Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Approve what is excellent

When you look at the various translations of Philippians 1:10, (if you don't have all these Bibles, you can always compare verses on www.biblegateway.com ) you see a subtle problem. The verses seem to say different things depending on what translation you're reading. Actually, it's only a problem if one is really legalistic about stuff. The problem is that the Greek word DOKIMAZO means to "approve after distinguishing and discerning." It was often used by the ancient Greeks to mean distinguishing between metals. Once one has approved/proved that something is a true metal, or a true gold, one would be silly indeed to willfully throw it away. So it can be translated as "things that differ" or "approve things that are excellent" (after you prove how the dross differs from true gold and you prove how the bad differs from the excellent.) Not a problem really because many English words present the same problem to non-English speakers. Think of the words keep (it can mean to guard or to protect or to safeguard) or minister (which originally means to serve but to some minds means the big leader in a church.)

So, linguistics aside, what exactly does this verse mean?

First we are to learn to distinguish between good theology and bad theology so that we can understand and show to others what the excellent gospel is.

Second, by understanding what good theology is and what the gospel really is, we know what God wants us to do in this world.

Thirdly, when we understand good theology is and what the real gospel is and what God wants us to do in this world, we can show forth the glory of God.

Fourthly, As Rom 14:22 says, if you accept and approve something and you don't judge yourself when you approve it, then you are blessed. Loose translation: if you feel it's theologically all right to do something and you don't feel guilty doing it, then you are blessed. But if you have even a faint glimmer of self-doubt in what you are allowing yourself to do, then don't do it. You really don't have faith in it. Of course, if one has had proof that one's theology is true but one does not care about such proof, then one is quite free to toss even the good proof away. This is where St Paul says, (when talking about eating certain kinds of meat or wish day to worship) there is nothing good or bad in itself but it's all about faith. And Shakespeare later says in Othello, "There's nothing good or bad but thinking makes it so." So if someone thinks it's a sin to go to church on Sunday, then let them be fully persuaded in their own hearts.

Consider, for instance, if my personal theology of the gospel is that God wants his people to be morally good but I don't really think about miracles, then the excellency I will probe to the world will be a morally good life. Think of those holy people and saints who have been really holy but who didn't believe in miracles.

But if my personal interpretation of the gospel is that God wants his people to be holy, healers of the sick, caster out of devils, helpers of the poor and that God is one's protector...then one will approve excellence in these areas...if one commits to it.

Let each man be fully persuaded in his own heart. As St Paul says. And once you are fully persuaded and are not limiting God and are committed to being a Christian as you think God wants you to be, then go for it. Show the world your light by being living examples.
Philippians 1:10 (King James Version)
"That ye may approve things that are excellent; that ye may be sincere and without offence till the day of Christ."

Philippians 1:10 (New International Version)
"so that you may be able to discern what is best and may be pure and blameless until the day of Christ,"

Philippians 1:10 (Contemporary English Version)
"how to make the right choices. Then you will still be pure and innocent when Christ returns"

Philippians 1:10 (Young's Literal Translation)
"for your proving the things that differ, that ye may be pure and offenceless -- to a day of Christ,"

Philippians 1:10 (Worldwide English (New Testament))
"When I talk to God I ask that you may have more and more love. I ask him that you will also know and understand, so that you will be able to see what things are right. I want you to be clean with nothing wrong in you when Jesus Christ comes back."
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