Two Men at the Gates

beggarAn Exegetical Study Comparing and Contrasting Luke 16:20 with Acts 3:2

One of the things I absolutely love doing in exegetical biblical studies is comparing and contrasting! I’ve already presented an example of this in a previous post: Nicodemus and the Woman of Samaria. In this post, I want to compare and contrast Lazarus the beggar in Luke 16:19-30 with the lame man at the Temple gate in Acts 3:1-11. For the sake of this exercise, we will focus primarily on Luke 16:20 and Acts 3:2.

First of all, we should note that Luke and Acts were written by the same author: Luke, the physician, traveling companion of Paul, and historian. This is important to know because in the scriptures, certain authors had certain writing styles that help us to identify and/or verify whether or not they were the likely author of a certain text. For example, in the quest to identify the author of Hebrews, some have suggested the Apostle Paul. However, when we study the book of Hebrews in the original language, it just doesn’t “sound” like Paul when compared to works definitely known to be Pauline in origin. (By the way, only God knows who wrote Hebrews!) Well, enough of that, let’s get to the study at hand.

The first thing that captured my attention as I looked at these two passages was the similarity in wording in the English versions, particularly in the KJV (King James Version). In Luke 16:2, Luke records Jesus as saying: “And there was a certain beggar named Lazarus. . .” Luke begins Acts 3:2 with: “And a certain man lame from his mother’s womb. . .” Note that both verses employ the word “certain” (the Greek word translated as “certain” is the same in both texts also). This was Luke’s way of indicating that a specific person, not just any person, was being referenced. Note that while the “certain man” in Acts was nameless, in Luke the story was about a “certain beggar” named Lazarus.

We don’t know exactly how Lazarus arrived at the rich man’s gate, but Luke tells us that the man that was lame from his mother’s womb “was carried daily” and was laid at the gate of the Temple called Beautiful. Now, here is where it gets real interesting! Although both of these texts were written by the same author and although all of the English versions say that both men were “laid” at their gates, there are two different Greek words used to denote the idea of these two men being laid at their respected gates! In Luke 16:20 the Greek word that is translated as “laid” is the pluperfect passive indicative form of the verb: “ballo.” It means; to throw or let go of a thing without caring where it falls, to scatter, to throw, cast into. In Acts 3:2 the Greek word that is translated as “laid” is the imperfect active indicative form of the verb “tithemi.” Its means; to set, put, place or lay, to put down, to lay down.  So the question before us is this: Was Luke suggesting two different “laids” (I know that’s not a word; just bear with me!) or was he just using two different words for stylistic variation? Luke used the term: “tithemi” in Luke 23:53 in reference to the laying down of the body of Jesus in the sepulcher, so apparently he made a distinction between the two terms, therefore I think the former is the case! I think Luke was saying that the beggar Lazarus was thrown or tossed in a haphazardly fashion at the rich man’s gate, while in contrast, the lame man was carefully carried and lovingly placed at the Temple gate! However, we cannot see this contrast without access to the original languages! It helps us to better understand the predicament of Lazarus when we realized that indeed, the only real help he had was from God! (The name: “Lazarus” means; “whom God helps.”)

Finally, they both were laid at gates and Luke also used two different Greek words to relay the concept of gates. In Luke 16:20, Luke used the Greek noun; “pulon,” which is defined as; a large gate: of a palace, the front part of a house, into which one enters through the gate, porch. In Acts 3:2, Luke used the noun; “thura,” which is defined as; a door, the vestibule, an entrance. From this we can surmise that the rich man’s house was quite an elaborate structure! Lazarus was tossed at the entrance of the rich man’s palace and the lame man in Acts 3:2 was gingerly laid at the entry-way of the Temple!

And so in conclusion, perhaps a comparison and contrast of these two men at their respective gates is a lesson for us as individuals and as members of various communities of faith. The individual lesson comes from the plight of Lazarus at the rich man’s gate! Because Lazarus was at the gate, the rich man could not plea ignorance of Lazarus’ condition! Every time he left home and every time he came home, he had to pass by, go around, or step over Lazarus! Sometimes life puts people at our gates that we cannot justifiably ignore! How do we treat these people? Do we get involve and attempt to alleviate their suffering or do we simply ignore them; passing by, going around or stepping over them like the rich man did Lazarus? And as faith communities, there are people all around the gates of our “temples” (houses of worship). How do we, as communities of faith, respond to them? Many times, like the man in Acts, they have their hands out for monetary assistance (help with utility bills, rent, etc.) but we must recognize that the need is often much deeper! They need more than just a “hand-out” they need a “hand-up!” They need job-training! They need drug and substance abuse rehabilitation! They need the church to get involve with their lives by lifting them up by the hand, helping them to rise up out of their debilitating situations! Then they will receive strength to stand on their own! And then, if this is consistently done it in the name of Jesus, (doing it in the spirit of Jesus; doing it because it is what Jesus would do and doing it as representatives of Jesus) and not doing it just in hope of adding to the church roll, like the man in the story, they will eventually follow us into the Temple, “walking, and leaping, and praising God!”


According to the Westminster Catechism, the chief end of man is to glorify God and to enjoy him forever. However, according to the me-ology that is being passed off as theology by many in the Christian world today, the chief end of God is to serve the needs and wants of man!” It is heard in the preaching, the praying, the singing and the sayings; the prevailing belief in the Christian world today seems to be that we don’t exist for God but rather God exists for us! Now this is really nothing new! Today’s me-ology is just a re-branding of age-old humanism, which is by definition a doctrine, attitude, or way of life centered on human interests or values. In many ways today, we say with our lips that it’s about God, but in reality, in many cases it is all about that unholy trinity of me, myself, and I!

me signHere’s a prime example of Me-ology!

A few years ago, the Prayer of Jabez was the current rage in Christian circles. The prayer of Jabez was an obscure prayer prayed by a man named Jabez who is only mentioned a grand total of two (2) verses in the entire Bible! However, after a book was written about it; preachers were preaching about it, and choirs were singing about it! All over, people were excited about the prayer of Jabez! Its popularity was a grand example of me-ology! The biblical text says in I Chronicles 4:10, “And Jabez called on the God of Israel, saying, Oh that thou wouldest bless me indeed, and enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it may not grieve me! And God granted him that which he requested.” (1Ch 4:10 KJV) Now, the Bible doesn’t tell us much about his situation or how he arrived at the point to pray this prayer, but I’ve got a sneaking suspicion that the modern application has taken it completely out of context! But I mention this prayer because it articulates our modern me-ology! Listen to what he asked: “Oh that thou wouldest ‘bless me indeed. Enlarge my coast, and that thine hand might be with me, and that thou wouldest keep me from evil, that it might not grieve me!” Do you see all of the references to me and my in this prayer? Many Christians today hold this as their model of prayer instead of what is commonly known as the Lord’s Prayer in Matthew!

The Obsession with Blessings is Me-ology!

Everybody it seems is seeking blessings or seeking to be blessed, however, this attitude and pursuit is totally out of line with scripture and the will of God! The scriptures teach that the blessings of God are by-products of our covenant relationship with God. In other words, we really don’t have to ask God for blessings, because the blessings are part of covenant deal! If we want to be blessed, all we have to do is be in right relationship and fellowship with the One who blesses! In fact, if we were to read the Bible carefully, we would discover passages such as Deuteronomy 28:1-14, Psalm 23:6, Matthew 6:31-33, and others which seem to suggest that it is not God’s will for us to be seeking and running after blessings, but rather for blessings to be seeking and running after us!

The “Church-Shopping” Mentality is Me-ology!

People even look for and join churches today based on a me-ology! They look for and join a church based solely on what that church can do for them! But you shouldn’t join a church with a consumer attitude! You shouldn’t look for a church with a “Wally-World” (Wal-Mart) shopper mentality. You should join a particular church because that is where you have been led by God to serve in ministry! I’ve heard people say that they didn’t join a certain church because that church didn’t have a particular ministry. Well, it could be that maybe they are the ones who were supposed to start that ministry! To paraphrase the words of President John F. Kennedy: “Ask not what the church can do for you, to rather what can you do for the church!”

The Church Has Me-ology!

And even the church has me-ology! Many churches today are primarily inwardly focused! In other words, many churches exist primarily for themselves! But in the biblical model the church exists for “others!” The church was not created for the church; the church was created to be a means to minister to others in the name of Christ! The church was created to be the extension of Jesus and the extension of the ministry of Jesus! He himself said: “Take as your model the human one. He did not come to be catered to, but to serve and to expend his life as a ransom in behalf of multitudes.” (Mat 20:28 MIT) Jesus is the example for the church! He did nothing for himself! He came into the world for others! He lived for others! He performed miracles for others! He went to the cross for others! He died for others! God raised him from the dead for others!  The Bible says that even now, he sits at the right hand of the Father making intercessions for others! And one day, he is coming back again for others! Now if Jesus was all about being for others, shouldn’t it be only reasonable to conclude that the church he built was to be primarily for others? I would like to submit that one of the reasons why the world doesn’t take the church seriously is because the church, like the whole of society, has been infected with and is unduly influenced by me-ology!

We all have been influenced by Me-ology!

WAKE UP PEOPLE! Read the Bible for yourself! Don’t just take “Bishop Send Me An Offering,” Pastor Only Pay Your Tithes” and “Prophet Blessed Oil For Twenty Dollars” word for it! It’s not about us! God created us for his glory, not the other way around! We belong to Him! The Psalmist says: “The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof; the world and they that dwell therein!” The very reason for our existence is to glorify God! The ultimate good of your life is not to be a millionaire or to be successful in your chosen field of endeavor; it is to glorify God! Your life is not about you! It doesn’t matter who you are! Like Jesus, you and I were born to be physical and visible expressions of the invisible God! People often ask why God allows evil in the world. But the real question is not why God allows it; the real question is why do we allow it? God does not perpetrate or allow the evil and injustices in the world; we do! The only way God is going to do anything in the world is through human agency! But we tie the hands of God when we are preoccupied with me-ology instead of correct theology!

The Way out of Me-ology

Well, how to we get out of me-ology? By following Jesus! Jesus said: “If any man will come after me, he must deny himself (give up his me-ology; his selfish way of life) take up his cross (accept and seek to fulfill the ultimate calling of God upon his life) and follow me (my commandment, teachings and example) daily!” As we daily follow Jesus, he will free us from me-ology. And as all of us are freed from me-ology, we will come to realize that living life that celebrates “we” and “us” is much more fulfilling than a life constricted by the narrow focus of me, myself and I! For what does it profit a man (what good is it?) if he should gain the whole world (he can’t, but even if he could) and lose his soul (himself; his very reason for existence, in the process)?

May the Lord deliver us all from Me-ology! Amen!

A Layman’s Guide to Biblical Reading and Interpretation (Part 2)

study bible

In Part 1, we talked about the various barriers, bridges, or rivers that must be crossed before one can even get to a correct reading and interpretation of the Bible. The barriers we talked about were: (1) Time, (2) Culture, (3) Language and (4) Geography. While these are not the only barriers, they represent the major ones that must be addressed. In this post, we will look at some of the factors one must deal with while actually reading the text.

  1. Context – Read several verses before the verse in question and read several verses after the verse in question to gain a sense of context. It is even a good idea to read the whole chapter. How does the verse fit into the chapter? How does the chapter fit into the book? How does the book fit into the part of the Bible in which it is found? How does that part of the Bible fit into the whole of the Bible? The first rule is context! The second rule is context! The third rule is context!
  2. Genre – As we read the Bible we need to understand that the Bible is not technically one book, but really 66 books of various types of literature. How one approaches and interprets a biblical text is largely depended upon the genre of the text. Genre (pronounced: “john-ra”) is a literary term that means, “kind,” “type,” or “sort.” As you read a passage of scripture, before you can even begin to interpret it, you must determine what type of literature it is. Is it poetry? Is it a historical narrative? Is it a chronological listing? Is it a parable? Is it a hymn? For example, one of the distinguishing characteristics of Hebrew poetry is parallelism, in English poetry, the main characteristic is rhyme.
    1. English example: Mary is so blue; but what about you? We recognize this as poetry because of the rhyming sounds of the words “blue” and “you.”
    2.  A good Hebrew example is Psalm 37:1, “Fret not thyself because of evildoers, neither be thou envious against the workers of iniquity.” (KJV) The term: “Fret not thyself” is parallel with and roughly equal to “neither be thou envious” and the term “evildoers” is parallel with and roughly equal to “workers of iniquity.” The author is basically using two different terms to communicate the same concept.

There are other characteristics in Hebrew poetry, but parallelism is the most notable.

  1. Take note of the various figures of speech. In other words, be on the look-out for hyperbole, exaggeration, sarcasm, etc. Just as we use these literary devices in our speaking and writing, they are also present in the biblical text.
  2. Invest in a concordance, a biblical lexicon, a Bible dictionary, a Bible encyclopedia, commentaries etc. – In the words of my New Testament Greek professor at Mississippi College: Dr. G. Rogers Greene, “You can’t tell what it means, if you don’t know what it meant!” Invest in sources that will help you deal with the text in the original languages. Remember, no one in the Bible ever spoke a word of English and not one word was originally written in English. The Bible you read is a version that came from a translation that came from manuscripts that were copied from the autographs (original documents). By the way, when you hear talk about the inerrancy of scripture, the reference is to the original autographs (which we don’t have), not necessarily the manuscripts and even less the translations and versions.
  3. Remember, your primary goal in studying the Bible is not to determine “what the verse is saying to you” but rather “what the verse is actually saying!” You cannot make application without first determining what the text actually says.
  4. Also remember, no matter what you read in the Bible, you are always reading someone else’s mail and ease-dropping on someone else’s conversation. Therefore, you need to know  who, what, why and where? This is akin to context! Who was the author? Who was or who were the original recipients? What was the issue that was being addressed? These are the type of questions that must be addressed if you are going to do serious Bible study! You need to know the original setting! The Germans called it: “sitz im leben;” the setting in life.

While the information contained in this post and in Part 1 is by no means exhaustive, hopefully it will provide you with a springboard to propel you to a more productive and exegetically correct approach to Bible study.

A Layman’s Guide to Biblical Reading and Interpretation (Part 1)

English: Readin the Bible.

Reading the Bible is not as simple as it may seem! I think the reason there are so many false teachings is because people read the Bible without realizing that there are certain factors that must be dealt with in approaching the biblical text. The primary factor being that the Bible is the Word of God and God is Spirit, therefore the Bible is a spiritual book. Paul wrote in 1 Corinthians 2:14, “The person without the Spirit does not accept the things that come from the Spirit of God but considers them foolishness, and cannot understand them because they are discerned only through the Spirit.” (NIV)  But even with the Spirit, there are some principles the reader must adhere to if he or she is to correctly read and interpret the biblical text. So with that in mind, I want to share this simple layman’s (a person with no formal theological or seminary training in hermeneutics and exegesis) guide to biblical reading and interpretation. I am going to present this in two parts because before we can even get to the biblical text, there are some things we must consider:

The primary thing we must consider as we approach the biblical text is to understand that there are some barriers, bridges, or rivers we must cross before we can even get to a correct reading and interpretation of the Bible. Part one of this presentation is a brief discussion of four such barriers.

  1. Time – We must first of all consider the fact that the Bible was written many years ago in a time much different from our own. God has always dealt with his people in what I call: progressive revelation. For instance, when Moses delivered the Children of Israel out of Egypt and they crossed the sea, the Bible says that they walked over on dry land. However, some forty years later, when they crossed over the Jordan, the waters didn’t receded until the priests got their feet wet! It could be that one of the reasons God deals with us differently today is because we have been given much more revelation because of the passing of time. Therefore, it is an exegetical mistake to force our time back upon the biblical characters or to bring them to forward to our time and judge their actions according to our time.
  2. Culture – We, those of us who live in America, live in a modern Western culture, but the Bible was written by and to people who lived in an ancient Eastern culture. Some of the things written in the Bible have more to do with culture and custom than spiritual or Godly principles. We must remember that when the original authors wrote, it was not in the fore-front of their minds that their words would be read by people of a different culture hundreds of years later. They were writing about particular situations in their particular time and culture. When Paul wrote about women keeping their heads covered, it was more of a cultural thing because generally the women of that culture who didn’t cover their heads were immoral women. So Paul told the women in the church to keep their heads covered, not only to honor their husbands but also to keep them from looking like a lady of the streets! When we read the Bible, we must always remember that it was written by and to people from a time and culture much different from our own. So it is an error to say that those people were “just like us” because they weren’t. They didn’t even think like us! For instance, in America today the primary focus is on the individual, but in the days and culture of the Bible, the primary focus was on the group! They didn’t think like us!
  3. Language – The next barrier is language. No one in the Bible ever spoke a word in English! As far as we know, the English language wasn’t even developed at that time! Consequently, we must understand that the Bible we hold in our hands is a version of a translation that came from manuscripts (copies of the original documents) that were written from the autographs (the original documents) of the original writer. The Old Testament was written mostly in Hebrew and the New Testament was written primarily in Greek. And just as we use figures of speech, such as sarcasm, exaggeration, hyperbole, and irony in our language today, so did the ancients in biblical days. We should be aware of that fact as we read the Bible.
  4.  Geography – There some others, but the fourth and last barrier we must deal with before we can get to a correct reading and interpretation of the biblical text that we are going to address is geography. It is important as you read the text that you be aware of the factor of geography. It helps when you know that although there was only about 18 miles from Jerusalem to Jericho; Jerusalem was about 2500 feet above sea level while Jericho was about 825 feet below sea level! That’s a difference in elevation of over 3,000 feet in just 18 miles! Therefore, the road between the two was steep, rocky, winding, and was notorious for being a haunt for highway robbers. We would be more understanding of why the priest and the Levite passed the man on the other side in Luke 10:30, if we understood the geography and culture of the time.

These are just a few of the perquisite factors we must keep in mind as we approach the biblical text. I will comment on what we need to consider as we actually read the biblical text in Part 2 of this study.

Taking Back What The Devil Stole?

Some preach it! Some sing it! Some even pray it! But does the Bible teach it? Does the Bible teach, instruct or even imply that we should, could, or even should try to take back what the devil has stolen from us? I would like to suggest that, contrary to popular belief, it doesn’t!

thiefFirst of all, we might be able to accuse the devil of many things, but we cannot “biblically” accuse him of being a thief! Now! I know what you are thinking! You heard some preacher, some teacher, or somebody say this: “The Bible says (some say: ‘Jesus said’) in John 10:10 that the devil is a thief! And he only comes to steal, and to kill, and to destroy!” Well, if you would look at that text carefully, you might note that Jesus didn’t specifically identify “the thief” as being the devil! That’s a conclusion that somebody came up with who didn’t study the context of the text carefully! If you read my post: The Thief of John 10:10, you would discover that Jesus was NOT referring to the devil at all as the thief in that text! But I did a topical study, using the New Naves Topical Bible, on Satan, demons, and the devil, and I discovered that there is not one single reference to the devil being called a thief in the Bible! In Revelation 12:10, he is called “the accuser of the brethren.” I Peter 5:8 describe him as “the adversary,” going about as a roaring lion, seeking whom he may devour. John 8:44 says that he is “a liar” and “the father of lies!” John 12:31 says he is “the prince of this world.” Paul describes him in Ephesians 2:2 as “the prince of the power of the air” and “the spirit that works in the children of disobedience.” In Ephesians 6:12, he is “the ruler of the darkness of this world.” In Matthew 12:14, he is “the unclean spirit” and later on in 13:19 he is called “the wicked one.” These are just a few of the numerous scriptures that directly and indirectly refer to Satan or the devil. He is called many things in the Bible; but nowhere is he called a thief!

Secondly, contrary to the idea of the devil stealing something from us, we should note an interesting dialogue that went on between Jesus and the devil in the wilderness when Jesus was being tempted. The dialogue seems to suggest that rather than stealing from us, the devil has a different agenda altogether! Look at Matthew 4:8-10 and the parallel text in Luke 4:5-8. The devil offered to Jesus all of the kingdoms of the world in their glory (this included, position, power, and wealth; the very stuff some say the devil comes to steal) if he would just fall down and worship him! Now, it’s true that the devil is a liar! But it is interesting to note that Jesus did not dispute the devil’s claim that the world was his to offer! In fact, according to Luke, the devil said: “for it has been handed over to me, and I give it to whomever I wish” (Luke 4:6 NASB). And, if it had not been within the devil’s delegated power to make this offer to Jesus, it wouldn’t have been a temptation at all! Remember, in the references cited earlier, the Bible does describe him as “the god of this world.” My question is this: Why would the devil want to steal from us when he already has the kingdoms of the world to offer? Instead of thinking that the devil wants to steal from us, it is probably more feasible and biblically correct to think that the devil is more apt to offer us riches and material wealth in an attempt to lure us away from the Lord! The Bible does say that the love of money is the root of all evil. Jesus, in the parable of the sower, said that some seed fell among the thorns, which represented the cares of this world and the deceitfulness of riches. The bottom line is the devil already has access to the riches and material wealth of the world without trying to steal them from us!

Now, I heard a preacher allude to the story of David at Ziglag in I Samuel 30, as a reference text to illustrate an instance of taking back what the devil stole. But in all exegetical fairness, we should remember that David’s stuff was not stolen by the devil, but by the Amalekites. The main point of the story is really not so much about David getting his wives, children and material goods back from the enemy as it is about the fact that if David had not been out of position and away from his home, leaving the city unprotected, none of that would have happened in the first place!

In conclusion, let me just say that many times, it very well might be that we suffer losses in our lives, not so much because it is the work of the devil, but rather because of our own faults, failures, and lack of wisdom. In fact, the reason we lose some stuff may be, not because the devil stole it from us, but rather because we gave it to him! The devil really is not so desperate to get “stuff” that he has to resort to stealing it from us! And if the devil was a thief, he really wouldn’t be after any of the material things!  He would want to steal our joy, our peace and our faith more than any to the material possession we might have! Yes! We can accuse the devil of many things, but according to the Bible, we cannot accuse him of being a thief!