This Is My Body . . . For You

 

Part One:  A Valid Question » What did Jesus say? [An answer in four parts]

There is a question I have fielded repeatedly over the last few years.  The query usually reaches me in the week following a Sunday communion.  The most recent version arrived by text from a fellow in one of our small group Bible studies, “I am perplexed about what Jesus said when He broke the bread.”  My brother noted that the pastor who was officiating the communion quoted Jesus as if the verse read, “This is my body broken for you.”  So, he asked me to check the Greek to let him know which is correct: “ . . . my body broken for you . . .” or “ . . . my body given for you.”  To answer this question, I reviewed the pertinent Scripture passages that quote Jesus in the context of His final meal (Last Supper) prior to His arrest.

 

Matt. 26:26   While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”  27   Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, saying, “Drink from it, all of you.  28   This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many for the forgiveness of sins.  29   I tell you, I will not drink of this fruit of the vine from now on until that day when I drink it anew with you in my Father’s kingdom.” [Scriptures are quoted from New International Version, unless otherwise referenced.]

 

Mark 14:22   While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”  23   Then he took the cup, gave thanks and offered it to them, and they all drank from it.  24   “This is my blood of the covenant, which is poured out for many,” he said to them.  25   “I tell you the truth, I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it anew in the kingdom of God.”

 

Luke 22:15   And he said to them, “I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer.  16   For I tell you, I will not eat it again until it finds fulfillment in the kingdom of God.”  17   After taking the cup, he gave thanks and said, “Take this and divide it among you.  18   For I tell you I will not drink again of the fruit of the vine until the kingdom of God comes.”  19   And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  20   In the same way, after the supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood, which is poured out for you.

 

John 6:51   I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  52   Then the Jews began to argue sharply among themselves, “How can this man give us his flesh to eat?”  53   Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you.  54   Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.  55   For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink.  56   Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him.  57   Just as the living Father sent me and I live because of the Father, so the one who feeds on me will live because of me.  58   This is the bread that came down from heaven. Your forefathers ate manna and died, but he who feeds on this bread will live forever.”

 

1Cor. 11:23   For I received from the Lord what I also passed on to you: The Lord Jesus, on the night he was betrayed, took bread, 24   and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”  25   In the same way, after supper he took the cup, saying, “This cup is the new covenant in my blood; do this, whenever you drink it, in remembrance of me.”  26   For whenever you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes.  

 

The verb ‘broke’ does occur in Matthew, Mark, Luke & 1st Corinthians.  Let’s chart the use during the meal of the verb break/broke:

Matthew 26           Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it       (Broke - eklasen; 3rd person singular of klao)

Mark 14                Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it       (Broke – eklasen)

Luke 22                And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it     (Broke – eklasen)

John 6                  [no occurrence]                                  

1st Corinthians        and when he had given thanks, he broke it       (Broke - eklasen)

Even though the verb does appear in these four passages, none of these occur in a verbal statement from the mouth of Jesus.  Each time, the gospel writer uses the verb to set the stage for the subsequent statement by Jesus.  In each of these verses, the verb is kla-o, which means  to divide food into two or more parts (in the New Testament, the Greek verb klao occurs 14 times; the noun klasis occurs 2 times, and are used exclusively for distributing bread).  The verb carries no nuance of breaking with significant force, violence, pain or suffering.  The oldest and most reliable ancient Greek manuscripts confirm that Jesus did not use any form of the verb klao in His discourse over the Last Supper.  The Scripture could accurately be translated, “Jesus took the loaf of bread, gave thanks for it and divvied it up.”

 

Below is the complete list of occurrences of klao/klasis/eklasen in the New Testament:

Matt. 14:19 And he directed the people to sit down on the grass. Taking the five loaves and the two fish and looking up to heaven, he gave thanks and broke the loaves. Then he gave them to the disciples, and the disciples gave them to the people.

Matt. 15:36 Then he took the seven loaves and the fish, and when he had given thanks, he broke them and gave them to the disciples, and they in turn to the people.

Matt. 26:26  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take and eat; this is my body.”

Mark 8:6  He told the crowd to sit down on the ground. When he had taken the seven loaves and given thanks, he broke them and gave them to his disciples to set before the people, and they did so.

Mark 8:19 When I broke the five loaves for the five thousand, how many basketfuls of pieces did you pick up?” “Twelve,” they replied.

Mark 14:22  While they were eating, Jesus took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to his disciples, saying, “Take it; this is my body.”

Luke 22:19  And he took bread, gave thanks and broke it, and gave it to them, saying, “This is my body given for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

Luke 24:30  When he was at the table with them, he took bread, gave thanks, broke it and began to give it to them.

Acts 2:46 Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts,

Acts 20:7  On the first day of the week we came together to break bread. Paul spoke to the people and, because he intended to leave the next day, kept on talking until midnight.

Acts 20:11 Then he went upstairs again and broke bread and ate. After talking until daylight, he left.

Acts 27:35 After he said this, he took some bread and gave thanks to God in front of them all. Then he broke it and began to eat.

1Cor. 10:16 Is not the cup of thanksgiving for which we give thanks a participation in the blood of Christ? And is not the bread that we break a participation in the body of Christ?

1Cor. 11:24 and when he had given thanks, he broke it and said, “This is my body, which is for you; do this in remembrance of me.”

 

See also the 2 uses of the noun klasis

Luke 24:35 Then the two told what had happened on the way, and how Jesus was recognized by them when he broke the bread.

Acts 2:42  They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to the fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer.

 

The English word ‘break’ is a resilient and flexible expression that can convey a wide variety of ideas across a broad semantic range, depending upon the context: break your silence, break a fast, take a break from work, break a sweat, break your neck, break a fingernail, break a twenty, break a sail,  break a code, break a witness, break a pattern, break your fall, break a tie, break a circuit, break a record, break a habit, break a law, break a promise, a break in the storm, a break of a wave, breaking news, a break in the teen’s voice, a break in traffic, a prison break, break someone’s heart, break of day, break off an engagement, give me a break.  Bible translators have felt the freedom to use this resilient word to convey the meaning of numerous Greek terms.  While klao & klasis (to break & a breaking) carry no overtones of violent force or shattering action, there are several Greek verbs that always imply those overtones. [see Part Two]

 

This Is My Body . . .  For You

Part Two: Some things get lost in translation.

The most frequent New Testament Greek term for forceful breaking is:  suntribo = to break, bruise, smash or shatter a solid object into pieces, requiring significant force of destruction.

Matt. 12:20  A bruised (suntetrimmenon = smash, bruise, break) reed he will not break,  and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out,  till he leads justice to victory.

Mark 5:4 For he had often been chained hand and foot, but he tore the chains apart and broke the irons on his feet. No one was strong enough to subdue him.

Mark 14:3  While he was in Bethany, reclining at the table in the home of a man known as Simon the Leper, a woman came with an alabaster jar of very expensive perfume, made of pure nard. She broke the jar and poured the perfume on his head.

Luke 9:39 A spirit seizes him and he suddenly screams; it throws him into convulsions so that he foams at the mouth. It scarcely ever leaves him and is destroying him.

John 19:36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”

Rom. 16:20  The God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet. The grace of our Lord Jesus be with you.

Rev. 2:27  ‘He will rule them with an iron scepter;  he will dash them to pieces like pottery’—  just as I have received authority from my Father.

 

A synonym of suntribo is  katagnumi = to break or to shatter a rigid object (suggesting need for significant force).

Matt. 12:20  A bruised reed he will not break (kateazei = shatter), and a smoldering wick he will not snuff out, till he leads justice to victory.

John 19:31  Now it was the day of Preparation, and the next day was to be a special Sabbath. Because the Jews did not want the bodies left on the crosses during the Sabbath, they asked Pilate to have the legs broken and the bodies taken down.

John 19:32 The soldiers therefore came and broke the legs of the first man who had been crucified with Jesus, and then those of the other.

John 19:33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.

 

Finally, the marvelous prophecy of the rejected stone becoming the cornerstone includes the very strong term: sunthlao = to break, crush, dash or shatter a solid object into pieces, with the implication of destruction.

Matt. 21:44 He who falls on this stone will be broken (sunthlasthasetai) to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

Luke 20:18 Everyone who falls on that stone will be broken(sunthlasthasetai) to pieces, but he on whom it falls will be crushed.”

 

These verbs, all translated into English as break (or broke, broken) carry with them the nuance of violence, aggression, power and shattering force.  Meanwhile, the verb klao (and noun klasis) also get translated as break or a breaking, yet carry the nuance of gentle good manners around the table with family and friends.  Now picture the comic hero, The Incredible Hulk, sitting at the table with you.  You kindly ask him to break the loaf of bread and pass the pieces around so that everyone can share.  Being The Hulk, he uses all of his superhuman strength to rip, tear and decimate the fragile fiber of the whole grain loaf.  He forcefully hurls chunks of the bread across the table.  Is this what comes to mind when you consider “breaking bread?”  I would be misguided to invite The Hulk to break the bread.  It is also misguided to claim that Jesus was similarly broken, when the most ancient and reliable Biblical Greek manuscripts do not say so.

 

So, what did Jesus actually say about His body in the context of the Last Supper?

Matthew 26        “this is my body”                        touto estin to soma mou =this is the body of mine

Mark 14             “this is my body.”                        touto estin to soma mou =this is the body of mine

Luke 22             “This is my body given for you . . .”     touto estin to soma to huper humon didomenon =this is the body of mine on behalf of you all having been given [my rigid word-for-word translation]

John 6               “This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”       ho artos de hon ego doso hay sarkz mou estin huper tas tou kosmou zoays = the bread now which I will give the flesh of mine is on behalf the of world life

1st Corinthians     “This is my body, which is for you.”    touto mou estin to soma to huper humon =this of mine is the body on behalf of you all

Three of these passages include the preposition “on behalf of”,   two passages include the active verb “give”, while two passages have neither the preposition nor the verb “give.”  None of these passages, as translated by the New International Version include the verb “broken” (the same with RSV, ASV, NASB, NEB, TEV, NCV, & NLT). 

However, in 1611 the team of translators working for King James preferred, “And when he had giuen thanks, he brake it, and sayd, Take, eate, this is my body, which is broken for you: this doe in remembrance of mee.”  The two leading scholars of New Testament manuscripts, Bruce Metzger & Gordon Fee, have pursued exhaustive studies of the documents to determine that the verb klomenon does not occur in the first three centuries of First Corinthians manuscripts, but was added in a Greek copy in the late fourth century.  This erroneous Greek copy was duplicated numerous times in Latin copies that Byzantine scribes produced in the 8-10th centuries (see First Epistle to The Corinthians in the series New International Commentary, by Dr. Gordon D. Fee, Eerdman’s Pub. 1987, pages 545-558; and A Textual Commentary on the Greek New Testament, by Dr. Bruce M. Metzger, United Bible Society 1994, page 562).  The likely explanation is that when the scribe, who was producing his hand copy in the fourth century, moved his eyes from the old document to the new document, he saw the verb klomenon/broken in the previous phrase (Jesus broke the bread).  Then the scribe wrote the same verb twice.  This is actually a common error found in ancient handwritten copies, known as dittography, duplicating a word or letter that occurs previously, such as within a phrase in the line directly above.  It might have been facilitated by writer’s fatigue or poor lighting.  The English translation team in 1611 followed the principle of accepting the majority reading (the words that appear in the majority of the manuscripts).  If I receive a group email message, then type a quick reply without correcting my typos, then hit “reply all”, my mistake gets sent to everyone on that email list.  A mistake is still a mistake no matter how many times it gets copied!

 

This Is My Body . . .  For You

Part Three:  Jesus was not broken!

Decades ago, following a communion service led by one of my colleagues, I asked him why he had quoted the King James Version, “this is my body which is broken for you,” even though he was well aware of the textual weakness.  My colleague then explained that since the crown of thorns had pierced the flesh, and that the whip had ripped away flesh and the spear in Jesus side resulted in a flow of blood and water, then what Jesus meant was broken flesh.

I have struggled with that explanation.  John’s Gospel provides a strong theological rationale for not viewing Jesus as broken.

33 But when they came to Jesus and found that he was already dead, they did not break his legs.  34 Instead, one of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water.  35 The man who saw it has given testimony, and his testimony is true. He knows that he tells the truth, and he testifies so that you also may believe.  36 These things happened so that the scripture would be fulfilled: “Not one of his bones will be broken,”                  -John 19:33-36 [fulfilling the prophecy of Psalm 34:20].

As mentioned above, the Greek term for broken in verse 36 is suntribo (smash or shatter a solid object into pieces, requiring significant force of destruction), while the term for break in verse 33 is katagnumi (to break or to shatter a rigid object, suggesting need for significant force).  The prophecy foretold that these actions would not be visited upon the Messiah.  This is consistent with the truth that Jesus is our Passover lamb (1 Corinthians 5:7), whose bones should not be broken  (Exodus 12:46 & Numbers 9:12)  Elsewhere, Isaiah foretold that the suffering servant would be stricken, smitten, afflicted, pierced, crushed, punished, wounded, bruised, and oppressed (Isaiah 52-53).  But not broken.  The four Gospel accounts record the following verbs as they describe the actions taken against Jesus in the passion narratives:  Jesus was scorned, despised, mocked, insulted, surrounded, torn, disjointed, parched, weakened, pierced and crucified.   But not broken!

 

This Is My Body . . .  For You

Part Four:  Jesus was not broken, Jesus was given!

It is amazing how many preachers have waxed eloquent, explicating a theology of the brokenness of Jesus, based upon a singular verse translated from an unreliable variant reading in a late manuscript copy.  One of the basic rules of correctly interpreting the Bible is to never build a doctrine upon one verse in isolation.  A theology of the brokenness of Jesus is a doctrine built upon one verse badly translated.  If we focus upon a theology of the brokenness of Jesus, we run the risk of ignoring the theology of the gift/sacrifice of Jesus.  The Gospel of Luke records Jesus’ quote, “This is my body given for you.”  The Gospel of John records Jesus’ quote, “this bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”  In both passages, the English verb “give” is an accurate translation of the Greek verb  didomi.  This is the very same Greek verb that appears in John 3:16, “God loved the world in such a manner that He gave His unique only Son, that whoever would put their trust in Him would not perish but have eternal life” [my translation from the Greek].  God the Father did not give a gift wrapped as a pretty present with a delicate bow.  Instead, a Biblical theology of the sacrificial gift reveals a robust understanding of a sacrifice, a ransom, an act of grace and a redemption price paid.

Jesus was not broken, Jesus was given!

Consider this short list of the uses of the verb didomi/give, when the LORD is the subject doing this sacrificial action:

Matt. 20:28 just as the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.”

Mark 4:11 He told them, “The secret of the kingdom of God has been given to you. But to those on the outside everything is said in parables

Luke 11:9            “So I say to you: Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.

Luke 11:13 If you then, though you are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will your Father in heaven give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”

John 3:16             “For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:27             To this John replied, “A man can receive only what is given him from heaven.

John 4:10             Jesus answered her, “If you knew the gift of God and who it is that asks you for a drink, you would have asked him and he would have given you living water.”

John 6:32             Jesus said to them, “I tell you the truth, it is not Moses who has given you the bread from heaven, but it is my Father who gives you the true bread from heaven. 33 For the bread of God is he who comes down from heaven and gives life to the world.”

John 6:51 I am the living bread that came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever. This bread is my flesh, which I will give for the life of the world.”

1Cor. 1:4              I always thank God for you because of his grace given you in Christ Jesus.

Gal. 1:4 who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father,

1Tim. 2:6 who gave himself as a ransom for all men—the testimony given in its proper time.

Titus 2:14 who gave himself for us to redeem us from all wickedness and to purify for himself a people that are his very own, eager to do what is good.

1John 3:1             How great is the love the Father has lavished on us, that we should be called children of God! And that is what we are! The reason the world does not know us is that it did not know him.

1John 5:11 And this is the testimony: God has given us eternal life, and this life is in his Son.

 

God loved the world, so He gave.  God loved the world and it cost Him something.  God loved the world, so He sacrificed His one-of-a -kind Son.  The Church already recognizes the doctrine of the sacrifice of Christ.  The statements that Jesus made during the Last Supper are at the heart of our theology of sacrifice.  When we remember all that Jesus accomplished through His death and resurrection, let us remember clearly, reflect gratefully and quote accurately.

Jesus broke the bread.  Jesus gave Himself.

 

Who In The World Is Lucifer?!?

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Normal gathering.  Normal Bible study.  Normal lesson points.  Then things took an abnormal turn.  We were reviewing the temptations that Jesus faced in the wilderness at the hands of his enemy (Matthew 4:1-11; Mark 1:12-13; Luke 4:1-13).  One of our participants commented on the belligerent deception of Lucifer.  Since I rarely pass up the opportunity to correct common misconceptions, I quickly pointed out that the Gospel accounts of the wilderness temptation identify that enemy with several names/descriptions: devil, tempter and Satan.  However, the word ‘Lucifer’ is not mentioned in these passages, nor in the rest of the Gospel. I went so far as to say that the literary character of ‘Lucifer’ is not a name that appears in the Bible.  My pronouncement elicited a few gasps, some incredulous expressions, plus a handful of smiles from those who saw where I was headed.  

Some in the room may have thought I had just denied the existence of the devil, which meant I was ready to deny the existence of hell, which subsequently questions the potentiality of heaven.  Oh my!  Several people starting thumbing through the abridged concordance in the back of their study Bibles.  Finally, someone shouted out, “I found it in Isaiah 14:12!”  Of course, I asked for them to read publicly: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations!”  I love the reading of God’s Word in the corporate gathering.  I do not love telling someone that the version they choose has chosen the wrong term for translation.  But, I must. 

Back in England, during the first decade of 1600, the religious leaders loyal to James King of Great Britain (James 6th of Scotland was also James 1st of England) were assembled as a team to translate a fresh version that the King could endorse officially.  James was perturbed by the previous English translations: Tyndale, Coverdale and Geneva.  He especially opposed the version that came to be known as ‘The Geneva Bible’, which had been published by English Protestants who fled the religious persecution during the reign of Queen Mary 1st.  The Geneva Bible was overwhelmingly popular among the Puritans, Baptists, Presbyterians and other English dissenters from the established Church of England (Anglican).  King James felt the previous English versions were anti-monarchy, anti-aristocracy and anti-established church.  He wanted the new version to be pro-monarchy, pro-aristocracy and pro-established church (religious structure established through royal decree and protection).

The team assembled was loyal to the established Church of England and to the Defender of the Faith King James.  They were well studied, but not necessarily the best Hebrew scholars of the day.  They were mostly steeped in Latin, with Hebrew and Greek to a lesser degree.  History has now shown that when they compared ancient manuscripts of Scripture, this team preferred to trust and translate the Latin, rather than elevate the Hebrew as a primary and weightier choice.  This tendency becomes especially evident in Isaiah 14:12, where the Hebrew passage reads:

heylel ben shachar = shining one son of the dawn

 

Jerome’s 5th century translation into Latin renders the phrase as:

lucifer qui mane oriebaris = light bearer son of the dawn

 

The translators commissioned by King James did not translate the inspired Hebrew text of Isaiah 14:12.  Instead, they preferred the Latin Bible, but they did not even completely translate the Latin into English.  They actually transliterated the Latin term without translation.  The term ‘lucifer’ does not occur in the inspired Hebrew text of Scripture, not as a noun, adjective nor as a proper name.  Neither the Hebrew Old Testament nor the Greek New Testament ever identifies the enemy of God as a character named Lucifer!  Why would those Church of English translators turn a Latin word that means ‘light bearer’ into a proper name that is now associated with Satan?  The answer to that question has puzzled Bible scholars for some time, with several plausible solutions.  The most reasonable solution seems to flow out of Italian literature.

 

In 1320, the Italian poet Dante Alighieri, completed his epic narrative poem Comedia (later known as Divine Comedy) in three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio & Paradiso.  Dante made use of allegory set to poetry, to illustrate both the spiritual journey we humans face as well as allegory to illustrate the political intrigues between Florence and Rome of Dante’s lifetime.  In the journey through Inferno, the reader encounters corrupt religious leaders (popes, bishops and priests) as well as secular leaders (magistrates and mayors).  Dante’s allegorical Hell is arranged in nine circles, therefore the poetic vision comes from Dante’s literary imagination, not from the Biblical data. 

While fire is present in several of the circles, the center circle is frozen in ice.  An enormous demon is embedded in the ice up to his chest.  As this beast flaps his wings, the frigid air keeps the ice frozen, which in turn maintains a grip on the demon and the worst of the worst sinners.  Dante identifies this demon both as Satan and Lucifer (using the names interchangeably).  Dante’s version of Lucifer includes his back-story as a former angel of light who attempted to usurp God’s position, which resulted in his banishment from heaven.  While frozen in the ice, exacerbated by his own wing flapping, his three mouths continually chew on the bodies of Cassius, Brutus and Judas!  While Dante borrows freely from Biblical data, he also introduces factors in his poetry that derive from his own creative imagination.  While the use of the Latin term “lucifer” predates the publication of The Divine Comedy, Dante’s use of the noun as a synonymous proper name for Satan brought the expression into wide spread acceptance.

Over the next three centuries The Divine Comedy exerted significant influence over the Roman Catholic Church and European culture, as the poems were set to music and acted out in the theatre.  In an era devoid of television, internet, movies, radio or any printed media (pre-print press), the common man deduced much of his worldview from songs sung in the market and local pub, as well as the plays performed in the local theatre.  This narrative poem of over 14,000 lines in 100 cantos became a rich resource for composers and playwrights.  Countless plays, tragedies and operas borrowed from the allegorical portrayal of theology and politics envisioned by Dante.  Numerous plays and songs included a demonic character with the names of Lucifer and Satan used synonymously.

Three hundred years after Dante published his poem, in which Lucifer plays a primary role, almost one thousand miles away the team commissioned by King James tackled the text of Isaiah.  The king prepared a set of rules for the 54 scholars to carefully observe, which includes rule #1 “The ordinary Bible, read in the church, commonly called the Bishop’s Bible, to be followed, and as little altered as the original will permit.”  The king was therefore instructing his team to keep the 1568 version previously authorized by the Church of England close by as they studied the older Hebrew and Greek manuscripts.

Instead of translating the ancient Hebrew manuscripts, they relied heavily on the much later Latin version.  They came across the Latin term that means “light bearer” which is spelled “lucifer”.  They also closely followed the previous English translations, which preferred drawing from the Latin over the Hebrew:

Wycliffe version

1395

A! Lucifer, that risedest early, how fellest thou down from heaven; thou that woundedest folks, felledest down (al)together into [the] earth.

Geneva Bible

1560

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning? and cut down to the ground, which didst cast lots upon the nations?

Bishops Bible [Anglican]

1568

Howe art thou fallen from heauen O Lucifer, thou faire mornyng chylde? Howe hast thou gotten a fall euen to the grounde, which didst weaken the nations

Douay–Rheims [Roman Catholic]

1610

How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, who didst rise in the morning? how art thou fallen to the earth, that didst wound the nations?

King James Version 1611

How art thou fallen from heauen, O Lucifer, sonne of the morning? how art thou cut downe to the ground, which didst weaken the nations?

One might assume that if so many translations made the same choice, then they must be on the same right track.  Regrettably, many of those translation teams followed the principle of trusting the previous translation more than they trusted the ancient Hebrew, so the task was to spend less time on the ancient language and more time on making the English more current and relevant.  It is interesting to note the challenge that Martin Luther faced in the 1500s: he became passionate about translating the Bible into the language of the German people.  As a Roman Catholic priest, he had been well trained in the Latin of the church.  However, Luther was determined to produce a German translation that was faithful to the most ancient manuscripts that were available in his day, without being overly dependent upon the previous German versions or upon the Latin Vulgate.  This is what Luther did with Isaiah 14:12 in 1545 -

14:12 Wie bist du vom Himmel gefallen, du schöner Morgenstern! Wie bist du zur Erde gefällt, der du die Heiden schwächtest!

The phrase “du schöner Morgenstern” would in English be expressed as “the beautiful morning star”, which is evidence that Luther actually translated the Hebrew text, rather than transliterating the Latin.

 

Since words only have meaning in context, let’s look more closely at the literary and historical context of Isaiah chapter fourteen.  Isaiah was the LORD’s prophet who wrote during the chaotic period of Assyrian expansion through the region in the 700s BC.  During Isaiah’s ministry, the Assyrians conquered and occupied Aram, Canaan and the northern Kingdom of Israel.  The tyranny of Assyria would be defeated by and then virtually copied by the Babylonian Empire, when Babylon would conquer Judah and destroy the Solomonic Temple about a century after Isaiah’s death.  The prophet was inspired by God to speak a word of warning and judgment against Babylon:

Is. 14:4 That thou shalt take up this proverb against the king of Babylon, and say, How hath the oppressor ceased! the golden city ceased! [KJV]

Is. 14:4 you will take up this taunt against the king of Babylon:  How the oppressor has come to an end!  How his fury has ended! [NIV]

The Hebrew term ‘mashal’ is rendered as proverb in KJV, and as taunt in NIV.  This would be a type of prophetic utterance against a nation or leader of a nation that conveys Yahweh’s view toward unjust behavior and the divine consequence one can expect if the behavior continues (Balaam’s oracle in Numbers 23:7, also Ezek 12:23; 16:44; 17:2; Micah 2:4; Hab.2:6).  Many Bible commentators, teachers and pastors have asserted that Isaiah’s taunting prophetic proverb is directed at Satan, the true king of the Empire of Babylon, as the evil spiritual force behind the wicked earthly ruler.  But does the context support that conclusion? 

Is. 14:16  Those who see you stare at you, they ponder your fate:  “Is this the man who shook the earth and made kingdoms tremble, 17the man who made the world a desert, who overthrew its cities and would not let his captives go home?” [NIV]

The Hebrew term for man in this passage is ‘ish’, the same word used in the creation account of Genesis 2:23-24.  This term is never used to describe or define Satan, devil or demons. The spectators in Isaiah’s taunt are not saying the king is acting like a man, or pretending to be a man, or taking on the appearance of a man.  They call him “the man who made the world a desert.”  This character is a human being.  It was common for ancient human leaders to make grand claims, for megalomaniacs to pronounce their delusions of grandeur. The kings of Assyria did it.  The pharaohs of Egypt did it.  Sometimes the ruler himself did not make the claim, but his followers did, but the ruler did not correct them (as was the case with Octavius, when his supporters proclaimed him “The Most August Caesar” as the next step toward his deification and launched the Roman Imperial cult).  Just because a claim of deity is recorded does not establish the fact of that claimant being divine.  The Babylonians kings made such claims, but that does not make it true.

 

This reality is probably nowhere more clear than in Ezekiel 28.  This prophecy comes in two parts: part one is directed at the human ruler of ancient Tyre, while part two is a lament directed against the wicked individual who operates in the spiritual realm as king of Tyre.  Read the passages side-by-side to see how the first is clearly human while the second is clearly not human.

 

Ezekiel 28:1    The word of the LORD came to me:  2“Son of man, say to the ruler of Tyre, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: “ ‘In the pride of your heart you say, “I am a god; I sit on the throne of a god in the heart of the seas.” But you are a man and not a god, though you think you are as wise as a god. 3   Are you wiser than Daniel ? Is no secret hidden from you? 4   By your wisdom and understanding you have gained wealth for yourself and amassed gold and silver in your treasuries. 5   By your great skill in trading you have increased your wealth, and because of your wealth your heart has grown proud. 6   “ ‘Therefore this is what the Sovereign LORD says:  “ ‘Because you think you are wise, as wise as a god, 7   I am going to bring foreigners against you, the most ruthless of nations; they will draw their swords against your beauty and wisdom and pierce your shining splendor. :8   They will bring you down to the pit, and you will die a violent death in the heart of the seas. 9   Will you then say, “I am a god,” in the presence of those who kill you? You will be but a man, not a god, in the hands of those who slay you. 10   You will die the death of the uncircumcised at the hands of foreigners. I have spoken, declares the Sovereign LORD.’ ”

 

Ezekiel 28:11   The word of the LORD came to me:  12“Son of man, take up a lament concerning the king of Tyre and say to him: ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says:  “ ‘You were the model of perfection, full of wisdom and perfect in beauty. 13   You were in Eden, the garden of God; every precious stone adorned you: ruby, topaz and emerald, chrysolite, onyx and jasper, sapphire, turquoise and beryl. Your settings and mountings were made of gold; on the day you were created they were prepared. 14   You were anointed as a guardian cherub, for so I ordained you. You were on the holy mount of God; you walked among the fiery stones. 15   You were blameless in your ways from the day you were created till wickedness was found in you. 16   Through your widespread trade you were filled with violence, and you sinned. So I drove you in disgrace from the mount of God, and I expelled you, O guardian cherub, from among the fiery stones. 17   Your heart became proud on account of your beauty, and you corrupted your wisdom because of your splendor. So I threw you to the earth; I made a spectacle of you before kings.

[NIV]

Note: Ezek 28:1-10 is a lament against the ruler [nagid = prominent leader, high captain, ruler] of Tyre.

This guy is proud, but is a man, not a god, even if he thinks he is.  He will die a violent death and his claims of deity will be futile in the face of his killers.

Note: Ezek 28:11-17 is a lament [hÎnyIq keynah] against the king [melek = sovereign, majestic chieftain].

This guy was at one time in the Garden of Eden, was a perfect model of wisdom and beauty, was anointed as a guardian cherub (a classification of protector angel, see Ezekiel 10), ordained such by Yahweh Himself, had been on the Holy Mount, walked among fiery stones.  This is the guy who gave up his blameless status, choosing wickedness, violence and sin.  Consequently God expelled this cherub/angel from the garden and threw him to the earthly region.

 

This chapter from Ezekiel serves as a great model for allowing the text of Scripture to speak for itself.  If God wants to identify a character in the narrative as an angel or demon, then that truth will be obvious in the literary context.  It will not be hidden in a secret cyber awaiting decryption in a subsequent language.  The taunt against the king of Babylon more closely fits the pattern we see in the first part of the lament in Ezekiel 28; a human being with delusions of divine grandeur.  No translation of the Bible that prefers the original languages (Hebrew & Greek) as primary source has used the Latin term ‘lucifer’ in their translation.  This is not just true in English, but also Swahili, German, Spanish, Chinese, Russian, etc. 

The Latin Vulgate by Jerome was not the inspired original text, but a translation into a receptor language.  Martin Luther knew that and consequently, his German translation nowhere mentions Lucifer.   The translation team who answered to King James followed the rules dictated by their king: follow the previous Church of England authorized version as closely as possible, which had preferred the Latin text over the Hebrew.  The Bishops Bible of 1568 continued to perpetuate the perspective that Lucifer was another name for Satan, which shows more dependence on Dante’s Inferno than upon Biblical revelation.

 

Have we been deceived?  During 1943, the German military was busy preparing for the inevitable invasion of the European mainland by the Allied forces.  The Nazi intelligence high command were convinced that when that invasion came, the most likely general to lead the American forces would be General George Patton.  The Nazis did not know that Patton still had rank, but had been stripped of his command duties after he became a public relations liability.  British intelligence discovered the Nazi fear and respect of Patton, so Eisenhower approved a plan to keep the German spies busy with misinformation.  The elaborate deception came to be known as ‘Patton’s Ghost Army’, officially First US Army Group: inflatable tanks, fake transport boats, phony camps and troop movements that would photograph well from spy planes at 30,000 feet in the air.  The British radio and press followed General Patton all over eastern England, reporting troop inspections and photographing Patton as he rallied the troops.  Every night, the fake props would be moved around to give the illusion of massive buildups and transfers.  This deception kept the Germans so busy, that they really did not detect the actual buildup of transport ships, nor could they determine the exact location where the invasion would take place. The deception worked quite well, with German spies chasing Patton while General Omar Bradley quietly organized the American invasion forces. 

For more historic details about ‘Patton’s Ghost Army’ see http://www.americainwwii.com/articles/pattons-ghost-army/ 

 

Yahweh has an enemy called Satan, who has positioned himself as the infernal adversary of the Most High God.  I suggest that the “Lucifer” character has been an elaborate deception to keep us busy chasing down the wrong commander, putting more confidence in codes leaked from an old Italian poem rather than from reliable inspired reports on the identity and potential of the adversary of our God.  When the devil tried to tempt Jesus to accept the gift of all the kingdoms of the world, all the tempter asked for was for Jesus to bow down and worship him.  The response that Jesus gave was, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’ ”  Jesus did not address him as ‘Lucifer’, a name and character that does not appear in the Hebrew or Greek manuscripts of the inspired Word.  That’s what I mean when I say that Lucifer is not in the Bible, is not an alternative name for Satan, and is probably an elaborate deception.  Know your enemy and do not be deceived.

 

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What is 'Spirit'?

Have you tried explaining the Holy Spirit to a young child?  Quite a challenge!  We are of this planet, with feet squarely planted on dirt.  The Holy Spirit is not!  We are of flesh, mortal, physical, with aches and pains.  He is not!  A child processes reality through a fairly concrete perspective.  The God of the Bible is not so concrete.

Jesus encountered a woman of the region of Samaria at a well one day.  She belonged to that group of mixed-breed anomalies left over from the Assyrian deportations.  The Samaritans were regarded by first century Hebrews as an aberrant cult to be avoided.  The Samaritans revered Mt. Gerizim as the location of the holy habitation of the deity.  Their understanding of God was limited since they had a truncated version of the Pentateuch and had syncretized those beliefs with some false teachings from the religions that had been transported to the area.  The result was that they believed in a very concrete deity who was limited by physical domain and in some way was controlled by the sacrifices offered by the worshippers.  Jesus exposed the error of this world-view by declaring, "God is spirit, and his worshipers must worship in spirit and in truth (John 4:24)."  This worship would not be restricted by any physical site, since that is simply a false concept of the very nature of God.  Worship must be in keeping with the spiritual nature of God (rather than physical constraint), and in keeping with his revealed truth (rather than human myth). 

The Bible does not define 'spirit' for us, but it does offer descriptions.  The Spirit of God is immortal, invisible and eternal, worthy of our giving honor and glory forever (1 Tim. 1:17).  This Spirit lives in light that humans are unable to approach, "whom no one has seen or can see (1 Tim. 6:15-16)."  The spiritual nature of God is difficult for us to understand since we have not yet seen him as he is, and apart from faith we are unable to understand that which we have not experienced.  Our sensory perception does not offer any assistance in discerning the spiritual nature of God.  God is not shackled by the bonds of physical matter. 

I am now the ‘papa’ of six grandchildren.  I do not even try to explain the spiritual nature of God to them.  I am much better at telling them stories of the fantastic and marvelous things that the LORD has done.  When we worship the God of the Bible, we worship one who is quite different from us, yet he desires to impart a portion of his spirit within us now as a foretaste of that day when we shall see him as he is and be able to approach the light when we cast off mortality and take on glorified immortality.  

The Marks Left By The Holy Spirit

 Zion Gate, Jerusalem » bears the marks of bullets from numerous battles

Zion Gate, Jerusalem » bears the marks of bullets from numerous battles

 

The Marks of the Spirit-filled Life*

By Russell E. Joyner

*The following was originally presented in a chapel lecture series presented by faculty at Valley Forge Christian College. This can be accessed online at http://enrichmentjournal.ag.org/top/Holy_Spirit/200707.cfm

Those of us who have been nurtured within the historic tradition of Pentecostal churches have received the heritage that the Spirit-filled life should be the normal Christian life. However, not every segment of the church has understood this matter of “being Spirit-filled” in the same manner. But this is changing. In the South American country of Bolivia a protestant missionary, C. Peter Wagner, served faithfully for 16 years. Young Wagner had been trained in the finest evangelical Bible-believing tradition and theology. He had been taught to believe in the power of the Holy Spirit to enable him to live a holy life. He served diligently on the mission field, but did not believe in the miraculous, and accused Pentecostal missionaries of fraud. But, after a personal miraculous healing, all of this changed.1

Then Dr. Wagner was invited to become a professor at Fuller Theological Seminary in California. While teaching there, international students began changing his worldview. Those students from foreign lands had consistent testimonies of the miraculous signs and wonders that accompany the proclamation of the Word in their homelands.

Professor Wagner came to the realization that Western culture has a limited worldview, perceiving reality on two separate levels: (1) the natural world operating according to provable scientific laws, and (2) God confining Himself to the supernatural; that is, the internal and spiritual. This perspective is the foundation of humanistic secular philosophies. This two-tiered concept is not how much of the world sees reality, and this is certainly not how the Bible views God’s world. God has given us His Holy Spirit for the purpose of breaking down the false barrier between the natural and the supernatural.

Take note of Stephen—a deacon, called and anointed to serve at the table for needy widows, full of Gods’ grace and power, doing great wonders and miraculous signs among the people (Acts 6:8). At what point did Stephen change gears from “natural” to “supernatural?” I don’t think there was a barrier in Stephen’s life between natural and

supernatural. When the church sought out deacons to distribute daily food to widows, they looked for men full of the Holy Spirit and wisdom. “Brothers, choose seven men from among you who are known to be full of the Spirit and wisdom” (Acts 6:3)2. Deacon Stephen was full of faith and full of the Holy Spirit (Acts 6:5). When the Sanhedrin prepared to stone Stephen, he was again filled with the Holy Spirit, enabled to have a vision of Jesus and forgive his executioners. “But Stephen, full of the Holy Spirit, looked up to heaven and saw the glory of God, and Jesus standing at the right hand of God” (Acts 7:55).

In order to make a lasting, powerful contribution for the cause of the gospel, our hearts and lives must be shaped by the purposes of God, rather than by human goals. We want to experience the power that we know is a part of the move of the Holy Spirit of God upon our lives. Consider some of the other biblical persons who accomplished the goals that God intended.

Before our Lord Jesus began his public ministry he had a desert encounter with the adversary. “Jesus, full of the Holy Spirit, returned from the Jordan and was led by the Spirit in the desert ... [in order to be] tempted by the devil” (Luke 4:l).

Several years later, Peter had a unique encounter with the Jewish rulers and elders when he was jailed. “They [Annas and Caiaphas] had Peter and John brought before them and began to question them: ‘By what power or what name did you do this?’ Then Peter, filled with the Holy Spirit, said to them: ‘Rulers and elders of the people!’ ” (Acts 4:7,8). Peter went on to preach a sermon of salvation to them.

Before the great apostle Paul began his own ministry, he received ministry from Ananias in Damascus. “Then Ananias went to the house and entered it. Placing his hands on Saul, he said, ‘Brother Saul, the Lord—Jesus, who appeared to you on the road as you were coming here—has sent me so that you may see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 9:17). Paul regained his sight and his strength and began preaching powerfully in synagogues throughout Damascus. Years later, Paul was on the island of Cyprus and confronted by Elymas the sorcerer who opposed the Word of God. “Then Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked straight at Elymas and said, ... the hand of the Lord is against you” (Acts 13:9–11).

Paul’s traveling companion for many years was Barnabas. “He was a good man, full of the Holy Spirit and faith, and a great number of people were brought to the Lord” (Acts 11:24).

In order for us to experience that same power we must also be filled with God’s Holy Spirit. But what are some of the purposes and marks of being full of the Spirit? Occasionally, some will focus on the outpouring of the Holy Spirit for the sake of emphasizing the blessing and emotional experience they derive from that outpouring. While this may in fact be a very legitimate result, we must investigate what the Bible states explicitly and implicitly as the purpose of filling people with the Holy Spirit.

Point To Jesus

Jesus left His followers with the commission to make disciples of all peoples (going into all the world, baptizing them, and teaching them; Matthew 28:18–20). That first Pentecost after Jesus’ resurrection was the occasion for the beginning of the equipping process that God started in His Church. Several weeks after having been filled with the Holy Spirit, Peter and John served some time in jail because of their persistent, powerful witness. After being released, they returned to the fellowship of believers where they experienced a powerful prayer meeting. “After they prayed, the place where they were meeting was shaken. And they were all filled with the Holy Spirit and spoke the word of God boldly” (Acts 4:31).

What was explicitly stated as the intended result of receiving the Holy Spirit’s power (Acts 1:8) is implicitly taught in the narrative described above (3:11–4:31). We conclude that one of the primary purposes of the infilling of the Holy Spirit is to point to Jesus. We are empowered, energized, enabled to make bold, clear, faithful proclamation of the person and mission of our Lord Jesus Christ. The apostle John writes, “But when he, the Spirit of truth, comes, he will guide you into all truth. He will not speak on his own; he will speak only what he hears, and he will tell you what is yet to come. He will bring glory to me by taking from what is mine and making it known to you” (John 16:13). The Spirit will glorify Jesus. The Holy Spirit did not come to draw attention to the Holy Spirit, nor to draw attention to us, but to draw attention to Jesus. The Holy Spirit makes us “Jesus” conscious, not “Holy Spirit” conscious!

Power To Live For God

Another major purpose for being filled with the Holy Spirit is power to live for God. This is taught by historic mainline churches in varying degrees. We must affirm with other Bible-believing Christians that this perspective on the purpose of the Spirit is true. I would like to distinguish three areas where that power is manifest: (1) power to live a holy personal life; (2) power for service to God and to His work; and

(3) power to face an immediate task, difficulty, or crisis.

POWER TO LIVE A HOLY PERSONAL LIFE

Jesus said, “ ... let your light shine before men, that they may see your good deeds and praise your Father in heaven” (Matthew 5:16). The apostle Paul wrote, “So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God” (1 Corinthians 10:31). We are urged to live a life worthy of the calling we have received (Ephesians 4:1). Yet, in our own strength, we are unable to live the life, shine the light, and give all glory to Him in our own strength. If we try to do it on our own, we fail. Again, the apostle Paul posed this problem in his epistle to the Romans:

“I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do. And if I do what I do not want to do, I agree that the law is good. As it is, it is no longer I myself who do it, but it is sin living in me. I know that nothing good lives in me, that is, in my sinful nature. For I have the desire to do what is good, but I cannot carry it out. For what I do is not the good I want to do; no, the evil I do not want to do—this I keep on doing” (Romans 7).

But Paul also poses the solution: By God’s power, given through his Spirit, are we able to live the life of holiness to which we are called:

“You, however, are controlled not by the sinful nature but by the Spirit, if the Spirit of God lives in you. And if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Christ. But if Christ is in you, your body is dead because of sin, yet your spirit is alive because of righteousness. And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you. Therefore, brothers, we have an obligation—but it is not to the sinful nature, to live according to it. For if you live according to the sinful nature, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the misdeeds of the body, you will live, because those who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God” (Romans 8).

Power for service to God and to His work

The next area of necessary power is the realm of service. Peter’s preaching on the day of Pentecost (Acts 2:14–40) was an act of serving the Lord and building up the Church (2:41) for which the prior filling with the Holy Spirit was necessary. In addition, the Early Church deacons were filled with the Spirit in order to fulfill God’s call for them to serve at the food distribution tables. The word deacon literally

means servant. It is the same Spirit that fills us to serve the physical needs and spiritual needs of individuals. What is distinctive is the purpose: to live for God.

POWER TO FACE AN IMMEDIATE TASK

The third area of living for God is what may be called power to face an immediate task (which may include a difficulty or crisis). Deacon Stephen was again filled with the Holy Spirit just prior to being stoned by the people because of his proclamation. Stephen was empowered to see a vision of Jesus and to forgive his killers. When Peter confronted the difficult situation of his trial before the Sanhedrin he had yet another empowering, equipping him for this immediate need (Acts 4:8). When Paul had to face the power of Satan, present in the sorcerer named Elymas, Paul received his filling and entered into the crisis with the presence of the Lord (Acts 13:9). Paul walked in power into the task at hand, while Elymas walked away blind.

Each of these crisis situations was accompanied by a miracle. It is usually in this type of circumstance (immediate task, difficulty, or crisis) that signs and wonders occur. God is in the business of “crisis intervention.” The gifts are not for our greed, but for our need. God wants His Church to be “built up”—not in the sense of being flattered, of course, but in the sense of being edified.

Look at what Paul says in Ephesians. “Be very careful, then, how you live—not as unwise but as wise, making the most of every opportunity, because the days are evil” (Ephesians 5:15,16). In such evil days we need God to fill us with the Holy Spirit’s power in order to (a) live a holy life against the evil lifestyle and culture around us; (b) to serve in both practical and spiritual service; and (c) to attend to the crises at hand.

God wants us to be more than conquerors through Him who loved us (Romans 8:37). “Therefore do not be foolish, but understand what the Lord’s will is” (Ephesians 5:17). We need to understand God’s will and act on that understanding: “Do not get drunk on wine, which leads to debauchery. Instead, be filled with the Spirit” (5:18).

Paul draws a strong contrast. Some interpret this passage to mean that charismatics/Pentecostals are like spiritual drunkards. Paul is not saying that being filled is like getting drunk. He is not comparing, but is contrasting these two actions. Drunkenness leads to a loss of self- control. Debauchery here is excessive sensuality, a condition in which people cannot control or save themselves. It is a condition of going from bad to worse. The contrasting condition is fullness of the

Spirit, which involves no loss of self-control. In fact, part of the fruit of the Spirit is self-control (Galatians 5:23). Excessive alcohol leads to unrestrained behavior. Fullness of Spirit leads to restrained behavior. Excessive alcohol leads to irrational behavior. Fullness of Spirit leads to rational moral behavior.

The result of being under the influence of alcohol is that it makes us like beasts, while the Spirit makes us like Christ. Therefore, be filled! The Greek verb here is plerousthe. This is a present tense, passive voice, imperative mood, second person plural verb. It means to fill up, complete, or bring to fulfillment. In this context it is used as a metaphor of pouring. However, beyond the metaphor lies the purpose.

The present tense emphasizes right now and continuously—implying again and again. Note: We are saved once. What we call the baptism of the Holy Spirit is the initial experience of being filled with the Spirit.3 But we can be filled with the Holy Spirit again and again. Some speak of the Baptism as the gateway, and now the subsequent infillings as the path to walk on once you get through the gate. Peter was filled with the Holy Spirit on the Day of Pentecost (Acts 2:4) and again before speaking to the Sanhedrin (4:8). And “all, ” including Peter, were “filled with the Holy Spirit” after praying (4:31). Ananias laid hands on Paul so he could see again and be filled with the Holy Spirit (Acts 9:17). But Paul, “filled with the Holy Spirit,” spoke to Elymas, “You are a child of the devil ... ” (Acts 13:9,10). The disciples (including Paul) shook dust from their feet and “were filled with joy and with the Holy Spirit” (Acts 13:52). Stephen was filled before serving at tables, then again before his vision and death.

The significance of the passive voice is that God is the originator of the filling action. We are acted on by Him, and are therefore expected to be willing and yielded recipients.

The imperative mood implies a command by God. In our spoken language we convey the imperative demand by the vigor and volume of our voice. When we put a command in written English form, we generally utilize an exclamation point. In New Testament Greek, however, a command is clearly written with the inflections of a verbal mood that is quite distinguishable from a statement of fact or possible suggestion. It is not a suggestion to be debated. Since it is a passive voice imperative, it should be translated “allow to be filled.” To fulfill this command, we must remove any barriers to right relationship with God.

The second person plural means “all of you.” Therefore, a preferred

translation of the passage is, “All of you, keep on allowing yourselves to be filled with the Spirit!”

In Ephesians 5:15–21, Paul links this fullness to four results: (1) speaking, (2) singing, (3) giving thanks, and (4) submitting. The first emphasis is on speaking. We are to address one another—to give testimony. During the First Century, when people who were not accustomed to public speaking were called on to share, they would often recite a song or psalm (a composition already familiar and known to the community).4 Therefore, testimonies could express the full range of emotions through set prayers, songs, and recitations. Cries of anguish, rejoicing, and prayer could be unburdened in fellowship. This Spirit-filled speaking is not just “chit-chat,” but Spirit directed fellowship. This fellowship is conducted by way of three verbal types of expressions: psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs.

Psalms could include praise, encouragement, comfort, thanksgiving, or history of the patriarchs and prophets.5 The use of the Psalms by ancient Israel and the Early Church has revealed at least three important broad categories of use for us today. They serve as a guide to worship. They help us to relate honestly to God. They offer patterns for reflection and meditation upon the things that God has done for us.6

Hymns are exposition or exegesis set to melody. Hymns could serve to instruct, confess, teach, or exhort. Several passages in the New Testament may be regarded as hymns. For example, Ephesians 2:19– 22 and 5:14, and Titus 3:4–7. Note especially the hymns that instruct us about the person of Christ, such as John 1:1–18; Philippians 2:6– 11; Colossians 1:15–20; 1 Timothy 3:16; and Hebrews 1:1.7 Spiritual songs include all of the above. Colossians 3:16 confirms we are to utilize these same three (psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs) as means of teaching and admonishing one another.

The second result of fullness of the Spirit is singing and melody making in your heart to the Lord (Ephesians 5:19). This is not inward, private worship. Some will see this as a proof-text that God only accepts quiet meditative worship. This verse is not saying that the heart is the place of worship. Its emphasis is on the manner of worship; that is, “heartfelt” (by means of the heart), and upward bound (toward the throne of grace). There is a time for quiet prostration and also a time for exuberant declaration. The Spirit will lead us into both, according to His plan and timetable.

The third result of the Spirit’s fullness is “always giving thanks to God

the Father for everything ... ” (Ephesians 5:20). This is not selective thanks. Avoid Israel’s sin of moaning and groaning. “In the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” carries the impact of submission to the will, authority, power, and nature of Jesus. It is a thanksgiving resulting from Spirit directed submission to the Lord’s will.

The fourth result is “submit [ting] to one another out of reverence for Christ” (5:21). This means to place one’s self under (or after) another in reverence because of a desire to conform to the sovereign wish. This passage is sometimes treated as a separate unit of teaching. However, submission is one of the marks of fullness. The following directives to wives, husbands, children, slaves, and masters are all examples of the reverent submission that is commanded. This is a dependent clause that illustrates the previous thought, “submit yourselves to one another,” which in turn is a participle phrase that is subordinate to the main imperative: “Keep on allowing yourselves to be filled with the Spirit.” Paul’s focal point is not on wives submitting to husbands. In other words, submission on the part of the wife is but one expression of mutual submission, which is but one result of being filled with the Holy Spirit.

Through these remarkable effects the Holy Spirit puts us in right relationship with God through worship and thanksgiving (“singing” and “giving thanks”); and in right relationship with each other through fellowship and mutual submission (“speaking” and “submitting”).

How Do We Allow Ourselves To “Be Filled?”

There are no special gimmicks. Allowing ourselves to be filled with the Spirit involves understanding God’s desires, submitting to His Lordship, and walking by faith.

It is necessary to understand that this is God’s will (Ephesians 5:17). It is a command from God (5:18). Deal honestly and completely with sin in your own life. Don’t grieve the Holy Spirit, but allow Scripture to convict (Ephesians 4:30, 2 Timothy 3:16).

Second, realize who is in charge. Give Lordship of your life to Him. Live no longer for yourself (Luke 9:23; 2 Corinthians 5:15). Yield to God and His will through confession and repentance (1 John 1:9). Submit to God as a living sacrifice (Romans 6:13; 12:1,2). Surrender, and be eager to do what is good (Titus 2:14).

Third, walk by faith. Act on the facts, not on feelings. Just obey God’s Word. Live by the Spirit and keep in step (Galatians 5:25). Accept the promises by faith. Don’t be like the child constantly digging up the

planted seed to see if it has sprouted. Let it grow and get on with your walk with God. Corinth is a solemn warning to us. They were baptized by the Holy Spirit (1 Corinthians 12:13). They were enriched with charismatic gifts (1 Corinthians 1:4–7). Yet Paul rebuked them as unspiritual people, as not Spirit-filled. The continuing evidence is not gifts (they had plenty), but it is the ripening of fruit (they had little).

The charismatic gifts of God’s grace are not pieces of jewelry to be worn around the neck, nor perfume to adorn the body with an air of spirituality. Instead, they are tools to be utilized in the building up of the Church. I have worked from time to time as a carpenter. I have my belt with the tools I have carefully chosen through the years to accomplish different tasks. Often I need to go out to the construction site to find out which tool will be required to accomplish the task. A person may not discover his spiritual gift until he is in the middle of the construction labor and he cries out to God to hand him a spiritual hammer or sandpaper or tube of glue. By the same token, since the infilling of the Spirit also is purposeful, let us allow God to lead us in those purposes first in order to experience the power.

Traveling to Central America to teach Mayan Indians, I entered into a spiritual warfare that I was not accustomed to. I understood, submitted, then walked. Signs and wonders accompanied the proclamation of the Word as the Spirit flowed in power. The fullness of the Spirit will give power to withstand temptation (like Jesus), power to proclaim Jesus boldly (like Peter), power to be a servant (like a good deacon), power to forgive enemies (like Stephen), power to confront forces of darkness (like Paul), and power to encourage and teach (like Barnabas). “All of you, keep on allowing yourselves to be filled with the Spirit.” The Spirit-filled life is marked by right relationship with God in worship and thanksgiving, and in right relationship with others by Spirit-directed fellowship and service.

Russell E. Joyner, formerly an assistant professor at Valley Forge Christian College, Phoenixville, Pennsylvania, is now serving as associate pastor at West End Assembly of God, Richmond, Virginia.

Endnotes

1. See Wagner’s personal account “How I Learned About the Power,” 15-24, in The Bird Wave of the Holy Spirit: Encountering the Power of Signs and Wonders Today (Ann Arbor, Mich.: Vine Books, 1988); and Look Out! The Pentecostals are Coming (Carol Stream, Ill.: Creation House, 1973; reissued in a slightly different form as Spiritual Power and Church Growth (Altamonte Springs, Fla.:

Strang Communications, 1986).

2. All Scripture references are from the NIV.

3. See Roger Stronstad, “Filled with the Holy Spirit: Terminology in Luke-Acts” in The Holy Spirit in the Scriptures and the Church, edited by Roger Stronstad and Lawrence M. Van Kleek (Clayburn, British Columbia: Western Pentecostal Bible College, 1987), 11–12.

4. See Bernhard Anderson, Out of the Depths: The Psalms Speak for Us Today (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, revised 1983), 16.

5. For a list of psalms according to type and use in the Early Church see Anderson, 239ff.

6. See Douglas Stuart and Gordon Fee, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan), 184.

7. See Ralph P. Martin, “Hymns in the New Testament,” 788-790, in Geoffrey Bromiley, ed., International Standard Bible Encyclopedia, Vol. 2, (Grand Rapids: Eerdmans, revised edition, 1982).

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I Cannot Prove God

I earned some raised eyebrows this morning in our Bible study on Genesis, when I declared that I cannot prove that God created us.  I also cannot prove that I will live forever.  More significantly, I cannot prove that Jesus rose from the dead.   I made those confessions while establishing the boundaries of science and knowledge.  We can sometimes find ourselves surrounded by those knowledgeable folks who think their convictions hold the position of absolute proof.  Far too often scientists have insisted that Darwinian Evolution is a proven fact.  I find proof elusive and idealistic, since I am not sure that much of anything can be proven.  I have grown weary of those who hold a position and try to bully me into agreeing with them.  God did not put me on this earth to bully others into adopting my beliefs.  God did call me to be a witness, so I am more than willing to sit in the witness seat in the court of this world, in order to respond to the questions put to me.  I invite questions, interrogations and cross-examinations; to which I will answer freely and humbly.  I can only admit what I believe to be true: the testimony of my own changed life, my conviction that God’s revealed Word is eternal Truth, which includes the report that over 500 people witnessed the risen Lord Jesus.  I cannot prove anything to anybody, but I certainly can bear witness, then leave it up to the listener to make their own decision

The Bible does not attempt to argue a classical philosophical proof of the existence of God.  Instead, God's self-disclosure opens with divine existence as a primary assumption, "In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth" (Gen. 1:1).   The Bible, therefore, presents the truth that God is, and that He is the starting point.  While there are no philosophical proofs that argue for the existence, there are plenty of passages that offer substantial evidence.  While "the fool says in his heart, 'There is no God',  the heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands (Ps. 14:1; 19:1)."  God determined to make Himself known through His creative and sustaining actions; giving life, breath (Acts 17:24-28), food and joy (Acts 14:17).  God accompanies those actions with words that interpret the meaning and significance, providing an abiding record that explains His presence and purpose.  God also reveals His existence in persons; speaking and acting through prophets, priests, kings and faithful servants throughout the Biblical narrative.  Ultimately, God has revealed himself clearly to us through the Son and the abiding Holy Spirit.

The recorded human descriptions of God are as diverse as the religious notions and experiences of humanity.  For those of us who believe that God has revealed Himself in the text of Scripture, our descriptions of the one true deity are based upon His self-disclosure.  Yet, we live in a world that does not generally share this view of the Bible as a primary source.  Many rely instead upon human ingenuity and perception to arrive at a much different depiction of the divine.  In order for us to follow the steps of the Apostle Paul in leading them out of the darkness into the light, it is incumbent upon us to not bully others into accepting facts that we prove.  I want to live my life such that in the court of this world, someone wants to hear me as a witness to life eternal, revealed truth and risen savior.  If proof means establishing a fact that cannot be questioned or assailed, then I still cannot philosophically prove these things, but I sure will endeavor to provide a compelling testimony.

 

 

Suggested reading: Evidence That Demands A Verdict, Josh McDowell, Thomas Nelson Pub.