Wednesday, December 07, 2005

E-Words are Easy

Technology is great, especially in regards to communication. It has made life so much easier. I can shoot a quick e-mail to a friend 3,000 miles away, and it takes a second for it to arrive. Good, yes? Perhaps, but perhaps not in every way. E-mail, instant messages, and especially the online message boards all make it much too easy for someone (usually me) to spout off a comment or a question without putting in much thought or any prayer about it. This is dangerous. There have been a number of times I have asked for advice from others in message board forums, even closed ones, and I always wish I could go back after and either remove my original post or at least word it more carefully and leave out some details. Perhaps I am just being scrupulous. Maybe the others in the group don't see it as being a big deal. However, I do. A lot of times the things I ask for advice or prayer about are private issues or they involve other people -people who should be protected at all costs. Even if nobody in these boards know the individuals I am asking advice regarding, and even if they never will, there is still a danger here.

It is just too easy to open up a window, type in a few thoughts, and BLAM, hit "send". Once it is sent, you can't get it back. It goes where it goes, to whatever recipient or recipients. It is not as though I am overtly gossipping or bad-mouthing people. Thank God, I am not. But I do wish I was more careful with who I speak to and what I say. There is something to be said for pen and paper and snail-mail.

When I look back and read some letters of Christian men of the past, letters they penned by hand and sent by means of a courier or some type of postal service, I am struck by how carefully the words are put together. The words are usually gracious, careful, precise, thought-out, prayerful. It is obvious that they did not just whip out a piece of paper, scribble down some thoughts, stuff it in an envelope, and then sent it off. They prayerfully considered the matter at hand and prayerfully wrote. This is what I need. I need to give thought and prayer to my words before I send them -waiting a day or two, if necessary, and always humbling myself before the Lord and others and seeking perspective and wisdom from the Lord.

Obviously, it is not practical to do this for every single utterance. If I am at work and someone asks me a question, even a controversial one that is work-related, I need to reply immediately even if just to say "I will get back to you." Also, not every matter warrants as much time and prayer as others. However, spiritual matters, doctrinal discussions, seeking advice, giving advice, humbly correcting another -all of these matters demand such time and prayer, I believe. I pray for true wisdom and godly discernment so that I would not be so impulsive and quick to speak using these wonderful, electronic means.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

No Righteousness of My Own

It is a blessed thing to be a man with no righteousness of my own. To some this may sound silly. To people of the world who care nothing for God, it may not even make sense. What does "righteousness" mean, and who cares about it? To the average religious person, it seems to be a foolish statement. After all, what good could there be in being a man who has no righteousness of his own? Wouldn't it be better to be able to say you have some righteousness? Wouldn't it be better to try and find some, somewhere, or better oneself so that we may establish some. A little personal reform can go a long way. No one wants to be without righteousness of some sort.

And here remains both a truth and a lie. The lie is that there is such thing as "some righteousness" before God. It is even more of a lie to believe that we can establish some for ourselves. It will be righteous in our eyes, perhaps, but it will be an abomination in God's sight -not just because our best deeds are tained with sin, but because we have the audacity to present our righteousness before God in such as way as to think that God should be bound to bless our filth as though He were our Debtor. That makes it a thousand times more insulting to the Holy One who made all things. If the stench of our past sins were not enough to provoke Him to wrath, then certainly our bold arrogance of making God in our own image so that He should be pleased with us is more than enough.

I wish it was always so clear to me that I have none. I want to know all the time that I have no righteousness of my own, and I don't want to be setting up my own righteousness against the righteousness that is by faith. Yet, since I am still a sinner, I do. I create these little islands around me. Perhaps it is a religious pretense, some kind of Christian piety, something I hope someone sees in me, something good I do that exalts my name before others, whatever.

I am glad every time I am reminded of how woefully I lack righteousness in myself, righteousness that stands on its own before God. I am glad because then I see all the more clearly the grace of God in providing righteousness in Jesus Christ. I welcome this epiphany. It is a moment of peace when I hit the bottom again. It is a joyful sound when my bones break, and I give up. Strange? No, blessed! It is there that I drop every false pretense, every false piety, every false religious glory I assign to myself. It all melts into nothing, and when there is nothing left in my hands, then I look up again and see Christ enthroned, lifted up, the righteous One, the Mediator, my true and only righteousness.


Oh, Father, let me start each day reminded of the fact that I have no righteousness of my own -that I may renounce every claim and recognize afresh that I truly am dependent upon your grace alone in Christ to be justified and remain yours into glory.
The External Word

I identify a lot with Martin Luther in a few ways -the largest of which being his internal struggles with scruples, depression, and just a crushed conscience and darkened faith when it seems that God has all but hid himself. There is no joy, no hope, no grace, no bliss -just confusion, darkness, crawling, scraping, climbing, but to no avail. There is the desire to be Christ's, a desperate unquenchable need, yet it seems as though the light has been turned out and He cannot be seen. I have learned much through my times like these, even though they are horrible. One of the things I learned (or perhaps I should say, "constantly re-learn") is the reality of what Luther called the "external Word".

John Piper comments:

"Luther calls it the 'external Word' to emphasize that it is objective, fixed, outside ourselves, and therefore unchanging. It is a Book. Neither ecclesiastical hierarchy nor fanatical ecstasy can replace it or shape it. It is "external," like God. You can take or leave it. But you can't make it other than what it is. It is a book with fixed letters and words and sentences. And Luther said with resounding forcefulness in 1545, the year before he died, 'Let the man who would hear God speak, read Holy Scripture'." (article here)

I say that I "re-learn" it because I am so prone to what I call "internalization". It is almost as though a layer grows on top of the Word, on top of God's promises, and my subsistence attaches to that instead over time. It is a thin layer, but a layer still, and it is almost undetectable. It happens when I suddenly switch from rejoicing in the promises of God to looking for that sweet taste, that rejoicing, itself. I look and look, but it does not come -only terror comes. The more I look, the more terrified I become -which only makes my task all the more impossible. Without actually seeing it, I am looking for something other than the plain Word of God. I am looking for, climbing for, searching for something within.

It becomes very hard emotionally to break away from this. I try to run back to some of my favorite passages for relief, but they bring none. It is like I have an expectation that they would bring me out of it, and so I expect a level of relief with anticipation and anxiety that, by almost a self-fulfilling prophecy, will not come. It leads only to more discouragement. It is as though the Word becomes a sealed book. Its words come, bounce off me, and fall to the earth. I read it, but there is no rejoicing in the truth itself. And why? It is because I have forgotten somewhere that this is the external Word. I am looking for something in addition to it, something subjective, and basing it all upon it. I do not just read it to read it and know it is true and glorify God. I read it to expect something else. My confidence has become confidence in my confidence rather than in the objective truthfulness of God's Word.

When I drop this expectation and requirement of "right feeling" or whatever you want to call it and remember that this is the external Word, my feet begin on the path back from darkness. It is the realization, again, that I am looking to and depending upon something other than His Word.

Your truth, O God, has not changed and does not change - just because I am timid and not seeing myself to be confident in it or gripped by it. It doesn't change, the external Word. It means what it means despite if I am happy or sad today, joyful or despairing, full of faith or covered in blindness and darkness. It is that gracious, perfect, unfailing external Word.

Friday, December 02, 2005

The Purpose-Driven Promise-Keeper

Using those two phrases together almost seems silly, doesn't it? These are two virtually iconic parts of our modern evangelical heritage (for better or for worse), and yet in this title I am not putting them together to talk about us. I'm not going to talk about our purpose. I'm not going to talk about being a promise-keeper. Here, I am talking about the One who is the ultimate, true, faithful purpose-driven Promise-Keeper.

God is the One who purposes this marvelous salvation and brings it to pass, and God is the One who makes us such a great and gracious promise and is powerful and faithful to keep it. Our God is pretty hard to top in the departments of having and ensuring a firm purpose and making and keeping promises. He is second to none, as it should be.

Our faith itself is both an expression of His purpose and a thing established upon His promise of the Gospel and His faithfulness in keeping all of His promises. It is an expression of His purpose because our faith is a gift, bestowed according to His sovereign good pleasure, according to the plan of Him who works all things for His glory. It is established upon His promise because saving faith, in its barest essence, is founded upon the freely given promise of mercy in Christ.

Calvin defined faith (in his Institutes of the Christian Religion) beautifully when he wrote,
"Now we shall possess a right definition of faith if we call it a firm and certain knowledge of God's benevolence toward us, founded upon the truth of the freely given promise of Christ, both revealed to our minds and sealed upon our hearts through the Holy Spirit "

The veracity of God's promise, the knowledge and consideration of the One promising it, the Savior upon whom the promise stands for its efficacy, revealed to our minds and sealed upon us by the Spirit, is what the true essence of saving faith is. When it all comes down to it, it is a simple and small thing.

1. The faithfulness and truthfulness of the Promiser. When He promises that everyone who believes in the Lord Jesus shall be saved, that every sinner who gives up on his fruitless self-justification and rests wholly upon the Savior and His saving merits shall find eternal rest, it is a matter of simple reason to see that the first piece of this promise stands upon the faithfulness and truthfulness of the Promiser. Does God lie? Can He? No. Is He ever unfaithful in keeping His promises? Never.

2. The sufficiency of the One upon whom the efficacy of the promise stands. The thing promised is carried out by the One the promise points to. The promise of life and pardon to everyone who looks to Jesus is a promise that points to Jesus. It points to Him as the Answer we need. It points to His sufficiency, for otherwise God would indeed be a liar. Imagine if God could make such a promise with an insufficient Savior. What an abominable suggestion! Christ's own Person, His own merits, demonstrate His sufficiency, and God's very Word, which is always true, testifies to His sufficiency by virtue of making that Gospel promise to us miserable sinners. What an awesome thing!

Next time you are down, confused, frustrated, and you feel like the light of Christ's countenance above you has been all but extinguished, remember the simple purity of the promise. Remember the faithfulness of God. No matter what you feel, no matter what is going on, no matter what lies Satan might throw your way to cause you to stumble, the promise is sure -more sure than anything else. God purposed it, God keeps it, God brings it to pass.

Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Servanthood in the Family

Out of my woeful lack of servitude in my family, I thought it would be good to take a few moments to go over some things I have learned about being a servant in the family from the vantage point of a husband and father and then reflect upon some of it.

From the Scriptures, I have noticed here is a sort of duality to our servanthood. This is best typified by Christ, of course, who is everwhere in the Scriptures shown as the perfect suffering Servant. When I say "duality", I mean that although Christ came and served His bride, the Church, by giving Himself up for Her, giving His life as a ransom for Her, this servitude was derivative. It derived from Christ's servitude to the Father.

Phi 2:3-11
(3) Do nothing from rivalry or conceit, but in humility count others more significant than yourselves.
(4) Let each of you look not only to his own interests, but also to the interests of others.
(5) Have this mind among yourselves, which is yours in Christ Jesus,
(6) who, though he was in the form of God, did not count equality with God a thing to be grasped,
(7) but made himself nothing, taking the form of a servant, being born in the likeness of men.
(8) And being found in human form, he humbled himself by becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross.
(9) Therefore God has highly exalted him and bestowed on him the name that is above every name,
(10) so that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth,
(11) and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father.


and again...

Joh 6:37-39
(37) All that the Father gives me will come to me, and whoever comes to me I will never cast out.
(38) For I have come down from heaven, not to do my own will but the will of him who sent me.
(39) And this is the will of him who sent me, that I should lose nothing of all that he has given me, but raise it up on the last day.


and again...

Joh 8:28-29
(28) So Jesus said to them, "When you have lifted up the Son of Man, then you will know that I am he, and that I do nothing on my own authority, but speak just as the Father taught me.
(29) And he who sent me is with me. He has not left me alone, for I always do the things that are pleasing to him."


The application of this truth to being a husband and father is great, though I certainly haven't full grasped it. There is a lot to meditate upon here.

Here are a few observations:

1. Part and parcel of true service is the willing, joyful, loving emptying of self. Christ willingly emptied Himself, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped. Likewise, though we are inherently of the same status and essence of others (as we have heard it said, "the playing field is level at the foot of the cross"), we are to not consider that as something to be grasped.

2. Unlike Christ, though, we do not share equality with the Father. We are creatures who owe loving service and glory to God. However, we are equals, in essence, with others. So how much more should we be serving God by humbling ourselves before others!

3. Christ's service of others forms the basis of the greater-to-lesser argument that goes like this... if Christ is God the Son, the second Person of the Trinity, very God of very God, who came in service to the Father, and that service did also include becoming as a man and being killed as a criminal, then how much more should we, who are not God, not pure, not lovely, not holy, not sinless, not due all glory and honor and power but are instead sinful, rebellious, and deserving of condemnation, be serving others who are in essence our equals? If Christ's level of willful, joyful condescension was of that magnitude, then what excuse do we have for thinking we are above humbling ourselves, as mere men, before other men?

4. One thing that stands out, as well, is that Christ's service to the Father involves seeing the Father's interests as greater. Similarly, why should my desire to do this or do that or be this or be that conflict and override my attention to the desire of my wife and children? It shouldn't. Though I may way to become a virtuoso guitar player, make a name for myself, or even do something very helpful within the Church to edify others, if my service to my wife and kids suffers, then I am failing. They can be good and noble things in themselves, but they are still my interests -not the interests and needs of those God has put in my care.

5. Christ's service to the Father, and the derivative service to His Bride according to the will of the Father, was a joy to Christ. It was hard, it involved pain and suffering, but it was His joy to serve the Father by serving His Bride. We shall do the same. We shall consider our service in marriage, our role as husband, a loving expression of our gratitude and love for the Father and His will for us.

6. Christ's service to the Father was perfectly and infallibly rendered and still is, as He intercedes for us on the basis of His one-time sacrifice as our High Priest. It is fitting that the model we are to look to is both a model of unsurpassed perfection and holiness, and also a model that is so intimately tied into who we are as Christians -the Blessed Savior and His work of redemption for us.

So what kind of service is required to be a husband and father? Supernatural service, for one. It is something that is worked in us and guided by the Holy Spirit. Second, it is service that is hard and requires much of us even when the benefits seem to us to be nothing. Third, it is service that is done primarily with and eye on our God; that we may serve our wife and children as an expression of grateful and adoring service to Him. Fourth, it is service that involves constant self-denial. Fifth, it is to be joyful. This one is difficult because we often look at service as a burden, but let us have the mind of Christ who took pleasure in serving the Father even though it cost Him even His human life. Let us pray for a joyful heart that sees self-denial for the interests of our wives and children something far better, far more enjoyable, far more gratifying and enriching than seeking and satisfying our own interests first.

Eph 5:25-30
(25) Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her,
(26) that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word,
(27) so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
(28) In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself.
(29) For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church,
(30) because we are members of his body.


Let us remember also that the way in which we love our wives is for the purpose of building her up and sanctifying her in Christ. It is out of this profound love that we suffer burdens, chastisement, trouble, and discouragement -yet always with an eye upon Christ who did this, successfully and perfectly, for us.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

A Good Resource for the Angry

I struggle with anger. I get frustrated when the same situations arise, and I react through angry frustration. This is my major weakness if there even was one. Those who don't know me within my own home may not be aware of this -and may even be shocked, but it is true. I have battled anger for a long, long time. In many ways I have improved, yet in some ways I really have not.

Last night I had an episode that was really bad. To have a burden like this, something that you feel you can never escape no matter how badly you hate it, is a tough thing. It brings you to tears. You feel trapped. You feel like you are starting to make progress and then WHAM! It all crumbles as you fall again. Anyway, I pulled out this little booklet I got a few years back, and I read through it. I don't remember if I read it before -I think I did, but I don't really remember these principles taught in it. It was a good read -really good in helping me see my thinking for what it is.

If you struggle with anger, man or woman, I encourage you to check out this small booklet. It is not a "cure", but it shines the light on some core issues in our thinking and in our hearts. It also has some practical insight, but it is refreshingly Gospel-centered, Christ-centered. It also does a good job at exposing some of the myths and false approaching promulgated by pop-psychology (and even Christian counselors) in our country.

It is called "Anger: Escaping the Maze" by David Powlison

Here is a link.

Wednesday, November 23, 2005

Remembering the First Great Awakening

Today I was thinking about a few things. I was thinking about the horrible state of our nation - with its immorality, its idolatry, is human pride oozing through every pore, its sinful hatred of God, its perversity. It is a wonder why God has not simply crushed us.

Then I thought back to times when great revival took place in our nation. I don't mean the revival tent meetings and the hocus-pocus Christianity, false piety, and holy-roller type stuff. I mean the real deal -people preaching Christ and lives being changed by the Spirit of God. I mean the period known in our country's history as the "First Great Awakening" in 1730's and 1740's.

The two most notable preachers in this period of colonial America were George Whitefield, from England, and Jonathan Edwards, who is often best known for his sermon "Sinners in the Hand of an Angry God". Oh, that we would have godly men gifted in preaching like this today going about as they did unabashedly preaching the message that is the only message worth preaching! As great as all of the practical matters are that many love to preach on in our day, let us take all of them, every single one of them, and sweep them before the throne of God. Let our hearts be laid bare. Let the holiness of the eternal and Almighty God shake us to our core and send us on our faces in awe and worship, and then let the message of His grace in the revealed Son, Jesus, the living Savior, come down like lightning to spark life and bring change into the hearts of millions in our nation. We need a new great awakening, a real one. Please, remember this in your prayers, especially now at this time of year when we remember and "give thanks". Let us remember God's faithfulness and mercy to bless faithful ministers of His Word in our nation's past. Let us pray that He would raise up godly men even now to bring the Gospel with power all over this nation. Let it be so, to the glory of God alone in Christ alone.

Here is a sermon by George Whitefield to reflect upon. May men preach again like this, may they preach to multitudes, and may God's Spirit convert the hearts!

Monday, November 07, 2005

Our Deadly Bias

This is something people don't want to admit. We all like to think that we are unbiased, objective, and that the person with the opposing view is the one who is distorted and clouded by his own assumptions and wishes. God's Word doesn't allow for anyone to escape from the charge that we are all biased -and not only biased, but biased in a certain way. Apart from God opening our blind eyes and bringing light to our darkened hearts, we will always be accurately characterized in the following manner:

1. As those who do not seek after God

Contrary to popular belief, men do not seek after God. There are two categories of people that appear to be: there are those who only appear to be but are actually just looking for another avenue to exalt self above their Creator and lay claims upon Him to fulfill (and hence, serve them rather than the other way around), or there are those who truly are seeking God because God has been so gracious to unblind their eyes and draw them to Himself. Apart from this special operation of grace, no man seeks God. No man truly desires God -we just want things from Him and then wish to go on our way. We want someone to help make life better, but not a God to sit on the throne and be the focus of our worship. The Bible tells us:

"...None is righteous, no, not one; no one understands; no one seeks for God. All have turned aside; together they have become worthless; no one does good, not even one." (Romans 3:10-12)


2. As those who are not able to submit to God and are hostile toward Him.

Not only do we not seek after Him, but even if He sits right before us, we would rather flee than bow our knee to Him. We would rather seek our own good than give all honor and glory to God. The idea that God holds us accountable is offensive and causes all kinds of hostility to erupt within. The Word of God says, "For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God's law; indeed, it cannot. Those who are in the flesh cannot please God." (Rom 8:7-8)


3. As those who actively and knowingly suppress the truth of God

That's right. We aren't ignorant. We may not have a fully-orbed understanding of God, but the Bible is clear that we are not with excuse. We aren't ignorant enough to be spared this charge. We all have knowledge of God, yet we all seek to suppress it, cover it up, deny it, pervert it, and ignore it. Why? Because of all of these other things listed. We don't want to have to bow to God. We are born with a corrupt nature that is unable to submit to God because it doesn't want to and never will -not unless it meant somehow gaining something that would benefit self. The apostle Paul tells us, "For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness of men, who by their unrighteousness suppress the truth."(Rom 1:18) and a few verses later, "For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened." (v.21)


4. As those who constantly seek to be autonomous from God

This pretty much summarizes the former things. We want to be our own gods, essentially. We want to be free from His rule and reign except in those instances where it seems to benefit us. When we look back into the Genesis account of man's fall into sin, we will note that it was man's desire to be like God that led to the fall. Having God and enjoying God was not enough for us. We want the throne for ourselves. We want the gifts and not the Giver. We would be pleased to remove Him from every area of life -even those of us who believe we are good and will go to heaven accordingly. When we imagine heaven, we do not imagine heaven as enjoying the Being of God in the face of Jesus Christ forever. We would just assume He not interfere.


5. As those who are spiritually dead

The Bible says we are dead in our trespasses and sins (Eph 2:1). Our hearts are darkened, and we are not able to even repent of our sinful way and believe on the Lord Jesus and be saved. As the Lord Himself said, "No one is able to come to Me [believe in Me] unless the Father who sent Me draws him, and I will raise him up on the last day." (John 6:44)


In light of these descriptors, it is not hard to look at the world around us and witness these attributes in action. Evolution is not even still represented as a theory anymore on television, even though it still very much is only a theory in the scientific realm. It is accepted as fact regardless of the many facts that speak otherwise -facts that most people are not aware of. Why? Because men suppress them. In contrast, those who espouse views that include a Creator are considered unscientific and biased in their view. Ironic, no?

For a healthy dose of human depravity, check out this Yahoo discussion. It is regarding this article that shows a recent archaeological find of an ancient, pre-Byzantine, Christian church -one clearly identifying Jesus as "our God", no less. Read the pomp and hostility of those "discussing" the article. "JESUS IS A LOSER!" claims one of the participants, while others simple deny His existence, regardless of the mounds of evidence that demonstrate otherwise, and yet another admits that having faith in God is better than having faith in the government, but then adds, "But even better than having faith in a god is having faith in YOURSELF." With just a cursory look we can see hostility toward God, suppression of the truth, and self-deification and a burning desire for autonomy from God.

It seems everyone is up for a good conspiracy story, one where the truth remains hidden and suppressed for fear of some dreaded conclusion coming out. Such is the premise within popular books such as The DaVinci Code. The irony is that we all, especially those whose hearts remain darkened (which is every person who is not "born again", born of the Spirit of God), suppress the truth. We are all in on this "conspiracy" to suppress God's truth. And what is the "dreaded conclusion" that we are seeking so desperately to avoid? It is the conclusion that God is God and we are not -and that we are dependent on God, though we have and still do daily sin against His holiness and heap nothing but more wrath and condemnation upon ourselves. It is wrath and condemnation is that justly deserved, too. We are under God's curse, and rightfully so. That is perhaps the most offensive thing with the exception of this next point: that we cannot remove this condemnation from ourselves and cannot repair our relationship with God even if we wanted to. We need a Savior, and God has only given us One -the One we mock, Jesus the Christ.

But then again, I can see why this would make someone unconfortable. Those are some pretty ugly things to have applied to us. Better to just hide that stuff and pretend the problem doesn't exist, right? It seems far more important to protect our sinful human pride than admit the truth and cry out to God. I look back and shudder at how I blatantly rejected God my whole life and, even now as a believer, still do to some extent -though now, by the grace of God, I hate it. Believer and unbeliever alike still need a Savior. We can reject this fact, but the nice thing about truth is that it remains true no matter what I think of it. I can postulate all kinds of things to cover it up, pervert it, spin it a different way, or somehow try to exclude myself from undesirable consequences, but the truth is still true. If you have never thought about this, I pray this would be a sobering moment in your life when God would be gracious to you and shine light into your soul.

Thursday, November 03, 2005

John's Prologue and the NWT

Let me take a quick moment to preface what I write here by saying that this is a very brief look at a passage that has caused much controversy, and my words here are derived from the hard work of actual scholars who have great knowledge of the original languages. In other words: I am just repeating what greater and more knowledgeable minds have said time and time again.

In fact, I am not going to go through great detail to discuss, at this time, most of the first verse of John's Gospel. For links to articles examining the fullness of first verse of John's Gospel, please see the bottom of this blog entry. I am going to get right to the point of dispute between the Jehovah's Witnesses New World Translation (NWT) published by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society and the overwhelming majority of other English translations of the Bible.

Compare the NWT and the NASB on John 1:1:

NWT: In [the] beginning the Word was, and the Word was with God, and the Word was a god.

NASB: In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

The segment we are going to focus on in John 1:1 has been bolded above. Before we get into the reasons behind the difference in translation, let us, just in passing, make a few observations to provide context. For more detail, please refer to the links at the bottom of this blog entry.

First, the first clause tells us much. The Greek is en arche ane ho logos, which means "In the beginning was the Word". No problem so far. But English has a hard time conveying what John is saying here. The tense of the verb "was" indicates continuous being, past tense. What it is literally saying is that "In the beginning, no matter how far back the beginning was, the Word was already there." Before any beginning, whether it is the beginning of this physical universe or when God created angels or whatever beginning, the Word was there already. The point John is making is obvious. The Word is eternal.

Second, if we take the first few verses and look at the different verbs John uses, we can see that John does not use ane to refer to anything created. He uses a different Greek word, egenetau, which denotes beginning. In verse 3 this is used of "all things" that "came into being". If John meant to indicate that the Word, which is Jesus (v.14), came into being at a point in time, then why not use this verb? Why use a verb that says that whenever the beginning was, the Word was already existing? The Jehovah's Witnesses insist that Jesus was created, the first created thing of all "other things". But John apparently has a very different idea. John, even in his choice of verbs, draws a line between the Word and creation -not just "other" creation, but created things in general.

Although there is more that could be said regarding the first two clauses of John 1:1, we will now go to the third clause which contains an obvious difference in translation. The difference is that the NWT inserts the word "a" before "God". Are they justified in doing so? Is John really saying, as they propose, that the Word was like God, or "a god" meaning a supreme spiritual being, but not God Himself?

Here is a quick grammar lesson. In English we have a part of speech called an "article". There is the definite article, "the", and the indefinite article, "a" or "an". The usage will demonstrate the difference better than any attempted explanation. If I am talking about "the book" you understand that I am referring to something specific. There is a definite book I am talking about. However, if I am talking about "a book" you understand that I am not being specific. It might be any book. It is indefinite. Now, in Greek there is only the definite article, which is translated "the". There is no indefinite article, no word to designate the unspecific. This is important information to have.

The Greek for the clause in question is kai theos ane ho logos, which in word-order says "and God was the Word". There is a definite article, and it comes before the word logos or "Word", but there is, as we have just noted, no indefinite article. There is no "a" before theos or "God". Yes, there are obviously times when "a" is put into the English translation when the definite article is not there, but there are also times when it is not -and for good reason. It is not a rule that whenever the definite article is missing before a noun we are to translate it by putting "a" in front of it. The translators of the NWT know this, as we will see further on.

But there is an even stronger reason for not including the word "a" in the translation. This is a grammatical structure that is used elsewhere. It is called a "copulative" construction. A copulative sentence is one that contains two nominative case nouns, one with the definite article before it, linked together by a linking verb (a verb of being like "is", "are", or "was", etc.) , and it is meant to convey something about the subject using the second noun as a descriptor about the nature of the subject. The nominative case has two uses: 1) as the subject of the sentence, or 2) the "predicate nominative" or the noun that is being ascribed to the subject in a descriptive fashion. Now, the question arises, "How do we identify the subject of the sentence?" For this type of construction, the presence of the definite article identifies the subject of the sentence. among the two nominative nouns (remember that in languages like Greek and Latin it is generally the case of words that determine their usage rather than their order in the sentence). The noun that is preceded by the article is the subject, where here is logos or "Word". Hence, the proper translation begins "and the Word was..." rather than "and God was...". Why should this construction not insert the word "a" in front of "God"? Because, as we just noted briefly, the copulative construction is meant to denote something about the essence or nature of the subject. Let's look at an example that will demonstrate this.

1 John 4:8, translated "God is love", is a good example of a copulative sentence. The Greek is ho (the) theos (God) agape (love) estin (is). There are two nouns, God and love, that are in the nominative case and hence could be the subject. However, only the word theos has the definite article ho in front of it. So the proper translations is "the God is love", God being the subject of the sentence and the word for "love" being the predicate nominative. Note what is being said. "Love" is being used to describe "God". The correct translation is not "God is a love". It is that God, in His nature or essence, is love. Love describes who He is.

Taking this knowledge back to the clause in question in John 1:1, we are left with the following explanation of "and the Word was God": John is saying that the Word, which is Jesus Christ, is in His very essence or nature God. God describes what the Word is. It is not "God-likeness" that describes Him, for there are other Greek words for that. He is God, theos.

There is no contextual reason and no grammatical reason to insert the indefinite article "a" into the English translation. The grammar shows that "God" characterizes "the Word", and the context shows that the Word is eternal and uncreated. It is simply one more attempt by the Watchtower Bible and Tract Society to obscure the clear intent of the apostles in demonstrating that Jesus is God. The Society folks protest on many grounds, mostly because they have no real understanding of what the doctrine of the Trinity really is -as evidenced by their own writings and pamphlets on the subject. No, we are not saying that there are three gods, and no, we are not saying that Jesus is the Father. We are saying what John is saying here... that Jesus always has been (is eternal, something only God is), that Jesus was with "the God" (in this context, the Father... see 1 John 1:1 where John uses very similar language and speaks of the Father), and that Jesus was and still is God. He is God, the Father is God. From this passage alone you are at least a binitarian!

One of the arguments proposed by the Society is pointing to Acts 28:6 where it says of the apostle Paul, "They were waiting for him to swell up or suddenly fall down dead. But when they had waited a long time and saw no misfortune come to him, they changed their minds and said that he was a god." Paul was bitten by a viper and the native people of Malta were watching, expecting that he would surely die. Obviously, the phrase they are pointing to as evidence to support their translation of John 1:1 is "that he was a god". The problem here is that this is not a Greek construction parallel to John 1:1. It is not a copulative construction. One big reason it is not is because, although there are two nouns (one of them being a pronoun) linked by the linking verb "to be", neither of them are preceded by the definite article. You can't make a comparison here.

However, there are other verses where a comparison can be made. One particular verse is Mark 2:28, which the NWT translates properly. "hence the Son of man is Lord even of the sabbath". Removing the extraneous words, the copulative construction is kurios estin ho huios. To clarify the English words, we have kurios (Lord) estin (is) ho (the) huios (Son). Just as in John 1:1, we have two nominative nouns linked by the linking verb where one is preceded by the definite article and one is not. So, by the placement of the definite article "the", we see that the subject is "Son". So the clause says, "the Son is Lord", not "the Son is a Lord". Again, the NWT translators were correct in not putting "a" before Lord here. They recognized that this construction is meant to characterize "the Son". The word "Lord" is meant to describe or tell us something about the Son. This is the same thing we saw in John 1:1 where "God" is meant to characterize "the Word". Just as the Son is Lord of the Sabbath, so the Word (also Jesus) is God.
In the Society's own Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT), which uses the Westcott-Hort Greek text, the word theos or "God" shows up in the Greek 282 times without the definite article "the". If what the Watchtower Society says about John 1:1 is true, you would expect "a god" to be their normative translation of theos without the definite article. However, in the overwhelming majority of instances it is translated simply "God", not "a god". Why do they break their own rule in so many places, even the majority of places? An example is found only a few verses after John 1:1, in verse 6: "There arose a man that was sent forth as a representative of God: his name was John." (NWT) There is no article before "God". If they insist this is a rule, then one would hope to see some consistency in applying it. Why not translate verse 6, "... as a representative of a god..."?

As with the many other translational blunders performed by the NWT translators, this is a clear attempt to use a little knowledge of the original language, but not an adequate knowledge, to justify ignoring a key truth of Scripture: the deity of Jesus the Christ. A telling sign regarding the Society's translation of John 1:1 is their reference to the opinion of a "spirit medium", a man named Johannes Grieber, in their defense of the translation of this clause. It is amazing to see the translational gymnastics required, in text after text in the NWT, to avoid the clear conclusion that Jesus is God.


As promised, here are some more links for further reading:
http://aomin.org/GERM_JWS.html
http://aomin.org/JOHN1_1.html
http://www.christiandefense.org/jw_nwt.htm
http://www.christiandefense.org/jw_deity.htm#jn11
What's the Point?

Every now and then I get in these kind of moods. It can be a "mood" regarding life in general or something very specific. Today I am in a "mood" regarding blogging. Really... what is the point? Am I bringing something unique? Am I bringing something that anyone who reads this can't get somewhere else but with more accuracy, more insight, and more detail? No, not really. So what justification is there for me spending any of my time blogging?

Well, maybe I need to alter the focus of my blogging, or maybe I need to cash it in completely, or maybe I need to step back and pause. For example, if I concentrated mostly on relating my experiences, then that is certainly unique! And maybe my experiences, blessings, and trials will bless others. Hmm... Now that I think of it, it seems like that is the real question I must ask. What is my goal in writing this blog?

If it is to look smart, to provide something new and fresh and have an edge on everyone else, then I should delete all of this and shut it down. First of all, that would be justifying this blog for very fleshly reasons, and second, there would be nothing that smart or fresh that can't be read from someone else with more smarts or more freshness. However, if it is simply to bless others who read it, then that adds some clarity. Then it is not a matter of being new, or smart, or fresh, or even unique. I'm not here to impress someone. It is just a matter of putting stuff out there that has blessed me in the hopes that it will bless others. The motive is to display something that points to our Sovereign God in the hopes that others would be blessed.

This ought to be the goal of my blogging, even if it has never been. And I know that there are a variety of ways to bless people -it is not always with a nifty testimony. It is also maybe with a theological truth that has gripped my soul or an extreme perversion of one found in close proximity to many Christians. So basically... the goal is to love others and bring glory to God. To have an opportunity to do that like this is great. I don't care if one person ever reads it, if God sees fit.

So... thanks for indulging my little sidebar today. Taking a moment to step back was good -and not just in the blogosphere.

Monday, October 31, 2005

The Four Spiritual Laws Revisited

Below is my attempt to summarize God's message to mankind using the motif of the "Four Spiritual Laws". I believe, though there is much I have still to learn, that these more accurately summarize four essential points from Scripture which I would want to convey to someone if it was necessary to condense into four concepts. To review the original Four Spiritual Laws, please visit here. Here is what I offer as a more Biblical version:

1. God is Holy and perfect and set apart from everything else. He exists outside of this world and remains untainted by any of it. His eternal character is pure and without blemish or defect, and His commitment to His own name and dominion and justice is unswerving.

2. God made everything, including you, and has rights over you to prescribe how you ought to be. As your Maker, He has the right to order how you ought to love Him, worship Him, and love others and express that love to them.

3. We have all rebelled against God and sought our own way, and God is perfectly just to condemn us and consider us as enemies. In fact, God has told us that His holy wrath hangs over sinners, that we are cursed, and that there is a day when He will judge the world in righteousness.

4. God, in His abundant mercy, has sent into the world a Mediator, the only Savior for sinners, His Son, the Lord Jesus Christ, to live righteously, suffer and die, and rise from the grave in order to secure salvation and pardon and righteousness before God so that, as He has promised, everyone who believes in Him shall be saved. He tells us all to forsake our way of rebellion against Him with our pretended righteousness and trust solely and completely in what Jesus has done to make us right and acceptable before God.


Why I do not begin with "God loves you"

There are a number of reasons for why I do not start out with God's love for us. God's love is very real, but let me list a few reasons why I don't feel it is generally the place we are to begin.

First, the New Testament models given to us for the proclamation of the Gospel do not start with "God loves you". The book of Romans, for example, which is Paul's magnum opus, the Gospel in detailed terms, does not begin with God's love. It begins with a very grim picture of humanity in relation to a Holy and Righteous God.

Second, our problem is not that we are ignorant of God's love. Most anyone you meet on the street that admits to believing in God's existence will also confess that God loves us. There are always exceptions, like with people who feel God has wronged them, but overall even your most ardent pagan will affirm, as they continue on in thier rejection of His majesty, that God loves them and everybody else just the same. God's love is not missing in our thoughts -it is taken for granted. We presume upon it dangerously. We often flatter ourselves with the idea of God's love, almost as though God is here to serve us and be a doting Grandfather to us rather than us serve Him and give Him all of our love and adoration. Have we, in fact, considered that pure and justified wrath awaits us rather than love and comfort?

Third, God's Word reveals a picture that is far more sobering than a warm and fuzzy feeling of God's love. It prefaces the Gospel and gives it context. Without knowing this the ground does not receive the seed. If we are not aware of our hunger, why do we really need the Bread of Heaven? If we do not believe we are sinners who cannot save ourselves, then why do we need Christ Jesus who died for sinners? If we are not all that weary and heavy-laden under the burden of our sin, then why would we ever go to Him for rest? We would not. Many times we proclaim God's message and overlook this fact. It is almost as though we try to guilt people into "accepting Jesus" by painting a pitiful picture of God as One who had such high hopes for us but we really let Him down. Now He is trying to fix everything, but He needs our help -so we should do the right thing and help Him out. The result is a message in which we are called to accept Jesus almost out of pity for Him (like that kid on the team that always gets picked last) while the contrary is actually the truth -He has pitied us!

Fourth, if a mention of God's love is meant to underscore God's free mercy for all who come to Him, then we should just say that. And with this we come back to the same issue as before. What good is the mention of mercy to one who is confident they don't have to absolutely depend upon it? Is that even a place to begin? God's message to us throughout the whole Bible has God remaining on His throne forever. His message alone is a condescension as it is for the simple fact that He would be perfectly just to leave us all without it. There was no rule that said God must grant us the special revelation in the Bible, and there was certainly no constraint upon God to require that He save anyone from the justice they deserve.


What I find attractive in the Four Spiritual Laws but how that attraction tapers off quickly

First, I can appreciate the need to summarize into an easily memorized guide for the dissemination of God's message. It makes it much easier to remember and discuss to have four bulleted points listed in a step-wise manner. It makes it organized, formulaic, simple. It attempts to pick out the essential points of the message. But my appreciation lessens, somewhat, because I see the danger of simplifying the message into a neat little package. Can the message be reduced to a formula? I see good and bad in this. Might there be something missing? When we see Jesus in His ministry, it does not take long to notice that He did not deal with every man in the same exact way, and perhaps we should not. Would we deal with a proud and hardened person, one who rejects the notion that God is just to condemn them or who believes that he is perfectly able to achieve God's favor through his own holy living, in the same way as we would a broken sinner begging God for mercy by telling them that God loves them "thiiiiiissssss much"? It doesn't seem that Jesus did. But again, perhaps as a general guide and summary of the whole scope of God's message it is a useful thing to have.

Second, I see that there is an emphasis upon God's love and how sin has cut us off from experiencing it. Therefore, being redeemed and reconciled to God in Christ brings along the connotation of a restored relationship. In other words, being saved and adopted as a son means you get God. He is our prize. I like that very much because it is true. He becomes our Treasure whom we enjoy forever. However, I am convinced that no man cares about this apart from the Holy Spirit. Telling an unbeliever that they are missing out on God is like telling a shoebox that it is missing out on breathing... or perhaps more accurately it is like telling one of us that we are missing out on the pleasures of cannibalism. The human problem is not that we don't know what we are missing -it is that we don't want what we are missing.


In closing, I don't want to jump on the bandwagon of people who bash the Four Spiritual Laws, but I hope that perhaps this gives place to discussion and thought regarding them. I am sure God has graciously used them to bring many to Himself, and praise God for that. I am not trying to say God is unable to use our feeble means and even perversions to save. I am not saying that those who use the Four Spiritual Laws are lesser brothers in Christ. I am simply saying that if our concern is to glorify God, which should actually be one of our primary motives in evangelism, then we will want to proclaim His message as accurately as we can. What I have attempted to do here is revisit the Four Spiritual Laws and modify them in a way that maintains the basic form and simplicity while adjusting them to include more Biblical content. And after all, it is God's Word that does not return to Him void, so it behooves us greatly to be sure the message we proclaim is from it. But with all of this, maybe I'm just nuts!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Fellowship Makes You Holy

That is... it makes you holy if it doesn't drive you to pull your hair out and run away screaming! Well, I'm partly kidding about that, or at least exaggerating. I am seeing that true, Biblical, Christian, God-honoring, Christ-pleasing, Spirit driven, loving fellowship is a work of grace that sanctifies. We are depraved individuals, and to be in fellowship and still love one another selflessly and with humility and a focus on our common Master is something that can only be explained as supernatural.

It really requires Christ-likeness, especially when being in a brand new church where the beginning and foundations are being laid. It is so, so easy to fall into competitiveness or glory-mongering or you name it. We feel almost as though we are climbing to the top of a new summit and need to jam our flag into the ground so that we can mark and claim our new territory for ourselves -but with the best of intentions, of course. Nothing could be more fleshly, though, and I thank God that He exposes those inclinations to me and gives me a hatred toward them. Otherwise, I cannot see how any church would really stay afloat. It would be full of competition, ego-battles, and contention at all times. People would be envious of not getting in this position or that, hating their brothers, asking all kinds of questions inside that will never be sufficiently answered to quench their own wrath, but will instead only enflame it all the more.

So, it is really good to be in this church with other sinners just like me. It is good that the Lord has been using this to sanctify me (and my wife, from what I see) already. I see it, and I thank God for it. I don't mean like I am some super-saint now. I mean very particularly this: He has used this and the love for His glory in this new church plant to expose and squeeze all manner of selfish motives, contentious desires, pride, hostility, and self-glorification. He has used this new thing in my life, and the life of my family, to create in me a keen awareness and hatred of these things in myself. It is powerful, and yes, supernatural.

It is easy to sit at home and recognize a sinful desire in yourself. You can read a little and pray and ponder spiritual matters in private. But when you are among others in an environment of fellowship and co-labor and worship toward Christ, when those desires would wish to blaze all the more, how can you look at your brother and not be humbled and shamed inside? It is the best kind of shame -shame for sin that leads us to see its cheapness and forsake it.

I am seeing that this is really what it is all about. This, I believe, is one of the main reasons why Christ created us as a people who are to love one another and fellowship and worship with one another, even though we are so prone to selfishness and evil in this life. This is a vehicle of conformity to the image of Christ, and it is a supernatural one. It breaks us, humbles us, and constantly brings us to refocus and come back to His feet.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Number Four At Coram Deo

Yesterday was the fourth Sunday service at Coram Deo Church of Grants Pass, Oregon. It was a good day. We were all there setting up and working together to bring it together for another worship service. I feel like half the fellowship is in setting up and taking down each week. A good time.

The message, delivered by Pastor Dale, was on "Biblical church discipline". It was nothing ultimately new to me, but it was refreshing to hear, very thought-provoking, and gave me a clearer vision of Christ's Church. I think people have the wrong idea about church discipline, but man it is so important. Some see it either as something legalistic churches get involved in. It is seen as more "loving" to just let things slide -believing that they will go away and not actually fester and swell within. The other extreme is where people impart their legalistic mentality into it and turn it into some kind of witch-hunt or means to weed out people that we don't like or are not up on our glory-mongering program. :) Sometimes, though, it is done right, or at least close.

So this is good. We have a church that is concerned with lifting up and exalting Christ Jesus, teaching the Gospel, evangelizing the lost, scrutinizing Biblically over a long period of time those who would potentially lead and teach, executing and maintaining Biblical church discipline, and making true disciples -discipline over years and years those who are discipled so that they can turn around and disciple others. Seriously, I'm not sure what more you could ask for, but don't let me think too long because I'm sure I will think of a laundry-list :). I'm really encouraged by the fellowship and by the solid foundation being built for this new church. With all due respect to other churchs, these things along place Coram Deo heads above most other churches.

What is amazing is how intertwined they are. If you don't have qualified elders and teachers, then how can you execute proper and Biblical church discipline -much less actually know what it is? And without Biblical church discipline, how can you guard against people getting hurt or becoming embittered, schisms, false teaching, you name it? For example, where are the qualified elders to call into account the pastors who teach ridiculous doctrines? Many pastors function more like kings in their own kingdom.

Anyway, I'm encouraged. It is tough, and a humbling experience to be involved in a (new) church. Everything is new, and it is easy to succumb to that fleshly tendency to try and scramble and grab up every available corner for yourself. But, praise be to God I am just relaxing, trusting the Lord, seeking opportunities to serve for Christ's glory and not my own. It is a good exercise in battling the flesh as we fight those passions within that would seek to compete with our brothers and sisters (as if it is a competition). Sometimes that comptetitiveness creeps in and you wonder why you feel jealous or envious -not good, but entirely human. I thank God for the whole experience and for supplying His Spirit to guard me, to expose to me the wickedness of those passions within me so that I may forsake them, and to bring me close to Himself and to my wife through this all. I thank God for giving me an ever-growing vision of Christ's Church in all of this.

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Third Lord's Day at Coram Deo

For those of you in my vast, huge, enormous audience that don't know, my family and I are involved in a new church plant in our town. It is called Coram Deo Church (click here for the website). Anyway, we just had our third Lord's day as a Christ-worshipping, fellowshipping church in Grants Pass, Oregon. I am really excited about it. The emphasis on the important things in the leadership is what I find the most encouraging and endearing. They are focused on the Gospel, they scrutinize and take time to examine who is truly fit in roles of teaching and leadership, and they are huge on discipleship -and I don't mean some kind of generic relationship-building. I mean real mentorships where men and women are mentored by men and women, respectively, so that in turn they may one day disciple younger men and women in Christ.

Today there really was no sermon, which at first I thought was going to be a bummer, but it was filled with words of wisdom shared from two couples who had just returned from the Desiring God conference on "Suffering and the Sovereignty of God". The things they shared were really powerful. We shared a few texts together and sang songs and prayed, and it was a great reminder of the might and awesomeness of our God -how He ordains harm, pain, trials, suffering, evil even for the sake of our sanctification. We are stripped bare through it, but through it are weaned off of the temporal things and onto our Sovereign and gracious Maker and Savior. It is for our good, as Paul tells us in Romans 8. Far from giving us a reason for a stoic attitude, these truths ground us in the reality of God's sovereign and good purposes for us, His children, in the glorification of Himself through His Son, Jesus.

After that a number of us went to lunch. We talked and shared and fellowshipped some more. It was great. I really treasure Christian fellowship. I always come away, every single time, having learned something, having been humbled, and with a singular desire to pour contempt on my pride and sinfulness and live in more and more obedience to the Lord who saved me and united me with His body. The things we say, though we may not know it, are used by the Spirit to shine light on sin and spiritual truths that we may be gliding gently over from day to day. I know many things people say have that effect on me. They kick the light over in a direction that I was somehow hiding in my flesh. They remind me of spiritual truths in the Word and press the bony finger of conviction in the right spot. Anyway, it is refreshing and truly needed, and I thank God for it.

This Wednesday is the men's group. We met for the first time last week. I am looking forward to more fellowship, more humbling, and more encouragement to live in the duties the Lord has given me with more zeal and love than before. Amen.

Tuesday, October 11, 2005

Careless With Speech

Nothing in-depth today -just something on my heart. I have been thinking lately about how careless I am about my speech. I think "careless" describes it well. I neglect, do not give concern or care toward, the weight of the words that come out of my mouth. I fly off my mouth in various directions without giving it much thought -so, not just careless, but thoughtless also. Some might say, "Oh, you are being too hard on yourself." I don't think I am. I will not say anything for those who say such things. They stand or fall before their Master as well. I am saying that for me this has become a sore issue. It exposes a lot of heart issues -since it is out of the heart that the abundance of the mouth flows.

A few passages come to mind:

"You are the salt of the earth. But if the salt loses its saltiness, how can it be made salty again? It is no longer good for anything, except to be thrown out and trampled by men. "You are the light of the world. A city on a hill cannot be hidden. 15Neither do people light a lamp and put it under a bowl. Instead they put it on its stand, and it gives light to everyone in the house. 16In the same way, let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven. (Matt 5:13-14)

Therefore be imitators of God, as beloved children; 2and walk in love, just as Christ also loved you and gave Himself up for us, an offering and a sacrifice to God as a fragrant aroma. But immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be named among you, as is proper among saints; and there must be no filthiness and silly talk, or coarse jesting, which are not fitting, but rather giving of thanks. (Eph 5:1-4)

But no one can tame the tongue; it is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father, and with it we curse men, who have been made in the likeness of God; from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing. My brethren, these things ought not to be this way. Does a fountain send out from the same opening both fresh and bitter water? (James 3:8-11)

It is quite a thing to be salt and light - a glorious metaphor used by our Lord. I am so far from them both. I noticed that one of the biggest ways in which we can be salt and light, or on the other hand make ourselves not be, is with our words. Our words really do make or break us. Our actions do, too, but our words flow constantly, even when no action can be observed. It has been said, "actions speak louder than words," and that is true when it comes to things like love or making claims about oneself. That is more about having our actions and our words agree. Our words, our speech, they can in one instant separate us from the world and give honor to Christ or altogether bring reproach upon ourselves and shame Christ's name. Even last night playing a game, my humor, my words followed so quickly down the path of those who do not know the Lord and even reject Him. It followed, and sometimes even led by a few steps, into things that border on vulgar or inappropriate, graceless, unprofitable, brash, even if my company laughed with me.

And many times our company will laugh. It is not always that our company is offended for us to shame Christ or blow an opportunity to distinguish ourselves as salt and light. I long to be one who speaks when it is right to speak and who is silent when it is right to remain silent. I long to be one who graces the conversation with humility and with a godly word. I long to be one who can have a laugh like the best of them but still carefully restrain himself from sliding down the slippery slope into things that are not befitting of the name of Christ nor His servants. I long to be one who, in speech especially, is distinct from the world -not caught up in foolish controversies, not easily swayed into wasting my words on profitless discussions or gossip, not slipping into coarse or obscene humor, not engaging in biting sarcasm or attacks.

Two pictures come to mind. They are not directly derived from these texts, but I think they have to do with the main concepts of Scripture. First, imagine if your words were limited. You only had a single bag of salt. Would you waste this bag of salt foolishly, or would you scatter it wisely where it is needed, not in excess, but just the right amount? Second, imagine that your tongue is not your own. In a true sense, it isn't. But imagine that at the end of each day you must physically remove it and return it to your Master -as if you are just borrowing it for the day. If we are ashamed to return something borrowed, say a car or fine instrument, to its owner after having scuffed it or used it foolishly, how much more shall we be ashamed and consider more carefully how we use our tongue, which must be returned personally to our Master at the end of each day?

Saturday, October 08, 2005

The NWT and Inserting Words

In my studies on the New World Translations (NWT), the "preferred" translation for Jehovah's Witnesses (translated by Jehovah's Witnesses), I came across a number of instances where the NWT actually inserts words, in the English, that do not belong. Of course, whether people know it or not, pretty much every English translation inserts words here and there so that the English will make sense. Otherwise, it would sound more like broken English in many places. However, there is an obvious theme when one begins to examine the common insertion of words in the NWT. They are not words that help the English flow more fluently. They are words that actually alter the meaning of the text. The Watchtower Bible and Tract Society will defend all of these "translation decisions", of course, but I hope I can demonstrate very briefly that these "decisions" a) are unwarranted and obscure the original language of the Biblical text, and b) have a common theme or agenda behind them.

This is not an exhaustive look, by any stretch, and it focuses on the New Testament, translated from the original Greek. It seems best, for the sake of organization, to separate this brief look into two parts. First, we shall study what I call the "Granville Sharp texts". After that, we shall look at what I call the "[other] texts". While the prologue to John's Gospel technically fits under verses where the NWT inserts words (saying "the word was a god" rather than "the Word was God"), it seems best, given how tremendously packed those verses are, to save it for a separate discussion.

Granville Sharp Texts

We all know that there are rules of grammar for every language, otherwise it would be very difficult to understand what is being conveyed by that language. There is a Greek rule of grammar known to Biblical Greek students and scholars as "Granville Sharp's Rule". It is very simple. It basically says that when two singular nouns, that are not proper names (like Paul or Peter or Timothy), describing a person are found in the same case and connected by "and" (Gr. kai) with the first noun having the article "the" and the second lacking it, both nouns refer to the same person. They form a whole that describes the same person.

An example (2 Pet 3:18):

"but grow in the grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ To Him be the glory, both now and to the day of eternity. Amen. " (2 Peter 3:18)

The translated Greek for the bolded text is: tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou, which is literally translated. the (tou) Lord (kuriou) of us (hemon) and (kai) Savior (soteros) Jesus Christ (Iesou Christou).

The NWT actually translates this verse correctly. Granville Sharp's rule tells us that the phrase "the Lord of us and Savior" as a whole refers to Jesus Christ. Jesus Christ is both "Lord of us" and "Savior". Notice "the Lord of us" is not one person, and then "Savior, Jesus Christ" is referring to another person. They both, together, refer to Jesus Christ.


Another example (2 Pet 1:11):

"for in this way the entrance into the eternal kingdom of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ will be abundantly supplied to you. " (2 Peter 1:11)

This is the same thing. The same exact Greek phrase is found here, and, more importantly, the same Granville Sharp construction. The transliterated Greek, again, is: tou kuriou hemon kai soteros Iesou Christou. Again, the NWT follows the grammatical rule and translates this verse correctly. Both "Lord" and "Savior" apply to a single person, "Jesus Christ". There are not two persons in view but one. This is another clear example of a Granville Sharp construction in Peter's second epistle. In fact, there are a total of five Granville Sharp constructions in 2 Peter.

But is the NWT consistent in their treatment of Granville Sharp constructions? No, it is not, unfortunately, and it is indeed suspicious that the verses in which they choose to diverge from this rule of grammar are verses that speak explicitly of the Deity of the Lord Jesus Christ. It is clear from Watchtower writings that the Jehovah's Witnesses utterly reject the teaching that Jesus is God in human flesh. But as we examine these mis-translations, let us ask ourselves if they are seeking to translate the text honestly in the NWT or if they are seeking to harmonize the text of Scripture with their preconceived set of beliefs.

Here is a text where they overtly deny this grammatical rule. Compare these two translations of 2 Peter 1:1.

"Simon Peter, a slave and apostle of Jesus Christ, to those who have obtained a faith, held in equal privilege with ours, by the righteousness of our God and [the] Savior Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1,NWT)

"Simon Peter, a bond-servant and apostle of Jesus Christ, To those who have received a faith of the same kind as ours, by the righteousness of our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1, NASB)

The first translation is the NWT and the second is the New American Standard Bible (NASB). Excluding the minor differences in the choice of English words in the rest of the verse, the bolded section is different between the two. This is a Granville Sharp construction. Notice how the NWT inserts the word "the" before "Savior Jesus Christ". The word is put in brackets in the NWT text. Notice that for the other Granville Sharp constructions it was not necessary to insert "the" before the second noun in the clause, so why in this particular verse?

It is not for no reason. Notice the difference in meaning when the word "the" is inserted just before "Savior". Suddenly you have "our God... and the Savior, Jesus Christ" -two different people! But this is not what the text says. According to the Granville Sharp rule, the same rule which the NWT translators followed in the other verses from 2 Peter, the terms "God" and "Savior" both refer to Jesus.

Compare the Greek construction from 2 Pet 1:1 to one of the other verses we just looked at, 2 Pet 1:11.

...tou (the) theou (God) hemon (of us) kai (and) soteros (savior) Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ) (2 Pet 1:1)

...tou (the) kuriou (Lord) hemon (of us) kai (and) soteros (savior) Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ) (2 Pet 1:11)

The construction is identical. There is one word different. 2 Pet 1:1 uses the word theou (God) rather than kuriou (Lord). The same rule should very well apply here, but the NWT denies it. Again, why? It is clear that it is because for theou and soteros together (God and Savior) to both refer to Jesus, which Granville Sharp's rule clearly demonstrates, is to assert His Deity -something which the Jehovah's Witnesses reject. There is an inconsistency here that is completely unwarranted, unless you refuse to accept what the text is saying.

Here is one more example from Paul's writings. The text is Titus 2:13:

"looking for the blessed hope and the appearing of the glory of our great God and Savior, Christ Jesus" (Titus 2:13)

Again, this is another construction that fits the rule. In the Greek we have: tou megalou theou kai soteros hemon Iesou Christou. The basic form includes the words: tou (the)... theou (God) kai (and) soteros (Savior)... Iesou Christou (Jesus Christ). We have two nouns with the first having the definite article "the", the second one lacking it, and the word "and" (kai) in the middle. The rule, again, says that "God and Savior" or fully "our great God and Savior" as a whole refers to the same person, "Christ Jesus".

Not only is there nothing in the context that would make us think this is an exception to Granville Sharp's rule, but there are actually contextual indicators that demonstrate even more that the rule holds perfectly in this verse. The word for "appearing", the Greek epiphaneian, has its usage in the New Testament only in relation to Jesus Christ -to His coming appearing. Paul openly believed and expressed that Jesus is our "great God and Savior".

Some might say, "But there are always exceptions to language rules." Yes, it is true. There usually are exceptions to every rule. But if one goes through the writings of Paul and Peter, who both employ the Granville Sharp construction, you will see that no such exception exists. For there to be a clear exception there would have to be something in the immediate context that demonstrates why following the rule would either make no sense or completely go against the grain of the context. No such exception is found! The Granville Sharp rule holds. Again, the reason why the NWT neglects this rule in certain situations seems fairly obvious -the translators already had it set in their minds that Jesus cannot be God... "our God and Savior, Jesus Christ" (2 Pet 1:1). So, they derived an exception to the rule from their theological precommitments, not from the text of Scripture.


The [Other] Texts

The texts we will look at here all have one thing in common. In the NWT, they all have the word "other" or "others" inserted into the English. As we will see, there is no reason that concerns English fluency behind it. The insertion of the word dramatically changes the meaning of the verse away from the original text and toward the theological beliefs of the NWT translators and Jehovah's Witnesses in general. There are three texts we will examine, and I believe it will be obvious what the intent of the NWT translators in inserting these words was. It is important to recognize a theme in this mis-translations. These are not just "errors" or "differences of opinion" or even poor choices of words. These are regular, numerous alterings to the clear English translation in order to deny a single conclusion. It will be clear to see what that single conclusion is, just as it was with the Granville Sharp texts we just examined.

The first verse we will look at is Acts 10:36. In the NWT the text reads:

"He sent out the word to the sons of Israel to declare to them the good news of peace through Jesus Christ: this One is Lord of all [others]." (Acts 10:36 NWT)

Like with the insertion of the word "the" in the Granville Sharp cases, here is a bracketed word that is admittedly not found in the original language. Their own Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) bears witness to this fact. Immediately ask yourself the difference between saying that "Jesus is the Lord of all" and "Jesus is the Lord of all others". Can you see it? If Jesus is the Lord of all, then that is something that belongs to God only. If Jesus is the Lord of all others, then Jesus is the Lord of all creation, but God, the true Lord of all, is still Lord of Jesus. The insertion of the word others demotes Jesus to being an exalted creature, a created thing that is given lordship over all other created things, but certainly not Lord of all -for only God is Lord of all. It places Jesus above other things, but still among them and the same as them, by nature, but below God. This is what the Jehovah's Witnesses teach, but it is not what the text says.

Here is an example that demonstrates the difference:

Sue is at the farm among many pigs.
Sue is at the farm among many other pigs.

In the first sentence, your impression of Sue is perhaps that she is a hired-hand, some kind of farm worker, or possibly another animal. She is distinguished, though not explicitly, from the "many pigs" she is among. However, in the second sentence, Sue is one pig among many others. Maybe there is something special about her that has not been made known yet, but the presence of the word "other" still makes Sue a pig. It is the same thing in this text with Jesus and with the remainder of the similar contexts that insert this word "other". The difference in meaning is clear, and if the the word "others" is not in the original Biblical text, then it begs the question as to why one would put it in. Since the Jehovah's Witnesses (and hence the NWT translators) reject the Deity of Christ and believe Jesus was an exalted creature, the first one created, you can see why they may want to get around the clear implication of the text and insert a word that does not belong.

The next text we will examine is Philppians 2:9. The NWT reads:

"For this very reason also God exalted him to a superior position and kindly gave him the name that is above every [other] name, " (Phil 2:9 NWT)

This is another example of the same thing. There is a personal distinction between God (who is God the Father, as shown in v.11) and Jesus, and since the translators of the NWT deny the tri-unity of God, that there is One Being consisting of three Persons, the translators inserted the word "other". If Jesus has a name above every name, then, again, that is something that belongs to God alone. That is a position of glory that belongs to no creature.

The Psalmist wrote of the name of the LORD, YHWH (or "Jehovah"):

"Let them praise the name of the LORD, For His name alone is exalted; His glory is above earth and heaven." (Ps 148:13, emphasis mine)

Yet, if we accept the NWT and Jesus has been given a name that is above every other name, then Jesus is still less than God, a mere exalted creature. There is still God's name that is excluded and high above the name of Jesus. Jesus, at best, would have a name that is below God's but above all other created things. So, you can see that the insertion of the word "other" drastically changes the impression the text gives about the status and nature of Christ. The 1985 version of the Watchtower's Kingdom Interlinear Translation (KIT) shows the word "other" in brackets, indicating that it is not found in the original Greek. However, in the 1969 version of the KIT it was not in brackets. If we leave the text alone, we are left with a very powerful truth. Paul is not calling us into idolatry by exalting the name of Jesus above every name. Paul is saying that Jesus is Jehovah, Jehovah the Son. He shares the very name of YHWH which "alone is exalted" (Ps 148:13).

The last text we will look at involves repeated insertions of the word "other". It is Col 1:15-17. The NWT reads:

15 He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation; 16 because by means of him all [other] things were created in the heavens and upon the earth, the things visible and the things invisible, no matter whether they are thrones or lordships or governments or authorities. All [other] things have been created through him and for him. 17 Also, he is before all [other] things and by means of him all [other] things were made to exist, (Col 1:15-17)

Since this passage is so jam-packed, it may be useful to look at what the verse is saying as a whole before looking at what the NWT translators are trying to make it say by inserting the word "other" a total of four times.

The passage begins by quickly asserting that Jesus is the "image" of the invisible God. The word for "image", the Greek eikon, implies more than likeness. Vincent's Word Studies says, "Image is more than likeness, which may be superficial and incidental. It implies a prototype, and embodies the essential verity of its prototype." There are other verses which exemplify the same truth that Jesus is the revelation of the Father (see John 1:18). This corresponds to why John (John 12:41) explains Isaiah's vision of Jehovah (Isaiah 6) as a vision of Jesus.

Next we come to the phrase that identifies Jesus as the "firstborn of all creation". Some English translations say "over all creation", and I believe the context supports this. The term "firstborn" is the Greek word prototokos. Jehovah's Witness theology understands Jesus as being the first-created being. So, their understanding of prototokos falls in line with this: literally understanding it to mean that Jesus is the "first thing created" of all other created things. But the Bible's own understanding of the title "firstborn" has nothing to do with cronology or with when one was created or born. It is a title that speaks of preeminence. The heir of a large estate is the firstborn, for example. It is a title of estate, of honor and prestige, not a title having to do with when one came into being (see Exodus 4:22 and Psalm 89:27 which use this same Greek term in the Septuagint). The title was used, for example, for Israel, who was not the first nation but the preeminent one, the first-rank one. So for Jesus to be the prototokos of all creation is for Jesus to be the heir, the preeminent one, the master of all creation. It is, therefore, not twisting the text at all if we wish to use "over" instead of "of", since the fact that Jesus is the exact image of God and the preeminent one certainly places Him over all creation. The verses that follow only emphasize this point even more, if we take them for what they say without inserting words that alter the meaning.

The next verse tells us that by Him (Jesus) "all things were created, both in the heavens and on earth, visible and invisible, whether thrones or dominions or rulers or authorities--all things have been created through Him and for Him. " (NASB) The NWT doesn't essentially differ from the NASB at all except for that one word "other", which is not found in the original language. The only other thing that might be misleading is how the NWT translates the Greek proposition en as "by means of" rather than simply "by". In this verse Paul expresses Jesus' role in Creation, a role that belongs to God alone. He places literally everything under Jesus and puts Jesus in the role of Creator. What the NWT translators attempted to do by inserting "other" before "things were created" is again place Jesus among created things. He is, to them, an exalted creation, but a creation among all of God's creations, nonetheless. It should be noted that the original text does not contain the inserted word, and it does not contain the idea, either.

The same thing happens in the sentence that follows, "all things have been created through Him and for Him". As we see in the citation from the NWT a few paragraphs above, the word "other" is again inserted before "things" so as to demonstrate that Jesus is a created thing among others, and therefore His role in creation is secondary, in that He is also a creation, albeit the first one (in the minds of the NWT translators). With the word "other" missing, we are left with the intended understanding from the apostle Paul that Jesus is preeminent over all creation, is the heir of all things, and exists outside of creation. He is not a created thing. The word "other" seeks to place Jesus among creation while its absence in the original text, and the context with it, clearly place Him outside of it.

The next verse only repeats the same idea, which the NWT seeks to obscure by again placing "other" in the text and thereby asserting Jesus' creatureliness rather than Creatorship. With the original text and without the inserted word, the text reads "He is before all things, and in/by Him all things hold together". The preposition en is used again, which was previously translated "by" but could also be translated "in". The last word translated "hold together" means "consist" or "are put together". Compare this with Paul's speech to the Greek philosophers in Acts 17:23-28 when he says of God, "in Him we live and move and exist". The same manner of thing is now applied to Jesus. The sense is unmistakable -Paul even more clearly places Jesus above, before, and outside of all of creation, even being the Creator Himself, which includes things such as angels as well. Yet the NWT refuses this by inserting a word -changing the meaning of the whole text in an attempt to deny this conclusion.

There is a lot here, and I hope that even if you disagree you will look over these things. What we see here is a consistent mis-translation of the text of Scripture to avoid a certain conclusion that, by itself, flows from the text if the text is left unaltered and translated consistently and honestly. It is not a random mistake here or there. These alterations are repeated and consistent and deal with the same subject matter. They all seek to obscure one fact -the Deity of Christ. So, it is not as simple as saying the translation has some problems or phrased things badly or made some mistakes. These were obviously intentional decisions. There are too many of them focused around the same issue to ignore. The ordinary rules the NWT translators used in translating other portions of the NWT went completely out the window when confronted with these texts (and others like them not mentioned in this brief study). If we are familiar with and comfortable with using the NWT, I hope this will at least be a beginning for you in explaining why the NWT is a deadly translation. For to fudge on translating on a matter such as ecclesiology may be one thing, and a bad thing at that, but to consistently deny the clear text of Scripture and then produce a translation that hides the Scriptural teaching of the Deity of Christ is absolutely blasphemous and idolatrous. And if we are complicit in this, since we now have this knowledge, by continuing to use this translation and reject the truth of Scripture, then we are engaging in idolatry of the truest and most direct kind. We are denying Jehovah Himself and placing a god of our own mind's creation in His place. Above all, I hope that this brief study may be a beginning in introducing you to the true God and Savior, Jesus Christ, God the Son in human flesh, if He was previously unknown to you in this way.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Colossians 2:9

This is a great verse to demonstrate both the Deity of Christ and His bodily resurrection. From what I have gathered, it is particularly useful when talking to Jehovah's Witnesses.


"For in him the whole fullness of deity dwells bodily" (Col 2:9 ESV)

From this verse we can cleary see two things. First, Paul wrote this epistle after Jesus rose from the dead. Even if we don't know the exact date when the epistle was written, we certainly know that Paul was not even converted until some point after Christ rose (see Acts 9). Second, the whole fullness, not part, not just certain aspects, of Deity dwells in Him (Christ) bodily. That which makes God God dwells in Jesus bodily. This is what the incarnation means, and it is still true of the risen Christ. The fullness of what it means to be God, of the essence of God-ness, dwells in Christ's physical body even now after He has risen from the dead. Again, here we have a clear testimony to both Christ's Deity and His physical, bodily resurrection -two things Jehovah's Witnesses vehemently deny.

The Jehovah's Witnesses may protest because their translation, the New World Translation, mistranslates the word theotetos (theotes) as "divine quality". So, they assume it is referring to something like Divine attributes –something they believe Jesus, being a created being, possesses in some measure, though without being God. Without spending time arguing over what this means, let us note that it is a mistranslation. The lexical definition of theotes does not mean "divine quality".

In Vincent's Word Studies it says,

"Here Paul is speaking of the essential and personal deity as belonging to Christ. So Bengel: "Not the divine attributes, but the divine nature.""

Thayer's Greek Lexicon says theotes means "deity; the state of being God, Godhead".

Why the confusion? Well, from what is evident in other places in the New World Translation, there are numerous mistranslations that are intended to discount the Deity of Christ -this is just another one to add to the pile. However, there is a word, very similar to theotes in spelling, which could be translated "divine quality" according to its lexical definition. It is the word "theiotes". This word is used in Romans 1:20 where it is easy to see how "divine quality" fits.

For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature (theiotes), have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. (Rom 1:20)

Here, Paul is talking about God's "attributes". His eternal power and Creatorship have been clearly perceived by men. It is a different word from theotes and has a different meaning.

Do I think this was an honest mistake by the translators of the NWT? Given the large number of mis-translations that focus around this single issue, the Deity of Jesus, I find it hard to believe that this is a coincidence. I believe it is more a case of the NWT translators giving an English rendering that guards their theological precommitments (which deny Christ’s Deity) rather than expressing what the text says by itself.

Saturday, October 01, 2005

Doing Church and Being Church

"Doing church" means going on Sundays, being involved in all the programs and events, and getting a level of enrichment from the church and all of these things. Church, on this level alone, is a means to an end, a means that we know is good and right, and that we even get excited over sometimes. It is not always that hard to find a church you really love, but you may love it because it gives you a nice place to "do church" rather than "be church". "Doing church" really goes no further than the nice things about the church on a very surface level. It may have to do with music, with preaching, with doctrine -and all of these things really are important (in varying degrees, of course), which is why I am not pitting "doing church" against "being church" in every regard. It is obviously very important that a church is Christ-ward in worship and that the Word is held high and believed upon. The point is that one can "do church" and that's it. In this case, where it is "doing church" alone, it is in some respects no more than a preferred amuzement park ride or a good restaraunt that has really good food. They are a good find, enjoyable, and we get a lot out of it, but it doesn't go much further than that. "Doing church" alone does not truly reflect Christ's design for the local body.

"Being church" includes "doing church", but it goes beyond. It is what makes church a church and not a country club. "Being church" involves laying down your personal agendas and serving the body. This is a really difficult one, more difficult than you think, because many of us would like to think that our personal agenda falls within the agenda of the church. There may be some truth here. Maybe our agenda is partly in line with the church, but let us consider our motives. Are we following this focus for the sake of the church, or for the sake of the church *for us*. See the difference? Almost everyone who has an agenda of their own believes it is for the good of the church, but do they consider a) what Christ says is good for the church, and b) if the good they hope comes from it is really for the church or ultimately for their own enjoyment of the church?

"Being church" makes no room for little monarchs to establish a corner of the kingdom for themselves and their small band of cronies. It means constantly dieing to self. If you aren't dieing to self somehow, struggling with something inside in relating to others within the body, then I wonder if you are just doing church, playing church, rather than being in the body. The distinction is not always clear to us. It is easy to mistake physical presence for spiritual presence and commitment. It is easy to mistake commitment to ourselves and to an ideal for commitment to the very diverse, sinning saints in our local body of Christ. And of course, to be committed to them is directly proportional to our commitment of Christ and His vision of the body.

Whether we like it or not, Christ bought the Church with His own blood (Acts 20:28, Eph 5). He bought us each individually, but we form a collective whole, the Body of Christ. Granted, in every physical fellowship there are goats among the sheep, and it is often not apparent who is who. This is obviously because everyone, every born-again believer, has their own set of struggles, their own "growth rate", their own sins that blind them, their own lack of maturity in certain areas. As a friend of mine says often, "we are all works in progress!" So, implicit in our "being church" is struggle. It is going to involve bumping heads, and it is going to do much with us, and in us, to command love, patience, grace, humility. I like how "patience" is translated "long-suffering" in places like the KJV. It paints a vivid picture. We suffer long with others, with their faults. Loving can be difficult. We love the Lord over the Church, but it seems easiest to leave it at that. We know this will not do, though, because the same Lord we love has brought us into His fold to love the others as well, to even love our enemies.

Being church means placing yourself in submission to Christ, in submission to the leaders of the church, and then in servitude to others. Church is not just a place to get stuff, to hear the Word -though that is a huge part of it. We could do that much by listening to the radio, these days. Church is about service and worship to Christ which reflects itself in service to others, submission to the leaders over the body, and gaining an attitude that is no longer self-focused within the fellowship but body-focused. We have no excuse anymore to just blow people off when we don't like them or they say things that trouble us. Not only are they our brothers and sisters, but now they are in our face regularly, in fellowship with us, representing and approximating Christ's invisible Church. We serve the body in the name of Christ, we submit to the elders -even when we disagree. Someone once said to me, "You know, submission isn't really submission if you 'submit' because you always agree with the person you are supposed to be submitting to." How often it is that we selectively submit to authority. How often it is that things are going great, and we are happy until that moment when the leadership crosses us. At that moment, we may even find every way imaginable to justify disobeying them. We will criticize them as being un-Biblical, as being unfit leaders -all kinds of things.

To sum up, "being church" means being part of the visible body that is before us. It means we come not as parasites to fatten ourselves and then leave. It means coming to minister to others, no matter who they are, for the sake of the body, not for the sake of ourselves or our own self-importance. It means having an attitude of submission, long-suffering, and humility and laying down our agenda for Christ's agenda for His Church. It is harder than "doing church", for sure, but it is the way the Lord has paved for us, and it is essential to our growth as Christ's sheep and the function of the local body for the glory of Christ.