Category Archives: Uncategorized

Two Things We Must Do

(Monday, June 15) 8:38 AM My reading this morning was in one of my favorite chapters in the Bible, Hebrews 13.

There are two things we must do as followers of Jesus, and the church must lead out in this matter (see verse 16):

Do not neglect to do good and to share with others who are in need, for with such sacrifices God is well pleased.

Being a Christian consists of more than loving God with our entire heart, soul, strength, and mind. It also consists of loving our neighbor as ourselves. The earliest believers in Jerusalem illustrated their love for God through (Acts 2:37-47):

  • Evangelistic preaching
  • Christian baptism
  • Apostolic teaching
  • Genuine relationships
  • Christ-centered gatherings
  • Fervent prayer

But they also showed their love for God through showing love for their brothers and sisters by sharing whatever they had. In fact, “All the believers met together constantly and shared everything with each other, selling their possessions and dividing with those in need” (Acts 2:44). Thus the 7th mark of a New Testament church is sacrificial living. Love for God is always matched by love for others. They are two sides of the same coin. They always go hand in hand. So if we say that we love God and see a brother or sister in need and then don’t help them, how can God’s love be within us? “Little children,” writes John (1 John 3:18), “let us stop just saying we love people; let us really love them, and show it by our actions.” This is what the impoverished Macedonians did. Writes Paul (2 Cor. 8:3-4):

They gave not only what they could afford, but far more; and I can testify that they did it because they wanted to, and not because of nagging on my part. They begged us to take the money so that they could share in the joy of helping the Christians in Jerusalem.

Fellow saints, how easy it is to praise God in the Sunday service and neglect our ministry to the needy. Praise must be put into practice by relieving the needs of the poor. In fact, the author of Hebrews sees our deeds of mercy and love as sacrifices of praise. Y’all, we need so many things today, but perhaps most of all we need a afresh awakening of social responsibility. We need to be people who do a lotta listening, a lotta learning, a lotta loving, a lotta living out the Gospel we proclaim.

Lord God, come and make us givers, not takers. For when the needy are helped and the oppressed are defended and the blind see and the deaf hear, will not many have to marvel and confess that Jesus the Nazarene is surely among us in all his saving power?

From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, and many other books.

Why do I Suffer?

Saturday, May 30

7:35 AM “Why? Why me? Why this?” Ah, the questions we ask when we are suffering. But God has the answer to each. Notice the three occurrences of “so that” in 2 Cor. 1:3-11 (NASB):

Verse 4: ” … so that we are able to comfort those who are in any affliction with the comfort with which we ourselves have been comforted by God.”

Verse 9: ” … so that we would not trust in ourselves, but in God who raises the dead.”

Verse 11: ” … so that thanks may be given by many persons on our behalf for the favor bestowed on us through the prayers of many.

As usual, Paul combines simplicity and depth. When we invite God into our world of suffering, he walks right in. He brings a host of gifts — resilience, hope, patience, joy — but also understanding. He wraps us in his arms and says, “My dear child, here is why I allow you to suffer affliction. That you might be prepared to comfort others. That you might not trust in yourself. And that you might learn to give thanks in everything.”

Simple? Yes. Easy? No. If we are suffering, this is a time to examine ourselves, as Paul suggested in 1 Cor. 11:28. In the first place, suffering brings us closer to reflecting God’s own empathy. Who best knows how to comfort a man who’s lost his wife than someone who has lost his own? Who better knows how to comfort a couple who has lost their infant child than another couple who has lost a baby? Who understands cancer better than someone with cancer? Think of dominos bumping against each other: God comforts us, we comfort others, they comfort still others, and the domino effect goes on and on.

Then too, when we suffer we’re forced to look up. We abandon reliance on ourselves and become utterly dependent on God alone. We have to surrender. We have to give in. And when we do, God wonderfully comforts us. “I’m right here,” he says. “I never left. Just lean on me. Let me comfort you. The One who pulled off the resurrection will see you through.” He may not bring back the wife or baby you lost, but he will being back your soul, your hope.

Finally, maybe it’s time we gave thanks for the situation we find ourselves in. To be honest, it took me years to give thanks after Becky’s passing. Years. No one and nothing could bring thanksgiving out of my mouth. Finally, God brought it out. The silence had lingered for 5 years. Four Christmases had come and gone. Then one day, it was like a light broke into my life. Finally I was able to say, “Thank you, Lord, for what you have taught me in the midst of all this pain. I would never have gotten so close to you. In the mystery of your will, it’s not only what you give us but what you take that is a vital part of the plan. You lovingly and sovereignly rule over me, shaping me into the image of your Son. Thank you for your comfort, your grace, your mercies. Thank you.”

The three lessons of suffering?

  • Empathy.
  • Humility.
  • Gratitude.

We aren’t victims of circumstance. In fact, the very suffering that Satan intends for evil, God intends for good.

Believe that today.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. David Alan Black is author of a number of Energion titles including Running My Race and The Jesus Paradigm.)

Paul’s Core Convictions about Christianity

Monday, May 18

10:32 AM It’s become clear to me that Paul’s letter to the Philippians (which I have the privilege of teaching every year) summarizes many of Paul’s core convictions about Christianity. These include:

1) Christians aren’t just to study theology but are to follow the example of Jesus and live the way he lived — in selflessness and humility.

2) Followers of Jesus are to put the needs of others before their own needs.

3) Christianity is a matter of ethics as much as theology.

4) Suffering is a normal part of the Christian life.

5) Believers are called to pursue a kingdom that is radically different from all versions of the kingdoms of this world. This kingdom is always cross-centered and countercultural.

Perhaps this pandemic is giving us the opportunity to reexamine our priorities, to learn humility the hard way, and to choose to help one another as we pursue Christ’s upside-down kingdom.

From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. Dave Black is the author of Energion titles The Jesus Paradigm, Why Four Gospels, and many others, as well as co-editor of our Areopagus Critical Christian Issues series.

Billy Graham on Racism

Friday, May 8, 2020

8:15 AM Racism is in the news again. That’s why I was glad to stumble on this video of Billy Graham’s 1965 crusade in Honolulu. How might we as a society overcome the scourge of racism? Listen to Dr. Graham as he preaches the Good News with a grimace and a fresh resolve to display Jesus Christ as the only solution to our need.

P.S. In that ethnically-mixed audience that evening was a 13 year old young man singing in the crusade choir behind the speaker’s dais. It occurred to him then, as it occurs to him now, that Satan, the master deceiver, wants us to think that one race is superior to the other. He wants to leave our society in a swarm of unresolved racial tension. But if we are facing the perfect storm as a culture, Jesus offers the perfect solution. I’m so thankful for Billy’s message. May it resound throughout the internet today as it did so long ago in an island melting pot.

From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. Note: Dave’s blog does not include separate posts that can be linked. As his publisher, Energion Publications posts selections here.

The Pure Word Bible

Not long ago — well, this morning actually — I read about a brand new translation of the New Testament calling itself The Pure Word. It claims to reveal “the original Koine-Greek depths of meaning from the time of Christ using breakthroughs in monadic-based hermeneutics.” It further claims that “English is an imprecise language that can easily cause misunderstanding. In contrast, one of the most complete languages that clarifies intent is Koine Greek ….” Well, I think we could use a little more information. Please tell us by name who your translators were. Please explain to us what “monadic-based hermeneutics” is. Please give us more than one verse as a sample. Please back up your assertion that “There are over 450 English New Testament translations; all riddled with inaccuracies that never referenced the original Greek scriptures” with proof. As someone who originally worked on the ISV New Testament, I think we owe as much to our readers. The field of Christian publishing is a pressure cooker. Nowhere is this truer than with Bible translations. Bible publishing is this bizarre world where we hyperventilate because another translation is trying to vie for our loyalty. This is not a new phenomenon, nor is it restricted to the world of Bible translations. (Beginning Greek grammars fall into this category.) For instance, does this rendering of John 3:16 in The Pure Bible really help us understand what the Greek is saying?

Because, God has Loved in such a manner the satan’s world, so that He Gave His Son, the Only Begotten Risen Christ, in order that whoever is Continuously by his choice Committing for the Result and Purpose of Him, should not perish, but definitely should, by his choice, be Continuously Having Eternal Life.

I think not. And then there’s this notion that somehow Koine Greek is ambiguity-free. I can’t tell you how many times I heard it stated in college that the New Testament had to be written in Greek because Greek is the most perfect language in the history of the world. In seminary I recall reading about the days when some New Testament scholars were even promoting the idea of a special “Holy Ghost Greek” that God invented in order to inscripturate His New Testament truth — a notion that turned out to be, by the way, a demonstrable cul-de-sac. What would be so difficult about providing us with more information? More examples? A list of the translators along with their qualifications? It is hard to produce a new Bible translation. I know. But I think we do the church a tragic disservice to publish one in relative secrecy. By the way, scanning my bookshelves I see I have dozens of English Bible translations. They do me absolutely no good unless I read them. No, you don’t need to spend exactly one hour in the Word every day. But God’s beautiful Word — well, it’s essential, folks, and you’ll need it before the day is through, believe me. Reading the Word is how we become centered and remember that God wants to be personally involved in our lives. That’s why I was kicking myself this morning for forgetting my Greek New Testament at the office. (As you would expect from a Greek teacher, I read only my Greek New Testament. Except sometimes when I also read an English Bible translation. Okay, so many English translations that it has gotten a bit embarrassing.) What I’m trying to say is this: There’s simply no excuse for not being in God’s Word. At the same time, no Bible translation is perfect — which is exactly why we need so many of them for comparison.

Check out The Pure Bible for yourself. In the video clip, you’ll hear how the different Greek words for “love” in John 21:15-17 are said to be crucial for our understanding of this passage. Not all would agree, of course. But like I said, check it out for yourself. Hopefully the publisher will provide us with more information shortly. I’m especially curious to know who the translators were.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.)

Set Free for Freedom

Saturday, January 12    

7:48 AM Sweet, sweet time in Gal. 5:13-15 this morning.

I read the text. Then I meditated on it. Then I consulted Stott’s commentary.

He outlines the paragraph as follows:

  • Christian freedom is not freedom to indulge the flesh.
  • Christian freedom is not freedom to exploit my neighbor.
  • Christian freedom is not freedom to disregard the law.

As usual, his summary hits the nail on the head. The freedom for which Christ has set us free (5:1) “is freedom not to indulge the flesh, but to control the flesh; freedom not to exploit our neighbor, but to serve our neighbor; freedom not to disregard the law, but to fulfill the law.” As for me and my house, we will try and put this into practice.

Off to bike in the cold. Yes, I can be slightly insane.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission. Dave Black is author of The Jesus Paradigm, Seven Marks of a New Testament Church, and many other books.)

Linguistics and Correctness

7:22 AM Ward Powers has written a fine introduction to New Testament Greek. He introduces the middle voice on p. 71 by writing:

Commonly, the middle voice is used for intransitive verbs, or where the action of the verb does not carry over to an object but solely affects the subject. Often the subject of the middle voice verb is acting for himself or in his own interests.

In addition:

Closely related to the first use, the middle voice can have a reflexive sense — the action was done to or for the subject.

Powers emphasizes that these two usages can “shade into each other,” though many examples can be given where two distinct usages are obvious, as with:

Jesus washed (active voice) the disciples’ feet.

Pilate washed (middle voice) his hands.

They put on (active voice) him his own clothes.

Do not put on (middle voice) two tunics.

You yourself keep (active voice) the law.

They are to keep themselves (middle voice) from idol food.

I find it interesting that the example Powers focuses on in his ensuing discussion is the verb phulasso. As he puts it, “Thus Matthew and Luke use the active voice of phulasso in a passage where it is appropriate for the middle to be used, whereas in this passage Mark does use the middle:

Matthew 19:20  All these things I have kept (active of phulasso)

Mark 10:20         All these things I have kept (middle of phulasso)

Luke 18:21         All these things I have kept (active of phulasso)

This was precisely the evidence I used when I sought to respond to Robert Stein’s argument for Markan Priority based on this very construction. Stein, however, chose to take the evidence in a different direction. He argued that Mark used an incorrect form of the verb phulasso (the middle), and that this incorrect form was corrected by both Matthew and Luke into the active voice. I argued, in response, that I did not think there was anything inherently incorrect about Mark’s use of the middle here, especially when you take into consideration the use of the middle voice of phulasso in the LXX in contexts dealing with keeping the commandments of God. (See Some Dissenting Notes on R. Stein’s The Synoptic Problem and Markan “Errors.”) This is merely a small slice of the relevance of linguistic study to the interpretation of New Testament texts.

Lately it’s become clear to me that the question concerning correctness and incorrectness in language is not so much a linguistic one but a sociolinguistic one. In other words, it is people who determine what is correct and incorrect in language, not textbooks. In a sense, then, if everybody says “It’s me,” then this construction is correct. (One “should” say “It is I.”) I have the happiest memories of debating this issue with my fellow students while in Basel, as even then I had begun to question the Markan Priority Hypothesis and especially the so-called linguistic arguments for the posteriority of Matthew and Luke. I determined then and there that one day I would study the matter in greater detail, since my own teachers at Talbot had all espoused the consensus view regarding Synoptic origins. It was fascinating contrasting the arguments put forward by Stein and others with the statements of the church fathers. What struck me most, however, was the need to rethink the primary linguistic data in the texts themselves. I must also mention the work of William Farmer, who once invited me to spend a week in Dallas with his working group on the Synoptic Problem. It is a remarkable privilege, this process of thinking and rethinking one’s views about this and that. My task as a Greek teacher now is not to try and convince my students that I am right and someone else is wrong but rather to equip them with a tool (Greek) that will help them all become better Berean Christians.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by permission.

Billy Graham

From Wednesday, February 21, 2018 (Note: I cannot link to a specific post on Dave’s blog. In fact, that’s why I extract them here, so there’s a permanent link.)

Finally, Billy Graham is now in heaven. What a great soul. Everything for him was wrapped up in the Gospel. Sin, he said, is our problem, and when that problem is solved, everything else comes with it. It takes no talent to locate God’s men and women. Their hearts are perfect toward Him. This doesn’t mean they’re sinless. But their hearts are set on pleasing God. There’s nothing between their soul and the Savior. Here are two quotes by Billy Graham I just absolutely love.

I don’t think I could have ever married anybody that would have been more helpful to my work and ministry than she has been.

I want to hear one person say something nice about me, when I face him. I want him to say, “Well done, thou good and faithful servant.”

Billy Graham bore the loss of his precious Ruthie with grace and nobleness. He aged well. His was not a Pollyanna life. But he met every trial with Christ. Everyone knew here was no ordinary man. Wherever he went, he left a trail of blessing. His “business” was to glorify God, and glorify Him he did. That’s what we’re here for as Christians. In body and in spirit, in sickness or health, by what we do and what we don’t do, by life or by death, our business is to glorify God, whatever it takes. When Graham spoke in Honolulu in 1965, I sang in the choir. I was 13 years old. “I love the music that you have out here,” he said. “The spirit of aloha seems to be in your music. It seems to be in your expression, in your smile. I’ve never been to a state or a place where everyone seems to have a certain amount of happiness.” Happy or not, Hawaiians were going to hear the Gospel preached to them. Graham called for his audience to submit in uncompromising, unquestioning obedience every day of their lives.

Like the apostle Paul, Billy Graham had something to forget — “things behind.” He had things to reach toward — “things before.” There was something to press toward — “the mark.” And there was something to work for — “the prize” — and he worked for it (Phil. 3:13). He was kept going by Jesus. He labored in the strength of Another. This strength is not just for preachers. He will keep us going as well. “My sinful self my only shame; my glory all the cross.” I’m sure Billy Graham sung that many times. He gloried in Christ’s cross. He had died with Him there. And today he saw Christ face to face. Even in his death, Billy Graham is drawing people to the Savior. He knew that along with privilege goes responsibility. Where much is given, much is required. The Christian looks unto Jesus for salvation and for every need. All other “looking up” is vain. When our loved ones die, God is still on His throne. Indeed, the passing of Billy Graham is but a prelude to an endless story that will unfold throughout eternity. Thanks be to God.

Giver of peace, we work daily at the job of practicing what Paul said to the Philippians: “I’ve learned in whatever state I’m in to be content” (Phil. 4:11). When Your saints die, that attitude helps us to accept what cannot be changed. O God the Spirit, fill our minds at this moment with the memory of a life well lived, of a man whose witness and service for You we recall with gratitude and humility. Lord, even if we’re old clay, we can still be reworked. What we pray is that we may remain faithful as long as we last. Loving Savior, for the genuine encouragement You offer us by the faithful servants of the past, we thank You. Now help us to run our race with perseverance, so that one day we too may join the community of saints. Amen.

(From Dave Black Online. Used by Permission.)

Philippians 1:3-11 – Translation and some Notes

(August 27, 2017) 2:50 PM Here’s my somewhat tentative rendering of Phil. 1:3-11:

I always [pantote modifies eucharisto] thank my God for you every time I think of you. Whenever I pray, I myself [middle voice] make my requests for all of you with joy because of the way you helped me in the work of the Gospel from the very first day until now. I’m convinced of this very thing — that God, who began a good work [anarthrous construction] like this among you, will carry it through to completion on the day when Christ Jesus returns. Indeed, it’s only right that I should keep on thinking [imperfective aspect] this way about all of you, since you are always in my heart. For all of you have shared with me the grace of God, whether I’m in prison or free to defend and establish the truth of the Gospel. God is my witness how I long to see all of you with the compassion of Christ Jesus Himself!

It’s my prayer that your love for one another will keep on growing [imperfective aspect] still more and more, together with true knowledge and perfect discernment, so that you will continue to choose [imperfective aspect] what is best and will be pure and blameless on the day of Christ’s return, seeing that you are filled [stative aspect] with the good qualities that a right relationship with God brings — qualities that come only through Jesus Christ, for the glory and praise of God.

Take note: The theme of Philippians, as we’ve often said, is partnership in the Gospel. How clearly is this seen in Phil. 1:3-11! First of all, Paul explicitly thanks God for the Philippians’ partnership with him in the Gospel over many years. Second, this partnership has been negatively impacted by “relational breakdowns” (Fee). Hence Paul prays for an increase in the Philippians’ love for one another.

The immediate purpose of Paul’s prayer is that the Philippians might continue to choose what is best (i.e., continuing to live for the Gospel), and the ultimate purpose is that they might be “pure and blameless” when Christ returns. All of this is possible because God has already filled the Philippians with the results of being rightly related to Him, including the desire and the ability to do what pleases Him (cf. 2:13).

Impeccably logical? Indeed! In fact, Paul is only being consistent with what he writes in 1 Thess. 5:16-18: Always be joyful, prayerful, and thankful. Paul is being all three of these things here. The man sure practices what he preaches!