TBU: The Bible Unpacked: In-Depth Edition

I.  General

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Chapter 18  Part I

General

God transforms his people by giving them the invaluable gift of spiritual life, in which they are “reborn” in a spiritual sense. Additionally, God makes them holy and accordingly begins to transform them to be like Jesus Christ and himself. God does this through such things as teaching and disciplining them.

God Makes His People Spiritually Alive

See also:

God’s people have spiritual life

See also:

Spiritual life involves being “alive to God” (Rom 6:11) and comes through having God’s Holy Spirit. Each believer has the Holy Spirit dwelling in them, renewing and nourishing them spiritually. Consequently believers have a spiritual consciousness that enables them to live in communion with and in dependence on God. As such they are “alive to God”.

One could make a parallel with a person’s own spirit enabling them to have physical life (for without one’s spirit indwelling one’s physical body, the body is dead). Somewhat similarly, having the Holy Spirit enables a person to have spiritual life.

Note that the following verses do not use the term “spiritual life”, but this is generally understood to be in view (though note the comment on Psalms 36:9).

John 3:6  That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.i ▤ 

i The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

This implies that through the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, one is born to spiritual life (cf. John 6:63 ).

John 6:47  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever believes has eternal life. ▤ 

Anyone who believes in Jesus Christ “has (now possesses) eternal life” (AMP; cf. NLT). As well as a future dimension, eternal life has a present dimension. As such eternal life can basically be correlated with spiritual life (cf. v. 63 ; John 5:24 ), life that comes through the Holy Spirit and God’s word.

John 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. ▤ 

In the second statement Jesus appears to be saying that his words are spiritual, producing spiritual or eternal life. In the light of the first statement, Jesus may well be implying that it is by the Holy Spirit that his words produce this life.

John 10:10  The thief comes only to steal and kill and destroy. I came that they may have life and have it abundantly. ▤ 

Life of such abundance is indicative of and can be correlated with spiritual life.

Acts 5:20  “Go and stand in the temple and speak to the people all the words of this Life.” ▤ 

Here an angel of the Lord refers to the “new life” (CEV, GNT, NCV, NIV) that believers have, a life that is spiritual and far richer than any other experience of life.

Acts 11:18  When they heard these things they fell silent. And they glorified God, saying, “Then to the Gentiles also God has granted repentance that leads to life.” ▤ 

Rom 8:6  For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. ▤ 

Particularly as this is speaking of life that comes through the presence and work of the Holy Spirit, “life” appears to refer to – or at least encompass – spiritual life.

Isa 55:3  Incline your ear, and come to me; hear, that your soul may live; and I will make with you an everlasting covenant, my steadfast, sure love for David. ▤ 

Ps 36:9  For with you is the fountain of life; in your light do we see light. ▤ 

The “life” spoken of here and in 133:3 below (cf. Deut 30:19-20 ) has many parallels with the spiritual “life” that is prominent in the NT, and is arguably akin to it. Here “life” denotes a full and blessed life (cf. John 10:10 ), stemming from a right relationship with God.

Ps 133:3  It is like the dew of Hermon, which falls on the mountains of Zion! For there the Lord has commanded the blessing, life forevermore. ▤ 

They have passed from their former state of spiritual death to spiritual life

See also:

1Jn 3:14  We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death. ▤ 

John 5:24-25  Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life. 25“Truly, truly, I say to you, an hour is coming, and is now here, when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. ▤ 

In v. 25, “is now here” implies that what follows refers to or at least is applicable to spiritual life, that believers can begin participating in now – which is consistent with the teaching in v. 24.

Rom 6:13  Do not present your members to sin as instruments for unrighteousness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and your members to God as instruments for righteousness. ▤ 

The suitability of the inclusion of this verse is somewhat debatable. The wording (supported by a number of other translations) does suggest that “death” is referring to one’s former state of spiritual death – in which case it would be suitable here. However, the wider context indicates that the believer’s subsequent death to sin may instead be in view (cf. NCV). If this is the case, the verse would be better placed in the following subsection.

Eph 2:1, 4-5  And you were dead in the trespasses and sin ▤ 4Butj God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— ▤ 

j Or And

Luke 15:24  For this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found.’ And they began to celebrate. ▤ 

This provides an illustration of a believer’s changed spiritual state, with the description of the prodigal son as being “dead” and now “alive”, “lost” and now “found”.

Eph 5:14  … for anything that becomes visible is light. Therefore it says, “Awake, O sleeper, and arise from the dead, and Christ will shine on you.” ▤ 

This speaks of a person waking from a state of spiritual death to the light – and by implication the life – which Christ provides.

  • The Israelites’ choice of life or death:

Deut 30:19-20  I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, blessing and curse. Therefore choose life, that you and your offspring may live, 20loving the Lord your God, obeying his voice and holding fast to him, for he is your life and length of days, that you may dwell in the land that the Lord swore to your fathers, to Abraham, to Isaac, and to Jacob, to give them. ▤ 

Moses exhorted the people to choose “life” (v. 19b), aligned with obeying God who was the essence of their life (v. 20b). Such “life” involved blessings; a full and fruitful life.

In union with Jesus Christ, their sinful selves have “died” and they are now spiritually alive

See also:

Rom 6:2-8, 11, 23  By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? 3Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4We were buried therefore with him by baptism into death, in order that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, we too might walk in newness of life. 5For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we shall certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6We know that our old selfk was crucified with him in order that the body of sin might be brought to nothing, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin. 7For one who has died has been set freel from sin. 8Now if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. ▤ 11So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus. ▤ 23For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. ▤ 

k Greek man

l Greek has been justified

In our union with Jesus Christ we are identified with him in his death and resurrection. In a spiritual sense our old sinful selves have died with him in his death and we have been made alive spiritually with him in his post-resurrection life. Thus we have “died to sin” (v. 2; cf. v. 11a), are “no longer be enslaved to sin” (v. 6b) and so have been “set free from sin” (v. 7). In conjunction with the above, we “walk in newness of life” (v. 4a) in union with Jesus Christ (v. 5b), living with him (v. 8b). Furthermore, in Jesus Christ we are “alive to God” (v. 11b) and have eternal life (v. 23b). Regarding vv. 5, 8, note that some commentators point to the future tenses as meaning that these verses are referring to the believer’s resurrection and life with Christ at the end of the age. However others claim that the context indicates that the believer’s spiritual resurrection and life on coming to faith is in view, with a future tense only used to indicate certainty. In v. 23 “eternal life” may well be meant to be inclusive of the spiritual life which God’s people have in the present.

Rom 8:10  But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. ▤ 

There is doubt – as is reflected in other translations – as to whether the Greek translated here as “Spirit” refers to the Holy Spirit who brings spiritual life or to the believer’s spirit. But both possibilities point to the spiritual life that believers have through their relationship with Christ and the Holy Spirit’s presence (cf. v. 9) – which are theirs on the basis of the righteousness that they have been granted (v. 10b).

Gal 2:20  I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. ▤ 

In the first couple of sentences Paul refers to his former “self” that was self-centered and sinful. This sinful “self” has died and now his being is permeated by Christ’s life – from which it can be inferred that Paul has spiritual life.

Gal 5:24  And those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. ▤ 

Col 2:11-13  In him also you were circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, by putting off the body of the flesh, by the circumcision of Christ, 12having been buried with him in baptism, in which you were also raised with him through faith in the powerful working of God, who raised him from the dead. 13And you, who were dead in your trespasses and the uncircumcision of your flesh, God made alive together with him, having forgiven us all our trespasses, … ▤ 

Note that “dead in your trespasses” (v. 13; cf. Eph 2:5a ) refers to the former dead spiritual state (spoken of in the preceding subsection) that is associated with the sinful nature. When one’s old sinful self dies through one’s union with Christ, one is made alive spiritually with him.

Col 3:3-4  For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. 4When Christ who is yourm life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory. ▤ 

m Some manuscripts our

“For you have died” (v. 3) quite possibly has in view the believer’s death to sin as being in association with Christ’s death (cf. NLT) – particularly with the subsequent references to the believer’s life with Christ.

2Tim 2:11  The saying is trustworthy, for: If we have died with him, we will also live with him; … ▤ 

Note that commentators differ on whether “we will also live with him” refers to the Christian’s spiritual life in him now or to living with Christ in heaven (cf. vv. 10, 12).

Eph 2:4-6  Butn God, being rich in mercy, because of the great love with which he loved us, 5even when we were dead in our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ—by grace you have been saved— 6and raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly places in Christ Jesus, … ▤ 

n Or And

In v. 6, what is true of Christ now, is applied to believers in a secondary, spiritual sense. Being “in him” they participate with him in his risen life and are in a spiritual sense positioned with him in heaven. The consummation of this will take place in the future (cf. v. 7). Note that “dead” (v. 5) refers to spiritual death as per the previous subsection, in which vv. 4-5 were included.

  • Through Jesus Christ’s death we have died to the things of this world:

Gal 6:14  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whicho the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ▤ 

o Or through whom

God’s people are spiritually reborn of God . . .

See also:

The expressions “born of God” and “born again” (cf. the following subsection) refer to the spiritual rebirth people undergo when they come to faith, and by which they have spiritual life. It is accomplished by God through the work of the Holy Spirit within a person’s heart or mind, along with exposure to God’s word. This spiritual birth means that believers are in a real sense children of God (cf. comment on 1Jn 3:9 ). It also begins a process of growing more like God, as believers share in his Spirit which transforms them.

John 1:12-13  But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, 13who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God. ▤ 

1Jn 2:29  If you know that he is righteous, you may be sure that everyone who practices righteousness has been born of him. ▤ 

Note that “him” may be referring to Jesus Christ rather than God.

1Jn 3:9  No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’sp seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God. ▤ 

p Greek his

“God’s seed” may well refer to God’s nature, particularly his personal or moral nature, inherited to an extent by those who are born of him. It has also been interpreted to refer to Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit and God’s word. (If the either of the latter two are in view, than this verse would also be pertinent to the following subsection.)

1Jn 4:4, 7  Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world. ▤ 7Beloved, let us love one another, for love is from God, and whoever loves has been born of God and knows God. ▤ 

The phrase “from God” (v. 4; cf. v. 6) appears here to have the same sense as “born of God” (v. 7).

1Jn 5:1  Everyone who believes that Jesus is the Christ has been born of God, and everyone who loves the Father loves whoever has been born of him. ▤ 

1Jn 5:18-19  We know that everyone who has been born of God does not keep on sinning, but he who was born of God protects him, and the evil one does not touch him. 19We know that we are from God, and the whole world lies in the power of the evil one. ▤ 

“We know that we are from God” (v. 19a) has in view being “born of God” (v. 18a). Note that “he who was born of God” (v. 18b) is Jesus Christ, the Son of God.

1Pet 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, … ▤ 

God has caused us to be born again, indicating that we have been reborn of him. Being born again, we now have a hope that is likewise living – real and ongoing. Note that “born again … through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” may have in view believers being reborn into spiritual life through their union with Jesus Christ. If so, then this verse would also be pertinent to the previous subsection – as indeed it is to the following subsection.

. . . They are born again of the Holy Spirit and through God’s word

See also:

John 3:3-8  Jesus answered him, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born againq he cannot see the kingdom of God.” 4Nicodemus said to him, “How can a man be born when he is old? Can he enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born?” 5Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. 6That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.r 7Do not marvel that I said to you, ‘Yous must be born again.’ 8The windt blows where it wishes, and you hear its sound, but you do not know where it comes from or where it goes. So it is with everyone who is born of the Spirit.” ▤ 

q Or from above; the Greek is purposely ambiguous and can mean both again and from above; also verse 7

r The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

s The Greek for you is plural here

t The same Greek word means both wind and spirit

There are a number of interpretations as to what “water” (v. 5) refers. They include: cleansing, here associated with spiritual birth; water baptism, for repentance; the Holy Spirit (cf. John 7:37-39); God’s word (cf. Eph 5:26; 1Pet 1:23); and physical birth. With the last possibility, “born of water and the Spirit” would mean that one needs to be born not only physically but also spiritually. Note that v. 8 speaks of the mystery of the Holy Spirit’s work in a believer. It is most likely implying one or more of the following: the Holy Spirit is sovereign in the lives of God’s people, doing whatever he pleases; one cannot comprehend the work of the Spirit in God’s people; or one “can’t explain how people are born of the Spirit” (NLT).

Gal 4:29  But just as at that time he who was born according to the flesh persecuted him who was born according to the Spirit, so also it is now. ▤ 

Titus 3:5  … he saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit, … ▤ 

Possibly “regeneration” or “rebirth” (NIV®, NRSV; cf. AMP, CEV, GNT) is here being attributed to the Holy Spirit, along with “renewal”.

James 1:18  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. ▤ 

The expression “brought us forth” refers to giving us birth (cf. AMP, NIV, NRSV).

1Pet 1:22-23  Having purified your souls by your obedience to the truth for a sincere brotherly love, love one another earnestly from a pure heart, 23since you have been born again, not of perishable seed but of imperishable, through the living and abiding word of God; … ▤ 

A number of commentators assert that the “imperishable” seed (v. 23) refers to “the living and abiding word of God” (cf. CEV). Alternatively it may refer to the seed of God (cf. 1Jn 3:9 ), which/who “is immortal” (GNT).

  • The Spirit gives life through Jesus’ words:

John 6:63  It is the Spirit who gives life; the flesh is no help at all. The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and life. ▤ 

This probably speaks of the Holy Spirit and God’s word (through Jesus Christ) together bringing eternal life – akin to spiritual rebirth. The second sentence implies that the description of Jesus’ words as “spirit” associates his words with the Holy Spirit. As such (as commented earlier) the first sentence would appear to be indicating that his words are used by the Holy Spirit to bring eternal life.

God’s people are a new creation

2Cor 5:17  Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation.u The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. ▤ 

u Or creature

Gal 6:15  For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. ▤ 

This implies that believers are – or at least should be – “a new creation”.

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ▤ 

Eph 4:20-24  But that is not the way you learned Christ!— 21assuming that you have heard about him and were taught in him, as the truth is in Jesus, 22to put off your old self,v which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ▤ 

v Greek man; also verse 24

The term “the new self” (v. 24; cf. Col 3:9-10 ) reflects that Christians are a new creation. Note that Paul speaks here of the putting off of one’s old self or nature and the putting on of the new self as an ongoing process. In contrast in Colossians 3:9-10 below he speaks of this process as having been completed, although the phrase “is being renewed” (v. 10) does point to an ongoing aspect.

Col 3:9-10  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old selfw with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ▤ 

w Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10

Note: God’s promise of a new or renewed heart and spirit – so that his people will be committed to him

Bear in mind that the verses below from Jeremiah and Ezekiel (which make up most of this subsection) have different stages of fulfillment, or at least an application in different stages of God’s plan for his people throughout the ages. There was arguably a partial fulfillment of them in the people of Israel or Judah following the Babylonian exile. They also point to the second covenant, with the enriched spiritual state of those who have faith in Jesus Christ. Lastly, they may well have a consummate fulfillment in the renewal of Israel or God’s people as a whole at the end of the age (cf. Zec 12:10 ).

Jer 24:7  I will give them a heart to know that I am the Lord, and they shall be my people and I will be their God, for they shall return to me with their whole heart. ▤ 

Note that they being God’s people and God being their God (cf. Jer 31:33 ; Ezek 1:19-20 ) is indicative of the people’s commitment to him.

Jer 31:33  But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. ▤ 

The writing of God’s law on their hearts points to a renewal of their hearts.

Jer 32:39  I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever, for their own good and the good of their children after them. ▤ 

This and Ezekiel 11:19 below may be figuratively speaking of God giving his people as a whole a new heart (cf. CEV). As such, the phrase “one heart and one way” points to a unity amongst the people, to follow God and fear him. Or the verses may be meaning that God would give each of his people “singleness of heart and action” (NIV®; cf. GNT) – i.e. an undivided heart totally committed to him.

Ezek 11:19-20  And I will give them one heart, and a new spirit I will put within them. I will remove the heart of stone from their flesh and give them a heart of flesh, 20that they may walk in my statutes and keep my rules and obey them. And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. ▤ 

The term “a heart of flesh” (cf. Ezek 36:26 ) – in contrast to a “heart of stone” – speaks of a pliable heart, compliant to God’s will and ways.

Ezek 36:26-27  And I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. And I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh. 27And I will put my Spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to obey my rules.x ▤ 

x Or my just decrees

Zec 12:10  And I will pour out on the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem a spirit of grace and pleas for mercy, so that, when they look on me, on him whom they have pierced, they shall mourn for him, as one mourns for an only child, and weep bitterly over him, as one weeps over a firstborn. ▤ 

This speaks of God’s spiritual renewal of Israel in the end days.

Deut 30:6  And the Lord your God will circumcise your heart and the heart of your offspring, so that you will love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul, that you may live. ▤ 

The promised to circumcise the people’s hearts is akin to the promise of a new heart in the above verses.

  • David’s request for a pure heart and a steadfast spirit:

Ps 51:10  Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a righty spirit within me. ▤ 

y Or steadfast

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Makes His People Holy

See also:

The concept of being made holy concerns God’s people being set apart for God, as dedicated to him – for such purposes as doing his work and worshiping him. This involves them being made pure from sin.

Being made holy has a couple of phases or facets. Firstly, when a person comes to faith their sins are forgiven and as such they are holy. Secondly, believers are made holy in that they are continually being transformed by God, becoming more like Jesus Christ and increasingly devoid of sin – a process often referred to as sanctification (though this term is sometimes also used of the first phase).

Note that in this second facet, believers are spoken of both as being passive and as being active in their sanctification. It is primarily a work of God through the Holy Spirit, but also something that believers are to strive towards (cf. Avoiding Sin and Being Holy).

God makes his people holy . . .

See also:

Ex 31:13  You are to speak to the people of Israel and say, ‘Above all you shall keep my Sabbaths, for this is a sign between me and you throughout your generations, that you may know that I, the Lord, sanctify you. ▤ 

Ezek 37:28  Then the nations will know that I am the Lord who sanctifies Israel, when my sanctuary is in their midst forevermore. ▤ 

Note that this is referring to a renewed Israel of the end times.

1Thes 5:23-24  Now may the God of peace himself sanctify you completely, and may your whole spirit and soul and body be kept blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ. 24He who calls you is faithful; he will surely do it. ▤ 

Heb 12:10  For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. ▤ 

1Jn 1:9  If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. ▤ 

In making people holy God forgives their sins and cleanses them from “all unrighteousness”, i.e. “everything not in conformity to His will in purpose, thought, and action” (AMP).

Ps 4:3  But know that the Lord has set apart the godly for himself; the Lord hears when I call to him. ▤ 

As noted earlier, being set apart for God is one aspect of holiness.

Ps 18:32  … the God who equipped me with strength and made my way blameless. ▤ 

Acts 15:9  … and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith. ▤ 

Note that this is referring to God’s part in the initial cleansing of believes, on their coming to faith, whereas a number of other verses in this subsection largely have in view the ongoing process of sanctification.

Heb 11:40  … since God had provided something better for us, that apart from us they should not be made perfect. ▤ 

This is alluding to either God’s people being made holy now – by what God has accomplished through Jesus Christ – or to the consummation of their holiness or perfection in the afterlife. Note that “they” refers to the OT saints mentioned in the preceding verses.

. . . God’s people are a holy people

Jer 2:3  Israel was holy to the Lord, the firstfruits of his harvest. All who ate of it incurred guilt; disaster came upon them, declares the Lord. ▤ 

1Cor 3:17b  For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple. ▤ 

God’s temple – the church – is “holy (sacred to Him)” (AMP).

Eph 2:21  … in whom the whole structure, being joined together, grows into a holy temple in the Lord. ▤ 

In Jesus Christ the whole church is joined together and grows (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV) to become a holy “temple”.

Eph 5:25-27  Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, 26that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, 27so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.z ▤ 

z Or holy and blameless

2Thes 1:10  … when he comes on that day to be glorified in his saints, and to be marveled at among all who have believed, because our testimony to you was believed. ▤ 

The term “saints” literally means “holy ones” – “holy people” (NCV™, NIV®, NLT).

1Pet 2:5  … you yourselves like living stones are being built up as a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. ▤ 

Isa 62:12  And they shall be called The Holy People, The Redeemed of the Lord; and you shall be called Sought Out, A City Not Forsaken. ▤ 

This is speaking of the spiritually renewed Israel of the end times, but arguably is applicable to all God’s people of all eras.

  • God enables his people to serve him in holiness and righteousness:

Luke 1:69, 74-75  … and has raised up a horn of salvation for us in the house of his servant David, ▤ 74that we, being delivered from the hand of our enemies, might serve him without fear, 75in holiness and righteousness before him all our days. ▤ 

By what he has done through Jesus Christ – as v. 69 alludes to – God enables us to serve him in holiness and righteousness throughout our lives.

God’s people are primarily made holy through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice

See also:

Jesus Christ’s sacrifice is the basis both for being forgiven of sin on coming to faith and for ongoing forgiveness – i.e. both being deemed holy initially and continuing to be deemed holy. In conjunction with this, it allows for Christians’ characters to increasingly reflect their holy status.

Heb 10:10, 14, 19, 22  And by that will we have been sanctified through the offering of the body of Jesus Christ once for all. ▤ 14For by a single offering he has perfected for all time those who are being sanctified. ▤ 19Therefore, brothers,a since we have confidence to enter the holy places by the blood of Jesus, ▤ 22let us draw near with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. ▤ 

a Or brothers and sisters

Being able to enter into God’s holy presence (vv. 19, 22) is indicative of God’s people having been made holy, for one cannot do so without being holy. The phrase “with our hearts sprinkled clean” (v. 22) alludes to the sprinkling with blood of Aaron and his sons to consecrate them (cf. Ex 29:21; Lev 8:30). Here it is used to refer to the parallel concept of the cleansing of God’s people – making them holy – by the shedding of Jesus Christ’s blood (v. 19; cf. vv. 10, 14; 1Pet 1:2 ).

Heb 13:12  So Jesus also suffered outside the gate in order to sanctify the people through his own blood. ▤ 

Col 1:21-22  And you, who once were alienated and hostile in mind, a doing evil deeds, 22he has now reconciled in his body of flesh by his death, in order to present you holy and blameless and above reproach before him, … ▤ 

Heb 2:9-11  But we see him who for a little while was made lower than the angels, namely Jesus, crowned with glory and honor because of the suffering of death, so that by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone. 10For it was fitting that he, for whom and by whom all things exist, in bringing many sons to glory, should make the founder of their salvation perfect through suffering. 11For he who sanctifies and those who are sanctified all have one source.b That is why he is not ashamed to call them brothers,c … ▤ 

b Greek all are of one

c Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verse 12

The reference to Jesus Christ’s death in v. 9 implies that this is in view as the means by which he sanctifies God’s people (v. 11).

1Pet 1:1b-2  To those who are elect exiles of the dispersion in Pontus, Galatia, Cappadocia, Asia, and Bithynia, 2according to the foreknowledge of God the Father, in the sanctification of the Spirit, for obedience to Jesus Christ and for sprinkling with his blood: May grace and peace be multiplied to you. ▤ 

The clause “sprinkling with his blood” appears to primarily refer to being cleansed (cf. Heb 9:13-14), as in OT sacrificial practices, akin to being made holy.

Gal 6:14  But far be it from me to boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whichd the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world. ▤ 

d Or through whom

This speaks of God’s people being set apart from worldly things – through Jesus Christ’s death – an important aspect of holiness.

John 17:19  And for their sake I consecrate myself,e that they also may be sanctifiedf in truth. ▤ 

e Or I sanctify myself; or I set myself apart (for holy service to God)

f Greek may be set apart (for holy service to God)

In saying “I consecrate myself” – or “I sanctify myself” (cf. text note) – Jesus appears to be speaking of totally dedicating or giving himself to God’s service (cf. text note, CEV, GNT, NLT), alluding to his approaching sacrifice of his life by which his followers would “sanctified in truth”. Note that this final phrase appears to be referring to Jesus followers being either: “truly sanctified” (NIV®; cf. GNT); sanctified to/for the truth (CEV, NCV); or “sanctified by the truth” (NKJV).

Heb 10:29  How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has spurned the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace? ▤ 

The “blood of the covenant” is Jesus Christ’s blood, shed in instituting the new covenant between God and his people. The verse is speaking of one who deliberately keeps on sinning after having received the knowledge of the truth (cf. v. 26).

  • Jesus Christ establishes our hearts “blameless in holiness” before God:

1Thes 3:12-13  … and may the Lord make you increase and abound in love for one another and for all, as we do for you, 13so that he may establish your hearts blameless in holiness before our God and Father, at the coming of our Lord Jesus with all his saints. ▤ 

God’s people are being made like God . . .

See also:

Eph 3:19  … and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ▤ 

Commentators differ widely on their interpretation of exactly what the final clause refers to. However it can be said that it appears to be referring to believers growing in God’s communicable attributes – basically his personal characteristics (cf. Eph 4:24 ; 1Jn 4:17 ).

Eph 4:24  … and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness. ▤ 

This is not so much saying that believers are being made like God. Rather, though not dissimilarly, Paul is encouraging his readers to take on their new selves which have been created like God. As believers do this more and more, their likeness to God becomes increasingly apparent.

Col 3:9-10  Do not lie to one another, seeing that you have put off the old selfg with its practices 10and have put on the new self, which is being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator. ▤ 

g Greek man; also as supplied in verse 10

In saying that “the new self” is “being renewed in knowledge after the image of its creator”, Paul appears to mean either that: through knowledge we are being renewed in God’s image; or we are being renewed in knowledge in accordance with the image of God.

2Pet 1:4  … by which he has granted to us his precious and very great promises, so that through them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped from the corruption that is in the world because of sinful desire. ▤ 

1Jn 4:17  By this is love perfected with us, so that we may have confidence for the day of judgment, because as he is so also are we in this world. ▤ 

As love is made complete among us, we become like God.

. . . God’s people are being transformed to be like Jesus Christ

See also:

Rom 8:29  For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. ▤ 

2Cor 3:18  And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord,h are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit. ▤ 

h Or reflecting the glory of the Lord

Paul has the development of the believer’s sanctification in view, with their characters growing more like Christ. As such believers increasingly reflect and even manifest Christ’s glory.

Gal 4:19  … my little children, for whom I am again in the anguish of childbirth until Christ is formed in you! ▤ 

Paul is speaking of “Christ’s nature” (GNT) being formed in the Galatian believers (cf. NCV, NLT).

Eph 4:11-13  And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the shepherdsi and teachers,j 12to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, 13until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood,k to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, … ▤ 

i Or pastors

j Or the shepherd-teachers

k Greek to a full-grown man

Note that this is probably primarily referring to the spiritual maturity of “the body of Christ” (v. 12), rather than to the individual believer, but it is still applicable to individuals.

Phil 3:10  … that I may know him and the power of his resurrection, and may share his sufferings, becoming like him in his death, … ▤ 

The final clause possibly means that Paul wanted to become like Christ as exemplified in his death, perfectly submissive and obedient to God. A different interpretation (not as relevant to this subsection) is that, following on from the preceding phrase, Paul is indicating that he was prepared to suffer for Christ’s cause even to the point of dying like he did (cf. CEV).

1Cor 2:16  “For who has understood the mind of the Lord so as to instruct him?” But we have the mind of Christ. ▤ 

Paul’s assertion that believers “have the mind of Christ” concludes the preceding teaching that believers have the Holy Spirit who knows the thoughts of God (cf. vv. 10-13). This points to their minds being or growing to be like Christ’s – and even God’s.

  • They are “filled” in Christ:

Col 2:9-10  For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily, 10and you have been filled in him, who is the head of all rule and authority. ▤ 

As Christ has all the fullness of deity (v. 9), through their union with him believers share in this fullness; they are “complete” (NKJV, NLT). These verses also point to the theme of the previous subsection, of believers being made like God.

Note: God’s people are his workmanship

Eph 2:10  For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ▤ 

Isa 60:21  Your people shall all be righteous; they shall possess the land forever, the branch of my planting, the work of my hands, that I might be glorified.l ▤ 

l Or that I might display my beauty

The renewed Israel, composed of all God’s people, is in view here.

Isa 64:8  But now, O Lord, you are our Father; we are the clay, and you are our potter; we are all the work of your hand. ▤ 

Jer 18:4-6  And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. ▤ 

Bear in mind that this speaks of Israel as a whole. (For further comment see God disciplines his people to rid them of sin.)

John 15:2  Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ▤ 

Rom 9:20-24  But who are you, O man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder, “Why have you made me like this?” 21Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for honorable use and another for dishonorable use? 22What if God, desiring to show his wrath and to make known his power, has endured with much patience vessels of wrath prepared for destruction, 23in order to make known the riches of his glory for vessels of mercy, which he has prepared beforehand for glory— 24even us whom he has called, not from the Jews only but also from the Gentiles? ▤ 

This passage – which has Jeremiah 18:4-6 above in view – speaks of all people as God’s workmanship. Verses 21, 23-24 in particular show that God’s people are his workmanship. For further comment on this passage see Note: God’s mercy and people’s destiny.

  • God will complete his good work in his people:

Phil 1:6  And I am sure of this, that he who began a good work in you will bring it to completion at the day of Jesus Christ. ▤ 

The term “good work” would appear to refer to sanctification, which would make the inclusion of this verse here complimentary to the theme of this subsection. But note that a number of commentators understand it to refer more generally to salvation.

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Teaches His People

See also:

God teaches his people

Ps 51:6  Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being, and you teach me wisdom in the secret heart. ▤ 

Ps 71:17  O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds. ▤ 

Ps 94:12  Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, … ▤ 

Ps 119:102  I do not turn aside from your rules, for you have taught me. ▤ 

Isa 30:20  And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. ▤ 

Following a period of discipline, God their Teacher would reveal himself to his people. Presumably then they would be responsive to his teaching unlike previously when they were “unwilling to hear the instruction of the Lord” (v. 9).

Isa 54:13  All your children shall be taught by the Lord, and great shall be the peace of your children. ▤ 

This refers to the future renewed Jerusalem, but is given a current application by Jesus below in John 6:45.

John 6:45  It is written in the Prophets, ‘And they will all be taught by God.’ Everyone who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me— ▤ 

Phil 3:15  Let those of us who are mature think this way, and if in anything you think otherwise, God will reveal that also to you. ▤ 

2Tim 2:7  Think over what I say, for the Lord will give you understanding in everything. ▤ 

Rev 2:7  He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches. To the one who conquers I will grant to eat of the tree of life, which is in the paradise of God. ▤ 

Jesus Christ’s first statement here is a refrain used a further half dozen times in chapters 2 and 3 of Revelation (cf. 2:11, 17, 29; 3:6, 13, 22). It is indicative of Jesus Christ (in conjunction with the Holy Spirit) being the source of the teachings – largely exhortations and revelations – for various churches contained therein, such as the teaching in the second statement here.

Ps 16:7  I bless the Lord who gives me counsel; in the night also my heart instructs me.m ▤ 

m Hebrew my kidneys instruct me

Even at night God instructed David through his thoughts and “conscience” (GNT).

  • Jesus opened his disciples’ minds so they could understand the Scriptures:

Luke 24:45  Then he opened their minds to understand the Scriptures, … ▤ 

God teaches his people how to live

Ex 24:12  The Lord said to Moses, “Come up to me on the mountain and wait there, that I may give you the tablets of stone, with the law and the commandment, which I have written for their instruction.” ▤ 

God’s law and commands contain his teaching about how we should live.

Deut 8:3  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every wordn that comes from the mouth of the Lord. ▤ 

n Hebrew by all

We should live on God’s word, following its instructions regarding how we ought to live our lives.

Deut 33:3-4  Yes, he loved his people,o all his holy ones were in hisp hand; so they followedq in your steps, receiving direction from you, 5when Moses commanded us a law, as a possession for the assembly of Jacob. ▤ 

o Septuagint; Hebrew peoples

p Hebrew your

q The meaning of the Hebrew word is uncertain

The “direction” (v. 3b) appears to be in relation to the law (v. 4a), i.e. it likely speaks of direction or teaching regarding how to live, rather than guidance for particular circumstances.

Ps 25:8-9, 12  Good and upright is the Lord; therefore he instructs sinners in the way. 9He leads the humble in what is right, and teaches the humble his way. ▤ 12Who is the man who fears the Lord? Him will he instruct in the way that he should choose. ▤ 

In v. 8 “sinners” refers to repentant sinners, such as David (as the context shows). God’s “way” (vv. 8, 9; cf. Ps 32:8 ; Isa 48:17 ) refers to God’s way/s for people to live.

Ps 32:8  I will instruct you and teach you in the way you should go; I will counsel you with my eye upon you. ▤ 

Ps 119:171  My lips will pour forth praise, for you teach me your statutes. ▤ 

Isa 48:17-18  Thus says the Lord, your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you to profit, who leads you in the way you should go. 18Oh that you had paid attention to my commandments! Then your peace would have been like a river, and your righteousness like the waves of the sea; … ▤ 

The references in v. 18 to God’s commands and the people’s righteousness suggests that v. 17 is primarily speaking of God teaching his people how to live, as opposed to giving guidance in making isolated decisions. Note that “teaches you to profit” has the sense “teaches you what is best for you” (NIV®).

1Thes 4:9  Now concerning brotherly love you have no need for anyone to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love one another, … ▤ 

Titus 2:11-12  For the grace of God has appeared, bringing salvation for all people, 12training us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright, and godly lives in the present age, … ▤ 

Isa 28:26  For he is rightly instructed; his God teaches him. ▤ 

The reference is actually to God instructing a farmer to know the various things to do to produce crops (cf. vv. 24-25). There is an obvious parallel between this and God instructing his people and teaching them the right way to live.

  • God made known to David “the path of life”:

Ps 16:11  You make known to me the path of life; in your presence there is fullness of joy; at your right hand are pleasures forevermore. ▤ 

Although it may be an allusion to eternal life (cf. Acts 13:35), here “life” quite possibly refers to a full and fruitful life. Thus David may be speaking of God making known to him the way to live so as to obtain or be granted such life. Alternatively David may simply be primarily referring to God delivering him from death.

God enables his people to know the truth

Note that in at least most of the following references, “the truth” corresponds largely to the gospel and/or related matters.

John 8:31-32  So Jesus said to the Jews who had believed in him, “If you abide in my word, you are truly my disciples, 32and you will know the truth, and the truth will set you free.” ▤ 

John 16:13  When the Spirit of truth comes, he will guide you into all the truth, for he will not speak on his own authority, but whatever he hears he will speak, and he will declare to you the things that are to come. ▤ 

The Holy Spirit guides believers “into all truth”, making known truth from Jesus Christ and ultimately God (cf. vv. 14-15).

1Tim 2:3-4  This is good, and it is pleasing in the sight of God our Savior, 4who desires all people to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth. ▤ 

This points to the fact that it is only because of what God has done as “our Savior” that we can be saved and, in conjunction with this, “come to the knowledge of the truth” (cf. 2Tim 2:25 ; James 1:18 ). Thus, God enables his people to know the truth.

2Tim 2:25  … correcting his opponents with gentleness. God may perhaps grant them repentance leading to a knowledge of the truth, … ▤ 

Titus 1:1  Paul, a servantr of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness, … ▤ 

r Or slave; Greek bondservant

As God’s servant and a commissioned messenger of Jesus Christ, Paul was used by God and Jesus Christ to impart “knowledge of the truth” to those to whom he ministered.

James 1:18  Of his own will he brought us forth by the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. ▤ 

This implies that God enables believers to comprehend the truth.

2Pet 1:12  Therefore I intend always to remind you of these qualities, though you know them and are established in the truth that you have. ▤ 

God is of course the ultimate source of this truth believers have.

1Jn 2:20-21  But you have been anointed by the Holy One, and you all have knowledge.s 21I write to you, not because you do not know the truth, but because you know it, and because no lie is of the truth. ▤ 

s Some manuscripts you know everything

Verse 21 indicates that “knowledge” (v. 20) refers to knowledge of the truth. Verse 20 appears to imply that it is through this anointing from God – the Holy Spirit – that his people know the truth (cf. GNT, NCV).

God makes known things about himself to his people . . .

See also:

Deut 4:34-35  Or has any god ever attempted to go and take a nation for himself from the midst of another nation, by trials, by signs, by wonders, and by war, by a mighty hand and an outstretched arm, and by great deeds of terror, all of which the Lord your God did for you in Egypt before your eyes? 35To you it was shown, that you might know that the Lord is God; there is no other besides him. ▤ 

Josh 3:10, 13  And Joshua said, “Here is how you shall know that the living God is among you and that he will without fail drive out from before you the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Hivites, the Perizzites, the Girgashites, the Amorites, and the Jebusites. ▤ 13And when the soles of the feet of the priests bearing the ark of the Lord, the Lord of all the earth, shall rest in the waters of the Jordan, the waters of the Jordan shall be cut off from flowing, and the waters coming down from above shall stand in one heap.” ▤ 

The reference is to God stopping the waters of the Jordan from flowing (v. 13; cf. vv. 15-17), emphatically making known to the Israelites that the living God was among them (v. 10).

Ps 103:7  He made known his ways to Moses, his acts to the people of Israel. ▤ 

Isa 43:10  “You are my witnesses,” declares the Lord, “and my servant whom I have chosen, that you may know and believe me and understand that I am he. Before me no god was formed, nor shall there be any after me. ▤ 

God enables his people to know him (cf. AMP, CEV, GNT, NIrV, NLT) and that he is the only God.

Isa 52:6  Therefore my people shall know my name. Therefore in that day they shall know that it is I who speak; here am I. ▤ 

God promised that his people would “learn who I am” (CEV; cf. NCV) and that it was he who had foretold their redemption (cf. v. 3).

2Cor 4:6  For God, who said, “Let light shine out of darkness,” has shone in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Jesus Christ. ▤ 

This is speaking of God enabling believers to know his glory through his revelation of himself in Christ.

Matt 16:15-17  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven. ▤ 

Luke 24:27  And beginning with Moses and all the Prophets, he interpreted to them in all the Scriptures the things concerning himself. ▤ 

John 17:7-8  Now they know that everything that you have given me is from you. 8For I have given them the words that you gave me, and they have received them and have come to know in truth that I came from you; and they have believed that you sent me. ▤ 

Eph 3:14-19  For this reason I bow my knees before the Father, 15from whom every familyt in heaven and on earth is named, 16that according to the riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through his Spirit in your inner being, 17so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, 18may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth, 19and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God. ▤ 

t Or fatherhood; the Greek word patria is closely related to the word for Father in verse 14

Here Paul appears to pray that the Ephesians would know and experience Jesus Christ’s love. The fact that he prays for this is indicative that he saw God as ultimately the source of such knowledge (cf. 1:18-19a ), through the presence of his Spirit and Christ in believers (vv. 16-17). For comment on “the breadth and length and height and depth” (v. 18), see the comment on Eph 3:17-19 – under Jesus Christ is loving.

. . . and God makes known other things of his to his people

Ps 25:14  The friendshipu of the Lord is for those who fear him, and he makes known to them his covenant. ▤ 

u Or The secret counsel

1Chr 17:19  For your servant’s sake, O Lord, and according to your own heart, you have done all this greatness, in making known all these great things. ▤ 

The “great things” included God’s plans and promises concerning David (cf. vv. 3-14).

Amos 3:7  For the Lord God does nothing without revealing his secret to his servants the prophets. ▤ 

Obviously this is speaking of revelation given to prophets. However they in turn were usually given such revelations of God’s plans to pass on to the whole of God’s people. To some degree at least, this is applicable to those with the spiritual gift of prophecy and their ministry in today’s church.

Luke 1:76-77  And you, child, will be called the prophet of the Most High; for you will go before the Lord to prepare his ways, 77to give knowledge of salvation to his people in the forgiveness of their sins, … ▤ 

God would first give his people “knowledge of salvation” through John the Baptist, in preparation for the coming of the Messiah.

John 15:15  No longer do I call you servants,v for the servantw does not know what his master is doing; but I have called you friends, for all that I have heard from my Father I have made known to you. ▤ 

v Greek bondservants

w Greek bondservant; also verse 20

Eph 1:16-19  I do not cease to give thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers, 17that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of glory, may give you a spirit of wisdom and of revelation in the knowledge of him, 18having the eyes of your hearts enlightened, that you may know what is the hope to which he has called you, what are the riches of his glorious inheritance in the saints, 19and what is the immeasurable greatness of his power toward us who believe, according to the working of his great might … ▤ 

Gal 1:11-12  For I would have you know, brothers, that the gospel that was preached by me is not man’s gospel.x 12For I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it, but I received it through a revelation of Jesus Christ. ▤ 

x Greek not according to man

By Jesus Christ the gospel of God was made known to Paul.

Col 1:9  And so, from the day we heard, we have not ceased to pray for you, asking that you may be filled with the knowledge of his will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding, … ▤ 

God reveals unknown and concealed things to his people

See also:

Deut 29:29  The secret things belong to the Lord our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law. ▤ 

The “things that are revealed” appears to primarily refer to the law – unknown to other nations (cf. Ps 147:19-20 ).

Ps 147:19-20  He declares his word to Jacob, his statutes and rulesy to Israel. 20He has not dealt thus with any other nation; they do not know his rules.z Praise the Lord! ▤ 

y Or and just decrees

z Or his just decrees

Isa 48:6  You have heard; now see all this; and will you not declare it? From this time forth I announce to you new things, hidden things that you have not known. ▤ 

Matters of the future – such as Israel’s restoration – are primarily in view here and in Jeremiah 33:3 immediately below.

Jer 33:3  Call to me and I will answer you, and will tell you great and hidden things that you have not known. ▤ 

Dan 2:22-23, 47  … he reveals deep and hidden things; he knows what is in the darkness, and the light dwells with him. 23To you, O God of my fathers, I give thanks and praise, for you have given me wisdom and might, and have now made known to me what we asked of you, for you have made known to us the king’s matter.” ▤ 47The king answered and said to Daniel, “Truly, your God is God of gods and Lord of kings, and a revealer of mysteries, for you have been able to reveal this mystery.” ▤ 

This refers to God revealing to Daniel the mystery of King Nebuchadnezzar’s dream. As well as speaking of the king’s own kingdom of Babylon, the dream spoke of the rise and fall of future kingdoms.

Matt 11:25-27  At that time Jesus declared, “I thank you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, that you have hidden these things from the wise and understanding and revealed them to little children; 26yes, Father, for such was your gracious will.a 27All things have been handed over to me by my Father, and no one knows the Son except the Father, and no one knows the Father except the Son and anyone to whom the Son chooses to reveal him. ▤ 

a Or for so it pleased you well

In v. 25 Jesus is referring to God concealing matters from the religious leaders, yet revealing them to Jesus’ lowly, humble followers. The “things” in question would appear to be matters of God’s kingdom (cf. Matt 13:11 ), including the significance of Jesus’ mission; revelation of God (v. 27) may also be in view.

Matt 13:11, 17  And he answered them, “To you it has been given to know the secrets of the kingdom of heaven, but to them it has not been given. ▤ 17For truly, I say to you, many prophets and righteous people longed to see what you see, and did not see it, and to hear what you hear, and did not hear it. ▤ 

Jesus revealed what had been God’s hidden teachings of the kingdom of heaven, previously hidden even from the prophets (v. 17). These were revealed to his disciples but not to others in the crowd (v. 11) – presumably in part at least because the others were not open to believing and/or were not prepared to intently seek the truth.

1Cor 2:9-10  But, as it is written, “What no eye has seen, nor ear heard, nor the heart of man imagined, what God has prepared for those who love him”— 10these things God has revealed to us through the Spirit. For the Spirit searches everything, even the depths of God. ▤ 

2Cor 12:1, 7  I must go on boasting. Though there is nothing to be gained by it, I will go on to visions and revelations of the Lord. ▤ 7So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,b a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. ▤ 

b Or hears from me, even because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited

Paul was given extraordinary visions and revelations, in which “he heard things that cannot be told, which man may not utter.” (v. 4b)

Col 2:1-3  For I want you to know how great a struggle I have for you and for those at Laodicea and for all who have not seen me face to face, 2that their hearts may be encouraged, being knit together in love, to reach all the riches of full assurance of understanding and the knowledge of God’s mystery, which is Christ, 3in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge. ▤ 

When one comes to know the mystery of God – Jesus Christ – then in turn one has access to the vast treasures of wisdom and knowledge that are stored up and “hidden” in him.

Job 12:22  He uncovers the deeps out of darkness and brings deep darkness to light. ▤ 

This may be speaking of God bringing mysteries and secrets things to light (cf. Dan 2:22-23 ) – possibly referring to “evil plans” (NIrV®); hence its inclusion here. Alternatively, it is possibly simply speaking of shining physical light into places of physical darkness and shadows (cf. CEV, GNT, NLT).

  • God takes the upright into his confidence:

Prov 3:32  … for the devious person is an abomination to the Lord, but the upright are in his confidence. ▤ 

Note: God’s word and truth dwell in his people – but not in others

1Jn 2:14  I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one. ▤ 

2Jn 1:1-2  The elder to the elect lady and her children, whom I love in truth, and not only I, but also all who know the truth, 2because of the truth that abides in us and will be with us forever: … ▤ 

Truth is more than simply a body of teaching that one can know. As reflected in 1 John 2:14b above, in a sense the truth “abides in” (v. 2) believers – “all who know the truth” (v. 1). As such it plays an active roll in their lives (cf. 1Thes 2:13 ), renewing and directing them.

1Thes 2:13  And we also thank God constantlyc for this, that when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men but as what it really is, the word of God, which is at work in you believers. ▤ 

c Or without ceasing

John 5:38  … and you do not have his word abiding in you, for you do not believe the one whom he has sent. ▤ 

God’s word does not dwell in unbelievers – as can also be inferred from the following verses.

John 8:37  I know that you are offspring of Abraham; yet you seek to kill me because my word finds no place in you. ▤ 

1Jn 1:8, 10  If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us. ▤ 10If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us. ▤ 

1Jn 2:4  Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, … ▤ 

  • God’s promise that his words (and Spirit) will not leave his people:

Isa 59:21  “And as for me, this is my covenant with them,” says the Lord: “My Spirit that is upon you, and my words that I have put in your mouth, shall not depart out of your mouth, or out of the mouth of your offspring, or out of the mouth of your children’s offspring,” says the Lord, “from this time forth and forevermore.” ▤ 

Israel’s future renewal may primarily be in view, but this still has an application to believers in the present.

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Disciplines His People (I): Reasons

See also:

When his people turn to sin, God punishes and disciplines them . . .

See also:

Note that in some of the follow verses the wicked among those who are supposedly God’s people appear to be primarily in view and the punishment spoken of seems to be of a final nature (bringing death) rather than simply disciplinary. But even so the teaching and principles involved are applicable to a large degree to God’s disciplinary punishment of any of his people for sin.

Ps 39:11  When you discipline a man with rebukes for sin, you consume like a moth what is dear to him; surely all mankind is a mere breath! Selah ▤ 

Ps 89:32  … then I will punish their transgression with the rod and their iniquity with stripes, … ▤ 

Jer 9:7-9  Therefore thus says the Lord of hosts: “Behold, I will refine them and test them, for what else can I do, because of my people? 8Their tongue is a deadly arrow; it speaks deceitfully; with his mouth each speaks peace to his neighbor, but in his heart he plans an ambush for him. 9Shall I not punish them for these things? declares the Lord, and shall I not avenge myself on a nation such as this? ▤ 

Jer 14:10  Thus says the Lord concerning this people: “They have loved to wander thus; they have not restrained their feet; therefore the Lord does not accept them; now he will remember their iniquity and punish their sins.” ▤ 

Jer 30:11b, 14  I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. ▤ 14All your lovers have forgotten you; they care nothing for you; for I have dealt you the blow of an enemy, the punishment of a merciless foe, because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant. ▤ 

Hos 5:2  And the revolters have gone deep into slaughter, but I will discipline all of them. ▤ 

Hos 10:10  When I please, I will discipline them, and nations shall be gathered against them when they are bound up for their double iniquity. ▤ 

Their “double iniquity” appears to denote multiple sins.

Amos 3:2  You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. ▤ 

Mic 7:9  I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. ▤ 

Ps 99:8  O Lord our God, you answered them; you were a forgiving God to them, but an avenger of their wrongdoings. ▤ 

. . . By punishment and discipline God causes his people to seek him again

See also:

Hos 5:14-15  For I will be like a lion to Ephraim, and like a young lion to the house of Judah. I, even I, will tear and go away; I will carry off, and no one shall rescue. 15I will return again to my place, until they acknowledge their guilt and seek my face, and in their distress earnestly seek me. ▤ 

1Ki 8:35  When heaven is shut up and there is no rain because they have sinned against you, if they pray toward this place and acknowledge your name and turn from their sin, when you afflict them, … ▤ 

2Chr 15:3-4  For a long time Israel was without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law, 4but when in their distress they turned to the Lord, the God of Israel, and sought him, he was found by them. ▤ 

Verse 3 is probably referring to the period of the judges, when the Israelites – “without the true God, and without a teaching priest and without law” – repeatedly turned away from God and sinned. This brought God’s punishment and hence the distress, leading the people to seek him (v. 4).

2Chr 33:9-12  Manasseh led Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem astray, to do more evil than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the people of Israel. 10The Lord spoke to Manasseh and to his people, but they paid no attention. 11Therefore the Lord brought upon them the commanders of the army of the king of Assyria, who captured Manasseh with hooks and bound him with chains of bronze and brought him to Babylon. 12And when he was in distress, he entreated the favor of the Lord his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. ▤ 

Ps 78:32, 34  In spite of all this, they still sinned; despite his wonders, they did not believe. ▤ 34When he killed them, they sought him; they repented and sought God earnestly. ▤ 

Ps 107:10-13  Some sat in darkness and in the shadow of death, prisoners in affliction and in irons, 11for they had rebelled against the words of God, and spurned the counsel of the Most High. 12So he bowed their hearts down with hard labor; they fell down, with none to help. 13Then they cried to the Lord in their trouble, and he delivered them from their distress. ▤ 

Isa 17:4, 7  And in that day the glory of Jacob will be brought low, and the fat of his flesh will grow lean. ▤ 7In that day man will look to his Maker, and his eyes will look on the Holy One of Israel. ▤ 

Verse 4 speaks of how Israel would be invaded by the Assyrians – a consequence of their idolatry and their alliance with the ungodly Damascus. The resultant devastation (v. 4) would move them to turn to God (v. 7).

Isa 26:16  O Lord, in distress they sought you; they poured out a whispered prayer when your discipline was upon them. ▤ 

Jer 31:18  I have heard Ephraim grieving, ‘You have disciplined me, and I was disciplined, like an untrained calf; bring me back that I may be restored, for you are the Lord my God. ▤ 

Ezek 14:4-5  Therefore speak to them and say to them, Thus says the Lord God: Any one of the house of Israel who takes his idols into his heart and sets the stumbling block of his iniquity before his face, and yet comes to the prophet, I the Lord will answer him as he comes with the multitude of his idols, 5that I may lay hold of the hearts of the house of Israel, who are all estranged from me through their idols. ▤ 

The latter part of v. 4 alludes to God’s disciplinary action, which would turn the people’s hearts back to him (v. 5).

  • The Egyptian’s turning to God in response to punishment:

Isa 19:22  And the Lord will strike Egypt, striking and healing, and they will return to the Lord, and he will listen to their pleas for mercy and heal them. ▤ 

This appears to speak of Egypt’s submission to God in the end times.

God disciplines his people to rid them of sin

2Chr 32:25-26  But Hezekiah did not make return according to the benefit done to him, for his heart was proud. Therefore wrath came upon him and Judah and Jerusalem. 26But Hezekiah humbled himself for the pride of his heart, both he and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, so that the wrath of the Lord did not come upon them in the days of Hezekiah. ▤ 

God’s disciplinary action led Hezekiah to get rid of his sinful pride.

Ps 119:67  Before I was afflicted I went astray, but now I keep your word. ▤ 

Isa 1:25  I will turn my hand against you and will smelt away your dross as with lye and remove all your alloy. ▤ 

Here God speaks of removing impurity from his people.

Isa 4:4  … when the Lord shall have washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion and cleansed the bloodstains of Jerusalem from its midst by a spirit of judgment and by a spirit of burning.d ▤ 

d Or purging

Jer 18:3-6  So I went down to the potter’s house, and there he was working at his wheel. 4And the vessel he was making of clay was spoiled in the potter’s hand, and he reworked it into another vessel, as it seemed good to the potter to do. 5Then the word of the Lord came to me: 6“O house of Israel, can I not do with you as this potter has done? declares the Lord. Behold, like the clay in the potter’s hand, so are you in my hand, O house of Israel. ▤ 

When the pot he was making from the clay became flawed, the potter remolded the clay into another pot, shaping it as he wanted (v. 4). In the same way when his people’s flaws became such that his people would not become what he wanted, God indicated that he would remold them (v. 6). Such remolding includes discipline to remove sinful flaws.

Mal 3:2-3  But who can endure the day of his coming, and who can stand when he appears? For he is like a refiner’s fire and like fullers’ soap. 3He will sit as a refiner and purifier of silver, and he will purify the sons of Levi and refine them like gold and silver, and they will bring offerings in righteousness to the Lord.e ▤ 

e Or and they will belong to the Lord, bringers of an offering in righteousness

The reference appears to be to Christ purifying his people of sin – the people of Judah and the priests in particular – on his return (cf. v. 1). The imagery suggests that it will be a severe disciplinary process.

Zec 13:1-2, 8-9  “On that day there shall be a fountain opened for the house of David and the inhabitants of Jerusalem, to cleanse them from sin and uncleanness. 2“And on that day, declares the Lord of hosts, I will cut off the names of the idols from the land, so that they shall be remembered no more. And also I will remove from the land the prophets and the spirit of uncleanness. ▤ 8In the whole land, declares the Lord, two thirds shall be cut off and perish, and one third shall be left alive. 9And I will put this third into the fire, and refine them as one refines silver, and test them as gold is tested. They will call upon my name, and I will answer them. I will say, ‘They are my people’; and they will say, ‘The Lord is my God.’” ▤ 

The punishment and refinement in vv. 8-9 appear to be associated with the purification attained in vv. 1-2. Together these verses depict the discipline and resulting purification of Israel in the end times. Note that the “fountain” (v. 1) signifies a form of purification, though unlikely a disciplinary one.

Heb 12:9-11  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ▤ 

Such holiness (v. 10) and righteousness (v. 11) is indicative of discipline cleansing one of sin. Note that v. 9 implies that God’s discipline saves us from spiritual death, and so is pertinent to the following subsection.

1Pet 4:1-2  Since therefore Christ suffered in the flesh,f arm yourselves with the same way of thinking, for whoever has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin, 2so as to live for the rest of the time in the flesh no longer for human passions but for the will of God. ▤ 

f Some manuscripts add for us; some for you

The suffering of Christians referred to here – “whoever has suffered in the flesh” – is according to God’s will, though as a result of doing good rather than sin (cf. 3:17). But even so sin is not totally absent from the lives of those who do good. These verses make the point that a significant effect of being faithful to God in the midst of such suffering, is disregard for whatever such sin that one may have previously entertained. As such, one “has ceased from sin” (v. 1) and does not live for “human passions” (v. 2).

  • God used Paul’s affliction to keep him from sin:

2Cor 12:7  So to keep me from becoming conceited because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations,h a thorn was given me in the flesh, a messenger of Satan to harass me, to keep me from becoming conceited. ▤ 

h Or hears from me, even because of the surpassing greatness of the revelations. So to keep me from becoming conceited

God, or Christ (cf. vv. 8-10), used Paul’s affliction, which apparently came from Satan, not so much as a disciplinary measure as a preventative measure – to keep him from becoming conceited.

God disciplines his people to save them from sin’s consequences

See also:

Job 33:19-20, 29-30  Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, 20so that his life loathes bread, and his appetite the choicest food. ▤ 29“Behold, God does all these things, twice, three times, with a man, 30to bring back his soul from the pit, that he may be lighted with the light of life. ▤ 

Job 36:8-12, 15-16  And if they are bound in chains and caught in the cords of affliction, 9then he declares to them their work and their transgressions, that they are behaving arrogantly. 10He opens their ears to instruction and commands that they return from iniquity. 11If they listen and serve him, they complete their days in prosperity, and their years in pleasantness. 12But if they do not listen, they perish by the sword and die without knowledge. ▤ 15He delivers the afflicted by their affliction and opens their ear by adversity. 16He also allured you out of distress into a broad place where there was no cramping, and what was set on your table was full of fatness. ▤ 

The “chains and … the cords of affliction” (v. 8) are imposed by God, so as to be used by him in exhorting those concerned (vv. 9-10). In the light of the earlier verses, the suffering mentioned in v. 15 appears to be suffering used by God for correction. The “distress” (v. 16) may be referring to the suffering itself, but alternatively it may well speak of the troubles that sin would have eventually resulted in.

Ps 94:12-13  Blessed is the man whom you discipline, O Lord, and whom you teach out of your law, 13to give him rest from days of trouble, until a pit is dug for the wicked. ▤ 

Those who respond to God’s discipline are spared the trouble that comes on the wicked (cf. Isa 38:17 ) in the time of God’s judgment.

Isa 38:17  Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. ▤ 

Here Hezekiah speaks of a time of intense suffering, which he attributes to God’s punishment or discipline for sin (cf. 2Chr 32:25-26 ). His words point to the fact that those who respond appropriately to God’s discipline are forgiven for their sins and no longer face destruction.

1Cor 11:32  But when we are judged by the Lord, we are disciplinedg so that we may not be condemned along with the world. ▤ 

g Or when we are judged we are being disciplined by the Lord

However, hard times from God are not always due to sin

Job 2:3  And the Lord said to Satan, “Have you considered my servant Job, that there is none like him on the earth, a blameless and upright man, who fears God and turns away from evil? He still holds fast his integrity, although you incited me against him to destroy him without reason.” ▤ 

Job’s hard times were not deserved – “without cause” (NLT; cf. AMP, NASB, NKJV, NLT). They were to vindicate his righteousness in the face of Satan’s accusations of Job only being godly to obtain God’s blessings (cf. 1:8-12).

Ps 44:14-22  You have made us a byword among the nations, a laughingstocki among the peoples. 15All day long my disgrace is before me, and shame has covered my face 16at the sound of the taunter and reviler, at the sight of the enemy and the avenger. 17All this has come upon us, though we have not forgotten you, and we have not been false to your covenant. 18Our heart has not turned back, nor have our steps departed from your way; 19yet you have broken us in the place of jackals and covered us with the shadow of death. 20If we had forgotten the name of our God or spread out our hands to a foreign god, 21would not God discover this? For he knows the secrets of the heart. 22Yet for your sake we are killed all the day long; we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered. ▤ 

i Hebrew a shaking of the head

Not only was the people’s suffering from God not due to sin (vv. 17-18, 20-21), but it was because of their faithfulness to him that they were looked upon as objects suitable for abuse and even death (v. 22). This illustrates that discipline or suffering is not necessarily due to sin. Often the reason may in fact not be apparent.

John 9:1-3  As he passed by, he saw a man blind from birth. 2And his disciples asked him, “Rabbi, who sinned, this man or his parents, that he was born blind?” 3Jesus answered, “It was not that this man sinned, or his parents, but that the works of God might be displayed in him. ▤ 

1Pet 3:17  For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil. ▤ 

  • Illness is not always due to sin:

James 5:15  And the prayer of faith will save the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up. And if he has committed sins, he will be forgiven. ▤ 

The final statement indicates that sometimes sickness is due to sin, but its conditional first clause also shows that this is not the case with all sickness.

God also tests his people to show if they will obey him and remain faithful

See also:

God tests his people to show or see if they will obey him, not in the sense that he wants to find out – as he knows all things – but more in the sense of proving or affirming their obedience. This can involve hard times and is not necessarily due to sin.

Gen 22:1-2, 12  After these things God tested Abraham and said to him, “Abraham!” And he said, “Here am I.” 2He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.” ▤ 12He said, “Do not lay your hand on the boy or do anything to him, for now I know that you fear God, seeing you have not withheld your son, your only son, from me.” ▤ 

In being prepared to sacrifice his son in response to God’s testing instruction, Abraham proved his fear of God (v. 12) and thus, in association, his obedience to God.

Ex 16:4  Then the Lord said to Moses, “Behold, I am about to rain bread from heaven for you, and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether they will walk in my law or not. ▤ 

Deut 8:2  And you shall remember the whole way that the Lord your God has led you these forty years in the wilderness, that he might humble you, testing you to know what was in your heart, whether you would keep his commandments or not. ▤ 

Deut 13:1-4  If a prophet or a dreamer of dreams arises among you and gives you a sign or a wonder, 2and the sign or wonder that he tells you comes to pass, and if he says, ‘Let us go after other gods,’ which you have not known, ‘and let us serve them,’ 3you shall not listen to the words of that prophet or that dreamer of dreams. For the Lord your God is testing you, to know whether you love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul. 4You shall walk after the Lord your God and fear him and keep his commandments and obey his voice, and you shall serve him and hold fast to him. ▤ 

Here the reason given for God’s testing is to find out whether they loved him completely – as opposed to following other gods (vv. 2-3). Such love involves obedience to him, as implied by v. 4.

Judg 2:20-22  So the anger of the Lord was kindled against Israel, and he said, “Because this people has transgressed my covenant that I commanded their fathers and have not obeyed my voice, 21I will no longer drive out before them any of the nations that Joshua left when he died, 22in order to test Israel by them, whether they will take care to walk in the way of the Lord as their fathers did, or not.” ▤ 

God would use the remaining nations to keep testing Israel’s obedience to him (cf. Judg 3:4 ), to prove whether they were committed to him, in the face of the lure of the ungodly practices of these other nations.

Judg 3:4  They were for the testing of Israel, to know whether Israel would obey the commandments of the Lord, which he commanded their fathers by the hand of Moses. ▤ 

2Chr 32:31  And so in the matter of the envoys of the princes of Babylon, who had been sent to him to inquire about the sign that had been done in the land, God left him to himself, in order to test him and to know all that was in his heart. ▤ 

God left Hezekiah alone (cf. NASB, NCV) to speak with these envoys, to see how true his heart was to God (cf. CEV). Regrettably Hezekiah revealed pride and/or a lack of trust in God (cf. 2Ki 20:12-18).

Job 23:10  But he knows the way that I take; when he has tried me, I shall come out as gold. ▤ 

This verse is often interpreted as referring to the purification brought about by testing, but more likely Job is expressing his confidence that when God has tested him, God will find him to be pure (cf. GNT) – i.e. pronounce him innocent (cf. NLT).

  • As fire tests silver and gold, so the Lord tests the heart:

Prov 17:3  The crucible is for silver, and the furnace is for gold, and the Lord tests hearts. ▤ 

Just as fire tests precious metals – both verifying their worth and improving their quality – so God tests the heart.

Further reasons why God disciplines and tests his people

See also:

Deut 8:3, 16  And he humbled you and let you hunger and fed you with manna, which you did not know, nor did your fathers know, that he might make you know that man does not live by bread alone, but man lives by every wordj that comes from the mouth of the Lord. ▤  … [God:] 16who fed you in the wilderness with manna that your fathers did not know, that he might humble you and test you, to do you good in the end. ▤ 

j Hebrew by all

In the desert, God caused the Israelites to hunger. Lacking bread, they had to rely on God’s miraculous provision by his word, with which he commands nature. This forced them to realize that it is not enough to rely on bread alone to sustain one’s life (v. 3). For God’s word is paramount to life, the ultimate source of fulfillment of all one’s needs. And so, by such testing, the Israelites would benefit “in the end” (v. 16).

Ps 119:71  It is good for me that I was afflicted, that I might learn your statutes. ▤ 

As elsewhere in this subsection, affliction appears to be spoken of here as being instigated by God as a disciplinary measure or to test his people.

Isa 38:13-17  I calmed myselfk until morning; like a lion he breaks all my bones; from day to night you bring me to an end. 14Like a swallow or a crane I chirp; I moan like a dove. My eyes are weary with looking upward. O Lord, I am oppressed; be my pledge of safety! 15What shall I say? For he has spoken to me, and he himself has done it. I walk slowly all my years because of the bitterness of my soul. 16O Lord, by these things men live, and in all these is the life of my spirit. Oh restore me to health and make me live! 17Behold, it was for my welfare that I had great bitterness; but in love you have delivered my life from the pit of destruction, for you have cast all my sins behind your back. ▤ 

k Or (with Targum) I cried for help

In v. 16a, Hezekiah acknowledges that such God-given trials (cf. vv. 13-15) are vital not only for people’s natural life but also for the life of their spirits, or their spiritual life. (Note, however, that the Hebrew text for v. 16a is apparently not clear.) One reason for such trials is that they teach humility – quite possibly in view in v. 15b (cf. NCV, NIV, NLT) – along with forgiveness of sin (v. 17b).

John 15:1-2  I am the true vine, and my Father is the vinedresser. 2Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit. ▤ 

The reference to pruning suggests that God uses discipline or trials so as to make his people more fruitful.

Heb 12:9-11  Besides this, we have had earthly fathers who disciplined us and we respected them. Shall we not much more be subject to the Father of spirits and live? 10For they disciplined us for a short time as it seemed best to them, but he disciplines us for our good, that we may share his holiness. 11For the moment all discipline seems painful rather than pleasant, but later it yields the peaceful fruit of righteousness to those who have been trained by it. ▤ 

Verse 9 indicates that God disciplines his people so that they may “live” – most likely referring to spiritual or eternal life.

James 1:2-3, 12  Count it all joy, my brothers,l when you meet trials of various kinds, 3for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. ▤ 12Blessed is the man who remains steadfast under trial, for when he has stood the test he will receive the crown of life, which God has promised to those who love him. ▤ 

l Or brothers and sisters. The plural Greek word adelphoi (translated “brothers”) refers to siblings in a family. In New Testament usage, depending on the context, adelphoi may refer either to men or to both men and women who are siblings (brothers and sisters) in God’s family, the church; also verses 16, 19

Note that James does not specifically say that such trials and testing are necessarily instigated by God. But what he says is applicable to all trials and testing. Moreover, God works in all things for his purposes.

  • Those who God corrects are blessed:

Job 5:17  Behold, blessed is the one whom God reproves; therefore despise not the discipline of the Almighty. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians

God Disciplines His People (II): Insights

God disciplines his people as his children, who he loves

Deut 8:5  Know then in your heart that, as a man disciplines his son, the Lord your God disciplines you. ▤ 

Prov 3:11-12  My son, do not despise the Lord’s discipline or be weary of his reproof, 12for the Lord reproves him whom he loves, as a father the son in whom he delights. ▤ 

Heb 12:5-8  And have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons? “My son, do not regard lightly the discipline of the Lord, nor be weary when reproved by him. 6For the Lord disciplines the one he loves, and chastises every son whom he receives.” 7It is for discipline that you have to endure. God is treating you as sons. For what son is there whom his father does not discipline? 8If you are left without discipline, in which all have participated, then you are illegitimate children and not sons. ▤ 

2Sam 7:14-15  I will be to him a father, and he shall be to me a son. When he commits iniquity, I will discipline him with the rod of men, with the stripes of the sons of men, 15but my steadfast love will not depart from him, as I took it from Saul, whom I put away from before you. ▤ 

Rev 3:19  Those whom I love, I reprove and discipline, so be zealous and repent. ▤ 

  • Because they are his people God punishes them:

Amos 3:1-2  Hear this word that the Lord has spoken against you, O people of Israel, against the whole family that I brought up out of the land of Egypt: 2“You only have I known of all the families of the earth; therefore I will punish you for all your iniquities. ▤ 

The term “known” appears to be indicative of his close relationship with them and/or that he has chosen them (cf. AMP, CEV, NCV, NIV, NLT). As they are the ones he has “known”, God punishes and disciplines his people for their sins. Verse 2 may also allude to the fact that as they are his people, their sin is all the more reprehensible and in committing it they are more culpable.

God’s discipline is characterized by faithfulness and justice

See also:

Ps 119:75  I know, O Lord, that your rules are righteous, and that in faithfulness you have afflicted me. ▤ 

In disciplining his people God is being faithful. For true to his promises he is working for their greater good, notably in purifying them and consolidating their relationship with him, which in turn leads to great blessing.

Neh 9:30-31, 33  Many years you bore with them and warned them by your Spirit through your prophets. Yet they would not give ear. Therefore you gave them into the hand of the peoples of the lands. 31Nevertheless, in your great mercies you did not make an end of them or forsake them, for you are a gracious and merciful God. ▤ 33Yet you have been righteous in all that has come upon us, for you have dealt faithfully and we have acted wickedly. ▤ 

As well as speaking of his patience and mercy, vv. 30-31 beautifully illustrate God’s faithfulness and justice in his discipline and dealings with his people, affirmed in v. 33.

Isa 30:17-18  A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. 18Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. ▤ 

“For the Lord is a God of justice” (v. 18b) may have in view his discipline (v. 17) because of his people’s sin (vv. 8-16), as well as his mercy (v. 18a) – underlining that God always does the right thing by his people.

Jer 30:11  For I am with you to save you, declares the Lord; I will make a full end of all the nations among whom I scattered you, but of you I will not make a full end. I will discipline you in just measure, and I will by no means leave you unpunished. ▤ 

Note that the contents of this verse is repeated almost verbatim in 46:28, including the segment: “I will discipline you in just measure”.

Dan 9:14  Therefore the Lord has kept ready the calamity and has brought it upon us, for the Lord our God is righteous in all the works that he has done, and we have not obeyed his voice. ▤ 

God’s righteousness is of course associated with his justice (cf. NLT).

God’s punishment of his people is warranted . . .

See also:

Jer 21:14  I will punish you according to the fruit of your deeds, declares the Lord; I will kindle a fire in her forest, and it shall devour all that is around her. ▤ 

Ezek 16:59  For thus says the Lord God: I will deal with you as you have done, you who have despised the oath in breaking the covenant, … ▤ 

Jer 13:22  And if you say in your heart, ‘Why have these things come upon me?’ it is for the greatness of your iniquity that your skirts are lifted up and you suffer violence. ▤ 

The latter part of the verse figuratively describes Judah’s sufferings at the hands of foreign invaders. Some commentators say that the reference is to the public disgracing of a prostitute.

Jer 30:15  Why do you cry out over your hurt? Your pain is incurable. Because your guilt is great, because your sins are flagrant, I have done these things to you. ▤ 

Israel had no valid reason to cry out or protest about the punishment God had inflicted on her – it was well deserved.

Ezek 14:23  They will console you, when you see their ways and their deeds, and you shall know that I have not done without cause all that I have done in it, declares the Lord God. ▤ 

God assured Ezekiel that when he saw the ungodliness of those who had previously remained in Jerusalem, he would realize that God had done nothing in his destruction of it without good cause.

Ezek 39:23-24  And the nations shall know that the house of Israel went into captivity for their iniquity, because they dealt so treacherously with me that I hid my face from them and gave them into the hand of their adversaries, and they all fell by the sword. 24I dealt with them according to their uncleanness and their transgressions, and hid my face from them. ▤ 

. . . and God’s punishment is often less than what his people’s sins really deserve

Ps 103:10  He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. ▤ 

Ezra 9:13  And after all that has come upon us for our evil deeds and for our great guilt, seeing that you, our God, have punished us less than our iniquities deserved and have given us such a remnant as this, … ▤ 

Job 33:19, 26-28  Man is also rebuked with pain on his bed and with continual strife in his bones, ▤ 26then manm prays to God, and he accepts him; he sees his face with a shout of joy, and he restores to man his righteousness. 27He sings before men and says: ‘I sinned and perverted what was right, and it was not repaid to me. 28He has redeemed my soul from going down into the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.’ ▤ 

m Hebrew he

In the second clause of v. 26, the speaker may well mean that he did not get what he deserved (cf. NCV, NIV).

Job 11:6b  For he is manifold in understanding.n Know then that God exacts of you less than your guilt deserves. ▤ 

n The meaning of the Hebrew is uncertain

The final statement in effect means that God “has punished you less than you deserve” (CEV; cf. GNT, NCV). Note that although generally at least what Zophar says is true, Zophar’s implication that Job was being punished was not actually correct.

God’s discipline and testing are temporary . . .

Ps 30:5  For his anger is but for a moment, and his favor is for a lifetime.o Weeping may tarry for the night, but joy comes with the morning. ▤ 

o Or and in his favor is life

Such references to God’s anger (cf. Ps 103:9 ) point to his discipline and punishment.

Ps 103:9  He will not always chide, nor will he keep his anger forever. ▤ 

Lam 4:22  The punishment of your iniquity, O daughter of Zion, is accomplished; he will keep you in exile no longer;p but your iniquity, O daughter of Edom, he will punish; he will uncover your sins. ▤ 

p Or he will not exile you again

Nah 1:12-13  Thus says the Lord, “Though they are at full strength and many, they will be cut down and pass away. Though I have afflicted you, I will afflict you no more. 13And now I will break his yoke from off you and will burst your bonds apart.” ▤ 

1Pet 1:6  In this you rejoice, though now for a little while, if necessary, you have been grieved by various trials, … ▤ 

Note that in contrast to the above verses and the ones in the following subsection, the trials and suffering mentioned here and in 5:10 below were not necessarily due to sin. They were quite possibly a form of testing rather than punishment.

1Pet 5:10  And after you have suffered a little while, the God of all grace, who has called you to his eternal glory in Christ, will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. ▤ 

. . . Due to his mercy and compassion, God limits his people’s punishment

See also:

Neh 9:26-28  Nevertheless, they were disobedient and rebelled against you and cast your law behind their back and killed your prophets, who had warned them in order to turn them back to you, and they committed great blasphemies. 27Therefore you gave them into the hand of their enemies, who made them suffer. And in the time of their suffering they cried out to you and you heard them from heaven, and according to your great mercies you gave them saviors who saved them from the hand of their enemies. 28But after they had rest they did evil again before you, and you abandoned them to the hand of their enemies, so that they had dominion over them. Yet when they turned and cried to you, you heard from heaven, and many times you delivered them according to your mercies. ▤ 

Ps 78:38-39  Yet he, being compassionate, atoned for their iniquity and did not destroy them; he restrained his anger often and did not stir up all his wrath. 39He remembered that they were but flesh, a wind that passes and comes not again. ▤ 

Verse 38b indicates that God – at times at least – limits the ferocity of his discipline. Due to his compassion, God’s discipline is both tempered and temporary. Verse 39 further reflects God’s compassion.

Isa 30:17-20  A thousand shall flee at the threat of one; at the threat of five you shall flee, till you are left like a flagstaff on the top of a mountain, like a signal on a hill. 18Therefore the Lord waits to be gracious to you, and therefore he exalts himself to show mercy to you. For the Lord is a God of justice; blessed are all those who wait for him. 19For a people shall dwell in Zion, in Jerusalem; you shall weep no more. He will surely be gracious to you at the sound of your cry. As soon as he hears it, he answers you. 20And though the Lord give you the bread of adversity and the water of affliction, yet your Teacher will not hide himself anymore, but your eyes shall see your Teacher. ▤ 

Along with vv. 18-19, v. 20 points to the people’s deliverance.

Isa 54:7-8  For a brief moment I deserted you, but with great compassion I will gather you. 8In overflowing anger for a moment I hid my face from you, but with everlasting love I will have compassion on you,” says the Lord, your Redeemer. ▤ 

Lam 3:31-32  For the Lord will not cast off forever, 32but, though he cause grief, he will have compassion according to the abundance of his steadfast love; … ▤ 

God’s apparent rejection (v. 31) and punishment (v. 32) of his people are not permanent – he does again show compassion.

Ps 106:43-46  Many times he delivered them, but they were rebellious in their purposes and were brought low through their iniquity. 44Nevertheless, he looked upon their distress, when he heard their cry. 45For their sake he remembered his covenant, and relented according to the abundance of his steadfast love. 46He caused them to be pitied by all those who held them captive. ▤ 

This indicates that God “showed compassion” (NRSV) in discontinuing his people’s punishment – along with his steadfast love (v. 45).

  • God does not like to punish people:

Lam 3:33  … for he does not willingly afflict or grieve the children of men. ▤ 

God’s discipline and testing can be intense, but God brings his people through

Deut 4:20  But the Lord has taken you and brought you out of the iron furnace, out of Egypt, to be a people of his own inheritance, as you are this day. ▤ 

The use of the phrase “iron furnace” in reference to the Israelites’ time in Egypt, points to this time of great suffering as being one of refinement and purification, i.e. a time of testing or discipline.

Ps 66:10-12  For you, O God, have tested us; you have tried us as silver is tried. 11You brought us into the net; you laid a crushing burden on our backs; 12you let men ride over our heads; we went through fire and through water; yet you have brought us out to a place of abundance. ▤ 

Ps 71:20-21  You who have made me see many troubles and calamities will revive me again; from the depths of the earth you will bring me up again. 21You will increase my greatness and comfort me again. ▤ 

Ps 118:18, 21  The Lord has disciplined me severely, but he has not given me over to death. ▤ 21I thank you that you have answered me and have become my salvation. ▤ 

Isa 30:26  Moreover, the light of the moon will be as the light of the sun, and the light of the sun will be sevenfold, as the light of seven days, in the day when the Lord binds up the brokenness of his people, and heals the wounds inflicted by his blow. ▤ 

Isa 40:1-2  Comfort, comfort my people, says your God. 2Speak tenderly to Jerusalem, and cry to her that her warfareq is ended, that her iniquity is pardoned, that she has received from the Lord’s hand double for all her sins. ▤ 

q Or time of service

In v. 2a, “her warfare” likely speaks of suffering from warfare. In v. 2b, “double” may well be hyperbole to indicate that God had punished the Israelites “in full” (GNT, NLT) for their sin.

Jer 30:4-8  These are the words that the Lord spoke concerning Israel and Judah: 5“Thus says the Lord: We have heard a cry of panic, of terror, and no peace. 6Ask now, and see, can a man bear a child? Why then do I see every man with his hands on his stomach like a woman in labor? Why has every face turned pale? 7Alas! That day is so great there is none like it; it is a time of distress for Jacob; yet he shall be saved out of it. 8“And it shall come to pass in that day, declares the Lord of hosts, that I will break his yoke from off your neck, and I will burst your bonds, and foreigners shall no more make a servant of him.r ▤ 

r Or serve him

This may be ultimately speaking of the end times. It tells of the intense suffering of Israel – or possibly God’s people in general – and God’s subsequent deliverance of them out of it.

Mic 4:10  Writhe and groan,s O daughter of Zion, like a woman in labor, for now you shall go out from the city and dwell in the open country; you shall go to Babylon. There you shall be rescued; there the Lord will redeem you from the hand of your enemies. ▤ 

s Or push

Mic 7:9  I will bear the indignation of the Lord because I have sinned against him, until he pleads my cause and executes judgment for me. He will bring me out to the light; I shall look upon his vindication. ▤ 

  • God brought Jonah through his corrective ordeal in the sea:

Jonah 2:3-6  For you cast me into the deep, into the heart of the seas, and the flood surrounded me; all your waves and your billows passed over me. 4Then I said, ‘I am driven away from your sight; yet I shall again look upon your holy temple.’ 5The waters closed in over me to take my life; the deep surrounded me; weeds were wrapped about my head 6at the roots of the mountains. I went down to the land whose bars closed upon me forever; yet you brought up my life from the pit, O Lord my God. ▤ 

Pray for persecuted Christians