 Sam. 12:11.

    15. Apparently by sending a huge storm. See 5:20-22.

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    25. Moff. translates "Asherah" as "sacred pole."

    39. Cf. Gen. 18:23-33 (Abraham pleads for Sodom).

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    7. From 32,000 (see v. 3) to 300! Less than 1%.

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    23. What happened to Gideon's faith? See v. 27.

    27. Moff. says "an ornamental idol."

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    48. RSV: "bundle of brushwood."

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    16. RSV: "... and he became indignant over the misery of Israel."

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    9. In the RSV, this is not a question but an assertion.

    39. The commentaries suggest that she was actually killed, although this was against the law.

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    5. See Num. 6:2 ff.

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    3b. Moff. "'Get her,' said Samson to his father, 'get her for me; I like her.'"

    9. According to Num. 6:6, going near a dead body was a violation of the Nazarite vow. NBC suggests that this is why he did not tell his parents.

    15. RSV says "fourth day," which makes more sense than "seventh day" (ASV).

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    4-5. St. Augustine gives an allegorical interpretation to this incident. He says the foxes are the heretics, who are bound – that is, damned – and carry the "fire of damnation" behind them. "Do you think that the heretics can carry fire wherewith to burn the crops of the enemy without burning themselves? There can be no doubt that when the foxes burn the crops, they burn themselves as well. The judgment of the heretics will come from behind, but they do not see it now. They have their charms with which to cajole, and they present for all to see what lies in front. In their bound tails, however, which is the judgment of God, they carry fire behind them, for their wickedness goes before their punishment." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 122.

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    7. RSV: "seven fresh bowstrings".

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    7.

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    2. RSV: "became angry with him."

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Ruth   [Forward to 1 Samuel]   [Back to Judges]  [All books of the Bible]
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    11. Naomi is referring to the "levirite" marriage, under which the brother of a deceased husband marries the widow. See Deut. 25:5-6; Mt. 22:23-33.

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    2. See Deut. 24:19; Lev. 19:9-10. Cf. Jas. 5:1-6.

    7b. Moff.: "... without stopping for a moment." RSV says, "without resting even for a moment," but a footnote indicates that the meaning of the Hebrew text is unclear.

    22b. Moff.: "... so that the reapers may not attack you in some other field."

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    18-22. See Mt. 1:3-6.


1 Samuel   [Forward to 2 Samuel]  [Back to Ruth]   [All books of the Bible]
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    5. RSV says: "and, although he loved Hannah, he would give Hannah only one portion, because the Lord had closed her womb." A footnote, however, indicates that the Hebrew is obscure.

    8. Elkanah knew why she was weeping.

    20. According to HSB, "Samuel" means "His name is God," or possibly, "Heard of God."

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    33. Moff.: "One of your family I will not cut off from my altar, I will spare him to consume his eyes with longing and to wear out his heart; but the greater part of your household shall die by the sword of men."

    35. See 1 Kings 2:27, 35.

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    13. Parental responsibility.

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    21. Moff. says "they named the child...."

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    5. Moff.: "(This is why the priests of Dagon, and all who enter the temple of Dagon, to this day, never step on the threshold of Dagon in Ashdod, but leap over it.)"

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    19. Moff.: "The sons of Jeconiah, however, did not rejoice along with the men of Beth-Shemesh when they saw the ark of the Eternal, so he struck [[fifty thousand and]] seventy of them." RSV follows ASV in saying they were punished because they looked into the ark, but says only "he slew seventy men of them," with both figures in the margin.

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    11. "Then the Lord sent ... Barak ...." See Judges 4:9.

    17. NBC says that normally there was no rain from April to October, and that to have rain and thunder in wheat harvest (middle of May to the middle of June) was a miracle.

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    13. Saul's big mistake – not keeping God's commandment.

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    6b. Jonathan was clearly trusting in the Lord.

    11. Moff.: "... Look at the mice creeping out of their hiding-holes!"

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General comments
    Saul's character:
        1. He disobeyed (15:8-9)
        2. He blamed his people (15:15, 21)
        3. He set up a monument to himself (15:12)

Verse:
    21. Note that Saul blames the people (also in v. 15). See also Ex. 32:22-24.

    32b. Moff.: "'Death is a bitter thing,' said Agag." But the RSV agrees with ASV.

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    4. According to NBC, Goliath was between nine and ten feet tall, his coat of mail weighed about 157 pounds, and the head of his spear weighed about 19 pounds.

    29. Moff.: "I merely asked a question."

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    13. RSV says what Michal put in the bed was "an image." Moff. says "their household god." Did David and Michal have an idol? Or did Michal get it some place else, and if so, where?

    17. Michal lies to save David's life, or maybe her own.

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    5. According to HSB, the first day of the lunar month was a feast day, with work suspended.

    6. David asks Jonathan to lie to his father for David's sake.

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    2. David lied to the priest. Is lying always wrong?

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    37-38. NBC says that Nabal suffered a stroke of paralysis and that he lingered for ten days before dying.

    43-44. That makes three wives for David. See 1 Chron. 3:1-3, which mentions six wives when he reigned in Hebron.

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    2-5. David had six wives! Plus Michal, who was taken away by Saul and given to another (1 Sam. 18:27)

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    5-6. The Lord apparently disapproved of David's plan to build him a house.

    13, 16. How can this be true? Unless it applies to Christ as the universal king? See Acts 2:25-36.

    23. Isn't this the heart of Jewish faith? See Moff. translation.

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    18. Some translations (Moff., RSV, ESV) say David's sons were priests, but see ASV ("chief ministers"), NIV ("royal advisors"). Cf. 1 Chron. 18:17 – "David's sons were the chief officials in the service of the king." (RSV)

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    6 et seq. David first tried to get Uriah to go home to his wife so David would have an "out." This didn't work, even when David got him drunk. So finally David thought of a new plan – which added murder to adultery.

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    5. How easy it is to see the sins of others and miss our own! See Mt. 7:3-5.

    10. See 13:28-29; 18:14; 1 Kings 2:25.

    11. See 2 Sam. 16:22.

    24-25. What an example of God's forgiveness!

    27. Moff.: "I have captured the fort protecting the water supply."

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    15. The love-hate paradox.

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    27. Absalom's sons may have died prematurely; see 18:18.

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    17. RSV: "they halted at the last house."

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    22. See 12:11.

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    3. RSV: "better that you send us help from the city."

    18. But cf. 14:27, which says that Absalom had three sons.

    21. Moff.: "a Negro slave."

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    2. See Josh. 9:16-18.

    19. But David had already killed Goliath with a sling shot; see 1 Sam. 17. A note in the NIV Study Bible suggests a copyist's error here, that it should read "Elhanan ... killed Lahmi the brother of Goliath." See 1 Chron. 20:5, where it says this.

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This chapter is virtually identical with Ps. 18.

Verse:
    21-25. Note that David makes these claims of righteousness after he committed adultery with Bathsheba and arranged for her husband's murder! See 2 Sam. 11.

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    8b. See 1 Chron. 11:11 (800 rather than 300).

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    3b. Is this a hint of David's sin – pride?


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    6. Moff.: "Choose your own time, but never let his grey head go to the grave in peace."

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    5-14. Solomon's dream prayer. Here's how Solomon arrived at his request: (1) He reflected first on the greatness of God, and what he had done in the past and his own relationship to God (v. 6-7a); (2) Then he looked at his own smallness and weakness (v. 7b); (3) Finally he considered the job that God had given him (v. 8) and here he arrived at his request. Lesson: As we grow spiritually mature, we should think hard about what we ask from God. (See also special topic Prayer.)

    5. God told Solomon to ask for whatever he wanted God to give him. Doesn't God say the same thing to us? See Jn. 14:13-14; 16:23-24. Note that the choice for Solomon is not to ask or not to ask. The choice is what to ask for. God would not have been pleased if Solomon had not asked for anything.

    9. If Solomon prayed for this in a dream (v. 5, 15), then this must have been his subconscious desire. Cf. Moses' prayer to know God and find favor in his sight (Ex. 33:13), and Paul's similar prayer (Phil. 3:8-10).

    10. Solomon's request pleased God, for it told a lot about what Solomon wanted out of life. God had given him a big job, and Solomon asked for what he needed to carry it out. Consider the different ways God could have responsed to Solomon's prayer:

        a. God could have denied, or partly answered, Solomon's specific request. But here this seems unlikely because by implication God promised to answer the request.

        b. God could have given him exactly what he asked for, and no more. For example, if Solomon had asked for money, God could have made him wealthy – but stupid. This is what I think God would have done if Solomon had made a poor choice.

        c. God could overfulfill the request. He could give him what he asked for, plus other things he didn't ask for – lesser choices. This is what God did for Solomon. Cf. Mt. 6:33.

        d. One more possibility – God could give a conditional answer. Here God gave wisdom or a "discerning heart" (NIV), plus riches and honor, and then he promised Solomon long life if he continued to be faithful.

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    25. Is there a connection between every man having a "vine" and a "fig tree" and dwelling safely? In other words, is this divine approval of private property?

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    2. Moff. says this was 90 feet long, 30 feet broad, and 45 feet high.

    12. Note that completion of the temple was not one of the conditions for God's blessing. God is making clear that the critical thing is not building a physical structure but a faithful life.

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    2. This was apparently a separate building, like a public auditorium.

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    3-9. These verses make clear that Palestine, the "Promised Land," was given to Israel conditionally. The land would be theirs forever if they continue to follow and obey the Lord. But if not, the land would be taken away from them.

    11. Cf. 2 Chron. 8:2, which says that Hiram gave Solomon the cities.

    13. Moff. says that "Cabul" means "good-for-nothing."

    14. "120 talents of gold." Cf. v. 28, which mentions "420 talents of gold" from Hiram. But these verses may be referring to different shipments.

    28. See v. 14.

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    3. See Deut. 17:16-17, forbidding the multiplying of horses and wives.

    32. Apparently Benjamin had been assimiliated into Judah, and therefore two tribes were actually reserved for David's descendants. See 12:17, 21.

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    2-3. This prophecy is fulfilled in 2 Kings 23:15-18.

    9. NBC suggests that this was to show that the land was unclean.

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    13. Apparently the boy was old enough to "be righteous," at least to some extent.

    24. ASV: "sodomites"; RSV: "male cult prostitutes."

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    8. Moff. says Asa was "his brother."

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    34. See Josh. 6:26.

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    16. See note on Old Testament miracles in HSB, p. 517.

    18. Moff.: "Have you come here to call attention to some sin of mine and have my boy killed?"

    21. Moff.: "crouched over."

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    32. Moff.: "... a trench round the altar about the space of eighteen hundred square yards."

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    3. According to Moff., Benhadad claimed only the silver and gold, and not the wives and children.

    33. RSV: "Now the men were watching for an omen, and they quickly took it up from him and said, 'Yes, your brother Benhadad'."

    34. RSV: "bazaars."

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    15. Apparently Naboth's sons were also put to death, that there might be no surviving heir. See 2 Kings 9:26.

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    17. RSV says "Jehoram his brother."

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    23-24. This is a strange incident. First, it says "some boys," but then two bears injured or killed forty-two of them? They couldn't run in different directions? Second, and more important, what does this say about Elisha, the "man of God"? Some kids call him "baldhead" and he curses them in the name of the Lord? Finally, what does it say about God, who punishes dozens of children by having them mauled by bears because they called an old man names?

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    3. Was he worshiping the golden calves? See 1 Kings 12:28-32.

    11. Moff.: "... who used to be servant to Elijah."

    16. RSV: "'I will make this dry stream-bed full of pools'."

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    10. Elisha didn't even come out to him. Was this to test his faith?

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    11. He suspects a traitor.

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    11. Moff.: "As he spoke, the man of God's face became rigid with horror, absolute horror. Then he burst into tears."

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    13. Moff.: "Then every man of them rushed to lay his robe under Jehu's feet on the bare steps ...."

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    27. RSV & Moff.: "latrine."

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    14. Moff.: "... you are worth chariots and horsemen to Israel!"

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    3. RSV: "He even burned his son as an offering ...."

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    19b. RSV: "For he thought, 'Why not, if there will be peace and security in my days?'"

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    7. RSV: "But no accounting shall be asked from them for the money which is delivered into their hand, for they deal honestly."

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    20. Moff.: "The Eternal was so wroth that he let Jerusalem and Judah go from bad to worse, till he would have no more to do with them."

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    11-13. These verses may be the source of the final affirmation of praise that some ancient texts (and modern pray-ers) add to the Lord's Prayer: "For thine is the kingdom and the power and the glory forever, Amen." See Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 130-131.


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    6. What does this mean?

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    13-19. This is apparently the Old Testament view of Sheol. NBC refers to this as "the dormitory of death."

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    17 et seq. Eliphaz tells Job just what we might tell a sufferer today; he missed in his diagnosis of Job's problem, and because of this his advice – though generally good – was not appropriate. This should teach us humility, because we never know all the facts about another's life. (Even Job didn't know here.)

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    9b. Moff.: "to let his hand snap off my thread of life!"

    15-17. Job says of his friends that they were great when not needed, as a nice icy river in the mountains; but when needed they disappear like streams in the desert.

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    17-18. Why do you take so many pains with humans? Cf. Ps. 8:4.

    19b. NBC says this means "for a single moment."

    20a. Moff.: "O thou Spy upon mankind?"

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    1. Moff.: "Yes, it is true; I know it; but how is man to get his rights from God?"

    15. Moff.: "I would not answer him, though I were in the right, but beg my adversary to have pity."

    19. RSV: "If it is a contest of strength, behold him! If it is a matter of justice, who can summon him?"

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    6b. Berkeley: "You would then see that God holds against you less than your iniquities deserve."

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    14. Job longs for a future life after death.

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    5. Job's deepest need is for consolation, not criticism.

    21. Job recognizes that God must somehow intercede with himself. Cf. Christ.

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    4. Moff.: "Supposing I have sinned, does my sin concern you?"

    21. Job needs comfort, not chastisement.

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    6-9. See 29:11-17.

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    10. Does Job realize or suspect the purpose of his sufferings?

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    7 et seq. NBC points out that attributing the rest of this chapter to Job means flatly contradicting what he has previously said. See 21:22 et seq.; 24:1 et seq. Moffatt attributes this section to Zophar.

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    3b. Berkeley: "Hanging to ropes that swing back and forth."

    12-17. See 22:6-9.

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    15. Hence, all men are created equal.

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    4b. Elihu is apparently referring to God here. See 37:16.

    21. Moff.: "Beware, banish all evil thoughts – you prefer sin to suffering!"

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    41. See Lk. 12:24.

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    10. When Job prayed for his friends, then God rewarded him. Cf. Mt. 6:33.


Psalms   [Forward to Proverbs]   [Back to Job]  [All books of the Bible]
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    6-9. Two Messianic prophecies here were fulfilled; Messiah as King; see Rev. 19:15-16, and Messiah to be the Son of God (v. 7); see Mt. 3:17; Lk. 1:32.

    12. RSV just says "kiss his feet."

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    2. According to NBC, "Selah" was inserted some time after the poem was pomposed, in order to adapt it for use in the services of the temple. It always appears to indicate a change in mood, a pause in the chant, or an alteration in the musical accompaniment.

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    1. Moff.: "O God, my champion ...."

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    5. David does not seem to have had an awareness or belief in an afterlife.

    7b. RSV: "... take thy seat on high."

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    1. Give wholehearted thanks to the Lord, not reluctant or mechanical thanks. David does not say "I am thankful," but "I will give thanks. Note the role of the will in v. 2 also.

    10b. If sometimes we feel forsaken, is it because we have not been seeking God?

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    3. The "righteous" have two choices when the foundations are destroyed. They can try to run away and hide ("Flee like a bird to your mountain," v. 1b) or they can take refuge in the Lord (v. 1a).

    4. Why should the righteous run away? The Lord is on the throne, and he watches what is happening. He will destroy the wicked (v. 6), but those who are righteous will "see his face" (v. 7). Why? Because the Lord loves justice (v. 7).

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    2. "any who seek after God." John Stott says, "God's chief quarrel with man is that he does not seek." John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 16. Jesus promised, "Seek and you will find" (Mt. 7:7), and Jeremian quotes the Lord as saying, "You will seek me and find me when you seek me with all your heart." (Jer. 29:13) God rewards those who seek him. (Heb. 11:6) Does that mean that those who seek God thereby earn salvation? Is this a kind of "works"?

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    4b. Moff.: "He keeps to his oath, though he may lose by it."

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This chapter is virtually identical with 2 Sam. 22.

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    4. Moff.: "life long and lasting."

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    3. Personal discouragement is followed by remembrance of God's nature.

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    6b. Berk.: "... who seek thy face, like Jacob." Other translations (RSV & Moff.): "of the God of Jacob."

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    9. RSV substitutes "humble" for "meek." The humble are the teachable.

    22. NBC says this is "almost certainly" a later addition to render the prayer more appropriate for corporate worship.

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    1b. Moff.: "lest, if thou are deaf, I droop like a dying man."

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    2. How utterly impossible the first part of this verse is. "Give unto the Lord the glory due unto his name." How can anyone possibly do that? The highest possible degree of glory is due to him, but since we are human, when we have given him all the glory we can, we have still fallen short. The second part of the verse – "Worship the Lord in the beauty of holiness" – is possible, if it refers to God's holiness ("in the beauty of his holiness") but probably not if it refers to our holiness.

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    3. RSV: "When I declared not my sin, ..."

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    11-14. See Col. 3:8-17; 1 Pet. 3:10-12.

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    15. RSV: "Cripples whom I knew not slandered me without ceasing."

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    1. Cf. Mk. 7:21-23.

    9. Moff.: "for life's own fountain is within thy presence, and in thy smile we have the light of life."

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    8. Moff.: "Cease from anger, give up raging, fret not – it only leads to evil."

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    See the steps of faith in this psalm, v. 1, 9, 15.

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    13-17. Same as Ps. 70.

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    3b. RSV: "in his illness thou healest all his infirmities." Moff.: "and brings him back to health."

    9b. See Jn. 13:18.

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    Psalms 42 and 43 were orginally one psalm, in three stanzas. (Note that Psalm 43 has no superscription.) Stanza 1, 42:1-5; stanza 2, 42:6-11, stanza 3, 43:1-5. According to NBC, in stanza 1 the mood is "plaintive regret;" in stanza 2, "fitful perplexity;" and in stanza 3,"confidence and trust."

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    See general comments for Psalm 42.

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    9 et seq. These verses confront the problem of the godly suffering. Cf. Job.

    22. See Rom. 8:35-39.

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    6-7. See Heb. 1:8-9.

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    10. Moff.: "'Give in,' he cries, 'admit that I am God, high over nations, high over the world.'"

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    9b. Apparently the Hebrew says "the shields of the earth belong to God," but Moffatt translates it as the "warriors" and NIV says the "kings."

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    14. NBC says the last phrase is not a correct rendering of the Hebrew. RSV has "forever" and NIV says "to the end."

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    Moffatt's translation is especially good on this psalm.

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    4b. RSV: "I will solve my riddle to the music of the harp." NIV: "with the harp I will expound my riddle."

    7. NIV: "No man can redeem the life of another ...." Cf. RSV: "ransom himself."

    13. Moff.: "Such is the fate of the self-satisfied, the end of all whose faith is in themselves."

    15. Isn't this an Old Testament hint of immortality? See also v. 9.

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    7 et seq. God judges the righteous.

    14. Moff.: "Offer to God thanks as your sacrifice." See also v. 23.

    15b. Deliverance from God should bring glorification from us.

    16 et seq. God judges the wicked.

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    4b. RSV: "So that thou art justified in thy sentence and blameless in thy judgment."

    6b. RSV: "therefore teach me wisdom in my secret heart."

    18. NBC says v. 18-19 seem to have been added some centuries after David's time.

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    6-8. David seems to have had a problem with escapism.

    22. See 1 Pet. 5:7. NBC comments the "neither escapism, regret, indignation or bitterness" provides the answer. The answer is to unburden the heart's care and place it all in the responsibility of God.

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    8. NBC says the imagery here is that of the returning conqueror using Moab as a foot basin, throwing dusty sandals to Edom as a lackey, and calling to another slave, Philistia, to acclaim the master.

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    5-6. Moff.: "Leave it all quietly to God, my soul, my rescue comes from him alone; rock, rescue, refuge, he is all to me, never shall I be overthrown." (See also v. 1-2)

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    1. Moff.: "O God, thou art my God, I yearn for thee, body and soul, I thirst, I long for thee, like a land without water, dry."

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    1-2. The purpose of God's blessing is evangelism, or witnessing, or missions.

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    2. "As smoke is driven away ...." St. Augustine says there are "distinctions among sinners," and those represented by smoke are "the proud who defend rather than confess their sins." Why are they like smoke? "Because smoke rises and climbs as though to heaven. But the higher it ascends, the more readily it vanishes and wastes away. ... When close to fire and earth, smoke is more dense. It does not yet vanish and scatter in the winds. When does it diminish and vanish and waste away? When is rises on high." Applying the analogy he says, "Just as the proud man rises on high against God like smoke against the heavens, so he, too, must vanish and waste away in the winds of his vanity. Just like smoke that is scattered when borne on high, he, too, swells to inflated greatness rather than to substantial greatness. Thus it is with smoke. You see a great mass, and although you can see it, there is nothing to grasp." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 177.

    18. In Eph. 4:8 this verse seems to be misquoted. It says "he gave gifts" instead of "received gifts."

    19. Moff.: "Blessed be the Lord, our saving God, who daily bears the burden of our life."

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    4. See Jn. 15:25.

    9. See Jn. 2:17; Rom. 15:3.

    21a. RSV says "poison"; Moff.: "poisonous drugs."

    22-28. David's prayer of imprecation. Cf. Jesus' response, Lk. 22:42; 23:34.

    22-23. Cf. Rom. 11:9-10.

    25. See Acts 1:20.

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    This psalm is the same as Ps. 40:13-17.

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See separate Commentary on Psalm 103.

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    1. This verse was quoted by Jesus (Mt. 22:44; Mk. 12:36; Lk. 20:42-43), by Peter (Acts 2:34-35), and by the author of Hebrews (Heb. 1:13), all applying it to Jesus. However, the NIV Study Bible suggests that David may have composed this psalm for the coronation of his son Solomon and, if so, he called him "my Lord" in view of Solomon's new status, which placed him above the aged David. This would be a plausible answer to Jesus' rhetorical question in Mt. 22:45 and parallel passages ("If then David calls him 'Lord,' how can he be his son?").

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Proverbs   [Forward to Ecclesiastes]  [Back to Psalms]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31

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    7a. See 2:1-5; 8:13.

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    26. Moff.: "for the harlot is only out to earn a meal, but the adulteress preys upon your very life;" RSV: "for a harlot may be hired for a loaf of bread ...."

    34a. Moffatt says "husband," making clear that it is tied in with v. 29.

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    13a. See 1:7.

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    10. See 1:7.

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    24. RSV: "One man gives freely, yet grows all the richer; another withholds what he should give, and only suffers want."

    30. Moff.: "Life thrives like a tree on generosity, but grasping greed is death to men." (?)

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    28b. Is this an Old Testament glimpse of immortality?

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    13a. ASV says "Even in laughter the heart is sorrowful;" other translations say "may be" sorrowful.

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    17. Moff.: "Better a dish of vegetables, with love, than the best beef served with hatred."

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    8a. Moff.: "He who grows wise is a friend to himself."

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    6. Moff.: "Many a person is called kind, but a trustworthy man is a rare find."

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    7. See Lk. 14:7-11.

    22. Moff.: "for so you shall quench blazing passions."

    27. RSV: "so be sparing of complimentary words."

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    31b. Moff.: "Praise her in public for her services."

Ecclesiastes   [Forward to Song of Solomon]  [Back to Proverbs]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12

General comments about book
    This book can only be understood as the "inspired record of a spiritual pilgrimage," and the early chapters must be contrasted with chapter 12 or else they will stand as a contradiciton of much of the rest of the Bible. For example, compare 1:18 with Prov. 4:5-9.

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    16-18. Moffatt makes clear that these verses are one quotation from the writer's past; i.e., this is not his final conclusion on the matter.

    18. Proverbs says just the opposite; see Prov. 4:5-9. See also 2:13-14.

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    21. Cf. Lk. 12:20-21.

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    11. RSV: "... he has put eternity into man's mind ...."

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    16. Don't be too righteous?

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    12. Is this a hint of life after death?

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Song of Solomon   [Forward to Isaiah]  [Back to Ecclesiastes]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8

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    2 et seq. This is a dream. See Moffatt.

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Isaiah   [Forward to Jeremiah]  [Back to Song of Solomon]   [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52 53 54 55 56 57 58 59 60 61 62 63 64 65 66

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    4. This Messianic prophecy has yet to be fulfilled; see Rev. 7:9-10.

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    7b. RSV: "but behold, a cry!" Moff.: "shrieks from the wronged."

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    14. This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled; see Mt. 1:18-25; Lk. 1:26-35.

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    1. Moff.: "spoilsoonpreyquick."

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    1. This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled; see Mt. 4:13-17.

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    1. There seems to be a mixing of metaphors here. This prophecy refers to a "shoot" from the "stump" of Jesse, or a "branch" from Jesse's "roots." But v. 10 refers to the "root" of Jesse. It seems to be that "shoots" and "branches" are the opposite of "stumps" and "roots." See also Jer. 23:5-6 ("righteous branch" from David's line).

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    12. According to MSB, this refers to Satan more than to the Babylonian king.

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    1. Moff.: "land of winged fleets."

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    22. See Rev. 3:7, where Christ holds the key of David.

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    2. Moff.: "the priest shall fare no better than the plain man, the master shall fare like the slave ...."

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    6-9. This appears to be the origin of the messianic banquet that was the basis for Jesus' parables of the Marriage Feast (Mt. 22:1-14) and the Great Banquet (Lk. 14:15-24). Note that it is the Lord himself who prepares the banquet, that the meal is luxurious (rich food and rare wine), and that the banquet is for all peoples.

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    14-18. See comments at Lk. 6:46-49.

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    2. HSB says that "Ariel" is a poetic name for Jerusalem."

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    5-6a. This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled; see Mt. 11:2-5; Jn. 11:47.

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    1. Moff.: "I have endowed him with my Spirit, to carry true religion to the nations."

    3-4. See Mt. 12:15-21.

    6. God says he will make his servant "to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles." Thus salvation is not to be found in a book but in a person.

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    7. RSV: "I make weal and create woe." HSB points out that "woe" refers to physical evil or calamity, rather than moral evil. God does not "create evil" (ASV) in the sense of immorality.

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General comments:     John Stott points out that there are five clear references to this chapter in 1 Pet. 2:22-25. (John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 95)

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Chapter 60  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    10-11. In mentioning "your walls" and "gates" Isaiah was clearly dreaming about Jerusalem, but Matthew and Luke apply this prophecy to the birth of Jesus. See Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 53-55.

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    1-2. Jesus quoted most of these verses, and said Isaiah's prophecy was fulfilled in him. Lk. 4:18-19. But by omitting the phrase "the day of vengeance of our God," Jesus seems to have changed Isaiah's emphasis; see Lk. 4:19.

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    5. "sons" is translated "Founder" in Moffatt. The NBC says "sons" might be translated "builder," and that is the marginal reading in NIV.

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Chapter 66  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    1-6. According to Kenneth Bailey, Jesus may have based the parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Lk. 18:9-14) on these verses from Isaiah. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 350-353.

Jeremiah   [Forward to Lamentations]   [Back to Isaiah]  [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25 26 27 28 29 30 31 32 33 34 35 36 37 38 39 40 41 42 43 44 45 46 47 48 49 50 51 52

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    22-23. The command is obedience, not sacrifice. See Jn. 14:15; 15:10, 14.

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    5-6. These verses are repeated in Jer. 33:15-16. Jesus is the "righteous branch" from "David's line" who will be raised up to reign wisely. See Mt. 1:6-16; Lk. 1:32; Acts 2:29-31; Rom. 1:3. See also Isa. 11:1, referring to a "shoot," "stump," "roots," and "branch" of Jesse.

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    13. Seeking God – see Ps. 14:2.

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    31-34. This prophecy was fulfilled; see Heb. 8:6-13. Jesus also acknowledged that he was inaugurating a new covenant; see Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:20.

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    15-16. See Jer. 23:5-6.

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Lamentations   [Forward to Ezekiel]  [Back to Jeremiah]   [All books of the Bible]
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Ezekiel   [Forward to Daniel]  [Back to Lamentations]   [All books of the Bible]
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    49-50. Ezekiel doesn't have the typical evangelical interpretation of Sodom's sin. He says "Sodom and her daughters were arrogant, overfed and unconcerned; they did not help the poor and needy," and then he mentions, less directly, that they were "haughty and did detestable things before me." This could certainly include doing homosexual acts, but the emphasis is on their failure to act justly.(NIV)

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    29. See comments at Lk. 6:46-49.

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Daniel   [Forward to Hosea]  [Back to Ezekiel]   [All books of the Bible]
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Hosea   [Forward to Joel]  [Back to Daniel]   [All books of the Bible]
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    8. Lack of knowledge of God is one of Hosea's chief points. See 4:6; 6:6.

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    5. Moffatt says "the birthday."

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    10b. See Num. 23.

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    1-9. Kenneth Bailey suggests that these verses, in which Hosea presents God as a tender, loving father with a much-loved rebellious child, were the basis for the parable of the prodigal son. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 99.

    8. Admah and Zeboiim were two cities destroyed with Sodom and Gomorrah (Deut. 29:23).

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Amos   [Forward to Obadiah]  [Back to Joel]   [All books of the Bible]
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    3. Moff.: "After crime upon crime of Damascus ...."

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    5a. Note that those who are oppressing the poor are keeping the Sabbath. They are the religious hypocrites, who piously refrain from buying and selling on the Sabbath but can't wait for it to be over so they can cheat the poor again. Jesus had a few words to say about people like that; see Lk. 11:42 ("Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God ...." NIV).

    6. See Amos 2:6.

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    11. See Acts 15:14-17, where James sees this prophecy as evidence that Gentiles were to be in the church.


Obadiah   [Forward to Jonah]  [Back to Amos]   [All books of the Bible]

General comments:
    This is a prophecy against Edom. The Edomites were descendants of Esau, Jacob's brother, and thus were related to the Israelites. This prophecy, which comes after many centuries of the Edomites' hostility against Israel, says Edom will be destroyed for gloating over and participating in Israel's devastation by foreign powers, while Israel will be delivered and "the kingdom will be the Lord's" (v. 21).

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    11. This may be just a rhetorical question, but if not, we don't know Jonah's answer. Maybe it is deliberately left openended, to force the reader to answer it. For a similar openended question, see Lk. 15:28-32.


Micah   [Forward to Nahum]   [Back to Jonah]  [All books of the Bible]
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    1-4. This Messianic prophecy has yet to be fulfilled; see Rev. 7:9-10.

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    2. This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled; see Mt. 2:1; Lk. 2:4-6.

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Verses 1-6 paint a picture of sin in complete control of a nation. What happens to a society when the "godly" are removed, or silenced? (Cf. Mt. 5:13-14)

    Violence abounds – men lie in wait to shed blood (v. 2).

    Treachery – ambushes ("lie in wait") (v. 2); lack of trust (v. 5).

    Bribery – by rulers and judges (v. 3).

    Rule by the powerful (v. 3).

    Conspiracy – secret agreements (v. 3).

    Dissension in families (v. 6).

Verse:

    1. The "gleaning" of the vineyard is after the harvest. Of couorse, there is no "summer fruit" after the harvest. When read in combination with v. 2, what Micah seems to be saying is that looking for the righteous in Israel is like looking for early figs or clusters of grapes after the harvest.

    3. "Both hands are skilled in doing evil" – what does this mean? Ambidextrous in sinning; i.e., people find it exceedingly easy to do evil. See NIV, "the powerful dictate what they desire;" RSV, "the great man utters the evil desire of his soul." Cf. 2:1.

    4. The society is so bad that the best people in it are compared to briars and thornhedges. What does this comparison mean? The distinctive characteristic of briars and thorns is their sharp, dangerous, barbs.

    5-6. Another sign of a sick society – the normal trust and loyalty that should characterize friends, neighbors, and family are gone. Jesus said this will be true in the last days (Mk. 13:12), but he also said that he would bring about such division in a family (Mk. 10:35-36).

    7. Micah interjects his own testimony of hope in God. Sometimes our job is to watch and wait.

    8-9. Note that the Lord himself will be Israel's light, and will bring Israel "out into the light" – i.e., into himself.

            To be in darkness means to be (1) ignorant, (2) unable to see (blind), (3) fearful, and (4) vulnerable.

    10. "My eyes will see her downfall." The desire for revenge against enemies seems to be universal. Is it intrisically wrong? It is rooted in two soils, one good (justice) and one bad (self-centeredness). The biblical rule seems to be that the desire for justice is not wrong in itself, but we should leave it to God. See v. 9 (God will establish my right, etc.); Rom. 12:17-19.

    18-20. Here Micah answers the questions posed in 6:7-10. Micah can do nothing to save himself (see v. 9a), but God is a gracious God who will ultimately forgive and restore Israel. Note the corporate emphasis here; it is "our" iniquities that are pardoned, not "my" iniquities. For a detailed analysis of these three verses, see Pardon for All: Israel and the Other Nations in Micah 7:18-20, unpublished ms. by Amy Chase.

    19b. RSV: "Thou wilt cast all our sins into the depths of the sea." Actually, the Hebrew verb translated "our" means "their," as indicated in an alternative translation in a footnote. Why "their"? Although the Hebrew habit of parallelism would indicate that it should be "our," to match the first part of the verse, Micah actually used the word "their." Could it be that Micah, like Isaiah (see Isa. 49:6), is saying that God's salvation will reach all the other nations too? Note that he was just referring to the nations in v. 16-17.

    20. Putting Jacob's name before Abraham's is unusual and may parallel the missionary implication of the preceding verse; i.e., Jacob clearly stands for the nation of Israel, but in view of the promise to Abraham that through him all the nations on earth will be blessed, using his name could be a shorthand reference to the other nations.


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    11. This is one of the "missionary" verses hidden in the Old Testament. It does not merely say that God's glory will extend to the ends of the earth, or that all peoples will hear his message, but says plainly that "in that day" many nations will be joined to the Lord and will become his people. Cf. Mt. 8:11.

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    9. This Messianic prophecy was fulfilled; see Mt. 21:1-11.

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    19. JB says "a man of honour;" NEB "a man of principle."

    21. Jesus's great purpose is to save his people from their sins!

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    11. The New Bible Commentary suggests that they may have found Jesus in Galilee, since he was found in a house and not a stable or inn. But see v. 8 – they were sent to Bethlehem.

    4-6. King Herod, feeling threatened, asks the Jewish scholars where the Christ was to be born, and they give the correct answer by quoting a prophecy from the Old Testament (Micah 5:2). Both Jew and Gentile leaders therefore accepted the truthfulness of Scriptural prophecy. See special topic on prophecy.

    13-14. When Jesus came into the life of Joseph, he brought, first of all, danger. His life was suddenly changed from that of a quiet carpenter of good reputation (1:19) to a fugitive. Note how Joseph obeyed – immediately. He had a dream in which God revealed to him what he should do, and before that night was over he had packed up and was fleeing to Egypt with his family.

    23. According to Lk. 1:26, Nazareth was apparently Mary's home town.

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    1. The New Bible Commentary says the root idea of "repent" is a change of heart and mind towards sin.

    Matthew uses the term "kingdom of heaven" where the other evangelists say "kingdom of God." This is because Matthew's gospel is written more for Jews, who regarded the use of God's name as blasphemous.

    7. The New Bible Commentary says the Pharisees stood for scrupulous observance of the letter of the Mosaic law, and they regarded rabbinic tradition as on a level with Old Testatment scriptures. "They were the ritualists of the Jewish church." The Sadduccees taught that virtue was to be practiced for its own sake, not for reward. From this premise they went on to deny the existence of a future world. "They were the rationalists of the Jewish church."

    9. It is impossible to separate repentance from the fruit of repentance.

    "God is able ... to raise up children to Abraham" (RSV) Isn't Jesus suggesting that Gentiles could become God's children?

    11. Phillips: "with the fire of the Holy Spirit."

    12. NEB says "shovel" for RSV's "winnowing fork."

    13-17. Note that Jesus both began and ended his public life with an act of extreme identification with sinners. Everyone else was being baptized in connection with their confession of sin (3:6), but Jesus had no sin. Similarly, at the end he was punished with other sinners (thieves on crosses) in an act that is intimately related to sin. Indeed, neither baptism nor crucifixion have any meaning at all apart from sin. And yet the sinless One was not too ashamed to voluntarily undergo both experiences.

    14. See Jn. 1:33.

    15. NEB: "We do well to conform in this way with all that God requires." Did Jesus consent to being baptized in order to show humility?

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    2. NEB says he was "famished."

    5-9. Note how strong these temptations were:
        (1) Jesus was alone, when it is much easier to surrender to temptation (no one would know);
        (2) He was hungry and no doubt weakened physically.
        (3) He was offered good or at least neutral things (bread, safety, kingdoms), not things malum in se;
        (4) The temptations offered were fantastically great – bread to one who had been fasting 40 days; protection of angels; and all the kingdoms of the world;
        (5) His status as God's son was challenged – the temptation was to prove that he really was God's son.

        Jesus answered every temptation by quoting scripture!

    7. NEB: You are not to put the Lord your God to the test."

    8-10. Cf. Shakespeare's Othello, Act IV, Scene 3, where Desdemona and Emilia are discussing philandering men. When Desdemona, challenged by Emilia, says she would not commit adultery "for all the world," Emilia observes, "The world's a huge thing. It is a great price for a small vice." She says she "would not do such a thing for a joint-ring, nor for measures of lawn, nor for gowns, petticoats, nor caps, nor any petty exhibition: but, for all the whole world – 'Uds pity! who would not make her husband a cuckold to make him a monarch? I should venture purgatory for't."

    9. Satan said to Jesus, "I will give you the whole world if you will only forfeit your soul by worshipping me." Cf. Lk. 9:25.

    12. See Mt. 14:1-12 for the circumstances of John's arrest.

    13. Perhaps Jesus moved to Capernaum (see Mk. 2:1) because he first began to preach in Nazareth and was rejected (see Lk. 4:16-30).

    17. Phillips translates this: "You must change your hearts – for the kingdom of Heaven has arrived."

        (1) Jesus began to preach when he heard that John had been arrested (4:12). Wouldn't most of us "lay low" then? It seems like the abrupt end of John's ministry triggered Jesus's ministry.
        (2) Jesus preached the exact same message as John (see 3:2). Wouldn't most of us "dress it up" or change it, either to avoid John's fate (arrest) or to avoid copying someone else? (Wouldn't people be tempted to say, "Oh, we've heard that before!")

    18-22. Mark's account of the calling of these four disciples is very similar to Matthew's (Mk. 1:16-20), but Luke's is quite different (Lk. 5:1-11), and John's is radically different (Jn. 1:35-42). John's account, however, may describe a previous encounter at which Jesus met but did not call them as his disciples.

        As to why Jesus called fishermen as his disciples, see 1 Cor. 1:26-28.

    19. Jesus said conditionally that he would make Peter and Andrew fishers of men, and the condition was that they follow him. He couldn't teach them where they were – they had to go with him.

    23. Jesus' three-fold ministry: (1) teaching, (2) preaching, and (3) healing. To what extent should we follow this?

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General comments
    See Introduction to the Sermon on the Mount.

Verse:
    1. Was it because Jesus saw the crowds that he went up on the mountain? Note that the Sermon on the Mount was delivered to the disciples, not the crowds. Was this Jesus' long range plan, to teach the people by teaching teachers?

    3. "Blessed" means "Ah, the happiness of." (Hunter)

    These are not the "poor-spirited" but those who "feel their spiritual need," who "acknowledge their spiritual poverty." (Hunter) The Oxford Bible says they are those who feel a "deep sense of spiritual poverty."

    In the Psalms, "poor" and "pious" are synonyms for those who out of their need cast themselves wholly on God for their salvation. (Hunter)

    5. Meekness is not weakness; it is humility. It is "that fine true temper of soul that yields itself trustfully to the good will of God and is not easily provoked in face of the hurts and hatreds of men." (Hunter) Jesus claimed to be "meek and lowly in heart" (Mt. 11:29 AV). But do the meek really inherit the earth? Perhaps in the end times; see Rom. 8:17; 1 Pet. 1:4.

    7. "As Jesus construes it, mercy is always active: it is kindness in action, pity that clothes itself in gracious deeds, 'love to the loveless shown that they might lovely be!'" (Hunter)

    See the parable of judgment men as sheep are separated from goats – the decisive factor seems to be whether or not mercy was shown. Mt. 25:31-46. See also the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, Lk. 16:19-31.

    Barclay points out (p. 100) that God himself has given the supreme act of mercy in sending Jesus Christ to be one of us; he did not remain (if he ever was!) detached, remote, isolated, majestic. He showed what mercy really is – complete identification with the sufferer.

    The NT insists that to be forgiven we must be forgiving. James says that "judgment is without mercy to one who has shown no mercy." (2:13) See also Mt. 18:35; and the familiar petitions in the Lord's prayer, Mt. 6:12, 14-15.

    8. Cf. Ps. 24:3-4; 1 Jn. 3:2-3.

    What does it mean that they "shall see God?" (1) To be near Him, in communion with Him? (2) To see Jesus when he comes again? (1 Jn. 3:23) In Heb. 12:14 we are commanded to strive for "the holiness without which no one will see the Lord."

    The Oxford Annotated Bible says that "pure in heart" means singlemindedness or sincerity, freedom from mixed motives; it is not synonymous with chastity, but includes it.

    9. Barclay says that in the Bible peace means not only freedom from all trouble; it means enjoyment of all good. Note that it says "peacemakers" and not "peace lovers." We may have to struggle to make peace.

    10. Cf. 1 Pet. 3:14, 4:14.

    12. Why does Jesus promise a reward – isn't this bribing people to be good? No, because Jesus doesn't hold out the reward as an inducement or bribe; it is "simply the inevitable issue of goodness in a world ruled over by a good God." (Hunter) Note that those accounted worthy of eternal life in the parable of the last judgment (Mt. 25:31-46) were amazed to find out how they attained this reward; they were completely unaware that they had done anything to deserve it.

    13. Salt is:
        (1) a preservative; it keeps things from rotting, decaying, spoiling. We should be a preservative in society, to keep things from spoiling; to fight corruption, etc.
        (2) a flavoring agent; it brings out the best in food. We should bring out the best in this earth. We should diffuse joy and serenity throughout all of our life.
        (3) a purifyer; to cleanse wounds, etc. We should be cleansers of the world's wounds.
        (4) an ice-melter. We should melt icy hearts and cold churches with our love.

    Note that the most distinctive thing about salt is its flavor; if that's lost, it might as well be thrown out. So, too, if we lose our distinctive flavor as Christians, we might as well be thrown out (!).

    16. We are commanded to display our good works before men, but we are commanded not to display our piety – giving alms, praying, fasting – before men (6:1-6, 16-18). But note that we are to display our good works in a particular fashion – so that people will see them and give glory to our Father in heaven. Maybe this is why Jesus said not to give alms publicly; it's almost impossible not to draw praise to yourself when you give money away. What kind of good works, then, are we to display? Helping sick people, like the Good Samaritan? (See 6:1)

    17. Cf. Eph. 2:15; Heb. 10:9, which seem to indicate that Christ has abolished the law.

    The "law and the prophets" refer to the whole Old Testament. Jeus did not come to do away with the Old Testament. However, the fact that he would even say such a thing carries with it a stupendous claim by implication – that he could abolish the whole of the Old Testament if he wanted to! But he expressly negates this idea, and therefore the Old Testament should be read and studied by Christians.

    Jesus said that he came to "fulfil" the Old Testament, not to perform its demands. The Old Testament looks forward to Jesus as the embodiment of the law and the prophets, not according to the welter of little rules and regulations, but according to the spirit of the law and the prophets.

    18. Phillips: "until its purpose is complete." NEB (margin): "before all that it stands for is achieved."

    19. But doesn't Jesus turn around and "relax" some commandments (v. 21-48)? Or does he "tighten" them? Or perhaps just re-interpret them?

    Why should it matter, in the kingdom of heaven, whether one is called least or great? The implication here is that we should want to be called great in the kingdom of heaven.

    20. Therefore righteousness does not equal keeping the letter of the law. It is a matter of the spirit or essence of the law.

    22. Not only the deed, but the secret thought too! We must remember that it is a sin to be angry with another, and a greater sin to give vent to that anger through insults.

    23. A basic teaching: We cannot be right with God until we are right with men. We cannot be forgiven until we forgive (6:14-15). Query: Does this apply every time we have sinned against someone?

    29-30. These commands are obviously not to be taken literally. According to Barclay, what it means is that "anything which helps to seduce us to sin is to be ruthlessly rooted out of life."

    Would this apply to an activity that in itself might be morally neutral – such as watching a certain play – but which leads one into sin? Wouldn't it be better to "cut out" that activity than have our whole life go astray? According to the New Bible Commentary, the hand stands for action, and the eye for desire.

    31. Jesus' teachings on divorce are found in 5:31-32; 19:3-9; Mk. 10:2-12; Lk. 16:18. See also 1 Cor. 7:10-11, which Paul attributes to Jesus. In all these passages divorce is forbidden, excepts that in Mt. 5:32 and 19:9 a man is allowed to divorce his wife in the case of infidelity. See also the note to Deut. 24:1 in HSB.

    34. Does this forbid any taking or giving of oaths, as, for example, in a courtroom? Paul took oaths (2 Cor. 1:23; Gal. 1:20) and Jesus at least didn't object to being administered an oath by the High Priest (Mt. 26:63).

    39. But resist the devil. Jas. 4:7.

    41. TEV: "And if one of the occupation troops forces you to carry his pack one mile, carry it another mile."

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Verse:
    1. JB: "Be careful not to parade your good deeds before men to attract their notice." It seems that the key distinction between this verse and 5:16 is not between "good works" and "piety," but rather between the motivation for God's glory or for our own. We should let our light shine before men so that they may see, not our light, but our good deeds and glorify God.

    2. TEV: "show-offs."

    3. TEV: "... do it in such a way that even your closest friend will not know about it."

    5. Note: when you pray, not if you pray. Jesus assumed that his followers – in fact, probably all Jews – would pray.

    6. Paul says to pray "continually" (1 Thess. 5:17) and "on all occasions (Eph. 6:18). Jesus himself told his disciples to "always pray and not give up" (Lk. 18:1) and that they should "Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation," when they were not alone but in the company of the other disciples. Perhaps the meaning of this command in Mt. 6:6 is not that we should be physically secluded when we pray, but that we should not pray in such a way as to draw attention to the fact that we are praying; i.e., to show that we are devout, holy, etc.

    8. See also v. 32.

    9-13. The Lord's Prayer is notable for what it does not contain. Although Jesus was a Jew and his disciples were all Jews,

The Lord's Prayer contains no reference to Jerusalem or the temple, and the disciples are taught to pray for the Kingdom of God to come "on earth," which reflects a global concern for all people. Forgiveness is tied to forgiving others. No attack on outsiders is voiced, and there is no request for God to look on the suffering of his people or for God to fight for them.

Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 107.

    9. See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    10. If it's God's will, why wouldn't it be done? If God is omnipotent, then surely what he wants is going to happen. Why are we instructed to pray for God's will to be done? The only way I can understand this is that omnipotent God has freely chosen to allow his will to be thwarted by other beings; i.e., by humans, to whom he has given free will. So when we pray "Thy will be done," we are really praying that we and our fellow humans will remove the obstacles we place in the way of God accomplishing his will.

    11. Isn't it redundant to pray, "Give us today our daily bread?" Bailey says the problem is with the word "epiousios," translated as "daily" in English translations. This word not only appears just once in the Bible; it apparently does not appear anywhere else in the Greek language, so that "daily" is just a guess on the part of the translators. Examining the opinions of the early church fathers, Bailey suggests that the best translation is, "Give us today the bread that doesn't run out." Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 119-122.

    12. See Lk. 11:4.

    23. NEB: "... the darkness is doubly dark."

    24. "Mammon" is called "money" in JB and NEB; "power of money" in Phillips. According to the Westminster Dictionary of the Bible, "mammon" is a personification of wealth. See also Lk. 16:9-13.

    25. et seq. This is a command – Don't sweat it! Relax, and trust God!

    See also Mk. 8:14-21, where the disciples were concerned that they had no bread, and Jesus warned them against the "leaven of the Pharisees" and the "leaven of Herod."

    27. NEB: "Is there a man of you who by anxious thought can add a foot to his height?" (Margin: or "a day to his life?").

    30. An a fortiori argument. See Rom. 5:9-10.

    32. Cf. 6:8.

    33. We are not to be anxious about the Kingdom; just to seek it.

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Verse:
    1. We are to avoid judging others in the sense of condemning them. God alone has the right to do that. See Rom. 2:1-3; 14:10-13. But we are commanded to judge in the sense of discerning the effect of others on our own lives or on the cause of Christ. See Mt. 7:15-20; 1 Cor. 5:3, 12-13.

    2. NEB: "... and whatever measure you deal out to others will be dealt back to you."

    7. "Seek and you will find" – see Ps. 14:2.

    15-20. Cf. 7:1 "Judge not ...." Here Jesus seems to be talking about discernment rather than judgment.

    17. What is "good fruit"? Jesus implies that we can all recognize it.

    24-27. Jesus often linked hearing God's word with obeying it. See also Lk. 8:21; 11:28; Jn. 14:21a. As for the parable Jesus tells here, see comments at Lk. 6:46-49.

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Verse:
    2. Note that the leper expressed doubt about the desire or will of Jesus, but not about his power or ability to heal. Query: how would Jesus respond to the converse situation ("Lord, I know you want to heal me, if only you have the ability to do so")?

    3. Jesus could have healed the leper without touching him (see v. 13). Why did he touch him? Is there something profoundly meaningful about physical contact with sick people? Note that Jesus also touched Peter's mother-in-law when he healed her (v. 15). See note at Mk. 7:33.

    5-8. With regard to healing the centurion's servant, see note at Mk. 7:33.

    5. This verse says the centurion came to Jesus by himself, but Lk. 7:1-10 makes it clear that first Jewish elders and then friends of the centurion came, not the centurion himself. A note in the NIV Study Bible suggests that Matthew simply did not mention these intermediaries, similar to what he wrote in Mt. 27:26 which literally says "he flogged Jesus," but obviously does not mean that Pilate personally flogged Jesus but rather that he had his soldiers do the flogging.

    6. The New Bible Commentary says the Greek word used here could be interpreted "servant" or "child." Cf. NEB ("boy").

    10. Jesus highly praised this centurion's faith. It was a faith that flowed from his understanding of what authority is. The centurion really understood the concept of authority. To him, authority was the ability to command obedience. He saw that while he could only speak to certain men and command obedience (soldiers, slaves), Jesus could speak to unseen forces, evil, sickness, etc. It was the word of Jesus that healed, not his presence.

    14-15. See this incident from Jesus' point of view:

        (1) He saw Peter's mother-in-law on her sick bed. He didn't overlook the old, the sick, the helpless, and see only the young, healthy, sharp people.. He looked behind the drawn curtains, and he saw her.

        (2) He touched her and healed her.

        (3) He received her service – maybe just a snack or glass of wine, but in receiving her service he affirmed her worth.

    What a concise picture this is of God's way with humans:

        (1) A person lies helpless, sick, unable to work, in distress.

        (2) He or she comes in contact with Jesus, and is healed by his power.

        (3) The person is restored to health, and responds by serving Jesus.

    Note that (2) and (3) are not reversed! Peter's mother-in-law did not drag herself out of bed to serve Jesus, so that he would then heal her. Healing comes before service!

    15.See note at Mk. 7:33.

    20. With the person who expresses eagerness to follow him, Jesus says how tough it will be. (Will you follow me even if it costs you your home, so that you too have nowhere to lay your head?) In other words, count the cost! See Lk. 14:25-33.

    21. Re: "bury my father." The New Bible Commentary suggest this means to stay at home until the father's death.

    22. With the person who expresses reluctance to follow him, Jesus commands him to follow and clearly sets forth the priorities in life. Luke adds another illustration of excuse-making (Lk. 9:61-62).

    26. NEB: "Why are you such cowards?" Thus there is a direct relationship between faith and courage. Christians should be courageous people.

    28. This verse says that two demoniacs came to meet Jesus, but Mk. 5:2 and Lk. 8:27 mention only one. A note in the NIV Study Bible for Lk. 8:27 suggests that Mark and Luke probably only mention the one who was prominent and did the talking. This is a bit too facile, because Matthew makes clear that both of them spoke to Jesus (v. 29, 31). I don't see any way to reconcile this discrepancy.

    34. Why did they beg Jesus to go away? Because a herd of pigs was more valuable than two crazed men?

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Verse:
    1-8. For parallel passages, see Mk. 2:1-12; Lk. 5:17-26.

    5. From one standpoint, at least, it's obviously easier to say, "Your sins are forgiven," for it's humanly impossible to tell whether they have in fact been forgiven or not. But Jesus here offers "proof" of his authority to forgive sins (and therefore indirect proof of his divinity). The logic can be expressed syllogistically:

        (1) Only God can forgive sins.

        (2) Only God can heal paralytics with a word.

        (3) Therefore Jesus is God and can forgive sins.

    10. There is no indication here that Jesus, or anyone, invited the "tax collectors and sinners" in. Would they ever have entered unless somehow Jesus had made them feel welcome? Jesus Christ was approachable. Even the lowest people in society felt that he liked to have them around.

    15. Jesus clearly predicts that he will be taken away from his disciples.

    18-26. For parallel passages, see Mk. 5:21-43; Lk. 8:40-56.

    22. Not touching the magic coat has made you well.

    24. Why would Jesus say the girl was only asleep? Was it to downplay what he was going to do? Cf. v. 30.

    29. JB: "Your faith deserves it, so let this be done for you;" NEB: "As you have believed, so let it be."

        With regard to Jesus touching the blind men's eyes, see note at Mk. 7:33.

    36. Apparently quoted from Num. 27:17, where Moses prayed to the Lord for a leader for the Israelites, that they might not be as "sheep which have no shepherd." The Lord then told him to appoint Joshua.

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Verse:
    1. NEB: "every kind of ailment and disease."

    3. Bartholomew – see Lk. 6:14.

    4. JB: "Simon the Zealot;" NEB: "Simon, a member of the Zealot party."

    5-6. Jesus began first at home, then moved out to surrounding territory, and finally to the whole world. See 28:19. See also Acts 1:8. Also he began with Jews, those who were the closest by all natural ties as well as by religious background. Note, too, that Jesus had a definite strategy; he did not just send his disciples out to "do good," but rather to go to certain people, to follow a specific procedure, to say and do certain things. He knew what he was doing.

    7. NEB: "The kingdom of Heaven is upon you." Phillips: "The kingdom of Heaven has arrived."

    17. Jesus warned his followers to beware of men – not just evil men, but men in general. Cf. Jn. 2:24-25, where John says that Jesus "did not trust himself" to men, even to those who believed in him when they saw the signs that he did, because "he himself knew what was in man." Apparently Jesus did not believe in the "goodness of man." Note also the advice in the preceding verse – to be "wise as serpents," and "innocent as doves," becuase they were being sent into the midst of wolves!

    19. Is this limited to the situation described in v. 17-18 (when Christians are handed over to the authorities)? Cf. 1 Pet. 3:15, where Peter says we should always be prepared to make a defense to anyone who calls us to account for the hope that is in us, and that we should do it with gentleness and reverence.

    33. Did this apply to Peter?

    37. See Gen. 22 (Abraham's willingness to sacrifice Isaac).

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Verse:
    21. Why the severity? Because they refused to repent when they had Jesus in person performing miracles.

    30. Speaking of the "burden" of Christ, St. Augustine says, "So light is the burden of Christ that it bears one up. When you have His burden, you are in no way oppressed by it, but without His burden you do not rise. You should think of this as a burden just as you think the wings of birds are a burden to them. If birds are encumbered by wings, they are carried aloft. If the wings are removed, they remain on the ground." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 233.

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Verse:
    26. Note that Jesus refers to Satan as a "king" here. His realm is the world in this present age.

    32. Jesus said that whoever "speaks against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven, either in this age or in the age to come." (NIV, RSV) Is this indirect support for the concept of purgatory? Jesus is clearly implying that some sins may be forgiven in the "world to come;" otherwise it doesn't make sense to say that speaking against the Holy Spirit will not be forgiven "either in this age or in the age to come." See also Mk. 3:29, referring to blasphemy against the Holy Spirit as "an eternal sin."

    34-35. Man's inner nature determines his actions – not vice versa.

    40. But Jesus was in the grave for only two nights.

    49-50. Note that Jesus was pointing to his disciples when he said, first, "Here are my mother and my brothers," and then, "whoever does the will of my father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother." His second statement here is broader, and seems to refer to all of his disciples, including those not present at the time. Or perhaps there were women in the group he was pointing to, and he just said "my mother and my brothers" to repeat back the question that was asked him. In any case, it seems clear that Jesus is equating those who do God's will with his disciples, and is expressly including women in that group. Otherwise, it is very difficult to understand why Jesus should have mentioned "sister" at all. Certainly the question did not call for it. The parallel account in Mk. 2:33-35 also quotes Jesus as including "sister" with "brother" and "mother," but not in Lk. 8:19-21. But see Lk. 8:2-3, describing the group of women who traveled with Jesus and his (male) disciples.

    50. Therefore a disciple of Jesus is anyone who does the will of God!

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    11. The "mysteries" of the kingdom are revealed to disciples of Jesus, not to casual listeners.     19-22. St. Augustine interprets these three kinds of soil as representing "the bad Christians," rather than unbelievers. He also says the "weeds" in the parable of the weeds (Mt. 13:24-30) are bad Christians, "you who fill the Church only to oppress it with your evil lives." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 184.

    24-30. See Mt. 13:19-22.

    44. The parable of treasure hidden in a field:

        (1) The Kingdom of heaven is valuable, like treasure – gold, jewels, etc. Cf. Eph. 3:8 (RSV) "unsearchable riches of Christ;" (JB) "infinite treasure of Christ."
        (2) The treasure is hidden. It's not out in the open, obvious; it has to be found. Most people walk over that treasure day after day without realizing how close they are to fabulous riches.
        (3) To get that treasure of the kingdom, a man has to sell all that he has; i.e., he has to trade in his old life to begin the new life.

    49. Note that the separation is not the "believers from the unbelievers." Or is that the same thing as the "evil from the righteous" (RSV)?

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    22-23. Jesus dismissed the crowds himself, after sending the disciples away. He didn't leave that job to the disciples. Perhaps he just wanted some time alone – or with his heavenly Father.

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    7-9. Jesus clearly distinguishes between the Word of God and man-made tradition.

    21-28. Kenneth E. Bailey views this incident with the Syro-Phoenician woman as primarily an opportunity for Jesus to expose his disciples' prejudices by giving the woman, whom the disciples considered an unclean Gentile, a difficult "exam" on faith, which she passes with flying colors. Although Jesus appears to be first ignoring and then insulting the woman, he is really pressing her to see how much she wants healing for her daughter and how great her faith is. See Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 217-226.

    With regard to healing the woman's daughter, see note at Mk. 7:33.

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    6. See also Lk. 12:1.

    27. Not according to his faith or belief.

    28. Matthew says, "... before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom," but Mark says (in the same context) "... before they see the kingdom of God come with power." Mk. 9:1 (NIV). Therefore the "Son of Man" (Jesus) = the "kingdom of God." Jesus is the kingdom!

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    20. Faith is necessary for power!

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    1-4. The disciples were concerned about status – who would be the greatest? How does Jesus tell us to handle that desire for status? The Christian goal of humility is to be lived out in our relationships with others. See Phil. 2:3; 1 Pet. 5:5-6. Our example is Christ himself. Phil. 2:5-11.

    19. What does it mean to "agree" here?

    33. The lesson is simple – those forgiven by God are bound to forgive others.

    35. Cf. Mt. 6:12, 14-15; Eph. 4:32; Col. 3:13.

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    21. The Gospels record basically two variations in what Jesus says to the rich young ruler. Here Matthew says "If you want to be perfect" whereas Mark and Luke say, "You lack one thing." Also, Matthew and Mark just say to "sell your possessions" or "what you own", whereas Luke emphasizes "sell all that you have." Mk. 10:21; Lk. 18:22.

    24. This use of the phrase "kingdom of God" is unusual for Matthew. He usually speaks of the "kingdom of heaven" (as in the preceding verse), presumably because he is a Jew writing to Jews, and Jews shy away from naming God.

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    30. Matthew says there were two blind beggars; Mk. 10:46 and Lk. 18:35 say there was just one. Either Matthew was wrong, or Mark and Luke were wrong. Given the many similarities, including the location (road out of Jericho), what was said by all parties, etc., it is not reasonable to explain it by saying these are separate incidents. Curiously, however, Matthew also records a separate healing of two blind men, under somewhat similar circumstances. See Mt. 9:27-31.

    34. With regard to Jesus touching the blind men's eyes, see note at Mk. 7:33.

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    43. Are we producing the "fruit" of the kingdom of God? The failure to produce fruit was the reason, according to this verse, why God took the kingdom away from the Jews.

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    45. For a possible answer to this rhetorical question, see note at Ps. 110:1.

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    13-33. Incredibly harsh language from the "meek and mild" Jesus! He says the scribes and Pharisees are:
        (1) hypocrites – play-actors, phonies, unreal.
        (2) blind guides – people who cannot see themselves and yet are trying to lead others.
        (3) fools – without sense, mindless.
        (4) serpents, brood of vipers – low-down, disgusting creatures.

    23b. See Jas. 2:10.

    37. Jesus longed for the "children" of Jerusalem. He cared deeply about what would happen to them if they rejected the Messiah. Cf. Jn. 3:16 "For God so loved the world, that he gave his only son ...." God loved his whole creation, but here he is obviously talking about the special sense in which he loves the people of the world. Do we really long for, or love, the people of our city? Or the people of the world?

    See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

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    14. This verse parallels the Great Commission (Mt. 28:18-20), but adds one important piece of information – the gospel must be preached to all nations before the end of the world will come.

    26-27. Christ's Second Coming will not be a secret, hidden thing.

    36. But the time of his coming is a secret. See Deut. 29:29.

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    1. According to Kenneth E. Bailey, some ancient texts of Matthew mention the groom and the bride, which makes sense because the groom would be escorting his bride from her family home to the wedding in the home of the groom, and all the guests would be waiting for them there. See Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 271.

    19. Jesus is predicting that he will be gone a long time. Why did the early church get the idea that the Second Coming was imminent? See Heb. 10.37.

    21, 23. Note that the reward is identical regardless of the amount each servant earned – provided they invested in their master's business. Cf. v. 28.

    35-36. The test for inheriting the kingdom is good works! We must help those who are
        (1) hungry;
        (2) thirsty;
        (3) strangers (lonely?);
        (4) naked;
        (5) sick;
        (6) imprisoned.

    However, this is not the gospel; doing these things does not save us. This is the result of saving faith. See 1 Cor. 15:3-8.

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    6-13. See separate analysis of the anointing of Jesus in all four gospels.

    11. Jesus is quoting Deut. 15:11.

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    36. This is the only time in the Gospel of Matthew that anyone is ever found seated in the presence of the Lord.

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    18-20. See also Mt. 24:14; Mk. 16:15. The "gospel" that must be believed to become a disciple is explained in 1 Cor. 15:3-8.

        Robert B. Munger says Jesus meant the Great Commission to be taken "extensively" and "intensively" – extensively in carrying the saving word to all people, all nations, all races, everywhere, and intensively in carrying it "into the world of education, of commerce, industry, agriculture, culture, and art." He says the disciple of Jesus "is not to separate from the common life around him, but to penetrate it and transform it for God by the power of the gospel." Robert Boyd Munger, What Jesus Says, pp. 109-110.


Mark   [Forward to Luke]   [Back to Matthew]  [All books of the Bible]
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Chapter 1  [Next chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    2. Why? Did Christ need someone to precede him? Would he have fared worse without a forerunner? What is the role of preparation in the gospel of grace?

    4. Is the way for Christ prepared by awakening moral consciousness?

    13. Do angels minister to people today? Or did the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost take the place of angel ministration?

    15. What was the content of the gospel that Jesus was preaching? See also 2:2, where it says that Jesus was preaching "the word" to them.

    16. Why did Jesus call fishermen? Why not educated, white collar? See 1 Cor. 1:26-28.

    17. By saying "Follow me," Jesus was making the claim that he was worthy to be followed. Note that Jesus called Simon and Andrew to do something – but the doing necessarily involved believing. They wouldn't leave everything and follow him unless they believed he was worthy of being followed. Also, Jesus called them for a purpose – so he could make them "fishers of men." (not so they could make themselves fishers of men!).

    18. They had met Jesus before, however. See Jn. 1:40-42.

    20. Jesus Christ was known as one who spoke with authority. If we affirm that he is alive today, should he not speak with equal authority to us?

    24. Why did "unclean spirits" recognize him? See also v. 34.

    30. See 1 Cor. 9:5, which also indicates that Peter (Cephas) was married.

    32. NBC points out that the sabbath ended at sundown, and it then became possible to move the sick without breaking the law.

    35. And this was after a rough day, too! (See v. 21-34) Note these elements of Jesus' "quiet time" (at least on this occasion): (1) very early in the morning; (2) a lonely place (cf. Mt. 6:6: "your room" or "closet" KJ); and (3) prayer. (See also special topic Prayer.)

    38. Was Jesus ignoring human needs or requests here? His highest priority was to do God's will. Query: Did Jesus ever turn away an individual or even a group that came to him for help?

    Jesus was an instant hero in Capernaum (see v. 28, 33), yet he was not interested in basking in the limelight – he came to do the Father's will!

    40. The leper came reverently (kneeling), urgently (beseeching), and believing ("you can make me clean").

    41. Jesus was moved with pity! But cf. NEB: "In warm indignation, Jesus stretched ...."

    Couldn't Jesus have healed without touching the leper? With regard to Jesus touching the blind men's eyes, see note at Mk. 7:33.

    44. But cf. 5:19, where Jesus told the demoniac to go and tell his friends how much the Lord had done for him.

    45. Perhaps he thought he was helping Jesus. Actually it hurt Jesus' ministry. New converts should obey Christ, not run out to evangelize in their own way.

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    2. What "word" was Jesus preaching to them? See 1:15.

    5. They demonstrated their faith by their works (cf. Jas. 2:17-26). And note that Jesus apparently forgave the man's sins in response to the demonstrated faith of all the men.

    6. How often I do the same thing – see someone else's good work and yet question in my heart.

    15. I.e., Levi's house (Lk. 5:29).

    16. In other words, why doesn't he spend time with us good people?

    17. Does this mean that the scribes did not need Jesus? Or that he could not help them unless they recognized and confessed their need?

    20. This implies more than natural death or departure; it foreshadows Jesus' crucifixion.

    27-28. Did Jesus abrogate keeping the sabbath? May we do anything on the sabbath? If so, doesn't it cease to be the sabbath? Or may we just do good or right things on the sabbath? But isn't this what we're supposed to do every day? Or is necessity the test? (But was plucking ears of grain necessary?) It must have to do with attitude rather than act on the sabbath; otherwise the issue becomes one of legalism again.

Chapter 3  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    4. Doesn't this imply that doing nothing is – or can be – evil?

    5. Is it wrong to be angry? See Eph. 4:26 – "Be angry but do not sin."

    The Pharisees' "hardness of heart" induced Jesus' anger. Their religious traditions meant more than human need to them. Also, note that Jesus said nothing to the Pharisees in his anger; he just went ahead doing good.

    9. Jesus was aware of physical danger, and took safety precautions. (But cf. NBC, which indicates that the boat was simply to enable Jesus to cope with the crowds.)

    12. Jesus consistently refused the testimony of demons.

    14-15. Why were the twelve appointed?

        (1) To be with Jesus (highest priority?);
        (2) To preach, witness verbally;
        (3) To act, exercise spiritual authority (specifically, to cast out demons – is this part of our job as Christians today?).

    18. Bartholomew – see Lk. 6:14.

    21. NEB, NIV: "for people were saying that he was out of his mind." (i.e., "he must be crazy to carry on like this!") Paul, too, was called crazy; see Acts. 26:24; 2 Cor. 5:13.

    22. They couldn't deny Jesus' cures, so they attacked his motives or means. NBC infers that this charge was made behind Jesus' back, since he "called them to him" to reply (v. 23).

    24-26. Note the progression: from kingdom to house to individual (Satan). "The smaller the community the more fatal the division." (NBC).

    27. Is Jesus here offering a reason for their opposition to him?

    29.Does this mean it is impossible for a person who has blasphemed against the Holy Spirit to be saved? See Heb. 6:4-8. Also, what is an eternal sin? See Mt. 12:32.

    33-35. See Mt. 12:49-50.

    35. Not "whoever believes."

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    10. Note that not just the 12 asked him about the parables.

    17. This seems to assume that receiving the word is going to bring persecution.

    19. RSV says "the delight in riches," but most other translations say "deceitfulness of riches."

    20. The goal is to bear fruit!

    21. Cf. Mt. 5:14-16.

    25. What does this mean? Lk. 8:18 (RSV) says "even what he thinks he has will be taken away."

    26. The Christian does not have to worry about how the seed is received, accepted, and acted upon. He just plants and then waits patiently.

    31. Like a motley crew of disciples?

    33. Jesus teaches the followers, not the scoffers.

    41. See 8:29, where Peter confesses Jesus as "the Christ."

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    2-4. This is a picture of unredeemed man, uncontrollable (by himself or others), dominated by passions, crying out, bruising himself.

    2. See Mt. 8:28, stating that Jesus was met by two demon-possessed men.

    4. He could not be subdued by force – like many of our problems today.

    17. Jesus doesn't stay where he's not wanted. Notice that they didn't beg Jesus to leave until they heard about the swine. Were they afraid of more property loss?

    19. Why did Jesus tell the leper in 1:43-44 to "say nothing to any one" about his healing, and tell the man here just the opposite? The demoniac lived in Gentile territory, where Jesus had no continuing ministry. This man was told to go first to his friends at home. No doubt his cure would have the greatest impact upon them. His message was not thology, but personal testimony – how much the Lord had done for him. Shouldn't this be our primary message today?

    22-23. Jairus was a ruler of the synagogue, yet he fell at the feet of Jesus and begged his help.

    NEB says Jairus was the "president of one of the synagogues," and that he "threw himself down at his feet."

    25-34. This interruption must have been an agonizing delay to Jairus.

    28. Is this faith? Or superstition? Verse 34 suggests that it was faith. See also Mk. 6:56, where people who touched "the fringe of his garment" were healed.

    34. Jesus said that faith, not touching the "magic robe," produced (or induced) the cure. Wasn't it by touching that the woman demonstrated her faith? Perhaps Jesus singled her out so she wouldn't be left with the notion that it had something to do with Jesus' garment.

    39. Was she really sleeping? Why did Jesus say this?

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    5. "Could not" or "would not"?

    7. Why two by two? Is there something profound here, perhaps pointing away from the individuality of the Gospel and toward the community of the Gospel?

    26. Isn't this an example where "situation ethics" should apply? Surely it's wrong to break a solemn vow, however foolishly made, and an honest man would never do it. But due to the interventiion of another's sin (the wicked request), Herod was faced with alternative evils, with no purely moral way out. No doubt his choice was more influenced by a third evil (saving face before his guests) than by his horror of breaking his word, but he should have chosen the "less evil" course and refused to kill John.

    31. Jesus counseled his disciples to get away to rest. So rest is good, and necessary, but note that Jesus himself put the needs (spiritual and physical) of others first. See v. 34.

    35. Since his disciples "came to him," had they slipped away to rest while Jesus taught the people?

    38-44. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels; see Mt. 14:13-21; Lk. 9:10-17; Jn. 6:1-15.

    40. Everything was done in an orderly way. Is this an example of what the NEB calls the "gift of administration"? (Rom. 12:7)

    46. Before resting?

    56. See Mk. 5:28 (woman with "flow of blood" touched Jesus' garment and was healed).

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    1-8. Two lessons: (1) heart attitude is more important than outward actions, and (2) the spirit of the law is more important than the letter of the law.

    14. The voice of authority!

    27. Did she understand this?

    30. This is the only example in Mark of Jesus healing at a distance. With regard to healing the woman's daughter, see note at Mk. 7:33.

    32. If they requested the Jesus "lay his hand" on the man, they must have been accustomed to seeing him heal that way, or maybe they just assumed that touching was necessary for healing. See also Mk. 8:22.

    33. Jesus was never afraid to touch diseased bodies. In fact, it seems that he preferred touching those who needed healing, rather than healing them at a distance. See Mt. 8:3, 15; 9:29; 20:34; Mk. 1:41; 8:22; Lk. 5:13; 22:51. Note also Mk. 8:22 (people "begged Jesus to touch" a blind man). But he did some long-distance healing, too; see Mt. 8:5-8, 13; Lk. 7:2-10 (healing centurion's servant); Mt. 15:22-28; Mk. 7:25-29 (healing daughter of Canaanite (or Greek) woman).

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    2. This crowd of 4,000 had spent three days with Jesus. He must have been exhausted himself, yet he is concerned about their physical welfare. No doubt they had brought food with them, but exhausted it by staying too long listening to the Master.

    4. It seems impossible that they wouldn't remember the first feeding, of the 5,000 (6:35-44).

    6. Is this a strategy to avoid a riot over the food?

    12. Jesus refuses a contentious request. What kind of a "sign" did they want that hadn't already been given?

    14. See also Mt. 6:25-33.

    15. See also Lk. 12:1. What was Jesus warning against? (1) Leaven of Pharisees = hypocritical self-righteousness? (2) Leaven of Herod = worldliness? Lust for power?

    19-20. Why does Jesus remind them of the excess?

    21. The lesson seems to be: Don't worry about ordinary physical needs like bread; that is easily provided in abundance. Instead, concern yourselves with avoiding self-righteous hypocrisy (the "leaven" of the Pharisees) and worldly desire for status and power (the "leaven of Herod").

    22. Again, the request that Jesus should touch the blind man. (See 7:32) And note that Jesus does this almost continually from the time he met him – he led him by the hand out of the village, then twice touched his eyes. With regard to Jesus touching the blind man's eyes, see note at Mk. 7:33.

        Why did Jesus take him out of the village? Was this part of a test of faith – to see if the blind man would accompany him? Note that Jesus commanded him to stay out of the village even after he was healed. (v. 26)

    23. The blind man really had to trust Jesus, who was taking him outside of his familiar surroundings.

    24. Why did Jesus heal him in two steps? Did he suspect the man to be an imposter? Or maybe he wanted to see if the man would be satisfied with "half a cure."

    29. Peter was right here, but he still didn't understand completely; see v. 32-33.

    31. When they recognized who he was (v. 29; cf. 4:41, where they were still wondering who Jesus was), he could teach these hard things.

    33. NEB: "'Away with you, Satan,' he said, 'you think as men think, not as God thinks.'" This must mean that suffering is within God's will, at least sometimes, since Jesus said he was going to have to "suffer many things" (v. 31) and implies here that opposing that future, or trying to get out of it, would be siding with men rather than God.

    34. The call to discipleship is evangelistic, to the multitude as well as to those already following Jesus.

    Luke says, "take up his cross daily." (Lk. 9:23)

    36. NEB: "What does a man gain by winning the whole world at the cost of his true self?"

Chapter 9  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    1. (1) What does "death" mean in this context? Is Jesus speaking literally?
        (2) What is the "kingdom of God"? Is Pentecost the answer to this difficult saying? Cf. Acts 2:1-4. Perhaps, but see Mt. 16:28, suggesting that Jesus himself is the answer.

    7. Does this mean, listen to Jesus rather than to Moses and Elijah? In other words, does this lessen the authority of the Old Testament?

    13. John the Baptist was Elijah (see Mt. 11:13-14).

    24. (1) NEB: "'I have faith,' cried the boy's father, 'help me where faith falls short.'"

        (2) Isn't this a prayer of faith for faith? This illustrates the "want to – want to" theory. Sometimes I do not want to be loving, kind, patient, etc., but I want to desire those qualities. Isn't the same true of faith, at least for non-neurotics? Often we just don't believe, so we pray for faith. Yet we can't even pray for faith without having some faith, faith that God exists and that he hears prayers, for example.

    Are faith and doubt polar opposites, so that the one with perfect faith never doubts and the one who doubts everything has zero faith? See Jas. 1:6-9.

    29. Didn't the disciples pray when they tried to drive out the demon (v. 18)? Or maybe they didn't pray earnestly, or in faith, or in the spirit?

        Prayer is a source of power enabling us to do some things that we could not otherwise do.

    30. "Jesus did not want anyone to know where they were, because he was teaching his disciples." (NIV) Jesus was avoiding the crowds because he put such a high priority on teaching his disciples.

    32. Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus what he meant? Was it just the normal human reluctance to appear stupid? See v. 19.

    35. The law of humility.

    36. Children usually "don't count," but they count with Jesus. This must have been a small child, since Jesus took him in his arms.

    40. See also Lk. 9:49-50.

    41. How and when will non-Christians receive rewards? How can they if they are to be punished eternally? Perhaps Jesus just meant that good deeds have a way of being returned; i.e., love begets love. (?)

    43-47. How are these commands to be interpreted? Obviously they are not to be obeyed literally; otherwise we'd all be mutilated and crippled. Do they just mean, do all you possibly can – go to any extreme – to avoid sinning?

    43. Phillips: "... than to keep both your hands and go to the rubbish heap."

    Does this show that Jesus believed in a literal hell of fire?

Chapter 10  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    5. What did Jesus mean by this explanation? Was he approving Moses' conduct? Does the "hardness of heart" excuse still apply? Was this, then, the commandment of Moses, and not God's commandment? Did Moses have authority to relax God's original commandment (v. 6)? Or did God direct him to do it (so that Moses was still speaking God's commandment) and now with Jesus was rescinding what Moses commanded? This is a very difficult problem passage.

    9. But this begs the question! What marriages has God "joined together?" Does just going through a five-minute justice of the peace ceremony necessarily mean there is a marriage in God's eyes?

    14. These weren't "key" people! Sometimes it seems that the smaller and more insignificant a person, the more Jesus responded to him. His disciples were mostly uneducated working men.

    15. Does "like a child" mean the child-like qualities of simplicity and trust? Also, lack of cynicism.

    16. NBC says "blessed them" is a "strong compound word" in Greek, occurring nowhere else in the New Testament, meaning "He blessed them fervently, again and again."

    19. Note that Jesus tells him the "easy" ones, the ones a man might be able to keep. Cf. Mt. 22:34-39; Lk. 10:25-28.

    21. For variations in this prescription to the rich young ruler, see Mt. 19:21; Lk. 18:22. Also, if he "lacked one thing" to inherit eternal life, isn't this "one thing" a way of earning salvation? And is Jesus laying down a general rule or an individual prescription?

    23. Who is rich in an affluent society? Is being rich a relative status? If so, is it measured by a local or world-wide comparison?

    24. Jesus deliberately reemphasized this teaching. Does "enter the kingdom of God" mean the same as becoming a Christian?

    26. Why were the disciples "amazed" (v. 24 RSV) and "exceedingly astonished" at this teaching? Did they believe that being rich was a virtue? Or proof of God's blessing?

    32. Except for the last phrase, this verse does not appear in the other Gospels. According to Mark, Jesus set out for Jerusalem, with his 12 disciples following him (presumably in a group), and then in the rear were others who were apparently also on their way to Jerusalem, probably to celebrate the Passover. But why was the reaction of the disciples, who were "astonished" (NIV) or "amazed" (RSV), so different from that of the crowd behind them, who were "afraid"? The only reason I can think of is that Jesus had been teaching his disciples; maybe that's why they were not afraid.

    33. What courage Jesus had!

    35. Matthew says that James' and John's mother made this request. See Mt. 20:20.

        This seems like an arrogant, presumptuous request. But, on the other hand, hadn't Jesus told them to ask for whatever they wanted? (Mt. 7:7; Jn. 14:13-14; 15:7, 16; 16:23) See also Mk. 11:24.

    37. James and John wanted status.

    38. Jesus asked them if they could earn what they desired – and then told them it wasn't to be earned (v. 40).

    40. NEB: "It is for those to whom it has already been assigned." Who are they? Old Testament heroes? Obscure Christians? Jesus' mother?

    41. Desires for prestige bring contention into a Christian fellowship.

    43. The church is not to be authoritarian. This is an underlying principle for Christian fellowship.

    49. Jesus hears the desperate cry of a needy individual in the midst of a great crowd.

    50. Bartimaeus did two things when he heard that Jesus had stopped and was calling him: (1) he jumped up, and (2) he threw off his cloak. The first indicates that he was eager and excited, and probably young. Most English translations say he "sprang up." He didn't just "get to his feet" or "stand up." And why would he throw off his cloak? I would think a blind man would be very careful to keep track of anything he owned, especially in a crowd. How did he know he would be able to find it again? He was either so excited that he wasn't thinking, or he was convinced that Jesus would heal him so he could go back and find his cloak.

    51. Is this a question Jesus asks all of us?

        Notice that this is exactly the same response that Jesus made to James and John (v. 36). But the outcome was far different. Jesus honored the request of Bartimaeus and refused that of James and John. Why? (1) The nature of the requests, physical healing v. status in heaven; (2) The motive, deep personal need vs. desire for personal glory.

Chapter 11  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    9. "Hosanna" means "save now."

    13. He spoke to the tree as if it were its fault that there were no figs, yet it wasn't even the season for figs! What possible reason could Jesus have had for what seems like such a petty, impulsive act? Was it to teach faith? (See v. 20-26)

    15. John puts the cleansing of the temple at the beginning of Jesus' ministry; see Jn. 2:13-17. NBC sees no improbability in his doing it twice, but I do.

        To what extent do we follow Christ in this also? Should we take direct action against clear moral wrongs?

    20. NBC says the fig tree was a symbol of the Jewish nation, which "abounded in the leaves of religious profession but was barren of the fruits of righteousness."

    24. But where does this belief come from?

    25. Jesus bases effective prayer on two things: (1) faith, and (2) a right relationship to others.

        Is God's forgiveness conditioned on our forgiving others? See Mt. 6:12, 14-15; 18:35; Eph. 4:32.

    29. Jesus was master of the trick question. See Lk. 20:21-25; Mk. 12:13-17.

    33. What they meant was, "We will not tell you," as Jesus shows in his response, "Neither will I tell you by what authority ...."

Chapter 12  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    17. Does Caesar get the realm of the physical or material, and God get the realm of the spiritual? That can't be true; otherwise God has no claim on our money. What is Caesar's? What is God's? Where does military service fall? Weren't these taxes used to support armies?

    24. We need to know (1) the Scriptures – the written word, and (2) the power of God – the experienced word.

    28. He apparently did not ask this question as a trap.

    29. Deut. 6:4-5.

    30. Lev. 19:18.

    31. Jesus volunteered the second commandment – does this mean they are inseparable? Is it wrong, or inherently misleading, to consider one without the other? Elsewhere in the New Testament, the second commandment receives more emphasis; see Rom. 13:8-10; Gal. 5:14.

    This does not mean that we are commanded to love ourselves. Rather, it is a "rough and ready, practical guide to neighbor-love." John R.W. Stott, The Cross of Christ, p. 268.

    32-34. These verses are not found in the parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke. However, in Luke 10:27 a lawyer asked Jesus a somewhat different question ("What shall I do to inherit eternal life?") and Jesus had him answer his own question, which he did in words very similar to the way Jesus answered the question about the greatest commandment in Mt. 22:34-40 and Mk. 12:28-31.

    Note that the scribe questioning Jesus added something to what Jesus said – he said that loving God totally and loving one's neighbor as oneself is "more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices." (NIV) Was this why Jesus said he was "not far from the kingdom of God?"

    34. What was yet lacking? Cf. 10:21.

    37. For a possible answer to this rhetorical question, see note at Ps. 110:1.

    38-40. Here Jesus warns against: (1) wearing impressive clothing; (2) popularity seeking; (3) status-seeking; (4) greed, especially at the expense of the unfortunate; and (5) hypocritical praying.

    40. This implies that punishment should vary with the sin.

    43. This was important to Jesus. He took the initiative to call his disciples together so he could emphasize the teaching.

        Not the amount, but the sacrificial nature of the gift is what counts. This widow put in more, not because it added more to the treasury, but because it cost her more. "We can best measure our offerings not by what we give, but by how much we keep." (Erdman).

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General comments:
    This chapter offers the following chronology of the end-times:
        (1) The present age, of wars and rumors of wars (v. 5-13)
        (2) The great tribulation (v. 14-23)
        (3) The "signs" and personal appearing of Christ (24-27)
        (4) The warning to be watchful (v. 28-37)

    Query: If all this is going to happen, as Jesus predicted, why bother to work for human progress (peace, disarmament, etc.)? Short answer: Jesus told us to.

Verse:
    1. The disciples were impressed with material splendor, but Jesus pointed out the temporary nature of such splendor.

    9. E.g., Saul of Tarsus.

    10. Isn't this a clear condition precedent? Until the gospel is preached to all nations, the end will not come. But what does it mean to "preach the gospel to all nations?" Is one voice per nation enough? Or must there be saturation preaching? Must every person hear?

    11. Note that this is when we are brought "to trial;" it's not an excuse for being unprepared for speaking engagements. See also 1 Pet. 3:15.

    14. Lk. 21:20 says "when you see Jerusalem surrounded by armies." Perhaps this "desolating sacrilege," then, is the profaning of the temple by the Romans in 70 A.D. This would fit in with the discussion that opened this teaching (v. 1-4), about the destruction of the temple. Maybe Mark was afraid that his gospel would fall into Roman hands, so he did not dare to be too explicit.

    26. Note the change from v. 14 ("when you see ...."). Doesn't this imply that the disciples will be alive (or at least some of them) for the setting up of the "desolating sacrilege," if not for the Second Coming? Cf. v. 30.

    30. If "these things" refers to the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D., then this prophecy has been fulfilled. If not, then "this generation" must mean the "Jewish race" or "human species."

Chapter 14  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    3-9. See separate analysis of the anointing of Jesus in all four gospels.

    6. Jesus' concern was focused on the individual, not the vague masses.

    7. Jesus is quoting Deut. 15:11.

    13. Does this show Jesus' omniscience, or prior preparation?

    21b Jesus predicts punishment or suffering of some kind for Judas.

    25. Does this mean that Jesus drank no wine during the 40 days between the resurrection and the ascension? Note how Jesus is looking beyond the grave. See also v. 28.

    29. NEB: "'Everyone else may fall away, but I will not.'"

    31. Peter wasn't the only one who swore to be loyal to death; they all said the same thing.

    37. They were all sleeping, but he spoke to Peter. Was this because of v. 29 and 31?

    58. See Jn. 2:19; Acts 6:14; also Mk. 15:29.

    62. The Greek for "I am" is emphatic. Note that Jesus didn't answer until the real reason for their opposition was brought out. Or maybe he would have been completely silent, except that silence after this question might have been construed as a denial or negative answer (not an admission against interest; it was to his advantage here to deny being the Christ).

    64. Jesus was convicted of blasphemy, or claiming to be the Christ.

Chapter 15  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. The Romans denied the Jews the right to inflict capital punishment. (Erdmans)

    2. What did this answer mean? Was Jesus evading the question? (John gives a fuller dialogue between Jesus and Pilate; see Jn. 18:36-37.) NEB translates this: "The words are yours," with the marginal reading, "It is as you say." Phillips says flatly, "Yes, I am." NBC says that Jesus' reply was "an answer which assents without necessarily agreeing to the meaning which Pilate would attach to his question."

    19. Today some people insult and mock Jesus all week, by their actions if not their words, and then kneel in "homage" on Sunday.

    24. See Ps. 22:18.

    27. See Isaiah 53:12.

    31. In a sense this was true. Jesus could not save both himself and others.

    34. Did God actually forsake him? Or was this just what it felt like to Jesus?

    35-36. They could not conceive of victory for Jesus except in terms of escaping the cross.

    44. NEB: "Pilate was surprised to hear that he was already dead; so he sent for the centurion and asked him whether it was long since he died." This translation adopts the RSV marginal reading, as does Phillips.

Chapter 16  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. The women proved more faithful than the men. See also 15:40-41.

    2. John only mentions Mary Magdalene, and says she came to the tomb early, "while it was still dark." Jn. 20:1.

    6. For Paul's emphasis on the importance of the resurrection, see 1 Cor. 15:12-19.

    8. The other gospels appear to contradict part of this verse ("they said nothing to any one"). See Mt. 28:8; Lk. 24:8; Jn. 20:2.

    15. See Mt. 28:18-20.

    17-18. Do any of these signs occur among Christians today? Except for healing the sick they seem like tricks to dazzle an audience.


Luke  [Forward to John]   [Back to Mark]  [All books of the Bible]
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Chapter 1  [Next chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. There were apparently many written sources available, although none have survived except Mark's gospel.

    2. Luke claims to have made a thorough investigation, with eyewitnesses as a source.

    3. But he doesn't claim divine inspiration or any special leading of the Spirit. Just says he thought it was a good idea!

    4. Luke's purpose in writing – "that you may know the truth concerning the things of which you have been informed." (RSV)

    13. Cf. Gen. 17:15-17; 18:10-11; a son is promised to Abraham and Sarah in their old age.

        NBC says "John" means "the grace of Jehovah."

    30. JB: "Mary, do not be afraid; you have won God's favor." Did Mary earn the blessing of God? Cf. Eph. 2:8-9.

    36. Was it mere coincidence that God chose women who were related to be the mothers of John and Jesus? Or did he see the need they would have to share this joy?

    37. NEB: "for God's promises can never fail;" Phillips: "For no promise of God can fail to be fulfilled."

    38. Self-surrender is the key.

    45. Phillips: "Oh, how happy is the woman who believes in God, for he does make his promises to her come true."

    56. This indicates that Mary stayed until John's birth; see v. 36.

    68 et seq. The NEB translates this poetry especially well.

    76-79. This was John's purpose or mission. See also v. 16.

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Verse:
    11. See 1 Sam. 17:12, 58.

    12. The "sign" was a little baby in an animal's food bin. The sign was weakness, poverty, rejection, humility.

    20. The shepherds praised God because what they had been told came true; they saw God at work. They saw nothing spectacular, per se; only a humble family with a newborn babe. What made it spectacular was that it was foretold to them, and the meaning was explained, too. (v. 11, 12) When we see God at work, and understand what he is doing, we are bound to praise him. But we must have eyes to see, and faith to believe.

    22. Why "their"?

    23. Isn't this pure sexism? Are not females "holy to the Lord"? But if we say this is just an example of Old Testament sexist attitudes, what does that do to our belief in the inspiration of Scripture? (cf. 2 Tim. 3:16)

    34. NEB: "This child is destined to be a sign which men reject; and you too shall be pierced to the heart. Many in Israel will stand or fall because of him, and thus the secret thoughts of many will be laid bare."

    37. Note that Anna was widowed after seven years of marriage, but she didn't become bitter.

    38. There seems to have been a company of devout Jews, looking for God to send the redeemer.

    48. Mary reveals her concern – peace of mind – and she blames Jesus for her lack of faith.

    51. Isn't this the strongest argument for children obeying their parents? Of course, Jesus had devout parents. But no child ever had more reason to follow his own wishes rather than his parents' ... except that God has commanded children to honor their parents. Why would Luke even mention this, unless it was considered remarkable, or at least important?

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Verse:
    1-2. The Word did not come to any of these men in their palaces; it came to John in the wilderness.

    3. Phillips: "... baptism as a mark of a complete change of heart and of the forgiveness of sins."

    8. The test of true repentence is that it bears fruit. What are "fruits that befit repentance" (RSV)?
        (1) Good deeds; sharing material goods with the poor (v. 11; cf. 1 Jn. 3:17).
        (2) Honest work; fair dealing (v. 13).
        (3) Justice in using authority and power (v. 14).
        (4) Contentment with wages (v. 14; cf. Phil. 4:11-12). How can this be reconciled with union activity? Or was John just warning against soldiers raising their earnings by illegal means; i.e., robbery and blackmail? If there had been other means available for seeking wage increases, would John have opposed them?

    20. Cf. Mt. 14:1-12; Mk. 6:14-29.

    22. And he hadn't even done anything in public yet! In other words, God was "well pleased" with Jesus' boyhood, his obedience to his parents (2:51), and his training and work as a carpenter.

    23. NBC says this genealogy differs from that in Mt. 1:1-17 because it gives the line of Mary instead of Joseph. Heli was apparently Mary's father, so Joseph would be his son-in-law.

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General comments on v. 1-13
    The Bible teaches that Jesus was tempted to sin, but never yielded to temptation. (2 Cor. 5:21; Heb. 4:15; 1 Jn. 3:5) He is not a God who has never felt the power of temptation, nor is he a fellow-sinner who himself needs a savior. What can we learn from this?
        (1) It's never wrong to be tempted, but it is a sin to yield to temptation.
        (2) It is possible to win out over temptation (see 1 Cor. 10:13).
        (3) Jesus overcame temptation by relying on Scripture, which he had apparently memorized.
        (4) If we do sin, we have forgiveness from the sinless One, by merely confessing our sins (1 Jn. 1:9).

    Both Matthew and Mark say that angels ministered to Jesus after the temptations were ended.

    Barclay emphasizes that the temptations came at the beginning of Jesus' ministry, giving him a choice of methods to carry out his role. He rejected the way of power and glory and accepted the way of suffering and the cross.

    In view of this incident, how can we possibly doubt the reality of Satan?

Verse:
    1-2. Jesus had just come from his baptism – does heavy temptation often follow spiritual highs? Jesus was "full of the Holy Spirit" – the best defense against temptation. Note that Jesus was alone when he felt the full power of temptation (so no one would ever know if he yielded). This in itself is a good argument for Christian fellowship. Jesus was also in a wilderness (Mark says he was with "wild beasts"); he was hungry and probably didn't sleep well either, so he was tired. All these things tend to magnify the power of temptation. And yet he didn't give in to the most alluring temptations!

        Did experiences like this toughen Jesus for the cross?

    5. Satan didn't require that the kingdoms be used for evil. He knew that would follow from worshiping him. The most important thing is who we worship. What we do depends on who or what we really worship. Cf. Mt. 6:19-21; Lk. 6:45. Think of all the good Jesus could have done had he taken away Satan's domain by "merely" worshiping him! But it would be winning a lot of battles at the expense of losing the war, as Jesus would have destroyed himself as Savior. This is an example of where no means could justify the end; the authority and glory of the kingdoms of the world will come only through worship of God. See Phil. 2:9-11.

    10. Satan can quote Scripture, too.

    13. See Heb. 4:15.

    14. The Holy Spirit "descended upon" Christ at his baptism ... and stayed with him! He was "full of the Holy Spirit" when he was led ("by the Spirit") into the wilderness and tempted for 40 days (v. 1). He returned and began his ministry "in the power of the Spirit" (v. 14) and even read from the Scriptures that "the Spirit of the Lord" was upon him (v. 18).

    16. Note that it was Jesus' "custom" to go to the synagogue on the sabbath day.

    19. In reading the passage from Isaiah, Jesus apparently stopped in the middle of a sentence. See Isa. 61:1-2. The next phrase, which he did not read, was "to proclaim ... the day of vengeance of our God." HSB says he omitted this phrase on purpose since the "day of vengeance" still awaits his Second Coming. But Kenneth Bailey has a different understanding of this omission. He points out that Jesus also omitted other verses in the whole passage from Isaiah, verses that promise that the Gentiles around the Jews will be their servants and that the wealth of aliens and foreigners will flow to them (Isa. 61:8, 10). He suggests that Jesus took out all the parts that dealt with blessings to the Jews and judgment on the Gentiles, and universalized Isaiah's message of good news. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 151-155.

    24. Was Jesus speaking of the nation Israel vis-a-vis the Gentiles, as well as his hometown vis-a-vis the rest of Galilee? It certainly came true both ways.

    26-27. These are cases of God's favor being shown to the Geniles, and Jesus points out what was probably never mentioned – that God passed over the Jews to go to the Gentiles. But was this enough to make his townspeople try to kill him (v. 28)?

    28. Why did the people in his home town get so angry with Jesus? Verse 22 says that "all people spoke well of him," but by v. 28 everyone in the synagogue was "filled with wrath" and by v. 29 they were going to murder him. What happened between v. 22 and v. 28 to make them so upset? Basically he accused them of rejecting the prophets – God's messengers – and he said, in effect, that the Gentiles were closer to God than they were, for they received Elijah and Elisha.

    33-39. Jesus casts out demons and heals the sick. Is there a difference?

    35. See v. 41.

    36. Jesus gained a reputation of having authority and power. Are we supposed to follow Jesus in this respect?

    41. Why didn't Jesus want the devils or demons to speak (v. 35) or to disclose his identity? Was it a matter of not wanting glory from devils? Or was it a tactical decision, to avoid attracting even larger crowds of people?

    42. According to Mk. 1:35, he went to a lonely place "a great while before day" in order to pray. There seems to be great value in being alone for prayer. See Mt. 6:6.

Chapter 5  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1-11. The miraculous catch of fish. Notice the sequence from Peter's standpoint:
        (1) Simon got involved a little bit – he loaned Jesus his boat.
        (2) After listening to Jesus preach the word of God, Simon obeyed when Jesus told him to do something that seemed futile and foolish – to take the boat out to deep water and let down the nets. If Simon had disobeyed or refused at that point, he never would have seen the miracle. (Cf. Naaman, 2 Kings 5:1-14)
        (3) When he and the other fishermen obeyed, they were rewarded with an overflowing boatload of fish. (Cf. feeding the 5,000)
        (4) Simon then realized who Jesus was, and felt compelled to confess his sinfulness and inadequacy.
        (5) Jesus then pointed them to the future – "henceforth you will be catching men!"

    From the standpoint of Jesus, drawing Peter into his service:
        (1) He asked him to do a little favor to help him in his preaching – to push out from the shore in his boat (v. 3).
        (2) After he taught the people from the boat, with Peter no doubt listening, he told Peter to cast his nets for fish – something he would do only if he had some faith in Jesus (v. 4).
        (3) Peter realized and confessed his sin and inadequacy in the presence of the Savior (v. 8).
        (4) Jesus then predicted that the future occupation of Peter, James and John would be a spiritual one, catching men instead of fish (v. 10).
        (5) Peter and the others were then ready to leave everything and follow Jesus (v. 11).

    Shouldn't at least part of this sequence be applicable to catching men as well as fish? (1) Getting involved; (2) hearing God's word; (3) obeying whatever commands God gives us; and (4) God blessing our fishing.

    Note that this incident closes with Simon, James and John leaving everything to follow Jesus! As to why Jesus called fishermen as his disciples, see 1 Cor. 1:26-28.

    3. Jesus had met Peter before (see Jn. 1:40-42). Jesus asking Peter for help is an example of how he sometimes initiated a relationship by asking for help; see also Jn. 4:7 (asking a Samaritan woman for a drink).

    4. The "catch" would be payment for use of the boat!

    5. Peter first calls Jesus "Master" or "Teacher," but he ends up calling him "Lord." See v. 8. For a similar reversal of titles for Jesus, see Jn. 13:13:14.

    6-7. Compare the similar incident in Jn. 21:1-14, when Jesus, after his resurrection, appeared on the shore after some of the disciples had been fishing all night without catching anything. When he told them to put down their nets, they caught 153 large fish, so many that the disciples could not haul them into the boat. Here the size of their catch almost swamped two boats. The emphases common to both accounts are (1) the disciples' obedience to Jesus' unreasonable command, and (2) the unexpectedly prodigious results.

    7. When Christ directs, there is a "big catch."

    8. Peter recognized that as a sinner he could not work in partnership with the Lord. Cf. Job 42:5-6; Isaiah 6:5.

    10. And they would "catch" men in the same way, by obeying Jesus.

    11. Note that they left everything right after making a huge catch, not when they didn't have much to leave.

    12-16. Healing the leper.
        (1) Note the man's faith. He apparently had no doubt of the power of Jesus to heal him, only of his willingness to do so.
        (2) Jesus does just the opposite of what we expect at every point:
            (a) He touched the leper. Most of us, if we could heal, would do it at a distance. With regard to Jesus touching the leper, see note at Mk. 7:33.
            (b) After the healing, he sent the man to go through the established routines for ceremonial cleansing.
            (c) Faced with a great surge of popularity, Jesus disappears into the wilderness and prays.

    12. Phillips says he was "a mass of leprosy."

    13. I wonder when anyone had ever touched the leper before? Surely Jesus could have healed him without physical contact (see v. 24), but Jesus wasn't repelled by the most loathsome disease. He loved people, and was close to them.

        Jesus said, "Of course I want to! Be cured!" (JB); or "I am willing," he said, "Be clean!" (NIV). In these translations, at least, the response of Jesus shows that the will of God is for health, not illness.

    16. Christ seemed to need prayer. How much more should we! Also, he needed, or preferred, solitude for prayer.

    17-25. The paralytic lowered through the roof. This incident shows that Jesus was not just a healer of physical diseases. He claimed authority to forgive sins, and he took pains to prove his authority to forgive sins (v. 24).

    20. Does this refer to the faith of the paralytic's friends only, or was the paralytic's faith included with his friends? Is this an encouragement to pray for unbelievers?

    24. "Son of man" was the title Jesus used for himself. According to NBC, no one ever addressed Jesus by this phrase, and the gospel writers never use it of him. It occurs about 80 times in the gospels.

    30. Associating with tax collectors was like touching lepers (see v. 13).

    32. Who are the righteous? See Rom. 3:9-18.

    39. Phillips paraphrases this: "Of course, nobody who has been drinking old wine will want the new at once," which seems to change the meaning from outright rejection to a matter of time.

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Verse:
    1-11. The Sabbath was a holy day, but strict rules do not make it holy – the attitude of the heart makes it holy.

    4. Jesus knew the Old Testament!

    9. The implication of Jesus's words is that doing nothing in this kind of a situation is the same as doing evil or destroying life.

    12. Jesus prayed all night before making one of his biggest decisions. Could he have spent all that time just going over the names of disciples? Note that he picked the 12 out of a larger group of followers, which means some did not get chosen. Or did he perhaps spend the night in prayer reviewing with the Father every step taken thus far, and spend many of the hours in praise and thanksgiving?

    This was apparently not the only time Jesus spent all night, or most of the night, praying. Right after feeding the 5,000, he went up a mountain to pray and was there – presumably praying – until the "fourth watch of the night," which the 2011 NIV translates as "shortly before dawn." Mt. 14:25; Mk. 6:48 NIV (2011).

    14. The disciple named Bartholomew here and in Mt. 10:3, Mk. 3:18, and Acts 1:13 seems to be the same as Nathaniel in Jn. 1:45-51.

    20. Was Jesus limiting this sermon to the disciples? Cf. 7:1 – he spoke "all his sayings in the hearing of the people. See also Mt. 5:1 and 7:28. Comparing all these verses, it seems likely that Jesus was primarily addressing his disciples, but the crowds gathered around to hear.

    23. This calls for fantastic faith!

    40. See also Jn. 13:15, where Jesus explicitly told his disciples that they should follow his example, and 1 Jn. 2:6 ("Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did.").

    Will we ever be "fully taught"? See 1 Jn. 3:2 ("when he appears we shall be like him"). The more we learn of Christ, not just intellectually but experiencially, the more we will be like him. Isn't the basic meaning of "disciple" a "learner"?

    46-49. This is similar to the parable of the Wise and Foolish Builders in Mt. 7:24-27. Jesus seems to have based this parable on the one in Isa. 28:14-18, where Isaiah predicts that although Israel had made a covenant with "death" (probably referring to Egypt) and would therefore face hail and overflowing water, God was going to "lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; [and] the one who trusts will never be dismayed." Isa. 28:16. Perhaps another Old Testament parable Jesus was thinking about is Ezek. 33:29-33, where the prophet Ezekiel talked about how people come to hear the words of the Lord but only listen to them as they listen to a love song – they "hear your words but do not put them into practice." (v. 32)

    Kenneth Bailey points out that in this parable Jesus is making an astounding claim, that he is the foundation on which not just individual lives, but on which all of God's people would build securely. When Jesus spoke, the Zealot nationalists among the Jews were gathering strength and thought they could fight Rome and win. Jesus knew that instead the temple itself would be destroyed, but all was not lost. "Jesus offered himself and his words as a new foundation on which a new temple was already built and thereby affirmed that God's presence was among them in that temple, which was his body." Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 328. In other words, a person had replaced a building!

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2-10. With regard to healing the centurion's servant, see note at Mk. 7:33.

    3-6. This says clearly that the centurion sent two separate groups of people to Jesus on his behalf, but see Mt. 8:5, which says the centurion approached Jesus alone.

    4. The elders said, "He is worthy." But the centurion himself said, "I am not worthy." (v. 6) Isn't this the way we should be – to see ourselves as we really are, unworthy, but love and act toward others (v. 5) so they will call us worthy?

    8. The centurion believed in the authority of Jesus.

    22. "By their fruits ye shall know them." Mt. 7:15-20; Lk. 6:43-45. This applies to Jesus also.

    See also 1 Jn. 1:3 ("that which we have seen and heard we proclaim"). Isn't this the real way, the most effective way, to bear witness to Jesus Chrsit? Jesus could have made the claim to be the Christ, as anyone could have; he could have tried to back up the claim with arguments. But that always introduces a doubt, or induces counter-argument. Actions are hard to answer. (See Acts 4:14)

    28. Cf. 9:46-48.

    30. They could not earn God's blessing, but they could refuse to accept it.

    32. In other words, they were impossible to please.

    34. You can't please everybody!

    36-50. See separate analysis of the anointing of Jesus in all four gospels.

    39. See also 5:13, where Jesus touched a leper, and 8:54, where he touched a dead child. Jesus didn't shun personal, physical contact with society's outcasts. Physical contact doesn't transmit sin.

    43. Is Jesus saying that the amount of love depends on the size of the debt forgiven? Suppose a billionaire owed me $500 and and a poor laborer owed me $50 – if I forgive both debts, would the billionaire be more grateful? Wouldn't Jesus' statement be true only if both debtors had equal earning power and assets? But in those days perhaps all people, except rulers, were on a subsistence level.

    47. When was she forgiven? When she found Jesus' acceptance? NEB says her sins "have been forgiven," which sounds as if she had previously been forgiven and was now pouring out her love in gratitude. See also v. 50. Faith saved her (faith that her sins were forgiven?).

    Did this woman earn forgiveness by her love? According to Kenneth E. Bailey, for centuries there has been an error in the translation of this text, but this error has been corrected in many recent translations (e.g., JB, NRSV, NIV). "The woman is not offering her love hoping to receive forgiveness. Rather she is responding to the fact that she has already received much forgiveness and thus has much love to offer .... Forgiveness is first and the offer of love is a response to it." Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 257 (emphasis in original).

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    1. Luke notes a progression of missionary endeavors by Jesus and his disciples. Here Jesus, with his disciples, "traveled about from one town and village to another, proclaiming the good news of the kingdom of God." (NIV) His disciples were with him. In chapter 9, Jesus sent the 12 disciples out to go from village to village "to preach the kingdom of God and to heal the sick." (Lk. 9:2). Then in chapter 10 he appointed 72 others to go out, two by two, into all the towns and villages where Jesus was about to visit, telling them to heal the sick and announce the nearness of the kingdom of God. (Lk. 10:1, 9).

    2-3. Note that Jesus is traveling through towns and villages with a band of men and women, who are obviously his disciples. Kenneth Bailey points out that they were apparently spending night after night in strange villages, and says this would be impossible in the contemporary Middle East, where women can travel with a group of men but must spend their nights with relatives. He also notes that Luke, a man, admits that the women were helping to support this traveling band of disciples out of their own means! Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 193. Jesus took a radically different stance toward women than did his contemporaries, basically treating them as equals. For other references to women as disciples, see Mt. 12:49-50; Lk. 10:39; Acts. 9:36. As to other ways in which Jesus emphasized the equality and importance of women, see special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    3. Jesus didn't seem to worry about his masculine ego suffering because he and his disciples were living off the means of some women.

    4-15. The parable of the soils. Note that unlike the Sermon on the Mount, this was not specifically addressed to Christians. He was speaking to a "great crowd." This parable is not primarily a teaching story about spiritual growth, but rather about being related to God; i.e., evangelism.

    10. The mysteries of the kingdom are revealed to the followers of Jesus, not to the bystanders. Does this mean that Jesus was trying to keep the truth hidden? See the expanded version of this verse in Mt. 13:10-17. See also v. 18 in this chapter.

    12. The path is hard, beaten down. How do we overcome this? Note that the devil was real to Christ.

    13. Doesn't the root grow as the result of a constant search for life-giving water? No mention of fruit here – fruit needs root.

    14. "but as they go on theirway ...." We must go on his way!

        Note what choked out the life within: (1) Cares, worries, burdens, concerns; (2) riches, materialism; and (3) pleasures, hedonism. These things are fatal to the spiritual life.

    15. Not "grasp it once," but continually hold on to it.

        "honest and good heart" (RSV); "noble and good heart" (NIV). It apparently refers to being genuine, not phony.

    16-18. Note that these words were apparently spoken right after the explanation of the parable. Are they a warning to the disciples? Compare v. 16 with Mt. 5:15-16 and then with Mt. 6:1-4.

    18. See v. 10. To those who have received a glimpse of truth in Jesus Christ, more will be given. Those who don't have Christ will lose even their delusions.

    19-21. Christ's relatives are not those who hear and believe, but those who hear and do. The middle step of faith is assumed.

        Note that in the parallel passages Jesus includes "sister" with "mother" and "brother" – see Mt. 12:49-50.

    21. See also Mt. 7:24.

    22-25. Jesus' authority over forces of nature. Barclay gives a largely symbolic interpretation – Jesus calms the storms of temptation, storms of passion, storms of sorrow. But this is also important for its literal truth. Jesus was in the process of revealing himself as the Son of God, and this was an indirect claim to divinity.

    25. Maybe if they trusted Jesus enough they wouldn't have had to physically awaken him. But aren't we supposed to call on him in time of need?

    26-39. Jesus' authority over the spirit world. Threshhold question: are there really demons?
        (1) Why did Jesus ask the man his name? (v. 30) NBC says "to arouse in him a sense of his own personality."
        (2) Note that v. 37 and 38 contain two requests – both of which had to do with Jesus' presence. Why did he answer them the way he did?
        (3) What advice does Jesus give about witnessing in v. 39?

    27. See Mt. 8:28, stating that Jesus was met by two demon-possessed men.

    37. Jesus does not stay where he is unwanted! Note that the desire of the people who did not want Jesus was granted, but the desire of the man who wanted him was not granted. What does this say about my prayers?

    39. Our first responsibility is at home. His testimony was personal – how much Jesus had done for him.

    40-56. Jesus' authority over disease and death.
        (1) Healing of the hemorrhaging woman. Jesus spoke to crowds but he healed individuals!
        (2) Healing of Jairus' daughter. What was going through the mind of Jairus when Jesus stopped to heal the woman? Why didn't Jesus hurry?

    41. NEB: "Throwing himself down at Jesus's feet he begged him ...." Phillips: "...fell at Jesus' feet, begging him ...." Imagine the "president of the synagogue" (NEB & Phillips), the lay leader of the church, falling to his knees in front of all the crowd and begging Jesus to come heal his daughter! His was desperation-faith, and the Scripture gives no indication that Jesus looks down on that kind of faith.

    42. Phillips: "the crowds nearly suffocated him;" NEV: "while Jesus was on his way he could hardly breathe for the crowds." This is what made Jesus' question in v. 45 so astounding.

    43. Note that Luke, the physician, did not include Mark's comment that she "had suffered much under many physicians, and had spent all that she had, and was no better but rather grew worse." Mk. 5:26.

    45. What is the significance of this question?

    46. See v. 40-41. The crowd was waiting for Jesus, but an individual needed help.

    48. Faith, not the magic cloak, restored her to health.

    51. Peter, John and James formed sort of an inner group within the twelve. See Mt. 17:1; 26:37.

    52. Was Jesus lying when he said the child was asleep? No, because he was not trying to deceive them. Then why did he say it? Was it to emphasize that, if he were going to get her up, it didn't matter whether she was dead or asleep?

    53. Note that Jesus touched the dead child. For other examples, see 5:13, 7:39.

    55. Why did Jesus direct that she be given something to eat?

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    2. See also Lk. 8.1.

    3. The disciples would have to rely on God.

    12-17. This is the only miracle recorded in all four gospels (Mt. 14:13-21; Mk. 6:32-44; Jn. 6:1-14).

    21. Why was Jesus so secretive? Did he want people to discover for themselves who he was?

    22. Note that Jesus here predicts his death and resurrection.

    27. Cf. Lk. 11:20.

    32. The RSV says that "Peter and those who were with him were heavy with sleep but kept awake." However, at least six other translations indicate that Peter, James and John had fallen asleep, but awakened to see Moses and Elijah (AV, NEB, Phillips, Weymouth, Goodspeed, and Williams).

    38. It seems as if Jesus was always helping "a man (or a woman) from the crowd." See 8:43-48 (woman with flow of blood).

    40. E. Stanley Jones says the disciples could not cast out the demon because "the boy had a better case of demon-possession than they had of God-possession." E. Stanley Jones, Victory Through Surrender, p. 61.

    41. This sounds pretty harsh to say to a distraught father. But maybe Jesus directed these words to his disciples, who were also unable to help (v. 40).

    43b. JB: "At a time when everyone was full of admiration for all he did ...." Note that Jesus did not let praise blind him to the reality of sin (v. 44).

    45. NEB (alternate translation) "it was so obscure to them that they could not perceive ...."

    45b. Why were the disciples afraid to ask Jesus about what he said? See v. 41. Maybe they didn't want to be criticized for not understanding.

    47-48. Cf. Lk. 14:7-11 (parable of places at table).

    50. Cf. 11:23 ("He who is not with me is against me").

    51. Jesus did not flinch or turn away from what he knew was ahead – he just obeyed. See v. 22, 44, which show his awareness of what lay ahead.

    62. NEB: "and then keeps looking back." The lesson of these verses (57-62) is that Christ must come first! Cf. v. 23; Mt. 6:33.

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    1. Jesus appointed 70 others, and sent them out. He must have had a large following to be able to choose that many. Why did he send them out in pairs?

        See also Lk. 8.1.

    2. See also Mt. 9:37-38. We are to ask God for laborers for the harvest.

    3-16. Sending out the 70:
        (1) Jesus' followers are sent out as lambs in the midst of wolves. What does that imply? Cf. Mt. 10:16 ("... so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves").
        (2) What words or phrases could we use to characterize those sent out by Jesus? (a) non-aggressive; (b) single-minded, (c) trusting God for essentials; (d) healers; (e) content with what they receive; (f) dogmatic; (g) severe.
        (3) Barclay suggests that they were not to go "from house to house seeking better and more comfortable quarters." Similarly, they were to eat what was put before them, not be choosey about food.
        (4) Why the strong judgment against whole cities and towns? Are the people in a city responsible for the whole city – or does God deal only with individuals?

    4. Phillips: "and don't stop to pass the time of day with anyone you meet on the road."

    7-9. The disciples are taught how to plant a church within a community. See also Jn. 4:39-41.

    18. What does this mean? Barclay suggests two meanings: (1) that the triumphant mission of the 70 was the beginning of the end for Satan, or (2) that he was warning against pride, which was the reason Satan fell.

    19. Are there some conditions for obtaining this protection? Cf. Acts. 28:3-5.

    20. Do not rejoice in what you can do for Jesus, but rejoice in what Jesus has done for you.

    21. What does it mean to "rejoice in the Holy Spirit?" Wasn't Jesus always filled with the Holy Spirit? Does this say something about "heart" religion vs "head" religion?

    25-26. Why didn't Jesus challenge this man's basic assumption that there was something he could do to acquire eternal life? Isn't the essence of Christianity believing rather than doing as the way to salvation? See, e.g., Eph. 2:8-9; cf. Jn. 6:28-29.

    27b. Cf. Eph. 5:28 (husbands should love their wives as themselves). We should love ourselves, but love our neighbor as much. But is this possible without Christ? See v. 29.

    29. "desiring to justify himself" – isn't this the essence of self-righteousness?

        The man asked, "Who is my neighbor?" But Jesus answered, "To whom are you a neighbor?" In other words, it depends on what we do to respond to need, regardless of who the needy person is. The first way of asking the question draws a circle around those we have an obligation to love, which means we have no obligation toward those outside the circle. Jesus says everyone is potentially our neighbor.

    30-37. The parable of the Good Samaritan.
        (1) Jesus told a parable that is difficult because it leaves no way out for self-interest. For example, the Samaritan would be in danger himself if he stopped; the injured man might be a decoy. Also, the Levite and the priest may have been on urgent missions of their own.
        (2) By choosing a Samaritan, Jesus excluded national or cultural or racial (?) limitations on being a neighbor.
        (3) How do we apply this parable today, when mass communications media enable us to "see" hurting people all over the world? Conversely, private automobiles, planes and trains enable us to avoid seeing people lying in ditches, living in slums, etc.

    30. NBC: "the road from Jerusalem to Jericho descended more than 3,000 feet in less than 15 miles through gorges that were infested with robbers."

    33-35. The Samaritan in this parable is a symbol of Jesus: (1) He comes from beyond the world of everyone else in the parable; (2) he binds up the man's wounds and saves his life; and (3) he does this at great cost and risk to himself.

    38-42. What is being taught in this passage – that it's better to sit at the Lord's feet and listen to his teaching than to do housework?

    39. Kenneth Bailey points out that to "sit at the feet" of a rabbi meant to be a disciple of that rabbi. Note that Paul described himself as "educated at the feet of Gamaliel." Acts 22:3 (ESV). The implication is that Mary was a disciple of Jesus. Bailey also thinks that Martha was upset, not because she needed "someone to peel the potatoes," but because her sister was seated with the men and had become a disciple of Jesus (although there is no indication that there were any men present). Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 193. With regard to women as disciples, see also Lk. 8:2-3.

    40. Martha's complaining, which took the form of blaming Jesus ("Lord, do you not care ...?"), stemmed from her sin of anxiety (v. 41).

    42. What does this mean, especially the last part ("which shall not be taken away from her")?

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    2-4. Jesus' model prayer:
        (1) Worship, praise to God;
        (2) Petition for God's kingdom to come;
        (3) Petition for our physical needs (bread);
        (4) Forgiveness of our sins (and our remission of the sins of others against us);
        (5) Petition for moral guidance.

    4a. The King James version says, "And forgive us our sins; for we also forgive every one that is indebted to us." The RSV and ESV are similar. But other modern translations, like the NIV, assume that Jesus is only talking about sins in this prayer. Actually two different Greek words are used, one meaning "debts," which refers to unfulfilled obligations (toward God and our fellow human beings), and the other meaning "sins," or wrongful actions. As Bailey says, "Whichever word is chosen for worship in English, the faithful need to remember that they are asking for forgiveness for failing to fulfill what God requires of them (debts) and for their failure to do the right thing when they did act (trespasses)." Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 126.

        Note that in Mt. 6:12 only the word "debts" and "debtors is used in the prayer, but two verses later Matthew refers to "sins" or "trespasses."

    8. "Importunity" (RSV) means "persistent, troublesome urging." But NEB translates this, "the very shamelessness of the request will make him get up and give him all he needs."

    9. Cf. 18:1-8 (parable of the unrighteous judge).

    13. Cf. Mt. 7:11 ("good things"). Here Jesus uses an a fortiori argument. See
Rom. 5:9-10.

    16. See v. 29-32 for Jesus' answer to this request.

    18-22. Satan has a kingdom, but Christ's kingdom is stronger. Therefore when the kingdom of God "overcomes" (RSV, ESV) or "overpowers" (NIV) us (v. 22), it is like being attacked and defeated, taken from one kingdom into another.

    20. "kingdom of God" – cf. 9:27.

    23. Cf. 9:50 ("he that is not against you is for you"). To "gather" means to bring together. Everyone who does not follow Jesus is tearing this world apart, while everyone following him is helping to put it together.

    27-28. She said, happy is Mary; he replied, happier is the obedient Christian.

    28. See also Mt. 7:24.

    31b. Jesus claims to be greater than Solomon or Jonah.

    39-44. Jesus criticizes the Pharisees for (1) hypocrisy; (2) wrong priorities (in tithing); and (3) egotism.

    42. The Pharisees carried out the commands of God that could be measured or "chalked up," and that were relatively easy to single out of life as a whole. But they neglected the more serious commands. See also Amos 8:5a.

        "without neglecting the others." Is Jesus telling us that we should tithe?

    43. Cf. 9:48 ("he who is least among you all is the one who is great").

    51. Was Abel a prophet?

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    1. Beware of hypocrisy – pretending that we are something we aren't. This was the "leaven" of the Pharisees. See also Mt. 16:6; Mk. 8:15. "Beware of" is applied to dangers that are not obvious. Jesus never said beware of murder or beware of robbery. But in this chapter he says to beware of two subtle sins: hypocrisy (v. 1) and greed (v. 15). Both are particular dangers for those who are successful in this world. See Barclay's explanation of hypocrisy (The Gospel of Luke, Rev., p. 160).

        The metaphor Jesus chose to use for hypocrisy, leaven or yeast, has one peculiar property: it expands to many times its size. Is Jesus saying that this is one peculiar danger of hypocrisy, that it expands or spreads? If one person pretends to be something he or she is not, two or three are likely to imitate that example. Pretty soon the church is full of hypocrites.

        What are the particular temptations to hypocrisy for us as Christians today?

    2-3. Does this passage mean to avoid all secrecy, or is it just aimed at deviousness?

        It's not hard to take this warning literally today, with "Wikileaks" and massive personal data collection by governments and corporations. A person used to be able to burn personal documents and they would be gone forever. But now they are likely to live on in digital form, especially if they were communicated to anyone via email or social media.

    4-7. This passage troubles us to the extent that we have a temporal rather than an eternal outlook on life. If we really trust God, we will not be afraid of death, for He has promised us life in an eternal dimension. Whey, then, are we so cautious and anxious about life itself – just as much so as non-christians?

    5. What does it mean to fear God? Can we love someone and fear him at the same time?

    6-7. Why does Jesus use "sparrows" and "hairs of your head" as illustrations? (Note, he doen't say God keeps the hairs or the sparrows from falling – just that He keeps track of them.)

    10. What does it mean to blaspheme against the Holy Spirit? Barclay says, basically, that it is rejecting God repeatedly until we become so hardened that we can no longer hear him and therefore it becomes impossible to repent and be forgiven. This warning is repeated in all three of the synoptic gospels. In Mark it is in the context of the Pharisees accusing Jesus of having an unclean spirit. See also the note to Mk. 3:29 in HSB.

    13-34. A warning against greed (covetousness) followed by a warning against anxiety over food and clothing. We should be concerned neither with piling up material riches nor with getting the basic necessities of life. We are just not supposed to be focusing our attention on material concerns!

        Query: Does all saving represent covetousness? What kind of saving is "Christian"? Life insurance? Retirement plans?

    15. Jesus does not just warn us to beware of the extremes of covetousness, but of all covetousness. Phillips says, "Be on your guard against covetousness in any shape or form." NEB: "... against greed of every kind for even when a man has more than enough, his wealth does not give him life."

    31. Is this a promise that we will never lack food or clothing if we believe?

    32. This is God's grace – He gives us the Kingdom. We do not earn it.

    33. What does the first part of this verse mean? When and to whom does it apply? Jesus told the rich young ruler to "sell what you possess." (Mt. 19:21)

    34. Where is our treasure? It should be in heaven, i.e., God should be the One we worship and set our hearts on. But we can tell what our real treasure is – i.e., who or what our real god is – by examining our interests, how we spend our time, what we devote ourselves to, etc.

    35-38. For a thoughtful examination of this brief parable, see Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 365-377. He points out, for example, that the reversal of roles, with the master serving the servants, is stunning and incredible, something he has never heard of in his many years of living in the Middle East. The master comes to his servants and serves them! Later, in the Upper Room in Jerusalem, Jesus gets up from the head of the table and washes his disciples' feet.

    35. In the King James version, the servants are told, "Let your loins be girded about ...," and then the master, when he comes, "shall gird himself" and serve them (v. 37). What is that all about? The NIV says the servants are to "Be dressed ready for service ...." but then the master, returning from a wedding banquet, "will dress himself to serve" them. Isn't he already dressed? According to Kenneth Bailey, the long robes worn by both men and women in the Middle East are ordinarily worn without belts, because loose-fitting garments are most comfortable in that climate. But when any strenuous activity is called for, the wearer ties a belt or rope around the waist to keep the bottom edge of the robe off the ground and out of the way. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 369. Thus the Hebrews were instructed to tie up their robes on the eve of Passover to be ready to travel (Ex. 12:11), and Elijah fastened a belt around his robe before running in front of Ahab's chariot (1 Kings 18:46). Here in Luke the best English translation is probably the NEB, "Be ready for action, with belts fastened ...." and then the master "will fasten his belt, seat them at table, and come and wait on them."

    36. The Christian should be ready for Jesus' return. What does this mean? Not a passive waiting – staring at the sky – but doing what Jesus has called us to do (v. 42).

    46b. Does this mean that disobedient Christians will be cut off and sent to hell?

    47-48. Note that we are not all held to the same standard. God does not judge as the world judges. He takes into consideration our abilities and weaknesses. Different gifts = different responsibilities.

        What do these verses do to our concept of heaven and hell? Where does forgiveness come in?

    49-53. What do these verses mean? What is the fire that Jesus came to cast on the earth?

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    9. The goal is fruit! We must bear fruit for the Father. Cf. Mt. 7:15-20; Lk. 8:4-15.

    11. Phillips paraphrases this verse to describe the woman as "ill from some psychological cause."

        "...bent over and could not fully straighten herself." Isn't this a picture of man, bent over with sin and unable to straighten himself?

    14. He was afraid to attack Jesus directly, so he expressed his feelings to the congregation – as if they came to be healed!

    16. Jesus regarded Satan as a source (or the source) of human sickness. Cf. 1 Cor. 5:5; 2 Cor. 12:7.

    19. The kingdom of God = tremendous growth.

    21. The kingdom of God spreads (or permeates) and affects all of life.

    26. "You were worshiped in our church."

    30. Cf. 9:46-48; 14:7-11.

    34. See Mt. 23:37.

    See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    35. NEB: "Look, look! There is your temple, forsaken by God." Phillips: "Now, all that is left is yourselves, and your house."

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Verse:
    1-6. What was the basic sin of the Pharisees? Hypocrisy? They would obviously pull an animal of their own out of a well on the Sabbath, but they wouldn't allow the healing of a human being on the Sabbath. But what about the argument that someone who fell in a well couldn't wait til the next day to be rescued, but one who has been sick for many years can just as well wait one more day? What would Jesus say to that argument?

    2. The 2011 version of the NIV says the man was suffering from "abnormal swelling of his body." All the other translations say "dropsy."

    7-11. What role in life do we assign to the self? Is self-interest always wrong for the Christian? Isn't this parable, and the next one (v. 12-14), based on self-interest? (See v. 10, 14). If self-interest isn't always wrong for the Christian, what is true self-interest?

        Cf. Phil. 2:5-11. Christ modeled this parable.

    11. Jesus is appealing for humility on the basis of self-interest. If you are humble you will be honored. This seems to be a very realistic view of the "self." See also Lk. 10:27 ("Love your neighbor as yourself"). This exhortation is ineffective if we don't love ourselves. On the other hand, Jesus is probably saying something like, "Your natural fallen condition is to be in love with yourself and put yourself in the center of the universe. What you have to do is to fight against that self-love, and you can do it by focusing your love on others."

        The key thing here is not whether any self-interest is involved – we can't help that – but how we seek to further our interest. I think Jesus is saying that we should not take any direct action to benefit ourselves, at least when that would necessarily be at the expense of others. Instead we should seek the good of others and let God provide the benefits for us.

    12-14. Do good to those who can't repay you. Does Jesus mean we should never invite friends and relatives to our dinners? If not, what does he mean? Furthermore, is it good to always do things for people who can't repay, to never be indebted to anyone? Is it good for the people we benefit not to ever be able to return the favor?

        Jesus did not say not to have feasts. The purpose of our feasts, or celebrations, is important.

    15-24. Compare this parable with Mt. 22:1-14. In Matthew's version, there is more emphasis on punishment of those who refuse to come. Note that the excuses given are all for everyday occurrences – is this what keeps most people from the Kingdom?

    23. This verse was greatly misused a few centuries ago to "compel" conversion of pagans.

    24. This seems to indicate that no Jews who rejected Jesus ("none of those men who were invited shall taste my banquet") shall enter the Kingdom. But cf. Rom. 11:25-26 ("... and so all Israel will be saved.").

    26. This verse really does not make sense if taken literally. It should be understood in the light of Mt. 10:37-38 ("Anyone who loves his father or mother more than me is not worthy of me ...."). See also Gen. 29:31 RSV: "When the Lord saw that Leah was hated, he opened her womb ...." But the NIV translates this, "When the LORD saw that Leah was not loved ...." See also Mal. 1:2-3 ("Yet I have loved Jacob but I have hated Esau" RSV).

        Aside from this difficulty, the obvious lesson is that Christ must come first, before all others, and we must be prepared to give up all for him.

    27. What does it mean for someone to "bear his own cross"?

    28. What is the "cost" that we are supposed to count?

    33. What does "renounce" mean? Does it mean to "give up" or to be "willing to give up"?

    34-35. These two verses really don't mean much by themselves, but when read with Mt. 5:13 ("You are the salt of the earth"), it makes sense. See also Mk. 9:50 ("Have salt in yourselves ....").

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General comments
    One lesson from the three parables in this chapter: Go after lost people where they are. Don't stay with the "righteous" in church.
    See also the separate outline of the parable of the Prodigal Son.
    As to Jesus' source for the parable of the prodigal son, see Hosea 11:1-9.

Verse:
    7. Who are those who "have no need of repentance?" Are the "ninety-nine virtuous men" (JB) those who have already repented? Cf. Rom. 3:23.

    12. The younger son's share was one-third of the estate. See Deut. 21:17. Note that the father doesn't refuse the son's request, or take steps to stop him from leaving. No doubt he was in anguish, but he let his son go ahead. God never overpowers the rebel. And this is what is so frightening about humans; we are free to turn our backs on God.

    14. The son really needed the father. He apparently didn't think so when he left home. But events proved him wrong – without the father's guidance he ruined his life, lost his property, and could barely keep eating.

    28-32. The father earnestly pleads with his older son to come in to the party, but the parable ends without telling how the older son responds. The question is left open for Jesus' hearers (or readers) to answer. For a similar passage of Scripture, see Jonah 4:11 (God asks Jonah, "And should I not pity Nineveh, that great city ...? but we never hear Jonah's answer.)

    30. Note that he wouldn't even refer to his brother as "brother" – just "this son of yours." But the father's reply contains a gentle rebuke: "this your brother was dead ...."

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    1-9. What is the key point in this parable? Is Jesus suggesting that it is better or more profitable to be dishonest? The dishonest steward used what didn't belong to him, wealth that he had been put in charge of, to make friends that he would need later on; to pave the way for a good future. Jesus tells us in v. 9 to "make friends for yourselves by means of unrighteous mammon." He specifically points out that "mammon" will fail, and says that if we have used it right "they" (the friends we have made by using it) will welcome us into heaven. Does this mean that we are to use the money that does not really belong to us anyway to serve God, by giving it to the poor and by using it to promote evangelism? Those who become our friends (and God's) will welcome us to heaven. See Mt. 6:19-21; Lk. 12:33-34.

    For a good discussion of this parable, see Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 332-342, or his earlier book, Poet and Peasant, pp. 86-109.

    2. The steward is fired on the spot. He doesn't put up any protest or make any excuses.

    4. "welcome me into their houses." This means to get another job as an estate manager.

    6-7. Why does the steward ask the debtors how much they owe? He has the books. Bailey says it is to make sure they agree on the amount owed so the steward can proceed with his plan and not have to spend time debating how much is owed. And the reason the steward has the debtors take their bill and make the reduction in their own handwriting is so anyone who looks at the books (like the estate owner) will recognize the handwriting and know that the debtors have accepted the changes in writing, which makes it much more difficult – if not impossible – for the owner to later contest the changes and try to collect the original debts. This is part of the crooked steward's brilliance. See Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 339.

    8. Jesus makes clear that the steward is a crook. He is not a model or example for us. Rather we are to learn something from the way he uses what has been entrusted to him. Jesus also uses an unsavory character in the parable of the widow and the unjust judge (Lk. 18:1-8) and when he says that he will return "like a thief in the night."

    9. KJ says "when ye fail," but other translations all indicate that the "mammon" will fail or come to an end. See, e.g., NEB: "when money is a thing of the past."

    11-12. What are "unrighteous mammon," "true riches," "that which is another's," and "that which is your own"? Isn't Jesus saying that if we do not use our material wealth for his kingdom, we will not receive the true riches of heaven? But isn't this salvation by works?

    16. This verse is fairly clear except the last phrase. What does it mean to say that "everyone enters it [the kingdom of God] violently? Alternate translations say "every man presseth into it" (KJ); "men are forcing their way into it" (Phillips); "everyone forces his way in" (NEB); "everyone is forcing his way into it" (NIV).

    18. The Christian view of divorce: Divorce is wrong, except possibly for adultery – see Mt. 5:32; 19:9. In 1 Cor. 7:10-11, Paul says this teaching is from the Lord. In Lk. 19:6 Jesus says "what therefore God has joined together, let no man put asunder." Query: are all marriages joined together by God? Suppose the parties were drunk or get married as a joke? Note: The fact that divorce is wrong does not mean that it is the unpardonable sin. It can be forgiven. 1 Jn. 1:9.

    See Confessions of St. Augustine, pp. 235, 237.

    19-31. This parable does not make sense if there is no real hell. Does this require a literal fire? See Thielicke's definition of hell, p. 48. We sometimes say that Christians experience heaven on earth while non-christians experience hell – i.e., are cut off from God. But this differs from hell in the afterlife in two important respects: (1) on earth the godless man is able to hide from himself his true condition, and (2) on earth the godless man still has a chance to repent. One day that opportunity will be no more.

    19-22. Is Lazarus a symbol of Jesus? See Isa. 53:3, 7, 11a; Phil. 2:6-9a.

    19. Thielicke makes the point that every one "is in one way or another a rich man," perhaps in intellectual ability, personality, love, etc. On a national level, Americans are clearly a "rich man" within the meaning of this parable (if it applies to nations and groups, not just individuals).

    20. This is the only parable in which one of the characters is given a name. "Lazarus" is the Greek form of the Hebrew "Eleazar" and means "God helps" or "God is my help." Perhaps Jesus used this name to make clear that the poor man's faith was in God, not in riches.

    31. Note that in this parable Jesus is actually foretelling the future. He says that even if someone should rise from the dead, Lazarus's brothers will not believe. Isn't this what has happened? Jesus rose from the dead, but how few believe!

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Verse:
    3-4. Forgive him for your sake as well as his.

    3. This does not say that we are to ignore wrongs done to us. We are to reprove (JB) or rebuke (NIV) the wrongdoer, at least if he or she is a fellow believer.

    12. Lepers were required to separate themselves from others; see Lev. 13:45-46.

    34. People will be leading their everyday lives when Christ comes again.

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Verse:
    1-8. Is God somehow like an unjust judge? In what way? Or is Jesus saying, if an unjust judge can be persuaded to judge rightly, how much more will God, a just judge, respond to requests for judgment?

        Is there a contradiction between these verses and Mt. 6:7-8 ("do not heap up empty phrases")? How can we "always pray" without "heaping up empty phrases"? If God already knows what we need, why should we keep bugging him about things?

    8. What does this question mean? What does "vindicate" mean? Is Jesus' teaching here limited to "vindication" situations?

    9-14. The Pharisee in this parable had "I" trouble – "I fast twice a week, I give tithes ...." The basic reason he was condemned is because of his trust in himself and despising others (v. 9).

        Suppose it's one year later and the same two men return and pray the same two prayers. Any difference? Doesn't the tax collector need to bear fruit to demonstrate his repentance?

        According to Kenneth Bailey, Jesus may have based this parable on Isaiah 66:1-6. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 350-353.

    11. Does he stand by himself or pray to himself? Some translations say he prayed to himself ("The Pharisee stood and prayed thus with himself ...." RSV) but Kenneth Bailey says the flow of the Greek sentence means that he is "standing by himself, praying." Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 347. Thus the ESV correctly translates this: "The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayed thus ...."

    13. "beat his breast." The only other reference in the Bible to people beating their breasts is at the crucifixion. See Lk. 23:48. This shows the extreme agony that this man was suffering over his sins.

        "be merciful to me." Kenneth Bailey says this is not the word commonly used for mercy, as in the encounter with the blind beggar in v. 39 of this chapter. Rather the Greek word here means "make an atonement." Remember the setting. These men are in the temple, probably at the time of the daily afternoon atonement offering of a lamb without blemish for the sins of the people, and this tax collector cries out in anguish, "O Lord, make an atonement for me, a sinner!" Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 349.

    14. According to NBC, the word "justified" occurs five times in Luke, twice in Matthew, and not at all in Mark or John.

        The last phrase in this verse appears often in Scripture. See Mt. 18:4; 23:12; Lk. 14:11; 1 Pet. 5:6. See also Phil. 2:3-11.

    15-17. Jesus loves and receives little children. This we teach and sing in Sunday School, and it is great and profound. But what does it mean for us to "receive the kingdom of God like a child" (v. 17)? Not that we should be childish, but child-like, to receive the kingdom. Child-like qualities are trust, faith, singlemindedness; absence of pretence, hypocrisy, and cynicism.

    22. For variations in this prescription to the rich young ruler, see Mt. 19:21; Mk. 10:21.

    25. Does this mean it is impossible for a rich person to be saved? See Heb. 6:4-8.

    19. Why did Jesus question him when he called Jesus "good"? Wasn't Jesus "good"?

    20. Is there any significance to the five commandments that Jesus mentioned to him? Why not, for example, "I am the Lord your God ... you shall have no other gods before me"? Wasn't this man's money placed before God?

    22. Does this answer reveal a basic principle (that wealth must be given to the poor) or is it a prescription for a particular case? What's the difference? Why didn't Jesus simply tell the man to follow him, or to be born anew, as he told Nicodemus in Jn. 3?

    24. Who are the rich today?

    25-27. Do these verses mean it is impossible for a rich person to be saved? See Heb. 6:4-8.

    31-34. How could the disciples fail to understand that Jesus was going to suffer and be crucified when he told them this so plainly?

    31. What does the reference to "everything that is written of the Son of man by the prophets" say about Jesus' view of the Old Testament?

    34. This verse seems to indicate that there is an active force keeping away the truth.

    35-43. Jesus was probably teaching as he walked along. He taught multitudes, but for the most part he healed individuals. See Lk. 8:43-48 (woman with the flow of blood); Lk. 13:10-17 (woman bent over in synagogue). Cf. Lk. 17:11-19 (ten lepers healed). He did not conduct mass healings, though he did teach and even feed masses of people. Why? Is there any significance in this?

    35. From the parallel passage in Mark we learn that the man's name was Bartimaeus (Mk. 10:46). Matthew indicates that there were two blind beggers (Mt. 20:29-34).

    38-39. Barclay points out that the word used for the shouts of the blind man is quite different in these two verses. In v. 38, the word describes an ordinary loud shout to attract attention, but in v. 39 the word means a scream, an "almost animal cry."

    39. The crowd didn't want the blind man interrupting Jesus. The account in Mark shows how fickle the crowd is (Mk. 10:48-49).

    41. Why did Jesus ask this obvious question?

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Verse:
    8. This was the result of his personal contact with Jesus. By saying it in public he may have been gratifying his ego, but he was also committing himself to carrying out his intentions.

        The Old Testament recognizes punitive damages, ranging from adding 20 percent to the loss (Lev. 6:5; Num. 5:7) to multiples of two (Ex. 22:4, 7), four (Ex. 22:1; 2 Sam. 12:6), and five (Ex. 22:1).

    12. Jesus is predicting that he is going to a distant country, which implies that he will be gone a long time. Why did the early church get the idea that the Second Coming was imminent? See Heb. 10.37.

    14. The ten servants had to labor under adverse conditions; it wasn't popular to be a servant of the coming king.

    15. Appearing before the king to give account – see 2 Cor. 5:10.

        NBC says the original expression ("what they had gained by trading") did not involve the idea of gain. It meant "what business he had done." Kenneth Bailey agrees; see Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 402.

    20. This servant's excuse was that his master demanded too much – therefore he didn't do anything. If the parallel is true, Christ as the coming King will demand that we have produced some spiritual fruit, even if only "interest" (the ordinary increase to be expected from investing our lives in common Christian service?).

    27. It seems clear that this parable is about Jesus, who was soon going away to receive a kingdom, leaving his servants to carry on his work while he was gone. It teaches that Jesus is going to return and demand an accounting from his servants. But what to make of this verse? Is Jesus also going to have his enemies hauled before him and slaughtered in his presence? How can this be reconciled with Luke's earlier description of Jesus teaching his followers to love their enemies and be merciful, emulating God the Father (Lk. 6:35-36)? Kenneth Bailey points out that in the text the order to kill the master's enemies is given but not carried out. He suggests that this command is better understood as a statement of what the master's enemies deserve and to remember that the text does not record what they received. Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 406. That seems a bit facile to me, but it is difficult to reconcile this verse with Lk. 6:35-36. Even the final judgment scene in Mt. 25:31-46 shows Jesus as more of an impartial judge who pronounces judgment than a vengeful king who has his enemies killed before his eyes.

    30. See Zech. 9:9. The Messiah ("King") was to come riding "on a colt the foal of an ass."

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General comments:
    This chapter reveals two outstanding qualities of Jesus: his authority, which even his enemies acknowledged, and his wisdom, which confounded his enemies. The chapter is very dramatic, with virtually every sentence reflecting the clash between Jesus and his enemies, with the outcome at this point uncertain.

    The authority of Jesus is the authority of the Kingdom of God – God's own authority, which stems from God being the author. The authority represented by the chief priests, scribes and elders is the false authority assumed by the Evil One, the authority of this world's system of man-centered values.

    These two authorities clash in this chapter. The weapons used by Jesus may be summed up as divine wisdom. The weapons used by the forces of evil are such things as lying (v. 7), trickery and deceit (v. 20), and flattery (v. 21). They would have used force as well (v. 19), but they were prevented from doing so by their fear.

    Notice that in this drama Jesus is not on the defensive. This is very important. The picture of the Christian as someone who is always passive, meek and mild is false. There is a war going on in this chapter, but the sides cannot really be distinguished as the offensive (or aggressors) and the defensive. Instead they are distinguished by the weapons they use, as indicated above, and their motivations and objectives.

    Here is the way the battle goes in this chapter. The Evil Forces take the initiative, a very low-key assault, by questioning Jesus about the source of his authority. Jesus instantly realizes what they are trying to do and overcomes them with divine wisdom. He does not then merely go about his business; he takes the initiative. He attacks the chief priests, scribes and elders by telling all the people a parable aimed directly at them. They realize what he has done, although no doubt imperfectly, and they first consider a direct move of force and violence – "they tried to lay hands on him at that very hour" (v. 19) – but because of their fear of the people, they instead resorted to trickery. They watched Jesus and sent spies to trap him, first with a question about paying Roman taxes and then with a theological question about the resurrection. Each of these thrusts he turns aside with divine wisdom, silencing all his enemies and winning grudging admiration from some (v. 39). As the chapter closes, Jesus goes on the offensive, even going so far as to directly attack the scribes, condemning them for their hypocrisy.

    1 Cor. 1:30 says that God made Jesus "our wisdom," as well as our righteousness, sanctification and redemption. Lk. 20 reveals the wisdom of Jesus in dealing with opponents.

Verse:
    1. Are "teaching the people" and "preaching the gospel" two different activities? What gospel was Jesus preaching? What was its content? Several verses in Matthew says he was preaching the "gospel of the kingdom" (Mt. 4:23; 9:35). Paul explains what his understanding of the gospel is in 1 Cor. 15:3-5, but that is based on events that took place after Jesus was "preaching the gospel" here in Lk. 20.

    3. Why didn't Jesus simply answer their question? Why didn't he acknowledge that his authority came from God? Was he afraid to, just as the religious leaders were afraid to tell the truth because of their fear of the people?

    7. What they meant, of course, is that they would not answer his question; Jesus therefore ignored what they said and gave the same answer that they would have given if they were telling the truth; i.e., that he would not answer their question. Don't we sometimes ask God for answers that we could have by acknowledging previously revealed truth? If the chief priests, scribes and elders had recognized John as they should have, they would know the answer to their own question.

    9-18. The Tyndale New Testament Commentary says that this parable, unlike most, is allegorical in nature; that is, it has symbolic references throughout, not just one primary point. See Isa. 5:1-7, especially v. 7 – Israel is God's vineyard. In a broader sense, we are all his vineyard.

        (1) What is the basic or fundamental sin of the tenants? They were appropriating as their own what belonged to the owner. It was the owner's vineyard, and they were tenant farmers. The beatings and even the murder were only consequences of the basic sin of usurping the owner's position. Do we do this today? How? Most people attribute everything good that happens to their own skill or worth, but everything bad that happens they blame on someone else or on circumstances. This is what makes the world off-center; literally, eccentric.

        (2) What does this parable tell us about God? The owner's patience in dealing with his rebellious tenants is incomprehensible. Yet in the end there is judgment and condemnation.

        (3) What does this parable tell us about Jesus? Remember, all this took place before Calvary. What does it show of his awareness of the Father's plan?

            (a) He saw himself as the Son – others referred to him as a "teacher" or "prophet," but he knew he was God's son;
            (b) He is the heir of the Father's estate (see Col. 1:16 "all things were created by him and for him");
            (c) He was obedient to the Father's will, "even unto death" (Phil. 2:8);
            (d) He was courageous; he knew what had happened to the servants who had previously been sent to the tenants, but we went in spite of the danger;
            (e) He left his Father's home and journeyed to the home of the tenants in an effort to procure their allegience (pay the rent they owed) to the Father;
            (f) He was killed by those to whom he was sent (see v. 15 – they "cast him out of the vineyard and killed him").

    14. Although their idea that they would become the owners if they killed the heir seems absurd, there may have been some basis for their twisted thinking. Kenneth Bailey refers to an ancient Jewish teaching that occupation of houses, fields, etc., for three completed years secures title by "usucaption." Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 420. Sort of an early version of the common law doctrine of adverse possession.

    15a. The parallel with Jesus being killed outside the city is obvious, but Kenneth Bailey points out that in this parable the tenants drag the son outside the vineyard because if they kill him within the vineyard their grapes will become defiled and thereby worthless. (?) Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 420.

    15b. In Matthew's account, Jesus turned to the religious leaders who were listening to him and asked them what the owner should do to the tenants (Mt. 20:40-41).

    16. Note that there are two parts to the judgment: (1) the tenants will be killed, and (2) the vineyard will be given to others.

    18. What does this verse mean? See Acts 4:11; 1 Pet. 2:7 to see how the early church understood it.

    21. Did they really recognize these things, or was this an attempt to set Jesus up with flattery? Sounds more like the latter to me, but flattery doesn't help with Jesus!

    24. Their answer was, of course, correct. However, Gen. 1:26 says that we have been made in God's image. Does that indicate that our person belongs to God, but our things belong to Caesar? Can we really make such a neat division between the personal (or spiritual) and material?

    25. But what are the things that belong to Caesar? Is money Caesar's? All of our money? Should Christians always pay taxes? See Rom. 13:6-7. And what are the things that belong to God? Our lives!

        Our ultimate loyalty must be to God. We are subject to Caesar (Rom. 13:1-7; 1 Pet. 2:13-17), but we serve and worship God. Where our loyalties or service conflict, then we should serve God and reject Caesar's claims (Acts 4:18-20).

    35. If heaven is supposed to be higher and better than anything on earth, isn't this teaching a bit of a let-down? Marriage was instituted by God and is undoubtedly good; shouldn't it be even better in heaven? Why is marriage irrelevant or unnecessary in heaven?

    36. Those who are resurrected are "equal to the angels," but humans are created "a little lower than the angels." (Ps. 8:5) See also, with regard to angels, Heb. 1:7, 14.

    37-38. The real issue here, apart from entrapment, is whether the dead are raised. Jesus strongly affirms the resurrection. The Sadducees, who were primarily wealthy and conservative, believed otherwise. Why were the Sadducees wrong? Because they knew "neither the scriptures nor the power of God" (Mt. 22:29).

    41. What is the point of Jesus' question here? Paul answers this question in Rom. 1:3-4. The Son of God was physically descended from David, and "designated Son of God in power according to the Spirit of Holiness." I think the question has to do with the kind of messiah the Jews were expecting. If the messiah was primarily to be characterized as the son of David – the great warrior king – then he would be thought of as an earthly conqueror. But if he is David's Lord (v. 42-44), then he must be eternal and divine.

    44. For a possible answer to this rhetorical question, see note at Ps. 110:1.

    46-47. What sin of the scribes was so bad as to call forth this denunciation by Jesus? Was it self-love, or hypocrisy? (He said the same thing to the Pharisees; see Lk. 11:43. See also Mt. 23, condemning both scribes and Pharisees.) Here's what was important to the scribes:

        (1) long robes, uniforms showing superiority, status;
        (2) salutations, to be honored and greeted as important people;
        (3) best seats in the synagogue, to be thought of as spiritual leaders;
        (4) places of honor at feasts, to be looked up to, honored, respected;
        (5) "devouring widow's houses," taking from the poor;
        (6) making long prayers for pretense, religious hypocrisy.

    47. What does "greater condemnation" mean? Are there degrees of punishment for sin?

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Verse:
    4. See 2 Cor. 8:1-15, esp. v. 12.

    14. See also Lk. 12:11-12. You might think Christ would command us to prepare beforehand what to answer, with special diligence. But he says just the opposite. We must believe and trust him, and he will provide our defense.

    15. Phillips: "I will give you such eloquence and wisdom that none of your opponents will be able to resist or contradict it.

    16. "... some of you they will put to death." But in v. 18 Jesus says "not a hair of your head will perish." He must be using the word "perish" in the eternal sense. We may be called on to suffer and even die (physically) for Christ, but paradoxically, by enduring to that point, we will not lose the slightest thing (a hair) in the life to come. NEB says, "By standing firm, you will win true life for yourselves."

    21. NBC says that, according to the early church historian Eusebius, when the Roman armies came into Judea, "the whole body of the church at Jerusalem, having been commanded by a divine revelation, removed from the city and dwelt at a certain town beyond the Jordan, called Pella."

    32. What does Jesus mean by "this generation"? In 9:27 he said there were some listening to him who would not taste death "before they see the kingdom of God." Could he be referring here not to those alive then, but to the "generation of Christians" – those who follow him? Note that he follows this statement by predicting the end of heaven and earth, but the permanence of his words. Did he mean his words recorded on paper or in the hearts of people? If the latter, then "this generation will not pass away" just means that there will always be Christians.

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General comments:
    This chapter has a lot to say about prayer:
        (1) There are different kinds of prayer, for different circumstances, such as prayers of thanksgiving (v. 17, 19); intercession for others (v. 32; Jesus prayed for Peter, that his faith would not fail); deliverance from temptation (v. 40, 46); deliverance from suffering (v. 42); and surrender to the Father's will.
        (2) Prayer can be hard work. Jesus prayed so hard, so intensely, that his sweat was like great drops of blood;
        (3) In one sense, sleep is an enemy of prayer (see v. 46). Sometimes we have to carve our prayer time out of our sleep time. This shouldn't be taken too far, however; sometimes it's more important to sleep. How can we decide whether to pray or sleep?
        (4) Prayer of petition for oneself is ultimately a surrender to the Father. "Not my will, but thine be done." Why, then, did Jesus even pray for deliverance from suffering?
        (5) How literally should be take Jesus' words in v. 46? Or when have we prayed enough and can just trust that we will be delivered from temptation?

Verse:
    1. See Ex. 12:15.

    5. See Jn. 12:6, explaining that Judas was the treasurer for the band of disciples, and that he used to steal their funds for himself.

    15. RSV: "I have earnestly desired to eat this passover with you before I suffer."
          Moffet: "I have longed eagerly ...."
          NIV: "I have eagerly desired ...."
          Goodspeed: "I have greatly desired ...."
          Knox: "I have longed and longed to share this paschal meal ...."
          Phillips: "With all my heart I have longed ...."

    The fact is that although Jesus ultimately went through his passion and suffering alone, he stressed the need for fellowship:
        (1) he sent Peter and John together to prepare the passover meal;
        (2) he made his last meal with his disciples a very intimate sharing experience;
        (3) he told Peter that when he "turned again" after his denial, he should "strengthen" the brethren;

    16. Is Jesus talking about a different "kingdom of God" here than in Lk. 21:31, where he says that the kingdom of God is "near"? Of course, there is only one "kingdom of God," but Jesus' words on the subject are enigmatic.

    21-22. What is the difference between betrayal and denial (v. 34) of Jesus? One obvious difference is that Judas' act of betrayal was active conduct; he deliberately set out on a course of action to betray Jesus for money. Peter's denial, on the other hand, was a passive act. His motivations were good, at least before he was confronted with the situation. Other differences:
        (1) Satan "entered into" Judas' heart (v. 3) but "demanded to have" Peter in order to sift him like wheat (v. 31); i.e., to shake him up.
        (2) Judas' betrayal fulfilled Scripture (Ps. 41:9; in Jn. 13:18 Jesus quotes this verse as prophecy fulfilled by Judas' betrayal). The tough questiojn, of course, is to what extent this undermined Judas' free will. This ultimately depends on our understanding of God's nature.
        (3) When Peter realized he had sinned, he immediately "went out and wept bitterly." (v. 62) He showed great sorrow and remorse, which revealed his true loyalty. Judas also "repented," but not until he was that Jesus was condemned (Mt. 27:3). Perhaps he thought that the betrayal would stir Jesus into action, and only repented when he saw that Jesus wasn't going to fight for an earthly kingdom. Also, after Judas repented he committed suicide; he saw no hope of God's forgiveness; he missed the redemption in Jesus' Lordship.

    23-24. The disciples really didn't "get the picture." How could they discuss which of them would betray Jesus in one breath, and which of them was the greatest in the next? But don't I do the same thing, only much more subtly? I am nagged by my conscience when I don't speak up for Christ when I should (betrayal by silence) and then the next moment I can seriously (but secretly) take pride in how great a Christian I am!

    24-27. See Lk. 9:46 – "And an argument arose among them as to which of them was the greatest." Thirteen chapters later, at the very end of Jesus' earthly ministry, the disciples are still having arguments about which of them was to be regarded as the greatest. In Lk. 9, when Jesus perceived what was going on, he took a child, stood him in front of the disciples and said, in effect, be like a little child, receive little children, the humble ones of this world, and you receive me. Now in chapter 22, when the same dispute about greatness arose, Jesus said look at me; I am among you as one who serves, not one who bosses people around. (v. 27)

    Spiritual authority is exercised by servanthood. Christians do not get ahead by stepping on the backs of others, but by getting down on our hands and knees and lifting others. But how can we do this in the world; e.g., in a job in a corporation, or in participating in civic affairs? Is this teaching limited to the exercise of authority in the church; i.e., among Christians? See 1 Cor. 9:19; 2 Cor. 4:5.

    27b. See also Lk. 9:46-48; Mt. 20:25-28; Mk. 9:34, 10:42-45; Jn. 13:3-16.

    36. In Lk. 6:27-29, Jesus said we are to love our enemies, do good to those who hate us, bless those who curse us, and pray for those who abuse us. If anyone strikes us on the right cheek, we are to offer him the other to strike as well. Here Jesus says, "Let him who has no sword sell his mantle and buy one." And the disciples, it seems, were able to come up with two swords without going shopping for them. Why did Jesus advise them to buy swords?

    47. Does this indicate that it might have been difficult to pick Jesus out of a crowd?

    51. See note at Mk. 7:33.

    53b. See Jn. 3:19-21.

    67. Jesus didn't seem to be too quick to reveal himself. He didn't go around saying, "I am the Son of God;" in fact, he called himself the "son of man." He asked his disciples who others thought he was and who the disciples themselves thought he was (Lk.9:18-21), and he even parried a direct request from John's disciples to tell them who he was (Lk.7:19-23).

    68. What does this verse mean? Did Jesus want to ask his accusers who they thought he was?

    70. Jesus wanted people to arrive at their own personal faith in him, not merely to give assent to a claim of divinity. Phillips translates his reply, "You are right; I am," and an alternate reading in NEB says, "You are right, for I am."

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Verse:
    12. Even Herod and Pilate found reconciliation through Jesus!

    31. According to NBC, this means if the Romans deal this way with one whom they admit to be innocent, what will they do to those they find guilty? Why couldn't it mean, as in Jn. 15, that Jesus is "green wood;" i.e., it's spring and everything is alive when he is present; how much worse will it be when he leaves the earth?

    44. NBC says the darkness could not have been caused by an eclipse of the sun, because the Passover was held at full moon.

    50. John says Joseph was a secret disciple, and that Nicodemus helped him in the burial of Jesus. (Jn. 19:38-42)

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Verse:
    4. Compare this verse with Mt. 28:2-5; Mk. 16:5, and Jn. 20:12. According to Luke, there were two men standing, apparently inside the tomb, in dazzling apparel. Matthew says there was one angel who sat on the stone after rolling it away from the entrance to the tomb. Mark says there was one young man sitting inside the tomb, and John has two angels sitting where the body of Jesus had been, one at the head and one at the foot. Which of these accounts is accurate? They can't all be true. This raises questions about the accuracy and authority of Scripture.

    10. All the Gospel writers mention Mary Magdalene; John mentions no other women, and says that Jesus appeared to her first. (Jn. 20:11-18)

    25-27. Note the emphasis Jesus puts on rightly interpreting the Old Testament.

    27. Jesus obviously took the Old Testament Scriptures seriously. And he apparently found many references to himself in the Old Testament. (See also v. 44-47) Note that he interpreted the Scriptures to them; it is possible to read the Bible without understanding its real meaning.

    29. If they had not urged Jesus to accept their hospitality, he would not have revealed himself to them. Christ comes in when he is invited (Rev. 3:20), and then he shares deeper teachings.

    31. Why did they recognize him in "the breaking of the bread"? (See v. 35) Is this related to the Lord's supper? (See Lk. 22:19)

    39-43. Jesus seems to want to make clear that his was a bodily resurrection; he was not a ghost with a non-material body.

    44-49. The Great Commission. Repentance and forgiveness of sins should be preached in Jesus' name to all nations. Cf. Mt. 28:18-20; Mk. 16:15-16; Jn. 20:21.

    50-52. This should be read with Acts 1.


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General comments:
    Apparently this chapter covers the first five days in the public ministry of Jesus:
        1st day: 1:19-28.
        2nd day: 1:29-34.
        3rd day: 1:35-39.
        4th day: 1:40-42.
        5th day: 1:43-51.

Verse:
    4-9. See the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John.

    6. Note that John is never referred to as "the Baptist," although the author's name is also John ("John the Beloved" – see Jn. 21:20-24).

    12. NEB: "But to all who did receive him, to those who have yielded him their allegience, he gave the right to become children of God ...." See also ESV, NEB (the "right" to become children of God); cf. JB, RSV (gave "power" to become children of God).

    21. But see Mt. 11:11-14, where Jesus says that John the Baptist is "Elijah who is to come."

        See Deut. 18:15, 18, where Moses predicted that God would raise up a prophet like himself. This is applied to Jesus in Jn. 6:14 by those who witnessed the feeding of the 5,000, and in Acts 3:22-23 by Luke. See also Acts 7:37, where Stephen quotes Moses' prophecy in his defense before being martyred.

    29. Jesus is also compared to a lamb in Acts 8:32; 1 Pet. 1:19, and frequently in Revelation.

    33. This says clearly that when Jesus came to be baptized, John didn't recognize him until he saw the Spirit "descend" or "come down" on him. However, Mt. 3:13-17 says that John tried to talk Jesus out of being baptized, so he must have known Jesus before the Spirit came down. How can these passages be reconciled?

    34. NEB: "I saw it myself, and I have borne witness. This is God's Chosen One."

    35.As to why Jesus called fishermen as his disciples, see 1 Cor. 1:26-28.

    45. Nathaniel – see Lk. 6:14.

    47. Lightfoot sees here a contrast with Jacob. Nathaniel, unlike Simon Peter, does not receive a new name, but he is without guile. Jacob's new name was Israel (Gen. 32:28) but he remained to the end a man of guile.

    51. This is the only allusion in the New Testament to the story of Jacob's ladder (Gen. 28:10-22). Perhaps Jesus is speaking figuratively here of his unbroken communion with the Father.

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Verse:
    4. This is the same word Jesus uses to refer to his mother in 19:26, when he spoke to her from the cross. Jesus was not being respectful, although to address one's mother as "woman" seems disrespectful in English. NEB translates it "mother" in both places.

    6. Note that Jesus supplies more than could possibly be used. Compare the feeding of the 5,000 in 6:13; see also 1:16.

    11. John uses the word "signs" to describe Jesus' miracles, thus stressing their spiritual significance. The first sign sets forth the relationship of the old order and the new. The water is the law, which is perfected and transformed by the "wine" of the Gospel. If we carry this further, the law was good while it lasted, but the Gospel – which alone can satisfy man's need – is better and abundantly made available.

    19. Jesus never said that he would destroy the temple, but that is what he was accused of saying in Mk. 14:57-58; 15:29; Acts 6:14.

    23-24. Jesus did not trust himself even to those who "believed in his name."

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Verse:
    1. Nicodemus reappears in Jn. 7:50 and 19:39, both times in contexts indicating that he became a believer.

    8. The Greek work for "wind" is "pneuma," meaning both wind and spirit. Jeus is teaching Nicodemus that the origin and action of the Spirit are mysterious and unpredictable, but also undeniable.

    10. NEB: "'What!' said Jesus. 'Is this famous teacher of Israel ignorant of such things?'"

    11. Who does the "we" refer to? Lightfoot suggests that Jesus is speaking on behalf of those who received him (1:12) and believed in him (2:11); i.e., his disciples. But he might be referring to the Trinity.

    18. The Jerusalem Bible translates this, "whoever refuses to believe is condemned," which implies an opportunity to believe.

    19-21. See the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John.

    26. This verse, along with 3:22 and 4:1, are the only ones in the Gospels stating that Jesus himself baptized people (and 4:1 is followed by a verse explaining that it was not Jesus but his disciples who were baptizing).

    32. Following John's example, we should bear witness to the things we have "seen and heard," even if our testimony is not accepted.

    36. The verbs "believe" and "obey" seem to be used as synonyms here. Note that condemnation is put on those who do not obey the Son, not on those who do not believe in him. See also Heb. 3:18-19.

        Query: Can one believe without obeying? See also Eph. 5:6 ("... the wrath of God comes upon the sons of disobedience" ESV).

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Verse:

    1-42. The woman at the well. For a thorough exposition of this incident, see Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, pp. 200-216.

    2. Cf. 3:22, 26.

    3. Palestine is 120 miles long from north to south, and in Jesus' time there were three parts: Galilee in the north, Judea in the south, and Samaria in between.

    6. Note that Jesus was weary from traveling. He experienced all human emotions and needs: weariness (Jn. 4:6); hunger (Lk. 24:41); thirst (Jn. 19:28); anger (Mk. 3:5).

    7. Jesus did two amazing things here: (1) He spoke publically with a woman. This was never done by rabbis. In fact, according to Kenneth Bailey, in Middle Eastern village society, a strange man does not even make eye contact with a woman in a public place. Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 203. (2) He spoke with a Samaritan. The feud between Jews and Samaritans was hundreds of years old; each held the other in contempt.

        Note that Jesus began their conversation by asking the Samaritan woman to do something for him. By doing this, Jesus put himself in a subordinate position; he was not the superior one, asking the inferior, for example, if she would like some help pulling the bucket out of the well. By asking her to help him, Jesus made himself vulnerable to rejection, even humiliation. For another example of Jesus initiating a relationship by asking for help, see Lk. 5:3 (asking Peter to put his boat out from shore).

    10. See Jer. 2:13, where God describes himself as "the fountain of living waters," yet forsaken by his people in favor of "cisterns, broken cisterns," hewed out by men themselves. See also Ps. 42:1-2.

    15-16. When the woman asked for living water, then Jesus dealt with her sin.

    26. This could be translated, "I that am talking to you, I AM." Translation by Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 211. Bailey says this is the exact phrase used in the Greek Old Testatment to translate the Hebrew of what God said to Moses at the burning bush.

    28. She "left her water jar," yet getting water was her only reason for coming to the well!

    39-41. Jesus plants a church within a Samaritan community. What did he do during those extra two days? We know the result was that "many more became believers." See also Lk. 10:7-9 (disciples taught how to plant a church within a community); Acts 10:25, 27, 34-43, 48b (Peter welcomed into Cornelius' household to share the gospel); Acts 16:15, 40 (Paul welcomed by Lydia into her household).

    39. Without the woman's testimony, the Samaritans would not have heard the Gospel. Yet they did not rest in the word of the woman, but came to the source.

    44. Cf. Mt. 13:57; Mk. 6:4; Lk. 4:24. The other Gospel writers place this saying in a more logical setting, where Jesus actually was being rejected among his home town people. Perhaps Jesus never expected much response at home.

    53. Sometimes the timing makes it a miracle.

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Verse:
    1-9. This miracle shows that nothing is too hard for Jesus. Apparently he wanted to heal someone who had been "unhealed" for a long time. And the fact that after 38 years the man was still trying says something about his desire to be healed.

    6. Why did Jesus ask this question? Isn't the answer obvious? Maybe not. After 38 years perhaps the man had given up hope. Or maybe he secretly liked being dependent, and didn't like th idea of taking on the responsibilities of life. This is also the first question to be asked for spiritual healing. "The first essential toward receiving the power of Jesus is the intense desire for it." (Barclay) The trouble with most of us is that we secretly are content with our lot; we don't really want to be changed by Jesus.

    8-9. Jesus gives the man a command, an impossible command. The man obeyed and was healed; he was healed and obeyed. Neither comes before the other, but healing comes in the act of obedience.

    14. Cf. Jn. 8:11 (Jesus told the woman taken in adultery to "Go and sin no more.") NEB: "Now that you are well again, leave your sinful ways, or you may suffer something worse." This sounds as if sin had been the cause of the man's illness. See also 1 Cor. 11:29-30, implying that improper taking of communion caused weakness, sickness, and even death. But see the healing of the man born blind, Jn. 9:1-3, where Jesus implied just the opposite.

    16. Why was Jesus persecuted?
        (1) Because he broke their interpretation of the Fourth Commandment. See Ex. 20:8-11. We are to (a) remember the Sabbath; (b) keep it holy (separate, set apart); and (c) not work, but rest. See also Neh. 13:15-19; Jer. 17:19-27.
        (2) Because he called God his Father, making himself equal with God.

    17. Jesus' defense was that God was still working; i.e., He had stopped his work of creation on the Sabbath (his "unnecessary" work) but He didn't withhold his works of mercy and goodness on the Sabbath.

    19. Jesus' secret was absolute dependence on the Father, which expresed itself in obedience, such total obedience that he claimed to be powerless to do anything on his own. Thus Jesus' identity with the Father is not based on independence, but on complete dependence and submission to God the Father. It is a dependency of love, not power.

    21-23. Jesus is (1) the giver of life (v. 21); (2) the one who brings judgment (v. 22); (3) the one who receives honor (v. 23).

    24. To accept Jesus Christ is life; to reject him is judgment and death. Since Jesus does nothing but God's will, whoever believes him believes God (v. 19).

    25. Is John talking here about those who are spiritually dead, or physically dead, or both? Also, at the end of the verse, are the words "and believe" implied? ("... those who hear and believe will live"?)

    29. Salvation by works?

    31-32. In other words, Jesus' witness alone would not measure up to legal standards, at least in capital cases. See Deut. 17:6; Num. 35:30; Heb. 10:28. Deut. 19:15 seems to require more than one witness for all offences, and several New Testament verses apply the same requirement to charges against fellow believers (Mt. 18:16; 2 Cor. 13:1), and against elders (1 Tim. 5:19).

    33. As to John's witness, see Jn. 1:19, 20, 26, 29, 35, 36.

    36. As to the witness of the works of Jesus, see Mt. 11:2-5.

    According to Lightfoot, John says, in one form or another, that the Father sent the Son 42 times, or an average of twice in each chapter.

    47. Barclay says that Jn. 7:15-24 is misplaced; that it should go after 5:47.

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Verse:
    1. Jesus crossed by boat (about four miles) but the people circled the lake on foot (about nine miles). See Mt. 14:13; Mk. 6:32-33.

    2. Many people followed Jesus for the "signs" – the benefits, the "big show."

    7. Philip couldn't think beyond the human dimension. Andrew, too, thought things looked hopeless (v. 9), although he brought what he found to Jesus.

    9. According to Barclay, barley was the cheapest, coarsest kind of bread. The boy didn't have much, but he gave it all to Jesus. And Jesus used it to feed thousands of people! Christ can multiply what we bring to him many times over.

    12. Once again Jesus provides more than enough. Cf. 2:1-11.

    15. Why was Jesus so popular at this time?
        (1) He gave the people what they wanted; he healed and fed them;
        (2) They wished to use Jesus for their own purposes, to make him a political ruler over them.

    We, too, often follow Jesus for the benefits – and shy away from the cross. We want Christ's power and support – to carry out our own wills. "We would like Christ's gifts without Christ's cross; we would like to use Christ instead of allowing him to use us." (Barclay)

    32. Jesus answers:
        (1) It wasn't Moses but God who gave the manna.
        (2) Furthermore, that was only physical bread that gave physical life for a little while. The true bread of God is Jesus ("that which comes down from heaven" – cf. 3:13-31) and he gives [eternal] life to the world. (3:16; see also 6:49-50).

    34. Jesus' hearers ask for the bread that he offers, but they do not understand that he is offering himself. Note that this is the same attitude of the Samarital woman when offered "living water" by Jesus (4:15).

    35. Jesus is the bread of life, not the butter or cake of life. He is the staple, the basic requirement for spiritual life, not an incidental or luxury of life.

    Jesus says we must come and we must believe. Isn't this faith and works in true union?

    37. NEB:: "And the man who comes to me I will never turn away." But see v. 44: "No one cancome to me unless the Father ... draws him." This is one side of the mysterious interplay between man's free will and God's sovereign call. See also v. 65.

    "I will not cast out." Here Jesus reaffirms his claim that he does the will of the Father, and only the will of the Father. He will reject no one whom the Father draws and sends to him. He will make no decisions contrary to or independent of the Father.

    38. "Not my will but thine be done." (Lk. 22:42)

    44. See v. 37, 65.

    54. Flesh plus blood equals life. We must partake of the life of Christ in the most intimate way possible. How can this be done? By taking Christ into our hearts through faith. Perhaps John is also referring to the Lord's Supper, although he does not record the institution of the sacrament.

    60. NEB: "This is more than we can stomach! Why listen to such words?"

    66. Many followed when there were miracles and ease. But many turn back they they realize the hardships and tests.

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General comments:
    Reactions to Jesus:
        (1) His brothers – disbelief, skeptically challenging. (v. 3-5)
        (2) Religious authorities – bitter hatred, desire to kill. (v. 19, 25, 30, 52)
        (3) Nicodemus – support. (v. 50-51)
        (4) The people:
            (a) Interest (v. 11)
            (b) Fear of authorities (v. 13)
            (c) Division, discussion (v. 12, 40-43)
            (d) Belief (v. 31)
            (e) Astonishment (v. 15)

    Verdicts on Jesus:
        (1) A good man. (v. 12)
        (2) A heretic or false guide. (v. 12, 47)
        (3) A demon-possessed man, insane. (v. 20)
        (4) A courageous man (v. 26)
        (5) A prophet. (v. 40)
        (6) An irresistible speaker. (v. 46)
        (7) The Christ, the Anointed One of God. (v. 26, 31, 41)

Verse:
    2. One of the three great Jewish festivals (along with Passover and Pentecost). It came about Oct. 15. See Lev. 23:40-43.

    4. Jesus' brothers were right – according to the world's ideas. But Jesus lived on another level. He lived only to do the will of the Father, and the Father in his time would reveal him to the world. (Cf. Phil. 2:5-11)

    There are two lessons here:
        (1) We cannot force the hand of Jesus. We cannot challenge God to do something out of skepticism. He does things in his own time, out of divine wisdom.
        (2) Timing was important to Jesus because his presence made a difference. His brothers could go up to the feast at any time, and it made no difference. They were a part of the world; they did not make the world uncomfortable, and the world had no quarrel with them. But Jesus' presence brought power, and condemnation, and challenge. See v. 7 – the world hates Jesus because he testifies that its works are evil.

    8. According to Barclay, the word used here for "time" is different from the Greek word used in all the other places where Jesus speaks about his "time" or his "hour." Here the word does not mean the "destined hour of God" but the "opportunity" or "psychological moment." What he is really saying here, then, is: "I am not going up to this feast with you now, because it's not the time for my best opportunity."

    15-24. Barclay says these verses are misplaced; they should go after 5:47.

    15. See Acts 4:13. They said the same thing about Peter and John.

    17. Our understanding is tied up with our wills. If we really want to do God's will, then God will reveal it to us. If we just want to stand back and look over God's will to see if it's acceptable, then we see nothing.

    21. NEB: "Once only have I done work on the Sabbath, and you are all taken aback!" Apparently Jesus is referring to the healing he had performed on a Sabbath during his previous visit to Jerusalem. See 5:1-16.

    23. Lev. 12:3 says that on the eighth day after birth the child should be circumcised. This means that frequently it would be done on a Sabbath. Jesus is showing the Jews that they don't even keep the Sabbath themselves, under their definition. If it's "work" to perform a healing miracle by the spoken word of power, then surely it is "work" to prepare and perform the surgical operation of circumcision.

    27. This was the popular Jewish belief, that the Messiah would just suddenly appear, out of nowhere. The only thing they believed they would know about the Messiah's origin was that he would be born in Bethlehem. (Barclay)

    28-29. Jesus makes two tremendous claims here:
        (1) Yes, you know my background on earth, but beyond that I come from God;
        (2) You – the Jews – do not know God, but I know him.

    28. Apparently it is uncertain whether this verse is a statement of agreement or a question. NEB says: "No doubt you know me; no doubt you know where I come from" (but a footnote gives an interrogatory interpretation). AV and NIV agree with NEB, but Phillips with RSV.

    31. Jesus expected his "signs" to lead to belief. See 14:11; also Mt. 11:2-6.

    38. See Isaiah 58:11; Jn. 4:14.

    41. What was the response to Christ's great invitation (v. 37-38)? Some believed and accepted him, but many just turned to theological argument! It was much safer to argue about where Christ was to come from than to follow him personally.

    47-49. This shows the infinite distance between Jesus' attitude toward the people and the Pharisee's. Jesus loved them and invested his life in theirs; the Pharisees had nothing but contempt for them. Their opinion was this: "Nobody who is spiritually and academically of any account has believed on this Jesus. Only ignorant fools accept him." (Barclay) This is a common attitude among educated pagans today.

    52. But 2 Kings 14:25 says that the prophet Jonah came from Gath-Hepher in Galilee.

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General comments:
    There was no chance for Jesus to duck this one. He was right in the middle of teaching a crowd of people in the temple.

    Jesus' claims about himself in this chapter:
        (1) I am the light of the world. (v. 12)
        (2) I am not of this world; I am from above. (v. 23)
        (3) I always do what pleases God; I am sinless. (v. 29, 46, 55)
        (4) My word brings truth and freedom. (v. 32, 36)
        (5) My word brings victory over death. (v. 51)
        (6) I have seen and heard God the Father. (v. 26, 38, 40)
        (7) I came from God; He sent me. (v. 42)
        (8) I know God. (v. 55)
        (9) I existed before Abraham. (v. 58)

Verse:
    3. They brought only the woman, but both parties caught in adultery were to be stoned, according to Lev. 20:10; Deut. 22:22.

    5. She was brought to Jesus as to an authority: What do you say about her? But their idea of authority was the power to condemn and the duty to punish. Jesus conceived of authority as the right to restore. This in turn stems from a fundamental difference in the way of looking at people. Jesus always saw people as persons, with unique worth and individual needs. To the scribes and Pharisees people were "accursed" (7:49) or just "things," as here. The woman was an instrument that could be used to trap Jesus. She herself was of no consequence.

    6. Why did Jesus write with his finger on the ground?
        (1) To gain time;
        (2) To keep the woman from having to look into his eyes; Jesus never looked at her until the others left;
        (3) To effectively draw the eyes of everyone to himself and away from the embarrassed woman. The timing was perfect; everyone would be straining forward to see what Jesus was writing, and just when they were ready to give up on that and look at the woman again, he suddenly stood up, and all eyes were on him again. He spoke his convicting word, and then they watched him again as he stooped to write in the dust. What did he write? I think he just doodled. He was not trying to communicate; he was trying to draw attention away from the woman.

    11. Note that Jesus did not condone or minimize the woman's sin. He said he didn't condemn her; he said she was free to go; but he also said, "Sin no more." He gave her forgiveness and a fresh start – precisely what he offers us today.

    12. A staggering claim! But see who makes it. Jesus claims to be the beacon, the lighthouse of life. When we walk with him all things become illuminated with the true light. See also the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John.

    13-18. The Pharisees object to this egocentric claim. They say Jesus has no one to back him up. Jesus' reply is two-fold:
        (1) Even if he had no other witness, still his claims about himself are true. Why? Because they are based upon experience; he knew his past glory. They are also based on his divine prescience; he knew his future. Lastly, the Pharisees' view was distorted because they were trying to judge Jesus by human standards ("according to the flesh"). He was not seeking to jduge anyone – another reason why his testimony about himself could be accepted as true.
        (2) But he does have another witness – God the Father. In other words, not just what Jesus says about himself, but what the Father does through him. Every miracle was part of the Father's testimony for Jesus; every divine teaching of Jesus reflected God's witness about him.

    14. Basically, Jesus says the Jews are ignorant about him. They do not know him, where he came from, or where he is going.

    25. The NEB adopts the RSV marginal reading: "Why should I speak to you?"

    28. NEB: "...you will know that I am what I am."

    31-32. A picture of discipleship:
        (1) Discipleship begins with belief. Jesus is speaking here to those who believed in him, not to the crowds.
        (2) Discipleship means constantly remaining in the word of Jesus. NEB: "If you dwell within the revelation I have brought ...."
        (3) Discipleship results in knowledge of the truth. What truth? The deepest, most basic truths of life – the "why" and "how" of life.
        (4) Discipleship results in freedom; freedom from sin primarily, but also freedom from fear, other people, self, etc.

    33. In one sense, the Jews were not truthful when they said, "We have never been in bondage." They were slaves in Egypt, captives in exile in Babylon, and at the time they spoke they were subjects of Rome. But if slavery depends on attitude, then they could perhaps claim to always being politically free, for they had a tremendously independent spirit. But Jesus isn't talking about political freedom; he isn't even talking about freedom from ignorance or superstition. He is talking about freedom from sin. This is a slavery that is basic to all other slaveries. Better to live righteously in a dictatorship than to be a slave to sin in a democracy.

    39. What did Abraham do when visited by a messanger from God? He welcomed him with eagerness and reverence. (Gen. 18:1-8)

    41. Lightfoot suggests that here the Jews may be making an indirect attack on the manner of Jesus' birth.

    42. NEB: "... God is the source of my being, and from him I come."

    48. The Jews accused Jesus of two things: being a Samaritan and being demon-possessed. Jesus only denied being demon-possessed. Why didn't he deny being a Samaritan? Was it because it was too ridiculous a charge to be worthy of a denial? Or perhaps he did not deny being a Samaritan because, in a sense, he was a Samaritan? Not literally, but Jesus was the Son of God, and although he was born a Jew (of Jewish parentage) he was the Ideal Man, and therefore no more – and no less – a Jew than a Samaritan or a Norwegian or a head-hunting Jivaro Indian. In other words, maybe he was very subtly identifying with the Samaritans, or at least not letting the Jews use their name pejoratively.

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    2. The disciples automatically connected suffering with sin. The Old Testament frequently suggests that children suffer for the sins of their parents and grandparents. See Ex. 20:5; 334:7; Num. 14:18. Perhaps this is also what the Jews were implying when they later told the ex-blind man, "You were born in utter sin ...." (v. 34).

    3. Jesus says that, in this case at least, it had nothing to do with sin; it was instead for the specific purpose of giving an opportunity for God's glory to be revealed. Here was a man who had spent all his life in blindness so that Jesus could come along and heal him. His blindness had a great purpose, even though he may have often cursed it. Without sickness, we would never appreciate health; without sin we would never know forgiveness; without storms there would be no "good weather;" without sorrow no joy; without black, no white.

    But see the story of the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, Jn. 5:14, where Jesus implied that there is a relationship between sin and disability. See also 1 Cor. 11:29-30, implying that improper taking of communion caused weakness, sickness, and even death.

    This man's suffering "for no fault of his own" sounds unfair only if we are thinking of a man-centered universe. If God is the center, then obviously his glory is more important than man's. (See Rom. 9:20-24)

    4. For Jesus the night of the cross was coming. But this is true for us, too. We must do God's work when the opportunity arises; we can't go back later and catch up on serving Christ.

    5. See the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John.

    11-38. Note the progression of this man's idea of Jesus:
        (1) He first referred to Jesus as a "man" ("The man called Jesus ..." v. 11).
        (2) Next he called Jesus a "prophet." (v. 17)
        (3) Finally he called Jesus "Lord" and worshiped him (v. 38).

    Maybe we shouldn't get upset when people think of Jesus as something less than the Son of God. That could be the start of spiritual growth. "The tremendous thing about Jesus is that the more we know him the greater he becomes." (Barclay)

    11. This man's "explanation" of the miracle was just to tell his side of it – what he heard and what he did. Isn't this the case with all true witnessing? The skeptic can answer argument for argument as long as his does not want to believe, but truly personal testimony cannot be answered. (See also v. 15, 17, 25-27)

    12. When the man was asked something outside of his experience, he said, "I don't know."

    14. This was the whole trouble. Jesus healed him on the wrong day of the week. According to Barclay, the scribes and Pharisees held that Jesus broke the sabbath in three ways: (1) making clay (labor); (2) putting spittle on eyelids (specifically proscribed); and (3) healing. Healing was prohibited, but if life was in actual danger, then enough medical attention could be given to keep the patient from getting worse, but not enough to make him any better!

    19. The fact that a wonderful miracle had given sight to their son was nothing to the Pharisees. The parents were practically accused of wrongdoing.

    It seems like the Pharisees were so concerned about means that they lost sight of the end altogether. It's like a policeman watching someone risk his life by plunging into a stormy ocean to rescue a little baby – and then telling the exhausted hero, "Hey, what's the matter with you? Can't you see the "No swimming" sign?

    22. See 12:42.

    24. NEB: "'Speak the truth before God. We know that this fellow is a sinner.'" Lightfoot says, in effect, that "give God the praise" is Jewish for "speak the truth."

    25. This is the unshakeable fact; this meant more to the ex-blind man than all the sophistry in the world. And this is what our witness to Christ must boil down to: "Once I was blind but now I see!" Note, too, that the theological point – whether Jesus was sinless – is clearly subordinated to the personal experience.

    29. Cf. 7:27, 52.

    30. Under continued badgering from the Pharisees the man does turn to theology. But it is still rooted in his own personal experience; it is not abstract.

    33. What crushing self-righteousness! "Who are you, you ignorant sinneer, that you should teach us anything?" See 7:49 and 8:3-5 for more of the Pharisees' view of people.

    The reason they turned to insult and threw him out was because they could not meet the man's arguments. This always happens. When our arguments fail we turn to other weapons – personal invective, display of authority, etc. This is the response of small, petty men.

    35. Jesus went looking for the man when he heard that he had been thrown out. Jesus never forsakes us. Jesus revealed himself to the man. To those who meet persecution at the hands of men Jesus reveals himself more fully.

    39-41. The encounter with Christ brings judgment. Those who cannot see when they meet Christ (as this blind man, or the many spiritually blind) are given sight by Jesus, but those that see (those that are satisfied with their own sight, as the Pharisees and others who reject Christ) become blind through refusing Christ, the light of the world. By saying "we see," the Pharisees were firmly rejecting the light that Christ left heaven to bring to earth.

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General comments:
    In connection with this chapter, read Ezekiel 34, especially v. 23.

Verse:
    3. He calls us "by name" – Jesus, the good Shepherd, knows my name!

    16. See Mt. 9:36; 10:6; 15:25; Mk. 6:34; Num. 27:16-17. Lightfoot says that ordinarily the "sheep" represent the "house of Israel," but here the Lord is foretelling the bringing in of Gentile believers.

    There is one Shepherd, but the flock is fractured into many little bunches of sheep, each claiming a unique or special relationship with the Shepherd.

    28. Does this mean it is impossible for a Christian to lose his or her salvation? See Heb. 6:4-8

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    9-10. See the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John.

    16. Thomas wasn't being entirely pessimistic. Jesus' re-entry into Judea was the beginning of the (earthly) end for Jesus. See v. 47-53.

    22. Note that Martha asks for something from "God" – and Jesus instead offers himself (v. 25) as God.

    25-26. NEB: "Jesus said, 'I am the resurrection and I am life. If a man has faith in me, even though he die, he shall come to life; and no one who is alive and has faith shall ever die.'"

    27. NEB says "'I now believe ....'"

    32. Mary says the same thing to Jesus that Martha had said (v. 21, "Lord, if you had been here, my brother would not have died"), but Jesus did not give the same response. Remember – Jesus deals differently with different people!

    34. NEB says Jesus "sighed heavily and was deeply moved."

    38. NEB: "Jesus again sighed deeply ...."

    52. The term "children of God" must be used in a different sense here than in 1:12, unless here it means "potential children of God."

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    1-8. See separate analysis of the anointing of Jesus in all four gospels.

    1-3. Mary, Martha and Lazarus welcomed a special guest to their home; they prepared a big dinner in his honor, and then Mary shows the extravagence of her love by pouring out probably her most precious possession on his feet. Matthew and Mark have Jesus saying that this was symbollically an anointing of his body for his coming buriel (Mt. 26:12; Mk. 14:8).

    3. Mary anointed only his feet, and yet the whole house was filled with the fragrance. See how an act of love spreads. She did it to and for Jesus, but it reached and blesssed all others who were near Jesus.

    4-5. Forgetting his motives, what is wrong with this objection? Is it the same as saying, "Why build this million dollar church building; why not give the money to missions? How does this affect the concept of stewardship? Maybe the answer lies in the heart of the giver. For example, if Mary really did it for the recognition she would get, and not out of love for Christ, then maybe it would have been better to give it to the poor.

    6. Jesus knew all about Judas (Jn. 6:70-71) and yet he let him keep the money box! Maybe he was trying to appeal to his sense of honor. But it didn't work; Judas stole money, and finally betrayed Jesus for money. It's interesting that a greedy man should be the one to criticize generosity.

    8. Jesus is quoting Deut. 15:11.

        NEB says in a footnote that "some witnesses" omit this verse.

    10. The chief priests' plan: do away with the evidence! They had already planned one murder, deciding that it was better for one man to die than the whole nation (11:50-53). But evil does not stop so easily. Now they found it necessary to plan a second murder.

    I wonder how they were going to make sure Lazarus stayed dead this time?

    Note that it was the effect of a new life through Christ that brought people to belief, not any theological argument. They had heard that Jesus Christ had raised Lazarus from the dead. But it wasn't until they saw the man Lazarus alive that they believed. Lots of people today have heard that Jesus Christ can change lives – now they are waiting to see the lives.

    12. The entry into Jerusalem was a tremendous act of courage by Jesus, for he was by now a condemned outlaw. Instead of hiding out, or entering Jerusalem secretly, he comes openly, regally.

    13. "Hosanna" means "save now," and this shout is very similar to "God save the king!"

    14. See Zech. 9:9. Jesus' act of riding on a young donkey is a symbolic one, to show that he comes as a king of peace.

    16. See 2:22, where John makes a similar editorial comment concerning the cleansing of the temple.

    18-19. The crowd went out to meet Jesus because they heard he had done something great. But hearing about Jesus and coming to see him are not enough. The Pharisees saw the crowd going after Jesus and they thought the whole world was on his side. In a sense they didn't intend, they were foretelling a truth, that Jesus would draw the world to himself. But as for the immediate situation, Jesus knew better (cf. 2:23-25). In a few days, the crowd would be yelling "crucify him."

    20-21. Right after Christ makes his great entry into Jerusalem, and the Pharisees make their prophetic comment (v. 19), some Greeks come looking for Jesus. This perhaps is a symbol, showing that Christ was for all the world, not just Jews.

    21. Why did they approach Philip first? Maybe because he had a Greek name. At any rate, Philip went to the other disciple with a Greek name, Andrew, and Andrew, of course, took him to Jesus. Andrew had apparently learned that there was always an open door to Christ. See 1:40-42.

    23. To the Jews, the "Son of man" was the great political and military leader they looked for to lead them to conquor the world. (See Dan. 7:13, and the apocryphal book of Enoch.) Therefore Jesus saying, "The hour has come" was like announcing the invasion. But Jesus meant something far different by "glorified." He meant the cross.

    24. This expresses one of the great paradoxical truths of life. Keep the seed locked up in the barn and that's the end of it, but "bury" it in the ground and it comes to new and increased life. Similarly, the one who hoards his life, measuring everything in terms of safety and security, and especially self, really never lives at all (v. 25). He has only existed. But the one who "hates" his life, who spends it all for Jesus Christ, will wind up having and keeping his life forever. Pour out your life for others for his sake, and reap a harvest of love and joy eternal. Clutch every bit of your life for yourself and die a selfish, stingy, lonely man, missed by no one. See also 1 Cor. 15:36 et seq., where Paul uses this seed illustration to try to explain the resurrection body.

    27. Christ's soul was "troubled" for he alone knew what was ahead. He considers the prayer for deliverance, but he knows that deliverance ("loving his life") will mean missing his life's goal. So instead he prays this great prayer: "Father, glorify thy name." Jesus lived – and died – totally for the Father in heaven.

    28. A voice came from heaven, as at two other great moments in his life, at his baptism (Mk. 1:11) and his transfiguration (Mk. 9:7). The crowd heard the voice of God, but as usual they do not hear clearly or apprehend its meaning. Some just think it thundered, while other conclude that an angel spoke to Jesus. But Jesus needed no assurance that his prayer would be granted, and he makes it clear that the voice came for the crowd's sake.

    31. John also quotes Jesus as speaking of the "ruler of this world" in 14:30 and 16:11. Cf. Lk. 4:5-8, where during the temptation of Christ, Satan claims to be the ruler of this world.

    32. For the phrase "when I am lifted up," cf. 3:14; 8:28. The Greek word for "to lift up" means also "to exalt." (Lightfoot) Thus this passage can be understood to have a two-fold meaning: (1) to refer to Jesus being lifted up on the cross, and (2) to refer to his exaltation or glorification. Verse 33 indicates that the former is more relevant here.

    35. The one who walks with Jesus walks in the light. But the decision to walk with him must be made in time. "While you have the light" still applies today. People must believe in the light while they can see it, before sin plunges them into too great a darkness. (See also the metaphor of "light" in the Gospel of John).

    37. Other signs and wonders in Jewish history: Ex. 4:1-7; 34:10; Judges 6:36-40 (Gideon and fleece). See also 1 Cor. 1:22.

    38. The first sentence of this prophecy, from Isa. 53:1, refers to the Lord's words or teaching; the second to this signs or mighty works, according to Lightfoot.

    41. Cf. Isa. 6:9-10; Mt. 13:14-15; Mk. 4:12; Lk. 8:10; Acts 28:26-27; Rom. 11:8; 2 Cor. 3:14.

    42-43. Sometimes it's harder for leaders to become Christians – they have so much at stake. But whatever it is, it's not as important as Jesus Christ. Here they were afraid of being put out of the synagogue – they were more concerned with man's religion than God's! But the praise of men only lasts a few years; the praiseof God lasts through eternity.

    43. Cf. Mt. 10:32-33; Mk. 8:38; Lk. 9:26; 2 Tim. 2:12.

    44-45. Cf. Mt. 10:40; Mk. 9:37; Lk. 9:48; Jn. 13:20.

    46-50. These are Jesus's last words of teaching, according to John. After this he teaches his disciples, and stands before Pilate, but he no longer addresses the crowds. His last message to all is this:

        (1) I am God. Everyone who believes me is really believing God; everyone who sees me is really seeing God.

        (2) I came into the world on a mission, to save the world, not to judge it.

        (3) nevertheless, the one who hears my words and rejects them will find that he has judged himself. Those very words will come back to haunt him in judgment.

        (4) The reason my words are capable of judgment is because they are really God's words. They were not spoken on my own authority, but I spoke only what God commanded me.

    How can Jesus say he didn't come to judge the world, and yet his words will judge those who reject him? The answer lies in the fact that man is already doomed by his sin. Christ brought the possibility of salvation, of forgiveness from sin. He who rejects that, then, is in a sense choosing his own judgment. The very fact that he heard the words of life makes his condemnation all the more serious, for then there is no excuse.

    This closes Jesus' public ministry; in the following chapters Jesus reveals the depths of his heart to those who have received him.

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Verse:
    1. NEB: "He had always loved his own who were in the world, and now he was to show the full extent of his love." Lightfoot says that the words "to the end" can also mean "to the utmost bound or limit."

    8. NEB: "... you are not in fellowship with me."

    13-14. Jesus says the disciples first call him "Teacher" and then "Lord," but he reverses those titles and says that he is their "Lord" first and then "Teacher." E. Stanley Jones says this "simple change of order has been and is the most impoverishing thing that has ever crept into our faith," basically because the disciples' order makes Christianity "a proposition to be repeated instead of a person to be surrendered to." E. Stanley Jones, Victory Through Surrender, p. 65. For a similar reversal of the titles for Jesus, see Lk. 5:5, 8.

    15. Footwashing, or humble service, is explicitly stated to be an example for us to follow. We are to be like Jesus in doing these kinds of things. See also Lk. 6:40 (RSV): "A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher," and 1 Jn. 2:6 (NIV): "Whoever claims to live in him must walk as Jesus did."

    34-35. In A Serious Call to a Devout and Holy Life, William Law says that the newness of this commandment did not consist in the precept to love one another, but it was "to imitate a new, and til then unheard-of example of love; it was to love one another, as Christ had loved us." (p. 201) In other words, men had always been under the general obligation to love his fellow-man, but here for the first time the extent, the demands, the quality of that love was spelled out.

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Verse:
    3. "... where I am you may be also." Heaven is to be with Jesus.

    6. NEB omits the article before "life."

    15. The test of love is obedience. See also 14:21, 23-24, 31.

    16. NEB: "... another to be your advocate."

    21a. See also Mt. 7:24.

    31. Even Jesus demonstrated his love by obedience.

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    4. See 6:56 for the only earlier use in this gospel of the word translated "abide".

    20. NEB: "As they persecuted me, they will persecute you; they will follow your teaching as little as they have followed mine."

    26. For other passages in which John speaks of the ministry of the Holy Spirit, see Jn. 14:15-17, 25-26; 16:7-11. See also the summary of these passages in HSB, p. 1610.

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    5. They do not ask this question any longer (cf. 13:36; 14:5) because now they know that he is going to the Father (14:12, 28). But sorrow or distress fills their hearts, for now they realize that the sorrows Jesus predicted (15:18-21; 16:1-4) are coming upon them. The disciples are still thinking of themselves first.

    8-11. NEB: "When he comes, he will confute the world, and show where wrong and right and judgement lie. He will convict them of wrong, by their refusal to believe in me; he will convince them that right is on my side, by showing that I go to the Father when I pass from your sight, and he will convince them of divine judgment, by showing that the Prince of this world stands condemned."

    12. God's revelation is progressive; only after the disciples had learned certain basic things could Jesus teach them more advanced lessons. See also 16:4b.

    16. See 14:18-20; also 7:33-34; 12:35-36.

    19. Jesus anticipated what they wanted to ask him. Perhaps in the same way God anticipates our prayers – or at least goes half-way to meet them.

    22. No one will take the joy away, but we can lose it ourselves, through indifference, etc.

    33b. NEB: "But courage! The victory is mine; I have conquered the world."

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General comments:
    In this chapter, Jesus prays first for himself (v. 1-5), then for his disciples (v. 6-19), and then for the church (v. 20-26).

Verse:
    5. Cf. Phil. 2:6-7 – this is the glory that he "emptied himself" of.

    6. Cf. Ps. 9:10; 20:7; 22:22; Isa. 52:6.

    7-8. What did the early Christians know and believe?
        (1) Everything Christ had was from God;
        (2) Christ came from God; and
        (3) God sent Christ.

    20. Jesus knew that others were going to be converted through the disciples' witnessing.

    21b. The unity of Christians is to make the world believe in Christ.

    24. See 2 Tim. 2:11-12.

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    9. Lightfoot points out that the Lord "gives Himself to bonds and death, in order that his disciples may go free and live."

    23. Cf. Mt. 5:39. When struck in the face, Jesus did not turn the other cheek, but uttered a "gentle and dignified remonstrance." (Lightfoot). Cf. Paul's response when struck on the mouth at the command of the high priest: "God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! You sit there to judge me according to the law, yet you yourself violate the law by commanding that I be struck!" (Acts 23:3 NIV)

    33. NEB gives this alternate translation in margin: "'You are the king of the Jews, Jesus, I take it,' he said."

    37. NEB: "Jesus answered, ' "King" is your word. My task is to bear witness to the truth. For this was I born; for this I came into the world, and all who are not deaf to truth listen to my voice.'"

    Phillips: "'Indeed I am a king,' Jesus replied; 'the reason for my birth and the reason for my coming into the world is to witness to the truth. Every man who loves truth recognizes my voice.'"

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    3. NEB: "Then time after time they came ...." Phillips: "kept coming".

    7. NEB: "claimed to be".

    11a. See Rom. 13:1.

    11b. NEB: "the deeper guilt". In effect Jesus, who was on trial for his life, is saying that the real guilty parties are those prosecuting and judging him! The reference to "he who delivered" could mean Caiaphas (18:30, 35), who as high priest was leader of the Jews, or to Judas (6:64, 71; 12:4; 13:2, 11, 21; 18:2, 5), who betrayed Jesus into the hands of the Jews.

    As to the relative seriousness of sins, see Jas. 2:10.

    25. According to John, there were four women standing at the foot of the cross, three of them named Mary and the fourth unnamed. The unnamed one was the sister of Mary the mother of Jesus (and therefore Jesus' aunt) who was probably Salome (mentioned by Mark as being present at the cross, but not identified as Mary's sister; Mk. 15:40). Could she also be the unnamed "mother of the sons of Zebedee" (James and John), listed by Matthew as present at the cross? But that would make Jesus the cousin of James and John. The synoptic gospels do not mention Jesus' mother as being present at the cross.

    26. Cf. 2:4.

    29. NEB and Phillips say "sour wine."

    35. NEB: "This is vouched for by an eyewitness, whose evidence is to be trusted. He knows that he speaks the truth, so that you too may believe ...."

    41. Lightfoot notes that, according to John, the Lord gives himself up in a garden (18:1-12, 26) and a garden is near the place of crucifxion, and that's where Jesus is buried. Thus perhaps John is deliberately contrasting the garden of God's triumph with the original garden of man's fall.

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Verse:
    2. The use of "we" seems to indicate that Mary was not alone, even though v. 1 and the earlier part of v. 2 speak only of Mary. This would be consistent with the other gospels.

    16. Note that it was when Jesus spoke to her by name that Mary recognized him and acknowledged him as teacher or master.

    NEB: "My Master."

    17. NEB: "Do not cling to me ...." As St. Augustine points out, to a woman who believed Jesus said, "Do not touch me," and to a man who did not believe he said, "Touch me." (Thomas, v. 27) Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 61. Was this just another way of commending faith that does not rely on sensory experience (v. 29)?

    22. Cf. Gen. 2:7 (God breathed into Adam the breath of life).

    27. See v. 17.

    28. See note in HSB, p. 1621, on the deity of Christ.

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    1. The Sea (or Lake) of Tiberias was also called Lake Gennesaret (Lk. 5:1) and the Sea of Galilee (Jn. 6:1).

    2-6. Compare this incident with Lk. 5:1-11, where the Lord directs a miraculous catch of fish at the beginning of his ministry.

    6. NEB: "Shoot the net to starboard, and you will make a catch."

    7b. JB: "Simon Peter, who had practically nothing on, wrapped his cloak round him and jumped into the water."

    15. NEB: "... more than all else?" Lightfoot interprets the question as asking whether Peter loves Jesus more than the other disciples do, although other interpretations are equally possible. For the difference in the Greek verbs used for "love" in this paragraph, see HSB, p. 1622.


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Verse:
    4. Jesus wouldn't let them go out and witness on their own power, or during the excitement of the first days after the resurrection. Also, the "promise of the Father" – the Holy Spirit – was not going to be given to them while they were scattered, but while they were all together (see 2:1).

    6. Were they still thinking of an earthly kingdom?

    7. See Deut. 29:29.

    8. This is the order in which the church spread the Gospel – first to those in Jerusalem (see 2:5, 41), then throughout Judea and Samaria (see 8:14, 9:31), and then into the rest of the world.

    13. Bartholomew – see Lk. 6:14.

    15. See 1 Cor. 15:6 (stating that Christ appeared to more than 500 brethren at one time).

    26. Should we use this means of obtaining guidance? Note that the choice wasn't completely random. First they narrowed down the possibilities to choose from among those who accompanied the Twelve during Jesus' ministry (v. 21) and who could therefore become "a witness to his resurrection."

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    17. "All flesh" apparently does not mean all people, but refers to the fact that in Old Testament times only prophets, priests, and kings received God's Spirit. Cf. Joel 2:29 "Even upon the menservants ...."

        Prophecy, visions and dreams are predicted, but nothing about speaking in tongues.

    20. The first part of this verse could refer to Good Friday, but what about the rest? Shouldn't Peter have ended the quotation at v. 18? Since Peter didn't pull out a scroll, he must have had this Old Testament passage memorized.

    42. Is this the plan for "follow-up" of new believers?

    44. This sounds like a sort of voluntary communism. How much of this should we do today?

    46. What exuberance in the early church! The early Christians: (1) were together; (2) daily; (3) in the temple (for worship); (4) eating together; (5) with glad and generous hearts; (6) praising God; (7) having good rapport with nonchristians; and (8) winning others to Christ.

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    5. Do we often look to God for material things when we should be asking for healing?

    12. See 14:14-15 (crowds tried to worship Barnabas and Paul after they had healed a crippled man).

    16. Whose faith? It must have been Peter's and John's.

    17. Peter neither excuses nor berates the sin of ignorance. Note that even sins committed in ignorance need to be forgiven (v. 19).

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    12. Peter quickly ties in spiritual healing to his answer about physical healing.

    13. Cf. Jn. 7:15. Don't the authorities themselves salute Jesus as a teacher here?

    19. See 5:29.

    20. This is the true function of a witness. See 1 Jn. 1:3.

    29. Note what they prayed for – not safety, or protection, or an end to the threats, but for boldness to speak God's word!

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    3. What was Ananias' sin? He lied, of course, but wasn't the most serious sin breaking the unity of the fellowship? Cf. 4:32. Or was it lying to God?

    9. Note the Holy Spirit as the victim of their sin. See also v. 3 ("lie to the Holy Spirit").

    29. JB: "Obedience to God comes before obedience to men." See also 4:19.

    38-39. How valid is this as a general principle? Should we try to suppress anti-christian movements? Or just let them die out? See Mt. 15:13-14.

    41. See 1 Pet. 4:13, 16. We are not to be ashamed, but to rejoice, when we suffer for Christ's sake. See also Mt. 5:11, 12.

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    1. With growth came problems. See 2:41 (3,000 added at Pentecost). The "Hellenists" were Greek-speaking Jews from outside Palestine. The "Hebrews" were Aramaic-speaking Jews born in Palestine.

    2. Does this mean that some jobs are "higher" than others?

    3. Phillips: "seven men of good reputation who are both practical and spiritually-minded." Note that the apostles did not appoint those who were to be in charge of serving the widows; they were elected by the "brethren." Is this a guide for congregational-type church government?

        Those to be chosen for this practical service also had to have spiritual qualifications ("full of the spirit").

    5. Nicolaus is the first gentile Christian to be identified by name. But see 2:10, indicating that proselytes from Rome heard Peter's message at Pentecost.

    9-10. Deacons apparently were not precluded from a "spiritual ministry." Stephen "did great wonders and signs" and spoke with "wisdom and the Spirit."

        As to the appointment of deacons, see also 1 Tim. 3:8-13 for their qualifications. One deaconess is mentioned in the New Testament: Phoebe (Rom. 16:1).

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    35. The parallel with Christ is clear. They also refused him, but he was sent by God. Note also that he was indirectly answering their accusations in 6:14 – they quoted Stephen as saying that Jesus ws going to "change the customs which Moses delivered to us," but Stephen points out that Moses was rejected by their forefathers.

    39. The Israelites refused to listen to the one who had delivered them – a forerunner of Jesus.

    42. They turned away from God and then God abandoned them.

    45b. JB:: "... the country we had conquered from the nations which were driven out by God as we advanced." The Israelites "conquered" and "advanced" but the enemy was "driven out" by God. Our own efforts work together with God's power when we are doing his will.

    51. NEB: "Like fathers, like sons."

    60. Cf. Christ's last words, Lk. 23.34, 46.

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    5. Philip was a layman, one of the seven appointed to wait on tables. See Acts 6:5.

    6. Philip's witness was in word and deed.

    15. Why couldn't Philip do this? Because he was only one to give out food? (See Acts 6:1-6) Or because only the twelve apostles could "lay on hands" and bestow the Holy Spirit? (See Acts 6:6; 8:17-18; 19:6) But Philip did perform miracles. (See v. 6-7)

    18. There must have been visible signs accompanying the receipt of the Holy Spirit for Simon to know that they had received the Spirit.

    20. Phillips: "To hell with you and your money!"

    22. Note that it was the intent of his heart, and not merely his wrong request, that had to be forgiven.

    39. Phillips translation says he "proceeded on his journey, with a heart full of joy." Acceptance of the Gospel brings joy! It's good news!

    40. Apparently Phillip settled in Caesarea and raised a family. See 21:8.

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    15. See 25:23 et seq.

    16. Did God call Paul to suffering?

    34. Cf. Mk. 2:11; Jn. 5:8.

    35. Miracles in the New Testament seem to have a double purpose. They give divine help where needed (like healing) and they induce belief. Here the result of healing Aeneas was that people were converted to believe in the Lord.

    36. This is the only place in the New Testament where a woman is directly referred to as a "disciple." But see Lk. 8:2-3.

    41. Cf. Jesus' healing of the daughter of the synagogue ruler, Mk. 5:35-43.

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    In this chapter, Peter is welcomed into Cornelius' household to share the gospel, and when he is finished he is invited to stay a few more days. This illustrates planting a church within a cultural community. See also Jn. 4:39-41.

Verse:
    2. Note that a centurion – a military man – is described as "devout" and "God-fearing." Luke certainly didn't think soldiers were disqualified by their occupation from discipleship.

    4. Are good works helpful in obtaining salvation? See Lk. 1:30, where the angel told Mary that she had "found favor with God." Note that Cornelius was "a devout man who feared God." (v. 2) Doesn't this show faith?

    9. The sixth hour was about noon. Was it Peter's habit to pray in the middle of the day? Would this help account for the miracles of 9:32-43?

    25. NBC says the Greek here "does not necessarily connote divine honors."

    34-43. Note the points in Peter's evangelistic message:
        (1) Introductory proclamation of the Gospel (v. 34-35).
        (2) Life of Jesus – doing good and healing (v. 36-38).
        (3) Death and resurrection of Jesus – appearance to disciples (v. 39-41).
        (4) Invitation to believe and receive forgiveness (v. 42-43).

    38. "because God was with him." Why didn't Peter say that Jesus was God, or the Son of God? See Mt. 16:16 ("You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.")

    44. Here the receipt of the Holy Spirit could be perceived by others because it was accompanied by speaking in tongues.

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    13b. This indicates that Cornelius, although "devout and God-fearing" (10:2) was not "saved" – he was still separated from God by sin.

    14. Note that the first non-Jew to be chosen for salvation was a professional soldier.

    15. In this case, the Holy Spirit came as Peter began to speak. Why must we make rigid rules for the free Spirit of God to follow?

    29-30. Note that the principle of proportionate giving is set forth here. The famine was "over all the world" (v. 28), but relief was sent "to the brethren." Don't Christians have a responsibility to non-christians who are hungry? Cf. Gal. 6:10: "let us do good to all men, and especially to those who are of the household of faith."

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    4. NEB says "four squads of four men each." This commentary suggests that the squads took different watches of the night, probably two soldiers at the door and the others on either side of him (see v. 6).

    5. This sets the scene: the power of iron and stone and military might vs. the power of God. Peter was trapped in prison, shackled in chains, guarded by soldiers, but the "church" (not individual Christians) was praying for him! Which power will win? Hah! Remember Elijah on Mount Carmel (1 Kings 18:16-46, esp. v. 36-38).

    6. This sounds as if Peter had been in prison for some time. Did God wait til the last minute in order to test Peter's faith? Or the church's (v. 5)? The timing of God's answers to prayers is often a collateral miracle.

    12. Was this "house prayer meeting" a typical event in the early church? The believers were "praying together." See also Acts. 1:14.

    15. JB: "They said to her, 'You are out of your mind' ...." This is so true to life! The answer to their prayers was so amazing that they didn't believe it when it came.

    17. Peter attributed his deliverance to the Lord. Cf. v. 23; Herod did not give God the glory.

    23. Herod was destroyed by his own vanity. Isn't this the basic sin of every person – refusing to give God the glory?

    25. See 11:27-30.

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    1. There were five prophets and teachers in Antioch: Barnabas, Simeon, Lucius, Manaen, and Saul. NEB says that Manaen "had been" at Herod's court. Phillips says he was the "foster brother of the governor Herod."

    10. Phillips translates the last phrase as "trying to pervert the truth of the Lord." Compare Lk. 3:4, John the Baptist's warning to "Prepare the way of the Lord, make his paths straight." Does this mean to turn from perversity to the truth of the Lord?

    12. The proconsul believed when he saw God's power manifested or demonstrated. In fact, he was "astonished" (JB) by this display of God's power.

    27. What a paradox! They didn't understand the prophecies and so they fulfilled them! In other words, if they had understood the prophecies they would have recognized Jesus and of course would not have killed him – therefore the prophecies would not have been fulfilled.

        Note that here Paul blames those in Jerusalem, not Jews generally, for condemning Jesus.

    38-39. This is the climax of Paul's message – a call to respond to the Gospel, followed by a warning (v. 40-41).

    43. The end of this verse makes it sound as if they already believed. but NEB has a slightly different translation ("urged them to hold fast to the grace of God") and Phillips says "urged them to put their trust in the grace of God."

    48b. The second part of this verse raises the question of predestination. It sounds as if God looked over the Gentiles in this city and arbitrarily chose some to believe and rejected others. Can this be explained by the idea of "foreknowledge"? Or the idea that God is beyond time, on which both predestination and foreknowledge are based? See also Rom. 8:29

    52. NEB says the "converts" were filled with joy . This seems to be the hallmark of new Christians in the early church.

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    6-20. Apparently there was no synagogue in Lystra. Paul's method when entering a new city was to go to the local Jewish synagogue (see, e.g., 17:1-2), but in Lystra there is no mention of a synagogue, and the Jews who opposed Paul came from Antioch and Iconium (v. 19). Note also that Paul never mentions Old Testament prophecies, as he did when speaking to Jews. In Lystra Paul's message to the crowd was based on general revelation of God who is the Creator and Sustainer of all life (v. 15-17), not on God's special revelation through his word. However, Paul and Barnabas did spontaneously react with a Jewish custom – tearing their clothes – when the Gentiles in Lystra tried to sacrifice to them as gods.

        Why didn't Paul declare that Zeus, whom they worshiped as the chief god, was actually the true God and Father of the Lord Jesus, as he apparently did in Athens, where he revealed that the "unknown god" they worshiped was the Creator of all? See Act. 17:23. According to Don Richardson, Paul could not identify God with Zeus, because in Greek mythology Zeus, although highest in the pantheon of gods, was himself the child of two other gods, whereas the true God revealed in Scripture is not only the highest of gods but is also uncreated and eternal.

    9. Does this help to explain the "selectivity" of New Testament miracles? E.g., Jesus apparently only healed one invalid at the Pool of Bethesda, although there were a multitude of invalids there (Jn. 5:2-9). Was he the only one who revealed to Jesus that he had faith?

    12. NEB and Phillips say that Barnabas was called "Jupiter" and Paul "Mercury," and KJ agrees ("Jupiter" and "Mercurius").

    14. See 3:12.

    16. See 17:30.

    17. This was God's witness in past generations to all people. Paul doesn't mention the Old Testament prophets, because they were only sent to the Jews and here Paul was speaking to Greeks.

    20. Apparently Paul was not killed by the stoning, but his rising up and going into the city "when the disciples gathered about him" may have been a miracle of healing. It doesn't say that the disciples prayed over him, but that's the implication.

    27. First, they gathered "the church" (not "in the church"); the believers were the church. Then they declared all that God had done with them; not vice versa. They recognized that they were but instruments of God.

        Why did Paul and Barnabas make this missions presentation to the church at Antioch, which had sent them out? Some possible reasons: to educate the believers in Antioch about missions; to make Paul and Barnabas accountable to the church; to get Christians in Antioch praying for the converts resulting from this mission trip; to encourage the believers at home in their own faith with stories of how God had helped Paul and Barnabas on their journey; to glorify God.

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    7-10. But this isn't how Peter felt at one time about the Gentiles – see Gal. 2:11-14. When in Antioch, Peter had gone along with the "Judaizers," and Barnabas too. Peter's argument here:

        (1) I was especially chosen by God to preach the Gospel to the Gentiles (therefore I ought to have more to say about it!);

        (2) God "bore witness" to the Gentiles by giving them the Holy Spirit (therefore there shouldn't be any argument about their being true Christians);

        (3) God saved them exactly as he did us – by faith; he made no distinction between us and the Gentiles (therefore why should we make a distinction by making them do more for their salvation?).

    Peter's conclusion (v. 10): Since we never lived up to the law of Moses, we are just pushing against God's obvious desire to let them be saved by faith, if we make it faith plus the law.

    19. This seems to be a compromise. NBC seems to feel that it was a matter of "courtesy and grace" on the part of Gentile Christians to "respect certain Jewish scruples."

    23. This was a "brethen-to-brethren" letter.

    29. These instructions seems a bit legalistic, although there is no suggestion that they are conditions of salvation.

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Verse:
    3. Isn't this the very thing the council at Jerusalem decided was unnecessary? (15:5-21) Wasn't Paul clearly compromising here? (cf. Phil. 3:2-3)

    4. Is this the beginning of ecclesiastical law for the church? If the early church was right in doing this, doesn't this validate the Roman Catholic claim of ecclesiastical authority? Or Presbyterian type of authority? In other words, does this example leave any room for a purely congregational type of church government? Here, the "apostles and elders" in Jerusalem reached certain "decisions" which they sent by special messengers to other Christians (in local churches) "for observance."

    6. How did the Holy Spirit communicate this prohibition to Paul and Silas?

    8-9.The Holy Spirit guides both negatively (don't go into Bithynia) and positively (go over to Macedonia).

    13. Were there no men interested in spiritual things in Philippi? This didn't discourage Paul. He went ahead and talked with the women, and won the first European convert from among them.

    15. Peter is invited into Lydia's household after sharing the gospel, and a church is planted there; see v. 40. This illustrates planting a church within a cultural community. See also Jn. 4:39-41.

    17. With regard to "Paul and us," see note at 20:5. Note that the girl spoke the truth, and yet Paul was annoyed. Could this be like button-holing people with, "Are you saved?"

    19. The oppositiion to the Gospel came from those who were more interested in making money. See also 19:23-27, where the silver idol business in Ephesus was threatened by the preaching of the Gospel.

    25. An incredible example of being "full of joy and the Holy Spirit!" Paul and Silas were (1) in jail on false charges; (2) wounded from the beating (v. 33); (3) hungry (v. 34); (4) uncomfortable, with their feet in stocks (v. 24); and (5) no doubt tired (it was midnight, v. 25). And yet they were praying and singing hymns to God!

    31-34. Re: the whole household being saved together – see 11:14 (Cornelius); 16:15 (Lydia); 18:8 (Crispus).

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    1-2. Paul sought out Jews, and preached from the Old Testament.

    3. The death and resurrection of Christ are central to Paul's message. See also v. 18b, 31.

    4b. "leading women" – see v. 12.

    6. What a reputation the early Christians had – they were men who "turned the world upside down!

    8. People who are aligned with the rulers of this world are frightened when they hear of Jesus as emperor or king.

    18a. St. Augustine says that "although there were many schools of philosophy in Athens, it was by divine Providence that only the Stoics and the Epicureans entered into debate with the Apostle Paul." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 92. This is because, in Augustine's reasoning, "[T]he entire range of man's nature is encompassed in the body and the soul;" all men seek the happy life, and according to the Epicureans, the "pleasures of the body" are what makes life happy, while the Stoics say the happy life results from "steadfastness of spirit." Augustine says they are both wrong, because they think man's happiness comes from within himself (from the body, according to the Epicureans, or from the soul or spirit, according to the Stoics). Instead, happiness is the gift of God. Id., pp. 92-96.

    18b. See note at v. 3.

    25. NEB: "It is not because he lacks anything that he accepts service at men's hands ...."

    28. Paul was acquainted with Athenian poetry. See NBC, p. 924, for a longer quotation of this passage from Epimenides.

        But this verse also raises questions. Here Paul agrees with the Athenians that "we are the children of God," but Jn. 1:12 says God gives humans power to become children of God. Maybe it can be explained by the difference between paternity and fatherhood. God created everyone, so we are all his children in that sense. But only those who accept him and live with him as their Father are his true children.

    30. Does this refer generally to Gentiles in Old Testament times? See 14:16.

    31. The resurrection is the assurance or guarantee of God's revelation that the world will be judged through Jesus Christ. In other words, the resurrection is the proof (or a proof) of Christ's claim to be the Son of God. As to the resurrection, see note at v. 3.

    32-34. St. Augustine points out that while Paul was speaking, the gathering was divided into three groups: those who mocked, those who doubted, and those who believed. "Standing between those who mocked and those who believed were those who doubted. He who mocks falls; he who believes stands; and he who doubts wavers." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 90.

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    3. Paul didn't sponge off the people he visited.

    10. See Jn. 16:32.

    17. KJ says "all the Greeks took Sosthenes" – but NEB and Phillips follow the RSV in not identifying "they." NBC, relying on the KJ, comments that this scene – the Greeks beating Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue – shows how near the surface anti-Jewish feeling was in those days.

    24-26. This implies that Apollos thereafter adopted the view of Priscilla and Aquila on baptism, but there is no indication that his theology had to be perfectly in line with that of other believers before he could serve the Lord. See also Phil. 3:15-16 ("All of us who are mature should take such a view [Paul's view] of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.") In other words, let's not be so quick to condemn those who believe differently on non-essential points of the Gospel. As to what is essential, see 1 Cor. 15:3-6.

    Note, however, that many Scriptures call for believers to be united. See Cor. 1:10.

    28. How important the Old Testament Scriptures were to the early Christians! But, of course, the Jews recognized the Scriptures as authoritative. When Paul spoke to the Athenians, he didn't even mention the Scriptures (17:22-31).

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Verse:
    2. Why did it occur to Paul to ask them this? Did they perhaps show a lack of joy and other manifestations of the Spirit? (Speaking in tongues?) From his question, it sounds as if Paul considered the time of conversion to be the normal time for receiving the Holy Spirit.

    5. They were baptized twice, then.

    7. RSV: "There were about twelve of them in all." KJ and NEB say about 12 men. Wouldn't there be women and children also?

    12. This sounds like magic. But see v. 13-16.

    13. The "Name" is not a magic password. It is the personal acquaintance that's important. Only the one who knows Jesus has the right to use his name.

    21a. Phillips: "Paul set his heart;" NEB: "Paul made up his mind" (although an alternate reading is the same as RSV: "Paul resolved"). Was this the leading of the Spirit? See 20:23; 21:4, 11.

    21b. Paul wanted to see Rome. See Rom. 1:11; 15:22-32.

    26. The primary reason for opposition to the Gospel here is vested financial interests.

    31. RSV: "Some of the Asiarchs ...." NEB: "dignitaries of the province;" Phillips: "high-ranking officials." Westminster Dictionary says they were annual appointees of various towns in the province of Asia, who conducted festivals and games in honor of the Roman Emperor.

    35. NBC says that the town clerk was the chief liaison officer between the free municipal administration of Ephesus and the Roman provincial government.

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    5. Luke shifts back to the use of the first person, after leaving it in 16:17, which indicates that he rejoined Paul at this point. NBC suggests that Luke may have spent the whole intervening period at Philippi, where he was when the "we" narrative ended and where he was when it picked up again.

    7. NEB says this happened on Saturday night. Wouldn't it be on Sunday night? NBC thinks so.

    17. Ephesus was about 30 miles from Miletus. (NBC)

    18. NBC notes that this is the only record in Acts of Paul's addressing a Christian audience.

    21. NEB: "with Jews and pagans alike I insisted on repentance before God and trust in our Lord Jesus."

    24. See Phil. 3:7-10.

    27. "the whole counsel of God." See also v. 20. Not just predictable things, or things they wanted to hear. He didn't back away from saying the hard things.

    28. Note that Paul commanded the elders (not the pastor) to feed the flock.

    34-35. Note that Paul not only preached to the Ephesians; he taught them by his example. He not only told them that they should work hard to help the weak, and that it is more blessed to give than to receive, but he demonstrated these lessons by the way he lived among them.

    34. NEB: "You all know that these hands of mine earned enough for the needs of me and my companions." Tentmaking must have been pretty profitable, if Paul supported both himself and those who were with him.

    35b. This saying is not recorded in the Gospels. There must have been other collections of the teachings of Jesus, for Paul had not been with him. Paul would not have quoted it unless he was sure that Jesus had said it.

    36. See 21:5b.

    38. "never see his face again." On earth, that is, or else Paul holds out no hope of reunion in heaven.

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Verse:
    4. Why didn't Paul heed this warning of the Spirit? (See also v. 10-12).

        Here Paul sought out the "disciples," but in v. 7. he greeted the "brothers." What's the difference?

    5b. See 20:36.

    8. Philip was one of the seven who were appointed to serve the Christian fellowship in practical ways (deacons – see 6:1-6).

    11. The Holy Spirit warned of danger, but didn't say he shouldn't go. See also v. 4. Actually, the Gentiles rescued Paul from the hands of the Jews (v. 31-36), but the general sense of the prophecy was fulfilled.

    24. NEB: "... but that you are a practising Jew and keep the Law yourself." Since Paul did what they suggested (see v. 26-27), he apparently agreed that a Christian of Jewish background should live as a "practising Jew."

    25. Paul was not passively waiting for the Holy Spirit to deliver him. He used (1) his Roman citizenship (i.e., his human credentials), and (2) his wits (see 23:6).

    32. See also 27:43, another instance where a Roman centurion rescued Paul.

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Verse:
   10. Paul had to begin on faith. He didn't know what he was supposed to do in Damascus. And what he was supposed to do was what had already been "appointed" (JB) or "assigned" (NIV) for him to do. See Eph. 2:10.

    22. What was it that Paul said to bring such a reaction? Was it the reference to Stephen's murder (v. 20), or God's command to go to the Gentiles (v. 21), or was it just the fact that Paul began to talk about the persecution that was carried on by those listening to him?

    29. Why didn't he unbind Paul the same day? See v. 30.

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    3. Cf. Jesus's response when struck in the face by one of the high priest's officials, Jn. 18:23. See also Jude 9.

    23. 470 men to escort Paul!

    24. Antonius Felix, procurator of Judea, AD 52-59 (NBC).

    27. A slight twist of the facts makes the tribune look so much better! See 21:31-36; 22:22-29. Actually, he didn't find out that Paul was a Roman citizen until after he had arrested and bound him.

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    1. Tertullus doesn't sound like a Jewish name. Was he their attorney?

    14. Paul accepted the complete authority of the Old Testament Scriptures. But in what sense did he believe it all – that he was still bound by it?

    15. This is the only place in the New Testament where Paul refers definitely to a resurrection of the unjust (NBC). Cf. Jn. 5:28-29; Rev. 20:12-15.

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    13. This is the son of the Herod mentioned in 12:1 (NBC).

    16. Roman criminal law provided: (1) that the acused had the right to meet his accusers face to face; (2) that he should know the charge or charges against him (implied from this verse); and (3) that he should have opportunity to present his defense.

    23. Note how the "tragedy" of Paul's arrest and imprisonment gave him opportunity to witness for Christ to the "high and mighty" (as predicted; see 9:15), those he might not otherwise have reached with the Gospel. See also 24:24-25.

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    8. Paul's central theme – the resurrection of Christ. See also the climax of his defense in v. 23.

    11. Phillips: "I used to try and force them to deny their Lord."

    16-18. Paul's commission: (1) to be a servant and witness to what had been revealed to him of Christ; (2) to open the [spiritual] eyes of the Gentiles, so that they may (a) turn from darkness to light; (b) move from Satan's dominion to God's dominion; and (c) receive forgiveness of sins and a share in the "inheritance of the sanctified" through faith in Jesus.

    18. Paul was sent to the Gentiles to make sure that they would be represented among those who are "sanctified by faith" in Jesus. That must mean among Jewish believers; i.e., so there would be both Jewish and Gentile believers in heaven. God is not just interested in numbers; He also wants diversity in his kingdom.

    28. NEB" "You think it will not take much to win me over and make a Christian of me."

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    10. Cf. v. 22, 44. There was no loss of life, despite Paul's prediction.

    20. Note that it was when they abandoned all hope of being saved that Paul tells them that God will do for them what they could not do for themselves. In like manner, our salvation comes only when we abandon all hope in our own efforts.

    21. Paul says, "I told you so." And yet they accepted it from him. What a natural leader he must have been! He started the trip as a prisoner and finished it in charge of everyone! See esp. v. 31.

    23. Paul never misses an opportunity to bear witness. See also v. 35.

    31. Paul must have known something about seamanship as well as human nature.

    43. Again God uses a Roman centurion to save Paul. See also 21:32.

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    3. Success didn't go to Paul's head. He wasn't so much of a leader that he couldn't do menial tasks like gathering firewood ... even though he must have been exhausted from all he had been through.

    6. Cf. 14:11 et seq.

    15. Just finding other Christians encouraged Paul.

    17. Even while awaiting trial Paul was busy evangelizing.

    22. NEB: "... all we know about this sect is that no one has a good word to say for it."

    31. NBC suggests that prosecution of the case may have been dropped. At any rate, what a marvelous opportunity God so wonderfully worked out for Paul, his "chosen instrument" (9:15).


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General comments:
    Paul had long wanted to go to Rome (1:11, 15; 15:22-24; Acts 19:21), and in a vision God had revealed to him that he would get to Rome to preach (23:11).

    The book of Romans was written some time in 58 A.D. (Erdman says in the late winter of 57-58 A.D.) while Paul was in Corinth on his third missionary journey. Paul had been collecting a gift for the Jerusalem church from some of the younger churches, and he was about to set out for Jerusalem with that gift (15:23).

    Why did Paul write Romans? (1) He wanted the church at Rome to pray for him (15:30-31); (2) He wanted to carry the Gospel to Spain, which had been opened up by Rome and was producing many Roman leaders. By going to Rome Paul could first establish a base of operations at the heart of the empire. It has also been suggested that Romans was Paul's "last will and testament" – the distilled core of his teaching – although there is no indication that he expected death.

    Who founded the church at Rome? Tradition says Peter, but there is little to support this. Probably it originated through the witness of traveling Christians who came to Rome. The Roman church was comprised of both Jews and Gentiles. Since Paul didn't address any particular person or authority, it is presumed that there was no central organization.

Outline:
    I. Introduction (1:1-17)
    II. Doctrinal instructions
        A. Justification by faith
            1. The universal need of righteousness (1:18 – 3:20)
            3. The divine solution (3:21 – 5:21)
        B. The life of the believers (ch. 6-8)
        C. The problem of Israel's rejection (ch. 9-11)
    III. Practical exhortations
        A. As church members (ch. 12)
        B. As citizens (ch. 13)
        C. Questions of conscience (14:1 – 15:13)
    IV. Conclusion (15:14-16-27)

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    4. The Good News cannot be separated from Jesus Christ! The Good News is news about a person, not about a philosophy or theory of salvation.

    9. JB: "The God I worship spiritually by preaching the Good News of his Son ...." This version seems to say that preaching is a form of spiritual worship.

    17. See Hab. 2:4. Phillips: "I see it as the very power of God working for the salvation of everyone who believes, both Jew and Greek. I see in it God's plan for imparting righteousness to men, a process begun and continued by their faith. For, as the scripture says, 'The righteous shall live by faith.'"

    18. Jer. Bible: "is being revealed." Judgment against sin is both a present process and a final day of reckoning.

    19-20. God has already revealed himself to men through his creation. In other words, the things that have been made show God's eternal power and deity. How much did they reveal of God? Enough to obligate men to "honor him as God" and "give thanks to him." (v. 21) Paul is arguing here that ignorance is no excuse. The pagans do not obey God, not because of intellectual error, but because of moral wrongdoing.

    24. NBC points out that this does not mean permissive abandonment, but is punitive.

    32. Sin inherently deserves punishment, and the punishment is death. See also Rom. 6:23.

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    6-7. This sounds like salvation by good works. Cf. 1:16-17. It says God's judgment will be based on works – not faith. Why? Faith without works is dead (Jas. 2:17, 26).

    11. There is no "double standard;" Jews and non-Jews will be judged according to the same standard.

    13. It is not the hearers of Christ's word who will be justified, but the doers of it. See Mt. 7:21-27.

    16. Note that God judges the "secrets" – i.e., the things we try to keep hidden.

    23. Isn't it equally true that Christians who praise the Lord for salvation and then disobey him bring God into contempt? See 2 Pet. 2:2.

    24. Apparently quoted, loosely, from Isaiah 52:5.

    25. But is it possible for anyone to really keep the law? See Rom. 3:23.

    28-29. Isn't this appropriate for Christians too? "For he is not a real Christian who is one outwardly, nor is true Christianity something external and physical. He is a Christian who is one inwardly, and real Christianity is a matter of the heart, spiritual and not literal." (adaped from RSV)

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    1. If Jews are just as bad as Gentiles, which Paul says in chapter 2, then what's the value of circumcision or of being a Jew? Paul does not answer completely, but mentions that the Jews had been entrusted with the "oracles of God," although this meant special responsibility rather than special privilege. By living up to the law, they had the possibility of greater blessing – and this is shown in much of Jewish history.

    3. What if some Jews were unfaithful – doesn't that show that God has gone back on his word? What about his promises to the Jews, and his covenant with them? Paul answers, in effect, that a covenant can be broken by either party, and because the Jews have been unfaithful that does not mean that God has. (Even unilateral promises can be avoided by the promisee if he acts in certain inconsistent ways; e.g., a promise of peace can be avoided by being warlike.)

    5. If Jewish sinfulness glorifies the holiness of God, and displays the justice of God, then doesn't this preclude God from judging that sin; in fact, doesn't it condone the sin? This, as Barclay points out, is man's ingenuity at justifying his sin. This is the same as arguing that it is a good thing to break a person's heart, because it gives that person a chance to show how much he or she loves you. Paul doesn't even treat this argument seriously, except to ask rhetorically, if God can't punish, then how is he going to judge the world? (The Jews agreed that God was going to judge it.)

    7. See Rom. 8:28. All things are not good, but God is able to make all things work out his will, which is good.

    8. If so much good comes from God's response to sin, why not sin all the more? Here Paul dismisses this argument with a comment that people who talk like that are justly condemned. But see his more substantive answers in chapter 6 and chapter 8.

    20. On this point, see Rom. 7:7-25.

    21. Law and grace are separate and yet related. In other words, a person may receive this righteousness of God without ever hearing about the law, or without trying to keep it, but if he or she does know about the law, it should point the person to this righteousness through faith.

    23-25. The Gospel:
        (1) Both Jews and "pagans" sinned and forfeited God's glory;
        (2) Jesus Christ was appointed by God to sacrifice his life "so as to win reconciliation" (JB);
        (3) Justification comes "by being redeemed in Christ Jesus ... through faith."

    24-25. Note that God's grace is "a gift ... to be received." There is no suggestion of universalism here; the gift may be received or rejected. It is accepted by believing, by faith. See v. 22, 25, 26, 28, 30.

    28. Phillips: "... the whole matter is now on a different plane – believing instead of achieving. We see now that a man is justified before God by the fact of his faith in God's appointed Savior and not by what he has managed to achieve under the Law."

    30. Not because of their circumcision.

    31. NEB: "By no means: We are placing law itself on a firmer footing." Phillips: "Not a bit of it! We put the Law in its proper place."

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    3. The example of Abraham is used to demonstrate that righteousness-by-faith has always been the way to a right relationship with God. It's not an innovation with Jesus. For Abraham was pronounced righteous-by-faith at least 14 years before he was circumcised (Gen. 15:5-6; 16:15-16; 17:1-2, 10-11). Circumcision was just the sign or seal of the righteousness that had been established through Abraham's trust in God (v. 11) – but see Jas. 2:21 ("Was not our ancestor Abraham considered righteous for what he did when he offered his son Isaac on the altar?").

    8. Not "the man who has not sinned" or "the man who has overcome his sin."

    11. Paul says that Abraham is the "father of all who believe." God had told him he would be the father of many nations (Gen. 17:4). Queries: (1) Why didn't God make this clearer in the Old Testament? Why doesn't the Old Testament unequivocally state that circumcision without faith is worthless? (2) If righteousness before Christ came from trusting God, didn't the New Testament then adda requirement – that one believe in Christ also?

    12. Barclay says that of course Abraham couldn't have achieved righteousness by keeping the law, since the law was given to Moses 400 years later. But he still could have tried good works without reference to specific law.

    15. What does this last phrase mean ("where there is no law there is no transgression")? If without the law there is no transgression, then why did God even give the law? Maybe because "no transgression" does not equal "righteousness"? In other words, humans knew through their consciences when they had done wrong, but they hadn't "transgressed," or broken the law, because there was no law to break. But fellowship with God was still severed – because God and evil cannot co-exist – and evil is not the breaking of law but opposing god. If God were a Code of laws, then breaking them would be evil and keeping them would be righteousness. But God is a Personality, and evil is opposing that personality; righteousness is harmonizing with that Personality.

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    1-2. This is Paul's summary of chapters 1-4.

    5. NEB: "... because God's love has flooded our inmost heart through the Holy Spirit he has given us."

    9-10. Paul uses an a fortiori argument. First he point to an established or accepted fact, and then shows how another related fact must also be true, since it is more likely (or less improbable) than the first one. Here he says we have been justified by Christ's blood, therefore we shall obviously be saved from God's wrath. For other uses of the a fortiori argument in the Bible, see Mt. 6:30; Lk. 11:13.

    15. Implicit in the word "gift" is the expected response of accepting or receiving.

    17. The gift is free, but it must be received; i.e., people are not automatically redeemed by the grace of our Lord Jesus, whether they want to be or not. God planted humans on earth as free beings, and he follows that choice to its hard conclusion: He must win them back to himself. He cannot compel them. But cf. v. 18; 1 Cor. 15:21-22.

    18. Shouldn't this verse end like this: "... leads to acquittal and life for all men who receive him"? That would make it consistent with Jn. 1:11-12.

Chapter 6  [Next chapter]   [Preceding chapter]   [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    1-4. This chapter begins with an implied question: If God's grace is so marvelous, and our sin gives God opportunity to extend his grace, then why not keep on sinning? (The question was raised but not answered in Rom. 3:8.) Paul offers two answers in this chapter, and a third in chapter 8. (1) Life vs. death. Christians – in baptism – have "died to sin" and because Christ was raised from the dead, breaking the power of sin, we have (as believers) "newness of life." So the first answer Paul gives to this question is that Christians cannot continue in sin because, if they are truly Christians, they have a totally new nature, one that is no longer controlled by sin. See 2 Cor. 5:17.

    11. See Rom. 7:4.

    12. Paul makes clear that sin is not to reign or have dominion (v. 14) over us; not that we become absolutely sinless. It's a matter of who we "yield" our "members" to – sin or God.

    13. An "offer" requires a decision, but it does not guarantee a result. When you offer a gift, you have to first decide to surrender it, but whether the gift is accepted depends on the recipient. This verse is telling me I have to keep offering my body – my being – to God, and then let him do the accepting. My problem is that I want to control the whole process, the offering and the accepting. Can't I just trust him to accept what I offer?

    15-18. (2) Slavery vs. freedom. Paul's second answer to the question raised in Rom. 3:8 is based on a universal principle – whatever a man obeys, to that he is enslaved. See Jn. 8:31-34. He says Christians were once slaves to sin, but now are slaves to righteousness, and no man can serve two masters (Mt. 6:24).

    But why is it important that we be enslaved to righteousness rather than sin? Isn't all slavery the same – the lack of freedom? No! For no one has true freedom, in the sense that he can do anything he wants to. There is, first, the limitation posed by the rights of other persons, and then the limitation posed by nature itself (i.e., a person cannot be free to do contradictory things at the same time – "have your cake and eat it too.") The important thing is, what is the outcome of the "slavery"? Sin, because of its nature, leads to death, while righteousness leads to a holy life and eternal life (see v. 20-23).

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    4. Here Paul says Christians are "dead to the law" but in 6:11 he says we must consider outselves "dead to sin" (JB).

        "so that you may belong to another" (RSV, ESV). The Jerusalem Bible makes explicit the allusion to Christians being the bride of Christ: "That is why you ... can now give yourselves to another husband ...."

    7. The law reveals sin.

    9. The law stimulates sin.

    10. NEB: "The commandment which should have led to life proved in my experience to lead to death ...."

    13. Phillips: "Can it be that something that is intrinsically good could mean death to me? No, what happened was this. Sin, at the touch of the law, was forced to expose itself as sin, and that meant death for me. The contact of the Law showed the sinful nature of sin."

    14. The law conflicts with sinful human nature.

    16. NEB: "But if what I do is against my will, it means that I agree with the law and hold it to be admirable."

    17-23. Three times Paul says that sin lives in his body. (v. 17, 20, 23).

    21. NEB: "I discover this principle, then: that when I want to do the right, only the wrong is within my reach."

    23. JB: "I can see that my body follows a different law that battles against the law which my reason dictates. This is what makes me a prisoner of that law of sin which lives inside my body." Cf. Agnes Sanford: the subconscious responds to suggestion, not reason.

Chapter 8  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    1. et seq. This is Paul's third answer to the implied question: If God's grace is so marvelous, and our sin gives God opportunity to extend his grace, then why not keep on sinning? (The question was raised but not answered in Rom. 3:8.) Paul's first two answers to this question are in chapter 6. (3) Spirit vs. flesh. Paul says the third reason for not continuing in sin is because we have received the Spirit of God, and are living in the Spirit and not in the flesh. To follow fleshly desires leads to death; to follow spiritual desires leads to life and peace (v. 6).

        Query: Why is flesh equated with sin? Doesn't this produce a false dichotomy bgetween material and spiritual, leading to asceticism? I think the key is this: flesh is not bad in itself, but it was never designed to be in the driver's seat. "Flesh" should be subjected to the will of the Spirit; when fleshly desires are followed apart from Spirit, this is bound to lead to death.

    2. Paul is using the word "law" here in a difference sense than in subsequent verses (3, 4, 7). Here "law" is a natural condition, like the law of gravity, not the moral and ceremonial law revealed by God in the Old Testament.

    9. Cf. Acts 8:14-17. One of the marks of a true Christian is the indwelling Spirit.

        See also notes on the Holy Spirit.

    19. Phillips: "The whole creation is on tiptoe to see the wonderful sight of the sons of God coming into their own."

    24-25. The Jerusalem Bible translation of these verses casts doubt on our assurance of salvation: "For we must be content to hope that we shall be saved – our salvation is not in sight, we should not have to be hoping for it if it were – but, as I say, we must hope to be saved since we are not saved yet – it is something we must wait for with patience." Cf. 1 Jn. 5:13 (JB): "I have written all this to you so that you who believe in the name of the Son of God may be sure that you have eternal life."

    29. This seems to me to present the correct sequence of events in the thorny question of predestination. God knew ahead of time (since he is God) who would believe, and those are the ones he predestined to faith. On the other hand, to One who is the creator of time and is wholly beyond time, maybe foreknowledge and predestination are the same thing. For other Scripture mentioning God's foreknowledge or predestination, see Acts 13:48b, 1 Pet. 2:8b.

    33-34. This should make us wary of criticizing other Christians.

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    4. Paul says the Israelites have the "covenants" and "promises." But who are the true Israelites? See v. 8; also 4:16-18.

    13. NBC says this must be interpreted in the sense of nations, not individuals, which is the original reference in the two Old Testament quotations. See Gen. 25:23; Mal. 1:2-3. But is this helpful? It doesn't ameliorate the sledge-hammer impact of these words. After all, nations are made up of individuals.

    32. Phillips: "And why? Because their minds were fixed on what they achieved instead of on what they believed."

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    1-2. Cf. Mt. 5:44. Paul has succeeded in loving his enemies, who were among his own people. Here he shows a positive attitude, giving credit to them for their good points ("they have a zeal for God").

    5. What does the word "practices" (RSV) really mean here? Fulfills? And does "shall live by it" mean "live eternally"?

    9-10. Therefore no one can determine another's salvation, if he or she confesses Jesus as Lord. J.B. Phillips translates these verses: "'If you openly admit by your own mouth that Jesus Christ is the Lord, and if you believe in your own heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.' For it is believing in the heart that makes a man righteous before God, and it is stating his belief by his own mouth that confirms his salvation." (Emphasis by Phillips)

    13. See v. 9.

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    7. Phillips: "... while the remainder became more and more insensitive to the word of God." Is this hardening the work of God? Verse 8 indicates yes. Barclay uses the analogy of a callus, as sort of a natural growth.

    12. What is Paul getting at when he hints at the eventual salvation of all Israel? See also v. 15, 25-26.

    28. NEB: "In the spreading of the Gospel they are treated as God's enemies for your sake; but God's choice stands, and they are his friends for the sake of the patriarchs."

    32. What does this mean? NEB translates it: "For in making all mankind prisoners to disobedience, God's purpose was to show mercy to all mankind."

    36. NEB: "Source, Guide, and Goal of all that is – to him be glory forever! Amen."

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    1. To present the body is an act of worship! Barclay equates "body" to everyday life: "Real worship is the offering of everyday life to God." Similarly, NEB says, "offer your very selves."

    2. Phillips: "Don't let the world around you squeeze you into its own mould, but let God re-mould your minds from within, so that you may prove in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all his demands and moves towards the goal of true maturity."

    3. See Phil. 2:3-8.

    4-5. The fellowship of Christ is not an aggregation of independent, self-sufficient beings; it is an organic unity of interdependent beings. See 1 Cor. 12:12-27. Paul emphasizes that to fulfill our part in that body we must have a sober, realistic assessment of our abilities and gifts (v. 3). We must remember that "we are members of one another." Whatever befalls a fellow-Christian affects us too, though perhaps not immediately.

    10. Phillips: "Let us have real warm affection for one another as between brothers, and a willingness to let the other man have the credit."

    13. This indicates that Christians in Rome were not living communally.

    20. Prov. 25:21-22. NBC says it means that such actions will "give him a burning sense of shame."

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    1. This is a very difficult verse. How can Paul say there is "no authority except from God" and the authorities that exist "have been instituted by God"? Does this include communism, fascism, and other forms of brutal dictatorship? Phillips' paraphrase is helpful: "Every Christian ought to obey the civil authorities, for all legitimate authority is derived from God's authority, and the existing authority is appointed under God." (Emphasis added) But it just begs the question – which authorities are legitimate and which are not?

        Civil authority comes from God, just as spiritual authority does. Cf. 1 Tim. 2:12; Titus 3:1; 1 Pet. 2:13-17.

    2. Query: What is the Christian attitude toward political revolution? Is it possible for the person or group ruling a state to cease being the true government? What about the American revolution? Did that violate this command? Eerdman says Paul is "stating a general principle for normal conditions." But was the Roman dictatorship "normal"?

    3. What if, in fact, the rulers are a "terror to good conduct" (RSV)?

    5. Paul clearly teaches that the civil authorities are agents of God – even the tax collectors (v. 6-7)! Cf. Lk. 20:24-25. Civil authorities are serving God; see Jn. 19:11.

    8. Is the command to avoid getting into debt applicable to the modern consumer credit industry? Or to residential mortgage loans? If so, the majority of American Christians are certainly guilty of violating it.

    14. NEB: "Let Christ Jesus himself be the armour that you wear; give no more thought to satisfying the bodily appetites." Phillips: "Let us be Christ's men from head to foot, and give no chances to the flesh to have its fling."

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    1 et seq. Basically we should not condemn or despise our fellow Christians.

    10. Phillips: "Why, then, criticize your brother's actions, why try to make him look small?"

    20b-21. Phillips: "I freely admit that all food is, in itself, harmless, but it can be harmful to the man who eats it with a guilty conscience. We should be willing to be both vegetarians and teetotalers if by doing otherwise we should impede a brother's progress in the faith.

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Verse:
    1. NEB: "Those of us who have a robust conscience must accept as our own burden the tender scruples of weaker men, and not consider ourselves. Each of us must consider his neighbour and think what is for his good and will build up the common life."

        Phillips: "We who have strong faith ought to shoulder the burden of the doubts and qualms of others and not just to go our own sweet way. Our actions should mean the good of others – should help them to build up their characters."

    5. Therefore – never give up!

    7. NEB: "In a word, accept one another as Christ accepted us, to the glory of God."

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General comments:
    Three specific churches are mentioned in this chapter:
        (1) The church at Cenchreae (v. 1);
        (2) The church that meets at the house of Prisca and Aquila (v. 3-5);
        (3) The church that meets in the house of Gaius (v. 23).

Verse:
    10-11. Note that Paul sends greetings to everyone in the household of Aristobulus, but only to those "who belong to the Lord" in the household of Narcissus.


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Verse:
    8. NIV: "He will keep you strong to the end, so that you will be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ." Cf. Phil. 1:6.

    10. NEB: "Agree among yourselves, and avoid divisions; be firmly joined in unity of mind and thought."
          RSV: "... that all of you agree and that there be no dissensions among you ..."

        See 1 Pet. 3:8 KJ: "Finally, be ye all of one mind ...." But cf. RSV: "have unity of spirit ... and a humble mind." For other Scripture on the unity of believers, see Jn. 17:11, 21-23; Eph. 4:3, 13; Phil. 1:27; 2:2. But cf. Acts 18:24-26 (Priscilla and Aquila explained the Apollos "the way of God more adequately"); Phil. 3:15-16 ("All of us who are mature should take such a view [Paul's view] of things. And if on some point you think differently, that too God will make clear to you. Only let us live up to what we have already attained.")

        Should Christians agree on everything? On politics? Or just on "spiritual matters?" The Jerusalem Bible translation of this verse says we should be "united ... in your belief and practice." See also Phil. 2:2 ("complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.")

        Note that Christians are to avoid those who create dissensions. Rom. 16:17.

    12. See also 3:4. Is this the same as saying, "I'm a Baptist," "I'm a liberal" or "I'm an evangelical"? Should we carefully limit ourselves to acknowledging Christ: "I'm a Christian"?

    14-16. Crispus was the ruler of the Corinthian synagogue (Acts 18:8); Gaius may have been Paul's host in Corinth (Rom. 16:23 – Romans was writtten from Corinth); and Stephanas was probably the first ocnvert in Corinth (16:15). This indicates that Paul performed only "symbolic baptisms," perhaps to emphasize his calling as an evangelist.

    17. What gospel did Paul preach? See 15:1-4. NEB: "... to proclaim the Gospel, and to do it without relying on the language of worldly wisdom, so that the fact of Christ on his cross might have its full weight."

    18. Cf. Gal. 5:11 ("the stumbling block of the cross").

    19 et seq. The word "wisdom" in these verses (Greek "sophia") means "insight into the true nature of things." It is theoretical rather than pactical. (Vine)

    23. See Gal. 5:11.

    26-28. St. Augustine used this passage in a sermon, saying

If Christ had first chosen an orator as His Apostle, he would say, "I have been chosen by merit of my eloquence." If He had chosen a senator, he would say, "I have been chosen by merit of my prestige." Finally, if he had chosen a general, he would say, "I have been chosen by merit of my power." ... God said, "Give me that fisherman, give me the man without learning, the man without skills; give me him with whom a senator would not deign to speak, even if he were to buy a fish. Give me one such as this," He said. "If I fill him as my vessel, it will beclear that I am acting through him. I shall yet take a senator and an orator and a general. In due time I shall take a senator, but I am more sure with a fisherman. The senator, the orator, the general, all can boast of themselves; the fisherman, however, can boast only of Christ.

    Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 192.

    31. NEB: "If a man is proud, let him be proud of the Lord."

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Verse:
    2. NEB: "I resolved that while I was with you I would think of nothing but Jesus Christ – Christ nailed to the cross." Why did Paul decide this? See Acts 17:22-31. He had just come from Athens, where he discussed Greek philosophy. Did he now think that was a mistake? Note that only a "few" became believers in Athens (Acts 17:34).

    3. See 4:10 – "We are weak, but you are strong." In his second letter to the Corinthians, Paul boasts of his weakness (2 Cor. 11:30; 12:5, 9). Why? Because when he was weak in his own strength, he was strong in God's strength. See esp. 2 Cor. 12:9.

    4. What is the Holy Spirit doing? Being demonstrated in Paul's message to the Corinthians. For other verses reflecting the work of the Holy Spirit in Corinth, see 2:10 ("God's wisdom is revealed through the Spirit; 2:11 (the Spirit is the only one who comprehends the thoughts of God); 2:12 (Christians have received the Spirit that they might understand the gifts of God); 2:13 (God's wisdom is taught by the Spirit); and 3:16 (the Holy Spirit dwells in believers).

    6a. NEB: "To those who are ripe for it ...."

    6b. Phillips: "... it is not what is called wisdom by this world, nor by the powers-that-be, who soon will be only the powers that have been."

    7. God's plan is to glorify us! In this we are identified with Christ (see v. 8). How are we glorified? By beholding the "glory of the Lord" (2 Cor. 3:18; cf. 1 Jn. 3:2).

    8. The "rulers of this age" are the "powers who determine the character of this world." NIC (1 Cor.)

    9. This is not a direct Old Testament quotation, but apparently is taken freely from Isa. 64:4, 65:17. The NIC (1 Cor.) suggests that this quote actually may come from a hymn based on Old Testament Scripture.

    11. NIC (1 Cor.) says the "spirit of the man which is in him" is "the person of man, his ego, his self-consciousness."

    14. The "unspiritual" or "natural" (KJ) man is the unconverted man. He is not the same as the "men of the flesh" or "carnal" man of 3:1, 3.

    15. Phillips: "has an insight into the meaning of everything."

    16. Phillips: "Incredible as it may sound, we who are spiritual have the very thoughts of Christ."

        This marks the end of the discussion on "wisdom," which began in 1:17b.

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Verse:
    1. "Men of the flesh" are Christians, but only "babes in Christ." They are not "mature" (see 2:6). KJ says "carnal".

    2. See Heb. 5:11-6:2; 1 Pet. 2:2.

    3-4. One of the main problems of the Corinthian Christians was factionalism or division. Jealousy and fighting are fruits of the unspiritual person.

    4. See also 1:12. For more about Apollos, see Acts 18:24-28.

    8. NEB: "Whether they plant or water, they work as a team, though each will get his own pay for his own labour."

    9-16. Note the progression of metaphors that Paul uses to describe the Christians in Corinth:
        (1) They represent raw land, to be cultivated or built upon.
        (2) They represent a building to be constructed upon the foundation of Jesus Christ.
        (3) They represent a special building, a temple, in which God's Spirit dwells, and which is therefore holy, set apart from other buildings.

        He also recognizes two steps in the Christian life:
        (1) planting, laying the foundation, or beginning, and
        (2) watering, building on the foundation, etc.

    11. See Mt. 7:24-27.

    15. This verse is apparently used by the Roman Catholic Church to support the doctrine of purgatory.

    16. Most commentators seem to believe that Paul is referring to the Corinthian church here, rather than to the individual believers as in 6:19 ("Your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit"). See also v. 9, where he says the Coorinthians are "God's field, God's building."

    17. Cf. Mt. 18:6 (causing a believer to stumble).

    19. JB: "... the wisdom of this world is foolishness to God." The converse is also true: the wisdom of God is foolishness to the world. See 1 Cor. 1:18, 21, 23, 25.

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Verse:
    1-3. Paul admits his responsibilities as a steward, but does not submit to human judgment. But wasn't he judging the stewardship of others? This is not a problem once the concept of ecclesiastical authority is accepted.

    6b. Phillips: "... and may thus avoid the friction that comes from exalting one teacher against another." NEB: "... and may not be inflated with pride as you patronize one and flout the other."

    8. See Rev. 3:17.

    15. NEB: "You may have ten thousand tutors in Christ, but you have only one father."

    17. "... as I teach them everywhere in every church" (RSV) This shows that Paul was not just "picking on" the Corinthians. He taught the same thing in every church.

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General comments:
    Note how many times in this chapter Paul tells the Corinthians to expel from their fellowship, or separate themselves from, a Christian who is notoriously sinning:
        (1) "Let him who has done this be removed from among you." (v. 2)
        (2) "deliver this man to Satan for the destruction of the flesh." (v. 5)
        (3) "Cleanse out the old leaven that you may be a new lump." (v. 7)
        (4) "I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with immoral men." (v. 9)
        (5) "not even to eat with such a one." (v. 11)
        (6) "Drive out the wicked person from among you." (v. 13)

Verse:
    1-2. Note that Paul was upset at two things here: the case of incest, and the church's reaction to it.

    2. In other words, cast the notoriously wicked person out of the church.

    5. Is this the same as what he says in v. 2? For another example, see 1 Tim. 1:20.

    6-7. In Jewish literature "leaven" or yeast almost always stands for an evil influence. The Jews ate unleavened bread at the Passover Feast, and on the day before Passover the Jew was required to light a candle and ceremonially search his house for any leaven. (Barclay)

    9. This refers to prior correspondence which has not survived, although some scholars think part of it may be in 2 Cor. 6:14-18. See also 1 Cor. 7:1.

    12. NEB: "You are judges within the fellowship." Christians are to judge other Christians, but not non-Christians. The Christian should continue to associate with the immoral, etc., as long as they do not profess to be Christians. But doesn't this raise problems of self-righteous judging? Cf. Mt. 7:1-5.

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Verse:
    4. NEB: "If therefore you have such business disputes, how can you entrust jurisdiction to outsiders, men who count for nothing in our community?"

    5-6. Paul implies that someone has to decide disputes among Christians, but they shouldn't go to court. What about lawsuits against nonchristians?

    5. The Greek word for "to decide" implies "an amicable settlement by means of arbitration." NIC (1 Cor.)

    7b. Cf. Mt. 5:39-40.

    9. NIC (1 Cor.) says the Greek word for "homosexuals" refers to both passive and active homosexuals.

    12. Two tests: (1) Is it helpful? (2) Will it tend to enslave me? Note that this is followed by a discussion of food and sex.

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Verse:
    3-5. Husband and wife are treated equally here. They have equal rights over the person of the other, and abstention is to be by mutual consent. See special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    6. Does this bear on the issue of inspiration of Scripture? Most of the translations use the words "concession, not command." A concession is something granted or allowed. Paul is apparently stating only his own wishes, not something from the Lord, when he says others should follow his example in not being married.

      On the question of inspiration of Scripture, see also v. 10, 12, 25, 40.

    14. NEB "For the heathen husband now belongs to God through his Christian wife, and the heathen wife through her Christian husband. Otherwise your children would not belong to God, whereas in fact they do." Query: In what sense does the non-christian spouse "belong to God"? It could mean either that the unbelieving spouse and child are automatically brought into God's kingdom, or that the believer will exert dominion or influence to bring the spouse and child to God. See Phillips: "For the unbelieving husband is, in a sense, consecrated ...." The Living Bible indicates that continuing to live together brings the unbelieving spouse under the witness of the believing spouse, and thus increases the possibility of conversion. But see v. 16.

    16. NEB is more optimistic: "Think of it: as a wife you may be your husband's salvation; as a husband you may be your wife's salvation.

    25. The fact that Paul clearly expresses this as an opinion, and says it is not a command from the Lord, implies that when he doesn't label his statements as opinions we should take them as commands.

    36. Moff. says "spiritual bride."

    39. NEB: "But if the husband die, she is free to marry whom she will, provided the marriage is within the Lord's fellowship." Phillips: "... but let her be guided by the Lord."

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Verse:
    1. In other words, love is greater than knowledge!

        NEB: "This 'knowledge' breeds conceit; it is love that builds." Phillips: "... while knowledge may make a man look big, it is only love that can make him grow to his full stature." See also Rom. 14-15:3, in which Paul lays down principles, such as not to pass judgment on the practices of fellow Christians, and not to be a stumbling block in the way of another believer.

    5. See Rom. 10:20.

    6. All things are from God through Jesus Christ; we exist for God through Jesus Christ.

    13. See 9:22.

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General comments:
    Paul's real emphasis in this chapter is not on his "rights" but on his voluntarily surrendering his rights for the furtherance of the gospel. See esp. v. 12, 15.

    In the RSV, there are 17 rhetorical questions in the first 13 verses of this chapter.

Verse:
    14. This verse supports the idea of a paid clergy.

    22. See 8:13.

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Verse:
    6-10. Paul delivers a warning against four sins: (1) idolatry, (2) immorality, (3) testing God, and (4) grumbling or complaining.

    13. NEB: "So far you have faced no trial beyond what man can bear. God keeps faith, and he will not allow you to be tested above your powers, but when the test comes he will at the same time provde a way out, by enabling you to sustain it."

    14. Don't worship idols!

    19. Paul seems to contradict this in v. 20-21. Probably he is saying that demons are real but physical idols are not.

    25. Eating meat that, unknown to the eater, has been offered to idols is not worshiping the idol, which is prohibited in v. 14.

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Verse:
    6. According to NBC, for a woman to be shorn in Paul's time was a sign of disgrace; it indicated that she was an adulteress.

    10-11. NEB: "... therefore it is woman's duty to have a sign of authority on her head, out of regard for the angels. And yet, in Christ's fellowship woman is as essential to man as man to woman."

    14. The text says that long hair on a man is not "natural." But why? If it grows long, it seems "natural" – by nature – to me. Cutting it would be against nature. I think Paul means that their custom, or culture, frowns upon men having long hair.

    19. What does this verse mean? It almost sounds like Paul is saying that factions are good because they bring out the true Christians. Or maybe he is saying that factions are bad, but at least they have – or can have – one positive effect.

    30. Phillips: "It is this careless participation which is the reason for the many feeble and sickly Christians in your church, and the explanation of the fact that many of you are spiritually asleep."

    Does this refer to spiritual weakness, sickness, and death, or to physical? Jesus sometimes implied a relationship between sin and physical ailments (the paralytic at the pool of Bethesda, Jn. 5:14) and sometimes implied the opposite (man born blind, Jn. 9:1-3).

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Verse:
    1. Other basic Scripture on spiritual gifts: Rom. 12:6-8; Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:10-11.

    3. Isn't it possible to make an empty confession of faith in Jesus? See Mt. 7:21. Perhaps Paul is talking here of utterances madewhile speaking in tongues or under the power of some spiritual force, but at least he is saying that no one can make a confession of faith in the sense of Rom. 10:9 ("if you confess with your lips that Jesus is Lord and believe in yourheart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved") except by the Holy Spirit.

    7. Why are spiritual gifts given to Christians? To enable us to be a body, rather than a collection of individual Christians. See Eph. 4:11-12; 1 Pet. 4:10.

    28. There is a priority of spiritual gifts but all are necessary.

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General comments:
    This chapter is actually a parenthesis, and the main theme from chapter 12 is taken up again in chapter 14.

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Verse:
    13-15. Our minds should not be idle in worship.

    22. Phillips reverses this verse: "That means that 'tongues' are a sign of God's power, not for those who are unbelievers but to those who already believe." He explains, in a footnote, that he felt bound to depart from the accepted text because of the sense of the next three verses.

    24-25. According to these verses, prophesying is a sign for unbelievers, but that is the exact opposite of what it says in v. 22.

    26. All ministered to the others in some way. This verse seems like a rebuke to churches that are strongly pastor-centered.

    27. This implies that not all Christians have the gift of tongues, and therefore there will be some Christian meetings in which the gift of tongues will not be used.

    34b. Why should the "law" be binding here? What law does this refer to?

    35. Cf. 11:5 ("any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled ....") If women are supposed to "keep silence" in church, how could they prophesy?

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General comments:
    Explaining the resurrection of Jesus:
        Problem: Some at Corinth were saying there is no resurrection from the dead (v. 12).
        Answer: (1) If there is no resurrection, then Christ was not raised (v. 13).
                      (2) If Christ was not raised, then Christians are still in their sins and Paul has been preaching a lie (v. 14-19).
                      (3) If we are still in our sins, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die." (v. 32)

        Problem: But how are the dead raised – with what kind of a body (v. 35)?
        Answer: (1) We can't tell until we are raised, but it will be of a higher, more glorious order, not subject to death (imperishable) (v. 52-53).
                      (2) The "seed" analogy (v. 35-38). Just as a seed looks nothing like what springs from it when it is planted,
                            so our resurrection bodies will be quite different from our earthly bodies.
                      (3) The "different-kinds-of-flesh" analogy (v. 39-41). Since there are different kinds of bodies for different levels
                            of living creatures now, God will no doubt provide a new kind of body for resurrected believers.

Verse:
    2. Barclay says the Greek means "are being saved." NEB: "Do you still hold fast the Gospel as I preached it to you? If not, your conversion was in vain."

    3-5. This is the gospel: (1) Christ died for our sins; (2) he was buried; (3) he was raised; (4) he appeared to his disciples and others. According to Paul, this is absolutely essential for saving faith (v. 2). But this is not all we are to believe. See Mt. 28:18-20 – Jesus said we are to "make disciples of all nations" and to teach them "to obey everything I have commanded you." This would include, e.g., the works of mercy described in Mt. 25:35-45.

    3. Note that Paul delivered what he received, not what he originated.

    6. But according to Acts 1:15 there were only 120 believers after Christ ascended into heaven. Was this another occasion, when he appeared to a crowd of more than 500?

    22. Paul often contrasts Adam, representing fallen humanity, with Christ as the head of all the redeemed. See Rom. 5:12-19; Eph. 4:22-24; Col. 3:8-11.

    29. NEB: "Again, there are those who receive baptism on behalf of the dead. Why should they do this? If the dead are not raised to life at all, what do they mean by being baptized on their behalf?"

    32. See v. 58.

    49b. NIV: "... so shall we bear the likeness of the man from heaven." I.e., of Jesus.

    58. NEB: "Therefore, my beloved brothers, stand firm and immovable, and work for the Lord always, work without limit, since you know that in the Lord your labour cannot be lost."

        Note that Paul spends the whole chapter talking about the reality of the resurrection, and then draws this practical conclusion – work hard for the Lord. Also, this verse reflects the lifestyle of the Christian; cf. 15:12.

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Verse:
    1-2. See also Acts 20:35; Rom. 15:25-27; 2 Cor. 8:1-9:15; Phil. 4:15-18.
    These two verses present a model plan for Christian stewardship. Giving is to be:
        (1) Regular ("every week");
        (2) By all in the church ("each of you");
        (3) Systematic ("put something aside and store it up");
        (4) Proportionate ("as he may prosper");
        (5) Planned – not impulse giving ("so that contributions need not be made when I come").

    Note that it was on the first day of the week that money was to be set aside. Already (A.D. 55) this day had become special.

    9. NEB: "For a great opportunity has opened for effective work, and there is much opposition." See also Acts 14:27; 2 Cor. 2:12; Col. 4:3.

    12. See Acts 19:1; 1 Cor. 3:4-6.

    16. The Greek word translated here (RSV) as "be subject to" is the same word used in Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; 1 Pet. 2:18, where it is used to tell servants to be submissive to their masters, and in Eph. 5:21, containing a general command to be "subject to one another."

    19-20. All the brethren send "greetings," but Aquila and Prisca (or Priscilla) send "hearty greetings." Why? They used to live in Corinth, and Paul stayed with them when he first visited that city (Acts 18:1-3). They also used to live in Rome, and hosted a house church there (Rom. 16:3-5) as well as in Ephesus (1 Cor. 16:19).


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General comments:
    In 2 Cor. 2:1-11, Paul refers to a painful or anguished letter that he had written to the Corinthians. From his description of that letter, it is clear that it is not 1 Corinthians. Many commentators believe that 2 Cor. 10-13 comprise at least part of that lost letter, and that therefore the most logical way to read 2 Corinthians is to read chapters 10-13, then 1-9.

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Verse:
    8. See Acts 19, Paul in Ephesus. See also 2 Cor. 4:8-10.

    9-10. Query: Do we need "hopeless" situations in order to fully experience faith? Should we launch out over our heads in order to create such situations? Or is it enough, for example, to use this testimony of Paul to teach us to "rely not on ourselves but on God who raises the dead" (RSV)?

    17. NEB: "That was my intention; did I lightly change my mind?"

    22. NEB: "... it is God also who has set his seal upon us, and as a pledge of what is to come has given the Spirit to dwell in our hearts."

        See also notes on the Holy Spirit.

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Verse:
    1-11. See Chap. 1, General comments.

    5. Paul is probably referring to a ringleader who was against him during his previous visit. Note that (1) Paul did not take it seriously; (2) Paul's motive was correction, not vengeance; and (3) Punishment must not drive to despair. What punishment is Paul referring to? See 1 Cor. 5:9-13.

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Verse:
    1. Paul used to need letters of introduction, before he met Christ; see Acts 9:2.

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Verse:
    3. I.e., there's no excuse for Christians not to know the gospel and to grow in it.

    7. Our innate defects and weaknesses make what is done through us all the more amazing – more glorifying to God.

    12. But isn't life also at work in "us" and death in "you"?

    15. This is the ultimate goal – to increase thanksgiving, to the glory of God.

    17. Cf. Rom. 8:18.

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Verse:
    1. See also Jn. 14:2-3. Note Paul's comparison between a "tent," representing this life, and a "house" or "building," for life in heaven. What's the difference between a tent and a house?

Tent
House
1. Temporary dwelling Permanent dwelling
2. Usually small, uncomfortable Larger, more comfortable
3. Vulnerable to weather, etc. Sturdy, secure

    1b. "eternal in the heavens" (RSV) The Christian's ultimate hope is eternal life. See Jn. 3:16; 17:3.

    4. Paul longs for heaven. See also Phil. 1:21-24.

    5. See also notes on the Holy Spirit.

    7. See 4:18.

    15. NEB: "His purpose in dying for all was that men, while still in life, should cease to live for themselves, and should live for him who for their sake died and was raised to life."

    21. See also Rom. 8:3; Gal. 3:13.

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Verse:
   
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Verse:
    6. See 2:12-13. Paul had gone to Macedonia to meet Titus and get news from Corinth.

    7. Titus reported that the Corinthians were (1) longing (for Paul?); mourning, with Godly grief (v. 9); (3) zealous for Paul (see also v. 11-12); (4) earnest (v. 11); (5) eager to clear themselves (v. 11); (6) indignant (v. 11); (7) alarmed or fearful (v. 11, 15); ready to punish, or "to see justice done" (v. 11 NIV); and (9) obedient (v. 15).

    10. Example of worldly grief: Judas (Mt. 27:3-5). Examples of Godly grief: (1) David with Bathsheba (2 Sam. 12:13; Ps. 51); (2) thief on the cross (Lk. 23:40-42).

    11. Godly grief leads to repentance, which leads to salvation (without regret). Worldly grief leads to death. See what lies in the wake of godly grief: (1) earnestness; (2) eagerness to exonerate (the innocent); (3) indignation; (4) alarm (fear); (5) longing (for righteousness? Philips and NEB both interpret it as longing for Paul); (6) zeal; and (7) punishment (of guilty? NIV says "readiness to see justice done").

    12. Didn't the Corinthians even realize their own zeal?

    16. Paul encouraged loyalty to himself. See also v. 11-12.

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Verse:
    3-5. How did the churches of Macedonia give?
        (1) more than they could afford (v. 3);
        (2) of their free will (voluntarily) (v. 3);
        (3) seeking the opportunity to give (eagerly) (v. 3);
        (4) giving themselves first to God and then to Paul and other Christians (v. 5);

    3. Cf. Ex. 36:3-6.

    5. Phillips: "Nor was their gift, as I must confess I had expected, a mere cash payment. Instead they made a complete dedication of themselves first to the Lord and then to us, as God's appointed ministers." See also 1 Jn. 3:16-18.

    8b. Phillips: "... here is a way to prove the reality of your love."

    9. Cf. Phil. 2:6-7.

    12. JB: "As long as the readiness is there, a man is acceptable with whatever he can afford ...." But what can we afford? Does this mean, what we can afford without jeopardizing our standard of living?

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General comments:
    The stewardship chapter. See also Acts 20:35; Rom. 15:25-27; Phil. 4:15-18.

Verse:
   

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Verse:
    1. This may be the beginning of the former letter that Paul wrote to the Corinthians. See 7:8. The tone changes so abruptly that is seems certain to be part of a different letter. See general comments at beginning of 2 Corinthians.

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    6. NEB: "I may be no speaker, but knowledge I have; at all times we have made known to you the full truth." Apparently Paul was not much of a speaker; at least he seems to concede the point, while freely bragging about other things to his credit.

    32. See Acts 9:24-25.

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    2. NBC says the first heaven denoted the atmosphere in which the birds fly; the second heaven, the region of the sun, moon and stars; and the third heaven is where God dwells.

    5. Paul refuses to boast of spiritual achievements or experiences – maybe so his readers will not aim at duplicating them?

    7. NEB: "... a sharp pain in my body ...."

    14b. Does this mean that we should "save up" for our children? What about Mt. 6:25-34?

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Verse:
    5. NEB: "Surely you recognize that Jesus Christ is among you ...." Phillips: "You ought to know by this time that Jesus Christ is in you ...."


Galatians   [Forward to Ephesians]   [Back to 2 Corinthians]  [All books of the Bible]
        Go to chapter 1 2 3 4 5 6

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    6. Note that Paul does not begin by praising his readers, as he often does, but by criticizing them.

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    10. The Jerusalem leaders did not insist on circumcision – a religious rite – but they did insist on helping the poor. The context here is Paul's explanation of the Good News as he preached it (1:11; 2:2, 6). The Jerusalem leaders accepted Paul's interpretation of the Gospel, but insisted that helping the poor should go with it.

    18. NEB: "No, if I start building up again a system which I have pulled down, then it is that I show myself up as a transgressor of the law."

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    1. NEB: "You stupid Galatians!"

        Phillips: "O you dear idiots of Galatia."

    2b. This indicates that the Spirit comes into a person when he or she first believes. See also 3:14.

    6. See Gen. 15:6; cf. Rom. 4:3; Jas. 2:23.

    28. See notes on gender.

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    14. What was Paul's disease? It was serious, since it kept him from other activity (travel?) and therefore was taken as an opportunity to preach to the Galatians (v. 13). It had unpleasant manifestations (v. 14). Perhaps it was an eye disease; see v. 15.

    17-20. Phillips: "Oh, I know how keen these men are to win you over, but can't you see that it is for their own ends? They would like to see you and me separated altogether, and have your zeal all to themselves. Don't think I'm jealous – it is a grand thing that men should be keen to win you, whether I'm there or not, provided it is for the truth. Oh, my dear children, I feel the pangs of childbirth all over again till Christ be formed within you, and how I long to be with you now! Perhaps I could then alter my tone to suit your mood. As it is, I honestly don't know how to deal with you."

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    4. Does this mean eternal separation from Christ?

    12. NEB: "As for these agitators, they had better go the whole way and make eunuchs of themselves."

        Phillips: "I wish those who are so eager to cut your bodies would cut themselves off from you altogether."

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Verse:
    6. NEB: "When anyone is under instruction in the faith, he should give his teacher a share of all good things he has."

    10. Christians are to love and serve everyone, but there are priorities. Here Paul makes clear that we should especially help those in the "household of faith." Cf. 1 Tim. 5:8, where Paul gives instructions to the effect that grown children should support needy parents and grandparents.

    15. As to a "new creation," see 2 Cor. 5:17.


Ephesians   [Forward to Philippians]   [Back to Galatians]  [All books of the Bible]
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General comments:
    In this book Paul sets forth his doctrine of the idealized church.

    Written while Paul was in prison (3:1; 4:1; 6:20), Ephesians is very closely connected with Colossians. Tychicus was apparently the bearer of both letters (Eph. 6:20; Col. 4:7). Also, some 55 verses are exactly the same in both letters.

    Many scholars believe it unlikely that Paul wrote Ephesians specifically to the church at Ephesus. For one thing, it is the most impersonal of all of Paul's letters, although he spent his longest time in Ephesus (Acts 19:1, 10), and had warm personal relationships with the Ephesian elders (Acts 20:17-38). Also, the letter itself indicates that Paul did not know personally those who would receive it (1:15; 3:2). Finally, none of the great early manuscripts of the Greek New Testament contain the words "in Ephesus." The best suggestion is that Ephesians was a circular letter ("encyclical") written to all the Asian churches, though it could have been written to Laodicaea (Col. 4:16).

    Some scholars have held that the author of Ephesians was not Paul, on the basis of vocabulary and style. Barclay suggests that these differences are accounted for by the fact that Paul was covering new material and therefore needed different words, and that, unlike most of Pual's letters, which were dashed off as a response to particular needs, Ephesians was written in prison, as a far more leisurely pace.

    The key thought of Colossians is based on the comlete sufficiency of Jesus Christ, and Ephesians is a development of that conception (Eph. 1:9-10). All the disunity in nature, man, time, eternity, and the disunity betweeen God and man, can only become unity when all men and all powers are united in Christ. Christ is God's instrument of reconciliation. But the church is the body of Christ – therefore the church is God's instrument of reconciliation.

    God's goals, as stated in Ephesians:
        (1) Holiness – "That we should be holy and blameless before him" (1:4).
        (2) Unity – "to unite all things in [Christ], things in heaven and things on earth" (1:10).
        (3) Good works – "We are ... created for good works .... (2:10).

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Verse:
    9-10. The "hidden plan" of God is to, at the right time, "bring everything together under Christ, as head." (JB)

    11. In what way were we who are Christians "chosen from the beginning?" (See also v. 4) Were the others chosen from the beginning for damnation? Unthinkable!

    12. Our calling and purpose – to live "for the praise of his glory!"

    13. Note the progression: the Ephesians to whom Paul is writing (1) heard the "word of truth," (3) believed in Jesus, and (3) were "sealed" with the Holy Spirit.

    14. The Holy Spirit is a down payment on (or pledge or guarantee of) our inheritance – all the riches of eternity in heaven with God. See also notes on the Holy Spirit.

    18-19. Paul prays that the Ephesians may know three things: (1) the "hope" to which God had called them, (2) the "riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints," and (3) the "immeasurable greatness of his power" in believers. The second one is unclear to me.

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    1. "We were all – Jews and Gentiles – dead in sin, but Christ has brought us to life!

    2. "... the course of this world" (RSV) – the Zeitgeist. See Rom. 12:2 (we are not to be "conformed to this world.") Today's world has been described as "a sensate age." "... the prince of the power of the air." Barclay says the ancient world believed that the air was crowded with demons.

    3. "... the passions of our flesh" (RSV). "Flesh" means more than just bodily or sexual sins. The flesh is all human nature apart from God. See Gal. 5:19-21.

    4. God's motivation was love, and that is what is incomprehensibly wonderful about him!

    6. What does it mean that "God raised us up with him ... in the heavenly places ...?" As Christ was raised physically from death and ascended to be with the Father, so we are raised spiritually from the spiritual death caused by sin. We sit with him in the heavenly places through having the Holy Spirit in our lives.

    7. God's plan for our future is one of continual revelation of "the immeasurable riches of his grace!"

    8. Cf. Rom. 3:21-26, 28; Gal. 2:15-16; Jas. 2:14-26.

    8-9. God saves us through his grace – his unmerited favor – which has nothing to do with our good works. But the goal is to produce good works. Our response to God's grace should be a life of good works.

    10. Our purpose in life is to do the works that "God [has] prepared in advance for us to do." For an illustration of this, see Acts 22:10.

    13-16. Jesus is our "peace"! He has broken down the "dividing wall of hostility," e.g., between Jews and Gentiles. This is illustrated by the wall in the temple that separates the outer court, where Gentiles may go, from the inner court. Also, there is a wall of hostility between humans and God, because of human sin. Jesus has also abolished the law of commandments and ordinances (Rom. 10:4). This created one new man in place of two, and reconciled us to God (through the cross), thereby bringing hostility between Jews and Gentiles and between all humans and God to an end.

    The bottom line: (1) Gentiles have been "brought near" by Christ; (2) Gentiles have been "made one" (with Jews) by Christ; and (3) both Gentiles and Jews have been reconciled to God by Christ. Therefore Gentiles are now "fellow citizens" with God's people through Christ (v. 19).

    15. See also Heb. 10:9. Cf. Mt. 5:17 ("Think not that I have come to abolish the law ....").

    18. JB: "Through him, both of us have in the one Spirit our way to come to the Father." It is not an automatic joining to the Father; we can take the "way" or not.

    19-21. Paul uses two pictures here: (1) Full citizenship for Gentiles instead of being strangers or temporary residents, and (2) The church as a building – Jesus the cornerstone, apostles and prophets the foundation, and every Christian a stone.

    Jesus is the cornerstone of the church!
        (1) The church is "joined together" in Christ. He is the basis for all Christian unity.
        (2) The church is growing into "a holy temple." It is in the building stage, and we are a part.
        (3) Individual Christians are to be "built into" the church.
        (4) When "built into" the church (bonded together with other Christians), we are a dwelling place for God in the Spirit (1 Cor. 3:16; 6:19).

    21. If Christians are not "aligned" (JB) on Christ, they will not grow into one temple.

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General comments:
    Paul considered himself:
        (1) The receiver of a new revelation (v. 3-6).
        (2) A transmitter of God's grace (v. 2, 7-9).
        (3) A minister, or servant, of God (v. 7)
        (4) One who suffered for Jesus Christ (v. 13).

Verse:
    1. Paul is in prison in Rome, and says his imprisonment is "for Jesus Christ on behalf of you Gentiles." (RSV) See also v. 13.

        According to Barclay, this first sentence in this chapter is interrupted and not completed until v. 14.

    3. Paul does not claim to have discovered the "mystery." He says it was revealed to him by God.

    6. This is the great mystery revealed to Paul – the Gospel of salvation through Christ was for the whole world, not for Jews only. See also Col. 1:27.

    8. "... the unsearchable riches of Christ." Cf. Mt. 13:44 "the kingdom of heaven is like treasure ...."

    9. See also Col. 1:26

    10. The mission or goal of the church is to make known the "manifold wisdom of God."

    11. Paul makes clear that this open door for the Gentiles was not an afterthought, something God decided to do when the Jews rejected Jesus. No, it was all in the "eternal purpose" of God.

    16-19. Paul's prays for his readers that
        (1) they would be strengthened "in the inner man;"
        (2) Christ would live in their hearts through faith;
        (3) they would be "rooted and grounded" in love;
        (4) they might comprehend and know the love of Christ; and
        (5) they might be filled with all the "fulness of God."

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    2. Lowliness, humility – see Phil. 2:5-11. Patience – see Rom. 2:4; 1 Tim. 1:16.

    4-6. This is why Christians should be united. See v. 13.

    4. "to prepare God's people for works of service" (NIV) – see Titus 2:14.

    7. Paul says that each of us has received grace.

    8. The gifts Christ gives to us:
        (1) His gifts enable some people to be apostles, some prophets, some evangelists, some pastors and teachers (v. 11).
        (2) The immediate purposes of these gifts (v. 12) are
            (a) the equipment of the saints;
            (b) the work of ministry; and
            (c) the building up of the body of Christ; i.e., the church.
        (3) The ultimate goals of these gifts (v. 13) are
            (a) attainment of the "unity of the faith" and "knowledge of the Son of God;"
            (b) maturity in Christ; and
            (c) our measurement by the "fulness of Christ."
        (4) His gifts are to prevent us (v. 14) from being
            (a) childish;
            (b) unstable, "tossed to and fro;"
            (c) deceived.

    12. Phillips: "... that Christians might be properly equipped for their service."

    15. We are to "grow up," not be like little children. See v. 14.

    16. When the whole body (the church) is properly composed of people accepting and using their gifts, then the "head" (Christ" will lead the church to growth and upbuilding.

    17-32. Paul says, in effect, make a clean break with the past. There's a whole new life waiting to be lived for the Christian, so don't continue to dabble in the old.

Do not do this:
Do this:
1. Live as the Gentiles do, in futility, with darkened understanding , alienated from God because of ignorance due to hardness of heart, calloused, immoral, quick to try all evil. 1. Put off your old nature, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through lusts.
2. Let anger remain overnight or turn to sin (revenge, etc.) 2. Be renewed in the spirit of your minds.
3. Give opportunity to the devil. 3. Put on the new nature, which resembles God in true rightousness and holiness.
4. Steal. 4. Put away falsehood and speak the truth.
5. Use evil talk. 5. Work honestly.
6. Grieve the Holy Spirit of God. 6. Give to those in need.
7. Speak only what is good for edifying (building up).
8. Put away bitterness, wrath, anger, clamor, slander and malice.
9. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving one another.

    25. "we are members of one another" Cf. Rom. 12:4-5; 1 Cor. 12:27.

    26. This implies that anger itself is not sin. Note that Jesus was angry. Mk. 3:5.

        Phillips: "If you are angry, be sure that it is not out of wounded pride or bad temper."

        NEB: "If you are angry, do not let anger lead you into sin; do not let sunset find you still nursing it; leave no loop-hole for the devil."

    28. The thief is to turn to honest labor, not to become a useful member of society, but so "he may be able to give to those in need." This is a Christian concept, changing the whole outlook from one of getting (whether honestly or not) to one of giving.

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    5. Therefore coveting or greed equals idolatry.

    6. "empty words" – for examples, see Rom. 3:7-8; 6:1-2, 15-16.

    8. See Mt. 5:14-16; 1 Jn. 1:5-7.

    18. We are commanded to be "be filled with the Spirit." This is not an optional benefit for those who would like something extra.

    20. We are to live in perpetual thanksgiving!

    21-33. The New Bible Commentary says,

The relation of the husband to the wife is not to be that of domination, but of self-sacrifice. It is well that wives should learn their lesson from the verses addressed to them, and husbands from these other verses in which they are addressed, not vice versa. Paul emphasizes not rights but responsibilities; and it is by fulfilling responsibilities rather than by claiming rights that harmony and happiness will be achieved." (p. 1028)

        The Greek conception of the goal of law was to maintain the status quo. An Introduction to the Philosophy of Law, Roscoe Pound, p. 34.

        As to family relationships, see also 1 Cor. 7; Eph. 5:21-33; Col. 3:18-19; 1 Pet. 2:13 – 3:7.

    21. The reason for subjecting ourselves to one another is not because of the natural superiority of the other, but "out of reverence for Christ."

    28. Cf. Lk. 10:27.

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Verse:
    1. Does the phrase "in the Lord" qualify the command? Col. 3:20 just says "in everything." See also Rom. 1:30, 32; 2 Tim. 3:2.

    2. What does Paul mean by saying this is the "first commandment with a promise?" It is the only commandment with a promise, although the commandment against taking the Lord's name in vain contains a threat, which is a kind of promise. See Ex. 20:7, 12; Deut. 5:11, 16. Barclay just focuses on "first commandment" and says Paul probably means the first commandment taught to a Christian child.

    4. Col. 3:21 says, "Do not provoke your children, lest they become discouraged." The father's duty is encouragement, not discouragement. See also 2 Cor. 12:14.

    5-7. Slaves in Roman times were considered things or tools, not persons. The master had power of life and death over them. Paul tells slaves to (1) obey their masters, and (2) work as if they were doing it for Christ.

    8. Good works will be rewarded, and this promise is not limited to Christians. See also Mt. 10:42; Mk. 9:41 (giving a cup of cold water to a follower of Jesus).

    9. Slave owners are to (1) "do the same" toward their slaves; i.e., supervise them as Christ would; and (2) stop threatening them. However, Paul did not argue for Christians to abolish the practice of slavery. Why doesn't he say to free them? Although he did not attack the institution of slavery, there is a revolutionary thought here: slaves were real persons, not mere chattels, and were to be treated as persons by their masters. Cf. Philemon 16, 17.

    10-11. We need spiritual power to overcome spiritual opposition.

    14-18. This is what the Christian needs: (1) truth; (2) righteousness (integrity, NEB); (3) gospel of peace; (4) faith; (5) salvation; (6) word of God; and (7) prayer.

    19-20. Paul's prayer requests:
        (1) That he will proclaim the Gospel.
        (2) That he will proclain it boldly.

        Note that he does not ask the Ephesians to pray for him to be released from prison, or for comfort, etc.


Philippians   [Forward to Colossians]   [Back to Ephesians]  [All books of the Bible]
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Verse:
    22. The meaning of life on earth ("life in the flesh") for Paul was "fruitful labor." (RSV)

    27-28. Unity, zeal, courage!

    29. Paul sees suffering for Christ as a privilege!

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General comments:
    How should the Christian community live? Rom. 12:10, 16: "love one another with brotherly affection, outdo one another in showing honor ... live in harmony with one another, do not be haughty, but associate with the lowly; never be conceited." The Philippians were apparently divided, and their lack of unity no doubt stemmed from pride, conceit and selfishness.

    The unity that Paul describes here is not necessarily organizational unity; it's a unity of spirit.

Verse:
    3. Jesus said we should love our neighbor "as ourself" (Mk. 12:31; Lk. 10:27; see also Mt. 7:12). Paul says here that we should "count others better than" ourselves. Perhaps to motivate us to live in humility?

    4. The "interests of others" means especially the interests of Christ. See v. 21; Rom. 15:1-3.

    5-11. Jesus lived a life of self-surrender and obedience to the Father's will, and he is our great example. Because Jesus "emptied himself," God "highly exalted him." The result was that he got back all that he gave up. This explains Lk. 9:24, "For whoever would save his life will lose it, and whover loses his life for my sake, he will save it."

    These verses can be diagrammed as four steps down (from God to man, from man to servant, from servant to death, from death to the cross) and one huge step all the way back up to God.

    12-13. How can Paul say to "work out your own salvation" when salvation has nothing to do with our own "works" (see Eph. 2:8-9)? In this context, "work out" must mean to execute what God has empowered us to do. In addition to v. 13, see Eph. 2:10; Phil. 1:6.

    21. Paul must have gotten discouraged with his fellow Christians. Although there were a number of Christians in fellowship with him during this time (see 4:21-22), he says he has "no one" like Timothy, for others "all look after their own interests, not those of Jesus Christ."

    25-26. Apparently when the Philippians heard that Paul was in prison, they decided to send gifts to him, and they chose Epaphroditus to deliver them (see 4:18). According to Barclay, they intended for Epaphroditus to stay with Paul to be his personal servant and attendant. But Epaphroditus became very sick (v. 27), and therefore when he recovered Paul decided to send him back to the Philippians. Perhaps he gave Epaphroditus such a high recommendation to forestall any possible criticism of his returning home instead of staying with Paul.

    25. Note that Paul puts those under him on a plane of equality.

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General comments:
    In this chapter Paul is saying:
        (1) We can't live in legalism (1-3).
        (2) If anyone could, I could trust in legalism (4-6).
        (3) But legalism is worthless compared to knowing Christ (righteousness through faith) (7-11).
        (4) But we can't take knowing Christ for granted; we must "press on" to appropriate the faith personally (12-19).
        (5) Finally, Jesus will come and end our struggle, and make us like him (20-21).

Verse:
    8. Paul has lost everything in order to know Christ, or gain Christ, not in order to preach Christ.

    12. "Not that I have already obtained this ...." What does "this" refer to? The resurrection? Becoming like Christ?

    15. Note, however, that many Scriptures call for believers to be united. See Cor. 1:10.

    21. "... to be like his glorious body" Cf. 1 Jn. 3:2.

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Verse:
    4. What does it mean to rejoice "in the Lord"? How is this different from a simple command to "be happy"? See also v. 10; Ps. 37:4 ("Delight yourself in the Lord ...."); Hab. 3:17-18.

    8. The power of positive thinking!

    11. How did Paul learn to be content in any condition? By setting his priorities in proper order? See Mt. 6:25-34, where Jesus says not to be anxious about life, what we eat or drink or what we wear, but rather to seek first the kingdom of God and his righteousness.

    12. What is "the secret"? See 3:8-10; 4:13 – the secret is "knowing" and being "in" Christ.


Colossians   [Forward to 1 Thessalonians]   [Back to Philippians]  [All books of the Bible]
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General comments:
    Colossae used to be a great city, but had become a small town. Paul's letter was written from prison, probably from Rome about 61 A.D. It was delivered by Onesimus on his way back to Philemon (see 4:9; also Philemon 12).

Verse:
    1. Paul claims to be an apostle (literally, one who is sent out) "by the will of God." Paul did not achieve or earn the office; God gave it to him.

    3-4. Paul thanks God for the Colossian Christians because of (1) their faith in Jesus Christ and (2) their love for "all the saints." (See also v. 8.) Faith in Christ should result in love for the brethren!

    5b-7. The Gospel is
        (1) the word of truth (cf. Jn. 14:6, "I am the ... truth ....");
        (2) universal - it is for the whole world;
        (3) productive - it grows and bears fruit;
        (4) a message of grace - it tells what God offers, not what He demands; and
        (5) humanly transmitted - Epaphras brought the Gospel to the Colossians.

    7. Epaphras was probably an Ephesian convert of Paul's. (NBC)

    9-11. Paul prays for the Colossian Christians that they may
        (1) be filled with the knowledge of God's will, in all spiritual wisdom and understanding;
        (2) lead a life worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing to him;
        (3) bear fruit in every good work;
        (4) increase in the knowledge of God; and
        (5) be strengthened with all power, for all endurance, patience and joy.

        Note that Paul's prayer begins with a request to know God's will and ends with the request for power to perform that will.

    11-14. When Paul mentions God the Father, he is moved to praise. He says God has
        (1) "qualified us" (NEB: "made you fit") to share in the inheritance of the saints;
        (2) delivered us from the dominion of darkness;
        (3) transferred us to the kingdom of Christ;
        (4) given us "redemption" (literally, bought us back) through Christ; and
        (5) forgiven our sins through Christ.

    15. Cf. Heb. 1:3.

        "first-born of all creation" - Phillips translates this: "He existed before creation began." NEB: "his is the primacy over all created things." Barclay says the word translated "first-born" has only very indirectly a time significance at all. It's used in the sense of special honor: "to Him God has given a place and an honor that are completely unique."

    20. Christ came to reconcile to himself "all things" – not just "all people." What are the "things" he came to reconcile? Conflicting spirits? Violence in nature (storms, earthquakes, etc.)?

    28. Paul's goal was to proclaim Jesus Christ by warning every man and teaching every man in order to present every man mature in Christ.

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    5. "Put to death" Cf. Rom. 8:13 - "... if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live." This is a job for the Holy Spirit. See also Mt. 5:29-30.

    7. This implies that the Christians have separated themselves from non-believers, at least to some extent.

    11. Paul describes, by examples, four kinds of segregation or personal barriers that Christ breaks down:
        (1) nationality ("Greek and Jew");
        (2) religious background ("circumcised and uncircumcised");
        (3) culture and education ("barbarian, Scythian" - both culturally far below Jews and Greeks); and
        (4) social class ("slave, free man") - cf. Philemon 16.

        In Gal. 3:28 he adds another category: sex or gender ("male nor female"). See also Jas. 2:1-7, warning against distinctions based on wealth.

    15. Barclay translates this verse, "Let the peace of God be the decider of all things within your heart," and says the verb Paul used here is from the athletic arena. Literally he is saying, "Let the peace of God be the umpire in your heart."

    18-4:1. Barclay says that the Christian ethic is an ethic of reciprocal obligation, and that in the Christian ethic all personal relationships are in the Lord.

    18-19. "Both under Jewish law and under Greek laws and custom, all the privileges belonged to the husband, and all the duties to the wife; but here in Christianity we have for the first time an ethic of mutual and reciprocal obligation." Barclay. See notes on gender.

    20-21. "Once again [under ancient law] all the privileges and rights belonged to the parent, and all the duties to the child." Barclay.

    22-4:1. "Once again [under ancient law] all the rights belonged to the master and all the duties to the slave." Barclay.

    22. If slaves are to be obedient, how much more should ordinary employees.

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    For the account of the founding of the church at Thessalonica, see Acts 17:1-9.

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    6. NEB: "And you, in your turn, followed the example set by us and by the Lord; the welcome you gave the message meant grave suffering for you, yet you rejoiced in the Holy Spirit."

    How did the Thessalonians imitate the Lord and other believers? By rejoicing in the Holy Spirit even though suffering for the Gospel's sake.

    9-10. Christians are called to serve in this world and to wait for the glory to come.

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    2. See Acts 16:19 et seq.

    13. Phillips: "... not as a mere human message, but as it really is, God's Word, a power in the lives of you who believe.

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    1. This "we" refers to Paul alone (NBC, Phillips).

    3. NBC: "It is taken for granted throughout the New Testament that affliction is the normal lot of Christians; it is, in fact, an evidence of the genuineness of their faith and an earnest of their part in the coming glory." Cf. Acts 14:22; Rom. 8:17 et seq.; 2 Tim. 2:12.

    4. See 1 Pet. 4:12-19.

    8. NEB: "It is the breath of life to us that you stand firm in the Lord."

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    2. NEB: "We passed on to you the tradition of the way we must live to please God."

    6. Phillips: "You cannot break this rule without in some way cheating your fellow man."

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    12. RSV says we are to "respect" our Christian leaders; Phillips: says "get to know" them, and NEB just says "acknowledge" them.

    23. How can our "spirit and soul and body be kept sound and blameless"? God will do it (v. 24)! We don't have to strive for this; we just have to trust God to "sanctify" us "wholly" (v. 23).

    24. Phillips: "He who calls you is utterly faithful and he will finish what he has set out to do."


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    3. Shouldn't it be characteristic of a live church that the faith and love of its people are increasing? This means that we should find more trust, more willingness to risk all for God, and more love for others in the church, this year than last. We must grow!

    9. The heart of the punishment of those "who do not know God" and "who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus (v. 8) is "exclusion from the presence of the Lord." (RSV)

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    6. Who or what is "restraining" this "man of lawlessness" (V. 3)? NEB refers to "therestraining hand" and the "Restrainer." Phillips says "restraining power." NBC says the "restraining agency" is impersonal in v. 6, but personal in v. 7, and suggests that the Roman empire may be meant, which would be impersonal as a government or personal if considered as the emperorer. NBC says other suggestions are the "angel of the abyss" (Rev. 9:1; 20:1), the Holy Spirit, or the continued existence of the Jewish state.

    13. Here is the gospel: (1) we were chosen by God, (2) sanctified by his Spirit, (3) through believing in the truth, (4) to the end that we might obtain the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ (v. 14).

    15. Note that Paul urgest adherence to the oral traditions! See also 3:6, which suggests that the traditions were of a practical nature.

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    11. NEB: "We mention this because we hear that some of your number are idling their time away, minding everybody's business but their own."


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    10. In what sense is the "living God ... the Savior of all men" (NIV) or of "the whole human race" (JB)? Does that mean that He is the potential Savior of all? It must mean something less than the way He is the Savior of believers, because the verse goes on to say "and especially of those who believe." (NIV)

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    4. What does this say about the common practice of Americans today of "spending down," as by transferring their aged relatives' assets to other family members, to qualify these relatives for Medicaid?

    8. See also Gal. 6:10, where Paul says although we should "do good" to all, we should especially help those in the "household of faith."


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    9b. JB: "This grace had already been granted to us, in Christ Jesus, before the beginning of time ...." This could mean that individual believers had already received their salvation before they were born and in fact before creation itself. Or it could mean that even before He created time God knew the whole scenario about human rebellion and fall, and decided then and there to offer them salvation.

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    10. Paul refers to the "elect" or "chosen," implying that some are not chosen, and then goes on to further imply that even the chosen may miss out.

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    1. Paul says his two objectives are (1) to bring faith, and (2) to bring knowledge to those who have been chosen.

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    14. Why did Christ redeem us from sin and purify us? So that we would be a "people of his own who are zealous for good deeds." (RSV) See also 3:8 (believers should "be careful to apply themselves to good deeds"); 3:14 ("let our people learn to apply themselves to good deeds"). Other relevant Scriptures: Eph. 4:12 (purpose of God's calling is "to prepare God's people for works of service") (NIV).

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Verse:
    1-2. This letter is about a runaway slave, and Paul refers to himself as a "prisoner" (also in v. 9). He emphasizes the fact that he and Timothy and the recipients of the letter are all co-workers. See also v. 17.

    10. Paul apparently led Onesimus to Christ.

    11. In Col. 4:9 Onesimus is referred to as "the faithful and beloved brother, who is one of yourselves." (RSV)

    12. What tremendous love for a slave!

    16. Philemon was getting Onesimus back as "more than a slave" – but was he still a slave? Was he still obligated to serve Philemon?

    17. Paul substitutes himself for Onesimus, following Christ's mediation.

    18. Cf. Lk. 10:35 (the Good Samaritan pays the innkeeper).

    19. Did Paul also win Philemon to Christ?

    21. "... you will do even more than I say." Like, grant Onesimus his freedom?


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    1-2. What's the difference between receiving a message from a son and receiving one from a prophet? The son knows the father much more intimately.

    2-4. Jesus is
        (1) Heir of all things (v. 2)
        (2) Creator (v. 2)
        (3) Revealer of God (v. 3)
        (4) Sustainer of the universe (v. 3)
        (5) Redeemer; priest (v. 3)
        (6) Ruler; king (v. 3)
        (7) Supreme Being (v. 3)

    5. This helps validate the Old Testament; at least the author believed the Old Testament contains the words of God.

        Acts 13:33 also quotes this verse from Ps. 2:7. But was Christ "begotten"? When was "today"? When Mary conceived Jesus? When Jesus was born?

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    Main point of this chapter: Christ is our brother!
        (1) We have the same earthly origin (by virtue of Christ's incarnation) (v. 11, 14)
        (2) He faced all that we face in death. (v. 14)
        (3) He was made like us in every respect. (v. 17)
        (4) He suffered as we suffer. (v. 18)
        (5) He was tempted as we are tempted. (v. 18)

    Christ can then be compared to an older brother who has no faults. He is not a "wholly other" God. Our troubles are not incomprehensible to him; he can help us because he's "been through the mill," not because he is omniscient, omnipresent, etc.

Verse:
    1. For the word "therefore" at the beginning of this chapter we could substitute, "Because God has now spoken to us through a Son, who is far superior to angels, ...." (See 1:2, 4)

    2-3. Those to whom the author is writing must have been quite concerned with the role of angels, for the contrast regarding Old Testament and New Testament redemption is between the message declared "by angels" and the "great salvation" through the Son. The argument is this: If when angels spoke (to prophets, or through prophets?) every sin was punished, how much more sure the punishment when the Son of God speaks. It's like disobeying a sargeant and disobeying a general!

    2. As to angels declaring God's message, see Acts 7:53; Gal. 3:19.

    3-4. God's salvation was
        (1) declared by Christ;
        (2) "attested" (RSV) or "confirmed" (NIV) by those who heard Jesus;
        (3) supported by miracles and gifts of the Holy Spirit.

    3a. Note that the danger here warned against is not deliberate rejection; just neglect (RSV) or carelessness. Other translations use somewhat stronger verbs: "refuse to pay proper attention to the salvation" (Phillips); "ignore a deliverance so great" (NEB).

    3b. The language at the end of this verse indicates that the author of Hebrews was not a disciple or other first-hand witness.

    8. "left nothing outside his control" (RSV). Does this mean "potential control"? Yet not everything is in subjection to him. Does this mean rebellious humans?

    10. Christ was "made perfect" through suffering.

    11. Phillips: "share a common humanity." We are Christ's brothers because he came to earth as a man. Cf. v. 18.

    14. Cf. 4:15.

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    6. The "if" in this sentence seems to leave open the possibility of "losing salvation." See also 6:4-6.

    18-19. Some translations equate disobedience with unbelief. RSV: "those who were disobedient [should never enter his rest] ... they were unable to enter because of unbelief." (emphasis added) NIV is similar ("And to whom did God swear that they would never enter his rest if not to those who disobeyed? ... they were not able to enter because of their unbelief." However, a marginal note in the NIV suggests that "disobeyed" could be translated "disbelieved."

    For other verses supporting the view that disobedience equals unbelief, see Jn. 3:36; Heb. 4:6, 11, 5:9; 1 Pet. 2:7-8.

    18. NEB: "to those who had refused to believe;" Phillips: "refused to trust him."

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    What is this "rest" for the believer? Heaven? If we do not enter into rest until we get to heaven, doesn't that imply that this life is to consist of toil and struggle? Or is this "rest" some kind of inward peace, a "second work of grace"? NBC implies both.

Verse:
    3. This verse suggests that we enter God's rest "when we believe."

    15. Cf. 2:14-18. NBC points out that one does not need to yield to temptation to be fully aware of its presence. "Indeed, only He who resisted to the end felt its full weight."

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    9. Note that it doesn't say, "to all who believe," but to all who obey. Translations agree on this. See also Heb. 3:18-19.

    12. "first principles" (RSV). Both NEB and Phillips say "the ABC" of God's "oracles" (NEB) or "revelation" (Phillips).

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    1-2. The foundation of Christian faith is
        (1) repentance from dead works ("works of the flesh," Gal. 5:19-20, not "works of the law," Gal. 3:2, 5); and
        (2) faith toward God.

    The "elementary doctrines" that we are to leave behind are
        (1) ablutions (baptism?);
        (2) laying on of hands;
        (3) resurrection of the dead; and
        (4) eternal judgment.

    1. The Greek verb ("go on" to maturity, RSV) is in the middle or passive subjunctive ("Let us be borne along").

    2. As to ordination ("laying on of hands"), see Acts 6:6; 13:3; cf. Acts. 8:17, 19; 9:12, 17.

    4-8. For other verses indicating the difficulty or impossibility of forgiveness or salvation in some circumstances, see Mk. 3:29 (blasphemy against the Holy Spirit); Lk. 18:25-27 (rich people); Heb. 10:26-31 (those who deliberately sin after receiving the truth); 2 Pet. 2:20-22 (those who turn away after knowing the Lord). A verse suggesting the opposite is Jn. 10:28 ("no one can snatch them out of my hand").

    10. See 10:32-34. Is he saying their "works" count for salvation? Or that their works are evidence that they truly believed?

    13. See Gen. 22:16.

    16. This reflects the ancient view of oaths.

    18. "two unchangeable things" – God's promise and oath to Abraham.

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    16. An "indestructible life" is a sine qua non of a permanent priest. This is an indirect reference to the resurrection.

    24. He "continues for ever" because he has an "indestructible life" – v. 16.

    26. Jesus lived with sinners on earth, but was separated from them when he went to heaven.

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    3. The Greek for "appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices" is the present infinitive, but the Greek for "something to offer" is the aorist; it means one finished act.

    6. Christ's ministry : Old Testament priests' ministry = Christ's person : human priests. Better ministry, better covenant, better promises.

    10. When is this to be? Now? If so, v. 11 isn't true, is it? (Unless "all" means "all believers".) Also, the new covenant is to be with the "house of Israel."

    11. Does this mean that under the "new covenant" Christians will know God personally and directly, without human intermediaries, such as priests?

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    14. This is technically a false syllogism: (1) animal blood purifies flesh (v. 10, 13); (2) Christ's blood is greater than animal blood; Therefore, Christ's blood purifies (flesh) (conscience v. 9, 14)(?)

    15. NEB: "to bring deliverance from sins committed under the former covenant." NBC suggests that this means "Christ's death was retrospective in its efficacy;" i.e., men under the old covenant were justified by Christ's death. How? By faith? See chap. 11.

    16. Does a covenant have the same meaning as a will in the Bible?

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    1. Phillips: "The Law possessed only a dim outline of the benefits Christ would bring, and did not actually reproduce them."

    5. "but a body thou hast prepared for me." Ps. 40:6, from which this verse is taken, says, "but thou hast given me an open ear" for this second line.

    9. See also Eph. 2:15. Cf. Mt. 5:17 ("Think not that I have come to abolish the law ....").

    11-12. Note that the priest "stands" (the position of a servant), but Christ "sat down" (the position of a king).

    20. Christ's flesh = the curtain of the temple.

    24. How can I "stir up" someone to love? By first loving him or her? Cf. 1 Jn. 4:19 ("We love because he first loved us").

    26-31. Do these verses mean it is impossible for such people to be saved? See Heb. 6:4-8. But cf. 1 Jn. 1:9.

    26. Isn't all sin deliberate? Is it possible to accidentally sin?

    32. Note: "after you were enlightened, you endured a hard struggle ..." (RSV), not "you found things going much easier." Jesus Christ never promised anyone a "bed of roses," and we dare not promise more than he promised in order to win a few more converts.

    34. I wonder how we Christians in this materialistic age would accept this?

    35. There is a reward for confidence? Isn't "confidence" just a synonym for "faith" here?

    37. For other verses on the imminent return of Christ, see Phil. 4:5; Jas. 5:8; Rev. 3:11; 22:20. The early church must not have read the parable of the talents or pounds very closely. See Mt. 25:19; Lk. 19:12.

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    1. Faith has to do with (1) future events, and (2) unseen realities (past, present, and future?).

    3. Note that the author says we believe in creation because of faith – not logic, scientific evidence, etc.

    4-38. All those described in these verses obeyed and did something by faith, or waited and received something by faith.

    6. "he rewards those who earnestly seek him" (NIV). See Ps. 14:2. Note that God rewards the seeking, not the finding. No doubt the primary reward is the finding of God, but this is still much different than saying those who seek and find God (i.e., by their own efforts) will be rewarded by God. There's all the difference between law and grace.

    23. Note that the faith here was not by Moses, but by those who hid him.

    26. NEB: "the stigma that rests on God's anointed;" Phillips: "the 'reproach of Christ'."

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    2. NEB: "on whom faith depends from start to finish."

    17b. See Gen. 29:38.

    25. Cf. 10:29.

    28. We are receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken! Everything else in this world is moveable, loose, unattached to anything permanent. And they will all be removed (v. 27). God is going to shake the earth and the heavens (v. 26) one more time (at the Final Judgment?), and everything except Christ's Kingdom will be swept away.

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    2. See 6:10; 10:33-34.

    5. Not free from money, but free from the love of money.

    9. NEB: "... it is good that our souls should gain their strength from the grace of God, and not from scruples about what we eat, which have never done any good to those who were governed by them."

    23. NEB: "... and if he comes in time he will be with me when I see you."


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    5. Is there any one of us who does not need wisdom?

    6-8. What do these verses mean? To be a "doubter" is not necessarily to be "unstable," especially not "unstable in all he does." It's true that Jesus frequently chided his followers because of their lack of faith. But see Mk. 9:24 ("I believe; help thou mine unbelief.") Jesus healed the man's son. Was it because the father, although doubting (or having mixed belief and unbelief) acknowledged his lack of faith?

    7. Note that James does not say the one who doubts will not receive anything from the Lord. He says that person should not think (or expect) that he will receive anything from the Lord. God is gracious, and often gives to the undeserving and maybe also to the doubter.

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    10. "For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it." (NIV) Does this mean that one sin is just as bad as another; e.g., stealing is as bad as murder? Jesus didn't think so. See Mt. 23:23b ("But you have neglected the more important matters of the law – justice, mercy and faithfulness"); Jn. 19:11b ("Therefore the one who handed me over to you is guilty of a greater sin").

    21. But cf. Rom. 4:3.

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    7. But "Do not resist one who is evil." Mt. 5:39 (RSV)

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Background notes on 1 Peter

    Peter's thoughts on suffering:
        (1) Suffering itself is neither good nor bad from a moral standpoint.
        (2) Suffering for wrongdoing is bad, 2:20; 4:15.
        (3) Suffering for doing right is good, 2:19-23; 3:13-14, 17-18.
        (4) Suffering for being a Christian is good, 4:13-14, 16-19.
        (5) Suffering for the Christian has a purpose – to test his or her faith, 1:6-7.

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Verse:
    1-2. Two ways in which Christians are the new people of God, inheriting the role and tradition or heritage of the Jews: (1) we are exiles, sojourners here on earth, and (2) we are God's chosen people. As to exiles, see note at 2:11.

    1. NEB: "To those of God's scattered people who lodge for a while in ...."

    3. Why does God save us? Because of his nature – He is loving and merciful. See Jn. 3:16 ("For God so loved the world ...."); Eph. 2:4-5 ("But God, who is rich in mercy, out of the great love with which he loved us ... made us alive ...."); Titus 3:5 ("he saved us ... in virtue of his own mercy ...."). Cf. Lk. 6:36 ("be merciful even as your father is merciful").

    "born anew" – see note at 1:23.

    The resurrection was central to Peter as well as to Paul (see 1 Cor. 15:12-19) and to Luke (see Acts 1:22; 2:32; 4:33).

    3-4. Because of God's mercy, and by means of his resurrection power, we have been born anew to a living hope, and an absolutely secure inheritance in heaven. Cf. NEB: "one that nothing can destroy or spoil or wither."

    5. "ready to be revealed in the last time." What does this mean? Cf. 1 Cor. 13:12; 1 Jn. 3:2.

    6-7. See Peter's thoughts on suffering.

    7. What does this imply about the testing of an "imperishable" inheritance (v. 4)? Even though gold is perishable, it is still tested by fire. Therefore, how much more confident we can be when our faith is tested "by fire."

    8. Cf. Jn. 20:29 (Jesus speaking to Thomas).

    12. "... were serving not themselves but you" – see 2 Cor. 4:5.

    "things into which angels long to look" – see Rom. 8:19.

    13. "gird up your minds" – sharpen up; cf. 1 Cor. 14:20.

    17. "time of your exile" – see note at 2:11.

    22. The Greek word for "earnestly" is used to describe how Jesus prayed in the Garden (Lk. 22:44) and how the church prayed for Peter when he was in prison (Acts 12:8).

    23. Peter has a strong emphasis on the Christian as reborn. See 1:3, 23; 2:2. The only other direct references to being born again are in Jn. 3:3, 7, where Jesus tells Nicodemus that he needs to be born again. There are also several references to Christians as "born of God" in 1 Jn. 2:29; 3:9; 4:7; 5:4, 18.

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Verse:
    2. "spiritual milk" (RSV); "milk of the word" (KJ); "thought-nourishing" milk (Berkeley). The Greek word is "logikos," which means "spiritual," "reasonable," "intelligent," or "belonging to the word." See Barclay (rev.), p. 191. It can also be translated "rational" or "fit for reasoning." Cf. Rom. 12:2. Milk is food for infants, which will make them grow. For other New Testament references to milk, see 1 Cor. 3:1-2 (fed with milk because not ready for solid food); Heb. 5:11-14 (need milk, not solid food, since solid food is for mature Christians).

        Peter says we should desire – "long for" (RSV) or "crave" (NIV) – milk, not seek it. Can we control our desires?

    4. Jesus is "that living stone," a "cornerstone chosen and precious." (v. 6). We are to come to him and like living stones be built into a spiritual house (v. 5). What is the relationship between the cornerstone and the other stones in a building? They are all cemented together. Cf. Jn. 15:4-6 (vine and branches).

    7-8. Therefore, unbelief = disobedience = stumbling. See also Heb. 3:18-19.

    8b. God destined them to disobey? See Rom. 8:29

    9a. See Ex. 19:5-6.

    9b. We are called to be witnesses.

    11. We are "aliens and exiles" with reference to the world (see also 1 Pet. 1:1, 17; Jn. 17:14-16; Heb. 11:13), but not with reference to God and the community of faith. See Eph. 2:12, 19.

    13-14. Phillips: "Obey every man-made authority ....;" KJ: "Submit yourselves to every ordinance of man ...." See also Mk. 12:17 ("Render unto Caesar ...."); Rom. 13:1-7 ("Be subject to governing authorities ...."); 1 Tim. 2:1-2 ("prayers ... for kings and all who are in high positions ...."). Paul has a parallel passage in Eph. 5:21 - 6:9. But see Acts 4:18-20 ("whether it is right ... to listen to you rather than to God ...."); Acts 5:27-29 ("We must obey God rather than men ....").

        There doesn't seem to be any room for passive disobedience in these verses; they teach active submission to governmental authority. On the other hand, in saying that governors are sent by God to punish those who "do wrong" and to praise those who "do right" (RSV), Paul is implying a moral standard applicable to governors. At least in the case of egregious violation of this standard (e.g., Hitler's slaughter of the Jews), I think Christians have a duty to disobey the authorities.

    16. NEB: "not however as though your freedom were there to provide a screen for wrongdoing."

    17. What does it mean to "honor" the emperorer? The Greek word is the same one used for "Honor thy tather and thy mother" in Mt. 15:4; Eph. 6:2, and other places. See Acts 23:1-5 (Paul apologizes for calling the high priest Annias a "white-washed wall"). But see Lk. 13:31-32 (Jesus refers to King Herod as "that fox").

    18. See Eph. 6:5-9; Col. 3:22-25.

    What about masters? Peter doesn't say, but see Eph. 6:9; Col. 4:1; Philemon 15-16. Masters are to deal impartially, not to threaten; to treat slaves justly and fairly, realizing that they also have a Master in heaven; and to consider Christian slaves as "more than a slave, as a beloved brother." Doesn't this inexorably lead to emancipation?

    19 et seq. See Peter's thoughts on suffering.

    20. To return good for evil is God's will. See Mt. 5:10-11; 38-48. The Christian should not "stand on his rights." But, if taken literally, wouldn't this actually lead to a breakdown in law and order? Cf. Acts 16:35-37 (Paul's feisty response when released after being wrongfully jailed in Philippi).

    22-25. John Stott points out that there are five clear references to Isaiah 53 in these verses: (John R.W. Stott, Basic Christianity, p. 95)

"He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." 1 Pet. 2:22 "though he had done no violence, nor was any deceit in his mouth" Isaiah 53:9b
"they hurled their insults at him" 1 Pet. 2:23 "He was despised and rejected by men" Isaiah 53:3
"He himself bore our sins" 1 Pet. 2:24 "he bore the sin of many" Isaiah 53:12
"by his wounds you have been healed" 1 Pet. 2:24 "by his wounds we are healed" Isaiah 53:5
"you were like sheep going astray" 1 Pet. 2:25 "We all, like sheep, have gone astray" Isaiah 53:6

    23. See Phil. 2:5-8.

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Verse:
    1. Phillips: " ... adapt yourselves to your husbands." See also Eph. 5:22-24; Col. 3:18. But see 1 Cor. 7:4 "the husband doe not rule over his own body, but the wife does;" Eph. 5:21 "Be subject to one another ...." See also Gal. 3:28 "... there is neither male nor female ...."

    3-4. See Mt. 6:21, 25-33.

    7. Paul says that husbands should love their wives as Christ loved the church and as they love their own bodies (Eph. 5:26, 28), and that they should not be harsh with their wives (Col. 3:19).

        NEB: "In the same way, you husbands must conduct your married life with understanding ...."

    7b. How does a man's relationship with his wife affect his prayers? Does that mean that if you are fighting with your wife you won't have the peace and quiet you need to pray?

    8. NEB: "Be one in thought and feeling."

        RSV: "humble mind" – this term is translated "be courteous" in KJ and Phillips. It comes from a compound Greek word meaning "friendly of mind."

    13 et seq. See Peter's thoughts on suffering.

    15.Cf. Mt. 10:19-20, 26-27, 32; Mk. 13:11. NEB: "with modesty and respect."

    19. "he went" – Moff. and Goodspeed translate this, "Enoch went ...."

    20. See Acts 2:27, 31; Eph. 4:8-10.

    21. Does baptism save? Or is it the faith that leads to the baptism of the believer?

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Verse:
    1. "... whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin." (RSV) Does this mean that suffering qua suffering is good? Does it mean whoever has suffered in the flesh as Christ suffered in the flesh (i.e., with the same spirit of surrender to the Father) has ceased from sin? See Peter's thoughts on suffering.

    2. What does this verse mean? Cf. Gal. 2:20.

    6. This is a puzzling verse. Who are the dead to whom the Gospel was preached? Gentiles? Those physically dead? See 3:19-10.

        Phillips translates it, "(For that is why the dead also had the gospel preached to them – that it might judge the lives they lived as men and give them also the opportunity to share the eternal life of God in the spirit.") But isn't it more likely that this verse refers to those who were spiritually "dead" – living in licentiousness, etc. – who were "judged in the flesh like men" by suffering the natural, physical consequences of such a life, but were converted and thereby made alive "in the spirit like God"? Berkeley translates it, "to those now dead," as those before the flood or before Christ's coming.

    7. Peter apparently believed the Second Coming of Christ was at hand.

    8. In what sense does love cover sin? Is love a substitute for forgiveness?

    12-19. See Peter's thoughts on suffering.

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Verse:
    1. Peter exhorts as a fellow elder, not as a superior to inferiors. He makes a point of identifying with those to whom he is ministering. But he also indirectly claims authority as a witness of the sufferings of Christ and as a sharer in the coming glory.

    2. See Jn. 21:15-17, where Peter was commanded to keep Christ's sheep. Note that it is God's flock, not the elders'. What is entailed in "tending a flock"?
        (1) Protection against dangers, including straying away (see 2:25);
        (2) Feeding;
        (3) Sheltering;
        (4) Nursing when sick or injured.

    2-3. Peter's message to elders: Tend the flock of God (1) willingly, (2) even eagerly, (3) by being examples – not (1) by constraint (or "compulsion" (NEB) or "because you can't get out of it" (Phillips)), (2) for "shameful gain" or (3) as domineering. Phillips: "You should aim not at being 'little tin gods' but as examples of Christian living in the eyes of the flock committed to your charge."

    7. Phillips: "You can throw the whole weight of your anxieties upon him, for you are his personal concern.

    8. A lion is more likely to devour (1) a lone animal, not in a group; (2) an animal that has strayed into lion territory; and (3) a weakened or crippled animal.

        Note that Jesus is also referred to as a lion; see Rev. 5:5. St. Augustine says "they are both lions: Christ for His strength, and the devil for his savagery. One is the lion who conquers and the other is the lion who destroys." Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., p. 185.

    9. We are to resist the devil, but not resist one who is evil (Mt. 5:39). We gain victory over sinful people by turning the other cheek. We gain victory over sin in our lives by resisting it. See also Jas. 4:7 ("Resist the devil and he will flee from you.").

    12. Silvanus – see Acts 15:40; 1 Thess. 1:1; 2 Thess. 1:1.

    13. Is "Babylon" where the epistle was written? Does this stand for Rome?


2 Peter   [Forward to 1 John]   [Back to 1 Peter]  [All books of the Bible]
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General comments:
    There is some question as to the authorship of 2 Peter. It was not considered canonical until the Council of Carthage in 392. It is felt by some that internal evidence shows a different style than 1 Peter. The New Bible Commentary follows a conservative view, holding that verses like 1:1, 16-18; 3:1; etc., show Petrine authorship. The letter was written just before Peter's martyrdom, 66-68 A.D. Cf. its similarity to Jude.

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Verse:
    1. Cf. 1 Pet. 5:1. Peter speaks as an equal to equals.

    3. Note the tense – "has granted to us all things ...."

    4. What are some of these "precious and very great promises"? See Jn. 14:13-14; 16:13, 24; Rom. 8:38-39; 1 Cor. 10:13; Heb. 4:16; 1 Jn. 1:9.

    5-7. What should be added to our faith to achieve Christian maturity? Note the progression from "faith" to "love."

RSV

faith virtue knowledge self-control steadfastness godliness brotherly affection love

NEB

faith virtue knowledge self-control fortitude piety brotherly kindness love

Berkeley

faith virtue knowledge self-control patience piety brotherly affection love

Moffat

faith resolution intelligence self-control steadfastness godliness brotherliness Christian love

Jerusalem

faith goodness understanding self-control patience true devotion kindness towards your fellow men love

    14. Cf. Jn. 21:18.

    15. How was Paul going to do this? By writing them down?

    20. What does this mean? Who does interpret scripture if not the one reading or hearing it? A central authority? The church? The Holy Spirit?

        Berkeley: "can be explained by one's unaided mental powers."

        Moffat: "allows a man to interpret it by himself."

        Jerusalem: "the interpretation of scriptural prophecy is never a matter for the individual."

    21. Cf. 2 Tim. 3:16. "moved by the Holy Spirit (RSV)" The Greek word for "moved" means "being carried".

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Verse:
    1. Cf. Jude 4-16.

    10b. Who are the "glorious ones" (RSV, ESV)? NEB and NIV say "celestial beings."

    12. See Rom. 6:23.

    17. "waterless springs and mists driven by a storm" (RSV). They are empty and unstable.

    18. "men who have barely escaped from those who live in error" (RSV). Are these new or weak Christians? A note in the NIV Study Bible says they are new converts who have just broken away from pagan friends.

    19. Cf. Jn. 8:31-34; Rom. 6:16-18; 2 Cor. 3:17; Gal. 5:1.

    20-22. Do these verses mean it is impossible for such people to be saved? See Heb. 6:4-8.

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Verse:
    1. This letter is written as a reminder, not for new teaching.

    6-7. The earth was once destroyed by water (Gen. 7) but some day will be destroyed by fire.

    8. Our sense of time is entirely different from God's.

    10. Does this indicate nuclear destruction? Cf. v. 7, 12.


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General comments:
    To whom was the letter of 1 John written? "to you who believe in the name of the Son of God" (5:13; cf. Jn. 20:31).

    For what purpose was it written?
        (1) "that you may have fellowship with us" (fellowship with the Father and Son) (1:3).
        (2) "that our joy may be complete" (1:4).
        (3) "that you may not sin" (2:1).
        (4) "that you may know that you have eternal life" (5:13).

    When and where was it written? A little after A.D. 100, in Ephesus (Barclay).

    The concept of "sin" in 1 John.

    (1) John seems to recognize that everyone – even believers – sin.
        1:8 "If we claim to be without sin, we deceive ourselves and the truth is not in us."
        1:10 "If we claim we have not sinned, we make him out to be a liar and his word has no place in our lives."

    (2) There is, however, forgiveness for sins.
        1:7 (NIV) "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."
        1:9 "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just and will forgive us our sins and purify us from all unrighteousness."
        2:1b-2 (RSV) "But if anybody does sin, we have one who speaks to the Father in our defense Jesus Christ, the Righteous One; and he is the expiation
            for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the sins of the whole world."
        2:12 (RSV) "I am writing to you, little children, because your sins are forgiven for his sake."

    (3) But some verses in 1 John seem to indicate that believers do not sin:
        3:6 (RSV) "No one who abides in him sins; no one who sins has either seen him or known him."
        3:9 (RSV) "No one born of God commits sin; for God's nature abides in him, and he cannot sin because he is born of God."
        5:18 (RSV) "We know that anyone born of God does not sin, but He who was born of God keeps him, and the evil one does not touch him."

    (4) How do we reconcile these verses? The Harper Study Bible (RSV) suggests that 3:9 might be paraphrased,
            "Whoever is born of God does not make sin the practice of his life."
            Phillips translates it, "The man who is really God's son does not practice sin, for God's nature is in him, for good, and such a heredity is incapable of sin."

    Note also that these verses about sin are not randomly found throughout 1 John. The verses that say we all sin are in the first chapter; the verses talking about forgiveness for sin are in chapters 1 and 2, and the verses indicating that Christians do not sin are all in chapters 3-5. Thus there is a progression, but is it a meaningful progression? Is John saying we all start as sinners, but as Christians we have our sins forgiven in Christ, and thereafter we do not sin? That is not my experience.

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Verse:
    1. Why does John make a point of the fact that he and the other apostles "touched" Jesus? (See Barclay, The Letters of John and Jude, Rev. Ed., pp. 5-15) Basically because the gnostic heresy – holding that "spirit" was good and "matter" was evil – denied the incarnation and crucifixion.

    2. John hammers home the fact that he was an eyewitness of the life of Jesus Christ; he is writing about something he has experienced first-hand. Eternal life – see Jn. 17:3.

    4. Full joy comes only from fellowship with God. "The basic idea in fellowship is that of having things in common, of partnership or sharing, and it is often used of business affairs (cf. Lk. 5:10)." NBC

    5. Light equals (1) security and safety, (2) absence of darkness, gloom, and (3) knowledge.

    John uses the symbol of light to show God's purity, splendor, and goodness. Note that light and darkness are essentially incompatible.

    6. Our lives have to measure up to our words.

    7 – 10. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.

    7. If we "walk in the light" – i.e., if we are in fellowship with God – then we also will be in fellowship with one another.

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Verse:
    1. The word translated "advocate" in the RSV is used elsewhere in the New Testament only of the Holy Spirit. It means "one called to the side of another in order to render assistance." (NBC) It was used frequently in the law courts of the defense counsel. Jesus pleads, intercedes, contends for us; he is "the righteous" one who stands in our place (the expiation – making complete satisfaction for, atoning for – our sins). See Rom. 8:34; Heb. 7:25.

    1b – 2. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.

    2. In what sense does Jesus Christ's sacrifice take away the sins of the whole world? Are all people's sins actually taken away, or only potentially? See note on Universalism

    6. See also Lk. 6:40 RSV ("A disciple is not above his teacher, but every one when he is fully taught will be like his teacher"); Jn. 13:15, where Jesus explicitly told his disciples that they should follow his example.

    7. Is John referring to the command to love one another? In what sense is that both an old and a new command? It's old because it was already in the Old Testament (Lev. 19:18 "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself.") It was new as revealed by Jesus – love in a new dimension.

    12. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.

    17. See 2 Cor. 4:18.

    18. "anti-christ" (singular) – see Mk. 13:14; 1 Thess. 2:1-4.

    27. JB: "But you have not lost the anointing that he gave you ...." What is the "anointing"? The Holy Spirit?

    28. The RSV and NIV say "so that when he appears," but the Jerusalem Bible translates this "so that if he appears."

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Verse:
    1a. The words "and so we are" (RSV) do not appear in the KJ, because they are found in later manuscripts.

    6. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.

    9. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.

    9b. "born of God" – see special topic Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible.

    15. See Mt. 5:21-22.

    19. "By this ...." By loving in deed and in truth (v. 18)!

    22. See Mt. 22:34-40.

    24b. See notes on the Holy Spirit.

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Verse:
    2-3. For the Christian, the big test for any philosophy is – what about Christ? Then measure that against the Word. Cf. Jn. 1:1, 14, 18; 10:30; 14:6; Rom. 1:4; 1 Tim. 1:16.

    4. See Jn. 16:33.

    6. See Jn. 8:47.

    10. See Rom. 5:8.

    13. See notes on the Holy Spirit.

Chapter 5  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
Verse:
    1. NEB: "... and to love the parent means to love his child; it follows that when we love God and obey his commands we love his children too."

    18. But see the concept of sin in 1 John.


2 John   [Forward to 3 John]   [Back to 1 John]  [All books of the Bible]

Verse:
   


3 John   [Forward to Jude]   [Back to 2 John]  [All books of the Bible]

Verse:
    4. This is a great verse! I rejoiced in it when I was involved in Young Life and God gave me "spiritual children," and I especially rejoice in it now to the extent that my biological children follow the truth.

    7-8. Christian missions are to be supported by Christians, not unbelievers. At least, that was apparently the pattern in the early church. I don't see why it shouldn't be normative today.

    11. This is in the context of the church. In other words, John is not prescribing a theology of salvation; he is talking about how real believers can be distinguished from those in the fellowship who may be members of the church but are not children of God. See Mt. 7:21-23.


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Verse:
    5. Not those who "sinned," but those who "did not believe."

    9. This is apparently from an apocryphal work called "The Assumption of Moses." See also v. 14.

    12. In other words, only those who are really a part of the community can share in the community meals.

    14. Taken from the apocryphal book of Enoch, which, according to the NIV Study Bible, purports to have been written by the Enoch of Gen. 5 but actually did not appear until the first century B.C. If John quotes from these apocryphal books (see also v. 9) doesn't that mean he believed at least some of what was said in them? Could they be semi-inspired?

    17. This verse indicates that the author of Jude was not one of the apostles.


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Background notes on Revelation

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Verse:
    3. Not all translations include the word "aloud" as RSV does – see NIV, TEV.

    4. There were more than seven churches in the Roman province of Asia, but these were apparently chosen for their location. Each was in the center of a number of churches to which the letter would circulate.

    7. See Dan. 7:13-14.

    9. Patmos is ten miles long by five miles wide, off the coast of Asia Minor, near Ephesus.

    10. "in the Spirit" See also 4:2; 17:3; 21:10. Tyndale says this may be "something like a trance," and is certainly a state in which John is "specially open to the Holy Spirit and ready to see visions." In Lk. 10:21, it is said that Jesus "rejoiced in the Holy Spirit" after the 70 disciples returned.

        This is the only mention of the "Lord's day" in the New Testament. But see Jn. 20:19; Acts 20:7; 1 Cor. 16:2, all of which indicate the practice of Christians meeting on Sunday.

    12-16. Compare this vision of God with that of Isaiah (Isa. 6:1-4) and Ezekiel (Ezek. 1:26-28).

    19. This is what the Revelation is all about.

    20. Note that Jesus is in the center of the seven churches. See v. 12-13.

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General comments: See Letters to the seven churches
Verse:
    2. Barclay says the word "toil" (RSV) means "labour to the point of exhaustion."

        "... you cannot bear evil men" – see v. 6.

        How do we test prophets and teachers? See Mt. 7:15-20 ("you will know them by their fruits"); 1 Jn. 4:1-3 ("every spirit which confesses that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is of God").

    6. Not much is known of the Nicolaitans. They apparently indulged in immorality and loose living. Note that it is their works that Jesus hates, not the Nicolaitans themselves.

    7. The "tree of life" was in the garden of Eden. See Gen. 2:9. See also Rev. 22:2, 14 – this tree is for those who have "washed their robes."

    8. The city of Smyrna itself had a resurrection. It was destroyed in 600 B.C. and rebuilt in 200 B.C.

    9. The Greek for "tribulation" literally means "pressure" or "crushing." There were two Greek works for "poverty," and here the stronger one is used, meaning "grinding poverty."

    10. The "crown of life" is also mentioned in Jas. 1:12. For similar phrases, see 2 Tim. 4:8 ("crown of righteousness"); 1 Pet. 5:4 ("crown of glory").

    11. The "second death" is being thrown in the "lake of fire" (see 20:14-15), which is promised to murderers, idolaters, and all whose name is not found written in the "book of life." (20:15; 21:8) See also 20:6.

    14. Balaam apparently advised Balak, king of Moab, that the Israelites should be induced to worship idols. See Num. 25:1-2; 31:16.

    16. The "sword of my mouth" probably refers to the word of God. See Heb. 4:12, stating that the word of God is "sharper than any two-edged sword," and Eph. 6:17, referring to the "sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God."

        "hidden manna" – see Ex. 16:11-15.

        Apparently no one knows what the "white stone" symbolizes. There are at least seven possible interpretations; see Barclay. The idea of a "new name" to mark a new status is not uncommon in Scripture; e.g., "Abram" was renamed "Abraham" (Gen. 17:5); "Jacob" became "Israel" (Gen. 32:28).

    18. Thyatira was a commercial center, but of no great importance otherwise. Barclay points out that the longest letter was written to the least important church. Lydia, the seller of purple goods, was from Thyatira (Acts. 16:14).

        "Son of God" – this is the only use of this phrase in Revelation.

    19. The Christians in Thyatira were growing!

    20. Note that it is toleration, not approval or participation, that the Lord condemns.

        No one knows who "Jezebel" was, or even if she was a real person. Historically, she was a wicked queen. See 1 Kings 16:31-33.

        "practice immorality" – see 1 Thess. 4:3 (Christians are to abstain from immorality).

    28. Jesus is the "morning star" – see Rev. 22:16.

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Verse:
    1. Sardis was a "degenerate church in a degenerate city" – Barclay. It was a very wealthy city, but lacked discipline; it had twice been conquered by surprise night attacks.

        "seven spirits" – see 1:4.

        The "seven stars" are the seven churches, representative of all churches. They belong to the Lord.

    5. Does this threat – to not blot his name out of the book of life – have any meaning unless he does blot some names out?

    14. See Jn. 1:3; Col. 1:15, 18.

    18. See 1 Pet. 1:7.

Chapter 4  [Next chapter]  [Preceding chapter]  [Beginning of book]   [All books of the Bible]
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    1. What is the "open door"? Some possibilities: (1) the door of opportunity (Col. 4:3; Rev. 3:8); (2) the door of the human heart (Rev. 3:20); (3) the door of revelation (Ezek. 1:1).

    2 et seq. The glorious judge on the throne! See Isaiah 6:1-4.

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    5. Note that the devil is also referred to as a lion; see 1 Pet. 5:8.

    6. The Lamb at the "center of the throne" – see Rev. 7:17.

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    17. E. Stanley Jones says this verse is the most important of any verse in Scripture, because it shows the "heart of final power in the universe," which is "self-giving, sacrificial love." E. Stanley Jones, Victory Through Surrender, p. 49.

        It also expresses an amazing incongruity: the Lamb is the Shepherd!

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    20-21. Six sins are specified: (1) worshipping idols; (2) worshipping devils; (3) murder; (4) witchcraft; (5) fornication; and (6) stealing.

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    1-2. First sign: the pregnant woman.

    3-18. Second sign: the red dragon.

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    1-10. Third sign: the beast from the sea.

    11-18. Fourth sign: the beast from the earth. This beast, which has two horns and speaks like a dragon, is less powerful and fearsome than the first beast, which had 10 horns (13:1). The main job of the second beast seems to be to get everyone to worship the first beast. Barclay's commentary says the first beast represents the Roman empire, and the second beast represents the system that was set up in the Roman empire to enforce Caesar worship. The beast from the earth has power to perform miracles, and deceives people, and finally – after ordering the building of an image of the first beast – puts to death all who will not worship the first beast or bear his mark.

    18. The number of the beast is 666 – see Barclay, p. 133.

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    1. Fifth sign: the Lamb.

    6. Sixth sign: the angels flying in heaven.

        Note that the first angel was sent to announce the "eternal gospel," which means the "eternal good news." But it wouldn't be "good news" unless it provided opportunity to be saved.

    10-11. It's hard to understand how this can be, given the nature of the Lamb. However, John Stott makes an interesting point. He came to believe that those who are not saved are not tortured in the flames of hell throughout eternity; rather, they are punished by being totally destroyed. Quoting Rev. 14:11, which reads: "And the smoke of their torment rises forever and ever," Stott went on to argue, "The fire itself is termed `eternal' and `unquenchable', but it would be very odd if what is thrown into it proves indestructible. Our expectation would be the opposite: it would be consumed forever, not tormented forever. Hence it is the smoke (evidence that the fire has done its work) which `rises for ever and ever.'"

    14. Seventh sign: the son of man as reaper.

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Notes on difficult or puzzling problems
    Contradictions or inconsistencies
        Baptism of Jesus – see
Jn. 1:33.
        Centurion with sick servant – Mt. 8:5.
        Gerasene demoniac – Mt. 8:28.
        Healing one blind man or two? – Mt. 20:30.
        Woman pouring perfume on Jesus – see anointing of Jesus.

    Immorality apparently condoned
        Abraham lied about his wife being his sister – twice. Gen. 12:13-20; 20:2-12.
        Then his son Isaac lied about Rebekah being his sister. Gen. 26:7-11.
        Lot's daughters get their father drunk and commit incest with him. Gen. 19:30-36.

Notes on special topics
    Gender; male and female imagery in the Bible  [All books of the Bible]

God is given the title "Father," a male image, in the Lord's prayer (Mt. 6:9) and many other places. On the other hand, believers are told that they are "born of God." 1 Jn. 3:9; see also Deut. 32:18. If God gives birth, then God acts like a female. Jesus also compared himself to a "mother hen" (Mt. 23:37; Lk. 13:34). Also, if both male and female are created from God's image (Gen. 1:27), then God's image is both male and famale. As Kenneth E. Bailey says, "To substitute neutral terms for one or the other will inevitably impoverish the richness of the biblical similes and metaphors, or lead us to abandon them." Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 101.

"Furthermore the devil is always male in the New Testament, and we will create a hornet's nest of new problems if we try to develop 'inclusive language' for our demonology." Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 101.

Bailey also points out that in his teaching "Jesus selected images and created parables with a deliberate concern to communicate his message to his women listeners on as deep a level as to his male followers," and that Luke and the other Gospel writers shaped their narratives to reflect this mutual concern for men and woman. See Kenneth E. Bailey, Jesus Through Middle Eastern Eyes, p. 194-195 (listing ten "prime examples" of the pairing of men and women in Jesus' teaching).

Jesus' radically different approach to women:

    He allowed women to be his disciples, he was financed by them, and some women traveled with him (Lk. 8:1-3).

    He tells women to bear witness about him to men (Jn. 4:16, the woman at the well; Jn. 20:17, Mary Magdalene).

    He deliberately injected women into conversations that ostensibly had nothing to do with women. (Mt. 12:50 "For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother") See Mt. 12:49-50.

For other examples of Christianity at least tending toward equality of men and women, see Gal. 3:28 (no distinction between male and female "in Christ") and Col. 3:18-19 (mutual and reciprocal obligations).

On the other hand, the epistles frequently emphasize women's subservient role. See Eph. 5:22; Col. 3:18; Tit. 2:5; 1 Pet. 3:1-7 (submission of wives to husbands). And the Old Testament seems to reflect prejudice against women. See Judges 4:9 and 1 Sam. 12:11.

    Prayer  [All books of the Bible]
See 1 Kings 3:5-14 (Solomon's prayer when the Lord told him to ask for anything he would like to have).
Mark 1:35 (example of Jesus' "quiet time")
    Prophecy  [All books of the Bible]

See Mt. 2:4-5 (King Herod asks Jewish scholars where the Christ was to be born). Citing this passage, St. Augustine predicted that the time would come when unbelievers will say that Christians forged the prophecies about Christ after they had already come to pass, but this charge will be refuted by the fact that the Jews, who alone of all the nations did not surrender their law and their customs to the Romans, continue to "bear witness to the truth." He says the Jews "are scattered all over the world, carrying with them the books that tell of Christ," and they know these books were not later forgeries. Thus the Jews, in effect, defend Christianity by refuting the false charges of the unbelieving Gentiles. Selected Sermons of St. Augustine, trans. & ed. by Quincy Howe, Jr., pp. 158-159.