Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Mark 3:20-21

Then he went home, and the crowd gathered again, so that they could not even eat.
And when his family heard it, they went out to seize him, for they were saying, "He is out of his mind."  (Mark 3:20-21 - ESV)

And He came home, and the crowd gathered again, to such an extent that they could not even eat a meal.
When His own people heard of this, they went out to take custody of Him; for they were saying, “He has lost His senses.”  (Mark 3:20-21 - NAS)

Jesus came home and, as usual, a crowd gathered—so many making demands on him that there wasn't even time to eat. His friends heard what was going on and went to rescue him, by force if necessary. They suspected he was getting carried away with himself.  (Mark 3:20-21 - The Message)

Καὶ ἔρχεται εἰς οἶκον· καὶ συνέρχεται πάλιν ὄχλος, ὥστε μὴ δύνασθαι αὐτοὺς μηδὲ ἄρτον φαγεῖν.
καὶ ἀκούσαντες οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ ἐξῆλθον κρατῆσαι αὐτόν· ἔλεγον γὰρ ὅτι ἐξέστη.  (Mark 3:20-21 - GNT)

And they come to a house, and assembles again a crowd so that not able they neither bread to eat.
And hearing the ones of his, come to seize him, for they said that, He is startled.  (Mark 3:20-21 - AP)

I have provided the above renderings of this passage to show the variation among translations, specifically in verse 21.

Verse 20

The Crowd

Back in Mark 2:2, we read of the crowd gathering so that there was no room left. Mark tells us that again the crowd has grown so massive and obtrusive that they can't even get a moment of peace just to eat some bread. Interestingly, we do not see Jesus trying to disperse the crowd, or attempting to get away from the people. 

More on that later in Application.

Verse 21

Then verse 21 provides us with so much. We see "His people" have heard about what is happening and they've come to take Him away. They are just sure He is, in some way, crazy or at least "not well" mentally.

Two things: what did they mean by "out of his mind"? and who are "His people"?

Gone Mad

Being a linguist would not be my  first choice in a profession.  A since I am not one, I rely on lexicons and concordances and online tools to try to understand Greek words/phrases. This is one that took a lot of time to study, and I'm not sure I have it down completely.

ἐξέστη [exestē] - apparently derived from two other Greek words, ἐξ [ex], and ἵστημι [histemi], which mean "out of" and "to stand", respectively. These two phrases combine to mean: "to stand out of"; and that becomes: "beside one's self" (as in standing outside of one's self); we're off with a hop, skip, and a jump to "amazed", which I guess is then a short jaunt to "crazy & insane".  I'm sure that all makes perfect sense to linguists.

A form of this word was used in Mark 2:12, when they were ἐξίστασθαι "amazed" that the paralytic picked up his bed and walked out.  Also, in Acts 2:7, during Pentecost, the people were ἐξίσταντο "amazed and astonished" to be hearing their native languages.  Then in 2 Corinthians 5:13, Paul uses another related word ἐξέστημεν when he says, "if we are beside ourselves", to suggest for arguments sake that if they are a little crazy, then it's only for God's purposes.

In Matthew 12:23, when Jesus healed a demon-possessed man, the people “were amazed” or “stood out of themselves”, ἐξίσταντο. They were almost beside themselves with excitement.  In Luke 2:47, when Jesus is 12-years-old at the temple with the teachers, those listening to his answers and how well He understood, "were amazed", ἐξίσταντο. One commentary mentions that this is a "common verb, ἐξἵστημι [existēmi], meaning that they stood out of themselves as if their eyes were bulging out". 

Then in some other Greek sources, the word ἐξέστηχ᾽ means "disordered", as in Bacchae by Euripides, there is a scene where one character fixes another's hair that has come out of place, and refers to the lock of hair as "out of place".  Another scene earlier in the same work, another form of the word, ἐξιστάναιis used in the phrase "drive him out of his wits" :

First drive him out of his wits, send upon him a dizzying madness, since if he is of sound mind he will not consent to wear women's clothing, but driven out of his senses he will put it on.

In regard to the passage here in the 3rd chapter of Mark, I gather that it would be fair to describe this as someone having a nervous breakdown, or perhaps an anxiety attack. So, it seems that Jesus' friends and family were concerned that He was spreading Himself too thin - that He wasn't taking care of Himself. I imagine them talking among themselves,

"I've heard that He's going out of His mind over there."

"Yeah, I'm afraid He's making Himself crazy with all of the work He's taken on helping those people." 

They cared about Jesus and had genuine concern for His welfare.  From a human perspective, they could not reconcile letting their Friend neglect His health and safety for a bunch of strangers that only wanted something from Him for selfish reasons.

His Own People

οἱ παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ [hoi par' autou] - The phrase means "of his own side" or “the ones from the side of him".

Some of the commentaries draw on the larger context to interpret this phrase by pointing out a form that Mark uses a few others times. Mark employs a kind of literary "sandwich", whereby he inserts a second related event in the middle of the first one. We see this here when he shows us the friends/family of Jesus showing concern, then inserting this confrontation with the scribes and Pharisees (Matthew 12:24) where they accuse Jesus of being possessed by Satan, and then finishing with the family showing up to speak with Him. When you put all of this together, it makes sense that verse 21 is referencing the mother and brothers that we see in verse 31.

I looked in the rest of the New Testament to see if the same or similar phrasing was used elsewhere. In John 7:29, Jesus says, "I know him, for I come from him, and he sent me." That phrasing, "for I come from him", is ὅτι παρ᾿ αὐτοῦ εἰμι in the Greek - literally, "for from Him I am". It's not exactly the same phrasing, I know, but it's close. Take it or leave it, but I see some similarity with perhaps, "issuing from" as a possible connective phrase.

The question has been whether this phrase means close friends, or family. I fall on the side of family on this one. The context along with the wording tell me that we're looking at his family hearing about what's happening.


What am I learning from these two verses?  First, the crowd and how Jesus is not dispersing it. I mean, read that part again. The crowd gathers; sure, we get that... but Mark puts that phrase in there, "so that they could not even eat". He didn't just happen to throw that in there because he was hungry at the time and was thinking about food. He's painting us a picture of how large and how much of a hindrance this crowd is to Jesus and the 12 disciples. In Mark 2 the crowd was so impenetrable that people started taking the roof apart to get to Jesus. This time, it's so massive that Jesus cannot rest long enough to grab a bite to eat. 

If there are any mothers reading this today, are you identifying with this at all? How many days have you fallen into bed and realized that you didn't have 1 minute of privacy all day to do anything for yourself? Every moment was spent performing some kind of service for your children, your employer, or your husband. Have you ever thought that it was possible Christ completely understood how you felt? Here's just one time where God's Word tells us that He knew all about it. And that crowd was looking at Him the same way those kids look at you - like there is no one in the world that can do what you can do for them, and they don't care how much it takes out of you, they want what they want, and they want it now.

Therefore he had to be made like his brothers in every respect, so that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in the service of God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.
For because he himself has suffered when tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Hebrews 2:17-18)

Tempted? "He is able to help those who are being tempted"? How does that apply to today's passage? The first part says, "For because he himself has suffered when tempted", meaning He was tempted. We often only think of His temptation in the desert. But He was fully man, while being fully God, which means He was tempted often... He just responded perfectly, without sin. 

So, is it unreasonable to imagine that Jesus was tempted to take a break from ministering to the people in the crowd? His stomach most likely rumbled and His feet probably hurt from being on them all day. It's entirely within reason to suppose that He was tempted to take care of Himself - not pamper Himself, but attend to those things His body needed: food, water, and rest. Yet even He tells us that "Man shall not live by bread alone" (Luke 4:4). In fact, He shows us here in Mark 3:20, that He placed His ministry above that of His own well-being. 

Then we read that His family has heard about this, and they conclude that He must be "beside Himself" or "losing His senses". Again, they are perceiving events from a humanistic, experiential point of view. They imagine that they themselves would be pulling their hair out, flat-out exhausted, and wanting to get away from the crowd and take a break. In their minds, they were seeking what was best for Him, but they were blind to what God was doing there.

I am reminded of something I once heard. A pastor was relating what happened at a service at which he had preached. It was a powerful sermon, one in which the Gospel was presented clearly and effectively. Several people in the congregation had approached the altar down front, and were visibly and audibly shaken, having been apparently confronted with their sin, and seeking their God for mercy and comfort. The man relating the story was the guest preacher that day, and as he looked on at this, a few people on the church staff began to get up from their seats to offer comfort to those at the altar. He put his hand on the shoulder of one of them, stopping them, and said, "Don’t touch the ark of God. It is God who is wounding these people with regard to their sin. Do not comfort the soul that God is breaking. Leave them alone to God."

Often, we see things from a point of view that is very limited. We fail to account for God in those times when the Holy Spirit is working through the situation, and we instead perceive discomfort or pain that needs to be relieved. What Jesus' family saw in the situation was not what God was seeing. They figured He must have gone off the deep end and that He must need their help to get out of there. They were wrong.

You see, they said, "He is out of his mind." God's Word does not tell us that Jesus was "out of his mind". Which leads me to the closing application for today's text. 

As disciples of Jesus Christ, if we are walking where He walked, then we will be perceived as "out of our minds" by family, and by much of the world around us.  Jesus said, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments" (John 14:15). Striving to love Christ among a culture that loves everything BUT Christ will most undoubtedly cause us to appear "crazy" and elicit comments about our having "lost our minds".

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. For everyone who has been born of God overcomes the world. And this is the victory that has overcome the world--our faith. Who is it that overcomes the world except the one who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?  (1 John 5:2-5)

Hark! the Herald Angels Sing

1. Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King, 
peace on earth, and mercy mild, 
God and sinners reconciled!" 
Joyful, all ye nations rise, 
join the triumph of the skies; 
with th' angelic host proclaim, 
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!" 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored; 
Christ, the everlasting Lord; 
late in time behold him come, 
offspring of a virgin's womb. 
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see; 
hail th' incarnate Deity, 
pleased with us in flesh to dwell, 
Jesus, our Emmanuel. 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 

3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace! 
Hail the Sun of Righteousness! 
Light and life to all he brings, 
risen with healing in his wings. 
Mild he lays his glory by, 
born that we no more may die, 
born to raise us from the earth, 
born to give us second birth. 
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!"

A friend and I were commenting on a line in the third verse of Hark! the Herald Angels Sing: "Hail the Sun of Righteousness!".  We were wondering if it was a misprint in our hymnal.  We expected it to read "Son of Righteousness".  So we decided to make it my "homework" to look into this.  Here is what I found.

This song was written by Charles Wesley in 1739.  He and his brother, John Wesley (whom we remember as the founder of the Methodist denomination), traveled around England in the 1700's during what has become known as the Great Awakening, a period of revival seen in England and in America.  Charles wrote something like 6500 hymns during his life, and as it turns out, he didn't just make up the words of his own mind.  Many, if not all of them, are richly theological in their content.  This hymn, Hark! the Herald Angels Sing, is itself quite a Bible study in song form.  I've looked up much of the references, and recorded them below.

1. Hark! the herald angels sing, (Luke 2:9-10)
"Glory to the new born King, 
peace on earth, and mercy mild, (Luke 2:14)
God and sinners reconciled!" (Colossians 1:20-22)
Joyful, all ye nations rise, (Haggai 2:6-7) 
join the triumph of the skies; 
with th' angelic host proclaim, (Luke 2:9-11)
"Christ is born in Bethlehem!" (Micah 5:2)
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" (Matthew 2:2)

2. Christ, by highest heaven adored;  (Hebrews 1:6)
Christ, the everlasting Lord;  (Revelation 22:13)
late in time behold him come,  (Galatians 4:4)
offspring of a virgin's womb.  (Matthew 1:23)
Veiled in flesh the Godhead see;  (Hebrews 10:20 - KJV)
hail th' incarnate Deity,  (John 1:14)
pleased with us in flesh to dwell,  (1 John 4:2)
Jesus, our Emmanuel.   (Matthew 1:23 - Emmanuel; Isaiah 7:14 - Immanuel)
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!" 

3. Hail the heaven-born Prince of Peace!  (Isaiah 9:6)
Hail the Sun of Righteousness!  (Malachi 4:2)
Light and life to all he brings,  (John 8:12)
risen with healing in his wings.  (Malachi 4:2)
Mild he lays his glory by,  (Philippians 2:8)
born that we no more may die,  (John 11:26)
born to raise us from the earth,  (1 Corinthians 15:35-57)
born to give us second birth.  (1 Peter 1:23; Titus 3:5)
Hark! the herald angels sing, 
"Glory to the new born King!"

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Mark 3:14-19

And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach
and have authority to cast out demons.
He appointed the twelve: Simon (to whom he gave the name Peter);
James the son of Zebedee and John the brother of James (to whom he gave the name Boanerges, that is, Sons of Thunder);
Andrew, and Philip, and Bartholomew, and Matthew, and Thomas, and James the son of Alphaeus, and Thaddaeus, and Simon the Cananaean,
and Judas Iscariot, who betrayed him.  (Mark 3:14-19)

There are four lists of the 12 disciples/apostles in the New Testament:
  • Matthew 10:2-4
  • Mark 3:16-19
  • Luke 6:14-16
  • Acts 1:13

To the right is a table comparing how they appear in each passage.

In studying this passage, I thought of two ways that I could write this entry.  One would be more of a thesis, looking at each of the 12 men named here, writing a little about each.

The second way, and the way this entry is written, would be to stay in the text and focus more on the significance of what they were called to do and what the effect would have been by appointing these men as apostles.  In looking at this, it will be helpful to look at the parallel passages, as they provide details that Mark did not include.
  1. What is an apostle?
  2. What purpose(s) did Jesus have in appointing apostles?  
  3. What exactly were they called to do?  
  4. What implications does this have for us today?


"And he appointed twelve (whom he also named apostles) so that they might be with him and he might send them out to preach and have authority to cast out demons."

Looking at verse 14, I should note that not all manuscripts actually say "whom he also named apostles".  It does use the word from which we get the title, though.  When it says, "he might send ", it is the word apostellō.

ἀποστέλλῃ [apostellō]

Later, in Mark 6, Jesus will send them out [ἀποστέλλειν] in pairs.  This is that for which He has called them: to proclaim the Good News.  As Paul says in Romans 10:15 [ἀποσταλῶσιν], how should people hear unless "they are sent"?  This is the mind of Christ in choosing these men to be His Apostles. He has chosen them for a mission, for service to the King, as messengers.

Purpose and Calling

It is interesting to note that He chose 12 apostles. Most commentators note the parallel to the 12 Tribes of Israel with His choosing this number of men. In meditating on the significance of this, one might see the parallels with the 12 tribes being the progenitors of a physical kingdom (Exodus 19:6), while the Apostles will be the "fathers" of a spiritual kingdom, namely the Church (John 18:36; 1 Peter 2:9).

What exactly did Jesus want these men to do? Mark says here that it is so they "might be with him" and to preach. Matthew adds, "and to heal every disease and every affliction". Both passages then mention the authority over unclean spirits, the power to cast out demons. Luke also mentions healing disease and casting out demons when they are sent out in pairs.
  1. Be with Him
  2. Preach
  3. Heal disease
  4. Cast out demons
These are the four things they are called to do. The first two are the top priorities, while it would seem that the latter two are for authentication purposes. Something interesting about this list is that it almost parallels Jesus' own ministry completely, but with the noted exception of "forgiving sins". It does not mention that He gave them specific authority to forgive sins. Why is this?

As an aside, that question then led me to wonder about the Roman Catholic church's belief that priests can do just that.  What is their basis for such a belief?  I looked it up here.  So, it turns out that they take John 20:21-23 to be the scriptural basis for priests being able to forgive sins, though throughout the whole of Scripture this right to forgive sins has resided with God alone.  In fact, it was a HUGE deal for Jesus to claim to be able to forgive sins, causing the Pharisees and scribes to lodge a charge of blasphemy against Him (Mark 2:7).

Matthew Henry speaks to this: 
Christ directed the apostles to declare the only method by which sin would be forgiven. This power did not exist at all in the apostles as a power to give judgment, but only as a power to declare the character of those whom God would accept or reject in the day of judgment. They have clearly laid down the marks whereby a child of God may be discerned and be distinguished from a false professor; and according to what they have declared shall every case be decided in the day of judgment. When we assemble in Christ's name, especially on his holy day, he will meet with us, and speak peace to us. The disciples of Christ should endeavour to build up one another in their most holy faith, both by repeating what they have heard to those that were absent, and by making known what they have experienced.  

This is one thing that Jesus alone is able to do because He is God Incarnate. I do not believe that it was an oversight that the apostles were not to have this power bestowed upon them. This is not to suggest that they, nor any believer, is not commanded to forgive as they have been forgiven (Luke 6:37; Matthew 18:23-35). However, it is one thing to forgive one that sins against you, and quite another to forgive another of their burden of sin before God. Again, the only means by which one can be relieved (or forgiven) of their debt of sin is through the Gospel. Moses may have needed help hearing all of the problems of the people of Israel (Exodus 18:14-24), but the Almighty is in no way incapable of hearing all of the petitions and cries for mercy from His children. He does not require an army of priests providing absolution of sins.  In fact, we have need of only One Priest (Hebrews 2:17; 4:14) for this purpose.

In this passage, we read that He chose them "that they might be with him" [ἵνα ὦσιν μετ' αὐτοῦ] and to preach (or to proclaim κηρύσσειν). I tried so hard to try to understand the Greek in that phrase "that they might be with him" to no avail.  I have found that there are some phrases that cannot be broken into their component parts and carry the meaning of the original phrasing. More likely, I have to admit, I just have so little understanding of the grammar and sentence structure yet to grasp the complexities of the language. From what I get from commentaries, they would basically be in training by living with Him in close proximity. This was His inner circle. When they would be sent out to preach, they would have had months of instruction to draw on having been observing everything their Master was doing in his ministry.


All Scripture is breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work.  (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

On the surface, today's passage just appears to be information; simply a list put together by the author to supply the reader with the names of the 12 chosen disciples. Yet, in light of 2 Timothy 3:16-17, how does this passage in the Gospel of Mark profit me? How is this significant to our lives as Christians, to our training in righteousness?  How does my reading Mark 3 make me competent and equipped for every good work? I believe it applicable to discipling. I believe that we're blessed to see how our Lord and Savior understood the need to insulate, protect, and invest in His disciples.

I say that Jesus insulated them because He didn't reveal everything to them all at once - He insulated them from harsh, present realities, and those yet to come. He understood their immaturity yet, and didn't find it necessary to tell them all of the details about what was happening right now. Our advantage in reading this in the 21st century is that we can apply what we know about the whole story to each part. This allows us to better understand each element of the story - like watching a movie for the 2nd time, where you can see things you might have missed the 1st time, and understand the story at a different level. Jesus took them naturally through the progression from laymen to Apostle, He didn't sit down and tell them the whole story on day 1 and expect them to understand, let alone stick around.

In some ways, I am working through this in my home as a father to two very, young boys. My oldest is only 2 years old. I am discipling him already. I cannot speak to him at the level at which I even write this blog. I must work with him at his level, explaining the things that I know he can grasp. Therefore, I am only able to start introducing him to Jesus and familiarizing him with who God is on very basic terms. At the same time, I too am being discipled. Men more mature in the faith than I teach and instruct me and the other men in our church. Similarly, they do not expect us to grasp concepts at the same level that they themselves do. There is an understanding that progress is made only with time and careful leadership.

Also, Jesus was protecting them by isolating them from the larger crowd, setting them apart from the rest. He knew that the majority of those following Him were only doing so for their own felt needs, not because they necessarily subscribed to what He was teaching. With these 12 men chosen to spend almost every waking minute with Him, they would receive insights about those things that would not or could not be understood by most of the crowds. He would explain the parables, and help them to understand the hearts of men in reaction to the teaching they heard. Later, we'll see how this paid off when they are baffled at the crowds turning away, not able to quite grasp why they didn't see Jesus as the Messiah. By keeping his flock close to Him, Jesus was protecting them from being picked off by the enemy before it was time for them to go out on their own. 

Today, discipling does involve a measure of protection in advising against certain activities that will detract from a pure testimony and/or distract from profitable endeavors. As a parent, lines are drawn and rules are made to protect our children from danger. Often these are physical dangers, but as they mature these guidelines become more abstract, meant to guide them away from emotional and spiritual dangers. A parent that fails to create such an environment can only be interpreted as not having the best interest of their child in mind. Not warning them of upcoming pitfalls from illicit activities gives the impression that you don't really care what happens to them. The same can be said of warning them of spiritual "snares" set by the enemy to entangle immature Christians in distracting and disabling situations.

Jesus was investing in His disciples. Most importantly, the time spent in intimate conversation with these men would be invaluable in preparing them for the ministry they would receive upon Christ's ascension. This concept of investing time and energy into a worthwhile cause is not foreign to us today. Anything that we deem worthy receives an investment from us in terms of our resources, whether that is money or time. And usually those things most important receive that which is most valuable - our time. Such is the case with Our Lord and the investment He is making in the 12 men He chose to be His ambassadors. There is no doubt that anything less than the investment of His remaining months on earth would have left them ill-equipped to carry the Gospel to the world.

Once again, the connection to discipling should be quite obvious. Numerous studies and statistics point to the detrimental effects on children that are robbed of a significant relationship with their father or mother. Most often this is seen in fatherless homes, but it can easily apply to any family situation where one or both parents spends little to no time with their children.

Our Lord and Savior models for us how we are to lead and instruct those that are following us, whether they are our children or our brothers and sisters in Christ. That is how I see this passage applying to my life and, if I might be so bold, to the Church as a whole.

Monday, December 12, 2011

1 Peter 3:7

I recently came across this blog article, and it brought to mind something from scripture.

"Likewise, husbands, live with your wives in an understanding way, showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel, since they are heirs with you of the grace of life, so that your prayers may not be hindered." (1 Peter 3:7)

Notice these three things in this:
  1. "live with your wives", 
  2. "in an understanding way", and 
  3. "showing honor to the woman as the weaker vessel".
God calls husbands to be the spiritual leaders of their home, and the litmus test for how well they are answering that call is in the relationship they have with their wives. Contrary to the way modern culture twists this, this does not place wives in a position of servitude in the home. Wives are to occupy a place of honor in the home. They are to be cherished, loved, and treated with the same care that the husband gives to his own body.

In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh."  (Ephesians 5:28-31)

Let's look at these three points from 1 Peter 3:7.

Live with your wife

"Live" in the Greek is: συνοικοῦντες [sunoikountes], and can be translated as "dwell".  It is a present participle; an active verb.  In English, we'd put -ing at the end of the word to express this on-going action.  It could be read, "be living/dwelling with your wife".  

While doing the study on this word, I noticed in the Greek-English lexicon that the very next word [συνοικουρέω], very similar to this one, has the definition:  "to help in watching the house, live at home together".  Living, or dwelling, with your wife involves action.  Merely existing in the same structure is not sufficient.  Living with your wife goes beyond sharing a house.  It is an active partnership.  Living with her also means living beside her.  It is no accident that God made Eve from Adam's rib... she was made to be connected to you, to be alongside you in this life.  This is just one allusion to "two shall become one flesh".  

I'm speaking to myself as much as other husbands when I say, "It's your home, your responsibility.  She's your partner.  God has given her to you to be a helper."  She's helping you.  This means you're to be doing as much, if not more than her, in the duties of the home and the marriage.  

However, in reality most of us are living with our careers, with our hobbies, with ourselves.  We pursued our wife until we "caught" her, but with that done, we now pursue other things.  We only come home to the "castle" to rest.  As the "king" we sit upon our "throne" while the wife and children mill around the home, taking care of those things that are not ours to do.  Hey, we spent all day at work!  We deserve to just sit down and relax now, right?  Honey, when's dinner going to be ready?

No.  God calls husbands to be leaders in their homes.  He is calling us to actively live with our wives.  Get up and get to work alongside your bride, raising your family, "watching the house"... you know, living at home together.

In an understanding way

The whole phrase in the Greek is: συνοικοῦντες κατὰ γνῶσιν [kata gnosin].  Some translations are:
  • "according to knowledge", 
  • "in order to know", 
  • "from knowledge", or 
  • "in understanding".  
While studying this word "kata", I soon grasped that trying to define it apart from "gnosin" is like trying to define any other lone preposition.  (Try defining the prepositions "from" or "for" without relating them to another word; not impossible, just difficult)  The lexicon I use has quite a lengthy entry for it, and then dozens of pages follow where "kata" is a prefix on a host of other words, often times creating an entirely new meaning from the individual components.  Therefore, it's important to acknowledge the space between "kata" and "gnosin"; otherwise we might get "καταγνωσιν" which means "thinking ill of a person; low opinion; judgement against a person; condemnation".  Languages are tricky!

If I might suggest the following phrasing: "Husbands, be living together with your wives in order to understand".  Okay... in order to understand what, exactly?  Well, I believe this is two-fold.  Primarily, I believe we are to be striving to understand the nature of what God has created in marriage (and its implications), and I also believe we, as husbands, are to be striving to understand our wives.

First of all, marriage in itself isn't all that mysterious.  However, the parallel drawn between it and the reference it has to Christ and His Church is profound (Ephesians 5:32).  For most purposes, marriage has been and still is a necessity for many reasons, not the least of which is in curtailing immorality, and providing a structured environment for procreation.  While we all know that it should be more than this, at the barest human considerations, there is no mystery here.  Where we see the mystery deepen significantly is when this marriage is reflecting the union of Christ to His Bride, the Church.  The symbolism of the husband being the head of the wife, as Christ is the Head of the Church (Ephesians 5:23) is made all the more glorious when the husband and the wife are seeking to glorify God in their marriage, and specifically in their roles in the marriage.  This is experienced through the truth that God is a God that can be known (Jeremiah 9:23-24; John 17:3; 1 John 2:13). We know God to be a Triune God, that is three persons, each with distinct, but equal roles.  When we live within the God-ordained roles in marriage, we reflect the harmony and unity displayed in the Trinity.

In regard to understanding our wives, this is where we see true love being lived out: in knowing them.  Striving to know her, to know the things she likes to do, the thoughts she thinks, what toppings she wants on her pizza, why she does what she does, the proper way to fold a t-shirt, etc.  These are important, but knowing here is more than this.  The depth can be seen when we understand that gnosin [knowledge; understanding] is a noun derived from the verb ginosko [to know; to understand].  When Jesus says that eternal life is knowing God and Jesus Christ (John 17:3), He is not referring to having a passing knowledge of God.  Although it is common in our day to say that you "know" someone because you've seen them on TV, or met them at a social function, this is not the term being used here.  It is often said that this knowledge is an intimate knowledge, one requiring learning, and time, and becoming familiar with the details.  To put this in perspective, this term "to know" is a Jewish idiom for sexual intercourse between a man and a woman.  That kind of knowledge is definitely not a passing acquaintance.  

Have you ever heard women that have been married for many years, in describing their husbands and their marriage, say, "he doesn't understand me"?  If I am not seeking and working to truly know and understand my wife, then I am sinning.  I am failing to live up to the calling that God has placed on me as a husband.

Showing honor

ἀπονέμοντες τιμήν [aponemontes timēn] : bestowing, imparting, assigning | honor, esteem, value

Right after this it says we are to bestow this honor as to "a weaker vessel".  (If you're interested, the Greek here is ἀσθενεστέρῳ σκεύει [asthenesterōi skeuei].)

I don't think you can really separate these two phrases without losing a significant portion of the meaning.  To bestow or to assign implies a conscious action.  It isn't an afterthought, and it isn't a default position.  It is necessary to actively give this honor to her, to show her consideration and respect, and this doesn't mean to vacate your role and let her play your part.  As a man, there are often times when using your God-given physical strength is required.  Such as in stern confrontation towards a threat to your family.  At those times, a firm hand is the correct application.  However, God has given the same man the ability to tenderly handle a fragile piece of art or some other valuable, delicate object.  This is how husbands are to treat their wives.  Assigning such high value as one would to something delicate and valuable.  

There should be no hint of inferiority in this concept.  As such, I am not particularly fond of the way The Message paraphrases this passage:  "Be good husbands to your wives. Honor them, delight in them. As women they lack some of your advantages."  I can understand what the author was trying to say in the way he phrased that, but I feel he lends to an interpretation that supports an inferior view of wives to their husbands.  That's just my personal opinion on that.

This "showing honor" is rarely seen outside Christian marriage, and often not with in it.  It really requires a man to humble himself, to step down off of the pedestal on which society places "manly men".  Assigning our wives this honor requires us to acknowledge that God made her for us for a reason.  There are personality traits, gifts, skills, abilities given to her to complement those of her husband.  

I do not recall the author, but it has stuck with me since I read some time ago, a description of how husband and wife complement each other in the home.  The husband is the "thermostat".  He sets the spiritual temperature in the home.  But the wife is the "thermometer".  If he is not paying attention to what she is telling him, the environment in that home is going to get very uncomfortable very soon.  The point is that one cannot function properly without the other.  

If the husband passively allows the wife to usurp his role, or fill both roles, the imbalance will cause both to quickly grow unhappy with the marriage.  Of course, this doesn't even begin to describe the effects this will have on his and her individual spiritual growth, which is what the rest of verse 7 is talking about (and possibly a topic for another post).

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Liberty (not a Bible study...)

Proposal: Limiting your personal freedom of choice preserves your liberties

Henry Ford remarked about the Model T, "Any customer can have a car painted any colour that he wants so long as it is black." I've always chuckled about that.  It reminds me of the dinner policy my mother had when I was growing up, "Sure you can have a choice for dinner... you can eat what I cooked or you don't have to eat."

I think we need to define "liberty" before we go on.  Merriam-Webster defines it as such:
the quality or state of being free:
a : the power to do as one pleases
b : freedom from physical restraint
c : freedom from arbitrary or despotic control
d : the positive enjoyment of various social, political, or economic rights and privileges
e : the power of choice

I believe it's fair to say your liberty is defined by, and perhaps limited to, choices that do not infringe on the personal liberties of another.  Is that fair?  Sure, "pure freedom" suggest absolutely no limits, but is that grounded in reality?  Where do you find such conditions?  Whatever situation one finds themselves, there are limitations of some kind.

Check this out:
Neither in law nor equity can there be personal liberty to any man which shall be bondage and ruin to his fellow-men. John B. Finch, the great constitutional amendment advocate, was wont to settle this point by a single illustration. He said, “I stand alone upon a platform. I am a tall man with long arms which I may use at my pleasure. I may even double my fist and gesticulate [gesture] at my own sweet will. But if another shall step upon the platform, and in the exercise of my personal liberty I bring my fist against his face, I very soon find that my personal liberty ends where that man’s nose begins.” [Source]

This isn't a deep point, but a liberal viewpoint is actually founded on liberty.  Yet, perhaps from necessity, the liberal viewpoint springs forth from a position of restraining personal liberties. Consider the relatively recent (2006) ban on trans-fats in New York City.  One citizen remarked, "Often people don't make wise food choices even when given the option. So we have to make choices for them. It's a positive move."  Our country has a rich history of such "positive moves", such as restrictions on the trafficking and use of certain drugs (cocaine, opiates, marijuana, etc).  This trend continues today in the popular "tobacco-free zones" enacted by many municipalities across the country.

Anyone ever heard of the slippery slope?  I think it was greased with trans-fats.  But seriously, where do you draw the line?  I believe something needs to be cleared up regarding our "rights". The constitution of this country protects your right to have opinions.  You can have opinions on anything and everything.  Where your opinions hit a brick wall is when you try to force them on me.

Which brings me to the topic of the day: Right-to-work laws. 

I've been looking into this ever since some members of our State Legislature made absolute fools of themselves in 2011 by running away from their jobs because they didn't like the rules.
I totally understand though... there were so many times that, as a child, I refused to play games with my older cousins because they wouldn't let me win. There were more of them, they were bigger than me, and I was a sore loser. So, I'd go tell my mommy or someone else and whine incessantly until they told (forced) my cousins to let me play. See? I do understand.

I wanted to better understand what this "right-to-work" stuff is all about. Therefore, I've educated myself on both sides. I have read up on the Wagner Act of 1935, the Taft-Hartley Act of 1947, and the Landrum-Griffin Act of 1959. I read many articles from the National Right to Work Legal Defense Foundation's website, and I did the same at the AFL-CIO's website. I looked into newspaper articles, periodicals, and journals that addressed many concerns on both sides of the issue.

Here is the gist, as I have come to understand it: 
  1. The Wagner Act effectively made labor unions federally "sponsored" entities. This means that unions have the backing of the Federal government should they need to compel an employer to associate with them, but they must have the support of the majority of the employees.
    • There is another valid debate here of whether the U.S. Government should have ever created such special circumstances for unions.
  2. Right-to-Work (RTW) laws are enacted at the State government level; they prohibit labor unions and employers from coercing union dues and/or membership as a condition of employment
    • In layman's terms, it means you cannot be forced to be part of a union, or pay dues to said union, should you desire to work at a particular place of employment where that union exists.
    • RTW laws do not mean that you are entitled to a job, nor do they provide a means for you to sue for loss of a job.
  3. Both sides have convincing arguments:
    • Pro-RTW: such legislation is the only means left to the states in an attempt to restore free-market conditions (i.e. choice)
    • Anti-RTW: such legislation would mean lower wages and looser safety regulation.

I am not anti-union. I believe that the theory is sound (obviously there was a valid reason for their inception), though I would suggest that the practice of unionizing has often - not always - been unsatisfactory. The human element just allows for abuse and corruption on both sides, be it the employer or the collective employees. What remains is trying to find the balance - something between the extremes of a slave work force and anarchy in the shop.  

Which bring us back to the point at the beginning of this post: how can we allow the unions to swing their fists without them hitting my nose?  Suppose that I should decide, for whichever reason, that I do not want to associate with the union. Am I to have the decision made for me, as a restraint on my liberty, in the name of "what's good for me"?  I guess it ultimately comes down to trust.  Neither the Hatfield's, nor the McCoy's can be expected to trust the other after so many decades of feuding.  Then where do we find peace?  I would venture to say that it has to start with the individual.  And choice.  

Without forgetting the wrongs and atrocities of the past, but instead choosing to leave them there - in the past - then, can we at least agree that "the American way" is not letting the majority decide "the right choice" for the individual?

Monday, November 28, 2011

Mark 3:13 - Sovereignty

13  And he went up on the mountain and called to him those whom he desired, and they came to him.  (Mark 3:13)

One verse.  Yes, one verse, but there's a lot in this one verse.  

"And he went up on the mountain"

You ever notice that a lot happens on mountains in the Bible?  Some commentators point out that there's a popular component to this suggesting important, "close-to-God" moments happen on mountains; because one is closer to Him there.  Or something like that.  I don't buy into that necessarily.  I mean, I know that I haven't actually been to Israel myself, but it's my understanding that mountains are fairly prevalent there.  Maybe getting away from the oppressive crowds (even away from people that are seeking to kill you) naturally leads you to go up on a mountain?  Or more likely it has to do with what Luke tells us in a parallel account of this (Luke 6:12), that He spent the night praying about what was to happen next.  He most likely sought a place of seclusion for this purpose.

"and called to him those whom he desired"
I'm not sure if what I have is a healthy or unhealthy skepticism of "experts" or "specialists". I have a great deal of respect for their years of effort and work that do tend to come with most academic or technical fields of study.  It's just that I think that an unquestioning belief can be the mark of a fool (Prov. 14:15).  Of course, I don't necessarily believe that I'm going to rival the level of expertise in any such area, but I do like to educate myself to a certain degree in just about anything in which I could possibly exert any kind of authority or influence over someone else.
All of that to say that I know that I have a great deal to learn yet about New Testament Greek, but I do think it is prudent to dig into it in as much as God grants me grace when studying His Word.  I want to understand what the author meant when he chose that word to express that thought/concept.  For instance, how was that same word/phrase used by other authors, both with in Scripture and with out?
and (καὶ) calls on (προσκαλεῖται) whom (οὓς) he wants (ἤθελεν αὐτός)
I spent a good deal of time trying to understand how προσκαλεῖται is used in the Bible.  I have a greater appreciation for those that can grasp the nuances of the Greek language, the tenses and voices, the grammar on a whole... it's not nearly as easy as one might think at first glance.  I have a greater thirst now for learning it in more detail.

First, it seems perhaps obvious to others, but this verse doesn't say that the "called" were just the twelve. Surely, the twelve were appointed from within these, but nothing in this  suggests that only the twelve were called to come up on the mountain.  We assume it was just them, but as of right now, I am unable to find anything to support that assumption.  Second, Mark is making it quite clear that Jesus chose those whom He desired.  Those that were called did not choose in themselves to go, but they were chosen (John 15:16).

Aside:  How much does it play into all of this that they were even there to be called?  I mean, presumably they were still following Jesus for one reason or another... they hadn't rejected what He was teaching and returned home, right?  I think it should be said that it is so easy to make an implicit deduction in these kinds of passages that really plays on a part of our sin nature to take credit for our "coming to Christ".  The reason I say it's an implicit deduction is because Scripture is explicit about our inability to effect any part of our conversion, that it is entirely of God, in other places (Jonah 2:9; Ephesians 2:8; Philippians 1:29).  We all too often want to form the context of the situation into a part of the narrative, providing us with a sub-plot that at the very least supports a cooperative effort in the work of converting a cold, dead heart into a living, feeling heart.  We will fight tooth and nail to crack open the possibility that we contributed something - contrary to everything God's Word tells us.

Note, Jesus didn't advertise "an altar call", He didn't take a vote, and He did not make it a contest whereby the fittest (oh, let's say, the first up the mountain) might earn "a spot on the team".  This would negate grace, if any part of it was dependent on performance. 

A well-known theologian has posited the following question:
"Why did I choose to believe the gospel and commit my life to Christ when my neighbor, who heard the same gospel, chose to reject it?"
I challenge you to meditate on that question for some time.  

I wonder if any of the disciples that were not called up on the mountain later asked themselves a similar question.  If so, it might have been much easier to answer them at the time: "because He didn't call you to come up there on that mountain".  What about the 12 that were called?  Did they think they were called because of something they had accomplished, or said, or thought?  Later, when Jesus told them, "You did not choose Me but I chose you", do you suppose they thought, "well, yeah, but I had to choose to follow... I could have said 'no'"?

Is this too far off from contemporary evangelical thinking?  If asked the above question about why they chose to believe the gospel, but their neighbor rejected Christ, your average Christian would probably answer that they decided to follow, or that they made the right choice - logically suggesting that the someone that had rejected Him made the wrong choice.  Really?  Then congratulations are due you.  In some small way, this would lead one to expect that someday God should applaud their decision, their right choice... and then, in regard to their salvation, it isn't ALL of the glory to Christ... just MOST OF IT!  Some small part of it is mine... I mean, I could have said, "no".  That is the logical end of that position.

This is a generally difficult concept to fully accept.  It is SO contrary to what we're taught. Especially here in America, in the land of the free, where everyone has their rights, and no one is compelled to do anything against their own will.  Right?  

I mean, just to get a little on the silly side, I have to admit that I only obey the law of gravity because I want to... because it's just easier this way.  I could choose to ignore it at any time.  And don't even get me started on linear time, I only obey it because it would be hard to maintain steady relationships otherwise, but if I wanted to I could choose to live in a timeless dimension.  If I wanted to... I just don't want to right now.  Silly, right?  

These are concepts that we accept as being ubiquitous, unavoidable, universal constants. We do not argue with them, we exist and respond within their constraints.  Admittedly, on a purely conceptual level, our freedom is limited by them, but while we may have literature and art that fantasizes outside of these constraints, we must live every moment of our real lives firmly within their grasp.  Why then is this concept, that the Good and Sovereign Lord of all Creation has created all men within certain constraints, so hard to grasp?  There is so much freedom (and responsibility) within these bounds, and we're perfectly fine with it until someone phrases it in a way that seems to limit our perception of free will.

Whoa!  I'm really getting off on a tangent here, aren't I?  Suffice it to say that Jesus sovereignly called them out from the larger group of followers and they obeyed His call.

"and they came to him."
and (καὶ) they went forth (ἀπῆλθον) to (πρὸς) him (αὐτόν)

It doesn't say they formed a committee to discuss the pros and cons of going.  There isn't even mention that one paused to think about it.  They just "went forth to him".  Their Lord summoned, and they came.
All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out. For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me. And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day. (John 6:37-39)
Theologians have given it a name: irresistible grace.  John Piper explains it here:
“This is what we mean when we use terms like sovereign grace or irresistible grace. We mean that the Holy Spirit is God’s Spirit, and therefore he is omnipotent and sovereign. And therefore, he is irresistible and infallibly effective in his regenerating work. Which doesn’t mean that we don’t resist him. We do. The Bible is plain about that (Acts 7:51). What the sovereignty of grace and the sovereignty of the Spirit mean is that when God chooses, he can overcome the rebellion and resistance of our wills. He can make Christ look so compelling that our resistance is broken and we freely come to him and receive him and believe him.”
At this point one can start arguments about the extremes of doctrines taken and twisted by people seeking to justify their own sin and desires.  On one hand you get those that confuse the doctrines of grace with license to sin ("if it is all predetermined, then why do I need to worry about it?") and to the other side of tearing it down into logical fallacies about every part must be just like the whole.  The point being that when we lose sight of what it is that Scripture says, and start trying to overlay a human perspective to these deeper issues, it is easy to get off track.  It's not by accident either - the enemy loves nothing more than to confuse and distract believers with these kinds of things.

This post is being published on Thanksgiving day of 2011.  Therefore, I'd like to suggest that instead of focusing at this time on why exactly the disciples responded as they did, that we instead just meditate on that very grace and love of the Father that called us and allowed us to respond to Him.  This should humble us and also draw us ever closer to Him. If I really grasp what it means to have been chosen in Him before the foundation of the world then it is really difficult to escape the conclusion that the Creator and Sustainer of the universe must have plans for me.  Just as Jesus has plans for these 12 men, so too does He have plans for me and you.  

Give THANKS this day and every day for this amazing truth!!