To Make Holy, Part 1

Paul wrote the church at Thessalonica (1 Thessalonians 5:12-18 NET):

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work.  Be at peace among yourselves.  And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish the undisciplined, comfort the discouraged, help the weak, be patient toward all.  See that no one pays back evil for evil to anyone, but always pursue what is good for one another and for all.  Always rejoice, constantly pray, in everything give thanks.  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

At first glance it seems that Paul has written a fairly long list of “works” for believers to do.  But I want to break it down a little bit.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge (εἰδέναι, a form of εἴδω; to see, to notice)… …those who labor among you and preside over you in the Lord and admonish you…because of their work.
…and to esteem (ἡγεῖσθαι, a form of ἡγέομαι) them most highly (ὑπερεκπερισσοῦ) in love (ἀγάπῃ, a form of ἀγάπη)… But the fruit of the Spirit is love (ἀγάπη).

So how hard is it really for me to notice those—who labor for my benefit, preside over me in the Lord and admonish me—because of their work?  And then, once I have noticed, to take the love that wells up in me from the Holy Spirit and to esteem (or, lead) them [who labor so diligently on my behalf] most highly in love?  I see only two things that make this difficult or even impossible: 1) I am not led by the Spirit of God and so I do not have this love for those who benefit me so greatly nor do I have eyes to see them; or, 2) they do not admonish me to live by the Spirit of God yet still expect me to love them in my own strength according to a rule Paul commanded.  You will recognize them by their fruit,[1] Jesus said.

Be at peace (εἰρηνεύετε, a form of εἰρηνεύω) among yourselves. But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace (εἰρήνη, a form of εἰρήνη).

So how hard is really to be at peace with others?  Again, I see only two things that make this difficult or even impossible: 1) I am not led by the Spirit of God and so I do not have this peace to share with others; or, 2) they do not live by the Spirit of God but try to make peace in some arbitrary way according to a rule Paul commanded.

And we urge you, brothers and sisters, admonish (νουθετεῖτε, a form of νουθετέω) the undisciplined…

Paul used another form of νουθετέω earlier, those whoadmonish (νουθετοῦντας) you.  Admittedly, I don’t see a simple one-to-one correspondence with some aspect of the fruit of the Spirit here.  But Paul believed that he did this in the power of the Holy Spirit: God wanted to make known to them, Paul wrote the Colossians, the glorious riches of this mystery among the Gentiles, which is Christ in you, the hope of glory.  We proclaim him by instructing (νουθετοῦντες, another form of νουθετέω) and teaching all people with all wisdom so that we may present every person mature in Christ.  Toward this goal I also labor, struggling according to his power that powerfully works in me.[2]

If someone isn’t up to the task of instructing and teaching the undisciplined, Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and exhorting (νουθετοῦντες, another form of νουθετέω) one another with all wisdom, singing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs, all with grace in your hearts to God.[3]  Just be sure those psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs proclaim the grace of God and the indwelling Spirit of Christ in you, the hope of glory rather than rules commanded by Paul or your church or your own imagination.

I’ll admit to being a bit gun-shy and perhaps even a little unfaithful about too many people attempting to instruct and teach as Paul did.  But he wrote Roman believers, I myself am fully convinced [in the God of hopeby the power of the Holy Spirit] about you, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, and able to instruct (νουθετεῖν, another form of νουθετέω) one another.[4]  This goodness (ἀγαθωσύνης, a form of ἀγαθωσύνη) flowed from the Hoy Spirit: But the fruit of the Spirit isgoodness (ἀγαθωσύνη).

Paul wrote about how to admonish one another: if anyone does not obey (ὑπακούει, a form of ὑπακούω) our message through this letter, take note of him and do not associate closely with him, so that he may be ashamed.  Yet do not regard him as an enemy, but admonish (νουθετεῖτε, a form of νουθετέω) him as a brother.[5]  Even from among your own group men will arise, teaching perversions of the truth to draw the disciples away after them.  Therefore be alert, remembering that night and day for three years I did not stop warning (νουθετῶν, another form of νουθετέω) each one of you with tears.  And now I entrust you to God and to the message of his grace.  This message is able to build you up and give you an inheritance among all those who are sanctified (ἡγιασμένοις, another form of ἁγιάζω).[6]

…comfort (παραμυθεῖσθε, a form of παραμυθέομαι) the discouraged (ὀλιγοψύχους, a form of ὀλιγόψυχος)… But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness (χρηστότης).

This comfort was consolation in John’s Gospel narrative: many of the Jewish people of the region had come to Martha and Mary to console (παραμυθήσωνται, another form of παραμυθέομαι) them over the loss of their brother.[7]  And people who were with Mary in the house consoling (παραμυθούμενοι, another form of παραμυθέομαι) herfollowed her[8] to her brother’s tomb.  As you know, Paul wrote the Thessalonians, we treated each one of you as a father treats his own children, exhorting and encouraging (παραμυθούμενοι, another form of παραμυθέομαι) you and insisting that you live in a way worthy of God who calls you to his own kingdom and his glory.[9]  The Greek word ὀλιγοψύχους, translated discouraged was only used this once.  It is a compound of ὀλίγος (puny) and ψυχή (breath, spirit).  The kindness of the Holy Spirit flows from the wealth of his kindness (χρηστότητος, a form of χρηστότης), forbearance, and patienceGod’s kindness (χρηστὸν, a form χρηστός) leads you to repentance.[10]

…help (ἀντέχεσθε, a form of ἀντέχομαι) the weak (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής)… But the fruit of the Spirit is love (ἀγάπη).

The help (ἀντέχεσθε, a form of ἀντέχομαι) we are to be to the weak was translated he will be devoted (ἀνθέξεται, another form of ἀντέχομαι) in Matthew 6:24 (NET) and Luke 16:13 (NET).  An elder must hold firmly (ἀντεχόμενον, another form of ἀντέχομαι) to the faithful message as it has been taught, so that he will be able to give exhortation (παρακαλεῖν, a form of παρακαλέω) in such healthy teaching and correct those who speak against it.[11]

Any and all of us in the flesh qualify as the weak (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής): The spirit is willing, but the flesh is weak (ἀσθενής).[12]  For while we were still helpless (ἀσθενῶν, a form of ἀσθενής), at the right time Christ died for the ungodly (ἀσεβῶν, a form of ἀσεβής).  (For rarely will anyone die for a righteous person, though for a good person perhaps someone might possibly dare to die.)  But God demonstrates his own love (ἀγάπην, a form of ἀγάπη) for us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.[13]  And apart from his love (ἀγάπη) flowing through us from his Holy Spirit we will continue to be the weak, those who live according to the flesh rather than those who live according to Spirit (Romans 8:5-14 NET).

For those who live according to the flesh have their outlook shaped by the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit have their outlook shaped by the things of the Spirit.  For the outlook of the flesh is death, but the outlook of the Spirit is life and peace, because the outlook of the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to the law of God, nor is it able to do so.  Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.  You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God lives in you.  Now if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this person does not belong to him.  But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, but the Spirit is your life because of righteousness.  Moreover if the Spirit of the one who raised Jesus from the dead lives in you, the one who raised Christ from the dead will also make your mortal bodies alive through his Spirit who lives in you.

So then, brothers and sisters, we are under obligation, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh (for if you live according to the flesh, you will die), but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body you will live.  For all who are led by the Spirit of God are the sons of God.


…be patient (μακροθυμεῖτε, a form of μακροθυμέω) toward all. But the fruit of the Spirit is…patience (μακροθυμία, a form of μακροθυμία).
See that no one pays back (ἀποδῷ, a form of ἀποδίδωμι) evil (κακὸν, a form of κακός) for evil (κακοῦ, another form of κακός) to anyone… But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness (πίστις).

Surely, that we will be patient toward all with the patience that comes from the Holy Spirit requires no additional explanation from me.  As for faith or faithfulness restraining us from paying back evil for evil: The Greek word translated evil was κακός, intrinsically evil, not πονηρός.  I don’t mean to imply that if someone gives me a complicated list of rules to obey to make myself righteous that I am then free to do unto him as he has done unto me because Paul didn’t use πονηρός here.  I mean that when someone does κακός, real intrinsic evil, to me I am inclined even as a Christian, perhaps especially as a Christian, to think all bets are off.

But Jesus said, the Son of Man will come with his angels in the glory of his Father, and then he will reward (ἀποδώσει, another form of ἀποδίδωμι) each person according to what he has done.[14]  The Greek words ἀποδώσει, translated he will reward and ἀποδῷ, translated pays back, are both forms of ἀποδίδωμι.  Jesus’ faithfulness flowing into me through his Holy Spirit can restrain my fists and my tongue, soothe my anger, in time cause me to forgive and pray mercy for the one who wronged me.  My faith will accomplish none of this.  For through the Spirit, by faith (πίστεως, another form of πίστις), we wait expectantly for the hope of righteousness.  For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision carries any weight – the only thing that matters is faith (πίστις) working through love (ἀγάπης, another form of ἀγάπη).[15]

This is a good place to remind myself that I’m doing something very arbitrary in this essay, dividing the fruit of the Spirit into constituent parts.  It is one, indivisible.  In crisis moments that “water cannon” eroding away my ungodliness becomes fully that fountain of water springing up to eternal life , making me buoyant, lifting me above and beyond myself, flooding me with God’s own love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control.[16]  Clearly, I might have written about ἐγκράτεια here.  The main reason I did not is that pesky self in the NET translation.

…but always pursue what is good (ἀγαθὸν, a form of ἀγαθός) for one another and for all. But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness (ἀγαθωσύνη).
Always rejoice (χαίρετε, a form of χαίρω)… But the fruit of the Spirit is…joy (χαρὰ).

Our pursuit of what is good is both directed and energized by God’s goodness flowing from his Holy Spirit.  I’ve written elsewhere about relying on his joy.[17]

…constantly pray (προσεύχεσθε, a form of προσεύχομαι)… In the same way, the Spirit helps us in our weakness, for we do not know how we should pray (προσευξώμεθα, another form of προσεύχομαι), but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with inexpressible groanings.  And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes on behalf of the saints according to God’s will.[18]

Prayer is intimately bound up with being led by the Spirit.  I would like to accentuate that we do not know how we should pray because the Spirit helps us in our weakness as opposed to our arrogance.  The Greek words translated how we should were καθὸ δεῖ, according to necessityFrom that time on Jesus began to show his disciples that he must (δεῖ) go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, chief priests, and experts in the law, and be killed, and on the third day be raised.[19]  Let me chase that immediately with a somewhat out of context but completely applicable verse: For if the eagerness is present, the gift itself is acceptable according to (καθὸ, a form of καθό) whatever one has, not according to (καθὸ, a form of καθό) what he does not have.[20]  Don’t be scared off by insufficient knowledge.  I feel like a single guy telling married couples how they must have sex.  This must is important enough even to do badly—and often.

Something that has helped me with both prayer and Bible study is a line from James: Understand this, my dear brothers and sisters!  Let every person be quick to listen, slow to speak, slow to anger.[21]  But again, that may be personal for me.  I have a sharp tongue and a quick temper.  Shutting up and listening in prayer brought me face to face so to speak with the virtually bottomless insanity of my own mind.  But I won’t get into that here.  Pray with the Holy Spirit rather than on your own.

…in everything give thanks (εὐχαριστεῖτε, a form of εὐχαριστέω). But the fruit of the Spirit is…faithfulness (πίστις).

I returned again to faith.  It seems like a good place to end.  If I, for instance, hear everything Paul has written above as rules I must obey to prove that I am a Christian, I am weary, frightened and not very grateful.  For this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus, Paul concluded this list.  By faith I can hear this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus as this is what his Holy Spirit is doing in and through you moment by moment.  And suddenly I’m not so weary, much less frightened and filled with gratitude.  Paul continued writing about the Spirit, if we have ears to hear it (1 Thessalonians 5:19-22 NET).

Do not extinguish the Spirit.  Do not treat prophecies with contempt.  But examine all things; hold fast to what is good (καλὸν, a form of καλός).  Stay away from every form of evil (πονηροῦ, a form of πονηρός).

And sometime I would do well to go through these in detail.  But this essay has gone long and I need to get to the point.  Paul concluded his remarks with the assurance that all of this is God’s work and not our own (1 Thessalonians 5:23, 24 NET):

Now may the God of peace himself make you completely holy (ἁγιάσαι, a form of ἁγιάζω; KJV, sanctify you wholly) and may your spirit and soul and body be kept entirely blameless at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.  He who calls you is trustworthy, and he will in fact do this.

To Make Holy, Part 2

[1] Mathew 7:16a (NET)

[2] Colossians 1:27-29 (NET)

[3] Colossians 3:16 (NET)

[4] Romans 15:14 (NET)

[5] 2 Thessalonians 3:14, 15 (NET)

[6] Acts 20:30-32 (NET)

[7] John 11:19 (NET)

[8] John 11:31 (NET)

[9] 1 Thessalonians 2:11, 12 (NET)

[10] Romans 2:4 (NET)

[11] Titus 1:9 (NET)

[12] Matthew 26:41b, Mark 14:38b

[13] Romans 5:6-8 (NET)

[14] Matthew 16:27 (NET)

[15] Galatians 5:5, 6 (NET)

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

[17] Romans, Part 60; Paul in Corinth; Romans, Part 52; Romans, Part 53; My Reasons and My Reason, Part 6; Romans, Part 68; Romans, Part 70

[18] Romans 8:26, 27 (NET)

[19] Matthew 16:21 (NET)

[20] 2 Corinthians 8:12 (NET)

[21] James 1:19 (NET)

Romans, Part 48

I want to continue with the next item in Paul’s list of the different gifts (χαρίσματα, a form of χάρισμα)[1] we have according to the grace given to us.[2]  If [the gift] is leadership (προϊστάμενος, a form of προΐστημι),[3] he must do so with diligence (σπουδῇ)…[4]

I want προϊστάμενος to mean προηγούμενοι (a form of προηγέομαι),[5] go first and leave a trail.  That’s what the Holy Spirit says to me about leadership.  Follow me, Jesus said.  Paul wrote, Be devoted to one another with mutual love, showing eagerness (προηγούμενοι, a form of προηγέομαι) in honoring one another.[6]  So when Paul used προηγούμενοι he wanted me to “lead the way” in honoring others.  When he wrote about leadership he used the word προϊστάμενος (a form of προΐστημι), which seems to imply a less itinerant existence, the good shepherd who lays down his life for the sheep by living among them and protecting them rather than dying for them.

To overcome my own bias I’ll start with things Paul didn’t mean about προϊστάμενος (leadership).  He certainly didn’t mean πλανάω,[7] “to lead astray.”  Do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God?  Paul asked rhetorically.  Do not be deceived (πλανᾶσθε, a form of πλανάω)!  The sexually immoral, idolaters, adulterers, passive homosexual partners, practicing homosexuals, thieves, the greedy, drunkards, the verbally abusive, and swindlers will not inherit the kingdom of God.[8]  And the implication is that some claiming the gift of leadership were teaching these very things.

I don’t want this to come down disproportionately hard on those who favor the “Side A” position discussed on the Gay Christian Network website.[9]  My reasons can wait for another essay.  For now I will simply quote Paul’s own words (1 Corinthians 6:11 NET):

Some of you once lived this way.  But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.

In other words, despite his assertion that such sinners will not inherit the kingdom of God, Paul did not dispute that God called, sanctified, and justified them in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God.  The most anyone can assert about this passage is the Apostle’s fervent belief that sinners who were washed…sanctified and justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God would not continue in sin.

Do not be deceived (πλανᾶσθε, a form of πλανάω): “Bad company corrupts good morals.”  Sober up as you should, and stop sinning!  For some have no knowledge of God – I say this to your shame![10]  Do not be deceived (πλανᾶσθε, a form of πλανάω).  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.[11]  But evil people and charlatans will go from bad to worse, deceiving (πλανῶντες, another form of πλανάω) others and being deceived (πλανώμενοι, another form of πλανάω) themselves.[12]

Still, for Paul it was not a simple matter of “we” the good guys versus “they” the evil deceivers leading themselves and others astray:  For we too were once foolish, disobedient, misled (πλανώμενοι, another form of πλανάω), enslaved to various passions and desires, spending our lives (διάγοντες, a form of διάγω)[13] in evil and envy, hateful and hating one another.[14]  Here we are introduced to ἄγω,[15] the primary verb to lead.  I’ll look at that after I finish with πλανάω.

The difference between Paul in his past as Saul along with others who were led astray, and Paul in his present as an Apostle of Christ, was the Father’s call through the resurrected Jesus and the indwelling Holy Spirit, God, in a word and not something intrinsic in Paul himself.  For the appeal we make does not come from error (πλάνης, a form of πλάνη)[16] or impurity or with deceit, but just as we have been approved by God to be entrusted with the gospel, so we declare it, not to please people but God, who examines our hearts.[17]

For Paul the word πλάνη (one led astray) not only described his former life but the natural state of all humanity.   Hear, for instance, how he described God’s wrath[18] on those who worshiped and served the creation rather than the Creator:[19] God gave them over to dishonorable passions.  For their women exchanged the natural sexual relations for unnatural ones, and likewise the men also abandoned natural relations with women and were inflamed in their passions for one another.  Men committed shameless acts with men and received in themselves the due penalty for their error (πλάνης, a form of πλάνη).[20]

But in Christ we are all empowered to overcome our natural state: So we are no longer to be children, tossed back and forth by waves and carried about by every wind of teaching by the trickery of people who craftily carry out their deceitful schemes (μεθοδείαν[21] τῆς πλάνης).[22]  While there is nothing particularly wrong with translating πλάνης error or deceitful, it implies awareness and ill-purpose.  And we might be led astray by the earnest sincerity of one led astray, one who does not know that his method or way leads others astray, one who wasn’t gifted with leadership (προϊστάμενος, a form of προΐστημι).

Paul also wrote (2 Corinthians 2:4-11 NET):

For out of great distress and anguish of heart I wrote to you with many tears, not to make you sad, but to let you know the love (ἀγάπην, a form of ἀγάπη)[23] that I have especially for you.  But if anyone has caused sadness, he has not saddened me alone, but to some extent (not to exaggerate) he has saddened all of you as well.  This punishment on such an individual by the majority is enough for him, so that now instead you should rather forgive (χαρίσασθαι, a form of χαρίζομαι)[24] and comfort (παρακαλέσαι, a form of παρακαλέω)[25] him.  This will keep him from being overwhelmed by excessive grief to the point of despair.  Therefore I urge (παρακαλῶ, a form of παρακαλέω) you to reaffirm your love (ἀγάπην, a form of ἀγάπη) for him.  For this reason also I wrote you: to test you to see if you are obedient in everything.  If you forgive (χαρίζεσθε, a form of χαρίζομαι) anyone for anything, I also forgive him – for indeed what I have forgiven (κεχάρισμαι, a form of χαρίζομαι) (if I have forgiven [κεχάρισμαι, a form of χαρίζομαι] anything) I did so for you in the presence of Christ, so that we may not be exploited by Satan (for we are not ignorant of his schemes [νοήματα, a form of νόημα][26]).

I can’t help but think that the forgiveness, comfort and love that played such an important role in keeping the Corinthians from being exploited by Satan’s schemes might be key as well to thwarting people’s methods or ways that lead astray (μεθοδείαν τῆς πλάνης).

As I turn here to ἄγω it is possible to glean what the gift of leadership (προϊστάμενος, a form of προΐστημι) is like.  God’s kindness leads (ἄγει, a form of ἄγω) you to repentance.[27]  It is not too much to expect one with the gift of leadership to exhibit God’s kindness, forbearance, and patience.  The gifted leader exhorts us with: all who are led (ἄγονται, a form of ἄγω) by the Spirit of God are the sons of God,[28] and teaches us: if you are led (ἄγεσθε, a form of ἄγω) by the Spirit, you are not under the law.[29]  The gifted leader is not overly interested in money.  For the love of money is the root of all evils.  Some people in reaching for it have strayed (ἀπεπλανήθησαν, a form of ἀποπλανάω)[30] from the faith and stabbed themselves with many pains.[31]

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, Paul wrote the Thessalonians, to acknowledge those who labor among you and preside over (προϊσταμένους, another form of προΐστημι) you in the Lord and admonish you, and to esteem them most highly in love because of their work.[32]  [The overseer] must manage (προϊστάμενον, another form of προΐστημι) his own household well and keep his children in control without losing his dignity.[33]  Though the overseer may be an itinerant position, one must exhibit that lay-down-his-life leadership at home first with his family.

Paul’s exhortation, Do not lag (σπουδῇ) in zeal, be enthusiastic in spirit, serve the Lord,[34] gives me a picture of the diligence (σπουδῇ) one should demonstrate in the exercise of God’s gift of leadership.   It is translated eagerness in, 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.[35]

Romans, Part 49

Back to My Reasons and My Reason, Part 1

[2] Romans 12:6a (NET)

[4] Romans 12:8 (NET)

[6] Romans 12:10 (NET)

[8] 1 Corinthians 6:9, 10 (NET)

[10] 1 Corinthians 15:33, 34 (NET)

[11] Galatians 6:7, 8 (NET)

[12] 2 Timothy 3:13 (NET)

[14] Titus 3:3 (NET)

[17] 1 Thessalonians 2:3, 4 (NET)

[18] Romans 1:18 (NET)

[19] Romans 1:25 (NET)

[20] Romans 1:26, 27 (NET)

[22] Ephesians 4:14 (NET)

[27] Romans 2:4b (NET)

[28] Romans 8:14 (NET)

[29] Galatians 5:18 (NET)

[31] 1 Timothy 6:10 (NET)

[32] 1 Thessalonians 5:12, 13 (NET)

[33] 1 Timothy 3:4 (NET)

[34] Romans 12:11 (NET)

[35] 2 Corinthians 8:7 (NET)

You Must Be Gentle, Part 2

Neither Alexander or his evil stepfather appear during the whipping sequence in “Fanny and Alexander.”  The whipping was implied with a sound effect and a series of close-ups of the witnesses.   There was nothing titillating for a spankophile (though Justine’s pained expression was ambiguous and difficult for me to read).  There was no homoeroticism.  There was nothing to distract one from the bitter irony of a man who, in the guise of punishment for lying, bullied and tortured a boy into a false confession.

Alexander made a brave, if short-lived, stand against confessing something he didn’t believe.  One stroke of the cane later he caved like a little girl.  Frankly, I was embarrassed for Alexander.  The boy Jose in “For Greater Glory” was tortured to death rather than deny his support for the Cristeros, who rebelled against Mexico during Plutarco Elías Calles’ persecution of the Catholic Church.  To be fair, Jose may have been based on a real boy strengthened by the Spirit of God.

Alexander, though Bergman’s alter-ego in the movie, was a fictional character whose reactions were dictated by the writer/director’s rhetorical or dramatic needs.  The pyrrhic victory of Alexander’s evil stepfather stands as a brilliant illustration of Jesus’ warning to hypocrites, 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![1]  The real Ingmar Bergman, as far as I know, rejected his real father’s Lutheran faith with as much vigor as Jose refused to forswear himself.

It got me thinking about growing up in the cult of boyhood.  The cult derides a boy who can’t take it, whether pain or derision.  It lauds a boy who runs at full speed, throws his body down, and slides through dirt and gravel, to be called “safe.”  Bruises and blood are marks of honor.  Tears are forbidden.  The only acceptable response to pain is swearing or responding in kind, returning blow for blow.  Boys are little soldiers in training.  Anyone attempting to use physical pain to force a boy to forswear himself should be prepared for the violence that may require.

I have no idea if Erik Bergman treated his son Ingmar as ruthlessly as the evil stepfather treated Alexander.  I only know that any attempt to produce faith and repentance in another through bullying and torture is a folly of the religious mind.  Faith and repentance come from the Holy Spirit.

Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know (ἀγνοῶν, a form of ἀγνοέω)[2] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance (μετάνοιαν, a form of μετάνοια)?[3]  And Paul counseled Timothy, the Lord’s slave must not engage in heated disputes but be kind toward all, an apt teacher, patient, correcting opponents with gentleness (πραΰτητι, a form of πραΰτης).[4]  Perhaps God will grant them repentance (μετάνοιαν, a form of μετάνοια) and then knowledge (ἐπίγνωσιν, a form of ἐπίγνωσις)[5] of the truth[6]

As the ghost of Alexander’s “good” father said, “You must be gentle with people, Alexander.”  And gentleness is an aspect of the fruit of the Spirit: the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness (πραΰτης), and self-control.  Against such things there is no law.[7]


[1] Matthew 23:15 (NET)

[3] Romans 2:4 (NET)

[6] 2 Timothy 2:24, 25 (NET)

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

Romans, Part 8

Paul continued writing to those who do not know that God’s kindness leads you to repentance (μετάνοιαν, a form of μετάνοια).[1]  But because of your stubbornness (σκληρότητα, a form of σκληρότης)[2] and your unrepentant (ἀμετανόητον, a form of ἀμετανόητος)[3] heart, you are storing up wrath (ὀργὴν, a form of ὀργή)[4] for yourselves in the day of wrath (ὀργῆς, another form of ὀργή), when God’s righteous judgment (δικαιοκρισίας, a form of δικαιοκρισία)[5] is revealed (ἀποκαλύψεως, a form of ἀποκάλυψις)![6]

The Greek word σκληρότητα (a form of σκληρότης) is only used this once in the New Testament, but it comes from the word σκληρός[7] (dry, hard, tough).  In “The Parable of the Talents” (Matthew 25:14-30) the evil and lazy slave[8] described his master as a hard (σκληρός) man, harvesting where you did not sow, and gathering where you did not scatter seed.[9]

Jesus said, I tell you the solemn truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in yourselves.  The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up on the last day.  For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink.  The one who eats my flesh and drinks my blood resides in me, and I in him.[10]  His own disciples responded, This is a difficult (σκληρός) saying!  Who can understand it?[11]  Jesus’ explanation is right on target for the study of Paul’s letter to the Romans, The Spirit is the one who gives life; human nature is of no help!  The words that I have spoken to you are spirit and are life.[12]

Paul, recounting his own experience resisting repentance, told King Agrippa what Jesus had said to him on the Damascus road: When we had all fallen to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me in Aramaic, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?  You are hurting (σκληρός) yourself by kicking against the goads.”[13]

James wrote about harsh (σκληρῶν, a form of σκληρός) winds,[14] and Jude about harsh (σκληρῶν, a form of σκληρός) words (Jude 1:14, 15 NET).

Now Enoch, the seventh in descent beginning with Adam, even prophesied of them, saying, “Look!  The Lord is coming with thousands and thousands of his holy ones, to execute judgment (κρίσιν, a form of κρίσις)[15] on all, and to convict (ἐλέγξαι, a form of ἐλέγχω)[16] every person of all their thoroughly ungodly (ἀσεβείας, a form of ἀσέβεια)[17] deeds (ἔργων, a form of ἔργον)[18] that they have committed (ἠσέβησαν, a form of ἀσεβέω),[19] and of all the harsh (σκληρῶν, a form of σκληρός) words that ungodly (ἀσεβεῖς, a form of ἀσεβής)[20] sinners (ἁμαρτωλοὶ, a form of ἁμαρτωλός)[21] have spoken against him.”

This day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealed[22] is the reason Paul said, So then, do not judge (κρίνετε, a form of κρίνω)[23] anything before the time.  Wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts.  Then each will receive recognition from God.[24]

As far as an unrepentant (ἀμετανόητον, a form of ἀμετανόητος) heart is concerned, ἀμετανόητος is probably the negation of μετανοέω, to think differently, reconsider.  I’ve already written about the righteous prayer that justified (δεδικαιωμένος, a form of δικαιόω)[25] the tax collector who prayed it, God, be merciful to me, sinner that I am![26]  In the specific context of Paul’s letter to the Romans it is not too difficult for a repentant heart to find itself in the wide net Paul cast in chapter 1:18-32.  Anyone can pray, “God be merciful to me.  I have been given over to a depraved mind because I did not see fit to acknowledge you.”[27]  Or, “God be merciful to me.  I have been given over to dishonorable passions because I worshiped and served the creation rather than you.”[28]  Or, “God be merciful to me.  I have been given over to impurity because I worshiped you as if you were a created thing.  I haven’t glorified you or given you thanks.”[29]

In the context of Romans the real stubbornness (σκληρότητα, a form of σκληρότης) at this point would be to continue to assert one’s own righteousness before God, to persist in the effort to make oneself righteous (whether that be according to his law or on one’s own terms) rather than accept his mercy and grace.  It is to this stubborn and unrepentant heart that Paul warns, you are storing up wrath for yourselves in the day of wrath, when God’s righteous judgment is revealedHe will reward each one according to his works (ἔργα, a form of ἔργον):[30]

eternal life to those who by perseverance in good works seek glory and honor and immortality, but wrath and anger to those who live in selfish ambition and do not obey the truth but follow  unrighteousness.  There will be affliction and distress on everyone who does evil, on the Jew first and also the Greek, but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, for the Jew first and also the Greek.  For there is no partiality with God.  For all who have sinned apart from the law will also perish apart from the law, and all who have sinned under the law will be judged (κριθήσονται, another form of κρίνω) by the law.[31]

Romans, Part 9 

[1] Romans 2:4 (NET)

[6] Romans 2:5 (NET)

[9] Matthew 25:24 (NET)

[10] John 6:53-56 (NET)

[11] John 6:60 (NET)

[12] John 6:63 (NET)

[13] Acts 26:14 (NET)

[14] James 3:4 (NET)

[22] Romans 2:5 (NET)

[24] 1 Corinthians 4:5 (NET)

[26] Luke 18:13b (NET)

[30] Romans 2:5, 6 (NET)

[31] Romans 2:7-12 (NET)

Romans, Part 7

What follows Paul’s history of sin is not the wholesale condemnation one might expect.  In my opinion Paul learned something profound and difficult from his experience in Corinth, his judgment of the Corinthians in general, his specific judgment of the man who was cohabiting with his father’s wife,[1] and the affliction that happened to him in the province of Asia, that he was burdened excessively, beyond his strength, so that he despaired even of living.[2]  Unlike God’s wrath revealed from heaven, this affliction came with comfort and restoration as its goal.

So after Paul wrote a history of sin from the time of Noah to the present he did not launch into a polemic against the worst and most blatant sinners.  Instead—knowing he probably addressed Jews, God-fearers or other Gentiles who had attached themselves to a Jewish synagogue, he spoke directly to them.   Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge (κρίνων, a form of κρίνω)[3] someone else.  For on whatever grounds you judge (κρίνεις, another form of κρίνω) another, you condemn (κατακρίνεις, a form of κατακρίνω)[4] yourself, because you who judge (κρίνων, a form of κρίνω) practice (πράσσεις, a form of πράσσω)[5] the same things.[6]

This statement persuades me that the correct answer to Paul’s rhetorical question in 1 Corinthians—Are you not to judge those inside [i.e., the church]?[7]—is no.  I know that, for whatever reasons, Paul did not correct this impression in 2 Corinthians directly (and I do think that 2 Corinthians was written after Romans).  But this rhetorical question is part of Paul’s original justification for judging the one who was cohabiting with his father’s wife, and his justification was significantly amended in 2 Corinthians 2:9-11 and 7:11, 12.

One of the points that is often forgotten in the parable of the wheat and the tares (weeds) is that the answer to the slaves’ (δοῦλοι, a form of δοῦλος)[8] question—Do you want us to go and gather [the weeds]?[9]—was also no:  No, since in gathering the weeds you may uproot the wheat with them.[10]  The implication being that slaves (δοῦλοι, a form of δοῦλος) like me, and slaves (δοῦλοι, a form of δοῦλος) like Paul—a slave (δοῦλος) of Christ Jesus[11]—are not competent to make those decisions or carry out those procedures in real time.  Those decisions and that task will fall to angels at the end of the age,[12] the harvest.

The Grand Inquisitor in my opinion is part gossip, part busybody, and all a part of the religious mind of human beings.  It is a nasty beast to unleash on others, and an awful terror when it turns inward and devours itself.  Paul seemed to have a handle on the latter in his first letter to the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 4:1-5 NET):

One should think about us this way – as servants (ὑπηρέτας, a form of ὑπηρέτης)[13] of Christ and stewards (οἰκονόμους, a form of οἰκονόμος)[14] of the mysteries of God.  Now what is sought in stewards (οἰκονόμοις, another form of οἰκονόμος) is that one be found faithful (πιστός).[15]  So for me, it is a minor matter that I am judged (ἀνακριθῶ, a form of ἀνακρίνω)[16] by you or by any human court.  In fact, I do not even judge (ἀνακρίνω) myself.  For I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not acquitted because of this.  The one who judges (ἀνακρίνων, another form of ἀνακρίνω) me is the Lord.  So then, do not judge (κρίνετε, another form of κρίνω) anything before the time.  Wait until the Lord comes.  He will bring to light the hidden things of darkness and reveal the motives of hearts.  Then each will receive recognition from God.

After the affliction that happened to us in the province of Asia, that we were burdened excessively, beyond our strength, so that we despaired even of living,[17] and after an intense bout with coveting, sin, seizing the opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of wrong desires,[18] Paul had a handle on the issue of unleashing the Grand Inquisitor on others (Romans 2:1 NET):

Therefore you are without excuse, whoever you are, when you judge someone else.  For on whatever grounds you judge another, you condemn yourself, because you who judge practice the same things.

I may not be guilty of every sin listed in Romans 1:18-32 (and the same was probably true of the Jews, God-fearers and other Gentiles who had attached themselves to a Jewish synagogue).  But I owe that to God’s mercy and grace, for I am certainly guilty of all three types of unrighteous worship that led to God’s wrath revealed from heaven; namely, God giving people over 1) in the desires of their hearts to impurity,[19] 2) to dishonorable passions,[20] and 3) to a depraved mind.[21]

Now we know (οἴδαμεν, a form of εἴδω)[22] that God’s judgment (κρίμα)[23] is in accordance with truth against those who practice (πράσσοντας, another form of πράσσω) such things, Paul continued.  And do you think, whoever you are, when you judge (κρίνων, a form of κρίνω) those who practice (πράσσοντας, another form of πράσσω) such things and yet do (ποιῶν, a form of ποιέω)[24] them yourself, that you will escape God’s judgment (κρίμα)? [25]

Seriously, apart from revelation here and other places in the Old Testament scripture, who knew that God was so concerned to be worshiped properly that He would give people over to impurity, dishonorable passions and a depraved mind?  In my depraved thoughts I was more or less content to praise me any time things went “right” (my way), and blame God or anyone, or anything, else every time things went “wrong” (not my way).  Until God intervened in my life I didn’t know another way to think about it.  And if my old depraved thoughts come back to haunt me, asking, Doesn’t all this righteous worship talk sound a bit self-serving?  I have an answer now, with new thoughts, by rote if necessary: No, Love is not self-serving[26] and God is love.[27]

Paul continued with another question: Or do you have contempt for the wealth of his kindness, forbearance, and patience, and yet do not know (ἀγνοῶν, a form of ἀγνοέω)[28] that God’s kindness leads you to repentance?[29]  I wouldn’t choose to compete with Paul in many things.  But in one thing I think I may have a shot at the title.  And this in my opinion clarifies Paul’s meaning in his question above (1 Timothy 1:15-17 NET):

This saying is trustworthy and deserves full acceptance: “Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners” – and I am the worst of them!  But here is why I was treated with mercy: so that in me as the worst, Christ Jesus could demonstrate his utmost patience, as an example for those who are going to believe in him for eternal life.  Now to the eternal king, immortal, invisible, the only God, be honor and glory forever and ever!  Amen.

Romans, Part 8

Back to Romans, Part 48

[1] 1 Corinthians 5:1 (NET)  The judgment is in verses 2-5.

[2] 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NET)

[6] Romans 2:1 (NET)

[7] 1 Corinthians 5:12b (NET)

[9] Matthew 13:28b (NET)

[10] Matthew 13:29 (NET)

[11] Romans 1:1a (NET)

[17] 2 Corinthians 1:8 (NET)

[18] Romans 7:8 (NET)

[25] Romans 2:2, 3 (NET)

[29] Romans 2:4 (NET)