Friday, July 30, 2010

What is Life?

Philippians 1:21 For to me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.

21 Ἐμοὶ γὰρ τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς καὶ τὸ ἀποθανεῖν κέρδος.

This passage is part of a discourse Paul has about his life and ministry.  Paul's desire is to depart and be with Christ, but he concedes that God is keeping him around for the benefit of the Philippians.  Here he says that τὸ ζῆν Χριστὸς.  This is an infinitive, so the translation is very literal.  τὸ ἀποθανεῖν is as well. The process of living is Christ, but dying is actually gain.

This is one of those real gut-check verses.  When I read verses like this I wonder how well this applies to me.  Do I believe that living is Christ?  What does that even mean?  If we look at the surrounding verses we learn about the fruitfulness of Paul's ministry.  He is advancing the kingdom of Christ with his life.  That seems to be what he means.  Am I doing that?  Maybe a little, but as I wrote yesterday I am often convicted about how much more I could be doing.

And what about this dying business?  I'm 36, so death seems very far away.  However, I am aware enough of the news to know that I am one blown tire away from my death.  Or maybe I'm one reckless truck driver at a red light away from death.  Traffic accidents are the common example, but all kinds of things could happen to me.  I run a lot, but I could easily have a heart attack while climbing a hill.  These things happen.  Am I ready for that?

When I contemplate death I think of how I would leave my family behind and that is what bothers me.  However, the idea of meeting the Lord face-to-face excites me.  I do not look forward to dying and want to live as long as I can, but I have no fear of death either.  Why should I?  To die is gain!

Can you say that?  If not, I urge you to come to know Jesus.  There is hope for eternal life in Him.  Otherwise you are rightly afraid to die.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Prayers for Boldness

Ephesians 6:19 and also for me, that words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly to proclaim the mystery of the gospel, 20 for which I am an ambassador in chains, that I may declare it boldly, as I ought to speak.

19 καὶ ὑπὲρ ἐμοῦ, ἵνα μοι δοθῇ λόγος ἐν ἀνοίξει τοῦ στόματός μου, ἐν παρρησίᾳ γνωρίσαι τὸ μυστήριον τοῦ εὐαγγελίου, 20  ὑπὲρ οὗ πρεσβεύω ἐν ἁλύσει, ἵνα ἐν αὐτῷ παρρησιάσωμαι ὡς δεῖ με λαλῆσαι.

This is at the very end of the passage on the armor of God.  Paul gives his readers a prayer request.  He needs prayers to declare the gospel boldly.  Think about this for a minute.  This is the Paul who converted jailers because he would talk to them about the gospel while they were chained to him.  This is Paul the missionary church planter who suffered all kinds of hardships so that he could spread the gospel.  He still wanted prayers so that his mouth would be opened ἐν παρρησία, or in boldness.  After all, that was how he had to speak.

It's fascinating to me that I read this today.  I've been having conversations with a coworker who has been exhorting me to spend more time witnessing.  He is absolutely right, though I'm still not convinced that million dollar bill tracts really do anything positive and may indeed be more of a negative than anything.  Nevertheless, at least he's doing something.  He sees a lost world and looks for opportunities to have his mouth opened boldly.

I do not shy away from opportunities to have spiritual conversations with people.  I'm just not very good at bringing it up.  I don't think it is very effective to force it, but I also know that people need to brought to these conversations.  I don't think it is reasonable to expect to be like Philip finding the Ethiopian eunuch trying to figure out the book of Isaiah.

I want desperately to have opportunities to talk to people about Jesus.  After all, that's one of the reasons why I'm in seminary.  So what I get from this passage is that I also need to be more intentional in my prayers that "words may be given to me in opening my mouth boldly."  Quite convicting.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Imitating the Father

Ephesians 5:1 Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children.

1 Γίνεσθε οὖν μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ ὡς τέκνα ἀγαπητὰ

As I started to look through this chapter to pick something to write about I realized that this verse pretty much says it all.  We are to be μιμηταὶ τοῦ θεοῦ.  I'm pretty sure that the word μιμητης is where we get our word "mimic" from.  We are to mimic God because we are His beloved children.

This has far-reaching implications, doesn't it?  As children of God we see Christ as an example for us.  He is certainly more than an example as He was the perfect lamb that was slain for our sins, but He is also an example of how we are to behave.  He is certainly not less than an example.  Christ's life shows us how to live ours.

This also has implications for me as a father.  My son is naturally going to imitate me.  I can see where he already does.  What kind of an example am I setting for him?  The old phrase, "Do as I say, not as I do" is absurd.  It didn't work for me as a child and I don't think it works for any other child.  It's just an excuse to tell our children that grownups can be hypocrites.  I certainly do not want to communicate that to them.

Read the rest of the chapter and you will see how this plays out.  Paul gives several tangible examples.  And note how he ties this back to the end of chapter 4 as well.  That also gives us some examples.  If you are in Christ you see the expectations of you.  This does not merit our salvation, but is the natural result of it.

How does this verse hit you?

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

The New Self

Ephesians 4:22 to put off your old self, which belongs to your former manner of life and is corrupt through deceitful desires, 23 and to be renewed in the spirit of your minds, 24 and to put on the new self, created after the likeness of God in true righteousness and holiness.

22 ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης, 23  ἀνανεοῦσθαι δὲ τῷ πνεύματι τοῦ νοὸς ὑμῶν 24  καὶ ἐνδύσασθαι τὸν καινὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν κατὰ θεὸν κτισθέντα ἐν δικαιοσύνῃ καὶ ὁσιότητι τῆς ἀληθείας.

Paul is cranking up the exhortations in this book.  He spent the first three chapters covering the gospel and now he starts getting into commands.  It is vital that we do not read any of these commands in a vacuum.  The assumption for all of these is that we will have appropriated the first half of the book before we try to apply the second half.  This is vital or else we are straying into legalism, which Galatians tells us does not save us.

I love this passage because of its implications for personal transformation.  I've been through some pretty serious sins in my life and I still find them tempting.  However, I do not subscribe to the AA model of "once a always a " where you fill in your personal sin (i.e. drunkenness, gluttony, lust, etc.)  Instead, I take the command of this passage to heart.

Paul is saying that we have an old self.  Remember from the early part of chapter 2 that we were dead in our trespasses and sins.  We were like the prodigal in the parable of the two sons.  We were lost.  But God transformed us from the inside-out.  He made us alive together in Christ.  That is what Paul refers to here as well.  We are to put off the old self, be renewed in the spirit of our minds, and then put on the new self.

I think that the middle is key.  How are we renewed?  We spend time in God's Word.  We spend time with God's people.  We sing songs that tell us more about God.  We avoid things that pollute our minds.  I am not a hardcore separatist, but I don't watch any TV either.  There is just too much on TV to pollute my mind.  I have to be careful when I am online (more careful than I am sometimes) so as not to feed the lust of the eyes.  It is an ongoing battle to be sure.  The word ἀνανεοῦσθαι is a present passive infinitive.  As an infinitive it is difficult to pin down exactly how to take this, but the fact that it is in the passive tells me that this is something that happens to my mind.

What are you doing to renew the spirit of your mind?  It forces me to ask myself the same question.  Sure, I have my daily quiet times and read good books, but I also know that there are more positive things I can do and I can avoid some negative things as well.  How about you?

Monday, July 26, 2010


Ephesians 3:20 Now to him who is able to do far more abundantly than all that we ask or think, according to the power at work within us, 21 to him be glory in the church and in Christ Jesus throughout all generations, forever and ever. Amen.

20 Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ ὧν αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν κατὰ τὴν δύναμιν τὴν ἐνεργουμένην ἐν ἡμῖν, 21  αὐτῷ ἡ δόξα ἐν τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ καὶ ἐν Χριστῷ Ἰησοῦ εἰς πάσας τὰς γενεὰς τοῦ αἰῶνος τῶν αἰώνων, ἀμήν.

This is arguably the end of the doctrinal half of Ephesians.  I might argue that it continues until 4:16, but the point is that this kind of a doxology typically marks a break.  Paul is again emphasizing the majesty and glory of God.  This glory is manifested in the church and in Christ Jesus.  Note that I write church with a small c.  The church is τῇ ἐκκλησίᾳ (dative form).  It is not that body that has its headquarters in a small country inside Rome.  It is the body of believers throughout the world.

What I want to emphasize is the phrase Τῷ δὲ δυναμένῳ ὑπὲρ πάντα ποιῆσαι ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ.  The gloss I have for ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ is "exceedingly abundantly."  Whenever I come across one of these phrases in Paul I tend to think of Luke Skywalker convincing Han Solo to go into the detention area to rescue Princess Leia.  he tells him that "the reward will be...well, much more wealth than you can imagine."  Han Solo replies, "I can imagine quite a bit."

God can deliver more than we can imagine.  It is more than αἰτούμεθα ἢ νοοῦμεν.  I take that in two directions.  One is that we cannot ever out-imagine God.  He has blessings in store that we cannot comprehend. However, the second direction modifies the first.  When I think of blessings I tend to think of material things.  I think that goes with being an American.  It's really very short-sighted as well.  God's blessings go beyond what we ask our think.  We know from Romans that the Holy Spirit intercedes for us because we do not pray as we ought.  I think this is similar.  God will give us more than we ask or think because we do not ask or think rightly.

You may recall that Han Solo ended up getting tremendous blessings, but not what he signed up for.  He was in it for the money, but he ended up getting dear friends and a wife.  Plus, he got to be part of something much bigger than himself.  The metaphor falls short because the gospel is so much more than that and the church is even more glorious than the Rebel Alliance.  But I think that you get the idea.

Are you in awe of how much God has in store for you as a believer?  Are you satisfied when your best life now does not involve material things?

Sunday, July 25, 2010

Breaking Down Walls

Ephesians 2:14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility

14 Αὐτὸς γάρ ἐστιν ἡ εἰρήνη ἡμῶν, ὁ ποιήσας τὰ ἀμφότερα ἓν καὶ τὸ μεσότοιχον τοῦ φραγμοῦ λύσας, τὴν ἔχθραν ἐν τῇ σαρκὶ αὐτοῦ,

This verse falls in the middle of the second half of Ephesians 2.  Here Paul is explaining how the Jews and Gentiles have been brought together by Christ.  I go through this verse every week as I review Ephesians and every time I go through this passage I fail to understand how this can be satisfactorily explained in a Dispensational context.  To me, this seems to be part of the Ephesians road away from Dispensationalism.

It's easy to lose the grandeur of this passage when I read this through 21st century Gentile eyes.  But if I transport myself back to being a first-century Gentile I begin to see why this is so great.  The temple had a section for Gentiles, but you had to be a Jew to get to the holy place.  And of course the Most Holy Place was only accessible by one Levite per year on Yom Kippur.

Here Paul emphasizes that Christ has made both Jew and Gentile into one.  The curtain in the temple was torn when Christ died on the cross.  Galatians 3:28 tells us that in Christ there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile.  If you were a first-century Gentile in Palestine and you really wanted to pursue God you would really be kept at arm's length.  You couldn't approach Him because you were not a Jew.  But as Paul writes to those folks he explains that the distinction doesn't matter anymore.  It is all about Jesus and His finished work in His life, death, burial, and resurrection.

Keep in mind that Gentiles were considered unclean.  Apart from Christ we are all unclean.  The good news is that we can all be washed completely clean in the blood of Christ.  Are you ready to leave the filth behind?

Great Inheritance

Ephesians 1:11 In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will, 12 so that we who were the first to hope in Christ might be to the praise of his glory.

11  Ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ 12  εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔπαινον δόξης αὐτοῦ τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ.

Ephesians is one of those books where it is hard for me to pick just a single short passage and write about it.  This book has been transformational in my thinking about God.  Any idea of a God who doesn't know the future goes right out the window.  Any idea of a God who is beholden to man's "free will" is also destroyed by this book.

First of all, we see ἐκληρώθημεν, which is an aorist passive first person plural verb.  The fact that it is passive shows that the inheritance is something we receive rather than obtain.  There is a big difference there.  Man is not the actor, but has the action done to him.  We have obtained this incredible inheritance of eternal life through Christ.  Many stories have been written where a long-lost uncle or aunt dies and leaves some ridiculous inheritance.  (This is one of my favorites.)  We have something even better.  We have the God of the universe telling us that we have an inheritance in Him.

Unlike hapless Brewster, we have assurance that this will work out.  Why?  We know it is true because  τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ.  He works all things according to the counsel of His will.  In other words, anything that happens is according to the counsel of His will.  Katrina?  That cannot happen apart from the counsel of His will.  The 9/11 attacks?  He certainly could have prevented them, but He didn't.  I don't want to get into the arguments about theodicy here, but the text certainly seems to say that everything has a reason behind it.  We just don't know what that reason is.

Finally, we see why God would bother with sinners like us.  He does this for the praise of His glory.  It's all about His glory.  If God were on earth and subject to psychologists He would be called narcissistic.  But the thing is that He is God.  Therefore, He alone deserves to have that kind of praise and glory heaped upon Him.  And in fact we are most satisfied when we feed that by focusing our attention on bringing Him glory.

This whole book is just amazing.  It shows us that God is really big, we are really small, and that this infinite God is also incredibly loving and merciful.  I hope that you enjoy contemplating the greatness and glory of this God, whether things are going well for you or poorly.  It's a reminder I definitely need.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Israel of God

Galatians 6:15 For neither circumcision counts for anything, nor uncircumcision, but a new creation. 16 And as for all who walk by this rule, peace and mercy be upon them, and upon the Israel of God.

15 οὔτε γὰρ περιτομή τί ἐστιν οὔτε ἀκροβυστία ἀλλὰ καινὴ κτίσις. 16  καὶ ὅσοι τῷ κανόνι τούτῳ στοιχήσουσιν, εἰρήνη ἐπ᾽ αὐτοὺς καὶ ἔλεος καὶ ἐπὶ τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ.

This is another one of those passages that seems to blur the distinction between Israel and the church.  In fact, here Paul uses the terms synonymously.  Those who are new creations are part of τὸν Ἰσραὴλ τοῦ θεοῦ.  Of course, one could also make the argument that the καὶ before this phrase means that there are two distinct groups -- those who walk by this rule and the Israel of God.

But why does Paul have to add the τοῦ θεοῦ if that is the case?  Simply mentioning Israel would be sufficient to make the reader think of the descendants of Abraham.  Back in chapter 3 Paul made the point that the promise was not to the offsprings referring to many, but to the offspring who is Christ.  In other words, it seems to be all about Christ.

What is the point of writing this?  First, this is my blog and I use it to work out things over which I'm wrestling.  I attend a strongly dispensational school, but I have my doubts and here is one place I'm working them out.  Not every day is going to be a wonderful devotional, so I'm sorry about that.

Another is that I do think that this opens up the Old Testament.  It seems to me that if you do not blur the lines between Israel and the church then the Old Testament has practically no relevance for the Christian other than to show God's providence in sending Christ for us.  We can glory in the fulfilled prophecies, but what do we do with Psalms, for example?  Do we read the whole Psalter and say, "That's for Israel, not for us?"  I don't think so.  I don't know any dispensationalist that does so, but it seems like you should if you want to be consistent.

Again, I don't claim to have a deep knowledge of dispensationalism.  By this time next year I will after taking Systematic IV.  Until then, I'm just going to keep musing as I read Scripture.

Thursday, July 22, 2010


Galatians 5:1 For freedom Christ has set us free; stand firm therefore, and do not submit again to a yoke of slavery.

1 Τῇ ἐλευθερίᾳ ἡμᾶς Χριστὸς ἠλευθέρωσεν· στήκετε οὖν καὶ μὴ πάλιν ζυγῷ δουλείας ἐνέχεσθε.

I've not seen Braveheart, but I understand that there is a moment where William Wallace yells, "Freedom!"  Obviously freedom is a big deal to all of us.  The United States was founded on the idea.  We want to be free to do what we want to do.

I think that I have taken this verse out of its context for a long time.  If you know anything of my story, you know that I am painfully aware of what slavery to sin looks like.  I also know what it means to be free in Christ.  It is a glorious thing to enjoy the freedom from sin that Christ gives us.  As I reflect on this it makes me want to treasure Him all the more.  This is a great thing.

However, that is not what this verse is about.  Paul is continuing his argument about slavery to the Law.  He finished chapter 4 contrasting Sinai (the Law) with freedom in Christ.  After this verse he discusses circumcision more.  Circumcision was a symptom of the bigger problem of folks trying to be saved by the Law.  So while in Christ there is certainly freedom from sin, the bigger issue here is freedom from the chains of the Law.

What does this mean to us?  It means that we do not need more rules.  We do not go from bondage to sin into bondage to rules.  Legalism will not save us.  We obey the commands of Scripture because we are saved from sin.  It is a response, not a requirement for salvation.  Those of us who run in more fundamentalistic circles need to be particularly careful about this.  Let's obey Paul's command to στήκετε, amen?

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Reading Scripture

Galatians 4:30 But what does the Scripture say? "Cast out the slave woman and her son, for the son of the slave woman shall not inherit with the son of the free woman."

30 ἀλλὰ τί λέγει ἡ γραφή; ἔκβαλε τὴν παιδίσκην καὶ τὸν υἱὸν αὐτῆς· οὐ γὰρ μὴ κληρονομήσει ὁ υἱὸς τῆς παιδίσκης μετὰ τοῦ υἱοῦ τῆς ἐλευθέρας.

I find that blogging through Paul means either quoting a verse at the beginning or the end of each chapter.  His writing is so logical as he lays out his arguments.  Here his is concluding a section where he is describing two covenants -- one of works and one of faith.  Or, to us his language, one of slavery and one of freedom.  It is clear that the way of works leads to slavery and death, but Christ leads us to freedom.  It also seems clear that Jews need Jesus as much as anyone else.  But that's not what I want to emphasize here.

What fascinates me is how Paul starts this verse.  He asks the question ἀλλὰ τί λέγει ἡ γραφή.  That really needs to be the first question we ask as well.  What does the Scripture say?  That needs to be how we decide truth.  It doesn't really matter what we think or even what theologian we admire.  What does the Scripture say?

I will admit that this is a tad simplistic because we cannot really determine what the Scripture says until we have some basis in hermeneutics.  Godly men differ on how to interpret various passages.  But that doesn't mean that both interpretations are valid.  There will come a day when the Presbyterians and Baptists will both know exactly what the proper mode of baptism is, for example.

Even though this is a bit simplistic I think that it gets to the fundamentals of how we must think.  What does the Scripture say?  There may indeed be some difficult passages.  However, enough of it is crystal-clear and that should settle matters for us.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

Abraham's Offspring

Galatians 3:29 And if you are Christ's, then you are Abraham's offspring, heirs according to promise.

29 εἰ δὲ ὑμεῖς Χριστοῦ, ἄρα τοῦ Ἀβραὰμ σπέρμα ἐστέ, κατ᾽ ἐπαγγελίαν κληρονόμοι.

This is the conclusion of one of my favorite chapters of Scripture.  Here Paul lays out how the gospel was for the Gentiles.  And in fact he seems to say that somehow by faith the Gentiles are now Abraham's offspring.  This is the culmination of his argument.  I love this chapter because it shows how I as a Gentile can partake of the promises and blessings God gave to Israel.

This chapter is also why I have a hard time diving into Dispensationalism.  Paul seems to be equating the church with Israel.  It looks like the term "Israel" goes beyond the traditional meaning of the nation-state.  In fact, given how the current nation-state of Israel operates I don't see much connection between them and the kingdom of David.  But I can definitely see how the Old Testament promises to Israel have either found or will find their fulfillment in the church.

I admit that I do not have a deep knowledge of Dispensationalism.  But what I do know is that one should judge a doctrine based on theology, history, and practice.  Does it make sense according to the Bible?  I would say that it is tenuous, based on what I know.  What church father read his Bible with a Dispensational hermeneutic?  Maybe some did and I just don't know.  The practice is what scares me.  I don't see the validity of the Zionism that we display in America.  I also see a lot of people reading their Bibles in one hand their newspapers in the other.

I'm going to lean toward Calvin until I'm convinced otherwise.  I look forward to examining this in more depth in Systematic IV.  Meanwhile, to me the straightforward reading of Scripture shows me that Paul merged Israel and the Church.

Not Above Scripture

Galatians 2:11 But when Cephas came to Antioch, I opposed him to his face, because he stood condemned.

11 Ὅτε δὲ ἦλθεν Κηφᾶς εἰς Ἀντιόχειαν, κατὰ πρόσωπον αὐτῷ ἀντέστην, ὅτι κατεγνωσμένος ἦν.

To me, this is one of the more surprising verses in all of Scripture.  Here we see the Apostle Paul publicly call out the Apostle Peter.  This is the same Peter that the Roman Catholic Church calls the first pope.  To be fair, no thoughtful Roman Catholic thinks that the pope is without sin.  However, it is interesting that Paul calls Peter out in a letter that has become part of our canon of Scripture.

What do we make of this?  It shows me that no one and certainly no leader is above Scripture.  We are all accountable to God's truth.  That is the final arbiter of everything.  If one of us goes off and starts preaching a wrong gospel then we should be called on to the carpet for it.  The phrase κατεγνωσμένος ἦν means that he was in a state of condemnation. I don't think that means he lost his salvation, but it does mean that he was doing something terribly wrong.  He was confusing people about the gospel.  He made the Gentiles behave like Jews and they thought that there was something salvific about doing that.  Big mistake.

This also shows me that there are times for rebuke.  It is much more loving to correct someone going astray than it is to let them keep walking down the wrong paths.  Sometimes this is more important than other times.  I don't think that every mistake in doctrine requires a stinging public rebuke, but I do think that there are times when we all need to be called on the carpet.

As someone who may be a leader someday this is a great reminder that I need to remain humble.  I could certainly find myself in error.  I hope never to be wrong about the fundamentals of the gospel, but I don't want to underestimate the sin I can commit.  This reminds me to be on guard against error.  How do I do that?  I stay in the Word.

Monday, July 19, 2010

False Gospels

Galatians 1:8 But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach to you a gospel contrary to the one we preached to you, let him be accursed.

8 ἀλλὰ καὶ ἐὰν ἡμεῖς ἢ ἄγγελος ἐξ οὐρανοῦ εὐαγγελίζηται [ὑμῖν] παρ᾽ ὃ εὐηγγελισάμεθα ὑμῖν, ἀνάθεμα ἔστω.

There is so much in this chapter to write on, but I want to focus on this verse.  Paul gets right down to business after a very brief introduction.  Here he makes quite a bold statement.  Even if he who was the Apostle Paul preaches a different gospel then even he should be declared ἀνάθεμα.  A lot hinges on the meaning of this word.

Thayer has a fairly extensive entry on it.  First, it mentions that in the Septuagint it refers to a "thing devoted to God without hope of being redeemed, and, if an animal, to be slain."  Here is the entry for the NT:

a. a curse b. a man accursed, devoted to the direst woes and in  Rom. 9:3 (pregnantly equivalent to doomed and so separated from Christ). 
So that's pretty heavy, right?  The Council of Trent made a big deal about this.  As Luther worked to return the world to the true gospel the Roman Catholic Church needed a response to save their false view of the gospel.  You can read their declarations. Clearly there are two different views of the gospel here.  Paul makes it clear that there is only one true gospel; therefore, either Protestants are ἀνάθεμα or those holding to the Roman Catholic view of salvation are ἀνάθεμα.  It cannot go both ways.

This business between Protestants and Roman Catholics goes back five centuries.  It is vital that we pay attention to this as this is a matter of eternal life or eternal torment.  But we can't stop there.  What about those nice young men wearing white shirts, blue pants, and ride around on bikes while knocking on doors and telling them the "good news of Jesus Christ?"  If part of their story involves The Book of Mormon then you need to be aware of what Paul has to say here to the Galatians.  Joseph Smith claimed that the angel Moroni gave him gold tablets with inspired text.  The problem is that the Mormom gospel is subtly different from the Christian one.  Therefore, one group or the other is ἀνάθεμα.

The Jehovah's Witnesses don't claim special revelation, but they do claim to be God's faithful stewards of His truth here on earth.  They preach a different Christ and they preach a different, works-based salvation.  Therefore, either the Christians or the Jehovah's Witnesses are ἀνάθεμα.  You can't have it both ways.

So, despite our age of ecumenicalism and the desire to forget all our differences while singing "Kum-Ba-Ah" around the campfire, Paul draws a very clear line in the sand.  We need to understand what Scripture has to say and stop there.  I join what Luther said at Worms:

Unless I am convinced by the testimony of the Holy Scriptures or by evident reason-for I can believe neither pope nor councils alone, as it is clear that they have erred repeatedly and contradicted themselves-I consider myself convicted by the testimony of Holy Scripture, which is my basis; my conscience is captive to the Word of God. Thus I cannot and will not recant, because acting against one's conscience is neither safe nor sound. God help me. Amen.
Where do you stand?

Saturday, July 17, 2010


2 Corinthians 13:5 Examine yourselves, to see whether you are in the faith. Test yourselves. Or do you not realize this about yourselves, that Jesus Christ is in you?--unless indeed you fail to meet the test!

5 Ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε εἰ ἐστὲ ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἑαυτοὺς δοκιμάζετε· ἢ οὐκ ἐπιγινώσκετε ἑαυτοὺς ὅτι Ἰησοῦς Χριστὸς ἐν ὑμῖν; εἰ μήτι ἀδόκιμοί ἐστε.

There are those who espouse that so-called "Lordship salvation" is akin to works-righteousness.  I'm not sure what they do with a verse like this.  It seems that you have one of two options with this:

  1. You need to work to stay in the faith.  Those who fail to work lose their salvation.  This would be an Arminian viewpoint.
  2. Those who are truly saved will exhibit good works.  This meshes well with James 2:24
Paul makes it very clear here.  If the Corinthians  Ἑαυτοὺς πειράζετε and find that there is no evidence of salvation then they have ἀδόκιμοί, or failed the test.  I find it interesting that Paul uses the particle μήτι here.  He expects them to give a negative answer to his negative question.  In other words, he expects that they will find that they are truly in the faith, but there is a chance that they are not.

What about you?  If you are truly saved then your life will demonstrate it.  There will still be sin and it may be some terrible bondage to sin.  I think that someone can be truly saved and yet struggle with habitual sin.  But is there any fruit?  Or did you just raise your hand at the end of a service or pray a prayer and consider that to be enough?  Are you seeking after the Lord or are you either indifferent to Him or running from Him?  How you respond to these questions will give you some clues as to where you stand.

If you fail the test then I urge you to repent of your sins and believe on the Lord Jesus Christ and you will be saved.  He is the Lord.  Do you acknowledge Him as yours?

Friday, July 16, 2010

Power in Weakness

2 Corinthians 12:9 But he said to me, "My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness." Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me.

9 καὶ εἴρηκέν μοι· ἀρκεῖ σοι ἡ χάρις μου, ἡ γὰρ δύναμις ἐν ἀσθενείᾳ τελεῖται. ἥδιστα οὖν μᾶλλον καυχήσομαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις μου, ἵνα ἐπισκηνώσῃ ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ ἡ δύναμις τοῦ Χριστοῦ.

This comes at the end of Paul talking about how he has a "thorn in the flesh" that he asked God to remove.  He asked three times and this was God's response.  I think any of us who have struggled with besetting sin have used this verse as a crutch.  I eat a lot and that is my "thorn in the flesh."  Or I look at porn because it is my "thorn in the flesh."  Although I am free from porn I still find myself getting too close to it sometimes. That happened last night, which was frustrating to me.  While I didn't see anything that you couldn't see on broadcast TV I knew where my heart was.  That frustrates me.

So while I do not use this verse as an excuse, it does encourage me a little bit.  It seems every time I get a little too far away from the cross I start to move closer to porn.  And when that happens I think of this verse.  I am reminded that it is only by grace that I can walk in freedom.  And I am also reminded that I cannot do this on my own.  I need God's grace for my daily life.  The cross is not a "one and done" experience.

I have been set free from some things and that is the basis of my testimony.  This way I can καυχήσομαι ἐν ταῖς ἀσθενείαις μου.  Why do I do this?  ἵνα ἐπισκηνώσῃ ἐπ᾽ ἐμὲ ἡ δύναμις τοῦ Χριστοῦ.  There is no mystery in the Greek here.  It means what it looks like in English.

Such a simple, beautiful truth.  I want nothing more than to see Christ magnified and exalted in my life.  I do not want to sin to make this happen (may it never be!) but when I am tempted I want to turn that into a way to bring Him glory.  The fact that I am not who I was just amazes me.

Thursday, July 15, 2010

True Apostles

2 Corinthians 11:12 And what I do I will continue to do, in order to undermine the claim of those who would like to claim that in their boasted mission they work on the same terms as we do.

12 Ὃ δὲ ποιῶ, καὶ ποιήσω, ἵνα ἐκκόψω τὴν ἀφορμὴν τῶν θελόντων ἀφορμήν, ἵνα ἐν ᾧ καυχῶνται εὑρεθῶσιν καθὼς καὶ ἡμεῖς.

Paul is giving the Corinthians a pretty stern rebuke here in chapter 11.  In fact, it kind of seems like he uses guilt as a rhetorical tool.  That's interesting, but I find the section that this verse starts fascinating.  He is writing to them about false apostles, though the false apostles say that they are working καθὼς καὶ ἡμεῖς or "just as also us," if you want to be quite literal.

The fact is that there are some pretty grave doctrinal differences within groups that call themselves Christian.  I'm not talking about pre-mil vs. post-mil or Calvinist vs Arminian.  Those are in-house debates.  I'm talking about the nature of Jesus.  Was He fully God and fully man?  Was He the product of the Holy Spirit or did God somehow have actual relations with Mary as the Mormons teach?  Was He just a spirit man who was the first created being as the Jehovah's Witnesses teach?  Or was He fully God and fully man?

You also can get Jesus right but then get the gospel wrong.  What must we do to be saved?  Is it faith alone or is it some combination faith and then good works as the Roman Catholics teach?  We can't all be right on this because God is God and does not change.

What is the result of this?  Those nice young men in their white shirts and blue pants riding around on bikes and knocking on doors passing out The Book of Mormon are teaching a false gospel.  The Roman Catholic Church teaches a different gospel than the one I believe.  Either the Catholics are right or I (and historic Protestants) am.  We can't both be right.  Either the Catholic view of salvation will save someone or the Protestant one will.

We will get into this more in a few days when we hit Galatians 1, Lord willing.  But for now do think this through.  There is a gospel.  Many people will claim to preach it.  Some of those will actually be preaching something different.  This is why it is so vital for us to know our Bibles that we may be able to discern the truth.

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Reason to Boast

2 Corinthians 10:17 "Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord." 18 For it is not the one who commends himself who is approved, but the one whom the Lord commends.

17 Ὁ δὲ καυχώμενος ἐν κυρίῳ καυχάσθω· 18  οὐ γὰρ ὁ ἑαυτὸν συνιστάνων, ἐκεῖνός ἐστιν δόκιμος, ἀλλὰ ὃν ὁ κύριος συνίστησιν.

We seem to have a natural inclination toward boasting to some degree.  I suspect that we like to cover up our own insecurities with bluster.  This is pretty evident in the sports world.  I'm from Cleveland and I know what it's like to see your team lose time and time again.  The folks there want a championship because it is such a part of their identities.  They want to boast in one of their teams winning a championship because they feel like they're always looking up to other cities.  In the sports world that is certainly true.

I suppose that if you're a Yankee fan you can boast in your team.  After all, they have historically been the best franchise in baseball history.  A Cardinal fan can do the same.  Indians, Cubs, and Pirates fans can't do that as well.  This is one reason why LeBron's departure was so hard for the people of Cleveland.  They don't really care about the Cavs or about LeBron, but they desperately want a championship.

Paul turns this kind of thinking on its ear.  After all, even the Yankees don't win every year.  They even missed the playoffs in 2008.  This kind of boasting is always going to leave us empty.  Boasting in ourselves is going to do the same no matter how good we may be at something.  This is a truth that all athletes discover sooner or later.  Life is uncertain and bodies break down.

But the Lord is always worthy of boasting.  We can commend ourselves all day long, but it means nothing if we do not have God's favor.  How do we get God's favor?  We need to be in Christ.  Apart from Christ nothing we do is truly commendable.  It's nice when a Mother Teresa feeds the poor, but evangelism was forbidden at her shelter.  In other words, she was sending people to hell with full bellies.  And, based on her theology and testimony, I suspect that she did not really know Christ either.  In other words, even someone as seemingly selfless as a Mother Teresa has no reason to boast.

We are all sinners who are worthy of one thing -- God's righteous wrath.  Therefore, we must run to Christ.  At the cross we will find sanctuary.  Then we will receive commendation from the Lord because He will see Christ's imputed righteousness in us.  We need this righteousness that comes from outside of us or else we are still dead in our sins.

What is your reason for boasting?  Is it in a team?  Is it in yourself and your talents or works?  Or is it in the finished work of Christ?  If you are in Him then He died to save you.  It has nothing to do with your merit, but we certainly can boast in what He did to defeat death, amen?

Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Giving the Increase

2 Corinthians 9:10 He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness.

10 ὁ δὲ ἐπιχορηγῶν σπόρον τῷ σπείροντι καὶ ἄρτον εἰς βρῶσιν χορηγήσει καὶ πληθυνεῖ τὸν σπόρον ὑμῶν καὶ αὐξήσει τὰ γενήματα τῆς δικαιοσύνης ὑμῶν.

This is a great chapter for anyone who is in any kind of vocational ministry.  Paul makes clear exhortations for giving financially.  Everyone knows the line in verse 7 about how the Lord loves a cheerful giver.  This is certainly true.  However, I want to focus on this verse for a minute.

Here we see the promise that God will χορηγήσει καὶ πληθυνεῖ τὸν σπόρον ὑμῶν .  We have to be careful here.  There are plenty of teachers out there who will use this as justification for giving their ministry a "seed" with the promise that God will make you rich if you just provide that "seed" money.  That's not what this is saying here.  It is true that God does indeed make some people wealthy.  However, He does not do that for their benefit.  He does it to αὐξήσει τὰ γενήματα τῆς δικαιοσύνης ὑμῶν.

In other words, financial prosperity is something that requires wise stewardship because it is for God's glory, not for our own.  Any blessings we enjoy are for His glory as we use them for His service.  We may be able to enjoy some nice things as a result of these financial blessings, but ultimately that is not the goal.  The goal is that we may use them to further the kingdom of God.

If you are an American you are rich compared to most of the world.  Plug your salary in to this little utility.  It's pretty sobering.  What are you doing with your wealth?  How are you furthering God's kingdom?

Monday, July 12, 2010

Giving Proof

2 Corinthians 8:24 So give proof before the churches of your love and of our boasting about you to these men.

24 τὴν οὖν ἔνδειξιν τῆς ἀγάπης ὑμῶν καὶ ἡμῶν καυχήσεως ὑπὲρ ὑμῶν εἰς αὐτοὺς ἐνδεικνύμενοι εἰς πρόσωπον τῶν ἐκκλησιῶν.

I found this to be a somewhat difficult chapter in Greek.  However, this verse is pretty plain.  Paul has been exhorting them about giving and how they will receive Titus.  He's telling them to act according to his boasting about them.

I think that this is yet another verse speaking to the Lordship of Christ in the life of the believer.  You see, if we have love we will have actions.  Paul is basically making an appeal to their salvation.  If they are truly part of the church then they will behave a certain way.  The two go together like peanut butter and jelly.

This stands in stark contrast to the watered-down message given to many who are left to languish in their sins with a false assurance of salvation.  If there is no life change then there probably is no heart change.  We do not work to merit anything, but if we have no desire for good works then we should check our hearts.  Too often we get this backwards and do good works hoping to earn something or change something.  The works are the result of the change.

Where are you?  Does your life reflect a changed heart?  I pray that mine would more and more each day.

Sunday, July 11, 2010

Godly Grief

2 Corinthians 7:9 As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us. 10 For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death.

9 νῦν χαίρω, οὐχ ὅτι ἐλυπήθητε ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἐλυπήθητε εἰς μετάνοιαν· ἐλυπήθητε γὰρ κατὰ θεόν, ἵνα ἐν μηδενὶ ζημιωθῆτε ἐξ ἡμῶν. 10  ἡ γὰρ κατὰ θεὸν λύπη μετάνοιαν εἰς σωτηρίαν ἀμεταμέλητον ἐργάζεται· ἡ δὲ τοῦ κόσμου λύπη θάνατον κατεργάζεται.

I'm not sure why, but I don't get a ton out of 2 Corinthians when I go through it.  However, this short passage is one of the most important passages in my life, so I guess it kind of balances out.  I think that this passage tells us much about effective Christian discipleship as well as what the Christian life should look like.

First we see how Paul addressed the Corinthians.  He knows that he caused them pain.  He does not rejoice because of their pain, ἀλλ᾽ ὅτι ἐλυπήθητε εἰς μετάνοιαν.  What I get out of this is that there is a time when our message must cause a little pain.  My stepdad just had a hip replaced. It hurts.  But it will ultimately hurt a lot less than his bad hip did.  In the same way, we need to preach a tough message sometimes.  In the same way, we need to hear a tough message sometimes too.  What does this buy us?

It brings us to godly grief.  Paul contrasts τοῦ κόσμου λύπη with ἡ γὰρ κατὰ θεὸν λύπη (it's hard to pick apart the phrase for godly grief from Greek to English).  Worldly grief leads to death.  Godly grief leads to repentance, which leads to life.

My daughter provided a good example of worldly grief this morning.  She had a terrible attitude and eventually called her mother an "idiot," which is something that leads to a spanking in our house.  Then she hit me after I spanked her, which led to another spanking.  We went through this about four times total, which was not much fun for either of us.

What was interesting is that she yelled "Sorry!" when she realized that each infraction was leading to another spanking.  I later explained to her that if she was truly sorry then she would stop doing it.  She had worldly grief in that she wanted to avoid the consequence of her actions, but she wanted to keep doing it.

Frankly, that's where most of us are most of the time, aren't we?  We hate the consequences, but we don't mind the intrinsic sinfulness of some action.  Godly grief is getting to the point where we realize how our sin offends a holy God.  I believe that we get to that place as a result of the Spirit's work in us.  Also, I can tell you from experience that it is quite dangerous to pray for godly grief because it is terrible to experience.  Yet it is something we must go through if we are to walk with Christ.

Wednesday, July 07, 2010


2 Corinthians 4:5 For what we proclaim is not ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, with ourselves as your servants for Jesus' sake.

5 Οὐ γὰρ ἑαυτοὺς κηρύσσομεν ἀλλὰ Ἰησοῦν Χριστὸν κύριον, ἑαυτοὺς δὲ δούλους ὑμῶν διὰ Ἰησοῦν.

I was tempted to write on the verse before this that speak to how God is sovereign in election, but I decided to go with this because it is something that has been on my mind lately.  The name of my blog comes from my own journey out of habitual sin.  Roughly eight years ago I was a slave to pornography as well as gluttony and laziness.  God first set me free from sexual sin then about six months later He set me free from gluttony and laziness.  I am certainly not perfect with respect to either of these temptations, but I would call myself walking in freedom. 

That's my story in a nutshell.  I worked with the ministry that helped me find freedom for six years.  One part of that ministry is the testimonies.  Every lesson in every course ends with a testimony.  These testimonies are tremendous encouragements in the pursuit of freedom from habitual sin.  You begin to realize that God works in the lives of regular people and it is by His Spirit that one finds lasting freedom.

However, there is an element of proclaiming ourselves when we give a testimony.  No matter how much we try to give God all the glory, we are still telling the story of something that happened to us.  We want for God to be magnified and glorified in that story, but ultimately it is our story.

I do not think that testimonies are the best way to witness to someone about the gospel.  There are a myriad of ways to lose weight and stop surfing porn.  I could wear a rubber band and snap it on my wrist and I could change my behavior.  I could look to an amorphous "higher power" and find sobriety.  Ultimately my witness is based on the fact of the life, death, burial, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.  If that was a true historical event then we can talk about testimonies.  If not, then it doesn't really matter what happened to me.

I think Paul certainly used his very powerful conversion story.  It's written in Scripture, after all.  But I think that was secondary to the story of Christ's resurrection.  That is the real story and that is what we must remember as we proclaim Him. 

Tuesday, July 06, 2010

True Freedom

2 Corinthians 3:17 Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.

17 ὁ δὲ κύριος τὸ πνεῦμά ἐστιν· οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου, ἐλευθερία.

I admit that I didn't get a lot out of this chapter when I read it in Greek.  But as I review it in English I see the blessed promise of this verse.  Paul has been speaking to how the Law brings death.  In contrast, we as Christians have the Spirit.  The promise οὗ δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα κυρίου, ἐλευθερία is incredible.  More woodenly it is, "and where the Spirit of the Lord is, freedom."  Incredible!

Think about this for a few minutes.  Are you in Christ?  If so, you are freed from the requirements of the Law.  I was going to write about freedom from habitual sin, but I don't think that this is what this verse is about.  It is about freedom from the Law.  It is almost impossible for us 21st century Gentiles to get our minds around this.

A first-century reader would think, "You mean I don't have to observe the feast days?  I don't have to wait for Yom Kippur for my sins to be atoned for?"  and other such thoughts.  This is so completely contrary to the system that they knew.

This freedom comes by grace.  There is nothing we can do to add to it.  We cannot merit grace or it would cease to be grace.  We are free in Christ.  I hope that you embrace this promise with me.

Monday, July 05, 2010

The Aroma of Christ

2 Corinthians 2:15 For we are the aroma of Christ to God among those who are being saved and among those who are perishing, 16 to one a fragrance from death to death, to the other a fragrance from life to life. Who is sufficient for these things?

15 ὅτι Χριστοῦ εὐωδία ἐσμὲν τῷ θεῷ ἐν τοῖς σῳζομένοις καὶ ἐν τοῖς ἀπολλυμένοις, 16  οἷς μὲν ὀσμὴ ἐκ θανάτου εἰς θάνατον, οἷς δὲ ὀσμὴ ἐκ ζωῆς εἰς ζωήν. καὶ πρὸς ταῦτα τίς ἱκανός;

This is some strange imagery, at least to me.  What is the "aroma of Christ?"  Paul explains it in verse 16.  He tells us that to those who reject Christ we are a fragrance of death.  To those who accept Christ we are a fragrance of life.

This explains a lot as we talk to people about the gospel, doesn't it?  Some folks are going to hear us talk and become intrigued.  They want to know more about Christ and they eventually repent and believe.  But many are not going to want to hear what we have to say.  When we mention the gospel it will convict them of their sinfulness, but they will cling stubbornly to their own desires and refuse to repent.  To those folks we are an aroma of death.

I think I have made the mistake of trying to be an aroma of life to those who should smell death.  You can spray Glade air freshener in a bathroom and make it smell better, but the underlying smell is still there.  The same goes with the aroma of death to those who are perishing.  But the important thing is to let them smell it so that we have done our jobs as evangelists.  We need to at least let them hear it.

This really convicts me.  I keep praying for more boldness.  We will see what happens.

Saturday, July 03, 2010

Act Like Men

1 Corinthians 16:13 Be watchful, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong.

13 Γρηγορεῖτε, στήκετε ἐν τῇ πίστει, ἀνδρίζεσθε, κραταιοῦσθε.

Paul is wrapping up his letter to the Corinthians here.  Most of chapter 16 contains personal information, which I used to find quite tedious and boring.  However, I now find that it bolsters my faith in the authenticity of the New Testament.  It shows that these were real letters written by a real person to real churches.  If I were writing a false letter after the fact I certainly wouldn't add all of these personal details.  What would be the point other than an elaborate ruse?

The phrase "act like men" comes from the word ἀνδρίζεσθε.  This is the only occurrence of this word in the New Testament, but it appears several times in the Septuagint.  Generally speaking, the English translation for this word is "be strong" as in Psalm 31:24 Be strong, and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the LORD! 

I find it fascinating to read this in our modern emasculated culture.  We have completely blurred the lines between men and women.  Traditional manliness is not considered as virtuous as it once was, though there are some who are working to get it back.  Paul is sometimes labeled as a misogynist because of his attitude toward women.

But if we agree that he wrote this under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit then we have to take note of this little verse.  He wants the men to act like men.  He wants them to be strong.  He doesn't want the men to act like women or the women like men.  He wants the men to be men.  I think that this exhortation is applicable today as it was 2000 years ago.

How do we apply this?  As men we take care of our families by dying to ourselves and serving them.  We put away childish things and take responsibility.  We steward our time and money well.  We serve and protect our families against predators.  These may be traditional predators or they may be emotional predators like extended family that create a toxic environment.  Whatever it is, we are strong for them and fight for them.  Technology may have changed and feminism may have tried to change things, but ultimately it is still our job to be strong for our families.

Paul tells us to "man up."  Are you ready?

Friday, July 02, 2010

Long Night of the Soul

1 Corinthians 15:19 If in Christ we have hope in this life only, we are of all people most to be pitied.

19 εἰ ἐν τῇ ζωῇ ταύτῃ ἐν Χριστῷ ἠλπικότες ἐσμὲν μόνον, ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν.

Where do you go when you have a dark night in your soul?  What do you grab when God seems very far away and your faith hangs by a thread?  I have times when I look around at my life and the world and wonder if everything I believe is true.  Maybe Bart Ehrman is right about the Bible.  Maybe the Muslims are right.  Maybe the Jehovah's Witnesses are right.  Maybe the agnostics and atheists are more intellectually honest than I am.  What do I do with all of that?

I run to this passage.  Paul makes it clear that everything stands or falls on the resurrection of Christ.  If Christ truly was raised from the dead then we have a true faith.  If not, then ἐλεεινότεροι πάντων ἀνθρώπων ἐσμέν. 

So how does this help?  There are three possible explanations for what happened to Jesus' body.  The first is that He did not actually die on the cross, but merely "swooned."  Then when He was put in the cave He revived and somehow managed to get free and died quietly elsewhere.  The problem with this is that a professional executioner jabbed His side with a spear and pierced the sac around His heart.  They did not break His legs because they were sure He was dead.  It is extremely unlikely that He merely swooned.

The second possibility is that the apostles stole His body.  There are two major problems with this.  One is that there were a lot of powerful people who really wanted to produce a body so as to stop the spread of the new movement.  They couldn't do it.  The other is that the remaining apostles were all martyred for their faith.  Now the 9/11 terrorists were willing to be martyred for what they believed to be the truth, but could you find eleven men willing to die for what they know to be a lie?  You might, but it is extremely unlikely.

The final possibility is that the resurrection actually happened and that Jesus was indeed the Christ.  That is what I believe because it fits the facts better than any other theory.  Ultimately we all have to decide what we are going to do with Jesus.  Do we worship Him or not?  Everything hangs in the balance.  What is your choice?

Thursday, July 01, 2010

Mature Thinking

1 Corinthians 14:20 Brothers, do not be children in your thinking. Be infants in evil, but in your thinking be mature.

20 Ἀδελφοί, μὴ παιδία γίνεσθε ταῖς φρεσὶν ἀλλὰ τῇ κακίᾳ νηπιάζετε, ταῖς δὲ φρεσὶν τέλειοι γίνεσθε.

This will wrap up my writing on the sign gifts for now.  I find it fascinating that this is how Paul finishes up his discourse on them.  He goes on to talk about how it is more valuable to prophecy than to speak in tongues.  It has to do with the minds.  My sense is that tongues are an expression of the Spirit.  It is not something that we do consciously.  I have never experienced it firsthand, but that's the sense I get from Scripture and from the stories I've heard.

Paul tells us that it is all well and good to speak in tongues.  After all, he did it more than anyone else.  Yet he thought it was more valuable to speak rationally.  What I see here is that we are to be mature in our thinking.  It's easy to seek after ecstatic experiences.  The worship team at my church can work you into a frenzy if you are open to it since the music is quite good.  That's fine, but ultimately we need to φρεσὶν τέλειοι γίνεσθε.  There is that word τέλειοι again.  We need to become "complete, perfect" in our thinking. 

How do we do that?  The best way is by spending time in God's Word and learning about it.  That will help us to grow in the manner Paul commands.  Certainly the practice of the Christian faith is more than learning.  But that is still a big part of it.  Let's be sure to grow in godliness by applying what we learn in Psalm 119, amen?