Draw Near to God_

Joshua 1:7 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go.

It was 33 A.D., Passover night in Jerusalem and treachery was in the air at that late hour of the night. Judas Iscariot had laid his plans to betray Jesus Christ. The betrayer left nothing to chance that night. Yes, there was a full moon on this particular night but what if it were cloudy, or the Master was sitting under the shadow of one of the olive trees. Therefore, Judas made sure there was torches and burning lamps, so as to light the way up the hillside of the Mount of Olives, where he knew Jesus would be. John’s Gospel account tells us, “Now Judas, who was betraying him, also knew the place, for Jesus often met there with his disciples. So Judas brought the detachment of soldiers and officers of the chief priests and of the Pharisees and came there with torches and lamps and weapons.” (John 18:2-3) Judas had become that agent of Satan the Devil proving himself to be the disloyal disciple of Christ Jesus, as he led the mob that would soon seize the Son of God.

Jesus was not surprised by this attack from Judas Iscariot. He was aware of the betrayal that was to take place that very night and that he was going to be executed that very same Passover day. John’s Gospel account reads, “Now before the Feast of the Passover, Jesus knowing that His hour had come that He would depart out of this world to the Father, having loved His own who were in the world, he loved them to the end. During supper, the devil having already put into the heart of Judas Iscariot, the son of Simon, to betray him.” (John 13:1-2) The hour of his death had arrived, Jesus could hear the footsteps of many people, seeing the lights coming ever closer. What Jesus would say in the coming hours took much courage, and he knew he was going to die very soon.

John 18:4-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

So Jesus, knowing all the things that were coming upon him, went forth and said to them, “Whom do you seek?” They answered him, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus said to them, “I am he.” And Judas also, who was betraying him, was standing with them.

Bruce puts it this way:

But in Jesus thus stepping to the front and shielding the disciples by exposing himself, John sees a picture of the whole sacrifice and substitution of Christ. This figure of his Master moving forward to meet the swords and staves of the party remains indelibly stamped upon his mind as the symbol of Christ’s whole relation to his people. That night in Gethsemane was to them all the hour and power of darkness; and in every subsequent hour of darkness John and the rest see the same divine figure stepping to the front, shielding them and taking upon himself all the responsibility. It is thus Christ would have us think of him—as our friend and protector, watchful over our interests, alive to all that threatens our persons, interposing between us in every hostile event (Bruce, pp. 268–69).

FEARLESSJesus, just a few hours earlier, after Judas the betrayer had departed, in “a large upper room” in Jerusalem had introduced his eleven faithful disciples to something new. Because Judas had already left in his quest of betraying Jesus he was unaware of this. The Gospel of Luke reads, “And he took bread, and when he had given thanks, he broke it and gave it to them, saying, ‘This is my body, which is given for you. Do this in remembrance of me.’  And he did the same with the cup after they had the evening meal, saying, ‘This cup that is poured out for you is the new covenant in my blood.’” (Lu 22:19-20) Jesus knew that he must suffer an atrocious, brutal, appalling, vicious execution in order to carry out the will of the Father. (Matt. 7:21-23) Notice that Jesus prayed so hard that his sweat became as drops of blood falling to the ground.

Luke 22:42-44 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

42 saying, “Father, if you are willing, remove this cup from me. Nevertheless, not my will, but yours, be done.” 43 Then an angel from heaven appeared to him, strengthening him. 44 And being in an agony he prayed very fervently; and his sweat became like drops of blood, falling down upon the ground.[1]

Jesus Christ had an internal strength that came from his full faith in the Father, as he stepped out into the light of the moon that night, facing these men and their weapons of swords, clubs and staves. Jesus then identified himself as the one they were looking for,

John 18:6-9 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

So when he said to them, “I am he,” they drew back and fell to the ground. So he asked them again, “Whom do you seek?” And they said, “Jesus of Nazareth.” Jesus answered, “I told you that I am he. So, if you seek me, let these men go.” This was to fulfill the word that he had spoken: “Of those whom you gave me I have lost not one.”

18:4. All four Gospels present Jesus as knowing what would happen: e.g. in the Synoptics the passion predictions, the agonized praying in Gethsemane and the calm insistence that he could call on legions of angels for help are otherwise meaningless. But the theme is especially strong in John (cf. 10:18): Jesus offers up his life in obedience to his Father, not as a pathetic martyr buffeted by the ill winds of a cruel fate. In full knowledge of what was to befall him, Jesus went out (of the enclosed olive grove, apparently) and asked his question.

18:5–6. Perhaps it was at this point that Judas kissed Jesus: John does not record the detail. The Evangelist’s parenthetical remark And Judas the traitor was standing there with them shows that he is not thereby exonerating the betrayer. Considering Judas’ rôle in leading the arresting officials to the garden (v. 2) it seems arbitrary to argue that the kiss is omitted to de-emphasize Judas’ significance and underline Jesus’ control of events. More likely the Evangelist, omitting details, is simply driving toward the Christological centre: ‘Who is it you want?’

Jesus of Nazareth (lit. ‘Jesus the Nazarene’, an uncommon way of saying the same thing), they reply. Jesus’ answer, I am he (on the variant, cf. the Additional Note), evokes a startling response: they drew back and fell to the ground. The Greek form of Jesus’ answer is ambiguous: egō eimi (lit. ‘I am’) is often to be read as mere self-identification (‘It is I’), or as if the appropriate complement were inserted from the context (i.e. ‘I am Jesus’), but can bear far richer overtones (cf. notes on 6:20; 8:24, 28, 58; 13:19). In Isaiah 40–55, it is God himself who repeatedly takes these words on his lips. But precisely because the expression is indeed ambiguous, and the context provides a perfectly adequate complement, we must not conjecture that Jesus’ interlocutors fell back for no other reason than that Jesus uttered an expression that ought to be reserved for the Almighty alone. For those with eyes to see as they read this book, that hint, that overtone, is undoubtedly present; but if those who first heard Jesus speak had so understood him, it is far more likely that their reaction would have mirrored that recorded in 8:58–59, where Jesus utters the same words without the covering ambiguity.

Others (e.g. Lindars, p. 541) have suggested this is a Johannine creation of a theophany, in which the normal experience is to fall prostrate (Ezk. 1:28; Dn. 10:9; Acts 9:4; Rev. 1:17). Yet such theophanies do not depict the worshipper drawing back and falling to the ground. More important, if John is creating a theophany, he is painfully clumsy: in this view, the arresting officials experience a theophany as they gaze on Jesus and hear his words, and then proceed to arrest him anyway! Once again, the reader, after the fact, knows that the incarnate Word manifested his glory in the veil of his flesh (cf. notes on 1:14), but John does not need to resort to formally incomprehensible narrative in order to score theological points. The Evangelist has already testified to the effect of Jesus’ words on temple officials sent to arrest him (7:45–46); indeed, it is not at all unlikely that some of the same personnel are again involved. If they have been awed by Jesus before, if they have been dumbfounded by his teaching, his authority, his directness in the full light of day in the precincts of the temple where they most feel at home, it is not hard to believe that they are staggered by his open self-disclosure on a sloping mountainside in the middle of the night—the more so if some of them hear the overtones of God’s self-disclosure in the prophecy of Isaiah. It may take them a few seconds to pull themselves together and regroup; in the Evangelist’s eyes, their physical ineptitude was another instance of people responding better than they knew (cf. notes on 11:49–52).

18:7–9. The scene is repeated, but before Jesus is taken away he ensures that his followers are not harmed. Just as events fulfil the authoritative and prophetic words of Scripture, so this event fulfills Jesus’ own words, which cannot be less authoritative (cf. Mk. 13:31). The utterance that is here fulfilled, I have not lost one of those you gave me, is a summary of 17:12, itself based on 6:39; 10:28. The exception of Judas Iscariot, verbalized in these verses, is understood and not here repeated. Some have objected that the verbal claims of these verses relate to the eternal salvation of Jesus’ followers, while this ‘fulfillment’ depicts nothing more than escape from arrest and (perhaps) physical death. Dodd (IFG, pp. 432–433) rightly rejects the criticism. In one sense, the disciples’ safety is secured by Jesus’ arrest and death. But this is not simply the substitution of physical safety for eternal salvation. Rather, it is the symbol of it, an illustration of it—more, it is the first step in securing the eschatological reality.[2]

Jesus did not fear any man. His hope lied with his Father. Jesus showed great courage when he was well aware of exactly what lay ahead for him. Yet, it was Peter, the impulsive one, was the man who was going to display momentary bravery. The historian Mark tells us that the betrayer Judas,

Mark 14:43-47 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

43 Immediately while He was still speaking, Judas, one of the twelve, came up accompanied by a crowd with swords and clubs, who were from the chief priests and the scribes and the elders. 44 Now the one who was betraying him had given them a sign, saying, “The one whom I kiss, he is the one; seize him and lead him away under guard.” 45 And having come, he went up to him at once and said, “Rabbi!” And kissed him. 46 And they laid hands on him and seized him. 47 But one of those who stood by drew his sword, and struck the slave of the high priest and took off his ear.

14:43. The phrase, Judas, one of the Twelve, emphasizes the closeness of the one who betrayed Jesus. The crowd that had come to arrest Jesus was not just a mob of common people. It consisted of the religious leaders (the chief priests, the teachers of the law, and the elders) as well as a detachment of soldiers and some official attendants of the Sanhedrin (John 18:3). They came armed with swords and clubs, obviously ready for a fight.

14:44–46. Judas had arranged with the group a signal by which he would identify Jesus—a kiss. Rabbis were customarily greeted by their disciples with a kiss. Since it was very late at night and rather dark, the arresting group would need this sign from Judas to arrest the right person. They planned to lead him away under guard so there would be no chance of escape. Judas had designed the plan so there would be no foul-ups.

14:47. The Gospel of John tells us that the person who wielded this sword was Peter. The servant, whose ear Peter cut off, was named Malchus (John 18:10). Peter was probably trying to imitate a Roman soldier in striking his foe. The Roman soldier would raise his sword and then aim for the middle of the head. Peter, not being a professional, missed and hit the servant’s ear. Jesus’ rebuke to Peter (Matt. 26:52) and the restoration of the ear (Luke 22:51) are not recorded by Mark.[3]

The name of the slave was Malchus. Jesus, however, said to Peter,

John 18:10-14 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Peter Uses a Sword

10 Then Simon Peter, having a sword, drew it and struck the high priest’s slave[4] and cut off his right ear; (now the name of the slave was Malchus.) 11 So Jesus said to Peter, “Put the sword into the sheath; the cup which the Father has given me, shall I not drink it?”

Jesus Taken to Annas

12 So the soldiers and the military commander[5] and the officers of the Jews[6] seized Jesus and bound him, 13 and led him to Annas first; for he was father-in-law of Caiaphas, who was high priest that year. 14 Now Caiaphas was the one who had advised the Jews that it was expedient that one man should die for the people.

18:10–11. Peter displayed admirable courage and loyalty but poor aim. He was a fisherman, not a swordsman. John did not record the healing of the ear, a detail reported by Luke. John’s only reference to Jesus’ final prayer came at the end of verse 11. We read more detail in Matthew 26, Mark 14, and Luke 22.

Why did John not include more garden narrative as the other Gospels did? The answer seems to lie in his purpose—to focus on the words of Jesus, thereby showing him as the Son of God rather than detailing history of his life incident by incident. The last phrase of this section is important for us, since the rhetorical question gives the motive for Jesus’ behavior on this occasion. The Father has given a cup of suffering and death. The Son, in obedience and subjection, will drink it.

18:12–14. We will bypass these three verses at this point since John introduces Annas and Caiaphas, focusing on Annas in verses 19–24. But we can stop long enough to note that the garden contingent did not take Jesus to the high priest but to Annas, father-in-law of the high priest. This gave John one more opportunity to remind his readers of Caiaphas’s famous prophetic announcement of substitutionary atonement back in 11:49–50.[7]

Jesus did not evidence his courage by taking up carnal weapons nor did he want his disciples to show theirs that way. Thus, Jesus reached out and touched the ear of the man that Peter struck with his weapon, healing him immediately.

Luke 22:52-53 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

52 And Jesus said to the chief priests and officers of the temple and elders who had come out against him, “Have you come out with swords and clubs, as against a robber? 53 While I was with you in the temple day after day, you did not lay your hands on me; but this is your hour and the authority of darkness.”

Satan the Devil, the arch enemy of God did not have Jesus, the Son of God, seized in broad daylight while preaching in the temple. Rather, he stealthily had his cowards do his dirty work at night. Humans who are filled with hate are unable to see the light. “The one who says he is in the light and hates his brother is in the darkness until now.” (1 John 2:9) How true Jesus’ statement was, “But this is your hour and the authority of darkness”! It took courage on Jesus’ part not to fight back, as he could have called a legion of angels any time he wanted.

While Jesus was engaged in this discussion, his disciples drawing away to the rear “left him and fled.” (Mark 14:50) However, as Jesus was being led away into the house of the high priest, the apostle Peter was following them at a distance.

John 18:15-16 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

15 Simon Peter was following Jesus, and so was another disciple. Now that disciple was known to the high priest, and entered with Jesus into the court of the high priest, 16 but Peter was standing at the door outside.[8] So the other disciple, who was known to the high priest, went out and spoke to the doorkeeper, and brought Peter in.

History shows us that these two disciples lost their courage in this moment and failed to stand up for Jesus. Would these two have the faith and strength necessary to stand alone as was the case with their mater, Jesus Christ, right now before the Jewish religious leaders and later before Roman rulers? Little did they know that this test awaited them sooner than they may have thought. This was the supreme test that Jesus was going through, in which, he exemplified courage. The thing was Jesus was well aware of the many millennium battle that was going on between Satan and himself. Jesus was placing his full trust in the Father. He was also setting an example for his disciples that would come after he ascended back to heaven. (Ps. 27:14) Previously that same night, Nisan 14, Jesus had said to his eleven faithful disciples, and especially to Peter,

Luke 22:28-34 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

28 “You are those who have stayed with me in my trials, 29 and I make a covenant with you, just as my Father has made a covenant with me, for a kingdom, 30 that you may eat and drink at my table in my kingdom and you will sit on thrones judging the twelve tribes of Israel.

Jesus Foretells Peter’s Denial

31 “Simon, Simon, behold, Satan demanded to have you, that he might sift you like wheat, 32 but I have prayed for you that your faith may not fail. And when you have turned again, strengthen your brothers.” 33 But he said to him, “Lord, I am ready to go with you both to prison and to death!” 34 And he said, “I tell you, Peter, the rooster will not crow today until you have denied three times that you know me!”

Jesus, with his foreknowledge, was well aware that Satan would try to sift all Christians as wheat, and consequently, they all needed to have more faith. Jesus said,

John 16:7-8 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

Nevertheless, I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when that one arrives, he will convict the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment;

One of Our Aids to Courage

Christians have a “helper” that was there for the first-century Christians. These early Christians received an outpouring of Holy spirit on 33 A.D. at Pentecost. This spirit of God moved them to speak in many tongues “Cretans and Arabs—we hear them in our own tongues speaking of the mighty deeds of God.” (Acts 2:11) This, Peter said, was a fulfillment of Joel’s prophecy too. “‘And it shall be in the last days, God says, that I will pour out my Spirit on all flesh, and your sons and your daughters shall prophesy. This Jesus God raised up again, to which we are all witnesses. Being, therefore, exalted at the right hand of God, and having received from the Father the promise of the Holy Spirit, he has poured out this that you yourselves are seeing and hearing.” (Acts 2:17, 32-33) On that day of Pentecost, “there were added about three thousand souls.” to the Christian congregation. These ones saw the power of the Holy Spirit. Many would see that three thousand grow into one million Christians within one hundred years.

The night that Jesus was being taken, the disciples did not have the Holy Spirit in the same way they had on Pentecost. Peter, one of Jesus most intimate disciples would deny Jesus Christ three times that night. “Then, And he went outside and wept bitterly.” (Luke 22:60-62) Yes, in that moment even Peter needed divine help, stronger faith, Holy Spirit and association with his Christian brothers.

This is why Jesus has spoken so plainly to his disciples. This is why he warned them about these very things. He explained what was coming if they remained faithful and did not compromise their devotion to him.

John 16:1-5 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

16 “These things I have spoken to you so that you may not be stumbled. They will expel you from the synagogue. Indeed, the hour is coming when whoever kills you will think he is offering service to God. And they will do these things because they have not known the Father or me. But these things I have spoken to you, so that when their hour comes, you may remember that I told you of them. These things I did not say to you at the beginning, because I was with you.

The disciple had a problem of knowing Jesus too well, which stumbled them because they could not see the big picture. They knew Jesus, the perfect man, who was the Son of God, he being the long-awaited Messiah, he being the performer of miracles, raising people from the dead. Therefore, the disciples could not grasp that he must die, be raised from the dead, “to give his soul as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:28), setting up a kingdom that these disciples would need to pray for every day. Nevertheless, Jesus told them all these things, even though he knew they would not fully grasp it unto they received Holy Spirit on Pentecost.

The apostle Paul said: “I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.” (Phil. 3:14) “With this focus he pursues his goal intently. His goal is to win the prize for which God had called him in Christ Jesus. He wants to hear God call his name and summon him to the victory stand, where he will meet Jesus face-to-face and know him in perfect intimacy. Earthly prizes do not last. Eternal prizes do. The goal can never be realized on earth. It is a goal that pulls us heavenward. Note 1 Corinthians 9:25: ‘Everyone who competes in the games goes into strict training. They do it to get a crown that will not last, but we do it to get a crown that will last forever.’ In the late 1950s, Jim Elliot, former husband of author Elisabeth Elliot, gave up his life to reach a hostile tribe in the jungles of Ecuador. His words have been immortalized: ‘He is not a fool who gives up what he cannot keep to gain what he cannot lose.’ While Paul was not spiritually where he thought he would ultimately be, he intended not to be distracted by anything as he pursued his goal (Heb. 12:1–2). Both discipline and determination are required to accomplish this objective.”[9]

The apostle Paul also wrote, “

Romans 8:35-39 Updated American Standard Version (UASV)

35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being put to death all day long;
we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 But in all these things we are more than conquerors through the one having loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor rulers, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height, nor depth, nor any other created thing, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

So, Paul could press on courageously,

35. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? continues the rhetorical questions. It is of interest that Paul says who rather than “what”, especially when we look at the candidates he lists. But perhaps this is no more than a recognition of the fact that the nouns he lists are all masculine or feminine; there are no neuters. Cranfield notes that there is a slight emphasis on us from its position in the Greek; us for whom Christ died. The love of Christ might mean “our love for Christ” or “Christ’s love for us”, depending on whether we see the genitive as subjective or objective. But it is generally agreed that it is Christ’s love of which Paul writes. To say that we will never be separated from our love for Christ gives us no great confidence (we know ourselves only too well!). But it is a wonderful assurance that Christ’s love for us will always be there. It is perhaps a little surprising that Paul speaks of the love of Christ rather than the love of God (cf. 5:5). But there is not much difference between the two (cf. v. 39), and the apostle has just been referring to Christ’s death for us.

This launches him on to a rhetorical passage in which he suggests a number of possible candidates. Trouble is a word for strong pressure; it is a general term and does not define the nature of the pressure. Hardship166 is also a general word, though Hendriksen holds that the combination of the two words means outward affliction plus inward distress. Persecution brings before us an ever-present possibility for the early church. Famine (the word may mean no more than “hunger”) reminds us of the precariousness of food supplies in the world in which Paul’s readers lived. Earle has a good comment on nakedness: “This term today suggests indecency on parade. Then it meant a lack of clothes simply because one had no ways or means of getting any” (cf. Goodspeed, “destitution”). Danger reminds us of the many risks the early Christians ran; it was not a comfortable world in which to profess the faith. Sword, of course, means execution; it is the only item in the list that Paul had not undergone, and in due time he would experience this also.

36. A quotation from Psalm 44:22 (cf. 2 Cor. 4:11) reinforces what Paul has been saying in the last few words rather than in the thought of the all-embracing reach of the love of Christ. The words in the original psalm express the perplexity of the people of God in the face of inexplicable suffering. But Paul cites them to bring out the truth that for God’s people there is real risk and a call for real devotion. Christians might be tempted to think that because the love of Christ is so real and so unshakable they need not fear that they will run into trouble. Scripture shows that, while the love is sure, so are troubles. For the sake of God we face death all day long. Actually Paul says something stronger than this: “We are being killed all day long”. It is real and not imaginary peril that Christians face. We are considered is an aorist, which is somewhat unexpected. Probably we should see it as pointing to an accomplished fact. As sheep to be slaughtered170 points to the very real risks believers ran. Barrett comments, “Suffering and persecution are not mere evils which Christians must expect and endure as best they can; they are the scene of the overwhelming victory which Christians are winning through Christ.”

37. Paul begins with “But”, introducing something contrary to all that might have been expected and which NIV renders with No (as do KJV, RSV, Phillips, Moffatt, etc.). In all these things shows that Paul is overlooking nothing. We are more than conquerors is an inspired piece of translation which KJV took over from the Genevan version and which a number of modern translations retain. It emphasizes the totality of the victory that God gives his beloved. The ability to triumph over all adversity does not arise from any inherent superiority of believers. It is through him who loved us, which may refer to the Father (Bengel) or to the Son (Shedd). Perhaps Paul is not distinguishing sharply between them. The tense of the verb is aorist, which is not quite what we expect of a love that goes on and on. It may be that Paul wants us to think of the love as focused on the cross; there we see what love really is (cf. Murray, Lenski, etc.).

38. Paul comes to the end of this eloquent section on a very personal note with his I am convinced. The verb expresses certainty; Paul sees no possible shadow of doubt. And the perfect points to a permanent state. This is no passing whim. The apostle proceeds to make his point by listing potential candidates for separating us from God’s love. If none of these can effect a separation, then why should believers fear? They are assured that God will always keep them secure in his great love.175

Paul has ten items in his list. The manuscripts vary a little, but he seems to arrange them in four pairs, along with two single items. The first pair is death and life. Death is an obvious antagonist, for people have always feared it. It is so certain and so final. It is obvious that no one can escape it, and it is easy to be scared of what lies on the other side. “God is there in all his love”, Paul is reasoning. He could say “I die daily” (1 Cor. 15:31). He could say “to die is gain”, and he looked forward to dying and being with Christ (Phil. 1:21, 23). For him death might be a grim tyrant, but there is no reason why the believer should fear it. We may be puzzled at life occurring in this list, but it forms a natural opposite to death and it is true that, just as many fear death, so many are afraid of life. Life has persecutions and trials on the one hand and it has tranquillity and pleasures on the other, and any of these could be the means of seducing us from the path of service. But nothing in life can stop God from loving us.

So it is with angels and demons. We may be surprised to find angels in such a list, but good angels seem to have been the objects of worship in some circles (Col. 2:18; cf. Rev. 22:8–9) and thus might conceivably be obstacles in the way of the believer. Perhaps we should bear in mind also that the word “angel” means “messenger” and, though in the New Testament this normally means a messenger from God, occasionally it may be an evil being (cf. Rev. 12:7). It is also possible that angels are here thought of as serving spirits over against spirits who rule (cf. BAGD). The word NIV renders demons refers to rulers, sometimes earthly and sometimes in the spiritual realm. It is the word KJV, RSV, and others render “principalities”. The problem here is that it might denote either heavenly beings or earthly rulers. NIV uses it for the realm of spirits, whereas Phillips translates “neither messenger of heaven nor monarch of earth”. Paul may have had earthly monarchs or demons exclusively in mind, but if so we have no way of knowing which. But we can be sure that he could not imagine any ruler in heaven or earth, of good character or bad, hindering the outreach of the love of God.

He moves on to the present and the future. Harrison well remarks that time is powerless against believers, “whether it be the present with its temptations and sufferings or the future with its uncertainties.” This may be what Paul had in mind, or he may be thinking of what is involved in the two ages, this present age and the age to come. But whatever time brings, the love of God triumphs. It is not quite clear what he means when he goes on to powers. The word is often used for “mighty works” or “miracles”, and such a meaning is possible here. No powerful magician can interfere with God’s love. But the word is also used of heavenly “powers” (Eph. 1:21; 1 Pet. 3:22), and it seems probable that this is what Paul has in mind, though it is not easy to know precisely what such a being could be apart from angels and authorities. But perhaps in such a lyrical passage as this we should not push our distinctions too hard. Paul is saying that no angelic power of any sort can separate from God.

39. Neither height nor depth may negate the immensity of the physical universe. We can feel very small in such a vast environment, and Paul may well be assuring us that God’s love is greater still (cf. Ps. 139:8). But the terms were often used in astrology, and many scholars see some such reference here. GNB retains something of the ambiguity with “neither the world above nor the world below”. If the terms are being used with an astrological reference, Paul will be saying that neither the height (when a star is at its zenith) nor the depth (with all its unknown potential) is strong enough to separate from God’s love.

With anything else in all creation Paul abandons specifics and settles for a sweeping generalization wide enough to cover everything else that exists. He does not say “will separate” but will be able to separate; he is talking about power, and no created being is powerful alongside the Creator. The love of God is, of course, God’s love for us and not ours for him. And this love is explained as in Christ Jesus our Lord. We cannot know the love of God apart from Christ. The cross, and only the cross, shows what real, divine love is (cf. 5:8).[10]

The apostle Paul wrote for all Christians, “Now these things happened to them as an example, but they were written down for our instruction, on whom the end of the ages has come.” (1 Cor. 10:11) Have we ever felt like Joshua must have felt when God said to him, “Only be strong and very courageous, being careful to do according to all the law that Moses my servant commanded you; do not turn from it to the right or to the left, so that you may have success wherever you go. This Book of the Law shall not depart from your mouth, but you shall meditate on it day and night, so that you may be careful to do according to all that is written in it; for then you will make your way prosperous, and then you will have good success.” (Josh. 1:7-8) It was faith and courage that did it for many servants of God up unto today! Faith and courage will do it today, if we will not depart from the complete “book of the law,” the Holy Bible. We need to do more than simply read it, we need to study it.[11]

[1] Vss 43 and 44 are contained in א* D Vg Syc,h,hi,p Arm; P69vid א1 A B N T W itf syrs copsa omit. The manuscript evidence for verses 43-4 not being in the original is overwhelming. However, there are several early Church Fathers (Justin, Irenaeus, Hippolutus, Dionysius, Eusebius), who acknowledge that what we know as verses 43-44 were in Luke’s Gospel. Yey, other church Fathers such as Jerome, Hilary, Anastasius, and Epiphanius state that these verses were absent. So, did Luke pen this section and it was deleted later because some felt Jesus being overwhelmed was not in harmony with his deity, or did some copyists add this section later. It is highly unlikely that Luke penned them based on the evidence.

[2] D. A. Carson, The Gospel according to John, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Leicester, England; Grand Rapids, MI: Inter-Varsity Press; W.B. Eerdmans, 1991), 577–579.

[3] Rodney L. Cooper, Mark, vol. 2, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 241.

[4] Or servant

[5] The chiliarch Gr ho chiliarchos; commander of a thousand soldiers.

[6] Jews Gr Ioudaioi, as in 10:31, 33. Here it is likely a reference to Jewish religious leaders.

[7] Kenneth O. Gangel, John, vol. 4, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 2000), 332–333.

[8] I.e. at the entrance

[9] Max Anders, Galatians-Colossians, vol. 8, Holman New Testament Commentary (Nashville, TN: Broadman & Holman Publishers, 1999), 245.

[10] Leon Morris, The Epistle to the Romans, The Pillar New Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids, MI; Leicester, England: W.B. Eerdmans; Inter-Varsity Press, 1988), 338–342.

[11] HOW TO STUDY YOUR BIBLE: Rightly Handling the Word of God by Edward D. Andrews

ISBN-13: 978-1-945757-62-4