Theological Tidbits

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(© Jeffrey S. Bowman, all rights reserved, use by permission only)


These are little theological tidbits on interesting words or verses.  These often deal with "tricky" or problematic texts.  They are in no particular order:

Jesus riding into Jerusalem: If you look carefully at the accounts of Jesus riding into Jerusalem as recorded by Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John you will notice evidence that Jesus rode into Jerusalem more than once. Matthew's account is the first ride, the people ask "Who is this?" (21:10) and Jesus drives out the money changers from the temple. Mark, Luke and John provide us with the second entry into the city, the people are expecting his arrival (John 12:12,13). After He entered the temple He looked around and then left (Mark 11:11). The next day Jesus again drives out the money changers from the temple. For further study see the Companion Bible appendices 153,156.

Hosanna: The word is transliterated (brought over from the OT Hebrew, into NT Greek, into English) and means: Save now! Help now! It is a word that denotes the asking for help and assistance. Quite different from another transliterated word, Hallelujah, which is a happy word of praise. Hosanna is a plea for help and deliverance.

Daniel's prophecy of 70 weeks: Perhaps the most extensive "time" prophecy recorded in scripture is found in Daniel 9:24-27. Daniel is told by God that 70 weeks of years (i.e. instead of a week made up of days it is made up of years) were to come upon the nation of Israel. From the time of the start of the prophecy until the Messiah would be 483 years (69 weeks x 7). When Jesus road into Jerusalem the prophecy was fulfilled to the very day. According to Daniel the start of the final or 70th week would be next with the arrival of anti-Christ. However, Israel rejected the offer of the kingdom (Acts 3-7) and the church the Body of Christ was instituted by God (Eph. 3:1-10, etc.). Our present age called the "Dispensation of the Mystery" sits in the gap between the 69th and 70th week of Daniel.

Vision(s): Before the completion of the Bible, God communicated to select individuals via visionary dreams. Today God imparts His "vision" to us as we look at our world through the lens of Scripture. As we read the Bible, He places desires and concerns upon our heart that He would have us carry out. His will for us is always in harmony with Scripture. His will never goes against what He has already revealed in the Bible.

"...whose heart the Lord opened" (16:14) God is not willing that any perish (II Pet.3:9). Jesus is the light that enlightens all of mankind (John 1:9). It was the gospel message that God used to open Lydia's heart (Rom.1:16,10:17). Nothing works like the Word works!

Baptism: Paul was sent by Jesus not to baptize (I Cor.1:17) so why did he baptize twice in this passage? It was for the same reason that he circumcised Timothy: for the sake of the Jews (16:1-3). Paul's message was unique from that of Peter who was sent to baptize for the remission of sins (Acts 2:38). Both times Paul baptized in this passage were after the person received remission of sins. This is consistent with Paul's teaching that the believer is baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ (I Cor.12:11,12). Historically, after the close of the book of Acts, Paul maintains that there is only one baptism that is important, that being the Holy Spirit (Eph.4:5; 1:13; 4:30).

Exorcism: Whenever a person is demon possessed, the demon must leave when confronted with the person of Jesus Christ. Thus, in Scripture believers are not seen to be demon possessed. Once God's Spirit enters a person the demon is pushed out. Note also that the demon possession in this passage is not ugly. Satan's messengers can masquerade as "angels of light" (II Cor. 11:13-15).

Instant conversions & change: Several instantaneous events happen in this passage: The conversions of Lydia & the Philippian Jailer. The earthquake and chaos. The instant exorcism of the young girl and the instant loss of her owners' financial profit. We must not forget, God can use the worst situation to bring about instant change -- for eternal good. He can change things instantly or slowly, often it is up to us!

Saints: There is much "religious" information regarding saints. But when we look into God's word we find the following: (1) The term is a translation of the Greek word hagios (a]gio") which means something set apart for a special use. It is also translated holy. Regarding people it is (2) Those who have put their faith in Jesus Christ and by that relationship are set apart for God. "Saint" is God's title for those who belong to Him. See 1 Cor. 1:2, etc.

In Christ: Perhaps the most glorious phrase found in the Bible. Those who put their faith in Christ are said to be in Christ. Paul also uses in Him, in Jesus, and in the Lord. It describes the intimate connection between God and man. There is a definite theological truth of being in Christ as relating to being in the Body of Christ. See 1 Cor. 12:12,13; Eph. 1:3-13. Christian, your whole existence is summed up in Christ, you need not look anywhere else to find significance and security in life. We share Jesus' life in us because we are in Him!

Bishops (Elder): Is the translation of the Greek word Episkopos (ejpivskopo") which literally means: overseer, someone who watches over, takes care of. It is taken from the political language of Athens. N.T. scholar Lightfoot says, "In Athenian language it was used especially to designate commissioners appointed to regulate a new colony or acquisition" (Commentary on Philippians, p.95). Synonyms for bishop would be overseer, curator, guardian, or superintendent. Paul also uses another word that is similar to episkopos yet is taken from the Jewish synagogue -- presbuteros (presbuvtero"). These were the men who preside over the worship in the synagogue. Apart from the different cultural backgrounds these two words are synonyms in the N.T. (see Titus 1:5,7; Acts 20:17,28). A person would become a bishop or elder by (1) desiring the office (1 Tim. 3:1) or (2) being appointed by another bishop/elder (Titus 1:5). There are qualifications that must be met for such office (1 Tim. 3:1-7, Titus 1:5-9).

Deacons: A transliteration of the Greek word diakonos (diavkono") which means one who serves, a servant, a waiter at table. It is also translated minister and servant. In the N.T. a deacon(ess) is one who serves the Lord in the local church. Like an elder, a deacon also has qualifications that must be met (1 Tim. 3:8-13) before they are to serve in the church. Biblically speaking a deacon is anyone who serves the Lord in the church in any capacity even though the title "deacon(ess)" is not used.

Fellowship: The act of partaking, sharing or participating in an event or process. It is a word that speaks of Christian love in action.

Gospel: Literally means good news. In the context of the Bible it is the good news that God's message brings in the particular time period it is given. There are many messages of good news or many gospels found in the Scripture. Within the N.T. there are two main gospels: Paul's and that of the 12 Apostles (Gal. 2:8-10). Both present Jesus as the Savior/Messiah but the approach varies. For Paul it is by faith alone (Eph. 2:8,9), for the 12 Apostles it is faith plus works (James 2). Understanding the differences between these gospels is the key to understanding the N.T.

Eternal Security: Simply put, eternal security means, "once saved, always saved." During the present church age, a believer's salvation is eternally secure regardless of what they do or how they act. Paul, the Apostle of the Body of Christ, tells us that once we believe in Christ we are baptized by the Holy Spirit into the Body of Christ (1 Cor. 12:12,13) and sealed there (Eph.1:13, 4:30). Our eternal destiny is secure because of our relationship to Christ and being "in Him" (Eph. 1:3-13). People of other ages in scripture did not enjoy this privilege; their salvation was conditional upon keeping good works (James 2:24; Matt. 24:13; Luke 21:19; Heb. 6:4-6, 10:26-39; Ezk. 18:24). Often Bible students fail to "rightly divide the Word of Truth" (2 Tim. 2:15) and this topic becomes a big theological battle. Scripturally, both eternal security (unconditional salvation) and "Lordship" salvation (conditional salvation) are taught. By "rightly dividing" we can allow the Bible to provide truth in both areas because we see the different times, ages and peoples to whom they were given.

Love: Scripturally there are basically two types of love found in the Bible. One is a love of feelings and personal preference. This is the kind of love we most know of today. "I love that car," "I love ice cream" or "I love the ocean." This love is an emotional, total soul appreciation for some person, place or thing. It involves preference and choice.

The other is quite different, it is the type that says, "Love your enemies," "Love your neighbor as yourself," or "Thou shalt love the Lord God with all your heart." This love is not understood by many today because they don't know that it exists or they confuse it with the feeling, emotional love. After all, how can one love his enemy when he hates him! This is the love of doing or action.

In Greek, the original language of the New Testament, phileo (filevw) is that first type -- emotional, total soul love that most can appreciate and understand. Notice the qualities of it: "For the Father himself loveth (phileo) you because you have loved (phileo) me" (Jn. 16:27). In this passage God's emotional, soul love that involves preference and choice is given to those who displayed the same to Jesus. In our lives this is illustrated by friendship. The noun form is often translated "friend" in the N.T. There are certain people who become our friends because they meet our friendship standards.

"And (they) love (phileo) the uppermost rooms at feasts" (Matt 23:6). See the preference and choice, just like our "I love hot fudge sundaes." Also study the following: Matt. 6:5; Jn. 1:3,36; Tit. 3:15.

In the N.T., agapao (v) or agape (n) (ajgapavw ajgavph) is the love of doing or action. "For God so loved (agapao) the world, that he gave his only begotten Son..." (Jn. 3:16). God loved with a love of doing so He gave. He couldn't love with a feeling (phileo) love because we are sinners and God hates sin!

Jesus thus tells us, "If you love (agapao) me, keep my commandments" (Jn. 14:15). We simply cannot say "I love God" and then do nothing! Agapao love works! (By the way, man is never commanded to have phileo love for God in the Bible.)

Agape is a very important kind of love to understand and develop. God wants us to "love (agapao) our enemies," which seems like an impossibility when we feel hatred for them. But since agapao is not the feeling, emotional love like phileo we can do it. In fact God even gives us some pointers. "If you enemy hunger, feed him; if he thirst give him drink..." (Rom. 12:20). While we might not like our enemy we can still do something for him anyway. It was the same with God. Our sin didn't make Him feel good, nevertheless He gave His only Son!

Agapao and its other forms are found in many of the passages in the Bible that talk about doing things, such as being patient, kind, not envious, or proud (1 Cor. 13:4). See also Rom. 13:8,9; Eph. 5:2; Jn. 15:9-17. Marriage is founded on this type of love (Eph. 5:25-33) and God commands men to love their wives with this doing, giving love.

"Conversation" (KJV) or "Conduct" (NKJV) Philippians 1:27 is the Greek word politeuomai (politeujomai). We get our English word "political" from the root of this word. It literally means to live according to the laws and ways of a city or region. There seems to be no doubt that Paul has in mind the idea of his and the Philippians' citizenship in Rome and the subsequent duties, rights and privileges of their citizenship. Roman citizenship was a very prized status. Thus Paul takes the Roman citizenship with its rights and duties and uses that as an illustration of the type of conduct we should have in our life in the Gospel. Later Paul will use a form of this word when he writes: "For our conversation (citizenship) is in Heaven..." (3:20).

Gospel of of the gospel: i.e. the good news that has Christ as the object of faith. As proclaimed by Paul, "the faith of the gospel" would be the unique message of Grace during this dispensation. See Rom. 16:25; 2 Tim. 2:8; Rom. 2:16

Jesus: the Greek name jIhsou (Jesus) is from the Hebrew word Joshua which is a combination of JAH and TO SAVE with a resultant meaning of Jehovah the Savior. When applied to Christ the word denotes: He who was God, and able to "save his people from their sins." Cp. Matt.1:21,23; John 1:14.

Book of Life:  a book that contains the names of people born who will be granted eternal life.  Note the following:

  1. It applies to all of Mankind (Jew and Gentile) from Adam onward.  Rev. 20:12-15, 13:8, 17:8. 

  2. All names are put in at birth. Ps. 139:16; Luke 10:2

  1. Israel has a special privilege of dwelling in the New Jerusalem. Heb. 12:23; Rev. 21:27; Isa. 4:3; Ps. 87:6.

  2. Members of the Body of Christ transcend aspects of the Book of Life:

    1. The Book of Life is conditional in nature -- you can be blotted out by not following the rules of God according to the dispensation in which one lived.  Ex. 32:33; Ps. 69:28; Rev. 3:5.  Members of the Body of Christ cannot lose their salvation or be blotted out.

    2. The Body of Christ goes back before the foundation of the world (Eph. 1:3,4) the Book of Life is from the foundation (Rev. 13:8, 17:8).

Yokefellow / Companion - Phil 4:3: this title is from the Greek word suvzugo" - suzugos.  This word only occurs here in the NT.  This prompts some scholars to think that it is really a proper name of a person.  The reasons are: 1.) It is probable that after two names (Euodia, Syntyche) and before another name (Clement) that Paul would use the name of the person whom he asks to help him.  2.) If suzugos were not a proper name, would the Philippians know whom Paul is calling the “yokefellow?”  3.)  Where else does Paul call any other assistant a “yokefellow?”  He typically calls them a “fellowlaborer.”  4.) There is no real issue or problem if suzugos is a proper name.  5.) Paul uses a similar play on words in Philemon 10, 11.  I think the text should read "Sysygus" which would be an anglicized form of Suzugos.

Election; Elect; Chosen: this topic is filled with confusion and theological debate. Much of the discussion centers on God’s sovereignty and His ability to do what He pleases. Yet no serious Bible student would question God’s sovereignty. The topic of election really revolves on the topic of free will. Did God create humanity with a freedom of belief – the ability to accept or reject God in their life? As an examination is made of the words (elect, election, chosen, etc.) it becomes clear that while God could force someone to believe, He leaves it up to their choice. On our own, we would not even seek after God (Rom. 3:11). God comes to us by His Son and enables us to make a choice; to either accept or reject Him (John 1:9; 2 Cor. 5:19-21). Becoming "Elect" or "Chosen" is always a result of a person’s choice. God calls all to repentance and those who respond in faith become the "chosen" (Matt. 22:11-14). Additionally, God’s "call" does not guarantee a person will believe (Luke 6:13; John 6:70; 2 Pet. 1:10).

Enduring to the End: Many stumble upon reading this verse: "And you shall be hated of all men for my name’s sake: but he that endues to the end shall be saved." (Matt. 10:22) When we get its historical and dispensational context we can understand what is being said without changing the words to fit our preconceived ideas.

The time element is the seven year prophesied tribulation (Dan. 9:26,27). Those to whom it was said are the Twelve and their followers, the nation of Israel. This is not said to the Body of Christ. Three things can be seen:

1. "Enduring to the end" would be continuing in faith till Christ returns at the end of the tribulation, or until they would be martyred. (Matt. 24:13,14; 36-51; Rev. 6:9-11; 7:9-17)

2. This concept of enduring is also called overcoming. Those that by faith (1 John 5:1-5) overcome during the tribulation are said to:

a. Eat of the tree of life – Rev. 2:7

b. Not be hurt by the second death – Rev. 2:11

c. Have God’s approval – Rev. 2:17

d. Have rule and authority in the kingdom – Rev. 2:26

e. Not be blotted out of the book of life – Rev. 3:5

f. Be leaders in the kingdom – Rev. 3:12

g. Reign in the kingdom – Rev. 3:21

It is important to note that the Body of Christ does not have to overcome in order to be saved; we are "more than overcomers" (Rom. 8:37).

3. During the time of the tribulation Israel will be given special grace to endure providing they remain steadfast in faith (1 Pet. 1:3-9).

Conclusion: "He that endures to the end" is in reference to physical and spiritual deliverance or salvation. It is physical in that they are allowed to enter into the kingdom, spiritual in that being in the kingdom is salvation. Therefore salvation for these "kingdom believers" is conditional upon their endurance of faith.

The Unpardonable Sin: " Wherefore I say unto you, All manner of sin and blasphemy shall be forgiven unto men: but the blasphemy against the Holy Ghost shall not be forgiven unto men. And whosoever speaketh a word against the Son of man, it shall be forgiven him: but whosoever speaketh against the Holy Ghost, it shall not be forgiven him, neither in this world, neither in the world to come." Matthew 12:31-32

These verses have caused undo heartburn and misunderstanding for people. Some have felt that they had committed the "unpardonable sin" and gave up on life and God. Others have applied this passage to other sins and conclude that they were "unpardonable." The context provides us with a clear understanding of this unpardonable sin.

We find that the Pharisees were attributing the power of Jesus to perform miracles to that of Beelzebub, the prince of demons (12:24), instead of the Holy Spirit. Simply put, this is the unpardonable sin – attributing the works of Jesus by the Spirit to that of Satan.

On the surface this doesn’t seem too terribly bad. After all, if God could forgive murder, theft, adultery, etc. then why not this? Two things make this unpardonable: (1) the level of blasphemy and (2) who is blasphemed. The level of blasphemy is best seen in the slang word "Beelzebub" which means "lord of excrement." The Jews normally forbid mocking, but in the case of idolatry they allowed it. The scholar Lightfoot documents that the Jews in Jesus day were allowed to say: "take you idol, and put in under your buttocks." Thus, the use of this slang word demonstrates the utter contempt that they had for the works of Jesus. Who is blasphemed is the Holy Spirit. Because the Spirit is the One who convicts man, a person who would deliberately deny the Spirit’s work through Jesus would never fell the Spirit’s work upon his heart. He is hardened beyond belief. So to blaspheme Him produces a state of no return that forever bars him from further conviction. Therefore it is unpardonable because the person is so far gone in his hard-hearted unbelief that he cannot feel the Spirit’s conviction to repent.

The "unpardonable sin" cannot be done today because Christ is not on earth performing miracles by the power of the Holy Spirit. Also, Israel as a nation committed the unpardonable sin in Acts 7 and God brought in a dispensational change with the Apostle Paul in Acts 9.

Peter the Rock: Matthew 16:18 "… you are Peter and upon this rock I will build my church…" Roman Catholic theologians have for years pointed to this verse to say that Peter was the first Pope. Protestant theologians have countered by saying that Peter (Gr. pevtro"-petros) is a different word than "Rock" (Gr. pevtra/-petra) and Jesus is stating that Peter’s confession "you are the Christ…" is what He was referring to when He said, "upon this rock (i.e. the rock of your confession)" I will build my church. As it turns out, the Catholic theologians are correct to a point. Petros is a masculine adaptation of a normally feminine gender word – petra. Petra (and the Aramaic word – cephas) means a large rock. No way would Jesus call a male by a female name. It was Jesus who gave Simon the name of Cephas or Peter (or the Rock, John 1:42). Jesus is making Peter (petros) the rock (petra) of leadership for His soon to start (at Penticost – Acts 2) Jewish Kingdom Church. Biblical history validates this as we observe that Peter is the main character in the book of Acts until Israel rejects the Kingdom offer (Acts 3,7) and God then turns to the Gentiles via Paul (Acts 9, 13). The Protestant reaction to Catholicism caused them to say there was a difference between a masculine ending of a normally feminine gender Greek word. Honest, conservative Protestant scholar D. A. Carson admits: "Yet if it were not for Protestant reactions against extremes of Roman Catholic interpretation, it is doubtful whether many would have taken ‘rock’ to be anything or anyone other than Peter…. The Greek makes the distinction between petros and petra simply because it is trying to preserve the pun, and in Greek the feminine petra could not very well serve as a masculine name."

"…shall not taste death till they see the Son of man coming…" (Matt. 16:28) This verse has been a puzzle to many who do not see the progressive dispensational nature of the Bible. Jesus is telling His disciples that there are some of them standing there who will be alive when He returns to establish His kingdom. The problem is that we are now 2000 years from this statement and they are dead. However, in the Greek there is a small word a]n (translated "till" in KJV) that signals a conditional aspect to the verse. Matthew’s Jewish readers would know that God’s dealings with Israel were conditional. As a nation, Israel must respond and accept the offer of the promised Kingdom (Acts 3:19-26). As it turns out, they did not accept the offer and it was withdrawn so the Body of Christ was started by God (Acts 9; Eph. 3:1-9). Thus a little Greek word points to this overlooked condition and the verse is seen in its fullness.

"…this generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." (Matt. 24:34) This verse has been a puzzle to many who do not see the progressive dispensational nature of the Bible. Jesus is telling His disciples that the events of the tribulation and His 2nd coming where going to happen soon, prior to the passing away of "this generation." Some commentators emphatically say that these words could not be in reference to those alive when Jesus spoke these words because they are all now dead. Others say that these things were fulfilled in 70 A.D. when the Temple was destroyed. Yet that can’t be because the rest of the passage wasn’t fulfilled. The answer comes in the Greek. There is a small word a]n (translated "till" in KJV) that signals a conditional aspect to the verse. Matthew’s Jewish readers would know that God’s dealings with Israel were conditional. As a nation, Israel must respond and accept the offer of the promised Kingdom (Acts 3:19-26). As it turns out, they did not accept the offer and it was withdrawn so the Body of Christ was started by God (Acts 9; Eph. 3:1-9) and the events of the tribulation and 2nd coming did not come to pass then – but they could have! Thus a little Greek word points to this overlooked condition and the verse is seen in its fullness.

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