Tuesday, April 24, 2012

Healthy And Unhealthy Pride

Biblegems #84
Question:  Are we sinning when we are proud of our kids', grandkids' accomplishments?   Is it "pride" when I appreciate a compliment?

It is true that the Bible has little to say about pride that is positive. There are exceptions, however; and those exceptions can be instructive. For example:
         Prov. 17:6  Children’s children are a crown to the aged, and parents are the pride of their children (NIV).

In this verse, “crown” and “pride” are descriptive ways of saying the same thing—that it is right and proper for grandparents to feel a sense of “pride” in their grandchildren, and visa versa. The word we translate into English as “pride” literally means “glory” in the Hebrew, and is translated that way in the KJV. The truth is, as the moon reflects the light (the glory) of the sun, children are a reflection (the glory) of their parents.

Here is another example of healthy pride, this time from the New Testament:
2 Cor. 7:4 I have great confidence in you; I take great pride in you. I am greatly encouraged; in all our troubles my joy knows no bounds.

Here, “pride”  in the NIV literally translates the Greek term for “pride” or “boasting;” while the KJV goes with the non-literal translation: “glorying.” But either way, the idea is the same. The apostle Paul, who established the Corinthian church, is unashamed to feel great confidence, joy and pride in them! He gladly boasts about them! Why? Because they are a reflection of Jesus—no matter how imperfect—and a reflection of Paul’s tireless work of bringing people to Jesus.

As with so many other words, the word “pride” can mean different things, depending on its context. This is just as true in Hebrew and Greek as it is in English. Those to whom God has entrusted the daunting task of translating the Scriptures into other languages have the responsibility to accurately convey the idea behind the original language, using words that we all understand and in a way that we commonly speak.

More often than not, “pride” in the Bible means the opposite of humble (2 Ki. 19:22) and is typically associated with a wicked heart (Ps. 10:4) and stubborn heart (Lev. 26:19). Such pride is self-centered, self-destructive, and does not give God the glory (2 Chr. 26:16).

Yet there are times when taking pride in our own actions is appropriate, because those actions reflect a choice to reflect our Savior rather than elevate ourselves above others:
         Gal. 6:4 Each one should test his own actions. Then he can take pride in himself, without comparing himself to somebody else

Pride is like a mirror; it reflects an image that we want others to see.
James 1:9-10 The brother in humble circumstances ought to take pride in his high position. But the one who is rich should take pride in his low position, because he will pass away like a wild flower.

If that desired image is all about us, then pride is self-serving and destructive. Pride in its healthiest form always points back to Jesus, so that our lives become an opportunity for others to see Christ in us.

Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Who NamedThe Bible?

Biblegems #83

The English word “Bible” comes from the Greek word “biblia,” which is the plural form of “biblos,” meaning “book” or, more specifically, “papyrus.” Papyrus (from which we get the English word “paper”) is a large, broad-leafed plant that was used in ancient times for making paper, and then the paper was used for making scrolls, books and other written records. In ancient times, papyrus was shipped from Egypt, where it grew in abundance along the Nile, to the Phoenician port city of Byblus.

As applied to the Scriptures, the Greek term is first used by the prophet Daniel:
         Dan. 9:2 …in the first year of his reign, I, Daniel, understood from the Scriptures (Gk. Biblois), according to the word of the LORD given to Jeremiah the prophet, that the desolation of Jerusalem would last seventy years.

The historical record of 1 Maccabees (2nd Century B.C.) also uses the term at least three times in referring to the Scriptures (1 Macc. 1:56; 3:48; 12:9). In both Daniel and 1 Maccabees the plural Greek word means “the books” of the Old Testament.

Because the Bible in its completed form is a collection of 66 books, Daniel’s term gradually became a popular way to refer to the Scriptures as a whole. The earliest written record we have so far of “ta biblia” (“the Books”) as a term for the Scriptures used by Christians is by Clement of Alexandria, about 150 A.D. (2 Clem. 14:2). The more common terms in the early church were “the Scriptures”:
         Matt. 21:42  Jesus said to them, “Have you never read in the Scriptures (“tais graphais”): “ ‘The stone the builders rejected has become the capstone; the Lord has done this, and it is marvelous in our eyes’?
         Or “the Writings”:
         2 Tim. 3:15 …and how from infancy you have known the holy Scriptures (“ta hierra grammata,” i.e., "the holy writings"), which are able to make you wise for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus.

By the 5th century A.D., “Biblia,” as a plural noun (i.e., “Books), was used regularly by the early Church leaders as a common name for the Scriptures. The term then moved into Latin as the Church moved westward throughout Europe, changing from plural to singular in the process. The “Books” became the “Book” (Latin: Bibliain Latin speaking churches or, as we say in English, “the Bible.”

The beauty of the word “Bible” as it has come down to us through the ages is that it accurately reflects the truth that the 66 books that make up the entirety of the Scriptures are indeed one book, God’s complete revelation in the written word, and the revelation of His Son, Jesus Christ, the Word who became flesh to take away the sins of the world.

* Greek New Testament—T
* LXX 1
* The New Bible Dictionary, Eerdmans, Douglas, 1962
* The New International Dictionary Of The Bible, Douglas, Merrill, Tenney, Zondervan, 1987

Tuesday, April 10, 2012

Did Adam And Eve Go To Hell?

Biblegems #82
People often have fuzzy ideas about hell. Popular mythology portrays hell as part of Satan’s domain. In part, this comes from a poor translation of Isaiah 14:15. The Lord says to Lucifer (Satan), “Yet thou shalt be brought down to hell, to the sides of the pit” (KJV). The Hebrew word translated “hell”, however, is “sheol,” and means the realm of the dead. Its counterpart in the Greek New Testament is Hades.

“Hell” refers to the eternal lake of fire reserved for Satan, the antichrist and those whose names are not written in the Lamb’s Book of Life at the Great White Throne Judgment. At that time, Sheol (Hades) will give up the dead who are there:
          Rev. 20:10-15 And the devil, who deceived them, was thrown into the lake of burning sulfur, where the beast and the false prophet had been thrown. They will be tormented day and night for ever and ever. Then I saw a great white throne and him who was seated on it. Earth and sky fled from his presence, and there was no place for them. And I saw the dead, great and small, standing before the throne, and books were opened. Another book was opened, which is the book of life. The dead were judged according to what they had done as recorded in the books. The sea gave up the dead that were in it, and death and Hades gave up the dead that were in them, and each person was judged according to what he had done. Then death and Hades were thrown into the lake of fire. The lake of fire is the second death. If anyone’s name was not found written in the book of life, he was thrown into the lake of fire.

The above passage tells us is that there is no one in hell (the lake of fire) right now. Hell is the last place Satan will be and the last place Satan wants to be! So Adam and Eve are not in hell—at least not yet. But will they be sent to hell from Sheol at the Great White Throne judgment?

Genesis 3:21 Tells us:
“the LORD God made garments of skin for Adam and his wife and clothed them.”

This means that innocent animals died for Adam and Eve to be clothed with hides. God exercised grace toward Adam and Eve, covering their sin and shame at the cost of innocent lives. This sacrifice for sin was provided solely by God. By wearing the clothing God provided, they accepted God’s provision, trusting that the penalty for their sin had been met:
         Eph. 2:8 “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God…”

God’s act of saving grace toward Adam and Eve looked forward to the cross of Jesus Christ, whose atonement for sin stretches backward through time as well as forward:
         1 Pet. 3:18 “For Christ died for sins once for all, the righteous for the unrighteous, to bring you to God.”

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

Murder And Self Defense

Biblegems #81
Question: Does the commandment “Thou shalt not kill” (KJV) include situations where someone is being robbed, raped or targeted for murder? And, if self-defense at the cost of someone else’s life is permissible in God’s eyes, does killing someone in that situation still require forgiveness?

The question comes from Exodus 20:13, the sixth commandment. The Hebrew word translated “kill” in the KJV is “ratsakh” (or “rasah”), and refers to taking the life of another human being as a premeditated act. It does not apply to war or to self-defense, including rape and other situations where protection of ones’ self or others is involved. For this reason, nearly every modern translation translates “ratsakh” as “murder,” instead of the more general term “kill.” The commandment, therefore, is “You shall not murder.”

The evidence from Scripture confirms this translation. For example, Genesis 9:3 grants humanity permission to take the life of animals for food:
         Everything that lives and moves will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.”

Also, if a person breaking into someone’s home is killed by the homeowner, the homeowner is not considered guilty of murder:
         Ex. 22:2  “If a thief is caught breaking in and is struck so that he dies, the defender is not guilty of bloodshed…”

Even an accidental killing is not considered an act of murder according to Scripture:
         Deut. 19:5 For instance, a man may go into the forest with his neighbor to cut wood, and as he swings his ax to fell a tree, the head may fly off and hit his neighbor and kill him. That man may flee to one of these cities and save his life.

The application of the death penalty for the crime of murder by the state is likewise not considered murder, but a responsibility of the government for the benefit of the society:
         Rom. 13:3-4 “For rulers hold no terror for those who do right, but for those who do wrong. Do you want to be free from fear of the one in authority? Then do what is right and he will commend you. For he is God’s servant to do you good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for he does not bear the sword for nothing. He is God’s servant, an agent of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.”

On the other hand, anyone who is an accomplice to murder is also guilty of murder:
         2 Sam. 12:9 Why did you despise the word of the LORD by doing what is evil in his eyes? You struck down Uriah the Hittite with the sword and took his wife to be your own. You killed him with the sword of the Ammonites.

Human life is precious to God. Consequently, the repercussions of willfully taking someone’s life are very high:
         Gen. 9:6  “Whoever sheds the blood of man, by man shall his blood be shed; for in the image of God has God made man.”

While the use of lethal force, if necessary, is justifiable and not a sin, it should still be cause for grief. Death exists as a constant reminder of how broken and sin-sick our world is. So while it is not necessary to seek forgiveness where no sin has been committed, it is entirely appropriate to ask God’s forgiveness for the person who committed the crime that resulted in his or her death.