Christian Behavior --Part 1

Christian Behavior
Part 1

James Gunn

The history of the entire English-speaking world may be traced by an examination of the English language. Words of both Anglo-Saxon and Latin derivation had been introduced into our language at different periods, under different circumstances, and as the outcome of extraordinary events. Consequently, the epochs and stages of the history of Britain, Canada, Australia, and the United States of America, may be followed by word studies in English.

Different terms are employed by different trades and professions. If these terms are studied, an understanding of the operations of the trades and professions may be obtained. An understanding of the nomenclature of the sciences provides considerable information as to their purpose and relations.

The Spirit of God uses certain language, certain terms, in connection with the return of the Lord Jesus; an understanding of this language will reveal much of the doctrine relative to the second coming of our Lord Jesus. There are some terms in this connection which are used in a technical sense; there are some very common words which have been adapted to this special purpose. Some of these later are used in a negative form, others in a positive form. The Christian’s behaviour in view of the return of the Lord Jesus is indicated by certain verbs employed in dealing with the subject.

Seven positive verbs have been chosen for this study. These intimate the believer’s attitude to the event itself, to the Lord, and to fellow believers. Not only will the meaning of these verbs be examined, but their immediate contexts will be surveyed.

Of these seven chosen verbs one was used by the Lord in speaking to His disciples; four were used by the Apostle Paul in addressing epistles to three apostolic churches; one was used by Paul in a letter to a spiritual son, Titus, and one was used by the Apostle John in writing to the divine family in the letter we call his First Epistle. These verbs, therefore, apply to a very large cross-section of New Testament believers. In our studies, may we of the present find ourselves among those Christians of the past.

To Believe (John 13:36-14:4).

The disciples were worried over the prediction of the Lord that He was about to leave them. His words to Peter baffled them all: “Whither I go, thou canst not follow Me now; but thou shalt follow Me afterwards.” His words at the beginning of John 14 were intended to be as balm to soothe and heal their wounded spirits.

“Let not your heart be troubled,” said the Lord Jesus. He knew what it was to be troubled; He was at the tomb of Lazarus (11:33), and even in the Upper Room when He made reference to His betrayer (13:21). He “was in all points tempted like as we are, yet without sin” (Heb. 4:15).

He, then, reminded them of His Father’s house and its form of construction. Under the temple there were many apartments in which the priests lived during the periods in which they engaged in their priestly ministry. Those mansions, as they are called in the King James Version, were but temporary abodes. He used these as an illustration that such a place was not suitable for His redeemed; He was going away, by way of the cross and tomb, to prepare a special place for them. That place we now know is inside the veil (Heb. 10:19-26). Having said that, He enjoined upon them this exhortation, “Ye believe in God, believe also in Me.” There is some difficulty here relative to the moods used in the Greek; if we accept our King James Version, the first clause is in the indicative mood and the second in the imperative. The meaning is simple. Although God, being a Spirit, had not been seen by any one of them, they had always believed in Him; He their Lord was going away and would soon also be invisible; they were to believe in Him for He too was God. The verb tense suggests that they were to go on believing in Him. Their faith was to be as strong during His absence as when He had been present with them. The only proper attitude for the Christian between the ascension and the advent of Christ is to keep on believing.

The verb to believe is rendered in John 2:23-24 by the verb to commit. The life of the believers in view of the Lord’s return should be characterized by a constant complete committal to the Lord Jesus.

To Abound (1 Cor. 15:58).

This verb means to exceed a number, measure or rank, and thus to overflow. In 1 Corinthians 15 Paul had proved the fact of the resurrection by the rising of Christ from among the dead, and had predicted the resurrection and transformation of the saints at the return of Christ. Because of the resurrection and all it implies of eternal bliss, Paul exhorted the Christians at Corinth to be stedfast in purpose, immovable in holy determination, and to abound in the work of the Lord.

It might well be said that an abounding work is the manifestation of an abundant life. The Lord Jesus spoke of Himself as having come that men might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly (John 10:10). An abundant life is one characterized by health. Spiritual health manifests itself in an abundant joy and abundant sacrifice (2 Cor. 8:2), and in an abundant labour (2 Cor. 11:23). The Christian in good spiritual health will always be willing and ready to exceed any measure in His devotion, love and service for Christ.

The labour movement in the world demands a decrease of work and a shortening of working hours. The imminence of our Lord’s return demands that the Christian exceed both the degree and the time; that he should always abound (exceed in measure) in the work of the Lord. The verb tense here implies that the Christian is to keep on being stedfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord; the Christian is not to decrease his zeal or service.

To Stand Firm (Phil. 4:1).

To stand fast might have been translated to stand firm; it means to persist, to maintain, and according to the context of Philippians four and one, suggests a maintaining of Christian unity in view of the coming of the Lord. The adverbial conjunction with which chapter four opens links the coming of the Lord mentioned at the close of chapter three with Paul’s exhortation in its early verses.

At the end of the third chapter the saint is directed heavenward to contemplate the glorious transformation of the physical. Chapter four opens with the admonition to stand firm in view of such a wonderful event. The exhortation, given in the active imperative mood, is followed by an illustration, the opposite to standing firm. Two sisters at Philippi had deviated from the fellowship they had once enjoyed.

While conditions in that church were not the same as in the church at Corinth, nevertheless, there was disagreement hurtful to the testimony. Disagreement and contention provide the soil in which division flourishes. It has been ever since the days of the apostles; it certainly is today. A paraphrasing of Paul’s language here might prove helpful: Join yourself, True Joiner-Together, to these two women for they joined themselves to me in my struggle with the gospel, and help them to be rejoined.

There have been several conjectures as to who Paul’s true yoke-fellow really was. Some have suggested that she was his own wife, but this is very questionable. Since the words are in the feminine, Dr. Robertson has suggested that the passage actually is a play upon the name of a third sister, Secegus. Whoever she was, her influence made her a true yoker-together. “Blessed are the peace makers.” How we need them today, especially in the light of our Lord’s return!

The churches of the saints need to implement the exhortation of this Epistle relevant to oneness of mind (1:27). We are quite accustomed to so called team work on the athletic field. The Apostle apparently had this in mind as he exhorted the Philippians to strive together for the spread of the gospel.

Euodias and Scntyche had so done in former times, but disagreement had parted them. Paul would have them reconciled in order that they once more engage in team work for the Lord, and this, especially in view of the Lord’s return.

With the conditions before them, Paul exhorts all the saints at Philippi, and ourselves also to stand fast in the Lord.