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

Friday, June 04, 2021

Never imprisoned: 2 Timothy 2:8-9

In his second letter to Timothy, Paul instructs Timothy to “Remember Jesus Christ, risen from the dead, descendant of David, according to my gospel, for which I suffer hardship even to imprisonment as a criminal; but the word of God is not imprisoned” (2 Timothy 2:8-9 NASB). The Greek verb translated here as “imprisoned” is in the perfect tense, which can indicate an enduring state of an object. With this understanding, this verse could be translated, “the word of God has not, is not, and will not be imprisoned.” In this world, there are an array of forces that seek to oppose the word of God. However, the word of God remains active and fruitful in the world. In writing to the church at Colossae, Paul reminds them of the ever-active word of God, saying, “the word of truth, the gospel which has come to you, just as  in all the world also it is constantly bearing fruit and increasing, even as it has been doing in you also since the day you heard of it and understood the grace of God in truth” (Colossians 1:5-6 NASB). As believers, we experience many things, and sometimes our circumstances can seem to hinder us in our walk with the Lord. However, the word of God is never hindered and is always working to renew us and bring us closer to God. The writer of Hebrews stated it this way, “For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two-edged sword, and piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart” (Hebrews 4:12 NASB). The word of God is, has been, and will continue to be living and working in the world and in our lives.

This thought ought to encourage us and remind us that the advancement of the Kingdom of God is not entirely dependent upon us as if, without us, the Kingdom of God will fail to advance and expand in the world. In sharing the Gospel, we must learn to trust in the inherent power of the Gospel we are sharing. Jesus wrote of the hard-working farmer who “casts seed upon the soil; and he goes to bed at night and gets up by day, and the seed sprouts and grows—how, he himself does not know” (Mark 4:26-27 NASB). The farmer trusts in the ability of the seed to produce a crop on its own. His job is to plant it, and the seed does the rest. So, it is with us. Our job is to cast forth the Gospel, but it is the Gospel that produces the crop. In sharing the Gospel, our trust is not in ourselves or our powers of persuasion but in the power of the Gospel to yield fruit in the world and in the lives of people who choose to believe it.

David Robison

Wednesday, June 02, 2021

Repay a recompense: 1 Timothy 4:5

Paul writes to Timothy regarding how the church at Ephesus should deal with certain problems that have been cropping up within the church. On if the issues centered around the support of widows in need. Paul writes that, instead of the church being their first line of support, “if any widow has children or grandchildren, they must first learn to practice piety in regard to their own family and to make some return to their parents; for this is acceptable in the sight of God” (1 Timothy 5:4 NASB). Two things are of interest in this verse. First, the phrase “practice piety” is a single word in the original Greek. This word is the verb form of the noun meaning to be well-reverent. This word is used only twice in the New Testament. In addition to its use here in Paul’s letter to Timothy, Paul uses this term when he refers to how the men of Athens worshiped their idols (Acts 17:23). While it is possible that Paul was referring to how children and grandchildren should show their piety towards God by their care and support for their parents and grandparents, it is also possible that Paul was instructing them to show piety towards their parents and grandparents. Paul may have been speaking as much to their attitudes towards their own parents and grandparents as he was in regards to their attitude towards God. Children and grandchildren ought not only to be reverent and pious towards God but also towards their ancestors. Interestingly, one of the meanings for the root of this word is to adore. We ought to reverence our parents with a sense of adoration for all they have done for us.

Secondly, the phrase “make some return” is more closely rendered from the Greek as “repay a recompense.” The 2020 version of the New American Standard Bible translates this phrase as “to give back compensation” to their parents. The idea here is that, as our parents and grandparents age and are in need of help and support, it is the children and grandchildren who ought to first repay their parents and grandparents for everything they have done for them and have given to them over the years. We have received so much from our parents; how shall we reframe from even paying back a small portion of what they have given us to help them when they are in need?

I have seen this principle being lived out in the lives of my wife and her siblings. My wife’s father is quickly approaching a hundred and one years of age. He is at a point in his life where he needs constant care to keep from falling. In addition to paid help, his children are taking turns spending time with him and helping him with his everyday needs. In a very practical way, they are reverencing him by repaying him a recompense for the years he provided for them. They have taken it upon themselves to be personally involved in his care. This care is not always easy, and sometimes it requires great sacrifice, but Paul tells us that it is this kind of piety that is “acceptable” to God.

David Robison

Monday, May 31, 2021

Established Hope: 1 Timothy 4:7-10

In his first letter to Timothy, Paul writes to Timothy telling him to “discipline yourself for the purpose of godliness; for bodily discipline is only of little profit, but godliness is profitable for all things, since it holds promise for the present life and also for the life to come. It is a trustworthy statement deserving full acceptance. For it is for this we labor and strive, because we have fixed our hope on the living God, who is the Savior of all men, especially of believers” (1 Timothy 4:7-10 NASB). This passage tells us two important things regarding the hope we have in God. The first is that our hope ought to be established hope. When using the Greek verb “to hope,” Paul uses it in its perfect tense. The perfect tense refers to a past action whose state, condition, or effect is still felt today. In this passage, the perfect tense refers to an established hope. It is a hope that, once established, continues to motivate, encourage, and strengthen us even into our present. This kind of hope is based upon a decision to trust God, regardless of what may come our way.  Do you have this kind of hope? Have you made the decision to once-and-for-all place your hope and trust in God? Or do you continue to waffle between hope in God and hope in a job, a relationship, money, and so forth? God is calling us to make a decision, a decision to trust and hope in him.

The second thing about hope that this passage reveals to us is that hope, true established hope, ought to motivate us to action. Paul says that, because of the hope we have in God, and the promise that godliness has great reward both in the present and the age to come, we ought to work hard to discipline ourselves for godliness. The Greek word translated here as “struggle” means to labor to the point of exhaustion, and the Greek word translated here as “strive” means to compete in a battle or a contest. Our hope ought to cause us to labor and fight, to the point of exhaustion, for the promises of God, especially for those promises attached to godliness. Hope is more than a passive emotion. Hope is a decision, a decision that not only sets the course of our lives but also strengthens, motivates, and empowers us to continue in that path no matter what may come our way. This is true hope. This is saving hope.

David Robison

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Being out-of-place: 2 Thessalonians 3:2

In his second letter to the church at Thessalonica, Paul asks them to pray for him and his team that they might be “rescued from perverse and evil men; for not all have faith” (2 Thessalonians 3:2 NASB). A couple of things are of interest when reading this verse in the original Greek. First, in referencing the perverse and evil men, Paul includes the definite article. This verse could be rendered “from the perverse and evil men.” This may possibly indicate that Paul had certain perverse and evil men in mind when he wrote his letter. The second thing of interest is the word translated here as “perverse.” The various English translations of this verse have translated this word as unreasonable, wicked, inappropriate, worthless, bad, importunate, crooked, and so forth. In the Greek text, this word is a compound of the negative article and the Greek word for place. It means “no place” or, in this context, “out-of-place.”

In America, we are facing a cultural war where social norms and mores are being redefined. We speak of “being on the right side of history,” “being woke,” and “being in” as it pertains to the new morality of the emerging culture. Often, Christians, and those who hold to conservative or traditional values, are seen as being outsiders, as being “out-of-place” or outside of modern culture, ethics, and morality. However, it is not the believer who is “out-of-place” but those who are evil in their thoughts and actions. It is the unbeliever who is truly out-of-place when it comes to the Kingdom of God. They may fit well into the kingdom of this world, but they have no place in the Kingdom of God. As believers, and those who desire goodness in both mind and deed, we are those who are in-place, who stand on the right side of history, who are truly woke to the reality of life around them. It matters little what the world may think of us, for God has already seen fit to approve us and welcome us into his Kingdom. We must not let the world, and those who are out-of-place, define us. Rather, we must stand secure in our place as we invite others to join us and to find their place in the Kingdom of God.

David Robison

Thursday, May 20, 2021

Perplexed, but not despairing - 2 Corinthians 4:7-10

In his second letter to the Corinthian church, Paul enumerates both the similarities and differences between those who are believers and those who are in the world. In noting the differences, Paul reminds us that it is the Lord who enables us to live differently from the rest of the world. Paul writes, “But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, so that the surpassing greatness of the power will be of God and not from ourselves; we are afflicted in every way, but not crushed; perplexed, but not despairing; persecuted, but not forsaken; struck down, but not destroyed; always carrying about in the body the dying of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus also may be manifested in our body” (2 Corinthians 4:7-10 NASB). Of particular interest is the phrase “perplexed, but not despairing.” In this phrase, Paul uses a play on words to highlight an important truth about our life in Christ.

The Greek word for “perplexed” is a compound word containing the negative particle and the Greek verb “to go.” This word could also be translated, “nowhere to go” or “no way out.” In this sense, “perplexed” is a good translation. However, the Greek word for “despairing” is also a compound word containing the preposition for “from,” “out of,” or simply “of,” and the same Greek word that was translated as “perplexed.” This word could be translated as “from nowhere to go” or “of nowhere to go.” Paul is saying that, while at times we may face challenges where we may find ourselves with “nowhere to go,” we are not “of nowhere to go.” In other words, our identity is not in our circumstances, nor do we live our life out of that place. Instead, our identity is in Christ, and we live our lives centered in his love and presence in our lives. We are of his kingdom, not of our circumstances. This is the reason why, as believers, we can have great hope. Because no matter how great our trials and tribulations are, no matter how often we feel we have “nowhere to go” or “no way out,” we realize that these things do not define us nor control the arc of our lives. We may experience these things, but they do not control us. Our hope is not in our circumstances but in a God who loves us and who has redeemed us from the power of our circumstances. In whatever we face, the source of our life is in God, not in the world or our circumstances. What great hope this is to our lives, even in the face of difficult circumstances.

David Robison