The Gospel of God

Mark 1:9-15

     I can remember, as a teenager, contemplating this gospel lesson and being a little confused. It says, After Jesus came out of the temptations in the wilderness, he came to Galilee, “proclaiming the gospel of God.”

     The gospel of God.

     My question was this – when Jesus came on the scene, did he immediately start telling people that he was going to die in place of everyone else so they could go to heaven?

     You see, in Sunday school and confirmation classes, I’d been taught the holy gospel was that God sent His Son to bleed and die on a cross because this was payment for the sins of the whole world. (Well, at least it paid for the sins of the few who were going to the right Christian denomination.) I was a Lutheran preacher’s kid, so I’m pretty sure I didn’t misunderstand the gospel – God in His grace sacrificed his only begotten Son, Jesus, for us and then raised him from the grave to show us we’d be raised, too.

     My question as a teenager was – is this the “gospel of God” Jesus started preaching at the beginning of his ministry? Or did Jesus have another gospel?

     Today I know that Mark’s Gospel has Jesus telling his disciples in secret what was going to happen to him in Jerusalem…not in public settings.

     Then I found ten other places in the Gospels and letters of St. Paul that spoke about “the gospel of God.” What the heck was “the gospel of God “Jesus was spreading?

     The Gospel of John says Jesus told his disciples, “If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is greater than I” (John 14:28). Most translations of the Bible say ‘greater.’ And I asked: Why should the disciples rejoice that Jesus is leaving them to be with his great Father? They loved him. They didn’t want him to leave. Then I found out the Greek word for ‘greater’ can also be translated as “more wonderful.”

If you loved me, you would rejoice that I am going to the Father, because the Father is more wonderful than I.”

     Now that’s the kind of good news, or gospel, I could take to the bank. Our God is more wonderful than his only-begotten Son, Jesus! (In spite of the fact that the Old Testament claims  otherwise.)

     I believe this was Jesus’s message about good news of God. He, like Martin Luther was for the Roman Catholic church, was trying to reform Judaism. It’s why he told the Pharisees (the people who knew the Scriptures backward and forward) he told them again and again, “You don’t know God.” He also told his disciples, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” How can you misunderstand this?

     St. Paul tried to teach about the goodness of God. He said, “Do you despise the riches of [God’s] goodness, patience, and tolerance, not knowing that the goodness of God leads you to repentance? (Rom. 2:4). The goodness of God, not the fear of God, is what leads people to change their lives. A person needs to receive and absorb the energy of God’s mercy and goodness and grace before they will change. That can only come from you and me. People have to receive love before they can give it away to others.

     If someone has not received and felt the goodness and love of God, it doesn’t work to say to them, “The Bible says you have to love God, love your enemy, love your neighbor, and love one another…and believe our denomination’s opinion about what God wants. Then you’ll have a good afterlife.”

     That good news is not working anymore. Because that’s not good news.

     The opening to the Gospel of John says, “No one has ever seen God.  It is God the only Son…who has made Him known” (1:18). Four times, the gospel of John tells us that Jesus said “If you have seen Me, you have seen the heavenly Father” (8:19; 12:45; 14:7; 14:9b). This is the good news of God! The Father is more wonderful than Jesus. That’s the message you and I need to be spreading…because we are the church.

     The world needs to see Christians who are kind, Christians who are willing to stop and make them feel loved. They need to see Christians in whom the Holy Spirit brings the comforting presence of Jesus to others. They need to see Christ in you and in me! That’s what it means to be a Christian. Once they have experienced the goodness and love of God through us, we stand a chance of making our world a better place.

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Dry Bones – My Newest Book


     Yes, I have fallen off the edge of the earth…but I finally made my way back to this blog. It’s not like I haven’t been busy. Long story short – about two weeks ago I released the ebook version of a new book, and today I activated the print version. Let me tell you a little about the book – Dry Bones: Breathing New Life into Petrified Words of the Bible and how it got started.

     As I researched the Greek text of the Bible for sermon preparation, I began to have questions about why the translators from Greek to English made choices of replacement words. Sometimes a Greek word can be translated three or four (or more) different ways. Putting a different word in a sentence can change the meaning of the sentence. Why did King James translators choose the replacement definitions they did?

     My thesis for Dry Bones is that several words of the Bible, specifically the New Testament, have taken on theological meanings that were developed after the gospels and letters were written. When a person talks about “being saved,” what does that mean to them today and what did it mean to the person in the first century writing it? Or when a person says, “I believe in Jesus,” what does that mean for them today and what did it mean to the person in the first century?

     I’ve chosen twelve significant words in Christianity, stripped them of vocabulary based on fourth through sixteenth century theological decisions, and put them in terms that don’t lead a person toward a particular brand of theology. The only difference is using an alternative definition that is not automatically attached to a particular theological pathway. It’s been incredibly exciting to see pieces of the puzzle start to fall into place. Some things that were hard to understand in the New Testament often make more sense.

     So basically, I’ve redefined twelve common terms that I believe carry theological baggage with different definitions. Even when my replacement words are synonymous with the old, they often give a different perspective and meaning from the one people have been conditioned to accept. Here’s the list of words I’ve chosen that are defined, redefined, and replaced:

  1. repent
  2. heaven
  3. kingdom of heaven
  4. forgive
  5. save/salvation
  6. believe
  7. faith
  8. life (coming from psuche)
  9. life (coming from zoa)
  10. dead
  11. perish
  12. evil

     Like I’ve said many times in my books, translation is a subjective process. It depends on the point of view and the belief system of the translator. Therefore, it’s only fair that I explain the basis of my belief system which is clearly different from the good people of the sixteenth century.

#1  –  God is good. God is love. God has always been good from the beginning of time, no matter what  ancient people imagined God to be like.

#2  –  Jesus came to reveal the true image of God…which is said often in the New Testament (and confirmed by Jesus five times in the Gospel of John when told the Pharisees, “You don’t know  God” – and he told Phillip, “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father”).

     That’s about it. With this foundation, I think you’ll be surprised at the expanded way these words in the New Testament can be interpreted. It has convinced me that the Christian Testament is more about securing the kingdom of heaven on this earth than being a guide to getting to Paradise when you die. I think it brings the New Testament to life.

     I hope you’ll check it out here at Amazon. I’d love to hear what you think about it.


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The Way God Operates – Reinforce the Positive

2 Cor. 1:17-21

     My first title for today’s blog was – Do This and Don’t Do Thatbut I decided it would go against what the apostle Paul taught was the way God operates. It also reinforces the ancients’ image of God, an image Jesus came to change. Jesus came to change the way people were thinking about God. That’s what the Greek word metanoia means – change the way you think. Jesus showed us the true image of God and Paul reinforced it.

     Can you imagine ancient peoples celebrating Yahweh as a helpless infant in a manger? Any depiction of Yahweh as less than all-powerful and dominating would have been blasphemy. It was Abraham who broke the mold of centuries of submission to an uncaring and punishing kind of God. Abraham trusted the angel’s voice screaming in his heart that said, “A civilized, moral, or decent God worthy of respect would never demand a father sacrifice his only son as an offering.” Abraham became the father of trust in a God of goodness. But humanity still had a long way to go to accept that image. Humanity still has difficulty with that concept, but we are on the cusp of a change in the way we think as a whole.

     Why do I write this at this time? Because my re-translation this week of the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians supports my hypothesis that a significant part of the good news Paul was proclaiming was about the goodness of God than in theories of how a righteous or just God would need repayment for the disrespect shown by disobedience.

     I have found other evidence about Jesus revealing the true image of God to humanity in other letters and Gospels over the years, but this is a new one to add to my list. Let me show you what I found. First, take a look at the way the NKJV has translated. 2 Cor. 1:17-21:

17 Therefore, when I was planning this (Paul’s trip to and from Macedonia), did I do it lightly? Or the things I plan, do I plan according to the flesh, that with me there should be Yes, Yes, and No, No? 18 But as God is faithful, our word to you was not Yes and No. 19 For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, who was preached among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not Yes and No, but in Him was Yes. 20 For all the promises of God in Him are Yes, and in Him Amen, to the glory of God through us. 21 Now He who establishes us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God.

     I will always admit my translations reveal my biases and opinions, just as every other translator’s interpretations reveal their biases and opinions. My most dominant bias is one I was taught by the Spirit rather than by the church – Jesus is the true image of God and the concepts about God prior to him were not totally accurate. Especially the ones that people couldn’t let go of from pre-Abrahamic times. I do give praise and credit to the psalmists and prophets who were clearly ahead of the constructors of what became the Judaic tradition. But maybe that’s why the people in charge stuck the writings of the enlightened ones after all the rules and religious controls…all the “do this” and “don’t do that” regulations.

     You know what “do this” and “don’t do that” rules are – if not, examples are the commandments in Exodus, Numbers, Deuteronomy, purity laws in Leviticus, etc. Paul has a different way of saying “do this” and “don’t do that.” He labels them by the words “yes” and “no.” Take a look at what I think is closer to what the Greek text says, at least, to my point of view:

17 Therefore, in planning this, who did I treat lightly? Or what I planned, am I being given counsel according to surface matters, that with me there should be “Do this – Do that.” and “Don’t do this – Don’t do that”? 18 Nevertheless, as God is faithful, our instruction to you was not “Do this” and “Don’t do that.” 19 For the Son of God, the Master Jesus, having been proclaimed openly among you by us—by me, Silvanus, and Timothy—was not “Do this and Don’t do that,” but in him it has been “Do this.” 20 For all the announcements of God in him are “Do this,” and on whose account is the Amen to God for a good opinion of God through us. 21 Now the One who confirms us with you in Christ and has anointed us is God.

     Jesus is the “Amen” to the goodness of God. He is the “Amen” to helping humanity develop a better opinion (doxa) of God. And the way God operates is to show us, through Jesus, how to do things right, in love, with respect for every part of creation. Do this. Do this. Do this. Yes. Yes. Yes. Always affirm and reinforce the positive. When you highlight the negative in a “don’t do this,” commanding way – you reinforce the negative. And when someone doesn’t do it the right way, then there must be a consequence to pay…always attributed to the Unknown instead of to the law of cause and effect (karma, to the open minded).

     Look up the definition for doxa, i.e., glory (the glory of God). In Thayer’s lexicon[1] it says:

  1. I. opinion, judgment, view
  2. II. opinion, estimate, whether good or bad, concerning some one; but (like the Lat. existimatio) in prof. writing generally, in the sacred writings always, good opinion concerning one, and as resulting from that- praise, honor, glory.

     Instead of using one of the actual definitions, religious translators replace doxa with what they projected beyond the definition. It’s nice that they want to praise and give “glory” to God, but I’m not sure many people in the 21st century equate the glory of God with a “good opinion” of God. I think it makes a difference in the meaning.

     God guides us in how to do things right, in love. There are no repercussions to worry about when you do it right. So focus on how to do it right. You already know what happens when you miss the mark (sin) by not doing it right. You reap what you sow. God doesn’t need to punish you. The wages of sin is negative consequences that ruin your joy and peace (i.e., the metaphorical way of saying “death”).

     Well, that’s enough detail for today. I hope you made it all the way through. God is good. God always has been good. God always will be good. Jesus revealed it and showed us how to do it right. That’s the way God operates. And it’s how we should be operating. Showing people how to do it right—how to hit the mark of love.

Footnote:  [1], doxa

Expand your knowledge of twelve key words in the Bible and you’ll understand it’s message more clearly. Don’t miss pre-ordering my newest book, DRY BONES: Breathing New Life into Petrified Words of the Bible. It will be delivered to your ereader on January 9th! If you need a hard copy, you can order it Jan. 9 from Amazon.

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Do You Have a Radical Message?

Mark 1:1-9     

     I think I have figured out why John the Baptist was such a radical person. Think about it. Who were his parents? Elizabeth and Zechariah. Zechariah was a priest, and it’s a lot of pressure, to be a holy man’s son or daughter.

     I was a preacher’s kid so I know the pressure one experiences to follow in the footsteps of their father. Look at me – although it took thirty years for God to get me to follow in my father’s footsteps.

     As I was growing up, both my peers and adults told me that preacher’s kids are the worst—they are the wildest. You’ve all probably got stories about preacher’s kids. Maybe preacher’s kids have a tendency to resist being forced into a mold God didn’t create them to be. The pressure of conforming to the expectations of others is very powerful. If you were the preacher’s kid, you were supposed to act better than other kids. And everyone was watching you to make sure you didn’t step outside the box.

     I wonder if that’s what made John the Baptist so radical. Long hair. Unconventional clothes. I don’t know what he smoked, but he certainly ate some weird things.

     But you know, those things attracted attention. He’s about the only one in the Bible who is known for what he wore and ate. It made a statement. But he not only was radical in his dress, he was radical in the message he spread. He reminds me a lot of Lady Gaga. Some of you might know who that is. She’s a very unconventional singer who became a headline story when she wore raw meat to a celebrity function and the media went crazy over it. She continued with other wild and crazy hair styles and off-the-wall outfits.

     I have to admit that I did everything I could to avoid listening to such an  unconventional, radical personality as Lada Gaga. Only after getting up my courage to watch her Thanksgiving special one year, did I find out she is a highly creative, talented young lady who fit into no one’s box. She may be more of a marketing genius than an eccentric. I bought her album and it was my favorite for many years. Why? Because she has a message that’s deeper than what attracts the media attention. They’re more interested in her oddities. That’s what sells papers and advertising. Unfortunately, they don’t spread her message.

     The message I heard from Lady Gaga is this: Don’t be afraid to be the unique and special person God created you to be. There’s no one on earth like you. Don’t try to squeeze into the box that others, including your parents, want you to fit in. If you do try to fit into their box, you won’t find happiness or fulfillment in life.

     I’ve read that the #1 most common regret expressed by people who are on their deathbed is this: “I wish I’d had the courage to live a life true to myself, not the life others expected of me.” As the carrier of a message to be yourself, Lady Gaga lives her message.

     Lady Gaga makes me think about John the Baptist. A radical message sometimes needs a radical messenger. People outside the box attract a lot of attention. But rather than focus on his outer appearance, what was John’s radical message?

     John’s message was this: Change the way you think. Don’t think like the world has conditioned you to think. Because until we change the way we have been trained to think for two thousand years, the kingdom of heaven will never be at hand. Of course, John was speaking to Jews of the first century. But the message today is the same: change the way you think or the kingdom will never be at hand. Many Christians continue to think many of the same things the Jews of the first century thought.

     They think things like: God wants our sacrifices. God demands our obedience. God wants us to worship and praise him before helping our neighbor who is in need. God wrote the rules of behavior and they can never be changed. God wants perfect little robots who all look and act alike.

     I may look very conforming, but this preacher’s kid says “that’s BS.” God wants you to be you. God wants square pegs to be square pegs and round pegs to be round pegs. God wants the needs of his lambs and sheep to be more important than the need to follow religious rituals and ceremonies that do nothing for God.

     But that wasn’t the message of John that was so radical. Prophets had been saying those things for centuries. What was more radical was when John said this: Get ready for someone who is more drastic than me. Get ready to see and hear about the most unconventional image of God anyone has ever dreamed possible.

     Jesus was also perceived as a very unorthodox personality who fit into no one else’s box. But it wasn’t his clothes that attracted the attention. It was his actions that were so unlike everyone else’s. His loving and helping and healing actions to every person regardless of their gender or their race or their religion were the anomaly. And He drew audiences from far and wide to hear what he had to say.

     But even more important, Jesus gave a vision of God no one had ever considered before. He revealed a God who delights in giving, who sends rain on the good as well as on those who are not good. Jesus brought the message that God is generous, and loving, and kind. And that’s still a radical message today. So many Christians still believe God is capable of burning his children in eternal flames if they don’t believe everything their religion tells them. These are words from Jesus’s own mouth: “If you have seen me, you have seen the Father.” That’s pretty radical, don’t you think?

     Have you changed the way you think about God yet? Are you ready to share a radical gospel, a radical message — that God has been good all along — a God who came as a child in a manger to show us his true nature?

     Every person is unique, and special, and created in the image of God. The Scriptures tell us that each of us is a holy place in which God dwells. If you want to make God happy, treat every person you meet as if they are a temple of the living God.  And if God is in them, then there must be some good in them. The most important commandment is to love God with all your heart. If God was hungry, would you feed him? If God was cold, would you give her your coat?

         This season of Advent, let’s get prepared to share the radical good news about a child that was born and laid in a manger. God has been good from the beginning of time.

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Love as Good-Will


          Agapē-love is a choice we make. We make it because we admire and respect a person, and thereby become self-denying in our devotion to him or her. This is often the basis of the marital commitment to another, a good reason why the thirteenth chapter of Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians is read at weddings.

          This is the same kind of love that we are supposed to have for our neighbor (Samaritans and others we despise), our enemies, and each other (including liberals or conservatives). How can we admire, respect, and dedicate ourselves to the well-being of people we despise? Until we take the log out of our own eye, we won’t be able to see that Christ is in our neighbor, enemy, or rival.

          When Paul wrote to the Corinthians, he didn’t write it for weddings. The people gathering together to follow the teachings of Jesus were having some trouble admiring, respecting, and dedicating themselves to each other. Go figure. So Paul tried to help them in his letter.

          I’ve worked my way through most of the first letter, re-translating it from the Greek using some new terminology. I decided to do this after writing my most recent books about the kingdom of heaven, eternal life, and my newest: Dry Bones: Breathing New Life into Petrified Words of the Bible. I will release it early in January. I’ve been busy inserting what I understand the Greek text to say, hoping it opens the New Testament and makes it more accessible to readers. I thought I’d just give you a sample here, choosing 1 Cor. 13 because most people are familiar with it and because it doesn’t threaten anyone’s theology.

          The basis of my upcoming book is that important words in the Bible have developed post-first century theologies that the writers were not necessarily trying to convey. And certain words like “love” have such a wide range of meanings (because one English word – love – replaces four Greek words), leaving too much to the untrained imagination. Therefore, my goal is to identify more clearly what each Greek word means. Every word has a context, and every word has degrees of meaning. Thayer’s lexicon allows these options: affection, good-will, love, benevolence. So I’ve chosen to use one of these that are different from “love” to add a little variety to the text. Here it is:

13:1 If I speak in the languages of humans and of angels, but have not good-will,a I have become one who is sounding brass or clanging a cymbal. And if I may possess divine inspiration declaring the purposes of God, and may have understood all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have all the determination so that I could move mountains from one place to another, but have not good-will, I am nothing. If it might be that I supply with food all coming forth in front of me, and even if I commit the work of my body to the service of another, but do not have good-will, it is of no advantage to me.

Good-will endures patiently. It is kind. It is not envious. Good-will is not boastful, nor arrogant, not abusive, not self-serving, not frustrated; good-will is not adversely manipulative; does not delight in injustice, but rejoices with another in the certainty of equality;b good-will bears all things, is fully committed in all things, is hopeful in all things, perseveres in all things. Good-will never humiliates.

Consequently, whether having divine inspirations, they will be negated; whether speaking languages, they will stop; whether intellectually proficient, it will be invalidated. Truly, we understand imperfectly and we declare the purposes of God imperfectly. 10 But when completion of one’s being comes, then that which is imperfect will be put to an end.

11 When I was untaught,c I spoke in the manner of one untaught, I was striving as one untaught, I was thinking as one who was untaught; but when I became an informed adult, I put away the things of the untaught. 12 Truly, at this time, we observe with a mirrord vaguely, but at that time, face to face. At this time, I understand imperfectly, but at that time, I will know accurately even as I also was accurately known.

13 Therefore, at this very time, conviction, expectation, good-will ‒ these three continue to be present; but the greater of these is good-will.

agapē, consistently translated as “love,” a word confused by variations of love. Bullinger’s lexicon describes agapē, as  referring to “the love which springs from admiration and veneration [respect], and which chooses its object with decision of will, and devotes a self-denying and compassionate devotion to it.”

b truth: one definition in Bullinger is verity, i.e., “truth as the revealed reality lying at the basis of, and agreeing with an appearance; truth as the representation of what is and the realization of what ought to be.”

nēpios: an infant that is not old enough to speak; a metaphor for someone untaught, unskilled, childish.

mirrors in those times were not glass, but polished metal.

          So, what do you think? Could you treat your neighbor, enemy, or political rival this way?


Coming Soon!

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Continuing Reform in the Church


          Changing one word in the New Testament could help the church reform itself and redefine its mission. But will anyone listen? Late in the twentieth century, popular study Bibles began suggesting the beloved concept of “eternal life” means something other than living forever in Paradise. Here are comments from popular Bible translations that explain the meanings of specific passages mentioning “eternal life”:

Eternal life is a present possession, not something the believer will only obtain later. (NIV Study Bible, 1985, on John 3:36)

Eternal life: used here for the first time in John, this term stresses quality of life rather than duration.  (NASB, 1995, on John 3:36)

 Eleven out of forty-two times, eternal life is presented as something to be attained. (NKJV Study Bible, 1997, on Romans 6:23)

          There has been no attempt to justify why commentators suggested this, and few people in positions of religious leadership seem to have paid attention to it. However, I just received the new book by David Bentley Hart, published by Yale University Press, The New Testament: A Translation, and I’m pleased to see that he made a big step that helps to validate my proposal about the translation of aiónios zoa. Supposedly he removes church doctrines developed later that have been interpreted into the text, but I’m not endorsing his book yet because I haven’t read its translation beyond some parts that speak about eternal life.

My book provides a full explanation for the validity of suggesting aiónios refers to a period of time in the present age. It justifies why aiónios should always mean in the present age and it shows the impact it makes on the message of the New Testament. The change has no effect on theologies about getting into Paradise but it offers expanded guidance to people in their lives today, offering the church a means to become increasingly relevant to life in this world. You’ll see that when aiónios zoa is applied according to its first century meaning, the New Testament comes to life in surprising ways.

I self-publish my books to keep the costs down to readers. My ebook is $3.99 on Amazon and the paperback is $9.99. If you don’t agree that I’ve provided a rational and scholarly explanation for this, and if it doesn’t encourage you to rethink your focus in religion and in life, I’ll give you your money back.

Here are some comments I’ve received from beta-readers:

     I am taking you up on your invitation for feedback. Overall, I think that your book is a brilliant, and potentially revolutionary, reinterpretation of the familiar teachings of Jesus. Understanding the Greek words in their original context makes the Gospel more believable, authentic, and relevant for the everyday people for whom it was written. My hope is that this new understanding, so well researched and explained in your book, would permeate the church and the wider culture over time. David K., Monterey , CA

   This book deserves a wider audience, even a national publisher, for it addresses important issues of how we read scripture as well (albeit in a different way) as does the work of folks like John Shelby Spong. Your question, “Is the church capable of dealing with the fallout that a significant change to the emphasis of its book of authority would create” is one I have been asking myself and worrying about as I read progressive Christian authors. I hope you are correct in suggesting that we might be able to do this “with humility and grace,” but both of those qualities seem in such desperately short supply these days. Ken W., Murray, KY

          Officially, the book will be released on October 31. I know, it’s a little dramatic. But the church needs to work harder at reforming its theology and its focus to life on earth. It’s still stuck in the fourth and sixteenth centuries. Preorder it today and it will be delivered to your device in a few days. Then let me know your thoughts about it.

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Christians — Agents For Change

Matt. 22:34-46

     Circumstances in my early days of ministry led me to write a book of prayers based on the sermons of Martin Luther. I’d been a Lutheran for fifty-five years, but by reading his sermons and writing these prayers, Martin Luther changed my theology about God and my understanding of what he stood for. Christians tend to forget one of the key lessons of the Reformation — the church should always be reforming itself. The bottom line is that we are to be agents for change in the world, not for doing things the way they’ve always been done. And the change is always toward caring for the well-being of our neighbor rather than obeying laws, whether divine or manmade.

     In his sermon on Matt. 22:34-46, one of Luther’s themes was the law. He said the law was given to serve love, founding it on Romans 13:10, “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the Law.” Let me give you a few quotes from his sermon:

11. We are also to notice here that all the works of the law are not commanded merely for the purpose that we simply just perform them; no, no; for if God had given even more commandments, he would not want us to keep them to the injury and destruction of love. Yea, if these commandments oppose the love of our neighbor, he wants us to renounce and annul them.

13. Therefore, when the law impels one against love, it ceases and should no longer be a law; but where no obstacle is in the way, the keeping of the law is a proof of love, which lies hidden in the heart. Therefore ye have need of the law, that love may be manifested; but if it cannot be kept without injury to our neighbor, God wants us to suspend and ignore the law.

17. … From this you are to conclude, all works are nothing that do not originate in love or are against love. No commandments should be in force, except those in which the law of love can be exercised.

20. [Christ] teaches them what the law is, namely: that love is the law.

     This wasn’t Luther’s only sermon where he focused on a Christian’s freedom to ignore specific church or biblical laws. He also used Luke 14:1-11 to help people discern which laws they should follow and which laws they could eliminate:

8. Therefore we conclude that all law, divine and human, treating of outward conduct, should not bind any further than love goes. Love is to be the interpreter of law. Where there is no love, these things are meaningless, and law begins to do harm… This is in brief spoken of divine and human laws. The reason for enacting all laws and ordinances is only to establish love, as Paul says, Rom. 13:10: “Love therefore is the fulfillment of the law.”

9. Since then all law exists to promote love, law must soon cease where it is in conflict with love. Therefore, everything depends upon a good leader or ruler to direct and interpret the law in accordance with love. (p. 161)

10. And thus we should apply every law, even as love suggests, that it be executed where it is helpful to a fellow-man, and dispensed with where it does harm.

17. As Christ here treats of the law relating to the Sabbath and makes it subserve the needs of man, so we should treat laws of that kind and keep them only so far as they accord with love. If laws do not serve love, they may be annulled at once, be they God’s or man’s commands.

20. If you are a Christian you have power to dispense with all commandments so far as they hinder you in the practice of love.

28. The sum of this Gospel then is: Love and necessity control all law; and there should be no law that cannot be enforced and applied in love. If it cannot, then let it be done away with, even though an angel from heaven had promulgated it.

     Here are two other sources showing his guidance in discerning laws:

Sermon on John 10:1-11

19. Christians are now free from the curse and the tyranny of the Law, and may keep the Law or not, according as they see that the love and need of their neighbor requires. Vol. 3:381

Martin Luther (Preface to the Old Testament)

“For since all laws aim at faith and love, none of them can be valid, or be a law, if it conflicts with faith and love.”

     How do we decide what laws to keep, who and what helps us decide? There’s no better authority for Martin Luther than the Holy Spirit, as he says in a sermon from John 14:23-31:

14. … You see very clearly that the Holy Spirit’s office is not to write books nor to make laws, but freely to abrogate [repeal, revoke, annul, abolish] them; and that he is a God who writes only in the heart, who makes it burn, and creates new courage, so that man grows happy before God, filled with love toward him, and with a happy heart serves the people. When the office of the Holy Spirit is thus represented, it is rightly preached … when he [HS] comes in this manner he abolishes the letter of the Law and desires to liberate the people from their sins and from the Law; the latter is no more needed, for he, himself, rules inwardly in the heart. (p. 278)

     I often wonder why I was never taught these things in my religious training, formal or informal. They would help to reduce the division in every Protestant denomination.

“The church should always be reforming itself.”

     Maybe you can use these quotes to become an agent for change, to help the church continue to reform itself in the next 500 years, so that it actually begins to look like Christ, a church focused on pointing to a God who is good all the time, who brings comfort, peace, and healing for the world rather than a set of laws to follow.

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     On another note, I am releasing a new book that explains the REAL meaning of aionios zoa, which has been translated as “eternal life.” Jesus wasn’t speaking about Paradise when he spoke of aionios zoa, and this is good news! It’s available for preorder here. It will be delivered to your Kindle app on October 31.

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St. Paul’s Advice on Premarital Sex

1 Cor. 7:36-38

     So, does the apostle Paul say anything about premarital sex? I think he addresses a specific component of it in the seventh chapter to the Corinthians. However, one cannot make wide generalizations about what he writes. He spends almost two chapters giving advice about sexual activity, marriage, divorce, and appropriate conduct while betrothed. Here again I disagree with translations that follow the interpretations of King James’ translators. They make it difficult to understand and they leave too much to the imagination about what it means to be a virgin. I’ll give you a brief example.

     First you must remember the context. Paul was answering some questions specific to the congregation of Gentile Christians in Corinth. And in this example, he was giving advice about a man and “his virgin.” Some translations interpret virgin in these verses as virgin daughter. Applying daughter to the first mention of virgin would suggest a father is abusing his daughter. While that may have been a likely problem in the community in the same way it happens today, I think there’s a better interpretation. Several translations accurately deal with “virgin” as a fiancé, but engagement and betrothal are like equating apples to oranges.

     In an age where women and girls were greatly devalued by men, young girls were often betrothed to a male prior to puberty to protect them from indiscriminate males. Paul appears to be addressing an issue of whether a betrothed man could engage in sex during the time of betrothal, but prior to the determined time of marriage, ideally, after puberty. In my opinion, Paul appears to be trying to protect pre-pubescent girls from the inclinations of men before they were physically or emotionally ready for sexual relations. He has also clarified that this advice is from him alone and not directly from the Lord.

     Take a look at a popular translation and then compare it to mine.


36 But if any man thinks he is behaving improperly toward his virgin, if she is past the flower of youth, and thus it must be, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin; let them marry. 37 Nevertheless he who stands steadfast in his heart, having no necessity, but has power over his own will, and has so determined in his heart that he will keep his virgin does well. 38 So then he who gives her (his virgin)  in marriage does well, but he who does not give her in marriage does better.

(My translation)

36 Furthermore, if any man follows the customa to behave inappropriately toward his betrothed, if he is past puberty and he is compelled to be fulfilled in this manner, let him do what he wishes. He does not sin—let them marry. 37 However, whoever has established firmly in his heart, not having necessity, but has control over his own will, and has decided in his own heart that he will preserve his betrothed, he will act honorably. 38 So then, the one who marries his betrothed [early] acts uprightly, but the one who does not marry his betrothed [early] will do better.

a nomizō: to follow a custom. The custom of the Corinthians (Gentiles) may have been that it was acceptable to harvest the pledged fruit before it is ready.

     The NKJV confuses the issue when suggesting a man’s “virgin” might refer to his daughter. The first mention of virgin puts the father in the position of abusing his own child, but then, if he marries her, he doesn’t sin (a violation of Mosaic law). The second suggests he can “keep” his virgin or daughter, which leaves too much to the reader to speculate on, especially when the third mention of virgin gives him power over whether his daughter or virgin is given in marriage. That may have been a cultural practice at the time, but it doesn’t make sense to suggest the father does “better” if he doesn’t give his daughter in marriage at all. Other translations suggest it’s better for a man not to marry at all because Paul has talked about being devoted completely to the Lord. But this diverts from dealing with a specific problem. 

   Most translations suggest the person being mentioned as being “past the flower of youth” applies to the “virgin” and assumes it to be the female. But in Greek, the noun suggesting one is past the flower of youth is masculine. It’s talking about boys having gone through puberty. It appears Paul is dealing with a young boy and girl who have been pledged to each other by their fathers, at least in this congregation.

     The bottom line is that if the teenage boy is unable to keep himself under control, it’s better to let them get married earlier than planned. Still, Paul appears to think it’s better for the male to wait until the female has reached puberty. Commitment in marriage is a good thing and waiting until after puberty is even better. Unfortunately, the needs of the girl are not given equal consideration. That was the culture.

     What do you think?

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     On another note, I am releasing a new book that explains the REAL meaning of aionios zoa, which has been translated as “eternal life.” Jesus wasn’t speaking about Paradise when he spoke of aionios zoa, and this is good news! It’s available for preorder here. It will be delivered to your Kindle app on October 31.

Preorder for delivery on October 31, 2017!

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New Translations of Paul by Paul


It’s been a while since I’ve posted – not because I’m not working but because I’m working on what I think is a more accurate translation of the apostle Paul’s letters. Why the heck am I doing that? I don’t know. I wish I didn’t feel compelled to do this. I’ve got fish to catch. But I also am convinced translators for King James had a particular perspective that wasn’t helpful when they converted the Vulgate and Greek versions to English.

You can see my opinion of how they did not properly translate the texts on divorce and remarriage in the book I released in the spring. I’ve worked on retranslating the texts of the Gospels, but then it seemed like I should do the earliest writings of Paul before the later writings of the Gospels. So let me give you a sample of what I’m finding in his letters to the Corinthians. First, take a look at five verses in 1 Cor. 4:6-10 as it was translated for the NKJV:

Now these things, brethren, I have figuratively transferred to myself and Apollos for your sakes, that you may learn in us not to think beyond what is written, that none of you may be puffed up on behalf of one against the other. For who makes you differ from another? And what do you have that you did not receive? Now if you did indeed receive it, why do you boast as if you had not received it?

You are already full! You are already rich! You have reigned as kings without us—and indeed I could wish you did reign, that we also might reign with you! For I think that God has displayed us, the apostles, last, as men condemned to death; for we have been made a spectacle to the world, both to angels and to men.

10 We are fools for Christ’s sake, but you are wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are distinguished, but we are dishonored!

     Okay, so what did you learn from this? Are you inspired to be a better Christian? The part that gets me is in verse 6 that I underlined. Paul wants us not to think beyond the written words of Scripture (Old Testament)? Just listen to the religious authorities. They know best.

And what does the rest mean? It’s rather useless.

One thing that has been helpful to me is reading Engaging the Powers by Walter Wink. He argues convincingly that the term “world” is more limited in its understanding by Paul than we in the 21st century understand. First century writers didn’t think of the “world” in cosmological terms. They thought of it in terms of the system in which they were existing, the religious system, the power structures of domination, etc., that were oppressive.

But what affects the translation most is the perspective and opinion of the translators – what they believe, what they’ve been conditioned to believe. I don’t hold the same theology, nor am I under the same danger they faced if they disagreed with the established Latin translation. I also have the advantage of four centuries of people who have suggested additional options for the meanings of Greek words.

Remember that Paul was addressing specific questions and problems going on in the church in Corinth. We don’t know the exact issues that had caused friction. As I worked with it, it began to appear that they had been arguing back and forth about what the Scriptures meant. Imagine that. Some couldn’t accept what Moses said about certain things and others couldn’t depart from what Moses said. Sound familiar?

Therefore, take a look at how I have retranslated these same five verses:

4:6 Now these things, friends, I have applied to myself and Apollos for your sakes to the end that because of us you may learn this — nothing has been written concerning this — that no one writing may be inflated one against another. Truly, this divides you. 7For you hold fast a certain scripture; you do not accept a certain scripture; and even though accepting a certain scripture, you flaunt it in the same manner as the scripture not having been accepted. 8Are you satisfied yet? Have you had enough yet? Without us, did you exercise control?a Indeed, I anticipate that you have exercised control, and that we might oversee things together with you! 4:9 Truly I think God displayed us, the apostles, lowest, as doomed to death because we have been made a spectacle by the religious system, both by divine agents and by human beings. 10We are impiousb on account of the Anointed One, but you are prudent in the Anointed One! We are without influence, but you are powerful! You are reputable, but we are dishonored!

areign: a verb indicating the manner in which a leader governs or oversee a kingdom or territory.

bfools: by human standards, especially religious standards of that time.

     How could these two varying translations come from the same Greek text? Perspective. That’s how much translation depends upon the opinions of the translator. What amazes me is the inability of modern day translators to follow Greek grammar when it varies from what KJ translators decided four hundred years ago. Something’s got to change.

I’m working on it.

On another note, I am releasing a new book that explains the REAL meaning of aionios zoa, which has been translated as “eternal life.” Jesus wasn’t speaking about Paradise when he spoke of aionios zoa, and this is good news! It’s available for preorder here. It will be delivered to your Kindle app on October 31.

Preorder for delivery on October 31, 2017!

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Who Enters the Kingdom First?

Matt. 21:23-32 

     In my book about the kingdom of heaven for today, I wrote a chapter listing the people who the apostle Paul and Jesus said would not inherit the kingdom. This is Jesus’s list:

 (1) Those who don’t treat people any better than the Pharisees or religious leaders (Matt. 5:20).

(2) Those who don’t accept the kingdom like little children (Matt. 18:3).

(3) Those who don’t forgive (Matt. 18:21-35).

(4) Those who keep looking back (Luke 9:62).

(5) Those who trust in money for their security (Matt. 19:23).

     Similar to the first on the list, in this week’s text, Jesus asked the Pharisees which of two sons did the will of his Father. They said, “The first one.” He said, “Truly I say to you, the tax collectors and harlots go into the kingdom of heaven before you do” (Matt. 21:31).

     “Jesus wasn’t saying prostitutes will be first on the bus to go to ‘paradise when they die’ ahead of the Pharisees. He’s saying they will experience a sense of unity with others long before the righteous Pharisees will experience it. Their compassion and ability to share the little they have with others will bring them a personal sense that they’ve relieved the suffering of another person. Pharisees are more interested in judgment and punishment than they are on unity and compassion.

     “Prostitutes might reject the piety of religion. But they meet people daily who have unmet needs, people who have not found unity within themselves. Prostitutes witness human suffering. They live in the fields where the Father beckons all to work. They have opportunities to give a few dollars to someone living behind a dumpster. In their acts of kindness, they experience connection as they provide relief to others in the mud pits of life. Acts of compassion are the evidence of a growing sense of unity with all creation.

     “Jesus wasn’t condemning all scribes and Pharisees. There were and are many religious leaders who are trying to do the right things…”

                  In Living Color: The Kingdom of Heaven for Today  © Paul W. Meier

     Of course, if a person thinks the kingdom of heaven is the same as Paradise, then I’d like to hear his or her explanation of what Jesus meant by his statement.

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     On another note, it’s been a while since I’ve posted consistently on this blog. I’ve been working on a few other things. Most notably, I finished a book last year that is finally ready for me to publish. It’s similar in many ways to my book about the kingdom of heaven because it explains (are you ready?) – it explains how the term “eternal life” is a reference to a specific kind of life on this earth.

     How many people want to believe eternal life is experienced here on earth? Not many. Especially Christians. People don’t want to hear something they’ve never heard before. They might have to change the way they think. But let me point you to the following commentaries in three different (and traditional) study Bibles printed BEFORE the turn of this century:

Eternal life: used here for the first time in John, this term stresses quality of life rather than duration.6

Eternal life is a present possession, not something the believer will only obtain later.7

Eleven out of forty-two times eternal life is presented as something to be attained 8

       In some cases, the Greek word for life (zoa), when used by itself implies a shortened reference to the term “eternal life.” An example is John 10:10 (NKJV) where Jesus said, “I have come that they may have life, and that they may have it more abundantly.” One commentary explains it this way:

Life here refers to eternal life, God’s life. It speaks not only of endlessness, but of quality of life.9

6 New American Standard Bible, Revised Edition, commentary on John 3:36 from United States Conference of Catholic Bishops website,

7 The NIV Study Bible, New International Version, (Grand Rapids: Zondervan Bible Publishers, 1985), on John 3:36, 1599.

8 Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville: Nelson Bibles, 1997), on Rom. 6:23, 1890.

9 Nelson’s NKJV Study Bible, New King James Version, (Nashville: Nelson Bibles, 1997), 1782.

The Ancient Understanding of Eternal Life: Biblical Coaching for Living an Abundant Life  © Paul W. Meier

     This isn’t new information. I’ve been preaching it since I began parish ministry in 2003. I’m still not sure anyone believed me. Why? Because it requires a huge change in the way a person thinks. I don’t know of any other Christian preachers or scholars who believe it either. Was I wrong for believing what a few biblical scholars were brave enough to express in the small print of popular study Bibles (used by conservatives and liberals alike)?

     No. I was not wrong. And I explain it in detail – why and how “eternal life” in the New Testament refers to a specific quality of life that can be lived in the world today. If you don’t believe it after reading it, I’ll give you your money back! The ebook version can be pre-ordered now at this link, and it will be automatically downloaded to you on October 31, 2017. Yes, I know that’s the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. But I was taught that the church is always supposed to be reforming itself and what better way to begin the next 500 years of the church’s reformation than on this special day?

     Available for delivery on Oct. 31, 2017


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