Pastors = Elders = Overseers

{July 26, 2017} 7:48 AM Pastors = Elders = Overseers. Then why should we have a church polity with “pastors” on the one hand and lay “elders” on the other? We are told it is because pastors are paid while elders are not. This seems like a distinction without a Scriptural difference. Church, ordination, titles — a biblical understanding of these themes is one of the most critical issues facing the worldwide body of Christ in our day. Even among evangelicals with their professed high view of Scripture, significant confusion remains. This is what makes Alexander Strauch’s Biblical Eldership so timely and relevant. Its appeal is for Christians of all traditions to get back to the “basics,” by which he means the word of God. He asks important questions. “What is the church?” “Who are called to its priesthood?” “What is the real significance of ordination?” Strauch is convinced that only when we recover the supremacy of Christ and His lordship over our thinking in these areas can local churches function as New Testament churches. Speaking personally, I’ve found that when our ecclesiology gets into trouble, it’s generally because we’ve tolerated distortions in our Christology. An example. Jesus alone is our high priest. Hence the word “priest” is never used in the New Testament for any official church “minister.” It’s the total community of believers that is the “royal priesthood.” Just as Christ offered Himself in service to the Father, so Christians offer themselves and their whole being to God as living sacrifices. Each and every Christian, as a “priest,” presents his or her entire life as a sacrifice to God. This is the priesthood of all believers, not just the “clergy.” Even a Roman Catholic theologian like Hans Küng recognized this:

The fundamental error of ecclesiologies … was that they failed to realize that all who hold office are primarily (both temporally and factually speaking) not dignitaries but believers, members of the fellowship of believers; and that compared with this fundamental Christian fact any office they may hold is of secondary importance if not tertiary importance (The Church, p. 465).

Küng further notes that, in the New Testament, words common in secular Greek for religious authorities are consistently avoided, including words implying hierarchy, primacy, rank, and power. The classic exception is the Diotrephes of 3 John, who is hardly being held up as a positive example. Instead, argues Küng, the language of the New Testament is one of horizontal relationships. Phil. 1:1 suggests that formal leadership in the church is placed within the congregation and not above it. No ministerial office represents status or rank in a social or political sense. The leaders’ influence is measured, not by their titles, but by their Christlikeness and the extent to which they allow the Holy Spirit to work through them for the good of others and the glory of God. In essence, then, the New Testament church is a brotherhood of believer-priests, centered not in the bishop but in Christ.

Ministry, not status, is what the church is about. The Protestant Reformation replaced the altar with the pulpit and the priest with the preacher. It was left to the Anabaptists to develop the concept of the church as a fellowship of active believers, a Christian brotherhood in which the ideal of the kingdom of God would be realized. I wonder if the title “senior pastor” is even biblical. It creates a leader-centric paradigm in which discipleship is staff-driven. It encourages a consumer mentality in which responsibility for “ministry” is shifted from the so-called laity to the pastors. Intentional or not, the title communicates that the head of the church is not Christ but a mere man. Ironically, the one man in the New Testament who could possibly have claimed to be the “senior” or “lead” pastor is willing to recede into the group. Why does the apostle Peter, in addressing elders, refer to himself simply as a “fellow elder” and only Christ as the Chief Shepherd (Senior Pastor)? Could it be that he’s widening the definition of what counts? I am suggesting this: titles matter. Whose name is on the marquee matters. The church is not a collection of supernovas but a collective light that shines on the Son.

(Taken from my forthcoming book Godworld: Enter at Your Own Risk.)

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

What Makes a Commentary Good?

(July 9, 2017) 8:50 AM I’m reading Gordon Fee’s commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians this morning. It’s truly a unique treasure-trove.

As Don Carson writes on the dust cover, “Fee could not be boring even if he tried. The zest of his prose makes him exciting to read, and his scholarship is always rigorous.” This morning I’m focusing on Fee’s discussion of what he calls the “disruptive-idle” in 2 Thess. 3. Here are a few takeaways:

1) Fee correctly notes the beautiful play on words Paul uses in vv. 11-12 when he writes ergazomenous and then periergazomenous. The Thessalonians weren’t being “busy.” They were “busy-bodies”!

2) Fee is right to “translate out” (as he puts it) the “walking” metaphor that Paul uses to describe a person’s behavior. (Greek students are aware of this controversy: peripateo versus zao.)

3) The “traditions” to which Paul refers here have to do more with how God’s people live in the world than simply how they think. Hence this classic Fee quote:

At this point a certain sector of the Christian church wants to yell “foul,” because they think one really can divorce how one is related to God (by faith alone) from how one who has such faith must live in the world. But Paul was not privy to the kind of theology that thinks such division between faith and works can actually be made. Paul is obviously dead against anything that resembles “faith + works = a right relationship with God.” But as this passage makes plain, he equally spells death for “faith” that does not lead to “works” (= behavior) appropriate to that faith.

4) I love Fee’s emphasis on the imperfective aspect of the verb pareggellomen in v. 10:

Paul’s verb (pareggellomen) is in the imperfect, thus implying an ongoing, or at least repeated, command.

Friend, I’m less and less impressed with many of the newer commentaries that seem to be coming out these days at a furious pace. Their authors are new names to me, perhaps even those who are just starting out in the academic world. The best voices, however, are often those with a world of experience, both in the classroom and in the world. I’m compelled by this commentary because I know Gordon Fee to be a man who’s not content to sit behind a set typing script for commentaries. He’s genuinely concerned about the mess we humans have made with the world around us — and within us. He gets down on our level, shoulders brushing. Fee, like so many other outstanding commentary writers, had been trained (whether in seminary or some other way) to believe that a story isn’t enough. Faith without works is in fact dead. We dilute the power of the Gospel when we divorce it from the world God came to redeem.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

The Goal of Our Instruction Is Love

(From Dave Black Online, June 27, 2017. Used by permission.)

8:12 AM Did you know that students at the College of Charleston can take a class called Sport Physiology and Marathon Training? Bet you’ll never guess what the final exam is. You guessed exactly right. Running a marathon. I ask you humbly: How can students take “New Testament” and remain overfed, arrogant, and unconcerned? The U.S. spends more on trash bags than almost half the world spends on all goods combined. This helps me better understand Paul’s teaching in 1 Tim. 1:5: “The goal of our instruction is love.” I like how The Message puts it: “The whole point of what we’re urging is simply love — love uncontaminated by self-interest and counterfeit faith, a life open to God.”

I’m finally beginning to connect the dots. As an old Scottish proverb puts it: “Greek, Hebrew, and Latin have their proper place, but it’s not at head of the cross where Pilate put them, but at the foot of the cross in humble service to Jesus.” God is requiring from our New Testament students obedience. Not the kind that is little more than an hour of inconvenience on Sunday morning. The next time there’s a Run for Nepal — a 5K race in Morrisville, NC dedicated to raising funds to rebuild that country after its devastating 2013 earthquake — I hope hundreds of born-again Jesus freaks will sign up with me. “Broken and poured out for you” is the way Jesus, I think, would put it. Jesus left heaven to come to the foulest place in the universe only to be betrayed by His own. When His followers are asked to do the same thing, they can only hear and obey (hearken). I once asked God to send me to a closed country. I knew it was a dangerous prayer. But I meant it. And He answered. At the very same time, it was glaringly obvious to anyone who took the time to notice that my stateside priorities were far more about me and my scholarly reputation than about God and other people. Richard Rohr writes that “… power, prestige, and possessions are the three things that prevent us from recognizing the reign of God….” (Simplicity, p. 56). The pattern of ascent is so ingrained in our circles that it may be physically painful for some of us to reject it. But if I am to “take the lowest place” (Luke 14:10), I’ll need to get off my high horse.

τὸ δὲ τέλος τῆς παραγγελίας ἐστὶν ἀγάπη.

I hate this kind of simplicity. I hate asking to be countercultural, even as an academic. But that’s where I am, folks. I am so over upward mobility. I’m ready to join to Jesus at the bottom. And ask my dear students to do the same.

Unity and Other-centeredness

[04/14/2017] 7:56 AM Phil. 1:15-18a is a parenthesis. A what? A parenthesis in grammar is a remark or passage that departs from the main theme of the discourse. You can call it a digression if you like (though the latter term has a slightly different connotation). I just made a parenthetical remark, by the way. So, then, in Phil. 15-18a Paul offers his readers an aside. He says in passing that he rejoices that the Gospel is being proclaimed even by people who are opposing him out of personal animosity. Who cares? Ti gar! The only thing that matters is that Christ is being proclaimed, and in this I rejoice!

When you were young, did your parents ever tell you, “Watch the tone of your voice”? Sometimes it’s not what we say that’s wrong. It’s the way we say it. Paul’s is prison. He’s facing possible execution. What’s more, not everybody there likes him. He could have grumped, griped, complained, and made life miserable for himself and for all those around him. Instead, he looked at the bright side of everything. Even when he’s pointing out selfishness and impure motives (as he’s doing here), he does it with a tone of grace and kindness. It doesn’t mean it lessons the seriousness of the problem. It just means we don’t have to add to the problem by the way we speak.

By the way, in case you didn’t see the connection, Paul is again “telegraphing” to his readers (us included) that in this letter he is going to deal directly with the problem of disunity in the church (see 4:2-3). Disunity occurs when we “look out for our own interests rather than the interests of others” and when we “esteem ourselves as being more important than others” (2:2). The antidote for our self-centeredness is, of course, a good dose of tapeinophrosune — “lowliness of mind” (2:3). Today, I can choose to be other-centered. I can choose to forgive that relative who has hurt me. I can choose to be patient rather than fly off the handle. I can choose to pray more and wimp less. I can choose to be like Jesus: generous and loyal. Let’s pinky promise today — you and me — that we’re really going to make an effort to listen to the people in our lives. That we’ll be slow to speak and quick to hear. I pray that the Holy will invade our lives today, that we would see (as Paul did) where God is hiding in plain sight in our lives, that even when we feel taken advantage of we will remember that we are the chief of sinners.

The Gospel is more important than people’s motives. If our inner monologue is constantly negative toward those who don’t act and think the way we do, it’s time to move back to grace. Isn’t that what Paul is saying?

It’s true that some here preach Christ because with me out of the way, they think they’ll step right into the spotlight. But the others do it with the best heart in the world. One group is motivated by pure love, knowing that I am here defending the Message, wanting to help. The others, now that I’m out of the picture, are merely greedy, hoping to get something out of it for themselves. Their motives are bad. They see me as their competition, and so the worse it goes for me, the better—they think—for them.

So how am I to respond? I’ve decided that I really don’t care about their motives, whether mixed, bad, or indifferent. Every time one of them opens his mouth, Christ is proclaimed, so I just cheer them on!

It will take me an entire year to fathom the depths of what Paul just said. I absolutely understand why we would criticize people who are hoping to take advantage of our misfortune. But it’s sadly possible to bend the universe too sharply toward our own feelings. I suspect that the real culprit is our failure to unpack the root motives behind our own actions. Love God and serve Him. Really, nothing else matters. If you are ever unsure how to treat other people, just remember how Jesus treated us. He loved us even when we despised Him. This gives me such comfort. It also reminds me that I never — never! — have to compare myself with anyone else. Play the “Gospel competition” game? You can have it!

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

What is the Goal of a Follower of Jesus?

[02/05/2017 09:22 AM} Well, it’s been quite a week, eh???!!! Swastikas on New York trains, a smashed synagogue window in Houston, a swastika on an iconic statue at Rice University, bone-chilling tweets, the federal judiciary standing up to the executive branch. Yikes. Of all the things, of all the thousands of things that could have stood out to me in this week’s news, I was drawn to a story about a mother’s instinct to save the life of her child. (Cue sermonette.) The older I get, folks, the more I realize why millions of people are going to hell without ever hearing the Gospel. Nothing is more indicative that America is fast becoming a post-Christian nation than Christians who have lost their basic purpose for living in this world. In recent days I’ve looked back on three years of running/hiking/climbing/biking as one of the greatest learning experiences of my life. Exercise involves commitment, self-discipline, and most of all keeping your eye on the goal. So what is the goal for the follower of Jesus? How silly of me to ask you that question! You know the answer as well as I do. The only question to be answered is: How will I, Dave Black, live TODAY as God’s agent to redeem and transform the lives of people? That’s what I find so disturbing about well-meaning efforts to “keep America safe.” A ban on immigration may or may not be a good first step in this direction, politically. People can debate that until hell freezes over. But there’s one thing I’m absolutely sure about:

The nations have already come to America!!!!!

And unless we followers of Jesus abandon the racism implied in our unwritten definition of “security,” we will never see the world reached for Christ. Foreign governments (like Iran) may close the doors to U.S. Christians, but they can’t close them to their own people. John 20:21 — “As the Father sent Me, even so I am now sending you” — reveals the reason God left us on this earth. Reaching those around us with the Gospel is the main activity of the church until Jesus Himself returns as King of kings. So then, the purpose of my life as a follower of Jesus must be to “Go everywhere and tell everyone” (Mark 16:15). (Yes, I just quoted from the last twelve verses of Mark. Deal with it.)

Listen. If my only concerns are about my own life — my security from terrorism, a healthy body, a prestigious education, marriage, a good-paying job — then how I am any different from the lost all around me? Regrettably, too few of us think of ourselves as fulltime missionaries to the world, including our own nation. That’s why I wrote a little book called Will You Join the Cause of Global Missions? The red-hot political issues of the day need to be kept in their proper perspective. It’s human nature to be driven by our egos always to be right. The opposite is to have the mind of Christ — that is, a spirit of servanthood and humility. It’s the same attitude of other-centeredness that caused a young mother to place the safety of her baby’s life above her own. She didn’t care a whit about anything else. It was another life over her own. Friends, we can’t follow Jesus very long without being confronted by our ego and greed. It’s His way of demonstrating His presence in our lives. This week in our “Jesus and the Gospels” class we’re looking at the Gospels and asking, “Why four — no fewer and no more?” I believe we’ll see that each Gospel points us to the church’s primary task: to complete the task of world evangelization. My prayer? For students with the spiritual sensitivity to hear what the Lord Jesus is saying today to the North American church. We who are called by Christ are called to serve and not to be served. We are called not to gain our lives but the lose them. We have the keys, you guys! We have the word and the Spirit and a cheering section in heaven. But we’re not promised a secure life!!!!!

Be kind.

Be you.

Love Jesus.

Love the lost.

Do these simple things, and the church will hit a home run.

Cheers!

Dave

(From Dave Black Online. Reposted by permission.)

Rising to the Occasion of Crisis

[January 31, 2017] 7:45 AM Vital information:

1) Full text of the executive order.

2) Current vetting procedures for refugees.

3) Contact numbers for your Senators.

Stay informed, my fellow Americans! Let your views be heard!

Let’s not forget, too, that the New Testament sets forth a pattern of crisis and conduct:

1) Rom. 13:11-14

2) 1 Cor. 7:29-31

3) Tit. 2:11-14

4) 1 Pet. 4:7-19

5) 2 Pet. 3:10-12

There is no doubt about the crisis, but is our conduct rising to the occasion?

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.]

Is EKKLESIA Called Out or Community

Tuesday, January 3, 2017

6:35 PM In Greek class today we discussed words and how they take on meaning. It’s part of my effort to make class practical and motivational. At the same time, there’s nothing easy about lexical analysis. Much of it is undoing damage. Take the well-known and much-discussed fallacy of etymologizing — determining a word’s meaning by its constituent parts (morphemes). For example, some insist that a New Testament church is “called out” from the world — separate, if you will — based on the etymology of the Greek word ekklesia, which is comprised of two parts — ek, “out of,” and kaleo, “I call.” Hence the church is a “called out” organism. It is to be different from the world. And believers are to separate themselves from the world.

In New Testament usage, however, it seems that the word ekklesia never quite had this meaning of “called out ones.” Normally it was used to describe a group of people that had something in common. At times this group met, and then it was an ekklesia. At other times it wasn’t meeting per se, but even then it was an ekklesia. This term was used in contrast to ochlos — a term that describes a group of people that have come together and yet have nothing really in common. Ochlos is often glossed as “crowd” in English, and that is indeed a very good rendering. How, then, should we translate ekklesia into English? When I posed this question to my class today, I got several excellent responses: “gathering,” “assembly,” “congregation,” and the like. All of these are fine, but none of them in my opinion captures the essence of what a New Testament ekklesia is. I prefer the term “community.” Church is not simply a group of just any people, and it is most certainly not a building. Instead, I like to think of a church as a space in which all of us are ministering, praying, preaching, teaching, singing, caring, loving — a family if you will. Our motto might be: “We’re all in this together. So let’s do it together.” This is the community to which we, as followers of Jesus, are giving ourselves with our whole hearts. This is our “church” — a diverse, global, caring paean of praise to our Creator, Redeemer, Sustainer, Lord, Master, and only true Senior Pastor.

Recently I became part of a similar community, a community known simply as the “runners’ community.” The similarities between this community and the “church” are legion. As soon as I began running competitively I knew I had joined the ranks of hundreds and thousands of other runners. From my very first race this sense of community became instilled deep within my psyche. Even as a novice runner, I knew I was not alone. Every experienced runner remembers when they were a beginner just like you, and so they are eager to reach out to the newbies among them. You soon have a group of running friends you look to for advice — where to buy the best running shoes, how to train properly, how to avoid injuries, how to handle anxiety before a big race. Being part of this community helps each of us to become a better runner. As runners, we value what we can become and not simply what we look like. We are not defined by our age, our t-shirt size, our weight, or our medallions (or lack of them). We are all fiercely independent and pursue individual goals, and yet paradoxically we truly believe that we are all in this together, and it shows. Just show up to any race and observe the runners. We are a celebration of men and women, boys and girls, who are striving to be the best and healthiest versions of ourselves through running and fitness. We are forever occupied with growth, with exposing and developing what is latent with us. Each race is an enactment of a lifelong struggle for advancement and perfection.

I am not in the least surprised, therefore, to find similarities between a running community and a community that defines itself on the basis of the traditional creedal values of faith, hope, and love. Both runners and Christians have a lot in common. For one thing, we both ask silly questions. A Christian in a bookstore asks the salesperson: “I’m looking for a Bible for my mother but I’m not sure who the author is.” A non-runner asks you, “How far is your next 5K race?” As you can see, both novice runners and novice Christians have a lot to learn! We are people who pursue excellence and who seek to be dedicated to something wholeheartedly and to give ourselves to some project without any reservations whatsoever. Our actions are always impelled by some good we want to attain. And to achieve our goals, we often have to endure suffering and pain. An athletic race is a place where we discover strength and faith and courage we never knew we possessed. We are runners. It doesn’t matter how fast we run or or how far we run. It doesn’t whether we are running in our very first race or have been running for fifty years. During a 5K race this past weekend I met an athletic-looking young man who was pushing his infant child in a stroller. We had finished the race at about the same time. I knew he could have run much faster had he not been pushing a baby carriage. He told me something I’ll never forget. He said, “Sometimes having the best time at a race has nothing to do with how fast you ran.” I will remember that until the day I die. I wish I could have given him “The World’s Greatest Runner Award” that day.

Running metaphors occur all over the place in the New Testament. Think Heb. 12:1; Phil. 2:16; Gal. 2:2; 2 Tim. 4:7; and 1 Cor. 9:24-26. Remember: this is a race we run together. It’s no different in the running community. “Hey guys. I’ve got a hip labral tear. Anybody had any experience with this?” Or (in the church), “As a mom, I have a tremendous sense of responsibility to teach my children about truth and grace and God. Should I make my children read the Bible? What do you think?” The point is: We are there for each other.

At one time I was really struggling going uphill in 5K races. So I asked the winner of a race how I could improve. His simple answer caught me off guard. “You learn to run uphill by running uphill.” Yet another reminder that “we’re all in this together.” Need more proof? Watch this.

So what will it be, church?

This?

Or this?

It’s our choice.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)


Are Grammar and Thought Inherently Related

6:45 AM Last night I was prepping for our LXX class in the spring semester (which I’m co-teaching with my esteemed Old Testament colleague, Chip Hardy), and I thought to myself, “Our once casual relationship with Greek and Hebrew is about to transition to ‘It’s complicated.'” I honestly don’t remember how I decided to offer this course years ago. I think I just sent an email to my dean saying, “I want to do one. Haha.” You know, like how Sir Edmund Hillary informed his friends he wanted to climb Mount Everest. “Summiting the world’s highest mountain. I may want to do that. Haha.” Well, we pushed the button, and the rest is history. This is now the fourth (or fifth) time we’ve done this. There are plenty of obstacles to keep us busy. The first fallacy we have to deal with is the supposed difference between Hebrew and Greek thought. Hebrew, we are told, is obviously good. Greek is irretrievably bad. Hebrew thought is better because it is holistic, concrete, and dynamic. We are told, furthermore, that the whole Bible, including the New Testament (written in Greek), is based on the Hebrew attitude and approach. We are reminded that the aim of the Hebrew system is da’ath Elohim (“Know God”), whereas the Greeks emphasized gnothi seauton (“Know thyself”). Thus in the Greek system, knowledge is emphasized; in the Hebrew system, the goal is to shape the character of the student. It’s Athens versus Jerusalem all over again. Listen, it’s all very simple. The Hebrew language was used by God to deliver His truth to Hebrew speakers. The Greek language was used by the same God to deliver His truth to Greek speakers. A “Christian” worldview bestrides them both.

I recall someone arguing that Hebrew is action-oriented because of its unmarked word order: verb, then subject. In English we say, “God created.” In Hebrew we say, “He created, God.” This is said to reveal ” … the dynamic variety of the Hebrew’s thinking” (Thorlief Boman, Hebrew Thought Compared with Greek, p. 28). Ergo, Hebrew thinking is dynamic; Greek thinking is static. What, then, do you do with languages like Korean, where the verb comes at the end of the sentence? Or German, which has a mish-mash of word order depending on whether the clause is a main clause or a subordinate clause: “I know that the student is good because he has studied” = “Ich weiss dass der Student gut ist weil er studiert hat” (lit., “I know that the student good is because he studied has”). Speak like Yoda I can! Woohoo!

And then there’s the question, “Which language is easier to learn: Hebrew or Greek?” Some say that Greek grammar is more complex than Hebrew. Others argue that Hebrew grammar is more complicated than Greek. After all, “Hebrew often lacks a verb in its sentence!” Huh? Of course there’s a verb there. It’s just implied, as in the Greek sentence Ho anthropos agathos, “The man is good.” This phenomenon even occurs in English: “KNX News Radio time, 10:30.” My opinion is that if you enjoy learning languages, you’ll find neither Greek nor Hebrew to be very difficult. You’ll probably have to work harder at your Hebrew vocabulary simply because Greek shares more cognates with English. But vocabulary acquisition is simply a matter of rote memory.

The bottom line: I think it’s a bit misleading to insist that grammar and thought are inherently related. There are just too many philosophical difficulties inherent in any theory of mental representations. Human language is an adequate vehicle to communicate divine truth. Every human language. Just ask Wycliffe Bible Translators.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

Some Subtleties in 3 John

[12/27/2016] 7:34 AM This morning I read 3 John as part of my “daily devotionals.” (I don’t have daily devotions, as everyone knows. There’s nothing virtuous about that statement. If you have “devotions,” more power to you. But my relationship with Christ is such that I’ve never been able to schedule a time to meet with Him. Yes, I’m a crotchety grandpa about certain things.) Here are a few takeaways in no particular order:

1) The chiastic structure of the letter. Ah yes, another “chiasmus.” There is a certain attraction to assigning the name chiasmus to just about anything we find in the New Testament. Here is the trouble: It’s too easy to impose on the text something that isn’t there. That said, I’d outline 3 John as follows:

  1. Introduction
  2. Praise for Gaius
  3. Condemnation of Diotrephes
  4. Praise for Demetrius
  5. Conclusion

The bull’s-eye, the central matrix, is what John has to say about Mr. “Nourished-by-God,” who wanted to be the boss of the church. More on that later.

2) How to filter the kingdom. The Christian life is more than being faithful to the truth. Gaius was that, to be sure. But John commends him for “living out the truth” — living in a manner worthy of the calling he’s received. God makes us worthy as we desire to “imitate what is good” (v. 11): meeting needs, nurturing little souls, the daily labor of parenting, etc. What keeps you from doing the truth? What changes do you need to make in 2017? Bonhoeffer, writing in prison, was on target when he said that repentance is “not in the first place thinking about one’s own needs, problems, sins, and fears, but allowing oneself to be caught up into the way of Jesus Christ” (Letters and Papers from Prison, p. 361). Good advice, if you ask me. I need to take it to heart.

3) Minimizing human leadership. Our human pedestals are such nightmares. They always backfire. Diotrephes had to be “number one.” I don’t mean to minimize the importance of pastoral leadership. But folks, our priorities are backwards. All the wrong things become too big (hierarchy, professionalism, success, size of membership) and all the right things become too small (Jesus first, humility, simplicity, everyone pulling their weight). This issue is no longer trite. It is destroying churches. When our Christian superstars fail, the church loses influence in our culture. It’s high time we humbled ourselves as Christian leaders. Ultimately, the claim of being Top Dawg predicates the rejection of Jesus’ sole lordship (Col. 1:18). It’s just that serious.

4) The passive voice. Say what? Take a look at verse 12. The idea here is “Everyone speaks well of Demetrius.” Many translations actually render the verse this way. But John actually wrote, “Demetrius is well-spoken of by everyone.” That’s the passive voice. And there’s a difference between the active and passive voices. The passive voice usually calls attention to the grammatical subject. Compare these two sentences:

  • “Today, Japanese Prime Minster Abe will visit the Arizona Memorial.”
  • “Today, the Arizona Memorial will be visited by Japanese Prime Minister Abe.”

See the difference? The second sentences carries a meaning like, “Today, the Arizona Memorial [of all places!] will be visited by Japanese Prime Minister Abe.” This is part and parcel of grammar. We study language, and we reap the benefits.

5) The importance of your physical health to God. Note John’s greeting in verse 2: “I hope all is well with you and that you are as healthy in body as you are strong in spirit.” Why isn’t this a reality for so many? We live with such a ridiculous “the spirit matters” but “I don’t have to care for the temple” mentality. What an insane approach to the body God has given us. I mean, we Baptists are the worst offenders. Of course, you can be a skinny person and still be a glutton. But if the number of self-deprecating potluck jokes from our pulpits means anything, we’ve got a problem, Houston. If you need to exercise, then exercise. Wrestle whatever is holding you back. You are too important to the body of Christ to lose years to heart disease and obesity. (Talk about pressure. I have to be fit to preach about presenting our bodies to God as living sacrifices?)

Well, I need to be off and running with today’s chores. Yet who can deny the importance of lying back in our lounge chair and listening to Him? Then, and only then, can we make a hard and fast connection between the brute facts of life and the reality of God. Perhaps if you and I read John’s third letter now and then, we’d find more ways to love God and people.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

The Jesus Paradigm: A Book that will set you on a downward path