Thursday, March 17, 2016

What Is in a word?

 I've found it is the small things….that keeps the darkness at bay…” Gandalf

So I ask you, what is in a word? When it comes to the Bible it is everything. I have been re-reading a book that has helped me immensely over the years in ferreting out the truth. The truth not as we want it to be, that’s too easy. No real truth changes us, transforms us and that is God’s design for us when it is applied. It makes us into something else. It in fact changes us. I doubt whether my children would recognize me today. They might say ‘We have nothing in common anymore..’ so in their minds, 'what is point in carrying on a relationship, we are different people'. I would counter that it is the differences in us that strengthens us both. 

Truth is never afraid of confrontation and debate because the more that this happens, the more it shimmers and reflect its nature.

The book is a classic study of exegesis and its application to our lives in the modern era. The focus is on preparing sermons that truly reflect the words as they were written and to provide a building on that foundation. The truth is, exegesis is a requirement if any proper application is to be done from the bible to our lives. This is especially true to those who preach the Bible and are responsible for other’s lives before God. This is why in the Bible it is the teachers who will receive the harsher judgment. So what should this warning from the Holy Scriptures itself cause us to do? To take the matter seriously and study before speaking. And we wonder why there is a dearth of sound teaching in the churchscape today.

In this book, there are two basic paths that have to be trod:
1>  there is what the bible has said in constructs of speech, verb tense and meaning, singular or plural 2>  there is the meaning of those words that reflect or at the least attempt to reflect exactly what the author meant by them. 

The proper application of both maxims is the latter should come from the former, not vice versa. Unfortunately, entire doctrines and religious systems have been built by reversing these in priority.

Where the Rubber hits the Road

Let me give you a personal example
In my former world, the entire system was built upon the structure of two verses which if understood, it was said, would unlock the deeper things of God by starting one out with a good foundation. What were those scriptures? Hebrews 6:1-2. In those scriptures, a hulking book was composed by the leader that systematically laid out these scriptures into pieces and those pieces looked at in a very detailed manner. 

Sounds good right? 

But the end result has to do with what path (as mentioned above) was taken first. If pre-suppositions are in place before the analysis begins, one is left with eisegesis – (reading into what one wants to see, not what is there).  While, this would never be admitted, the proof is in that volume itself.
I do not want to bore you but it is important to provide a little detail.  In that group, water baptism along with the baptism of the Holy Spirit and the Baptism of Fire was the preparation, and path to Christian maturity. Without those properly understood and properly applied, there was no way forward. So these three baptisms were to if I were to paraphrase the teachings: ‘they [the baptisms] were meant to be one work of the spirit’ where the result was when coupled with faith and repentance produced a born again person equipped for proper service for God. Well, in a nutshell that was kernel of the teaching. 

There was faith and repentance that were gifts and when coupled with ‘encounters’ (the baptisms) [sic- I don’t like to call the baptisms encounters here but to be honest that is context of the religious system even though they themselves would not use this word either. Works do not really fit the bill here either and do not properly reflect the sacerdotal nature of what the teachings infer and expound upon. Each baptism (water,fire,spirit) in the teaching has the Holy Spirit as the primary agent].

Why have I spent so much time on this point?

Let me ask you a question, are the details important?  They say the falsity and farce is in the details and so it is.  To put it succinctly, the details are all that matters. So, if the one leading you has not done the work and been DISCIPLINED in it, the results can be catastrophic for those that follow them.

AN EXAMPLE a study of a single word

So my example obviously is about the scriptures in Hebrews 6:1-2 with a special focus on the word ‘baptisms’ in that passage (it could be ‘washings’ in some translations). If you look at the discourse above on the three baptisms, an interpretation and a conclusion would be that the baptisms in Hebrews are water,spirit and fire. After all, what other baptisms are in the Bible? This is what was concluded, detailed and supported as the final meaning of the word in the book written that was followed in my former world as truth and so correct thinking. 

It was solid, supportable and consistent. All traits of truth.

But wait a minute….

Let’s look at the Greek words used for baptism.

Baptisma – this word is used for grouping and listing baptisms. That is, one would use it for classifying the types of baptism in the New Testament. As detailed above these would be water,spirit and fire (and Johns’ baptism). So classifying means they are related at least in the word used to describe them. Looking at the above, the word used and the conclusion reached above i.e. “ ‘the baptisms were meant to be one work of the spirit’ where the result was when coupled with faith and repentance produced a genuine fully formed and properly practicing believer” one would use this word (baptisma) of baptism to group and link these together. 

Logical right? Consistent? It would appear so – at least in the Book written as the codex of the group.

Baptismos- this world is used to contrast or make distinct for comparison the act of baptisms. Interestingly the word baptismos is also used in the gospels to describe the pharasiac rituals of washing utensils and themselves for cleansing. It is used to enumerate the types of baptisms (washings) that one might practice. The point being baptismos is used to compare and contrast not to enjoin or integrate them.

So, what word do you think was used in Hebrews 6:1-2? If you followed the teaching I did once, you would have picked the first (baptisma). Right?

You would have been wrong.

Baptismos is the word used in Hebrews 6:1-2. 

Why does this matter? 

It is because the context of Hebrews 6:1-2 is to enumerate the basic foundations or teachings of Christ – to the Hebrew. The word baptismos here is to set apart Christian baptism from any other ritual washing the Hebrew may have engaged in their former life (proper hermeneutics please). 

To make this distinction is more in context with the audience for which it was written to impart basic foundational teaching and raises Christian water baptism to is proper level in the life of that Hebrew community.

So what is the conclusion?

From an exegetical perspective:

The teaching I used to follow and mentioned above on Hebrews 6:1-2 is invalidated because of its suppositions and lack of analysis, exegesis and hermeneutics. It sounds good but the result of this one scripture even the single word ‘baptisms’ has produced an entire systematic teaching based on faulty interpretation.

Moreover, this particular teaching can invalidate a movement. In particular, it is not a stretch to say that Historic and current Latter Rain – that espouses this errant doctrine should be called into question. After all, what else did it get wrong? (There are so MANY other violations).

What is the principle violated here? It is that as the most notable reformers believed, each word has ONE meaning. The primary responsibility of those who lead today is to take that fact and meld and form teachings that reflect that ONE meaning.

As a final reflection, I shared this on this entry because, it is an illustration of the power of the word, one single word, to free the masses from religious systems and their bondage. It is the ability for one man to speak the truth and stand in the maelstrom and be untouched. That is true deliverance and freedom – not man’s words or machinations but sola scriptura.