Recently I heard someone say, “It’s always nice in Florida.” Well, that’s not exactly true. We have a lot of hot and muggy days in the summer. Seasonally, it rains a lot, and every now and then we have a hurricane. So it’s not always nice. Sometimes – but not always.
What would you do if an angel suddenly appeared and began talking with you? You would certainly be startled and maybe even speechless. Well I’m going to talk about a time when that really happened. Angel… that’s our word for today.
Mary of Nazareth was going about her daily routine when suddenly the angel Gabriel appeared and said, “Greetings, favored one… the Lord is with you.” Wow! That must have been an amazing experience. The account in Luke says that she was afraid and very troubled by what he was saying to her. That she was going to conceive in her womb and bring forth a son.
But then she began to respond to the angel by asking a question. In Luke 1:34 it says, “Then said Mary unto the angel
… How shall this be seeing I know not a man?” Mary began to interact with the angel by quizzing him on the exact meaning of what was being said.
The word angel is an English transliteration of the Greek word angelos, which essentially means “a messenger.” Angelos, therefore, can refer to anyone who brings a message – including a human person. Well, here the messenger is an angel from God and, specifically, the angel Gabriel. You see, angels never speak for themselves. They are messengers who speak for God.
It was really God who was informing Mary that she had been chosen to give birth to the Messiah. It was God who had conceived the incredible plan of a virgin birth, that a simple jewish maiden would be impregnated by the Holy Spirit without ever having known a man. It was God’s plan.
When Mary questioned the angel, she was simply questioning the messenger.
Hey, angels really do exist – they are special messengers of God. ■
Even smart people get confused sometimes. Nicodemus was a smart man and he was very confused. “How can a man be born again?” he said to Jesus.
Nicodemus was a ruler of the Jews – a very educated and important man. Yet, he had been very impressed with what Jesus was doing. The miracles were too astounding to avoid. So he came to Jesus secretly in the night. He was cautious because the Jewish leadership had already developed a negative attitude toward Jesus. John records the interview in the third chapter of his gospel and he tells us that when Jesus said to him, “Unless a man is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God” Nicodemus responded with a quizzical look and said, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Being born again was not something he could comprehend.
The word again in born again is an interesting play on words. It is the greek word anothen, which can mean again or anew. But its principle meaning is from above – from the root ano meaning upward or above. So Jesus actually used a word with a double meaning. When He said, “You must be born again” He was really saying, “You must be born from above.”
Nicodemus could only see the physical absurdity. How can a man be born again or a second time? But Jesus was speaking of a spiritual birth. He was really saying, “You must be born from above.”
So, have you been born from above? It happens when you believe in Jesus as your Savior! ■
Have you ever known any peculiar people? I could tell you many stories of people I have known who were just plain odd. Like the man who said to the psychologist, “People think I’m weird because I like potato pancakes.” To which the psychologist responded, “That’s not weird, I also like potato pancakes.” At that point, the man became excited and said, “That’s wonderful, Doc. Listen, why don’t you come over to my house — I have closets and closets full!”
When the King James translators used the word “peculiar” in 1 Peter 2:9, identifying Christians as a “peculiar people”, this is not what they had in mind. According to A. T. Robertson, the word “peculiar” comes from the Latin word, “pecus” which means “flock”. The KJV translators were simply reflecting the idea that believers in Christ are the unique possession of God — they are His flock.
A branch of something is NOT the main thing. For instance, the branch of a tree isn’t the main trunk and a branch office isn’t the main office. A branch is merely an extension of the main thing.
Jesus told His disciples that they were branches. HE was the main thing, and they were merely extensions of who He was.
In John 15 Jesus said, “I am the true vine, and My Father is the vinedresser. Every branch in Me that does not bear fruit, He takes away; and every branch that bears fruit, He prunes it, that it may bear more fruit” (vv. 1,2). Jesus said, “Every branch in Me.” Now, that’s an interesting analogy. As branches of a vine are anchored into the main vine, so the disciples of Jesus were anchored into Him.
The word “branch” is a word that refers to “a limb or shoot.” Actually, this Greek word klema comes from the root verb klao, which means “to break” — specifically, to break off a piece of bread. In other words, a branch is a piece of the main thing, like a piece of bread was once a part of the main loaf.
Jesus is using the idea of a branch in a spiritual sense. Really, He is saying to His disciples, “You are a piece of Me. It’s as if someone broke off a part of Me and that part became you.”
Cloning is big these days, and the idea of cloning is that a small piece of DNA can be taken from an individual to make an identical replica of that person. Now, that’s the idea here. Spiritually, we’re a part of Jesus (a chip off the old block, as it were) — a spiritual clone of our Savior so that people can see Jesus in us.
He is the vine, and we are the branches.
Say – Can people see Christ in You? They can if you’re a real branch. ■
A Greek city-state was known as a polis. The original meaning was close to the idea of “town,” but eventually was used to describe the ruling political center of a district or territory. In fact polis became a rather complex word to encompass the whole idea of government, and was therefore a more extensive word than merely “town” or “city.” We get the word politics from this word—the art or science of governing a group of people.
A politician is a person engaged in running the affairs of the polis; a policy is a reflection of wisdom in governing the polis; and police are those who control and regulate the activities of the polis. As you can see, this Greek word is foundational to many of our English words related to governmental matters. In like fashion the Greek word polis was used by the Greeks as a basis for many other Greek words related to governmental functions. A politarches was a civil-magistrate (Acts 17:6,8); a polites was a citizen of the state (Acts 21:39); politeia was the word used for citizenship (Acts 22:28); and politeuomai was a word to describe how people were to conduct themselves as citizens of the state. Then there was the word we are considering here, politeuma—a word used to describe the state itself or a commonwealth. The NAS, NIV, and NKJV all translate this word with the English word “citizenship.” The King James used an early seventeenth-century concept and preferred the word “conversation”—how a person conducted himself and spoke as a member of the community.
In the context of Philippians 3:20, Paul is talking about how a Christian ought to live. He speaks of those “who set their minds on earthly things” (v. 19—NAS) as contrasted to the believer in Christ whose “citizenship” (politeuma) is in heaven” (v. 20). This is the only place this Greek word is used in the New Testament. Therefore it is a significant statement by Paul that Christians do not find their nature, thoughts, and interests in the world, but rather as a reflection of their “homeland” which is in heaven.
Nouns ending in “-ma” in the Greek language usually reflect the results of an action. In other words, how you act is an indication of where your loyalties are. So if you are all wrapped up in earthly affairs, we might assume that your politeuma is on the earth. On the other hand, if your thoughts and actions reflect a heavenly perspective, then it will be obvious that your politeuma is in heaven. The point is that what you do in your life should be consistent with your citizenship. Paul is saying that our citizenship is in heaven, and therefore how we live should reflect that world view.
So where is your allegiance? For a Christian, living on the earth is like traveling through a foreign country. You respect the government, but your heart is elsewhere and it’s pretty obvious that you are a foreigner. As people observe your lifestyle and see where you invest your energy and resources, they ought to be able to see that you are committed to the Kingdom of Christ. Paul put it this way in another text, “Set your mind on the things above, not on the things that are on earth” (Col. 3:2—NAS). ■