RSS

Category Archives: Commentary

The Translation of Philippians 2:6-7

I don’t often engage Will Kinney in discussion. It’s typically pretty pointless – I’m not going to get anywhere with him, and circular reasoning from an intelligent person (yes, I do think he’s intelligent, while I also think he’s very foolish) gets extremely exhausting. I only engage with the desire that perhaps the discussion will help someone following it. That said, I posted on his group in response to his article on Philippians 2 regarding “thought it not robbery to be equal with God” vs. “did not consider equality with God something to be grasped”. I love that passage, and really despise it being broken up the way it must be to force the idea of the perfection of the KJV on it, so felt I had to at least offer a comment.

Mr. Kinney’s article can be found at http://brandplucked.webs.com/phil2notrobbery.htm. My response follows. Perhaps someone will be edified by it!

I’m not planning to spend a lot of time on a debate. I’ll simply present a few points, knowing that I’m in your “home territory”, and trust that truth will prevail in the hearts of those who truly seek it.
I find it very interesting how you argue. If the ESV “deletes” something that the KJV includes, you point it out. If the ESV “adds” something that the KJV does not contain, once again, it must be wrong. I don’t start with my doctrine and then seek to find the translation that most accurately fits. Rather, I seek to find the evidence of how the text was transmitted, desire to understand what the author actually said, understand what he meant, and build my doctrine based on that.

In your article, you make the argument that the JW’s use the “modern” translation of this passage to argue against the deity of Christ, and therefore it must be wrong. No, the problem is with their erroneous interpretation of the passage. Remember, Mormons use the KJV to demonstrate their false doctrine. So do Pentecostals (snake handling, tongues, etc.), Church of Christ (baptismal regeneration) and other cultish groups. Does that mean we should reject the KJV? That’s a ridiculous idea!

I’ve also seen places where you ridicule “modern” versions for using dynamic equivalency in their translation. But I’m sure you defend the KJV’s use of the same! (Take, for example, the rendering of “God forbid” to translate με γενοιτο (me genoito)- would that be the only valid “translation” in your mind?) That duplicity is seen here as well. The KJV’s “made himself of no reputation” is certainly accurate interpretation of the passage. But it’s not exactly a formal translation of εαυτον εκενωσεν (eauton ekenosen). Accurate interpretation? Yes. But “emptied himself” is a valid translation, and certainly more literal. And of course, the context elucidates the meaning of how it came about – He did not “empty himself” by the elimination of any of the essence of deity, but by taking the form of a servant; by humbling himself. Correct hermeneutics leads to proper interpretation with either translation.

Finally, you said, “The phrase “thought it not robbery to be equal with God”, as found in the King James Bible, clearly teaches that Jesus Christ was in fact God.” Perhaps. But once again, we don’t approach the text by our doctrinal presuppositions (even if they’re true!), but let the text rule in how we understand doctrine. The question is not which translation better teaches the deity of Christ. What we need to see is what Paul intended to communicate. In the flow of the passage, Paul has already made it very clear that Jesus is God. He was “in the form of God” – that is a CLEAR statement of deity, no matter what the JW’s think.

But the primary purpose of the passage is not to teach the deity of Christ. Christ’s deity is assumed here. Rather, Paul is holding Christ forth as an example of humility – a virtue that all Christians must possess in our dealings with one another. Even though he was God, he condescended to enter his creation to redeem us. His exaltation is a result of his humility. With that larger context in mind, we can see Paul’s progression: Christ is the very essence of God. Yet he lowered himself to earth, took on the form of a slave, was born as a man. It’s a downward spiral. Not only that, but in human form, he submitted to death – the result of sin of which he had none – and to add insult to injury, it wasn’t simply the death of natural causes and old age, but the most shameful, cursed death ever devised. See the downward progression of his humility? The passage is not a polemic on the deity of Christ, but demonstrating what he did because of his transcendent love for his people.

So is Paul trying to express the idea that Christ did not think he was stealing from God by being equal with God? Granted, this is not the easiest phrase in the New Testament. And unfortunately, we don’t have other examples of the word in the Scriptures with which to compare the meaning. However, Greek literature does use the word. And from what I can see, when it uses the term to indicate “robbery”, it’s not a theoretical idea, or an attempt. It’s used to indicate the actual seizure of property. If Christ is not God, he can’t seize equality with God, so it’s use with that understanding seems pretty meaningless. The normal use of the word indicates grasping onto privilege, whether it’s already held or not.

Of course Christ is equal with God. But in the flow of the passage, Paul is indicating that he did not tenanciously hold on to the glory that he had with the Father before the world came into being (John 17), but that he laid aside his rightful claim to that glory for the purpose of humility. In other words, his glory would be more magnificently displayed to his creation by being made lower than the angels for the suffering of death.

So the “modern” translation of the phrase is not a denial of the deity of Christ, but an accurate rendering of Paul’s original words. (Yes, I said original, and I meant it. No, I haven’t seen Paul’s autograph here, but there are no variants to even muddy the waters at all, and I am 100% confident that we have the “original”!) And a proper hermeneutic will not lead one to deny the deity of Christ by the phrase, but to glory in the suffering that Christ undertook on behalf of those he would redeem. It’s a glorious passage, made much more precious by careful exegesis rather than the blind defense of a particular translation that just might not be “perfect” in the sense you believe.

You’re right about one thing: I don’t get it. You begin with the premise that the KJV is absolutely perfect as a translation, and therefore must go about to prove it, no matter what the cost to logic and reason. I’ve read enough of your website to understand your position, and reject it completely. Yes, I’ve seen your questioning to others who hold my beliefs, and reject the premise of the questions. I believe God has preserved his word. And I hold it in my hand, whether I’m studying my copy of the Greek New Testament, the KJV, the ESV, or even (gasp) the NIV. The biggest problem we face as believers and teachers of God’s precious truth is not the translation. Our challenge is correctly interpreting the Scriptures. You can twist the language of the KJV and pervert it by wrong interpretation, just as you can with any other translation. There is a reason we have been called to diligence!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on June 6, 2015 in Bible Study, Commentary

 

Tags:

When We Don’t Know How to Pray

praying_handsOne of my constant struggles in prayer is knowing how to pray. We are instructed to pray according to the will of God. But many times, we don’t know God’s ultimate purpose, so how can we truly pray? I believe that God has revealed his will to us in his Word. Sure, there are things that are within his secret counsel, but to simply relegate prayer to “mystery” is not biblical.

But what about those needs that are so overwhelming, so beyond our understanding and solutions, that we just don’t know where to even begin? I’m glad God has given us that answer as well.

Paul tells us, “For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs — heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.” (Romans 8.15-16)

In this chapter, Paul is laying out the antidote to the struggle between spirit and flesh expressed in chapter 7. We are give great assurance that we belong to God by the ever present ministry of the Comforter within us. Because we belong to him, we have no reason to fear. But when fears begin to overtake—and the context seems to point to the fear being that of being enslaved to sin once again—we can simply cry out, “DADDY, I NEED YOU!”

Yes, we will suffer in this world. All the things James speaks of in the previous post are ever with us. The struggle of sin in our flesh remains until we are glorified. Yet we are assured of future glory. All creation is presently crying out for redemption, and the promise is sure that our bondage has been/is being/will be completely broken!

As we wait, we groan. But in our groaning we have hope. Cling to the hope of Christ! For we know that if he has truly begun his work in us, he will perfect it in his perfect day.

But we still groan. Life in Christ is a joy, yet there are still great burdens. And when all we know to do is to cry out to our Father,  we still have hope. Paul continues with these glorious words: “Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.

What a promise! When we know not what to pray, how to pray, the Spirit of God is praying for us. Yes, Jesus meant what He said when he told us he would leave us an Advocate. If you are his, he is praying for you. And his words are powerful. They are infallible. They are greater than any request we could ever make. And they WILL come to pass!

Just read the end of this great chapter: “And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

“What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things? Who shall bring any charge against God ‘s elect? It is God who justifies. Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died —more than that, who was raised — who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us. Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword?

“As it is written,
For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.

No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.”

I am overwhelmed just meditating on these things. This is my life. This passage has never been more real and relevant to me than it is right now. My family is going through a very trying time. Even as I type these words, my eyes are clouded with tears. (If you’ve actually read this far, please pray that God will give our family grace!) I don’t know what the future holds. I don’t know how to get there. I don’t know how to pray. So many times, I’ve just sat sobbing, crying to my Father without words. And even though I don’t know the future, I know that it’s not in vain.

He holds it all in his hand. My Jesus knows tomorrow, and the next day, and the next…He has not forsaken. And he has promised his Comforter. In this hope we are saved.
 
Leave a comment

Posted by on March 15, 2015 in Commentary, Devotional

 

Tags: ,

Learning to Lean

On my mildly stressful drive this morning, I was listening to the book of Isaiah. I was in chapter 10, listening to the section on God’s sovereignty even over evil emperors to accomplish his purpose, when I was struck by something a little later in the chapter:

“In that day the remnant of Israel and the survivors of the house of Jacob will no more lean on him who struck them, but will lean on the Lord, the Holy One of Israel, in truth. A remnant will return, the remnant of Jacob, to the mighty God.” (vs. 20-21)

So even in God’s purpose being accomplished by the sin of the nation of Assyria, his purpose is to draw his people to himself. It is a guarantee (election will be accomplished). I’ve focused much from this passage on God’s sovereignty even over sin. However, these verses jumped out at me declaring God’s purpose – it’s to glorify himself by surely drawing His people.

Be comforted: while you are absolutely responsible for your sin, it does not thwart God’s purposes! Nor is God scrambling to figure out how to “fix” it. He is always at work to make us lean on Him.

May we lean in truth, no matter the circumstances!

 
Leave a comment

Posted by on February 24, 2015 in Bible Study, Commentary, Devotional

 

Tags:

Brief Commentary on Ephesians 2:1-7

Ephesians 2: The chapter begins, “You who WERE DEAD in trespasses and sins.” What does dead mean? Simply a sentence of death? God told Adam that he would die IN THE DAY that he ate of the tree. Did God mean what He said? Notice what the death is – not you WILL be dead BECAUSE OF your sins, but you WERE dead IN trespasses and sins. This is speaking of a spiritual REALITY, not simply a physical picture. Just as verse 6 tells us that we ARE sitting in heavenly places WITH Christ – not simply a future promise, but a present spiritual reality, even though it is not yet physical (that will be in the ages to come!).

What is the fruit of this deadness IN sin, i.e. spiritual death?

Verse 2 – “ye walked according to the course of this world, according to the prince of the power of the air.” Walking according to the world is not what CAUSES that death (as you are trying to make it say), but the result of the death that we were already partakers of. BECAUSE we were dead in sin, we walked according to the way of life of the world system. We walked according to the devil, BECAUSE of who we already were – dead in sin. We already were children of disobedience – we had no desire to do that which is truly pleasing to God (don’t confuse morality/conscience with true spirituality).

Verse 3 – “we all had our [behavior] in times past in the lusts of our flesh” – that is, whatever our flesh wanted, in which, according to Paul, dwells NO good thing “”fulfilling the desires of the flesh and of the mind;” – “desires” could be translated “will”. In other words, our will was bent toward the flesh and our understanding, which is devoid of any spiritual understanding prior to regeneration. That’s the problem with our will – yes, it is free to do whatever is in our nature. And it did – not that which is pleasing to God, but that which is according to the world, the devil, and our own flesh.

“and were by nature the children of wrath, even as others.” – our NATURE (inborn quality, not just a “habit” that we grown into) was children of wrath. The word “children” used here emphasizes natural birth. That is we were born into wrath; it is our nature, what we deserve. That paints a bleak picture. We can’t escape that wrath ourselves, by any good we try to do, or by any decision we make, because we don’t desire those good decisions to begin with.

“But God” – what wonderful words! “who is rich in mercy” – mercy is not just “withholding the punishment I deserve”, which is the definition commonly given, but is something active which God bestows which we are unworthy of. Most of the OT uses of the word “mercy” are a word which is translated in the ESV “steadfast love”. From my study of the word, that’s a beautiful translation, and very apt for the word. NT usage is not precisely the same, but very similar in many ways. Notice that, even here, the mercy is connected with His love: “for His great love wherewith He loved us” – A side note here: who is “us”? It is a pronoun used often throughout the epistles, and very important!

What did that great love cause Him to do? “Even when we were DEAD in sins” – nothing we could do about it, not even “belief” would change that condition, just as Lazarus could not raise himself from the dead!

“hath quickened us together with Christ AND hath raised us up together” – What is quickening? Is it merely the imputation of Christ’s righteousness to us? No. That may be involved, but that’s really a different aspect of salvation, directly connected to justification. Yes, they’re related topics, but mixing them up only leads to confusion (look at how the Roman Catholics have made such a mess of salvation by mixing up justification and sanctification – which are also related, but must be properly understood!).

The phrase, “hath quickened us together with” is actually one word in the Greek. A clear reference is being made here to the resurrection of Christ. What was Christ resurrected from? The DEAD! Was He merely under a sentence of death? Did He merely swoon in the grave and had to be made alive? That’s nonsense! The clear meaning of the word is that LIFE was imparted to something that was DEAD! We were quickened and raised up “together with” Christ! This is not a death sentence that was torn up and nailed to the cross (although yes, that also happened according to Colossians 2!) – this is a dead corpse having life breathed into it! As a result of this life that has been given, we are now SEATED WITH Christ in the heavenlies – that’s not just a promise of what is to come, but a present spiritual reality (just as spiritual death was a reality before quickening), as proof that in the ages to come we will experience the exceeding riches of his grace that has been extended to US (there’s that pronoun again!).

A very apt OT illustration of this truth is found in Ezekiel 37. It is argued that this has nothing to do with salvation, and is only dealing with a physical restoration of Israel to the land. What nonsense. If that is the explanation of OT prophecy, it is very shallow. Note verses 12-14 of that chapter: “Thus saith the Lord GOD; Behold, O my people, I will open your GRAVES, and CAUSE you to come up OUT of your GRAVES, and bring you into the land of Israel. And ye shall know that I am the LORD when I have OPENED your GRAVES, O MY PEOPLE, and brought you up out of your GRAVES, And shall put my spirit in you, and ye shall live…” That’s far deeper than simple restoration to a physical land. That’s a spiritual reality! If you read Ezekiel without seeing Christ in the book, it will be very dry and meaningless. If you read this book without NT interpretation, you will completely misunderstand the book! It is an illustration of God breathing His spirit into dead bones, causing them to live! That is exactly what He did for me.

Praise His holy name! His thoughts are so much higher than our thoughts – this is an impossible work without a supernatural Saviour!