Who are we?

In this blog, there will be a variety of material: thoughts on Bible books, book reviews, historical characters, aspects of Scottish church history and other things.

Monday, 31 December 2012

Peter’s problem (13:36-38)

It was not that Peter lacked love to Jesus or was not sincere in his announcement that he would defend Jesus. The problem was that he was trusting in his own resolve and in his own abilities. In other words, he was trusting in his own strength. Of course, we cannot point the finger at Peter, because we have been guilty of similar failings.

Perhaps the most likely time for trusting in our own strength is when we are experiencing a spiritual high. Peter was in the presence of Jesus, listening to his teaching. He had just gone through a moving experience when Jesus washed his feet, although he had not learned the lesson that Jesus was teaching, which was that his people have a permanent need of cleansing.

Three aspects of Peter’s self-confidence
A first aspect was his ignoring the word of Jesus that he could not follow Jesus in the path he was taking, which was via Calvary to heaven. We may be amazed that Peter should ignore the word of Jesus, but are we not also guilty of it? After all, every sin that we have committed as Christians is forbidden in the Bible.

A second aspect was his looking down on other believers. This was an obvious fault in Peter’s outlook at this time because he was sure that he would perform better than the others. It is likely that he had more natural strength than some of the others, yet he should have had sufficient self-knowledge to know that he was liable to fall.

A third aspect was his failure to mortify particular sins. Peter had a sinful tendency to disagree with Christ about his death. On a previous occasion, Peter had been given a warning on this matter by Jesus (Mark 8:31-33). We may not have the same particular sin of Peter, but we are prone to particular sins. And if we don’t mortify these sins, it is a sign of self-confidence.

Two possible aspects of our self-confidence
A willingness to walk as close to the world as possible. This attitude can range from the comment that there is no harm in a particular action to an articulate defence of Christian liberty. But behind that outlook is an expression of self-confidence that the individual will be able to handle the situation.

It is a sign of rash self-confidence to attempt to go as near the world as possible. Persisting in this behaviour will result in a reduction of our commitment to Christ. Very few Christians fall suddenly; it is usually the result of a process. They develop other interests which stifle their spiritual development. A good rule is, if you are not sure of an action, don’t do it, no matter who else is doing it.

A second is not to be in a spirit of ongoing prayer. It is likely that most Christians will have a set of time of prayer every day, sometimes two or three set times. I suspect that the disciples as devout Jews engaged in set times of daily prayer. Perhaps Peter and the other disciples already had had their devotions; after all they would have been preparing for participation in the Passover. Yet it is evident that they were not in a spirit of prayer at this time.

Sunday, 30 December 2012

The parting request of Jesus (13:33-38) – 3

In what ways did Jesus love the disciples? Several answers could be given to this question. One way in which Jesus showed he loved his disciples was by enjoying their company. And one way in which his disciples love one another is by delighting to meet together. This aspect points to the importance of Christian fellowship. It is not surprising that Christian influence has decreased in our society when one of the missing practices of the church today is fellowship.

Another way in which Jesus expressed his love to his people was by forgiving them their sins, not only the sins that they committed before they became his disciples but also the sins of which they were guilty as his disciples. And forgiveness is an essential expression of Christian love: ‘And be ye kind one to another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, even as God for Christ's sake hath forgiven you’ (Eph. 4:32).

Jesus also loved his disciples by interceding for them. An example of his intercession is found in John 17. And his followers display love for one another by continuing in prayer for one another. Such prayers are specific and persistent.

Serving his people was another way in which Jesus showed love for his disciples. Already in the upper room he had given a practical expression of it when he washed his disciples’ feet. Mutual service is also a way for believers to reveal love, as Paul mentions in Galatians 5:13: ‘For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.’  

The love of Jesus brings to us an obligation to love: ‘By this we know love, that he laid down his life for us, and we ought to lay down our lives for the brothers’ (1 John 3:16).  But this type of Christian living brings to us a sense of assurance: ‘We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death’ (1 John 3:14).  And this type of Christian living also affects those who are not Christians, because they will see something not seen anywhere else.

Saturday, 29 December 2012

The parting request of Jesus (13:33-38) – 2

This parting request of Jesus, firstly, reveals his sovereignty over them. Only a person in a position of authority can require another person to obey him. Jesus is insisting that the only type of Christian living of which he approves is one that is marked by love. 

Secondly, this request to love one another has an amazing standard. Mutual Christian love is an imitation of Christ. It is possible to read this verse through a theological pair of glasses and respond, ‘It is impossible for me to imitate Christ’s love because his love was perfect and I am sinful.’ Then one can proceed and ignore this command. It is admitted that no Christian can love his fellow disciples to the degree that Christ loved them. But that does not mean that we should not love them as best as we can. In any case, believers have the indwelling Holy Spirit to enable them to love one another in a godly manner, and to grow experiencing that love inwardly and expressing it outwardly.

Thirdly, this request of Jesus contained the promise of an assured success. If they love one another, everyone will know that they are Christ’s disciples. There are several types of evangelism advocated today: personal evangelism, friendship evangelism, tract evangelism, drama etc. It is possible to engage in them without love. But Jesus here promises evangelical success to believers when they love one another. This is the way to convince non-Christians that we are genuine. 

It is worth noting that Jesus did not say that making a stand for truth would bring this about. Taking such stands is important, but may not result in a good effect on others; in any case, the world does not understand our beliefs. Nor did he say that engaging in an act of personal sacrifice would necessarily make an impression on society; they cannot read our minds as to why we do particular activities. But he did say that constant, communal, Christlike love would. This is a challenge to our priorities.

Friday, 28 December 2012

The parting request of Jesus (13:33-38) – 1

In making this request to love one another, Jesus is thinking about the role he wants them to perform as his representatives.  He is asking them to live as he had lived during the years when he was here, that is, with a life of love. This was to be the distinguishing mark of his disciples. It was not appropriate to speak about this topic as long as Judas was among them.

This request of Jesus is connected to the moral law of God originally revealed in the Old Testament. The summary of appropriate response to God’s law is to love him with all our heart, soul, mind and strength and to love our neighbour as ourselves. Our neighbours fall into two categories: our friends and our enemies. In the Sermon on the Mount, the role model for believers is God’s acts of goodness to his enemies. Here, the role model for loving our friends is the way Jesus has loved his disciples.

It is obvious from the Old Testament that God’s people in that era were expected to love another (Lev. 19:18, 34 ). So how could Jesus describe it as a new commandment? It was new in the sense that, with the coming of the Holy Spirit, they would have a new kind of power to enable them to love as Jesus did.

Thursday, 27 December 2012

Little children (13:33)

Jesus continues his teaching of his disciples. But, as we expect from the Saviour, his teaching is not a detached impartation of knowledge. He feels for his pupils. He is aware of what the future will hold for them, a knowledge that is revealed in his description of the soon denial of Peter. So as he begins to describe the kind of lifestyle he wants them to live after he has parted from then, he commences with a very endearing description of them: ‘Little children.’ He speaks to them in a manner similar to how a mother would address her infants. 

As David Brown observed, ‘From the height of His own glory He now descends, with sweet pity, to His “little children,” all now His own. This term of endearment, nowhere else used in the Gospels, and once only employed by Paul (Gal 4:19), is appropriated by the beloved disciple himself, who no fewer than seven times employs it in his first Epistle.’ 

Jesus’ use of this description reveals how he saw his own role towards them. As with endangered little children, they needed to be protected; as with ignorant little children, they needed to be instructed. We can imagine him looking around at each of their faces, all of them so very dear to him. He was aware that they would miss him, that they would seek for him. But where he was going they would not be able to go for a long time. ‘As their friend and guide, as a man, he felt deeply at the thoughts of parting from them, and leaving them to a cold and unfeeling world’ (Albert Barnes). 

Wednesday, 26 December 2012

The Ways in which the Father Glorified Jesus (13:31-32)

Jesus sought glory from the Father. Listen to his words in John 8:54: ‘If I glorify myself, my glory is nothing. It is my Father who glorifies me.’ Here are three ways in which the Father glorified his Son.

First, there was the voice from heaven at his baptism, when in great joy the Father declared from heaven that he was well-pleased with the life that his Son had lived for thirty years in Nazareth. In the presence of the greatest of the Old Testament prophets (John the Baptist), the Father made known that the One who pleased him completely was his only Son.

Second, the Father glorified the Son when he vindicated him by raising him from the dead. This was great honour given to Jesus when he was declared to be the Son of God with power by his resurrection. He had committed himself into his Father’s hands on the cross, anticipating that he would experience this vindication. What a vindication it was when he was announced as the conqueror of death, the devil and sin.

Third, the Father glorified the Son by exalting him to his right hand, to sit there until all his enemies are made his footstool. The Father gave to his Son the highest place that heaven can give and before him are yet to bow every creature that has ever lived (human, angelic and demonic).

Yet Jesus’ words here point to a glorification that was to happen immediately. Jesus was referring to the glory that he received from the Father on the cross. It was there that the Father lifted him up in glory, it was there that the Son glorified the Father.

In what ways did the Father give glory to Jesus on the cross? One way was by entrusting to him the work of redemption. The weaker Jesus became, the more the Father entrusted to him. It never entered the Father’s mind that his Son would fail.

Another way that the Father gave glory to Jesus on the cross was by placing him on a pedestal from which he could draw all the nations to himself. Although he was abandoned, he never became unattractive on Calvary, either to the heart of his Father or to the hosts of heaven or to the millions of sinners who have since gone to the cross for mercy. 

Glorification for Jesus began at the lowest of all places. It was the simultaneously the depth of his humiliation and the crown of his achievements. 

Tuesday, 25 December 2012

The Ways in which Jesus Glorified God (13:31-32)

Jesus says in these verses that the Father was glorified in and by the life of his Son. In what ways did Jesus do this? Here are five suggestions.

The first way in which Jesus brought honour to God the Father was by agreeing to come into the world to save sinners. When we think of God, his glory can be described as the combined display of all his attributes. Imagine the Father and the Son in heaven thinking about the fact that humans had sinned and are under God’s judgement. If sinners had only been judged, would the fullness of God’s glory have been revealed? I don’t think so, because his saving love would not have been displayed. But in order for that love to be revealed, the Son would have to agree to become the Saviour and be born into this world.

The second way in which Jesus brought glory to God was by living a perfect life. What defines all humans is that their lives fall short of the glory of God. No matter who they are, no matter their gifts and accomplishments, they come short of God’s standard of beauty, and therefore fail to give him glory. But Jesus always lived a balanced, beautiful life and continually, moment by moment, he brought great glory to God as his perfect life fully satisfied the great desires of the Father.

A third way in which Jesus brought glory to God was by performing actions that caused people to praise God. ‘As he was drawing near – already on the way down the Mount of Olives – the whole multitude of his disciples began to rejoice and praise God with a loud voice for all the mighty works that they had seen’ (Luke 19:37).  ‘And he rose and immediately picked up his bed and went out before them all, so that they were all amazed and glorified God, saying, “We never saw anything like this!”’ (Mark 2:12). When he healed the disabled lady in the synagogue, Luke says that ‘immediately she was made straight, and she glorified God’ (Luke 13:13).  Everything Jesus said to others and did for others caused praise to rise to God, even if others found fault.

The fourth way in which Jesus brought glory to God was by going to the cross and suffering there. Going there was the climax of his obedience, the proof that he loved the Father and desired to honour his will. He stated this desire in Gethsemane when he said, ‘Not my will, but yours be done.’

The fifth way in which Jesus brings glory to God is by his activities as the exalted Christ. Jesus in heaven today still brings glory to the Father by fulfilling the heavenly mandate to gather in his people from the nations, by protecting each of them as they travel through the dangerous scenes of earth, and by presenting them faultless before the throne of God at the end. When that presentation takes place, the cry will echo round heaven that Jesus has truly glorified the Father.

Monday, 24 December 2012

Identifying the Traitor (13:26-30)

In reply to John’s question, Jesus intimated that he would give a piece of bread to the traitor, Judas Iscariot. It is possible that the other disciples did not hear this message that Jesus gave to John, which would explain why the other disciples did not understand the significance of Jesus’ action (v. 28).

For three years, Judas was highly privileged and shared in great purposes. He was privileged in the sense that he heard gracious teaching from Jesus and observed him perform wonderful miracles. He participated in great purposes because he was involved in helping Jesus. For example, he took part in the feeding of the 5,000 and when he was sent out with another disciple on mini preaching tours he experienced powerful signs as he preached.

Since Jesus was able to hand over the piece of bread without moving his position, some scholars suggest that Judas was sitting on the other side of Jesus from John. He certainly was very near physically to Jesus. Yet spiritually he was as far away from Jesus as possible.

Nevertheless we can see that Jesus was in control of events. He instructed Judas not to delay in his designs, indeed he is to do it quickly. Judas leaves the room, and John graphically notes that it was night, literally time wise, but spiritually true for Judas. 

As we think of Judas and his three years spent in the presence of Jesus listening to his teaching, we can see that Judas ignored many a warning from Jesus. Repeatedly Jesus addresses his disciples about the possibility of false discipleship. Judas did not listen and paid the penalty. He is a warning to us what a deaf ear can bring. 

John, on the other hand, is an example of the riches of God’s grace. He was not only saved, he was satisfied; he was not only receiving instruction, he was rewarded with intimacy. He is a picture of the happy state that grace can give.

Sunday, 23 December 2012

The intimacy of John (13:21-26)

The effect of Jesus’ words about Judas was confusion in the minds of the disciples because they could not imagine to which one of them Jesus was referring. Other Gospel accounts indicate that each was concerned in case Jesus was referring to him in particular. Peter, as we would expect, was not only confused; he was also curious to know which disciple Jesus had in mind. So he asked John, the disciple whom Jesus loved, to ask Jesus for more information. 

This particular relationship that John had with Jesus was a very precious one. Here are five details about it.

First, there were degrees of intimacy between Jesus and his disciples. We know that of the twelve there was an inner group of three (Peter, James and John), and of the three there was one who was closer to Jesus than the other two (John).

Second, the fact that Jesus loved John in a special way was not a reason for jealousy in the other disciples. Indeed it is possible that it was them who first called John by this name (the disciple whom Jesus loved), once they noted how intimate the relationship was. There is no suggestion that any of them objected to this display of divine favour. 

Third, recording this detail is not evidence of pride of John’s part when he, as the author of this Gospel, says that he had a special relationship with Jesus. Rather it is an expression of genuine wonder that he had been so favoured by Jesus.

Fourth, what reasons can be given for explaining this special relationship between Jesus and John? One possibility is that Jesus as a human had close friends. Another possibility is that Jesus and John were cousins; it can be argued from a comparison of John 19:25 and Mark 15:40 (the women at the cross) that Mary (Jesus’ mother) and Salome (John’s mother) were sisters. While these suggestions are valid, they do not explain the relationship. The only explanation is that it was a matter of divine choice.

Fifth, this divine privilege did not mean that John was not responsible for maintaining a right spiritual state in order to enjoy the relationship. In his case, as with the enjoyment of all spiritual blessings, there would have been confession of sin and faith in God’s promises. His response to Jesus here also points to other aspects: acceptance of Jesus’ sovereignty (Lord), approach marked by straightforwardness, acquiescence in serving another disciple (Peter), and anticipation of receiving an answer. 

Saturday, 22 December 2012

Jesus’ intense emotional life (13:21)

Jesus did not go through this difficult circumstance concerning his betrayal in a stoical attitude. Each step of his journey to the cross was a painful experience emotionally. He felt deeply the betrayal of a man to whom he had shown great friendship. This is a reminder of the reality of his humanity.

Jesus’ emotional response is also a reminder of the purity of his humanity. Jesus’ holy soul would be abhorred by the willingness of Judas to commit sin for financial gain. Judas knew that his action was a breaking of the sixth commandment; it was a failure to love his neighbour as himself. Jesus would have detested such an attitude.

And the incident is also a reminder of the perfection of his humanity. Jesus always responded to every situation in an appropriate way. He never over-reacted. If it was appropriate to show emotion, then Jesus showed it, as he did when Judas went away to betray him.  

Friday, 21 December 2012

Identifying the Betrayer (13:18-20)

As we read this passage, the first thought that comes to mind is the contrast between the attitudes of Jesus and Judas at this time. Jesus was determined to serve others, Judas was determined to benefit only himself. A second thought that may occur is the catastrophe that befell Judas. He must have had his reasons for initially following Jesus, some hopes that he was the one to liberate Israel from Roman rule. Judas probably had belonged to the extreme nationalist party of Jews. A third thought that may cross our minds is the control of God, linked to his secret dealings, arranging for Jesus to be betrayed. Fourthly, we are reminded here of the deity of Jesus, that the secrets of Judas’ heart were known to Christ.

Jesus informs his disciples that among them there is a traitor. There are several details in this intimation that are worth observing. Note the two reasons why Jesus gives this information: to show the accuracy of the Bible and to prove that he was the Messiah. Although the betrayal would be an evil act, that did not mean it would not be a spiritually profitable one if his disciples looked for the appropriate blessings. There is a principal here worth learning, which is that bad situations always indicate the truth of the Bible, and when these occasions occur, we should strengthen our faith in Christ as the Saviour. It would not have helped the disciples if the treachery of Judas caused them to doubt the word of God and the claims of Christ.

Of course, Jesus could have allowed events to unfold without telling his disciples. Their ignorance would not have affected the outcome, but it would have affected their sense of comfort. And Jesus did not want their souls to be troubled. To be forewarned is to be forearmed.

Jesus quotes from Psalm 41:9, which is a reference to Ahithophel who betrayed David by following Absalom. In that psalm David took his case to God, looking for comfort in a severe disappointment. We too can do the same when we are let down or betrayed, and not only can we draw near to God but we can also obtain sympathy and help from a Saviour who has passed through a similar experience. 

Jesus reveals to his disciples that he was aware of what Judas would do when he selected him as an apostle. This is a reminder that Jesus did everything with a view to his suffering on the cross. 

Thursday, 20 December 2012

The footwashing demands our imitation (John 13:15-17)

Jesus also gives a practical application of his action. As their Lord he commanded his disciples to imitate him by washing one another’s feet. He is not teaching a literal imitation, although that would be appropriate in hot countries. Rather he wants each of his disciples to be alert to potential defilement in other believers.

For example, James describes one such scenario in James 5:19-20: ‘My brothers, if anyone among you wanders from the truth and someone brings him back, let him know that whoever brings back a sinner from his wandering will save his soul from death and will cover a multitude of sins.’ Paul describes such activity in Romans 14:19: ‘So then let us pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding.’ If we see a fellow-Christian doing something that defiles him, it is our Christian responsibility to personally go and point out in a loving manner his situation. Sometimes we may need to involve others, but we cannot absolve our responsibility.

Are there any qualifications needed for foot washing? I would suggest three. First, we can only engage in foot washing after we have been cleansed ourselves (in both senses of cleansing at conversion and daily cleansing). Somebody with dirty hands cannot clean somebody else. Second, watch the temperature of the water as we foot wash the other person. It should not be too hot (with anger) or too cold (without love). Third, we should be willing to let others wash our feet.

Jesus says that engaging in foot washing is a route of spiritual blessing for his disciples: ‘If you know these things, blessed are you if you do them’ (John 13:17). 

Wednesday, 19 December 2012

The Foot Washing and our need of cleansing (13:6-11)

In the dialogue between Jesus and Peter we see that Jesus gave a particular interpretation of his footwashing. Before he does this he deals with the confusion of Peter.

In looking at the responses of Jesus to Peter we note his patient dealing with a dismayed disciple. Peter was shocked by Jesus’ behaviour. How could such a holy person as Jesus wash the feet of a sinful man? So Jesus gave him the assurance that later he would understand. In referring to this future time of understanding, Jesus probably refers to the days after the resurrection when much became clear to the disciples. Yet the principle also applies to believers receiving the answer in heaven concerning much that happened to them on earth. What Jesus is doing we do not understand now, but afterward we will understand.

We can also see in Peter’s response an example of a believer who uses his sense of his own unworthiness and sin to try and prevent the Lord dealing with that sin. The actions of Jesus were too gracious, and sometimes we can feel like that. Our awareness of our faults is so strong that we argue with the Lord’s promises of forgiveness and help instead of thankfully accepting them.

What happens to us when we do that? Probably similar to how Jesus dealt with Peter. The Saviour gave Peter a gentle warning that brought him back to his senses: ‘If I do not wash you, you have no share with me.’ These warnings usually take the form of loss of spiritual comfort until we realise our total dependence on the Saviour.

It is evident that Jesus intended spiritual truth to be illustrated in his actions. He distinguishes between a bath and a foot washing. If a person has a bath, he is clean. When he returns from a walk he does not need a bath, only a foot wash because of the dusty roads. Similarly, Peter already had been given a bath spiritually, so he only needed to wash his feet spiritually.

This spiritual bath occurs at conversion when a sinner is cleansed from the effects of his sin and is pardoned by God. This cleansing does not need to be repeated because the forgiveness that is given by God is never withdrawn by him. From this perspective, every believer on earth, although still a sinner, is as secure as the believers in heaven – both believers on earth and believers in heaven depend on Christ alone.

Yet the believer on earth comes in contact with the defiling things of the world in a similar way to how his feet make contact with the dirty dust. Sometimes he approaches these defiling things willingly, at other times unwillingly, at other times he is unaware that he has been defiled. Each time we pray, we should ask God for cleansing from defilement caused by our own folly, by defilement caused by accidental contact, and by defilement that we may not have noticed.

This action of Jesus depicts how he wishes to relate to each of his disciples. He draws near to cleanse us. If we resist his cleansing, we will not enjoy fellowship with him. Thinking about his action in the Upper Room, we can say that his cleansing will be comprehensive (all parts of the feet were cleaned), will be gentle, will remove all sign of the defilement. We should also note that this cleansing is evidence of his love – because he loves us he wants us to be clean.

Tuesday, 18 December 2012

The Foot Washing and divine humility (13:2-6)

It is important to note that John connects the footwashing by Jesus with his knowledge of his status and functions. His status was his pre-existence in heaven and his future glory in heaven; his function was that he was in control of all things, that he had been assigned this role by the heavenly Father. It is against the background of these high privileges that we are to see his humility.
This action of Jesus was not merely the action of a servant; rather, it was the duty of the lowest servant. None of the disciples seemed concerned about washing the feet of Jesus; after all they were the government in waiting. But the true king was delighted to wash their feet. Sometimes actions speak louder than words.
There is an important lesson from this incident for our Christian service. These men in the Upper Room were being trained for serving God. They needed an encounter with the humble Christ before they could understand how to serve God. And they needed to learn that the bigger the task (Calvary), the greater the humility. In all likelihood, Jesus was performing an acted parable for the benefit of his disciples. Jesus shows that pride has no place in the service of God. Before we can serve Jesus, we need to imitate the humble Jesus.

Monday, 17 December 2012

The Constant Love of Jesus (John 13:1)

One of the occasions that surprises people about Jesus and challenges his followers was when he washed his disciples’ feet, recorded in John 13. John gives a preface to the footwashing: ‘Now before the Feast of the Passover, when Jesus knew that his hour had come to depart out of this world to the Father, having loved his own who were in the world, he loved them to the end.’
Those who have read the Gospel of John from its beginning will note that John several times writes about an hour that had not arrived. Now he says that it has come. He also informs us that the only word that can describe what Jesus had done already for his disciples and what he was about to do for them is the word ‘love’.
Jesus had loved them before he met them face to face. His love was seen in the gentle and compassionate way he discipled them. He revealed his love by protecting them from spiritual danger. And he showed his love by his willing commitment to go the cross and pay the penalty their sins deserved.
His love for them at the time of the footwashing was remarkable, given their behaviour and interests. They were focussed on which of them should be the greatest. They also showed their ignorance of many basic lessons in the questions they asked Jesus. Yet he loved them and showed it by washing their feet and then going to the cross on their behalf.
What does this mean for us? Here are some suggestions. First, Jesus is totally committed to completing in our lives the work of grace that he commenced. Just as these disciples had their quirks and failures, so have we. But Jesus will not let us go – because he loves us.
Second, Jesus has loved us with the various aspects of love that he displayed to his disciples. He loved us with pity when we were in our sins and came to save us. On the day he met with us, his love was marked by great joy. Since then he has, in love, gently and compassionately taught us how to live the Christian life and he has protected us by his loving intercession on our behalf in God’s presence. Each believer is surrounded by the love of Jesus.
Third, how long will Jesus love us? He will love us through every trial that comes our way; whatever else may cease, the love of Jesus will not. He will love us unto the end of our earthly journey; he will be there to warm our hearts as we sense the cold touch of death and he will be there to embrace us the moment we breathe the pure air of heaven. He will love us for ever in the presence of the Father.
Fourth, Jesus loved us to the limits when he took our place on the cross. His voluntary sacrificial death is the grandest display of love that can ever be revealed. It was in this display of love that Paul gloried because he followed ‘the Son of God who loved me and gave himself for me’.

Sunday, 16 December 2012

Blessings of loving Jesus sincerely (6:24)

I only want to mention two of the many blessings that are given to those who love Jesus in this way. The first is divine visits. Jesus said in John 14:21: ‘Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him.’ The Saviour makes himself known to those who love him sincerely.

The second blessing is answered prayer. In John 16:26-27, Jesus taught his disciples: ‘In that day you will ask in my name, and I do not say to you that I will ask the Father on your behalf; for the Father himself loves you, because you have loved me and have believed that I came from God.’ In this verse, Jesus states a reason, among many, why the Father loves the disciples: it is because they have loved Jesus and believed in him. The Father does not have to be persuaded to answer their prayers, he delights to do so. 

The challenge that comes to us as we reach the end of our readings in Ephesians, with its great descriptions of divine blessing and Christian living, is, ‘Am I a sincere lover of Jesus Christ?’ If we are, we are as we should be. Yet we should recall that the church which received this letter was later told by the risen Christ that it had left its first love (Rev. 2:4).

Saturday, 15 December 2012

Sincere love to Jesus (6:24)

Paul concludes his letter by highlighting the importance of love in the Christian life. Such love expresses itself on different levels, but here is its highest plane. What are the ingredients of a sincere or incorruptible love for Jesus?

Sincere love to Jesus is a penitent love because we are sinners. As his people we fail him many times, yet his love does not change. This was Peter’s experience after his disastrous fall when he denied the Saviour. On the resurrection morning, the loving Saviour gave to Peter a special meeting, the details of which are unknown. But I am sure that Peter has never forgotten them. A few weeks later, Jesus enquired publicly of Peter if he still loved him (John 21). He did not want from Peter pledges of service, but a declaration of love.

Sincere love to Jesus is a humble love. Who are we that he, the Prince of Glory, should love us? A sincere lover of Jesus never loses sight of where he or she came from. We are unworthy of his love, therefore we should be humble.

Sincere love to Jesus is a grateful love. If the recognition of where we came from should keep us humble, the anticipation of what where we are going to should make us grateful. We are journeying to the better country along a road paved with the love of Christ. Let us love him with gratitude.

Sincere love to Jesus is an admiring love. The story is told of a general’s wife who had offended the emperor and was facing death for her crime. Her husband pled for her life and offered to die in her place. The emperor agreed to pardon her. When the husband and wife were together, he commented on the graciousness of the emperor. She replied that her eyes had been only on the man who was prepared to die for her. In a far higher sense, our love should be on the Man who was not only prepared to die for us, but did give his life as our ransom. Admire him. We live in a world which has no heroes. But we have a Hero. Admire his strengths, his commitment, his love.

Sincere love to Jesus is also a devoted love. Jesus said of the woman who anointed him with costly perfume that she loved much because she was forgiven much. We, too, have been forgiven much. Don’t give to Jesus the spare hours of your life. Give him your heart, your soul, your mind, your strength at all times.

Sincere love to Jesus loves him supremely. It cannot tolerate any rival. When they come tantalisingly towards him, the sincere lover bids them to go away. Rival suitors may not be sinful in themselves, but they become sinful if they take the place of Jesus. Christians often complain that their love to Jesus has grown colder; perhaps it is because their interests are somewhere else than on him. Give him first place in your affections.

Friday, 14 December 2012

Paul’s Benediction (6:23-24)

Paul is completing his farewells and now gives his benediction to his readers.  He first mentions three blessings – peace, love and faith – although he seems to combine the last two, which may indicate that he has two blessings in mind: peace and trusting love. He also mentions the divine source – God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. This is a reminder of the equality between the Father and the Son and of the harmony with which they work together for the benefit of their people.

His benediction reminds us that we do not primarily receive peace or strengthen our faith or stimulate our love by looking within ourselves. Rather we receive them by looking away from ourselves to the Father and to the Son. This reminder is particularly appropriate for today because we can be tempted to look for strength and recovery in other things. Here is Paul’s strategy for successful spiritual living – ‘Look away from yourselves and your abilities and gifts and look instead at the abilities and gifts of the Father and the Son.’

Firstly, we receive peace from contemplating the character of God and our faith/love is increased as a result. The character of God is composed of his attributes, of which there are many. We know that he is loving, holy, righteous, faithful, almighty, wise, omnipresent and all-knowing, to name some of them. When a believer takes any of these attributes and thinks biblically about them, he should experience inner peace and know reviving of love and faith. For example, God’s love for him is eternal, personal, enduring, consistent, and maintained with full knowledge of his sinfulness. Thinking about these aspects results in peace, and is followed by increased trust and responsive love. It would be a useful spiritual exercise to think of one attribute of the Father on a daily basis and see how our spirituality is changed.

Secondly, we receive peace from considering the person and work of Christ and our faith/love is increased as a result. Christ’s divine person has the same attributes as the Father, although revealed in different ways, particularly through his work of salvation. The love of Jesus towards each one of his people is eternal, personal, enduring, consistent, and maintained with full knowledge of his or her sinfulness. We can view that love through his work. In the past eternity, he embraced his people as a gift from the Father; he loved each of them individually; his love endured throughout his sufferings and is overflowing now that he is glorified; he still loves each of them still on earth although he has full knowledge of their sins. Thinking about these aspects results in peace, and is followed by increased trust and responsive love. It would be a useful spiritual exercise to think of one attribute of Jesus on a daily basis as well and see how our spirituality is changed.

Thursday, 13 December 2012

Tychicus (6:21-22)

In the Bible, there are many unsung heroes who are mentioned briefly in different places. One example is Tychicus, whom Paul describes in verse 21 as ‘the beloved brother and faithful minister in the Lord’.

These are a wonderful combination of graces, and their wonder is enhanced when we recall that the relationship of Paul and Tychicus illustrates what Jesus had done in bringing Jews and Gentiles together (Eph. 2:11-17). In their pre-Christian days Paul and Tychicus would have had nothing to do with one another. Now their lives were entwined.

Tychicus is Paul’s beloved brother. Obviously, this reminds us that Christians belong to the same family, that they are the children of God. We noted, when considering Ephesians 1:5, that adoption into God’s family is the height of spiritual blessing. The basic outlook of a family is love and that is true of God’s family. Love is expressed towards God and is also expressed towards one another.

Tychicus was dear to Paul because he saw true love displayed by his friend. Connected to this delight that Paul experienced was his awareness that Tychicus was dependable, revealing his trustworthiness as he functioned as Paul’s faithful minister. Each of them had individual roles to perform as servants of Christ, and Paul affirms that Tychicus did his role well.

It may be useful to ask ourselves two questions. The first is, ‘What do we say about other Christians?’ Do we highlight their positive contributions or their failures? Connected to that first question is a second one, which is perhaps more searching: ‘What would another Christian say about us based on the way we interact with them?’

Wednesday, 12 December 2012

Paul – his calling (6:19-20)

The function of an ambassador was well-known to Paul’s readers because each city state, as well as larger geographical areas, would have ambassadors in other places. These ambassadors had a similar role to their namesakes in modern times.  What are some of their actions that would be duplicated in a Christian minister?

An ambassador would often recall his commission because it was a high honour to receive it. This is the case with those whom Jesus selects as his public servants and is a role that requires gratitude and an awareness of one’s natural unsuitability for the task. Paul rehearsed his original commission on several occasions and he never forgot that he was called by Christ to serve him in a special manner. Paul never forgot that he was an ambassador of Jesus Christ.

The task of an ambassador is to represent his master, therefore he speaks with his authority. This representation is the responsibility of all of Christ’s servants; they represent him and speak with his authority. His authority is not found in his eloquence, his erudition or his energy. Speakers can have these features and pass on a message of destruction. Rather the authority is found primarily in what they say.

The message of an ambassador is a repetition of his master’s words. The ambassador did not devise his own message nor did he adjust his master’s message without his permission. Instead he passed on exactly the same message that he received. It is similar with the Christian ambassador.  He obeys the Great Commission, which includes ‘teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you’ (Matt. 28:20).

The ambassador would argue for a response. He was determined that his master’s word would be accepted by the listeners. If it was a warning, he would speak sternly; if it was an offer of peace, he would speak gently. The Christian ambassador has a message that contains both warnings of future judgment and offers of peace, and he entreats his listeners to accept his word (2 Cor. 5:20).

There is one crucial difference between the Christian ambassador and other types of agents. Christ speaks through his messenger, he is the active speaker addressing the audience. This means that a sermon is an encounter between Christ and sinners. But it is more, for in the sermon Jesus is changing his listeners, opening their hearts to receive the message. Paul describes this reality in his words in 1 Thessalonians 2:13: ‘And we also thank God constantly for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers.’  

Tuesday, 11 December 2012

Paul – his chains (6:19-20)

Paul had many roles as an apostle of Jesus Christ and he stresses one of them here, that of an ambassador. This is the second time he has used this concept, the other being 2 Corinthians 5:20: ‘Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.’

He describes himself here as an ambassador in chains. He may be saying that his chains are the equivalent of an ambassador’s chains of office that he wore to indicate his authority to speak for his master. Paul regarded these chains as being put round his neck by Jesus Christ; he saw them as badges of honour.

These chains were also a reminder of the price he had paid to be an ambassador of Jesus Christ. In political and civil actions, an ambassador was treated with great respect, even if the countries were not on friendly terms. But the ambassador of the King of kings had been mistreated and despised. He had paid a heavy price for his faithfulness.

Or it could be that Paul is here describing the location where he functioned as an ambassador. Usually ambassadors functioned in palaces or in the presence of the leaders. They operated in the places of power. Yet the Lord Jesus, the universal king, had sent his ambassador to serve him in the lowest place on earth.

Again, Paul may be saying that earthly chains cannot prevent him functioning as an ambassador of Christ. The civil and religious authorities may have tried to silence him, but they were not able to do so. There was nothing they could do, as long as he was alive, to prevent him functioning as Christ’s ambassador.

Monday, 10 December 2012

Paul – his priority (6:19-20)

It is noticeable that Paul does not ask his readers to pray for his release. This does not mean that Paul did not expect to be freed. We see his attitude in Philippians 1:20-23, a letter that was also written during this same imprisonment. He says: ‘it is my eager expectation and hope that I will not be at all ashamed, but that with full courage now as always Christ will be honoured in my body, whether by life or by death.  For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.  If I am to live in the flesh, that means fruitful labour for me. Yet which I shall choose I cannot tell.  I am hard pressed between the two. My desire is to depart and be with Christ, for that is far better.’

Paul’s priority was not release but the fulfilment of his calling. It is the case that in the letter to the Philippians he expresses optimism that he will be released in order to continue to build up God’s people: ‘I know that through your prayers and the help of the Spirit of Jesus Christ this will turn out for my deliverance…. But to remain in the flesh is more necessary on your account. Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith,  so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again’ (Phil. 1:19, 23-26). 

Similarly, in a letter to Philemon in Colosse, which was probably taken on this journey by Tychicus, Paul anticipated being freed: ‘At the same time, prepare a guest room for me, for I am hoping that through your prayers I will be graciously given to you’ (Phil. 22).

Paul’s concern was that he would be tempted to take things easy and not continue the role that Christ had given to him, which was to declare a message. His response is a reminder that difficult circumstances are not obstacles to fulfilling one’s calling, rather they are opportunities.

Sunday, 9 December 2012

Paul – his problem (6:19-20)

Paul makes it clear that he has a problem with his speech. This difficulty may have been his lack of natural ability in speaking. After all, he had been despised by members of the church in Corinth because they regarded his speech as contemptible (2 Cor. 10:10).

Yet it is clear that Paul’s circumstances were liable to have an effect on him. He was experiencing imprisonment, with the prospect of having to appear before Caesar at a trial. The temptation must have been there to tone down his testimony and thereby escape punishment. Such a temptation comes to many Christians in times of difficulty. Paul stresses that his concern is not so much that he would speak fluently as that he would speak boldly, which suggests that his problem was a lack of boldness.

This is a reminder that Paul, although he was called to serve Christ in a particular way and in a public manner, was like us. When he first went to Corinth, the Lord assured him: ‘Do not be afraid, but go on speaking and do not be silent,  for I am with you, and no one will attack you to harm you, for I have many in this city who are my people’ (Acts 19:9-10). Paul later reveals his feelings when in Corinth: ‘I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling’ (1 Cor. 2:3).  When he was sent to Rome for trial, which led to his current imprisonment, God sent an angel to Paul to tell him, ‘Do not be afraid, Paul; you must stand before Caesar. And behold, God has granted you all those who sail with you’ (Acts 27:24). Paul was often afraid, but he knew what to do when he felt fear.

Paul’s response was to call on prayer support. A Christian worker cannot function in spiritual isolation, although it is possible for him to function in physical isolation. Paul, feeling the pressure, called in the troops and implored that they would intercede for them.

We could ask, Was Paul able to pray for himself, and would his prayers not be sufficient? The answer is that he had to engage in intense personal prayer as if he were the only one interceding. Yet the Lord, in his merciful way, ensures that we remain humble as we proceed along the path of grace. If Paul achieved deliverance and victory through his own prayers, he could have had a sense of achievement. So Jesus encourages his servants to appreciate the prayers of others by giving greater answers to corporate prayer.

Saturday, 8 December 2012

Fourth and fifth features of praying in the Spirit (6:18-20)

We are thinking about five features of praying in the Spirit that Paul mentions in these verses and have already noted three of them: such prayers will be scriptural, submissive and will include all of God’s people. Today, we can think about two more features.

The fourth feature of praying in the Spirit is steadfastness. Paul uses two words in making this emphasis. First, each believer needs to be alert, and secondly, each believer must persevere in praying. This is a reminder that praying in the Spirit is neither automatic nor easy. It requires resolve and dedication. Of course, this steadfastness comes from the Spirit, but we have to continually ask for it. There are many things that can divert us from persisting to pray in the Spirit.

The fifth feature of such praying is the inclusion of specific prayers. Paul gives a personal request concerning his preaching of the gospel. At the very least, his example is a reminder that we should ask other Christians to pray for us. It is a sign of spiritual immaturity not to ask for the prayers of the Lord’s people.

Mutual prayer is a feature of the Christian armour. In a sense it is the call of each Christian soldier to other soldiers in the same army to cry to God for help. Each soldier as a role to play and he or she needs the support of others in prayer. This is an important role, of praying for those in other positions. It is a means of participation in the ministry of others.

We have seen five aspects of praying in the Spirit. No doubt, there are others. But our lives will grow spiritually if these aspects become features that mark our prayers.

Friday, 7 December 2012

Third feature of praying in the Spirit (6:18-20)

We are thinking about five features of praying in the Spirit that Paul mentions in these verses and have already noted two of them: such prayers will be scriptural and submissive.

The third feature of praying in the Spirit is its spread or extent, expressed here by Paul as praying for all God’s people. This aspect is connected to the great doctrine of adoption into God’s family. When we come into his presence and say to him, ‘Abba, Father,’ we are aware that we have brothers and sisters throughout the world. It is automatic to think of family members when we meet our parents or see photographs of them. Similarly, thinking of the Father leads us to think of his children.

It is the case that we will only meet in this life a very small percentage of God’s people in our own country, never mind the many millions of them throughout the rest of the world. Nevertheless, it is part of God’s revealed will that every Christian should pray for all other Christians.

Inevitably, this type of prayer will focus mainly on areas such as their growth in grace. Of course, we should pray for numerical growth as well. We can do this at a denominational level and pray for each congregation regularly. We can do this at an international level by reading Christian magazines that give details of what is happening in various countries. We can do this by watching the news programmes and noting areas of the world where there are problems and praying for Christians in these places.

These prayers will be answered by God and we will see one day, probably in heaven, the way in which God used these prayers to further his kingdom. 

Thursday, 6 December 2012

Second feature of praying in the Spirit (6:18-20)

We are thinking about five features of praying in the Spirit that Paul mentions in these verses and noted yesterday that the first feature is that such prayers will be scriptural. The second feature of praying in the Spirit is submissiveness to the sovereignty of God.

In the Bible, there are great promises concerning asking God to act on behalf of his people. It is possible for believers to focus only on the content of such promises and fail to take into account that God may choose, for his glory and their good, not to answer their prayer as they would wish. It is well-known that prayer can be answered by (1) yes, (2) by yes but not yet, (3) by yes but in a different way, and by (4) no.

Each of these types of answers is seen in Paul’s experience. The first aspect is seen, for example, in his prayer that the father of Publius be healed (Acts 28:8); the second is seen, for example, in the prayer of Paul for Israel to be converted (Rom 10:1); the third is seen, for example, in the way that Paul eventually reached Rome (Rom. 15:32); the fourth is seen in Paul’s request that the thorn in the flesh be removed (2 Cor. 12:7-9).

Connected to this aspect of submission in prayer is the intercession of the Spirit that Paul mentions in Romans 8:26-27. In these verses, Paul informs his readers that they can never offer a prayer that is completely accurate because inevitably there are aspects connected to it of which they are ignorant. For example, a Christian concludes that the Lord has called him to full-time service as a missionary in a foreign land. He focuses on a particular country and prays about it, but eventually he finds himself in another country. What has happened? He prayed for preparation for one particular place, but his prayer was marked by ignorance about his future location; yet each time he prayed for preparation, the Spirit was interceding that he be prepared for work in the country that God had planned for him. The four possible ways of receiving answers to prayer that are mentioned in the preceding paragraph occur because of the intercession of the Spirit as well as by the Father’s sovereignty and the Son’s mediation.

Wednesday, 5 December 2012

First feature of praying in the Spirit (6:18-20)

Over this and the next few readings I want to mention briefly some features of praying in the Spirit. The first feature to note is that such prayer will be scriptural. By this I mean that the Christian who prays in this way has learned to pray from the examples of prayer that are given in the Bible.

In Ephesians 1:15-19 and 3:14-19 are two prayers by Paul for his readers (it has been noted that 31 of the 155 verses in Ephesians are connected to prayer). Recall what he prayed for. In the first prayer, he asks that God would give to the Ephesian Christians a greater knowledge of himself that would lead them to know three spiritual blessings: their hope, the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and the immeasurable greatness of his power. These are marvellous requests to use when interceding for one another. I wonder what the result would be if each of us were to pray throughout this week that every person in our church would experience these three blessings.

In the second prayer, Paul asks God to strengthen his readers by the Spirit to enable them know in their inner lives the surpassing greatness of Christ’s love. That, too, is a great request to make for one another.

There are prayers of Paul in each of his letters, and they are models to us in how to pray. Another scriptural set of prayers is the psalms. In them, there are prayers of doxology, prayers of thanksgiving, prayers of intercession, and prayers of confession of sin. It is appropriate for us to take these psalms and make them our own prayers. For example, when we are confessing our sin, we can use the words of Psalm 51. We probably will not be guilty of the sins that David had committed in connection to this psalm, but we can use his words to express how we feel about our own sins. The Spirit gave these prayers to his people for them to use when praying.

Tuesday, 4 December 2012

Who prays this kind of prayer? (6:18-20)

Paul here exhorts the Ephesian Christians to pray ‘in the Spirit’ at all times. Therefore, he is not suggesting a special kind of prayer that is limited to a few Christians who have attained an advanced standing as believers; rather he is referring to the only kind of true prayer there is. Any other kind of prayer is not Christian prayer.

To be ‘in the Spirit’ is a Pauline description of what it means to be a Christian. He writes in Romans 8:9: ‘You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.’ In that verse Paul states that there are only two kinds of people on the earth, those in the flesh and those in the Spirit.

Elsewhere Paul mentions several Christian outlooks that only exist because believers are ‘in the Spirit’. The attitude of love is depicted in Colossians 1:7-8: Epaphras ‘is a faithful minister of Christ on your behalf  and has made known to us your love in the Spirit’. The practice of Christian fellowship is described in Philippians 2:1: ‘So if there is any encouragement in Christ, any comfort from love, any participation in the Spirit, any affection and sympathy, complete my joy by being of the same mind, having the same love, being in full accord and of one mind.’ In Galatians 5 Paul twice uses the phrase ‘walk in the Spirit’: in verse 16 he encourages his readers when he writes: ‘Walk in the Spirit, and ye shall not fulfil the lust of the flesh’; in verse 25 he concludes his contrast between the works of the flesh and the fruit of the Spirit by saying, ‘If we live in the Spirit, let us also walk in the Spirit.’

Paul has already referred in this letter to various blessings connected to the presence of the Holy Spirit in believers. The Spirit is the mark of divine ownership, that they belong to God and are protected by him (Eph. 1:13). Connected to this is the fact that his presence is the guarantee to each believer that he or she will receive the promised inheritance (1:14). In the Spirit, all believers have access to the Father (2:18). In or by the Spirit, God dwells in his church (2:22). The Spirit has greatly privileged New Testament believers by revealing to them aspects of truth that was not revealed so fully to Old Testament believers (3:5). His indwelling gives to believers the power or capability to know experientially the love of Christ (3:16ff.). He is the means of unity among Christians of different racial and social backgrounds (4:3-4). Sadly, it is possible for Christians to grieve him by their wilful sins (4:30). Instead of grieving him, believers should be controlled by him (5:18). He has also given them his word as the sword to use to defeat the attacking powers of darkness (6:17). It is clear that every Christian activity is performed in the Spirit.

Every Christian can and must be filled by the Spirit, can and must walk in the Spirit, and can and must pray in the Spirit.

Monday, 3 December 2012

The War Cry of the Christian Soldier (6:18-20)

We now come to the final item that is needed in the Christian battle, an item that is the equivalent of the soldier’s battle cry, which Paul says is prayer. Concerning this item Paul first describes prayer before mentioning an important aspect of it, which is intercession for others.

Not all commentators agree that prayer is part of the armour. Yet verses 14-20 are one sentence, suggesting there is a connection between the pieces of armour and the prayer. Further, the previous piece of armour is called the sword of the Spirit, which also indicates a connection because prayer is in the Spirit.

As we recall what Paul has said about spiritual conflict, we remember that he told the Christians to fight the battle in the Lord’s power, and then detailed the various pieces of armour. The list of what the Lord has provided is both encouraging and daunting: encouraging because each piece is an effective one against the devil’s onslaughts; daunting because we need supernatural strength to wear each piece. This is where prayer comes in because it is the means by which we ensure that we can utilise each piece of armour. What does it involve?

First, since the battle is ongoing, we need to pray without ceasing; even if we are for the moment not being attacked, some of our fellow soldiers are being attacked and we should pray for them.

Second, since the enemy can attack any part of our spirituality, we must pray over each piece of armour very frequently. Our minds should consider the state of our affections, the stability of our location, the extent of our vision regarding future salvation, our ability to hold up the shield of faith, and our skill with the sword of the Spirit, the word of God.

Third, we have noticed, as we considered the various pieces of armour, that there is a close connection between the prophetic descriptions of the Messiah’s armour (Isa. 59) and his people’s armour. As we look at the Saviour’s life recorded in the Gospels, we note his constant recourse to prayer. If the sinless Saviour, who was indwelt in great measure by the Spirit of God, had to pray, how much more we who are sinful?

Sunday, 2 December 2012

Jesus and the use of the Sword of the Spirit (6:17b)

The best example of using the Bible against the devil was given by Jesus when he was tempted in the desert. Three times he was tempted and on each occasion he rebutted the devil by citing an appropriate Bible passage. In what ways was Jesus tempted?

First, Jesus was tempted to abuse his relationship with his Father. At his recent baptism, Jesus had been publicly declared to be the Son of God. The devil refers to this and suggests that Jesus could use this relationship to his own advantage by changing stones into bread to alleviate his hunger. Satan had deduced that the Saviour was hungry and framed the temptation around this need. Jesus responded by quoting the verse that said that man does not live by bread alone but by every word that proceeds from the mouth of God. Situations of need are times when the devil can tempt. For example, he can suggest that it is appropriate to steal in order to meet a need because God will forgive such behaviour. That is twisting the revealed will of God.

Second, Jesus was tempted by the devil misusing a verse of scripture, from Psalm 91. Satan suggested to Jesus that he should throw himself of the heights of the temple because God had promised to send angels to catch him. To see the devil with the Bible in his mouth is a most surprising and a most dangerous situation. Paul warns that Satan can appear as an angel of light.  In order to rebut such temptations, we need to know the context of Bible passages. The devil has sown great confusion in the church by causing people to take words out of context.

Third, Jesus was tempted with great promises. Satan said he would give to Jesus the kingdoms of the world, but at a price. The cost would be to worship the devil. This must have been appalling to the holy Saviour and he responded by affirming that he would only worship God. The devil offers to us great things, but there is always a sting in the tail. The way to reject his offers is to apply the principle that we only want that which is helpful to our worship of God.