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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God Grieves?!

Professor Taylor Lewis wrote,

“[One] may know that a thing is, that it must be, though not how it is. So here, a moral necessity compels us to hold that there is such a region of the divine emotional, most intensely real,—more real, if we may make degrees, than knowledge or intellectuality—the very ground, in fact, of the divine personal being.” [John Peter Lange..Genesis (Zondervan, Grand Rapids, MI: 7th printing, 1980) Vol 1, Page 288]

This was scholarship’s reaction to the first 8 verses of Genesis 6. The story of [angelic beings? If, indeed these were] the “sons of God” finding human women irresistible and God’s repentance that led to the great flood. We could not even begin to explain such an extermination event on this basis, because  we know that according to chapter 1 [Genesis 1:25} God provided for all life to propagate “after his kind” and here the text speaks of marriage in Genesis 6:2 “they took them wives.” If, however, we understand that godly men married worldly women, we could accept that intellectually because it follows a pattern [Numbers 31:15-16; Judges 21:14; 1 Samuel 2:22; 1 Kings 11:1; Ezekiel 13:18-19 NET].

So Professor Lewis did what I would do, resigning himself to the text. But what he accepts exclusively on faith alone is Genesis 6:6:

“It repented the LORD that he had made man on the earth, and it grieved him at his heart.”

The word “repented” meant in Ancient Israel that God consoled Himself from the grief sinful humanity caused Him. The word “grieved” means simply that it hurt; “It vexed Him in His heart.” Here is not the place for a study in the passibility of God or His capability of feeling pain, physically or emotionally. Many scholars explain this away but this is simply resigning themselves to the fact that God’s pain is impossible to relate to . Yet, this does not mean that it was not (and is not) real—as the good professor said above. [Ephesians 4:30]. In both Testaments God grieves.

None of this says God regretted making man or creating the world and life, nor does it suggest that He had or ever would have changed His mind about His plans for us. Yet, who would have thought that we could in turn relieve God’s pain, as He did ours at Calvary, simply by repenting of our sin! Is there not a sense in which God’s grace not only deals with our suffering [the product of sin] but it also deals with God’s as well.

Can we live with the notion that God is impassible! It would be the height of selfishness to persist in sinning, yielding to temptations we could and should overcome because He overcame, excuse carnality as mere human failure, or resign ourselves in spiritual ignorance to the comforts of a life conformed to this world knowing this all along causes God grief? I submit that even believers are at times obliviously content living with a half-hearted commitment to what God gave His life to provide. This ought not be!

 Our God is far more than what our theologies profile Him to be. It seems shortsighted to conclude that God is without feeling when everything He does for us is wholehearted [1 Corinthians 2:9]. He reveals things of Himself to those few who spend time enough with Him in prayer to observe a very personal side to our Creator/Savior God. That anyone would simply spend time with Him invokes His deep appreciation and gratitude which in and of itself radiates forth a divine blessing. God’s smile is never inconsequential, for even here, though unspoken, He not only gives us joy but He shares in it [Zephaniah 3:17].

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Our Intro to God’s Grace

The first missionary ever to leave the comforts of familiar surroundings and loving companions was God Himself in the person of His Son.  The language barrier should not be ignored as an incidental difference.  Moffat in his Missionary Labors and Scenes in South Africa gives us a very remarkable example of the disappearing of one of the most significant words from the language … the disappearing as well of the great spiritual …truth whereof that word was at once the vehicle and the guardian. The Bechuanas … employed formerly the word ’Morimo,’ to designate ’Him that is above,’ or ’Him that is in Heaven,” and attached to the word the notion of a supreme Divine Being… Thus is it the ever repeated complaint of the Missionary that the very terms are well nigh or wholly wanting in the dialect … whereby to impart to him heavenly truths, or indeed even the nobler emotions of the human heart.⁠1

In the person of His Son, Jesus, God learned our language through much hardship⁠2 because language is more than words, it is culture and ideology down to the very pondering of the human heart.  Jesus faced a paganism in all of us, a darkness,  when He came to our world that had nothing in common with the one He left. When He gave up the comforts of the Kingdom from which He came⁠3 the Prince of Heaven lay aside the royal robes of such a glorious place and donned a beggar’s garb.  He was unrecognized and unwelcome but He was God’s ambassador, God’s first missionary; so, He learned to live among us.  He experienced the pain and joylessness of a spiritual poverty we were unaware of because we came to accept our world for what it was, not knowing there was any better.

So the burden of God became the task of sharing His world with us in the language of young children, a language of expression and feeling, a non-technical language that must not try—because it could not—to describe or represent the glories of God’s heaven, God’s eternity, the infinite resources of His grace.  It was enough that we might imagine these things and trust Him to explain more later.  It was enough that He began to give us a child’s vision of love.⁠4  It was enough that we had reason again to hope.⁠5  It was enough that He gave us glimpses of possibilities beyond our impoverished condition.⁠6  The details of “golden streets” and angelic assemblies in praise will have to wait, meanwhile we imagine what it will be like. Don’t be too surprised if it turns out better!

It is our Bible that tells the story of God’s missionary journey among us in words that appear common but as Professor Trench reminds us:

…words often contain a witness for great moral truths—God having impressed such a seal of truth upon language, that men are continually uttering deeper things than they know…⁠7 

So Jesus began to share on the fringe of an infinite benevolence by healing the sick and raising the dead, but the crowds of followers didn’t get it.  Only a handful of followers, ignorant still in so many details, knew in their spirit that they should not forsake Him.⁠8 

We, too, long for the fuller revelation of what is meant by grace and the benefits of heaven. The words we now cherish in our theologies and the preachers’ sermon notes are indeed the language of children, the early embrace of a God whose love in full awaits that eternal day.

1 Richard C. Trench Synonyms of the New Testament pg 197
2 Hebrews 5:8 Son though he was, he learned obedience from what he suffered
3 Philippians 2:7 he made himself nothing
4 Luke 18:17 Truly I tell you, anyone who will not receive the kingdom of God like a little child will never enter it.
5 Jeremiah 29:11 “For I know the plans I have for you,” declares the LORD, “plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.
6 2 Corinthians 5:5 Now the one who has fashioned us for this very purpose is God, who has given us the Spirit as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.
7 Richard C. Trench. On the Study of the Words Lectures.
8 John 6:68 Then Simon Peter answered him, Lord, to whom shall we go? thou hast the words of eternal life.

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Just Dream!

I was sitting alone with my thoughts reminiscing about years gone by when love was giddy and adventurous, when ministry was ahead of me, when I was blessed with an infinite source of energy, when I thought I knew what love was all about, what ministry was all about, what marriage was all about, raising children and even sound theology.

Now I am not quite so sure of all things. But I think I have at least discovered that life is a paradox in which you cannot have hope without tribulation, nor comfort without toil, nor forgiveness without remorse, nor victories without an enemy. There is no peace without reconciliation, no mountain tops without the valley between. Not even love in its infinite sense is real until with a vulnerable abandonment we open our hearts to love back.

Perhaps, my day is now past and I regret that wisdom comes when I am too old to enjoy it! My despair—if that’s what it was—was a seeming reluctant acceptance of getting old and leaving the greater challenges to the energetic young.

Well, as I am won’t to do, I brought my Lord into my soliloquy to make it a dialog, and then there came to my mind and heart Joel 2:28 [I think He brought this up] that says it is the young men whom are called to see visions, to look ahead to the work that requires youth and energy. We old men get to dream, but not of yesterday, but of a beautiful and glorious tomorrow that awaits all of us who love our Lord.

As David wrote “I am old!” [Psalm 71:18}. Jacob told us this also when the time came to pass the blessings of God onto His eldest. In Joshua 23:2 after many victories, he realized that age was catching up. And Samuel [1 Samuel 12:2] resigned himself to Israel’s choice of a king with these same words, “I am old.”

This almost sounds like an excuse for retirement or some form of regret that our strength is failing. I am even developing the octogenarian gait. But it isn’t any of this! It is the time we have waited for through the passages of life—it is time to dream!

Dream of a crown of life because the finish line is in site. Dream of rewards, though, I admit, I don’t know what this means beyond a robe of righteousness (there’s nothing else I want). Dream of the blessings that await us, dream of the promises soon to be fulfilled, dream of glorious communion with old friends, of sitting at the Savior’s feet listening to Him teach us of mysteries He will then make so simple!

The Word of God is eternal because “It is written” which means it is not a mere history of what God did as much as it is a record of what God does—the divine activity of our Creator/Savior who has only begun to be both in our lives.

I do have opportunity to continue teaching in smaller groups a number of men and women called to serve our Lord. They honor me—as does the Lord—in allowing me to share God’s Word  with them. I think maybe with age comes wisdom and, God helping me, I will serve Him in encouraging them in the work.

But also: I may have a monthly opportunity now to share God’s Word with a group of saints at a Senior Citizens Residence Home, and I am thinking—why not go verse by verse through God’s Word and … just dream!

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Great Expectations

Your faith and love have arisen from the hope laid up for you in heaven, which you have heard about in the message of truth, the gospel – Colossians 1:5 NET

There is a brief note in one commentary which describes “the hope laid up for us in heaven,” as the treasures in heaven Jesus spoke of in the Gospels [Matthew 6:20-21; Luke 12:34; 18:22].

It sounds like Paul is saying that hope is what faith and love depend upon, but an intelligent argument can be made that all three are interdependent. This “irreducible complexity” is an undeniable watermark of a Divine creation—and we are made in His image.” Let’s explain.

The word hope speaks of the object of hope, the blessing expected. Paul reasoned, “Hope that is seen, is not hope.” [Romans 8:24]. No one expects to receive something which they already have! But what is it that we do not already have from God which we are looking forward to having? Well, Romans 8:32 “Indeed, he who did not spare his own Son, but gave him up for us all – how will he not also, along with him, freely give us all things?”

We, also, should only look for something which we, as believers, are assured is coming. The Bible word hope is much stronger that our English word “hope.” We often hope for things which we have doubts about getting, like a child on Santa’s lap asking for something mom and dad have no intention of buying. [Most of us learn to get real—really fast]. But read Hebrews 11:1 NET “Now faith is being sure of what we hope for, convinced of what we do not see [or already have].”

Hebrews 11:1 might read “Faith is foundational (the actual word used in this verse) to hope.” A hope that is not sure—because it is not based on divine promises—is a false hope. Hope built on doubt or chance isn’t trustworthy enough; what we do not assuredly know is coming, we best not expect [James 1:6-7]. But in the Bible “hope is expectation” which makes our faith in God a prerequisite for hope. No faith means no hope.

For Paul the connection between faith and hope is part of a triad with our love for God and one another. Paul encouragingly acknowledged to the Thessalonian believers [1 Thessalonians 1:3] that he was ever mindful of their work of faith, labor of love, and patience of hope. This sounds like our verse [Colossians 1:5]: “faith and love risen from hope.” As Polycarp spoke of a faith with hope following and love going before. Or in I Corinthians 13:13 “now faith, hope, and love abide.”

Look at the first word in The King James Bible version of Colossians 1:5: “for.” The NET which we are using here simply brought “faith and love” along from the previous verse. Our translators seem to be struggling a bit with Paul’s use of this word “for” here to begin our verse. One scholar freely renders the meaning: “looking to … hope.” The ESV in Colossians 1:5 says “love is because of hope,” which I like best, because the word “for” can mean “because” or “for the sake of hope.” There is a relationship here between our expectations from God and our love for Him—something which should be obvious.

Why love one another? For the same reason we must have an unshakeable faith or trust in God: the pronounced effect this agape love has on our expectations—our hope. Polycarp, like Paul saw these 3 traits as inseparable, that we cannot have one without having all. If we are not expecting or anticipating what awaits us in heaven, but living with painful anxieties about tomorrow, perhaps, our faith is weak and, just maybe, this means our love for others and our Lord has not been evident in what we say or do.

There is a sense in which our love for others, as well as our reliance on God’s promises, strengthens hope. Alone we tend to look down in despondent gloominess, but united in fellowship and prayer we are more prone to “look up, and lift up our heads; for our redemption draws nigh” [Luke 21:28]. Looking up is hope in action.

Great expectations require great faith and a Christian love for one another that as Peter described is: “out of a pure heart … fervently” [1 Peter 1:22]. The word fervently or earnestly means “stretched out or extended” We are to extend our love, stretch it! Let it reach the otherwise unreachable! It won’t break! [Matthew 5:44]. Hope is strengthened in the act. We begin to understand how this triad of traits are like the 3 legs of a tripod. It will not stand on fewer.

Hope, too, is spoken of elsewhere as a persistent expectation [Romans 8:19, 23]. Paul spoke of “the earnest expectation “ of all creation … And … even we ourselves groan … ‘waiting’ for [our] redemption….” I must tell you: the word “waiting” used here means “to look with outstretched neck” as I use to do waiting for the train to work, looking down the tracks, trying to steal a glimpse just past the rise from where I knew the train would be coming. Get the metaphor?

What we are expecting from God, Paul said, is “laid up for us” already in heaven! Our Heavenly Father has been getting ready to receive us! [John 14:3]. Are we looking for it all with great expectation?

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God’s Inspired Word

Every scripture is inspired by God [God-breathed] and useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness- 2 Timothy 3:16 NET

Did you know that scholars study the Bible from a variety of perspectives, some of which treat it as only ancient literature with no more value to modern times than Chaucer’s Beowulf, of which it is said (at, “Although evil is not truly existent, necessarily, classical literature manages to portray evil in supernatural and symbolic manifestations.“

The sad truth is that culture has often influenced how the church “sells its message” and what that message will be. Seven letters to seven different churches in John’s day exposes this blatant tampering with the Christian testimony which has rendered it, in some respects, powerless. In the “western world,” for one, we rely heavily on science for answers making spiritual warfare in prayer all but a relic of a by-gone practice.

I apologize for bringing this up, not out of anger or bitterness but, out of a deep concern for a spiritually dying world with whom God wants to share His love but also warn of impending judgment. How appropriate that the Revelation which Jesus brought, that we know as the Apocalypse and a time of unspeakable horror, should begin with a serious message to the Church! But to the degree we have viewed the inspiration of scripture as only the popular view of a time now gone, we have made God’s Word less than God’s Word and now are able in a scholarly fashion to parse its language as merely an historical footnote on a forgotten culture.

Speaking of footnotes, however: there are footnotes to our verse in the BibleGateway version on these 3 words “every, inspired, and rebuke”: “Every scripture. There is very little difference in sense between every scripture (emphasizing the individual portions) and all scripture (emphasizing the composite whole). The former option is preferred, because it fits … Paul’s normal sense for the word scripture…. So every scripture means ‘every individual portion of scripture.’ Inspired by God. Some have … translated it as ‘every inspired scripture is also useful.’ But… the arrangement of words makes clear that both should be taken as … ‘every scripture is inspired…and [all are] useful.’ Rebuke, the word implies exposing … sin … to bring correction.”

We maintain that every word has God’s approval, if not His fingerprint, upon it and He wrote it to us to expose the deadly sins we excuse, at the peril of our souls, as just a part of “human nature.” But the Church gets weary of fighting social change and might choose, accordingly, to tone down its message to sound more reasonable and humane. Maybe more will listen, then?

No!  The message of Scripture confronts cultures on a moral level, calls out hypocrisy, and will not compromise the holiness of God before the world.

Now I can see why God’s Word is popular as an heirloom but is taken far less seriously than its context, language, and emphasis demand. I can understand why some scholars go through 8 or more years of Bible training to teach at some respectable seminary that there is no god (or at least, we cannot be sure) and that the Bible is important in an historical sense only.

Many have, sadly, succumbed to social pressure to comply in small measure—or great—to tweak the interpretation of God’s Word to make it less outspoken against sin, less demanding of a cross to carry for Christ,  arguing that we cannot be sure of its meaning.  Bonhoeffer called this the message of a “cheap” grace.

Like many who read or study the Word regularly, I, too, continue to be drawn to its pages and refuse to let go its promises—even if I only know He promised something the scope and importance of which I cannot yet comprehend. And what has He not promised if the whole Bible was spoken [the word is: God-breathed} by the God Who does not lie and was written for our benefit, our admonition, and our instruction! The miracle that we have it, alone, speaks to its inspiration! 

Paul affirmed that “When a covenant has been ratified,… no one can set it aside or add anything to it” [Galatians 3:15]. The Book, itself, is one undeniable and unalterable “The” Covenant with God, which makes it from cover to cover one glorious promise. As to its teaching, God’s Word is worthy our conviction; as to its reproof, our contrition of heart, repentance, and confession; as to its correction, our obedience; as to its training, our commitment; and as to its inspiration, our undying faith!

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