Wednesday, 15 November 2017

Slaves of Christ

     The epistle to the Philippians opens with Paul and Timothy both described as “slaves [douloi] of Christ Jesus.”1 While all Christians are to be Christ’s slaves (1 Cor. 7:22; Eph. 6:6; 2 Tim. 2:24), other than the apostle himself and Timothy (Rom. 1:1; Gal. 1:10; Phil. 1:1; Tit. 1:1), Epaphras is the only individual specifically identified as such in the Pauline writings (Col. 4:12). In the opening of the letter to Philemon, Paul is designated “a prisoner of Christ” with Timothy “the brother.” Due to the sensitive nature of the correspondence, it is understandable why the word “slave” is not used as a descriptive term.
     J. Murphy-O’Connor considers the title “slave of Christ Jesus” to be honorific, calling to mind the great servants of God in the OT (Letter-Writer 48). L. A. Jervis considers that the unique positioning of Timothy’s name along with this designation draws attention to his equality with Paul and to their shared commitment to the service of Christ (Purpose of Romans 71). Yet Timothy’s subordinate status in relation to Paul is evident in the letter body (Phil. 2:22) and elsewhere (1 Tim. 1:2; 2 Tim. 1:2). Moreover, in the first-century Greco-Roman world, in the context of a Roman colony like Philippi (cf. Acts 16:12, 21), the word “slave” would be more humbling than honorific.   
     Adopting such a title challenged societal norms where prestige and advancement were highly valued (cf. Phil. 3:7-8). Paul “introduces the countercultural mind-set that he will establish in the letter. Over against the Philippians’ quest for honor, Paul and Timothy are models of an alternative set of values.”2 The apostle makes sure his readers know that the Lord Jesus Christ took on the “form of a slave [doulos]” (Phil. 2:7). When he says concerning Timothy, “he has served with me in the gospel” (Phil. 2:22), the verb is douleúō, connoting service as slaves. The difference is that a slave of Christ is one who gives himself up willingly and fully to the will of another (cf. Rom. 6:17-20).
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 J. W. Thompson and B. W. Longenecker, Philippians 26.

Related PostsPaul's Letter to Philemon

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Wednesday, 8 November 2017

They Returned …

     Contrary to popular misconceptions, Paul’s approach to missionary work did not merely involve baptizing people and starting churches. Sufficient resources were invested for adequate instruction and edification, requiring extended periods of time (cf. Acts 14:3; 18:11; 20:27, 31). When this luxury was not afforded, ample follow-up work was necessary in order to establish these churches. When only a brief time was spent in a given location, it was typically because of forced departure rather than by design.1

The Galatia Campaign

     When Paul and Barnabas reached the city of Derbe, the end of the first missionary campaign’s evangelistic trail, they did not continue eastward towards home. “And when they had preached the gospel to that city and made many disciples, they returned to Lystra, Iconium, and Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, exhorting them to continue in the faith …” (Acts 14:21-22a).2 Not long thereafter Paul says, “Let us now go back and visit our brethren in every city where we have preached the word of the Lord, and see how they are doing” (Acts 15:36). This plan was carried out on multiple occasions (Acts 15:41–16:6; 18:23).

The Macedonia Campaign

     On the second missionary tour at least three churches were started in the province of Macedonia, beginning at Philippi (Acts 16:12-40). We don’t know how long Paul and his fellow missionaries were in that city; the only time indicators are “some days” and “many days” (Acts 16:12, 18). Seeing that they were compelled to leave prematurely, one member of the mission team appears to have stayed behind to continue the work. The pronominal “we” (inclusive of Luke) at the beginning of the account (Acts 16:10-16) switches to the third person “they” at departure (Acts 16:40; 17:1), implying that Luke remained in Philippi – potentially, in view of the next “we” section (Acts 20:6), for about seven years. There were also follow-up visits (Phil. 2:19, 24; etc.), noted further below.
     Next was Thessalonica, where converts were made but again the missionaries were forced to leave prematurely (Acts 17:1-10). Nevertheless, Timothy returned soon with a letter (1 Thess. 1:1; 2:17; 3:1-6) and probably a second time a few months later with another letter (2 Thess. 1:1). The three-man mission team also worked together in nearby Berea until Paul was forced to leave, while “both Silas and Timothy remained there” (Acts 17:10-14). After regrouping in Athens, Silas and Timothy went back to Macedonia (1 Thess. 2:17–3:2; Acts 18:5).
     In total, Timothy made four or five documented return trips to Macedonia (1 Thess. 3:1; 2 Thess. 1:1; Acts 19:22; 20:1-4; Phil. 2:19-23), Silas at least one (Acts 18:5), while Paul revisited these brethren no fewer than four times (Acts 19:21; 20:1, 3; Phil. 2:24; 1 Tim. 1:3; cf. 1 Cor. 16:5; 2 Cor. 2:13; 7:5; 9:2-4).

The Achaia and Asia Campaigns

     Paul stayed in Corinth at least a year and a half, “teaching the word of God among them” (Acts 18:11). He later returned for a three-month visit (1 Cor. 4:19; 16:5-6; Acts 20:2-3) and possibly again a few years later (2 Tim. 4:20). Follow-up work was also done by Apollos, Timothy, Titus, and others (Acts 19:1; 1 Cor. 4:17; 2 Cor. 7:13-15; 8:16-24; 12:18). While Paul’s first trip to Ephesus was brief, leaving Aquila and Priscilla there to initiate this work, he soon went back for an extended three-year mission (Acts 18:18-21; 19:1; 20:31; 1 Cor. 16:8) followed by multiple return visits (Acts 20:17-18; 1 Tim. 1:3; 3:14; 4:13).


     The biblical pattern of missionary work has never been a quick and easy enterprise. While baptizing penitent believers is essential, converts must be sufficiently taught, grounded in the faith, and trained in discipleship (Matt. 28:18-20). This requires extensive follow-up work, with churches not only started but established as faithful, growing, self-sustaining communities. As we pray for laborers to be sent out into the Lord’s harvest fields (Luke 10:2), may we never discount the importance of missionaries returning to the mission field.

--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Cf. Acts 13:50; 14:5-6, 19-20; 16:30; 17:10.
     2 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are from the NKJV; emphasis added in italics.

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Wednesday, 1 November 2017

Fornication, Pornography, and Homosexuality – Biblically Defined

     The noun pórnos (lit. a male prostitute) is employed in the New Testament of anyone engaging in illicit sex, i.e., a fornicator (1 Cor. 5:9, 10, 11; 6:9; Eph. 5:5; 1 Tim. 1:10; Heb. 12:16; 13:4; Rev. 21:8; 22:15). The noun porneía applies to any type of illicit sexual intercourse, i.e., fornication (Matt. 5:32; 15:19; 19:9; Mark 7:21; John 8:41; Acts 15:20, 29; 21:25; 1 Cor. 5:1 [x2]; 6:13, 18; 7:2; 2 Cor. 12:21; Gal. 5:19; Eph. 5:3; Col. 3:5; 1 Thess. 4:3; Rev. 2:21; 9:21; 14:8; 17:2, 4; 18:3; 19:2). In its singular form porneía refers to the specific sex act, and under this broad umbrella term would be various types of porneía, such as adultery, incest, homosexuality, pedophilia, bestiality, etc. Porneía is any kind of sexual intercourse that is not within the context of a divinely approved marriage (cf. Heb. 13:4).
     While the English word “pornography” is derived from this Greek term, porneía does not mean the same thing as the English word, and vice versa. The English translation “sexual immorality” is somewhat vague, thus contributing to common misunderstandings. Although pornography is not “fornication,” it is still sinful, not only because of its addictiveness and the other immoral thoughts and behaviors it inevitably leads to (Rom. 6:19; Jas. 1:14-15; 2 Pet. 2:18-19), but its inherently selfish, lustful, lewd, degrading, objectifying nature is utterly contrary to the mental and moral purity that God expects of his children (Matt. 5:28; Gal. 5:16-17; Eph. 4:17-20; 1 Thess. 5:22; 2 Tim. 2:19-22; 1 John 2:15-17). Nevertheless, while the English word “pornography” is derived from the Greek porneía, viewing pornographic images does not constitute the sexual intercourse that is required for porneía to have occurred.
     The Greek malakoí (plural of malakós) in 1 Cor. 6:9 essentially means “soft,” and precedes arsenokoítai (see also 1 Tim. 1:10), a combination of arsēn (“male”) and koitē (“bed”). These are sexual terms descriptive of homosexual behavior (ASV, ESV, ERV, HCSB, ISB, NASB, NIV, N/KJV, NRSV, etc.).1 Malakoí describes men who submit to dominant homosexual partners, and the compound arsenokoítai applies to men who actively engage in sodomy. The words arsēn (“male”) and koitē (“bed”) appear together six times in the LXX (Greek translation of the OT, the version Paul extensively quotes in 1 Corinthians), four times referring to men lying with women (Num. 31:17, 18; Judg. 21:11, 12) and twice in reference to men lying with men (Lev. 18:22; 20:13).2 Dionysius of Halicarnassus (ca. 60-7 BC), in his Roman Antiquities, describes a man named Aristodemus, who was called malakos or “effeminate,” and one reason for the nickname was the presumed effeminacy of his youth, allowing himself “to be treated as a woman” (7.2.4).
     Irrespective of how these terms and concepts might be viewed in secular societies, to understand God’s revealed will on these matters we must define biblical terms biblically and then live and teach accordingly. 
-- Kevin L. Moore

     1 Variously rendered “homosexuals” (NKJV), “effeminate” [by perversion] (NASB), “catamites” [those submitting to homosexuals] (NKJV mg) – descriptive of passive homosexual partners; and “sodomites” [male homosexuals] (NKJV), “homosexuals” (NASB), descriptive of active homosexual partners. The ESV combines these two words: “men who practice homosexuality.”
     2 See also Lev. 15:18, 24; 18:20; 19:20; Num. 5:13, 20. 

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Wednesday, 25 October 2017

Is Everything We Do in Life “Worship”?

     In Paul’s letter to the saints at Rome, in the section that has been designated the 1st verse of the 12th chapter, we read: “Therefore I exhort you, brethren, by God’s mercies, to present your bodies a living sacrifice, holy, well pleasing to God …”1 The next expression (tēn logikēn latreían humōn) has been variously rendered (a) “your spiritual service” (ASV); (b) “your reasonable service” (NKJV); (c) “your spiritual worship” (ESV); (d) “your spiritual service of worship” (NASB); (e) “your spiritual act of worship” (NIV 1984); and (f) “your true and proper worship” (NIV 2011). Which rendering most accurately conveys the sense of the text?
     The Greek adjective logikós means “reasonable,” “rational,” or “spiritual.” The noun latreía is “service or worship” (BAGD 467), with emphasis on divine service (cf. Rom. 9:4; John 16:2; Heb. 12:28). The verbal form latreúō means to “serve,” especially the carrying out of religious duties (BAGD 467). This is not the same concept as what is communicated by the verb proskunéō, which means to “worship, do obeisance to, prostrate oneself before, do reverence to …” (BAGD 716). Paul is not discussing or describing proskunéō (“worship”) in Rom. 12:1; in fact, this word does not appear anywhere in Romans.2
     Scriptural worship [proskunéō] is something that is done purposefully, involving concentration, consideration, and reverence (John 4:20-24; 12:20; Acts 8:27). The intentionality of worship is demonstrated in Acts 24:11, where Paul says he had traveled to Jerusalem “to worship” [proskunéō]. Obviously worship is something that is done on purpose; one cannot worship unintentionally or by accident.
     While we serve the Lord in all that we do (Rom. 12:1; Col. 3:17), not everything we do in life constitutes worship (e.g. reading the newspaper, sleeping, watching a movie, et al.). When we set aside time and attention for the express purpose of worshiping God, let us do so according to biblical guidelines (1 Cor. 11:17-29; 14:12-19; 16:1-2; etc.). In everything else, may we be God’s faithful servants.
--Kevin L. Moore

     1 Unless otherwise noted, scripture quotations are the author’s own translation.
     2 The only biblical record of Paul’s use of the word proskunéō (“worship”) is Acts 24:11 and 1 Cor. 14:25.

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