Author: Ron Graham
Paul describes Abraham as “not being weak in faith”
The Greek word for “being weak” is (asthenes).
This word is in two parts: (1) the a on the front of the word is a negative; (2) the rest of the word means “strong”.
It's as though in English we had a word “unstrong”. We don't have such a word in common use, but if we did we would have no trouble knowing what unstrong means.
So Paul says that Abraham was “not unstrong”
This double negative imparts a subtle quality to Abraham’s faith. Abraham could simply be called strong in faith. But Paul here prefers to call him not unstrong.
Most Christians would be discouraged if they were called weak in faith. But they also might be disconcerted if they were called strong in faith.
Most Christians believe they are strengthened in the faith by the Spirit of Christ in them. So they don't see themselves as “weak”
On the other hand, they feel they may still have some way to go before they can feel comfortable being called “strong”.
To describe their faith as “not unstrong” is a nice fit.
Abraham is presented as our exemplar. He was justified by his faith, and we can be justified by our faith if it is like his —“not unstrong”.
We have several such double negatives in English. For example we might say that double negatives are “not uncommon” which is drawing back a little from saying they are “common”.
I'm reminded of a conversation in which one person was accused of being uncouth. I was expecting a denial in double negative form: “I am not uncouth!” but instead the accused said, “I'm as couth as you are!”
If we are not using double negatives in flat denial (“I am not incompetent!”) then we are using them for subtlety.
Someone might say, “I am not unopposed in this matter”. This is not quite the same as saying, “I have opposition.”
Although we might wish, and pray, to be strong in our faith, we still recognise that we can improve considerably.
That doesn't mean we are weak in faith. We are not as strong as we could be, but we are —“not unstrong”.
Let's take courage in that, and build upon it. In God’s grace, the day may come when we can say, simply, that we are strong.
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When arguments go round and round, is it because people can't find the answer, or is it because they haven't found the question?
To find an answer, it is necessary to have the question clearly defined. This may require prior questions.
For example, even the basic question “Does God exist?” cannot be successfully debated or researched unless we have first asked what is meant by “God”.
From another standpoint, when we preach to the lost, we sometimes answer questions they ask, or questions we like to answer, rather than the right question. We need to find the real question and answer that.
For example we might answer the question, “What must you do to be saved?” when the right questions at the time are, “What does it mean to be saved, and why do you need to be saved?” When the lost are convinced that they need salvation, then they will ask what they must do (Acts 2:37-38).
“I hastened and did not delay to keep your commandments”
There is no place for tardiness in our response to God. However, not all slowness is tardiness. Taking time may be better than hurry.
In a single sentence Paul exhorts Timothy to be urgent yet at the same time to be patient: “Preach the word; be urgent in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with all patience and teaching.” (2Timothy 4:2).
We picture Timothy never wasting time or being slack, yet taking his time with the work to make it effective.
An ambulance will hasten to the scene of an accident, but do so safely. In treating the injured, the paramedics will proceed with caution, deliberation, and method, not rushing the task at the expense of due care.
The Christian life is characterised by “perseverance in doing good” (Romans 2:7) rather than by velocity.
Paul pictures his Christian life and ministry as a footrace. However, Paul most likely has in mind not the frantic sprint, but rather the marathon of many laps at a measured pace (Acts 20:24).
“Good planning and hard work lead to prosperity, but hasty shortcuts lead to poverty.”
(Proverbs 21:5, NLT).
Even regarding worship and prayer, we are cautioned not to be hasty. “Guard your steps as you go to the house of God... Do not be hasty in word or hurry your heart to bring up a matter in the presence of God” (Ecclesiastes 5:1-2).
John records how many fish were caught in the miracle that the risen Christ did when he appeared to his disciples by the Sea of Tiberius. There were 153 (John 21:11).
Efforts to find some mysterious meaning in this number are worthy of scorn. It was simply the number of fish that were counted in the net as counted by the amazed disciples.
Of course the number 153, like many other numbers, has some interesting properties. The sum of its (base ten) digits is three to the power of three: 1+5+3=3³. Furthermore we can express the number as the sum of the cube of its digits: 1³+5³+3³=153.
Moreover, I'm told that you can take any base ten positive integer that is divisible by three without remainder; sum the cube of its digits; take the answer and sum the cube of its digits; repeat till you reach the limit —which will always be 153.
For example take 666 6³+6³+6³=648 6³+4³+8³=792 7³+9³+2³=1080 1³+0³+8³+0³=513 5³+1³+3³=153 1³+5³+3³=153 (limit).
Note: In the notation above, the expression 5³ (for example) means five cubed, or 5X5X5. It may also be written as 5^3 meaning five raised to the power of three.
John 3:16 is among the best known and most loved verses in the Bible. However some go so far as to say it is the whole gospel in one verse, and everything essential to salvation is in that verse.
It is true to say that everything in John 3:16 is essential to salvation. However it's not true to say that everything essential to salvation is in John 3:16.
Repentance from sin is not mentioned, but it is essential to salvation (Acts 2:38, 3:19).
Confession of Christ is not mentioned, but it is essential to salvation (Romans 10:9-10).
The sinner’s prayer* is not mentioned, but it is essential to salvation (Acts 8:22).
Keeping God’s commandments is not mentioned, but that is essential to salvation (1John 2:1-6, 5:3).
In John 3:16 we see the love and grace of God, the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on the cross, and the need for faith on the part of the one seeking eternal life. We might regard these as the first essentials. But they are not all; neither are the other things mentioned above.
If we wish to know all that is essential to salvation, we need to examine all scripture inspired by God, not one single verse (2Timothy 3:14-17).
*In this case the prayer of a straying Christian.
Sometimes you will see a notice pinned up with these words added to it:
“THIS MEANS YOU !”
The idea is that many people who read a notice think it applies to other people, but not to themselves.
This also happens when people read the Bible. They see lessons there for other people, but they fail to say, “This means me.”
Perhaps the Bible society should publish a “This Means You” edition of the Bible, marking thus the many Bible passages that do apply to us all!
On almost every page of the Bible there is a promise I am meant to believe; or a principle I am meant to apply; or a precept I am meant to obey; or a prayer I am meant to pray.
Each of us must read the Bible as though it speaks to us, lest after we have preached it to others, we ourselves should be castaways.
Replace numbers in the codes below with letters to make four-letter words (not the bad kind of course). The numbers represent verses in Matthew 5.
Example: b39y = body (Look in verse 39). No need to type the answers, just guess, then press the query button to reveal the correct word.