Friday, August 16, 2019

What is Leviathan?

[I realize that this little study might seem a bit 'nerdish' to some people since it regards the definition of an obscure word in the OT. However, please read through it all and get the real lesson that I finally get to at the end. As before, the comments section is not working. If you have any questions or comments, please email me at brian.scarborough@aol.com Thanks for reading.]

Sometimes I run across a word, especially in the Old Testament, that I do not understand, and since it usually is not that important, I do not bother to study it out. One of those words has been the word "Leviathan".

Though I had been puzzled by what the word means or what/who it refers to, I had never bothered to really study it out - until now. The reason I have done so is that someone who is considered a prophet declared that he had a revelation from God about this "Leviathan". That caught my interest. He said that God showed him that Leviathan was a powerful evil spirit who has "been awakened" and is becoming active and that we must all watch out for him. I was skeptical of this because of the fact that spirits do not sleep or remain dormant for hundreds or thousands of years and then wake up to cause havoc. Evil spirits cause problems whenever they have the opportunity. They do not "wake up" since they do not sleep.

So, I thought I would study it out myself and see what I could come up with. There did not seem too much to work with because the word "Leviathan" is only referenced five times and only in the Old  Testament. It is twice in Job, twice in Psalms and once in Isaiah where it is used prophetically about the End Times.

The one thing that stands out about most of these references is that Leviathan is some kind of sea creature or sea serpent. But that itself does not tell us much. This is where historians of the ancient world come in handy. Scholars say Leviathan may be an actual sea creature (perhaps no longer extant) or a mythological creature of the pagan religions. This sea monster represented the forces of chaos. One commentary on Job indicates that "to awaken Leviathan is to 'annihilate the existing order and plunge into catastrophe'". Some call it "the chaos monster".

Thinking this through we have to understand what things can be like on the sea or ocean. Things can get very chaotic. Winds and waves can toss a ship all around and sink it in minutes. A body of water that is usually calm can become deadly in a short period of time. This represents what life can become for people, families or even a nation. Things go along fine and then the unthinkable happens. A terrorist attack or a natural disaster can throw people into a disorder and chaos.

Let's go back to the scriptures again and see if we can understand better what the biblical writers were telling us.

"In that day the Lord with his sore and great and strong sword shall punish Leviathan the piercing serpent, even Leviathan that crooked serpent; and he shall slay the dragon that is in the sea." Isaiah 27:1 KJV

The expression, "in that day", refers to the Day of the Lord in prophecy which is the Tribulation Period followed by the Millennial Reign of Christ. So, now we must see if there are any parallels in the New Testament to this passage. And we do find a couple.

"Michael and his angels fought with the dragon; and the dragon and his angels fought, but they did not prevail, nor was a place found for them in heaven any longer. So the great dragon was cast out, that serpent of old, called the Devil and Satan, who deceives the whole world; he was cast to the earth, and his angels were cast out with him." Revelation 12:7-9

"Then I saw an angel coming down from heaven, having the key to the bottomless pit and a great chain in his hand.  He laid hold of the dragon, that serpent of old, who is the Devil and Satan, and bound him for a thousand years; and he cast him into the bottomless pit, and shut him up, and set a seal on him, so that he should deceive the nations no more till the thousand years were finished." Revelation 20:1-3

Notice that the dragon of Revelation who is Satan and the Devil is also called a serpent just as Leviathan was in Isaiah 27. To me, this is quite clear. Satan and Leviathan are the same. There is not a separate spirit apart from Satan called Leviathan. 

Leviathan is actually an older concept than Satan is. Or, rather, the force that causes trouble and chaos in this world was called in very ancient times 'Leviathan'. Later, God revealed to Israel as late as the Babylonian Captivity that there was a fallen angel originally called Lucifer who fell and became 'Satan'. (It might seem strange to us, but there are no direct references to Satan before Isaiah 14.) After the Captivity (6th century B.C.), there are no more references to Leviathan but only to Satan. So, the New Testament never uses the term and, in fact, the Greek language had no word for it. 

I have written all the above to say this. If you think that you have a revelation from God regarding some part of the Bible, study it out thoroughly in the Word before you seek more revelation on it and insist that it is all from God. If you don't you are opening yourself up to deception. This person who proclaimed that some ancient spirit was back from who knows where and that we have to watch out for him is, frankly, deceived. Leviathan is an ancient spirit, but we now know him as Satan.

All right, you might say, but why make a big deal about this fellow who thinks that Leviathan is some special evil spirit apart from Satan. Well, there is a tendency among some Christians today to focus too much on Satan and evil spirits. Now I believe in the activity of Satan and his demons and in spiritual warfare. But the Bible does not reveal a whole lot about any evil spirit other than Satan, a fallen angel. We do not have names of these evil spirits. We are sometimes given different classes of demons (principalities, powers, rulers of darkness and spiritual wickedness) and types of demons (unclean spirits is a general term for evil spirits, but there are spirits of divination and others). 

But some have focused on certain spirits and assigned them names and claiming that it is scriptural. (Jezebel comes to mind.) Then we are warned to watch out for these spirits and given a list of things these spirits do which look remarkably like what Paul calls the works of the flesh - strife, envy, etc. What this does is cause us to focus on evil spirits, real and imagined, instead of the Lord. Books about some so-called evil spirits are multiplied and those who are on the lookout for these spirits are considered spiritual themselves. 

I lived through that era in the charismatic world when we had the so-called "deliverance ministries". It was not pretty. We were told that there were demons in everybody and everything. Thank God, I was delivered from the deliverance ministry. That does not mean that I reject deliverance from demons or for the need for them to be cast out when necessary. But the incessant focus on the devil is unhealthy and unscriptural. The Bible tells us how to deal with the devil in very simple terms. "Resist him, firm in the faith." "Put on the full armor of God … " It says to "be vigilant, because your adversary, the devil … seeks whom he may devour."

But what happens when we start watching out, not just for Satan, but for Leviathan and Jezebel and whatever supposed evil spirit we are told about. Now we have a multitude of evil spirits to be aware of. This can make us demon-minded. We are no longer "seeking those things that are above", but those things on the earth especially evil spirits. You know, it seems like the old errors of the past, like the so-called deliverance ministries, just crop up in a different form later on. Once the church realizes and understands the activity and reality of the spirit realm, especially evil spirits,  Satan is happy to give us a lot of "fake news" regarding what he is up to. He likes attention from the church though he hides himself from the world. 

Therefore, anything that is revealed to us must be tested by the Word. The Word is final authority. Too many times we have gotten a little revelation and then turned it into a big revelation by adding to it and distorting the original revelation we were given. And sometimes we did not really get a revelation at all. We must "test all things, hold fast to what is good". Then discard the rest. 

I am glad that we live in a time when the spiritual gifts are flowing. I want more of them. But if we are not careful we will get drawn off into error and deception. This has happened in the past and God has had to shut down the flow of revelation because immature and "enthusiastic" Spirit-filled believers could not handle it. 

We need, in these last days, more than ever to keep disciplined and focused on Jesus and the Word of God. Yes, we need the Spirit, but we need to put the Word first and the Spirit second. That is the divine order and it will keep our attention on the right things.


Saturday, June 22, 2019

Two Words of Wisdom

The title I have given this blog post might be a little misleading. The expression, "word of wisdom', is a spiritual gift listed in 1 Corinthians 12. It refers to the revealing of God's purpose and plan. However, that is not the subject of this blog post. Rather, I am talking about two New Testament Greek words which are translated as wisdom - 'sophia' and 'phronesis'. These words have similar meanings that even overlap a bit. They can be used interchangeably at times, but we want to look at their differences in the New Testament. We will primarily use the epistle of James for this study.

The Greek word 'phronesis' is a word for a type of wisdom or intelligence. It is more specifically a type of wisdom relevant to practical action, implying both good judgement and excellence of character and habits, or practical virtue. 

The Greek word 'sophia' is a word which means "knowledge of the divine plan, the wisdom of God as evinced in forming and executing His counsels". (Thayer's Greek Lexicon) 

Sophia is the "thousand foot high view", so to speak,while 'phronesis' is about solving a practical problem what now. 'Sophia' answers questions like "Why do things like this happen?" and phronesis answers questions like "What do we do right now?".

Now we will examine the book of James and learn about both of these concepts. 

James 1:2-5 "Consider it pure joy, my brothers and sisters, whenever you face temptations, tests and trials of many kinds, because you know that the testing of your faith produces perseverance. Let perseverance finish its work so that you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything. If any of you lacks wisdom, you should ask God, who gives generously to all without finding fault, and it will be given to you." [I have added "tests and trials" to "temptations" because the Greek word is the same for all three.]

I assumed, at one time, that the word for wisdom here must be 'phronesis'. It seemed to me that James was telling us to pray that God would give us practical steps to get out of the trial we are in. But the word is actually 'sophia'. We need to read what follows in the first chapter of James to see what he means.

James 1:13-17 "When tempted, tested or tried, no one should say, “God is tempting, testing or trying me.” For God cannot be tempted, tested or tried by evil, nor does he tempt. tested or try anyone  … Don’t be deceived, my dear brothers and sisters. Every good and perfect gift is from above, coming down from the Father of the heavenly lights, who does not change like shifting shadows."

James is not just interested in practical wisdom - how to handle the situation we are in - he is interested in us knowing what is going on in a larger sense. The first thing he wants us to 'get' is that God is not behind our problems or temptations. Only good things come from Him. In fact, it is hard to receive practical wisdom sometimes unless you understand what is 'going on'.

If we think that our trial comes from God, we will give in to them and not seek His aid. Let's take sickness, for example. If you think that God has caused your sickness, or is allowing it so that you He can teach you something, or get you closer to Himself, or make you holier, then it will hinder your faith for healing. 

When it comes to healing God is your answer, not your problem. Peter made this very clear when he talked about Jesus' ministry. "How God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, healing all who were oppressed by the devil." (Acts 10:38) "Many followed Him and He healed them all." (Matthew 12:15) All whom Jesus healed were oppressed by Satan and He healed all who came to Him for healing. That means that sickness is not from God but from the devil. The NT is consistent on this fact.

But James is not just interested in having us understanding where our problems originates. He wants to know how to respond to the trial as well. At the end of his epistle, James does give us practical wisdom (phronesis) regarding sickness and other things. "Is anyone among you sick? Then call for the elders of the church and they are to pray over him, anointing him with oil in the name of the Lord; and the prayer offered in faith will restore the one who is sick, and the Lord will raise him up, and if he has committed sins, they will be forgiven him." (James 5:14-15)

James wants us to have wisdom, both 'sophia' and 'phronesis'. He wants us to understand what in the world is going on and that God only brings good and not evil into our lives. And He also wants us to have practical wisdom to get out of our evil circumstances and back into the good that He wants us to have. So do I.

[Note: When I suggest that James wants us to pray for 'sophia'-wisdom in chapter one, I do not want to leave the impression that you cannot pray for phronesis-wisdom as well. We often need God's wisdom to know what to do and to be led by His Spirit for He always makes a way of escape.]

[Addendum: Above I mentioned the spiritual gift of the 'word of wisdom' as a revealing of God's purpose and plan. To further explicate this, I want to add that the word for wisdom here is 'Sophia' not 'phronesis'. Many have been teaching that the spiritual gift of the word of wisdom is about giving practical advice to those who need it. This is not the case. Sophia reveals God's purpose and plan in the mind and will of God about the future. We should not confuse the spiritual gift if the word of wisdom with the practical advice we might be able to give to one another.]

(The comment section is not working. Sorry.) 

Sunday, May 26, 2019

The Holy Spirit as Teacher, part 3 - Humility of Mind

This is the third of a series of posts on the Holy Spirit as the Teacher of the Church. I encourage you to read the first two posts before reading this, though this post will stand on its own.

In my previous post I showed how sometimes we make errors in interpreting the scriptures, thinking the Lord has showed us something when He has not. And I showed how scholarship can keep us from certain errors.

This does not mean, however, that Bible scholars, or any teachers, are infallible. Naturally, scholars are very intelligent and well-educated people and, as such, tend to rely on their own ability to figure things out and understand them. Unfortunately, this is a major source of pride. Pride, especially intellectual pride, is a dangerous thing. "Knowledge inflates with pride." (1 Corinthians 8:1)  "God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble." (1 Peter 5:5)

What conclusion can we draw? When someone becomes proud in their knowledge about the Bible, God can't teach them much anymore. They become increasingly unteachable. This happens even if they are honored in their church or in academic circles.

I have to say that I have benefited enormously by Bible teachers and scholars, but I have been aware right from the beginning that scholars often rely on their own understanding and too frequently make monumental errors, even believing and teaching heresy at times. Pride is a great danger to the scholar - and to us all. Today, many supposed conservative, orthodox Bible scholars deny certain portions of the Bible. (I have gone into more detail on this in previous posts.)

In times past, evangelical scholars affirmed the entire Bible as the Word of God, but it is becoming increasingly common for many to deny certain portions of it. Take, for example, the times when God told the Israelites to drive all the Canaanites out of the Promised Land or to kill every person in battle. That seems pretty bad, doesn't it. But instead of trying to learn from the Holy Spirit why God did this, they simply deny that God ever said it at all. It seems unjust to them, and since God is not unjust, then He must not have said it. The Israelites must have been wrong about what God said.

No, it is these scholars who are wrong about what God said. I, too, have had trouble understanding why God did some of these things. It seemed wrong to me as well at one time. But I did not reject the scriptures because of this. Rather, I accepted it as God's Word and figured that I simply did not understand. As time went by, He showed me little by little that His judgements of the Canaanites was just and right. I understand justice and judgment much better than I did before.

In other words, my mind became renewed to the truths that I struggled with because I maintained a teachable spirit and a humble mind. Now some people think that I was being intellectually dishonest. If I did not think that these things were right, then I should have rejected them. But I was actually submitting to the Word of God despite my own way of thinking. I knew that the Bible was right so there was something wrong with my thinking. That is intellectual humility. We have to say to ourselves that God is smarter than we are, that God knows what is right even when we think He's wrong.

Some are touting their "intellectual honesty" by rejecting parts of the Bible, not realizing they are rejecting God Himself. They have a different idea of who God is than all that the Bible teaches. They have made God in their own image as a result. He is now subject to their idea of who God ought to be and what He ought to do. This is pride and idolatry.

Now some would ask, "What if we have doubts about certain things? Is it okay for Christians to doubt?"  But I think that is the wrong question. The question should be, "What do we do when we experience doubts?" A doubt is really a temptation not to believe what God has said. There is no sin in being tempted to doubt some things, but it is a sin to yield to it. We cannot end up saying that the Bible is in error. It is not. Our thinking can be in error, but His revelation cannot be. Therefore, the fault is in us and not in His Holy Word. We should not have to be intellectually persuaded of every last thing in the Bible for us to accept it all as God's Word. We have to have the humility to accept what we do not understand or even what does not seem right to us.

What we need is humility of mind, an attitude that believes what God has put into the Bible no matter that we may think otherwise. It is not being "authentic" or "honest" to reject the Word because we believe we have a better way of thinking. Our "honesty" is really a species of pride and will prevent God from teaching us and giving us understanding of those very things we question. Questions are fine; rejecting God's answers is not.

There are many things through the years that I have not understood, but I did not reject those things. I just assumed that my mind was not renewed to that particular thing, and that God would show me as time went by. The book of Proverbs says that it takes wisdom to understand justice and judgment. (1:3). It also says not to be wise in your own estimation. We gain wisdom from the Word and from the experience of life (assuming we are paying attention). Therefore, our understanding of things like God's judgments may be lacking when we are younger in the Lord.

When we do not understand something or we think that something in the scriptures cannot possibly be right, it should cause us to dig deeper into the Word, not find theories that supposedly reconcile what we think with what the Bible teaches. That corrupts the Bible and makes it an idol of our own making.

Some have accused those who hold to the Bible no matter what as making an idol out of it.  But it those who try to remake the Bible in their own image by imaginatively reinterpreting it in light of their self-assumed enlightened thinking that truly make it an idol. When we exalt our own minds above God's Word, we rebel against Him. Being true to oneself is sin. Being true to God and the Bible is righteousness.

(The comment section doesn't seem to be working.)

Saturday, April 20, 2019

The Holy Spirit as Teacher, part 2

In the previous post, we saw that the Holy Spirit was given to us to, among other things, to teach us the truth. He is, in fact, called the Spirit of Truth. I also pointed out that this is not taught much in our churches. It is not hard to understand why. There are many competing claims about the meaning of just about every passage in the Bible especially by those who say "the Lord showed me" this, that or the other. I can see why pastors and other ministers might not want to encourage that kind of talk since competing claims cannot all be right. How can we deal with these competing claims to truth?

One of the things that we can do is to "study to show ourselves approved to God ... rightly dividing the word of truth." (2 Timothy 3:15) Some of us are going to be ashamed because we have been teaching wrong things thinking that the Lord has showed us something when He has not. Through reading, studying and meditating on the Word will be able to get our minds renewed to what the Bible actually teaches.

I realize that this might seem to be a contradiction to what I said in my previous post, but it is not. I do not mean that we figure it all out in our heads without the Spirit guiding us. Rather I am talking about allowing the Holy Spirit to use scholarly methods and knowledge as a tool to teach us. 

Here is an example of what I mean:

Recently, I have heard a claim about a well-known scripture in Isaiah. It was Isaiah 40:31:

"They that wait upon the Lord shall renew their strength; they mount their wings as eagles; they shall run and not be weary; they shall walk, and not faint."

The question was about the word, "wait". What does it mean? The claim was that it was waiting like a waiter waits on a table. It is active.  We must be serving the Lord and not just waiting for God to do something. But it traditionally has been taken in a passive sense of waiting for someone. So, which is right?

This man, who is an outstanding Bible teacher, was emphatic that it must be taken in an active sense. And that certainly is possible if the Hebrew word which is translated as "wait" has the same meaning as the English word. But it does not. The Hebrew word which is translated as "wait" does not have this active meaning. It could never refer to someone waiting on a table or anything similar. 

So, one of the tools available to us is looking up a biblical word to find the meaning in the original language - Hebrew or Greek. Or we might look up some scholarly source that tells us that. (I found out from my commentary on Isaiah.)

We could also look at other scriptures where this word is used. Although it is not 100%, if a Hebrew word is consistently translated by a certain English word, then we can tell what the Hebrew word means in multiple contexts. In other words, we compare scripture with scripture. There is another verse which helps us illustrate the meaning of the word "wait".

"Behold, as the eyes of servants look to the hand of their masters, and as the eyes of a maiden to the hand of her mistress; so our eyes wait upon the Lord our God, until that he have mercy upon us." Psalm 123:2

So, we can see now that the word "wait" in Isaiah 40:31 has the sense of waiting passively. And it does not mean that it is simply 'waiting around' for God to do something, but being in God's presence and looking to hear from Him. 

I recommend that, if you don't already have one, get a good Study Bible and different translations and even scholarly books to help you in your studies. We should not ignore good scholarship, but understand that it is a useful tool that the Spirit of Truth can use to teach and correct us.

[The comments section is not working. Sorry for any inconvenience.]

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

The Holy Spirit is the Teacher of the Church

I assume that if you are reading this that you have received Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior. That is the most important thing for you to do in this life. Without it you are lost. With it you have access to everything that God has. 

One of the things that God has for you is the Holy Spirit. When you are born-again, the Holy Spirit comes to dwell inside of you. More than that, you can be filled with the Spirit as well. You can experience the gifts of the Spirit. You can be led by the Spirit and have Him be your guide in life. But did you know that there is more?

You can receive the Holy Spirit as your Teacher just as you received Jesus as your Savior. In fact, He is already inside you trying to teach you - if you will listen.

When Jesus was on the earth He was the Teacher of His disciples. "But you, do not be called ‘Rabbi’; for One is your Teacher, the Christ, and you are all brethren." (Matthew 23:8) Wouldn't it have been wonderful to sit at Jesus' feet and listen to His teachings. What a great advantage those early disciples had?

Did you know that we have it better than they had? You might say that that is impossible. How could we have it better? But Jesus told the disciples:



"I tell you the truth, it is to your advantage that I go away; for if I do not go away, the Helper (The Holy Spirit) will not come to you; but if I go, I will send Him to you … when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.  He will glorify Me, for He will take of Mine and will disclose it to you." JOHN 16:7, 12-14

"The Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in My name, He will teach you all things, and bring to your remembrance all that I said to you. " JOHN 14:26
Notice that the Holy Spirit took Jesus' place in our midst. The Spirit is now the Teacher. 

I read these verses as a young Christian some 40 years ago. I accepted these vital truths for myself. I accepted the Holy Spirit as my Teacher. From then on He began to teach me many things. He began to guide me into many truths. He began to reveal Jesus to me. 

I know that we have all experienced this to one degree or another, but I don't think that we have embraced it as we should have. We have relied too much on human teachers or on our own minds to figure out what God's Word means. But human teachers can make mistakes and our brains are too puny to figure it all out. Unfortunately, some of the most educated and intelligent have made the most foolish errors. 

Others have looked to their church or their denomination as their guide, and while they have gotten some things right they have gotten some things wrong as well. In the Middle Ages, the Church was afraid to give the Bible to the masses of people because they thought that people would come up with all sorts of stuff and would splinter the church into a thousand pieces. (They actually got that right!) Better to let the official Church tell everyone what the truth is, then we will be safe. But what happens when the official church is wrong or refuses to correct itself or refuses new light from the Word of God. No, each of us needs the Holy Spirit to teach us and to guide us into all truth.

However, many Christians simply lack the confidence that they can learn more than basic truths from the Bible. Others are overconfident thinking that they have it all figured out. Neither type of Christian is really trusting the Holy Spirit to teach them and to correct their wrong thinking. 

For the Holy Spirit to teach you, you must believe He will teach you and you must maintain a teachable spirit, leaning not on you own understanding. The Holy Spirit can then direct and guide you through the paths of Scripture. (See Proverbs 3:5-6, New King James if you have it)

So, does all this mean that we shouldn't listen to those who preach and teach the Bible? Should we learn simply on our own? Of course not. God has put teachers in the church to teach us. The Holy Spirit can teach them and anoint them to teach us. That is good as long as we still rely on the Holy Spirit to teach us and not just believe what brother or sister so-and-so said. (I might expand on this in a later blog post.)

The most important thing is to maintain a teachable spirit. That is really what the word "meekness" means in the New Testament. It is the opposite of being partisan. I have learned very much from those with whom I have much disagreement. Nobody in the Body of Christ is wrong about everything and God does seem to show different things sometimes to different groups. I learn from them all, but it is all from the Holy Spirit who is the Teacher of the Church.

[Apparently, the Comments thing is not working. A couple of readers have indicated that they tried to post comments and were unable to do so. Also, I got an alert about the comments and Google+ that I could not decipher. So, I am guessing that it just does not work at all. Sorry for any problems.]







Saturday, September 1, 2018

Covetousness and Contentment

How does one know if there is some covetousness in them? Is it okay to want what you do not currently have, or is that covetousness? Where do we draw the line?

One of the trickiest areas of determining sin in our lives is with covetousness. The NT says that covetousness is idolatry, and Paul said that when he was young it was covetousness that tripped him up. (Colossians 3:7; Romans 7:7 ff.) So if I want a new car, am I being covetous? Should I suppress that desire? Let's see what the scriptures might say about things like that.
Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, “I will never leave you nor forsake you." Hebrews 13:5
Now godliness with contentment is great gain. For we brought nothing into this world, and it is certain we can carry nothing out. And having food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation and a snare, and into many foolish and harmful lusts which drown men in destruction and perdition. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil, for which some have strayed from the faith in their greediness, and pierced themselves through with many sorrows. 1 Timothy 6:6-10
Most of us are familiar with the latter part of the Timothy passage. The expression "the love of money is the root of all evil" is well known not just in the church but in the world. Unfortunately, the rest of the passage is not that well known. And I think that it holds the key to helping define what covetousness is.

I want to note that in both of these passages, covetousness is contrasted with contentment. In other words, a content person is not covetous and a covetous person is not content with what he has. So, contentment is a key factor in not being covetous, perhaps the main one. And we are given a good reason to be content - because God will not forsake us financially and materially. That is what it says in Hebrews. I don't think that most Christians are aware of the fact that the author of Hebrews talks about the Lord "never leaving us, nor forsaking us" in the context of finances.

Jesus Himself said, "Seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all these [material things]will be added to you." (Matthew 6:33) That means we do not have to worry and covet and put material things first. God will meet our material needs if we serve Him first. I think there is another key to understanding our relation to material things. Jesus did not say not to obtain things. Just don't put them first. Put Him first. (Material things might be down the list a ways.) It is okay to desire things as long as it is in its proper place in your life.

Some examples:

Example 1: I know a woman who hated her carpet and wanted to change it. However, things did not work out in such a way that she was able to get a new one right away. She had children in college first and then a major financial setback and then other things happened making it hard to get new carpeting without going into debt.Eventually, she got her new carpeting and she actually got new furniture to match the carpeting and more as well. She was very patient to get all this. She waited for 21 years! That is a long time, but though she really wanted that new carpet, she had other priorities. She was not covetous. She was content with what she had. (By the way, I am not suggesting that it is wrong to borrow money to fix up your house.) She is much better off financially today because she was not covetous.

Example 2: I know a woman whose husband loved and wanted to buy something nice for her - a beautiful necklace. Unfortunately, they could not afford it as it cost $800.00 and they were already in debt. Nevertheless, they went together and bought the necklace anyway. (Some would find this romantic; I find it to be foolish.) It put them into a terrible financial bind and with many other bad financial decisions, they got into debt and bondage. That was covetousness. Some would find it to be romantic and think that God must approve, but I doubt it. Could a poor couple like this be considered covetous? Yes. Poor people can be just as covetous as anyone. Sometimes that is their problem. They can't wait until they can afford something, they have to have it NOW! This couple never made it financially and eventually they broke up. I cannot say why but their mishandling money certainly did not help.

In conclusion, I think it is safe to say that contentment will prevent covetousness, but that does not mean that one cannot desire material things. We just have to give them the proper priority and also not buy things you cannot afford. "Godliness with contentment is great gain."



Saturday, August 25, 2018

Breath and Inspiration

2 Timothy 3:16 reads, "All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work." NIV

I want you to notice the term, "God-breathed", which is often translated "inspired". We know that the Scriptures are divinely inspired. But there are different theories about the inspiration of the Bible and what that means for us. Some say that the Bible is partially inspired, in other words, some parts came from God and some are just "harmless" human errors. Others affirm that the whole Bible, every word of the Bible, is true.

In recent years, there has been a new view the inspiration of the Scriptures. It is said that God did not speak or write through the human authors, but He inspired true ideas and let them write it out in their own words and with their own limited understanding and their supposedly erroneous history. For example, when we study Genesis 1-11, it is said that this is not history (though it is written as historical narrative like the rest of Genesis) but that God used their faulty understanding of history in such a way so as to convey the correct ideas. So, it is ideas which are the important part of this and not the history.

This causes us not a few problems. What about Christ's resurrection? Is that a historical event or does it just convey to us a correct idea? Some false teachers have put forth the notion that what is actually true is the idea behind the resurrection though the resurrection never actually occurred in time and space. This is the kind of conclusion that one can draw from separating historical truth from thematic truth.

God has revealed Himself in history through the nation of Israel and in Jesus Christ. We see God's action and not just His ideas. God's revelation of Himself is both historical and revelatory and those two exist in a tension that is shown to us in the Bible.

I am not getting into a full-blown discussion of this here, but I want to focus on the expressions "God-breathed" and "inspired" which are translations of a Greek compound word, "Theo-pneustos". Theo = God; pneustos = breath, or breathe out. In other words, God breathed out the Scriptures through the human authors who wrote it down. Examining the term, Theo-pneustos, we can uncover the true nature of divine inspiration. "Pneustos" is a Greek word with a broad semantic range. (The semantic range is the meanings of a particular word in various contexts.) "Pneustos" can mean 'spirit', 'air', 'anger', and 'breath'. It obviously means 'breath' in the context of 2 Timothy 3:16.

A heard a Greek word-study expert teach on the use of 'pneustos' occurring in ancient Greek literature. He noted that one way it was used was to denote the playing of a wind instrument. When someone plays the flute, for example, she breathes through the flute to produce a song. She moves her fingers to play certain notes ultimately making a melody.

This really captured my imagination. (Inspired me?) First, it is clear that divine inspiration does mean that God breathes his Word through "holy men of God who were carried along by the Holy Spirit (2 Peter 1:20)." But I also got the image that if you have two instruments, say, a flute and clarinet, and they each play the same tune, it will sound different. That's what we have in the Bible. Two human authors, each bringing forth the same truth, but sounding much different.

We find the truth expressed often in very different ways and in different words. The incarnation is a good example of this.

Christ Jesus, who, although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and being made in the likeness of men. Being found in appearance as a man, He humbled Himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. Philippians 2:5-8
In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God … And the Word became flesh. John 1

I had a discussion one time with someone who thought that the whole idea of incarnation was nothing but a conspiracy dreamed up by early Christians to convince everyone that they had had the truth. But if people conspired and came up with an idea like the incarnation of Jesus Christ, then why would they use such different language to express it. No, they would have agreed on the language and would say things the same way.

The fact that they had the same revelation and expressed it individually means that God truly inspired them with the same message. The very words themselves are inspired and true. As Paul wrote:
Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining spiritual thoughts with spiritual words.