Monday, August 25, 2014

Philippians 4:10-20 and Closing 4:21-23

GOD’S PROVISION—4:10-20 continued

The Gracious Provision—4:15-20
In this paragraph, Paul centers his thoughts on the provision of God through the Philippians. Silva calls this a theology of Christian giving.[1] As we read what Paul says there are three vitally important truths that Paul brings out:
  • Their Gracious Spirit—4:15-16. While Paul may have considered himself as financially independent and self-reliant, he was not so proud as to accept the graciousness of others on his behalf. This is especially true of the gifts sent by the Philippians. He appreciated their ministry to him. They had a gracious spirit that had a long history with Paul. Paul recalls that history in one long sentence: “You yourselves also know, Philippians, that at the first preaching of the gospel, after I left Macedonia, no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone; for even in Thessalonica you sent [a gift] more than once for my needs” (Phil. 4:15-16). This is a commendation expressed in the form of appreciation. He recalls this with gratitude for them and their ministry.
It is interesting that some look upon this passage as exceptionalism. Lightfoot says Paul is saying that his rule was not to accept gifts, but that he made an exception in their case.[2] However, I do not think the case for this can be made. There are three things that indicate this is not the case. First, the tone of the passage concerning their gracious and generous initiative is undermined if that is the case. Second, there is no indication of apostolic exceptions being granted to them. While the Philippians were exceptional in their giving to Paul, it was not because of permission granted by Paul. That goes against the idea that Paul did not ask or seek their gift. It was out of their gracious spirit that they gave and supported Paul. Third, there is a contrast set up by the phrase “no church shared with me in the matter of giving and receiving but you alone.” The clear indication is they were not prevented from doing so, but they did not volunteer to do so. This contrast is set up rather to pay the Philippians a great compliment for their concern and graciousness to him early in his European ministry, especially in Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:9, Acts 17:1-9). The term “you alone” may apply only to when Paul was in Thessalonica, where Paul evidently received regular support from the Philippians. It seems clear that eventually other churches did aid Paul—2 Corinthians 11:8-9, where the plural terms are used (churches / them), one of which was the Philippians (Acts 18:5). However, it seems clear that the Philippians were the main benefactor of Paul and his ministry. We must not miss the point here that Paul’s purpose is to highlight their gracious generosity.
  • Paul’s Motive in Receiving Gifts—4:17. The phrase “Not that I seek the gift itself” reinforces the idea that the receiving of the gift was not from a selfish motive. Gromacki points out that, “Paul never asked for support, but he did not refuse it if it came unasked from outside sources.”[3] Interestingly, Paul was criticized for not taking support (cf. 2 Cor. 11:7). However, Paul did not ask for gifts because it may appear selfish. His motive in taking freely offered gifts was not simply for his benefit, but for the benefit of the giver. Rather, Paul says it is an investment: “but I seek for the profit which increases to your account.” I am immediately struck that Paul’s motive in receiving gifts was not personal. He received them for the benefit of the giver. Giving is an investment in the gospel. The language here seems to be a blending of agricultural and commercial worlds. However, the emphasis is commercial.  Notice the words used. First, is the word profit (in our text), but fruit in the KJV. The word is karpos meaning fruit or produce, but in the general figurative sense of result, consequence, benefit, or profit.[4] From the commercial viewpoint fruit clearly is the idea of profit. Second, the word increases is pleonazo, to have abundance, more than enough, to abound, or increase. It is a participle which modifies the word fruit or profit. The law of the harvest is not only valid in the natural world, but also the spiritual—what a man sows he shall reap. Under this law you always reap more than what you sow. It is an investment that grows. That increase is credited to your account. The great spiritual truth is that in this life you cannot take it with you, but you can send it ahead. You are investing in eternity. Paul’s motive in accepting the gifts is not just for himself, but for their profit.
  • It is an acceptable sacrifice—4:18. As Paul thinks of their gift to him. He makes some interesting statements about how it affected him and his ministry. Gromacki makes three observations about the gift in relationship to Paul.[5] (1) The verb “I have all” is a business term which speaks of reimbursement. In the Greek papyri it is a technical term for receiving a sum of money due in full and giving a receipt for it.[6] Paul made an investment in them, and now that investment is returning to him. (2) The verb “I abound” indicates that the gift was over and above the actual cost. (3) The verb “I am full” indicates that their gift filled and overfilled his financial cup. Paul was reaping more than he sowed in his ministry to them.
The above speaks of physical blessings for Paul to use in his ministry, but also there was a spiritual element, it was a “fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God” (Phil. 4:18). Paul now moves from commence to the image of sacrifice. I know we often say there are no sacrifices today in this age of grace. What we mean by that there are no animal sacrifices. We need to be precise when we make such statements. There are sacrifices we can make to God today in this dispensation of grace. Giving is one of these sacrifices in this age of grace (cf. Rom. 12:1-2, Heb. 13:15). Paul says our giving is a “fragrant aroma, an acceptable sacrifice, well-pleasing to God.” This language comes directly from the Old Testament animal sacrificial system. Like the animal sacrifices, the sacrifice of giving is described in three ways:

(1) A fragrant aroma. It appears in the Old Testament a number of times (Gen. 8:21; Ex. 29:18). In Leviticus 1-5, in the instructions concerning the five types of sacrifices Israel was to offer—burnt, meal, peace, sin and trespass offerings—only three are said to be sweet smelling to God. It is the burnt offering (Lev. 1:9); the grain or meal offering (Lev. 2:12); and the peace offering (Lev. 3:5). The other two are not. Why? Ross gives us a concise answer:
The sweet-aroma offerings were made in communion and in celebration of communion: burnt offering (Lev. 1), meal offering (Lev. 2), and peace offering (Lev. 3). The non-sweet aroma sacrifices are made for communion: purification offering (Lev. 4) and reparation offering (Lev. 5).[7]
Another way to put it is that the first three offerings are sacrifices of fellowship, whereas the last two are sacrifices of redemption. “The first three were voluntary, given out of love, thanksgiving, and dedication” notes Gromacki.[8] Likewise in this age of grace the sacrifice of giving is to be the voluntary expression of love, thanksgiving and dedication. As such it is a sweet aroma to God.

(2) “An acceptable sacrifice.”  The word sacrifice is thusia meaning the act of sacrificing, offering, or service. This act is described as acceptable (dektos). It indicates approval. In this case it is divine acceptance and approval of the gift.

(3)  It is “well-pleasing to God,” In reality this sums up what is a sweet aroma and acceptable. The gift is not only acceptable, but it is well-pleasing (eudrestos). It goes beyond acceptable, to indicate pleasure in the act of giving by His people.
  • God’s Gracious Promise—4:19. Paul states that, “and My God will supply all your needs according to His riches in glory in Christ” (Phil. 4:19).  There is controversy on how to translate this verse because of a split in the manuscripts about the verb. Is the original verb plerosei (a future indicative) or plerosai (an aorist optative).  Hawthrone and O’Brien differ on which is correct.
Hawthrone argues it should be taken as an aorist optative.[9] The aorist optative (plerosai), which expresses a wish or prayer—“My God may supply.” His main points are: (1) material need is the context. (2) In similar context, Paul refuses to say what God will do, but says what God can do [2 Cor. 9:8]. (3) While the optative mood is dying out in Koine Greek, Paul does use the formula (optative) in other of his epistes, near the close, as a prayer. asking God to do something favorable for his friends [Rom. 15:5; 1 Thess. 5:23]. (4) The fact that Paul’s benediction is asking God to be present with his readers, and his grace upon them, reinforces and implies the optative is preferred. His conclusion is:
Such an interpretation (1) does not have Paul saying what God will or will not do, (2) allows God the freedom to be God, to fulfill needs or not as he sees best, even the needs of the Philippians, (3) words of disappointment or disillusionment when material, physical needs are not met, and (4) keeps one from having to make excuses for God, from drawing fine lines of distinction between needs and wants, and from pushing off the fulfillment of needs until the eschatological day to avoid any embarrassment.[10]

On the other hand, O’Brien takes the future indicative view.[11] The future indicative states a fact of what will happen—“God will supply.” It is a promise or positive declaration. Over and against Hawthorne’s view he points out: (1) “The manuscript support for the future indicative plhrwsei is both ancient and widespread.”[12]  It is more likely that a scribe read the optative in its place than the other way around. (2) Some of the wish-prayers are declarations rather than prayers [cf. 4:7; 9]. (3) Whereas Hawthorne limits the verse to their present material need, he should not; an eschatological reference is not to be excluded from the verse. It is difficult to limit needs to material, since the phrase “all your needs” extends beyond the physical. As Silva points out:
Should we view material and spiritual resources as mutually exclusive categories? While Paul does not ignore the realities of physical discomfort and suffering, his main concern is to help the Philippians find their true contentment in the peace and power of God.[13]

As to my conclusion about this controversy, my heart is with Hawthorne’s view, but my head leads me to O’Brien and that the future indicative is correct. It is the original, as seen in the major and majority of the Greek text. Our job in interpretation of the text is to be textual centered, not theologically centered. Our theology should be drawn out of the text, not vice versa. Every major Bible translation translates it as a future indicative (KJV, NKJV, NASB, NIV, ESV, NAB).
This promise is in harmony with earlier ones (Prov. 11:25; Matt. 5:7, 6:33). This verse is linked to what precedes by the conjunction (and). Like God used them to fill up Paul’s need, He will meet the Philippians needs as well. No doubt Paul reminds them of this promise because they gave more than they could afford (2 Cor. 8:2-8). This same basic promise is given to those who take part in the offering for the Jerusalem saints (2 Cor. 9:6, 8).  Giving results in eternal dividends. The object of supply is “all your need” (Phil. 4:19). Supply of need go beyond the physical, although this is certainly the main idea in this context. The basis of His supply is “according to His riches in glory in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 4:19b). The phrase “riches of glory” is found also in Ephesians. In Ephesians 1:18 we are told we to be enlightened to know the hope of His calling, the riches of the glory of His inheritance of the saints. In Ephesians 3:16 we will be strengthened according to the riches of His glory. It is His riches that we partake in to supply our needs.

The promise is not a guarantee. There can be no question we do not always see the provision of God. Constable says:
Why do so many Christians suffer because they lack food, clothing, or money in view of this promise? Perhaps it is because some of our greatest needs are not material. To meet these needs God sometimes does not make us rich or even financially comfortable. Remember too that God gave this promise to generous and sacrificial givers. We may be able to think of examples that appear to be exceptions to this promise. However, I believe if we could see things from God's perspective we would realize that God has been completely faithful to His Word.[14]
  • Doxology—4:20
Paul closes the paragraph with a doxology. Some put this with a new paragraph, but in our Bible it is the closing of the present paragraph. In view of God’s care and provision, Paul gives a doxology of praise for His glory: “Now to our God and Father [be] the glory forever and ever. Amen.” It concludes his expression of thanksgiving to God. A doxology is an expression of praise that is short and spontaneous (cf. Rom. 11:36, Gal. 1:5; Eph. 3:21; 1 Tim. 1:17, 2 Tim. 4:18, Heb. 13:21). It has three elements:[15] (1) the person to whom praise is ascribed, (2) a word of praise, and (3) a temporal description, normally an eternity formula. In most cases it is followed by an “Amen.”
The word glory in doxologies usually has the definite article. “The definite article signals to the reader that it is ‘that glory,’ ‘that honor,’ which properly belongs to God and is rightly ascribed to him,” notes Hawthorne.[16] The doxology is both worship and praise given to God for who He is and an active acknowledgement of His person.

The epistle ending falls into two parts: First the final greetings. “Greet every saint in Christ Jesus. The brethren who are with me greet you. All the saints greet you, especially those of Caesar’s household” (Phil. 4:21-22). It is noteworthy that special mention is made of “those of Caesar’s household.” This is not a reference to the Emperor’s family as such, but to those who serve the Emperor, either slaves or soldiers. It may have been that some of their own served in this capacity, since Philippi was a Roman colony.

After the exchange of greetings, Paul closes in a regular fashion, with a benediction. “The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ be with your spirit” (Phil 4:23). Paul ends the epistle where he started—with Grace (cf. 1:2).

[Author’s note: this ends our study series on Philippians. I pray it has blessed, enlightened, encouraged you as you studied this great epistle with us—Pastor Jim Gray].

[1]  Silva, WEC: PHILIPPIANS, 236.
[2]  Lightfoot, PHILIPPIANS, 164.
[3]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED IN JOY, 189.
[4]  Hauck, “karpo", akarpo", karpoyorew,” TDNT, Vol 3, 614. 
[5]  Gromacki, STAND UNITED IN JOY, 191.
[6]  O’Brien, NIGNT: PHILIPPIANS, 540.
[7]  Allan P. Ross, HOLINESS TO THE LORD, (Baker, Grand Rapids MI, 2002), 79.
[8]  Gromacki, STAND IN JOY, 192.
[9]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 208. This view was also held by Chrysostom and Luther.
[10]  Ibid, 208.
[11]  O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILLIPPIANS, 545-546
[12]  Ibid, 545.
[13]  Silva, WEC: PHILIPPIANS, 240.
[14]  Constable, NOTES ON PHILIPPIANS, 74-75.
[15]  O’Brien, NIGNT: PHILIPPIANS, 549,
[16]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 209. 

Saturday, August 23, 2014



The Gospels are unique writings. Each author presents a unique perspective of Christ. Yet all are built on three basic building blocks: (1) Kerygma: the apostolic preaching of the deeds of Jesus. (2) Didache: the apostolic teaching of the words of Jesus. (3) Passion narratives.[1]

Mark is the shortest of the Gospels, “being less than two-thirds the length of the Gospel of Luke.[2] It is not the most popular Gospel of the New Testament. However, in the last 100 years it has been given the most attention of any Gospel by scholars. It has resulted in putting to rest the idea that this is an abridgment of the other gospels, but rather is an independent completed work. Mark is part of what is known as the Synoptic Gospels. The Synoptic Gospels are Matthew, Mark, and Luke. The word synoptic means alike or see together, for they cover the same basic ground, how be it, from a different perspective. Most scholars hold to some form of literary interdependence as an answer to exact agreement of certain portions of the Synoptic Gospels. Debate centers on various forms of interdependence. The introduction to Luke seems to be against a strict independence (Luke 1:1-4). Most of scholarship now holds that Mark was the primary source for Matthew and Luke. However, this is not a universally held position. There are four main reasons for this:
  • First, in the case of Matthew, why would he need or want to use someone else’s account, since he was an eyewitness and likely recorder of the ministry of Christ. This cheapens the Biblical account of the promise made to the apostles that the Holy Spirit would “bring to your remembrance all things that I said to you” (John 14:26).”[3] Matthew is the only synoptic writer that was a primary eyewitness of the ministry of Jesus.
  • Second, it “is the product of liberal scholarship’s denial of God’s involvement in the authorship of Scriptures.”[4]
  • If the date of the gospel is in the middle to late 60’s, to be a primary source for Matthew and Luke would almost force a date after the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 AD. This is highly unlikely.
  • Third, it denies and neglects the testimony of the Church Fathers. These men were the closest to the Apostles, some even being students of the Apostles, yet, no hint of Mark being the first written Gospel.


Like the other gospels, the Gospel of Mark does not state the name of the author. Beyond question the majority see this as the work of Mark, the companion of Paul, Barnabas and Peter. Internal evidence is slight.  However, it is material from Peter that Mark used as his major source. It may well be that he places himself in the Gospel, being the young man in Mark 14:51, 52. We know it was the house of the mother of Mark that was a meeting house for believers (Acts 12). If so, he was well acquainted with the Apostles and the early followers of Jesus. Some feel he makes a autobiographical reference to himself in Mark 14:51-52. There are indications that he came from a well to do family. He was a cousin of Barnabas (Col. 1:4), and accompanied him and Paul on part of the first missionary journey. He was associated with Paul (2 Tim. 4:11) and Peter (1 Peter 5:13).

The external evidence comes from church history. Mark became Peter’s interpreter and wrote accurately all that he remembered, not, indeed, in order, of the things said and done by the Lord” claims Eusebius.[5] These are the words of Papias (ca. A.D. 110). France calls this connection one of the “most persistent features of early Christian tradition.[6] Behind this statement is the fact that Mark’s gospel is backed by an eyewitness (Peter) account and was accurately recorded. Early traditions are universal in their attributing authorship to Mark. These traditions are not only early, but they are widespread.[7] Grassmick reminds us that, “Though not explicitly stated, most interpreters assume that the Mark mentioned by the church fathers is the same as ‘John (Hebrew name), also called Mark’ (Latin name) referred to 10 times in the New Testament (Acts 12:12, 24; 13:5, 13; 15:37, 39; Col. 4:10; 2 Tim. 4:11; Phile. 24; 1 Peter 5:13).”[8] Peter refers to him as his “son” was with him in “Babylon” (i.e. Rome)—1 Peter 5:13. Moreover, Mark reveals details and events about Peter that are only told in his Gospel (Mark 1:36; 11:21; 13:3; 16:7).

Another consideration is that it unlikely that the church would attribute the authorship to a secondary person like Mark over an apostle, unless he was the actual writer. There is no real reason to question this tradition. As Cranfield notes, “The unanimous tradition of the early Church that the author of the gospel was Mark, the associate, is not open to serious doubt.”[9] Modern scholarship has a propensity to look at tradition early church writings with great suspicions.  However, there is no reason to doubt that John Mark, companion of both Peter and Paul, wrote this gospel. It should be noted, as in the case of all the synoptic gospels, the authorship was not unknown to the original audience.


It is not possible to date the synoptic gospels, including Mark, with precision. The debated area is whether Mark wrote the Gospel before or after Peter’s death. The early tradition is divided. The testimony of Papias and Irenaeus places the writing after Peter’s death, on the other hand, Clement of Alexandria and Origen placed it during Peter’s lifetime. If this is so, it would have been when Peter was in Rome, since tradition says the Gospel was written from Rome. The general acceptable date for Peter’s martyrdom was around 67-68 A.D. Although there is no clear evidence as to when Peter came to Rome, however all the evidence we have points to his being there in the 60’s. This evidence is threefold:
  • First, Peter wrote his first epistle from Rome (i.e. Babylon in 1 Peter 5:13 is surely a reference to Rome) which dates around 63 AD.[10]
  • Second, 2 Peter is dated toward the end of his life, somewhere between 65 to 68 AD.
  • Third, we know that Mark was in Rome at the same time. 1 Peter 5:13 indicates Mark was with Peter in Rome. We also have the statement of Papias that Mark was the interpreter of Peter.[11]  While it is plausible that both were in Rome before the 60’s there is no hard evidence before the 60’s.[12] This would mean that Mark wrote this sometime from 63 to 70 A.D,[13] since there is no indication that the Temple had been destroyed.
  • All the evidence we have concerning Mark indicates that he was only in Rome during the 60’s. We know that Mark was in Rome as early at 61 AD with Paul during the first imprisonment (cf. Col. 4:10).  This association is well attested in the writings in the Church Fathers. Although modern scholars seem to neglect and downplay the early writings.

Some have suggested earlier dates based on the idea of a Roman trip in Acts 12, placing the date in the early to mid 40’s.[14] This is based on the fact that Peter went “into another place” (Acts 12:17), and it is speculated that place was Rome. It also presumes that Mark went with him or joined him in Rome. If this were true, then Mark would clearly be the first gospel written. However, two things are against this view: First, it is speculation. There is no indication or proof of Peter or Mark in Rome that early.  Second, it goes against all early tradition and writings of the church.

To suggest that it was written after 70 AD, as some do, is to go against the tone of the Gospel itself. Most that hold to a late date see Mark 13 as historical, not prophetic. They deny or downgrade the doctrine of inspiration, and hold that the text integrity is to be questioned.

There is no reason to deny the historical view of the time as 63 to 70 A.D. Cranfield is more precise: “We may date the gospel between 65-70, and probably, since chapter xiii is not colored by any awareness of the actual events of the Jewish War of 66-70 (contrast Lk. xxi. 20-4), we should date it before the later stages of the war—so within the narrower period 65-70.”[15] If this is a solid date, then to hold the priority of Mark one must hold that Mathew and Luke must be have been written between the writing of Mark and the destruction of Jerusalem. It would have to also show that there was enough time for Mark to be distributed wide enough to be able to be used by the other Gospel writers.

Historical Situation

If our date of authorship is correct, it gives us a clue to the situation of the Christians in Rome. History tells us that the great fire of Rome was the summer of 64 AD. Tactius opens this period of history with the words “Disaster followed.”[16] It was a disaster not only for the Roman citizens, but also the Christian church. Christians became the scapegoats for the fire. The blame on Christians was a fabrication of Nero himself.[17] This set off the first great persecution against Christians. He arrested Christians. He executed them by various means, including wrapping them up in animal skins and turning the dogs on them to be torn to pieces by dogs, crucifixion, and other ruthless punishment. This persecution was mainly local and short-lived, but “they introduced the Church to martyrdom.”[18] Lane says this is reflected in the writing of Mark. “When Mark was read in Christian gatherings there were notes peculiarly appropriate to the Roman situation.”[19] He points to such references to Jesus was faced the wild beasts (1:13), would have been filled with special significance to the readers who would stand face to face in the presence of wild beasts. The reminder of Judas as the betrayer (3:19) knew that experience as they also were betrayed by friends to the government.[20] This time of Roman history is reflected in the work of Mark.


The earliest tradition almost uniformly agrees that Mark was written in Rome. Tradition tells us that John Mark wrote down the memories of Peter about the life and work of Jesus, but not in chronological order. The arguments for Rome as the place of writing consist of the following points:
  • The number of Latin terms used instead of the Greek equivalents (6:27; 7:4; 12:14; 15:15, 16, 39), indicate a Gentile audience.
  • The Jewish customs had to be explained (7:2-4; 12:42; 14:12).
  • Translates Aramaic words and sentences when introduced (3:17; 5:41; 7:11, 34; 14:36; 15:22, 34).
  • Use of Latin technical terms are preferred, i.e. centurion, legion, flagellare, quadroons.
  • Only Mark identifies Simon of Cyrene as the father of Alexander and Rufus (Mark 5:9; Romans 16:13). Rufus was living in Rome.
  • Reckons time by the Roman method (6:48; 13:35).
  • It is consistent with the historical likelihood that Peter was in Rome at the end of his life, along with evidence that Mark was in Rome about the same time (cf. 2 Tim. 4:11; 1 Peter 5:13).
  • The early church Fathers are unanimous that Mark wrote from Rome for Gentile Christians.

Other suggestions have been made, including Egypt and Syria. However, as Cranfield concludes: “The arguments in favor of Rome are not conclusive, but they are much stronger than those put forward in support of any other place.”[21] Guelich observes: “It appears that the rejection of Rome stems more from the rejection of the Papias’s tradition associating Mark with Peter than from any hard evidence.[22]

Mark’s priority

It is common today for scholars to say that Mark was the first gospel written, and the others synoptic gospels copied Mark to some extent. This view has come about in the last 100 years. Markan priority is based on the fact that Mark contains 90% of what is in Matthew, and 40% of what is in Luke. Mark’s order is found in the two other gospels. Matthew and Luke rarely disagree with Mark when they all deal with the same subject. However, at the same time, there are places where Matthew and Luke agree against Mark. Luke omits a large part of Mark (cf. Mark 6:45-8:26). This view is based on the assumption that Mark was written first, which is questionable. Mark, traditionally is held was written in the late 60’s. To hold this view one must either push the date of Mark forward or push back the date of Matthew and Luke from their traditional dates. Most holding this view push Matthew and Luke as being written after the fall of Jerusalem. This I believe is unlikely.

I tend to hold to a Matthew priority (although not well accepted in the academic world). This is based largely on five factors:
  • First, I am not convinced that Matthew and Luke copied from Mark. It is possible Mark used Matthew, if not Luke as well. I do not deny there may have been some type of interdependence among the writers, which is noted by Luke (1:1-4).
  • Second, the subject matter of Matthew seems to be more primitive than the other gospels. This is indicated by its strong Jewish nature. This primitive nature points to an early date of Matthew.
  • Third, and more importantly, is the date of Mark. Tradition and most scholars are certain that Mark used Peter as a primary source and written from Rome. However, tradition is divided as to him writing before or after Peter’s death. Either way, it points to a date in the mid to late 60’s, when Peter was in Rome. That date seems to be fairly well fixed. Indications are that both Matthew and Luke were written earlier. I see the date of Matthew as early 50’s, maybe in the 40’s. While Luke’s Gospel seems to date to the early 60’s at the latest, and must have been before Acts which dates around 62-63 A.D. It is clear from the opening of Acts, that Luke was the first of Luke’s two volume work and already written. If our dating of the Gospel’s are correct, it would be impossible for them to copy Mark.
  • Fourth, there was an oral tradition that was widely known at the time. This tradition may be evident by the sayings of Jesus that is not found in the gospels (cf. Acts 20:35; 1 Cor. 7:10).
  • Fifth, is the work of the Holy Spirit in the writing of the gospels, a neglected aspect by much of critical scholarship. The Holy Spirit was able to bring to mind to each of the Gospel writers the same details (2 Peter 1:21). While one cannot be dogmatic on the order and priority of the gospels, in reality it matters little on the correct interpretation and understanding of Mark.


Mark is the gospel of action and centers on the deeds of Christ. It begins with the ministry of John, omitting the nativity and genealogy. It centers upon Jesus as servant, therefore, birth and ancestry are not needed, since service and performance is of primary concern. While the mention of the fact of Jesus teaching is repeatedly stated (1:21, 39; 2:2, 12; 6:2, 6:34; 6:2, 34; 10:1; 12:35), little of the actual teaching discourses are recorded by Mark. He is more concerned with activity and action.

A key word is the action word “immediately” (euthus), moving swiftly from one event to another, and is used 41 times. This is the action gospel and events move rapidly. He presents Jesus as the working servant, note the teaching rabbi. “What he wrought authenticates what He taught” observes Baxter.[23] When one considers a servant, one focuses primarily on his work and acts of service. The gospel gives the miracles prominent place as they are actions by our Lord. The actions are described with vividness and detail, making the event living and personal. Mark is quite the storyteller. “His episodes often leave the impression of being given by an eyewitness” observes Hiebert.[24] No doubt this impression is from Mark seeing through the eyes of Peter. There is a certain feeling of interaction. One reads of the emotion and reactions of the event, not simply the recording of the facts of the events. One sees and feels the gazes, touches, sorrows, warmness, and sensations involved with these events. It is the most personable and vivid of the gospels.

In light of Christ being a servant, it has been suggested that the book is divided as in Mark 10:45—“For even the son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life a ransom for many.” In this verse we see the purpose of Jesus as service. Mark emphasizes in the first half of the book, the Son of Man serving and ministering to the people (Luke 1:1-10:52). The second half deals with the Son of Man giving His life as a ransom (Luke 11:1-15:47).[25]

Mark was writen to aid oral transmission of the Gospel. Oral transmission is more than just memorizing the text. Oral transmission is reading the text in the assemblies as well. In a day when only 10-20 percent of the population was literate, oral transmission was a norm for transmitting news, education, the gospel, storytelling, etc. Mark is designed in short snapshots to aid that process. Mark has been called the storyteller of the gospel authors. As a storyteller he plays the role of narrator. France notes that: “The features which make Mark’s book so easy to read are to a large extent those which are characteristic of ‘oral history.’ ”[26]

Mark designs his narrative around Jesus and three major groups of people. Throughout Mark these groups are depicted a number of times:
  • Scribes and Pharisees.
  • The Crowd.
  • The Disciples.

His purpose is not directly stated in the gospel. Many point to Mark 10:45, saying Mark’s purpose was that of servanthood. However, there are three factors that must be considered:
  • First, Mark does not quote any support of Christ as the Servant from the Old Testament (cf. Isaiah 42:1-4). Certainly, Mark does not make the connection as Matthew does (cf. Mark 3:1-12; Matthew 12:10-21).
  • Second, there is little emphasis on Christ as the Servant. Nowhere is the word servant applied as a title for Christ. He is called Lord; Son of Man; Christ; Teacher; Rabbi; Son of Man; Prophet; The Holy One, etc. But none that would be used of a servant.
  • Third, Mark 10:45 seem to be limited in scope, being applied only to that particular section. Mark seems to use the first verse as the theme of presenting Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Mark 1:1). If so, the emphasis is on His deity and humanity. He wants to present a personal Jesus, not just give a historical or biographical account. He presents his readers with the feel of the real Jesus, who is the Messiah, the Son of God. To do this he recorded compact and vivid pictures of Jesus. He presents snapshots of the active life of Jesus. This feature is distinguishable from the other synoptic gospels. In Mark, actions speak louder than words. This is seen by the brevity to the words of Jesus in this gospel. The words of Jesus are found 278 times in Mark, whereas in Luke there are 588, and Matthew 640 times.[27]

A key element in Mark is suffering in the life of Jesus (1:12-13; 3:21-22, 30-35; 8:34-38; 10:30, 33-34; 13:8, 11-13). Remember suffering was a relevant aspect of living in Rome in the sixties. This element spoke directly to the readers of this gospel. One third of the Gospel deals with the passion of Jesus. Mark writes a theological and pastoral gospel, which aims at edification. He deals with the Son of God in suffering. He makes Jesus’ example one to follow (10:45)—enduring suffering; displaying faithfulness, and obedience in spite of suffering. Discipleship and its nature, which involve suffering, are a key element and purpose. It is a vital condition of humanity exemplified by Jesus. The readers “needed to understand the nature of discipleship—what it means to follow Jesus—in light of who Jesus is and what He had done and would keep doing for them” notes Grassmick.[28] The purpose of Mark is pastoral. It was (1) to strengthen Christians and to provide them with a basis for faithfulness to Jesus at a time when Christian identity posed the threat of arrest and humiliating death (1 Peter 4:12-5:14). (2) To show that Christians can suffer no form of humiliation or indignity that has not been endured already by Jesus their Lord.[29] Its purpose seems to be to support the faithful in Rome to remain steadfast, and to support them in the face of the threat of martyrdom.

Brief Outline

I.                   Introduction of the Son of God (1:1-13)

A.    Title (1:1)
B.     The Introducer of the Son: John the Baptist (1:2-8)
C.     The Inauguration of the Son: Baptism (1:9-11)
D.    The Inspection of the Son: Temptation (1:12-13)

II.                Ministry of the Son of God (1:14-13:37)

A.    Events in Galilee (1:14-4:34)
B.     Events outside of Galilee (4:35-9:50)
C.     Events in Jerusalem (10:1-13:37)

III.             Sacrifice of the Son of God (14:1-15:47)

A.    Plotting against the Son (14:1-11)
B.     Passover (14:12-25)
C.     Prayer and Arrest in the Garden (14:26-52)
D.    Prosecution of Jesus (14:53-15:20a)
E.     Pain of Crucifixion (15:20b-41)
F.      Plot for Burial (15:42-47)

IV.             Resurrection of the Son of God (16:1-20).

[1]  Lane, William, LECTURE NOTES,, 1998.
[2]  Hiebert, D. Edmond, THE GOSPEL OF MARK, (Bob Jones University Press, Greenville, SC, 1994) 12.
[3]  Gary W Derickson, “Matthean Priority/Authorship and Evangelicalism’s Boundary” TMSJ 12, 87.
[4]  Ibid, 96.
[5]  Eusebius, ECCLESIASTICAL HISTORY, 3.39.15-16.
[6]  France, R.T., NIGTC: THE GOSPEL OF MARK, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 2002). 7.
[7]  Stein, Robert, BECNT: MARK, (Baker, Grand Rapids, 2008), 2-4.
[8]  Grassmick, John D., “Mark,” THE BIBLE KNOWLEDGE COMMENTARY, (Victor, Wheaton, 1993), 95.
[9]  Cranfield, C.E.B., CGTC: ST MARK, (Cambridge, New York, 1954), 5.
[10]  Schreiner, Thomas R., NAC: 1, 2 PETER, JUDE, (Broadman & Holman, Nashville, 2013),  37.
[11]  Meyer, M.W., “Mark, John”, INTERNATIONAL STANDARD BIBLE ENCYCLOPEDIA, Revised, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1979) 3:260.
[12]  Grassmick, BKC: MARK, 99, argues the possible and dates the book around 57-59, but does so on the premise of the priority of Mark, and gives no hard evidence for Mark and Peter being in Rome in the 50’s.
[13]  Constable, Thomas L., NOTES ON MARK, ( 1913), 2.
[14]  Wenham, John, REDATING MATTHEW, MARK & LUKE, (InterVarsity Press, Downers Grove, IL, 1992), 139.
[15]  Cranfield, CGTC: MARK, 8.
[16]  Lane, William L., NICNT: MARK, (Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1974), 14.
[17]  Tactius, Annuals, XV.44.
[18]  Lane, NICNT: Mark, 14-15.
[19]  Ibid, 15.
[20]  Ibid, 15.
[21]  Cranfield, CGTC: MARK, 9.
[22]  Guelich, Robert A., WBC:  MARK 1-8:26, (Word, Dallas TX, 1989), xxx.
[23]  Baxter, J. Sidow, Mark: EXPLORE THE BOOK, (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, 1960), 5:189.
[24]  Hiebert, MARK, 13.
[25]  Barbieri, Louis, MGC: MARK, (Moody, Chicago, 1995), 23.
[26]  France, NIGTC: MARK, 16.
[27]  Hendricksen, William, NTC: THE GOSPEL OF MARK, (Baker, Grand Rapids, 1975). 19
[28]  Grassmick, BKC: MARK, 101.
[29]  Lane, LECTURE NOTES, 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014


"God's forgiveness of the believing sinner is not becuase He decides to be enient and show pity to the sinner. God cannot retain His holiness and show leniency toward sin. Sin must be paid for and its penalty applied. The Lord Jesus Christ paid the full penalty for man's sin. He fully satisfied every demand of the offended righteousness of God. The Saviour God can and does forgive the believing sinner all his trespasses. The guilt and condemnation incurred by sin are forever removed (Col. 1:14; 2:13; 3:13; Eph. 1:7; 4:32). That is what forgiveness is all about. Divine forgiveness is the erasing, the removing of sin's condemnation."

--Robert P. Lightner

Monday, August 11, 2014

PHILIPPIANS 4:10-20 (Part 1)

God’s Provision—4:10-20

At last, Paul turns and gives his response to the gracious gift that he had received from the Philippians by way of their emissary, Epaphroditus. The word “But” (de) indicates a transition from one subject to another.  The offering is one of the main reasons Paul wrote the epistle, and he alludes to it in his opening (1:3, 5). He now turns to it in earnest, as he closes this great epistle.
It is interesting to see Paul’s attitude toward this offering. Paul in other epistles championed the right of Pastors being supported. He did not hesitate to ask for support for others (1 Cor. 16:1-3; 2 Cor. 8-9), but never for himself. His instruction and argument for supporting the servant of God is found in 1 Corinthians 9. In that chapter he presents the following points that Pastors have the right to be paid:
  • Because of his position (9:1-6)
  • It’s the natural order (9:7)
  • It’s God’s law (9:8-10)
  • It is just (9:11-12)
  • It was common religious practice (9:13)
  • It is directed by the Lord (9:14).
However, Paul says he and other servants have a right to voluntarily serve without demanding the support (1 Cor. 9:17-18). Paul makes it clear that he did not demand this right, nor denounce this right, but rather chose to support himself in ministry (1 Cor. 9:15). He did so for three reasons: (1) to show that the Gospel of God’s free grace was without charge—1 Cor. 9:18. (2) To protect his ministry from the charge of greed—1 Thess. 2:5-6. (3) To set an example of true liberty in ministry—2 Thess. 3:7-9.  The choice, however, is to be the servant’s choice; not the congregation’s. The church is to accept the responsibility to support their Pastor.
The emphasis here in Philippians is that of thankfulness for their voluntary gracious gift to him. He did not seek it, but because of their graciousness it was sent. He was grateful for what he had received. He saw this as the provision of God and a sign of love from the people.
In this ending section of Philippians, Paul centers his thoughts on two clear-cut themes: contentment (4:10-14) and provision (4:15-20). Someone once observed that what we see in this section is the satisfaction and the satisfier. Paul expresses gratitude and rejoices for those instruments God used to provide and his contentment with those gifts. The keynotes are joy and thanksgiving.

In Need and Contentment—4:10-14.

Paul begins by openly declaring his Joy: “But I rejoice in the Lord greatly” (Phil 4:10a). A grateful heart is a rejoicing heart. As we look at Paul’s joy we see three things:
·         The place of his joy was “in the Lord.” Paul had already indicated twice in this epistle that rejoicing is done in the Lord (3:1; 4:4). These both are commands for us to rejoice in the Lord. However here Paul indicates that he does what he commands others to do. He recognizes and rejoices in Him because of His working and provision to us in this world in which we live. We should also recognize that joy and rejoicing are an expression of gratitude or thanksgiving, which is clearly indicated in this section. It is also an element of praise to the Lord.
·         We see the intensity of Paul’s rejoicing in the adjective “greatly.” The Greek word (megalos) is used only here in the New Testament. It certainly means greatly or vehemently, indicating the size or degree of rejoicing. It describes not only intensity, but also the immensity of his rejoicing.
·         The immediate cause of the rejoicing was the expression of concern from the Philippians—“that now at last you have revived your concern for me; indeed, you were concerned [before], but you lacked opportunity” (Phil. 1:10b). The conjunction that is oti in the Greek and better translated because. It indicates with what follows as the basis for his rejoicing. It is interesting that Paul does not directly mention the gift that they sent in this section. Rather, he uses the word concern. The Greek word is phroneo, which has the basic meaning of to think, to mind, thus to take thought of, to be mindful, or be considerate. It is more than thinking about them; it “describes an active interest in that person’s affairs.”[1] This concern includes their gift, but is not limited to it, and is a much wider expression. The gift was a product and portion of their concern.
The phrase “you have revived your concern for me” is a little misleading. The translation “your care of me hath flourished again” (Phil. 1:10, KJV) is closer to the idea. The word translated revived is anathallo, meaning to grow or bloom again. It is found only here in the New Testament. The phrase to our ear sounds negative, but it is far from that. It also sounds like they had lost interest, but now revived it. However, that is not the case. No reproach is indicated in the phrase. It blooms again because now they have opportunity to bloom afresh, like fruit trees in the springtime. Before this the opportunity was not present. The reason for the absence of opportunity is not given. O’Brien points out that this can be taken either as an accusative of reference (you flourished again with regard to your thoughtful concern for me) or as a causative (you caused your concern for me to flourish again).[2] The difference is slight, although I favor the accusative of reference.
Upon expressing his joy for their concern, Paul turns to the relationship of need and contentment. I see this as an explanation of how to handle the cycles of economics. He explains:
  • His joy is expressed not out of his own want—“Not that I speak from want” (Phil. 1:11a). Silva makes a good point that Paul goes into this explanation not out of his own needs, but for those of the Philippians. He is writing this for their sake. Silva writes:
We must keep in mind that this passage is flanked by a reference to the Philippians’ anxiety over their needs (4:6-7) and by a promise that God will supply their needs (4:19). The Philippians need to hear—and to see exemplified in the apostle—that the enjoyment of material abundance is not the basis for contentment. [3]
This expression does not necessarily reflect Paul’s present financial condition, although it may seem so. Paul being in prison means he would not have any needs that were not taken care of. “Instead, he simply claims that he has not written ‘in language dictated by want.’ Therefore the supply of such a want cannot be the motive for his joy.”[4]
  • Life has taught him much about contentment—“for I have learned to be content in whatever circumstances I am” (Phil. 1:11b). For (gar) is a conjunction of reason, used to give the reason why he did not speak from need. The word learned is the first verb of three important verbs in verses 11-12: manthono (v. 11) meaning to learn by practice or experience; oida (v. 12 twice) meaning to know; and mythos (v12) meaning to learn a lesson, to be instructed. All three of these verbs have a common trait: it is to know or learn by instruction or experience. Lessons about contentment take two elements: time and experience. For “I know how to get along with humble means, and I also know how to live in prosperity; in any and every circumstance I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need” (Phil 1:12). God teaches us not only by the Word, but also the school of experience. “I have learned” of verse 11, is a constative aorist which sums up his learning experience,[5] and speaks of Paul’s Christian experience from the point of his conversion to his imprisonment.
The word “content” (v. 11) is the Greek word autarkes, a rare word that is only used here. It has the meaning of sufficient, adequate, competence, or content with one’s lot. However, it is related to the word autarxeia (1 Cor. 2:9) which carries the meaning of full sufficiency and in 1 Timothy 6:6 translated contentment. In Greek Stoic thought it is taken as self-sufficiency, however, in the New Testament it centers upon God-sufficiency.
  • He had learned the secret of contentment—“I have learned the secret of being filled and going hungry, both of having abundance and suffering need. I can do all things through Him who strengthens me” (Phil. 4:12b-13). The phrase “I have learned the secret” leads to the statement of verse 13: “I can do all things through Him who strengthens me.” The secret is the empowerment by God. His sufficiency in our lives. Lloyd-Jones calls this one of the most staggering statements in Scripture. He declares, “It is a statement that is characterized at one and the same time by a sense of triumph and by humility.”[6] Here Paul declares the secret of its essence. In other places he has declared it in more theological terms (cf. Eph. 1:19-20), but now he presents it in a concise manner. In essence he tells us: (1) He has been given the ability to be content (I can do all things). It should be noted here that this phrase is not a warrant for extraordinary power or strength in the physical realm. It does not make us into physical supermen and that we can do anything. Such a suggestion is misleading. The all things must be taken in context and refers to the adverse and the good circumstances identified in the text. (2) The channel or source of this ability is through Him, i.e. Christ. It should be pointed out the word through is the proposition en, taken most as a preposition of source. However, while this is possible, O’Brien says it is better to take it in an incorporative sense, thus meaning “in vital union with the one who strengthens me.[7] Taken as such it adds not only the idea of source, but also cooperation with the source. This indicates that the power is accessible to all who will yield or cooperate with Christ in full surrender. (3) This ability or power is infused in me by this outside source (cf. 1 Tim1:12; 2 Tim. 4:17). The key word is strengthens (endynamoo) which means to empower, to acquire strength, or to be invigorated. It points to the powerful action of the One who empowers Paul to make him content regardless of the circumstances. This makes clear that the secret of contentment is not inherent in Paul’s ability. It is by the power infused in him by another—i.e. Christ. Thus, the secret of contentment is surrender to Christ for His empowerment to withstand all circumstances and situations.
He ends with a personal note of commendation which brings it back to their offering. “Nevertheless, you have done well to share [with me] in my affliction” (Phil. 4:14). He begins with the conjunction plien, which can be translated in a number of ways: but, nevertheless, yet, or notwithstanding. This conjunction here indicates two things: (1) it underscores that his contentment was not based upon their gift. (2) It returns him to the task of affirming and encouraging them for their personal care and concern.[8]
One will notice in this commendation, the Apostle centers upon their ministry to him. Few recognize that ministry is mutual in its very essence in the church. The church is the Body of Christ, each part has a purpose, and each purpose strengthens the whole. Is this not taught in 1 Corinthians 12 (especially verse 12:7)? Surely, Paul and the Philippians are experiencing a mutual ministry to one another. Paul edifies and encourages them and they edify and encourage him. Both support one another. Here Paul expresses his encouragement to them in two ways:
  • He commends them for their sharing. The Greek word used here is very interesting. It is the word synkonomeo, it means to be a joint partaker, or participate with another, an accomplice, and here denotes to actively relieve or sympathize. It is related to the word fellowship (cf. Phil. 1:5, 7). There is no question that translating it sharing entails participation, but being an aorist participle refers exclusively to the recent offering. It denotes the manner of their participation.  His commendation is reinforced by the words “you have done well.” Paul does not want them to somehow get the idea that because of what he learned about contentment that the gift was unappreciated. He commends them for taking such action.
  • Second, he affirms to them that he is still experiencing affliction. However, he also affirms that they are sharing in that affliction by their participation in his ministry. The Greek text literally reads: “sharing in my affliction.” (The words with me are not in the Greek text, and have been added by the translators supposedly to add clarity.) Hawthorne catches the essence when he writes: “By the practical sympathy of the Philippians in providing material help for Paul and in sending Epaphroditus to him, they had indeed become partners with him in his imprisonment and sufferings, although they were many miles removed from him.”[9]

[1]  Hawthorne, WBC:PHILIPPIANS, 196.
[2]  O’Brien, NIGNT: PHILIPPIANS, 518.
[3]  Silva, WEC: PHILIPPIANS, 234.
[4]  O’Brien, NIGHT: PHILIPPIANS, 520.
[5]  Ibid, 520.
[6]  Lloyd-Jones, D. Martyn, THE LIFE OF PEACE, (Baker, Grand Rapids, 1993), 216.
[7]  O’Brien, NIGNT: PHILIPPIANS, 527.
[8]  Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 202.
[9]  Ibid, 202.