Leaving It All Behind

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Over the last week, I had the opportunity to find and read a book I had never read before; a book by one of my favorite authors.  The book was exceptionally written and yet, when I closed the covers for the last time, I was left wondering if I’d enjoyed it.  There was a tone of misery throughout the entire work and I felt a bit down after I’d finished it.  This got me thinking of a previous post where I mentioned trying a book by my favorite author even though the title and description gave me qualms and where I wondered if what I was about to read meant I would have to stop reading this author. 

“Have to stop reading” sounds a bit legalistic now that I think about it and legalism was not at all what I meant to imply.  Life changes as I move forward in the Spirit. Books I used to read are no longer enjoyable.  Television shows I used to watch are no longer entertaining.  Jokes I used to laugh at are no longer funny.  These things are so not because I’m worried about GOD getting mad at me and judging me.  No, these things are so because I AM a new creation in Christ.  I have been born again by His Spirit.  The same mind that was in Christ Jesus is in me.  I have been and am still being transformed by the renewing of my mind.  This transformation has meant leaving behind many things.

I closed last week with the comment: “If our denominations, doctrines, creeds, and knowledge have become a substitute for this living in vital union with Jesus through his Spirit, let us turn from them.”  I want to take this week to expound on that and, while doing so, write more on the goodness of God.  My main scripture passage for this week is Romans 2 verse 4: “Or do you despise the riches of His goodness, forbearance, and longsuffering, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance?”

What do you think of when you think of repentance?  Whatever the word originally meant, it has come to mean the doing of penance over and over.  If that is the definition we hold in our minds, then this verse also takes on a meaning far different than that intended by the Apostle Paul.  If the end result we Christians are looking for is doing penance over and over, then we need look no further than the religious institutions that define themselves by lists of rules and regulations.  We cannot help but fail if our focus is on not breaking rules and being sure we pray enough and read our bibles enough and attend enough meetings and memorize enough and serve enough.  The guilt that goes along with that sense of failure always ensures there are people flooding the altars on Sunday mornings, repenting, re-dedicating, seeking renewal and hoping enough anointing of the Lord had been received to last through another week.  At least, it always ensured I was doing and hoping so.

What freedom there is in the Spirit!  Some of the truest words ever written are 2 Corinthians 3:17: “Now the Lord is the Spirit; and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.”  Liberty.  Freedom.  He does not call us to a life of doing penance over and over.  His goodness leads us to metanoia (G3341) which means “change of mind”1.  Malcolm Smith calls it a radical change of mind and indeed it is.  It is not a changing of our minds about Jesus, it is exchanging our minds for His.  “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus” (Philippians 2: 5).  “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, that you may prove what is that good and acceptable and perfect will of God” (Romans 12:2).  As my mind is transformed, so is my entire inward life, and the outward life cannot help but change as well.

The goodness of God that leads us to this radical change of mind is not the agathosune (G19) I wrote about last week.  The Greek word isn’t chrestotes (G5544) either but a related word chrestos (G5543).  This word means “employed, useful, better, easy, good(-ness), gracious, kind”.  There is no harsh edge or admonishment associated with this word.  It is the word translated “easy” in Matthew 11:30: “For my yoke is easy and my burden is light.” 

His yoke is easy and His burden is light.  He does not demand.  Rather, He lives in me and wroughts changes I’m not even aware of until the day comes when I realize I’ve lost the enjoyment I used to have in a thing and He bids me come away from it.  I don’t want to give the impression it’s always easy.  Sometimes it is.  Sometimes there is the realization that I don’t enjoy whatever the thing is anymore and it’s done.  Then there are the times when, even though my enjoyment has fled, I do want to keep reading, watching, or doing it.  These are times when there needs to be a subduing of my flesh but He gives the strength for that as well.  I promise this much is true: there is not one thing I have turned away from that I ultimately miss.  There is nothing I leave behind but He does not give me the greater portion of Himself.

I don’t have to work on myself and clean up my behavior before He’ll come live in me.  No, the good news of the gospel is that “God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). There is no great work I must do but I confess with my mouth the Lord Jesus, I believe in my heart God has raised Him from the dead, and I am saved (See Romans 10:9-10). Truly, He has put His spirit in me.  He causes me to walk in His statutes.  He enables me to keep His judgments and do them.  (See Ezekiel 36:27) I “taste and see that the Lord is good” (Psalm 34:8) and His goodness leads me to metanoia. 

Amen

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

  1.  Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Fifth Printing-March 2001, Page 790

Other References:

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Fruit of the Spirit-Goodness

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…goodness” Galatians 5:22

I have said in earlier installments of this study that each fruit listed in this passage appears to flow one from the other.  That this is true was never made clearer than looking at “goodness” for this week’s post.  I spoke last week on how “kindness” in this passage was translated “goodness” in other scripture passages and I wondered how the “goodness” which comes next in the Apostle Paul’s list differed.  In turns out, that’s not an easy question to answer.

The entry in the Strong’s Concordance does not really elaborate on “goodness”.  The Greek word used by Paul is agathosune (G19) and it has the definition of goodness, virtue or beneficence.  The primary agathos (G18) gives the definition of “good (in any sense, often as a noun)-benefit, good (-s, things), well”.  I don’t know about you but I am left thinking, “Well, good but I’m not seeing anything new here.”  It turns out we’re not alone. 

Richard Chevenix Trench states: “Agathosyne (G19) is one of many words where revealed religion has enriched the later language of Greece.  Agathosyne occurs only in the Greek translations of the Old Testament, in the New Testament, and in writings directly dependent on these.  The grammarians never acknowledged or gave it their stamp of approval and insisted that chrestotes (G5544) should always be used in its place…The difficulty in precisely defining agathosyne occurs primarily because there are no helpful passages in classical Greek literature where the word is used.  Although classical usage can never be the absolute standard by which we define the meaning of words in Scripture, we feel a loss when there are no classical instances to use for comparison. It is prudent first to consider chrestotes.  After determining its range of meaning, it will be easier to ascertain what agathosyne means.”1 

I conducted a study on chrestotes (G5544) last week so will not repeat that work here.  Trench does go on to quote Jerome saying: “…the Stoics define it thus: chrestotes is a virtue willingly ready to do good.  Agathosyne is not much different, for it also seems ready to do good.  But it differs in that it can be more harsh and with a countenance wrinkled by strict standards for one to do well and to excel in what is demanded, without being pleasant to associates and attracting crowds by its sweetness.”2

Trench uses the illustration of Jesus driving the money lenders from the temple (Mat 21:13) and speaking harshly to the scribes and Pharisees (Mat 23:1-39) as agathosune.  Trench contrasts these examples of what he calls “righteous indignation” with Jesus’ reception of the penitent woman (Luk 7:37-50) and in all his other gracious dealings with the children of men which illustrate chrestotes.

I did not find this helpful.  Interesting, to be sure, but there was still no revelation.  I checked each occurrence of agathosune in the New Testament to see if usage could help me understand.  There are four: Romans 15:14, Galatians 5:22, Ephesians 5:9, and 2 Thessalonians 1:11.  I looked up each one and had to read all of the 5th chapter of Ephesians in attempt to get a grasp on what Paul is saying.  I still had no revelation and ended my study for the night utterly confused as to what this goodness is.  I was so confused I couldn’t express myself to my mother who, looking equally confused after I’d spoken with her, told me to wait on the Spirit who would give me revelation.  Always good advice.  After all, if I believe Scripture is god-breathed (2 Timothy 3:16), and I do, who better to tell me what it means than He who inspired it? 

I started this post by pointing out how each of the fruit listed in this passage flows one from the other.  That is true but it isn’t the entire truth.  There is only one fruit.  The Greek word here is singular, not plural.  Each word listed by the Apostle Paul reveals more of The Fruit of the Spirit within us which is the very person of Jesus Christ.  All of them are a revelation of who He is and who He is in us.  As I meditated on the meaning of agathosune and waited on the Holy Spirit, I had Zoom Church and Bishop Malcolm Smith shared a message that showed me what true admonishment from someone filled with the fruit of the Spirit looked like (Romans 15:14). This goodness could be defined as “let us speak the truth in love (agape)” (Ephesians 4:15).

I saw an online study that said the speaking the truth in love the Apostle Paul talked about was speaking that which is doctrinally correct.  I do not agree.  Jesus is the truth (John 14:6) and this fixation on correct doctrine and the subsequent bickering between denominations has nothing to do with the fruit of the Spirit.  Ephesians 5: 8-11 says, “For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord.  Walk as children of light (for the fruit of the Spirit is in all goodness, righteousness, and truth), finding out what is acceptable to the Lord.  And have no fellowship with the unfruitful works of darkness but rather expose them.”  Romans 15:14 says, “Now I myself am confident concerning you, my brethren, that you also are full of goodness, filled with all knowledge, able also to admonish one another.”  As this goodness is found only in the Indwelling Christ, so is the necessary knowledge.  I am convinced we cannot truly know what is acceptable to the Lord unless we know the Lord through His Spirit. 

I am reading a book right now that, after listening to that message, I realized also illustrates agathosune.  It’s called “The Power of the Spirit” and is a collection of writings by William Law.  As he speaks on the knowledge that comes from institutions of learning and institutions of religion he writes; “Let no one here imagine that I am writing against all human literature, arts, and sciences, or that I wish the world to be without them.  I am no more an enemy of them than of the common useful labors of life.  It is the application to the things of the Spirit of God of the same methods of learning and wisdom used by worldly scholars in earthly pursuits that I charge with folly and mischief.”3  

William Law goes on to say, “Consider first of all that true deliverance from sin is nowhere to be found for fallen man, but in these two points: (1) A total childlike faith in gospel salvation through the death and resurrection of Christ for man; and (2) A total resignation to, and sole dependence upon, the continual operation of the Holy Spirit in man.  Through Him, Christ becomes our never-ceasing light, teacher, guide, and living power whereby we can walk in all the ways of virtue in which He Himself walked in the flesh.  All beside this, call it by what name you will, is but dead work, a vain labor of the old man to recreate himself.  For nothing else is meant or taught by the gospel, but a total dying to self (called taking up the cross to follow Christ) that a new creature (called Christ in us) may be born into the purity and perfection of a vital life-union with God.

“Let the Christian world forget or depart from this true gospel salvation; let anything else be trusted but the cross of Christ and the Spirit of Christ; and then, though churches and preachers and prayers and sacraments are everywhere in plenty, nothing can come of them but a Christian kingdom of pagan vices, along with a mouth-professed belief in the Apostle’s Creed and the communion of saints.  To this sad truth all Christendom both at home and abroad bears full witness.  Who need be told that no corruption or depravity of human nature, no kind of pride, wrath, envy, malice, and self-love; no sort of hypocrisy, falseness, cursing, gossip, perjury, and cheating; no wantonness of lust in every kind of debauchery, foolish jesting, and worldly entertainment, is any less common all over Christendom, both popish and Protestant, than towns and villages.  What vanity then, to count progress in terms of numbers of new and lofty cathedrals, chapels, sanctuaries, mission stations, and multiplied new membership lists, when there is no change in this undeniable departure of men’s hearts from the living God.  Yea, let the whole world be converted to Christianity of this kind, and let every citizen be a member of some Protestant or Catholic church and mouth the creed every Lord’s day; and no more would have been accomplished toward bringing the kingdom of God among men than if they had all joined this or that philosophical society or social fraternity.”4

Harsh words?  Consider the words of Jesus in Matthew 7: “Not everyone who says to Me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father in heaven.  Many will say to Me in that day, ‘Lord, Lord, have we not prophesied in Your name, cast out demons in Your name, and done many wonders in Your name?’ And then I will declare to them, ‘I never knew you; depart from Me, you who practice lawlessness!’ (verses 21-23)  Some translations have “workers of iniquity” in this passage. 

This is so important.  We must be filled with the Spirit.  Our lives must be lived in unceasing intimacy with Jesus Christ. If our denominations, doctrines, creeds, and knowledge have become a substitute for this living in vital union with Jesus through his Spirit, let us turn from them.  May we be full of His goodness, filled with His knowledge, and then may we speak the truth in His love.

Amen.

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

  1. Walker, Allen G., The New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, 2019, Richard Chevenix Trench’s Synonyms, Page 139
  2. Walker, Allen G., The New Koine Greek Textbook Series Supplements, 2019, Richard Chevenix Trench’s Synonyms, Page 139-140
  3. Law, William, The Power of the Spirit, The Wisdom of This World Denies the Spirit, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1971, Page 56
  4. Law, William, The Power of the Spirit, The Wisdom of This World Denies the Spirit, CLC Publications, Fort Washington, Pennsylvania, 1971, Page 56-57

Other References:

“Fruit of the Spirit” Not “Fruits.” | Clint’s Corner (pastorclinthogrefe.blogspot.com)

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Check out Bishop Malcolm Smith

Unconditional Love Fellowship | The Ministry of Malcolm Smith

Fruit of the Spirit-Kindness

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…kindness” Galatians 5:22

Last week, I listened to a panel discussing the new move of God, what God is releasing in this time, and what does it mean for the body of Christ.  One of the panelists said, “There is a lack of kindness in the body of Christ”.  As I was already thinking about kindness, his words caught my attention.  I thought about them for days and wondered; what does he mean by kindness?  I wrote last week how my interpretation of words are formed by usage and I don’t always understand what a word actually means.  I wonder what kindness, and the lack thereof, meant to this panelist.  Since I do not know him I cannot ask him.  The question remains an open one I hold in the back of my mind when I am listening to anyone speak: what exactly are they saying?  What do they think the word they are using means?  Does this really mean what they think it means?  What does it mean to me?

Have you ever attempted to define kindness to yourself?  I found it impossible.  I asked myself and realized my mind was returning an answer of, “Well, it’s being kind, you know, being a nice person.  Being good.  Doing nice things for others when you don’t really have to.”  I thank the Holy Spirit for guiding me into this study so that I have to take a hard look at what I believe and move from my vague ideas to a solid foundation of truth. 

I begin every study by opening my Comparative Study Bible to the passage I’m looking at and then my Strong’s Concordance.  It might interest you to know that the Amplified, New American Standard, New International, and New King James Version have “kindness” in Galatians 5:22.  The King James Version has “gentleness” which I found interesting but I didn’t think it clarified the meaning.  The Greek word in this passage is chrestotes (G5544) and means “usefulness.”  The Strong’s traces this word to chraomai (G5530) which means “to furnish what is needed.”  I found this both helpful and interesting but didn’t feel I was getting a grasp on the meaning of kindness.

Here is where I find a limitation in using the Strong’s Concordance.  The Strong’s number of 5544 only appears once under the entry for “gentleness”.  I knew the word could not have been used only once in the New Testament but there isn’t any way of using the Strong’s to track a word’s usage unless I search the columns for occurrences of 5544 and hope I don’t miss one.  I know there is Bible software I could use but I am old fashioned and prefer a book.  Thus, I have The New Koine Greek Textbook set and find this an invaluable resource.  It’s coded to the Strong’s Numbering System and, looking up 5544, I find a list of all scriptures where the Greek word is used.  As usage helps to define the meaning of a word, I want to know how it was used in other places.

Volume II/III of The New Koine Greek Textbook tells me how the Greek word was translated in the King James Version.  Comparing the information there with the Strong’s Concordance, I find the King James Version has chrestotes translated one time as “gentleness” (Galatians 5:22), one time as “good” (Romans 3:12), four times as “goodness” (Romans 2:4, Romans 11:22, Romans 11:22, Romans 11:22), and four times as “kindness” (2 Corinthians 6:6, Ephesians 2:7, Colossians 3:12, Titus 3:4).  I read each one of these verses substituting “usefulness”. 

How I recommend you do so!  The second chapter of Ephesians especially came alive for me.  I am so grateful for the teaching and guidance of the Holy Spirit because I am horrified when I realize things I have believed about God and His feelings toward me come from an inadequate understanding of what the writers of the New Testament meant.  Consider Romans 11:22.  My Greek study word appears three times in that verse and my understanding of it was altered when I substituted “usefulness” for “goodness”.  The passage says, “Therefore consider the goodness (usefulness) and severity of God; on those who fell, severity; but toward you, goodness (usefulness), if you continue in His goodness (usefulness).  Otherwise you also will be cut off.”

I’m quoting from the New King James version here but, other than updating the language a bit, it made no changes to the King James translation.  The Amplified, New American Standard, and New International all have “kindness” and none help make this passage less confusing.  I’ve heard it used to warn believers to “continue in the goodness of God less ye be cut off” and meaning to spend eternity in hell.  Is this what this passage is really saying?  Does substituting “usefulness” as the actual meaning of the Greek make it any clearer?  Paul does contrast obedience and disobedience later in the chapter: could this passage be talking about doing good works or supplying what is needed, to return to the Greek?

I would not ever say helping another person is not necessary.  The second chapter of James shows believers how important it is to meet the needs of our community and he states, “for as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also” (James 2:26).  This being so, I do not believe the usefulness of God in Romans 11:22 is a mandate to do good works.  Paul is using a branch metaphor here and, while it isn’t the exact one Jesus used in John 15, the imagery is the same.  We must be vitally connected to the Life of Jesus.  That is how we continue in God’s usefulness.

The Greek word translated “continue” is interesting.  It’s epimeno (G1961) and means “to stay over, remain, abide.”  Epimeno is a compound word and its components are epi (G1909) meaning “superimposition” and meno (G3306) which gives the meaning of “to stay (in a given place, state, relation, or expectancy), abide.”  Superimposition is a cool word.  It means “to put, lay, or stack on top of something else”1.  The more I study the more I see that, while I am not passive, everything is the work of Jesus.  He opened up the way to the Holiest through His very self (Hebrews 10:19-20), and in Him I live and move and have my very being (Acts 17:28).  I cannot abide in Him on my own but His life is superimposed over mine and enables me to abide.

His life is not only superimposed but infused.  He grafts me to Himself and His very Life through His Spirit flows from Him to me.  Yet I am not passive.  I respond but the only response I can make is “Thank you.  It is so.  Amen.”  This is what it means to be the body of Christ.  It is not He is the head in heaven and I’m a member of His body on earth running around doing His works.  It’s a subtle point I’m trying to make but thinking that way still infers separation: Him up there and us down here, doing everything we can to abide, to continue in the goodness of God, and hoping we are not cut off. 

We are not separate.  No, we are vitally connected to Him and His Spirit flows through the Head and body the same way my head and body are connected and my life-blood circulates throughout.  The same Spirit that raised Christ from the dead lives in me.  In me!  I have a vital union with Jesus.  He could not be closer to me.  My body is the temple of His Spirit.  His Life is in me right now.  I can’t say it enough.  It is His life flowing in and through me that is the usefulness of God.

He supplies what is needed every moment of my existence (Philippians 4:19).  I do not live a life of scarcity no matter what my circumstances might look like on the outside because I have Jesus Himself living in me and all things are mine because I am His (1 Corinthians 3:21-23).  I do not seek to do good works on my own but rather; He fills me with Himself, He becomes a fountain within me, and He overflows to those around me.  I cannot give to others what I do not possess myself.

I will close this week with the Apostle Paul’s beautiful prayer in Ephesians 3:20-21: “Now to Him who is able to do exceedingly abundantly above all that we ask or think, according to the power that works in us, to Him be glory in the church by Christ Jesus to all generations, forever and ever, Amen.”

And Amen.

  1. Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd Edition, William Colling + World Publishing Company, 1976

Other References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Walker, Allen G., The New Koine Greek Textbook, Volumes 1-5 and Supplements, 2014-2019.

Fruit of the Spirit-Longsuffering

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…longsuffering” Galatians 5:22

Longsuffering made for an interesting study.  I’m an avid reader and I can’t count how many times I’ve read the phrase, “a longsuffering sigh.”  To me, longsuffering carries the connotation of deep sighs, eye rolls, biting one’s tongue, and attempting to control one’s temper.  Longsuffering does not immediately equal fruit of the Spirit in my mind. 

Different translations of the Bible translate this word in different ways.  The King James has “longsuffering” while the Amplified has “patience” and expands that with “even temper, forbearance”.  Both the New American Standard and New International have “patience” while my New International Version Journal Bible has “forbearance”.  I can’t say forbearance is any more appealing to me than longsuffering and neither is patience, really.  I can’t shake the feeling of negativity associated with these words.  Whenever I think of longsuffering, forbearance, and patience; I picture someone stiff, almost frowning.  Why?

I find the beginning of an answer to that in The New World Dictionary’s entry for patience.  After the definition, I found a section on synonyms which states: patience implies the bearing of suffering, provocation, delay, tediousness, etc. with calmness and self-control…endurance stresses the capacity to bear suffering or hardship…forbearance implies restraint under provocation or a refraining from retaliation for a wrong…stoicism suggest such endurance of suffering without flinching as to indicate an almost austere indifference to pain or pleasure.

Austere is a good word and that helps me to understand what I’m picturing.  While I read the words patience, longsuffering, forbearance, I am actually thinking stoicism.  This is why I find study so necessary to my Christian life.  I bring preconceived meanings to scripture when I read it and I often find words do not mean what I think they mean.  I did not find any surprises in the definitions for the Greek word translated patience but was able to begin looking at it in a different way.  I did unearth some buried treasure as I dug deeper into the word which I’ll get to in a moment.

Impatience is something I struggle with.  I did not think my struggle was having patience with people although, while conducting this study, I am thinking the Holy Spirit does have some work yet to do in this arena.  I do struggle with being patient with God’s process.  It takes such a long time.  There have been many times I have been frustrated with God because His will is that I know him, my will is that I know Him, let’s get on with it!  Zero to Overcomer in less than 60 seconds.  He is not a God of the Zaps.  No, He is a God of process.  (See 2 Corinthians 3:18)

One of the most difficult words I receive from my Heavenly Father is “Wait.  Be still.”  It is especially difficult when I’ve been waiting years for some answers and His response is still “Wait.  Be Still.”  Obedience to My Father can become a burden rather than my delight and I am relieved when I realize patience is something that flows out of His life within me because it is not something I am capable of having on my own. 

The meanings of “wait” and “be still” are a help to patience bearing fruit.  “Wait” and “Be still” are not commands to thumb-twiddling.  The “wait” as in “Wait on the Lord; Be of good courage, and He shall strengthen your heart; Wait, I say on the Lord!” (Psalm 27:14) is the Hebrew word qavah (H6960) and means “to bind together by twisting, to expect”.  “Be still” as in “Be still and know that I am God” (Psalm 46:10) is the Hebrew word raphah (H7503) and means “slacken, abate, cease…let alone…be slothful”.  That does sound a bit like thumb-twiddling but that’s not the picture I see.  I see a letting go of my need for things to happen in my NOW and, instead, I focus on entering into Jesus’ rest.  I choose to look at the waiting time as opportunity to be knit together with Jesus through the work of His Spirit and the time is not spent in idleness.  I see that patience is not passive, neither is it stoic.

Now, for the buried treasure:

I tracked the Greek word for patience (makrothumia G3115) to its root words and found makros (G3117) and thumos (G2372).  Under Strong’s entry for thumos was the suggestion to compare with 5590.  I did so and found 5590 in the Strong’s concordance is the Greek psuche.  There is a long line of definitions for psuche but, put simply, it means breath.  This struck me because of how closely an even temper and patience is associated with the breath.  Even as I read the entry, I couldn’t help taking a deep breath.  I caught myself doing it and thought, “That’s exactly what I do when I’m keeping my temper.”

I recently completed a round of Physical Therapy and my therapist wanted me to focus on diaphragmatic breathing.  She told me I could do a lot for pain management if I focused on my breath.  I remembered that as I was struck by the connection between breath and patience.  I can change what’s happening in my body and how I’m feeling by changing my breath.  When it comes to fruit of the Spirit like patience, it isn’t my breath I need.

1 Corinthians 15: 45 says, “And so it is written, ‘The first man Adam became a living being.’ The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.”  The word for “being” is sometimes translated “soul” and is the Greek word psuche.  Genesis 2:7 tells me how this was done: “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”  Jesus breathed on the apostles after His resurrection and then said, “Receive the Holy Spirit” (John 20:22).  The word used for the Holy Spirit is pneuma (G4151) and, while it doesn’t mean exactly the same thing as psuche, it does carry the meaning of breath.

The Newsboys have a song titled “Father, Blessed Father” on their album Adoration.  The song contains the lyrics, “Breathe on me, Breathe Oh breath of God.  Breathe on me, ‘til my heart is new.”  That is my prayer as I wrap up this study and walk into a new week.  Breathe on me, Oh Spirit of the Living God.  Be my very breath. Create in me a clean heart and may your patience bear fruit in my life.

Amen.

References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

The Comparative Study Bible, The Zondervan Corporation, Grand Rapids, Michigan, 1984

Guralnik, David B., Webster’s New World Dictionary of the American Language, 2nd Edition, William Colling + World Publishing Company, 1976

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990

Fruit of the Spirit-Peace

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“But the fruit of the Spirit is…peace” Galatians 5:22

Grace to you and peace from God the Father and our Lord Jesus Christ!  This is the beautiful greeting used by the Apostle Paul in each of his letters and it is my greeting to each of you as, this week, we take a look at the Fruit of the Spirit which is peace.

The Greek word translated “peace” in all the scriptures I’ll be discussing is eirene (G1515).  The Strong’s Concordance gives me this definition: …from a primary verb eiro (to join), peace, prosperity, one…set at one again.  How beautiful Luke 2:14 becomes: “Glory to God in the Highest, And on earth peace, goodwill toward men!”  God Himself has come to bring peace on earth, to set everything at one again. So the heavenly hosts proclaimed.  Jesus Himself said something different: “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth.  I did not come to bring peace but a sword.” (Matthew 10:34)  These two scriptures appear opposed to one another.  I have heard some believers say that Jesus came to save us from the wrath of the Father but no…looking at these two scriptures it seems to me God wants peace on earth and Jesus said nope-not peace but a sword.  Do we Christians have a divided God?  Can one member of the Trinity be at odds with another? 

Such a thing is impossible in the God who has revealed Himself as One.  There are all of the scriptures where Jesus says “The Father and I are One” but let’s look at John 1:1; “The Word was with God and the Word was God”.  The word “with” in the Greek is sun (G4862) and means “union, with or together.”  No separation but union.  They are One in being and One in purpose.  Keeping this in mind, I took a closer look at Matthew 10:34.

My NKJV says “bring peace” but the KJV has “send peace”.  I looked up the Greek word and found ballo (G906) which carries the basic meaning of to throw or cast.  Here I see peace is not something imposed from without but rather, something central to a group of individuals.  The disciples carried it with them when they were sent out, it was something they could bestow, and it was something they could remove (see all of Chapter 10 of Matthew, specifically verse 13).  Chapter 10 of Matthew described terrible happenings, schisms between families, great tribulation.  There’s a similar passage in Luke’s Gospel but the word there is division rather than sword.  (Luke 12:51) 

Division or sword?  I think it’s both.  The word translated “division” in Luke 12:51 is diamerismos (G1267) and means “disunion (of opinion and conduct), division” while the word for “sword” in Matthew 10:34 is machaira (G3162) and means “a knife, i.e. dirk, fig. war, judicial punishment-sword”.  I find these two passages aren’t saying entirely different things though because, machaira is derived from mache (G3163) meaning “a battle, i.e. fig controversy-fighting, strive, striving” and, tracing further to the primary verb machomai (G3164); I find “to war, i.e. (fig) to quarrel, dispute:-fight, strive.”

Not that the sword mentioned by Jesus could not be and has not been a literal one.  History has recorded the people of God being put to death and, indeed, many times delivered up to death by a close friend or family member.  It is happening today in parts of the world.  To the shame of what it is to be Christian, the literal sword has been wielded by Christians.  I am not talking about being part of a military or defending one’s nation but am talking about killing another in the name of God thinking it brings Him honor.  This is not the way Jesus gave to peace.  “My kingdom is not of this word.  If My kingdom were of this word, My servants would fight, so that I should not be delivered to the Jews; but now My kingdom is not from here.”(John 18:36) 

This thought continues in the New Testament and is perhaps best put into words by the Apostle Paul: “For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ.” (2 Corinthians 10:4)  No, the sword, or the far more advanced weapons of this day; are not for the hands of Christians to usher in the Kingdom of God.  Neither do we declare another human as our enemy because “we do not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places.” (Ephesians 6:12)

Perhaps all this is easy for me to say.  I do not live in a country where I am under threat of death for speaking what I believe.  That is true.  My life is not in danger (I hope) but I have experienced divisions.  I know the pain of separation because of my faith.  I can speak to the truth of Luke 12:51 if not to Matthew 10: 34, and I can also speak to the truth of the peace of God centered in Jesus.

His peace is to us in the midst of whatever we may face.  “These things I have spoken to you, that in Me you may have peace.  In the world you will have tribulation; but be of good cheer, I have overcome the world” (John 16:33) and “Peace I leave with you.  My peace I give unto you; not as the world gives do I give unto you.  Let not your heart be troubled, neither let it be afraid.”  (John 14:27)

His peace is also, quite literally, a fortress.  Philippians 4:6-7 says, “Be anxious for nothing but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God and the peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and minds through Christ Jesus.”  The word “guard” here is phroureo (G5432) and means “to be a watcher in advance i.e. to mount guard as a sentinel (post spies at gates), to hem in, protect; –keep (with a garrison).”

What a peace is this!  It is not given by the world, it is not given to the world, and it can never be found there.  The Hastings Bible Dictionary says, “The transition from OT to NT usage (of peace) strikingly illustrates the inwardness of Christianity.”  The entry for peace also contains a quote from G.G. Findlay: “Peace on earth is to flow from the peace of Christ that rules in Christian hearts.”  The will of God is peace on earth but this peace is found only in Jesus.  It is the fruit of Christian lives because of His Spirit in us.  May the Spirit open our eyes to the reality of His peace and then may we go into our daily lives with our feet shod with the preparation of the gospel of peace.  (Ephesians 6:15)

Amen.

References:

Unless notes otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the New King James Version of the Holy Bible, Thomas Nelson, Inc. 1982

Hastings, James, Hastings’ Dictionary of the Bible, Hendrickson Publishers, Inc., Reprint from the edition originally published by Charles Scribner’s Sons, New York, 1909, March 2001, Page 696-697

Strong, James, LLD., S.T.D., The New Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible, Thomas Nelson Publishers, Nashville, Tennessee, 1990