Engage The Faith Q&A: The Five Verses Almost Universally Misunderstood by Christians Today.
AdministratorJuly 20, 2020 at 2:32 pm
The Historic Faith is excited to announce the very first Engage The Faith: Teacher Q&A Forum, an opportunity to ask our instructors anything about a preselected topic. In this discussion David Bercot will respond to questions about a message he is currently working on entitled ”The Five Verses Almost Universally Misunderstood by Christians Today.” The message is not released yet so this will provide you with a chance to ask questions based on your current understanding of these verses. The five passages are John 1:1, Romans 8:35-39, 1 Corinthians 6:12, Hebrews 4:12, and 2 Peter 1:10.
Please ask David the questions you have about these verses. Or perhaps you would like to chime in by adding additional verses that you think are often misunderstood.
Here is the format for our discussion. First, reply with your questions on this board before July 30th or subscribe to see questions posted by others. On the 30th, David will respond to as many questions as possible on this discussion board. This is only the beginning! Get ready for more exciting opportunities to engage our teachers.
Timothy with The Historic Faith team
P.S. This is the pilot run of the Teacher Q&A Forum so your feedback is greatly appreciated.
MemberJuly 21, 2020 at 8:36 pm
Hello dear brother Timothy. It looks like dear brother Bercot is staying away from symbolic/apocalyptic/prophetic verses, which makes sense, and I will do the same.
I have not yet looked at the five passages in your list, but if it is possible, I would like to add two more passages for dear brother Bercot to discuss:
1) 1 Corinthians 3:12-15, with an emphasis on the last part of verse 15: “but he himself shall be saved; yet so as by fire”. What is Paul saying here at the end of verse 15? This sounds like a case where someone is judged to be worthy of eternal life with the Lord (they are not condemned to the lake of fire), but they will have no extra reward to enjoy in eternity. Verse 14 seems to say that someone who was more careful in the way they built upon the foundation during their lifetime will receive an extra reward to enjoy in eternity (the fact that such a person is saved is implied). I try to keep my Bible reading simple and straightforward, and this is the way I read and understand verses 14 and 15, but I would really like to hear brother Bercot’s thoughts on these verses, with an emphasis on the last part of verse 15, since I could be wrong.
2) Romans 12:20, with an emphasis on the last part of this verse: “for in so doing thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head.” I understand that Paul is quoting from the Proverbs of King Solomon (Proverbs 25:21-22), so I guess the question is this – what is Solomon saying here? I have always assumed that the phrase “thou shalt heap coals of fire on his head” is some kind of Hebrew idiom or other Hebrew figure of speech implying that your enemy which you treat so kindly will be deeply ashamed of their previous animosity and ill-treatment of you, and it is this deep, burning sense of shame that is likened to “coals of fire on his head”. I am not sure if I understand this correctly and I would really like to hear brother Bercot’s thoughts.
Thank you and everyone else at THF for setting up this time with dear brother Bercot. May our Lord richly bless your labors for His kingdom.
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 12:16 am
Much to my shame, I would like to know its original intent and context of this verse. It seems the most the most fundamental, but I think it’s also the most flawed interpretation and application in the Bible. Was John 3:16 interpreted the way it was originally intent in the original greek language and context? We all know that most evangelicals preach John 3:16 as the gospel. But is it the real gospel? What is sad is it’s used to connote the phrase I often hear among evangelical pastors “unconditional love of GOD”. How do you reconcile GOD to be loving and GOD who sends wicked people to the lake of fire if GOD’s love is that much as how John 3:16 has explicitly and widely interpreted in different Bible translations?
1 Cor. 5:5
What is meant by Paul by saving the sexually immoral in the day of the Lord Jesus? How can you expel or excommunicate a sinner from the church if he/she is going to be saved anyway even though he/she was handed over to satan?
1 Cor. 5:7
If Christ is our Passover lamb, and the early Christians believed that Christ’s blood was an appropriation for our sins to satan, how then do we explain the Passover Lamb’s blood in Exodus 12:23?
1 Cor. 7:12-16
What does Paul meant by unbelieving spouse sanctified by their believing spouse and what is meant by “saving” in verse 16? Isn’t each accountable to their own works come judgement day as what Ezekiel 18:20 explicitly says?
1 Ptr. 1:18-19
How is the concept of redemption here differ from the concept of redemption in Exodus 13:13?
How can we reconcile GOD who doesn’t require sacrifices but instituted sacrifices for various sins in Leviticus 1 to 7? Furthermore, the sacrifices required should be unblemished like how GOD rebuked the priests for offering the opposite in Malachi 1:6-14.
I would also like brother David to discuss how we reconcile why GOD conquers people/nations even through violent means and Jesus Christ who preaches and practices non-violent, pacifist position and often revolutionary means in social relations, much like how Celsus raised this against Christians in the 2nd century.
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 5:58 am
Just another verse to ask which is used by most, if not all, evangelicals and Roman Catholics to justify original sin and physical death. Please explain Romans 5:12 and how its application to babies and/or children who are innocent of sin yet die if original sin, or an equivalent doctrine or concept of it among early Christians, isn’t true. Is Romans 3 an all encompassing truth, especially verse 23, to include babies as well?
MemberJuly 24, 2020 at 9:21 pm
Hello dear brother Timothy. I would like to ask dear brother David Bercot several questions about the verses he listed, one regarding 2 Peter 1:10 and serveral related questions regarding Hebrews 4:12:
1) Have you ever encountered an early Christian writer who interpreted 2 Peter 1:10 to mean that a Christian can reach a point of maturity during their earthly life where he/she can know for certain that if they died at that moment, they would definitely enter into eternal life with our Lord because they had labored to “make their call and election sure”? That certainly sounds presumptuous to me, but not knowing anything about the underlying Greek, I can see where English translations of this verse could possibly lead to that conclusion, hence my curiosity on this point. I would think that the possibility that we could stumble and backslide will always exist in this earthly life, but the words “if you do these things you will never stumble” perhaps suggest otherwise? Any insights you can share on this point would be greatly appreciated.
2) Any insight you can share regarding your own or early Christian insights regarding Hebrews 4:12 would be very welcome. The phrase “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit” has always puzzled me. I have listened to your message regarding what the early Christians believed about the spirit and the soul, and I have heard sermons and read books that speak about the tripartite nature of human beings, but I still wonder about the words “division of soul and spirit”. What does it look like for the soul and spirit to be divided apart by the word of God? Is our human spirit somehow “trapped” within our soul (like the marrow is “trapped” deep within our bones) and needs to be liberated in some way? What would be the practical results of such an inner working where our human spirit and soul are divided by the word of God? Related to question #1, can we reach a point in this earthly life where our human spirit is fully “divided” and “freed” from the influence/limitations of our soul? One final question: Does “word of God” in this verse refer to the written Scriptures or to Jesus Christ as the Logos, the word of God? The writer of Hebrews quotes a lot of Old Testament Scriptures (to say the least!), so I have always leaned towards understanding “word of God” in this verse to mean the written Scriptures, but I could be mistaken. Again, any insights you can share to help answer my multitude of questions regarding Hebrews 4:12 would be very welcome and very much appreciated.
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 1:50 pm
Charles, you’ve asked a lot of good questions (as have the other participants). Let me briefly address your question about the “piercing even to the division of soul and spirit.” The writer of Hebrews (which the early Christians almost universally believed to be Paul) does not speak of the division of the soul from the spirit, but the division of soul and spirit. I wasn’t able to find a specific discussion of the division of the spirit, but there are quite a few passages where the early Christians talk about the dividing or division of the soul. Here are a few quotations:
“For since the Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12), this Logos especially now awards our souls the prize of the peace that passes understanding, which He left to His apostles (cf. Phil. 4:7; Jn 14:27). And He draws a sword between the image of the man of dust and the image of the Man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:49), so that by taking our heavenly part at this time He may later make us entirely heavenly, if we are worthy of not remaining cut in two. And He came to bring on earth not only a sword, but also fire (Lk 12:49; Mt 10:34).” Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XXXVII.
XV. Those who by using their great love for God have broken and torn apart such worldly bonds as these in addition to their love of the body and of life, and who have truly borne the Word of God, living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword (Heb. 4: 12)–these have been able to return like an eagle to the house of their master (Prov 23:5 LXX) by breaking apart such bonds and by fashioning wings for themselves. (Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XV.)
So Origen understands the “division of the soul” to be talking about separating the soul from the attractions and desires of this life. The quote below is from John Chrysostom:
Then, lest any think that they will simply be deprived of rest only, he adds also the punishment, saying [Hebrews 4:12], For the Logos of God is quick, and powerful; and sharper than any two-edged sword, and pierces even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow: and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart. Here he is speaking of hell and of punishment. It pierces (he says) into the secrets of our heart, and cuts asunder the soul. Here it is not the falling of carcasses nor, as there, the being deprived of a country, but of a heavenly kingdom; and being delivered to an everlasting hell. (John Chrysostom, Sixth Homily on Hebrews, section 8)
So Chrysostom understands the “division” of the soul to mean the “cutting asunder” of the soul in punishment.
MemberJuly 26, 2020 at 10:19 am
Concerning Romans 8:35-39 I noted some years ago that all factors mentioned are external to us. So the one element missing in the list that cannot separate us from the love of God is me and my behaviour. If I am disobedient, I am not in God’s love (John 14&15) so for both to be true me and my behaviour can separate me from the love of God.
Concerning 1Cor 6:12 It would be strange to interpret this verse as allowing me to do everything as Paul just noted in 1 Cor 6:10 that many behaviours will prevent me to come into heaven. So I see two possibilities for interpretation. One verse later Paul mentions food so I think verse 12 also refers to food. All foods are allowed to us, but not stuff that is addictive.
Another potential explanation is that everything is allowed, but that doesn’t mean that if I keep doing these things I’ll enter the Kingdom of heaven. But would murder be allowed to Paul? That would be really contradictionary so I prefer to see this statement in relation to food.
Concerning 2 Pe 1:10 In view of the preceding section it seems clear what we have to work on. If we don’t have certain qualities as listed we are nearsighted and blind and have forgotten that we were cleansed. So working on these qualities like faith and love willingly is promoted by Peter, be eager to stay on the vine, which will help you in adding to your faith……
That’s my take on things, in a concise way.
What time is this Q&A, as I live in the Netherlands and my have to stay up quite late to participate.
AdministratorJuly 28, 2020 at 10:08 am
Thank you for participating in the Teacher Q&A Forum. This will not be a live event. On July 30th, David will login at whatever time works for his schedule. He will respond to as many questions as possible that have been posted to the discussion board by tomorrow.
Timothy with The Historic Faith team
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 12:48 pm
You have made a great observation. But there is even more to uncover about this verse. The universal mistake made by Christians today is that they think Paul is speaking here about Christ’s love for us, when he is actually talking about our love for Christ. The expressions, “love of Christ” and “love of God,” are ambiguous in that they can either mean the love of Christ or God for us, or our love for Christ or for God. This ambiguity exists in both English and in Greek.
I did a New Testament phrase search, and I found that in the NKJV, those two expressions (“love of Christ” and “love of God”) appear a total of 14 times. Seven of those 14 times, the verse is talking about our love for God or for Christ. Six of the 14 times, it’s talking about God’s or Christ’s love for us. And in one of the verses, it’s simply unclear which of the two the writer is talking about. How do we know whether a verse is talking about our love for God or His love for us? The immediate context usually makes it clear.
1 John 5:2-3
2 By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and keep His commandments. For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments. And His commandments are not burdensome.
Obviously, here John is talking about our love for God, not His love for us.
1 John 4:9
9 In this the love of God was manifested toward us, that God has sent His only begotten Son into the world, that we might live through Him.
Here, John is clearly talking about God’s love for us, not our love for God.
With that background in mind, let’s examine Romans 8:35 to see if the context reveals whether Paul is talking about our love for Christ or His love for us. Right after saying, “Who shall separate us from the love of Christ?” Paul goes on to say: “Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?”
Now, if we read the Scriptures a lot, those words should make us think of another passage from Paul, right?
2 Corinthians 6:4-5
But in all things we commend ourselves as ministers of God: in much patience, in tribulations, in needs, in distresses, in stripes, in imprisonments, in tumults, in labors, in sleeplessness, in fastings;
So in Romans 8, Paul is describing the various kinds of trials that he and the other apostles—and many other Christians had suffered because of their ministry on behalf of God.
The conventional evangelical explanation of Rom. 8:35 is that Paul is telling His readers that God’s love for us has no conditions. No matter what we do, it will never cost us our salvation—assuming we have been validly saved. But why has it never occurred to modern Christians that if that is the point that Paul is trying to make, that he’s presenting an incredibly weak argument?
It would mean that Paul is saying that Christ is so wonderful that even if we suffer persecution for His sake, He still loves us. Even if we go hungry or are threatened with death because of our serving Him, that will not cause Him to stop loving us. Now what kind of argument is that? What kind of Lord would He be if He did stop loving us because we suffered tribulation, persecution, famine, and the sword on His account?
Like most of you, I grew up with the Protestant explanation of Rom. 8:35, and so I had been blinded to the obvious. This verse had always been explained to me that it was talking about Christ’s love for us (not our love for Him). So I glibly accepted that interpretation and never questioned the obvious absurdity of such an interpretation.
And so it was one of those epiphany moments when I was reading Origen’s Commentary on Romans, and I came across this passage:
“If the soul has ascended to this state of perfection, so that it loves God with all its heart and with all its mind and with all its strength, and loves its neighbor as itself, what room will there be for sin? After all, it is on this account as well that in the law that love is said to be the first commandment. And in the Gospels love is commanded above everything else. …
For the Apostle Paul had ascended to this degree of perfection, and standing in it he confidently said, “For who will separate us from love for God which is in Christ Jesus? Will affliction, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” and again, “But I am certain that neither life, nor death, nor things present, nor things to come, nor angels, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, will be able to separate us from love for God in Christ Jesus our Lord.” From all of this it is plainly shown that none of these things enumerated by the Apostle can separate us from our love for God when we have ascended to the peak of perfection.”
When I read that, I realized that Origen was understanding Romans 8 to be talking about a committed Christian’s love for Christ and for His Father—not the other way around. And, of course, it made total sense. In fact, it is the only interpretation that makes any sense.
Paul is not making a theological statement here. He is making a triumphant, bold declaration on behalf of himself and similarly committed Christians that nothing is going to quench our love for Christ. Nothing will separate us from our love for Him. Paul is also making a bold statement of defiance against Satan and against Satan’s invisible agents and against his earthly agents. He is saying that no matter what Satan brings against us, he will not prevail against Christ’s Church.
Justin Martyr made a similar statement in one of his apologetic works. He wrote:
It is evident that no one can terrify or subdue we who have believed in Jesus throughout the world. For it is plain that, though beheaded, and crucified, and thrown to wild beasts, and chains, and fire, and all other kinds of torture, we do not give up our confession; but the more such things happen, the more do others and in larger numbers become faithful, and worshippers of God through the name of Jesus.
(Justin Martyr, Dialogue with Trypho the Jew, Ch. 110)
Paul is making a similar declaration in Romans 8.
As I’ve mentioned that the light bulb in my head suddenly lit up upon my reading Origen’s Commentary on Romans. So I was curious: Is this just Origen’s take on this passage. Or is this truly the historic faith? So I started searching to see how other early Christians understood this verse. In the end, I could not find even one early Christian who interpreted this verse the way modern evangelicals do.
All the primitive Christians who discuss or apply this passage understand it the same way. And that should come as no surprise. It’s the only understanding that fits the context.
I’ll read to you a few examples:
Around the year 250, during a time of persecution, a group of group of Christians who were in prison because of their faith wrote a letter to the church in Carthage, in which they said:
3. What more glorious or blessed thing can happen to any man … than to confess the Lord God in death itself, before his very executioners? What is more glorious than—among the raging and varied and exquisite tortures of worldly power, even when the body is racked and torn and cut to pieces—to confess Christ the Son of God with a spirit that is still free. …
4. For to this battle our Lord, as with the trumpet of His Gospel, urges us on when He says, “He that loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me: and he that loves his own soul more than me is not worthy of me. And he that does not take up his cross and follow after me, is not worthy of me.” And again, “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake: for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when men shall persecute you and hate you. Rejoice, and be exceeding glad: for so did their fathers persecute the prophets who were before you.” And again, “You shall stand before kings and powers, and brother shall deliver up brother to death, and father the son. But he who endures to the end shall be saved;” and “To him who overcomes I will grant to sit with me on my throne.” Moreover the apostle says: “Who shall separate us from love for Christ? shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written, For your sake we are killed all the day long; we are accounted as sheep for the slaughter.) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors for Him who has loved us.” (ANF Vol. 5, 303–304).
In his homily on this passage, John Chrysostom writes:
(9) If some of us are ungrateful to God, the same was not true of Paul. He was so alive through the Spirit and was so on fire with love for God as to utter those words worthy of his spirit and to cry aloud with the words, “Who will cut us off from love for Christ?” See the point of his remark; see the passion of his overwhelming desire; see his burning love: “Who will cut us off?” What is there, he says, that has the power to deprive us from loving God—anything visible, anything invisible?
Then, in his wish to enumerate everything individually and make clear to us all the irrepressible love he had for the Lord, he added: “Distress, hardship, hunger, persecution, nakedness, danger, the sword?” …What is there, he says, of all the problems besetting us that could separate us from our love of God? Daily distress? Not at all. Hardships? These neither. Persecutions? By no means. Hunger? Not even that. He says the onset of death itself could not succeed in achieving it.
(10) …You see, desire for God and burning love elevated his thinking from material things to spiritual, from present things to future things, from visible things to things unseen. This is what faith is like, after all, and love for God.
13. In his Epistle to the Romans, Paul says: “We glory in tribulations also, being sure that tribulation works patience, and patience endurance, and endurance, hope; and hope makes us not ashamed.” And again Paul writes, “And if children, then heirs, heirs indeed of God, and joint-heirs with Christ: if we suffer with Him, so that we may be also glorified together. For I reckon that the sufferings of this age are not worthy to be compared with the glory which shall be revealed in us.” And therefore afterward he says: “Who shall separate us from love of God? Shall tribulation, or distress, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? (As it is written: For your sake we are killed all the day long; we have been counted as sheep for the slaughter,) Nay, in all these things we are more than conquerors, through Him who loved us. For we are persuaded, that neither death, nor life, nor power, nor height, nor depth, nor any other creature, shall be able to separate us from love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Likewise, in recounting his own sufferings to the Corinthians, he declared that suffering must be endured, saying: “In labors, more abundant, in prisons very frequent, in deaths often. Of the Jews five times I received forty stripes, less one; three times I was beaten with rods; once I was stoned.” And if these severities seem to us to be more grievous than martyrdoms, yet once more he says: “Therefore I take pleasure in infirmities, in reproaches, in necessities, in persecutions, in distresses for Christ’s sake.”
Tertullian. Scorpiace. (ANF Vol. 3, pp. 646–647).
We must commit to walk in His ways and to fear His commandments. The Father corrects and protects us if we still stand fast in the faith during both afflictions and perplexities. That is to say, we must cling closely to His Christ. As it is written, “Who shall separate us from love for Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine or nakedness, or peril, or sword?” None of these things can separate true believers. Nothing can tear away those who are clinging to His body and blood. Persecution of that kind is an examination and searching out of the heart. God wills us to be sifted and tested. For He has always tested His people; and yet in His trials help has never at any time been wanting to believers.
The Epistles of Cyprian. (ANF Vol. 5, pp. 286–287).
I could go on and on. Clement of Alexandria, Cyril of Jerusalem, Athanasius, Jerome—and even Augustine all understand this passage the same way. In explaining this passage, Augustine writes, “Here Paul is exhorting his hearers to not be broken by persecution, for perhaps they had been living according to the wisdom of the flesh.”
As I’ve said, I haven’t been able to find even one early Christian who understood this passage the way it is popularly expounded today. And I didn’t just stop with the early Christians. I kept searching into the late patristic period, the early medieval times, the high Middle Ages—people like Cyril of Alexandria, Bonaventure, Thomas Aquinas. They all understood this passage the same way–that it is talking about our love for Christ.
So when did it all change—and who’s responsible? The first commentator I have found who set forth the modern evangelical understanding was John Calvin—in the mid-1500s. Of course, since he taught absolute predestination—that nothing we do can affect our salvation—this innovative interpretation bolstered his doctrine. Once Calvin set the course, then most Protestant commentators after him followed suit: John Gill, Matthew Henry, etc.
After a while, because each commentator copies previous commentators, pretty soon every Protestant or evangelical commentator was explaining this passage incorrectly.
And so most of us—like myself—grew up being told that this passage is talking about Christ’s love for us and that nothing can separate us from it. As in so many other areas, the historic faith got ignored and forgotten. This is even though the modern interpretation makes Paul’s argument illogical. And, more importantly, even though the modern interpretation is unscriptural and contradicts Jesus.
For Jesus said in John 15:9-10: “As
the Father loved Me, I also have loved you; abide in My love. If you keep My commandments, you will abide in My love, just
as I have kept My Father’s commandments and abide in His love.” So Jesus
has explicitly told us that we must keep His commandments to abide or remain in
His love. He did not say that nothing that separate us from His love for
MemberJuly 27, 2020 at 7:30 pm
I can’t think of any questions to ask Brother Bercot about his upcoming message because I haven’t heard it yet. I think it would be much more beneficial to have the q&a after the message is released and we have a chance to listen to it. I often have questions to ask him after I listen to one of his messages. Any questions we have now will potentially be answered in the message. Otherwise, I think it’s a great idea.
MemberJuly 27, 2020 at 10:19 pm
Hello, dear brother Landon. I am so happy to see that you also made the transition to the new version of the web site. It is great to see you here and I look forward to further fellowship with you and everyone else.
May the Lord richly bless you as you seek first His kingdom and His righteousness.
AdministratorJuly 28, 2020 at 10:15 am
Thank you for your feedback. Our intent was that learners could consider the verses and ask questions based on their own understanding, prior to hearing David’s perspective. However, there would have been advantages to doing it the way you suggested. We will take your feedback into consideration for future forums. Our goal is to continue learning how these forums can be most beneficial for our community.
Timothy with The Historic Faith team
MemberJuly 28, 2020 at 9:04 am
Maybe these questions are outside the scope of the Q&A of this discussion, but I have this question:
In the 21st century, when reading the Bible we have the disadvantage of trying to bridge the language divide, 19 centuries of time, evangelical thought and teachings among others. As has been said many times, most modern commentaries are unreliable at explaining Bible texts with an early Christian understanding and interpretation. Are there any early Christian commentaries that could be recommended?
MemberJuly 28, 2020 at 12:01 pm
Perhaps a question that’s not Biblically-related but one that is historical. I read commentaries/study about the supposed work of Flavius Josephus’s The Testimonium Flavianum. There were questions raised as to the authenticity of this work and that his narration weighs more on John the Baptist than of Jesus. Also, Jesus’s and Judas’s characters were also questioned due to inconsistencies in narration.
My question is this: Though we have the supposed eyewitness accounts written by such people as Josephus, how do we know its authenticity? This question also applies to the works of the ANF or ECF.
MemberJuly 29, 2020 at 7:59 pm
Hello again, dear brother Timothy. I do have a few more questions for dear brother Bercot regarding John 1:1 and he is definitely the ideal person for these questions.
When Jehovah Witnesses come to our door, is it worthwhile to discuss the translation of John 1:1 in the “New World Translation” that they quote from? Or will such a discussion just lead to an unfruitful argument? How much of their theology regarding the Trinity hinges upon the translation of John 1:1 in the “New World Translation”, especially the phrase “and the Word was a god”? Were you challenged a lot regarding the translation of John 1:1 when you used to go door-knocking as a Jehovah Witness? I am searching for wisdom regarding the best way to handle this point.
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 2:13 pm
So many Christians want to argue with JWs about John 1:1, when a JW calls at their door. I can’t tell you how many arguments I got into with people about John 1:1 when I was a JW. They were all completely fruitless. No JW is going to believe that the New World Translation is incorrect in the way it has rendered John 1:1.
There is very little a Christian can say to a JW at the door that will change him from his belief system. Showing kindness and love will help them to see that conventional Christians are not the evil people they have been taught to believe.
Their Achilles heel is their many false prophecies. If a person Googles “Jehovah’s Witnesses false prophecies” he will find a ton of websites and YouTube channels that set forth their many false prophecies. It is unlikely that a JW will let you go very far in a discussion of their false prophecies. But if you get them to talk about it, you may be able to plant seeds that will eventually come to fruition. The big thing that caused me to leave them was when I asked myself, “Why would Jesus tell us to beware of false prophets, but then use a false prophet (Charles Russell) as His instrument to restore his people to the truth?”
Bythe way, in case you are wondering, Jehovah’s Witnesses do not take offense at the term JW. That is what we commonly called ourselves when I was a JW. In fact, after leaving them, I was very surprised to find that other people used the term JW. I thought it was a term that only we Jehovah’s Witnesses used.
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 6:35 am
I don’t know what the cut-off time is for posting questions, but I’ll post one in case I’m still in time.
Are our translators always right in their choice of when to capitalize “Word” for the Greek word logos? Obviously, in John 1 it’s talking about Jesus, but are there other times that logos is referring to Him and they haven’t capitalized “word”? Some times I think that this verse in Heb. 4:12 is referring to Jesus, and therefore “Word” should be capitalized to be consistent. But maybe it’s not referring to Jesus. If it isn’t referring to Him, what exactly would you say logos or “the word” is referring to in this verse?
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 2:02 pm
Mark, you are absolutely correct. The early Christians seem to have universally applied Hebrews 4:12 to Jesus, the Word of God. Of course, this makes perfect sense. He is living and powerful. He is the one can discern thoughts and intents of the heart. To the early Christians, this was fairly obvious. As you have mentioned, our translations should capitalize “word” here.
Part of the problem is that most Christians today do not think of Jesus as the Word of God. To be sure, everyone will immediately tell you that Jesus is the Word of God when they’re talking about John 1:1. But as soon as they leave the first chapter of John, that’s the end of it. Beyond that, they don’t think of Jesus as the Word of God in any real sense
So when they come to Heb. 4:12, even though the obvious meaning is that this is talking about a Person, who must be Jesus, they reveal that when the think of the phrase, Word of God, they truly only think about the Bible. In contrast, anyone who reads the early Christian writings immediately notices that they are constantly referring to Jesus as the Word, or perhaps more correctly, as the Logos
Part of the problem is that the term “Word” is an inadequate translation of the Greek word logos, the term used both in John 1:1 and here in Heb. 4:12. To be sure, one of the meanings of the term <i style=”font-family: inherit; font-size: inherit;”>logos is “word.” But it had a second meaning. It also meant the reasoning faculty in man, angels, and higher beings. This corresponds in many ways to Jesus being referred to as the Wisdom of God in Scripture.
I would maintain that when the Scriptures speak of Jesus as the Word, it would be better if our Bibles left that term untranslated, and refer to Him as the Logos instead. I think that once Christians familiarized themselves with that term and its multiple meanings, they would tend to think of Jesus as the Logos (just as did the early Christians)
I’ll give you one quote to illustrate that the early Christians understood the Word in Hebrews 4:12 to be Jesus. I quoted this same passage in my reply to Charles Hood on his question on this verse.
“Since the Logos of God is living and active, sharper than any two-edged sword, piercing to the division of soul and spirit, of joints and marrow, and discerning the thoughts and intentions of the heart (Heb. 4:12), this Logos especially now awards our souls the prize of that peace which passes understanding, which He left to His apostles (cf. Phil. 4:7; Jn 14:27). And He draws a sword between the image of the man of dust and the image of the Man of heaven (1 Cor. 15:49), so that by taking our heavenly part at this time He may later make us entirely heavenly, if we are worthy of not remaining cut in two. And He came to bring on earth not only a sword, but also fire (Lk 12:49; Mt 10:34).
Origen, Exhortation to Martyrdom, ch. XXXVII.
MemberJuly 30, 2020 at 2:52 pm
thank you for your response. I would never have come to the conclusion that when speaking of the love of God it could mean our love for Him. But indeed, reading Rom 8:35-39 in that way makes sense based on the internal logic of the statements and because we know that we can loose the love that God has for us.
I guess it is our eagerness to believe it the other way around that makes the somewhat strange logic acceptable, but also, I would not have the courage to phrase my love for God in such bold a statement. Maybe Calvin had a problem there too, as do many other people?
It’s quite a big chunk to swallow, even though it makes so much sense, but it sheds such a different meaning on this much loved passage that I need some time to get used to the idea.
AdministratorAugust 13, 2020 at 4:50 pm
Greetings THF Community,
Brother David was very pleased with the amount and depth of the questions that the community submitted. In fact, he told me that “I’m glad our listeners have so much Bible interest!” Due to your active engagement, David was inspired to plan a second message on misunderstood Bible verses. You can help him decide which verses to cover next by posting other verses that you think are misunderstood on this board.
Now this message won’t be produced until sometime next year. However, keep your eyes out for the first installment of “Five Verses Almost Universally Misunderstood by Christians Today” later this year.
Thanks again for being part of our community!
Timothy with The Historic Faith team
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