Saturday, March 23, 2019


In 1 Peter 4:18, the apostle, using the wording of the Septuagint, emphasizes the many difficulties that attend our salvation. NOT in the sense that our salvation itself is difficult, but that those who are saved will have to face in this life tremendous afflictions. Peter seeks to paint a realistic picture of the challenges that face the redeemed. If you embrace the lord Jesus, it can prove costly, in the sense that it opens you to difficulties that will daily challenge your faith.

We are not called to a life of ease; we are called to a war zone, where we will daily face the enemy, and where we will also experience daily the divine refining of our hearts and minds. These are perilous times, and not for the faint of heart. It takes courage to walk with him in this life, and not a few find it so difficult that they abandon the journey altogether. Thus, "it is with difficulty that the righteous is saved" (1 Peter 4:18, NASB). The context in First Peter speaks of the persecutions which were allowed to come by God as a disciplinary judgment, the purpose of which was to purify their lives. They were being saved with difficulty in the sense that if it was necessary for God to purify the lives of saints - holy ones by these drastic means, namely, persecution and suffering, what can one say as to the position of the unsaved in relation to God? If the righteous need disciplinary judgments, how much more will the unrighteous merit the wrath of God whose offer of righteousness they have rejected" [Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, p. 122-123].

The Greek word in question is "molis," which means "with difficulty" [Strong's Expanded Dictionary of Bible Words, p. 1243], and "refers to the hard times that persecution causes the Christian. Some versions have 'scarcely,' which leaves the wrong impression" [R. C. H. Lenski, The Interpretation of the Epistles of St. Peter, p. 212-213]. "Molishere means 'with difficulty' rather than 'scarcely'" [J. Ramsey Michaels, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 49, p. 272].

Our salvation by grace through faith is certain, but equally certain is the fact that the saved will experience great difficulties as a result of their faith. Yet, our God will get us through them all. With every trial and tribulation experienced in this life (even physical death itself) we have the blessed assurance that in Him we are already victorious.

John Gill (1690-1771), in his Exposition of the Entire Bible, writes, "Though their salvation is certain and complete, being finished by the Messiah, yet their enjoyment of it is attended with many difficulties: by reason of the corruptions of human nature, the frequent temptations of Satan, who seeks to devour them, and their wrestlings with the principalities and powers, which are above their match." Daily facing such trials and tribulations, not to mention countless temptations, one can see how some might despair of their salvation, perhaps thinking IF they make it at all, they will barely (scarcely) do so. The Scriptures, however, seek to bring us assurance that, in the face of such daily difficulties, we are nevertheless secure in the loving embrace of our Redeemer. "The frequent repetition of counsel and comfort to Christians, considered as sufferers, in every chapter of this epistle (1st Peter), shows that the greatest danger these new converts were in arose from the persecutions to which their embracing Christianity exposed them" [Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, e-Sword].

Dr. Charles Ellicott sums it up well: "The fact that they are 'scarcely' saved imports not any uncertainty or hazard in the thing itself to the end, in respect of the purpose and performance of God, but only the great difficulties and hard encounters in the way. Doubtless, when the best of us looks back, in the light of the last day, upon all that he has been through, he will be amazed that he ever could be saved at all" [Commentary on the Whole Bible, vol. 8, p. 431].

Yes, the course we are called to follow, the path we are called to take, is filled with obstacles of every kind, and if trying to successfully reaching the end of our journey depended on our own strength, we would all likely fall along the wayside at some point. 

Our salvation, however, is sure -- for it based upon what HE did, not what WE do. Yes, the journey is difficult, it is dangerous, and it can be deadly if we lose faith in the One who sustains us in this sojourn. But, with our eyes fixed upon the Savior, we reach the goal of life everlasting, having come safely through every obstacle and difficulty. It was this assurance Peter sought to instill within the hearts of a persecuted people; a message of assurance we need as much today as they did 2000 years ago.

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon


The desire (indeed, the command) of our Lord is that we grow and develop in love to the point where we are truly a reflection of the nature of Yehovah God, who is love. To the degree we manifest His love, that love which is evidenced in and through us in our relationships with others is said to be "perfected" or "made complete." To the degree we withhold or suppress this love in our lives (as self interferes), it is thereby less than complete and mature; less than "perfected in us." The bringing of our nature into tune with His nature is the work of the Holy Spirit indwelling us, for the transformation of ourselves into His image is not something we can accomplish on our own. That is why immediately after stating His love is made complete in us (1 John 4:12), we read, "because He has given us of His Spirit" (vs. 13).

Paul tells us that the "sinful nature" cannot please God; indeed, it is impossible for our nature, on its own, to elevate us to a point of acceptance. "However, you are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of the Messiah, he does not belong to the Messiah" (Romans 8:9). In this chapter Paul repeatedly stresses the importance of the work of the Spirit "that lives in you" (vs. 11). He takes away fear and gives confidence (vs. 15), He affirms our status as children of God and heirs (vs. 16-17). In Galatians 5:13f Paul states that the sinful nature leads us to works of the flesh, which include strife, hatred, discord, fits of rage and other relationship destroying attitudes and behaviors. However, we are called to "serve one another in love" (vs. 13), for "the entire law is summed up in a single command: 'love your neighbor as yourself'" (vs. 14). Thus, when we "live by the Spirit" (vs. 16) and are "led by the Spirit" (vs. 18), the "fruit of the Spirit" evidenced in our lives will be seen in relationship building attitudes and behaviors such as "love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control" (vs. 22-23).

When Spirit-led disciples of the Messiah, who have him living within them, exhibit the fruit of LOVE in their daily lives, they reflect the very nature of their Father, and in so doing "His love is made complete/perfected" in them (both individually and collectively). In this way our Father, who is not visible to the naked eye and thus cannot be seen by men, is made visible in the lives of His people. Men see Him in us, whether individually (a disciple) or collectively (the church). That is why the testimony of our LOVE is so important, and why a failure to LOVE one another is so detrimental to the cause of Christ. Indeed, if we do not LOVE, we are not truly His children. "Whoever does not love does not know God, because God is love" (1 John 4:8). "If anyone says, 'I love God,' yet hates his brother, he is a liar. For anyone who does not love his brother, whom he has seen, cannot love God, whom he has not seen" (vs. 20). "Anyone who does not love remains in death" (1 John 3:14). John declares that if we will not love others, then we are children of the devil rather than children of God (vs. 10). "Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue, but with actions and in truth (i.e., sincerely, genuinely)" (vs. 18). Again, in so doing we bring to completeness His love within us: we make it visible to those around us in its pure, perfected form.

The benefit to us in doing this is that "we will have confidence on the day of judgment, because in this world we are like Him" (1 John 4:17). When His love is brought to maturity in us, then fear is driven out and replaced with assurance (vs. 18). Where men are fearful of their Father, love has yet to be brought to maturity (completed, perfected) in their hearts and lives. "The one who fears is not made perfect in love" (vs. 18). "Perfect love drives out fear" (vs. 18). "And so we know and rely on the love God has for us. God is love. Whoever lives in love lives in God, and God in him. In this way, love is made complete among us" (1 John 4:16-17).

The love of which John is speaking in this passage "is not primarily God's love for us or our love for Him, but the love which God IS in His nature, produced in our hearts by the Holy Spirit ... which is brought to its full capacity of operation by the Holy Spirit in our lives" [Dr. Kenneth S. Wuest, Word Studies from the Greek NT, vol. 2, p. 169]. Wuest quotes Vincent (another noted Greek scholar), who says the same: "The words 'His love' do not refer to our love for Him, nor to His love for us, but to the love which is peculiarly His own, which answers to His nature" [ibid, p. 166]. "It then has its full accomplishment, having molded us according to its own nature" [Adam Clarke, Clarke's Commentary, vol. 6, p. 920]. Thus, our nature is transformed by the indwelling Spirit of God into the likeness of His nature, and the degree of attainment to this goal realized in our lives is the degree of completeness (perfection) we attain and evidence. The ideal is to be fully like Him; the reality, sadly, is that too often our own nature resurfaces and diminishes the reflection of His. But, life is a journey of imperfect souls, led by the Spirit of God, longing for an ever-increasing perfecting of our nature into the likeness of His. Paul lamented his own personal imperfection in this quest (Romans 7:15-25), yet celebrated his victory given by grace through the offering of the Savior and the operation of the Spirit (Romans 8:1ff).

God is love -- that is His essential nature. Our Father desires His children to reflect His nature to their fellow siblings, and also to those who do not yet know the Father. Indeed, we are to love all people, even those who may afflict us. In so doing, we truly reflect HIS love: a love that is being "perfected" (brought to maturity) within us as the Spirit of God transforms our nature into the likeness of His. We reflect this love by loving one another, and even by loving our enemies. We love as HE loves! "Seeing that God is invisible, His abiding in us can be shown only by His essential characteristic being exhibited in us: i.e., by our showing similar self-sacrificing love" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 22, p. 104]. 

"Though God is invisible, He yet is not only very near to us, but may be in us, the Life of our lives. ... The manifestation of active love by men witnesses to two facts: (1) the abiding of God in them, and (2) the presence of divine love in them in its completest form" [Dr. B. F. Westcott, The Epistles of St. John: The Greek Text with Notes, p. 151]. Loving others is evidence that this divine love dwells within us; indeed, His love within us, transforming us, is what motivates us to love as He loves. "We love because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). He placed that love within us, and, with the aid of His Spirit, our natures become increasingly like His, thus becoming perfected. "The verb teleioo is here used in the emphatic form of the compound perfect, with the meaning of ongoing fulfillment, rather than static 'completion'" [Stephen S. Smalley, Word Biblical Commentary, vol. 51, 1-2-3 John, p. 248]. In other words, our nature will never, during the course of our fleshly existence here on earth, attain to the absolute fullness of His nature. However, with the help of His indwelling Spirit, we progress daily toward that perfection, and in those moments (which we pray increase in quantity and quality daily) that we love as He loves, that love within us is shown in its most complete and perfect form. Thus, Paul prayed that we would all grow and mature toward the goal of that fullness (Ephesians 4:13f), for the world will truly know we are His when they see Him (and His nature = love) evidenced in our lives. "By this all men will know that you are my disciples!" (John 13:35).


Being born/begotten "of God," or being born/begotten "from above," indicates the Spirit of the Father is intimately involved. We can safely declare, therefore, that those who are His children have experienced a spiritual conception and birthing, one which has come from the eternal realm, and which is of Him rather than of men. God's Spirit is clearly in view here as the source of this spiritual birth/begettal "from above." 

A true gift, however, is never imposed upon someone against their will. It is freely offered, but must also be freely received. Thus, John informs us that although some chose to receive this gift, the majority of men chose to reject it. In so doing, they rejected life, for eternal life is in the Son. So, how does one receive this gift? The answer is: simply by faith. In John 1:12 this is brought out beautifully. "But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God." 

One receives the Messiah by believing (having faith) in him, and those receiving by believing are thereby born/begotten because of him. "Everyone who believes that Jesus is the the Messiah is born/begotten of God" (1 John 5:1). This is our "right" (a privilege bestowed from above) resulting from our faith/trust in him. Only the Father has the authority to bestow the gift of sonship, and He grants that privilege/right to, and bestows that gift upon, those willing to receive it by faith.

God gave His Son as a gift to the world, but not all were pleased with that gift. Indeed, the vast majority preferred the darkness to the light, thus continuing under the curse of death rather than the blessing of life. The good news was/is that "in Him was life" (John 1:4). The bad news is that most men rejected Him, thus rejecting life. "And this is the testimony, that God gave us eternal life, and this life is in His Son. Whoever has the Son has life; whoever does not have the Son of God does not have life" (1 John 5:11-13).

The apostle John stresses in both his gospel and epistle the fact that life is a gift from God. The apostle Paul emphasizes the same truth. "For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in the Messiah Jesus our lord" (Romans 6:23). "For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that no one may boast" (Ephesians 2:8-9). We, who were dead in our sins, have been given the gift of new life; we, who were slaves to sin, have now, in the Messiah Jesus, been given the gift of freedom and sonship.

The Greek scholar Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, in his classic work "The Expositor's Greek Testament," states, "to believe and to be begotten of God are two inseparable aspects of the same event or process" [vol. 1, p. 688]. "Receiving the Messiah means receiving him by faith. ... The moment one comes to faith he becomes a child of God" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. John's Gospel, p. 62]. "Every time when life, pardon, or salvation are involved, the verb 'give' brings out strongly the note of unmerited grace.

The implied note of contrast is not that of synergism, as though any man might become a child of God by effort of his own or by on his part adding something toward this end. ... The instant of accepting the Messiah is the instant of receiving the gift of childhood. To receive the Messiah is to receive life, light, and salvation" [ibid, p. 60-61]. "God offers, faith accepts" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 17, p. 67].

Does the Father have expectations of those whom He has begotten (who have been born from above by His Spirit)? Of course He does. We are expected (enabled by the indwelling of His Spirit) to be "conformed to the likeness of His son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers" (Romans 8:29). Thus, we grow in our understanding and appreciation of who he is and what he has accomplished for us, and we increasingly follow the leading of the Spirit and bear spiritual fruit for the Father. "For all who are being led by the Spirit of God, these are sons of God" (Romans 8:14). We daily seek to be reflectors of His nature to those around us. "As He is, so also are we in this world" (1 John 4:17). For example, "we love, because He first loved us" (1 John 4:19). By His grace He has "born/begotten us from above," a gift we receive by faith. Now, as His beloved children we seek, by the help of His indwelling Spirit, to be pure and holy as He is pure and holy. In so doing, we not only evidence the validity of our faith, but the glory of our Father. "For every child of God defeats this evil world, and we achieve this victory through our faith. And who can win this battle against the world? Only those who believe that Jesus is the son of God. ... And this is what God has testified: He has given us eternal life, and this life is in His son. Whoever has the son has life; whoever does not have God's son does not have life. I have written this to you who believe in the name of the son of God, so that you may know you have eternal life" (1 John 5:4-5, 11-13, New Living Translation). Yes, if we believe in his name, we thereby receive him as our savior, at which point God "births/begets us from above" by His Spirit, causing us thereby to exist by divine creation as His beloved children, who from that moment forward increasingly live to reflect the nature of their Father. Thank God for His love, mercy and grace!


The first phrase in the verse is: "Study to show yourself approved of God", with the phrase that follows elaborating upon that charge: "a workman that needs not to be ashamed" (KJV). In other words, as laborers in Yehovah's vineyard, let us examine ourselves and our labors honestly so as to assure that we daily present ourselves, through our attitudes and actions, in such a way as to bring glory to our God. By such diligence to our labors (to which the Master has called us) we need never shrink in shame before His gaze. We are His chosen sons, saved by grace through faith, confident in His choosing of us, and diligent in our daily devotion to Him.

In this great spiritual reality there is no place for any feeling of failure or sense of shame. Perfect in ourselves? No! Perfected in Him? Yes! Abiding in Him, and in His love and grace, and His Spirit abiding in us, our service, though imperfect by virtue of our human nature, is approved unto God by virtue of His nature! Thus, although we are expected to give due diligence in our service as loyal and loving servants, yet even our most feeble efforts are applauded from above, for we are beloved sons and daughters!

As alluded to above, Paul called Timothy (and by extension each of us) to "diligence" when he used the Greek verb spoudazo. This Greek term simply means: "to make haste, to exert one's self, endeavor, give diligence" [Dr. Kenneth Wuest, Wuest's Word Studies from the Greek New Testament, vol. 2, "The Pastoral Epistles," p. 134]. "Zeal, earnest desire, effort, and haste, are all implied in it" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 21, II Timothy, p. 21]. "Give diligence" [Dr. W. Robertson Nicoll, The Expositor's Greek Testament, vol. 4, p. 165]. The term "literally means 'make haste,' and so 'be zealous or eager.' 'Study' (KJV) is obviously too narrow a term, usually referring today to the studying of books. The true meaning is 'make every effort'" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 11, p. 402]. In essence, as servants of our Lord, we are called to give our best unto Him. God doesn't want "weekend warriors" or "part time" laborers. God expects, and God deserves, our ALL.

As part of that determination, especially as one called to be an ambassador of His grace, I am resolved to show diligence in "rightly dividing the word of truth" (KJV). But, what exactly does that mean? What is the "word of truth," and how does one "rightly divide" it? It is this final phrase in the passage that has caused the most confusion among disciples of the Messiah.

Paul was not telling Timothy to preach the OT writings, but rather to employ his knowledge of these sacred writings to proclaim the message of truth contained within them -- which is: the good news of the Messiah who has come to bring fallen men back into relationship with their God.

Jesus Himself even emphasized this purpose for the Jewish sacred writings (something the legalists of His day failed to perceive ... and which the legalists fail to perceive even today) -- "You search the Scriptures thinking that in them you have eternal life, yet it is these that bear witness of me, and you are unwilling to come to me that you may have life" (John 5:39-40). Paul, therefore, charged him to diligence in his ministry of imparting this good news to those around him, and to "handle accurately" that Word of Truth that saves! I believe that to be the message of divine Truth, not only found within the sacred writings, but also personified in the son of God!!

The noted Greek scholar, Dr. Marvin Vincent, wrote, "The thought is that the minister of the gospel is to present the truth rightly, not abridging it, not handling it as a charlatan, not making it a matter of wordy strife, but treating it honestly and fully, in a straight forward manner" [Vincent's Word Studies, e-Sword]. Albert Barnes (1798-1870) suggests Paul is instructing Timothy to "rightfully and skillfully teach the word of truth" [Barnes' Notes on the Bible, e-Sword]. Dr. Henry Thayer's Greek-English Lexicon of the NT states that in 2 Timothy 2:15 this word means "to teach the truth correctly and directly" [p. 453]. Don't wander away from Truth; stay on course with Truth; don't take the detours of human speculation.


In general, the expression "the fear of Yehovah"  denotes the qualities of one who is in a covenant relationship with God. Those who have spurned God, who have no desire to yield their lives yielded to Him, are consequently outside of this blessed relationship, thus "there is no fear of God before their eyes" (Romans 3:18). There is no reverence for God, no respect for Him, no sense of awe when they consider the Creator, nor even a sense of terror (for many men deny He even exists). From their perspective, He is utterly irrelevant. For such persons, terror awaits them -- "It is a terrifying thing to fall into the hands of the living God" (Hebrews 10:31). Such rebels might have no "fear of God" (respect, awe, reverence) now, but a day is coming when they will stand before the One they have rejected, and it will be a day in which they will truly "fear God" (terror, horror, dread, dismay). The wise man "fears God" during his life here on earth, so that he will not be forced to face Him "in fear" on that final day.

Our love, honor, respect, awe and reverence for Yehovah God here will abolish all fear, terror, dread hereafter (and, indeed, it increasingly removes such fearfulness from our hearts even now as our faith grows and matures). In this way, the apostle John declares, we, who are in covenant relationship with God, "will have confidence on the day of judgment." After all, "there is no fear in love; perfect love drives out fear" (1 John 4:17-18).

Our heavenly Father has no desire for His beloved children to be terrified of Him. Yes, we should be fearful of the consequences of turning away from Him, or of disobeying Him, but a sense of terror in a child with respect to his or her father does not suggest a very health relationship. Quite the opposite, as a matter of fact. As genuine believers in the Messiah Jesus, we're part of the Family of God. We're no longer under the dominion of LAW, but dwell within the merciful parameters of His matchless GRACE. We have been called into fellowship with Him, and within the warmth of His embrace we find love and forfeit fear. "The rulership of law, in which God was a Sovereign to be obeyed and a Judge to be dreaded, was consummated by the rulership of love, in which God is a Father and the Messiah a Savior-Brother. It is the distinctive message of Christianity that God wills men to serve Him without fear. The atmosphere of the household of God is filial trust, not servile suspicion and dread" [Dr. James Hastings, Dictionary of the Apostolic Church, vol. 1, p. 403]. "The concept that believers need not fear receives its most radical expression in 1 John. This epistle, with its great emphasis on love and its fatherly tone, reassures its readers that on the day of judgment they need not fear, because fear has to do with punishment, and God's perfect love for them has removed that threat" [ISBE, vol. 2, p. 292].

This distinction between feeling terror at the presence of God and "fearing Him" in a far more healthy manner is powerfully presented in the account of the people of Israel assembled at Mount Sinai shortly after their exodus from Egyptian bondage. God had descended upon the mountain in an awesome display of His glory. "All the people witnessed the thunder and lightning, the sound of the trumpet, and the mountain surrounded by smoke. When the people saw it they trembled and stood at a distance" (Exodus 20:18). There was certainly some "fear and trembling" going on here, since they were utterly terrified. Moses said to them, "Do not be afraid, for God has come to test you, so that you will fear Him and will not sin" (vs. 20). It almost seems like a contradiction, doesn't it? They were to "fear God," and yet they were NOT to be "afraid." God's display of His majesty on the mountain was not for the purpose of "scaring them to death," but rather for the purpose of conveying to them that He was worthy of their awe and reverence, which would be manifested in their lives of devotion to His will. In Hebrews 12:28 we are told to come before our God in a spirit of worship that is characterized by "reverence and awe," rather than fear. The people of Israel had come to Mount Sinai "trembling with fear" (Hebrews 12:21), "but you have come to Mount Zion, to the heavenly Jerusalem, to the city of the living God" (vs. 22), and through the atoning sacrifice of the Messiah Jesus you now come into His presence "with confidence" (Hebrews 10:19), rather than with dread.

There are a great many blessings associated with this "fear of Yehovah" ("fear of God"). "Behold, the fear of Yehovah is wisdom" (Job 28:28). "The fear of Yehovah is the beginning of wisdom" (Psalm 111:10). "The fear of Yehovah is the beginning of knowledge" (Proverbs 1:7). "The fear of Yehovah prolongs life" (Proverbs 10:27). "In the fear of Yehovah there is strong confidence" (Proverbs 14:26). "The fear of Yehovah is a fountain of life" (Proverbs 14:27). "By the fear of Yehovah one can keep away from evil" (Proverbs 16:6). "The fear of Yehovah leads unto life" (Proverbs 19:23). "The reward of humility and the fear of Yehovah are riches, honor and life" (Proverbs 22:4). Little wonder then that Solomon should observe, "The conclusion, when all has been heard, is: fear God and keep His commandments" (Ecclesiastes 2:13). Peter urged his readers to "love the brotherhood" and "fear God" (1 Peter 2:17). Just such a man was Cornelius, "a devout man, and one who feared God with all his household, and gave many alms to the Jewish people, and prayed to God continually" (Acts 10:2). Commenting on this centurion, Peter declared, "In every nation the man who fears Him, and does what is right, is accepted by Him" (Acts 10:35).

Although there is much that could be said about this concept of "fearing" our Lord God (since much is said in Scripture about it), yet I believe it comes down to this -- any person who desires a saving relationship with the Father must come before Him with reverence and awe, yet in the full confidence of the gift of His grace in the Messiah Jesus, which salvation we appropriate through faith, which faith allows us to come boldly before Him in complete surrender of ourselves to His sovereignty. Thus blessed by God, we commit our lives to daily walking in the light of His love, showing our reverence to Him in our loving relationships with one another. In this manner, we exemplify the reality of "the fear of Yehovah - the Lord" in our daily lives for all people to behold, thereby giving Him all the glory and the honor and the praise. In this way, we today may experience the following -- "So the called-out Assembly throughout all Judea and Galilee and Samaria enjoyed peace, being built up; and, going on in the fear of Yehovah - the Lord and in the comfort of the Holy Spirit, it continued to increase" (Acts 9:31).


There is absolutely no question that preaching the Word faithfully and forcefully will bring about a severing of relationships between those who accept the message, and seek to live by it, and those who do not. The disciples of the Messiah are to put on the full armor of God and then "take up the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God" [Ephesians 6:17]. And this sword is sharp. "The word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword" [Hebrews 4:12]. The church is armed for the fight; it must indeed "contend earnestly for the faith which was once for all delivered to the saints" [Jude 3]. But what is the focus of our warfare? Is it against our fellow believers who differ with us on matters of personal preference, perception and practice? Or is our battle against something else entirely? Perhaps the apostle Paul sheds some light on this just prior to urging us to take up the sword of the Spirit. He wrote, "Our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places" [Ephesians 6:12].

In other words, we should be using the sword to cut through the darkness that threatens to overwhelm the people of God, not use it to slice through a disciple who does not happen to "follow along with us."

When Paul said he had "fought the good fight" [2 Timothy 4:7], he was not talking about a family feud. Those disciples with differing opinions and traditions are not the enemy. For us to use the sword of the Spirit to eviscerate a fellow believer is not only a misuse and abuse of this weapon, it is murder in the sight of our God. "Everyone who hates his brother is a murderer; and you know that no murderer has eternal life abiding in him" [1 John 3:15].

What exactly was our lord's intent when He uttered those memorable words: "Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword" [Matthew 10:34]? First, we should make it abundantly clear that the "peace" our lord would bring with his teaching was not the kind of peace typically envisioned by the world. Jesus wanted his disciples to understand this fact before they went out proclaiming his message. The effect of their proclamation would not be a radical reformation of human society resulting in a world filled with brotherly love, harmony and unity.

"Peace I leave with you; my peace I give to you; not as the world gives, do I give unto you" [John 14:27]. "These things I have spoken to you, that in me you may have peace. In the world you have tribulation, but take courage; I have overcome the world" [John 16:33]. The peace that our lord promised was an inward peace; a spiritual calmness and courage; a blessed assurance, even in the face of outward trials and afflictions. It was also a peace between God and man, not necessarily between man and man (although this too could, at times, be a positive effect of his teaching).

Jesus needed his disciples to understand the harsh realities of their mission. Their message would not always be well-received. Indeed, at times it would generate some very negative responses against them. Their lives would often be in jeopardy as a result of their commitment to him. The ascended Jesus told Ananias, for example, when he sent him to find Saul of Tarsus, "Go, for he is a chosen instrument of mine, to bear my name before the Gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel; for I will show him how much he must suffer for my name's sake" [Acts 9:15-16]. Peace, as the world understood that concept, would not be Paul's lot in life.

Note carefully the list of experiences this man endured for his Lord, as enumerated in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28, and you will see that his life was anything but peaceful (and this list reflected only the midway point of his ministry). Yet, with respect to being at peace with his heavenly Father, and possessing a peace "which surpasses all understanding" [Philippians 4:7], this faithful servant certainly had that in abundance. Yes, Jesus brought peace, but not as the world expected. It was this Jesus sought to impress upon the Twelve in Matthew 10:34. As He commissioned them for the mission ahead [cf. Matthew 10:5-33], all of which serves as the immediate context for his statement in vs. 34, he informed them of the trials and hardships they would face. If they went forth thinking their purpose was to bring an earthly peace, they needed to rid their hearts and minds of this illusion immediately. They would be "sheep in the midst of wolves" [vs. 16], they would be "delivered up" [vs. 19], they would be "hated" [vs. 22] and "persecuted" [vs. 23], yet they were not to be fearful [vs. 28, 31]. The Spirit would fill them with an inner sense of peace!

Although his disciples, through their deep and abiding faith and trust in him, would know a personal, inward peace, our lord also sought, as an integral part of his ultimate purpose, to eradicate the enmity that existed between various groups of men, thus establishing an outward peace as well. Jew and Gentile, rich and poor, master and slave, young and old, male and female, all needed to experience greater harmony. This wouldn't come easily, and it most certainly wouldn't come either quickly or effortlessly. But, it nevertheless was, and is, a peace attainable through acceptance of his message of grace, which, if received with sincerity of heart, would, with time and maturity, lead to acceptance of one another.

"His purpose was to create in Himself one new man out of the two, thus making peace" [Ephesians 2:15, NIV]. In this universal called-out Assembly there "is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in the Messiah Jesus" [Galatians 3:28]. Such glorious peace among men is only attainable when we stay focused on Jesus, rather than focusing on the differences, and even defects, we perceive in one another. "How good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity" [Psalm 133:1], and yet how extremely difficult it is to achieve! Why? Because we are too quick to lose focus; too quick to take our eyes off the goal; too quick to elevate inconsequentials; too quick to devalue the worth of our fellow disciples. WE get in the way, and HIS purpose for ultimate peace suffers!

The world's idea of peace, and the word's idea of peace, are not even remotely the same! Jesus told the Twelve He did not come to bring the former, but rather the latter.

The far more immediate and visible reality of the preaching and teaching of our Lord's message would be "the sword." Although the ultimate purpose of Jesus was to bring men together, the actual effect that would be most evident would be the dividing of men from one another. When Jesus spoke of the "sword" in Matthew 10:34, he spoke figuratively. The meaning of this figure was/is: division. This is seen quite clearly in the parallel passage found in the gospel of Luke the physician. "Do you suppose that I came to grant peace on earth? I tell you, no, but rather division" [Luke 12:51]. And this was to be a division of the most heart-wrenching kind -- it would divide the believer from those within his own household. This would be the ultimate test of discipleship, one about which Jesus frequently spoke. Choosing Jesus often meant (and still does) losing one's family. It was not uncommon for some Jews to even have a funeral for a son or daughter who embraced the Messiah, as they were regarded as "dead to them." Yes, Jesus brought a sword; he divided families. Notice the verses that immediately follow our text -- "For I have come to set a man against his father, a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; and a man's enemies will be those of his own household. He who loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me. And he who loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me" [Matthew 10:35-38]. True commitment to the Messiah is not easy; it involves sacrifice, and frequently a sword.

Jesus Christ spoke, in our text for this study, of familial fracturing. Yes, there would be the sacrifice of other severed relationships as well. But the hardest enmity for anyone to endure would be that of one's very own beloved family. As Democritus {c. 460-370 B.C.} wisely observed, "The enmity of one's kindred is far more bitter than the enmity of strangers." In our text Jesus quoted Micah 7:6. Being severed from one's family because of one's faith is certainly not unique to Christianity. It is universal. Although such excruciating pain was not the purpose of His coming, it would clearly become one of the effects of that coming. The Twelve needed to know what would follow in the wake of their teaching. So also do we! Indeed, earlier in His commissioning dissertation, Jesus informed them, "Brother will deliver up brother to death, and a father his child; and children will rise up against parents, and cause them to be put to death" [Matt. 10:21]. Yes, when Christ is preached, and when Christ is believed, and when Christ is received, a sword is never far behind. We must be aware of this, as must those we convert to Him, lest we buckle under the weight of affliction.

So, why did Jesus speak in terms of family division here, and not a broader scope of division? Most scholars believe it is because the Lord sought to deal with the separations that would hurt the most, and thus would be the greatest threat to a believer faithfully following Him. One might well be able to endure the ostracism of a co-worker, or a neighbor, or even of a friend. But the ultimate test would be the force of the sword within one's family. Also, it would be within one's own household that the effects of one's newfound belief would be initially evidenced. Thus, the first reaction to one's life-choice would come from this sector. "Those who rally round the Messiah are naturally opposed and hated by those who cleave to the old evil traditions. And the battle begins in the household" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 435]. Although the dividing asunder of relationships would obviously be felt elsewhere as well, "the battle of principles comes into closest quarters in the house; so a man's bitterest foes are those of his own household" [ibid, p. 436]. If one can endure this opposition for Jesus, one can endure anything.

Dr. Paul E. Kretzmann correctly observed that our lord Jesus the Messiah "foresaw hostile opposition to his message. He knew, also, that the spiritual conflict which would be brought on by carnal enmity would find its expression in actual physical persecution. His disciples should not then imagine, as they were likely to do, that there would now be a reign of earthly quietness and peace, with all the blessings which the word implies. Division, contention, war, sudden, fierce calamities would follow the introduction of the Gospel. There is no more bitter hatred and strife than that due to religious differences. It estranges the very closest of friends, it disrupts families, it causes lasting enmity between members of the same household. To stand firmly on the side of the Messiah Jesus demands the utmost fearlessness" [Popular Commentary of the Bible: The NT, vol. 1, p. 59].

It is significant to note that the purpose of the Messiah's teaching was NOT to divide men from one another, but to unify them. It was, however, often the effect of his teaching that men came to be divided from one another. It is critical to distinguish between purpose and effect, a distinction I fear many are not making today!

We should not be preaching and teaching division, yet, sadly, this is exactly what too many are doing. When sermon after sermon is devoted to tearing down disciples, rather than lifting up the Messiah, we have ceased being "gospel" preachers. Yes, we must preach Truth, and we must do so boldly. When people accept that message of grace, embracing Jesus the Messiah as lord and savior, this will bring a sword into their lives and relationships. It is inevitable. We must prepare them for it. Yes, we must also oppose error, and expose those who maliciously and willfully promote it. We must do this fearlessly. This too will result in a separation between those disciples who are genuine sheep and those who only "wear the wool." When Truth is proclaimed and defended, a sword will follow. This sword must always be the effect of such faithful proclamation, however, and never the purpose of it.

"Truth must be spoken, errors must be exposed, sin must be denounced, and this must be done at any cost; and let the Disciple be prepared for opposition. If all men speak well of him, let him search his conduct to see whether he has been faithful, or whether perchance he may have been speaking smooth things for the sake of ease and comfort" [The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 15, p. 428]. "To preach the gospel of purity and peace will always arouse opposition. Evil has to be put down before peace can prevail. Hence, while the great end  (purpose) that the Messiah proposes is peace, the immediate result (effect) of his coming, and of the preaching of the gospel, is opposition and bloodshed. This was not the savior's object, but the effect" [B. W. Johnson, The People's NT with Explanatory Notes, p. 63]. If we are faithful to our individual callings, we shall experience opposition, which will likely include severing of relationships, perhaps even with those whom we dearly love. Brethren, it hurts.

I know firsthand the pain that David clearly felt when he wrote, "It is not my enemy who reproaches me, for then I could bear it; nor is it one who hates me who has exalted himself against me, for then I could hide myself from him. But it is you, a man my equal, my companion and my familiar friend. We who had sweet fellowship together, walking in the house of God in the throng" [Psalm 55:12-14]. I am a realist. I know and understand the risk I take by boldly proclaiming my convictions. I realize that some, whom I love dearly, may well choose to turn from me ... and perhaps even turn upon me. It is a sword hovering above my head that I must ever be willing to accept ... as must each of you.

Choosing him often means losing them. It is painful, but the cause of the Messiah demands it. Indeed, we are unworthy of Him if we flee from the face of such separation. May we draw strength and courage from the conviction of Paul, who said from a prison cell, "Whatever things were gain to me, those things I have counted as loss for the sake of the Messiah. More than that, I count all things to be loss in view of the surpassing value of knowing the Messiah Jesus my lord, for whom I have suffered the loss of all things, and count them but rubbish in order that I may gain the Messiah, and may be found in him" [Philippians 3:7-9]. Brethren, if you follow the savior, a sword will follow you! May he give us the strength to endure it.

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon


What does the Lord God expect of a pastor, elder, overseer, both individually and collectively? What do the NT writings convey about their duties? Although, without question, the members will have their own list of expectations for these men, let us be very careful lest we find ourselves binding duties and responsibilities upon these men that God Himself has not! Remember: it is the Holy Spirit who creates pastor, elders, overseers (Acts 20:28), not us, and it is through the inspiration of the same Spirit that their duties and responsibilities are enumerated. Let's briefly, in skeletal form, notice the six works (duties, responsibilities) specified by the Spirit for the shepherds of the flock. These are His  expectations for these men; their reason for being!

Guide the Flock --- These are to be men of knowledge, experience and wisdom to whom the members of the church may appeal for a "Thus says Yehovah" to vital questions and issues relevant to their daily living (Acts 15:2, 6; 16:4). Pastors, elders, overseers are thus to be capable counselors of those given into their care, guiding them in the way they should go. At times, they will need to make judgment calls in some given situation, but they do so with the best interests of those they serve in mind, considering the impact of their judgments upon the flock.

Guard the Flock --- Sheep are particularly susceptible to harm from predators. They need a shepherd to guard them and protect them. "Be on guard for yourselves and for all the flock, among which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God" (Acts 20:28). A good shepherd not only guards himself from the evil predators, but also his flock. The word "overseer," by the way, can also mean "guardian; one who watches over protectively." "They keep watch over your souls, as those who will give an account" (Hebrews 13:17).

Nourish the Flock --- Pastor, elders, overseers must feed the flock, not feed off of the flock. One of the indictments against the wicked shepherds over Israel was -- "the shepherds fed themselves and did not feed My flock" (Ezekiel 34:8). Therefore, God declared, "I shall deliver My flock from their mouth, that they may not be food for them" (vs. 10). "Woe, shepherds of Israel who have been feeding themselves! Should not the shepherds feed the flock?" (vs. 2). The pastors of the called-out Assembly must be spiritual nourishers of the disciples of the Messiah. Thus, they must be skilled scholars and capable teachers of the word (1 Timothy 3:2; 5:17; Hebrews 13:7). These men must "hold fast the faithful word which is in accordance with the teaching, that he may be able both to exhort in sound doctrine and to refute those who contradict" (Titus 1:9). One who is not "apt to teach," is NOT fit to serve as a shepherd of the flock. What good is a shepherd who can't feed sheep?!

Equip the Flock --- The Lord has given "teaching pastors" to the church "for the equipping of the saints for the work of service, to the building up of the body of Christ" (Ephesians 4:11-12). Their work is to develop these disciples in their faith and mature them in their relationship with Jesus (vs. 13). Thus, good elders are equippers and enablers of those disciples they seek to motivate to acts of service. They are not micro-managers, but rather entrust to responsible men and women in the church the various ministry tasks. They equip and enable, then stand aside and let the members take responsibility.

Example to the Flock --- The apostle Peter cautioned elders never to "lord it over those allotted to your charge, but prove to be examples to the flock" (1 Peter 5:3). Sheep must be led, not driven. A good shepherd knows this; those who don't will "dominate" the flock "with force and with severity" (Ezekiel 34:4). In contrast, the Lord, the good Shepherd, says, "I will lead them" (Ezekiel 34:15). Pastors lead by the example of their lives; lives lived in harmony with the teachings of God's Word. Jesus said, "Follow Me" ... He didn't drive them from behind with a stick. He led; and He did so by the power of the example of a godly life! "Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith" (Hebrews 13:7).

Serve the Flock --- A shepherd is a servant of the flock, not the lord of it. All of the above areas of responsibility can fall nicely under the umbrella of this single term. Shepherds serve. Jesus, the Good Shepherd, said, "I am among you as the one who serves" (Luke 22:27). "The Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve" (Matthew 20:28). The members are not at the disposal of the elders ... indeed, just the reverse: the elders are at the disposal of the members! Many elders seem to have forgotten this (if they ever knew it). Elders are not gods, they are guides; they are not saviors, they are servants; they are not lords, they are leaders; they are not executives, they are examples. Until elders get out of the board room and into the pasture where the sheep are, there will continue to be a deadly disconnect between shepherds and sheep, and the latter will continue to wander away and become lost with no shepherd to seek for them, and they will continue to become sickly and die with no shepherd to bind their wounds or heal their diseases. You can't serve a flock from behind the closed doors of a board room; you must be among them! As one astute author once declared, "A shepherd must smell of sheep!"


Ezekiel 34 ought to be required, and regular, reading for every elder in the church! It is a powerful indictment against false shepherds, giving extensive insight into the many ways these self-serving little lords abuse the flock of God. The chapter also reveals the attitudes and actions of godly shepherds, as perceived in the Great Shepherd Himself. We can learn much from these negative and positive assessments. The Lord God said, "I will feed My flock and I will lead them to rest. I will seek the lost, bring back the scattered, bind up the broken, and strengthen the sick" (vs. 15-16). "I will care for My sheep and will deliver them from all the places to which they were scattered" (vs. 12). "I will eliminate harmful beasts from the land, so that they may live securely in the wilderness and sleep in the woods" (vs. 25). "And they will no longer be a prey to the nations, and the beasts of the earth will not devour them; but they will live securely, and no one will make them afraid" (vs. 28).

What a wonderful Shepherd we have in the Lord Jesus the Messiah!! Those men who serve as shepherds over the flock of God today must model themselves after him, and then, "when the Chief Shepherd appears, they will receive the unfading crown of glory" (1 Peter 5:4). Those who lead the flock of our God "will give an account" (Hebrews. 13:17), thus they should take seriously their calling. Those who lead well will receive eternal glory; those who do not lead well will face the wrath of God. "Thus says Yehovah God, 'Behold, I am against the shepherds'" (Ezekiel 34:10). What a frightful prospect!

False shepherds "dominate" the flock "with force and with severity" (Ezekiel 34:4). However, God will one day step in and "break the bars of their yoke and deliver them from the hand of those who enslaved them" (Ezekiel 34:27). Those leaders who enslave the sheep of their folds, who lord it over them with force and severity, will give an account to their Chief Shepherd. That will not be a pleasant day for many in the church today, I fear. It is my fervent prayer that those who serve as shepherds of the flock, as elders of the church, as overseers of the household of God, will seriously consider the solemn aspects of their work of service, and conduct themselves in a manner worthy of the example of our Good Shepherd Jesus Christ. This will not only result in eternal blessings for them, but the called-out Assembly of our lord Jesus the Messiah will be blessed and built up by their godly leadership.

Lord God, bless Your flock with spiritual shepherds!!

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon


"There are six things which Yehovah hates, yes, seven which are an abominatioed innocent blood, a heart that devises wicked plans, feet that run rapidly to evil, a false witness who utters lies, and one who spreads strife among brothers" (Proverbs 6:16-19). 

Haughty Eyes

The first item on the list is "haughty eyes" (New American Standard Bible, New International Version). This phrase is also translated: "a proud eye" (New English Bible) .... "those who are too proud" (Contemporary English Version) .... "arrogant eyes" (Holman Christian Standard Bible) .... "eyes that show a man is proud" (Easy-to-Read Version) .... and a number of other very similar phrasings. The wording in the Hebrew "refers to a proud look suggesting arrogant ambition" (Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 935). "It is not merely the look which is meant here in this passage, but the temper of mind which the look expresses" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131). "The sensuous expression contains and implies in every case the inner mood" (ibid, p. 146). One commentator suggested it speaks of "pompous defiance." "The lamp that guides the wicked -- haughty eyes and an arrogant heart -- is sin!" (Proverbs 21:4). "Human pride will be humbled" (Isaiah 2:11). A perfect case in point was how the Lord God dealt with "the king of Assyria and the pomp of his haughtiness" (Isaiah 10:12). The destruction to come upon him, and upon his evil forces, would be fearful to behold. He and they would be utterly consumed, "both soul and body" (vs. 18), by the consuming fire of a righteous God.

The word "haughty" is defined in Webster's New World Dictionary as "having or showing great pride in oneself and contempt for others." It is an "arrogant disdain" for those about you. When brethren look down on brethren, there is a haughty spirit at work in these disdainful brethren, and the end result is always strife and schism. Paul instructed those in Rome who had differing convictions not to display haughtiness in their interpersonal relationships -- "Let not him who eats regard with contempt him who does not eat, and let not him who does not eat judge him who eats, for God has accepted him. Who are you to judge the servant of another?" (Romans 14:3-4). The Greek word Paul uses here is exoutheneo, which means "to make light of, set at naught, treat with contempt and scorn; regard as paltry or of little account" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon). The Greek word employed in Proverbs 6:17 (in the Septuagint) is hubristes, which signifies "an overbearing, wantonly violent person" (ibid). This is the source of our English word "hubris" = "arrogance caused by excessive pride."

"Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate" (Proverbs 8:13). Pride is put first in our text "because it is at the bottom of all disobedience and rebellion against God's laws" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131). The Lord has never looked favorably upon the haughty! They are an abomination to Him. One of the primary reasons for this is because of what pride generates -- "By pride comes nothing but strife" (Proverbs 13:10). When men are haughty, they will inevitably regard those around them with contempt, and when others are regarded with contempt, there is strife! And the Lord hates "the one who spreads strife among brothers" (Proverbs 6:19). Thus, "pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall" (Proverbs 16:18). The Principle of Reciprocity will be experienced by those who, with haughty eyes, look with disfavor upon others -- "In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised" (Psalm 10:2). Amen!

A Lying Tongue

The second item on the list of those things despised by deity is "a lying tongue" (NASB, NIV, NKJV, Holman CSB). Other renderings are: "Those who tell lies" (CEV) .... "A false tongue" (NEB) .... "tongues that tell lies" (E-T-RV). The phrase in the Hebrew literally reads, "a tongue of deception." In the Septuagint the descriptive term employed is adikos, which means "unjust, vicious, unrighteous, iniquitous; deceitful, fallacious" (The Analytical Greek Lexicon).

Inherent within the word is the concept of one who desires, through such vicious fallaciousness, to do personal injury to another. Thus, it is not just telling lies to cover one's own iniquity, but the telling of lies to bring harm to another.

  • A perfect example of this is found in Psalm 109:2-4 --- "For they have opened the wicked and deceitful mouth against me; they have spoken against me with a lying tongue. They have also surrounded me with words of hatred, and fought against me without cause. In return for my love they act as my accusers." These painful words of David describe the injury felt by one who has been betrayed by one to whom he sought only to show love. It is a psalm applied by the disciple of Jesus, to Judas in Acts 1:20.
This lying tongue is "the organ of speech being named here for the false person" (Dr. Paul Kretzmann, Popular Commentary of the Bible, vol. 2, p. 222). Thus, as already noted earlier, each organ specified in this list of "hated" items points back to the person himself, of whom these organs are merely tools for evil. "In a concise form the expression, 'a lying tongue,' represents what has been already said in vs. 12-13 of 'the wicked man' who 'walks with a false mouth' and whose conduct is made up of deceit. Lying is the willful perversion of truth, not only by speech, but by any means whatever whereby a false impression is conveyed to the mind. ... It excites the Divine displeasure" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131).

"A lying tongue hates those it crushes" (Proverbs 26:28). In return, our God hates a lying tongue. The Principle of Reciprocity. You get just what you give. Lying tongues have but one fate awaiting them -- these tongues shall be terminated. "Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment" (Proverbs 12:19). "He who tells lies will perish" (Proverbs 19:9). Ananias and Sapphira are a perfect example of what happens to such would-be deceivers of men and God (Acts 5:1-11). "You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin; He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; He will uproot you from the land of the living" (Psalm 52:4-5). "O lying tongue, what shall be your fate? You shall be pierced with sharp arrows and burned with glowing coals" (Psalm 120:3-4). "But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death" (Revelation 21:8).

Hands That Shed Innocent Blood

The third "hated thing" from this passage in Proverbs is -- "hands that shed innocent blood" (NASB, NIV, NEB, Holman CSB, KJV) .... "those who ... murder" (CEV) .... "hands that kill innocent people" (E-T-RV). The focus is on one's hands, the active agents of one's inner will. In this case, the will that is carried out is murder. One of the Ten Commandments is: "You shall not murder" (Exodus 20:13). Yehovah told Noah, after He had brought them safely through the flood, "Whoever sheds man's blood, by man his blood shall be shed, for in the image of God He made man" (Genesis 9:6). Yes, there are times when killing of the wicked is required, but to shed innocent blood is not permitted. There are grave consequences associated with such! "That the shedding of innocent blood cries for vengeance, and pulls down God's heavy judgments on the murderer, appears in the case of Cain and Abel" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131).

We are told that King Manasseh, who reigned fifty-five years over Judah (taking the throne at the age of twelve), did much evil in the sight of Yehovah God. An aspect of that long list of evil deeds is presented to us in 2 Kings 21:16 -- "Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another." He also "made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists" (vs. 6), and "seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom Yehovah destroyed before the sons of Israel" (vs. 9). His deeds (vs. 11) were "abominations" in the sight of God, as he himself was (Proverbs 6:16). There is a chilling observation found in 2 Kings 24:4 about the consequence of the sins of Manasseh which ought to serve as a warning to us --- it speaks of "the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and Yehovah would not forgive." What a sobering thought!

  • Before we become too self-congratulatory for not having murdered anyone, let's remember the words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount -- "You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, 'Do not murder,' and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment" (Matthew 5:21-22).
  • God hates those who shed innocent blood! Are you "drawing blood" in your anger against a brother? Beware!! "For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy" (James 2:13).The shedding of innocent blood must cease, whether that blood letting be literal or figurative.
A Heart That Devises Wicked Plans

Next we come to the heart, the seat of the passions that too often motivate us away from God and toward the performance of the evil devised therein. Our God hates, and regards as an abomination, "a heart that devises wicked plans" (NASB) .... "a heart that forges thoughts of mischief" (NEB) .... "a heart that devises wicked imaginations" (KJV) .... "a heart that devises wicked schemes" (NIV) .... "hearts that plan bad things to do" (E-T-RV). Some translations speak of "plotting" evil schemes and "creating" wicked plans. It is a person who consciously considers how to do that which is hurtful to others. It is malicious, vicious, vindictive scheming. God hates such people!! They are an abomination in His sight!!

"The heart represents the will most often. Here it plots evil" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 935). Proverbs 6:14 describes the "worthless person" and the "wicked man" as he "who with perversity in his heart devises evil continually, and who spreads strife." Yehovah promises in the very next verse that "his calamity will come suddenly!" Reciprocity -- those who perversely scheme against others in their hearts will reap a harvest of woe!! "These are they who use their inventive faculties, not for the good of their race, nor for the maintenance of their families, but for the base and shameful purpose of bringing some of their fellows into distress, if not into ruin; they contrive their overthrow only to enjoy their discomfiture" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 152).

"There are evil thoughts in all men's hearts; but the devising, fabricating of them, and thus making the heart into a devil's workshop, is the mark of utter depravity and wickedness, and is abhorrent to God" (ibid, p. 131). "For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man" (Matthew 15:19-20; see also: Mark 7:20-23). Isaiah 59:1-8 is very instructive here. Iniquity has "made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you" (vs. 2). Isaiah then goes into quite a list of godless characteristics that constitute the makeup of those "hated by God." Many of them are the same as in our text in Proverbs, and there are more besides. These are people "who do not know the way of peace" (vs. 8), and peace is the last thing they will find when they appear before God in judgment!

Feet That Run Rapidly To Evil

Item number five on God's "most hated" list is "feet that run rapidly to evil" (NASB) .... "feet that run to do evil things" (E-T-RV) .... "those who are quick to do wrong" (CEV) .... "feet eager to run to evil" (Holman CSB). "This captures the enthusiastic and complete involvement in activities that bring pain to all concerned" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 935).

The Masoretic Text (MT) literally has the expression: feet that "make haste to run," ... "the idea being to make haste to begin to run, i.e., eager to seize the opportunity" (ibid, p. 936). These are evil people who can't wait to get involved in all manner of evil. They hasten to it. They seize every opportunity to do harm to another. This running to evil is nothing more than "carrying out with alacrity and without delay what has already been devised in the heart" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131).

These are godless wretches who are "couriers of ill news, eager retailers of slander, and all who cannot bear to be forestalled in the hurtful word, who are ambitious of the first deadly blow" (ibid, p. 147). They are the ones who would have gleefully thrown the first stone in John 8, and the ones who most certainly ran to do so in Acts 7. "These are they who take a savage delight in being the instruments of punishment -- who gloat over their work of severity or blood" (ibid, p. 152). When the Lord comes in judgment, they shall reap what they sow. Notice the words of the angel to John, "They poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it!!" (Revelation 16:6). The Principle of Reciprocity! "Amen. Come, Lord Jesus!" (Revelation 22:20).

A False Witness Who Utters Lies

With the sixth item, the inspired writer turns from the bodily parts to the person himself. What is hated by God? What is an abomination in His sight? It is not a "what," it is a "who!" It is "a false witness who utters lies" (NASB) .... "a lying witness who gives false testimony" (Holman CSB) .... "a false witness telling a pack of lies" (NEB). "The sixth abomination returns to the theme of deception. Here the focus is on perjury, a direct violation of the Decalogue" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 935). "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor" (Exodus 20:16). In the original language, this sixth item speaks of those who "breathe out" (Hebrew: puakh) falsehoods against another. The idea of "breathing out" conveys that it comes from within -- i.e., it is their nature. They are "all who trade in falsehood, and breathe it as their atmosphere" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 147).

Lying has already been addressed, in a general sense, in our text (vs. 17), but this is lying in a far more specific sense. It is perjury; lying under oath; bearing testimony against another that is false. "One of the most solemn and responsible positions a man can occupy is the witness-box; he stands there, invoking the dread Name of Yehovah Himself to cause justice to be done. If then he purjeres himself, and 'speaks lies' when actually under oath, he defies his Maker, perverts justice, wrongs the innocent or releases the guilty, is disloyal to his country, outrages his own conscience. Well may he be among those whom God especially condemns" (ibid, p. 152). Such men are clearly seen rallying themselves against Stephen, the first martyr in the church (Acts 6:9-14), and against our lord Jesus the Messiah himself (Matthew 26:59f; Mark 14:55f). These false witnesses brought about the death of the innocent. God hates the false witness, as well He should!! "Truly speaking, he that lies as a false witness must be hateful to God" (ibid, p. 132).

One Who Spreads Strife Among Brothers

In the seventh Beatitude we read, "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God" (Matthew 5:9). In the seventh "hated thing" of Proverbs 6 we find a different kind of person. These people know not peace; indeed, they seek to destroy peace. They are those who "spread strife among brothers" (NASB) .... "who stir up trouble among brothers" (Holman CSB) .... "those who stir up trouble in a family" (CEV) .... "one who stirs up quarrels between brothers" (NEB) .... "a man who stirs up dissension among brothers" (NIV). "These are contentious, quarreling people who have a short fuse" (The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 936).

This final statement in our Proverbs passage is "emphatically stigmatizing the conduct of that man as diabolical who destroys the harmony and unity of those who ought to live together in brotherly affection" (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 132). Such persons "partake of the leavened bread of malice" (ibid, p. 147).

The apostle Paul warns against "strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men" (1 Timothy 6:4-5). He characterizes such persons who engage in these godless acts as "depraved in mind and deprived of Truth." A great many of the "works of the flesh" have to do with such godless attitudes and actions. "Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions" (Galatians 5:20) are just some of these satanic works of flesh, the practice of which will cost one their eternal salvation. "I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God" (Galatians 5:21). Proverbs 15:18 tells us that "a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention." Proverbs 29:22 tells us "an angry man stirs up strife." In Proverbs 16:28 we see "a perverse man spreads strife." "An arrogant man stirs up strife" (Proverbs 28:25). "Hatred stirs up strife" (Proverbs 10:12). I think it is obvious from these passages that where strife exists, one will also find present a godless person stirring up that strife. God hates the one who does this!!

"Better is a dry morsel with quietness, than a house full of feasting with strife" (Proverbs 17:1). There is nothing good and pleasant about brethren who are at odds with one another. Our Father's desire for His children is for them to be a family unified in the Spirit, at peace with one another, and in love with each other. Where love prevails, oneness is promoted. "Behold, how good and how pleasant it is for brothers to dwell together in unity!" (Psalm 133:1). It is within this sacred environment that we find our greatest promise -- "For there Yehovah commanded the blessing -- life forever" (Psalm 133:3). Those hot-tempered, angry, perverse, arrogant, hateful men and women who stir up strife between brothers, are not only hated by Yehovah, but they will never see life eternal. They are an abomination to Him, and they will be forever banned from His holy presence. In so doing, His people will finally enjoy peace during that great eternal day in the new heavens and earth where only righteousness dwells. These evildoers will be dried up chaff, reduced to nothing but ashes by the consuming fire of Yehovah's wrath. "'And you will tread down the wicked, for they shall be ashes under the soles of your feet on the day which I am preparing,' says Yehovah of hosts" (Malachi 4:3). Lord, hasten that day!!


Brethren, the world is filled with evil people who hate God and all His ways. This is no shocking revelation. We have always known that the forces of darkness exist all about us; we see their evidence daily in countless ways. We are also aware that this evil inhabits and influences people, and that, at times, these evil ones slip in among us and begin to work their malicious intent upon the family of God. We are aware of their arrogance, their deceit, their eagerness to inflict harm, their slander, and their perverse plotting. We know that where such people infest the church, strife and schism are generated. It sickens and distresses us to witness such evil in our ranks, and we long for the peace, unity and harmony of brothers that is promised by and in our lord Jesus the Messiah.
We find ourselves sometimes hating those who destroy the sanctity of our peaceful unity, and yet we tend to feel that such feelings are somehow
wrong. After all, we are to hate the sin, but love the sinner. Or, so we have always been taught. I believe that although we should indeed seek the ultimate redemption of all men, even those who array themselves against us as enemies, nevertheless there are some sinners who are so diametrically opposed to all that our God is, that we are not wrong in loathing these sinners as well as their sin. This passage in the book of Proverbs clearly informs us that there are some people God HATES .... and, I believe, justifiably so!

Brethren, let us love what God loves, and hate what God hates! And let us realize that sometimes the "what" is a "who." On the night of his betrayal, our lord prayed that magnificent prayer in which he asked the Father to make us ONE people; a unified family. Our precious lord went to that cruel cross to break down barriers and bring peace (Ephesians 2:13ff). He shed his blood, enduring incomprehensible agony, to bring diverse brethren together in a loving relationship with our Father in heaven.

There is no greater abomination on the face of this earth than those who profess themselves to be his followers, and yet who arrogantly, maliciously and deceitfully work to separate from the fellowship of one another this family of believers our lord died to establish. These are genuinely hated by our God.

Frankly, I do not find it inappropriate to share that righteous loathing for those devoted to harming our God and Father and His One Family!

Written by Al Maxey and edited by Bruce Lyon