Friday, July 15, 2011


2 Corinthians 6:12 You are not restricted by us, but you are restricted in your own affections.

12 οὐ στενοχωρεῖσθε ἐν ἡμῖν, στενοχωρεῖσθε δὲ ἐν τοῖς σπλάγχνοις ὑμῶν·

Some exegetes make a big deal of the word σπλάγχνοις. It does technically refer to ones "guts" or "bowels." This was the word that was used to describe the heart of a person. It describes what makes a person tick, if you will. Paul describes how they were στενοχωρεῖσθε or "were restricted" in their feelings.

As we seek to plant a new fellowship within the body of Christ we are looking at various church constitutions. I read one that is based on the template provided by the Christian Law Association. This appears to be a favorite of those who are of the more Independent Baptist persuasion. I find the tone fascinating. Basically, it assumes that we want nothing more than to fall headlong into sin and, therefore, we must set up fences far enough away from sin so that we won't even get close to the sin.

That's all well and good, but what it fails to account for is the affections of the heart. It assumes that we will feel no affection for God. In fact, it doesn't even address that we should. All this does is then create a bunch of Pharisees who are good at being good. It doesn't deal with the matter of the heart.

We all need rules or else the New Testament would not have any. However, obedience starts with the heart. It begins with a heart that desires more of God. And as we experience more of Him then the temptations of the world begin to fade away. We are not as tempted to sin when we are satisfied in Christ. So rather than focusing on rules, let's instead focus on our σπλάγχνοις.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The Righteousness of God

 2 Corinthians 5:21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.

21 τὸν μὴ γνόντα ἁμαρτίαν ὑπὲρ ἡμῶν ἁμαρτίαν ἐποίησεν, ἵνα ἡμεῖς γενώμεθα δικαιοσύνη θεοῦ ἐν αὐτῷ.

This is one of those verses that just about everyone has heard at some point. It makes for a great song too. But what does it mean? Paul uses the aorist subjunctive γενώμεθα for this. The subjunctive can be thought of as the mood of possibility. In other words, what Paul is saying is that Christ's death made it possible for us to become the righteousness of God.

Why is this necessary? We are sinners and God is holy. Because He is perfectly holy He cannot stand sin. Sin has no place in His presence; therefore, there must be righteousness instead. The witness of Exodus and Leviticus is that there must be blood as a payment for sin because God's justice must be satisfied. The problem is that even unblemished lambs do not permanently remove the stain of sin.

There had to be a perfect sacrifice for sin that worked once for all time. The most wooden translation of this verse is that "The one who did not know sin on behalf of us was made sin." Obviously the ESV is a lot prettier. The point is that Christ actually became sin for us on the cross.

Let that sink in a bit. There has only ever been one man who lived without sin and that one man had to take on the sin of the world. Imagine if you were to find out that some large debt you have was canceled. If you're a homeowner your mortgage is a great example. Then imagine that you find out that some close friend had actually sold all of his possessions so that he could pay off your debt. That would be unbelievable, right? It would be a gift so incredible that most of us would have a hard time accepting it. Imagine the gratitude we would feel toward that person afterwards.

That only begins to scratch the surface of what Christ endured on the cross. He suffered unbelievable physical and spiritual anguish. If you are in Christ, take a little time to consider this today. I know that I have been blessed by this.

Friday, July 08, 2011

"Our" Ministry

 2 Corinthians 4:1 Therefore, having this ministry by the mercy of God, we do not lose heart.

1 Διὰ τοῦτο, ἔχοντες τὴν διακονίαν ταύτην καθὼς ἠλεήθημεν, οὐκ ἐγκακοῦμεν

This verse picks up where we left off in the previous post. The verb in the first clause is  ἠλεήθημεν, which is in the aorist passive. This means that Paul is telling them that God gave them ministry at some point in the past. It doesn't tell us how it happened, but it does tell us that it was given to them. Also, the verse does not expressly state that it comes from the mercy of God, but it does say that it came by mercy. It's pretty safe to infer that God is the one who granted them mercy.

As someone who is in the middle of planting a church, I find this to be an encouragement. I think it is safe to extrapolate this verse to describe ministry in general. Really the word is τὴν διακονίαν, which is the word from which we get "deacon." It refers to ministry or service. What I get out of this is that any ministry or service we get to do for God's people comes from the mercy of God. This verse starts with the phrase Διὰ τοῦτο, which literally means "therefore this." This explains the phrase at the end. Why don't we give up hope? We don't give up hope because we received ministry from the mercy of God.

This gives me hope because that I trust God to do His will. I enjoy the blessing of being an instrument in His hands, but really it is His ministry. If we assemble a fellowship it will be because God in His mercy brought a fellowship to us. My concern is my personal holiness. Although God can use anyone at anytime to do His will,  I also know that it will be a lot easier for me if I am walking closely with Him. I've often heard it said that if you want to know God's will you need to think the way He thinks. How do you do that? You walk in close fellowship with Him through prayer, time in the Word, fellowship, worship, etc.

The point of all this is that I find great encouragement knowing that this is God's ministry and that it is enabled by His mercy. That takes the pressure off of me to make it succeed. I certainly must do my part as well as God has gifted me to do it, but I don't need to think that it is all about me. As with all of life, it is all about Him.

Tuesday, July 05, 2011

True Transformation

 2 Corinthians 3:18 And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

18 ἡμεῖς δὲ πάντες ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ τὴν δόξαν κυρίου κατοπτριζόμενοι τὴν αὐτὴν εἰκόνα μεταμορφούμεθα ἀπὸ δόξης εἰς δόξαν καθάπερ ἀπὸ κυρίου πνεύματος.

This is the end of an argument Paul makes as he contrasts Jews and believers. He discusses how Moses kept a veil on his face to hide his loss of glory. He also talks about how the Jews cannot believe because their hearts are hardened and the same veil remains. And then he talks about how this veil is only lifted by Christ.

This is another one of those times where being a 21st century American Gentile can get in the way of really grasping the depth of a biblical truth. Keep in mind that the New Testament was written in a Jewish context. The whole question about the Judaizers in Acts 15 and the book of Galatians came about because the Jews considered it absolutely vital to be a Jew if one was to have access to God.

Now Paul comes along and destroys all of that. Not only do we have access to God, but we have it with ἀνακεκαλυμμένῳ προσώπῳ. This was unbelievable to the Jews. Moses couldn't even look at God directly and now you're saying that we can behold His glory with unveiled face?

The answer is a resounding yes. And as we continue to behold His glory we are transformed by the experience. We end up looking more like Him as we spend more time beholding His glory. This is something that can only come to us through the power of the Spirit.

Where are you with this? Are you beholding His glory regularly? Do you have an unveiled face? If you do, pray that you would continue to seek His glory. If your heart is still hard and your face veiled what stops you from repenting and turning to Christ?

Saturday, July 02, 2011

How Do You Smell?

 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;

I have to admit that I did not get a lot out of this chapter when I read it in Greek. Paul's language is rather figurative, which made it hard for me to see what he was getting at. However, this is one passage that did make sense. There is no special exegetical clue that jumps out of the Greek. The ESV captures it very well.

But what does it mean? It means that we should not become too discouraged in our evangelism. To those who are perishing we are a fragrance of death to them. Death stinks. The house I grew up in had these huge windows in the living room. One of them was like a magnet for robins. I can remember playing outside the house on summer days and discovering the sickly-sweet smell of rotting robin. It's not a pleasant smell. In fact, it is repulsive.

The words σῳζομένοις and ἀπολλυμένοις are present passive participles, just as you see in the ESV. Given what we know about the nature of election from Ephesians 1, I would maintain that those who are not elect will always find the gospel to be repulsive because it is a message of death. But to the elect it is a wonderful aroma of life. 

However, we need to be careful here. I think that there is still room for someone being "broken down" by the gospel. In other words, most who hear the gospel for the first time do not immediately repent and believe. Yet some of them eventually will. What I'm getting at is that we cannot give up on someone just because of a single rejection of the gospel. But we also cannot be too discouraged when people do not believe because the gospel is going to be an aroma of death to them.

How do you see the gospel? Is it an aroma of life or death? If it is life to you, what are you doing to spread the gospel?

Friday, July 01, 2011

Fulfilled Promises

 2 Corinthians 1:20 For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.

20 ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ ναί· διὸ καὶ δι᾽ αὐτοῦ τὸ ἀμὴν τῷ θεῷ πρὸς δόξαν δι᾽ ἡμῶν.

This is one of those verses where we need to look at the language a little bit. The phrase  ὅσαι γὰρ ἐπαγγελίαι θεοῦ, ἐν αὐτῷ τὸ ναί does not translate into English in a one-for-one manner. Quite literally it is something like, "For as many as the promises of God, in Him the yes." The New American Commentary understands the ὅσαι  to refer to an indeterminate number of OT promises of God. That seems to make good sense of the passage.

The point is that the promises of God in the OT are not fulfilled in Israel. They are fulfilled in Christ. Now Romans 9-11 tells us that there is a future hope for some remnant of ethnic Israel, but if we focus on Israel we have missed the point. The point is Christ. 

The Bible is not a book about Israel, though Israel is in it. The Bible is about Christ. Specifically, it is about how God created man, man fell, and what God did to redeem His people back to Himself. Why was it such a long history instead of redeeming them right away? Ultimately it was for His glory, which He deserves. Also, keep in mind that if He had done it sooner then you would not be reading this and would not have a future hope of eternity with Him.

If you are in Christ, rejoice that He saved you. If you are not, what keeps you from repenting and believing?