Total Depravity

‘“The heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked: who can know it (Jeremiah 17:9)?”’

The Imperfect Man in Adam

If I said you were depraved, I’m pretty sure you would resent my accusation. Most likely the hackles on the back of your neck would rise, and quite possibly you would be on the attack with a verbal response. You might even try to conceal your anger by not raising your fist, but your heart is seething. So perhaps my description of you is not far from the mark (Romans 3:23)! [Note – I’m using hyperbole, so please don’t take umbrage.]

Now, truthfully, what would be your response? Would you acquiesce and ignore me? Would try to justify yourself by endeavouring to prove you are nothing of the sort? After all, you’ve done many good deeds in your life: you are a good dad who has faithfully worked for an income; you have provided for the home, your wife and your children. You’ve never hurt anybody, or that’s what you think. Surely your altruism is plain for all to see!

The truth is you’ve lied, you’ve cheated, you’ve hated, and your life has been very selfish. More often than not, you’ve placed yourself first. The so-called good things you have done, were not really for the benefit of others, but for your inward satisfaction. You wanted to feel good; you wanted to look good, and you wanted people to esteem you.

Today you pat yourself on the back and take pride in the fact that you have given your time, money and energy doing good works. You hold your head high, and you feel superior as you receive the accolade. Your name is in the local newspaper, and maybe someone will nominate you for an MBE? You deserve it for all the hard work. It’s only fair. You really do deserve it! 

So you kid yourself that your motives are pure and you really are a good person. The truth is you worship yourself and you are prideful. You are satan’s child, helplessly held by his grip. Your heart has deceived you (Jeremiah 17:9), and you do not know the truth (John 14:6).

If none of the above applies to you, then you are not human. You are not a descendant of Adam, dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). You might even think you can plead a good case for entering God’s heaven on your merits, but of course you would be disappointed; for the criterion for entrance into the kingdom is perfection! – perfection in God’s Son (Matthew 5:48; 1 John 2:5; Colossians 1:28).

The truth is satan is your master (John 8:44), and he is your downfall. For as long as you are governed and controlled by him, you are bound in fetters, reserved for a very hot and painful place (Revelation 20:15). Your master is utterly evil. He is the antithesis of God, who is good, pure, gracious, righteous, holy and *all-powerful. By comparison satan is utterly evil. He has some power, but for only as long as God permits (2 Thessalonians 2:7). Finally he will be ‘cast into the lake of fire and brimstone (Revelation 20:10).’

The natural man (1 Corinthians 2:14) in Adam cannot help himself. He is in a state of total depravity with satan as his god (2 Corinthians 4:4).

The Perfected Man in Christ

‘“Therefore you shall be perfect, just as your Father in heaven is perfect (Matthew 5:48).”’

So, what’s the answer? Is there a way out? Can you escape your depravity?

You recognise you are not worthy to enter heaven, and the only way to get through the pearly gates (Revelation 21:21) is by being perfect. It’s obvious you can’t help yourself. The Scriptures tell you that you are dead in your trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1). You cannot enter into the realm of the kingdom of heaven without being changed (2 Corinthians 5:17; 15:52). You need help. You are desperate. You recognise your depravity. In the image of Adam (1 Corinthians 15:22) you will die.

But by God’s mercy (Exodus 34:6, 7) you find yourself on your knees before the cross of Jesus.

You are sorrowful (2 Corinthians 7:10) beyond understanding; yet there is a peace and a calmness of your soul (Philippians 4:6,7). Before you is the battered, blood-stained Jesus; His flogged flesh is torn to shreds. Your eyes meet His, and He looks at you with deep compassion. At that life-giving moment there is a remarkable throbbing of your heart. You confess before Him that you are unworthy to be in His presence and that you are ashamed of your evil ways. You tell Him you are sorry for the wrongs you have done. In your wretchedness you ask Him for His forgiveness. 

Suddenly He cries out with a load voice, “It is finished)!”  He gives up His spirit (John 19:30) and He no longer breathes. Naked and motionless His forlorn body pierced by the nails, hangs before you, and you know you have His pardon. He has cast your sins far away (Psalm 103:12), and His blood has washed (Revelation 1:5) you clean (7:14).

You stand in His perfection (Ephesians 4:13), and when the final call comes He will be ready to receive you with outstretched arms. You will see Him as He is (1 John 3:2).

This is the state of the regenerated man in Christ – a man who is no longer depraved, but in his right mind (Mark 5:15).


Dear reader, if you are not in Christ (2 Corinthians 2:14; Ephesians 1:3-6), I plead with you to hear Him (Matthew 17:5) and respond to His call, ‘“Come to Me, all you who labour and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest. Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls. For My yoke is easy and My burden is light (Matthew 11:28-30).”’

*The Omniscience, Omnipotence and Omnipresence of God

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Unconditional Election

Therefore do not be ashamed of the testimony of our Lord, nor of me His prisoner, but share with me in the sufferings for the gospel according to the power of God, who has saved us and called us with a holy calling, not according to our works, but according to His own purpose and grace which was given to us in Christ Jesus before time began (2 Timothy 1:8, 9).’

Your Choices

In the UK there’s talk of the possibility of a general election to help resolve the deadlock with the Brexit issue. In addition to having a general election, a certain political party would like a second referendum to sort out once-for-all the will of the people.

Elections and referendums are about making choices. The verb to elect means to choose. You can elect to do this or that.

How do you make well-informed choices? Firstly you must gather truthful, objective information; then use it for deciding what is your best choice. In your decision making you may be swayed by your own prejudices, preferences, likes or dislikes. If this is the case they will influence your choices.

God’s Choices

So, as we consider our choices, we may want to ask God why He made some of His choices (Ephesians 1:4). For example, we may want to ask Him why He made us as we are and why He places us where we are? He could have made us differently, and He could have put us elsewhere. Pertinently, why did He predestine our paths in the way He has?

There are so many * “Why” questions, and we may never get to know the answers, but one thing is certain, God does what is right; for He is the sovereign God of the universe. He created it (John 1:1-3) and He reigns over it. He reigns over all people in all situations (Revelation 1:5). Furthermore, He has predestined (Ephesians 1:11) every action and everything to come! This is mind-boggling. We cannot take it in. Our brains are too tiny and our understanding is severely limited.

We simply have to accept that God’s ways and thoughts are higher than ours (Isaiah 55:9). He is a God who is holy, righteous and just. He can do no wrong (Genesis 18:25). He can only be true to Himself (Romans 3:4). There is no higher authority; and for us there is no higher court of appeal. But like Job, as we come before Him we are unable to justify ourselves. We acknowledge that we are unworthy sinners. We can only humbly kneel before Him with our hand over our mouth (Job 40:4) and accept His righteous judgment.

We are entirely at His mercy. He can do as He pleases (Job 42:2). He can chose to love us or He can chose to hate us (Romans 9:13). We have no power before Him, and we cannot influence His will. In fact, we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Ephesians 2:1), unless He makes us alive in His Son by His Spirit (John 3:3-8), and this is God’s crucial choice. It is a matter of life or death (Deuteronomy 32:39) – a matter of eternal life in heaven (1 John 5:11), or everlasting torment with satan in the fires of hell (Revelation 20:10, 15).

I am not mincing my words. I am telling it as the Scriptures tell. It would be sinful of me to sugarcoat the Word of God and to pretend it is nothing more than a collection of fairytales. Rightly I would be condemned, being worthy of having a milestone tied around my neck and cast into the sea (Luke 17:1, 2).

God is Merciful

Now what is so very wonderful and utterly amazing is that God would choose me (Ephesians 1:4) to be one of His adopted sons (Galatians 4:5). Even more amazing – why would he send His own Son (1 John 4:9), whom He loves dearly, to die for me on a cross? And yet He did! This just shows the extent of His great love, and the love of His Son, who willingly died for me. Jesus took the burden of my sins and suffered punishment for them in my place to give me eternal life in Him (1 John 5:11).

He chose me (John 15:16). I did not choose Him. He first loved me, and in response I loved Him (1 John 4:19). He became my King and my Lord. He is my all (Colossians 3:11). He is everything. I live for Him (Galatians 2:20) and I owe Him everything.

What did He find in me to make Him love me? Nothing of merit! In fact before my rebirth in the Spirit (John 3:3-8) I was an obnoxious, filthy sinner – a rebellious nothing, worthy only of death (Romans 1:32), because of my disobedience and a total lack of reverence for Him.

God placed no conditions upon me before He chose me (John 15:19). He did not choose me for anything I had done or would do, but simply because He loved me (Ephesians 2:4). In His mercy and grace He wants me to love Him and to live for Him (John 14:21, 23) and to be with Him (John 17:24).

Now this is what is meant by unconditional election.

He does all things for His glory (Ezekiel 39:21); and by His will of decree He determines the outcome of all things (Ephesians 1:11).


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Limited Atonement

‘And not only so, but we also joy in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom we have now received the atonement (Romans 5:11 AV).’

‘And not only that, but we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation (Romans 5:11 NKJV).’

For the Christian the focus of the once-for-all atonement is on the One who did the atoning for them, i.e., Jesus the Son of God. When I say ‘once-for-all’, I am not endorsing the mistaken [Arminian] view that the atonement made by Jesus was for ‘all’ people; since it was efficacious only for those who believe and trust Him. The Atonement effected by Jesus was and is exclusively for the elect, i.e., the chosen of God, not for the whole of mankind.


Atonement under the Mosaic Covenant

What exactly is the Atonement?

The first mention of the word ‘atonement’ in the Bible is found in Exodus 29:33: ‘They shall eat those things with which the atonement was made, to consecrate and to sanctify them; but a stranger shall not eat them, because they are holy.’ 

Chapter 29 describes in great detail the consecration of Aaron and his sons and how they were to offer continual (V. 42) burnt offerings at the door of the tabernacle where the LORD would meet with them and His people (V. 43). He promised He would dwell with them and be their God (V. 45).

Almost hidden within the series of obligatory statutes we find the command that ‘strangers’ were to be excluded from eating the offerings ‘with which the atonement was made (V. 33)’ . This is of significance; for strangers were not permitted to be priests. This points to two things: the exclusive nature of the priesthood and the limited inclusivity of the atonement.

The primary purpose of God’s Old Testament priests under the Mosaic Covenant was to offer gifts and sacrifices for the sins (Hebrews 5:1) of the people and for their own sins (V.3). They were called by God for this office, and they were chosen from the tribe of Levi. 

Under the  Mosaic Covenant the high priest was required to carry out God’s command to keep the annual ‘atonement for the children of Israel, for all their sins (Leviticus 16:34),  and to observe the ‘holy convocation’ in the seventh month, ‘on the first day of the month (Leviticus 23:24). The high priest alone, entered the holy of holies in the tabernacle for sprinkling the blood of the atonement ‘to make propitiation for the sins of the people (Hebrews 2:17).’

In practice, although these priestly duties were carried out in an effort to placate the wrath of God and to put right the relationship between Him and His people, the people did not come to Him in faith. They did not trust Him and they did not have a heartfelt desire to obey Him. Furthermore the sacrifices of bulls and goats and the sprinkling of their blood did not take away their sins or give them power not to sin.

They were not made clean, and their sins were not *’covered’. There was no atonement, or reconciliation, or a restoration of a holy relationship with the LORD. Clearly there was no real atonement for the Old Testament people of God.

*[The verb ‘to atone’ in Hebrew literally means ‘to cover’, as Noah’s ark was covered with pitch. God told Noah to ‘pitch it within and without with pitch (Genesis 6:14).’ Vine’s Expository Dictionary of Biblical Words defines the Hebrew word ‘kapar’ in this way: ‘to cover over, atone, propitiate, or pacify.’]

Atonement under the New Covenant

At the heart of the matter lay the sinful nature of the Israelites. They were in Adam, bound by sin. Adam listened to Eve whom the serpent beguiled, and together they knowingly disobeyed God (Genesis 3). Tragically their rebellious and sinful nature was inherited by the Israelites, as indeed is the case for all mankind. There is no exception. Thus we all fall short of God’s perfection (Romans 3:23), and without His intervention there is no hope of redemption or atonement for anyone.

God loved the world so much that He sent His Son to be a perfect, living sacrifice for the effective removal [covering] of sin, and to be the One who gives eternal life to those who believe (John 3:16).

Jesus’ death and the shedding of His blood changed everything ‘for good to those who love’ Him (Romans 8:28),’ but not without God’s gift of faith; for ‘without faith it is impossible to please Him, for he who comes to God must believe that He is, and that He is a rewarder of those who diligently seek Him (Hebrews 11:6).’

The sacrifices of bulls and goats and the shedding of their blood, achieved nothing. They were but shadows of the effective atonement accomplished by Christ, through the sacrifice of Himself and the shedding of His blood.

Furthermore, Jesus became the High Priest of the New Covenant people of God, and He has made us who believe to become a kingdom of priests (1 Peter 2:4-10) – not priests of the Levitical line, but priests through adoption as His children. We have been adopted by Him as children of the promise (Romans 9:8), an elect and chosen people.

Our reconciliation was made possible because of Jesus’ fulfilment of the New Covenant in His blood (Matthew 26:28), and because of God’s gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8). God promised Abraham he would be ‘a father of many nations (Romans 4:17),  and they would be blessed in him. (Genesis 12:3; Cf. Ephesians 1:3).

Only the elect shall eat of the flesh of Jesus (John 6:54-56; Cf. Exodus 29:33), and strangers shall have no part of His priestly brotherhood, for He does not atone for their sins. Hence there is a limited atonement for an inclusive brotherhood. 

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Irresistible Grace

‘But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love with which He loved us, even when we were dead in trespasses, made us alive together with Christ [by grace you have been saved]  (Ephesians 2:4, 5).’

If you believe you can resist God you are badly mistaken. If God loves you (Cf. Romans 9:13), nothing can take that love away (Romans 8:38, 39). If God wants you to join Him in His kingdom, you will want to join Him there (Isaiah 26:8; Psalm 27:4). If He first loves you, you will respond by loving Him (1 John 4:19). You will not resist Him. You will be drawn to Jesus (John 6:44).


Grace is often defined as God’s unmerited favour. You do not deserve this favour; you do not deserve His love, and yet He freely gives it to you (John 3:16). You do not deserve it, for there’s nothing in you of any worth (Isaiah 40:17). There is nothing in you that is attractive or desirable to God (Cf. Job 25:4-6). In fact you are a rebel before him. He sees you in your nakedness (Cf. Revelation 3:18). He sees you in your pitiful state. Because of your wilful disobedience you are worthy of nothing but death (Romans 1:32) and everlasting punishment.

However, God is loving (1 John 4:8); He is kind, and He is merciful (Joel 2:13). He is a God who forgives (Psalm 99:8). Not only does He forgive, but He forgets your transgressions against Him. He forgets your sins (Psalm 103:12). If you turn to Him and repent of your sins (Mark 1:15) and seek His forgiveness He will welcome you into His loving arms (Matthew 11:28-30). He will pardon you and forgive you. No longer will you be guilty before him, because He takes way your sin and He washes you clean in the blood of His Son (Revelation 1:5), i.e., Jesus who died for this very purpose. He died and suffered to pay the penalty for your sins (Ephesians 1:7). He *rose from the dead and sits at the right hand of His Father. If you place your trust in Him, you too will be raised from the dead (Romans 8:11) and live with Him eternally.

Receiving Grace

To grasp the measure of God’s grace you must first receive it by faith, which is a gift given to you from Him (Ephesians 2:8). Without this gift you are in your natural rebellious state. You are without hope or knowledge of salvation (V.V. 12, 13). You are spiritually dead in your trespasses and sin (1 Colossians 2:13). You cannot help yourself escape the inevitable consequences of your rebellion against God. Your allegiance is with satan (John 8:44). You may not realise it, but he is your master. He rebelled against God and was cast to the earth (Isaiah 14:12) where he reigns as the prince of the power of the air (Ephesians 2:2, 3; John 14:30). You obey satan, and like him, you hate God (Romans 1:30). You are of the world; you are fleshly in nature (Romans 8:5), and your desires are for self. You do not want a just and righteous God (Psalm 116:5) to rule over you . You do not want Him to be your King (Cf. Psalm 5:2) and your Lord. You want to be free to do the things you want for your own selfish interests (Romans 6:20).

But when the Spirit’s infusing ray of light and life penetrates your stony heart (Ezekiel 11:19) of darkness and death, it enlivens your spirit (John 3:3-8) and you are transformed into a new creation (2 Corinthians 5:17). You willingly become a slave of God (Romans 6:22). You are set free from sin and bear fruit to holiness and to everlasting life (V. 22).  

Dear reader, this is my prayer: ‘Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord (2 Peter 1:2).’

*The Resurrection 

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‘And not only that, but we also glory in tribulations, knowing that tribulation produces perseverance; and perseverance, character; and character, hope. Now hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us (Romans 5:3-5).’

“Try, try, and try again until you succeed,” and, “Where there’s a will there is a way.”

The end desire will then be accomplished. My mother instilled these attitudes of mind into me. She recognised I was a low achiever, and if I was to get on in life I would need to have the right mindset. I found that if I desired something badly enough, I would strive to get it. When the motivation was there I had no difficulty in persevering. I would try, try and try again, because I had the will to find the way.

These attitudes of mind undoubtedly helped me to achieve more than ever I would have imagined, but what I have come to understand is that none of what I have achieved was because of my own will, but because of God’s will in my life. I could have done nothing without God’s grace.

As I look back on my life over the past 85 years I am full of praise and thankfulness for what God has done. He pulled me out of a good many pits into which I had fallen; He saved my physical *life on many occasions, but most importantly He gave me eternal life in His Son.

With this new life, God has given me a perseverance I never had before He gave me His gift of faith (Ephesians 2:8,9). He made me alive in His Spirit (John 3:3-8). He showed His love for me, and He revealed to me that He loved me so much that He gave His Son to die on a cross in my place. He suffered for the forgiveness of my sins so that I may have eternal life (John 3:16).

The perseverance I now have does not depend on me. It is not my perseverance, but God’s will working in me. Theologically this perseverance is defined as a state of grace that will continue and persist until the coming again of Christ. At that time I shall become like Him, and see Him as He is. I shall enter into His glorious kingdom to live with Him for evermore.

Meanwhile until that time and beyond, His Spirit will never die in me; since He dwells in me forever. Because of this I have a sure hope of eternal life: ‘But if we hope for what we do not see, we eagerly wait for it with perseverance (Romans 8:25).’

I am truly blessed, for the words of James assure me: ‘Indeed we count them blessed who endure. You have heard of the perseverance of Job and seen the end intended by the Lord—that the Lord is very compassionate and merciful (James 5:11).’

Finally I take to heart the words of Christ to the Faithful Church:

‘”Because you have kept My command to persevere, I also will keep you from the hour of trial which shall come upon the whole world, to test those who dwell on the earth (Revelation 3:10).”’

*Struer Limfjorden Racing Kayak [Rescued by a lifeboat] 

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‘For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24).’

World-Wide Fires

Fire is an extremely frightening thing. Perhaps at no other time in history have so many fires raged on planet earth as they do at this moment. Photographic images beamed from orbiting satellites confirm the extent of countless fires ravaging the world’s rainforests, jungles, scrublands and savannahs, while killing people and animals and destroying property. In Brazil alone there have been more than 74,000 recorded fires since the beginning of this year. Vast swathes of tropical rainforest are being consumed at a rate that is equivalent to the size of three football pitches every minute! [The Sun – online – 23 August, 2019] Since August 15th 9,500 new fires have started there.

Continuing our circuit around the world we observe fires on every continent, even on the tiny island of Madeira in the Atlantic Ocean. There’s hardly a place that has not been affected. In the United States there’s been an average of 72,400 wildfires every year for the past nineteen years, which is equal to 7 million acres that have been burnt to a frazzle.

Europe has not escaped: Greece, Latvia, Sweden, Spain and Portugal have all suffered from severe fires. Even the UK hasn’t been spared. There were recent serious fires at Saddleworth Moor, West Sussex, Dartmoor, West Yorkshire and Sutherland.

Further afield fires have raged in China, Indonesia, Israel, Japan, South Korea, India, Russia, Sweden and Canada. In Africa, there have been fires in Northern Angola and the southern Democratic Republic of the Congo, as well as in southern Sudan and the Central African Republic.

Australia is well-known for its bushfires, but in more recent times there have been some exceptionally fierce firestorms. In March, 2019, 30,600 acres were consumed by fire east of Melbourne Bunyip State Park.

Biblical Fire

Strictly speaking there is no such thing as biblical fire, but when you read the Bible you will not fail to come across instances where fire has played a major role in God’s management of His people. God uses fire to punish (Isaiah 29:6; Jeremiah 21:12-14) and to kill (Revelation 9:18-20). Ultimately He will use it as an agent of everlasting, punitive torment (Mark 9:43-49). In Mathew 13:40 Jesus warns unbelievers: “Therefore as the tares are gathered and burned in the fire, so it will be at the end of this age.”

In fact there are so many references to fire in the Bible, it is difficult to separate the more important ones from lesser ones – although every word of God is important (Matthew 4:4). Perhaps the most jaw-dropping reference to fire is, ‘For the LORD your God is a consuming fire, a jealous God (Deuteronomy 4:24), and the author of Hebrews also describes God as ‘a consuming fire (12:29; Cf. 1 Kings 18:38).’  

God is jealous for His people. He made them to worship Him only (Deuteronomy 4:15-24; 5:7). He has many amazing attributes; for example, the Scriptures tell us: ’God is Spirit (John 4:24), and God is love (1 John 4:8, 16),’ but we must not overlook the awesome fact that He is ‘a consuming fire (Deuteronomy 4:24).’

In view of this, those who mistreat and abuse His people should be fearful – indeed, they should be terrified! …… since His Word says, ‘it is a righteous thing with God to repay with tribulation those who trouble you, and to give you who are troubled rest with us when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with His mighty angels in flaming fire taking vengeance on those who do not know God, and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ (2 Thessalonians 1:6-8).’ What an awesome spectacle the second coming of Christ will be!

Peter reminds us that the earth is, ‘reserved for fire until the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men (2 Peter 3:7b).’ He continues: ‘But the day of the Lord will come as a thief in the night, in which the heavens will pass away with a great noise, and the elements will melt with fervent heat; both the earth and the works that are in it will be burned up. Therefore, since all these things will be dissolved, what manner of persons ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness, looking for and hastening the coming of the day of God, because of which the heavens will be dissolved, being on fire, and the elements will melt with fervent heat (V.V. 10-12)?’

Food for Thought

Every  minute, hour, day and month, the time of the end draws nearer (Matthew 24:36; Mark 13:26, 27). There is no escape (Hebrews 12:25; Cf. 2 Peter 2:9). God has made this world and the dimension of *time within His creation to be finite. Time as we know it will come to an end (Hebrews 12:26-29). The writing on the wall is there for all to see. Global warming is a scientific fact. It is happening, and it’s all part of God’s plan (V.V. 26-29). Just as we see wide-scale fires raging on the earth’s surface and feel the heat of the sun on our backs, we hear of ‘wars and rumours of wars, famines, pestilences and earthquakes (Matthew 24:6-8).’  We are reminded of God’s promise: ‘“Then they will deliver you up to tribulation and **kill you, and you will be hated by all nations for My name’s sake (V. 9).”’ 

We would do well to take note of our Lord’s words, ‘“Behold, I am coming as a thief. Blessed is he who watches, and keeps his garments, lest he walk naked and they see his shame (Revelation 16:15).’


**New Testament Martyrs 

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Noble, Nobles, Nobility and Noblemen

‘Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things (Philippians 4:8).’


Can we picture in our mind the famous oil painting by Sir Edwin Henry Landseer entitled the Monarch of the Glen? If you are not familiar with *it, try to imagine a magnificent twelve pointer, royal stag, standing motionless upon a bracken covered knoll overlooking a Scottish glen. Acutely alert, the animal partially lifts his head and sniffs the moist air for scents. A morning mist rises from the vale below, and lively shower clouds partially mask craggy mountain peaks beyond. This splendid creature has the poise of a monarch surveying his domain. Without a doubt his stance is truly regal, but there’s not a hint of pride or haughtiness in him. Instead, his demeanour is that of a king who is both honourable and true. There’s nothing cowardly about him. On the contrary, he is strong, courageous and resolute.

My interpretation of Landseer’s masterpiece presents an image of a good and caring king who is of noble character.

The concept of nobility hearkens back to the times of the Crusader knights who fought for what they believed to be a righteous cause, i.e., the ousting of the followers of Islam from their occupation of the Holy Land. They were convinced they could accomplish this by inflicting upon them acts of violence and of murder. Today, this is called genocide.

Bound by a code of chivalry to defend the weak, the poor, widows and orphans, they set about their mission to slaughter the muslim menfolk, but time and again they failed to defeat their enemy. It was no wonder, because their barbarous acts were a complete contradiction to their avowed allegiance to Christ. They had what they believed to be noble aspirations, but they were deeply flawed and misguided.

The truly noble are admirably upright and of excellent character. They always place others before themselves.

Noble and Nobles

The words noble and nobles are found in both the Old and New Testaments – more so in the former – but what is fascinating is the large number of Hebraic and Greek words that are translated into English as noble and nobles. This points to the inadequacy of the English words when it comes to expressing the concepts of the original writers of the Bible. To complicate the matter their meanings in the Hebrew or Greek texts change according to where they are placed within the framework of what is being expressed.

Now, why does this matter? Because we fail to appreciate the subtleties of meanings expressed by the writers. We can have a rough idea, but if we are to understand more fully what the authors wanted to communicate, we must examine and get to the root of the actual words in their original languages.

At this point, you might sigh, and confess you are not professor of biblical Hebrew and Greek, and even if you were, you might ask yourself how much you would miss if you didn’t make the effort?


Let’s look at a couple of texts to judge for ourselves. Take for example:

Exodus 24:11 ‘But on the nobles of the children of Israel He did not lay His hand. So they saw God, and they ate and drank.’ [The meaning here is chief men.]

Judges 5:13 ‘“Then the survivors came down, the people against the nobles; The LORD came down for me against the mighty.”’  [These are powerful men of excellence; they are gallant and glorious.]

There are loads of other texts featuring the word nobles, but I’ll spare you from them. Instead I’ll set out some of their meanings:

Nobles can be people of high rank, pure and white; powerful, famous and worthy; chief princes; honourable captains; magnificent grandees, gallant warriors, and people of repute and renown.


In the New Testament we have the word nobleman:

Luke 19:12 ‘Therefore He said: “A certain nobleman went into a far country to receive for himself a kingdom and to return.’ [This describes a person who was well-born and of high rank.]

John 4:49 ‘The nobleman said to Him, “Sir, come down before my child dies!”’ [This person is a regal, preeminent citizen.]


We also have the word noble:

Acts 26:25 ‘But he said, “I am not mad, most noble Festus, but speak the words of truth and reason.’  [The adjective describes Festus as being: strong, honourable and excellent.]

1 Corinthians 1:26 ‘For you see your calling, brethren, that not many wise according to the flesh, not many mighty, not many noble, are called.’ (Here the word means: well born, and of high rank; those who are generous.]

James 2:7 ‘Do they not blaspheme that noble name by which you are called?’ [This describes Jesus as being: virtuous, distinguished, fair, goodly and honest.]

Philippians 4:8 ‘Finally, brethren, whatever things are true, whatever things are noble, whatever things are just, whatever things are pure, whatever things are lovely, whatever things are of good report, if there is any virtue and if there is anything praiseworthy—meditate on these things.’ [Here it means: venerable, honourable and honest.]


If you are to get the most out of your Bible, you should go the extra mile (Matthew 5:41) and get hold of an online **app that gives you the meanings of the original biblical words. You won’t regret it, for God’s Word will enrich your fellowship with Him and with His people.

*The Monarch of the Glen Painting,_Edwin_Landseer,_1851.png 

**Greek Interlinear Bible 

**Hebrew Interlinear Bible 

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