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His Anguish of Soul

Last time I spoke before the table, my focus was on the physical sufferings of the Lord Jesus as He suffered a conscious and bodily torment upon the cross that some might describe as hellish.

The focus was rightly upon the physical sufferings of Jesus.

What about the anguish of His soul?

Afterwards, during morning tea, someone raised an interesting point. He expressed his appreciation of the fact that yes, Jesus did suffer physically and bodily – but that there seemed to be much less emphasis on the other ways in which Jesus suffered – in particular, the anguish of soul Jesus experienced as He became the one upon whom all our sins were laid.

There are two specific events which bear this out. One is the obvious anguish of heart, mind, and soul Jesus experienced upon the cross as He cried out “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me…”

The other comes before the cross and occurs in the Garden of Gethsemane. The scene is recorded in all three of the Synoptic Gospel accounts – Matthew, Mark, and Luke.

I want to briefly look at Mark’s account of the anguish of soul experienced by Jesus.

In this account, there are three things recorded for us that help us appreciate the anguish of soul Jesus experienced.

Distressed and Troubled

The first is v. 33 where Mark records that Jesus began to be greatly distressed and troubled. Note here that Mark tells us that He was greatly distressed and troubled. Whatever the nature of the distress and trouble – it’s not like it was some light and momentary thing – something to be minimised, or ignored – it was not something that Jesus could escape by means of distraction, or by doing something to keep Himself busy, or by focusing on something else. The degree of the distress and trouble was great – not light, not insignificant, not something He could minimise or ignore.

It’s helpful at this point to realise that this anguish wasn’t just something that was casually happening to Jesus, something He was just walking His way through. It was something He was experiencing at the very core of His being. The words being used by Mark are verbal-nouns. Verbs are doing words. Nouns are being words. Mark combines the two in an attempt to describe what was happening to Jesus – what Jesus was experiencing, what Jesus was becoming, or at least what Jesus anticipated in terms of what He would become.

Anguish of soul

The second aspect of Jesus’ anguish of soul is captured in v. 44 where Mark records Jesus’ own words, Jesus’ own commentary on the events, as Jesus explains to the disciples what He’s about to go through. “My soul is very sorrowful, even unto death.”

Jesus is using superlative, deliberate, intentional language – He is describing something that is more than a tad bothersome, something about which He is casually concerned, vaguely aware of, or potentially dismissive of. He is saying that His soul is sorrowful, but not just sorrowful – but very sorrowful – His sorrow of soul was all encompassing – and the Greek bares that out and carries with it the idea that Jesus was engulfed with sorrow – it was all around Him, it was within Him, it was like He was drowning in it. It’s almost as if the sorrow of Jesus’ soul was too much for Him to bare – but bare it He did.


We’re given a third insight into Jesus’ anguish of soul as Mark records for us a snippet of Jesus’ own prayer to the Father. V. 35 tells us that Jesus went and prayed, that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from Him and then in v. 36, His plea to the Father that the cup might pass from Him. It’s interesting here that we’re told Jesus fell to the ground. Here we see Jesus in complete humility, conveying to us a sense of helplessness, dependency, but also desperation. Jesus was, at this point begging the Father for relief, reprieve, respite – it was already too much for Him – and yet we know the story didn’t end here.

However briefly we have considered Jesus’ anguish of soul, I want us to also consider the question WHY? Why was Jesus greatly distressed? Why was He greatly troubled? Why was His soul exceedingly sorrowful? Why was Jesus desperate before the Father?

Again, vv 35 and 36 are helpful.

Jesus prays

In v. 35 we’re told Jesus’ prayer request was that the hour might pass from Him. In v. 36 we’re told Jesus’ prayer request was that the cup might be removed from Him?

What is the hour Jesus is requesting would pass?

What is the cup Jesus is begging be removed?

Firstly, the hour that Jesus is requesting would pass comes in v. 41 “It is enough; the hour has come.” What hour is that? “The Son of man is betrayed into the hands of sinners”

There was an anguish of soul about Jesus being betrayed, and betrayed by one with whom He had shared fellowship. I am not sure whether you’ve ever experienced betrayal, or suffered as a result of someones disloyalty, dishonesty, or unreliability. But as much as our betrayal sucks, and hurts, and is hard – Jesus more so. As sinners, there are no innocent victims, even in the betrayal of others – there is always an element of our selfishness that’s part of the pain we experience – but Jesus was utterly selfless – there is no way that He could ever merit the disloyalty of anyone – in fact, He commands and actually demands the perfect and unwavering loyality of every man, woman, and child that’s ever been, is now, and will be conceived in the future.

Jesus did nothing to deserve the betrayal He experienced.

Laying Hands on Jesus

If that wasn’t enough, there’s the fact that He was betrayed into the hands of sinners – for sinners to manhandle Him, to get all up in His face, to drag Him away, to beat Him – to effectively lay their sin stained hands upon the sinless Lamb. At they did this, they were effectively laying their sin upon Him – they were imputing their sin to Him – they were doing what the priests of old did when they laid hands on the sacrificial lamb.

It was in moments like these that Jesus actively and symbolically became the sin of sinners for whom He would then die.

There’s no way we can begin to imagine what that must have been like for Jesus – except to point to the sorrow for sin we must all experience as the Holy Spirit convicts us of it – but to take all the sorrow for all our sin, for all God’s people, for all time – and distill it, condense it, concentrate it in a small window of time and space and imagine it being laid on the Lord Jesus – the weight, the heaviness, the burden, the junk of sin laid upon the perfect, sinless, blameless, holy, beloved, eternally blessed and glorious Son of God.

And if that wasn’t enough, if the hands of sinful man upon the sinless lamb wasn’t enough – there was a cup. A cup, not of blessed to be enjoyed, but of wrath to be endured. As Jesus was becoming the sin of sinners, He was becoming the object of God’s wrath towards sin and toward sinners. Again, I can’t begin to imagine what that must have been like for Jesus – all the wrath of an all holy, all righteous, all consuming God being poured out on Jesus in a small window of time and space. I can’t begin to imagine the anguish Jesus endured at this point of time – let alone what He was going through as He cried from the cross “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me???”

O for the opportunity to preach the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ as He became sin for sinners, as He became the object of God’s wrath for us – the natural objects of God’s wrath.

Meditate on This

Though this is not my time to preach on it – it is our time to meditate upon it – with the help of bread, that symbolises the brokenness of Jesus body – and juice, that symbolises the shedding of His blood. As we do this, as we take these few moments to think, think, think upon the work of Christ on the cross – let us be mindful of the events, the emotions, the anguish that lead up to the cross – the way in which Jesus was greatly distressed and troubled, the way in which Jesus was exceedingly sorrowful, a sorrow which was, as it were, deadly.

Permissive Will

Permissive Will

This is part three in a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Permissive Will

The Permissive Will of God is that will which God does not decree to occur, nor is it His will since it is not in accordance with His Law.  God’s permissive will is His will to permit sin to occur.  God allows man to rebel against Him, and in this God permits people to do such things as lie, steal, etc.

  • Jer. 19:5, “and have built the high places of Baal to burn their sons in the fire as burnt offerings to Baal, a thing which I never commanded or spoke of, nor did it ever enter My mind.”
  • Luke 8:32, “Now there was a herd of many swine feeding there on the mountain; and the demons entreated Him to permit them to enter the swine. And He gave them permission.”
  • Rom. 1:21-23, “For even though they knew God, they did not honor Him as God, or give thanks; but they became futile in their speculations, and their foolish heart was darkened. 22 Professing to be wise, they became fools, 23 and exchanged the glory of the incorruptible God for an image in the form of corruptible man and of birds and four-footed animals and crawling creatures.”


See also Decretive Will (what God causes) and Preceptive Will (what God desires for people).

Matt Slick

About The Author

Matt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Preceptive Will

Preceptive Will

This is part two of a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Preceptive Will

The Preceptive Will of God is the will of God for man.  For example, God wills that man does not sin, that we do not lie, do not steal, etc.  It is the will of God for man that is revealed through his Law (Exodus 20:1-17) where God is concerned with man following his precepts.  It is also the will of God for us to be holy, repent, love, etc. (1 Pet. 1:16Acts 17:30John 13:34)

  • Rom. 12:2, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.”
  • Eph. 6:6, “not by way of eyeservice, as men-pleasers, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart.”.
  • 1 Thess. 4:3-6, “For this is the will of God, your sanctification; that is, that you abstain from sexual immorality; 4 that each of you know how to possess his own vessel in sanctification and honor, 5 not in lustful passion, like the Gentiles who do not know God; 6 and that no man transgress and defraud his brother in the matter because the Lord is the avenger in all these things, just as we also told you before and solemnly warned you.”

See also Decretive Will (what God directly wills to cause) and Permissive Will (what God permits to occur).

Matt Slick

About The AuthorMatt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Decretive Will

Decretive Will

This is part one of a series of snippets addressing the question of God’s will.

From  CARM’s Dictionary of Theology: Decretive Will

The Decretive Will of God is that which is God’s sovereign will that we may or may not know, depending on whether or not God reveals it to us.  The decretive will is God’s direct will where he causes something to be, he decrees it.  For example, God has caused the universe to exist as well as Christ‘s incarnation.

  • Job 23:13, “But He is unique and who can turn Him? And what His soul desires, that He does.”
  • Psalm 33:11, “The counsel of the Lord stands forever. The plans of His heart from generation to generation.”
  • Isaiah 14:24, “The Lord of hosts has sworn saying, ‘Surely, just as I have intended so it has happened, and just as I have planned so it will stand.'”
  • Isaiah 46:10, “Declaring the end from the beginning and from ancient times things which have not been done, ‘Saying, ‘My purpose will be established, and I will accomplish all My good pleasure’”.
  • Acts 17:24, “The God who made the world and all things in it, since He is Lord of heaven and earth, does not dwell in temples made with hands.”

See also Preceptive Will (God’s good will for man) and Permissive Will (God permits bad to happen).

Matt Slick
About The AuthorMatt Slick is the President and Founder of the Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

God’s Will

God’s Will

The will of God.  God’s will.  What is it?  What is the relationship between God’s will and human will?  What is His Permissive Will?  What is His Decretive Will?  What is His Preceptive Will?

Over the next few posts, I want to address the question of God’s will with a series of snippets – mainly from Christian Apologetics and Research Ministry.

Before I post on the permissive, decretive, and perceptive will of God – here’s an article from

Question: “What is the difference between God`s sovereign will and God`s perfect will?”

Answer: When speaking of God’s will, many people see three different aspects of it in the Bible. The first aspect is known as God’s decretive, sovereign, or hidden will. This is God’s “ultimate” will. This facet of God’s will comes out of the recognition of God’s sovereignty and the other aspects of God’s nature. This expression of God’s will focuses on the fact that God sovereignly ordains everything that comes to pass. In other words, there is nothing that happens that is outside of God’s sovereign will. This aspect of God’s will is seen in verses like Ephesians 1:11, where we learn that God is the one “who works all things according to the counsel of His will,” and Job 42:2, “I know that You can do everything, And that no purpose of Yours can be withheld from You.” This view of God’s will is based on the fact that, because God is sovereign, His will can never be frustrated. Nothing happens that is beyond His control.

This understanding of His sovereign will does not imply that God causes everything to happen. Rather, it acknowledges that, because He is sovereign, He must at least permit or allow whatever happens to happen. This aspect of God’s will acknowledges that, even when God passively permits things to happen, He must choose to permit them, because He always has the power and right to intervene. God can always decide to either permit or stop the actions and events of this world. Therefore, as He allows things to happen, He has “willed” them in this sense of the word.

While God’s sovereign will is often hidden from us until after it comes to pass, there is another aspect of His will that is plain to us: His preceptive or revealed will. As the name implies, this facet of God’s will means that God has chosen to reveal some of His will in the Bible. The preceptive will of God is God’s declared will concerning what we should or should not do. For example, because of the revealed will of God, we can know that it is God’s will that we do not steal, that we love our enemies, that we repent of our sins, and that we be holy as He is holy. This expression of God’s will is revealed both in His Word and in our conscience, through which God has written His moral law upon the hearts of all men. The laws of God, whether found in Scripture or in our hearts, are binding upon us. We are accountable when we disobey them.

Understanding this aspect of God’s will acknowledges that while we have the power and ability to disobey God’s commands, we do not have the right to do so. Therefore, there is no excuse for our sin, and we cannot claim that by choosing to sin we are simply fulfilling God’s sovereign decree or will. Judas was fulfilling God’s sovereign will in betraying Christ, just as the Romans who crucified Him were. That does not justify their sins. They were no less evil or treacherous, and they were held accountable for their rejection of Christ (Acts 4:27-28). Even though in His sovereign will God allows or permits sin to happen, we are still accountable to Him for that sin.

The third aspect of God’s will that we see in the Bible is God’s permissive or perfect will. This facet of God’s will describes God’s attitude and defines what is pleasing to Him. For example, while it is clear that God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, it is also clear that He wills or decrees their death. This expression of God’s will is revealed in the many verses of Scripture which indicate what God does and does not take pleasure in. For example, in 1 Timothy 2:4 we see that God desires all men to be saved and to come to the knowledge of the truth,” yet we know that God’s sovereign will is that “no one can come to Me unless the Father who sent Me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day” (John 6:44).

If we are not careful, we can easily become preoccupied or even obsessed with finding the “will” of God for our lives. However, if the will we are seeking is His secret, hidden, or decretive will, we are on a foolish quest. God has not chosen to reveal that aspect of His will to us. What we should seek to know is the perceptive or revealed will of God. The true mark of spirituality is when we desire to know and live according to the will of God as revealed in Scripture, and that can be summarized as “be holy for I am Holy” (1 Peter 1:15-16). Our responsibility is to obey the revealed will of God and not to speculate on what His hidden will for us might be. While we should seek to be “led by the Holy Spirit,” we must never forget that the Holy Spirit is primarily leading us to righteousness and to being conformed into the image of Christ so that our lives will glorify God. God calls us to live our lives by every word that proceeds from His mouth.

Living according to His revealed will should be the chief aim or purpose of our lives. Romans 12:1-2 summarizes this truth, as we are called to present our “bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your reasonable service. And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God.” To know the will of God, we should immerse ourselves in the written Word of God, saturating our minds with it, and praying that the Holy Spirit will transform us through the renewing of our minds, so that the result is what is good, acceptable and perfect—the will of God.

© Copyright 2002-2017 Got Questions Ministries

Assisted dying devalues the disabled

Cross Posted from The Spinoff.

Assisted dying devalues the disabled

Assisted dyingBy Dr. John Fox

At first look, it all seems so sensible: people who find no value in their lives should be allowed the choice to end them. Right? Wrong, says Dr John Fox – and here’s why.

One of my first memories is pain. It was my first hospital operation, a corrective surgery to make it easier to walk. People advanced on four year old me to remove my cast and mobilise my feet. My parents tried vainly to distract me, as I tried to find the face of my favourite nurse. I still remember that feeling of radical vulnerability, pinned to a table, trying to find words to explain what was happening, trying to feel safe.

It’s that feeling that came back to me last month, when David Seymour’s End of Life Choices bill was pulled from the ballot.

It seems so reasonable, and Mr Seymour makes the argument with the slightly rabid consistency of the convinced Libertarian. “My life, and my death, is my business”. Buttressed by really tragic and truly awful situations like those of Lecretia Seales, who would welcome pain? And of course, shouldn’t we let people who find no value in their lives make the choice to end them?

No. Here is why.

I live with a mild form of cerebral palsy and various associated problems including spastic hemiplegia. I know from first-hand experience how hard it is to be physically vulnerable, to lose control of one’s own body, how hard it can be to depend on other people, how easy it is to feel like a burden. From this angle I have every human sympathy with Lecretia Seales and others like her who show us how real, ugly and frightening death can be.

But I’m also a trustee of a disability organisation that has a 40 year history of advocating for the vulnerable. For many people we see at Elevate, suffering is a fact of life. We reject, and we resent, the idea that being sick, or even terminally ill, takes away our dignity. Many of us have incurable conditions, some much worse than mine, that would qualify under the bill’s massively broad drafting: the blind, the deaf, those with chronic pain, or long-term disability. And me.

Including us in a category of people who may be legally killed is redolent of the worst attitudes of the past.

If we were an organisation representing, say, 25 year old rugby players, we would not have to make the case that their suicide would leave society poorer. Their death would be seen as a waste, a tragedy that should be prevented, no matter what. Because we are disabled people with incurable conditions, we now have to make that case. Why?

Being sick doesn’t make your life worth less. Suicide is not medical care. And people don’t make life and death decisions by themselves. Those choices are made in a context – the same contexts we would recognise in youth or elder suicide.

When I lie on my bed, wishing my body were different, wishing I could compete on the same scale as the powerful, and questioning the value of my life, my friends and family remind me of something David Seymour’s bill forgets: Pain, like death, is a team sport.

Surrounded by solidarity, the love of caring families, and the competence of medical professionals, we can carry together the experience of suffering, find meaning and stillness inside it, say the things that should be said, and make and receive the peace we need.

I can receive the assurance than I am loved by the people close to me, that my death would leave them poorer. It’s that trust, that moment of connectedness and care, I rely on as a disabled person. And it’s that trust assisted dying attacks. It tears the trust between medical professionals and their patients that doctors will cure, not kill. It brings the spectre of killing as an option to every death bed, to every overworked administrator, to every hospital looking for budget cuts. The power of life and death hovers over every legal loophole, not in a thought experiment or an internet poll, but in real life exposing the elderly and the infirm, the vulnerable and inarticulate to appalling risks.

It’s common for people to have stereotypes and prejudices about disability and illness. It’s common for people to say “I wouldn’t want to live like that” or “We’d put down a dog who was suffering like that”. But “people”, including the Greek chorus in the media, ignore people like us, who live “like that” every single day. And vague, or even specific, safeguards, are inadequate to the task of protecting us in a society increasingly tempted to do the easy thing. It’s easy to say “if you don’t believe in the choice, don’t make it” but this ignores the effect creating the category already has on our country, and on how it values the disabled.

We already know as disabled people that we have to fight to have a job, fight to be born, fight structural prejudice, patronising assumptions, and cultural realities which call us less than, and worth less. Those challenges are likely not equal for you and me, and the impact of David Seymour’s bill would not be equal either.

Disabled people, like the very young, and the very old, depend on others seeing and protecting our value. But past platitudes about inclusion, it’s moments like this that tell us what our society really believes about the infirm and the sick. Are we “all in this together?” or do some people’s lives matter less?

Dr John Fox is trustee of Elevate Christian Disability Trust. He is a son, a brother, a grandson, a friend, and an Anglican ordinand.

Those Who Mourn

“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.” (Matthew 5:4, ESV)

The beatitudes are not disconnected propositions, there is no “or” clauses.

They are related to each other, sequentially.  It’s not “blessed are the poor in spirit” or “those who mourn…” those who mourn are poor in spirit or rather “those who are poor in spirit mourn”.  This connection helps us understand why and what the mourning is about.

Those who are poor in spirit mourn because they are poor in spirit.

A logical progression

It is quite a logical progression.  There is a sense in which we mourn and lament over what we are or were apart from the grace of God because of the ultimate outworking of our poverty of spirit and our negative standing before the God of unrelenting righteousness, peace, and joy.

We ought to be moved, even disturbed by the outcome of such negative standing before God – which is characterised in this life by an active enmity toward God, and a disdain for everything He is, has always been, and will always be – as well as an abhorrence for what He has done, is doing, and will do.  We ought also be moved and disturbed as we consider the reality of being left in such a state – for now, in and of ourselves, we might seem to live quite a comfortable life, wherein our suffering is relatively negligible – like, you might have gone to the right school on the right side of the tracks on the right side of town… you might, even now, have a comfortable job with a comfortable income – or live with those who do and who share that comfort with you… you may be relatively healthy, unplagued by the kinds of illnesses and conditions that present us with questions about quality of life, eugenics, and euthanasia.

But if that’s all, and you never turn from your sin, you never repent, and you never trust in the Lord Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sin, to have all your sin removed, and to have Him clothe you in His righteousness – then that is as good as it gets – the middle-class utopia is as good as it’s ever going to get.

The Wrath of God

You see, unless you trust Jesus for your salvation, turning from all that is contrary to the nature of God – the wrath of God remains on you.  This is not something that fire and brimstone preachers have made up – it’s something that Jesus said – even in the context of Western Christianity’s favourite verse.  Most people know John 3:16 “For God so loved the world, that He gave His only Son, that whoever believes in Him should not perish but have eternal life” but few people realise the implications.  If we believe in the Son of God we will not perish, but that means if we do not believe in the Son of God, we will perish.  John affirms this in the less known 18th verse “Whoever believes in Him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God”

Verse 36 has even stronger warning.  “Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.”  The wrath of God remains on him.  Remains!  Was, is, will be!

How We Respond

I wonder how we respond to our poverty of spirit – I wonder how we respond to the reality that it’s not simply that we are neutral towards a just and holy God – but that apart from His grace, we are actually in opposition to Him – opposing all He is, all He does – thus making ourselves His enemies?

I think the prophet Isaiah got hold of this.  He got to see a glimpse of who God really is, or rather, what God is really like.  In Isaiah 6 we’re told Isaiah saw Yahweh, the God of Israel high and lifted up, the train of His robe filling the temple and these indescribable creatures lauding His holiness “Holy, Holy, Holy is the Lord God Almighty…”  How did Isaiah respond?  “Woe is me for I am undone, I am ruined, I am devastated…” Why?  Isaiah had not only seen God as God is, but Isaiah saw himself by comparison.  He confessed “I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips…”  This was Isaiah’s lament.  What is yours?

So this is the kind of mourning that is part of the gospel, as we realise who God is and who we are apart from Him.  We mourn over our unrighteousness and sin; we lament over our open rebellion towards God.

Blessed Are…

Then comes the blessing.  Blessed are those who mourn for they shall be comforted.

Our mourning is present and active – it’s something we do, and something I believe we ought always do – as part of our relating to God, as part of our looking at God in His righteousness, and then back at ourselves in unrighteousness…

The comfort is future and passive.  It’s future not necessarily in the sense that we have to wait until Jesus returns before we get it – though there is a sense in which whatever comfort we receive now in the gospel is only partial and will only be ours in its fullness when Jesus comes to finally wipe away every tear and console every heart.  It’s also future in the sense that it’s not complete until then – so it’s something that is ongoing.

But it’s also passive – that is, it’s not something that we do – rather, it is something that is done to us.  We don’t comfort ourselves… we don’t comfort each other… and there is nothing inherently comforting in the act of mourning over our sin.

The comforting is something that God does.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and God of all comfort who comforts us in all our affliction…” (2 Corinthians 1:3-4)

Thou Bidds’t

We are comforted by the God of all comfort by the promises of the gospel – namely that Jesus Christ came to save sinners; He came to save the spiritually impoverished; His death was for those who do not look to their own resources – because realising they have negative equity, throw themselves on the mercies of God and join with 19th century hymn writer Charlotte Elliot “Just as I am without one plea, but that thy blood was shed for me and that thou bidds’t me come to thee o Lamb of God, I come… I come…”

And then may we realise that in the gospel God opposes the proud, those who think they have everything they need in and of themselves… those who do not realise just how desperate they are without God to do everything necessary for their life and salvation… and that grace is the grace that teaches us to renounce ungodliness and worldly passions and to live upright, godly, and with self-control in this present age as we wait for our blessed hope, the appearing of our glorious God and Savior, Jesus Christ.

οἱ πενθοῦντες

Poor in spirit

…Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Matthew 5:3 ESV

The Kingdom of Heaven is the possession of those who are otherwise spiritually impoverished.

The call of the gospel in these verses isn’t to the person who has everything but the Kingdom of God – rather, it is to those who have nothing apart from the Kingdom of Heaven.

Poverty of spirit vs. the Kingdom of God

If the Kingdom of God is righteousness, peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit (Romans 14:17), then it makes sense, if Jesus is doing any form of compare and contrast here, to suggest that poverty of spirit involves the realisation that in and of ourselves we do not have those things that constitute the Kingdom.

If the Kingdom of God is righteousness – then in and of ourselves, we not only have no-righteousness, but are altogether unrighteousness. It’s not that we simply lack righteousness as a positive quality – it’s not simply that we are neutral when it comes to the question of righteousness – rather, it’s as if we possess unrighteousness – we possess that which is the opposite of righteousness.

If we think of righteousness in terms of justice – its not as if we have simply failed to do what is just – to plead the widows cause, to speak up for the vulnerable in our society etc – but rather, that we have directly contributed to the injustices we see around us – we are responsible for the widows cause, it’s like we killed her husband. It’s like not just failing to speak out against abortion and euthanasia – but having actually crossed the line speaking out in favor of abortion and euthanasia.

That begins to describe our poverty of spirit.

If the Kingdom of God is peace – the in and of ourselves, we not only have no peace, but in its place we have whatever the opposite of peace is.

I really value solitude and silence. I find it very difficult to read, study, pray, meditate, or write without almost total silence. But the sound of every day life is not the absence of peace. The sound of the dishwasher and refrigerator and the neighbour’s garage door and conversation – this is not the absence peace. I don’t know anyone who would walk into my house and unless there was complete and utter silence suggest the absence of peace.

The opposite of peace is chaos, war, and conflict.

In terms of our poverty of spirit, this is not just about the inner chaos and conflict that so many people face – but something that the apostle Paul describes as enmity with God. Hostile. At war with.

Am I saying that in an of ourselves, apart from the grace of God, we are at war with God? Yes! Apart from the grace of God our minds are what Romans 8:7 says they are (as the older translations put it): carnal and the carnal mind is at enmity with God.

This is perhaps part of why Jesus said we must be born again and the epistles call us over and over to be transformed by the renewing of our minds and to be renewed in the spirit of our minds.

Lastly, Paul tells the Romans that the Kingdom of heaven is joy in the Holy Spirit.

If joy in the Holy Spirit is characteristic of the Kingdom, how could we contrast it to illustrate poverty of spirit?

Again, I think it’s more than just the absence of joy – as if poverty of spirit is about being an emotional flat-liner. It’s not like poverty of spirit is a high-dose anti-depressant that takes away all the troughs and highs. Poverty of spirit puts you in the trough, the deepest, darkest, nonnegotiable valley and pit. That’s not simply the absence of joy, but rather, the presence of hopelessness.

That’s what Paul gets at when he describes the unbeliever as one without God and without hope. It’s what he gets at when he talks about those who mourn without hope.

Without hope there is no light at the end of the tunnel.

Without hope there is no “this too shall pass” or assessment of the difficulties of life as “light and momentary”. To be without hope is to see this world with all its evils and conclude that this is as good as it gets.

So to be unrighteous, to be at enmity with God, and to be without hope – this perhaps begins to illustrate what it means to be poor in spirit.

It is once we realise that this is what we are in and of ourselves, that the promises of this verse become ours. Jesus said “If this is what you are, in and of yourself – great, awesome, congratu-well-done… this is the necessary prerequisite for blessing…” You see, blessing doesn’t come to those who have it mostly figured out, or even partly figured out… it’s not a case of “You do your best and God will do the rest.” It’s more like God only uses empty vessels and if you’ve got something in and of yourself, you’re not an empty vessel. If you think you’ve done enough to be worthy of God’s kingdom, if you’ve done enough good deeds, or if you have acheived some level of zen mastery, or you credit your optimism to your natural disposition – then you’re not an empty vessel and these blessings will elude you.

That’s why Peter says “God opposes the proud but gives grace to the humble” – to those who realise the Biblical assessment of themselves apart from the grace of God in Christ in the gospel.

For in the Gospel, God takes Jesus Christ and essentially makes Him everything we were, and everything He wasn’t. Jesus Christ was totally righteousness – having a 100% approval rating before God for all eternity; Jesus is even called by Isaiah the Prince of Peace; and Jesus, part of the eternal Trinity, in whose presence is fullness of joy, has had this fullness of joy for eternity – and yet what does the Scripture say “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” (2 Corinthians 5:21)

This is what is referred to as the great exchange. All that we were, for all that He is.


In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of Him will, so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of His glory. In Him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in Him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of His glory.  Ephesians 1:11-14

What is this passage about?  In a word – inheritance.

So thinking about inheritance –

What is it?

The passage doesn’t specifically tell us what it is.  But it does suggest that it is something that is guaranteed by the Holy Spirit, and something we will acquire possession of – I’m guessing in the future (i.e. at the resurrection).

Romans 8:23 talks about the redemption of our bodies.

1 Peter 1:4-5 talks about inheritance in terms of something that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for us, the fullness of our salvation, something that will be revealed at the last time.

On that basis, I think our inheritance has do to with our resurrected bodies.  We’re going to get them when Jesus comes from heaven, to earth.  If we are alive when He comes, then it’s in the twinkling of an eye that we will be changed (1 Corinthians 15). If we have the privilege of dying before He comes, then there’s a sense in which we will accompany Jesus… I’m not sure quite how that will work, and at what stage we’d get our new bodies – 1 Peter 1:5 gives the impression that our new bodies are currently kept in heaven for us – but again, what that looks like, I don’t know.  I get  this cartoonish picture in my mind of a Terracotta Army – and that’s like our new bodies – but until there is that reunion of spirit and body – they remain in a warehouse, lifeless, waiting to be possessed.  But there is also the sense in which the bodies we currently possess will be resurrected at this stage.

Thinking about this a bit more broadly, Ephesians 1:10 talks about the unification of all things, things in heaven and things on earth – which points us to the new heavens and earth – which is where will enjoy our inheritance – conscious that this unification is something that He Himself accomplishes in the fullness of time.

It’s interesting though, that verse 11 says we have obtained and inheritance… but verse 14 talks about our acquisition of it.  Perhaps this is one of the many “already and not yet” aspects of our salvation – the whole “You are saved; you are being saved; and you will be saved”.

Beloved, we are God’s children now, and what we shall be has not yet appeared; but we know that when He appears we shall be like Him, because we shall see Him as He is.  (1 John 3:2)

What is the basis upon which we have obtained and will acquire this?

Big picture: Predestination

The reason that we have obtained and will acquire possession of this inheritance is the eternal purposes of God – that before the creation of the world the Trinity lovingly predestined us, for this adoption as sons through Jesus Christ, according to the purpose of His will.

In love He predestined us for adoption as sons through Jesus Christ according to the purpose of His will.  (Ephesians 1:5)

In Him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of Him who works all things according to the counsel of His will… (Ephesians 1:11)

So in those verses you we have twice repeated His predestining of us, and in both cases, we’re told it’s according to the purpose of His will.

The details: Hope, Faith, and the New Birth

I mentioned earlier that idea that we are saved, we are being saved, and we will be saved.

The first aspect of that is what verses 12 and 13 refer to.

Verse 12 talks about our hoping in Christ.  Verse 13 talks about our belief in Christ. Hope and Faith.

What does it mean to hope in Christ?

What about this belief in Christ?  Paul tells us here that the basis of our belief in Christ is the reality that we have heard the word of truth.  This word of truth, Paul tells us, is the gospel of our salvation.

It echoes Romans 10:9-17

“…if you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved. For with the heart one believes and is justified, and with the mouth one confesses and is saved. For the Scripture says, “Everyone who believes in him will not be put to shame.” For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, bestowing his riches on all who call on him. For “everyone who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.” How then will they call on him in whom they have not believed? And how are they to believe in him of whom they have never heard? And how are they to hear without someone preaching? And how are they to preach unless they are sent? As it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who preach the good news!” But they have not all obeyed the gospel. For Isaiah says, “Lord, who has believed what he has heard from us?” So faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ.”  (Romans 10:9-17 ESV)

Another aspect of this is closely related: The New Birth.

“Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! According to his great mercy, he has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to an inheritance that is imperishable, undefiled, and unfading, kept in heaven for you, who by God’s power are being guarded through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.”  (1 Peter 1:3-5 ESV)

How do we know that we’re going to get this inheritance?

God has given us a guarantee, namely, His Holy Spirit.  Ephesians 1:13 tells us that we were sealed with the Holy Spirit.  The same verse tells us that this sealing was concurrent with our exercise of Word-of-Christ authored faith in and confession of Jesus Christ as the Risen Lord.

But how do we know we’ve been sealed by the Holy Spirit?  By what we are told the Spirit does, namely His testimony of our adoption.

“For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.”  (Romans 8:15-17 ESV)

Do you know that you are a child of God?  Do you know that you are a son of God by way of adoption as sons through Jesus Christ?

The Chief end.

The Catechism asks “What is the chief end of man?”  We could just as easy ask “What is the chief end of this inheritance?”

Both questions are rightly answered with reference to the glory of God. Our chief end is to glorify God.  The chief end of our inheritance is the praise of God’s glory.

Verse 12 and 14 of Ephesians 1 bear this out.  Our hope in Christ is to the praise of the glory of God in Christ Jesus (v. 12).  Our being sealed with the Holy Spirit, our eventual possession of the inheritance we have in Christ, these are both to the praise of His glory.

This is why God does this.  This is why God bothers to predestine us.  This is why God bothers to call us and give us new life in Jesus Christ through faith unto a living hope.  This is why we will someday be given a glorious inheritance by way of a resurrected imperishable, undefiled, and unfading body.  This is why He seals us with His Holy Spirit.  This is why the Spirit bears witness to our spirits that we are the sons of God.  It’s all about God’s desire to glorify Himself – to make Himself look good to all of creation both now and for ever.


Social Justice from a Sikh Perspective

Social Justice from a Sikh Perspective

Prof Upkar Singh Thethi Pardesi OBE

July 16, 2014 posted from LinkedIn

One definition of Social Justice is the desire to create a fair and socially mobile society through wealth distribution, equality of opportunity for personal development and protection of human rights. If we accept this definition, then achieving social justice is the bedrock of the Sikh faith and teachings.

Social Justice and the Sikh Scriptures

The central message of the Sikh Holy Scriptures, Sri Guru Grant Sahib Ji (SGGS) is of humanism and universal brotherhood. It is a source of inspiration for those who seek social justice, the equality of all people, the empowerment of women and of the under privileged. It is for those reasons that the text has remained alive as a guide to all those who value these fundamental principles of humanism and human integrity. The SGGS developed the concept of “Sarbat Da Bhalla” that simples translates to mean the importance of all human live, care for the environment and to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation.

A deeper interpretation of the four core tenets of the Sikh Dharam : kirat kamai (earning an honest living); wand (sharing); nishkam sewa (selfless service) and simran (prayer and contemplation) reveal how the practice of these principles contribute to the achievement of social justice.

Social Justice and the Sikh Dharam

The Sikh faith propagates the importance of self help through work to earn an honest living (kamai) and the desire for life long learning as the first step towards achieving personal development and social mobility. “Kirat Kamai” has a much more profound meaning. Kirat is work that is done with utmost passion, whether it is cleaning the streets, laying bricks or performing surgery. Passion and dedication to one’s profession leads to personal satisfaction, excellence and hopefully, sustained employment and career progression. This however is still not Kirat in its intended meaning. True Kirat kamai is when one works with passion and dedication to earn an honest living while remembering God with every stroke of the brush; laying of every brick and sewing of every stitch on a sick patient. Kirat kamai therefore brings to life the world wide concept of “Work is Worship”. Hard work (including running an honest business (sacha sauda)) helps one to climb the social ladder and provides the means for the most basic needs for survival of food, shelter and warmth.

In simple economies without state controlled systems of wealth distribution to support those not able to earn an honest living, the Sikh tenet of “wand ka shako” (share your good fortune) became a powerful driver in creating sustainable communities. Sikhs everywhere are required to donate at least one tenth of their earnings to charity and other good causes for all humanity. The numerous successful and self sustaining learning institutes, hospitals, eye camps and social housing projects around the world are testament of the durability of the principle of sharing to this day. The sharing of food that is cooked by the community and for the community is one of the most important attributes of the practice of Sikh Dharam.

Social Justice and the Sikh Kitchen

The Langar, or free kitchen, was founded by the first Sikh Guru, Guru Nanak Dev Ji. It was essentially designed to uphold the principle of equality between all people of the world regardless of religion, caste, colour, creed, age, gender or social status. In addition to the ideals of equality, the tradition of Langar expresses the ethics of sharing, community, inclusiveness and oneness of all humankind. “..the Light of God is in all hearts.” (sggs 282). Everyone is welcome to share the Langar; no one is turned away. The food is normally served twice a day, every day of the year. In many parts of the world Sikh Gurdwaras prepare Langar specifically to feed the poor because people can only work and look for social justice when they have a fully belly.

Social Justice and Sikh Service

Irrespective of the wealth of any community, there are always fellow humans who, for whatever reason, suffer disadvantage or economic deprivation. As Sikhs, we are required to do voluntary work in the community without the expectation of any reward or recognition. The core tenet of Nishkam Sewa (selfless service to humanity) encourages Sikhs to apply their manual labour and , or their professional skills to help build loving community life; to assist those less fortunate to improve their health, wellbeing and education so that they can become more active members of a socially mobile society.

Simran (prayer and contemplation) – the forth tenet of the Sikh Dharma helps an individual to meditate and to achieve self actualisation and consciousness of the need to connect with God. Practicing kirat Kamai, wand and nishkam sewa that helps other improve their lives assists an individual to reunite with his/her maker.

Social Justice and Sikh Equality

The promotion of equality has been a distinguishing feature of the Sikh faith since its conception in the late 15 century. In around 1499 when the world offered low, or no status or respect to women, Guru Nanak sought to improve the respect of women by spreading this message: “From woman, man is born; within woman, man is conceived; to woman he is engaged and married. Woman becomes his friend; through woman, the future generations come. When his woman dies, he seeks another woman; to woman he is bound. So why call her bad? From her, kings are born. From woman, woman is born; without woman, there would be no one at all. O Nanak, only the True Lord is without a woman.” (page 473). Equality and brotherhood of mankind have been emphasised in the sacred Sri Guru Granth Sahib. Guru Nanak says in Japji Sahib: “Accept all humans as your equals, and let them be your only sect” (Japji 28), and Guru Gobind Singh promoted the principle of: “manas ki jat sabhe eke paihcanbo – recognise all of mankind as a single caste of humanity”. Therefore, Sikhs believe that all human beings are equal. “We are sons and daughters of Waheguru, the Almighty”. Sikhs have to treat all peoples of the world on equal basis and without gender, racial, social or caste discrimination.

Social Justice and the Sikh Sant Sipahi

Sikhs are also required to be ready to protect and stand up for the rights of the weak among us; to fight for justice and fairness for all. Sikhs fight for human rights through the concept of “Warrior Saint” and use the term “Sant Sipahi”. Sant is used to refer to a wise, knowledgeable and Dharmic person or a “person with knowledge of God”. This concept was first developed by Guru Hargobind, and later personified in Guru Gobind Singh. The first duty of every Sikh is to be a “Sant” – to be a wise, considerate, judicious and knowledgeable person who has a good understanding of Dharam or religion. A “Sant” should also be a soldier (Sapahi) able to fight and engage in warfare. So the second duty of a Sikh is to be able and ready to fight for a worthy cause and for the protection of righteousness and the weak. Sikhs are taught to be kind as well as fearless. However, a Sikh is forbidden to ever engage in a first attack on any person for whatever reason. Only when all means have been exhausted and negotiations have failed can the sword be yielded in defence of a legitimate and worthy cause.

Although Social Justice is the one of the foundation stones of the Sikh faith, it is human centric. The much wider Sikh principle of Sarbat Da Bhalla, that embraces Social Justice, but emphasises the importance of our duty to the care of the environment and to live in harmony with the rest of God’s creation is much more powerful and relevant goal for all humans to pursue in the beginning of the third millennium.