Photo source: FreeBibleImages.org
The Good Shepherd. Photo Copyright David Padfield. Used under license. Jesus said, “I am the good shepherd” (John 10:11, 14). Jesus told a parable about a good shepherd who went searching for one of his sheep that was lost (Luke 15:1-7). Jesus said, “For the Son of Man has come to seek and to save that which was lost” (Luke 19:10).
"I am the good shepherd; the good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." (John 10:11)
"I am the good shepherd, and I know My own and My own know Me." (John 10:14)
"Our Lord not only declares that He is the reality of which the earthly shepherd is the shadow, and that He as the flawless, perfect One, but that He alone is the reality. 'I am the Good Shepherd; in Me and in Me alone is that which men need.' " -- Alexander MacLaren (1826-1910) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson is the fourth in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the good shepherd," in John 10:11 and John 10:14.
Consider. Are you like a lost sheep? Have you gone astray (Isaiah 53:6)? Are you living outside of the sheepfold? Jesus Christ is the Good Shepherd, the one who loves us, seeks us, saves us, and protects us. He is the one who laid down his life for his sheep. He is the one who knows us.
God is our shepherd (Old Testament perspective). The Old Testament describes God as the shepherd for his people. God is the one who cares for the total well-being of his sheep. David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd, I shall not want. He makes me lie down in green pastures; He leads me beside quiet waters. He restores my soul; He guides me in the paths of righteousness For His name’s sake" (Psalm 23:1-3).
In a perhaps less widely-known passage, Ezekiel also described the characteristics of the Lord God as the shepherd of Israel (Ezekiel 34:11-16):
Hundreds of years before Jesus came, Isaiah spoke of Jesus. "He shall feed his flock like a shepherd: he shall gather the lambs with his arm, and carry them in his bosom, and shall gently lead those that are with young" (Isaiah 40:11).
"I am the good shepherd." The Greek word for good means beautiful, as an outward sign of inward good, noble, honorable character (Ref. 3). Think of the greatness and the immensity of the claim that Jesus makes upon our faith in John 10:11 and John 10:14. Jesus claims to be the divine shepherd witnessed to and described by the psalmist and the prophets.
Jesus states that in him alone is everything that we need - sustenance, protection, care, restoration, direction, and eternal life (Luke 15:4, Luke 19:10, Psalm 23:1-3, John 10:3-4, John 10:9, John 10:27-28, Ref. 1). The Greek text in John 10:11 and John 10:14 uses the definite article "the" before "good shepherd" (Ref. 4, Ref. 5). "The definite article claims this ['I am the good shepherd'] as a description applicable to Himself alone" (Expositor's Greek Testament - Ref. 6, brackets added).
"The good shepherd lays down His life for the sheep." Jesus states two features by which he as the good shepherd would be known. The first feature is his giving his life for the sheep (John 10:11, Ref. 6). Recall the personal risk of life that David faced because he was a shepherd. David himself rescued the lamb of his father's flock from the mouth of the lion and the bear (1 Samuel 17:34-36, Ref. 7). "That self-sacrifice that would lead the shepherd to risk his own life for that of the flock has its ideal fulfillment in Him who is the Good Shepherd, and will give His life for mankind" (Ref. 7).
"The death of the Shepherd is the security of the sheep; and I say to you, the flock, that for every soul the entrance into the flock of God is through the door of the dying Christ, who laid down His life for the sheep, and makes them His sheep who trust in Him" (Ref. 1, Ref. 8).
"I know My own and My own know Me." Jesus stated a second feature by which he would be known as the good shepherd. That feature is the reciprocal knowledge of the sheep and the shepherd (John 10:14, Ref. 6). The Greek word for know in John 10:14 is ginóskó, which means to know, especially through personal experience (Ref. 9). However, the language for know in John 10:14 describes more than a dictionary lookup alone conveys. Jesus describes closest communion between himself as the good shepherd and his sheep (Ref. 7). Jesus describes the relationship as loving regard, affection, and recognition between the shepherd and his sheep (Ref. 1). He knows us because he loves us. As his sheep, we know him as our shepherd, and we love him and trust him. We know his voice and we follow him (John 10:4, John 10:27-28).
Apply. Jesus loves you and already knows you. Jesus wants to have a close reciprocal relationship with you. Are you loving him, trusting him, and following him today?
Photo source: FreeBibleImages.org
Permanent Sheepfold Enclosure - Holy Land. Photo Copyright David Padfield. Used under license. Permanent sheepfolds were built on the sunny side of valleys where there is protection from cold winds. These had stone walls, 4-5ft high and one entrance guarded by the shepherd. Thorns were often put on the top of walls to deter wild animals. Jesus referred to such a sheepfold and to thieves and robbers climbing over the wall (John 10:1-3).
"So Jesus said to them again, 'Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep.' " (John 10:7, Ref. 1)
"I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture." (John 10:9)
"Christ is the Door. And what greater security has the church of God than that the Lord Jesus is between it and all its enemies? ... Here are plain directions how to come into the fold; we must come in by Jesus Christ as the Door." -- Matthew Henry (Ref. 2)
This lesson is the third in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statements, "I am the door" in John 10:7 and John 10:9.
Consider. Have you entered into the church of God by believing in the Lord Jesus Christ? Are you experiencing spiritual nourishment in Christ?
"If anyone enters through Me." (John 10:9) We enter the sheepfold, the church of God, through Jesus Christ (and only through Jesus Christ). Jesus said, "Truly, truly, I say to you, I am the door of the sheep" (John 10:7). We enter that door when we place our faith and trust in Jesus Christ. "As the only proper way of entering the fold was by the door, so the only way of entering the church of God is by believing on him and obeying his commandments" (Ref. 3).
Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6).
"He will be saved." Once we have entered the door by faith and trust in Jesus Christ, we are saved. Jesus delivers us from perils such as ravenous wolves and false shepherds (Ref. 4, John 10:1-2). Jesus frees us from the power, guilt, and penalty of sin (Romans 8:1-2, Ephesians 2:1-9). Jesus gives us eternal security. Jesus said, "My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me; and I give eternal life to them, and they will never perish; and no one will snatch them out of My hand" (John 10:27-28).
HELPS Word-Studies defines saved as rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety (Ref. 5).
"And will go in and out and find pasture." To go "in and out" is the common Old Testament expression to denote free activity of daily life (Ref. 6). When Moses charged the Israelites at Mount Gerizim to obey the Lord, he said, "Blessed shall you be when you come in, and blessed shall you be when you go out" (Deuteronomy 28:6, Deuteronomy 27:11-12, Deuteronomy 28:1-2). David wrote about the Lord, the Keeper of Israel (Psalm 121:5). David said, "The Lord will guard your going out and your coming in from this time forth and forever" (Psalm 121:8).
Through Jesus (because he is the door), we have security for our daily needs and nourishment for our souls. Under the care of Jesus, we find pasture - food for our souls (Ref. 7). David wrote, "The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want. He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters" (Psalm 23:1-2 KJV).
Apply. Have you entered the sheepfold of Christ by believing in him? If not, then put your faith and trust in him today. Are you spending time with Jesus daily to receive spiritual nourishment? How can you improve in this area?
"Jesus said to them, 'I am the bread of life; he who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst.' " (John 6:35)
"Christ shows that he is the true Bread; he is to the soul what bread is to the body." -- Matthew Henry (Ref. 1)
This lesson is the second in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statement, "I am the bread of life" (John 6:35).
Consider. Have you come to Jesus, the Source of sustenance and strength for your spiritual life?
God-provided bread from heaven. Jesus' Jewish listeners knew that God had provided bread from heaven (also called "manna") to the Israelites. "Then the Lord said to Moses, 'Behold, I will rain bread from heaven for you; and the people shall go out and gather a day’s portion every day, that I may test them, whether or not they will walk in My instruction' " (Exodus 16:4). The manna that God provided was essential for the Israelite's survival (Exodus 16:35). Note, however, at that time God did not provide the manna universally to all people. Exodus tells us that God provided the manna only for the Israelites, and the manna was temporary (Exodus 16:35). The people who ate the manna eventually died (John 6:49).
"I am the bread of life." In contrast with the manna that God provided temporarily to the Israelites, Jesus states emphatically, "I am the bread of life."
"He who comes to Me will not hunger, and he who believes in Me will never thirst." Before the manna could benefit the Israelites, they had to eat it. In the same way, for Christ to provide us spiritual sustenance and eternal life, we must come to him and believe in him. When we come to Christ and believe in Christ, he alone satisfies the hunger and thirst of our souls (Matthew 5:6, John 7:37).
The Samaritan woman at the well responded to Jesus. She said, "Sir, give me this water, so I will not be thirsty nor come all the way here to draw" (John 4:15). The multitude responded to Jesus when he described the bread of heaven (John 6:33). They said, "Lord, always give us this bread" (John 6:34).
Apply. What is your response to Jesus? Will you come to him and believe in him? Come to him, believe in him, and you will receive the bread of life that your soul craves.
"Then Jesus again spoke to them, saying, 'I am the Light of the world; he who follows Me will not walk in the darkness, but will have the Light of life.' " (John 8:12)
"I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness." (John 12:46)
"Christ is the Light of the world. God is light, and Christ is the image of the invisible God. One sun enlightens the whole world; so does one Christ, and there needs no more." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson is the first in a series on the "I AM" statements of Christ. This lesson discusses Jesus' statement, "I am the Light of the world" (John 8:12).
Consider. What does it mean to you that Jesus is the Light of the world? Do you have the Light of life?
God is Light. The teaching that God is Light begins in the Old Testament and continues through the New Testament. David wrote, "The Lord is my light and my salvation; Whom shall I fear?" (Psalm 27:1). The prophet Micah said, "Though I dwell in darkness, the Lord is a light for me" (Micah 7:8). The disciple John, wrote, "God is Light, and in Him there is no darkness at all" (1 John 1:5).
God's Light purposely illumines mankind. Jesus' Jewish listeners would recall Exodus 13:21 - "The Lord was going before them in a pillar of cloud by day to lead them on the way, and in a pillar of fire by night to give them light, that they might travel by day and by night." The psalmist wrote, "Thy word is a lamp unto my feet, and a light unto my path" (Psalm 119:105). The author of 2 Samuel 22:29 tells us "For You are my lamp, O Lord; And the Lord illumines my darkness."
"I am the Light of the world." Jesus, the Eternal One, is the Light of the world because:
"He who follows Me will not walk in the darkness." Let's discuss this phrase in three parts:
a) "He who follows Me" - The Greek word for follow is akoloutheó, which means to join as a disciple (Ref. 5). In John 8:12, Jesus "likens himself to a torch which the disciple follows" (Ref. 5). Jesus frequently spoke about what it means to follow him as a disciple (for example, Luke 14:27).
b) "Will not walk" - The Greek word for walk is peripateó. Peripateó means (in the ethical sense) how I conduct my life (Ref. 6).
c) "In the darkness" - The Greek word for darkness is scotia (Ref. 7). Scotia has a dual meaning. In the literal sense, scotia (darkness) is the absence of daylight (John 6:17). In the figurative sense, scotia (darkness) is the state we are in before we believe in Christ, that is, a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin (Ref. 8).
Putting these three parts together - "He who follows Me shall not walk in darkness" means He who follows Me [Jesus] as a disciple will no longer conduct his life in a state of ignorance, guilt, and sin.
Note that Jesus also said, "I have come as Light into the world, so that everyone who believes in Me will not remain in darkness" (John 12:46, italics added). Being in darkness is our (mankind's) default condition. Jesus has come so that when we believe in him, God the Father transfers us from the domain of darkness to the kingdom of the Son of God (Colossians 1:13).
"But will have the Light of life." Just as sight is a function of physical life, Christ is the Light for our spiritual life. John says, referring to Christ, "In Him was life, and the life was the Light of men" (John 1:4). When we believe in Jesus Christ, the divine light of Christ continually shines in us, guiding us to life everlasting (Ref. 9).
Apply. Do you believe that Jesus Christ is the Light of the world? If not, then pray and put your trust in him today.
Are you a disciple of Christ? Are you following him?
Do you have the Light of life?
(Matthew Poole's Commentary on John 12:46)
"For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God." (1 Corinthians 1:18)
"Those who receive the gospel, and are enlightened by the Spirit of God, see more of God's wisdom and power in the doctrine of Christ crucified, than in all his other works." -- Matthew Henry (1662-1714) (Ref. 1, Ref. 2)
This lesson describes what the Apostle Paul meant by the phrase, "the word of the cross." God loves us so much that Jesus Christ died on the cross for us, and purchased the forgiveness of our sins. We will also study why for some people, the word of the cross is foolishness and for others, it is the power of God.
Consider. When the Apostle Paul wrote the phrase, "the word of the cross" (1 Corinthians 1:18), what did he mean? In your own words, how would you explain "the word of the cross" to someone else?
Definition of "word." The Greek word for word in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is logos. Logos means something said, a message, reasoning expressed by words, and instruction (Ref. 3). Acts 13:26 and 2 Corinthians 5:19 provide examples where logos is translated as message.
Definition of "cross." The Greek word for cross is staurós. Staurós has both a literal meaning and a figurative meaning. Christ was crucified on a literal Roman cross (Ref. 4). According to HELPS Word-Studies, "Staurós was the crosspiece of a Roman cross; the cross-beam was placed at the top of the vertical member to form a capital 'T' (Ref. 4). "This transverse beam was the one carried by the criminal" (Ref. 4, Matthew 27:31-32, John 19:17). In addition to the shape of a capital "T," researchers also discuss the cross in the shape of a cruciform ("†" or "✚") and as a vertical stake (Ref. 5). Most Christian denominations present the Christian cross in the shape of a cruciform (Ref. 5, Ref. 6).
Staurós also has a figurative meaning. Jesus spoke about the cross each believer bears to be his true follower (Ref. 4, Matthew 10:38, Mark 8:34, Luke 9:23). Thayer's Greek Lexicon describes the figurative cross as an expression used by "those who, on behalf of God's cause, do not hesitate cheerfully and manfully [courageously] to bear persecutions, troubles, distresses — thus recalling the fate of Christ and the spirit in which he encountered it" (Ref. 4, brackets added).
What is meant by the expression, "the word of the cross"? The word, or message, of the cross is that God loves us so much that his Son, Jesus Christ, was crucified and died on the cross for us. Through his sacrifice, Jesus Christ has purchased the forgiveness of our sins. Through Jesus Christ, those who believe in him receive salvation and eternal life.
"But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us" (Romans 5:8).
"For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life" (John 3:16).
Foolishness to those who are perishing. The Greek word for foolishness is mória. Mória means folly, absurdity, foolishness (Ref. 7). The Greek word for perish is apollumi which means destroy utterly (Ref. 8). HELPS Word-Studies further defines apollumi as "to die, with the implication of ruin and destruction" (Ref. 8).
Why would Paul write that the message of the cross "is foolishness to those who are perishing" in 1 Corinthians 1:18?
1. "To the Jews 'the cross' was the tree of shame and horror; and a crucified person was 'accursed of God' " (Ref. 9, Deuteronomy 21:23). To the Jews, the thought of "a crucified Messiah" seemed "a revolting folly" (Ref. 9).
2. To Paul's Greek audience, the cross was the punishment for slaves and murderers (Ref. 9). The cross meant shame and agony. To the Greeks, worshiping "a crucified malefactor" was superstitious (Ref. 9).
3. Paul explains, "But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised" (1 Corinthians 2:14). The natural man, who is "not truly enlightened and renewed by the Word and Spirit of God, and therefore has no other way of obtaining knowledge but by his senses and natural understanding … does not understand or apprehend the things of the Spirit of God" (Ref. 10).
To us who are being saved it is the power of God. The Greek word for saved is sózó, which means rescued from destruction and brought into divine safety (Ref. 11). The Greek word for power in 1 Corinthians 1:18 is dunamis. Dunamis means (miraculous) power, might, strength (Ref. 12).
The cross is much more than a decoration. "The cross is God's saving power" (Expositor's Greek Testament, Ref. 13). For us who are being saved, the cross is the means by which Jesus has forgiven our sins and rescued us from the path of destruction. By the cross, God offers us the gift of eternal life when we believe in Jesus Christ, God's Son. When we share the "word of the cross" with others, we share not a fable but God's mighty plan for saving people.
"For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek" (Romans 1:16).
Apply. God gives us only two choices. Either we are on the path of perishing or we are on the path of salvation. On which path are you? If you do not know Christ, put your faith in him today, and receive from him forgiveness of your sins and the gift of eternal life. If you do know Christ, thank him for his sacrificial death on the cross to forgive your sins, and for his power working in you each day.
5. (Ref. 5 begins on the next line)
"There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven— A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak." (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7)
"Speak little, because for one sin which we may commit by keeping silence where it would be well to speak, we commit a hundred by speaking upon all occasions" (Pinart, Ref. 1).
This lesson is the fourth and final lesson in the series on Biblical Principles of Sound Speech.
Consider. What times or examples can you think of where the Bible says we should be silent instead of speaking?
When circumstances demand. "There is an appointed time for everything. And there is a time for every event under heaven—A time to tear apart and a time to sew together; A time to be silent and a time to speak" (Ecclesiastes 3:1, 7). In Ecclesiastes 3:7, the Hebrew word for silent is chashah, which means to hush, keep quiet, hold peace, keep silence, be silent, be still (Ref. 2).
English Theologian John Gill (1697 - 1771) (Ref. 3, Ref. 4) described three circumstances when we should be silent:
1. During an evil time or a time of national calamity (Amos 5:10-13)
2. To express sympathy - "When a particular friend or relation is in distress, as in the case of Job and his friends" (Ref. 4, Job 2:13). Note that Job's friends showed support for Job by visiting Job and sitting with him silently for seven days. Sitting on the ground "marked mourning" (Ref. 5, Lamentations 2:10). "Seven days was the usual length of it" (Ref. 5, Genesis 50:10, 1 Samuel 31:13).
3. "When in the presence of wicked men, who make a jest of everything serious and religious" (Ref. 4, Psalm 39:1)
To listen to God. "Guard your steps as you go to the house of God and draw near to listen rather than to offer the sacrifice of fools; for they do not know they are doing evil. Do not be hasty in word or impulsive in thought to bring up a matter in the presence of God. For God is in heaven and you are on the earth; therefore let your words be few" (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
To respect God and to be in awe of God. The prophet Habakkuk said, "The Lord is in His holy temple. Let all the earth be silent before Him" (Habakkuk 2:20). Habakkuk was comparing the profit-less act of speaking to false idols with the reverential awe we should have for the living, true God (Habakkuk 2:18-19).
To guard our soul from troubles. "He who guards his mouth and his tongue, guards his soul from troubles" (Proverbs 21:23).
To avoid transgression. "When there are many words, transgression is unavoidable, but he who restrains his lips is wise" (Proverbs 10:19). "Loquacity leads to exaggeration and untruthfulness, slander, and uncharitableness" (Ref. 1).
When we're feeling angry. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice" (Ephesians 4:31). "Everyone must be quick to hear, slow to speak and slow to anger; for the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God" (James 1:19-20).
To be counted as wise. "He who restrains his words has knowledge,
and he who has a cool spirit is a man of understanding. Even a fool, when he keeps silent, is considered wise; when he closes his lips, he is considered prudent" (Proverbs 17:27-28, italics added). When I was a youth, my father quoted this saying to me - "It is better to keep silent and have people think you are a fool than to open your mouth and remove all doubt." Researchers disagree whether to attribute this quote to American author Mark Twain or to President Abraham Lincoln, or to someone else. However, the concept is clear.
Apply. Think about this topic. In what personal situations or circumstances would it be better for you to remain silent instead of speaking?
"But the things that proceed out of the mouth come from the heart, and those defile the man" (Matthew 15:18).
Today's lesson is the third in a series on Biblical Principles of Sound Speech.
Consider. Think for a moment. Do you agree with Jesus' statement in Matthew 15:18 that what we say comes from what is in our heart?
Read - Matthew 15:1-20. This passage will provide the context for today's lesson.
What we say defiles us in God's sight. When Jesus spoke to the Pharisees and scribes in Matthew 15:1-20, Jesus was speaking to people who did not (yet) believe in him or accept his authority. The concept of the relationship between our heart and our mouth still applies to us today as believers in Christ and also applies to non-believers. What we take into our hearts, or allow into our hearts, determines the quality of our speech.
Jesus turned the discussion from handwashing (Matthew 15:2) to the more important subject of being clean in our hearts, speech, and thinking. "After Jesus called the crowd to Him, He said to them, 'Hear and understand. It is not what enters into the mouth that defiles the man, but what proceeds out of the mouth, this defiles the man' " (Matthew 15:10-11). The Greek word for defile is koinoó, which means unclean, pollute, or desecrate (Ref. 1). "Jesus replaced the normal Jewish understandings of defilement with the truth that defilement comes from an impure heart, not the violation of external rules" (Ref. 2 below).
In Matthew 15:11 and Matthew 15:18, the Greek word for man is anthrópos, which is the generic term for mankind; the human race; people, including women and men (Ref. 3).
Our heart is the source of the evil and the good we speak. When Jesus spoke about the heart of man in Matthew 15:15-20, he spoke a concept that was familiar to his Jewish listeners. The Hebrew word for heart is leb, which means inner man, mind, will, heart (Ref. 4). The Hebrew word, leb (heart), occurs over 500 times in the Old Testament (Ref. 4). The prophet Jeremiah said, "The heart is more deceitful than all else and is desperately sick; who can understand it?" (Jeremiah 17:9). David prayed, "Create in me a clean heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me" (Psalm 51:10).
In the New Testament, the Greek word for heart in Matthew 15:18 and in almost all New Testament occurrences is kardia (Ref. 5). Kardia occurs over 150 times in the New Testament (Ref. 5). Kardia means the heart; mind, character, inner self, will, intention (Ref. 5). In Matthew 15:18, Jesus is saying that the evil that comes out of our mouth comes from what is in our heart.
Jesus also said, "The good man out of the good treasure of his heart brings forth what is good; and the evil man out of the evil treasure brings forth what is evil; for his mouth speaks from that which fills his heart" (Luke 6:45).
Below I have included a "HIPO" (Hierarchical Input Process Output) chart that I prepared many years ago when I first taught this lesson on Sound Speech to my Adult Sunday School class at church. At the time, I was working as a computer programmer for a large company. The chart illustrates examples of healthy and unhealthy inputs we take into our hearts. Our senses also can influence our heart. Our mouths are our primary output device (Matthew 15:11, 18). In today's culture, with texting, tweeting, instant messaging, and email, we should include our "fingers" as output devices as well. The concept still applies.
It is important to guard what we take into our heart. The purity of what we take into or allow into our heart affects the quality of what we say. As per the examples in Figure 1 above, we need to be careful about our entertainment choices and being around unwholesome speech because these can contaminate our thinking.
The apostle Paul was quite clear when he described what we should think about. "Finally, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things" (Philippians 4:8, italics added).
David said, "How can a young man keep his way pure? By guarding it according to your word" (Psalm 119:9).
Solomon wrote, "Above all else, guard your heart, for everything you do flows from it" (Proverbs 4:23).
Apply. Pray and ask God to bring to your mind the steps you should take to guard your heart and to improve the purity of your thinking (Philippians 4:8). As part of your action plan, read and meditate upon God's word daily (Psalm 119:9).
"Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and family of David, in order to register along with Mary, who was engaged to him, and was with child" (Luke 2:4).
This article explores the story behind and the scripture allusions in the hymn, "Once in Royal David's City."
Hymn Text Writer
Cecil Frances Alexander (1818-1895) was an Anglo-Irish hymnodist and poet. Mrs. Alexander's hymns and poems though her lifetime number nearly 400 (Ref. 2). She is best known for her hymns, "All Things Bright and Beautiful," There is a Green Hill Far Away," and the Christmas carol, "Once in Royal David's City" (Ref. 3).
As an adult, Cecil Frances Alexander wrote primarily for children. She felt that the truths of Christianity could best be taught through hymns (Ref. 4 below). In 1848, Cecil Frances Humphreys (her name before she married) wrote a series of hymns to teach children about the Apostles Creed (Ref. 4, Ref. 5). She wrote "Once in Royal David's City" to explain to children the phrase from the Apostle's Creed that Jesus Christ was conceived by the Holy Ghost and born of the Virgin Mary (Luke 1:34-35 KJV, Ref. 4, Ref. 5).
Hymn Tune Composer
Henry John Gauntlett (1805-1876) was an English organist and songwriter (Ref. 6). He was also, in turn, a lawyer, author, organ designer, and organ recitalist (Ref. 7). He composed over 1,000 hymn tunes. His most famous tune is "Irby," the tune to which we sing the Christmas carol, "Once in Royal David's City" (Ref. 6).
I suggest that you refer to the attached hymn sheet music (Ref. 8) for the following discussion of Scripture and the four verses of hymn text.
"Once in royal David's city" (hymn, verse 1). In the Bible, the words, "city of David," refer to two locations. In the Old Testament, the city of David referred to the area of Jerusalem that David captured as described in 1 Chronicles 11:4-8. David built houses there and lived there (1 Chronicles 15:1). David was buried in the city of David (1 Kings 2:10).
In the New Testament, Luke refers to David's ancestral home, Bethlehem, as the city of David (Luke 2:4, 1 Samuel 17:12). Luke also tells what the angel said when the angel appeared to the shepherds and announced Jesus' birth. "For today in the city of David there has been born for you a Savior, who is Christ the Lord" (Luke 2:11). After the angel had spoken to the shepherds, the shepherds were clear that the location they were to go visit was in Bethlehem (Luke 2:15).
"He came down to earth from heaven who is God and Lord of all" (hymn, verse 2). The words, "He came down to earth from heaven" refer to the incarnation of Christ. The Gospel of John says, "And the Word became flesh, and dwelt among us, and we saw His glory, glory as of the only begotten from the Father, full of grace and truth" (John 1:14).
"He feels for all our sadness, and he shares in all our gladness" (hymn, verse 3). Jesus was fully God and fully human (John 1:1, John 1:14, Colossians 2:9, Ref. 9). As a human being, Jesus experienced the full range of human emotions, yet without sin (Hebrews 4:15-16). For example, Jesus knew grief and sorrow (Isaiah 53:3, John 11:33-35). Jesus knew joy (Hebrews 12:2).
"He leads his children on to the place where he has gone" (hymn, verse 4). Jesus said, "Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all" (Luke 18:17). The Gospel of John tells us, "But to all who believed him and accepted him, he gave the right to become children of God" (John 1:12).
The hymn's words, "He leads his children," speak to me both of Jesus leading and we who believe in Jesus Christ following him (Ref. 10). Jesus said, "I am the way, and the truth, and the life; no one comes to the Father but through Me" (John 14:6). We know that Jesus has gone to prepare a place for us in heaven (John 14:2-3). Once we put our trust in Jesus Christ, he leads us and we follow him through life to his eternal home.
Listen and watch The Choir of King's College, Cambridge, UK sing "Once in Royal David's City." Click here for the YouTube link - Ref. 11. To see and follow the lyrics for the six verses sung in the video, click here - Ref. 12.
Thank you, Jesus, for coming down from heaven to earth to become a human being. Thank you, Jesus, that you know our emotions and that you strengthen us when we are weak. Thank you, Jesus, that when we believe in and accept you, you lead us through life to your eternal home.
4. Robert K. Brown, Mark R. Norton, "The One Year Book of Hymns," Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 1995
12. (the link begins on the next line) https://www.hymnsandcarolsofchristmas.com/Hymns_and_Carols/once_in_royal_davids_city.htm
"Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth, but only such a word as is good for edification according to the need of the moment, so that it will give grace to those who hear." (Ephesians 4:29)
This article is the second in the series, "Biblical Principles of Sound Speech." Today's lesson focuses on the attributes of sound speech, that is, the essential characteristics that our speech should have.
Consider. Think for a moment. What do you think the positive qualities of speech should be? If someone asked you to describe what the Bible says our speech should be like, what would you say in reply?
Today's lesson describes the four characteristics of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29. Today's verse is part of the Apostle Paul's letter to Christian believers at the church in Ephesus (Ephesians 1:1).
Wholesome. The first characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that it should be wholesome. The Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines wholesome as promoting health and well being, sound in mind and morals, prudent, and safe (Ref. 3). Our wholesome speech should promote the well-being of others, as we will see in the discussion below.
Paul begins Ephesians 4:29 with the phrase, "Let no unwholesome word proceed from your mouth." The Greek word for unwholesome is sapros. Sapros means rotten, worthless, bad, corrupt and is applied to putrid vegetable or animal substances (Ref. 4, Ref. 5 below, Ref. 6). Matthew 7:17-18 use the same word. Jesus said, "Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt [sapros] tree bringeth forth evil fruit" (Matthew 7:17, brackets added).
In Ephesians 4:29, Paul instructs us to restrain our mouths so we do not let any unwholesome (bad, rotten, corrupt) words go forth. Bad language not only reflects the corruptness of the "heart of a speaker" but also tends "to corrupt the minds or manners of hearers" (Ref. 7).
If you would like to read more on what the Bible says about avoiding cursing and profanity, please go to the page, "Bible Verses About Sound Speech" and read the last section (Ref. 8).
Good for Edification. The second characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should be good for edification. That is, our speech should build others up, not tear them down. The Greek word for edification is oikodomé. The short definition of oikodomé is a building or edifice (Ref. 9). However, edification of people means more than building an architectural structure. Thayer's Greek Lexicon defines oikodomé as "the act of one who promotes another's growth in Christian wisdom, piety, holiness, happiness" (Ref. 9).
According to the need of the moment. The third characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should be according to the need and that it should be timely. The Greek word for need is chreia, which means need, necessity, business, occasion (Ref. 10). The English Standard Version (ESV) translates this phrase, "as fits the occasion" (Ref. 11). Our speech should edify (build up) our hearers according to the particular need of their spiritual state (Ref. 12).
The phrase, "According to the need of the moment," suggests to me that in our roles (for example, authors, teachers, parents, spouses, co-workers, team members, friends) we need always to pray and seek the Holy Spirit's guidance about what to say to our hearers and when to speak. Sometimes when we have a good idea, it may not be the right occasion or the right time to blurt it out. Our hearers will "hear" better when the Holy Spirit has prepared them to receive what we have to say. We should pray about when we should share our idea, inspiration, request, or constructive criticism. As an example from Scripture, God provided the occasion for Nehemiah to speak his request to King Artaxerses approximately four months after Nehemiah had prayed to God about the condition of Jerusalem's wall (Nehemiah 1:1, Nehemiah 1:11, Nehemiah 2:1, Nehemiah 2:4).
King Solomon addressed the importance of timeliness in Proverbs 25:11. "Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken in right circumstances." Our speech not only should be sensitive to the circumstances, but also should be spoken at the right time. We should look to God to guide as to when that time will be.
Grace-giving. The fourth characteristic of sound speech in Ephesians 4:29 is that our speech should "give grace to those who hear." The Greek word for grace is charis, which means grace, kindness, favor, and especially, God's divine influence upon the heart (Ref. 13, Ref. 5 below). Our speech should minister the grace of God to others.
"Let no corrupt communication proceed out of your mouths: but that which is good to the use of edifying, that it may minister grace unto the hearers" (Ephesians 4:29 - 1599 Geneva Bible).
Summary. As Christians, and as instructed by the Bible in Ephesians 4:29, our speech should exhibit four essential qualities. Our speech should be wholesome, good for edification (building up others), appropriate for the occasion and timely, and grace-giving.
To see additional attributes of sound speech from the Bible, please refer to the separate page, "Bible Verses About Sound Speech" (Ref. 8).
Apply. I suggest that you memorize Ephesians 4:29 so you will always have this verse and these four essential qualities of sound speech in mind. If you would like to see this verse in other translations, please click on the link to Ephesians 4:29 on biblegateway.com and then select the translation of your choice.
5. James Strong, "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
"In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds, with purity in doctrine, dignified, sound in speech which is beyond reproach, so that the opponent will be put to shame, having nothing bad to say about us." (Titus 2:7-8)
Consider. Why is it important that we as Christians exemplify sound speech? What is the effect on hearers when our speech is "unsound"? How does sound (or unsound) speech (and what we say on social media) affect our witness for Christ?
Today's lesson is the first in a series on "Biblical Principles of Sound Speech." Today's lesson focuses on Paul's instructions to Titus in Titus 2:7-8.
Who was Titus? Titus was one of the Apostle Paul’s converts to the Christian faith. Paul refers to Titus as "my true child in a common faith" (Titus 1:4). However, Titus was not a new convert. Titus had accompanied Paul to the Council at Jerusalem described in Galatians 2:1. When Paul wrote to the church at Corinth, he said, "As for Titus, he is my partner and fellow worker among you" (2 Corinthians 8:23). Titus was a godly, Christian teacher (Titus 2:1-8). Paul also commissioned Titus to appoint elders in each city in Crete (Titus 1:5).
"Considering the assignments given him, he [Titus] obviously was a capable and resourceful leader" (Ref. 1).
"Show yourself to be an example of good deeds" (Titus 2:7). Let's unpack the Greek word definitions to better understand what Paul is saying. The Greek for the word, example, is tupos. Tupos means a proper pattern or model for others to follow (Ref. 2). The Greek word for good is kalos. The short definition of kalos is beautiful (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 3). Helps WORD-Studies defines kalos as attractively good; good that inspires (motivates) others to embrace what is lovely (beautiful, praiseworthy) (Ref. 3). Thus, Paul instructs Titus to be an example (pattern) of good (beautiful) works that others may follow and embrace what is praiseworthy.
Paul's instructions to Titus also apply to us. As Christians, we are to lead others by being a good example. Jesus said, "Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven" (Matthew 5:16). Paul wrote to Timothy. "Let no one look down on your youthfulness, but rather in speech, conduct, love, faith and purity, show yourself an example of those who believe" (1 Timothy 4:12). The Apostle Peter wrote, "Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation (1 Peter 2:12).
Keep in mind that as Christians we do not do good works in order to earn or keep our salvation (Ephesians 2:8-9). However, we are to be good examples so others will praise (rather than slander) Christ. Our good example should attract others to know and follow the Lord Jesus.
Teach with pure, uncorrupt motives. In Titus 2:7, the English words, "In all things show yourself to be an example of good deeds" are followed by "with purity in doctrine." The two key words are purity and doctrine. The Greek word for purity is aphtharsia, which means incorruptibility, unable to experience deterioration (Ref. 4). The Greek word for doctrine is didaskalia, which means instruction, teaching (Ref. 5). Didaskalia refers both to the function of teaching as well as to the information which is taught (Ref. 5).
Paul instructs Titus not only that the content of his teaching must be incorruptible, but also that his bearing and behavior as a teacher must be incorruptible (Ref. 6). As Christians, we must be free from corruption (Ref. 7) and free from lower motives such as seeking popular applause (Ref. 8).
Exemplify sound speech that is beyond reproach so that the opponent will have nothing bad to say about us. Paul's instruction is clear. As Christians, our speech should be sound and beyond reproach. The Greek word for sound is hugiés, which means healthy, well (in body), true (in doctrine) (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 9).
Paul uses the Greek word logos for speech in Titus 2:8. Logos means something said. Logos also can refer to a topic (subject of discourse), the mental faculty of reasoning, and motives (Strong's Concordance, Ref. 10 below).
In summary, as followers of Christ, we are to have healthy reasoning and healthy speech. Our speaking, reasoning, teaching, motives, and doctrine should be healthy, uncorrupt, and true.
Apply. As a Christian, do you exemplify sound speech that is beyond reproach so that others will have nothing bad to say about you? How is your speech helping or hindering your witness for Christ?
10. James Strong, "The New Strong's Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible," Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1995
The next lesson in this series will provide additional, Biblical attributes of sound speech.
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Mr. Whitney V. Myers. Christian. For more information, please visit the Author Page.
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