Have you ever caught yourself thinking it’s great that you aren’t like all those people who don’t know the Lord? Ever patted yourself on the back, glad you have a special truth most other people don’t know about? Or been proud that you’re one of the few God chose to make a Christian?
The truths God has revealed to us are precious. But God didn’t give them to us because we’re anything special or because we have some innate ability to live a holier life than other people. He’s not out to make us proud of our moral or spiritual superiority. In fact, pride is hateful to God (Prov. 6:16-17; 16:5).
I’m sure most of us don’t go around with an attitude that intentionally says, “Look at me! I’m such a very good Christian and I’m better than other people.” But I also think that it’s easy for us to slip into a habit of acting as if we think something very similar. We set up an “us versus them” in our minds where we’re the ones with special knowledge and all the people who don’t believe what we do are in some way less than us. And that’s not a good place to start if we want to reach out to people in a godly way. Read more →
There really isn’t a word for “thank” in the Old Testament. When worlds like “thanks” or “thanksgiving” appear in English versions of Hebrew scripture, they’re translated from words with the primary meaning of praise and/or confession. It’s a different thing than what we mean when we say “thank you” in English.
Much like we saw last week in the New Testament connection between thanksgiving and grace, the concept of thanks in the Old Testament is inextricably linked to confession, praise, and sacrifice. There’s something more/different going on in these words than we might think just reading it in translation.
Confession, Praise, Sacrifice
The Hebrew word yadah (H3034) is a root with the primary meaning of “to acknowledge or confess.” It is used in three main ways: to confess individual or national sins, to proclaim or declare God’s attributes and works, and to convey man’s praise of men. Its derivative todah (H 8426) has a similar meaning and it is also used of the sacrifices connected to praise and thanksgiving.
Enter his gates with thanksgiving (todah), his courts with praise. Give thanks (yadah) to him; bless his name. (Ps. 100:4, LEB)
Yadah and todah in relation to God are about confessing or acknowledging something that is true. We can confess that we are sinful before God, as all are (Rom. 3:23). We can also confess that God is worthy of all praise, exhalation, and thanks (2 Sam. 22:50). In fact, yadah “is one of the key words for ‘praise'” in the Hebrew scriptures. It’s rendered thanks only because “praise leads regularly to thanksgiving” (Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament, entry 847). Read more →
There’s a deep scriptural connection between thankfulness and grace. While it’s obvious that we should be thankful for God’s grace, what’s not so obvious in English is how closely the two concepts are linked by the Greek language that God picked for writing the New Testament. Here’s an example:
the service of this ministry is not only supplying the needs of the saints, but also is overflowing through many expressions of thanksgiving (eucharistia) to God. Through the proven character of this service they will glorify God because of the submission of your confession to the gospel of Christ and the generosity of your participation toward them and toward everyone, and they are longing for you in their prayers for you, because of the surpassing grace (charis) of God to you. Thanks (charis) be to God for his indescribable gift! (2 Cor. 9:12-15, LEB)
The Greek word charis (G5485) is typically translated “grace.” We usually define it as “unmerited favor.” It can also indicate what grace causes – joy, favor, gratification, acceptance, benefits, thanks, and gratitude. It’s etymological relatives eucharistos (G2170), eucharisteo (G2168), and eucharistia (G2169) are the words for thanks, thankfulness, and thanksgiving.
Direction of Grace
As I read through the Bible verses where charis appears, a pattern emerges in the translations. If charis is shown by God to man we call it grace (e.g. John 1:16-17). If charis is shown by man toward God we call it thanks (e.g. 1 Cor. 15:57). If charis is shown between men it’s a favor or credit (Luke 6:32-34; Acts 24:27), thanks (Luke 17:9), or occasionally a chance to minister grace (Eph. 4:29).
Receiving the grace of God should make us respond with something so similar, so closely connected, it can be called by the same word, charis. More commonly, though, “thanks” is translated from a word made by combining “eu” and “charis.” The word eu (G2095) means “good” or “well.” Literally, the combined word means “well favored,” though we usually take the implied meaning “to be grateful” or “thankful” (Strong’s on G2170, eucharistos). Read more →
Suppose you’ve been invited to meet the Queen of England. You don’t just walk in, wave, and say, “Hey there Elizabeth.” There are rules, protocol, and etiquette. You should bring a gift, remember to use the right form of address (“Your Majesty” first, then “ma’am”), and not turn reach out and touch her. These days, you won’t get in too much trouble for a slip in convention. But there have been many countries and many times throughout history that approaching royalty in the wrong way could get you killed.
Traditionally, people have recognized something special about royalty. Part of this was religious — rulers were seen as gods, or representatives of the gods, or appointed by God. It’s also a matter of recognizing and respecting an authority role. Even in countries without a monarchy, we’ll still tend to recognize that some social positions command a certain amount of respect (i.e. you won’t talk with your boss the same way as a close friend and you’d probably show the President even more respect).
A Question From God
The Bible applies several titles to God that demand respect, including Father, Master, Lord, and King. But do we take them seriously? Historically, God’s people have fallen short in this regard.
A son honors his father, and a servant his master. If I am a father, then where is my honor? And if I am a master, where is the respect due me? Says Yahweh of Armies to you, priests, who despise my name. (Mal. 1:6, WEB)
Yes, God loves you and He wants to be your friend. But we’re not to forget who He is and the respect due Him. “‘For I am a great King,’ says Yahweh of Armies, ‘and my name is awesome among the nations’.” (Mal. 1″14, WEB). God deserves more respect than worldly authority figures, but do we even give Him that much? Read more →
What do you do after becoming a Christian? You’ve acknowledged your need for a savior, repented of your past sins, confessed Jesus Christ as your Lord and Savior, and received the gift of God’s grace. The foundations are in place. Now what?
There are some Christians, even Christian teachers, who don’t really know how to answer this question. Those who teach we have no role to play in our salvations and that nothing’s expected of us after conversion are left in a tough pickle. One could, according to this theory, have someone convert to Christianity then go out lying, sleeping around, and stealing but still be considered saved as a part of God’s family. And even the good people who wouldn’t dream of doing something like that are still left with the question, “What do I do now?”
God answers this question for us in the pages of His Bible. You can’t do anything to make God owe you salvation; it is a gift that He chooses to give freely to those who respond to His call. But once you’ve been given this gift your life is supposed to change. Salvation transforms the way you live and gives us a purpose.
Choose A Way
In Acts, Christians are described as people who follow “the way” of the Lord (Acts 9:2; 18:25-26; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22). It’s a metaphorical use of the Greek word hodos (G3598), meaning “a course of conduct.” When used literally, hodos refers to the roadway you travel on a journey. In both cases, use of this word implies motion, travel, and activity.
Christians aren’t meant to stagnate. They’re meant to walk through life in a certain way. We get to choose whether we’ll walk in the ways of men or the way of God. And God’s instructions in the New Testament for how to walk look a lot like His laws about how to behave from the Old Testament. The law can’t bring salvation and it was never intended to. But it was a revelation of God’s character and He hasn’t changed. Our conduct still matters to Him.
Ephesians is a fantastic place to start diving deeper into this topic. Here, Paul reminds his readers that they “once walked according to the course of this world.” They were “children of disobedience” influenced by God’s adversary and acting in ways contrary to God’s teachings (Eph. 2:2-3, WEB).
But God, being rich in mercy, for his great love with which he loved us, even when we were dead through our trespasses, made us alive together with Christ (by grace you have been saved)(Eph. 2:4-5, WEB)
Trespasses — sin — kills people. That’s why the choice of whether or not to follow God has always been presented as a choice between life and death (Deut. 30:15-18). Grace lets us choose life even after we’ve done things worthy of death. But it doesn’t give us license to sin or permission to sit around twiddling our thumbs. Read more →
When we think of “grace” we typically throw out definitions like “unmerited favor,” “free gift,” and “unearned salvation.” And those concepts are certainly included in the meanings of the Hebrew chen (H2580) and Greek charis (G5485). Both words translated “grace” are about good things we don’t deserve being graciously given to us by God.
But we also tend to make assumptions about God’s grace that aren’t necessarily found in scripture. For example, we assume that because the favor is unearned there aren’t any expectations laid on those who accept it. We think because the gift is free it can’t be revoked, rejected, and/or lost. We project cultural and traditional assumptions onto scripture that can cloud the meaning.
Several weeks ago, a Messianic Rabbi gave what’s probably the best message I’ve ever heard on grace (click here to listen to it). My goal in this post isn’t to share his entire message, but to narrow-in on one of the points he made that really captured my attention.
Saved By Grace
The very first time we see the word “grace” in the Bible is in reference to Noah. At this time, God looks down from heaven and sees “the wickedness of man was great in the earth, and that every intent of the thoughts of his heart was only evil continually” (Gen. 6:5). For that reason, God chose to bring judgement on the earth in the form of a flood. “But Noah found grace in the eyes of the Lord” (Gen. 6:6). Read more →