A “Christian Nation?”

May 6, 2016

Recently, I heard the question raised, “Doesn’t living in a ‘Christian nation’ change the context of the various New Testament statements about behavior and attitudes, especially with respect to ‘enemies’?”
Although that might be a quite valid concern in a context that assumes, contrary to the previous study of the concept of “institutional church”, that such a situation is even possible, it is troubling for people committed to a New Testament understanding of faithfulness. From a perspective of total commitment to the Kingdom of Jesus, one’s life can no longer be compartmentalized!

Although I am quite certain that it is not what Rodgers and Hammerstein intended in “Oklahoma”, they have described a distinct parallel between Jesus and (of all unlikely people!) Will Parker, when he sings, “With me, it’s all or nothin’! Is it all or nothin’ with you? It cain’t be in-between – it cain’t be now-and-then! No half-and-half romance will do!”
In a drastically different context, that is exactly the choice faced – not only in the first century under threat of execution, but in every age – by those contemplating citizenship in the Kingdom.

Although “This is a Christian nation!” has become a popular battle-cry for encoding some people’s version of “morality” into legal requirements or prohibitions, the fact is that from the very beginning, there has never been such a thing as a “Christian nation”. No such entity exists today – or has ever existed (even in areas that boast of “state” churches) – or ever will exist – until the final consummation of the King’s arrival.
There is only one way to be “Christian”: and that is by making – and living by – a personal commitment of loyalty to Jesus Christ. Those who have done so are gradually and deliberately incorporated into a Body – but that Body is made up of people who have deliberately chosen his sovereignty.

No political structure on earth is so composed. Like it or not, virtually every “nation” on earth is composed of people of varied – or no – faith commitments, some of whom lead exemplary lives.

People may join an earthly nation by their personal choice. But most are merely “citizens” wherever they were born. “State churches”, being institutional, have tried to enforce a similar pattern, but as we saw in the essay about the “institutional church”, the result is a far cry from the interactive, voluntary New Testament brotherhood described in Scripture. Please refer to the first chapter of Citizens of the Kingdom.

No one who has deliberately ceded absolute loyalty to Jesus and his Kingdom can thereafter offer that total loyalty to a mere human institution, whether political or ecclesiastical.
And no one who has not so ceded his loyalty can – or should – be expected to be capable of Kingdom behavior! This is not to say that there are not many good people who have no such commitment. There are. However, making laws for other people, and legislating what we have failed to teach, is not part of our job description.

Please refer to word study #62 for the New Testament treatment of the word “nations”. It is clear that the concept of “nation” as defined in the 21st century did not exist in the first. The Roman Empire had dominated many “nations”, allowing most of them a considerable degree of autonomy, as long as both the puppet leaders and the common citizenry overtly acknowledged that “Caesar is Lord”. (See Word Study #4.) “Nation” defined ethnicity, more than political allegiance.

Notice that in Paul’s testimony in the trials recorded in Acts 24 and 26, and in his interview with the Jewish leaders in Rome, he speaks of “my nation”, obviously referring to Israel, although he also on occasion referred to his Roman citizenship. Citizenship in Jesus’ Kingdom does not expect one to renounce nor to reject his earthly allegiances and responsibilities. It simply subjects them to his ultimate, primary loyalty to the Kingdom.

Unfortunately, this is seldom acceptable to the people in power – in any institution, political or ecclesiastical – and consequently may incur the wrath of one or the other – or both.

Peter is the only one of the New Testament writers to refer to the committed as a “nation” (I Pet.2:9). We are not only a “nation” (of common birth and cause), but a “holy nation” – one set-apart for God’s deliberate purposes. The rest of his description makes abundantly clear that this is a very different sort of a “nation” – one designed to demonstrate, by its faithful living in the face of extreme persecution by the “official” nations with which it co-exists, the excellence of the Lord who has called its people “out of darkness into his amazing light”!

Notice, please, that Peter does not call for his readers to oppose the structures under which they suffer, but “by doing good” to counteract the wrong that surrounds (and even abuses) them. It is an exercise in futility to expect the uncommitted to exhibit behavior that is enabled only by the Lord we serve.
Obeying when we can, and refusing only when we must in order to remain faithful to our prior commitment, bears testimony to the true justice of our King.

Notice also, please, that IN NO INSTANCE are the faithful called upon to force their own principles upon any other individual or group – legally or by any other form of coercion. It is not only impossible, but not even permissible, to expect Kingdom behavior of the uncommitted. We are not called to reform the society around us, but to DEMONSTRATE AN ALTERNATIVE to the futility, the oppression, even the evil that prevails there – whether or not such a demonstration project is acceptable to that society.
To what extent it is ever appropriate for Kingdom citizens to participate in any sort of prescriptive action beyond their own brotherhood, is a question best settled on a situational basis by a consensus of folks personally and corporately committed to their acknowledged King and to Kingdom principles.

For the most part, our energy would be far more productively spent in working together to become the Body – the brotherhood – the “holy nation” – in which onlookers can see “the excellence of the one who called you /us”. That is the only truly “Christian nation”.


Making Everything New

April 24, 2016

This was prepared for our local fellowship in April 2016.
Everyone was asked to  prepare by looking for everything they could find in the New Testament that was characterized as “new”. The response was excellent.  This was an attempt to pull several streams together.

Making Everything New

Jesus’ triumphant statement, “Behold, I am making everything new!”, has been variously interpreted ever since the first time it was recorded, as have so many of the things he talked about.

It is certainly true that commitment to the Lord, especially for someone like me, who at that time had only recently been introduced to the life that Jesus advocated and enabled, often results in what some have called a “honeymoon phase”, where the whole world takes on a surreal sort of beauty. But all too soon, it is time to get down to the business of learning a new way of life.
There are still people and groups who insist on proclaiming a hyped-up “victory” over all problems and situations, which they attribute to their narrow definition of “faith” (auto suggestion?).
There are others who get around the difficulty of when the “magic” doesn’t work, (as well as ignoring any personal responsibility) by postponing all evidence of the “victory” until the Lord comes.
And there are all sorts of variations in between.
One major deviation of the Anabaptist movement from the “mainstream” was its determined effort to bridge the gap between the “already” and the “not yet” in their efforts at Kingdom living. This is especially true of attitudes regarding the contemporary phase of the Kingdom. They made an earnest effort to contradict the little ditty “To live above with the saints in love, Oh that will be glory!
But to live below, with the saints we know,Well, that’s a different story!”
It is precisely among the “saints below”, with all our oddities, stumblings, bruises and warts, where the “newness” of life in Christ most needs to be seen!

The writer to the Hebrews (8:13) observes, “In saying “new”, he has made the first “old”. And what is old and has been superseded, is near to disappearing!”
Even so, to examine the new situation, we have to start somewhere, and the logical place is at the “new creation” that happens whenever a person commits his life to the Lord.
I Cor.5:17 “If anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation! (or, “creation is new!”) Old things are gone, and something new has happened!”
In other places (notably the first paragraph of Romans 6), Paul uses the figure of baptism to represent death, burial and resurrection, to emphasize the same point, and in Ephesians 2:15, he expands it to include the bringing together of Jew and Gentile – formerly bitter enemies – into what he calls “one new person” – the Body of Christ!
In that Body, LIFE IS EXPECTED TO BE DIFFERENT!!! There has been a New Creation!

For many – perhaps most – of us, this doesn’t happen instantaneously. One is neither “born” nor “re-born” as a fully mature adult! We don’t expect adult behavior of our two-year-olds. That’s the perfectly reasonable impetus for all the admonitions to “grow up” into the image of Christ that appear like a refrain in so many of the New Testament letters. We’re not there yet. The direction has been set, but it will take the rest of our lives to learn to conform them to the “image of Christ”!

Unfortunately, in many groups that represent themselves as “Christian”, no change, radical or not, is expected. If a group represents itself as “welcoming” (the new codeword for “liberal”), people’s “lifestyle choices” – of whatever variety – are considered their own business, and are not to be questioned, let alone challenged or critiqued. “I won’ t mess with your choices, and you better not mess with mine”!
If, on the other hand, a group congratulates itself on its careful “faithfulness” (read, “conservative”), a simple but rigid list of rules is imposed, with very specific (and non-negotiable) requirements and prohibitions regarding both thought and behavior.

Neither of these bears the remotest resemblance to a New Creation!
Jesus’ creation of a Body, growing together into his image, stands in equally sharp contrast to both of these positions.

He spoke very deliberately of a people brought together under a New Covenant.
Probably this is picked up in the most careful detail in the letter to the Hebrews because the concept of “covenant” was such an integral part of their history and culture. But notice how this idea is treated, especially in chapter 8:6-13. Repeatedly, they are reminded that this New Covenant is “NOT LIKE the old one”, which is characterized as a total failure!

To make sense out of this concept, we first need to clarify our understanding of the idea of “covenant”. Most significantly, we need to recognize the error of the assumption that a “covenant” is or was somehow an unconditionally permanent thing! A covenant was and is a legal contract – seriously binding, after ratification, but (as is clear even in many Old Testament accounts) a breach by either party renders a contract or covenant of no effect! Subject to litigation, perhaps, but no longer binding!
There is nothing mysterious about a covenant. Employers have them. Neighborhood associations have them. Real estate or other financial deals require them. They impose responsibilities upon both parties.
A covenant is cast, historically, legally, theologically, and linguistically, in a series of “if x…then y” statements, which, grammatically, are classified as “conditional” constructions. A covenant is neither a threat nor a promise. It is a legal contract – no more and no less.

The writer of Hebrews then goes on to explain the actual historical meaning of the word translated “covenant”. In the larger society, it referred to one’s legal will, and seldom to contracts or covenants at all. (I have devoted two word studies on the web site to this subject, if you are interested). The “doctrinally” over-emphasized, ancient pagan requirement of “blood sacrifice” to seal a covenant is corrected by the simple statement that a will only takes effect after the death of the testator is certified! That topic deserves an entire study of its own, for which we don’t have time this morning. Chapters 8-10 of Hebrews elaborate on the connections between the concepts of covenant, inheritance, and the Body of Christ, which could be very helpful to our understanding. Remember that the letter to the Hebrews is pointing out differences from the old system, not ideas to be copied!

Additionally, as Paul points out in II Cor.3:6, we, the people of God, are the administrators – the executors – of that will! Executors are responsible to see that a will is carried out according to the wishes of the one who wrote it! They don’t make their own rules. They simply follow instructions. And that is our job, people! We have been appointed the executors of our Lord’s will! That is a huge – and perhaps somewhat intimidating – assignment, also calling for deeper study.

Finally, just as the Old Covenant was based upon instructions (“commandments”) relayed to the people for whom it was instituted, so is the New Covenant/ inheritance predicated upon Jesus’ New Commandment.
It would have been so much easier if he had just given us a check-list! Although that obviously had not worked under the old system.
But Jesus must have really meant what he said, since he repeated it so many times (Jn.13:34, 35; 15:12, 17). Love of – and among – the brethren is our passport – our Kingdom ID.
“If you love me, you will follow my instructions!” (Jn.14:15,21) is not a demand, but a simple statement of “cause and effect.”

Interestingly, it is right after this repeated statement that we find the inclusion of his analogy of the Vine (15:1-8). A branch MUST be connected to the vine in order to fulfill its intended purpose – bearing fruit. However, the most elementary observation reveals that branches are connected to a vine only by other branches!!! Connectedness is essential!
Actually, this is the beginning of the formation of Jesus’ people into the Body of Christ! That Body is integral to the New Creation!
Only together can such a disparate collection of people become the “demonstration project” in which the world can see Jesus’ Kingdom. A recent example of this is Shirley’s report of her neighbors’ reaction to the roofing job. Kingdom behavior was demonstrated.

Details of the composition and function of that Body are most specifically outlined in Romans 12 and I Corinthians 12-14, and supplemented in Ephesians and Colossians. The lists are not identical. They address different needs, different situations. We could – and should – spend a good chunk of time exploring this aspect of Kingdom life. The common thread, which is absolutely essential, is that each membereveryone! – has a very necessary contribution to make for the formation, growth, and fruitfulness of the Body, and to enable the recognition “by all people” that we are our King’s citizens.

This is a totally new way of operating. It had never been tried before! and therefore extreme caution is required. Creation is new, but not everything represented as “new” is necessarily better. Discernment, one of the Spirit’s essential gifts to the Body through its members, is desperately needed, to distinguish between the actual leading of God and the half-baked theories of “new” ideas (Colossians 2:4-10 is an example) where some were suggesting that Jesus alone was not sufficient, and needed to be understood as just one element of an elaborate, mythological hierarchy invented by some pagan Eastern cultures; or the revisionists referenced in Galatians 1:8-9 whose legalistic, abusive and oppressive teaching threatened the faithful message of freedom in Christ. Both of these are parallel to some contemporary threats as well. Only careful discernment by a faithful Body committed to a reliable standard can evaluate whether what is represented as “new wine” that needs “new wineskins” is really from the Lord. Maybe it is – or maybe not.

This has to be why, after a long discussion of the futility and failures of the old system, the writer to the Hebrews urges (10:24-25) “Let’s concentrate on prodding each other, with love, and good deeds! Let’s don’t neglect getting together, as some have made a habit, but keep on coaching each other more and more, as you all see the Day getting nearer!”

Functioning as his New Creation – under the New Covenant – obedient to the King’s New Commandment – may we learn together to keep coaching each other into greater faithfulness!

April 24, 2016, GMF


An offer for those interested

April 13, 2016

Good morning, friends.
Recently, a friend of mine inquired about getting copies of Citizens of the Kingdom for a study class to use.  I was glad to send her what she needed.

As I hope I have made clear, any of you are free to make (or to have made) copies of any of my work on this site for your personal use, as long as you do not sell them for any reason.  I try to live by my conviction that anything that is truly a gift from the Lord should NEVER be used for anyone’s profit.

However, I do have a good-sized box of print copies of Citizens, which were made before my son Dan put the work on the internet for you.  They are just sitting in a closet.  It occurred to me that some of you might also like to have a few for group use.  THEY ARE NOT FOR SALE.  I would, however, be glad to send any of you what you might want to use, simply for the cost of the shipping.  Please respect the trust I have in you, that you will not offer them for sale.  UPS charged me about $15 to mail a box of ten to Pennsylvania from North Carolina,  so I do not feel able to foot the bill for shipping a quantity multiple times.
But I would rather have you using them, than just have them taking up space.

You can reply here on the site if you wish.

In the service of the King —

Ruth


“Institutional Church” — an Oxymoron?

March 24, 2016

This is intended to be a companion piece to my previous essay which posed the question, “Would Jesus be allowed to join/represent/preach in your church?” Here, I intend to explore a parallel question, just as crucial, but from the opposite perspective: “Can a church become an institution of its surrounding society, and still faithfully represent Jesus?” Like its predecessor, this question needs to be raised very deliberately and carefully by any group that intends to take faithfulness seriously and responsibly.

Also like its predecessor, this question would not have been an issue at all in the first century church, where “Jesus is Lord” was the only “statement of faith”, and where adherence to that statement alone frequently resulted in a death sentence. “Institutionalization” is not an option for a persecuted minority. It can only emerge from a position of power.
Jesus did not come to start – or to reform – a “religion”, or to establish an institution.
Consequently, he never addressed the subject, except in his rebuke to James and John for their jockeying for positions of honor in his “cabinet.” “You know as well as I do, that is how the rulers of this world operate,” he explained. “BUT IT SHALL NOT BE THAT WAY AMONG YOU ALL!” (Please see Lk.22:24-27 and Mt.20:24-28) He was going to do something different.

What constitutes the establishment of an institution? It assumes at least four things, each of which is diametrically opposed to Jesus’ positions and principles.
An institution assumes:
1. power in or over (at least a segment of) society at large
2. making rules or demands of people who have NOT deliberately chosen to be subject to it.
3. some external and easily defined means of judging who is “in” and who is “out.”
4. somebody (person or group) “in charge” to keep things running smoothly and under control.

This necessitates the creation of a hierarchy, or chain of command:
1. to keep people in line, and to be sure that authority is properly delegated and exercised
2. to define and defend the status quo, and impose it on all
3. to exclude or penalize offenders
4. to direct both defensive and offensive activity.

A primary concern of any institutional structure is its own survival and dominance. This is the polar opposite of Jesus’ concern. There is no record anywhere of his being concerned about survival! The primary concern of his followers, likewise, was not survival, but faithfully to represent him. Most of them did not survive very long.

The success/survival of an institution depends heavily upon the manipulative skills of its masters, in squashing the opposition, regulating the membership, and maintaining their own position of dominance. Only from a majority position – a stance at the top of the “food chain” – is an institution capable of forcibly imposing its standards, not only upon its own adherents, but upon society at large. Only from a place of power can an institution enforce by legislation what it may have simply failed to teach.
There is no place for any of this in the Kingdom of Jesus!!!

Institutional attempts to define, analyze, and housebreak some sort of “Supreme Being”, created in the image – or the imagination – of the hierarchy whose power depends upon it, are an exercise in futility, for one simple reason, (besides the nonsensical assumption that such a “being” would be “supreme” at all, if it were so subject to the whims of its “creators”).
That reason is simply that JESUS IS ALIVE!!!!
He cannot be reduced to categories, activities, or principles invented by his own creatures! He himself is superior to everyone and everything! It is in him that “all things exist / hold together!” (Col.1:16-17)

The most cursory perusal of the New Testament gospel accounts makes it obvious that Jesus had not the remotest intention of creating an institution. He rather chose to create a Body, which is designed to continue the purpose of his own Incarnation – to reveal God’s true being and purpose to/for the world by corporately and deliberately demonstrating his attitude and practice of life-giving, selfless service. The subsequent functioning of the whole brotherhood, together, as the Body of Christ, is a major theme throughout the rest of the New Testament writings.

Please refer to Word Studies 84 and 150 for some of the specifics, as well as studies 40 through 49 which deal with some of the functions that need to be included if a Body is to mature and to fulfill its intended purpose. You may also find Part II, chapters 5-8, of Citizens of the Kingdom helpful in this regard.

Most germane to the present consideration is Jesus’ explicit prohibition (see the Lk. 22 and Mt.24 passages cited previously) of any attempt to pattern the operation of the Kingdom after the methods and structures of “the world” and its obsession with being “in charge,” or needing to regulate the opinions, behavior, or loyalty of its subjects, even though those methods may sometimes appear to be “successful.” Paul understood that difference, writing in Romans 12 an eloquent description of the function of the Body, to folks who, living in the seat of the Empire, would have been well (and often painfully) acquainted with the vagaries of the “system” under which they suffered. A Kingdom – a Body – whose only Head was the Lord in whose loving care they had learned to trust, was a thought to be embraced with great delight and hope!

The value – indeed, the necessity – of the contribution of every faithful member of the Body (even more specifically outlined in I Corinthians 12-14) was as unfamiliar to the first century as it is to the twenty-first! This is a culture that does not exist among “the nations of the world” – then or now! The Kingdom of Jesus involves a radical difference!

But which culture is being advocated and cultivated, when so-called “church leadership” is carefully trained to function as CEO’s, CFO’s, psychological counselors, script-writers, choreographers, and “dynamic” speakers, whose purpose is to maintain, enhance and regulate the activity of their assigned institution, rather than as enablers whose responsibility is to encourage and facilitate the unique and necessary contribution of every faithful person? The average “church service” bears little resemblance to Paul’s description in I Corinthians 14:26 of each one‘s participation when “coming together.”

Now, please don’t misunderstand. This is not a call for a situation where everyone is blithely “doing his own thing”, and “anything goes.” That would be just as destructive to a true Body as is the dominance of a single individual (or group) who is “in charge”. Notice the plethora of functions which Paul lists as “gifts” to the church in Ephesians 4:11-16. Notice also that this is NOT intended to define a controlling hierarchy. It is simply the sequence in which these various functions are needed. Apostles were usually the ones who introduced the Kingdom in a new location. The rest were then tasked with facilitating the growth and continuation of the work. Notice also that every one of these listed functions is PLURAL! Not one is entrusted to a single individual. It is only as “we (all) interact truthfully, in love” (v.15) that we “grow up” to perform our intended function in/as the Body of Christ.

Just as the “institutional” model is dependent upon assumptions, so is the model of the Body.
A few of these must include:
1. a voluntary association. The Body consists only of those who have freely chosen to participate.
2. a deliberate commitment, not to a list of propositions, but to a common purpose: faithfully to represent the presence of the Lord Jesus in the world.
3. a common standard against which to measure both personal and corporate goals, behavior, and attitudes: those described and advocated by Jesus and his followers and recorded in the New Testament.
4. a deliberately and overtly acknowledged willingness to be taught, corrected, and guided by the rest of the Body.

The life of the Lord Jesus will not flow through a Body whose fragments are all rushing off in different directions, taking their cues from some outstanding “leader” other than its rightful Head.
Neither will his life flow through a Body most of whose parts are atrophied from disuse.
Until our fellowships are living examples of even former enemies being reconciled together by the resurrection power of God, into a loving family,
until every brother and sister is enriched and encouraged by the ministry of every other brother and sister,
until we allow ourselves to be joined together, built together, grow together, into one Body, enhanced by the contribution of every one of its diverse parts,
we will not – and cannot – manifest the life of our Lord to the world that so desperately needs his presence.

The operation of a Body is not efficient. In fact, it can be downright messy. Just look at a few of the things that had to be dealt with in I Corinthians 6, I Thessalonians 4, II Thessalonians 2, Hebrews 6, and many other situations, whether moral, cultural, or any other kind, in which either groups or individuals needed to be corrected.

An institution could cope with that sort of thing much more efficiently. Just eliminate the offending or inconvenient parties. “My way or the highway.”

But a Body does not amputate a member that is injured, or even one that causes an injury. Only as a very last resort, after all else fails, must the person who refuses correction be excluded. The Head of the Body distributes gracious gifts of healing, or whatever else is needed for restoration, although it sometimes takes a while for the members to learn to cooperate.

No institution can do that. Its dominion and “success” (not to mention the prestige of its masters) are at stake!
Institutions depend on clever human ingenuity and persuasiveness, or on brute force and power.

The Body of Christ depends on nothing but the faithfulness of its members – and the power of God.


Word Study #201 — Adoption in the First Century

January 16, 2016

The subject of adoption, mentioned only five times in the entire New Testament, and not at all in the LXX (Greek Old Testament), was treated briefly in the studies of “Inheritance” (W.S. 79 and 80). It is also referenced with the applicable passages in the Translation Notes. However, for those who prefer, here is a more coherent summary.

It is interesting that with all the noise in self-styled “evangelical” contexts about the concept of being “born”, or “born again” (see W.S.185), another rarely-appearing idea, the related topic of “adoption” seems to have escaped the fertile imaginations of their commentators, who so delight in establishing and defending long lists of regulations for including or excluding their fellows and narrowing their definitions of the Kingdom.

It is also interesting, that although the English translation “adoption” historically represented eleven different classical Greek words, related to at least three different roots, only a single form, huiothesia, appears in the New Testament writings, and is unique to Paul’s epistles.

Accurate understanding of the cultural implications of huiothesia – etymologically a combination of huios (son) and a noun iteration of tithemi (to put or to place) – is complicated by the fact that in the first century middle east, one is confronted with three major cultural streams: Greek, Roman, and Hebrew. These are augmented with a smattering of other customs introduced by traders who frequented the area from farther afield. Roman law prevailed, of course, since the legions of Rome had subjugated the whole area. I found the old classic, Gibbons’ The Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, most helpful in this research. As pointed out in the Jewish Encyclopedia (online), the subject was not really addressed in the Hebrew context, because their system of requiring the brother (or another “near kinsman”) of a deceased man to provide for his wife and children filled the need for both the responsibility and the privilege of inheritance.

In all three cultures, however, an heir acquired not only the property, but also the debts and obligations of the deceased. Under Roman law, there was even a provision for a debt-ridden father to arrange for his son/heir to be formally adopted by someone else, in order that the overwhelming debt might “die” with the father.

Although Greek customs were often more lenient and less highly defined than Roman in many respects, it was important to both that a male heir be established. Hence the advent of formal, legal adoption – especially if royal succession was involved. (The emperor Augustus, formerly known as Octavian, had been adopted by the family of Julius Caesar for that reason.)

Adoption was also a common way of cementing an alliance between families, and the son in question often maintained ties to both. Such adoption usually involved an older child, not a baby, as both the survivability and the competence of the adoptee were a serious issue. Interestingly, under Roman law, an adopted son could not be disowned, as could a natural son.

Adopted sons shared all the rights and responsibilities of natural children.

Daughters were not adopted, for a very simple economic reason: a father would be expected to provide a dowry for a daughter; whereas a son would be expected to add to the family’s wealth at marriage.

The long-term welfare of a family without male progeny required the adoption of a son to whom responsibility for their care could be passed on. This could be the son of a friend or relative who had more sons than he needed, or even a trusted servant or slave. A formal court procedure sealed the agreement, and the adopted son assumed the name of the adoptive father.

In the case of any family, but especially one with multiple sons, another legal provision came into play. When the designated heir attained majority, the father was required to make a formal statement to that effect. This was necessary whether the son in question was naturally born or adopted. This too was described as huiothesia – the same word.

It has been suggested that this custom may also have been one reason for the affirmative “voice from heaven” mentioned at Jesus’ baptism and again at the Transfiguration. Although the word does not appear there, the statement “This is my Son” would have been recognized as the standard legal acknowledgment.

Huiothesia is, however, the word used in all five New Testament occurrences: Romans 8:15, 8:23, and 9:4; Galatians 4:5, and Ephesians 1:5. It is a designation, not only of privilege, but of responsibility faithfully to administer the assets and care for the people and property of the father.

Might it be, that Paul’s use of the term is another of his many admonitions to the Lord’s people to “grow up” into the inheritance for which we have been chosen?

For insight into the inclusiveness of that term, please also see the treatment of “sons” (W.S. 100) and the explanation in the essay “The Task of a Translator”.

Perhaps this historical information will help , if not to answer, at least to shed a bit of light on the confusion of folks who wonder, “Why the talk about adoption, if we are born into the Lord’s family?”

BOTH are significant, when viewed in their cultural context. This is why, in the PNT translation, I have substituted “acknowledgment” for “adoption”. The terms are supplementary, not contradictory, both derived from the same original word, but simply applied to two phases of the same process.

Life indeed begins with “birth”, but huiothesia is for “grown-ups.”

May we all be found faithful.


New resources

January 3, 2016

Hello, folks.

As I’m sure you have noticed, there have been no new postings for the last couple months.  We have been working on the problem with the Translation Notes.  Seems that the Greek font I had been using, no longer is compatible with PDF’s, and so when anyone tried to print that off, Greek words came up with a crazy jumble of English letters that were completely meaningless.  After trying a bunch of alternatives, Dan and I decided that the best solution was to simply use the transliteration we have been using in the regular studies. So I re-did the whole thing.  Sorry about that, to those of you who would prefer”real” Greek — but although the technology is out there somewhere, my computer skills are not up to learning a whole new system at this point.

So Dan has now posted the Notes in a printable (transliterated) form, which you can access from the “download” section of the homepage.  In case any of you want the Greek version, it is still there, and you can get to it if you download “SLGreek” to your computer.

We apologize for the inconvenience and nuisance, but it is the best we can do.

Wishing a blessing-filled New Year to you all — Now I will get back to a few waiting requests for studies.  Keep your suggestions for new work coming.

Ruth


2015 in review

December 31, 2015

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2015 annual report for this blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The concert hall at the Sydney Opera House holds 2,700 people. This blog was viewed about 16,000 times in 2015. If it were a concert at Sydney Opera House, it would take about 6 sold-out performances for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.