Foundational Framework 61: The Holy Spirit - Part 3

FOUNDATIONAL FRAMEWORK. PART 61

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Jesus’ earthly ministry was undeniably blessed by the Holy Spirit, being clearly seen in His birth (Matt 1:18, 20), to His appearance at Jesus’ baptism (Matt 3:16), to being the One who was granting Him the power to work miracles before the people (Matt 12:28). It is Jesus’ earthly life that sets forth the model for what it is for one to walk in the Spirit, abiding in the Father (John14:10b), with the intimate fellowship-relationship with the Father being cultivated through obedience to His commandments (John 14:21).

In what is commonly known as the Upper Room Discourse, we find five mentions of the Holy Spirit in Jesus’ teaching which provides clarity about His Person and ministry.

John 14:16-18. Chapters 13-16 and Jesus’ prayer in chapter 17 serve in preparing His disciples for His betrayal, arrest, and crucifixion. Having commissioned them with a “new commandment” that called them to “love one another even as I have loved you” (John 13:34), Jesus then exhorted His disciples to “believe” in Him. We should not take this to mean that they needed to be saved so that they would go to heaven when they died, but that they needed to keep their confidence in who He is as the Messiah of God (Matt 16:16). With the events that would soon transpire, this was not the time for unbelief! His oneness with the Father is one aspect that is put forward to ground them in right thinking (John 14:7-11), but even if this wasn’t something that they had convincingly understood, at least His works testified to His Person as the Christ (John 14:11), which are actually the works of the Father (John 16:10b), which were also the evidence of the power of the Holy Spirit (Matt 12:28).

In v.16, Jesus turns the conversation to the importance of the Holy Spirit, Who would be sent because the Son will ask the Father to do so (John 14:16a). The Spirit is presented to the disciples as “another Helper,” seeing that Jesus would qualify as the first “Helper.” It is with this particular word that our greatest understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit takes place.

The term “Helper” is the Greek word “Paraclete,” which means “one who pleads another’s cause before a judge,” or “one who pleads another’s cause with one.” This word can also be understood as “a helper, succorer, aider, assistant.”[1] This compound word is made up of para which is a preposition of proximity that means “to come alongside” (as we have seen in “parable”), and kletos meaning “to be invited or called.”[2] This would give us the understanding of “one who is called alongside.”

Explaining this, Torrey writes “The word so translated is Parakleetos, the same word that is translated ‘advocate’ in 1 John 2:1; but ‘advocate’ does not give the full force and significance of the word etymologically. Advocate means about the same as Parakleetos, but the word in usage has obtained restricted sense. ‘Advocate’ is Latin; Parakleetos is Greek. The exact Latin word is ‘advocatus,’ which means one called to another. (That is, to help him or take his part or represent him.) Parakleetos means one called alongside, that is, one who constantly stands by your side as your helper, counsellor, comforter, friend. It is very nearly the thought expressed in the familiar hymn, ‘Ever present, truest friend.’ Up to the time that Jesus had uttered these words, He Himself had been the Parakleetos to the disciples, the Friend at hand, the Friend who stood by their side.”[3]

The various English translations have sought to capture all that this word encompasses: “Helper”- NASB95, ESV, NKJV, “Counselor”- HCSB, NIV84, CSB, “Advocate”- NET, NLT, NRSV, and “Comforter”- KJV, ASV, Darby, Young’s. Regarding the secular usage, Derickson and Radmacher write, “As a legal term it referred more to the friend who goes to court with the defendant than to a professional advisor or attorney.”[4] Such analytical information paints the picture of an inseparable relationship that is God Himself, standing beside the believer at all times (all the while residing in the believer at the moment of faith starting in Acts 2), aiding, guiding, consoling, and uplifting, just as Christ did when He was physically present with His disciples. The idea that Jesus conveys as “another Helper” shows that the Spirit will be much like Himself, yet closer, and according to the end of verse 16, eternally present with the believer always.

This pertinent point must not go unnoticed. The Holy Spirit is ALWAYS with the believer in Christ. Never is he or she without help, comfort, guidance, or care. We are never alone! He is always present, active, and available. At the time that this was spoken this was not the present reality, but it is something that is a reality now. Turning to John 7:37-39 helps in understanding this.

John 7:37-39. It seems odd that Jesus would suddenly stand up in the middle of a meal and begin yelling out profound and lofty statements, which could have very well been perceived as narcissistic utterances by the mass of people. However, the details of v. 37 unfold the significance of this action. Hart writes, “According to the Talmud, (Sukk 4.9), each day during the Feast of Booths… a priest would carry water from the spring-fed Pool of Siloam to the temple and pour it out on the altar in expectation of the coming Messiah.”[5] Being the last day of the Feast of Booths, Jesus used the symbolism of the priest’s actions to proclaim Himself as the long-awaited Messiah, the very Giver of Life.

In v.38 Jesus clarifies the metaphor of what He means by coming to Him to “drink,” stating that it is the one who “believes” in Him. The result of belief would be “living water” that would flow out from the innermost part of the person. The imagery is simple but profound. Not only was Jesus speaking of being the Messiah of Israel and the Giver of Life, but He is also speaking of something that is satisfying, quelling all wants or needs, being abundant in quantity and quality.

One of the things that is extremely helpful in the Gospel of John is that John will occasionally provide a verse or two of commentary in order to clarify Jesus’ comments. This is a blessing to us as readers because John’s comments were recorded, as with all Scripture, under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, so we know that his remarks are in perfect alignment to provide us with better understanding.

In v.39, John tells us that the “living water” that will flow out from the one who believes is in reference to the Holy Spirit “whom those who believed in Him were to receive,” indicating a future tense “receiving,” speaking to the definite indwelling of the Spirit that would take place at Pentecost in Acts 2.

Finishing out the verse, we also learn why this glorious privilege had not been bestowed upon believers during Jesus’ earthly ministry. John writes, “for the Spirit was not yet given, because Jesus was not yet glorified” (7:39b). The Lord’s timetable is precise. Jesus must first be glorified, which according to John’s Gospel, seems to be in relation to His death and the results of it for God’s glory (John 12:16, 23, 28; 13:31, 32; 17:1, 5; & 21:19- concerning Peter). This corresponds remained perfectly with the arrival of the Holy Spirit occurring after Jesus’ death, resurrection, and ascension.

Moving back to John 14:16-17, Jesus refers to the Holy Spirit as “the Spirit of Truth” (John 14:17a), and then makes the comment that the world cannot receive Him because it does not “see” nor “know” Him (14:17b). This statement resonates with Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 2:14, stating that the “natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised.” Those who are dead, being separated from a relationship with the Creator, cannot see, know, or receive the things of the Spirit. The very idea of the Spirit of God is considered a foreign intrusion into a methodically-designed, God-hating world system. Our present age operates by a mindset that all exists within the natural and physical realm, esteeming this is all that there is, and rejecting any notion of a greater reality in that of the supernatural. This is often labeled as “naturalism.” The Spirit of God is quickly labeled as an apparition of the “delusional religious fanatic” so that He can promptly be dismissed from being a legitimate entity with which the world must contend. The natural man would not dare entertain the idea that He is God.

The advantage of the disciples is that the Spirit has been “abiding” with them, and Jesus quickly notes that the Spirit “will be” in them referring to the Pentecost event, just as we saw as referenced in John 7:39a. The word “abide” is a favorite of Jesus and John, as recorded by the latter, being used throughout his Gospel and Epistles (John 3:36; 5:38; 6:56; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10; 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4:12, 13, 15, 16; 2 John 2, 9). This is the Greek word menō, which means to “remain, stay…” being understood as “a person or thing remains where he, she, or it is.”[6] So the Spirit has with the disciples, but a greater assimilation will occur when He resides “in” them.

Jesus finishes this section reassuring these men that He will not leave them without guidance, described by the term “orphans” in the NASB (John 14:18). Other translations use “comfortless” (KJV, AV) and “desolate” (RSV). It is clear by this point that Jesus is leaving them, yet He is not leaving them in the sense that they will be without His presence, guidance, and care. The emphasis is still upon the Spirit being “another Helper,” which will replace Jesus in a physical sense, but will only enhance Jesus’ message and ministry to them in another sense. This is a profound paradox, but one that every believer should find comforting with sufficient grounds to elicit praise! Our Savior is always taking care of us in extraordinary ways whether acknowledged by us or not.

John 14:26. Two things are obvious from considering Jesus’ words to His disciples in John 14:19-25. First, obedience to Jesus’ commands are a demonstration of our love for the Savior. This is a countercultural message in the world today. We hear of “free love” and that “we should love everyone,” and even the Beatles pressed the issue, stating that “love is all you need.” Yet, Jesus explains that for one who is in a relationship with Him to actually embrace His words in such a way as to where their life is transformed, their choices are different, and their thinking has been altered, is to demonstrate love for the Lord Jesus Christ. While the Savior freely loves us (Gal 2:20), this love is demonstrated by the selfless sacrifice seen chiefly in the giving of Himself to redeem sinners. This is truly a “greater love” (John 15:13).

Jesus tells His disciples plainly what it is to love Him (John 14:15, 21 [x2], 23, 24, 28). Here we find the second observation, with John 14:21 and 23 showing that a love for the Savior by keeping the commandments leads to a greater intimacy with the Father. Jesus states that the one who obeys Him is the one who “loves” Him, and the one who loves Him is loved by the Father, to which Jesus will then love with the expressed end being that He will “disclose” Himself to them (John 14:21). Jesus “disclosing” Himself to the obedient saint is emphanizō meaning “to cause something to be fully known by revealing clearly and in some detail—‘to make known, to make plain, to reveal, to bring to the light, to disclose, revelation.’”[7] The footnote that accompanies this definition gives even greater clarity about what transpires when love for the Savior has motivated one’s obedience. It states that “all of these meanings involve a shift from the sensory domain of seeing, causing to see, or giving light to, to the cognitive domain of making something fully known, evident, and clear.”[8] Plainly put, obedience leads to a greater intimacy with the Father and the Son (See also Col 1:9-10).

Jesus’ teachings on what it is to love the Savior, and the guaranteed growth in one’s intimacy with the Father and Son, are what surround His referencing the “Helper” again in John 14:26. Here, Jesus again qualifies what He had previously stated in v.16-17: that the “Helper” is the Holy Spirit, and that the Father will send Him. The remark is also made that the Spirit would come “in My name” (John 14:26b), which harkens back to the “another Helper” designation (John 14:16b).

At this point, Jesus reveals two additional details about the capability of the Holy Spirit in the life of the believer.

First, the Spirit will “teach you all things” (John 14:26b). “All things” speaks solely to God’s truth. The Spirit, being perfectly God, cannot teach the believer that which is not true. No, He is “the Spirit of truth” (John 14:17a) and all that He affirms corresponds perfectly with who He is without contradiction. What we understand about God in general, concerning His impeccable character and His divine attributes, are all positioned upon the fact that He IS truth. Therefore, He defines what truth is because only He is true. One cannot forget that the Holy Spirit is perfectly God, therefore all that is true of God is equally true of the Holy Spirit.

This is further understood when reading 1 John 2:26-27 which states “These things I have written to you concerning those who are trying to deceive you. As for you, the anointing which you received from Him abides in you, and you have no need for anyone to teach you; but as His anointing teaches you about all things, and is true and is not a lie, and just as it has taught you, you abide in Him” (emphasis added). The correlation between “all things” and truth is perfectly consistent with the Spirit’s very being and is positioned in this passage against the idea of “those who are trying to deceive you.”

The second detail revealed is that the Spirit will bring to remembrance all of the things that were said to them by Jesus. No doubt that Jesus taught His disciples many wonderous things (John 21:25), both in word and in deed. The Spirit would be necessary to bring about the proper truth at the proper time for the opportunity of maximum obedience for their lives. This would speak to His present ministry of illumination in the disciples’ (and in the believer’s) life. With a command like “go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I commanded you” (Matt 28:18-19a), the Spirit would be necessary in relating this wealth of information as disciples were being made.

The Spirit bringing about remembrance would also be necessary in the documentation of the Scriptures, which found men being “carried along” by the Spirit of God (2 Pet 1:21). The Spirit’s ministry of remembrance is why we have the Old and New Testaments today.

Finally, many men of God have been called upon to witness in various situations (whether threatening or not), and to testify of Christ Jesus with their lives hanging in the balance. Even Jesus told His disciples “when they arrest you and hand you over, don’t worry beforehand what you will say. On the contrary, whatever is given to you in that hour—say it. For it isn’t you speaking, but the Holy Spirit” (Mark 13:11). There will be times in our lives when the conversation will turn to spiritual matters, and no doubt there will be many who will quickly speak emphatically about things that they are truly ignorant of because they do not know God. These opportunities find the Spirit giving us boldness, love, tact, and the words that are necessary to provide sound reasoning from God’s Word to an otherwise fruitless conversation. The Spirit will bring forth passage after passage and verse after verse, showing the truth of God’s Word to be undeniable and irrefutable.

The Holy Spirit is truly a remarkable blessing from our glorious Father. His mercy in sending the Spirit to us for our help, comfort, and aid continues eternity’s theme of a gracious Sovereign who desires for His children to be well-kept in Divine arms. Packer describes this beautiful gesture, writing, “we can only appreciate all that our Lord meant when He spoke of ‘another Comforter’ as we look back over all that He Himself had done in the way of love, and care, and patient instruction, and provision for the disciple’s well-being, during His own three years of personal ministry to them. He will care for you, Christ was saying in effect, in the way that I have cared for you. Truly a remarkable person!”[9] Such grace deserves our greatest praise!

[1] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 483.

[2] BDAG, p. 549.

[3] R. A. Torrey, The Fundamentals: A Testimony to the Truth, vol. 2 (Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2005), p. 332.

[4] Gary Derickson and Earl Radmacher, The Disciplemaker: What Matters Most to Jesus (Salem, OR: Charis Press, 2001), p. 123.

[5] John F. Hart, The Moody Bible Commentary (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2014), p. 1629.

[6] BDAG, p. 630.

[7] Louw and Nida, p. 337–338.

[8] Ibid., p. 338, footnote 9.

[9] J.I. Packer, Knowing God (Downers Grove, Illinois: InterVarsity Press, 1979), p. 58.

Foundational Framework 60: The Holy Spirit Part 2

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John 3:1-2. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, which means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were the “Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem.”[3] We are also told that he was a teacher of Israel (John 3:10) who came to Jesus by night. This late visit was undoubtedly made so as to go unnoticed by his peers. The first words we have recorded from his mouth are “rabbi,” meaning “teacher” (See John 1:38), which should interest us considering Nicodemus’ position among the Jewish people. Quoting Moulton and Milligan, Vincent writes, “We may be sure that a member of the sect that carefully scrutinized the Baptist’s credentials (1:19–24) would not lightly  address Jesus by this title of honor, or acknowledge Him as teacher.”[4] Such an address gives us an understanding that Nicodemus’ visit was one of sincerity and not for the purpose of assault or accusation.

Nicodemus’ use of the plural in “We know that you have come from God as a teacher” (John 3:2b) shows that this was a subject of discussion amongst the Pharisees. Not only was it concluded that Jesus was a teacher and that YHWH had sent Him, but that the signs that He performed were a testimony to the uniqueness of His ministry and person, serving as a statement that God was with Him (3:2c). In light of what is later concluded by the Pharisees in Matthew 12:24, we see a solid witness against the anti-belief of accusing Jesus of wielding the power of the devil. Also in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:28, we see that even the signs that He had performed in His early ministry already served as a testimony that “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” being done by the power of the Spirit of God.

For the Pharisees, there was no excuse. All of them should have responded as Nicodemus did because God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ along with the signs that He performed are Biblically assessed as sufficient revelation.

John 3:3-6. Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ conclusion about Him in stating that one must be “born again” in order to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b). While much has been written on the phrase “born again/born from above,” it is clear that something needed to happen in Nicodemus’ life in order for the kingdom of God to be a reality for him. The theological term for “born again” is “regeneration,” a vital term that can be understood as meaning “receiving spiritual life, that is, eternal life. Christ is this life (Jn 14:6). We only receive this life as we receive Christ, who then may be said to be in us, ‘the hope of  glory’” (Col 1:27).[5] All men are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and this is a fact regardless of the dispensation under consideration. However, it must be clearly stated that in Jesus’ earthly ministry, regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were still two separate things and they did not become something that occurs at the same time at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ until after the founding of the Church in Jerusalem in Acts 2. In that time period, we see a noticeable transition that takes place between OT saints (who were saved and justified before God by faith, yet were without the Holy Spirit), and those who are Church Age believers after the events of Acts 2, with the book of Acts demonstrating that the Holy Spirit would come upon already believing individuals as an evidence of their redemption (See Acts 19:1-7 for an example).

Jesus’ use of the term the “kingdom of God” is consistent with every mention that we have seen in Scripture thus far. Therefore, this orthodox Jewish teacher and prominent societal figurehead would have automatically been drawn to the future, literal time of Messiah’s reign on Earth as He sat upon the throne of David, ruling with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9a).

It is clear from Nicodemus’ response in John 3:4 that he is unsure of what Jesus has just said. His reply shows his logical progression in thinking through only the physical. Can an old man be reborn? Is it possible to retreat into the womb only to appear again? All of this was nonsense, for such feats were impossible.

However, Jesus restates His antidote adding further clarification for Nicodemus’ sake. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we have the introduction of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in connection with the kingdom of God. According to Jesus both “water” and the “Spirit” are necessary for this birth, not one physically reentering the womb.

In this verse, we can also see that Jesus has connected the idea of “seeing” the kingdom from v.3 with “entering” the kingdom in v.5. While our previous lessons have shown that “entering” the kingdom must be understood by its surrounding context to be speaking to either one’s justification or sanctification, it is obvious from this context that justification is in view.

The idea of being born “of water and the Spirit” has seemed to confuse many regarding what it means to be “born again.” For example, in referring to the Old Testament overtones of this idea in the Greek, Barry writes, “Ezek 36:25–27 clearly combines the imagery of cleansing by water with inner renewal by the spirit (pneuma) from God.”[6] However, this cannot be correct because Jesus does not say “of water by the Spirit,” but “water and the Spirit.” There are obviously two births that must happen, not just one.

Another explanation finds Borchert going to great lengths to explain the idea of being “born of water and the Spirit.” He writes, “the linkage between water and Spirit would have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an indispensable requirement of life (e.g., Exod 15:22–27; Pss 23:2; 42:1; 63:1), and even Christians viewed heaven as having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God (Rev 22:1). Concerning the life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God brought life to Adam (Gen 2:7), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry bones (Ezek 37:1–14).”[7] This understanding has been concluded from specifically chosen examples in the Old Testament. Borchert’s view finds friction in that his example of Christians in the first century and their understanding of how to view “water” is derived from the book of Revelation, which had not yet been written at this point. Why not connect the “Spirit” in John 3:5 to the “Spirit” being upon King Saul or David? With no clear direction given in the text that we should understand the water and the Spirit in light of the Old Testament, we must conclude that such interpretations have no credible merit.

So what is the answer? Most reasonably, and in maintaining a consistent, literal interpretation, it would seem that Jesus provides the explanation in John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, being a “natural” or “carnal” birth. However, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, which aligns itself perfectly with the need for one to be born of “water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (3:5b). Thus, being “born of water” is one’s natural, physical birth. One must be a flesh and blood human being. This would exclude animals and demons, if for no other reason than that Jesus did not die for them. However, He did taste “death for every man” (Heb 2:9). Being “born of the Spirit” would be “regeneration,” which is something that must be elaborated upon, which Jesus does in 3:7-16.

John 3:7-13. At this point, Nicodemus’ mouth must have been standing open. Jesus tells him not to be amazed (3:7). The new birth that takes place by the Spirit is likened to the wind (3:8). MacDonald writes, “Just as no one can fully understand the wind, so the new birth is a miraculous work of the Spirit of God which man is not able to comprehend fully. Moreover, the new birth, like the wind, is unpredictable. It is not possible to state just when and where it will take place.”[8] What is astonishing is that Nicodemus is seemingly ignorant of these truths (3:9). Such ignorance causes Jesus to ask, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). How could one who holds the responsibility of leading  Israel in their understanding, worship, and devotion to YHWH not know these truths? Obviously, Jesus is upset with Nicodemus’ inadequacy regarding spiritual things.

He then elaborates that He is testifying to what He knows and sees, which probably has a connection to Jesus’ later statements like “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) and “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ testimony and words are in complete consistency with those of the Father because they are from the Father and not from Jesus Himself. Such statements show us that, though He is equal with God, being perfectly God Himself, He was intentionally subservient to God, humbling Himself to do the Father’s will. In this example, Jesus shows us how to live a life on Earth that is walking with God at all times.

Nicodemus’ greatest problem is that he does not accept Jesus’ testimony (John 3:11b), though He is testifying about what He knows and sees (John 3:11a). He continues in stating that Nicodemus’ rejection of earthly things shows that he cannot begin to understand “heavenly things” (John 3:12b). Jesus can testify to these things because He is the Son of Man, the One who has ascended and descended to and from heaven (John 3:13). These statements are lead to the necessary means of being “born again” by the Spirit.

“If Nicodemus couldn’t grasp the meaning of spiritual truth as conveyed by concrete analogy, how would he do so if it were couched in an abstract statement? No one had ever entered into heaven to experience its realities directly except Jesus himself, the Son of Man, who had come from heaven. Revelation, not discovery, is the basis for faith.”[9] John 3:13 shows Jesus testifying to His own credibility as a sound witness to those things that He is conveying; namely that being born again is a spiritual truth that is necessary to “see/enter” the kingdom of God. He knows this because He has ascended into, and descended from, heaven.

John 3:14-15. Meeting Nicodemus where he is, Jesus draws from a historical account that every Israelite would have been immediately familiar with- the serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:1-9). After being given the victory over the Canaanites (21:3), the people became impatient and began to complain about their situation. To discipline them, fiery serpents were sent among them and some of those who were bit died (21:6). In acknowledging their sin, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. The Lord had Moses make a bronze serpent and place it in the midst of the people. Those who looked upon it would live, even though they had been bitten (21:8-9).

Jesus’ use of this historical incident serves to communicate the spiritual truth of one being born again. Jesus likens the “lifting up” of the serpent by Moses in the wilderness to His own “lifting up” that must take place on the cross (John 3:14; also 12:32-33). Jesus then supplies the reason that He must be lifted up in John 3:15 stating, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (ESV). Just as the people whose veins were circulating with venom were told to look upon the bronze serpent that Moses had crafted so that they could live, Jesus tells Nicodemus, with sin coursing through his being, that in order to be born again he must “look” (believe) upon Jesus and live.

Look and live! That is the requirement. This “looking” is encapsulated in the word “believe,” being pisteuō in the Greek, meaning “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in.”[10] This meaning is consistent with the idea of “conviction” and “assurance” as found in Hebrews 11:1. The result of believing is having “Life” in Him, which is eternal life. As told in John 1:4, the Life is in Christ Jesus, and only in Him; and by believing in Him, one is then given this Life.

This life is eternal in that it can never be lost, since it is found in Him (Christ). Upon believing in Jesus Christ, one is imparted with Life, and this Life comes from being born again by the Spirit.

Hawley writes, “While it is Biblically true that apart from Christ, the unregenerate (along with the regenerate) can do nothing to merit God's favor, faith is not meritorious and the Bible clearly teaches that regeneration is the result of faith, not the other way around.”[11] The one who believes is regenerated, meaning that they are now alive to God, have been born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6).

John 3:16-18. This truth is then elaborated upon, and there is some debate about whether this elaboration (which stretches to the end of the chapter) is that of John the author, or a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.

While well known, the truths of v.16 are paramount. God loves people. This is the motivation behind Him supplying a Savior for the world. People are unable to save themselves and will never be redeemed apart from some sort of intervention. God’s love sends forth His Son to live perfectly and to die perfectly for those who are imperfect. This death provides the satisfaction necessary so that justice is upheld, wrong is paid for, and guilt is extinguished. The death of Jesus Christ makes righteousness available to all who believe. This “belief” is not something that is only possible by a few, but all may believe, seeing that their sins have been paid for in full. Belief in Jesus guarantees that they will not perish but have now been given “eternal life” because they have been born again by the Spirit.

Verses 17 & 18 provide clarification. In fact, v.17 speaks of God’s reason in sending His Son, namely for the purpose of saving the world. Apart from Jesus coming to Earth, there is no salvation for the human race. Jesus Christ is God’s provided perfection for the infinitely ill-deserving. His first coming was not about judgment but providing salvation for the world. However, His second coming will be a  visitation of judgment in which the world will not escape (Rev 1:7, 13; 11:18; 14:7; 19:1-2, 11).

But with v.18 we find that judgment is not an issue for the one who has believed in Jesus. It is only those who have not believed that are in danger of judgment. For them, the free pardon from sin’s penalty, power, and presence that Jesus supplied in His death and resurrection has not been applied. By believing (faith), this pardon is applied, and forgiveness of sin occurs. This situation is so certain that judgment is “already” upon the unregenerate person, and the cause for this condemnation is the same pitfall that has plagued mankind from the beginning: Unbelief.

Jesus Christ is the Name above all names. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When one believes in Jesus that person is born again. The Holy Spirit makes that person alive unto God, regenerating them so that they are now a forgiven and full accepted child of God.

Foundational Framework 60: The Holy Spirit Part 1

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Though much is revealed in the Word of God regarding the Spirit of God, much of it seems to be misunderstood and/or abused for one’s own purposes and notoriety. A brief examination of the Spirit in the Old Testament and the Gospels will prepare us for Jesus’ teachings on the Spirit in John chapters 3, 14, and 16.

A Brief Overview of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.

The Hebrew word for “spirit” is rauch, and can be understood as speaking of the Holy Spirit, but is also commonly understood as "breath, wind, spirit,”[1] with each context determining the meaning.

The first occurrence of the Spirit of God comes in the midst of the Creation narrative. In Genesis 1:2 we read, “The earth was formless and void, and darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters.” At the beginning of the Bible we are introduced to God’s Spirit, present and active at the creation account. The second occurrence of the Spirit of God is seen in Exodus 31:1-5. “Now the Lord spoke to Moses, saying, ‘See, I have called by name Bezalel, the son of Uri, the son of Hur, of the tribe of Judah. I have filled him with the Spirit of God in wisdom, 18in understanding, in knowledge, and in all kinds of craftsmanship, to make artistic designs for work in gold, in silver, and in bronze, and in the cutting of stones for settings, and in the carving of wood, that he may work in all kinds of craftsmanship.’” In this instance, Bezalel is “filled” (literally “full”) of the Spirit of God for the purpose of constructing the Tabernacle, all of its items for worship, and all of its furniture according to the exact specifications of YHWH (See also Ex 35:30-31). There is no indication that this “filling” persisted beyond the completion of the task at hand, and it is understandable why Bezalel would need this divine assistance, seeing that the entire concept of the Tabernacle and its artifacts are merely “shadows” or replicas of the Temple and its various items of worship that are already a reality in heaven (Heb 8:4-5, 9:1-10, 24). Divine enlightenment by the fullness of the Spirit ensured that the work was an accurate representation.

It is worth consideration that Joseph’s “skill as a ruler” was due to having a “divine spirit” (Ex 41:38). This is the conclusion reached by Pharaoh. This shows us that such wisdom and understanding is a manifestation of the Spirit’s presence, just as it was with Bezalel in Exodus 31:1-5.

In Numbers 11 we finds another incident of complaining among Israel. It is clear that the Spirit was upon Moses and that the same Spirit would be distributed by God upon the elders of Israel in order to distribute the burden of dealing with Israel’s issues (v.17). Those seventy elders on whom God distributed the Spirit all prophesied as a result (11:25, 26). This act lead to an objection from Joshua, but Moses expressed his zeal for this wonderful occurrence, stating “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets, that the Lord would put His Spirit upon them!” (Num 11:29).

Joshua is later appointed as the heir to lead Israel, being one who already had the Spirit of God upon him (Num 27:18). Reading this verse, one may be struck by the wording which states “Take Joshua the son of Nun, a man in whom is the Spirit, and lay your hand on him.” Did the Spirit of God reside “in” Joshua? (We must note that the use of a capital “S” in translating “Spirit” is a translator’s choice). There is no doubt that the Holy Spirit was upon Joshua as is evident in Deut 34:9 with the specifics being that he was “filled” with the Spirit. However, it is the preposition “in” that troubles us, since it is apparent that the Holy Spirit dwelling “in” someone was something that is strictly characterized by those in the Church Age dispensation and not before it. The answer may lie in the semantic range of the Hebrew word being used, which occurs 14,428 times in the Old Testament. While the dominate meaning of this word is “in,” it can also mean “with, on, among, by, when, at, into,” or “against.”[2] Consistency regarding the context of the entire Old Testament would tell us that the Spirit of God is “on” His people, but the Spirit indwelling a person is a clear distinctive of the Church Age believer.

This examination of the presence and functions of the Holy Spirit is not meant to be exhaustive, but there are two more occurrences that coincide with one another that will increase our understanding so that we are better equipped to grasp Jesus’ teaching.

The first King of Israel was Saul of Kish, a man on whom it was said “the Spirit of the Lord will come upon you mightily, and you shall prophesy with them and be changed into another man” (1 Sam 10:6, see also v.10). Later we read that “the Spirit of God came upon Saul mightily when he heard these words, and he became very angry” (1 Sam 11:6). The threats of Nahash the Ammonite would not go unpunished and Saul assembled all of the able-bodied men to defeat them (11:11). The Spirit of God drove King Saul to fight for righteous causes, saving Jabesh-gilead from their enemy.

Saul’s actions under the Spirit’s guidance are important because of his later disobedience which is chronicled in 1 Samuel 15. Being confronted by Samuel, Saul confesses his motives behind his sin,  stating “I have sinned; I have indeed transgressed the command of the Lord and your words, because I feared the people and listened to their voice” (1 Sam 15:24). Samuel’s response it chilling. He tells Saul, “you have rejected the word of the Lord, and the Lord has rejected you from being king over Israel” (15:26), and “The Lord has torn the kingdom of Israel from you today and has given it to your neighbor, who is better than you” (15:28). Saul’s failure to obey YHWH’s commands caused him to forfeit his right to be king. But this wasn’t the only consequence to his disobedience.

In 1 Samuel 16:1, Samuel is commanded to go and anoint a son of Jesse as the next king of Israel. This man is David. In 16:13 we read, “Then Samuel took the horn of oil and anointed him in the midst of his brothers; and the Spirit of the Lord came mightily upon David from that day forward.” Knowing what we do from the New Testament, this is a joyous occasion. However, the next verse should be heavily considered, seeing that Saul’s relationship with the Holy Spirit is brought to an end. “Now the Spirit of the Lord departed from Saul, and an evil spirit from the Lord terrorized him” (16:14). Just as the Spirit of God had come upon Saul, so was the Spirit removed because of His failure to obey God’s commands.

This brief examination from the Old Testament shows us that the Holy Spirit would bless, guide, and even cause men to prophesy while also granting knowledge, wisdom, and skill for the tasks that the Lord desired to see accomplished. It is also clear that the Spirit could be removed due to disobedience.

A Brief Overview of the Holy Spirit in the Gospels.

In the New Testament, the importance of the Holy Spirit is placed at the forefront once more. In Matthew, we see that He is the One who brings about that which is conceived in Mary’s womb (Matt 1:18, 20). John the Baptist’s case is interesting, with the angel Gabriel stating that John will be “filled with the Holy Spirit while yet in his mother’s womb” (Luke 1:15). During his ministry, John tells the Jews that the Messiah will baptize them by “the Holy Spirit and fire” (Matt 3:11).

Upon baptizing Jesus, John sees the Holy Spirit descend upon Him like a dove (Matt 3:16). The Spirit then leads Jesus into the wilderness to undergo temptation (Luke 4:1).

Returning from the wilderness as led by the Spirit (Luke 4:14), Jesus begins His teaching ministry in the synagogue at Galilee. Upon opening the scroll of Isaiah, He states, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon Me, because He anointed Me to preach the gospel to the poor. He has sent Me to proclaim release to the captives, and recovery of sight to the blind, to set free those who are oppressed, to proclaim the favorable year of the Lord” (Luke 4:18-19). In quoting Isaiah 61:1, Jesus shares that the Holy Spirit being upon the Messiah is something that was prophesied of old.

While all of these instances are intriguing, it would seem that John’s Gospel provides some of the greatest truths about the Holy Spirit in connection with the believer in Christ. For this first part of our consideration of the Holy Spirit, we will examine John 3, while giving a greater consideration to Jesus’ teaching in John 14-16 later.

John 3:1-2. Nicodemus was a Pharisee and a ruler of the Jews, which means that he was a member of the Sanhedrin. The Sanhedrin were the “Supreme judicial council of Judaism with 71 members, located in Jerusalem.”[3] We are also told that he was a teacher of Israel (John 3:10) who came to Jesus by night. This late visit was undoubtedly made so as to go unnoticed by his peers. The first words we have recorded from his mouth are “rabbi,” meaning “teacher” (See John 1:38), which should interest us considering Nicodemus’ position among the Jewish people. Quoting Moulton and Milligan, Vincent writes, “We may be sure that a member of the sect that carefully scrutinized the Baptist’s credentials (1:19–24) would not lightly  address Jesus by this title of honor, or acknowledge Him as teacher.”[4] Such an address gives us an understanding that Nicodemus’ visit was one of sincerity and not for the purpose of assault or accusation.

Nicodemus’ use of the plural in “We know that you have come from God as a teacher” (John 3:2b) shows that this was a subject of discussion amongst the Pharisees. Not only was it concluded that Jesus was a teacher and that YHWH had sent Him, but that the signs that He performed were a testimony to the uniqueness of His ministry and person, serving as a statement that God was with Him (3:2c). In light of what is later concluded by the Pharisees in Matthew 12:24, we see a solid witness against the anti-belief of accusing Jesus of wielding the power of the devil. Also in light of Jesus’ words in Matthew 12:28, we see that even the signs that He had performed in His early ministry already served as a testimony that “the Kingdom of God has come upon you” being done by the power of the Spirit of God.

For the Pharisees, there was no excuse. All of them should have responded as Nicodemus did because God’s revelation of Himself in Jesus Christ along with the signs that He performed are Biblically assessed as sufficient revelation.

John 3:3-6. Jesus responds to Nicodemus’ conclusion about Him in stating that one must be “born again” in order to “see the kingdom of God” (John 3:3b). While much has been written on the phrase “born again/born from above,” it is clear that something needed to happen in Nicodemus’ life in order for the kingdom of God to be a reality for him. The theological term for “born again” is “regeneration,” a vital term that can be understood as meaning “receiving spiritual life, that is, eternal life. Christ is this life (Jn 14:6). We only receive this life as we receive Christ, who then may be said to be in us, ‘the hope of  glory’” (Col 1:27).[5] All men are dead in trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1) and this is a fact regardless of the dispensation under consideration. However, it must be clearly stated that in Jesus’ earthly ministry, regeneration and the baptism of the Holy Spirit were still two separate things and they did not become something that occurs at the same time at the moment of faith in Jesus Christ until after the founding of the Church in Jerusalem in Acts 2. In that time period, we see a noticeable transition that takes place between OT saints (who were saved and justified before God by faith, yet were without the Holy Spirit), and those who are Church Age believers after the events of Acts 2, with the book of Acts demonstrating that the Holy Spirit would come upon already believing individuals as an evidence of their redemption (See Acts 19:1-7 for an example).

Jesus’ use of the term the “kingdom of God” is consistent with every mention that we have seen in Scripture thus far. Therefore, this orthodox Jewish teacher and prominent societal figurehead would have automatically been drawn to the future, literal time of Messiah’s reign on Earth as He sat upon the throne of David, ruling with a rod of iron (Ps 2:9a).

It is clear from Nicodemus’ response in John 3:4 that he is unsure of what Jesus has just said. His reply shows his logical progression in thinking through only the physical. Can an old man be reborn? Is it possible to retreat into the womb only to appear again? All of this was nonsense, for such feats were impossible.

However, Jesus restates His antidote adding further clarification for Nicodemus’ sake. “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Now we have the introduction of the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in connection with the kingdom of God. According to Jesus both “water” and the “Spirit” are necessary for this birth, not one physically reentering the womb.

In this verse, we can also see that Jesus has connected the idea of “seeing” the kingdom from v.3 with “entering” the kingdom in v.5. While our previous lessons have shown that “entering” the kingdom must be understood by its surrounding context to be speaking to either one’s justification or sanctification, it is obvious from this context that justification is in view.

The idea of being born “of water and the Spirit” has seemed to confuse many regarding what it means to be “born again.” For example, in referring to the Old Testament overtones of this idea in the Greek, Barry writes, “Ezek 36:25–27 clearly combines the imagery of cleansing by water with inner renewal by the spirit (pneuma) from God.”[6] However, this cannot be correct because Jesus does not say “of water by the Spirit,” but “water and the Spirit.” There are obviously two births that must happen, not just one.

Another explanation finds Borchert going to great lengths to explain the idea of being “born of water and the Spirit.” He writes, “the linkage between water and Spirit would have been familiar to the Jews since both are related to the theme of life. For a people like the Jews, who lived on the edge of the desert, water was an indispensable requirement of life (e.g., Exod 15:22–27; Pss 23:2; 42:1; 63:1), and even Christians viewed heaven as having a life-endued stream flowing from the throne of God (Rev 22:1). Concerning the life-giving Spirit, one only needs to be reminded that the breath of God brought life to Adam (Gen 2:7), and the Spirit/wind/breath of God brought life to dry bones (Ezek 37:1–14).”[7] This understanding has been concluded from specifically chosen examples in the Old Testament. Borchert’s view finds friction in that his example of Christians in the first century and their understanding of how to view “water” is derived from the book of Revelation, which had not yet been written at this point. Why not connect the “Spirit” in John 3:5 to the “Spirit” being upon King Saul or David? With no clear direction given in the text that we should understand the water and the Spirit in light of the Old Testament, we must conclude that such interpretations have no credible merit.

So what is the answer? Most reasonably, and in maintaining a consistent, literal interpretation, it would seem that Jesus provides the explanation in John 3:6. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, being a “natural” or “carnal” birth. However, that which is born of the Spirit is spirit, which aligns itself perfectly with the need for one to be born of “water and the Spirit” in order to “enter the kingdom of God” (3:5b). Thus, being “born of water” is one’s natural, physical birth. One must be a flesh and blood human being. This would exclude animals and demons, if for no other reason than that Jesus did not die for them. However, He did taste “death for every man” (Heb 2:9). Being “born of the Spirit” would be “regeneration,” which is something that must be elaborated upon, which Jesus does in 3:7-16.

John 3:7-13. At this point, Nicodemus’ mouth must have been standing open. Jesus tells him not to be amazed (3:7). The new birth that takes place by the Spirit is likened to the wind (3:8). MacDonald writes, “Just as no one can fully understand the wind, so the new birth is a miraculous work of the Spirit of God which man is not able to comprehend fully. Moreover, the new birth, like the wind, is unpredictable. It is not possible to state just when and where it will take place.”[8] What is astonishing is that Nicodemus is seemingly ignorant of these truths (3:9). Such ignorance causes Jesus to ask, “Are you the teacher of Israel and do not understand these things?” (John 3:10). How could one who holds the responsibility of leading  Israel in their understanding, worship, and devotion to YHWH not know these truths? Obviously, Jesus is upset with Nicodemus’ inadequacy regarding spiritual things.

He then elaborates that He is testifying to what He knows and sees, which probably has a connection to Jesus’ later statements like “For He whom God has sent speaks the words of God; for He gives the Spirit without measure” (John 3:34) and “I can do nothing on My own initiative. As I hear, I judge; and My judgment is just, because I do not seek My own will, but the will of Him who sent Me” (John 5:30). Jesus’ testimony and words are in complete consistency with those of the Father because they are from the Father and not from Jesus Himself. Such statements show us that, though He is equal with God, being perfectly God Himself, He was intentionally subservient to God, humbling Himself to do the Father’s will. In this example, Jesus shows us how to live a life on Earth that is walking with God at all times.

Nicodemus’ greatest problem is that he does not accept Jesus’ testimony (John 3:11b), though He is testifying about what He knows and sees (John 3:11a). He continues in stating that Nicodemus’ rejection of earthly things shows that he cannot begin to understand “heavenly things” (John 3:12b). Jesus can testify to these things because He is the Son of Man, the One who has ascended and descended to and from heaven (John 3:13). These statements are lead to the necessary means of being “born again” by the Spirit.

“If Nicodemus couldn’t grasp the meaning of spiritual truth as conveyed by concrete analogy, how would he do so if it were couched in an abstract statement? No one had ever entered into heaven to experience its realities directly except Jesus himself, the Son of Man, who had come from heaven. Revelation, not discovery, is the basis for faith.”[9] John 3:13 shows Jesus testifying to His own credibility as a sound witness to those things that He is conveying; namely that being born again is a spiritual truth that is necessary to “see/enter” the kingdom of God. He knows this because He has ascended into, and descended from, heaven.

John 3:14-15. Meeting Nicodemus where he is, Jesus draws from a historical account that every Israelite would have been immediately familiar with- the serpent in the wilderness (Num 21:1-9). After being given the victory over the Canaanites (21:3), the people became impatient and began to complain about their situation. To discipline them, fiery serpents were sent among them and some of those who were bit died (21:6). In acknowledging their sin, the Israelites cried out to the Lord for help. The Lord had Moses make a bronze serpent and place it in the midst of the people. Those who looked upon it would live, even though they had been bitten (21:8-9).

Jesus’ use of this historical incident serves to communicate the spiritual truth of one being born again. Jesus likens the “lifting up” of the serpent by Moses in the wilderness to His own “lifting up” that must take place on the cross (John 3:14; also 12:32-33). Jesus then supplies the reason that He must be lifted up in John 3:15 stating, “whoever believes in him may have eternal life” (ESV). Just as the people whose veins were circulating with venom were told to look upon the bronze serpent that Moses had crafted so that they could live, Jesus tells Nicodemus, with sin coursing through his being, that in order to be born again he must “look” (believe) upon Jesus and live.

Look and live! That is the requirement. This “looking” is encapsulated in the word “believe,” being pisteuō in the Greek, meaning “to think to be true; to be persuaded of; to credit, place confidence in.”[10] This meaning is consistent with the idea of “conviction” and “assurance” as found in Hebrews 11:1. The result of believing is having “Life” in Him, which is eternal life. As told in John 1:4, the Life is in Christ Jesus, and only in Him; and by believing in Him, one is then given this Life.

This life is eternal in that it can never be lost, since it is found in Him (Christ). Upon believing in Jesus Christ, one is imparted with Life, and this Life comes from being born again by the Spirit.

Hawley writes, “While it is Biblically true that apart from Christ, the unregenerate (along with the regenerate) can do nothing to merit God's favor, faith is not meritorious and the Bible clearly teaches that regeneration is the result of faith, not the other way around.”[11] The one who believes is regenerated, meaning that they are now alive to God, have been born of the Spirit (John 3:5-6).

John 3:16-18. This truth is then elaborated upon, and there is some debate about whether this elaboration (which stretches to the end of the chapter) is that of John the author, or a continuation of Jesus’ dialogue with Nicodemus.

While well known, the truths of v.16 are paramount. God loves people. This is the motivation behind Him supplying a Savior for the world. People are unable to save themselves and will never be redeemed apart from some sort of intervention. God’s love sends forth His Son to live perfectly and to die perfectly for those who are imperfect. This death provides the satisfaction necessary so that justice is upheld, wrong is paid for, and guilt is extinguished. The death of Jesus Christ makes righteousness available to all who believe. This “belief” is not something that is only possible by a few, but all may believe, seeing that their sins have been paid for in full. Belief in Jesus guarantees that they will not perish but have now been given “eternal life” because they have been born again by the Spirit.

Verses 17 & 18 provide clarification. In fact, v.17 speaks of God’s reason in sending His Son, namely for the purpose of saving the world. Apart from Jesus coming to Earth, there is no salvation for the human race. Jesus Christ is God’s provided perfection for the infinitely ill-deserving. His first coming was not about judgment but providing salvation for the world. However, His second coming will be a  visitation of judgment in which the world will not escape (Rev 1:7, 13; 11:18; 14:7; 19:1-2, 11).

But with v.18 we find that judgment is not an issue for the one who has believed in Jesus. It is only those who have not believed that are in danger of judgment. For them, the free pardon from sin’s penalty, power, and presence that Jesus supplied in His death and resurrection has not been applied. By believing (faith), this pardon is applied, and forgiveness of sin occurs. This situation is so certain that judgment is “already” upon the unregenerate person, and the cause for this condemnation is the same pitfall that has plagued mankind from the beginning: Unbelief.

Jesus Christ is the Name above all names. “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12). When one believes in Jesus that person is born again. The Holy Spirit makes that person alive unto God, regenerating them so that they are now a forgiven and full accepted child of God.

[1] Richard Whitaker et al., The Abridged Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew-English Lexicon of the Old Testament: From A Hebrew and English Lexicon of the Old Testament by Francis Brown, S.R. Driver and Charles Briggs, Based on the Lexicon of Wilhelm Gesenius (Boston; New York: Houghton, Mifflin and Company, 1906).

[2] See Francis Brown, Samuel Rolles Driver, and Charles Augustus Briggs, Enhanced Brown-Driver-Briggs Hebrew and English Lexicon (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1977), p. 88–91.

[3] Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, “Sanhedrin,” Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1988), p. 1902.

[4] Marvin Richardson Vincent, Word Studies in the New Testament, vol. 2 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1887), p. 89.

[5] Merrill F. Unger, The Baptism and Gifts of the Holy Spirit (Chicago: Moody Press, 1974), p. 23.

[6] John D. Barry et al., Faithlife Study Bible (Bellingham, WA: Lexham Press, 2012, 2016), Jn 3:5.

[7] Gerald L. Borchert, John 1–11, vol. 25A, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1996), p. 174.

[8] William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1478.

[9] Merrill C. Tenney, “John,” in The Expositor’s Bible Commentary: John and Acts, ed. Frank E. Gaebelein, vol. 9 (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan Publishing House, 1981), p. 48.

[10] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 511.

[11] Grant Hawley, The Guts of Grace (Allen, TX: Bold Grace Ministries, 2013), p. 158.

Foundational Framework 59: Living a Worthy Life Part 3

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The concept of rewards in the coming kingdom of heaven can be found on almost every other page in the New Testament. However, there are many who do not value this doctrine as an essential segment of their theological understanding. That is to say, this doctrine is considered insignificant in the grand scheme of God’s plan for the ages. But a careful reading of the New Testament will prove this notion to be false, and almost embarrassing that it would be discarded or discredited as nominal in any way.

The doctrine of rewards finds great significance in one’s theological understanding because it allows for grace to remain grace without any inclusion of works. One of the greatest arguments against those who promote a “grace gospel” is that this “grace” is too free because it requires nothing of the individual needing salvation except that they believe the Gospel. These opponents would state that unless an expected result is required, such as a submission of one’s life, the repentance of all of their sins, or the desire to give up all that they have is present, they are not truly saved.

The tension that is created between grace and works often manifests itself in contradictions. For example, A.W. Pink writes, “If it be true that no attempt to imitate Christ can obtain a sinner’s acceptance with God, it is equally true that the emulating of Him is imperatively necessary and absolutely essential in order to the saints’ preservation and final salvation.”[1] This could be understood as saying “you can’t do anything to be saved, but in order to be truly saved you must do something.” The Gospel is not about what the sinner does, but what the sinner needs.

A sinner is saved by the grace of God alone, who was not obligated to supply a solution to our sin problem. From out of His profound love, the Creator God sent His only Son to die as a substitute for our sin, which paid the enormous penalty that we had incurred as sinners and made the perfect righteousness of God available to all who believe (have faith) in the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ alone. It is by faith alone in Jesus Christ alone that one is saved, receiving all that he or she was lacking. This includes the complete forgiveness of all sin, a wholly new Life, relief of all guilt and shame, reconciliation and full acceptance with his or her Creator, the perfect righteousness of God credited to them, and eternal life that is guaranteed beyond this present existence which can never be lost.

The doctrine of rewards extinguishes the tension between faith and works. While one is saved by faith alone, there are consequences for how the believer lives in light of what he or she understands from the Scriptures. Every child of God is responsible for conducting their lives according to the truth of God’s Word. When they are faithful in what the Lord has asked of them, they receive a reward (1 Cor 3:14). But if they are unfaithful, whatever “good works” that they may have thought that they had will be burned up and the believer will suffer loss (1 Cor 3:15). Thus, there is a very real and serious consequence for believers who live unfaithfully to the Lord, but it does not infringe upon or impugn His unconditional acceptance of them in Christ Jesus.

The opportunity to earn rewards is something that is wholeheartedly condoned by the Lord Jesus Christ (Matt 6:1, 17-18, 20; Mark 9:41; Luke 6:35). But the doctrine of rewards is not a personal “padding of the wallet” in the kingdom, for self-servitude will not be rewarded (Matt 6:2, 5). Rewards are to be done in service to the Lord Jesus Christ with “His name’s sake” as the heart’s motivator. The Christian Life is a responsibility to be stewarded, not a stage to be applauded. Many have believed that receiving a reward is only possible by an extreme act of obedience, but Jesus tells us that “whoever gives you a cup of water to drink because of your name as followers of Christ, truly I say to you, he will not lose his reward” (Mark 9:41). Simply caring for those who are serving Christ earns one a reward.

We can clearly see that the Christian Life is one of faithful stewardship in light of the teachings of Scripture. Thankfully, Jesus taught on this subject in order to reorient much of the wrong thinking that may have been present among the Jewish people, and even His disciples, in the first century. While Luke 19:11-27 is similar to the parable taught in Matthew 25:14-30, the surrounding context of Luke 19 calls for this teaching to stand on its own merit.  

Luke 19:11-27. The parable that Jesus taught in Luke 19:11-27 follows His interactions with Zaccheus in 19:1-10. However, this parable may be slightly connected with Zaccheus’ situation in that he may have been present when this parable was taught, and Jesus’ use of the “mina” would have been something that he could have directly related to considering his background as a tax collector. Whether these connections are legitimate or not, Luke supplies us with a two-fold reasoning for why Jesus was teaching this parable. First, Jesus was “near Jerusalem” (19:11b) which is a detail that finds its significance later in the chapter when His “triumphal entry” takes place (19:28-40). This first point must be pondered because of the events that surround it.

Jesus’ entry into the city was anything but “triumphal.” For Jesus, this was a time of great grief and sorrow. While His disciples were rejoicing and shouting as the Son of Man passed by the Mount of Olives just outside of the city (19:37-38), Jesus began weeping at the sight of Jerusalem (19:41). The message of the disciples was “Blessed is the King who comes in the name of the Lord; Peace in heaven and glory in the highest” (19:38), Jesus’ words capture the rejection of the Jewish people, the postponement of the kingdom of heaven on Earth, and the judgment that awaited the Jews because of their rebellion (19:42-44). Jesus knew what could have been had Israel accepted her Promised Messiah, but the leaders had spoken for the people (Matt 12:24), and though His miracles testified that the kingdom of God had come upon them (Matt 12:28), they rejected their Christ, which plunged the Jewish people into a “partial hardening” (Rom 11:25b), having the truth hidden from their eyes because of their unbelief (Luke 19:42b; Matt 13:10-17).

The second reason given for Jesus teaching this parable was that “they supposed that the kingdom of God was going to appear immediately” (19:11c). This would explain the joyful celebration of the disciples in 19:37-38. As one reads through this parable, it becomes very clear that the kingdom will come at a later time, and that the “nobleman” must go away to receive this kingdom and then come again, now having possession of it, in order to establish it in the country from which he left. This justifies Jesus’ sorrow in Luke 19:41b-44, seeing that the Jews did not “recognize the time of your visitation” by the Messiah (19:44). Unbelief has postponed the kingdom. Instead, the Jewish people will be disciplined for their unbelief (19:44b). Thus, Jesus’ parable will serve to dispel the notion that the kingdom was to appear at His entry into the city of Jerusalem.

Starting in 19:12, Jesus speaks of a nobleman who travels to a “distant country” for the purpose of receiving a kingdom “for himself.” After receiving this kingdom, the nobleman would then return. The details here must be carefully noted, especially in light of the current-day belief that the kingdom of heaven is “already” here in a spiritual form, but “not yet” here in a physical form. Theissen notes, “Consistency of interpretation demands that we hold, not only that the nobleman must return in person, but also that he will set up his kingdom in the country from which he departed. In other words, we must insist that Christ is not now sitting on the throne of David in heaven and ruling over his people on earth from that sphere, but that He receives the kingdom in heaven, returns to earth, and then sets up the kingdom on the earth.”[2]

Having a general understanding of what Scripture tells us about the Messiah and the promise of His future return to establish His Kingdom, it is not hard to connect the dots and see that Jesus is this nobleman, the “distant country” would be during the interadvent age between His ascension and return when Christ is seated at the right hand of the Father (Acts 2:33; 5:31; 7:55-56), preparing a place for all believers (John 14:2-3) while making intercession for the saints (Rom 8:34; Heb 7:25). Before Jesus Christ returns to the Earth, He will have received the kingdom of heaven and His return will mark the establishment of that kingdom on Earth.

What is interesting about this parable is that its contents were not hard to relate to by those in the audience, considering that the successor to Herod had done the same thing. Robertson explains, “Apparently this parable has the historical basis of Archelaus who actually went from Jerusalem to Rome on this very errand to get a kingdom in Palestine and to come back to it. This happened while Jesus was a boy in Nazareth and it was a matter of common knowledge.”[3] As we will see in 19:14, the “citizens” did not want the nobleman to rule over them, just as it was with the Jews and their response to Archelaus assuming command. While Jesus is not speaking of Archelaus, the concept would be familiar to those living in the first century.

Luke 19:13 shows the nobleman calling ten of his slaves (“servants”) together before he leaves with each one being entrusted with a must “mina.” A mina is “a Greek monetary unit worth one hundred denarii.”[4] A “denarii” (also known in some cases as a “drachma”) is the equivalent of 100 days wages. With this, he gives them specific instructions: “Do business with this until I come back” (19:13b). Hodges explains, “Here lay the central point of the parable. The interadvent period which the parable proclaimed could be used to advantage. It was a time for investment. More than that, it was a time for investment directly related to the coming kingdom of God. Therefore, Zacchaeus needed to hear the parable at this crucial moment in his life. But so did everyone else in the audience as well.”[5] This speaks to the stewardship of the nobleman’s resources, which he entrusted to his slaves with the expectation that they would be faithful with what was entrusted to them.

This “principled story-telling” has a vital application for us today. While our Master is away receiving the kingdom, we His servants are to be engaged in His business with His resources while He is away. We are to be faithful and wise with what He has entrusted to us, keeping in mind that it is ultimately His and that there will be a day in which He will return and settle accounts with His servants, receiving unto Himself the return that was earned while He was away.

In Luke 19:14 we have the introduction of a group of people whom Jesus has not mentioned yet, the “citizens.” This group is said to have hated the nobleman, raising a protest against His rulership over them through a “delegation.” No doubt the citizens are the Jewish people and the “delegation” would be the Pharisees who were leading the charge against their Messiah in verbalizing the nation’s anti-belief (Matt 12:24). For the time being, the citizens are placed in the background of the parable while Jesus explains the events surrounding the nobleman’s return (Luke 19:15).

The timing of this event is precise, with Jesus noting that the man had received the kingdom. This comment places this moment after Jesus has assumed the right to reign, but before He has brought His servants to account at the Judgment Seat of Christ (1 Cor 3:11-15; 2 Cor 5:10; Rev 19:6-10). The nobleman is ready to inquire of his servants regarding the business that they conducted while he was away and the return that they had received with the money that he had entrusted to them.

While there are ten slaves that were given one mina each (19:13), we have only three that are brought to account, with each demonstrating a different level of return with what they were entrusted. With the first slave, we find that he was able to make an investment that gave a 1,000% return! The nobleman commends this servant, saying “Well done, good slave” (19:17a). This slave’s faithfulness over the small amount that he had been given was then greatly rewarded by the nobleman who set the slave over ten cities in his kingdom (19:17b).

The second slave comes before the nobleman and presents a 500% return (19:18) to which the master replies by granting this servant rulership over five cities (19:19). One cannot help but to notice that the public commendation of “Well done, good slave” is absent from this scenario. This slave, who earned half the return that the first slave earned, does not get the privilege of hearing these words from the nobleman’s mouth.

At this point, it should be clear that those who are faithful in this life, being about his Master’s business until He comes to bring us all to Himself (John 14:2-3) will receive rewards and reigning responsibilities that are much greater in magnitude than what we were entrusted with while on Earth. Thiessen cites Godet in explaining this: “In Luke the one point in question is to settle the position of the servants in the economy of glory which is opening, and consequently to determine the proportion of faithfulness displayed during the time of labor and probation which has just closed.”[6] Christ desires to share the regal responsibilities of His kingdom with His companions, but they must be faithful stewards who have proven themselves. One would not in clear conscience entrust their estate to a slothful and wayward child, for the outcome of such unbridled wealth in the hands of an irresponsible soul would be guaranteed devastation. Though related by blood, and though greatly loved, they would not be worthy of possessing such an opportunity. Their life’s record has shown them to be unworthy.

What is the “mina” in the life of the one who is a disciple of Christ? There are many who have considered the “sharing of the Gospel” as the focus of what has been entrusted to the slave and that “doing business” (19:13b) would be evangelism, but we must conclude that this is not the only way that one can be faithful to that which God has entrusted to us. Believers have a responsibility to love one another (John 13:34-35), forgive one another (Eph 4:32), build up one another in love (Eph 4:15-16) and encourage one another daily (Heb 3:13). While there is so much more that would be considered in the realm of Christian faithfulness, the point is clear that the believer in Christ is not just a missionary to the world, but is also a minister to the Body of Christ. The first two accounts show that diligence and faithfulness should be the attitudes of all who would hope to reign alongside Jesus Christ in His coming kingdom.

In Luke 19:20, a third servant approaches the nobleman but his response is entirely different than that of the first two slaves. Coming before the master, the third slave returns the exact same mina that was entrusted to him before the nobleman left to receive his kingdom. The slave reveals that he had hid it away in a handkerchief. The third slave then divulges the reason for his negligence in not “doing business” with the nobleman’s mina, citing “fear” of the nobleman “because you are an exacting man; you take up what you did not lay down and reap what you did not sow” (Luke 19:21b). The word “exacting” is the Greek word austēros meaning “harsh, rough, rigid,”[7] which has led to the transliteration of “austere” in the KJV.

The charge is that the third slave did not want to risk losing what he had been given because he understood the nobleman to be harsh and rigid, taking those things which are not his and plundering the goods of others others for personal gain. Having returned the same mina that he had been given, the thought may have been “Well, at least I didn’t lose it!”

At this point, a few questions need to be answered.

First, has there been anything in the telling of this parable that would lead one to believe that the nobleman was a short-tempered tyrant who plundered the goods of others?               No.

Second, throughout this parable have we not seen that the nobleman’s actions are in direct relation to that which the Lord Jesus will do in leaving to receive a kingdom for Himself and then returning again to establish it at the place from whence He left?          Yes.

Would we conclude that the Lord Jesus Christ is a short-tempered tyrant who plundered the goods of others?       I don’t think so either.

In fact, what we see is that the third slave’s description of the nobleman is completely off base from who he really was. What we find out when listening to the third slave’s explanation is that he did not know his master very well at all and proceeded to live his life on a false presumption of his master that kept him from experiencing great things when his master returned. This is a tragic result! Being ignorant of his master’s character, the slave lived in fear, complacency, and slothfulness. Had he known his master more intimately, he would have served him with joy knowing that “He who promised is faithful” (Heb 10:23). Again, Godet (as quoted by Thiessen) has captured the third slave’s situation with clarity noting that he is a “believer who has not found the state of grace offered by Jesus so brilliant as he hoped,—a legal Christian, who has not tasted grace, and knows nothing of the Gospel but its severe morality.”[8]

The nobleman responds to this excuse by calling the man a “worthless slave” (19:22a), which is probably better translated as a “wicked” or “evil slave.” While one may be quick to conclude that the declaration that this slave is “worthless/evil/wicked” would communicate that he was obviously “unsaved,” our attention must be drawn to the fact that this slave was as much a part of the nobleman’s house as the other two who were brought to account for the business that they had done. Not only that, but this third slave was also entrusted with the same amount as the other two. This remark against the slave is the conclusion that the nobleman makes due to his inactivity and unfounded excuses for slothfulness. Simply put, he did not know his master intimately, and because of this his assumed misrepresentation of his master’ character caused him to do nothing with what he was given.

That the third slave’s description is a solid misrepresentation of the nobleman’s character can be seen in the master’s response in Luke 19:22b, which is posed in the form of a question: “Did you know that I am an exacting man, taking up what I did not lay down and reaping what I did not sow?” It is as if the nobleman is responding by saying, “is this who you really think that I am?” He then reasons with the third slave that if this was the presumption by which he was operating, “why did you not put my money in the bank, and having come, I would have collected it with interest” (Luke 19:23)? The least that this man could have done was invest it at the lowest level possible so that even the smallest amount of interest would have been gained. However, he did not. This tells us that either the man was lying in his reasonings with the nobleman and was actually lethargic and slothful, not caring about the responsibility entrusted to him, nor in serving his master, or that his unfounded mischaracterization of his master had paralyzed him from making the least of wise decisions that would secure gain for the nobleman.

Regardless of the reason, his mina was confiscated and given to the most profitable slave (19:24). The “bystanders” (19:24a) are astonished at this act, seeing that the first slave already has ten minas. The nobleman explains that those who “have” will be given more, and those that have not will lose even those things that they have (19:26). The failure of the third slave to be diligent in his responsibilities has led him to a moment of shame before his master. One cannot help but to reflect on Paul’s words in 1 Corinthians 3:15 which state, “If any man’s work is burned up, he will suffer loss; but he himself will be saved, yet so as through fire.”

Finishing this parable, the nobleman speaks of his “enemies” (Luke 19:27) and clarifies their identity as those “who did not want me to reign over them,” speaking of the “citizens” in Luke 19:14. As identified earlier, this is (by and large) the nation of Israel who had rejected their Messiah, leading to a postponement of the kingdom of heaven. These enemies are brought before the nobleman and slaughtered for their rejection of him. This should not be surprising, considering that much is said in the Old Testament regarding the judgment that will befall the Jews because of their rejection of God and which occurs right before the establishment of the kingdom on Earth (Jer 30:4-9; Ezek 20:33-38).

On a broader scale, Jesus’ return will bring about the slaughter of all who have rejected Him as can be clearly seen in Revelation 19:15-21. We are told that Jesus will “strike down the nations” (Rev 19:15), that the birds will gorge themselves on the flesh of kings and mighty men who had rebelled against Messiah (Rev 19:17-19), and that the rest “were killed with the sword which came from the mouth of Him” (Rev 19:21). All who reject Christ and are rebellious of His reign over them will be put to death. These are unbelievers who will be judged at the Great White Throne judgment (Rev 20:11-15).

However, the servants/slaves are wholly different than the “citizens/enemies” in this parable, with Jesus drawing the necessary distinctions. This is most notable in that the servants are judged first (representative of the Judgment Seat of Christ) and the “citizens/enemies” are judged later (representative of the Great White Throne judgment). To sum up the eternal destinies of the parties involved in this parable, Wilkin writes, “Good servants will rule with Christ fully. Half-hearted servants will rule with Him in a more limited way. Wicked servants won’t rule with Christ at all, though they will be with Him forever. Unbelievers will experience the second death and will spend eternity in the lake of fire.”[9]

With the third slave’s misunderstanding of his master, we could conclude that the more that you are intimately acquainted with Jesus, the more that you will faithfully serve Him with joy, knowing that He desires to reward you richly for the service that you have rendered (Rev 22:12). This third servant, having full rights and equal responsibility within the house of the master, was declared “wicked” because of his sloth and negligence. Therefore, he suffered loss, for even what he thought he had was taken away.

The application is clear.

The Lord Jesus Christ has entrusted His work to His people. While He is away receiving the kingdom for Himself, we are to be doing business: loving one another, praying, studying His holy Word, living His holy Word, forgiving one another, encouraging one another, structuring our lives to be led in holiness and faithfulness to wherever He may lead us, and making disciples of all nations.

Thiessen commissions us writing, “Let us also ‘carry on business’ till He come, in order that we may hear His ‘well done,’ and receive a reward when He comes!”[10]

How will your conversation with the Master go when He returns and settles accounts?

[1] Arthur Walkington Pink, Eternal Security (Bellingham, WA: Logos Research Systems, Inc., 2005), p. 75.

[2] Henry Clarence Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman and the Earthly Kingdom (Luke 19:11-27),” Bibliotheca Sacra, vol 91 (1934): 184.

[3] A.T. Robertson, Word Pictures in the New Testament (Nashville, TN: Broadman Press, 1933), Lk 19:12.

[4] Louw and Nida, p. 62.

[5] Zane C. Hodges, A Free Grace Primer: The Hungry Inherit, The Gospel Under Siege, Grace in Eclipse, ed. Robert N. Wilkin (Denton, TX: Grace Evangelical Society, 2011), p. 335.

[6] Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman”: 188.

[7] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 84.

[8] Thiessen, “The Parable of the Nobleman”: 190.

[9] Robert N. Wilkin, “Two Judgments and Four Types of People (Luke 19:11–27),” Journal of the Grace Evangelical Society 25, no. 48 (2012): 20.

[10] Ibid.

Foundational Framework 58: Living a Worthy Life Part 2

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Jesus offers the believer an opportunity to have ownership in the coming Kingdom of Heaven. A great deal of Jesus’ earthly teachings and interactions pointed toward this opportunity. Before examining a passage that clearly speaks to this fact, a short review is imperative.

In the previous lesson, we looked at Matthew 13:44-46 which dealt with two parables that were communicated to the disciples in private and involved scenarios where something of great value had been found and the one who found it sold everything that they owned in order to make it their own. Jesus’ point in both parables is clear: When you come across the truth of the kingdom of heaven, do whatever it takes to make it your own. Sell all that you have, forsake all that is less, and lay hold of the opportunity to have ownership of the kingdom of heaven. It will certainly cost you, and to some the cost will be great, but this cost is but a minuscule inconvenience when compared to the brilliant glory and bursting riches that await you in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

Whatever it takes, it is most certainly worth it!

Before entering into our first case study on this truth, we must also review the Parables of the Soils because it tells us of the different types of reception that occur when one has come across the “word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19). A believer’s reception of this truth can have four possible results, but only one “bears fruit” (Matt 13:23b). All others, let us be warned and fully aware, fail to enjoy this end.

Parable of the Sower Chart (Matt 13:19-23)

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With these results in mind, we turn to Matthew 19:16-30.

Matthew 19:16-22. The scene begins with a man who comes to Jesus asking a question in regards to what “good thing” he could to do “obtain eternal life” (Matt 13:16). This question may be disturbing to some readers since it obviously gives this idea that “eternal life” can be earned by works and no one would argue that the man is asking Jesus a “works” question. Jesus questions the man’s inquiry about what is “good,” tells the man that only God is good, and then proceeds to answer his question (19:17). In this way, Jesus is communicating clearly that He is God, seeing that He can provide a perfect answer to this man’s question.

Many have understood this interaction as the man’s inquiry into what must be done to be saved, which deems the man as a “lost” person. Commentators will note that Jesus gives the man some of the commandments from the Law of Moses (19:18-19) in order to show him what an awful sinner he is. When the man replies that he has kept these things since his youth (19:20), he is obviously lying and Jesus goes for the jugular by calling on the man to part with his personal portfolio so that he will demonstrate a “true desire” to have “genuine salvation.” Because the man walks away greatly troubled, these commentators have concluded in their application to us that we must be willing to give all that we have in order to go to heaven when we die, and because the rich young ruler was unwilling to part with his wealth, he will spend an eternity in the Lake of Fire. In short, they have taken this passage as an evangelistic encounter.[1]

We must be aware that “eternal life” is not always understood in the Scriptures to be speaking ONLY to the free gift that one receives when they believe in Jesus (John 3:15, 16, 36; 5:24; 6:47, 54; 10:10a, 28; Acts 13:46, 48; Titus 1:2; 1 John 5:11-12). “Eternal life” can also speak to a quality of life to be experienced in the here and now by believers as they “abide,” surrender, or submit to the Lord’s Word (John 10:10b; 17:3; 1 Tim 6:12; 1 John 1:2; 2:25; 3:15; 5:20). But “eternal life” can also be understood as the believer in Christ having a rich inheritance in the coming kingdom, which is considered to be the “end” of our salvation (Matt 19:29; Mark 10:30; Luke 18:30; Rom 2:7; 6:22; Gal 6:8; Jude 21). From this evidence we can see that the phrase “eternal life” can be used concerning our justification, sanctification, or glorification, and that the context of the passage will determine the intention of the author in using this phrase.

Also in question is the word “obtain,” which is the word echō in the Greek and would be better translated as “have.” Whether “obtain” or “have,” the point is clear that the man wishes to possess eternal life for himself (this same scenario is recounted in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18 with the words documented as “inherit eternal life”). This does not deal with the lost getting saved, but with the saved obtaining a rich entrance in the kingdom of heaven.

How do we know this to be true?

Jesus’ reply to this question gives the man a “works” answer. The man in question obviously knows that he is lacking something due to the nature of his initial question (19:16) and his response to Jesus’ recommendation (19:20). Jesus’ call to keep the commandments was not to force a condemnation upon the man’s inadequate living, but to point him in the direction of cultivating interpersonal relationships. Loving others is a clear indication that we love God (John 13:34-35; 1 John 7:7; 2:5; 4:7). Jesus was also not calling on the man to keep the commandments in order to earn acceptance with God. Jesus was showing him that in keeping these commandments he was propagating fellowship with God.

The second way that we know that this exchange is regarding “eternal life” as this man’s quality of glorification is in verse 21 when Jesus tells him, “If you wish to be made complete…” This Greek word is teleios meaning, “brought to its end, finished; wanting nothing necessary to completeness; perfect.”[2] Louw and Nida define this word as “pertaining to having no defect whatsoever.”[3] This word speaks to being “perfect,” but can also be understood as being “mature, fully-grown” (Jas 1:4).  

Jesus calls the man to sell his possessions, give the money to the poor, and to come and follow Him on His journeys. Jesus even goes so far as to tell this man that if he does what Jesus has asked of him, he will have “treasure in heaven” (19:21). Having inquired about having/obtaining/possessing eternal life, Jesus’ directive is to give all that he deems precious in order to lay hold of eternal life, much like Jesus’ words to the disciples in Matthew 13:44-46 when He speaks of those who gave all in order to make the kingdom of heaven theirs.

If this is what Jesus is telling the man, would it not make more sense to tell him how he can be a mature, fully-grown disciple who is complete, not lacking in anything rather than considering him to be a lost, unregenerate person and immediately calling him to be complete and perfect, being fully-grown and mature?

It would be foolishness to think that Jesus is calling this man to part with all of his possessions in order to be justified since the goal placed before the man is equated with “treasure in heaven” and “full maturity” or “completeness.” Such a conclusion accounts for the man’s “selling of his possessions” as part of what is necessary in order to be accepted before God. If this is the case, where does the cross of Christ come in? This view deems it as secondary, or only PART of what is necessary to complete the whole and to legally render the man as “saved.” No, Jesus’ answer is not a works answer because that is what is necessary to go to heaven when you die. He answers this way because this is the pathway to having a full experience in following Jesus so that he will have “treasure in heaven” (19:21b). This understanding corresponds perfectly with what Jesus taught the disciples in Matthew 19:44-46. Sell all that you have if that is what it takes to possess/have/obtain the kingdom of heaven. Jesus is calling him to start living the abundant life (John 10:10b).

This reply causes the man to end the conversation, and he leaves “grieving” (lypeō- distressed, sorrowful). The reason for his sorrow is provided by Matthew, noting that he “owned much property,” meaning that he had many earthly possessions, which could include land, or possibly an estate. This is a terrible occasion, considering what the man was giving up in the eternal so that he could maintain what he had in the temporal. We see the trappings of such motivations in the words that the Apostle Paul spoke to Timothy, writing “But those who want to get rich fall into temptation and a snare and many foolish and harmful desires which plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all sorts of evil, and some by longing for it have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs” (1 Tim 6:9-10).

One last important point to notice is that Jesus equates “treasure in heaven” in 19:21b with the man’s initial question of obtaining “eternal life” in 19:16. Jesus makes this connection to provide us with a greater understanding of what is being considered (and continues to do so in the narrative) so that we are not confused or misled in our interpretation of this situation.

This rich young ruler would be someone who has heard the “word of the kingdom” (Matt 13:19a) but has allowed for the riches of this life to choke out his opportunity to not only become part of Jesus’ entourage, but to have great riches and rewards in the coming Kingdom. He would fall into category #3 in the Parable of the Soils.

Matthew 19:23-26. At this point, Jesus turns to His disciples and uses this situation as a teaching moment. “It is hard for a rich man to enter the kingdom of heaven” (19:23). Notice that Jesus equated “entering the kingdom of heaven” to the situation that just took place. Before proceeding, we must observe that the call to “sell all” and the result being “treasure in heaven” (19:21) shows that the man’s question and Jesus’ answer were not in regard to whether or not the man was “saved,” so we must not let the term “entering the kingdom of heaven” deter us to think this.

Dillow writes, “In each place where entering the kingdom of God is mentioned, the call is always to those who have already entered it in the sense of personal salvation. What then do the entry sayings mean? When Jesus invites His believing followers to enter the kingdom of heaven, He is obviously not inviting them to accept the gospel and be saved. They are already saved. Instead, this invitation to enter the kingdom involves a call to enter a rich experience of life; to enter a kingdom way of living (discipleship) by seeking the kingdom way of life; and to enter in to higher status in the future reign of the servants.”[4]

Jesus further elaborates upon His point by giving an illustration about the difficulty of “a camel to go through the eye of a needle” (19:24a). This expression is known as a “paroimia” which is a “way side saying, a trite expression, a common remark, or a proverb.”[5] This expression was used to communicate “a thing very unusual and very difficult.”[6]  This has often been communicated as an opening in the wall surrounding Jerusalem that required for the camel to get down on his knees in order to pass through into the city.[7] While this may be a commonly accepted explanation, some scholars believe that there is no evidence to conclude this.[8]

Regardless, the point in Jesus’ use of paroimia is clear: Those who trust in their riches in this life will find great difficulty in obtaining a rich entrance into the kingdom of heaven. This is due to their wealth becoming their security, hope, and the answer for every problem. Why pray and wait on the Lord when you can simply buy a solution to your problem? When one is called to follow Jesus, proceeding forward can only be done by faith in the Son of God. This is much like the argument in Galatians 3:1-3. We are not justified by faith alone and then proceed to grow in our Christian walk by another means than faith in Christ. Our growth is predicated upon faith alone in Christ alone, just as is the case of our justification. Divided interests when faced with the opportunity for a rich entrance in the coming Kingdom is an incongruent concept.

With verse 25, we see that the disciples’ response to Jesus’ application is one of shock! In the first century, the Jews would have concluded that material wealth was a sign that God had greatly blessed that family. Jesus’ comment has shattered this stereotype, opting instead to promote trusting in Christ which gives way to obedience in following Him.

The idea of being “saved” should not be thought of as “go to heaven when you die,” but rather “saved” from a worthless life, a life of little value in the coming Kingdom. We know this to be true because of the indicators found in 19:16 with “obtaining eternal life,” 19:21 with Jesus equating “treasure in heaven” with the man’s desired conclusion to “obtain eternal life,” 19:23 with Jesus’ use of the “kingdom of heaven” as the primary subject under consideration in this section, and with 19:24 demonstrating that the “kingdom of heaven” is the same thing as the “kingdom of God.” At no time do we have any allusions to the cross of Christ, the blood of Christ, or the sacrifice of Christ. The only sacrifice called for in this section is found in relation to the rich young man selling his possessions and following Jesus (19:21).

What is the answer to the disciples’ question? With man, obtaining eternal life in the kingdom of heaven is impossible, but with God all things are possible, including a rich person having a rich entrance into the coming Kingdom. If the one who is rich is not trusting in their riches but is trusting in the Lord, such an entrance is possible! They have matured to the point of understanding that the flesh will profit nothing (John 6:63; Rom 8:8) and that the things of this world are fleeting and all will burn in the end (Ps 52:7-9; 62:10b; 1 Tim 6:17; 2 Peter 3:10-18). It is much like what we read in Proverbs 11:28, “He who trusts in his riches will fall, but the righteous will flourish like the green leaf.”

Matthew 19:27-30. At this point, Peter asks a question concerning himself and the group obviously provoked by this incident that they had just witnessed and Jesus’ subsequent teaching in light of the results of the rich young man’s choice. If what Jesus just concluded was true, where did this leave the disciples? They had walked away from their businesses (Matt 4:18-22; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and had obviously left their families (Matt 8:14). In Peter’s own words, the had left “everything” to follow Jesus (Matt 19:27). Peter understood that he and the other disciples had been obedient and had “paid the cost.” What would be the return on the decision that they had made?

Jesus’ reply is not harsh, or rebuking, but He unfolds the beauty that awaits those who sacrifice to follow Christ because they should be expectant of something in return for their service to Him. “Rather than upbraid Peter for what may seem like a selfish request, Jesus assured him that the life investment he and the other disciples had made (16:24–28) would have dividends ‘a hundredfold’ (v. 29).”[9] Jesus tells His disciples that in the “regeneration” they will be in positions of judgment over the twelve tribes of Israel (19:28). What is meant by the term “regeneration” is clear, seeing that Jesus gives us a time indicator in stating that it is a period “when the Son of Man will sit on His glorious throne.” We know this to be speaking of the Millennial Reign of Christ (Rev 19:11-20:6).

This word “regeneration” is palingenesia in Greek meaning a “state of being renewed, with focus on a cosmic experience, renewal.”[10] It has been translated in English as “renewal” (NIV, CSB), “new world” (ESV), and even the “Messianic Age” (HCSB). Thayer understands it as “that signal and glorious change of all things (in heaven and earth) for the better, that restoration of the primal and perfect condition of things which existed before the fall of our first parents.”[11] Scofield writes of it as “the re-creation of the social order, and renewal of the earth (Isa. 11:6–9; Rom. 8:19–23) when the kingdom shall come.”[12] Clearly, Jesus’ meaning is consistent with the subject at hand, being the coming Kingdom of Heaven, the Millennial Reign of Christ.

Jesus then adds that anyone who has left that which they have loved behind for the sake of Christ’s name will receive “many times as much” (NASB), which is probably better understood as “a hundred times” (NASB margin) or “a hundredfold” (NKJV, ESV). Two things must be noted in this statement.

First, a sacrifice of this magnitude must be made with the proper motivation fueling it. That motivation is clearly stated as “for My name’s sake” (19:29b). The person forsaking that which is comfortable and secure hoping to receive accolades or fame from such a sacrifice will receive nothing. However, the one who deems Christ as “worthy,” meaning that He is worth following wherever He may lead them to go, is one who will receive a great reward for the sacrifice that they have made. This type of obedience demonstrates the proper motivation and the humble heart of the one serving Christ.

Second, the use of the term “a hundredfold” should draw our minds back to the Parable of the Soils, especially the fourth soil in Matthew 13:23. We are told that those who “understand” the word of the kingdom will be the ones who “bear fruit” in various increments, and in some cases, it will be a hundredfold.

Jesus speaks of a second result regarding those who leave their loved ones for Christ’s sake. They “will inherit eternal life” (19:29c). This is precisely what Jesus was calling the rich young ruler to do: sell his possessions and follow Him so that he would have “treasure in heaven” (19:21b). This phrase “inherit eternal life” perfectly corresponds with the rich man’s initial inquiry in Matthew 19:16 about how to “obtain eternal life,” especially when compared with the parallel accounts in Mark 10:17 and Luke 18:18. There is a cost in this life for following Jesus, but if one is willing to pay it for the sake of Jesus’ name, it will yield great dividends beyond our comprehension in the life to come!

Jesus finishes His reply by stating that “many who are first will be last; and the last, first” (19:30). Parting with our loved ones or ridding ourselves of our valuables for the sake of Jesus’ name would be things that would place us in the category of “last” in this present age. Such people are considered lunatics. But we must remember that the world knows nothing about the joy that stems from those who not only have peace with God from their justification, but the peace of God resting over them because they are in the center of God’s will for their lives. To the world, belief in God, much less parting with one’s “stuff” to follow Jesus Christ, is written off as “fanatical” without being given a second thought, and because it is spiritually motivated and lacks the “glamour” that dictates so much of the decisions that carnal people make, it must be discredited and demeaned, and the message of those who have “left all” is denied.

Those who are last in this life will be first in the life to come. Those who are first in this life, meaning that if they are believers in Jesus Christ but are living for themselves (Eph 5:11-12), persisting in sin and disobedience (Eph 4:17-20; 1 Tim 1:29-20), are only carnal in their Christianity (1 Cor 3:3-4; Titus 3:9-10), and are unwilling to part with the things that they hold dear if called upon by the Lord to do so (Matt 19:21), they will be last in the coming Kingdom of Christ.

What is Jesus calling you to do so that you will have treasure in heaven?

[1] See MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary, p. 1276–1277, Alan P. Stanley, Did Jesus Teach Salvation by Works? (Eugene, Oregon: Pickwick Publications, 2006), p. 188-211, John F. MacArthur, The Gospel According to Jesus (Grand Rapids: Academie Books, 1988), p. 78-88.

[2] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 618.

[3] Louw and Nida, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 705.

[4] Joseph C. Dillow, Final Destiny: The Future Reign of the Servant Kings (Monument, Colorado: Paniym Publishing, 2012), p. 253.

[5] E.W. Bullinger, Figures of Speech Used in the Bible (Grand Rapids: Baker Book House, 1968), p. 755.

[6] Ibid.

[7] See James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 447.

[8] See Craig Blomberg, Matthew, vol. 22, The New American Commentary (Nashville: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1992), p. 299–300; David Turner and Darrell L. Bock, Cornerstone Biblical Commentary, Vol 11: Matthew and Mark (Carol Stream, IL: Tyndale House Publishers, 2005), 252.

[9] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1999), p. 1177.

[10] BDAG, p. 752.

[11] Thayer, Greek-English Lexicon, p. 474–475.

[12] C. I. Scofield, ed., The Scofield Reference Bible: The Holy Bible Containing the Old and New Testaments (New York; London; Toronto; Melbourne; Bombay: Oxford University Press, 1917), p. 1026.

Foundational Framework 57: Living a Worthy Life

Foundational Truths: The Bible is God’s self-revelation.
God is the Eternal, Sovereign Creator; all that He creates is good.
Man is a responsible agent, held to a moral standard.
Sin originates within a person, separating us from God.
God declares one righteous by faith alone, apart from works.
The glory of God is the centerpiece and goal of all existence.
God’s glory is maximally realized in the promised, coming Kingdom.

Foundational Frameworks 57.png

Our study of Matthew 13 and the “word of the Kingdom” (Matt 13:19) continues with the last three parables being given in a private setting. In 13:36, we are told that Jesus left the crowd of Jews that He was previously speaking to and entered again into the house from whence He had come to teach in parables in the first place (13:1). Jesus began speaking in parables after the rejection of the works of the Holy Spirit (which testified that the Kingdom of God had come upon the Jews) by the Jewish leaders (Matt 12:24, 28). Before moving on we must remember two very important points connected to Jesus’ style of teaching.

First, Jesus spoke in parables as a means of judgment against the Jewish people. Those who had rejected Him during His earthly ministry would have the “mysteries of the Kingdom” hidden from their understanding. Jesus’ method of teaching (parables) involved a principled story-telling that was to convey important truths regarding the Kingdom of God and was such that would obscure the meaning to those who had rejected Him as their promised Messiah. Jesus explains, “I speak to them in parables; because while seeing they do not see, and while hearing they do not hear, nor do they understand” (Matt 13:13). He then proceeds to tell His disciples in 13:14-15 that resorting to this method is actually a fulfillment of prophecy. The hardened hearts of the Jewish people had earned them further ignorance and missed opportunities to have in their possession what YHWH had always promised them. It was a sad affair that Israel had earned because of their unbelief and disobedience, but one that the Lord Jesus would see through in truth, not compromising His judgment of them despite His profound love (Matt 23:37-39).

The second important point involves the flipside of Jesus’ parables in that they are described by Him as revealing “the mysteries of the Kingdom of heaven,” with this revelation being something that the disciples were privy to because of their acceptance of Him (Matt 13:11). The Eleven (minus Judas- John 13:27) had already placed their faith in Jesus and now He was granting them more understanding regarding His Coming Kingdom (Matt 13:12). In this they were greatly blessed, for many prophets and “righteous men” had desired to see and hear all that they had before them in that moment, but had not (Matt 13:16-17). This moment in time held an unveiling of previously unknown truths regarding the earthly reign of Christ from the throne of David, and of all of the devout Jews of Israel’s history, this rag-tag group of anxious and doubting men were the recipients of its message.

Grace certainly abounds as the Lord sees fit for His divine purposes with no regard to status, occupation, or merit.

Matthew 13:44. In this parable, Jesus speaks of “the kingdom of heaven” being like a treasure that was hidden in a field. This would have been a concept that the disciples would have been able to relate to. In the first century there were no banks or safes in order to store valuables, so the one who possessed such things would have to hide them in the ground.[1] In this teaching, a man finds the treasure and hides it again. Joy over his discovery motivates him to sell all of his possessions, and in doing so, he purchases the field.

At this point, it should be noted that the popular interpretations of this passage have consisted of mainly two viewpoints. The first interpretation is that the “treasure” is Israel and that the Messiah is the “man.” Upon finding her, Jesus goes and “sells all that he has,” symbolizing His going to the cross, and in turn buys the field (which is connected to “the world”- v.38a) with His blood. Along with this, some have considered that Israel being hidden in the field and the field being considered a necessary purchase relates to the Jews being dispersed throughout the nations of the world.[2] While this is a popular understanding among many who are of the dispensationalist viewpoint, there are some concerns regarding this interpretation.

First, while the “man” may be interpreted this way due to a previous parable (Matt 13:24b, 37), this does not necessarily need to be the case, and is an educated assumption at best.

Second, while Israel is often referred to as God’s treasure in the Old Testament (Ex 19:5; Deut 26:18; Ps 83:3 [where the word for “treasured” is more literally translated as “hidden”]; 135:4), there is no indication that the Lord “stumbled across” them, buried them again, and then needed to purchase a vast expanse just so they would be His permanently. From all indication that one would receive in reading through the Old Testament, Israel already belonged to God (Isa 43:1).

Third, the emphasis being placed upon Israel as the ones needing redemption limits what transpired at the cross. This would only make sense if Jesus had died only for the sins of the Jews, but Scripture speaks to so much more than this (John 1:29; 1 Tim 2:4-6; Heb 2:9; 1 John 2:2).

Finally, this parable, by its very introduction, not to mention all of the other parables in Matthew 13, have nothing to do with the cross of Christ and His death for sinners. However, it does have everything to do with “the kingdom of the heavens,” keeping in perfect step with the parables that Jesus spoke beforehand. This should be sufficient enough evidence to see that this parable is not speaking of Jesus purchasing the world through the cross in order to possess Israel.

The second major interpretation is that Jesus is telling these men that if they want to have eternal life it will cost them everything. With this view, the “kingdom of heaven” has been equated with “eternal life.” Therefore, they (and by extension “we”) must be willing to sell everything in order to gain heaven. The issues with this understanding should be both obvious and alarming, yet it is considered a legitimate understanding of the text by some who even go so far as to acknowledge the free gift of salvation by faith alone in Christ alone only to then include the “give up everything” call of discipleship as necessary and indispensable to the equation.[3] Such atrocities in Scripture, theology, and logic are too easily excused with the label of “paradox.”

Let us stop and acknowledge the violence that occurs in embracing such a claim, being found to muddy the foundation of the Christian Life and murky the waters of the atonement of Christ.

Salvation is a free gift, and one that is offered freely because it has already been purchased by Another- the Lord Jesus Christ (John 1:29; 3:16; 5:24). This free gift is received by personal faith alone (John 1:12; 6:47). If this free gift costs the recipient anything it ceases to be a gift and becomes a transaction (Rom 11:6). This gives the recipient of the “costly gift” the right to lay claim to it because of what they were required to give for it. It is no longer a gift that was totally undeserved, but has now become an item that is to be rightfully possessed because of the personal price paid. This is NOT the message of the Gospel of Jesus Christ who died for the sins of the world and rose on the third day in order to freely offer eternal life to anyone and everyone who would receive it, and to do so “without cost” (Rev 22:17).

A friend of mine stated the issue this way:

If someone thinks that they have to give Christ something (i.e., commitment, surrender, obedience, etc.) in order to receive eternal salvation, then they are attempting to enforce a bilateral contract, namely an agreement formed by an exchange of a promise in which the promise of one party is consideration supporting the promise of the other party.[4]

The idea that the gift of salvation is something that we must be willing to “sell all that” we have in order to obtain it is nothing short of heresy because it makes our actions and obedience a necessary part in accomplishing the whole of our redemption. This blasphemous conclusion would rightfully qualify the one needing salvation as a co-redeemer with Christ, seeing that this view considers Christ’s work on the cross as insufficient to fully save. To necessitate any works on the part of the one needing saving is heresy.

With that being said, what would be a more consistent interpretation of the parable of the treasure in the field? To answer this question, there are two important factors that must be grasped before proceeding that will greatly aid in clearing the path for a greater understanding.

First, the audience for these series of parables has changed. Beforehand, we saw the Master speaking to the crowds which were the ones who had rejected Jesus’ message (Matt 13:1-9, 24-35), but here we see His audience as the Twelve, being those who had accepted His message. We must remember that Jesus is turning away from the Jews because of their unbelief. Even though Judas is present, this group of men would go on to be the bedrock that the Holy Spirit would use in establishing, discipling, and nurturing the coming Church in sound doctrine (Acts 2). The Eleven are “already clean” because of the Word that Jesus had spoken to them (John 15:3), thus they are in a prime position to receive the “mysteries of the Kingdom” with greater understanding; an understanding that will give way to bearing fruit (Matt 13:23b).

Second, the focal point of Jesus’ teaching has not changed, that being the “kingdom of heaven” (Matt 13:44, 45, 47). Though the audience is different, we should not assume that the phrase “the kingdom of heaven” has changed its meaning since Jesus entered the house. However, we would be correct in considering that what Jesus is going to communicate to the Twelve regarding the Coming Kingdom will concern itself with things directly pertaining to them since the crowds are no longer present. With this audience, the purpose of judgment has been removed from Jesus’ use of parables. However, Jesus still continues to teach in parables, meaning that the “mysteries of the kingdom” (Matt 13:11) can be further understood, resulting in the “abundance” that comes from receiving more revelation about the kingdom because the disciples were the ones who already “had” in the first place (Matthew 13:12a is very important in understanding this concept).

With this second point, we must also consider the contextual argument of this entire pericope.

Jesus began Matthew 13 with the Parable of the Soils and provided an explanation of this parable in 13:18-23. The subject of this first parable is the “word of the Kingdom” (13:19) and the various types of reception this message receives from those who hear it. Each type of reception creates a reaction. While the first message was “snatched away” by Satan so as to render no understanding (13:19), the second and third groups receive the message and even embrace it, but end up abandoning it due to persecution and affliction (13:21) or due to the cares of this present age and the greed that permeates one’s being overshadowing its significance (13:22). However, it is the final soil who receives the word of the Kingdom and who hold fast to it because they have “understanding” (13:23). This “understanding” results in fruit that brings forth “a hundredfold, some sixty, and some thirty” (13:23b). It is this last group that is in view when Jesus is speaking with His disciples about the treasure hidden in the field (13:44a) and the pearl of great value (13:46a).

 

 

In summation, this parable of the hidden treasure in the field is:

1.     still spoken of in the parabolic fashion of teaching,

2.     spoken privately to the disciples of Jesus in the house (Matt 13:36),

3.     still regarding the subject of the “kingdom of heaven” whose meaning and contents have not changed at all from the Old Testament understanding of the literal, physical, theocratic reign of the Messiah for 1,000 years on the Earth from Jerusalem as He sits upon the throne of His father David as prophesied (2 Sam 7:16; Luke 1:32-33), and

4.     it is a truth that, when understood, will bring forth a bountiful result of fruit from the disciples (Matt 13:23).

Here we have a biblical maxim that is a foundational point throughout all of the Scriptures: With more revelation comes more responsibility, and such responsibility in understanding greater revelation from God in His Word demands a response so that one’s life is now operating from the convictions that have just been learned.

In this way, God is glorified!!! This is what God’s truth is supposed to do in the lives of believers. When we are given a greater understanding of God’s will (which is His Word), we are responsible for embracing this truth and conforming our lives accordingly.

In this private setting with those who have chosen to follow Him closely (John 6:67-69), Jesus explains to them the surpassing worth of the kingdom of heaven, especially in comparison to any of their personal possessions. One author notes, “The central truth being taught is the immense value of the kingdom, which far outweighs any sacrifice or inconvenience one might encounter on earth.”[5] The urgency of the man, the motivation conveyed that sparks his action (“and from joy”-Matt 13:44b), and the extreme exchange that the man is willing to make for the treasure all point to a relinquishing of lesser things in order to own something greater for one’s self. Robertson agrees: “The point here is the joy of discovery of something of supreme worth. The kingdom, like the treasure, is worth more than all a man’s possessions. He may well sacrifice these all for it.”[6]

Matthew 13:45-46. While the following parable contains many similarities to the parable of the hidden treasure, there is one major difference that must be noted. In 13:44, the man in the parable found the treasure, but there is no real indication that he was looking for it. However, when he found it, he went to extreme measures to accumulate the cash necessary to purchase the field containing the treasure. In 13:45-46, the merchant is actively looking for pearls of great worth. When he comes across a pearl that holds immense value, he sells everything he has in order to obtain it.

Jesus’ general point is clear: Whether you are looking for the kingdom or not, once you come across it, give everything that you own in order to possess it for yourself. So often we believe that the things that we possess are the markers for greatness in this life. Many are enthralled with money, social status, keeping up with their peers, or desperately trying to maintain a fake image among others. Jesus is stating that whatever you have held dear or esteemed as “worthy,” give it up for the sake of personally possessing something of infinite value. Do whatever it takes, at all costs, to possess the kingdom.

The immense value of the kingdom of God is something that is stressed throughout Jesus’ ministry. While many passages address this fact, looking at the Sermon on the Mount briefly will give one a clear and convincing picture. Notice the following verses:

Matt 5:3- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 5:10-12- “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed

are you when people insult you and persecute you, and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of Me. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward in heaven is great; for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.”

Matt 5:19-20- “Whoever then annuls one of the least of these commandments, and teaches others to do the same, shall be called least in the kingdom of heaven; but whoever keeps and teaches them, he shall be called great in the kingdom of heaven. For I say to you that unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will not enter the kingdom of heaven.”

Matt 6:33- “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.”

Matt 7:21- “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father who is in heaven will enter.”

In each instance listed, we see that the “kingdom of heaven” is associated with an attitude, disposition, or a general way of life that the person is called to live. These instances call for self-discipline, meaning that the believer who would “enter the kingdom of heaven” would be the one who has understood the “word of the kingdom” and is willing to position his or herself in such a way that the pleasures and trappings of this life are unworthy endeavors that will keep us from the richness that is available in the Life to come.

Also notice that “entering the kingdom” is associated with “rewards in heaven” (Matt 5:10-12). This is Jesus’ point in the private parables of Matthew 13. He desires for His disciples to have a “rich entrance” into the kingdom of heaven. He calls them to a way of life that will lead to ruling and reigning alongside Him in the millennial kingdom.

He calls us to do the same. Jesus invites His followers to follow Him through persecution and sacrifice to a maximum return in the Life to come that broadcasts God’s glory throughout all existence!!!

Where will you be in the kingdom?

[1] James M. Freeman and Harold J. Chadwick, Manners & Customs of the Bible (North Brunswick, NJ: Bridge-Logos Publishers, 1998), p. 438.

[2] See John F. Walvoord, Matthew: Thy Kingdom Come (Galaxie Software, 2007), p. 104–105; Charles Caldwell Ryrie, Ryrie Study Bible: New American Standard Bible, 1995 Update, Expanded ed. (Chicago: Moody Press, 1995), p. 1538; William MacDonald, Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments, ed. Arthur Farstad (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), p. 1258.

[3] See John F. MacArthur Jr., The Gospel according to Jesus: What Does Jesus Mean When He Says “Follow Me,” Electronic ed. (Grand Rapids: Academic and Professional Books, Zondervan, 2000), chapter 12; Robert James Utley, The First Christian Primer: Matthew, vol. 9, Study Guide Commentary Series (Marshall, TX: Bible Lessons International, 2000), p. 121.

[4] Kevin Hobby, personal correspondence, 30 December 2018.

[5] Earl D. Radmacher, Ronald Barclay Allen, and H. Wayne House, The Nelson Study Bible: New King James Version (Nashville: Nelson Publishers, 1997), Mt 13:44.

[6] A. T. Robertson, Commentary on the Gospel according to Matthew (New York: The Macmillan Company, 1911), p. 171.