Wednesday, January 29, 2014

Hermeneutical Problems for Hardshells IV

"I thank my God upon every remembrance of you, Always in every prayer of mine for you all making request with joy, For your fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now; Being confident of this very thing, that he which hath begun a good work in you will perform it until the day of Jesus Christ: Even as it is meet for me to think this of you all, because I have you in my heart; inasmuch as both in my bonds, and in the defence and confirmation of the gospel, ye all are partakers of my grace." (Philippians 1: 3-7)

In the preceding postings the "good work" of the above passage was for the sake of argument assumed to be "regeneration." Wuest and Robertson, two highly respected Greek scholars and bible translators, stated that the "good work" was rather an active participation in supporting Paul's missionary labors. I stated that I agreed with this interpretation and that, if true, posed a serious problem for Hardshells. I stated that I would point this out in a separate posting after I pointed out the problems the Hardshells have with making the "good work" to be "regeneration." I also showed how the Hardshells had problems with Philippians 2: 12-13 and how to harmonize it with Philippians 1: 6 and Philippians 3: 8-15.

In this posting I wish to show 1) how a proper translation and interpretation supports the view of Wuest and Robertson, and 2) that such an interpretation is a strong condemnation of Hardshellism.

In his commentary on Philippians, Wuest wrote:

"The word “fellowship” in the original means, “a joint-participation in a common interest and activity.” This was the meaning of the word “fellowship” when the Authorized Version was made. The English word has largely lost its original meaning in religious circles, although it has retained it in academic phraseology. The word “fellowship” today usually means “companionship, intercourse between individuals.”

Because of factors I mentioned in my last posting, Hardshell spokesmen, apologists, and preachers do not generally advocate studying the original languages of Scripture. Believing that the KJV is without error, and perfect in every way (being the product of God's providence and inspiration), the Hardshell does not believe that studying the original words is necessary for correct Bible interpretation. This is why very few of them today, in teaching, ever mention what is written in the original Hebrew or Greek. For them to do so would give to others the impression that the KJV is flawed and that the Bible needed correcting.

We saw in the last posting how such a view of the KJV has led many Hardshells to err on what it means to "work out" one's salvation. But now we also see it in the general way in which Hardshells use and think of the word "fellowship," the way denounced by Wuest. This would also be true of the word "communion" (which often is from the same Greek word as "fellowship").

I could give other examples where Hardshells do not practice good sound principles of Bible interpretation. It is my plan to have a series in my book soon on this very point titled "Hardshell Hermeneutics." Perhaps the postings in this series should be made chapters in that planned series.

When the Hardshell Bible student reads Paul's words about "your fellowship in the gospel" he interprets Paul to be referring simply to “companionship, intercourse between individuals.” The Greek word "koinōnia," however, though it includes this much, also includes the idea of participation, of joint participation, as in a marital fellowship. Thus, if salvation involves a sinner becoming married or engaged to Christ (and it does), it must also include that sinner entering into communion and fellowship with Christ, with intercourse with him, and with an active participation and partnership with Christ.

Hardshells generally affirm that being in the fellowship of Christ is absolutely unessential for being eternally saved. Today's Hardshells teach that most of the saved in Heaven died without having ever experienced the "fellowship of the Spirit" (2: 1), or "the fellowship of his sufferings" (3: 10). They teach this because of their erroneous views on the word "fellowship" and its meaning.

If they understood the Greek word, then they would recognize that "joint participation" is a better and more complete English translation than "fellowship." Then the "fellowship of the Spirit" would become, in their minds, "joint participation of the Spirit" and with such knowledge they would hopefully be less inclined, or able, to think that "fellowship" concerned only a "time salvation." With a more correct idea of what the apostle had in mind when he used the Greek word "koinonia," the phrase "fellowship of his sufferings" becomes "joint participation of his suffering," and the "communion of the blood of Christ" (same Greek word) and the "communion of the body of Christ" (I Cor. 10: 16) will include the idea of joint participation in the blood and body of Christ. Participating in the Spirit, in the sufferings of Christ, in the blood and body of Christ, are not for a mere time salvation.

Wuest continued:

"This was the Philippian’s joint-participation with Paul in a common interest and activity, that of preaching the gospel. The preposition “in” is a preposition of motion. This common interest and activity was in the progress of the gospel. The Philippians supported Paul with their prayers and finances while he went about his missionary labors. This is what he is thanking God for. And this is part of that “whole remembrance” of them for which he is grateful."

Remember that this is also the interpretation of Robertson and others. It is really the proper way to interpret the words and context. Your "fellowship in the gospel from the first day until now" is "your joint participation in the furtherance of the gospel from the first day until now."

It is also what is included in Paul's statement that "ye all are partakers of my grace," The Greek word for "partaker" is "sygkoinōnos" and means, according to Strong, Thayer, and other Greek scholars, a "participant with others in anything," or a "joint partner." Thus, a better translation would read - "you all being joint partners (and co-sharers) with me in this grace."

Further, the word "grace" has been used by Paul elsewhere in regard to being involved in the spreading of the Gospel. In II Corinthians 8: 1-3 Paul says that the financial contributions of "the churches of Macedonia" were examples of God's "grace." Wrote Paul:

"Praying us with much intreaty that we would receive the gift, and take upon us the fellowship of the ministering to the saints. And this they did, not as we hoped, but first gave their own selves to the Lord, and unto us by the will of God. Insomuch that we desired Titus, that as he had begun, so he would also finish in you the same grace also." (verses 4-6)

What does Paul mean when he says that he desired that "this grace" be finished in the Corinthian believers? Is it not the grace or favor shown towards the needy saints and missionaries? This interpretation is confirmed by the words of verse seven.

"Therefore, as ye abound in every thing, in faith, and utterance, and knowledge, and in all diligence, and in your love to us, see that ye abound in this grace also." What grace? Is it not the grace of Christian giving? Finally, notice verse 19:

"And not that only, but who was also chosen of the churches to travel with us with this grace, which is administered by us to the glory of the same Lord..."

Obviously "this grace" is the favor shown to poor saints by the financial support of other saints.

Paul wrote:

"For it hath pleased them of Macedonia and Achaia to make a certain contribution for the poor saints which are at Jerusalem." (Rom. 15: 26)

What is interesting here is the fact that the word "contribution" comes from "koinōnia." On this Dr. Gill wrote:

" finish the collection they had begun; which collection is here called a contribution, or "communion", as the word signifies; it being one part of the communion of churches and of saints, to relieve their poor, by communicating to them, and to assist each other therein; and in which they have not only fellowship with one another, but with Christ the head; who takes what is done to the least of his brethren as done to himself: the persons for whom the collection was made, are "the poor saints", or "the poor of the saints"; for not all the saints, but the poor among them, were the objects of this generosity..." (Commentary)

Of course, as we have seen, not only are the contributions made to suffering saints a joint participation and partnership, but also contributions made to missionaries and evangelists. Further, such giving is an example of the grace of God and those who give to needy saints and missionaries are partners in such a grace or favor.

In another passage Paul spoke of "your liberal distribution unto them, and unto all men" (II Cor. 9: 13) Notice that the Greek word "koinōnia" is translated as "distribution." Thus, like the word "contribution" this word also involves giving financial support.

Only when one sees how "koinōnia" first of all means "joint participation" does it make sense to see how the words "contribution" and "distribution" fit more with this definition than with the bare idea of mutual enjoyment of each other's presence. One who contributes and distributes his resources for the benefit of poor saints and for the needs of missionaries of the cross is a joint partner in service to Christ.

Notice how the KJV translators chose the word "communicate" to translate "koinōnia."

"But to do good and to communicate forget not" (Heb. 13: 16)

Words are not what is communicated but monetary resources. And, the Greek word for "communicate" is "koinōnia."

The words "you are joint partners with me in this grace," naturally connect with "your joint participation in the furtherance of the gospel."

Further, in the same chapter, in the immediate context, a few verses later, Paul speaks of "the furtherance of the gospel," (vs. 13) which words do not represent the introduction of the thought, but a continuation of the subject.  He also gives examples of how the gospel was furthered and advanced. It involves being "bold to speak the word without fear" (vs. 14), of helping others to "preach Christ" (vs. 15, 16) of insuring that "Christ is preached" (vs. 18)

Problem #1 - Hardshells are Partners in supporting Missionaries?

Wuest continued:

"This joint-participation in the work of propagating the gospel had gone on from the first day when Lydia had opened her home to the preaching of the Word (Acts 16:15), until the moment when Paul was writing this letter. Paul was grateful to God for all their help. And he was thanking them also. There is a most delicate touch here that cannot be brought out in any English translation, since the English language does not have the idiom. In the Greek there is a definite article before the adverb “now.” That is, Paul was thanking God for the joint-participation of the Philippians with him in the great missionary enterprise from the first day until the now. The article “the” is a delicate Pauline finger pointing to the gift which the Philippians had just sent with Epaphroditus, their messenger. Paul thanks them in so many words at the end of his letter. But here he does not want to appear too hastily and obtrusively grateful. So he thanks God for all of their help, and points a delicate finger consisting of the Greek definite article, used before an adverb, at the most recent gift as included in the “whole remembrance.”"

The evidence for the correctness of the view of Wuest and Robertson increases. The meaning of the Greek word koinōnia is evidence. The preposition, syntax, and other linguistic factors, represent added evidence. The context of the epistle itself is further evidence, as Wuest shows (the church had supported missions since its beginning). The remainder of the letter makes reference to the support that the Philippians had sent to Paul to help him do his missionary labors. They were "partners" of the apostle in his missionary work.

In the marital "koinōnia" husbands and wives are partners and they jointly participate in the communion and fellowship. At the root of communion is union. There is no hint in Scripture that the Apostles conceived of communion with Christ apart from union with Christ, as do the Hardshells of today. One who has participated in Christ and his atonement has also become a partaker.

Wuest translates this verse as follows:

"I am constantly thanking my God for your joint-participation in the furtherance of the gospel from the first day until this particular moment."

Then, in commenting upon verse six, he wrote:

"The words “being confident,” have a slight causitive force in the Greek. Coupled with his thanksgiving for their past generous aid in the cause of foreign missions, is his thanksgiving for their future aid, since he is confident of their future help. The word translated “confident,” speaks of the fact that Paul had come to a settled persuasion concerning the fact that the God who had begun in the Philippians the good work of giving to missions, would bring it to a successful conclusion right up to the day of Christ Jesus."

He continued:

"Verse seven "The word translated “meet” has the idea of “right” or “just.” That is, Paul says that it is no more than right or just on his part to think this of them, namely, their continued joint-participation with him in missionary work."

A.T. Robertson wrote;

"For your fellowship (επι τηι κοινωνιαι υμων — epi tēi Koinéōniāi humōn). “On the basis of your contribution” as in 2 Corinthians 8:4; 2 Corinthians 9:13; Acts 2:42. The particular kind of “partnership” or “fellowship” involved is the contribution made by the Philippians for the spread of the gospel (Philemon 1:7 συγκοινωνους — sugKoinéōnous and Philemon 4:14 where συγκοινωνησαντες — sugKoinéōnēsantes occurs)."

"In furtherance of the gospel (εις το ευαγγελιον — eis to euaggelion). “For the gospel.”

"From the first day until now (απο της πρωτης ημερας αχρι του νυν — apo tēs prōtēs hēmeras achri tou nun). As when in Thessalonica (Philemon 4:15.), in Corinth (Acts 18:5; 2 Corinthians 11:7-10), and now in Rome."

Problem #2 - No Hardshell "good work"

Not only are Hardshells guilty of not jointly participating in the furtherance of the Gospel, but also show no signs of God having done the same "good work" in them as he did in the Philippians (1: 6). They are also not partners in the same grace as that before described in relation to financially supporting missionaries. These are serious problems for my Hardshell brethren. Would to God they would wake up and see their errors and repent of them.

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