Wednesday, June 29, 2005

Rod and reproof (Prov. 29:15)

Proverbs 29:15 The rod and reproof give wisdom, But a child who gets his own way brings shame to his mother. (NASB)

The juxtaposition of rod and reproof struck me this morning as I was proofing Proverbs 29 for A Reader’s Hebrew Bible (more info.; sample). Since I am daily shaping the behavioral patterns of my son, it is good to be reminded that it is rod and reproof that gives wisdom. Either the rod or verbal correction alone is insufficient. They work together.

The rod I take to be metonymy of cause for effect. In other words, the rod is what causes pain, and pain is (at all levels of development) a motivator to avoid whatever behavior produced the pain. If the rod is seen merely as a physical instrument, I think its real significance is lost. It is the pain of the rod that helps drive away folly. If physical pain is ineffective, other sorts of rods are available (e.g., loss of privilege, loss of play-time, etc.).

Reproof involves the verbal instruction that identifies the incorrect behavior for what it is and provides instruction on why it is wrong and what is the appropriate alternative.

This is, of course, an axiomatic statement; therefore, it does not mean wisdom is always and only imparted by rod and reproof. But the final stich (last half of the verse), contextualizes this axiom: “a child who is allowed to run loose without restriction shames his mother.” Without the restraint of rod and reproof, parental shame is the inevitable consequence. Solomon should know.

Saturday, June 25, 2005

Mansions in the Father’s House (John 14:2, 23)

14:2 "In My Father's house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you. (NASB)
14:2 evn th/ oivki,a tou/ patro,j mou monai. pollai, eivsin\ eiv de. mh,( ei=pon a'n u`mi/n o[ti poreu,omai e`toima,sai to,pon u`mi/nÈ

The AV says, “In my Father’s house are many mansions …” As child growing up, I assumed that mansions meant what I thought a mansion was: a palatial house with crystal chandeliers, grand staircases, and more rooms than you knew what to do with. Then I studied NT Greek and found out that the word translated mansions means “a dwelling place.” It does not denote or even connote the fabulous sort of residence I envisioned. That was a bit disappointing, initially.

I was also inclined to wonder why the AV chose mansion since it doesn’t mean mansion. In the process of studying NT Greek, I also began to learn something about the history of English. Words change their meanings over time! The word mansion used to be used for “Any structure or building serving as a place in which to live or lodge, as a house, a tent, etc.” (Oxford English Dictionary). In fact, in William Tyndale’s NT, he translates 2 Cor. 5:1-2 “…oure erthy mancion wherin we now dwell … Desyringe to be clothed with oure mansion which is from heven …” (yes, that is how they spelled in the 1500s!).

And that brings me to this week. I started memorizing the Upper Room discourse of Jesus (John 14-17), and noticed something I had written in the margin of my Bible. The word monh, moné occurs in John 14:23 “If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our abode [monh,n] with him.”

We are the moné of the Father and the Son! There are many dwelling places in Heaven, but God, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit (cf. Eph. 2:20-22), has chosen to make us His dwelling place. What an incredible privilege … what an incredible responsibility. We must maintain God’s dwelling place in a way fit for Him—with purity in every area. Holiness is not the condition God imposes upon our living from His throne in Heaven. Holiness is the necessary condition for God’s triune presence to take up and maintain residence in us.

Empower me by the Spirit, today, to love you fervently and obediently, so that my life may be wholly lived unto You and thereby be holy in all that I do, say, and think.
For Christ's sake,

Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Jesus' Prayer for Unity through Perichoresis (John 17:21-23)

John 17:21 ἵνα πάντες ἓν ὦσιν, καθὼς σύ, πάτερ, ἐν ἐμοὶ κἀγὼ ἐν σοί, ἵνα καὶ αὐτοὶ ἐν ἡμῖν ὦσιν, ἵνα ὁ κόσμος πιστεύῃ ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας. 22 κἀγὼ τὴν δόξαν ἣν δέδωκάς μοι δέδωκα αὐτοῖς, ἵνα ὦσιν ἓν καθὼς ἡμεῖς ἕν· 23 ἐγὼ ἐν αὐτοῖς καὶ σὺ ἐν ἐμοί, ἵνα ὦσιν τετελειωμένοι εἰς ἕν, ἵνα γινώσκῃ ὁ κόσμος ὅτι σύ με ἀπέστειλας καὶ ἠγάπησας αὐτοὺς καθὼς ἐμὲ ἠγάπησας.

21 that they may all be one; even as You, Father, are in Me and I in You, that they also may be in Us, so that the world may believe that You sent Me. 22 "The glory which You have given Me I have given to them, that they may be one, just as We are one; 23 I in them and You in Me, that they may be perfected in unity, so that the world may know that You sent Me, and loved them, even as You have loved Me. (NASB)

Jesus begins his petition for unity in John 17:21 -- "That they all may be one" … how? … "just as you, Father, are in me and I in you.

Perichoretic union, (= mutual indwelling of persons), is the focus of the oneness that Christ prays for.

How can we be “perichoretically” one? The rest of the verse explains: “in order that they also might be in us.” We are “one” as Jesus prayed, when we are united with Father and Son.

Verse 22 continues the idea: “I have given them the glory that you gave me in order that they may be one as we are one.”

What is the “glory” that Jesus gave His disciples and how does that result in their unity?
My first stab at defining the “glory” would be the privilege of union with Christ.[1] That is the next thing Jesus says: “I in them and you in me, in order that they might be perfected in oneness.”

1. This is perhaps the passage most abused by evangelicals in a plea for visible, corporate unity. The unity for which Jesus was praying was not the unity of believer with believer, but rather of all believers with Christ and the Father. This has implications for how we relate to others, but I do not believe it implies visible, denominational, or structural unity.

2. What an incredible prayer! Jesus wants us in Him. He is in the Father (v22), so that puts us in the Father as well. The Father is in Him (22) and He is in us (23), so that means the Father is in us too.

3. Jesus opens the door to the mysterious ‘oneness’ of God our Triune God. Jesus and the Father are “one” through mutual indwelling. We become “one” in the same way: we indwell God and He indwells us. Here is marvelous truth, profoundest mystery.

4. Yet, the mystery of mutual indwelling is ours through union with Christ through faith. This participation in divine perichoresis affords us the privilege of fellowship with the Father and the Son (1 John 1:4), and grants us the fellowship of the Holy Spirit (Phil. 2:2).

Surely, the appropriate response is glad praise, enthusiastic participation in triune fellowship, adoring humility and submission.

I marvel at the privilege that union with Christ has afforded me! Grant me grace to delight more fully and participate more sensibly in the oneness that is already mine in Christ by the Spirit.
On the grounds of Jesus’ name, I pray.
[1] So also Barnes, Jamieson-Faussett-Brown; Gill: “the Gospel is meant, which is glorious in its author, matter and subject, in its doctrines, in the blessing: grace it reveals, and promises it contains, and in the efficacy and usefulness of it to the souls of men. This was given to Christ, and he gave it to his disciples.” Wesley: “The glory of the only begotten shines in all the sons of God. How great is the majesty of Christians.” Clarke: “the glorious privilege of becoming sons of God; that, being all adopted children of the same Father, … however, … the words may therefore be understood of the glory which they were to share with him in heaven.

Thursday, June 16, 2005

What's wrong with it? vs. What would please Jesus the most? (Phi. 1:10)

Philippians 1:10 εἰς τὸ δοκιμάζειν ὑμᾶς τὰ διαφέροντα, ἵνα ἦτε εἰλικρινεῖς καὶ ἀπρόσκοποι εἰς ἡμέραν Χριστοῦ,

1:10 so that you may approve the things that are excellent, in order to be sincere and blameless until the day of Christ;

Verse 10 identifies the reason Paul is praying for the Philippians’ love for God to abound in knowledge and discernment: so that they would be able to “approve the things that are excellent” (NASB). Or as the HCSB puts it: “so that you can determine what really matters.”

As a kid growing up, I developed a set of mental criteria by which I made my decisions. One of the primary questions in my criteria was “Is there anything wrong with this?” That is, of course, an important question. But the more I study what it means to love God, the more I am convinced that that question is not the most important question I should be asking.

In verse 10 Paul prays that the Philippians would be able to distinguish not just the good from the bad, but the better from the good, and ultimately the best from the better. As the saying goes, “It is often the good that is the greatest enemy of the best.” It is easy to get swept along doing good things, legitimate things, even ministry things—but things that aren’t the best use of our time, our talents, our resources.

The word translated “excellent” refers to “the essential things, the things that really matter or are of greater value” (Friberg, BDAG).

So how do I discern the best? How do we figure out what “really matters.” Paul’s answer: The ability to figure out what really matters flows from your love for God abounding in knowledge and discernment. The more you know and love God, the more clearly you will be able to see what pleases Him and the more deeply you will desire to please Him. Not that such discernment will always be a cinch. The word “approve” involves rigorous testing to determine the nature of a thing.

But the ability to discern what really matters isn’t the ultimate purpose of Paul’s prayer. That is really just a means to the larger end. The greater end to which he prays is that they would be sincere and blameless until the day Jesus the Christ returns.

I’ve never forgotten what William Barclay says about the word εἰλικρινεῖς aylikrinaise “sincere” in his New Testament Words. He notes that this adjective was used in secular Greek in reference to pottery or sculpture from marble. One of the dangers of working with marble is the potential for cracking or chipping in the process of producing saleable goods. A skilled artisan knew how to color wax properly and work it into such cracks or chips in a way that blended perfectly with the marble. The only way to tell if a sculpture or vase had such wax covering a blemish was to hold it up to the sun and slowly rotate it. The sunlight would reveal any wax. A piece of marble sculpture that had no wax-covered blemishes was called εἰλικρινεῖς “sincere.”

That is the kind of integrity God desires in my life, our lives. We can be held up to the scrutinize of His Sun – His Word – and no waxed over blemishes will be seen. No unconfessed sin. No unreconciled relationships. No unChristlike words spoken without making them right..

The final word that describes the character the flows from God-loving discernment is ἀπρόσκοποι aproskopoi “blameless.” The word denotesbeing without fault because of not giving offense” (BDAG). This is essentially a relational descriptor. It characterizes the way we have related to other people.

Love for God necessarily bears upon how we relate to others. God-pleasing discernment also results in others-loving actions. As we determine and do the things that are best, our lives will not only avoid giving offense to others, but as Solomon says, they will be living-giving springs (Prov. 10:11).

Monday, June 13, 2005

Love for God abounding in knowledge & discernment (Phi. 1:9)

Philippians 1:9 Καὶ τοῦτο προσεύχομαι, ἵνα ἡ ἀγάπη ὑμῶν ἔτι μᾶλλον καὶ μᾶλλον περισσεύῃ ἐν ἐπιγνώσει καὶ πάσῃ αἰσθήσει

1:9 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in real knowledge and all discernment, (NASB)

As an inspired prayer, this passage reflects God’s desire for His people. In exegeting this passage there are multiple questions to be answered.

1. Paul prays for their love to abound. Love always has an object; therefore, we should ask, “Love for what?” Is Paul praying that their love for others would abound or that their love for God would abound? Or is it both? Is one primary and the other secondary?

Theologically, love for God always precedes and is the source for love for others (1 John). Hence, if it is both, is the primarily love for God. Verses 10 and 11, while mentioning blamelessness which does have an others-focus, seem to focus primarily on our spiritual condition. That leads me to believe that Paul is talking about the Philippians’ love for God.

2. How then does love for God abound more and more in knowledge? What is the relationship between love for God and knowledge?

When I married my wife, I knew her as well as I could at that time. After four years of marriage I know her much better than I did then. My increased knowledge has resulted in increased love and appreciation for her. This is the way it works in our relationship with God. The more we know about Him and of Him, the more we love Him. As knowledge grows, love grows. The inverse of this is also true, love for my wife has motivated me to get to know her better. The more we love God, the more we want to know Him.

Whether epiginwskw denotes “real knowledge” as the NASB, or the prepositional prefix has lost its intensifying force and as a result the word is merely a synonym for ginwskw is difficult to tell. Taking a minimalist approach insures that we exegete the bare minimum Paul intended.[1] I’m inclined to think that making anything of epiginwskw as opposed to ginwskw would be reading into the text what isn’t there.

3. Not only is our love for God to grow through greater knowledge of Him and into greater knowledge of Him, but our love is to abound in discernment. What is this discernment (KJV: judgment)?

Marriage, again, supplies a helpful analogy. The more I know about my wife, the more my discernment with regard to her is refined. I can discern when she is pleased and when she isn’t. Little facial, body, hand movements that would have meant nothing to me four years ago are now clues to what she is thinking and feeling. Beyond discerning what displeases her, I have also grown in my discernment regarding what pleases her.

In like fashion, as my love for God abounds in knowledge of Him, my ability to discern the things that please Him and displease Him should increase.

In summary: In Phil. 1:9 Paul prays that the Philippians' love for God would abound in greater knowledge of Him and in discernment of the things that please Him.

... exegetical thoughts will continue later ...

[1] EDNT offers “knowledge as recognition of (the will of) God that is effective in the conduct of the one who knows God.” BDAG offers “knowledge, recognition.”