Archive for March, 2011

Fear and trembling – a saying not to be translated literally

March 31, 2011

There are 4 places in the New Testament where the phrase fear and trembling occurs. They are:

  1. Mark 5:33 But the woman, knowing what had happened to her, came in fear and trembling and fell down before him and told him the whole truth.
  2. 2 Cor 7:15-16 And his [Titus] affection for you is even greater, as he remembers the obedience of you all, how you received him with fear and trembling.
  3. Eph 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling,
  4. Phil 2:12-13 Therefore, my beloved, as you have always obeyed, so now, not only as in my presence but much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, 13 for it is God who works in you, both to will and to work for his good pleasure.

In particular with the Philippians verse, we like to expound the truth as if fear and trembling means what the English translation would mean. This is quite hard as the word trembling means quaking with fear. Terrified would be about the strength of it’s literal meaning. In England we would say ‘wetting yourself’. A convenient example of a saying that isn’t to be taken literally.

Could this be a biblical truth about how we relate to our God and his salvation?

Lets look at the other three scriptures and ask whether this translation can be correct.

2. Titus – is it credible that his hearers were terrified of Titus? I think we can safely say no.

3. Slaves, how would they obey their masters? Sure the master may beat them and harm them, but they don’t need to be told to be scared of a beating, so it cannot mean that. Could it mean respect and/or submissiveness? That would make sense and I think it is credible that fear and trembling as a saying meaning having a respectful or submissive attitude.

1. The woman who has just been healed after 12 years. Would she be terrified of what Jesus was going to do to her? Nervous maybe. Maybe shy. Maybe not wanting publicity. But I also think that terrified would be too strong a description of her emotions then and the respectful and submissive could well be accurate.

So why does this matter? Because the Philippians verse is about the outworking of our faith and salvation and if it were true that it would mean we’re almost walking on eggshells (another saying not to be translated literally) scared of getting it wrong. That would be against the whole tenor of the New Covenant.

However, my current best guess at what Jewish people meant when they said fear and trembling seems a translation of the Philippians verse that is consistent with the rest of the New Testament.



Litmus test for New Covenant compliance

March 31, 2011
One of theNew Covenant litmus tests for any teaching is the question 

Does this speak of a finished work of Jesus or of a started work that we have to finish?

To be New Covenant truth, the answer must alwasy be a finished work.

A second will be:

Is this

1. Something I already have but just didn’t know it. Therefore I get to benefit from it by faith and/or renewing my mind.

2. Something I lack that I can get if I do the right things or be given by another who has it and is offering to pass it on (impartation).

In the New Covenant we lack NO good thing.

So any so-called anointing that can be ‘imparted’ cannot be from God. It is either nothing or from devils.

A classic case is the modern ‘healing anointing’ that some claim to have. They call it a transferrable anointing and offer to give it to you by laying on of hands. This does not exist in the New Covenant. BEWARE.

Mustard seed faith

March 30, 2011

Matt 17:14-20 And when they came to the crowd, a man came up to him and, kneeling before him, 15 said, “Lord, have mercy on my son, for he is an epileptic and he suffers terribly. For often he falls into the fire, and often into the water. 16 And I brought him to your disciples, and they could not heal him.” 17 And Jesus answered, “O faithless and twisted generation, how long am I to be with you? How long am I to bear with you? Bring him here to me.”  18 And Jesus rebuked him, and the demon came out of him, and the boy was healed instantly.  19 Then the disciples came to Jesus privately and said, “Why could we not cast it out?” 20 He said to them, “Because of your little faith. For truly, I say to you, if you have faith like a grain of mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move, and nothing will be impossible for you.” ESV


The scenario is that the disciples have been successfully healing all the sick and casting out all the devils brought to them. Suddenly they fail on one. The dad brings his boy to Jesus telling Jesus that the disciples couldn’t deal with it. Jesus rebukes the disciples for being faithless!


In private the disciples ask Jesus what the problem was. He’s already blasted them for being faithless and twisted, but they want a more detailed and less attacking explanation. So Jesus says, according to much teaching, Because of your small faith – but it doesn’t matter how small your faith is if you have faith – and we all have ‘the measure of faith’ if we’re Christian, you can move mountains.


This is a daft interpretation and completely ignores the text.


Reason – your small faith.


Solution – have faith, it doesn’t matter if it’s big or small as long as you have it.


1. Did they not prove they had faith to heal the sick and cast out devils already?

2. Did Jesus not acknowledge that they had faith – small faith?

3. So how then can Jesus be saying that the issue is lack of faith, or if they have faith they can do everything.


I hope all my readers can see that this is nonsense. I could go on making the point more fully, but I really hope I’ve demonstrated conclusively that Jesus wasn’t just saying that any amount of faith is enough.


So what was he saying? Why did he choose mustard seed and not grain of sand? Sand would have been good for a very small thing?


Back n Matt 13:31-32 Jesus had already given them a teaching in parable form about the Kingdom and how mustard seed relates to the Kingdom.

He put another parable before them, saying, “The kingdom of heaven is like a grain of mustard seed that a man took and sowed in his field.  32 It is the smallest of all seeds, but when it has grown it is larger than all the garden plants and becomes a tree, so that the birds of the air come and make nests in its branches.”

So I propose that when in Mat 17 Jesus returns to the mustard seed, he presumes that they will remember his prior teaching and apply it in this context. He’d already laid the groundwork for this second mustard seed teaching.

Here he explains that in the context of the Kingdom (and is faith not of the Kingdom?) mustard seed starts very small – the smallest of things – but grows inevitably a tree that provides for ‘the birds’.

So we can learn that it doesn’t matter how small your faith starts as long as its the right KIND of faith. Faith like a mustard seed. Please remember the word ‘like’. It’s critical to the message. It’s telling us what our faith needs to be like if we’re to see mountains move.

By definition, this means that you can have a different kind of faith that won’t move mountains. The disciples were in that place, because they had success with the supernatural. Jesus here is refining and modifying the faith they already had. It was enough for certain things, but had failed at this particular kind of devil.

So what is a mustard seed like? Jesus says that its nature is to grow. It grows first by germinating from all the goodness within the seed. The truth of the word received at salvation. Then it puts out roots. The roots spread out to draw fresh nutrients from the soil, which in turn produce further growth. So we need to put out roots into the soil of the word of God to receive the nutrients of truth that will enable further growth.

Then it starts to put out shoots and leaves. These push up through the soil searching for the light of the sun. They take this sunlight and by photosynthesis turn it into further goodness further enabling it to grow. So we can see that as we seek out the light of the Son (of God) as we bask and walk in Him that further nourishes our faith that had started out as a seed, but is now growing into a tree.

The seed had to push out and exercise. It had to draw on nutrients from soil and sun in order to become what it was meant to be. It didn’t remain a tiny seed. It grew into a tree to give a home to birds, shade for rest.

This teaching is saying that the kind of faith to move mountains is a dynamic living breathing moving growing pushing out reaching out serving loving providing kind of faith.

My guess is that they had a “we’ve got authority and are the business” kind of faith. They thought they had it made when they returned from the first mission trip. See Luke 10:17. Maybe they were a bit over confident, thinking that they were the finished work and Jesus had to teach them that they were just starting and had a long way to go to transform into the finished tree?

On a final note, the original greek text for Mat 17:20 goes:

ὁ δὲ λέγει αὐτοῖς, Διὰ τὴν ὀλιγοπιστίαν ὑμῶν: ἀμὴν γὰρ λέγω ὑμῖν, ἐὰν ἔχητε πίστιν ὡς κόκκον σινάπεως, ἐρεῖτε τῷ ὄρει τούτῳ, Μετάβα ἔνθεν ἐκεῖ, καὶ μεταβήσεται: καὶ οὐδὲν ἀδυνατήσει ὑμῖν.

The word we’re looking for is the 7th – ὀλιγοπιστίαν which google translate confirms is oligopistian meaning little faith.


When does God forgive sin?

March 29, 2011

I’m not planning to use the bible for this. At least not much! I’ve taught this stuff from the bible a number of times. This time I’m taking a different approach.

So – when do you show mercy to someone. Before you’ve forgiven them or after? After of course. If you harbour unforgiveness towards someone you don’t show them mercy or kindness.

Or consider these options when someone has been offended.

1. When he apologies I’ll forgive him – and only then.

2. I forgive him, as long as he doesn’t do it again.

3. I forgive him, as long as I know he regrets what he did.

4. I forgive him unilaterally, regardless of the above.

Which sounds more like God?

Now, consider the unsaved person. unfortunately we need a bible for this bit. Eph 2:1-10.

The unsaved person is dead in their sin (verse 1). Now, it is a statement of the obvious that dead people cannot act. So the dead unbeliever cannot apologise or do anything to prompt God’s forgiveness. So, if God requires any of options 1-3 above or any variant, then there is no hope for the dead person.

How does that person get saved? By faith in Jesus. But how do they get that faith. Spiritually dead people cannot, by definition, rise to faith. We learn in verse 4 that God had mercy to us and (verse 5) made us alive, giving us the gift of faith (verse 8 ) so that we could believe and be born again. Then and only then do we have spiritual life to enable us to do any of the things we’d need to do to satisfy options 1-3.

So, if God is currently unforgiving towards the unsaved because of their sin He won’t show them mercy and thus He won’t give them faith to believe. He’ll just leave them in their dead state and consign them to hell.

My conclusion is this. Unless option 4 is true and God has unilaterally forgiven all the sin of the world and is no longer counting their sins against them (2 Cor 5:19 and 1 John 2:2 apologies for the bible verses) then God cannot and will not wake them from death and they cannot and will not apologise confess repent or anything else of their sin and thus cannot be saved.

The only way anyone can be saved is if God has unilaterally placed all their sins and guilt in Jesus and forgiven them, regardless of their actions or response.

To finish with three bible verses, just to confirm that this message is Universal FORGIVENESS, not Universal SALVATION.

John 1:12 to those who recieve him who believe on his name, to them he gives the right to become children of God, not born of man but of God.

John 3:16 For God so loved the world he gave his only son that whoever BELIEVES in him shall not perish but have eternal life.

John 3:18 Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only Son of God.

Note in all three the issue is believing in Jesus – not apologising for sins or even stopping sinning or turning from sin – actually religious people have to turn from righteousness to follow Jesus! (Phil 3:6-7). The thing Paul counted loss was his righteous God-pleasing life!

John 9:41 – how it sheds light on 1 John 1:9

March 28, 2011

Jesus said to them, “If you were blind, you would have no guilt; but now that you say, ‘We see,’ your guilt remains.

Here ‘blind’ refers to recognising you’re a sinner and Jesus therefore says that if you admit (just admit) that you have a sin problem, you HAVE NO GUILT.

This was a staggering truth of Paul’s later grace message, taught clearly before the cross.

Going back to verse 34 They (the pharissees answered him, “You were born in utter sin, and would you teach us?” And they cast him out.

He goes on in verse 39to say “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind.”

It seems self explanatory that Jesus here is using physical blindness as a picture of being spiritually blind – or as Paul would call is in Ephesians 2 ‘dead in sin’.

Now, the word for ‘judgement’ in verse 39 is krima – a decision (the function or the effect, for or against [“crime”])

So again it seems clear that Jesus is distinguishing between those who admit their sin problem – who have no guilt – and those who think they are all right, whose guilt remains.

Personally I believe we MUST read 1 John 1:9 – written by the same John who penned these verses – in the light of this. John is again talking about agreeing that you have a sin problem. He isn’t making a comment about individual acts of sin. He’s re-stating Jesus’ position that those who know they have sinned and admit it have no guilt.

Remember confess is homologeo – which means simply to same the same things as someone or something.


Fruit of the Spirit in Psalm 23

March 24, 2011

The fruit of the Spirit is love joy peace etc.

Ps 23 says You lay before me a table in the presence of my enemies.

Eph 6:12 says we don’t wrestle against flesh and blood but against spiritual forces of evil.

Lets add these together and take an example.

Enemy ‘I feel unloved’. What is on the table to eat in the presence of this enemy? Love. A fruit of the Spirit!

What do you do with fruit? EAT IT!

Enemy – depression. Fruit of the Spirit – joy and peace. Eat this fruit laid on the table of the word of God.

Enemy – anger against someone who’s hurt you. Fruit on table – kindness. Etc etc

God provides the fruit of the Spirit for us to eat in the presence of our enemies.

Oh – and it can grow on us too as character.


1 Cor 3:1 what is milk and meat

March 24, 2011

The carnal christian needs the to be taught to to obey. Paul had to feed the Corinthians milk and what he was doing was instructing them on the life they should lead.

The mature Christian who is living by the Spirit is not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and is already doing the word, so the issue of obedience doesn’t arise.

The meat Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 3:1 was the truth that we’re righteous by faith not by works. The Corinthians were not able to eat that truth – a truth that flows through all Paul’s other writings. Why not? Because if you told them they were free of sin and where sin abounds grace abounds all the more they would have said ‘Whoopee – we’ll sin even more then’.


So obey is a message to the carnal, do is amessage to the mature. I’m trying to address those who want to be mature spiritual christians who DO live by the spirit.

Milk doesn’t make you mature – it keeps you safe until you’re ready to reach maturity. It contains the mothers immunity to protect from disease until the baby builds up its own immunity. (Wow that was a GREAT point and I only just thought of it!!!!!!!!!)

The carnal christian needs the to be taught to to obey. Paul had to feed the Corinthians milk and what he was doing was instructing them on the life they should lead.The mature Christian who is living by the Spirit is not fulfilling the lusts of the flesh and is already doing the word, so the issue of obedience doesn’t arise.The meat Paul was talking about in 1 Cor 3:1 was the truth that we’re righteous by faith not by works. The Corinthians were not able to eat that truth – a truth that flows through all Paul’s other writings.

Why not? Because if you told them they were free of sin and where sin abounds grace abounds all the more they would have said ‘Whoopee – we’ll sin even more then’.So obey is a message to the carnal, do is amessage to the mature. I’m trying to address those who want to be mature spiritual christians who DO live by the spirit.

Milk doesn’t make you mature – it keeps you safe until you’re ready to reach maturity. It contains the mothers immunity to protect from disease until the baby builds up its own immunity.

Who heals the sick – me or Holy Spirit – an analogy.

March 23, 2011

Think about mowing the lawn (grass). I use a lawnmower to do it. Now – which entity cut the grass? Me or the lawnmower? (OK – my wife, but that’s not the point here).

The lawnmower does the work and has the power to cut grass. I don’t. But I USE the lawnmower. Now – if the lawnmower were automated to do the job without human intervention. Then there would be no argument – the lawnmower did the job.

But we always say – I cut the grass. We NEVER say – my lawnmower cut the lawn yesterday.

To apply this to healing. We are given the Holy Spirit as our helper.

John 14:25-27
These things I have spoken to you while I am still with you.  But the Helper, the Holy Spirit, whom the Father will send in my name, he will teach you all things and bring to your remembrance all that I have said to you.

When we lay hads on people, the Holy Spirit flows out of us into the sick person and works healing in them. But He only flows and does the healing when we lay hands and speak the word. So we initiate and He follows. We are leading Him, not the other way around. He is waiting for us to act and when we act, he moves.

So, in our analogy, the Holy Spirit takes to role of lawnmower. God has given US His Spirit and told US to heal the sick. We do this by releasing the Holy Spirit. He doesn’t work on His own independant of us.

So, it is correct to say that the Holy Spirit is working healing in the sick person. But in line with our analogy, any normal use of language and communication would be to say WE did the healing. If I got a new more powerful lawnmower and found I could do the job in half the time, I may well tell my friends about the new mower and how much easier it makes the job. But I will still be saying I (not the mower) did the job.

I apologise for labouring the point. But the understanding that says ‘we cannot heal – only Jesus is the healer’ is so entrenched in the church that it needs a sledgehammer to break it open. We need to drop the traditions of men and move to using bible language.

I trust that this analogy will help some.


Cause of death removed

March 16, 2011

Let think about someone who was hanged to heath. The cause of death was the hangman’s noose. (OK in a sense the not breathing was the cause, so the noose is the cause of the cause. But can we stick to the analogy please)

The man is now dead. If we remove the cause of death, the man remains dead.

Let’s imagine we could resuscitate the man. Had we not removed the cause of death, he would die again quickly. But having removed the cause of death, he can live.

The cause of death is sin. Rom 3:23 5:12. Jesus removed the cause of death by taking all mankind’s sins and sending them away to hell. However, that cannot bring men back to life. It just removes the cause of death.

Had the cause of death not been removed, then having been made alive men would quickly die again since the sin that remained would bring death again. There lies the fallacy in church tradition that teaches that we have to keep repenting of our ongoing sins to remain forgiven. Were our ongoign sins an issue, we’d be dead again because sin is so toxic that it brings instant death.

Gen 2:17 says that in the day you eat of it you will surely die. Instant death. Not a death over a period giving time to remove the hangman’s noose and so live.

So how do we get life? John 1:12 to all who receive Jesus who believe in His name to them He gives the right to become sons of God.

In the bible a son of God is alive. A son of the devil is dead. Simple. So John 1:12 shows us that believing in Jesus is God’s chosen method to breathe life back into us.

Eph 2:1-10 explains this process of coming alive from death. In particular verse 5.

So again we see that all are forgiven. The cause of death removed.  But some remain dead and never actually receive the life that is availble to them.


What happened to our sins?

March 16, 2011

I have spoken previously about how the greek aphiemi is mis-translated forgive. Correctly is means to send away.

So all the sins of all the world were sent away 2000 years ago by Jesus. They were hoovered up by God from all of time and put on Jesus. He then took them down though death into the pit of hell and left them there.

Everyone on this planet today, like the prodigal son, is in a state of forgiven by God and reconciled to Him. 2 COr 5:19-21 clearly states this 1 John 2:2 is another verse. I can quote many more by that is not my message for this post.

Had the prodigal not returned, he would have died forgiven by still estranged. Those who die without believing in Jeus and accepting the free gift of reconciliation will reside in hell. Who knows that there may be some who never heard the gospel and will be judged by God according to their response to the revelation they did have. I don’t know about that.

My point is this. Some die and end in hell. There they will be re-united with their sins. That is why their guilt will remain. In this life they were forgiven because their sins had gone. But in death they follow the sins and thus reside in punishment.