Romans, Part 53

So, how can I view—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord[1]—as a definition of love (ἀγάπη) rather than as rules?  Again, I’ve constructed the following table to help.

The Fruit of the Spirit

Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

love (ἀγάπη)

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have also obtained access by faith into this grace in which we stand, and we rejoice in the hope of God’s glory.  Not only this, but we also rejoice in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.  And hope does not disappoint, because the love (ἀγάπη) of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.[2] Love (ἀγάπη) does no wrong (κακὸν, a form of κακός) to a neighbor. Therefore love (ἀγάπη) is the fulfillment of the law.[3] Knowledge puffs up, but love (ἀγάπη) builds up.[4]
Love (ἀγάπη) is…

1 Corinthians 13:4-7 (NET)

…not self-serving (οὐ ζητεῖ τὰ ἑαυτῆς; literally, “not seek itself”)…

1 Corinthians 13:5 (NET)

If someone owns a hundred sheep and one of them goes astray, will he not leave the ninety-nine on the mountains and go look for (ζητεῖ, a form of ζητέω) the one that went astray?[5]  But above all pursue (ζητεῖτε, another form of ζητέω) his kingdom and righteousness, and all these things will be given to you as well.[6]
This Love Without Hypocrisy…

Romans 12:9-21 (NET)

Do not lag in zeal (σπουδῇ, a form of σπουδή), be enthusiastic (ζέοντες, a form of ζέω) in spirit…

Romans 12:11a (NET)

…serve (δουλεύοντες, a form of δουλεύω) the Lord.

Romans 12:11b (NET)

But as you excel in everything – in faith, in speech, in knowledge, and in all eagerness (σπουδῇ) and in the love from us that is in you – make sure that you excel in this act of kindness too.[7] Now a Jew named Apollos, a native of Alexandria, arrived in Ephesus.  He was an eloquent speaker, well-versed in the scriptures.  He had been instructed in the way of the Lord, and with great enthusiasm (ζέων, another form of ζέω) he spoke and taught accurately the facts about Jesus, although he knew only the baptism of John.[8] Slaves, obey your human masters with fear and trembling, in the sincerity of your heart as to Christ, not like those who do their work only when someone is watching – as people-pleasers – but as slaves of Christ doing the will of God from the heart.  Obey with enthusiasm (εὐνοίας, a form of εὔνοια), as though serving (δουλεύοντες) the Lord and not people, because you know that each person, whether slave or free, if he does something good (ἀγαθόν, a form of ἀγαθός), this will be rewarded by the Lord.[9]

In the previous essay it seemed to make intuitive sense to place cling to what is good[10]under that aspect of the fruit of the Spirit translated goodness.  Here it may seem like begging the question[11] to simply place—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord—under love.  In one sense love (ἀγάπη) is the master key that can stand for all aspects of the fruit of the Spirit.  I think John used ἀγάπη that way often, but I want to follow Paul’s thinking here.

Therefore, since we have been declared righteous by faith (πίστεως, a form of πίστις), he wrote.  By our own faith?  I think not, for πίστις[12] is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit.  Since we have been declared righteous by faith we have peace (εἰρήνην, a form of εἰρήνη) with God through our Lord Jesus Christ.[13]  Again, peace (εἰρήνη) is an aspect of the fruit of his Spirit.  Through our Lord Jesus Christ we have also obtained access by faith (πίστει, another form of πίστις) into this grace (χάριν, a form of χάρις) in which we stand.  And by grace, though Paul may mean more, I think he cannot mean less than the credited righteousness of God, this very fruit of God’s Holy Spirit.  And we rejoice in the hope of our glory!  But that’s not what Paul wrote.  And we rejoice (καυχώμεθα, a form of καυχάομαι) in the hope of God’s glory.[14]

Though the NET translators chose rejoice for καυχώμεθα here and in the next verse, boast is a more obvious meaning.  I say again, let no one think that I am a fool.  But if you do, then at least accept me as a fool, so that I too may boast (καυχήσωμαι, another form of καυχάομαι) a little.  What I am saying with this boastful (καυχήσεως, a form of καύχησις) confidence I do not say the way the Lord would.  Instead it is, as it were, foolishness.  Since many are boasting (καυχῶνται, another form of καυχάομαι) according to human standards, I too will boast (καυχήσομαι, another form of καυχάομαι).[15]  By the way, according to human standards is κατὰ σάρκα in Greek, according to the flesh (NKJV).

It gives me the sense that Paul meant we boast in the hope of God’s glory.  We boast in the hope that God will be glorified by the lives we live in the flesh (not according to the flesh), crucified with Christ (it is no longer I who live, but Christ lives in me),[16] living by the Spirit,[17] not by the works of the flesh.[18]  Translated that way we might be less likely to gloss over it and boast in the hope of our own glory.  Not only this, Paul continued, but we also rejoice (καυχώμεθα, a form of καυχάομαι; or, boast) in sufferings.[19]  So where does Paul get off writing this wacko stuff?

If I must boast (καυχᾶσθαι, another form of καυχάομαι), I will boast (καυχήσομαι, another form of καυχάομαι) about the things that show my weakness (ἀσθενείας, a form of ἀσθένεια).[20]  There was method to Paul’s madness.  For the Lord said to him, “My grace is enough for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness (ἀσθενείᾳ).” So then, Paul concluded, I will boast (καυχήσομαι) most gladly about my weaknesses (ἀσθενείαις), so that the power of Christ may reside in me.[21]  And in Romans we find a similar method to his madness: we also rejoice (or, boast) in sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.[22]  And here I get a beautiful glimmer of an understanding why the NET translators chose rejoice over boast.

We don’t rejoice or boast in our own suffering because of a rational understanding: knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance, character, and character, hope.  We can only rejoice or boast in our own suffering because we are filled with the joy (χαρὰ) of God, another aspect of the fruit of his Spirit.  And rejoice hearkens back to that fact better than boast ever could.  I am confident they chose rejoice for this reason because of a note on the next verse.

And hope does not disappoint, Paul concluded, because the love (ἀγάπη) of God has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.[23]  The note in the NET reads: “The phrase ἡ ἀγάπη τοῦ θεοῦ (…‘the love of God’) could be interpreted as either an objective genitive (‘our love for God’), subjective genitive (‘God’s love for us’), or both (M. Zerwick’s ‘general’ genitive [Biblical Greek,§§36-39]; D. B. Wallace’s ‘plenary’ genitive [ExSyn 119-21]). The immediate context, which discusses what God has done for believers, favors a subjective genitive, but the fact that this love is poured out within the hearts of believers implies that it may be the source for believers’ love for God; consequently an objective genitive cannot be ruled out. It is possible that both these ideas are meant in the text and that this is a plenary genitive: ‘The love that comes from God and that produces our love for God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us’ (ExSyn 121).”

Here is one place I can say with confidence the NET translators really got what Paul was saying.  This love (ἀγάπη), which has been poured out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us, does no wrong (κακὸν) to a neighbor.  Therefore love (ἀγάπη) is the fulfillment (πλήρωμα) of the law.[24]  Pouring this love out in our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us is what Jesus meant when He said: Do not think that I have come to abolish the law or the prophets.  I have not come to abolish these things but to fulfill (πληρῶσαι, a form of πληρόω, the verb from which the noun πλήρωμα is derived) them.[25]

I want to spend some time with κακὸν (a form of κακός) since this ἀγάπη does (or, works) no wrong (or, harm) to a neighbor.  The first time κακὸν occurs in the New Testament was from the mouth of the Roman governor.  Pilate said to them, “Then what should I do with Jesus who is called the Christ?”  They all said, “Crucify him!”  He asked, “Why? What wrong (κακὸν) has he done?” But they shouted more insistently, “Crucify him!”[26]  Though Pilate found no κακὸν in Him under Roman law the chief priests and elders of Israel had accused Him of many things: “Don’t you hear how many charges they are bringing against you?”[27] Pilate asked.  When Jesus was accused by the chief priests and the elders, he did not respond.[28]

Now, with 20-20 hindsight I can see Jesus consciously fulfilling Scripture: He was treated harshly and afflicted, but he did not even open his mouth.  Like a lamb led to the slaughtering block, like a sheep silent before her shearers, he did not even open his mouth.[29]  At the time in the moment, however, He appeared obstinate, belligerent and disdainful of authority.  Consider his teaching (Matthew 23:1-12 NET).

Jesus said to the crowds and to his disciples, “The experts in the law and the Pharisees sit on Moses’ seat.  Therefore pay attention to what they tell you and do it.  But do not do what they do, for they do not practice what they teach.  They tie up heavy loads, hard to carry, and put them on men’s shoulders, but they themselves are not willing even to lift a finger to move them.  They do all their deeds to be seen by people, for they make their phylacteries wide and their tassels long.  They love the place of honor at banquets and the best seats in the synagogues and elaborate greetings in the marketplaces, and to have people call them ‘Rabbi.’  But you are not to be called ‘Rabbi,’ for you have one Teacher and you are all brothers.  And call no one your ‘father’ on earth, for you have one Father, who is in heaven.  Nor are you to be called ‘teacher,’ for you have one teacher, the Christ.  The greatest among you will be your servant.  And whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted.

Even here there is a very rough edge that is disdainful of human authority.  More to the point, perhaps, Jesus did nothing that would inhibit his progress toward the cross.  My commandment (ἐντολὴ, a form of ἐντολή) is this, He also said, to love (ἀγαπᾶτε, a form of ἀγαπάω) one another just as I have loved (ἠγάπησα, another form of ἀγαπάω) you.  No one has greater love (ἀγάπην, a form of ἀγάπη) than this – that one lays down his life for his friends.  You are my friends if you do what I command (ἐντέλλομαι) you.[30]  Hanging on the cross, after thirty plus years of human experience, eating it, drinking it, pissing and shitting it, Jesus prayed what I consider the real prayer of salvation: Father, forgive them, for they don’t know what they are doing.[31]

My point here, I suppose, is that the love that does (or, works) no wrong (or, harm) to a neighbor may not always appear to all the people all the time to be doing or working no wrong or harm to a neighbor.  By his own admission Jesus’ death on a cross was not his will but his Father’s.[32]  Like most human beings Jesus wanted to live; whoever is among the living has hope; a live dog is better than a dead lion.[33]  Perhaps I’ve overstated the case.  Jesus was not suicidal as He hung on the cross.

I want to follow this just a bit farther (Luke 16:25 NET).

Abraham said, ‘Child, remember that in your lifetime you received your good things (ἀγαθά, another form of ἀγαθός) and Lazarus likewise bad things (κακά, another form of κακός), but now he is comforted here and you are in anguish.’

When I considered this in the light of the gospel I gleaned from my religion,[34] Abraham’s words seemed like karmic nonsense.  But in the light of the knowledge of God I’m compelled to reconsider.  God is love (ἀγάπη).[35]  Love (ἀγάπη) does no wrong (κακὸν, a form of κακός) to a neighbor.[36]  (And this is οὐκ the absolute negation, modifying ἐργάζεται [a form of ἐργάζομαι] apparently not κακὸν.)  So while I might be intellectually stimulated to wonder what role God’s love played in Lazarus’ life, the Holy Spirit reminds me that Knowledge puffs up, but love (ἀγάπη) builds up.[37]  All in all it is simpler then to assume that God’s love was revealed after Lazarus’ death.  This is in accord with Jesus’ knowledge of God: he is not God of the dead, but of the living, for all live before him.[38]  And it is prudent to accept that I do not dictate when God reveals his love to anyone (or, in anyone for that matter).

I’ll continue looking into—Do not lag in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord—as a definition of love rather than as rules in the next essay.

Romans, Part 54

Back to To Make Holy, Part 1

 

[1] Romans 12:11 (NET)

[2] Romans 5:1-5 (NET)

[3] Romans 13:10 (NET)

[4] 1 Corinthians 8:1b (NET)

[5] Matthew 18:12b (NET)

[6] Matthew 6:33 (NET)

[7] 2 Corinthians 8:7 (NET)

[8] Acts 18:24, 25 (NET)

[9] Ephesians 6:5-8 (NET)

[10] Romans 12:9b (NET)

[11] http://www.nizkor.org/features/fallacies/begging-the-question.html

[12] Galatians 5:22 (NET) translated faithfulness

[13] Romans 5:1 (NET)

[14] Romans 5:2 (NET)

[15] 2 Corinthians 11:16-18 (NET)

[16] Galatians 2:20 (NET)

[17] Galatians 5:16 (NET)

[18] Galatians 5:19 (NET)

[19] Romans 5:3a (NET)

[20] 2 Corinthians 11:30 (NET)

[21] 2 Corinthians 12:9 (NET)

[22] Romans 5:3, 4 (NET)

[23] Romans 5:5 (NET)

[24] Romans 13:10 (NET)

[25] Matthew 5:17 (NET)

[26] Matthew 27:22, 23 (NET)

[27] Matthew 27:13 (NET)

[28] Matthew 27:12 (NET)

[29] Isaiah 53:7 (NET)

[30] John 15:12-14 (NET)

[31] Luke 23:34a (NET)

[32] Luke 22:42 (NET)

[33] Ecclesiastes 9:4 (NET)

[34] “Believe in the Lord Jesus Christ before you die or burn in hell for all eternity.”

[35] 1 John 4:8, 16 (NET)

[36] Romans 13:10a (NET)

[37] 1 Corinthians 8:1b (NET)

[38] Luke 20:38 (NET)