JohnSWilson3 Blog

The First Letter to the Gathering of Believers in Thessalonica (A modified translation of TNIV)
November 24, 2011, 5:09 am
Filed under: H First Letter to the Thessalonians

1 Thessalonians (words in parenthesis are more defined or literal and modifies the TNIV; notes to the translation are after the letter)

Paul, Silas and Timothy,

To the (gathering) (1) of the Thessalonians in God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ: Grace and peace to you.

We always thank God for all of you and continually mention you in our prayers. We remember before our God and Father your work produced by faith, your labor prompted by love, and your endurance inspired by hope in our Lord Jesus Christ.

For we know, brothers and sisters loved by God, that he has chosen you, because our (good news) (2) came to you not simply with words but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and (with much assurance.) (3) You know how we lived among you for your sake. You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the (Word) (4) in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. And so you became a (pattern) (5) to all the believers in Macedonia and Achaia. (The Word of the Lord) (6) rang out from you not only in Macedonia and Achaia—your faith in God has become known everywhere. Therefore we do not need to say anything about it, for they themselves report what happened when we visited you. They tell how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead—Jesus, who rescues us from the coming wrath.

You know, brothers and sisters, that our visit to you was not (in vain.) (7) We had previously suffered and been treated outrageously in Philippi, as you know, but with the help of our God we dared to tell you (the good news of God) (8) in the face of strong opposition. For the appeal we make does not spring from error or impure motives, nor are we trying to trick you. On the contrary, we speak as those approved by God to be entrusted with the (good news.) (2) We are not trying to please people but God, who tests our hearts. You know we never used flattery, nor did we put on a mask to cover up greed—God is our witness. We were not looking for praise from any human being, not from you or anyone else, even though as apostles of Christ we could have asserted our prerogatives. Instead, we were (gentle) (9) among you.

Just as a nursing mother cares for her children, so we cared for you. Because we loved you so much, we were delighted to share with you not only the (good news) (2) of God but our lives as well. Surely you remember, brothers and sisters, our toil and hardship; we worked night and day in order not to be a burden to anyone while we (proclaimed) (10) the (good news) (2) of God to you.

You are witnesses, and so is God, of how (pure, just, and without fault) (11) we were among you who believed. For you know that we dealt with each of you as a father deals with his own children, encouraging, comforting and urging you to live lives worthy of God, who calls you (to the kingdom and glory of himself.) (12)

And we also thank God continually because, when you received the (Word) (4) of God, which you heard from us, you accepted (this not as a human word, but actually as) (13) the (Word) (4) of God, which is indeed at work in you who believe. For you, brothers and sisters, became imitators of (the gatherings of God) (14) in Judea, which are in Christ Jesus: You suffered from your fellow citizens the same things those gatherings (1) suffered from the Jews, who killed the Lord Jesus and the prophets and also drove us out. They displease God and are hostile to everyone in their effort to keep us from speaking to the Gentiles so that they may be saved. In this way they always heap up their sins to the limit. (The wrath) (15) has come upon them at last.

But, brothers and sisters, when we were orphaned by being separated from you for a short time (in person, not in thought), out of our intense longing we made every effort to see you. For we wanted to come to you—certainly I, Paul, did, again and again—but Satan blocked our way. For what is our hope, our joy, or the crown (of glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus?) (16) Is it not you? Indeed, you are our glory and joy.

So when we could stand it no longer, we thought it best to be left by ourselves in Athens. We sent Timothy, who is our brother and co-worker in God’s service in spreading the (good news) (2) of Christ, to strengthen and encourage you in your faith, so that no one would be unsettled by these trials. You know quite well that we are destined for them. In fact, when we were with you, we kept telling you that we would be persecuted. And it turned out that way, as you well know. For this reason, when I could stand it no longer, I sent to find out about your faith. I was afraid that in some way the tempter had tempted you and that our labors might have been in vain.

But Timothy has just now come to us from you and has brought good news about your faith and love. He has told us that you always have pleasant memories of us and that you long to see us, just as we also long to see you. Therefore, brothers and sisters, in all our distress and persecution we were encouraged about you because of your faith. For now we really live, since you are standing firm in the Lord. How can we thank God enough for you in return for all the joy we have in the presence of our God because of you? Night and day we pray most earnestly that we may see (your face) (17) again and supply what is lacking in your faith.

Now may our God and Father himself and our Lord Jesus clear the way for us to come to you. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you. May he strengthen your hearts (blameless in holiness before our God and Father in the presence of our Lord Jesus with all God’s people.) (18)

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you (through) (19) the Lord Jesus.

(For this is God’s will – your separation to God:) (20) that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is (separated to God) (20) and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to (live a life separated to God.) (21) Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

Now about your love for one another we do not need to write to you, for you yourselves have been taught by God to love each other. And in fact, you do love all the brothers and sisters throughout Macedonia. Yet we urge you, dear friends, to do so more and more, and to make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands, just as we told you, so that your daily life may win the respect of outsiders and so that you will not be dependent on anybody.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest, who have no hope. We believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left (in the presence) (16) of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to (a face-to-face meeting of the Lord) (22) in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape.
But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.

Now we ask you, brothers and sisters, to acknowledge those who (are working hard among you, who are caring for you in the Lord and who are warning you.) (23) Hold them in the highest regard in love because of their work. Live in peace with each other. And we urge you, brothers and sisters, warn those who are idle and disruptive, encourage the disheartened, help the weak, be patient with everyone. Make sure that nobody pays back wrong for wrong, but always strive to do what is good for each other and for everyone else.

Rejoice always, pray continually, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God’s will for you in Christ Jesus.

Do not put out the Spirit’s fire. Do not treat prophecies with contempt but test them all; hold on to what is good, reject whatever is harmful.

May God himself, the God of peace, (separate you to himself complete.) (24) May your whole spirit, soul and body be kept blameless (in the presence) (25) of our Lord Jesus Christ. The one who calls you is faithful, and he will do it.

Brothers and sisters, pray for us. Greet all God’s people with a holy kiss. I charge you before the Lord to have this letter read to all the brothers and sisters.

The grace of our Lord Jesus Christ be with you.
Notes to Modified Translation:
(1) gathering. “Church” incorrectly translates “ekklesia” which means “gathering.” (Vines, 42)
(2) good news. “Gospel” is normally the word translated for “euangelion” which means “good news.” (Vines, 275)
(3) with much assurance. “Deep conviction” incorrectly mistranslates “plerophoria polle” which means “much full assurance.” (Vines, 43). The word “elencho” means “to convict.” (Vines, 128).
(4) Word. Lower case “word” incorrectly translates “logon” which is a singular masculine part of speech of “logos” which signifies the indwelling Lord Jesus Christ in His people and so I have capitalized it to show the Person of Christ. (Vines, 683)
(5) pattern. “Model” is used by the translators but “pattern” or “example” is the better translation for “tupon.” (Vines, 463)
(6) The Word of the Lord. “The Lord’s message” incorrectly translates “o logos tou kuriou” which means “The Word of the Lord.” This construction always describes the Person of Christ Jesus in scripture. (Marshall, 597)
(7) in vain. “Not without results” mistranslates the words “ou kenon” which means “empty” or “vain.” (Vines, 657)
(8) the good news of God. “His gospel” is literally “the good news of God.” (Marshall, 597)
(9) gentle. “Like young children” incorrectly translates “epioi” which means “mild” or “gentle.” The TNIV translators seem to try and connect the word with the next verse but the word actually refers to “a nurse with trying children.” (Vines, 263)
(10) proclaimed. “Preached” incorrectly translates “ekeruxamen” which comes from the word meaning “to proclaim.” (Vines, 481, 489)
(11) pure, just, and without fault. “Holy, righteous and blameless” is better translated “pure, just, and without fault.” “Holy” or better, “holily,” translates “hosios” which means “pure.” (Vines, 308) “Righteous” or better, “righteously,” translates “dikaios” which comes from the word for “just,” meaning to be fair or tolerant. (Vines, 535) “Blameless” or better, “blamelessly,” translates “amemptos” which means “without fault.” (Vines, 68)
(12) to the kingdom and glory of himself. “Into his kingdom and glory” is literally “to the kingdom and glory of himself” and gives the sense that He is the kingdom and glory! (Marshall, 599)
(13) this not as a human word, but actually as. “It not as a human word, but as it actually is” adds the words “it” into the translation when they are not in the original passage. It is literally translated: “not as a word of men but as truly is word of God.” (Marshall, 599)
(14) the gatherings of God. “God’s churches” is literally “the ekklesias of God” which means “the gatherings of God.” This is the plural form for the word “ekklesia.” In Judea there was more than one gathering of believers. A gathering of believers, an ekklesia, was formed in more than one city in Judea, one being in Jerusalem. (Marshall, 599)
(15) The wrath. “The wrath of God” is literally “the wrath.” The sense of the passage is the consequences that a person can expect here on earth as they miss the mark of God’s purpose.
(16) of glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus. “In which we will glory in the presence of our Lord Jesus when he comes” actually adds a number of words to give a future sense to Paul’s description but the literal translation is “of glory…before the Lord of us Jesus in the presence of him.” (Marshall, 599) Translators tend to make the word “parousia,” which means “presence,” give only a future time of being in the presence of Jesus when the word gives an actual present meaning of being in Jesus’ presence with and in His ekklesia. (Vines, 111)
(17) your face. “You” is literally “your face” and means an actual face-to-face gathering. (Marshall, 601)
(18) blameless in holiness before our God and Father in the presence of our Lord Jesus with all God’s people. “So that you will be blameless and holy in the presence of our God and Father when our Lord Jesus comes with all his holy ones.” Here again the translators are using “parousia” to describe a future event without giving credence to the present literal rendering of the passage. The passage is literally translated: “blameless in holiness before our God and Father in the presence of our Lord Jesus with all his saints.” (Marshall, 601)
(19) through. “By the authority of” is not in the original language. The translators interpret the instructions that the apostles gave as having Christ’s authority since they were spoken “through the Lord Jesus” which is the literal translation. (Marshall, 601)
(20) For this is God’s will – your separation to God. I think the literal translation along with the word “separation to God,” “hagiasmos,” which means “sanctification,” provides a better sense of the phrase Paul is using instead of “It is God’s will that you should be sanctified.” (Marshall, 601; Vines, 545)
(21) live a life separated to God. “Live a holy life” is literally translated “in sanctification” which again means to live a life separated to God which refers back to Paul’s statement in verse 3. (Marshall, 601)
(22) a face-to-face meeting of the Lord. “Meet the Lord” while it describes the gathering of the ekklesia with Christ the word “apantesis” comes from the word which means literally “to come face to face with.” A very encouraging word to the believers. (Vines, 402)
(23) are working…are caring…are warning. The words “work…care…admonish” is literally translated “laboring….caring…admonishing.” I use the literal sense of the words to show the active sense of the words and prevent a thought that some in the body who work or care or admonish may somehow “retire” from doing so, who stop living by Christ’s life in this regard. But God’s people continue to do so in the ekklesia as they live by His life. The word “admonish” means to warn. (Vines, 13)
(24) separate you to himself complete. “Sanctify you through and through” is literally translated “may he sanctify you complete.” “Sanctify” again means “separation of yourself to God.” (Marshall, 605)
(25) in the presence. “At the coming” is literally translated “in the presence.” The sense in context of this verse and the following verse seems to indicate both a present and active sense as well as a future sense.

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities” by Frank Viola
November 23, 2011, 4:27 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Book Review of “Finding Organic Church” by Frank Viola that I posted to on September 19, 2009.

I just finished reading Frank Viola’s latest book, “Finding Organic Church: A Comprehensive Guide to Starting and Sustaining Authentic Christian Communities.” What an awesome book! Of all of my books on the church and it’s purpose that are in my “library” (as my kids describe my study) this is by far the best of them all. Probably no other book lays out the actual way a New Testament church was started and sustained. Every person who calls themself a pastor, teacher, evangelist, preacher, prophet, apostle, whatever the title you want to call yourself, ought to prayerfully read this excellent book! It encapsulates the dream of Jesus, of removing everything that is religious and not of Christ, to have a place to dwell richly in a community that loves Him so much that they willingly deny themselves, take up their cross (they die to themselves, their religion, their giftings, their personality, etc.), and follow Jesus together! Totally scriptural and practical! Thanks Frank!

Book Review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens
November 23, 2011, 4:24 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

This is my book review of “What’s With Paul and Women” by Jon Zens that I posted to on July 14, 2010.

I really enjoyed reading “What’s With Paul and Women?” by Jon Zens! Discussed some of the parts with my wife and we are in agreement, guess that means this is a keeper! Jon Zens does an excellent job at describing some of the mistranslated words and the cultural context of what appears as a bias towards women in the Bible, when in fact he was addressing specific issues. Men and women were called to function freely in the body of Christ!

Book Review of “No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood” by Jon Zens
November 23, 2011, 4:21 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Below is my book review of “No Will Of My Own: How Patriarchy Smothers Female Dignity & Personhood” by Jon Zens from on May 29, 2011.

Finished reading “No Will of My Own” by Jon Zens. Very informative read about the Patriarchy Movement and the abuse and bondage it brings to Women and Girls. Heard of this movement only about a year or so ago. Wade Burleson mentions in his forward that “many of the girls who wind up in the sex trade come from patriarchal homes.” May we live by Christ’s life and not according to this world. Patriarchal or matriarchal families are of the world not of Christ, in Christ He is the only ruler and source.

Review of “Going to Church in the First Century” by Robert Banks
November 23, 2011, 2:08 pm
Filed under: 2A - Book Reviews

Here is my review of “Going to Church in the First Century” by Robert Banks. I wrote this back in June 15, 2010.

Robert Banks writes a historical fiction story of a gathering of 1st Century Christians at Aquila and Priscilla’s home in Rome. It is written from the perspective of a non-believer who attends the meeting with a Christian friend. Banks does a great job of providing a lot of contextual detail of 1st Century Rome into the story along with a typical organic form of gathering of believers which involved a meal and spending time together, living by the life of Christ. I love the story and helped me see better how the Lord’s Supper was part of a normal meal with believers and the informality of the gathering. May all of God’s churches, His body truly live by His life in face-to-face community under the Headship & Lordship of Jesus Christ! A must read!

“Spiritual Hearing” by T. Austin Sparks
November 23, 2011, 1:34 am
Filed under: 1E - T. Austin Sparks "Spiritual Hearing"

First published in “A Witness and A Testimony” magazines, 1950;

Chapter 1 – The Ear for the Lord Alone

Reading: Rom. 12:1; Ex. 21:5-6; Deut. 15:12-18; Lev. 8:22-24,30; 14:28; Isa. 1:4-5; Rev. 3:20-22.

You will have noticed that, in all these passages, reference is made to the ear. There is the bored ear of the servant, the consecrated ear of the priest, the anointed ear of the leper, the opened ear for instruction in Isa. 1, and the attentive ear of Rev. 3. It is impressive to realise what a large place the Lord gives to the ear, and how much Scripture is occupied with hearing; and, as we put the various Scriptures together, we come to find that the matter of hearing, or of the ear, goes right to the root of the spiritual life. It was by capturing the ear of Eve that all sin was introduced into the human race. She consented to listen, she lent her ear when the adversary, Satan, said, “Hath God said…?”. That was the beginning of all spiritual evil among men, and since then Satan has ever sought to propagate his kingdom by getting the ear, by securing a consent to listen. It was in exactly the same way that he went to the Lord Jesus in the days of His fast in the wilderness, saying, “If thou be the Son of God…” There is something in that very much akin to “Hath God said…?”, because it was only a short time previously that God had said, “This is my beloved Son”. But the last Adam refused to listen; He closed His ear. He would not consent to entertain the suggestion or the insinuation, and, by His persistent refusal to give ear to the adversary, redemption was accomplished. All the mischief of the first failure in that very respect was overcome.

When we come to the book of the Revelation, we find that it is to the ear that the appeal is made. It is the time of consummations. The first chapters have to do with things that must be listened to as from the Lord; the last chapters see the result of that work of the Spirit-life in fulness; the same principles as in Genesis. It is the question of life in fulness, lost by lending an ear to Satan, gained by listening to what the Spirit saith.

So we are right in saying that there is a sense in which the whole spiritual life and spiritual history hang upon spiritual hearing. Between the two extremes of death and life, between listening to Satan and having an ear only for the Lord, there are many aspects of spiritual hearing, as we have seen in the above passages. We will not touch upon them now in detail, but be content for the moment to emphasize the necessity of having an ear to hear what the Spirit saith, and of using it – “He that hath an ear, let him hear”. We must be sure that we are not only hearing outwardly, but that the thing is going deep inside, that it is making a difference. You can say things again and again to some people, and they know what you say, and will retort, ‘I have heard you say that before’. But it makes no difference – they have not heard with the inward ear. Life depends upon that kind of hearing inside – using the ear that we have for what the Spirit saith. So it is all summed up in “I beseech you therefore, brethren, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service (worship, R.V.M)” (Rom. 12:1).

Chapter 2 – The Pierced Ear of the Servant

Reading: Ex. 21:5-6; Deut. 15:12-18.

Here we have the ear of the servant, and right on the surface there lies the connection between love, the ear, and abiding service. Love here is connected with the bored ear, and becomes the basis of this continuous service which is something that is voluntarily entered into and cannot be legally imposed. It is something which is taken up by the servant himself or herself because of a heart attitude and a heart relationship. The love basis leads to the resigning of certain rights and liberties. This servant has the right to go free. He is not a foreigner, he is not a hireling who, under compulsion, is put to bond-service. He is a Hebrew, and as such he has rights, and his rights are in the realm of liberty. He may go out free without violating any law or obligation. Indeed, it is his master who is under obligation to him at the time. But this servant resigns his rights and his liberties because of love. It is something other than constraint by legal obligation. It brings into another realm altogether.

Paul himself, who so often referred to himself as the bondservant of Jesus Christ, in various statements indicates something of the meaning of this resigning of liberties. For instance, he says, “All things are lawful for me, but not all things are expedient” (1 Cor. 6:12). ‘I have rights, if I followed the line of rights. There is nothing to forbid me or to compel me so far as law is concerned, but I am actuated by something more than that; there are other considerations; the Lord’s interests and my concern for Him lead me to forego certain liberties and rights; I resign them voluntarily for His sake.’ It is the bond-slave recognising that, while there may be nothing against certain things as judged by the ordinary standards of right and wrong, and that on that level certain courses are quite permissible, yet some higher interest may come in where the Lord can be better and more fully served if even those liberties are resigned for His sake. It is a much higher level, this level of the servant who says, ‘I will not go out free; I might, I have perfect right to do so, but I will not. I am not here simply because I must be, because I am compelled; I am here because of love’. That is a fuller and a higher world altogether, and it may touch us at many points. We could… we might… there would be no wrong… but the Lord’s highest interests require that we should on some things deny ourselves and say, ‘Though there is no wrong, no harm, the Lord will be better served if I do not’. That is what is here. “All things are lawful… not all things are expedient”; and when that attitude is taken, a new relationship with the Lord is set up, a relationship of service in perpetuity; but now it is more as one of the household, one of the family. The Spirit of sonship enters in, and “thou art no longer a bond-servant but, a son” (Gal. 4:7). Love lifts and transfers, and, although it is still service, we find a remarkable relatedness in the New Testament, between the bond-slave and, at the same time, the son.

We find that the Lord Jesus becomes the great example. He had rights, very great rights: He could have held to them. He had liberties: He could have stood for them. There was no obligation upon Him legally to do anything but to remain in the eternal glory with the Father. He surrendered all His rights and His liberties. He took upon Himself “the form of a servant (bond-servant)… becoming obedient even unto death, yea, the death of the cross” (Phil. 2:7-8). He said “I will not go out free”; and the Father bored His ear. He is the eternal Son-Servant. In Him the two combine – sonship and servanthood bound together in love for the Father. And what is in its highest and fullest expression in Him is transferred to us in our smaller way. Love requires sometimes that we have to say ‘No’ to some things which in themselves are harmless, and, in a way, desirable, and which would be quite permissible if we were serving only our own interests. To them we say ‘No’ in the interests of the One Who has become to us more than Master; He has become Lord.

Chapter 3 – The Consecrated Ear

Reading: Lev. 8:22-24,30; 14:25-28.

The Blood Touched Ear

In the former of these two passages we read of the consecration of Aaron and his sons, and the placing of the blood upon the tip of their right ears – the ear consecrated by means of the blood. The blood, as you know, was always the means of discrimination and separation; all that upon which the blood was sprinkled was separated unto the Lord, consecrated to Him. The blood – speaking of an end made to a whole regime, and provision made for an entirely new order of things – the blood stood between. You hardly need me to illustrate that from Scripture, for there is so much. Perhaps the outstanding Old Testament illustration would be the blood of the Lamb sprinkled on the door posts and the lintel of the homes of the Hebrews in Egypt. By that sprinkled blood they were marked out as separate from the Egyptians, and as a people with an entirely new future, a new history. The blood separated and the blood laid the foundation for something altogether new – that from that passover they were constituted God’s people in a new way. That is the principle of the blood, that it separates from one system and makes a way for another.

Now here, in the priesthood, we have that very strongly emphasised. There was the blood of the ram of consecration, and placed upon the ear, it meant quite simply that the blood was going to challenge, test and judge every presentation to the mind through the ear. The blood would interrogate everything coming to the inner life through the ear, as to where it came from, as to the nature of it. The blood would judge it and say, ‘That is not of God; that is not according to the mind of the Lord; that belongs to the old creation which is in alliance with sin; that springs from the original source where Satan spoke into the ear.’ The blood thus would judge everything, condemning what was not of God, and keeping the way open for the Lord – a very simple lesson, but a very powerful one. The Lord Jesus said, “Take heed what ye hear” (Mark 4:24). Priesthood here means the spiritual man, the man who is wholly unto the Lord, completely at the Lord’s disposal; and the spiritual man is going to be very careful what he allows himself to hear, what he allows to enter into his mind, into his inner life, and become a part of him inwardly through his ear. He is not going to listen to everything. He is going to judge what he hears and to refuse quite a lot.

Now that may apply to a large number of things which it would be unwise to try to catalogue. We can do unspeakable damage to our own spiritual life, and make it impossible for the Lord to speak to us, if we allow ourselves to listen to that which is not of the Lord, that which is contrary to Him. The enemy has gained great power for his kingdom through the ear of the world; he has a great hold on men along the line of hearing. He uses many things – it may be certain types of music, or ways of speaking. The consecrated servant of the Lord does not allow that sort of thing voluntarily. We are in this world, and we cannot avoid hearing many things that we should not wish to hear; but the important matter is not the sounds around us that strike upon our outward ear, but our reaction thereto, whether we consent to what we hear. Do we judge it and inwardly revolt against it and refuse it, or do we lend an ear to it?

I think this may specially apply to what we allow ourselves to hear about people. Untold damage is done by gossip and by criticism. Now, there is no point in having lips to talk if there are no ears to hear, and sometimes the sealing of unwise and uncontrolled lips may come by a refusal to listen. The priest is called upon to refuse to listen to a whole realm of things, to judge it and say, ‘I do not want to hear that; I am not listening to it, I am not accepting it.’ You can, I am sure, see what a terrible lot of mischief exists today even amongst real children of God, caused by rumours, by talk, by passing on reports, by interpretations given to things; and how susceptible we are to that sort of thing! Well, this blood-touched ear, the consecrated ear, conveys a fundamental lesson. On the one side, it refuses to accept and to allow to pass into the inner life a whole world of things.

The Spirit-Anointed Ear

Then there is the other side – the oil-anointed ear. Both sides are seen in the case of the cleansed leper in Lev. 14. In type he is the man who is freed from the defiling life of the flesh and is walking by the Spirit, in newness of life. He has the blood-touched ear – the token of his refusal to listen to what is not of God; and he has the oil-touched ear – the token of his readiness to hearken to the Lord. What a lot is lost because so many of the Lord’s people have not an ear to listen to Him – the open, sensitive, alive ear quickened by the Holy Spirit, the quiet ear. The enemy has made many of the Lord’s servants too busy to stop to listen to the Lord. Things are all unsatisfactory, they are all going wrong and missing the mark; and the enemy is just carrying the workers on by the sheer momentum of the work. He is seeing to it that they have no time to hear what the Lord would say about things. Those churches at the beginning of the book of the Revelation had many commendable things, and perhaps the greatest surprise that ever came to anybody came to some of them when it was said to them, in effect, ‘You have all this work, labour, patience and all these other quite commendable things, but you have not an ear to hear the Lord. These other things are not wrong, but there are very much more important things, and you are not hearing what the Spirit is saying. He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith…’ The need was for an ear open to the Lord for correction, for adjustment, for knowing yet more fully His mind about things.

There is the ear sealed against one world, and there is the ear open to the other world. There is one world closed by the Blood, another world opened by the Spirit; and it all centres in the inner ear, the ear of the heart. It is a very important thing. The Lord give us grace to be very obedient and watchful over this matter, taking heed what we hear, what we allow ourselves to receive, and keeping in that place where, if the Lord is wanting to say something, He has our ear not pre-occupied but alive to listen to His voice.

Chapter 4 – The Opened Ear

Reading: Isaiah 50:4-9

This passage in Isa. 50 needs to be read closely in connection with chapter 49, and indeed recognised as to its setting in the whole of the section of the prophecies. The position is that of Israel’s rebelliously going backward in spite of all the Lord’s speaking to them through His prophets. They refused to open their ear to the Lord. The result? – they were, as this chapter puts it at the beginning, divorced by the Lord. They were cut off and committed to captivity; and then in these chapters up to 53, the Servant of the Lord in His redemptive work is so fully and wonderfully brought into view, and it is concerning Him that these words are spoken. They give to us some little suggestion of how the people are served unto their salvation. We have, first, sin and its consequences, and then the Redeemer-Servant and the cost of redemption. “I gave my back to the smiters, and my cheeks to them that plucked off the hair, I hid not my face from shame and spitting” – words which were literally fulfilled in the case of the Lord Jesus. Then His vindication is referred to in verses 7-9. “The Lord Jehovah will help me; therefore have I not been confounded: therefore have I set my face like a flint, and I know that I shall not be put to shame. He is near that justifieth me; who will contend with me…” and so on. It is the Lord Himself speaking in the presence of His Cross, and looking with confidence to the issue of His sufferings, His vindication in resurrection; and because of all that – the confidence that He had in God, and His willingness to pay the price of their salvation – He brings this word of hope: “The Lord God hath given me the tongue of them that are taught, that I may know how to sustain with words him that is weary.” That is the word of hope to a people without hope in a very desperate situation, “to sustain with words him that is weary” – a ministry of hope through the Cross in the resurrection, in the vindication, of the suffering Servant.

Then He simply indicates that that ministry of hope, of re-assurance, that word of life and salvation, that changing of the darkness to light, is because of the opposite attitude on His part to that which brought about the darkness and the death. They turned back rebelliously and closed their ear to the word of the Lord. He turned toward God obediently and opened His ear; that is He listened, He took note, He received the word of the Lord. Pre-eminently this applies to the Lord Jesus, but in principle of course it applies to us, and the whole thing is now brought to rest upon this – a daily life governed by an ear opened to the Lord. “He wakeneth morning by morning, he wakeneth mine ear to hear as they that are taught.” It is rather remarkable that the Lord Jesus should be saying that He is as a disciple, as a learner, as one who is taught. It shows how completely, while being out from God and the Creator of all things, He is in the flesh dependent utterly upon God for everything, receiving from the Father His daily direction and instruction. What a picture of self-emptying! How fully His words were true – “The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father doing” (John 5:19) – a daily dependence upon the Father for everything, and a receiving of everything from the Father. Well, of course, we know how true that is of ourselves, but it is very wonderful that His ministry of hope depended upon, and sprang out of, His waiting morning by morning to hear what the Father had to say to Him, to teach Him, to tell Him for His ministry.

It again brings a tremendous emphasis upon the place of the ear. We have seen something of how important the ear is in the life of the child of God, and here it comes back again in this very beautiful passage. If we are going to bring some hope into a hopeless situation, to sustain with words him that is weary, him that is ready to faint, we have to be in very close touch with the Lord: we must get everything from Him, we must have an ear opened. This does not mean simply a readiness to hear what He says, but in this case, as contrary to Israel, it means an eager readiness to do what is heard. And so, with an ear opened and responsive, a ministry of value to others arises. Before you are through that chapter, you come to those wonderful words which exhort those who walk in darkness and have no light to stay themselves upon their God, and if you put that as a part of the prophecy and make it apply to the Lord Jesus, as undoubtedly it does, it is a very wonderful thing – walking in darkness and having no light, and yet day by day in touch with the Lord so that you can help others. Well, that is simply what it amounts to. Others are going to be helped, sustained, given hope, by those who live daily in touch with the Lord, and I think that it does suggest something as to the place of the early morning quiet time, the ear opened morning by morning. I think sometimes we use that quiet time almost exclusively for talking to the Lord. I wonder if there is not also part of it to be used in listening to the Lord. “…morning by morning, he wakeneth my ear”, the result, others helped, a ministry of re-assurance and hope.

The Tree of Life was nailed to a tree
November 15, 2011, 2:59 am
Filed under: 1A - Spiritual Notes

The Tree of Life was nailed to a tree.

Two trees in the midst of a garden.
The Tree of Life was given for life.
The tree of the knowledge of good and evil was a curse.
The Tree of Life was rejected for the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
Man became one with the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life searched for man so that he might eat of Him and live.
The Tree of Life found no place of rest.

expelled from garden

Two trees in the midst of a garden.
One Tree hung, the other tree stood proud.
The Tree of Life was given freely to a tree.
The Tree of Life was nailed to a tree.
The Tree of Life was nailed on the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life became the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life became a curse on a tree.
The Tree of Life died as the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
One Tree died, the other tree was already dead.
The Tree of Life died on the tree of death.
The Tree of Life took away the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life triumphed over the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.
The Tree of Life rescued us from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.


One Tree became a garden.
The Tree of Life has been grafted into us and us into The Tree of Life.
Man became one with the Tree of Life.
The Tree of Life became one with man.
The Tree of Life is the Life of man.
The Tree of Life finds a place of rest as we eat of Him.
The Tree of Life grows and spreads as we eat of Him.
The Tree of Life was given for life.


“…so that we may serve the living God.”
November 6, 2011, 2:12 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

As I read this letter to the Hebrews and specifically look at words from the original language I am struck by the use of words for “serve.” The words generally focus on the first covenant service to God in the tabernacle and the new covenant service to God through the serving of one another.

There are a three main Greek words for “serve” in the New Testament. One word is “diakoneo” which is the basic word to “serve” and used in describes how we love one another. Another word is “douleuo” which is to serve as a slave. The other is “latreuo” which is “to work for hire” and where we get the word “liturgy” and most often refers to service to God. These words are often translated incorrectly and give a different sense to the passage, in some instances an institutional bias. For example, the words “deacon” and “minister” are used to often convey a special position or office in the “church.” I am not so inclined. Christ’s body is made of many members and each serve one another by the life of the One Head as they assemble together. To create a special position or office in the Christ’s ekklesia is to deny the headship of Jesus Christ, who alone is the Leader and Authority who lives through His people, and moves His body from an organically lived body to an institutional organization run by men.

The author in the Letter to Hebrews uses primarily the different forms of the word “latreuo” to describe the importance of how Christ has “set aside” “the former regulation” of “the law of Moses.” “The first covenant had regulations for ‘latreias’ and also an earthly sanctuary” (9:1) and “the priests entered regularly into the outer room to carry on their ‘latreias.’ Additionally, “both the tabernacle and ‘vessels’ used in its ‘leitourgias’ ” were “sprinkled with the blood.” (9:21) But these priests “ ‘latreuousin’ at a sanctuary that is a copy and shadow of what is in heaven.” (8:5) And because the priests only acted out a parable of what Jesus would do later, “the gifts and sacrifices” that were “being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the ‘one latreuonta.’” (9:9) “Day after day every priest stands and performs his ‘leitourgon’ duties; again and again he offers the same sacrifices, which can never take away sins.” (10:11) This service to God in the first covenant was never meant to do anything but cause the people of God to depend on, to trust in the Lord waiting for the Promise to come, the Promise in whom the priests acted out as a parable.

But in Christ, the Son of God, who came as “a priest forever in the order of Melchizedek” “without genealogy, without beginning of days or end of life…remains a priest forever.” (7:3) Christ Jesus Himself entered “the inner sanctuary behind the curtain…who went before us, has entered on our behalf…has become a high priest forever, in the order of Melchizedek.” (6:19-20) It is Christ alone who has brought us peace with God and made us righteousness to God in whom alone is the King of peace and the King of righteousness! Christ Jesus, because He alone was “in the order of Melchizedek” and perfectly fulfilled the law of Moses, has changed “the priesthood” and therefore changed “the law” “on the basis of the power of an indestructible life.” (7:11,12,16) In Christ Jesus alone “a better hope is introduced, by which we draw near to God.” (7:19) “Jesus lives forever” and “has a permanent priesthood. Therefore he is able to save completely those who come to God through him, because he always lives to intercede for them.” (7:24-25) Because of the work Christ Jesus did alone, “we do have such a high priest, who sat down at the right hand of the throne of the Majesty in heaven, and who ‘leitourgos’ in the sanctuary, the true tabernacle set up by the Lord, not by man.” (8:1-2) So “the ‘leitourgias’ Jesus has received is as superior to theirs as the covenant of which he is mediator is superior to the old one, and it is founded on better promises.” (8:6) Christ Jesus Himself by His own blood, “entered the Most Holy Place once for all” and has “obtained eternal redemption.” (9:12) And only “the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may ‘latreuein’ the living God!” (9:14)

“Therefore, brothers, since we have confidence to enter the Most Holy Place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way opened for us through the curtain, that is, his body, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near to God with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled to cleanse us from a guilty conscience and having our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold unswervingly to the hope we profess, for he who promised is faithful. And let us consider how we may spur one another on toward love and good deeds. Let us not give up meeting together, as some are in the habit of doing, but let us encourage one another – and all the more as you see the Day approaching.” (10:19-25)

It has been said that in Christ every believer has been given a priesthood, some calling it the priesthood of the believer. I would suggest that that is too individualistic a view. It is Christ Himself who is the great high priest, He alone is the priest to God. One member can only touch some part of Christ and not the whole. In Christ, we “ ‘latreuein’ the living God” as we “ ‘diakonesantes’ to the saints” (6:10). It is the ekklesia, the body of Christ assembling together serving one another in love by which God is served, by which the full expression of the Son is expressed. It is the ekklesia, living organically by the life of Christ together who serve God. It could be better said that it is really the priesthood of the ekklesia, not the believer, who serve the living God! How we do disservice to God by not serving one another in love organically by the life of Christ, who alone is the priest to God!

W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 410-411, 563.

“So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded.”
November 5, 2011, 9:07 pm
Filed under: Q - Letter to Hebrews

After the author describes the incredible reality of life together with brothers and sisters in Christ, peering into Christ together, because of the once for all sacrifice of Jesus Christ our Lord, the author goes directly into a disturbing thought: “If we deliberately keep on sinning after we have received the knowledge of the truth, no sacrifice for sins is left.”

This relates back to his original thought from chapter 10 verse 18. The author noted that “by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. The Holy Spirit also testifies to us about this. First he says: ‘This is the covenant I will make with them after that time, says the Lord. I will put my laws in their hearts, and I will write them on their minds.’ Then he adds: ‘Their sins and lawless acts I will remember no more.’ And where these have been forgiven, there is no longer any sacrifice for sin.”

In Christ we have been “made perfect forever,” our “sins and lawless acts” He “will remember no more,” because we “have been forgiven!” This reality is only understood in the context of a shared life with other brothers and sisters, as a family, a shared life where each are living organically by the life of Christ, His life of love lived by faith. To do otherwise is to “miss the mark,” (1) to miss the full intent of our Lord, which is the meaning of “sin.” To deliberately fall back to institutionalism, to live by the flesh, “after we have received” this “full knowledge of the truth,” of our life in Christ we have deliberately “trampled the Son of God under foot,” “treated as an unholy thing the blood of the covenant that sanctified” us, and have “insulted the Spirit of grace.” How the author must write this in tears as he reflects on all of the finished work of Jesus Christ, everything that He has done for us and what that means, and to have brothers and sisters fall back to the flesh of religion instead of living by the Spirit. Christ was crucified once, His sacrifice was done once. All sin was taken away once by Christ Jesus on the cross. So in God’s mind, as mentioned earlier on the section in chapter 6, God no longer sees sin, it was dealt with on the cross, therefore there is no longer any sacrifice needed. If we are in Christ and we miss the mark by falling back to religion, we miss the reality of living by the life of Christ, which is the only life God sees. May we have spiritual sight to see our life in Christ and to live by Him.

For chapters 7 though the first part of chapter 10 the author has given an wonderful picture, a sweeping look at what Christ has done on our behalf. This perhaps as a remedy, or antidote, for not living by the Spirit, for his concern that he had mentioned earlier in chapter 6, a concern that he is bringing back up again. The brothers and sisters, in order to move forward in Christ we must live by the Spirit together, the life who indwells us, the Logos of Righteousness, the Word of God. The Law, the previous “oracles of God,” was only meant to lead us to Christ. It is now by Christ we live, because Jesus fulfilled the Law and is a mediator of a new covenant that has its basis in living by His life in us. To fall back to the Law, to religion, to institutionalism, to legalism, to the flesh, is to deliberately miss the mark. When Christ died for us, He died once for all, all our sins were forgiven at that moment in time. If we fall back to living by the flesh we essentially are “crucifying the Son of God all over again and subjecting him to public disgrace.”

If we fall back what does that say about Christ and our life together? How our Lord must also shed tears when we no longer look to Him, through His life, by the Spirit, in one another. If we live by religion, institutionalism, legalism, the flesh, we can only expect the consequences of such, a loss of confidence in our Lord. This is living contrary (2) to Christ, it is missing the mark. If our confidence is no longer in Christ then we will no longer be relying on the perfect Love that casts out fear. We will be fearful, our conscience will judge us, and we will no longer have the rest of Christ. We will be a malady (3), a peril, to ourselves and to others. Will we not be punished as an indolent child is punished by their parents? While we may think that “life is against us” is it not really our Lord wooing us back to Himself, to living by His Spirit with His brothers and sisters? “For we know him who said, ‘It is mine to avenge; I will repay,’ and again, ‘The Lord will judge his people.’ It is a dreadful thing to fall into the hands of the living God.”

How do we keep this from happening? As the author says “Remember those earlier days after you had received the light, when you stood your ground in a great contest in the face of suffering. Sometimes you were publicly exposed to insult and persecution; at other times you stood side by side with those who were so treated. You sympathized with those in prison and joyfully accepted the confiscation of your property, because you knew that you yourselves had better and lasting possessions. So do not throw away your confidence; it will be richly rewarded. You need to persevere so that when you have done the will of God, you will receive what he has promised.”

In Christ, living by His life together, we can be “confident of better things!” Remember those earlier days when you saw, heard, touched, tasted, smelled the life of Christ in and to and through one another! Just because life gets hard doesn’t mean you give up, it just means Christ is preparing you for more of Himself! Brothers and sisters our faith will be tried and it will be tested, but this is the way of Christ. The Father loves us and is jealous for us, for the expression of His Son.

The NIV says in conclusion “But we are not of those who shrink back and are destroyed, but of those who believe and are saved.” The literal translation is “But we are not of withdrawal to ruin, but of faith to possession of soul.” (4) When we fall back from living organically by Christ with other brothers and sisters it will be too our consequence, our ruin, that is the way of the flesh, but if we trust Christ, to live by His life alone, we will persevere, we will endure, and the result is that Christ Himself will possess more of us, that is the way of the Spirit. This is Christ’s will, His desire, that His soul, will become one with our soul! As the Son prayed to the Father on the night He was betrayed. Keeping our confidence in Christ during the difficult times will lead to a greater apprehension of Christ! When we live by faith in the Son of God who loved us as we are tried and tested we will enter God’s rest, we will receive His promise, we will apprehend more of Christ! Christ is our rich reward! Moving forward in Christ then is learning to apprehend more of Christ, to see our life as His life day by day. Christ is indeed walking this earth again, but only as we live by Him in us!

(1) W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 577.
(2) In verse 27 the original language uses the word “adversaries” which means “contrary or opposed.” The thought is that anything that is not of Christ is contrary to Christ. The NIV translates this word as “the enemies of God” which doesn’t seem to describe the context of the passage of those who fall back to the flesh. As a brother or sister we are each learning to live by Christ, we are each learning to put off the flesh which is contrary to Christ, and to put on Christ, to live by His life together. Religion, institutionalism, legalism, and the flesh are all contrary to Christ, contrary to His will, it misses the mark. These will always bring “a fearful expectation of judgment” that will seem to consume us with “fire.” We will know it when we live by the flesh, it is Christ in us attempting to help us see the flesh as a dead thing and to live by Him. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 15.
(3) In the first part of verse 29 the NIV translates “…how much more severely do you think a man deserves to be punished…” In context these words follow the example of “the law of Moses,” because to live contrary to Christ is to warrant the death penalty. So someone who falls back to following “the law of Moses” should therefore follow it’s consequences when we can’t follow it. But in Christ we have been “made perfect forever,” and our “sins have been forgiven.” This passage literally is translated: “…by how much think you of worse will be thought worthy punishment the one…” The word “worse” actually means “indolent” or to suffer from a “malady.” To have lived by the Spirit and then to fall back to the Law is to be “indolent.” It is to be a “malady” to themselves and others. How this person needs the help of his brothers and sisters. W.E. Vine, Vine’s Complete Expository Dictionary of Old and New Testament Words, 1985, Thomas Nelson Publishers, 686.
(4) This literal translation by Alfred Marshall is close to that which is translated by NASB. Alfred Marshall, The Interlinear KJV-NIV Parallel New Testament in Greek and English, 1975, The Zondervan Corporation, 661.