Category Archives: The Bible

From When To If

If my title has given you hope that this might be a welcome diversion from the many troubles of the day, I am pleased to tell you that this is much more than that. This is about a transition that ultimately is God’s answer to all the troubles of the day, which spiritual detective work uncovers to be the doing of that one little three-letter culprit sin.

Multitudes in our world about us have dismissed the very concept of sin. Christians on the other hand acknowledge sin and are thankful that God in Christ has forgiven them their sins. Yet sin is so much with us that they are sure we can never really be rid of it till we die. I don’t think I could count the number of times I’ve heard Bible believing Christians confidently assuring me (and themselves at the same time, I suspect) that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will always sin. In the minds of so many it’s incredulous, presumptuous, even blasphemous, to maintain otherwise.

But what does our Bible actually say, fellow Bible believer? To insist on this completely misses the fundamental difference between the New Covenant and the Old Covenant, which God did away with because there was something it could not do.

Let’s look first at a verse from the Old Testament, which, with additions over the centuries, was the Bible of the Old Covenant people of God. This verse is part of Solomon’s prayer at the dedication of the temple he built when the Old Covenant was still in effect.

When they sin… 

When they sin against You (for there is no one who does not sin), and You become angry with them and deliver them to the enemy, and they take them captive to a land far or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 NKJV)

That’s all we need to read for what we are considering. Here is that same fragment from Young’s Literal Translation:

When they sin against Thee–for there is not a man who sinneth not—and Thou hast been angry with them, and hast given them before an enemy, and taken them captive have their captors, unto a land far off or near… (2 Chr. 6:36 YLT)

Do you see what this is saying? “When they sin against You…” Some of our English versions (including the old King James Version) have if here, but a check into the Hebrew original reveals that when is the correct translation. The context itself requires when, because Solomon immediately adds, “for there is no one who does not sin.” In other words, it’s inevitable that the people under that covenant would at some point sin against God. It’s because the Old Covenant had no provision to do away with indwelling sin.

For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and goats should take away sins. (Heb. 10:3)

That stands to reason, doesn’t it. To actually take away sins would require a better sacrifice than the blood of an animal.

Now this from the New Testament, and you will see immediately the significance of the title.

If anyone sins…

My little children, these things I write to you, so that you may not sin. And if anyone sins, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous. And He Himself is the propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only but also for the whole world.  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 NKJV)

Again, the same passage from Young’s Literal Translation.

My little children, these things I write to you, that ye may not sin: and if any one may sin, an advocate we have with the Father, Jesus Christ, a righteous one, and he–he is a propitiation for our sins, and not for ours only, but also for the whole world…  (1 Jn. 2:1,2 YLT)

If anyone sins…” So we are not in the days of when anymore. Solomon if he were with us today could not say “there is no one who does not sin” for there is provision in the New Covenant that was not there in the Old. Now it is not when. If. And here the context itself requires if. John has just said that what he has written is “so that you may not sin.” What a marvel, how can this be? What is it that John has written? He has written of God’s provision for the walk free of sin—walking in fellowship with Him in the light in which is the continual cleansing of the blood of Jesus Christ (1 Jn. 1:5). What marvellous light. That’s what Peter calls it. “Marvellous light” (1 Pt. 2:9). It is new-covenant light. Under the New Covenant it is not a matter of when one will sin; those who are in covenant relationship with God through Jesus Christ are able to walk free of sin all their days, though yet in mortal flesh.

In addition to the Scriptures in 1 John, many other New Testament passages bear witness to this provision—that because of what Christ accomplished on the cross in putting away sin “by the sacrifice of Himself” (Heb. 9:26), and making that accomplishment ours by baptizing us into Himself, sinning is no longer inevitable.

 What shall we say then? Shall we continue in sin that grace may abound? Certainly not! How shall we who died to sin live any longer in it? Or do you not know that as many of us as were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into His death? Therefore we were buried with Him through baptism into death, that just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life. (Rom. 6:1-4 NKJV)

For the death that He died, He died to sin once for all; but the life that He lives, He lives to God.  Likewise you also, reckon yourselves to be dead indeed to sin, but alive to God in Christ Jesus our Lord. (Rom. 6:10,11 NKJV)

And having been set free from sin, you became slaves of righteousness. (Rom. 6:18 NKJV)

I’ve just quoted excerpts here; please read that whole chapter carefully and prayerfully—and believingly—as well as the following one and the chapter between them (Romans 7).

There is therefore now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus, who do not walk according to the flesh, but according to the Spirit. For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has made me free from the law of sin and death. For what the law could not do in that it was weak through the flesh, God did by sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, on account of sin: He condemned sin in the flesh, that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. (Rom. 8:1-4 NKJV)

Walking according to the Spirit—this is just what John is thinking of with his words about walking in the light. This is God’s new-covenant provision to walk the sin-free walk.

There are many other passages as well. Yet, as I said, I don’t know how many times I have heard Christians who love their Bibles say that as long as we are in mortal flesh we will surely sin, we’ll only be free of sin when we die and go to Heaven. If that is so, the death of Adam is more powerful than the death of Christ. And if that is so, the New Covenant is no better than the Old, and Christ died in vain.

He did not die in vain. The New Covenant is better than the Old.

But now hath he obtained a more excellent ministry, by how much also he is the mediator of a better covenant, which was established upon better promises. For if that first covenant had been faultless, then should no place have been sought for the second. For finding fault with them, he saith, Behold, the days come, saith the Lord, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and with the house of Judah… (Heb. 8:6-8 KJV)

Please read that whole chapter as well. Oh, read, read your Bible, and the Holy Spirit helping you, believe what you are reading. God has done away with the Old Covenant, and brought in a New Covenant with provision—the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus—enabling one to live without sinning. What a wonder. It is not necessary to sin. It is not inevitable.

But it is possible to sin, for we continue to be moral beings with the ability to choose, and we live in a world that is arrayed against the righteous. This means temptation, and therefore the possibility of sinning. But if one does happen to sin, God also has provision for this. We have an Advocate before Him who is Himself the propitiation—very, very briefly, the penalty payer—for our sins; therefore God is “faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness” (1 Jn. 1:9). Note this, not only faithful, but faithful and just because of that propitiation—He would actually be (perish the thought) unrighteous not to do so—to forgive and to cleanse so that we may be restored to fellowship with Him and continue our course in His new-covenant light.

Wonderful provision… if it is necessary. How tragic, then, how worthy of great lamentation, that the greatest transition that has ever taken place in the history of man continues to be questioned, even denied, by so many believers. Let it no longer be so with us, beloved. Let us be stirred, awakened, to a fuller faith that is grounded upon the word of God. Let us become more fully believers in Jesus, believers who know that the weakness of mortal flesh is not too strong a hindrance for those in new-covenant relationship with God, those who, abiding in Christ, walk in the Spirit, walk in the light, walk free of sin, “walk even as He walked” (1 Jn. 1:6).

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A note anticipating a question about 1 Jn. 3:9, which in the King James Version is,  “Whosoever is born of God doth not commit sin; for his seed remaineth in him: and he cannot sin, because he is born of God.” This cannot be saying that it is morally impossible for a born again person to sin, for this would put the born again beyond the Son of God Himself, who certainly could have sinned. For we are told that He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15). If Jesus was not beyond temptation, He was certainly not beyond being able to sin. Yet He did not sin. Thank you, Jesus. Further to that, the Greek tenses in 1 Jn. 3:9 make clear that this is not stating that it is impossible for a born again person to commit a sin. The sense of the verbs is that sinning is not a continual practice, is not “hard wired” in them, as it was before they were born again. Here is 1 Jn. 3:9 in the English Standard Version: “No one born of God makes a practice of sinning, for God’s seed abides in him, and he cannot keep on sinning because he has been born of God.” And so the born again are by the grace of God put on the same footing as the Son of God. They are free of sin. Yet they may be tempted. And since they may be tempted, they may sin. But if they sin…

A Conversation With An Ant

This morning I was out beside my little garden enjoying another beautiful summer day while reading my favourite Book when I noticed an ant briskly making his way along the wooden border of the raised bed. He was carrying a morsel I couldn’t identify—something twice as large as himself—but even so was making good time as he headed toward an ant hill I’ve seen growing near my house.

I paused from my reading and, Bible in hand, knelt down and greeted my busy neighbour with a cheery, “Good morning.”

That stopped him; he turned toward me, antennae working back and forth to determine, I suppose, whether I were friend or foe. “Good morning to you as well,” he said politely if rather warily.

(I ask my readers to keep to yourselves, please, that I was conversing with an ant; if this gets in the wrongs ears… unless you want to share it with some little child; they have no problem with these things.)

I tilted my head back for a closer look at the ant through the lower lens of my bifocals. “That’s quite the load you’re carrying,” I ventured.

It was obvious he wasn’t inclined to idle long, for he said hurriedly, “Yes, but do you feel that touch in the air this morning? The summer’s going fast. We’ve got to bring in much more yet.”

“Ah, yes,” I said. “I’ve read about you in the Bible.”

“The Bible?” he queried.

“It’s a book that tells us humans about God’s eternal purposes in man—more specifically in a Man named Jesus Christ. Actually it’s the second Bible God gave us. You—and the rest of the natural creation—are the first.”

“Really?” the ant said, laying his burden aside now. “I am a Bible?”

“Yes,” I said. “The whole creation is. In our Bible in Proverbs—those are sayings a very wise man wrote long ago—it talks of four things in the creation that are little but are exceedingly wise. It lists you first. It says—here, let me read it.” I leafed through the pages of my Bible till I found the passage in Proverbs Chapter 30.

“‘The ants are a people…’”

“I like your Bible,” he broke in cheerily. “A people. Yes. Everything we do, we do not for ourselves but for the good of all of us.”

I looked up awestruck. So little a creature with so large a thought. Let me ever be small enough to be the student of an ant.

After a moment I continued reading, “‘The ants are a people not strong, yet they prepare their food in summer.’”

His cheerful face turned suddenly solemn. “Indeed we do,” he said. “We know what’s coming.”

“Tell me,” I said, now leaning down on my elbows to get right close to him.

“You don’t know?” he asked, leaning toward me too. “There’s coming a time of great cold. And great, great desolation. We ants, we know we can’t survive that kind of thing; we’re not very strong. So we take advantage of the warm summer days to prepare for it. Look at all the food around us… now.”

I nodded. “I see that you are wise indeed. And now that I think of it, the wise man who wrote those proverbs mentioned something else about you in another place. Let me see if I can find it.” I leafed through the pages till I found the place. “Ah, here it is. Proverbs Chapter 6 verse 6. ‘Go to the ant, thou sluggard: consider her ways, and be wise: which have no guide, nor overseer, nor ruler, provideth her meat in summer, and gathereth her food in harvest.’ So you are not only wise, but industrious—and that without some boss or leader telling you what to do, which in itself is more than amazing.”

“To God be the glory,” he responded, “it seems my leader is built right into me.” And with that he gripped his load and was off again. “Good-bye,” I called with a little wave, and at that he called back, “Good-bye. Have a nice summer… what’s left of it.”

A little distance away he looked back over his shoulder. “And a nice winter too.”

I watched him hasten away till I could see him no longer. Was there a note of foreboding in his last words? Is the abundant spiritual summer we’ve enjoyed in our land for so long about run out? Am I in my weakness—and wisdom—and diligence—securing a Source of spiritual provision and strength for the desolate days ahead?

Or am I the proverbial grasshopper in the ancient fable who fiddled away the glorious summer days while the ant prepared for what was coming?

The Exegesis Of God–Part Two

Let’s recall from last time Solomon’s proclamation at the inauguration of the temple that God had instructed him to build for Him.

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

This is what Solomon’s temple was all about.  It was to be the place among men where the God who had formerly dwelt in thick darkness now shone forth.  Solomon’s temple was, however, only a shadow of the true temple not made with hands—the Son of God Himself.  And so last time we also quoted a verse from John.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared is the Greek exegesato, and is related to our word exegesis, which is the biblical science of discovering and explaining what the Scriptures really say and mean.  Patient exegesis of the Bible will yield to the yielded much fruit.  But in John 1:18 we discover that the Son of God when He walked the earth was the exegesis of God Himself.  He was the One who explained, made known, revealed, shone forth, the hard-to-understand, unseen, obscure, unknown God.

That’s very wonderful, but I wonder if I don’t hear someone thinking, “Well and good that Jesus the Son of God was the exegesis of God the Father back then, but He is not here now.”

I know the regret you’re expressing: if only we could have lived back in Jesus’ day… or if only He were still here today.  Too bad the Devil succeeded in tearing down that living Temple in whom God dwelt and was revealed.

Just a minute.  Remember what Jesus said about that.

 Destroy this temple and in three days I will raise it up…
But He spake of the Temple of His body (Jn. 2:19,21).

And so the Devil has his own regrets that he and his cohorts conspired to have the Lord of glory crucified, thinking to be done with Him.  For He rose from the dead.  And He ascended into Heaven, where, seated at the right hand of God, He began His more excellent ministry of the New Covenant, and an enlargement of that Temple which would continue to be the same exegesis of God.

How so?  When Christ ascended to the right hand of God, He “received the promise of the Father” (Acts 2:33), on the day of Pentecost sending the Spirit to His waiting disciples, just as He, in turn, had earlier promised them.

 I will not leave you comfortless.  I will come to you (Jn. 14.18).

I will come to you?  This is a mystery.  The coming of the Spirit was such that the same One who was the exegesis of God at the right hand of the Father, while continuing to abide at the right hand of the Father in the Heavens, came to His disciples again, and took up residence in them.  For, those in whom the Spirit dwells, it is Christ Himself who dwells in them, as we read in many places in our New Testament.  (For example, Romans 8: 9,10, and many other places that speak of the indwelling Christ.)  And thus they become part of the same Temple Solomon prophesied of, the same habitation the Son of God fulfilled—the same living Exegesis that reveals God and makes Him known among men.

That is the astonishing implication of the sending of the Spirit.  Those in whom Christ dwells now become part of that same exegesis of God that the Son of God was.

This is what the New Covenant assembly is all about, or ought to be.  The church—which was formed by the coming of the Spirit to individual disciples—is to be the fullness of that same Exegesis of God who walked the earth two thousand years ago, and is now seated at the right hand of God.

 The church, which is His body, the fullness of Him that filleth all in all (Eph. 1:23).

The fullness of Him?  The church is His very body—the fullness of Him?  I am sure this is what Jesus had in mind when He “spake of the temple of His body” which He said He would raise up.  “The church, which is His body…”  The Devil thought to be rid of Him by the cross.  What he did, to his great chagrin, enabled God to lay in Zion the foundation Stone for an enlargement of that temple.  It began with the sending of the Spirit at Pentecost.  He comes for nothing less than to continue the same exegesis of God that the Son of God was when He was here.

That is the nature of Christ’s more excellent ministry of the New Covenant.  It is a ministration of the very knowledge of God, and thus, “all shall know Me from the least to the greatest” (Heb. 8:11) .  This is something more than knowledge as we generally think of the word.  It is New Covenant knowledge: the kind of knowledge—the knowledge of God—whom to know means our being like Him.

How imperative, then, that we in the church, as ministers of the New Covenant (which all Christians are to be) give the Prime Minister of the New Covenant—the Holy Spirit—His lordship and pre-eminence in our individual lives, and in our gatherings.  He comes for nothing less than to reveal, to make known, the same God of love and righteousness that dwelt in the Son… so that the same exegesis of God now dwells in and shines forth from the churches—you and me and our brothers and sisters in the churches.

This is what the New Covenant, and the New Covenant assembly, is all about—or is supposed to be—the exegesis of God to a world in darkness.  Anything short of this… we are sorely missing His mark.

And it has to be said that much of what is called church in our day has in fact done that.  Has fallen short.  Has missed the mark.  Let the broken and repentant heart be encouraged.  Christ is still on the Throne at the right hand of the Father, and the Holy Spirit sent from the Throne is still in the earth.  The temple He inaugurated at Pentecost is still here, though in the midst of much that man has built cannot always readily be seen.  In fact her enemies are gloating these days that they have succeeded in destroying her and treading her down in the dust.  The Lord on the throne has a surprise in store for His enemies.  The power and principle of His resurrection life is still at work.  He continues to raise up this Temple—the One that was torn down on Calvary’s cross—just as He prophesied He would do.  He will beautify her, set living stones in her just like Himself.  He will yet be fully revealed, will yet shine forth in this temple in all His glory in the Heavens and in the earth…

…And all the confusion and debate and doubt and misunderstanding as to who He is—all the thick darkness—will vanish like the morning mist in the light of the sun.

The Exegesis Of God

Let me tell you a little story.  Once there was a young man who as a new Christian greatly admired an old saint whose teaching in the word of God had opened a vista the young man had no idea even existed. He aspired to be like the old saint.  The young man greatly admired the old saint’s worn, time-weathered Bible as well.  Its pages were wrinkled and crinkled, its verses underscored, its margins inked with notes.  Because of the aura that went with it—that of a seasoned saint steeped in the word—the young man wanted a Bible like that very badly.  But oh, that would take time, and patience, and what young man has patience and time, especially one who wants to distance himself as fast as he can from a life he has thus far wasted on himself?

And so how does a young man of 25 become an instant seasoned saint?  He buys a new Bible, and, being careful not to tear its pages, crinkles them one by one in his hand, attempting to imitate the effect.

It was a sorry disappointment.  He eventually gave the Bible to an acquaintance, who told him some time later that he had accidentally left it in a phone booth.

The young man is older now, and thinking back the other day, had a good laugh at himself and his immaturity.  He eventually learned that there are no short cuts in the pathway of coming to know God—or to owning a well-worn Bible, either.  Now he has two or three Bibles that look like that old saint’s Bible… but for some reason, his love of Bible exegesis has brought him to the place where he knows less now than the young man he used to be.

Exegesis?  It was only when the Internet and its resources came along that the young man, grown quite a bit older, came across the word.  Bible school students take classes in exegesis; they are taught careful procedures to rightly get at the actual meaning of Scripture.  An exegesis of any given word or passage explains that passage in its context going into, among other things, the meanings of the Hebrew or the Greek, thus hopefully bringing to light the obscurities of the word of God.

For, the Bible can indeed be a very obscure book… just as God Himself can be a very obscure God.

On the day that God gave Israel His commandments, He had come down on Mount Sinai clothed in cloud and smoke and thick darkness.

 And the people stood afar off, and Moses drew near unto the thick darkness where God was (Ex. 20:21).

Communing with God in the cloud, Moses received further commandments for the people, and eventually instructions for the tabernacle that God wanted built.  What was the significance of the tabernacle?

 Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them (Ex. 25:8).

Five centuries later when Solomon’s temple had been finished to the last detail, and the sacrifices had been made, and the ark brought into its place, the temple was filled with a cloud “so that the priests could not stand to minister by reason of the cloud: for the glory of the LORD had filled the house of God” (2 Chr. 5.14). Upon this, Solomon spoke the following words:

 The LORD hath said that He would dwell in the thick darkness.  But I have built an house of habitation for Thee, and a place for Thy dwelling forever (2 Chr. 6:1,2).

As I was reading this passage one day, the light came on.  What was the significance of the temple?  This.  The God who had been cloaked in thick darkness, in cloud and mystery and obscurity… He was here in His temple now, not afar off in Heaven, but nigh, not hidden away, but unveiled. That was the whole purpose of the tabernacle and the temple—that the unknown inscrutable God might dwell there and reveal Himself openly, make Himself known.

And so a thousand years after Solomon, we come to John’s words about the Temple not made with hands.

 No man hath seen God at any time.  The only begotten Son, who is in the bosom of the Father, He hath declared Him (Jn. 1:18).

The word declared in the Greek is exegesato, a verb form of the noun exegesis, meaning that the Son of God declared the Father, revealed Him, made Him known. Vincent’s Word Studies confirms this.

 Hath declared (ἐξηγήσατο)  Or, rendering the aorist strictly, ‘He declared.’ From ἐκ, forth, and ἡγέομαι, to lead the way. Originally, to lead or govern. Hence, like the Latin praeire verbis, to go before with words, to prescribe or dictate a form of words. To draw out in narrative, to recount or rehearse (see Acts 15:14, and on Luke 24:35). To relate in full; to interpret, or translate. Therefore ἐξήγησις, exegesis, is interpretation or explanation (Vincent’s Word Studies of the New Testament, Volume Two).

In other words, according to John 1:18, the Son of God is Himself the exegesis of God.  The tabernacle and Solomon’s temple were but types and shadows of the true temple not made with hands; it was the Son of God Himself who declared, explained, interpreted, made known, revealed, shone forth, the God who had dwelt so long time in thick darkness, and no one had ever really seen.  In the Temple of His Son, this God now dwelt, and shone forth.  The obscure, mysterious, hard to understand, distant, way-up-there-somewhere-far-away God… the Son of God brought Him nigh and revealed Him and made Him known to men.

Only the Son of God Himself could do that.  In fact only the Son of God could be that explanation, the kind of exegesis that is God Himself making Himself known to men.

The young man I referred to is older these days, and is himself a little wrinkled and time-worn now.  He has loved Bible exegesis over the years.  What has it done for him?  This.  He finds in his heart a perpetual cry.  Oh to know more fully this One in the bosom of the Father—this One who is the exegesis of God Himself.

Apart from that exegesis, Bible exegesis has missed the mark.

…More next time.

The Birthings Of Faith

One of the difficulties we must overcome in reading the Bible is that over time we become too familiar with it.  We know the outcomes of the stories… and sometimes we assume the Bible characters had the advantage of that same knowledge.  But no, they didn’t.  We need to read our Bible remembering that.  How profitable it would be if we could read it as a book we’ve picked up for the first time, and don’t know the plot or the way things are going to turn out any more than the characters themselves.

In fact, just think what it would be like if you and I were right there right then—but not knowing anything about the outcome of things the way we do now.   Where would that put us?  What an adventure we would be in.  For it would put us in the place of having to discover very definitely what God was saying… and having to walk it out by faith.

How was it that Abraham ended up in the land of Canaan?  It was by responding in faith to a word from God.  He didn’t have it all mapped out for him.  “By faith Abraham when he was called to go out into a place which he should after receive for an inheritance obeyed: and he went out not knowing whither he went” (Heb. 11.9).  Think of that.  There’s no suspense for us; we turned the page and found out long ago; we know how things unfolded.  Abraham didn’t.  He didn’t know “the rest of the story” the way we do.

Yes, he had a measure of understanding as to what God was leading him into.  But day by new day, step by new step, he had to search out this will of God.  He had to seek to hear afresh what God was saying to him—and the times and seasons of His will.  Sometimes he missed it.  But his heart was right with God.  And God was faithful to bring him back on track.

All those of old… Enoch, Abraham, Sarah, Noah, Moses, Gideon, David… they were involved in something that… let’s call it the birthings of faith.  The true Christian walk is a walk in the Spirit that causes the will of God in Heaven to be unfolded, or birthed, here in the earth.  This takes faith.  This is what faith involves.  Faith involves hearing from God, and responding in accordance with what we have heard.

This is what the faith chapter in Hebrews is all about.  We are given many examples of people who didn’t have a Bible to read the way we do; it wasn’t all laid out before them; they had to birth by faith the word they were hearing, bring it out into open reality in their lives.

What they brought out into the open we have recorded for us now on the pages of our Bible.  Because of this we can become distanced from the… the immanence, the “present-ness” of their walk of faith, the creative element, the beautiful existential quality of the walk these ones were involved in… who brought into being the hidden will of God.

The very point of all that is recorded, though, is to inspire you and me with regard to what is before us in our own lives.  We have their testimony because we too are involved in the birthings of faith.  There is very much yet of the will of God to unfold—very great and awesome things, as great if not greater than any recorded in the Bible.

It is just as important for us to hear His Voice and respond in faith as it was for them back then.

I think of Jesus in His day.  He Himself did not have a heavenly instruction manual laying all things out before Him.  He needed to pray and earnestly seek to hear what His Father was saying and doing.  He lived by faith.  He walked by faith.  All that took place in His life was the result of the birthings of faith.  The familiar story of Jesus walking on the water comes to mind.  We read the story and it’s no big deal to us.  We’re so familiar with it.  We think He walked on water because, well… because He was Jesus.  But it was by faith that the Son of man lived and walked.  He couldn’t walk on water any more than you or I can.  But He saw the disciples He loved out there in the storm… afraid.  He was making intercession for them, and the Father put something in His heart.  He responded in faith.  It was by faith that He walked on the water to go to them.

What a wonder.  But it doesn’t end there.  Peter walked on the water as well!  Let’s put ourselves out there in the boat that day.  Could you or I have done that… like Peter?  Peter walked on the water, too.  How?  He heard a single word.  “Come.”

Peter birthed something by faith that night.  He walked on the water by faith.

As we follow Jesus’ footsteps through the Gospels we discover over and over again that He was always looking for a certain “something” that would enable Him to release wondrous things.  We read words such as, “And seeing their faith…” or, “thy faith hath made thee whole,” or, “only believe…”  It was the operation of faith in different ones that birthed into the open the wondrous things He did, things we now read of and think happened just because He had the power to do miracles.  No.  Where there was unbelief He was greatly hampered (Mt. 13.58).  Where there was faith He wrought wondrous things.

We need to know that this same Jesus continues to do great things, and wants to do even greater things now that He is exalted.  But He continues to look for that divine catalyst that releases His power—faith.

Here’s an example from The Acts.  Jesus has already ascended and has sent forth the Holy Spirit.  Paul in Lystra sees a man crippled from birth.  What a pitiful condition.  But the man has something many healthy people entirely lack.  Paul, “perceiving that he had faith to be healed, said with a loud voice, Stand upright on thy feet” (Acts 14.10).  I know where that Voice originated.  “And he leaped and walked.”  Thus the will of God in Heaven was made manifest in the earth.  How did it happen?  By the “mystery of faith.”  Somehow the man had heard from God.  Perhaps it happened the very instant he looked on Paul—a man in whom the Holy Spirit of Jesus dwelt—and connected with Jesus Himself.  Or perhaps it was something God had spoken to him some time ago and he kept alive in his heart… waiting.  However it happened, the man and the time and the place and the faith—and the Lord Jesus Christ—came together, and a wondrous chemical reaction took place.

I think of Abraham again.  As he looked up at the night sky and saw the countless stars God told him, “So shall thy seed be.”  Then we read, “And Abraham believed in the LORD…”  This was no easy matter-of-fact reaction.  I think it took Abraham’s breath away.  I think it took all he had in him to believe so impossible a thing.

But he believed.  And he was right in believing.

It is a wondrous thing, and a great privilege, to be involved in the birthings of faith.  It was by faith that Sarah conceived, the writer of Hebrews tells us, when she was past the age of childbearing.  “By faith Sarah received (or, laid hold of) strength to conceive seed.”  How could she do this?  The point is that no capability within herself could have conceived Isaac.  Sarah had heard from God (Gen. 18.10).  At first she laughed at the impossibility of the prospect.  But it appears that eventually… maybe as she was making supper one evening, something was quickened to her… and she said more or less, “Well, Lord… if that’s what You are saying… I am saying Amen to it.”

And so let us seek to read the inspired word of God as though we ourselves were involved in the unfolding of things back then.  We will get a more realistic idea of how things took place.  But more than that, we will learn how we ourselves are to walk with God, and move in a realm that is not our own works.  It will help us understand the process of faith, and will inspire us to anticipate the same vital birthings in our own lives.

It will inspire us to be more attentive to hear from God.  For, we can’t pull faith out of thin air.  “Faith cometh by hearing, and hearing by the word of God.”  That is the key, then—the secret of faith.  Hearing from God.  The word of God has a creative element in it that creates faith… if we for our part will receive the word… and then act upon it.

Let us, then—and this more than anything else—covet that hearing of the word and will of God that initiates the response of faith in our lives… and enables us to bring into being things that others someday will read about after the fact.

Jesus Loves Thee

As an example of the use of the singular thee in the King James Version, Bible teacher Ron Bailey (in the previous post) cited Jesus’ words to Peter just prior to that devastating night when he denied his Lord three times.

Jesus had said;

Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat,
But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren (Lk. 22.31,32).

You is always plural in the KJV.  The Lord is telling Peter that Satan has desired (or more accurately, has claimed and obtained permission) to sift them all (collectively) as wheat.  But the Lord now shows His very personal interest in each one of his disciples, telling Peter specifically, “I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not…”

This prayer of course was answered.  Peter’s faith was tried very severely, tried to the depths.  But it did not fail.  He came out of this heart-searching ordeal a very broken man with a heart to strengthen his brethren.  There had been impurities in him, and so the accuser of the brethren had claimed the right to have him.  No doubt his wicked motive was to completely destroy Peter.  But along with an accuser who was jealous of him, and hated him, Peter also had an intercessor who loved him deeply, and it was His intention in all this to bring Peter forth a pure and sifted kernel of wheat.

(And remember that the Lord, with purposed intent and healing love, later gave Peter the opportunity to affirm his love for Him—three times.  See John Chapter 21.)

It’s very encouraging to know—and very necessary to know—that in times of trial and testing we have such an intercessor at the right hand of God—the place of all authority.  He is determined to see us through.  He prayed for Peter that his faith would not fail.  That prayer was answered.  He prays for us also, with the same power of the throne in His prayers.  He loves us with an everlasting love.  Loves you and me, I mean—as He loved Peter.  He prays for me.  He prays for you.

He is deeply committed to us—individually.

Paul tells us that Jesus “gave Himself for our sins that He might deliver us from this present evil world according to the will of God and our Father” (Gal. 1.4).

But a little later on in this same letter to the Galatian churches we find Paul affirming that He “loved me, and gave Himself for me” (Gal. 2.20).

How deeply we ourselves need this conviction, this persuasion—that Jesus not only died for us, but died for each of us—for you, for me.

And we need to know (thanks to Robert Wurtz for the following insight) that He will never leave us—that is, will never leave you, will never leave me.

The writer of Hebrews says: “Let your conversation (your conduct, your way of life) be without covetousness: and be content with such things as ye have…”

Note the plural there:  “Let your conversation… such things as ye have…”  Your and ye are also always plurals in the KJV.

But now he continues: “For He (Himself) hath said, I will never leave thee, nor forsake thee”  (Heb. 13.5).

Thee?  That means you, beloved Christian.  That means me.

Thank you, Jesus.  Eradicate all doubt for our hearts, Lord, so that we know and believe the love You have for each one of us, even in times when You are silent.  May we always put our trust in You.  You are at the right hand of God, and ever live to make intercession for us—each one of us, that is.  Amen.

Teach Thyself Olde Englishe

You often hear people say they don’t like the King James Version of the Bible because of the archaic language—the thee’s and thou’s.  But this is the very reason—at least one of the reasons—I love the KJV.  (There are also reasons I don’t like it, but that’s a story for another day.) The Bible has hidden riches that it takes the usage of the pronouns thee and thou to find.  In subsequent posts on A Mending Feast I hope to bring some of these riches out, so felt I needed to lay this groundwork first.

In modern English we use the pronoun you for both singular and plural, but in the KJV thee and thou are always singular pronouns and you is always plural, a distinction none of the modern versions is able to give us.

So even if you use one of the modern versions I highly recommend becoming familiar with the KJV.  Read it slowly, and carefully, and pay close attention to this usage.  I have found the following article helpful.  It was put together a few years ago by Ron Bailey of Reading, England (one of the best Bible teachers around, in my estimation).  Some of the content, particularly the chart he uses, is from: http://dan.tobias.name/frivolity/archaic-grammar.html

Teach Thyself Olde Englishe (by Ron Bailey, 2005)

Why should anyone bother with such an archaic concept? Well, some may just be curious, but there are occasions when the switch from thou to you is quite significant.

For example: “And the Lord said, Simon, Simon, behold, Satan hath desired to have you, that he may sift you as wheat: But I have prayed for thee, that thy faith fail not: and when thou art converted, strengthen thy brethren” (Luke 22:31-32 KJV).

In this setting the Lord includes Simon in a larger group of those whom Satan had desired: you; but assures him of His personal prayer on his behalf: thou.

Or moving in the opposite direction: “And Moses said unto God, Who am I, that I should go unto Pharaoh, and that I should bring forth the children of Israel out of Egypt? And he said, Certainly I will be with thee; and this shall be a token unto thee, that I have sent thee: When thou hast brought forth the people out of Egypt, ye shall serve God upon this mountain” (Exo 3:11-12 KJV).

In this setting the Lord is speaking personally to Moses with the repeated pronoun thou, but His promise is that not only Moses but all the people (ye) will serve God upon the mountain.  It is not really possible to convey these ideas in modern English, and as the languages that God used to convey His revelation, both Hebrew and Greek, had thou and thee as well as ye and you it is sometimes good to get as close as we can to the original ideas.

This chart should help you to sort it out a little better:

Subjective (nominative)

Objective (accusative)

Possessive (genitive)

Verb Ending

Irregular Verbs

1st Person Singular

I me my, mine 1 none am

2nd Person Singular

thou thee thy, thine 1 -est art, hast, dost, shalt, wilt

3rd Person Singular

he, she, it him, her, it his, her/hers, its -eth is, hath, doth

1st Person Plural

we us our, ours none are

2nd Person Plural

ye 2 you your, yours none are

3rd Person Plural

they them their, theirs none are

Chart notes:

1. My/mine and thy/thine were used similarly to a/an; my and thy preceded a word beginning with a consonant sound, while mine and thine preceded a word beginning with a vowel sound.
2. Note that ye is the nominative and you is the accusative, which is counterintuitive given that thou/thee go the opposite way. When town criers yelled, “Hear Ye!” the ye in question is the subject, not the object, of the hearing. Also note that using ye in place of the, as in, “Ye olde candye shoppe,” is incorrect; this derives from a mistaken interpretation of an archaic spelling of the using a former runic letter later replaced by th; this letter kind of resembled a lowercase y, and when printing was invented, early printers, lacking the already-obsolete letter in their movable type, sometimes used a y for it when transcribing old documents.

Familiar and Formal Forms of Address

To further complicate the use of pronouns, English in the period in question made a distinction in second-person pronouns depending on whether you were addressing somebody in a familiar or formal mode. This concept is familiar to students of other languages that have such forms of address, like the distinction between tu and usted in Spanish. Actually, the usage of vous in French best parallels the forms of address in medieval English.  It’s a second-person plural pronoun that’s also used in the singular when addressing somebody in a formal way.

The singular pronouns thou and thee were considered “familiar,” meaning that they were appropriate for use among close friends and family.  When addressing somebody who was not so close, however, the use of thou or thee implied that you regarded them as being of lower social class than you were, and hence was definitely inappropriate when addressing your social superiors.  People could be punished for contempt of court for addressing a judge in this manner, for instance.  To address somebody outside the circle of familiarity in a respectful way, especially when they were of higher social class or in a position of power, ye and you were used, even though the addressee was singular rather than plural.

This is the opposite of what we often expect. Some people like the sound of thee because they think it makes God sound more majestic and dignified. In fact, thou is much more intimate than you in King James Version English, and you would have been much more dignified and majestic.  Thee brings you “closer” to God than you did. This is one of the reasons that thou has survived in romantic poetry.  During Sir Walter Raleigh’s trial one of his accusers became exasperated with him and tried to humiliate him with the phrase “I, thou thee, sir.”  It is quite unintelligible to modern ears, but his accuser in refusing to give Raleigh his proper courtesy pronoun of you, was relegating him to the position of a servant boy who would have been addressed as thou.

The Quaker use of thee and thou was a refusal to give to ordinary people the status that you implied. They regarded the use of you to a single person as assisting the single person’s pride and aspirations to grandeur, and would not be part of this. They refused to doff their hats for the same reason. Eventually, with the rise of more egalitarian philosophies in contrast to the rigid hierarchies of feudalism, having two different forms of address was regarded as excess baggage, and you reached its modern usage with no distinction of familiar or formal, singular or plural, or nominative or accusative. This was already true by the time that the King James Version was translated, so the translators use of thee, thou,
ye was a conscious but already archaic choice.

Ron Bailey, 2005

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