The New English Translation is one of my favorite Bible versions to use for study. I’ve been reading it for a couple years now, but there are still times when a particular translation choice catches my eye. It’s just different enough from some of the other translations I’m more familiar with (like KJV and WEB) that it makes me think more deeply about a verse. For example, look at these translations for a verse from 1 Corinthians:
But of Him you are in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God—and righteousness and sanctification and redemption1 Corinthians 1:30, NKJV
Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus, who was made to us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification, and redemption1 Corinthians 1:30, WEB
He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption1 Corinthians 1:30, NET
The “of Him you are in Christ Jesus” version doesn’t match sentence patterns we use in modern English, and so the meaning is a little fuzzy. “Because of him, you are in Christ Jesus” strikes a good balance between literally translating the Greek and getting the point across in English. The NET is less literal, but really makes the main point clear to English readers: you have a relationship with Jesus Christ–you’re in Him–because of what God does.
Think about the circumstances of your call, brothers and sisters. Not many were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were born to a privileged position. But God chose what the world thinks foolish to shame the wise, and God chose what the world thinks weak to shame the strong. God chose what is low and despised in the world, what is regarded as nothing, to set aside what is regarded as something, so that no one can boast in his presence. He is the reason you have a relationship with Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, so that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”1 Corinthians 1:26-31, NET. Bold italics in original; quote from Jer 9:24.
God Himself chose each of us. He’s the reason we can have a relationship with Jesus. We know that, of course, but it’s still good to meditate on “the circumstances of your call.” We owe Him everything.
The Closeness of God
It’s vital that we value our relationship with both God the Father and God the Son. They’re a family and They call Themselves “one.” While studying things like the question of which God-being talked with people in the Old Testament helps us understand God’s nature and plan, in many cases it’s not useful to try separating Father and Son. The Hebrew word for “God,” elohim, is plural and the Greek theos is used much the same way. Even when they make distinctions between their roles, it’s usually to show how closely They’re working together (John’s gospel is full of these).
So Jesus answered them, “I tell you the solemn truth, the Son can do nothing on his own initiative, but only what he sees the Father doing. For whatever the Father does, the Son does likewise. For the Father loves the Son and shows him everything he does, and will show him greater deeds than these, so that you will be amazed. For just as the Father raises the dead and gives them life, so also the Son gives life to whomever he wishes. Furthermore, the Father does not judge anyone, but has assigned all judgment to the Son, so that all people will honor the Son just as they honor the Father. The one who does not honor the Son does not honor the Father who sent him.
“I tell you the solemn truth, the one who hears my message and believes the one who sent me has eternal life and will not be condemned, but has crossed over from death to life. I tell you the solemn truth, a time is coming—and is now here—when the dead will hear the voice of the Son of God, and those who hear will live. For just as the Father has life in himself, thus he has granted the Son to have life in himself, and he has granted the Son authority to execute judgment, because he is the Son of Man.”John 5:19-27, NET
Look how closely they work together. No rivalry, no concern over who does what or who gets credit. There’s closeness; oneness between them. They fill some different roles and relate to us in different ways, but they’re so close that Jesus said the most important commandment is, “Listen, Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart, with all your soul, with all your mind, and with all your strength” (Mark 12:29, NET).
Can’t Have One Without the Other
There aren’t many Christians who completely deny either the Father or the Son. However, there are some who question Jesus’s divinity, or who try to avoid the Father because they think He’s the scary God from the Old Testament. Both of those views are dangerous, and so are any others that deny or devalue either member of the God-family.
Who is the liar but the person who denies that Jesus is the Christ? This one is the antichrist: the person who denies the Father and the Son. Everyone who denies the Son does not have the Father either. The person who confesses the Son has the Father also. As for you, what you have heard from the beginning must remain in you. If what you heard from the beginning remains in you, you also will remain in the Son and in the Father.1 John 2:22-24, NET
We need to stay close to the Son and the Father, recognizing both are God and working to build a relationship with them. We need to understand that the Father enables our relationship with the Son, and no one gets to the Father except through Jesus (John 6:44; 14:6).
Watch out, so that you do not lose the things we have worked for, but receive a full reward. Everyone who goes on ahead and does not remain in the teaching of Christ does not have God. The one who remains in this teaching has both the Father and the Son. If anyone comes to you and does not bring this teaching, do not receive him into your house and do not give him any greeting2 John 1:8-10, NET
We might think there’s no danger of losing Jesus or the Father, but John gives his readers a serious warning. He tells us to “watch out” so that we don’t lose the things we’ve worked so hard to learn and the relationships God is building with us. Denying God or walking away from Him disrupts relationship. He can forgive us and welcome us back, but He doesn’t force us to stay with Him if we decide to walk away. So we need to be on guard against our own boredom, discontent, doubt, and anything else that might tug us away from God.
Understanding God helps us draw closer to Him. We’re supposed to imitate the sort of oneness the Father and Son share, and we can’t do our best to be like them unless we know what they are like. Our participation in their oneness–in other words, becoming part of their family–is so important that Jesus made it a central part of His prayer in the garden before His crucifixion.
“I am not praying only on their behalf, but also on behalf of those who believe in me through their testimony, that they will all be one, just as you, Father, are in me and I am in you. I pray that they will be in us, so that the world will believe that you sent me. The glory you gave to me I have given to them, that they may be one just as we are one—I in them and you in me—that they may be completely one, so that the world will know that you sent me, and you have loved them just as you have loved me.”John 17: 20-23, NET
The idea of us all being one in Christ is one that Paul expresses using a metaphor. We’re all parts of Jesus’s body, and He is the head (1 Cor 12:12-27; Eph. 1:22-23; Col. 1:15-20). If you’re an ear or a pinky finger you don’t just go running off; you stay as part of the body. If not, well, body parts that get cut off just rot into a pile of flesh; they’re not alive on their own. And I think we can stretch the metaphor far enough to say something similar happens to us if we’re not connected to the Head and to Our Father.
The sort of oneness that Jesus says He longs to have with us is the sort that we should want to pursue as well, with God the Father, Jesus Christ, and with all the people in their church. “All” is a pretty tall order (and also impossible to do in our physical lives), but we can start with our local congregations. We likely have some people in our church groups that we get along with better than others, but we also get to have a deeper-than-blood relationship with them because we’re all part of Jesus’s body. The value that God the Father and Jesus place on relationships with us and between us is extremely high, and that shows us how much we ought to value the relationships we have with them and with each other. With God as the central point of our relationships, we can deepen the level of relationships we have and our appreciation for how precious those relationships are.
Featured image by Claudine Chaussé from Lightstock
Song Recommendation: You are Holy (Prince of Peace) – Michael W. Smith (this as been playing through my head for a week)