158. The Concept of ‘Reverence’ (hieroprepēs) in Titus 2:3.

In 1 Timothy 5 and Titus 2 Paul provides guidance to his protégés, Timothy and Titus, about their responsibility to care for senior ladies, many of whom would be widows, in the church. According to Titus 2.1 this is teaching … Continue reading

157. The Future of the Earth according to 2 Peter 3:10 heurethēsetai

The author of 2 Peter addresses the question of the delay of the Second Coming (3:1-9) and then discusses what “the day of the Lord” will be like, as well as its impact upon the current creation (3:10-13). The language … Continue reading

156. What does oikonomia mean? (Ephesians 3:2)

Writers in the New Testament (NT) employed a number of cognate terms formed from the verb oikonomeō which means to “manage, administer or plan” but more specifically to “manage a household.” Luke is the only NT writer to employ this verb … Continue reading

155. Paul’s Role as “Ambassador” (presbeuō (2 Corinthians 5:20)

Within Paul’s letters and Luke’s Gospel we encounter the verb presbeuō (2 Corinthians 5:20 and Ephesians 6:20; it also appears in a textual variant at Ephesians 3:1), the noun presbeia (Luke 14:32; 19:14), and the noun presbeutēs (Philemon 9). The verb and the nouns … Continue reading

153. antilutron in 1 Timothy 2:6.

Within the Pastoral Epistles we discover several creed-like segments which summarize ideas central to the gospel message (1 Timothy 3:16; 6:15-16; 2 Timothy 1:9-10; Titus 3:4-7). The content and formulation in 1 Timothy 2:5-6 display similar characteristics. It describes the … Continue reading

157. The Meaning of philostorgos in Romans 12:10.

The adjective philostorgos occurs once in the New Testament in Romans 12:10. In the NIV it is rendered as “be devoted.” Other translations render it simply as “love” (NRSV, ESV, NLT). Louw and Nida define it as meaning “pertaining to love … Continue reading

155. Translating airō in John 15:2.

Interactions with various people about the interpretation of kolasis (Matthew 25:46 — Internet Moments Entry # 114) has raised questions about John’s use of the verb airō 15:2. Did John intend this to have a positive sense “lift up,” i.e. elevate sagging branches so that … Continue reading

154. “Imposters” or “Cheats” – goēs in 2 Timothy 3:13

In his final letter to Timothy Paul acknowledges that godly living attracts persecution even as “evildoers and imposters (goētes)…go from bad to worse, deceiving and being deceived” (2 Tim. 3:13NIV). Paul describes an escalating, negative relationship between those determined to … Continue reading

153. “Educating in an even-tempered manner ‘those who oppose’ (antidiatithēmi) ” (2 Timothy 2:25)

In his personal correspondence with Timothy Paul continually warns him about people in the Ephesian church who “teach false doctrines” (1 Tim. 1:3). Timothy has to deal with such people and command them to cease. He urges Timothy not to … Continue reading

152. “Rekindling” a Spiritual Gift (anazōpureō 2 Timothy 1:6)

In his second letter to his protege Timothy, Paul urges him to embrace God’s calling vigorously, despite opposition and difficulty. In 2 Timothy 1:3-14 Paul shares his longing to see Timothy. His feelings for his friend have their root in … Continue reading

151. Paul’s ‘priestly’ Ministry — hierourgeō in Romans 15:16

As Paul concludes his letter to the Christians in Rome, he explains again why he has written, i.e. in fulfillment of his commission from God as apostle to the nations (Rom. 15.15-16). He incorporates cultic or ritualistic language in order … Continue reading

150. “The Gifts and Calling of God: ametamelētos in Romans 11:29

Twice in his letters Paul uses the adjective ametamelētos (2 Corinthians 7:10; Romans 11:29). These are the only two occurrences in biblical literature (both Old and New Testament Greek materials). However, ametamelētos has a long history of usage in Greek literature, … Continue reading

149. A Disciple’s ‘Mindset’ (phronēma – Romans 8:6,7,27)

In the midst of his great discussion about the relationship between the believer and God in Romans 8, Paul introduces a word which occurs only in this chapter in the New Testament. It is the noun phronēma (vv. 6(2x), 7, … Continue reading

148. Pursuing praupatheia — An Essential Virtue for Christian Leaders (1 Timothy 6:11)

It does not take long to discover that the author of 1 Timothy has a penchant for lists. One such list occurs in 1 Timothy 6:11 where the writer, Paul, urges his protégé, Timothy, to flee some things and pursue … Continue reading

147. Conceited, Deluded, or Just Foolish — The Meaning of tuphoomai in the Pastoral Epistles

In three different contexts within the Pastoral Epistles Paul employs the verb tuphoomai (1 Timothy 3:6; 6:4; 2 Timothy 3:4). In each context the New International Version renders the meaning as “conceited.” Other popular English translations render it as “puffed … Continue reading

146. “God Dwells in Unapproachable (aprositos) Light” (1 TImothy 6:16)

As Paul concludes his first letter to his protégé, Timothy, he urges him to keep the command “without spot or blame” in anticipation of the return of Jesus Christ which God will accomplish “in his own time.” He then continues … Continue reading

145. Is Godliness a “means to financial gain”? The Wordplay in 1 Timothy 6:5-6 porismos

As Paul concludes his first letter to Timothy two themes occupy his attention. He instructs Timothy to “teach and exhort these things” (v.2), perhaps with reference to the entirety of his advice in this letter. Then he warns Timothy again … Continue reading

144. Understanding Peter’s Denial (aparneomai) Mark 14:30-31,72; 8:34.

One of the most disturbing incidents in the Synoptic Gospels occurs as Jesus is on his way to Gethsemane. He prophecies regarding Peter that “today, in this night, before a rooster crows twice, three times you will deny (aparnēsēi) me” … Continue reading

143. The Reaction of the Rich Man to Jesus’ Command (stugnazō) Mark 10:22

According to Mark’s Gospel the young man who seeks Jesus’ prescription for eternal life leaves saddened or distressed (Mark 10:22). Mark also adds the note that “the man’s face fell (stugnasas),” at least this is how the NIV renders it. … Continue reading

142. “A People for Possession” (peripoiēsis) 1 Peter 2:9.

In his summary description of the people of God one of the phrases Peter employs is “a people for possession (peripoiēsis)” (1 Peter 2:9). This terminology comes from Isaiah 43:20-21 where Yahweh addresses Israel, “my chosen race, my people whom … Continue reading

141. The Appropriate Recompense (amoibē) That Adult Children Owe to Parents (1 Timothy 5:4)

In his first letter to Timothy Paul discusses the pastoral care of widows (5:3-16). His concern arises from the Old Testament mandate to care for widows and orphans as an expression of God’s justice.James expresses a similar focus in his … Continue reading

140. Godly Exercise (gumnazō) 1 TImothy 4:7-8.

The drive for physical exercise is certainly alive and well in North American culture. Whether it is a registration at the local exercise facility or developing your own in-home exercise room or a less costly strategy, people are into exercise. … Continue reading

139. Cauterized or Branded in One’s Conscience (kekaustēriasmenōn) 1 Timothy 4:2.

When he is in prison in Rome awaiting trial before Nero, Paul writes Timothy who is working as a Christian leader in the church at Ephesus. One of Paul’s major concerns in this letter are people associated with that church … Continue reading

138. epieikēs — Equity — A Key Quality of Christian Leaders (1 Timothy 3:3)

One of the more famous sections in Paul’s Pastoral Epistles is the list of qualities he provides for selecting Christian leaders to guide local churches. However we understand the meaning of the term “episkopos” in 1 Tim. 3:2 (I think … Continue reading

137. ‘Honourable Standing’ as the Messiah’s Agents (bathmos) 1 Timothy 3:13

As Paul concludes his description of attributes that church leaders should possess and exhibit consistently, he expresses a promise. NIV renders 1 Timothy 3:13 as “Those who have served well gain an excellent standing (bathmon…kalon) and great assurance in their … Continue reading

136. Thinking of others as “Your own Superiors” (huperechōn) (Phil. 2:3)

Unpacking the mystery of biblical humility is a challenge for every believer. However, we cannot escape this task because the foundation for Christian discipleship is “humble-mindedness” as Jesus himself demonstrated and taught (cf. Matthew 11:29; 18:3-4). In his letter to … Continue reading

135. Shaking off the Dust (ektinazein) (Matthew 10:14)

In the second discourse Jesus presents in Matthew’s Gospel he prepares his disciples for  a mission to Israel. Among the many instructions is one that defines how the Twelve should act if a household or village “does not receive you … Continue reading

134. Experiencing Literal and Metaphorical Shipwreck (nauagein) (1 Timothy 1:19)

Paul mentions three literal shipwreck experiences in 2 Cor 11:25 using the verb vauagein and these do not include his experiences narrated by Luke in Acts 27-28. What kind of work he was engaging during these three experiences remains completely … Continue reading

133. Let the “Messiah’s Peace” rule or hold sway in your Heart brabeuein (Colossians 3:15)

Paul in his letter to the Christians at Colosse defines a number of ethical principles in chapter 3 that should characterize followers of Jesus. Along with the principles he describes motivations and empowerments available to believers to enable them actually … Continue reading

132. “To Go Astray, Deviate” (astochein) in 1 Timothy 1:6.

In his first letter to Timothy Paul begins by identifying the significant issue that his representative faces within the Ephesian church context. According to the writer some people considered themselves teachers of the Jewish law, but had no idea about … Continue reading

131. Pastors as “leaders” — the Use of hēgoumenos in Hebrews 13.

Within the New Testament the present participle hēgoumenos functions as a noun with the sense of leader, governor, ruler. For example in Matthew 2:6 the Jewish religious leaders quote Micah 5:1 to demonstrate that from Bethlehem “shall come a ruler … Continue reading

130. The Scope of “Pastoral” work poimēn (Ephesians 4:11)

Despite our frequent use of the English word “pastor” to describe primary spiritual leaders within Evangelical churches, the only New Testament context where the Greek noun poimēn (shepherd) occurs and explicitly describes local church leaders is Ephesians 4:11. The cognate … Continue reading

129. “Submitting to the rules of the world” (dogmatizesthai in Colossians 2:20)

When Paul tries to help believers in the Colosse church understand why some of the teaching they are receiving is harmful, he asks them why, as followers of the Messiah, they “submit to the rules (dogmatizesthe)” of this world, as … Continue reading

128. Does “allegorical” Mean “Allegory?” (allēgoroumena) (Galatians 4:24)

Within the context of his theological argument in his letter to the Galatians, rejecting circumcision as necessary for salvation, Paul employs the contrast between Hagar and Ishmael and Sarah and Isaac within Abraham’s household. In Galatians 4:24 he says “which … Continue reading

127. phragmos (Mt. 21:33; Mk. 12:1; Luke 14:23; Eph. 2:14).

In Ephesians 2:14-22 Paul describes God’s great project for a new people, which required the cross, the resurrection and the ascension. Jesus Messiah’s sacrificial actions served to re-create the family of God, incorporating Jew and non-Jew equally, based upon his … Continue reading

126. Black Eyes(?), Widows and Vindication (Luke 18:5 hupōpiazō)

In Luke’s Gospel the central section, often described as “the journey narrative,” stretches from chapters 9 – 19:27 and contains many parables that are unique to his story of Jesus. Towards the end of this “journey” Jesus addresses a number … Continue reading

125. What was the Tax-Collector Asking God to do? (Luke 18:13 hilaskesthai)

One of Jesus’ most poignant and subversive parables tells about two contrasting  individuals — a Pharisee and a tax-collector who find themselves in the Jerusalem temple praying to Yahweh at the same time! This is one of the few parables … Continue reading

124: “Do not Defraud” — the Rich Man’s Challenge (aposterein) (Mark 10:19)

When Jesus responds to the question of the rich man in Mark 10:18-19, he reviews five of the ten commandments. However, where we would expect the wording of the tenth commandment to occur (“do not covet”), Mark’s narrative incorporates entirely … Continue reading

122. The Gift of “Governance” (kubernēsis) (1 Corinthians 12:28)

Within Paul’s discussion of the grace-gifts provided by the Holy Spirit to disciples of Christ we find the term kubernēsis, translated in the NIV as “administration” (1 Corinthians 12:28). It is not clear exactly what ability Paul is defining through … Continue reading

121. “Redeeming the Cursed and Redeeming Time” (exagorazein) (Galatians 3:13; 4:5; Ephesians 5:16; Colossians 4:5)

Four times in his letters Paul incorporates the compound verb exagorazō — twice in Galatians and once each in Ephesians and Colossians. In his letter to the Christians in Galatia Paul used the verb to describe what the impact of … Continue reading

120. God’s Instructions (chrēmatizein) Regarding His Son (Matthew 2:12,26; Luke 2:26)

When God decided to send Jesus as Messiah, he communicated in various ways with different human subjects. Sometimes he employed dreams or at other times heavenly messengers, and occasionally the Holy Spirit directly gets involved. Whatever means God used, his … Continue reading

119. The Messiah’s Triumph in the Cross (thriambeuō) (2 Cor. 2:14; Col.2:15)

While there is debate in the case of Col. 2:15, it seems most probable that in both the Colossians passage and 2 Cor. 2:14 God is the subject of this verb thriambeuō in Paul’s letters. These are the only contexts … Continue reading

118.”Reconciling (apokatallassein ) all things to himself” (Col. 1:20)

Paul is the New Testament author who explores the concept of reconciliation most fully, using the verb katallassō[1]and the cognate noun katallagē[2] to express this concept in his letters to the Roman and Corinthian churches. The meaning of the simple … Continue reading

117. God’s work that “Makes us Qualified” (hikanoun) — Colossians 1:12

The verb hikanoun occurs only two times in the New Testament and in both cases Paul was the author (2 Corinthians 3:6; Colossians 1:12). Paul incorporates the cognate noun hikanotēs once into the 2 Corinthians 3:5-6 context. The Gospels of … Continue reading

116. Selecting and Appointing Church Leaders (cheirotonein) in the New Testament (Acts 14:23)

Alexander Strauch in his book Biblical Eldership. An Urgent Call To Restore Biblical Church Leadership devotes an entire chapter to the issue of appointing elders (chapter 6). He focuses attention upon the use of the verb cheirotonein used by Luke … Continue reading

115. God at work–Paul’s Concept of the Verb energein and Cognates (Philippians 2:12-13)

One of the more unusual notions that frequently occurs in Paul’s letters is that God is “working in” people and situations. The verb that expresses this most consistently is energein 1 (“put one’s capabilities into operation”) and its cognate nouns … Continue reading

114. Punishment (kolasis, kolazein) – Eternal or Otherwise (Matthew 25:46; Acts 4:21; 2 Peter 2:9; 1 John 4:18)

Rob Bell in his recent book Love Wins refers to the use of the noun kolasis in Matthew 25:46. He argues that the cognate verb kolazo “is a term from horticulture. It refers to the pruning and trimming of the … Continue reading

113. The Spirit is Willing (promuthos, Mark 14:38/Matthew 26:41)

One of the last things that Jesus says to some of his disciples prior to the cross is found in Mark 14:38/Matthew 26:41. The text is identical in both Gospels. Jesus has just finished the Passover meal with his disciples, … Continue reading

112. Fathers, Anger, and Discipling Children (parorgizein Ephesians 6:4 and erethizein Colossians 3:21)

Embedded in the closing section of Ephesians and Colossians, a set of instructions to Christian fathers forms part of a so-called “household code” (Ephesians 5:21-6:9; Colossians 3:18-4:1). In the Ephesian segment Paul urges fathers to “bring them [children] up in … Continue reading

111. The Ministry of Patience (makrothumein 1 Thessalonians 5:14)

Paul’s description of pastoral and member care responsibilities in 1 Thessalonians 5:12-14 includes two related, but distinct terms paramuthein1 and makrothumein (5:14). Paul used the verb makrothumein (2x) and its cognate noun makrothumia (10x) twelve times in his writings, but … Continue reading

110. The Delicate Work of Spiritual Guidance (nouthetein 1 Thessalonians 5:12-15)

Scattered throughout Paul’s correspondence1 (and in one of his speeches in Acts 20:31) we find the verb nouthetein and its cognate noun nouthesia. The pattern of usage chronologically spans the entire written ministry of Paul (from his initial letters to … Continue reading

109. The Stone that Shatters (sunthlaomai) and Pulverizes (likmaō)
(Matthew 21:44 = Luke 20:18)

At the conclusion to the juridicial parable1 of the Vineyard and Tenants, in the Matthean and Lukan narratives, Jesus adds a severe warning. Those who reject the “stone”, i.e. God’s Messiah, will discover this stone to be the cause of … Continue reading

107. What’s the Difference? Diastolē in Paul’s Letters and Diastellō in Mark’s Gospel.

Three times in his letters Paul used the noun diastolē (Romans 3:22; 10:12; 1 Corinthians 14:7). This noun is translated in the New International Version (NIV) as “difference” or “distinction” The cognate verb diastellō occurs more frequently in the New … Continue reading

106: The Ministry of Encouragement (paramutheisthai 1 Thessalonians 5:14)

The verb paramutheisthai and its cognate nouns paramuthia and paramuthion occur only in Paul’s letters and John’s Gospel within the New Testament. Paul used the verb in 1 Thessalonians 2:12 and 5:14, the noun paramuthia in 1 Corinthians 14:3, while … Continue reading

104. “Appointing” Elders or “Setting them in Order”(kathistẽmi)? Titus 1:5

In Titus 1:5 the apostle Paul instructs Titus, his designated ministry leader for the churches in Crete, to “straighten out the things left unfinished and appoint (katastẽsẽis) elders city by city” (NIV Translation). Paul’s wording here has led some to … Continue reading

102. “Endangering one’s life…for the work of the Messiah” (paraboleusamenos Philippians 2:30)

When Paul commends his friend, Epaphroditus, he comments particularly on his willingness to hazard everything for “the work of the Messiah,” to act as the serving emissary of the Philippian Church, and to assist Paul. In Philippians 2:30 Paul chose an interesting expression to describe the degree to which Epaphroditus was willing to go for the sake of the Gospel. Continue reading

101. Jesus’ Sorrow in Gethsemane (Mark 14:33-36)

Jesus’ actions in Gethsemane hold many mysteries. Expositors normally account for Jesus’ grief and sorrow by relating it directly to his personal angst over the imminent horror of the crucifixion. I have no doubt that the cross contained more then … Continue reading

100. The “Spirit (pneuma) of Jesus” in Mark’s Gospel (Mark 2:8; 8:12)

The Gospel writer, Mark, used psychological terms sparingly and carefully in reference to Jesus. For example, the word kardia is never applied to Jesus because the human heart is “evil” (Mark 7:19,21), “hardened” (3:5; 6:52; 8:17) and “disputatious” (2:6,8; 11:23), … Continue reading

84. Discerning the Presence of God’s Kingdom
(Luke 17:20-21 – meta paratērēseōs)

Jesus’ teaching about the Kingdom of God remains the most complex element of his message. Today, two thousand years after he made his proclamation that “the time stands fulfilled; the Kingdom of God stands near” (Mark 1:15), we struggle to … Continue reading

81. The “innocent as doves” – A Disciple’s Response to Jesus’ Commission in Matthew 10:16 (akeraios)

In his second discourse in Matthew’s Gospel Jesus prepares his followers for the rigours of Kingdom life, particularly the response of non-believers to their Kingdom message. He is about to send his apostles two-by-two throughout Israel. Jesus acknowledges that he … Continue reading

80. Protecting the Deposit (parathēkē – 2 Timothy 1:12,14)

Keeping money or other treasures safe in antiquity was a challenge. Banks and ‘safety deposit boxes’ did not exist. As Jesus indicates in the parable of the Hid Treasure (Matthew 13) people sometimes buried their most valuable property in order … Continue reading

79. Casting Out Demons – A New Authority (ekballō Mark 1:34)

Ten times (twelve if we add the references in 16:9,17) Mark’s Gospel describes the exorcisms accomplished by Jesus or his follows as “casting out (ekballein) a demon (or demons).”1 In a short note Graham Twelftree2 says that this is “the … Continue reading

78. Taught by God (theodidaktoi – 1 Thessalonians 4:9)

The Psalmist declared “Since my youth, O God, you have taught me” (Psalm 71:17) and he desires that God continually would teach him to do his will (Psalm 143:10). His experience and expectation is that God does instruct him, with … Continue reading

77. Holding God in contempt – a Human Deception (Galatians 6:7 – muktērizō)

Paul’s choice of words in his letter to Christians in the province of Galatia reflects careful intention. The issues he confronts are extremely serious, the opponents powerful and persuasive, and his audience somewhat befuddled. Strong warnings mingle with cries of … Continue reading

76. “Being Imitators (mimētai) of God” (Ephesians 5:1)

Within the New Testament (Heb.6:12; 1 Peter 3:13), particularly in Paul’s letters (1 Cor. 4:16;11:1; Eph. 5:1; 1 Thess. 1:6; 2:14), the idea of following a pattern, expressed by the noun mimētēs, gives definition to Christian experience. The cognate verb … Continue reading

75. “Behave Respectably (euschēmonōs) to the Outsiders”(1 Thessalonians 4:12)

The conduct of believers, whether within the church or towards those who are not part of the Christian community, was a major preoccupation of Paul, the apostle. To embrace Jesus as Messiah, Saviour and Lord necessarily transformed a person’s behaviour. … Continue reading

74. Prayers for Moral and Spiritual Wholeness
(holotelēs, holoklēros 1 Thessalonians 5:23)

Within the final prayer Paul wrote to the Thessalonians in his first letter (1 Thess. 5:23-24) he used two adjectives (holotelēs, holoklēros) which only occur here in all of his letters. These unusual terms give expression to Paul’s confidence that … Continue reading

73. An Extraordinary Tenderness (homeiromai 1 Thessalonians 2:8)

In 1 Thessalonians 2:7-8 Paul uses forceful language to describe his extraordinary relationship with Christians in the city of Thessalonika. When he first visited them and shared the “gospel of God”, he exercised great care lest any impression be given … Continue reading

72. Cultivating a Desire for Ministry Leadership – (oregesthai 1 Timothy 3:1)

Much is being written today about the call to ministry vocation. All believers have a calling from God, expressed in conversion, and lived out obediently as God assigns various tasks from time to time – marital care, parental leadership, hospitality … Continue reading

71. “So that we might die to sins” – the sense of apoginomai in 1 Peter 2:24

The translators of the New International Version chose to render apogenomenoi (aorist middle participle of apoginomai) in 1 Peter 2:24 as “die”. It follows a tradition of interpretation that goes back to the King James Version (“being dead to sins”). … Continue reading

70. Spiritual “Stumbling”

In Matthew’s Gospel the lexical group skandalizein/skandalon defines various negative spiritual responses to Jesus and his teaching, as well as moral failure. Matthew, Mark and Paul use this vocabulary most frequently within the New Testament canon. Mark only used the … Continue reading

69. Fixing a Broken Faith – Ologopistos in Matthew’s Gospel

The terms oligopistos (adjective: a person of little faith) and oligopistia (noun: little faith) first occur as Greek terms in the Gospel of Matthew (and once in Luke 12:28 which is a parallel text with Matthew 6:30). The almost complete … Continue reading

68. God’s Commissioning (Luke 1:80 – anadeixis)

At the end of the story of John the Baptist in Luke 1 the writer says that John was “in the deserted places until the day of his ‘public appearing’ or ‘commissioning’ (anadeixeōs) to Israel.” This is the only occurrence … Continue reading

67. Hearing God’s Message (Luke 2:26)

In the infancy stories of Jesus recounted in Luke and Matthew God actively directs events to preserve his Son and to inform participants about the significance of these occurrences. For example twice in Matthew 2 God reveals (chrēmatizō) “by dream” … Continue reading

66. The Promise of Matthew 24:14 (en holēi tēi oikoumenēi = in all the Roman Empire)

In his final segment of extended teaching to his disciples in Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus outlined their mission beyond the cross and urges them to be faithful to the end. In response to his prophesy that the temple and Jerusalem would … Continue reading

65. Reactions to the News of Jesus’ Resurrection

In the various Gospels we have complementary accounts of the resurrection of Jesus and the diverse responses that people had to this news. We tend to think that these first century people easily accepted that God had raised Jesus from … Continue reading

64. “The Finger of God” (Luke 11:20; Exodus 8:19)

New interest in Jesus’ Kingdom teaching is occurring, particularly within the Emerging Church and Missional Church movements. While retaining the truth that the Kingdom will only be completely experienced when Jesus returns, Jesus’ teachings about the presence of the Kingdom … Continue reading

63. Holding fast to the Right Master (Matthew 6:24)

In the middle of the Sermon on the Mount Jesus uses the metaphor of slavery to urge his followers to give their full and complete loyalty to God. Occasionally in antiquity we read of two people owning one slave. For … Continue reading

62. Worshipping, but Uncertain (Matthew 28:17)

The relationship between faith and doubt has exercised the best of Christian minds. We can trace this tension back to the very origins of Christianity. Jesus faces the strange admixture of worship and uncertainty several times in the response of … Continue reading

61. Praying, not Prattling (Matthew 6:7)

In the Jesus’ Sermon on the Mount Matthew has a section about prayer (6:5-15). Among the various things Jesus teaches is the contrast between Kingdom praying and pagan praying: “When praying, do not babble (battalogēsēte) like the pagans, for they … Continue reading

60. Doubts and Disputes – Human Disposition (Matthew 15:19)

The Scriptures quite consistently characterize human thinking processes as fundamentally dysfunctional. Reasoning occurs, but it is frequently flawed in its activity and in its conclusions. Paul, quoting Psalm 94(93):11 in 1 Corinthians 3:20, agrees that “the Lord knows that the … Continue reading

59. Jesus Messiah, the ‘Personal Tutor’ (Matthew 23:10)

Matthew 23 is somewhat unique among the four Gospels. In it Jesus levels his most caustic criticism against the Jewish religious leaders, declaring seven ‘woes’. In the first section of this discourse Jesus warns his disciples against adopting the religious … Continue reading

58. “Learning the Messiah” (Ephesians 4:20)

Access to formal education in antiquity was limited primarily to the upper classes. Literacy was not widespread. Skills necessary for particular trades were taught through apprenticeship models. Religious knowledge similarly circulated among a small circle of priests. People learned what … Continue reading

57. Renewal – paliggenesia (Matthew 19:28)

Only twice in the New Testament (Matthew 19:28 and Titus 3:6) does the word paliggenesia occur. Matthew’s Gospel and Paul’s Pastoral Epistles may seem to be worlds apart, yet these documents probably were written in the 60’s of the first … Continue reading

56. Matthew’s View of Lost People (Matthew. 9:36)

Each evangelist writing a New Testament Gospel expresses a specific perspective. Usually we discern this through the episodes he chooses to include or through terminology that is unique or frequently used. One of the places where the evangelist Matthew seems … Continue reading

55. Our Identity as God’s Servants (Romans 15:16)

Paul uses amazingly diverse metaphors to define his identity as a follower of Jesus. At the conclusion to Romans he mentions once again the gracious gift that God gave to him, transforming him into the “priestly servant (leitourgos) of Christ … Continue reading

54. Motivation in Ministry (Galatians 6:9)

When a person responds to God’s call to salvation, usually great enthusiasm and vigour accompany this radical change. However, often we observe that the initial fervour tends to lose its intensity over time. The same thing often occurs as individuals … Continue reading

53. Vibrant Expectation – the Christian’s Perspective (Galatians 5:5)

Followers of Jesus live in the time between. Jesus came in the first century and promised he would return. He told his followers to watch and be vigilant because he would come back in radiant glory as Lord of the … Continue reading

52. Paul – Slave of the Messiah (Galatians 1:10)

One of the ways Paul identifies himself in his letters is as the slave (doulos) of the Messiah. Many of his letters begin with “Paul, slave of Messiah Jesus” (Romans 1:1), or something similar. In Greek society such language was … Continue reading

51. Finding Courage in the Midst of Difficulty (Philippians 2:19)

Only once in the New Testament do we find the verb eupsuchein. Mid-way through his letter to the Christians at Philippi, Paul announces that he intends to send Timothy to find out how they are doing. Of course, this will … Continue reading

50. Jesus – A Sign Refused (Luke 2:34)

Within forty days of the birth of a male child, the mother and child were to come to the temple and fulfill the prescribed rite of purification. Mary, Joseph and Jesus acted obediently and brought Jesus to Jerusalem for this … Continue reading

49. Christian ‘Body-Building’ (Ephesians 4:16)

The description of the church as a body seems to be one of Paul’s great, metaphorical contributions to Christian understanding. In addition to 1 Corinthians 12 his elaboration of this metaphor in Ephesians 4 has generated considerable discussion about the … Continue reading

48. The Intercession of Jesus Christ and the Holy Spirit (Romans 8:27,34; Hebrews 7:25)

The New Testament teaching about God as a trinity – Father, Son and Holy Spirit – is remarkable. A specific role of the Son and the Holy Spirit, perhaps even more amazing, is their work of intercession on behalf of … Continue reading

47. “Ringing Out the Word of the Lord” (1 Thessalonians 1:8)

In what may be Paul’s first letter he begins by describing the wonderful way his Gospel proclamation stimulated many in the city of Thessalonica to respond to Jesus as Lord and Saviour. What becomes clear is the tremendous stir this … Continue reading

46. Jesus our Guardian (episkopos 1 Peter 2:25)

Within Peter’s short first epistle he uses three cognate terms: episcope i.e., protection through personal presence (2:12); episkopos i.e., the role of guardian or protector (2:25); and episkopew i.e., a verb meaning to accept the responsibility of care for someone … Continue reading

45. Where God’s Glory and God’s Spirit Rest (1 Peter 4:14)

Peter talks so much about the suffering that Christians’ experience that we might think he is obsessed with this issue. Of course, to bear the brunt of physical, social or verbal abuse and attack is truly a terrible experience and … Continue reading

44. Compounding God’s Mercy (1 Peter 1:3)

One of the great moments in Moses’ experiences with God comes as he intercedes for Israel after the Golden Calf episode. When God agrees to continue His covenant with Israel, Moses asks for God to reveal Himself as a kind … Continue reading

43. “This is my blood of the covenant poured out for many” (Mark 14:24)

When Jesus met with his disciples to keep his final Passover, he changed the significance of this feast forever. By declaring that the cup of wine was “my blood of the covenant”( it could be translated as “the blood of … Continue reading

42. “Hemmed in With Apparently No Way Out” (2 Corinthians 4:8)

Hardly a page of Paul’s writings goes by without some reference to the suffering or distress that his calling in Christ has brought into his life. Usually his attitude toward these circumstances is positive, because they contribute to the effective … Continue reading

41. The Certainty of Faith – Giving God Glory (Romans 4:21)

As Paul defines the nature of faith in Romans he appeals first to Abraham and then to Adam. In the case of Abraham Paul stresses that his relationship with God first and foremost rested upon his response of faith (confident … Continue reading

40. God’s Restraint (Romans 2:4; 3:26)

Power brings with it the responsibility to exercise it wisely and appropriately, even when faced with impropriety. In Scripture we discern times when God expresses His frustration with human folly and persistent rebellion. He announces His intention to wipe out … Continue reading

39. Who is standing with you? (2 Timothy 4:17)

In the last letter that Paul wrote in the New Testament and in its final chapter the great missionary apostle summarizes his mission and his confident hope in God. Historically, Paul has given his second defense before the emperor Nero. … Continue reading

38. Anna’s Response to Jesus’ Birth (Luke 2:38)

Two rather obscure figures — Simeon and Anna — are brought forward by Luke as witnesses in the Jerusalem temple to the significance of Jesus’ birth. In the case of Anna Luke gives considerable biographical detail –- prophet, Jewish pedigree, … Continue reading

37. “Not Just Equipped, but Completely Equipped” (2 Timothy 3:16-17)

Spiritual formation is the hot topic in Evangelical circles today. Tremendous energy is being devoted to understanding various traditions of spiritual formation that have arisen within Christianity – Puritan spirituality, Catholic spirituality, Pentecostal spirituality, etc. Those Christian traditions that some … Continue reading

36. God’s Crown Jewel – His People (Exodus 19:5; 1 Peter 2:9)

Identity is fundamental to personal and corporate life. The words or metaphors we choose to define ourselves individually (i.e. macho, cool dude, skater) or collectively (i.e. canucks, white-collar workers, seniors) speak volumes about our sense of dignity, place, and purpose. … Continue reading

35. The Importance of a Comma! (Ephesians 4:12)

In the ancient Greek manuscripts punctuation marks are few or non-existent. Paragraph markers do occur in some texts. So in our modern English translations punctuation is as much a matter of interpretation as the rendering of specific words. For example, … Continue reading

34. Spilt Blood (Mark 14:24)

Jesus’ death at the cross coincided with the annual Passover celebration. He had made all the arrangements for this meal (Mark 14:12-17) and as the meal proceeded he frames the coming events of his crucifixion in terms of Israel’s rescue … Continue reading

33. ‘Elementary’ Issues (Galatians 4:3,9;5:25;6:16)

It usually does not take too long for a person reading Paul’s letters to recognize his depth and grasp of spiritual principles and issues. What often does escape our attention is his rhetorical skill – the way he uses language … Continue reading

32. A Christian’s DNA (Galatians 6:15)

Developments in genetic engineering, mapping the human genome, gene therapies for treating diseases, and cloning frequently grab the news headlines. Whether such discoveries and technologies are a blessing or a curse continues to be debated. Certainly human understanding about the … Continue reading

31. “Military Language in the Service of the Gospel” (Galatians 5:13)

In a few weeks we will pause and remember the D-Day landings at Normandy during World War II. When the conditions were right, the allies launched an attack at the French coast in order to gain a beachhead for a … Continue reading

30. “The Messiah has made us free for freedom!… You were called for freedom!” (Galatians 5:1,13)

It is hard for us to understand an urban context where every third or fourth person you passed in the streets was a slave. But this was the social situation in the cities where Paul planted churches and a significant … Continue reading

29. Birthing the Messiah in Others the Work of Evangelism And Discipleship (Galatians 4:19)

Paul’s letter to the churches in the region of Galatia is one of his most autobiographical, perhaps second only to 2 Corinthians. His deep concern for the spiritual maturing of those he introduced to the Messiah breaths through every sentence. … Continue reading

28. Freedom and Slavery – The Context of Christian Living (Galatians 2:4)

Freedom and slavery in antiquity were social and legal terms primarily, defining the relative worth and status of specific individuals. People normally aspired to be free people, as well as to possess the privilege of citizenship. These were the social … Continue reading

27. Rescued From Evil (Galatians 1:4)

Our worldview shapes our lives. As Paul begins his letter to the Christians living in the region of Galatia, he reminds them of their circumstances. They live in "the present evil age" (1:4). This time is characterized by evil, not … Continue reading

26. Peace and People Who Have God’s Approval (Luke 2:14)

The familiar story of the Bethlehem shepherds and the amazing, nocturnal, heavenly, angelic chorus that appears to them and announces the Messiah’s birth stands centrally in the Christmas story. The initial proclamation by the angel of the Lord provided details … Continue reading

25. Global Positioning – Tracking with God (Philippians 3:20)

A global positioning system enables you to determine at any precise moment exactly where you are in the world. It uses satellite reference points to accomplish this. Morally followers of Jesus have a positioning system that exists in heaven, enabling … Continue reading

24. The Source of Paul’s Spiritual Power (Philippians 4:13)

It’s a verse often quoted, but rarely appreciated fully – "I can do all things through him who gives me strength" (tNIV). Yet in this short verse three key questions require attention, if we are fully to grasp Paul’s meaning. … Continue reading

23. The ‘Form of God’ (Philippians 2:6-7)

In the second chapter of Philippians Paul gives us a wonderful description of Jesus Christ. Whether he uses material already in use among the churches or composes this ‘hymn’ himself, Paul endorses its content. As he advises the Philippian Christians … Continue reading

22. The Progress of the Gospel (Philippians 1:12,25)

The term ‘progress’ often defined the way people understood the world in the twentieth century. Whether it was the technology revolution, the ‘green’ revolution, political revolution, or scientific revolution, many considered human progress the supreme good.  But the twentieth century … Continue reading

21. God’s Mercy and Time (Mark 13:20)

God’s management of time gains our attention at various points in the story of salvation. His orders to Noah for the construction of the great ark reflect his decision to bring judgment upon humanity, but God also limits both the … Continue reading

20. History in Parables: God’s Questions (Mark 12:6)

Recent studies of the parables of Jesus have indicated that some of them probably portray Jesus’ interpretation of Israel’s historic response to God’s initiatives. For example, the parable of the Four Soils (Mark 4:1-9) can be read as illustrating how … Continue reading

19. People Jesus Loved (Mark 10:21)

As Mark retells the story of Jesus in his Gospel, many different people interact with Jesus. One of the most interesting of these characters is a man "who has many possessions" (Mark 10:17-31), but who passionately seeks "eternal life". Jesus … Continue reading

18. The Emotions of the Messiah

When Jesus saw this, he was indignant." (Mark 10:14) That human beings get angry, even seethe with rage, surprises no one. Each of us, based upon personal experience, knows what it is to be angry at someone, with all the … Continue reading

17. A Moment of Messianic Candour (Mark 9:19)

Tucked away in the exorcism story following the Transfiguration lurks a moment of Messianic candour. Briefly we glimpse Jesus’ frustration with his disciples. Their failure to heal a man’s demonized son and the resultant confusion and debate leads to Jesus’ … Continue reading

16. Elijah’s Restorative Ministry and the Son of Man’s Suffering: Resolving a Scriptural Problem (Mark 9:12-13)

Elijah’s Restorative Ministry and the Son of Man’s Suffering: Resolving a Scriptural Problem (Mark 9:12-13) They are on their way down from the mountain where Jesus, in transfigured splendour, converses with Elijah and Moses, and God affirms once again his … Continue reading

15. The Exchange Rate for a Soul (Mark 8:37)

The closer that Jesus came to his crucifixion the more urgently he taught his followers the nature of discipleship. We are familiar with his threefold requirement for those who would claim his leadership – denying self, taking up the cross, … Continue reading

14. Taking Sides (Mark 8:33)

Peter has just shared his view of Jesus – “You are the Christ (Messiah)” (8:29). Immediately Jesus begins to explain what kind of messiah he will be – “the Son of Man who must suffer much and be rejected…and be … Continue reading

13. Discipleship: The Challenge and Struggle to Understand (Mark 8:17,21)

You don’t get far into the story of Jesus as told by Mark without coming face-to-face with the role of the disciple or follower of Jesus. As others have noted, Mark’s Gospel can be considered a manual of discipleship. Evangelicals … Continue reading

12. “Being Fully Satisfied” – Jesus’ Special Gift (Mark 6:42)

In Mark’s story about Jesus twice huge crowds of people are fed by the miraculous multiplication of food. In the first instance (Mark 6:30-44), as his apostles return from their first ministry, Jesus leads them to a quiet place for … Continue reading

11. Offended at Jesus (Mark 6:3)

One of the surprising responses that Jesus receives to his message and activity occurs in Nazareth, his hometown. In Mark’s account Jesus conducts his ministry in Nazareth in the same way he does elsewhere. On the Sabbath he enters their … Continue reading

10. Discerning the Positive in the Negative (Mark 5:3-4)

One of the great stories in Mark’s Gospel is found in chapter 5 – the restoration of the Gerasene demoniac! Several features stand out, including the details that Mark provides in his lengthy introduction (one quarter of the entire story), … Continue reading

9.   The Mystery of the Kingdom of God (Mark 4:10-12)

The teaching of Jesus is central to the four Gospels. The essential component of his message, at least in Mark’s Gospel, concerns the Kingdom of God. In Mark 4:11 Jesus characterizes this teaching about the Kingdom as a "mystery" that … Continue reading

8.   Jesus is THE MAN (Mark 2:10)

The humanity of Jesus Christ remains a fundamental part of our Christian understanding. Jesus, as Paul puts it, was "born of a woman, born under the law", fully human. In the Gospels often we latch on to Jesus’ favorite self-designation … Continue reading

7.   Filled With Compassion (Mark 1:41)

During Jesus’ ministry he displays a wide variety of responses — anger, grief, frustration, joy, laughter, submission, compassion. Within the Gospel narrative all of these can be paralleled in the responses of other human beings, except for compassion. In the … Continue reading

6.   The Authority of Jesus (Mark 1:27)

It is rare in Mark’s Gospel for Jesus to be called ‘Lord’ – a title of authority. Yet, on almost every page of his Gospel Mark raises the issue of Jesus’ authority and affirms by various means that his authority … Continue reading

5.   Discerning God’s Timing (Mark 1:15)

The first words that Jesus speaks in Mark’s Gospel are these: "The time stands fulfilled and the kingdom of God stands near." Only Mark among the Gospels includes in Jesus’ proclamation the statement about fulfilled time in relation to the … Continue reading

4.   Ruling With God Now

"The Lord reigns", declares the Psalmist. This is the fundamental premise of the Old Testament. God rules and no human or spiritual figure outperforms or outclasses Yahweh in any way. It should not surprise us to discover that the key, … Continue reading

3.   Surrendered – the Experience of Servant Leaders

As John the Baptist’s role as messenger of the Messiah concludes, Mark tells us he is "handed over" or "arrested" or "surrendered" or "betrayed"(1:14). At this point in his story Mark reveals nothing about John’s future. Who engineers this "handing … Continue reading