Draw near to God (Jas 4:8)

“Draw near

To God!

He will draw near

To you.

Cleanse your hands!

You sinners!

Purify your hearts!

You double-minded!”

ἐγγίσατε τῷ Θεῷ, καὶ ἐγγισεῖ ὑμῖν. καθαρίσατε χεῖρας, ἁμαρτωλοί, καὶ ἁγνίσατε καρδίας, δίψυχοι.

James said, “Draw near (ἐγγίσατε) to God (τῷ Θεῷ)!  He will draw near (καὶ ἐγγισεῖ) to you (ὑμῖν).  Cleanse (καθαρίσατε) your hands (χεῖρας)!  You sinners (ἁμαρτωλοί)!  Purify (καὶ ἁγνίσατε) your hearts (καρδίας)!  You double-minded (δίψυχοι)!”  This is the only time that this word appears in the NT writings, here in the Letter of James, δίψυχοι, that means of two minds, wavering, or double-minded.  James had this wonderful saying that resonates so well today.  If you draw near to God, he will draw near to you.  However, there were some stipulations and warnings.  James went into a diatribe against his Jewish Christian readers.  They were sinners with dirty hands.  They had to purify their hearts.  This imagery is from Psalm 24:3-4, “Those who have clean hands and a pure heart, those who do not lift up their soul to what is false, those who do not swear deceitfully” were the people who could enter the Temple.  However, his readers were double-minded, wishy-washy doubters who could not make up their minds.  The answer was simple.  Draw near to God.  Do not be a sinner with dirty hands and an impure heart.  Otherwise, they would never get near to God because of their lack of a strong faith.  Do you try to draw near to God?

The whole law (Jas 2:10)

“Whoever keeps

The whole law,

But fails

In one point

Has become accountable

For all of it.”

ὅστις γὰρ ὅλον τὸν νόμον τηρήσῃ, πταίσῃ δὲ ἐν ἑνί, γέγονεν πάντων ἔνοχος.

James said, “Whoever (ὅστις) keeps (τηρήσῃ) the whole law (γὰρ ὅλον τὸν νόμον), but fails (πταίσῃ) in one point (δὲ ἐν ἑνί) has become (γέγονεν) accountable (ἔνοχος) for all of it (πάντων).”  James pointed out that if you say that you are going to follow the whole Torah or the law of God, then if you fail in one point, you are liable for all of it.  Failure or a transgression against one law is denying the power of God in all the laws.  They were disrespecting God in failing to do one law.  It is all God’s will, so that they are like people who have stopped believing in God.  Do you believe that every sin is showing disrespect to God?

New covenant (chapter 8)

This author said that God indicated, via the prophet Jeremiah, that he would establish a new covenant with Israel and Judah.  It would be different than the first covenant made with their ancestors when he led them out of Egypt, since they did not continue in his covenant.  There would be a new covenant.  However, this time he would put the covenant in their minds and write it in their hearts.  They would be his people and know him without anyone teaching them about it.  God was going to be merciful towards them and their sins.  The old covenant would become obsolete and soon disappear.  What do you know about the old and new covenant?

The role of a high priest (Heb 5:1)

“Every high priest,

Chosen from among mortals,

Is put in charge

Of things

Pertaining to God

On their behalf,

To offer gifts

And sacrifices

For sins.”

Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς ἐξ ἀνθρώπων λαμβανόμενος ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων καθίσταται τὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν, ἵνα προσφέρῃ δῶρά τε καὶ θυσίας ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν,

This author said, “Every high priest (Πᾶς γὰρ ἀρχιερεὺς), chosen (λαμβανόμενος) from among mortal men (ἐξ ἀνθρώπων), is put in charge (καθίσταται) of things pertaining to God (ὰ πρὸς τὸν Θεόν) on their behalf (ὑπὲρ ἀνθρώπων), to offer (ἵνα προσφέρῃ) gifts (δῶρά) and sacrifices (τε καὶ θυσίας) for sins (ὑπὲρ ἁμαρτιῶν).”  This author explained the role of a high priest.  First, he is chosen, elected, or appointed from other mortal men.  He then is put in charge of the divine things on behalf of all other humans.  Thus, he offers gifts and sacrifices to God for human sins.  He is the mediator between humans and God.  Originally, he was called by God, but by the time of Jesus Christ, it was a political appointment.  Aaron, the brother of Moses, was the first Israelite high priest.  During the time of the kings, the high priest had only religious obligations.  However, during the late second Temple period, this high priest took on a political significance because there were no legal Jewish authorities in the occupied land of Judah.  Thus, the high priest was both a religious and political leader in the first century of the common era.  Have you ever met a high priest?

Paul (Titus 1:1)

“Paul,

A servant

Of God,

And an apostle

Of Jesus Christ,

For the sake

Of the faith

Of God’s elect

And the knowledge

Of the truth

That is in accordance

With godliness.”

Παῦλος δοῦλος Θεοῦ, ἀπόστολος δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ κατὰ πίστιν ἐκλεκτῶν Θεοῦ καὶ ἐπίγνωσιν ἀληθείας τῆς κατ’ εὐσέβειαν

Paul said, “Paul (Παῦλος), a servant of God (δοῦλος Θεοῦ), and an apostle (ἀπόστολος) of Jesus Christ (δὲ Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ), for the sake of the faith (κατὰ πίστιν) of God’s elect (ἐκλεκτῶν Θεοῦ) and the knowledge (καὶ ἐπίγνωσιν) of the truth (ἀληθείας) that is in accordance with godliness (τῆς κατ’ εὐσέβειαν).”  This is a long introduction.  Paul called himself a servant or a slave of God.  He always called himself an apostle of Jesus Christ in all his other letters.  The followers of Jesus Christ were called the chosen or elected ones, just like the chosen ones of Israel.  This knowledge about truth pertains to Jesus Christ.  Godliness was to live according to the truth about Jesus Christ.  Thus, Paul gave a brief description of himself and his mission in life.  He was truly dedicated to Jesus Christ.  Are you dedicated to Jesus Christ?

Paul’s Thessalonian ministry (chapter 2)

Paul reminded the Thessalonians that his missionary work among them was not in vain.  He had suffered and been mistreated in Philippi.  Nevertheless, Paul had divine courage to proclaim the gospel of God in the face of great opposition.  He was not deceptive.  He did not use deceit, improper motives, or trickery.  He merely presented the message of the gospel approved by God. He did not try to please humans, but only God.  Thus, God would be his witness, that he never used flattery as a pretext for greed.  He did not seek human praise from anybody.  He could have made demands, but instead he was gentle among them, much like a nurse tenderly caring for her own children.  Paul cared for the Thessalonians.  He shared not only the gospel but himself.  They had become very dear and precious to him.  How do you proclaim Jesus Christ?

We live with Christ (1 Thess. 5:10)

“Our Lord Jesus Christ

Died for us,

So that whether

We are awake

Or asleep,

We may live

Together with him.”

τοῦ ἀποθανόντος περὶ ἡμῶν, ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν εἴτε καθεύδωμεν ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ ζήσωμεν.

Paul said, “Our Lord Jesus Christ died (τοῦ ἀποθανόντος) for us (περὶ ἡμῶν), so that whether we are awake (ἵνα εἴτε γρηγορῶμεν) or asleep (εἴτε καθεύδωμεν), we may live (ζήσωμεν) together with him (ἅμα σὺν αὐτῷ).”  Paul explained that Jesus Christ had died for them.  Thus, whether we were awake vigilant or asleep, we would live together with Jesus Christ in all eternity.  We could finally sleep in peace because we would live with Jesus Christ all the time.  Do you expect an eternal rest?

What is our hope? (1 Thess. 2:19)

“What is our hope

Or joy

Or crown

Of boasting

Before our Lord Jesus

At his coming?

Is it not you?”

τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς ἢ χαρὰ ἢ στέφανος καυχήσεως— ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς— ἔμπροσθεν τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ ἐν τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ;

Paul said, “What is our hope (τίς γὰρ ἡμῶν ἐλπὶς) or joy (ἢ χαρὰ) or crown (ἢ στέφανος) of boasting (καυχήσεως) before (ἔμπροσθεν) our Lord (τοῦ Κυρίου ἡμῶν) Jesus (Ἰησοῦ) at his coming (ἐν τῇ αὐτοῦ παρουσίᾳ)?  Is it not you (ἢ οὐχὶ καὶ ὑμεῖς)?”  Only the Pauline letters used this word καυχήσεως, that means a boasting, glorying, or exultation.  Paul then asked a series of rhetorical questions.  What is his hope?  What is his joy?  What is his crown?  Why should he boast?  Why is he waiting for the second coming of our Lord Jesus Christ?  Then he had the final question.  Was it not them, the Thessalonians?  Paul’s hope, joy, and crown of boasting before his Lord Jesus Christ was these Thessalonians.  They made his day.  If Paul wanted to boast it would be about the followers of Jesus Christ at Thessalonica.  Who will you boast about before Jesus Christ?

I shall remain with you (Phil. 1:25)

“I am convinced of this.

I know

That I shall remain

And continue

With all of you,

For your progress

And your joy

In the faith.”

καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς οἶδα, ὅτι μενῶ καὶ παραμενῶ πᾶσιν ὑμῖν εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν καὶ χαρὰν τῆς πίστεως,

Paul said, “I am convinced of this (καὶ τοῦτο πεποιθὼς).  I know (οἶδα) that I shall remain (ὅτι μενῶ) and continue (καὶ παραμενῶ) with all of you (πᾶσιν ὑμῖν), for your progress (εἰς τὴν ὑμῶν προκοπὴν) and your joy (καὶ χαρὰν) in the faith (τῆς πίστεως).”  Only the Pauline letters used this word παραμενῶ, that means to remain besides, near, or persevere in.  Paul was convinced that he would not die but would instead remain with the Philippians and continue to monitor their progress and joy in their faith in Jesus Christ.  Paul thought that he would be spared any harsh treatment from the Romans.  Thus, he would be able to continue to work with the emerging Christian community at Philippi.  Do you prefer to continue to work here on earth?

Put away your old person (Eph. 4:22)

“You were taught

To put away

Your former way of life,

Your old person,

Corrupted

By delusions

And lusts.”

ἀποθέσθαι ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον τὸν φθειρόμενον κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας τῆς ἀπάτης,

Paul said, “You were taught to put away (ἀποθέσθαι) your former way of life (ὑμᾶς κατὰ τὴν προτέραν ἀναστροφὴν), your old person (τὸν παλαιὸν ἄνθρωπον), corrupted (τὸν φθειρόμενον) by delusions (κατὰ τὰς ἐπιθυμίας) and lusts (τῆς ἀπάτης).”  Only the Pauline letters used this word ἀναστροφὴν, that means behavior, conduct, or manner of life, and the word φθειρόμενον, that means to destroy, corrupt, spoil, or ruin.  Paul explained that the Ephesians had been taught to put away their former life style, their old self or person.  This former life had been corrupted or spoiled by many delusions and lusts.  Paul wanted all vestiges of the former corrupt gentile pagan lifestyle to be left behind and put away for good.  Have you put away your delusions and lusts?