Tuesday, August 27, 2013


Thoughts on studying the Parables

The word parable is from the Greek word parabole, meaning a placing one thing by the side of another; a comparison, simile, or similitude.  Hauck says it “compares two things from different fields in order to elucidate [clarify] the unfamiliar by means of the familiar.”[1] Dodd defines it as “…a metaphor or simile drawn from nature or common life, arresting the hearer by its vividness or strangeness, and leaving the mind in sufficient doubt about its precise application to rouse it into active thought.”[2] A parable is not a fable, for it is not trivial or fantasy. It is not a myth in that it is not a creation of folklore. Mickelsen notes that, “Parables by their very nature are the opposite of abstractions.”[3] Zuck simplifies the definition of a parable as “a true-to-life story to illustrate or illuminate a truth.”[4] A parable is a living vehicle of teaching. It paints a picture from life to make or illustrate a point.

My rules for dealing with parables:
1.      Do not go beyond what we are told in the parable.
2.      Search out the basic or main point of comparison which is stressed by the speaker or writer. Give the explicit identification in the parable and context. We are not to overextend the metaphors.
3.      All sub-points in the parable are given to support, define, or clarify the main point. 
Explain the basic and essential truths of the parable and why they are important to the original readers and us today. Stay on point.

[2]  Quoted by Ramm, Bernard, PROTESTANT BIBLICAL INTERPRETATION, 254. 
[3]  Mickelsen, A. Berkeley, INTERPRETING THE BIBLE, 213.

Thursday, August 22, 2013

A Study of Philippians 2:1-4

Living Humbly as Servants of Christ (Phil 2:1-11).

Many see unity as the theme of Philippians. Like-mindedness is certainly a key element to the book of Philippians. Paul opens the second chapter with a charge to be unified by the “same mind.” A key to unity is humility of mind. The mind is the key to the Christian life. How one thinks is as important as what one thinks. Thus, the center of attention becomes in this great chapter is the mind—the mind of Christ. C.F. Baker sees the theme of this epistle as “the Mind of Christ which indwells every member of the Body of Christ and is the source of the joy and rejoicing in which the epistle abounds.”[1]  It is also the key to unity. What is the key element in the mind of Christ? Is it love? Is it Patience? Is it Grace? All are important triads to have. But the key is humility. Note Jesus says that it is the vital element of his essence when he tells us to come to him, for “I am gentle and humble in heart” (Matthew 11:28-30). Micah reminds us of the requirement of God is for man to “do justice, to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God” (Micah 5:8). Paul portrays this key element as being essential in the life of the believer. A key element of the Mind of Christ is humility. One can not escape it here in this chapter. Paul’s desire for the believers is to be humble as Christ was humble.
The call to Harmony and Humility (2:1-4)
“Therefore” is a word of connection. The Greek oun is resumptive rather than causal.[2] It connects the present section with what precedes: a worthy walk (1:27-30). This connection is reinforced by the parallel between the two paragraphs:
            Standing firm in one spirit (1:27)                    united in one spirit (2:2)
            with one mind (1:27)                                      being of the same mind (2:2)

Elements of a worthy walk are to be united in one spirit and one mind. This is accomplished by submissiveness or humility. Silva makes an important note on this passage:
Grammatically, vv. 1—4 constitute but one sentence with one main clause, the imperative of v.2a, “make my joy complete.”… To be sure, the main verb of a sentence does not necessarily convey the writer’s main concern. It is plain here that the Philippians’ unanimity of mind, enjoined in the subordinate clauses that follow, and not Paul’s yearnings for joy, is the primary though of the whole passage.[3]

The incentives for harmony and humility (2:1).

Paul begins his call to harmony and humility with four incentives. Each clause begins with the word “If.” These are first class conditions, indicating that what is being said is true. In English the word “if” indicates doubt. In Greek usage here it does not. A better English translation to eliminate the element of doubt would be to substitute the word “since there is.” Every translator and translation supplies the verb in these clauses because no verb appears in the Greek text. A variety of verbs have been supplied—there be (KJV); there is any (NASB, NKJV); you have any (NIV)—none of which are in the text.  In the texts after the word “if” are only nouns. Literally the text reads “If consolation/encouragement in Christ.” However verbs must be supplied to smooth the English. These should also be viewed (since they are first class conditions) as statements of fact, not questions. Paul makes this appeal on the basis of “objective realities that have already occurred in their in their own experience.”[4] The four incentives are the basis or ground upon which harmony and humility are produced.
(1)   “Since [there is] encouragement in Christ” (2:1a) [my translation].[5]

The main noun found is paraklesis and can mean two different ideas: (1) comfort or consolation; or (2) exhortation or encouragement.[6]  There is a debate which idea should be used, and there are good men on both sides.[7] The majority see it in the sense of exhortation. This seems to be supported by the word by Ephesians 4:1, 1 Corinthians 1:10. Most observe that the context favors the meaning of encouraging or helping.[8] The word encouragement carries the both ideas of admonition and at the same time the tone of consolation, which is encouragement as well. Encouragement implies the idea of stimulus.

(2)   “Since [there is] comfort of love” (2:1b) [my translation]
The word comfort is the Greek word paramythion (found only here) meaning to comfort or console. The background of the word has the fundamental idea of speaking in a friendly way to someone, thus to console or comfort. It is a neuter noun which “indicates the instrument used by the one who is comforting.”[9] Love is the instrument or generates the comfort. Therefore it carries the idea of love comforting you. This love works in two directions: First, we are comforted by the love of God (Romans 5:8; 1 John 4:7, 16). Second, we are to comfort others by love (1 Corinthians 8:1; Galatians 5:13).

(3)   “Since [there is] fellowship of the Spirit” (2:1c) [my translation]
There is somewhat of a debate as to how we should view “spirit” in this verse. Is it a reference to the spirit of fellowship or to the Holy Spirit? There is no Greek article before the word spirit, thus some understand the phrase as merely kindred spirits—fellowship in spirit.  However, most commentators take it as a reference to the Holy Spirit. The reasons are:[10] (1) there are other clear references to the Holy Spirit where the article is absent, even the modifier “Holy” is not found (cf. Romans 7:6; Galatians 3:3; 5:16, 18, 25). (2) The word fellowship in the New Testament has the connotation of spiritual fellowship; therefore the modifier of the spirit is unnecessary. (3)  The near parallel of 2 Corinthians 13:14 is so unusually close that few deny that Philippians passage refers to the Holy Spirit. The word fellowship has the idea of communion and participation. It seems best to include both the communion with and by the Holy Spirit, as well as our participation with the Holy Spirit.

(4)   “Since (there are) bowels [affections] and mercies” (2:1d) [my translation].
This is an interesting phrase and difficult phrase to understand, not to speak of being odd to our western and modern ears.  The Greek noun found here is splanchnon and its meaning is the chief intestines, entrails, bowels. Figuratively it speaks of the seat of emotions and passions. Metonymically, is speaks of inward affection or compassion.[11] The KJV translates it literally as bowels in this verse and earlier in Phil. 1:8, as well as 2 Corinthians 6:12; Colossians 3:13; Philemon 7, 12, 20; and 1 John 3:17.  In Acts 1:18 it speaks directly to literal physical bowels of Judas.  However, it is not consistent and on two occasion translates it as “tender mercies” (Luke 1:78), and “affection” (2 Corinthians 7:15). Since only one reference speaks of the physical inward parts of the body, the rest are used figuratively and metonymically, it is better to translate the word as affections (as in most modern translations). The New Testament world saw the bowels as the seat of emotion and affection.
The word translated mercies is the Greek word oiktirmos means to have compassion on; pity; or mercy. “Oiktirmos is the pity or compassion which one shows for the suffering of others.”[12]  It is an outward movement toward others because of an inward concern or compassion.
This phrase is somewhat ambiguous, especially in light that the preceding phrases are triune in view, since they likely refer to encouragement in Christ, love of God, and fellowship of the Spirit. There is a difference of opinion as to if this phrase refers to God, or to human emotions that are to be displayed by the saints. There can be little question that it can be used either way: It describes God’s character (Rom. 12:1; 2 Cor. 3:1) as well as what we are to display toward others as saints (Phil. 2:11; Col. 3:12).  It is probably best to see these as the affection and mercy of God. O’Brien gives strong reasons for this: (1) The Greek Old Testament’s overwhelming use of the word oiktrimos for the mercy of God; (2) The Pauline use of the term for God’s compassion (Rom. 12:1-2; 2 Cor. 1:3; Col. 3:12);  (3) The tendency of the New Testament to employ both terms to God or Christ; (4) The opening words of each phrase pointing to objective realities rather than something hoped for.[13]

Products of the incentives (2:2-4).

Paul directs them to “make my joy complete” by using these incentives to produce harmony and humility. They are incentives to put into action three graces that are to be evident in their lives. Hendricksen calls them—Oneness, Lowliness, and helpfulness.[14] Since harmony and humility center upon attitudes of the mind, I see three types of minds or attitudes that are to be manifested because of these incentives—Unity of mind, Lowliness of mind, and a Concerned mind.

(1)   Unity of Mind (2:2)
“Being of the same mind, maintaining the same love, united in spirit, intent on one purpose” (2:2). The Greek word for mind is phroneo, meaning to think, have a mindset, or attitude. It speaks not only of one’s attitude, emotions, and the will.[15] It speaks not of the brain, but the action or function of the brain. It is a key word in Philippians appearing 9 times (1:7; 2:2 [twice]; 2:5; 3:15 [twice]; 3:19; 4:2 and 4:10). Unity of mind was one of the characteristics of the early believers. It literally reads: “that you keep on thinking the same thing.” It should be pointed that the unity and uniformity is not the same. Unity comes by having a kindred spirit; uniformity comes from outward pressure. Having the same mind accommodates three things: (1) the same love which speaks of the united emotion of love. Love is a unifying factor. (2) United in spirit or literally “joint souls.” This “underscores the idea that the Philippians are to share one soul, possess a common affection, desire, passion, sentiment for living together in harmony.”[16] (3) Of same intent of purpose (one mind). It speaks of singleness of purpose.

(2)   Lowliness of mind (2:3).
 Before Paul gives us the next product, he begins with two areas that hinder us from having a correct mindset: “do nothing from selfishness or empty conceit…” (Phil. 2:3). This is a clear prohibition that is absolute, indicating it is binding upon the believer at all times. These things divide and cause discord. They are to be avoided at all cost. First is selfishness. The Greek word is eritheia, meaning strife, selfish ambition, or contention. “It represents a motive of self-interest, mercenary interest.”[17] It is limited in scope and shortsightedness. It cannot see beyond one’s self. Second, and closely connected, is empty conceit. It is kenodoxia in the Greek, meaning empty pride, vainglory, a desire for praise. It is one who wants to be admired by others. These two elements disrupt unity. Calvin calls them the “most dangerous pests for disturbing the peace of the church.”[18] They destroy the key elements of harmony and humility.
Harmony must be accompanied “with humility of mind” (Phil. 2:3). The text separates the concepts with the conjunction “but” (alla) which denotes contrast. In this case the contrast is between extreme differences—pride and humility. Humility of mind is extremely different in contrast to pride and selfishness. He describes and instructs “let each of you regard one another as more important than himself” (2:3).  The words “more important” is the Greek word hyperecho, meaning to hold above, or to be prominent. Calvin asks how one who is superior to another reckon the other better? He answers it is one’s perception of God’s gifts and our own infirmities.[19]  We must not glory in our gifts, and must employ ourselves in correcting and detecting our personal faults.  That is extreme thinking in our world today. “His point,” says Constable, “was that we should view others as worthy of more consideration that we give ourselves.”[20] That is the mind of Christ.

(3) A Concerned Mind (2:4)
Harmony and Humility are preserved by a concerned mind. The concern is not directed to self, but toward others. “Do not [merely] look out for your own personal interest, but also for the interest of others” (2:4). In this verse let us note three things: First, it deals with our life focus. The word look is the Greek word skipeite, means to look attentively, watch, observe, focus, or to contemplate. It is the basis of the word “scope” in English. Thus it speaks of a mind that is directed or focused on concern. Second, the primary focus is not to be selfish—not merely for your own personal interest. The phrase certainly indicates that it is not to be disregarded, but it is not to be primary or exclusive. Third, but we are “also” to be concerned about the need of others. 1 Corinthians 10:24, exhorts that one should not “seek his own [good], but that of his neighbor.” 

To be continued...

[2] Moises Silva, PHILIPPIANS, 99.
[3] Ibid, 100.
[4]  Peter T. O’Brien, NIGTC: PHILIPPIANS, 167.
[5]  To capture the tone and essence of the first-class condition I have translated them as statements. Admittedly this is somewhat a free translation.
[6]  Gerald F. Hawthorne, WBC: PHILIPPIANS, 65.
[7]  See O’Brien, 168-170; J.B. Lightfoot, PHILIPPIANS 107; Silva, 103; Hawthorne, 65.
[10]  Hawthorne, 66.
[11]  Zodhiates, 1307.
[12]  Ibid, 1034.
[13]  O’Brien, 175-176.
[14]  William Hendricksen, NTC: PHILIPPIANS, 99.
[15]  Hawthorne, 67.
[16]  Ibid, 68.
[17]  Zodhiates, 654.
[18]  John Calvin, CALVIN’S NEW TESTAMENT COMMENTARIES: Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians and Colossians, 245.
[19]  Calvin, 246.
[20]  Thomas Constable, NOTES ON PHILIPPIANS, 28. 

Monday, August 19, 2013



While most articles center upon modern commentaries, many have a tendency to overlook the older commentaries. Here are commentaries that are at least 20 years old, but still in print.

The student or Pastor should not overlook these commentaries on JOHN.

Leon Morris, NICNT: GOSPEL OF JOHN, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids, 1981. Just because this has been replaced it the NICNT series, do not overlook this volume. It is still one of the best on John.

Merrill Tenney’s JOHN: THE GOSPEL OF BELIEF, Eerdmans, Grand Rapids 1948. It is a great work that centers upon the conflict of belief and unbelief. Readable and understandable. Tenney was a master of John’s Gospel and knew how to communicate it. 

Wednesday, August 7, 2013


Failure doesn't mean that you are a failure; it does mean you haven't yet succeeded.
Failure doesn't mean that you have accomplished nothing; it does mean that you have learned something.
Failure doesn't mean that you have been a fool; it does mean you have a lot of faith.
Failure doesn't mean that you have been disgraced; it does mean that you were willing to try.
Failure doesn't mean you don't have it; it does mean you have to do something in a different way.
Failure doesn't mean you are inferior; it does mean you are not perfect.
Failure doesn't mean you've wasted your life; it does mean you can start afresh.
Failure doesn't mean you should give up; it does mean you must try harder.
Failure doesn't mean you will never make it; it does mean it will take a little longer.
Failure doesn't mean God has abandoned you; it does mean God has a better way.
- Author unknown

Monday, August 5, 2013


The student or Pastor should not overlook this commentary on LUKE.

A COMMENTARY ON THE GOSPEL OF ST LUKE by Frederic Louis Godet. An exhaustive exegetical work written in 1870, but has stood the test of time. Conservative and technical. Some knowledge of Greek is necessary. Very worthwhile and deserves shelf space. Godet upholds the fundamentals of the faith. Do not overlook any of his works—Commentaries on JOHN, ROMANS, 1 CORINTHIANS. Each deserves use and shelf space.