Thinking Out Loud

March 24, 2012

A New Kind of Bible Translation

B. J. Stockman

Tucked away in Wednesday’s link list was a reference to something produced by B. J. Stockman that appeared at Vitamin Z while Zach was off for a week.  Stockman called the concept “Preaching to Yourself” and it involved taking a chapter of an epistle and re-interpreting it in the first person, so that instead of it being Paul writing to a first century church, it’s me making a declaration to live out the things Paul is teaching. You might want to pause here and read his introduction to the first chapter.

I had already posted the link when I decided to share it in our family Bible study evening that night using the section of chapter three I had posted at Christianity 201, and also reading the original text from my NIV Study Bible. What amazed me was how this reconstruction of the text served as commentary; how much it brought the text to life. 

Anyway, Zach managed to stay away long enough for B. J. to get five of the six chapters posted, and I thought I would allow you to look at Galatians chapter five in parallel.

ORIGINAL TEXT – NIV
Freedom in Christ

 1It is for freedom that Christ has set us free. Stand firm, then, and do not let yourselves be burdened again by a yoke of slavery.

 2 Mark my words! I, Paul, tell you that if you let yourselves be circumcised, Christ will be of no value to you at all. 3 Again I declare to every man who lets himself be circumcised that he is obligated to obey the whole law. 4 You who are trying to be justified by the law have been alienated from Christ; you have fallen away from grace. 5 For through the Spirit we eagerly await by faith the righteousness for which we hope. 6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value. The only thing that counts is faith expressing itself through love.

 7 You were running a good race. Who cut in on you to keep you from obeying the truth? 8 That kind of persuasion does not come from the one who calls you. 9 “A little yeast works through the whole batch of dough.” 10 I am confident in the Lord that you will take no other view. The one who is throwing you into confusion, whoever that may be, will have to pay the penalty. 11 Brothers and sisters, if I am still preaching circumcision, why am I still being persecuted? In that case the offense of the cross has been abolished. 12 As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Life by the Spirit

13 You, my brothers and sisters, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the flesh; rather, serve one another humbly in love. 14 For the entire law is fulfilled in keeping this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” 15If you bite and devour each other, watch out or you will be destroyed by each other.

 16 So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh. 17 For the flesh desires what is contrary to the Spirit, and the Spirit what is contrary to the flesh. They are in conflict with each other, so that you are not to do whatever you want. 18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the law.

 19 The acts of the flesh are obvious: sexual immorality, impurity and debauchery; 20 idolatry and witchcraft; hatred, discord, jealousy, fits of rage, selfish ambition, dissensions, factions 21 and envy; drunkenness, orgies, and the like. I warn you, as I did before, that those who live like this will not inherit the kingdom of God.

 22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, forbearance, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, 23 gentleness and self-control. Against such things there is no law. 24 Those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires. 25 Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit. 26 Let us not become conceited, provoking and envying each other.


FIRST PERSON


  • Jesus set me free.  Therefore I will not submit to any “yokes” of slavery that are add-on’s to the Gospel no matter how spiritual they may seem.  My freedom hinges on Jesus’ work—nothing else.  (5:1)
  • I will stand firm in the Gospel.  My right-standing before God is due to Jesus not something that I do or don’t do.  I stand firm in Christ not self.  I know that love for the Gospel will breed humble Christ-confidence not prideful self-confidence in my life.  (5:1)
  • I recognize that if I receive something else besides Jesus, like circumcision, to increase my spiritual standing before God Jesus is no benefit to me.  The benefits of the Gospel come from Jesus alone. (5:2)
  • When I receive religious traditions and law as well as the person of Jesus, I place myself under obligation to keep the whole law.  In light of this, I trust Jesus and thus reject everything else as a means to finding favor with God. (5:3)
  • I know that seeking justification from law is falling from grace.  Falling from grace isn’t so much a direct rejection of Jesus, but an indirect acceptance of anything else besides Jesus to make me right with God.  If I treat Jesus as only a piece of God’s saving work, I sever myself from Jesus.   Therefore I will seek to sever all those things from my life which disconnect me from Jesus even if others think those same things connect me to Jesus. (5:4)
  • I wait for the hope of righteousness through the Holy Spirit and by faith.  Righteousness comes from the work of the Spirit not through my works. (5:5)
  • I believe that faith works through love.  Faith is not empty.  Faith is filled with love.  Therefore by faith I believe that Jesus alone means everything, and that religious traditions like uncircumcision or circumcision mean nothing. (5:6)
  • I desire to run my race well, and I believe that I run best not by adding things to the truth of the Gospel, but by trusting the truth of the Gospel.  I will train myself daily with the Gospel believing Jesus’ work on my behalf.  I will begin my days not doing work for Jesus but trusting Jesus’ work for me. (5:7)
  • God calls me to Jesus—not Jesus plus something or someone else.  God loves persuading people to the sufficiency of his Son not to self-sufficiency.  (5:8)
  • I know that my life and the church as a whole can become filled with leaven—filled with things other than Jesus.  Since leaven spreads quickly I will seek to be on guard against any particles of the leaven of legalism and law-living in my life and the community of faith that I am a part of.  (5:9)
  • I recognize that false teachers who sneak into the community of faith and preach another Jesus or in addition to Jesus will come under judgment.  (5:10)
  • I believe that the cross is a stumbling block.  It is offensive.  I will not be surprised then when moralists are offended by the radical grace of Jesus, nor will I be surprised when false teachers attempt to undermine the centrality of the cross of Jesus in the church.  (5:11)
  • Paul uses harsh language when speaking of false teachers.  He wishes that those who advocate circumcision along with Jesus as a means to salvation would go all the way and castrate themselves.  Therefore I will not be soft on false teachers who know better.  (5:12)
  • I will use sarcasm for the sake of the Gospel to reveal the foolishness of false teaching.  Sarcasm is not to reveal my cleverness but to point people to Jesus.  (5:12)
  • My freedom in Christ is not a freedom to sin.  Therefore I resist tendencies to turn the radical grace of God into license.  Instead Gospel-freedom moves me to serve and love others, not serve and indulge myself.  (5:13)
  • Since the Law is fulfilled in loving my neighbor as myself—I will love Jesus and love other people.  Radical grace emboldens me to love radically not sin radically.  (5:14)
  • I will not engage in biting and devouring other people through my self-centered words and actions, but will seek to build up the church.  (5:15)
  • By faith I will walk by the Spirit so that I do not carry out the desires of the flesh.  I will not fight flesh with flesh, but flesh with Spirit.   (5:16)
  • I know life is war and that an inner conflict of flesh versus Spirit wages within me, and within those in the church.  Therefore I will seek to live by the Spirit, and will strive to be patient with others and forgiving toward others knowing that perfection will not be achieved till Jesus returns.  (5:17)
  • Because of Jesus I am not under the law, but led by the Spirit.  I will avoid living a life led by law, and pursue the Holy Spirit’s work in my life.  (5:18)
  • I will seek to kill the following sins in my life: immorality, impurity, sensuality, idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions, envying, drunkenness, carousing, and other things similar to these.  I take the warning of Paul against these things seriously, and will not play with sin.  I know that playing around with particular sins end in practicing and being addicted to the same sins.  At times I will examine myself and ask the opinion of others to see that I am not engaging in these sinful deeds.  (5:19-21)
  • I know that those who practice and live consistently in these sinful lifestyles will not inherit the kingdom of God.   I will not lift my noses at others who engage in these things, but will live soberly knowing that I too could become entangled in them.   Also, I will not be controlled by my past when I have engaged in these things (even if the past means yesterday), but I now ask Jesus to forgive me and ask for the Holy Spirit to enable me to kill my sin and bear the fruit of the Spirit. (5:19-23)
  • I desire and ask the Holy Spirit to produce the fruit of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, and self-control in my life.  I know that these aren’t fruits plural but fruit singular, and that I am called to walk in all of them not just some of them.  I will not settle with my current level of maturity, but desire growth in the Spirit. (5:22-23)
  • Because I have died with Jesus, I have died to the flesh and these sinful passions and desires.  Therefore I will live and act like I am dead to them, because I really have died to them.  I don’t kill sin in order to die to sin and in order to be alive to Jesus.  I kill sin because I’m dead to sin and alive to Jesus.  (5:24)
  • Because I live by the Spirit due to the person and work of Jesus I will walk by the Spirit.  I know that this is not passive, but an active pursuit.  Therefore I ask God for help and for more of the Spirit’s work in my life.  I desire continual fillings of the Spirit so that I am empowered to walk filled with the Spirit.  (5:25)
  • I know the Spirit hates boasting, and challenging, and envying my brothers and sisters in Christ.  Therefore I will strive to boast in others successes, encourage others in their faith, and rejoice when others are blessed.  I believe that the Holy Spirit works supernaturally, but sometimes the great work of the Spirit is found in the “simple” things like an encouraging word or holding one’s tongue.  (5:26)


A few takeaways about the process itself:

  • You can do this. Yes, you. Great Bible study motivator.
  • Your small group, Sunday School class, youth group can do this.
  • You can repeat this process with the same book months or years later and get new results.
  • Some of you are familiar with a practice of ‘praying the scriptures’ and this can be seen as a variant on that.
  • Be sure to read the introduction mentioned above to learn more about the process.

About the author (from B. J.’s blog, 5:21)

B.J. lives on the redwood coast of California with his beautiful wife Kate, daughter Grace, and son Adoniram. He has a passion for leading people deeper into the gospel of grace in Jesus and the glory of God. He graduated from Bethany University with a B.A. in Biblical & Theological Studies, has studied at Fuller Theological Seminary, serves pastors around the nation through Docent Research Group, and has a real day job too.

Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit (vs 25)

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1 Comment »

  1. A great idea for personal devotions (as well as group study). I am going to try this.

    Comment by meetingintheclouds — March 28, 2012 @ 4:53 pm


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