“Pure and undefiled religion before God and the Father is this: to visit orphans and widows in their trouble, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world.” (James 1:27 NKJV)
In the above verse, the word translated as “visit” (from the Greek word, ‘episkeptomai’) means much more than “stopping by” to see someone for the sake of seeing them. The idea of “stopping by” (which we may associate with the word, “visit”) is nothing close to the idea or intent the scriptures have in mind.
Episkeptomai means (according to my personal breakdown), “to inspect, examine with our eyes in order to help, benefit and look out or provide for.”
In other words, God’s intentions aren’t for us to simply visit someone who needs help to see how they’re doing, but rather to visit someone to see how we can help.
Turning a blind-eye to the problems of others may be easy, but turning a blind-eye may be due to symptoms caused by giant spiritual beams (Matthew 7:1-5) that are keeping us from seeing the things that lead to pure and undefiled religion before the eyes of God.
“But be doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving yourselves. For if anyone is a hearer of the word and not a doer, he is like a man observing his natural face in a mirror; for he observes himself, goes away, and immediately forgets what kind of man he was. But he who looks into the perfect law of liberty and continues in it, and is not a forgetful hearer but a doer of the work, this one will be blessed in what he does.” (James 1:22-25 NKJV)
“And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts;” (2 Peter 1:19)
The interesting Greek word (at least to me) that is translated as “morning star” in the NKJV, BBE, ESV and NET, and as “day-star” in the KJV and ASV is φωσφόρος, and in the New Testament it’s unique to 2 Peter 1:19.
Now, in case you can’t read Greek, spell the word out in English and it would be something along the lines of, “phōsphoros.”
And in case you don’t remember anything about phosphorus from your High School physical science classes, phosphorus does a couple of things very well; one of which is that it burns brightly! Such is the reason why the Greek word “phōsphoros” literally means, “light bearing or light bringing.”
The Greek word in 2 Peter 1:19 can also refer to the planet Venus due to the planet’s orbiting characteristic in relation to the Earth which causes Venus to appear brighter in the morning than in the evening.
Either way, the apostle Peter’s point is clear – Jesus (who is the topic of the context’s confirmed prophetic word) is the bright and morning star whose light will cause our hope to become a reality regardless of how dark it may be before the dawn. Perhaps this thought is why the song writer of “He’s the Lilly of the Valley” follows up that reference with the proclamation of Jesus being the fairest of 10,000 to our soul.
“I, Jesus, have sent My angel to testify to you these things in the churches. I am the Root and the Offspring of David, the Bright and Morning Star.” (Revelation 22:16)
One of our men was teaching Acts 15 on Wednesday night. I noticed something that I wanted to share with you, to get your feedback.
“And certain men came down from Judea and taught the brethren, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, NKJV).
“But some men came down from Judea and were teaching the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, ESV).
“And certain men which came down from Judaea taught the brethren, and said, Except ye be circumcised after the manner of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, KJV).
“And certain men came down from Judaea and taught the brethren, saying, Except ye be circumcised after the custom of Moses, ye cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, ASV).
“While Paul and Barnabas were at Antioch of Syria, some men from Judea arrived and began to teach the believers[a]: “Unless you are circumcised as required by the law of Moses, you cannot be saved” (Acts 15:1, NLT).
The word for “custom” in Acts 15:1 means “habit or law.”
Circumcision was more than custom under the Old Covenant (Genesis 17:7-14; Leviticus 12:3; Joshua 5:2-8; Romans 4:11). And we know that law is much stronger than custom.
To us, custom means something that became common over time like Sunday night worship or a family having pizza on Friday night. Law, however, is something commanded by God. In Acts 15:1, the Judaizing teachers were false teachers but they believed that circumcision was still law.
- Why do you think custom is used in this context?
- Do you see a difference between “law” and “custom.”
- If the word means “habit” or “law,” what clue would translators use to make the determination?
I am a novice at Greek. Yet, I enjoy using the tools that I have to do research on God’s Word. I enjoy the word studies that we can do as students of the inspired Scripture. In the process, I get my NKJV Greek English New Testament Interlinear out and read what the passage says in a literal translation. Even though their word orders differ from ours, their usage does illuminate some interesting nuances that can be special to the student and teacher as they prepare to impart lessons to their listeners.
For example, John 14:23 says in the NKJV, “Jesus answered and said to him, ‘If anyone loves Me, he will keep My word; and My Father will love him, and We will come to him and make Our home with him.'”
However, the literal reading in my Interlinear paints a more passionate and personal version of the same verse. It says, “answered – Jesus and said to him ‘If anyone loves Me, word My he will keep. And – Father My will love him, and to him We will come and Our abode with him We will make.”
That is wonderful to me. “…loves Me, word My he will keep…” They are one and same! The Word and the Savior cannot be separated. “father My” is also poignant and denotes a passionate bond between them. Finally, I love the statement: “to him We will come and Our abode with him We will make.” That is so much more expressive than the English in my mind.
If we would look at the Word, the Savior and the Kingdom in such personal, familial terms, we would all have a deeper relationship with them.