Word Study #98 — Gain, Profit, Reward

March 29, 2011

One place where the result of a “transformed” life (W.S.#97) becomes vividly evident is in one’s attitude toward these concepts. It is common that they are treated as if they were nearly synonymous, but that is seldom the case, although translators have often confused the different words in their texts. “Where you start” exerts a great deal of influence upon “where you come out”: there is a huge difference between the conclusions drawn by the advocates of “pie in the sky bye and bye”, those who prefer their “pie” now rather than later, and a few of us who aren’t convinced that “pie” has anything to do with the gospel message at all!

The traditional translation “gain”, for example, represents eight different Greek words, four of which are used only once or twice. Porismos (I Tim.6:5,6), prosergazomai (Lk.9:16), and diapragmateuomai Lk.19:15), are all classically used of simply earning a living. The idea of earning appears also to be why poieo was rendered “gain” once (Lk.19:18), even though that word is normally taken to mean “to make” (102x), or “to do” (353x). The Luke references are all in Jesus’ parable of the “pounds” or “talents”.

Ergasia, used six times, similarly refers to “one’s business or trade, productive labor, or a company of workmen” (L/S) – this last seen in Ac.19:24-25 – although it carries a different sense in Lk.12:58, which is Jesus’ advice to work at settling a dispute out of court, and Eph.4:19, which seems to fit better with the appearances of pleonekteo (used five times), dealing with greed, fraud, or unfair advantage (II Cor.2:11, 7:2, 12:17,18; I Thes.4:6).

The more common kerdos (n.), and kerdaino (v.), combining the idea of financial profit or advantage (Mt.6:26, 25:17,20,22; Mk.8:36, Lk.9:25, Jas.4:13) with the concept of other sorts of advantage (Phil.1:21, 3:7,8; Mt.18:15, I Cor.9:19-22 , I Pet.3:1) focusing on either conversions to the Kingdom or progress in Kingdom living, is also used, sometimes with the prefix aischro- (“shameful”), to warn against any mercenary motivation for one’s “Christian service”.

Paul is quite blunt in his assessment of such a motivation, in his own example of self-support (II Cor. 7:2, 12:17,18 and Ac.20:34,35, where he simply describes his activity in Ephesus), and his disparaging of those who choose not to follow that example (I Tim.3:3,8; 6:5, Tit.1:7,11). Peter (I Pet.5:2) registers a similar opinion.

“Profit,” on the other hand, also representing eight different words, uses totally different vocabulary, and none of those words make primary reference to financial concerns, with the possible exception of the use of opheleo in Mt.15:5 and Mk.7:11, regarding the support of one’s parents. The classical use of opheleo and its noun form opheleia, includes primarily “to help, advantage, to render service or benefit or to receive such service”, although it also referred to spoils of war (L/S).
The adjective form, ophelimos, adds “useful, serviceable, profitable”, and is applied to physical exercise (I Tim.4:8), godliness (same reference), the Scripture (II Tim.3:16), and good deeds (Tit.3:8).
“To be useful” would probably fit most of its contexts (Mt.16:26, Jn.6:63, Rom.2:25, 3:1; I Cor.13:3, 14:6; Gal.5:2, Heb.4:2,13:9), and even in the frustration of both the Jewish Council (Jn.12:19) and Pilate (Mt.27:24) at the failure of their schemes.
Less frequently used, chresimos (II Tim.2:14), euchrestos II Tim. 2:21,4:11; Phm.11), and ophelos (Lk.9:25, Jas.2:14-16) likewise refer to “usefulness, helpfulness, or assistance.”
Prokopto, speaking of moral or intellectual progress, or physical growth, may be used in a positive (Lk.2:52, Gal.1:14) or negative (II Tim.2:16, 3:9, 3:13) direction, as well as simply of the passing of a day (Rom.13:12.).

Sumphero, more frequently “bringing together” in classical usage, in the New Testament displays primarily its secondary meanings, “to confer a benefit, to be useful, expedient, or fitting”, being rendered 7x as “expedient” (Jn.11:50, 16:7, 18:14; I Cor.6:12, 10:33, 12:1, 12:7), and 6x as “profit” or “profitable” (Mt.5:29,30; Ac.20:20, I Cor.7:35, 10:33; Heb.12:10).

Of course, the “biggie” for the “pie-in-the-sky” folks, is the concept of “reward”, representing two different words: apodidomi, which refers to any kind of payment or exchange – even a bribe! – and misthos , where “reward” is the primary choice of traditional translators, in spite of the fact that the classical usage (L/S) emphasizes “hired service, wages, pay, or allowance for public service, or a physician’s fee” more highly than “recompense or reward.” Both of these terms primarily spill over into the next post: however, a few observations are relevant here.
1. Material wealth is never mentioned as a “reward”, either here or hereafter. In fact, the nature of a “reward” is not specified at all, in most cases, although public adulation is called a “reward” – in a less than admirable sense – in Mt.6:1-5.

2. Some of the conditions leading to a “reward” are:
Mt.5:12, Lk.6:23 – endurance of persecution for faithfulness to Jesus
Mt.5:46, Lk.6:35 – loving enemies, doing good to those who hate you
Mt.6:1-5 – praying, giving alms, privately rather than ostentatiously
Mk.9:41 — offering a cup of water in Jesus’ name
I Cor.3:8, 14 – faithfully building on Jesus’ foundation
I Cor.9:17,18 – preaching the gospel without compensation
II Jn.8 – maintaining faithfulness

3. “Reward” is also used of the consequences of unfaithfulness: (Ac.1:18, II Pet.2:!3, Jude 11, Rev.11:18).

Very interestingly, the only mention of specifically monetary “reward” is the Ac.1:18 reference to the money that Judas received for his betrayal of Jesus! Is that the company you want to keep?

Just perhaps some of us would “profit” from an bit of an attitude adjustment!

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Corrections available

March 21, 2011

Hello, folks — We have just returned from a visit with Dan, and this means that the corrections to the Translation Notes have finally made it to this site.  They can be found by clicking in the “download” box.

We worked on the PNT corrections too, but there is more to be done there, to make it more readily usable for you all.

Hopefully, that will happen before long.  Many thanks to his family for their patience while he coached his electronically-challenged mom through the process.  Since they are about a 6 hour drive away, our time together is limited.

Hope you will find the results helpful.

Blessings to you all.

Ruth


Word Study #97 — Transfiguration, Transformation, Change

March 17, 2011

This study is the result of a conversation after church (Thanks, John!), when a brother remarked about people tossing around words like “transfiguration” without ever stopping to wonder what they actually mean. A quick check revealed that the word used by both Matthew and Mark is metamorphoo, whose noun form, transliterated, is recognized by every grade-school science student as “metamorphosis” – what happens when the caterpillar they have carefully fed with leaves, and watched as it spun its cocoon, emerges to their wonder and delight as a beautiful butterfly. It’s still the same critter – but it has been transformed into its intended, mature destiny.
Back at home with my reference books, I was startled to discover that metamorphoo (L/S “to transform, to change”) is used only four times in the entire New Testament: these two references to Jesus on the mountain (Mt.17:2, Mk.9:2), Romans 12:2 speaking of the faithful person’s mind (W.S.#96) being transformed to become capable of understanding and following the Lord’s instructions, and II Cor.3:18, of the process of their/our maturing to reflect the Lord’s own radiance – to be transformed into his very image – God’s original intent (Gen.1:26) at Creation!

How very beautifully that all fits together! Especially in the light added by Luke. Only he, who does not use metamorphoo at all, says anything about the topic of Jesus’ conversation with Moses and Elijah: his “departure” (exodos) – yes, the same word as “Exodus”– that was about to be “completed” (pleroun, from pleroo, to complete or to fulfill). This has been traditionally interpreted as a reference to Jesus’ death: but L/S lists no classical references to death for exodos. Only “going out, or the marching forth of a procession or a military expedition” are mentioned. The word occurs only here, in Heb.11:22 (of the historical exodus), and II Pet.1:15, of which the traditional interpretation is also open to question, due to Peter’s subsequent reference to the same event (vv.16-18) as a revelation of Jesus’ glory. I take this to be another of many signposts in the direction of seeing Jesus as focused upon his ultimate defeat not only of death, but of  all the forces of evil, which is/was his own mature destiny, rather than the traditional notions of “sacrifice” (W.S. #95). He was “departing” for the ultimate “expedition” – and conquered gloriously!

Of course, once you start tracking a word, one thing invariably leads to another. The English word “transform” also represents another Greek word, metaschematizo, used only five times, which, besides describing a change in a person or thing (L/S), as in Phil.3:21 – “He (Jesus) will transform our body to be like his”, also refers both to disguise and deception (ICor.11:13,14,15), and (I Cor.4:6) to a simple analogous illustration.

“Change”, also, can be for the better or worse. This adds five more Greek words to be considered, most of which seem to be nearly interchangeable, and none of which really dominate. For example, the statements in Hebrews of the necessity of “change” in the priesthood and the law incorporates (Heb.7:12) both metatithemi and metathesis, as does the enigmatic statement (Heb.4:5 and 12:27) of Enoch’s disappearance (traditionally rendered “translated,” which in modern usage refers only to language.)
The complaint about Stephen for “changing the customs Moses established” (Ac.6:14), and the “changing like a garment” of heaven and earth (Heb.1:12), both employ allatto, connected to the adjective allos “other”, which is used of Paul’s wish to “change his voice” (Gal.4:20), and the glorious “change” of the faithful to their resurrection bodies (I Cor.15:51), but also, both separately and in its prefixed form metallatto, of the perversity of those who have rejected the general revelation of God, and “exchanged” it for the worship of idols (Rom.1:23,25,26).
Jude (v.4) uses metatithemi for that “exchange”, and Paul (Gal.1:6) uses it to reprimand the departure of some people from faithfulness.
A change of location or jurisdiction is expressed by both metatithemi (Ac.7:16) and methistemi (Col.1:13, I Cor.13:2), which latter also applied simply to the loss of a job (Lk.16:4, Ac.13:22).
It is probably significant that metaballo, easily the most ambiguous term, is used only once (Ac.28:6), of the people of Melita “changing their minds” about Paul after he was unharmed by the snakebite.

The changes/transformations advocated in the New Testament go far beyond merely abstractly “changing one’s mind” or opinion. This is explored in more detail in W.S.#6, dealing with the call to metanoeo (noeo is the verb form of nous #96). Lexically, metanoeo, metanoia, is also a change of mind – but it is one that involves, like most of the “mind” references in the previous post, the entire re-orientation of one’s life.

One key to that transformation lies in another phrase that appears in several of the references – Rom.12:2, Eph.4:23, Col.3:10: “the renewal of your/our minds” or “understanding”. In Titus 3:5, “renewal” is paired with “regeneration”.  Both the Ephesians and Colossians passages call for the “putting off” of one’s former life, in favor of the new – and very different – life in Christ. The mixed tenses of the imperatives and participles imply both decisive, punctiliar action (aorist), and continuous (present) effort.
“Renewal” represents four Greek words, three of which, anakainoo (II Cor.4:16, Col.3:!0), anakainosis (Rom.12:2, Tit.3:5), and anakainizo (Heb.6:6), are related, and one, ananeomai (Eph.4:23) is used only once. L/S records no other meanings for any of these. They are quite parallel to the ideas in II Cor.5:17 referring to a “new creation” and Eph.2:15 and 4:24 to a “new man [person]”.

You may have noticed that all of these references refer to a major alteration in the nature, life, and behavior of individuals or groups – all, that is, except the two instances that initiated this investigation: the use of metamorphoo in the three disciples’ experience with Jesus. Did Jesus himself somehow “change,” there on the mountain? He needed no “transformation” to become what God intended, although Heb.2:10, 5:9,7:28 do speak of his “maturing” (W.S.#13).
I think the key to the discrepancy here may be in Jesus’ charge to his awe-struck companions (Mt.17:9), “Don’t tell anyone the vision (horama)” until after the resurrection. Horama is used 11 times in the New Testament, all but this one in Acts (9:10, 9:12, 10:3, 10:17, 11:5, 12:9, 16:9, 16:10, 18:9) – and all are referring to a supernatural experience imparting information or instructions not available in any other way. I think Peter must have understood it this way, from his comment in II Pet.1:16-18. He asserts that they were privileged to be “eyewitnesses of his magnificence [glory]”. Jesus did not change. His true identity was supernaturally revealed to them (emprothen auton). And this revelation, whether by vision or some other means, is the beginning of the transformation of all who choose to follow him.

“And we all, with faces that have been uncovered, reflecting the Lord’s own radiance, are being transformed [metamorphosed!] into his image, from glory to glory, according to the pattern of the Lord’s spirit”(II Cor.3:18).   Every verb form is in the present tense. It is continuously happening, from the beginning of one’s “turning to the Lord” (v.16).

May we continually delight in – and cooperate with! – that metamorphosis!

Thanks be to God!


Word Study #96 — The Mind

March 11, 2011

When I saw “What does the New Testament say about the mind?” on the search list, my first thought was “Not much!” Bad response! “Mind” has been used to represent seven different Greek words in the New Testament. None of them are particularly common. Their classical usage is similar, but not synonymous. Sorting them is challenging.  Three of these words can be rather quickly laid aside, because of their rarity.

Phronema, “thought, purpose, aspiration,” or, in a negative sense, “presumption, arrogance” (L/S), appears only in Rom.8:7 and 8:27, referring, in both cases, to the focus of attention, whether on the human nature or on the Spirit.
Ennoia, “thinking, reflection, cogitation”, or “a notion, concept, or idea” (L/S), a common word in the Greek philosophers, likewise appears only twice: I Pet.4:1 and Heb.4:12, both of which tend toward the sense of a deliberately determined attitude by which one’s life is consciously ordered.
Psuche, more commonly translated “life” or “soul”, is rendered three times “mind”: Ac.14:2, Phil.1:27, Heb.12:3. For a more thorough treatment of this word, please refer to W.S.#28.

This leaves us with four words, which may be a little easier to distinguish, since they appear in more contexts.
Noema, “perception, thought, purpose, idea, concept, understanding, mind” (L/S), used six times, occurs only in Paul’s writings. In II Cor.3:14, 4:4, and 11:3, the reference is to the blinding of the “understanding” of those who have refused the guidance of the Holy Spirit; II Cor.2:11 is more specific about where that blockage comes from (the traditional translation there is “devices.” The only positive references are Phil.4:7, promising the protection of their/our minds by the peace of God, and II Cor.10:5, a reminder of the faithful disciple’s responsibility (a present active participle), to “subjugate every mind [thought] into the obedience of Christ (like his)”. In both positive and negative contexts, noema seems to be quite definitely subject to an individual’s conscious decision.

Gnome, “intelligence, means of knowing, thought, judgment, opinion, verdict, intention, consent” (L/S), occurs eight times. This is the word used when Paul states that he has no “word from the Lord” on a matter, but offers his opinion (I Cor.7:25, 7:40; II Cor.8:10), or defers a decision about Onesimus’ future to Philemon’s approval (Phm.4). In Rev.17:13 and 17, the ungodly have also made a deliberate decision to join the enemies of God. Paul’s decision regarding his itinerary (Ac.20:3), and his admonition (I Cor.1:10) to the Corinthian brotherhood to settle their differences, also represent thoughtful determination.

Dianoia, “thought, intention, purpose; notion, idea, intelligence, understanding, intellectual capacity” (L/S), is used thirteen times: once (traditionally) translated “imagination” (Lk.1:51), three times “understanding” (Eph.1:18, 4:18, I Jn.5:20), and nine times “mind”.
The associated words in the parallel passages quoting the admonition to “love God” are interesting. In traditional translations, Mt.22:37 includes only “heart” (kardia), “soul” (psuche), and “mind” (dianoia). Mk.12:30 says “heart, soul, mind, and strength (ischus),” and Lk.10:27 uses “heart, soul, strength and mind”. For treatment of psuche see W.S.#28, and for ischus see W.S.#31. The passage they all are quoting, Dt.6:5, in the LXX uses only dianoia, psuche, and dunamis, completely omitting any word for “heart”. The traditional OT translation says “heart, soul, and might”. The OT text includes one of the Hebrew words for “heart”, and makes no mention of “mind”! This would be an interesting topic for textual scholars to investigate. However, the presence of dianoia in all three synoptics, probably as a LXX quote, would certainly indicate that (1) the mind is definitely expected to be fully involved in one’s love of God, and (2) it is an entity completely separate from any of the others mentioned.
Paul’s reference to one’s dianoia in Eph.2:3, 4:18, and Col.1:21, as well as the Lk.1;51 passage, make it abundantly clear that the unredeemed “mind” can be disposed to lead one to opposition to the Kingdom; but the prophecies quoted in Heb.8:10 and 10:16, as well as Peter (I Pet.1:13, II Pet.3:1), Paul (Eph.1:18), and John (I Jn.5:20), are equally emphatic that the mind/understanding can and must be enlightened, transformed, and reminded to be consciously pointed in the right direction.

Nous, the most common of the words, appearing 24 times – 17 as “mind” and 7 as “understanding”–shows even more vividly that while the mind certainly controls a person’s attitudes, thoughts, and behavior, it is also itself controlled by his deliberate decision. L/S lists “the mind, in the sense of being employed in thinking, perception, feeling, or deciding; to have one’s mind directed toward something; resolve or purpose; reason or intellect;” or even (Anaxagoras) “the active principle of the universe”! Like dianoia, nous can be either a positive or negative force, as Paul laments in Rom.7:23-35.
This is the only word used of “the mind of the Lord” (Rom.11:34, I Cor.2:16) or “the mind of Christ” (also I Cor.2:16), except for a single occurrence of phronema in Rom.8:27.
Paul warns of the danger of “corrupt minds” (I Tim.6:5, II Tim.3:8), or their being “defiled” (Tit.1:15), “reprobate” (Rom.1:28), characterized by “vanity” (Eph.4:17), “shaken” (II Thes.2:2), or having inflated ideas of one’s own importance (Col.2:18); but he also holds out the option of choosing to have one’s life “transformed (see next post) by the renewing of your mind” (Rom.12:2), and to be “renewed in the spirit of your mind” (Eph.4:23), until “we have the mind of Christ” (I Cor.2:16)! He urges the Corinthian church, threatened by factions, to be “joined together in the same mind” (I Cor.1:10).
After his resurrection, Jesus graciously “opened the minds [understanding]” of his mourning disciples, “to understand the Scriptures”, and to realize that he was really alive and in their midst (Lk.24:45). Only then did things begin to make sense to them. It requires “a mind that has wisdom” (Rev.17:9) or a person “that has understanding” (Rev.13:18) to discern the Lord’s hand – and that does not start only at the end of history!
But there are times when even a wise and devoted mind is not enough. Paul goes to great length to explain (I Cor.14:14-19) that while worship, the singing of praises, and prayer may at times need to go beyond the reach of one’s mind/understanding, that does not obviate the need for the mind’s involvement. Expressions both with and beyond the understanding are intended to be supplementary, and not mutually exclusive.

Close attention to many of these references reveals, however, that faithfulness is not a “mind trip”! The mind/understanding, while necessary and helpful, is not an end in itself.
Probably the best summary may be found in Rom.12:2: “Be (continuously) completely changed, by the renewal of your mind (nous), so that you all will recognize what God’s will is” – whereupon Paul spends the next couple chapters describing the practical outcome of that transformation.
When, using a third person imperative of phroneo, Paul writes to the Philippians that they must adopt and internalize the “mind” of the Lord Jesus (Phil.2:5), it is in the midst of admonitions to faithful living.
Committing worries and concerns to the Lord, (Phil.4:7), he concludes, “God’s peace, which greatly exceeds all understanding (nous), will protect your hearts and minds (noema) in Christ Jesus!”

May this confidence spur our hearts and minds to determined faithfulness!


Word Study #95 — Suffering, Sacrifice

March 4, 2011

For the purpose of this study, a supplement to #94, although the Elizabethan English word “suffer” was also used as a synonym for “allow” (aphiemi, didomi, eao, epitrepo) and “endure” (anechomai), these will not be considered here. We will confine ourselves to the references where “suffer” is used to translate pascho, pathema. These words probably include the broadest range, scripturally, of any of the four words mentioned in the previous post: but even so, the New Testament writers do not apply it to mere annoyance or inconvenience, as so many folks are prone to do today.

Classically, the word includes the plight of a victim of any kind of oppression, the experience of any misfortune, the payment of a legal penalty, any abuse or ill-treatment, but also of well-being, or the receiving of benefits! (L/S). Thayer indicates that it can be used of any sensate experience, but usually one of evil, illness, or bad fortune. Medically (L/S), it was used of symptoms or troubles.
Similar diversity is also seen in the New Testament. Pascho is used in the complaint of Pilate’s wife about her dream (Mt.27:19), the plight of the woman who could not be helped by doctors (Mk.5:26), the group of Jews abused by Pilate (Lk.13:2), the mutual dependence of the human body (I Cor.12:26), and the punishment deserved by a person convicted of a crime (I Pet.4:15).

However, the majority of the 39 New Testament appearances of the verb form and 14 of the noun refer specifically to the sufferings of either Jesus (24x), or his people (25x), as a direct result of their faithfulness. Jesus spoke repeatedly of his anticipated suffering of rejection by the elders and priests of the Jewish hierarchy (Mt.16:21, 17:12; Mk.8:31, 9:12; Lk.9:22, 17:25), as well as the specific event of his death (Lk.22:15, 24:26). Notice that Jesus himself, in contrast to popular emphases, spoke more frequently of “suffering” in connection with his being rejected by those who should have welcomed him, than he did of his actual death. It is important to note that fully half of these, in both categories, end with the declaration of the equal certainty of his resurrection.
Repeatedly, that is the key: for the Lord Jesus himself, and for his people, whatever their circumstances. His resurrection, and by extension, theirs/ours, is the power that enables endurance. Paul clearly understood this (Rom.8-18), as did Peter (I Pet.4:13).

In fact, if you will check all of Paul’s uses of pascho and pathema – I Cor.12:26, II Cor.1:5-7, Gal.34, Phil.1:29, 3:10; Col.1:24, I Thes.2:14, II Thes.1:12, II Tim.1:12, 3:11 – you will see that they all refer either to his own (Paul’s) mistreatment, or that of his readers. Only in Phil.3:10 does he connect it to the sufferings of Jesus. Neither Jesus nor Paul, on any occasion, makes any connection of these words with “forgiveness” (W.S. #7) as has been widely taught as “doctrine”. Look it up, folks. It’s not there, and neither is any hint that “suffering” was ever “sent” or “caused” by God! (see “trials”, W.S.#11)

In Ac.9:16, Ananias is told by Jesus that Paul will need to suffer many things “on behalf of my name”, which Paul then passes on in Phil.1:29 “for his sake”; and in II Thes.1:5, he refers to that beleaguered group’s suffering “on behalf of the Kingdom of God”. In each case, the preposition is huper, “on behalf of.” As we saw in W.S. #94 regarding persecution and tribulation, suffering also is viewed simply as one of the consequences to be expected, as a part of identification with Jesus and his Kingdom. (See also W.S.#34, the cross.)

The writer to the Hebrews, in illustrating the shortcomings of the old, obsolete system, is the only one to propose a reason for the suffering of the Lord Jesus: Heb.2:9-10 – so that his death and subsequent glory would destroy (14-15) the power of death over his people, and to make him mature (teleios) for that assignment; Heb.5:8 – it was the way he “learned obedience” (for the same purpose); and Heb.9:26 – to definitively abolish (the word is athetesis, used of the nullification of a contract or treaty) the “failures” [“sins”] of his people. This latter passage is the only place in the entire New Testament where that connection is made. So how did it become the only thing so many people include in their distorted version of “gospel teaching”? Because a good guilt-trip makes it so easy to manipulate people?
Later, the same writer describes the early sufferings of his readers (10:32, 34) – the latter containing the same word with the “together” prefix – as encouragement for their continued faithfulness. “Don’t give up now!” See vv.32-38.

Peter’s first letter, written to refugees scattered across Asia Minor by severe violence against the brotherhood, is almost entirely devoted to encouraging their faithfulness under duress. Again, resurrection hope predominates. Whether Jesus’ sufferings (1:11, 4:1, 4:13, 5:1) or theirs (2:19-23, 3:14-18, 4:13-19, 5:9-10), it is faithful behavior in spite of suffering which promises participation in the Kingdom – both present and future. Twice (3:17-18 and 4:13-19) he reminds them “just make sure that your suffering is not deserved” for some less noble reason! Please see W.S. #12 for a discussion of the references to “God’s will.”

“Sacrifice”(thuo, thusia), on the other hand, as it is used in the New Testament, is always performed at a person’s own initiative. Classically, the only use of either word was the slaughter of animals for food, or burnt as offerings to the gods, or referring to the festivities surrounding those ceremonies. Bauer adds that later, the Rom.12:1 reference was interpreted as an advocacy of martyrdom, but there is no evidence that such was the original intent.
Sixteen times in the New Testament, the word refers to pagan sacrifices to idols. Paul deals with the dilemma this causes in I Cor.8. Nineteen times, the reference is to the sacrifices prescribed in the Old Testament Law – most of them emphasizing its futility (Heb.5:1, 7:27, 8:3, 9:9, 10:1, 5, 8;11) – or to Jesus’ statements that sacrifice is not what God wanted (Mt.9:13, 12:7, Mk.12:33, Ac.7:42). In Lk.15:23,27, 30; Jn.10:10, 10:13, thuo is used simply of slaughtering an animal for food. In Mt.22:4, Mk.14:12, Lk.22:7, the reference is to the killing of the passover lamb, which only once is connected to Jesus (I Cor.5:7). Remember, in that context, that the Passover was a celebration of deliverance from slavery, and had nothing to do with “sin.” That connection is only made in Heb.9:26 and 10:12 where the focus is on the impotence and futility of the old sacrificial system. Interestingly, Jesus never used the word of himself or of anything he did, although Paul does once (Eph.5:2).

“Sacrifice” on the part of God’s people is used in a positive sense in the New Testament only five times, but these are significant. Remember, of all these concepts, sacrifice is the only voluntary one. All imply deliberate action. In Rom.12:1, Paul urges, “present your bodies as a living sacrifice to God”, not killing, but living in worship and obedience to him. In Phil.2:17, Paul speaks of the “sacrifice” of their worship, and doesn’t mind at all if it costs his own life. In Phil 4:18, he refers to the gift of support that the Philippian church had sent to him in prison as “an acceptable sacrifice, pleasing to God”. Heb.13:15-16 advocates a “sacrifice of praise” in worship and thanksgiving, with the assurance that this, like “doing good and sharing”, is pleasing to God.

In the New Testament concept of “sacrifice”, there is no hint of the popular notion of “giving up” some pet vice or pleasure in order to curry favor before God. The “sacrifice” pleasing to God is simply the willing offering of oneself – to be used as he sees fit – for his Kingdom and for his world –
“a living offering, set-apart, pleasing to God. This is your logical [reasonable] worship!” (Rom.12:1)

Let’s be reasonable, folks!