Friday, July 11, 2014

Great Words In God’s Word: Zoopoieo = “Quicken”

By Sidney A. Hatch in Brief Bible Studies, Vol.9, No. 4, p.18 (1978).

“The Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them.” –John 5:21.

A great word in God’s word is the Greek, zoopoieo. The King James Version translates this word three different ways, “quicken,” “make alive,” and “give life.”

Zoopoieo’s first occurrence is in John 5:21. There it is twice represented by “quicken”: “For as the Father raiseth up the dead, and quickeneth them; even so the Son quickeneth whom he will.”

Zoopoieo is made up, obviously, of two parts, zoo- and poieo. Zoo- or zoe means “life” in the sense of resurrection life. This is indicated by the use of “quicken” or zoopoieo in I Corinthians 15:45. There we read that the first man Adam was made a “living soul.” The last Adam, however, was made a “quickening spirit.” As a resurrected person (“spirit”), our Lord will “quicken” people or make alive in the resurrection.

The second part, poieo, means “to make,” in the sense of produce, construct, form, or fashion (Thayer). It is equivalent to the Hebrew ‘asah, which means “to make” or “produce by labour” Gesenius). ‘Asah is used in reference to the manufacture or construction of any thing.
Putting these two parts together, we have the basic sense of zoopoieo, “to make alive with resurrection life,” “to construct alive with resurrection life,”

Here, then, is a key to such passages as Romans 8:11 or I Peter 3:18-19. In the former, Paul is giving the guarantee of our resurrection. If the new nature from God dwells in us, then He will someday “make alive” or “fashion alive” our mortal bodies.

In the latter passage, Peter writes that our Lord was “quickened by the Spirit: By which also he went and preached unto the spirits in prison.” Our Lord was “made alive” as a resurrection being. As such, He went and made a proclamation to the spirits or fallen angels in prison.
Another significant passage is Romans 4:17. Following the translation of the Moffatt Bible, Abraham believed in a God who makes the dead alive (zoopoieo), and calls into being what does not exist. Non-existence in the intermediate state does not prevent God from making the dead alive (zoopoieo).

The remaining passages where zoopoieo occurs are John 6:63, I Corinthians 15:22, 36, 2 Corinthians 3:6, and Galatians 3:21. Zoopoieo never implies that the resurrection is a case of reincarnation, whereby an “immaterial entity” or “immaterial soul” reenters the human body. This is the doctrine of the Greeks. In John 6:63 we read that it is “the spirit that quickeneth.” But “spirit” is used there psychologically, as in Genesis 2:7. The spirit of life or life-force must be put into the resurrection body, just as the breath of life was put into Adam. (Who can tell how radiant and beautiful the resurrection body will be? Its colour and glory will come from spirit, not blood.) Resurrection, not reincarnation, is the Christian distinctive.

The lexicons of Thayer and Abott-Smith indicate that in certain ancient Greek writers, zoopoieo meant to “produce alive” or “bear living young.” If used this way in Scrituure, the resurrection would be a birth from the dead. This is certainly its sense in the context of Romans 4:17. Isaac’s birth was a “birth from the dead.” So also our Lord’s resurrection was a “birth from the dead” (See Sanday and Headlam, Romans).

Zoopoieo provides for us one particular aspect of the resurrection. Other words bring out how the resurrection is an awakening, a standing up, or a transformation. But zoopoieo indicates that the resurrection will also be a re-creation, It points to the workmanship of God.

God was the architect and creator of Adam. He will be the architect and creator of the Christian in resurrection. He will produce us alive in the sense of putting us together again and infusing us with life. He will speak to the earth and cause it to bring forth the dead.

Thursday, July 3, 2014

Contemplating Our Commission

Contemplating Our Commission
A Reflective Exegesis of Matthew 28:19-20a
by Al Maxey

There are several locations where one may find our Lord's so-called "Great Commission," with each rendition being somewhat unique -- Matt. 28:19-20; Mark 16:15-16; Luke 24:47; John 20:21; Acts 1:8. Nevertheless, the commission of the Lord Jesus is quite obvious: unto all those instructed in the eternal truths of the Kingdom befalls the divine imperative to share this saving knowledge with the rest of humanity, as they have opportunity, as they go forth into the world about them! As those who themselves have been discipled, they are to disciple others. Some refer to this as "exponential evangelism" --- disciples making disciples making disciples ... etc. In Matthew 28:19 Jesus Christ commands, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations" (NIV). There is only one Greek imperative in the Great Commission. The other three statements are each participial clauses. The phrase "make disciples" in the above statement by Jesus Christ is the single imperative. Thus, it is the only part of the commission that is stated as a direct command.

Although many translations render this Greek verb (matheteuo) as "make disciples," some choose a different wording. The KJV, for example, has: "Go ye therefore, and teach all nations." The Message has: "Go out and train everyone you meet, far and near." Young's Literal Translation has, "Having gone, then, disciple all the nations." The charge of our Lord Jesus in this passage is quite literally: "While going, be ye disciplers." Thus, as we go about our journey through life, we are to be instructingtraining and discipling those with whom we come into contact. That first participle is from the Greek verb poreuomai, which simply means "to go, to pass from one place to another, to journey, travel about." So, while we journey through life we are to be about the business of discipling. In other words, we should take advantage of every opportunity that comes our way to encourage others to become pupils of Jesus Christ; learners of our Lord; students of the Savior. Our commission, then, is to disciple the people with whom we come into contact; instruct them in the truths of God's kingdom, that they may come to the point of conviction and acceptance of these saving truths, and thus be brought into a saving relationship with the Lord through an active (demonstrative) faith.

Those students of Christ who reach that point of conviction, and who desire to accept the free gift of God's grace offered through the atoning blood of Christ Jesus, are to be immersed, an action evidencing their saving faith. Who do we baptize? That's right -- disciples, or more accurately: those who were being instructed or discipled by us. Notice what Bro. H. Leo Boles wrote on this passage from Matthew's gospel account -- "Those who are 'discipled' are to be baptized; they were not to baptize 'all the nations,' but those of 'all nations' who were 'discipled.' ... Only those of the nations who are made disciples by preaching the gospel are to be baptized" [A Commentary on the Gospel According to Matthew, p. 564]. Indeed, what possible benefit is there to immersing one who has NOT been discipled in the teachings of Jesus Christ?

Both prior to conversion, and also subsequent to conversion, disciples of Christ are to be instructed in the teachings of our Lord. Thus, while we journey through life discipling others, we are also instructing them in our Lord's teaching. "To disciple a person to Christ is to bring him into the relation of pupil to teacher" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 595]. After these students of Jesus have been brought to the point of personal commitment and acceptance, and have demonstrated the same by their immersion, we are to keep on "teaching them to obey everything I have commanded you" (Matt. 28:20,NIV). In other words, our training and instruction is to be never-ending. For as long as we live we are to be engaged in discipling others, and we ourselves are to be the recipients of continued discipling. "To disciple a person to Jesus Christ is to lead that one to become a follower of Christ, to be a learner in His school, to be obedient to His commands, to become a Christian. To 'make disciples' means to give all kinds of instruction for entrance into the church of our Lord" [H. Leo Boles, p. 564]. "Those persons who are 'discipled' to Jesus, and who have then been baptized, are to be taught 'to observe all things' which train and develop a child of God. There are three things that are commanded in the commission to be done, namely: (1) make disciples, (2) baptize those who are discipled, (3) teach them to be obedient to all the commands of God" [ibid, p. 565].

Some brethren suggest that the participial phrases depict the means whereby one is made a "disciple." I could not disagree more! The first participial phrase, which speaks of our "going," or of our journeying through life, is indeed tied to the "discipling" of others -- as we are going, we are discipling (or, since they both appear as aorists, we should say: as we go, we disciple). However, the last two participial phrases are tied to our obligation to those whom we have discipled in the teachings of Christ. Those who have been instructed in His truths, and who are ready to commit their lives to Him, are then immersed. As converts to Christ they are then the recipients of continued training and instruction ... as, indeed, we all are. "The syntax of the Greek participles for 'baptizing' and 'teaching' forbids the conclusion that baptizing and teaching are to be construed solely as the means of making disciples" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 597]!! "Baptizing and teaching are not the means of making disciples," but rather "the response of discipleship is baptism and instruction! Thus, baptism and teaching are not coordinate -- either grammatically or conceptually -- with the action of making disciples" [ibid].

  • Dr. John W. Ritenbaugh, in the Forerunner Commentary, asserts, "As they go, they are to make disciples. Teaching and baptizing do not make a person a disciple, though they play a part. Just because a person is baptized does not mean he is converted. Nor does it mean he is a member of the Church of God or part of the Family of God. Just because he has been taught the way of our God does not mean that he has fully accepted and committed himself to what has been taught." This biblical scholar goes on to note that the Lord places the emphasis on the discipling of others, who, when they reach the point of accepting faith with regard to these teachings, will evidence that faith in an act of faith known as baptism. They will then submit to the further instruction that comes for all committed disciples of Christ as they seek daily to walk within the light as He is in the light. Naturally, in our early encounters with those whom we hope to disciple, we seek to impart only the very basics, so that they might come to appreciate who Jesus is and what He expects of our lives. But, we dare not leave these students/disciples at this basic level. Therefore, we soon intensify our discipling efforts with them so as to "make disciplined followers" of our Lord; men and women who are willing to fullycommit to living lives of dedicated service to Him, a commitment given public expression in baptism.
Far too frequently, I fear, we have sought to make immersion the imperative in the Commission given by our Lord Jesus (and this is especially true of those within the legalistic, patternistic factions of the Churches of Christ). Yes, Christ's "instructions include an imperative surrounded by three participial clauses" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 718]. This is a textual truth none will deny. The imperative, however, is "make disciples." Then we baptize THEM (i.e., disciples of Christ Jesus). Baptism is not what one does to make a disciple; baptism is what one does who is already a disciple!! "The 'them' who are baptized are those who have been made disciples" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 597]!! At some point, those who are students of the Lord will come to a point of faith and conviction about those truths being learned. Their faith will lead them to accept His free gift of grace, and that faith will be evidenced not only in their willingness to turn from their former course to a walk with Christ (which is repentance), and a confession of Him as their Lord, but also in a symbolic act (baptism) showing their connection, through faith, with His death, burial and resurrection. A disciple who has been brought to a state of saving faith in God's saving grace will have no hesitation in manifesting this faith in the manner requested by our Lord Himself. One of the first public proclamations of a committed disciple will be baptism, and that will be followed by a life devoted to additional evidentiary acts of faith (i.e., loving one's brethren, acts of benevolence, sharing the good news, etc.). Their instruction in the will of the Lord for their lives will also continue throughout the remainder of their lives, so that they might grow in their understanding and appreciation and even application of His Will.

Those who are devoted to foreign missions often regard the word "Go," in the Great Commission, as the imperative. It is not. Indeed, there is nothing in that term itself that suggests we are required to "go abroad" to make disciples. "Because 'going' is a participle, we could read 'as you go' (essentially: 'on your way'), implying that one need not cross cultural boundaries to fulfill this commission" [Dr. Craig S. Keener, A Commentary on the Gospel of Matthew, p. 718]. "Jesus does not command, 'Go!' -- the participle is merely auxiliary to the main verb. The heart of the commission resides in the one wordmatheteusate," which, of course, means "make disciples" [R.C.H. Lenski, The Interpretation of St. Matthew's Gospel, p. 1172]. "In the Greek, 'go' -- like 'baptizing' and 'teaching' -- is a participle. Only the verb 'make disciples' is imperative. Some have deduced from this that Jesus' commission is simply to make disciples 'as we go' (i.e., wherever we are) and that it constitutes no basis for going somewhere special in order to serve as missionaries!! There is something to this view!!" [The Expositor's Bible Commentary, vol. 8, p. 595].

There are countless misconceptions associated with the Commission of Christ to His disciples. Some people perceive it as the "origin of the sacrament of baptism." Others suggest that since the charge to teach these immersed disciples follows the command to make disciples and to baptize them, that this is therefore a mandate for infant baptism. Scholars have argued for this view vigorously for centuries. It is also believed by many that the "baptismal formula" is specified in this passage -- i.e., we must baptize "in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit." A few commentators (R.C.H. Lenski being chief among them) even suggest that if these words are not uttered over the candidate precisely as written, then the entire baptism is invalidated. I have encountered this same thinking among the legalists within my own faith-heritage!! Just recently a father failed to "utter the formula" prior to baptizing his son, and I had someone approach me after the baptism and say that she wasn't sure the baptism "took." Many scholars, especially within the Catholic Church, see this passage as one of the strongest supports for the doctrine of "the Trinity." Still others argue that since the word translated "name" is singular, this is instead a strong argument against the Trinity. Some suggest the Commission was only for the apostles; others argue it is for all disciples. In short, there have been innumerable debates, and much division, over this passage for centuries. In my view, it all misses what our Lord sought to convey that day.

Simply stated, our Lord has called each of us to a life of discipleship and discipling. We are lifelong students of the Master, who seek to encourage others around us to also become lifelong students of the Master. It requires no extensive theological training, no expensive missions to a distant land. It simply states: as you are going about your daily walk, wherever you may be, seek opportunities to share your faith with those about you! Introduce them to Jesus, help them learn of Him and His message of love and grace, help them to grow to the point of conviction and commitment to Him. When their faith compels them to renounce their former walk and to begin that journey with Jesus, encourage them to manifest that commitment of faith through the symbolic act of baptism, which is a public testimony to both them and those about them of their acceptance of the atoning work of God's Son. Then, help them grow in their understanding and appreciation of, and compliance with, the commands of Jesus Himself (which aren't burdensome, but which are simply characterized by an active love for God and each other). Brethren, our Commission really is just that simple. Sadly, our sectarian squabbles have caused us to lose sight of this, and our perception of the Commission has become more a mandate to proselytize the world to our parties and patterns. The countless denominations, factions, schisms and sects is the pitiful result. May God awaken us to His true intent and purpose! May He help us to lay aside LAW, and to embrace LOVE. By so doing, we will find fulfilling the Commission of Christ to be as natural a response as breathing ... and just as life-sustaining.