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Saturday, July 7, 2012

The Sword of the Lord


Like the leaven of the Pharisees, the sword of Luke 22:36 was figurative.



εἶπεν οὖν αὐτοῖς, Ἀλλὰ νῦν ὁ ἔχων βαλάντιον ἀράτω ὁμοίως καὶ πήραν, καὶ ὁ μὴ ἔχων πωλησάτω τὸ ἱμάτιον αὐτοῦ καὶ ἀγορασάτω μάχαιραν.
Luke 22:36



Last March, I argued against Christians joining the military in a long post called A Good Soldier of Jesus Christ. There was one statement I made in that blog that I’ve been meaning to reexamine because, since making it, I’ve come across some compelling arguments to the contrary. The point wasn’t critical to my central argument, but it did concern Biblical interpretation, so, if there’s any chance that I was wrong, I wanted to find out and set the record straight.

Well, I’ve done the requisite analysis and I’m now fully convinced that I was indeed wrong. And today’s blog post is the record being set straight.

The statement I made was about the sword mentioned in Luke 22:36. Here are verses 35-36 from the KJV:
35And he said unto them, When I sent you without purse, and scrip, and shoes, lacked ye any thing? And they said, Nothing. 36Then said he unto them, But now, he that hath a purse, let him take [it], and likewise [his] scrip: and he that hath no sword, let him sell his garment, and buy one.
Now here’s the incorrect statement I made then:
As well, it is disingenuous to suggest that the sword is figurative. After all, no one thinks the “purse” and “scrip” of the same verse are figurative, so why would the “sword” be? The purpose for the sword might be figurative, but a real sword is clearly meant.
I now believe that both the sword and its purpose are figurative—and so are the purse and scrip, for that matter.


The first thing that indicates that the sword is figurative is the Lord’s response to the disciples in verse 38:
And they said, Lord, behold, here [are] two swords. And he said unto them, It is enough.
The Greek word that Jesus uses for “enough” is ἱκανός [hikanos]. This word does mean “sufficient” or “enough”, but, as we see in the following screenshot from Thayer’s Lexicon, the phrase “it is enough” was a Hebrew idiom that one said when “a companion uttered anything absurd”. Jesus used it to “break off the conversation” because the disciples weren’t able to understand the deeper meaning of His words.


Regarding this idiom, Peter Misselbrook, in his Greek New Testament Notes on Luke 22:36 (scroll down to Week 8), paraphrases Howard Marshall's Commentary on the Gospel of Luke:
Marshall says that the meaning is “That's enough (of this conversation)” and that it is meant as a rebuke. Jesus gives up on any further attempt to get through the misunderstandings of the disciples who, this side of Pentecost, seem to have no real understanding of the nature of his kingdom.
If you think about it, the phrase “it is enough” has to be idiomatic, because the disciples only showed the Lord two swords. He had just finished saying that any disciple who didn’t have a sword should get one, and there were more than two disciples, therefore two swords would have been decidedly not enough; which is what Jesus would’ve said if He had actually meant for them to literally sell their garments and buy real swords.

Misselbrook also thinks that the sword is figurative and again goes to Marshall’s commentary:
The saying brings out the extreme plight of the disciples. A garment for wear at night was an utter necessity: to give it up for a sword implies that dire circumstances are at hand...the saying is a call to be ready for hardship and self-sacrifice.
The command to get purse, scrip and sword is about the disciples provisioning themselves, but not literally. It is about them provisioning themselves as spiritual shepherds. Yes, the sword is for defensive purposes, but it is for a spiritual shepherd to defend the spiritual sheepfold against a spiritual enemy. The disciples are the spiritual shepherds; believers, the church, are the spiritual sheepfold (cf John 10:11 & Eph 5:25); false teachers, like the Pharisees, are the wolves; and the Word of God is the spiritual sword (Eph 6:17).

As we see in the parallel verses of Matthew and Mark (Matt 26:31; Mark 14:27), Jesus was telling the disciples that the shepherd (Him) was to be struck and the sheep (believers) scattered; a fulfillment of the prophesy of Zechariah 13:7.
Awake, O sword1, against my shepherd, and against the man [that is] my fellow, saith the LORD of hosts: smite the shepherd, and the sheep shall be scattered: and I will turn mine hand upon the little ones.
However, the 11 disciples were only going to be the scattered sheep for a short time. Later, after they were converted—as the Lord put it to Peter a few verses before (Luke 22:32), speaking about their receiving the Holy Spirit after His resurrection (John 20:21-23)—they were to become the shepherds and feed the sheep2 (see John 21:15-17).

We get a hint of this differentiation between these disciples and the Lord’s other followers earlier, in Luke 9:1-6, when He sends them out first on what is sometimes called the “Lesser Commission”—the event the Lord is referring to when He asks them if they “lacked anything”. He then sends 70 others out at the beginning of Chapter 10. These 70 others He calls “lambs among wolves” (v.3) and “babes” (v.21). Lambs are baby believers and, again, wolves are false teachers.

As for protecting the sheep, in the 1st Century, shepherds defended their flocks against wolves (and thieves) with swords and staves (called “rods” elsewhere in the NT).

The Greek word for staff is ῥάβδος [rabdos]. As well as a walking-stick and weapon, the staff was used to keep the sheep in line. As we see in Rev 19:15, the Lord will rule with a rabdos of iron. The Greek word translated “rule” is ποιμαίνω [poimainō]. It means to shepherd, protect and care for, a flock of sheep. The noun form of this word is ποιμήν [poimēn], the Greek word for shepherd.

In John 4:32-34, the Lord, speaking about doing the will of the Father, tells the disciples that He has food that they know nothing about. They wondered who gave Him something to eat. In Matthew 16:6-12, He warns them to beware of the leaven of the Pharisees. They thought He was talking about bread. In the same way, in Luke 22:36-38, when the Lord tells them to provision themselves and buy swords, the disciples, missing the deeper, figurative meaning of His words, immediately pulled out a couple of swords and waited for the pat on the back.

It never came.









Footnotes:


1. This sword is not the same sword. This sword is the wicked of the world, as defined by David in Psalm 17:13. As well, the hand He will “turn upon the little ones” is defined as (ungodly) “men” in the next verse, Psalm 17:14.

2. Christians feed on the Word, the Law of God. The Greek word for law is νόμος, nomos, which comes from a word that means “to parcel out, especially food or grazing to animals”.



Friday, June 22, 2012

There is More to Repenting than Regret


According to the KJV, Judas repented. So much for the KJV being the Word of God.



Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη μεταμεληθεὶς, ἀπέστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις.
Matthew 27:3



The blog has been silent for a couple of weeks now because Sandy and I have left Fairbanks, Alaska, and are now busy setting up our home in Tauranga, Aotearoa1. For me this means finding a new job in a new town; which is proving somewhat difficult. As a lot of you know, this is not the best time to be looking for work.


Naturally, what I’ll end up doing is whatever God wants me to end up doing. I’d like to get a job teaching the Bible—it’s the only thing I really enjoy doing—but for that reason alone, I think God will have me doing something else entirely. Our lives in this world are not meant to be smooth, comfy and fun. So, if I want to teach—and I do—then I’ll either have to find a Church where I can teach, or else set up a home Bible study.

Once I set up a home, of course.

Oh, well, at least I can satisfy my urge to teach a wee bit with these blog posts. God bless the Internet!

This is from a fascinating old book I found online called The Four Gospels translated from the Greek with Preliminary Dissertations and Notes Critical and Explanatory, by George Campbell:
I shall now offer a few remarks on two words that are uniformly rendered, by the same English word, in the common version2, between which there appears notwithstanding, to be a real difference in signification. The words are μετανοεω (metanoeo)3 and μεταμελομαι (metamelomai)3, I repent. It has been observed by some, and, I think, with reason, that the former denotes properly, a change to the better; the latter, barely a change, whether it be to the better or to the worse; that the former marks a change of mind that is durable and productive of consequences; the latter expresses only a present uneasy feeling of regret or sorrow for what is done, without regard either to duration or to effects; in fine, that the first may properly be translated into English, I reform; the second, I repent, in the familiar acceptation of the word.
To clarify a bit, there are two different Greek words translated “to repent” in the KJV: metanoeō (μετανοέω) and metamelomai (μεταμέλομαι). The first one denotes a turning from sin leading to a positive change of character and is better understood as “to reform”; the second simply expresses a feeling of regret but does not indicate any change of character, which comes closer to the mechanical sense of “to repent”—a turning away from one’s sin—but not the full spiritual sense of repentance leading to regret, repudiation and reformation.

Ah, the KJV translators and their synonyms—we’ve been down this unhappy road before. Just like the results of pistis being translated “faith” and “belief”, or eklektos written “chosen” and “elect”, how has the doctrine of Christ been distorted because single Greek words that form the basis of important theological concepts have been rendered by two or more English words in the King James Bible? Now we have two distinctly different Greek words being translated into a single, theologically important English word: repent.


The full differences between the two words for repent is understood by looking at their lexical meanings and, what is just as important, examining their usage in Scripture.

Metanoeō is made up of the root words for “after” and “mind”. Combined, the sense is “to change ones mind afterwards”. Metamelomai is made up of the root words for “after” and “care”; the combined sense being “to care about something afterwards”. The former indicates an actual change of the state of one’s mind with regards to an action; the latter, a change of the feelings towards an action.

We only need to look at this one example of how these two words are used in the NT in order to put their doctrinal differences into perspective: Whenever we are ordered to repent in the NT, the word metanoeō is used; never metamelomai.

Now let’s take a look at Matthew 27:3-5 from the KJV:
3Then Judas, which had betrayed him, when he saw that he was condemned, repented himself, and brought again the thirty pieces of silver to the chief priests and elders, 4Saying, I have sinned in that I have betrayed the innocent blood. And they said, What [is that] to us? see thou [to that]. 5And he cast down the pieces of silver in the temple, and departed, and went and hanged himself.
What we have here is Judas repenting then, two verses later, hanging himself, which presents a bit of a theological conundrum, because the clear message of the Scriptures is that if we repent and believe, we will be forgiven and saved (Matt 9:13; Luke 8:12, 13:3, 17:4; Acts 2:37-38, 3:19, et al). Here, Judas clearly believes, since he called the Lord “the innocent blood” and he repents. Yet Jesus Himself tells us that Judas, the “son of perdition”, was lost in John 17:12.

This has puzzled many in the past and still leaves an opening for idiotic speculation today—see here and here—but once we look at verse 3 in the Greek, the conundrum is quickly solved.
Τότε ἰδὼν Ἰούδας ὁ παραδιδοὺς αὐτὸν ὅτι κατεκρίθη μεταμεληθεὶς, ἀπέστρεψεν τὰ τριάκοντα ἀργύρια τοῖς ἀρχιερεῦσιν καὶ τοῖς πρεσβυτέροις.
As you probably guessed already, the word in red is the word metamelomai, not metanoeō.

So, as we see from the original Greek text, Judas merely had a change of feeling regarding his sin; he regretted what he’d done. He did not, however, have a change of mind (a change of “heart”—see this blog post), a reformation of his character from seeing the sinfulness of his actions.

Yep. I’ve said it before; I’ll say it again: Beware of English-only Bible studies!









Footnotes:


1. This is the Maori name for New Zealand. It means “Land of the Long White Cloud”.

2. This means the King James Bible—also commonly referred to as the Authorized Version (AV).

3. Transliterations of the Greek have been added; they were not in the original.



Saturday, May 19, 2012

In the Pink


If you’re at all shaky on the whole idea of the sovereignty of God, let Arthur W. Pink set you straight.


A.W. Pink


ἐν αὐτῷ ἐν ᾧ καὶ ἐκληρώθημεν προορισθέντες κατὰ πρόθεσιν τοῦ τὰ πάντα ἐνεργοῦντος κατὰ τὴν βουλὴν τοῦ θελήματος αὐτοῦ· εἰς τὸ εἶναι ἡμᾶς εἰς ἔπαινον τῆς δόξης αὐτοῦ τοὺς προηλπικότας ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ.
Ephesians 1:11-12



I didn’t really start to understand the Bible until about two years ago when I became convinced of three fundamental (and increasingly unpopular) doctrinal truths related to God’s sovereignty: God has predestinated those who will believe in Jesus; these Believers are God’s Chosen Elect; and God does NOT love everybody.

Upon first hearing a reasonable and compelling explanation of these three truths,1 I was only partially convinced they were true, but after deciding to read the New Testament over the next few days as though they were true, I never looked back. From that moment on, everything I read in the Bible just made way more sense.

Anyway, the only reason I mention that is because ever since then I’ve been something of a heresy-hunter; and there’s been no shortage of game. Even though these truths were historically very strongly held in most non-Presbyterian denominations, almost no one preaches them today (and those, like the Calvinists, that do, don't teach them correctly). So it’s always a pleasant surprise to come across a Christian preacher who does. It’s a particular pleasure when he can present them artfully in a few choice sentences. Of course, because of the aforementioned lack of mainline subscribers to these truths, most of these “eloquent Sovereignists” are dead and buried. One such man is Arthur W. Pink.

I found the following Pink quote, A Great Deception, posted on the Providence Baptist Ministries website.
One of the most popular beliefs of the day is that God loves everybody, and the very fact that it is so popular with all classes ought to be enough to arouse the suspicions of those who are subject to the Word of Truth. God's love towards all His creatures is the favorite tenet of Universalists, Unitarians, Theosophists, Christian Scientists, Spiritualists, Russellites, etc. . . . So widely has this dogma been proclaimed, and so comforting it is to the heart which is at enmity with God, we have little hope of convincing many of their error.

To tell the Christ-rejecter that God loves him is to cauterize his conscience as well as to afford him a sense of security in his sins. The fact is, the love of God is a truth for the saints only, and to present it to the enemies of God is to take the children's bread and to cast it to the dogs.
As for Predestination and Election, Pink refers to them while discussing 2 Thessalonians 2:13, in a short excerpt entitled Chosen to Salvation:
There are three things here which deserve special attention. First, the fact that we are expressly told that God's elect are "chosen to salvation". Language could not be more explicit. How summarily do these words dispose of the sophistries and equivocations of all who would make election refer to nothing but external privileges or rank in service! It is to "salvation" itself that God has chosen us.
It should be noted here that both the OT Hebrew word בָּחִיר (bachiyr) and the NT Greek word ἐκλεκτός (eklektos) were alternately translated “the chosen” and “the elect” in English Bibles; meaning that the Chosen and the Elect are the same people. Pink continues:
Second, we are warned here that election unto salvation does not disregard the use of appropriate means: salvation is reached through "sanctification of the Spirit and belief of the truth". It is not true that because God has chosen a certain one to salvation that he will be saved willy-nilly, whether he believes or not: nowhere do the Scriptures so represent it. The same God who "chose unto salvation", decreed that His purpose should be realized through the work of the spirit and belief of the truth.
Or, as the Apostle Paul put it in Romans 8:29, we are predestined to become like Christ.
For whom he did foreknow, he also did predestinate [to be] conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brethren.
In Ephesians 1:5, Paul tells us that we believers—the Elect—were predestinated to become younger siblings of Christ, members of the family of God.
Having predestinated us unto the adoption of children by Jesus Christ to himself, according to the good pleasure of his will.
In this, Paul echoes the words of John 1:3:
But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, [even] to them that believe on his name.
All of which, as Pink reminds us, is “cause for fervent praise”!
Third, that God has chosen us unto salvation is a profound cause for fervent praise. Note how strongly the apostle expresses this - "we are bound to give thanks always to God for you, brethren beloved of the Lord, because God hath from the beginning chosen you to salvation", etc. Instead of shrinking back in horror from the doctrine of predestination, the believer, when he sees this blessed truth as it is unfolded in the Word, discovers a ground for gratitude and thanksgiving such as nothing else affords, save the unspeakable gift of the Redeemer Himself.
Amen.









Footnotes:
1. It was Jim Brown, the pastor of Grace and Truth Ministries, who opened my eyes to the truth of Predestination, Election & the Sovereignty of God. You can watch one of Jim's 90 minute sermons on these doctrines here on YouTube.



Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Follow the Leader


If you think someone can choose to follow Jesus, think again.



τὰ πρόβατα τὰ ἐμὰ τῆς φωνῆς μου ἀκούει, κἀγὼ γινώσκω αὐτά καὶ ἀκολουθοῦσίν μοι.
John 10:27



There are still a large number of people out there who think that following Jesus is just a matter of one's choosing to do so. The field of Christian Apologetics would cease to exist if those populating it weren’t certain that all a person has to do is decide that the arguments for following Jesus are more convincing than the arguments against, then act on their new-found conviction. Unfortunately for them, unless Jesus commands that person to follow him, he won’t be able to do it.

Yeah, he should apologize.

The New Testament Gospels are full of accounts of those who try to follow Jesus, but are dissuaded from doing so by the Lord Himself. This is usually due to the person or persons having the wrong reasons for following Him—reasons Jesus always perceives. Several of these incidents spring to mind: the crowd who came to get fed again (John 6:26); the crowd who wanted to crown Him king (Luke 6:15). Jesus was a miracle-worker and drew huge crowds, but by the end of His ministry, there were only a few followers left willing to associate with Him. What false followers He hadn’t chased away personally, were soon sent packing by His arrest, conviction and crucifixion.

In the last six verses at the end of the ninth chapter of the Gospel of Luke (vv. 57-62), where Jesus encounters three different men on His way to Jerusalem, there is a succinct example of both the Lord’s winnowing of would-be followers and His (seemingly) random choosing of disciples. Here’s the full pericope as it appears in the New King James Version:
57Now it happened as they journeyed on the road, [that] someone said to Him, "Lord, I will follow You wherever You go." 58And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air [have] nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay [His] head."

59Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."

61And another also said, "Lord, I will follow You, but let me first go [and] bid them farewell who are at my house.". 62But Jesus said to him, "No one, having put his hand to the plow, and looking back, is fit for the kingdom of God."
Notice that the first man took it upon himself to become a follower of Jesus; notice, too, the Lord’s somewhat quixotic retort. In the Scriptures, both foxes and birds represent wicked people. In Luke 13:31-32, the fox is Herod; in Matt 13:19, Mark 4:15 and Luke 8:12, the birds of the air are the Wicked One, Satan and the Devil respectively. By introducing this contradistinction between the visible households of the wicked and the homelessness of the righteous in this world, is Jesus revealing something about the first man’s character and his unrighteous reason for following Him?

The answer to that question, it seems to me, would depend upon whether this reply was calculated to dissuade the man or not. If it was, then it should successfully repel him from following Jesus, suggesting strongly that the man is a fox or bird at heart. In the parallel verses of Matthew’s Gospel, where this man is identified as a scribe, we see that the Lord's parabolic reply did indeed stop the fellow from following Him.1
8:18And when Jesus saw great multitudes about Him, He gave a command to depart to the other side. 8:19Then a certain scribe came and said to Him, “Teacher, I will follow You wherever You go.” 8:20And Jesus said to him, "Foxes have holes and birds of the air [have] nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay [His] head."

8:21Then another of His disciples said to Him, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 8:22But Jesus said to him, "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead."

8:23Now when He got into a boat, His disciples followed Him.
Clearly, since only disciples followed Jesus into the boat, the scribe didn’t. Another false follower, with the wrong motivation, was sent packing!

The experience of the third man whom Jesus encounters in Luke’s Gospel is similar to the first man. Like him (the scribe), the third man also takes it upon himself to announce that he will follow Jesus. Here, too, the context of the encounter, introduced by the man’s request and the analogy in Jesus’ reply, revolves around the differences between the households of the wicked and the righteous. These similarities between the two encounters indicate that Jesus’ reply was also calculated to repel the man from following Him. And although it is not stated in the text, as with the first reply, this one would've been just as effective.

The effect of these parabolic replies brings to mind the remarks Jesus made after delivering the Parable of the Sower. Although He delivered the parable to a gigantic crowd, it was only His disciples who later followed Him into the house where He had retreated. Only they asked Him what the parable meant and why He spoke to the crowd in parables; the crowd had dispersed in ignorance (cf Matt 13:10; Mark 4:10; Luke 8:9). Here’s how Mark records what Jesus told them:
4:11And He said to them, "To you it has been given to know the mystery of the kingdom of God; but to those who are outside, all things come in parables, 12"so that 'Seeing they may see and not perceive, And hearing they may hear and not understand; Lest they should turn, And [their] sins be forgiven them.' "
The word translated “outside” here is ἔξω [ekso], meaning “out of the house”. It is used figuratively in the NT for those who are outside the Household of God, unbelievers belonging to another family.

Here Jesus is echoing the words of Isaiah 6:9-10. What He is saying is that, if He doesn’t want someone who has come to Him to continue following Him, to join His family, He will speak to that person in parables that He’s made sure they cannot understand.

Now let’s compare the experiences of the first and last man of Luke’s Gospel with the experience of the second man.
9:59Then He said to another, "Follow Me." But he said, "Lord, let me first go and bury my father." 60Jesus said to him, "Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and preach the kingdom of God."
The most obvious difference with this exchange is that the second man does not put himself forward like the others did. In fact, he seems rather disinclined to get involved, trying as he does to beg off following by citing his duty to his father at home (his earthly lord)2. This time, it is Jesus who initiates the encounter by commanding the man to follow Him.

In the Greek, the verb translated “follow” is in the active imperative mood and, as we learned here in another post, every time Jesus delivers a commandment in the active imperative mood, it is obeyed. Every. Single. Time. Hence Matthew identifies the second man as a disciple who follows Jesus into the boat.

By the way, Matthew’s calling the man a disciple before Jesus orders him to follow Him, does not mean that he was a disciple prior to the call. The Gospel writers are not relating events the way we would narrate them in a fictional story. They are not revealing information sequentially for dramatic effect. Matthew is simply stating the final condition of the man by way of introduction, just as Judas is introduced as the betrayer of Jesus in each of the Gospels before the occasion of his betrayal is related (cf Matt 10:4; Mark 3:19; Luke 6:16; John 6:71).1

Notice that even in the encounter with the second man, the wicked/righteous household subtext of the pericope is maintained. However, this time, we see that this man is being adopted into the righteous household. This time, Jesus calls the man out of his “dead” family (“follow me”), orders him to stop serving a “dead” lord (“let the dead bury their dead”), and puts him to work telling others about his new living family and new living Lord (“go preach the Kingdom of God”).

And of course the man does follow Him, just like Jesus tells us, in John 10:27, that all His sheep will do:
My sheep hear My voice, and I know them, and they follow Me.
It's simple, sheep are the only ones who follow Jesus...and nobody gets to make himself a sheep!









Footnotes:
1. When cross-referencing events between the three Synoptic Gospels, it is important to remember that Luke alone states that his is laid out chronologically (v.1:3), therefore the order of events in the other two are not. This means that Matthew’s placement of the first man and his statement in another setting in no way suggests it is a different person.

2. The phrase “bury my father” is not intended literally. It was an idiom meaning to discharge ones duties as an eldest son; which was chiefly to serve the father until he died. The man is asking Jesus for permission to hold off serving Him until he has finished serving his father.



Wednesday, May 9, 2012

Model Citizen or Pariah?


How can a Christian be a model citizen and hated by the world at the same time?



15μὴ γάρ τις ὑμῶν πασχέτω ὡς φονεὺς ἢ κλέπτης ἢ κακοποιὸς ἢ ὡς ἀλλοτριο-επίσκοπος 16εἰ δὲ ὡς Χριστιανός μὴ αἰσχυνέσθω δοξαζέτω δὲ τὸν θεὸν ἐν τῷ μέρει τούτῳ.
1 Peter 4:15-16



The following incident of public persecution of Christians was recently cited by a guest on one of the Moody Radio current affairs programs, broadcast on KJNP, Alaska, as evidence of how the upsetting, rising trend in global persecution of Christians is being mirrored here in America. Everyone on the show was aghast that, in this country, someone could air such bigoted sentiments in a room full of children and not be punished. They were all equally adamant that every Christian in the nation had to “get involved” politically to stop this type of thing from ever happening again.


Gay-rights activist Dan Savage, leader of the “It Gets Better” project, a campaign offering support and encouragement to young gays facing rejection and discrimination, gave a speech at a Seattle anti-bullying event that caused quite a stir in the Christian media. Some students, presumably Christian, walked out, offended by hostile remarks Savage made against the Bible and Believers. It was reported that a few of the nearly 100 students who left were visibly upset and “in tears”. Here’s what he said:
People often point out that they can’t help it, they can’t help with the anti-gay bullying, because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in Timothy, it says right there in Romans that being gay is wrong. We can learn to ignore the [lies]1 in the Bible about gay people
A short time later, Savage, knowing that the students had left because of the vitriol he’d slung at Christians generally, decided to sling some at them directly.
You can tell the Bible guys in the hall they can come back now because I’m done beating up the Bible. It’s funny to someone who is on the receiving end of beatings that are justified by the Bible how [cowardly]1 people react when you push back.
I have to say, I find the reactions of both those students who left in tears and those commentators on the radio far more disturbing than anything Savage said. He’s a godless fool; I wouldn’t expect him to think or say anything else. But for people who call themselves Christians to react with anything other than elation at verbal persecution, particularly innocuous persecution like Savage’s, is nothing short of shameful. What Bible have they been reading, I wonder? Have they never read James 1:2?
My brethren, count it all joy when ye fall into divers temptations...
The word translated “temptations” is the Greek noun πειρασμός [peirasmos]. It means a trial or testing of your faith in Christ. It doesn’t mean a piece of chocolate cake dangled in front of you when you’re on a diet. The same word is translated “to try” in 1 Peter 4:12-14.
12Beloved, think it not strange concerning the fiery trial which is to try you, as though some strange thing happened unto you: 13But rejoice, inasmuch as ye are partakers of Christ's sufferings; that, when his glory shall be revealed, ye may be glad also with exceeding joy. 14If ye be reproached for the name of Christ, happy [are ye]; for the spirit of glory and of God resteth upon you: on their part he is evil spoken of, but on your part he is glorified.
What kind of appallingly unsound doctrine have these Christians been taught? Don’t they know that unbelievers are supposed to hate us? That if they don’t, then we’re not being Christian enough? That it’s the mark of a Christian to suffer persecution for speaking and acting on the Lord’s behalf?
Isaiah 66:5: Hear the word of the LORD, ye that tremble at his word; Your brethren that hated you, that cast you out for my name's sake, said, Let the LORD be glorified: but he shall appear to your joy, and they shall be ashamed.

Matthew 10:22: And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that endureth to the end shall be saved.

Matthew 24:9: Then shall they deliver you up to be afflicted, and shall kill you: and ye shall be hated of all nations for my name's sake.

Mark 13:13: And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake: but he that shall endure unto the end, the same shall be saved.

Luke 21:17: And ye shall be hated of all [men] for my name's sake.
His name’s sake, or, simply, for His, the Son of Man’s, sake:
Matthew 5:11: Blessed are ye, when [men] shall revile you, and persecute [you], and shall say all manner of evil against you falsely, for my sake.

Luke 6:22: Blessed are ye, when men shall hate you, and when they shall separate you [from their company], and shall reproach [you], and cast out your name as evil, for the Son of man's sake.
Which is equivalent to “righteousness”:
Matthew 5:10: Blessed [are] they which are persecuted for righteousness' sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
We are to expect nothing but persecution from non-Christians. We aren’t supposed to be model citizens, as another talking head on Moody Radio put it, beloved and respected by all and sundry. We are to be hated for telling the truth and becoming more like Christ everyday. It’s called denying ourselves, taking up our crosses and following Him.
Luke 14:27: And whosoever doth not bear his cross, and come after me, cannot be my disciple.

Matthew 16:24: Then said Jesus unto his disciples, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Mark 8:34: And when he had called the people [unto him] with his disciples also, he said unto them, Whosoever will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross, and follow me.

Luke 9:23: And he said to [them] all, If any [man] will come after me, let him deny himself, and take up his cross daily, and follow me.
Yeah, that’s right, we have to take up our crosses daily. We are to welcome suffering and persecution, not collapse in a heap of tears under it and then have our parents force the government to make all the bad boys stop and pretend to like us. We are not supposed to be model citizens; we are supposed to be pariahs.

Why else do you think God birthed us the second time while we were still in a world full of persecutors?








Footnotes:
1. Expletive deleted. If you need to know exactly what he said, google it.



Wednesday, May 2, 2012

The Heart of the Word


You will never understand the Bible properly until you replace the word “heart” with the word “brain” when you read it.



Isaiah 29:13



Present-day, English-speaking believers have more obstacles to understanding the Bible than they might think. Along with living in a language and culture alien to those for, to and about whom the Bible was first written, modern Christians are also disadvantaged by their radically different perception of the natural world. In our highly technical age, where the sciences of medicine and anatomy are well developed and the basic operations of the internal organs of the body are commonly known, without access to extra-biblical information, it is impossible to understand the meanings of words such as “bowels”, “liver” and “kidneys” in the pre-scientific way they were originally used. And, too often, this extra-biblical information is not being supplied in sermons and Bible studies, resulting in poorer, less enlightened hearers of the Word.
To get an idea of how much meaning can be lost to us modern readers, take a look at this short excerpt of an article by a Dr. Garabed Eknoyan, that I found in the online version of the JASN (Journal of the American Society of Nephrology), entitled The Kidneys in the Bible: What Happened?:
In the books of the [Hebrew] Bible that follow the Pentateuch, mostly in Jeremiah and Psalms, the human kidneys are cited figuratively as the site of temperament, emotions, prudence, vigor, and wisdom. In five instances, they are mentioned as the organs examined by God to judge an individual.
Ancient Israelites knew nothing about the unobservable operations of the organs in the human body. The brain, with no “moving parts”, was a particular mystery to them. In the absence of a neuroscientific model of the mind, they associated each of the various psychological activities and emotions, such as lust, with one of the abdominal organs; generally the one closest to the area of the body where the sympathetic response to the activity was felt. These organs were then thought to be the place where these mental functions, or states of mind, originated. Eventually, the names of the organs themselves were used figuratively to describe the state of mind.

As Dr. Eknoyan notes, the King James Bible translators took steps to differentiate between the literal and figurative occurrences of the word “kidneys” (Hebrew כִּלְיָה [kilyah]; Greek νεφροί [nephroi]), through the judicious use of the word “reins”1:
In the first vernacular versions of the Bible in English, the translators elected to use the term “reins” instead of kidneys in differentiating the metaphoric uses of human kidneys from that of their mention as anatomic organs of sacrificial animals burned at the altar. This initial effort at linguistic purity or gentility has progressed further in recent versions of the Bible, in which the reins are now replaced by the soul or the mind.
Along with these efforts at “linguistic purity or gentility”, the modern Bible editors were responding to society’s wholesale abandonment of the “metaphorical uses” of the bodily viscera. Due to the advances in physiology, psychiatry and neuroscience, and the rush to secularization in the public education systems of the industrial world, common knowledge of the figurative meanings attached to the organs mentioned in the Bible had largely faded; with one very notable exception. Despite all the neurosurgical and psychological development in the 20th Century, our self-styled sophisticated and rational societies have retained a metaphorical use of the word “heart”.
Unfortunately for the large swath of uninformed Christians in these societies, the reasons this non-anatomical use of the word “heart” was retained had more to do with romantic verse than biblical verses. The secular meaning of the figurative term “heart” quickly subsumed the biblical meaning. The modern translators, inexplicably content with this unbiblical metaphoric meaning of “heart”, chose not to follow either the KJV translators’ example with regards to the word “kidneys”, or their own with regards to the word “reins”, but simply let the direct translation stand, leaving the modern Christian to read the wrong metaphorical meaning into every Biblical occurrence of the word “heart”.

The OT word for “heart” is לֵב, lev (a form of levev). The NT word for “heart” is καρδία, kardia. In both ancient languages and cultures, because of its placement within the body, and its direct, detectible connection with the living body, the heart was considered the centre of all physical life. Because of this biological centrality, it was considered the seat of all spiritual life, too—what we call “mental” life. In other words, everything we classify today as psychological, as occurring in the brain, the ancients thought of as occurring in the heart. The heart, to them, contained the mind; which is why the word “mind” occurs in the Bible, but the word “brain” does not.

Notice that time and time again the heart is mentioned with all the words related to cogitation: “thoughts”, “to know”, “to understand” “to think”, “to perceive”, “to reason”, etc.
Genesis 6:5: ...every imagination of the thoughts of his heart...

Joshua 23:14: ...and ye know in all your hearts and in all your souls...

1 Kings 3:9: Give therefore thy servant an understanding heart to judge thy people...

Mark 7:21: For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders...

Mark 8:17: And when Jesus knew [it], he saith unto them, Why reason ye, because ye have no bread? perceive ye not yet, neither understand? have ye your heart yet hardened?

Luke 5:22: But when Jesus perceived their thoughts, he answering said unto them, What reason ye in your hearts?

Acts 8:22: ...the thought of thine heart...
In the OT, the word lev itself was translated “mind” twelve times, “understanding” ten times, and “wisdom” six times. In the NT, we have the parable of the sower, where the “heart” is what “heareth the word of the kingdom” (Matthew 13:19).

There can be no doubt that the primary metaphorical meaning of heart in the Bible is the mental faculty of understanding. It is not the shiny red valentine heart that immediately springs to our minds. Neither is it the seat of mercy, compassion or the tender affections, because, along with the kidneys, the Bible uses another organ (or collection of organs, to be precise) to reference those: the bowels—in Hebrew racham (רַחַם); splangchnon (σπλάγχνον) in the Greek—as in Genesis 43:30, 1 Kings 8:50, Nehemiah 1:11, Luke 1:78, Colossians 3:12, et al.

When Jesus talks of having a hardened heart, as in Mark 8:17 above, He isn’t talking about lacking feelings, He’s talking about lacking understanding, of being ignorant to the truth (cf Mark 6:52 & John 12:40). When He accuses the unbelieving Jews of honoring God with their lips, but having their hearts far from Him (see Matthew 15:8; cf Isaiah 29:13), He wasn’t complaining that they didn’t love Him, He was telling them that they are in complete ignorance as to the nature of God and His Messiah.

Of course, the very idea that emotions occur in a different place than the thoughts is an absurd, self-serving fiction, regardless of whether you believe the latter occur in the heart and the former in the bowels, like the ancients, or whether, like modern Christians, you talk as though you think with your brain but feel with your heart. There’s no desperately wicked heart beating at the command of a renewed mind. All of the emotions, feelings, desire, “love”2 and thoughts—the entirety of one’s inner being—occur in only one place: the mind, the spirit, the essential self. And, if you think about it, what is the mind, the essential self, but the understanding.

The Lord knew that, of course, which is why His Word is sown, and His Law written, in the hearts of men. It is why, for instance, He tells His disciples that the sin of adultery isn’t something you can avoid by simply being faithful to your spouse, because the will to do the action isn’t carnal, but spiritual (Matthew 5:28). It doesn’t originate from the body, but from the heart, the mind, the essential self. And the only thing that can change that, the only way to get a new heart (see Ezekiel 11:19, 18:31, 36:26), a new mind, is to have the mind of Jesus the Christ dwell in you (1 Cor 2:16, Col 1:27).

There’s no getting around it. If we modern Christians want to understand the Bible, we have to see the word “brain” every time we read the word “heart”.










Footnotes:
1. This is not the same “reins” you use to steer a horse. This “reins” comes to English from French via the Latin noun rēn, meaning “kidney”; the other “reins” come from the Latin verb retinēre, meaning “to hold back”.

2. I like to put the English word “love” in quotation marks because, like “heart”, the common meanings and associations conjured up by it are not the same as those of the NT Greek words (plural) that it translates.



Friday, April 27, 2012

Prayer? Pray Tell!


How important is it to know what Jesus meant when He talks about praying?



οὕτως οὖν προσεύχεσθε ὑμεῖς, Πάτερ ἡμῶν ὁ ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς, ἁγιασθήτω τὸ ὄνομά σου.
Matt 6:9


The following quote is an excerpt from a comment I read on a news story about the new “drive-thru prayer1 outreach program at the Christian Life Center, in Fort Lauderdale, Florida.
JESUS SAID DON’T GO TO CHURCH, because it’s full of hypocrite priests and hypocrite people. He said you should go to your ROOM to pray (Matthew 6:6). And notice, you can’t be at church if you’re supposed to be following Jesus by praying in your room.
This idea that Christians shouldn’t ever pray in church kind of intrigued me so I decided to look into it a bit more. Utilizing the information in the English text of the KJV, in a way that further bolsters the case for keeping it as the Authorized English Bible, I discovered the actual meaning of Jesus’ words.

Here’s Matthew 6:6 from the KJV:
But thou, when thou prayest, enter into thy closet, and when thou hast shut thy door, pray to thy Father which is in secret; and thy Father which seeth in secret shall reward thee openly.
It certainly does seem like Jesus is saying not to pray in public. However, if we look in the next verse, we find another instruction on how to pray:
But when ye pray, use not vain repetitions, as the heathen [do]: for they think that they shall be heard for their much speaking.
Now, laying aside what Jesus is saying for the moment, look at who He is addressing in both of these verses (the red text). In the first, He is talking to “thou”; in the second, “ye”. Thou is the old 2nd person singular pronoun; ye is the old 2nd person plural pronoun. In v.6, Jesus is speaking to a single person; in v.7, He switches pronouns to address two or more people.

In using these two words the KJV translators were able to more accurately reflect the separate singular and plural pronouns used in the original Greek text of the NT. In modern translations, with no way to distinguish singular and plural in the 2nd person, the two different Greek words are both rendered “you”.

So, clearly, v.6 is an instruction for individual prayer; that it should be done in secret—in contrast to what hypocrites do—and v.7 is an instruction for communal prayer; that it shouldn’t be just thoughtless babbling—in contrast to what heathens do.

Later, in the course of telling Sandy about this newfound insight, I happened to mention that what we modern Christians call “praying” isn’t what Jesus called “praying”. This statement, and the explanation of it, came as a bigger surprise to her than my newfound insight. To her, where to pray isn’t nearly as important as is the very nature of prayer itself.

In the KJV, there are five different Greek verbs, each with different meanings, translated “to pray” and four Greek nouns translated “prayer”. Several of these mean “to ask”, “to express a need” or even “to offer supplication”, but the one occurring in Matthew 6:5, 6 & 7, and every other time when referring to Jesus praying, is the word προσεύχομαι, proseuchomai, which means to demonstrate and express your submission to the Will of God.

Here’s a 58 second video clip of Jim Brown of Grace & Truth Ministries on the word proseuchomai:



This is the kind of praying that Jesus did and it is the kind of praying He instructs us to do. When He prayed privately—He always prayed privately—in Gethsemane, He said “thy will be done” (Matt 26:42), demonstrating and expressing His submission to the Will of God. When He taught us to pray individually, He taught us to do so privately, with no one but God present to see or hear us, where we would make an honest demonstration and expression of our submission to the Will of God. When He told us how to pray together, He taught us to say “thy will be done” (Matt 6:10), so we would demonstrate and express our submission to the Will of God.

This is the kind of praying that matters to God; this is what Jesus means when He talks about praying. It is not the kind of praying they’ll be doing at that convenient drive-thru in Florida.








1. This is a link to the Fox News version of the story. The comment I read was on a CBS Miami page that I didn’t link to in order to spare you their annoying habit of “auto-refreshing”. If you don’t know what that means, don’t worry; you will thank me when you find out.


Monday, April 23, 2012

Name Changes


ὅτι οὓς προέγνω καὶ προώρισεν συμμόρφους τῆς εἰκόνος τοῦ υἱοῦ αὐτοῦ εἰς τὸ εἶναι αὐτὸν πρωτότοκον ἐν πολλοῖς ἀδελφοῖς.
Romans 8:29

Sorry, but I'm currently (and annoyingly) experimenting with new names for this blog. So far, the sting of salt and light is the best I can come up with. If it doesn’t change over the next couple of weeks, it’s a keeper!

Cheers,
jim

Sunday, April 22, 2012

Page 2 of the DD3 is Posted


We are all slaves to, or filled with guilt over not being slaves to, The Great Commission, but is this truly what Jesus had in mind?



πορευθέντες οὖν μαθητεύσατε πάντα τὰ ἔθνη, βαπτίζοντες αὐτοὺς εἰς τὸ ὄνομα τοῦ πατρὸς καὶ τοῦ υἱοῦ καὶ τοῦ ἁγίου πνεύματος·
Matthew 28:19


Page Two of the third installment of the Deconstructing Doctrines series has finally been completed and posted. The study is called There’s a Great Commission? and, if you’ve already read Page One, you can access Page Two by clicking here. To read the whole thing, just go to the tab at the top of this post labeled DD3: There is a Great Commission?

In this series I’m taking a look at ten doctrinal statements, some composite and some actual, held and taught by most Christians today, that contain what I see to be critical interpretive errors. The poor teaching we hear in the majority of our church services is a direct result of the faulty, unscriptural notions produced by these misinterpretations.

1.           The Not-so-Great Commission

Cast a wide eye over the beliefs of modern Christianity and you will see few doctrines as foundational as the Great Commission. It is the quintessential Christian teaching. Acceptance of it is nearly universal among denominations and it has been the driving force behind English-speaking evangelism for over 250 years.

The end result is today’s composite Great Commission. Here’s a typical formulation:
Every Christian! Go into each country in the world and preach the gospel in order to convert and baptize every creature in that nation in the name of the Father, Son and Holy Ghost. Teach them to believe everything I’ve said. And, remember, I am with you in spirit forever.
So, in order for everyone to pass on their version and get to work, a great deal of generalization has taken place with regards to the Great Commission's form. But, while the abbreviated versions have broader utility, they are, by definition, less scriptural. There is simply no way for them to remain biblically sound, once they've been bullet-pointed to conform to the theology of every denomination and passed on without question or comparison with the source material.

This is how everyone has got it so terribly wrong.

Read it all...



Thursday, April 19, 2012

They Have No King but Caesar


Christians are monarchists and our King is never on the ballot.



λέγει αὐτοῖς ὁ Πιλᾶτος, Τὸν βασιλέα ὑμῶν σταυρώσω; ἀπεκρίθησαν οἱ ἀρχιερεῖς, Οὐκ ἔχομεν βασιλέα εἰ μὴ Καίσαρα.
John 19:15
The term “democracy” comes from the Greek word δημοκρατία [demokratia] "rule of the people", which is made up of δῆμος [demos], meaning “people, rabble, or mob”, and κρατία [kratia], meaning "rule".
Various Greek Lexica
A democracy is nothing more than mob rule, where fifty-one percent of the people may take away the rights of the other forty-nine.
Thomas Jefferson1


My clock-radio is tuned to KJNP Alaska and every weekday morning it goes off at 07:30. After hearing some atrocious piano solos, I sort of half-listen to 10 minutes of Ravi Zacharias’ list of favorite philosophers, vacation spots, and books he’s read or written, then fall back to sleep, only to be awakened after eight by the jackhammering expositions of Dr Tony Evans.

G.W. Caesar and Citizen Evans

Over the last four days, KJNP has been re-broadcasting a sermon series Evans gave sometime during the Obama/McCain election campaign. I am not so churlish as to suggest that the only reason these sermons are being re-broadcast four years later is to help push his latest book How Should Christians Vote?, sensibly released in an election year. I am sure that Evans’ only concern is for the Christian franchise and he couldn’t care less if he doesn’t make a dime off of the book. His sole aim, surely, is to provide Christians the tools with which to make an informed and godly choice this November; if he happens to make a few bucks in royalties in the process, where’s the harm?

Well, to answer that, let’s first look at this video of the ad for the book:



This jumped out at me:
God expects us to be involved in politics, but what He doesn’t expect is to allow politics to corrupt us to the point where we loose sight of this other Kingdom we are a part of.
There are so many theological errors undergirding this sentence, it would take a week of blog posts for me to fully excavate and correct them all. I will spare you that (for now), but I do want to briefly examine one aspect of Evans’ misguided political theology: The politicians he thinks God wants us to vote for.

Now, in fairness to Evans, I admit that he is by no means the only pastor in America with these views. To my continual disgust, except for Jim Brown of Grace and Truth Ministries, every single preacher, pastor or bible teacher I’ve heard here believes that “God expects us to be involved in politics”. Their reasons are as varied as their hairstyles, but their blinkers are all identical. To a man, they have bought the lie that we Christians are to use the power of the state to corral the godless majority and compel them to live as we are commanded to live and that we are to do this through representatives who have been elected by the Christian minority along with the godless majority.

So, what insight does the Bible give us with regards to the nature of these representatives?

Well, in James 4:4 we are told:
Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? Whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
That sounds bad enough in English, but in the Greek it carries even more force. Here’s the first sentence of the verse (to skip the Greek lesson, click here):
μοιχοὶ καὶ μοιχαλίδες, οὐκ οἴδατε ὅτι ἡ φιλία τοῦ κόσμου ἔχθρα τοῦ θεοῦ ἐστιν;
The words in red text are the nouns translated “friendship” and “enmity”. “Friendship” is the Greek word φιλία [philia], which is an extension of the word φίλος [philos], meaning “friend”, in the most emotional sense of the word. The verb form of philos is the word φιλέω [phileo], which is often translated “to love” in the KJV, and means “to have a deep affection for”. It is the closest equivalent in NT Greek to our English word “love”. Therefore, philia, “friendship”, is a deep affectionate friendship—a loving friendship.

Knowing the extreme positive nature of philia gives us an idea of the extreme negative nature of its opposite, the word translated “enmity”. This is the Greek noun ἔχθρα [exthra], which comes from the adjective ἐχθρός [exthros], the substantive (noun form) of which Strong tells us means someone “openly hostile” or “animated by a deep-seated hatred”. We see this substantive form in the next sentence of the verse translated as “enemy”.

The second sentence of the verse looks like this in the Greek:
ὃς ἂν οὖν βουληθῇ φίλος εἶναι τοῦ κόσμου ἐχθρὸς τοῦ θεοῦ καθίσταται.
The words in red text are those translated “will be” and “is” respectively.

“Will be” is the Greek verb βούλομαι [boulomai] and means “to will deliberately or purposefully”, with the sense of “to resolve resolutely”.

“Is” is the verb καθίστημι [kathistemi]; which is not equivalent to the English verb “to be” (that’s the verb εἰμί [eimi]). Literally kathistemi means “to set down” or “put down”, but carries the same idea as the English idiom “set over”, as in a ruler. In fact, it was translated “to make a ruler” in Matt 24:45, 47, and Luke 12:42. It is also translated “ordain” (in Titus 1:5, Hebrews 5:1, 8:3) and “appoint” (in Acts 6:3).

So, with that, we see that the sense of James 4:4 is better expressed in English as:
Adulterers and adulteresses, do ye not know that the loving friendship of the world is hostile hatred to God? Whoever, therefore, wills deliberately to be a loving friend of the world is a hostile hater of God and appointed over Him.
What is a politician in a democracy but a wannabe friend of the world? Isn’t that what winning elections is all about? Should we be supporting their attempt to be an enemy of God?

Clearly not.

It is apparent to anyone not blinkered by the same theological lie that narrows Tony Evans’ vision that, if the Bible teaches us that a Christian can’t be a politician, then a politician can’t be a Christian. So if there’s no such thing as a Christian politician, then there’s no such thing as a Christian polity. And if there’s no such thing as a Christian polity, then we’d better stop trying to choose between Caesars and leave the outcome of elections to God.






1. Even though he wasn't a Christian, Jefferson is quoted here because, being one of the American founding fathers, as well as a deist, whose hatred for the miracles and virgin birth of Jesus was so strong it compelled him to compile his own bible, his apt description of democracy is doubly poignant.


Thursday, April 12, 2012

The Rich Young Ruler was Elect


Sound doctrine and the Greek text prove the rich young ruler was saved.



ὁ δὲ Ἰησοῦς ἐμβλέψας αὐτῷ ἠγάπησεν αὐτὸν, καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ, Ἕν σοί ὑστερεῖ ὕπαγε ὅσα ἔχεις πώλησον καὶ δὸς τοῖς πτωχοῖς καὶ ἕξεις θησαυρὸν ἐν οὐρανῷ καὶ δεῦρο ἀκολούθει μοι ἄρας τὸν σταυρόν.
Mark 10:21


I’m not sure how many times I’ve heard sermons or read commentaries that concluded that the rich young ruler was damned because he wouldn’t give up his “great possessions”. Those who draw this conclusion do so mainly from two points: one, the fact that he went away sad, rather than rejoicing; and two, that nowhere else in the Gospels is it mentioned that he returned to follow Jesus after having sold all his possessions.

Then Jesus beholding him loved him, and said unto him, One thing thou lackest: go thy way, sell whatsoever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven: and come, take up the cross, and follow me.
Before going into the doctrinal and grammatical proofs of the young man’s salvation, allow me to answer those two points first. It is true that we never read of the young ruler’s returning to follow the Lord, but, conversely, we never read that he didn’t. The text only says that he went away unhappy, not that he went away and refused to obey Jesus.

That the young man left sad confirms that he believed Jesus was telling the truth. He was grieved because he knew that he had to sell all his stuff and give the money to the poor. Jesus had answered the young man’s question about inheriting eternal life by giving him an honest rebuke and the sole remedy for his one spiritual failing. The young man felt the sting of conviction from the rebuke and accepted the truth of the remedy. After all, if he thought Jesus was talking nonsense, he would’ve gone away annoyed, bemused, or disappointed because Jesus wasn’t the “good master” he thought he was. He wouldn’t have gone away “sorrowful” because “he was very rich”.

This repentant response to Jesus’ words leads into the doctrinal proof of the young ruler’s being one of the Elect. Everywhere in the Gospels, those who are unbelievers (therefore not Elect) uniformly respond to Jesus’ accurate descriptions of their spiritual state with anger; their pride is always inflamed.
But the Pharisees and lawyers rejected the counsel of God against themselves, being not baptized of him. Luke 7:30
The self-righteous Pharisees and scribes never went away depressed by the changes they had to make in their lives, because they didn’t believe they had to make them. Not that Jesus ever gave them any! He reserves advice for those of His sheepfold. It is completely pointless to tell goats to behave like sheep.


Of the three synoptic accounts of this event, it is Mark’s Gospel that mentions Jesus “beholding” the young ruler and then “loving” him. Independently these details might be disregarded as unimportant, but together they take on a profound significance that is hard to ignore. The Greek word translated “beholding”, ἐμβλέπω [emblepo], means “to turn one’s eyes on”. The word translated “love” is the verb ἀγαπάω [agapao]. Agapao means “to welcome (to a household), to entertain” and also “to be fond of in a familial or dutiful way”, like a man to his family and vice-versa. In the NT, it is the word used to indicate God’s vessels of mercy (Romans 9:22-24), those whom He has chosen for salvation. That Jesus’ “love” follows His “beholding” indicates a this-so-therefore relationship between the two. What Jesus saw—the heart (mind) of the young ruler (see 1 Samuel 16:7)—was reason to “love”, or “welcome”, him to the family of God.

I examined this connection between God’s agape and His election in great detail in the first installment of the Deconstructing Doctrine series:
Loving to God is the same as choosing; the same as being faithful to; the same as being merciful to. It is, in short, the activity of favoring above another.

Take a look at Matthew 12:18, where we read [my emphasis added]:
That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, “Behold my servant, whom I have chosen; my beloved, in whom my soul is well pleased: I will put my spirit upon him, and he shall shew judgment to the Gentiles”.
Matthew is citing Isaiah 42:1 where it says of Messiah:
Behold my servant, whom I uphold; mine elect, in whom my soul delighteth; I have put my spirit upon him: he shall bring forth judgment to the Gentiles.
Notice that Matthew has revealed to us that the OT idea of God's elect (Hebrew בחר [bachar]) is equivalent to the NT idea of God's beloved (ἀγαπητός [agapetos]).
Of course, the doctrine of Election is anathema to those who insist—against all biblical evidence to the contrary—that God loves everyone. Only they can countenance the idea that Jesus loves this rich young ruler but refused to save him. It is this kind of perverse thinking that led Billy Graham to say that, because He created him, and even though He damned him, God must love Satan!

Ah, no.

Sorry, Billy, but God only saves those He “loves” (agapao), and only “loves” those He saves.

We also know that believing (having faith), which is the gift of God (Eph 2:8) to His Elect, is what saves. Faith (or belief) is the Greek word πίστις [pistis]; “to save” is the verb σῴζω [sozo]. Nine times in the Gospels, Jesus says that faith, pistis, saves, sozo (Matt 9:22, Mark 5:34, 10:52, 16:16, Luke 7:50, 8:12, 8:48, 17:19, 18:42; the phrase "made whole" in the KJV is the word sozo in the Grk NT). The rich young ruler was said to lack one thing to be perfect (Mat 19:21) and it wasn’t faith. Remember, Jesus wasn’t rebuking his lack of belief, but his covetousness. Thou shalt not covet was the one commandment of the Decalogue that the young ruler hadn’t been “following from his youth”.

Of course, guilty of one is guilty of all, but it is not keeping the commandments that saves; it’s faith. And this the rich young ruler had.

As for commandments, there are more than ten. In the Greek NT, every time Jesus says something in the active imperative mood, it is another commandment. It is not a suggestion or a conditional request; it is a direct, face-to-face command to someone; a command that is always obeyed. Jesus didn’t ask the disciples to follow Him (Matt 4:19, 9:9; John 1:43), he commanded them to follow him. And they did. Every. Single. Time.

Why? Because, as Jesus said in John 10:27:
My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me.
He wasn’t saying that they aren’t saddened by what they hear (see Prov 3:12 & Heb 12:6), but that those who hear Him follow Him. The rich, young ruler obviously heard, and understood, the Lord, because he went away saddened.

Also, the Greek word for “hear” is ἀκούω [akouo]. As we see in Mark 12:29, where Jesus quotes Deuteronomy 6:4, akouo is equivalent to the Hebrew word שָׁמַע, [shama]. When used exhortatively, as imperative commands, both of these words mean “to hear and obey”. So, just as anyone who will obey Jesus, heard Him; anyone who hears Jesus will obey Him.

Nowhere in the NT does anyone ever disobey a direct command from Jesus. After loving the rich young ruler, Jesus gives him five imperative commands:
Go! Sell! Give! Come! Follow!
Without a doubt, the rich young ruler went, sold, gave, came and followed. So, clearly, he was one of the Lord’s Elect and was surely saved.