- The Need to Obey God
- The Need for Good Deeds
- Living Free of the Law and Sin – by the Spirit
- Epilogue: Living ‘in’ Jesus Christ
As seen in the first half of this chapter, being made right with God involves being forgiven and granted righteousness. Having been made right with God, it is critical that we live in accordance with this standing, so as to stay right with God. The following topics deal with some key aspects involved in staying right with God.
- Obedience accompanies belief and faith
- Obedience leads to righteousness
- Obedience leads to holiness and purity
- Obedience brings one into a close relationship with God and Jesus Christ . . .
- . . . God and Jesus Christ are with those who obey – they in God and he in them
- Obedience and doing God’s will are critical for salvation
- Obedience and doing God’s will lead to eternal life
- Not obeying God ultimately ends in eternal destruction
Obedience does not make us righteous nor earn us salvation. But we need to obey God in keeping with the righteous state before God that is granted to believers through faith in Jesus Christ. (See the introductory comment below on Obedience leads to righteousness.) Moreover, in striving to obey God and to do his will, we effectively accept or grasp the undeserved salvation made possible by God’s grace. These same points can be made regarding good deeds – an aspect of obeying God – the subject of the following chapter section.
Coming to faith on believing the gospel message, subsequently entails obedience to God.
The phrase “the obedience of faith” (cf. Rom 16:26 ↓) may well be speaking of obedience that comes from faith, both initial belief and ongoing faith. Alternatively it may be speaking of faith itself as being an act of obedience, to the gospel message.
Rom 15:18-19 For I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience—by word and deed, 19by the power of signs and wonders, by the power of the Spirit of God—so that from Jerusalem and all the way around to Illyricum I have fulfilled the ministry of the gospel of Christ; … ▤
The Gentiles came to live in obedience to God through believing Paul’s words and deeds – his proclamation of the gospel, supported by the miracles he performed. As such their obedience was a direct consequence of their belief.
Rom 16:25-27 Now to him who is able to strengthen you according to my gospel and the preaching of Jesus Christ, according to the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages 26but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith— 27to the only wise God be glory forevermore through Jesus Christ! Amen. ▤
A key purpose of the spreading of the gospel (vv. 25-26b) is “to bring about the obedience of faith” (v. 26b).
2Cor 9:13 By their approval of this service, theye will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, … ▤
e Or you
This suggests that obedience should accompany genuine belief of the gospel, with Paul speaking of “this service” as proof of the Corinthians’ faith (cf. NCV NIrV).
The final clause indicates that these priests became believers, pre-emptive to becoming obedient to the commands of the body of truth referred to here as “the faith”. In effect it is saying that they “believed and obeyed” (NCV™).
With the opposite results of having eternal life and not seeing life, this contrasts belief with not obeying. As such, by implication it associates belief with obeying.
The phrase “obeying the truth” speaks of obedience to the truth’s requirements, subsequent to belief of it.
- Those who believe Jesus must obey him to be truly his disciples:
Righteousness involves conformity to the will of God. As such obedience is critical for it.
However, as is the case earlier in this chapter, righteousness is also sometimes spoken of in a stricter legal sense – in regard to being deemed as righteous by God. This cannot be achieved just by obedience, simply because it is impossible to obey God’s law perfectly so as to be declared completely righteous before him. When Paul says in Romans 2:13 that “those who obey the law who will be declared righteous” the implication behind it is that no one can do this. It is only by faith in Jesus Christ that one can be declared as righteous in this sense.
But bear in mind that obedience goes hand in hand with faith, as shown above in Obedience accompanies belief and faith. Faith requires obedience and is shown to be valid by it. No one will be declared righteous on Judgment Day without having endeavoured to be obedient. So Paul can also say in Romans 6:16 (below) that obedience “leads to righteousness”, a concept applicable to all senses of the word “righteousness”.
Rom 6:16-18 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,f you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, 18and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. ▤
f Greek bondservants. Twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20
Note that some other translations interpret the Hebrew rendered here as “righteousness” to refer instead to success or blessing (cf. CEV, GNT, NCV, NRSV).
Those who practice righteousness – which basically involves obeying God – are righteous.
Ps 106:28-31 Then they yoked themselves to the Baal of Peor, and ate sacrifices offered to the dead; 29they provoked the Lord to anger with their deeds, and a plague broke out among them. 30Then Phinehas stood up and intervened, and the plague was stayed. 31And that was counted to him as righteousness from generation to generation forever. ▤
Phinehas’ action against apostasy, indicative of his devotion and obedience to God, was credited to him as righteousness.
Rom 6:19, 22 I am speaking in human terms, because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification. ▤ … 22But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life. ▤
Paul’s readers had become “obedient from the heart” (v. 17 ⇑) and so had become “slaves to righteousness” (v. 18 ⇑), all of which led to sanctification (v. 19b) or holiness. In v. 22 Paul similarly speaks of becoming slaves in obedience to God, which leads to holiness.
The word “purified” here refers to purity of character, which comes through obedience.
The expression “walk in the light” of course is akin to “obeying God”. The Greek translated “cleanses” has a continuous tense, implying that the purification is ongoing rather than a single “once and for all” event. (cf. NBC)
Ps 119:2-3, 9 Blessed are those who keep his testimonies, who seek him with their whole heart, 3who also do no wrong, but walk in his ways! ▤ … 9How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word. ▤
Obeying God’s statutes (v. 2) – walking in his ways (v. 3b) and living according to his word (v. 9b) – leads to purity as in doing so one will “do no wrong” (v. 3a) and so “keep his way pure” (v. 9a).
Ex 19:5-6 Now therefore, if you will indeed obey my voice and keep my covenant, you shall be my treasured possession among all peoples, for all the earth is mine; 6and you shall be to me a kingdom of priests and a holy nation. These are the words that you shall speak to the people of Israel. ▤
The description of the Israelites as “a kingdom of priests and a holy nation” (v. 6) signifies dedication to God’s service, necessarily involving a close relationship with him. A close relationship with God is also pointed to by “you shall be my treasured possession”.
John 15:14-15 You are my friends if you do what I command you. 15No longer do I call you servants,g for the servanth 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. ▤
g Greek bondservants
h Greek bondservant; also verse 20
Note that it can be inferred from this that as Jesus’ followers are his friends, as opposed to mere servants, they obey him because they want to please him rather than because they have to do so.
1Jn 1:3-7 … that which we have seen and heard we proclaim also to you, so that you too may have fellowship with us; and indeed our fellowship is with the Father and with his Son Jesus Christ. 4And we are writing these things so that ouri joy may be complete. 5This is the message we have heard from him and proclaim to you, that God is light, and in him is no darkness at all. 6If we say we have fellowship with him while we walk in darkness, we lie and do not practice the truth. 7But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses us from all sin. ▤
i Some manuscripts your
One can infer from this that if we obey God – walking in his light (v. 7a; cf. v. 5b) – we have fellowship with him and Jesus Christ (vv. 3b; cf. 6-7), along with one another (v. 7; cf. 3a).
Obedience to God’s commands is indicative that one has come to know him. The more one obeys God the better one comes to know his will and God himself.
This appearance of the Lord’s glory took place in v. 23. Although we do not expect such appearances, this arguably does reflect that God manifests himself to those who are obedient.
Lev 26:3, 11-12 If you walk in my statutes and observe my commandments and do them, ▤ … 11I will make my dwellingj among you, and my soul shall not abhor you. 12And I will walk among you and will be your God, and you shall be my people. ▤
j Hebrew tabernacle
2Ki 18:6-7 For he [Hezekiah] held fast to the Lord. He did not depart from following him, but kept the commandments that the Lord commanded Moses. 7And the Lord was with him; wherever he went out, he prospered. He rebelled against the king of Assyria and would not serve him. ▤
2Chr 17:3-4 The Lord was with Jehoshaphat, because he walked in the earlier ways of his father David. He did not seek the Baals, 4but sought the God of his father and walked in his commandments, and not according to the practices of Israel. ▤
The promise to “make our home with him” quite possibly alludes to God’s and Jesus Christ’s fellowship with each believer, as part of their abiding presence.
That which Paul exhorts the Philippians to put it into practice, would undoubtedly have involved – or been in accordance with – God’s and Jesus Christ’s commands.
1Jn 2:5-6 … but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ▤
Living in God involves living and acting as Jesus did (v. 6) – in obedience to God’s will and commands, as reflected with the reference to keeping God’s word in v. 5a.
k Greek him
l Greek he
God’s promises pertaining to salvation are grasped – though not earned – by doing his will.
Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure. ▤
We need to continue to obey (v. 12a) and to please God (v. 13b) so as to lay hold of our salvation (v. 12b).
Matt 7:21-27 “Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. 22On that day many will say to me, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and cast out demons in your name, and do many mighty works in your name?’ 23And then will I declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from me, you workers of lawlessness.’ 24“Everyone then who hears these words of mine and does them will be like a wise man who built his house on the rock. 25And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat on that house, but it did not fall, because it had been founded on the rock. 26And everyone who hears these words of mine and does not do them will be like a foolish man who built his house on the sand. 27And the rain fell, and the floods came, and the winds blew and beat against that house, and it fell, and great was the fall of it.” ▤
Particularly in light of vv. 21-23, the storm in the parable of the wise and foolish builders probably has the final judgment primarily in view; at the very least it is applicable to it. Those who do God’s will (v. 21) and put Jesus’ words into practice (v. 24) will be saved rather than suffer destruction on Judgment Day.
- Jesus lay down his life for those who obey him:
Obedience to Jesus Christ means that we are his friends (v. 14) and in turn that he has laid down his life for us (v. 13). This indicates that obedience to Christ is required in order to be granted the benefits of his death, which of course includes salvation.
Matt 19:16-17 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” ▤
Obedience to God’s commands is critical for eternal life. Moreover, we must ensure that we do not make anything else a higher priority than God and Jesus Christ – which sadly this man did (cf. vv. 20-24).
The phrase “his commandment” refers to God’s “commands” (CEV, NCV, cf. NLT) – here primarily what he spoke through Jesus Christ (cf. v. 49). Obedience to God’s commands leads to eternal life.
Here “life” probably refers to a secure and fulfilled life, rather than eternal life – although the teaching here is certainly applicable to it.
- Following Jesus Christ, forsaking all for God’s kingdom, leads to eternal life:
Luke 18:28-30 And Peter said, “See, we have left our homes and followed you.” 29And he said to them, “Truly, I say to you, there is no one who has left house or wife or brothersm or parents or children, for the sake of the kingdom of God, 30who will not receive many times more in this time, and in the age to come eternal life.” ▤
m Or wife or brothers and sisters
“God’s wrath” is probably at least inclusive of the eschatological wrath of God, if not primarily referring to it.
2Thes 1:7b-9 … when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels 8in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus. 9They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away fromn the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, … ▤
n Or destruction that comes from
Heb 4:6, 11 Since therefore it remains for some to enter it, and those who formerly received the good news failed to enter because of disobedience, ▤ … 11Let us therefore strive to enter that rest, so that no one may fall by the same sort of disobedience. ▤
When the Israelites arrived at Canaan the first time, because of their disobedience and disbelief they did not enter the place of God’s rest for them. They instead died wandering in the desert. Similarly those who follow their example of disobedience will fail to enter God’s final rest, and instead will face destruction. Hebrews 3:18 also speaks of this – “And to whom did he swear that they would not enter his rest, but to those who were disobedient?”
1Pet 2:7-8 So the honor is for you who believe, but for those who do not believe, “The stone that the builders rejected has become the cornerstone,”o 8and “A stone of stumbling, and a rock of offense.” They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. ▤
o Greek the head of the corner
The phrase “disobey the word” (v. 8) is equivalent to not believing in Jesus Christ (v. 7). Such disobedience causes one to “stumble”, a term which quite possibly alludes to one’s “doom” (NASB; cf. CEV).
While not speaking explicitly of eternal destruction, this points to the assertion that it is ultimately the end of all who do not obey God.
- Those who are not appropriately prepared for entering God’s kingdom will be thrown out:
Matt 22:8-13 Then he said to his servants, ‘The wedding feast is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9Go therefore to the main roads and invite to the wedding feast as many as you find.’ 10And those servants went out into the roads and gathered all whom they found, both bad and good. So the wedding hall was filled with guests. 11“But when the king came in to look at the guests, he saw there a man who had no wedding garment. 12And he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding garment?’ And he was speechless. 13Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot and cast him into the outer darkness. In that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ ▤
The king symbolizes God. The wedding clothes possibly symbolize righteousness. As such these “wedding clothes” could be correlated not only with the righteousness granted through Jesus Christ’s death, but also with subsequently living in obedience to God.
While good deeds do not make us right with God, they are critical for staying right with God – not least because they accompany things that are indicative of being right with God. As such, good deeds prove that one’s faith and Christianity are valid – and consequently they are important for one’s salvation.
Note that good deeds are involved in obeying God, the subject of the previous section.
p Or all contentment
The phrase “every good work” arguably suggests “all kinds of good deeds” (GNT) and even to “continually do good” (NLT).
1Tim 5:9-10 Let a widow be enrolled if she is not less than sixty years of age, having been the wife of one husband,q 10and having a reputation for good works: if she has brought up children, has shown hospitality, has washed the feet of the saints, has cared for the afflicted, and has devoted herself to every good work. ▤
q Or a woman of one man
Titus 3:1, 14 Remind them to be submissive to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work, ▤ … 14And let our people learn to devote themselves to good works, so as to help cases of urgent need, and not be unfruitful. ▤
James 3:13, 17 Who is wise and understanding among you? By his good conduct let him show his works in the meekness of wisdom. ▤ … 17But the wisdom from above is first pure, then peaceable, gentle, open to reason, full of mercy and good fruits, impartial and sincere. ▤
The coupling of “good fruits” (v. 17) with being “full of mercy” implies that the former denotes “good deeds” (GNT, NLT; cf. CEV, NCV). Our lives are to be “full” of such good deeds.
1Pet 2:12, 15 Keep your conduct among the Gentiles honorable, so that when they speak against you as evildoers, they may see your good deeds and glorify God on the day of visitation. ▤ … 15For this is the will of God, that by doing good you should put to silence the ignorance of foolish people. ▤
r The Aramaic name Tabitha and the Greek name Dorcas both mean gazelle
- There is nothing better to do than to be joyful and do good:
- 2Cor 9:13 ⇓
- Obedience accompanies belief and faith
- Faith produces obedience to God
- Faith produces work in service to God
James 2:14-23, 26 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? 15If a brother or sister is poorly clothed and lacking in daily food, 16and one of you says to them, “Go in peace, be warmed and filled,” without giving them the things needed for the body, what goods is that? 17So also faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. 18But someone will say, “You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works. 19You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder! 20Do you want to be shown, you foolish person, that faith apart from works is useless? 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. ▤ … 26For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead. ▤
s Or benefit
In vv. 21-23 James speaks of what Abraham did as affirming his righteousness, a righteousness which was earlier accredited to him because of his belief or faith. In conjunction with this his faith was perfected (cf. GNT, NASB, NCV, NJKV) and in a sense consummated by what he did – proven by his action/work that resulted from it.
Faith is more than just a matter of one’s intellect. It involves an active trust in God that is manifested in acts of love, i.e. good deeds.
Eph 2:8-10 For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast. 10For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them. ▤
One who has been saved through faith (v. 8) has been “created in Christ Jesus for good works” (v. 10).
Titus 3:8 The saying is trustworthy, and I want you to insist on these things, so that those who have believed in God may be careful to devote themselves to good works. These things are excellent and profitable for people. ▤
This associates faith (“believe in the name of his Son”) with loving others and so also with good deeds, as loving others involves good deeds.
t Or and feed on faithfulness, or and find safe pasture
- [Reasons for assurance:] Obeying God and doing what is right
Our deeds should show or prove that we are Christians, being proof of the various things that typify Christians.
It is debatable as to precisely what Jesus is referring to by “fruit”. Most likely it is either: personal spiritual characteristics (cf. Gal 5:22-23); or spiritual outcomes of quality work for his kingdom, e.g. helping to bring people into the kingdom. The latter interpretation would make the verse pertinent to this subsection. Note that quite possibly, in some occurrences at least, “fruit” includes both concepts – spiritual characteristics and the work or deeds that flow from them.
In his greetings in vv. 3-16, Paul makes a number of references to those who have worked hard in the Lord. Thus what Paul has in view in saying that Apelles “is approved in Christ” may well have been in regard to doing such work or deeds.
The reference is to contributing to the needs of others (cf. 9:13).
2Cor 9:13 By their approval of this service, theyu will glorify God because of your submission flowing from your confession of the gospel of Christ, and the generosity of your contribution for them and for all others, … ▤
u Or you
Here Paul effectively speaks of such aid being “proof” (GNT, NASB, NCV, NKJV; cf. CEV, NIV, NLT) of their faith.
As noted earlier in this chapter, those who persist in doing good show themselves to be of God – “God’s children” (CEV, NLT).
Acts 26:20 … but declared first to those in Damascus, then in Jerusalem and throughout all the region of Judea, and also to the Gentiles, that they should repent and turn to God, performing deeds in keeping with their repentance. ▤
Deeds that are in keeping with repentance will “prove” (CEV, NIV, NLT) or “show” (GNT, NCV) we have repented.
- Do your best to be approved in God’s sight:
v That is, one approved after being tested
Similarly Galatians 1:10a implies that we should do what we can to win the approval of God – “For am I now seeking the approval of man, or of God?”
- 2Cor 9:13 ⇑
- On his return, Jesus Christ will judge and reward all people according to what they have done . . .
- . . . God’s people will be judged and rewarded according to what they have done
- In turning from sin, do what is good and right . . .
- Obedience and doing God’s will are critical for salvation
- Obedience and doing God’s will lead to eternal life
Good deeds do not in themselves produce salvation – but one who truly has been saved will be characterized by good deeds.
Heb 6:9-12 Though we speak in this way, yet in your case, beloved, we feel sure of better things—things that belong to salvation. 10For God is not unjust so as to overlook your work and the love that you have shown for his name in serving the saints, as you still do. 11And we desire each one of you to show the same earnestness to have the full assurance of hope until the end, 12so that you may not be sluggish, but imitators of those who through faith and patience inherit the promises. ▤
Luke 19:8-9 And Zacchaeus stood and said to the Lord, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” 9And Jesus said to him, “Today salvation has come to this house, since he also is a son of Abraham. ▤
Jesus was not saying that salvation came because of what Zacchaeus did. Jesus quite possibly meant that what Zacchaeus did was indicative that he had been saved. This interpretation is supported by Jesus calling Zacchaeus “a son of Abraham” (v. 9), which may well refer to Zacchaeus’ faith as the reason “salvation has come to this house”, with Abraham being renowned for his faith.
James 2:14, 21-25 What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him? ▤ … 21Was not Abraham our father justified by works when he offered up his son Isaac on the altar? 22You see that faith was active along with his works, and faith was completed by his works; 23and the Scripture was fulfilled that says, “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness”—and he was called a friend of God. 24You see that a person is justified by works and not by faith alone. 25And in the same way was not also Rahab the prostitute justified by works when she received the messengers and sent them out by another way? ▤
Justification (vv. 21-25) is of course a key element of salvation (v. 14). Verses 21-25 appear to say that one’s justification is fulfilled or sealed – though not earned – by one’s deeds.
Rev 19:7-8 Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory, for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready; 8it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure”— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. ▤
The “righteous deeds” can be understood as “good deeds” (GNT, NLT; cf. CEV, NCV). The “Lamb” is Jesus Christ, and the “bride” represents God’s people, or at least the New Jerusalem that they will inhabit. This looks forward to the consummation of Christ’s relationship or union with his people, associated with the consummation of their salvation. Thus it can be inferred from this that those who are depicted by the “bride” – and so who will receive salvation – are characterized by good deeds.
2Tim 1:16-18 May the Lord grant mercy to the household of Onesiphorus, for he often refreshed me and was not ashamed of my chains, 17but when he arrived in Rome he searched for me earnestly and found me— 18may the Lord grant him to find mercy from the Lord on that Day!—and you well know all the service he rendered at Ephesus. ▤
In v. 18a, Paul effectively asks the Lord to take Onesiphorus’s good deeds into account on Judgment Day and show him mercy, which would involve granting him salvation.
2Pet 1:5-8, 10-11 For this very reason, make every effort to supplement your faith with virtue,w and virtue with knowledge, 6and knowledge with self-control, and self-control with steadfastness, and steadfastness with godliness, 7and godliness with brotherly affection, and brotherly affection with love. 8For if these qualitiesx are yours and are increasing, they keep you from being ineffective or unfruitful in the knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ. ▤ … 10Therefore, brothers,y be all the more diligent to make your calling and election sure, for if you practice these qualities you will never fall. 11For in this way there will be richly provided for you an entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. ▤
w Or excellence; twice in this verse
x Greek these things; also verses 9, 10, 12
y 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
This indicates that practicing the qualities listed (vv. 5-7) will enable one to be effective and fruitful (v. 8) – which involves good deeds – ensuring one’s “calling and election” (v. 10) and entry into the kingdom (v. 11), both of which are associated with salvation.
1Tim 6:18-19 They are to do good, to be rich in good works, to be generous and ready to share, 19thus storing up treasure for themselves as a good foundation for the future, so that they may take hold of that which is truly life. ▤
This can be applied to spiritual life, reflecting that seeking to do good is important for it.
- Supposed servants of Christ who do evil will be assigned a place with the unbelievers:
Luke 12:45-46 But if that servant says to himself, ‘My master is delayed in coming,’ and begins to beat the male and female servants, and to eat and drink and get drunk, 46the master of that servant will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and put him with the unfaithful. ▤
The “unfaithful” (v. 46b) can be correlated with “unbelievers” (NASB, NIV, NKJV).
Our good deeds and “works” – including efforts we make in trying to obey aspects of the OT Law that are pertinent to believers – do not earn us righteousness and salvation. They are an effect of righteousness – not a cause of it. Rather, righteousness and salvation come by God’s grace/mercy.
Rom 4:1-6 What then shall we say was gained byz Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh? 2For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God. 3For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.” 4Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due. 5And to the one who does not work but believes ina him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness, 6just as David also speaks of the blessing of the one to whom God counts righteousness apart from works: … ▤
z Some manuscripts say about
a Or but trusts; compare verse 24
God credits righteousness to people; it is not earned. Note that with the phrase “does not work” (v. 5) Paul is speaking of one who does not try to earn righteousness by works or deeds.
Rom 9:30-32a What shall we say, then? That Gentiles who did not pursue righteousness have attained it, that is, a righteousness that is by faith; 31but that Israel who pursued a law that would lead to righteousnessb did not succeed in reaching that law. 32Why? Because they did not pursue it by faith, but as if it were based on works. ▤
b Greek a law of righteousness
In vv. 31-32 Paul appears to be speaking of Israel failing to obtain the righteousness of the law – the righteousness that the law embodied. With his use of “Israel”, Paul may be referring in particular to contemporary Jews, who insisted on trying to pursue righteousness this way – despite the failure of their forefathers – rather than by faith.
c Or with
d Greek before times eternal
Titus 3:4-5 But when the goodness and loving kindness of God our Savior appeared, 5he 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, … ▤
e Greek not of him who wills or runs
“It” refers to God’s choice of persons to be his people (cf. vv. 11-12) – also in view in the following reference (11:5-6). As such these verses speak of or allude to God’s salvation not being earned through one’s own efforts.
The “remnant” refers to those that God had chosen from among the largely unbelieving Jewish nation.
- Our freedom from the Mosaic Law does not permit us to sin . . .
- . . . In fact, sinning results in enslavement to sin
- We have been freed from the law to live by the Holy Spirit
- Instead of living by the sinful nature, live by the Holy Spirit . . .
- . . . and live in God’s grace
- Living by the Spirit brings life – in contrast to living by the sinful nature and to the law
- Note: Inner righteousness and right attitudes are needed, rather than mere compliance with rules
- Release from the Law through Jesus Christ
- “In” Jesus Christ they are identified with him in his death, resurrection and life – meaning release from sin and the law . . .
Through what Jesus Christ has accomplished, believers have been set free from the Mosaic Law (the law given through Moses) as the means of being made right with God. As such, many aspects of the law are no longer applicable, particularly the regulations regarding making atonement for sin.
This does not mean that we are permitted to sin. For we are still to obey the spiritual and moral commands of the law that remain pertinent to our relationship with God and our relationships with other people. But rather than being preoccupied with doggedly obeying rules, we are to be focused on living by God’s Holy Spirit. In doing so we are better able to avoid sin and more effectively fulfill God’s will.
Freedom from the Mosaic Law is being referred to.
Rom 6:1-2, 15 What shall we say then? Are we to continue in sin that grace may abound? 2By no means! How can we who died to sin still live in it? ▤ … 15What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! ▤
The phrase “a servant of sin” has the sense “serving the cause of sin” (GNT). A common interpretation of this verse is that Paul is dealing with the charge that being justified in Christ, apart from the law, encourages sinful behavior as one is no longer subject to the law. Paul totally rejects this accusation. Another interpretation is that Paul is speaking of the realization of Jews that the way of justification in Christ apart from the Jewish law means that they, like the Gentiles (cf. v. 15), are sinners (cf. GNT, NCV). Paul would likewise then be rejecting the accusation that such a truth means that Christ promotes the cause of sin.
f Greek bondservants
We should not use our freedom from law as an “excuse” (CEV, NCV, NLT) to do wrong. Note that civil law rather than the Mosaic Law is in view here – but the same principle applies to both.
Jude 1:4 For certain people have crept in unnoticed who long ago were designated for this condemnation, ungodly people, who pervert the grace of our God into sensuality and deny our only Master and Lord, Jesus Christ. ▤
Here Jude condemns people using God’s grace (which involves freedom from the law) as an excuse for sexual immorality.
Acts 24:24-25 After some days Felix came with his wife Drusilla, who was Jewish, and he sent for Paul and heard him speak about faith in Christ Jesus. 25And as he reasoned about righteousness and self-control and the coming judgment, Felix was alarmed and said, “Go away for the present. When I get an opportunity I will summon you.” ▤
Here Paul’s teaching associates “faith in Christ Jesus” (v. 24) with “righteousness and self-control” (v. 25). This is contrary to the concept that the way of faith (with its freedom from the law) permits us to sin.
Rather than bringing freedom, choosing to sin in fact results in enslavement to sin.
g Greek bondservant; also verse 35
Rom 6:16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves,h you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? ▤
h Greek bondservants. Twice in this verse and verse 19; also once in verses 17, 20
Paul appears to imply that one lives either as a slave to sin or as a slave to righteousness. Therefore if one chooses to sin and not be committed to living righteously, one will be enslaved to sin.
‘“All things are lawful for me”’ (cf. 1Cor 10:23-24 ↓) appears to be Paul quoting some of the Corinthians who apparently – in order to justify their sexual immorality (cf. v. 13) – claimed that everything is permissible for Christians to do, presumably in reference to not being under law. Paul argues that while in one sense this might be true, obviously it is not a good idea to do things that are harmful. One way in which sin is harmful is that one becomes enslaved by it (cf. 2Pet 2:19 ↓), no longer being free to choose whether or not to indulge in it, as it increasingly dominates one’s life, taking one under its power (cf. CEV, NKJV).
i Greek bondservants
- In exercising one’s freedom from the law, one should be mindful of others:
In speaking of doing what is “lawful”, v. 23 is in the same vein as 6:12 above. But here the effect on others – rather than on ourselves – seems to be in view (v. 24). In exercising one’s freedom from the law, one should not challenge the weaker faith of others so as to cause them to act against their conscience (cf. vv. 28-29b), but rather in doing so one should seek the good of others (v. 24).
Living by the Holy Spirit involves: being both alert to and responsive to the Spirit’s promptings; and being reliant on the Spirit’s power, to enable and transform us.
j Greek of the letter
The term “that which held us captive” is a reference to the aforementioned law. God’s people serve and obey him now by following the directing of the Holy Spirit, with his empowerment, rather than by focusing on “obeying the letter of the law” (NLT).
2Cor 3:5-6 Not that we are sufficient in ourselves to claim anything as coming from us, but our sufficiency is from God, 6who has made us competentk to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. ▤
k Or sufficient
The “letter” refers to the law. God’s new covenant with his people is not of the law but of the Spirit, whereby his people are renewed by the Holy Spirit and live under the Holy Spirit’s influence.
l Or this Lord
This spiritual “freedom” encompasses freedom from bondage to the law, along with freedom from sin and death.
Rom 8:2-3 For the law of the Spirit of life has set youm free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. 3For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,n he condemned sin in the flesh, … ▤
m Some manuscripts me
n Or and as a sin offering
The phrase “the law of sin and death” (v. 2) may refer to the OT law as “the law that brings sin and death” (NCV™), which is consistent with the usage of “law” immediately following in v. 3; thus v. 2 would indicate that the new “law” or system based on living by the Spirit has freed us from living under the OT law – as per the theme of this subsection. However a common alternative interpretation – supported by the preceding discussion on the “law of sin” (7:21-23) – is that both occurrences of “the law of” in v. 2 mean “the power of” (NLT). As such the meaning would be that the controlling (cf. v. 9) power of the Holy Spirit that gives life sets us free from the controlling power of sin, which brings death.
- Through his Spirit being in us, God moves us to follow his laws:
o Or my just decrees
Largely through giving us his Holy Spirit, God enables us to follow his laws, as we live by his indwelling Spirit (cf. Rom 8:4 ⇓).
Rom 8:3b-5 By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin,p he condemned sin in the flesh, 4in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. ▤
p Or and as a sin offering
Note that v. 4 makes the important point that living under the power of the Holy Spirit enables one to in fact fulfill the law (cf. Ezek 36:27 ⇑).
Rom 8:8-12 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God. 9You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. 12So then, brothers,q we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. ▤
q Or brothers and sisters; also verse 29
In v. 12, “debtors” may have in view that we are indebted to God, as the one will give us life (v. 11). As such we are obligated “not to the flesh” (v. 12), but to live according to his Spirit, “the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead” (v. 11).
Gal 5:13, 16 For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another. ▤ … 16But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. ▤
Believers are to continue on being replenished with the Holy Spirit. It is not a contrived experience, but one in which they are passively involved – they are to “let” (CEV, NLT) the Holy Spirit fill them (cf. ZBC). One who is filled by the Holy Spirit, can hardly live other than by the Holy Spirit.
r Hebrew who weave a web
This condemnation both of acting apart from God’s Spirit and of sinning, points to the fact that we should live by the Holy Spirit instead of by the sinful nature.
- Salvation by Grace, through Jesus Christ
- Instead of being under the law, believers are under grace and Jesus Christ’s law
After experiencing God’s grace in being made right with him and being given salvation, Christians are to live in the realm of his grace. This primarily involves being faithful to God and holding to the faith – thus remaining under his grace, staying right with him. It also encompasses trusting in God’s grace to meet one’s needs, including spiritual needs.
Living in God’s grace is complementary to living by the Holy Spirit. Additionally it contrasts in particular with living by the law.
Acts 13:43 And after the meeting of the synagogue broke up, many Jews and devout converts to Judaism followed Paul and Barnabas, who, as they spoke with them, urged them to continue in the grace of God. ▤
Many commentators see Paul here as talking specifically of the Gentiles as a whole, rather than individual believers. But the concept of the need to continue in God’s “gracious kindness” (AMP) is obviously also applicable to individuals.
2Cor 6:1-2 Working together with him, then, we appeal to you not to receive the grace of God in vain. 2For he says, “In a favorable time I listened to you, and in a day of salvation I have helped you.” Behold, now is the favorable time; behold, now is the day of salvation. ▤
By urging the Corinthians “not to receive the grace of God in vain” (v. 1), Paul appears to be appealing to the Corinthians not to forfeit the salvation (v. 2) that God’s grace or favor (v. 2) has provided. But note that a number of commentators have a somewhat different interpretation.
The expression “fails to obtain the grace of God” probably refers to failing to “secure God’s grace” (AMP), “turning back from” it (GNT). As well as seeking to ensure that no fellow believer “fails to obtain the grace of God”, we should of course also ensure that we ourselves do not.
The teaching contained in Peter’s letter was – or at least was in accordance with – “the true grace of God”, in which Peter encouraged his readers to stand firm.
Believers are to grow spiritually in or by Christ’s grace and knowledge of him (cf. 2Tim 2:1 ↓).
2Cor 1:12 For our boast is this, the testimony of our conscience, that we behaved in the world with simplicitys and godly sincerity, not by earthly wisdom but by the grace of God, and supremely so toward you. ▤
s Some manuscripts holiness
Paul and his companions had conducted themselves according to God’s grace, in a manner consistent with it and in reliance on it.
This is speaking of believers being strengthened by the grace that they have through Christ and/or in their union with Christ (cf. GNT).
- Remain in God’s love:
Keep pleasing God so as to remain in the realm of his love.
- The Holy Spirit brings spiritual life
- . . . They are born again of the Holy Spirit and through God’s word
Rom 8:1-2, 6, 13-14 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.t 2For the law of the Spirit of life has set youu free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death. ▤ … 6For to set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. ▤ … 13For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sonsv of God. ▤
t Some manuscripts add who walk not according to the flesh (but according to the Spirit)
u Some manuscripts me
v See discussion on “sons” in the Preface
As commented above in We have been freed from the law to live by the Holy Spirit, there are a couple of interpretations of the meaning of “the law” in v. 2, meaning that the last clause is either referring to the Mosaic Law (cf. NCV) or the power of sin (cf. NLT). But with either interpretation the verse still attests to how living by the Spirit “of life” sets us free from death. In v. 14, to be “led by the Spirit” speaks of living under the Spirit’s influence.
Gal 6:7-8 Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap. 8For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption, but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life. ▤
2Cor 3:6-9 … who has made us competentw to be ministers of a new covenant, not of the letter but of the Spirit. For the letter kills, but the Spirit gives life. 7Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, 8will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? 9For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory. ▤
w Or sufficient
The “letter” (v. 6), “the ministry of death” (v. 7) and “the ministry of condemnation” (v. 9) all refer to the law – highlighting that it brings death rather than life. In indicating that “the ministry of the Spirit” (v. 8) brings righteousness (v. 9), vv. 8-9 point to the Spirit bringing life (v. 6), as righteousness and life are associated (cf. Gal 3:21 ↓), the former qualifying a person for the latter.
This indicates that the law cannot impart life.
Rather than bringing life, the law brings God’s wrath and consequently eternal punishment (cf. NLT).
Living by the Spirit (cf. NLT) enables believers to await the righteousness to come (which is either referring to being pronounced right with God on Judgment Day, or being made righteous in ourselves following Jesus Christ’s return). One can infer from this that living by the Spirit enables believers to secure the everlasting life that is to come in conjunction with this righteousness (cf. comment on 2Cor 3:6-9 ↑).
- One is sanctified by the Spirit, not by the law:
- The law’s principles – such as love, justice and mercy – are of central importance, above its rules
- The new covenant is spiritual – of an internal nature and of the Holy Spirit
In conjunction with living by the Holy Spirit, true or inner righteousness (including right attitudes) is vital and should be sought – as opposed to merely complying with rules of the law.
Matt 5:20-22, 27-28 For I tell you, unless your righteousness exceeds that of the scribes and Pharisees, you will never enter the kingdom of heaven. 21“You have heard that it was said to those of old, ‘You shall not murder; and whoever murders will be liable to judgment.’ 22But I say to you that everyone who is angry with his brotherx will be liable to judgment; whoever insultsy his brother will be liable to the council; and whoever says, ‘You fool!’ will be liable to the hellz of fire. ▤ … 27“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ 28But I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lustful intent has already committed adultery with her in his heart. ▤
x Some manuscripts insert without cause
y Greek says Raca to (a term of abuse)
z Greek Gehenna; also verses 29, 30
In v. 20 Jesus refers to the Jewish leaders’ lack of true, inner righteousness. They gave the appearance of complying with the law’s commandments – and indeed probably did largely comply with its rules and regulations. But their characters were not consistent with the spirit of the law. Jesus may well have had this latter point in view in subsequently speaking of attitudes that should accompany obedience to such commands as those forbidding murder (vv. 21-22a) and adultery (vv. 27-28).
Matt 23:25-28 Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you clean the outside of the cup and the plate, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. 26You blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and the plate, that the outside also may be clean. 27“Woe to you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! For you are like whitewashed tombs, which outwardly appear beautiful, but within are full of dead people’s bones and all uncleanness. 28So you also outwardly appear righteous to others, but within you are full of hypocrisy and lawlessness. ▤
In vv. 25-26, Jesus appears to refer to a tradition of the religious leaders of ensuring the outside of eating bowls were clean. Jesus uses this illustration to draw a parallel with their hypocritical and foolish practice of giving the appearance of being righteous by complying with rules instead of being concerned about inner righteousness. Jesus implies that if one is inwardly clean then one’s whole self, including one’s (outward) actions, will be clean in God’s sight.
Matt 19:16-23 And behold, a man came up to him, saying, “Teacher, what good deed must I do to have eternal life?” 17And he said to him, “Why do you ask me about what is good? There is only one who is good. If you would enter life, keep the commandments.” 18He said to him, “Which ones?” And Jesus said, “You shall not murder, You shall not commit adultery, You shall not steal, You shall not bear false witness, 19Honor your father and mother, and, You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 20The young man said to him, “All these I have kept. What do I still lack?” 21Jesus said to him, “If you would be perfect, go, sell what you possess and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me.” 22When the young man heard this he went away sorrowful, for he had great possessions. 23And Jesus said to his disciples, “Truly, I say to you, only with difficulty will a rich person enter the kingdom of heaven. ▤
In vv. 18-19 Jesus did not mention any commandments concerning the man’s relationship with God. Jesus’ instructions in v. 21 bore out the fact that the man’s riches had become a higher priority to him than God. Although outwardly he had appeared to have been keeping the commandments, his money had in a real sense become his God – thus breaking the first commandment (cf. Ex 20:3). Even adherence to the moral commandments is insufficient without God-centered priorities and attitudes.
Mark 7:14-23 And he called the people to him again and said to them, “Hear me, all of you, and understand: 15There is nothing outside a person that by going into him can defile him, but the things that come out of a person are what defile him.”a 17And when he had entered the house and left the people, his disciples asked him about the parable. 18And he said to them, “Then are you also without understanding? Do you not see that whatever goes into a person from outside cannot defile him, 19since it enters not his heart but his stomach, and is expelled?”b (Thus he declared all foods clean.) 20And he said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles him. 21For from within, out of the heart of man, come evil thoughts, sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, 22coveting, wickedness, deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride, foolishness. 23All these evil things come from within, and they defile a person.” ▤
a Some manuscripts add verse 16: If anyone has ears to hear, let him hear
b Greek goes out into the latrine
Jesus refers here to the law’s regulations concerning clean and unclean foods. The tradition of the Jewish elders of washing their hands so as not to eat with “unclean” hands is also in view (cf. vv. 1-5). Such regulations are not imperative; rather it is what is in a person’s heart that counts.
Luke 18:9-14 He also told this parable to some who trusted in themselves that they were righteous, and treated others with contempt: 10“Two men went up into the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. 11The Pharisee, standing by himself, prayedc thus: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other men, extortioners, unjust, adulterers, or even like this tax collector. 12I fast twice a week; I give tithes of all that I get.’ 13But the tax collector, standing far off, would not even lift up his eyes to heaven, but beat his breast, saying, ‘God, be merciful to me, a sinner!’ 14I tell you, this man went down to his house justified, rather than the other. For everyone who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” ▤
c Or standing, prayed to himself
Rom 2:28-29 For no one is a Jew who is merely one outwardly, nor is circumcision outward and physical. 29But a Jew is one inwardly, and circumcision is a matter of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter. His praise is not from man but from God. ▤
With his use here of “Jew”, Paul is speaking of being one of God’s people. This requires a heart made right with God, not merely compliance with outward regulations, such as Jewish circumcision.
Ps 51:16-17 For you will not delight in sacrifice, or I would give it; you will not be pleased with a burnt offering. 17The sacrifices of God are a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart, O God, you will not despise. ▤
In repentance from sin, what God really wants is a humbled spirit and remorseful heart (v. 17), rather than merely obligatory offerings (v. 16).
- A preoccupation with regulations can in fact lead to nullifying the law:
Mark 7:5-13 And the Pharisees and the scribes asked him, “Why do your disciples not walk according to the tradition of the elders, but eat with defiled hands?” 6And he said to them, “Well did Isaiah prophesy of you hypocrites, as it is written, “‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me; 7in vain do they worship me, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’ 8You leave the commandment of God and hold to the tradition of men.” 9And he said to them, “You have a fine way of rejecting the commandment of God in order to establish your tradition! 10For Moses said, ‘Honor your father and your mother’; and, ‘Whoever reviles father or mother must surely die.’ 11But you say, ‘If a man tells his father or his mother, “Whatever you would have gained from me is Corban”’ (that is, given to God)d— 12then you no longer permit him to do anything for his father or mother, 13thus making void the word of God by your tradition that you have handed down. And many such things you do.” ▤
d Or an offering
The Jews had developed many traditions, regulations which they had they placed alongside the law – often to the detriment of keeping the law.
- Live “in” Jesus Christ
- Remain “in” Jesus Christ
- We live “in” Jesus Christ – and he in us – by faith . . .
- . . . and by holding to his teachings
- Speak “in” Jesus Christ
- Act towards others “in” Jesus Christ
- Do God’s work “in” Jesus Christ
- Rejoice and take pride “in” Jesus Christ
- Further aspects of living “in” Jesus Christ
Paul often speaks of believers being or acting “in” Christ. This refers to their close relationship and association with Jesus Christ, in which they are even identified with him. More specifically, it involves their spiritual union with Jesus Christ, and also the relationship that they have to God because of this association with Jesus Christ. (See also the introductory comment under Being ‘in’ Jesus Christ.)
Believers are to live their lives in accordance with this relationship. As such, in addition to being mindful of the relationship, believers should: be dependent on Jesus Christ in whom they subsist; and act in a way consistent with Jesus Christ and his teachings.
e Or am sending
f Some manuscripts add Jesus
The expression “your good behavior in Christ” reflects that we should live “in” Christ – “your good life in Christ” (NCV™).
- “Put on” Jesus Christ:
The expression “put on the Lord Jesus Christ” quite possibly refers to immersing oneself in one’s union with Christ – surrounding oneself with Christ, acting in line with his purposes and for his glory, and in reliance on him. However, it has also been interpreted as a call to take on or adopt his character and example. The first interpretation is more pertinent to the theme of this subsection, but the second would also be relevant.
John 15:4-6 Abide in me, and I in you. As the branch cannot bear fruit by itself, unless it abides in the vine, neither can you, unless you abide in me. 5I am the vine; you are the branches. Whoever abides in me and I in him, he it is that bears much fruit, for apart from me you can do nothing. 6If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned. ▤
The phrase “abide in” (cf. John 15:7-10; 1Jn 2:27-28 ↓) speaks of persistently dwelling in something – and is akin to “remain in” (cf. GNT, NCV, NIV, NLT). Note that this speaks of abiding in Jesus Christ as producing spiritual “fruit” for God – applicable to both “fruit” in our own lives and “fruit” in/for God’s kingdom.
1Jn 2:27-28 But the anointing that you received from him abides in you, and you have no need that anyone should teach you. But as his anointing teaches you about everything, and is true, and is no lie—just as it has taught you, abide in him. 28And now, little children, abide in him, so that when he appears we may have confidence and not shrink from him in shame at his coming. ▤
Note that here abiding in Jesus Christ is associated with the Holy Spirit – “the anointing” (v. 27) – abiding in believers.
Phil 3:8-9 Indeed, I count everything as loss because of the surpassing worth of knowing Christ Jesus my Lord. For his sake I have suffered the loss of all things and count them as rubbish, in order that I may gain Christ 9and be found in him, not having a righteousness of my own that comes from the law, but that which comes through faith in Christ, the righteousness from God that depends on faith— ▤
With the phrase “be found in him” (v. 9) Paul is probably expressing his desire and hope to be found in union with Christ on Christ’s return.
g Or brothers and sisters; also verses 8, 21
Note that the concept of having Jesus Christ is associated with being “in” him (cf. John 6:56 ↓).
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. ▤
“I live by faith in the Son of God” is usually understood to be speaking of having faith in Jesus Christ – which may well be the case (cf. AMP, NIrV, NLT). However in line with the references earlier in the verse to Christ living in oneself and to living “in the flesh” (which “in the Son of God” could be intended to parallel), the sense may be “I live by faith, in the Son of God”. The first half of the second sentence could then be rendered, “The life I now live in the flesh, I live in the Son of God, by faith.” Note that Paul’s earlier point that he no longer lives but Christ lives in him (cf. Eph 3:16-17 ↓), is both vital and complimentary to living in Jesus Christ – as reflected in this subsection’s heading.
Col 2:5-7 For though I am absent in body, yet I am with you in spirit, rejoicing to see your good order and the firmness of your faith in Christ. 6Therefore, as you received Christ Jesus the Lord, so walk in him, 7rooted and built up in him and established in the faith, just as you were taught, abounding in thanksgiving. ▤
Paul appears to associate having a firm faith in Christ (v. 5) – and being established in the faith (v. 7) – with living in Christ (v. 6) and being “rooted and built up in him” (v. 7).
As commented earlier in this chapter, there are two subtly different interpretations of what Jesus meant when he spoke metaphorically of eating of him, the bread of life. One is that it simply means to believe in him and depend on his death, for eternal life; the other is that it means to partake of Jesus Christ for the sustenance of one’s life. Both interpretations – particularly the first – are connected with having faith in him. Similarly, both – particularly the second – can also be connected with holding to his teachings. Thus this verse reflects the assertion that we live or abide “in” Jesus Christ – and he in us – by faith and by holding to his teachings (as per the following subsection).
Eph 3:16-17 … that 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, … ▤
John 15:7-10 If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you. 8By this my Father is glorified, that you bear much fruit and so prove to be my disciples. 9As the Father has loved me, so have I loved you. Abide in my love. 10If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love. ▤
One abides in Jesus Christ (v. 7) and similarly in his love (vv. 9-10), by holding to his words (v. 7), keeping his commands (vv. 9-10).
1Jn 2:4-6 Whoever says “I know him” but does not keep his commandments is a liar, and the truth is not in him, 5but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: 6whoever says he abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. ▤
Verses 4-5a suggest that being “in” Jesus Christ and living in the same way in which he did (vv. 5b-6) involve keeping his teachings.
The teaching referred to as “what you heard from the beginning” would be teaching based on Jesus Christ and his teachings (cf. 1:1; 2:7; 3:11; 2Jn 1:6; 2Jn 1:9 ↓).
- Similarly, those who obey God’s commands abide in God, and he in them:
h Greek him
i Greek he
Being “in” Jesus Christ we should speak and act “in” Jesus Christ, in a manner consistent with this standing. Doing so involves speaking and acting in accordance with Jesus Christ’s teachings and faith in him (as reflected by the previous two subsections).
Bear in mind, however, that in this and the following subsection, references to doing things in Jesus Christ are not necessarily intended to imply or exemplify that we should consciously do such things in Jesus Christ – which is the thrust of the subheadings. Some at least may just be reflecting that as Christians we are “in” Jesus Christ and thus what we do is therefore done “in” Jesus Christ.
Note that with the phrase “in the sight of God” (cf. 2Cor 12:19 ↓), Paul implies that he spoke not only in awareness of God’s presence, but also his scrutiny. He may be alluding to God as his witness that he spoke in Christ.
j Or brothers and sisters; also verses 10, 13
As in the following verses, Paul appears to be speaking “in the Lord Jesus” as he gives instructions. Note that in these verses, Paul may have in mind that as he is “in” Jesus Christ he is therefore speaking “in” Jesus Christ – as opposed to saying that he is purposely speaking in accordance with his standing of being “in” Jesus Christ.
k Greek eat their own bread
Note that Paul’s references below to acting towards other believers “in” Jesus Christ, may well have their standing “in” Jesus Christ in view as much as that of Paul or his readers.
Rom 16:1-2 I commend to you our sister Phoebe, a servantl of the church at Cenchreae, 2that you may welcome her in the Lord in a way worthy of the saints, and help her in whatever she may need from you, for she has been a patron of many and of myself as well. ▤
l Or deaconess
Paul may be referring to loving Ampliatus “in” Christ (cf. NIV).
1Cor 16:19, 24 The churches of Asia send you greetings. Aquila and Prisca, together with the church in their house, send you hearty greetings in the Lord. ▤ … 24My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. ▤
In the first sentence, Paul appears to ask Philemon to comply “in the Lord” to his earlier request (vv. 17-18).
Rom 16:3, 9, 12 Greet Prisca and Aquila, my fellow workers in Christ Jesus, ▤ … 9Greet Urbanus, our fellow worker in Christ, and my beloved Stachys. ▤ … 12Greet those workers in the Lord, Tryphaena and Tryphosa. Greet the beloved Persis, who has worked hard in the Lord. ▤
The phrases in question are often interpreted to mean “in the service (or cause) of Jesus Christ” or “for Jesus Christ”. (This is also often the case for other such phrases in the remainder of this subsection.) While this could be so – and indeed they are at least an implication – arguably they are a simplification of the more precise meaning given in the comments at the beginning of both this chapter section and Being ‘in’ Jesus Christ.
Paul may have in view his readers’ labor in the Lord (cf. AMP, CEV, NIV).
- Believers are created in Christ to do good works:
Arguably at least, the verses in this subsection are speaking of rejoicing and glorying “in” Jesus Christ, rather than speaking of Jesus Christ being the object of the rejoicing and glorying (though this is not an unrelated concept).
Phil 4:4, 10 Rejoice in the Lord always; again I will say, Rejoice. ▤ … 10I rejoiced in the Lord greatly that now at length you have revived your concern for me. You were indeed concerned for me, but you had no opportunity. ▤
Phil 3:1-4a Finally, my brothers,m rejoice in the Lord. To write the same things to you is no trouble to me and is safe for you. 2Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. 3For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of Godn and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh— 4though I myself have reason for confidence in the flesh also. ▤
m Or brothers and sisters; also verses 13, 17
n Some manuscripts God in spirit
“In” Jesus Christ, we are to rejoice (v. 1) – “be joyful in your union with the Lord” (GNT). In v. 3, when used as a verb “glory” (cf. Phil 1:26 ↓) refers to taking pride – with at least a “hint” of joy.
Phil 1:25-26 Convinced of this, I know that I will remain and continue with you all, for your progress and joy in the faith, 26so that in me you may have ample cause to glory in Christ Jesus, because of my coming to you again. ▤
Paul appears to be speaking of the Philippians having “abundant cause for exultation and glorying in Christ Jesus” (AMP) as a result of his ministry among them.
o Or am sending
p Some manuscripts add Jesus
This could be speaking of Timothy’s faithfulness in living a life in accordance with being in the Lord, serving him (cf. CEV, NIrV); or in particular it could be speaking of Timothy’s faithfulness to Paul, in the Lord.
For comment, see the comment on 2Cor 13:4 – under . . . This identification also has other implications – present and future.
q Or healthy
Particularly with the phrase “were taught in him”, Paul may be referring here to his readers being in Jesus Christ (cf. NCV). However he may instead simply be referring to teaching/truth based on Jesus’ life and teaching.
Believers are to be spiritually strong “in union with the Lord and by means of his mighty power” (GNT; cf. AMP).
Note that these verses may be speaking of hoping and trusting the Lord rather than having hope and trust being “in” the Lord. As such they would not be so relevant to this subsection.
This could be speaking of God’s will for those who are in Christ Jesus (cf. AMP, GNT, NLT).
Apelles’ actions had proven to be in accordance with being “in” Christ.
Similarly in Philemon 1:16, Paul refers to Onesimus as “a beloved brother … in the Lord.” These verses illustrate that believers are family, related to each other, “in” Jesus Christ.
- Paul could do everything “through” Jesus Christ, who strengthened him: