(i) meaning, derivation and usage

First, pronunciation: never say ‘die’! ‘Dei’ is pronounced ‘day’, its two short vowels sounded separately but swiftly, as with all diphthongs in Greek. Next, some language work: ‘dei’ is an impersonal verb, and so is found only in the third person singular, its subject being the (impersonal) ‘it’. Where Greek verbs are concerned, there are exceptions to most ‘rules’, but ‘-ei’ is the standard ending for the third person singular (‘he’, ‘she’, ‘it’) in the present tense of verbs when active. ‘Dei’ occurs a number of times in the past tense (‘edei’) in the NT, but never in the future; it also appears as a participle and in the infinitive. Its basic meaning is ‘it is necessary’; the person (usually) for whom something ‘is necessary’ is expressed in the accusative case, and the necessary action is, normally, expressed as an infinitive. In English, we are much more likely to express this idea personally, so that, whereas Greek asks: “what is it necessary (dei) for me (accusative) to do (infinitive)?” English just asks, “what must I do ?” This difference in idiom is regularly reflected in English versions of the NT: not even the AV has the Philippian jailer asking Paul: “what is it necessary for me to do to be saved ?” (Acts 16.30) As a result, ‘dei’ is a difficult subject for a word-study based on an English concordance, which is at least one reason for this study, based on a Greek concordance. As we proceed, I hope it becomes apparent that there are other and better reasons for looking carefully at a word that could easily pass unnoticed, both in the original Greek and in its various translations.

(ii) related words
deomai deēsis

The Greek concordance lists 104 occurrences of ‘dei’ in its various forms, but in four of these the MSS are not unanimous in including the word, so that the standard UBS Greek text of the NT omits it, conveniently reducing the total to a round 100. One of these excluded occurrences is in Revelation, and reduces the number of ‘dei’s’ in that book to 7 - which suggests that the editors have got it right ! We will not be able (quite!) to look at the whole hundred, and many of the instances we do look at will just be passing references. But there is a group of other words whose meanings overlap with ‘dei’ in its different meanings and contexts, and these, too, are worth a look, since they help to pin down and define the meaning of ‘dei’ itself. But we will start with the personal verb from which ‘dei’ is derived, the verb ‘deō’ - the -o ending being the familiar first-person singular form in which it is conventional to refer to Greek verbs. In Classical Greek, this verb has two clearly distinguished meanings, to ‘bind’ and to ‘need’. This latter sense does not appear directly in the NT, but if you ‘need’ something you are often led to ‘ask’ for it, and so the verb came to be used in that sense in its middle form, ‘deomai’ (though in the aorist it uses the passive endings - don’t ask !), and this verb is found 22 times in the NT, and its related noun ‘de-esis’ (short e + long e) 18 times, all of them referring to prayer which is supplicatory, asking for what you need, or intercessory, asking for what others need. We shall not pursue ‘deomai’ any further (apart from one reference), but ‘deō’ will make a number of appearances. These two meaning of ‘deō’, to ‘bind’ and to ‘need’, are helpful in understanding the ways in which ‘dei’ is used: put simply, it can either refer to what is ‘binding’ or what is ‘fitting’, what ‘must’ happen, or what ‘ought’ to happen.

(iii) deō and luō, hupodema
John 10.35, 11.44, Mark 1.7, Matt 16.19,18.18

This broad division in the two meanings of ‘dei’ could be seen to reflect the division in the OT, in Jewish tradition, into ‘the Law’ and ‘the Prophets’: the Law tells us how we ‘ought’ to behave in order to please a holy God, and the Prophets foretell what ‘must’ happen in fulfilment of the purposes of a sovereign God. This distinction may seem to be rather simplistic and over-schematic, but, nevertheless, it does provide us with a convenient framework for much of this study. We will begin by looking at those events which, we are told, ‘must’ happen because it is the unalterable will of God that they should happen. The prophets have spoken (“thus says the Lord” - OT passim), and scripture has recorded their words: what scripture says will happen ‘must’ happen. This principle is most succinctly expressed by Jesus himself in John 10.35: “scripture cannot be broken”. The link with ‘dei’ here is interesting, but not obvious. The verb translated ‘broken’ is ‘luō’, which means to ‘untie’, or ‘unbind’ .It is used in the very next chapter (11.44) when Lazarus is raised from the dead: “the dead man came out of the tomb, his hands and feet bound” (‘dedemenos’, perfect participle passive of ‘deō’) “by the grave-clothes. --- Jesus said to them, ‘unbind him, and let him go on his way’”. It is also used in the three synoptic accounts of the two disciples who were sent to fetch the donkey for Jesus’ entry into Jerusalem, who first had to ‘untie’ it (Matt. 21.2, Mark 11.2, + 4 and 5, Luke 19. 30-33). Three gospels (Matthew is the exception this time) record the words of John the Baptist about Jesus: “I am not worthy to undo the strap of his sandals” (Mark 1.7, Luke 3.16, John 1.27). The Greek word for a sandal is ‘hupodema’, something ‘bound’ (‘deō’) under (‘hupo’) one’s feet. But the clearest contrast between ‘deō’ and ‘luō’ is found in Jesus’ words to Peter after his confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi: “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven, and whatever you unbind on earth will be unbound in heaven” (Matt. 16.19, repeated, with plural ‘you’, in 18.18). In view of these uses of ‘luō’, we could well translate Jesus’ “scripture cannot be broken” simply and positively as “scripture is binding”: what the word of God says will happen is bound to happen. This suggests another, also, perhaps, rather simplistic distinction between the two meanings of ‘dei’: the ‘dei’ of predestination, and the ‘dei’ of free will. What God purposes must come to pass, but what pleases God , what we ‘ought’ to do, we may freely choose to do, or not to do.


[1] The gospel age: (a) John the Baptist
(i) the purpose of prophecy
Matt 17.9-12, Mark 9.11-13

The occurrences of ‘predestined’ or ‘prophetic’ ‘dei’ in the NT fall into three distinct time-frames: 20 or more of them refer to the earthly ministry of Jesus, and most of these to the last four days of his life; another dozen or so, mostly in Revelation, refer to the ‘end times’; and just two or three refer to the ‘in-between times’, the 2,000-years-and - counting between Jesus’ ascension to glory and his return in glory, the time referred to in the NT as ‘the last days’, but for us the here-and-now - a long period which will merit a short but significant section. But before the ministry of Jesus came the ministry of John the Baptist, and it is with him that we will begin this section. Both Matthew (17. 9-12) and Mark (9. 11-13) record a conversation between Jesus and his disciples as they were coming down from the mountain of Transfiguration; we will follow Matthew’s version because of its helpful final verse. “The disciples asked him, ‘Why do the scribes say that Elijah must (‘dei’) come first, before the Messiah ?’ Jesus replied, ‘Elijah is certainly coming, and will restore everything. But I say to you, Elijah has already come, and they did not recognise him, but did to him what they wanted. In the same way, too, the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands’. Then the disciples understood that he had spoken to them about John the Baptist.” There are several points to make here, the first of which may seem rather flippant, but which I hope will lead us towards an important truth. This passage records a rare occasion when the disciples actually understood what Jesus was saying - or, at least, half-understood. They realised that John the Baptist was a second Elijah, because his ministry was now over, and the prophecy thus fulfilled. But they did not understand Jesus’ prediction of his own death and resurrection, which will soon be our main topic, because they were still in the future, and, to them, unthinkable. This calls to mind some wise words of David Pawson about the purpose of prophecy, which, he said (I quote from memory), is not to provide us with an exact history of future events, but so that we may recognise, when events fulfil prophecy, that they are happening according to God’s sovereign purpose, and, particularly when those events are uncomfortable, that we may be re-assured that God is still in control. We shall need to remember this particularly when we come to consider the prophecies of the end-times in the book of Revelation. Many of the OT prophecies fulfilled in the NT were fulfilled in quite unexpected ways, and it often needed the teaching of Jesus himself, as in this passage, or of his Holy Spirit, to quicken the understanding of the apostles and the gospel-writers.

(ii) John and Elijah
Mal 4.5, 2 Kings 1.8 Matt 27.17.21

The scribes who said that “Elijah must first come” were right in their understanding of the prophecy; it occurs, appropriately, at the very end of the OT, in Malachi 4.5: “See, I will send you the prophet Elijah before that great
and dreadful day of the Lord comes.” What they did not understand was that this prophecy had already been fulfilled by John the Baptist. Had they been privileged to hear the angel’s prophecy to Zechariah, John’s father, their eyes might have been opened. Malachi’s prophecy about the second Elijah continues: “He will turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers” (v.6, the last verse of the OT). The angel tells Zechariah that the son who would be born to him would “go before the Lord in the spirit and power of Elijah, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children”. John, at least, knew what was expected of him, and scripted for him, for both Matthew (3.4) and Mark (1.6) tell us that “John’s clothes were made of camel’s hair, and he had a leather belt round his waist”. This, too, could well have given the scribes a hint, had they remembered King Ahaziah. 2 Kings 1 records that he had injured himself, and sent messengers to consult a heathen god about his chances of recovery. God told Elijah to intercept them with his message - that the king must die. The messengers did not know who this prophet was, but as soon as they described him to the king, he recognised him at once: “he was a man”, they said, “wearing a garment of hair and with a leather belt round his waist.” Ahaziah said, “That was Elijah the Tishbite” (v.8). Thus the last prophecy of the OT was fulfilled through the first prophecy (chronologically) of the NT. So just as Jesus was, among many other things, a second Moses (Deut. 18.18, John 1.45), so John the Baptist was a second Elijah - and a little later we will meet another example of ‘prophetic dei’ relating to this role in John 3, one of three ‘dei’s in that chapter. Meanwhile, our present passage also suggests another link between John and Jesus, and reminds us of the tension between God’s predestination and man’s free will. John and Jesus both came into the world (both conceived through a miracle which defied the normal ‘laws’ of nature) in fulfilment of God’s long predetermined and long promised purpose, but both were rejected and killed by their own people, the Jews, exercising their God-given free will. To John, our verse (Matt 17.12) tells us, they “did to him what they wanted”; and Matthew tells us that Pilate twice offered them a choice: “Whom do you want me to release to you, Barabbas or Jesus ?” (27. 17, 21 - ‘thelo’ is the Greek verb for ‘want’ in all three verses). They ‘wanted’ Jesus crucified, but, of course, their free choice fulfilled many OT prophecies, and God’s eternal purpose. ‘mellō’.

(i) meaning clear
Rom 8.38, Luke 7.2, John 6.71, 12.4, Matt 11.14-15

We now move on to the main subject of this section, the prophecies concerning Jesus that ‘had’ to be fulfilled. But before we leave our present passage (Mat 17.9-12), there is one more word that deserves attention, in the latter half of verse 12. This I translated: “In the same way, too, the Son of Man is going to suffer at their hands.” The Greek here uses not just the simple future of the verb to ‘suffer’; Matthew uses the verb ‘mellō’, which we shall meet again in several similar contexts, and is worth a brief comment here. It is a common verb, used 112 times in the NT, and like ‘dei’ it has several similar but distinct meanings. Also, like ‘prophetic dei’, it always refers to a future act or event. At its simplest, it means to ‘be about to’ do something or to happen. Used on its own as a participle (neuter plural), it means ‘things to come’, or just ‘the future’, occurring thus most memorably in Paul’s list of things which cannot “separate us from the love of God” (Romans 8.38). More often, though, it occurs as a finite verb, sometimes with an impersonal subject - something that is ‘about to’ or ‘going to’ happen, but usually with a personal subject, followed by an infinitive denoting the action that they are ‘about to’ take. Often this action is intentional, so that it can be translated to ‘intend’ to do something; but this would obviously not be appropriate in the case of the centurion’s servant, who, as both Luke (7.2) and John (4.47) record, “was about to die”. He did not die, of course, since Jesus healed him; but in many of its uses it implies foreknowledge that something is going to happen, whether that knowledge is God’s, revealed through prophecy, or a human narrator’s, who knows what ‘is going to’ happen later in his narrative. A good example of the latter is John’s repeated comment on Judas Iscariot that he was ‘going to’ betray Jesus (6.71, 12.4). This illustrates the fine line between these two uses, and the ultimately unanswerable question it poses: is something ‘going to’ happen because someone freely chooses to do it, or because God has foreordained it ? In the case of Judas, Jesus said: “The Son of Man goes [to his death] as has been written of him, but woe to that man by whom the Son of Man is betrayed” (Matt. 26.24). Judas has a significant, if shameful, role to play in God’s drama of salvation, but he is no more God’s pawn, or God’s puppet, than is Jesus himself: the one became a traitor, the other our Saviour, by their own free choice. This question needs to be considered, even if it cannot be clearly answered, every time ‘prophetic’ mellō or dei is used. One instance where the answer is clear takes us back to John the Baptist, and the words of Jesus: “If you are willing (‘thelo’ again) to accept this truth, it is he who is the Elijah who was to (‘mellō’) come. He who has ears to hear, let him hear” (Matt. 11. 14-15).. Clearly, this is another reference to the prophecy of Malachi, so that the coming of John the Baptist was something that was ‘bound’ to happen; but the crowd to whom Jesus is speaking are free to choose whether they will (i.e. are willing) to accept this truth or not. In this context, then, ‘mellō’ is virtually synonymous with ‘dei’, and we will
meet several more such instances.

(ii) meaning ambiguous
Matt 2.13, Acts 3.3

In other contexts, however, the answer is more ambiguous. We will look at just two examples. Its first occurrence in the NT is in Matthew 2. 13 where, after the departure of the magi, Joseph is warned in a dream by the angel to flee into Egypt because “Herod is going to”- or “intends to” - “search for the child so as to kill him.” At first sight, the ensuing ‘slaughter of the innocents’ looks like the homicidal paranoia of tyrants down the ages, an extreme expression of man’s fallen nature, and of the free will God has given him (gender-specific, in this instance at least !) to inflict suffering on others. But Matthew sees beyond the wickedness of man to the sovereign hand of God: the flight into Egypt fulfils one OT prophecy (Hosea 11.1), and the slaughter of the innocents another (Jer. 31.15). Should we then translate ‘mellō’ here as Herod ‘is destined to ---' ? Perhaps just in a footnote; but Matthew could easily have used just the simple future tense - ‘Herod will seek’ - , but chose to express his more perceptive understanding of these events by using the ‘prophetic mellō’. The second example comes in Acts. At the beginning of chapter 3, Peter and John go up to the temple “at the hour of prayer”, presumably, at this stage, still their regular habit as pious Jews. A crippled beggar, “lame from birth”, sees them “about to enter the temple”, or “intending to enter” (v.3) At first sight, this appears to be a straightforward synonym for the future tense: Peter and John were walking up the steps to the “Beautiful Gate” of the temple, clearly on their way in. What the cripple sees is a possible source of alms. Maybe Luke sees more. The cripple is miraculously healed, and an amazed crowd quickly gathers. Peter, “seeing the crowd”, sees an opportunity and preaches a sermon. Before he can finish, they are arrested; but in 4.4 we read that “many of those who had heard the word believed”, and that the church had grown from 3,000 in chapter 2 to 5,000. Like Matthew in our last example, Luke had no need of ‘mellō’: he could simply have said that the cripple “saw them entering the temple”. He used ‘mellō’ intentionally, we might say. Clearly we cannot translate ‘mellō’ here as ‘destined to enter the temple’, for the perspective is that of the cripple, who has no idea of what is about to happen. But, from the perspective of hindsight, and with the eye of faith, Luke suggests that the two apostles’ visit to the temple that day was not just a matter of habit or daily routine, but was part of God’s plan for the growth of his infant church.

The Gospel Age: (b) Jesus
[i] Mission Statements for his ministry.
The child in the Temple:
Luke 2.41-52
i. the mother
1 Cor 9.6, John 10.30

Now that John the Baptist has prepared the way for us, we move on to the main business of this section: the
uses of ‘dei’ - and ‘mellō’ - that refer to the earthly ministry of Jesus. These, of course, refer mainly to his death and resurrection, but there are a few instances which refer more generally to his life lived in perfect obedience to his Father’s will. The first of these occurs in the tantalising glimpse Luke gives us of Jesus as a child (2. 41-52). He goes up to Jerusalem with his parents to celebrate the feast (presumably the Passover); afterwards, his parents travel a day’s journey homewards before realising that Jesus is not with them - every parent’s nightmare. They return to Jerusalem and search for him for three days, with, one imagines, mounting panic, before finding him in the temple “ sitting among the rabbis, listening to them and asking them questions”. His mother says to him reproachfully: “Son, how could you do this to us ? Your father and I have been searching for you, grief-stricken”. Before we move on to Jesus’ reply, our main interest in this incident, it is worth commenting on a minor detail of Mary’s words which could easily escape notice. To say “your father and I” to us sounds perfectly normal, but in Greek (as in Latin) the first-person pronoun always comes first - that is why ‘I’ is called the ‘first person’. The Greek and Latin words for this pronoun are the same: ‘ego’; and it is appropriate that the English derivations of ‘ego’, such as ‘egotism’ and ‘egomania’, refer to putting ‘I’ first. ‘ego’ is used in the nominative case more than 400 times in the NT (7 columns’ worth in my concordance); only on two other occasions is it linked, as here, by ‘and’ to another person: in 1 Corinthians 9.6 Paul refers to “I and Barnabas”, not “Barnabas and I”; and, even more strikingly, in John 10.30, Jesus makes his most specific claim to deity in all the gospels: “I and the Father are one”. If ever a point were to be made by reversing the normal word-order, surely this would be it: Jesus showing himself to be the ever-obedient Son of the heavenly Father, and the Second Person of the Trinity. But in fact it is left to Luke, the supreme verbal artist, and the writer whose style is the closest to the classical, to use this reversal of the classical norm, and thereby to add perhaps the finishing touch to his beautiful portrait of Mary - who was, presumably, his main source for all the narrative detail of his first two chapters. He has already given her what, to me, are the most moving (human) words in the NT: “Here I am, the maidservant of the Lord. May it be to me according to your word” (Luke 1.38). Now, with similarly beautiful humility, she puts her husband first: “your father and I --- ”: the model wife !

ii. the child
Luke 2.49

It is, however, Jesus’ reply to his mother that is our chief concern, and here we encounter a translation problem. The first part is straightforward: “How is it that you were looking for me ? Did you not know that I must (‘dei’) be ---” - then comes the difficulty. The four Greek words remaining mean literally “in the of my Father”. This is an example of the standard Greek idiom which regularly uses the definite article on its own as a pronoun. Here, the article is in the dative plural, since the preposition ‘en’ (‘in’, or ‘among’) is always followed by the dative case. The problem is whether the article here is masculine or neuter, the two forms being identical. If masculine, the phrase would mean “among my Father’s people”, that is, the rabbis whom he is hearing and questioning. This makes good sense, and is appropriate to the context, but does not seem to have found favour with translators, perhaps because in the rest of the gospel record the ‘teachers of the law’ scarcely earn the description “my Father’s people”. If the article is neuter, to what does it refer ? NIV translates “in my Father’s house”. This, too, makes good sense, and fits the context, and the preposition ‘in’; but there seems to be no good reason why the article should be plural, when a house is singular. Furthermore, it seems to me to be just too blunt a rebuke to his mother’s obvious grief, saying, in effect, ‘where else did you expect to find me ? You should have looked here first’. In such contexts, the neuter plural usually means, more generally, ‘things’, ‘affairs’, ‘matters’, so that the AV “my Father’s business” is more convincing, if not exactly felicitous. This interpretation is reinforced by Jesus’ use of ‘dei’, the first of many times he uses it to refer to what he ‘must’ do or suffer to fulfil his mission and do his Father’s will as revealed in scripture - what I have called the ‘prophetic’ use of ‘dei’. We can only speculate how the child Jesus grew into full awareness of who he really was, and what the future held for him. But it seems likely that Luke recorded this incident (just as Mary remembered it) because this three-day searching of the scriptures with the teachers in the Temple was when he became fully (or at least more fully) aware, firstly, that it was not Joseph who was his father but God, and then of the awesome task that lay ahead of him, the task that he ‘must’ accomplish. Perhaps, then, we could paraphrase his words like this: “Did you not realise that I am bound to live my life according to the will of my heavenly Father, as prophesied in scripture?”

The synagogue in Nazareth
aphesis, aphiēmi
Is 61.1-2, Luke 4.18-19

Perhaps one of the prophecies Jesus questioned the teachers about was Isaiah 61. 1-2. This was the passage he chose to turn to in the synagogue at Nazareth at the very beginning of his public ministry in Galilee. It is a passage much quoted by those who believe that Jesus’ message was primarily one of social justice and good works, but in fact it contains nothing to support such a view. NIV’s translation runs as follows: “The spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to preach good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim freedom for the prisoners, and recovery of sight to the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favour” (Luke 4. 18-19). Several points need to be made here. First, Jesus’ mission is expressed in four verbs, three of which are to ‘preach’ and to ‘proclaim’ (twice). Next, if Jesus’ mission had been literally to “proclaim freedom for the prisoners”, as a campaigner for social justice, he failed abjectly to fulfil it: the parable of the sheep and the goats tells us that we should visit those in prison, but nowhere in the gospels are we told to campaign for their release. Thirdly, the word for ‘release’ here is ‘aphesis’, the normal word in the NT for ‘forgiveness’: forgiveness for those imprisoned by the guilt of sin is at the heart of the gospel message. ‘aphesis’ is derived from the verb ‘aphiēmi’, which has a number of different meanings, including to ‘forgive’. The noun itself is used 17 times in the NT, 2 of them in this passage, but apart from these 2 it is translated in the NIV as ‘forgiveness’ in all of them (except Heb. 10.18, where it is turned into a verb, ‘forgiven’). Indeed, in 11 of these 17 instances it is followed by ‘of sins’, making its meaning even more specific. This brings us to its second occurrence in our passage, the phrase translated by NIV as “to release the oppressed”; the literal translation is: “to send away the oppressed in ‘aphesis’" - the release of forgiveness: they are oppressed by the burden of their guilt, not by the injustice of ‘the system’. This phrase, in fact, is imported into the prophecy from an earlier chapter, 58.6; had Jesus intended to proclaim a merely social gospel, this is the passage he should have quoted in full, since it talks of “the chains of injustice” and the “cords of the yoke”, and bids us feed the hungry, shelter the vagrant and clothe the naked (vv. 6-7). The “good news” which Jesus was “anointed” to preach was much better than ‘peace on earth, good will towards men’; it was, essentially, “peace with God” (Rom. 1.5).

A deserted place near Capernaum
Luke 4.43

All this is a rather lengthy, but I hope not wholly irrelevant, introduction to our next ‘dei’, later in the chapter,
in verse 43. Jesus has moved from Nazareth to Capernaum, where he casts out an evil spirit from a man in the synagogue, and then goes to Peter’s house and heals his mother-in-law of a serious fever. As a result, “all who had [friends and family] who were ill with any kind of disease brought them to Jesus; he laid his hands on each of them, and healed them” (v. 40). The next morning he went out to a “deserted place”, presumably to pray, but the crowd pursued him and begged him not to leave them. His answer provides us with the definitive use of ‘prophetic dei’: “I must (‘dei’) preach the good news of the Kingdom of God to the other cities as well, because this is what I was sent out to do”. This last verb in the Greek is ‘apostellō’, from which the English word ‘apostle’ is derived. It is no coincidence, I believe, that this is the same word that is used in the prophecy of Isaiah quoted earlier: “he has sent me out to proclaim release (or ‘forgiveness’) to prisoners” (v.18): Jesus was the first apostle! The causal clause here (“because”) defines the meaning of ‘dei’: ‘I must preach the gospel because this is my mission, entrusted to me by my Father, and foretold by the prophets’. He is bound, not by compulsion, but by obedience. It has been said that free will and predestination are irreconcilable in human logic, but are like two parallel lines which only meet in eternity. For Jesus, the link between those two lines was his perfect obedience to the will of his Father. His healing ministry was a wonderful expression of the love of God, and a sign of his own deity. But physical healing is only temporary; those who were healed would, sooner or later, once again succumb to sickness, and so to death. It is only the preaching of the gospel that offers life beyond death, and that was Jesus’ priority: Isaiah had written his ‘mission statement’ centuries before.

Caesarea Philippi - the watershed
Matt 16.16, Mark 8.29, Luke 9.20

Jesus’ mission was not, of course, just to preach the gospel, but also, and ultimately, to provide it through his
sacrificial death and glorious resurrection. It is in this context that the majority of instances of ‘prophetic dei’ occur. In all three synoptic gospels there is a clearly defined moment when the focus of Jesus’ ministry changes from preaching to the crowds to teaching his disciples about his forthcoming passion; this moment we might call ‘the synoptic watershed’, and it is marked by Peter’s confession of faith at Caesarea Philippi (Matt. 16.16, Mark 8.29, Luke 9.20). Once the disciples had grasped the amazing truth of who Jesus was, they then had to learn the even more amazing truth of why he had come. Matthew and Mark both signal this new phase in Jesus’ ministry with the same words: “he began” to teach them that he “must” (‘dei’) suffer many things. But before we look at these verses in more detail, there is one ‘post- watershed’ usage of ‘prophetic dei’ which is not related to the passion.

Jericho: Zacchaeus
Luke 19.1-10
'autos', 'anablepō'

This is the lovely incident, recorded only by Luke, of the conversion of Zacchaeus. On his way into Jericho
Jesus had met blind Bartimaeus (only Mark gives us his name) and restored his sight. On his way out, he meets Zacchaeus. A comparative study of these two episodes makes a most rewarding exercise: Luke deliberately juxtaposes them, only for the unfortunate chapter division to spoil his effect - chapter 19 should really begin at 18.35. We, however, must concentrate on ‘dei’. Luke’s description of Zacchaeus in 19.2 is subtly amusing, though the point is hard to make in translation: “he was the chief tax-collector, and he was rich”. The pronoun ‘autos’ (‘he’) is only used in the nominative case, as here, when it is emphatic; its repetition here makes the two predicates parallel, implying that to be the chief tax- collector is virtually synonymous with being rich. It also suggests a degree of self-importance in Zacchaeus - but this is abandoned as Jesus draws near. He wants to see Jesus: is he just curious to get a good look at this celebrity, or is he dimly aware of some deeper need ? But he is too small to see over the heads of the crowd, so he does two very undignified things: he runs (like the father of the prodigal - Luke 15.20, of which more anon), and he climbs a tree - only children do that. Maybe he was hoping to see without being seen, but Jesus “looked up” and saw him. This is the same word ('anablepō') that is used three times in quick succession in the previous incident (18. 41-3), though there it means to ‘see again’. What Jesus says to him is remarkable: “Hurry up and come down, for today I must (‘dei’) stay at your house” (v.5).

ii. 'today' - the window of opportunity
Luke 13.31, John 9.4

Why “must” he? Does Jesus have this appointment written down in his diary from “before the foundation of the world” (Eph. 1.4) ? His use of “today”, repeated in verse 9, does rather suggest this; but it may also refer back to an earlier chapter in Luke, and another ‘dei’. In 13.31 Jesus is warned by some Pharisees not to continue on the road to Jerusalem because Herod is planning to kill him. Jesus replies: “I continue to cast out demons and perform healings today and tomorrow, and on the third day my ministry is completed” (literally, “I am brought to an end”). “But today and tomorrow and the day after I must (‘dei’) continue my journey, for it is against the rules for a prophet to die anywhere but in Jerusalem” (literally, “it is not permitted”); there is a touch of bitterness in this expression, I feel: the Pharisees were constantly accusing him of breaking the ‘rules’, especially on the Sabbath, but this was one rule he was not going to break. Jesus says something similar, and uses another ‘dei’, in John 9.4, though with slightly different imagery, and in a rather different context. He is about to heal a blind man so that “the works of God may be seen in him. I must (‘dei’) work the works of him who sent me while it is day; night is coming when no one can work”. Jesus knows that his days are numbered; this is the downhill side of the ‘synoptic watershed’. “Today” is the window of opportunity, and that window will soon be closed, and the darkness of night will fall. Jesus’ script has been written for him, and he obediently heads for Jerusalem, and the cross.

iii. two 'mission statements'
Luke 19.10, Matt 15.24, Ez 34.16

But just as for Jesus the link between those parallel lines of free will and predestination is obedience, so it is for Zacchaeus: for him, “today” is decision day, and Luke emphasises his obedience by turning Jesus’ imperative “hurry up and come down” into his own narrative: “he hurried up and came down, and joyfully welcomed Jesus into his home” (v.6) - and his life began all over again, as it had done for Bartimaeus, presumably on that same “today”. Jesus’ “must” is dictated by his divine insight into Zacchaeus’s heart: when he ‘looks up’, he sees not a tax-man and a traitor, an archetypal tabloid ‘fat cat’, but “a son of Abraham” (v.9), a prisoner in the condemned cell of his own guilt, longing for the release of forgiveness. Maybe Jesus is responding to the prompting of the Holy Spirit within him, telling him what he ‘must’ do; but the Spirit of God and the word of God ‘must’ always be in agreement, and, once again, as in our last example (4.43), this ‘must’ is justified by a causal clause, though we have to wait a bit longer for it, until verse 10. There, Jesus gives us another version of his ‘mission statement’: “For the Son of Man came to seek and to save the lost” - the last word here is singular, which is important, because it highlights Jesus’ concern for the individual in need as well as for his people as a whole. Matthew records a similar statement during Jesus’ meeting with the Canaanite woman: “I was sent out” (‘apostellō’ again, signalling a ‘mission statement’) only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel (15.24); here “lost” is plural. As before, Jesus finds his mission set out for him in the words of the prophets, this time by Ezekiel (34. 16), a passage which is the source of Jesus’ “good shepherd” imagery in John 10: “‘I myself will tend my sheep and make them lie down’, declares the Sovereign Lord. [16] ‘I will search for the lost and bring back the strays.’” In verse 2, we read that “Zacchaeus was seeking to see Jesus”, but in verse 10 we find that, after all, it was Jesus who had been seeking Zacchaeus, because he was so desperately lost. The same crowd which, “seeing” Bartimaeus’s sight restored “gave praise to God” (18.43), on “seeing” (the same aorist participle) Jesus accept hospitality from a “sinner” (v.7), “murmured” at Jesus. We should have a sense of ‘déjà vu’ here, for this repeats the situation at the beginning of chapter 15: “All the tax-men and sinners were coming close to him to hear him. And the Pharisees and scribes murmured” (same word) “saying, ‘This man receives sinners and eats with them’”. In response, Jesus did not quote Ezekiel, but told three parables, about a lost sheep, a lost coin and a lost son; the word “lost” occurs 8 times in this one chapter.

iv. 'lost' and 'found'

The two ‘mission statements’ that Jesus quoted show the beautiful balance in his ministry, between the public and the personal, between preaching to great crowds and talking to troubled individuals: he was bound both to “preach good news to the poor” (plural) and to “seek and save the lost” (singular). Nor did his concern for the poor exclude the rich Zacchaeus; it was those who were “poor in spirit” who received Jesus’ beatitude, because they were ready to respond to the “good news” with childlike faith. Jesus, despite Herod’s threats, was heading towards Jerusalem, and the clock was running down; but it was still “today”, the day for healing the blind and freeing the prisoners from the devil’s grip. When the chief tax-collector of Jericho ran along the main road and climbed a tree, his childlike disregard for dignity and status showed that, though materially rich, he was “poor in spirit”, ready for the salvation that only Jesus could bring him. This ‘must’ is the ‘dei’ of prophecy, but also the ‘dei’ of compassion. The ‘murmuring’ of the crowd here is reminiscent of the anger of the elder brother in the parable of the lost son; the father’s reply is a pre-echo of Jesus’ words here: “You ought to have” (‘edei’, past tense, indicating what he should have done, but didn’t) “celebrated and rejoiced, because this brother of yours was dead and has come alive, he was lost and is found” (15. 32).

[ii] Predictions of his death and resurrection.

In Jericho, then, we see Jesus acting in accordance with both those prophetic ‘mission statements’: he brings “recovery of sight to the blind” Bartimaeus, and to Zacchaeus, a “lost sheep of the hose of Israel” he brings “salvation”. But when he reaches Jerusalem, the “today” of opportunity for all the other Bartimaeus’s and Zacchaeus’s who could have sought him out seems to have passed: he is now on the “third day”, when his mission will be “completed”. So we come now to his primary ‘mission statement’; yes, Jesus was sent to teach and preach the good news of the kingdom; yes, he came to seek and save the lost; but, above all, he came to die.

(1) Predictions in the synoptics
Matt 16.21, 17.22, 20.17
Mark 8.31, 9.31, 10.32-4
Luke 9.22, 9.44, 18.31
pathein: Luke 17.25

The reason why the first three gospels are known as ‘synoptic’ is well illustrated by a comparative study of the occasions on which Jesus foretold his death and resurrection. In each of the three gospels there are three such occasions, the first, as we have seen, immediately after Peter’s confession of faith (Matt. 16. 21, Mark 8.31, Luke 9. 22). The second comes after the transfiguration (Matt. 17. 22, Mark 9. 31, Luke 9. 44), and the third on the final journey to Jerusalem (Matt. 20. 17, Mark 10. 32-4, Luke 18. 31). In addition, there is a passing reference to his suffering in Jesus’ description of the end of the age and his second coming in Luke 17. 25: “but first, the Son of Man must (‘dei’) suffer many things and be rejected by this generation”. This could be said, according to one’s viewpoint, either to spoil the synoptic symmetry, or to make up the number of such predictions to ten. From the viewpoint of this study, the most striking feature of the first occasion Jesus foretold his death is that in all three versions the very first word is ‘dei’, so that it has particular emphasis: this is what is ‘bound’ to happen, and Jesus ‘must’ endure it obediently - he must “suffer many things”. This, the same phrase as in Luke 17. 25, occurs in all three accounts of Jesus’ forewarning. The infinitive (aorist) of the verb to ‘suffer’ in Greek is ‘pathein’, from which are derived a number of English words connected to suffering, such as ‘sympathy’ and ‘pathology’. ‘dei’ is followed by ‘pathein’ in 7 of its occurrences in the NT, 6 of them referring to Jesus, and the other to Paul, a point which will become more relevant later on. In one other respect, too, Luke is not quite as ‘synoptic’ as his colleagues: all the 9 main forewarnings mention Jesus’ death and resurrection on the third day , except Luke’s second account (9. 44) In the next parallelism that I want to look at, however, it is Mark who breaks the pattern. As striking as it is that ‘dei’ is the first word in all three versions of the first forewarning, it is equally striking that ‘dei’ is not used again in any of the remaining six similar passages. Instead, it is superseded by ‘mellō’, which we looked at earlier; this is used once in each gospel, but while for Matthew and Luke it occurs in the second prediction, Mark reserves it until the third. This substitution is most apparent in Matthew’s version (17. 22), where ‘mellō’ replaces ‘dei’ as the first word in the sentence: “the Son of Man is going to be (‘mellō’) handed over into the hands of men.” Luke uses exactly the same words (9. 44), but puts ‘mellō’ in the middle; he achieves emphasis more obviously and colourfully in the words of Jesus’ introduction: “You, put these words into your ears”; or, more colloquially, “Get this into your heads” - but, of course, they still cannot. Mark’s use of ‘mellō’ comes in 10.32, on the road to Jerusalem; here, it is part of the narration rather than of the words of Jesus: “he began to tell the disciples the things which were going to happen to him” (the neuter plural of the participle is used here). Then follows a string of eight verbs describing “the things that were going to happen” when they got to Jerusalem. Matthew’s parallel account includes four verbs in the future, and Luke’s six - and he introduces them all with a seventh: “Everything written by the prophets for the Son of Man will be fulfilled”: the initial ‘dei’ nine chapters earlier is at last shown to be ‘prophetic!

from 'prophetic 'dei' to the simple future

All this rather laborious comparison serves, I hope, to show the difference in meaning between ‘dei’ and ‘mellō’, and so, more importantly, to suggest a development in Jesus’ attitude to his forthcoming passion. ‘dei’ and ‘mellō’ both express what ‘must’ happen and what is ‘going to’ happen, because it is part of the unalterable purpose of a sovereign God; but ‘dei’ (with a personal object) expresses this subjectively, and ‘mellō’ objectively. ‘mellō’ denotes predestination: something is ‘going to’ happen, come what may. ‘dei’, in Jesus’ case, at least, acknowledges the free will
of the obedient Son, who does what must be done and suffers what he must suffer: “not my will but yours be done” (Luke 22. 42). At the risk, once again, of being over-schematic, it is possible to see a pattern here, certainly in Matthew and Luke (with Mark slightly out of synch), of Jesus’ growing acceptance of the way of the cross. The first challenge came with the temptations in the wilderness, which Jesus overcame in the power of the Holy Spirit, and by wielding “the sword of the Spirit, which is the word of God” (Eph. 6. 17). The devil left him “for a season” (Luke 4. 13, AV). The first half of his ministry, as we have seen, is mainly concerned to demonstrate to his disciples who he is. Then comes the watershed of Peter’s confession of faith; now Jesus’ path leads inexorably towards Jerusalem and the cross. It is as though that initial, emphatic ‘dei’ marks Jesus’ obedient acceptance of his passion: “This is what I have to do and suffer”. Immediately, the devil returns, in the unexpected person of Peter, to challenge this resolve once again: “No, Lord, this will never happen to you” (Matt. 16. 22); but Jesus forcefully dismisses this temptation, rebuking Peter and banishing Satan (“get behind me!”). Now that this is decided and settled, the future becomes unalterable (it always was, of course, objectively), so that Jesus, when he next tries to get this truth ‘into the heads’ of his disciples, can speak of what is ‘inevitably going to happen’ (‘mellō’). By the time he is already on the road to Jerusalem, and the final countdown has begun, the future is simply the future, and no further emphasis is needed: events will take their course.

Luke 22.37, Is 53.12

This resolve is, as we know, tested a third and final time, most powerfully and most painfully, in Gethsemane. We are not told that this is Satan at work once again, but we must assume so. Jesus, of course, triumphs over this temptation as well, submitting, in the words quoted above, his own very human wishes to the divine will of his Father. Luke seems to suggest that it is scripture which has armed him for this struggle, too, just as with the initial temptations in the wilderness. Only a few verses earlier (22.37), Jesus has told his disciples: “This scripture must (‘dei’) be fulfilled in me, that ‘he was regarded as one of the lawbreakers’” (Is. 53.12 - the whole of this amazingly and beautifully prophetic chapter must have been in his mind); and he goes on: “for indeed, what is said about me in scripture has its fulfilment”. We might regard this as the definitive instance of ‘prophetic dei’: Jesus must go to the cross to die as a sinner in our place because scripture ‘must’ be fulfilled.

(2) Predictions in John
Three ‘dei’s in John 3
i. verse 14:
hupsō. 1 John 4.14

John, of course, does things differently, but there are still some interesting parallels. Three times Jesus predicts his crucifixion, but in each instance he uses the verb ‘hupsō’, which means to ‘lift up. We will look at the first and most famous of these occasions, and then look more closely at this verb and its associations. John 3 records Jesus’ discourse with Nicodemus, a Pharisee and a “teacher of Israel”. In verse 14, Jesus says: “As Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must (‘dei’) the Son of Man be lifted up, so that every one who believes in him may have eternal life.” Then comes verse 16, which should need no quoting; then, “for God did not send out (‘apostellō’) his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.” The most obviously synoptic parallel here is the use of ‘prophetic dei’ with the first of the three predictions of the cross. Here, though, the scriptural reference comes not from ‘the Prophets’ but from ‘the Law’, the fourth Book of Moses, the book of Numbers; nor is it a prophecy, but rather a picture, or a parable, of the crucifixion. The Israelites in the wilderness had sinned, and were subjected to God’s wrath in the form of deadly serpents. Moses was told to make a brass serpent and ‘lift it up’ on a pole so that all could see it; those who were dying of snake-bite could look at the brass serpent and be restored to life. So we also have here another ‘mission statement’, signalled by the verb ‘apostellō’, a statement expressed even more succinctly by John in his first letter (4. 14): “The Father has sent out the Son as the Saviour of the world”. This mission can only be accomplished by the cross. ‘Mission statement dei’ is, in fact, a particular instance of a more general usage of ‘dei’, which we will meet later, related to the achieving of a particular purpose. This purpose is often, as here, expressed in Greek by a purpose clause introduced by ‘hina’, which means ‘in order to’, or ‘so that’. This distinguishes it from ‘prophetic dei’, which, as we have seen, is often signalled by a causal clause: something ‘must’ happen either ‘because’ it is prophesied that it should, or ‘in order to’ achieve a particular purpose. Here (v.15), the purpose is "so that every one who believes in Jesus may have eternal life”. But since there is also a prophecy referred to, albeit a picture-prophecy, this
‘dei’ is doing double duty.

ii. verse 7

There are, in fact, three ‘dei’s in John 3, and we will look at the other two before moving on to ‘hupsō’ and its
other two occurrences. The first of these two ‘dei’s comes earlier in the discourse with Nicodemus, and is, perhaps, the most important ‘dei’ in the NT. It is, in two quite different ways, technically and theologically, the obverse of the ‘dei’ we have just looked at. Technically, it is a negative version of ‘purpose dei’. Put simply, ‘purpose dei’ says: ‘to achieve that, you ‘must’ do this’; the negative version, perfectly illustrated here, says: ‘unless you do this, you cannot achieve that, so you ‘must’ do this’. Here, the ‘unless’ is repeated: Jesus says, “unless someone is born again, he cannot see the Kingdom of God” - twice (vv. 3 and 5, with “enter” for “see” the second time). The third time, he draws the inexorably
logical conclusion: “You must (‘dei’) be born again” (v.7). Theologically, this expresses the other side of the precious
coin of salvation. Jesus, as we saw in verse 15, ‘must’ be lifted up on the cross “so that the world might be saved”; he
has made salvation possible for all, but no one can be saved unless he or she is “born again”. This ‘dei’ spells the death
of universalism.

iii verse 30
Mal 3.1

The third ‘dei’ in John 3 takes us back to John the Baptist, with whom we began this section. Jesus’ ministry
is now well under way, and in verse 26 John’s disciples, rather put out, it seems, come to him and say: “This Jesus, to whom you bore witness, he is now baptizing, and every one is going to him.” John’s answer (v. 30) breathes a beautiful spirit of humility. We looked a little earlier at the similarly humble words of Mary, putting her husband first: what a lovely family they were! What John says is this: “Jesus must (‘dei’) become bigger, and I [must become] smaller”. This should be the resolve of all of us; it is virtually a definition of sanctification. But what kind of ‘dei’ is this? Why ‘must’ John become less important? We need to back up a couple of verses, where we find a reference to John’s ‘mission statement’: “I am not the Christ, but I have been sent out (‘apostellō’) to go before him.” To find the actual prophecy this relates to, we need to look elsewhere, the book of the prophet Malachi, which we have already visited when tracking down the ‘Elijah’ references. This time the key verse is 3.1: “See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.” Both Matthew (11.10) and Mark (1. 8) quote these words; perhaps John, if his was the last gospel to be written, felt it unnecessary to repeat them, though this is obviously what his namesake was referring to in verse 28. John knew that his mission was to be a “messenger”, a forerunner, or herald. He likens himself, in the next verse, to the best man at a wedding, ensuring that all the preparations are in order before retiring gracefully into the background when the groom appears. His ‘must’ here is related to the essential nature of his mission, as prophesied in scripture. We, perhaps, might use a different image, and liken John to the warm-up act before the live broadcast of a radio show; his ‘mission’ is to get the audience into a responsive and receptive frame of mind before the appearance of the main star; but when the star does appear, he quietly backs out of the limelight, and lets him take centre stage.

hupsō / hupsōlos / hupsistos
Luke 1.52, Matt 23.12
Luke 16.15, Rom 11.20,12.10

Before we look at the two remaining instances of 'dei' in John’s gospel, it will be helpful to look at this verb, and its related adjectives, more generally; this will lead us both to a painful irony and to a rich paradox. The first of the two adjectives is ‘hupsōlos’, which means ‘high’, like the mountain where Satan took Jesus to tempt him with the offer of worldly power (Matt. 4. 8), and the mountain where Jesus took Peter, James and John for his transfiguration (Matt. 17. 1, Mark 9.2, - the same verb, ‘paralambanō’, to ‘take along with you’, is used in all three verses). Alongside this literal meaning is a metaphorical one, shifting from ‘high’ to ‘haughty’, or ‘arrogant’, as in Jesus’ devastating critique of the Pharisees in Luke 16. 15: “You are those who try to show yourselves righteous before men,; but God knows your hearts, because such arrogance (literally, ‘the high thing’) among men is an abomination before God.” Similarly, Paul twice tells the Romans not to “think high things”, which we might translate “don’t be big-headed” (11. 20, 12. 10). In classical Greek, nearly all adjectives have a superlative form as well as a comparative one; in the NT there are few superlatives - grammatically, at least ! But ‘hupsōlos’ does have a superlative form, ‘hupsistos’, ‘highest’, occurring 12 times. It is used both in the masculine singular and in the neuter plural. The former is used exclusively to refer to God himself: Jesus will be called “the Son of the Highest” (Luke 1.32), and is indeed addressed as such, ironically enough, by the Gerasene demoniac (Mark 5.7, Luke 8.28); while the latter refers to ‘the highest regions’ where God lives, as in the angels’ song of praise “glory to God in the highest” (Luke 2. 14), or the Palm Sunday crowd’s cries of “hosanna in the highest” (Mark 11. 10). The verb ‘hupsō’ also expresses this range of meanings. Physically, it just means to ‘lift up’, like Moses ‘lifting up’ the bronze serpent on a pole for all to see. Metaphorically, it expresses the same moral ambiguity evident in the two adjectival forms: it can refer either to the supreme glory of God, or to the arrogance of men when they try to usurp God’s rightful place in their lives. The verb is used 20 times in the NT; John only uses it in its physical sense, 5 times. Of the remainder, no fewer than 10 occurrences use it in direct antithesis to the adjective ‘tapeinos’, ‘humble’, or its verbal form, ‘tapeino’. Mary, whose humility we have already marvelled at, leads the way in the ‘Magnificat’: “God has exalted the humble”, which, to point the antithesis more sharply, could be translated “he has lifted high the lowly” (Luke 1. 52). Taking his cue from his mother (did she sing this beautiful song of hers to him as a child?), Jesus said: “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled, and whoever humbles himself will be exalted” - or “lifted up” (Matt. 23.12, and twice in Luke - for emphasis ? - 14.11 and 18.14). And, taking their cue from Jesus, both James (4.10) and Peter (1.5.6) echo these words in their letters. In the world of men, the humble tend to be crushed and the proud and powerful exalted; but in the Kingdom of God, it is the other way round: as someone has succinctly put it, ‘the way up is down’. The gospel message really does “turn the world upside down”, as the angry Thessalonians protested (Acts 17.6).

‘hupsō’ in John.
Phil 4.8-9

The supreme instance of this paradox, and, of course, the supreme example, is Jesus himself. Like James and Peter, John, too, must have remembered Jesus’ words about the proud and the humble, and this may have influenced his unique choice of ‘hupsō’ to describe the physical act of crucifixion. But it is worth observing that in all its occurrences in this sense it is used in the aorist tense (twice in the passive infinitive, twice in the subjunctive), which regularly expresses a single completed act. Perhaps, then, this verb reflects John’s memory of possibly the most traumatic moment in the whole agonising process of crucifixion, when the cross was lifted from the horizontal to the vertical, and the nail-pierced hands and feet had for the first time to bear the full weight of the body. It was also the first time that the victim was displayed fully to the jeering crowd, spreadeagled and naked, the moment of extreme humiliation as well of extreme agony. In a scene of tragic irony unsurpassed by any of the world’s greatest dramatists, the crowd, and their religious leaders, watched their Messiah, the suffering Servant, obediently fulfilling the OT prophecies they knew so well, and mocked. But the paradox was that this, Jesus’ greatest humiliation, was actually the moment of his greatest exaltation: he was, indeed, “lifted up”. This paradox is expressed most vividly in Paul’s great hymn to Jesus in Philippians 2, perhaps borrowed from the liturgy of the early church: “He humbled himself, becoming obedient even to the point of death, death on a cross. For this reason, too, God highly exalted him.” (vv. 8-9) Paul here seems to have invented a word in his eagerness to give full recognition to Christ’s exaltation: he adds a compound to the simple verb ‘hupsō’, and says that God “hyper-exalted him”. He thus manages to outdo Peter, who in each of his first two sermons (Acts 2.33 and 5.31) says that God “raised Jesus to his right hand” in heaven, combining both the physical raising of the ascension and the “exaltation” of the honour he received. We have seen, then, that ‘hupsō’ has two sharply contrasted meanings, to ‘crucify’ and to ‘glorify’. At Jesus’ trial, Pilate presented him to the crowd and asked: “What am I to do with Jesus, called Christ?” He was unwittingly asking a question that must be answered by everyone who hears the gospel. There are, ultimately, only two possible answers to this question, and ‘hupsō’ expresses them both: we can either ‘crucify’ Jesus, or ‘glorify’ him.

John 8.28

If John’s use of ‘hupsō’ is influenced by his most vividly agonising memory of the crucifixion, when the
cross was ‘lifted up’, and Jesus on it, that represents the pain of the sympathetic onlooker. But for Jesus the worst was yet to come. In Gethsemane he had prayed to his Father to take “this cup” from him (Mark 14. 36), or that “this cup” should pass him by (Matt. 26.39, v. also John 18.11). “This cup” was not the cup of suffering, though the physical agony of crucifixion was enough to make any man pray such a prayer; nor was it the cup of shame, though the emotional trauma of public humiliation and rejection by his people was an appalling prospect; “this cup” was the cup of separation from his Father, the cup of God’s wrath against the sin of mankind (Psalm 75.8, Is. 51.17), which Jesus would drink to the last drop so that we might never need to taste of it. The “cup” of the cross was, in effect, hell, and the greatest agony of the cross was expressed in Jesus’ cry “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” It is, therefore, significant, I think, that the two remaining occasions on which Jesus referred to the crucifixion as a ‘lifting up’ are both in the context of his relationship with his Father. The first is in 8.28, during a discourse with the Jews. Jesus tells them that unless they believe that “I am”, they will die in their sins. Not surprisingly, they ask: “Who are you?” “I am who I said I am from the beginning”, Jesus replied, referring, perhaps, to one of his seven great ‘I am’s’ that he uttered at the beginning of this discourse, “I am the light of the world” (v.11). Now he continues: “He who sent me is true. What I hear from him I speak to the world.” Then, because they did not understand that he was referring to God his Father, he went on: “When you have ‘lifted up’ the Son of Man, then you will know that ‘I am’, and that I do nothing of my own accord, and speak only what my Father taught me. He who sent me is with me; he has not left me alone because I always do what is pleasing to him.” Here, again, we see two profound paradoxes of the cross. From the Jews’ point of view, the moment when Jesus is ‘lifted up’ is both the moment of his most public rejection by his people, but also the moment when he most conspicuously and most graphically fulfils the Messianic prophecies of the ‘suffering Servant’, most notably in Psalm 22 and Isaiah 53, but also in the ‘picture prophecy’ of Moses ‘lifting up’ the serpent in the wilderness. But from Jesus’ point of view the paradox is even more painful. For him, the crucifixion is the moment when he is most perfectly obedient to his Father’s will, and does “what is pleasing to him”, yet this is the moment, the one moment in all eternity, when his Father does “leave him alone”. The “light of the world” for three hours is extinguished, and “darkness came over the whole land” (Matt. 27.45).

John 12.32
John 6.44, John 21.6,11

The last two occurrences of ‘hupsō’ in John come close together in chapter 12. Jesus is now in Jerusalem; the countdown to the cross, which, as we saw, in Luke 13. 32 is measured in days, is now down to its final ‘hour’: “the hour has come,” Jesus says (v.23), “for the Son of Man to be glorified” - glorified by the apparent degradation of the cross. Then follows what seems to be John’s version of Jesus’ prayer in Gethsemane (which, in this gospel alone, is omitted from the events of that evening): “Now my soul is troubled - what am I to say? ‘Father, save me from this hour’? But it was for this very purpose that I have come to this hour. [No, rather I will say:] ‘Father, glorify your name” - this last prayer being the equivalent of “not my will but yours be done” in the synoptic versions of the Gethsemane prayer. But here, the answer to his prayer is awesome, once again emphasising the closeness of Father and Son - so soon to be broken apart - and the truth of Jesus’ earlier statement that “my Father is with me and has not left me alone”. For “there came a voice from heaven, ‘I have glorified my name, and will glorify it again.’” (vv. 27-8) This, then, is the context in which Jesus for the third time talks about being ‘lifted up’: the ‘hour’ when he will be ‘glorified’ (the verb here is ‘doxazo’, whence English ‘doxology’) will be the moment when the cross is ‘lifted up’ from the earth: “And if I am lifted up from the earth I will draw to me all mankind” (v.32). Here, the double meaning of ‘hupsō’ is most apparent: the phrase “from the earth” clearly signals the literal meaning, while the earlier reference to Jesus’ being “glorified” reminds us of its spiritual significance. How will Jesus on the cross “draw all mankind” to him? Perhaps we need to return to the ‘picture prophecy’ of the bronze serpent to understand what Jesus has in mind here. When Moses lifted up the bronze image of a serpent on the pole, all those Israelites who had been bitten by the all-too-real snakes , and who knew they were dying, would have been ‘drawn’ to Moses as their only hope of salvation: if they looked at the serpent on the pole they would live; if not, they would die. Those who were most ill might even have to be ‘dragged’ there by their family and friends - and perhaps some, too, who did not believe in such a simple remedy for such a serious illness. The verb used here, ‘helkuō’, is used of the ‘dragging’ ashore of the net full of fish (21.6, 11), and also in Jesus’ statement in 6.44 “no one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him”. Some are drawn irresistibly to the cross, drawn by this supreme expression of divine love, or by a conscience which tells them that otherwise they will “die in their sins”; but some only come when they are ‘dragged’ there by their friends, and only slowly and reluctantly respond to its magnetism.

'mellō': 'destined to die'
John 12.33, 18.32, 21.19

This, then, is the third occasion on which Jesus uses ‘hupsō’ to foretell his crucifixion, suggesting, perhaps, that although John does things differently, he is echoing the synoptic pattern of such predictions, but concentrating exclusively on the manner of Jesus’ death rather than on the whole sequence of events from arrest to resurrection. We saw how the two verbs ‘dei’ and ‘mellō’ were part of that synoptic pattern, and it is worth noting that they both reappear here, though neither on the lips of Jesus. ‘dei’ occurs in verse 34, which we will look at in a moment. ‘mellō’ has already occurred in the previous verse, in an editorial comment by John himself. Just in case we have not worked out for ourselves what he means by ‘hupsō’, he explains Jesus’ words for us: “This he said indicating by what kind of death he was going to (‘mellō’) die” - which could, as earlier, be translated “was destined to die”. This may mark the end of one trio but it is the beginning of another: the words “indicating by what kind of death” are repeated twice more later in the gospel. The first of them (18.32) also repeats the next two (Greek) words, “he was destined to die”, and is an explicit reference to this passage. At his trial, Pilate, before he does so literally, tries to wash his hands of the whole troublesome business by telling the Jews to take Jesus and judge him by their own law. “But”, they reply, “we are not allowed to put any one to death.” At which point John again editorialises: “this was to fulfil the words of Jesus indicating by what kind of death he was going to die”: only if condemned by Roman law would Jesus be crucified. The third of the trio is in 21.19, and predicts not Jesus’ death but Peter’s. Jesus tells him: “--- but when you are old, you will stretch out your hands and someone else will bind you and take you where you do not want to go.” Again, John adds an explanatory comment: “This he said indicating by what kind of death he would glorify God”. The parallelism of these three verses lends weight to the tradition that Peter, like his Lord, was ‘lifted up’ and crucified, and that, like his Lord, his ‘obedience
to the point of death’ brought glory to God.

John 12.34

We now return to ‘dei’, and to 12.34. The crowd listening to Jesus clearly understand, even without the
benefit of John’s explanation, that he is foretelling his death, and are perplexed: “We have heard from the Law that the Messiah remains for ever, so how can you say that the Son of Man must (‘dei’) be lifted up? This is an exact repetition of the words Jesus spoke to Nicodemus in our first look at ‘hupsō’ (3.14); it is also an interesting echo of the question that had troubled the disciples, the question, in fact, that introduced this whole section on ‘prophetic dei’: “Why do the scribes say that Elijah must first come ?” (Matt. 17.10) In each instance, the Jews knew their scriptures well, but understood them inadequately: they eagerly seized on the Messianic prophecies which foretold his glorious eternal rule over the nations, but ignored those which pointed to a Messiah who would suffer and die for the sins of his people.

(3) Post-Easter predictions:
i. Luke 24
Luke 24.7,26,44
Matt 27.46

It is, of course, always easier to understand the significance of a prophecy when it has been fulfilled, and our remaining occurrences of ‘prophetic dei’ are post-resurrection, another trio, this time in Luke 24. The women who go to the tomb on resurrection morning are met by two angels, who ask them: “‘Why are you looking for the one who is alive among the dead? He is not here - he is risen. Remember how he said to you, while he was still with you in Galilee, that the Son of Man ‘must’ be handed over into the hands of sinful men and crucified, and on the third day rise again.’ And they remembered his words” (vv.5-8). As we have seen, the first two occasions on which Jesus foretold his death (in the synoptic gospels) were in Galilee. All three accounts of the first occasion begin with ‘dei’ and mention his “suffering many things”, his death and his resurrection “on the third day”; all three accounts of the second occasion mention his being “handed over into the hands of men”. The angels’ words serve as a reminder for us, too: it is easy to forget, when reading references to “the disciples” in the accounts of Jesus’ ministry in Galilee, that there were a number of women included in that term, most of them anonymous, but a few named here in verse 10, and earlier in 8.2-3, and also in Matthew 27.55-6, and Mark 15.40-1. To return to Luke 24, the two remaining instances of ‘dei’ come from the lips of Jesus himself. That same afternoon, he joins Cleopas and “another disciple” (perhaps his wife) on their walk to Emmaus. They have heard the words of the angel that Jesus is alive, reported by the women, but clearly do not believe them, for they are “downcast”. Jesus gently rebukes their unbelief: “‘O foolish and slow of heart to believe in all the prophets have said ! Was it not necessary (‘dei’) for the Messiah to suffer in this way, and so to enter his glory?’ And, beginning from Moses and all the prophets, he explained to them the references to himself in all the scriptures.” (vv.25-7) Once again, these verses define ‘prophetic dei’ for us, making it clear, though, that it is not just the prophetic books of the OT that contain prophecies of Christ, but “all the scriptures” - including the account of Moses lifting up the serpent in the wilderness. And finally, that same evening, Jesus repeats this marvellous bible-study for the benefit of all the disciples (specifically, this time, “the eleven and those with them”): “This is exactly what I was saying to you while I was still
with you” - an echo, here, of the angels’ words to the women at the tomb that same morning - “that everything written about me in the Law of Moses and the Prophets and the Psalms must (‘dei’) be fulfilled” (v.44). Four times in Matthew and four times in Luke (most recently in the passage quoted above), Jesus refers to the OT as “the Law and the Prophets”; only in this verse does he add “the Psalms”. This reminds us that the most explicit prophecy of the crucifixion is Psalm 22, whose first verse Jesus himself quoted on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” The meaning of this crucial, but much misunderstood, verse (Matt. 27.46) is made easier to understand by looking at the Greek word for “why?”: both in the LXX version of the psalm and in Matthew, this is ‘hinati’, literally, “in order for what ?”, or “for what purpose ?”, not ‘for what cause ?’. He is not looking back on a guilty past, for he is guiltless; he is looking forward to God’s glorious purpose, the redemption of mankind.

ii. Paul in Thessalonica:
Acts 17.2-3
Acts 26.22-23

There is one final ‘prophetic dei’ relating tom the Easter events. This occurs during Paul’s sermon in the
synagogue in Thessalonica, and we will look at it in some detail in a moment. But first it is worth noting that what Paul says at Thessalonica is typical of his line of argument elsewhere, as he tells King Agrippa in his apologia before him: “I bear witness to small and great, saying nothing beyond what Moses and the prophets said was going to (‘mellō’) happen, namely, that the Messiah ‘must’ suffer, and that, as the first to rise from the dead, he was going to (‘mellō’ again) proclaim light to his own people and to the gentiles” (Acts 26.22-3). There is no ‘dei’ here, but instead Paul (or Luke) uses ‘prophetic mellō’ twice, a usage we have seen several times elsewhere; but the word I have translated ‘must suffer’ occurs nowhere else in the NT. It is the verbal adjective derived from ‘pascho’ (to ‘suffer’), ‘pathetos’, which (like the Latin gerundive) expresses obligation or necessity. That this, too, is a synonym for ‘prophetic dei’ can be seen when we return to Thessalonica, where we read that Paul “for three Sabbaths expounded the scriptures to them, opening them up and demonstrating that it was necessary (‘dei’) for the Messiah to suffer and to rise from the dead” (Acts 17.2-3).

Parenthesis: Paul's exposition of scripture
Dialegomai / paratithemi /sumbibazō
Mark 6.41, Luke 23.46, Acts 14.23, 9.2, 16.10

A study of the three verbs used to describe Paul’s preaching in the verse quoted above, all compound verbs,
would make a good scriptural exposition on how to expound scripture! In brief, “opening up” (‘Dianoigō’) might refer to the preparation of the speaker, “demonstrating” (‘paratithemi’) to the presentation of the material, and “expounded” (‘dialegomai’) to the persuasion of the audience. We will look at ‘Dianoigō’ more fully later - it will take us back, among other passages, to Luke 24, where its uses constitute another trio; but the other two verbs also deserve a passing mention. ‘dialegomai’ gives us the English ‘dialogue’, but the ‘logos’ at the core of the word suggests that its essential meaning is to ‘give a reasoned discourse’. This is its first appearance in Acts, where it is used 10 times in all, always of Paul: twice each in chapters 17, 18, 19, 20 and 24 - though 24.12 is a negative (for once, Paul was “not discoursing with any one” in the temple prior to his arrest). Most of these references are, as here, to his ‘discoursing’ in the synagogue with the Jews, and ‘persuading’ them by reasoned argument from the scriptures; but its two uses in chapter 20 (vv. 7 and 9) refer to his farewell sermon to the church at Troas - a ‘discourse’ that went on so long that Eutychus dropped off and fell out of the window. This seems more likely to have been a monologue than a dialogue! The second verb of the three, ‘paratithemi’, has several possible meanings. Literally, it means to ‘put something beside someone’; when the ‘something’ is concrete, the active voice is used, when abstract, the middle. In the former sense, it is regularly used of serving food, as in Mark’s account of the feeding of the 5,000 (6.41, = Luke 9.16), and also of the 4,000 (three times in 8. 6 and 7). This might suggest another model for expository preaching: the word of God (“the bread of life”) must be blessed by Jesus (6.41, 8.6), broken into manageable portions and brought to the people. The most memorable use of ‘paratithemi’ in the middle voice is Jesus’ dying utterance on the cross: “Father, into your hands I entrust my spirit” (Luke 23.46, echoed in 1 Peter 4.19). In the same sense, Paul and Barnabas, on their return visits to the disciples in Lystra, Iconium and Antioch, “with prayer and fasting entrusted them to the Lord in whom they had put their faith” (Acts 14.23). Similarly, Paul concludes his address to the Ephesian elders: “And now I entrust you to the Lord and to the word of his grace” (20.32). Paul also tells Timothy (2. Tim. 2.2) to “entrust to faithful people” the truths he had learnt from Paul, so that they “would be capable of teaching them to others also”. This might suggest that an expositor should preserve an important balance in preparing his material: on the one hand, he or she should serve it up like a tasty meal, making sure that it is attractive and
palatable; but on the other hand they should always remember that the word of God is a sacred trust whose truth must
never be compromised. There is, however, a third possible meaning of ‘paratithemi’, not found elsewhere in the NT, but occurring in classical Greek, namely, to ‘put two things beside each other for comparison’. A ‘parable’ is also a comparison, but a metaphorical one; this refers to an intellectual exercise, proving the truth (in this context) of a prophecy by matching it with its fulfilment, hence my translation ‘demonstrating’, and NIV’s ‘proving’. Some force is added to this interpretation by Acts 9.2, a description of Paul’s (still then called Saul) earliest ministry and mission after his conversion, when “he confounded the Jews living in Damascus, demonstrating that this was the Christ”. The verb used here (‘sumbibazō’) literally means to ‘make [two things] go together - two things, perhaps, like 2 and 2, or, as in the previous verse, a prophecy and its fulfilment, and so to ‘draw a logical conclusion’ that “this was the Christ”. This verb is also used in 16.10. Paul (Luke is with him) has tried to bring the gospel first to Asia and then to the province of Bithynia, but “the Holy Spirit did not allow them to do this”. Then he sees a vision of a man from Macedonia saying “come over here and help us”. As a result, they ‘put 2 and 2 together’, the vision and the fact that they were in Troas, the seaport on the Asiatic coast nearest to Macedonia, and “concluded” that this is what they should do. Both this verb and ‘paratithemi’ imply the methodical intellectual process of putting different pieces of evidence ‘together’, or ‘beside’ each other, and drawing a rational conclusion - just as I have brought together these two different verbs from a very similar context and concluded that they both mean to ‘demonstrate’: QED! If this is indeed the right interpretation of the nature of Paul’s ‘discourse’ in Thessalonica, it shows us that both intellect and imagination are needed in expository preaching.

Luke 2.23, Acts 7.55, Luke 24.32, Mark 7.34

But more important, of course, than either of these is the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, and that takes us on to the third verb, ‘Dianoigō’, to ‘open up’, or ‘open a way through’ - ‘dia’ is the Greek preposition meaning ‘through’, as in the ‘diameter’, the ‘measurement through’ the centre of a circle. This word is used 8 times in the NT, 3 of them in Luke 24, and deserves a mini-study of its own. In its 8 occurrences it is used with 7 different objects (though one of these is, in fact, the subject of the verb in the passive); the Acts 17 instance has no specific object, but by implication it was ‘the scriptures’ that Paul ‘opened up’. The most literal use is in Luke 2. 23, quoting from the LXX version of Exodus 13.2: “Every male child that opens the womb shall be called holy to the Lord”, paraphrased helpfully (though not for this study) by NIV as “every firstborn male ---”. Luke is here explaining why Jesus’ parents took him up to Jerusalem: it was for ‘the redemption of the firstborn’, as prescribed by the Law of Moses. If the ‘opening of the womb’ marks the beginning of Jesus’ - and of all mankind’s - life on earth, our next verse concludes it. At the end of his long sermon to the Sanhedrin in Acts 7, Stephen, “full of the Holy Spirit”, said: “I see the heavens opened up, and the Son of Man standing on the right hand of God” (v. 55). But, as Jesus told Nicodemus, “unless someone is born again he cannot see the Kingdom of God” (John 3.3): “opening the womb” and being born physically is not enough; other ‘openings’ must happen before a person can be born “from above” (the Greek ‘anōthen’ can mean either ‘again’ or ‘from above’). Peter tells us a bit more about this new birth in his first letter, describing his readers as “having been born again not by physical seed which soon loses its potency” (“with a short shelf-life” might be a contemporary version !), “but by the imperishable seed of the word of God, which lives and endures” (1.23). First, therefore, the scriptures must be opened, as Paul was doing specifically in Thessalonica, and by implication everywhere else he went. In this, as in many other ways (as we shall see), he was following in the footsteps of his Master, who, on the walk to Emmaus, “opened up the scriptures” to the two disciples (Luke 24.32). In our natural, ‘once-born’, state, we are, all too often, both deaf and blind to the word of God in scripture, so that spiritual ears and spiritual eyes must be opened up by the Holy Spirit if this “living seed” is to lead to new birth. This is true first of all, of course, for the preachers and expositors, for whom mind and heart must alike be quickened by the Spirit in preparation if the ministry of the word is to be faithful and fruitful. But it is even truer of the unconverted listener. The only writer in the NT who uses ‘Dianoigō’ other than Luke is Mark; he uses it once, in a literal sense, but with metaphorical overtones. This occurs in his account of Jesus’ healing of the deaf
and dumb man (7. 31-7). He takes him aside, away from the crowd, and “thrust his fingers into his ears, then spat and touched his tongue; looking up to heaven, he groaned and said to him ‘Ephphatha’, which means ‘Be opened up’. Immediately, his ears were opened and the binding of his tongue was loosened, and he spoke clearly”. Once again here we have the antithesis of ‘binding’ and ‘loosing’ (‘deō’ and ‘luō’) that we looked at to begin with. But it is the man’s deafness that mainly concerns us. As elsewhere, the compound verb ‘Dianoigō’ seems to imply some kind of blockage or barrier that needed to be cleared away or broken through, and what was purely a physical problem in this instance was a spiritual problem for many of those who heard Jesus’ teaching: “in hearing they heard, but did not understand”, as Jesus put it, quoting from Isaiah (Mark 4.12, Is. 6. 9-10).

opened ears: 'hearing'
Rom 10.17, Mark 8.17-18, 9.7

If the seed of the word of God is to bring new birth, it must first of all be heard; as Paul put it, “Faith comes as a result of hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom. 10.17). It seems more than likely that Mark, alone of the gospel writers, chose to record this healing because physical deafness is such an obvious metaphor for spiritual deafness. The need to listen, and not just to hear, is one of the main themes of these early chapters of his gospel. The whole sequence of parables and teaching in 4.1-34 begins with Jesus’ imperative “Listen !” (v.3), and this verb ‘akouo’, which can mean either ‘hear’ or ‘listen’ (and gives us ‘acoustic’) occurs a further 12 times in the next 31 verses. Soon after the account of the healing miracle, Jesus tells his disciples to “beware of the leaven of the Pharisees”; when they completely misunderstand him, he says, with some exasperation, one feels, “Are your hearts hardened ? You have eyes - do you not see ? You have ears - do you not hear ?” (8. 17-18). We will see in a moment that hearts and eyes also need ‘opening up’; but this essential need really to ‘hear’ is emphatically underlined in the next chapter at Jesus’ transfiguration, when the voice of God himself from heaven says: This is my beloved Son: hear him.”

Mark 7.33, 8.23, John 9.6

Mark’s unique account of the healing of the deaf and dumb man introduces us to another trio: the three occasions recorded in the gospels when Jesus ‘spat’: the Greek verb ‘ptuō’ is just as onomatopoeic as the English! The other two instances also occur in healing miracles, but both in the restoring of sight to the blind. Physical blindness is an even more obvious metaphor of its spiritual equivalent than deafness: not only do ears need to be ‘opened up’ to hear the gospel, but eyes need to be ‘opened’ to understand it. In the next chapter of Mark’s gospel he records the healing of a blind man in Bethsaida. The parallelism of the two miracles is suggested by the similarities in the introductions to each one: “they bring to him a deaf man and beg him to lay his hands on him” (7. 32), and “they bring to him a blind man and beg him to touch him” (8.22). In each instance, Jesus leads the man aside, “out of the crowd” (7.33), and “out of the village” (8.27), and, as we have seen, on each occasion he spits, as a physical sign of healing power to encourage the faith of the sufferer. It is worth adding here that the latter account immediately precedes Peter’s confession of faith in Jesus as “the Christ”: his eyes, too, have been opened. The third healing miracle, also of a blind man, is more specifically linked to spiritual blindness. This is in John 9, and the account begins with another example of ‘mission-statement dei’. Seeing a man who had been born blind, the disciples ask Jesus whether his blindness is a punishment for his parents’ sin, or for his own. Jesus replies: “Neither; it was so that the works of God might be clearly seen in him. I must (‘dei’) work the works of him who sent me while it is day; the night is coming when no one can work. While I am in the world, I am the light of the world.” (vv.3-5) Then he spat on the ground, made a little mud out of the dust, and anointed the man’s eyes, telling him to go and wash in the Pool of Siloam. He returned with his sight restored. Later, we hear that this happened on the Sabbath, which outrages the Pharisees; but for Jesus, to “work the works” of his Father who had sent him (not ‘apostellō’ this time) was an imperative even - or perhaps especially - on the Sabbath. John never uses the compound verb ‘Dianoigō’, but he uses the simple form ‘anoigō’ 7 times in this chapter, each one referring to the ‘opening’ if the blind man’s eyes, and by the end of it (35-41) the opened eyes of the man born blind are in striking contrast to the closed minds and spiritual blindness of the Pharisees. These verses contain another ‘mission statement’ to balance the one at the beginning of the chapter, though this is a rather more uncomfortable and double-edged version: “For judgement I came into the world, so that those who do not see should see, and those who do see should become blind” (v. 39).

'Dianoigō' (continued)
Luke 24.31-2, 45, Acts 16.14

These physical healings of blindness prepare the way for our next instance of ‘Dianoigō’, the first of its three appearances in Luke 24. When Jesus draws near to the two disciples on the road to Emmaus, “their eyes were blocked so that they should not recognise him” (v.16 - NIV makes no mention of “their eyes” here). At the end of the encounter, when they have invited him in for a meal, as “he took the bread and blessed it and broke it and gave it to them, their eyes were opened up” (or “unblocked”) “and they recognised him.” (30-1) To “recognise” Jesus “in all the scriptures” is the key to understanding not just the gospel of salvation but all of the word of God, and it is the gracious ministry of the Spirit to “unblock” the eyes and to “lead us into all truth” (John 16.13). The next occurrence of ‘Dianoigō’ follows soon after, as mentioned earlier: the disciples “said to each other: ‘Were not our hearts burning inside us as he spoke to us on the road and opened up the scriptures to us?’” (Greek idiom uses the singular here - “was not our heart” - because each person has only one heart). But if we are fully to understand God’s truth, not only must deaf ears and blind eyes be opened up, but also closed minds, and that is the context of the third ‘Dianoigō’ in this chapter. The two disciples hurry back to Jerusalem to the rest of the company, and Jesus appears again to them all. Having told them, as we have seen, that “everything written” about him in the OT “must be fulfilled”, he “opened up their minds” (singular again in Greek, for the same reason as above) “to understand the scriptures” (v.45). He had rebuked the two disciples earlier for being “foolish and slow of heart to believe all that the prophets said”; “foolish” here (‘anoētoi’) could be translated ‘mindless’; now their minds, too, are ‘unblocked’. That just leaves the heart; if the heart is not opened up to the message of the gospel, new birth is stillborn and new life impossible. Our final example of ‘Dianoigō’, therefore, completes the process. The context here is the gentile world, so the OT scriptures are not (directly) involved, as they are in Luke 24. When Paul, and Luke with him, arrived in Philippi, “we went outside the city gates on the Sabbath to the riverside --- and sitting down we began to speak to the women gathered there. And a woman called Lydia, a God-fearer and seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, was listening; the Lord ‘opened up’ her heart to pay careful attention to Paul’s words” (Acts 16. 13- 14). It is delightfully, and typically, humble of Luke to record that, while “we spoke to the women”, it was Paul’s words which got through to Lydia. She was baptized as a public testimony that she had been “born again” through “the living and abiding word of God” on the lips of Paul. The heart, then, is the last of the 7 different objects that ‘Dianoigō’ is used with in the NT (‘womb’, ‘heavens’, ‘scriptures’, ‘ears’, ‘eyes’, ‘mind’ and ‘heart’); but in 6 of the 8 usages the subject is Jesus himself (it seems to have been he who stood and opened up the heavens to receive his faithful witness Stephen). Only if Jesus, through his Holy Spirit, ‘opens up’ both the speaker and the listener can the seed of the word of God bear fruit.

The Gospel Age: (c) Paul.
[i]. the Damscus Road
Acts 9.6, 22.10, 18.2, 13.31, 9.16

We return now to ‘prophetic dei’. We have seen how its principal usage in the gospels is in reference to the life, sufferings, death and glorious resurrection of Christ as foretold in the OT scriptures - the time-frame, in fact, of the gospel age. It is used also with reference to two further time-frames, the present age and the last days, and we will look at these in a moment. First, though, there is a noteworthy sequence of such ‘dei’s referring to Paul, which are related to a separate category of prophecy, not that recorded in the OT, but prophecy given to Paul or about Paul himself: NT prophecy, in fact. The first such word is at his conversion, and comes from the lips of the risen and glorified Jesus himself. Blinded by the unbearable light of this glory, Paul falls to the ground. “Get up”, Jesus tells him, “and go into the city, and you will be told what you must (‘dei’) do” (Acts 9.6). An interesting gloss on the meaning of ‘dei’ here is provided by the parallel passage in 22.10, where Paul himself narrates this life-changing encounter to the angry crowd in Jerusalem; there he quotes the words of the Lord as “you will be told about everything that has been appointed for you to do”. ‘Appointed’ is the Greek verb ‘Tassō', and two of its previous uses in Acts convey its meaning here. In 18.2 it refers to Claudius’s imperial ‘decree’ that all Jews should leave Rome; and in 13.31 it is used of all those in Pisidian Antioch who responded in faith to Paul’s sermon, saying that they were ‘appointed’, or ‘destined’, for eternal life. Paul’s missionary journeys had, as it were, been ‘mapped out’ for him in advance by his sovereign God, and so this is what he ‘must’ do. The prophet chosen to make this clear to him, Ananias, is one of the unsung heroes of the early church, and reminds us that the most ordinary and unremarkable Christian may have an essential part to play in God’s eternal purpose if he be but faithful and obedient - big ‘ifs’, but a great calling! When Ananias initially expresses some understandable misgivings (thus, unwittingly, perhaps, aligning himself with some of his greatest OT predecessors), the Lord tells him: “Go! This man is a chosen vessel for me to carry my name before the gentiles and kings and the sons of Israel. I will show him how much he must (‘dei’) suffer for my name” (9. 15-16). Here is the long-promised 7th instance of ‘dei’ with ‘pathein’, ‘to suffer’, and here, too, is Paul’s mission statement: he must both ‘do’ and ‘suffer’; he must, in fact, follow in the footsteps of his Lord.

[ii] The first missionary journey
Acts 13.46, 22.21, Is 46.9

Paul has to wait four chapters and many years before this missionary calling is fully activated. He is part of the leadership team at Antioch, having been brought there from Tarsus by Barnabas to help disciple the growing church; then, once again, God intervenes through his Holy spirit, telling them: “Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them” (13.2). The rest of the book of Acts is focused on Paul, just as the first 12 chapters have been centred on Peter, culminating in his miraculous deliverance from prison. We saw that in the gospels the first half of Jesus’ ministry, up to Peter’s confession of faith, was guided by a mission statement to preach the good news and to “seek and save the lost”, while the second half, the journey to Jerusalem, became, with increasing intensity, the way of the cross and the path of suffering. A similar pattern is discernible in the last 16 chapters of Acts. Paul had been called, like Jesus, both ‘to do’ and ‘to suffer’, but his sufferings were the cross he took up daily to follow Jesus, the cost of discipleship rather than the price which had to be paid to redeem the world. His sufferings came throughout his ministry, as we can read intermittently in Acts and collectively in 2 Corinthians 11. 16-33. But for Paul, as for Jesus, there was a lengthening shadow over the second half of his story in Acts, as he, too, approached Jerusalem for the last time, and it becomes increasingly clear to him what he ‘must suffer’. From the beginning, from the very day of his conversion, Paul’s mission was to the gentiles: Ananias was told by the Lord that Paul was “a chosen vessel to bear my name before the gentiles” (9.15), and he presumably passed this prophecy on to Paul. Then Paul himself tells us, in his address to the Jerusalem crowd in 22.21, of an otherwise unrecorded incident. Shortly after his conversion, while at prayer in the Temple in Jerusalem, he saw the Lord again in a vision, who told him: “Go! I will send you far away to the gentiles”. The verb here is ‘exapostellō’, a double compound (to send ‘out of’ and ‘away from’), making this mission statement even more emphatic than those prefaced by ‘apostellō’ on its own. There is, perhaps, a touch of irony in Paul’s recalling of this vision in this context: Paul’s final return to the city from which the Lord had sent him out and away all those years ago as an apostle and evangelist. Nevertheless, on their missionary journeys together Barnabas and Paul (that is the pecking order, to begin with, at least) regularly take the gospel first to the Jewish community in the synagogue in each city they visit. The two are “sent out by the Holy Spirit” (13.4), but there is no suggestion of direct guidance in these two chapters (13-14). At Pisidian Antioch, however, when the Jewish response to Paul’s sermon is largely hostile, Paul and Barnabas said (Paul, as the “chief speaker” - 14.12 - now has priority): “It was necessary that you should be the first to whom the word of God was spoken” (13.46). The word translated ‘necessary’ here, ‘anankaion’, is a virtual synonym for ‘dei’ in this context, and we will meet it (and its family) again before long. The ‘necessity’ here seems to derive from God’s eternal purpose in choosing to reveal himself uniquely to his people the Jews, so that the good news that their long-awaited Messiah had come should first be brought to them - but only so that they could bring the gospel to the rest of the nations. The next verse provides us with the one instance of guidance that does occur on this first missionary journey, guidance that, in a way, echoes Jesus’ use of ‘mission-statement dei’, based on scriptural prophecy; all that is missing is the ‘dei’! Paul (the words, surely, are his) continues: “But since you reject it - the word of God - look, we are turning to the gentiles, for so the Lord has commanded us: ‘I have appointed you for a light to the gentiles, so that you may bring salvation to the furthest parts of the earth’”. The idea of necessity here is expressed not by ‘dei’ but by the verb ‘commanded’; as in the two examples we looked at in the gospels (Luke 4.43, 19.5, 10), the practical decision is linked by a causal clause to a prophecy, Isaiah 46.9. The apostles, therefore, were guided in their decision to turn to the gentiles by three factors: the overall purpose of their mission (“sent out by the Holy Spirit”), the immediate circumstances they faced (the rejection of the gospel by the Jews), and the written word of God.

[iii] The road to Rome - via Jerusalem
Acts 19.21
Luke 1.66, 21.14, Acts 5.4

On Paul’s second missionary journey, this time with Silas as his companion, guidance is more specific: twice he has a ‘vision’ - ‘horama’ in Greek (a ‘panorama’ is an ‘all-round view’, or a ‘vision of everything’). The first (16.9) is the vision referred to earlier, of the Macedonian man appealing for help; and the second (18.9) is a word from the Lord himself, encouraging him to speak out fearlessly in his ministry at Corinth, for “I am with you, and have many people in this city”. This reassurance, which keeps Paul in Corinth for 18 months, comes only 3 verses after he has once again, in the face of Jewish opposition, publicly declared: “From now on, I will go to the gentiles”, a decision presumably made on the same scriptural basis as before, and now directly confirmed by the Lord himself. This pattern is again repeated in chapter 19, in Ephesus: first he goes to the synagogue (v.8); then, after 3 months, when opposition is aroused, he leaves the Jewish community and “takes the disciples away” to the school of Tyrannus, presumably a secular, gentile venue, and is based there for two whole years of faithful ministry. These lengthy stays in Corinth and Ephesus are the twin peaks of his apostolic ministry; thereafter the shadows lengthen and the downward slope begins - and the guidance becomes more specific. The first mention of his return to Jerusalem comes at the end of his stay at Ephesus, and is beset by a translation problem. Verse 21 reads, translating as literally as possible: “Paul proposed for himself in the Spirit” (or “in his spirit”) to --- journey to Jerusalem”. The verb here is ‘tithēmi’, to ‘put’ or ‘place’, but used in the middle voice, as here (‘tithemai’), it means to ‘put forward as a proposal’ or ‘as a plan’, the sense which gives us the English ‘thesis’. Three times Luke uses this form of the verb followed by the phrase ‘in their/your hearts’: all who heard of the events surrounding the birth of John the Baptist “stored them in their hearts” (Luke 1.66) - NIV’s “wondered at it” is only an approximation; Jesus told his disciples to “resolve in your hearts not to rehearse in advance” what they would say in their defence when dragged before “kings and rulers” (21.14 - NIV: “make up your minds”); and Peter asks Ananias: “How is it that you plotted” to lie that he had given to the church the whole price that he had received for his property (Acts 5.4; NIV: “what made you think of doing such a thing ?”). Our present verse is the only time ‘tithemai’ is followed by “in the Spirit” - and NIV gives up any attempt at translation, simply rendering the whole phrase “decided”. The question is, does “the Spirit” refer to the Holy Spirit or to Paul’s spirit - in which case it would be a virtual synonym for ‘his heart’, as in the other occurrences? The answer is, surely, that if Luke had intended to imply a purely human decision he would have written ‘in his heart’ as in the other instances. But here, Paul’s ‘spirit’ is guided by the Holy Spirit: it is hard to believe that Luke would have used this phrase, including the definite article, unless he were referring to the Holy Spirit. Paul continues: “After I have got there [Jerusalem], I must (‘dei’) also see Rome.” At first glance, and out of context, this could look like the forward planning of a ‘culture-vulture’ tourist, ticking off the world’s great cities from his ‘must-see’ list. But this ‘must’ is God’s ‘must’, not just Paul’s, as becomes increasingly clear as events unfold.

[iv] Mitylene, Tyre, Caesarea
Acts 20.22-23, 21.4, 21.10-11

Paul’s desire to get to Jerusalem becomes more urgent in the next chapter. He and his companions come to the island of Mitylene because, remarkably, “he had decided to sail past Ephesus” (the verb here is ‘krino’, to ‘judge’, so NIV’s ‘decided’ is entirely justified!). This was because he was hurrying to be in Jerusalem, “if that were possible, for the day of Pentecost” (20. 16). A few verses later (22-3), we learn that this sense of urgency is not just human impatience, or an artificial deadline he has set himself, but a deeply spiritual burden, the inner conviction that it is God’s timetable he must observe. Having called the leaders of the church at Ephesus to meet him at Mitylene, he tells them: “And now, here I am, making my way to Jerusalem bound by the Spirit” (or “in my spirit”), “though not knowing what will happen to me there - except that, in every city I come to, the Holy Spirit testifies to me, saying that bonds and afflictions lie in store for me”. This makes it clear that God is guiding Paul, through his Holy spirit, by a direct, though still only partial, revelation of his will, leading him not just to Jerusalem but beyond that to Rome: he ‘must’ see Rome because it was God’s will that he should, just as Jesus ‘must’ go to Jerusalem (Matt. 16.21) so that the scriptures might be fulfilled. In the next chapter (21), as Paul and his party get closer to Jerusalem, the warnings intensify, and are given through human agency. At Tyre, the disciples “told Paul through the Spirit not to go on to Jerusalem” (v.4). Here, words of prophecy are, presumably, implied; but in Caesarea we are explicitly told that the Holy Spirit worked through the gift of prophecy: “A prophet called Agabus came down from Judea; he came to us, and picking up Paul’s belt he bound his own feet and hands and said, ‘The man whose belt this is, him the Jews in Jerusalem will bind in this way, and hand him over into the hands of the gentiles’” (vv. 10-11). This last clause is one of the most direct parallels between Jesus and Paul, recalling those warnings that Jesus gave that he would be “handed over into the hands of men” (Matt. 17.32, Mark 9.31, Luke 9.44), and “handed over to the gentiles” (Matt. 20.19, Luke 18.32). This echo is soon followed by another. Paul’s companions, like the Christians in Tyre, “urged him not to go up to Jerusalem”, but when Paul insisted they reluctantly gave way, saying “May the Lord’s will be done” (v.14), reminiscent of Jesus’ own prayer to his Father in Gethsemane.

dei and deō
John 18.12, 19.40, Acts 21.13, 33

At this point, we need to re-establish the link made at the beginning of this study between our impersonal verb ‘dei’, and its close relation, the personal verb ‘deō’, to ‘bind’. In the gospels this link is merely hinted at. We have looked at the occasions on which Jesus used ‘prophetic dei’ to foretell his passion and resurrection, but that series of events began with his arrest and ‘binding’: “they arrested Jesus and bound him” (John 18.12), and “they bound Jesus and took him away” (Matt. 27.2, Mark 15.1). John adds an extra detail: Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus got permission from Pilate to bury Jesus’ body, and “they bound it in strips of linen cloth” (John. 19. 40; both NIV’s “wrapped” and AV’s “wound” miss this linguistic link). Jesus’ passion, then, both began and ended with a ‘binding’, so that, to make the point at the risk of sounding over-neat, one could say that Jesus was ‘bound to be bound’ in order to fulfil the OT prophecies. With Paul, though, as we have seen, this link becomes increasingly explicit, so that we could (though running the same risk!) translate his words in 19.21: “After I get to Jerusalem, I am bound for Rome”. But first he is “bound by the Spirit” to go to Jerusalem (I hope I have shown that this translation of 20.22 is clearly preferable - and NIV agrees!). He knows that “bonds” await him there - NIV’s “prison” is fine, but misses the link between ‘desmon’, a ‘chain’ or ‘bond’, and the verb ‘deō’ from which it is derived - and this is confirmed by the even more obvious prediction of his imprisonment by the words and actions of Agabus. Paul’s reply to him is: “I am ready not only ‘to be bound’ in Jerusalem, but also to die there for the name of the Lord Jesus” (21.13). Just 20 verses later, we read that the commander of the Roman garrison in Jerusalem “arrested Paul and ordered him ‘to be bound’” (exactly the same word as in v. 13, ‘dethēnai’, the aorist infinitive passive of ‘deō’). For the rest of the book, Paul is a Roman prisoner, but long before that he became a willing ‘bond-servant’ of his Lord, Jesus Christ.

[iv] From Jerusalem to Rome
Acts 23.11

Two nights after his arrest, Paul has another vision of the Lord, though no word for ‘vision’ is used. Instead, Luke just says that “the Lord stood beside him”; this was no ‘ecstasy’ (22.15) or dream - this was reality, this was Jesus doing himself what, in the parable of the sheep and the goats, he told his disciples to do: prison-visiting. “Take courage”, he said, “for as you have borne witness to my gospel in Jerusalem, so you must (‘dei’) bear witness for me in Rome also” (23.11; the Greek here is literally “the things about me”, but “my gospel” seems a reasonable paraphrase). This use of ‘prophetic dei’ is pivotal. Looking backwards, it provides confirmation, if that were needed, that Paul’s “I must see Rome” (19.21) expressed his awareness, revealed by the Holy Spirit, of God’s master-plan for his life, and not just his own desire to travel. Looking forwards, it shows that his decision to appeal to Caesar (25.11) was not just a spur-of-the- moment fit of frustration, but a carefully considered human means of fulfilling the divine purpose. Looking further forward still, Jesus’ “take courage”, and his prophecy, or promise, that he would reach Rome must have sustained Paul’s faith both through the long inactivity of his imprisonment at Caesarea, and through the terrifying crisis of the storm at sea.

[v] Storm and Shipwreck
Acts 27.21-26, Matt 25.27

It is to Luke’s graphic account of that storm that we now turn, and in particular to Paul’s words to the ship’s company in 27. 21-6; these 6 verses contain our final 3 ‘dei’s in this section. The first of the three is particularly emphasised by its position as the first word in the sentence, and of the whole speech. But it is a different usage from the other two, a usage, in fact, which we have not previously met. It is different, firstly, because it is in the past tense (‘edei’), and the sense is ‘you should have’ done something - but you didn’t; and secondly, because the imperative behind the ‘should’ is not the declared will of God, as in all our previous instances, but the wisdom of the world, plain common sense. There is an interesting parallel to the present example in the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.27). The “wicked and idle servant” tells his master that he had merely hidden his talent in the ground, and not traded with it at all, because he was afraid of his master’s high standards and high expectations. “You ought, then,” his master replies, “to have deposited my money with the bankers”; at least he could have then given it back to him on his return with interest. This would have been the ‘sensible’ thing to do - but he didn’t do it. Paul, though only a prisoner, adopts a similar tone in the midst of the storm, and “in the middle” of the ship’s company: “You should have obeyed me, men, when I urged you not to set sail from Crete; then you would not have brought on yourselves this disastrous loss”. He is referring to the advice he gave them in verse 10, echoing some of the same words he used there: “I perceive, men, that this voyage is destined (‘mellō’) to be with disastrous loss not only of the cargo and ship but also of our lives”. This was the voice of experience and sound common sense. Paul had made (at least) 11 sea voyages in the Mediterranean before this one, totalling 3,500 miles (v. John Stott, BST Acts p. 390), and he knew that to set sail in late October was not a good idea. There is certainly an element of ‘I told you so’ here, but only because God had first told Paul: the verb “perceive” means to ‘see’ or ‘watch’ (our noun ‘theatre’ is derived from it), and suggests that God had shown him what was going to
(‘mellō’) happen in a vision. Paul’s confidence, then, was based not primarily on his own seafaring experience, extensive though that was, but on the prophetic gift of God’s Spirit. But, as earlier, God’s revelation of the future here (v. 10) is still partial, because Paul infers from what he has ‘seen’ that there will be loss of life. But now (vv.21 ff.) he seems to have the complete picture, for “this night an angel of the God I serve stood beside me” - just as Jesus himself “stood beside” him in prison in Jerusalem - “and said, ‘Don’t be afraid, Paul; you must (‘dei’) stand beside Caesar” (same verb as before). “And, look, God in his grace has given you [the lives] of all those sailing with you”. Now that God, the sovereign Lord of all, has told him through his angel what ‘must’ happen, Paul can confidently tell the ship’s company: “Take heart, men; for I have faith in God that it will be just as it was told me; we must (‘dei’) run aground on some island” (vv. 25-6). Whether this last detail was part of the angelic revelation, or Paul’s logical inference, we cannot tell;
but it was, of course, exactly what happened.

Storm on Lake Galilee
Mark 4.35-41

In one sense, then, the centurion Julius “should have obeyed” Paul’s advice rather than that of the captain and ship-owner (v. 11); if he had, they would all, presumably, have spent an uneventful winter in Fair Havens, enlivened, perhaps, by occasional trips to the nearby town of Lasea (v.9), and then enjoyed ‘a calm sea and a prosperous voyage’ to Rome the following spring. But in another sense, their ‘disobedience’ was part of God’s sovereign purpose: man’s ‘ought’ is trumped by God’s ‘must’. A 14-day storm of hurricane force (the Greek word is ‘typhoon-like’, v. 14) seems exceptional, even for the Mediterranean in late Autumn; but it gave Paul the opportunity to witness to a captive audience of 275, both by his visibly unshaken faith in God and by his oral testimony to God’s faithfulness and mercy. In the longer term, it gave Paul a 3-month window of opportunity to preach and teach - and heal - on the island of Malta. And in the even longer term, it provided us with an eyewitness account of one of the most dramatic demonstrations of God’s saving grace recorded in scripture. We may compare this ‘typhoon’ (Luke records its name, ‘Euracylon’, the ‘North- Easter’, v.14) to the storm on the Lake of Galilee (a teacup by comparison!), recorded in all 3 synoptic gospels (Matt. 8.23-7, Mark 4.35-41, Luke 8.22-5). There, Jesus stilled the storm instantly with a word of sovereign authority, addressing it, in Mark’s account, like a frisky stallion: “be bridled!” Here, God in his sovereign authority allows the storm to rage unbridled for a fortnight. We should always have faith in a God of miracles, but never presume on him. Sometimes he reveals his glory by acts of miraculous power; more often, though, his glory is revealed by the faithful perseverance and shining witness of his saints as they endure the storm. That was Paul’s calling here, and he was obedient to it.

[vi] Paul’s Obedience
Acts 26.17, 21.39, 8.20, 28.31

This brings us to one final comparison between Paul and Jesus, which shows how Paul walked faithfully in the footsteps of his Lord. We saw earlier that the link between predestination - what was prophesied of the Christ centuries before he was born - and the free will of Jesus in his human incarnation was obedience - “obedience to the point of death” (Phil. 2.8). We also saw that Paul’s apostolic mission to the gentiles was mapped out for him from the day of his conversion: he was told both what he ‘must’ do and what he ‘must’ suffer. In his second account of his conversion, before King Agrippa, he tells him that his mission, given to him by Jesus himself on the Damascus road, was: “I am sending you out (‘apostellō’) to the gentiles to open (‘anoigō’) their eyes so that they turn from darkness to the light, from the power of Satan to God, to receive forgiveness of their sins and an inheritance among those who have been made holy by their faith in me” (Acts 26.17-18). Then, indulging his liking for litotes, he continues: “From then on, King Agrippa, I was not disobedient to this vision from heaven”. Litotes is using a double negative (“not disobedient”) to express a strong positive, and the definitive example that used to be cited, when knowledge of the AV was widespread, was Paul’s self-identification to the Roman commander in Jerusalem as “a citizen of no mean city” - Tarsus in Cilicia (21.39). Here, “not disobedient” is a similar figure of speech. Paul’s obedience to his calling and to his evangelistic mission had been worthy of his Lord’s obedience to his saving mission: Jesus had made the gospel possible, Paul made it known. Luke underlines this lifelong obedience (such significant details are too common in Luke to be coincidences) by a verbal echo. The first expression of Paul’s new calling is in Damascus, only a few days after his conversion: “immediately he was proclaiming Jesus in the synagogue, that he is the Son of God” (8.20). In Rome, 20 chapters and many hardships later, in the very last verse of the book, Paul is still “proclaiming”; the Greek verb in both verses is ‘kērussō’: “For two years he received all who came to him, proclaiming the kingdom of God and teaching boldly and unhindered the full gospel of the Lord Jesus”. This last phrase is another subtle Lucan echo; literally, the Greek reads “all the [things] about the Lord Jesus”, the same idiom Jesus himself used in his ‘prison visit’ to Paul in 23.11. Luke is gently pointing out that Jesus’ prophecy has been fulfilled through Paul’s obedience. Bound by an iron chain to a Roman soldier (v.20), he is bound yet more firmly by the ‘dei’ of his apostolic calling, to which he has been obedient to the end: he is not undeserving of his litotes!

2: The present age: (a) Evangelism
Matt 28.19-20, 24.14, Mark 13.7,10

We have seen, then, how ‘prophetic dei’, based on OT prophecy in scripture, directed and constrained Jesus’
earthly ministry in the gospels, and how in Acts, now mediated through spoken words of prophecy, it guided Paul’s
apostolic ministry with intensifying immediacy. We must now look at ‘prophetic dei’ as it refers to the last days and the
return of Christ, and also what it tells us about our own times, the ‘in-between times’. There are two things we are told ‘must’ happen before the end comes, which make it clear that Paul’s dual calling “to do” and “to suffer” is normative for the church down the ages. What is it, then, which should be top of every church’s ‘to-do’ list in every age? Jesus twice makes the answer clear. Last words being most famous, we more readily remember his parting commission to his disciples at the end of Matthew’s gospel: “Go and make disciples of every nation” - or “all the gentiles”. To ‘do’ is to ‘go’, and to ‘go’ is to preach and teach “the gospel of the Lord Jesus”, as Paul did so faithfully all his days. Will the church be as obedient as Paul was in fulfilling this commission? Yes, it ‘must’! We need to move on to Mark’s gospel, where in chapter 13 Jesus talks about the tribulations to come in the end times: “When you hear of wars and rumours of wars, do not be troubled; this ‘must’ (‘dei’) happen” (v.7). This ‘must’, of course, refers to the end times - and it is the first of the 7 occasions in the NT that ‘dei’ is followed by ‘genesthai’, ‘to happen’. But shortly after, in v.10, Jesus says that before all the tribulations of the last days, “first the gospel must (‘dei’) be proclaimed to every nation” - or “all the gentiles”. Matthew’s version of this prophecy (24.14) expresses it not with ‘dei’ but with a simple future, and gives added emphasis to the global scope of this proclamation: “this gospel of the kingdom will be proclaimed throughout the whole world as a testimony to all the nations - and then the end will come”. In both versions, the Greek verb translated ‘proclaim’ is ‘kērussō’, the word which, as we have just seen, Luke uses to describe Paul’s obedient proclaiming of the gospel from the beginning to the end of his life ‘in Christ’. In this context, it is particularly appropriate. The verb is derived from the noun ‘kērux’, a ‘herald’, in Greek culture often referring to the king’s messenger, who would proclaim the message which had been entrusted to him, and go before his Lord to announce the coming of the king. . So before Jesus can return to reign in glory, “all the nations” ‘must’ hear the good news of the gospel, and have the opportunity, at least, to prepare themselves for the coming of the king.

Evangelism: a combined operation
John 10.16

But although the task of ‘heralding’ the gospel has been entrusted by Jesus to his disciples, it is a task which can only bear fruit if Jesus himself, by his Holy Spirit, is at work in the hearts and minds of those who hear it: the new birth is a miracle which only he can perform. This is, in fact, the final role which Jesus ‘must’ fulfil. The good shepherd, as we have seen, ‘must’ lay down his life for his sheep, the role of the suffering servant prescribed for him in prophecy. But he goes on to tell us (John 10.16) that “I have other sheep, too, not of this sheepfold; these too I must (‘dei’) bring in, and they will hear my voice.” This, perhaps, could be regarded as Jesus’ ‘mission statement’ for the present age. These “other sheep” are from “all the nations” to whom Jesus sends his disciples as heralds of the good news. The church must never forget that evangelism is its primary task, but it must always remember that evangelism is a combined operation: human effort alone, however well organised or enthusiastically deployed, cannot bring a single sheep into the sheepfold unless is the Good Shepherd’s voice which is speaking through the voice of the heralds.

anangkē / anangkaiēs
[i] legal necessity
Rom 13.5, Heb 9.16, 7.27, Rev 10.11

It is now time to take a closer look at a word-group of which we briefly met an example a while back in Acts 13.46, when Paul told the unbelieving Jews in Pisidian Antioch: “It was necessary that to you the word of God should be spoken first”. The word ‘necessary’ here is not ‘dei’ but a stronger synonym, ‘anangkaiēs’, the adjective from the noun ‘anangkē’, ‘necessity’. There is also a verb, to ‘compel’, which we shall not look at, and an adverb, ‘anangkaiēs’ (the ‘o’ is long - an adjective ending in -os turns itself into an adverb simply by lengthening the ‘o’); the single occurrence of this adverb we will come to shortly. The noun on its own is used several times in the NT to mean ‘a time of necessity’, so ‘a crisis’, such as the siege of Jerusalem prophesied by Jesus in Luke 21.13, when there will be “great distress” (NIV) in the land”. Paul uses it in the same sense in 2 Corinthians 6.4, in the middle of a trio of synonyms: “in troubles, in hardships, in distresses” (NIV). This usage, however, is not directly relevant to our purpose now. It is when ‘anangkē’ is followed by an infinitive that it becomes a synonym for ‘dei’, as does the adjectival form ‘anangkaiēs’. Sometimes such ‘necessity’ is imposed by the law. Pilate “had to release to them one [prisoner] at the feast of the Passover” (Luke 23.17 - a verse not found in all the MSS and only included in NIV as a footnote). Similarly, Paul tells the Romans that they ‘must’ be subject to their earthly rulers not just out of fear of the sword, which “they do not wield in vain”, but because their consciences remind them that an earthly ruler is “a minister of God” (13.5). The writer to the Hebrews uses ‘anangkē’ in the context both of the secular and of Mosaic law. In 9.15, he refers to Jesus as “the mediator of a new covenant”; the Greek for ‘covenant’ is ‘diathēkē’, which also means ‘a will’ (English ‘testament’ likewise has both meanings), so he goes on to draw an analogy between God’s covenant and a human will: “Where there is a will, it is necessary (or ‘essential’) that the death of the testator be established” - a basic principle of the law of the land. A little earlier, he has pointed out that human priests, under Mosaic law, ‘must’, or “are obliged to offer daily sacrifices, first for their own sins and then for the sins of the people”, whereas Jesus, “a High Priest after the order of Melchidezek”, has offered himself as a once-for-all sacrifice (7.27). In the light of these examples, then, it is possible to draw a general, though not hard-and-fast, distinction between ‘anangkē’ and ‘dei’. The latter, in the sense we have been considering it, refers to what particular people ‘must’ do in particular circumstances in response to scriptural or oral prophecy - hence my label ‘prophetic dei’. We have seen this applying to John the Baptist, supremely to Jesus, and also to Paul; and we can add the apostle John to the list on the strength of Revelation 10.11, where he is told: “You must prophesy again to many peoples and nations and languages and kings”, presumably by faithfully recording his ‘revelation’, and becoming the supreme NT prophet. ‘anangkē’, on the other hand, seems to imply a more general necessity to act in accordance with an all-embracing law of man or ordinance of God - such as that requiring the good news of their Messiah to be proclaimed first to the Jews (Acts 13.46).

[ii] compulsion
1 Peter 5.2, Philemon 14, 1 Cor 9.16
John 11.38

There is, however, a second, related, usage of the ‘anangkē’ family, found several times in the NT, to make
the contrast between acting of your own free will and acting ‘under compulsion’. The most concise example is Peter’s instruction to “the elders among you” to “shepherd the flock of God, not under compulsion, but willingly, as God wants” (1 Peter 5.2). Paul makes the same distinction in his short letter to Philemon, whose slave, Onesimus, had run away, and then been converted through Paul’s ministry. Paul found him so ‘useful’ (the meaning of his name in Greek) that he wanted to keep him with him; but he sent him back to Philemon with a request that he should allow him to return to Paul to serve him in prison. This he does because “I did not want to do anything without your consent, so that your act of kindness should not be ‘forced on you’ - or ‘compulsory’ - but done of your own free will” (v.14). The final example is also from the pen of Paul (1 Cor. 9.16), and brings us back to our starting-point for this brief look at ‘anangkē’, the ‘necessity’ for the gospel to be preached. For most of chapter 9, Paul argues that an apostle has the right to be financially supported by those to whom he ministers; but then in verse 12, and again in verse 15, he says that he has not made use of that right, “so that we may not put any obstacle in the way of Christ --- I would rather die than that any one should be able to make this noble claim of mine invalid. For if I preach the gospel, I can claim no credit for it: ‘necessity’ - or ‘compulsion’ - is laid upon me”. The verb used here, ‘epikeimai’, is the same one that John uses to describe the stone that was ‘laid on top of’ the grave in which Lazarus was buried (11.38). Paul then continues: “For woe is me if I do not preach the gospel! For if I do this willingly, I am entitled to a wage; but if I do it not of my own free will, I have been entrusted with a sacred stewardship”. A steward was often , in fact, a slave, and Paul adds: “Though I am free and nobody’s slave, yet I have made myself everybody’s slave that I may win more of them [for Christ]” (v.19). As we have seen, Paul’s response to his apostolic calling was one of exemplary obedience, obedience freely given, a willingness to “deny himself” and “take up his cross daily” to follow in the footsteps of his Master (Luke 9.23). Here, however, Paul seems to be contrasting himself, by implication, with the ‘false apostles’ who were causing so much trouble to the church at Corinth. For them, Paul implies, preaching the gospel was just a lucrative job-opportunity, a career choice like any other; but for him it was a direct calling from God, which, now he had freely accepted it, was, paradoxically, like a heavy weight ‘lying upon him’ and shaping his life. In one sense he was gloriously free in Christ; in another, he was a servant, or slave, ‘under compulsion’ to carry out his stewardship of the gospel faithfully, his only wages (another paradox) his “noble claim” to preach the gospel “free of charge” (v. 18). For Paul, then, this ‘compulsion’, or ‘necessity’, to preach the gospel was uniquely personal, but it was also part of the fulfilment of Jesus’ universal prophecy that, before the end- times, “the gospel must first be proclaimed to all nations”.

Luke 14.15-24

Before we move on to our next ‘must’, the necessity of suffering, a brief moment of light relief may be in order. We have seen that ‘anangkē’ is a weighty word, generally implying a stronger imperative than ‘dei’, the necessity imposed either by man’s law or by God’s will. This makes Luke’s use of ‘anangkē’ in the parable of the great banquet (14.15-24) subtly amusing, typical of the sly humour achieved by his skilful use or words in a number of other instances too. The first person who receives an invitation to this banquet makes his excuse as follows: “I have bought a field, and have ‘anangkē’ to go out and see it” - “I absolutely must ---”, we might translate it. The exaggeration of this expression makes the absurdity of his excuse all the more transparent: going to watch the grass grow is not the most compelling reason for turning down such a generous invitation. A modern version of the parable might read: “I’m sorry I can’t come to your party; my garden shed has just been redecorated, and I absolutely must go and watch the paint dry”. Although Luke’s use of ‘anangkē’ here may add a comic touch to this parable, its overall tone is deeply tragic, and its relevance never greater than in our own materialistic and hedonistic age. To choose the transient pleasures of this world and to turn one’s back on the rich banquet God graciously invites us to enjoy is the ultimate ‘hamartia’. For Aristotle, this was the ‘tragic flaw’ which inevitably led to the downfall of the central figure in a tragedy; in the bible, it simply means ‘sin’.

(b) suffering
Acts 14.22, Matt 18.7

But if the Christian life to which God invites us is, spiritually, a rich banquet of love and joy and peace, in practical terms it is often far from a picnic. Indeed, both Jesus and Paul tell us that in this world we “must suffer”. This time, though, it is Jesus who uses ‘anangkē’ and Paul who uses ‘dei’. At the end of their missionary journey in Acts 13- 14, Paul and Barnabas make return visits to the cities they have evangelised earlier. In doing so, they are faithfully fulfilling the ‘great commission’ given to the disciples by Jesus before his ascension, to go and “make disciples”, and to “baptize them” and to “teach them”. Baptism is not mentioned in these two chapters, but we must assume it was the norm, both from his own experience, when, immediately after Ananias had delivered his message, “he received his sight again and was baptized” - even, it seems, before he had had anything to eat (Acts 9.18-19); and also from Paul’s own practice in Philippi, where both Lydia (16.15) and the jailer (v. 33) are baptized, seemingly as a matter of course, immediately on hearing and responding in faith to the gospel. On their first visit to these cities, then, the apostles had “made disciples” (this word is actually used of their ministry in Derbe, 14.21), and baptized them. Now they return to teach them more fully, in Jesus’ words, “to keep all the commandments I have given you” (Matt. 28.20). Luke summarises this teaching ministry as follows: they were “strengthening the souls of the disciples, urging them to remain in the faith, and telling them that ‘through many tribulations must (‘dei’) we enter the kingdom of God’” (14.22). Paul tells Timothy much the same thing in his second letter (3.12): “All those who want to live a godly life in Christ Jesus will be persecuted” - no ‘dei’ here, just a simple statement of future fact, reminiscent of Jesus’ simple predictions of his suffering as he neared Jerusalem. Jesus also predicted the sufferings of his followers: “Woe will come to the world through scandals! For it is necessary (‘anangkē’) that scandals should come, but woe to the person through whom the scandal comes!” (Matt. 18.7). A ‘scandal’ is a ‘stumbling-block’ or a ‘snare’ that makes a Christian, particularly in this context a young Christian (“one of these little ones”, v. 6) stumble in his or her faith and turn back from following Jesus. All too often it is false teaching which ‘scandalizes’ Christians, but often, too, as the parable of the sower tells us (Mark 4.17) it is opposition and persecution which shrivel up the seed of faith which is not deeply enough rooted. It is, in particular, those who suppose that the Christian life will be one long picnic who are most vulnerable to the ‘scandal’ of persecution and suffering. The teaching ministry of Paul and Barnabas should be a model for the discipling of young Christians in every church: they should be taught, right from the outset, that “we must (‘dei’) enter the kingdom of God through many tribulations”: forewarned is forearmed.

3: The End-times.
(a) after death
1 Cor 15.52, 2 Cor 5.10

But scripture does not only forewarn us that suffering of all kinds, and particularly suffering caused by the opposition of the world, is the norm for the Christian life in the ‘in-between’ times; we are also warned that quite abnormal global convulsions and individual tribulations are to be expected in the ‘last times’. It is, however, likely that most, or all, of us will experience our own personal ‘last time’ before Christ returns: we do not need the prophecy of scripture to tell us that, otherwise, we will all die. But there are two instances of ‘prophetic dei’, both used by Paul, which tell us what ‘must’ happen to us after death, the one a glorious promise, the other a challenging appointment. The first occurs in his great passage on the resurrection in 1 Corinthians 15: “At the sound of the last trumpet, the dead will be raised, freed at last from physical decay; we will be changed, for this decaying body must (‘dei’) put on a body that will never decay, and this present mortal body must put on immortality” (vv. 52-3). We are all confronted some time or other, whether in ourselves or in those we love, by the ravages of old age, and the prophecy - the promise - of a resurrection body free from the pain of disease and disability is a glorious hope to cling to. But a more sobering prospect also confronts us: in 2 Corinthians 5.10 Paul writes: “We must all” (that is, all Christians) “appear before the judgement- seat of Christ, so that each may receive [a reward] according to what he or she did in the physical body, whether good or not-so-good”. As in the parables of the pounds and the talents, we will have to (‘dei’) render our accounts to the one who has entrusted us with so much. If the first ‘dei’ gives us a glorious hope to sustain us in the physical sufferings of illness and old age, the second gives us a stimulus to faithful service in the active years God gives us.

(b) before the 'parousia'
'dei genesthai'
Matt 26.54

So we come, at last, to the last times, the events preceding the return of Christ (the ‘parousia’) and the end of the age. We have seen that ‘dei’ is followed 7 times in the NT by the infinitive ‘pathein’, ‘to suffer’, and that 6 of these instances refer to the sufferings of the Messiah prophesied in the OT, and the 7th to the sufferings in store for Paul in his apostolic ministry. Likewise, ‘dei’ is followed 7 times in the NT by the infinitive ‘genesthai’, ‘to happen’. One of these refers to the sufferings of Jesus in fulfilment of the scriptures: at his arrest in Gethsemane he tells Peter to put away his sword and not to resist, “for how are the scriptures to be fulfilled [which say] that this must happen?” (Matt. 26.54) But the other 6 instances all refer to what ‘must’ happen at the end-times, 3 of them in the 3 synoptic gospels, and the other 3 in Revelation. This symmetry reminds us, if nothing else, that the graphic visions of John’s apocalypse should be interpreted in accordance with Jesus’ stark and sober prophecies: the two are complementary. In addition to the 3 instances of ‘dei genesthai’ in Revelation, ‘dei’ is used 4 other times, so that this is another of the many 7’s in the book.

[1] turbulence on earth
Matt 24.4-6, Rev 1.1, 4.1, 22.6

The 3 synoptic versions of Jesus’ prophecy are almost identical; we will look at Mathew’s (24.4-6). “See that no one leads you astray. For many will come in my name saying, ‘I am the Christ’, and will lead many astray. You are going to (‘mellō’) hear of wars and rumours of wars; see that you do not panic: it ‘must happen’, but the end is not yet.” Mark does not use ‘mellō’ in Jesus’ answer, but in the disciples’ question: “Tell us, when will this happen, and what will be the signs when all this is about to be (‘mellō’) fulfilled?” (13.4). To know that “all this” ‘must happen’ because God is in control and it is part of his sovereign purpose should be the recipe for peace in the hearts of Christians even when all around them are panicking, and the world looks as though it is spinning out of control. This seems to be one of the main purposes of God’s revelation to John: the book begins, “The revelation (‘apocalupsis’) of Jesus Christ which God gave to him to show to his servants what ‘must happen’ soon”. After the letters to the 7 churches (chapters 2 and 3), the next section of the book begins with a repetition of this phrase; John hears a voice saying, “Come up here, and I will show you what ‘must happen’ after this” (4.1). Finally, at the very end of the book, when John has been shown round the new Jerusalem, his angelic guide says to him: “These words are faithful and true; the Lord God of the spirits of the prophets sent his angel to show his servants what ‘must happen’ soon” (22.6). Clearly, these three verses frame the whole book: God is forewarning his people of the tribulations to come so that they may be forearmed by the knowledge that he is in control - ‘God is still on the throne’, as the old chorus puts it. This message is reinforced by more statistics: God’s throne is mentioned 40 times in Revelation, and ten times God is referred to as “he who sits on the throne”. Perhaps it is the last book of the bible, rather than the fourth, which should be called ‘the Book of Numbers’

[ii] triumph in heaven
1 Cor 15.22-5, Psalm 8.6

One might think that the very last event on God’s eschatological timetable, before time morphs into eternity, would feature in the last book in the bible; but, in fact, to find it we need to turn back once again to Paul’s great chapter on the resurrection, 1 Corinthians 15, that we looked at a little earlier. His ‘last-time-table’, presumably given to him by direct revelation of the Holy Spirit, is less dramatic and graphic than John’s revelation, but rather more readily intelligible: “For as in Adam all died, so in Christ shall all be made alive, each in his own appointed order: Christ is the firstfruits, then those who belong to Christ at his coming. Then comes the end, when he hands over his kingship to God his Father, when he has brought to nothing every rival rule and authority and power. For he ‘must’ (‘dei’) rule until he has ‘subdued’ all his enemies ‘beneath his feet’ - and the last enemy that will be brought to nothing is death.” (vv. 22-5) The reference to ‘putting everything under his feet’ is taken from Psalm 8.6, and so qualifies this ‘must’ to be classed as an example of ‘prophetic dei’, chronologically, the last such example - indeed, a ‘dei’ which marks the end of chronology. The Jesus who, on the darkest and yet the most glorious day in human history, ‘Good Friday’, ‘had’ to suffer, now ‘must’ reign as king until the end of time; then, with the same humility which brought him into this world “in the form of a servant”, he will hand back his crown to his Father. The end. But also, the beginning!


Legalism and love: a Sabbath healing.
Luke 13.10-17
So much, then, for what I have labelled ‘prophetic dei’, where necessity is based on the declared word of God, whether through the written prophecies of the OT or by direct revelation in the NT: what God says will happen, ‘must’ happen. But just as the OT was traditionally divided into ‘the Law’ and ‘the Prophets’, so are the uses of ‘dei’ the Prophets tell us what ‘must’ happen, but the Law tells us what ‘ought’ to happen. This ‘dei’ I will label the ‘dei of obligation’. But this ‘dei’ leads us immediately to another key distinction, one which becomes apparent when we ask the question, ‘what is the law we ‘ought’ to keep? By what law are we ‘bound’? Put simply, the Jewish answer is legalism, the Law of Moses, while the Christian answer is love, the example of Jesus. A good illustration of the tension between these two views - indeed, it could almost be seen as a parable - is Luke’s account of the healing of a woman with what today would probably be termed ‘curvature of the spine’ (13. 10-17). Luke’s choice of language, as so often, is particularly suggestive. He describes the woman as “having a spirit of weakness - for 18 years she had been stooped over, unable to stand up straight”. Seeing her, Jesus says, “Woman, you are loosed from your weakness”. Then, “he laid his hands on her, and she immediately stood up straight, and glorified God”. But this happened in the synagogue on the Sabbath, and the ruler of the synagogue, so far from joining the woman in praising God for a glorious miracle of healing, was annoyed at this infringement, as he saw it, of the Sabbath law. Jesus replies: “Does not each one of you on the Sabbath loose his ox or his ass from its stall and take it outside to drink water? This woman is a daughter of Abraham; Satan has bound her for 18 years. ‘Ought’ she not to have been loosed from this bond on the Sabbath day?” Here again we see the antithesis between ‘binding’ (‘deō’) and ‘loosing’ (‘luō’), both these verbs, as well as ‘dei’, appearing in verse 16. Legalism and love are here in direct opposition. The synagogue ruler is indignant at Jesus’ ‘work’ of healing on the Sabbath, and seemingly indifferent to the woman’s years of suffering. Jesus, we can assume, was indignant at the devil’s work of ‘binding’ the woman for so long, and filled with compassion for her as “a daughter of Abraham” (this, incidentally, makes her a sister of Zacchaeus, the only other person so described, in 19.9, - he, of course, a son - in the NT). Luke, by his use of these key words, seems to be implying that legalism is binding this woman with a bond every bit as crippling as Satan’s; and that Jesus, by lovingly loosing her from her affliction, is freeing all of us from the bondage of the law. It was not, of course, the Fourth Commandment itself that Jesus was challenging here; how could he? He was its author. No, it was not the Law of God but the traditions of men that he was challenging, all the Pharisaic accretions to the simple commandment that had transformed the Sabbath from a day of liberty from work and for God into a day of nit-picking legalism. Like barnacles building up on the hull of a racing yacht, rendering it virtually dead in the water, these regulations had made the Sabbath a burden hard to be borne rather than a day of joyful worship. How better to celebrate the Sabbath and bring glory to God than to heal this woman from her affliction and free her from the bondage of Satan? This, Jesus says, is how the Sabbath ‘ought’ to be celebrated.


At this point, we need to introduce another word-group into this study. Just as ‘dei’ meaning ‘must’ has two virtual synonyms, ‘mellō’ and ‘anangkē’, which we looked at earlier, so ‘dei’ meaning ‘ought’ - ‘the dei of obligation’ - overlaps in meaning to a considerable extent with the verb ‘opheilō’. And just as in English what one ‘ought’ to do is linked linguistically to what one ‘owes’ to someone, so this Greek verb links the financial sense of ‘owing’ money with the ethical sense of ‘owing’ someone a duty or an obligation. Furthermore, this verb gives rise to three nouns, the personal noun ‘opheilētēs’, a ‘debtor’, and two versions of the abstract noun ‘debt’, ‘opheilē’ and ‘opheilē;ma’. Even more clearly than the ‘dei of obligation’, ‘opheilō’ highlights the distinction between the Old Covenant and the New: under the Old Covenant, we ‘owe’ a debt of guilt to the Law, a debt we can never even begin to pay; under the New Covenant, we ‘owe’ a debt of gratitude to the one who paid the debt of our guilt for us - and that debt of gratitude is one we can at least begin to repay , by living as we ‘ought’ to live.

The parables of the unforgiving servant.and of the ten talents
Matt 18.23-35, 25.14-30

Perhaps the best introduction to ‘opheilō’ and its family is the parable of the ‘unforgiving servant’ (Matt. 18. 23-35), where they appear 6 times. The parable is prompted by Peter’s question: “How many times am I to forgive my brother? Seven times?” Perhaps because Peter seems to have an accountant’s attitude to forgiveness, the parable Jesus tells is about a king settling his accounts with his servants, so that the link between the financial sense of ‘debt’ and the ethical sense of ‘obligation’ is immediately established. A debtor (‘opheilētēs’, v.24) is brought before the king, his debt an impossibly huge 10,000 talents (NIV’s footnote “millions of pounds” is already well out of date, and should be amended to “billions”!). He begs for time to pay, though it is obvious that he never can; but the king has compassion on him, and forgives him the whole debt. This servant then finds a fellow-servant who ‘owed’ him “100 denarii” (“a few pounds”, NIV, is, this time, spot on !). “Pay me what you ‘owe’ me”, he says (v. 28). When he cannot pay, he throws him into the debtors’ prison until he can repay ‘what he owed’ (v. 30). This is reported to the king, who summons the ‘unforgiving servant’: “Wicked servant !”, he says; “I forgave you all that ‘debt’ (‘opheilō’), since you begged me to. Ought not you also (‘edei’, past tense) to have had mercy on your fellow-servant, as I had mercy on you ?” Then the king threw him into prison until he repaid ‘what was owed’ - which, of course, he never could (v. 34). The king’s words to his “wicked servant” (vv.32- 33) establish an interesting link with the parable of the talents (Matt. 25.14-30), which could be seen as a mirror-image of this parable. There, too, the master addresses the servant who buried his talent rather than trading with it as a “wicked servant” (v.26, exactly the same words, though in reverse order - as in a mirror!); and there, too, he uses ‘dei’ in the past tense to tell him what he ‘ought’ to have done, but had failed to do: put his talent in an interest-bearing account in a bank. We saw a little earlier how this use of ‘dei’ is similar to Paul’s (gentle?) ‘I told you so’ to the ship’s captain and owner, who ‘ought’ to have heeded his advice (Acts 27.21). These two uses of ‘dei’ appeal to what is sensible rather than to what is right, which reflects the ‘mirror-image’ relationship of the two parables. Both present us with a generous lord, one forgiving a servant an enormous debt, the other entrusting his servants with large amounts of money; in each case, the lord’s generosity imposes an obligation on the servants, and in each case one servant fails to meet that obligation, and is cast out, one into prison, the other into “outer darkness”. Taken together, the two parables could be seen as the basis of the Salvation Army’s pithy summary of the Christian life: ‘Saved to serve’: our salvation is entirely owing to the grace of God our redeemer, who has forgiven us our debt of guilt; and our service is owed to the generosity of God our Creator, who has given us so many gifts, material and spiritual, to use for his glory.

A challenge to the will, or an appeal to the heart?

The parable of the unforgiving servant - perhaps it should be called ‘the parable of the forgiving master’ - could be seen as the foundation document of New Covenant ethics: what Christians ‘ought’ to do is determined not by dutiful legalism but by grateful love. The Old Covenant Law, with its “thou shalt’s” and “thou shalt not’s”, directly challenges our wills to behave in accordance with God’s commands, but inevitably provokes our sinful hearts to rebellion. The New Covenant first wins our hearts by an act of ‘amazing grace’, and then appeals to our wills to respond in gratitude. We will return to this lovely parable later, and trace its echoes as they resonate in other NT passages; but first we will see how both ‘dei’ and ‘opheilō’ can be used in support of OT legalism.

[1] Legalism: (a) sacrifice
Luke 22.7, Ex 12.6, Heb 5.6, 7.26-7, 1 Cor 5.7

Our first example is straightforward. In Luke 22.7 we read that “the day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread had come, on which the Passover lamb ‘had’ to be killed” (‘edei’, past tense here, but this time clearly not ‘ought to have been’). Why did the lamb ‘have’ to be killed on this day ? Because the Law said so: “Take care of them [the Passover lambs] until the 14th day of the month, when all the people of the community of Israel must slaughter them at twilight” (Ex. 12.6). The Passover was the supreme festival of the Old Covenant, looking back to the Exodus of the people of Israel from Egypt and their release from slavery; but it also looked forward to the supreme event of the New Covenant, the “exodus” which Jesus “brought to fulfilment in Jerusalem” (Luke 9.31), freeing all who put their faith in him from the slavery of sin. For, as Paul put it so succinctly, “Christ our Passover has been killed on our behalf” (1 Cor. 5.7). This sacrifice was also foreshadowed by another great ritual of the Old Covenant, the Day of Atonement, and the sacrifices offered by the High Priest on that day. The writer to the Hebrews twice contrasts these human High Priests with Jesus, “the High Priest for ever after the order of Melchizedek” (5.6). Being himself human, and therefore sinful, the Old Covenant High Priest “must offer a sacrifice for his own sins, just as he also offers a sacrifice for the sins of the people.” (v.3) Significantly, ‘must’ here is ‘opheilō’: not only is this sacrifice a requirement of the Law, but the High Priest himself is ‘in debt’ to the Law, or ‘owes’ the Law a sacrifice, since he himself is a sinner. After further developing this link between Jesus and Melchizedek in chapter 6, he then returns to the comparison made in 5.3: our High Priest, “being set apart from sinners, does not have to offer daily sacrifices for his own sins and then for the sins of the people” (7.26- 7). “Have to” here is literally ‘have the necessity to’, another use of ‘anangkē’ expressing the ‘need’ to obey the Law, as we saw earlier. Perhaps the writer, in this context, wished to avoid any suggestion that Jesus himself had a debt to pay. These two examples suggest that the ‘need’ or ‘necessity’ under the Old Covenant to keep the Passover and for daily sacrifices has been fully satisfied and so abrogated by Jesus, who “offered himself once for all time as a sacrifice” (Heb. 7.27), a sacrifice which Christians commemorate, just as the Jews remembered their Exodus, by a meal, the Lord’s supper, the bread and wine of the Communion service.

(b) Jesus’ trial
John 19.7, 11.50, 18.14
John 16.7

A more pressing question that plagued the early church was that of circumcision, and we will come to that in a moment. But first we will look at two similar verses which underline the overlap between ‘dei’ and ‘opheilō’ in a legal context. These two verses also add another to the list of parallelisms between Paul and Jesus that we came across earlier. The first is an instance of ‘opheilō’, and, in the light of the Hebrews verses we have just studied, deeply ironic. In John 19, Pilate scourges Jesus and then presents him to the people with the memorable words “Behold the man!” - perhaps even more memorable in the Latin “Ecce homo!”. The High Priests, Annas and Caiaphas, demand his crucifixion, and when Pilate declares, “I find no guilt in him”, they utter these words: “We Jews have a law, and according to the law he ‘must’ die, because he made himself out to be the Son of God” (v.7). If Jesus was a fraud, the High Priests were right: blasphemy was a capital offence under their law. But if Jesus was the Son of God, it was they who were guilty of blasphemy - indeed, of deicide. Here were two temporary, and all-too-human, high priests confronting the “High Priest for ever” and demanding his death to satisfy the law. What irony! In their blind ignorance of the true significance of the Law they claimed to be upholding, and in their blind hatred of Jesus, the Son of God, they were actually fulfilling God’s eternal purpose, his plan of salvation, by offering up as a Passover sacrifice the one who, alone, could satisfy the demands of the Law by his death. And the use of ‘opheilō’ here sharpens the irony even further. The high priests are implying that, as under the Old Covenant, Jesus owes a debt of guilt to the Law which can only be paid by his death; but, of course, it was his love and our guilt that took Jesus to the cross, and our debt that he there paid in full, until he could utter that triumphant cry ‘tetelestai’, ‘it is paid’, ‘it is finished’ (John 19.30).To detect the (unconscious) irony of these words should not be too hard a task of interpretation, since John has carefully prepared the ground for us. In the wake of the raising of Lazarus from the dead, the Sanhedrin held a crisis meeting to decide what to do with Jesus. The current High Priest, Caiaphas, afraid that popular support for Jesus might provoke the Romans, advises the council as follows: “It is expedient for us (“for you” in many MSS) that one man should die on behalf of the people, and that the whole nation does not perish” (11.50). How ironic that one of the clearest statements in scripture of the doctrine of substitutionary atonement should come from the lips of Caiaphas! And in case we missed the significance of these words the first time round, John repeats them for us in 18.14. The Greek word for “it is expedient” is ‘sumpherei’, another impersonal verb like ‘dei’. Jesus uses it in an entirely positive way when he tells his disciples not to be distressed when he leaves them (physically) at his ascension: “I tell you the truth, it is expedient for you” (or, “it is to your advantage”) “that I leave you, for if I do not leave you, the Comforter will not come to you” (John 16.7). These are the only 3 uses of ‘sumpherei’ in John’s gospel; they could be said to express the two greatest blessings, or ‘advantages’, of the Christian life, and the two most amazing acts of grace of an all-powerful and all-holy God: in the person of his Son, he died for us, and in the person of his Spirit he lives in us. On the lips of Caiaphas, however, the word expresses more the cynical calculation of a politician than the religious sensibilities of a priest. But for Pilate’s benefit, he resumes his priestly persona (‘persona’ is the Latin word for a ‘mask’), and uses the language, not of political expediency, but of religious ‘obligation’: “We have a law, and according to the law he ‘ought’ to die”.

(c) Paul’s trials [i] "not guilty" verdicts
'aitios', 'aitia'
Acts 13.28, 25.24-5, 23.6, 29
John 18.38, 19.36

There is a discernible echo of these words in Acts 25. Festus has now taken over from Felix as Governor of Judea, and inherits from him the prisoner Paul. He goes up to Jerusalem, and immediately “the high priests” - they still seem to be both as plural and as bloodthirsty as ever - “and the leaders of the Jews appeared before him” (v.2), asking him, as a favour, to send Paul to Jerusalem - having arranged to ambush him en route. Festus refuses, but tells them to come to Caesarea. When he reports these events to King Agrippa later in the chapter, he says, perhaps with sarcastic exaggeration, “Look ! This is the man about whom the whole multitude of the Jews petitioned me, shouting out that he ‘should’ live no longer” (v.24). This time, the verb for ‘should’ is not ‘opheilō’, but its synonym, in this sense, ‘dei’, and there is no explicit mention of the law. But earlier, in talking to Agrippa about the case, Festus, still in sarcastic mode, had said that Paul’s accusers had brought against him “certain questions of their own superstition” (v. 19, AV) - clearly, the Jewish Law. The parallel with Jesus’ trial before Pilate is further pointed by Festus’s next words: “I found that he had done nothing worthy of death” (v.25). This echoes Pilate’s words as recorded by John: “I find no guilt in him” (18.38, repeated in 19.6); the Greek word for ‘guilt’ here, ‘aitia’, is the noun form of the adjective ‘aitios’, translated ‘worthy of’ in Festus’s verdict. Luke clearly prefers the adjective, for in his gospel he uses it in all 3 of Pilate’s declarations of Jesus’ innocence: “I find nothing guilty in this man” (23.4), “I find nothing in this man guilty of the accusations you have made against him” (v.14); and the third such statement is the most explicit pre-echo of all: “I find nothing in him guilty of death” (v.22) - a verdict which Paul himself quotes in his sermon in Pisidian Antioch (13. 28). Nor is Festus’s ‘not guilty’ verdict the first delivered in Paul’s favour. First, at his ‘trial’ before the Sanhedrin in Jerusalem, when Paul declares himself “a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees”, and claims to be on trial over his belief in the resurrection of the dead (23.6), this infuriated the Sadducees, who did not believe in such a resurrection, but drew support from the Pharisees (a rare occurrence!): “we find no fault in this man” (v.9). Then the garrison commander, Claudius Lysias, in his report to Felix, stated: “I found Paul charged with questions concerning their law” (no sarcasm here), “but with no charge worthy of death or imprisonment.”(v.29)

[ii] appeals to Roman Law
Acts 24. 19, 25.10

We have seen, then, that the high priests accuse Paul, just as they accused Jesus, of breaking the Jewish Law; but Paul, though “a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees”, is also a Roman citizen, and twice in these two chapters, once before each governor, he appeals to Roman law in his defence. Before Felix, he claims that it was “certain Jews from Asia” who found him in the Temple when the alleged offences occurred: they were the witnesses needed to establish his guilt, and they ‘ought’ to be present in court to bring their accusations face to face with the accused, as Roman law required (24.19). This ‘ought’ again is the past tense of ‘dei’, implying that they ‘ought’ to be there, but are not. Then before Festus, when he tries to “bank a debt of gratitude with the Jews”, by asking him to stand trial in Jerusalem rather than there in Caesarea, Paul replies: “I am standing before the judgement-seat of Caesar where I ‘ought’ to be judged” - ‘dei’ again . (25.10) Caesarea was the Roman provincial capital, Jerusalem the epicentre of Judaism; Paul knew that a journey to Jerusalem would be a death-sentence - as it had been for Jesus - but that there was some hope of justice in Rome, despite the dubious track-record of the three Roman governors we have met. Paul’s turning his back on Jerusalem and appealing to Caesar in Rome marks, or at least symbolizes, the death of the Old Covenant of Jewish law: the Christian church must live obediently, in so far as it can, under the law of Rome, but rejoices in the liberty of Christ. Jerusalem, with its Temple, is history: the epicentre of the Christian church will, for many centuries, be Rome, and Luke’s narrative, with its increasing emphasis on Paul’s call to Rome and its graphic account of his incident-packed journey there, in contrast with Jesus’ journey to Jerusalem in the gospels, emphasises this profound shift in the centre of spiritual gravity. 11 years later, in 70 AD, the symbolism of Paul’s choice of Rome over Jerusalem is reinforced by history: Jerusalem, with its Temple, is besieged, captured and destroyed by the forces of Rome.

(d) circumcision
[i] Paul the Pharisee and Paul the Apostle
Acts 15.1,5, 26.9-11

Paul was, as we have seen, “a Pharisee and the son of Pharisees”, the Jewish sect that was most bitterly opposed to Jesus throughout his ministry, and was, in turn the target of some of his most damning judgements. It is no surprise, therefore, to see that Paul, before his conversion, extended this hostility to Jesus’ followers, who seemed to him to be challenging the very heart of the Mosaic Law. This chapter in his life-story he described, in his testimony before King Agrippa, as follows: “I myself thought that I ought (‘dei’) to do many things against the name of Jesus of Nazareth --- indeed, in the fanatical madness of my anger against them, I pursued them even to foreign cities” - which took him on the road to Damascus (Acts 26.9,11). Here again is the ‘dei of obligation’, which Paul “seemed to himself” to have in support of the Old Covenant Law. Thus Paul the Pharisee and Paul the Apostle embraces in himself - or in his two selves - the tension, or tug-of-war, between the ‘obligations’ of the Old and New Covenants. This leads us to the tug-of- war over circumcision. After the first missionary journey, Paul and Barnabas return to their home church in Antioch (in Syria), and report back “what great things God had done with them, and that he had opened a door of faith for the gentiles” (Acts 14.27). But trouble is not far away. At the beginning of chapter 15, “certain men came down from Judea and began to teach the brethren that ‘If you are not circumcised according to Mosaic ritual you cannot be saved’”. The implied ‘must’ here becomes explicit a few verses later, when Paul and Barnabas, sent to consult the apostles, arrive in Jerusalem: “Certain men stood up” - perhaps the same “certain men” who had “come down from Judea” in verse 1 - “belonging to the sect of the Pharisees who had come to faith, saying that they [presumably the gentiles] ‘must’ be circumcised and keep the Law of Moses” (v.5 - ‘must’ here is ‘dei’). So the Pharisees continue to cause trouble, even after they have been converted! They were saying, in effect, that before you could become a Christian you ‘must’ become a Jew. Then follows ‘the Council of Jerusalem’, which decides that circumcision is not a ‘must’.

[ii] Paul the theologian
Gal 5.2-4

The theological basis for this decision is set out in Paul’s letter to the Galatian churches, which had been particularly plagued by the demands of these ‘Judaizers’ for the circumcision of gentile believers. Verses 2 to 4 of chapter 5 set out his argument, and, indeed, the gospel of grace: “Look, I, Paul, tell you that if you are circumcised Christ will not help you at all. Once again, I testify to every man who is being circumcised that he is a ‘debtor’ (‘opheilētēs’) obliged to keep the whole Law. You who try to be justified by the Law have cut yourselves off from Christ, you have fallen out of grace”. Paul’s argument is this. There are only two ways to be righteous before God, and so acceptable to him. The first alternative is law: to be righteous is to keep the whole law in every detail 24/7 for as long as you live; but no mortal man or woman has ever been able to meet this obligation - “for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God” (Rom.3.23): we are all in debt to the law. The only person born into this world in the whole of its history who did sinlessly keep God’s law was Jesus; being himself ‘in credit’ with his Father, he was able to pay our debt by his sacrificial death on the cross. So the second alternative is grace: Jesus’ righteousness is, by the free gift of God, attributed to us, so that we are now ‘in credit’, and our unpayable debt is paid by Jesus on our behalf. These are the two alternatives: it is either the one or the other. To be circumcised is to choose law rather than grace, to rely on one’s own efforts to keep the law rather than on Christ’s perfect keeping of the law on our behalf. To such a person, Jesus “will be of no help at all” (v.2).The Greek verb ‘help’ here is ‘ōphelō’ (long first ‘o’), very similar to, and easily confused with, ‘opheilō’ (short first ‘o’). Perhaps Paul is indulging in word-play here to make his point: either we humbly accept Christ’s ‘help’ to pay our debt for us, or we are for ever ‘in debt’ to the Law.

[i] the parable of the unforgiving servant
Matt 18.21, 35

This brings us back to the parable of the unforgiving servant, which, by implication, at least, highlights the tension between the Old Covenant ‘must’ of legalism and the New Covenant ‘ought’ of gratitude. Peter, in his question that prompts the parable, uses neither ‘dei’ nor ‘opheilō’: “How many times will my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? Up to 7 times?” (Matt.18.21) This sounds like a Pharisaic attitude to forgiveness. The Pharisees, as we have seen, had developed the majestic simplicity of the Decalogue into a nightmare of nit-picking legalism, and in particular had transformed the glorious freedom of the Sabbath day into a minefield of detailed regulations, so that any step you took was likely to result in an explosion of Pharisaic indignation. They had even specified exactly how many yards one was allowed to walk on the Sabbath (‘a Sabbath day’s journey’). This seems to be the spirit of Peter’s question - forgiveness by numbers. It was not, of course, God’s law that was the problem (as Paul would say, ‘God forbid!’), but man’s additions to it, and attitude to it. Jesus in this parable puts forward a whole new motivation: we ‘ought’ to forgive others not in dutiful obedience to the law, but “from your hearts” (v.35), hearts that are bursting with gratitude to a God who has forgiven us freely all that we owe him, and to a Saviour who has given his life to make that forgiveness possible.

[ii] the Lord's Prayer
Matt 6.12, Luke 11.4, 13.2,4

This obligation on those who have themselves been forgiven to forgive others also is, of course, most memorably enshrined in the Lord’s Prayer, though it is expressed, appropriately enough, by implication rather than by admonition. Matthew’s version reads, literally: “And forgive to us our debts (‘opheilōma’) as we also have forgiven our debtors (‘opheilētēs’)” (6.12). Jesus here assumes that his disciples will freely forgive others as they themselves have been freely forgiven. Luke’s version makes the link between sin and debt explicit: “And forgive us our sins, for we also ourselves forgive everyone who owes us”, or, “is in debt to us” (‘opheilō’ - 11.4). This same link is repeated two chapters later. At the beginning of chapter 13, Jesus receives the news “about the Galileans whose blood Pilate mixed with their sacrifices”. He replies: “Do you think that these Galileans were sinners (‘hamartōloi’) more than all the other Galileans because they suffered this fate ? --- Or those 18 who were killed when the tower in Siloam fell on them, do you think that they were debtors (‘opheilētēs’) more than all the other inhabitants of Jerusalem?” (vv.2,4). Clearly ‘debt’ and ‘debtor’ are synonyms (the word is unavoidable!) for ‘sin’ and ‘sinner’.

[2] Love.
2 Peter 3.11

The remaining instances of ‘dei’ (the ‘dei of obligation’) and ‘opheilō’ that we will look at describe the sort of lives we ‘ought’ to live if we are properly to express our gratitude to God for his amazing grace in forgiving us the unpayable debt of sin. They all, in effect, answer the question Peter poses in his second letter (3.11): in view of the certainty of Christ’s second coming in judgement, “what kind of people ‘ought’ (‘dei’) we to be? We ought to lead holy and godly lives” (NIV, though that has ‘you’ for ‘we’, as in many of the MSS). ‘dei’ only occurs once here, but NIV is helpful in repeating ‘ought’, because Peter is clearly answering his question even as he asks it.

[i] ‘TINA dei’
'no other way'
John 3.3,7, Acts 4.12, Heb 6.6

But before we can live as a child of God ‘ought’ to live, we must ensure that we are children of God, and this takes us back to Jesus’ uncompromising statement to Nicodemus: “You (plural - the whole human race) ‘must’ be born again” (John 3.7). We saw earlier that this ‘dei’ is a ‘must’ rather than an ‘ought’, because it is related to a particular purpose: “Unless a person is born again, he or she cannot see the kingdom of God” (v.3). Therefore, to be part of God’s kingdom, one ‘must’ be born again: the kingdom is for family members only, the children of God. The first step towards the new birth is to fall to one’s knees in acknowledgement of one’s debt, and in this, at least, the ‘unforgiving servant’ in the parable shows us the way: “prostrating himself before the king, he said, ‘Have mercy on me’”. (Matt. 18.26) The next step is stated in Paul’s reply to the Philippian jailer’s question “what must (‘dei’) I do to be saved ?” (Acts 16.31): “Put your faith in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved”. As so often in Acts, there is an echo in Paul’s words here of Peter’s words earlier on, when, in his testimony before the council, he says of Jesus: “There is salvation in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given among men in which we ‘must’ (‘dei’) be saved” (4.12). We might, perhaps, label this usage of ‘dei’, together with its occurrence in John 3.7, ‘TINA dei’ - ‘there is no alternative’: only those who are born again can enter the kingdom of God, and only through faith in Jesus can someone be born again - there is ‘no other way’. The writer to the Hebrews provides us with an even more fundamental example of ‘TINA dei’, the prelude, perhaps, to the first step: “Without faith it is impossible to please God, for the one who approaches God ‘must’ have faith in him that he exists and that he rewards those who seek him” (6.6). There is no alternative to faith - except death.

[ii] ‘Transposed dei’
Acts 4.12, 14.22, 2 Tim 2.6

A brief parenthesis. Peter’s use of ‘dei’ in his bold words to the council could also be described as ‘transposed dei’. What he really meant was what Paul said more directly - a Philippian jailer in a state of shock could not have coped with circumlocution: “Jesus is the only way to salvation, and so to be saved you ‘must’ believe in his name”. In this context, ‘dei’ does not logically belong to ‘being saved’; salvation is the end to be achieved, and faith in the name of Jesus (though faith is not specifically mentioned) is the only way to achieve it. What Peter meant was not “we must be saved” (though that is what he said - and is true enough), but “to be saved we must believe in the name of Jesus”. ‘Dei’ here has, in effect, been transposed. This might seem like an anomaly, but there is another similar example, a verse we have already looked at, and this time it is Paul who is responsible. On his return visits to the newly planted churches in Lystra, Iconium and Pisidian Antioch, he urges the young Christians to “remain in the faith”, telling them that “through many afflictions we ‘must’ enter the kingdom of heaven” (Acts 14.22). Again, ‘dei’ does not logically belong with “enter”, but with another, unexpressed, verb, so that his words could be paraphrased “before we enter the kingdom of heaven we must first suffer many afflictions here on earth”; ‘dei’ has been transposed because, as in the former example, there is no other verb for it to attach to. If one example is an anomaly, then two are a coincidence - but a third establishes it as an idiom! Paul again, this time to Timothy: he tells him to “suffer hardship as a good soldier of Christ Jesus”, and then adds athletes and farmers as illustrations of the sheer hard work needed to achieve success. Of farmers he says: “it is the hard-working farmer who must first share the fruits” (2 Tim. 2.6). There is a clear parallel here with Paul’s words to the young churches, though here he includes the word “first” which I took the liberty of supplying in my paraphrase of Acts 14.22. Here, too, ‘dei’ is transposed, and the verb it logically belongs to appears as a participle. What Paul means is: “the farmer who wants to have a share of the fruits ‘must’ first work hard to produce them” - there is no alternative; if in doubt, see Genesis 3.17-18. End of parenthesis.

The Christian’s walk: pleasing God
1 Thess 4.1, 2 Tim 2.4, John 8.29, 1 John 2.6

What, then, is the answer to Peter’s question? “What sort of people ought we to be” if we have been born again as children of God through faith in Jesus? A basic principle is provided by Paul: he urges the Thessalonians “just as you received teaching from us about how you ‘ought’ (‘dei’) to walk so as to please God, actually walk just like that” (1 Thess. 4.1). The Christian life is regularly described as a walk, though Greek always expresses the idea as a verb, ‘peripatō’; there appears to be no abstract noun derived from it. Literally, the word means to ‘walk around’ and gives us the English word ‘peripatetic’. Its two appearances in this verse are only a small sample of the 32 times Paul uses the word in his letters, and we will look at 2 of the 10 usages in John’s letters a little later. What, then, is the actual aim of the Christian life? According to Paul in this verse, it is to “please God”. He says the same to Timothy in the passage we looked at in the parenthesis above: “a good soldier of Christ Jesus” is focused on how “he can please the one who enlisted him” (2 Tim. 2.4). In this, as in all things, our model is Jesus himself, who said: “The one who sent me is with me, and has not left me alone, because I always do what is pleasing to him” (John 8.29). Since Jesus was “one with the Father” (John 10.30), it was not difficult for him to know what pleased him. But how do we know what pleases God? If we want a model, then of course we need look no further than Jesus, and to try to follow in his footsteps. As John puts it, “the one who claims to abide in Jesus ‘ought’ himself to walk just as Jesus walked” (1 John 2.6 - ‘ought’ here is ‘opheilō’). The Christian life ‘ought’ to be a Christ-like life. If, on the other hand, we want a list of ‘do’s and don’ts’, the Decalogue gives us what we want - 2 ‘do’s’ and 8 ‘don’ts’ - setting out for us, memorably and permanently, on tablets of stone, the sort of lifestyle that is pleasing to God. But the Christian’s motive for keeping the 10 commandments - or trying to - is not legalism but love. It is not like writing the entrance exam to heaven, for if it were, the pass-mark would be 100% and the pass rate 0%; it is more like writing a ‘thank-you’ letter to God for his amazing grace, and expressing our gratitude to him by doing what pleases him. For a Christian, the 10 commandments are not a list of ‘thou shalt nots’, but rather a life of ‘I oughts’, because ‘I owe it to him’.

Holiness: (1) Loving God
(a) prayer and worship
'eucharistia', 'eucharistō'
Luke 18.1, Rom.8.26, John 4.24, 1 Thess 4.3,

How, then, ‘ought’ we to walk so as to please God? If we wind on Paul’s words to the Thessalonians another
couple of verses, we will find a one-word answer to this big question: “for this is the will of God, your holiness” (1 Thess. 4.3). To please God is to do his will, and to do his will is to be holy. Jesus condensed the 10 commandments into 2: loving God and loving one’s neighbour, the vertical and horizontal axes of cross-shaped discipleship. If holiness is keeping God’s law, the heart of holiness is love, and love should animate both our walk with God and our walk in the world. There are a number of ‘oughts’ in the NT which relate to both these two aspects of our Christian lives. At the heart of our relationship with God are prayer and worship; this is how we express our love for him most directly. Jesus told the parable of the ‘Unjust Judge’ to teach his disciples that “they ‘ought’ (‘dei’) always to pray and never to lose heart and give up” (Luke 18.1). On 10 other occasions in the gospels this ‘ought’ becomes a direct imperative, as Jesus simply tells his disciples “pray”. Paul introduces two more ‘oughts’ into his teaching on prayer, a ‘dei’ and an ‘opheilō’. First, the ‘dei’: yes, we ‘ought’ to pray, but how ‘ought’ we to pray, and what ‘ought’ we to pray for ? Jesus answered this question by providing us with a pattern of prayer, ‘the Lord’s prayer’; Paul plugs us in to the source of power in prayer: “for we do not know what we ‘ought’ to pray (‘dei’), but the Holy Spirit himself prays for us” (Romans 8.26). Paul here seems to have intercessory prayer particularly in mind, and Jesus’ parable also exhorts us to intercession, or, at least, to supplication, with its reference to God’s elect “crying out to him day and night” (v.7). Paul’s use of ‘opheilō’ - in fact, his double use - in 2 Thessalonians reminds us that there is another important ingredient in prayer: thanksgiving. The Greek for ‘thanksgiving’ is ‘eucharistia’ (whence ‘eucharist), and the related verb is ‘eucharistō’, which is still the Modern Greek for ‘thank you’. Paul begins 7 of his letters by thanking God for the faith of those to whom he is writing (Rom.1.8, 1 Cor. 1.4, Eph. 1.16, Phil. 1.3, Col. 1.3 - and 12, I Thess 1.2 and Philemon 4). 2 Thessalonians is subtly different: he says, “we ‘ought’ to thank God for you on every occasion” (1.3), and then repeats these same words (in a slightly different order) in 2.13. Tom Wright (‘Paul for Everyone”, Gal. and Thess. p. 149) does full justice to ‘opheilō’ in his translation of this verse: “But we always owe God a debt of gratitude for you”. Paul ‘owes’ God this debt because his prayers have been answered, and the Thessalonians have responded in faith to his preaching of the gospel. Tom Wright makes this point well: “Everything that a Christian does, from belief to baptism to holiness to hope, is held within this framework of God’s powerful love and grace. That is why Paul can thank God for them. All that has been accomplished in their lives is his gift, and all that will be accomplished will be to his glory” (p.151). Just as true prayer is prayer “in the Spirit”, and we can only pray effectively with his help, so true worship, worship that pleases God, ‘must’ (‘dei’) be “in the Spirit”, as Jesus told the Samaritan woman (John 4.24). This ‘dei’ is the ‘dei’ of necessity, not of obligation. Since God is Spirit, we ‘must’ worship him in the Spirit if we are truly to reach him - there is no alternative! What transforms dead ritual into living relationship in our prayer and worship is “the love of God flooding our hearts by the Holy Spirit who has been given to us” (Rom.5.5). It is easy, these days, to get the impression that worship is essentially something that happens in church. Many churches (mine included) appoint special ‘worship leaders’, and many services include ‘a time of worship’, so that one may be led to think that the essence of worship is to stand with one’s arms aloft singing some great song of praise. And, indeed, in our age God has graciously inspired by his Spirit many great hymns and songs of praise, which can make such a ‘time of worship’ a moving and joyful experience through which we can express our love for our Lord. By contrast, the Greek verb for ‘worship’ is ‘proskunō’, which means to ‘fall at someone’s feet’ in humble submission. God certainly delights in the praises of his people gathered together in church on a Sunday, but he delights even more in the worship expressed by the humble obedience of our daily walk with him.

(b) obedience and humility
Acts 5.29, Rom 12.3

Humility and obedience both have ‘oughts’ attached to them in the NT. In Acts 5, the apostles are arrested and imprisoned by the Jewish authorities, who are then somewhat embarrassed, and not a little amazed, to find the prison empty the next morning. Eventually, the apostles are brought “not by force” before the Sanhedrin, where the High Priest says (literally): “With an instruction we instructed you not to teach in this name” (he cannot bring himself to mention the actual name of Jesus); “and look! you have filled Jerusalem with your teaching.” To which Peter (surely the words are his) replies: “We ‘ought’ to obey God rather than men” (v.29). In his first letter, Peter tells us to “submit to every ordinance of man for the Lord’s sake” ( 2.13) - and Paul says much the same in Romans 13, as we have already seen; but our primary allegiance is, of course, to obey God, and most of the time, in this country at least, we can do this without disobeying the law of the land. Obedience could, perhaps, be described as ‘humility in action’, and humility as ‘the beginning of holiness’: if to be holy is to be like Jesus, humility is a ‘must’. But it is also an ‘ought’: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus”, Paul tells the Philippians (2.5, AV), and goes on to say that Jesus “humbled himself and became obedient unto death” (v.8) - the humility of his ‘mind’, or ‘attitude’, leading to the obedience of his actions and, supremely, of his passion. Greek here uses a verb in the imperative rather than a noun for ‘mind’, or NIV’s ‘attitude’, the verb ‘phrono’, to ‘think’ in a particular way, or to have a particular ‘attitude’ or ‘mind-set’. In Romans 12.3, Paul uses this verb 4 times, twice in its simple form and twice in compounds, so that a literal translation might be: “I tell you --- not to think above what you ‘ought’ to think (‘dei’), but to think so as to think sensibly, each person as God has given him a share of faith”. To ‘think above’ (‘phrono’ + ‘hyper’!) what one ought to think of oneself is pride; Paul says that our thinking should lead us to a ‘healthy assessment’ of our own worth; this time, the prefix to ‘phrono’ is ‘sō-’, meaning ‘sound’ or ‘healthy’, the root of the verb ‘sōzō’, to ‘heal’, or ‘make whole’, or, most commonly , to ‘save’. Paul goes on to list the various gifts God gives his people, both spiritual and natural. To be humble is not to disparage, still less to deny, our gifts - and not to bury them in the ground, like the “wicked servant” of the parable - but rather to acknowledge that, whether great or small, they are gifts from God for which we can claim no credit, but for which, on the contrary, we owe him a debt of gratitude. To think of ourselves “as we ought to think”, that is, to be humble, is to remember both the huge debt of guilt we have been forgiven and the huge debt of gratitude we still owe.

(c) witness
[i] Peter's example
Luke 12.12, 1 Peter 3.15
'apologia', 'apologoumai'

There is one trio of ‘oughts’ which bridges the two parts of God’s law as summarised by Jesus, since it is an expression both of our love for God and of our love for our fellow men: this is the ‘ought’ of witness. If our hearts are full of gratitude to God for the love he has shown us in forgiveness, we will want to show our love for him by telling others the good news; and if we truly love our neighbours, we will realise that the greatest service we can render them is to tell them of God’s love. Sometimes, however, the world around us may be hostile to this news. Jesus warned his disciples that they would be brought before the rulers and authorities in the synagogues, but they should not be anxious about what they should say in their defence, “for the Holy Spirit will teach you in that hour what you ‘ought’ (‘dei’) to say” (Luke 12. 12). The Greek verb for to ‘speak in one’s defence’ here (v.11) is ‘apologoumai’, which gives us the English noun ‘apology’, not in its modern sense of ‘saying sorry’, but in its original sense of ‘a speech for the defence’ (Plato’s ‘Apology’ is his version of Socrates’s speech at his trial in Athens). We have already seen Peter, when ‘brought before the rulers and authorities’ of the Sanhedrin, boldly witnessing to Jesus in the power of the Spirit (“Peter, full of the Holy Spirit”, Acts 4.8), because he ‘ought’ to obey God rather than men: witness is not just an expression of gratitude, but also an act of obedience. In his first letter, Peter also uses ‘apologia’, complementing Jesus’ reassuring promise of the Spirit’s help with a precept about our own responsibility: we need not “worry about what we ought to say”, but we should be prepared: “always be ready to speak in defence [of your faith] to any one who asks you for a word [of explanation] about the hope that it in you” (3.15). Peter here is only preaching what he himself so faithfully practised in those early chapters of Acts.

[ii] Paul's teaching
Eph 6.20, Col 4.2-4
Matt 26.31, Mark 14.38

Paul also talks about the ‘ought’ of witness, in two parallel passages in his letters to the Ephesians and to the
Colossians, adding a third ingredient to the recipe for effective evangelism: in addition to the promise of the Spirit’s help and the preparedness of the witness, Paul solicits the support of prayer. In each letter, his request for prayer for himself comes after his general exhortation to his readers to pray. In Ephesians 6, this comes at the end of the famous passage about “the whole armour of God”, and is attached to it simply by participles: “take [the helmet of salvation]” (v17) is the last main verb until the next section begins at verse 21. Paul is therefore implying that prayer is just as crucial a weapon in the Christian’s battle with “the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms” (v.12, NIV). If Paul were writing today, he might well draw a comparison between the importance of prayer in spiritual warfare and the vital need for good battlefield communications in modern warfare. In these verses, in addition to the famous four ‘alls’ of verse 18, Paul uses two different words for ‘prayer’ twice each: “praying with all prayer and supplication --- being watchful in all perseverance and supplication”. The noun ‘supplication’ is the Greek ‘de-ēsis’ (short e + long e), derived from the verb ‘deomai’, to ‘need’ or ‘ask’, which, as those with a long memory may recall, was briefly mentioned right at the start of this study as a verb related to ‘dei’. It is, therefore, just possible that Paul’s double use of this noun intentionally paves the way for his ‘ought’ in verse 20, when he asks the Ephesians: “and for me, too” (the verb ‘pray’ is not repeated here, though NIV’s addition of it is helpful), “that I may speak boldly, as I ‘ought’ to speak” (‘dei.’).This is the ‘dei’ of obligation: he ‘owes’ it to God, who called him and laid upon him the ‘necessity’ of preaching the gospel, as we saw earlier (1 Co. 9.16); and he owes it to all who are living in darkness, to whom the ‘mystery’ of God’s grace (v. 19) has not yet been revealed. This speculation about a deliberate link between ‘dei’ and ‘de-esis’ might seem too fanciful to mention, were it not for the parallel passage in Colossians 4.2-4. Here, Paul tells his readers to “persevere” (the verb here, rather than the noun used in Ephesians) “in prayer, being watchful” - this word is different from its equivalent in Ephesians; Paul uses the more common ‘grēgorō’ (the origin of the name ‘Gregory’), echoing, perhaps, Jesus’ exhortation to the three disciples in Gethsemane to “watch and pray” (Matt. 26 31, Mark 14.38). Then he continues (v.3): “praying at the same time for me also, that God may open for me a door for the word, to speak of the mystery of Christ, on account of which also I am bound, so that I may make it clear as I ought (‘dei’) to speak”. Paul does not use either the verb or the noun for ‘supplication’ here; instead, he paves the way for ‘dei’ by describing himself not, as in Ephesians, as “an ambassador in chains” (6.20), but simply as ‘bound’ (‘dedemenos’, perfect participle passive of ‘deō’), reminding us of the link between these two verbs that we have seen several times before, mostly in Acts. An ambassador is obliged to proclaim the message of the king who sent him; an “ambassador in chains” is ‘bound’ to do so. Does Paul choose his words so imaginatively and suggestively? Our verse, I believe, offers another example. When the apostles were in prison in Acts 5, “the angel of the Lord during the night opened the door of the prison”, and led them out to freedom (v.19); but here Paul prays, not that God would “open the door” of the prison to free him, but that he would “open a door” for him to preach the gospel. Paul’s single-minded, wholehearted devotion to his calling (“woe to me if I do not preach the gospel”, 1 Cor. 9.16) is inspirational, an example for us all to speak for Christ “as we ought”. But if he asked the churches for prayer support for his evangelism, how much more do our preachers, leaders and evangelists need our prayers if they are to speak for Christ with both clarity and courage, as he did?

(2) Loving our Neighbour.
Matt 19.19

The second part of God’s law prescribes our attitude to and treatment of our fellow men; as Jesus summarised
it, “You shall love your neighbour as yourself” (Matt. 19.19). Before we look at the ‘oughts’ which spell this out in detail, it is worth noting that humility is not self-hatred: if God loves us, despite our many sins and wickednesses, then so may we love ourselves - though not ‘hyper’! We have already seen, both in the parable of the two debtors and in the Lord’s prayer, that those who have been forgiven by God have an obligation to forgive their fellow men - but sometimes they also need to learn to forgive themselves. “I’ll never forgive myself” is not a truly Christian response to sin or failure. If God can forgive us, we should too. Such people, perhaps, need to hear Jesus saying to them: “You shall love yourself as you love your neighbour”.

(a) forgiveness
Luke 7.21, 36-50, Acts 3.14, 27.24, Col 2.13, 3.13

This link between love and forgiveness is made most specifically by the other parable Jesus told about two
debtors, in Luke 7. 36-50. Jesus has been asked to dinner by Simon the Pharisee. “And, look, a woman who was a sinner in that town came in” with an alabaster box of myrrh, with which she proceeded to anoint Jesus’ feet as he reclined at the table. Simon was indignant: “If he really were a prophet, this man would know what kind of woman it is who is touching him, that she is a sinner”. This prompted the parable. “A money-lender had two debtors; one owed (‘opheilō’) him 500 denarii, the other 50. When neither could pay him back, he forgave them both. Which of them, then, will love him more?” “I suppose”, Simon replied, “the one whom he forgave more”. “Right”, said Jesus: “the one who is forgiven little loves only a little ---”, the implication being that the more we realise the magnitude of the debt Jesus paid on the cross for us, the more we will love him. The Greek word used here for ‘forgive’ by Luke is ‘charizomai’; he is the only one of the four gospel-writers to use this lovely word, 3 times in his gospel (all in this chapter), and 4 times in Acts. It is a lovely word because it is derived from the noun ‘charis’, ‘grace’, which itself is the loveliest word in the NT. The use of the verb here shows the link between ‘giving’ and ‘forgiving’; literally, it means to ‘give someone a free gift’, or to ‘make a present of’. In this passage it is used both by Jesus and by Simon of the debt that was ‘forgiven’, or ‘cancelled’. Earlier in the chapter it is used of Jesus “freely giving to the blind the gift of sight” (v. 21). We have already encountered one of its occurrences in Acts (27.24), when Paul is told by the angel, in the thick of the storm, that “God has ‘made you a present’ of [the lives] of all those sailing with you”; by his saving grace, they would all survive. Luke had used the word earlier in a similar context, though with even more significance, in Peter’s second sermon, in the Temple in 3.14. He accuses the listening Jews, many of whom would have been in the Good Friday crowd baying for Jesus’ blood just a few weeks before, “you asked for a man who was a murderer to be ‘given’ (or ‘forgiven’) to you as a present, but the author of life you killed” (3.14-15). Barabbas (the “murderer”) stands for every Christian: he could only be forgiven and set free because Jesus died instead. Luke surely uses ‘charizomai’ here to remind us that it is only by God’s grace that any of us can be saved from the death-sentence that we deserve every bit as much as Barabbas did. Perhaps Luke is also suggesting that while Pilate is ‘making a present’ of Barabbas to the Jews, the real ‘gift of grace’ was God’s giving of his Son for the whole world. Not only does ‘charizomai’ link ‘giving’ and ‘forgiving’, it also links both to God’s grace. This word may be rare in the gospels, but it is used more often (16 times) in the epistles. Two examples, both from Colossians, will suffice - and will lead us back to our main theme. The first one (2.13) comes towards the end of one of Paul’s notoriously long sentences (though by no means the longest!), so we will plunge right into the middle of it: “---- when you were dead in your sins God raised you to life with Jesus, ‘forgiving’ you all your sins”. The second example is a double example. As we have seen, forgiveness, though a free gift of God’s grace, imposes an obligation, which Paul, as is his wont, explains in detail in chapter 3, beginning with a ‘therefore’: “If therefore you have been raised with Christ” - live like it! (v.1). In verse 12 he describes the ‘new clothes’ a Christian should “put on”: they should “forbear one another and ‘forgive’ each other , if any one has a grievance against someone, just as the Lord also ‘forgave’ you” - and, he might have added, just as he told you to forgive others in the Lord’s Prayer.

(b) Love
1 John 4.11, 3.16

The woman in Simon’s house was able to express her debt of gratitude for the forgiveness she had received by lavishing her love, and her precious ointment, on the person of Jesus. How can we express that loving gratitude to Jesus today? Today, Jesus’ body is the church, our brothers and sisters in Christ, and John, in his first letter, makes it clear that we should show our gratitude to Christ by loving our fellow Christians. He uses ‘opheilō’ three times in this letter, one of which we have looked at already: we ‘ought’ to walk as Jesus walked (2.6). In 4.11 he expresses the same general principle in a slightly different way, but with similar clarity and simplicity: “Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ‘ought’ (‘opheilō’) to love each other”. And he has earlier made it clear, in another similar statement (and another 3.16) exactly what Christlike love involves: “In this we know what love is, because Jesus laid down his life for us; and we, too, ‘ought’ (‘opheilō’) to lay down our lives for our fellow Christians”. This reminds us that to “walk as Jesus walked” is to walk the way of the cross.

(c) Support for gospel workers
3 John 8, Acts 1.9

John uses ‘opheilō’ once more, in his third letter, and this takes us from the general obligation of love to its practical outworkings. How exactly should we show our love for our fellow brothers and sisters in Christ? If anointing their feet with myrrh is unlikely to be appropriate, or welcome, the same generosity of spirit should be shown in other ways. In this letter, written to Gaius, he commends him for the faithful work he has done for his fellow Christians, though they are strangers to him (v.5): these brothers have borne witness to his love before the church, so that John has heard of it (v.6). How has this love been expressed? These Christians had clearly gone out from Gaius’s church as evangelists and teachers to the pagan world, “for the sake of the name”, as John puts it (v.7), “taking nothing [in the way of financial support] from the pagans; we therefore ‘ought’ (‘opheilō’) to ‘undertake’ for such men, so that we may be fellow-workers with them in the truth they are proclaiming” (v.8). John here emphasises his point by using both the simple verb ‘lambanō’, to ‘take’ or ‘receive’, and one of its compounds, ‘hupo-lambano’, literally, to ‘undertake’, or, in this context, perhaps, to ‘support’. The only other time this verb is used in this sense in the NT is in Luke’s account of the ascension in Acts 1.9, when “a cloud ‘took Jesus up’ out of their sight”. We saw earlier that, during this ‘in-between’ time before Jesus’ return, the gospel ‘must’ be proclaimed to every nation. If we are not ourselves directly involved in this great work of evangelism, then we certainly ‘ought’ to be supporting those who are, showing our love for them, and our gratitude to Jesus, both by our faithful prayers (as Paul exhorts us), and by our financial support, so that we may be “fellow-workers” for the truth of the gospel - and imitators of this little-known hero of the NT, Gaius. Such missionaries
need more than a cloud of good will to support them, and ‘love’ often needs to be spelt ‘£ove’ !

(d) support for the weak
Acts 20.34-5, Luke 1.54, 10.40, 1 Tim 6.2

Paul uses a different compound of ‘lambanō’ to express much the same idea. He concludes his farewell speech to the Ephesian elders in Acts chapter 20 as follows: “You yourselves know that these hands of mine have provided for my needs and the needs of my companions. In every way I have shown you by my example that by working hard like this we ‘ought’ (‘dei’) to support the weak, and to remember the words which our Lord Jesus Christ himself spoke, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive’” (vv. 34-5). The word translated ‘support’ here is ‘antilambano’ (used in the middle voice, implying personal involvement). The lexicon suggests that this word basically means to ‘take’ someone in one’s arms and give them a good hug. This can be a beautiful way of expressing our support for our Christian brothers and sisters, especially when they are ‘weak’ - or ‘ill’, as this word is often translated elsewhere in the NT (e.g. Matt. 10.8). Here, however, and in its two other appearances in the NT, the verb implies more practical ‘help’ or ‘support’. Paul may be urging the Ephesians to ‘work hard’ in the actual task of looking after those who are weak or ill, and cannot look after themselves; or he may just be saying that those Christians who are fit to work should earn enough money to support others who are not - this interpretation, perhaps, leads more naturally to Jesus’ (elsewhere unrecorded) words about the blessedness of giving, presumably the giving of money. The other 2 uses of ‘antilambanomai’ throw further light on the ‘what’ and the ‘why’ of such practical help. In the ‘Magnificat’, Mary says of “God my Saviour” that he “has helped his servant Israel, and has remembered his mercy towards them” (Luke 1 54): so we ‘should’ be ‘helpful’ and ‘merciful’ because God is. In the other instance, Paul, via Timothy, tells slaves who have Christian masters not to be over-familiar with them because they are brothers, but, on the contrary, to serve them even better, because by their good work they are “helping” masters who are “beloved believers” (1 Tim. 6.2). ‘Help’, then, involves service, and service involves hard work: love is more than just a hug! In addition to these 3 instances of ‘antilambanomai’, there are 2 appearances in the NT of the double compound ‘sun-anti-lambanomai’, to ‘join in helping’, or just to ‘help with’ someone. Once again, one of these examples refers to God’s helping us, and the other to our helping others. The first passage we looked at not long ago - Paul’s teaching on prayer: we do not know what to pray as we ‘ought’, but the Holy Spirit “helps our weakness with us” by interceding for us (Rom. 8.26). Just as our weakness evokes God’s loving help, so the weakness of our fellow Christians when in need should evoke our loving support. The other example is, again, in the context of practical, hard-working service. When Jesus visits the home of the two sisters in Bethany at the end of Luke 10, Martha is “cumbered about with much serving” (v.40 - the AV is unforgettable here), while Mary just sits and listens to Jesus. Eventually, Martha “stands still” for a moment, and asks Jesus to tell her sister to ‘give her a hand’, or “join in helping”. In this instance, Mary’s pietism wins Jesus’ approval; but listening to Jesus should normally be our spur to helping others, not a way of escaping from it.

(e) sensitivity towards the ‘weak’
Rom 15.1-3

So we will listen to Jesus again in a moment, and look at his ‘example’. But first, another example from Paul of the way in which we ‘ought’ to treat our brothers and sisters in Christ. This comes in a passage which helpfully brings together several of the words and themes we have been looking at, Romans 15. 1-3: “And we (emphatic) the strong ‘ought’ to bear the weaknesses of those who are not strong, and not please ourselves”. This is another instance where the chapter division obscures the context. The “weaknesses” to which Paul is referring here are not the same as those in Acts 20, illness or poverty, but weaknesses of conscience. He has devoted the whole of ‘chapter 14’ to the contentious issue of Jewish dietary and ceremonial laws. Many converted Jews, whether out of habit or conviction, still clung to the celebration of Sabbaths and festivals, and to Levitical restrictions on what should be eaten. Paul is convinced that nothing is, of itself, “unclean” (14.14), but he is equally emphatic that people should obey their consciences. Therefore he urges those in the church, possibly from non-Jewish backgrounds, who have no such scruples about Jewish observances, to “bear the weaknesses” of their fellow Christians, who would feel guilty (and, according to Paul, would actually be guilty) if they infringed these regulations. To “bear” here seems to mean to ‘show sensitivity towards’, and this is an ‘ought’ which all Christians should observe in their attitudes and behaviour to one another. If a Christian brother or sister is grieved because we have disregarded their sensitivities and indulged our own greater sense of liberty, then we are not “walking in love” (v.15). Just ‘pleasing ourselves’ is not “walking as Jesus walked”, since “Christ did not please himself” (15.3). Paul reminds us that each fellow Christian is “that person for whom Christ died” (14.15). The debt of gratitude which is imposed on us by Jesus’ death for us in turn imposes an obligation on us to serve and support all the others for whom he died.

(f) servant love
John 13.13-15, 34, 15.12,17

It is Jesus himself who made this point, so now let us listen to him. After washing his disciples’ feet in John 13, he says to them: “You call me ‘Teacher’ and ‘Lord’, and rightly so, for I am. If, then, I, your Lord and teacher, have washed your feet, you also ‘ought’ (‘opheilō’) to wash each others’ feet; for I have given you an example, that you too should do what I have done for you” (vv. 13-15). Here again we see that what we ‘ought’ to do for others is motivated by the debt we owe to Jesus, and is modelled for us by the example of Jesus. The word for ‘example’ here, ‘hupodeigma’, is derived from the verb Paul used when he told the Ephesian elders that he had “set them an example” of how they ‘ought’ to work hard to support the weak. To wash someone’s feet is the work of a servant, and to follow Jesus’ example - and Paul’s - we need to have a ‘servant heart’. But, as we saw earlier at the house of Simon the Pharisee, washing someone’s feet can also be an expression of loving gratitude, the gratitude of sins forgiven and debt paid, which should warm and soften our proud, hard hearts so that they become the hearts of willing servants. Another word which Jesus uses here is “each other”, ‘allēlous’ in Greek - this is the accusative plural form, because the word is always plural and never found in the nominative case (just like ‘each other’ in English, it can never be the subject). The English word ‘parallel’ is derived from it: two parallel lines lie ‘alongside each other’. ‘hupolambanō’ is used exactly 100 times in the NT, plenty of material for a good word study! Moreover, 13 times it is combined with the verb to ‘love’ (‘agapō’), and a further 6 times with its related noun, ‘agapē’. Of these, 4 are found on the lips of Jesus, the first 2 only a few verses further on in John 13: “A new commandment I give you, to love one another, to love one another just as I have loved you” (v.34). The other 2 are in chapter 15, verses 12 and 17 - and verse 12 also ends “just as I have loved you”. This clause looks both backwards and forwards: backwards, to the “example” he had just given them of servant love, and forwards to the cross, the supreme example of sacrificial love. Thus, once again, we see that Jesus’ love for us is both the motive and the model for our love for each other. Love should be the hallmark of every Christian fellowship, and Jesus both shows us and teaches us that Christian love is servant love, an obligation we have to each other because Jesus himself “took on the form of a servant” (Phil. 2.7).

(g) love as a debt
Matt 22.17-21, Rom 13.6-8, 1 John 4.19

It is no surprise to find that no fewer than 6 of the remaining examples of ‘each other’ combined with ‘love’ are found in the epistles of John (5 in the first and 1 in the third), one of which (4.11) we have already looked at because it has an ‘ought’ attached. A further instance is provided by Peter, who tells his readers to “love one another with a pure heart fervently” (1 Peter 1.22) - the AV translation indelibly lodged in the memory for any who have sung, or heard, Samuel Wesley’s beautiful anthem. The 2 remaining examples are from Paul, and it is his words to his Roman readers that return us to ‘opheilō’ and its root meaning. Chapter 13 begins, as we saw earlier in our brief look at ‘anangkē’ (‘necessity’), with teaching on the importance of obeying the secular authorities: an earthly ruler is God’s ‘minister’ (in Greek ‘diaconos’, from which ‘deacon’ is derived), so it is ‘necessary’ to be subject to him (vv. 4-5) - and pay taxes to him (v.6). Then he continues: “Pay back to every one the debt you owe them” (literally, just “give back to all their debts” - ‘opheilō’, v.7). The verb here, ‘apodidōmi’, to ‘give back’ is the same one that is used 7 times in the parable of the ‘unforgiving servant’ (Matt. 18.23-35); and it is also the verb Jesus uses, 4 chapters later, in his answer to the Pharisees’ question about paying taxes to Caesar: “Render (‘apodidōmi’) unto Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s” (22.21). There is a subtle point in the wording of Matthew’s account here, which is easy to miss, especially if reading the NIV - which is why I quoted the verse in the AV. The actual question the Pharisees ask is: “Is it lawful to ‘give’ (just ‘didomi’, the simple form of the verb) tribute to Caesar?” NIV has “pay taxes”: one ‘gives’ a present but ‘pays’ a bill. This gives added point to Jesus’ answer: he uses the same basic verb as in the question, but in the compound form which implies that there is a debt to be paid: “Pay back” (or “pay what is owed”) “to Caesar what is due to him, and to God what is due to him”. By reversing ‘give’ and ‘pay’ in its translation (“Give to Caesar what is Caesar’s ---”) NIV obscures this point entirely. It is the same point that Paul is making to the Romans: we do not ‘give’ taxes out of charity, but ‘pay’ them out of obligation ( the obligation which the Pharisees, by the wording of their question, were denying) to the authorities who provide the ‘law and order’ of a civilised society. Paul goes on to develop this point by following the noun ‘opheilō’ in verse 7 with the verb ‘opheilō’ in verse 8, the monetary sense subtly eliding into the moral sense; once again, NIV muddies the waters by inserting a new paragraph heading between the 2 verses! The following version, I hope, makes Paul’s point: “Pay your debts to every one - taxes and levies to the tax-man, respect and honour to the authorities - and remain in debt to no one - except for the debt of love which you owe to each other”. Such love, as Paul goes on to say (v.10), is the “fulfilment of the law”, the “new commandment” which Jesus gave his disciples, and which John emphasised in his letters. The ‘must’ of Pharisaic legalism has been replaced by the ‘ought’ of grateful love: “we love because he first loved us” (1 John 4.19).

(h) marital love
Rom 13.1, Eph 5.21, Luke 2.51, 1 Cor 15.28

One final example of love as an ‘ought’ again comes from Paul, not, this time, from his Citizens’ Advice Bureau, but from his Marriage Guidance Counselling Service. One word, however, is common to each passage: ‘hupoTassōmai’, to ‘be subject to’ someone’s authority. The word seems to derive from a military context, where soldiers are ‘drawn up’ in ranks (a rank is ‘taxis’, but I doubt whether Paul had this particular verbal link in mind!) under the authority of a commanding officer. So in Romans 13.1 Paul tells us that, as citizens, we should be ‘subject to’ the authorities; in Ephesians he says that we should be ‘subject to each other’ (5.21) - one of the remaining 87 uses of ‘allēlous’! It is worth noting that the very first appearance of this verb in the NT (it occurs 30 times in all, plus another 9 instances in the active voice), in Luke 2.51, records the first occasion in Jesus’ earthly life when he set us an example to follow. After the incident in the Temple that we looked at earlier, the 12-year-old Jesus “went down from Jerusalem with his parents and came to Nazareth, and was ‘subject to’ them”. And what must be, chronologically, the very last action of Jesus recorded in scripture (1 Cor. 15.28 - a verse we looked at earlier) is at the very end of time when Jesus, after all things have been ‘subjected beneath’ his feet, as ‘must’ happen (‘prophetic dei’), he himself will make himself ‘subject to’ his heavenly Father, just as he was, in Nazareth, ‘subject to’ his earthly parents. So Paul, as one of three examples of this mutual subjection, tells children to be subject to their parents (6. 1-3), and then goes on to tell slaves to be subject to their masters (5-8). But his first and longest passage (5.22-33) is on the relationships within marriage: women are to be “subject to their own husbands as to the Lord”. In each of these relationships, however, perhaps the greater weight is laid on those who exercise this authority; certainly this is true of Paul’s teaching on marriage, where husbands are told: “love your wives as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her; even so husbands ‘ought’ (‘opheilō’) to love their own wives” (vv. 25,28). Just as for John (1 John 3.16), so for Paul, the sacrificial love of Christ, ‘agapē’ love, is the basis for the obligation for all Christians to love each other, and in particular for husbands to love their wives.


At the very beginning of this study we saw that the impersonal verb ‘dei’ is connected with the personal verb ‘deō’, to ‘bind’. In the light of the many instances of ‘dei’ that we have looked at, I hope it is not too fanciful, or too much of an exaggeration, to suggest that its two main meanings, ‘must’ and ‘ought’, are the ‘binding’ which hold together the different parts of the bible. The ‘must’ of the Prophets is linked to the ‘ought’ of the Law; what the OT prophecies say ‘must’ happen does happen in the gospel story, as Christ, the long-promised Messiah, fulfils them. The Old and New Covenants are both linked and contrasted. For the Pharisees who opposed Jesus and for the Judaisers who plagued Paul, the Law of Moses had become a ‘must’, a must as binding as the grave-clothes which bound Lazarus, from which Jesus ordered him to be freed, and as binding as the grave-clothes which bound Jesus’ dead body, but which he left behind in the tomb where they belonged on Easter morning. The New Covenant, by contrast, is characterised by the Royal Law, the “new commandment” of love, a love which we owe to Jesus as a debt of gratitude to him who paid on the cross the debt of our guilt. In the NT, ‘dei’ links our salvation through the sacrificial death of Jesus, a Saviour who ‘must’ die, with our sanctification as, out of loving gratitude, we increasingly become the sort of people we ‘ought’ to be. In short, this one word links the whole counsel of God with the whole duty of man. For a word of only three letters, it punches well above its weight!