The Mind of Christ in Action

After we transform our minds, our actions must change.  Jesus taught that a man’s heart dictates his actions.  If our heart is right, right actions will follow.  A godly life is the natural result of a mind cleansed by God and consecrated to Him.

When we set our minds on things above our actions will change.  Colossians 3:5-17 describes this transformation:

Put to death/put off
Put on
Fornication, uncleanness, passion, evil desire, conveteousness, anger, wrath, malice, blasphemy, filthy language, lying
Holiness, tender mercies, kindness, humbleness of mind, meekness, longsuffering, bearing with one another, forgiving, love
This is the old man, made in the image of the world.
This is the new man, made in the image of the Creator.

As Paul illustrates, the new man acts differently towards his fellow man.  He seeks to build other people up, not destroy them.  He speaks good, not evil.  He is longsuffering, not impatient.  Our actions towards other people change because our attitude towards them has changed. God commands us to serve others as part of our service to Him.  We must transform from a self-seeking, self-centered being into a selfless servant, like Jesus, seeking to serve rather than be served.

Problems With Greek Word Studies: Word Origin

A problem that contributes to our misunderstanding of the Bible and disagreements with one another is misuse of the ancient languages in which the Bible was written: Hebrew, Aramaic, and Greek. Usually, Greek is the most misused since most students can grasp basic Greek much easier than Hebrew or Aramaic. Additionally, there are many Greek language resources—lexicons, dictionaries, and word studies—available to the average student.

However, the availability of Greek resources may be the source of the problem. Those who know little Greek may often boast that they can still do a word study. As Phil Roberts said in a lecture at Florida College, linguists would argue that only someone with intimate knowledge of the Greek should do a word study. A true word study considers the use of the word in both the Bible and extra-biblical literature as well as its varied uses. Yet the origin of the word is of little use in determining what a word means in a specific context.

Words have meaning. However, Bible students are often accustomed to thinking that Bible words have a real or true meaning that is somehow missing in the English text. Often a study of a Bible passage involves much time looking for the true meaning of the words in the text. This approach fails to recognize that words only have meaning within the larger structure of the sentence, paragraph, or entire text.

Consider the word hot. What does it mean? Many probably thought of a temperature but others may have considered other meanings. What does the phrase it is hot mean? Again, we may have an idea that comes to mind but consider these sentences:
1. Do not touch that pot, it is hot.
2. I love that new song; it is hot.
3. I do not like that Mexican spice; it is hot.
4. Do not buy the television from that burglar; it is hot.

We do not know what it is hot means without a broader context. This should emphasize the folly of studying words in isolation. Words do not have meaning without context.

Etymology (Word Origin)

Etymology, the study of word history, became popular in the late 1800’s and in recent years, the focus of the real meaning of words is very popular. A far back as the Greeks, Stoic philosophers believed that if they went back in time far enough, the real meaning of a word would become evident. As J.P. Louw says, “If this method were correct, then everyone would need to know Greek in order to understand the true meaning of words.” I’ll go further and say that it means that we must know Greek in order to know what the Bible really says. I believe this conclusion would be wrong.

Do you know the origins of every word that you use? We probably do not know the origin of hardly any of the words that we use in everyday conversation. Yet we expect that when the Greeks talked and wrote they knew the historical development of each word they used. In fact, language—any language—is dynamic and changing; we can instantly give a familiar word new meaning if we put it in a new context. Of course, we cannot do this haphazardly for we would confuse our audience. However, as we mature, we can adapt our language to a variety of circumstances.

One problem we face with etymology is the failure to take into account this adaptation within language. For example, If I say I ran out of milk so I ran to the store to buy some more, does anyone think that in an act of running my milk was emptied? It is doubtful that anyone would think that I ran to the store, they would know that I drove to the store. Yet the basic meaning of run is to move your legs faster than when you walk. We recognize this with the English language, but often do not see its use in the Greek. We forget that “etymology is concerned with the history of a word, not its meaning in a specific context.” (Luow, 26. Emphasis mine-rfd)

Related Article: Problems with Greek Word Studies: “Real Meaning”

Reference Works

Studies in the Greek New Testament.  Stanley E. Porter.  Peter Lang:  New York, 1996.

Semantics of New Testament Greek.  J. P. Louw.  Fortress Press:  Philadelphia, 1982.

10 Tips For Understanding The Bible

 Each individual Christian needs to study the truth for himself. We must remember that false doctrines will arise and prosper (2 Peter 2:1-3).  We cannot always trust the preacher to see through the error and teach against it; sometimes preachers introduce errors (2 Timothy 3:1-9; 4:2-4).  Though elders are supposed to protect the church from error, sometimes they lead others astray (Acts 20:28-31).

The remedy for error, whether from false teachers inside or outside of the church, remains the same—the truth.  Some will believe a lie because they do not love the truth but enjoy unrighteousness, 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12.  Paul warned Timothy about false teachers and told him to hold to the truth of the scriptures, 2 Timothy 3:13-17.  In order to follow false teachers, one must turn away from the truth, 2 Timothy 4:4.  Though Paul warned that some elders would lead some Christians into false doctrines, but God would save those who follow His word, Acts 20:32.

Truth is the antidote to error.  If we are poisoned, the antidote will be useless if it remains in the bottle.  We must ingest the antidote so it can combat the poison.  Likewise, if we do not ingest God’s word, we will not be able to combat error.

How do we learn the truth and make it part of our lives?  We must read and meditate on God’s word daily.  Not only will God’s word insulate us from error, it will enrich our lives for we will grow in our knowledge of God, learn how to better live our lives, become better spouses, parents, and children, and see our heavenly hope vividly.

We should follow the advice of Paul to Timothy in regards to study.  Paul told the young preacher Timothy to “give attention to reading, exhortation, and doctrine,” 1 Timothy 4:13.

 Reading

We must spend time reading the Bible to learn the stories and to become familiar with the overall Bible message.  Reading helps us learn the narrative and see how the whole Bible story fits together.  Reading is especially important for new Christians.  Often we will find something in our reading that will turn into a more in depth study.

 Exhortation

 Exhortation is encouragement.  We can encourage others with the encouragement that we receive from God’s word, 2 Corinthians 1:4.  We should spend time reading passages that encourage us to continue in what is good.  We can read about Bible characters that did not give up even in the midst of terrible opposition or suffering.  We can also read about bad examples and avoid the decisions they made.  The encouragement that the epistle writers gave to individuals and churches can motivate us to live righteously.  The writers encouraged them to remain faithful and to be busy about God’s work.  Of course, reading about our Savior is exhorting for it reminds us about His wonderful love, profound teaching, and eternal promises.  When God’s word exhorts you, use it to exhort others.

 Doctrine

 Doctrine means the teaching that we must follow.  Doctrine only comes from God’s word, 2 Timothy 3:16.  It requires more study and mental effort than simple reading or reading for exhortation.  We must consider what the entire Bible says about a particular issue—both directly and in principle—and draw valid conclusions.  We must know why we do the things we do in personal service and public worship.  Remember, we cannot leave this study to the preacher or the elders.  We must know the truth so we can discern error.

 In addition to the methods of determining authority from the first series of lessons, there are some additional principles offered here to help us read wisely and learn doctrine as taught in God’s word:

  1. Pray to God for wisdom, James 1:5.
  2. Be diligent, not lazy, 2 Timothy 2:15.
  3. Be patient; some things are difficult to understand and might require a lot of time to learn, 2 Peter 3:16.
  4. Be logical.  God’s word does not oppose logic but embraces it, Acts 26:25.
  5. Use common sense.  Jesus spoke to the people in their common language not some hidden code.  We can understand His word, Ephesians 5:17; 1 John 5:20.
  6. Keep it simple.  Since the Bible was written for the common person, do not look for hidden messages or other mystical meaning.  Look for the plain and simple message.
  7. Read in context.  Words and sentences have meaning within a broader context.  Do not try to force a word or passage to mean something not intended by the author.  Look at surrounding passages for understanding.
  8. Read in historical and cultural context.  The Bible events occurred in history so look at the historical and cultural setting and what impact it might have on interpretation.
  9. Handle illustrations and idioms wisely.  Sometimes writers use figures of speech, metaphors, and similes to illustrate points.  Do not make too much of symbols or apply them in ways in which the author did not intend.
  10. Let scripture interpret scripture.  This is probably the most important reminder.  Use clear passages to illuminate confusing passages.  You will find that the more scriptures you learn, the easier it is to understand unfamiliar passages.

Visiting the Sick

“Miserable comforters are you all,” said Job to his friends, and sometimes we are too. When visiting the sick we must guard our tongues. Many patients have had to endure well meaning visitors describing horrible tragedies of people who have had the same procedure as the patient, died after undergoing the same treatment, or died through neglect of the hospital. We should not compare medical war stories. We may make a patient fearful and even impede their recovery by our “comforting words.”

When we visit the sick we should make our visits brief and speak softly.  We should not overwhelm the patient with many visitors at once, but wait if there are several others already in the room.  If there are other sick people in the room, we should be considerate of them.  We should listen to the patient and offer words of comfort. We must not depress them.

One doctor noted that we “should not reveal negative emotional reactions through voice, countenance or manner.  The patient may want to show his wound or a bottle of gallstones.  Sometimes the patient may be in a pitiful condition, or the odor in the room may be so disagreeable as to make the visit an unpleasant task.  Remember that the patient, if conscious, is humiliated about his own condition and aware of the burden he is placing on others” (from Wayne Emmons).

Showing the Love of Christ by Hospitality

1 Peter 4:8-9  “And above all things have fervent love for one another, for ‘love will cover a multitude of sins.’ Be hospitable to one another without grumbling.” 

The early church had the love and togetherness of a stable family.  In Acts 2, we read that the brethren willingly shared their possessions with those in need and ate food together with gladness and simplicity of heart.  Nowhere did God command the church to provide a meal for brethren to use for fellowship.  In fact, Paul rebukes the church in Corinth in 1 Corinthians 11:22 by saying, “What! Do you not have houses to eat and drink in?” We do not read of New Testament churches building “fellowship halls” but instead shared social fellowship on an individual basis.

The New Testament writers urged brethren to show hospitality towards one another.  The word “hospitality” literally means a “love of strangers.”  In the Old Testament there were laws regulating the treatment of strangers.  For example, Deuteronomy 10:18-19 commands: “He administers justice for the fatherless and the widow, and loves the stranger, giving him food and clothing. Therefore love the stranger, for you were strangers in the land of Egypt.”   Before the Law, Abraham and Lot fed and sheltered strangers (Genesis 18, 19).  These men entertained angels unknowingly, Hebrews 13:2.  From the beginning, hospitality has been a virtue desired by God.

The New Testament urges us to be “given to hospitality,” Romans 12:13.  The word translated “given” literally means to pursue.  We must pursue opportunities to show hospitality.  We must also recognize that many of our brethren, whom we see week after week, are still in many ways strangers to us.  We may not know where they live, what their hobbies are, their likes and dislikes.  When we enter their homes and they enter ours, they see what is important to us by our collections, our pictures, and our possessions.  Sometimes I have learned that a brother and I have similar interests and hobbies when visiting with them.  When we open our houses and our lives to our brethren, we will develop deeper friendships and brotherly love.

When we share together, we learn some needs that our brethren have.  Going “house to house” is one of the best ways to develop a close relationship with his brethren.
Hospitality should extend beyond a close circle of friends.  It is easy to have people into our homes on a regular basis whose company we already enjoy, and this should not neglected.  However, the transformed life extends hospitality beyond those friends.  Consider Jesus’ admonition in Luke 14:12-14 to not invite those who can repay us back with a meal but invite those who most need it.  Their primary need might not be food but companionship.  Consider also this sober lesson from our Lord:

Matthew 5:46-47: “For if you love those who love you, what reward have you? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet your brethren only, what do you do more than others? Do not even the tax collectors do so?”

Christians must be willing to receive hospitality.  When a brother invites us into his home, we should be thankful and, if possible, accept that invitation.  Some people have a hard time accepting hospitality but we help other Christians fulfill their duty by allowing them to show their love towards us.  Just as we should graciously accept when they want to wash our clothes, mow our lawn, bring us food and other types of service when we are sick or otherwise in need, we must willingly receive hospitality. Some have such pride that would refuse the offers of kind brethren. We need to humble ourselves and allow them to fulfill their duty.  We will have a chance to repay hospitality and service shown to us by serving others.