This article is part of the Key Bible Verses series.
All commentary notes adapted from the ESV Study Bible.
1. Matthew 28:19–20
Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age. Read More
The imperative (make disciples, that is, call individuals to commit to Jesus as Master and Lord) explains the central focus of the Great Commission, while the Greek participles (translated go, baptizing, and “teaching” [Matt. 28:20]) describe aspects of the process. all nations. Jesus’ ministry in Israel was to be the beginning point of what would later be a proclamation of the gospel to all the peoples of the earth, including not only Jews but also Gentiles. The name (singular, not plural) of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit is an early indication of the Trinitarian Godhead and an overt proclamation of Jesus’ deity.
Teaching is a means by which disciples of Jesus are continually transformed in order to become more like Christ (cf. Matt. 10:24–25; Rom. 8:29; 2 Cor. 3:18). observe. Obey. I am with you always. Jesus concludes the commission, and Matthew his Gospel, with the crucial element of discipleship: the presence of the Master, who is “God with us” (cf. Matt. 1:23).
2. 1 Peter 3:15
but in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect . . . Read More
Believers should always be ready to provide a rationale for their faith, but they should do so winsomely and righteously. And if they keep a good conscience, any accusations against them will prove groundless, and their accusers will be put to shame. It is sometimes God’s will that Christians suffer for doing good.
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3. 1 Corinthians 2:1–5
And I, when I came to you, brothers, did not come proclaiming to you the testimony of God with lofty speech or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. And I was with you in weakness and in fear and much trembling, and my speech and my message were not in plausible words of wisdom, but in demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men but in the power of God. Read More
not . . . with lofty speech or wisdom. Paul avoided Greek rhetoric and focused on the message of the cross, so that the Corinthians would put their faith in Christ who was crucified rather than in the ability of human messengers.
that your faith might not rest in the wisdom of men. Mere intellectual persuasion does not save people. Saving faith is produced by the heart-changing power of the Holy Spirit as the gospel is proclaimed.
4. Romans 10:14–15
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!” Read More
How then . . . ? With a series of rhetorical questions, Paul considers the chain of events necessary for a person to be saved. Rom. 10:14 is linked to Rom. 10:13 with the word call. The logic of these verses is clear: (1) People will call on Jesus to save them only if they believe he can do so; (2) belief in Christ cannot exist without knowledge about him; (3) one hears about Christ only when someone proclaims the saving message; and (4) the message about Christ will not be proclaimed unless someone is sent by God to do so. That is why Paul was so urgent about spreading the gospel to the ends of the earth, for he believed that the only way to be saved was to hear and believe in the gospel. (Paul is not talking here about OT believers who looked forward to Christ, such as Abraham and David in Romans 4, nor is he talking about infants who die in infancy; see note on 2 Sam. 12:23). Since salvation comes only from hearing the gospel, the feet of those who bring the message about Christ are beautiful (Isa. 52:7), probably because the feet carry the messengers to their destinations.
5. Matthew 9:36–38
When he saw the crowds, he had compassion for them, because they were harassed and helpless, like sheep without a shepherd. Then he said to his disciples, “The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; therefore pray earnestly to the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest.” Read More
The compassion of Jesus is a repeated theme in Matthew (Matt, 9:14:14; Matt. 15:32) and throughout both the OT (e.g., Deut. 30:3; 1 Sam. 23:21; Ps. 103:13; Isa. 49:15; 54:8; Lam. 4:10) and the NT, where Christians are especially admonished to show compassion to those in need (e.g., Col. 3:12; Heb. 10:34; cf. James 5:11). like sheep without a shepherd. The leaders have failed in their responsibility, but Mic. 5:4 predicted that the Messiah would “shepherd” his people. Given the helplessness and the need of the crowds, Jesus’ disciples are urged to pray earnestly that the Lord (shifting metaphors) would send out laborers into his harvest, since many are ready to receive the good news of the kingdom—a prayer that is as urgent today as it was when Jesus’ original disciples heard his words.
6. 1 Corinthians 9:19–23
For though I am free from all, I have made myself a servant to all, that I might win more of them. To the Jews I became as a Jew, in order to win Jews. To those under the law I became as one under the law (though not being myself under the law) that I might win those under the law. To those outside the law I became as one outside the law (not being outside the law of God but under the law of Christ) that I might win those outside the law. To the weak I became weak, that I might win the weak. I have become all things to all people, that by all means I might save some. I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings. Read More
I became as a Jew. Paul was a Jew (2 Cor. 11:22; Gal. 1:13; Phil. 3:5) and valued his Jewish heritage (Rom. 9:3–5), but the Jewish Messiah himself had nullified the distinctively Jewish parts of the Mosaic law (Matt. 15:11; Mark 7:19; Rom. 14:14; 1 Cor. 7:19; Gal. 2:11–14; 6:2; Eph. 2:14–15). In Christ, God had created a newly defined people where there was no distinction between Jew and Gentile (Acts 15:9; Rom. 3:22; 10:12; 1 Cor. 10:32). became as one under the law. Paul was willing to adopt the Jewish way of life temporarily to gain a hearing among Jews (Acts 16:3; 21:17–26), but his ethnicity no longer defined his existence (Phil. 3:3).
those outside the law. Outside the Mosaic law, which defined the Jewish way of life. not . . . outside the law of God . . . the law of Christ. Paul seems to distinguish between the Jewish law and something he calls alternately “the commandments of God” (1 Cor. 7:19) and “the law of Christ,” which is of continuing validity for Christians, whatever their ethnicity. This second law appears to include the ethical teaching of Jesus as well as absorbing both the theological structure and many of the moral precepts of the Mosaic law. (See, e.g., Rom. 7:7, 12, 22; Rom. 13:8–10; Gal. 5:14; 6:2; Eph. 6:2) This “law of Christ” today would also include the moral commands of the NT epistles, since in them the apostles interpreted and applied Christ’s life and teachings to the NT churches.
To the weak I became weak. This is the attitude that Paul wants those in Corinth with superior “knowledge” to adopt toward the “weak” in their midst (1 Cor 8:9–13).
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7. Romans 1:16–17
For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith for faith, as it is written, “The righteous shall live by faith.” Read More
Because of their lack of size, fame, or honor in the Roman corridors of power and influence, Christians might be tempted to be ashamed of the Christian message. But Paul says it is nothing to be ashamed of, for it is in fact a message coming with the power of God that brings people to salvation. Jew first indicates the priority of the Jews in salvation history and their election as God’s people. The role of the Jews is a major issue in Romans, as seen especially in the discussion in chs. 9–11. Greek is not limited here to people from Greece but refers to all Gentiles.
the righteousness of God. A crucial phrase that has been the subject of intense debate. It most likely means primarily “righteousness from God,” so that it denotes right standing before God (a legal reality) that is given to people by God. A similar expression in Greek clearly has this meaning in Phil. 3:9. Romans 10:5 is parallel to Phil. 3:9 and bears the same meaning. It is likely that the phrase bears this meaning as well in Rom. 3:21–22 and 2 Cor. 5:21. However, the expression in Greek (dikaiosynē theou, “the righteousness of God”) likely also carries an additional, fuller meaning, which refers directly to God’s right moral character, particularly manifested in his holiness and justice, and in the way that his method of saving sinners through Christ’s death meets the just demand of his holy nature. Although today’s Western world often regards using words that carry a double sense as confusing and ambiguous, in NT times such wording was commonly used to add weight and enrichment. (See, e.g., John 12:32, where “lifted up” refers to Christ being “exalted” by being crucified.) From faith for faith probably means that right standing with God is by faith from start to finish. shall live by faith. The life of faith is all-encompassing: it is by faith that one initially receives the gift of salvation (eternal life), but it is also by faith that one lives each day. Cf. Hab. 2:4; Gal. 3:11; Heb. 10:38.
8. Proverbs 11:30
The fruit of the righteous is a tree of life,
and whoever captures souls is wise. Read More
The Hebrew phrase translated whoever captures souls is used elsewhere in places where the sense is “to take life” or “to kill” (e.g., 1 Sam. 24:11; 1 Kings 19:10, 14; Jonah 4:3). However, this proverb appears to be purposely playing off the usual sense of the phrase to focus on the effect of the fruit of the righteous. The life of the righteous leads not only to blessing for themselves but also provides fruit that “captures souls” in the sense of leading people out of the path that ends in death. For similar declarations, cf. Dan. 12:3, equating “those who are wise” to “those who turn many to righteousness”; see also James 5:20, where the one “who brings back a sinner from his wandering” will “save his soul from death.”
9. 2 Timothy 4:1–5
I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching. For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions, and will turn away from listening to the truth and wander off into myths. As for you, always be sober-minded, endure suffering, do the work of an evangelist, fulfill your ministry. Read More
Notes on vv. 2 and 5:
The charge itself is spelled out in five imperative verbs (with four more in 1 2 Tim.4:5). Preach the word refers back to “Scripture” (see 2 Tim. 3:16) and thus includes proclaiming the “good news” of the gospel in a broad, biblically anchored sense. “Gospel” for Paul is not only an evangelistic presentation; the gospel is the core message (found in the whole of Scripture; cf. 3:16) which can be applied to unbelievers (a call to faith) or to believers (a call to continue to believe in and live out the implications of this message). Thus, the way to preach the gospel is by expounding the Scriptures. be ready in season and out of season. When it is convenient and when it is inconvenient. Reprove, rebuke, and exhort means the communicating of all that Scripture includes—doctrine, instruction, correction, and encouragement. Patience in such teaching is again encouraged (see 2 Tim. 4:2:24–26).
the work of an evangelist. The full scope of “evangelist” is not made explicit here or elsewhere in Scripture. Paul instructs Timothy in terms of the “gospel” (cf. 1 Tim. 1:11; 2 Tim. 1:8, 10; 2 Tim. 2:8), which certainly includes proclamation to the unconverted, i.e., the continuation of Paul’s mission to the Gentiles. However, Paul does not typically distinguish between “evangelism” and “discipleship.”
10. 2 Corinthians 5:20
Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. Read More
reconciliation. An expression of the significance of God’s saving activity in Christ that is unique to Paul (see Rom. 5:10–11; Rom. 11:15; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20, 22). These verses outline (1) the basis of Paul’s apostolic ministry of the new covenant (Paul’s own reconciliation to God through Christ); (2) its consequence (his ministry and message of reconciliation to the world for Christ); (3) its essential content (the forgiveness of sins by virtue of Christ’s death); and (4) its call (on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God). ambassadors for Christ. Paul is sent as God’s prophetic minister of the new covenant (2 Cor. 3:4–6) to announce God’s “peace treaty” (cf. Isa. 53:5) with those who will trust in Christ to free them from the penalty and power of sin (2 Cor. 5:14–15; see Isa. 52:6–10; Rom. 10:15). “Be reconciled to God” is a summary of the gospel message Paul proclaims to unbelievers; it is a call to receive the reconciliation that God has wrought (Rom. 5:11).
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