Walking Worthy – an exercize in definition

WalkingIt is tempting to go only to the dictionary to define terms.  When you do that you find a number of definitions for most words, and the more used the word, the greater number of definitions.  How do you decide which is the meaning intended?  Context.

So I applied that to Ephesians 4:1-6

I therefore, a prisoner for the Lord, urge you to walk in a manner worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience, bearing with one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace.There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to the one hope that belongs to your call— one Lord, one faith, one baptism, one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.

What is meant by walking in a manner worthy of the calling?  Well you have consider where these words are found.  Ephesians is largely about the people of God (the church) and what we are called to be in the world.  There are themes of election and unity along with attitudes of accepting and serving.

As I looked at this passage, it seemed to me that “a manner worthy” is at least partially defined with verses 2 and 3.  Here are attitudes that we need to have in the church: humility and gentleness, bearing and loving, unity and peace.  The walk worthy of the church is to live in harmonious unity as a community.

What then is the calling?  I think this is where the “ones” come in from verses 4-6.  We are called to one body, which exists by the work of God the Holy Spirit, and called to one hope, faith and baptism in the name of the Lord Jesus.  All this is at the call and direction of God the Father.

I went to a concordance and found within Ephesians this many references to the various “ones” in verses 4-6: Body (8); Spirit (15); Hope (3); Lord (26); Faith (10); Baptism (1); God (33); Father (10).  These words have enough uses in the context of Ephesians to give a clear indication of which definition and what application Paul has in mind.  

In short we are called to the great commandments:

  • Love God and
  • love others (especially as the church in the world)
  • by living in a manner characterized by humility and patience.


“Go” or “Going” in the Great Commission?

The great commission is found in Matthew 28

19 Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, 20 and teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you. And surely I am with you always, to the very end of the age.”

SermonizerMuch has been made that the “go” is in the form of a participle (that is, ending in “ing”)  so it literally could be translated “as you are going, make disciples.”  The idea is that it is less bout being sent and more about making disciples.  sort of like this: So wherever the winds of fortune take you, make disciples.

Others say that the participle works as a command grammatically, so so the force remains to “GO”.  That is to say, “Don’t just hang around here, but  go over there, to where the gentiles are, and make disciples of them.”

In a previous passage to the 12 Apostles in Matthew 10, there is a similar form, “Do not go among the Gentiles or enter any town of the Samaritans. 6 Go rather to the lost sheep of Israel. 7 As you go, proclaim this message: ‘The kingdom of heaven has come near.’

v. 7 has has a similar participial form of the verb, but the context makes it clear that the 12 were being sent on a specific mission.   The active form of the command is in verse 6 – same verb in all locations.

To answer the question of “Go” or “Going” in Matthew 28, we have to look at Matthew 10.

More to come.

Great Verses in Funny Places

lone-flowerSometimes memorable verses are found in the oddest places.

A great affirmation of God’s faithful committed love is found in the book of Lamentations and in a chapter that is a very grim description of the fallen state of Jerusalem after it fell captive to the Babylonian Empire.  Lamentations 3:23 is the source for the great hymn, “Great is Thy Faithfulness.”

16 He has made my teeth grind on gravel,
and made me cower in ashes;
17 my soul is bereft of peace;
I have forgotten what happiness is;
18 so I say, “My endurance has perished;
so has my hope from the Lord.”

19 Remember my affliction and my wanderings,
the wormwood and the gall!
20 My soul continually remembers it
and is bowed down within me.
21 But this I call to mind,
and therefore I have hope:

22 The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases;
    his mercies never come to an end;
23 they are new every morning;
    great is your faithfulness.
24 “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul,
“therefore I will hope in him.”

A great verse on the work of Christ in the Gospel is found in a message on financial giving.  Paul in 2 Corinthians 8 and 9 is urging the church there to give toward those in need in Jerusalem, the mother church.  There he speaks of Christ becoming poor for us.  2 Corinthians 8:9

For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ,

 that though he was rich,

yet for your sake he became poor, 

so that you through his poverty might become rich.

What is a nice verse like you doing in a neighborhood like that?

Lists – Fruit of the Spirit for Example



Here is Galatians 5:22-23

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law.

It is tempting to pull out a concordance or to check all the cross references on the 9 words listed.  However it is better to first look at the passage in context

Several important factors

  • In general Paul is contrasting life in the spirit with life in the flesh (or “sinful human nature”).
  • This list is surrounded by a longer list of “works of the Flesh” which appear to be quite random.
  • Note that the passage talks of “Love” in three important ways.
    • Love is the first fruit,
    • Gal 5:6 “what is important is faith expressing itself in love”
    • Gal 5:13 “…rather serve one another in love.”
  • Both sets of words are interpersonal – that is they are not so much innate qualities, but how we act well or poorly towards others.  (see note on “Love”, as well as v. 15, 26 which speak of interpersonal conflicts.)
  • Slavery is associated with selfishness and freedom with service – contrary to popular opinion.
  • Fruit are the desired and intended result of a plant – hence these are the desired and intended result for those who have found their freedom in Christ.
  • The Fruit are 9, some see groups of 3 – I am not convinced.
    • love, joy, peace – more God ward
    • patience, kindness, goodness – other focus
    • faithfulness, gentleness, self-control – self focus
  • It is hard to teach on a single word, so let the context help focus what supplemental scriptures enlighten this passage.
  • Finally, a coffee shop, a manuscript and colored pencils are what were required to assemble these thoughts..

Weighing the options – Ephesians 1:11

Sometimes we find passages where the translations and the commentators can not agree.  In Ephesians 1:11 we find the aorist passive 1st person plural form of klēroō. 

This verb is used only once in the New Testament, thus it is a hapax legomena – a word used only once in the written record.  This makes the translation difficult.

It means literally “our lot was cast.”  In comparison to its cognates, the word has to do with lots, destiny, being chosen and inheritance.  Two Old Testament usages are cited.  Israel is sometimes  called God’s possession –

Deut. 32:9
    But the Lord’s portion is his people,
        Jacob his allotted heritage.

   Yet it can also refer to the portions of land that were given to the tribes if Israel after the conquest.  This is commanded in

Numbers 26:55-56
    But the land shall be divided by lot. According to the names of the tribes of their fathers they shall inherit. [56] Their inheritance shall be divided according to lot between the larger and the smaller.”

   And the process of this division by lot is described in Joshua 14 – 19.  Each tribe received title to a portion of land that was theirs to enter in and take possession. 

So the commentators and translations split – those opting for the translation that we are God’s portion cite the grammar, while those choosing that we receive an inheritance cite the context – especially verse 14.

One translation (RSV) seems to skip the whole thing!

In seminary the joke was that if you put all the commentaries who chose position A on one side of a scale and those choosing position B on the other, you could pick the “heaviest” choice.

We prefer to go with the context. In reading this section, Ephesians 1:3-14, it seems that words like choosing and electing are tied with benefits to us. 

v.  4 – Chosen – to be holy and blameless

v. 5 – Predestined – for adoption

v. 11 – Predestined – for an inheritance

v. 13,14 – Holy Spirit – guarantee of our inheritance

V. 14 has the noun form of the verb (klēronomia) and is translated as “inheritance” or “salvation”.

In general, we prefer to go with the context over the dictionary alone – as words have a range of meaning (semantic field) that is made specific by how it is used.

So we have received an inheritance according to God’s eternal plan (v. 11) which is sealed or guaranteed by the Holy Spirit to the believer (v. 14).

For the content of this inhertiance…well, the sermon is yet to be preached, drop by Bethany EFC  in Madison, WI and see what one FRESH READ might be.

Otherwise, ponder this:

Psalm 16:6  ESV
    The lines have fallen for me in pleasant places;
        indeed, I have a beautiful inheritance. 

Habakkuk 2:4 – A Case for Context

The interpretation of Habakkuk 2:4 is a case in point of reading a verse in the context of its book.  the Book is in three chapters.  Chapter 1 is a dialogue between the Prophet and God over the sad state of Israel in the 7th Century BCE.  When the Lord tells the Prophet that his instrument of correction is the Babylonian Empire, the Prophet has a fit!  He says that he will stand on the ramparts and wait for an answer.

The answer comes and it is verse 4.

Habakkuk 2:4
    “Behold, his soul is puffed up; it is not upright within him,
        but the righteous shall live by his faith.

The exegetical arguments are often whether this verse proves the theological point of Justification by Faith – since it is tied to Romans 1:16-17.

If one reads this a the turning point of the book, then we see that v. 4a, the part about Babylon (“he is puffed up”) is explained in the remainder of chapter 2 with 5 “woes” or words of prophetic judgment.  yes, God will use Babylon, but he will also hold them accountable for their excesses.

Then if one reads chapter 3, it is the prophet’s prayer/hymn to the Lord – in it he expresses faith –

Habakkuk 3:2
    O Lord, I have heard the report of you,
        and your work, O Lord, do I fear.
    In the midst of the years revive it;
        in the midst of the years make it known;
        in wrath remember mercy.

Habakkuk 3:17-19
    Though the fig tree should not blossom,
        nor fruit be on the vines,
    the produce of the olive fail
        and the fields yield no food,
    the flock be cut off from the fold
        and there be no herd in the stalls,
    [18] yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
        I will take joy in the God of my salvation.
    [19] God, the Lord, is my strength;
        he makes my feet like the deer’s;
        he makes me tread on my high places.

So it seems that the righteous live by faith in God, not in their own goodness or strength, whereas the puffed up live in confidence and trust in themselves and their power.  Faith is contrasted with arrogance, self-trust and violence.  Faith is based on what is promised, not what is actually seen.

so the application of “the just shall live by faith” in the New Testament passages of Romans 1:16-17, Galatians 3:11 and Hebrews 10:38 make particular applications of that general principle.  Romans says it well, that the righteousness of God is “from faith for faith” or “from faith from first to last.”

That is the start, the middle and the end are lived by faith, not self-confidence, not confidence in what is seen or touched or experienced, but in God who speaks truthfully.