You shall not take (nâśâʼ, תשׁא; Septuagint: λήμψῃ, a form of λαμβάνω) the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who takes (nâśâʼ, ישׁא; Septuagint: λαμβάνοντα, another form of λαμβάνω) his name in vain.[1]

Three occurrences of forms of nâśâʼ from Genesis 1:1 – Exodus 20:5[2] were translated with forms of λαμβάνω in the Septuagint:

Genesis 21:18 (NET)

Genesis 27:3 (NET)

Genesis 31:17 (NET)

Get up!  Help (nâśâʼ, שׁאי; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) the boy up and hold him by the hand, for I will make him into a great nation. Therefore, take (nâśâʼ, שׁא; Septuagint: λαβὲ, another form of λαμβάνω) your weapons – your quiver and your bow – and go out into the open fields and hunt down some wild game for me. So Jacob immediately put (nâśâʼ, וישׁא; Septuagint: ἔλαβεν, another form of λαμβάνω) his children and his wives on the camels.

Only one of those (Genesis 27:3) was translated take in the KJV and NET before Exodus 20:7.  There is no particular problem with this translation if I’m studying nâśâʼ.  But if I read Exodus 20:7 in English only while trying to be declared righteous by the law[3] or attempting to have my own righteousness derived from the law,[4] the temptation is great to hear it as words I might say when I stub my toe in the dark.  If I don’t say those words then I may consider myself blameless according to the law.

You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.

This translation might have persuaded me even in English that any and every deviation from righteousness is bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Unbelievers seem to grasp this better than those who are trying to be declared righteous by the law or attempting to have [their] own righteousness derived from the law.  But unbelievers call it hypocrisy rather than bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain.  According to Merriam-Webster.com:

The word hypocrite ultimately came into English from the Greek word hypokrites, which means “an actor” or “a stage player”…actors in ancient Greek theater wore large masks to mark which character they were playing…

The Greek word took on an extended meaning to refer to any person who was wearing a figurative mask and pretending to be someone or something they were not.  This sense was taken into medieval French and then into English, where it showed up with its earlier spelling, ypocrite, in 13th-century religious texts to refer to someone who pretends to be morally good or pious in order to deceive others.  (Hypocrite gained its initial h– by the 16th century.)

It took a surprisingly long time for hypocrite to gain its more general meaning that we use today: “a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.”  Our first citations for this use are from the early 1700s, nearly 500 years after hypocrite first stepped onto English’s stage.  

On bibleone.net hypocrisy was distinguished from bearing or taking the Lord’s name in vain by ascribing more evil intent to hypocrisy:

The meaning of the words, “hypocrite” and “hypocrisy,” as used in the Bible by our Lord Jesus Christ (primarily directed toward the “religious” leaders of the day) implies more than a “simple pretense” or “acting out as a stage-player.”  It embodies a purposeful intent, which stems from a deep-seated core of evil.  More than this, it suggests a determined effort to enforce a standard of conduct upon others, which conduct the enforcer knowingly and deliberately refuses to apply to himself–hence, action born of full knowledge and evil intent.  It is not merely the failure to live up to a holy standard–a condition applicable to every believer on any given day.  It is the condition of a person who is controlled by the sin nature to the end-desire of having power over other human beings by imposing on them a set of rules, which he himself intentionally disregards.  It is a condition applicable to either an unbeliever or a believer, i.e., a believer who is outside God’s will and under the influence of the sin nature.

I was particularly taken by the words imposing on them a set of rules.  That is acting at its core.  Some rules are imposed by the writer through the script.  Some are imposed by the director who interprets the script and blocks the scenes.  Most are self-imposed by the actor.  Though actors call them choices,[5] they are rules of behavior, what a particular character will or will not say or do in any given scene, derived from observation, research, experimentation and a deeply imaginative identification with the character to be performed.  Actors can win some arguments with both the writer and the director (since both are more focused on the work as a whole) because good actors ultimately know the individual characters they play better, at least more interestingly.

Don’t misunderstand me, I love actors and fully appreciate what they do, especially film actors.  I’ve had more opportunity to see them work up close, no one famous though a few were recognizable.  I sit with a silly grin on my face watching Amy Adams sing and dance her way through New York City in Enchanted, and am just as rapt watching her decipher an alien language in Arrival.  A brief exchange in Arrival between linguist Louise (Amy Adams) and physicist Ian (Jeremy Renner) encapsulates how I feel about studying the Bible.

Ian: You know, I was doing some reading about this idea that if you immerse yourself into a foreign language, that you can actually rewire your brain. 

Louise: Yeah, the Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis…It’s the theory that the language you speak determines how you think and…

Ian: Yeah.  It affects how you see everything.

You were taught with reference to your former way of life, Paul wrote believers in Ephesus, to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.[6]  It’s not a matter of being renewed (ἀνανεοῦσθαι, a form of ἀνανεόω) by learning Greek or Hebrew, but by immersing oneself in how the Holy Spirit thinks and communicates in Greek or Hebrew.  No matter how hard Amy Adams worked to become Giselle or Louise, no matter how many choices she made, she never became a cartoon princess or a xenolinguist in reality.

Stephen J. Cole, in the “The Deadly Sin of Hypocrisy (Acts 4:36-5:11),” wrote:

While Jesus was tender with many notorious sinners, He used scathing language to denounce those guilty of religious hypocrisy.

The story of Ananias and Sapphira warns us of the danger of the sin of hypocrisy.

None of the Greek words for hypocrite or hypocrisyὑποκριτής, ὑπόκρισις, ὑποκρίνομαι—occur in, or anywhere near, the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  I assume Pastor Cole took an 18th-century definition of hypocrisy—not living up to professed beliefs—or a 13th-century understanding of ypocrite—deliberate deception—and applied it to the story of Ananias and Sapphira.  Peter said, “Ananias, why has Satan filled your heart to lie (ψεύσασθαι, a form of ψεύδομαι) to the Holy Spirit…”[7]  If we think of hypocrisy as something so evil no believer would dare do it, we miss Jesus’ point about doing righteousness as actors play a role, because we do it all of the time.  It’s how we think.  It’s how we speak to one another:

A Christian wouldn’t do that!   A Christian shouldn’t do that!  Christians should do thus and such.  A real Christian would do this or that!

These are the arguments of actors: observing, researching, experimenting, engaging in deeply imaginative thought about what a Christian might be like and trying to perform that as a series of choices—that is, by obeying rules about how a Christian should or should not behave.  It is significantly different from being born from above, possessed (Romans 8:12-17) by his Holy Spirit, filled with God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.[8]

The simplest reason why ὑποκριτής was translated hypocrite in the 16th century is that the Latin derived actor was understood as an agent or doer and may have confused the reader regarding the contrast Paul had created—building on Jesus’ allusion to the Greek theater—between ὑποκριτής and ποιητής, the doers (ποιηταὶ, a form of ποιητής) of the law.

I’ve wasted too much time assuming Jesus was an angry preacher spouting pejoratives rather than patiently communicating the words of eternal life.  So I’ll take forms of ὑποκριτής at face value and remove the exclamation points from the text.  (They are obvious editorial comments added by translators.)  And then hopefully see Jesus again, see the smile on his face and the twinkle of his eyes as He reveals the name of his Father, God is love.

Be on your guard against the teaching (Matthew 16:5-12) of the Pharisees, Jesus told his disciples, which is acting class (ὑπόκρισις).[9]  Actors observe and judge others.  It is part and parcel of their craft as they prepare a role (Matthew 7:1-5 NET):

Do not judge so that you will not be judged.  For by the standard you judge you will be judged, and the measure you use will be the measure you receive.  Why do you see the speck in your brother’s eye, but fail to see the beam of wood in your own?  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove the speck from your eye,’ while there is a beam in your own?  You actor (ὑποκριτά, a form of ὑποκριτής), first remove the beam from your own eye, and then you can see clearly to remove the speck from your brother’s eye.

Self promotion is part of the job of being a working actor (Matthew 6:1-4 NET):

Be careful not to display your righteousness merely to be seen by people.  Otherwise you have no reward with your Father in heaven.  Thus whenever you do charitable giving, do not blow a trumpet before you, as the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής) do in synagogues and on streets so that people will praise them.  I tell you the truth, they have their reward.  But when you do your giving, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, so that your gift may be in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Actors crave an audience and thrive in the limelight (Matthew 6:5, 6, 16-18 NET):

Whenever you pray, do not be like the actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), because they love to pray while standing in synagogues and on street corners so that people can see them.  Truly I say to you, they have their reward.  But whenever you pray, go into your room, close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

When you fast, do not look sullen like the actors (ὑποκριταὶ, another form of ὑποκριτής), for they make their faces unattractive so that people will see them fasting.  I tell you the truth, they have their reward.  When you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, so that it will not be obvious to others when you are fasting, but only to your Father who is in secret.  And your Father, who sees in secret, will reward you.

Actors never actually become the character they perform by acting (Matthew 15:1-9; Luke 13:14-16 NET):

Then Pharisees and experts in the law came from Jerusalem to Jesus and said, “Why do your disciples disobey the tradition of the elders?  For they don’t wash their hands when they eat.”  He answered them, “And why do you disobey the commandment of God because of your tradition?  For God said, ‘Honor your father and mother’ and ‘Whoever insults his father or mother must be put to death.’  But you say, ‘If someone tells his father or mother, “Whatever help you would have received from me is given to God,” he does not need to honor his father.’  You have nullified the word of God on account of your tradition.  Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), Isaiah prophesied correctly about you when he said, ‘This people honors me with their lips, but their heart is far from me, and they worship me in vain, teaching as doctrines the commandments of men.’”

But the president of the synagogue, indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, said to the crowd, “There are six days on which work should be done!  So come and be healed on those days, and not on the Sabbath day.”  Then the Lord answered him, “You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), does not each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or his donkey from its stall, and lead it to water?  Then shouldn’t this woman, a daughter of Abraham whom Satan bound for eighteen long years, be released from this imprisonment on the Sabbath day?”

Since those attempting to serve God by acting are not led by his Holy Spirit, they do not share the mind of Christ but pursue their own agendas (Matthew 22:15-22; Luke 12:54-56 NET):

Then the Pharisees went out and planned together to entrap him with his own words.  They sent to him their disciples along with the Herodians, saying, “Teacher, we know that you are truthful, and teach the way of God in accordance with the truth.  You do not court anyone’s favor because you show no partiality.  Tell us then, what do you think?  Is it right to pay taxes to Caesar or not?”

But Jesus realized their evil intentions and said, “Actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), why are you testing me?  Show me the coin used for the tax.”  So they brought him a denarius.  Jesus said to them, “Whose image is this, and whose inscription?”  They replied, “Caesar’s.”  He said to them, “Then give to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s.”  Now when they heard this they were stunned, and they left him and went away.

Jesus also said to the crowds, “When you see a cloud rising in the west, you say at once, ‘A rainstorm is coming,’ and it does.  And when you see the south wind blowing, you say, ‘There will be scorching heat,’ and there is.  You actors (ὑποκριταί, another form of ὑποκριτής), you know how to interpret the appearance of the earth and the sky, but how can you not know how to interpret the present time?”

Jesus described the experts in the law and you Pharisees as actors who keep locking people out of the kingdom of heaven.  For you neither enter nor permit those trying to enter to go in.[10]  You cross land and sea to make one convert, and when you get one, you make him twice as much a child of hell as yourselves.[11]  You give a tenth of mint, dill, and cumin, yet you neglect what is more important in the law – justice, mercy, and faithfulness.  You should have done these things without neglecting the others.[12]   You clean the outside of the cup and the dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence.  Blind Pharisee, first clean the inside of the cup, so that the outside may become clean too.[13]  You are like whitewashed tombs that look beautiful on the outside but inside are full of the bones of the dead and of everything unclean.  In the same way, on the outside you look righteous to people, but inside you are full of hypocrisy (ὑποκρίσεως, a form of ὑπόκρισις) and lawlessness (ἀνομίας, a form of ἀνομία).[14]  You build tombs for the prophets and decorate the graves of the righteous.[15]

Jesus warned of the consequence of an actor masquerading as a minister of the Gospel (Matthew 24:45-51 NET):

Who then is the faithful and wise slave, whom the master has put in charge of his household, to give the other slaves their food at the proper time?  Blessed is that slave whom the master finds at work when he comes.  I tell you the truth, the master will put him in charge of all his possessions.  But if that evil slave should say to himself, ‘My master is staying away a long time,’ and he begins to beat his fellow slaves and to eat and drink with drunkards, then the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect him and at an hour he does not foresee, and will cut him in two, and assign him a place with the actors (ὑποκριτῶν, another form of ὑποκριτής), where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.

For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may be paid back according to what he has done (ἔπραξεν, a form of πράσσω) while in the body, whether good or evil.[16]  We do not want to appear before the judgment seat of Christ as actors with nothing to show but works (ἔργων, a form of ἔργον) of righteousness that we have done (ἐποιήσαμεν, a form of ποιέω).[17]  We want to have some pattern of behavior that demonstrates we have not ignored his teaching or rejected his salvation, that we have heeded his admonition—above all pursue his kingdom and righteousness[18]—and that each of us is one who practices (ποιῶν, another form of ποιέω) the truth, one who comes to the light, so that it may be plainly evident that [our] deeds (ἔργα, another form of ἔργον) have been done (εἰργασμένα, a form of ἐργάζομαι) in God.[19]

I want to consider another film.  Before I Fall didn’t do very well at the box office.  It’s Groundhog Day as straight-up tragedy.  But I thought it was a deeply moving, poignant film with one fatal flaw.  There are spoilers here for those who are bothered by such things.

Sam (Zoey Deutch), a self-absorbed teenage girl (Samantha), wakes up on the day of her death.  She repeats that day until she gets it right.  “For the first time, when I wake up,” her voiceover says on the last iteration of the last day of her life, “I’m not scared or confused or angry.  Because, for the first time, I truly understand what needs to happen.  I truly understand how to live this day.”  Sam’s transformation from self-absorbed teenage girl to loving daughter, sister and friend is truly breathtaking to behold.

The fatal flaw?  It’s not believable.  And I don’t think Ms. Deutch’s acting is to blame.  Christ-likeness apart from Christ isn’t credible.  Sam’s beautiful transformation is credited to her own knowledge, gained through the experience of repeating the same day over and over (not unlike an actor rehearsing), and her own “big heart.”  And none of us gets to do the same day over and over to acquire such knowledge.  Believers are called to live a new day of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control everyday forever.

Hypocrisy, by the way, isn’t the unforgivable sin.  Living an honest life of sin is never preferable to acting like the righteous.  If the fruit of the Spirit seems AWOL and the only way to obey God’s law is in one’s own strength—and that is possible—by all means do that.  Just don’t mistake that for the righteousness of God through the faithfulness of Jesus Christ for all who believe.[20]  Open the Bible and search diligently for his righteousness once the immediate crisis has passed—win, lose or draw.

My own search began (for the purpose of this discussion) with the Ten Promises.  Though hearing the Ten Commandments as promises wasn’t exactly the silver bullet I hoped at the time, it did begin to change my attitude toward God and my relationship to Him.  So as a conclusion to this essay I invite the reader to hear his promise (Jeremiah 31:31-34) to all who believe, all who are led by his Spirit: You shall not bear the name of the Lord your God in vain, for the Lord will not hold guiltless anyone who bears his name in vain.

[1] Exodus 20:7 (NET)

[2] Table 1, Forgiven or Passed Over? Part 3

[3] Galatians 5:4 (NET)

[4] Philippians 3:9 (NET)

[5] An excerpt from a video transcript of John Walcutt teaching young actors (all female apparently) follows:

…as you start to, you know, get more into grown up acting, you’re going to be expected to be able to make choices and what that means is, what we started talking about last week where you could look at material and go, “Hmm, what if I did this? What if I looked at it from this point of view? What if I decided that she is guilty? What if I decided, she’s lying?” When you make choices, your work gets interesting…
The lines are only ten percent of a scene, right? We talked about that. The other 90%  is what’s underneath, that’s where you have to make choices so here’s how I want you to think about it. Once you read through a scene and you start to get an idea of what it’s about, understand it. The first thing I want you to ask yourself is, “Who am I? Who am I in this scene? and if you just say… if you make a choice like, “Okay, I’m a girl.” Well that might be an interesting choice for me but for most of you, it’s not going to be an interesting choice. It has to be more specific. I’m a girl who has issues with her dad. I’m a girl who wants to drop out of school because I can’t stand my teachers. I’m, I’m competitive. I’m angry. I’m, I’ve low self esteem. I’m happy-go-lucky, cheerful optimist.
You make the most interesting choices you can. We call them Hot Choices so that, so that the scene starts to pop. So never say, “I’m just a girl.” Never say, “I’m just her friend.” Always make it as interesting and developed and complex as you can. So first thing you ask yourself, “Who am I?” Second thing you ask yourself, “What do I want?” What do I want in this scene, what is my objective?” And always make it about getting something from the other person, as simple as possible and it can change from line to line. Objectives change so I want to make you smile. I want to make you cry, I want to scare you, I want to wake you up, I want you to say, ”I love you.” I want you to laugh. Those are all choices and they determine how you’re going to say your lines…

As actors mature choices may become more personal or more commercial.

[6] Ephesians 4:22-24 (NET)

[7] Acts 5:3a (NET)

[8] Galatians 5:22, 23 (NET)

[9] Luke 12:1b (NET)

[10] Matthew 23:13 (NET)

[11] Matthew 23:15 (NET)

[12] Matthew 23:23 (NET)

[13] Matthew 23:25, 26 (NET)

[14] Matthew 23:27, 28 (NET)

[15] Matthew 23:29 (NET)

[16] 2 Corinthians 5:10 (NET)

[17] Titus 3:5a (NET)

[18] Matthew 6:33a (NET)

[19] John 3:21 (NET)

[20] Romans 3:22a (NET)

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 15

Again, the kingdom of heaven is like a net that was cast into the sea that caught all kinds of fish.  When it was full, they pulled it ashore, sat down, and put the good (καλὰ, a form of καλός) fish into containers and threw the bad (σαπρὰ, a form of σαπρός) away.  It will be this way at the end of the age.  Angels will come and separate the evil (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) from the righteous (δικαίων, a form of δίκαιος) and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.[1]  This parable about the kingdom of heaven focused commentators’ attentions on the church as opposed to the world at large.

“In the visible church,” Matthew Henry (1662-1714) wrote, “there is a deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin, as well as fish….Hypocrites and true Christians shall be parted.”[2]  John Gill (1697-1771) added, “as many as [the angels] find to have a good work of grace wrought and finished in their souls, they will gather into Christ’s barn, into the everlasting habitations, the mansions in Christ’s Father’s house, he is gone to prepare: but as for the bad, who shall appear to be destitute of the grace of God, and righteousness of Christ, notwithstanding their profession of religion, they shall be rejected, as good for nothing, and shall be cast into the lake which burns with fire and brimstone.”[3]

“Our Saviour never fails to keep before our minds the great truth that there is to be a day of judgment,” wrote Albert Barnes (1798-1870), “and that there will be a separation of the good and the evil.  He came to preach salvation; and it is a remarkable fact, also, that the most fearful accounts of hell and of the sufferings of the damned, in the Scriptures, are from his lips.  How does this agree with the representations of those who say that all will be saved?”[4]

On the meaning of σαπρὰ (a form of σαπρός) the Pulpit Commentary (1884) reads: [5]

Not to be pressed to mean “corrupt, dead fish, in a state of rottenness” (Goebel), for surely fishermen seldom get many of these, but simply the worthless, the unfit for use.  This would include the legally unclean.  Tristram writes,” The greater number of the species taken on the lake are rejected by the fishermen, and I have sat with them on the gunwale while they went through their net, and threw out into the sea those that were too small for the market or were considered unclean” (‘Nat. Hist. of Bible,’ p. 291, edit. 1889)

Watch out for false prophets, Jesus said, who come to you in sheep’s clothing but inwardly are voracious wolves.  You will recognize them by their fruit (καρπῶν, a form of καρπός).[6]  I can be fairly specific here: Does the would-be prophet demonstrate love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control,[7] the fruit (καρπὸς) of the Spirit?  Or does the would-be prophet practice (πράσσοντες, a form of πράσσω) sexual immorality (πορνεία), impurity, depravity, idolatry, sorcery, hostilities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, selfish rivalries, dissensions, factions, envying, murder, drunkenness, carousing,[8] the works (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον) of the flesh?

Jesus continued, Grapes are not gathered from thorns or figs from thistles, are they?  In the same way, every good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree bears good (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit, but the bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) tree bears bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit.[9]  I think it worth mentioning that the word translated bears is ποιεῖ (a form of ποιέω) in both occurrences.  A good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) tree is not able to bear bad (πονηροὺς, a form of πονηρός) fruit, Jesus continued, nor a bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) tree to bear good (καλοὺς, another form of καλός) fruit.[10]

Make a tree good (καλὸν, another form of καλός) and its fruit will be good (καλὸν, another form of καλός), Jesus said to religious people, or make a tree bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός) and its fruit will be bad (σαπρὸν, another form of σαπρός), for a tree is known by its fruit.[11]  I’ve written elsewhere how the religious mind reverses this teaching.  Every tree that does not bear good (καλὸν, another form of καλός) fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire, Jesus continued his warning about false prophets.  So then, you will recognize them by their fruit.[12]

This leads me inevitably to the old and new human (ἄνθρωπον, a form of ἄνθρωπος in Greek; I see no reason to specify gender).  You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old man who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind, and to put on (ἐνδύσασθαι, a form of ἐνδύω) the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.[13]  The word ἐνδύσασθαι means to sink into.  In movies the femme fatale slips into something more comfortable.  To put on the new human is considerably more macho.

I am working class all the way, rarely wear a suit.  If I do, it is to fit in, to impress or to intimidate.  It is a put-on in every sense of the word.  “Fake it until you make it” works in those situations when “you can fool all of the people some of the time.”  It doesn’t work with the new human because no creature is hidden from God, but everything is naked and exposed to the eyes of him to whom we must render an account.[14]  To put on the new human I must believe that God has prepared it beforehand, ready and able to respond as He would have me respond.

This new human is the one who has been fathered by God: We know that everyone fathered by God does not sin, but God protects the one he has fathered, and the evil one cannot touch him.[15]  Everyone who has been fathered by God does not practice sin, because God’s seed resides in him, and thus he is not able to sin, because he has been fathered by God.[16]  This new human is the one who is led by the Spirit: For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.[17]  The old human is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires.  It gets progressively worse, never better.

This was vividly portrayed for me—in me—the Saturday before Mother’s day.  I had a rare opportunity to be home.  My eighty-four-year-old mother asked me to finish trimming her bushes.  Now, of course, she had a particular way it needed to be done.  As I untangled the long extension cord that powered the trimmer I recalled that handling that cord caused her fall last summer.  She broke her hip and lay on the driveway for ten hours, parched and burnt in the sun and then shivering in the rain, until my sister found her.  But the whole time I trimmed those bushes the old human did nothing but bitch, moan and complain about her.

It didn’t affect my behavior.  (I trimmed her bushes to the best of my ability.  No, it wasn’t topiary by any stretch of the imagination.)  The old human didn’t affect my attitude toward her.  (I called and asked her to make sure.)  But I can hardly wait to be rid of the foul thing!  So when I hear—Angels will come and separate the evil from [ἐκ μέσου; literally “out from the midst of”] the righteous and throw them into the fiery furnace, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth—I wonder if that describes my release from this sin condemned in my flesh.  And I’m confounded that so many pastors thought instead of members of their congregations.  Why?

Do we differ in our understanding of the fruit of the Spirit?

“And here we may observe that as sin is called the work of the flesh,” Matthew Henry wrote, “because the flesh, or corrupt nature, is the principle that moves and excites men to it, so grace is said to be the fruit of the Spirit, because it wholly proceeds from the Spirit, as the fruit does from the root…”  John Gill was a bit more equivocal:  “Not of nature or man’s free will, as corrupted by sin, for no good fruit springs from thence; but either of the internal principle of grace, called the Spirit, Galatians 5:17 or rather of the Holy Spirit, as the Ethiopic version reads it; the graces of which are called ‘fruit’, and not ‘works’, as the actions of the flesh are; because they are owing to divine influence, efficacy, and bounty…”

Albert Barnes was explicit: “That which the Holy Spirit produces…Paul does not trace them to our own hearts, even when renewed.  He says that they are to be regarded as the proper result of the Spirit‘s operations on the soul.”  In the Pulpit Commentary the fruit of the Spirit was rationalized as “dispositions and states of mind,” and demeaned somewhat as “states of mind or habits of feeling [rather] than concrete actions,” but are still acknowledged as produced by the Holy Spirit: “[Paul] reckons up the dispositions and states of mind which it was the office of the Holy Spirit to produce in them.”

Do we differ in our understanding of the necessity and efficacy of God’s mercy?

“It is not of him that willeth….Applying this general rule to the particular case that Paul has before him,” wrote Matthew Henry, “the reason why the unworthy, undeserving, ill-deserving Gentiles are called, and grafted into the church, while the greatest part of the Jews are left to perish in unbelief, is not because those Gentiles were better deserving or better disposed for such a favour, but because of God’s free grace that made that difference.  The Gentiles did neither will it, nor run for it, for they sat in darkness, Matthew 4:16.  In darkness, therefore not willing what they knew not sitting in darkness, a contented posture, therefore not running to meet it, but anticipated with these invaluable blessings of goodness.  Such is the method of God’s grace towards all that partake of it, for he is found of those that sought him not (Isaiah 65:1) in this preventing, effectual, distinguishing grace, he acts as a benefactor, whose grace is his own.  Our eye therefore must not be evil because his is good…”

John Gill wrote: “but of God that sheweth mercy; in a free sovereign way and manner, which he is not obliged to by anything the creature wills or works; he is at full liberty, notwithstanding whatever they will or do, to give his grace and mercy, when, where, and to whom he pleases; and therefore to give it to some, and deny it to others, can never be accounted an act of injustice, since he is not bound to give it to any.”

Albert Barnes wrote: “But of God that showeth mercy – Salvation in its beginning, its progress, and its close, is of him.  He has a right, therefore, to bestow it when and where he pleases.  All our mercies flow from his mere love and compassion, and not from our deserts.  The essential idea here is, that God is the original fountain of all the blessings of salvation.”  The Pulpit Commentary doesn’t comment on Romans 9:16 directly but reads: “The argument (thus introduced by γὰρ) requires two understood premisses—that God cannot possibly be unrighteous, and that what he himself said to Moses must be true.”

Do we differ on who may be shown mercy?

Matthew Henry didn’t comment directly on Romans 11:32: “He shall turn away ungodliness from Jacob.  Christ’s errand into the world was to turn away ungodliness, to turn away the guilt by the purchase of pardoning mercy, and to turn away the power by the pouring out of renewing grace, to save his people from their sins (Matthew 1:21), to separate between us and our sins, that iniquity might not be our ruin, and that it might not be our ruler.  Especially to turn it away from Jacob, which is that for the sake of which he quotes the text, as a proof of the great kindness God intended for the seed of Jacob.”

So far so good.  Mr. Henry quoted Paul quoting Isaiah:


Parallel Greek


The Deliverer will come out of Zion; he will remove ungodliness from Jacob.

Romans 11:26b

ἥξει ἐκ Σιὼν ὁ ρυόμενος,

ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ἰακώβ.

Romans 11:26b

καὶ  ἥξει ἕνεκεν Σιων ὁ ῥυόμενος καὶ ἀποστρέψει ἀσεβείας ἀπὸ Ιακωβ

Isaiah 59:20

Then Mr. Henry quoted the same verse in Isaiah from the Masoretic text: “In Isaiah it is, The Redeemer shall come to Zion, and unto those that turn from transgression in Jacob, which shown who in Zion were to have a share in and to reap benefit by the deliverance promised, those and those only that leave their sins and turn to God to them Christ comes as a Redeemer, but as an avenger to those that persist in impenitence.”  Then he proposed an unbelievable solution: “Putting both these readings together, we learn that none have an interest in Christ but those that turn from their sins, nor can any turn from their sins but by the strength of the grace of Christ.”

In other words, no one can be saved since God will only show mercy to those who turn from their sins and none can turn from their sins apart from God’s mercy.  With a Gospel message like that we need not wonder at the “deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin” in his church.  That’s not quite fair.  Mr. Henry didn’t specify whether the “deal of trash and rubbish, dirt and weeds and vermin” were members of his own congregation or another.  According to an online bio “he began his regular ministry as non-conformist pastor of a Presbyterian congregation…”  Perhaps he wrote thus of Anglicans or Catholics.  But I think I understand why he had no comment to make on Paul’s declaration: For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.[18]

“Jews, though for the present unbelievers,” John Gill wrote, “yet it may be thought, that through the mercy the Gentiles had received, they would some time or other be provoked to seek for, and so obtain the same mercy, Romans 11:31, and the rather this may be given into and received, not only because they both have been in a state of unbelief, but the end and design of God in concluding them in it, were to have mercy on each of them, Romans 11:32…” I may be mistaken but I take Mr. Gill to mean that God will have mercy on some Jews and Gentiles (those who turn from their sins perhaps?).  Mr. Gill continued, “which dispensation of God both to one and to the other by turns, in different ways, was so amazing and unaccountable to the apostle, that he breaks out into admiration at the wisdom and knowledge of God…”

“Mercy is favor shown to the undeserving,” wrote Albert Barnes.  “It could not have been shown to the Jews and the Gentiles unless it was before proved that they were guilty.  For this purpose proof was furnished that they were all in unbelief….Thus, all people were on a level; and thus all might be admitted to heaven without any invidious distinctions, or any dealings that were not in accordance with mercy and love….It does not prove that all people will be saved; but that those who are saved shall be alike saved by the mercy of God; and that He intends to confer salvation on Jews and Gentiles on the same terms.”  I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassionSo then, it does not depend on human desire or exertion, but on God who shows mercy. [19]

“Thus the latter expression [e.g., Romans 11:32] is not in itself adducible in support of the doctrine of universalism,” the Pulpit Commentary reads.  “Certainly the prospect of a universal triumph of the gospel before the end rises here before the apostle in prophetic vision; and it may be that it carries with it to his mind further glories of eternal salvation for all, casting their rays backward over all past ages, so as to inspire an unbounded hope.  Such a hope, which seems elsewhere intimated (cf. 1 Corinthians 15:24-29; Ephesians 1:9, Ephesians 1:10, Ephesians 1:20-23; Colossians 1:15-20) would justify the glowing rhapsody of admiration and thanksgiving that follows more fully than if we supposed the apostle to contemplate still the eternal perdition of the multitudes who in all the ages have not on earth found mercy.”

Here the Pulpit Commentary referred to Romans 11:32-36 (NET):

For God has consigned all people to disobedience so that he may show mercy to them all.  Oh, the depth of the riches and wisdom and knowledge of God!  How unsearchable are his judgments and how fathomless his ways!  For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who has been his counselor?  Or who has first given to God, that God needs to repay him?  For from him and through him and to him are all things.  To him be glory forever!  Amen.

I’ll pick this up again later.

Condemnation or Judgment? – Part 16

Back to Romans, Part 77

Back to Romans, Part 78

[1] Matthew 13:47-50 (NET)

[2] Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary

[3] John Gill’s Exposition of the Whole Bible

[4] Albert Barnes Notes on the Bible

[5] Pulpit Commentary

[6] Matthew 7:15, 16a (NET)

[7] Galatians 5:22, 23a (NET)

[8] Galatians 5:19-21a (NET)

[9] Matthew 7:16b, 17(NET)

[10] Matthew 7:18 (NET)

[11] Matthew 12:33 (NET)

[12] Matthew 7:19, 20 (NET)

[13] Ephesians 4:22-24 (NET)

[14] Hebrews 4:13 (NET)

[15] 1 John 5:18 (NET)

[16] 1 John 3:9 (NET)

[17] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[18] Romans 11:32 (NET)

[19] Romans 9:15b, 16 (NET)

Romans, Part 73

I’ll continue to consider the dark side of Contribute (κοινωνοῦντες, a form of κοινωνέω) to the needs of the saints, pursue hospitality;[1] namely (2 John 1:9-11 NET):

Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God.  The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son.  If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting, because the person who gives him a greeting shares (κοινωνεῖ, another form of κοινωνέω) in his evil deeds.

I turn here to Love the Lord your Godwith all your mind (διανοίας, a form of διάνοια).[2]  Jesus didn’t say anything negative about the Pharisees’ or the law experts’ διανοίας.  He opened his disciples’ νοῦν, implying that they were closed formerly: Then he opened their minds (νοῦν, a form of νοῦς) so they could understand (συνιέναι, a form of συνίημι) the scriptures[3]  If I had known this when I began this study would I have called it something other than the religious mind?  Probably not.  I’m a Gentile with a philosophical bent to my mind.  Paul had something to say about that even if Jesus did not.

Though Pharisees and law experts might not have considered a Gentile mind religious, I’m using the term to mean all human efforts to satisfy (or, replace) a god or God (yehôvâh).  Even atheists can have religious minds as I use the term.  In fact my religious mind eventually undermined my atheism.  When I wanted to consider myself good again I invented “more realistic” rules than yehôvâh’s to obey.  I failed to obey them.  So I made “even more realistic” rules.  Eventually my standards were so low even I realized they were unworkable.  And I still wasn’t keeping them!

So I say this, and insist in the Lord, Paul wrote the church at Ephesus, that you no longer live as the Gentiles do, in the futility of their thinking (νοὸς, another form of νοῦς).  They are darkened in their understanding (διανοίᾳ, another form of διάνοια), being alienated from the life of God because of the ignorance (ἄγνοιαν, a form of ἄγνοια) that is in them due to the hardness of their hearts.[4]  So, loving yehôvâh with all your mind is equivalent to loving Him with all of one’s understanding.

The solution, by the way, to futile thinking was: You were taught with reference to your former way of life to lay aside the old (παλαιὸν, a form of παλαιός) man (ἄνθρωπον, a form of ἄνθρωπος) who is being corrupted in accordance with deceitful desires, to be renewed in the spirit of your mind (νοὸς, another form of νοῦς), and to put on the new man who has been created in God’s image – in righteousness and holiness that comes from truth.[5]  The old man we are to lay aside is our old (παλαιὸς) man (ἄνθρωπος) [that] was crucified with [Christ] so that the body of sin would no longer dominate us, so that we would no longer be enslaved to sin.[6]  Again, sharing in his death and resurrection through faith in Jesus proves to be an important aspect of the Gospel (Romans 6:3, 4 NET).

Or do you not know that as many as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? Therefore we have been buried with him through baptism into death, in order that just as Christ was raised from the dead through the glory of the Father, so we too may live a new life.

And you were at one time strangers and enemies in your minds (διανοίᾳ, another form of διάνοια) as expressed through your evil deeds,[7] Paul wrote Gentiles in Colossae.  The Greek words translated evil deeds here are τοῖς ἔργοις τοῖς πονηροῖς (a form of πονηρός).  In reference to Gentiles I have no doubt that Paul had sins in view, but even as an atheist my works were “full of labours, annoyances, and hardships.”  And although you were dead in your transgressions and sins, Paul wrote Gentiles in Ephesus, in which you formerly lived according to this world’s present path, according to the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the ruler of the spirit that is now energizing the sons of disobedience (ἀπειθείας, a form of ἀπείθεια), among whom all of us [even a former Pharisee] also formerly lived out our lives in the cravings of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and the mind (διανοιῶν, another form of διάνοια), and were by nature children of wrath even as the rest[8]

But God, Paul continued as he introduced the solution to this problem.  But first I want to consider yehôvâh’s promise of a new covenant.  For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds (διάνοιαν, another form of διάνοια) and I will inscribe them on their hearts (καρδίας, a form of καρδία).  And I will be their God and they will be my people.[9]  And again, This is the covenant that I will establish with them after those days, says the Lord. I will put my laws on their hearts (καρδίας, a form of καρδία) and I will inscribe them on their minds (διάνοιαν, another form of διάνοια)[10]

This is a quotation from Jeremiah 31:33.  The Greek texts are compared below.


Parallel Greek NETS


For this is the covenant that I will establish with the house of Israel after those days, says the Lord.  I will put my laws in their minds and I will inscribe them on their hearts. And I will be their God and they will be my people.

Hebrews 8:10

ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη, ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ἰσραὴλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας, λέγει κύριος· διδοὺς νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν ἐπιγράψω αὐτούς, καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς θεόν, καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονται μοι εἰς λαόν

Hebrews 8:10

…because this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, quoth the Lord.  Giving I will give my laws in their mind, and I will write them on their hearts, and I will become a god to them, and they shall become a people to me.

Ieremias 38:33 (31:33)

ὅτι αὕτη ἡ διαθήκη ἣν διαθήσομαι τῷ οἴκῳ Ισραηλ μετὰ τὰς ἡμέρας ἐκείνας φησὶν κύριος διδοὺς δώσω νόμους μου εἰς τὴν διάνοιαν αὐτῶν καὶ ἐπὶ καρδίας αὐτῶν γράψω αὐτούς καὶ ἔσομαι αὐτοῖς εἰς θεόν καὶ αὐτοὶ ἔσονταί μοι εἰς λαόν

Jeremiah 31:33

And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, Know (γνῶθι, a form of γινώσκω) the Lord, since they will all know (εἰδήσουσιν, a form of εἴδω; e.g., to know by seeing) me, from the least to the greatest,[11] the first passage continued.  The Greek texts are compared below:


Parallel Greek NETS


And there will be no need at all for each one to teach his countryman or each one to teach his brother saying, Know the Lord, since they will all know me, from the least to the greatest.

Hebrews 8:11

καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν πολίτην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἕκαστος τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων· γνῶθι τὸν κύριον, ὅτι πάντες εἰδήσουσιν με ἀπὸ μικροῦ ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν

Hebrews 8:11

And they shall not teach, each his fellow citizen and each his brother, saying, “Know the Lord,” because they shall all know me, from their small even to their great…

Ieremias 38:34a (31:34a)

καὶ οὐ μὴ διδάξωσιν ἕκαστος τὸν πολίτην αὐτοῦ καὶ ἕκαστος τὸν ἀδελφὸν αὐτοῦ λέγων γνῶθι τὸν κύριον ὅτι πάντες εἰδήσουσίν με ἀπὸ μικροῦ αὐτῶν καὶ ἕως μεγάλου αὐτῶν

Jeremiah 31:34a

And this knowing is eternal life according to Jesus: Now this is eternal life – that they know (γινώσκωσιν, another form of γινώσκω) you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you sent.[12]  And we know (οἴδαμεν, another form of εἴδω) that the Son of God has come and has given us insight (διάνοιαν, another form of διάνοια) to know him who is true, John wrote, and we are in him who is true, in his Son Jesus Christ.  This one is the true God and eternal life.[13]  The gift the Son of God has given here is διάνοιαν, the mind, understanding or insight with which we love yehôvâh.  Diminishing the scope of this gift to a place in heaven while turning back to the futility of [our former] thinking to work our own works of righteousness in our own strength demeans both Jesus and eternal life.

But God, being rich in mercy, Paul continued writing Gentiles in Ephesus, because of his great love with which he loved us, even though we were dead in transgressions, made us alive together with Christ – by grace you are saved! –and he raised us up with him and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, to demonstrate in the coming ages the surpassing wealth of his grace in kindness toward us in Christ Jesus.  For by grace you are saved through faith, and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God; it is not from works, so that no one can boast.  For we are his workmanship, having been created in Christ Jesus for good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.[14]

Love the Lord your Godwith all your strength (ἰσχύος, a form of ἰσχύς).[15]  I pray that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, Paul wrote Gentiles at Ephesus, the Father of glory, may give you spiritual wisdom and revelation in your growing knowledge (ἐπιγνώσει, a form of ἐπίγνωσις) of him, – since the eyes of your heart have been enlightened – so that you may know what is the hope of his calling, what is the wealth of his glorious inheritance in the saints, and what is the incomparable greatness of his power toward us who believe, as displayed in the exercise of his immense (ἰσχύος, a form of ἰσχύς) strength.[16]  Finally, he added, be strengthened in the Lord and in the strength (ἰσχύος, a form of ἰσχύς) of his power.[17]

To attempt to function on our own away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength (ἰσχύος, a form of ἰσχύς) was Paul’s description of eternal destruction: They will undergo the penalty of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his strength[18]  Whoever speaks, Peter wrote, let it be with God’s words.  Whoever serves, do so with the strength (ἰσχύος, a form of ἰσχύς) that God supplies, so that in everything God will be glorified through Jesus Christ.  To him belong the glory and the power forever and ever.  Amen.[19]  If we believe Him his ἰσχύος is our ἰσχύος, the ἰσχύος with which we love yehôvâh.

This[20] is the teaching of Christ as presented in the New Testament as opposed to the teaching of the religious mind.  Is it the teaching your teachers bring to you?  If not the person who gives him a greeting shares in his evil deeds, according to John.  I would be very wary of supporting that teacher financially.  This gives us a context for Paul’s admonition (Galatians 6:6-10 NET)

Now the one who receives instruction in the word must share (Κοινωνείτω, another form of κοινωνέω) all good things (ἀγαθοῖς, a form of ἀγαθός) with the one who teaches it.  Do not be deceived.  God will not be made a fool.  For a person will reap what he sows, because the person who sows to his own flesh will reap corruption from the flesh, but the one who sows to the Spirit will reap eternal life from the Spirit.  So we must not grow weary in doing good, for in due time we will reap, if we do not give up.  So then, whenever we have an opportunity, let us do good (ἀγαθὸν, another form of ἀγαθός) to all people, and especially to those who belong to the family of faith.

The teaching of Christ sows to the Spirit.  The teaching of the religious mind sows to [our] own flesh.  Money is not the only, or even the primary, good thing to share with the teacher of the word, the one who remains in the teaching of Christ“No servant can serve two masters,” Jesus said, “for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other.  You cannot serve God and money.”  The Pharisees [e.g., the New Testament epitome of those with religious minds] (who loved money) heard all this and ridiculed him.[21]

And need is the key to help make a determination what to contribute or share in.  The primary needs of all believers are: 1) the need to be baptized by Jesus in the Holy Spirit; 2) to believe that his Father knows our needs before we ask Him, and that He is willing to supply our needs; and 3) to accept that our most pressing need is to sit at Jesus’ feet, to listen and to live by every word that comes from the mouth of God.

But whoever has the world’s possessions and sees his fellow Christian in need (χρείαν, a form of χρεία), John wrote, and shuts off his compassion against him, how can the love of God reside in such a person?[22]  Make every effort to help Zenas the lawyer and Apollos on their way, Paul wrote Titus, make sure they have what they need (ἵνα μηδὲν αὐτοῖς λείπῃ; so that nothing or no one of theirs is left behind).  Here is another way that our people can learn to engage in good works to meet pressing needs (χρείας, another form of χρεία) and so not be unfruitful.[23]

My purpose was not to minimize these more obvious aspects of contributing to the needs of the saints, but to highlight how much broader this contributing, or sharing in, actually is in the New Testament.  I’ll conclude this with Peter’s contribution to the needs of the saints as something which we all share with one another (1 Peter 4:12-14 NET):

Dear friends, do not be astonished that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as though something strange were happening to you.  But rejoice (χαίρετε, a form of χαίρω) in the degree that you have shared (κοινωνεῖτε, another form of κοινωνέω) in the sufferings (παθήμασιν, a form of πάθημα) of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice (ἀγαλλιώμενοι, a form of ἀγαλλιάω) and be glad (χαρῆτε, another form of χαίρω).  If you are insulted for the name of Christ, you are blessed, because the Spirit of glory, who is the Spirit of God, rests on you.

Do not neglect hospitality (φιλοξενίας , a form of φιλονεξία), because through it some have entertained angels without knowing it.[24]  This is the only other occurrence of a form of φιλονεξία in the New Testament.  But I hope I have been persuasive that when Paul wrote pursue hospitality (φιλοξενίαν, another form of φιλονεξία) he did not intend to pen a “law of Paul,” a rule to be obeyed, something to pursue (διώκοντες, a form of διώκω) in one’s own strength.  His intent was that this “love to strangers” would flow naturally (e.g., supernaturally) from the Spirit of God through the believer and out into the world, one of the good works that God prepared beforehand so we may do them.[25]

[1] Romans 12:13 (NET)

[2] Mark 12:30a (NET)

[3] Luke 24:45 (NET)

[4] Ephesians 4:17, 18 (NET)

[5] Ephesians 4:22-24 (NET)

[6] Romans 6:6 (NET)

[7] Colossians 1:21 (NET)

[8] Ephesians 2:1-3 (NET)

[9] Hebrews 8:10 (NET)

[10] Hebrews 10:16 (NET)

[11] Hebrews 8:11 (NET)

[12] John 17:3 (NET)

[13] 1 John 5:20 (NET)

[14] Ephesians 2:4-10 (NET)

[15] Mark 12:30a (NET)

[16] Ephesians 1:17-19 (NET)

[17] Ephesians 6:10 (NET)

[18] 2 Thessalonians 1:9 (NET)

[19] 1 Peter 4:11 (NET)

[20] I am considering Romans, Part 71 and Romans, Part 72 here as well, not as an exhaustive study but as a fairly thorough study of the teaching of Christ on the issue of contributing.

[21] Luke 16:13, 14 (NET)

[22] 1 John 3:17 (NET)

[23] Titus 3:13, 14 (NET)

[24] Hebrews 13:2 (NET)

[25] Ephesians 2:10b (NET)