A More Excellent Way

Have I Told You Lately How Much I Love You?
Photo by Michelle Pearson

A More Excellent Way – Part 1

I’ve mentioned it before, but it bears repeating. The Bible was not written in chapters and verses, in fact, many of the New Testament books were written as letters to churches. I don’t know about you, but I don’t start out letters, “Dear Church, Chapter 1: Verse 1: How are you doing?” So, keeping this in mind, we are going to look at 1 Corinthians 13, what we call “The Love Chapter.”

Let’s take a sidebar here and talk about that word, Love. You see, the ancient Greeks felt it was important to distinguish the various types of love, so they had 4 words for love:

  • Éros (ἔρως érōs) – Eros is obviously the root word for “erotic,” but it does not describe sexual love only, it actually describes all emotional love; the feeling of love.  Eros love is that insatiable desire to be near the target of this love.  The exciting, passionate, nervous feelings that sweep over people in the appropriate circumstances. This is the love that says “I love how you make me feel.” The word Eros does not appear in the Bible.
  • Philia (φιλία philía) Philos love, or brotherly/friendship love, is the next kind.  Philos describes the love between two people who have common interests and experiences. Philos is half about the circumstances, and half about the commitment of two people to one another; it says “I love who we are together.”.  Philos is the root word for the word Philadelphia, the city of brotherly love.  It is commonly used in the New Testament, as in Matt. 10:37, John 12:25, and Revelation 3:19.
  • Storge (στοργή storgē) – Storgy is the love that one has for a dependent.  It is commonly called “motherly love.”  When the dependent is no longer dependent, this love remains only in its emotional remnants.  It is one of the stronger loves because it involves a commitment that relies on only one trait of the receiver – that he or she is dependent.
  • Agápe (ἀγάπη agápē) – Agape love is the final of the four loves we look at here.  Agape love is entirely about the lover and has nothing whatsoever to do with the one loved.  Agape love, in its purest form, requires no payment or favor in response.  Agape is the word used for God’s love for us (as in the book of I John, John 3:16) and the love we are commanded to have for one another (in Matt. 5:44, I Cor. 13).  This lack of input from the recipient makes it possible for us to love our enemies even though we may not like them or the situation they have put us in – because Agape love is not in any way dependent on circumstances; it says “I love you because I choose/commit to.”  Unlike eros or Philos, Agape creates a straight line that neither fades nor grows in its perfect form (which of course only exists from God outward). And this is the word used in 1 Corinthians 13, which we will be studying.

So, to fully understand 1 Corinthians 13, in context, we must first have studied the entire book of 1 Corinthians, as well as all of Paul’s other writings, the rest of the New Testament, and the rest of the Bible, not to mention, the original language, and what was going on in the world at that time, customs and traditions. Don’t worry, we’re not going to study the whole Bible…not all at once anyway.

But, since it is all written as a letter, let’s start at chapter 12 verse 31 which is the introduction to chapter 13. Chapter 12 is talking all about the different gifts of the Holy Spirit, and comparing them to the parts of the Body of Christ, making special note that we all have different gifts. Continuing that thought Paul writes, 1 Corinthians 12:31 So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” In some translations, it says “let me show you a more excellent way.” Which leads into chapter 13 verse 1, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.”

Okay, he has been talking about the gifts of the Holy Spirit, and especially the gifts of tongues, because the church at Corinth had blown that one gift way out of proportion. They were trying to say, as many today still do, that every Christian would have the gift of tongues, but Paul was showing them why that is not true. Notice I said “gifts” of tongues, plural. The Bible describes 3 different gifts of tongues. The gift of speaking other languages that you have never learned, as in Acts chapter 2, the gift of prophetic tongues which requires an interpreter, as in 1 Corinthians 14:27-28, and the third type of tongues is a prayer language, 1 Corinthians 14:15-17. But, here in verse 1, he says, “If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but didn’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” So, what he’s saying at the beginning of this section of his letter is, even if I possessed all three gifts of tongues, but didn’t love others, I’m just making a lot of noise. The Greek word translated here as noisy is, echeo {ay-kheh’-o}, which is translated as “noisy”, or in the KJV, “sounding”. It is also translated once in the Bible as roaring in Luke 21:25. When you read this verse, you see it isn’t talking about roaring like a lion, it’s talking about roaring, like waves. Have you ever heard roaring waves? Lions are loud, but waves can be almost deafening.

We’ll start with verse 2 when we meet again. Between now and then, take the time to at least read 1 Corinthians, chapters 12 – 15, but read the whole book, if you can. I know…homework, right? But, if you are reading these blogs, you must want to see the Word for what it is, so increase that passion for the Word of God. See you next time.

A More Excellent Way – Part 2

Welcome back as we pick up where we left off last time. The next thing we see is in verse 2 where Paul goes on to say, “If I had the gift of prophecy, and if I understood all of God’s secret plans and possessed all knowledge, and if I had such faith that I could move mountains, but didn’t love others, I would be nothing.” Now he’s referring to the gifts of the Spirit he talked about in chapter 12. What he’s saying here is, even if I had the gifts of prophecy, words of wisdom, words of knowledge, or even the Spiritual gift of faith…you know, that mountain moving faith, but I didn’t have an Agape love for others, I WOULD BE NOTHING! Spiritual gifts are great and we should find out which ones we have and use them for the glory of God, but if they are not used out of God’s perfect love, they are worthless.

The Church today, as it has always been, is a church of extremes. We are either afraid to acknowledge the Holy Spirit and His gifts at all, or we put way too much emphasis on certain gifts. The gifts of the Spirit are truly important, and we need to use them to the glory of God, but only in love…perfect love…Agape Love.

In verse 3 he says, “If I gave everything I have to the poor and even sacrificed my body, I could boast about it; but if I didn’t love others, I would have gained nothing.” We see this all the time with celebrities, they rally behind some cause, but just for the photo op. But, it’s the same way with so many of us. We think we are doing good because we give to the poor, or make sacrifices for the less fortunate, but if we don’t do it out of love, all we end up with is bragging rights.

So, let’s sum up these first 3 verses? It doesn’t matter who you are, what your gifts are, or what you do for your community or the world. If you don’t do it out of love, godly love, it is worthless and all you are doing is making a whole lot of noise. I want to express this again, if you don’t have a relationship with God, you can’t fully understand His love. He loves us unconditionally…NO STRINGS ATTACHED! And if you haven’t yet experienced that perfect love, stop now…that’s right stop reading and take care of that, now. Nothing else is more important than having a right relationship with God.

In verse 4 Paul starts describing exactly what God’s love is. He says in 1 Corinthians 13:4-7Love is patient and kind. Love is not jealous or boastful or proud or rude. It does not demand its own way. It is not irritable, and it keeps no record of being wronged. It does not rejoice about injustice but rejoices whenever the truth wins out. Love never gives up, never loses faith, is always hopeful, and endures through every circumstance.”

So, let’s break this down.

  1. PatienceVs 4 “To be longsuffering, as opposed to hasty anger or punishment. To EXPERIENCE understanding and patience toward persons.
    1. Proverbs 10:12 “Hatred stirs up quarrels, but love makes up for all offenses.”
    2. Proverbs 17:9 “Love prospers when a fault is forgiven, but dwelling on it separates close friends.”
    3. 1 Thessalonians 5:14 “Brothers and sisters, we urge you to warn those who are lazy. Encourage those who are timid. Take tender care of those who are weak. Be patient with everyone.”
    4. 1 Peter 4:8 “Most important of all, continue to show deep love for each other, for love covers a multitude of sins.”
  2. KindVs 4
    1. Ephesians 4:32 “Instead, be kind to each other, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, just as God through Christ has forgiven you.”
  3. Not Jealous Vs 4
    1. Proverbs 14:30 “A peaceful heart leads to a healthy body; jealousy is like cancer in the bones.”
  4. Does not brag and is not arrogantVs 4
    1. 1 Corinthians 4:6 “Dear brothers and sisters, I have used Apollos and myself to illustrate what I’ve been saying. If you pay attention to what I have quoted from the Scriptures, you won’t be proud of one of your leaders at the expense of another.”
  5. Does not act unbecominglyVs 5
    1. Philippians 4:8 “And now, dear brothers and sisters, one final thing. Fix your thoughts on what is true, and honorable, and right, and pure, and lovely, and admirable. Think about things that are excellent and worthy of praise.”
  6. Does not seek its ownVs 5
    1. 1 Corinthians 10:24 “Don’t be concerned for your own good but for the good of others.”
    2. Philippians 2:21 “All the others care only for themselves and not for what matters to Jesus Christ.”
  7. Is not provokedVs 5
    1. Proverbs 15:1 “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”
  8. Does not take into account a wrong sufferedVs 5 An intentional wrong that was done
    1. 2 Corinthians 5:19 “For God was in Christ, reconciling the world to himself, no longer counting people’s sins against them. And he gave us this wonderful message of reconciliation.”
  9. Does not rejoice in unrighteousnessVs 6
    1. Psalm 119:1-3 1How blessed are those whose way is blameless,
      Who walk in the law of the Lord. How blessed are those who observe His testimonies, who seek Him with all their They also do no unrighteousness; They walk in His ways.”

We miss out on true love so often because we are so self-consumed. We are an arrogant generation, we are so self-absorbed that we can’t experience true love. We need to put ourselves, our pride, our jealousy aside and focus on God and His true Agape love.

We’ll finish this up next time by looking at the characteristics of Agape Love and how they can change our lives. See you then.

A More Excellent Way – Part 3

So, let’s wrap up this post on 1 Corinthians 13. We see in this next section, Paul lays out for us some of the characteristics of Agape love. It’s a litmus test of sorts, for us to see whether or not we have it. If we don’t, we can’t rest until we Get it. This love, this perfect Agape love, is a clear proof of our salvation, it’s proof of our regeneration, and is evidence of our faith in Christ. Take the time, when you are finished reading this, to read 1 John 4:7-21.

You see, this beautiful description of the nature and characteristics of love was intended to show the Corinthian church, and us, that the way they were behaving had, in many respects, been the opposite of God’s love. Remember, this was a letter to the church at Corinth… Agape love is the enemy to selfishness; it does not desire or seek its own praise, honor, profit, or pleasure. Not that agape love ignores itself, or that we should neglect ourselves and all our interests. But it never seeks its own to the hurt of others, or to neglect others. It always puts the welfare of others above its own advantage. Think about this, how awesome would Christianity appear to the world if those of us who profess the name of Christ, lived by this Divine principle! We need to ask ourselves whether this agape love lives in our hearts. Has it guided us in the way we treat others? Are we willing to lay aside our selfish ambitions? This chapter is a call to inner searching and prayer. Psalm 139:23-24 23 Search me, O God, and know my heart; test me and know my anxious thoughts. 24 Point out anything in me that offends you, and lead me along the path of everlasting life.”

There was a “church” I knew of in Florida. Notice the quotes, they called themselves a church, they claimed to Christians, but that is not how they lived. The pastor constantly preached hate and fear. Now, don’t get me wrong, we must fear God, the Bible tells us that over and over, in fact, the Bible tells us in Proverbs 9:10, “Fear of the Lord is the foundation of wisdom. Knowledge of the Holy One results in good judgment.” We must have a reverent respect and fear of God. But, God sent Christ to die for our sins out of love…Agape Love. This man used to preach full sermons on the different groups he hates. After hearing him once, I went to him and told him that God doesn’t hate anyone, that He even loved Osama Bin Laden. He then proclaimed me a devil and asked me to leave. His “church” now consists of ten or twelve men, living in a compound in Northern Florida. But, the point is, we must love everyone as God does. We don’t have to accept what they believe, or condone their sin, but remember, we aren’t here to condemn their sin either, we’re just here to love them. 1 John 4:7-8 says, Dear friends, let us continue to love one another, for love comes from God. Anyone who loves is a child of God and knows God. But anyone who does not love does not know God, for God is love.”

Paul concludes this section with 1 Corinthians 13:8-13 Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever! Now our knowledge is partial and incomplete, and even the gift of prophecy reveals only part of the whole picture! 10 But when the time of perfection comes, these partial things will become useless. 11 When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things. 12 Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely. 13 Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

I have heard pastors use this passage to say that the gifts of the Spirit are gone now. They “interpret” it as saying, when the Bible is complete, we won’t need the gifts anymore. Just another example of why we can’t interpret the Bible. When we take this in context and don’t try to twist it to fit our preconceived beliefs, we can clearly see that this is saying that love is the only Spiritual gift we will take to heaven with us. Look at it. In verse 8 he says that prophecies, tongues, and words of knowledge will become useless…when? Verse 9 & 10 tell us, “when the time of perfection has come.” When will we be perfect? Look at verse 12 again, “Now we see things imperfectly, like puzzling reflections in a mirror, but then we will see everything with perfect clarity. All that I know now is partial and incomplete, but then I will know everything completely, just as God now knows me completely.” When he compares what we see now to looking in a mirror, we need to think about what a mirror was at that time, just another way to keep it in context. The reason it was a “puzzling reflection”, or as the KJV says, “see through a glass dimly”, is because it wasn’t a mirror as we know it, it wasn’t a looking glass as they had when the KJV was translated, it was a piece of polished metal or bronze. Don’t you see, in today’s mirror it wouldn’t be a puzzling reflection, but that’s all they knew back then. Looking at yourself in polished metal isn’t very clear, but it will all be perfectly clear when we are in Heaven! When we are living in perfection we won’t need prophecy, we won’t need tongues, we won’t need words of knowledge because we will know everything completely.

Then he leaves us with verse 13 where he tells us that only three things will last forever; faith, hope, and love. In today’s church, we put so much emphasis on faith, and yet Paul tells us that the greatest of these is LOVE!

This is the More Excellent Way.

Cliche` Christianity

Rocky Mountain National Park: American Elk
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Cliché Christianity

I want to take a minute to talk about a phenomenon that Social media has presented us with. It isn’t anything new, but social media has made it much more prevalent and, while it isn’t necessarily wrong, it is disturbing to some.

We’ve all seen them and many of us have “shared” and reposted them. You know exactly what I’m talking about, that picture of Noah’s Ark going through the storm with the words “If God brings you to it, He will bring you through it.” and then to make it even better it says, “Share if you agree” to try to guilt you into sharing it. Somehow, you’re not a “real Christian” if you don’t share this cliché. Or even better, the ones that say, “Share if you agree, ignore if you don’t.” Seriously…you’re saying that if I don’t share your meme I disagree with it? Here’s where my dilemma lies. Most of these sayings do have a good meaning, and like the Scripture says in Isaiah 55:11, “It is the same with my word. I send it out, and it always produces fruit. It will accomplish all I want it to, and it will prosper everywhere I send it.” The problem is that we’ve reduced Christianity down to a list of clichés and memes.

Like I said, this isn’t anything new. Let’s look back to the 1990’s, that’s right, there was life before social media, we had the WWJD bracelets. These bracelets morphed into bumper stickers, t-shirts, jewelry, tattoos and everything else we could imagine. Again, the idea was good, reminding people to ask themselves “What Would Jesus Do” in every situation. This is what a disciple does. A disciple is a person who imitates the person they are following, and Christ told us to, not only be disciples but go out and make them, Matthew 28:19-20, 19 Therefore, go and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit. 20 Teach these new disciples to obey all the commands I have given you. And be sure of this: I am with you always, even to the end of the age.” If we are truly disciples of Christ, we would ask ourselves this question in every situation. But it was quickly reduced to just another fad. We’ve all seen it, being flipped off by the guy driving the car with the WWJD bumper sticker on it, or the lady at the mall spewing a line of obscenities that would make a sailor blush, all the while wearing her WWJD t-shirt. It even goes back further than that, though. In the 70’s we had the “Jesus is my co-pilot” and “Honk if you love Jesus” bumper stickers. My dad used to honk at every one of those, just to see how many of them would flip him off. But, do you see what I mean? When it becomes just another cliché, it loses its impact, on the one posting it, as well as the reader. Have you ever, out of curiosity, gone to the page of the one posting those memes? You will often find a lot of things that a Christ follower probably shouldn’t be posting.

I’m not saying that we should never “share” these things, or “re-pin” them, or re-tweet them. And, I don’t claim to have the answer for this phenomenon, I just wanted to put something out there to think about. I’m not necessarily against it, I’ve even “shared” some of them myself, I’m just saying we should think before we re-post. Before you click that mouse, think, is this really reaching people, or is it making us look a little like crazies in the eyes of the world. Ask yourselves, “What Would Jesus Do”.

We can, and should use social media as a tool to reach the lost, I’m just challenging all of us to maybe think of a more excellent way. Read 1 Corinthians 12:31 through 13:13, I know you have probably read this chapter before and quite possibly memorized it, but read it as if you’ve never read it before.

Sometimes we forget that the Bible wasn’t written in chapters and verses. What we call 1 Corinthians, Paul called his letter to the Church at Corinth. It was only cut up into chapters and verses to make it easier to find passages, so read it like a letter…that’s right, read the whole letter straight through. After you have done that go back to chapter 12, and start at the last verse, then read through chapter 13. Paul has just finished talking about Spiritual gifts and is now starting to focus on the gift of love, by the way, love is the only Spiritual gift that we will take to heaven with us, 1 Corinthians 13:8 “Prophecy and speaking in unknown languages and special knowledge will become useless. But love will last forever!” This part of the letter starts out by saying, 1 Corinthians 12:31 “So you should earnestly desire the most helpful gifts. But now let me show you a way of life that is best of all.” Some translations put it “a more excellent way.” Then he says, Chapter 13, verse 1“If I could speak all the languages of earth and of angels, but don’t love others, I would only be a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal.” So, what is the “more excellent way”? That’s right…Love.

So, when you are re-posting and retweeting, think about 1 Corinthians and ask yourself, is this a more excellent way. Again, I am not in any way saying that it is somehow a sin, or wrong to “share” these memes, but is it reaching anyone? Does it glorify God? Is it a more excellent way? Let’s all try to find new ways to use social media to show God’s love to all your “friends”. We’ll go into more depth on 1 Corinthians and that thing called love next time.

Just a little food for thought.

Doulos

Bringing in the Work Boats....
Photo by Michelle Pearson

Doulos– Part 1

What Does It Mean?

Doulos, it is a strange sounding word, and no, I didn’t make it up. So, what does it mean? Doulos is a Greek word that is used many times throughout the New Testament. In fact, it is used 125 times and is translated; 118 times as Servant, 6 times as Bond, and 1 time as Bondman. The Greek dictionary defines Doulos as:

  1. a slave, bondman, man of servile condition
    1. a slave
    2. , one who gives himself up to another’s will those whose service is used by Christ in extending and advancing His cause among men
    3. devoted to another to the disregard of one’s own interests
  2. a servant, attendant

Historically speaking, during the New Testament times, a bondman or bondservant was someone who had been an indentured slave. They had owed a debt and remained that person’s servant until the debt was paid off. Notice that I said had been. After the debt was paid in full, sometimes the servant enjoyed their life as a servant. They had a roof over their head, three square meals a day, and were treated well by their master. So, in cases like this, the servant would often, voluntarily stayed on as that person’s slave for life. At that point, the owner would put the servant’s earlobe against the doorpost and drive a spike through it, identifying that person as their Doulos. So, a Doulos is a slave for life, by choice.

This explains why the writers of the New Testament used that word so often, it defines just what a Christ follower should be. Even a demon possessed slave girl used this word to define Paul and his disciples in Acts 16:16-17 16 It happened that as we were going to the place of prayer, a slave-girl having a spirit of divination met us, who was bringing her masters much profit by fortune-telling. 17 Following after Paul and us, she kept crying out, saying, “These men are bond-servants of the Most High God, who are proclaiming to you the way of salvation.”

Paul used it repeatedly, as in Romans 1:1 “Paul, a bond-servant of Christ Jesus, called as an apostle, set apart for the gospel of God,”. And again in 2 Corinthians 4:5 For we do not preach ourselves but Christ Jesus as Lord, and ourselves as your bond-servants for Jesus’ sake. “. Notice in this verse he said, “your bondservants for Jesus’ sake.” In serving Christ, we must serve each other. Remember, Christian means Christ-like. We are called to be disciples and a disciple is someone who imitates the one they are following. Jesus was the perfect example of a servant. Philippians 2:7-8 Instead, he gave up his divine privileges; he took the humble position of a slave and was born as a human being.
When he appeared in human form, 8he humbled himself in obedience to God and died a criminal’s death on a cross.”
So, we need to love and serve all of our brothers and sisters in Christ, no matter what ethnic group they belong to, no matter what country they were born in, no matter what denomination they belong to. If they have trusted in Christ as their savior, we must love and serve them.

Paul also used it to illustrate why he doesn’t seek to please men in Galatians 1:10 For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men? If I were still trying to please men, I would not be a bond-servant of Christ.”

He used it in Philippians 1:1 Paul and Timothy, bond-servants of Christ Jesus, To all the saints in Christ Jesus who are in Philippi, including the overseers and deacons:” again Paul used Doulos to explain what Christ did for us by leaving the glory of heaven and coming to earth to die on a cross in Philippians 2:5-11 5 Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, 6 who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 7 but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. 8 Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. 9 For this reason also, God highly exalted Him, and bestowed on Him the name which is above every name, 10 so that at the name of Jesus EVERY KNEE WILL BOW, of those who are in heaven and on earth and under the earth, 11 and that every tongue will confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.”

Paul referred to himself and his companions in the faith as bondservants, Colossians 1:7 just as you learned it from Epaphras, our beloved fellow bond-servant, who is a faithful servant of Christ on our behalf,” also in Colossians 4:7 “As to all my affairs, Tychicus, our beloved brother and faithful servant and fellow bond-servant in the Lord, will bring you information.” And in Titus 1:1 “Paul, a bond-servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the faith of those chosen of God and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness,”

He even gives instructions on how a Doulos should act in 2 Timothy 2:24-25 24 The Lord’s bond-servant must not be quarrelsome, but be kind to all, able to teach, patient when wronged, 25 with gentleness correcting those who are in opposition, if perhaps God may grant them repentance leading to the knowledge of the truth,”.

 

Peter refers to himself as a Doulos in 2 Peter 1:1 Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ:” John also refers to himself as a Doulos in Revelation 1:1 “The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave Him to show to His bond-servants, the things which must soon take place; and He sent and communicated it by His angel to His bond-servant John,”

We’ll conclude our look at the word Doulos in the next installment. See you then.

Doulos – Part 2

Well, here it is, I have saved the best for last, or at least as far as I’m concerned. Out of all of these passages and many others, my two favorites are James 1:1 James, a bond-servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes who are dispersed abroad: Greetings.” And Jude 1:1 Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James, To those who are the called, beloved in God the Father, and kept for Jesus Christ:” What makes these my favorites? I’m glad you asked. James and Jude were the half-brothers of Jesus. When we read through the Gospel accounts, we see that, during His life, Jesus’ earthly brothers didn’t believe in Him, and frankly didn’t want to have anything to do with Him. John 7:1-5 says, 1After this, Jesus traveled around Galilee. He wanted to stay out of Judea, where the Jewish leaders were plotting his death. But soon it was time for the Jewish Festival of Shelters, and Jesus’ brothers said to him, ‘Leave here and go to Judea, where your followers can see your miracles! You can’t become famous if you hide like this! If you can do such wonderful things, show yourself to the world!’ For even his brothers didn’t believe in him.” But, in all honesty, wouldn’t we have done the same thing? I mean, let’s think about it. If you had siblings, there were times in your life that you thought, “Mom and dad think they don’t do anything wrong.” And, you may even believe that still, but imagine being the siblings of the Christ…God in the flesh…He literally never did anything wrong…you thought your siblings were perfect! So, how do you think that made His siblings feel? But, the beautiful thing is that after His resurrection, they believed and they didn’t stop there. Both James and Jude considered themselves to be bondservants, voluntary servants for life, of Jesus Christ. Notice that Jude even says, Jude, a bond-servant of Jesus Christ, and brother of James”. He mentions that he is the brother of James, but doesn’t even feel worthy to be called the brother of Jesus, the Christ. What a transformation. But, you see, that’s what Christ does in our lives, He transforms us to be more like Him.

So, now that we know what a Doulos is, what do we do with this information? Knowing what it means is one thing, but doing something about it is entirely different. James 1:22-25 22 But don’t just listen to God’s word. You must do what it says. Otherwise, you are only fooling yourselves. 23 For if you listen to the word and don’t obey, it is like glancing at your face in a mirror. 24 You see yourself, walk away, and forget what you look like. 25 But if you look carefully into the perfect law that sets you free, and if you do what it says and don’t forget what you heard, then God will bless you for doing it.” We can’t stop at knowledge, we must strive to be a bondservant of Christ. So, how do we do this, as we saw in 2 Timothy 2:24-45, we can’t be quarrelsome, but we must be kind to everyone. We’ve all met Christians who seem to always be looking for a fight, especially from nonbelievers. We also need to be able to teach. You might be thinking, “I’m not a teacher, that’s definitely not my gift,” and you may be right, but you can still share what you know. I love to cook, it is one of my passions. If someone gets me talking about food and cooking, I get excited. We love to talk about what we are passionate about, so the first step is to become passionate about Christ. If you aren’t there yet, start by reading the Gospels and seeing what Jesus did for you. In fact, personalize it when you read it. For instance, when you read John 3:16, everywhere it says, “the world” or “Who Ever” insert your name…He did it for you. One of my favorite verses is John 21:25. After twenty-one chapters of talking about all that Jesus did for us, he ends the book with this verse, “Jesus also did many other things. If they were all written down, I suppose the whole world could not contain the books that would be written.” Let that sink in for a minute. Look at the room you are in and think about just how many books it would take to fill that room. Just for fun, I did the math. My office is 10’X12’ with 8’ ceilings and taking the average mass of a book, which is 108 in2, I found that it would take fifteen thousand three hundred and sixty books to fill this little room. That verse said that the world couldn’t contain the books that would be written. That’s how much God loves us.

The next one is the tough one, we must be patient when wronged…ouch! I don’t know about you, but I tend to want to get even, so I need to keep that in check. And, we need to gently correct those who are in opposition, or another translation says, those who oppose the truth. Notice it says, gently. Some of us are ready to correct everyone, but we must do it gently because, as this scripture says, that way we might be able to lead them into the truth. Also in Proverbs 15:1 we read, “A gentle answer deflects anger, but harsh words make tempers flare.”

So, in conclusion, we must be a doer, not just a hearer. Many people say, “Knowledge is everything”. The truth is Knowledge is nothing if you do nothing with it. So, let’s get off our collective butts and start doing. Let’s take this information and apply it to our lives. Let’s all strive to be bondservants for Christ, and for each other. 1 Corinthians 13:13, “Three things will last forever—faith, hope, and love—and the greatest of these is love.”

An Example

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Photo by Michelle Pearson

An Example – Part 1

Why We Must Keep the Bible in Context

 

In the last couple of posts, entitled One Body, I challenged everyone to take a hard look at the doctrines that divide us. You see, although it is imperative that we unite as one body, we can’t just say, “forget doctrine and come together,” that would be wrong. But, we do need to take a hard look at the doctrines that divide us, because if it isn’t messing with salvation by grace through faith in Christ, then why are we arguing about it? So, these next three posts are looking at an example of one of those doctrines, in fact, this is a doctrine that I was entangled by for many years. We’re going to look at it and do our best to set aside everything we were ever taught about it and see what the Bible says in context.

There is a large following, among Christians, of a belief known as “dispensationalism”. This belief system dates back to the mid-1800’s and is attributed to John Darby. I was taught this my entire life, and bought into it for many years, until one day when I started realizing what the Bible really says. This belief, however well followed, is simply not scriptural. This belief, among other things, teaches that there are 7 dispensations, or periods of time, the first 5 of which happened before Exodus chapter 19. The 5th dispensation is believed to have been when the Israelites in the Old Testament times were “under the dispensation of the law”. They claim that we now are in the 6th dispensation, where Christians today are “under the dispensation of grace”. They believe this will last until the end of the Great Tribulation and will be followed by the 7th dispensation, “The Kingdom Dispensation”.

First, let’s look at the word that was translated, in the KJV, as “dispensation”. It only appears twice in the original scriptures, in Ephesians 3:2, and Colossians 1:25. Those who follow the belief of dispensationalism believe that the word means, a period of time, but that couldn’t be further from the truth. The word in these two verses which was translated in the KJV as “dispensation” is the Greek word oikonomia (oi-ko-no-mē’-ä) which means, “The office of a manager or overseer, stewardship; Administration.” So, had Darby bothered to look at the original language, he would have realized what these verses were talking about.

Ephesians 3:2 (KJV)

“2 If ye have heard of the dispensation of the grace of God which is given me to you-ward:”

Ephesians 3:2 (NASB)

“2 if indeed you have heard of the stewardship of God’s grace which was given to me for you;”

Colossians 1:25 (KJV)

“25 Whereof I am made a minister, according to the dispensation of God which is given to me for you, to fulfill the word of God;”

Colossians 1:25 (NASB)

“25 Of this church I was made a minister according to the stewardship from God bestowed on me for your benefit, so that I might fully carry out the preaching of the word of God,”

As we can see, it’s not a time period of grace in Ephesians 3:2, it’s the stewardship of God’s grace that we were entrusted with. Again, it Colossians 1:25, it’s not a period of time that God bestowed on us, it is our stewardship God has bestowed on us. So many pastors will tell you, “They were under the Law in the Old Testament, but we are under Grace.” That is simply unfounded, and just another example of people trying to interpolate the scriptures to fit their preconceived beliefs.

Do you see how it changes the meaning of these verses when you mistranslate just one word? This is an example of why we must do the work of studying, 2 Timothy 2:15 “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth”. When the writers of the KJV translated that word in 1611, the word dispensation meant something else. In the 1800’s, when Darby invented the theology of dispensationalism, he didn’t go to the original language, he just used the current meaning of the word.

This illustrates why it is imperative that we get a translation of the Bible that we can understand. In fact, the seventy men who translated the Latin Bible into English for King James in 1611, wrote a preface to the work, and in it, talked about how language changes over time and that it is imperative that we get a translation we can understand.

The Israelites of the Old Testament were not saved by keeping the law, they tried to make it about that, because that’s what we humans do. We always want to make it about what we do, as if we’re in control, somehow. To this day people are trying to make salvation about doing good works or keeping the law, but scripture makes it eminently clear that salvation has never been about works. Here are a few of the verses, but you really need to read all of Romans chapters 3 and 4 as well.

Habakkuk 2:4

“4Behold, as for the proud one, His soul is not right within him; But the righteous will live by his faith.” Note the Old Testament reference.

Romans 3:19-20

“19 Obviously, the law applies to those to whom it was given, for its purpose is to keep people from having excuses, and to show that the entire world is guilty before God. 20 For no one can ever be made right with God by doing what the law commands. The law simply shows us how sinful we are.”

Romans 3:27-31

“27 Can we boast, then, that we have done anything to be accepted by God? No, because our acquittal is not based on obeying the law. It is based on faith. 28 So we are made right with God through faith and not by obeying the law. 29 After all, is God the God of the Jews only? Isn’t he also the God of the Gentiles? Of course he is. 30 There is only one God, and he makes people right with himself only by faith, whether they are Jews or Gentiles. 31 Well then, if we emphasize faith, does this mean that we can forget about the law? Of course not! In fact, only when we have faith do we truly fulfill the law.”

Romans 4:1-5

“1Abraham was, humanly speaking, the founder of our Jewish nation. What did he discover about being made right with God? If his good deeds had made him acceptable to God, he would have had something to boast about. But that was not God’s wayFor the Scriptures tell us, ‘Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.’When people work, their wages are not a gift, but something they have earned. But people are counted as righteous, not because of their work, but because of their faith in God who forgives sinners.”

Romans 4:13-15

“13 Clearly, God’s promise to give the whole earth to Abraham and his descendants was based not on his obedience to God’s law, but on a right relationship with God that comes by faith. 14 If God’s promise is only for those who obey the law, then faith is not necessary and the promise is pointless. 15 For the law always brings punishment on those who try to obey it. (The only way to avoid breaking the law is to have no law to break!)”

Romans 4:20-25

“20 Abraham never wavered in believing God’s promise. In fact, his faith grew stronger, and in this he brought glory to God. 21 He was fully convinced that God is able to do whatever he promises. 22 And because of Abraham’s faith, God counted him as righteous23 And when God counted him as righteous, it wasn’t just for Abraham’s benefit. It was recorded 24 for our benefit, too, assuring us that God will also count us as righteous if we believe in him, the one who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. 25 He was handed over to die because of our sins, and he was raised to life to make us right with God.”

In our next installment, we will look more into the place faith has in the life of a Christ follower, both now, and in the Old Testament. See you then.

An Example – Part 2

Why We Must Keep the Bible in Context

 

So, we’ve talked a lot about the belief of dispensationalism, and the fact that it is not scripturally based, so let’s look at the part faith plays now, and in the Old Testament. In Galatians 3:6 we read, “In the same way, “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” and in Galatians 3:8What’s more, the Scriptures looked forward to this time when God would declare the Gentiles to be righteous because of their faith. God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago when he said, “All nations will be blessed through you.” Did you catch that? “God proclaimed this good news to Abraham long ago.”

But, I need to stop here for a minute. Because, there are a lot of people out there preaching, simple faith…saying that all you need is faith. Here’s the problem with that, faith alone is simply not enough, look at James 2:19, “You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror.” You see, it must be a life-altering faith which is evident in our works, James 2:26 “As the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without deeds is dead.” We are not saved by our works, but we are saved for good works. Matthew 5:16 “Let your light shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father who is in heaven.” Christ goes on to tell us that He didn’t come to do away with the law but to fulfill it. He also talked about how important it is for Christians to keep the law. Do you see the order? We follow Christ first, then we keep the law. We don’t follow Christ by keeping the law.

 Hebrews 11:1,4,5,6,7,8,9,11,13,17-28

“1 Faith is the confidence that what we hope for will actually happen; it gives us assurance about things we cannot see.”

“4 It was by faith that Abel brought a more acceptable offering to God than Cain did. Abel’s offering gave evidence that he was a righteous man, and God showed his approval of his gifts. Although Abel is long dead, he still speaks to us by his example of faith.”

“5 It was by faith that Enoch was taken up to heaven without dying—“he disappeared, because God took him.” For before he was taken up, he was known as a person who pleased God.”

“6 And it is impossible to please God without faith. Anyone who wants to come to him must believe that God exists and that he rewards those who sincerely seek him.”

“7 It was by faith that Noah built a large boat to save his family from the flood. He obeyed God, who warned him about things that had never happened before. By his faith Noah condemned the rest of the world, and he received the righteousness that comes by faith.”

“8 It was by faith that Abraham obeyed when God called him to leave home and go to another land that God would give him as his inheritance. He went without knowing where he was going.”

“9 And even when he reached the land God promised him, he lived there by faith—for he was like a foreigner, living in tents. And so did Isaac and Jacob, who inherited the same promise.”

“11 It was by faith that even Sarah was able to have a child, though she was barren and was too old. She believed that God would keep his promise.”

“13 All these people died still believing what God had promised them. They did not receive what was promised, but they saw it all from a distance and welcomed it. They agreed that they were foreigners and nomads here on earth.”

“17 It was by faith that Abraham offered Isaac as a sacrifice when God was testing him. Abraham, who had received God’s promises, was ready to sacrifice his only son, Isaac,”

“18 even though God had told him, “Isaac is the son through whom your descendants will be counted.” “19 Abraham reasoned that if Isaac died, God was able to bring him back to life again. And in a sense, Abraham did receive his son back from the dead.”

“20 It was by faith that Isaac promised blessings for the future to his sons, Jacob and Esau.”

“21 It was by faith that Jacob, when he was old and dying, blessed each of Joseph’s sons and bowed in worship as he leaned on his staff.”

“22 It was by faith that Joseph, when he was about to die, said confidently that the people of Israel would leave Egypt. He even commanded them to take his bones with them when they left.”

“23 It was by faith that Moses’ parents hid him for three months when he was born. They saw that God had given them an unusual child, and they were not afraid to disobey the king’s command.”

“24 It was by faith that Moses, when he grew up, refused to be called the son of Pharaoh’s daughter.”

“25 He chose to share the oppression of God’s people instead of enjoying the fleeting pleasures of sin.”

“26 He thought it was better to suffer for the sake of Christ than to own the treasures of Egypt, for he was looking ahead to his great reward.”

“27 It was by faith that Moses left the land of Egypt, not fearing the king’s anger. He kept right on going because he kept his eyes on the one who is invisible.”

“28 It was by faith that Moses commanded the people of Israel to keep the Passover and to sprinkle blood on the doorposts so that the angel of death would not kill their firstborn sons.”

James 2:19-26

“19 You say you have faith, for you believe that there is one God. Good for you! Even the demons believe this, and they tremble in terror. 20 How foolish! Can’t you see that faith without good deeds is useless?

21 Don’t you remember that our ancestor Abraham was shown to be right with God by his actions when he offered his son Isaac on the altar? 22 You see, his faith and his actions worked together. His actions made his faith complete. 23 And so it happened just as the Scriptures say: “Abraham believed God, and God counted him as righteous because of his faith.” He was even called the friend of God. 24 So you see, we are shown to be right with God by what we do, not by faith alone. 25 Rahab the prostitute is another example. She was shown to be right with God by her actions when she hid those messengers and sent them safely away by a different road. 26 Just as the body is dead without breath, so also faith is dead without good works.”

Okay, there is just so much scripture on this subject, and, although I can’t cover it all. But, it is extremely clear that salvation has always been about a life changing faith in Christ…even before He came to earth. In the Old Testament, they were not saved by keeping the law, they were saved by their faith in the coming Messiah, but they had to demonstrate that faith by making the sacrifices. There is still a lot I want to cover, so let’s meet back here to finish this up.

An Example – Part 3

Why We Must Keep The Bible In Context

 Okay, let’s finish this one up. In Galatians 2:11-21 it says,“11 But when Cephas (Peter) came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned. 12 For prior to the coming of certain men from James, he used to eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he began to withdraw and hold himself aloof, fearing the party of the circumcision. 13 The rest of the Jews joined him in hypocrisy, with the result that even Barnabas was carried away by their hypocrisy. 14 But when I saw that they were not straightforward about the truth of the gospel, I said to Cephas in the presence of all, “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentiles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews? 15 “We are Jews by nature and not sinners from among the Gentiles; 16 nevertheless knowing that a man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus, even we have believed in Christ Jesus, so that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the Law; since by the works of the Law no flesh will be justified. 17 But if, while seeking to be justified in Christ, we ourselves have also been found sinners, is Christ then a minister of sin? May it never be! 18 For if I rebuild what I have once destroyed, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the Law I died to the Law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ; and it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me; and the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave Himself up for me.21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” Also in Galatians 3:6-9 “6 Even so Abraham believed God, and it was reckoned to him as righteousnessTherefore, be sure that it is those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham. The Scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the Gentiles by faith, preached the gospel beforehand to Abraham, saying, “All the nations will be blessed in you.” (Genesis 12:3)So then those who are of faith are blessed with Abraham, the believer.” And, again in Galatians 3:15-4:7 “15 Brethren, I speak in terms of human relations: even though it is only a man’s covenant, yet when it has been ratified, no one sets it aside or adds conditions to it. 16 Now the promises were spoken to Abraham and to his seed. He does not say, “And to seeds,” as referring to many, but rather to one, “And to your seed,” that is, Christ. 17 What I am saying is this: the Law, which came four hundred and thirty years later, does not invalidate a covenant previously ratified by God, so as to nullify the promise. 18 For if the inheritance is based on law, it is no longer based on a promise; but God has granted it to Abraham by means of a promise. 19 Why the Law then? It was added because of transgressions, having been ordained through angels by the agency of a mediator, until the seed would come to whom the promise had been made. 20 Now a mediator is not for one party only; whereas God is only one. 21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be! For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law. 22 But the Scripture has shut up everyone under sin, so that the promise by faith in Jesus Christ might be given to those who believe. 23 But before faith came, we were kept in custody under the law, being shut up to the faith which was later to be revealed. 24 Therefore the Law has become our tutor to lead us to Christ, so that we may be justified by faith. 25 But now that faith has come, we are no longer under a tutor. 26 For you are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus. 27 For all of you who were baptized into Christ have clothed yourselves with Christ.28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. 29 And if you belong to Christ, then you are Abraham’s descendants, heirs according to promise.

1Now I say, as long as the heir is a child, he does not differ at all from a slave although he is owner of everything, but he is under guardians and managers until the date set by the father. So also we, while we were children, were held in bondage under the elemental things of the world. But when the fullness of the time came, God sent forth His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law, so that He might redeem those who were under the Law, that we might receive the adoption as sons. Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” Therefore you are no longer a slave, but a son; and if a son, then an heir through God.”

I realize that this is a lot of scripture to digest, but I don’t ever want anyone to think this is my opinion or my interpretation. This is the word of God and, as such, is irrefutable. God does not now, nor has He ever, awarded salvation in exchange for good works. Even the sacrifices of the Old Testament didn’t save them. The sacrifices were a symbol of the coming Messiah, and salvation came from their faith in the coming Messiah. We cannot be good enough to get into heaven, and neither could the Hebrews of the Old Testament. Paul made it clear that the law was never intended for salvation, but it was to show us how much we need God.

I know this one might be a little controversial for some, but please, study it out and see what the scripture says about this and any other doctrine you were taught by people. I John 4:1 says, “Dear friends, do not believe everyone who claims to speak by the Spirit. You must test them to see if the spirit they have comes from God. For there are many false prophets in the world.” So, don’t just blindly believe the doctrine you have been taught, and don’t just blindly believe me. You are charged with doing the work…study it out but keep it in context, then let me know what you find. I’d love to hear from you.

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