Grace to You Devotionals

GTY Devotionals

December 4

Progressive Revelation

"God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son" (Heb. 1:1-2).

The Old Testament is but a sample of what is revealed in the New Testament.

When Jesus said, "Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets [the Old Testament]; I did not come to abolish, but to fulfill" (Matt. 5:17), He was affirming that Scripture progressed from promise to fulfillment, from partial to complete. We call that progressive revelation.

For example, the Old Testament anticipated Christ's coming; the New Testament records His coming. The Old Testament writers didn't understand everything they wrote because it didn't always apply to their day. That's why Peter said, "As to this salvation, the prophets who prophesied of the grace that would come to you made careful search and inquiry, seeking to know what person or time the Spirit of Christ within them was indicating as He predicted the sufferings of Christ and the glories to follow. It was revealed to them that they were not serving themselves, but you, in these things which now have been announced to you through those who preached the gospel to you by the Holy Spirit" (1 Pet. 1:10-12).

Progressive revelation doesn't at all imply that the Old Testament is inaccurate. The distinction isn't in the rightness or wrongness of the revelation, but in its completeness. Just as a child progresses from letters to words to sentences, so God's revelation progressed from types, ceremonies, and prophecies to final completion in Jesus Christ and the New Testament.

Though incomplete by New Testament standards, the Old Testament is nonetheless fully inspired by God. That's affirmed often in the New Testament. Peter tells us that no human writer of the Old Testament wrote of his own will, but only as he was directed by the Holy Spirit (2 Pet. 1:21). Paul added that "all Scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, [and] for training in righteousness" (2 Tim. 3:16, emphasis added).

The Old Testament isn't all of God's truth, but all of it is true. And as you progress from the Old to the New, you see God's character and redemptive plan unfolding in greater detail.

Suggestion for Prayer

Praise God for the fullness of revelation you enjoy in Scripture.

For Further Study

Memorize 2 Timothy 3:16-17.

From Drawing Near by John MacArthur Copyright © 1993. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

December 4

Christ's Equality with God

“[Christ] did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped” (Philippians 2:6).

Christ is equal with God but willingly yielded His divine privileges for our sake.

At the time Christ lived, even His worst enemies, the apostate religious leaders, knew what Jesus claimed about Himself. John 5:18 says, “The Jews were seeking all the more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the Sabbath, but was also calling God His own Father, making Himself equal with God.” In Philippians 2:6 Paul affirms Christ’s claim of equality with God. The Greek word translated “equality” (isos) describes things that are exactly equal in size, quantity, quality, character, and number. Isomorph (equal form), isometric (equal measures), and isosceles triangle (a triangle with two sides of equal measure) are all English terms that describe equality. Christ is equal to God, and He exists in the form of God. A literal English rendering of the Greek text is: “He did not regard the being equal with God”— a tremendous affirmation of the deity of Christ.

The first step in the humiliation of Christ was that He did not hold on to equality with God. Though He had all the rights, privileges, and honors of Godhood, Christ didn’t grasp them. The word translated “grasp” originally meant “robbery” or “a thing seized by robbery.” It eventually came to mean anything clutched, embraced, held tightly, clung to, or prized. Paul meant that though He was always and forever God, Christ refused to cling to His favored position with all its rights and honors. He was willing to give them up for a season.

The Incarnation expresses the humility and unselfish nature of the Second Person of the Trinity. Christ looked down on wretched sinners who hated Him and willingly yielded His privileges to give Himself for their sake. Let us follow His example by being humble and living unselfishly for others.

Suggestions for Prayer

Thank the Lord for His example of humility and unselfishness.

For Further Study

Read John 10:38; 14:9.

  • What did Christ say about His relationship with the Father?
  • In John 20:28 how did Thomas address Christ?
From Strength for Today by John MacArthur Copyright © 1997. Used by permission of Crossway Books, a division of Good News Publishers, Wheaton, IL 60187, www.crossway.com.

December 4

Reading for Today:

  • Daniel 11:1–12:13
  • Psalm 138:1-3
  • Proverbs 29:16
  • 1 John 2:1-29

Notes:

Daniel 11:2–45 As in 8:3–26, this prophecy sweeps all the way from the history of spiritual conflict in Israel (11:2–35) to the Tribulation (vv. 36–42) when Michael aids in fully delivering Israel (12:1). The detail of this history is so minute and accurate, so confirmed by history, that unbelieving critics have, without evidence, insisted that it was actually written 400 years later than Daniel, after it had happened, which would make the prophet a deceiver. The prophecy actually looks ahead from Daniel to the final Antichrist.

Daniel 11:31 defile the sanctuary. Antiochus’s soldiers, no doubt working with apostate Jews, guarded the temple, halting all worship, while others attacked the city on the Sabbath, slaughtering men, women, and children. Soldiers desecrated Israel’s temple, banned circumcision and daily sacrifices (1 Macc. 1:44–54), and sacrificed a pig on the altar. The Syrians on Chislev (Dec. 15, 167 B.C.) even imposed an idol statue in honor of the Olympian god Zeus into the temple. Jews called it “the abomination that causes desolation,” i.e., emptying or ruining for Jewish worship. abomination of desolation. Antiochus’s soldiers profaned God’s temple by spreading sow’s broth on the altar and banning daily sacrifices (8:14) as described in 1 Maccabees 1:44–54. Both Daniel and Jesus said this atrocity was only a preview of the abomination that would happen later under the final Antichrist (9:27; Matt. 24:15).

1 John 2:16 all that is in the world. While the world’s philosophies and ideologies and much that it offers may appear attractive and appealing, that is deception. Its true and pervasive nature is evil, harmful, ruinous, and satanic. Its deadly theories are raised up against the knowledge of God and hold the souls of men captive (2 Cor. 10:3–5). lust. John uses the term negatively here for a strong desire for evil things. flesh. The term refers to the sin nature of man; the rebellious self dominated by sin and in opposition to God (Rom. 7:15–25; 8:2–8; Gal. 5:19–21). Satan uses the evil world system to incite the flesh. eyes. Satan uses the eyes as a strategic avenue to incite wrong desires (Josh. 7:20, 21; 2 Sam. 11:2; Matt. 5:27–29). Satan’s temptation of Eve involved being attracted to something beautiful in appearance, but the result was spiritual death (Gen. 3:6, “pleasant to the eyes”). the pride of life. The phrase has the idea of arrogance over one’s circumstances, which produced haughtiness or exaggeration, parading what one possessed to impress other people (James 4:16).

1 John 2:19 They went out from us,…none of them were of us. The first characteristic mentioned of antichrists, i.e., false teachers and deceivers (vv. 22–26), is that they depart from the faithful. They arise from within the church and depart from true fellowship and lead people out with them. The verse also places emphasis on the doctrine of the perseverance of the saints. Those genuinely born again endure in faith and fellowship and the truth (1 Cor. 11:19; 2 Tim. 2:12). The ultimate test of true Christianity is endurance (Mark 13:13; Heb. 3:14). The departure of people from the truth and the church is their unmasking.


DAY 4: How does 1 John help us understand some of the destructive teaching that attacked Christianity in the first century?

Paul, Peter, and John all faced early forms of a system of false teaching that later became known as Gnosticism. That term (derived from the Greek word “knowledge”) refers to the habit that gnostics had of claiming an elevated knowledge, a higher truth known only to those in on the deep things. Those initiated into this mystical knowledge of truth had a higher internal authority than Scripture. This resulted in a chaotic situation in which the gnostics tried to judge divine revelation by human ideas rather than judging human ideas by divine revelation (1 John 2:15–17).

Philosophically, the heresy relied on a distortion of Platonism. It advocated a dualism in which matter was inherently evil and spirit was good. One of the direct errors of this heresy involved attributing some form of deity to Christ but denying His true humanity, supposedly to preserve Him from evil (which they concluded He would be if He actually came in the flesh). Such a view destroys not only the true humanity of Jesus, but also the atonement work of Christ. Jesus must not only have been truly God, but also the truly human (physically real) man who actually suffered and died upon the cross in order to be the acceptable substitutionary sacrifice for sin (Heb. 2:14–17). The biblical view of Jesus affirms His complete humanity, as well as His full deity.

The gnostic heresy, even in John’s day, featured two basic forms: 1) Docetism; and 2) the error of Cerinthus. Docetism (from a Greek word that means, “to appear”) asserted that Jesus’ physical body was not real but only “seemed” to be physical. John forcefully and repeatedly affirmed the physical reality of Jesus. He reminded his readers that he was an eyewitness to Him (“heard,” “seen,” “handled,” “Jesus Christ has come in the flesh”; 1 John 1:1–4; 4:2,3). The other form of early Gnosticism was traced back to Cerinthus by the early church apologist Irenaeus. Cerinthus taught that Christ’s “spirit” descended on the human Jesus at His baptism but left Him shortly before His crucifixion. John asserted that the Jesus who was baptized at the beginning of His ministry was the same Person who was crucified on the cross (1 John 5:6).

John does not directly specify the early gnostic beliefs, but his arguments offer clear clues about his targets. Further, John’s wisdom was to avoid direct attacks on rapidly shifting heresies, but to provide a timely, positive restatement of the fundamentals of the faith that would provide timeless truth and answers for later generations of Christians.

From The MacArthur Daily Bible Copyright © 2003. Used by permission of Thomas Nelson Bibles, a division of Thomas Nelson, Inc, Nashville, TN 37214, www.thomasnelson.com.

December 4 - The Kingdom of Heaven

“‘To you it has been granted to know the mysteries of the kingdom of heaven’” (Matthew 13:11).

In the Lord’s Prayer (Matt. 6:10) we see two aspects of the kingdom of heaven. “On earth” refers to the present kingdom, mediated through God’s servants, and “in heaven” refers to God’s universal, direct reign.

Through the centuries the present kingdom has attracted both true and false citizens. Only God can infallibly distinguish true citizens (the redeemed) from false ones. Jesus shows that many branches that seem to belong to the vine actually do not. The spurious ones will be pruned away and thrown into the fire (John 15:2, 6). Such people only superficially identify with Christ but are never really citizens of the kingdom of heaven or part of the body of Christ. They appear to be true citizens only from an imperfect human perspective.

Paradoxically, Scripture uses terms such as Israel, God’s people, and disciples that can include both nominal and genuine believers. Paul does make it clear, however, that “he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart” (Rom. 2:29; cf. 9:6–7). Only at the very end of the age, when the eternal kingdom begins, will those who are true citizens of God’s kingdom be clear to everyone. (Even during the Millennium, when Christ directly rules on earth, there will be disloyal citizens; cf. Rev. 20:7–8.)

The only way now to ensure your kingdom citizenship is to repent, trust in Jesus Christ, and pursue the sanctification that new life in Him brings (cf. Mark 1:15).

Ask Yourself

What should churches do to discern and encourage those who are Christians in name only to put their faith in Christ wholeheartedly? Why do we tend to avoid dealing in touchy matters like these? And what is the result of our reticence?

From Daily Readings from the Life of Christ, Vol. 1, John MacArthur. Copyright © 2008. Used by permission of Moody Publishers, Chicago, IL 60610, www.moodypublishers.com.

Del libro La Verdad para Hoy de John MacArthur DERECHOS DE AUTOR © 2001 Utilizado con permiso de Editorial Portavoz, www.portavoz.com
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