Saturday, November 20, 2021

Entrusting ourselves to God: 1 Peter 4:19

 

In his first letter to the church, Peter reminds us that suffering is part of the Christian life. Peter writes, “For you have been called for this purpose, because Christ also suffered for you, leaving you an example, so that you would follow in His steps” (1 Peter 2:21 NASB 2020). Part of those footsteps that we are to follow in is to suffer both for the sake of Christ and the sake of others. Peter goes on to write, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose” (1 Peter 4:1 NASB 2020). This same purpose includes suffering. Suffering is part and parcel of the Christian life. Peter encourages us that we ought not to be “surprised at the fiery ordeal among you, which comes upon you for your testing, as though something strange were happening to you” (1 Peter 4:12 NASB 2020), for such suffering is a normal part of being a Christian. So how is a believer to bear up under such suffering and come through it even stronger in the Lord? Peter gives us this counsel, “Therefore, those also who suffer according to the will of God are to entrust their souls to a faithful Creator in doing what is right” (1 Peter 4:19 NASB 2020).

Two things are of note in this verse. First is the Greek word translated as “entrust.” This word means to put, place, or stand near or around something. It is often translated as commit, entrust, and deposit. Peter is telling us to commit and entrust our souls to God as if we were depositing them with him for safekeeping. But how does one do this? How can we entrust and commit our souls to a God we cannot see and who is enthroned in heaven? We do so by choosing to do good. 

The Greek word translated here as “doing what is right” is a compound word made from the Greek word for good and the Greek word for doing or making. We commit ourselves to God by committing ourselves to doing good. It is a bit surprising that the way we commit ourselves vertically to God is by committing ourselves horizontally to doing good to other people. Some may question if such counsel is contrary to faith and returns us to a works-oriented salvation. Are good works compatible with salvation by faith? The answer is “Yes!” Often, especially when we are suffering some fiery ordeal, it takes faith to continue in doing good. It takes faith in the goodness, graciousness, and merciful favor of God in our lives. Only as we have faith in God’s goodness and faithfulness can we do good, even while suffering. The way through suffering is to entrust ourselves to a faithful God in doing what is good and right to others. 

David Robison

Sunday, November 14, 2021

Co-worker in the truth: 3 John 8

In his third letter to the church, John praises the believers for how they had treated strangers and those who traveled with the Gospel. John writes, “You will do well to send them on their way in a manner worthy of God. For they went out for the sake of the Name, accepting nothing from the Gentiles. Therefore we ought to support such people, so that we may prove to be fellow workers with the truth” (3 John 1:6-8 NASB 2020). There are two things of interest in these verses. First is the Greek word translated here as “ought.” The root of this word is the Greek word for profit or advantage. The idea is of a duty that has accrued to us on the basis of the benefits and blessings we have received. John is reminding his readers that, because of the blessings, favors, and advantages of God that have become theirs in the Gospel, the duty of supporting those who have gone out in the service of the Gospel has been accrued to their account. Because we have been blessed, we ought to support those ministers of the Gospel.

The second thing of interest is the Greek word translated as “fellow workers.” This is a single compound Greek word containing the preposition “with” and the Greek word for worker, which is the same Greek word from which we get our word for “energy.” This particular word is used only here by John but is often used by Paul to speak of those who were working with him in the cause of the Gospel. Consider some of the people whom Paul calls his fellow workers: Prisca and Aquila (Rom. 16:3), Urbanus (Rom. 16:9), Timothy (Rom. 16:21), Titus (2 Cor. 8:23), Epaphroditus (Philip. 2:25), Clement (Philip. 4:3), Jesus (not Jesus Christ) and Justus (Col. 4:11), Philemon (Philemon 1:1), and Aristarchus, Demas, and Luke (Philemon 1:24).

However, here, John is saying that if we help and support those who have gone out for the sake of the Gospel, then we have become co-workers with them in the truth. In God’s perspective, those who go and those who supply are both workers in the truth. When we support missionaries and workers in the Gospel, we are not simply supporting them or donating to their cause; we are actually co-working with them in the truth. This ought to change the way we view missions, missionaries, and our participation with them by supporting them in their work. When we support them, then we too are participating with them in the work. By giving, we too have become workers.

David Robison

Wednesday, October 27, 2021

Troublesome meddler: 1Peter 4:14

Peter writes to encourage us that suffering is a normal part of the Christian life. However, he goes on to say, “Make sure that none of you suffers as a murderer, or thief, or evildoer, or a troublesome meddler” (1 Peter 4:15 NASB 2020). This last word in the Greek text, translated here as “troublesome meddler,” is particularly interesting, and its exact meaning is still debated. This Greek word is a compound word, the first part meaning “another’s,” and the second word is often translated in the New Testament as “bishop” or “overseer.” Peter is saying that we should not pretend to be another’s bishop, or another’s overseer. Craig Keener writes that this word could refer to those “giving unwanted or ill-timed advice. Mediling tactlessly in others affairs was a vice often attributed to unpopular Cynic philosophers” (The IVP Bible Background Commentary).

In thinking about this word, we ought to remember what Peter previously wrote in this same letter. Peter writes, “For you were continually straying like sheep, but now you have returned to the Shepherd and Guardian of your souls” (1 Peter 2:25 NASB 2020). The Greek word translated here as Guardian is the same word for bishop used by Peter when he later warns us about trying to be another’s bishop. The truth is, people do not need another bishop, someone else to intrude into their lives to tell them how to do things or to point out where they are wrong. They already have a bishop and overseer in their life, and that is Jesus. This further reminds me of Paul’s words when he wrote, “Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand” (Rom. 14:4 NASB 2020). In Christ, we are called to be one another’s brothers and sisters, not their bishop. That job we ought to leave to the Lord.

David

Wednesday, October 20, 2021

In which direction are you running? 1 Peter 4:4

 Peter writes to remind us that suffering is a normal part of the Christian experience. Peter writes, “Therefore, since Christ has suffered in the flesh, arm yourselves also with the same purpose, because the one who has suffered in the flesh has ceased from sin” (1 Peter 4:1 NASB 2020). One of the ways we suffer is by being misunderstood by those who do not believe. Peter goes on to say, “In all this, they are surprised that you do not run with them in the same excesses of debauchery, and they slander you” (1 Peter 4:4 NASB 2020).

There are two things of note in this verse. The first is the word translated here as “debauchery” and as “dissipation” in other translations. In the original Greek, this word is a compound word containing the negative article (think of “un”) and the Greek word for salvation. Perhaps the most literal way of understanding this word is as “unsavedness.” Peter describes people as running in one of two directions. Either we are running into the savedness of God, or we are running into the unsavedness of the world; there is no middle ground. Peter goes on to tell us that a life lived in running towards unsavedness, is a life lived in pursuing “indecent behavior, lusts, drunkenness, carousing, drinking parties, and wanton idolatries” (1 Peter 4:3 NASB 2020). However, a life lived in running towards savedness, is a life lived in “sound judgment and sober spirit for the purpose of prayer … fervent in your love for one another … hospitable to one another without complaint … [and] serving one another as good stewards of the multifaceted grace of God” (1 Peter 4:7-10 NASB 2020).

The second thing of note is that Peter speaks of us running in one direction or the other. We often think of the fast pace of our modern life, but we rarely think of the pace at which we are running towards unsavedness or savedness. People do not drift towards savedness or away from savedness; they run! I know of a man who, one day, started going out for drinks after work. This led him to stop going to church, which led to more drinking, and eventually to being arrested for sexual assault. What is shocking is that this entire process took only six months! Our journey toward sin is a quick journey. It does not take long to become completely consumed by sin. We must ask ourselves, in which direction am I running? Am I running towards God and his savedness? Or toward the world and its unsavedness?

David Robison

Monday, August 16, 2021

No, by no means, never ever ever! (Hebrews 8:12)

The writer of Hebrews reminds his readers of the new covenant God promised to make with all people. In quoting an Old Testament prophecy from the book of Jeremiah, he writes, “For I will be merciful towards their wrongdoings, and their sins I will no longer remember” (Hebrews 8:12 NASB 2020). To further drive home this point, the author again quotes this promise, repeating it in Hebrews 10:17. In the Greek language, there are two words that are both translated as “no” or “not.” Each is used with a different form of speech. One is used for what is called the indicative mood, which is used when stating a fact. For example, “the student does not teach the teacher.” The other word for “no” is used for all other forms of speech, including the subjunctive mode. For example, “the student should not teach the teacher.” However, when these two words are used together in the same sentence, they form the most emphatic use of the word “no” in the Greek language. This is the case in this promise from God. God did not say that he might not remember our sins, nor that he would not remember our sins, but that he would in no way, by no means, never ever ever remember our sins. There is no equivocation in God’s promise to those who would receive his forgiveness, nor can we misunderstand his intentions or his promise. To those who receive his forgiveness, he will never ever remember their sins. What a blessing and what confidence before God have those who have thus been forgiven by God. As David once said, “How blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, whose sin is covered! How blessed is the man to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity, and in whose spirit there is no deceit” (Psalms 32:1-2)!

David Robison

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Jesus sings our praises: Hebrews 2:11-12

One of the themes of the letter to the Hebrews is how Jesus stands apart from all other spiritual beings and how he is superior to all others, even to the angels. The writer of the letter also describes how, though he is exalted, he humbled himself and chose to take upon himself human flesh that he might dwell among us. The author writes, “But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of His suffering death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone” (Hebrews 2:9 NASB 2020). The author goes on to express the relationship between Jesus and those he came to save, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for this reason He is not ashamed to call them brothers and sisters, saying, ‘I will proclaim you name to my brothers, in the midst of the assembly I will sing your praise’” (Hebrews 2:11-12 NASB 2020). This last sentence is a direct quote from Psalm 22:22, and the writer of Hebrews puts these words in the mouth of Jesus.

The word translated here as “praise” is the verb form of the Greek word from which we get our word for hymn. This verse could be translated, “In the midst of the assembly I will hymnify you.” What an encouragement to think that, while we are here on Earth singing his hymns, Jesus is in heaven singing our hymns. He is speaking of us, of his love for us and our worth to him, to that heavenly assembly surrounding him. Sometimes, I think that God is just putting up with me and that he saved me only because he had to. However, the truth is that we are all valuable to him, so much so, that he cannot help boasting about us before the heavenly assembly! Regardless of how much or how little other people might think about us, Jesus loves us and is singing our hymns in that great heavenly assembly.

David Robison

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

Distributions of the Holy Spirit: Hebrews 2:2-4

In the second chapter of the letter to the Hebrews, the author gives evidence as to how we can know that the message being preached is truly from God. He writes, “For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will” (Hebrews 2:2-4 NASB). We know the Gospel is true, not only because it is contained within the canon of scriptures, but we know it is true because God himself testifies of its truth. Even today, God is testifying to his word through signs, wonders, miracles, and other manifestations of the Holy Spirit. All over the World, God is moving in miraculous power. Part of the reason for these miracles is to give continued evidence to the truth of his word.

One thing that is of interest in the original Greek text is the phrase, “gifts of the Holy Spirit.” The Greek word translated here as “gifts” is used only twice in the New Testament and only by this author. While it can mean divisions, here, it should more accurately be translated as “distributions.” What is important to see is that what we receive is not just some gift from the Holy Spirit. Rather it is a distribution of the Holy Spirit himself. Miracles, signs, and wonders work through us, not because of some gift that resides within us, but because the Holy Spirit himself lives within us! Paul puts it this way, “But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good” (1 Corinthians 12:7 NASB). The reason we can manifest the Holy Spirit is that he lives within us. Because he lives in us, we can manifest him in various ways. Paul goes on to say, “For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, and to another the effecting of  miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the  distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills” (1 Corinthians 12:8-11 NASB). As we share the Gospel with people around us, God wants us to be aware of the indwelling of his Holy Spirit within us and to be willing to that same Holy Spirit manifest his presence and power through us. We not only have a message to share, we also have the presence and power of God to make known to the world around us and to give evidence, or testimony, to his word.

David Robison

Sunday, June 13, 2021

Remembering and mentioning: Philemon 1:4-5 NASB

In the opening of his letter to Philemon, Paul tells him, “I thank my God always, making mention of you in my prayers, because I hear of your love and of the faith which you have toward the Lord Jesus and toward all the saints” (Philemon 1:4-5 NASB). The Greek phrase for “making mention” occurs several times in the New Testament and almost always with reference to prayer. What is interesting about this phrase is that the word translated as “mention” comes from a Greek word that means to remember. There seems to be a close association, at least for Paul, between remembering someone and mentioning them in prayer. As Paul would remember specific people, he would instinctively turn to pray for them. I think this is a key for how we ought to also pray for one another. As the Holy Spirit brings people to our remembrance, we ought to not only remember them but to remember them before the Lord by praying for them. This is especially important for those people who might have hurt us or injured us in some way. Every time you remember that person, and the pain and hurt they caused you, turn that remembrance towards God by praying for them; praying for God’s forgiveness and salvation in their lives. By doing so, not only will we stop the cycle of rehearsing our hurts over and over, but it will also release God’s hand to move redemptively in the situation. Who is God bringing to your remembrance right now? Take the time to not only remember them but also to pray for them. In doing so, we will be releasing the kingdom of God both into their lives and also into ours.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 09, 2021

Calling upon the Lord: 2 Timothy 2:22

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul gives Timothy several commands. One of these is found in the second chapter of his letter. “Now flee from youthful lusts and pursue righteousness, faith, love and peace, with those who call on the Lord from a pure heart” (2 Timothy 2:22 NASB). As important as this command is, it is the phrase, “those who call on the Lord,” that is particularly interesting in the original Greek. The word translated here as “call” is a present middle participle. As a participle, though it is a verb, it acts as an adverb to modify the object of the sentence. Timothy is not only to flee youthful lists with “those,” but with “those who call” upon the Lord. This participle is also in the present tense, which in Greek implies a continuous action. Those whom Paul is referring to are not those who have called upon the Lord in the past, but those who have, and are continually, calling upon the Lord. Finally, the middle voice indicates an action that is done on behalf of the subject. Those whom Paul is referring to are calling upon the Lord for themselves. It is an action which affects them and which they do for themselves.

We can glean three things by an understanding of this phrase. First, calling upon the Lord is something that we must do. Our parents, grandparents, and friends cannot do it for us. We are the ones who must make the choice to call upon the Lord. Secondly, calling upon the Lord is something that we must continually do throughout our lives. We may have called upon the Lord in the past, but we still need to call upon him today. Thirdly, we must call upon the Lord for ourselves. We should not call upon the Lord to please others or to fulfill the expectations of others. We should call upon the Lord because we see our own need for him and desire his presence and grace in our everyday lives.

Finally, I believe that the key to fleeing youthful lusts is to call upon the Lord. In and of myself, I do not have the strength or will to flee sin as I ought. However, when I call upon the Lord, he strengthens me and enables me to resist sin and practice righteousness. Jesus is our strength, but often he is waiting for us to call upon him so that he might show himself strong in our lives. Today, in whatever circumstance, temptation, or trial you may find yourself, call upon the Lord, and he will deliver you and save you.

David Robison

Sunday, June 06, 2021

False Teachers: 2 Timothy 2:17-18

One of the topics of Paul’s second letter to Timothy is that of false teachers. In referring to false teachers, Paul is drawing a comparison between them and himself. Of such false teachers, Paul writes, “and their talk will spread like gangrene. Among them are Hymenaeus and Philetus, men who have gone astray from the truth saying that the resurrection has already taken place, and they upset the faith of some” (2 Timothy 2:17-18 NASB). Two things are of interest in this passage. First, in the Greek, the word translated here as “talk” is the singular form of the word often translated as “word.” I believe that Paul uses the singular form of this word to indicate that, for these men, their entire body of teaching is in error. Paul is not saying that some of their teachings are in error, but that their entire doctrine is false. I suppose that, if we examined anyone’s teaching hard enough, we would find something that we disagree with. However, just because someone has some beliefs that are different than ours does not make them a false teacher. We ought not to be quick to pronounce those who disagree with us in some fine point of theology as a false teacher. The truth is that we all, like Apollos, have areas of our theology where we could stand to be taught “the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26 NASB). False teachers are not just wrong in their teaching; they are completely devoid of the truth of God in their teaching, their conduct, and their love. These are the false teachers that Paul is referring to.

Secondly, the word translated here as “spreading” is the Greek term that can also mean pasture. It is used only one other time in the New Testament when Jesus spoke of himself as being the door of the sheep. Jesus said, “I am the door; if anyone enters through Me, he will be saved, and will go in and out and find pasture” (John 10:9 NASB). Jesus spoke this in contrast to the false teachers who came before him, saying, “All who came before Me are thieves and robbers, but the sheep did not hear them” (John 10:8 NASB). False teaching does not inflict a wound that kills all at once. Instead, it slowly eats away at us as we continue to graze and pasture on its words. Paul’s words regarding false teachers ought to cause us to ask ourselves, “what are we feeding upon?” Are we grazing and pasturing on the word of God, or are we like those whom Paul speaks of who “will not endure sound doctrine; but wanting to have their ears tickled, they will accumulate for themselves teachers in accordance to their own desires, and will turn away their ears from the truth and will turn aside to myths” (2 Timothy 4:3-4 NASB). What we choose to fill our lives with matters. If we choose to continually feed ourselves on the word of God, then we will continue to grow in our walk with God. However, if we turn away to false teachers, those teaching a Gospel other than that taught by Jesus and his apostles, then the very word we feed on will consume us little by little until we are completely consumed by death. The choice is ours! Choose wisely!

David Robison