Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Doubt -- Romans 7:14-25 -- Part 1

We all have doubt from time to time. I'm not referring to doubt about whether it's going to rain this weekend, or whether you'll make it to the filling station before you run out of fuel. I'm talking about doubting your salvation.

I'm sure there are countless reasons that the doubt enters our heads. For some I'm sure they have the idea that Christians are supposed to "have all the answers" and so there should be a fix for every problem; thus, no worries, no pain, no heartache. Therefore, when they encounter these things in their life, they doubt their salvation. I can't say exactly from where this "fantasy" originates, but I can confirm that it is, in fact, fiction - it is not biblical.

Another thing, I do know that one popular myth among professing Christians is that when you're saved **ZAP!!** you no longer sin. Again, there is no biblical basis for this belief either.

But one of the ideas that pops into my head all too often is that there seems to be so much remaining sin in my life, that I begin to doubt if I'm saved at all. For instance, many times I catch myself getting unduly angry over some trivial thing, something that holds no real bearing on anything, some perceived wrong that I feel that someone did to me, or merely an oversight on the part of a co-worker that I just know they did on purpose, just to spite me. So, I'll stew on it for a good, long while before reason resumes operating in my head, and I get some perspective, see it for what it truly is, and move on. Yet afterward, I get very introspective in trying to understand how I could let myself get that way when I know that it's not the right way to think, I know that the Bible teaches and commands me to act differently. How can one call themselves a Christian, claiming to believe in and follow the teachings of Jesus Christ, and yet behave in such a manner??!!

So, I pray about this. I need to understand: is this a sign that I'm not saved, or is this "normal" for a Christian to think? On the way to work, I'm listening to a sermon on CD and the teacher mentions a passage from Romans, specifically chapter seven, versus 14-25. He mentions this and I'm pulling into the business park, so I don't get a chance to hear him expound on the subject matter in this passage, as he's just building some context around the topic. Anyway, later that morning I get some time to take a break and I look up that passage. Here it is from the ESV:

Just a quick, but albeit very important, note: this is the Apostle Paul talking here. The tense of the Greek verbs in this passage are 'present tense', so he is not talking about his life prior to his regeneration.

14For we know that the law is spiritual, but I am of the flesh, sold under sin.

15For I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate.

16Now if I do what I do not want, I agree with the law, that it is good.

17So now it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

18For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh. For I have the desire to do what is right, but not the ability to carry it out.

19For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I keep on doing.

20Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I who do it, but sin that dwells within me.

21So I find it to be a law that when I want to do right, evil lies close at hand.

22For I delight in the law of God, in my inner being,

23but I see in my members another law waging war against the law of my mind and making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members.

24Wretched man that I am! Who will deliver me from this body of death?

25Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin.

I find great comfort in reading these words of the Apostle Paul. Why? Because I read that I am not alone.

In verse 14, that phrase "sold under sin"... I just had to look it up in the Greek.

πεπραμένος ὑπὸ τὴν ἁμαρτίαν = having been sold under the sin

Can we agree that Paul is speaking metaphorically here? I doubt anyone would seriously suggest that there was an actual business transaction that took place wherein Paul was sold to "sin" and was now under sin's control. He's speaking metaphorically. Remember in Psalm 51:5 where David says, "I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin did my mother conceive me"; he too is speaking metaphorically. He was not conceived in a place called "sin". He was conceived in his mother's womb, but he's simply conveying that he's been "in sin" since the very beginning of his life. Likewise, as are we all, Paul remains in his flesh which is fallen and "under sin" and its influence, just as he has been "in sin" and subject to its power his whole life.

Verse 15: Who hates their sin? The redeemed. The lost revel in their sin, they do not hate it - they do not will to do anything other than that sin, and pursue the pleasure that it sets up as a promise. But this statement suggests that Paul wills to do good, but finds that he ends up not doing it. He knowingly resists, even hates, the sin his "flesh" wills to do, but he ends up doing it anyway. What is this? Is this not all too familiar to me? Too often I understand what the right response to a situation may be, but once I'm thrust into the middle of that situation, I find myself behaving contrary to my will. Is this not the very thing Paul is saying here?

Verse 16: Who agrees with the Law? The redeemed do (Psalm 119). The lost man does not confess the law as good. The lost are aware of the law, as it is written on the heart of every man (Romans 2:15), but he denies that law and willfully rebels against it (Romans 1:18). The free will of fallen man is bent totally toward sin, and there is no desire to fight against his sin - in fact, it is his primary pursuit. How can he not? It is his nature from birth (Psalm 58:3). Until God creates a new nature in the man (Ezekiel 36:26), his free will has no ability to choose anything against its nature, that fallen nature that it is. Post-conversion, man's nature is entirely different, though he remains in the fallen flesh. His heart has a new bent, he now desires godly things and hates his sin. What he once pursued wholeheartedly and with fervent passion, he now finds repulsive and recoils from it in disgust. With this understanding we recognize when Paul says, "...if I do what I do not want..." to mean, "...I find myself doing those things that the "new man" does not want to do...", and he now, "...agree[s] with the law, that it is good", whereas the "old man" would not have agreed to this statement.

Verse 17: Paul explains that the "new man" is not approving of the sin that still resides in his flesh, as opposed to the "old man" that loved his sin. In regenerating his heart, God created a new identity, and having been "born again" this new man still resides in the old flesh. Paul is not shirking responsibility for the sin committed by his flesh, he is not distancing himself or suggesting that there is "someone else" living in his body with him and it's the "bad Paul" that's committing the sin, while the "good Paul" tries to stop him.

In studying this verse, I'm reminded of a gnostic belief that I read about in the Confessions of Augustine, called Manichaeism, that taught this very idea, leading people to blame some "inner being" for their evil acts:
I still thought that it is not we who sin but some other nature that sins within us. It flattered my pride to think that I incurred no guilt and, when I did wrong, not to confess it... I preferred to excuse myself and blame this unknown thing which was in me but was not part of me. The truth, of course, was that it was all my own self, and my own impiety had divided me against myself. My sin was all the more incurable because I did not think myself a sinner. (Confessions, Book V, Section 10)
We must remain true to a biblical interpretation of all of scripture, understanding that the Word of God is Truth, and Truth does not contradict itself. Take for instance, when we read in 1 John 1:8-10 that we only deceive ourselves if we say that we have no sin, and/or that we have not sinned. Since we cannot set one part of scripture against another claiming a contradiction, we must understand that God's thoughts are not our thoughts (Isaiah 55:8-9), and what we may see on the surface, if apparently contradictory to another part of scripture, must not be accurate, requiring us to dig deeper, seeking to understand the true original intent and meaning of the Holy Spirit.

(to be continued)

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Biblical Love

Taken from "The Keys to Spiritual Growth" by John MacArthur

A well-known Peanuts cartoon shows Lucy accusing her little brother, Linus, of not loving his fellow man. "I love mankind," was his indignant response, "it's people I can't stand!" It is very easy to love the whole wide world, and it is easy to love the church. However, it may be very difficult to love one particular person. But the love our Lord calls you to exercise is a practical, personal kind of love that is expressed primarily to individuals.

A Jewish law expert once asked Jesus, "What is the greatest commandment?" You remember His answer: "You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart, and with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the great and foremost commandment" (Matt. 22:37-38). Though that seemed to satisfy the question, Jesus wasn't finished. Without taking a breath, He added, "The second is like it, 'You shall love your neighbor as yourself'" (v. 39).

Love for God and love for your neighbor are vitally connected and cannot be separated– you cannot do one without doing the other. How important is this second commandment? James called it the "royal" or sovereign law–it towers over the rest. Paul said if you keep it, you will be fulfilling the demands of the entire Old Testament (Rom. 13:9; Gal. 5:14). Recognizing the command is one thing– understanding and practicing biblical love is another.

Love in Action
When I first came to Grace Community Church, I wanted badly to love everyone, but I couldn't figure out how to get the emotional feeling I thought was necessary. Some people were kind of irritating, and some even purposely made things difficult for me. I wanted to love them, but I didn't know how. One day I went to a man who was particularly difficult, put my arm around him, and said, "I want you to know something. If there's any way I can ever serve you, I'd sure love to have the opportunity." The opportunity came. My attitude toward him didn't change because of how I felt about him emotionally, but because of how I came to love him by serving him.

Loving others is not a question of patting someone on the back and saying, "You're so wonderful, so irresistible. I love you!" You show love by making personal sacrifices to meet someone's need. Sometimes I'm asked how I can minister to individuals in a large church. It is not by running around to everyone and expressing love, but by making sacrifices in my life to help them grow spiritually. I care enough about them to do what is necessary in my life to bring them into conformity to Jesus Christ.

If you still have doubts about what biblical love is, ponder this: Has God ever shouted, "I love you!" from heaven or written it in the sky? No; we see the love of God in Christ laying down His life for us. God put His Son on a cross on our behalf. That is how He expressed His love–through sacrifice. Since Christ "laid down His life for us... we ought to lay down our lives for the brethren" (1 John 3:16).

Death isn't always the price; sometimes love requires the sacrifice of your possessions, your time, or some other precious commodity. "But whoever has the world's goods, and sees his brother in need and closes his heart against him, how does the love of God abide in him?" (1 John 3:17). If you see someone who has a need, you must meet that need as far as you're able, or you prove yourself to be deficient in love.

"Well," someone interjects, "before we can love someone, we have to love ourselves. After all, the Bible says in James 2:8 we are to love our neighbors as we love ourselves." That is a popular concept. But it is not what James 2:8 (or the rest of Scripture) teaches. Psychologists have made a business out of misinterpreting that verse. They say you must learn a "healthy" self-love to gain a good self-image; if you do not have a high regard for yourself, you will never be able to love other people the way God intended.

That's a serious misunderstanding. Those who advocate the saying, "learn to love yourself before you can love others," naively ignore what the Bible teaches about sin–that it is inherently self interested. To teach someone to love themselves is to justify or encourage the consuming sin of pride and to undercut any effort or desire to sacrifice self and love others.

So what does it mean to love others as you love yourself? Look at James 2:1: "My brethren, do not hold your faith in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ with an attitude of personal favoritism." The text goes on to give the illustration of a rich man and a poor man visiting a congregation and being treated differently. James is saying that as a Christian you are not to treat certain people with respect while you treat others with indifference. Rather, to fulfill the royal law, you are to treat everyone as you would treat yourself– the assumption is that you are already naturally inclined to treat yourself best. Whatever great sacrifices you make for your own comfort, you should make the same for the comfort of others, without respect to their status in life. It has nothing to do with the importance of loving self; it has to do with your service toward others.

Just stop, for example, and consider the lengths you go to make yourself comfortable. That is the same way you should meet the needs of others. The way you treat your own desires is the way you should treat the desires of others. You should love them in terms of self-sacrificing service, just as you make sacrifices for your own benefit.

Are you willing to do that? Are you willing to give up whatever it is that makes you comfortable in order to provide for the comfort of someone else? Are you willing to sacrifice the things you enjoy so another's needs may be met? That is loving your neighbor as yourself. It is not psychological; it is sacrificial.

Love in Humility
One vivid example of self-sacrificing love for others was given Jesus Himself. On the night before He suffered and died, the Lord did not tell His disciples in the upper room, "I love you. I'd like to give you a discussion of divine love and tell you how it works."

Instead, our Lord washed His disciples' feet. John 13:3-5 says, "Jesus…got up from supper, and laid aside His garments; and taking a towel, He girded Himself. Then He poured water into the basin, and began to wash the disciples' feet and to wipe them with the towel with which He was girded." God in the flesh was stooping to wash dirt off the feet of His weak, sinful disciples. Now that's love!

And that is precisely the kind of love the Lord demands of the rest of His disciples. After His amazing example of self-humiliation, Jesus said, "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are My disciples, if you have love for one another" (vv. 34, 35).

How had Jesus demonstrated His love for them? By washing their dirty feet; by taking the role of a slave; by doing the distasteful thing, the sacrificial thing. Loving one another is not just feeling little pangs of emotion. It is serving. When you willingly sacrifice what you want for the good of another, when you choose to fill the need of someone instead of satisfying your own need, then you really love (no matter what your emotions may be). That is what God expects.

Monday, July 13, 2009

Do not associate with...

What is different about these following passages? I've placed emphasis on a particular phrase in each to highlight a common theme... but I really want to study what is different between the first three versus the fourth one. How do we resolve what appears to be two dissimilar commands?

Titus 3:10-11 - As for a person who stirs up division, after warning him once and then twice, have nothing more to do with him, knowing that such a person is warped and sinful; he is self-condemned.
2 Thessalonians 3:14-15 - If anyone does not obey what we say in this letter, take note of that person, and have nothing to do with him, that he may be ashamed. Do not regard him as an enemy, but warn him as a brother.
1 Corinthians 5:9-13 - I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral people -- not at all meaning the sexually immoral of this world, or the greedy and swindlers, or idolaters, since then you would need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother if he is guilty of sexual immorality or greed, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or swindler--not even to eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Is it not those inside the church whom you are to judge? God judges those outside. "Purge the evil person from among you."

Matthew 9:10-13 - And as Jesus reclined at table in the house, behold, many tax collectors and sinners came and were reclining with Jesus and his disciples. And when the Pharisees saw this, they said to his disciples, "Why does your teacher eat with tax collectors and sinners?"

But when he heard it, he said, "Those who are well have no need of a physician, but those who are sick. Go and learn what this means, 'I desire mercy, and not sacrifice.' For I came not to call the righteous, but sinners." (see also Mark 2:15-16, and Luke 5:30; 15:2)

How is it that Jesus was known to "eat with tax collectors and sinners" but the Apostle Paul is telling us not to associate with those guilty of sin?

Expel sickness and disease from the body

Just as we physically seek to remove sickness and disease from our bodies, so too are we to expel such from the Church body. The context of those first three passages is significantly different from the last.

In Titus, we have a letter from Paul to one of his "children in the faith", Titus, and it's basically just a letter encouraging Titus in how to instruct the leaders in the church in Crete. One of the major issues dealt with in this epistle is divisive forces, or false teachers, within the church. In a setting that is not too unlike many churches today, the church in Crete was dealing with professing believers who were spreading heresy and false doctrine amongst the ranks of believers. Specifically, these were Christian Jews insisting that Mosaic Law was still applicable to all Christians, Jew and Gentile alike. Regardless of the specific false doctrine, the modern church still has to deal with wolves among the sheep. This passage (3:10-11) explains how to deal with one within the church in these matters.

In the second letter to the church in Thessalonica, we read about similar conditions there. Here we have a 1st century church dealing with persecution from without, but also having to fend off false teaching from within. In this case, it's not an issue of observing Mosaic law, but a teaching that Jesus had already returned and they had "missed it", therefore many of the people were discouraged and fearing that they had not been raptured with His Church. But specific to our reading here, this concerned those in the church that were not living according to what they had been taught by Paul in regards to "carrying ones own weight" and living out a godly life. There were those in the church that refused to work, though they were able, and hence lived off of the charity of others (their mindset may have been, "if His return is imminent, then living and working as if I had a whole life to live yet, may appear as a lack of faith in His promise"). Those in the church that were working and providing for the lazy ones were growing tired of being "taken advantage of", so to speak. Again, we read this passage (3:14-15) in the context of these circumstances, understanding the command as pertaining to professing believers within the church.

Then in 1 Corinthians 5:9-13, the reader is placed in a similar situation, wherein those in the church, again professing to be believers in Christ, are behaving immorally. And again, the Apostle Paul gives instructions to those in Corinth (apparently for at least the second time) to expel any believers who are refusing to repent of their gross sin, and refuse to associate with them in any manner. The details of such a teaching are expressed in many locations in the New Testament, but Paul also references the Old Testament (Deuteronomy 17) drawing a parallel between God's command to expel the wicked from Israel and the Church's authority to discipline its own in like manner.

So, in drawing these three sections together, a common theme can be understood in that these are instruction on dealing with professing believers, or those claiming to be followers of Christ and associated publicly with the Church. There was much concern in the "infancy" of the Church of who was associated with it. The "world" watched Christians closely, observing the testimony of their daily life, either seeking to understand what was different about them or looking for a flaw, a "loose thread", if you will, on which to pull on in an attempt to "unravel the whole cloth". Therefore, it was in this vein that believers were to exercise church discipline (Matthew 18:15; Galatians 6:1; 2 Corinthians 13:11) as they had been taught, and when that recourse had been exhausted, it was imperative that they make clear the distinction between those unrepentant believers and the rest of the body of saints. It was critical for maintaining an effective testimony then, as it also remains so today.

Now, the context surrounding the Matthew 9 passage is quite different. An understanding of the social climate at the time is helpful in getting the full picture. The Pharisees were the "religious elite" of their day, observing (outwardly, anyway) the Mosaic law and all of the "rabbinical laws" (Matthew 15:9) that had grown up around the law of Moses. Of primary concern to the Pharisees was the separation of themselves from anything "unclean". John Gill* comments that the Pharisees,
"ate their common food with purity, i.e. with their hands washed, and took care of all defilements every day; and these were called Pharisees; and this sect was exceedingly holy, and was the way of piety; for such a man was separated, and he abstained from the rest of the people, and he did not touch them, nor did he eat and drink with them.''

"It was a general rule with them, that a clean person ought not to eat with an unclean, as they judged the common people to be"... "Hence they looked upon Christ and his disciples as such, and would insinuate that they were evil men, who had no regard to purity of life and conversation."
It could be said that the legalistic manner in which the Pharisees governed their whole lives, and separated themselves from everyone else, was in some way akin to elements of the monastic order that sprang out of the first couple centuries after Jesus. Likewise, men (and women) separated themselves from the world, surrounding themselves in an environment of piety and order in the presumption that in doing so, they were devoting their whole life to His service, and this was to bring more glory to God.

I believe that Jesus leads us by example in every way. In this passage, He addresses the Pharisees with the allegory of a physician to the sick. As the Pharisees saw themselves as already righteous in their religious observances, they were already "well" and in no need of a physician. So, Jesus alludes to that perceived self-righteousness by saying, that those that are in greatest need of a physician are those that are not well; those that realize their need for a physician, for a Savior. And where does one usually find a physician? Are they not often found in the company of the sick? Jesus explains that He is not associating with sinners "and tax collectors" on the level of an associate of theirs, but as a doctor attending to the sick.


If it isn't obvious by now, the way in which we resolve what seemed at first to be two incongruous themes, is by understanding the differences in the contexts in which we find them, comparing and contrasting those differences, and finding the common thread. We have a common thread in the "association with sinners" idea, but beyond that we distinguish quite different circumstances. The New Testament does not teach that we are to physically and totally remove ourselves from the world - we are not to go live on some remote compound, sheltered from secular society. We are, however, commanded not to be conformed to this world (Romans 12:2), in that we are not to be wrought from the same mold as the world. We live in the world, we interact with the world in everyday life, and in doing so we are salt and light to this world (Matthew 5:13-14).

In Jesus' example to us, truly in the whole doctrine of His Incarnation, we see that the Gospel cannot be effective if it is kept apart from those that need it most. Gathering all of the lights into one room of the house, so as to keep them safe, defeats their purpose. Lights are sent into the darkness to take the light to those in darkness. Likewise, never getting out into the world, never meeting and getting to know those that are lost, severely limits your ability to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ with them.

"Do not associate". It should be clear then that this command is only to be applied to those within the Church that refuse to repent of habitual sin, refusing to heed church discipline while still professing to be disciples and followers of Jesus Christ. The overarching theme of this isn't even to expel them from the body, but to restore them to the body of believers. One doesn't cut off a finger when it gets infected... you try to heal it, treat the infection, and restore it to health. In the same manner, Christ tells us to attempt to reach our brother or sister that is in sin, to bring them under discipline and out of the sin that has tripped them up. Only if they fight us at every turn, refusing to admit their sin, let alone repent of it, only then are we to expel them from association with the Church. But even then, pray to God that He might grant them repentance and bring them back to His own.

* John Gill's Exposition of the Entire Bible, Dr. John Gill, 1690-1771

Wednesday, July 8, 2009

O LORD, truly I am thy servant; I am thy servant, and the son of thine handmaid: thou hast loosed my bonds.

I will offer to thee the sacrifice of thanksgiving, and will call upon the name of the LORD.

My soul shall be joyful in the LORD: it shall rejoice in his salvation. All my bones shall say, LORD, who is like unto thee?

Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.

O LORD: keep not silence: O Lord, be not far from me.

My tongue shall speak of thy righteousness and of thy praise all the day long.

(Psalm 116:16, 17; 35:9-10, 3, 22, 28)

Tuesday, July 7, 2009

Be filled with the Spirit

And do not get drunk with wine, for that is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit, speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord; always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father; and be subject to one another in the fear of Christ. (Ephesians 5:18-21)

I spent a few years attending a Pentecostal church, and I became somewhat familiar with the concept of "being Spirit-filled". So, learning in the context of that church, I came away with the perception that "being Spirit-filled" meant one had spoken in tongues and, in effect, had graduated from the Junior Varsity ranks of Christianity to the full-fledged Varsity team. It is commonly called baptism in the Holy Spirit, or a second blessing.

Anyway, not long after I started "examining the Scriptures to see if these things were so", I concluded that I could not find anything in Scripture that explicitly commanded me to seek a "second blessing". I remained open to the idea, however, allowing myself to "read between the lines", as it were, understanding in some passages an almost implicit teaching that left me thinking, "If it happened then, couldn't it happen now?". In the end, I would have to cite Ephesians 4:5 as the summarizing verse for all that I studied and discovered on this subject: "one Lord, one faith, one baptism".

Hermeneutics. It all comes down to how we interpret the Bible. There are many "rules" and sets of rules, depending on to whom you talk. Regardless of whatever "system" you've been taught, God's Word is not difficult to understand. It means what it says. The Bible is the richest book in existence, and in that we see all kinds of nuance and color and depth of meaning. But the core of the Gospel can be grasped by the youngest and least learned of us all.

Behind this idea is one of the most basic tenants of hermeneutics: interpret the implicit by the explicit. In other words, when God's Word tells you something plainly and in clear language, do NOT make it more difficult than it is by trying to imply that one cannot understand it without overlaying some complex "lens" to see the true meaning.
If I'm not mistaken, insisting that one must possess some secret knowledge in order to understand the Gospel would lend oneself to the gnostic gospel heresy. This is like requiring a special "decoder ring", whereby only then can the reader discern the "true" meaning behind the words.
Another critical component of a good Biblical hermeneutic is "context". We don't read a verse or passage, already knowing what we want it to say, or walk away with only that verse and possibly apply it incorrectly because we do not know the context surrounding it.
That would be like taking one sentence from Mark Twain's Huckleberry Finn, and believing that we can understand what the whole book is about from that one excerpt. What are the odds that you could take any one sentence from any book and accurately understand the author's intent?
Instead we must read the passage in light of the chapter it is in, and that chapter must be understood in the light of the book it is found in, and so on. Here is a simple illustration that sort of explains what I'm saying

Therefore, in my studies, I read the passage quoted at the top of this post. In plain language, it explains what it means to "be filled with the Spirit". So, having previously been given the impression of what this means, I notice two things in this passage: what's missing and what's there. By "what's missing" I mean that it doesn't portray being filled with the Spirit as having anything to do with speaking in tongues, or experiencing some "magical" moment leading to a new level of the Christian life. In fact, the "what's there" in this passage tells me what it really means to live as a Christian, filled with the Spirit.

1. "speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, singing and making melody with your heart to the Lord"

It should go without saying that the abundant joy and unmerited grace realized in the life of a child of God spills over into the heartfelt praise and worship by a soul that mustn't tire of offering to God what only He deserves: unending glory and praise. And since in all things we have the perfect example set for us by our Lord Jesus Christ, we read that He and the apostles too sung hymns (Matthew 26:30). So, this singing and making melody serves not only to offer due praise to Him, but also to build up and edify one another in the faith.
"What am I to do? I will pray with my spirit, but I will pray with my mind also; I will sing praise with my spirit, but I will sing with my mind also." (1 Corinthians 14:15)

"Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly, teaching and admonishing one another in all wisdom, singing psalms and hymns and spiritual songs, with thankfulness in your hearts to God." (Colossians 3:16)

2. "always giving thanks for all things in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ to God, even the Father"

For all things | ὑπὲρ πάντων | huper pantōn. Some scholars say this refers to "everyone" where others translate this as "everything". I think it is definitely appropriate to give thanks for everyone in our lives (1 Timothy 2:1), and everything would include that. Often I give thanks for the family of believers that God has placed my wife and I among. Undoubtedly, He guided us by His hand to our church and placed us exactly where He knew we needed to be in order to grow and serve Him and His children best.

Yet, too often I forget that He created all things and that includes all of the "big ticket items" that we readily see as blessings undeserved, but truly every little thing taken for granted in every nook and cranny of everyday life is to be seen as a gift from God. Some of it sounds silly from the perspective of a culture that insists that it is our "right" to whatever we want: every bite of food, our vehicles, our house, our jobs, our clothes, and every little convenience and toy we just must have. But we must not forget that some of the things for which we should be most thankful are not tangible: daily renewed mercy, unmerited grace and favor, each and every breath and heartbeat, and especially the gift of eternal salvation through the works and life of Our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.
"Do not be anxious about anything, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God." (Philippians 4:6)

"Let there be no filthiness nor foolish talk nor crude joking, which are out of place, but instead let there be thanksgiving." (Ephesians 5:4)

"For everything created by God is good, and nothing is to be rejected if it is received with thanksgiving" (1 Timothy 4:4)

3. "be subject to one another in the fear of Christ"

If ever there was subtext behind the whole of the Gospel presented in the New Testament, I would not doubt that this would be it. Every "one another", every command to "deny self", every command to obey; the common thread leads the reader to understand that counting others as more than yourself and placing the needs of the body above your own is how the Lord calls us to interact with all men. The Apostle Paul fleshes out in the rest of this letter to the church in Ephesus the meaning behind this "being subject to one another".
"You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness." (Romans 8:9-10)

These three points describe what it is to live a Spirit filled life, to live in such a way that we submit every thought, desire, and action to the will of God, that we allow the Spirit to fill us so fully that those around us cannot help but see the love of God leaking through our pores and affecting everything around us.

So, since we are "born of the Spirit" (John 3:5-7), are renewed by the Spirit (Titus 3:5), and are temples of the Spirit (1 Corinthians 6:19), doesn't it make sense that we can only live by the Spirit?
"Jesus answered, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. Do not marvel that I said to you, 'You must be born again.' " (John 3:5-7)

"He saved us, not because of works done by us in righteousness, but according to his own mercy, by the washing of regeneration and renewal of the Holy Spirit" (Titus 3:5)

"Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit within you, whom you have from God?" (1 Corinthians 6:19)

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

1 Corinthians 15:33

μη πλανασθε φθειρουσιν ηθη χρησθ ομιλιαι κακαι
me planasthe phtheirousin ethe chresth homiliai kakai

  • {me planasthe} = (negative) go astray; do not go astray
  • {phtheirousin} = (they) are being (actively, continuously) corrupted (destroyed)
  • {ethe chresth} = useful habits (customs); good morals
  • {homiliai kakai} = worthless company (depraved crowd); evil/bad companionship

φθειρουσιν ηθη χρησθ ὁμιλιαι κακαι·
phtheirousin ethe chresth homiliai kakai
Bad company good morals doth corrupt

Menander, Francis Greenleaf Allinson. Menander, the principal fragments. W. Heinemann, 1921. p. 357 of 539.

1 Corinthians 15:33
  • Be not deceived: evil communications corrupt good manners. (KJV)
  • Do not be deceived: "Bad company ruins good morals." (ESV)
  • Do not be led astray; bad companionships ruin good habits. (LIT)

Excerpt from the Wikipedia article on Menander:
"Evil communications corrupt good manners" (from the Thaïs, quoted in 1 Corinthians 15:33). These maxims (chiefly monostichs) were afterwards collected, and, with additions from other sources, were edited as Menander's One-Verse Maxims, a kind of moral textbook for the use of schools.

From a play, The Seven Against Thebes, by Aeschylus: