JohnSWilson3 Blog

Are we to experience the Word of Righteousness, Christ in us?
July 21, 2011, 3:26 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

According to Hebrews 5-6 the answer is yes.

I thought I would share a response to a dear sister reference my thoughts from my latest blog:

I am thinking Cheryl wouldn’t mind me sharing it since probably others may have asked the same question but didn’t. So I am making a note of this to perhaps help clarify my thoughts, and by no means has Christ exhausted all that we could learn from scripture from my little tidbits of information. If you would like to add your comments to my blog please do so, would love to hear from you. Also, by the way I have not yet finished this blog as it really is a part 1 of 2 (maybe 3, lol), so look to the future as I finish blogging on chapter 6 of Hebrews which I have found one of the more difficult passages to learn, so need spiritual sight! (You might want to read the blog first before reading the question and answer below).

Here is her question and my response follows (I have edited my response below from the blog):

“Surely you aren’t meaning that once we see, touch, taste, smell Christ we no longer go to His Word? That seems to be what happens in search of a “deeper life,” when moving into the realm of the experiential “Christianity” and no longer looking to the Word. That “seems” to be what you hear from those who have moved on.”

Comment by Cheryl Lobo Kaster July 20, 2011 @ 3:42 pm


Hi Cheryl,

actually to experience the Word of Righteousness, Christ in us together, is to share that measure of the gift of Christ that we have been given. That measure of the gift of Christ in us is a phrase used in Ephesians 4 and in 1 Cor and Rom 12 they are described as spiritual gifts. In reality when we share the gift of Christ in us to and through one another in love we share Christ’s life. Teaching is one of those gifts, but only one. Additionally, teaching can be more than just sharing something from the Bible that has inspired you about the Lord. We can all share what we have learned about Christ in our life with one another, which is also called teaching. Obviously it will conform to what we have in scripture. Too often though I have seen the tendency that the only thing that happens in a gathering is that each person shares a passage of scripture and then talk about it, a “deep” Bible study if you will, where everyone is focused on gaining knowledge, instead of actually sharing Christ. These groups will become great Bible study groups but they have neglected the rest of the spiritual gifts that can be in the body to display the fullness of Christ’s life. The lists in Rom 12 and 1 Cor 12 are some of just a few gifts of Christ that the body can express in love. There is also the other extreme where the only thing that happens is sharing about nothing of Christ and no one is edified by Him. In both of these instances we can come away feeling excited and enthused but are left wholly dry.

Also understand that moving forward doesn’t mean leaving behind the reading and studying of scripture, for those who desire to do so, obviously me being one of them, :). But is the reading and studying of scripture something every brother and sister are “suppose” to do in the body of Christ? Is that set in stone in the Bible? I know that for church planters, such as what we see in the letters to Timothy and Titus there is special significance for these workers in readying and studying the Bible. Because almost every home probably has a copy of the Bible it is a shame that not all believers actually read and study it, but I think that is where we have missed it, we have made the reading and studying of the Bible an individual endeavor instead of a community endeavor. We do not live a shared life in a community of believers, where everyone shares from Christ within them, more than just one day a week. Some will have the spiritual instinct because of their gifting to read and study the Bible and share what they have learned of Christ from it with others, but is every brother and sister suppose to or can we all share the different gift God has given us and express a beautiful robe of many colors of gifts within the body and so fully express Christ? Too often those who are the “spiritual” persons are the ones who “know” the Bible, and it causes others, who are not like them, to feel like second class citizens. I know, I’ve seen it happen before.

So after all that I have said I hope you can glean that while I do not advocate no longer going into the Bible, I do advocate that every brother and sister have different gifts and we miss out on truly experiencing the fullness of Christ by not allowing others to share their gift of Christ, what they are learning from Christ, and at the same time allow Christ to use us in sharing what we have learned of Christ from scripture. We do not all have the same gifts but we do all have the same Gift, Christ. Blessings sis. Hope this help to clarify your question.

“…let us be carried on to completion…”
July 20, 2011, 2:43 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

Chapters 5 and 6 of Hebrews describe the author’s rebuke and exhortation to move forward in Christ, to “go on to maturity” or more literally “to be carried on to completion.” In this section we have some difficult Greek constructions in which some have interpreted to mean many different things and tend to diverge into various doctrines, even towards a form of institutionalism. I will only go into the first few of this section. My goal is to hear from Christ and using a more literal translation see the sense that Christ in us would learn from.

In Chapter 5, Paul had begun to describe “the days of Jesus’ life on earth” and comparing Christ to the “high priest.” In so doing he begins to describe how Jesus is greater than Aaron because of being “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” but stops in order to make a point. “We have much to say about this, but it is hard to explain because you are slow to learn.” Here we have a difficult Greek construction if we interpret “logos” as a synonym for “learn” versus our indwelling Lord. A more literal translation is: “Concerning whom much to us to say the Word (logos), hard to explain, since dull you have become in hearings.” (1) Reading verse 11 from the NIV it seems to focus on slow in learning from the apostle. But the Greek seems to focus on not hearing the indwelling Christ and as a result they are unable to receive spiritual sight. The apostles lived from the life of Christ, it makes sense that the focus of the apostle would be for the believers to hear Him through them.

Because they are dull in hearing Christ, it appears Paul is bringing up his previous warning reference “Today, if you hear my voice, do not harden your hearts.” This has a present application in their having not so learned Christ. Paul mentions that at this time, since it appears they received Christ in some distant past, they ought to be teaching one another Christ, sharing their measure of the gift of Christ within them to one another. But having lost their focus on Christ, they are relearning Christ from what they had been taught from the apostle when they first believed on the Lord, “the rudiments (or principles) of the beginning of the oracles of God.” (2) As a note those with an apostolic function would go to an area and share the Christ in them, and those who heard and believed Christ Jesus as Lord would be gathered to learn Jesus together, to live by His life. This was the first things that they began to do together in Christ. If in our gatherings we only share about those first things we learned of Christ that we heard from an apostle at the beginning of our life in Christ, then we have not so learned the Christ who is our life. These are those who can only have “milk” instead of “solid food.” They lack experience in Christ.

At this point the apostle writes another difficult Greek construction. The NIV translates it as: “Anyone who lives on milk, being still an infant, is not acquainted with the teaching about righteousness. But solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity…” If we were to look at our modern form of “Christianity” this would seem to indicate that to go on to maturity is to have more preaching and more Bible teaching to learn more about Jesus from the Bible. Or at least this seems to be the tendency in the institutional churches.

A more literal translation is: “For every one partaking of milk is without experience of the Word (logou) of Righteousness, being still an infant; but those complete is the solid food, because of the condition of their senses, having been exercised, for distinguishing both the good and the bad. Wherefore leaving the of the beginning Christ the word (logon) on to completion let us be carried…” (3) I’m not sure if you see the difference but this is a tremendous statement! “The Word of Righteousness” is our indwelling Lord and we are called to experience Him! Knowing that Christ Jesus is now our life, we are to now live by His life organically together with our brothers and sisters. To experience the life of Christ in the body of Christ, those who are complete in Christ, is the solid food! As we live by His life in a shared life together we will learn Him, we will see that which is “good” from Him through one another, that which is “fair, beautiful, fruit, honorable, honest,” in contrast to that which is “bad” or that which “lacks character,” of the flesh. (4) The experience will entail putting off the flesh, the bad, and putting on Christ, the good. In Christ we have new spiritual senses that are meant to be exercised so that we can experience the life of Christ together. Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet describe our new spiritual senses in chapter 3 of their excellent book “Jesus Manifesto” from a part of “If God Wrote Your Biography” (5):

“New birth means you were given a new consciousness. You are now conscious of another realm outside the physical one wherein you stand. You are also conscious of another life within you. That life contains a new nature, new desires, new interests, new instincts, new inclinations, new tendencies, a new intelligence, and a new motivation. That life is Christ Himself.
“So what you see, hear, taste, touch, and smell with your new senses is My Son. He is the object of your spiritual senses. And it is through those senses that you come to know Me, who is Spirit and not flesh…As you develop your spiritual senses, you are weaned from milk to meat. Yet ‘meat’ is not just a tougher, more complex set of doctrines on which to masticate and ruminate. Meat is a greater apprehension and revelation of My Son, who embodies all truth and righteousness.”

Let us be carried on to completion in the complete Man, living by His life in His body and experience the beauty and wonder of His life together, and grow to experience the fullness of Christ! Let is reorient what we thought about what it means to become mature in Christ and realize it is to live by His spiritual life with one another, by exercising our spiritual senses and not our flesh! Let us be carried on to completion!

(1) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 649
(2) Most translations interpret “oracles” (a word only used a couple times in the New Testament), as “word” but the Greek is “a diminutive of logos” and denotes “a divine response or utterance, an oracle.” (449) The word “truths” is used in most translations but in the Greek the word means nothing of the kind, the Greek word signifies “any first things” and “used of letters of the alphabet, as elements of speech” and it is better translated “principles or elements.” (196) Perhaps the author is pointing back to the very beginning of this letter, those original principles of how God had spoken in the past, perhaps referring to the Old Testament which was meant to lead us to Christ. Or as pointed out earlier the initial message of Christ they received from the apostle. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers.
(3) Marshall, 649.
(4) Vine, 274 and 48-49 respectively.
(5) Frank Viola and Leonard Sweet, “Jesus Manifesto: Restoring the Supremacy and Sovereignty of Jesus Christ,” 2010, Thomas Nelson, 47-48.

“Do you see all these things?”
July 18, 2011, 6:45 pm
Filed under: A Gospel According to Matthew

I recently had a discussion with a dear sister reference Jesus’ discourse found in Matthew Chapters 24 to 25. Jesus says this two days before the Passover after leaving the city of Jerusalem.

He left the city calling out to Jerusalem saying: “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem, you who kill the prophets and stone those sent to you, how often I have longed to gather your children together, as a hen gathers her chicks under her wings, but you were not willing. Look, your house is left to you desolate. For I tell you, you will not see me again until you say, ‘Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord.'”

Matthew then writes: “Jesus left the temple and was walking away when his disciples came up to him to call his attention to its buildings. ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'”

I can only guess at how Jesus must have felt in those few moments, a heart torn for His people, a heart desiring His people, but they would not have Him. They received Him not. It could be well said that when Jesus died on the cross He died more from a broken heart than from the nails in His hands and feet. How religion and institutionalism blinds our hearts to the love of Christ. Jerusalem was supposed to be the city of peace, the city where God was found, the place of rest for God’s people but because of religion and institutionalism they did not find Him.

Even the disciples did not see this. They only saw the physical temple and its beauty but failed to see the beauty of their Lord in front of them. Matthew tells us that “As Jesus was sitting on the Mount of Olives, the disciples came to him privately. ‘Tell us,’ they said, ‘when will this happen, and what will be the sign of your coming and of the end of the age?” Jesus looked at them with kind eyes and shared from the life of His Father within Him. His first words were: “Watch out that no one deceives you…see to it that you are not alarmed.” Later in the discourse He says: “Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved.” He also comments on “…the coming of the Son of Man” and gives four parables that describe how “…you must be ready….” The first contrasts “the faithful and wise servant” with the wicked servant who “beat his fellow servants.” The second is a contrast between five wise virgins and five foolish virgins. The third is a contrast between “good and faithful” servants and a “wicked, lazy servant” in regards the use of their talents. And the fourth a contrast between righteous sheep and cursed goats. The thought that comes to mind is the parables seem to describe the same thing, there are those in Christ who will enter His rest and those in Christ who appear to not do so. Some suggest that the parables describe those who are in Christ and those who are not and the resulting consequences.

I am not sure if the point of the parable is to determine who is who, who are in Christ and those who are not in Christ, but to realize it is important to move forward in Christ, to love, to be ready, to endure, which is a testimony of our life in Christ. If we do not we are not living by the life of Christ but by the flesh and if so we need to question our relationship with Christ. I also notice that in all four parables there is a community involved, we move forward by being in community, we grow in love by being in community, we are made ready by being in community, we endure temptations and sufferings be being in community, and we express love to others through community, the body of Christ, the ekklesia, that is a testimony of our life in Christ.

What a contrast to life in Christ, as Jesus sees it, versus that of the religion and institutionalism that had made seeking and knowing God almost impossible. In the rest of the New Testament we see this same thought: the importance of moving forward, loving one another, being made ready, enduring, and love expressed by the community, the ekklesia, as a testimony of their life in Christ. If we looked at our Old Testament we might also see this as well.

The life of the “old Jerusalem,” the flesh, is really about death and not life, but in Christ Jesus, who is the Life and the Resurrection, He has made a new Jerusalem! It is a life of the same kind that is Christ, it is spiritual life, real life! In Christ we now live by Him and not by our own life, a life of the Spirit. As we hear Him, believe Him, and express Him, we will bear the fruit of His life and we enter His rest! Jesus’ wept because while the people of Israel focused on keeping the Sabbath day, and every other commandment and law, they had forgotten that it wasn’t about keeping the letter of the Law but about the spirit of the Law, it was about love, it was really about Him.

It is my opinion that the four parables mentioned by Jesus in this section are more of a contrast between those who are entering His rest, who live by His life, and those who, while they may be in Christ, have not experienced His rest, they are living by what they do or don’t do. One is living by the Tree of Life the other by the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. These are the ones who, because of “the craftinesses of the devil” have been deceived and think that our conflict is with our flesh and with people and as a result Christ’s life is but a dim light in a dark world. These are those who think they must control their flesh and the flesh of others through shame, laws, and regulations. These are those who are not focused on relationships but on themselves. Being right in their own eyes is more important than relationships. These are all “things.” As Jesus said: ” ‘Do you see all these things?’ he asked. ‘I tell you the truth, not one stone here will be left on another; every one will be thrown down.'”

Jesus said: “Watch out that no one deceives you…see to it that you are not alarmed……because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved…the coming of the Son of Man…you must be ready.” Jerusalem, the body of Christ is called to be the place of God’s rest. It is a community, a shared life, it’s expression is Christ, “full of grace and truth,” full of love. Let us move forward in Christ, to love, to be ready, to endure, to express Him to others, which is a testimony of our life in Christ. Let us live by the Spirit together, expressing the fullness of Christ together, and enter His rest.

“…the days of Jesus’ life on earth…”
July 18, 2011, 1:03 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

In Chapter 5 the author immediately begins to describe the role of “high priest” and compares this role with Christ Jesus based on the Old Testament. As Paul begins to describe how Jesus is greater than Aaron because of being “a priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek” he is stopped by the Holy Spirit. It is not until the beginning of chapter 7 until he picks this thought back up again.

At the beginning of Chapter 5, Paul has been describing “the days of Jesus’ life on earth” and here we find an important truth. As we read the gospels, especially John’s we know that Christ lived by the life of His Father. Jesus listened, believed, and obeyed His Father. As Jesus lived by the life of His Father He expressed the glory of the Father, “full of grace and truth,” which is love. Hebrews describes Jesus as offering “up prayers and petitions with loud cries and tears to the one who could save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverent submission. Although he was a son, he learned obedience from what he suffered.” As Jesus expressed the glory of the Father’s life He was tempted and He suffered, but only by living by the life of His Father through these temptations and sufferings did Jesus move forward in His life with the Father. Jesus grew if you will, in completing the work He had come to do, fully expressing the Father to the world.

Followers of Christ, as they are enabled, as they live by the life of Christ, will live Jesus’ life, similarly to how He lived His “life on earth.” We hear, believe, and obey Christ together as His body. As we live by Christ’s life, His glory, “full of grace and truth,” His love, is expressed through us. As a result we can expect to be tempted and to suffer. But those temptations and that sufferings, are meant to move us forward and is part of completing the work of Christ in us, to express the fullness of Christ. The ekklesias will always be tested in this regards, through temptations and sufferings, but Christ desires to help us through them. Will we fix our thoughts on Jesus? Will we encourage one another daily? Will we hear Him, believe Him, and love one another in spite of the temptations and sufferings, realizing they are meant to help us move forward?

We will be tempted to not put off the flesh, either our own or because of someone else’s flesh. In those instances, and there will be many, instead of hearing Christ, to realize that in Him the flesh is dead, we choose to hear our flesh and believe what it says, and it only speaks of itself, it is only about preserving itself, we will not express sacrificial love. The consequences will be a death and we will know it in our hearts if we have lived by Christ for very long. If we do not go to Christ, who indwells us and is our life, then we will fall back to life as before to our shame. Oh how we need to know Christ better!

We have been called by God, just as Christ was. Christ has said to us: We are sons and daughters! We are His brothers and sisters! We have a Priest who lives forever to help us in out time of need! Although we are sons and daughters, we learn obedience from what we suffer and, once made perfect, together we become the fullness of Christ, the fullness of Christ will be expressed in all of His glory!

A Perspective of the Ekklesias of Galatia and the Hebrews
July 17, 2011, 1:29 pm
Filed under: G Letter to the Galatians, Q - Letter to Hebrews

In the letter to Hebrews chapters 5 and 6 appears to be a generalization of the previous four chapters. The author has described how great Christ Jesus is compared to angels, Moses, David, Joshua, and the high priest. Paul has given some of the greatest writings of the supremacy and centrality of Jesus Christ short of his letters to the church in Colosse and Ephesus. In regards to the Hebrews he has continued to remind the brothers and sisters to stay focused on Christ, in whom is salvation, who is merciful and faithful, in whom we can find “timely help.” Together as they hear and believe Christ, their indwelling Lord, living by His life, following what He says, they will enter His rest.

Because of the constant reminders there is a sense that the Hebrew believers were perhaps drifting back, falling back to the legalism, the religion of Judaism instead of moving forward in their life in Christ. Perhaps Paul is reminded of the problem that had occurred in the Galatian churches where Paul states in rhetorical questions:

“You foolish Galatians! Who has bewitched you? Before your very eyes Jesus Christ was clearly portrayed as crucified. I would like to learn just one thing from you: Did you receive the Spirit by observing the law, or by believing what you heard? Are you so foolish? After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort? Have you suffered so much for nothing – if it really was for nothing? Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?”

It is interesting that even though in Galatians Paul does not mention the children of Israel in the desert you can perhaps see the same thing occurring with the ekklesias in Galatia. The people of Israel had seen what God had done for forty years! The Galatians had seen what Christ had done clearly among them. The people of Israel were to hear and believe God. The Galatians had received the Spirit by hearing and believing. But now the Galatian brothers and sisters were falling back to the legalism of the Law versus living by the life of the Spirit of Christ. This appears to be the same issues occurring with the Hebrew believers.

How important it is to fix our “thoughts on Jesus,” to “consider fully the apostle and high priest of our confession – Jesus.” How important it is to be involved in each others lives with Christ as our focus, “encouraging one another daily,” entering His “rest.” Hearing and believing our indwelling Lord together and loving one another is obeying and living by the life of Christ.

Jesus is “a great high priest,” He suffered, was “tempted in every way, just as we are – yet was without sin” and that He can “sympathize with our weaknesses.” Christ has destroyed the devil’s power! The devil’s power is only by his “craftinesses” in deceiving us about our life in Christ. Jesus has taken away the “fear of death” and now calls us brothers and sisters! Christ has come to be our help! He is “merciful and faithful” and has become our life! We can go to Him, when we are tempted, when we are suffering, to “the throne of grace with confidence, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help us in our time of need.” Christ is ready to help us! He will be merciful and gracious to us! Let us encourage one another daily to hear Him, believe Him, and follow what He says, loving one another.

Christ Jesus “sympathize(s) with our weaknesses…”
July 11, 2011, 3:42 pm
Filed under: J First Letter to the Corinthians, Q - Letter to Hebrews

There are some key thoughts from the letter to Hebrews in the first four chapters that have striking comparisons elsewhere in scripture, specifically in the first letter to the church in Corinth and Ephesians. The thought is to bring our focus on Christ Jesus, knowing Him better and so as not to fall to the temptation of the flesh, to live by the flesh, but by His life, by His Spirit. It could be said that that is the key to all of the New Testament letters if not the Old Testament as well.

In the letter to Hebrews there are some statements I felt needed some additional highlighting and expanding upon, and in fact I have used a highlighter on the sections in my Bible, :). In Hebrews chapter 2 in verse 18 the author says: “For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted.” In chapter 4 verse 15 the author says: “For we do not have a high priest who cannot sympathize with our weaknesses, but One who has been tempted in all things as we are, yet without sin.” Interestingly Paul said earlier to the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 10:13: “No temptation has overtaken you but such as is common to man; and God is faithful, who will not allow you to be tempted beyond what you are able, but with the temptation will provide the way of escape also, so that you will be able to endure it.” Christ knows us better than ourselves. He knows what temptation is like, He’s been there. He knows this weakness because He was made of flesh and blood as we are and so can sympathize with us. He does not want us to fall for it. In Christ we find hope in the midst of our temptation to fall to living by the flesh. He was able to so live by the life of His Father he was able to overcome the power of temptation and not sin and so He is faithful now to help us to live by His life and is able to provide a “way of escape” and “endure it.” In this life we will have trouble, Jesus said, but He also said, take heart for I have overcome the world! The key is to know Christ better, to so live by Christ’s life together that temptations no longer have any power over us to live by the flesh.

The author to the Hebrews points out some reasons why Christ can help us when we are tempted. In chapter 2 he said: “Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people.” In chapter 4 he said: “Therefore, since we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus the Son of God, let us hold fast our confession….Therefore let us draw near with confidence to the throne of grace, so that we may receive mercy and find grace to help in time of need.” As the author said in between these two statements: “Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession…hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end.” We must learn Christ by hearing Him and being taught by Him through and to one another, to live by His life together. It is through the body of Christ that we are built up in Him! The author continues in chapter 3 pointing this out by saying: “Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, while it is said, “TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE, DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.” Unless we are living by the Spirit together we will not grow into the fullness of Christ. We will miss hearing His voice and miss being led by Him, and we will hear deceptive voices and will fall for “the craftinesses of the devil.”

The letters of the New Testament are not without warning. There is a real conflict, a conflict to try and remove us from the life of Christ that we find in gathering together under His headship. Hebrews has many warnings about the temptations to live by the flesh. Both in Hebrews and Paul’s letter to the church in Corinth it is to learn from the failure of Israel to listen and believe God. Israel lived by the flesh and not by His commands. So to being in Christ we can be tempted to live by the flesh and not by His life within us. I have mentioned in my previous blog on Hebrews 3-4 about the importance of hearing Christ, our indwelling Logos or Word, and believing Him. Paul says in 1 Corinthians 10:1-14; “For I do not want you to be unaware, brethren, that our fathers were all under the cloud and all passed through the sea; and all were baptized into Moses in the cloud and in the sea; and all ate the same spiritual food; and all drank the same spiritual drink, for they were drinking from a spiritual rock which followed them; and the rock was Christ. Nevertheless, with most of them God was not well-pleased; for they were laid low in the wilderness…Now these things happened as examples for us, so that we would not crave evil things as they also craved. Do not be idolaters, as some of them were; as it is written, “THE PEOPLE SAT DOWN TO EAT AND DRINK, AND STOOD UP TO PLAY.” Nor let us act immorally, as some of them did, and twenty-three thousand fell in one day. Nor let us try the Lord, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the serpents. Nor grumble, as some of them did, and were destroyed by the destroyer. Now these things happened to them as an example, and they were written for our instruction, upon whom the ends of the ages have come. Therefore let him who thinks he stands take heed that he does not fall…Therefore, my beloved, flee from idolatry.” We must put off the flesh and put on Christ Jesus our Lord together.

How important it is to see the truth that in Christ He has made powerless the devil! In Christ we have been set free from the power and fear of death! Christ did this for us because He knows where we’ve been, He can sympathize with us for He loves us! Oh how Jesus has been merciful and faithful! We no longer need to live by our flesh, because we are now partakers of Christ, He is now our life, our flesh has been made dead, all of it, all of sin was put on the cross. The power of the devil has been made impotent! Only by the “craftinesses of the devil” can he try and tempt us away from living by Christ. How important for us to encourage one another daily, to consider fully, to fix our thoughts on Jesus and so live by His life, our great salvation!

“And having pointed out to them in every ekklesia older people…”
July 11, 2011, 2:29 am
Filed under: E Acts

In Acts 14:23 an incident occurs that we see no where else in the book of Acts. Here it is said that “Paul and Barnabas appointed elders for them in each church and, with prayer and fasting, committed them to the Lord, in whom they had put their trust.” The Greek word for “appointed,” “cheirotoneo,” used here in this verse is only used three times in the entire New Testament (1). It is used in a larger compound Greek word in Acts 10:41 describing how God had previously stretched out His hand or pointed out for Himself those who had witnessed Christ’s resurrection and in 2 Cor. 8:19 how Titus was pointed out by the churches to help carry the offerings with Paul to the brothers and sisters in Jerusalem. In all three instances it seems to describe an approval. In Vine’s Dictionary it means to “stretch forth the hands” and was used in the Greek culture as a word “primarily used of voting in the Athenian legislature assembly.” This gives the word a sense of pointing out something that is approved or shows approval.

Why is this word only used here in Acts? I’m not sure. There are varying opinions. Perhaps Paul only did it this once, realizing the error of having done this because of what happened to these churches in falling into legalism. This is if we think he “ordained” certain special people with a “title” or “position” over the body, which does not correspond to Jesus own words of having authority over others like the Gentile leaders. I am incline to believe their is a mistranslation and thereby causing a misinterpretation. It is my opinion that because the word “appoint” means to “stretch forth the hands” with some indication of approval, the sense is that Paul and Barnabas were merely pointing out something. This passage, using the literal Greek translation, says: “and having pointed out to them in every ekklesia older people…” (2) So Acts 14:23 really seems to describe Paul and Barnabas stretching their hands out (perhaps metaphorically), or pointing out to the body of Christ, those who were the older people, those living by Christ’s life, to indicate what living by the life of Christ was like versus an ordination or an official appointment like some would suggest.

In reading Paul’s letters to the churches his primary concern was for the expression, the manifestation of Christ in and through the body, the fruit of the Spirit, as they lived by the Spirit, the life of Christ. Older people, mistranslated as “elders,” were male or female persons who had learned to live by the life of Christ together in community. It is unknown exactly how long Paul and Barnabas stayed at each ekklesia that was formed during their first church planting mission but apparently it was sufficient time to help them know how to live by the Spirit and for some to have so been consumed by Christ to now be examples to the body of what living by Christ looked like. These are the ones the apostles pointed out. The body of Christ, if it is to fulfill the purpose of God in manifesting the Son, must know how to live by the Spirit together and express Him to and through one another so that His life may be expressed to family, friends, and the world around them. Even today how there is a need for the body of Christ to know how to live by the life of Christ! The body of Christ is a family, all brothers and sisters, each learning Christ together, but not all learn Christ at the same “rate.” These older persons, older spiritually perhaps, were only meant to demonstrate what living by the life of Christ looks like so that each member in the body could see Christ being expressed and in turn could better learn Christ, express their measure of the gift of Christ, loving one another as Christ loved them.

Paul and Barnabas proclaimed the good news, they preached Christ Jesus as the crucified and risen Lord, the Logos, or Word of God in whom we are to hear and believe and to live by faith. Christ Himself through Paul and Barnabas within their functioning as apostles were expressing Christ by the Spirit, through what was spoken. Perhaps the letter to the ekklesias in Galatia could be reminders of some of what they preached and taught:

“I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”
“You are all sons of God through faith in Christ Jesus…”
“It is for freedom that Christ has set us free.”
“The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.”
“Live by the Spirit…keep in step with the Spirit.”

There are other words that are translated “appoint” in the New Testament and I will look at some of the others in another blog. The body of Christ is called to express their Lord, to hear Christ and be taught by Him, living by the Spirit. May the Lord raise up, “point out,” “older persons,” male and female, in the body of Christ who know how to live by our indwelling Lord and can help others know how to express Him together in love by the Spirit, organically if you will, so that the body may grow to the fullness of Christ!

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 34.
(2) Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 391.