The Scent of Water

Is it possible to experience a change of life at 78? If a generation is 20 years, I have lived through three generational changes and are probably approaching my fourth. At 20, I went away to college to study for the ministry. At 40, my new family and I moved to Massachusetts, which represented a massive cultural change. At 60, we moved into our first mortgaged home instead of renting. [Retirement was only a half dozen years away.] And now, I’m near 80—physically and mentally, if you know what I mean.

The world around me was going through passages of time as well. At 20. the city of my birth was losing its identity as the City of Good Neighbors [Buffalo, NY] while neighborhoods disappeared and were replaced with high-rises, projects, and malls [a mistake they regretted and began to walk back on when I turned 40. But the street I grew up on is unrecognizable for the most part. The house is gone]. The nation in my 20’s was convulsing with a counter-culture movement as they fought a foreign war they couldn’t admit they were losing. At 40, the church I pastored was trying out a full-time pastor [me] for the first time after decades of financial indifference. Now they were buying a parsonage as well! At 60, the sub-prime fiasco was about to go kaboom. But none of this compares to now, at near 80, when a single election—that might even be rigged—in a divided country on the verge of exploding—might mean the end of democracy [so, both sides claim].

I am almost 80. Next month I turn 79—close enough—and all I want to do is sit at this computer and research scripture. I don’t feel capable anymore to be able to teach anything I might learn—nor do I think there would be any serious interest. I write everything into the computer which then becomes another book. I am working on my 22nd. I am not sure if I am learning anything meaningful because my interest in life is waning. T.V. holds no interest for me unless I am watching it with the wife and we can laugh together. And I think if I stopped all Bible studies, no one should care because God would supply others to step in. And I am sorry I disappear for long periods of time from Facebook. I think of friends now gone and if we talk on the phone, I guess you might do most of the talking.

Incidentally, the church, too, is changing. When I began, we huddled in religious ghettos, but now, a new generation of believers, joyfully, is breaking out and tossing the denominational badges away! Music went from worship to praise [There is a difference. Think about it.] The organ is replaced with guitars and drums and pews with chairs—all good—all God.  But I am just sitting there and at times not even listening. Even my singing voice is broken [But last Sunday the lady in the row in front of me expressed appreciation for my singing. Shocking, indeed, but I think I needed that smidgeon of appreciation.]

Well, one of my College instructors, Dr. Beuttler, back in ’69, when we asked him what was next for him [He was planning to stop teaching] he said he didn’t know but we knew that he would only follow the Lord’s call on his life. Five years hence, he was with His Lord in glory. I think of him now. I am older than our Enoch was when he left us. Age is just a number, anyway. And God needs more time to straighten me out—I’m sure.

The Lord knows all this because I let Him in on all my secrets: my feelings, rambling concerns, age appropriate interests—and misappropriate ones, too. This morning I tuned into a religious network—just for background noise while I sulked. Preaching was one of the few ministers I love to listen to and his message seemed directed at me. He even spoke of those persons in our life whom we love but who don’t have any serious interest in the Lord right now. For me some are family members—the one thing I have left I do deeply care about.

He closed with Job 14:7-9. The New English Translation thinks Job is talking about death, but that’s not how I took it—nor how the  T.V. preacher saw it either!  He was talking about unsaved friends and family, but that is only one possible application.

“But there is hope for a tree:
If it is cut down, it will sprout again,
and its new shoots will not fail.
Although its roots may grow old in the ground
and its stump begins to die in the soil,
at the scent of water it will flourish
and put forth shoots like a new plant.”

There is truly a scent of water in the air!

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The Great Tribulation

Is it just me or is the price of food through the roof? A couple friends now like to discuss eschatology. One wonders if any of the seals in the Revelation have already been broken. But I think not. Things need to get a bit worse first. But, in the meanwhile, we keep a close eye on the sky, if you know what I mean [Luke 21:28]. There are many interpretations of the Revelation usually influenced by current events because it is difficult to look into a future that might be drastically different from now.

I like to view the seals as seven scrolls which only Jesus, the Lamb of God, can break and unravel, i.e. fulfill the prophecies written on them [Revelation 5:5]. It seems reasonable to believe that the seventh scroll is the prophecy of the seven Trumpets [Revelation 8:2] and the last trumpet blown introduces the seven vials which brings everything to a quick end [Revelation 11:15].

Here are the 7 scrolls of a future global history yet to be revealed by the Lamb [Revelation 5:6]. Many believers see the Church caught up [1 Thessalonians 4:17] Perhaps, the Lamb initiates these events by taking His people out along with the Holy Spirit who has been holding such evil in check [2 Thessalonians 2:7]. Perhaps, the last trumpet sound of 1 Corinthians 15:52 is the Trumpet sound of 1 Thessalonians 4:16 and the seventh trumpet in Revelation 11:15.

  1. Rev. 6:1-2 First seal – A persecution, an unleashed evil that opposes the Christian message.
  2. Rev. 6:3-4 Second seal – A global conflict focused initially on Israel, the Pearl of the East.
  3. Rev. 6:5-6 Third seal – An economic collapse with famine, bankrupting nations including America.
  4. Rev. 6:7-8 Fourth seal – A man-made pandemic, either accidental or intentional, killing 1/4th mankind.
  5. Rev. 6:9-11 Fifth seal – A martyrdom, an escalated attack on Christians and not only their message.
  6. Rev. 6:12-17 Sixth seal – Extinction level natural disasters: volcanoes, earthquakes, tsunamis, meteors.
  7. Rev. 8:1-2 Seventh seal – The Trumpets and the final harvest and Judgment [Revelation 14:6, 14] .

As we know, the focus is on Israel—or more specifically, the “land” of Israel or the Holy land which makes the persecution—in effect—a war on the Judeo-Christian faith. It is here at the finality of time Israel will finally embrace Jesus as their Messiah on a national level [Romans 11:26].

American will play no major role in the global drama the ensues, which we call “The Great Tribulation” because its government of, now 235 years—of a Constitutional Republic with its Bill of Rights will have collapsed inevitably through debt and mismanaged resources into a globalized form of a social democracy controlled by a global economic culture and a global government under a ten nation plutocracy [Revelation 17:12]. This finally happens within the seventh seal.

The conflict spoken of in the 2nd seal is, as all wars are ultimately, territorial, but through political alliances expanded globally. Wars cost and we expect the global economy to be conscripted to finance it. Whereas previous conventional warfare has strengthened the U.S. dollar because factories were refitted for weapon production, for 3 reasons, that will not happen this time: (1) We have been remade into primarily a service and not a manufacturing economy. The market thrives now because of the Tech sector not through a free market system. The balloon will bust because people cannot fill empty bellies with computer chips; (2) the American debt has exhausted America’s potential for support. Expect the U.S. dollar to lose face globally as the reserve currency and expect the government to endorse a digital currency which is controlled by a world organization-Central Bank Digital Currency, CBDC [Revelation 13:17]. Look for the interest on the U.S. debt to exceed the total cost of the social programs designed to subsidize national poverty (socialism). The flood of immigration currently underway and the efforts to convert to “green” energy alternatives too quickly will prove catalytic; (3) Nuclear war on some level can be anticipated. The pandemic will be a global reset effort to stabilize societies. Expect this to be a 7 year period of massive unrest which Christ’s coming alone can rectify.

The key to understanding the general timing of the prophecy is Israel [Daniel 9:24].

But I am free to change my view on all this tomorrow, except we are given to understand that it will be “Great” and a “Tribulation” [Matthew 24:21].  How do we soften this landing!

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Rewards in Heaven?

Will there be awards honored to the saints in heaven based on their labors for Christ here on earth? [suggesting that some will received more than others.] In Matthew 16:27 we read:

“For the Son of man shall come in the glory of his Father with his angels; and then he shall reward every man according to his works.”

Rewards? Works or Grace!

Will believers be audited—not as regards salvation (we know that is solely by grace) but—as regards, in some way, inheriting the blessings of heaven? [Romans 2:6]. Revelation 14:13 seems to suggest that awards are warranted because it is referencing those who “died in the Lord” and the record of their service to the Lord “following.”

Some contend (for eternal security) that how we live (what we do) does not impact saving grace. They might argue that works don’t define our position in Christ but decide the rewards in heaven that will follow [Hebrews 13:17].

The Scriptures freely use such language:

  • Blessed are ye, when men shall revile you…  falsely, for my sake. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for great is your reward in heaven….” [Matthew 5:11-12a].
  • “But love your enemies, do good, and lend, hoping for nothing in return; and your reward will be great, and you will be sons of the Most High. For He is kind to the unthankful and evil.“Therefore be merciful, just as your Father also is merciful. [Luke 6Z:35-36].
  • Now he who plants and he who waters are one, and each one will receive his own reward according to his own labor. [1 Corinthians 3:8].
  • if I do this thing willingly, I have a reward…. [1 Corinthians 9:17].

Wages or Gift?

This question seems legitimate exegetically because the word and concept of “reward” speaks of a “wage” which is always earned (not unearned) and deserved (not undeserved) which is unlike grace!

“Now to him that works is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt” [Romans 4:4].

So how do we understand Revelations 22:12,

“And, behold, I come quickly; and my reward is with me, to give every man according as his work shall be.”

Paul appears to be careful on this point. When pressed, Paul referred specifically to a “crown of righteousness” which is equally given all believers [2 Timothy 4:8]. Elsewhere Paul clarifies: “And if by grace, then is it no more of works: otherwise grace is no more grace. But if it be of works, then is it no more grace: otherwise work is no more work” [Romans 11:6].

So are we arguing that both works and grace play a part in the distribution of heaven’s blessings? Or because (1) “grace” is more abundant to save from sin [Romans 5:20] and (2) grace is instrumental in our spiritual well-being [Galatians 2:20-21] and ministry [Romans 12:3], can we not say that grace alone is the modus operandi of heaven, the way in which heaven operates or the reason for the distribution of blessings in God’s Kingdom?

An Apologetic

There is a logical argument that supports the premise that, even in Heaven, grace swallows up works in the same fashion as the eternal makes the temporal disappear [2 Corinthians 4:18].

“…to him that sows righteousness shall be a sure [true] reward” – Proverbs 11:18b

An argument can be made logically for grace based on the sheer absurdity of the notion that we should expect to be treated differently in heaven based on earthly service.“It is not so much recompense as a sign of God’s grace and blessing.” [Kittel, vol iv. page 697]. In The Wisdom Literature we read “But the righteous live forever, and their reward is in the Lord.” [5:15: δικαιοι δε εις τον αιωγα ζωσιν, και εν κυριω ο μισθος αυτων.] Any “reward” in heaven would be a permanent, eternal, benefit, for how would it be possible that God would offer anything for a period of time when He is all about eternal blessings—and time is no more [Revelation 10:6]!  If heaven’s gifts are “earned” in this life we are imagining an inequality in the distribution of blessings that will be forever. My mind always goes back to the thief on the cross which the Savior brought with Him into paradise. What reward might he have lost because he had no time to merit any heavenly benefits based on works!

Earned or Inherited?

Often, words in our Bible carry a meaning not so common in our language., “Reward” is such a term associating with the word “inheritance” [Psalm 127:3].  An inheritance from the Lord is clearly an act of His grace [Galatians 3:18 NET].

“You will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward.” – Colossians 3:24 NIV

Few or Many?

If we get to drink from the river of life with a smaller or larger cup based on works, is there a difference, since the river never runs dry! But there is the parable of the talents in Matthew 25:14-30 [and Luke 19:11-27] in which Jesus suggested a kind of reward based on faithful Christian stewardship. In verse 21, the Savior concluded, “‘Well done, good and faithful servant; you were faithful over a few things, I will make you ruler over many things. Enter into the joy of your lord.’” Although unfaithful stewards never get into heaven in the first place, is the “few” to “many” suggestive of a reward? Few and many are terms suggesting limits. These are terms that fail to describe the limitless provisions of heaven [Ephesians 2:7].

Where logic fails is in these very terms “few” and “many.” These are defined finitely not in terms of the infinite. Jesus was using temporal logic in a Jewish world to emphasize the importance to God of our stewardship. As persons of faith our entire lives are resources for God’s use [Romans 6:13]. Where the words few and many have theological value is in contrasting our labors in this life with the eternal glorious benefits of heaven. [1 Corinthians 7:31; 1 John 2:17 compared to Hebrews 11:26].

For if that which is done away was glorious, much more that which remains is glorious. – 2 Corinthians 3:11

“Everywhere in the kingdom of love, to say nothing of the kingdom of grace, all idea of merit falls to the ground….” [Lange. vol X. page 216.]

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[A disclaimer: The following is intended to be observational only and not to be used as a suggested approach in presenting the Gospel nor is it intended as a correction—theological or otherwise—to the four spiritual laws or any other proven method of evangelism.]

In a study of Acts 26 a question was raised regarding the Savior’s words to Paul on the road to Damascus. God was choosing Paul as His minister and witness “To open their eyes, and to turn them from darkness to light, and from the power of Satan unto God.” Who exactly is “they/them”? Jesus continued, “that they may receive forgiveness of sins, and inheritance among them which are sanctified by faith that is in me.” [Acts 26:18]. Since Paul was being “sent to the Gentiles” [Acts 26:17] it seems obvious that the Savior’s words were meant for both the Jew and the Gentile. In speaking of “darkness” and “the power of Satan,” Paul assuredly spoke of both groups.

But the question might still be asked, “Is there a relevance to Israel in phrasing the call of salvation in this way that might have less of a meaning to the Gentiles? Was it only incidental that Jesus chose Aramaic to relay this message [Acts 26:14 NIV]? Was Ananias’ interpretation of the Savior’s wording significant in this regard, when he referred to having our sins washes away? [not just forgiven] “Arise, and be baptized, and wash away your sins” [Acts 22:16 ]. Or is the washing away of sin a metaphor for forgiveness?

The word “forgiveness” is a Christian term coming from the idea of releasing or letting go of something—in this case, our sins. But the importance of this singular act of God is often confused with God’s tolerance or forbearance [Romans 3:25-26 NIV] which is not the same! God tolerated His people in the wilderness [Numbers 14:20-21] but now requires our repentance [Acts 17:30] which is vitally linked to forgiveness—as we know [Acts 3:19].

Questioning the language does not in any way suggest that forgiveness of sins is not equally important to both Jew and Gentile. It most decidedly is! The question raised here is simply: “Is the idea of having one’s sins forgiven more meaningful to Israel? The Savior’s work on the Cross was intended not only to forgive sin but to bring it to an end [Daniel 9:24]. We might ask it this way: “Does the significance of forgiveness—what it really means and entails—need to be explained more fully to the Jew, whose understanding was associated with the Mosaic Law and the sacrifices and not Calvary [Hebrews 9:22; 10:18].

Peter’s defense before Gamaliel was specifically directed at Israel: “Him [Jesus] hath God exalted with his right hand to be a Prince and a Saviour, for to give repentance to Israel, and forgiveness of sins” [Acts 5:31]. But the apostle’s language should never be so limited in scope as to suggest this message should not be shared with the Gentiles.

Even though the subject never—to our knowledge—came up between the Savior and the thief being crucified beside Him, this doesn’t erode its importance, nor is that man any less saved than we. Nonetheless, to us, forgiveness remains a critically important announcement [John 20:23].

In letters to both the church at Ephesus [Ephesians 1:7] and again to those in Colossi [Colossians 1:14] Paul spoke of “the forgiveness of sins” as part of the plan of redemption. Even here, however, Paul’s thoughts hinge upon the Old Testament understanding of Jesus’ sacrifice for sin. Paul was speaking about “circumcision” in Colossians 2:11, “trespasses” in Colossians 2:13 (which is the Jewish word for “sin”), and the handwriting of ordinances [also referred to as a spiritual debt] in Colossians 2:14—all more significant to the Jew than the Gentile. Clearly in Romans 4:7 (taken from Psalm 32:1) Paul’s words are very Jewish! “Blessed is he whose transgression is forgiven, Whose sin is covered.”

“The forgiveness of sins is the ground of the Christian life” explains 1 John 2:12: “I write unto you, little children, because your sins are forgiven you for his name’s sake.” “The reference is not to Him Who forgives sins, God the Father, but to Him [Jesus], for whose sake the Father forgives” [Lange]. In other words: our redemption which included forgiveness came by way of the Cross. There is great meaning in John’s words, not just for the Jews, but for all. Here is a nonagenarian, in his 90’s, addressing us as his little ones, who should take comfort and joy in knowing that our sins have been completely forgiven [the tense or form is a perfect—meaning “complete and forever.” 1 John 1:9]. In Ephesians 1:7 Paul has the entire church in mind—including the Gentile converts—when he spoke of our adoption and forgiveness as part of the plan of redemption—God’s gift of an unmerited favor [grace].

A co-worker once confided in me about something that they did that could be misinterpreted by the church they attended. I thought it most regrettable that they didn’t sense a spirit of forgiveness there but feared being ostracized and even excommunicated.

A prima facie argument might be made that we need the Spirit’s guidance in sharing this  “good news” because words can have more or less significance to the listener depending on their life’s experience. The message of our salvation must never become cliché. Nor should we speak in esoteric or confusing terms when someone’s soul hangs in the balance.

Lord, give us what to say! And allow us the privilege as Your servants to let them know that indeed there is forgiveness with You in Christ!

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Christians United

In the Bible the word for partisanship is translated “strife” in John Nelson Darby’s translation of James 3:16 “For where emulation and strife are, there is disorder and every evil thing.” The Greek dictionary defines it as “a factious spirit.”

In English, we can use a syllogism:

  1. Partisanship means prejudice in favor of a particular cause.
  2. Prejudice is preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience.
  3. So partisanship means a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason or actual experience in favor of a particular cause.

James associated this with jealousy [emulation is Darby’s word] which the Greek dictionary calls an “ardent pursuit in defense of something; a contentious rivalry.” And then James talks about “disorder” and just plain “evil.” Disorder is a word meaning anywhere from political unrest to revolution. And Darby’s word evil is the opposite of “good,” found in John 5:28-29 “Marvel not at this: for the hour is coming, in the which all will hear His voice and come forth … they that have done ‘good,’ unto the resurrection of life; and they that have done ‘evil,’ unto the resurrection of damnation.”

Is James going overboard here? Our first amendment supports freedom of partisanship and our court system is intentionally adversarial. The Pilgrims came to American to have the freedom from a state religion even though a single Christian Faith based on a single Gospel for all was a Pauline idea!

Should I forsake the principles by which I govern my own actions in the name of unity! Controversy is a part of life! How could we embrace all differences as non-threatening? Some ideas encompass moral principles which  cannot be compromised!

Sadly, within our Christian churches we have become quite comfortable defending what we were never sure of because the goal was winning in debate not promoting Biblical truth. We defended the right of our denominational directives to exist at the expense of any kind of unity. And even if we knew this was wrong, we couldn’t seem to find a way to change. Dissension had a life of its own and there were few if any preachers who would confront it with sermons on peacemaking or love. Good pastors with a true heart for the work of God have been cast out in the quest for that larger identity as a political force and influence. We grow our churches on denominational creeds but they may be only fattened, not nourished, on the empty calories of doctrinal differences.

In the cover leaf of Dr. Lenny Evans book, “Love, Love, Love: How One Man Found Out What Really Matters” we read “Since God is love … salvation was to bring about a unity based on interpersonal love. Could a congregation so manifest this love that others would be attracted by the thousands? Could Christians overcome their polarizations in order to love one another?”

Answer” Absolutely Yes! And then others will come “by the thousands” [John 17:21].

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Is Caring Altruism?

Is caring for others a form of altruism. There is a curious reading in Philippians 2:3-4 “Let nothing be done through strife or vainglory; but in lowliness of mind let each esteem other better than themselves. Look not every man on his own things, but every man also on the things of others.”  Other translations interpret the words “strife or vain glory” as “selfish ambition or conceit.” The New Living Bible reads, “don’t try to impress others.” 

But what should interest us is in the New International reading where the word “also” in verse 4 is missing: “not looking to your own interests but each of you to the interests of the others.” Most Biblical scholars like to keep it in. Bishop Lightfoot interprets, “Let them look beyond their own interests to those of others.”⁠1  How disinterested [not influenced by considerations of personal advantage] ought we be when getting involved in the care of others. Is it wrong for us to complain that we also need to take care of ourselves, else, we will not have the energy or ability to help them? 

How hard it is to put ourselves last, because that means to many: not at all! But what are we to make of the context of Philippians, chapter 2? Our Savior-God became incarnate, laid aside His “omni” cloak to die for us. Yet one might correctly argue that Jesus’ death and resurrection, though a selfless act of extreme and supreme love, nevertheless, benefitted Him, as well. The Cross was intended by God  to reconcile His creation unto Himself, so that He would have us to love. How is that not a benefit to God?

This conundrum is  found elsewhere. The New Living Translation of Hebrews 12:2 reads “Because of the joy awaiting him, he endured the cross” And then footnotes: “Or Instead of the joy.” How altruistic was the Cross? It almost sounds sacrilegious to ask but this is the instrument and source of God’s grace and, as such, it seems acceptable to ask if the sacrifice of ourselves for others or putting others before ourselves—if this—benefits us, is it really a sacrifice?!

Giving Better Than Receiving

Recall  Jesus’ motto  in Acts 20:35 “…how he said, It is more blessed to give than to receive.” The ultimate giving is a sacrificial gift,⁠2 as a husband should consider for his spouse: “Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ also loved the church, and gave himself for it”  [Ephesians 5:25].  However, when all is said and done, this husband, or the the Philippian Christians or even our Heavenly Father, Himself, find themselves with a blessing selfish interests could never provide! And if they knew this—and they did—it is proper to conclude that showing grace in a selfless act of love or caring, regardless the size of the sacrifice, was never intended to replace our happiness but to add to it! No wonder Jesus countered the apprehensions of the believers in Smyrna while facing persecution [Revelations 2:9] “I know your afflictions and your poverty—yet you are rich!” These believers were following in the steps of  the Savior who revealed Himself to them as “The First and the Last, who died and came to life again.” [Revelation 2:8]. When all is said and done, this church and us, too, look forward to inheriting the wealth of Heaven, endless joy, and a happiness that should make us wonder, what was it we thought we sacrificed for our Lord, anyway!

1 J. B. Lightfoot. Saint Paul Epistle to the Philippians. (Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, MI:, 15th printing, 1976), page 110
2 A sacrificial gift is considered one given out of our own need. 2 Corinthians 8:2, 9.

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The Fruit of the Spirit Part 1

There can be no better example of God’s grace than His gift of the Spirit and the clear manifestations of His presence in our lives. Galatians 5:22-23: Love, Joy, Peaceful, Longsuffering, Kind, Good, Faithfulness, Meek, and Self-controlled

The Language of Christian Love

The Fruit of the Spirit are relational. They are expressed in a relationship with the Lord or each other. Let’s start with Agape love. Love is characterized by a joy in being with the person loved. Joy is peaceful [there is no joy in tension and war]. But for peace to exist we must learn to tolerate and accept others [which is what this word means]. Longsuffering exhibits a kindness [by its very nature] and kindness is kind because it is good [conduct in harmony with Scripture. Bad people by nature are not kind]. But to be in harmony with God’s Word, one must be faithful to it and faithfulness is a natural expression of meekness, a desire to be faithful [never by accident]. This kind of love requires that we walk in the Spirit and not the flesh [carnality wars against this kind of love]. 

It is a formidable task God assigns language, out of necessity of His love, to alert us to our need of a Savior. Formidable because we are living in another realm where the meanings of words are upside down. For this reason, the classical definition of a word designated as a Fruit of the Spirit [Galatians 5:24-25] may lack the appropriate nuance that would represent the mind of the Spirit who authored it. Richard Trench calls them graces:⁠1 love, joy, peace, longsuffering, gentleness, goodness, faith, Meekness, temperance.

  1. Love is a Biblical word not found in any earlier writings.⁠2
  2. Joy which Peter says is so glorious words are inadequate to define it⁠3 [1 Peter 1:8].
  3. Peace which Bishop Lightfoot wrote “surpassing every counsel of man … which is far better, which produces a higher satisfaction, then … all anxious forethought.”⁠4 [Philippians 4:7; 2 Thessalonians 3:16].
  4. Longsuffering “… occurs in the Septuagint, though neither there nor elsewhere exactly in the sense which in the N.T. it bears.”⁠5
  5. Gentleness which Richard Trench called “a beautiful grace“ of which “Calvin has quite too superficial a view of when commenting on Col. 3:12.”⁠6
  6. Goodness* was a word unknown before the writing of the Bible.⁠7
  7. Faith Lightfoot demurs, “seems not to be used here in its theological sense ‘belief in God.’ Rather… the passive meaning ..trustworthiness.”⁠8
  8. Meekness Trench wrote that this word has “a depth, a richness, a fulness of significance which they were very far from possessing before.”⁠9
  9. Temperance is defined everywhere in a secular sense, “self-control, to force one’s self to do something, to exercise control over, be master of, with a strong hand.”⁠10

Do we credit Paul with forethought in the choice of these 9. He left out an entire catalog of saintly qualities that, to our way of thinking, might easily deserve a place in this list (godliness, humility, mercy, even righteousness, patience, and purity, to name a few)? Or do we credit the Spirit with this list in which these words have particular significance and meaning to God? Has He pressed these terms into service having elevated them to a higher spiritual plane to speak of a spirituality they were not, until now, capable of describing.

One thing is obvious that Paul is contrasting the Fruit of the Spirit with at least (Paul added “and such like”)⁠11 17 “works fo the flesh” in Galatians 5:19-21. Of These 9 graces Lightfoot says “the difficulty in classification in this list is still greater.”⁠12

Some terms like virtue and religious, and even to bow down in worship, have such a limited use, especially with Paul, that we are led to think that God’s grace served a much loftier purpose than could be explained using these terms. As the prophet foretold,

“For then will I turn to the people a pure language, that they may all call upon the name of the LORD, to serve him with one consent.” [Zephaniah 3:9].

Perhaps, it is reasonable to ask: Are the Fruit of the Spirit as part of a Christian testimony evidence of the infilling of the Spirit? This is not to disparage any doctrine but to encourage a deeper enquiry into the meaning and significance of these 9 Christian characteristics as descriptive of our spirituality and salvation.

Part 2: Temperance

1 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 232.
2 Joseph Thayers. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. (Hendrickson Publishers,  1996), page 693.
3 Ibid. page 44.
4 J. B. Lightfoot,  Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians. (Zondervan Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI: 15th printing. 1976) page 161.
5 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 196.
6 Ibid. 232f.
7 Joseph Thayers. Thayer’s Greek-English Lexicon. (Hendrickson Publishers,  1996), page 693.
8 J. B. Lightfoot, The Epistle of Saint Paul to the Galatians. (Zondervan Publishing Company, Grand Rapids, MI:1974), page 213.
9 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 151.
10 Henry George Liddell & Robert Scott. compl. A Greek-English Lexicon. (Oxford University Press. London:  1976), page 473.
11 ejusdem generis -as the same kind
12 John Peter Lange..Genesis (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 7th printing, 1980) Vol XI, Page 139.
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The Fruit of The Spirit, Temperance

There is a relation among these 9 spiritual traits suggested in their generally accepted meanings by scholars. There is a sense in which one trait supports the next from temperance to love—more so, than love to temperance—by seeing each trait as a necessary nuance descriptive of the next. This is to say that without temperance, meekness is hindered in its efforts and,  in turn, faith (faithfulness) requires a proper meekness to be real in the believer’s life.

Temperance, in the dictionary, is defined everywhere in a secular sense, “self-control, to force one’s self to do something, to exercise control over, be master of, with a strong hand.”  With the possible exception of Paul’s use of the word in Acts 24:25⁠1 in conversation with Felix, this definition would contradict grace which is here God’s gift of temperance in order than by His empowering grace we can live for Him. “The life which I now live in the flesh,”⁠2 Paul testified, “I live by the faith[fulness]⁠3 of the Son of God” [Galatians 2:20].

It is important to understand why this word, here. Peter saw temperance as a link in another chain connecting a true knowledge of Christ with a Christian life  lived victoriously over sin leading to godliness.

“And to knowledge temperance; and to temperance patience; and to patience godliness” [2 Peter 1:6].

So even here Paul speaks of a conscious and determined resolve to support a passion for Christ. As Paul said it to the Corinthian church, “But I keep under my body, and bring it into subjection: lest that by any means, when I have preached to others, I myself should be a castaway” [1 Corinthians 9:27]. There is a sense in which, first things first, we, as persons of faith, must recognize in some fundamental way the efficacy, the empowerment, of the grace of God to enable us to live for Him.

“For I know that in me,” Paul argued, “(that is, in my flesh) dwells no good thing” [Romans 7:18].

So, Paul urged us, because of Calvary,

“Reckon .. also yourselves to be dead indeed unto sin, but alive unto God through Jesus Christ our Lord” [Romans 6:11].

He could unconditionally encourage us to

“Put on the new man, .. renewed …  after the image of him that created him” [Colossians 3:10]. And then 2 verse later “Put on therefore, as the elect of God, holy and beloved, bowels of mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering;” [Colossians 3:12]. Three of these traits are “Fruit of the Spirit.”

Temperance at War Against Carnality

Putting on Christ is a euphemism, how-be-it most real, for temperance. The commentaries correctly see this word used in contrast to the sins listed in the works of the flesh. All spiritually destructive activity, thoughts, and abusive speaking, Paul lists under the general heading of “The flesh” as carnality. Elsewhere in my commentary on Romans I do a deep dive into this word, carnality, but in brief, carnality is a selfishness void of love of others. I distinguish between “need” and “want” in this regard, for, as humans, the body [which is the flesh] needs satisfaction and fulfillment [needs to be fed], but this is given  in some level of community or in a relationship: marriage, family, fellowship, God. But carnality takes what it wants and is never satisfied, Carnality seeks only gratification. Carnality is always and only selfish and a lover of self. Christ enlightens us to note the difference and to honor the body but not carnality [even though the Bible, like most languages used one word for both}.

Temperance is the Spirit’s work in us, not to destroy human desire [the flesh]⁠4 but to control it. What Jesus destroyed on Calvary was the devil’s work. “For this purpose the Son of God was manifested, that he might destroy the works of the devil”[1 John 3:8].  A study of carnality links it with selfish want or desires and not human or physical need, else, it would be a sin to eat! Carnality must be understood and addressed first and foremost before we can begin to build Christian character that is ultimately capable of a supreme and all inclusive godly love.We begin with the Fruit of Temperance, a little appreciated gift of Grace. This is grace at work.

We have only begun to appreciate this beautiful grace. Temperance is more than “self-control” Temperance is not willpower but “grace-power.” Temperance becomes a natural expression in Christian community void of all carnality or selfishness.

The Fruit of The Spirit: Part 1

The fruit of the Spirit Part 3: Meekness to Love

1 And as he reasoned of righteousness, temperance, and judgment to come, Felix trembled, and answered, Go thy way for this time; when I have a convenient season, I will call for thee.
2 Is is significant that Paul added these words, though they are redundant (Paul having used the word “now”). The flesh is the seat of all selfishness and carnality outside of Christ. This truth is significant in our study of temperance.
3 Faith in Christ is trust in His trustworthiness. Both translations: faith or faithfulness are allowed. Since faith is faithfulness, that is, is a term of relation for which we use the word trust, we cannot view one meaning here without the other.
4 The phrase destroy the flesh is a Stoic idea not supported in Scripture.
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The Fruit of The Spirit, Meekness to Love

Meekness is a disposition to obey, a desire to follow Christ, which requires the believer be divested of selfishness. A desire to follow Christ, as Jesus, pointed out, begins with a poverty of Spirit, a humility that wants to give not take, that lives in community and not for self.

It isn’t faith that comes from this union of temperance and meekness, but  faithfulness. Faith as faithfulness [same word] is meekness in action. An in depth study of this truth awaits the scholar who would take up the gauntlet. But here, the prima facie argument is to outline the relation among these 9 Fruit.

What is Goodness then?  One scholarly comparison called goodness a mark of Christian character to which kindness or gentleness is its outward expression. But goodness also has a less gentler side to it because it honors God’s Word above all. Faithfulness develops such character. Faith or faithfulness—to use James’ thought “is dead” without it [James 2:20].  

Goodness has a gentler side, Gentleness, that is a major expression of God’s love through us to others. Trench called gentleness “a beautiful word, as it is the expression of a beautiful grace [which] occurs in the N. T. only in the writings of St. Paul.”⁠1 Trench went on, “‘sweetness’ (2 Corinthians vi. 6), has seized more successfully the central notion of the word.“⁠2

Here we can outline the opposite traits: starting with carnality, which leads to a disinterest in the things of God, leading to a faithless life with no interest in God’s Word. Such a selfish interest is often cruel not reasonable or “sweet.” One can begin to see the value of the Spirit in the believer’s life bringing us into meaningful Christian community and fellowship and taking us away from ourselves as an only interest.

Gentleness is benignity, a kindness, that is more than tolerant of others but accepting of them. No word describes this better than “longsuffering.”  Ephesians.4:2 “longsuffering, forbearing one another in love,” Richard Trench taught, “beautifully expounds the meaning which [Paul] attaches to the word.”⁠3

The first 3 Fruit are elsewhere in Paul’s writings ascribed to God. “The kingdom of God is ..  peace, and joy in the Holy Spirit.” [Romans 14:17]. And we know that “God is love.” [1 John 4:8]. The order in the Fruit is also reasonable. Tolerance in love leads to peace, harmony and unity.  It is a veritable definition of it!  And when we are at peace among ourselves, as believers [as well as best we can with all others] there is joy. There is no joy in disharmony and disunity.

And all these 8 Fruit define agape love. To describe God’s love outside the nuances supplied by these 8 Fruit of the Spirit is to see God’s love with a selfish interest that denies the importance of loving others as Christ loved us [John 15:17]. Christian community and fellowship is built on this foundation, as Paul, howbeit, a bit cryptically, explained, “the body … edifying … itself in love” [Ephesians 4:16].

There is a relation among these 9 spiritual qualities suggested in their generally accepted meanings by scholars that can be represented in a target motif. Each level or trait is defined by the “rings” or qualities within its circle. Another way to imagine it is requiring the lower circled quality for the next outer one.


How does this not describe heaven! Are not the Fruit of the Spirit the earnest [arrabon] of the Spirit? [2 Corinthians 1:22]. As the arrabon, I see the Spirit as an introduction to heaven, the first installment (I use this analogy respectfully) of our future inheritance in Christ [Ephesians 1:14]. The Fruit as a description of love and grace is also a glimpse behind the gates of pearl into another life free from all the negatives that these 9 Fruit have removed: “hate, sorrow and grief, division and partisanship, fighting and arguing, violence, lies and deception, mistrust, pride, and selfishness—or as Paul lists them, the works of the flesh. This is an exceedingly rich grace [Ephesians 2:7].

The Fruit of the Spirit, Part 2: Temperance

1 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament (Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Company,,Grand Rapids, MI: 1975)  page 232.
2 Ibid.
3 Ibid. page 196.
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Taken from Essays on Grace

In this brief work, we have attempted to understand what God’s grace is. The word in a lexicographical sense [in the dictionary] alone cannot encapsulate its entire meaning. There are nuances to the word, shades of meaning, like hues in a rainbow, that are essential to understanding its fuller significance. Professor Barclay gave us 6 characteristics of a gift, and because grace is the gift of God [the word means “gift”] he discussed these in his work in “Paul & the Power of Grace.” [Barclay. John M. G. Paul & the Power of Grace. Grand Rapids MI. Eerdmans Publishing Company 2020. ]

To these I added from the grammar in the word “saved” in Ephesians 2:7 the contributions made by the passive and perfect forms. It is time to try and put this all together.

God’s gift for us [Jesus’ crucifixion] then given to us [salvation] then worked in us [our transformation being conformed to His image] then given by us to others [in calling and ministry] is God’s merciful kindness [love] shared in Christian community and lived before the world.

Grace, therefore, is God’s gift given:

  1. As regards incongruity: unmerited, undeserved, and unearned.
  2. As regards singularity: unrestricted, unalloyed, un-compromised, unchanged, and unchanging.
  3. As regards efficacy: unhindered, unimpeded, productive, and empowered.
  4. As regards reciprocity, unreciprocated and unconditional.
  5. As regards priority: unsolicited and unexpected.
  6. As regards superabundance: unlimited, immeasurable, and unbounded.

We must add 4 more qualities that describe God’s kindness, His love, His mercy:

  1. In a perfect sense God’s gifts as part of our salvation are complete and permanent and without repentance.
  2. In the use of the passive form, they are totally and only God to which we have contributed in every sense absolutely nothing. (Barclay used the phrase: ex nihilism == out of nothing.)
  3. God’s gifts are only One, the gift of Himself. Nothing about grace is external to a reconciled and loving relationship with God.
  4. Grace is always and only Christ-centric. Everything God gives was given at Calvary and traces back to the Cross.

Bishop Lightfoot on Paul’s letter to the Philippians wrote: “Though the gospel is capable of doctrinal exposition, though it is eminently fertile in moral results, yet its substance is neither a dogmatic system nor ethical code, but a Person and a Life.”[1]

In terms of grace, it is God’s gift of Himself [John 3:16]. This is why continuums that try to determine “How much?” make no sense: In Malachi 3:10, our Lord spoke of a blessing that God would “pour … out … that there shall not be room enough to receive it.” I wouldn’t tie this promise to money because it is simply how God works. And although Jewry understood this as a reward for the tithe or their faithful compliance to the Law, such a blessing was only contingent on opening our hearts to receive it! Faith!

[1] J. B. Lightfoot. Saint Paul’s Epistles to the Philippians. (Zondervan Publishing Company. Grand Rapids, MI: 15th printing. 1976) Introduction

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