Grow By Grace

There are all sorts of ideas floating about today in various circles concerning sanctification. If you are getting confused by them, consider the following:

But grow in (by) the grace (help) and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ (2 Peter 3:16).

More often than not, in NT (Koine) writing, it seems that the Greek “en” (often translated “in”) ought to be translated by one of its other possibilities–“by, with,” etc. Here, I am sure that it should read “by,”as I noted in the parenthesis in the quotation. The idea of a “spherical dative” is foolish here (as in many of the translations made of this important preposition).

What Peter was trying to get his readers to understand is that in order to grow in their faith it takes grace and knowledge—both, of course, applied to daily living—in order to grow. And growth, as one learns more about Christ and becomes more like Him, is what sanctification is all about. That grace (here, “help,” the second meaning of the word grace, is also a more appropriate translation).

Growth comes about as a believer learns more of the Christian faith and is helped by God to practice it. More and more he progressively comes to walk as he should (not, in this life without failures, of course). But if one is a true believer, he grows. He will change. He can because he is a new creation. Sanctification is not “on the spot,”as one modern preacher recently said. Nor does it come about without effort: studying and prayerfully applying scriptural truth. It is the result of knowing God’s truth about putting off the old sinful ways and replacing them with new biblical ones that please God. Growth is a sign of life—in this case spiritual life. No growth—no life.

Think about this and refuse to be herded by the crowd that teaches that something other than growth is essential.

Written In Stone

How would you like to have your words written down when you didn’t know they were going to be?

Well, listen to Job 19:23-24:

I wish my words were written down,
That they were recorded on a scroll
Or were inscribed on a stone forever
By an iron stylus and lead.”

He got his wish! Only from what he says later on in the book, I doubt that he would want them to be written anywhere by any kind of instrument after having been laced out by the Lord.

Still think he’d want his words to be recorded? Listen to Job 40:4:

I am so insignificant. How can I answer you?
I place my hand over my mouth.

So much for bolstering self-esteem! So much for questioning the Lord’s will as Job did.

“Will all of my words be recorded somewhere?”

Who knows?

Have you read Luke 12:3 lately? I suggest you get out your Bible right now and do so. It might have a salutary effect on your speech!

Using the Original Languages in Preaching

Why do I need to? After all, there was no time in the history of preaching when there were more good translations than now.

The argument sounds good; but the objector misses the obvious fact that the more translation possibilities that he has to choose from, the more one needs to know (at least something about) the original languages; otherwise, when they differ (and they do), how does he know which is correct? From which should he preach? Which more faithfully represents the original text of the writers? This is a special problem today, when so many translators have determined to become interpretive in their renderings. The very wealth of modern options itself should (all the more) point up the need for an acquaintance with the original languages.

“Where can I get this knowledge?” Self-help books, printed languages courses in both Greek and Hebrew, and internet courses exist. But (easiest) many Bible colleges. All conservative seminaries and a number of other schools provide courses in the original languages. Any pastor who has never had Greek or Hebrew (even if he doesn’t ever complete a seminary education) ought to take these courses. “Why?” Well, not only to decide between translations, but:

  1. To be able to “get the feel” of a passage. English translations tend to trowel off the original tone of the writers. Only by becoming acquainted with the original can one restore this. This “feel” is essential to good preaching.
  2. To be able to use the best commentaries and read the better Bible helps (most of which refer to the original text). Without some knowledge of the languages, one cannot follow the reasoning behind the renderings suggested.
  3. To be able to evaluate other books that (again, not using the original) may be far afield in their interpretations and/or uses of many passages.
  4. Preaching that flows from the study of a passage in the original moves forward with a more sure-footed stride; other preaching often limps. A certain confidence derives from having examined the text for one’s self.

“But I’ll never be a Greek or Hebrew scholar.” Right! That is true of most pastors. And right there lies the problem. Many good men who could have profited from a sensible use of the original languages were turned off by seminary teachers who taught them the study of languages as if their life occupation would be to teach Classics or Semitics in a university. They never recommended short cuts (e.g., like forgetting all about the rules for Greek accents—learning these is an almost totally unnecessary chore. One can get along well with learning only those distinguishing accents that count). They tried to build up a conscience against using analytical lexicons and interlinear translations (two very valuable helps that no one should feel guilty about using freely). They talk negatively about such books as Kubo’s Reader’s Lexicon and don’t tell students about Spiros Zodhiates’ crib for Machen’s grammar. All such “purism” is sheer nonsense. Who cares if a pastor leans on some Bagster help? Who cares how a person learns to get the right answers to his exegetical questions concerning the original languages so long as he gets them? Of course one should use the Englishman’s Hebrew and Chaldee Concordance if he finds it helpful. Why not?

With all that a busy pastor must do, it is only right for him to employ every available aid that he can afford, to keep his hand into the continued use of Hebrew and Greek. He would be a poor steward of time and energy if he did not. Many men have lost any language ability they once had because they believed (what they were told, or strongly led to think) that it was wrong to use anything but the naked text and the standard grammars and lexicons. Sheer, unadulterated nonsense! Pastor, if using an interlinear will help you get back to the Greek and Hebrew, use it—let me emancipate you from the chains of guilt forged in the shops of language teachers who never had to face the everyday problems of the pastorate. Use it! Use whatever is available. Indeed, every teacher of Hebrew and Greek in a theological seminary ought to take the time to compare and contrast these helps, giving his opinion about which is best (and why) and instructing pastors in the most effective and intelligent use of each.

Preach; preach from a study of the original text, and you will preach with confidence and joy.

All Truth

According to John 14:26, the apostles received the last revelation that would ever be given this side of eternity. Jesus told them

But the Counselor, the Holy Spirit, that the Father will send in My name, He is the One Who will teach you everything and remind you of everything that I told you.

It’s a good thing that God provided the Spirit to give all remaining revelation to the apostles, as well as to enable them to remember Jesus’ ministry so as to write inerrant Gospel accounts (See also John 12:16). We know that He met with them for forty days following His resurrection talking to them concerning the things that pertained to the church (Acts 1:3), but it was only after the Spirit of truth came upon them that they were given “all truth” (John 16:13), including prophetic understanding of the future. To know that they received all the truth that the church will ever have is important for many reasons, among which are the following:

  1. We can be sure that claims to additional revelation are false, and know, therefore, to reject them.
  2. We can know that there are no more prophecies to be forthcoming.
  3. We can know that the Scriptures, in which all truth is deposited, are sufficient for our lives.
  4. We can know that the more that we study the Bible and come to know the truths therein, the closer we come to knowing all the truth that God has disclosed (not that any of us gets all that far).
  5. We can know that there is a source of truth available to those who ask the Spirit to enable them to access and appropriate it as they study the Bible.
  6. We can know that God has completely provided a fixed rule of faith and practice for us in a world where everything else seems uncertain.

How richly God endowed us when in the coming of the Spirit, we also received all truth through the apostles!

Legalism

The Judaizing Christians who gave Paul and his infant churches so much difficulty were legalists. There are, of course, legalists around today as well. The Jerusalem council once-and-for-all decided to put an end to legalism in the church when they ended their letter with these words:

It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to lay any additional burdens on you than these essentials: . . .

Then they went on to mention sacrifices to idols, blood from strangled animals and sexual sin, all of which had to do with pagan worship.

Did you get it? Not “any additional burden!” No legalists I know are making additional rules regarding pagan idolatry. But, sure as the day is long, they are busy all the time laying other burdens on people. It’s interesting; if you ask “why do you think that we must refrain from this or that?”—or “why we must certainly do such and such?”—what sort of answer they give. Usually it’s something like this: “you don’t get it; these things are really important. Such rules are crucial.”

Whoa! Did you read Acts 15:28 carefully? It says nothing but “these essentials.” Those listed in their letter are the only essentials. I quoted them above—and if I were a betting man (which I’m not), I’d bet dollars to donuts that these “really important” matters aren’t among them.

Every legalist—one who wants to make rules that aren’t found in the Scriptures—has his own set of “essentials” that differs from those of the council. Think twice before requiring them of others. The important thing is to always sharply distinguish God’s commands from your suggestions. What you say may or may not be expedient, and it probably is worth giving consideration to, but if it isn’t God’s Word it doesn’t have the same authority. And whenever you add to God’s Word, you adulterate it—now, that’s something that’s really important to avoid, don’t you think?

Forgiven, and then Counsel Others

David was forgiven! He rejoices over the Lord’s goodness for that forgiveness in Psalm 32.  But he doesn’t stop with celebrating God’s mercy. He also considers it an obligation to urge others to seek forgiveness for their sin.  Indeed, he seems to be obligated to help. So he counsels them:

I will instruct you and show you the way to go; with my eye on you I will give counsel.   Psalm 32:8.

But what is that counsel? We can read it in the next verse:

Do not be like the horse or mule . . . that must be controlled with bit and bridle (v.9).

Why mention that?

He says that these are needed to bring the animal to you. In other words, when one won’t come on his own to seek God’s forgiveness, he must be dragged along. And David is willing to do it!

He wants his reader to deal with their sin differently than he did. He counsels him to be willing to come readily to God and seek forgiveness.  David had to be stunned into submission to God by Nathan’s story. He wanted, therefore, to warn others that they need not go through the agony he had experienced when, mulishly, he wouldn’t come to God seeking forgiveness (see v. 4).

So, too, why not urge your counselees—forgiven of sin—to willingly counsel others as he did?

 

When Counseling, Don’t . . .

  1. Counsel women alone
  2. Counsel drunks; wait till they sober up
  3. Counsel someone being counseled by another
  4. Counsel without access to a phone, desk, writing materials, etc.
  5. Counsel people who set down conditions
  6. Counsel when a person refuses to do his homework
  7. Counsel by telephone
  8. Counsel by separating spouses from one another
  9. Counsel people so drugged that they can’t reason
  10. Counsel young children; counsel their parents
  11. Counsel unbelievers; evangelize them
  12. Counsel a Christian who will not accept Scripture as a Standard
  13. Counsel on succeeding days, unless absolutely necessary
  14. Counsel without giving homework
  15. Counsel unrepentant persons, who ought to repent, until they do
  16. Counsel during the 6-week period prior to the checkup
  17. Counsel if there is any question of an organic problem
  18. Counsel when a person will not come regularly for counsel
  19. Counsel until you have a PDI properly filled out
  20. Counsel heretics or cultists; evangelize them
  21. Counsel unless a person is willing for you to use the Scriptures
  22. Counsel people who denigrate others when told not to over and over again
  23. Counsel blame-shifters who will not admit it after adequate discussion
  24. Counsel people who insist on running the session their way
  25. Counsel people to return to liberal churches

This list is preliminary. Many other items could be added. There are possible exceptions to some of the items in the list. Donn will be posting his list tomorrow. What would you add to our lists?

Literal Truth

In John 1:14 we read

And the word became flesh, and tented among us, and we beheld His glory, glory as a unique One from the Father, filled with grace and reality.

Notice several things:

  1. This literal, more accurate translation reveals much that the KJV does not.
  2. We learn truth about Jesus’ first advent and person that we don’t learn about elsewhere
  3. These truths are of importance to us in our daily, living relationship to Him.

Notice that His stay among us was temporary: He “tented” among us—He set up no permanent living quarters. He intended to spend only enough time here to accomplish what He needed to do upon His trip. From the time of His anointing as the Messiah (His baptism) to His death, He lived among us for only 3 1/2 years. His entire earthly dwelling was about 33 years in all. He intended not to remain, but to come and accomplish a purpose, and then leave—precisely what He did.

Note also that He was God’s message transformed from words alone into a living person (‘flesh”) so that we could see and hear him do and say what it was that God wanted us to know about Himself, delivered in this form. To see truth in person, in action, is more dramatic, clearer, memorable, etc.

Moreover, He was unique.  He was not only-begotten—all believers are begotten of God.  The word really means (as it does in John 3: 16, etc.) “the only one of His kind.” Only Jesus cold accomplish what He did because as a Person Who was unique in the ways in which He was, only He could do it. Only He, for instance, was God become man while yet remaining God as well.

Finally, He was full of grace (“help” of the sort sinners need)  and reality. There are two words N.T. Greek for “truth”—one for truth over against falsehood (not the one used here); the other reality as over against its shadow.   The Old Testament was full of shadowy types and truths, but no realities.  He was the reality that cast those shadows—the shadows that were but unreal, vague types, or pictures, of the reality that they represent.  He is the reality itself.

Take time to concentrate on each of these items and as you do, you will gain a much clearer understanding of Jesus and His earthly mission. Apart from a literal translation, you miss much of what God wants you to know about Jesus Christ.

God in Heaven and on Earth

Here is how a believer ought to think in the midst of the general confusion that he finds himself surrounded with today:

You guide me with Your counsel, and afterwards, you will take me up in glory; Whom do I have I heaven but You? And I desire nothing on earth but You.         (Psalm 73:24)

It really doesn’t matter whether or not we find the answers to the troubles, trials, and difficulties that we face in the present life. It is wonderful when God gives us such a boon! But we have more than the present for which to live and rejoice—we look forward to a trouble-free heaven where all tears will be wiped away, where we will no longer regret our actions because we will never sin again!  That is a place where righteousness will be at home!

So, whether now or later, our lives are sure and steadfast in Christ—and that is something for which we can be eternally thankful, beginning today!

That is something that those who do not know Him as their Savior cannot appreciate or affirm.  If it sounds too good to be true, read the Scriptures in which you can find God’s counsel, and the life of faith here and complete joy hereafter.

Women at Each Other’s Throats?

In the church at Philippi there was a division. This was headed up by two women—the worst sort of split any church can have! There’s always the possibility that it can become a real shin-kicker and hair puller!

Their names might easily have been Odious and Soon-touchy, if they were anything like what we find in churches today. Their actual names are found in Philippians 4:2.

Before Paul mentions any names, he makes clear two principles that must be at work when bringing unity to a divided church. In Philippians 2:3, 4, he sets these forth:

  1. Get rid of selfishness or vane thinking about your own worth, while at the same time considering others better than your self.
  2. Instead of being all—fired concerned with your own interests, for once in your life begin to put the interests of other before your own!

You can always find some way in which others are better than you—if you’re willing to prayerfully take an honest look (of course, as his words indicate, Paul would have you to look away from yourself in order to do so).

And, if you are concerned about furthering others’ concerns rather than your own, again, you’ll find ways of doing so.

The two principles are not hard to understand-just hard for quarreling people to follow. Repentance may be in order to be able to do so.

On those two points, he goes further in the verses that follow to show how that’s exactly what Jesus did for us. He selflessly put us first, going so far as to put our interests (salvation) before His manifested glory as the second Person of the Trinity. He was willing to stoop to becoming a man, to becoming a slave, to becoming a criminal who died on the cross—all for our sakes.

Think of His condescension the next time your foot gets stepped on, the next time someone disagrees with you, the next time you’ve been insulted, the next time . . . simply the next time! It isn’t a matter of who is right. The point is—how are you handling the relationship? Follow these two principles, and you will certainly be doing much to bring about unity. In unity, you can work out the differences!