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16. Characteristics Of Healthy Churches (1 Peter 5:1–5)

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To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older. All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:1–5

What are characteristics of a healthy church?

Here at the end of Peter’s epistle, he concludes this letter on suffering and being a pilgrim in an ungodly world with some exhortations and encouragements for the church. Even though the opening of the letter is written to the elect scattered throughout Asia Minor, we know he is writing to congregations because he starts off chapter 5 writing to the elders, the leaders of these congregations. He gives them and the congregants exhortations about how they should live as a community, especially in the backdrop of suffering.

I believe, as we look at this chapter, we find characteristics of a healthy congregation. In chapter 5, he challenges and encourages the leaders (v. 1-3). He encourages the congregations to submit to the leaders, to practice humility and servanthood amongst one another, and to practice faithful prayer (v. 5-7). He also cautions the congregations to be alert and prepared for attacks from the evil one (v. 8, 9). Finally, he encourages them to continue to persevere in their trials (v. 10, 11).

These exhortations endure today and are signs of a healthy congregation. These characteristics are important for you to know as you seek a godly congregation to join in the future. It helps you know what to look for, but it also helps you discern how you can make your current church better and healthier as you serve her.

In the same way that many today do not understand what a healthy family or home looks like because of bad experiences or models, many also don’t know what a healthy church looks like. We have so many unhealthy churches these days—churches that don’t preach the Word of God, churches that have no unity or the members aren’t serving. In today’s text, we will look at four characteristics of a healthy church.

Big Question: What are characteristics of healthy churches or church members in 1 Peter 5:1–7?

Healthy Churches Have a Plurality of Elders

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:1

This may not jump out to most people who are reading this text, but this is a very important truth. When Peter writes to the leaders of these churches, he doesn’t write to one elder or pastor. He writes to the elders of these congregations. Obviously, there are many elders because he is writing to many congregations that are scattered, but there is probably a plurality of elders in each local congregation as well. In the New Testament, when talking about the leadership of the church, it always refers to a plurality of elders instead of a single elder led local church.

We see this throughout Scripture. When Paul went to Ephesus in Acts 20, he contacted the “elders” of the church to have a meeting. “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (Acts 20:17). When Paul tells Titus to set up an eldership in Crete, he again uses the word “elders.” Listen to what he said in Titus 1:5: “The reason I left you in Crete was that you might straighten out what was left unfinished and appoint elders in every town, as I directed you.” He was not to appoint an elder in every town but elders. Healthy churches follow the biblical model of a plurality of eldership.

Application Question: Why is a plurality of leadership in the church important?

This is significant for many reasons.

1. A plurality of elders creates balance among the leadership.

No single pastor has all the spiritual gifts needed to lead the church. One of the reasons that pastoral burnout is so common is because our spiritual leaders are doing too much. They are often working outside of their spiritual giftings, as they are expected to do everything. In a plurality of elders, you may find one elder that has a special gifting with finances, one elder has particular gifts in counseling, one excels in hospitality, one in teaching. They all may have some measure of ability in each of these areas but typically each will have certain strengths. This creates a balance.

2. A plurality of elders helps prevent hazards, like burnout or pride.

We saw this with Moses who was judging all the cases for Israel, big and small. His older, wise father-in-law said, “This is not good” (Exod 18:17). “You will burn out.” He recommended the ordaining of judges, a plurality of leadership, to share the load.

Moses’ father–in–law replied, “What you are doing is not good. You and these people who come to you will only wear yourselves out. The work is too heavy for you; you cannot handle it alone.
Exodus 18: 17–18

Around 1,700 pastors leave the ministry in the U.S. each month.1 Certainly, one of the primary reasons is burnout. Pastors are doing too much, and a great deal of this can be eliminated through shared leadership.

Also, a plurality may help with protecting the pastor from pride. Leadership is a ministry that can quickly lead to pride and then destruction. Having other godly leaders around helps those in leadership stay humble. Listen to what Paul said about hiring a pastor in 1 Timothy 3:6: “He must not be a recent convert, or he may become conceited and fall under the same judgment as the devil” (emphasis mine). This pride can lead to lust, greed, being power hungry, or many other hazards. A plurality of shared leadership helps protect from these hazards.

3. A plurality of elders allows more people to be cared for.

Obviously when there are more people serving in leadership, this allows for more people to be ministered to and cared for. As a church continues to grow, they should add more elders for prayer, service, and teaching opportunities.

4. A plurality of elders gives accountability in the teaching of doctrine.

A pastor cannot just teach whatever he wants; there is accountability among other godly men of the church. Look at what Paul says about this in referring to prophecy in the church in 1 Corinthians 14:29: “Two or three prophets should speak, and the others should weigh carefully what is said” (emphasis mine). When a prophet would speak, the other prophets had to “weigh,” or judge, what was being said.

In the same way, the elders help judge and protect the church from error. When one of the elders teaches, the other elders should be testing what is taught. They must make sure it is biblical and healthy for the congregation.

In another sense, this is true for all believers in the church. The Bereans were called noble because they tested the teachings of Paul (Acts 17:11). Therefore, each church member must participate in this judging, especially the elders.

One of the specific jobs of an elder is to encourage sound doctrine and refute false doctrine. Listen to what Paul says in Titus 1:9: “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (emphasis mine).

5. A plurality of elders brings victory and safety through their wisdom in decision making.

“For lack of guidance a nation falls, but many advisers make victory [or it can be translated “safety”] sure” (Prov 11:14).

Solomon said a nation will fall without having many wise advisers to make victory sure. A nation might have a president, but that president has a cabinet, a secretary of defense for war, a committee for budgeting, etc. They need a multitude of wise counselors. How much more does a church that deals with eternity and not just temporal matters need a multitude of counselors in leadership? There is victory, or safety, in the multitude of counselors.

6. A plurality of elders brings continuity to a church.

Often when a pastor leaves a congregation, there is a tremendous amount of instability. In the process of finding a new pastor, the church often loses many of its members. This doesn’t happen as much when there is a strong elder core that shares in the leadership of the church.

Often when a pastor leaves a church, they must hire someone they don’t know and who doesn’t know the church. This can often be very difficult. The most ideal setup is raising leadership up from within the church among the elders in order to have a stable congregation.

Application Question: What are your thoughts about the need to have a plurality of elders? Do you think Scripture supports this model over the solo-pastor model? Why or why not?

Healthy Churches Have Faithful Pastors

To the elders among you, I appeal as a fellow elder, a witness of Christ’s sufferings and one who also will share in the glory to be revealed: Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock. And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.
1 Peter 5:1-4

Interpretation Question: What do the titles elder, overseer and shepherd refer to in this passage?

In verse 1 and 2, we see that Peter uses three different terms for the leaders of the church. He calls them elders in verse 1 (to the elders), but in verse 2, he calls them both shepherds (pastors) and overseers (bishops). In some churches, these are three separate positions (elders, pastors, bishops), but in the Scripture, they are not. They are used interchangeably for the same office, just as Peter uses them in this passage.

We see Paul use these terms interchangeably in Acts 20. Look at Acts 20:28: “Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (emphasis mine). He calls them both overseers (bishops) and shepherds (pastors) in the same text. We see that he also calls them elders in Acts 20:17, where he initially calls to meet with them: “From Miletus, Paul sent to Ephesus for the elders of the church” (emphasis mine).

These three titles simply reflect different aspects of the office. The title “elder” represents the maturity of these men serving in leadership; they should not be spiritual novices, but mature. The word bishop refers to the role of oversight over the congregation, and finally shepherd, or pastor, is a term that reflects care.

Who are these people that serve in the role of elder/pastor?

From 1 Timothy 3 and Titus 1, we see that these were men in the congregation. We see this by the masculine terms used.

He must be husband of but one wife and a man (emphasis mine) whose children believe (Titus 1:6). These men must have impeccable character; their homes must to be in order; they must not be given to wine or arguing and fighting. The primary skill set they must have is teaching (1 Tim 3:3). Therefore, they must know the Word of God in order to teach the church and also refute false doctrine. “He must hold firmly to the trustworthy message as it has been taught, so that he can encourage others by sound doctrine and refute those who oppose it” (Titus 1:9).

These men are called to care for the congregation, which includes all the roles of a shepherd. They should feed the congregation by faithful exposition of the Word. They must give the members of the church guidance. They must at times correct or discipline the church. They must also protect the church from all the works of the devil.

It is a very comprehensive and difficult position. What also stands out in the text is that they are shepherds of Gods flock (v. 2). It is not the pastor’s church or the pastor’s congregation. It is the Lord’s, but God has made these men to be undershepherds over God’s flock. Christ is the Chief Shepherd. This again says that these men must be abiding in God’s presence, knowing his Word, so they can best direct the flock according to God’s will.

Peter next gives us vices or bad tendencies that are common in the leadership of our churches, as well as virtues that should be encouraged in elders. Because godly elders are to be examples to the flock, these are also challenges for each member of the church to take to heart.

Observation Question: What are the vices our pastors (and members of the congregation) must be warned of and the virtues to be pursued?

Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care, serving as overseers—not because you must, but because you are willing, as God wants you to be; not greedy for money, but eager to serve; not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:2-4

1. Faithful pastors must beware of laziness.

“Not because you must, but because you are willing.”

Peter speaks to them as a fellow elder (v. 1) who knows the difficulties of the office. One of the difficulties of the office is laziness. We know what laziness is, right? Laziness is when we know what we should be doing but we don’t want to, so we keep putting it off. Leadership in any organization can often be a place to hide and be lazy. There are others serving under them doing the work.

This is a tendency among pastors as well. There are many who hide behind the office of an elder. There are those called to be elders who are very inactive. Peter says a healthy congregation has elders who are willing, meaning they want to serve. They are not lazy or serving out of compulsion.

Statistics say that over 50 percent of pastors would find another job or profession if they could. When a pastor no longer feels a compulsion to serve, then they are on dangerous ground. They must serve because they are willing.

Let us again hear this is not only a common vice among those in the pulpit but also among the congregation. Often, it is very hard to get people to serve in children’s ministry, youth ministry, ushers or to lead a small group. Most churches have about 20 percent of the members doing all the work and 80 percent doing nothing. Each member should not be lazy but must be willing to serve. God has made them part of the body. This is one of the reasons many churches promote small groups. This allows each member to be serving one another in a small community, doing their part in the church.

2. Faithful pastors must not be motivated by gain.

“Not greedy for money, but eager to serve.”

One of the potential vices of the position is a desire for gain or to make lot of money. Now should pastors be paid? Yes, Paul clearly makes that argument in 1 Timothy 5:16, 17. He says those who excel in teaching the Word of God should be counted worthy of double honor, which can be translated “price” as in 1 Corinthians 6:20 (“for you were bought with a price”). It’s where we get the word honorarium from. He then says a “laborer is worthy of his wages.”

The elders who direct the affairs of the church well are worthy of double honor, especially those whose work is preaching and teaching. For the Scripture says, “Do not muzzle the ox while it is treading out the grain,” and “The worker deserves his wages” (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 5:17–18

Elders who give themselves to studying and preaching the Word of God often do not have time to have another vocation because it is such a consuming task. The word work actually means “to work to the point of fatigue or exhaustion.”2 This is why other versions translate it “work hard.” They work hard in studying the Word of God to feed the flock, which is one of the primary responsibilities of a shepherd. These men should have double honor, not just respect, but pay. Yes, elders should be compensated and provided for.

However, there is a tendency for pastors to become consumed with the motivation of making money. Christ in calling himself the Chief Shepherd said he was not a hireling in John 10:12. He said the hired shepherd does not care for the flock. When the wolf comes, the hireling flees, but the good shepherd gives his life for the flock.

The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it. The man runs away because he is a hired hand and cares nothing for the sheep.
John 10:12–13

Let us hear that the church is full of hired hands, those who serve primarily for pay and not to care for the sheep. When trouble happens at the church, they bounce to a new church and take a new position. The first church I served at as a youth pastor split a year after I had been there. I was tempted to leave the church with the rest of the congregation, but God kept repeating the words from John 10 in my ears, The hireling cares nothing for the sheep. When the wolf comes, he runs away.

This must not be the motivation of a pastor; he must primarily serve because he cares for the sheep. Certainly, we often see this motivation for money in the prosperity gospels: “Send us one hundred dollars, and you will receive a tenfold blessing in your bank account.” In fact, Paul warned Timothy about this growing trend to use faith or ministry in order to feed one’s love for money. Look at what Paul told Timothy:

People who want to get rich fall into temptation and a trap and into many foolish and harmful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil. Some people, eager for money, have wandered from the faith and pierced themselves with many griefs. But you, man of God, flee from all this, and pursue righteousness, godliness, faith, love, endurance and gentleness (emphasis mine).
1 Timothy 6:9–11

He says, “But you, man of God, flee from all this, flee this growing trend in the church to pursue money and instead of pursuing righteousness and godliness. One of the trends I love seeing in the church is how many of the pastors are putting their books out for free. John Piper’s books can be found for free and many others. It shows it is not about money but about serving others.

Instead of the motivation of the pastor being to make money, the elder must be eager to serve. Why does a person become a pastor? He wants to serve more. That’s what makes this office awesome. I get to be devoted to studying and teaching God’s Word. I get the opportunity to serve all day long. The money is not great, but we’re not here for the money. It’s for the privilege to serve. That is why one should desire to be an elder for the opportunity to serve more (1 Tim 3:1).

Again, let us hear this is not only a temptation for the elder but for the members as well. The New Living Translation, instead of saying “not greedy for money,” says “not for what you can get out of it.” Most people who come to church are consumer minded. They look at the church as they do any other business. What can they do for me? How is the youth ministry? How is the preaching and the worship? Certainly, all these things are important, but the problem is, this is most people’s primary motivation for joining the church. People look at churches for what they can get, instead of saying, “Where are the needs of this church? How can I make it better? How has God called me to serve?”

Consequently, most members of the church are just like the hireling pastor. When trouble happens in the church, when there is conflict with a member, when it feels like the sermons are no longer meeting their needs, what do they do? They move away. They are hirelings, just being at the church for what they can get. The church is full of members who are just seeking what they can get, instead of being committed to the body of believers God has called them to.

I’ll be honest, this is something I’ve struggled with. I am an MK, a military kid, meaning as a child, we moved every three to four years. Therefore, when I got on my own, I knew nothing about committing to a church and serving her. When I was in college, I bounced from church to church. When I became a pastor, I started getting an itch around my second year serving. It’s time to move. God had to train me to stay at my first church for seven years, especially as it was going through conflict. God is still training me. My upbringing gives me an itch, even if there are no problems; I have a problem called discontentment.

3. Faithful pastors must be careful of the desire for power.

“Not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock.”

Another vice Peter warns about was the potential desire of the pastor to lord over people and abuse their power. This, no doubt, was something found in the disciples in their early ministry. You often found them arguing about who would be greatest in the kingdom of God. Because of this very conversation Christ rebuked them with this truth:

Also a dispute arose among them as to which of them was considered to be greatest. Jesus said to them, “The kings of the Gentiles lord it over them; and those who exercise authority over them call themselves Benefactors. But you are not to be like that. Instead, the greatest among you should be like the youngest, and the one who rules like the one who serves. For who is greater, the one who is at the table or the one who serves? Is it not the one who is at the table? But I am among you as one who serves (emphasis mine).
Luke 22:24–27

In the world system, leadership is an opportunity to have others serve you, but not in the ministry. The focus of a pastors leadership is not the exercise of his power but the power of his service. Peter said the primary way the pastor must lead is not by exercising his power over people but by the power of his example. The pastor is called to be an example in his faith, his purity, his conversation, even in his family life; he is called to be an example to the flock.

In fact, it should be added that because the elder does have authority in the church, sometimes people are prone to seek the position just for that reason. There is honor with that title. This seemed to be the case with the churches in the book of James. In James 3:1, he says, “Not many of you should seek to be teachers for you will receive a stricter judgment.” We see in chapter 4 that they were warring and fighting with one another, some had even died. Worldliness had entered the church, and therefore, people were seeking power and position to lord over people. Look at what James says:

What causes fights and quarrels among you? Don’t they come from your desires that battle within you? You want something but don’t get it. You kill and covet, but you cannot have what you want. You quarrel and fight. You do not have, because you do not ask God.
James 4:1–2

They were seeking positions of authority, and it led to fighting and discord among the congregation. This is not healthy.

Are there not times for the elder to use his authority? Certainly, there is, especially when there is false teaching, etc., but his primary leadership should be seen in his example. Peter says elders should not lord over people but instead should be examples to the flock (v. 3).

Faithful elders show us how to love the Word of God, and they push us in our desire to read the Scripture. They should push us in the desire to see the nations know Christ. They should challenge us with their faithful service and care for others.

Let us hear that these are not only marks of faithful elders in a healthy church, but they are also marks of faithful congregants, who are called to imitate the elders. Healthy church members are not lazy but willingly serve as ushers, small-group leaders, mentors, or any other needs the church has. You don’t have to twist their arms because they are willing. The church members are not consumed with what they can get from the church but what they can give. They are not consumer-focused people, but they are eager to serve. That’s why they do what they do. Instead of seeking to lord over people, they are examples of godliness.

4. Faithful pastors have an eternal perspective and motivation.

“And when the Chief Shepherd appears, you will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away.”

I often meet men who don’t want to consider the role of an elder; they see the discord in the church, the extra work, and the lack of money. They say, “No way, not me.” But here we see that even though it is hard, difficult, and sometimes thankless, these faithful shepherds shall be abundantly compensated in heaven. They will receive the crown of glory that will never fade away. In fact, we probably get a literal picture of this in Revelations 4:4: “Surrounding the throne were twenty-four other thrones, and seated on them were twenty-four elders. They were dressed in white and had crowns of gold on their heads” (emphasis mine).

Here we see twenty-four elders crowned in glory. These cannot be angels, for angels don’t age. They seem to represent the redeemed of the church; these are elders who have been crowned and rewarded for faithfully shepherding the flock. They represent the people of God before the throne of God.

We may not understand fully what crowns and rewards in heaven represent, but we do know some things. Look at the reward given in the Parable of the Minas in Luke 19:16-17.

The first one came and said, “Sir, your mina has earned ten more.” “Well done, my good servant!” his master replied. “Because you have been trustworthy in a very small matter, take charge of ten cities (emphasis mine).

Here the faithful are rewarded with overseeing ten cities in the coming kingdom. What is one of the things that reward and crowns represent in the coming kingdom? It represents the ability to serve God more. Those who are faithful with little will be graced with more in the coming kingdom, more ability to serve and honor God. Though this is promised only to elders, it is certainly true of all the redeemed. Those who are faithful in serving God now in his church, shall be rewarded with further opportunities to honor God in his kingdom. This is a characteristic of healthy church members.

I often meet congregants who have no comprehension of heavenly reward; however, this was a chief motivation used by Christ. Look at what he says to the disciples in Matthew 6. He talks about three things that should be in the life of all his disciples: (1) when you fast, (2) when you pray, and (3) when you give, don’t be like the Pharisees so you will not lose you reward. He motivated them by reward. Then in Matthew 6:19, he says to not store up riches on this earth but to store them up in heaven. Christians must have the motivation of eternal reward.

Application Question: Which vice are you prone to in your service to your local church? How is God calling you to grow in being a faithful servant?

Healthy Churches Submit to the Elders

Young men, in the same way be submissive to those who are older.
1 Peter 5:5

After talking to the elders, Peter talks to the members of the church. When it says be submissive to those who are older, it should probably be translated “elders” instead of “older.” This is how it is translated in the ESV and other versions. We can see this specifically from the phrase “in the same way,” or it can be translated “likewise.” Peter is saying that he is dealing with the same topic, and therefore, it refers to the young men submitting to the elders.

Interpretation Question: Why does Peter refer to “young men” instead of the whole church submitting to the elders?

There is a good amount of discussion over this. Some have said maybe there is a faction of young men rebelling in the church. This would be the group most prone to struggle with submission.

Often when there is trial or conflict, it is those in leadership who are commonly blamed or criticized. If you remember, while Israel was in the wilderness, the people turned against Moses and Aaron. We saw a faction of over 250 people, led by Korah, rise up against Moses and Aaron in Numbers 16. They complained against the leadership, and they complained against God.

We also saw this in the New Testament with Paul. In the Corinthian church, false teachers stirred up the congregation against Paul. In 2 Corinthians, one of the primary purposes of the letter was making an argument for his apostleship.

This is common in any organization where there is change or conflict. The employees point their fingers at and complain about the bosses. It is the same in the church. We must be very careful of this tendency to rebel against the leadership, especially when there is conflict or trials.

When congregations go through difficulty, we should not fall into the same sin as Israel or the church of Corinth. We must be careful of factions that rise up in the church against the leadership. Unless the leadership is leading us in contradiction with the clear teaching of Scripture, we should submit to them.

Application Question: How do we combat this desire to rebel against the leaders?

1. It is good for us to remember that the elders are God’s ordained leadership for the church. Listen to what Paul says to the elders of the Ephesian church in Acts 20:28:

“Keep watch over yourselves and all the flock of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers. Be shepherds of the church of God, which he bought with his own blood” (emphasis mine).

We see that every elder is handpicked by the Holy Spirit to oversee the flock. This even included bad elders. In Acts 20, Paul said that false teachers would arise even from among those elders (v. 30) and yet they were still selected by the Holy Spirit (even as Christ selected Judas). The only time we should not submit to the leadership in the sphere of church ministry is when they are disobeying Scripture. Scripture says that they will be held accountable by God for their care of the congregation.

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says: Obey your leaders and submit to their authority. They keep watch over you as men who must give an account (Hebrews 13:17a)

2. We should submit to the elders not only because they are accountable for us but because God will hold us accountable for our submission or lack of to them.

“Obey them so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no advantage to you” (Hebrews 13:17b).

Healthy churches obey and submit to God’s ordained leadership. The Holy Spirit has made them elders, and therefore, we should submit to their authority.

Application Question: Have you experienced factions and rebellion against the leadership of the church? How can we be salt and light in situations like this?

Healthy Churches Humbly Serve One Another

All of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, because, “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.”
1 Peter 5:5

Not only do healthy churches submit to their elders instead of complaining about them or disobeying them, they also serve one another. Peter uses a very interesting word when he says “clothe yourselves.” It literally means “to tie something on oneself.”3 It is a word used of a cloth a servant would put on right before serving. No doubt, Peter was thinking of Christ right before he serves and washes the disciple’s feet in John 13. Look at the narrative:

So he got up from the meal, took off his outer clothing, and wrapped a towel around his waist. After that, he poured water into a basin and began to wash his disciples’ feet, drying them with the towel that was wrapped around him (emphasis mine).
John 13:4–5

The servant apron that believers must put on is that of “humility.” What is humility? The word can also be translated “lowliness of mind.” Scripturally, it means to think of one’s self as lowly in view of God and others. Paul says something similar to the Philippians. Listen to what he says:

Do nothing out of selfish ambition or vain conceit, but in humility consider others better than yourselves. Each of you should look not only to your own interests, but also to the interests of others (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:3–4

He says, “In humility, consider others better than yourselves.” In the rest of the chapter, he describes Christ who left heaven and took the form of a servant (Phil 2:7) and how the church must have this mind as well.

When the church is clothed with the apron of humility, they will go about seeking how they may serve others and help them know Christ. It means to think about meeting others needs over our own. People clothed with humility say, “What are the needs of others and how can I help them?”

One of the reasons most churches struggle with finding people to serve in children’s ministry, youth ministry, usher ministry or driving ministry is because most people are not clothed in the servant’s garment of humility. They are not saying, “How can I help the church?” Listen to what Paul said about Timothy:

I hope in the Lord Jesus to send Timothy to you soon, that I also may be cheered when I receive news about you. I have no one else like him, who takes a genuine interest in your welfare. For everyone looks out for his own interests, not those of Jesus Christ (emphasis mine).
Philippians 2:19–21

Timothy was clothed with the garment of humility; he was consumed with the interests of others and of Christ. Paul said that even in the church, he had no one else like him. They are all consumed with their own interest. Churches that have this servant mind-set have to turn people away from ministries. “Sorry, we have too many workers in children’s ministry. We have too many people volunteering for the driving ministry.”

As mentioned, the ultimate picture of a humble servant is Christ. Even though he was God, he came to earth as a man taking the form of a servant. He served those who he was higher than. He humbled himself not only before God but before men. This attitude must be in us as well (Phil 2:5–11).

Observation Question: Why should we humble ourselves before others in the church as seen in the context of 1 Peter 5:5?

Peter quotes one of the proverbs: “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble.” The reason is twofold:

1. We should serve one another because God fights against the proud.

In a church where people are not serving one another but instead consumed with their own interests, there you will find a church that is prideful. Pride is essentially being independent of God and others. “God, I don’t need you, and I don’t need the members of your church.” It is the sin of independence. God fights against these kinds of Christians.

People who are fighting for their own way, their own rights, instead of being servants will find that they are actually fighting against God. Solomon talks about this further. He says in Proverbs 6:16 in the KJV: “These six things doth the LORD hate: yea, seven are an abomination unto him: A proud look, a lying tongue, and hands that shed innocent blood” (emphasis mine).

God even hates the proud look. Why does he hate pride so much? The proud do not acknowledge God. They say, “I have done this by my own strength, my own knowledge and will,” and they steal the glory from God. However, Jesus said even the food we eat and the clothing we wear God provides (Matt 6:25-31). Paul said he gives us life, breath and everything else (Acts 17:25).

The proud say, “We don’t need to serve God or his people.” Even if they do not say it with their mouths, they say it by their lives. They go each day not seeking his face, not recognizing their dependence upon him. Many churches are under God’s judgment. Why? It’s because the community is not a serving community, not a humble community.

Listen to what Paul told Titus in Titus 2:14: “Who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good” (emphasis mine). God redeemed us from slavery to sin to be slaves of righteousness—a people eager or zealous to do what is good. When his church does not act this way because of their selfish pride, he fights against them.

Many churches are going through discord and problems because of pride that makes them independent. It is not only the consequence of their pride that they are suffering but the judgment of God. People refuse to put on the servant’s cloth and humbly serve one another. “I’m too busy to get involved, too busy to serve others.” This brings God displeasure and ultimately brings his judgment.

2. We should serve one another because God gives grace to the humble.

What does it mean that God gives grace to the humble?

Grace means “unmerited favor.” God gives favor to their prayers. God gives strength when they are weak. He meets their needs. He is intimate with them. In fact, we see this with Moses. The Scripture says Moses was the humblest man on the earth and that God spoke to him face-to-face (Num 12:3–8). Moses had intimacy with God that others did not.

We also see that with Paul, grace meant to be empowered in his weakness. We see this in 2 Corinthians 12. In that section, God actually allows Paul to have a demonic thorn in the flesh, in order to keep him from pride so his power could be made perfect in him. Look at what it says:

To keep me from becoming conceited because of these surpassingly great revelations, there was given me a thorn in my flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment me. Three times I pleaded with the Lord to take it away from me. But he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly about my weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on me (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 12:7–9

Those who humble themselves before God shall find unmerited favor. This includes intimacy, strength, and empowerment to do Gods work.

A healthy church is a humble, serving church. They put on the garment of humility. However, a prideful church is not consumed with the interest of God or others. They are prideful and independent, and therefore, God fights against them. We are either a humble, serving church that God blesses or an independent, prideful church that God fights against.

Which will we choose? What way is God calling you to humbly serve the church?

Application Question: What way is God calling you to put the garment of humility on and serve his people?


What are characteristics of a healthy church?

  1. Healthy churches have a plurality of leaders. One man cannot lead God’s house.
  2. Healthy churches have faithful leaders. They are not lazy; they are not greedy or power hungry, but eager to serve. This should be true of the congregants as well.
  3. Healthy churches have members who submit to their leadership.
  4. Healthy churches humbly serve one another and receive God’s blessing.

Chapter Notes









Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.

1 Statistics in the Ministry. (accessed July 15, 2014).

2 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (1995). 1 Timothy. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (219). Chicago: Moody Press.

3 MacArthur, J. F., Jr. (2004). 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary (277). Chicago: Moody Publishers.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Issues in Church Leadership/Ministry

17. How Healthy Churches Go through Trials (1 Peter 5:6-7)

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Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:6-7

How does a healthy church go through trials?

The conclusion is often the most important part of a book or movie. It is there you make your closing arguments and declare what you most want your reader to leave with. Here at the end of Peter’s epistle, it is no different. He leaves this letter on suffering and being a pilgrim in a foreign and ungodly world with some exhortations and encouragements for the church.

In 1 Peter 5:1-5, we started looking at what a healthy church looks like. In the beginning of the chapter, Peter spoke “to the Elders among” them (5:1). This tells us the letter was not just written to scattered Christians but to local congregations that had scattered. He challenges them to be healthy. He called the elders to lead properly in the church; he called the young men, who possibly were being antagonistic to the leadership, to submit. He spoke to the whole church commanding them to put on the cloth of humility in order to serve one another (v. 5).

Healthy churches have godly leadership who are eager to serve and care for the flock, but they also have members who submit to the vision of the leadership and serve the church. They don’t typically have many unfulfilled roles in the children’s ministry or the youth ministry. Why? It’s because everybody has humbly put on the servant’s garment, and they are seeking to serve one another.

But now, as he concludes, he returns to the primary theme of the letter and speaks about suffering. How should church communities suffer together? Suffering can be a great thing. We see this individually, as trials can make us more patient, peaceful, loving and caring, or it can do the opposite. Suffering can cripple us and leave us with many emotional scars. We can become more fearful, anxious, depressed, angry and even violent. It can either help us or hurt us, and it’s no different with the church.

Similarly, it is God’s desire to use trials corporately in the life of congregations to help them mature. It may come in persecutions like here with the congregations in Asia Minor. It may come in the form of conflict between church members as seen in the Philippian church (Phil 4:2). It can be through false teachers as in Ephesus (1 Tim 1:3) or a member in the church who needs discipline as with Corinth (1 Cor 5).

God forbid that it be his will for any of us to go through these difficulties at our home church, but even if it is his will, we must have a proper view of trials as Scripture teaches, and we must know how to respond to the trials as a community.

As we look at this text, we must ask ourselves, “How do healthy churches & church members go through trials?” Many congregations split or members move when things aren’t good because they have never learned how to go through trials as a community. Scripture often compares the church to a family. In 1 Timothy 5:1-2, Paul calls Timothy to treat the older men in the church as fathers, younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters with absolute purity.  Do healthy families break up when they go through problems? No! They should get closer and more intimate. It should be the same with healthy churches.

How do healthy churches go through hardship together? In this passage we will see three characteristics of how healthy churches respond to trials.

Big Question: How does Peter command the scattered congregations to respond to their trials in 1 Peter 5:6-7? What characteristics can we learn about healthy churches through this text?

Healthy Churches Recognize, Trust, and Submit to God in Trials

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time.
1 Peter 5:6

Not only are healthy churches humble before one another by taking on the servant’s apron and serving others (1 Peter 5:5), healthy churches are also humble before God. Peter says “humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand.”

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand?

1. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to recognize that God is in control of the trial.

How do we know this is referring to submitting to God while in trials? We see that from the context which has been suffering throughout the letter (1 Peter 4:12). But we also see this from Peter’s next comment that he may lift you up in due time (v. 6). These believers who were suffering must recognize God’s hand in the midst of their trials and humbly submit to it. They must persevere so God could lift them up in his time.

This is something that many Christians struggle with. How can God be in control of the hardships in my life? How can he be in control of what happened in my past or what’s happening in my church right now?

Scripture clearly teaches that God is sovereign and in control of all things. Listen to what Paul said in Ephesians 1:11:

In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will (emphasis mine)

There is not one thing that happens on this world that does not conform to the counsel of God’s will (v. 11). If I took some water and poured it into a plastic bottle, the water would conform to the shape of the bottle. In the same way, Paul teaches that everything, even the worst things in life, somehow conform to God’s sovereign plan. This is a mystery; however, it is an important mystery we must accept if we are going to faithfully go through the trials of life.

Many times people cannot persevere or make it through trials because all they see is the enemy, or all they see is people that have hurt them. They spend all their time mad at people, mad at events and never humbling themselves under the mighty hand of God.

Listen to what the writer of Hebrews says:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as sons. For what son is not disciplined by his father?
Hebrews 12:7

The writer of Hebrews calls them to endure their trials as discipline from God. This writer gives a general term “hardship” to cover every difficulty that we will go through. There are some Christians that say God never allows a Christian to be sick, he never allows them to go through a hard time and that it is always from the enemy. But Scripture doesn’t teach that; it shows God being in control of the enemy. In fact, let’s look at the kind of hardship the writer of Hebrews is talking about specifically in Hebrews 10:32-34.

Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions.

It seems these Christians were suffering a similar trial as those Peter was writing to in Asia Minor. They were going through insults and persecutions; they had their properties confiscated because of their faith. In fact, Hebrews 12 begins by telling them to not grow weary and lose heart in their trials by fixing their eyes on Christ (v. 2-4).  Later in the chapter, he comforts them in the same way Peter does. Endure hardship as discipline from God (v. 7). The writer of Hebrews is saying, God is in control of your trial. Humble yourself under his mighty hand of God.

One of the things we must do as a church if we are going to faithfully endure suffering is recognize God’s hand in it. Yes, Satan may be working, yes it may be a difficult member in the church, but we must realize God is in control of all that and he will use it for the good (Rom 8:28).

Remember Job? Job under trial said this:

“Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The LORD gave and the LORD has taken away; may the name of the LORD be praised.” In all this, Job did not sin by charging God with wrongdoing.
Job 1:21-22

Even if the Lord slays me I will still trust him.
Job 13:15

Some might say, “But Brother Job you have got it all wrong, that was Satan.” Yes, it was. But God works all things according to the counsel of his will (Ephesians 1:11). Satan could have no power unless God had given it to him. What Job was doing in these passages, was humbling himself under God’s mighty hand. He was recognizing God’s sovereignty in the midst of his difficulty and praising him for it. In fact, Scripture says in everything, Job did not charge God with wrongdoing (1:22).

Similar to Job, Joseph said to his brothers who had thrown him into slavery, “what you meant for bad God meant for good (Gen 50:20).” Joseph, like Job and like Christ (Luke 22:42), humbled himself under God’s mighty hand.

It is important for churches to recognize God’s mighty hand even in a trial.

2. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to trust God.

Listen to what Solomon said in Proverbs 3:5, “Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding.”

To humble ourselves means to say, “God, you know best. I trust you, even though it doesn’t make sense. I trust your sovereignty over this situation. You are God.”

3. To humble ourselves under God’s mighty hand means to submit to God.

Jesus said, take this cup from me but nevertheless your will be done (Lk 22:42). He submitted to God’s will for his life even when it meant the cross. Many Christians only want to submit when God’s will fits their plans, but if it includes sickness, a difficult job or a difficult relationship--they rebel. Abraham when asked to sacrifice his child said, “OK.” He submitted to God in his trial. We must do the same.

Interpretation Question: What is the opposite of humbly submitting to God in a trial and what does that look like?

The opposite is pride and becoming angry at God and others in the trial. Many Christians have gone through trials in their life and ran away from God. They have shaken their fist at God in anger.

See pride says to God, “I know better than you.” But humility recognizes that God’s ways are higher than our ways, and his thoughts are higher than our thoughts.  Listen to what Isaiah says:

“For my thoughts are not your thoughts, neither are your ways my ways,” declares the LORD. “As the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.
Isaiah 55:8-9

The prideful church members often get angry at God and angry at other people. They imply by their attitude that they know best and that if God was good he would have never allowed the trial to happen. But the humble church member says, “God, I trust you. I may not understand but I humble myself before you.”

Christ humbled himself and went to a cross because he understood God knew best. Christ prayed, take this cup from me, but nevertheless your will be done (Lk 22:42).  Are you humbling yourself before God? Are you trusting him?

What else does a healthy church do in a trial?

Application Question: Why is it so hard sometimes to trust God in the trials of life? How do we learn to trust him better?

Healthy Churches Persevere through Trials

Humble yourselves, therefore, under God’s mighty hand, that he may lift you up in due time (emphasis mine).
1 Peter 5:6

We see that Peter is not only talking about humbling one’s self before God in a trial but also perseverance by his next comment. Peter says, we humble ourselves so that he may lift us up in due time.  The phrase “due time” was telling the believers, they would have to wait on God and persevere to receive his blessing.

The normal response for a church going through a trial is for many of the members to start bailing ship. The pastor has a moral failure, there is a fight amongst the congregants and people just start leaving.

No. Listen, “In due time if you persevere God will lift you up.” He will make you stronger. He will bless you if you just persevere. There is a time period we must stay under the trial so that God can do the work he wants to do in us. The potter must put the clay in the fire for a certain amount of time to make it strong so it can be useful. This is very similar to what Paul said in Galatians 6:9, “Let us not become weary in doing good, for at the proper time we will reap a harvest if we do not give up.”

Trials are like weights. You must put your body under distress so the muscle can grow. After it has gone through proper distress, the muscle responds by getting stronger, developing more endurance and growing. In due time God will lift us up; we must persevere. Listen to what James says about trials in James 1:4, “But let patience have her perfect work, that ye may be perfect and entire, wanting nothing” (KJV).

The believer must let patience or better translated perseverance do the work it’s supposed to, so we can become mature in the faith.  We must let God do his work through the trial. Humble yourself under God’s mighty hand, for in due time he will lift you up. Listen, there is no better place for you to be at, than in God’s hand even if his hand is in the fire. He will protect you there and he will heal you there.

Let me tell you what perseverance is not. It is not grumbling. It is not complaining. It is not becoming angry at God. It is not fighting with others. To persevere through a trial, means to trust God and be faithful and righteous through the process.  To not persevere is to run away from God and run towards sin. Abraham saw a famine in the promised land, so he went to Egypt and lied about his wife (Genesis 12). There was a blessing even in the famine, but he had to persevere to receive it instead of bailing ship.

Interpretation Question: What does Peter mean by God “lifting” us up in due in time? How should this affect us?

  1. To be lifted up in the trial means to develop our character. Perseverance creates character and character hope (Romans 5:3-4). That is the most important “lifting up” we can receive.
  2. To be lifted up in trial may at times mean the removal of the trial. The potter only keeps the pot in the oven until it has created the strength or glory it is looking for. To keep it in too long would actually destroy the pot (1 Cor. 10:13). No doubt our God is like that as well. At times, it is his will to remove the sickness, the persecution, or the conflict after it has completed its ordained purpose.
  3. To be lifted up may at times mean taking the believer home to Glory.

Listen to what Isaiah says about righteous men being taken away: “The righteous perish, and no one ponders it in his heart; devout men are taken away, and no one understands that the righteous are taken away to be spared from evil (emphasis mine)” (Isaiah 57:1). Isaiah said people don’t think about this enough. Why is God taking away all our godly leaders? Isaiah says, it’s a work of grace. He does that to keep them from the coming evil. God probably took Enoch away because of how sinful the world was right before the flood and the coming judgment (Gen 5).

For some, the Creator lifts them up by taking them to heaven through death. This no doubt would have comforted many who had lost relatives or friends to this persecution or those whose physical sufferings were unbearable. For some in a hospital bed with a debilitating, terminal disease, their greatest desire is for God to lift them up soon. It is the greatest form of grace to be taken to heaven.

God’s plan for lifting a believer up in trial may be different for each believer. We can be sure that he is always seeking to develop character qualities in us through trials (James 1:2-4), but whether he removes the trial or the believer is at times different. With Noah, it says he walked with God just as Enoch did (Gen 6:9), but God took Noah through the trial instead of taking him straight to heaven. God’s plan for each believer is different, but if we persevere he will lift us up.

How should the church respond in trial? We must persevere in the trial for in due time God will lift us up.

Application Question: What are some of the negative responses you have seen to church conflict? Why is it so difficult for members to persevere in trials?

Healthy Churches Practice Corporate Prayer in Trials

Cast all your anxiety on him because he cares for you.
1 Peter 5:7

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to “cast all your anxiety” on the Lord? Why is this important?

One of the things we must notice about this verse is that the “your” is actually plural in the original language. Peter is speaking to the local congregations and saying to cast their cares upon the Lord corporately in the midst of their trials. Certainly, Christians should pray individually but there is something powerful about corporate prayer. Look at Matthew 18:19-20,

“Again, I tell you that if two of you on earth agree about anything you ask for, it will be done for you by my Father in heaven. For where two or three come together in my name, there am I with them.”

Christ says when two or more agree in prayer, he is in the midst of them and he answers their prayers. We often use this saying for the church gathering in general, but the context is specifically corporate prayer (and the larger context church discipline). Certainly, there are more factors than these such as praying God’s will and etc… as the rest of Scripture teaches. However, we must see that there is something special and powerful about praying with the church.

Peter says the church should cast their anxieties on the Lord. The word to cast means, means throwing something fully on something else or someone else.1  The church takes difficulties such as the sick people at the church, the church debt, the church conflict, persecution and they come together and pray about it.

We get a great picture of this in Acts 4. In this chapter Peter and the apostles have just been threatened by the Pharisees and told not to speak in the name of Jesus anymore. They were going through persecution. Guess what Peter leads them into doing? That’s right, corporate prayer. Look at what Acts 4:23-24 says:

On their release, Peter and John went back to their own people and reported all that the chief priests and elders had said to them. When they heard this, they raised their voices together in prayer to God. “Sovereign Lord,” they said, “you made the heaven and the earth and the sea, and everything in them (emphasis mine).

As the text goes on, it says that the building they were in was shaken. God responded by filling each person with the Holy Spirit and they left the building proclaiming the Word of God with boldness.

What should the church do when they have anxieties? They should call up the saints and pray. They should bring it all before the Lord--throw the worries, fears and troubles on the Lord together.

In fact, I think we get a great picture of this individually with Christ before he goes to the cross. He is bearing this tremendous anxiety on him about the cross and bearing the sins of the world and what does he do? He calls a prayer meeting. “Then he said to them, “My soul is overwhelmed with sorrow to the point of death. Stay here and keep watch with me” (Matthew 26:38). He calls Peter, James and John and asks them to watch and pray with him for an hour which eventually turns into three. Healthy churches pray together during a trial. They throw their anxieties on the Lord because he cares for them.

Application Question: What are some other ways we can apply this need to pray corporately?

a) This text reminds us of our need to share our anxieties and worries with the church community.

I think one of the things Satan has done is make people so ashamed, they no longer share their problems with the church. They never say, “I am having financial difficulty. My brother is sick; my wife has cancer.” Satan works through shame and it often cripples the church community from ever being the channel of blessing it is supposed to be. Listen to what James 5:16 says, “Therefore confess your sins to each other and pray for each other so that you may be healed. The prayer of a righteous man is powerful and effective.” We must be willing to open up and share with one another so that we can have the healing that comes through corporate prayer.

b) The text reminds us to persevere in prayer and not give up.

Prayer is encouraged in the context of a call to persevere until God lifts them up in due time. This means we must persevere in prayer during trials. We saw this taught in a parable of Jesus in Luke 18:1: “Then Jesus told his disciples a parable to show them that they should always pray and not give up” (emphasis mine).

Jesus gives a parable of a widow who consistently bothered a judge until he granted her request. He gives this parable to teach the disciples the need for praying and not giving up. He says this at the end of the parable, “However, when the Son of Man comes, will he find faith on the earth?” (Luke 18:8).

Christ essentially says at his second coming this type of faith will be in short supply. Very few will pray till God lifts them up, till he removes the burden, till he changes the government, till he changes the ungodly laws. This type of faith is needed when a church is being persecuted and Christian values are being attacked in society.

Some of these difficulties in the church may last a long time, but we must faithfully pray through them. We must cast all our weight, all our concerns on the Lord as a corporate body. As we do this, he will lift us up in due time.


How do healthy churches go through trials?

  1. Healthy churches recognize, trust, and submit to God in trials. They focus on God’s sovereignty in the trial. It is not about this person or that person but primarily God. He is sovereign, and we must trust and submit to his hand while in the fire.
  2. Healthy churches persevere in trials. There is a specific amount of time that we must endure the fire so God can complete his work in us. In due time God will lift us up if we do not faint.
  3. Healthy churches practice corporate prayer in trials. When persecution came, Peter called a prayer meeting. When Jesus was weary unto death, he called a prayer meeting. We must both rely on God and one another in trials as we seek his face through prayer.

Application Question: What is your typical response to trials? How is God calling you to improve your response?

Chapter Notes









Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.

1 John MacArthur, 1 Peter. MacArthur New Testament Commentary, (Chicago: Moody Publishers, 2004), 240.

Related Topics: Ecclesiology (The Church), Spiritual Life, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

18. How Healthy Churches Resist The Devil (1 Peter 5:8-11)

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Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering. And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:8-11 (NET)

How do healthy churches resist the devil?

It should be remembered that these congregations throughout the Roman Empire were being persecuted. There was probably division in the church, as the young men were not submitting to the elders (1 Peter 5:5). Peter in the last chapter of the letter essentially encourages them to be healthy. He speaks to the leadership and the congregations. He calls them to humble themselves under God’s mighty hand during their trials.

He ends the letter with a final warning. He calls them to be alert and to resist the devil. This was very important. It should be noted that it is often in the midst of a trial that Satan attacks the hardest. It was while Jesus was at his weakest physically that Satan attacked him in the wilderness. It was in the wilderness that Israel was tempted to complain and turn away from God. It was when there was famine in the land that Abraham left the promise land and went to Egypt.

These scattered churches needed to be very aware of Satan and his attacks in the midst of their trials and their persecutions. No doubt, the enemy would seek to bring discord amongst the believers: try to draw many away from the faith and make many give up. It has been said God uses trials to strengthen our faith and Satan uses trials to weaken our faith. We always must be aware of his attacks, but especially during trials.

Another, aspect of a healthy church is their vigilant fight against the devil. C. S. Lewis talked about how there were two extremes in our understanding of the devil. There is the extreme of seeing Satan behind everything. He brings every sickness; he is the cause behind every sin. Satan, often, gets way too much credit in the church.

However, the other extreme, which is far more common, is that most Christians don’t recognize Satan at all. They blame their roommates, they blame the government, they blame their wives, they blame themselves and sometimes blame God, but Satan gets none of the blame. Paul said this:

For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms.
Ephesians 6:12

It is possible for Christians to see and blame everybody else and not recognize the spiritual war we are in. This would be particularly important for these Christians who were being persecuted for their faith. They needed to realize that Satan is the ruler of this world (John 12:31) and he is working behind the government and all aspects of society, to come against the plans of God. They needed to be alert for the devil. This would keep them from blaming God or blaming others.

Because of this sober reality, healthy churches and church members need a strong awareness of the enemy. Look at Pauls awareness of the enemy:

For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan stopped us (emphasis mine).
1 Thessalonians 2:18

He saw Satan hindering the work of ministry, as Paul was trying to visit Thessalonica. Similarly, look at what Paul said to married couples in 1 Corinthians 7:5,

Do not deprive each other except by mutual consent and for a time, so that you may devote yourselves to prayer. Then come together again so that Satan will not tempt you because of your lack of self-control (emphasis mine).

Paul saw Satan active in seeking to destroy marriages. In fact, Paul was so aware of Satan that he studied his schemes in order to not be tricked by them. He said this, “In order that Satan might not outwit us. For we are not unaware of his schemes” (2 Cor 2:11).

Paul saw an awareness of the devil as very important for a healthy church and thus a healthy Christian life. He calls for these Christians, who are scattered throughout Asia Minor, to be self-controlled and alert because Satan is a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.

As we go through this lesson, I want you to ask yourself, “Do you have a healthy awareness of the devil? and How do we properly resist the devil, as a congregation? These questions are, especially, important as we go through trials.

Big Question: How do healthy churches resist the devil according to 1 Peter 5:8-9?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Recognizing Him and His Tactics

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NET)

Peter calls for this church to be alert. This means they must recognize the devil and be aware of his works. He begins to explain a little bit more about the devil in the rest of the verse. This text doesn’t give us a full systematic theology on Satan and his works, but if we look closely, there is a lot we can learn from these few verses.

Observation Question: What does 1 Peter 5:8–9 teach us about the devil, so we can recognize him and be more aware of his works?

1. He is an enemy of the church. Peter said, “Your enemy the devil.”

The word your is plural. It means that not only do we have a personal enemy who hates us but one who ultimately wants to oppose the work of God in every church. He will harass, seek to bring division, seek to bring persecution, seek to hinder the preaching of God’s Word. This enemy works against the church of God.

We must be aware that every step that makes us closer to God or enables us to do more for the kingdom of God, will be met with opposition. The Christian must beware that when he became a follower of Christ, he also received an enemy. Jesus said that in the kingdom the devil plants false believers, tares, to choke the harvest (Matt 13:24-30). Satan is working not only from outside the church but inside the church. We must be aware that we have an enemy.

2. He is a dangerous foe.

We see this from the fact that Peter uses the metaphor of a lion in describing Satan. He is dangerous and needs to be taken seriously.

Now sometimes in certain sects of Christianity, they have lost a proper reverence for the enemy. They tend to overemphasize the fact that we have authority in Christ, and therefore, demean the enemy. Ask any person in a sporting event how a very talented team loses against a less talented team. This often happens because people don’t respect their opponent. Listen to what Jude says about this:

In the very same way, these dreamers pollute their own bodies, reject authority and slander celestial beings. But even the archangel Michael, when he was disputing with the devil about the body of Moses, did not dare to bring a slanderous accusation against him, but said, “The Lord rebuke you!” Yet these men speak abusively against whatever they do not understand; and what things they do understand by instinct, like unreasoning animals—these are the very things that destroy them (emphasis mine).
Jude 1:8–10

In talking about false prophets, he calls them dreamers and describes how they slander celestial beings including the devil. Jude says even the archangel Michael, an angel more powerful than us, respected the devil and called upon God to rebuke him using the authority in the Lord’s name.

Sometimes, people have forgotten that Satan is a foe who knows us better than we know ourselves. He has been studying humans for thousands of years; he understands their tendencies. He also is very powerful and ferocious, as alluded to by the metaphor of a lion.

Though some may not verbally underestimate him, they live lives that do not recognize the danger he poses. They allow their kids total freedom in what they watch, what they wear, where they go. Would you do this if a lion was outside? Satan is more dangerous than any lion.

I do believe there is an authority that comes with our relationship with Christ (Ephesians 2:6), but we also must properly evaluate our enemy. He is a dangerous foe and the person who understands this will be self-controlled and alert.

How would you react if there was a lion prowling outside your apartment building? Now, how would you react if he was in your apartment building? You probably would be alert and in full control of your faculties.

3. He is an accuser.

Peter calls him the devil; the name means “accuser” or “slanderer.” This means that one of his primary assaults is accusation.

He accuses us before God. We saw this in the book of Job as Satan accused Job. Satan said to God, “Job only loves you because you bless him.” Satan also accuses God to us. We saw this with Eve. He said to Eve, “God is a liar; he doesn’t want what’s best for you. He is keeping you from being like God.” But he also attacks us. He says to us we cannot be godly, we cannot be holy—he attacks our body image, our failures, and our relationships. He is an accuser.

Listen to what Paul said: “Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:1); “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us?” (Rom 8:31)

We must know that in Christ, the enemy’s accusations have lost their power. Have you recognized his accusing thoughts? He accuses to bring discord with other believers. He accuses to bring depression. We must be aware of his accusations.

4. He often uses stealth in order to catch Christians (prowl).

Look at the definition of prowl. It means “to roam through stealthily, as in search of prey or plunder.”1

We have an enemy who is trying to catch people, but he is often sly and stealthy in the process, like any good hunter. He doesn’t show up in a red costume saying “I want to kill you.” He prowls in a stealthy manner to destroy someone who is unaware. Look what Paul said about our enemy:

For such men are false apostles, deceitful workmen, masquerading as apostles of Christ. And no wonder, for Satan himself masquerades as an angel of light. It is not surprising, then, if his servants masquerade as servants of righteousness. Their end will be what their actions deserve (emphasis mine).
2 Corinthians 11:13—15

Paul said Satan shows himself as an angel of light in order to deceive people and devour them. His ministers show up as apostles of Christ, those sent to preach the Word. Jesus called them wolves in sheep’s clothing (Matt 7:15); they come with intentions to deceive. Many are devoured by the enemy because they are not aware of his tactics. He comes into the house by stealth through the TV, through the books one reads, through certain relationships. He comes through many ministers of the faith. He is a very cunning enemy.

Are you aware that you have an enemy who is prowling around waiting for an opportunity, a door, to snare you?

5. He often uses the tactic of fear in order to intimidate the believer (roaring lion).

It has often been said that the lion roars to paralyze his prey. In the same way, one of the tactics that Satan uses to hinder the effectiveness of believers is fear. Look at what Paul says to Timothy: “For God did not give us a spirit of timidity (emphasis mine), but a spirit of power, of love and of self–discipline” (2 Tim 1:7). Timothy is probably struggling with fear about doing ministry, and Paul alerts him to the fact that, that spirit is not from God.

It will commonly be fear that Satan uses to keep you from doing God’s will as well. Look at the Parable of the Talents.

Then the man who had received the one talent came. “Master,” he said, “I knew that you are a hard man, harvesting where you have not sown and gathering where you have not scattered seed. So I was afraid and went out and hid your talent in the ground. See, here is what belongs to you” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 25:24–25

The man whom God had given one talent to serve, did not because he was afraid. He was afraid to lead a small group, afraid to witness, afraid to go on missions, afraid about the future and this kept him from doing God’s will.

Satan, as a roaring lion, works through fear. He paralyzes his prey with worries and anxieties about the present, the past and the future. He roars to keep people from progressing in the things of God.

Are you under the constant barrage of fears and worries? This is how Satan paralyzes people and keeps them from growing in the faith and doing God’s will. Let us remember that God has not given us a spirit of fear, but of power, love and self-discipline.

6. He ultimately wants to destroy the believer (seeking whom he may devour).

Look at what Jesus said to the Pharisees in John 8:44: “You belong to your father, the devil, and you want to carry out your father’s desire. He was a murderer from the beginning, not holding to the truth, for there is no truth in him” (emphasis mine). In this context, Jesus is accusing the Pharisees of wanting to kill him. He said they were doing the will of their father, the devil. This is the reality of every believer, especially a believer who is living passionately for God.

The devil will use even, what some would call, harmless sins to ultimately destroy the believer. He is a murderer, and we must be aware of that with every temptation. We often see the male drinking on TV and laughing while surrounded by a bunch of females, but we don’t see the drunk, drowning in his vomit, who has lost job and career. Satan wants to destroy, and if he can’t kill you, he wants to destroy your witness and to shame you in such a way that you will be too scared to allow God to use you. He is a destroyer.

When you really understand this concept, you cease to give Satan any doors. You don’t listen to him through the music or TV shows because you know his ultimate plan. He is a murderer. He wants to devour not only individuals, but families and churches. His pathway is full of destruction.

We must flee from all appearance of evil (1 Thess 5:22) for our enemy desires to devour, not just tempt.

The believer, however, can take confidence that God holds the temperature gauge on every trial that he allows the enemy to bring against us and that he always provides a way of escape (1 Cor 10:13).

7. He attacks in a widespread manner (your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings).

“Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings” (1 Pet 5:9).

Because Satan is the god of this age and the prince of this world, he has created a system that works against God and those who follow him. We should not be surprised when we are passed over for promotion because of a lifestyle that is righteous. We should not be surprised when we are mocked for our values and belief systems.

In this context, Christians were being burned in the gardens of Nero just to give light to his plants and flowers. We should not be surprised at this, for Satan is at work behind the world system. He works in the hearts of those who are disobedient (Eph 2:2), leading them even into ridiculous atrocities. The enemy’s attacks are widespread.

8. He is a liar (brothers undergoing same kind of sufferings).

Probably an implication of Peter telling this church that the brothers throughout the world were enduring the same suffering is that Satan is a liar.

Believers are often tempted to believe that they are the only one’s going through their situation. They are tempted to think no one else understands them. Satan often isolates the believer from the church or other healthy relationships with this lie. He does this by making them feel like nobody else is going through this or nobody understands. The person struggling with pornography, the woman with an eating disorder, or the man with homosexual thoughts hide in shame, thinking no one else has the same struggles. Satan condemns and shames them in order to isolate and destroy them. We see this truth throughout the Scripture; Jesus calls Satan the father of lies (John 8:44).

Peter assures them that their temptations are common to the brothers. The believer must be aware of this lie often used by the devil. “No one else understands, no one else has been through what I have been through.” This keeps the believer from sharing with others and often keeps them bound in sin. Listen to what Paul said:

No temptation has seized you except what is common to man. And God is faithful; he will not let you be tempted beyond what you can bear. But when you are tempted, he will also provide a way out so that you can stand up under it (emphasis mine).
1 Corinthians 10:13

Are you alert and aware of your enemy the devil?

He opposes everything good you seek to do for God. He seeks to encourage fear in you. He seeks to encourage you to isolate yourself. He feeds you lies. He accuses you; he accuses God; he accuses your friends. Are you alert to the works of the devil? He ultimately wants to destroy every believer. He wants to destroy their testimony and ultimately kill them.

Are you aware of your enemy the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Being Sober and Self-Controlled

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour.
1 Peter 5:8 (NET)

Peter says believers must protect themselves from the devil by being sober. What does it mean to be sober?

Interpretation Question: In 1 Peter 5:8, Peter calls believers to be sober in resisting the devil. It can also be translated “self-controlled.” What does it mean to be sober and self-controlled in resisting the devil? Why is this important?

The word that Peter uses for sober here has several meanings:

1. To be sober means to be free of intoxicants both spiritual and physical. We will look at both separately.

a.) Spiritual Intoxication

A spiritual intoxicant is anything that creates apathy in your spiritual life and draws you away from God. It includes loving the things of this world and pursuing them, it includes addictions to sin that keep you from properly viewing people and the things of God.

We get a good picture of spiritual intoxication in the prodigal son (Luke 15). He leaves his father’s house in order to pursue wasteful living. He pursued the things of this world, the prostitutes and drunkenness. This ultimately led to his poverty. The prodigal son could not properly evaluate the beauty of the father’s love. Finally, Scripture says he came to “his senses” (v. 17). He sobered up and went home.

How many Christians has Satan destroyed because of spiritual drunkenness? They enjoy an ungodly relationship more than obedience to God. They enjoy the pursuit of materialism more than the joy of seeing the nations come to Christ. They are intoxicated and cannot properly steer the wheel of their lives.

Another good example of spiritual intoxication is the story of Esau and Jacob. Esau is the eldest son of Isaac. The inheritance of his father is his. However, one day he comes back from hunting in the field and has caught nothing. Therefore, he is starving. When he enters the house, Jacob has just made a wonderful dinner. Esau was so hungry that he bartered away his father’s inheritance, all the livestock, and wealth that had been stored up for generations, for one meal.

This may seem ridiculous, but it is not ridiculous in comparison to how many Christians live. They often choose to live their short 70 years on this earth enjoying the pleasures of this world, instead of enjoying their father’s love and preparing for their inheritance in heaven. Instead of living for God and storing their wealth in heaven, they store it on this earth, only to leave it behind at death. This is spiritual intoxication with the things of this world. They cannot properly evaluate the father’s love and blessing, in comparison to the fleeting pleasures of sin and the temporary things of this world. They are like Esau, spiritually intoxicated. Look at what John says:

Do not love the world or anything in the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For everything in the world—the cravings of sinful man, the lust of his eyes and the boasting of what he has and does—comes not from the Father but from the world. The world and its desires pass away, but the man who does the will of God lives forever (emphasis mine).
1 John 2:15-17

Satan works hard to deceive Christians and draw them away from the things of God. He seeks to intoxicate them. This is why Paul says: Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world (emphasis mine), but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (Romans 12:2).

We must change our thinking. We must have a sober mind so we will not be tricked by the evil one.

b.) Physical Intoxication

But being sober does not just refer to spiritual intoxication, it also refers to physical intoxication. This is a call to be free of addictions to cigarettes, alcohol, drugs, etc. Scripture consistently calls Christians to live a sober life. Look at what Paul says in Ephesians 5:18: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit.”

Satan is content to control your life through a physical intoxicant, as long as you are not controlled by God. You can only have one master. You cannot have two or three. You will love one and hate the other (Matt 6:24). The person who is addicted to a drug, essentially gives the worship and dependence that only God is worthy of, to that drug. This is something that Satan is happy about, and will use to draw a person farther and farther away from God and his plans for their lives.

Also, I think the original audience would have read this command a little different than the contemporary audience. Certainly, it referred to being free from drugs. But drugs in that society were an essential part of pagan worship and witchcraft. It should be noted that the word magic or sorcery in the Bible (Rev. 18:23) comes from the word pharmakea, where we get the word pharmacy.

Typically, people who were worshiping other gods or demons would use drugs in order to enhance their worship. Witches, specifically, would use drugs in order to open themselves up to the spirit world or demon spirits. No doubt, this was in Peter’s mind when he called the Christians to be sober. The use of these drugs opened the door for Satan and Peter probably commanded them to be sober in order to protect them from demonic influence.

Does this still happen today? Is it any surprise that in the majority of heinous crimes drugs or alcohol is involved? One statistic said for sexual assaults, 75% of the time, the offender, the victim, or both had been drinking.2 I have no doubt that the enemy commonly uses people who cannot control themselves because of submission to a drug, in order to rule over them and commit many heinous acts. Ephesians 2:2 describes Satan as “the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient.” It is no doubt easier for Satan to “work in” someone who has relinquished their self-control to some drug.

2. To be sober also means to be disciplined, as it can be translated “self-controlled.”

One of the ways a Christian lives a sober life and protects themselves from the enemy is by being self-controlled. Listen to what Paul says in 1 Corinthians 9:25 (ESV),

Every athlete exercises self-control in all things. They do it to receive a perishable wreath, but we an imperishable (emphasis mine).

He compares the Christian to an athlete and says the Christian must be disciplined in all things. This includes their eating, their drinking, their sleeping, and their media. The Olympic athlete does this for an Olympic crown, but we do it for an imperishable one in heaven. How much more should a Christian be disciplined in all things when we will be rewarded by God, not an Olympic committee?

Listen, many Christians fail in this aspect of Paul’s command just by the time they go to bed at night. They don’t get good sleep, which affects their ability to get up and spend time with God. They are not living self-controlled lives. They live career-controlled lives, socially controlled lives, or media-controlled lives and this opens the door for the enemy to draw them away from God.

Satan has won in many Christians’ lives just because they are not disciplined. He won the battle in church the night before when the student chose to stay out all night hanging with his friends. In church, he is “bobbing and weaving.” He wins in the battle of the mind because the Christian lets any thought come into their mind—discouraging thoughts, depressing thoughts, lustful thoughts. In Hebrew, the word for simple has the connotation of an “open door” (Psalm 19:7). Many Christians just let their mind think anything. There is no self-control which is a fruit of the Spirit. This is the Christian who is not living a sober life, a self-controlled life, and therefore, is losing to the devil.

Like a city whose walls are broken down is a man who lacks self-control.
Proverbs 25:28

Are you living a self-controlled life? Are you living a sober life?

How do we apply this call to be self-controlled to the church? For many churches, the world is in the church and Satan has drugged it. In 1 Corinthians 5, when the man was having sex with his father’s wife, the church was boasting in their liberality (v. 6). They were a “tolerant” church. Many churches are like that today. They accept sexual immorality and homosexuality. The church is seeking to be accepted by the world and is becoming drugged by its philosophies and worldviews. Many churches are no longer sober but are already drinking the alcohol of this world, and they have opened the door for the evil one in the church.

Many churches have accepted the wisdom of this world, instead of the foolishness of God (1 Cor 1:25). They no longer accept a Biblical creation story; they no longer accept a God who does miracles. They no longer accept the inerrant and holy Word of God. Much of the church has lost its soberness, and therefore, opened the door for Satan.

Are you a sober Christian? Are you a self-controlled Christian? Or are you a Christian that has opened the door for the devil? Christians must resist by living sober and self-controlled lifestyles.

Application Question: What ways do you see a lack of soberness in the church today, which has opened the door for the evil one? What ways is God calling you to be more sober and self-controlled so you can better resist the devil?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Standing Firm in the Faith

Be sober and alert. Your enemy the devil, like a roaring lion, is on the prowl looking for someone to devour. Resist him, strong in your faith, because you know that your brothers and sisters throughout the world are enduring the same kinds of suffering.
1 Peter 5:8–9 (NET)

Peter says healthy churches resist the devil by being strong in the faith. It can also be translated “standing firm in the faith,” as in the NIV. Resisting the devil is a defensive posture. It is what we do when the enemy attacks. James 4:7 says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.”

Interpretation Question: According to 1 Peter 5:9, how do we resist the devil by standing firm in the faith? What does it mean to “stand firm in the faith?”

In order to resist the devil, the Christian must put his entire trust in God. That is why Peter says “stand firm in the faith.” The only ground we can stand on when attacked by the devil is our faith—it’s not medicine, it’s not worldly philosophy.

This is one of the reasons biblical counseling is so important because the secular world does not accept the reality of Satan and his demons. Satan is too great of a foe for us to defeat on our own or in our own power.

Paul says the weapons of our warfare are not carnal or secular but mighty in God for casting down strongholds (2 Cor 10:4). It must be done by putting our trust totally in God and his resources. Listen to what Paul said in the context of spiritual warfare in Ephesians 6:10: “Finally, be strong in the Lord and in his mighty power. Put on the full armor of God so that you can take your stand against the devil’s schemes” (emphasis mine). If we are to resist the devil, it must be through the Lord’s power and resources.

Interpretation Question: What does it mean to stand firm in the faith? How can we stand firm in order to resist the devil?

1. Standing firm in the faith means to resist the devil through Scripture.

When Christ resisted the devil in the wilderness, he used the Word of God. He quotes Scripture with every attack that Satan brings. Look at what Christ said:

Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only’” (emphasis mine).
Matthew 4:8–10

Christ always replies to the devil, “It is written.” If a Christian doesn’t know the Word of God, he will be open to many attacks from the devil. When Satan attacks a person’s body image and that person is tempted to feel discouraged, the believer must have Scripture to reply with. When the believer is attacked with lust or anxieties, he must have Scripture to reply with.

2. Standing firm in the faith means to practice a holy life.

We see this in looking at the armor of God. The majority of the armor of God is simply a holy life. By living a holy life, a Christian puts on the armor of God and protects him or herself against attacks from the enemy. To put on the breastplate of righteousness means to live a righteous life. A righteous life protects you from much of the enemy’s advances. To put on the belt of truth means to believe the truth and not accept any lies. “Stand firm then, with the belt of truth buckled around your waist, with the breastplate of righteousness in place” (Eph 6:14)

When a believer instead chooses to rebel against God’s will in areas of sex, unforgiveness, cheating, etc., he opens the door for Satan. The believer must stand firm in the faith by practicing a holy life.

3. Standing firm in the faith means to live in an atmosphere of prayer

Jesus told the disciples to “pray lest they enter into temptation.” Prayer would have protected them from temptation to sin, and therefore, the devil. He called them to pray for an hour and they all failed. Consequently, they all denied him, in his time of need.

“Watch and pray so that you will not fall into temptation. The spirit is willing, but the body is weak” (Mark 14:38).

Similarly, after Paul commands believers to put on the armor of God, he commands them to pray. Prayer is one of the ways we resist the devil. Listen to what Paul says in Ephesians 6:18: “And pray in the Spirit on all occasions with all kinds of prayers and requests. With this in mind, be alert and always keep on praying for all the saints.”

Also, Jesus taught that praying for protection from the evil one should be a regular part of the believer’s prayer life. Listen to the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew 6:13: “And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from the evil one (emphasis mine). We should pray for this for ourselves, for our families but especially for our church, whom the enemy is always attacking.

Another aspect of prayer probably includes rebuking the devil or commanding him to leave at times when it is clear that he is at work. We see this in many different parts of Scripture. In the book of Zechariah, Satan is accusing the high priest, Joshua, before God, and the Angel of the Lord rebukes Satan. Look at what he says:

Then he showed me Joshua the high priest standing before the angel of the LORD, and Satan standing at his right side to accuse him. The LORD said to Satan, The LORD rebuke you, Satan! The LORD, who has chosen Jerusalem, rebuke you! Is not this man a burning stick snatched from the fire” (emphasis mine)?
Zechariah 3:1–2

We see the Angel of the Lord, whom most scholars believe is a reference to Christ, rebuking Satan by using the name of the Lord. Essentially, God rebukes the devil by using his own name. We also see this with Michael, the archangel, in Jude 1:9. He rebukes Satan by using the Lord’s name. We, similarly, see the Apostles commanding demons to leave in the name of the Lord (Acts 16:18). There may be times where you stand firm in the faith by commanding demonic anxieties, lies of the devil, or other demonic works to cease in Jesus name.

James, like Peter, commands believers to resist the devil. He says, “Resist the devil and he will flee from you.” Sometimes, we resist the devil by rebuking him in Christ’s name. “Submit yourselves, then, to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you” (Jas 4:7).

4. Standing firm in the faith means living a life of worship.

We see that David ministered to Saul, who had a tormenting spirit, through worship (1 Sam 16:23). When David, the psalmist of Israel, would play the harp, the demon would flee. Worship is a powerful weapon in resisting the devil. However, the person who lives in complaining and worry often opens the door for the enemy in their lives. It is through worship and thanksgiving that many of Satan’s arrows are extinguished.

We choose to “give thanks in all circumstances for this is God’s will for our lives” (1 Thess 5:18). When Job gave God thanks in the midst of his trial, he essentially thwarted the attack of the devil, who was trying to make him curse God. Worrying or complaining is not far from cursing God. It says, “God, you are not all wise” or “God, you do not care.”

Are you a thankful, worshipful Christian? Or are you a worrier and a complainer? Complaining brought the judgment of God on Israel while in the wilderness (1 Cor 10:10). Complaining is also contagious, as it tends to open the door for Satan to work in other people’s lives. Paul said, “Do all things without complaining and arguing” (Phil 2:14). Stand firm in your trust for God by worshiping him and giving him thanks.

5. Standing firm in the faith means to live a life of fellowship.

Finally, a believer resists the devil by walking in right relationship with the church. They pray for one another, encourage one another, and pick one another up. “Though one may be overpowered, two can defend themselves. A cord of three strands is not quickly broken” (Eccl 4:12).

The Christian who walks alone is the Christian who will come under great attack. In fact, it is discord, specifically unforgiveness, that seems to open the door for Satan into many believers’ lives. Listen to what Christ said to the disciples about unforgiveness:

Then the master called the servant in. “You wicked servant,” he said, “I canceled all that debt of yours because you begged me to. Shouldn’t you have had mercy on your fellow servant just as I had on you?” In anger his master turned him over to the jailers to be tortured, until he should pay back all he owed. “This is how my heavenly Father will treat each of you unless you forgive your brother from your heart (emphasis mine).
Matthew 18:32–35

Christ says the person who does not forgive will be handed over to the torturers. Who are the torturers in this passage? It is the devil and his demons. Saul was handed over to a demon that tormented him (1 Sam 16). The Christian living in immorality in 1 Corinthians 5 was handed over to Satan for discipline.

God promises that when we don’t forgive others, we are handed over to the torturers. I believe there are many Christians who are going through trials simply because they have unforgivness in their hearts and are out of fellowship with the church or other Christians. The enemy torments them by bringing sickness; he torments them by bringing discord; he torments them by financial lack. If we are going to resist the devil, we must be walking in fellowship with the church, the body of Christ.

Are you standing firm in the faith?

It is the only way to resist the devil. Many Christians have begun to fall away from their firm stance in the faith. They fall away from reading and studying the Bible; they fall away from a consistent prayer life; they fall away from faithful attendance and fellowship with the church, and therefore, open the door for the enemy to attack them.

We see this all the time. When we have started to slip in practicing our faith: anxieties show up, anger shows up, and discord shows up. When we are not filled with God and living in faith, we find the enemies work everywhere in our lives.

This is particularly important for churches that have turned away from the firm stance in the faith. They do not preach the Word; they do not worship God in spirit and truth; they do not practice righteous living; they do not live in unity. It is in those contexts, you can be sure that you will find disorder and every work of the devil (Jas 3:14–16). The church must stand firm in the faith, or it will fall to the attacks of the evil one.

Application Question: How do you practice a lifestyle of standing firm in the faith in order to resist the devil? What ways does he commonly attack you?

Healthy Churches Resist the Devil by Persevering through Hope in God’s Grace

And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you. To him belongs the power forever. Amen.
1 Peter 5:10-11 (NET)

What is the final way we should resist the devil?

Christians should resist the devil by persevering through hope in Gods grace. We should not bail or quit in the midst of Satan’s attack because the one who is with us, is the God of all grace. He is the God who gives unmerited favor and blessing to those who persevere. Look at how Peter encourages these saints in their suffering. He says, “And, after you have suffered for a little while, the God of all grace who called you to his eternal glory in Christ will himself restore, confirm, strengthen, and establish you” (1 Peter 5:10, NET).

There is a measure of grace available to suffering saints. However, this grace only comes to those who persevere. Peter says “after you have suffered a little while.” A lot of Christians bail on the church when Satan attacks. They get mad at God. They get mad at the pastor and members. Many Christians are virtually “church hoppers.” They leave the church every time the enemy comes. Some pastors are like that.

Look at what Jesus said to his disciples:

“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it (emphasis mine).
John 10:11-12

Sadly, many of our leaders won’t stand, won’t persevere when Satan attacks. Like the hireling, the one who is only there for pay, they flee the church. However, the good shepherd stands when the wolf comes. This is how all Christians should respond to Satan’s attacks. These attacks may come through the moral failure of a leader, it may come through a spirit of division, it may come through false teaching or a cult. Either way, we must together resist and persevere.

We should persevere because God gives grace to those who do so. He blesses congregants who persevere together against the roaring lion.

Observation Question: Why should believers persevere through trials that the devil brings and what are the benefits of this perseverance according to 1 Peter 5:10-11?

1. The trial will only last a little while.

Peter says the trial will only last a little while. Trials are temporary. They are probably temporary in time, but they are certainly temporary in comparison to eternity. Soon the King is coming, or we will leave this earth to go to the King shortly. Therefore, we should not lose our confidence. Peter comforts these Christians with the brevity of trials.

2. The trial will develop our character and mature us.

Peter says through the trial we will be restored. The word translated restore can also be translated “mending nets” or “preparing their nets” in Matthew 4:21: “Going on from there, he saw two other brothers, James son of Zebedee and his brother John. They were in a boat with their father Zebedee, preparing their nets. Jesus called them.”

In the context, James and John are preparing their nets to cast into the lake to catch fish. They are fixing holes and tears in order to be more effective fisherman. Similarly, God uses trials to mend us and make us more effective. The trial exposes sin or character flaws so he can fix them. The trial is used to strengthen existing virtues in his ministers such as patience, joy and peace. Through the trial, he prepares his ministers. He mends us as a fisherman does his nets, so we can better serve him and others.

Don’t quit in the trial because God’s plan is to mend you through it so you can be more useful in ministry (2 Cor 1:3–6).

3. The trial will make you strong to stand in other trials but also in order to help others.

Peter said that after we had persevered, God would make us strong. Trials are like lifting weights. They build strength so we can persevere through other difficulties in life. God, also, makes people strong through trials so they can, in the future, carry others. “We who are strong ought to bear with the failings of the weak (emphasis mine) and not to please ourselves. Each of us should please his neighbor for his good, to build him up” (Rom 15:1–2).

The strong are given a ministry of caring for those who are weak. Where weaker Christians in the faith often isolate themselves during trials and become very self–focused, the strong serve others even amidst their own difficulties. This is a grace that God gives; he not only gives strength but makes strength a characteristic of this person.

Has God made you strong?

4. The trial will make you firm.

“Confirm” can also be translated “firm,” as in the NIV—God will make us firm. Young Christians are often up and down in their spiritual life; they go from spiritual high to spiritual low. In fact, Paul describes spiritual infants as those tossed to and fro like a wave by false teaching and other evils.

Then we will no longer be infants, tossed back and forth by the waves, and blown here and there by every wind of teaching and by the cunning and craftiness of men in their deceitful scheming.
Ephesians 4:14

But the Christian who has persevered through suffering becomes firm. They start to have a steady consistent walk with the Lord. God makes us firm through our trials if we persevere through them. The mature are no longer tossed to and fro; they have become firm.

5. The trial will establish you.

The word “establish” actually means to “lay a foundation.” When you lay a foundation, you are preparing not only to stand in storms but to build more. Your trial is just the platform in your life for God to build you up more into the image of Christ and a vessel that is useful for him. This trial is a necessary component of that process. A house without a foundation will not stand (Matt 7:24–27).

There are some specific trials that have happened in my life that are foundational for my current ministry. My struggle with depression for a year and half during college and the military was foundational for my current ministry. I minister daily from that reservoir. It was there God gave me a love for his Word; it was there I studied the Word the hardest I have in my life (including seminary). It was there he removed much of the dross (excess) from my life and left him alone. It was there God gave me a heart for others who were hurting and the empathy to really minister to them. My sufferings are the foundations of my ministry.

In our trials, we must persevere individually and as a community because it is in the trial that God mends us and prepare us for further ministry. He makes us strong to bear others up. He makes us steady instead of up and down. He makes us steadfast, laying a foundation for future growth and ministry.

Let us resist the devil by persevering through our trials. God has promised us his abundant grace.


How do healthy churches and church members resist the Devil?

  1. Healthy churches resist the devil by recognizing him and his tactics
  2. Healthy churches resist the devil by being sober and self-controlled
  3. Healthy churches resist the devil by standing firm in the faith
  4. Healthy churches resist the devil by persevering through hope in God’s grace

Chapter Notes









Copyright 2014 Gregory Brown

Unless otherwise noted, the primary Scriptures used are taken from the Holy Bible, New International Version ®, Copyright © 1973, 1978, 1984 by International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Publishing House. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (ESV) are from The Holy Bible, English Standard Version® (ESV®) Copyright © 2001 by Crossway, a publishing ministry of Good News Publishers. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NLT) are taken from the Holy Bible, New Living Translation, copyright © 1996, 2004, 2007 by Tyndale House Foundation. Used by permission of Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., Carol Stream, Illinois 60188. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked (NET) are taken from the NET Bible ® copyright © 1996-2016 by Biblical Studies Press, L.L.C. All rights reserved.

Scripture quotations marked KJV are from the King James Version of the Bible.


2 Fisher, Bonnie S., Cullen, Franscis T., and Turner, Michael T (2000). The sexual victimization of college women. Washington, DC: U.S. Department of Justice, National Institute of Justice.

Related Topics: Christian Life, Ecclesiology (The Church), Satanology

Appendix 1: Study Group Tips

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In leading a small group using the Bible Teacher’s Guide it can be done in various ways. One format for leading a small group is the “study group” model where each member prepares and shares in the teaching. This appendix will cover tips for facilitating a weekly study group.

  1. Each week the members of the study group will read through a select chapter of the guide, answer the reflection questions (see Appendix 2), and come prepared to share in the group.
  2. Prior to each meeting, a different member can be selected to lead the group, and share question 1 of the reflection questions, which is to give a short summary of the chapter read. This section of the gathering could last anywhere from five to fifteen minutes. This way, each member can develop their gift of teaching. It also will make them study harder during the week. Or the other option is that each week the same person could share the summary.
  3. After the summary has been given, the leader for that week will facilitate discussions through the rest of the reflection questions and also ask select application questions from the chapter.
  4. After discussion, the group will share prayer requests and pray for one another.

The strength of the study group is the fact that the members will be required to prepare their responses before the meeting, which will allow for easier discussion. In addition, each member will be given the opportunity to teach which will further equip their ministry skills. The study group model has distinct advantages.

Appendix 2: Reflection Questions

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Writing is one of the best ways to learn. In class, we take notes and write papers and all these methods are used to help us learn and retain the material. It’s the same thing with the Word of God. Obviously, all of the authors of Scripture were writers. This helped them better learn the Scriptures and also enabled them to more effectively teach it. In studying God’s word with the Bible Teachers Guide, take time to write so you can similarly grow both in your learning and teaching.

  1. How would you summarize the main points of the text/chapter? Write a brief summary.
  2. What stood out to you most in the reading? Did any of the contents trigger any memories or experiences? If so, please share them.
  3. What follow-up questions did you have about the reading? What parts did you not fully agree with?
  4. What applications did you take from the reading and how do you plan to implement them into your life?
  5. Write several commitment statements: As a result of my time studying Gods Word, I will…
  6. What are some practical ways you can pray as a result of studying the text? Spend some time ministering to the Lord through prayer.

Lesson 62: The Teacher’s Tears (John 11:28-37)

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July 20, 2014

Several years ago a young couple that visited our church wanted to talk with me after the service. They had moved here from out of state because the wife had landed a good job. But after a short time on the job, she was terminated, from her perspective, without cause. She was angry and bitter towards God because they thought that they had followed Him in moving here. Now they were without work and without funds to move back home.

I shared with them that the Lord was in control of their difficult situation and that He had many lessons to teach them if they would trust Him. The husband had a good attitude and seemed teachable, but the wife wouldn’t listen. She kept insisting that God had let them down. Later the husband came for further counsel because she angrily left him to return to their former location.

That woman was a sad example of how we as Christians should not respond when sudden trials come into our lives. The Bible gives us another option: Rather than growing angry and withdrawing from the Lord, we can draw near to Him in submission to His sovereign hand, knowing that He cares for us. It’s okay to draw near to Him with tears of grief and confusion. The main thing is to draw near with a submissive heart, trusting in His sovereign love and care for you.

Mary, the sister of Martha, did that when Jesus came to Bethany after the death of their brother, Lazarus. Martha first went to the Lord as He came into their village, but Mary stayed in the house. Then after her interview with Jesus, Martha came and whispered to Mary (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.” Mary did not say, “I’m too angry right now even to talk to Him!” Rather, she did what we should do in our times of trouble: She got up quickly and went to Jesus (11:29). She fell at His feet weeping and repeated what Martha had said (11:32), “Lord, if You had been here, my brother would not have died.”

The significant thing is that Jesus did not rebuke her for her tears or her lack of faith. Rather, we read in the shortest verse in the English Bible (11:35), “Jesus wept.” While commentators differ in interpreting Jesus’ emotions here, as I’ll explain, I believe that John wants us to see Christ’s compassion for these sisters in their loss. This story pictures what Hebrews 4:15-16 declares,

For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin. Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.

Our text teaches us that …

The call and compassion of the Teacher should cause us to draw near to Him in our trials.

In difficult times, John wants us personally to apply Martha’s words (11:28), “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

1. Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials.

A. We learn the most in the school of Christ when we draw near to Him in our trials.

Martha did not say, as she easily could have, “Jesus is here and is calling for you.” Rather, she calls Him, “The Teacher.” Jesus is the Teacher par excellence and His most effective lessons are often when we’re hurting the most. We all tend to be rather self-sufficient. Many years ago there was a TV commercial (I can’t remember what it was advertising) where mother was trying to give advice to her young adult daughter and the daughter would reply in frustration, “Mother, please, I’d rather do it myself!” We’re often like that with the Lord—we think that we can do it by ourselves, without His help.

But then trials hit and we realize the truth of Jesus’ words (John 15:5), “apart from Me you can do nothing.” It’s at these overwhelming times that we can learn the most about Christ’s all-sufficiency, if we draw near to Him.

Dr. William Coltman, the pastor of Highland Park Baptist Church in Michigan from 1914-1956, wrote (source unknown):

Until I learned to trust, I never learned to pray;
And I did not learn to fully trust ’til sorrows came my way.

Until I felt my weakness, His strength I never knew;
Nor dreamed ’til I was stricken that He could see me through.

Who deepest drinks of sorrow, drinks deepest, too, of grace;
He sends the storm so He Himself can be our hiding place.

His heart that seeks our highest good, knows well when things annoy;
We would not long for heaven if earth held only joy.

And so, in a time of trials or grief, realize that you’re enrolled in the school of Christ and He has just given you a great opportunity to learn more about His all-sufficiency.

B. Christ tailors His lessons for each student according to the student’s needs.

Martha was the take-charge, get things done, sister. She was the one (Luke 10:38-42) who was busy getting the meal prepared when Jesus visited their home, while her sister Mary sat at Jesus’ feet, listening to Him teach. She scolded the Lord on that occasion because He didn’t tell Mary to get up and help her. But the Lord gently rebuked Martha for being worried and bothered about so many things, while Mary had chosen the better part.

In John 11, when Martha heard that Jesus was coming, she got up and went to Him. Jesus dealt with her on a doctrinal level, claiming to be the resurrection and the life, and then challenging her (11:26), “Do you believe this?” He knew that she needed this doctrinal foundation so that she would glorify Him in this trial.

But when Mary fell at Jesus’ feet in tears, He sympathized with her and wept, without any discussion of biblical truth. He knew that she needed to feel His compassion and that she later would glorify Him because He entered into her sorrow.

Two applications: First, recognize that the Lord always deals with you according to your personality to teach you what you need to grow in every trial. All parents who have more than one child know that each child is different. You can’t deal with them in exactly the same way because they are wired differently and they learn differently. The Teacher does that with His children. He tutors you individually, in a way that you can best learn the lessons. But you need to try to understand, through prayer and the Word, “What does the Teacher want me to learn through this trial?”

Second, we should be sensitive to the unique personalities of others when we try to comfort or help them in difficult situations. Some may need a word of encouragement, whereas others don’t need any words, but just for you to be with them and cry with them. There is no “one size fits all” when it comes to helping others in their time of need. So pray for sensitivity and wisdom as you try to help.

But for us to trust Jesus as our Teacher in times of trial, we have to know Him. The more we know who He is, the easier it is to trust Him. Thus John shows us that…

2. The Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials.

This chapter shows us both Jesus’ humanity and His deity. We see His humanity very plainly in 11:34-35, where Jesus asks the location of the tomb and then He weeps. But we see His deity earlier in the chapter, when He knows that Lazarus is dead and that He is going to raise him from the dead (11:11, 14); and when He tells Martha that He is the resurrection and the life and that whoever believes in Him will live even if he dies and will never die (11:25-26). Many years ago, I read this paragraph by Alfred Edersheim, (The Life and Times of Jesus the Messiah [Eerdmans] 1:198), and I’ve always remembered it as I read the gospels:

It has been observed, that by the side of every humiliation connected with the Humanity of the Messiah, the glory of His Divinity was also made to shine forth. The coincidences are manifestly undesigned on the part of the Evangelic writers, and hence all the more striking. Thus, if he was born of the humble Maiden of Nazareth, an Angel announced His birth; if the Infant-Saviour was cradled in a manger, the shining host of heaven hymned His Advent. And so afterwards—if He hungered and was tempted in the wilderness, Angels ministered to Him, even as an Angel strengthened Him in the agony of the garden. If He submitted to baptism, the Voice and vision from heaven attested His Sonship; if enemies threatened, He could miraculously pass through them; if the Jews assailed, there was the Voice of God to glorify Him; if He was nailed to the cross, the sun craped his brightness, and earth quaked; if He was laid in the tomb, Angels kept its watches, and heralded His rising.

The fact that Jesus is fully man means that He can identify and sympathize with our problems. The fact that He is fully God means that He is sovereign over and can help with them. (Of course, the God who made us completely understands us and is full of compassion towards us; Ps. 103:13-14. But Jesus’ humanity especially qualifies Him to sympathize with us; Heb. 4:15.) Three aspects of Jesus’ humanity shine from our text (I’m drawing these headings from James Boice, John [Zondervan], one-vol. ed., pp. 749-753, who seems to be following C. H. Spurgeon, Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit [Pilgrim Publications], 35:338-346):

A. Jesus experienced grief and deep feelings, just as we do.

Isaiah (53:3) prophesied that Jesus would be “a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief.” The fact that Jesus wept at the tomb of Lazarus shows that whatever our grief may be, Jesus knows it and He enters into it with us.

But at this point, we encounter some difficult interpretive matters. The world translated “deeply moved” (11:33 & 38, NASB, ESV, NIV; “groaned, NJKV) is difficult to understand. It’s only used three other times in the New Testament and in those places it has a meaning that does not seem to fit here. In Matthew 9:30 & Mark 1:43, it means, “strictly charged” or “sternly warned.” In Mark 14:5, it refers to the scolding of the woman (Mary) who anointed Christ with expensive ointment. The parallel (Matt. 26:8) uses a different word to say that they were indignant with her. In the LXX, the word refers to anger or being indignant (Dan. 11:30; noun in Lam. 2:6). Thus many commentators think that in John 11:33 & 38, Jesus was angry or indignant (The New Living Translation). Some think that He was indignant with the unbelief expressed by Mary and the others (11:32, 37); or He was angry with the death that God decreed because of man’s fall into sin.

But S. Lewis Johnson (sermon on this text, online at mentions a Professor Black from the University of St. Andrews who studied this word thoroughly and concluded that it does not have the nuance of anger. And since anger does not seem to fit the context here, some argue that the word can refer to being deeply moved (as the NASB, ESV, & NIV translate it). The word was used in extra-biblical Greek to refer to the snorting of a horse preparing for battle. Calvin (Calvin’s Commentaries [Baker], p. 442) views it as Jesus gearing up for the conflict as our champion in the battle against sin and death.

One other suggestion is worth considering. F. Godet (Commentary on the Gospel of John [Zondervan], 2:184) questions why Jesus didn’t feel the same emotion towards death at the other two resurrections that He performed. He says that here Jesus realizes that raising Lazarus will precipitate the hostility of His enemies that will lead to His own death on the cross. The accompanying verb (11:33, “troubled Himself”) is also used as Jesus contemplates His impending death in John 12:27 & 13:21. Thus perhaps Jesus is deeply moved both by the sisters’ grief and by what He knows will happen after He raises Lazarus. R. H. Lightfoot (cited by Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John [Eerdmans], p. 557, n. 69) commented, “The expression used here implies that He now voluntarily and deliberately accepts and makes His own the emotion and the experience from which it is His purpose to deliver men.”

So while we cannot be certain of the exact meaning of John’s word, we can know that our Savior was not a Stoic. Even though He knew that He was going to raise Lazarus, it didn’t prevent Him from entering into the sisters’ grief. He experienced deep feelings and grief, just as we do. And even though He knows that one day He will wipe away all of our tears (Rev. 21:4) He still sympathizes with us in all of our sorrows.

B. Jesus was not ashamed to display human emotions.

Jesus could have restrained His tears. After all, He knew that He would soon raise Lazarus. Besides, His tears could be misinterpreted as weakness or frustration on His part, as some of the Jews surmised (11:37). But Jesus did not worry about that. He was completely human (without a sin nature) and His tears show that it’s not wrong to express our feelings as long as our hearts are submissive to God. The NT states three times that Jesus wept (here; Luke 19:41, over Jerusalem’s unbelief; and Heb. 5:7, in the Garden of Gethsemane), but never that He laughed (but, see Luke 10:21).

It’s worth noting that John uses a different word (11:33) for weeping to describe the loud wailing of Mary and the mourners than the word in 11:35, which could be translated, “Jesus burst into tears.” Jesus wept, but He was not wailing in despair. In the words of Paul (1 Thess. 4:13), believers are to grieve, but not as those who have no hope. It’s interesting, also, that while the shortest verse in the English Bible is John 11:35, “Jesus wept,” the shortest verse in the Greek NT is 1 Thessalonians 5:16, “Rejoice always!” Those verses are not contradictory! As Paul put it (Rom. 12:15), “Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.” Jesus entered into the sorrow of these sisters. As we become more like our Savior, we should not become more stoical, but rather people who express godly emotions.

C. Jesus’ love underlies all His actions.

In 11:36 we read in response to Jesus’ weeping, “So the Jews were saying, ‘See how He loved him!” And they were right, because John has previously underscored Jesus’ love for Martha, Mary, and Lazarus (11:3, 5). In fact, Jesus’ love for these dear friends was the reason He stayed two days longer where He was, allowing Lazarus to die (11:6). Love always seeks the highest good for the one loved, and the highest good for anyone is that he or she gets a greater vision of God’s glory and thus grows in faith. Both of these aims were behind Jesus’ delay in going to Bethany (11:4, 15, 40).

But some of the Jews questioned both Jesus’ love and His power when they said (11:37), “Could not this man, who opened the eyes of the blind man, have kept this man also from dying?” They couldn’t reconcile Jesus’ love and power with Lazarus’ death. And in a time of severe trials, the enemy may whisper to you, “God must not love you or He isn’t able to prevent trials like you’re going through. You shouldn’t trust Him!”

But at such times, never interpret God’s love by your difficult circumstances, but rather interpret your circumstances by His love (modified from, C. H. Mackintosh, Miscellaneous Writings [Loizeaux Brothers], vol. 6, “Bethany,” pp. 17-18). He could have prevented your trial. But as H. E. Hayhoe wrote (“Sentence Sermons,” exact source unknown), “He will never allow a trial in your life without a needs be on your part and a purpose of love on His part.”

Thus, Christ is the Teacher and He calls you to come to Him and learn from Him in your trials. And, the Teacher who calls us to Himself is fully God and fully man; thus He can help us in our trials. Finally,

3. In your trials, come to the Teacher just as you are, quickly and submissively.

Martha’s words to Mary (11:28) are the Lord’s words for us when we’re hurting: “The Teacher is here and is calling for you.”

A. Jesus is always present and is waiting for you to come to Him in your trials.

Jesus was there, but Mary had to get up and go to Him. And even though you may not feel His presence, He is always present and available to give grace if you go to Him in your trials.

B. Come to Jesus just as you are and share your feelings with Him.

Mary went immediately when she heard that the Teacher was there and calling for her. She didn’t say, “I’ve been crying for four days. My mascara is streaked, my eyes are red and swollen. I can’t go to Jesus like this! I need to go and make myself presentable!”

But we often do that with the Lord. We’re in the midst of a trial or problem and we think, “I can’t go to the Lord until I get myself more together. I’ll wait until I’m calmer and more in control of my emotions.” But grace is for the undeserving, not for the deserving. Go to Jesus with your tears and He will weep with you.

If you’ve never come to Christ for salvation, the only way that you can come is just as you are. If you try to clean up your life or make yourself more presentable to Him, you don’t understand His grace. As the old hymn (by Charlotte Elliott) goes,

Just as I am, without one plea,

But that Thy blood was shed for me,

And that Thou bid’st me come to Thee,

O Lamb of God, I come! I come.!

C. Come to Jesus quickly.

Mary “got up quickly and was coming to Him” (11:29). She had friends at her side who were consoling her. She could have thought, “What will they think if I leave them and go to Jesus?” Or, she could have thought that their consolations were enough. But as comforting as our friends may be, they are no substitute for the Teacher who calls us to Himself. Don’t delay: Go to Jesus quickly! The sooner you go, the sooner you’ll experience His comfort and compassion.

D. Come to Jesus’ feet.

Mary went and fell at Jesus’ feet (11:32). Every time we encounter Mary in the Gospels, she is at Jesus’ feet. In Luke 10:39, she was “seated at The Lord’s feet, listening to His word.” In our text, she pours out her grief at Jesus’ feet. In John 12:3, she anointed Jesus’ feet with the expensive ointment and dried them with her hair, as she prepared Him for His burial. In this, she is an example for us: First, learn God’s word about Jesus. Then you’ll know Him so that you can take your sorrows to Him in a time of grief. That will lead you to worship Him as the one who died for your sins.


A mission executive from the United States was visiting a school in Kenya where he was listening as teenage girls shared how they had been blessed by hearing the Bible in their own language. One girl testified that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was Matthew 5:4, “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted.” Another said that the verse that had the greatest impact on her was John 11:35, “Jesus wept.” She said that when she wept in the night, she knew that Jesus was weeping with her.

The mission executive wondered why these two girls were mourning and weeping. He thought that maybe they had chosen these verses to share because they were short and easy to remember. But the school’s teacher leaned over and whispered to him that both of these girls had lost their parents to AIDS. Jesus’ compassion comforted them in their losses. In the same way, the Teacher calls you to come to Him with your tears. He cares for you and He will cry with you. Come to Him!

Application Questions

  1. Which trials has God used to teach you the most? What lessons have you learned through them?
  2. Most men find it difficult to cry. How can we grow in tenderness and godly sympathy?
  3. The Psalms show us that there is a right way to complain to the Lord. What is it? Was Mary sinning here with her complaint (in 11:32)? Why/why not?
  4. Are emotions neutral or are they sometimes sinful? Support your answer with Scripture.

Copyright, Steven J. Cole, 2014, All Rights Reserved.

Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture Quotations are from the New American Standard Bible, Updated Edition © The Lockman Foundation

Related Topics: Character of God, Suffering, Trials, Persecution

7. 八福 (马太福音5:1-12)

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这是福音书里最早有关耶稣教导的信息、也是最长的一篇。耶稣宣告天国已来临,祂呼召人悔改。耶稣在祂的天国宣言中,揭示了天国子民的基础和特质。在这里,祂教导在祂国度里的伦理指引,也有关于天国的公义素质的指引;现时这些只是局部实践, 但将来要完全对现。2







5:1 当耶稣看见这许多的人,就上了山1,既已坐下,门徒到他跟前来。 2 他就开口教训他们说:

5:3 「灵里贫穷2的人有福3了,因为天国是属于4他们的。





5:8清心的人有福了,因为他们必得见 神。

5:9使人和睦的人有福了,因为他们必称为 神的儿子7













也许研读八福的最佳方法是逐一从基础开始 – 定义、背景、关连与应用。假如你要在课堂中教授八福,你如果在逐一探讨它们时便讨论它们的应用,比在最后才尝试逐一提出应用,会有较理想的效果。

1. 「灵里贫穷2的人有福3了,因为天国是属于4他们的。

背景 :要理解八福的其中一个方法是从旧约背景入手,查考有关弥赛亚国度和进入这国度的人。这些经文中,我曾提及以赛亚书61:1-3,在那篇经文中,弥赛亚被膏「传福音给贫穷的人」(在路加福音第四章,耶稣读这经文并说这已经应验在他们耳中了。)那篇经文对我们理解「贫穷」有少许帮助。我们会倾向将「贫穷」朝财务和财产的方向来理解,这可以是其中的一部份,但还可以从属灵方面去看。以赛亚用它来描述那些被掳的人,他们的土地和财产被剥夺,固然贫穷,但他们也受折磨和压迫,无力对抗、也没有希望,他们是绝望的,他们灵里的贫穷,使他们的困境加剧。

文的意 :圣经对贫穷人的描述包括几方面:在耶稣时代的穷人,只有很少财产、常常受压迫,没有什么力量和希望。他们没有甚么资源可依赖,他们不得不依靠他人生存。以赛亚为他那时代的人带来好信息 – 他们将从捆绑中得释放。耶稣是透过传从神而来的好信息 – 福音,应验了这好信息的应许。祂并没有使他们在地上权力和财物上富裕,但他却满足了他们最大的需要。




应用 :这里有一个清晰的教导:如果要进天国,就必须灵里贫穷。天国的信息是呼唤人悔改,人必须在神前谦卑下来,并承认他们的权势、财富或面子不能替他赢得进入天国。那些真正谦卑下来的和表达需要主的,他们于天国有份,并且得到天国的恩泽。

人怎样成为灵里贫穷呢?按接下来的经文,当人听到天国的信息,并且明白天国是怎么样的和怎样进天国 – 透过悔改回转、降服于神的旨意。第一步是承认自己不能作甚么,接着是寻求神满有恩慈的供应。


2. 哀恸的人有福了,因为他们必得安慰5。」


约背景 :以赛亚亦说弥赛亚医治心碎的人,并宣告在何时哀恸的人得安慰、华冠代替灰尘、喜乐油代替悲哀(以赛亚书61:1-3)。哀恸显示哀痛、优伤和因失去至爱而灵里焦虑,也可以是失去有价值的生命而哀恸,就如被掳的以色列人;也可以因失去财物、身份地位或健康而引发哀恸。人也会为天灾人祸而哀恸,当哀恸时,他们寻找希望,但大多数情况,世上只有极微的希望。

:这里的焦点是神的子民哀恸时,他们将会得安慰。每个人都会在人生不同阶段经历哀伤和悲惨的损失,但那在天国得安慰的哀恸是那为以色列蒙羞与及蒙羞的原因而哀恸 – 因他们的罪,国家被强横和无情的统治者掌控。耶稣降临并宣告天国近了,祂期待人的反应是痛哭悔悟(另参以赛亚书40:1)。弥赛亚会安慰那些哀恸的人,但得安慰是因为弥赛亚将他们从那使他们哀恸的罪中拯救出来。



应用 :这里的指引是关于哀恸的焦点,而不是哀恸本身。那得安慰的哀恸是门徒的哀恸,他们明确知道哀恸的原因,有正确的信心看透事件。当人面对生命的伤痛时刻,如他们为罪而哀伤,同样可以有盼望 – 这是信靠主的一个清晰的记号。

3. 「溫柔的人有福了,因为他们必承受地土。」

约背景 :这「福」和诗篇37:11「受困苦的人必拥有地土」十分相似。5 假如你研读那段经文,你将会发现那也是有关弥赛亚的诗篇,那地亦必是应许之地。

:在圣经里,温柔的人是指那些有温柔的心和自制力的人,他们的心灵没有恶念,也不高傲。温柔的人也许和贫穷的人一样没有自己的资源,但其后可能有,就如摩西被称为最谦和的人。6 温柔的人不剥削和压迫他人,他们不复仇或仇杀,不使用暴力,不试图为自己的目的夺取政权。概括而言,他们学效基督,在生活上模仿祂。但这并不表示他们软弱或他们的生活不济,他们可以是柔和谦卑,但他们也可成为弱者和受压迫者的斗士。


应用 :人怎能成为温柔的人呢?如果一个人的本性并不温柔又怎么样呢?答案可以在描述属灵生活怎样运作的经文找到。温柔和良善都是圣灵的果子,是圣灵在信徒中所结的果子。要培养在灵里的温柔,便是在圣灵的指引下而活,或将生命交给神的灵管辖,以致基督的特质能在信徒中长成。单是这指引便需要好些研习,但它是圣经对温柔的发展所作的描绘。

4. 「饥渴慕义6的人有福了,因为他们必得饱足。」

约背景 :饥与渴被比拟为追求公义的动力,追求公义是我们深层和恒常之需要(参诗篇42:3和63:1)。饥与渴是人类的基本动力,恒常要求被满足。这比喻用来描绘渴慕行神旨意是那么恒常与强烈。

:这福要说的比我们大多数人所想的更多,它并非单单描述那些正义的人或尝试行善的人,而是他们生命中的热诚 – 他们为此饥与渴。就如贫穷和温柔的人,他们将生命交在神的手中,希望祂帮助。



应用 :在这里我们同样会问这渴望是怎样形成的。大部份的信徒都追求公义,但这渴望是怎样变得那么热切的呢?这也是从属灵生命的成长而来。保罗教导一个属灵的人会将身体各部份交出来作义的工具。故此,这从委身遵行神的旨意开始,接着是由圣灵带领走属灵的路,祂带领信徒走义路。当一个人愈亲近主,他或她对不义和世界不公平的事就愈敏锐,一个真正属灵的人就会开始渴慕公义。

5. 「怜恤人的人有福了,因为他们必蒙怜恤。」




应用 :这里的怜恤行为来自真正灵命历程。那些得到神愈多恩典的,愈是怜恤他人。因此,在自己的生命中能好好地体会神的恩典是十分重要的。这体会是从经历认罪和感谢神的赦免而来。但这两方面却常常被信徒忽视,甚而有些基督徒竟然认为那恩典是他们应得的,以致他们变得那么不宽容别人,甚至论断他人。我们自己的属灵状况和神的供应是绝不能忘记的。

6. 「清心的人有福了,因为他们必得见 神。」


在信以外对人「心」的描述则截然不同 – 最恶劣的是时常因自私自利的行为带来痛苦(创世记6:5)。耶稣说从心里发出来的才污秽人,恶念、不纯正的欲望、毁谤等等(马太福音15:18-19)。人不可能在没有改变的情况下带来一颗纯净清洁的心,耶稣在这段经文并没有作解释,不过祂曾谈论重生,那是在改变之初所必须的。追随基督可以将一颗充满肉欲的心,转化成一颗纯净清洁的心。这并不容易,也不会迅速地改变,但进天国的人必须要有这颗新心。


这是一个凭着信在现在的、就在这里的应许 – 他们在生活的各种场合和各事件看见神,但圣经的应许比这更多。在世上看见神被我们否定了,但有一天,天堂的门被打开,祂能被我们转化了的眼睛看见。如约伯说:「我知道我的救赎主活着,末了必站立在地上。我这皮肉灭绝之后,我的肉体仍必见 神。我自己要见他,亲眼要看他,并不像外人。我的心肠在我里面消灭了。」(约伯记19:25-27)


7. 「使人和睦的人有福了,因为他们必称为 神的儿子7。」






应用 :因此,耶稣的门徒应该促进和平。他们透过传和平的福音给全世界,并促进属灵的家和好。简而言之,他们应该做的就如弥赛亚的工作。

8. 「为义受逼迫的人有福了,因为天国是属于他们的。」



这福是给那些在这世上忍受这样逼迫的人,他们的终局和他们现在所受的侮辱却刚好相反 – 天国是属于他们的。门徒知道甚么值得他们殉道。但这并不单是将来的实况,他们现在已经拥有这国度(这福与第一个福平衡)。

应用 :这教导十分简单,人活在这世上应为主而活,如天国的成员过活,拥护公义与公平,彰显仁慈、保持温柔和灵里的贫穷 – 即使有受赞许的品格,但他们应该知道真正的公义会冒犯很多的人,故此,他们要预备好遇到拦阻。


Translated by: Jenny Pao 鲍婉玲译





3 「末世论」是关于末后的事,这部份教义会处理那将要来的事,例如基督的再来、审判和永恒状态。它主要和弥赛亚的事情相关,那就是耶稣将要承就的所有事情。

4你可以从你手上的资源开始,或许是一本好的字典或注释书。假如你希望研经,投资小许金钱购买神学辞典,帮助明白字词和神学思想的意义,定能大有裨益。以下两套书:Colin Brown’s (editor) set for the New Testament, 和 Willem van Gemeren’s (editor) for the Old Testament.各都有数册,可在新约和旧约字义上提供帮助。在这系列的末端还有一些工具书的介绍。

5 译者注:马太福音5:5 温柔的人和诗篇37:11 受困苦的人,英文同样是 the meek

6 译者注:民数记12:3和马太福音 5:5温柔的人和谦和英文同样是 meek

7. 八 福 (馬太福音 5:1-12)

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這是福音書裡最早有關耶穌教導的信息、也是最長的一篇。耶穌宣告天國已來臨,祂呼召人悔改。耶穌在祂的天國宣言中,揭示了天國子民的基礎和特質。在這裡,祂教導在祂國度裡的倫理指引,也有關於天國的公義素質的指引;現時這些只是局部實踐, 但將來要完全對現2




有關八福的描述中,眾多為人接納的其中一項是八福是以賽亞書61:1-3的回響,一篇以末世論 3 為重點的經文。馬太恆常地指出耶穌就是那舊約預言的應驗,在這裡也是。所以讀八福,我們也會看看以賽亞關於彌賽亞和彌賽亞國度的預言。



5:1 當耶穌看見這許多的人,就上了山1,既已坐下,門徒到他跟前來。5:2 他就開口教訓他們說:

5:3 「靈裏貧窮2的人有福3了,因為天國是屬於4他們的。

5:4 哀慟的人有福了,因為他們必得安慰5

5:5 溫柔的人有福了,因為他們必承受地土。

5:6 飢渴慕義6的人有福了,因為他們必得飽足。

5:7 憐恤人的人有福了,因為他們必蒙憐恤。

5:8 清心的人有福了,因為他們必得見 神。

5:9 使人和睦的人有福了,因為他們必稱為 神的兒子7

5:10 為義受逼迫的人有福了,因為天國是屬於他們的。

5:11 人若因我侮辱你們、逼迫你們、揑造各樣壞話毀謗你們,你們就有福了,5:12 應當歡喜快樂,因為你們在天上的賞賜是大的。在你們以前的先知,人也是這樣逼迫他們。











也許研讀八福的最佳方法是逐一從基礎開始 – 定義、背景、關連與應用。假如你要在課堂中教授八福,你如果在逐一探討它們時便討論它們的應用,比在最後才嘗試逐一提出應用,會有較理想的效果。

1. 「靈裏貧窮2的人有福3了,因為天國是屬於4他們的。」


經文的意義:聖經對貧窮人的描述包括幾方面:在耶穌時代的窮人,只有很少財產、常常受壓迫,沒有什麼力量和希望。他們沒有甚麼資源可依賴,他們不得不依靠他人生存。以賽亞為他那時代的人帶來好信息 – 他們將從綑綁中得釋放。耶穌是透過傳從神而來的好信息 – 福音,應驗了這好信息的應許。祂並沒有使他們在地上權力和財物上富裕,但他卻滿足了他們最大的需要。





人怎樣成為靈裡貧窮呢?按接下來的經文,當人聽到天國的信息,並且明白天國是怎麼樣的和怎樣進天國 – 透過悔改回轉、降服於神的旨意。第一步是承認自己不能作甚麼,接著是尋求神滿有恩慈的供應。


2. 「哀慟的人有福了,因為他們必得安慰5。」



意義:這裡的焦點是神的子民哀慟時,他們將會得安慰。每個人都會在人生不同階段經歷哀傷和悲慘的損失,但那在天國得安慰的哀慟是那為以色列蒙羞與及蒙羞的原因而哀慟 – 因他們的罪,國家被強橫和無情的統治者掌控。耶穌降臨並宣告天國近了,祂期待人的反應是痛哭悔悟(另參以賽亞書40:1)。彌賽亞會安慰那些哀慟的人,但得安慰是因為彌賽亞將他們從那使他們哀慟的罪中拯救出來。



應用:這裡的指引是關於哀慟的焦點,而不是哀慟本身。那得安慰的哀慟是門徒的哀慟,他們明確知道哀慟的原因,有正確的信心看透事件。當人面對生命的傷痛時刻,如他們為罪而哀傷,同樣可以有盼望 – 這是信靠主的一個清晰的記號。

3. 「溫柔的人有福了,因為他們必承受地土。」

舊約背景:這「福」和詩篇37:11「受困苦的人必擁有地土」十分相似。5 假如你研讀那段經文,你將會發現那也是有關彌賽亞的詩篇,那地亦必是應許之地。

意義:在聖經裡,溫柔的人是指那些有溫柔的心和自制力的人,他們的心靈沒有惡念,也不高傲。溫柔的人也許和貧窮的人一樣沒有自己的資源,但其後可能有,就如摩西被稱為最謙和的人。6 溫柔的人不剝削和壓迫他人,他們不復仇或仇殺,不使用暴力,不試圖為自己的目的奪取政權。概括而言,他們學效基督,在生活上模仿祂。但這並不表示他們軟弱或他們的生活不濟,他們可以是柔和謙卑,但他們也可成為弱者和受壓迫者的鬥士。



4. 「飢渴慕義6的人有福了,因為他們必得飽足。」


意義:這福要說的比我們大多數人所想的更多,它並非單單描述那些正義的人或嘗試行善的人,而是他們生命中的熱誠 – 他們為此飢與渴。就如貧窮和溫柔的人,他們將生命交在神的手中,希望祂幫助。




5. 「憐恤人的人有福了,因為他們必蒙憐恤。」





6. 「清心的人有福了,因為他們必得見 神。」


在信以外對人「心」的描述則截然不同 – 最惡劣的是時常因自私自利的行為帶來痛苦(創世記6:5)。耶穌說從心裡發出來的才污穢人,惡念、不純正的慾望、毀謗等等(馬太福音15:18-19)。人不可能在沒有改變的情況下帶來一顆純淨清潔的心,耶穌在這段經文並沒有作解釋,不過祂曾談論重生,那是在改變之初所必須的。追隨基督可以將一顆充滿肉慾的心,轉化成一顆純淨清潔的心。這並不容易,也不會迅速地改變,但進天國的人必須要有這顆新心。


這是一個憑著信在現在的、就在這裡的應許 – 他們在生活的各種場合和各事件看見神,但聖經的應許比這更多。在世上看見神被我們否定了,但有一天,天堂的門被打開,祂能被我們轉化了的眼睛看見。如約伯說:「我知道我的救贖主活着,末了必站立在地上。我這皮肉滅絕之後,我的肉體仍必見 神。我自己要見他,親眼要看他,並不像外人。我的心腸在我裏面消滅了。」(約伯記19:25-27)


7. 「使人和睦的人有福了,因為他們必稱為 神的兒子7。」

意義:神是和平之君,祂整個拯救計劃是使那些以前和祂分隔的人與祂和平共處,最終給全地帶來和平(以賽亞書 9:6-7)。這是彌賽亞的工作目標。






8. 「為義受逼迫的人有福了,因為天國是屬於他們的。」



這福是給那些在這世上忍受這樣逼迫的人,他們的終局和他們現在所受的侮辱卻剛好相反 – 天國是屬於他們的。門徒知道甚麼值得他們殉道。但這並不單是將來的實況,他們現在已經擁有這國度(這福與第一個福平衡)。

應用:這教導十分簡單,人活在這世上應為主而活,如天國的成員過活,擁護公義與公平,彰顯仁慈、保持溫柔和靈裡的貧窮 – 即使有受讚許的品格,但他們應該知道真正的公義會冒犯很多的人,故此,他們要預備好遇到攔阻。


Translated by: Jenny Pao 鮑婉玲譯




2 有大量關於登山寶訓的文獻,你可按你的時間開始閱讀,但必須留意不要過度簡化了登山寶訓的意義和性質。這篇文章只是簡略的詮釋。

3 「末世論」是關於末後的事,這部份教義會處理那將要來的事,例如基督的再來、審判和永恆狀態。它主要和彌賽亞的事情相關,那就是耶穌將要承就的所有事情。

4你可以從你手上的資源開始,或許是一本好的字典或註釋書。假如你希望研經,投資小許金錢購買神學辭典,幫助明白字詞和神學思想的意義,定能大有裨益。以下兩套書:Colin Brown’s (editor) set for the New Testament, 和 Willem van Gemeren’s (editor) for the Old Testament. 各都有數冊,可在新約和舊約字義上提供幫助。在這系列的末端還有一些工具書的介紹。

5 譯者註:馬太福音5:5 溫柔的人和詩篇37:11 受困苦的人,英文同樣是 the meek

6 譯者註:民數記12:3和馬太福音 5:5溫柔的人和謙和英文同樣是 meek

4. Quanta Insatisfação! - A História de Jacó e Raquel

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Quando vimos Jacó pela última vez, ele estava a caminho de Berseba, fugindo para se salvar da vingança de seu irmão, Esaú. Ele não tinha ido muito longe, quando descobriu que Deus ia com ele. A mensagem veio na forma de um sonho, onde uma escada se estendia do céu até a terra. O Senhor estava acima da escada e disse a Jacó: “Eis que eu estou contigo, e te guardarei por onde quer que fores, e te farei voltar a esta terra, porque te não desampararei, até cumprir eu aquilo que te hei referido” (Gn. 28:15). Jacó deu ao lugar o nome de Betel, que significa “casa de Deus”

Armado com a preciosa promessa da presença de Deus, Jacó se dirigiu para Harã, a terra da família de sua mãe. Foi uma jornada longa e solitária. Quando chegou aos arredores da cidade, ele estava exausto, com os pés doloridos, com saudades de casa e sem saber exatamente aonde ir. Ele viu um poço e parou para descansar. Havia alguns pastores sentados por ali e ele começou a conversar com eles: “Meus irmãos, donde sois? Responderam: Somos de Harã”. Jacó provavelmente soltou um suspiro de alívio. O Senhor o levara em segurança ao seu destino. Ele continuou: “Conheceis a Labão, filho de Naor? Responderam: Conhecemos. Ele está bom? Perguntou ainda Jacó. Responderam: Está bom. Raquel, sua filha, vem vindo aí com as ovelhas” (Gn. 29:4-6).

Jacó virou a cabeça e deu um olhar fatal; sem dúvida, foi amor à primeira vista. Ela era linda, “formosa de porte e de semblante” (Gn. 29:17). E seus olhos — como eram deslumbrantes! Se comparados aos da irmã mais velha, Lia, que não tinham brilho ou luz, eles devem ter sido pretos e brilhantes, de uma beleza cativante.

Jacó ficou muito impressionado — talvez, até demais. A ideia que temos é que ele ficou tão fascinado pela beleza de Raquel, e tão encantado com seu charme, que nem viu seus defeitos ou considerou a vontade de Deus em relação a ela. E, sendo um manipulador sagaz como era, na mesma hora começou a tratar do assunto. Ele lembrou aos pastores que ainda era hora de apascentar as ovelhas, e eles deveriam dar de beber aos rebanhos e levá-los de volta ao pasto enquanto era dia, provavelmente uma manobra para se livrar deles e poder conversar com Raquel a sós. Os pastores, no entanto, tinham algum tipo de acordo de não rolar a pedra de volta à boca do poço enquanto todos os rebanhos não estivessem reunidos (Gn. 29:7-8).

“Falava-lhes ainda, quando chegou Raquel com as ovelhas de seu pai; porque era pastora.  Tendo visto Jacó a Raquel, filha de Labão, irmão de sua mãe, e as ovelhas de Labão, chegou-se, removeu a pedra da boca do poço e deu de beber ao rebanho de Labão, irmão de sua mãe” (Gn. 29:9-10). Jacó pode ter sido um homem caseiro, mas não era um fracote. Ele moveu uma pedra que, normalmente, precisaria de vários homens para ser movida; e deu água às ovelhas de Rebeca. Será que ele estava se exibindo um pouquinho?

Continuando a leitura: “Feito isso, Jacó beijou a Raquel e, erguendo a voz, chorou” (Gn. 29:11). A emoção daquele momento tomou conta dele. A direção e o cuidado milagroso de Deus, a empolgação do encontro com sua bela prima, a perspectiva do que lhe reservava o futuro — tudo isso encheu tanto seu coração, que ele chorou de alegria. Em nossa cultura, é estranho ver um homem expressar suas emoções dessa forma, mas a expressão sincera dos sentimentos de uma pessoa pode melhorar a saúde emocional e dar mais estabilidade conjugal.

Parece que o romance ia ter um início ardente. A bela da vizinhança e o garotão novo na cidade tinham se encontrado. No entanto, este início nos faz ficar com a pulga atrás da orelha sobre essa união. Sabemos que um relacionamento baseado originalmente na atração física está em terreno instável. Hollywood tem nos dado boas evidências para essa tese. E os infortúnios de um notório jogador de futebol americano e a volta pra casa de uma rainha também dão base para isso1. Esses casais podem fazer o casamento dar certo, mas exigirá um pouco mais de esforço, e eles precisarão trabalhar sua relação para além do magnetismo físico que deu início a ela.

Contudo, quando um homem está enamorado de uma mulher, não quer ouvir esse tipo de coisa. Ele vai tê-la e nada mais importa. Só um mês depois de Jacó ter chegado a Harã, Labão vai ter com ele para ver se poderiam chegar a um acordo salarial mutuamente aceitável. A Escritura diz que Jacó amava Raquel e se ofereceu para servir Labão durante sete anos, a fim de receber a mão dela em casamento (Gn. 29:18). Ele não tinha nada a oferecer a Labão, por isso, prometeu seu trabalho no lugar do dote. Agora, ficamos ainda mais encasquetados. Um mês não é tempo suficiente para chegarmos a conhecer alguém o bastante para fazer um compromisso para toda vida e, com certeza, não é tempo suficiente para saber se amamos ou não a pessoa. O verdadeiro amor exige conhecimento profundo. Dizer que amamos alguém a quem não conhecemos intimamente é simplesmente dizer que amamos a nossa imagem mental dessa pessoa. E, se ele ou ela não corresponderem a essa imagem, então, o dito “amor” vira desilusão e ressentimento e, às vezes, até aversão.

Jacó, entretanto, achou que estava apaixonado. Quando Raquel estava por perto, seu coração batia mais rápido e um sentimento maravilhoso tomava conta dele. Ela era a criatura mais linda em que seus olhos tinham pousado e ele achava que a vida sem ela não valia a pena. Para ele, isso era suficiente. “Assim, por amor a Raquel, serviu Jacó sete anos; e estes lhe pareceram como poucos dias, pelo muito que a amava” (Gn. 29:20). Na verdade, essas palavras são as mais belas que já foram escritas sobre o sentimento de um homem por uma mulher. Sete anos é um longo tempo de espera, e eu acho que o amor de Jacó por Raquel cresceu muito durante esses anos. A atração física ainda estava presente, mas não era possível ele viver tão próximo a ela durante tanto tempo e não ter aprendido muitas coisas a seu respeito, tanto boas como ruins. Esse casamento ia passar por momentos difíceis, mas não fosse o longo compromisso e o amor profundo e maduro de Jacó, provavelmente não teria sobrevivido.

Muitas pessoas se casam rápido demais e depois se arrependem. Sete anos de compromisso talvez seja um pouco exagerado, mas é preciso tempo para conhecer as qualidades desejáveis e indesejáveis de uma pessoa, a fim de decidir se podemos nos dar de forma abnegada pelo bem do outro, apesar de suas características desagradáveis. Por isso, um bom teste para o verdadeiro amor é a capacidade de esperar. A paixão normalmente tem pressa porque é egoísta. Ela diz: “Eu me sinto bem quando estou ao seu lado, por isso, vamos nos casar logo antes que eu lhe perca e a esse sentimento tão bom”. O amor diz: “Meu maior desejo é a sua felicidade e estou disposto a esperar, se for preciso, para ter certeza de que isso é o melhor para você”. E, se for verdade, ele vai passar pelo teste do tempo. Jacó esperou, e seu amor à primeira vista se tornou uma ligação profunda e um compromisso completo da alma.

Há um antigo ditado que diz: “O verdadeiro amor nunca se desgasta”. Foi assim com Jacó e Raquel. Vamos dar uma olhada nesse amor sob grande stress. Tio Labão foi alguém que tentou entornar o caldo. Astuto, velhaco e malandro como era, ele substituiu Raquel por Lia na noite do casamento de Jacó. Usando um pesado véu e roupas longas e esvoaçantes para encobrir o corpo, Lia conseguiu passar a cerimônia toda sem ser detectada. Na tenda escura, ela passou a noite falando aos sussurros. Dá para imaginar o tremendo choque de Jacó quando a luz da manhã revelou a tramoia de Labão? Ele deve ter ficado furioso com a família inteira por causa dessa armação traiçoeira.

Esta não foi a melhor maneira de Lia começar sua vida de casada, não é? Suspeito que ela amasse Jacó desde o princípio e queria ser correspondida. De bom grado ela ajudou o pai a colocar seu plano em prática, mas encontrou pouquíssima satisfação no marido que conseguiu por meio de trapaça. Enganar alguém para se casar é um negócio muito arriscado, mas ainda é feito hoje em dia. Algumas mulheres tentam comprar um marido com sexo ou prendê-lo com um bebê ou, ainda, apelando para a fortuna da família. Um homem também pode prender uma mulher prometendo-lhe riquezas ou enganá-la fingindo ser o que não é, mascarando seus defeitos até o dia do casamento. Às vezes, mal termina a lua de mel e a esposa descobre que se casou com um monstro que não conhecia. As consequências da farsa geralmente são dolorosas e angustiantes.

O “generoso” Labão dispôs-se a lhe dar também Raquel, se Jacó trabalhasse para ele por mais sete anos. “Decorrida a semana desta, dar-te-emos também a outra, pelo trabalho de mais sete anos que ainda me servirás” (Gn. 29:27). Esta semana se refere à semana das festividades de casamento. Jacó não teve de esperar outros sete anos para ter Raquel, só uma semana. Mas ele teve de trabalhar mais sete anos sem pagamento depois de se casar com ela. “Mas Jacó amava mais a Raquel do que a Lia; e continuou servindo a Labão por outros sete anos” (Gn. 29:30).

E, assim, temos o primeiro patriarca temente a Deus entrando em um relacionamento bígamo. Não era essa a vontade perfeita de Deus. Deus fez uma mulher para cada homem (Gn. 2:24, cf. também Lv. 18:18, 1 Tm. 3:2). Embora Jacó tenha sido enganado, havia outras opções. Alguns comentaristas dizem que ele deveria ter rejeitado Lia, uma vez que não a teve por vontade própria. Gostaria de sugerir outra possibilidade: ele poderia ter aceitado seu casamento com Lia como sendo da vontade de Deus e aprendido a amar só a ela. Isaque aceitou as consequências da farsa de Jacó quando este se passou pelo irmão, Esaú, e roubou a bênção da família; e Isaque foi elogiado por isso no Novo Testamento. Talvez Jacó também fosse elogiado por aceitar as consequências da vontade soberana de Deus se tivesse galgado esse degrau da fé. E, gostaria de lembrar, ainda, que foi Lia, não Raquel, a mãe de Judá, por meio de quem viria o Salvador (Gn. 29:35). Mas Jacó não estava disposto a acreditar no controle de Deus sobre a situação. Ele ia ter o que queria, embora esta não fosse a vontade de Deus. E os acontecimentos seguintes devem ser evidência suficiente de que bigamia nunca foi parte do plano de Deus para a raça humana.

Sob a pressão desse relacionamento bígamo, a verdadeira personalidade de Raquel veio à tona. Quando percebeu que Lia dava filhos a Jacó, e ela não, ela ficou com muito ciúme da irmã e disse a Jacó: “Dá-me filhos, senão morrerei” (Gn. 30:1). Essencialmente, ela estava dizendo: “se as coisas não podem ser do meu jeito, prefiro morrer”. Eis uma mulher que tinha quase tudo na vida — grande beleza física, todo tipo de coisas materiais e a devoção profunda de um marido apaixonado. Será que o amor de Jacó não valia mais que uma porção de filhos? Não, não valia, pelo menos não para Raquel. Ela tinha de ter tudo que queria ou a vida não valeria a pena. Ela estava cheia de inveja, egoísmo, irritação, impaciência, infelicidade e exigência. E Jacó acabou perdendo a paciência, “Acaso, estou eu em lugar de Deus que ao teu ventre impediu frutificar?” (Gn. 30:2).

A raiva dele não tinha razão de ser aos olhos de Deus, mas sua avaliação da situação estava totalmente certa. O milagre da concepção está no poder de Deus.

A insatisfação tem arruinado incontáveis relacionamentos desde a época de Jacó. Alguns casais ficam zangados por Deus não lhes dar filhos, enquanto outros não veem a hora dos filhos crescerem e saírem de casa para que tenham paz e sossego. Donas de casa querem trabalhar fora, e mulheres que trabalham fora querem ficar em casa em tempo integral. Há cristãos descontentes com o lugar onde vivem, com o emprego, com o dinheiro que possuem e com a casa onde moram. Para eles, há sempre algo mais que parece melhor. Algumas esposas estão descontentes com o marido. Elas se queixam e reclamam porque eles não lhes dão atenção suficiente, não passam muito tempo com os filhos, não querem consertar as coisas em casa, ficam fora até tarde ou pensam mais no trabalho, no carro, no lazer, na televisão e nos esportes do que nelas. Alguns maridos estão descontentes com a esposa. Eles as criticam pelo jeito como se vestem, como arrumam o cabelo, como cozinham, como arrumam a casa ou como cuidam dos filhos. Ficam irritados porque elas dormem até tarde, porque comem demais, porque perdem muito tempo ou porque gastam muito dinheiro. Não importa o quanto elas tentem, elas nunca conseguem agradar o marido.

Algumas dessas coisas são importantes e precisam ser discutidas. Não estou sugerindo que sejam totalmente ignoradas e soframos em silêncio. No entanto, o espírito de insatisfação que nos faz discutir, implicar, bater-boca, brigar e reclamar é um grande empecilho para um relacionamento conjugal feliz. Deus quer que estejamos contentes com o que temos. “De fato, grande fonte de lucro é a piedade com o contentamento” (1 Tm. 6:6). Paulo podia dizer: “Porque aprendi a viver contente em toda e qualquer situação” (Fp. 4:11). Quando somos capazes de reconhecer a presença da insatisfação na nossa vida e vê-la como pecado, podemos buscar a graça de Deus para superá-la e encontrar novas alegrias.

O descontentamento de Raquel a levou ao mesmo tipo de estratagema carnal tentado por Sara. Ela deu sua serva Bila a Jacó, para que ele tivesse um filho com ela, e fez isso duas vezes (30:3-8). Tecnicamente, na cultura daquela época, os filhos dessa união seriam filhos de Raquel. No entanto, temos outro vislumbre da sua natureza egoísta quando nasceu o segundo filho de Bila. Raquel disse: “Com grandes lutas tenho competido com minha irmã e logrei prevalecer” (Gn. 30:8). Ela chamou a criança de Naftali, que significa “luta”. Ela via a si mesma em disputa com a irmã pelo primeiro lugar na opinião de Jacó.

Pouco tempo depois, sua insatisfação ciumenta foi vista novamente. O pequeno Rubem, primogênito de Lia, que devia ter uns quatro anos na época, foi ao campo atrás dos ceifeiros e pegou umas plantas chamadas mandrágoras, ou maçãs do amor, como fazia qualquer garotinho naquele tempo. Quando ele as trouxe para casa e as deu à sua mãe, Raquel as viu e disse que também queria. Ela parecia sempre querer algo que era dos outros. Por isso, ela deu os favores de Jacó a Lia naquela noite em troca de algumas dessas maçãs do amor (Gn. 30:14-15).

Mas o espírito de insatisfação apareceu novamente na vida de Raquel. Deus finalmente lhe deu o seu próprio filho, por isso, era de se esperar que ela ficasse satisfeita. No entanto, ela lhe deu o nome de José, que significa “possa ele dar mais”. E disse: “Dê-me o SENHOR ainda outro filho” (Gn. 30:24). Mais, mais, mais! Raquel nunca estava satisfeita com o que tinha.

Mas ainda não acabou. Deus disse a Jacó que era hora de deixar o tio Labão e voltar para casa, em Canaã. Jacó havia prosperado tanto que Labão não era mais favorável a ele. Por isso, ele reuniu suas esposas, seus filhos e seus pertences e saiu de fininho enquanto Labão tosquiava as ovelhas. Mas Raquel pegou alguma que não era de nenhum deles; ela pegou os ídolos de seu pai, uns ídolos do lar chamados terafins (Gn. 31:19). Quem possuísse essas imagens era aceito como o principal herdeiro da família, mesmo sendo o genro.

Mais uma vez, a ganância de Raquel estava se revelando. Ela queria que seu marido, não seus irmãos, tivesse a maior parte da herança da família, para que também pudesse se beneficiar dela. Quando Labão, finalmente, os alcançou e procurou entre os pertences deles por seus terafins, Raquel mentiu para ele e o enganou para que ele não os encontrasse (Gn. 31:33-35). A adorável Raquelzinha parece ter sido uma megera!

Mas sabem de uma coisa? Exceto pela vez em que Jacó se zangou com ela por tê-lo culpado pela falta de filhos, não há nenhuma indicação de que ele a tenha amado menos por causa dos seus defeitos. Na verdade, há indícios de que ele manteve sua devoção até o final da vida dela. Por exemplo, ela a colocou numa posição privilegiada, em último lugar do grupo, quando eles foram ao encontro de Esaú e suas vidas poderiam estar em perigo (Gn. 33:2). Jacó estava longe de ser perfeito, mas ele é um exemplo para nós de como um marido deve tratar a esposa quando ela não é tudo o que deveria ser.

Alguns maridos dizem: “Eu gostaria mais dela se ela fosse mais amável”. Amor que só funciona quando a esposa é amável não é realmente amor. Deus quer que as esposas sintam a intensidade do amor do marido por elas até quando estão agindo como idiotas (Ef. 5:25). E a maioria de nós tem momentos assim. Talvez os homens, de vez em quando, devessem se perguntar, principalmente quando houvesse algum desentendimento: “Minha esposa tem consciência do meu amor por ela neste momento? Ela está sentindo amor ou está sentindo raiva, hostilidade e rejeição?” Deus fez a mulher com necessidade de ter a segurança do amor do marido por ela durante todo o tempo. E isso vai depender muito da atitude dele nas menores coisas, tais como a expressão do seu rosto ou o tom da sua voz, especialmente quando ela estiver mal-humorada ou chateada.

Já vimos o amor de Jacó à primeira vista e também seu amor sob grande stress. Finalmente, vamos ver seu amor em meio à profunda tristeza. Deus permitiu a Raquel ter um último pedido atendido. Ela gerou outro filho. Seu parto foi muito difícil e logo ficou evidente que ela ia morrer quando a criança nascesse. Quando a parteira lhe disse que ela dera à luz, ela balbuciou o nome da criança com um último suspiro — Benoni, que significa “filho da minha tristeza”. Mais tarde, Jacó mudou-o para Benjamim, que quer dizer “filho da minha destra”. Mas isso não é ironia? Um dia, anos antes, ela gritou: “Dá-me filhos, senão morrerei”. E ela morreu dando a luz ao segundo filho. A criança sobreviveu. Raquel, no entanto, foi sepultada ao lado do caminho que liga Belém a Jerusalém. Ainda podemos visitar seu túmulo, um monumento permanente ao desastre da insatisfação.

Jacó nunca se esqueceu de Raquel. Aos 147 anos de idade, ao reunir todos os filhos no Egito para abençoá-los, ele ainda pensava nela. “Vindo, pois, eu de Padã, me morreu, com pesar meu, Raquel na terra de Canaã, no caminho, havendo ainda pequena distância para chegar a Efrata; sepultei-a ali no caminho de Efrata, que é Belém” (Gn. 48:7). Ele a amou até o fim da vida. Mas, que bem fez isso a ela? Ela não conseguiu aproveitar totalmente esse amor. A insatisfação que a corroia impediu-a de desfrutar plenamente qualquer coisa, e impediu outras pessoas de gostarem dela. Isso a isolou num mundo amargo de solidão. Então, ela morreu, deixando Jacó para a irmã que ela tanto invejou em vida. E, mesmo na morte, ela continuou sozinha. A pedido de Jacó, ele foi sepultado ao lado de Lia na caverna de Macpela, em Hebrom, junto de Abraão, Sara, Isaque e Rebeca (Gn. 49:29-31; 50:13). Raquel jaz sozinha.

Será que a nossa solidão ou os conflitos nos nossos relacionamentos são consequências de um espírito interior de insatisfação? Isso não vai mudar enquanto pensarmos que podemos encontrar satisfação em coisas materiais ou circunstâncias melhores. Raquel é prova disso. A verdadeira satisfação só pode ser encontrada no Senhor. Ele é o único que satisfaz a sede da alma e sacia sua fome com coisas boas (Sl. 107:9). Ele nos diz para nos contentarmos com aquilo que temos, pois, embora as circunstâncias da vida mudem todos os dias, Ele é imutável e está sempre conosco (Hb. 13:5). Conforme aumentar o nosso conhecimento, pelo estudo da Palavra de Deus e pela oração em Sua Presença, encontraremos mais paz e maior satisfação dentro de nós. E, então, seremos capazes de receber, com gratidão, aquilo que Ele nos dá e, ao mesmo tempo, agradecer por aquilo que Ele não nos dá, confiantes de que os Seus caminhos são perfeitos. E seremos capazes de mudar aquilo que pode ser mudado, enquanto aceitamos alegremente aquilo que não pode ser mudado, tendo a certeza de que é parte do Seu plano perfeito para nos levar à maturidade em Cristo.

Vamos Conversar Sobre isso

  1. Discuta a validade de um conhecimento maior e mais profundo antes do casamento. Como casais que se uniram sem esse conhecimento podem compensá-lo agora?
  2. O que Raquel poderia ter feito para controlar sua insatisfação e seu ciúme? O que Jacó poderia ter feito para ajudá-la?
  3. Quais coisas na sua vida você consideraria de maior valor?
  4. Termine a frase como teria feito antes de ler este capítulo: “Eu poderia ser feliz se ao menos…”
  5. Se você completou a frase com algum tipo de situação melhor ou de bem material, como poderia terminá-la sendo mais coerente com os princípios da Palavra de Deus?
  6. Quais características do seu cônjuge lhe dão mais satisfação? Quais o incomodam mais? Se sentir que certas coisas devem ser mudadas, o que fará?
  7. Você tem ciúmes de outra pessoa? Como Deus quer que você lide com esse sentimento?
  8. Para os maridos: Sua esposa sempre sente seu amor por ela? Talvez você descubra perguntando a ela. Como você pode demonstrar o seu amor mesmo quando ela está “atacada”?

1 O. J. Simpson e Grace Kelly

Related Topics: Christian Home, Marriage

Righteousness Language In The Old Testament

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A lot of confusion and guesswork and mere impressions have dominated discussions about the righteousness of God. Is it imputed? (Yes). Is it imparted? (Yes). When does it mean vindication? Justice? Holiness? Declared not guilty? Putting things right?

Let’s discover what this word means, together.

In the OT righteousness is founded on God’s character and his law. It is true that man is righteous and right in relationship to God (DNTTA, p. 143), but how does God reveal what righteous living is? How does one act when one is in right relationship with God?

God is righteous, and so is his law, which expresses his righteousness to humans. There is an inseparable connection between his character and decrees, but his character comes first. It is not as though righteousness can exist independent of him and he has to conform to this impersonal quality or force. God decrees what is righteous or unrighteous.

His law also binds humans to its demands.

That God posits law, and that He is bound to it as a just God, is a fundamental tenet in the OT knowledge of faith in all its variations. The element of unity in the faith of all the righteous in Israel, whether prophets, priests, lawgivers, or men of a less distinctive sociological type, is the acknowledgment of God’s law ordering alike both great and small and forming a basis for hope. (TDNT, vol. 2, 176)

God is the righteous ruler, and his righteousness applies not only to Israel, but extends to all nations.

It is a basic tenet in the OT that God posits law and is bound to it. Recognition of this is a unifying factor in Israel’s faith. All law comes from God, and hence God’s authority extends to all Israel’s historical relationships. God’s law is an order of life that cannot be changed or challenged. It is righteous because he is righteous. His ways are right; they thus give us life and security. He is a righteous ruler and judge, as shown already in the victory celebrated in Judg. 5:11. His righteousness extends to other nations, so that order is seen in the world. The righteous can thus appeal to him with confidence when they are the victims of hostility and oppression (Ps. 5:8). (ibid.)

The Theological Wordbook of the OT also says the Hebrew words are connected to norms.

This root basically connotes conformity to an ethical or moral standard. It is claimed by Snaith (N. Snaith, Distinctive Ideas of the ot, Schocken, 1964, p. 73) “the original significance of the root ṣdq to have been ‘to be straight.’ ” But he adds that it stands for a “norm.” Perhaps the origin of the word is not so clear or even significant. Words having a secular origin often are baptized into special meanings and a word originally meaning straight may develop easily into a moral term just so canon “rod,” “measuring rule” becomes a standardized list of sacred books. ṣedeq, then, refers to an ethical, moral standard and of course in the ot that standard is the nature and will of God. “The Lord is righteous (ṣaddı̂q) in all his ways and holy in all his works” (Ps 145:17). (TWOT 752)

But how does an ancient Israelite know he is righteous? He is faithful to the covenant God established at the foot Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:1-8). But how does he know he is being faithful? He follows the Mosaic Law that God thundered down on Mt. Sinai (Exod. 19:9-20:21). So faithfulness, righteousness, and the law go together in the OT. As we shall see, Paul reinterprets all of this.

For the Hebrew Bible we look at the verb tsadaq (to be righteous, justify, judge rightly, acquit) and the nouns tsěděq (righteousness) and tsadaqah (righteousness). We do not have time to keep track of the adjective tsaddiq. All words in this study come from the same root: ts-d-q.

If you would like to see the verses in various translations, you may go to and type in the references.

Justify Or Declare Righteous (tsadaq)

Human Judges

1. Sometimes a human judge acquits (pronounces righteous, innocent or not-guilty) or declares someone guilty.

6 “Do not deny justice to your poor people in their lawsuits. 7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. 8 “Do not accept a bribe, for a bribe blinds those who see and twists the words of the righteous. (Exod. 23:6-8)

1 When men have a dispute, they are to take it to court and the judges will decide the case, acquitting the innocent and condemning the guilty. (Deut. 25:1)

15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. (2 Sam. 8:15, NASB; 1 Chron. 18:14)

15 Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent— the Lord detests them both. (Prov. 17:15)

22 Woe to those … 23who acquit the guilty for a bribe, but deny justice to the innocent. (Is. 5:22-23).

God the Judge

1. In the first sample verse, God will not acquit the guilty, when humans fail. (Acquit means to declare not guilty.)

7 Have nothing to do with a false charge and do not put an innocent or honest person to death, for I will not acquit the guilty. (Exod. 23:7, emphasis added)

2. In the following verse, Solomon prays the Lord will judge, condemning the guilty and declaring the innocent “not guilty.”

23 Then [LORD] hear from heaven and act. Judge between your servants, condemning the guilty and bringing down on his own head what he has done. Declare the innocent not guilty, and so establish his innocence. (1 Kings 8:32; cf. 2 Chron. 6:23)

In that case the Lord, after declaring someone not guilty, gives [nathan] him the not-guilty verdict according to his innocence, so translates the NASB. Young’s literal translation says: “to declare righteous the righteous, to give him according to his righteousness.” The context is the heavenly tribunal, and the innocent getting his vindication and his reputation back intact.

Paul’s later revelation tells us that before the infinitely holy God, as Judge in his tribunal, no one is completely righteous, so we must not take 1 Kings 8:32 too far. The main point is that the Lord is a judge who declares a verdict.

3. King David says God is his judge who is proved right and justified.

4 Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight, so that you are proved right when you speak and justified when you judge. (Ps. 51:4)

4. God will rescue and deliver the needy, and this rescue and deliverance add up to salvation.

1 God presides in the great assembly; he gives judgment among the “gods”: 2 “How long will you defend the unjust and show partiality to the wicked? 3 Defend the cause of the weak and fatherless; maintain the rights of the poor and oppressed. 4 Rescue the weak and needy; deliver them from the hand of the wicked. (Ps. 82:1-4)

5. Vindication is tied to righteous judgment.

8 He who vindicates me is near. Who then will bring charges against me? Let us face each other! Who is my accuser? Let him confront me! (Is. 50:8)

18 Now that I have prepared my case, I know I will be vindicated. (Job. 13:18)

Righteousness (tsadaqah, tsĕdĕq)

1. Righteousness is an attribute of God, though in the biblical text it is active and relational.

3 “I will fetch my knowledge from afar, and I will ascribe righteousness to my Maker. (Job 36:3, NASB)

17 I will give thanks to the Lord because of his righteousness and will sing praise to the name of the Lord Most High. (Ps. 7:17)

28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:28)

6 Your righteousness is like the mighty mountains, your justice like the great deep. O Lord, you preserve both man and beast. (Ps. 36:6)

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. (Ps. 51:14)

19 Your righteousness reaches to the skies, O God, you who have done great things. (Ps. 71:19)

3 Glorious and majestic are his deeds, and his righteousness endures forever. (Ps. 111:3, cf. v. 9)

142 Your righteousness is everlasting and your law is true. (Ps. 119:142)

2. God credited righteousness to childless Abraham because he believed God’s promise of a child.

5 He took him outside and said, “Look up at the heavens and count the stars—if indeed you can count them.” Then he said to him, “So shall your offspring be.” 6 Abram believed the Lord, and he credited it to him as righteousness. (Gen. 15:5-6)

3. Righteousness and salvation go together.

1 In you, O Lord, I have taken refuge; let me never be put to shame; deliver me in your righteousness. (Ps. 31:1)

2 Rescue me and deliver me in your righteousness; turn your ear to me and save me. (Ps. 71:2)

8 You heavens above, rain down righteousness; let the clouds shower it down. Let the earth open wide, let salvation spring up, let righteousness grow with it; I, the Lord, have created it. (Is. 45:8)

27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:27-28)

5 You answer us with awesome deeds of righteousness, O God our Savior (Ps. 65:5)

1 O Lord, hear my prayer, listen to my cry for mercy; in your faithfulness and righteousness come to my relief. 2 Do not bring your servant into judgment, for no one living is righteous before you. (Ps. 143:1-2)

11 For your name’s sake, O Lord, preserve my life; in your righteousness, bring me out of trouble. (Ps. 143:11)

2 Ill-gotten treasures are of no value, but righteousness delivers from death. (Prov. 10:2)

4 Riches do not profit in the day of wrath, but righteousness delivers from death. 5 The righteousness of the blameless will smooth his way, but the wicked will fall by his own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright will deliver them, but the treacherous will be caught by their own greed. (Prov. 11:4-6, NASB)

18 The wicked earns deceptive wages, but he who sows righteousness gets a true reward. 19 He who is steadfast in righteousness will attain to life, and he who pursues evil will bring about his own death. (Prov. 11:18-19, NASB)

5 My righteousness draws near speedily, my salvation is on the way, and my arm will bring justice to the nations. … 6 But my salvation will last forever, my righteousness will never fail. (Is. 51:5-6)

1 This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” (Is. 56:1)

15 Truth is nowhere to be found, and whoever shuns evil becomes a prey. The Lord looked and was displeased that there was no justice. 16 He saw that there was no one, he was appalled that there was no one to intervene; so his own arm worked salvation for him, and his own righteousness sustained him. 17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head; he put on the garments of vengeance and wrapped himself in zeal as in a cloak. (Is. 59:15-17)

3 Seek the Lord, all you humble of the land, you who do what he commands. Seek righteousness, seek humility; perhaps you will be sheltered on the day of the Lord’s anger. (Zeph. 2:3)

4. Righteousness is God’s standard in judgment and justice.

6 Let God weigh me in honest scales and he will know that I am blameless. (Job 31:6)

8 Let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. (Ps. 7:8)

8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Ps. 9:8)

6 And the heavens proclaim his righteousness, for God himself is judge. 7 “Hear, O my people, and I will speak, O Israel, and I will testify against you: I am God, your God. (Ps. 50:6-7; cf. Ps. 97:6)

4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. … 8 He will judge the world in righteousness; he will govern the peoples with justice. (Ps. 9:4, Ps. 9:8)

4 In your majesty ride forth victoriously in behalf of truth, humility and righteousness; let your right hand display awesome deeds. … 7 You love righteousness and hate wickedness. (Ps. 45:4, Ps. 45:7)

14 Righteousness and justice are the foundation of your throne; love and faithfulness go before you. (Ps. 89:14)

14 For the Lord will not reject his people; he will never forsake his inheritance. 15 Judgment will again be founded on righteousness, and all the upright in heart will follow it. (Ps. 94:14-15)

13 … He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples in his truth. (Ps. 96:13)

1 The Lord reigns, let the earth be glad; let the distant shores rejoice. 2 Clouds and thick darkness surround him; righteousness and justice are the foundation of his throne. (Ps. 97:1-2)

9 He will judge the world in righteousness and the peoples with equity. (Ps. 98:9)

16 But the Lord Almighty will be exalted by his justice, and the holy God will show himself holy by his righteousness. (Is. 5:16)

19 “I have not spoken in secret, in some dark land; I did not say to the offspring of Jacob, ‘Seek Me in a waste place’; I, the Lord, speak righteousness, declaring things that are upright.” (Is. 45:19, NASB)

22 “Turn to Me and be saved, all the ends of the earth; For I am God, and there is no other. 23 “I have sworn by Myself, The word has gone forth from My mouth in righteousness And will not turn back, that to Me every knee will bow, every tongue will swear allegiance. 24 “They will say of Me, ‘Only in the Lord are righteousness and strength.’ Men will come to Him, and all who were angry at Him will be put to shame. (Is. 45:22-24, NASB)

1 “Cry loudly, do not hold back; raise your voice like a trumpet, and declare to My people their transgression and to the house of Jacob their sins. 2 “Yet they seek Me day by day and delight to know My ways, as a nation that has done righteousness and has not forsaken the ordinance of their God. They ask Me for just decisions, they delight in the nearness of God. … 8 “Then your light will break out like the dawn, and your recovery will speedily spring forth; and your righteousness will go before you; the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Is. 58:1-2, 8, NASB)

23 This is what the Lord says: “Let not the wise man boast of his wisdom or the strong man boast of his strength or the rich man boast of his riches, 24 but let him who boasts boast about this: that he understands and knows me, that I am the Lord, who exercises kindness, justice and righteousness on earth, for in these I delight,” declares the Lord. (Jer. 9:23-24)

5. God drove out the nations, not because of the righteousness of the Israel, but the wickedness of the nations.

4 After the Lord your God has driven them out before you, do not say to yourself, “The Lord has brought me here to take possession of this land because of my righteousness.” No, it is on account of the wickedness of these nations that the Lord is going to drive them out before you. 5 It is not because of your righteousness or your integrity that you are going in to take possession of their land; but on account of the wickedness of these nations, the Lord your God will drive them out before you, to accomplish what he swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. (Deut. 9:4-5)

6. Kings and judges should judge with righteousness and nations establish it.

15 Do not pervert justice; do not show partiality to the poor or favoritism to the great, but judge your neighbor fairly. (Lev. 19:15)

16 And I charged your judges at that time: Hear the disputes between your brothers and judge fairly, whether the case is between brother Israelites or between one of them and an alien. (Deut. 1:16)

18 Appoint judges and officials for each of your tribes in every town the Lord your God is giving you, and they shall judge the people fairly. … 20 Follow justice and justice alone, so that you may live and possess the land the Lord your God is giving you. (Deut. 16:18, Dt. 16:20)

15 So David reigned over all Israel; and David administered justice and righteousness for all his people. (2 Sam. 8:15, NASB; cf. 1 Chron. 18:14)

29 All the rich of the earth will feast and worship; all who go down to the dust will kneel before him— those who cannot keep themselves alive. 30 Posterity will serve him; future generations will be told about the Lord. 31 They will proclaim his righteousness to a people yet unborn— for he has done it. (Ps. 22:29-31)

9 I proclaim righteousness in the great assembly; I do not seal my lips, as you know, O Lord. 10 I do not hide your righteousness in my heart; I speak of your faithfulness and salvation. I do not conceal your love and your truth from the great assembly. (Ps. 40:9-10)

14 Save me from bloodguilt, O God, the God who saves me, and my tongue will sing of your righteousness. (Ps. 51:14)

1 Endow the king with your justice, O God, the royal son with your righteousness. 2 He will judge your people in righteousness, your afflicted ones with justice. (Ps. 72:1-2)

15 By me [Wisdom] kings reign and rulers make laws that are just … (Prov. 8:15)

34 Righteousness exalts a nation, but sin is a disgrace to any people. (Prov. 14:34)

12 Kings detest wrongdoing, for a throne is established through righteousness. 13 Kings take pleasure in honest lips; they value a man who speaks the truth. (Prov. 16:12-13)

5 Remove the wicked from the king’s presence, and his throne will be established through righteousness. (Prov. 25:5)

9 Speak up and judge fairly; defend the rights of the poor and needy.” (Prov. 31:9)

9 My soul yearns for you in the night; in the morning my spirit longs for you. When your judgments come upon the earth, the people of the world learn righteousness. 10 Though grace is shown to the wicked, they do not learn righteousness; even in a land of uprightness they go on doing evil and regard not the majesty of the Lord. (Is. 26:9-10)

1 See, a king will reign in righteousness and rulers will rule with justice. (Is. 32:1)

2 Who has stirred up one from the east, calling him in righteousness to his service? (Is. 41:2)

1 “If you will return, O Israel,” declares the Lord, “Then you should return to Me. And if you will put away your detested things from My presence, And will not waver, 2 And you will swear, ‘As the Lord lives,’ in truth, in justice and in righteousness; Then the nations will bless themselves in Him, and in Him they will glory.” (Jer. 4:1-2)

1 Thus says the Lord, “Go down to the house of the king of Judah, and there speak this word 2 and say, ‘Hear the word of the Lord, O king of Judah, who sits on David’s throne, you and your servants and your people who enter these gates. 3 ‘Thus says the Lord, “Do justice and righteousness, and deliver the one who has been robbed from the power of his oppressor. Also do not mistreat or do violence to the stranger, the orphan, or the widow; and do not shed innocent blood in this place.”’” (Jer. 22:1-3, NASB)

15 “Do you become a king because you are competing in cedar? Did not your father eat and drink and do justice and righteousness? Then it was well with him. (Jer. 22:15, NASB)

9 “‘This is what the Sovereign Lord says: You have gone far enough, O princes of Israel! Give up your violence and oppression and do what is just and right. Stop dispossessing my people, declares the Sovereign Lord. 10 You are to use accurate scales’” … (Ezek. 45:9-10)

27 ‘Therefore, O king, may my advice be pleasing to you: break away now from your sins by doing righteousness and from your iniquities by showing mercy to the poor, in case there may be a prolonging of your prosperity.’ (Dan. 4:27, NASB)

7. God uses righteousness to vindicate.

26 He prays to God and finds favor with him, he sees God’s face and shouts for joy; he is restored by God to his righteous state. (Job 33:26)

3 My enemies turn back; they stumble and perish before you. 4 For you have upheld my right and my cause; you have sat on your throne, judging righteously. 5 You have rebuked the nations and destroyed the wicked; you have blotted out their name for ever and ever. (Ps. 9:3-5)

1 Hear, O Lord, my righteous plea; listen to my cry. Give ear to my prayer— it does not rise from deceitful lips. 2 May my vindication come from you; may your eyes see what is right. (Ps. 17:1-2)

5 He will receive blessing from the Lord and vindication from God his Savior. (Ps. 24:5; cf. Is. 50:8; Ps. 9:8; Ps. 18:20, Ps. 18:24; Ps. 37:6)

27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” (Ps. 35:27)

24 Vindicate me in your righteousness, O Lord my God; do not let them gloat over me. … 28 My tongue will speak of your righteousness and of your praises all day long. (Ps. 35:24, Ps. 35:28)

27 May those who delight in my vindication shout for joy and gladness; may they always say, “The Lord be exalted, who delights in the well-being of his servant.” (Ps. 35:27)

6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Ps. 37:6)

17 No weapon forged against you will prevail, and you will refute every tongue that accuses you. This is the heritage of the servants of the Lord, and this is their vindication from me,” declares the Lord. (Is. 54:17)

20 But, O Lord Almighty, you who judge righteously and test the heart and mind, let me see your vengeance upon them, for to you I have committed my cause. (Jer. 11:20)

10 The Lord has vindicated us; come, let us tell in Zion what the Lord our God has done. (Jer. 51:10)

23 So rejoice, O sons of Zion, and be glad in the Lord your God; for He has given you the early rain for your vindication. And He has poured down for you the rain, the early and latter rain as before. (Joel 2:23)

8. Righteousness, which has its source and cause in God, is a gift.

He shall receive a blessing from the Lord, and righteousness from the God of his salvation. (Ps. 24:5, NASB)

10 Continue your love to those who know you, your righteousness to the upright in heart. (Ps. 36:10)

5 Commit your way to the Lord; trust in him and he will do this: 6 He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun. (Ps. 37:5-6)

11 For as the soil makes the sprout come up and a garden causes seeds to grow, so the Sovereign Lord will make righteousness and praise spring up before all nations. (Is. 61:11)

24 But let justice roll on like a river, righteousness like a never-failing stream! (Amos 5:24)

9. Righteousness can be put on like clothes.

14 I put on righteousness as my clothing; justice was my robe and my turban. (Job 29:14)

5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Is. 11:5)

17 He put on righteousness as his breastplate, and the helmet of salvation on his head. (Is. 59:17)

10 I delight greatly in the Lord; my soul rejoices in my God. For he has clothed me with garments of salvation and arrayed me in a robe of righteousness, as a bridegroom adorns his head like a priest, and as a bride adorns herself with her jewels. (Is. 61:10)

9 May your priests be clothed with righteousness … (Ps. 132:9)

Zechariah 3 talks about Joshua the High Priest having his filthy garments being taken off of him, and “pure” vestments put on him, though the word “righteousness” as such does not occur.

10. Humans must conduct themselves in righteousness, particularly by obeying the law.

19 For I have chosen him, so that he will direct his children and his household after him to keep the way of the Lord by doing what is right and just, so that the Lord will bring about for Abraham what he has promised him. (Gen. 18:19)

36 Use honest scales and honest weights, an honest ephah and an honest hin. (Lev. 19:36; cf. Deut. 25:15; Ezek. 45:10)

25 And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness [Hebrew tsdaqah; LXX oddly translates it as eleêmosunê “mercy”] (Deut. 6:25, NASB).

12 If the man is poor, do not go to sleep with his pledge in your possession. 13 Return his cloak to him by sunset so that he may sleep in it. Then he will thank you, and it will be regarded as a righteous act [tsdakah] in the sight of the Lord your God. (Deut. 24:12-13)

23 The Lord rewards every man for his righteousness and faithfulness. (1 Sam. 26:23; cf. 1 Sam. 26:25; cf. Ps. 18:20, Ps. 18:24)

21 “The Lord has dealt with me according to my righteousness; according to the cleanness of my hands he has rewarded me. (2 Sam 22:21, 2 Sam. 22:25; Ps. 18:20, Ps. 28:24)

6 Then Solomon said, “You have shown great lovingkindness to Your servant David my father, according as he walked before You in truth and righteousness and uprightness of heart toward You (1 Kings 3:6, NASB)

6 I will maintain my righteousness and never let go of it; my conscience will not reproach me as long as I live. (Job 27:6)

8 Let the Lord judge the peoples. Judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness, according to my integrity, O Most High. (Ps. 7:8)

2 [The man] who walks with integrity, and works righteousness … (Ps. 15:2, NASB)

3 He guides me in paths of righteousness for his name’s sake. (Ps. 23:3)

17 But from everlasting to everlasting the Lord’s love is with those who fear him, and his righteousness with their children’s children— 18 with those who keep his covenant and remember to obey his precepts. (Ps. 103:17-18)

3 How blessed are those who keep justice, who practice righteousness at all times! (Ps. 106:3, NASB)

7 I will praise you with an upright heart as I learn your righteous laws. (Ps. 119:7)

62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks for your righteous laws. (Ps. 119:62)

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

144 Your statutes are forever right; give me understanding that I may live. (Ps. 119:144)

172 May my tongue sing of your word, for all your commands are righteous. (Ps. 119:172)

2 To know wisdom and instruction, To discern the sayings of understanding, 3 To receive instruction in wise behavior, righteousness, justice and equity. (Prov. 1:2-3, NASB)

5 The righteousness of the blameless makes a straight way for them, but the wicked are brought down by their own wickedness. 6 The righteousness of the upright delivers them, but the unfaithful are trapped by evil desires. (Prov. 11:5-6)

9 The Lord detests the way of the wicked but he loves those who pursue righteousness. (Prov. 15:9)

8 Better a little with righteousness than much gain with injustice. (Prov. 16:8)

31 A gray head is a crown of glory; it is found in the way of righteousness. (Prov. 16:31, NASB)

3 To do righteousness and justice is desired by the Lord more than sacrifice. (Prov. 21:3, NASB)

21 He who pursues righteousness and loyalty finds life, righteousness and honor. (Prov. 21:21, NASB)

21 It pleased the Lord for the sake of his righteousness to make his law great and glorious. (Is. 42:21)

7 “Listen to Me, you who know righteousness, a people in whose heart is My law; so not fear the reproach of man, nor be dismayed at their revilings. 8 “For the moth will eat them like a garment, and the grub will eat them like wool. But My righteousness will be forever, and My salvation to all generations.” (Is. 51:7-8, NASB)

1 This is what the Lord says: “Maintain justice and do what is right, for my salvation is close at hand and my righteousness will soon be revealed.” (Is. 56:1)

7 Is it not to share your food with the hungry and to provide the poor wanderer with shelter— when you see the naked, to clothe him, and not to turn away from your own flesh and blood? 8 Then your light will break forth like the dawn, and your healing will quickly appear; then your righteousness will go before you, and the glory of the Lord will be your rear guard. (Is. 58:7-8)

20 “Again, when a righteous man turns from his righteousness and does evil, and I put a stumbling block before him, he will die. Since you did not warn him, he will die for his sin. The righteous things he did will not be remembered, and I will hold you accountable for his blood. 21 But if you do warn the righteous man not to sin and he does not sin, he will surely live because he took warning, and you will have saved yourself.” (Ezek. 3:20-21)

5 “But if a man is righteous and practices justice and righteousness, 6 and does not eat at the mountain shrines or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, or defile his neighbor’s wife or approach a woman during her menstrual period— 7 if a man does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, does not commit robbery, but gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with clothing, 8 if he does not lend money on interest or take increase, if he keeps his hand from iniquity and executes true justice between man and man, 9 if he walks in My statutes and My ordinances so as to deal faithfully—he is righteous and will surely live,” declares the Lord God. (Ezek. 18:5-9, NASB)

20 The soul who sins is the one who will die. The son will not share the guilt of the father, nor will the father share the guilt of the son. The righteousness of the righteous man will be credited [lit. will be] to him, and the wickedness of the wicked will be [lit. will be] charged against him. 21 “But if a wicked man turns away from all the sins he has committed and keeps all my decrees and does what is just and right, he will surely live; he will not die. 22 None of the offenses he has committed will be remembered against him. Because of the righteous things he has done, he will live. (Ezek. 18:20-22’ cf. Ezek. 18:27)

12 “Therefore, son of man, say to your countrymen, ‘The righteousness of the righteous man will not save him when he disobeys, and the wickedness of the wicked man will not cause him to fall when he turns from it. The righteous man, if he sins, will not be allowed to live because of his former righteousness.’ 13 If I tell the righteous man that he will surely live, but then he trusts in his righteousness and does evil, none of the righteous things he has done will be remembered; he will die for the evil he has done. 14 And if I say to the wicked man, ‘You will surely die,’ but he then turns away from his sin and does what is just and right— 15 if he gives back what he took in pledge for a loan, returns what he has stolen, follows the decrees that give life, and does no evil, he will surely live; he will not die. 16 None of the sins he has committed will be remembered against him. He has done what is just and right; he will surely live. (Ezek. 33:12-16)

11. Humans must offer righteous sacrifices.

19 They [the tribe of Zebulun] will summon peoples to the mountain and there offer sacrifices of righteousness (Deut. 33:19)

5 Offer right sacrifices and trust in the Lord. (Ps. 4:5)

18 In your good pleasure make Zion prosper; build up the walls of Jerusalem. 19 Then there will be righteous sacrifices, whole burnt offerings to delight you; then bulls will be offered on your altar. (Ps. 51:18-19)

12. Righteousness shall be restored to Zion or Israel.

26 I will restore your judges as in days of old, your counselors as at the beginning. Afterward you will be called the City of Righteousness, the Faithful City.” 27 Zion will be redeemed with justice, her penitent ones with righteousness. (Is. 1:26-27)

16 “See, I lay a stone in Zion, a tested stone, a precious cornerstone for a sure foundation; the one who trusts will never be dismayed. 17 I will make justice the measuring line and righteousness the plumb line; (Is. 28:16-17)

16 Justice will dwell in the desert and righteousness live in the fertile field. 17 The fruit of righteousness will be peace; the effect of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever. 18 My people will live in peaceful dwelling places, in secure homes, in undisturbed places of rest. (Is. 32:16-18)

5 The Lord is exalted, for he dwells on high; he will fill Zion with justice and righteousness. 6 He will be the sure foundation for your times, a rich store of salvation and wisdom and knowledge; the fear of the Lord is the key to this treasure. (Is. 33:5-6)

17 This is what the Lord says— your Redeemer, the Holy One of Israel: “I am the Lord your God, who teaches you what is best for you, who directs you in the way you should go. 18 If only you had paid attention to my commands, your peace would have been like a river, your righteousness like the waves of the sea. (Is. 48:17-18)

14 In righteousness you will be established: Tyranny will be far from you; you will have nothing to fear. Terror will be far removed; it will not come near you. 15 If anyone does attack you, it will not be my doing; whoever attacks you will surrender to you. (Is. 54:14-15)

16 … Then you will know that I, the Lord, am your Savior, your Redeemer, the Mighty One of Jacob. 17 Instead of bronze I will bring you gold, and silver in place of iron. Instead of wood I will bring you bronze, and iron in place of stones. I will make peace your governor and righteousness your ruler. 18 No longer will violence be heard in your land, nor ruin or destruction within your borders, but you will call your walls Salvation and your gates Praise. 19 The sun will no more be your light by day, nor will the brightness of the moon shine on you, for the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your God will be your glory. 20 Your sun will never set again, and your moon will wane no more; the Lord will be your everlasting light, and your days of sorrow will end. 21 Then will all your people be righteous and they will possess the land forever. (Is. 60:16-21)

1 For Zion’s sake I will not keep silent, for Jerusalem’s sake I will not remain quiet, till her righteousness shines out like the dawn, her salvation like a blazing torch. 2 The nations will see your righteousness, and all kings your glory; you will be called by a new name that the mouth of the Lord will bestow. 3 You will be a crown of splendor in the Lord’s hand, a royal diadem in the hand of your God. (Is. 62:1-3)

23 Thus says the Lord of hosts, the God of Israel, “Once again they will speak this word in the land of Judah and in its cities when I restore their fortunes, ‘The Lord bless you, O abode of righteousness, O holy hill!’ (Jer. 31:23, NASB)

24 “Seventy ‘sevens’ are decreed for your people and your holy city to finish transgression, to put an end to sin, to atone for wickedness, to bring in everlasting righteousness, to seal up vision and prophecy and to anoint the most holy. (Dan. 9:24)

19 I will betroth you to me forever; I will betroth you in righteousness and justice, in love and compassion. (Hos. 2:19)

12 Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap the fruit of unfailing love, and break up your unplowed ground; for it is time to seek the Lord, until he comes and showers righteousness on you. (Hos. 10:12)

9 Because I have sinned against him, I will bear the Lord’s wrath, until he pleads my case and establishes my right. He will bring me out into the light; I will see his righteousness. (Mic. 7:9)

8 And I will bring them back and they will live in the midst of Jerusalem; and they shall be My people, and I will be their God in truth and righteousness.’ (Zech. 8:8, NASB)

13. Righteousness is the foundation of the throne of the Messiah, the Branch of David, the Lord Our Righteousness.

7 Of the increase of his government and peace there will be no end. He will reign on David’s throne and over his kingdom, establishing and upholding it with justice and righteousness from that time on and forever. The zeal of the Lord Almighty will accomplish this. (Is. 9:7)

1 A shoot will come up from the stump of Jesse; from his roots a Branch will bear fruit. 2 The Spirit of the Lord will rest on him— the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding, the Spirit of counsel and of power, the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord— 3 and he will delight in the fear of the Lord. He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes, or decide by what he hears with his ears; 4 but with righteousness he will judge the needy, with justice he will give decisions for the poor of the earth. … 5 Righteousness will be his belt and faithfulness the sash around his waist. (Is. 11:1-4, 5)

5 In love a throne will be established; in faithfulness a man will sit on it— one from the house of David— one who in judging seeks justice and speeds the cause of righteousness. (Is. 16:5)

6 “I, the Lord, have called you in righteousness; I will take hold of your hand. I will keep you and will make you to be a covenant for the people and a light for the Gentiles, 7 to open eyes that are blind, to free captives from prison and to release from the dungeon those who sit in darkness. (Is. 42:6-7)

1 The Spirit of the Sovereign Lord is on me, because the Lord has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to bind up the brokenhearted, to proclaim freedom for the captives and release from darkness for the prisoners, 2 to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor and the day of vengeance of our God, to comfort all who mourn, 3 and provide for those who grieve in Zion— to bestow on them a crown of beauty instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning, and a garment of praise instead of a spirit of despair. They will be called oaks of righteousness, a planting of the Lord for the display of his splendor. (Is. 61:1-3)

5 “The days are coming,” declares the Lord, “when I will raise up to David a righteous Branch, a King who will reign wisely and do what is just and right in the land. 6 In his days Judah will be saved and Israel will live in safety. This is the name by which he will be called: The Lord Our Righteousness.” (Jer. 23:5-6)

15 “In those days and at that time I will make a righteous Branch sprout from David’s line; he will do what is just and right in the land. 16 In those days Judah will be saved and Jerusalem will live in safety. This is the name by which it will be called: ‘The Lord Our Righteousness.’” (Jer. 33:15-16)

The only king who can be called “Our Righteousness” is King Jesus. 1 Cor. 1:30 and 2 Cor. 5:21 say Christ has become our righteousness.

2 But for you who revere my name, the sun of righteousness will rise with healing in its wings. And you will go out and leap like calves released from the stall. (Mal. 4:2)


The Hebrew words all have the same root: ts-d-q.

In the big picture, Israel was a fully developed nation, the chosen people. Kings of Israel had to establish and follow righteousness. The Law of Moses was the standard by which an Israelite knew he was righteous or not. The nation of Israel was judged by this standard, and over a long history, Israel fell short.

But God would one day vindicate his chosen people, for they had been attacked by other nations because of God’s judgment on them due to their unrighteousness – not keeping the law. Sometimes an individual like David or Job was vindicated before his accusers or enemies.

The Old Covenant predicted the Messiah, who would establish righteousness, presumably based on the law of Moses. The Messiah will be the vindicator of national Israel. Zion and Israel will one day be reestablished in righteousness. Other nations will one day come within the orbit of God’s righteousness.

In the context of righteousness, pneumatology (doctrine of the Spirit) was not a developed doctrine in the Old Covenant (but see Ps. 51:11, 14, 19). In the context of righteousness, grace, administered by the Spirit, was undeveloped (but see Is. 26:9-10). In the context of righteousness, faith or belief was not fully developed.

Abraham’s faith that was credited as righteousness is an exception, but OT writes never zeroed in Abraham; instead they focused on the standards of righteousness, as measured against the law of Moses. A key verse: “And if we are careful to obey all this law before the Lord our God, as he has commanded us, that will be our righteousness” (Deut. 6:25, NASB, see no. 10, above, under Righteousness). The Hebrew for righteousness is tsdaqah, which the LXX oddly translates as eleêmosunê (“mercy”). But that verse clearly spells out that law keeping is righteousness.

In any case, in the OT to justify or declare righteous has a legal context in many instances. Sometimes humans acquit the innocent and condemn the guilty; other times God does. God judges according to righteousness, and so should humans. God also justifies or puts to rights on behalf of the widows and orphans and the helpless. Finally, both God and humans can put on righteousness like clothes.

See the companion piece The Righteousness Language in Paul’s Writings.

Please cite this work, especially in print media, as follows:

James M. Arlandson. “Righteousness Language in the Old Testament.” 2014.