Thursday, February 28, 2013


One day I discovered that God's anger or wrath against us is different from human anger and I needed to know that. I had early on in my life discovered human wrath/anger to be an awful thing and totally unholy, unloving and mean. I had observed it when a man's anger got the better of him and he allowed his fury to burst all restraints; That's a terrible thing to behold, especially if it's from a parent or someone you trust.

Unfortunately, many fundamentalists seem  to love to picture God's wrath that way and warn us to act right or we WILL make God mad. And if we do, our name will be mud. 
"Be good or God'll gitcha," is their mantra. 

In presenting God's wrath like that, they make Him appear as some teachers I used to have in school who were so angry, it seemed to me at least, that to miss one jot or tittle of their instructions and to do some assignment wrong brought down their wrath.   

I saw that result in a couple of different kinds of responses among those who were in the class. One response was some of the students memorized and regurgitated the material with fear hanging over their heads, but often they neither understood nor remembered what was supposed to be learned. They were too afraid to even think clearly. The other response was by those who rebelled and were punished virtually every day for it and became an example to all the others who wished they had had guts enough to rebel too, but didn't. I'll leave it to your imagination which response group I belonged to.

If God is like that, do I need or want Him? No thanks! I could never trust His love against that kind of backdrop.

The view of an angry God as described above often finds greater support among people than does one of a compassionate and loving God. People would rather believe that about God than not. Why? It may be because we tend to model our image of God after our own image. And we do find people often being angry and marrying it to the twin beasts of power and control. This is easily seen in those who are so quick to say that the tragedies in nature, such as hurricanes and floods, are obviously, according to them, God's wrath being poured out on a nation that allows certain iniquities to transpire. They frequently say that with a bit of glee, I might add. 

They would rather do that than associate those storms with natural weather patterns that frequent certain areas of the nation. We might need to question closely whose wrath it really is being spoken about when we hear things like that. It could be that the rule of thumb that says, "You know you've made God in your own image when God winds up hating the same people and things you hate," says it quite clearly. 

This is not to say the biblical materials don't show God USING such things in judgment because they do say that, and He did. But it IS to say those who talk that way about those things completely and conveniently forget the explanation of Jesus gave about tragedies when He said they [the tragedies] DID NOT automatically mean someone's sins were greater than someone else's and God was NOT punishing those who experienced them. [Luke 13:1-4]

Well, then, what IS the wrath of God?
Is it an attribute of God?

My answer is a "Yes and No."

It would help to understand that wrath or anger, when speaking of God, is not fundamental to God in the same way that LOVE or HOLINESS or even JUSTICE are fundamental to Him. You would not say that "God is wrath," but you would correctly say that "God is love" or "God is holy" or even "God is Just." Love,holiness and justice are three fundamental and eternal attributes of the character or nature of God. But His WRATH is different. It is the DIVINE outworking of His character or nature in response to sin or evil. Luther made this distinction with his idea of God's wrath as His OPUS ALIENATION [alien work] and His grace as His OPUS PROPRIUM. [proper work] It could be said this way....

FOR GOD.....
Wrath is what happens when holiness meets sin!

Wrath is what happens when justice meets rebellion!

Wrath is what happens when righteousness meets unrighteousness!

      Wrath is what happens when a righteous and loving God meets pure evil!

But, by the same token, we do not say that God is subject to fits and temper tantrums either. His wrath against sin is something more than just a bad mood.To understand all this you would need to remember before creation God, in His Trinitarian personhood, was Love and Holy and Just because that's who God is. At that point, God's wrath had not been displayed because it took the coming of sin and evil in men and angels for God's holiness and justice to bring wrath against such. 

Someone might try to argue that before creation God's MERCY had no occasion to be exercised either, so that would make WRATH and MERCY the same. Though that might sound logical, the Old Testament repeatedly affirms God's reluctance to exercise his WRATH and his delight in showing MERCY. So they're not the same at all. But God would not be God except He hate and shows wrath against evil as He shows mercy to sinners. 

What I have discovered to my own satisfaction is that God's wrath/anger is totally different from ours. His wrath is the justice and holiness of God exercised appropriately, by God Himself, in perfect balance with His love and grace. That makes it a nature thing because it is holiness and justice in action just as judgement is His holiness and justice in action.  

And, since it is made clear in scripture that it is the goodness of God that brings repentance, for me to hear that God is loving and merciful as well, and has chosen to save people who respond in repentance and faith, I was able to be all ears when I heard the true message of the gospel.

[Now I'm aware the gracious work of the Spirit was required even for that understanding.] 

In that gospel I heard that we see a full display of DIVINE WRATH, in perfect balance with the gracious and full display of DIVINE LOVE, in what we today call Calvary. It is also called a deliverance or salvation for all who believe. It's also interesting that when God HIMSELF DEFINES salvation, He calls it a deliverance..."by God"..."from God"..and His wrath...through God and His gift... of Christ. [Romans 5:9-10] WOW!!

Then, finally, John 3:36 simply says, “Whoever believes in the Son [the gospel] has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life, for God’s WRATH remains on him." This now makes sense to me.

Perfect anger or wrath, because of perfect holiness and justice and love, is sure different from any I had known. So, for that wrath/anger to be upon those who REFUSE the gospel is now understood, by me at least, as the holy and just and even loving thing to happen. 

To say "God is mad" doesn't even begin to tell the truth. Saying God is loving, holy and just, with His mercy, grace and wrath being shown to all men as a result, really does say it all. That's the definition of the Cross. 

Makes His "anger" a different kind of thing doesn't it!

Paul B.

Saturday, February 23, 2013


I recently took the King James Version of the bible to task for the inclusion of the word "office" when translating the Greek word diakonos into the English phrase "the Office of deacon" which is not just a poor translation but a mis-translation, in fact.  [Adding a word to the text.]

I want to now deal with the same kind of problem about a different word found in the New International Version or the NIV as the very popular version has come to be known. It is the word sarx in the Greek which is best translated "flesh." It will take several verses to adequately point out the problem we find in the NIV.

Galatians 5;24 NIV says this, "Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified [aorist indicative active__have been crucified to something and it has been crucified to them] the "sinful nature" [sarx] with its passions and desires."

But Romans 13:14 says this, "Rather, clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not think about how to gratify the desires of the "sinful nature."  Wow...It it just me or are these scriptures contradicting themselves. One seems to say the old nature has been crucified. The other appears to say it is still alive. Is there a contradiction here? I don't think so.. Here's why I say that. It is simply a poor translation of a word in the NIV and it is a mistake that is actually exclusive to the NIV translation

[The shortened length of this post will not permit further evidence of this troublesome mistranslation but for more examples go to and compare....[Col. 2:11-Rom. 7:25b___Rom. 7:5-Col. 5:5]

It appears to me that the translators of the NIV, and I personally had some Seminary classes with or under a couple of them, had a theological problem when it came to this "sinful nature" thing. In fact, I'm thinking that those translators, all good men I'm sure, had a personal desire, recognized or unrecognized, for wanting to see the "two nature" idea accepted by all believers as being theologically correct.. If this was true, I think it led them astray in their translation.

11 Peter 1:4 says this, "Whereby are given unto us [believers] exceeding great and precious promises: that we might be partakers 'in the divine nature," [Physeos_ GK_Genitive feminine singular noun_] having escaped the corruption that is in the world through lust."

Peter is saying we have a new nature here and what he says about it is in the aorist tense or is a past action done to us. It's called "becoming a Christian."

What Peter is saying is when you and I were born again  we didn't just get a "new nature" to go along with your "old nature." We were made new creations in Christ. We got a whole new life because whereas we had been dead we are now alive in Him. [Col.2:11] We're a different kind of critter as a result. [That's "creature" in Okie language.]

So, let me be clear. In not a single place in scripture does the word "old" appear with the word "nature" when it is referring to believers. It is a different word entirely. It is, as found in all the verses referenced above, the Greek word sarx translated "flesh" in all major translation except the NIV. In the NIV sarx  is mis-translated "old nature." Oh we have a problem with sin, to be sure, but it isn't a "nature thing" with us. It is the "flesh." [sarx]

What Paul is talking about in the above verses that refers to our struggle and war that is with the "flesh," and not the "old nature." AND, "flesh"remember, is our physical bodies and our sensual [senses] appetites or patterns of behavior that belong to the natural realm in which we still reside even as new creations in Christ. It is what the bible means when it makes a distinction between the "natural and the spiritual."

It is incredibly important to remember that our body and its appetites are not sinful per se. They are just flesh. [sarx] Jesus had "flesh." John 1 :14 says He was "made flesh" and dwelt among us. Jesus certainly wasn't born under the curse of sin and death as are we, but he had the full natural world experience of flesh, apart from sin.

Our problem is our full natural world experience DOES have a sin problem and continues to include the principle of sin and death and WILL until the resurrection. That's why our "hope" is in the resurrection. But we are to and, in fact, CAN live out the spiritual realities of our new creation. But it is always with a struggle and a war between the natural and the spiritual. It is a walk that necessitates faith or trusting what God has done in us.

The point I'm laboring to make, however, is that we're not "two natured" Christians as human beings, but in two worlds, the natural and the spiritual, with the corresponding struggle with sin in it all. Then, when the resurrection morning comes even that will be remedied.

This is what Paul is addressing in the very first verse we looked at which was Galatians 5:24. There the NIV translates it "old nature." But it is referring to the body in-dwelt by sin [until the resurrection] active through our flesh. Paul is saying simply that we were once slaves to sin but we are no longer that at all.

John MacArthur says it this way.. [I don't agree with MacArthur on some things, but this, yes.]

"Salvation is not a matter of improvement or perfection of what has previously existed. It is total transformation...At the new birth a person becomes `a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come' (2 Cor. 5:17). It is not simply that he receives something new but that he becomes someone new...The new nature is not added to the old nature but replaces it. The transformed person is a completely new `I.' Biblical terminology, then, does not say that a Christian has two different natures. He has but one nature, the new nature in Christ. The old self dies and the new self lives; they do not coexist. It is not a remaining old nature but the remaining garment of sinful flesh that causes Christians to sin. The Christian is a single new person, a totally new creation, not a spiritual schizophrenic...The believer as a total person is transformed but not yet wholly perfect. He has residing sin but no longer reigning sin. He is no longer the old man corrupted but is now the new man created in righteousness and holiness, awaiting full salvation." (The MacArthur New Testament Commentary-EPHESIANS, p. 164)

So why do we as Christians sin? I'm glad you asked.

We sin because we sometimes choose to walk by sight and not by faith. We can choose to walk as natural instead of spiritual. [Romans 14: 23]  And, unfortunately, we often do. That is what the biblical admonitions are speaking to. We may walk that way by habit [learned patterns of behavior] or ignorance, [Not knowing the truth that sets us free] but when we do act out the old, we are acting and living hypocritically because we're pretending to be someone we're not. We ARE the new.

So let's set our minds on heavenly realities instead of inferior natural or earthly things which lead to indulging the lusts of the flesh. We've been crucified to all that and we are, after all, new creations in Christ Jesus.

Paul B.

By the way, the new NIV has corrected the "old nature" fiasco in their newest editions of the NIV with a footnote that says this...

“In contexts like this, the Greek word for flesh (sarx) refers to the sinful state of human beings, often presented as a power in opposition to the Spirit.”

Well, that's better than before.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Most of the Southern Baptist churches in which I've ministered across the years and even the churches I've pastored until 1990 operated under the concept that both deacons and pastors were functioning offices in the church that were to be held by men only and were a kind of ruling body by virtue of the biblical authority vested in those offices. Now, I know we said we were a congregational church, and to a degree that was true, but there was this underlying belief that if you happened to be a deacon or pastor you had a tad more [if not a LOT more] authority than did the average church member. After all, you did hold a church office

That belief was then written into most of our church constitutions where we clearly outlined the responsibilities of the offices mentioned above vesting certain responsibilities and authority in those offices legally. By the way, a logical result of this belief was that it also necessitated an ordination that was reserved for those two offices

When asked where in scripture do you find this idea of offices, its advocates [of which I was one for years as I've confessed] would state that it all started with the selection of deacons found in the Acts 6 passage where men were chosen to help meet the needs of some who were not being properly ministered to. The fact that the phrase office of deacon is NOT to be found in that passage did not discouraged me and others at the time as we had made an office out of deacon and we said that if the office is not named in Acts 6 , it is at least illustrated with that passage.

There is a Greek word that is translated into the English word deacon and it is the Greek word Diakonos which is simply a reference to serving. I've come to see that word does occur in Acts 6. In fact, it occurs twice, But I now see it in a new light. Let me explain.

First, in verse 2 it refers to the Apostles when it says they WERE NOT to "serve [there is that Greek word, diakonos] tables." But it is also referring to the Apostles in verse 4 where it is said they WERE to "minister [there it is again, diakonos] the Word of God. "  That word is used  BOTH TIMES for those servants of the word of God and the servants of the tables with the Apostles being the point of what was said. For me and others to have made a case that the office of deacon is really found there, is a bit dubious, to say the least.

Now I've come to see that my new understanding is made even clearer because of the time Paul referred to himself as "servant [there it is again, diokonos] of the Lord," [1 Corinthians 3:5.] as well as a "servant of God," [11 Corinthians 3:6] "of the new covenant," [11 Corinthians 3"6] "of the gospel," [Eph 3:7, Col 1:23] and even "a servant of the church." [Col 1:25]

Paul also called his co-workers diakonos [servants] such as Tychicus, Timothy, Epaphras in verses found in Eph 6:21, Col 4:7, and 1 Tim 4:6.  Among those co-workers he also listed Phoebe, a woman. [Although the KJV translated the Greek word diakonos as "helper" in her case. All those people were spoken of using the word deacon. That's interesting!]

Jesus even said ALL His followers were to be diakonos. [Matt 20:26, Jn 12:26]  He was simply saying all His followers were to have a servant's spirit in all they do. Now remember, this is EXACTLY the same word for deacon.

So I had to ask myself the question, how do I make an office out of any of this? I shouldn't! It isn't there at all. And there is certainly not a HINT of authority over others because of being identified as a diakonos. Quite the contrary, it displays someone who is nothing like a "boss" at all.

Then where DID I get the idea of offices and of having authority because someone holds an office, in scripture? I didn't just make it up did I!

There are a couple of places where the KJV translates the word diakonos in a way that, if honesty prevails, I've come to see goes WAY BEYOND what the text intends. One of those places is 1 Timothy 3:13 where Paul says:

"For they that have used the "office of a deacon" well purchase to themselves a good degree, and the great boldness in the faith which is in Christ Jesus."

The words, "have used the office of deacon" were all used by the KJV translators to define the one Greek word diakoneo, which is translated by A. H. Strong as: "To be a servant, attendant, domestic, to serve, to wait upon. W. E, Vines assertively adds this, "The Revised Version rightly omits "office" and translates the verb diakoneo to mean simply to serve." So, as you can see, Vines also states that the word "office" is not found in the text. The word diakonos [deacon] is found but not the word office

If that weren't bad enough, many people say that since Paul used the word "likewise" with deacons in verse eight of that same chapter, he was making it to mean the same as he had said about the Bishops office in 1 Timothy 3:1. There he had said that the "office of Bishop" was something to desire so, when he said, "likewise" he meant we are to view deacons as an office also since it follows 3:1. The only problem is the word "office" doesn't appear in verse one with episkopos [Bishop] any more than it does in verse 13 where it is referencing diakonos. It was read into the verse by the translators.

A proper translation of 1 Timothy 3;1 is simply this: "If a person sets their heart on overseeing, it is an honorable work they desire to do."

So, permit me to restate the problem I've found with the word "office" in the KJV and a few other English versions that follow it in translating the New Testament. It has become obvious to me that the King James Version has a bias reflecting their culture at the time, and its scholars attempted to keep a hierarchical view of authority alive and well in the KJV. That system is not found in scripture at all however, but is read into it by the translators which we call eisegesis [reading into] instead of exegesis [extracting out of] and does not serve well the true meaning of the text. So I had some thinking to do. 

Does this mean there are not to be deacons and pastors in the church as far as the scriptures are comcerned? I found quite the contrary! There are people who serve in various ministries, including some who are busy waiting [diakonos] on tables AND others who are busy serving up [diakonos] a tasty feast of the Word of God. But what can be said with certainty is that in those ministries there is no concept of "lording it over" anyone in the church.

Simply said, there are ministries that can be called pastoral, elder, bishop or even deacon ministries, but you can rest assured, if they're truly biblical, they will look different than a cultural concept of being the "boss" and they are NOT offices. The authority they have, I now understand, is the authority of Christ that rests upon them as they minister and I am to choose within to be led by them in whatever way they are functioning. We all minister, we all share Christ's authority and we're all members of the body of which HE IS THE HEAD.

The scriptural model for Church life is one of gifted people, anointed by the Spirit, recognized by the people, functioning as a gift to the whole of the local body while teaching ALL the body to do the work of ministry as described in Ephesians 4:11-13. That is far different than a couple of office holders doing the work of ministry and all the people told what to do by those in office. But it takes moving from a view of the church as an institution or organization to seeing it as an organism or a body with multiple members all with a gift to share. 

By the way, since we're in the territory, there is only one other place where the word "office" is found in the New Testament. It is Romans 12:4-5 where Paul said, "For as we have many members in one body, and all members have not the same "office": so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and everyone members one of another."

The Greek word translated "office"  in verse 4 is the Greek word  Praxis  which means a doing, a deed or a function. It's the same word found in Romans 8:13 translated "deeds." If we were to translate the word praxis as "office" in Romans 8:13 it would read, "but if you, through the Spirit, do mortify the "offices" [praxis] of the body, ye shall live." I don't think so!

So there is not a SINGLE PLACE in scripture where the word "office" is the proper translation of the Greek text.

Nuff said.

Paul B. 

Saturday, February 09, 2013


When I tell people that I do not believe there is a single verse of scripture that allows anyone, or any "office" held by anyone, to "rule over" others in the local body of Christ called a church, [That's not to say a set of church bylaws might stipulate otherwise.] I'm immediately challenged with the three verses in Hebrews 13 that seem to say the contrary to that. Those particular verses are verses 7, 17, and 24. 

Here is what those verses say in the KJV.

"Remember them which have the rule over you, who have spoken unto you the word of God, considering the end of their conversation. [Hebrews 13:7 KJV]

"Obey them which have the rule over you, and submit yourselves: for they watch for your souls, as they that must give account, that they may do it with joy, and not with grief: for that is unprofitable for you."  [Hebrews 13:17 KJV]

"Salute all them that have the rule over you, and all the saints. They of Italy salute you."  [Hebrews 13:24]

Well, there are several things I would point out about these three verses.

1__The word "over" is not actually in any one of those three verses in the best manuscripts we have. It was included in the KJV evidently to [who knows for sure!] give some weight to the already existing hierarchy and structure of Priests, deacons, and Bishops that were in place at the time of the translation of the KJV. 

So we can, and I do, categorically declare it to be an unfortunate and unwarranted addition to the text by the translators of the KJV and will lay it aside as not being true to the text itself at all.

2__You also can see the word "elder" does not appear in these three verses either. It simply is not there. So to declare this is a reference to "elders" is an interpretative addition and not a translation. We're looking to see what the text ITSELF is saying as best we can.

3__Notice also that verse 7, when properly translated, is found to be in the past tense. [aorist tense] The KJV incorrectly translates it in the present tense. So the proper translation is..."Remember those who were your guides, whose faith you are to imitate, taking note of how they were faithful to the very end of life."

In that verse "Guides" could refer to the Apostles, and if so, probably those who had already died. This is because the writer mentions the "end of their manner of conversation." That word "Conversation," we know means "way or walk of life" and "the end" of it certainly indicates their death. 

But "guides" could also be referring to all the ones who had just been mentioned in Hebrews 11. [The hall of spiritual heroes.] remember, there were no chapter or verse divisions in the original, thus those people spoken about in chapter 11 would certainly be on the minds of the readers of Hebrews.] Whichever, it is very clear that the text does not say "elders rule over." [With all due respect to the KJV.]

4__In Hebrews 13:17 there are three words however, that on the surface, give my opening statement some problem. At least as translated by those pesky KJV translators. As already mentioned, the word "over" IS NOT in verses 17 or 24 just as it is NOT in verse 7, so we'll lay that problem aside as having already been addressed.

But the big three are there. "Obey, rule and submit." Now that's a mouthful and automatically loads the shotgun of most bible readers who favor a hierarchical system in both the home and the church. "See, I told you so. Pastors and husbands are to rule," they say.

OK, let's see! "Obey" is the Greek word peitho. In the passive and middle voice [Just Greek language rules you understand] it means to be persuaded or to be won over. In this verse "obey" is in the middle voice and does NOT have an authority demanding it at all, but a gentle persuasion by one resulting in agreement by the other. W. E. Vines Expository Dictionary of N.T. words explains this rather well.

In Oklahoma we take "obey" to mean " I said so." But the Greeks would have laughed at that Western view for this text. To those who understood the Greek language, the writer was saying they were to come to a full agreement by internal reasoning and NOT an external conformity because someone said to.

But then, there is that word "rule." Well, it is Greek originally too, right! So what did it mean to them? "Hegeomai," is the Greek word translated "rule" in the KJV. The word did mean leader, but it wasn't connected to authority at all. It meant to go before, lead, as a guide or point-man, like in the army. Rank was not involved here. You will see this in Strong's Word Studies which I recommend you check out. 

There is a Greek word for "rule" which means first place, headship. high estate, eminence and it's the word "Arche." [Ark-hay] It was used six times by the writer of Hebrews, all in the first seven chapters as he described Christ, but was not used once after chapter 7 and not used in relation to members of the church at all.

Now the biggy. "Submit." That says it all doesn't it! Does it? 

There is a word in Greek that means to "submit... cause I said so." It is the word "peitharcheo" and is a word build on "arche." [See above] It is used three times in the New Testament, twice in Acts [5:29 &27:21] and once in Titus. [3:1] In those three places and in other non-biblical writings of that era it is used for obeying or submitting because the other guy is the big cheese, like civil authority or even God Himself. But it's NOT used for people in the church with each other.

Paul even said of himself one time that he wanted the people to know that he wasn't the head cheese. He said it this way..."Not that we have dominion [archo] over your faith, but we are fellow workers for your joy, for by faith you stand." [11 Corinthians 1:24]

Now you see why it's important to see that the word used in verse 17 for "submit" is hypeikete instead of Arche. It is in the present imperative active tense [Greek language guide rules again] and should be translated to "choose to yield or to follow." This is the ONLY time this word is used in the scriptures.

5___Now let me translate verse 24 from ONLY the text itself, following what has been said so far....

"Embrace all those who are your guides or leaders, as well as all the saints. They of Italy embrace you as well." [Hebrews 13:24]

Whew, just about done. Let me translate all three together.

"Remember those who had [past tense] been your guides, who led the way with the Word: whose faith imitate, considering the strong way they finished their life." [Hebrews 13:7]

"Choose to yield to those who are out in front leading you because you are persuaded they are likewise being faithful in their task, knowing they will be held accountable." [Hebrews 13:17]

"Embrace all those who are your guides or leaders, as well as all the saints. They of Italy embrace you as well."  [Hebrews 13:24]

There is simply no concept of lording it over someone in the church and certainly no textual justification for such an action based on an office in the local church. We will look at the idea of "office" next time.

This isn't to say there are not certain ministries that can be called pastor, elder, deacon, but whatever we find those to mean, it will be completely different than what is found in many modern day fellowships that are, unfortunately, more cultural than christian.

Paul B.