John Bennett, Pinxton, Nottingham [SEE PROFILE BELOW]

In the long list of salutations found in Romans 16 there is one that is of particular interest in relation to this article. In verse 10 it is said of Apelles that he is 'approved in Christ'.

The significance of the word 'approved' is that it was used after deter­mining whether a coin was authentic. A coin that was 'approved' was one that retained its integrity of weight when put to the test. Whilst we are not given any further information to explain the reason for this approbation given to Apelles we are told a little of the characteristics that meet with divine approval elsewhere in the New Testament.

The Test of Peace
In Romans 14. 18 Paul writes, 'For he that in these things (i.e. the righteousness, peace and joy in the Holy Spirit of verse 17) serveth Christ is acceptable to God, and approved by men'. In the verses that have proceeded this statement Paul has been bringing before his readers the need for consideration and thoughtfulness in the exercise of righteousness, peace and joy, and with the desire to edify their fellow believers. Only in this way will the reality and integrity of their service be seen by men, and be acceptable ('well pleasing'), RV, to God, cp. Rom. 12. 1, 2; Phil. 4. 18.

Hence in verse 19 Paul's appeal is 'Let us therefore pursue' (JND), or 'eagerly and earnestly seek after' (Wuest) 'the things which make for peace, and things with which one may edify another'. Only peacemakers are approved, cp. Matt. 5. 9.

The need that gives rise to such an appeal is found in 1 Corinthians 11. 19. Here Paul writes of 'heresies (sects, JND) among you'. Where there is carnality there is often division, and the seed of division often grows into sectarianism. The assembly at Corinth was riven by partisan groups, with their ardent and uncompromising followers and 'leaders', cp. ch. 1:10-12; and by the self-importance and pride rising from the material prosperity of some, cp. v. 21.

In the midst of this sad and sorrowful scene the hand of God overrules. There are those who emerge from this test as 'they who are approved'. It is from such a scene that they emerge or are 'made manifest' (RV, JND), because of their work to maintain the unity of the assembly and making for peace by resisting and condemning any divisive actions.

The Test of Praise
In 2 Corinthians 10. 17 Paul writes, 'He that glorieth ('boasts', JND 'and goes on boasting', present participle), 'let him glory in the Lord'. It is essential that the ground or foundation of our boasting is appropriate. 'To glory in the Lord is due to Him and good for us; to glory elsewhere is a danger as well as a delusion', (Kelly), cp. Isa. 65. 16; 1 Cor. 1. 29. It must be remembered that it is God who assigns the work and equips the servant to do it. What other ground of boasting can there be but in God who desires and deserves the glory.

Paul's eye was fixed upon God, and he did not expect the commenda­tion of men, but rather sought the approbation of God. What was the importance of man's judgement, cp. 1 Cor. 4. 3? Whilst his critics only had their own self-commendation in view Paul looked to a higher assize where things would be weighed differently, cp. 1 Cor. 3. 13.

Evidence of this is found in 2 Cor. 13. 7. 'Now I pray to God that ye do no evil'. The reason for the prayer is that Paul sought the spiritual progress of the Corinthian believers. When compared with the first epistle it is wholly appropriate that Paul should express his desire that the base, wicked, and injurious things might have been put away from a positive view, 'that ye should do that which is honest (commendable, admirable)'. What Jabez sought for himself Paul sought for others, cp. 1 Chron. 4. 10., which shows the consistency of his ministry; cp. Rom. 12. 17; 2 Cor. 8. 21.

But what makes Paul's prayer remarkable is the situation in which he uttered it. His apostleship was still challenged, his character still assailed, yet his concern was for them and not for his own reputation. The exercise of his apostolic powers upon the erring assembly certainly would have meant 'that we should appear approved'. The lack of a test to prove the integrity of Paul's claim might mean that in some people's minds 'we be as reprobates (disapproved)', v. 7, but that was not the primary motive of Paul. Paul could easily have vindicated his own name. Instead he left any vindication to God.

The Test of Principles
In his second letter to Timothy Paul writes, 'Strive diligently to present thyself approved unto God' (JND), ch. 2. 15. Paul is exhorting Timothy to give himself wholly to the service of God. This is no call for 'half-meas­ures' and, as W.E. Vine points out 'it is one requiring diligence of repeti­tion'! If one is to be 'a workman that needeth not to be ashamed' then it will require exertion. The term 'workman', or labourer, while not indicat­ing any particular sphere of service also shows that there is no human glory attached to the work, cp. 2 Cor. 5. 9.

The test that can be applied is to our skill in 'rightly dividing the word of truth' As this phrase is the translation of a Greek word which only occurs here in the New Testament, a number of metaphors have been based upon it. JND translates it 'cutting in a straight line', which suggests the figure of the ploughman or the Roman road builder. In both cases a straight course is of paramount importance. In handling the scriptures it is essential that there is no deviation from the text or the context, cp. 2 Cor. 4. 2. There should also be a genuine desire to present the whole counsel of God, cp. Acts 20. 27. Only in this way can we hope to gain divine approval.

The Test of Patience and Power
In James 1 the writer is concerned with the believer's trial of faith; 'Blessed is the man that endureth temptation', v. 12. The patient and steadfast endurance of testing is what fames has in mind. This is not the temptation of verse 14 but rather the trials mentioned in verses 2 and 3. These trials are the instruments by which Christian character or maturity is developed. They come from without rather than from within. Thus, they are trials to be endured, not avoided.

You will notice that James does not envisage failure. The idea of failure is absent from the word 'approved'. He deals with success not failure. As JND translates, 'having been proved, he shall receive the crown of life'. If we ask, God does provide us with the wisdom that we need to meet the trial, vv. 5, 6. James reminds us of the example of Job, cp. 5. 11; Job 5. 17, to indicate that our endurance will carry divine approbation and approval. The symbol here is the crown or garland of life. As one has said, 'It expresses in symbol what is expressed in words in the greeting, 'Well done, good and faithful servant'. This is the spiritual prosperity or true happiness that opens the verse, cp. 1 Pet. 1. 7, 8.

Whatever tests may be applied to our motives and activities, will the outcome be confirmation of our integrity and entitle us to the approbation 'Approved in Christ'?

AUTHOR PROFILE: JOHN BENNETT is a member of the Precious Seed committee.

There are 5 articles in
ISSUE (1995, Volume 50 Issue 3)


Four Wonderful Things

God’s Lamb

Jabez the Man of Prayer

Thoughts on the Will of God (1)

This article is not part of a series

There are 114 articles by this author

Hezekiah’s Confession

The Central Role of the King

On-Line Bible version 1.41

Hezekiah’s Revival

Day by Day Bible Promises

Light & Life Literature

Editorial - ‘We be brethren’, Gen. 13. 8.

Hezekiah’s Revival

The Disability Discrimination Act 1995


The Precious Seed Web Site

Day by Day Divine Titles

God and the Nations

Eternal Security

Editorial - ‘Who is Apollos?’ 1 Cor. 3. 6.

Editorial - ‘Abstain from all appearance of evil’, 1 Thess. 5. 22.

The Chuch in Smyrna

Eternal Security

Day by Day - Bible Commands

The King in Psalm 45

Man’s Attitude to Christ

All Things

The Fear of the Lord


Could you ever love me again? Bob Cretney

Day by Day - Pictures and Parables




Book Reviews

Prayer Moves Mountains John Williams


R. B. Jones – Gospel Ministry in Turbulent Times N. Gibbard

Bible and Church Conference 2009 Peter Williams, Dirk Jongkind, Simon Gathercole

Christian Devotedness Anthony Norris Groves


A Practical Theology of Missions: Dispelling the Mystery; Recovering the Passion

Psalm 119 For Life: Living Today In The Light Of The Word

Empty Arms Keren Baker

The Church the Body of Christ

On wings of prayer

Editorial - Do I seek to please men?

Laridian Bible Software

King Asa

King Jehoshaphat

Baptism Jack Hay

The Heavenly Physician Rommel Ghossain

Editorial - ‘For if ye do these things ye shall never fall’

Editorial - ‘The fruit of the Spirit is love’, Gal. 5. 22


The Tabernacle and the Offerings Albert Leckie

Roses, Marys & Others Betty Holt

Editorial - ‘Many were gathered together, insomuch that there was no room to receive them’, Mark 2.

“Thank You, King James” – the tough life of Robert Hicks James Hastings

Editorial - ‘Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you’, Matt. 28. 20.

Editorial - ‘Apollos . . . mighty in the scriptures’, Acts 18. 24.

Amaziah – ‘thine heart hath lifted thee up’



Working with Senior Citizens - Part 2

Editorial - ‘Touched with the feeling of our infirmities’, Heb 4. 15.

David Livingstone

Editorial - ‘In whom we have . . . the forgiveness of sins, according to the riches of his grace’, E

Voice in the Darkness - Della Letkeman

The Messiah in the Temple - Roger Liebi

Show & Tell Colin D. Jones

Life in the Big Story – Your Place in God’s Unfolding Plan - Heidi Johnston

Led by His Hand - Malcolm Coombes, ex- R.N.

The Saviour God and His Servant King - Malcolm C. Davis.

Frederick Stanley Arnot: 1858-1914

Editorial - ‘Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others’, Phil

Making Disciples – The Thessalonian Way Tim Mather

Biblical Principles of Leadership - Dr. Alexander Kurian

Possessing the Inheritance – a Concise Commentary on the Book of Joshua Malcolm C. Davis

Replacement Theology David Dunlap


William Rhodes Lewis 1877-1964


J. Charleton Steen, 1865 - 1931

Editorial -


The Prophet Gad

William Trotter 1818-1865

The Epistle to Philemon - Part 1

Epistle to Philemon


Henry Craik 1805-1866


Changes in the Precious Seed Trust

John R. Caldwell

Chairman’s Notes

At His Feet - Part 1

The Gospel of Mark

First Samuel

At His Feet: John 11 - Weeping at His Feet

Second Samuel

The Gospel of Mark - Part 2

At His Feet - Part 3: John 12 - Worshipping at His Feet

General Data Protection Regulation - Article 29 of the EU

The Gospel of Mark - Part 3

Robert Eugene Sparks 1844-1918

The Gospel of Mark - Part 4

Their Finest Hour - Mary Magdalene

Chairman’s Notes

The Gospel of Mark - Part 5

Major-General Sir Charles H. Scott, KCB, RA 1848-1919

The Gospel of Mark - Part 6

The Gospel of Mark - Part 7

Chairman’s Notes

The Gospel of Mark - Part 8

The Gospel of Mark - Part 9

Chairman’s Notes

The Gospel of Mark - Part 10

Chairman’s Notes