Category: Bible Commentary

Two and Only Two

Commentary on Matthew 3:10-12

Mat 3:10-12 NKJV And even now the ax is laid to the root of the trees. Therefore every tree which does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire. 11 I indeed baptize you with water unto repentance, but He who is coming after me is mightier than I, whose sandals I am not worthy to carry. He will baptize you with the Holy Spirit and fire. 12 His winnowing fan is in His hand, and He will thoroughly clean out His threshing floor, and gather His wheat into the barn, but He will burn up the chaff with unquenchable fire.”

Two and Only Two
● Over and over and over again, the Scriptures tell us there are only two possible destinies for men: Heaven or hell; barn or burn.
● As stated elsewhere, God does not repeat Himself just because He likes to hear the sound of His own voice. No. God repeats Himself to emphasize the importance of something; and the more often something is repeated, the more important it is for us to pay attention.
● Some of the additional passages which teach that there are but two final ends, two types of people are the following:
Matthew 7:13-14————————- Wide Gate/Narrow Gate
Matthew 7:24-27————————- Wise/Foolish Builders
Matthew 12:30—————————- With/Against Christ
Matthew 13:38—————————- Sons of God/Sons of the Devil
Matthew 13:40-43———————– Burn/Shine
Matthew 25:1-13————————- In/Out
● The above (see related notes) are those found only in Matthew. There are a number of other similar passages in Scripture (some repeating Matthew) which also teach the principle that there are only two destinies possible, not one, not three or more, two. There is no Purgatory, no reincarnation, and no mandatory heaven for all.
● See also, 1st Corinthians 1:18; Exodus 8:23 (and note to same: “God’s Sovereignty in Election.”

1Co 1:18 NKJV For the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

1:18 The Message of the Cross
• “For the preaching of the cross is foolishness…”
Spiritual understanding of God and His works is rooted in faithful acceptance of the reality, fact, or truthfulness of those works, even without understanding of the actual mechanics involved in their completion or, a complete understanding of the “why” of them. That is why the preaching, [message] of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing. They cannot accept by faith the truth of God and/or of His works because they cannot understand the mechanics of nor the necessity of them.
Only Two
• Just as there are only two responses to the message of the cross:
Reject them as foolishness. Or, 2.) Embrace them as power for salvation. There are only two kinds of persons:
1.) Those who are perishing and 2.) Those who are being saved.
• There are only two kinds of people in the world – Lost and Saved!
• See also Matthew 3:12 and note: “Two and Only Two.”

Exo 8:23 NKJV I will make a difference between My people and your people. Tomorrow this sign shall be.” ‘ ”

8:23 GOD’S SOVEREIGNTY IN ELECTION
• By making a distinction between His people and the Egyptians, God is doing two things:
1. He is exercising His sovereignty over mankind in election of one people over another
2. He is teaching the spiritual truth that there are in fact only two kinds of people in the world – God’s people and the rest; saved/unsaved, elect/non-elect, sheep/goats, children of God/children of the devil. S
• See also Matthew 3:12 and note – “Two and Only Two.”

Answers to FB Questions

I’ve been in a dialog with a FB friend whom I also know somewhat in person (she’s the friend of a friend from Phoenix).  She is a fellow Christian but holds to the Arminian heresies regarding the Gospel and Salvation.  Following are her Original Post (OP) and my answers to her.

“Here are some issues I don’t think you’ve clearly addressed regarding Calvinism. Or maybe you have, but not to me. If God has already decided who’s saved and who isn’t, how does your reaching out and evangelizing make any difference? Even if a person never heard about the Bible, wouldn’t that person still go to heaven because God predestined it? Why do you need to preach? And if nothing happens outside of God’s will, why try to stop abortions? Or stop anything? If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right? And lastly, why do you get upset with non-Christians? If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways? Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but. And why does God only love a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone. That’s a sad way to view God… Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved? He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.”

And here are my replies.

First reply:

Michael Fernandez Those are some good, though common objections/questions Abra. I will see what I can do in this limited format, however, if you would be willing to PM me your mailing address, I would like to send you a free copy of a small book called the “The Five Dilemmas of Calvinism” by Craig R. Brown. Also, I would recommend the following online resources that are also ‘free’ to download.
1.) A.W. Pink’s “The Sovereignty of God” which addresses each of your questions/objections. It can be found here:
http://www.reformed.org/books/pink/index.html

2.) Lorraine Boettner’s, “The Reformed Doctrine of Predestination” the book that I first read in hard cover format that revealed to me that I had already become a Calvinist even while not knowing what a Calvinist or Calvinism was. This book can be accessed here:
https://www.monergism.com/reformed-doctrine…

Ok, now to work on my own answers, humble though they may be in comparison to the above works. I will present them when I have finished writing them which I hope will be tonight or tomorrow.

And here is my longer second reply:

To begin, let’s enumerate your questions and see if they have any commonalities.

  1. If God has already decided who’s saved and who isn’t, how does your reaching out and evangelizing make any difference?
    1. Even if a person never heard about the Bible, wouldn’t that person still go to heaven because God predestined it?
    2. Why do you need to preach?
  2. And if nothing happens outside of God’s will,
    1. why try to stop abortions?
    2. Or [try to stop] anything?
  3. If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right?
  4. Why do you get upset with non-Christians?
    1. If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways?
    2. Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but.
  5. And why does God love only a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone.
    1. That’s a sad way to view God.
  6. Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved? He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.

Questions 1 and 2 including their sub sections, are related in that they ask “why” do we, you, me, Believers in general do certain things if the outcome is already predetermined or predestined.  Well, the simplest and yet most profound answer is because God tells us to do so.  He tells us to reach out, to evangelize, to preach, to warn, and that He does so is, or should be sufficient cause for us to do so.  Now does that mean we can’t seek to understand more fully the reason(s) why, if such a reason (or reasons) was comprehensible to us?  No, on the contrary we should always be seeking to know more about our Lord and God that we might both fear and love Him for the Great and Awesome God that He is.
So, yes, we preach, evangelize, we reach out to the lost, even knowing that the number of those who will be saved is already fixed.  But, while God knows who will and will not be saved, we don’t.  Further, just as God has predestined His elect for salvation, He as also predestined the means by which they will be saved.  We find this in Romans.

Rom 10:13-17 HCSB

(13)  For everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.

(14)  But how can they call on Him they have not believed in? And how can they believe without hearing about Him? And how can they hear without a preacher?

(15)  And how can they preach unless they are sent? As it is written: How beautiful are the feet of those who announce the gospel of good things!

(16)  But all did not obey the gospel. For Isaiah says, Lord, who has believed our message?

(17)  So faith comes from what is heard, and what is heard comes through the message about Christ.

 

Note if you will, this brief passage answers all the first two main and sub questions. Our reaching out with the Gospel does make a difference because God causes it to, verse 14, 15.  Compare this also with 1st Corinthians 3:5-7 HCSB

(5)  What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? They are servants through whom you believed, and each has the role the Lord has given.

(6)  I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth.

(7)  So then neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

So, you see, the means, preaching is determined by God to be the means He wishes to use, while at the same time not leaving the result in our feeble hands.

The Romans 10 passage also deals with those who never hear the Gospel question, asking the rhetorical question, how shall they call on Him in whom they don’t believe?  And how shall they believe in Him of whom they’ve never heard?  The answer, of course is, “They can’t,” just that plain and simple.  In short, God not only predetermines the end result but also the means to that end.

Now to question 2 and it’s related subsections, “And if nothing happens outside of God’s will,

  1. Why try to stop abortions?
  2. Or [try to stop] anything?”

That’s a good question.  The primary reason, imo, is that as we (believers) are called to be salt and light in this sin filled world –

Mat 5:13-16 HCSB

(13)  “You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt should lose its taste, how can it be made salty? It’s no longer good for anything but to be thrown out and trampled on by men.

(14)  “You are the light of the world. A city situated on a hill cannot be hidden.

(15)  No one lights a lamp and puts it under a basket, but rather on a lampstand, and it gives light for all who are in the house.

(16)  In the same way, let your light shine before men, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father in heaven.

 

  • We have a duty to act, to strive against the influences of the dark. Now we know that salt does two things well, it act as a preservative of food, to slow down the decay, and it adds savor to foods, increasing our delight in them.  It also does another thing, it can be used to cleans a wound, or aggravate one, i.e. cause irritation.  Now in the spiritual realm, we are to be salt. We are to act a preserving agents, preserving or defending against moral decay/corruption in our societies/communities.  We are also to show, by our manner of living and enjoying life in Christ, that there is great joy to be found in the Christian life.  Furthermore, knowing the irritating quality of salt on wounds, we know that our message and lifestyle will cause discomfort to those lost in sin when we are acting our part as salt in their presence.  These qualities are used by God in two manners. 1.- To cause the elect to become so uncomfortable in their sin that they begin to seek some relief, preparing them to receive the Gospel.  – To harden the non-elect in their sin, making them more antagonistic toward the Gospel and its Author.  The reality of the sun and its light and how it affects clay and wax comes to mind.  The same sun that hardens clay, (non-elect), softens wax (the elect).  The difference being in what they are made of.  All people begin as clay, sin loving, God hating, clay.  But when God regenerates them, giving them a new heart or nature, they are transformed into wax, and now, instead of being hardened by the sun (the Gospel) they become softened, receptive to it.

Likewise, light.  We strive against the sins of the world just as light strives against the darkness. Where there is light, darkness cannot remain.  We strive against abortion and other moral darkness to bring light in their place.

How does this relate to God God’s will?  First it is God’s will that we be salt and light and act accordingly.  Second, goes back to the fact that God not only ordains the ends, but also the means to accomplish said ends.  Scipture teaches this principal that if we don’t preach the Gospel, the stones themselves would do so. Luk 19:39-40 HCSB

(39)  Some of the Pharisees from the crowd told Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”

(40)  He answered, “I tell you, if they were to keep silent, the stones would cry out!”

 

Now to your 3rd question. “If God predestined an abortion, it’ll happen regardless, right?”  That is a difficult question to answer in a short manner.  In a way, the answer is yes.  But at the same time, we have to be careful about this.  While nothing happens outside of God’s will, whether decretive or permissive, God is never the author of sin, which abortion is.  Sinful women kill their babies and commit all manner of other sins, just as sinful men rape women, and commit all manner of other sins.  Sinners sin, that’s in their nature.  Now, God, while not being the author of sin, does allow it to happen for His own purposes, according to His Divine Wisdom, and for His Ultimate Praise and Glory.  As to abortion, we, not knowing God’s ultimate plan for any individual, must strive against it.  We may be successful or we may fail, either result according to His will.  We don’t know but that by allowing a specific abortion, God prevented a greater evil from happening.  Moreover, believing that all infants who die are received immediately into glory, God may have kept that particular soul from a life of sin.  Consider for example the decree that the Israelites should go to the Amalekites and kill every last man, woman, and Child.  1Sa 15:2-3 HCSB

(2)  This is what the LORD of Hosts says: ‘I witnessed what the Amalekites did to the Israelites when they opposed them along the way as they were coming out of Egypt.

(3)  Now go and attack the Amalekites and completely destroy everything they have. Do not spare them. Kill men and women, children and infants, oxen and sheep, camels and donkeys.'”

 

Why would a loving God who wants “everyone” to be saved order such a thing?  Because He wants His own, His elect, every one of them, to be saved from sin and from the penalty of it.  How does this relate?  Consider what the Lord said before this as to why these people had to be killed, Deu 20:16-18 HCSB

(16)  However, you must not let any living thing survive among the cities of these people the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance.

(17)  You must completely destroy them–the Hittite, Amorite, Canaanite, Perizzite, Hivite, and Jebusite–as the LORD your God has commanded you,

(18)  so that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.

 

Note particularly verse 18.  “So that they won’t teach you to do all the detestable things they do for their gods, and you sin against the LORD your God.”  Now, we know that the wages of sin is death, so all those of age who had sinned were deserving of death.  No big problem there, they got Justice from God, not mercy or grace.  But what about the young children and infants?  Again we have this comfort regarding them that they would be immediately taken to be with God, whereas left alive in the culture of the day, most if not all of them would have grown up in the sins of their fathers, waxing worse and worse and heaping greater and greater punishment upon themselves in the day of judgment.

Your 4th question and subsets –

Why do you get upset with non-Christians?

  1. If they’re incapable of believing in God, why blame them for their evil ways?
  2. Why blame them for being prideful and stubborn? They can’t be anything but.

Well, I personally don’t get upset with “non-Christians” as such.  With some of the things they do, yes, with them personally, not often.  Why blame them for the things they do?  Because they are responsible for what they do.  While it’s true that they can’t be anything but sinners, they don’t have to sin as much as they do.  They choose sin and they choose the degree of sin all by themselves.  God doesn’t force them to do so.  Furthermore, related to blame, God says they are to blame for their evil ways, and I’m not arguing with Him on that (or any other matter).
Rom 1:18-32 HCSB

(18)  For God’s wrath is revealed from heaven against all godlessness and unrighteousness of people who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth,

(19)  since what can be known about God is evident among them, because God has shown it to them.

(20)  For His invisible attributes, that is, His eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly seen since the creation of the world, being understood through what He has made. As a result, people are without excuse.

(21)  For though they knew God, they did not glorify Him as God or show gratitude. Instead, their thinking became nonsense, and their senseless minds were darkened.

(22)  Claiming to be wise, they became fools

(23)  and exchanged the glory of the immortal God for images resembling mortal man, birds, four-footed animals, and reptiles.

(24)  Therefore God delivered them over in the cravings of their hearts to sexual impurity, so that their bodies were degraded among themselves.

(25)  They exchanged the truth of God for a lie, and worshiped and served something created instead of the Creator, who is praised forever. Amen.

(26)  This is why God delivered them over to degrading passions. For even their females exchanged natural sexual relations for unnatural ones.

(27)  The males in the same way also left natural relations with females and were inflamed in their lust for one another. Males committed shameless acts with males and received in their own persons the appropriate penalty of their error.

(28)  And because they did not think it worthwhile to acknowledge God, God delivered them over to a worthless mind to do what is morally wrong.

(29)  They are filled with all unrighteousness, evil, greed, and wickedness. They are full of envy, murder, quarrels, deceit, and malice. They are gossips,

(30)  slanderers, God-haters, arrogant, proud, boastful, inventors of evil, disobedient to parents,

(31)  undiscerning, untrustworthy, unloving, and unmerciful.

(32)  Although they know full well God’s just sentence–that those who practice such things deserve to die–they not only do them, but even applaud others who practice them.

 

Note particularly verses 18 and 20, “by their unrighteousness” not God’s, and that they are “without excuse” meaning, they are to blame for their sins.

  1. Your 5th question, and subsets –
  2. And why does God love only a small amount of people? By making it impossible for most people to go to heaven, He doesn’t love everyone.
  3. That’s a sad way to view God.

Well, first of all, while compared to the vast numbers of all people who have ever lived, are living, will live, yes the number of people is small.  Nonetheless, it is not a small amount.  If one factors in all the babies and toddlers who never lived to the age of accountability, as well as all the other elect of God, there will be a vast number of people inhabiting heaven in the end.

As for making it impossible for most people to get to heaven, you comment that God doesn’t’ love everyone.  That’s true, but it’s not a “sad way to view God.”  That comment is but a reflection of your own human tendency toward sin and pride, as if you or I can judge God.  God does not love everyone without exception.  True, but that is not a poor reflection on God.  That God loves anyone at all is the true measure of His Love and Goodness for none of us “deserve” His love, none of us is “lovable.”  Here are some notes from my own study notes to the Psalms on this particular point.

11:5 The Lord’s Hate
●           v. 5, “the wicked and the one who loves violence His soul hates.”  Cf. Psalm 5:5 and note.

●           That God hates something or someone or, types of some ones, does not negate the fact that “God is love” (cf. 1st John 4:8) or, that “God so loved the world.”  (Cf. John 3:16).

●           That God hates or loves, demonstrates that He is a being with emotions, feelings.  That being the case, with us, the sin is not in having an emotional reaction to something, but rather, what we do with or about that emotion.  Cf. Psalm 4:4 and Ephesians 4:26, “Be angry and do not sin.”  Anger, an emotion, is not inherently sinful.  Our reaction to or, use of anger can be.  An emotion that is fed unjustly or in an unrighteous manner also produces sin.  For example, prejudice on racial grounds is unjust, irrational, and leads to mistreatment of or misjudging of others.

●           That God hates, loves, feels, is what makes Him capable of and desirous of having a relationship with us.  It is also why He was able to make a provision for our salvation, as, on our own, we could never enter His perfect presence.

●           Compare Proverbs 3:32ff, esp. v 33.

Q. – If God is love [and He is, cf. 1st  John 4:8], can God hate anyone as opposed to anything?

AA.) Yes.  God can hate people, anyone, someone.  It says very clearly here; God hates “the wicked” [general category or type of person] “and the one who loves violence” [specific type of wicked person].

A.  B1.) If God can hate anyone, then a universalistic application of John 3:16 “For God so loved the world” would be made false.  If God really does hate anyone, He cannot [by default] love EveryOne.

A.  B2.) If God does not love everyone, then He did not send His Son to die for EveryOne; on account of, yes, for everyone, no.  That is to say; Jesus’ death on the cross accomplished exactly what it was meant to accomplish; the salvation of the elect, the ones God does love. It also accomplished the condemnation of the non-elect, the ones God hates.  In either case, it was effective in accomplishing God’s purposes.

Q. – What about the saying, “Love the sinner; hate the sin.”?

Answer.) That saying applies only to us, and our attitudes.  We do not know the heart of anyone, or the eternal calling of anyone.  Only God does.  And therefore, only God is qualified to hate the sinner as well as their sin, without violating His own nature.

Q. – What about those who, before [in time] they were saved, were sinners; were enemies of God and of Christ (cf. Romans 5:18, 10)?  And, is there a distinction between the “garden variety sinner” [so to speak] called elsewhere, the “unrighteous person” [to use Paul’s terminology in 1st Corinthians 6:9), and the “wicked” (cf. Proverbs 16:4)?

A.) In regard to those who were “sinners,” “enemies of Christ,” this in itself does not prevent God from loving them.  In fact, God tells us to love our enemies (cf. Matthew 5:44).  How then, can it he, that He do less?  He cannot and does not, as Paul tells us in Romans (as cited above).  As to whether there is a distinction between the [garden variety] “sinner” and the “wicked”; I believe there is, and that a careful reading of Scripture were the “wicked” (Strong’s #7563 רָשָׁע, rasha` here; and #4190 πονηρε , Mat. 18:32, et al.) are mentioned compared with those where the “sinner” (Strong’s # 2400 חַטָּא,  chatta’ , as in Genesis 13:13; 1st Kings 1:21, and #268 αμαρτωλους, hamartōlos, 1st Tim. 1:15, i.e., those He came to save) is mentioned, will show this to be so, at least in the majority of the cases

●           Compare also Psalm 5:5, “You [God] hate all workers of iniquity…the Lord abhors [hates very much] the blood thirsty and deceitful man.”

5:5 The Boastful and Workers of Iniquity
●           Shall not stand, cf. Psalm 1:5

●           Are people whom God hates.

●           See note The Lord’s Hate, at 11:5 following.

Also, related to the small number of people who will enter heaven, over and over this truth is repeated when God speaks of the “remnant” (small number remaining) of Israel who will be saved, of the wide road that leads to hell and the many on it and the narrow road to heaven and the few on it.  Likewise, the wide gate and the narrow gate.  If God loved everyone, He could and would save everyone and all without violating their persons, which brings us to your 6th question.

“Why does the Bible say that He wants everyone to be saved?  He makes sure that most people don’t even have the option of choosing Him.”

Your way of phrasing that question by adding the qualifying statement after, seems to me to be another dig at God, questioning His love, His Justice, and even His goodness and implying that there is a conflict between God’s Love and His actions.  There is not.  First off, you err in stating that the Bible says God wants everyone without exception to be saved.  Your recognition that He has made sure that most don’t have the opportunity to choose Him speaking directly in support of that fact.  This takes us back to question 1a above and the passage in Romans referenced in the answer.  Faith comes by hearing and hearing by the [preaching of] Word of God.  God ordains the ends and well as the means to those ends.  The preaching of the Gospel is the means that God has chosen to reach the lost.  That He did not choose to make that Gospel message available to all people everywhere and every-when, is evidence that He then does not intend to save everyone, everywhere, in every time.  If that be the case, He clearly does not love everyone or He would have made provision for their being recipients of His Love.  It does, however point to His being compassionate and merciful, even to those whom He does not love nor intend to save.  By not giving them the Gospel, He in effect, lessens the penalty that will be enacted upon them in the Day of Judgment, being as they never heard the Gospel to reject it, they will, at least, not have that sin added to the others for which they will be condemned, whereas those who have heard the Gospel, reject it and die in their sins, they will have a worse punishment in eternity than those who did not.  Jesus Himself said as much here: Mat 11:20-24 HCSB

(20)  Then He proceeded to denounce the towns where most of His miracles were done, because they did not repent:

(21)  “Woe to you, Chorazin! Woe to you, Bethsaida! For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Tyre and Sidon, they would have repented in sackcloth and ashes long ago!

(22)  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for Tyre and Sidon on the day of judgment than for you.

(23)  And you, Capernaum, will you be exalted to heaven? You will go down to Hades. For if the miracles that were done in you had been done in Sodom, it would have remained until today.

(24)  But I tell you, it will be more tolerable for the land of Sodom on the day of judgment than for you.”

And Repeated here:  Matthew 10:14-15; Luke 10:10-16

You must understand and grasp this, NO ONE DESERVES to be saved.  God does not owe anyone anything, let alone to be in His presence.  Thus, when He, for reasons known to and only completely understood by Him, choses to pass by the vast majority, leaving them in their sins and to their just reward for them, He does them no wrong.  Secondly, though God did not proactively reach out and provide the Gospel message of Salvation to everyone in every place and time, it’s not as though He stopped anyone from believing or seeking Him if they wanted to.  They just don’t want to.  We see this truth clearly portrayed in Romans 1.  That God IS, is clearly demonstrated by the Creation as a whole.  But men, loving darkness more than light, instead of turning to that Creator God, made other gods for themselves because they knew and hated the One True God, loving instead, their sins.

On the Distinctions Between the Error of “Common Grace” and the Biblical Doctrine of “Particular Grace”

This is an article that was shared by a Retired Reformed Minister friend of mine. It’s a bit long but well worth the read.  Here it is unedited.

Beloved Christians Everywhere, PARTICULARLY THOSE WHO TEACH AND BELIEVE THE DOCTRINES OF ELECTION AND PREDESTINATION AND OF BY GRACE ALONE, THE FOLLOWING ARTICLE BY THE REV. LANNING IS MOST PROFITABLE. It has been and remains a real blessing to me personally
Sola gratia! Grace alone!
By Rev. Andy Lanning
Sola gratia is one of the well-known Latin
“five solas” of the Reformation: sola gratia,
sola fide, solus Christus, sola Scriptura, soli
Deo gloria. The “five solas” summarise
the Reformation’s answer to the Roman
Catholic Church, which tried to exalt man
to a position alongside God. Over against
the Roman Catholic teaching that salvation
depends partly upon God’s work and partly
upon man’s work, the reformers taught that
man is justified by faith alone (sola fide),
because of grace alone (sola gratia), on the
basis of the work of Christ alone (solus
Christus). Over against the Roman Catholic
teaching that the pope’s word was of equal
authority with God’s Word, the reformers
taught the authority of Scripture alone
(sola Scriptura). The entire Roman Catholic
system robbed God of His glory by giving it
to man, whereas the reformers taught that
all glory in salvation and revelation belongs
to God alone (soli Deo gloria).
To this day, sola gratia is a dear and beloved
doctrine in Reformed churches. This
particular “sola” teaches a foundational
truth about salvation, namely, that our
salvation does not depend in any way
upon our worth or works, but upon the
sovereign grace of God alone. Sola gratia
echoes the truth of Ephesians 2:8, 9. “For
by grace are ye saved through faith; and
that not of yourselves: it is the gift of God:
not of works, lest any man should boast.”
If salvation depended upon us, we would
perish. Because our salvation depends upon
God, we are saved indeed. Thanks be to
God that we are saved by grace, and by
grace alone! Sola gratia! Grace alone!
However, some Reformed teachers and
churches today are undermining the
glorious gospel of sola gratia by their
promotion of the theory of common grace.
These teachers claim that there are two
kinds of divine grace: a particular saving
grace of God for His elect people alone,
and a non-saving common grace of God
for all people. This theory of two graces was
recently promoted in Singapore by Rev.
Maurice Roberts, a retired minister in the
Free Church of Scotland (Continuing).
Speaking for the 2014 Reformation Day
Conference of First Evangelical Reformed
Church, which had as its theme Sola Gratia,
Rev. Roberts taught that God demonstrates
His favour toward humanity in two ways:
by a common grace for all and a saving grace for His people. The promotional material
for the speech promised that Rev. Roberts
would “elucidate upon God’s common and
saving grace . . . .” The speech went beyond
this promise, as Rev. Roberts not only
elucidated the theory of common grace, but
promoted and advocated it as biblical truth.
When Rev. Maurice Roberts, a respected
and influential Reformed minister,
promotes common grace in Singapore,
at the invitation of a Reformed church
in Singapore, he gets the attention of
Reformed people in Singapore—readers
of Salt Shakers included. Therefore we
are compelled to examine Rev. Roberts’
teaching by asking three questions: What is
the theory of common grace? What is the
error of common grace? And what are the
consequences of common grace?
1. What is the theory of common grace?
Common grace is a theory about God’s
attitude toward all people. It claims that
God has a gracious attitude of kindness,
compassion, pity, and favour for all men
without exception. According to this
theory, God’s favour is not limited to His
elect people in Christ, but extends to all
men, including the reprobate. The name of
the theory is helpfully descriptive: common
grace. The “grace” of common grace describes
God’s attitude as one of grace, favour,
kindness, and compassion. The “common”
of common grace describes this divine
favour as extending to all men in common.
According to Rev. Roberts:
“There is . . . a general goodness of God,
what you might call a universal kindness of
God. Listen to what Jesus says about God:
‘He is kind to the unthankful and to the
evil.’ He is referring to His heavenly Father,
and He says God is kind, merciful to those
who never become Christians, who never
listen to the gospel, who never read the
Bible, who never go to church. God is kind
even to these.”
God displays this common grace to all
men, so the theory goes, through the many
good gifts that He bestows upon them.
Not only the elect, but also the reprobate
receive many necessary things and many
pleasant things from God. According to the
theory of common grace, bestowal of such
wonderfully good gifts must imply that
God also has a positive attitude of grace
and favour for all who receive these gifts.
According to Rev. Roberts, continuing
from the quotation above:
“Now let’s be clear what Jesus meant. He
meant that God is so kind that in this life
He gives to the wicked many favours which
express His goodness and His pity to fallen
sinners. What sort of things do I mean? I
mean, He gives them food and drink and
health and good weather and homes and
good government and happiness, etc. You
dear people don’t need me to tell you, as
I visited your beloved island of Singapore,
what a wonderful community you have. How safe it is, and how much protection
you have, and how many services you have
of many kinds, and benefits of many kinds.
You don’t need to be hungry in Singapore
– plenty of places to eat, yes. Well, that’s a
favour from God, and that favour is enjoyed
by people who never ever go to church,
never ever read the Bible. And Jesus puts it
like this: God is kind to the unthankful and
to the evil.”
Common providence?
Upon reading this description of common
grace, some may wonder whether Rev.
Roberts is simply teaching a variation of
the Reformed doctrine of providence.
There may even be some who know that
common grace is a false doctrine, and
yet are sympathetic to what Rev. Roberts
says, who attempt to excuse his theory of
common grace by claiming it is merely a
theory of common providence.
The term “providence” refers to God’s
sovereign control over all things. Herbs and
grass, rain and drought, fruitful and barren
years, meat and drink, health and sickness,
riches and poverty, yea, and all things are
distributed to men by God according to
His own sovereign will and by His own
sovereign direction. Usually, the Reformed
faith simply refers to God’s sovereign
control as “providence”. Perhaps it would
be legitimate to refer to God’s providence
as “common providence”, because God
exercises sovereign control over the elect
and the reprobate alike. The elect man and
his reprobate neighbour receive the same
common providence of rain and sunshine
on their crops. They enjoy the protection
of the same police force. Their children
catch the same flu, and see the same doctor
and take the same medicine for relief. God
sovereignly distributes to the elect man and
to the reprobate man alike.
Such a doctrine of providence, and even
“common providence,” is biblical and
confessional. It is the doctrine of Matthew
5:45. “That ye may be the children of your
Father which is in heaven: for he maketh
his sun to rise on the evil and on the good,
and sendeth rain on the just and on the
unjust.” It is the doctrine of Article 13 of
the Belgic Confession. “We believe that the
same God, after He had created all things,
did not forsake them, or give them up to
fortune or chance, but that He rules and
governs them according to His holy will, so
that nothing happens in this world without
His appointment…”
However, Rev. Roberts’ theory of common
grace is emphatically not a theory of common
providence. The Reformed doctrine of
providence teaches that God governs both
the elect and the reprobate, but it does
not teach that God has the same gracious
attitude toward the elect and reprobate as
he governs them. The Reformed doctrine
of providence speaks of God’s particular
favour for the elect, believing saints of
God. For example, Article 13 of the Belgic
Confession: “This doctrine [of providence]
affords us unspeakable consolation, since
we are taught thereby that nothing can
befall us by chance, but by the direction of
our most gracious and heavenly Father . . .
.” In this article, although God sovereignly
distributes to all men in His providence,
His favour is only for “us,” that is, the elect
children of our heavenly Father.
The Reformed doctrine of providence
teaches God’s universal government, but
His particular grace. Rev. Roberts’ theory
of common grace teaches God’s universal
government, and God’s universal grace.
Rev. Roberts’ theory is not merely one of
common providence, but common grace.
God’s wish to save all men
Rev. Roberts intensifies his theory of
common grace by claiming that God also
desires to save all men. God’s common
grace, so the teaching goes, is not merely
a kindness in God’s heart that gives men
nice earthly gifts, but a loving-kindness
that wishes to give all men the heavenly
gift of salvation from sin and eternal life.
God’s saving grace will only save the elect
in the end. But, according to Rev. Roberts,
God’s common grace makes Him desire
the salvation of the elect and the reprobate
alike. Quoting Rev. Roberts again:
“But here’s the wonderful thing: so kind
and generous is God that He expresses
to sinners His wish, His desire, that they
should all be saved.
Now that’s amazing.
I’m going to quote to you now. Listen to
the words in Ezekiel 33: ‘As I live, saith the
Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death
of the wicked, but rather that the wicked
turn from his way and live.’ Now God is
saying that to people who hate Him, and
who never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ. God is saying, I have no pleasure in
your death, sinners. My wish is that you
turn, sinners, from your wicked way.”
Rev. Roberts repeatedly uses the term
“sinners” in the quotation above. The
sinners he is talking about are not elect
sinners, predestined to salvation, but
reprobate sinners, predestined to hell. They
are the sinners “who hate [God], and who
never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ.” To these reprobate sinners, Rev.
Roberts says, “God… expresses… His wish,
His desire, that they should all be saved.”
2. What is the error of common grace?
Rev. Roberts’ theory of common grace is that God has a gracious attitude of kindness and
mercy in His heart for all men, including
the reprobate; that God distributes earthly
gifts to all men in His gracious favour for
them; and that God graciously wishes that
all men would be saved.
Rev. Roberts’ theory of common grace is
false doctrine.
It is false doctrine because it is unbiblical.
The Bible teaches that God’s grace is
particular. That is, the objects of God’s
grace in Scripture are never all men
without exception, but always His elect
people alone. From the first reference to
grace in Genesis 6:8 to the last reference
in Revelation 22:21, God’s grace is for
the elect. Noah found grace in the eyes
of the LORD (Genesis 6:8), as did Moses
(Exodus 33:17). God was gracious to His
church in the Old Testament (Exodus
33:16), as He is to His church in the New
(Romans 16:24). Grace is for the beloved
of God, called to be saints (Romans 1:7),
for them that are sanctified in Christ Jesus,
that call upon the name of Jesus Christ our
Lord (I Corinthians 1:2, 3), for the faithful
in Christ Jesus, chosen in Christ before
the foundation of the world (Ephesians
1:1, 2, 4), for all the saints in Christ Jesus
(Philippians 1:1, 2), for the saints and
faithful brethren in Christ (Colossians
1:1, 2), for the church which is in God
the Father and in the Lord Jesus Christ (1
Thessalonians 1:1), for the dearly beloved
(Philemon 1, 3), for the elect according
to the foreknowledge of God the Father
(1 Peter 1:2), for them that have obtained
like precious faith with the apostles through the righteousness of God and our Saviour
Jesus Christ (2 Peter 1:1, 2), for the elect
lady and her children (2 John 1, 3), and for
the servants of Jesus Christ who receive His
revelation (Revelation 1:1 with 22:21).
What makes the particularity of God’s
grace stark and clear is that the Bible
always describes God’s attitude towards the
reprobate as an attitude of wrath, never as an
attitude of favour. Always, from eternity to
eternity, God curses the wicked. Indeed, His
curse permeates their entire earthly life, for
His curse is in their house (Proverbs 3:33).
He bestows many wonderful gifts upon
the ungodly, not because He is gracious to
them, but to make their path slippery as
they slide into destruction and desolation
(Psalm 73). He hates the reprobate Esau
(Romans 9:13) and Esau’s children, the
reprobate nation of Edom (Malachi 1:1-5).
He appoints the disobedient to wrath, and
makes them stumble in this life upon the
Rock of offence (1 Peter 2:7, 8). He before
of old ordained men to condemnation,
and in this life pronounces woe upon them
(Jude 4, 11).
In Rev. Roberts’ theory, God’s grace is
common. In the Bible, God’s grace is
strictly particular.
The Bible teaches only particular grace,
and knows nothing of a common grace,
for this profound reason: God’s grace is
in Jesus Christ. That is, God’s attitude of
favour is never displayed apart from Christ,
but is always grace in Christ. After all,
God’s attitude of gracious favour is not an
attitude first of all for us, His people, but an
attitude of gracious favour for Christ Jesus.
“This is my beloved Son, in whom I am
well pleased” (Matthew 3:17). Therefore,
for us, God’s grace is in Christ Jesus (2
Timothy 2:1). God graciously chose us in
Christ in the decree of election (Romans
11:5, Ephesians 1:4). We are justified freely
by God’s grace through the redemption
that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:24).
God’s grace reigns through righteousness
unto eternal life by Jesus Christ our Lord
(Romans 5:21). The law was given by
Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus
Christ (John 1:17). We know the grace of
our Lord Jesus Christ, that, though He was
rich, yet for our sakes He became poor; that
we, through His poverty, might be rich (2
Corinthians 8:9). In the ages to come, God
will show the exceeding riches of His grace
in His kindness toward us in Christ Jesus
(Ephesians 2:7). Therefore, God declares
to His people in Christ, “The grace of our
Lord Jesus Christ be with you all. Amen” (2
Thessalonians 3:18).
Because God’s grace is in Christ, it always
irresistibly and infallibly saves. Grace in
Christ does not merely bestow earthly
treasures, but heavenly treasures. Grace in
Christ does not merely wish to save, but
actually saves (Ephesians 2:8, 9), justifies
(Romans 3:24), gives eternal life (Romans
5:21), sustains through infirmities (2
Corinthians 12:9), makes accepted in
the beloved (Ephesians 1:6), redeems in
Christ’s blood and forgives sins (Ephesians
1:7), quickens (Ephesians 2:5), calls with a
holy calling (2 Timothy 1:9), and helps in
time of need (Hebrews 4:16).
In Rev. Roberts’ theory, God has a grace
that does not save. In the Bible, God’s grace
always saves.
3. What are the consequences of common
grace?
Churches and teachers that tolerate and
promote common grace open themselves
up to serious consequences. The worst
consequence is that they make a mockery
of God. The god of common grace is
divided against himself. He cannot make
up his mind whether he loves certain
people or not, whether he should save them
or not. In his eternal decree of reprobation,
he righteously hates them and wills their
destruction, while in his common grace,
he at the same time mercifully wishes
their salvation. How perplexed the god of
common grace must be as he holds both
love and hatred, both blessing and curse in
his heart for all of the reprobate! Not even
the pagans teach that their idol gods are this
confused, but the god of common grace
remains impossibly bewildered. Such a god
is unstable and confused; such a god is to be
pitied. However, the true God of the Bible,
the God of particular grace, is not divided
against Himself. He is not confused about
His attitude toward men. In time and
eternity, He graciously blesses His chosen
people in Christ; in time and eternity, He
righteously curses the reprobate. With
perfect consistency, He loves His own;
with perfect consistency, He hates the
impenitent wicked. Teachers of common
grace mock the true God when they assign
to Jehovah the fictional attitude of common
grace.
Another, related consequence of common
grace is that its proponents not only mock
God, but they also mock His grace. In the
theory of common grace, God’s grace is
utterly impotent. In common grace, God
supposedly wishes and desires the salvation of all men, but that same grace is unable
actually to accomplish the salvation of all
men. People continue to “hate Him” and
“never come to believe in the Lord Jesus
Christ,” even though God expresses to them
“His wish, His desire, that they should all
be saved.” God’s so-called common grace
fails to accomplish what it desires. It is
powerless, impotent, useless grace. Fallen
man should tell the god of common grace
to keep his grace to himself, thereby sparing
both god and man the frustration of such
impotence. However, the true grace of God
is sovereign, powerful, and irresistible. God’s
grace always accomplishes what it desires,
infallibly saving those whom God desires
to save. The “I” in the Reformed acronym
TULIP does not stand for “impotent grace”
but “irresistible grace”. Reformed teachers
and Reformed churches who know the
irresistible grace of TULIP have no business
tolerating, much less teaching, impotent
common grace.
Another devastating consequence of
common grace is that it opens God’s people
to doubt whether God is truly good to
them. Especially, the child of God who
suffers in this life is taught by common
grace to question God’s goodness to him.
After all, if nice earthly things are the
evidence of God’s favour, then lack of these
things must be the evidence of God’s anger.
This common grace thinking was exactly
the sin of Asaph in Psalm 73. He noted
with great envy that the wicked prosper
(vs. 3) while he was plagued (vs. 14). At
first, Asaph approached this problem from
a common grace theology, assuming that
God’s gracious goodness was demonstrated
in earthly things. Therefore, his first
conclusion was that it was vain to be a child
of God, because the wicked received all the
evidences of God’s grace. “Behold, these are
the ungodly, who prosper in the world; they
increase in riches. Verily I have cleansed
my heart in vain, and washed my hands in
innocency. For all the day long have I been
plagued, and chastened every morning” (vss. 12-14). So spiritually paralyzing were
these doubts that they almost drove Asaph
to abandon the faith. “But as for me, my
feet were almost gone; my steps had well
nigh slipped. For I was envious at the
foolish, when I saw the prosperity of the
wicked” (vss. 2, 3). These are the awful
doubts that common grace theology can
create in God’s people. How can Reformed
teachers and churches entertain, much less
promote, such a theology?
God removed Asaph’s doubt by bringing
him finally to understand that God’s
attitude toward people is not demonstrated
through the provision of earthly things.
Rather, God always despises the impenitent
ungodly (vs. 20) and is always graciously
good to his people (vs. 1). The gifts that
God gives in this life to the ungodly only
hasten their plunge into destruction (vs.
18, 19), while the sorrows that He sends
to His people are used to draw them nearer
to Him (vs. 26). God rescued Asaph from
devastating spiritual doubt by taking
away Asaph’s common grace theology
and giving him instead a particular grace
theology. Likewise, it is incumbent upon
all Reformed teachers and churches today
to teach and defend God’s particular grace,
and to repudiate the soul-destroying error
of common grace.
Una Gratia
The theory of common grace is false
doctrine, with serious consequences. But it
is popular false doctrine.
It has able, influential proponents,
including Rev. Maurice Roberts. It has
many adherents, including large Reformed
denominations throughout the nations.
It finds sympathy almost wherever it
goes in the Reformed world. Indeed,
the false doctrine of common grace has
now been tolerated in Singapore, as Rev.
Roberts openly promoted his theory at the
invitation of a local Reformed church. The
false doctrine of common grace is popular,
and spreading.
Therefore, Reformed believers in Singapore,
now more than ever, must stand for the
biblical truth of God’s saving, particular
grace. Standing for the truth of God’s saving
grace will mean vigorously repudiating the
theory of common grace as an intolerable
false doctrine.
Perhaps Reformed believers in Singapore
could even advance the cause of the true
doctrine of God’s particular grace by
coining a new term: una gratia.
The Latin sola gratia means “grace alone.”
The Latin una gratia means “one grace.”
Just as sola gratia expresses the biblical truth that we are saved by grace alone, so una gratia expresses the biblical truth that such saving grace is the only kind of grace there is.
There are not two kinds of grace of God,
one saving and particular, the other non-
saving and common. God’s grace is only
saving and particular: one grace, una gratia.
Just as sola gratia is a helpful, memorable
way to distinguish the Reformed faith from
all theories of works-righteousness, so una
gratia could be a helpful, memorable way
to distinguish the Reformed faith from the
theory of common grace. Sola gratia is a
rallying cry for all lovers of the gospel of
grace; una gratia could be a rallying cry for
all lovers of sovereign, particular grace. Sola
gratia! et (and) Una gratia!
Regardless of whether Reformed believers
use this phrase or not, let us maintain the
truth that this phrase represents. We are
saved by grace alone, and such saving grace is the only grace there is. By this truth, God
is honoured and glorified as the sovereign,
gracious God, who mercifully and infallibly
saves His own people in Jesus Christ.
Sola gratia! et Una gratia! Soli Deo Gloria!

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 4

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 4

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted.

MATTHEW CHAPTER 4 COMMENTARY

[The text of Matthew 4 in its entirety follows the commentary for those without immediate access to a Bible.]

4:1-11   Jesus’ Temptations

  • Jesus is led by the Holy Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted (tried).

Compare Luke 4:1-12, and note: “Led by the Spirit.”[i]

4:2       40 Days and 40 Nights

  • The fact that Jesus fasted for 40 days and 40 nights is a testimony to His being upheld by God. No man can do this for so long unless God sustains him.
  • Compare Moses’ similar period on Mt. Sinai. Exodus 24:18; 34:28[ii].
  • Without either supernatural intervention or one being a supernatural being, one cannot go without water for more than 10 to 14 days (less depending on the temperature and other factors) before the body begins to shut down, with death following within a day or two if no water is forthcoming. That Jesus went 40 days and 40 nights without food or water demonstrates His favor with God and may, but not necessarily, be a sign of His Deity.

4:4-10   Jesus’ Response to Temptation

  • Jesus’ response to temptation was not just using the Word of God, but the right use of the Word of God. The right use is every bit as important, perhaps even more important, than any use.  Thus Paul’s exhortation to Timothy to diligence that he might rightly use the Word of God, cf. 2nd Timothy 2:15[iii],
  • Compare:

v4 with Deuteronomy 8:3

(3)  So He humbled you, allowed you to hunger, and fed you with manna which you did not know nor did your fathers know, that He might make you know that man shall not live by bread alone; but man lives by every word that proceeds from the mouth of the LORD.

v7 with Deuteronomy 6:16

(16)  “You shall not tempt the LORD your God as you tempted Him in Massah.

 v10 with Deuteronomy 6:13

(13)  You shall fear the LORD your God and serve Him, and shall take oaths in His name.

  • Note how the devil will also quote Scripture (out of context) to cause one to err. Compare v6 with Psalm 91:11-12

(11)  For He shall give His angels charge over you, To keep you in all your ways.

(12)  In their hands they shall bear you up, Lest you dash your foot against a stone.

4:9       The Devil’s Authority

  • The Devil did have authority/ownership of the “[K]ingdoms of this world,” but he did not, does not own the world itself. The (whole) earth is the Lord’s!  It is a world damaged by sin, to be sure, but God owns it.  It is the “world system” that is under the Devil’s authority.
  • Compare:

Psalms 24:1

(1)  A Psalm of David. The earth is the LORD’s, and all its fullness, The world and those who dwell therein.

Psalms 89:11

(11)  The heavens are Yours, the earth also is Yours; The world and all its fullness, You have founded them.

4:13-16 Prophecy Fulfilled

  • Fulfillment of Isaiah 9:1, 2.

“(1)  Nevertheless the gloom will not be upon her who is distressed, As when at first He lightly esteemed The land of Zebulun and the land of Naphtali, And afterward more heavily oppressed her, By the way of the sea, beyond the Jordan, In Galilee of the Gentiles.

(2)  The people who walked in darkness Have seen a great light; Those who dwelt in the land of the shadow of death, Upon them a light has shined.”

4:17      Repent!

  • See also Matthew 3:2 and notes below[iv].
  • That Jesus preached repentance demonstrates that repentance from dead works is, has been, and will be a part of God’s plan of salvation.
  • We are not saved by works. However, salvation does involve salvation from sin.  Repentance is the outward manifestation of the work of God in one’s heart.
  • That it may be seen that repentance was a part of God’s plan of salvation in times past (i.e., before Christ’s advent), see Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30:

Ezekiel 14:6

“(6)  “Therefore say to the house of Israel, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD: “Repent, turn away from your idols, and turn your faces away from all your abominations.”

Ezekiel 18:29

“(29)  Yet the house of Israel says, ‘The way of the Lord is not fair.’ O house of Israel, is it not My ways which are fair, and your ways which are not fair?”  How often I have heart that complaint in our self-centered, worldly age.

  • That Jesus announces to people that they are to repent demonstrates that this was part of His message, part of The Gospel.
  • That it may be seen that the Apostles understood that God’s plan of salvation included repentance, see: Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2nd Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 6:1; 2nd Peter 3:9[v].
  • Repentance, like the salvation itself, is a part of, the gift of God, not a work of man or man’s will, cf. Acts 5:31; 11:18:

Acts 5:31

“(31)  Him God has exalted to His right hand to be Prince and Savior, to give repentance to Israel and forgiveness of sins.”

Acts 11:18

“(18)  When they heard these things they became silent; and they glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life.””

Matthew 4:1-25 NKJV

(1)  Then Jesus was led up by the Spirit into the wilderness to be tempted by the devil.

(2)  And when He had fasted forty days and forty nights, afterward He was hungry.

(3)  Now when the tempter came to Him, he said, “If You are the Son of God, command that these stones become bread.”

(4)  But He answered and said, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD THAT PROCEEDS FROM THE MOUTH OF GOD.’ “

(5)  Then the devil took Him up into the holy city, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple,

(6)  and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down. For it is written: ‘HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER YOU,’ and, IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU DASH YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ “

(7)  Jesus said to him, “It is written again, ‘YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.’ “

(8)  Again, the devil took Him up on an exceedingly high mountain, and showed Him all the kingdoms of the world and their glory.

(9)  And he said to Him, “All these things I will give You if You will fall down and worship me.”

(10)  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ “

(11)  Then the devil left Him, and behold, angels came and ministered to Him.

(12)  Now when Jesus heard that John had been put in prison, He departed to Galilee.

(13)  And leaving Nazareth, He came and dwelt in Capernaum, which is by the sea, in the regions of Zebulun and Naphtali,

(14)  that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Isaiah the prophet, saying:

(15)  “THE LAND OF ZEBULUN AND THE LAND OF NAPHTALI, BY THE WAY OF THE SEA, BEYOND THE JORDAN, GALILEE OF THE GENTILES:

(16)  THE PEOPLE WHO SAT IN DARKNESS HAVE SEEN A GREAT LIGHT, AND UPON THOSE WHO SAT IN THE REGION AND SHADOW OF DEATH LIGHT HAS DAWNED.”

(17)  From that time Jesus began to preach and to say, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand.”

(18)  And Jesus, walking by the Sea of Galilee, saw two brothers, Simon called Peter, and Andrew his brother, casting a net into the sea; for they were fishermen.

(19)  Then He said to them, “Follow Me, and I will make you fishers of men.”

(20)  They immediately left their nets and followed Him.

(21)  Going on from there, He saw two other brothers, James the son of Zebedee, and John his brother, in the boat with Zebedee their father, mending their nets. He called them,

(22)  and immediately they left the boat and their father, and followed Him.

(23)  And Jesus went about all Galilee, teaching in their synagogues, preaching the gospel of the kingdom, and healing all kinds of sickness and all kinds of disease among the people.

(24)  Then His fame went throughout all Syria; and they brought to Him all sick people who were afflicted with various diseases and torments, and those who were demon-possessed, epileptics, and paralytics; and He healed them.

(25)  Great multitudes followed Him–from Galilee, and from Decapolis, Jerusalem, Judea, and beyond the Jordan.

[i] Luke 4:1-12

(1)  Then Jesus, being filled with the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit into the wilderness,

(2)  being tempted for forty days by the devil. And in those days He ate nothing, and afterward, when they had ended, He was hungry.

(3)  And the devil said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, command this stone to become bread.”

(4)  But Jesus answered him, saying, “It is written, ‘MAN SHALL NOT LIVE BY BREAD ALONE, BUT BY EVERY WORD OF GOD.’ “

(5)  Then the devil, taking Him up on a high mountain, showed Him all the kingdoms of the world in a moment of time.

(6)  And the devil said to Him, “All this authority I will give You, and their glory; for this has been delivered to me, and I give it to whomever I wish.

(7)  Therefore, if You will worship before me, all will be Yours.”

(8)  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ “

(9)  Then he brought Him to Jerusalem, set Him on the pinnacle of the temple, and said to Him, “If You are the Son of God, throw Yourself down from here.

(10)  For it is written: ‘HE SHALL GIVE HIS ANGELS CHARGE OVER YOU, TO KEEP YOU,’

(11)  and, ‘IN THEIR HANDS THEY SHALL BEAR YOU UP, LEST YOU DASH YOUR FOOT AGAINST A STONE.’ “

(12)  And Jesus answered and said to him, “It has been said, ‘YOU SHALL NOT TEMPT THE LORD YOUR GOD.’ “

 

LED BY THE SPIRIT

  • See also Matthew 4:1, compare Mark 1:12 (Immediately following). Both Matthew and Luke use Greek words that are generally translated as “led” (Matthew – {ανηχθη G321 V-API-3S}, Luke – ηγετο {G71 V-IPI-3S}), Mark uses the Greek term εκβαλλει (G1544 V-PAI-3S), meaning “drove” or “thrust.”  This is not a contradiction.  Both the Greek terms translated as “led” are used in the context of “compulsion” that is, to be led by compulsion or thrust into the wilderness are conceptually synonymous.

Mark 1:12

(12)  Immediately the Spirit drove Him into the wilderness.

[ii] Exodus 24:18; 34:28

Exodus 24:18

(18)  So Moses went into the midst of the cloud and went up into the mountain. And Moses was on the mountain forty days and forty nights.

Exodus 34:28

(28)  So he was there with the LORD forty days and forty nights; he neither ate bread nor drank water. And He wrote on the tablets the words of the covenant, the Ten Commandments.

[iii] 2 Timothy 2:15

(15)  Be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth.

[iv] https://sovereigngracebroadcaster.wordpress.com/?p=71&preview=true#_edn2

[v] Acts 2:38; 17:30; 2nd Corinthians 7:10; Hebrews 6:1; 2nd Peter 3:9

Acts 2:38

(38)  Then Peter said to them, “Repent, and let every one of you be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins; and you shall receive the gift of the Holy Spirit.

Acts 17:30

(30)  Truly, these times of ignorance God overlooked, but now commands all men everywhere to repent,

2 Corinthians 7:10

(10)  For godly sorrow produces repentance leading to salvation, not to be regretted; but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Hebrews 6:1

(1)  Therefore, leaving the discussion of the elementary principles of Christ, let us go on to perfection, not laying again the foundation of repentance from dead works and of faith toward God,

2 Peter 3:9

(9)  The Lord is not slack concerning His promise, as some count slackness, but is longsuffering toward us, not willing that any should perish but that all should come to repentance.

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 6

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

Posted Sunday, March 23, 2014

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted.

MATTHEW CHAPTER 6 COMMENTARY

6:1-6    Motives

Jesus addresses our motives for what we do.  He tells us here (and also in verses 16-18) to not do things “to be seen” by men, but rather, do them unto God.

Compare Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:17, 22-23[i][END NOTES].

6:6       Prayer

See notes to 6:1-6 above for the general context of this verse.

I have heard some people attempt to use this verse, which is within the general context of verses 1-6, to say that we are sinning whenever we engage in public prayer (e.g., saying grace in a restaurant, group prayer, etc.)

This cannot be the case.  Jesus Himself – our example to follow – engaged in public prayer!

So, what does this apply to?  The key lies in the motivation not the method of prayer.  Notice, Jesus previously addressed motive as the key factor for why we should not pray before men to be seen; that motive is pride, cf. 6:1, 5.  The point being, to examine our own motives for anything we do (cf. 1st Corinthians 11:31 For if we would judge ourselves, we would not be judged; 2nd Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Do you not know yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?—unless indeed you are disqualified).

6:7       Prayer II

“Do not use vain repetitions,” is a reference to the types of prayers practiced in the Oriental world and common to a number of pagan religions, e.g., the use of prayer beads (as in a rosary), prayer wheels, etc., with a number of prayers repeated for each bead or turn of the wheel.  These practices are still common in Buddhism, Hinduism, and Roman Catholicism.

6:9-13   The Lord’s (so-NAMED) Prayer

This prayer is misnamed; it is not the “Lord’s” prayer.  The Lord had no need to ask for forgiveness!  This is, however, a model prayer given to us by the Lord.  He gave us this example of prayer (cf. Luke 11:2-4[ii]) in response to the disciples’ request that He teach them (how) to pray (cf. Luke 11:1).

For the ultimate Lord’s Prayer, as recorded in Scripture, read John Chapter 17[iii].

6:10      Thy Will Be Done

A.W. Pink (1886-1952), in his book The Sovereignty of God, makes a very interesting and, I believe, valid observation regarding this verse and the petition involved.  Pink writes in the 11th Chapter:

“For example, it has been asked, If what we see in the world today is but the outworking of God’s eternal purpose, if God’s counsel is NOW being accomplished, then why did our Lord teach His disciples to pray, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in Heaven”?  Is it not a clear implication from these words that God’s will is not now being done on earth?  The answer is very simple.  The emphatic word in the above clause is “as.”  God’s will is being done on earth today, if it is not, then our earth is not subject to God’s rule, and if it is not subject to His rule then He is not, as Scripture proclaims Him to be, “The Lord of all the earth” (Josh. 3:13).  But God’s will is not being done on earth as it is in Heaven.  How is God’s will “done in Heaven”?—consciously and joyfully.  How is it “done on earth”?  For the most part, unconsciously and sullenly.  In Heaven the angels perform the bidding of their Creator intelligently and gladly, but on earth the unsaved among men accomplish His will blindly and in ignorance.  As we have said in earlier pages, when Judas betrayed the Lord Jesus and when Pilate sentenced Him to be crucified they had no conscious intentions of fulfilling God’s decrees yet, nevertheless, unknown to themselves they did do so!” (Pink, 1930, pp. 143-144)

The above was a response to the objection to the doctrine of the “Sovereignty of God in Operation” in the world of Pink’s day, shortly after the horrors of WWI, and the subsequent worldwide Depression of that began in 1929.

6:22-23Dark Light?

Compare with Luke 11:34-36[iv].

As Jesus is teaching a spiritual lesson here and not biology or physics lesson, the main point is a spiritual one.  It is summed up here in the question, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness?”

Jesus’ lesson here is set within a series of lessons regarding the focus of our affections, e.g., whether earthly minded or spiritually minded, the former being condemned, the latter praised.  Jesus compares the function of the eyes in conveying information of the surrounding world to the mind, so that reasonable, rational decisions can be made in regard to what actions or direction to take, and the problems physical blindness cause in those functions, with something considerably worse, spiritual blindness mistaken for spiritual sight.  Of the two, the latter is the more dangerous as often the one suffering this type of blindness is not even aware that he is blind.  A good example of this blindness confused for sight, is that of the Pharisees, of whom Jesus called, “Blind leaders of the blind.”  See Matthew 15:14and note: “Blind Leading the Blind[v].”

            Practical Application

As with the rest of Scripture, which is “Profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, for instruction in righteousness,” cf. 2nd Timothy 3:16, there are practical applications of this teaching such as follows:

That the entire section in which it is found, verses 19-34, is a warning against worldliness and worldly-mindedness in the areas of money and what it supposedly represents – security.

A more general warning against the religiosity or false religion, spirituality.  Consider the fact that the Lord’s most scathing denunciations were reserved not for the run of the mill, average, screwed-up sinner who knew he was screwed-up, but for the Scribes, Pharisees, priests, and other such who made a big production of how “holy” they acted, but inside they were spiritually dead.  That is what Isaiah warned against when he wrote, “Woe to those who…put darkness for light and light for darkness.”  cf. Isaiah 5:20.

A warning against false assurances of salvation.  This is found in noting of the fact that, as here, the Scriptures are full of warnings against loving the world or the things of the world, against being carnally minded.  Compare 1st John 2:15-16; Romans 8:5-6[vi].

As Paul wrote in 2nd Corinthians, “Examine yourselves as to whether you are in the faith.  Test yourselves…”  (2nd Corinthians 13:5, ellipsis added.)

Here is one area of importance to check; what is the focus of your affection?  The world and those things of the world, or the Lord and His kingdom?  See also, 6:24; 6:25-34 and related notes following.

6:24      Only One

You can’t serve two masters!  Period, end of discussion.

6:25-34Don’t Worry

Worry is sin.  How?  Because it is rooted in unbelief and is an act of disobedience to Jesus’ own command to not worry.

Unbelief itself is rooted in the “pride of life.”  See 1 John 2:15-17[vii] for more on this.

In light of these and other passages, cf. Luke 12:22-29; Philippians 4:6[viii], it is clear that to “worry” is to sin; it is an act of unbelief, of a lack of trust/faith in God, not to mention the fact that it is a waste of time and can cause physical illness(es) related to stress.

 END NOTES:


[i] Ephesians 6:5-7; Colossians 3:17, 22-23

Ephesians 6:5-7

(5)  Bondservants, be obedient to those who are your masters according to the flesh, with fear and trembling, in sincerity of heart, as to Christ;

(6)  not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as bondservants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart,

(7)  with goodwill doing service, as to the Lord, and not to men,

Colossians 3:17, 22, 23

(17)  And whatever you do in word or deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.

(22)  Bondservants, obey in all things your masters according to the flesh, not with eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but in sincerity of heart, fearing God.

(23)  And whatever you do, do it heartily, as to the Lord and not to men,

 

[ii]Luke 11:1-4

(1)  Now it came to pass, as He was praying in a certain place, when He ceased, that one of His disciples said to Him, “Lord, teach us to pray, as John also taught his disciples.”

(2)  So He said to them, “When you pray, say: Our Father in heaven, Hallowed be Your name. Your kingdom come. Your will be done On earth as it is in heaven.

(3)  Give us day by day our daily bread.

(4)  And forgive us our sins, For we also forgive everyone who is indebted to us. And do not lead us into temptation, But deliver us from the evil one.”

 

[iii]John 17:1-26  Jesus spoke these words, lifted up His eyes to heaven, and said: “Father, the hour has come. Glorify Your Son, that Your Son also may glorify You,  (2)  as You have given Him authority over all flesh, that He should give eternal life to as many as You have given Him.  (3)  And this is eternal life, that they may know You, the only true God, and Jesus Christ whom You have sent.  (4)  I have glorified You on the earth. I have finished the work which You have given Me to do.  (5)  And now, O Father, glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.  (6)  “I have manifested Your name to the men whom You have given Me out of the world. They were Yours, You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.  (7)  Now they have known that all things which You have given Me are from You.  (8)  For I have given to them the words which You have given Me; and they have received them, and have known surely that I came forth from You; and they have believed that You sent Me.  (9)  “I pray for them. I do not pray for the world but for those whom You have given Me, for they are Yours.  (10)  And all Mine are Yours, and Yours are Mine, and I am glorified in them.  (11)  Now I am no longer in the world, but these are in the world, and I come to You. Holy Father, keep through Your name those whom You have given Me, that they may be one as We are.  (12)  While I was with them in the world, I kept them in Your name. Those whom You gave Me I have kept; and none of them is lost except the son of perdition, that the Scripture might be fulfilled.  (13)  But now I come to You, and these things I speak in the world, that they may have My joy fulfilled in themselves.  (14)  I have given them Your word; and the world has hated them because they are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (15)  I do not pray that You should take them out of the world, but that You should keep them from the evil one.  (16)  They are not of the world, just as I am not of the world.  (17)  Sanctify them by Your truth. Your word is truth.  (18)  As You sent Me into the world, I also have sent them into the world.  (19)  And for their sakes I sanctify Myself, that they also may be sanctified by the truth.  (20)  “I do not pray for these alone, but also for those who will believe in Me through their word;  (21)  that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.  (22)  And the glory which You gave Me I have given them, that they may be one just as We are one:  (23)  I in them, and You in Me; that they may be made perfect in one, and that the world may know that You have sent Me, and have loved them as You have loved Me.  (24)  “Father, I desire that they also whom You gave Me may be with Me where I am, that they may behold My glory which You have given Me; for You loved Me before the foundation of the world.  (25)  O righteous Father! The world has not known You, but I have known You; and these have known that You sent Me.  (26)  And I have declared to them Your name, and will declare it, that the love with which You loved Me may be in them, and I in them.”

 

[iv] Luke 11:34-36.

(34)  The lamp of the body is the eye. Therefore, when your eye is good, your whole body also is full of light. But when your eye is bad, your body also is full of darkness.

(35)  Therefore take heed that the light which is in you is not darkness.

(36)  If then your whole body is full of light, having no part dark, the whole body will be full of light, as when the bright shining of a lamp gives you light.”

As Jesus is teaching a spiritual lesson here and not biology or physics lesson, the main point is a spiritual one.  It is summed up here in the question, “If the light that is in you is darkness, how great is that darkness?”

 

[v]Matthew 15:14

(14)  Let them alone. They are blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind leads the blind, both will fall into a ditch.”

15:14     Blind Leading Blind

●             Why did Jesus refer to the Pharisees as, “the blind leading the blind”?  (Bold added).

It was certainly not because they did not have the Word of God available to them, to give light to their eyes.  No, it was because they did not heed that Word, putting their own traditions and customs before God’s Word, cf. 15:1-9.  Thus, they were the (spiritually) blind leading those poor lost (spiritually blind) souls into the pits of hell instead of into the light of God’s love as they expected.

Matthew 15:1-9

(1)  Then the scribes and Pharisees who were from Jerusalem came to Jesus, saying,

(2)  “Why do Your disciples transgress the tradition of the elders? For they do not wash their hands when they eat bread.”

(3)  He answered and said to them, “Why do you also transgress the commandment of God because of your tradition?

(4)  For God commanded, saying, ‘HONOR YOUR FATHER AND YOUR MOTHER’; and, ‘HE WHO CURSES FATHER OR MOTHER, LET HIM BE PUT TO DEATH.’

(5)  But you say, ‘Whoever says to his father or mother, “Whatever profit you might have received from me is a gift to God”–

(6)  then he need not honor his father or mother.’ Thus you have made the commandment of God of no effect by your tradition.

(7)  Hypocrites! Well did Isaiah prophesy about you, saying:

(8)  ‘THESE PEOPLE DRAW NEAR TO ME WITH THEIR MOUTH, AND HONOR ME WITH THEIR LIPS, BUT THEIR HEART IS FAR FROM ME.

(9)  AND IN VAIN THEY WORSHIP ME, TEACHING AS DOCTRINES THE COMMANDMENTS OF MEN.’ “

 

[vi] 1st John 2:15-16; Romans 8:5-6

1 John 2:15-16

(15)  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

(16)  For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.

Romans 8:5-6

(5)  For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

(6)  For to be carnally minded is death, but to be spiritually minded is life and peace.

 

[vii]1 John 2:15-17

(15)  Do not love the world or the things in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him.

(16)  For all that is in the world–the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life–is not of the Father but is of the world.

(17)  And the world is passing away, and the lust of it; but he who does the will of God abides forever.

2:15-17Don’t Love the World

•             The three temptations – the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eyes, and the pride of life are the same three the devil used in the Garden of Eden.  Compare:

1.            Lust of the flesh – “saw that it was good for food” (cf. Genesis 3:6.)

2.            Lust of the eyes – “saw… that it was pleasant to the eyes”

3.            Pride of life – “and…desirable to make one wise.”

•             The devil has been using the same trifecta ever since.  Truly there is “nothing new under the sun” cf. Ecclesiastes 1:9, just new variations on old themes.  With all our modern science and technology, the “wisdom of the world” cf. 1st Corinthians 1:20-21; 3:19, we have not achieved peace, happiness, joy, but have only continued to distance ourselves from our Creator, advancing only in ways to sin against Him.

 

[viii] Luke 12:22-31; Philippians 4:6

Luke 12:22-31

(22)  Then He said to His disciples, “Therefore I say to you, do not worry about your life, what you will eat; nor about the body, what you will put on.

(23)  Life is more than food, and the body is more than clothing.

(24)  Consider the ravens, for they neither sow nor reap, which have neither storehouse nor barn; and God feeds them. Of how much more value are you than the birds?

(25)  And which of you by worrying can add one cubit to his stature?

(26)  If you then are not able to do the least, why are you anxious for the rest?

(27)  Consider the lilies, how they grow: they neither toil nor spin; and yet I say to you, even Solomon in all his glory was not arrayed like one of these.

(28)  If then God so clothes the grass, which today is in the field and tomorrow is thrown into the oven, how much more will He clothe you, O you of little faith?

(29)  “And do not seek what you should eat or what you should drink, nor have an anxious mind.

(30)  For all these things the nations of the world seek after, and your Father knows that you need these things.

(31)  But seek the kingdom of God, and all these things shall be added to you.

Philippians 4:6

(6)  Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God;

 

END NEND NOTES

O

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 2

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted

MATTHEW CHAPTER 2 COMMENTARY

2:1-6    BETHLEHEM

●          The scribes and priests knew the prophecies about the coming King/Messiah, but they had hitched their wagon, so to speak, to Herod’s train, denying their true Lord.  In this they proved the truth of God’s Word in Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12.[i]

A MESSIANIC PROPHECY FULFILLED

Jesus’ birth in Bethlehem was prophesied in Micah 5:2[ii], sometime before the fall of the northern kingdom of Israel in 722 BC.

TIMELINE

●          Note the “in the days of Herod the king,” places Jesus’ birth not later than 4 BC, as that is the year that Herod died.

●          See notes to Matthew 1:25 [Previous post https://sovereigngracebroadcaster.wordpress.com/2014/03/09/meditations-on-the-gospel-according-to-saint-matthew-chapter-1/ and below][iii].

Additional Historical Note, cf. Luke 2:1-3[iv].  Cyrinius [a/k/a Quirinius] was made governor in 4BC according to some archeological findings.

2:11      Worship Him

●          As the Magi did, so we should do; fall on our knees and worship Christ the Lord.

●          That Scripture records this in a positive light is an argument for the deity of Christ, as only God is to be worshiped[v].

2:11 cont.         Fiction vs. Truth

●          Unlike the mythical image portrayed in most “Nativity scenes,” by the time of the Magi’s’ visit, Jesus was no longer in a manger “when they had come into the HOUSE [not “stable” or “manger”], they saw the YOUNG CHILD” [not “baby” or “infant”]; Jesus was a “young child,” possibly as old as 2 (cf. 2:16).  Joseph had found a place for his family to live by this time.

2:11 cont.         Gold, Frankincense, Myrrh & God’s Providential Care

●          Not only were the gifts of the wise-men, gifts appropriate for a king, but the timing of such valuable gifts is also worthy of note.  This is especially so in light of their coming just prior to Joseph and Mary having to flee to Egypt with their young son.

●          This is an excellent example of God’s providential care and direction of events in the lives of men.

Joseph, being a carpenter, would not normally have been a wealthy man (and he was in the norm here, cf. Luke 2:24 and note “Not Rich.”[vi]).  The sudden need to pack off his family and flee would have been a financial hardship, even staying within the same country where he might have received some help from friends and/or family.  Fleeing to another country, where they would have been complete strangers, would have been an economic disaster.  Yet God, in His wisdom, sent the Magi with the necessary provision for the coming journey.

●          God’s providence in directing the actions of the Magi, even to the choice of gifts to bring, is an example of God’s sovereignty in the affairs of man.

●          See also, Notes- Cross References, “The Sovereignty of God in…” [Future]

●          Note that though only 3 specific gifts are identified, this does not necessarily mean that they were the only gifts; more importantly however, it does not, in any way, state that there were only 3 wise men.  That is part of the mythology that has grown up around the Christmas tradition, much as the visit and gifts being presented to the Holy Family in the manger.  (See note above.)

2:15      A Messianic Prophecy Fulfilled

●          The return of Jesus and His family from Egypt fulfills Hosea 11:1[vii].

2:16      Murder Most Foul

●          Herod orders the murder of all male children born in Bethlehem and surrounding districts.  Compare this with Pharaoh’s order in Exodus 1:16, 22[viii].

●          Timing is everything.  At this time, Herod was the undisputed king of Israel.  Granted, Israel had been conquered by the Romans, under Pompey, some forty years earlier.  Nonetheless, under Roman policy, those conquered kingdoms which were inclined to be cooperative, retained a great deal of independence in managing their internal affairs.  Thus, Herod was able to give this despicable order to kill off any potential rivals to his throne; just so long as it had no effect on any Roman citizen or Roman policy/policies in general.

●          Had Christ been born as little as twenty years later, this event could not have happened, as the local rulers in Judea, then called Tetrarchs or governors, no longer had the right to exercise capital punishment without Roman approval, let alone order the mass murder of a bunch of children.  (See John 18:31 and note.[ix])

●          On a historical note:  A number of Bible commentators of the past, if they even mention the number, put the number around 15-30 slain.  This includes the surrounding region.  The lack of mention by Josephus is not surprising for a number of reasons; his being a zealous Jew, he would not normally make a big issue of something important to the “Christian” church, unless of course it was a really big deal.  This event, in light of many greater atrocities committed by Herod, is rather insignificant in the numbers involved.  Robinson’s Word Pictures entry is pretty much representative of what is written[x].

2:17-18 Prophecy Fulfilled

●          Herod’s actions bring the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jeremiah 31:15[xi].

2:19      Herod’s Death

●          Herod died in 4 BC.

●          Due to an error when creating the “Christian” calendar we now use, the beginning of the calendar was off.  Rather than beginning with the year of Christ’s birth as year 1, it begins after.  How much after is a matter of debate.  We know that Jesus was born while Herod was alive, not later than 4 BC.  With Herod’s order to kill all male children 2 years of age and under, we have a lower limit of 6 BC.  So, while we cannot, with certainty, say when Jesus was born, Herod’s death and prior actions allows us to place His birth between 6-4 BC.

2:23      A Nazarene

●          This reference is to an unspecified, unrecorded prophecy.

●          Tom Schaff, in his commentary (see note to 1:1[xii]) suggests that this may be a reference to the Hebrew word nazir, meaning “separated,” cf. Deuteronomy 33:16[xiii].  This would certainly describe Jesus in His earthly life and ministry.  Separated from His family who did not believe (cf. John 7:5[xiv]), to save them like Joseph, cf. Genesis 42:6[xv]; and from the rest of humanity when He was alone on the cross.

ENDNOTE(S):


[i] The Depravity of man or man’s utter sinfulness will be a separate topical study published in the future.

Psalms 14:1-3; 53:1-3; Romans 3:10-12

Psalms 14:1-3

(1)  To the Chief Musician. A Psalm of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, They have done abominable works, There is none who does good.

(2)  The LORD looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

(3)  They have all turned aside, They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Psalms 53:1-3

(1)  To the Chief Musician. Set to “Mahalath.” A Contemplation of David. The fool has said in his heart, “There is no God.” They are corrupt, and have done abominable iniquity; There is none who does good.

(2)  God looks down from heaven upon the children of men, To see if there are any who understand, who seek God.

(3)  Every one of them has turned aside; They have together become corrupt; There is none who does good, No, not one.

Romans 3:10-12

(10)  As it is written: “THERE IS NONE RIGHTEOUS, NO, NOT ONE;

(11)  THERE IS NONE WHO UNDERSTANDS; THERE IS NONE WHO SEEKS AFTER GOD.

(12)  THEY HAVE ALL TURNED ASIDE; THEY HAVE TOGETHER BECOME UNPROFITABLE; THERE IS NONE WHO DOES GOOD, NO, NOT ONE.”

[ii] Micah 5:2

(2)  “But you, Bethlehem Ephrathah, Though you are little among the thousands of Judah, Yet out of you shall come forth to Me The One to be Ruler in Israel, Whose goings forth are from of old, From everlasting.”

[iii] Matthew 1:25

(25)  and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.

1:25 JESUS’ BIRTH – TIMING OF
● See also, Luke 2:1-2; 2:8 and related notes, for a more detailed discussion of the “when” of Christ’s birth.
● Compare also, John 18:31-32 and note, “Prophecy Fulfilled,” (below) regarding the timing of His advent.
● See also, note “Timeline” at 2:1-6 following.

TILL
● Joseph “did not know [have sexual relations with] her till she brought forth her firstborn Son.”
Joseph and Mary did have relations after Jesus’ birth. True, the Scriptures do not say so in so many words, but it is there for those who look. Compare Matthew 27:55-56 and note that the James listed there is the same “James the Lord’s brother: of Galatians 1:19.
● Had Mary remained a virgin her entire life, as is taught by the Roman Catholic church, the above statement would have been either incorrect, at the worst or, misleading, at the best.
○ The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Joseph was an older man who brought his own children into his marriage with Mary, making James and the others “stepbrothers,” not “half-brothers” of Jesus. They deny that he and Mary ever had sexual relations. Though that does seem, on the surface, to be a reasonable interpretation of what happened; it is incorrect nonetheless.
○ This is seen in the choice of the words, “till” and “firstborn” in relation to Joseph and Mary’s sexual relationship. Till, implies that there were relations later. Firstborn indicates-
a) That there were other children born to Mary, as if she had no others, “only” would have been a better, clearer term. And,
b) Is the limiting term defining the “when” to which the “till” refers.
● Where the Bible is silent, we had best, if not be silent, then, not be dogmatic. The Bible does not directly say that Joseph and Mary had relations, nor does it directly state that she remained a virgin her entire life. Both conclusions are based on how one interprets the Scripture passages relating to them. While I believe that the Reformed churches (Protestant) have the correct understanding, this is not an area in which brethren should divide. One is not saved or lost based on whether Mary did or did not have sexual relations with her husband after the birth of Jesus. Both Protestant and Catholic agree that she was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit as is expressly stated in Scripture.

John 18:31-32 and note, “Prophecy Fulfilled,”

(31)  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

(32)  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

[iv] Luke 2:1-3

(1)  And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered.

(2)  This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

(3)  So all went to be registered, everyone to his own city.

[v] ONLY GOD

Following are but a few of the many passages teaching that “worship” belongs only to God, that is to say Yahweh, Jehovah, God (as contrasted with “god” or “a god”), the Triune [Father, Son, Holy Spirit] God of the Bible and no one and nothing else.  Bear in mind, if God teaches something as being true one time, it is true and it is important that we take it serious and respond accordingly.  When God repeats His words on any given subject, that doesn’t make it “more” true, but it does mean that we need to be especially prudent in paying heed because it is doubtful that He repeats Himself just because He likes the sound of His own voice, but to get it through our thick skulls.That God would repeat this teaching about worshipping only Him is vitally important as it impacts a number of areas.

Exo_34:14  (for you shall worship no other god, for the LORD, whose name is Jealous, is a jealous God),

Mat_4:10  Then Jesus said to him, “Away with you, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

Luk_4:8  And Jesus answered and said to him, “Get behind Me, Satan! For it is written, ‘YOU SHALL WORSHIP THE LORD YOUR GOD, AND HIM ONLY YOU SHALL SERVE.’ ”

Rev_19:10  And I fell at his feet to worship him. But he said to me, “See that you do not do that! I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren who have the testimony of Jesus. Worship God! For the testimony of Jesus is the spirit of prophecy.”

That no one confuses the angel here [19:10]  and again in  22:8ff with Jesus who appeared first in n Rev_1:13  “and in the midst of the seven lampstands One like the Son of Man, clothed with a garment down to the feet and girded about the chest with a golden band.”  One must make note that the angel here [19:10] is “another angel” and not the Lord, cf. Rev_18:1  “After these things I saw another angel coming down from heaven, having great authority, and the earth was illuminated with his glory.”  And it is that angel who speaks with John throughout until the end of the vision with exception of 21:5-8 where the Lord is speaking, Beginning again at 21:5, John is in the company of the angel introduced in 18:1.

Rev_22:9  Then he said to me, “See that you do not do that. For I am your fellow servant, and of your brethren the prophets, and of those who keep the words of this book. Worship God.”  [See comment above to Rev 19:10]

[vi] Luke 2:24

(24)  and to offer a sacrifice according to what is said in the law of the Lord, “A PAIR OF TURTLEDOVES OR TWO YOUNG PIGEONS.” (CAPS added for emphasis).

NOT RICH

●             Jesus did not come from a wealthy background as many “prosperity” preachers teach; His parents were so poor, they could only offer the minimum sacrifice mandated by law as the sacrifice for Mary’s cleansing.  Compare Exodus 13:2, 12, 15; Leviticus 12:8.

Exodus 13:2, 12, 15

(2)  “Consecrate to Me all the firstborn, whatever opens the womb among the children of Israel, both of man and beast; it is Mine.”

…..

(12)  that you shall set apart to the LORD all that open the womb, that is, every firstborn that comes from an animal which you have; the males shall be the LORD’s.

…..

(15)  And it came to pass, when Pharaoh was stubborn about letting us go, that the LORD killed all the firstborn in the land of Egypt, both the firstborn of man and the firstborn of beast. Therefore I sacrifice to the LORD all males that open the womb, but all the firstborn of my sons I redeem.’

Leviticus 12:8

(8)  ‘And if she is not able to bring a lamb, then she may bring two turtledoves or two young pigeons–one as a burnt offering and the other as a sin offering. So the priest shall make atonement for her, and she will be clean.’ ”

[vii] Hosea 11:1

(1)  “When Israel was a child, I loved him, And out of Egypt I called My son.

[viii] Exodus 1:16, 22 NKJV

(16)  and he said, “When you do the duties of a midwife for the Hebrew women, and see them on the birthstools, if it is a son, then you shall kill him; but if it is a daughter, then she shall live…..  (22)  So Pharaoh commanded all his people, saying, “Every son who is born you shall cast into the river, and every daughter you shall save alive.”

[ix] John 18:31-32 NKJV

(31)  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

(32)  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

18:31-32              PROPHECY FULFILLED

•             Two prophecies are fulfilled in Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans.

I.             The first involves the timing related to the coming of the Messiah [regarding which, I just saw an ad for a book by popular Pastor John Hagee in which he denies that Jesus came to be the Messiah, the book proves, “that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah” (39 sec. mark http://mywordlikefire.com/2014/03/07/john-hagee-says-jesus-did-not-come-to-earth-to-be-the-messiah/).  Yeah, right.  And anyone who believes that, I have a bridge for sale in Boston].  Regarding the timing is this prophecy from Genesis.

•             Genesis 49:10

•             (10)  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; ….

•             The “scepter” which is symbolic of ruling authority came to Judah in the time of King David and there it remained in one form or another throughout the kingdom years, the Babylonian exile – even those remaining behind were governed by their fellow Judahites – through the post-exile years until 6AD when Judah went from being an “independent associate kingdom” subject to Rome, to becoming a Roman province governed by a Roman Procurator or Governor according to Roman Law.  Judah thus lost the right to inflict capital punishment without prior approval from the Roman governor “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

•             Thus, the first prophecy of Genesis 49:10 limits the timing of the first Advent of the Messiah to a date prior to 6AD.  Jesus was born in 6-4BC.

•             The Second prophecy, related to the first was told by Jesus of how He would be killed by being crucified cf. John 8:18; 12:32-33.  This form of execution, while having its origins in the Persian practice of nailing or otherwise fastening the victim to a wagon wheel and torturing them to death, was taken and refined by the Romans into the form then practiced of lifting up the victim, fastened to an upright post (generally capped with a cross-piece in the form of a T or a t hence the term “cross”) where they were left to die.

•             Jesus’ “prophecy” spoken to the Disciples was not so much an original prophetic statement, but a reiteration of what He had revealed centuries earlier to King David. Compare Psalm 22, esp. vv14-18, and Isaiah 53, esp. vv.5-12 where death by [Roman style] crucifixion is described.

•             Just as prophesied a 1000 years earlier and again during His ministry, Jesus was “lifted up.”

[x] Robinson’s Word Pictures Entry

Matthew 2:16

Slew all the male children that were in Bethlehem (aneilen pantas tous paidas tous en Bēthleem). The flight of Joseph was justified, for Herod was violently enraged (ethumōthē lian) that he had been mocked by the Magi, deluded in fact (enepaichthē). Vulgate illusus esset. Herod did not know, of course, how old the child was, but he took no chances and included all the little boys (tous paidas, masculine article) in Bethlehem two years old and under, perhaps fifteen or twenty. It is no surprise that Josephus makes no note of this small item in Herod’s chamber of horrors. It was another fulfilment of the prophecy in Jer_31:15. The quotation (Mat_2:18) seems to be from the Septuagint. It was originally written of the Babylonian captivity but it has a striking illustration in this case also. Macrobius (Sat. II. iv. II) notes that Augustus said that it was better to be Herod’s sow (hus) than his son (huios), for the sow had a better chance of life.

[xi] Jeremiah 31:15

(15)  Thus says the LORD: “A voice was heard in Ramah, Lamentation and bitter weeping, Rachel weeping for her children, Refusing to be comforted for her children, Because they are no more.”

[xii] Note to Matthew 1:1

1:1 PURPOSE

● Matthew’s apparent purpose in writing his gospel appears to be to reach the Jews. To show them Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, King of Scripture. This would account for his emphasis, from the start, on Jesus’ descent from the Patriarch Abraham and King David. There is also, his heavy emphasis on fulfilled prophecies. Matthew refers to and cites more Old Testament Scriptures than any of the other Gospel writers.

● Author Tom Schaff believes that the generally accepted view (above) is in error. He suggests the following alternative:

○ Matthew’s early reference to Jesus as being the Son of David and the son of Abraham are simply to establish His bona fides as the legitimate heir to the throne of God’s people and the one through whom the blessing promised to all the world through Abraham’s seed came.

○ Matthew’s heavy use of O.T. Scripture may have merely been an attempt to educate Gentile readers to the fact that this same Jesus is the One of whom the Scriptures spoke. As Schaff points out, Paul’s epistle to the Romans is full of O.T. Scripture quotations and references yet it was not addressed to Jewish believers but Gentile. All the Gospels record Jesus going almost exclusively to the Jews and only on a few occasions being involved with Gentiles. Additionally, the entire Gospel, as contained in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, is for all people.

○ Matthew’s (need for) explaining the meaning of Hebrew words argues against a primary emphasis on the Jews (cf. Matthew 1:23; Matthew 27:33, 46).

○ The Bible itself says no such thing as that the Gospel of Matthew is or was intended primarily for Jewish readers. Therefore, as Schaff points out, any such conclusion is “a pointless exercise in conjecture.” Further, he writes, and I must agree, “we cannot say as fact things upon which the Bible is silent.”

[xiii] Deuteronomy 33:16 KJV+

(16)  And for the precious thingsH4480 H4022 of the earthH776 and fulnessH4393 thereof, and for the good willH7522 of him that dweltH7931 in the bush:H5572 let the blessing comeH935 upon the headH7218 of Joseph,H3130 and upon the top of the headH6936 of him that was separatedH5139 from his brethren.H251

“Separated” H5129 – נזר  /  נזיר

nâzı̂yr  /  nâzir

Total KJV Occurrences: 18

nazarite, 9

Num_6:2, Num_6:13, Num_6:18-21 (4), Jdg_13:5, Jdg_13:7, Jdg_16:17

nazarites, 3

Lam_4:7, Amo_2:11-12 (2)

undressed, 2

Lev_25:5, Lev_25:11

vine, 2

Lev_25:5, Lev_25:11

separate, 1

Gen_49:26

separated, 1

Deu_33:16

[xiv] John 7:5 NKJV

(5)  For even His brothers did not believe in Him.

[xv] Genesis 42:6 NKJV

(6)  Now Joseph was governor over the land; and it was he who sold to all the people of the land. And Joseph’s brothers came and bowed down before him with their faces to the earth.

Chapter 2 of Matthew’s Gospel can be read by following this link: http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%202&version=NKJV

Meditations on the Gospel According to Saint Matthew, Chapter 1

Adapted from manuscript notes written from 2003 to 2010

By

Michael Fernandez

Posted Sunday, March 9, 2014

A detailed commentary on Matthew’s Gospel written for the modern audience.  It contains material of historical, theological, and social/scientific nature reflecting the current state of theological and historical research by men and women much wiser than the author.  It also contains commentary on present day trends such as the psychologization of the Church and postmodernism, among other things, and how they relate to Scripture. Adapted from manuscript notes originally written between 2003-2010 and updated with newer information and improved references as the transcription process continues.  All Scriptures cited are from the New King James Version (NKJV/NKJ) unless otherwise noted.

Matthew Chapter 1

1:1 PURPOSE

● Matthew’s apparent purpose in writing his gospel appears to be to reach the Jews. To show them Jesus as the prophesied Messiah, King of Scripture. This would account for his emphasis, from the start, on Jesus’ descent from the Patriarch Abraham and King David. There is also, his heavy emphasis on fulfilled prophecies. Matthew refers to and cites more Old Testament Scriptures than any of the other Gospel writers.

● Author Tom Schaff believes that the generally accepted view (above) is in error. He suggests the following alternative:

○ Matthew’s early reference to Jesus as being the Son of David and the son of Abraham are simply to establish His bona fides as the legitimate heir to the throne of God’s people and the one through whom the blessing promised to all the world through Abraham’s seed came.

○ Matthew’s heavy use of O.T. Scripture may have merely been an attempt to educate Gentile readers to the fact that this same Jesus is the One of whom the Scriptures spoke. As Schaff points out, Paul’s epistle to the Romans is full of O.T. Scripture quotations and references yet it was not addressed to Jewish believers but Gentile. All the Gospels record Jesus going almost exclusively to the Jews and only on a few occasions being involved with Gentiles. Additionally, the entire Gospel, as contained in both the Old and New Testament Scriptures, is for all people.

○ Matthew’s (need for) explaining the meaning of Hebrew words argues against a primary emphasis on the Jews (cf. Matthew 1:23; Matthew 27:33, 46).

○ The Bible itself says no such thing as that the Gospel of Matthew is or was intended primarily for Jewish readers. Therefore, as Schaff points out, any such conclusion is “a pointless exercise in conjecture.” Further, he writes, and I must agree, “we cannot say as fact things upon which the Bible is silent.”

1:1-16 JESUS’ GENEALOGY

● The Matthean genealogy is a stylized one, set in groups of 14 (as a mnemonic aid?) and shows Jesus as the Son of David and of the Patriarch Abraham; two important Messianic titles.

● The Matthean genealogy, while primarily focused on showing Jesus’ descent from the patriarchs Abraham, Isaac and Jacob, and His descent from King David and so establishing His claim as the Messiah/King of prophecy, also differs from most biblical and Jewish genealogies in that it:

1. Included women, and not just any women, but women who were known sinners.

2. Included Gentiles.

● The Matthean genealogy is more than just a list of names establishing Jesus’ claim to the throne of Israel. It is a lesson on the grace and mercy of God, as an examination of its unusual inclusions will show. Some of the more exceptional inclusions in this genealogy are:

○ v. 2 – Jacob. A real scoundrel at first; he was a man who conned his brother out of both his birthright and his blessing (the special blessing due to the firstborn child). See his story in Genesis 25:29-34; Genesis 27:1-46.

○ v. 3 – Tamar and Judah. Israel’s first born son begot Perez by way of Tamar, his own daughter-in-law, who herself had “played the harlot,” with him in order to get sons as was her due because Judah had failed to keep his promise to give her his youngest son as husband, following the deaths of two other sons who had been married to her. See story in Genesis 38.

○ v. 5 – Rahab. Salmon begot Boaz by Rahab who was a harlot, who sheltered the two Hebrew spies sent by Joshua to the city of Jericho. She, though a prostitute (and thus a gross sinner) and a Gentile (which in the eyes of the Jews of Jesus’ day, may have been viewed as being just as bad, if not worse), recognized that the hand of God was upon the Israelites and cast her life and that of her family upon the mercy of God. See story in Joshua 2:1-21; Joshua 6:17.

○ v. 5 – Ruth. Boaz begot Obed by Ruth (a Moabitess). Here is another Gentile woman in Jesus’ lineage. This shows that Jesus came to save not just the Jews, but ANYONE who would turn to God in faith. See story in Ruth.

○ v. 6 – David and Bathsheba. David begot Solomon by the widow of Uriah whom he (David) had killed in an attempt to cover up his (David’s) adultery with his (Uriah’s) wife. So here are both a murderer and adulterer, and an adulteress who are included in the lineage of our Lord. See story in 2 Samuel 11, 12.

● So, here were not just men of honor (thought there were some) but men and women, Jew and Gentile, honorable and dishonorable. The thread that ties them all together – Faith in God! “By grace you have been saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God.” (Ephesians 2:8).

● The genealogy of Christ, as presented here is also a picture of the Church, made up of all kinds of different people, all connected by their God given faith in Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

• Beginning at Matthew v6 and Luke v31 the genealogies split. In both cases, Jesus is shown as being descended from King David but through different sons. Some scholars say the genealogies trace the lines of Joseph, as Jesus’ (earthly) father, in Matthew and Mary, Jesus’ mother, in Luke. Matthew, tracing the line through the normally followed kingly line of descent through Jeconiah (reigned in Judah for 3 months in 597 B.C., cf. 2 Kings 24:8; a.k.a., Jehoiachin, Coniah), contrasted with Luke, tracing Mary’s line of descent through David’s son Nathan (cf. Luke 3:31) and not through Jeconiah, upon whom was the curse of God that none of his descendants would sit on the throne of David, and thus avoiding that prophetic snare. The Lucan genealogy also differs in that it seems to emphasize Jesus’ humanity as a descendant of Adam.

Verse #(s):Matthew Ancestor(s) Verse #(s):Luke Ancestor(s)
2 Abraham 38 – 34 Adam to Abraham
  Isaac 34 Isaac
  Jacob   Jacob
  Judah 33 Judah
3 Pere & Sarah by Tamar   Perez
  Hezron   Hezron
  Ram   Ram
4 Amminadab   Amminadab
  Nashon 32 Nashon
  Salmon   Salmon
  Boaz by Rahab   Boaz
  Obed by Ruth   Obed
  Jesse   Jesse
6 David 31 David

1:11 CURSED

● See Jeremiah 22:24-30[i], regarding the prophetic curse upon Jeconiah (Coniah) and his descendants.

● As Jesus was not physically descended from Jeconiah; He avoids this curse.

1:20 WHO IS HOLY?

Adapted from note: “Who is Holy?” in Notes – Difficult Passages (pp. 16-17, MS.) written originally on 2-9-2008.

While translated, “by the Holy Spirit” or “Holy Ghost” in the KJV, NKJV, AB, Rheims, NRSB, NAB, NIV, NASB (English) and the NVI, Reina-Valera and LBLA, reading “del Espiritu Santo” or equivalent; I do not understand how that is so.

The T.R. And UBS 4 Greek manuscripts both read the same (with the exception that the T.R. capitalizes the words for “spirit” and “holy.” The Greek reads as follows:

“ (that) το G3588 T-NSN (for) γαρ G1063 CONJ (in) εν G1722 PREP (her) αυτη G846 P-DSF (begotten or generated) γεννηθεν G1080 V-APP-NSN (from) εκ G1537 PREP ([the] Spirit/spirit) πνευματος G4151 N-GSN (is) εστιν G1510 V-PAI-3S (Holy/holy) αγιου G40 A-GSN” (GNT-TR with Strong’s, grammar, and author’s English equivalents (in parenthesis)) .

In both the TR and UBS 4, the Greek is anarthrous (without the definite article) yet, all the English translations and Spanish translations referred to above supply the definite article “the” (“el”) for “spirit”.

My question is; why is this translated “by the Holy Spirit”, instead of “by spirit is holy”? That is, why is this not translated as “that which is conceived in her by spirit is holy”?

Granted, elsewhere we are told that the Holy Spirit would come upon her and she would conceive a son (cf. Luke 1:35, cf. Luke 1:31[ii]), but that does not seem to be what it says here.

Elsewhere, Christ is referred to as “the Holy One of God” (σε τις ει ο αγιος του θεου; cf. Mark 1:24); “that holy thing [one] to be born of you” (cf. Luke 1:35 note 2 below); “the Holy One of God” (see above, cf. Luke 4:34[iii]); etc. These sayings are consistent with a rendering of this verse as I have indicated above. Why then, is it not translated thus? What rule(s) of Greek Grammar allow, or require it to be translated as it was?

PRESERVED

Regardless of the textual and translation variants, one thing is certain, each reflect a truth of Christ as clearly expressed in other passages (see above). This then is evidence of God’s preservation of His Word in that any “truth” that He would have us to know, any “revelation” has been and will be preserved.

1:21 THE NAME ABOVE ALL NAMES

● Jesus; Ἰησοῦς, Jesús, Jesu; all are forms of the Hebrew Yeshua meaning literally, “The Lord Saves.”

HIS PURPOSE

● Here, in the first chapter of Matthew, we have the first of many direct statements as to Christ’s purpose or mission on earth, “He will save His people from their sins” (HCSB).

● He will save – speaks of the certainty of His accomplishing that salvation He came to give. See “Security of the Believer,” below.

● His people – speaks of His coming for a particular people. This compared with Revelation 5:9-10 and Matthew 28:19-20[iv] (the Great Commission) among other passages, shows that this does not refer to the Jews only (who are His people in the flesh, i.e., biologically related), but to all those whom God has chosen from before the foundation of the world to be His, cf. Ephesians 1:4[v]

SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER

● That “He will save” is a solid, direct statement of what Christ came to and will do, without fail. “He will save His people from their sins.” His people will be, not “might be,” not “be given an opportunity to be,” but “will be saved!”

● See also: Joshua 7:11-13 and note 2 “Security of the Believer[vi];” Matthew 10:22 and note “Enduring to the End[vii];” 24:13 and note “Perseverance” [v]; John 6:39-40 and note “Security of the Believer;” 13:1 and note “Security of the Believer [vi];” 2nd Corinthians 5:5 and note “Security of the Believer [vii];” Galatians 3:13 and note “Redeemed = Security [viii];” Hebrews 3:6 and note “Endurance;” and 6:11-12 [Future]and note “Perseverance, Exhortations to.”[Future]

1:22-23 GOD WITH US
● “Immanuel,” lit. “God with us.” One of many direct biblical statements declaring that Christ was/is God.
● A fulfillment of the prophecy of Isaiah that a virgin would bear a son and call him “Immanuel,” cf. Isaiah 7:14[viii].

1:25 JESUS’ BIRTH – TIMING OF
● See also, Luke 2:1-2; 2:8 and related notes[ix], for a more detailed discussion of the “when” of Christ’s birth.
● Compare also, John 18:31-32 and note, “Prophecy Fulfilled[x],” regarding the timing of His advent.
● See also, note “Timeline” at Matthew 2:1-6[xi].

TILL
● Joseph “did not know [have sexual relations with] her till she brought forth her firstborn Son.”
Joseph and Mary did have relations after Jesus’ birth. True, the Scriptures do not say so in so many words, but it is there for those who look. Compare Matthew 27:55-56 and note that the James listed there is the same “James the Lord’s brother: of Galatians 1:19[xii].
● Had Mary remained a virgin her entire life, as is taught by the Roman Catholic church, the above statement would have been either incorrect, at the worst or, misleading, at the best.
○ The Roman Catholic Church teaches that Joseph was an older man who brought his own children into his marriage with Mary, making James and the others “stepbrothers,” not “half-brothers” of Jesus. They deny that he and Mary ever had sexual relations. Though that does seem, on the surface, to be a reasonable interpretation of what happened; it is incorrect nonetheless.
○ This is seen in the choice of the words, “till” and “firstborn” in relation to Joseph and Mary’s sexual relationship. Till, implies that there were relations later. Firstborn indicates-
a) That there were other children born to Mary, as if she had no others, “only” would have been a better, clearer term. And,
b) “Firstborn” is the limiting term defining the “when” to which the “till” refers.
● Where the Bible is silent, we had best, if not be silent, then, not be dogmatic. The Bible does not directly say that Joseph and Mary had relations, nor does it directly state that she remained a virgin her entire life. Both conclusions are based on how one interprets the Scripture passages relating to them. While I believe that the Reformed churches (Protestant) have the correct understanding, this is not an area in which brethren should divide. One is not saved or lost based on whether Mary did or did not have sexual relations with her husband after the birth of Jesus. Both Protestant and Catholic agree that she was a virgin when Jesus was conceived in her by the Holy Spirit as is expressly stated in Scripture.

(21) And she will bring forth a Son, and you shall call His name JESUS, for He will save His people from their sins.” (22) So all this was done that it might be fulfilled which was spoken by the Lord through the prophet, saying: (23) “BEHOLD, THE VIRGIN SHALL BE WITH CHILD, AND BEAR A SON, AND THEY SHALL CALL HIS NAME IMMANUEL,” which is translated, “God with us.” (24) Then Joseph, being aroused from sleep, did as the angel of the Lord commanded him and took to him his wife, (25) and did not know her till she had brought forth her firstborn Son. And he called His name JESUS.


ENDNOTES:

[i] Jer 22:24-30 “As I live,” says the LORD, “though Coniah the son of Jehoiakim, king of Judah, were the signet on My right hand, yet I would pluck you off; (25) and I will give you into the hand of those who seek your life, and into the hand of those whose face you fear–the hand of Nebuchadnezzar king of Babylon and the hand of the Chaldeans. (26) So I will cast you out, and your mother who bore you, into another country where you were not born; and there you shall die. (27) But to the land to which they desire to return, there they shall not return. (28) “Is this man Coniah a despised, broken idol– A vessel in which is no pleasure? Why are they cast out, he and his descendants, And cast into a land which they do not know? (29) O earth, earth, earth, Hear the word of the LORD! (30) Thus says the LORD: ‘Write this man down as childless, A man who shall not prosper in his days; For none of his descendants shall prosper, Sitting on the throne of David, And ruling anymore in Judah.’ ”

[ii] Luke 1:35, cf. Luke 1:31

Luke 1:35

(35)  And the angel answered and said to her, “The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Highest will overshadow you; therefore, also, that Holy One who is to be born will be called the Son of God.

Luke 1:31

(31)  And behold, you will conceive in your womb and bring forth a Son, and shall call His name JESUS.

[iii] Luke 4:34

(34)  saying, “Let us alone! What have we to do with You, Jesus of Nazareth? Did You come to destroy us? I know who You are–the Holy One of God!”

[iv] Revelation 5:9-10 and Matthew 28:19-20

Revelation 5:9-10

(9)  And they sang a new song, saying: “You are worthy to take the scroll, And to open its seals; For You were slain, And have redeemed us to God by Your blood Out of every tribe and tongue and people and nation,

(10)  And have made us kings and priests to our God; And we shall reign on the earth.”

Matthew 28:19-20

(19)  Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit,

(20)  teaching them to observe all things that I have commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Amen.

[v] Ephesians 1:4

(4)  just as He chose us in Him before the foundation of the world, that we should be holy and without blame before Him in love,

[vi] Joshua 7:11-13

Jos 7:11-13 Israel has sinned, and they have also transgressed My covenant which I commanded them. For they have even taken some of the accursed things, and have both stolen and deceived; and they have also put it among their own stuff. (12) Therefore the children of Israel could not stand before their enemies, but turned their backs before their enemies, because they have become doomed to destruction. Neither will I be with you anymore, unless you destroy the accursed from among you. (13) Get up, sanctify the people, and say, ‘Sanctify yourselves for tomorrow, because thus says the LORD God of Israel: “There is an accursed thing in your midst, O Israel; you cannot stand before your enemies until you take away the accursed thing from among you.”

SECURITY OF THE BELIEVER

• Curiously enough, in spite of Aachan’s death for his sinful act, this event in its entirety is a good argument for the doctrine of The Security of the Believer. How so? As follows:

Israel as a whole was God’s chosen people cf. Romans 9 and while, in Aachan, Israel sinned and suffered the loss of God’s blessings of success, power of her enemies; at the same time, Israel remained God’s chosen people. Moreover, when Israel cleansed herself of her sin, her communion with God and His power in her corporate life was restored.

• This example is but one of many to come of Israel’s almost continual cycle of sin, repentance, restoration, fall back into sin, repentance…., etc., etc., etc., until God’s purpose for her was fulfilled: the coming of Christ, of Him who will save His people from their sins.

[vii] Matthew 10:22

(22)  And you will be hated by all for My name’s sake. But he who endures to the end will be saved.

10:22     Enduring to the End

●             “[H]e who endures to the end will be saved.”

             Originally written in January 2004.

●             I recently heard a preacher teach that this verse does not apply to Christians and the Church, but rather, to Jewish converts in the [Great] Tribulation.  While I respect this brother and have learned much from him in the past, and no doubt will learn more in the future, I do not agree with his interpretation of this verse.

●             The theme of “endurance to the end” is a basic theme throughout Scripture, and especially so in the New Testament.  Compare, Matthew 24:13; Mark 13:13; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 6:15; Revelation 2:7, 11, 17, 26; 3:5, 12, and 21.  These are but a few of the more obvious passages.  There are many others which speak of enduring, continuing in, persevering in, etc.

●             While this verse may have an application to Jewish converts in the end times, the “Tribulation,” they do apply to us today.

[viii] Isa 7:14 NKJV

(14) Therefore the Lord Himself will give you a sign: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a Son, and shall call His name Immanuel.

[ix] Luk 2:1-2 NKJV

(1) And it came to pass in those days that a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be registered. (2) This census first took place while Quirinius was governing Syria.

2:1-2 WHAT YEAR?

● Christ’s birth is connected to the year of an Empire wide census. We cannot fix the exact timing of this census at this late date due to the loss of necessary records from that period.

● What is known from the extant historical records is that one Publius Sulpicius Quirinius did rule twice over Syria, which included Judea, the first time possibly from 6-4BC and the second between 6-9AD. History also bears record that a census of the whole world [read: Roman Empire] was ordered in 8BC but due to circumstances no longer known, was not carried out in the region of Syria/Judea until the time of Quirinius. Note: Some sources put Qurinius’s firs governorship between 11-9BC and the original order by Augustus for the census around 12BC. In any event, it is currently impossible to determine the exact time of the census (at least as it was conducted in Judea, nor as a result, the exact year of Christ’s birth.

● The general consensus is that Joseph and Mary, as a result of the census taking place in Judea, travelled to Bethlehem sometime before 4BC, the year of Herod the Great’s death) and probably not before 9-6BC.

● As John MacArthur points out in his study Bible notes, at the time of the writing of Luke, the reader [Theophilus] was most likely familiar enough with the events in question that more information was not needed.

Luk 2:8 NKJV

(8) Now there were in the same country shepherds living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night.

2:8 What Month?

● Contrary to long held custom, Jesus’ birth most certainly was not on December 25th of any year. December 25th was the date selected by some well meaning (?) church leaders to take over, as it were, the pagan celebration of Dies Solis Invictus or the Day of the Invincible Sun. That Jesus could not have been born in December is indicated from the fact that the Scripture records that the shepherds were “living out in the fields, keeping watch over their flock by night” v.8. In the hill country around Jerusalem, the nights in winter are cold and most shepherds take their sheep in at night.

● So when was He born? On this side of eternity, we will probably never know. We know that Mary became pregnant “in the sixth month” cf. 1:26. But the sixth month from when? From the beginning of Elizabeth’s pregnancy? Or perhaps the sixth month of the year, and if that, by which calendar, civil or religious? That gives us at least 3 different potential months for Jesus’ conception/birth.

1. If Jesus was conceived 6 months after John the Baptist was conceived, assuming his conception took place within one month of his father’s service in the Temple (8th month of the religious calendar), that would place John’s conception during the 9th month of the religious calendar (Nov/Dec) – From the Exodus onward, the Jews employed two calendars. The original/civil calendar began the New Year in the Mid-September where with the institution of Passover and the new beginning for the Hebrews, the new calendar began with that event, making the new year’s beginning in the spring – and Jesus’ conception following six months later or Jun/Jul and with John’s birth being around Sept/Oct and Jesus’ birth sometime around the Passover Mar/Apr.

2. If Jesus’ was conceived in the sixth month of the year, then depending on whether it was according to the civil or religious calendar, His conception would have taken place in:

■ Feb/Mar according to the civil calendar with birth following in May/Jun. Or,

■ Aug/Sep by the religious calendar with birth following in Apr/May.

As we do not know for sure what Luke meant by his dates, we cannot know for sure when Christ was born.

● It may well be that God caused the precise information regarding the date of Christ’s birth and as a consequence, His death, to be lost so that we do not fall into the temptation of trying to “divine” or guess the date of His return (though there are plenty that still try) by using one or both of those dates as a fixed point to calculate.

● One final word. There are some who suggest that Christ may have been born at the time of Passover. But again, this is pure conjecture. It is a better probability than December 25th, but it is not a certainty.

[x] John 18:31-32 NKJV

(31)  Then Pilate said to them, “You take Him and judge Him according to your law.” Therefore the Jews said to him, “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death,”

(32)  that the saying of Jesus might be fulfilled which He spoke, signifying by what death He would die.

18:31-32              PROPHECY FULFILLED

•             Two prophecies are fulfilled in Christ’s death at the hands of the Romans.

I.             The first involves the timing related to the coming of the Messiah [regarding which, I just saw an ad for a book by popular Pastor John Hagee in which he denies that Jesus came to be the Messiah, the book proves, “that Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah” (39 sec. mark http://mywordlikefire.com/2014/03/07/john-hagee-says-jesus-did-not-come-to-earth-to-be-the-messiah/).  Yeah, right.  And anyone who believes that, I have a bridge for sale in Boston].  Regarding the timing is this prophecy from Genesis.

•             Genesis 49:10

•             (10)  The scepter shall not depart from Judah, Nor a lawgiver from between his feet, Until Shiloh comes; ….

•             The “scepter” which is symbolic of ruling authority came to Judah in the time of King David and there it remained in one form or another throughout the kingdom years, the Babylonian exile – even those remaining behind were governed by their fellow Judahites – through the post-exile years until 6AD when Judah went from being an “independent associate kingdom” subject to Rome, to becoming a Roman province governed by a Roman Procurator or Governor according to Roman Law.  Judah thus lost the right to inflict capital punishment without prior approval from the Roman governor “It is not lawful for us to put anyone to death.”

•             Thus, the first prophecy of Genesis 49:10 limits the timing of the first Advent of the Messiah to a date prior to 6AD.  Jesus was born in 6-4BC.

•             The Second prophecy, related to the first was told by Jesus of how He would be killed by being crucified cf. John 8:18; 12:32-33.  This form of execution, while having its origins in the Persian practice of nailing or otherwise fastening the victim to a wagon wheel and torturing them to death, was taken and refined by the Romans into the form then practiced of lifting up the victim, fastened to an upright post (generally capped with a cross-piece in the form of a T or a t hence the term “cross”) where they were left to die.

•             Jesus’ “prophecy” spoken to the Disciples was not so much an original prophetic statement, but a reiteration of what He had revealed centuries earlier to King David. Compare Psalm 22, esp. vv14-18, and Isaiah 53, esp. vv.5-12 where death by [Roman style] crucifixion is described.

•             Just as prophesied a 1000 years earlier and again during His ministry, Jesus was “lifted up.”

[xi] Matthew 2:1-6

(1)  Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the East came to Jerusalem,

(2)  saying, “Where is He who has been born King of the Jews? For we have seen His star in the East and have come to worship Him.”

(3)  When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him.

(4)  And when he had gathered all the chief priests and scribes of the people together, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born.

(5)  So they said to him, “In Bethlehem of Judea, for thus it is written by the prophet:

(6)  ‘BUT YOU, BETHLEHEM, IN THE LAND OF JUDAH, ARE NOT THE LEAST AMONG THE RULERS OF JUDAH; FOR OUT OF YOU SHALL COME A RULER WHO WILL SHEPHERD MY PEOPLE ISRAEL.’ ”

TIMELINE

●             Note the “in the days of Herod the king,” places Jesus’ birth not later than 4 BC, as that is the year that Herod died.

●             See notes to Matthew 1:25 [Previous day and below] .

Additional Historical Note, cf. Luke 2:1-3 [v].  Cyrinius [a/k/a Quirinius] was made governor in 4BC according to some archeological findings.

[xii] Matthew 27:55-56; Galatians 1:19

Matthew 27:55-56

(55)  And many women who followed Jesus from Galilee, ministering to Him, were there looking on from afar,

(56)  among whom were Mary Magdalene, Mary the mother of James and Joses, and the mother of Zebedee’s sons.

Galatians 1:19

(19)  But I saw none of the other apostles except James, the Lord’s brother.

A copy of Chapter 1 of Matthew’s Gospel can be read by opening this link.  http://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew+1&version=NKJV