A passage to ponder

Right after Jesus healed a man the Jewish leaders persecuted him for telling a man to work by picking up his mat.  Jesus has something of lengthy discussion with them.  Here is part of it.

"You search the Scriptures because you think they give you eternal life. But the Scriptures point to Me! Yet you refuse to come to Me to receive this life. "Your approval means nothing to Me, because I know you don’t have God’s love within you. For I have come to you in My Father’s name, and you have rejected Me. Yet if others come in their own name, you gladly welcome them. No wonder you can’t believe! For you gladly honor each other, but you don’t care about the honor that comes from the One who alone is God.
(Joh 5:39-44 NLT)

Love covers all things

I came across an interesting passage today studying Paul’s perspective on love.  It is found in 1Cor 13:7.

It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.
(1Co 13:7 NET.)

At first glance this might not seem like it has much to do with covering and authority.  The word translated “bears” is stego which literally means to cover, like a roof.  Up until now I never found any passage that speaks literally of a covering in church relationship aside from Peter’s famous statement about love covering a multitude of sins.  Perhaps I’ve missed something. 

For this passage lots of translations render stego as “bears” but the NIV/TNIV do not.

It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
(1Co 13:7 TNIV)

I took a look at Stego in the TDNT and found a strong case to render the word according to its more literal meaning.

Various renderings are suggested for 1 Cor. 13:7. In view of the earlier “bear” the sense “to endure” raises problems, since it seems to be repetitive. “To excuse”, is hardly possible, and the middle would be required for the sense “restrains itself.” The meaning, then, is perhaps that love “covers” all things. In full self-giving to others, the love that is rooted in God’s love keeps silent about unfavorable matters.

Kittel, G., Friedrich, G., & Bromiley, G. W. (1995). Theological Dictionary of the New Testament (1073). Grand Rapids, MI: W.B. Eerdmans.

I found lots of commentators that bring the meaning of protective covering in to their interpretation of this text.  The covering here isn’t about protection from malevolent spiritual beings but more in the sense of keeping in confidence the weaknesses and failings of the people we love.  Love doesn’t broadcast the faults and failings of others.  They believe the text speaks to a gracious amount of concealment.  It does concern me how this might be taken too far if corruption is hidden from view when it should be exposed.

I have my own sense of what this could look like in church life.  There is protection in love.  When people know they are loved and are tangibly supported they can be transparent about their weaknesses and failings.  The community can then respond by supporting that person in the ways that they need support.  We can cover for each other’s weaknesses and be ready with a gentle helping hand.  In another sense genuine love is the best response to a lot of dysfunction.  It is a universal elixir for a great many interpersonal ailments. 

In my experience the most effective ministry is the continual proclamation of the gospel in the context of a relationship flooded with God’s divine love.

New addition to the scriptures collection

Do not let anyone accuse or contend against anyone else:
for my case is against you priests! You stumble day and night,
and the false prophets stumble with you;
You have destroyed your own people! You have destroyed my people
by failing to acknowledge me!
Because you refuse to acknowledge me,
I will reject you as my priests.
Because you reject the law of your God,
I will reject your descendants. The more the priests increased in numbers,
the more they rebelled against me.
They have turned their glorious calling
into a shameful disgrace!
(Hos 4:4-7 NET.)

New scripture to the quotes collection

For we do not proclaim ourselves, but Jesus Christ as Lord, and ourselves as your slaves for Jesus’sake. For God, who said “Let light shine out of darkness,” is the one who shined in our hearts to give us the light of the glorious knowledge of God in the face of Christ. But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that the extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us. We are experiencing trouble on every side, but are not crushed; we are perplexed, but not driven to despair; we are persecuted, but not abandoned; we are knocked down, but not destroyed, always carrying around in our body the death of Jesus, so that the life of Jesus may also be made visible in our body.
(2Co 4:5-10 NET.)

The futility of other teaching

I’ve been studying the topic of love lately.  As I jump from passage to passage I come across ones that I find are applicable over here.

I urge you, as I did when I was on my way to Macedonia, to remain in Ephesus so that you may instruct certain people not to teach any different doctrine, and not to occupy themselves with myths and endless genealogies that promote speculations rather than the divine training that is known by faith. But the aim of such instruction is love that comes from a pure heart, a good conscience, and sincere faith. Some people have deviated from these and turned to meaningless talk,
(1Ti 1:3-6 NRSV)

Paul tells Timothy to deal with a problem in Ephesus.  Some people are teaching “different doctrine.”  The word is heterodidaskeleo.  The meaning of hetero is much like it is English.  It means simply different or another.  Homogeneous means everything is the same, and heterogeneous means things are different.   The 2nd half of the word means teaching or doctrine.  Literally it isn’t as strong “false teaching” although some of the major translations render the word this way (NIV, NET, TNIV).  When the word false is used to describe testimony, teachers, prophets or Christs the word pseudo is used. 

I don’t believe Paul’s concern was that the people in Ephesus were teaching things directly contrary to apostolic doctrine, just that it was futile, vain and empty.  They promoted meaningless speculations or controversies.  What they taught distracted people from the grand purpose of apostolic teaching.

The purpose is love.  Love that comes from:

  • pure heart
  • a good conscience
  • sincere faith

I think Paul is giving us some guidelines which we can use to test  teaching.  Does the teaching lead me to love or something else?  Does it tempt me towards showmanship and pretension or sincerity?  Is my conscience clean as I apply it?  Is it about faith or fear?

It has never been my goal with this website to trash any particular stream in the body of Christ.  I have to say though that the Charismatic stream really needs to consider this passage.  I’m watching a video of a prophetic conference and it is filled with teaching that amounts of meaningless speculation.  None of it seems like an obvious false teaching, it just places so much emphasis on things that  don’t matter all that much. 

Here are some blurbs I heard tonight:

  • 2011 is a year of transition as 11 is a the number of transition
  • Every word that came out tonight opened a gate for a new level of intimacy with God
  • Enter in and experience a deeper level in the spirit realms

None of these kinds of things are in direct opposition to orthodox Christian teaching.  But when all the teaching and direction we receive is like this when it seems to crowd out the basic biblical doctrines.  

They seem to be distractions that take us away from Christ and they can subtly lead us away from precious and plain truths in the Christian faith.  People don’t need to go to the next conference to receive the next word to gain a new level of intimacy with God.  The plain truth is that sincere faith leads to love of God and intimacy. 

The covering teaching starts off like this.  It tempts with promises of increased favour, authority, blessing and protection.  I think where it ends up is more like straight up false teaching.  Is the purpose of the covering teaching love or control?  Not just appreciation or friendliness but love that comes from pure heart.  Is the love real, or is it manufactured to fit in with a system?  Is the faith or trust sincere or is derived from coercion or fear? 

If what motivates us to act is manipulation or legalism we won’t be acting out of a pure heart, good conscience and a sincere faith.

We are protected by God’s power through faith

I was looking up some information on Greek language tenses and came upon these passages.

1Pe 1:3  Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! By his great mercy he gave us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead,
1Pe 1:4  that is, into an inheritance imperishable, undefiled, and unfading. It is reserved in heaven for you,
1Pe 1:5  who by God’s power are protected through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time.

One of the great things I discovered I came to when researching for this website was that our salvation begins in this life and it is entirely accessible through faith in Christ.  In verse 3 Peter says we have been given a new birth and living hope through the resurrection.  A living hope is a hope that continues and is available to us through what Christ has done.

We are the same people that are protected by God’s power through faith.  Which is also stated by Paul in 2Tim 1:12-14.  There is no reason to fear those who say you are no longer protected if you leave a church or come out from under someone’s authority.  Your faith in Christ is what protects all the precious things granted to us through the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Servant Leadership Quote : Added to the Mat 20:20-28 page

The servant leader. Jesus chose a servant as the countermodel for His followers. Nothing could be farther from our idea of greatness or leadership. We tend to see, as did the disciples, the pomp of power. The TV cameras focus on the great seal of the United States, a hushed quiet falls, the band in the background plays “Hail to the Chief,” and the announcer’s voice is heard: “Ladies and gentlemen, the President of the United States.” We feel that is greatness. That is what being a leader is all about.
But then Jesus directs our attention to a quiet person standing off camera; a person in overalls with the working tools of his trade. And Jesus says that is greatness! That is what being a leader is all about.
This graphic contrast must have jolted the disciples just as it jolts us. Yet Jesus clearly wants us to see each of these people as leaders. Each of them is to be seen as having authority and the power to move other men. What, then, are the significant contrasts between the two?
While the secular ruler is above those he leads, Jesus said, “Not so with you” (v. 26). Instead of relational distance, there is relational closeness. The Christian leader must seek to be one with those he or she is called to serve.
Instead of “exercising authority” as a ruler who demands and enforces conformity, the Christian leader is to abandon coercion. Jesus said firmly and plainly, “Not so with you.” Force, manipulation, demand—all are ruled out in the way by which the servant leader exercises Christian authority. Outward force can produce conformity, but it can never produce that inner commitment which moves people to choose to follow Jesus.
How, then, does the servant lead? By serving! The secular ruler speaks the commands, but the spiritual leader demonstrates by his example the kingdom way of life into which he is called to lead others.
No wonder Peter picked up this same theme and wrote as an elder to fellow elders, “Be shepherds of God’s flock that is under your care … not lording it over those entrusted to you, but being examples to the flock” (1 Peter 5:2–3). By serving, the Christian leader demonstrates the greatness of the love of God, and gently motivates others to follow him. “Whoever wants to be first must be your slave—just as the Son of man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give His life as a ransom for many” (Matt. 20:27–28).

Richards, L., & Richards, L. O. (1987). The teacher’s commentary (576). Wheaton, Ill.: Victor Books.

New updates soon

I picked up some great new bible software.  Armed with new easily accessible resources I’ll be reviewing and revising some of the articles on this website.  I plan on creating a FAQ page to address some of the common issues that come up in comments and emails.

I hope 2011 finds you well.

I’ve been spending time in Ephesians 3

In order to discern whether something is counterfeit one has to know the genuine.  One of the aspects of Covering Theology that bugs me is how the concept of grace is redefined to something very different.  Authority and leadership are significant issues in scripture but they aren’t the core ones, some of those might be grace, faith, hope, love, and righteousness.

One of these core concepts that I think that is underrated in most of  the Christian church is love.

Eph 3:16  I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit.
Eph 3:17  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong.
Eph 3:18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.
Eph 3:19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.
Eph 3:16  I pray that from His glorious, unlimited resources He will empower you with inner strength through His Spirit. Eph
3:17  Then Christ will make His home in your hearts as you trust in Him. Your roots will grow down into God’s love and keep you strong. Eph
3:18  And may you have the power to understand, as all God’s people should, how wide, how long, how high, and how deep His love is.
Eph 3:19  May you experience the love of Christ, though it is too great to understand fully. Then you will be made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

This is one of a few prayers we have of Paul.  I’d say it might be more useful than the whole Jabez thing we went through in years gone past.  As a church leader I am profoundly intrigued by the ramifications of this passage.  What would it mean to be rooted and grounded? To be rooted in His love just like a tree.   To be grounded is to have a foundation much like a house.  Imagine how wonderful it would be to be so firmly established in God’s love that it sustains you even in the longest droughts and toughest winds.  According to Paul knowing God’s love is the way by which we are made complete with all the fullness of life and power that comes from God.

Often we talk about getting rooted and grounded in the word.  (Australians please forgive my North American usage of “rooted”).  We spend a lot of our time acquiring knowledge as if we just knew more then we could figure things out and order our lives correctly.  Perhaps we should invest more in getting to know God’s love.  What would it look like if church leaders were more invested in leading people to know God’s love than building an organization or leading a program?