24 November 2021
I am a writer, so I think about words a lot. Perhaps worse, I am a language student, spending time each day learning and reviewing Spanish, New Testament Greek, and biblical Hebrew. Occasionally while talking to someone, my wires get crossed and I can’t pop out the appropriate English word, because the equivalent Spanish or Greek or Hebrew word sets up a lingual roadblock in my brain. Sometimes those “roadblock words” and phrases are better or richer than their English counterparts. I submit to you two of those: acción de gracias (from Spanish) and theopneustos (from NT Greek).
Acción de Gracias
Here in the United States, we will soon be celebrating our annual holiday called Thanksgiving Day. In Spanish we call that Día de Acción de Gracias, super-literally, the “Day of Action of Thanks.” That puts a slightly different spin on Thanksgiving, reminding us that thanks is something that we do, something that expresses itself in actions, rather than just in sentiments.
King David came to the realization that thanks generated action:
12What shall I render to the Lord
For all His benefits toward me?
13I shall lift up the cup of salvation
And call upon the name of the Lord.
14I shall pay my vows to the Lord,
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people.
—Psalm 116:12-14 nasb—
How many of us have made vows — promises — to the Lord that have been left unfulfilled? “Lord, I will tithe on all my income.” “Lord, I will faithfully pray for so-and-so or such-and-such every day.” “Lord, I will go to the mission field.” “Lord, I will hide Your word in my heart so that I might not sin against you.”
I don’t know about you, but I will have to answer for more than a few such broken promises. “When you make a vow to God,” said King Solomon, “do not be late in paying it; for He takes no delight in fools. Pay what you vow! It is better that you should not vow than that you should vow and not pay!” (Ecclesiastes 5:4-5 nasb) There’s a truckload of irony in the fact that “the wisest man who ever lived” became a vow-breaking fool who turned his back on God; his legacy was to plunge his nation into division and destruction!
A Vow to Keep, a Cost to Count
There is a vow that is dear to my heart, one that is so important that I rank it up there with my wedding vows. (Did you know? Lord willing, Denise and I will celebrate our 50th wedding anniversary at the end of this coming January!) I refer to a promise I made the night I was saved, July 31, 1968, namely, that I would read through the Bible once a year, every year.
Regular readers will know that normally I “beat the drums” about systematic Bible reading every January. But because of a single word the Holy Spirit was opening to me for ten days this month, I thought I’d help folks get a “head start” on 2022 in this regard. There’s a cost to count (Luke 14:28), and it might be good to use the remaining five to six weeks of 2021 to consider what changes — of schedule or sleeping patterns or TV-watching or time-frittering recreation — have to go on the altar to accomplish your vow and goal of reading through the Scriptures in 2022.
For my initial commitment, there was no “counting the cost”; it was just a passionate love-response to the Savior. But twice—two decades, and then again four decades later—I counted the cost of increasing my daily reading before making my commitment to do so.
I made the latest commitment to Him over 13 years ago and have never regretted it. And now I know why I was led to do so, and why and how you should make the same kind of commitment to cover-to-cover regular Bible reading. It’s because of that “single word” I mentioned that is being opened — all Scripture is theopneustos!
Breathing God’s “Breath”
Say what, now? Theopneustos is a Greek adjective from 2 Timothy 3:16 that the Apostle Paul had to invent to describe the unique, living, essential quality of the Bible:
All scripture is theopneustos
and is profitable…
Your translation may render that as “All scripture is inspired by God” (nasb) or “given by inspiration of God” (kjv). No doubt it is inspired! But the meaning of Paul’s custom-crafted word is more closely captured as “God-breathed” (ylt, isv, jnt, amp, mlb footnote) or “breathed out by God” (esb).
Theopnuestos (θεόπνευστος) is a compound of Theos (Θεός), the Greek word for God, and pneustos, from pnéō (πνέω: to blow or breathe) and pnoē (πνοῆ: breath or wind). As such, the second half of Paul’s adjective shares the same root as pneuma (πνεῦμα), the Greek word for Spirit or spirit, wind, and breath.
On that basis, I suppose we could say that the Bible, in addition to being INspired, is EXpired, in the sense that God breathed it out. Think about the two most famous passages you know when God breathed out:
- At the apex of Creation when He “breathed [out] into man’s nostrils the breath of life and man became a living soul” (Genesis 2:7).
- The first night after the Resurrection, Jesus was with the Eleven in the upper room when “He breathed [out] on them and said to them, ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (John 20:22).
Here’s a news-flash for those who have thought of Bible reading as a daily-devotional multi-vitamin, or the spiritual equivalent of a fast-food, manna-based “pop tart” in the morning. The Scriptures are, in a real sense, the “breath of God.” They are part of the spiritual atmosphere we breathe. How long can you hold your breath? Probably less than 60 seconds. How long could you last in the vacuum of an airless environment? Uh, huh, I thought so. For many (I hope none of my readers) the question is, “How long have you been living without sufficient spiritual air, the breath of God?”
The Holy Spirit and the Holy Scriptures
We’re meant to breathe the breath of God. But wait a moment! Reading, even regular, daily, disciplined, cover-to-cover-every-year reading like I’ve been advocating for decades, won’t provide much more than sporadic gasps of “air,” inspirational quotes, and dead data. We’ve seen (above) the Father breathing life into Adam, the Son breathing New Life into the Eleven. When and how does the Holy Spirit breathe and for what purpose?
One way He does so is to breathe upon the God-breathed Scriptures as we read them in order to help us breathe them in. Both Luke 24 and John 20 tell the story of Jesus’ night-after-the-Resurrection visit to the upper room. The stories strongly parallel each other, then (seemingly!) differ on one important point. Consider:
- Jesus appears miraculously in their midst, saying, “Peace be to you” (Luke 24:36; John 20:19).
- Jesus proves who He is (and proves His body is resurrected) by showing the disciples His wounds (Luke 24:37-40; John 20:20a).
- The disciples overflow with joy (Luke 24:41; John 20:20b).
Then the accounts seem to diverge. John says that Jesus breathed the Holy Spirit upon them (John 20:22). But Luke says, “Then He opened their minds to understand the Scriptures” (Luke 24:45), opening up the Messianic mission (Luke 24:46) from the Old Testament and describing their new mission in the world (Luke 24:47-49). So the accounts don’t agree, right? Wrong!
Do you see that those are two sides of a single blessing? How did Jesus open their minds to the Scriptures? By breathing out the Holy Spirit upon them! What happened when they breathed in the Holy Spirit? Their minds were opened to understand, to breathe in the God-breathed Scriptures!
Many among us need a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit. Some of us have never been baptized (immersed, scuttled) in the Spirit. And when was the last time you experienced “breathing in” what the Holy Spirit was breathing upon in your Bible reading?
A Breath of Fresh Air!
It catches my breath when I consider afresh the potential of theopneustos, of the Spirit breathing into us the God-breathed word. But let’s not forget our other new phrase: acción de gracias — Action of Thanks. There are about six weeks until the beginning of the New Year. Those of you who aren’t regular Bible readers, that gives you time to “count the cost” of how you will re-prioritize your life in order to keep your promise to the Lord, or to make that initial commitment — to carry out your acción de gracias. Be blessed in finally keeping your promise, or in committing for the first time, to inhaling spiritual, Spirit-breathed air on a regular basis.
To those of you who are regular Bible readers, perhaps those same six weeks can be well spent in praying for a fresh infilling of the Holy Spirit for the new year, praying especially that He would breathe afresh on His Book and make it come alive to you in new and exciting ways.
Remember earlier we looked at Psalm 116, where the psalmist thinks about what to “render to the Lord for all His benefits.” He determines to “pay his vows” — keep his promises — to the Lord. In verses 17-18 he finishes up his song by saying,
17To You I shall offer a sacrifice of thanksgiving,
And call upon the name of the Lord.
18I shall pay my vows to the Lord,
Oh may it be in the presence of all His people…
Oh, may all His people make it their act of thanksgiving — their acción de gracias — to inhale the theopneustos — God-exhaled — Scripture of truth in 2022!
Much love in Jesus,
P.S.: Yes, I know — I should be updating you on the ministry and the trips that are being set up for 2022. I’ll share that in a few weeks. And, yes, it’s traditional to remind folks that tax-deductible contributions for the 2021 tax year should be made before December 31. None of it seems as important to me at the moment as the word of encouragement that I have just shared from my heart. Happy Thanksgiving to all of you!
Tax-Deductible Donations Gratefully Received
- Title graphic created using a free photo by Willi Heidelbach from Pixabay.com. ↩
- “Broken Promises” photo copyright eric1513 on 123rf.com and used under license ↩
- “Bible vow” photo copyright nanobey on 123rf.com and used under license ↩
- Dandelion photo courtesy of Jill Wellington from Pixabay.com ↩
- Photo of the blowing Bible pages is courtesy of Timothy Eberly on Unsplash.com ↩
- “Breath” caligraphy copyright agapeeva on 123rf.com and used under license ↩