37 episodes

Read the Bible features devotional commentaries from D.A. Carson’s book For the Love of God (vol. 1) that follow the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. This podcast is designed to be used alongside TGC's Read The Bible initiative (TGC.org/readthebible).

Read The Bible The Gospel Coalition

    • Religion & Spirituality
    • 4.7 • 121 Ratings

Read the Bible features devotional commentaries from D.A. Carson’s book For the Love of God (vol. 1) that follow the M’Cheyne Bible reading plan. This podcast is designed to be used alongside TGC's Read The Bible initiative (TGC.org/readthebible).

    Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5

    Judges 6; Acts 10; Jeremiah 19; Mark 5

    The account of the conversion of Cornelius occupies much space in the book of Acts. As the Gospel moves outward from its Jewish confines, each step is carefully charted. First it was the Samaritans, a mixed race with a peculiar view of Scripture. (They accepted only Torah, what we call the Pentateuch.) Then it was the Ethiopian eunuch, who could not be a full proselyte — but (it might be argued) perhaps he would have been one if he had not been mutilated. Then comes the conversion of the man who will be the apostle to the Gentiles (see 9:15). Here in Acts 10 is the conversion of a God-fearer, a Gentile much attached to the Scriptures and to the Jewish synagogue who had chosen not to become circumcised and thus an unqualified proselyte — a convert — to Judaism.

    The apostle whom God prepares to go to Caesarea and preach the Gospel to Cornelius and his household is Peter. Peter’s repeated vision concerns ritually unclean food. Three times he is told to kill and eat unclean creatures; three times he declines, viewing himself as under the Law’s food prohibitions. Many have asked how Peter could be so dense, considering the fact that, according to Mark 7:19, Jesus had already uttered a saying declaring all foods clean. But it is far from clear that his disciples understood the ramifications of Jesus’ utterance at the time.

    Mark is writing later, about A. D. 60, long after the Cornelius episode; and, reflecting on what Jesus said, Mark perceives the implications in Jesus’ words that were not grasped at the time. Even the commission to take the Gospel everywhere, or Jesus’ insistence that people would come from all over the world and join the patriarchs in the kingdom of heaven (Matt 8:11), had not brought the pieces together for the apostles. Small wonder, then, that Peter is at this stage still sorting things out.

    So he wakes up and ponders what the vision means. Providential timing makes that point clear. Kosher Jews were always nervous in a Gentile home — but here God sends Peter not only to spend time in a non-kosher Gentile home, but to preach the Gospel there. Initially, no one is more surprised than Peter (Acts 10: 28-29, 34), but it is not long before he swings into a full-orbed presentation of the Gospel to these Gentiles. Even while Peter is speaking, the Holy Spirit descends on this Gentile household as he had descended on the Jews at Pentecost, and no one is more surprised than Peter and the Jews traveling with him (Acts 10: 45-47).

    The initial impetus to cross lines of race and heritage with the Gospel of Jesus Christ arose not from a committee planning world evangelization, but from God himself.

    Judges 5; Acts 9; Jeremiah 18; Mark 4

    Judges 5; Acts 9; Jeremiah 18; Mark 4

    What was Paul’s perspective before he was converted (Acts 9)? Elsewhere (Acts 22:2; Acts 23:6; Phil. 3:4-6) he tells us that he was a strict Pharisee, brought up (apparently) in Jerusalem, taught by one of the most renowned rabbis of the day. For him, the notion of a crucified Messiah was a contradiction in terms. Messiahs rule, they triumph, they win. The LAW insists that those who hang on a tree are cursed by God. Surely, therefore, the insistence that Jesus is the Messiah is not only stupid, but verges on the blasphemous. It might lead to political insurrection: the fledgling church was growing, and might become a dangerous block. It had to be stopped; indeed, what was needed was a man of courage like Saul, a man like Phinehas who averted the wrath of God by his decisive action against the perverters of truth and probity (Num. 25), someone who really understood the implications of these wretched delusions and who saw there they would lead.

    But now on the Damascus Road Saul meets the resurrected, glorified Jesus. Whether he had seen him before we cannot be sure; that he sees him now, Saul cannot doubt. And a great deal of his theology, worked out and displayed in his letters, stems from that brute fact.

    If Jesus were alive and glorified, then somehow his death on the cross did not prove he was damned. Far from it: the claim of believers that God had raised him from the dead, and that they had seen him, must be true — and that could only mean that God had vindicated Jesus. Then what on earth did his death mean?

    From that vantage point, everything looked different. If Jesus was under the curse of God when he died, yet was vindicated by God himself, he must have died for others. Somehow his death absorbed the righteous curse of God that was due others and canceled it out. In that light, the entire history of the Hebrew Scriptures looked different.

    Was it not written that a Suffering Servant (see yesterday’s meditation) would be wounded for our transgressions and chastised for our iniquities? Does the death of countless lambs and bulls really take away human sin? Or do we need, as it were, a human “lamb of God,” a human “Passover Lamb”? If the tabernacle and temple rituals are read as pointing to the final solution, what does scriptural texts that promise a new covenant, a great outpouring of the Spirit in the last days (Acts 2:17-21; see Joel 2:28-32)? What place does the promise to Abraham have in the scheme of things, that in Abraham’s offspring all the nations of the earth would be blessed (Gen. 12:3)?

    Grant that Jesus is alive and vindicated, and everything changes.

    Judges 4; Acts 8; Jeremiah 17; Mark 3

    Judges 4; Acts 8; Jeremiah 17; Mark 3

    The conversion of the Ethiopian eunuch (Acts 8:26-40) marks an important extension of the Gospel across several barriers.

    We need to understand who he was. He was “an important official in charge of all the treasury of Candace, queen of the Ethiopians” (Acts 8:27). Candace was a family name that had become a title, quite like Caesar in Rome. In certain matriarchal governments, it was not uncommon for the highest officials, who would have had ready access to Candace, to be eunuchs (whether they were born that way or castrated), for the obvious protection of the queen.

    This man was equivalent to U. S. Secretary of the Treasury or the like. But although he was an honored and powerful political figure at home, he would have faced limitations in Jerusalem. Since he had gone up to Jerusalem to worship (Acts 8:27), we must assume that he had come across Judaism, had been attracted to it, and had gone up to Jerusalem for one of the feasts. But he could not have become a proper proselyte, since from the Jewish perspective he was mutilated. The Word of God had seized this man, and he had traveled for several weeks to see Jerusalem and its temple.

    In the sheer providence of God, the passage the eunuch was reading, apparently out loud (Acts 8:30 –a not uncommon practice in those days) was Isaiah 53. He asks the obvious question (Acts 8:34): Who is the Suffering Servant of whom Isaiah speaks? “Then Philip began with that very passage of Scripture and told him the good news about Jesus” (Acts 8:35).

    Thus the Gospel reaches outward in the book of Acts. All the first converts were Jews, whether reared in the Promised Land or gathered from the dispersion. But the beginning of Acts 8 witnesses the conversion of Samaritans — a certain people of mixed race, only partly Jewish, joined to the mother church in Jerusalem by the hands of the apostles Peter and John. The next conversion is that of the eunuch — an African, not at all Jewish — sufficiently devoted to Judaism to take the pilgrimage to Jerusalem even though he could never be a full-fledged proselyte; a man steeped in the Jewish Scriptures even when he could not understand them.

    Small wonder that the next major event in this book is the conversion of the man who would become the apostle to the Gentiles.

    Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

    Judges 3; Acts 7; Jeremiah 16; Mark 2

    The Old Testament historical psalms offer plenty of examples in which writers review the shared history of the Israelites for some special theological or ethical purpose. Something similar occurs when 1 and 2 Chronicles retell 1 and 2 Samuel and 1 and 2 Kings, so as to focus on the southern kingdom and on certain theological perspectives. This form of address continues in certain New Testament sermons. Paul in Pisidian Antioch begins the historical recital with the Exodus, and aligns his storytelling priorities to show that Jesus really is the promised Messiah (Acts 13:16ff). Here in Acts 7, Stephen, the first Christian martyr, begins with Abraham.

    What are the advantages of this approach? And what does Stephen, in particular, set out to prove?

    One of the advantages is that historical recital gains the attention of the audience — and in this case the audience was overtly hostile and needed calming. Their personal identity was bound up with their national history; initially, at least, this recital was bound to be soothing, to establish common ground, to show that Stephen was within the pale.

    A second advantage lay in the fact that the shift that Stephen was trying to establish in the minds of his Jewish audience was big enough that it could only be adopted within the framework of a changed world-view. In other words, not only Jesus’ identity, but even more, his death and resurrection, could not finally be accepted by thoughtful Jews unless they perceived that this is what Scripture teaches — and this point could not easily be established unless it was anchored in the very fabric of the Old Testament storyline. So the story had to be told and retold so as to highlight the most important points.

    One of the points that Stephen makes as he retells the story emerges slowly at first, then faster and faster, and then explosively. That point is the repeated sin of the people. When Stephen begins the story, at first there is no mention of Israel’s evil. Then the wickedness of Joseph’s brothers is briefly mentioned (Acts 7:9). Corporate wickedness re-surfaces in Moses’ day (Acts 7:25-27, 35). Now the pace quickens. The people refused to obey Moses “and in their hearts turned back to Egypt” (Acts 7:39). The golden calf episode is brought up, and likened to idolatry in the time of Amos (Acts 7:42-43). We skip ahead to David and Solomon, and the insistence that God cannot be domesticated by a building. Finally there is the explosive condemnation not only of past generations of Israelites who rejected God and his revelation, but also of all their contemporary Spirit-resisting descendants (Acts 7:51-53).

    What bearing does this point have on the lessons we should draw from the biblical history?

    Judges 2; Acts 6; Jeremiah 15; Mark 1

    Judges 2; Acts 6; Jeremiah 15; Mark 1

    From a reading of Judges 1–2, it appears that after the initial Israelite victories, the pace of conquest varied considerably. In many cases tribes were responsible for bringing their own territories under control. With the passage of time, however, it seems to have become unstated policy, as the Israelites grew stronger, not to chase the Canaanites from the land, nor to exterminate them, but to subjugate them or even enslave them, to make them “drawers of water and hewers of wood,” to subject them to forced labor (Judg. 1:28).

    The inevitable result is that a great deal of paganism remained in the land. Human nature being what it is, these false gods inevitably became a “snare” to the covenant community (Judg. 2:3). Angry with their refusal to break down the pagan altars, the angel of the Lord declares that if the people will not do what they are told, he will no longer provide them with the decisive help that would have enabled them to complete the task (had they been willing!). The people weep over the lost opportunity, but it is too late (Judg. 2:1-4). It is certainly not that they had never been warned.

    This is the background to the rest of the book of Judges. Some of its main themes are then outlined for us in the rest of chapter 2. Much of the rest of the book is exemplification of the thinking laid out here.

    The main thrust, shot through with tragedy, is the cyclical failure of the covenant community, and how God intervenes to rescue them again and again. Initially, the people remained faithful throughout Joshua’s lifetime and the lifetime of the elders who outlived him (Judg. 2:6). But by the time that an entirely new generation had grown up — one that had seen nothing of the wonders God had performed, whether at the Exodus, during the wilderness years, or at the time of the entrance into the Promised Land — fidelity to the Lord dwindled away. Syncretism and paganism abounded; the people forsook the God of their fathers and served the Baals, i.e., the various “lords” of the Canaanites (Judg. 2:10-12). The Lord responded in wrath; the people were subjected to raids, reversals, and military defeats at the hands of surrounding marauders. When the people cried to the Lord for help, he raised up a judge — a regional and often national leader — who freed the people from tyranny and led them in covenantal faithfulness. And then the cycle began again. And again. And again.

    Here is a sober lesson. Even after times of spectacular revival, reformation, or covenantal renewal, the people of God are never more than a generation or two from infidelity, unbelief, massive idolatry, disobedience, and wrath. God help us.

    Judges 1; Acts 5; Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28

    Judges 1; Acts 5; Jeremiah 14; Matthew 28

    The account of Ananias and Sapphira, whose names are recorded in the earliest Christian records because of their deceit (Acts 5:1–11), is disturbing on several grounds. Certainly the early church thought so (Acts 5:5, 11). Four observations focus the issues:

    First, revival does not guarantee the absence of sin in a community. When many people are converted and genuinely transformed, when many are renewed and truly learn to hate sin, others find it more attractive to be thought holy than to be holy. Revival offers many temptations to hypocrisy that would be less potent when the temper of the age is secularistic or pagan.

    Second, the issue is not so much the disposition of the money that Ananias and Sapphira obtained when they sold a piece of property as the lie they told. Apparently there were some members who were selling properties and donating all of the proceeds to the church to help in its varied ministries, not least the relief of the needs of brothers and sisters in Christ. Indeed, the man called Barnabas was exemplary in this respect (Acts 4:36–37), and serves as a foil to Ananias and Sapphira. But these two sold their property, kept some of the proceeds for themselves, and pretended that they were giving everything.

    It was this claim to sanctity and self-denial, this pretense of generosity and piety, that was so offensive. Left unchecked, it might well multiply. It would certainly place into positions of honor people whose conduct did not deserve it. But worse, it was a blatant lie against the Holy Spirit — as if the Spirit of God could not know the truth, or would not care. In this sense it was a supremely presumptuous act, betraying a stance so removed from the God-centeredness of genuine faith that it was idolatrous.

    Third, another element of the issue was conspiracy. It was not enough that Ananias pulled this wicked stunt himself. He acted “with his wife’s full knowledge” (Acts 5:2); indeed, her lying was not only passive but active (Acts 5:8), betraying a shared commitment to deceive believers and defy God.

    Fourth, in times of genuine revival, judgment may be more immediate than in times of decay. When God walks away from the church and lets the multiplying sin take its course, that is the worst judgment of all; it will inevitably end in irretrievable disaster. But when God responds to sin with prompt severity, lessons are learned, and the church is spared a worse drift. In this case, great fear fell not only on the church but also on all who heard of these events (Acts 5:5, 11).

    It is written: “He whose walk is upright fears the LORD; but he in whose ways are devious despises him” (Prov. 14:2).

Customer Reviews

4.7 out of 5
121 Ratings

121 Ratings

BrycimusMaximus ,

Superb

I’ve been the book format for a few years... What a blessing to have it available on audio! The narration is excellent. I will be using this every day!

KGB-Smeagol ,

Good devotional guide!

I’ve used this devotional in years past, but it’s a blessing to have it in audio form now delivered daily as a podcast.

Llamacop ,

Please release a little earlier

This is a great idea. But I agree with a previous comment. I am listening from Kenya in the morning, and so an earlier release would be nice.

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