Becoming a World Class Leader

This is the final command of Jesus, regarding the Great Commission, from Matthew 28:16-20, Sec. 256 in Thomas and Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels.

Purpose: These are some of the last words of our Savior to His faithful followers. Last words are important. Do you remember the last words of a loved one who died or moved far away? It’s rare that we would forget last words from a loved one. The purpose of this lesson is to remember these last words. Christ’s last words in this passage ought to be our first concern as the church! These last words are the church’s marching orders. This passage is often called the Great Commission. The Bible never calls it the Great Commission. It is great because our Lord gave it to us. But I often think that when normal everyday people like you and I hear that word “Great,” we immediately exclude ourselves. We think, “a Great Commission can only be achieved by great people.” I’d rather join Donn Spader in calling it the Everyday Commission for everyday kind of people like you and me.

Historical Background: Jesus has died on the cross and risen from the dead. The proof of His resurrection is his post resurrection appearances. This passage describes His eighth appearance. All four gospels and the Book of Acts give us different versions of the Great Commission. Matthew provides us with an inclusive version of the Great Commission, where the other Gospels and Acts focus on evangelism. This passage tells us why the church exists on planet earth. Jesus here calls the disciples to be purposeful in making disciples of a lost world who are heading toward a Christless eternity in Hell rather than unintentional. The imperative in this passage is our marching orders until Jesus comes.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 28:19 – go (participle); 28:19 – “make disciples;” 28:19 – “baptizing” (participle); 28:20 – “teaching” (participle); Mark 16:15 – “preach.”

Jesus modeled making disciples throughout the gospels. We are told in Matthew 27:57 “…a rich man from Arimathea, named Joseph, who himself had also become a disciple of Jesus” (literal translation). The Apostle John observes that “the Pharisees had heard that Jesus was making and baptizing more disciples than John” (John 4:1).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Acts 14:21

Amplified in the Epistles: Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14

1. When did Jesus prearrange to meet his disciples in Galilee? (Matthew 28:16; 26:32; 28:7-10) Jesus had predicted and prearranged a meeting in Galilee with the disciples and the brethren. Matthew 26:32 “But after I have been raised, I will go ahead of you to Galilee” (Matthew 28:7-10). “Go quickly and tell His disciples that He has risen from the dead; and behold, He is going ahead of you into Galilee, there you will see Him; behold, I have told you.” 8And they left the tomb quickly with fear and great joy and ran to report it to His disciples. 9And behold, Jesus met them and greeted them. And they came up and took hold of His feet and worshiped Him. 10then Jesus said to them, “Do not be afraid; go and take word to My brethren to leave for Galilee, and there they will see Me.”

2. What post-resurrection appearance was this Galilean meeting? Jesus appeared ten times after his resurrection and before his ascension. Matthew 28:16-20 was his eighth appearance.

Ten Post-Resurrection Appearances

  1. Appearance to Mary Magdalene, Mark 16:9-11;John 20:11-18 [NASB Sec.248; NIV Sec.173]
  2. Appearance to the women, Matthew 28:9-10 [NASB Sec.249; NIV Sec.174]
  3. Appearances to the two disciples traveling to Emmaus, Mark 16:12-13; Luke 24:13-32 [NASB Sec.251; NIV Sec.176]
  4. Appearance to Peter, Luke 24:33-35; 1 Corinthians 15:5a [NASB Sec.252; NIV Sec.177]
  5. Appearance to the ten assembled disciples, Mark 16:14; Luke 24:36-43; John 20:19-25 [NASB Sec.253; NIV Sec.178]
  6. Appearance to the eleven disciples, John 20:26-31; 1 Corinthians 15:5b [NASB Sec.254; NIV Sec.179]
  7. Appearance to the seven disciples while fishing, John 21:1-35 [NASB Sec.255;NIV Sec.180]
  8. Appearance to the eleven in Galilee, Matthew 28:16-20; Mark 16:15-18; 1 Corinthians 15:6 [NASB Sec.256; NIV Sec.181]
  9. Appearance to James, Jesus’ brother, 1 Corinthians 15:7 [NASB Sec.257;NIV Sec.182]
  10. Appearances to the disciples in Jerusalem, Luke 24:44-49; Acts 1:3-8 [NASB Sec.258; NIV Sec.183]

3. How many people assembled for this meeting? (Matthew 28:16-17; 1 Corinthians 15:6) Eleven Apostles were present, and when you harmonize the chronological sequence of Christ’s post resurrection appearances we can confidently conclude that there were also “more than five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6). If this is true, and I believe that it is, then there are huge implications. This would mean that the imperative “making disciples” was not directed only to the apostolic leaders or to the church as an institution, but to every believer. These marching orders of the resurrected Lord were directed toward more than five hundred brethren who had joined the eleven on this mountainside (Matthew 28:16-20; 1 Corinthians 15:6). I believe the local church is responsible to assist every believer in fulfilling the Great Commission.

4. Was Thomas among the group Matthew describes as “doubtful”? (Matthew 28:17; Luke 24:36-43;John 20:19-29; 1 John 1:1) No, the doubts that Thomas had were addressed in Jesus’ sixth post resurrection appearance (John 20:26-29). John records that Thomas said, “Unless I see in His hands the imprint of the nails, and put my finger into the place of the nails, and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.” (John 20:25) John records that one week after that statement of doubt Jesus presented himself to Thomas and gave him the evidence that he needed. Thomas’ response after examining the evidence was, “My Lord and my God” (John 20:17)! There were no doubts left in Thomas or any of the other apostles. We can only conclude that the “some” is a reference to a few of the five hundred brethren that were also present (1 Corinthians 15:6).

5. What activity in Matthew 28:17 prepared the disciples to passionately obey the Great Commission without reservation? (Matthew 28:17) The activity that prepared the disciples to obey this commission was bowing the knee in worship to the Lord Jesus Christ. True worshippers are relentless in fulfilling Christ’s mandate in this passage. Unfortunately many Churches are anthropological rather than doxological in their orientation. John Piper writes, “Missions in not the ultimate goal of the church. Worship is. Missions exists because worship doesn’t … Worship is ultimate, not missions, because God is ultimate, not man. When this age is over, and the countless millions of the redeemed fall on their faces before the throne of God, missions will be no more. It is a temporary necessity. But worship abides forever.”

6. What right did Jesus have to command his disciples to go all the nations? (Matthew 28:18) Jesus had authority [exousia]

7. Should Christians obey government if they forbid proclaiming the gospel by any means? (1 Peter 2:13-17; Acts 4:13-22; 5:17-32)

The Apostle Peter taught that we should obey those in government. 1 Peter 2:13-17 says, “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.”

In Acts 5:28 we are told that Peter had been forbidden to preach the gospel. The text says, “We gave you strict orders not to continue teaching in this name, and yet, you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching and intend to bring this man’s blood upon us.” Peter’s response in Acts 5:29 was, “We must obey God rather than men.”

God wants us to pray for and “lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” 1 Timothy 2:1-2 says, “First of all, then, I urge that entreaties and prayers, petitions and thanksgivings, be made on behalf of all men, 2for kings and all who are in authority, so that we may lead a tranquil and quiet life in all godliness and dignity.” The only time we should disobey governmental authorities is when they totally disallow a biblical practice that we are commanded by Christ to obey. Then, for conscience sake, we must obey Christ who has the jurisdiction over those in heaven and on earth.

8. What is the main verb in Matthew’s version of the Great Commission? (Matthew 28:19-20) The main verb in this passage in the original language is to “make disciples” but the intent of Jesus’ command is to make disciples who can make disciples who can make disciples…” Jesus wanted to create a movement of multiplication (disciplemaking) not addition (evangelism only). Jesus didn’t merely want converts he wanted disciples.

The question has been asked, “Are disciples born or made?” They are born again to be made. The word “disciple” [mathetes] is a term that describes “a learner” [from manthano, “to learn”] in contrast to didaskalos, “a teacher,” hence it denotes “one who (follows one’s teaching” as a disciple – Vines Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words).

Disciplemaking describes the process of starting with the raw material of a seeker and seeing them become a believer, a worker and a reproducer. The word “disciple” is used to describe a person (seeker, believer, worker, and reproducer) at each level in the disciplemaking process. Seekers (John 1:35, 37; 2:2, 11); Believers (Luke 6:13; John 2:12, 17; 3:22; 4:2, 8, 27, 31, 33); Workers (Matthew 10:1; 11:1; 20:17; 26:20); and Reproducers (Matthew 28:16; John 15:8) are all called disciples.

Christian or Disciple?

  • Acts 11:26, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch And for an entire year they met with the church and taught considerable numbers and the disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
  • Acts 26:28, Agrippa replied to Paul, “In a short time you will persuade me to become a Christian.”
  • 1 Peter 4:16, but if anyone suffers as a Christian, he is not to be ashamed, but is to glorify God in this name.

Every believer is a disciple but not every disciple is a believer. John 6:66 describes a group of seekers that are called disciples because they superficially connected themselves as learners of Christ until he began speaking the hard sayings. The early disciples in John 1 hadn’t placed their faith in Christ as their Messiah yet (John 2:11) but they were called disciples (John 1:35, 37; 2:2, 11; Luke 19:39) because they were learners in the sense that they were willing to investigate Jesus’ words and works. Other examples of disciples that weren’t believers include “disciples of John the Baptist” (Matthew 9:14; Mark 2:18; Luke 5:33; John 3:25; Acts 19:1); “disciples of Moses” (John 9:28); “disciples of the Pharisees” (Luke 5:33).

Some passages are undefined concerning where a disciple is in the disciple making process. Luke reports, Jesus came down with them and stood on a level place; and there was a large crowd of His disciples, and a great throng of people from all Judea and Jerusalem and the coastal region of Tyre and Sidon (John 6:17, 19:37). Luke here identifies a large crowd of the disciples (more than the Twelve) but distinguishes them from the “great throng of people.” Jesus taught there were certain marks of a fully devoted disciple of Christ (Luke 14:26, 27, 33; John 8:31; 13:35; 15:8). The Book of Acts uses the term “disciple” to describe those who associated themselves with the church as the Great Commission was being fulfilled (Acts 1:15; 6:1, 2, 7; 9:1, 10, 25, 26, 38; 11:26, 29; 13:52; 14:20, 22, 28; 15:10; 16:1; 18:23, 27; 19:9, 30; 20:1, 7, 30; 21:4, 16).

9. Why doesn’t the word “disciple” or “make disciples” occur in the epistles, especially if the Great Commission is for the church? (Matthew 11:29; Acts 14:21; Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9; 2 Timothy 3:14). The word “disciple” or “make disciples” doesn’t occur in the Epistles because they focus on addressing the corporate assembly rather than the individual believers.

It has been said if you want to know how to disciple people study the Gospels; if you want to know how to do church planting study the Book of Acts. And if you want to know how to maintain and correct the church, study the Epistles. The root for the word “disciple” is “learn” [manthano]. Jesus used this word “learn” as an invitation to be discipled in the Gospels (Matthew 11:28-30). This word was also used in the Epistles of the Apostle Paul who discipled young Timothy (1 Timothy 3:14) and believers in the churches that he planted (Ephesians 4:20; Philippians 4:9).

The book of Acts is a historical record of the first 30 years of the church. The church had no stated reason for existence if the Great Commission wasn’t their marching orders. The first Epistle to the church wasn’t sent until more than 15 years after the church’s inception at Pentecost. The expansion of the church over the first 30 years can be clearly outlined by the early church’s obedience to the Great Commission.

The Apostles moved from Jerusalem (Acts 1:12; 2:1,5) to Judea and Samaria (Acts 8:1), then even to the remotest part of the earth (Acts 13:1-4; etc.). This was in obedience to the Acts 1:8 version of the Great Commission. Even though the Apostle Paul was the last apostle to be chosen, “as to one untimely born” (1 Corinthians 15:8) he also fulfilled the Great Commission to “make disciples.” Acts 14:21 says, “After they had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples [matheteuo], they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch.

Matthew 28:19-20 Paraphrased – “Go into all the world and recruit students for the school of Christ through salvation, initiating them into that school through baptism in the threefold name: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Then teach them to obey the commands of Christ and you can be assured that He will be with you as you do this, day after day after day, right up to the end of the age.”

10. How do we know that the church is to fulfill the Great Commission? (Acts 1:1, 8) First, the Book of Acts is simply a continuation of what Jesus began to do. Disciplemaking is the unfinished work of Christ. Acts 1:1 says, “The first account I composed, Theophilus, about all that Jesus began to do and teach.” We often speak of the finished work of Christ on the cross but the work of making disciples of every nation wasn’t accomplished in Jesus’ lifetime nor was it his intention. It was Jesus’ intention to create a movement of multiplication by investing his life in twelve ordinary men who could disciple others so that for generations to come the world could be reached.

The second reason is that the Great Commission wasn’t given to just the Apostles or the church as an institution but to every believer. Every believer is responsible to make disciples among their network of relationships at home, in the office, in community and in their family. Matthew’s version of the Great Commission was given to “The Eleven” and to “more than five hundred brethren” (1 Corinthians 15:6).

11. What three steps does Jesus say are involved in making disciples? (Matthew 28:19, 20)

  1. Step #1 is to “Go” [Aorist Participle] and preach the gospel (Mark 16:15). The Aorist tense denotes urgency.
  2. Step #2 involves “baptizing” [Present Participle] every new convert and establishing him or her in their newfound faith.
  3. Step #3 involves “teaching” [Present Participle] them to observe all the commands that Christ gave his disciples when He walked among them.

These three steps parallel the three steps that Jesus used when making disciples.

  1. He first would “Go” and invite seekers to “Come and See” in order to investigate his words and works (John 1:39; 46; 4:29).
  2. His second step was to have his disciples baptize (John 4:1-2) the new believers and invite them to “Come and Follow” him in order to become fishers of men (Matthew 4:18-22; Mark 1:16-20).
  3. His third step was to invite them to “Come and be with him” (Mark 3:13-14; Luke 6:12-13). It was during this stage of disciplemaking that Jesus taught them the ministry and life skills needed to be successfully deployed as workers in the harvest field.

12. What is involved in the task of going? (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:15; Luke 24:47) The first step in making a disciple involves reaching out to unchurched unbelievers. The early church gathered to worship and scattered to evangelize. The goal of the word “go” is to preach the gospel and win people to Christ (Matthew 28:19). Every believer is to “go” and share his faith with his family, friends and co-workers. The scope of this task is “every nation” including our own. Every believer is responsible to “go” next door, to the next cubical at work, or to teammates on the sports field. Wherever you are, that’s your “Jerusalem” and God commands you and empowers you to be His witnesses (Acts 1:8). Mark tells us in his version of the Great Commission to “preach the gospel to all creation” (Mark 16:15). Luke’s version of the Great Commission adds that we are to proclaim “repentance for forgiveness of sins” (Luke 24:47).

13. Who should we target when we begin to make disciples? (Luke 24:47; Acts 1:8) We should start where we are. The disciples were from Galilee but they were in Jerusalem so that is where they started from.

14. What is the key word for missions? (Acts 13:1-4; Romans 10:15) The key word for missions is not “go” but “send.” Romans 10:15 says, “How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, ‘HOW BEAUTIFUL ARE THE FEET OF THOSE WHO BRING GOOD NEWS OF GOOD THINGS!”‘ God wants us all to be “World Class Christians” who are committed to cross-cultural Disciplemaking and global church planting. (Romans 10:15; Acts 13:1-4).

15. Why is baptism so important as the second step in the disciple-making process? (Matthew 28:19; Mark 16:16; Acts 2:38, 10:48, 22:16; 1 Corinthians 6:11) The reason baptism is so important is because no one has ever seen a salvation. The spiritual regeneration of a man or woman is a miraculous work of the Spirit inside of a person (John 4:14; 7:37,38; Titus 3:5). We can only see the results of a salvation.

Baptism is the fruit of a genuine repentance. The newborn child is now a “son of obedience” rather than a “son of disobedience” (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6). There is a natural desire that a new believer has to take the first step of obedience. Jesus taught disciplemakers to use baptism as an early litmus test to discern whether someone has been genuinely saved.

Mark 16:16 says, “He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved; but he who has disbelieved shall be condemned.” This verse is not doctrinal in nature but missional. The gospel writers didn’t give us the Great Commission to help us define the essence of the gospel, but to describe what to look for as evidence of a true salvation. It’s only natural that we should see a new convert’s willingness to submit to baptism after they’ve made a genuine profession of faith.

When we go to the epistles, the doctrinal books of the New Testament, baptism is clearly not a part of the Gospel. The Apostle Paul in 1 Corinthians 1:17 writes – “For Christ did not send me to baptize, but to preach the Gospel…”. It’s clear that baptism is not part of the gospel. The Gospel isn’t the good news that if you trust Christ and get baptized you’ll be saved. It’s faith in Christ alone. If baptism were required, Paul certainly wouldn’t have said, “I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Corinthians 1:14).

Mark 16:16 at first glance appears to teach that you must be baptized in order to be saved. A closer examination reveals that “faith” is the issue. Notice it doesn’t say “He who does not believe and isn’t baptized will be condemned.” To say that this passage demands that a person be baptized it would have to say “but he who does not believe and isn’t baptized will be condemned.” The thing that condemns a person is their unwillingness to place their faith (believe) in Christ’s substitutionary death on the cross and his resurrection.

Perhaps this illustration will help: If you get on a bus that’s going to New York and sit down, you’ll reach your destination. But what happens if you get on the bus and don’t sit down, will you still get to New York? Yes. In the same way, if you put your faith in Christ and aren’t baptized, you’ll still get to heaven. If you choose not to get on the bus, you won’t go to New York. In the same way, if you choose not to trust Christ as your Savior, you won’t get to heaven.

Once again, the reason Mark so clearly ties baptism to salvation is because he wants to stress the importance of baptism as an outward sign of what has already taken place inwardly. The earlier a person identifies with Christ and his body (the church) publicly ­the more dynamic the witness and the more consistent the growth spiritually.

16. How soon should a person be baptized? (Acts 2:41, 8:36; 16:30-33; 22:16 9:9, 18) The New Testament teaches that the command to be baptized should be obeyed by the new believer as soon as possible.

  • “at once” (Acts 8:36) – Now as they went down the road, they came to some water. And the eunuch said, “See, here is water. What hinders me from being baptized?”
  • “same hour” (Acts 16:30-33) – And he brought them out and said, “Sirs, what must I do to be saved?” So they said, “Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and you will be saved, you and your household.” Then they spoke the word of the Lord to him and to all who were in his house. And he took them the same hour of the night and washed their stripes. And immediately he and all his family were baptized.
  • “same day” (Acts 2:41) – Then those who gladly received his word were baptized; and that day about three thousand souls were added to them.
  • Three days after being saved (Acts 9:9, 18; 22:12-16) – “And he was three days without sight, and neither ate nor drank” (Acts 9:9). “Immediately there fell from his eyes something like scales, and he received his sight at once; and he arose and was baptized” (Acts 9:18). The Apostle Paul was saved while en route from Jerusalem to Damascus. His conversion experience temporarily blinded him. When he received his sight, Ananias asked him why he had waited so long to get baptized. Then a certain Ananias, a devout man according to the law, having a good testimony with all the Jews who dwelt there, came to me; and he stood and said to me, “Brother Saul, receive your sight.” And at that same hour I looked up at him. Then he said, “The God of our fathers has chosen you that you should know His will, and see the Just One, and hear the voice of His mouth. For you will be His witness to all men of what you have seen and heard. ‘And now why are you waiting? Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord” (Acts 22:12-16).

17. What is the curriculum that is to be taught in the third step of the disciple-making process? (Matthew 28:20) The third step in the disciple-making process is “to teach” the disciplee “to observe all that I (Christ) commanded” (Matthew 28:20). This involves equipping believers so that they possess the character and competence needed to reproduce themselves.

Jesus gave 244 Discipleship Commands in the gospels and they fall into 43 command topics. Christ gave specific commands at the “Win” (6), “Build” (4), “Equip” (31), and “Multiply” (2) levels or phases of disciplemaking. The Bible promises ten special blessings to those who learn and obey these commands.

The Bible promises that if you obey the commands of Christ you will…

  1. Be Jesus’ friend. “You are My friends, if you do what I command you.” (John 15:1)
  2. Enjoy God’s love. “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Fathers commandments, and abide in His love.” (John 15:10)
  3. See your prayers answered. “And whatever we ask we receive from Him, because we keep His commandments and do the things that are pleasing in His sight.” (1 John 3:22)
  4. Prove your love to God. “If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15)
  5. Experience the security of your salvation. “By this we know that we have come to know Him,if we keep His commandments.” (1 John 2:3)
  6. Know Jesus more deeply. “He who has My commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves Me; and he who loves Me shall be loved by My Father, and I will love him, and will disclose Myself to him.” (John 14:21)
  7. Have close fellowship with God. Jesus answered and said to him, “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word;and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode with him.” (John 14:23)
  8. Genuinely love others. “By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and observe His commandments” (1 John 5:2)
  9. Avoid many of the burdens of life. “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome.” (1 John 5:3)
  10. Be known as Jesus’ disciple. “A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)

18. What is the goal in teaching this curriculum? (Matthew 28:20; 1 John 2:3; John 14:15) The goal of the teaching is found in the infinitive – “to observe all that I commanded you”. We have not discipled an individual until they are obeying what they learned.

19. What is the promise Jesus gives to those who make disciples? (Matthew 28:20) Jesus said, “and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” Jesus here promises two things:

  1. He will”manifest His presence” in a unique way when we are making disciples – “all the time not sometimes” (always);
  2. This commission doesn’t have a short shelf life. This is the mission of the church that is to be fulfilled until He returns.

Sources:  The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1 998
  2. Personal Disciple-Making by: Christopher B. Adsit, Here’s Life Publishers Inc., 1988.
  3. Go, Missions by: Ronald Blue, pages 341-353 Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 141, October­ December 1984, Number 564. A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press
  4. The Expositors Bible Commentary Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1984.
  5. An Expository Study of Matthew 28:7 6-20 by: Edmond D. Hiebert, pages 338-354. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 149, July-September 1992, Number 595, A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  6. Discipleship and the Church by: A Boyd Luter, Jr., pages 267-273. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 137, July-September 1980, Number 547. Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary Matthew 24-28 by: John MacArthur, Moody Press, 1989
  8. The Great Commission by: Cleon Rogers, pages 258-267. BibliothecaSacra, Volume 130,July-September 1973, Number 519, A Theological Quarterly Published by Dallas Seminary Press.
  9. Oxford NIV Scofield Study Bible by: C.l. Scofield, page 1124, John 20:16 Study Note. Oxford University Press, Inc. 1967.
  10. “Who Sends the Missionary?” Voice Magazine by: Timothy B. Shorb, pages 8-10, May/June; Published by Independent Fundamental Churches of America.

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

How to Abide in Christ

This is the first of the two multiplying commands, which comes from John 15:1-17 (Thomas and Gundry, Harmony: NASB Sec.219)

Purpose: The purpose of this lesson is to stress the importance of a life of dependency on Christ instead of self-sufficiency. Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing” (John 15:5). Abiding in Christ, depending on Him, is the only way that we can experience spiritual fruit. Abiding in Christ involves believing in Him and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Christ.

Historical Background: John 13-17 contains Jesus’ final instructions to his disciples on the night before his crucifixion. Here Jesus sought to strengthen and confirm the belief of his disciples, teaching them about service, love, heaven, prayer, persecution, the Holy Spirit, joy, victory, and unity. (J. Carl Laney)

Christ and the eleven disciples have just left the upper room (Matthew 26:30; Mark 14:26; John 14:31) and the teaching on the vine comes as Christ is walking to the garden of gethsemane where he will be betrayed. As Jesus begins to use the metaphor of a vine, perhaps his disciples had a series of flashbacks.

1) Earlier the same week Jesus leveled a series of woes against Israel’s false religious leaders and said that their house (temple) was left to them desolate (Matthew 23:38). Jesus has also spoken of the temple’s destruction (Matthew 24:1-2). A massive vine had been worked into the architecture of the temple.

The vine is a familiar symbol of Israel in the Psalms and the prophets (Psalm 80:8-16; Isaiah 5:1-7; Jeremiah 2:21; 5:10; 12:10; Ezekiel 15:1-8; 17:1-24; Hosea 10:1).1n fact, the Maccabeans (about 150 B.C.) inscribed it on their coins to represent their nation. And Herod the Great, restoring the Jerusalem temple in 19 B.C., had a large vine of gold hung around the entrance to the Holy Place.

2) Jesus has just instituted the Lord’s Supper, complete with the “fruit of the vine” (Matthew 26:29; Mark 14:15; Luke 22:18). All this adds to the powerful picture that Jesus is about to paint for his disciples. This Eucharistic Celebration will be one of the most meaningful ways that believers can commemorate and consecrate their connection with the Vine. (Mark E. Moore pgs.238-239)

3) After exiting the upper room (John 14:31) Jesus and his disciples were walking through vine groves that lead to the perfect metaphor for his teaching.

Commanded in the Gospels: John 15:4 – abide; John 15:9 – abide also John 5:38; 6:27, 56; 8:31; 12:46.

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: The practices of a believer that is abiding in Christ are found in the Book of Acts but the technical phrase is not found.

Amplified in the Epistles: 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4;12, 13, 15, 16; 2 John 2:2, 9.

1. If Jesus was “the true vine,” then who was “the false vine”? (John 15:1) In the Old Testament God calls Israel the “vine” but the nation had become apostate. God wanted them to be a light and source of blessing to the world, but because of unbelief Jesus announces that He and He alone is [ego eimi] the true vine.

2. What is the job of the vine? (John 15:4, 5, 8) The job of the vine is to provide the necessary sap to the branches so that they can bear fruit.

3. What was the vinedresser’s (gardener’s) responsibility? (John 15:1-2, 6) The job of the vinedresser is to cut off fruitless branches and prune fruitful branches. It’s the vinedresser’s responsibility to prune and to punish.

4. What are the five different degrees of fruit bearing?

  1. “no fruit” John 15:2
  2. “fruit” John 15:2
  3. “more fruit” John 15:2
  4. “much fruit” John 15:8
  5. “fruit that will remain” John 15:16

5. Who are the fruitless branches in the analogy of the vine? (John 15:2; Isaiah 5:1-7) The analogy in the Old Testament went like this. God has a root of blessing, and blessing comes through that root and extends to the extremities so that anybody who would be blessed would need to be grafted into the root of blessing. Israel saw themselves as that blessing root. And they had a right to see themselves that way because God had called them his vine. In Isaiah, the Lord said that he planted the vine on a very fertile hill. He looked at his vine, and instead of his vine bringing forth good grapes, it brought forth worthless grapes, and God condemned it.

God says, “Israel is an empty vine.” You see, God had made Israel the stock of blessing, and anybody who would be blessed would be blessed in the tents of Shem. They would be blessed in identification with Israel, the repository of God’s truth and God’s law. But Israel forfeited the place of blessing by unbelief, and so the Messiah comes along and says, “Now, I am the vine, the true one. No longer is a man blessed by being in Israel; he is blessed when he truly is in Me.”

So the fruitless branches are Jews by birth who didn’t share the faith of Abraham in Jehovah God. They are the Israelites of Jesus’ day who rejected their Messiah. The Prophet Isaiah spoke of the nation of Israel in these terms. (Isaiah 5:1-7)
Jesus alluded to this passage in Matthew 21 when telling the parable of the Landowner. (Matthew 21:33-39)

In this parable God is the “landowner,” the prophets are “his slaves” and Jesus is his “son.” So what will the landowner do since Israel is not producing fruit?

Matthew 21:43, 45 – Therefore I say to you, the kingdom of God will be taken away from you and given to a people, producing the fruit of it. 45 When the chief priests and the Pharisees heard His parables, they understood that He was speaking about them.

6. What is the purpose of a branch? (John 15:2) The vinedresser says the purpose of the branch is to bear fruit.

7. What kind of fruit can we bear as Christians?

  1. Character (Galatians 5:22-23)
  2. Conduct (Philippians 1:11; Colossians 1:10)
  3. Contributions (Romans 15:28)
  4. Converts (John 4:36; Romans 1:13; 1 Corinthians 16:15; Colossians 1:6)

8. What kind of fruit is Jesus referring to in this passage? (John 15:2, 4, 5, 16, 4:36) The kinds of fruit that Jesus is referring to in this context are converts. They are the product of “going” (John 5:16; Mark 16:15). The only kind of fruit that Jesus has taught about in this Gospel is a harvest of souls for salvation (John 4:36). Jesus says, “Already he who reaps is receiving wages and is gathering fruit for life eternal; so that he who sows and he who reaps may rejoice together.” The other references to “fruit” in Scripture were written years later after this encounter with Christ.

9. What does it mean that the vinedresser “takes away” the branches that don’t bear fruit? (John 15:2, 6) Coming on the heels of Judas’ desertion this word picture has powerful implications for the Eleven. Branches that He “takes away” were never believers, that is, they were not actually “in Christ” (John 15:2). Anyone who professes faith in Christ but either does not produce fruit or does not persevere in Christ was never a real believer in the first place. John 15:6 adds, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.” These fruitless branches are taken away and cast in the fire like the tares in Matthew 13:39-40.

John MacArthur writes, “The Father ‘takes away’ the branches that fail to bear fruit. John 15:2 doesn’t say He fixes them up; it says He cuts them off. John 15:6 says that those branches are gathered, thrown into a pile, and burned. The Father deals with them with finality. Now if that refers to Christians, we’ve got some problems. I believe that the fruitless branches refer to people who profess to have a relationship to Jesus Christ, who apparently are in the vine as a follower of Christ, but are like Judas and have never been saved. That is obvious because they never bear spiritual fruit. At a certain point in the Father’s timing, the fruitless branches are cut off from the life and health of the vine and the other branches. Professing Christians who aren’t really saved and therefore don’t bear fruit will be cast away and burned in an act of divine punishment.”

10. How does the Father prune the branches? (John 15:2) “The word translated “pruned” [kathairei] literally means “to cleanse,” “to purge,” “to purify.” The verb is commonly used in inscriptions of ceremonial cleansing. It is not the normal word for pruning, but was chosen here because Christ was talking about people rather than vines” – J. Carl Laney. Pruning involves removing things that hinder the branch from full productivity.

God brings trials into our lives that expose the areas that hinder our productivity. These trials open up the areas in our life that the Word of God can address. Unfortunately we often repeat the same trial because we don’t learn to apply his Word the first go-around. Trials that are repeated are often lessons unlearned.

Understanding Why a Farmer Prunes The Vines:

To understand the spiritual lesson regarding God’s dealings with people, it is necessary to understand why a farmer prunes vines. According to one expert regular pruning is necessary during the vine’s growing season.1

“Pinching” with the thumb and finger removes the growing tip of a vigorous shoot so that it will not grow too rapidly and be broken or damaged by the wind. “Topping” involves the removal of one or two feet from the end of a growing shoot to prevent a later loss of the entire shoot which might be snapped off by the wind. “Thinning,” the removal of flower or grape clusters, enables the rest of a branch to bear more and better quality fruit. “Pruning” involves the cutting away of suckers that arise from below the ground or from the trunk and main branches. In addition to this pruning during the growing season, during the fall or winter, the farmer prunes the vines back to the main stalk, except for perhaps two mature shoots. 2

Another way that God prunes the believing branches is through loving discipline (Hebrews 12:4-13). J. Carl Laney “As the vinedresser cuts away what would hinder the productivity of the vine, so God the Father, through loving discipline (cleansing, purging, purifying), removes things from the lives of believers that do not contribute to their spiritual fruitfulness. The writer of Hebrews may have had this ‘pruning’ in mind when he pointed out that God disciplines his children. “For those whom the Lord loves He disciplines, and he scourges every son whom he receives” (Hebrews 12:6). He added that while divine discipline is sorrowful, not joyful, ‘afterwards it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness’ (John 12:11).

The ‘pruning’ of fruit-bearing disciples may not always be the result of sin. Pruning may be (designed to prevent it. Paul was privileged to be caught up to paradise and experience unspeakable things (2 Corinthians 12:1-4). This unique opportunity gave Paul a tendency to boast, but God corrected this tendency by giving him a ‘thorn in the flesh’ – a physical affliction – to keep him from exalting himself (2 Corinthians 12:7).”- J. Carl Laney

11. Is it possible to be genuinely saved and yet not manifest any fruit or good works in one’s life as a result of regeneration? (James 2:14-26; Luke 8:15, 21; Matthew 7:21-23) According to some evangelicals today, the answer is “yes” (Zane Hodge). In an attempt to avoid a works religion, some Christians today have imposed on the orthodox doctrine of salvation an unscriptural dichotomy between faith and fruit. Jesus teaching on the sower and the seed makes it clear that only fruit bearers are in the family of God. It’s not just those that hear the Word of God but those who hear it and bring forth fruit as they patiently apply it and do it (Luke 8:15,21). The fruit of obedience in their lives gives evidence that they are no longer sons of disobedience but genuine children of God (Ephesians 2:2; 5:6; Colossians 3:6).

It’s not the perfection of their life but the overall direction. Salvation is not verified by a past act but by present obedience.

12. Who are the branches that bear fruit? (John 15:3 John 13:10) Jesus said, “You are already clean because of the word which I have spoken to you.” Jesus here assures the Eleven that they are among the fruit-bearing branches. With use of the word “clean” [katharoi] Jesus alludes back to a statement that he made earlier that evening to Peter. Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet, but is completely clean; and you are clean, but not all of you” (John 13:10). When Jesus said, “not all of you” he was referring to the “Judas branch” who was not a true believer but had superficially connected himself to the Vine. The Eleven disciples were clean because of the Word and gave evidence that they were abiding in Christ by being fruit-bearing branches.

13. What did Jesus command His disciples to do? (John 15:4) Jesus commanded His disciples, “Abide [Aorist Imperative] in Me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit of itself unless it abides in the vine, so neither can you unless you abide in Me.” Abiding in Christ involves believing in him and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Christ. The word “abide” [meinate] is one of John’s favorite words. The Greek word is meno.

W. E. Wuest provides insight into this Greek word:

Its classical usage will throw light upon the way it is used in the N.T. It meant “to stay, stand fast, abide, to stay at home, stay where one is, not stir, to remain as one was, to remain as before.” In the N.T., it means “to sojourn, to tarry, to dwell at one’s own house, to tarry as a guest, to lodge, to maintain unbroken fellowship with one, to adhere to his party, to be constantly present to help one, to put forth constant influence upon one.” “In the mystic phraseology of John, God is said to meno in Christ, i.e., to dwell as it were in him, to be continually operative in Him by His divine influence and energy (John 14:10); Christians are said to meno in God, to be rooted as it were in him, knit to him by the Spirit they have received from Him (1 John 2:6, 24, 27; 3:6); hence one is said to meno in Christ or in God, and conversely, Christ or God is said to meno in one (John 6:56; 15:4),” Thayer quotes Ruckert in the use of meno in the words “Something has established itself permanently within my soul, and always exerts its power in me,”

The word therefore has the ideas of “permanence of position, occupying a place as one’s dwelling place, holding and maintaining unbroken communion and fellowship with another.” John uses meno in the following places in his gospel, John 1:32, 33, 38, 39; 2:12; 3:36; 4:40; 5:38; 6:27, 56; 7:9; 8:31, 35; 9:41; 10:40; 11:6; 12:24, 34; 12:46; 14:10, 16, 17, 25; 15:4, 5, 6, 7, 9, 10, 11, 16; 19:31; 21:22, 23; in 1 John 2:6, 10, 14, 17, 19, 24, 27, 28; 3:6, 9, 14, 15, 17, 24; 4:12, 13, 15, 16; in 2 John 1:2, 9. The words “abide, dwell, tarry, continue, be present,” are the various translations in the Authorized Version (KJV). Study these places where the word occurs, and obtain a comprehensive view of its usage.

In John 15, the abiding of the Christian in Christ refers to believing in Christ and maintaining unbroken fellowship with Him. He makes his spiritual home in Christ. There is nothing between himself and his Savior, no sin unjudged and not put away. He depends upon him for spiritual life and vigor as the branch is dependent upon the vine. The abiding of Christ in the Christian is his permanent residence in him and his supply­ing, that Christian with the necessary spiritual energy to produce fruit in his life through the ministry of the Holy Spirit. (Wuest Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vo/.3, pgs.64,65)

14. What is the only way a Christian can bear fruit? (John 15:4) You must be abiding in Christ.

The Importance of Abiding for Small Group Leaders:

Abide in Me and I in you as the branch cannot bear fruit of itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in Me” (John 15:4). No amount of skill training can replace the necessity of an intimate relationship with Christ through the Word and prayer. Abiding in Christ is not negotiable if you want to produce more fruit and fruit that remains. John 4:36 says, “And he who reaps receives wages and gathers fruit for eternal life.”

Joel Comiskey (Home Cell Church Explosion, Touch Publications, 2002) did a case study on eight of the fastest growing cell churches in the world. More than 700 cell leaders completed a survey that was designed to determine why some cell leaders succeed (fruit) and others fail at evangelizing and giving birth to new cells. His survey findings revealed that there wasn’t anything sensational or mystical about their fruitfulness. The first 2 factors that affect cell multiplication are:

  • The cell leader’s devotional time. Those who spend 90 minutes or more in devotions per day multiply their groups twice as much as those who spend less than 30 minutes.
  • The cell leader’s intercession for the cell members. Those who pray for cell members are most likely to multiply groups.

15. What are the conditions for Abiding in Christ? (John 15:7; 1 John 2:6, 24; 3:6, 24; 4:13, 15, 16) The one who abides:

  1. Spends time in God’s Word and prayer – John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The basis for abiding in Christ is communication with God through Bible Study and prayer. We talk to God in prayer and He talks to us through his Word.
  2. Walks as Jesus walked – 1 John 2:6 “the one who says he abides in Him ought himself to walk in the same manner as He walked.”
  3. Holds to the truth learned at salvation – 1 John 2:24 “As for you, let that abide in you which you heard from the beginning If what you heard from the beginning abides in you, you also will abide in the Son and in the Father.”
  4. Doesn’t habitually sin – 1 John 3:6 “No one who abides in Him sins; no one who sins has seen Him or knows Him.”
  5. Keeps the commands of Christ – 1 John 3:24 “The one who keeps His commandments abides in Him, and He in him We know by this that He abides in us, by the Spirit whom He has given us.”
  6. Conscious of the Holy Spirit’s indwelling presence – 1 John 4:13 “By this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given us of His Spirit.”
  7. Confesses that Jesus is the Son of God – 1 John 4:15 “Whoever confesses that Jesus is the Son of God, God abides in him, and he in God.”
  8. Lives in love – 1 John 4:16 “We have come to know and have believed the love which God has for us God is love, and the one who abides in love abides in God, and God abides in him.

16. What are the rewards for meeting the conditions for abiding in Christ? (John 15:5, 7, 8, 11, 16; 1 John 2:28) The rewards for abiding in Christ are:

  1. Bears much fruit – John 15:5 “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.”
  2. Answered prayer – John 15:7 “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”
  3. God is glorified – John 15:8 “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.”
  4. Joy made full – John 15:11 “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.”
  5. Bear fruit that remains – John 15:16 “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.”
  6. Confidence when Christ returns – 1 John 2:28 “Now, little children, abide in Him, so that when He appears, we may have confidence and not shrink away from Him in shame at His coming.”

17. What phrase in John 15:5 stresses our dependency on Christ to bear fruit? Jesus said, “I am the vine, you are the branches; he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, for apart from Me you can do nothing.” The phrase, “for apart from Me you can do nothing” makes it emphatically clear that we can do “NOTHING”, not something but nothing if we are not Abiding in Christ.

18. What will happen to the branches that bear no fruit? (John 15:2, 6) Jesus said, “If anyone does not abide in Me, he is thrown away as a branch and dries up; and they gather them, and cast them into the fire and they are burned.”

19. What is the reward for abiding in Christ in John 15:7? Jesus said, “If you abide in Me, and My words abide in you, ask [Aorist Imperative] whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.” The reward for abiding in Christ is answered prayer. It’s conditional on our abiding in Christ and time spent in his Word. Jesus can confidently assert that you can pray for “whatever you wish, and it will be done for you” because that promise is only for those that are abiding in Christ. Those that are believing and maintaining fellowship with Christ ask for things that are consistent with his will (1 John 5:14). The verb “ask” [aitesasthe] is an Aorist imperative that denotes urgency.

20. How can we prove that we are Christ’s disciples? (John 15:8) Jesus says, “My Father is glorified by this, that you bear much fruit, and so prove to be My disciples.” We prove that we are Christ’s disciples by bearing much fruit (converts). If you were in a court of law and had to prove that you are a disciple of Christ by the people that you’ve led to Christ would you have sufficient evidence? God is the One who saves, but are you actively partnering with God by cultivating, planting, watering and reaping when the opportunity presents itself?

21. What does Christ command his disciples in John 15:9? Jesus said, “Just as the Father has loved Me, I have also loved you; abide [Aorist Imperative] in My love.” The word “abide” [meinate] in the phrase “abide in my love” is an aorist imperative. The imperative mood is the mood of command.

22. What is the promised reward for keeping the Commands of Christ? (John 15:10) The promised reward is abiding in Christ’s love. John 15:10 says, “If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love; just as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” The word “if” [eon] makes the promised reward conditional. The promised reward for obedience is that the disciple of Christ “will abide in My love” [meneite en mou te agape]. The verb “abide” is a future active indicative which pictures us in the sphere of his love as we keep his commandments.

Jude wrote, “Keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting anxiously for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ to eternal life” (Jude 1:21). John MacArthur writes, “This ‘keeping’ in the Greek construction, relates to place or location ‘in the love of God,’ where we can receive his blessings.” Jude has already said that every true believer is eternally secure in God’s love. In Jude 1:1, he tells his readers that they are the “beloved in God the Father.” This verb “beloved” is a perfect participle in the Greek, and means that God loved us at a point of time in the past with continuing and abiding results. We are the continual object of his love.

We do not control God’s love for us, but as Moffatt notes concerning Jude 1:21, his love “has its own terms of communion.” Hiebert says, “Jude is asking his readers to keep themselves consciously in God’s love, just as a doctor tells his patient to keep himself in the sunshine. The reader must be alert to keep anything from clouding their consciousness of his love” (Hiebert, pg. 285).

The way to keep ourselves in the love of God is to keep his commandments. You may ask, “Can I be separated from the love of Christ?” God’s elect who have been justified by his blood (Romans 5:8-9; 8:31-39) cannot be separated from the love of God.


Love Not Returned (1 Corinthians 16:22)
Recipient of God’s Wrath (Romans 5:8-9)

23. What things did Jesus speak that produce joy in the disciples of Christ? (John 15:11) Jesus said, “These things I have spoken to you so that My joy may be in you, and that your joy may be made full.” The word “that” [hino] provides the purpose for the things that Jesus has taught them in John 15:1-10. When we abide in Christ, bear much fruit, abide in his Word, abide in Christ’s love it arouses nothing but pure joy!

24. How does Jesus define the kind of love that we should express to one another? (John 15:12-13) Jesus said, “This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you. 13 Greater love has no one than this, that one lay down his life for his friends.” We are to love [agapao] each other with a self-sacrificial love. The word “love” [agapao] used in these verses is the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament). Agapao love doesn’t love because the object is loveable, it has nothing to do with feelings other than the fact that after you have repeatedly chosen to love someone, you start to treasure the person that you’ve invested in and feelings (affection) often follow.

25. What is the prerequisite for a spiritual friendship with Christ? (John 15:14) Jesus told His disciples, “You are My friends if you do what I command you.” Habitual [poiete] not just sporadic obedience is the prerequisite to spiritual friendship with Christ. You can be in a natural family and feel closer to some family members. This is also true in our spiritual family. Jesus defines friendship in terms of obedience. The obedient Christian life results in becoming a confidant of Jesus (John 15:15). Discipleship results in friendship! This is counterintuitive to our contemporary thinking, that we must establish a meaningful friendship before we can disciple someone. If someone longs to become more like Christ and is willing to submit to an accountable relationship, the result of this discipleship relationship will be friendship. The phrase “if you do” [eon poiete] is a present active subjunctive. The subjective mood affirms objective possibility. It assumes that a verbal idea is not now a fact but may become one. The action is possible, but it depends on certain objective factors. The objective factor in this context is obeying the commands of Christ.

26. How did Jesus elevate the disciple’s standing in the gospel ministry? (John 15:15) Jesus said, “No longer do I call you slaves, for the slave does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all things that I have heard from My Father I have made known to you.” Because of their obedience “Jesus elevated the disciples above mere tools and made them partners in his work. A slave is never given a reason for the work assigned to him; he must perform it because he has no other choice. The friend is the confidant who shares the knowledge of his superior’s purpose and voluntarily adopts it as his own. Jesus declared that He had revealed to the disciples all that the Father had given to him. The disclosure of the mind of God concerning his career and theirs would give them assurance that they were engaged in the right task and that God would ultimately bring it to a successful conclusion.” (Expositors pg.153) Discipleship ultimately leads to friendship.

27. What were we chosen and appointed for? (John 15:16 cp. Acts 4:13) Jesus said, “You did not choose Me but I chose you, and appointed you that you would go and bear fruit, and that your fruit would remain, so that whatever you ask of the Father in My name He may give to you.” Jesus chose us to “go” and “bear much fruit.” He chose us to “go” NOT to “sit.” Christ has a bias for action. Every believer is sent as a missionary! God doesn’t choose the equipped, he equips the chosen. The disciples weren’t chosen because they were competent, they were competent because they had been with Jesus (Acts 4:13). You learn ministry by doing ministry. Some people want to grow and then “go.” Christ wants you to grow as you “go.”

28. How does John 15:17 fit into the context? Jesus concludes by saying, “This I command you, that you love one another.” Every believer is on mission for God, but it’s a co-mission that we are to do together. The love that we have for one another as we fulfill the Great Commission is the great apologetic in our day (Acts 5:42).

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. Abiding is Remaining in Fellowship: Another Look at John 7 5:7-6 by: Joseph C. Dillow, Bibleotheca Sacra, Volume 147, January-March 1990, Number 585, Pages 44-53. Dallas Seminary Press, 1990.
  3. The Expositor’ s Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1 981 .
  4. Jesus Christ Disciple Maker by: Bill Hull, Fleming H. Revell Company, 1990.
  5. A Re-evaluation of the Johannine Concept of Abiding by: John Paul King, Thesis from Dallas Theological Seminary on microfiche, 1974
  6. Abiding is Believing: The Analogy of the Vine in John 15:1-6 by: J. Carl Laney, Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 146, January-March 1989, Number 581, Pages 55-66. Dallas Seminary Press, 1989.
  7. Abiding in Christ by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1986.
  8. Abiding in Christ by: John R. Mott, The Herald of Gospel Liberty, The Christian Publishing / Association, Dayton Ohio, 1918
  9. The Gospel under Siege by: Zane C. Hodge (Dallas: Redencion Viva, 1981 ), pp. 9-18.
  10. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
  11. Second Peter and Jude: An Expositional Commentary by: D. Edmond Hiebert, Unusual Publications, 1989

1 H. E. Jacob,. Grape Growing in California,” Circular #116 (California Agricultural Extension Service, The College of Agriculture, University of California at Berkeley, April 1940).

2 James E. Rosscup, Abiding in Christ: Studies in John 15 (Chicago: Moody Press, 1973), p.50

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

How to Have Faith

Today we are looking into the gospel of John 14:1-14, 27 – section 218 in Thomas and Gundry’s Harmony of the Gospels.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to explore the importance of possessing a faith that trusts Christ despite the circumstances that we may face. This is in contrast to falling away from the faith (Matthew 12:21; Mark 4:17; Luke 8:13). We are not to be fair weather Christians. Our faith must persevere to be saving faith.

Historical Background: This is Jesus’ farewell discourse. In the next four chapters (John 14-17), Jesus must drive home three critical facts:

  1. He is leaving (John 13:1, 31-33, 36; 14:1-4, 18, 25, 27-29; 16:5, 11-19, 28; 17:11).
  2. The Apostles will continue Jesus’ mission with opposition from the world (John 13:13-17, 20, 34-35; 14:12-14, 18-21; 15:1-21, 27; 16:1-4, 23-24; 17:12-22).
  3. The Holy Spirit will assist them in their mission (John 14:15-18, 26; 15:26-27; 16:6-11, 13-14).

This is one of those “good news/bad news” scenarios. What lies ahead is difficult, but Jesus’ promises are simply out of this world!

This has been unlike any other meal the disciples shared with Jesus. He seemed so solemn. An ominous finality lingered over the Passover “celebration” and the words “one of you will betray me” kept echoing in their minds. Jesus has just told Peter that he would deny him three times and the other ten would scarcely fare any better. They are visibly shaken. So Jesus tells them to stop being troubled. With two more imperatives, Jesus gives the solution: “Trust in God; trust also in me!” (John 14:1)

While the crucifixion and ascension will be devastating losses for the disciples, their faith can be sustained in the midst of this present suffering by the assurance of three glorious realities:

  1. The enduring presence of the Holy Spirit
  2. The promise of Jesus’ return
  3. The hope of a heavenly home

The setting is very similar to a modern board room where the once highly charged management team of a new enterprise with worldwide aspirations just receives news that the CEO is leaving; the treasure was fired, and the CEO’s personal apprentice was going to distance himself from the organization. How would you feel? Troubled? Trusting? Hopeful? Like an orphan? Jesus was totally in touch with what His disciples were feeling.

Commanded in the Gospels: John 14:1 “Do not let,” “believe” (2x); John 14:11 “believe” (2x); John 14:27 “Do not let your heart be troubled,” “nor let it be fearful.” (The word “faith” occurs 39 times in the Gospels; “believe” 119 times).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: the word ‘faith” occurs 218 times in the epistles and 11 times in the Book of Revelation; “believe” occurs 74 times.

Amplified in the Epistles: The word “faith” occurs 14 times in the Book of Acts; “believe” 39 times.

Do not let [Present Imperative] your heart be troubled; believe [Present Imperative] in God, believe [Present Imperative] also in Me. (John 14:1)

The scene is in the upper room where the disciples gathered for the Passover meal with Jesus on the night before his death. In a very short time the world of these eleven men is going to collapse in unbelievable chaos. They have been informed that Jesus is going away and they are filled with fear. Jesus anticipates their already broken hearts and here commands them to keep trusting in him. Jesus promises that he will come back to get them, but in the meantime consoles them with the promise of the coming of the Comforter, the Holy Spirit (John 14:16-26; 16:5-15).

Instead of the disciples offering support to Jesus in the hours before the cross, he had to support them spiritually as well as emotionally. This reveals his love for them. Faith in Jesus can stop the heart from being agitated. The verb “troubled” [tarasso] means, “to agitate, trouble (a thing, by the movement of its parts to and fro), to cause one inward commotion, take away his calmness of mind, disturb his equanimity, to disquiet, make restless, to stir up, to trouble, to strike one’s spirit with fear and dread, to render anxious or distressed, to perplex the mind of one by suggesting scruples or doubts. – Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance.

We all experience trouble, suffering, pain, anxiety, disappointment, and losses. These circumstances don’t have to trouble us if we know Jesus. He is bigger than our needs and circumstances. So, when you are feeling anxious, take your eyes off your troubles and put them on Jesus.

In fact Jesus commands us “do not let” your heart be troubled; “believe” in God “believe” also in Me. All three of these verbs (“do not let,” “believe,” “believe”) are present tense imperatives.

“Let not your heart continue to be agitated. Be putting your trust in God. Also be putting your trust in Me.” The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961

Faith in Christ can stop the heart from bring agitated – John MacArthur

The verb “believe” [pisteuo] occurs 248 times. The KJV translates it as “believe” 239 times, “commit unto” four times, “commit to (one’s) trust” once, “be committed unto” once, “be put in (trust with” once, “be commit to one’s trust” once, and “believer” once. The word “believe” means, “to think to be true, to be persuaded of, to credit, place confidence in.” It is used in the New Testament of the conviction and trust to which a man is impelled by a certain inner and higher prerogative and law of soul. Faith involves trusting in Jesus as able to aid either in obtaining or in doing something. True saving faith is more than mere intellectual assent.

Wuest points out that the use of the verb is pisteuo in classical Greek – “In classical Greek pisteuo meant to believe, trust, trust in, put faith in, rely upon a person or thing. In the papyri, [Moulton and Milligan] we find the following illustrations of the use of these words; Whom no one would trust even if they were willing to work; (confidence in the person’s character and motives); I have trusted no one to take it to her, (confidence in the ability of another to perform a certain task). Pisteuo in every instance is translated by the word “believe,” except in the following places; Luke 16:11; John 2:24; Romans 3:2; 1 Corinthians 9:17; Galatians 2:7; 1 Thessalonians 2:4; 1 Timothy 1:11; Titus 1:3, where the idea is that either of entrusting one’s self or something else into the custody and safe keeping of another.

When these words refer to the faith which a lost sinner must place in the Lord Jesus in order to be saved, they include the following ideas; the act of considering the Lord Jesus worthy of trust as to His character and motives, the act of placing confidence in his ability to do just what he says he will do, the act of entrusting the salvation of his soul into the hands of the Lord Jesus, the act of committing the work of saving his soul to the care of the Lord. This means a definite taking of one’s self out of one’s own keeping and entrusting one’s self into the keeping of the Lord Jesus.

In Acts 8:13; 26:27; James 2:19, the word refers merely to an intellectual assent to certain facts, in Acts 15:11, to a dogmatic belief that such and such is the case.

“The New Testament conception of faith includes three main elements, mutually connected and requisite, though according to circumstances sometimes one and sometimes another may be more prominent,

  1. A fully convinced acknowledgement of the revelation of grace
  2. A self-surrendering fellowship (adhesion)
  3. A fully assured and unswerving trust (and with this at the same time hope) in the God of salvation or in Christ.

None of these elements is wholly ignored by any of the N.T. writers” [Cremer, Biblico-Theological Lexicon of New Testament Greek]. Thus, the word sometimes refers to an acknowledgment that a certain statement is true (Matthew 21:25), and sometimes to a definite commitment of one’s soul into the keeping of another (John 5:24). Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973, pgs.28-30

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who hears My word, and believes him who sent me, has eternal life, and does not come into judgment, but has passed out of death into life. (John 5:24)

The disciples first transferred their trust on Christ as their Messiah in John 2:11. The aorist tense of the verb “believed” points to the moment of salvation but for faith to be true saving faith it must persevere.

John MacArthur writes “But it is not a biblical view of faith to say one may have it at the moment of salvation and never need to have it again. The continuing nature of saving faith is underscored by the use of the present tense of the Greek verb pisteuo (“believe”) throughout the gospel of John (John 3:15-18, 36; 5:24; 6:35, 40, 47; 7:38; 11:25-26; 12:44, 46; 20:31; also Acts 10:43; 13:39; Romans 1:16; 3:22; 4:5; 9:33; 10:4, 10-11). If believing were a one-time act, the Greek tense in those verses would be aorist.”- The Gospel According to Jesus, pg.172

John MacArthur cites Hodge who writes, “It is widely held in modem Christendom that the faith of a genuine Christian cannot fail. But this is not an assertion that can be verified from the New Testament” (pg.68); and, “There is nothing to support the view that perseverance in the faith is an inevitable outcome of true salvation” (pg.83). Contrast that statement with Paul’s inspired words in Colossians 1:22-23: “He has now reconciled you… if indeed you continue in the faith firmly established and steadfast, and not moved away from the hope of the gospel” cp. also 1 Corinthians 15:1-2; 2 Timothy 2:12; Hebrews 2:1-3; 3:14; 4:14; 6:11-12; 12:14; James 1:2; 1 John 2:19. – The Gospel According To Jesus.

Jesus in John 14:1 is commanding his disciples to continue believing in Him despite the trouble they are facing.

In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.” (John 14:2)

“Have you ever decorated a room for someone special? If you have, you know what it is like to make a room suit one particular personality. If it is a daughter, you make the room pretty…. If it is a son, the room might have airplanes or model cars. If it is for Grandma, the room might have her favorite books; and it might be far from the playroom or the children’s bedrooms. We take care in such preparation. Are we to think that Jesus will take less care for those whom he loves, who are to spend eternity with him?” – The Gospel of John, Boice, pg.95

This verse teaches that heaven is under construction. Jesus has gone to heaven “to prepare” or “to make ready” [hetoimazo] our dwelling place for us.

John’s readers would have pictured a first-century house in Palestinian when they read these words. The “dwelling place” [mone] was built around a central courtyard and designed for sons to bring their spouses to live there as well and raise their families there. Each household had its own room or apartment within the house that provided privacy. Members also had (closeness to the father of the family by gathering in the courtyard. The “dwelling place” may have been quite modest even though the house was huge. The KJV translation “mansion” today conjures up the wrong idea. The glory of our future dwelling is not in its size or prestige but in the presence of Christ.

If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to myself, that where I am, there you may be also.” (John 14:3)

Jesus here spoke of the rapture as he began his closing message to his disciples. The passage reveals several things regarding the rapture.

“One is that it is a planned event; at the time of his departure Christ anticipated returning for the disciples. Another is that it concerns Christ’s own followers. Christ was speaking only to when he gave the promise. Third, Christ’s return for his own will be personal. He himself will come for them, not by sending some angel, for instance, nor merely giving a general permission for the church finally to come to him. Fourth. the rapture results in the church being taken out of the world. Jesus said that he would come and “receive” the disciples, that where he had made the preparations, they might be also. The church will not remain here on earth, then, merely in some improved status, but will be taken away from the earth to heaven.” ­ – The Bible and Future Events, pgs.40,41

“Many signs were given to the nation Israel, which would precede the second advent, so that the nation might be living in expectancy when the time of His corning should draw nigh. Although Israel could not know the day nor the hour when the Lord will come, yet they can know that their redemption draweth nigh through the fulfillment of these signs. To the church no such signs were ever given. The church was told to live in the light of the imminent coming of the Lord to translate them in his presence (John 14:2-3; Acts 1:11; 1 Corinthians 15:51-52; Philippians 3:20; Colossians 3:4; 1 Thessalonians 1:10; 1 Timothy 6:14; James 5:8; 1 Peter 3:3-4). Such passages as 1 Thessalonians 5:6; Titus 2:13; Revelation 3:3 all warn the believer to be watching for the Lord himself, not for signs that would precede his coming. It is true that the events of the seventieth week will cast an adumbration before the rapture, but the object of the believer’s attention is always directed to Christ, never to these portents.” – Things to Come, pgs.202-203

This passage teaches the doctrine of imminence, or “at any moment coming.” The rapture reflects the traditions of a Jewish wedding. Although the Jewish bride was expecting her groom to come for her, she did not know the exact time of his coming.

The Jewish bridegroom took the initiative in marriage by leaving his father’s house and traveling to the home of the prospective bride. So Jesus left his Father’s house in heaven and traveled to the earth; the home of his prospective church (bride). Jesus came to earth to obtain the church (bride) through the establishment of a covenant.

At the home of the prospective bride, the Jewish bridegroom would negotiate with her father to determine the price [mohar] that he must pay to purchase his bride. On the same night Jesus made his promise in John 14, he instituted communion. In this communion, he passed the cup of wine to the disciples saying: “This cup is the new covenant in my blood” (1 Corinthians 1:25). Jesus established an eternal covenant through his blood. His Holy Spirit is the “ring” sealing the bride with a guarantee that he will return for her (Hebrews 13:20; Luke 22:20; Ephesians 1:13).

Once the bridegroom paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was established, and the young man and woman were regarded as husband and wife. From that moment on, the bride was declared to be consecrated or sanctified; set apart exclusively for her bridegroom. Jesus paid a price to purchase the church (bride). The price he paid was his life blood (Acts 20:28, 1 Corinthians 6:19-20). So the church is said to be sanctified and set apart exclusively for Christ (Ephesians 5:25-27; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 6:11; Hebrews 10:10; 13:12).

As a symbol of the covenant relationship, the groom and bride would drink from a cup of wine over which a betrothal benediction had been pronounced. The cup of communion serves as the symbol of the covenant through which Christ has obtained the His bride the church (1 Corinthians 11:25).

After the marriage covenant was established, the groom would leave the bride’s home and return to his father’s house. There he would remain separate from his bride for usually at least a period of 12 months. Just as the Jewish groom left the home of his bride and returned to his father’s house, so Jesus left the earth, the home of the church (bride) and returned to his Father’s house in heaven after he’d established the new covenant and risen from the dead. The church is currently living in this period of separation awaiting Christ’s return (John 6:62; 20:17).

During this period of separation between the Jewish bride and groom, the bride would use this time to gather her trousseau and prepare for her married life. The groom occupied himself with the preparation of living accommodations in his father’s house where he would bring his bride. Parallel to the custom of the Jewish groom preparing living accommodations for his bride in his father’s house, Christ as been preparing living accommodations for the church in His Father’s house in heaven. (John 14:2)

Dr. Dwight Pentecost writes, “In relation to the eternal destiny of the church saints, it is to be observed that their destiny primarily is related to a Person rather than a place. While the place looms with importance (John 14:3), the place is overshadowed by the Person into whose presence the believer is taken.

  • John 14:3, If I go and prepare a place for you, I will come again and receive you to Myself, that where I am, there you may be also.
  • Colossians 3:4, When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
  • 1 Thessalonians 4:16-17, For the Lord Himself will descend from heaven with a shout, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 Then we who are alive and remain will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we shall always be with the Lord.
  • 1 John 3:2, Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is.

It is the Person who is emphasized in all the passages dealing with the glorious expectation of the church rather than the place to which they are taken.” Things to Come, pgs.562

And you know the way where I am going.” 5 Thomas said to Him, 0 Lord, we do not know where You are going, how do we know the way?” (John 14:4-5)

They didn’t even know where he was going, much less how to get there. So Jesus explained that he is the only way to God and heaven. They may not have fully understood Jesus’ teaching at that time, but after the resurrection, they got it. A couple of months later, when Peter was preaching, he said, “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved” (Acts 4:12).

Jesus said to him, “I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me.” (John 14:6)

“A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic (on a level with the man who says he is a poached egg) or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is, the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse.” – C.S. Lewis

Our Lord in John 14:6 says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life.” The word “way” is from a Greek word which has two uses, a literal and a metaphorical. It was used to speak of a road and also to refer to a method or manner of accomplishing something. These uses are closely intertwined and cannot be disassociated. The road leading to a certain place is the method of getting there. Our Lord is the literal road which a sinner must take if he is to reach heaven, and Jesus thus becomes the method by which he is saved. Missing the glory of God is evidence of the fact that the sinner has not gone in the right direction, and that shows that he has not been on the right road. He has missed the road. To reach heaven, the sinner must put himself on the road to heaven. Jesus is that road. – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.88,89

The way to the Father is not a road but a relationship.

  1. “Let there be no mistake, while Christianity is open to all people, heaven is not! Call it narrow-minded, call it intolerant, call it what you like as long as you call it truth from the lips of Jesus.” – Mark Moore
  2. Acts 4:12, “And there is salvation in no one else; for there is no other name under heaven that has been given among men by which we must be saved.”
  3. 2 Timothy 2:5-6, For there is one God, and one mediator also between God and men, the man Christ Jesus, 6who gave Himself as a ransom for all, the testimony given at the proper time.”
  4. “Jesus made it clear that the destination was the Father. He did not say that he came to show the way, but that he himself was the actual means for bringing men to God. An illustration might be a flowing river whose current actually conveys the boat to its destination, or the modern escalator which is not only the route but is also the conveyor from one level to another.” -­ Homer A Kent Jr.

This is the sixth of seven “I AM” statements in John (John 6:48; 8:12; 10:9; 10:11; 11:25; 14:6; 15:1). The first description of Jesus, “The Way,” became one of the names of the early church (Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:22). The second and third descriptions of Jesus (truth and life) are found in a number of other places in John:

If you had known Me, you would have known My Father also; from now on you know Him, and have seen Him.” (John 14:7)

God has revealed himself through His Son. John 1:18, No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him. Philip said to Him, “Lord, show us the Father, and it is enough for us.” (John 14:8)

We get three glimpses of Philip in John. He was one of the first to follow Jesus clear back in the days of John the Baptist (John 1:43-46). His first act of devotion to Jesus was to lead him to Nathanael. A couple of years later it was Philip whom Jesus tested at the feeding of the five thousand by asking how they would feed all these people (John 6:5-7). Finally, in John 12:21, the Greeks who wanted to see Jesus petitioned Philip to take them to him.

Here we find Philip making a request. Philip wants a visual glimpse of God. He is probably thinking in terms of a vision like Ezekiel’s (1-2) or Isaiah’s (6) or even Moses’ (Exodus 33:18-23). But Jesus gives him nothing more than he needs and nothing less than himself. To see Jesus is to see the Father (Hebrews 1:3). Granted, Jesus’ incarnational form is not nearly as striking as these visions of God. Then again, his incarnational form was not nearly as striking as his own non-incarnational visions (Isaiah 11:3-5; Ezekiel 40:3; Daniel 10:6; Revelation 1:12-16). Nevertheless, what is needed here is not a striking vision but an accurate revelation of the character, purpose, and acts of God. These are represented with striking clarity in Jesus’ incarnational ministry through his words (John 14:10) and his works (John 14:11), both of which come directly from the Father (John 5:18-23, 36-39; 8:41-42; 10:30-32, 37-38; 12:49-50).

Dr. Ray Stedman writes, “Everyone was surprised when Philip spoke up. It was as if the table had suddenly spoken. He was the quiet, mousy disciple who never said anything. Yet all the sob and agony of man’s hunger for God is heard in this cry, “Show us the Father and we’ll be satisfied.” Our Lord’s answer is a quiet rebuke: “Philip, after three and a half years haven’t you yet found out who I am? I came to reveal the Father. When you know me you have known the Father.”

These are, confessedly, words of mystery. They reveal what theologians have called the “Doctrine of the Trinity”; that three distinct Persons can still exist as only one God. It is beyond our human comprehension. We have nothing to compare it with, thus we struggle to grasp it.” (pg.5)

Jesus said to him, “Have I been so long with you, and yet you have not come to know Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father; how can you say, ‘Show us the Father’? (John 14:9)

Paul in Colossians 1:15 spoke of Christ as “the image of the invisible God.” “The word “image” has the obvious idea of likeness, but the Greek word does not refer to an accidental likeness, as one egg is like another. It implies an original of which the image is a copy. But the image in this case is not the result of direct imitation as the head of a king on a coin, but is derived, like the features of the parent in the child. In John 3:16 our Lord is the only begotten Son of God. John 1:18 refers to him as the only begotten God, the word “God” appearing in the best manuscripts. It is a tremendous thought. The word ‘only begotten’ does not only mean that our Lord was the only Son of God, but that he as God the Son is alone of his kind, unique, be­ gotten of God through eternal generation. He is the image of God in the sense that he is a derived representation of God the Father, co-existent eternally with him, possessing the same essence, deity himself. Being the representative of God, he is also therefore the manifestation of God. He said to Philip, “He that hath seen me hath seen the Father” (John 14:9). – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.83

John 1:18 says, “No one has seen God at any time; the only begotten God who is in the bosom of the Father, He has explained Him.” This verse teaches us that our Lord never started to be God’s only begotten Son. He always was his Son. He possesses the same essence as God the Father, and therefore he can in his incarnation fully explain God. The verb “has explained” in John 1:18 is a Greek word which means “to lead out.” “God the Son in his incarnation led the Father out from behind the curtain of his invisibility into full view. The Greek word here comes into the English language in the word ‘exegesis.’ Exegesis is the method of Bible study in which we fully explain every detail of the text. Jesus Christ has in his incarnation, fully explained in finite terms so far as finite minds can grasp, all the details of the Person of God the Father. He said, ‘He that hath seen me hath seen the Father.’ Thus Jesus Christ is the exegesis of God.” ­- Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs. 85-86

The Bible teaches that the Godhead exists eternally in three persons: the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit, and these three are one God. (Genesis 1:1, 26; Deuteronomy 6:4; Matthew 28:19-20; John 4:24; 2 Corinthians 13:14).

John 14:9 (“He who has seen Me has seen the Father”) and John 14:10 (“I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me”) have been misused to teach the heresy of Modalism.

Modalism -A Third Century Heresy

“Modalism claims that there is one person who appears to us in three different forms (or “modes”). At various times people have taught that God is not really three distinct persons, but only one person who appears to people in different “modes” at different times. For example, in the Old Testament God appeared as “Father.” Throughout the gospels, this same divine person appeared as “the Son” as seen in the human life and ministry of Jesus. After Pentecost, this same person then revealed himself as the “Spirit” active in the church.

This teaching is also referred to by two other names. Sometimes it is called Sabellianism, after a teacher named Sabellius who lived in Rome in the early third century A.D. Another term for modalism is “modalistic monarchianism,” because this teaching not only says that God revealed himself in different “modes” but it also says that there is only one supreme ruler (“monarch”) in the universe and that is God himself, who consists of only one person.

Modalism gains its attractiveness from the desire to emphasize clearly the fact that there is only one God. It may claim support not only from the passages talking about one God, but also from passages such as John 10:30 (“I and the Father are one”) and John 14:9 (“He who has seen me has seen the Father”).

However, the last passage can simply mean that Jesus fully reveals the character of God the Father, and the former passage (John 10:30), in a context in which Jesus affirms that he will accomplish all that the Father has given him to do and save all whom the Father has given to him, seems to mean that Jesus and the Father are one in purpose (though it may also imply oneness of essence).

The fatal shortcoming of modalism is the fact that it must deny the personal relationships within the Trinity that appear in so many places in Scripture (or it must affirm that these were simply an illusion and not real). Thus, it must deny three separate persons at the baptism of Jesus, where the Father speaks from heaven and the Spirit descends on Jesus like a dove. And it must say that all those instances where Jesus is praying to the Father are an illusion or a charade. The idea of the Son or the Holy Spirit interceding for us before God the Father is lost. Finally, modalism ultimately loses the heart of the doctrine of the atonement that is, the idea that God sent his Son as a substitutionary sacrifice, and that the Son bore the wrath of God in our place, and that the Father, representing the interests of the Trinity, saw the suffering of Christ and was satisfied (Isaiah 53:11).

Moreover, modalism denies the independence of God, for if God is only one person, then he has no ability to love and to communicate without other persons in his creation. Therefore it was necessary for God to create the world, and God would no longer be independent of creation.

One present denomination within Protestantism (broadly defined), the United Pentecostal Church, is modalistic in its doctrinal position. Some of the leaders who formed this group had earlier been forced out of the Assemblies of God.”- Systematic Theology, pg.242

Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works.” (John 14:10)

The word “abide” [meno] is one of John’s favorite words. Its classical usage will throw light upon the way it is used in the N.T. It meant “to stay, stand fast, abide, to stay at home, stay where one is, not stir, to remain as one was, to remain as before.” In the N.T., it means “to tarry, to dwell at one’s own house, to tarry as a guest, to lodge, to maintain unbroken fellowship with one, to adhere to his party, to be constantly present to help one, to put forth constant influence upon one.” In this verse God is said to meno in Christ… to be constantly present with him, to be continually operative in him by his divine influence and energy. – Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, pgs.64,65

Believe [Present Imperative] Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe [Present Imperative] because of the works themselves.” (John 14:11)

The proof of the union of Jesus and His Father is threefold. They should believe Jesus

  1. Because of his character (“I am in the Father [John 14:20] and… the Father is in Me”)
  2. Because His words are the Father’s (“The words I say to you are not just My own” (John 7:16; 12:49-50; 14:24)
  3. Because the miracles reveal God’s working through Him (the Father, living in Me… is doing His work…. believe on the evidence of the miracles themselves; John 5:36). One of the key elements in John’s Gospel is the stress on the signs as gracious pointers to faith (John 5:36; 10:25, 38; 11:47; 12:37; 20:30-31).

Greater Works Than Jesus?

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.” (John 14:12)

Jesus did not mean greater works in power, but in extent. They would become witnesses to all the world through the power of the indwelling and infilling of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:8) and would bring many to salvation because of the Comforter dwelling in them. The focus is on spiritual rather than physical miracles.

What are the “greater works” that Jesus promised that those who believe in him could do? The Gospel writers used the word “works” [ergon] to describe Jesus’ miraculous works (Matthew 11:2; Luke 24:19). “John accords them theological significance (John 5:36; 7:3, 21; 15:24). The works validate Jesus’ claims about himself and point to the Father who sent him. His works are intended to draw faith responses from those who witness them (John 14:11 ).” – Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words pg.807

  • John 5:20, For the Father loves the Son, and shows Him all things that He Himself is doing; and the Father will show Him greater works than these, so that you will marvel.
  • John 5:36, But the testimony which I have is greater than the testimony of John; for the works which the Father has given Me to accomplish – the very works that I do – testify about Me, that the Father has sent Me.
  • John 6:28, Therefore they said to Him, “What shall we do, so that we may work the works of God?
  • John 7:3, Therefore His brothers said to Him, “Leave here and go into Judea, so that Your disciples also may see Your works which You are doing.
  • John 9:3-4, Jesus answered, “It was neither that this man sinned, nor his parents; but it was so that the works of God might be displayed in him. 4We must work the works of Him who sent Me as long as it is day; night is coming when no one can work.
  • John 10:25, Jesus answered them, “I told you, and you do not believe; the works that I do in My Father’s name, these testify of Me.
  • John 10:32, Jesus answered them, “I showed you many good works from the Father; for which of them are you stoning Me?”
  • John 10:37-38, If I do not do the works of My Father, do not believe Me; 38but if I do them, though you do not believe Me, believe the works, so that you may know and understand that the Father is in Me, and I in the Father.
  • John 14:10-12, Do you not believe that I am in the Father, and the Father is in Me? The words that I say to you I do not speak on My own initiative, but the Father abiding in Me does His works. 11″Believe Me that I am in the Father and the Father is in Me; otherwise believe because of the works themselves. 12″Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in Me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

How could we do more miracles than Jesus did? John 21:25 says, “And there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written.

The text literally says, “Most assuredly, I am saying to you, he who believes in me, the works which I am constantly doing, also that one shall do” – The New Testament: An Expanded Translation pg. 249

So what went wrong? Was this a false promise or have we failed in some way? God’s miracle working power through men was very rare over biblical history. There were no miracles

  • From creation until Moses – 2700 years (Exodus 4:8-9, 17, 28, 30; 7:3; 8:23; 13:9; 10:1,2).
  • From Moses until Elijah – 600 years (1 Kings 17:14-24; 18:24, 25; 2 Kings 4:8-37).
  • From Elijah to Christ – 900 years (John 20:30-31; 21:25; Acts 2:22).

The book of Acts gives us a historical narrative of the first 30 years of the church. During the first 20 years of the early church, the Book of Acts records eighteen miracles (Acts 1-18) and over the next 10 years five miracles are recorded (Acts 19-28). With the exception of a few cases of the miraculous that have not been verifiable the church hasn’t seen the miracles that Jesus promised. There has been a strange absence of miracles among Jesus’ disciples throughout the church age until the present. Is it a lack of faith on our part or has Christ failed to keep his promise? Don’t just think of the supernatural as physical phenomenon.

Homer Kent writes, “This certainly did not mean that believers would perform more amazing physical miracles that Jesus did (e.g., stilling the storm, feeding 5,000, opening the eyes of the blind, curing the lame, healing an amputated ear, raising the dead, etc.). The answer is indicated by the fact that Christ’s return to the Father is said to be the cause. Hence these greater works would be spiritual ones, in which the good news of Christ’s death and resurrection would be proclaimed as the transforming power for sinful men. As a consequence, Gentiles as well as Jews would be reached, and a new spiritual body, the New Testament church, would be created.” – Light in the Darkness pg.174

So when Jesus speaks of “greater works” he must mean “greater” in a spiritual dimension. When we look at both the record of Scripture and of church history we see how true this is: On the day of Pentecost, 40 days after our Lord uttered these words, Peter, filled with the power of the Spirit, preached with such effect that 3,000 people were converted in one day. That never happened during Jesus1 ministry. Perhaps a few hundred on occasion believed when he preached, but a mere handful was the usual response, never thousands as the book of Acts reports.

“…greater, not in power, but in extent or scope, due to the indwelling Spirit; the focus is on the spiritual, not physical miracles.” – John MacArthur

But it is unlikely that Jesus had miracles in mind when he says the Apostles will do greater works than he himself has done. After all, what greater miracle could there be than raising a person from the dead? And Jesus did three of these (excluding his own), while the “greatest” Apostles, Peter, and Paul, only had one each (Acts 9:40-41; 20:10). Certainly, the greatness of Jesus’s followers would not be in the number or character of their miracles but in the number and character of their converts. How great indeed are the works of those who break the barriers of geography and ethnicity to bring to Christ people from every tongue and tribe.

This is from John MacArthur on What It Means to Do Greater Works than Jesus:

“Many charismatic teachers look to the above verse to validate their teaching. They see it as a proof text for the notion that present-day believers can perform miraculous signs and wonders, even more spectacular than Jesus Himself. Reinhard Bonnke, who claims to have raised the dead, is one prominent charismatic who subscribes to that view, and has even written a book offering his interpretation of what Jesus meant by “greater works.”

But Bonnke’s view not only contradicts church history, it also defies Jesus’ teaching in Scripture. In the following audio clip, John MacArthur explains the true, and far more profound, meaning of John 14:12.

One of the great tragedies of the charismatic movement’s fixation on miracles is that it drags the focus away from biblical priorities. Rather than bring the life-transforming power of Scripture to bear on a lost and dying world, too many charismatics long for God’s power to manifest itself in and through their own experiences.

We don’t do things that are greater in power, how could we? I certainly cannot heal the sick, cast out demons from unbelievers, I can’t raise the dead, I cannot walk on water, I cannot pronounce curses on people, I can’t make food and feed people by the tens of thousands. I cannot know what people think, I cannot know what’s on their hearts, I cannot articulate their unasked questions, I cannot predict the future, those are things that Christ did and He did them routinely and regularly.

So when Scripture says that we will do greater works than Jesus, it’s not greater in kind, its greater in extent and what it means is, that the proclamation of the gospel which for Jesus was limited to one nation, one small piece of geography will go far beyond that. We who live in generation after generation since the life of our Lord are fulfilling the Great Commission and the Gospel is expanding and covering the whole earth. Not greater in kind but greater in extent, greater in world influence. These are the works that we are able to do because we know the truth and possess the Holy Spirit.” (Source:

Whatever you ask in My name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. 14 If you ask Me anything in My name, I will do it.” (John 14:13-14)

“In their hour of loss at the departure of Jesus, he comforted them with the means that would provide them with the necessary resources to accomplish their task without his immediate presence which they had come to depend upon. To ask in Jesus’ “name” does not mean to tack such an expression on the end of a prayer as a mere formula. According to the MacArthur Study Bible, pg.1579, it means:

  1. The believer’s prayer should be for his purposes and kingdom and not selfish reasons
  2. The believer’s prayer should be on the basis of his merits and not any personal merit or worthiness
  3. The believer’s prayer should be in pursuit of His glory alone

If you love Me, you will keep My commandments.” (John 14:15) The disciples’ love for Christ is revealed in their obeying his commands (John 14:21, 23; 1 John 2:3; 3:22, 24; 5:3).

Peace I leave with you; My peace I give to you; not as the world gives do I give to you. Do not let your heart be troubled [Present Imperative], nor let it be fearful [Present Imperative].” (John 14:27)

The peace Jesus spoke of could not be exemption from conflict and trial. Jesus himself was “troubled” (John 12:27) by the impending crucifixion. The peace he spoke of is the calmness of confidence in God. Jesus had this peace because he was sure of the Father’s love and approval. The world can give only false peace, which mostly comes from the ignorance of peril or self-reliance. Jesus, fully aware of the distressing suffering confronting him, had such confidence in the purpose and power of the Father that he moved forward unhesitatingly to meet the crisis without fear. His peace would be the source of courage for the disciples. With his promise of peace, he repeated the words of comfort he had spoken in reply to Peter’s question: “Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid” (John 14:1). – The Expositor’s Bible Commentary


  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. The Gospel Under Siege by: Zane C. Hodges, Redenci6n Viva, 1981
  3. The New Testament: An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
  4. Expository Dictionary of Bible Words by: Lawrence 0. Richards, Zondervan Publishing House, 1985, pg.484
  5. The Gospel of John by: James Montgomery Boice, Zondervan Publishing House, 1978
  6. Light in the Darkness, by: Homer A. Kent Jr., Baker Book House, 1974, pg.173
  7. Mere Christianity, by: C.S. Lewis, Macmillan Publishing Co., 1960, pg.56
  8. The Gospel According To Jesus – The Nature of True Faith by: John F. MacArthur, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, Pages 169-178
  9. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press,1997, pages 230-234
  10. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament Vol.3, Kenneth S. Wuest, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1973
  11. The NIV Serendipity Bible Study of John, Edited by: Lyman Coleman, Denny Rydberg, Richard Peace, Gary Chrisropherson, Zondervan Publishing House, 1986
  12. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary Vol.9, by: Frank E. Gaebelein, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
  13. The Gospel of John by: John MacArthur, Word of Grace Communications
  14. John: God’s Word for the Biblically-Inept Series by: Lin Johnson & Larry Richards, Starburst Publishers, 2000
  15. Day Counter Bible Studies by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, 1989
  16. John – MacArthur Bible Studies by: John MacArthur, W. Publishing Group, 2000
  17. The Chronological Life of Christ Vo/.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1977
  18. Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words by: W. E. Vine & M.F. Unger & W. White, Nelson: Nashville, 1996.
  19. Systematic Theology by: Wayne Grudem, lnterVarsity Press, Zondervan, 2000, pg.242
  20. The Cure for Heart Trouble by: Ray Stedman, Message No: 38; Catalog No: 3868
  21. Complete Expository Dictionary of Old & New Testament Words by: William D. Mounce, Zondervan, 2006
  22. The Gospel According To Jesus- The Nature of True Faith by: John F. MacArthur, Zondervan Publishing House, 1988, Pages 169-178
  23. The Bible & Future Events by: Leon J. Wood, Zondervan Publishing House, 1973
  24. Things to Come by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1958

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

Celebrate the Lord’s Supper

This post is from Christopher J. Katulka, who is a Church Ministries representative for The Friends of Israel: Part 1 and Part 2.

Passover is full of ancient Jewish symbolism orchestrated in such a way to remind the Jewish people of God’s deliverance of the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt. If you’ve never celebrated a Passover Seder, I’d encourage you to find out where one is being held near you and attend. The Passover Seder will certainly enrich your walk with the Lord.

Jewish tradition that can be traced back even prior to Christ records that the Jews drank from four cups of wine during the Passover meal. Each of the four cups have a special name attached to them and act as fence posts holding together the seders sequence of events. The four cups are connected to sections of Exodus 6:6 and 6:7:

Say, therefore, to the sons of Israel, ‘I am the LORD, and I will bring you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians, and I will deliver you from their bondage. I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments. Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.”

These two verses are called the “I will” passages, where God explains to Moses his course of action and reminds Moses he’s simply a servant. It’s the Lord who will complete the divine task of delivering the Israelites. We’re going to take a look at the meaning behind these four cups that are taken during the Passover Seder both then and now.

Cup of Sanctification:

The Passover Seder starts with the drinking of the first of four cups or wine. The first cup is called the Cup of Sanctification. The Cup of Sanctification is connected to Exodus 6:6 where the Lord tells Moses, “I will bring you out.”

The word “sanctification” is associated with the idea of being set apart and being made holy. Here in the book of Exodus the Lord promises the Israelites that He is going to separate them from the Egyptian empire and make them a special and holy people to be used for His purposes and glory (read Exodus 19:5,6).

The Cup of Sanctification is something that is very applicable to the Christian life today. Just as God separated His people from the Egypt, Jesus has separated the believer from this world, “… If you were of the world, the world would love its own; but because you are not of the world, I chose you out of the world”. Believers have been set aside, made holy, and sanctified by the blood of Christ. The writer of Hebrews says, “Therefore Jesus also, that He might sanctify the people through His own blood, suffered outside the gate.” (Heb. 13:12).

Cup of Praise:

As the Passover celebration continues the second cup of wine appears to remind the Jewish people to praise God, hence the name of the second cup is the Cup of Praise. The Cup of Praise is associated with the section in Exodus 6:6, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt.”

For more than 400 years the Israelites lived in the land of Egypt, and for a majority of those years they were considered slaves. The Israelites, who were once promised a land of their own, were forced to live in Egypt and build an empire that was not their own. They worked tirelessly doing backbreaking work probably wondering if the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob had abandoned them. And then God called Moses and told him to tell the weary and worn Israelites, “I will bring you out from under the burdens of Egypt.” Those words alone should have caused every Israelite to jump out of their seats and PRAISE God for this amazing promise of freedom from the oppression of Egypt.

As Christians we cannot overlook the significance of the Cup of Praise. Just as God freed the Israelites from the control of the Egyptians, Christ released the believer from the bondage of sin. Paul tells us that for the believer, “sin shall not be a master over you” (Romans 6:14). We have been set free from shackles of Satan to live a life of freedom in Christ. As believers we should Praise God for His grace and mercy toward us. So lets “Praise Him for His mighty deeds; Praise Him according to His excellent greatness” (Psalms 150:2).

Cup of Redemption:

The Gospel writers really take the time to focus in on this particular cup of the Passover seder Jesus celebrated with His disciples. According to Scriptures the Cup of Redemption becomes the cup that Jesus will connect to His shed blood.

You have to imagine being in the upper room that evening as Jesus was leading His dear friends and followers, the disciples, through the Passover seder. I’m sure the disciples had their Passover routine down. As decent Jewish men the disciples would have celebrated Passover every year and many of them were probably over the age of thirty so they knew the drill. The disciples knew every element of the seder, and each elements meaning. Until Jesus gets to the Cup of Redemption.

Typically the disciples would have associated the third cup with Exodus 6:6, “I will also redeem you with an outstretched arm and with great judgments.” However, Jesus stops them and applies a new meaning to the cup. In the same way the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob used the Passover Lamb to redeem the Israelites from the bondage of Egypt… Jesus’ shed blood would redeem those who believe in Him by His shed blood.

Cup of Acceptance:

As the Passover seder comes to a close the last cup that is taken is called the Cup of Acceptance which is connected to Exodus 6:7, “Then I will take you for My people, and I will be your God; and you shall know that I am the LORD your God, who brought you out from under the burdens of the Egyptians.” Did you know Jesus rejected this cup during the seder, His Last Supper!

Directly after Jesus takes the third cup of the seder, the Cup of Redemption, Jesus says these profound words… “But I say to you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it new with you in My Father’s kingdom.” Jesus rejection of the fourth cup actually makes sense. The passage connected to the cup, Exodus 6:7, highlights that as a result of God setting apart, removing, and delivering Israel from Egypt they would have an intimate relationship and God would accept them to Himself.

But what happens when the people reject God? Sadly, Israel never accepted Jesus as the promised Messiah so Jesus turned down the last cup. But notice, all is not lost. The Passover is designed to look ahead prophetically as well as look to the past. Even though Jesus denied the Cup of Acceptance He did promise to the disciples that He would drink it, “new with you in My Father’s kingdom.”

There is coming a day, a glorious day, when Jesus will accept the nation of Israel and the people of Israel will accept Jesus as King!

How to Love One Another

Today we are talking about Loving One Another, based on John 13:1-17; 34-35.

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of agape love for fellow Christians. Jesus stooped to love His disciples by meeting a very practical need that they had – dirty feet.

Historical Background: John’s Gospel reports more of the content of Jesus’ instructions to His disciples than does the other three Gospels. Chapters 13-17 concentrate on His teachings on that fateful night in which He was arrested. Before the instruction,Jesus washed His disciples’ feet and predicted His betrayal.

The first 12 chapters of the Gospel of John cover approximately 3 years in the public ministry of Christ. In these chapters John records His earliest contacts with the disciples and how he moved among the people throughout these three years working miracles and preaching His message (John 20:30-31).

Chapters 13-17 are restricted to one evening in Christ’s life. The audience also is limited to the 12 men that He has experienced authentic biblical community with over the past three years. This one evening was the last night before the crucifixion. There are many things that happen on this final evening but John alone records the washing of the disciple’s feet.

There is a change in John’s vocabulary from this point on. In chapters 1-12 this gospel is marked by words like “life” (50 times) and “light” (32 times). In chapters 13-17 the word “life” only occurs 6 times and “light” not at all. In contrast, the word “love” is found only 6 times in chapters 1-12 and 31 times in chapters 13-1 7. Clearly love takes on a new prominence in this farewell discourse.

Historical Chronology: Triumphal Entry & the fig tree [from Bethany to Jerusalem to Bethany] (Thomas and Gundry Sections 128-131). Here we see growing popularity among the masses (John 12:12-16) culminating in his triumphal entry into Jerusalem. At the same time there is a growing hatred from the religious leaders (John 12:19). They were desperately threatened by his words that judged their hypocrisy, but also by the number of people who were attracted to Him and His teaching.

  1. Official challenge to Christ’s Authority [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.132-135
  2. Christ’s response to His enemies’ challenges [Jerusalem in the temple] Sec.136-138
  3. The Olivet Discourse: Jesus speaks prophetically about the temple and his second coming [from the temple to the Mount of Olives] Sec.139
  4. Arrangements for betrayal and plot by the Sanhedrin to arrest and kill Jesus [Mount of Olives & the palace of the high priest] Sec.140-142
  5. The Last Supper [Jerusalem]
    1. Preparation for the Passover meal in Jerusalem (Sec. 143 – Matthew 26:17-19; Mark 14:12-16; Luke 22:7-13). The Passover Feast was an important event in Israel’s) history that commemorated their deliverance from slavery in Egypt. The preparations were incomplete because there was no servant at the door to wash dirty feet.
    2. Beginning the Passover meal & dissension among the disciples in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 144 – Matthew 26:20; Mark 14:17; Luke 22:14-16, 24-30).
    3. Washing the Disciples feet in the upper room in Jerusalem (Sec. 145 – John 13:1-20).
    4. After returning to the table Jesus commands them to follow His example and love one another (Sec. 145-147 John 13:15,17,34,35). “By means of his words to his disciples, we are permitted here to enter into the thinking and emotions of Jesus just before his own crucifixion. Within hours of this event the Lord was hanging upon a cross. In less than twenty-four hours he was dead and buried. These therefore, constitute the last words of Jesus before his own death.” – Ray Stedman

Commanded in the Gospels: John 13:34; 15:12; 15:17

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Jesus said, “By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.” The early church in The Book of Acts was characterized by love in action. Their love for one another was expressed in practical ways within their Christian community and outsiders were well aware that they were disciples of Christ because of their love.

Amplified in the Epistles:

  • Love [agapao): Romans 13:8; 2 Corinthians 11:11; 12:15; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; 1 Peter 1:22; 2:17; 1 John 2:10; 3:10, 11, 14, 18, 23; 4:7, 11, 12, 20, 21; 5:1-2; 2 John 1:5; 3 John 1:1.
  • Love [agape]: Romans 14:15; 1 Corinthians 4:21; 8:1; 13:1-4, 8, 13; 14:1; 16:14; 2 Corinthians 2:4,8; 6:6; 8:7, 8, 24; Galatians 5:13, 22; Ephesians 4:2, 15, 16; 5:2; Philippians 1:9; 2:2; Colossians 1:4, 8; 2:2; 3:14; 1 Thessalonians 1:3; 3:12; 5:13; 2 Thessalonians 1:3; 1 Timothy 4:12; 6:11; 2 Timothy 1:7; 2:22; 3:10; Philemon 1:5, 7, 9; Hebrews 6:10; 10:24; 1 Peter 4:8; 5:14; 2 Peter 1:7; 3 John 1:6; Jude 1:12.
  • Love [phileo): Titus 3:15.
  • Brotherly love [philadelphia]: Romans 12:10; 1 Thessalonians 4:9; Hebrews 13:1; 1 Peter 1:22; 2 Peter 1:7.

Discussion Questions:

1 . What evening of the Passover week did Jesus give His disciples this command to love one another? (John 13:1-2; Matthew 26:20) The Passover feast began on the 15th Nisan at sunset, the Passover lamb being slain the afternoon of 14th Nisan. There seems no real doubt that this meal in John 13:1-30 is the real Passover meal described by the Synoptic Gospels (Mark l4:18-21; Matthew 26:21-25; Luke 22:21-23), followed by the institution of the Lord’s Supper.

Whether this meal was the actual Passover or not has been warmly debated, yet it seems that it occurred on the same night as the arrest and betrayal. If so, it was presumably Thursday night; and the Crucifixion occurred on Friday, the day before the Passover, which would have begun on Friday evening.

Luke states that when the day came on which the Passover lamb was to be sacrificed, Peter and John were sent to arrange the meal that the Lord and his disciples ate that evening (Luke 22:7-14). Matthew 26:17-20 and Mark 14:12-17 agree that the meal was on the day on which the Passover lamb was killed, which preceded the Passover itself. John stated later (John 18:28) that the Jewish delegates could not enter Pilate’s hall on Friday morning because they would be defiled and unable to eat the Passover. In that case, the last Supper must have preceded the Passover by twenty-four hours. If the Passover began on Friday night, the meal could have taken place on Thursday night, but would not have been the standard Passover Feast.

Jesus did celebrate the meal with his disciples on Thursday night, the hearing before Pilate and the Crucifixion took place on Friday, and his body was placed in the tomb before sunset late that afternoon.

John noted that it happened “before the feast of the Passover.” These words might suggest that this incident occurred while the evening meal was being served but before they actually came to the place where the Passover lamb would be eaten.

John alludes to the nearness of the Passover as if to remind his reader that Jesus had been introduced by John the Baptist as the “lamb of God, who takes away the sin of the world” (John 1:29). As the first Passover had been the turning point in the redemption of the people of God, so the Cross would be the opening of a new era for believers.

2. What does John 13:1 tell us about Jesus? The word “know” is in the perfect tense. Vines says that this verb, “signifies, primarily, to have seen or perceived; hence, to know, to have knowledge of.” This word “know” emphasizes the full consciousness of Christ, he was not stumbling into the dark as he faced “his hour.” Jesus had a thorough knowledge of the time schedule he was on to redeem the world.

3. How does John 13:1 describe Jesus’ love for his disciples? The apostles, having joined Christ at this feast, were overcome with selfish ambition (Luke 22:24). They also had given way to greed (Matthew 26:8). In contrast, Christ was filled with love for his disciples. A love [agapesas] that he was prepared to choose through an act of his will to give his life as a sacrifice for their sins and the sins of the entire world.

The opening verse of chapter 13 sets the scene for the whole of chapters 13-17. Love is one of the key terms in chapters 13-17, it occurs 31 times in these five chapters as compared to only six times in chapters 1-12.

Christ had already demonstrated his love for them; choosing them, teaching them, protecting them, and meeting their needs were all reflections of His love. The disciples at this point didn’t fully understand the extent of Christ’s love, but later the writer of this gospel expressed his fuller comprehension of his Savior’s love in the first epistle he wrote.

1 John 3:16 “We know love by this,that He laid down His life for us;and we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren.” The verb “loved” [agapao] describes the act of the will that gives to others’ basic needs without having as my motive personal reward. Agape love involves sacrificing myself and my comfort to meet another’s need.

Vines Expository Dictionary says: “Christian (Agape) love, whether exercised toward the brethren, or toward men generally, is not an impulse from the feelings, it does not always run with the natural inclinations, nor does it spend itself only upon those for whom some affinity is discovered. Love seeks the welfare of all, (Romans 15:2), and works no ill to any, (Romans 13:8-10); love seeks opportunity to do good to ‘all men, and especially toward them that are of the household of the faith,”‘ (Galatians 6:10).

Jesus loved his disciples “to the end” [eis telos] may be rendered “to the uttermost, completely, to perfection, utterly, to the fullest extent. Jesus’ love for His disciples was a perfect, saving, eternal love. With a full knowledge of his coming suffering and death, he was still totally preoccupied with an all-consuming, perfect, and full love for own His disciples.

One commentator writes, “Love is the laying down of one’s life, and therefore to love completely means to love to the end of one’s life (1 John 3:16). The love that has been evident throughout continues right up to the end. At the end, in the crucifixion, we will see the ultimate revelation of that love,that is,its full extent.

These disciples that are being loved are called, “his own” [tous idious]. These disciples were given to him by the Father (John 10:29). Jesus had accepted the responsibility for them and was obliged to instruct and protect them (John 17:6-12). He loved them.

4. What new commandment does Jesus give his disciples in this passage? John 13:34-35 says, “A new commandment I give to you, that you love [Present Imperative] one another,even as I have loved you,that you also love [Present Imperative] one another. 35 By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another.”

Love itself is NOT a new commandment (Leviticus 19:18). The new thing appears to be the mutual affection that Christians have for one another on account of Christ’s great love for them. Plummer says “the commandment to love was not new, for “You shall love your neighbor as yourself” (Leviticus 19:18) was part of the Mosaic Law, but the motive is new; to love one another because Christ has loved us” (1 John 4:19; John 15:12).

The word “new” [kainen] implies “freshness” or the opposite of “worn-out” rather than simply “recent or different.” Another source says, The word “new” signifies what is fresh, in contrast to that which is familiar and well known (1 John 2:7; 3:23; 2 John 1:5; John 15:12, 17).

The “badge of discipleship is love.” Love is to be the distinguishing mark of a Christ follower. In contrast, Jesus said to an unbelieving Jewish audience… in John 5:40-42, Jesus said, “and you are unwilling to come to Me so that you may have life. 42 but I know you, that you do not have the love of God in yourselves.”

Tertullian tells us that the heathen commented on the Christians: “See they say, how they love one-another!”

In verses 1-17 Jesus models the kind of love that He wants His disciples to practice.

5. What role does the devil play in this Passover meal? (John 13:2) The present participle “during” [ginomenou] tells us that the circumstances that follow happened while the supper was in progress. But before the dinner a Satanic suggestion had already been made to Judas.

One author writes, “The circumstances are listed in detail. Judas had already determined to betray Jesus (John 13:2). His specific motive is not stated, and the impulse is attributed to satanic suggestion. The casual allusion to the devil at this point implies a deeper significance to the conflict than a mere political or theological squabble. The conflict was basically actuated by a rebellion against God, the absolute opposite of the attitude of Jesus. It is possible that Judas, realizing that Jesus’ enemies were implacably hostile and that they were politically powerful, concluded that Jesus was foredoomed to lose in the struggle and so decided that he might as well gain immunity from sharing Jesus’ fate. Judas could compensate himself by claiming the reward for betrayal. His act, however, was more serious than an incidental piece of treachery; he sold himself to the power of evil. As John 13:27 states, “Satan entered into him,” and he came under the devil’s control.”

The text says,”the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot…” The perfect tense verb “having already (now) put” [ede beblekotos] denotes a thought that was literally, thrown or cast into Judas’ heart in the past which remains in his heart and is being exposed at this meal. Luke 22:3 says that Satan entered Judas when he offered to betray Jesus. Hence John’s “already” [ede] is pertinent. John repeats his statement in verse 27. In John 6:70 Jesus a year before had said that He had chosen one that was a devil.

We are told in John 13:27, “After the morsel, Satan then entered into him. Therefore Jesus said to him (Judas), ‘What you do, do quickly.”‘ This wasn’t demon possession but devil possession.

John MacArthur writes – “The fact that the devil entered the heart of Judas” does not exonerate Judas, because his wicked heart desired exactly what the devil desired, the death of Jesus. The devil and Judas were in accord.”

John notes that the devil had already prompted Judas lscoriot, son of Simon, to betray Jesus (John 13:2). It is extremely important to realize that Jesus is going to wash the feet of one who is considering betraying him. Judas has not yet given in to the temptation (John 13:27), but the devil has prompted him, or more literally, “put it into his heart.”

  • John 13:18 “I do not speak of all of you. I know the ones I have chosen; but it is that the Scripture may be fulfilled, ‘HE WHO EATS MY BREAD HAS LIFTED UP HIS HEEL AGAINST ME.”‘
  • Psalm 41 :9 “Even my close friend in whom I trusted, who ate my bread, has lifted up his heel against me.” David’s close companion betrayed him; he kicked him while he was “down.” The ultimate fulfillment of this verse is found in Judas (John 13:18, Matthew 26:21).

6. What does John 13:3 tell us about Jesus? The text says, “Jesus, knowing [eidos, repeated from verse 1] that the Father had given all things into his hands, and that he had come forth from God and was going back to God.” John emphasizes the fact that Jesus was not the innocent victim of a plot, unaware of what was transpiring around him. Jesus was fully aware of his authority, his divine origin, and his destiny. John says much more about the inner consciousness of Jesus than the Synoptic Gospels do, either because he was more observant or because Jesus confided in him.

Jesus plainly restates this concept in John 16:28 when He said, “I came forth from the Father and have come into the world; I am leaving the world again and going to the Father.”

John MacArthur writes, “He faced the betrayal, agony, and death because he knew he would be exalted to the Father afterward, where he would receive the glory and fellowship he had eternally enjoyed within the Trinity (see John 17:4-5, which says, “I glorified You on the earth, having accomplished the work which You have given Me to do. 5 Now, Father,glorify Me together with Yourself, with the glory which I had with You before the world was.”

Jesus is fully conscious of his deity and messianic dignity when he performs the humble act of John 13:4-11.

7. What humble act of service did Jesus perform on the night before his crucifixion? (John 13:4) The immediate situation was that they had come to the banquet room directly from the street. Ordinarily on such an occasion the host would have delegated a servant to the menial task of removing the sandals of the guests and washing their feet. Since the meeting was obviously intended to be secret, no servants were present. None of the disciples were ready to volunteer for such a task, for each would have considered it an admission of inferiority to all the others. John the Baptist had used the act of such a servant as his standard of the lowest and meanest kind of service that could be required of any man (John 1:27).

On the night before His crucifixion, Jesus’ patience must have been taxed, because they still had not learned His oft-repeated lesson on humility. Jesus nevertheless corrected them by wrapping himself in a towel. Jesus “stooped to love them” and modeled a servant’s heart. Washing dirty feet should not have surprised His disciples since He clearly stated that one of His purposes for coming was to serve.

  • Matthew 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give
    His life a ransom for many.”
  • Mark 10:45 “For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.”
  • Philippians 2:5-8 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

8. Who customarily would be at the door when the guest arrived? It was a custom in those times to have a servant honor the guest by washing their feet when they arrived. Feet needed to be washed because when you reclined at dinner, you really didn’t care to recline your head 18 inches from someone’s dirty feet. The roads were either muddy
or dusty. Streets weren’t paved and sidewalks were unheard of. In those days more than human beings traveled the streets so the situation was pretty unsanitary with animal droppings from horses, oxen, and camels. So it was a courtesy to wash a person’s feet when they arrived at your home for a meal.

But when the disciples came to the upper room there was no one there to wash dirty feet. Why didn’t the disciples do it? Because they were having an argument. They were arguing about whom would be the greatest in the kingdom and no one wanted to disqualify himself by becoming a servant. They were seeking rank. I believe Jesus purposefully allowed the meal to start and waited to see whether one of his disciples would volunteer to be the servant. He waited purposefully to the middle of the meal to give one of them the chance to get up and go over and pick up the towel and basin and begin to wash dirty feet. They knew what the custom was.

The dusty and dirty conditions of the region necessitated the need for footwashing. People wore sandals without socks or stockings. It was a mark of honor for a host to provide a servant to wash a guest’s feet;it was a breach of hospitality not to provide for it (1 Samuel 25:41; Luke 7:40-50; 1 Timothy 5:10). Wives often washed their husbands’ feet, and children washed their parents’ feet. Most people, of course, had to wash their own feet.

Although the disciples most likely would have been happy to wash Jesus’ feet, they could not conceive of washing each other’s feet. This was because in the society of the time footwashing was reserved for the lowliest of menial servants. Peers did not wash one another’s feet, except very rarely and as a mark of great love.

9. How did Peter respond to Jesus washing his feet? (John 13:6-7) Peter’s response may have been representative of the common feeling among the disciples that Jesus ought not to demean himself by washing their feet. The two pronouns “you” and “my” stand together at the beginning of the sentence in emphatic contrast. The emphatic use of pronouns in Peter’s surprised question, “Lord, You [su] are washing my [mou] feet?” Kenneth Wuest translates it – “He said to Him, You – my feet you are washing?”

Jesus answered and said to him, “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The word “realize” [oidas] speaks of absolute and complete knowledge in contrast to the word “understanding [ginosei, future middle] which denotes knowledge gained by experience.

Peter said to Him, “Never shall You wash my feet!” Jesus answered him, “If I do not wash you, you have no part with Me” (John 13:8).

Peter’s reply – “NEVER shall You wash my feet!” reveal both the impetuousness of his disposition and the high regard he had for Jesus. Peter, we may suppose, drew his feet up, as he spoke, in his impulsive humility” (Bernard). Peter felt that Jesus should not degrade himself by assuming such a position.

Slaves were looked down upon in the ancient world (d. Rengstorf 1964b), and Peter cannot stand the thought of his teacher doing the work of a slave (John 13:6). It would have been appropriate for one of the disciples to have washed Jesus’ feet, but the reverse is intolerable.

Peter’s response “Never shall You wash my feet!” [ou me eis ton aiona] is a very strong expression. The beginning of John 13:8 has been translated ”You shall by no means wash my feet as long as the world stands” or “NEVER to all eternity shall you wash my feet!” In the original language, this is a strong double negative [ou me]. Kenneth Wuest literally translates this double negative as “You shall by no means wash my feet, no, never.”

10. What did Jesus mean when he told Peter, “If I do not wash you,you have no part with Me”? (John 13:8) This expresses the necessity, not only for the cleansing of Peter’s feet to make him socially acceptable for the dinner, but also for the cleansing of his person to make him fit for the kingdom of God. The external washing was intended to be a picture of spiritual cleansing from evil. This cleansing was not merely about Peter’s hygiene but about his holiness. Peter couldn’t imagine being separated from Jesus. Peter continued to miss the spiritual lesson, but he was certain of his desire to be intimately joined to Jesus.

It does not say, “you have no part in me,” it’s not referring tq salvation. Peter had already received a spiritual bath when he placed his faith in Jesus as His Savior (Forgiver) and Lord (Leader). So the issue of Peter’s footwashing was connected with his spiritual cleansing that is essential for fellowship and ministry. This is why Christ says “you have no part with me” instead of “you have no part in Me.” Spiritual filth (sin) in our lives always hinders our fellowship with God, one another and ministry effectiveness (1 John 1:3, 6-9.

The result of “confessing our sins” (1 John 1:9) for parental forgiveness is predictable because of the trustworthy nature of our God. God promises to forgive [aphe, “cancellation of debts” or the “dismissal of charges”] and to cleanse [katharizo, purification from the pollution of sin] so that fellowship can be restored.

Simon Peter said to Him, “Lord, then wash not only my feet, but also my hands and my head” (John 13:9). Peter impulsively says, “Not my feet only,but also my hands and my head – Give me a bath!” Peter really doesn’t understand the symbolism behind washing his feet. A.T. Robertson quotes Dods as saying, “A moment ago he told his Master he was doing too much: now he tells him He is doing too little” (Word Pictures in the NewTestament pg. 238)

11. What was Jesus symbolizing by washing the disciples feet? (John 13:9-11) The interpretation of the symbolism is clear: After salvation all one needs is confession of sins, the continual application of Jesus’ death to cleanse one’s daily sins (1 John 1:7; 2:1-2). When Jesus added that not every one of you is clean, he was referring to Judas (John 13:11, 18). This suggests that Judas was not converted.

Jesus said, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet…” John MacArthur writes, “The cleansing that Christ does at salvation never needs to be repeated, it is complete and thorough at the point of conversion. But all who have been cleansed by God’s gracious justification need constant washing in the experiential sense as they battle sin in the flesh. Believers are justified and granted imputed righteousness (Philippians 3:8, 9),but still need sanctification and personal righteousness (Philippians 3:12-14).”

The guest was supposed to bathe before coming to a feast and so only the feet had to be washed on removing the sandals. This cleansing is effected once for all, and is never repeated.

So the bathing (John 13:10) is the cleansing from sin on the cross and that the footwashing would refer to the forgiveness of one’s daily sins. This passage illustrates the doctrinal truth that there is a difference between judicial forgiveness and parental forgiveness.

Judicial forgiveness establishes a permanent relationship with God at the moment of salvation. When a person receives Jesus Christ as his personal Savior, the gavel is dropped in heaven and a person is forgiven for all of his sins (past, present, and future), declared righteous and made a child of God (Colossians 2:13; 1 John 2:12).

The Bible teaches that Satan is answerable to God (Job 1:6-7). It appears that Satan uses these “report-in” sessions as an opportunity to accuse [kategoron] God’s people of disobedience. This is the devil’s constant occupation,”day and night” [komeras kai nuktos]. The godly of all ages have been the target of his slander.

When Satan enters God’s heavenly courtroom and begins to accuse the brethren, Jesus Christ comes to our defense. 1 John 2:1-2 says, “if anyone sins, we have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ, the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins.” When Satan is accusing us, Jesus Christ is our advocate, [paraklotos] which means our defense attorney. Jesus steps up to the bench and pleads our case. He points out that our sins have been forgiven because we are trusting in his substitutionary death on the cross which satisfied [hilasmos, propitious, 1 John 2:2] the demands of a Holy God. Then the Father says, “This man’s sins have been paid in full, case dismissed!”

Parental forgiveness on the other hand maintains our fellowship with God. Even if a child runs away from home, changes his name, nothing can alter his relationship with his biological parents, but his actions will hinder their fellowship. In the same way nothing can alter our relationship with God, but sin in the life of a believer can hinder his fellowship with Him. This is why believers are encouraged to obtain parental forgiveness (1 John 1:9; Matthew 6:9, 12). We need a daily cleansing so we can experience sweet fellowship with our Savior.

Foot Washing – Parental Forgiveness (Matthew 6:9, 12, 1 John 1:3, 6-10)
Daily cleansing to maintain fellowship with God – John 13:10, Jesus said to him, “He who has bathed needs only to wash his feet,…”

Bath – Judicial Forgiveness (Colossians 2:13, 1 John 2:12)
Total cleansing to establish a relationship with God – John 13:11, For He knew the one who was betraying Him; for this reason He said, “Not all of you are clean.”

12. Why does Jesus say “you are clean, but not all of you?” (John 13:10-11) This was a plain hint of the treachery of Judas who is reclining at the table after having made the bargain with the Sanhedrin (Mark 14:11). A year ago Jesus knew that Judas was a devil and said to the apostles: “One of you is a devil”  (John 6:64, 70). The disciples did not suspect that Judas was a counterfeit in the past nor did they suspect him of being the unclean one now.

“Not all of you are clean” is a reference to Judas who was soon to lead the mob to capture Jesus (John 18:3). Jesus had known [eidei, imperfect tense] that Judas would betray him and yet he treated Judas with his usual courtesy. In fact Judas was already engaged in the process. Judas did have his feet literally washed, but he did not enter into the meaning of the event.

13. What second lesson from this footwashing did Jesus want to teach His disciples? (John 13:12) Jesus said to them, “Do you know what I have done to you?” A second lesson Jesus wished to impart to the disciples by this act was one of love and humble service. His question, “Do you know what I have done to you?” is in contrast with his words to Peter earlier: “What I do you do not realize now, but you will understand hereafter” (John 13:7). The discernment of the disciples developed slowly. It took them a long time to begin to comprehend the intensity of Jesus’ love for them and the nature of his humility in dealing with them. After giving this object lesson in humility, the Lord questioned the disciples in order to draw out the significance of the lesson: “Do you understand” [ginoskete, perfect active indicative] “what I have done for you?” He asked them. (John 13:7). It was a searching question, particularly to Simon Peter and Judas.

14. What titles did the disciples call Jesus that He accepted without reluctance? (John 13:13) He was literally, “The Teacher” [ho didaskalos] and “The Lord” [ho kurios], both titles of respect that placed Jesus on a level above the disciples. Jesus emphasized the fact that as their leader He had stooped to serve their needs so they should do the same for one another.

15. What word in John 13:14 suggests moral obligation to follow Christ’s example? Jesus says, “If I then, the Lord and the Teacher,washed your feet, you also ought to wash one anothers feet.” The verb “ought” [Gr. opheilete] means “to owe a debt” and suggests moral obligation. It occurs several times in John’s Epistles (1 John 2:6; 3:16; 4:11; 3 John 8), but in the Gospel only here and John 19:7. In John 13:14, Jesus teaches that the obligation to ministry is a debt that must be paid. The word ought is the past tense of owe. The phrase “one another” denotes the mutual obligation and reciprocal nature of this love that serves each other.

If the Son of God, the second person of the trinity, the pure and holy, spotless One can get on the floor and wash the filthy feet of 12 self-centered selfish undeserving disciples, then we should be able to love as He loved. If He was willing to stoop to love, shouldn’t we follow his example?

16. Was Jesus instituting foot washing as an ordinance? (John 13:12-17) The “example” does not imply the perpetuation of foot washing as an ordinance in the church. The only other allusion to foot washing in the New Testament is found in 1 Timothy 5:10, where it does not refer to a regular custom, but seems to allude to humble slave like service to the poor. John calls this act an example [hupodeigma] which implies that the emphasis is on the inner attitude of humble and voluntary service for others. This passage emphasizes inner humility, not a physical rite.

The word used here suggests both “example” and “pattern” (Hebrews 4:11; 8:5; 9:25; James 5:10; 2 Peter 2:6). Jesus’ purpose in this action was to establish the model of acts of love done with humility. Not to follow the example of Jesus is to exalt oneself above Him and to live in pride.

Notice the purpose clause, “that [hina] you also should do as I did to you.” The verb “do” [poiete] is a present active subjunctive that is literally translated, “keep on doing.” Doing what? Doing acts of love in humility!

“Jesus, however, does not say to do “what” he did but “as” he did” (IVP). Notice the wording “do as I did to you”, Jesus didn’t say, “what I have done.” Jesus wants his disciples to imitate the spirit of his action, not necessarily the action itself. It is the spirit of humility that Christ modeled. This inner attitude manifests itself by voluntarily doing selfless acts of love, whether foot washing is needed or some other menial task.

Calvin’s comments should be heeded by all who take the practice as one to be perpetuated: “Every year they hold a theatrical foot washing, and when they have discharged this empty and bare ceremony they think they have done their duty finely and are then free to despise their brethren. But more, when they have washed twelve men’s feet they cruelly torture all Christ’s members and thus spit in the face of Christ himself. This ceremonial comedy is nothing but a shameful mockery of Christ. At any rate, Christ does not enjoin an annual ceremony here, but tells us to be ready all through our life to wash the feet of our brethren.”

Calvin here warns against the danger of externalism, he wanted his readers to grasp the spirit and attitude of humble service that Christ modeled.

17. Why does Jesus compare himself with his disciples and the Father? (John 13:16) The text says, “Truly, truly, I say to you, a slave is not greater than his master, nor is one who is sent greater than the one who sent him.”

Jesus is saying as my disciples (slaves) you are not greater than your Lord (master Gr. kyriou), so if I can stoop to serve so can you.

Jesus again doesn’t miss the opportunity to remind his disciples that he was sent”  [pempsantos] and therefore always conscious of being commissioned by the Father. Jesus included his disciples in the commission (John 20:21) and also included them in the action of servanthood. Jesus portrayed for them the true nature of Christian living: serving one another. And for those who would be willing to take this role on themselves, Jesus said there would be blessings.

18. What “things” do you “know” now from this passage that you need to “do” in order to be blessed? (John 13:17) The word “blessed” means “happy.” The second “if” [eon] in this verse is a third-doss condition. This means that “Happiness is conditional.” The text says there are two conditions for happiness: Just knowing does not bring happiness, nor does just doing these things occasionally. What things is Jesus referring to?

Jesus says if you want to be blessed you must be a Room Maker, Group Lover, Bath Taker, Foot Washer, and Apron Wearer. Jesus says we need to make room for community in our busy lives, love one another to the fullest extent, experience judicial and parental forgiveness and be willing to do any menial task to demonstrate our love on one another.


1. Who is the person in your life who has demonstrated what it means to “wash feet”? What has the person done for you?

2. Are you willing to stoop to love? Is there any task too menial for you?

3. What “things” do you “know” now and need to “do” in order to be blessed? John 13:17

4. How will you put Jesus’ teaching into practice in at least one relationship this week at home, work, or church?

Sources: The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Gospel of John, Introduction, Exposition and Notes by: F.F. Bruce, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 9 by: Fronk E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervon Publishing House, 1981
4. Light in the Darkness, Studies in the Gospel of John by Homer A. Kent Jr., Boker Bookhouse, 1974.
5. The Interpretation of St. John’s Gospel by: R.C.H. Lenski, Augsburg Publishing House, 1943.
6. The Gospel of John, A Series of Verse- By-Verse Outline Studies by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications.
7. Making Room for Community by: Rick Leineweber,MP3/CD, Grace Fellowship Church,2004
8. The Gospel According to John by: Leon Morris, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971.
9. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
10. John: The Gospel of Belief by: Merrill C. Tenney, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1948.
11.The Gospel According to St. John by: B.F. Westcott, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1975.
12. The New Testament – An Expanded Translation by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1961
13.The MacArthur Study Bible by: John F. MacArthur, Jr., Word Publishing, 1997
14. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Press Publishing Company, 1997
15.Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol.5 by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman Press, 1932

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

How to be Ready for the End

This lesson is all about How to be Ready for the End-times. While I am a proponent of the A-millennial view of the end times, much of this teaching is part of the Pre-millennial Dispensational position. When you hear John Hagee or Tim LaHaye, or read the Left Behind series, they’re talking about end-times prophecy from this point of view.

To better understand the A-millennial view, read Ray Summers little book called, “Worthy is the Lamb,” Broadman Press, 1951. Also, I will post My Notes on Daniel and My Notes of the Revelation at a later date.

Main Verse: Matthew 24:44 –  For this reason you also must be ready; for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will. 

Passages we will consider: Matthew 24:1-51; Mark 13:1-37; Luke 21:5-36

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of readiness (preparedness, watchfulness) in anticipation of Christ’s return. Scripture teaches that anticipating Christ’s return motivates us to live in light of eternity (1 Corinthians 15:29-34); causes us to keep ourselves pure (1 John 3:2,3); provides steadfastness inspired by hope (1 Thessalonians 1:3,10); and promises a reward for loving His appearing (2 Timothy 4:8).

Historical Background: Jesus’ instruction to His disciples from the Mount of Olives (Mount Olivet, giving it the name the Olivet Discourse) appears in Matthew 24-25; Mark 13; and Luke 17:20-37. It is one of the Bible’s most important texts because it not only provides the Lord’s final discourse but also His most extensive prophetic teaching.

Much prophetic confusion has resulted from a failure to understand that the Olivet Discourse involves Israel, not the church, and refers to a future (eschatological) age, not the past or present one.

The chronologically of this narrative (Mark 12:28-34) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion and immediately after Jesus brought eight “woes” against the leaders of the nation of Israel (Matthew 23:13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 25, 27, 29).

Jesus uses five illustrations to answer the specific questions of the disciples: “‘When will these things be? And what will be the sign of Your coming, and of the end of the age?”‘ (Matthew 24:3).

Like any other passage of Scripture, the Olivet Discourse (Jesus’ answer to these questions) must be interpreted in context. Matthew wrote his Gospel to Jewish people to present divinely attested proof that Jesus (Yeshua) was the legitimate heir to the Davidic throne and that His Messianic claims were true and justified.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 24:42 (Be on the alert), Matthew 24:43 (Be sure of this) – literally “know this,” Matthew 24:44 (Be ready), Matthew 25:13 (Be on the alert), Mark 13:33 (Take heed, Keep on the alert), Mark 13:35 (Be on the alert), Mark 13:37 (Be on the alert). Christ also used five parables to teach the importance of being ready for His second coming:

  1. Thief – Matthew 24:43
  2. Faithful slave – Matthew 24:45-51
  3. Ten virgins ­ Matthew 25:1-12
  4. Talents – Matthew 25:14-30
  5. Doorkeeper – Mark 13:34-36

End times information is found in the Book of Acts (Acts 1:6-7) and the Epistles (1 Thessalonians 5:1- 11; 2 Peter 3:10; Revelation 3:3,1 1;22:7,12,20)

Discussion Questions:

1. What motivated the disciples to point out the temple buildings to Jesus? (Matthew 24:1) Aware of Jesus’ pronouncement against the nation and particularly the Temple establishment (He had just said, “Behold, your house [Temple] is being left to you desolate” – Matthew 23:37-38) the disciples perhaps thought a reminder of the national unity symbolized by the Temple might temper Jesus’ disposition toward national judgment.

A few days earlier, Christ had referred to the temple as His Father’s “house” (Matthew 21:13) but the blessing and glory of God were being removed from Israel (see 1 Samuel 4:21). When Christ “departed from the temple” (Matthew 24:1), the glory of God went with Him. Ezekiel 11:23 describes Ezekiel’s vision of the departure of the Shekinah glory in His day. The glory left the temple and stood on the Mount of Olives.

The disciples were also impressed, as were most in that day, with the Temple’s unrivaled magnificence, which had become a source of national pride: “Some were talking about the temple, that it was adorned with beautiful stones and votive gifts (donations)” (Luke 21:5-6). The disciples made their national statement to Jesus as He left the Temple. While waiting for Him they began pointing out the latest structural additions to the compound, which (according to John 2:20) had been in process for 46 years: “Teacher, behold what wonderful stones and what wonderful buildings!” (Mark 13:1).

Maybe they were trying to comprehend Jesus’ judicial remarks, but then Jesus states that all of the stones they had shown Him would be violently torn down at the time of judgment. Matthew 24:2 says, “And He said to them, “Do you not see all these things? Truly I say to you, not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be torn down.”

2. What were the two questions that the disciples asked Jesus privately? (Matthew 24:3)

  • “When will these things happen?”
  • “What will be the sign of your coming, and of the end of the age?”

The first question concerned the specific time of the Temple’s destruction: the second (composed of two related parts) concerned “the sign” that would mark Jesus’ advent to Israel (parousia, “bodily presence”) as Messiah at the end of the age. Jesus’ response to these questions forms the prophetic teaching called the Olivet Discourse. The first question is addressed in Luke 21:10-24 and the second is addressed in Matthew 24:4-31 and Mark 13:1-27.

3. What event fulfilled Jesus’ prophetic prediction that “not one stone here will be left upon another, which will not be tom down“? (Luke 21:10-24) When Titus came down in AD 70, he burned the Temple. The foundation stones were made of marble overlaid with gold. As the temple burnt the gold melted and ran down between the cracks in the rocks. The Roman soldiers had to dismantle every stone in order to get to the gold. This “near prophecy” was fulfilled in 70 AD and provided hope that the “far prophecy” would be fulfilled. Prophets would often give a “near prophecy” to validate their credentials as a prophet. Anyone could predict all kinds of things way off in the future.

4. When the disciples spoke of “the end of the age,” to what were they referring? (Matthew 24:3) Christ was not referring to the end of the church age but the end of the age for Israel before the Messiah’s return. The church at this point in time doesn’t even exist. It was started by Christ baptizing believers by the Holy Spirit into a new thing called “the Body of Christ” on the day of Pentecost (Acts 1:5; 2:1-4; 11:13-16; 1 Corinthians 12:13). The church age was a mystery that wasn’t revealed in the Old Testament.

Jesus had already prophetically talked about “the end of the age” (Matthew 13:40,49) for the nation of Israel. In the Parable of the Tares (Matthew 13:24-30, 36-43) Jesus talks about “the end of the age” (Matthew 13:39,40, 13:49) that occurs right before the establishment of the millennial kingdom.

When Jesus explained this parable, He taught that at the end of the age the angels will take all unbelievers away to be burned and all the righteous believers will remain on the earth to be “barned” in the millennial kingdom. The parable of the dragnet (Matthew 13:47-50) teaches the same truth.

5. What will be the “signs” of Christ’s Second Coming? (Matthew 24:4-8) This passage describes the signs, “birth pains” or divine judgments of the first half of the tribulation period, and Matthew 24:14 is the global evangelization that will be accomplished by the midpoint of this period. Remember, this is according to the Pre-millennialism.

Jesus stated that these judgments are not “the end” of the judgments but merely the “beginning” (Matthew 24:8). After “beginning birth pains,” the more intense birth pains come that climax the birth process. Since the tribulation does not immediately begin after the rapture of the church, but begins with the commencement of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27), these verses cannot describe events within the Church Age.

The most compelling argument for a Tribulation context for these verses comes from a comparison of Matthew 24:4-13 with the first five seal judgments in Revelation 6.

End Times Corrolation Chart 1

Neither can these signs be used by the church as “signs of the times” to indicate the nearness of the Lord’s coming. Many Christians have used the apparent increasing frequency of earthquakes, apostasy in the church, and moral decline in society in general as indicators that we are fast approaching the rapture and the end-times. However, the rapture is a signless event; and these birth pains do not begin until Israel enters “the time of Jacob’s trouble” (Jeremiah 30:7). Since we do not know how long this will be after the rapture, we must exercise caution in trying to predict the nearness of end-times events based on the presence of these conditions in the present age (Matthew 24:9-14).

6. Does Matthew 24:13 teach that we can lose our salvation? Taken out of context this verse could be used to deny eternal security. There is no reference to redemption or salvation here. The word saved (sothesetai) is eschatological and not soteriological. This verse promises that Christ will rescue those who endure to the end of the tribulation period; then He will usher them into the millennial age. This same concept is repeated in Matthew 24:21-22.

7. Will every unbeliever hear the gospel before the rapture of the church? (Matthew 24:14) The answer is no. This is a reference to the end of the tribulation period and not to the end of the church age. In context this verse teaches that the good news about the kingdom will be presented throughout the tribulation period, and then the end will come. In fact this verse promises that every earth dweller will hear the “gospel of the Kingdom” before Christ returns. Some teach the gospel of the kingdom will probably be proclaimed by the 144,000 Jewish evangelists (Revelation 14:1).

8. What does Jesus say to look for to know that the Great Tribulation has begun? (Matthew 24:15-20) The phrase “the ABOMINATION OF DESOLATION” originally referred to the desecration of the temple by Antiochus Epiphanes, king of Syria in the second century BC. Antiochus invaded Jerusalem in 168 BC, made the altar into a shrine to Zeus, and even sacrificed pigs on it.

However, Jesus clearly was looking toward a yet-future “abomination of desolation.” Some suggest that this prophecy was fulfilled in AD 70 when Titus invaded Jerusalem and destroyed the temple. However, the Apostle Paul saw a still-future fulfillment (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4), as did John (Revelation 13:14-15) when the Antichrist sets up an image in the temple during the future tribulation period. Christ’s words here therefore look beyond the events of AD 70 to a time of even greater global cataclysm that will immediately precede his coming (Matthew 24:29-31).

The Abomination of Desolation involves God being replaced with man in the Most Holy Place of the temple. We are told in Scripture that when the Antichrist is empowered by Satan (Revelation 13:1-4) he will enter the Jewish temple and claim to be god (2 Thessalonians 2:3-4). He then makes war with Israel (Revelation 12:13-17). This act by the Antichrist ushers in the “Great Tribulation” (Matthew 24:21).

9. Who will gain the greatest benefit in reading this discourse? (Matthew 24:15) Both Matthew and Mark (Mark 13:14) tell the reader to consider this text as a means to understanding the prophecy of the Olivet Discourse. This portion of Scripture will be a manual for tribulation saints, complete with a list of imperatives of what to do when they see the Antichrist go into the temple and establish himself in place of the one true God (Matthew 24:16-20).

Many prophetic teachers believe that the command to “flee into the mountains” is a reference to “Petra” (Revelation 12:14). Petra becomes a wilderness and mountainous “hiding place” for the Jewish people. Petra is hidden in the barren mountains of southern Jordan. It is a city that once ranked with almost any in the ancient world. Petra was carved from richly colored sandstone at the crossing of key caravan routes and thrived for a thousand years before it was devastated by earthquakes. Drifting sand covered the ruins.

Note the reference to the Sabbath (Matthew 24:20) which would be of no concern to the church (Colossians 2:16) but of great importance to orthodox Jews who are bound to keep the Sabbath as a perpetual covenant (Exodus 31:13,16; 35:2; Deuteronomy 5:12-15; Numbers 15:32-36). We have a reference to the distance a Jew was allowed to travel in Acts 1:12 “Then they returned to Jerusalem from the mount called Olivet, which is near Jerusalem, a Sabbath day’s journey away.” A Sabbath day’s journey was 2,000 cubits or approximately 3/5 of a mile.

10. How did Jesus use the 70th week of Daniel as a template to answer the disciples’ question? Jesus used the 70th week prophecy as the template for the chronological events He unfolded in His response to the disciples’ questions. This also applies to the judgment section of Revelation (chapters 4-19) where Jesus, the one who gave the Revelation vision to the Apostle John (Revelation 4; Daniel 7:25; 12:7,11,12).

Viewing these texts together (see Correlation Chart 2 below), we find that the “beginning” birth pains of Matthew 24:4-14 correlate with the seal judgments of Revelation 4-6, which…

  1. Have a terrestrial focus;
  2. Fit within the first half of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27a); and
  3. Climax with the pivotal event of the Temple’s desecration (abomination of desolation) in Matthew 24:15 and Mark 13:14, the midpoint of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27b).

End Times Corrolation Chart 2

Events then intensify to concluding birth pains in Matthew 24:16-26, which…

  1. Correlate with Revelation 7-19,
  2. Have a celestial focus, and
  3. Climax with the heavenly appearing of “the sign” of Messiah’s advent to earth in judgment (Matthew 24:27-31; Revelation 19).

These events fit within the last half of Daniel’s 70th week (Daniel 9:27b), which concludes with the destruction of the temple’s desolator (“the prince who is to come,” the Antichrist, Daniel 9:26).

If Matthew 24:4-14 predict signs that are for the future tribulation period and relate primarily to the Jewish people of that day, they cannot have had a past fulfillment, especially not with the fall of Jerusalem in AD 70. Comparing the events in these verses reveals that they cannot be identified with first-century historical events.

11. How would you describe the nature of the Great Tribulation? (Matthew 24:21-28) The words “has not occurred” and “nor ever will,” along with the description that follows­, identify this as the yet-future time in which God’s wrath shall be poured out upon the earth (see Revelation 7:14). Jesus’ descriptions of the cataclysms that follow closely resemble the outpouring of divine wrath described in the bowl judgments of Revelation 16 and his subsequent appearing in Revelation 19.

Old Testament writers predicted the Great Tribulation in similar terms.

  • Daniel 12:1 – “Now at that time Michael, the great prince who stands guard over the sons of your people, will arise And there will be a time of distress such as never occurred since there was a nation until that time; and at that time your people, everyone who is found written in the book, will be rescued.”
  • Jeremiah 30:7 – “Alas! For that day is great, there is none like it; and it is the time of Jacob’s distress, but he will be saved from it.”
  • Matthew 24:22 – “Unless those days had been cut short, no life would have been saved; but for the sake of the elect those days will be cut short.

Jesus indicates that if God in eternity past had not determined to cut short the second half of the tribulation to three and 1/2 years, all flesh would perish. For mankind to survive, God determined to prevent the time of “Great Tribulation” from running indefinitely beyond the time limit He had set.

Jesus’ statement implied that this period will be the unparalleled time of trouble for all flesh (Jewish and Gentile) on Earth. For several reasons, this fact prevents the “Great Tribulation” from referring to the Roman Empire’s destruction of Jerusalem, the second Temple, or Israel as a nation-state in A.D. 70:

  1. Only Jewish flesh was threatened in A.D. 70.
  2. The A.D. 70 destruction was not worse than that of Samaria and the northern kingdom of Israel as a nation-state in 722 B.C. or the destruction of Jerusalem, the first Temple, and the kingdom of Judah as a nation­state in 586 B.C.
  3. The destruction of A.D. 70 was not worse than the Holocaust of World War II. Four times as many Jewish people were killed in the Holocaust than in the war that ended in A.D. 70.

12. How does Satan mislead people during the Tribulation Period? (Matthew 24:4,5,11,23-28) Jesus warns his audience to “see to it,” which denotes “to keep your eyes open” that “no one misleads you” (Matthew 24:4; Mark 13:5). Jesus speaks of the future reality that many will be misled (Matthew 24:5, 11 ,24; Mark 16:6). The verb “mislead,” in the active voice means “to deceive by leading into error,” and in the passive voice “to go astray, wander,” (Vines pg.151). These false Christs and false prophets are wandering or shooting-stars that are no longer in a sound doctrine orbit. Jesus warns against false prophets who set forth false Messiahs. These false Messiahs will attempt to establish their credibility through counterfeit sign miracles. Matthew 24:24 says “For false Christ’s and false prophets will arise and will show great signs and wonders, so as to mislead, if possible, even the elect” (cp. Mark 13:22).

Most of the charismatic gifts today are unsimilar to those of the apostolic period. The charismatic sign gifts today are not limited to the Christian church. These experiences transcend denominational lines and are even present in different world religions and cults today. A case in point is the experience of those in the New Age movement who have the Kundalini spirit.

The Kundalini spirit has invaded the church masquerading as the Holy Spirit. It appears that these ecumenical “spirit experiences” may be one of the unifying factors that can bring together a one world religion under the Antichrist after the true church has been raptured. Satan is the source of this end time deception (Revelation 12:9; 13:14; 18:23; 19:20; 20:3, 8, 10).

2 Thessalonians 2:7-10 For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work; only he who now restrains will do so until he is taken out of the way. 8 Then that lawless one will be revealed whom the Lord will slay with the breath of His mouth and bring to an end by the appearance of His coming; 9 that is, the one whose coming is in accord with the activity of Satan, with all power and signs and false wonders, 10 and with all the deception of wickedness for those who perish, because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.

Revelation 13:11-14 Then I saw another beast coming up out of the earth; and he had two horns like a lamb and he spoke as a dragon. 12 He exercises all the authority of the first beast in his presence And he makes the earth and those who dwell in it to worship the first beast, whose fatal wound was healed. 13 He performs great signs, so that he even makes fire come down out of heaven to the earth in the presence of men. 14 And he deceives those who dwell on the earth because of the signs which it was given him to perform in the presence of the beast, telling those who dwell on the earth to make an image to the beast who had the wound of the sword and has come to life.

13. Does Matthew 24:29-31 refer to the Rapture or the Glorious Appearance at the end of the Tribulation Period? (Matthew 24:29-31) The Second Advent or Coming of Christ has two phases. The first phase is the “rapture of the church” before the tribulation period and the second phase is called the “revelation” that occurs at the end of the Tribulation Period. These two “comings” are clearly contrasted on the chart below.

Second Coming Chart

14. What is the sign of the Son of Man’s Coming? (Matthew 24:30) The Son of Man himself is the sign. The events described here precisely parallel the description in Daniel 7:13; Revelation 19:11-21 . The phrase “all the tribes of the earth will mourn” refers to people of different nationalities who mourn over their own rebellion. Israel in particular will mourn over their rejection of the Messiah (Zechariah 12:10-12).

15. What are the five illustrations that Jesus uses to illustrate the importance of being ready for Christ’s return? (Matthew 24:32-25:30) Jesus instructed His disciples to “be ready” for His return. Christ used five illustrations to make His point:

  1. The Parable of the Fig Tree (Matthew 24:32-35)
  2. The Days of Noah (Matthew 24:36-39)
  3. The Faithful and Evil Slave (Matthew 24:45-51)
  4. The Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13)
  5. The Parable of the Talents (Matthew 25:14-30)

Just as windows let in sunlight, so illustrations illuminate the soul. With delicate yet direct statements, Jesus directed His disciples to God’s divine purposes and disclosed predictive prophetic events that will involve Israel as a nation.

16. What is Jesus trying teach through the parable of the fig tree? (Matthew 24:32-35) Matthew 24:34 says, “Truly I say to you, this generation will not pass away until all these things take place.” Jesus was not referring to the generation of his disciples who listened to him then. This fact is obvious from Matthew 21 :43, where he said, “The kingdom of God will be taken from you and given to a nation bearing the fruits of it.” Historically, the first-century generation would pass away, but the generation of Jewish people living when these signs begin will survive that period and see Messiah come as the King of glory. Yeshua’s promise is certain. It is easier for heaven and earth to pass away than for the King’s words to fail (Matthew 24:35; 5:18).

This parable is also not referring to the generation when Israel became a state in 1948. The text is describing the tribulation generation. The fig tree is a sign of approximation. When the generation that is alive sees the signs listed in these verses they can be confident that Christ’s return will be in their lifetime. Just as tender fig branches that put forth their leaves on the fig tree act is a sign that summer is near, so the signs in this passage tell us that Christ’s second coming is soon. The generation that sees these signs won’t know the precise hour or day but the general period of time (Matthew 24:36).

Unfortunately these verses have been misused to determine the timing of the return of Christ. Some prophetic teachers of the past predicted that the rapture would occur in 1981 . Their rational was that the fig tree represents Israel who became a nation in 1948. If you add a generation (40 years) onto 1948 it adds up to 1988. If we subtract a 7 year tribulation period you would have Christ returning for the church in 1981 (The Late Great Planet Earth by: Hal Lindsey, Bantam Books, 1970, pg.43).

17. How can we know the exact time when Christ returns? (Matthew 24:36) Jesus said, “But of that day and hour no one knows, not even the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Jesus declared categorically that no one knows the “day and hour” of Christ’s return. The signs He had just been describing will be conclusive proof that his arrival is very near. Once they have begun, the general time period of his return will be known, because one of the key purposes of the signs will be to make it known. But even during those sign-days the precise “day and hour” of Jesus’ appearing will not be known, a truth he reiterates several times in this Olivet Discourse (see Matthew 24:42, 44, 50; 25:13).

Neither will the supernatural world know the precise time, not “even the angels of heaven.” Although the righteous angels enjoy intimacy with God, hovering around His throne to do his bidding (Isaiah 6:2-7) and continually beholding his face (Matthew 18:10), they are not privy to this secret. The angels will be directly and actively involved in the end time as God’s agents to separate the saved from the unsaved (see Matthew 13:41, 49), but for his own reasons God the Father will not reveal in advance exactly when he will call them into that service.

Still more amazingly not even “the Son” knew at the time he spoke these words or at any other time during his incarnation. Although he was fully God as well as fully man (John 1:1, 14), Christ voluntarily restricted his use of certain divine attributes when he became flesh. “Although He existed in the form of God, [He] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,” that is, to be held onto during his humanness (Philippians 2:6). It was not that he lost any divine attributes but that he voluntarily laid aside the use of some of them and would not manifest those attributes except as directed by his Father (John 4:34; 5:30; 6:38).

18. How does Jesus’ second illustration stress the importance of readiness? (Matthew 24:37-42) Notice that the people in the days of Noah went about their lives while judgment was coming. In total disregard for Noah’s warning (2 Peter 2:5) the people of his day were unconcerned and went about their business as usual. When the flood came who was taken? The unbelievers were taken and the righteous remained on the earth. In the same way when Christ comes the unbelievers will be taken and “burned” (Matthew 13:40-42) but the believers will be left on planet earth to be “barned” (Matthew 13:43) in the Kingdom. This is in contrast to the rapture when believers are taken and unbelievers are left behind to face God’s wrath in the tribulation period. Remember that Jesus is speaking about the Jewish people (not the church) and the consummation of the age for the nation of Israel as they finish out the 70th week of Daniel in preparation for millennial kingdom.

Jesus says, “Therefore,” in view of this illustration you ought to be “be on the alert (present imperative), for you do not know which day your Lord is coming”(Matthew 24:42). The phrase “be on the alert” translates a present imperative, indicating a call for continual expectancy.

19. What characteristics demonstrate readiness in Jesus’ third illustration? (Matthew 24:43-51) In the illustration of the faithful and evil slave, Jesus stresses the importance of being ready in case he comes sooner than anticipated (Matthew 24:43-51). His point here is alertness, vigilance, readiness, preparedness in light of his sudden return. The Lord is coming, and his coming will test his slaves. The illustration is simple, yet sublime. Just as the master in Jesus’ story entrusted all his possessions to his slave, so the God of Israel has entrusted all things in the earth to his slaves. A slave’s response to his Lord reveals the true condition of the slave’s heart (Matthew 24:46, 48-49). The Lord wants to find his slaves faithfully doing his will (Matthew 24:45-46). When the Lord returns, he will reward faithfulness (Matthew 24:47). Failure to do the Lord’s bidding is faithless stewardship and brings the Lord’s just punishment because, in the parable, when such a slave noted his master’s delay, he abused his own slaves. Yet the master returned to the house unexpectedly, and judgment came (Matthew 24:50-51).

In the Lord’s eyes, that slave was a hypocrite. Thus he was separated from the others and consigned to eternal judgment, where there is “weeping and gnashing of teeth” (Matthew 13:42). Likewise, at the Messiah’s second coming, the wicked will be judged and separated eternally from God.

These parables of the faithful and evil slave and the talents given them by the master speak of the privileges God has given to his covenant people Israel and the consequences of willful and prolonged disobedience.

But be sure of this (present imperative), that if the head of the house had known at what time of the night the thief was coming, he would have been on the alert and would not have allowed his house to be broken into. 44 For this reason you also must be ready (present imperative) for the Son of Man is coming at an hour when you do not think He will.” (Matthew 24:43-44)

As no one knows what hour the thief will come, no one knows the hour of the Lord’s return or the Day of the Lord that accompanies his coming (1 Thessalonians 5:2; 2 Peter 3:10). But the believer is to be ready at all times.

The evil slave represents an unbeliever who refuses to take seriously the promise of Christ’s return (2 Peter 3:4). Though he is an unbeliever (as demonstrated by his punishment – Revelation 22:13), he is still accountable to Christ for the stewardship of his time. Jesus was teaching that every person in the world holds his life, natural abilities, wealth, and possessions in trust from God and must give account of how these things are used.

Who then is the faithful and sensible slave whom his master put in charge of his household to give them their food at the proper time? 46 Blessed is that slave whom his master finds so doing when he comes. 47 Truly I say to you that he will put him in charge of all his possessions.” (Matthew 24:45-47)

The believer who is found faithful to the Lord in what he has been given will be given charge of all of the Lord’s possessions, having inherited the absolute fullness of the kingdom of God as a fellow heir of Jesus Christ.

Jesus said, “But if that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time, 49and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards“‘ (Matthew 24:48,49)

The evil activities Jesus then mentions, the beating of “fellow slaves” and eating and drinking “with drunkards,” are not meant to characterize every unbeliever during the tribulation, but those activities reflect the attitude many of them will have. Because they think the Lord will not come “for a long time” (Matthew 24:48), they will feel free to indulge themselves in whatever sins and pleasures they desire.

Jesus said, “the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour which he does not know 51and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:50-51)

In this case the master will not come as Savior and King to bless and to reward but will come as Judge and Executioner to condemn and to destroy. He will cut the unbelieving slave in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites in eternal fire.

The phrase “cut…in pieces’ literally means to cut into two parts. It is used in that strict sense in the Greek translation of the Old Testament in regard to the preparation of an animal sacrifice (Exodus 29:17). To Jews it would therefore carry the unmistakable idea of destruction and death.

The fact that such persons will be assigned along with the hypocrites suggests that they were not hypocrites themselves. Just as today, many people in the end time will be open and honest about their unbelief, even wearing such honesty as a badge of intellectual and moral integrity. But honest unbelievers are just as lost as hypocrites who pretend to have faith. They will go to the same place as the religious phonies they feel superior to and despise.

20. How does this command apply to believers in the Church Age? (Revelation 3:3, 11; 22:7, 12, 20) The Olivet Discourse teaches that when Jesus returns to the earth to establish his kingdom, his return will be unexpected like a thief in the night. Scripture also likens Christ’s coming in the air to rapture his church to the unexpected arrival of a thief.

Jesus told the church at Sardis – “To the angel of the church in Sardis write: He who has the seven Spirits of God and the seven stars, says this: ‘I know your deeds, that you have a name that you are alive, but you are dead. 2 Wake up, and strengthen the things that remain, which were about to die; for I have not found your deeds completed in the sight of My God. 3 ‘So remember what you have received and heard; and keep it, and repent Therefore if you do not wake up, I will come like a thief. and you will not know at what hour I will come to you” (Revelation  3:1-3).

There are no signs or prophetic promises that have to be fulfilled before Christ comes to snatch away (“rapture”) his bride the church (1 Thessalonians 4:13-18). The rapture can happen at any moment. When evaluating the church of Philadelphia Jesus said – “I am coming quickly; hold fast what you have, so that no one will take your crown” (Revelation 3:11).

Other verses emphasize the imminent return of Christ for us His church:

  • Revelation 22:7 “And behold, I am coming quickly Blessed is he who heeds the words of the prophecy of this book.”
  • Revelation 22:12 “Behold, I am coming quickly, and My reward is with Me, to render to every man according to what he has done.”
  • Revelation 22:20 He who testifies to these things says, “Yes, I am coming quickly” Amen Come, Lord Jesus.

The theme of Christ’s “any moment” return has been the basis for New Testament writers to appeal to their audiences to “abide in him (1 John 2:28); live pure lives (1 John 3:2,3); remain steadfast (1 Thessalonians 1:3, 10); and to see any delay in Christ’s return as an opportunity to win our unsaved loved ones, friends, and coworkers to Christ (2 Peter 3:8-15a).

Paul said, “in the future there is laid up for me the crown of righteousness, which the Lord, the righteous Judge, will award to me on that day; and not only to me, but also to all who have loved His appearing” (2 Timothy 4:8).

21. How can we maintain a readiness according to 1 Thessalonians 5:6-11? The Apostle Paul years earlier challenged the Thessalonian believers to be ready for the rapture of the church with these words. Readiness is only achieved as we are alert, sober, putting on the armor, encouraging and building up one another.


The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervon Publishing House, 1998
2. Donie/: The Kingdom of the Lord by: Charles Lee Feinberg, BMH Books, 1981
3. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Goebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
4. Chronological Aspects of the Life of Christ by: Harold W. Hoehnew, pages 115-139. Zondervon Publishing House, 1977.
5. The End Times by: Hermon A. Hoyt, Moody Press, 1969
6. And the Angels Were Silent by: Max Lucado, pages 133-138, Multnomoh, 1992
7. The MacArthurs New Testament Commentary: Matthew 24-28 by: John F. MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1 981 .
8. The Greatness of the Kingdom by: Alva J. McClain, BMH Books, 1974.
9. Things to Come: A Study in Biblical Eschatology by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1958.
10. A Survey of the Eschatology of the Olivet Discourse. Part 1. Pages 162-173. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 113, April 1956, No. 450 by: James F. Rand, Dallas Theological Seminary.
11 . A Survey of the Eschatology of the Olivet Discourse. Port 2. Pages 200-213. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 113, July 1956, No. 451 by: James F. Rand, Dallas Theological Seminary.
12. Dispensotionolism Today by: Charles C. Ryrie, Moody Press, 1965.
13. There Really is a Difference! A Comparison of Covenant and Dispensotionolism Theology by: Renald E. Shower, The Friends of Israel Gospel Ministry, Inc., 1990.
14. Chrisfs Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age by: John F. Wolvoord, pages 206-21 0. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 129, July-September 1972, No. 515. Dallas Theological Seminary.
15. Chrisfs Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age by: by: John F. Wolvoord, pages 206-214. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 128, July-September 1971, No. 511. Dallas Theological Seminary.
16. Daniel: The Key to Prophetic Revelation by: John F. Wolvoord, pages 216-237; 267-268. Moody Press, 1971 .
17. Chrisfs Olivet Discourse on the End of the Age by: John F. Walvoord, pages 99-105. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 129, April-June 1972, No. 514. Dallas Theological Seminary.
18. Is the Church in View in Matthew 24-25? by: Bruce A. Ware, pages 158-172. Bibliotheca Sacra, Volume 138, April-June 1981, No. 550. Dallas Theological Seminary.
19. The Bible and Future Events: An Introductory Survey of Lost-Day Events by: Leon J. Wood, Zondervon Publishing House, 1973.
20. Understanding the Olivet Discourse, by: Randall Price, Israel My Glory, May/June 2005
21 . Perusing the Future by: Randall Price, Israel My Glory, May/June 2005 pages 11,12,30
22. The Times of Jacob’s Trouble, Israel My Glory, May/June 2005 pages 14-17
23. 11/ustrotions From the King, by: Deane Woods,Israel My Glory, May/June 2005 pages 20-21

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr.]
© Copyright 1994 Richard D. Leineweber Jr.

How to Love God and Others

This command is all about how to love God and love other people, from Mark 12:28-34 and Matthew 22:34-40

Purpose: To develop the character quality of agape love for God and our neighbors. Jesus said in Mark 12:30-31, “AND YOU SHALL LOVE THE LORD YOUR GOD WITH ALL YOUR HEART, AND WITH ALL YOUR SOUL, AND WITH ALL YOUR MIND, AND WITH ALL YOUR STRENGTH.’ 31 The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.” This kind of love is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate.

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Mark 12:28-34) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been worshipped as the “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Mark 11:1-11). Upon arrival in Jerusalem Jesus entered the temple, looked around and then he departed (Mark 11:11). The Jewish multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free them from Roman bondage. He made His way that evening to Bethany, outside of the city and spent the night there with Mary and Martha and Lazarus, whom He had raised from the dead. The next day as He returned to Jerusalem, He cursed a barren fig tree on His journey to the temple (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14). Jesus entered the temple, overturned the tables of the money changers a second time (John 2:13-22) and attacked Israel’s religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

Jesus leaves and returns the next day (Mark 11:27-28), which says, “They came again to Jerusalem. And as He was walking in the temple, the chief priests and the scribes and the elders came to Him, and began saying to Him, “By what authority are You doing these things, or who gave You this authority to do these things?”

They must have thought “What nerve He has! First of all, He comes in yesterday and disturbs the entire place and then He thinks he can walk back in and teach! Where does He think He gets His authority to do this?” Jesus responds to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered, “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught that the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom:

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14)

Jesus in affect said to these leaders, first of all, you are like a son who says he will obey but doesn’t. Secondly, you are like a tenant farmer who leases out a farm and then you kill the servants and the son of the one who leased it to you before you’ll pay any debt. And third, you are like the guests who were invited to a wedding, to marry Christ, and you refused to come, so you are thereby shut out. The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46, Mark 12:12, Luke 20:19).

The religious leaders resented Him and wanted Him dead, but the Roman government had restricted their right to take lives, to execute their own criminals. So they attempted to publicly discredit him (Mark 12:13-34). As they confronted Him with the first question they hoped to force Him to answer in such a way that He will put Himself in a difficult position with Rome, so they can put Him to death as an insurrectionist. This first question (Mark 12:13-17) is a political question. The next two questions (Mark 12:18-27; 28-34) are of a theological nature and would discredit Him among the people.

Matthew 22:34 says, “But when the Pharisees heard that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, they gathered themselves together.” When the political question from the Herodians and Pharisees had failed, the Sadducees asked Him a question with respect to the resurrection. But once again He doesn’t discredit Himself among the people through His answer. In fact, His answer silenced the Sadducees. This verb “to put to silence” literally means, “to gag.” He gagged them. It’s not that they wanted to be silenced; it’s just that they had no choice. This verb is used in Mark 1:25 in silencing a demon and in Mark 4:39 in silencing a storm. It is used in 1 Corinthians 9:9 of muzzling an ox. So he muzzled them. In other words, it is an unwilling gagging that they received, and he brought their argument to an end where they were unable to say another thing. They were without another thought, another idea, another retort.

It’s when the Pharisees “gathered themselves together” that an expert scribe joined them and formulated the last question to put Jesus to the test (Matthew 22:35). It’s this third question that created the occasion for Jesus to reinforce the greatest commandment that is found in the Old Testament.

Commanded in the Gospels: This command, “you shall” is from Leviticus 19:18. This command is often repeated in the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew 5:43; 19:19; 22:39, Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: This command is indirectly illustrated in Acts. The early church found “favor with all the people” because they were so caring and loving (Acts 2:47). They did the Great Commission in a Great Commandment way!

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:8,9,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8

Discussion Questions:

1. Who approached Jesus with the question? (Mark 12:28; Matthew 22:34-35) Mark 12:28 says, “one of the scribes came.” A scribe is one who was responsible to copy and interpret the law. Matthew identifies this same man as a “lawyer.” A lawyer was a scribe that was a law expert. In fact, the word “lawyer” that Matthew uses only occurs one time, and that’s in Matthew 22:35. On every other occasion, twenty-two times, he calls them scribes instead of lawyers. I believe that Matthew is suggesting that this man is a cut above that average scribe. He probably stood out among the scribes as a real expert. So he’s the one who structures and formulates the question and then proposes the question to the Lord.

2. What did this scribe think of Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:28b) The text says that he recognized “that He had answered them well.” The word “well” literally means that Christ answered, “beautifully, finely, and admirably.” Mark seems to suggest that the question asked by the teacher of the law, in contrast to many that had been asked by his colleagues, was a sincere one. He had been impressed by Jesus’ answer to the previous question. The law expert said in essence, “I know the Old Testament and that was a good answer.” So this Pharisees, this scribe, this lawyer, wasn’t filled with the same venom or hatred that all the Pharisees possessed. This scribe doesn’t seem as committed to killing Jesus. It appears that this scribe is attracted to the wisdom of Jesus.

3. What makes the scribe’s question so significant? (Mark l2:28c) The Scribe asked, “What commandment is the foremost of all?” There are two things that make this question so significant.

1) The first thing that makes this question so significant is that the Jews believed that the teachings of Jesus attacked the teachings of Moses. So if they could get Jesus to supersede Moses in some statement, go beyond what Moses said and set himself up as the authority, then they would discredit Him among the people, because Moses was the number one hero of the Jews for several reasons:

  • Historically in Judaism there is no one like Moses. Moses is the one who talked to God, face to face, as a man speaks to his friend, and that sets him apart from every other Jew.
  • Moses was the one God chose when God searched for a man to whom he could give His law.
  • Moses was the priority writer who penned the first five books of the Old Testament (Pentateuch). The Sadducees only held to the writings of Moses, and they were part of his audience as well as many in the crowd who followed their teachings.
  • A Rabbi in the second century said this of Moses: “God called Moses faithful in His entire house and thereby ranks him higher than the ministering angels themselves.” So many Jews believed that Moses was in a category even above the angelic hosts.
  • He was the greatest one to them and that’s why Matthew 23:2 says that “the scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses.” That’s the ultimate place of authority, it’s absolute power. To identify with Moses is to give direction and be in control of Israel. So if they could only get Jesus to affirm that His teaching supersedes Moses then they could accuse him of being an apostate and discredit Him among the people.

2) The second thing that makes this question so significant is that the rabbis counted 613 individual statutes in the law, 365 which were negative and 248 positive. Attempts were made to differentiate between the “heavy,” or “great,” and the “light,” or “little,” commandments. The rabbis also made attempts to formulate great principles from which the rest of the law could be deduced. The most famous example comes from Hillel, who when challenged by a Gentile, “Make me a proselyte on condition that you teach me the whole law while I stand on one foot,” replied, “What you hate for yourself, do not do to your neighbor: this is the whole law, the rest is commentary; go and learn.”

Some thought that the law about the fringes on the garments was the greatest; some that the omission of washings was as bad as homicide; some that the third commandment was the greatest. It was in view of this kind of distinction that the scribe asked the question; not as desiring a declaration as to which commandment was greatest, but as wanting to know the principle upon which a commandment was to be regarded as a great commandment. (Vincent Word Studies Vol.1)

The question posed to Christ by this scribe arose out of a works salvation understanding of the law and the keeping of its commandments.

Notice Jesus cites a familiar command from the Old Testament that is quoted throughout the New
Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8).

4. What commandment did Jesus say is the foremost? (Mark l2:29) Jesus quoted two passages from the OT (Deuteronomy 6:4-5; Leviticus 19:18).

  • Deuteronomy 6:4-9 “Hear, 0 Israel! The LORD is our God, the LORD is one! 5″You shall love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might.
  • Leviticus 19:18 You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the sons of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself; I am the LORD.

5. What phrase does Mark include that Matthew omits? (Mark 12:29; Matthew 22:37; Deuteronomy 6:4) Only Mark’s narrative reports that Jesus quoted Deuteronomy 6:4, which is central to the Shema, named after the first word of the verse, which means “Hear.” In Hebrew liturgy Deuteronomy 6:4-9, 11:13-21, and Numbers 13:37-41 comprise the Shema. Deuteronomy 6:4-5 is a confession of faith that is recited by pious Jews every morning and evening. Jesus merely identifies the thing that was most familiar to them and says this is the foremost commandment. It basically affirms two things: (1) the unity of God (“the Lord is one”) and (2) the covenant relationship of God to the Jewish people (“the Lord our God”).

It’s important to understand the connection that Deuteronomy 6:4 has with the words that follow. Israel has a covenant relation with God the Father. Deuteronomy 6:4 declares “The LORD is our God.” God is a jealous God (Exodus 20:5; 34:14; Deuteronomy 4:24; 5:9; 6:15; 32:16,21). He expected no other lovers in Israel’s life. This covenant and love relationship wasn’t to be one sided. He expected it to be reciprocal. Israel is the wife of God the Father and the church is betrothed through the New Covenant to God the Son. Loving God is not an option for His people; it’s a mandate.

Bill Gothard writes concerning the basis of God’s jealousy:

“God is jealous because He has established a covenant with every Christian through the death, burial, and resurrection of His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ. Allowing people or things to compete for first place in our affections causes grief and damage to our relationship with the Holy Spirit. The motivation behind God’s jealousy is His overwhelming love and desire to bless us! He longs to demonstrate to the entire world the incredible things that He will do for believers who fully love Him.

God established a parallel covenant with the nation of Israel. He promised that if they would honor this covenant with Him by loving Him with all their heart, soul, mind, and strength, He would make them healthier, wealthier, and wiser than any other nation in the world. However, if they delighted in any other god, He would curse them above all nations on the earth.

I was aware of these Old Testament promises and warnings and of the jealous nature of God. However, I assumed they related only to His relationship with Israel, and that somehow in the New Testament He had become a benevolent God Who overlooks all of our straying affections. As I thought about this, the words of Scripture spoke with powerful authority, “I am the LORD, I change not” (Malachi 3:6). God is just as loving in the Old Testament as He is in the New Testament. And He is just as jealous in the New Testament as He was in the Old Testament.

This explains the words of James 4:1-4: ‘What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members?… You adulteresses, do you not know that friendship with the world is hostility toward God? Therefore whoever wishes to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God.’

During those powerful moments of interaction with God and His truth, I realized that I am in covenant with the Lord and that in this relationship there can be no toleration of a competing affection. Either I focus my total love upon Him and experience His marvelous blessings, or I entertain various competing affections and experience painful discipline from Him.

I realized that in my own strength I could not love Him as I ought, so I asked Him for the grace that I needed to love Him with all of my “heart, soul, mind, and strength.”


Notice Jesus’ response. His answer comes by way of a command that is repeated throughout the New Testament (Matthew 5:44; 19:19 22:37,39; 23:39; Mark 12:31,33; Luke 10:27; Romans 13:8,10; Galatians 5:14; James 2:8). We are to love God and our neighbor.

God is to be loved completely and totally because he, and he alone, is God and because he has made a covenant of love with his people. In the covenant God gives himself totally in love to his people; therefore he expects his people to give themselves totally (“soul,” “mind,” and “strength”) in love to him.

John MacArthur points out that the Hebrew word for “love” used in Deuteronomy 6:5, refers primarily to an act of mind and will, the determined care for the welfare of something or someone. It might well include strong emotion, but its distinguishing characteristics were the dedication and commitment of choice. It is the love that recognizes and chooses to follow that which is righteous, noble, and true, regardless of what one’s feelings in a matter might be. It is the Hebrew equivalent of the Greek agapao in the New Testament, the verb of intelligent, purposeful, and committed love that is an act of the will. This love is in contrast to the emotion and tender affection of phileo and the physical, sensual love of eros (which is not used in the New Testament).

We are also instructed to “love the Lord your God with ALL of our heart, with ALL our soul, with ALL the mind, with ALL your strength.” The word “with” should be translated literally “out of.” The Greek word ek stresses the source of our love. It must rise out of every part of our being. It must rise out of our soul. It must rise out of our heart, our mind, and our strength. The word “all” emphasizes the fact that God doesn’t just want part of the heart but all of the heart. A part won’t do. God wants you to love Him with your whole being. What a rebuke to half-hearted Christians today.

Theologians and psychologists love to dissect the human personality. Is man a two part person (dichotomy) or a three part person (trichotomy). It doesn’t appear that Jesus is sorting out the different parts of man. As you go through the Scriptures the different parts have different usages and sometimes overlap one another. Jesus is simply emphasizing that the accumulation of terms underlines the comprehensiveness of the love that we should have for God. We are to love Him with our total person.

Where do your thoughts go when you have a moment to just let them stray? When you are exhausted and only have a small reserve of energy left at the end of the day, how will you use it?

7. In the second commandment, how are we to love our neighbor? (Mark 12:31) Jesus says, “The second is this, ‘YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF.’ There is no other commandment greater than these.”

Jesus brought Leviticus 19:18 together with Deuteronomy 6:5 to show that love of neighbor is a natural and logical outgrowth of love of God. These two commandments belong together; they cannot be separated. The Apostle John in the New Testament stresses this point, “If someone says, “I love God,” and hates his brother, he is a liar; for the one who does not love his brother whom he has seen, cannot love God whom he has not seen. 21And this commandment we have from Him, that the one who loves God should love his brother also” (1 John 4:20-21).

8. How should we define the word “neighbor?” (Leviticus l9:34; Luke 10:25-37) In Leviticus 19:18, the neighbor is identified as “sons of your people,” or fellow Israelites. The Old Testament was clear in Leviticus 19:34 (a few verses later) that the word “neighbor” included resident aliens. Leviticus 19:34 says, “The stranger who resides with you shall be to you as the native among you, and you shall love him as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt; I am the LORD your God.”

The Jews of Jesus’ day held to a more narrow interpretation of the word “neighbor” to only include Jews and full proselytes. Jesus redefined the term to mean “anyone with whom we have dealings at all” (Luke 10:25-37).

9. What does Jesus declare about these two commandments? After stating the two greatest commandments Jesus said in Matthew 22:40, “On these two commandments depend the whole Law and the Prophets” The New King James translates this verse as “On these two commandments hang all the Law and the Prophets” NKJV. This is illustrated with the natural division of the Law below.

10. How many commandments did Jesus give? It’s important to note that Christ gives two commandments and not three. We are living in a day when we are told there are three commands. For example, one writer said that if you don’t properly love yourself, you will be unable to love others. In fact he insists that you must be able to love yourself first before you can love God and your neighbor. The reason Christ did not give a third command was because the type of self-love that He was referring to we already possess. We already love ourselves. It is something that we do automatically and instinctively.

Ephesians 5:28-29 says, “So husbands are also to love their own wives as their own bodies. He who loves his own wife, loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh but nourishes it and cherishes it.” Some would appeal to this text to prove that if you don’t love yourself then you can’t love your wife. But the text assumes that self-love or self-preservation is already clearly present in our lives. It’s not something that has to be developed or worked at. Notice first of all the word, “no one ever hated.” Hatred is the opposite of love. In other words, everyone always loves his own flesh. The word “no one” speaks of the universality of self-love which is taken for granted by this passage. It’s universal, “no one.” Notice the word “ever.” The word “ever” sets this forth as a timeless principle. In other words, this statement is true in all ages. There is not one person who ever hated himself. All men love themselves and that’s why they cherish and nourish their bodies.

11. What about those that cut their bodies or even attempt suicide? Many teenagers are willing to cut themselves in order to get attention. Self-love and often the occult (paganism) motivate these actions. Others are willing to attempt suicide to end the pain in their lives regardless of how much it will hurt others and be an offense to a Holy God in whose image they were made. Suicide is the ultimate act of self-love.

12. How has modern psychology influenced the church into making these two commandments into three? (2 Timothy 3:2) Nowhere in Scripture is it found that love of self is a prerequisite for the love of others. There are only two commands that Jesus gave. Numerous terms are used in modern psychology today to suggest that we must work at loving ourselves: self-esteem, self-acceptance, self-regard, self-worth, and descriptive phrases such as you need to feel good about yourself, you need to like yourself. Pastors who use these terms are confused, and they are adopting terminology and concepts and presuppositions from the world and trying to put them into Christianity, trying to sanctify those terms.

Paul warns Timothy that the Apostate church in the end times will be characterized by an emphasis on “loving self” (2 Timothy 3:1-5). The idea of self-love has not been held or taught historically by the church, but things are changing.

  • John Piper, in an article from Christianity Today (Aug. 12, 1977, pg.6) writes, “Today the first and Great Commandment is, ‘Thou Shalt Love Thyself.’ The explanation for almost every interpersonal problem is thought to lie in someone’s low self-esteem.”
  • In the book What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew about Women, the author writes, “If I could write a prescription for every woman in the world, I would provide each of them with a healthy dose of self-esteem and self-worth… I have no doubt that this is their greatest need.” pg.35
  • In Dare to Discipline Dobson writes: “Self-esteem is their most fragile attribute in human nature; it can be damaged by a very minor incident and its reconstruction is often difficult to engineer.” James Dobson pg.19
  • James Dobson writes in What Wives Wish Their Husbands Knew About Women: “In fact, low self-esteem is a threat to the entire human family.” pg.28
  • In the book Hide and Seek he further says, “The manner of personal wealth is not only a concern of those who lack it. In a real sense, the health of an entire society depends on the ease with which the individual member gain personal acceptance. Thus, whenever the keys to self-esteem are seemingly out of reach for a large percentage of people, as in the twentieth century America, then wide spread mental illness, neuroticism, hatred, alcoholism, drug abuse, violence, and social disorder will certainly occur.” pgs.12-13
  • John R. Stott writes in an article, entitled: Must I Really Love Myself? “A chorus of many voices is chanting in unison today that at all costs I must love myself first.” Christianity Today, May 5,1978, pg.34

In others words, it doesn’t matter whom I tread on, whom I hurt, the first commandment really is to love yourself. That is not what Jesus said.

Robert Schuller writes about self-esteem when addressing the issue of hell. This is what he says about hell: “Hell is not having a good self-image.” He doesn’t believe in a literal hell, he believes in hell on earth and that is if you don’t have a good self-image, that’s hell.

Jesus emphasized self-denial not self-love. There are three reasons we should have reservations about the self-love theology.

  • Because from the beginning to the end the focus of scripture is the exultation of God and not man. It appears to me that Psalms 139:14 is virtually being rewritten today to be read as, “I will please me because for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.” No, the text said, “I will praise Thee for I am fearfully and wonderfully made.”
  • Because I believe that Scripture has a high view of God and a low view of man. Throughout Scripture this is true: try James 4:1-10, you adulteresses, you adulterers. You can go anywhere in Scripture and see a proper evaluation of what we are like.
  • Because Paul designates self-love as a prime characteristic of evil of the last days: 2 Timothy 3:1.
  • Because too often “Christian writers” have proof texted their books with Scripture after having accepted certain pre-suppositions from psychology. The result has been eisegesis, “reading into the text” rather than exegesis, “reading out of the text.”

One of the consequences of self-love theology is a favorable opinion of oneself before salvation. If you have a favorable opinion of yourself before salvation, then you have a heart that cannot receive God’s mercy. It must become utterly empty of all opinion of your worth.

Luke 18:9-14 says, And He also told this parable to some people who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and viewed others with contempt: 10″Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11″The Pharisee stood and was praying this to himself: ‘God, I thank You that I am not like other people: swindlers, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12’I fast twice a week; I pay tithes of all that I get.’ 13″But the tax collector, standing some distance away, was even unwilling to lift up his eyes to heaven, but was beating his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, the sinner!’ 14″I tell you, this man went to his house justified rather than the other; for everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but he who humbles himself will be exalted.”

The Pharisee was full of self-esteem and it would cost him his eternal destiny. The tax collector saw himself as unworthy and cried out for mercy. The text says, “…this man went to his house justified rather than the other…”

C. S. Lewis said, “In God you come up against something which is in every respect immeasurably superior to yourself. Unless you know God as that, and, therefore, know yourselves as nothing in comparison, you do not know God at all. The real test of being in the presence of God is that you either forgot about yourself all together or you see yourself as a small dirty object.”

The consequences of a favorable opinion of yourself after salvation is to rob God of His glory. The Scriptures teach that God’s glory is somewhat diminished if man glories in himself. Jeremiah wrote, “Let not the wise man glory in his wisdom, or the rich man in his riches, or the mighty man in his might or let him who glories glory in the Lord” (Jeremiah 9:23).

13. How did the scribe affirm Jesus’ answer? (Mark l2:32-33) The scribe said to Him, “Right, Teacher; You have truly stated that HE IS ONE, AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM. 33 AND TO LOVE HIM WITH ALL THE HEART AND WITH ALL THE UNDERSTANDING AND WITH ALL THE STRENGTH, AND TO LOVE ONE’S NEIGHBOR AS HIMSELF, is much more than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.”

The teacher of the law not only reiterated what Jesus said but added two phrases to affirm Jesus’ words. The teacher of the law first added the phrase “AND THERE IS NO ONE ELSE BESIDES HIM” which is an interpretive addition from Deuteronomy 4:35. This affirmed and underscored the uniqueness of Israel’s God. Secondly, the teacher of the law affirmed that the love of God and neighbor are “more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices” (v.33) which is in keeping with the teachings of the OT prophets.

  • 1 Samuel 15:22, Samuel said, “Has the LORD as much delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed than the fat of rams.
  • Hosea 6:6, For I delight in loyalty rather than sacrifice, and in the knowledge of God rather than burnt offerings.

In Judaism the law and sacrifices are set side by side with love whereas the scribe was declaring the superiority of love going against the accepted teaching of his day.

John MacArthur writes, “Genuine love of the Lord is intelligent, feeling, willing, and serving. It involves thought, sensitivity, intent, and even action where that is possible and appropriate. God has never sought either empty words or empty ritual. His desire is for the person himself, not simply what the person possesses. If He truly has the person, He inevitably has all that the person possesses as well. And just as God loves us with His whole being, we are to return His love with our whole being.”

John MacArthur adds, “The person who truly loves the Lord with all his heart and soul and mind is the person who trusts Him and obeys Him. That person demonstrates his love by meditating on God’s glory (Psalm 18:1-3), trusting in God’s divine power (Psalm 31:23), seeking fellowship with God (Psalm 63:1-8), loving God’s law (Psalm 119:165), being sensitive to how God feels (Psalm 69:9), loving what God loves (Psalm 119:72,97,103), loving whom God loves (1 John 5:1), hating what God hates (Psalm 97:10), grieving over sin (Matthew 26:75), rejecting the world (1 John 2:15), longing to be with Christ (2 Timothy 4:8), and obeying God wholeheartedly (John 14:21).”

It’s important to note that when the scribe repeated the commandment in Deuteronomy 6:5 he omitted the divine name “the Lord” and replaced it with the pronoun “HIM” in keeping with the practice of pious Jews of avoiding the pronunciation of God’s name.

14.What did Jesus recognize about the scribes reply? (Mark 12:34a) This says, “When Jesus saw that he had answered intelligently,…” Jesus pictures him as replying in the manner of one who possessed a mind of his own and really understood what he said. The man had comprehended the significance of Jesus’ reply (Portrait of Mark by: Heibert). But it’s the heart not just the intellect that must fully comprehend and embrace the way of Jesus.

15. How did Jesus appeal to the scribe to continue on his pursuit of the truth? (Mark l2:34b) Jesus told him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” This was “a compliment as well as an appeal to the scribe. His realization of the primary importance of love had placed him spiritually near the kingdom of God. He had come a long way for a scribe, but “not far from” insisted that he must go further and accept that love in the Person of Him who was “the kingdom incarnate.” “Whether or not he ever actually entered it, is written on the yet unread page of its history” (Portrait of Mark by: Hiebert).

16. What does a person have to do to secure entrance into the kingdom? (John 3:3-7) Jesus said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4 Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. 6″That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. 7″Do not be amazed that I said to you, ‘You must be born again’ (John 3:3-7). Jesus taught that a person had two options to enter into the kingdom. The first was to perfectly observe the Law of Moses that He summarized in two commandments in this passage. Entrance into the kingdom through the law requires no love lost for God or one’s neighbor EVER (Galatians 5:1-5).

The other approach is to be born into God’s family through faith in Christ’s substitutionary death and resurrection. This approach requires a recognition that we could never muster up enough effort in “the will of the flesh” to somehow satisfy a Holy God and be declared righteous on our own merits (Romans 3:20; 4:5; Philippians 3:9). John 1:12-13 says, “But as many as received Him, to them He gave the right to become children of God, even to those who believe in His name, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.” This scribe (teacher of the law) was only one step away from entering into the kingdom. He was “near.” It appears that Jesus surmised that he was fully aware of heaven’s expectations and now he needed to recognize his own inadequacy to earn his entrance into the kingdom.

17. Were the religious leaders ready to question more after over hearing this exchange? (Mark 12:34c) The text says, “After that, no one would venture to ask Him any more questions.” A.T. Robertson points out that the phrase, “After that, no one” is a double negative. The sense is the debate was closed and no one would venture (no one dared) to ask another question. Jesus was the complete victor on every side.” (Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. 7)

Kenneth Wuest translates this verse, “And no one any longer was daring to ask Him a question” (pg.112). The double negative could be translated “no one, no not one”

1. In what way do you want to grow in your love right now: Toward God? Toward those in your neighborhood? Toward strangers? Toward the under resourced?

2. How specifically will you grow in your love? Whom have you selected?

3. What quadrant describes your love quotient?


The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.
1 . Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Biblical View of Self-Esteem, Self-Love, Self-Image by: Jay E. Adams, Harvest House Publishers, 1986.
3. The Danger of Self- Love by: Paul Brownback Moody Press, 1982.
4. The Expositots Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
5. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
6. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984.
7. Compassion: Showing Care in a Careless World by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books Publishers, 1984
8. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. I by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
9. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
10.Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
11 . The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
12. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981
13. Our Jealous God: Love That Won’t Let Me Go by: Bill Gothard, Life Change Book Series, Multnomah Publishers Inc., 2003
14. Diagram from The Connecting Church by Randy Frazee, p. 71, Zondervan Publishing House, 2001

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

How to Honor the Government

This lesson is all about How to Render to Caesar and Render to God what is his (Paying Taxes and being a Good Steward).

Passages: Matthew 22:15-22; Mark 12:13-17; Luke 20:20-26

Purpose: To develop the character quality of gratitude and respect (honor) for government. Jesus taught His disciples that one way to express these qualities is to “…render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s”  (Matthew 22:21). This command also addresses our responsibility to give ourselves fully to God because we were made in His image which was marred through the “fall of mankind” (Genesis 3:1-24; Romans 5:12-14) but can be recovered through the cross (Romans 5:15-21).

Historical Background: Chronologically this narrative (Matthew 22:15-22) occurs the Wednesday before the crucifixion. Jesus had just been proclaimed to be “The King of the Jews” two days before as He entered Jerusalem (Matthew 21:1-11). The multitudes had hoped that He would enter Jerusalem and free Israel from Roman bondage. It was ironic that the next day Christ cursed a fig tree because it reminded Him of Israel’s fruitlessness (Matthew 21:18-19a; Mark 11:12-14) and attacked Israel’s own religious system (Matthew 21:12-13; Mark 11:15-18; Luke 19:45-48).

His actions of entering the temple and overturning the tables of the money changers were questioned as to the source of their authority. Those asking this question were the Pharisees. Jesus impedes the answer to their question with one of His own. Jesus asked, “The baptism of John was from what source, from heaven or from men?” (Matthew 21:25). The Pharisees found themselves in a dilemma. They desired Christ’s answer but knew it was contingent on their own. They sought to trap Jesus and found themselves trapped. When they realized the implications of answering they answered “We do not know” (Matthew 21:27). Then Jesus didn’t reveal the source of His authority to them.

Jesus proceeded to teach three parables which taught the Pharisees would be excluded from the Kingdom.

  1. The two sons (Matthew 21:28-32)
  2. The vineyard (Matthew 21:33-44)
  3. The wedding feast (Matthew 22:1-14).

The religious leaders understood the parables were spoken against them and their intensity of resentment toward Jesus grew (Matthew 21:45-46; Mark 12:12; Luke 20:19). He opposed them and brought to light their hypocrisy and pride. Also, His growing popularity among the people concerned them. He claimed to be Messiah, the Son of God, and He cleansed the temple without getting their permission first! He was genuine; they were false.

The sort of authority they would have sought would have been in the form of rabbinical papers (the authorities of old). After they were publicly unmasked as hypocrites by the three parables they realized they had to do something. They designed a simple strategy which would discredit His ministry. They were hoping to ask Him a question in such a way that either way He answered, He would be in trouble. The question was about paying taxes. The Pharisees thought they could trap Christ this time.

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 22:21 (render), Mark 12:17 (render), Luke 20:25 (render). Men who would take more than what Rome had ordered to be collected were swindlers (extortioners KJV), were despised, and often associated with harlots and other public sinners (Matthew 5:46; 9:10-11; 11:19; 18:17; Mark 2:15,16; Luke 5:29,30; 7:34; 15:1 ,2). These tax-gatherers had offices (Matthew 9:9; Mark 2:14; Luke 5:27) and a number of them repented (Matthew 10:3; 21:31-32; Luke 3:12-13; 5:27; 7:29; 18:10-11, 13; 19:2).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: The Jews often tried to stir up Roman authority by suggesting that Christ or His followers were acting contrary to the decrees of Caesar (Acts 17:17). The Sanhedrin brought Christ before Pilate and falsely accused Him of opposing payment of taxes to Caesar (Luke 23:2). This was a deliberate distortion of Christ’s teaching.

Amplified in the Epistles: Romans 13:6-7

Discussion Questions:

1. What where the Pharisees plotting to do to Jesus? (Matthew 22:15) While Jesus continued to teach the crowds in the Court of the Gentiles, “the Pharisees” gathered privately in another part of the Temple to plan their next move. Because they were still afraid to take action against Him directly they cleverly planned to trap Him.

Mark 12:13 and Luke 20:20 provide a purpose clause (hino – “in order that”) to help us identify their intentions. Mark 12:13 says,”…in order to trap Him in a statement.” The word for “trap” (agrevo is rendered by the KJV as “catch” and literally means “to take by hunting.” It is used metaphorically of the Pharisees and Herodians seeking to catch Christ as He spoke.

Luke 20:20 uses a different word but translates it “catch.” It literally means, “they might take hold of” or “seize his words.” The Pharisees and Herodians were hoping to trap or catch him in some subversive statement against Rome that would ensure His arrest and execution as an insurrectionist. They wanted to “catch Him in some statement, “so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor” (Luke 20:20), who at that time was Pilate.

2. Who were the Herodians? (Mark 12:13) Matthew 22:16a says, “…along with the Herodians.” The Herodians were not normal allies of the Pharisees. In fact, the two groups were usually at odds with each other. Not much is known about the Herodians besides what can be inferred from their name. The Herod family was not Jewish but ldumean, descendants of Israel’s ancient enemies the Edomites. Beginning with Herod the Great, they had received favors from Rome in the form of various high political appointments, including rulerships over parts of Palestine.

The Herodians had no love for Jesus and may even have been instructed by Herod Antipas to try to instigate His death or at least imprisonment. It was that tetrarch who had imprisoned and eventually beheaded Jesus’ forerunner and friend, John the Baptist, and when Herod heard of Jesus’ miraculous works, he was afraid that He was John risen from the dead. But he was also curious to see Jesus in order to witness His miracle-working power (Luke 9:7; 23:8). Sometime later, certain Pharisees who were friendly to Jesus warned Him to flee Perea because “Herod wants to kill you” (Luke 13:31). Consequently, during the latter part of His ministry, Jesus had avoided the territory of Herod because of the hostility toward Him there, “for it cannot be that a prophet should perish outside of Jerusalem” (Luke 13:33).

Any Herodians, even if they were Jews as these men were, would have had strong allegiance to Rome, and it was doubtlessly for that reason that the Pharisees asked some of them to accompany their disciples as they confronted Jesus. Should Jesus fall into their trap and make the expected objection to paying Roman taxes, the Herodian Roman sympathizers would serve as credible witnesses. Although the Pharisees despised the Herodians as irreligious traitors, it well suited their purpose to enlist these men’s help in entrapping Jesus.

3. How did the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians address Jesus? (Matthew 22:16; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They addressed Him as “Teacher” (didaskos]. To address a Jewish man as “Teacher” was a high form of honor, reserved for rabbis who had distinguished themselves as astute students and interpreters of Jewish law and tradition. The Talmud said, “The one who teaches the law shall gain a seat in the academy on high.”

4. How did these disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians play the hypocrite and flatter? (Matthew 22:16b; Mark 12:14; Luke 20:21) They pretended to admire Him and flattered them with three statements. Matthew 22:16b says, “Teacher, we know that You are truthful and teach the way of God in truth, and defer to no one; for You are not partial to any.” Mark E. Moore writes that they were saying to Jesus:

  1. You are a man of integrity, therefore, we can follow your example in this.
  2. You accurately teach the will of God, therefore we can trust your opinion on this.
  3. You are not swayed by men, therefore we can believe your answer will be unbiased. No one was fooled by their false flattery.

Not only the Old Testament but rabbinic tradition strongly condemned flattery and hypocrisy. Despite the fact that rabbinic tradition condemned flattery and hypocrisy, Luke 20:20 says, “So they watched him, and sent spies who pretended to be righteous, in order that they might catch Him in some statement, so that they could deliver Him to the rule and the authority of the governor.” They acted as if they sincerely wanted an answer to the question they were about to pose.

5. What question do they ask Jesus and how does it appear to be a no win situation for Jesus? (Matthew 22:17) They solicited Jesus’ opinion with this question: “Is it lawful to give a poll-tax to Caesar, or not?” It is clear that their simple question is designed to trap Jesus. If he says, “No,” the crowds will be delighted, of course. They hate taxation. More than one third of their income goes to pay Roman taxes. While the crowds would have loved Jesus to ban taxation, the Herodians would have immediately arranged for His arrest and execution. On the other hand, if Jesus says “Yes, we should pay taxes to Caesar,” the people, urged on by the Pharisees, will stop following him. After all, any Messiah who can’t throw off the shackles of Roman domination (and especially taxation) is not worthy of support. Jesus appears to be trapped!

So, if Christ had legitimatized the payment of taxes, He would have seemed to abandon Israel’s hope; but if He had denied Rome the right to collect taxes, He would have been guilty of treason.

6. What motivated them to pose this question? (Matthew 22:18, Mark 12:15; Luke.20:23) Jesus knows what they are up to and calls them on the carpet. Matthew 22:18 says, “Jesus perceived their malice” and Luke 20:23 says “He detected their trickery.” He knew the men who posed the question were not the ones who devised it; and that the words of praise they had just showered on Him were not motivated by admiration but “malice.” The word “malice” (poneria) is better translated “wickedness” (KJV) or “iniquity.” This word speaks of the evilness of their plan. It must have hurt when Jesus identified them as “hypocrites” publicly. Jesus exposes them as hollow people, actors, pretenders, fakes. Mark 12:15 says, But He, knowing their hypocrisy, said to them, “Why are you testing Me? Bring Me a denarius to look at.”

Jesus calls for a coin. The very fact that they have a Roman denarius in their possession indicates they accept Roman rule at some level. After all, you can’t accept a government’s right of coinage without also admitting its right of taxation.

7. What was a poll tax? (Matthew 22:19; Mark.12:14) The name “poll-tax” (kensos) is taken from the Latin censere, from which is derived the English census. Of the many taxes the Romans exacted from occupied territories, none was more onerous to Jews than the poll-tax, a tax payable yearly by every individual and therefore sometimes called the head tax. Among other things, it was for the purpose of collecting the poll-tax that Rome took a periodic census, such as the one that had required Joseph and Mary to travel to Bethlehem just before Jesus was born (Luke 2:1-4).

Paying for the support of the occupying forces and providing the many beneficial services for which Rome was famous required an enormous amount of money, necessarily supplied by taxation. Consequently a land tax of one tenth of the grain and one fifth of the wine and oil produced was assessed annually, as was a one percent income tax on wage earners. Customs taxes on merchandise were collected at all ports and major crossroads.

The Romans offered many services to conquered peoples, not the least beneficial of which was the Pax Romana, or Roman peace. Because of their strategic military and commercial locations, many countries of the Near East had had little respite from war for centuries. They fought one invader after another and were ruled by one conqueror after another. At least under Roman protection they were free from war and could travel in relative safety anywhere in the empire. The Romans also provided Via Romana, valuable roads and aqueducts, many ruins of which still exist today.

Although the poll-tax may not have been the most costly tax for most people, it was the most resented by Jews. Perhaps it was because they considered themselves as personally belonging to God rather than to Caesar. It was the census tax that incited the insurrection of Judas of Galilee in A.D. 6 that was instrumental in the deposing of Herod Archelaus and his replacement by a Roman governor. Judas’ rallying cry was that, because God was their only God and Lord, the census tax would not be paid to Rome. As Gamaliel reminded the Sanhedrin when Peter and the other apostles were being questioned in Jerusalem, the rebel Judas “perished, and all those who followed him were scattered” (Acts 5:37). It was the nationalistic, anti-Roman sentiment of Judas on which the Zealot movement was built and that was behind the rebellion of A.D. 66 that led to the Roman destruction of Jerusalem and the Temple four years later.

It was therefore not by accident that the Pharisees had instructed their disciples to induce Jesus to make a statement about the poll-tax. If He gave an answer favorable to the tax, He would become despised by the Jewish multitudes who until then highly admired Him. In that case, the Jewish leaders would then be free to arrest and have Him executed without interference from the populace. But they presumed He would answer otherwise and openly declare that the tax was both unjust and ungodly and should not be paid to the oppressive, pagan Caesar, thus incurring the wrath of Rome as an insurrectionist.

8. What kind of coin did they bring Jesus? (Matthew 22:19b) Disregarding Jesus’ harsh accusations against them, the men readily “brought Him a denarius,” being more than glad to help Him fall into their snare. The specific coin used for the poll-tax was the denarius, which amounted to the daily wage for a soldier or common laborer in Palestine. Although several coinages, including Greek and Hebrew were used in Israel at the time, and exchange from one to the other was easy, only the Roman denarius could be used to pay the poll-tax. It was a silver coin, minted expressly by the emperor, who alone had the authority to issue coins in silver or gold. All such coins, including the denarius, bore an engraving of the emperor on one side and an identifying inscription on the other.

That fact made the coins especially offensive to Jews for three reasons:

  1. For one thing, the emperor’s picture was a reminder of Roman oppression.
  2. The coin itself had an offensive inscription: “Tiberius Caesar, son of the divine Augustus” and on the flip side, “pontifex maximus” (“the most high priest”).
    1. The coinage of Christ’s day was more than secular; it was religious. The emperors, who believed they were high priests, also believed they were gods.
    2. They often usurped the authority of God by having large numbers of people killed. Many Christians lost their lives because they failed to worship the emperor. Emperor worship was a part of the Roman Empire.
  3. The Mosaic Law specifically forbade the making of images (Exodus 20:4). In modern Israel, certain extremely orthodox Jews strictly forbid the taking of their photographs, because the resulting picture is considered a graven image.

9. Why did Jesus ask them to describe the coin? (Matthew 22:20) Jesus simply holds up the coin and asks whose picture is on it. Matthew 22:20 says, and He said to them, “Whose likeness and inscription is this?” They must have seen where he was headed even as their answer slips from their tongues. The logic is so simple and yet so profound: Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.

10. What command does Jesus give in Matthew 22:21? (Mark 12:17; Luke 20:25) Matthew 22:21 says, they said to Him, “Caesar’s.” Then He said to them, “Then render (aorist Imperative) to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s; and to God the things that are God’s.”

Christ here recognizes two divinely constituted spheres of authority. In the one sphere God is supreme. In the other, Caesar has delegated authority. Christ’s statement anticipated Paul’s teaching that all civil authorities are constituted by God (Romans 13:1-7, John 19:10-11). As such they are God’s ministers to maintain law and order and to provide an atmosphere in which righteous men may live in peace (1 Timothy 2:1-4).

The word “render” is the command of Christ in this narrative. This command is an aorist imperative which denotes urgency and literally means to “pay” or “give back” (apodidomi) implying a debt. It carries the idea of obligation and responsibility for something that is not optional. This is one of the commands of Christ that must be taken seriously. Jesus teaches here that we owe them to the government as surely as we have financial obligations to God as part of our stewardship (Malachi 4:8-12).

This has some ponderous (heavy, weighty) implications:

First, a government does have the right of taxation. If we cheat on our taxes, we are disobeying the ordained authority of God (Romans 13:1-7; 1 Peter 2:13-17).

Romans 13:1-7 tells us… Every person is to be in subjection to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and those which exist are established by God. 2 Therefore whoever resists authority has opposed the ordinance of God; and they who have opposed will receive condemnation upon themselves. 3 For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; 4 for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil. 5 Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake. 6 For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. 7 Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

The word “tax” in Romans 13:6-7 is phoros in the Greek text. Rome had one tax called kensos in Greek, and that was a head tax, or census. Every person paid it.

Then they had the poll tax, or land tax. That is what Paul is referring to in Romans 13:7. This tax was like our income tax. An assessment was made on land, property, slaves, and capital. The taxable amount of one’s possessions was determined, the appropriate tax rate applied, and then the person was charged the tax. So Paul says to pay your income tax.

Second, Paul also instructs believers to show respect or honor to government officials. The Greek word for honor denotes “assigning a price or value to someone.” It can sometimes refer to money. 1 Timothy 5:7 says, “The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching.” This would refer to respect and compensation. So our phrase in Romans 13:7, “honor to whom honor is due” could be translated, “Give money to whom money is due.”

It can also mean “respect.” It is best to see Paul as using two words that refer to money, (tax and duty), and two words that demonstrate attitude, (respect and honor). We are to pay our taxes and duty with an attitude of respect and honor. We should respect government officials for their position despite their perspective or personality.

We should be grateful for the provision and protection that is ours in this country; and thank God for placing us here where we have such freedom and prosperity. Our government leaders may not always please us as Christians, but we should be grateful to live in such a benevolent society. As we prosper we should thankfully pay our taxes, and not think of it as a chore we hate or despise.

1 Peter 2:13-17 says to Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, 14 or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right. 15 For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men. 16 Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God. 17 Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

But, what about… What if Government spends our tax dollars inappropriately? We don’t obey a government because we like what it does, who’s in charge, or how it spends its money.

11. Is there ever an appropriate time for civil disobedience? (Acts 4:19; 5:29) There are appropriate occasions for civil disobedience (Acts 4:19; 5:29). However, civil disobedience should only be reserved for times when the government asks us directly or individually to disobey what God has commanded us to do or not to do. The same Peter that taught “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority, or to governors…” told those in authority that he would not stop preaching the gospel because he was under a higher authority that had commanded him to fulfill the Great Commission (Matthew 28:16-20).

12. Whose image was on the coin that Jesus was displaying in His hand? (Matthew 22:21b) The image on the coin is Caesar (Tiberias). Obviously, if his picture is on it, then it belongs to him. So what should we do? “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s.”

13. Whose image were the disciples of the Pharisees and the Herodians made in? (Matthew 22:21b) God’s image! Jesus says, “Then render… to God the things that are God’s.” As Jesus looks around the audience, he sees men and women who are as clearly imprinted with the image of God (Genesis 1:26-27; 5:1; Ephesians 4:24; Colossians 3:10). They have an obligation to give their lives to Him. But even now, Jesus the Messiah stands before them. Instead of following Him, as God intended, they are trying to trap him. They are, in this very moment, robbing God that which is due him.

14. How did they respond to Jesus’ answers to their questions? (Matthew 22:22; Mark 12:17; Luke 20:26) Matthew 22:22 says “And hearing this, they were amazed, and leaving Him, they went away.” Luke’s Gospel says, “And they were unable to catch Him in a saying in the presence of the people; and being amazed at His answer, they became silent” (Luke 20:26).

The Pharisees and Herodians are stumped. They have laboriously contrived this “impenetrable” question. Their scheme was foolproof, yet in less than fifteen seconds this uneducated Galilean dismantles their question, exposes their motives, and convicts their hypocrisy. All they can do is walk away with their tails between their legs.

Application Questions:

  1. What was your attitude toward authority in your younger days? (Compliant? Obedient? Rebellious?)
  2. What bothers you the most about government? (Taxes? Scandals? Regulations? Waste? Nothing?)
  3. How has this command impacted your soul?
    1. Mind/Attitude – thoughts
    2. Will – decisions
    3. Emotions – feelings
  4. In your life, what belongs to Caesar? What belongs to God?
  5. How well are you giving to each?

The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources:
1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
3. New Testament Commentary- Exposition of the Gospel According to Mark by: William Hendriksen, Baker Book house, 1975.
4. Mark- A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond D. Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
5. The New International Commentary on the New Testament.
6. The Gospel According to Mark by: William L. Lane, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1974.
7. He Came to Suffer by: Thomas R. Lovejoy, Grace Community Church, 1984
8. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 7 6-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988.
9. Word Studies in the Greek New Testament: Volume 1 by: Kenneth S. Wuest, William B. Eerdman’s Publishing Company, 1950.
10. The Chronological Life of Christ Vol.2 by: Mark E. Moore, College Publishing Company, 1997
11. The Words and Works of Jesus Christ by: J. Dwight Pentecost, Zondervan Publishing House, 1981

[Richard D. Leineweber Jr. © Copyright 1994]

How to Become a Servant Leader

This lesson is all about servanthood, Matthew 20:20-28; Mark 10:35-45

Purpose: The purpose of this study is to develop the character quality of humility. Servanthood and suffering bring greatness in the kingdom. Jesus taught His disciples “And whoever desires to be first among you, let him be (present imperative) your slave” (Matthew 20:27). The way up is down. God’s ways are counter intuitive. Man’s pride and ego keeps him from greatness. Ken Blanchard asks “What’s your leadership ego?” EGO is either “Edging God Out” or “Exalting God Only.” Servant leadership involves humbly serving those under us so they are successful. Jesus in this passage teaches us how to become a servant leader.

Historical Background: This narrative follows Jesus’ third prediction of the resurrection on the road to Jerusalem (Matthew 20:17-19; Mark 10:32-34; Luke 18:31-34). This passage warns against ambitious pride. This request for places of honor showed a continuing feeling among the disciples that Jesus was going to Jerusalem to restore the glory of the fallen throne and kingdom of David. This request is irreconcilable with the fact that Jesus had just told his disciples that He would die, not reign in Jerusalem. Perhaps they were so consumed with selfish ambition that they didn’t hear what Jesus said. It’s obvious that they weren’t satisfied with Jesus’ recent words promising the Twelve that they would occupy the twelve thrones over the twelve tribes of Israel in the kingdom (Matthew 19:28).

Commanded in the Gospels: Matthew 20:27 – let him be; Luke 22:26 – let him become. The Gospels contain other instruction on this subject (Matthew 10:24, 25a; 23:11; Mark 9:35; 10:43, 44; John 12:26) and cite numerous women who regularly helped Christ by ministering to His needs, (Matthew 8:15; 27:55; Mark 1 :31; 15:41; Luke 8:3; 10:40; John 12:2).

Illustrated in the Book of Acts: Acts 6:1-2; 13:5; 19:22; 20:19, 34; 21:19; 24:23

Amplified in the Epistles: Some Christians have the spiritual gift of serving (Romans 12:7). Others are put in charge of physical tasks that must be cared for by the church. These hold the office of deacon (diokonos) (Philippians 1:1, 1 Timothy 3:8, 10, 12-13) and deaconess, (Romans 16:1; 1 Timothy 3:11) but every Christian must be involved in some form of service (Galatians 5:13; Ephesians 4:12; Hebrews 6:10; 1 Peter 4:10-11). The following men are positive examples of servanthood:

  1. Apollos (1 Corinthians 3:5)
  2. Christ (Philippians 2:7)
  3. James (James 1:1)
  4. John (Revelation 1:1)
  5. Jude (Jude 1:1)
  6. Mark (2 Timothy 4:11)
  7. Onesimus (Philemon 1:13)
  8. Onesiphorus (2 Timothy 1:18)
  9. Paul (Romans 1:1, 1 Corinthians 4:1; 2 Corinthians 4:5, 6:4; 11:8, 23, Galatians 1:10, Philippians 1:1, Titus 1:1)
  10. Peter (2 Peter 1:1)
  11. Timothy (Philippians 2:22)
  12. Tychicus (Ephesians 6:21, Colossians 4:7)

1 . What relationship did mother Zebedee and her two sons have to Jesus? She was Salome, probably a sister of Jesus’ mother (Matthew 20:20; 27:55a, 56; Mark 15:40; John 19:25). If so, then James and John were Jesus’ first cousins. Perhaps they hoped their family ties would help their cause. In addition to relying on their relationship as Jesus’ cousins, the brothers perhaps also thought to play on Jesus’ affection for his mother by having her sister approach Him for the favor. These two disciples were asking for preferential treatment.

2. What did the mother of James and John request? (Matthew 20:20-21; Mark 10:37) One of them wished to sit at His right, the highest assigned position, and the other at His left, the next highest place in a royal court (Josephus, The Antiquities of the Jews). The “right hand” and “left hand” suggest proximity to the King’s person and so a share in his prestige and power. Such positions increase as the King is esteemed and has absolute power (Psalm 16:11; 45:9; 110:1; Matthew 27:64; Acts 7:55-56). Mark has, “in your glory,” Matthew “in your kingdom.” Mark’s phrase clearly points to the Parousia, “when Jesus is enthroned as eschatological judge.”

3. Was Mrs. Zebedee’s request a political power play? (Matthew 20:20) John MacArthur writes, “The first worldly principle for greatness might be called political power play and is reflected in the attempt of the mother of the sons of Zebedee to persuade Jesus to give those two sons, James and John, the highest places of honor in His kingdom. The Bible Knowledge Commentary says, “…with typical motherly pride, felt her sons deserved the two best locations.” Throughout history one of the most common tactics for getting ahead has been using the influence of family and friends to one’s own advantage. These people are manipulated to gain political office, a promotion in business, a lucrative contract, or whatever else is craved. As the saying goes, “It’s who you know that counts.”

It seems incredible that James, John, and their mother could ask Jesus such a crass, self-serving favor immediately after His prediction of the persecution and death He would soon face in Jerusalem. There is no indication, either in this text or in Mark’s parallel account (Mark 10:35), that any of the disciples made a response to what Jesus had just said about His own imminent death. They may simply have discounted His prediction as being merely figurative and symbolic, or they may have been so preoccupied with their own interests and plans that His words went by them.

4. How do we know that Mrs. Zebedee’s request was a joint effort with her sons? (Matthew 20:22; Mark 10:35) From the Matthew passage it is clear that “the mother” was speaking at the request of her “two sons.” In fact, Mark makes no mention of her at all. The three obviously came with a common purpose and plan they had discussed among themselves beforehand. The mother probably spoke first, and then James and John spoke for themselves.

It is implied in Matthew but explicit in Mark that the first request was intentionally general and indefinite: “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of You” (Mark 10:35). Their approach was like a child trying to get a parent to promise something before saying what it is for fear that a specific request for it might be denied.

5. How was Mrs. Zebedee’s worship manipulative? (Matthew 20:20) “Bowing down” was a common act of homage, respect or honor given to ancient monarchs, and the mother may have been trying to flatter Jesus by appealing to His sense of power and royalty. By treating Him like a king, she hoped to manipulate Him into making a gesture of generosity. Near Eastern kings liked to pride themselves in having the resources to grant any favor or request. It was such pride that induced Herod Antipas to swear to the daughter of Herodias, “Whatever you ask of me, I will give it to you; up to half of my kingdom” (Mark 6:23).

The fact that James, John, and their mother made a request of Christ for a blank check strongly suggests that they knew the request was not legitimate. The request was purely self-seeking, for her as well as for them. As their mother, she could bask vicariously in their exalted positions, and her own prestige would be greatly enhanced. In marked contrast to what they would become after Pentecost, James and John were not noted for their shyness or being reserved, and Jesus had nicknamed them “Sons of Thunder” (Mark 3:1-7). Their request of Jesus not only was bold but brash. In effect, they were claiming that, of all the great people of God who had ever lived, they deserved to have the two highest places of honor beside the King of heaven.

Like the scribes and Pharisees who loved “the place of honor at banquets, and the chief seats in the synagogues” (Matthew 23:6), James and John longed for prestige and preeminence and to be exalted over the other apostles. Like the self-seeking Diotrephes (3 John 1:9), they loved to be first. But that is not the way to greatness in the kingdom of God.

6. What was Mrs. Zebedee really asking for unknowingly? (Matthew 20:22) “You do not know what you are asking.” Matthew Henry writes, “We know not what we ask, when we ask for the glory of wearing the crown, and ask not for grace to bear the cross in our way to it.” The response, “we are able” is amazing proof of their ignorance and self-confidence. Ambition had blinded their eyes.

John MacArthur writes, “James and John either completely misunderstood what Jesus meant or because, like Peter promising never to forsake Christ, they self-confidently thought they could endure anything required of them, James and John foolishly declared, “We are able.” And just as Peter denied the Lord three times before the cock crowed, those two brothers, along with all the other disciples, fled for their lives when Jesus was arrested (Matthew 26:56).

No doubt with great tenderness and compassion, the Lord then assured the brothers, “My cup you shall drink.” But it would not be in their own power but in the power of the Holy Spirit that they would suffer greatly for their Master’s sake. They did indeed share in the “fellowship of His sufferings” (Philippians 3:1 0).

7. What cup or baptism was Jesus talking about? (Matthew 20:22; 26:39, 42; Mark 10:38-39) “The cup” was a common Jewish metaphor either for joy (Psalm 23:5; 116:13) or for divine judgment against human sin, as here (Psalm 75:7-8; Isaiah 12:2). Jesus applied this figure to Himself for He was to bear the wrath of God’s judgment against sin in place of sinners (Matthew 26:39; Mark 10:45; 14:36; 15:34; Luke 22:42; John 18:11). He would drink the “cup” voluntarily.

If the disciples grasped anything of Jesus’ passion predictions, they probably thought the language of this metaphor referred to the eschatological conflict during which Messiah’s side would suffer losses; but these could scarcely be too severe for one who could still storms and raise the dead.

8. What has Jesus and other New Testament writers said about the role of suffering in Kingdom assignments? On the Sermon on the Mount Jesus taught His disciples that one of the ways to greatnessm it is through suffering for Christ on earth. Jesus said, “Blessed are those who have been persecuted for the sake of righteousness, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:1 0-12).

The Apostle Paul learned that the way to great glory is through great affliction for Christ’s sake. Although he suffered extreme hardship, persecution, and suffering, he considered those things to be insignificant compared to what awaited him in heaven. He told the self-serving, pleasure-loving Corinthians, “For momentary light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison” (2 Corinthians 4:17).

Paul also pointed out to the Thessalonians that their suffering wasn’t pointless. It was pain with a purpose. They would be considered worthy when positions in the kingdom were being assigned (2 Thessalonians 1:4-10).

Edmond Hiebert writes, “In the day of judgment their present sufferings will be seen to have been beneficial… the statement is a direct encouragement to the suffering readers. They are assured that their sufferings are significant.

The Apostle Paul challenging young Timothy to be a good soldier who suffers for Jesus Christ wrote, “If we endure, we will also reign with Him…” (2 Timothy 2:12a).

The one who has the greatest glory beside Christ in heaven will be the one who has faithfully endured the greatest suffering for Him on earth.

9. Did James and John ever taste this cup? (Matthew 20:23; Mark 10:39; Acts 12:2; Revelation 1:9) These two brothers are the bookends of apostolic suffering in the early church. James was beheaded and John was tortured and exiled to Patmos for the sake of Christ. The Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the World describes their suffering:

The Apostle James: St. James was the first of the apostles to meet a martyr’s death. Herod Agrippa, when he was made governor of Judea by the Roman emperor Caligula, raised a persecution against the Christians, and especially singled out St. James as an object of his vengeance. When the apostle was led out to die, a man who had brought false accusations against him walked with him to the place of execution. He had doubtless expected to see St. James looking pale and frightened, but he saw him, instead, bright and joyous, like a conqueror who had won a great battle. The false witness greatly wondered at this, and became convinced that the Savior in whom the prisoner by his side believed must be the true God, or he could not impart such cheerfulness and courage to a man about to die. The man himself, therefore, became a convert to Christianity, and was condemned to die with St. James the apostle. Both were consequently beheaded on the same day and with the same sword. This took place in the year of our Lord 44. [pg.27]

The Apostle John: He was distinguished for being a prophet, apostle, and evangelist. He was brother to James, and not only one of the twelve apostles, but one whom Jesus chiefly loved. St. John founded many churches in Greece. Being at Ephesus, he was ordered by the emperor Domitian to be sent bound to Rome, where he was condemned to be cast into a cauldron of boiling oil. Either this sentence was not carried out, or a miracle saved him from injury, for he was afterward banished by the emperor to the island of Patmos, and there wrote that beautiful book which is called The Revelation of St. John the Divine, and which tells of the joys of the celestial city.

At last Domitian died, and the next emperor, Nerva, was kind to the Christians, and sent St. John back to Ephesus, when he wrote his gospel. He lived to be a very old man, and died a natural death at Ephesus, some writers say in the one-hundredth year of his age. [pg.35]

10. Whose prerogative is it to give these privileged positions away? (Matthew 20:23) Jesus made it clear that granting positions of honor to His right and left in the kingdom is not His prerogative. Such places were not within His jurisdiction to give.

It would not be on the basis of favoritism or ambition that those honors would be bestowed, but on the basis of the Father’s sovereign choice. Personal ambition is not a factor in the eternal, sovereign plan of God. [MacArthur]. Mark 10:38-39 adds a little more text.

11. What other metaphor did Jesus use to describe the suffering that awaited Him? (Mark 10:38-39) The figure of “baptism” expresses a parallel thought. Being under water was an Old Testament picture of being overwhelmed by calamity (Job 22:11; Psalm 69:2, 15; Isaiah 43:2). Here the “calamity” Jesus faced was bearing the burden of God’s judgment on sin which involved overwhelming sufferings culminating in His death (Luke 12:50). He was to “be baptized” by God who placed these sufferings on Him (Isaiah 53:4b, 11). James and John may have thought Jesus was describing a messianic battle and their confident reply, “We can”, showed their willingness to fight in it. But their reply also showed that they had not understood Jesus’ words. So Jesus applied the same “cup” and “baptism” figures to them but in a different sense. In following Him they would share His sufferings (1 Peter 4:13) even to death, but not in a redemptive sense.

12. Why did the other ten disciples become indignant with James and John? (Matthew 20:24; Mark 10:41) The verb “became indignant” speaks of jealous displeasure and is a strong word for angry resentment. The ten felt that James and John had taken advantage of their relation to Jesus.

This jealous reaction indicates that they also harbored the same selfish ambitions. They all would have petitioned Jesus for the exalted, favored positions, given the opportunity. To avert disharmony among the Twelve and to reemphasize the meaning of true greatness (Mark 9:33-37) Jesus contrasted greatness in this world’s kingdoms with that in God’s kingdom.

On the way from Caesarea Philippi to Capernaum they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest” but were ashamed to admit it to Jesus (Mark 9:33-34). Even at the Last Supper “there arose also a dispute among them as to which one of them was regarded to be greatest” (Luke 22:24). They were all guilty of the same self-serving ambition that had just been demonstrated by the two brothers. [MacArthur]

Jesus sees the cross waiting for Him, James and John see thrones waiting for them, but the other ten disciples could only see James and John. They are upset with these two men not because of the power play or the selfish ambition but because they got to Jesus first.

13. What is the leadership style of the corporate world? (Matthew 20:25; Mark 10:42) Jesus sets aside all the politicking, maneuvering, asking for favors and special privileges and tells His team how different the world’s ways are from kingdom principles.

Now the Lord called them to Himself and reminded them of another wrong way of achieving spiritual greatness. It could be called the way of the dominant dictator. “Lord it over” is a strong term carrying the idea of ruling down on people, the prepositional prefix kata intensifying the verb.

The rulers of the Gentiles lord it over their subjects,” Jesus said. Virtually every government of that day was a form of dictatorship, often of a tyrannical sort. The world seeks greatness through power, epitomized by despotic “rulers of the Gentiles” such as the pharaohs, Antiochus Epiphanes, the Caesars, the Herods, and Pilate, under all of whom the Jews had suffered greatly.

The same philosophy of dominance is found in modern businesses and even in some Christian organizations. Many people in high positions cannot resist the temptation to use their power to “lord it over” those under them. Some are radical egomaniacs, whereas others are respectable and orthodox. But they share a common worldly desire to control others. Peter therefore warned Christian leaders against “lording it over those allotted to [their] charge” (1 Peter 5:3).

Another wrong way to achieve spiritual greatness is that of the charismatic personality. The expression “great men” carries the idea of distinguished, eminent, illustrious, or noble. It represents those who have high personal appeal and have achieved high stature in the eyes of the world and who seek to control others by personal influence. They can be seen as different in style from those in Matthew 20:25a. Whereas the dominant dictator uses the sheer power of his position and is often hated, the charismatic leader uses the powers of popularity and personality. By flattery, charm, and attractiveness, he manipulates others to serve his own ends.

“Exercise authority over” also translates a strong and intensified Greek verb, and could be rendered “to play the tyrant.”

The church has never been without self-seeking leader who capture the fascination of the people who willingly follow them while they make merchandise of the gospel in order to feather their nests and build up their reputations. By telling people what they like to hear (2 Timothy 4:3), they skillfully take advantage of selfish, gullible believers.

14. How does Jesus measure greatness? (Matthew 20:26; Mark 10:43) Jesus turned the world’s greatness upside down. The self-serving, self-promoting, self-glorying ways of the world are the antithesis of spiritual greatness. They have no place in God’s kingdom and are not to be so among you, Jesus told the Twelve.

Greatness in the Lord’s kingdom does not come through rulership or authority but through service (Matthew 20:26-27). Their goal should be serving, not ruling. Those most highly esteemed will be those who serve, those who are humble.

The world’s way of greatness is like a pyramid. The prestige and power of the great person is built on the many subordinate persons beneath him. But in the kingdom, the pyramid is inverted. As the great commentator R. C. H. Lenski has observed, God’s “great men are not sitting on top of lesser men, but bearing lesser men on their backs.”

Unfortunately, however, there are still many people in the church who, like James and John, continually seek recognition, prestige, and power by manipulating and controlling others to their own selfish advantage.

Jesus said, “Whoever wishes to become great among you, that is, great by God’s standards rather than men’s, shall be your servant.” He was not, as some have suggested, contradicting what He had just taught. He was speaking of an entirely different kind of greatness than the sort James and John were seeking and that the world promotes. This kind of greatness is pleasing to God, because it is humble and self-giving rather than proud and self-serving. The way to the world’s greatness is through pleasing and being served by men, the way to God’s greatness is through pleasing Him and serving others in His name. In God’s eyes, the one who is great is the one who is a willing servant.

15. What did Jesus command His disciples in Matthew 20:27 and Luke 22:26? Jesus said, “and whoever wishes to be first among you let him be your slave” (Matthew 20:17). The verb “let him be” is a present imperative. The Majority Greek Text has the better reading. The way to be “first” is to be a “slave.”

The position and work of a “slave” was much lower and demeaning even than those of a servant. A servant was to some degree his own person. He often owned little more than the clothes on his back, but he was free to go where he wanted and to work or not work as he pleased. But a slave did not belong to himself but to his master and could go only where the master wanted him to go and do only what the master wanted him to do. He did not belong to himself but was the personal property of someone else.

William Barclay has commented, “The world may assess a man’s greatness by the number of people whom he controls and who are at his beck and call; or by his intellectual standing and his academic eminence; or by the number of committees of which he is a member; or by the size of his bank balance and the material possessions which he has amassed; but in the assessment of Jesus Christ these things are irrelevant.” The Christian who desires to be great and first in the kingdom is the one who is willing to serve in the hard place, the uncomfortable place, the lonely place, the demanding place, the place where he is not appreciated and may even be persecuted.

16. Why did the Son of Man come? (Matthew 20:28) To be a ransom for many, (see also question 19, and 1 Timothy 2:5-6).

17. What in this verse suggests that we follow Jesus’ example? (Matthew 20:28) The emphasis of the phrase “just as the Son of Man” sets Jesus forth as our role model. What Jesus says about Himself should also characterize His followers. To discover what it means to become a godly servant and slave, the disciples had only to look at “the Son of Man” Himself.

18. What in the text suggests Jesus’ preexistence? (Matthew 20:28) The phrase “did not come” hints of Jesus’ preexistence.

19. What is the significance of Christ giving His life as a ransom? (Matthew 20:28) In His incarnate role as the Son of Man, Jesus did not come to be served, but to serve.

Read Philippians 2:5-9. Jesus is the supreme example of humility and servanthood, because, as the sovereign of the universe and of all eternity, He subjected Himself to humiliation and even to death. He is the most exalted because He faithfully endured the most humiliation. Although He was the King of kings and had the right to be served by others, He ministered as a Servant of servants and gave His life to serve others.

Jesus’ ultimate act of servanthood, however, was to give His life. “Greater love has no one than this,” He said, “that one lay down his life for his friends” (John 15:13).

In His next statement, Jesus presents the first explicit New Testament teaching about the redemptive work of the Messiah. He would vicariously suffer for the sins of mankind as a ransom for those who trust in Him. He did not simply give His life an example for others. He was no mere martyr for a godly cause, as some claim. Nor was He merely an example of life-giving selflessness, although He was indeed the supreme example of that. Jesus not only lived and died for others but died as a ransom for others.

The word “ransom” (Lutron) was the term commonly used for the redemption price of a slave, the amount required to buy his freedom. It is used only twice in the New Testament (see also Mark 10:45), both times in reference to Christ’s giving of Himself to redeem others. Here it is followed by the preposition anti (“instead of”), expressing an exchange. In 1 Timothy 2:6, the word used for “ransom” is antilutron, which simply combines the two words used here. In both cases the idea is that of a price paid for a life.

The unbeliever is a slave to sin, the flesh, Satan, and death, and it was to redeem men from those slaveries that Jesus gave His life a ransom in exchange for sinners. “There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus,” Paul explained to believers in Rome. “For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. For what the law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh” (Romans 8:1-3). “Having been freed from sin,” the apostle had told them earlier, “you became slaves of righteousness” (Romans 6:18). Christ’s sacrifice bought us back from the slavery of sin.

Although the noun lutron is used only twice in the New Testament, other forms of the root word are used frequently as are numerous synonyms (1 Corinthians 6:20; Galatians 3:13; 4:5; Ephesians 1:7; 14; 4:30; Titus 2:14; 1 Peter 1:18-19; Revelation 5:9).

Jesus’ ransom was paid to God to satisfy His holy justice, and it was more than sufficient to cover the sins of everyone who has ever lived and ever will live. His death was sufficient for “the whole world” says John (1 John 2:2). It is not the Lord’s will “for any to perish but for all to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9).

Although His ransom is sufficient for every person, it is valid only for those who believe in Him. It is in that sense that His redemption is for many, rather than for all. The Lord was not teaching limited atonement, the idea that He died only for the sins of a select few. Paul makes it clear that Christ died for the whole world: “The man Christ Jesus… gave Himself as a ransom for all” (1 Timothy 2:5-6).

The basic idea behind “for” (anti) is that of being set over against something else, and the word was often used to denote an exchange or substitution. In becoming a ransom for many, Jesus exchanged His life for the lives of the many who would believe in Him. It became His death for the deaths of those many, His undeserved punishment for the punishment they deserved.

20. Did the disciples learn this lesson on servanthood? (Matthew 20:17-18; Luke 19:28, 41; 22:10, 24-26) During the Last Supper, after the disciples had again been arguing about which of them was the greatest, Jesus asked, “Who is greater, the one who reclines at the table, or the one who serves? Is it not the one who reclines at the table? But I am among you as the one who serves” (Luke 22:27).

It was probably at this time that Jesus gave them the beautiful object lesson of servanthood recorded by John (John 13:4-5, 12-17).


  1. Who has been an example to you of Christ-like servanthood?
  2. How has this command impacted your soul?
    1. Mind- thoughts
    2. Will – decisions
    3. Emotions – feelings
  3. Pray for “five lost friends” and for one another.


The questions and answers for this study were gleaned from the following resources.

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. The Expositors Bible Commentary, Volume 8 by: Frank E. Gaebelein (General Editor), Zondervan Publishing House, 1984
  3. Mark: A Portrait of the Servant by: Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1974
  4. New Testament Commentary- Exposition of the Gospel According to Matthew by: William Hendriksen, Baker Bookhouse, 1973
  5. Descending to Greatness by: Bill Hybels, Zondervan Publishing House, 1993
  6. The Last will be First by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communication, 1987
  7. The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, Matthew 16-23 by: John MacArthur Jr., Moody Press, 1988
  8. An Exegetical Commentary on the Gospel According to St. Matthew by: Alfred Plummer, James Family – Christian Publishing Company
  9. Management: A Biblical Approach by: Myron Rush Victor Books, 1986.
  10. Improving Your Serve: The Art of Unselfish Living by: Charles Swindoll, Word Books, 1981
  11. The Servant Leader by: Ken Blanchard & Phil Hodges, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2003
  12. The Maxwell Leadership Bible by: John C. Maxwell, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2002
  13. The Thessalonian Epistles by: D. Edmond Hiebert, Moody Press, 1971
  14. Foxe’s Book of Martyrs of the World by: John Foxe, Moody Press
  15. Word Pictures in the New Testament Vol. IV by: Archibald Thomas Robertson, Broadman, Press, 1931
  16. The Greek New Testament According to the Majority Text Edited by: Zane C. Hodges & Arthur L. Farstad, Thomas Nelson Publisher, 1982

Matthew Commentary:

The Greek word for ransom is lytron and is not found apart from this setting in the New Testament. Its basic meaning is money paid to buy back prisoners of war. Barclay calls attention to what “the crude hands of theology” have done with this “lovely saying” and quotes Peter Lombard (as the extreme example), who writes that “the cross was a mousetrap to catch the devil, baited with the blood of Christ” (vol. 2, pp. 234–35). After all the caveats have been registered, Jesus still declares that he came to give his life as a means of redeeming humankind. The Greek text says that he gave his life lytron anti pollōn (“a ransom in the place of many”). It would be difficult to express the substitutionary nature of Jesus’ death in clearer language. This understanding of the death of Jesus as substitutionary is foundational to Christian theology. 1

Additional Comments: The metaphorical language used in Mark 10:45, a ransom (or redemption) for many, is drawn from ancient economic life in which a slave, a prisoner, or a forfeited parcel of land or other possession might be freed by a purchase price paid. The metaphor presents Jesus’ death as the price of the liberation of the many. The statement is paralleled in Matthew 20:28, and similar language is used elsewhere in the NT, for example, 1 Peter 1:18; Hebrews 9:12; Titus 2:14. In still other places the language varies, but the thought remains that Jesus’ death was a redemptive event, indeed, the redemptive event that is the basis for the salvation offered in the Gospel (Romans 3:21–26; 4:25; 5:6; Hebrews 1:3). All this is to say that in the description of Jesus’ death given in 10:45, Mark reflects the basic teaching of early Christianity.

Believer’s Bible Commentary:  It is a sad commentary on human nature that, immediately after the third prediction of His passion, His followers were thinking more of their own glory than of His sufferings.

Christ’s first prediction of suffering gave rise to Peter’s demur (16:22); the second was soon followed by the disciples’ questions, “Who is the greatest …?” So here, we find the third capped with the ambitious request of James and John. They persistently closed their eyes to warnings of trouble, and opened them only to the promise of glory—so getting a wrong, materialistic view of the Kingdom.

Matthew 20:20-21 / The mother of James and John came to the Lord asking that her boys might sit on either side of Him in His kingdom. It is to her credit that she wanted her sons near Jesus, and that she had not despaired of His coming reign. But she did not understand the principles upon which honors would be bestowed in the kingdom.

Mark says that the sons made the request themselves (Mark 10:35); perhaps they did it at her direction, or perhaps the three of them approached the Lord together. No contradiction is involved.

Matthew 20:22 / Jesus answered frankly that they did not understand what they were asking. They wanted a crown without a cross, a throne without the altar of sacrifice, the glory without the suffering that leads to it. So He asked them pointedly, “Are you able to drink the cup that I am about to drink?” We are not left to wonder what He meant by the cup; He had just described it in verses 18 and 19. He must suffer and die.

James and John expressed ability to share in His sufferings, though perhaps their confidence was based more on zeal than knowledge.

Matthew 20:23 / Jesus assured them that they would indeed drink of His cup. James would be martyred and John persecuted and exiled to the Isle of Patmos. Robert Little said, “James died a martyr’s death; John lived a martyr’s life.”

Then Jesus explained that He could not arbitrarily grant places of honor in the kingdom; the Father had determined a special basis on which these positions would be assigned. They thought it was a matter of political patronage, that because they were so close to Christ, they had a special claim to places of preferment. But it was not a question of personal favoritism. In the counsels of God, the places on His right hand and left hand would be given on the basis of suffering for Him. This means that the chief honors in the kingdom are not limited to first century Christians; some living today might win them—by suffering.

Matthew 20:24 / The other ten disciples were greatly displeased that the sons of Zebedee had made such a request. They were probably indignant because they themselves wanted to be greatest and resented any prior claims being made by James and John!

Matthew 20:25–27 / This gave our Lord the opportunity to make a revolutionary statement concerning greatness in His kingdom. The Gentiles think of greatness in terms of mastery and rule. In Christ’s kingdom, greatness is manifested by service. Whoever aspires to greatness must become a servant, and whoever desires to be first must become a slave.

Matthew 20:28 / The Son of Man is the perfect example of lowly service. He came into the world not to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many. The whole purpose of the Incarnation can be summed up in two words—serve and give. It is amazing to think that the exalted Lord humbled Himself to the manger and to the cross. His greatness was manifested in the depth of His humiliation. And so it must be for us.

He gave His life a ransom for many. His death satisfied all God’s righteous demands against sin. It was sufficient to put away all the sins of all the world. But it is effective only for those who accept Him as Lord and Savior. Have you ever done this? 3

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]
1 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 191). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 Hurtado, L. W. (2011). Mark (p. 172). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
3 MacDonald, W. (1995). Believer’s Bible Commentary: Old and New Testaments. (A. Farstad, Ed.) (pp. 1279–1280). Nashville: Thomas Nelson.

Singleness and Divorce

Today’s passage is all about the topic of divorce and the positive and effective use of one’s singleness, taken from Matthew 19:1-12. Our command passage is in Matthew 19:12 (“let him except it” – present imperative).

Opener Questions:
1. What was (or would be) Mom’s advice to you about marriage? What was Dad’s?
2. Who has the best marriage you have ever seen? Why is it so special?

Purpose of This Study: To teach that God intended marriage to last a lifetime and those with the gift of singleness ought to embrace that wholeheartedly in order to advance the kingdom of God.

Historical Background: As Jesus continues to make his way toward Jerusalem, the crowds get larger. The Pharisees, always lurking in the background, come to the front with a question. They aren’t looking for an answer but an opportunity. They want to trip Jesus up with a difficult question of divorce. It was as much of a hot button back then as it is today. Everyone stops and listens; all eyes are on Jesus. His words are typically stunning. He applies to men, for the first time, the same absolute restrictions on divorce that had always applied to women. This offers women unparalleled protection from the ravages of men who, like these Pharisees, want to have their cake and eat it too.

Since His second year of ministry, every time Jesus attracts a crowd He also attracts Pharisees. They are not disciples; they are informants’ obvious enemies. This is even more true since the Sanhedrin openly plotted to kill Jesus (John 11:53) and put out a “warrant” for his arrest not more than a month earlier (John 11:57). That’s what sent Jesus to this area in the first place (John 11:54; Luke 17:11). Their question is designed to trap Jesus (Matthew 16:1; Mark 10:2; Luke 11:53). Divorce was a raging debate.

Discussion Questions:

1. Geographically, where was Jesus when the Pharisees tested Him? (Matthew 19:1-2) “When Jesus had finished these words, He departed from Galilee and came into the region of Judea beyond the Jordan.”

2. What were the Pharisees hoping to accomplish by testing Jesus? The Pharisees wanted to ultimately destroy Jesus. The clever Pharisees were well aware that Perea, where Jesus now ministered, was under the rule of Herod Antipas. He was the tetrarch who had John the Baptist imprisoned and eventually beheaded for condemning his unlawful marriage to Herodias, whom he had seduced away from his brother Philip (see Matthew 14:3-12). No doubt the Pharisees hoped that, by denouncing divorce for any cause at all, Jesus would thereby publicly condemn Herod’s adulterous relationship just as John had done and suffer John’s fate.

Two Rabbinical Schools of Thought on Divorce:

The School of Shammai: This school taught that the sole ground of divorce was mentioned in Deuteronomy 24:1- “some indecency in her” [Hebrew literally is “nakedness”]. The School of Shammai applied this expression only to moral transgressions, and exclusively to adultery. It was declared that if a woman were as mischievous as the wife of Ahab (Jezebel, 1 Kings 16:31; 18:4-19; 19:1,2; 21:5-25; 2 Kings 9) or (according to tradition) as the wife of Korah, it were well that her husband should not divorce her, except it be on the grounds of adultery.

The School of Hillel: This school took the words “some indecency in her” (Deuteronomy 24:1) in the widest possible sense, and taught that a man could divorce his wife for the most trivial of reasons, for such things as taking her hair down in public, or talking to other men, and even for burning the bread, or putting too much salt in the food. For her to speak ill of her mother-in-law or to be infertile were more than sufficient grounds for divorce. Rabbi Akiba (early second century) thought, that the words, if “she finds no favor in his eyes” implied that it was sufficient if a man had found another woman more attractive than his wife. The words “some indecency” are translated in the Talmud as “obnoxious.” Josephus would fall into this school of thought, he was deserted by one wife, divorced his second wife being displeased with her behavior… afterwards he married a woman of Jewish extraction who had settled in Crete.

3. What rabbinical school of thought on divorce did the Pharisees’ question represent? (Matthew 19:3) “Some Pharisees came to Jesus….” These Pharisees are probably from the stricter rabbinical school of Shammai. They are basically asking Jesus, “do you think the laxer rabbinical school of Hillel has the correct interpretation of Deuteronomy 24?” Their exact words, “Is it lawful for a man to divorce his wife for any reason at all?” They hope He sides with them and says something that would get him in trouble with Herod Antipas or say something contradictory to the Law of Moses so the people would reject Him.

4. In what way was Jesus sarcastic in answering the Pharisee’s attack? (Matthew 19:4a) Jesus asked the Pharisees, “Have you not read…?” and then quoted Genesis 1:27, 2:24. This was an insult since the Pharisees claimed to be scholars and experts of the Law of Moses (The Pentateuch). Jesus says, “Are you not aware of what God Himself declared from the beginning of creation, (Mark 10:6)? Don’t you know the very first thing God said about marriage?

5. Which Rabbinical school of thought did Jesus side with? (Matthew 19:4-6) When the Pharisees tried to get Jesus to side with one of the rabbinical schools of thought on divorce, Jesus rejected both schools (Matthew 19:3-10). Both Rabbinical schools were based on Deuteronomy 24:1-4. Jesus didn’t side with either interpretation but instead went back to Genesis and re-emphasized God’s original creation order in which there was no divorce. He even added a warning to it. “What therefore God has joined together, let no man separate.”

6. What verses does Jesus use in reaffirming God’s law against divorce? (Matthew 19:4-6) Jesus quotes Genesis 1:27, 2:24 “So God created man in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them” (Genesis 1:27). “For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh” (Genesis 2:24).

7. What was God’s intention in creating only one man and one woman? (Matthew 19:4) The distinction of the sexes, established at creation, underlies the institution of marriage and is the foundational for the human family and well-being of society. “Male” and “female” are without an article and singular, “a male and a female” indicating that the reference is to a single pair, Adam and Eve. God did not make provision for either polygamy or divorce by making more men than women or more women than men, nor did He make provision for a homosexual or lesbian couple.

8. What four reasons does Jesus give to show why it is not lawful to divorce? (Matthew 19:4-6)

First, Jesus said, God “MADE THEM MALE AND FEMALE.” In the Hebrew text of Genesis 1:27, both “male” and “female” are in the emphatic position, giving the sense of “the one male and the one female.” In other words, God did not create a group of males and females who could pick and choose mates as it suited them. There were no spares or options. (There was no provision, or even possibility, for multiple or alternate spouses. There were only one man and one woman in the beginning, and for that very obvious reason, divorce and remarriage was not an option).

Second, Jesus said, “FOR THIS REASON A MAN SHALL LEAVE HIS FATHER AND MOTHER AND BE JOINED TO HIS WIFE.” Since Adam and Eve had no parents to leave, the leaving of father and mother was a principle to be projected into and applied to all future generations. The Hebrew word translated “joined” or “cleave” refers to a strong bonding together of objects and often was used to represent gluing or cementing.

The third reason Jesus gives for divorce not being in God’s plan is that, in marriage, “THE TWO SHALL BECOME ONE FLESH.” As Paul declares in 1 Corinthians 7:4, spouses belong to each other in the physical relationship of marriage: “The wife does not have authority over her own body, but the husband does. And likewise the husband does not have authority over his own body, but the wife does.” Consequently, Jesus said, when a man and woman are joined in marriage they are no longer two, but one flesh. They are therefore indivisible and inseparable, except through death. One is the smallest indivisible unit. God’s marriage equation is not 1 + 1 = 2 but 1 + 1 = 1. In God’s eyes a couple becomes the total possession of each other, one in mind and spirit, in goals and direction, in emotion and will. When they have a child it becomes the perfect emblem and demonstration of their oneness, because that child is a unique product of the fusion of two people into one flesh and carries the combined traits of both parents.

The fourth reason Jesus gives for divorce not being in God’s perfect design is that, in the creative sense, every marriage is made in heaven. From the very first marriage of Adam and Eve, God has joined together every husband and wife. Marriage is first of all God’s institution and God’s doing, regardless of how men may corrupt it and deny or disregard His part in it. Whether it is between faithful believers or between pagans or atheists, or whether it was arranged by the parents or by the mutual desire and consent of the bride and groom, marriage as a general social relationship is above all the plan and work of God for the procreation, pleasure, and preservation of the human race. Whether it is entered into wisely or foolishly, sincerely or insincerely, selfishly or unselfishly, with great or little commitment, God’s design for every marriage is that it be permanent until the death of one of the spouses.

9. Did Moses give a command to divorce in Deuteronomy 24:1-4 as the Pharisees insisted? If not, what did he legislate? (Matthew 19:7) Jesus rejected the teaching on Deuteronomy 24:1-4 that had been passed down to the Jews of His day. In His Sermon on the Mount Jesus said, “It was said, ‘WHOEVER SENDS HIS WIFE AWAY, LET HIM GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE’; 32 but I say to you…” (Matthew 5:31,32a). The very word structure emphasizes that His teaching is in sharp contrast to what they had heard. The words “LET HIM GIVE” is a single Greek verb that is an aorist imperative. The Pharisees had turned this into a command, but the legislation of Deuteronomy 24 doesn’t start until verse 4.

The Deuteronomy 24 passage, upon which “marital unfaithfulness” is based, is designed to regulate an existing condition not to condone divorce. Verses 1 through 3 contain a series of conditional clauses “if” in the original Hebrew that establish a case situation. If this case situation existed then the legislation (command or prohibition) of verse 4 applies.

“When [if] a man takes a wife and marries her, and it happens that [if] she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and [if] he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out from his house, 2 and [if] she leaves his house and goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and if the latter husband turns against her and [if he] writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter husband dies who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband who sent her away is not allowed to take her again to be his wife, since she has been defiled; for that is an abomination before the LORD, and you shall not bring sin on the land which the LORD your God gives you as an inheritance.”

The Pharisees that came to Jesus said to Him, “Why then did Moses command to GIVE HER A CERTIFICATE OF DIVORCE AND SEND HER AWAY?” 8 He said to them, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives…” God never commanded that people get a divorce, He hates divorce (Malachi 2:16).

Furthermore, the Deuteronomy 24 passage cannot be construed to include “some uncleanness” after the marriage has been in existence for any length of time. Provisions had just been given two chapters previously for a man to contest the marriage at the beginning if he believed his wife was not a virgin (Deuteronomy 22:13-21).

10. Why did Moses allow for divorce? (Matthew 19:8) Jesus said, “Because of your hardness of heart Moses permitted you to divorce your wives.” The word “hardness” describes a heart dried up, hard and tough.

11. What is the difference between immorality and adultery? (Matthew 19:9; 15:19) Immorality is violating God’s moral law before marriage and adultery is violating God’s moral law while married. Matthew 15:19 says, “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries [Gr. moichos], fornications [Gr. porneia], thefts, false witness, slanders.” This verse demonstrates that Matthew didn’t use these two words interchangeably as mere synonyms but saw them as distinctly two precisely different sins.

12. Does immorality or adultery cause divorce? (Matthew 19:9) The text says that immorality [Gr. porneia] causes divorce, not adultery [Gr. moichos]. To teach that divorce is permissible on the grounds of “marital unfaithfulness” [Gr. moichos] is to build a doctrine on one word using the wrong translation for the word! The word fornication [Gr. porneia] cannot be restricted to “marital unfaithfulness.” The word adultery [Gr. moichos] would have been used if Jesus meant only “marital unfaithfulness.”

13. What does remarriage cause a person to become? (Matthew 19:9; Mark 10:11-12; Romans 7:2-3) The Bible teaches that when a divorced person remarries they become an adulterer or adulterous. “And I say to you, whoever divorces his wife…, and marries another woman commits adultery'” (Matthew 19:9). “And He said to them, “Whoever divorces his wife and marries another woman commits adultery against her; 12 and if she herself divorces her husband and marries another man, she is committing adultery'” (Mark 10:11-12). “For the married woman is bound by law to her husband while he is living; but if her husband dies, she is released from the law concerning the husband. So then, if while her husband is living she is joined to another man, she shall be called an adulteress; but if her husband dies, she is free from the law, so that she is not an adulteress though she is joined to another man” (Romans 7:2-3).

14. What does the “exception clause” mean? (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) Jesus said the only cause for divorce is porneia, which means:

1) Incestuous marriage – the man in the Corinthian church who married his father’s wife was condemned by Paul for his incestuous marriage). His sin is named as “immorality” [Gr. porneia] in 1 Corinthians 5:1. Incestuous marriages are condemned in Leviticus 18.

2) Sodomite marriage – a “marriage” between two men or two women was also condemned in Leviticus 18:22. The word “fornication” [Gr. ekpomeuo] is used for sodomy in Jude 1:7.

3) Betrothal unfaithfulness­ – if a man found that his wife was not a virgin at the time he married her, he was given the option in Deuteronomy 22:13-21 to divorce her. Matthew alone has the “exception clause” (Matthew 5:32; 19:9) because only a Jewish audience understand the betrothal period. This situation was illustrated in Matthew 1:19.


A MAIDEN, A VIRGIN: Joseph’s father, Eli, probably made the decision and choice of Mary to be his son’s wife. A father could make this decision alone (Genesis 38:6) but a mother could play a role (Genesis 21:21; 27:46) though it was not essential, the bride’s consent was at times asked for (Genesis 24:5,58). Romance was involved in some of the matches (Genesis 29:20; Judges 14:1-3; 1 Samuel 18:20, cp. Song of Solomon). The text is silent concerning how Joseph and Mary were matched. It only reveals that Mary was a virgin (Matthew 1:23,25, Isaiah 7:14).

DOWRY NEGOTIATED: Joseph the son of Eli traveled to the home of his prospective bride. Mary’s father then negotiated with Joseph. A price was negotiated which had to be paid to purchase his bride. Once again the text is silent concerning these details. Note: In Genesis 34:12, Shechem is willing to pay any bridal payment (dowry) for Dinah. In Exodus 22:16-17 one who has seduced an unbetrothed virgin has to pay a dowry. In 1 Samuel 18:25 Saul demands a dowry of a “hundred foreskins of the Philistines” for his daughter. Instead of silver or goods, an act of valor or of service was at-times performed to win a bride (Genesis 29; Joshua 15:16-17; 1 Samuel 17:25).

COVENANT ESTABLISHED: When Joseph paid the purchase price, the marriage covenant was thereby established. At that point Joseph and Mary were regarded to be husband and wife, even though no physical union had taken place. The paying of the dowry created a legally binding relationship. Even before his marriage to Mary, Joseph was called her husband (Matthew 1:19). Note: Before marriage Jacob called Rachel “my wife” Genesis 29:21, cp. Deuteronomy 22:23-24: “his neighbor’s wife” cp. 2 Samuel 3:14 “give me my wife Michal, to whom I was betrothed.”

BETROTHAL BENEDICTION: The moment the covenant was established, Mary was declared to be set apart exclusively for Joseph. Then Joseph and Mary drank from a cup over which the betrothal benediction had been pronounced. This symbolized that the covenant relationship had been established.

BETROTHAL PERIOD: After the marriage covenant was in effect, Joseph left Mary’s house and returned to his father’s house. He remained there for a period of twelve months, separated from his bride. During this period of separation, Mary gathered her wardrobe and prepared for married life. Joseph was busy preparing living accommodations in his father’s house for his bride. Matthew 1:18 states that “Mary had been betrothed to Joseph.” The verb “betrothed” in the active voice would signify to woo a woman and ask for her hand in marriage. But the verb here and also in Luke 1:27, 2:5 is in the passive voice, describing this period of being set apart and promised in marriage, (“espoused” KJV).

15. Does Scripture illustrate a just divorce consistent with the “exception clause”? (Matthew 1:18-20; John 8:41,48) Matthew 1:18-20 says, “Now the birth of Jesus Christ was as follows: when His mother Mary had been betrothed to Joseph, before they came together she was found to be with child by the Holy Spirit. 19 And Joseph her husband , being a righteous man and not wanting to disgrace her, planned to send her away [Gr. apolusai =divorce] secretly. 20 But when he had considered this, behold, an angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream, saying, ‘Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary as your wife; for the Child who has been conceived in her is of the Holy Spirit.”‘ Joseph was considering divorcing Mary when he became aware of her pregnancy. Despite the apparent betrothal unfaithfulness he did not want to disgrace her publicly but was intending to divorce her privately. A writing of divorce was required to break this covenant arrangement. The angelic messenger from the Lord changed Joseph’s mind and he “took Mary as his wife” (Matthew 1:24).

The Pharisees some 33 years later falsely accused Jesus of being illegitimate and the product of Mary’s unfaithfulness to Joseph during their betrothal period. Jesus at the Feast of Tabernacles in John 8:39-41 was questioning the Pharisees as to whether they were truly descendants of Abraham. The text says, “They answered and said to Him, ‘Abraham is our father’ Jesus said to them, ‘If you are Abraham’s children, do the deeds of Abraham.’ 40 ‘But as it is, you are seeking to kill Me, a man who has told you the truth, which I heard from God; this Abraham did not do.’ 41 ‘You are doing the deeds of your father’ They said to Him, ‘We were not born of fornication [Gr. porneia]; we have one Father: God.'” In John 8:41 they Pharisees sarcastically lash out and imply that He was the product of betrothal unfaithfulness and in John 8:48 they accuse Him of being a “Samaritan.'” They called the Holy Son of God an illegitimate bastard who had a demon and was the product Mary’s promiscuous behavior with some Gentile. If this had been true, Joseph had every right to divorce Mary.

16. How did the disciples react to Jesus’ teaching on divorce? (Matthew 19:10) The response of the disciples indicates that Jesus’ interpretation of Old Testament Scripture on divorce was much stricter than what they had imagined. The disciples were aware of the rabbinical schools. Their astonishment at Christ’s teaching would hardly be in order if He simply said, “You can only divorce for marital unfaithfulness.”

17. Why does Jesus use this occasion to address the topic of singleness? (Matthew 19:10-11; Genesis 2:18; 1 Corinthians 7:7-9; 9:5) Based on the disciples’ response in Matthew 19:10, it appears that the disciples were considering a life of singleness if divorce wasn’t an option. Jesus used this occasion to address singleness because the general rule is that “it is not good for man to be alone” (Genesis 2:18). Although the disciples concluded, “it is better not to marry,” Jesus said, “Not all men can accept this statement, but only those to whom it has been given.” The Apostle Paul talked about being given “the gift of singleness” or “celibacy” in 1 Corinthians 7:7-9 “For I wish that all men were even as I myself. But each one has his own gift from God, one in this manner and another in that. 8 But I say to the unmarried and to the widows: It is good for them if they remain even as I am; 9 but if they cannot exercise self-control, let them marry. For it is better to marry than to burn with passion.” Although the disciples boasted of remaining single they all married except Barnabas and Paul (1 Corinthians 9:5-6 cp. Mark 1:30).

18. What three categories of singleness does Jesus mention in Matthew 19:12? “For there are eunuchs who were born that way from their mothers womb; and there are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men; and there are also eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven…'”

  1. First “are eunuchs who were born that way from their mother’s womb.” These are people who are born with congenital deformities that involve undeveloped sexual capacity.
  2. Second “are eunuchs who were made eunuchs by men,” such as were male harem guards of that day. In some ancient religions, castration was considered a way of pleasing and serving a pagan deity and parents sometimes even had their infant sons castrated for that purpose. Obviously castrated men do not have normal desires for a woman.
  3. Third are “eunuchs who made themselves eunuchs for the sake of the kingdom of heaven.” Unlike the other two forms, this one is not physical. Mutilation of the flesh in order to please God is a purely pagan idea. Jesus is speaking of the voluntary celibacy of those to whom that gift has been granted by God (Matthew 19:11). In that case, celibacy can indeed be for the sake of the kingdom of God and be pleasing to Him and used by Him.

19. What does Jesus command a person to do with the gift of singleness? (Matthew 19:12) Jesus said “He who is able to accept this, let him accept it (present imperative).” Totally embrace it and continually use it to advance the kingdom. The word “accept” has the basic idea of making room or space for something. Metaphorically it means to completely embrace an idea or principle with the heart and mind so that it becomes part of one’s very nature. Singleness cannot be wholeheartedly accepted simply by human willpower or sincerity. Nor can it be successfully lived out simply by applying the right biblical principles. Celibate singleness is a kind of spiritual gift (1 Corinthians 7:7) and only those to whom it has been given can hope to spiritually survive in it, much less find happiness and be effective in the Lord’s service.

20. What is this gift to be exclusively used for? (Matthew 19:12; 1 Corinthians 7:32-35) 1 Corinthians 7:32-35 says, “But I want you to be free from concern. One who is unmarried is concerned about the things of the Lord, how he may please the Lord; 33 but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how he may please his wife, 34 and his interests are divided. The woman who is unmarried, and the virgin, is concerned about the things of the Lord, that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but one who is married is concerned about the things of the world, how she may please her husband. 35 This I say for your own benefit; not to put a restraint upon you, but to promote what is appropriate and to secure undistracted devotion to the Lord.”

21. What areas of compatibility are non-negotiable when evaluating a potential marriage partner? (1 Corinthians 7:39; 9:5; 2 Corinthians 6:14; Amos 3:3) Spiritual compatibility is a non-negotiable for a Christian single looking for a mate. When Christians marry unbelievers they forfeit a common treasure found in a relationship with Christ, they also miss out on a common blueprint (the Bible), common strength, and common values. The following verses require a believer to marry a believer.

  1. “A wife is bound as long as her husband lives; but if her husband is dead, she is free to be married to whom she wishes, only in the Lord” (1 Corinthians 7:30).
  2. “Do we not have a right to take along a believing wife, even as the rest of the apostles and the brothers of the Lord and Cephas?” (1 Corinthians 9:5)
  3. “Do not be bound together with unbelievers; for what partnership have righteousness and lawlessness, or what fellowship has light with darkness?” (2 Corinthians 6:14)
  4. “Can two walk together, unless they are agreed?” (Amos 3:3)

The answers to the questions above have been drawn from the following resources:

  1. Serendipity Bible for Groups by: Serendipity House, Zondervan Publishing House, 1998
  2. Rebuilders Guide by: Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1992
  3. Rebuilders Supplement by: Bill Gothard, Institute in Basic Youth Conflicts, 1978.
  4. When You’re Serious About Love: straight talk to single adults by: Kay Kuzma Here’s Life Publishers, 1992
  5. The Divorce Myth: A Biblical Examination of Divorce and Remarriage by: J. Carl Laney, Bethany House Publications, 1981
  6. Jesus’ Teaching on Divorce by: John MacArthur Jr., Word of Grace Communications, 1983.
  7. Lawfully Wedded by: Ronald Showers, Philadelphia College of Bible, 1983
  8. Meant to Last: A Christian view of marriage, divorce and remarriage by: Paul E. Steele and Charles C. Ryrie, Victor Books, 1986
  9. Call it Love or Call it Quits: The single’s guide to meaningful relationships by: Tim Timmons, and Charlie Hedges, Word Publishing, 1988.
  10. Bibliotheca Sacra, Vol. 135 No. 539 July-Sept 1978. Theological Quarterly published by Dallas Theological Seminary. “Cultural Aspects of Marriage in the Ancient World,” Edwin M. Yamauchi pg. 241-252
  11. An Expository Dictionary of New Testament Words, by: W.E.Vine, Thomas Nelson Publishers, pp.114, 371, 908.
  12. The International Standard Bible Encyclopedia Vol.3, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1956, pp.1996-1999.
  13. The Jewish Encyclopedia, “Betrothal,” Editor: Isidore Singer, Funk & Wagnals Company, 1907.
  14. The Role of Women in the Church, “The Teaching on Divorce,” by: Charles Ryrie, Moody Press, 1958, pp.40-50.
  15. Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by: Gerhard Kittle, translated by Geoffrey Bromley, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967.
  16. The Universal Jewish Encyclopedia – “Marriage,” by: Isaac Landman, Universal Publishing House, 1948.
  17. The Zondervan Pictorial Encyclopedia of the Bible Vol. 4 by: Merrill C. Tenny, Zondervan Publishing Company, 1975, pp.92-102.

On Divorce: 1

Matthew 19:7–10 / If divorce runs counter to the divine intention, then why, asked the Pharisees, did Moses give the law allowing a man to give his wife a certificate of divorce and send her away? Is Moses guilty of writing laws that run counter to the mind of God? Such an idea would be blasphemous in the religious culture of first-century Judaism. Jesus answers that Moses’ injunction regarding divorce came as a result of their hardness of heart. Williams translates, “It was because of your moral perversity that Moses allowed you to divorce” (Matthew 19:8). But that was not what was intended in the beginning. Actually, the requirement of a written notice of divorce made the process more difficult. Prior to that time a marriage could be dissolved by the man simply declaring it to be so. A written notice would give time for anger to dissipate and common sense to regain control.

Jesus continues by pointing out that whoever divorces his wife for any cause other than marital infidelity and marries another is guilty of adultery (Matthew 19:9). In the parallel passage in Matthew 5:32, divorce is said to cause the woman who is put away to commit adultery. In the culture of that day a divorced woman would very easily find herself trapped into a life of prostitution. In the present passage it is the man who commits adultery by remarriage. The point is that in God’s sight the man who divorces his wife for any cause other than her unfaithfulness is still married to her.

If that’s the case between a man and his wife, respond the disciples, then it would be better not to marry at all. The difficulty of achieving a perfect marriage becomes an argument against marriage itself.

On Singleness: 2

Matthew 19:11–12 / Jesus’ response to his disciples’ conclusion about marriage is that not all men are able to accept, “to make room,” thus, in a mental sense, “to comprehend or accept,” BAGD, p. 890) this saying, but only those “who have the gift.” Commentators differ as to what this teaching refers to. Some take it as a response to the disciples’ saying in the previous verse. For example, Knox translates, “That conclusion … cannot be taken in by everybody.” The problem here, however, is that God is held as agreeing with the disciples’ conclusion that it is better not to marry (Matthew 19:10). This runs counter to the divine intention in creation (Genesis 1:28).

It is better to take Jesus’ statement in Matthew 19:11 as referring to his teaching on divorce and remarriage in Matthew 19:3–9. Not everyone is able to accept his strict position on the subject, but only those to whom it [the ability to accept] has been given. It is not a question of whether or not a person should refrain from marriage for the sake of evangelism or because the end of all things is not far off. The issue has to do with true disciples who have had to divorce their wives for immorality and “out of obedience to Christ’s law concerning divorce they do not remarry” (Gundry, pp. 381–82). Those who cannot or do not accept the teaching are non-disciples and false disciples.

There are several reasons why men do not marry (or are unsuited for marriage). Some have been disabled from birth. Others were made that way by men (Matthew 19:12). It was not uncommon for servants in the royal harems to be castrated in order to protect the women. Also, in certain Mediterranean cults priests dedicated themselves to a mother goddess by self-emasculation (Beare, p. 391). Origen, one of the most influential thinkers of the early church, castrated himself, although in time he came to realize his error.

A third type of eunuch is the man who has renounced marriage because of the kingdom of heaven. This is voluntary celibacy, and, if one follows Gundry’s argument, these are those who “live as eunuchs after they have had to divorce their wives for immorality” (p. 382). So Jesus concludes, The one who can accept this (teaching on divorce and remarriage) should accept it. It is the mark of a true disciple to live in obedience to God’s best intention for human beings.

1 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (p. 181). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.
2 Mounce, R. H. (2011). Matthew (pp. 181–182). Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books.

Question: “Is remarriage after divorce always adultery?” 3

Before we even begin to answer this question, let us reiterate, “God hates divorce” (Malachi 2:16). The pain, confusion, and frustration most people experience after a divorce are surely part of the reason that God hates divorce. Even more difficult, biblically, than the question of divorce, is the question of remarriage. The vast majority of people who divorce either remarry or consider getting remarried. What does the Bible say about this?

Matthew 19:9 says, “I tell you that anyone who divorces his wife, except for marital unfaithfulness, and marries another woman commits adultery.” See also Matthew 5:32. These Scriptures clearly state that remarriage after a divorce is adultery, except in the instance of “marital unfaithfulness.”

It is our view that there are certain instances in which divorce and remarriage are permitted without the remarriage being considered adultery. These instances would include unrepentant adultery, physical abuse of spouse or children, and abandonment of a believing spouse by an unbelieving spouse. We are not saying that a person under such circumstances should remarry. The Bible definitely encourages remaining single or reconciliation over remarriage (1 Corinthians 7:11). At the same time, it is our view that God offers His mercy and grace to the innocent party in a divorce and allows that person to remarry without it being considered adultery.

A person who gets a divorce for a reason other than the reasons listed above, and then gets remarried has committed adultery (Luke 16:18). The question then becomes, is this remarriage an “act” of adultery, or a “state” of adultery. The present tense of the Greek in Matthew 5:32; 19:9; and Luke 16:18 can indicate a continuous state of adultery. At the same time, the present tense in Greek does not always indicate continuous action. Sometimes it simply means that something occurred (Aoristic, Punctiliar, or Gnomic present). For example, the word “divorces” in Matthew 5:32 is present tense, but divorcing is not a continual action. It is our view that remarriage, no matter the circumstances, is not a continual state of adultery. Only the act of getting remarried itself is adultery.

In the Old Testament Law, the punishment for adultery was death (Leviticus 20:10). At the same time, Deuteronomy 24:1-4 mentions remarriage after a divorce, does not call it adultery, and does not demand the death penalty for the remarried spouse. The Bible explicitly says that God hates divorce (Malachi 2:16), but nowhere explicitly states that God hates remarriage. The Bible nowhere commands a remarried couple to divorce. Deuteronomy 24:1-4 does not describe the remarriage as invalid. Ending a remarriage through divorce would be just as sinful as ending a first marriage through divorce. Both would include the breaking of vows before God, between the couple, and in front of witnesses.

No matter the circumstances, once a couple is remarried, they should strive to live out their married lives in fidelity, in a God-honoring way, with Christ at the center of their marriage. A marriage is a marriage. God does not view the new marriage as invalid or adulterous. A remarried couple should devote themselves to God, and to each other – and honor Him by making their new marriage a lasting and Christ-centered one (Ephesians 5:22-33). ]

[Based on my classes with Richard D. Leineweber, Jr. c. 2000]