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Posts by rossneir

What is a Safe Person?

“What will we be looking for in a safe person? Henry Cloud and John Townsend offer three hallmark qualities of a safe person in their book ‘Safe People’:

1. They draw you close to God. Safe people do not try to take the place of God in your life by providing “answers” or solutions. They do not try to be your everything. Safe people understand your dependence upon God and gently draw you in the direction of receiving what you can and must from God directly. They encourage your spiritual development; they’re quick to remind you that God cares, that God is at work, to encourage your full surrender and participation in what it is God might ask of you.

2. Safe people also draw you close to others. This is significant in that a safe friend will not try to isolate you from your other important relationships. Safe people are for your marriage, for your work relationships, for your friendships beyond themselves. When appropriate, they gentle push you towards resolving conflict — not merely allowing you to vent your frustration.

3. And last, safe people draw you close to your true self. This is perhaps one of the most difficult to observe, and most powerful when working right. Many of us live lives of relatively deep deception about who we actually are, both the dark and the light. A true, safe friend can see where you are stuck and also see your potential — and they join the fight for your soul’s freedom from the barriers so that you more closely resemble the person God envisioned when he made you.”

Henry Cloud and John Townsend, Safe People, 1995, 143.

You are strong, and the word of God lives in you

“I write to you, young men,
because you are strong,
and the word of God lives in you,
and you have overcome the evil one”
1 John 2:14

Doubtless to me the word “strong” (ἰσχυροὶ) here does not refer to physical strength. Instead it is an analogy comparing the ability of the physical body to do something — something probably difficult, that requires a lot of effort — to the young man’s struggles concerning the New Life.

Similarly the word “word” almost certainly does not mean a single unit of vocal expression which, if combine with others, form the basis of language and transmission of ideas. No. This is John writing, and he has already written a biography of Jesus that opens up by using the word “word” (λόγος, ου, ὁ) to mean Jesus.

Also the word “lives” (ESV “abides”) (μένει) does not mean “lives,” and though “abides” gets closer, it too retains the level of metaphor and does not state straightforwardly what is happening. Jesus, in the strictest sense possible, does not “live in you” because he is somewhere else: he is at the right hand of the Father, and not in you. Of course, when we say “Jesus lives in my heart” what we really mean is “the Holy Spirit lives in my heart,” which generally is close enough to the same thing.

But even this does not overcome the semantic ambiguity of “abides.” Jesus, the Holy Spirit, “God” in general — when one of these is said to “abide in you” it does not mean that they attain biological life and could be found if inter-intestinal microscopy was performed. Rather, this is a qualified life, a life that does not consist in biology but rather in the potential for interaction with other things that, by whatever means, also have the same potential. This comes in spiritual, not biological, life.

John is using metaphorical language, like we all do all the time. His point cannot be taken by skimming the metaphor by the surface; you have to dig at least one layer down to see what two things he is comparing using the metaphorical language.

This is all quite granular. But put it back together. John is saying that the young men who are part of his audience are able to do great things with respect to their New Life in Christ, because Christ had enabled them to do these things. God (in particular the Holy Spirit) has given this enabling.

Also, fun fact, these young men have overcome the evil one.


Just some thoughts from a bit of prep I am doing for a sermon next week, not even on this verse, but on 4:1-21.

Two years of rossneir.com

Two years ago today I wrote my first post on this blog!

It was around Thanksgiving break my senior year of high school that I decided to give blogging a try. It turned out that I never got into it too much, but have still kept it around as a place to host anything I have written.

Here are some stats from my two years:

  • I have written 78 posts,
  • 5,578 views to these posts, and my other pages
  • 3,352 viewers have visited the site
  • my top post ever was… eyeroll… the Unicorn Frap review from April of this year.

I have several dozen posts lurking in my drafts, waiting to emerge once I have finally got the concept down right. The quantity of my thinking and writing has also improved so much since my senior year that I could, if I had time, write a new post each day rather than each week or so.

I have not yet turned on ads, but if I had, then given the 1/100 of a cent per view, I would have made 50 cents so far. So. There’s that.

Thanks to everyone who has supported this project, regardless of how much support that has been or what it has looked like.

Should you buy the Zombie Frap?

Starbucks brings around exotic new frappuccinos in the same way that a black market organ dealer brings around exotic new internal intestines: infrequently, usually of low quality, and always with significant risk to your health.

This Zombie Frap. Did it come around as an infrequent addition to the broader assortment of fraps? Yes. Could you consider it low quality? No. Does it pose significant risk to your health? That depends on your body’s ability to process 54g of sugar in one sitting.

How can we forget the fiasco that was The Unicorn Frap? After that moment, it seems like all subsequent wacky drinks will be forever judged against that benchmark. Not that this would be a fair comparison — it is a very, very low benchmark — but because of how traumatized we all felt.

This drink is better than the Unicorn Frap, of course, but to say as much is to say nearly nothing at all. Instead I will make a bolder claim: the Zombie Frap is, in itself, a good drink. You should get it. It is worth your money.

The green apple flavor did not overwhelm my taste, nor did the egregious sugar content. They came bearing the same subtle, lo-fi mood that I imagine of Eckhart Tolle trying to scream at someone with as much intensity as he can muster, i.e., not much intensity at all.

As I drank this frap in the 3rd space of a new Mariano’s in town, and the smooth piano man riffed on B-list indie-turned-rock-turned-pop tunes from 2014’s top radio hits (American Authors, anyone?), I felt calm. The two year old next to me kept asking me questions about his toy elephant’s feet, pointing several times to the trunk and asking, “why does it have 5 feet?” but even still, I felt no annoyance. I needed to buy a fruit platter for a meeting tonight, but Mariano’s only serves Fresh Organic Local Healthy Artisonal Foraged Kale-infused Plasticless produce, so I couldn’t find a fruit platter. Even this did not upset me, because the Zombie Frap’s effusive vibes kept me in lingering calm.

Brain-colored foam domed the drink, though it and the mocha spices (intended to look like blood) carried little flavor. Everyone can appreciate a drink with matching name and design.

In all, you should buy this drink, even if just to sedate yourself into perpetual coolness.

The root of the problem

This is an illustration for the present time, indicating that the gifts and sacrifices being offered were not able to clear the conscience of the worshiper. . .The blood of goats and bulls and the ashes of a heifer sprinkled on those who are ceremonially unclean sanctify them so that they are outwardly clean. How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

Hebrews 9:9, 13-14

If your doctrine of sin runs deep, your doctrine of God’s grace must run deeper. Someone holding a very superficial view of sin will normally only seek the Savior in a superficial way, to the extent that He solves their sin problem.

Sin is not a behavior, but an orientation. We are “totally depraved” not in the sense that we always do the most sinful possible things… but that everything we do is done in a sinful way. We are tempted to look at ourselves as morally neutral with sin as an addition to our person; the Biblical perspective holds the contrary, that sin is our person, and the filter through which we make all decisions.

Jesus battled this perspective throughout his earthly ministry. Mark 7:14-23 is a good example: “nothing that enters a person from the outside can defile them. . .what comes out of a person is what defiles them.” Or also Matthew 23:25-26 “You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. . .First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean”. In Matthew 5, during the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus has a famous moment where he explains murder in this way: “You have heard that it was said to the people long ago, ‘You shall not murder, and anyone who murders will be subject to judgment.’ But I tell you that anyone who is angry with a brother will be subject to judgment.” He then repeats with adultery: “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I tell you that anyone who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” He concerns himself not just with actions, but with the heart. To Jesus, motives matter.

Paul’s logic in Galatians 5 is the same. The word picture of “fruit of the Spirit” means that if the Spirit indwells you, these different attributes will become evident in time. The same is true of the flesh, with its parallel list in vs. 19-21. Because the logic is not “do these good things, and you will get the Spirit” but rather “those with the Spirit will evidence these good things,” Paul is able to freely say in the same passage that “against such things there is no law.” The OT law only exists to give a portrait of what the sinful orientation creates, not actually a list of things themselves to avoid, as such. (I could go on about similar logic in Romans 14, Acts 10 and Galatians 3).

Now addressing the Hebrews passage at the beginning of this post. The ceremonial laws could not purify at a deep level because they were designed only to address the surface level. They do not change a person’s sin orientation, but instead only put a covering over it so that the person can continue to function within the religious life of the Jewish community. Because it did not change the person on the inside, their sin orientation, their true self, the ceremonial laws beckoned for something better, a more full solution to the problem than rituals or even humans could provide.

That answer is Jesus Christ. His death, symbolized here by his blood, is able to cleanse the deepest recesses of a person and change them from the inside. The death/blood of a heifer could not reach the true root of the human condition. Through Him who brought us from “acts that lead to DEATH” to “serving the LIVING God” (vs. 14), we have received forgiveness, the cleansing of our sin.

Pascal on other-wordly longing

A beautiful though long reading from one of my classes today.
From Blaise Pascal, Pensées.

246 [536-434]

The chief arguments of the sceptics- I pass over the lesser ones- are that we have no certainty of the truth of these principles apart from faith and revelation, except in so far as we naturally perceive them in ourselves. Now this natural intuition is not a convincing proof of their truth; since, having no certainty, apart from faith, whether man was created by a good God, or by a wicked demon, or by chance, it is doubtful whether these principles given to us are true, or false, or uncertain, according to our origin. Again, no person is certain, apart from faith, whether he is awake or sleeps, seeing that during sleep we believe that we are awake as firmly as we do when we are awake; we believe that we see space, figure, and motion; we are aware of the passage of time, we measure it; and in fact we act as if we were awake. So that half of our life being passed in sleep, we have on our own admission no idea of truth, whatever we may imagine. As all our intuitions are, then, illusions, who knows whether the other half of our life, in which we think we are awake, is not another sleep a little different from the former, from which we awake when we suppose ourselves asleep?

And who doubts that, if we dreamt in company, and the dreams chanced to agree, which is common enough, and if we were always alone when awake, we should believe that matters were reversed? In short, as we often dream that we dream, heaping dream upon dream, may it not be that this half of our life, wherein we think ourselves awake, is itself only a dream on which the others are grafted, from which we wake at death, during which we have as few principles of truth and good as during natural sleep, these different thoughts which disturb us being perhaps only illusions like the flight of time and the vain fancies of our dreams? These are the chief arguments on one side and the other.

I omit minor ones, such as the sceptical talk against the impressions of custom, education, manners, country and the like. Though these influence the majority of common folk, who dogmatise only on shallow foundations, they are upset by the least breath of the sceptics. We have only to see their books if we are not sufficiently convinced of this, and we shall very quickly become so, perhaps too much.

I notice the only strong point of the dogmatists, namely, that, speaking in good faith and sincerely, we cannot doubt natural principles. Against this the sceptics set up in one word the uncertainty of our origin, which includes that of our nature. The dogmatists have been trying to answer this objection ever since the world began.

So there is open war among men, in which each must take a part and side either with dogmatism or scepticism. For he who thinks to remain neutral is above all a sceptic. This neutrality is the essence of the sect; he who is not against them is essentially for them. In this appears their advantage. They are not for themselves; they are neutral, indifferent, in suspense as to all things, even themselves being no exception.

What, then, shall man do in this state? Shall he doubt everything? Shall he doubt whether he is awake, whether he is being pinched, or whether he is being burned? Shall he doubt whether he doubts? Shall he doubt whether he exists? We cannot go so far as that; and I lay it down as a fact that there never has been a real complete sceptic. Nature sustains our feeble reason and prevents it raving to this extent. Shall he, then, say, on the contrary, that he certainly possesses truth- he who, when pressed ever so little, can show no title to it and is forced to let go his hold?

What a chimera, then, is man! What a novelty! What a monster, what a chaos, what a contradiction, what a prodigy! Judge of all things, imbecile worm of the earth; depositary of truth, a sink of uncertainty and error; the pride and refuse of the universe!

Who will unravel this tangle? Nature confutes the sceptics, and reason confutes the dogmatists. What, then, will you become, O men! who try to find out by your natural reason what is your true condition? You cannot avoid one of these sects, nor adhere to one of them. Know then, proud man, what a paradox you are to yourself. Humble yourself, weak reason; be silent, foolish nature; learn that man infinitely transcends man, and learn from your Master your true condition, of which you are ignorant. Hear God. For in fact, if man had never been corrupt, he would enjoy in his innocence both truth and happiness with assurance; and if man had always been corrupt, he would have no idea of truth or bliss. But, wretched as we are, and more so than if there were no greatness in our condition, we have an idea of happiness and can not reach it. We perceive an image of truth and possess only a lie. Incapable of absolute ignorance and of certain knowledge, we have thus been manifestly in a degree of perfection from which we have unhappily fallen.

It is, however, an astonishing thing that the mystery furthest removed from our knowledge, namely, that of the transmission of sin, should be a fact without which we can have no knowledge of ourselves. For it is beyond doubt that there is nothing which more shocks our reason than to say that the sin of the first man has rendered guilty those who, being so removed from this source, seem incapable of participation in it. This transmission does not only seem to us impossible, it seems also very unjust. For what is more contrary to the rules of our miserable justice than to damn eternally an infant incapable of will, for a sin wherein he seems to have so little a share that it was committed six thousand years before he was in existence? Certainly nothing offends us more rudely than this doctrine; and yet without this mystery, the most incomprehensible of all, we are incomprehensible to ourselves.

The knot of our condition takes its twists and turns in this abyss, so that man is more inconceivable without this mystery than this mystery is inconceivable to man. Whence it seems that God, willing to render the difficulty of our existence unintelligible to ourselves, has concealed the knot so high, or, better speaking, so low, that we are quite incapable of reaching it; so that it is not by the proud exertions of our reason, but by the simple submissions of reason, that we can truly know ourselves.

These foundations, solidly established on the inviolable authority of religion, make us know that there are two truths of faith equally certain: the one, that man, in the state of creation, or in that of grace, is raised above all nature, made like unto God and sharing in His divinity; the other, that in the state of corruption and sin, he is fallen from this state and made like unto the beasts. These two propositions are equally sound and certain.

Scripture manifestly declares this to us, when it says in some places: Deliciae meae esse cum filiis hominum [ Prov. 8. 31. “And my delights were with the sons of men.”]. Effundam spiritum meum super omnem carnem [Joel 2. 28. “I will pour out my spirit upon all flesh.”]. Dii estis [ Ps. 82 .6. “Ye are gods.”], etc.; and in other places, Omnis caro faenum [Is. 40. 6. “All flesh is grass.”]. Homo assimilatus est jumentis insipientibus, et similis factus est illis [ Ps. 49. 12,13. “He is like the beasts that perish; this their way is their folly.]. Dixi in corde meo de filiis hominum [ Eccles. 3. 18. “I said in mine heart concerning the estate of the sons of men.”].

Whence it clearly seems that man by grace is made like unto God, and a partaker in His divinity, and that without grace he is like unto the brute beasts.

247 [853-438]

If man is not made for God, why is he happy only in God? If man is made for God, why is he so opposed to God?

Christ, the τέλος of the Law

Paul writes that Christ is the “end of the law” (NASB) [“τέλος γὰρ νόμου Χριστὸς” (GNT)] (Romans 10:4). This is not a very straightforward phrase, because “τέλος” could mean several different things.

Is Christ the end of the law, as in, the goal of the law? A similar usage to the Westminster confession’s first statement “the chief end of man” meaning the very purpose and direction in which something is supposed to act. In this interpretation the law convicts men of their sin, without providing the solution, because Christ is that solution.

Is Christ the end of the law, as in, the illustrative or thematic culmination of the law? This would be a covenantal, Biblical theology type answer where the various parts of the OT law were retrospectively indicative of various parts of Christ’s atonement. For example the “end” of the priestly class is Christ, the “end” of the ritual sacrifices is Christ, the “end” of ceremonial uncleanliness is Christ, etc.

Is Christ the end of the law, as in, he terminates the law? S Lewis Johnson interprets this to mean that “the old order, the legal age, is done away in Christ, even as a hypothetical means of salvation (no one could be saved by the Law, for all men are sinners, Christ excluded; cf. Gal. 3:10, 11, 12),” and claims that this is likely the force of the text.

If the third interpretation is correct (which it seems to me for those reasons and also from the context of verses 1-4), then doesn’t that directly contradict the other NT statements that the Law will never pass away, that Christ came not to abolish the law but to fulfill it, and so on? I am thinking in particular of Matthew 5:17-20. Does Paul’s statement on the Law not oppose Christ’s, and if not, how do I understand both of them?

 

From study notes by S Lewis Johnson.

Faith Unconfined by Time or Place

From a book I’ve been reading this week, remarking on John 4:

“The woman asked our Lord whether Samaria or Jerusalem was the true place of worship. He answers that henceforth worship is no longer to be limited to a certain place: ‘Woman, believe Me, the hour cometh, when neither in this mountain, nor in Jerusalem shall ye worship the Father.’ As God is Spirit, not bound by space or time but in His infinite perfection always and everywhere the same, so His worship would henceforth no longer be confined by place or form, but importance.

How much our Christianity suffers from this, that it is confined to certain times and places. A man, who seeks to pray earnestly in the church or in the closet, spends the greater part of the week or the day in a spirit entirely at variance with that in which he prayed. His worship was the work of a fixed place or hour, not of his whole being. God is a Spirit: He is the Everlasting and Unchangeable One; what He is, He is always and in truth. Our worship must even so be in spirit and truth: His worship must be the spirit of our life; our life must be worship in spirit as God is Spirit.”

Andrew Murray, With Christ in the School of Prayer, 7.

As I shared this paragraph with my group of high school campers yesterday, they (and I) were struck by the concept of a faith unconfined by time or place. What does it mean to be a Christian person who does things, rather than merely a person who does Christian things? How do these students fully integrate their faith into their mindset so that nothing escapes the Christ filter: that we see all things through the lens with which Jesus saw them?

I remember the fall semester of my Sophomore year in high school… coming up on four years ago… when this change happened in me. Oswald Chambers had written about exactly this concept in MUFHH one day. I distinctly remember ignoring my math teacher to read instead. It took a real work of the Spirit to affect this change in me, especially at that time in my life, but the perspective shift was clear and long lasting. It still lasts today; it is how I see the world.

The eternality and omnipresence of God are considered two of his incommunicable attributes; ‘incommunicable,’ meaning, we cannot experience them in the same way he does. We also cannot really be faulted for failing to be eternal or to be everywhere at once. Is anyone going to blame you for those ‘failures’? No reasonable person would, because they are not possible. But like all the incommunicable attributes of God, they are only relatively incommunicable, because we can experience something like them.

This is what Murray means when he says “As God is Spirit… so his worship would henceforth no longer be confined.” Another way to put this statement is to generalize it as “As God is a certain way… so our worship should be too.” Our consistency as people and our ‘lifestyle’ of worship are not done just because they are considered good things, or their alternatives are worse, or they look good to non believers, or even because they are commanded. Rather, we are emulating the very Being of God himself in the best way we humans can.

ἀγαλλιάω (Agalliao)

A quick word study on ἀγαλλιάω (Agalliao; Strong #21) in the New Testament.

Definition

Thayer: to exult, rejoice exceedingly, be exceeding glad

Strong: From ἄγαν agan (much) and G242 [leap; spring up]; properly to jump for joy, that is, exult: – be (exceeding) glad, with exceeding joy, rejoice (greatly).

Mounce: to be filled with delight, with great joy

Usage

It appears that there are 11 New Testament uses:

Matthew 5:12 Blessed are you when people insult you, persecute you and falsely say all kinds of evil against you because of me. Rejoice and be glad [agalliao], because great is your reward in heaven, for in the same way they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

Context — immediately after the Beatitudes (or the final statement of them?) in addition to the other “Blessed are…” statements.

Luke 1:47 And Mary said: ‘My soul glorifies the Lord / and my spirit rejoices [agalliao] in God my Savior, / for he has been mindful / of the humble state of his servant.’

Context — in the Magnificat, the song sung by Mary after she meets with Elizabeth. (Interesting, John the Baptist is described in the verses before as “the baby in my womb leaped for joy” which sounds suspiciously like the word agalliao, but is instead each word used individually (eskirtēsen en agalliasei (noun), leaped in exultation) rather than this portmanteau.

Luke 10:21 At that time Jesus, full of joy [agalliao] through the Holy Spirit, said, “I praise you, Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because you have hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children.Yes, Father, for this is what you were pleased to do.

Context — Jesus has just received back the 72 whom he had earlier sent out as missionaries. The antecedent to “these things” appears to be specifically the power of God to overcome the enemy (and snakes), but more general the “all things” later in verse 26.

John 5:35 You have sent to John and he has testified to the truth. Not that I accept human testimony; but I mention it that you may be saved. John was a lamp that burned and gave light, and you chose for a time to enjoy [agalliao] his light.

Context — After a section on the authority given by the Father to the Son, Jesus makes this statement in reference to John the Baptist, and then says that the person testifying that Jesus’s words are true is the Father, because the Father validates Jesus’s ministry through the miracles (“works”?) that he does.

John 8:56 Your father Abraham rejoiced [agalliao] at the thought of seeing my day; he saw it and was glad.” “You are not yet fifty years old,” they said to him, “and you have seen Abraham!” “Very truly I tell you,” Jesus answered, “before Abraham was born, I am!”

Context — Right after Jesus accuses the Pharisees of being the children of Satan. They naturally object, saying that they are the children of Abraham. Here Jesus makes the claim that he existed before Abraham and then uses the title “I am” which almost certainly refers to the burning bush in Exodus 3. The author of Hebrew also has something to say about Old Testament figures looking forward to or rejoicing over seeing Jesus’s day.

Acts 2:26 [quoting Psalm 16] David said about him: “‘I saw the Lord always before me. / Because he is at my right hand, / I will not be shaken. / Therefore my heart is glad [agalliao] and my tongue rejoices; / my body also will rest in hope, / because you will not abandon me to the realm of the dead, / you will not let your holy one see decay. / You have made known to me the paths of life; / you will fill me with joy in your presence.

Context — At Pentecost, Peter is quoting Psalm 16 (from the LXX) and saying that David prophetically hinted at the eternal life of one of his descendants.

Acts 16:34 At that hour of the night the jailer took them and washed their wounds; then immediately he and all his household were baptized. The jailer brought them into his house and set a meal before them; he was filled with joy [agalliao] because he had come to believe in God—he and his whole household.

Context — The Philippian Jailer who turned to Christ after an earthquake and hearing the testimony of Paul and Silas.

1 Peter 1:6, 8 In all this you greatly rejoice [agalliao], though now for a little while you may have had to suffer grief in all kinds of trials. These have come so that the proven genuineness of your faith—of greater worth than gold, which perishes even though refined by fire—may result in praise, glory and honor when Jesus Christ is revealed. Though you have not seen him, you love him; and even though you do not see him now, you believe in him and are filled with an inexpressible and glorious joy [agalliao], for you are receiving the end result of your faith, the salvation of your souls.

Context — the beginning of Peter’s epistle (or perhaps encyclical) to the various exiles in Turkey. Peter is saying that believers are filled with joy (“inexpressible and glorious joy”) in both happy times and in the midst of suffering.

1 Peter 4:13 Dear friends, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that has come on you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. But rejoice inasmuch as you participate in the sufferings of Christ, so that you may be overjoyed [agalliao] when his glory is revealed.

Context — roughly the same as before; later in the letter.

Revelation 19:7 Let us rejoice [agalliao] and be glad / and give him glory! / For the wedding of the Lamb has come, / and his bride has made herself ready.

Context– Babylon falls, which is probably symbolic of all of Sin itself being destroyed, near the end of Revelation. Then, several praise choruses break out in Heaven, including this one. We are to rejoice because the consummation of all things (wedding feast and bride imagery being relevant for this reason) is then about to happen soon.

The best rendering of this word in the NIV is either the above use of “overjoyed” in 1 Peter 4:13, or Jesus being “full of joy” in Luke 10:21.

Here are the non-apocryphal Septuagint (LXX) uses: 66 verses with 50 uses in the Psalms and 10 in Isaiah. (2 Sam. 1:20; 1 Chr. 16:31; Ps. 2:11; 5:11; 9:2, 14; 13:4f; 14:7; 16:9; 19:5; 20:5; 21:1; 31:7; 32:11; 33:1; 35:9, 27; 40:16; 48:11; 51:8, 14; 53:6; 59:16; 60:6; 63:7; 67:4; 68:3f; 70:4; 71:23; 75:9; 81:1; 84:2; 89:12, 16; 90:14; 92:4; 95:1; 96:11f; 97:1, 8; 98:4, 8; 118:24; 119:162; 132:9, 16; 145:7; 149:2, 5; Song 1:4; Isa. 12:6; 25:9; 29:19; 35:1f; 41:16; 49:13; 61:10; 65:14, 19; Jer. 49:4; Lam. 2:19; Hab. 3:18) (source)

The Precept Austin source (immediately above) also notes that “Agalliao is not used by secular Greek writers” and comments that this is likely because they did not have things to be so joyed about to need this strong of a word. Rienecker adds that agalliao “appears to be used always with the connotation of a religious joy, a joy that springs from the contemplation of God or God’s salvation.

Potential for Application

We cannot draw many applications just from an analysis of a word itself. This term and its positive usage in the New Testament do seem to indicate, at least, that our threshold for joy should be high. It is possible to reach this high threshold for joy. I would even make the stronger claim that we can understand joy this powerful through the empowerment of the Holy Spirit, like in the Luke 10:21 section.

That this term does not appear in secular Greek texts (if true) implies either that it was an idiosyncratic term used only by people who had contact with the first person to coin the word, or that there was truly no “jumping for joy” absent of the power of God. I am not sure which is more reasonable. Peter advised Mark in writing his Gospel, yet both Matthew and Luke include variations on the Beatitudes while Mark does not; this eliminates the main potential source of downstream influence for use of this term, but even still, it could have just generally been in use during the first century in the region.

Three of these passages (Matthew and both the 1 Peter passages) describe joy in the midst of suffering. This joy is not just the usual word for joy (χαρά, chara), but instead the colorful word picture of “jumping for joy,” which goes further. In our times of sorrow, we want to do much less than be joyful, but Jesus and Peter both imply here that our joy should be further increased than normal.

Answering Objections 3: Faith is Unbelievable

Objector:

And for faith.. Can’t you believe in anything using faith?

Response:

Faith, Belief, Knowledge, having a Hunch, and Speculation are not distinct concepts, but rather, differing degrees of the same concept. We accept a thing as truth — call it X — on the basis of some other thing — call it Y — also being true and being at least somewhat indicative of X. How indicative does Y have to be on X? Well, that depends. If you are shooting for a Speculation, then not really very indicative at all; if a Hunch, then slightly indicative; if Faith, moderately indicative; if Belief, very indicative; if Knowledge, completely indicative. Think of these terms according to a sliding scale, not as distinct processes.

So then, we use “faith” in one of these ways every day. The classic though flawed example is that we daily sit in chairs even though — technically… — we have little reason to believe that that specific chair will hold us up this particular time.

Scientists, then, use faith all the time. Not in their science itself, as such; but nonetheless that all scientists depend upon a set of unfalsifiable beliefs. These beliefs are equally as questionable as the theist’s beliefs. Philosophers tend to call these “metaphysics” as a catch-all term, but others have come up with more clever terms like “worldview” or the “spectacles” through which one views the world. A person’s basic core beliefs in metaphysics cannot be disproved using the scientific method, which according to nearly all atheists is the way to prove everything. This sounds familiar… oh yeah.

So, the question is not “should we use faith to believe X,” but instead, “do we have a strong enough Y to not be exercising BLIND faith in X.” The answer to that question for Christianity, I am convinced, is yes. We may never fully establish the claims of Christianity beyond the faith level — as in, the arguments for Christianity may never become deductive, they may always retain some amount of slippery inductive flexibility. But even still, this retains the ability to reasonably believe without mere speculation or hunch holding.