Let My People Think

Archive for the ‘Bible Study’ Category

Submission to church authority, no questions asked?

Minions and GruThere’s no question that a follower of Jesus Christ must treat people in authority with an attitude of honor and respect. With that said – is it godly to submit to any authority without thinking and without asking any questions? In the New Testament, there’s only passage that on the surface seems to suggest such unquestioning attitude toward ecclesiastical (i.e., church) authorities. That passage is Hebrews 13:17. Here it is in a couple of typical translations:

Hebrews 13:17 New International Version (NIV)
17 Have confidence in your leaders and submit to their authority, because they keep watch over you as those who must give an account. Do this so that their work will be a joy, not a burden, for that would be of no benefit to you.

Hebrews 13:17 New King James Version (NKJV)
17 Obey those who rule over you, and be submissive, for they watch out for your souls, as those who must give account. Let them do so with joy and not with grief, for that would be unprofitable for you.

Here’s the problem: both of these translations are really inaccurate. Here’s Hebrews 13:17 in a much more accurate hyper-literal traslation from ancient Koine Greek:
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The myth of “Christian tithe”

tithe

When people advocate tithing as applicable for today, I am not automatically doubting their motives (unless given a reason to do so). There are many among tithe-advocating believers who want to do right by God. What I am doubting very much, however, is their Bible exegesis and hermeneutics.

Consider the following points:

  • Biblical tithe has nothing do with money, and it never did. It was only collected in produce and livestock. Back then, you couldn’t tithe in money even if you wanted to. Therefore, when you refer to Old Covenant tithes, make sure you prepend the word “agricultural” before it – e.g., “agricultural tithe”. This would avoid the necessary confusion.
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Shadrach, Meshach, Abednego saved from the blazing furnace: an example of unwavering faith, or a “sovereign” act of God?

fiery-furnace

Let’s consider the story of Shadrach, Meshach and Abednego (the pagan names by which Hananiah, Mishael and Azariah became known). You might want to re-read Daniel chapters 1-3 for this.

I will examine the test in a translation that’s literal and fairly faithful to the original. NKJV suffices in this instance. Please feel free to consult an interlinear for this, to verify with the original text (I have). We will be relying on the inspired original text for the correct understanding. I could have translated this hyper-literally from the original, but I want to make a point that what I am about to say can easily be established based on a literal English translation that’s true to the original like NKJV or YLT, using simple logic.

Daniel 3:1, 4-6 sets up the scene:
1 Nebuchadnezzar the king made an image of gold, whose height was sixty cubits and its width six cubits. He set it up in the plain of Dura, in the province of Babylon.
4 Then a herald cried aloud: “To you it is commanded, O peoples, nations, and languages, 5 that at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, you shall fall down and worship the gold image that King Nebuchadnezzar has set up; 6 and whoever does not fall down and worship shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace.”

Daniel’s 3 friends, being true to their Jewish faith that forbade idol worship, didn’t comply. They immediately got reported to the king. Here’s king Nebuchadnezzar’s response:

Daniel 3:14-15
14 Nebuchadnezzar spoke, saying to them, “Is it true, Shadrach, Meshach, and Abed-Nego, that you do not serve my gods or worship the gold image which I have set up? 15 Now if you are ready at the time you hear the sound of the horn, flute, harp, lyre, and psaltery, in symphony with all kinds of music, and you fall down and worship the image which I have made, good! But if you do not worship, you shall be cast immediately into the midst of a burning fiery furnace. And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?”

Translator’s additions are in italics, and are not part of the original text.

Please notice the two sets of conditional sentences in v. 15 stating two cause-and-effect scenarios:

King’s two “ifs”
1) If you worship – then nothing (literally, the text says nothing – meaning no consequences to the three youths)
2) If you do not worship – then you shall be cast immediately into the burning fiery furnace.

The king concludes his ultimatum with asking this sarcastic question: “And who is the god who will deliver you from my hands?” The ball is now in the hands of the 3 faithful Hebrew young men.

Now, let’s look at their response to the king.
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Women in society: recovering God’s original blueprint for womankind

Woman holding a BibleThe issue of the role of women in society is as old as the Biblical story of humankind itself. So, let’s revisit the creation account for a good starting point in our discussion. It contains some intriguing insights.

Unfortunately, most translations of the account of creation and the fall will not give you a faithful representation of the full meaning of what was being said, due to different translations of the same words, and haphazard capitalization of the noun “adam”. The word “adam” may be translated as “Adam” in one place, “man” in another, or “mankind” in the third, according to translators’ biases.

So, I will take NKJV for a starting point, and give you an straight translation from the original language in square brackets. Please feel free to verify this with your favorite interlinear or original language Scripture text.

Genesis 1
27 So God created man [adam] in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

The word “adam” derives from the word “adamah”, or earth. Literally, it means “that which is made of earth”, or “earthly human”. Hebrew lacked capitalization and punctuation the way English language has it today. So, let me simplify this:

Genesis 1
27 So God created the earthly human in His own image; in the image of God He created him; male and female He created them.

You see that the account is not describing Adam the man. Rather, it’s describing male and female collectively. Therefore, the masculine pronoun “him” is not a reference to the man, per se. Rather, it’s a reference to the unity of male and female.

The word “image” (“tselem” in Hebrew, “eikon” in Greek) is something that is meant to faithfully represent the original. An example would be an icon, or a photograph. So, both male and female collectively have a God-appointed function to be a divine image-bearer in the world. Any deviation from that is bound to skew God’s reflected image, so it’s very important for us to uncover and be mindful of that original blueprint.
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Colossians 1:21-23 and the quality of our expectation of the good news of Christ

expectation

Colossians 1:21-23 is another passage (along with 1 John 1:9) that I heard quoted as supporting the idea that as we do or don’t do something, it causes God to do or not do something in response. The “if-then” construction is what throws people off. To be sure, it’s hard to translate properly into English.

However, the “if I am doing something – then God will be doing something in response” (my cause and God’s effect) workflow is not the workflow of grace, and it’s not supported by the grammar of the passage, as I will demonstrate below. Grace is God providing something through the finished work of Christ on the cross, 1900+ years before I was even born; faith is me appropriating whatever was provided by grace, as applicable to a given situation in my life. So it’s not “If I am doing X -> then God will do Y”. It’s rather “God has done Y and made it available -> therefore as I am trusting in it as being applicable to my life, I am thereby realizing Y’s benefits in my life.” Notice how concerning my side of the equation, the focus is on believing / trusting. Concerning my words and actions as related to Y – the correct stance should be “My words / actions X demonstrate that I believe Y”. In other words, “God has done Y -> I trust in and stand on Y (as shown in my words and actions X) -> Y will materialize in my life” That’s the correct workflow.

So the effect portion of the “cause-and-effect” pattern is not about God objectively doing something, but about me subjectively appropriating what’s already been done. The cause doesn’t affect God, it affects me. God did all he needed to do 2000 years ago. The grammar here is similar (not the same, but similar in all main points but one) and follows the same basic logic as 1 John 1:9, which is also largely misunderstood and misapplied.
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Does God’s direct discipline include physical beating?

roman-scourge

Let’s consider the oft-quoted passage from Hebrews that seems to lend support to the idea that God inflicts physical pain or even sickness / disease on his children:

Hebrews 12:5-6 (NKJV)

5 And you have forgotten the exhortation which speaks to you as to sons:
“My son, do not despise the chastening of the Lord,
Nor be discouraged when you are rebuked by Him;
6 For whom the Lord loves He chastens,
And scourges every son whom He receives.”

This passage is actually quoting from Proverbs 3:11-12, which we will turn to shortly.

The verb usually translated “to discipline” is really “to child”. That’s all it is. No other connotations there. The specifics as to precisely what aspect of “childing” is in view must be established from the rest of the context.

Now, the Greek verb “to scourge” – “mastigoo” (G3146 – μαστιγόω) used in the passage is of particular interest. This Hebrews passage is quoting from a Septuagint translation of Proverbs (which was done in 3rd century BC). In Septuagint, the verb “mastigoo” is used in a general sense of whipping, and even in a sense of “smiting”, or inflicting pain in general (e.g., Job 30:21, where Job is speaking of God “whipping” him with his hand, according to Job’s perception).
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What is “salvation”, according to the scriptures

rescue

The verb “to save” and the noun “salvation” mean “to save” or “to rescue” in the original Greek. That’s all it means. Semantically, the notion of rescue requires an indirect object (“saved from what?”), supplied either explicitly in the text, or understood from the context. The words “save / salvation”, however, became religiously loaded terms that it the minds of a lot of people, they are synonymous with most or all of the above:

  • new birth
  • receiving eternal life
  • obtaining righteousness
  • becoming justified
  • becoming sanctified
  • becoming glorified
  • going to heaven
  • going to paradise (whatever that means – paradise is simply “park” or “garden” in Greek (G3857 – παράδεισος / paradeisos))
  • not going to hell (meaning either sheol / hades, or gehenna, or lake of fire, or some combination thereof, etc.)
  • having a different relationship with death (whatever “death” means for the one speaking – loss of life, separation, going to hell, etc.)
  • receiving eternal rewards

Incidentally, all of the above can’t possibly mean the same thing, since then why use all those different terms if they have the same meaning? Those are different concepts, and failure to study them out for yourself will simply leave you intellectually confused. You don’t want to be lifting proof verses out of context to prop up whatever doctrine may be popular it whatever circles while ignoring the rest.

Fortunately, there’s a better way of Scripture study – a contextual study, or the concordant method, as pertaining to vocabulary. This is how you acquire your vocabulary as a child. It requires more work on your part. In this study, I’ve done a lot of the work for you.
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Death according to the Bible is: loss of life, lack of life, absence of life

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

DEATH IS THE OPPOSITE OF LIFE

As mentioned before, in dozens of Scripture passages, “death” is juxtaposed with “life”, and thus has to have a meaning opposite of life. In a quick keyword search I found over 40 scriptures where “death” is directly presented as a word meaning the opposite of “life”. There are more if you take into consideration different lexical forms of these words. Here are a few of the pairings of these antonyms, to give you a flavor:

Deuteronomy 30:19
This day I call the heavens and the earth as witnesses against you that I have set before you life and death, blessings and curses. Now choose life, so that you and your children may live

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Divine bio-engineering. How Jesus Christ solves the problem of death of fleshly bodies

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

Now, after we have disambiguated ourselves of extra-Scriptural meanings, we are in a position to define what the scriptural meaning of death is.

DEATH OPERATES ON THE BODY OF THE FLESH

Death that has been plaguing humanity ever since the fall of Adam operates on the bodies of flesh, and not on spirits. This is stated in the Scriptures quite clearly, but scripture expositors rarely tie this knowledge in with the topic of death, for whatever reason. Sin (dysfunction, being “apart / amiss” from God’s design) operates in the flesh, producing death, as apostle Paul noted most notably in Romans chs. 5 – 8, and this is also noted in a lot of other places in the Scripture as well.

Here are some passages pertaining to sin / death operating on the bodies of flesh:

2 Corinthians 4
11 For when we were in the flesh, the sinful passions which were aroused by the law were at work in our members [of the body] to bear fruit to death.

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Physical death is not equal to annihilation

DEATH ACCORDING TO THE SCRIPTURES SERIES – TABLE OF CONTENTS

Death

The “physical death is equivalent to annihilation” viewpoint is held only by a minority of Bible-believing followers of Jesus, we still need to address it. The Scriptures speak of two deaths: of first death (physical) and, in the book of Revelation, of second death. Physical death is what all of us are unfortunately familiar with, and I will address this first.
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