Exegesis

Whom Jesus Chooses

This post will be brief.

In John 6, we have a narrative of tremendous importance. In the context, the disciples had returned from their first solo ministry tour (Matthew 10; Mark 3; Luke 9) describing to Jesus all that God accomplished through them. Jesus Himself was continuing in His own ministry and the combination of the two ministries was drawing quite a crowd. In fact, John identifies about 5,000 men (John 6:10-with potential for another 5,000 women and even more children). These were fed by Jesus, healed, shepherded, and taught all by the Lord or His delegates. This was a crowd which followed Him across the Sea of Galilee, interrupted their lives for Him, believed in Him, to a limited degree, and for all intents and purposes, were His disciples.

However, as Jesus’ teaching reaches the point that He identifies what He already knows (v.64), that not many of them truly believe, they become increasingly uncomfortable (vv. 26-40). Ultimately, teaching in the synagogue, His teaching hits them hard (vv. 59ff.). He tells them that they must eat His flesh and drink His blood (vv. 48-58). Not only was this unsettling, but He goes on to say that this crowd is grumbling at His teaching (v. 61) and will only get worse (v. 62). He finally drops the news that many do not believe in Him truly and in fact they cannot even follow Him unless it is granted them to do so from the Father (vv. 64-65). The result? Many of the disciples, the crowd, left Jesus, grumbling no doubt, and stopped following Him. There were only twelve left. Jesus tells them that, upon Peter’s confession that He has the words of eternal life (cf. v 63), He chose them to follow Him. Not only that, but He even chose one who is a devil (v. 70). Jesus chose a devil, slanderer, to follow Him. Was this man ever saved? No. He had a part to play, however. Jesus chose him still. He also chose the eleven as well, and they went on to become the apostles.

What does all this mean? It means that “many are called, few are chosen” (Matthew 22:14). In fact, of the potentially 20,000 men, women, and children, only twelve were chosen of Christ, drawn of the Father. And, one of them chosen was an enemy of Christ. The direct implication is that at that time, Jesus did not choose the other 20,000 “disciples.” They chose Jesus, and thus were never true disciples.

The sovereign will of Christ and the Father is evident here. Too vast to summarize. Just know that Jesus chooses those whom He desires, even some who remain an adversary, by His own will motivated by the will of the Father.

Family 101: The Children

We have covered the creation of the man, the creation of the woman, and creation itself. Now, we need to turn our attention to the subject of children. Although no children were created, or conceived, in the garden “pre-fall,” we have all that we need to know about children, how to raise them, as well as why they even exist, from the early chapters of Genesis, particularly the garden narrative. This will only be a summary, but will be much to think about.

One of the least developed theologies of the modern church, or historical church for that matter, is the theology of the Family, particularly, as it relates to children. I believe that if we can develop a theology of children from Scripture, and let Scripture instruct us concerning the glorious position of children, much in the family, and in the church, would be corrected. My desire is to introduce this theology here for your consideration.

To begin, I want to consider Jesus’ terms in Mark 10:13-16:

13 And they were bringing children to Him so that He might touch them; but the disciples rebuked them.

14  But when Jesus saw this, He was indignant and said to them, “Permit the children to come to Me; do not hinder them; for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.

15  “Truly I say to you, whoever does not receive the kingdom of God like a child will not enter it at all.”

16  And He took them in His arms and began blessing them, laying His hands on them.

Without going into a full detail on this passage, it is enough for us to look at Jesus’ reference to children here as those to whom belongs the kingdom. That phrase delineates for us all that we need in order to understand your child. Yes, that is right. It was enough for Jesus, and, when understood, it is enough for us. The result of this understanding will be the action of Christ here-He took them in His arms and began blessing them!

Imagine seeing children as a blessing again to the extent that you express that to them! It stems from the kingdom purpose of children.

To say that to children belongs the kingdom, is to say that children are heirs of the kingdom. That is, the kingdom is for, and made up of, children (John 1:12-13). The Greek here is instructive, obviously. It literally reads, “…for of these kinds of ones is the kingdom of God.” This is not good English, but is good Greek. In other words, the children are pictures, or examples, of those who exist in the kingdom of God. The kingdom of God is all that God has created. It has been infiltrated and overrun with tares and goats. Yet, it is still the kingdom and one day Jesus will remove all these stumbling blocks from His kingdom (Matthew 13:41). Until then, they coexist with us. So, because of God’s original design in the garden, which began His eternal design for redemption, the kingdom is (made up of) those who are not only like children, but are children. That is the key to understanding your children from God’s perspective.

Some will look at this and say, “Yes, we must enter the kingdom like a child: humble, meek, helpless,” etc.… These things are true in a sense. To enter the kingdom, you must be poor in spirit (Matthew 5:3). However, that is not the point here. The point here is a comparison between biological children and spiritual children such that biological children become the comparison for spiritual children. That is, when God created Adam, He made him to be His image and likeness (Genesis 1:26). Adam was called a “son of God” (Luke 3:38) and as such was in the kingdom. When he fell, he was thrust from God’s kingdom and submitted to Satan. Once returned, He was in God’s kingdom once again, however the kingdom had taken on a new component-futility resulting from God’s curse (Genesis 3:17ff.; Romans 8:18-22). That condition exists in the kingdom now and will be purged at the coming of Jesus Christ to reign (Matthew 13:41).

Now, when the man and woman were created, they were given the privilege of procreation. By that would come children. Once born, these unique creations, then, would exemplify what it means to be in God’s kingdom. They were a real-live, physical, examples of the truth of being a son to God. Remember, all of God’s children were predestined to become conformed to the image of Jesus Christ, the Son of God (Romans 8:28-30). That was not simply the goal of redemption, but the original creation goal of the Father (Hebrews 2:9-15). This is a theology of sonship that is true of children. They are unique because they are born infants and grow, mature, and develop into a man or woman, who themselves bear the image of God. It is only unique to children that a boy can go from being a son to a father who then can bear sons. That dynamic, it seems, also replicates the glory of God in that He is a Son to a Father, and a Father to a Son. So, in a tremendously unique and distinctly profound sense, children are really the picture of the triune nature of God.

Therefore, children are heirs of the kingdom. To deny them access to Jesus Christ, as the disciples had done, was infuriating to Jesus for this very reason. Your children are pictures to you of the entire purpose of God in creating the kingdom in the first place-to give to the Son sons of His own to enjoy forever (Revelation 21:7)! So, please, treat your children accordingly.

Matthew 25:34

34 “Then the King will say to those on His right, ‘Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.

Family 101–The Woman

The last post discussed, in generalities, the responsibilities of the man, Adam. We saw that the man had many responsibilities and rightfully so, as he was to display the glory and image of God (1 Corinthians 11:7). These responsibilities, as demonstrated before, have not been changed, nor have they been abrogated by the fall, progress of revelation, or time. They are just as expected of men today as they were of Adam the day he was created.

Women also have responsibilities. It might seem that men supersede women or that somehow men are more important than women by stating that Adam was made to bear the image and glory of God. To some, especially in our woman-oriented, matriarchal, society, to say that man is the image and glory of God automatically assumes that women are not. And, once that is assumed, the assumption is also that the esteem of women and their worth are questioned. However, those assumptions indicate a lack of understanding concerning the instruction to women from Scripture. Therefore, to the degree that we must regain the basics concerning the man, we must also regain the basics concerning the woman as well. I believe this will be enlightening and invigorating for women in many ways.

The Creation of a Woman

God has now created the man. It is the middle of the day of day six of creation. The man has been given his instructions, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat of it, you will surely die” (Genesis 2:16). The man has also been made aware that he has no one to live with corresponding to himself (vv. 18-20). It is at this point that we pick up the narrative in order to examine the creation of the woman.

Verse 18 summarizes God’s purpose for the making of the woman: “It is not good for the man to be alone; I will make him a helper suitable for him.” God states here that it is not good for the man to be alone. Putting all emotion aside, the reason it is not good for man to be alone is because God is not alone (John 16:32). God consists of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit in perfect unity and existence with willful love for one another. All creation has been good up to this point because it has rightly represented the power and character of God as excellent and skillful (Proverbs 8:1ff.). However, since the man is to be the image and glory of God, and God is not alone, it is not good for man to be alone. Now, from that we also experience the fact that men need a wife for a variety of reasons (companionship, love, friendship, care of children, etc..). However, those things are auxiliary to the fact that a man cannot bear the image and likeness of God alone.

A woman, then, is created as an integral component of the life of the man, the image and glory of God. God will create another person who corresponds to the image of the man in order to provide for the man the capacity to replicate the glory of God, to her, to others, to God. At this point it becomes obvious that the honor of the woman and the glory of a woman is far greater than what is often thought. And, it is true that women are far too often treated as lesser-class citizens by rude, selfish, primate-like men who don’t know Christ, and some who do. In fact, whole societies can oftentimes rise up against women in order to beat her back and teach her a lesson (i.e. many in the Muslim world are becoming exposed as those who promote this thinking, and have, for centuries). The mere creation of a woman in order to compensate for the inability of the man to bear the image and likeness of God alone demonstrates God’s worthy and glorious purpose in the creation of this woman. She would complete for the man the ability to express the image of God, would be the recipient of the love of God and all His perfections of glory, and herself would be a glory to the man as well. This is what Paul meant when he wrote that the woman is the glory of a man (1 Corinthians 11:7). She completes God’s purpose in the creation of the man. Therefore, a woman who truly wants to be feminine in all that she does must comprehend these things and organize her life accordingly.

God makes Adam fall asleep. God takes a rib, with some flesh still attached, and from that material makes a woman. Now, much must be said about this. First of all, realize that God wanted to create a being for Adam (v.18 “…for him”). This being would not be unlike him (like the animals were), but like him. That is, she would correspond to him in likeness and image, so to speak. In Hebrew, the term “correspond” means “the front part” and it goes on to mean a picture, replica, or correspondence to something next to it (Wilhelm Gesenius and Samuel Prideaux Tregelles, Gesenius’ Hebrew and Chaldee Lexicon to the Old Testament Scriptures [Bellingham, WA: Logos Bible Software, 2003], p. 530). That is, Adam and the woman, if both were to stand side-by-side, would have many similarities, or correspondence. That was God’s plan. And the pattern for the woman would be the man himself. The intent of God was to create a woman who would correspond to the man in many ways, and yet compliment the man in appropriate ways as well for God’s purpose. This is why it is very inappropriate to confuse the two, or try to make them the same- a man a woman or a woman a man. In the Law of Moses, it says, “

Deuteronomy 22:5

“A woman shall not wear man’s clothing, nor shall a man put on a woman’s clothing; for whoever does these things is an abomination to the Lord your God.

It is still an abomination today. The mixing of the sexes was not God’s design for His own glory. To confuse the two is to disregard the glory of God and reject His beauty (this is why, by the way, it is dishonorable for a man to have long hair-1 Corinthians 11:13-15).

The man now wakes up and sees this creation of God. I have always contended that she must have been the most beautiful woman to have ever walked this planet, and he the most handsome of men. His exclamation is appropriate:

Genesis 2:23

The man said,

“This is now bone of my bones,

And flesh of my flesh;

She shall be called Woman,

Because she was taken out of Man.”

Adam immediately understood that God created this woman from his own flesh and bone. How did he know this? Because there she was. That is, in the creation of everything, it would most make sense for that to be the case than for God to create from nothing, as He did Adam. Further, it would make sense that Adam would know that he was made to sleep for the first time for a reason. The man identifies the woman as one corresponding to himself and names her the feminine gender of the word for “man.” She is a picture of himself and made from his own body. This will become crucial later as we examine marriage itself.

Now, the man can be complete. Now, he is able to express the glory of God to this woman-His love, His unity, His joy, His justice, His commandment. The woman was not created for the man’s physical satisfaction. Although this aspect of marriage is crucial to marriage (1 Corinthians 7:1-5), it is not the primary motivation for the creation of the woman. The primary motivation is the completion of the glory of God in the man. This is why women are “for a man.” Most women desire to marry and to have a husband to loves her and cares for her. This is why.

Her Instructions

Now, having examined her creation, what does she do now? For that, we need to look at Genesis 1:28. In this verse, we see the man and the woman standing before God. They were both unclothed and there was no shame in that, neither was God ashamed. It was a glory, and is a glory, in marriage (Hebrews 13:4). And as they are presented before God as a newly created couple, they are given a charge. I have examined this before. However, as it relates to the woman, it is important to look at these instructions in relation to her responsibilities.

It would be nice if God gave a clear instruction to the woman as He did the man (Genesis 2:16-17). He did not. But, He did give instruction in Genesis 1:28 that sufficiently equips the woman of today in her responsibilities.

Genesis 1:28

28  God blessed them; and God said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth, and subdue it; and rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over every living thing that moves on the earth.”

We have already seen that the woman was created ultimately “for a man.” So, her priority is to be “for a man.” That is to say, a godly woman only is fulfilled when she is living for a man, her husband. She was designed and created for that purpose and that purpose has not changed. To love a husband, to like a husband, to be concerned for him, and to respond to him as he is the image and glory of God, is her greatest privilege and created purpose. She does not lose herself to him, she is herself most before God when she is “for” him.

And, this couple, now, have comprehensive instructions from God.

First, be fruitful. That is just what it sounds like. It is to bear fruit. This means to bear the product of something. It is a beautiful way of saying that the man and his wife are to make replicas of themselves. This is a direct reference to sexual intimacy, the ability that God has given to the man and the woman for enjoyment, intimacy of relationship, and child-bearing. Children are not produced any other way. And, the woman has been specifically created with the marvelous ability to bear a child. The intricacy of a woman’s ability to bear children is fantastic. She is a marvel in this aspect. Thus, the woman is innately given to love the fruit of her relationship with her husband. Just as the husband is called to organize his life provisionally in order to care for the “fruit” of the couple, so also the woman is to allow for this instruction in her heart.

Second, multiply. This is a term that refers to quantity. Fruitfulness indicates the actual act and product of the relationship. Multiply refers to the frequency. Obviously, bearing more than one child demands more than one encounter. It is in the context of a holy relationship, unmixed with shame, that God instructs the man and the woman to regularly engage in that which bears multiple fruit for them. It is important, here, to mention that God is the One who completes conception. David understood this in Psalm 139:13-16

 

13 For You formed my inward parts;

You wove me in my mother’s womb.

14  I will give thanks to You, for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;

Wonderful are Your works,

And my soul knows it very well.

15  My frame was not hidden from You,

When I was made in secret,

And skillfully wrought in the depths of the earth;

16  Your eyes have seen my unformed substance;

And in Your book were all written

The days that were ordained for me,

When as yet there was not one of them.

Therefore, for a man and woman to multiply, there obviously requires intimacy. However, ultimately, the conception of the child in the womb is God’s decision (see Psalm 139:16 especially). The woman is uniquely given the ability to receive this marvelous work of God in her womb, which thereby completes the man in the sense that little images of him and her are created by them. This too is a glory and replica of the creative work of God. Or, to put it another way, God’s life-giving creation ability is given temporal expression by the ability of the man and his wife to conceive children. That is the joy, fruit, and reward of the Lord toward His own name as well as the man and his wife (Psalm 137:3-5).

Third, the result of fruit-bearing exponentially is that of filing the earth. This is exactly as it sounds. To fill the earth is to complete the earth. It is to inhabit the earth. It is to make it rich with people. Some of us pessimists might chagrin the idea of so many people. However, remember God’s intention in creation is the creation of a kingdom for the Son wherein He would have multiple brothers and sisters and the Father would have multiple children (Romans 8:28-30; Hebrews 2:9-14). These are the sons of God and they were God’s intention. So, to fill the earth with the sons of God is what is meant. However, Satan came along and introduced weeds, as it were, into the field and created tares (see Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43) hoping to destroy God’s intentions. He did not. He only accomplished them. So, there is a great need for godly parents to receive from God the conception of the sons of God, as it were, so that they might exist and have a home in which they can learn the fear of the Lord (Malachi 2:15).

Fourth, to subdue the earth means to bring it into usefulness. That is, to make the earth produce food, and, by extension, other necessities. The man and the woman are both to respectively work the earth. It would seem appropriate that the man would be the one to “cultivate and keep the garden” (Genesis 2:15) and thus actually produce the food. However, while he is producing, the woman is to be producing the meal. Given their condition, they had access to fruits and vegetables abundantly. However, Adam is required to continue to cultivate the ground so that food would continue to grow and thus they could all eat, as well as any children to come (Genesis 2:5). Therefore, the woman would not be required, nor expected, to do this work of provision. She would not cultivate the ground. She would not tend the garden, or keep it. She would take what she was given by the efforts of the man and make a meal from that. Obviously, in our day, this translates into pots, pans, stoves, silverware, water, electricity, gas, etc… This is what it means to “be workers at home” in Titus 2:5. To work at home means, essentially, to prepare meals. However, this includes so much more than simply picking a few things out of the garden and putting them on the plate. The planning, preparation, acquiring of food, and cleanup is immense. It takes skill, commitment to God’s design, and, if done for Christ, joy. Woman, your work in life is not corporate. Let Adam do that. Let him cultivate and tend the garden. You prepare what he brings to you so that he, and the children, as well as yourself, might enjoy what God has provided for and through you.

Fifth, the concept of ruling is here repeated. However, too often people want to confuse “rule” here with obfuscation of responsibilities. The man is created to “rule” in Genesis 1:26. This is the same Hebrew word as v. 28. It means to tread with authority and responsibility. It refers to treading upon your own land for purpose and enjoyment. But it can also refer to the care of all that you tread upon. The man would have a unique construct of “rulership” that would be unshared by the woman. Those things were outlined in the previous post. However, here the “rule” of the woman, as in this verse both are in view, yet in v. 26 It would seem that only the man is in view (since much has happened between the two verses, namely all of chapter 2). Yet, the rulership would be a shared one in the sense that both have authority to tread. Yet, that looks different for the woman from the man. She would have a shared authority over the fish, birds, and some animals. Yet, she would not have a displacing authority of the man, nor would she have authority over the man. She is still submissive to the her husband particularly since she has been created from him, for him, and alongside him (1 Corinthians 11:8-12). Adam has responsibility for leadership in the realms of glory of God, work/provision, the Word of God, worship, and his wife. The woman has responsibility in others realms. They are, her husband, their children, their home, and her own godliness as she should bear the reflected glory of her husband as he follows Christ (this is why it is so difficult for a Christian woman who is married to a non-Christian man to really grow to the degree she could. She is innately dependent upon her husband for his leadership. Thankfully, God is a husband to the widow, which spiritually she is, and a Father to the orphan-Deuteronomy 10:18; Psalm 68:5; 146:10).

In Conclusion, as I said before in the posts for the man, if a woman organizes her life around these truths, she will be blessed of the Lord (1 Peter 3:1-6). Women are precious and are to be honored by men. Men are responsible for their welfare and care. That does not mean that women are a charity case. It means that a man’s wife should be given the means by which she can do what God has designed her to do (Ephesians 5:25-33).

Family 101-The Man

Today’s world hates the fact that there is a difference between a man and a woman. If the discussions of the day point to anything, they point to the desire to make man a woman and a woman a man. They do not want what they would call ‘inequality’ because we as human beings have tolerated that long enough. In the push for homosexual rights in “marriage,” adoption, social status, etc…, the basic disdain for God and His creation has begun to be exposed and accepted by far too many. To attempt to make a man equal in every way to a woman, or vice-versa, is tantamount to saying that the birds should come down and act like the hippo, or the shark should jump out of the sea and start soaring like an eagle. The reality is, God’s creation was a design of God, for His grand purpose, and it is a fixed state. Nothing can change it, except God Himself (and change it He will).

Today, I want to begin where the creation narrative concerning people begins-the creation of the man. It is my desire to explain the creation of the man, which will lead naturally to his responsibilities according to that creation, and thus help as many as possible to re-orient their lives to as to learn to measure up to these responsibilities.

 

THE CREATION OF A MAN

 

God has created the heavens, with all their hosts, and the earth with all of its hosts, minus two: the ones to rule over this creation on behalf of God. It is now time for God to do what He purposed to do in eternity past and that is to create a man to bear His image according to His likeness and a helper to accompany the man in his divine enterprise of bearing other images of God according to God’s image, through the man. I will attempt to explain that more in subsequent posts. This, you will see, is the starting point, and the consummation, of God’s purpose for the creation of the man. You see, a man is not just male. He is a replica of God if God were ever to become man. Let me explain.

God said,

Genesis 1:26–27

26 Then God said, “Let Us make man in Our image, according to Our likeness; and let them rule over the fish of the sea and over the birds of the sky and over the cattle and over all the earth, and over every creeping thing that creeps on the earth.”

27  God created man in His own image, in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

Notice what is being said here. God, after creating all the adornments of creation, now focuses His unified attention upon the creation of “man.” In Hebrew, “man” is a word that is typically, when it does not have the article “the” in front of it, translated “a man.” It can mean “man” in a collective sense, as in Genesis 5:2 where God, after creating the man and the woman together, and after having them presented before Him (Genesis 1:28), clearly gave them both the name “man.” That use of the word is a collective use including both the man and the woman. However, that is not the sense of the word in this passage, nor the creation narrative of Genesis 2-3. “Man” does not include the man and the woman in this narrative (which is evidenced by the fact that the singular masculine pronoun is used throughout). For example, God said, “Let us create man/a man to be our image according to our likeness.” He then proceeded to create that man and gave him specific examples follow and a specific commandment to obey. Then, after doing that, said “It is not good for man to be alone; I will make a helper suitable for him.” Notice that the creation of the woman is treated differently, and the man is still called the man. The woman is not called so, but simply a helper.

What does all this indicate? It indicates that when God said “Let Us make man in (or “to be”) our image, according to our likeness…” it was a direct reference to the man, Adam, primarily. That is, the result of this decree was the man, not the woman. That, then, indicates that what follows is primarily directed towards the responsibility of the man. Of course, there are things for the woman too, which will be summarized in Genesis 1:28 & 2:18-25. We will get there. However, for now, the man Adam needs to be addressed. We have already seen that the original responsibilities for Adam is for every man today as well. Nothing has changed. Let’s summarize those responsibilities.

First, as we go in order of the creation, we see that primarily the man is made to bear the image of God according to the likeness of God (Genesis 1:26). Paul tells us

1 Corinthians 11:7

7  For a man ought not to have his head covered, since he is the image and glory of God; but the woman is the glory of man.

Paul is echoing the very ordinance of God found here in Genesis 1:26. Adam, being made first and for God’s reason, is the image of God and most responsible for bearing that out in life. We will see how in the following. Some might object to this truth and assume that the woman cannot bear the image of God. Paul refers to that as well. He says that the “woman is the glory of man.” First, Paul makes it clear that the woman does not bear the weight of reflection of the image of God directly as does the man. She does it indirectly through the man. That is, the woman, being made directly from the man, is his image and likeness, and should be. Adam was not taken from another person but made directly by God without previous material as is the case of Eve, being made from Adam’s bone and flesh. This is why, barring obvious, adjustments, the woman and the man have such similar physical features created primarily by God for their respective purposes. Yet, the woman is the glory of the man who, in turn, is supposed to be the image and likeness of God. This also indicates a very important reality – leadership from the man will result in the continuity of the image and likeness of God through the family as the man properly reflects that image of God according to God’s likeness. That is leadership. The reflection of God seen in the man will pass to the rest of the family since part of that image is the wisdom to deal with sin and sinners carefully and possibly redemptively.

Second, the man is called to work. That is, God has created the man in His image and now the man is standing next to God beholding God’s handiwork and beginning to receive the Lord’s instructions. YHWH and Adam are standing together on the outskirts of the garden when God makes every tree to sprout that is pleasing to the eyes. He also makes the Tree of Life and the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil respectively (Genesis 2:9). Upon arriving there, the unspoken expectation, or created purpose for the man is that he is put into the Garden of Eden in order “to cultivate it and keep it” (Genesis 2:15). Since being in the garden God indicates to the man that first he is to “cultivate” the garden. What does that mean? This particular word means to “work” or “serve” and is used for religious service to YHWH (Exodus 3:12) as well as physical labor (Exodus 5:18). The idea is that of manual labor and exertion of effort toward some work that will produce either food or religious duty. In the case of Adam, it refers to manual labor as v. 5 indicates since no plant was to perpetually grow until the man “cultivates” (same word as v. 15) the ground. Thus, although God first created food for the man, and woman, the man would have to work in order to cultivate the ground continually in order to produce more food during the eons to come. Further, as is true for all things for which the man and woman would be responsible, they would also be required to train their children for faithfulness to these things as well so that they in turn can bear the image of God in the His likeness as well.

Third, the man would be called to worship. This is the second word in our couplet of v. 15. This word, “protect” (i.e. the Garden of Eden), is a word that means to “guard” from outside detriments. However, since there was no such detriment in the original creation, the best way to understand word is to consider it in the sense that Moses was told to remove his sandals once He was in the presence of the Lord on the mountain. Where God is, that place is instantly holy and pure. Thus, out of honor and dignity toward God, the man would be required to protect, as it were, that holy place where the man and YHWH would meet often. The word is used in Genesis 30:31 as Jacob describes his care for the flocks of Laban. It is also used, interestingly, in Genesis 18:19 to describe the care that Abram is to exercise over his household to ensure that they obey the commands of YHWH, e.g. “to keep the way of the Lord by doing righteousness and justice…” The garden is a holy place as that is the location of the eternal fellowship of the man, his family, and YHWH, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. We see something of this in the confrontation of Genesis 3:8ff.

Fourth, the man would be responsible for the Word of God. God tells Adam in Genesis 2:16-17 this statement:

Genesis 2:16–17

16  The Lord God commanded the man, saying, “From any tree of the garden you may eat freely;

17  but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat, for in the day that you eat from it you will surely die.”

This is the only time that the word “command” is used in the creation narrative. Thus, as Paul indicates (Romans 5:15-21 wherein Paul talks about a transgression. That transgression was none other than disobeying this very simple command found in vv. 16-17). The man would be allowed access to every form of edible plant, or tree, including the Tree of Life. However, he was to refrain from eating from the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil. In eating from that tree, he would disobey God, something the Son of God would never do, and thus incur God’s judgment. That judgment would be punishment for sins by means of death. As we know, that occurred by the crafty, subtle, and complex deception of Satan toward the woman, and the woman toward the man. However, the man was ultimately responsible for the entire episode as evidenced by the Lord’s levels of accountability. This commandment, as well as all the rest of the responsibilities of the creation, would be the responsibility of Adam to instruct to his wife, which he did (Genesis 3:2-3), his children, and subsequent grandchildren, to the degree that they would be able to instruct their own children and grandchildren (Psalm 78:1-8; cf. Deuteronomy 4:9). This is the very pattern in the rest of Scripture, especially into the NT (Ephesians 6:1-4). But, Adam, and his sons, would be stewards of this Word bearing the authority, and responsibility, of teaching it and holding others accountable to its instructions. Imagine every time you approach the Tree of Life you also see the Tree of the Knowledge of Good and Evil and remember YHWH’s instructions as told through Adam. That would have been the daily occupation of the children of Adam and Eve, barring the Fall.

Finally, Adam would be responsible for his wife, the woman. This particular privilege is of immense substance as she was a new creation, directly from the bone and flesh of Adam. In doing this, God has made a comparable mate, friend, and object of love, for the man. In doing this, the image of the Triune God would become complete as she now is one he can speak with, give command to, care for, and relate to physically as well as every other level. Further, in bearing children, they can replicate themselves, and thus the entire economy of the Garden, in them and maintain what God has commanded for them for His own glory. In being responsible for her, that is not to say that she is inept or unintelligent. That is to say, however, that she is precious, dear, and prized. She was made for the man, who is God’s image according to His likeness. As such, she would have received that care from Adam, the care of life-giving instruction from YHWH, the care of relations with Adam, the care of bearing children and training them in the commands of YHWH, the care of protection from anything that would harm her, etc… She would be in that wonderful position to have received from Adam his love, care, and relationship. His love for her would have been on display in his care for her. Her love for him would also be on display in her submission to that love of his. This is the display of the relationship of the Triune God as well-love.

From this, in conclusion, we have the basics of the man’s life. As he conforms to these creation standards, which reflect the Son of God, Adam would have perpetuated faithfulness. Today, and every age, these things are expected of every man. Men, you and I have responsibilities. To refuse these responsibilities is called laziness, which is pride (“Why do I  have to work so hard…?”) and is your greatest enemy. We must excel in our skills in displaying the image of YHWH according to His likeness. You must know Him, read about Him, submit to Him, love Him. We must work like Him (John 5:17). Our work is to be diligent, skillful (Psalm 104; Proverbs 8). We must worship YHWH in the way He has created appropriate worship. This is the New Covenant in Christ Jesus the Son. We must handle the Word of God with care and comprehensive accuracy. Finally, we must excel in our relationship to our wives. She must know that she is precious to us. She must be instructed in the Law of Christ. She must be given the tools to fulfill her responsibilities as well, and protected from the evil in the world.

“Have Tongues Ceased?” And Other Curious Questions Easily Answered

 

Yesterday, I was reading a string of comments on a post in Facebook concerning whether tongues and miracles etc.. have ceased from the days of the apostles. The statements that I saw one gentleman making were summed up in this thought, “There is not a single verse in the New Testament that shows that tongues (and thus by implication and extension other revelatory and sign gifts) have been taken away.” The argument goes that since there is no single passage that demonstrates this, then it is clear that they have not stopped. 

As I read that post and the comments, I wanted to immediately write back (even though I was not part of the discussion) and correct that statement. However, I had my own responsibilities to tend to. But this morning I am making time to explain that there is a singular passage that definitively teaches the “cessation” of tongues. Further, it teaches why and when. Further still, it teaches the cessation of other revelatory gifts and giftedness and it does so in a capable manner.

My goal in this post is to stifle that kind of statement above from being heard any longer and cause these kinds of statements to become subject to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter (2 Corinthians 10:5).

1 Corinthians 13

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The thirteenth chapter of 1 Corinthians occurs between chapters twelve and fourteen. This obvious statement is critical to its interpretation, although many commentators disagree as to its function. However, if you simply follow the text, it will tell you. First Corinthians 12:1 indicates that one of the many questions that the folks in Corinth had was concerning the use of “spiritual gifts.” Literally, Paul writes “τῶν πνευματικῶν,” “in reference to the spirituals.” The idea of giftedness primarily comes from the endowment that occurs when a person becomes a believer. Ephesians 4:11-16, a companion passage to 1 Corinthians 12-14, teaches that when Jesus Christ ascended He then sent the Holy Spirit, as promised, and the Holy Spirit then endowed men with “gifts.” These endowments are listed in that passage as Apostles, Prophets, Evangelists, and Pastors and Teachers. Not only are these the categories of giftedness, but they are sequential, or chronological in scope. We know this because earlier in the same letter, Paul taught that the apostles and prophets are the foundation of the church, they are at the ground-level of the building (Ephesians 2:19-22). The apostles, chosen by Christ Himself, are the first in the order of things in the church. They were closest in proximity to Jesus Christ and His teaching. Next in line are the prophets. These were folks who were given direct revelation from the Spirit on the spot. This endowment was in order to teach something that would guide the church in some fashion locally. Agabus is one such example. In Acts 11:27-30, He and a number of other prophets from Judea came into the church at Antioch to warn them of the coming drought. Luke records that they said this by the Spirit and it happened in the reign of Claudius (cf. Acts 18:2). So, that information was necessary for the churches, in Judea and Antioch, to prepare for the drought for all the saints. That is prophecy in the New Testament (NT) sense. It is commensurate with the Old Testament (OT) use as well.

In line, then, with the groundwork of apostles are the prophets. By the way, this very work included the men who wrote the NT also. All the writers of the NT were prophets in that they were given direct revelation, “prophecy,” by God to be recorded into Scripture. This is important.

After the prophets come the evangelists and teaching pastors. I will leave those here since the offices of apostle and prophet most concern us in 1 Corinthians 13. The positions overlapped in time, but were sequential in order of being given. In other words, you don’t see NT prophets before you see the apostles.

Paul is writing to the confused and crazed church in Corinth. This dear group of saints were the joy and distress of Paul at that same time. The problem came in when false apostles began to infiltrate the church and introduce error and accusation against Paul. These were false apostles, agents of Satan, who preached a counterfeit gospel, one which the Corinthians were bearing with beautifully (see 2 Corinthians 11:3-4, 12-15). With their false claim to apostleship came a new gospel. And, as Satan does, they introduced a false spiritual giftedness as well. We can see this in the entire argument. There is clearly the true giftedness and the false. That is the backdrop of this section of Paul’s letter.

The Context:

Paul starts chapter 12 with a reminder that they used to be ignorant pagans following every wind of doctrine (v.1). This appears as a condemnation for the way in which they are putting up with the false apostles in their midst. These men apparently were publicly saying, or teaching, that Jesus is actually accursed instead of teaching that Jesus is Lord (v.3). And with this demonic doctrine came a demonic use of gifts, which undoubtedly included a false giftedness originating from Satan just as their gospel also originated from Satan. Therefore, Paul’s teaching in this section (chapter 12-14) is really a correction against the false teachers who had infiltrated the church and brought in speculations that were contrary to sound doctrine and they were imprisoning the saints with their rhetoric, display of so-called spiritual giftedness, and self-proclaimed apostleship. And true to the use of signs and wonders, Paul himself showed by them that he was a true apostle and not a fake like them (2 Corinthians 12:12-13). Paul’s sarcasm and facetious speaking in these letters are evident and necessary as he is attempting to reason with this confused bunch.

With that as backdrop, we can move forward in the letter. Paul now is forced to write concerning spiritual gifts (χαρισμάτων-“gifts/endowments”) which the church possessed. These evidences of grace of God are meant to further sanctification. They are not meant to be used for personal reasons, nor for self-aggrandizement. They are not, as the imposters were teaching, meant to contradict sound doctrine, the doctrine of the apostles and true prophets. Thus, Paul, after explaining the multifaceted work of the Holy Spirit in the church in this manner, explains that the church is the body of Christ (Colossians 1:18) and as such must function as a body functions-in unity and usefulness. The fact is, God Himself appointed in the church these gifted men and giftedness as He desired (v. 28). God, as in salvation, is responsible for the giving of the gifts (and their removal). Not everyone in the church, whether during the time of the Corinthians or on a larger scale as time went on in the church, has the gifts and giftedness that others had early on. Not everyone will speak in unlearned languages, heal, perform miracles, or have divine revelation. Only those to whom God Himself has given them.

But notice the priority that Paul introduces in 1 Corinthians 12:28. He gives order to the positions of apostle, prophet, and teacher. That is, he introduces them with the ordinals “first, second, third.” That is, these positions of responsibility are prioritized over the following giftedness of miracles, healings, helps, administrations, and tongues. Thus, the first three are in a class all their own in importance. They are the greater gifts. That is what Paul is calling them to. Paul instructs them to give their interests to those who are apostles, prophets, and teachers more than they give to the other manifestations of the Spirit of God. Paul is pointing them back to those through whom come the Word of God. Each of those three positions are predominantly teaching positions, and by that leadership positions (Hebrews 13:7). He is lowering the position of miracles etc.. to a lesser status in the face of the teaching and leadership of the apostles, prophets, and teachers. This is why he urges these people to desire most that some might prophesy. Apostleship cannot be desired because there cannot be apostles added to the original twelve, excluding Judas, and Paul (Acts 1:21-22). But prophets are to be listened to, as God gives them to the churches. Also, teachers are to be listened to as God gives them to the church as well.

The Point

And here is the main point: the function of all of these gifts is to edify. The church is to be built up, sanctified, made holy and useful to God (John 17:17). Thus, the work of these men is to edify the church such that, as Ephesians 4:11-12 states, they might continue to edify one another. In the face of the abuses of the gifts of God, or the proper use of the gifts of Satan, edification will always be lacking. Mutual edification is Paul’s point in these chapters (see 1 Corinthians 14:4-5, 17, 26).

The gifts of the Spirit are given for mutual edification. In order for the church to collectively be made holy and useful, which is what edification is, it must exercise its gifts toward one another. That is the “way” of 1 Corinthians 12. But, Paul says, there is a more excellent “way” to edify one another-love. First Corinthians 12:31 indicates that the Corinthians should prioritize their interests toward the hearing of the Word of God from the Apostles, Prophets, and teachers, instead of fascination with miracles and tongues (so-called). That is because, as Paul wrote to the Ephesians, the teaching of the Word of God equips the saints for ministry in the church which is edification. However, all of that must be done in the context of love:

Ephesians 4:16

16  from whom the whole body, being fitted and held together by what every joint supplies, according to the proper working of each individual part, causes the growth of the body for the building up of itself in love.

The way to edify the church is for the church to hear the Word of God (John 17:17). However, if you have the Word of God in a context of avarice, greed, and selfishness (as they were doing), you “do not know as you ought to know” (1 Corinthians 8:1-3!). Love edifies. Love is the more excellent way to edify the body of Christ, in the context of the teaching of the Word of God. When Paul says, then, that I show you a more excellent way, he is speaking of the more excellent way of edification of the church. It is more excellent than mindless use of potentially Satan-inspired giftedness.

With this in mind, Paul inserts this marvelous chapter on love. Since love is the more excellent way, or context, in which to minister, he will “show” or “demonstrate” to them what that looks like.

By means of overview, I will work through this chapter.

1 Corinthians 13:1–3

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.

2  If I have the gift of prophecy, and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing.

3  And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing.

If I had all the gifts that God has given to the church, including apostleship, and yet did not minister to the church motivated by love for the church, and Christ, I am not really ministering. I am serving myself. In fact, the sounds out of the mouth of a loveless person is obtrusive and noisy. There is no profit for myself, or others, if I do not love. So, what does this “love” look like?

1 Corinthians 13:4–7

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant,

5  does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered,

6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth;

7  bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Patience, kindness, humility, wholesomeness, truth, and joy, these are the effects of love in the body. If the body at Corinth would have ministered in this fashion, they would not have rejoiced at the incest nor abused the Lord’s Table. Love edifies the church and keeps is so. Love takes the Word of God and holds it high and rejoices in it, and its effects in us all. Love bears, believes, hopes, and endures all things in the lives of the other saints for their edification (Ephesians 4:17-32). This is the point of the chapter.

Therefore, in light of this, we approach verses 8-13. This is the passage that unequivocally states that revelatory gifts would cease, future to Paul, and past to us.

1 Corinthians 13:8–13

8 Love never fails; but if there are gifts of prophecy, they will be done away; if there are tongues, they will cease; if there is knowledge, it will be done away.

9  For we know in part and we prophesy in part;

10  but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away.

11  When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

 

Love never fails to maintain its lofty position of edifying the body. The word “fails” is the word that means to fall, or be brought down. Love will never fall from its priority or usefulness. It is, as you remember, the hook that the entire Law of Moses hangs on (Matthew 22:40). However, gifts of prophecy, especially tongues, and knowledge will fall in time. Their usefulness will diminish.

Gifts of prophecy “will be done away.” This verb used here is a future passive verb meaning “to be removed, done away with, or render ineffective.” I like how one lexicon defines it: “…from the basic sense cause to be idle or useless, the term always denotes a nonphysical destruction by means of a superior force coming in to replace the force previously in effect, as, e.g. light destroys darkness…” (Timothy Friberg, Barbara Friberg and Neva F. Miller, vol. 4, Analytical Lexicon of the Greek New Testament, Baker’s Greek New Testament Library; Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Books, 2000, 221.) This verb means that something greater than itself will come and remove the gift of prophecy. So, it will, at some point future to Paul, be rendered inoperative and useless. It will fall from use. Incidentally, it is the same verb as that related to “the gift of knowledge” later in the verse. Both the gifts of prophecy and knowledge will be rendered inoperative some time in the future, from Paul’s perspective.

The gift of tongues, as they are called, will also fall. But Paul’s teaching here is a bit more intentional. He wrote, “if there are tongues, they will cease…” Tongues will cease. This is a different verb. The verb here means to “cease, to cause to stop (oneself).” And the way that it is written is conspicuously significant. It is written in the Middle Voice, which in NT Greek means that the subject is doing the action of the verb upon itself. Thus, tongues will cease itself. It will make itself useless, done, stopped, and they will fall. So, the gifts of tongues/languages will cease to exist and be useful to the church. This leads us to ask, or at least it should, “What were tongues for?” Paul explains this in the very next chapter.

 

The Purpose of Tongues

 

1 Corinthians 14:20–22

20 Brethren, do not be children in your thinking; yet in evil be infants, but in your thinking be mature.

21  In the Law it is written, “By men of strange tongues and by the lips of strangers I will speak to this people, and even so they will not listen to Me,” says the Lord.

22  So then tongues are for a sign, not to those who believe but to unbelievers; but prophecy is for a sign, not to unbelievers but to those who believe.

Mature thinking, a throwback from his argument in chapter 13:8-11, does not prioritize spiritual giftedness, especially the miraculous gifts, but prioritizes the revelation of God. They should be inexperienced in evil, but not in their thinking. Paul then quotes Isaiah 28:11. This passage is at the end of a prophecy that God would send to Israel those who will speak to them. That in itself, is a facetious thought because He had just finished describing the way that the prophets of Israel have been “speaking for God.” They were drunken and staggering when they would give judgments for God (vv. 7-8). They were supposed to teach knowledge, but they stammered with their tongues. He will not give His message to children (vv. 9-10), which is a reference to the infantile behavior of drunken Israel (which is also a comparison of the Corinthian church as well as he compares them to infantile Israel, as they even were drunk at the Lord’s Table in the same manner as Israel was at the altar-1 Corinthians 11:20-22). Therefore, since they speak gibberish while drunk, He will speak in incoherence to them, by means of other languages. These other languages will seem as gibberish to them and they will not have an interpretation (see Isaiah 28:9). Thus, this passage indicates to us the very thing that it goes on to say-tongues are for a sign. And, by extension, so is the gift of interpretation. A sign will be to one edification, and to another damnation. Tongues are languages of the world (Acts 2:5-11). They were known, grammatical, verifiable languages which certain people would speak depending upon their geographic location. God says in Isaiah 28:11 that He was going to give Israel a sign. That sign would be the proclamation of His message in other languages of the world. And He did that at Pentecost.

Paul, then, is explaining the use of languages as a sign against Israel, unbelieving Israel. That is why he says that this gift is for unbelievers (1 Corinthians 14:22). That teaching needs to define and describe every consideration of the gift of tongues. That gift is not meant to edify the church. It is a sign against unbelieving Israel. Remember, Paul habitually entered synagogues and taught Christ. Remember also that predominantly the early church was Jewish. Further remember that since Israel refused to repent in the presence of Christ, Christ turned away from them, temporarily blinding them from His kingdom (Matthew 13:10-17; 21:42-44; cf. Romans 11:25) and turned to the Gentiles. As the church grew in its Gentile makeup, the giftedness of tongues died out. It was no longer useful as the Jews were blinded, partially and temporarily, and the Gentiles/Nations are being discipled. That is why the very gift itself will cause itself to die out-the purpose for its existence will no longer be needed.

 

The Coming of the Perfect

 

Paul continues in verse 9 by saying “for we know in part and we prophesy in part.” He is saying that prophecy and knowledge are only “in part.” In other words, what they would prophesy and speak from knowledge was only from a portion of complete prophecy and knowledge. It was only in part. However, there is coming a time when complete knowledge and prophecy will arrive and at that time partial prophesying and speaking knowledge will be “done away” (same verb as in v. 8). What will be done away? Literally, “that which (is) from a part.” That is, since the prophecy and knowledge of Paul’s day, i.e. the time of the apostles and prophets, was only “partial,” its usefulness for edification is limited. There is just so much more to learn!

However, Paul says, when the “perfect” comes, the partial will be done away with. The perfect and the partial must be the same thing, one of greater degree than the other. The word “perfect” is better translated, “mature,” or “the complete.” In light of Paul’s illustration of a child becoming a man and putting childish (“partial”) things away when he became a man (“mature”), so also is this teaching. The perfect is the mature prophecy and knowledge. It is not a reference to heaven because that is obtuse to this context of revelation of that which edifies. Further, heaven certainly will have its perfections, but the subject of the perfect is the content of prophecy, not a state of being. The perfect is the prophetic word (see 2 Peter 1:19-21). Once the prophetic word comes, by virtue of its coming, it will nullify the need for, and the effect of, that which is “partial.” We understand that the Bible we hold now is the Word of God, God’s prophetic Word.

Notice, in closing, vv. 12-13

12  For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known.

13  But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love.

Notice the adverb “now.” That is, in Paul’s own time (“now”), they see in a mirror dimly. But, when the mature prophecy comes (“then”), “face to face.” Isn’t this magnificent! The complete revelation of God’s eternal gospel revealed for us all to see as if we were unhindered in our gaze (look at Ephesians 3:9-11; the church is the steward of this gospel, which is the content of the completed prophetic Word). We see face to face with God’s true, full, complete, prophecy in our day! In our day, we can know fully, even as fully as we are known by those who see us face to face. But, for Paul’s time, until the mature, complete, full, revelation of God comes (which we know to be the Word of God-2 Timothy 3:16-17), they will remain in the edifying power of truth exhibited through “faith, hope, and love…but the greatest of these is love.” Love is the more excellent way to minister the words of Christ to one another, not so-called gifts of the miraculous.

Conclusion

So, Paul has taught us that clearly the usefulness of the revelatory gifts will be removed. They will be rendered useless. For those who are seeking for them, they will not find them. They are chasing the wind. Their use in the church is no more. Their function in the church, which served for a time for a sign for unbelievers (especially unbelieving Jews), and edification for believers (1 Corinthians 14:4-5), has been replaced with the completed, canonized, enscripturated breath of God-the Bible.

Entering the Kingdom: The Nature of the Kingdom

Last post, I introduced this series meant to clear up much confusion concerning the kingdom of God. In case you think this is just some kind of exercise for seminary students or theologians only, consider this:

  1. Your understanding of the kingdom affects every moment of your life.
  2. A proper understanding of the kingdom builds your family the way God designed it to be.
  3. A correct understanding of the kingdom determines whether you will enter it or not.
  4. A correct understanding of the kingdom governs how you evangelize.
  5. A correct understanding of the kingdom establishes how angry you become when someone else challenges your thinking on the matter.
  6. A correct understanding of the kingdom will demonstrate how much you love the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.
  7. Ultimately, understanding the kingdom explains to you the relationship between the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. This is by far the most important factor in any consideration of the Bible.

I also want to make a few initial comments as well. What I write here is the result of months of exegesis and work. I have been teaching, in one way or another, on this subject in our church (Berean Bible Church of Kalispell, Montana) over the last few months and it has produced in us such a clarity of mind on so many other topics for us, that I would consider myself unfaithful if I did not attempt to make the teaching of the Word of God in this area available to more people. I also understand that what I will write here will also challenge the consideration of some concerning their view of the kingdom. Although I am not attempting to sling mud, I am attempting to correct patently incorrect teachings on this subject, as well as other subjects that accompany these things. It is necessary to expose error. Error is defined by any teaching that is not taught in the Bible. This does not mean, however, that we hate those teaching it. I cannot harbor hatred in my heart on account of false teaching. However, to boldly, solidly, confront the error is the duty of every pastor, and saint (Jude 3; cf Romans 16:17-18; 2 Corinthians 10:5). And especially, on a topic of this magnitude, we cannot afford to be wrong: both for the glory of God, and the good of God’s people.

When we ask, “What is the kingdom of God?” we also are asking questions like, “Where did it come from? Whose is it? Of what does it consist? Is it open to everyone?” These are questions that arise as a result of simply asking, “What is the kingdom of God?” I will tackle this one question, and as a result, deal with the others as well over the next few posts.

What is the Kingdom of God?

 

The kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. It is that simple. It involves the lordship of Jesus Christ, the submission of His subjects, the glory of the Father, and the proclamation of the gospel. The kingdom of God is just that-“of God.” This means that,

“[The kingdom of God] may employ an essential relationship. Thus ἡ βασιλεία θεοῦ is the kingdom which has as its distinguishing attribute its relationship to God.” (H.E. Dana, Julius R. Mantey, A Manuel Grammar of the Greek New Testament, New Jersey: Prentice-Hall, 1927, p.74).

That is to say, the kingdom is defined by God. The nature of God defines this kingdom. A kingdom is pretty simple to understand. It is a locale, condition, or act of ruling. The quality, standards, and kind of ruling are all defined by the nature of God. God Himself rules (Psalm 103:19). However, we must define this further as it relates to Jesus Christ. For now, just understand that as we take the truth of the kingdom of God back to its most basic character it is that kingdom, a condition of ruling authority, which is defined by God. All that God is is expressed in that kingdom. And, the character of rulership is also defined by God. Further, those who enter in is defined by God.

That does not answer all the questions, but it gets us headed in the proper direction.

Above, I said that the kingdom of God is that kingdom which the Father gave to the Son. However, that is a step removed from the very foundation of the kingdom. The kingdom of God, ultimately, is the rule of God, the Father. This rulership is defined by God Himself, the three Persons existing in one God-Father, Son, and Holy Spirit forever. Who God is defines the kingdom. In fact, I believe it to be evident that the kingdom of God itself was the condition of the godhead before creation. It was the rulership of the Father over the Son and the Holy Spirit.

 

The Headship of the Father Over The Son

 

Paul makes a very interesting statement in 1 Corinthians 11:3. He wrote, “But I want you to understand that Christ is the head of every man, and the man is the head of a woman, and God is the head of Christ” (see also 1 Corinthians 8:3). Apart from the obvious teaching on the man and the woman, notice the end of the verse. “God is the head of Christ.” Paul wrote earlier in chapter 3 verse 23 that Christ belongs to God in the same way, somehow, that believers belong to Christ. John tells us that Christ understood the Father as His Father and God (John 20:17). The relationship we begin seeing is that of headship of the Father over the Son, and assumedly, the Holy Spirit as well. If God is the head of Christ, then God (the Father) has authority over Christ. Otherwise, what Paul wrote concerning the headship of men over women, and a husband over a wife, does not make sense. By the way, the very authority and character of authority of God over Christ is what should define the character of the headship of a man over a woman and a husband over a wife. The relationship of the Father and the Son is that of Head and submitted One. This is a profound truth. We ultimately see this in Paul’s teaching later in the same letter:

1 Corinthians 15:28

28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all.

In the end, all things will revert back to the beginning, or rather, before the beginning. The kingdom of God will continue to be that kingdom over which the Father rules, and Christ, the Spirit, and the saints willingly, lovingly, submit so that God (the Father) may be all in all.

Although it is hard to understand, we must attempt to comprehend the relationship between the Father and the Son. The Father is the head of the Son, as noted from Paul’s teaching. But, what does that look like? How do we understand this? We are limited in our understanding, but we do see glimpses, and sometimes a brilliance, of this relationship in Christ’s own teaching, and example. Let’s review a couple to start.

Whenever I consider these things, I am always drawn to John 14:31. In this verse, Jesus tells us what His relationship with the Father is like. He said,

John 14:31

31 but so that the world may know that I love the Father, I do exactly as the Father commanded Me. Get up, let us go from here.

A few things to note here. First, Christ was concerned to some degree that the world might understand the love that Christ has for the Father. We often think about God’s love for the world (John 3:16). However, when have we given much time to the love of the Son to the Father? Here, Jesus said that He loved the Father and that motivated Him to obedience. So that the world might know of His love for His Father was a motivation for the cross. Next, since He loved the Father, He obeyed Him. Not only that, but He obeyed Him exactly. This assumes that the Father gave a command to the Son. What was the command? Well, it certainly included what Jesus endured on the cross. It was the command to die. Further, it was the command to be punished by the Father (Matthew 27:45-46; cf. 2 Corinthians 5:21; Isaiah 53:10). The Father commanded the Son to die, as well as to come to earth, be given a body, to minister the way He did, and a million other things that our Lord did when He came to His own (John 1:11; 21:25) and His own people rejected Him.

Jesus tells us that all that He did was as a result of love for the Father. The Father had commanded Him, at some point in the past, and the Son submitted. This was no demeaning submission of a lesser god to a greater god. This was not dictatorship. This was, as we cannot comprehend but is our example, the submission of love. The submission of love. Jesus loved the Father. That did not break the real condition of authority of the Father. Love of Christ for the Father established the authority of the Father. The Father had commanded the Son to come to earth, proclaim the kingdom, be rejected, taste death for many, and be raised from the dead in order to inherit the kingdom, and return it back to the Father. Jesus obeyed because He loves the Father. This is the way it should be between fathers and sons for us as well.

Notice also Paul’s letter to the Philippians. He wrote to them concerning these things. He wrote,

Philippians 2:8

8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.

Jesus Christ was obedient. To whom? Well, who else is there? He was obedient to the One who commanded Him to die, even on a cross. The Father instructed the Son to do all that He did when He was conceived, born, lived, and died. All of this, really, was simply the obedience of the Son to the Father.

The question at this point is, “Why?” Why even do any of this? Was this whole scheme a reaction from the fall of man? Was it established before creation? Why did this even happen?

We will cover that question next time. It is a stunning display of the kingdom of God.

Entering The Kingdom of God

The teaching of the Bible concerning the kingdom of God is far too vast to exhaust in a blog series. However, entering into the kingdom is crucial. It is something every person who has ever lived will face. Although I won’t be delving too far into the nature of the kingdom of God, others have handled that marvelously and I would commend them to you. Dr. Alva J. McClain wrote his work, The Greatness of the Kingdom (Winona Lake: BMH Books, 1959; 1974), which is the definitive work on the subject. For a series of lectures dealing with aspects of the kingdom, consult the Faculty Lecture Series from The Master’s Seminary. These works cover this immense teaching wonderfully. To the person who needs to understand God’s kingdom, this is where to go.

However, with all of that, I have concluded that there needs to be a fresh look at aspects of the Kingdom of God that have rarely been discussed. That is not to say that they have never been discussed until I came along. It is to say, rather, that the discussions that often accompany the considerations of the little series that I am beginning oftentimes becomes so muddled that a person either is tired of talking about it, and the last man standing (who is usually the one with the most stamina) wins. Or, people forget what it is they are discussing since the whirlwind of opinions and views on the matter convolute it something fierce.

I want to consider the subject from a broad stroke perspective, and fine tune it a bit to specifics so that there is no question as to the teaching of the Word of God on the matter.

Here are the items I will deal with in this series:

  1. What is the Kingdom of God?
  2. Where did it come from?
  3. What does it look like?
  4. How can it be entered?

The auxiliary items that are needed to understand along with the above are:

  1. Nature of eternal life.
  2. Election.
  3. Salvation.
  4. The “problem” of evil (Theodicy).
  5. The eternal state.

Starting next post, I will explain the kingdom of God from key passages in both Old and New Testaments. I believe that, given the prominence that the Kingdom of God plays in both testaments, and given the fact that the Lord came preaching it (Matthew 4:17; 13; Mark 10:14-15; Luke 9:2; John 3:3, 5; 18:36), as well as Paul and the other apostles so very often (Acts 28:30-31; cf 8:12; Hebrews 12:28; James 2:5; 2 Peter 1:11; Revelation 1:6, 9 etc.), then we must give great attention to it in order to understand it and preach it also (Matthew 24:14).

So, starting next post, we will begin getting a handle on this topic so that God’s glory can, again, be on display in the gospel of the kingdom (Matthew 4:23).

The Work of Interpretation-pt.3

This final piece in this little series is meant to help someone who has done the above steps of word work and sentence (syntax) work to now work on the historical information necessary in order to really understand a verse/passage when everything is pulled together.

Our church just finished studying our Lord’s entrance into the Temple during His first months of ministry. He walked in and, upon seeing the sellers and their wares, makes a rope from other ropes laying around. He then begins to drive people out, threatening them with harm (John 2:13-22). In studying this event, I had to do a lot of historical research. I wanted to understand what Jesus saw as He entered the Temple and why that catalyzed His zeal. I found out, through the writings of the Jewish historian Josephus and a Jewish scholar turned Christian, Alfred Edersheim, that since the Old Testament never taught a person to exchange their blemished animal for an “unblemished” one, then these sellers and money-changers in the Temple, lead by the High Priest Anna himself, were simply running a very deceptive and lucrative scam meant to secure relationship with Rome and fatten Annas’ pocketbook. If found that Annas was known for his extortion and the priests were known for their use of force to gather “tithes” for the Temple. Once having understood all of this, the entire passage came alive. Then, comparing that with God’s original design for the Temple, a place where God would dwell and men could approach Him in fellowship, it even made me upset!

Therefore, since the Scripture was written in real language in real time with real people, we have to understand the historical setting of the passages we are studying. Most sound commentaries make use of extensive historical works. Some don’t. If the Bible is treated as only devotional material meant to simply make you think ‘happy thoughts’ to get you through the day, then a person who does that simply does not understand the Bible, no matter what they say.

When coming to a passage ask yourself:

  • About whom is the passage speaking?
  • Where did he/she live?
  • Were they at war with anyone?
  • What was it like living there?
  • What year(s) are represented in the text?
  • What age is the person being talked about?
  • Is he/she married?
  • Are they believers?

There are many questions that should be asked of a passage. These are  just a few. When you are able to reconstruct the passage historically, you will be able to assess the meaning of the passage better.

For instance, Paul wrote in Colossians 1:15:

 

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

 

When did Paul write that? Who were the Colossians? Where did they live? Why would they need to know that Jesus is the invisible God and the firstborn of all creation? Were they a Roman colony?

Many times, questions like these can be answered from reading the book many times over. From the book we learn that Colossae is a location on the map (1:2). The audience of the letter were saints and faithful at that (1:2). However, it would appear that they needed ongoing teaching from the Apostle Paul concerning the person and nature of Jesus Christ, since that takes up the bulk of the letter. It would also appear that they were being taught some erroneous doctrine from somewhere and that may have been what caused Paul to write this letter in the first place (2:8, 18; 3:1-4). It would also appear that Paul wrote this letter from prison (4:10). That would help us to date the letter. If we could learn when Paul was in prison, we could then know when he wrote this letter.

Much of the historical setting can be ascertained from the letter itself. However, the letter will not tell us the location of Colossae nor the population at the time, for example. One of the best places to turn at this point for information like that would be a Bible encyclopedia.

A Bible encyclopedia will give you information about many people, places, events, practices, cities, as well as a myriad of other information from scholars who have done the hard work of research. They will then collect that into a volume in encyclopedia fashion for your access. A Bible dictionary is similar to an encyclopedia as well. However, as you would guess, it deals with words and terms in the Bible that can be ascertained and read for understanding. Again, this is usually the fruit of the labors of able scholars. Having this information is necessary in order to comprehend the situation from which Paul is writing and to whom Paul is writing.

For example, if we look under the heading “prison” in The Harper’s Bible Dictionary (Achtemeier, Paul J., Harper & Row and Society of Biblical Literature. Harper’s Bible Dictionary. 1st ed. San Francisco: Harper & Row, 1985, p. 824), we find out the condition from which Paul was writing. There is even further reference for more specific information at the end of the article that tells me to look under “Paul.” Also, in the same book, we find out a little more about Colossae (under the heading “Colossae,” p.175).

Conclusion:

Once you have done your “word-work,” “sentence-work,” “historical-work,” you can pull it all together. One note here, though, is that these things can take time and patience. But the discovery is worth it! Simply understanding this text is the goal. Once the text is clear, it is powerful. God works through the understanding of the text. We do not need to add to it, or remove anything from it. It stands on its own.

From all of this information we understand that Paul, the apostle, is writing to the church in Colossae, a Roman town in Asia Minor, near to the towns of Laodicea and Ephesus. The prison in which Paul was at this point, most likely, was during his first imprisonment and it was a more relaxed imprisonment than his second, final, imprisonment. His final imprisonment was final because he was beheaded while there. Thus, he would have been in prison under different, more stringent, circumstances. Paul’s first imprisonment would have ended around 62 AD. Thus, this letter, written while in his 2 year imprisonment, or confinement, would have been written in 61 AD, or so. While in Prison, Paul received word from Epaphras that the church loved the truth and was committed to love (1:3-9). However, it appears that he also heard of the influence of myths, Jewish traditions, and the like promoted by some and distorting the truth about the nature of Jesus Christ. Concerned, Paul writes to them and gives the letter to Epaphras, along with Tychicus and Onesimus (Philemon 1-10). They are to read this letter, and send it on to other churches. In our verse, 1:15, we see that Paul further explains that Jesus Christ is God. In fact, He is the “image,” or “pattern,” of the true God. Thus, Christ represents a God whom no one can see. In fact, Jesus is actually His Son, as the OT speaks of Him (Psalm 2:7). This Son of God is the firstborn of all creation. That is, He, like the OT laws of the firstborn, is preeminent. He is the heir of all things and receives all things from His Father. With this information, we are able to appreciate, even adore, Christ more. This is fantastic, and seemingly incredible, truth. A Man, as He appears, is the heir of all things. And yet, this Heir, died for His inheritance. This assaults the idea that He is an angel, or a created man. He is none other than the eternal Son of God and, as such, He is God. Only God can accurately represent God. 

I realize that this is a simplistic little series that takes time to learn and perfect. However, because of the reality of inerrancy, we are bound by this method of study. We study the Scripture the way it was given-real people, in real time, with real language.

The Work of Interpretation-pt. 2

 

In the last post we embarked upon the interpretation of Colossians 1:15 “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” Because of the reality of inerrancy, we have to be convinced that every word in Scripture has meaning and once we understand this meaning, as intended by the author, we understand the Scripture and have uncovered truth. This process of discovery is work. Some might object thinking that it lacks a certain spirituality to approach the Scripture this way. However, since this is the way the Scripture was given, real words, real people, in real history, with real language, this kind of work is no more or less spiritual than the act of giving it. If God gave His Word in this fashion, then this is method that we employ to learn it. It really is a pretty simple concept.

 

We took the time to make a chart and fill it in as below:

 

Word

Meaning

Notes

Miscellaneous

He is he is this is referring to a description of the subject, “He.” Refers to “beloved Son” of v. 13.
the image representation/pattern not simply kind of looks like, but exact picture See Hebrews 1:1-3
of with reference to tells me of whom he is the image.
the invisible cannot be seen/we do not see the description of
God God/Father Cannot be the same Person God is invisible.
the firstborn the one born first/the preeminent one The Son is not the first one born. Cain is. must refer to preeminence.
of with reference to
all every/completely
creation everything that is made This must refer to everything in Genesis 1-2.

 

We have found that every word, or phrase (including the article “the” in some places) has a meaning. Our next step, in this post, is to relate each word to the other. This process is called the “Syntactical Step.” Syntax describes how each word relates to the other. Let me illustrate:

“Bill hit the ball” is very different than, “The ball hit Bill.” Each sentence contains the same content. However, because of the relationship of the words, each sentence conveys a very different meaning. This kind of thing is syntax. It is the way that words relate to one another and is crucial to understanding any document, especially the Bible. People do this step automatically all the time. You cannot carry on a conversation with a person without doing this. It is not as if this understanding is odd, or extraneous to conversation. It isn’t. It is the very heart of conversation, in any language.

So, what does the syntax step look like? There are a couple of ways to work through this step. They both involve an outline of sorts. Again, we are dealing with a fixed text, so there isn’t anything unique and original to the reader that we have to concern ourselves with. The passage means what it means apart from the influence of the reader, or audience. It means what it means as determined by the author, not the reader. To confuse this is to subject the Scripture to the “What does this passage mean to you?” syndrome.

Going back to Colossians 1:15, we can outline it in one of two ways. The first is called  a block diagram and it would look something like this:

He is

the image

of the invisible God,

the firstborn

of all creation.

The point of this kind of diagram is to show the relationship of the concepts involved in the verse. “He is” starts us off as the One about whom we are speaking. We see that the verb, “is,” tells us that the “He” is being described here. So, what do we know about “He”? Well, He is 1) the image, 2) the firstborn. We have more information as well that help us to understand image and firstborn. The “image” is described as that of the “invisible God.” From our Lexical table above, we see that it means a representation and it describes something that is an exact replica. So, “He” is the image of the God who is invisible. This is a difficult concept because it is saying that “He” represents Someone we cannot see.

He is also the “firstborn.” Firstborn as it relates to what? He is the firstborn as it relates to all creation. This is not to say that He is the first one born in the world. That was Cain (Genesis 4:1). It must mean something else. All creation does not mean only people. It also describes the universe and all that it contains, as well as the earth and all it contains. “Firstborn,” as we see from our chart above, can also refer to importance, or preeminence. That makes better sense here.

Notice that I began by identifying the phrase “He is.” I did this in order to show that Paul is writing about “He,” whoever “He” is. From verse 13, we know that we are speaking of the beloved Son. Next, using the article “the” as a starting point, I started this phrase on a new line. I did that for both phrases using “the” and in line with one another to show that there are two of those phrases that describe “He.” Next, below the “the” phrases, I found that Paul uses the word “of” and I put those below and a little to the right of the “the” phrases. These are descriptions of the “the” phrases, which in turn describe “He” in the first part of the verse.

Another way to show these relationships, and is a little more technical, is called a sentence diagram. A sentence diagram identifies the subjects, verbs, direct objects, modifiers, participles, etc… and puts them into a framework of line and groups in order to show the syntax graphically.

It is important to know your grammar. You should be able to recognize the nouns and verbs. A noun is a person, or place, or thing, or concept. A verb is what something does, or is. The person, or thing, doing the action of the verb is the subject of the verb. The person, or thing, receiving the action of the verb is the direct object. For example, “Bill hit the ball” would be broken down into the parts:

 

Bill= noun, subject (he is the one who hit the ball).

Hit=verb (it is an action that Bill did).

The ball=direct object (it is what Bill hit).

If the sentence reflected the other way around, “The ball hit Bill,” it would look like this:

 

The ball=subject

Hit=verb

Bill=the direct object.

 

Therefore, when we come to Colossians 1:15, we need to begin identifying the subjects, verbs, and direct objects, if there are any. There also are parts of speech that explain, or describe, these nouns and verbs as well. We have to include those also. Why do we have to know this? Because these categories are what make up the relationships between the words in the verse. And these words and their relationships are what convey meaning. And we are after the meaning of the text. Colossians 1:15 would look like this:

 

Line Diagram

 

Line Diagram

A person can make the lines with pencil, ruler, and notebook. Or, as I do, you can purchase a program that helps with that. I simply identify the parts of speech and plug them in and that goes a long way to cause me to understand what the writer is saying.

I need to make one comment concerning those who believe that all this is unnecessary. I realize that this is a far cry from the ways most people study their Bibles. However, given the far-reaching biblical illiteracy, it would appear that some real work in the text is necessary. I would have to say, respectfully, that those who don’t want to take the time to learn how to study the Word are lazy at heart and are not willing to do the work necessary to “handle accurately the Word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15). Christians are called to be studiers. We are, by definition, students of God’s Word. The word “disciple” means “learner.” Therefore, we should always do what we can to learn the most we can of the Word of our God. What I am describing in these posts is a study method that has proven itself time and again in understanding the text, for myself and men of God throughout the ages. Granted, I am always doing these things in the original languages of the Old and New Testaments. However, even in a good translation, and the above steps laid out here, the meaning of the text is made readily available. You cannot get to the gold without digging:

 

Proverbs 2:1–6

 

1 My son, if you will receive my words

And treasure my commandments within you,

2 Make your ear attentive to wisdom,

Incline your heart to understanding;

3 For if you cry for discernment,

Lift your voice for understanding;

4 If you seek her as silver

And search for her as for hidden treasures;

5 Then you will discern the fear of the Lord

And discover the knowledge of God.

6 For the Lord gives wisdom;

From His mouth come knowledge and understanding.

 

Now, at this point, having our definitions of the words and the relationships between the words, we can begin pulling the verse together in the way the author meant us to.

We will do that step on the next post.

The Work of Interpretation-pt.1

 

Over the last couple posts, we have seen that we must interpret the Scripture the way that it was given-in real live history, by actual people who lived, written down in known grammatical languages, given by the true God, and understood by the original audience. Many perceive the Scripture the very opposite of the above. They consider the Bible to be void of historical content, written by men but with a distinctly Platonic spiritual component, given by God and thereby must possess an almost mythological meaning, and only meant for the enlightened to understand. When we compare the two premises, we see that the second more resembles a pagan, mystical understanding of the Scripture rather than a sound, verifiable understanding of the Scripture. Some would continue to see the Scripture as having double-meaning which, to them, means that words don’t really mean what they say. Funny thing is, they seem to possess the actual “second meaning” of any given passage.

What I have attempted to establish is that there is only one meaning in every verse and the effort needed to discover that meaning is rational, sound, and logical. It is guided by rules and produces the mind of God in that text. It is clear, coherent, and at the same time spiritual and heavenly in the sense that it represents heavenly truths or instructions. We do not need to add anything to Scripture in order to embellish its meaning so that it would give off a glow. We must study it by way of sound, objective processes in order for the text itself to instruct US. This process looks like work, and it is. But the text of Scripture demands this.

First of all, since God gave His truth in words, we have to understand these words. These words were written down at a point in time, in a fixed way, using the language employed with meanings of the day. For example, we would not expect Matthew to write, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is at hand” (Matthew 3:2) and have it mean anything other than what Matthew meant for it to mean to himself and the original readers. After all, he was writing down what Jesus said.

However, knowing all of this, the question comes, “How do we discover this meaning?” What I would like to outline over the next couple posts is a method of study that I use (to which I owe a tremendous debt to The Master’s Seminary for instructing me in this process and exampling it at every turn) and it has been proven to cause the meaning of the text to become clear and plain. That does not mean that there is no depth. Rather the depth of Scripture becomes available only when the text is clear and the meaning plain (understood). What I am also going to explain is also the method that is borne out of the conviction of the text being the copies of an inerrant autograph. Again, if every word in Scripture is inerrant and accurate, then we must understand every word. Words do not exist in a vacuum. They exist as part of a context. That context itself has a broader context that has a beginning and ending. Every word has meaning and purpose. The definitions, arrangement, and relationship of every word to another is what conveys meaning. Once all of that has been determined, the meaning of every verse becomes plain.

There is a four step method to work all of this out (granted, there are variations of this process, especially as it relates to the original languages). Here it is:

  1. Word study
  2. Syntax study
  3. Historical study
  4. Outline/Notes

WORD STUDY:

This process of word study is just what it sounds like. It is the study of words. What words? The words of Scripture. Since the Scripture was written originally in Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek, we could learn to study the words of those languages. Although studying these languages would be expected for a pastor or elder, it would not be usually available for most saints. Therefore, most of God’s people rely upon a translation. Yet, given that a person has a good translation, he/she can still do a proper word study. I am not wanting to stud the history of translations, but here are my recommendations. First, I recommend the New American Standard Bible (NASB). It does the best translation work of all the translations, minimizing editorial interpretation. I would then recommend the King James or New King James (KJV or NKJV). Although some of the words are archaic and a stumbling block for modern readers, it does a fairly good job of translation. The manuscript families represented in the KJV is lesser quality than the family of the NASB. However, it still has proven a faithful translation for decades. A good summary work on translations and how to choose one is Dr. Robert L. Thomas’ work, How To Choose A Bible Version. Having accumulated information concerning the deviations from the original language manuscripts, Dr. Thomas gives us a very useful tool in determining which version would suit us best in translation. At the top of the list was the American Standard Version for its literalness (although in awkward Elizabethan English), and the bottom of the list is The Living Bible. For people who want to study the Scripture in the fashion I am suggesting, the NASB (either the 1971 edition or the 1995 updated edition) would be ideal. A new translation, The English Standard Version (ESV), would also be suitable, but it has a higher degree of deviation from sound translation principles than does the NASB.

For our purposes here, we will study Colossians 1:15

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.

To begin a word study, it is helpful to design chart, such as below.

 

word meaning notes miscellaneous

 

The first column, “word,” is just what it appears to be: the word that you are studying. If we take Colossians 1:15 and fill the chart with it step by step, it would look like this:

word meaning notes miscellaneous
He is
the image
of
the invisible
God
the firstborn
of
all
creation

 

Notice that I put the verb “is” with the subject of the verb “He.” That is helpful so that I can keep it straight who is doing the action of the verb or about whom the verb is speaking. At this point, every word gets addressed. Here is what we have:

word meaning notes miscellaneous
He is he is this is referring to a description of the subject, “He.” Refers to “beloved Son” of v. 13.
the image representation/pattern not simply kind of looks like, but exact picture See Hebrews 1:1-3
of with reference to tells me of whom he is the image.
the invisible cannot be seen/we do not see the description of
God God/Father Cannot be the same Person God is invisible.
the firstborn the one born first/the preeminent one The Son is not the first one born. Cain is. must refer to preeminence.
of with reference to
all every/completely
creation everything that is made This must refer to everything in Genesis 1-2.

 

At this point, I have every word accounted for in the verse. Although appearing tedious, this step is born out of the conviction that every word in Scripture has importance, meaning, and authority (Luke 16:17). Granted, in order to do this, one must spend some time. However, that is exactly what the Lord would have us do-spend time in His Word.

Also, since the Bible was written in 3 other languages, it is a good idea to have reference works that help in translation of these words. One such works is Vines Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words. This collection has a good listing of the English words and their Hebrew or Greek definitions as used in the Bible. For example, the word “image” has a large entry and a portion of it says,

 

“1.  ( *0 , 1504) denotes “an image”; the word involves the two ideas of representation and manifestation. “The idea of perfection does not lie in the word itself, but must be sought from the context” (Lightfoot); the following instances clearly show any distinction between the imperfect and the perfect likeness…” (no copyright)

The entry goes on to explain the variety of contexts that use the word “image,” including our passage above. it is very useful. Granted, there are more technical works out there, but this is a good starter for most.

Next post, I will show the subsequent step from the word study step. We can call it the “Syntax Step.” It is the relationship of each word to the other in a verse or sentence.

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