What the Bible says about
(From Forerunner Commentary)
God personally appointed Bezaleel and Aholiab: "I have called by name"; "I have put." They were given favor by God to carry out this responsibility in His behalf for Israel. He gave them wisdom. The basic concept behind the Hebrew word translated wisdom is synonymous with the English word "skill." It is a word with wide-ranging application. For instance, Proverbs 4:7, Solomon advises, "Wisdom is the principal thing; therefore get wisdom." In that context, it means skill in living, in common sense, in relationships with other people. We are to become skilled at doing these things.
The widsom of Bezaleel and Aholiab is skill in supervising and teaching others how to do things, as well as being able to do intricate, artistic things themselves. Another way of putting it would be "strength of capacity" or even "expansion of their minds." In addition, God gave them understanding, which means "discernment." In this context of building the Tabernacle, it would mean being able to arrange or connect all the different parts.
God also increased their knowledge, which means "a particular acquaintance." Cunning works implies "inventiveness," having a mind that can look at something and say, "We need this kind of a tool to accomplish this task," and then produce the tool to make it. By inspiration, God added to natural ability so that they could execute God's design. He gave them skill far beyond their natural abilities.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Holy Spirit and the Trinity (Part Six)
Solomon's experience is a warning of what will befall us if we follow his example of compromise. His series of compromises gradually but inexorably distorted his understanding of God and His ways. The psalmist of Psalm 111:10 writes, "A good understanding have all those who do His commandments," and its converse is equally true. If we slacken our resolve to keep all of God's commands, even those we might deem as less important, we will gradually lose our God-given understanding of His way to eternal life.
Martin G. Collins
The Enduring Results of Compromise
The ancient Hebrews associated wisdom with our modern term “skill,” even though “skill” is not a direct translation of the Hebrew term. “Skill” implies what wisdom is in actual practice: excellence in quality or expertise in the practice of one's occupation, craft, or art. People may acquire many skills in life, but the Bible focuses on human life and its God-given purpose. Therefore, a practical definition of biblical wisdom is “skill in living according to God's way of life.”
To refine it further, biblical wisdom is unique to those truly in a relationship with God. That biblical wisdom is a gift of God reinforces this fact, and according to James 1:1-8, we should ask for it and He will give it. James cautions that we must be patient because God gives it through the experiences of living within a relationship with God. Living requires time, and in some cases, a great deal of time because we are often slow to learn. God gives wisdom for us to make the best practical use of all the other gifts He gives, enabling us to glorify Him by our lives. As it is used, it displays a host of characteristics similar to the fruit of the Spirit (see James 3:17-18).
Proverbs 1:1-7 helps to clarify wisdom by showing that it consists of such other godly characteristics as knowledge of God Himself, the fear of God, understanding, discernment, discretion, prudence, justice, judgment, equity, etc., all of which, melded together and used, produce a skill in living that—this is important—is in alignment with God's purpose and way of life.
Undoubtedly, some people are worldly-wise. However, biblical wisdom and worldly wisdom are not the same skillset. Biblical wisdom contains those spiritual qualities that are in alignment with and support God's purposes. Though wisdom may provide a measure of worldly success, that is not its primary purpose.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and Christian Living (Part Eight): Death
"Lean on" is used here in the sense of relying upon or trusting someone or something for help or protection. The object of our secure trust is the Lord, a most reliable object of confidence!
When we lean against a wall or on a cane, we trust it to support us. If it should fail to do its job, we will fall to the ground and perhaps be hurt. In a figurative sense, in times of distress we lean on members of our families or friends; we rely upon them for encouragement, support, help, or protection. In this verse, "lean on" functions figuratively. Relying on our own understanding is compared to leaning on a cane that cannot bear our weight; it is unreliable for support. It is dangerous for a person to rely upon mere human wisdom or understanding because it is likely to fail him.
Acknowledging the Lord in all our ways means keeping Him in mind in every event of our lives. Godly living is not to be confined to the Sabbath, for God is involved in each moment of each day. His instruction covers our lives from waking up in the morning to going to sleep at night. He wants us to remember Him all the time and to trust and obey Him to guide our conduct in everything we do.
That "He shall direct your paths" suggests that God will "smooth" or "make straight" the road of our lives. This is a promise that God will go before us and remove many of the obstacles from our path. He wants us to be successful, so if we trust Him and follow His instructions, He will lead us forward, sweeping many of our potential problems to the side. How encouraging!
My Parents Won't Let Me!
Agur claims no great intelligence or superior understanding. He feels his education is lacking in the more important areas of life, like the proper way to live and the knowledge of God. He is only a common man with no special abilities, powers or privileges—in fact, he would like to know the person who could do some of these things.
In verses 5 and 6 he states his conclusion: To get the most and the best from life, we should believe God, not presuming that we can comprehend the effects of our actions without advice from God in His Word. God's Word cannot be improved upon; every word of God is pure, as gold and silver are pure (Psalm 12:6). The value of God's Word cannot be increased by adding to or taking from it, anymore than gold can be increased in value by alloying it with something else. He advises that we strive to do nothing that God forbids and leave nothing undone that God commands. This is the approach of a man whose sole aim is to please God, and who does not want to do or not do anything that might strain the relationship.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Christmas, Syncretism, and Presumption
When Solomon suggests there is no profit in all man's labor, he means that nothing in this world makes life worth living. How depressing!
Apparently, Ecclesiastes was written as the conclusion to an experiment that lasted many years, maybe even his entire lifetime. Solomon was eminently qualified to write this. He was intelligent and given understanding as a special gift by God, which he asked for. He did not ask for wisdom but understanding that he might be wise. Understanding must precede right application. If one does not understand a situation he is in, he will not be wise, so Solomon asked God for understanding, and from that developed wisdom.
He had power and authority because he was king in Israel. He had money, perhaps as nobody else has ever experienced in the history of mankind. Solomon was no square. He was active, inquiring, and had an analytical mind, reaching conclusions that were logical and right given the circumstances and the information he had.
So what follows after he states his theme? Life is irrational, absurd, meaningless. His lifetime experiment had not put him in a happy frame of mind.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Ecclesiastes and the Feast of Tabernacles (Part 1)
While each of the terms in the first three verses is an important symbol with spiritual meaning, we will focus briefly on only one of them, the symbol of "ear" in verse 3. God adds to that term, "come to Me" and "hear, and . . . live." How important is this concept?
Paul writes in Romans 10:17, "So then faith comes by hearing, and hearing by the word of God." "So then" marks this statement as a conclusion. If we desire to be in God's Kingdom, hearing is essential. Such a person must live by faith. Salvation is by grace through faith, and faith comes by hearing. Faith is an absolute necessity, and hearing is equally necessary for having faith that saves.
Interestingly, virtually every modern translation of this verse now reads, "So then faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ," or the end may be, "the word concerning Christ." Why make this change? The entire context of the book of Romans presents us with the knowledge of the spiritual foundation for a life in Christ and living by faith. It teaches us how to have a living relationship with the Father and Son, and it focuses on understanding the preaching of Christ. The translation change brings Christ more sharply into focus.
Matthew 17:5 reads: "While he was still speaking, behold, a bright cloud overshadowed them; and suddenly a voice came out of the cloud, saying, 'This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased. Hear Him!'" The One who became Jesus Christ is the same One urging us in Isaiah 55 to seek Him, and a major element in seeking Him is to hear Him. Hearing Him is the path to increasing faith and being enabled to live by faith, thus pleasing God.
The first sentence of the first paragraph of the article, "Ear, Hearing," in The Dictionary of Biblical Imagery reads, "In the Bible the ear is synonymous with the heart and mind as an organ of cognition" (p. 223). The placement of this statement helps emphasize the importance of thoroughly understanding what Christ has said. The Reader's Digest Oxford Complete Wordfinder Dictionary defines cognition as "knowing, perceiving, or conceiving as an act or faculty distinct from emotion and volition." "Understanding," "grasping," and "getting" are synonyms. To come to know Christ obviously requires effort. Biblically, then, the hearing involved in Isaiah 55:1-3 requires concentrated listening, comparing scripture with scripture, and meditated understanding. These lead to living faith and grasping the sovereignty of God over our lives.
John W. Ritenbaugh
Fully Accepting God's Sovereignty (Part Two)
In the Parable of the Leaven (Matthew 13:33), what is hidden is a highly destructive element that negatively affects God's realm. In the Parable of the Hidden Treasure, what is hidden is a priceless element that positively affects the realm of God's rule. As we will see, the treasure is an answer to the leaven.
While Scripture shows that “treasure” symbolizes several things, the imagery of hidden treasure has a narrower usage. In Job 28:1-11, Job describes hidden treasure in the form of undiscovered gems and lodes of precious metal. He talks about the effort men put forth to tunnel into the earth for what is valuable, setting the stage to contrast it with something even greater. In verses 12-28, he turns the focus to the superior value of wisdom and understanding, pointing out the impossibility of finding such hidden treasure without God.
In verses 15-19, Job observes that wisdom's value is so great that no man can purchase it. Verses 12 and 21 assert that nobody knows where to look for wisdom or understanding. He concludes by quoting what God says to man: “Behold, the fear of the LORD, that is wisdom, and to depart from evil is understanding” (verse 28). Thus, hidden treasure is compared to understanding, wisdom, and the fear of the Lord—a collection of valuables.
Solomon speaks in identical terms in Proverbs 2:4-5: “If you seek her [wisdom; understanding; verses 2-3] as silver, and search for her as for hidden treasures; then you will understand the fear of the LORD, and find the knowledge of God.” Isaiah 33:6 also links wisdom and the fear of the Lord with treasure, and in Psalm 119 the psalmist writes, “Your word I have hidden in my heart, that I might not sin against You. . . . I rejoice at Your word as one who finds great treasure” (verses 11, 162). These verses likewise show wisdom, the knowledge of God, the fear of God, and God's Word symbolized by hidden treasure.
Thus, God likens hidden treasure to a collection of interwoven things: Understanding, wisdom, the fear of God, knowledge of God, and God's Word, all of which are positive and powerful factors in living God's way of life. These are all things God must give, and they are hidden until He gives them. However, we must add one more element to this collection, something interconnected with all these symbolic hidden treasures. The gospels record Jesus finding something that matches this exactly—and it gave Him joy, as the parable describes.
Matthew 8:5-12 records one of Christ's healings. A centurion had approached Jesus to ask Him to intervene for his servant, who was a distance away. Even though Jesus offered to go to his home, the centurion humbly deferred. Notice verses 8-10:
The centurion answered and said, “Lord, I am not worthy that You should come under my roof. But only speak a word, and my servant will be healed. For I also am a man under authority, having soldiers under me. And I say to this one, 'Go,' and he goes; and to another, 'Come,' and he comes; and to my servant, 'Do this,' and he does it.” When Jesus heard it, He marveled, and said to those who followed, “Assuredly, I say to you, I have not found such great faith, not even in Israel!”
What Jesus found and caused Him to marvel was faith. Faith is inextricably linked with all the elements Scripture associates with hidden treasure: Faith comes by hearing—by understanding—and that comes by the Word of God (Romans 10:17). Faith is based on the knowledge of God and the fear of God, and faith and wisdom meet in right action. Therefore, when God gives a man these hidden treasures, they are all aspects of faith. God-given faith—which includes both trust in God as well as a body of true beliefs—counterbalances the leaven; it is the solution to corrupt belief systems.
David C. Grabbe
God's Kingdom in the Parables (Part Three)
How were Simeon and Annaable to recognize the Messiah three decades before His first witness actually began? Luke provides the answer. He shows us that, in aggregate, the people of this group displayed the following characteristics:
1. They had God's Spirit. As a result, they were able to understand "the deep things of God. . . . No one knows the things of God except [by] the Spirit of God" (I Corinthians 2:10-11). When He promised the Spirit to His disciples, Christ called it
the Spirit of truth [which] . . . will guide you into all truth; for [it] will not speak on [its] own authority, but whatever [it] hears [it] will speak; and [it] will tell you things to come. (John 16:13)
The Spirit taught Simeon and Anna, just as it taught the apostles—just as it teaches us today.
2. They heard God's Word. Anna "did not depart from the Temple . . . night and day." She often heard the reading of God's Word, which Christ defined as truth (John 17:17). That Word "is profitable for . . . instruction in righteousness" (II Timothy 3:16). The Devout received frequent instruction from God's Word.
3. They talked with others of like mind. Simeon was not alone; neither was Anna. Luke 2:38 says Anna "spoke of [Christ] to all those who looked for redemption in Jerusalem." An unspecified number of other people also waited for the Messiah! They fellowshipped with those who were "just and devout, waiting for the Consolation of Israel" (verse 25).
4. They fasted often. Notice the plural: Anna "served God with fastings" (Luke 2:37). These were not the fastings of vanity (see Matthew 6:16-18), but she fasted in service to God. A result of proper fasting is knowledge (see Daniel 9:1-22; 10:1-21). Surely, Anna's frequent fastings contributed to her ability to recognize the Messiah.
5. They prayed regularly. Again, notice the plural, "prayers" (Luke 2:37). Many hours of prayer lay behind Anna's recognition of her Messiah.
Solomon writes in Proverbs 2:3-5, "If you cry out for discernment, and lift up your voice for understanding, . . . then you will . . . find the knowledge of God." Solomon should know. God greatly increased his knowledge and wisdom as a result of his prayer (II Chronicles 1:10).
6. The Devout made the right connections. As a result of hearing God's Word, they were aware of the Seventy-Weeks Prophecy (Daniel 9:20-27). They realized that it was about 69 prophetic weeks since the rebuilding of Jerusalem, and the Messiah's coming was imminent. That is what Luke 2:26 tells us: God's Spirit revealed to Simeon that he would not die before seeing the Messiah.
7. The Devout saw the Day approaching and did not forsake the assembling of themselves together (Hebrews 10:25). They understood the value of Christian fellowship. The prophet wrote of them and their sort through the ages: "Then those who feared the LORD spoke to one another, and the LORD listened and heard them" (Malachi 3:16).
Discussing God's Word in frequent fellowship, with humble fastings and prayers, the Devout received understanding from God. Thus, they recognized their Messiah while the superstitious and the proud did not.
Recognizing the Second Witness
At the end of John 3:3, Jesus makes a revealing statement that contains a significant term: "Unless one is born again, he cannot see the kingdom of God." "See" is the significant word. One's first reaction to the word "see" is to assume a literal, visual observation. However, the Greek word here is eidon (Strong's #1492), which means "to know, be aware, consider, perceive, be sure, and understand." Its usage also includes "behold," "look on," and "see." The Bible frequently uses it in the sense of mental apprehension rather than visual sight, that is, as "I get it," "I understand," or "now I see it."
The apostle Paul is a dramatic example of a man who made a sudden sharp turn in conduct and attitude when he "saw" that he was in reality a hardened sinner and not headed into the Kingdom of God. Here in John 3:3, then, Jesus' emphasis is on the Kingdom of God being something to be understood or comprehended rather than visually observed.
His remark has this sense: "Except a man be born again, he cannot come to know the things of God; he cannot be fitted for it or enjoy its benefits." In this context, He teaches the Kingdom of God as an entity of valuable spiritual and moral force. Vincent's Word Studies of the New Testament, vol. 2, p. 91, explains its intent in this context: "The things of God's kingdom are not apparent to the natural vision. A new power of sight is required, which attaches only to the new man."
John W. Ritenbaugh
Born Again or Begotten? (Part One)
God foreknew us and determined to call us before He ever made His summons known to us. By doing so, He was making a prognosis. We are in this elite group, the called, only because the great God of heaven and earth specifically and personally summoned us by forcibly bringing the good news to our attention so we would be motivated to choose to respond freely to it.
He then led us to repentance, to a personal understanding of the sacrifice of Jesus Christ, and to an acceptance of it. Then He gave us His Holy Spirit to enable us to obey the obligations of the New Covenant. It is in this combination of factors, plus a few more, that we can begin to understand the possibilities of human life. We see in Christ the pattern of what we ought to be, and the motivation to be in His image begins to arise in us. But this occurs only because God has summoned us to be in this elite group, the firstfruits, to run for this awesome goal.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Elements of Motivation (Part Five): Who We Are
He may have been talking to His disciples directly—and not to the crowds—when He said this. It was not until after Jesus died, was buried, and was resurrected that His disciples first believed—really believed! Later on, Peter and John ran pell-mell to the grave where Jesus had been interred. Peter goes in. He looks and sees everything there—except Jesus. John peers in the doorway, and the gospel says, "And then this disciple believed." John was the first to believe. It took seeing the grave clothes in the sepulchre and no body of Jesus Christ in sight for him to finally get it. That act fulfills this little prophecy of Jesus': "Then you will know."
What momentous events they had just experienced—and they did not understand and believe. They did not really believe when He came into Jerusalem and was lauded by all the people, exactly fulfilling the prophecy of Zechariah (Matthew 21:1-5; Zechariah 9:9). They did not see it when He gave the Last Supper, changing the symbols. They did not recognize it when one of their own betrayed Him with a kiss. He even gave the sop directly to Judas after John had asked Him, "Which one of these is it going to be?" He saw it go from Jesus' hand to Judas' hand or into his mouth. The fulfillment was just a few minutes away from His utterance, and they still did not believe! They still failed to see how it was all coming together.
Of course, there was the crucifixion. How many prophecies were fulfilled in the crucifixion, in His burial? And they still did not believe! The three days went by and still no belief. They had God-in-the-flesh leading them through all these prophecies, and they still did not get it—until that point when comprehension dawned on John.
It is arrogant and puffed up of us to think that we have prophecy figured out. In many cases, we do not have the mind even of the disciples. We do not have the teaching from the very mouth of God as the disciples had. Of course, they were not converted at the time. But if they could not get it, seeing these things happening right before their eyes, will we be able to see prophecy working out in our time any more clearly? Are we so much more advanced?
We can know the possibilities, but we cannot be certain of the exact progress and timing of prophetic events. Until the prophecy is fulfilled, we should not be dogmatic. We must always approach these things with humility. Because we are clay in the Potter's hand, He gives us what we need to know. And, in many cases, what we think we need to know is not really "need to know" until after it has already happened. God has His own ways, and He is working out His purpose.
Richard T. Ritenbaugh
The Two Witnesses (Part One)
Christ's audience had literal ears, of course, but that is not what He meant. The people heard the sounds, and the sounds formed into words, and words were comprehended to some degree, but they did not really relate to what He was saying. His words just did not hit the right chords so that they could make the right use of them. Jesus says in some exasperation, "Why do you not understand?" Then He goes on to explain why.
He explains, "You are unable to hear what I say." He is implying that the problem is inherent. It was as if He were speaking in one language, and they were hearing in another, so that what He said was totally incomprehensible to them.
John 8 deals with freedom or liberty. These people were in bondage, a kind of slavery, and they did not even know it. They said, "We have never been in bondage." They had a measure of political liberty, but even then, they were under the heel of the Romans. They had a certain amount of freedom, which they apparently considered enough for what they needed for their lives. Ordinarily, the Roman way was, once a nation was crushed, to give the people certain liberties, as long they behaved themselves.
We can see that Jesus was speaking of one thing, yet they understood it in an entirely different way. He was speaking within spiritual parameters concerning the Kingdom of God. They were hearing within political parameters, and thinking about the here and now. It just did not jive.
They became this way just as we do: They lived and operated in a world of lies. This is why Jesus mentions Satan, that he was a murderer and a liar from the very beginning. All the ways of this world - which seem to be so right carnally - are really nothing but behaviors founded upon deceptions, distortions, and falsehoods. To somebody reared in such a deceived environment, the truth of God comes out as so much gibberish. The mind simply does not relate.
John W. Ritenbaugh
We Are Unique!
This verse provides a clear sense of an active, even aggressive, goodness. Paul links goodness with full knowledge and admonition of each other. This gives us insight into what he knew of and expected from Christians in Rome, placing before us a target to shoot for in our relationships within the fellowship of the church.
But Paul lists goodness first, as though it is either the foundation for the other two virtues or at least their necessary precursor. I Corinthians 8:1 says, "Knowledge puffs up." Knowledge combined with vanity can spew a torrent of self-righteous offense, but goodness will hold such a display in check and guide knowledge to build up rather than destroy.
Biblical goodness is always, under every circumstance, beneficial. Though he had not yet been to Rome at the writing of his epistle, Paul evidently understood that he was writing to an unusually strong congregation. He was so confident that they had a strong and sincere desire to do the right thing that he wrote that they were "full of goodness [and] filled with all knowledge."
This is quite a compliment, serving to reinforce what he writes in Romans 1:8: "Your faith is spoken of throughout the whole world"! They were far different from the recipients of Hebrews, whom he tells, "For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the first principles of the oracles of God" (Hebrews 5:12).
The Romans' full knowledge was an intelligent and comprehensive understanding of the faith and Christian responsibility. Strong faith is not built on weak understanding. They had given honest, serious thought to applying their faith to the sometimes bewildering tangle of life in this world. They were living it.
These two qualities—goodness and knowledge combined—present a sound vehicle for instructing each other on the best ways to "walk the walk" despite the pulls of this world. Goodness provides the right disposition and motivation, and knowledge, the correct instruction. One devoid of the necessary knowledge cannot teach; anyone destitute of goodness will not even try because he lacks the impulse to help others in the right spirit. Even if he makes the effort, only a spirit marked by active love will win the response without which no true education in God's way is possible.
The word translated "admonish" in verse 14 is rendered "advice," "counsel," and "instruct" in other translations. In I Thessalonians 5:14, the same word is translated "warn," indicating that it is more than mere instruction. The English word that comes closest to expressing the sense best is "inculcate." Inculcate means "to impress upon the mind by frequent repetition or persistent urging" (Webster's New World Dictionary). Among its synonyms are such strong words as "indoctrinate," "brainwash," "admonish repeatedly," and even "hammer"! No wonder William Barclay says that agathosune is goodness that "might, and could, rebuke and discipline."
This goodness does whatever loving wisdom calls for in a given situation. However, this in no way means that one should deliver the admonishment, counsel, or even rebuke with meanness of spirit. In other words, one with goodness does not viciously "chew somebody out." Numerous Scriptures counsel us to be gentle and tender with each other. Paul is himself a model of tact and diplomacy in dealing with difficult circumstances within congregations and between himself and a person or congregation.
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Fruit of the Spirit: Goodness
1 Corinthians 12:10
To discern spirits is a supernatural ability enabled by God's Holy Spirit that allows a person to determine the source of a spiritual manifestation, whether it emanates from God, the Devil, the world, or man. If we have this gift, God will reveal information about the presence or absence of spiritual entities. Usually, people regard this gift as useful to detect evil spiritual forces or influences. It can also detect the presence or absence of angelic intervention or the prompts of God's Holy Spirit working within us.
The apostle John writes in I John 4:1, "Beloved do not believe every spirit, but test [try] the spirits, whether they are of God; because many false prophets have gone out into the world." We are commanded to examine thoroughly any spiritual teaching with our critical faculties to see whether the presenter is handling the Word of God accurately. Because evil spirits have the capacity to produce paranormal phenomena, the Scriptures exhort us to prove or test the spirits, proving all things, holding fast only to what is good (I Thessalonians 5:21).
It is highly imperative that we use our God-given reasoning and understanding in doing this, but we should not rely exclusively on our intellect. Likewise, it is unwise to allow our inward feelings to sway us, but we should seek the guidance of God's Holy Spirit. Undoubtedly, the most reliable guide concerning the testing of Spirits would be the Scriptures. We know that God's Word—the Bible—is truth (John 17:17).
We must remember that just reading or mumbling God's Word without understanding is next to useless. We have leaders who eloquently read teleprompters but have not the foggiest notion of what they are saying. Likewise, reading the Word of God without understanding makes us a spiritual "empty suit." Reading God's Word with understanding via the Holy Spirit enables us to tap into the spiritual realm, know "the things of God," and make right judgments (I Corinthians 2:10-16).
David F. Maas
The Gift of Discerning Spirits
2 Thessalonians 2:10-12
These people will perish because of a self-imposed delusion, a blindness that strikes those who refuse to love the truth. They may not refuse to accept truth, but they do not love it—they are not dedicated to it.
A dedicated person gives himself to the object of his love just as two people in love dedicate themselves to each other until they are one. The people described in these verses are perishing because, though they have been given truth, they do not love it enough to give themselves to it. For whatever their personal reasons, they prefer to tolerate lies, following their leaders to destruction.
Without sufficient dedication to truth to obey except haphazardly or lethargically, understanding begins to wane. "The fear of the LORD is the beginning of wisdom; a good understanding have all those who do His commandments" (Psalm 111:10).
John W. Ritenbaugh
'I'll Never Follow Another Man!'
The ISV renders the Greek word praiotes as “courtesy,” while other versions translate it as “meekness,” “gentleness” or “humility.” The ISV has taken some liberties, but it gives a sense, in today's English, of what Paul is saying. A humble attitude is necessary to show courtesy to others.
So, if the English “courtesy” is not literally in Titus 3:2, is it elsewhere? The Greek word philophron, which translates directly to the English “courtesy,” is used only once in the Bible. It comes from two other Greek words, philos, meaning “friend,” and phren, meaning “understanding,” “perceiving,” and “judging.” These two words indicating “understanding a friend” are put together to suggest the idea of courtesy.
Philophron appears in I Peter 3:8: “Finally, be ye all of one mind, having compassion one for another, love as brethren, be pitiful, be courteous” (King James Version). Many translations interpret philophron as “kind” or “humble,” and this is correct as well. Both Thayer's Greek Lexicon and Strong's Concordance define philophron as “friendly” and “kind,” but Strong's goes a little further, saying it can be summed up as the English word “courteous.”
1 John 5:19-20
The very fact that we know these things—that we are of God, that Satan is the unseen ruler of this world, and that we know God and His Son Jesus Christ—is evidence that we have been given an understanding. This knowledge is not something we have determined on our own; the sovereign God has given it to us to fulfill His purpose in us. And in His sovereignty He has withheld it from others.
Other passages, in more specific areas of our profession, show the uniqueness of our calling to an even greater extent. For example, Paul writes in II Thessalonians 3:1-2, "Finally, brethren, pray for us, that the word of the Lord may have free course and be glorified, just as it is with you, and that we may be delivered from unreasonable and wicked men; for not all have [the] faith." From our own experiences we know his statement is true. Not everyone has faith. It is obvious that some believe and others do not. Even within the church we are at different stages of faith.
Acts 13:48 adds important ramifications to this subject of God's sovereignty, our calling, and faith: "Now when the Gentiles heard this, they were glad and glorified the word of the Lord. And as many as had been appointed to eternal life believed." The implications of Luke's words are rather startling. Only those whom God appointed or predestined to eternal life believe the preaching of Paul and Barnabas! The rest, though they also hear the word of the Lord, persecute and expel them from the region. They do not believe what they hear, and it angers rather than converts them. We must conclude that God triggers something in the minds of those He calls, making the Lord's words agreeable, so they will believe what they are hearing.
This agrees perfectly with Ephesians 1:5—"[God] predestined us to adoption as sons by [through] Jesus Christ"—and Romans 8:29-30, which explicitly states the whole panorama of His purpose:
For whom He foreknew, He also predestined to be conformed to the image of His Son, that He might be the firstborn among many brethren. Moreover whom He predestined, these He also called; whom He called, these He also justified; and whom He justified, these He also glorified.
God has the whole process planned out, and He is so confident of His ability to accomplish it that He perceives it as already done! He knows the end from the beginning (Isaiah 46:10).
John W. Ritenbaugh
The Sovereignty of God: Part Six
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