Figures of Speech in Galatians

Name it

Define it

Illustrate it

Antithesis A direct contrast in which two sets of figures are set in opposition to one another. 3:10-14 – The Law vs. faith

4:22-31 – Slave (law) vs. free (promise)

5:17-25 –   Flesh vs. Spirit

Hyperbole The use of exaggeration for the sake of emphasis. 2:19 – “I died to the Law”

2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ

3:13 – “Christ . . . being made a curse for us”

3:27 – “clothed yourselves with Christ”

3:28 – “there is neither Jew nor Greek . . . slave nor free . . . male nor female

4:3 – “we . . . were held in bondage

5:15 – “if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another”

5:24 – “those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh

Irony (or Sarcasm) The use of speech to denote the exact opposite of what the surface speech declares; i.e., say one thing and mean another. 2:21 – “if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly” (Paul knows that it does not, and that Christ did not)

5:12 – “I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves

Metaphor A direct assertion/ comparison which substitutes an image for the person/thing, usually using the verb “to be”. 1:10 – “be a bond-servant of Christ”

2:9 – “who were reputed to be pillars

3:7 – “those who are of faith who are sons of Abraham

3:26 – “you are all sons of God

3:29 – “you are Abraham’s descendants

4:24 – “these women are two covenants

Metonymy Substituting a word/term to stand for another thing because of frequent use by association. 1:16 – “consult with flesh and blood” (i.e., human beings)

2:7-9 – “to the uncircumcised . . . to the circumcised” (i.e., Gentiles and Jews, respectively)

2:16 – “no flesh will be justified” (i.e., humans)

2:16-21; 3:10-13 – “the Law” (i.e., the Old Covenant)

3:13 – “a tree” (i.e., the cross)

3:16, 19 – “to his seed” (i.e., descendants)

Paradox A statement that is seemingly contradictory but true. 2:19 – “I died to the Law, so that I might live to God”

2:20 – “I have been crucified with Christ . . . the life which I now live in the flesh I live by faith”

Personification Attributing human characteristics to inanimate objects (thing, quality or idea). 2:9 – “The right hand of fellowship

3:8 – “The Scripture . . . preached the gospel”

3:22 – “the scripture hath concluded

3:24 – “the Law has become our tutor

Rhetoric The use of a question in writing or speech which stimulates thought but does not expect an immediate answer in like kind. 1:10 – “For am I now seeking the favor of men, or of God? Or am I striving to please men?”

2:14 – “If you, being a Jew, live like the Gentles and not like the Jews, how is it that you compel the Gentiles to live like Jews?”

2:17 – “Is Christ then a minister of sin?”

3:1 – “Who has bewitched you?”

3:2 – “Did you receive the Spirit by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

3:3 – “Are you so foolish? . . . are you now being perfected by the flesh?”

3:4 – “Did you suffer so many things in vain – if indeed it was in vain?”

3:5 – “Does He who provides you with the Spirit and works miracles among you, do it by the works of the Law, or by hearing with faith?”

3:19 – “Why the Law, then?”

3:21 – “Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God?”

4:15 – “Where then is that sense of blessing you had?”

4:16 – “Have I become your enemy by telling you the truth?”

4:21 – “Do you not listen to the law?”

5:7 – “Who hindered you from obeying the truth?”

5:11 – “Why am I still persecuted?”

Synecdoche Imaging the part for the whole or the whole for the part. 4:1 – “he is owner of everything” (not literally everything, but all that is within his household)

4:6 – “God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts” (figuratively, for the inner being)

5:16, 25 – “Walk by the Spirit” (walking is a symbol of all actions that a person does in life)



The Eternal Value of Work


I wanted to post this portion from my two-hour presentation on a biblical theology of work (“Immanuel Labor”) that I developed this time last year.  (See YouTube video clip.)  I shared this with my small group recently, and we had a good discussion.  I hope it brings a different perspective to what we do all day.


We mentioned when discussing the fall that work would be more difficult until Christ Jesus returns.  So, what happens when He comes back, and Adam’s curse is no more, as it states in Rev. 22:3?

Here are some key points worth considering:

  • At the consummation of all things, Christ-followers and the earth will be fully redeemed (Rev. 21:1-5)
  • Many aspects of human work will continue in the New Jerusalem (heaven on earth) (Isa. 65:21-23)
  • It will include the best of human culture and achievements, past, present, and future
  • Examples: the wheel, Handel’s “Messiah”, food, architecture, roads, government, technology, etc.
  • However, there will be no more need for doctors, lawyers, counselors, or wheelchair manufacturers

Rev. 21:1-5 gives us a description of what to expect at the consummation, after Jesus returns and the judgment of Satan and his followers is complete.  You can see that contrary to popular belief, Heaven is not a place of disembodied spirits playing harps up in the clouds. The New Jerusalem will come down to earth, where God will dwell for all eternity with those whose names are found in the Lamb’s book of life, where there will be no more death or sadness or pain.

Wittmer, in Becoming Worldly Saints, reminds us that “God did not say, ‘I am making new everything!’ but rather ‘I am making everything new!’ He does not promise to make new things to furnish the new earth, but to renew the things that are already here” (163).

In Cosden’s book, The Heavenly Good of Earthly Work, he ponders, “Our sanctified imaginations can only suggest what we think God’s promise to make all things new might mean . . . There will be, no doubt, some specific products of our work that through judgment will be transformed and incorporated into the ‘new physics’ of the new creation. I am quite hoping that Handel’s Messiah will be regularly in concert in the New Jerusalem” (114-115).

Wittmer suggests that Bach and Michelangelo will be there with time to create even better works (169).  (I don’t know what Bach will be composing, but I do know he will no longer be decomposing. . .)

This concept is critical to our theology of work. Tom Nelson, in Work  Matters, states, “If our daily work, done for the glory of God and the common good of others, in some way carries over to the new heavens and new earth, then our present work itself is overflowing with immeasurable value and eternal significance” (73).

Can I get an amen?

The Meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan


The first online class I took for my Master of Arts in Biblical Studies with Grand Rapids Theological Seminary was Hermeneutics.  It was a good refresher for me; I learned a lot.

This is a research paper I wrote for that class in November 2012.  I hope that it sheds some light on this familiar Gospel story.  More importantly, and this goes for me too, I trust that we will be exhorted to be compassionate doers of the Word, and not just hearers of it.  Enjoy!

The Meaning of the Parable of the Good Samaritan

In its Literary and Historical-Cultural Context

(Luke 10:25-37)

I.  Introduction

In this short discourse, I will discuss a few things to help unpack the meaning of this parable, such as the nature of interpreting a parable, and its literary and historical-cultural context.

II. The Nature of Interpreting a Parable

To begin, one wonders, as do Fee and Stuart do, rhetorically, “How could these simple, direct little stories Jesus told pose problems for the reader or the interpreter? It seems that one would have to be a dullard of the first rank to miss the point of the Good Samaritan or the Prodigal Son.  The very reading of these stories pricks the heart or comforts it.”  However, they are quick to point out, “for all their charm and simplicity, the parables have suffered a fate of misinterpretation in the church second only to the Revelation. [1]  To illustrate, they lay out the elaborate, and frankly hard to believe, allegorical interpretation that Augustine proposed.  The traveler represented Adam, Jerusalem was the heavenly city, the robbers were the devil, the Samaritan was Christ himself, the inn was the church, and the innkeeper was the apostle Paul, to name a few.[2]

However, modern scholars almost universally agree that most of Jesus’ parables contain one main point. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary instructs well that “Bible students should not resort to fanciful interpretations that find ‘spiritual truth’ in every minute detail of the parable . . . The one central point of this parable is that we should also extend compassion to others – even those who are not of our own nationality, race, or religion.”[3]

Osborne reminds us that the parables of Jesus had a variety of forms. This one falls into the category of “example stories in which the parable becomes a model for proper conduct.”[4]

According to Fee and Stuart, parables such as this one “function as a means of calling forth a response on the part of the hearer.”[5]  Osborne certainly agrees, stating, “The crowds are forced to make a decision for or against Jesus, and his disciples are challenged and taught by them . . . The parables encounter, interpret and invite the listener/reader to participate in Jesus’ new world vision of the kingdom.”[6]

Jesus often used an element of surprise get his listeners’ attention. He clearly made this tale quite memorable, and got a desired reaction from this expert in the law.  Osborne states, “The major way by which Jesus forced decision was to break conventional lines in his parables.  Time and again a totally unexpected turn of events startled the hearers and forced them to consider the deeper implications of the parable . . . The hated Samaritan, not the priest or Levite, is the one to bind the wounds of the robbery victim”[7]

III. Literary Context

Looking at the overall theme of the book of Luke, many have pointed out some things that help us better understand this parable, which is unique to Luke’s gospel. Meadors, in his notes on the Literary Genres and Hermeneutics: NT Gospels, mentions Luke’s purpose in verse 1:1, that he is writing “an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us” (NIV).  Meadors asserts that this is understood to be “the messianic program bringing to fulfillment the promises of the OT.”[8]  For example, this theme is echoed loudly in Luke 4:16-21, where we find Jesus reading from Isaiah, “The Spirit of the Lord is on 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 for the blind, to release the oppressed, to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor (NIV).”

In addition, Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard (KBH from this point forward) point out that Luke shows Jesus was “the friend of sinners and outcasts in Jewish society – most notably Samaritans, Gentiles, tax collectors, prostitutes, poor people, and women.”[9]  Meadors, in his article “The ‘Poor’ in the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke” declares that this gospel has more content about the poor and the oppressed than the other synoptics.[10]  The Nelson’s New Illustrated Commentary agrees, stating that the book “highlights Jesus’ love for a variety of groups who were not esteemed in His day.”[11]

What was the setting or occasion for this parable to be given? This was one of many instances where the Pharisees and Sadducees were trying to trick or test Jesus.  This had happened in Luke 5:17-26, where Jesus healed a paralytic; Luke 5:29-31, where Jesus ate with tax collectors at Levi’s house; Luke 6:1-11, when Jesus picked grain and healed on the Sabbath, and so on.

 IV.  Historical-Cultural Context

We have seen at the beginning of this parable that it was “an expert in the law” that tested Jesus. A similar event (minus the parable) is recorded in a parallel passage in Matthew 22:34-40.  Although there are some differences in these accounts, Matthew’s version implies that this may very well have been a Pharisee.

Most mature believers probably already know a little bit about the Pharisees. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary tells us that they were “a religious and political party”, and members of the Sanhedrin, which was “the supreme court and legislative body of the Jews.”  They insisted on strict obedience to God’s laws (over 600 of them), “as the scribes interpreted it”, especially with regards to “tithing and ritual purity.”[12]  In addition, the Pharisees “always seemed to be ready to criticize others for not keeping the laws, and they often looked down on ‘sinners’ who showed no interest in God’s law”.  (A good example is found in Luke 7:39, where a woman of ill repute anointed Jesus’s feet with perfume and tears.)  Furthermore, they “thought they could match God’s standards by keeping all the outward rules . . minor details became a major preoccupation, and they forgot the more important things (Matt. 23:23)”[13]

There are several things that need to be said about the protagonist in this story. The Expositor’s Bible Commentary reminds us, “To a Jew there was no such person as a ‘good’ Samaritan.”[14]  The Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary explains, “In Jesus’ day the Samaritans were despised by orthodox Jews because most of the Jews from that region had intermarried with foreigners.”[15] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary sheds some more light on this.  Samaria fell to the Assyrians in 722 B.C.; following that, the city was populated by people from Babylon and other nations, who brought in their own idolatrous ways (2 Kings 17:24ff).  “Intermarriage of native Jews with these foreigners led to the mixed race of Samaritans so despised by full-blooded Jews” in Jesus’ time.[16]  KBH submit that even though the modern reader may know that the Samaritan in this story was the “good guy” and that the Pharisees were the “bad guys”, this is counter to what the first-century Jews would have known.  “Samaritans were the hated half-breeds and Pharisees the most popular of the religious leaders.”[17]  Fee and Stuart mention the value of appreciating “how contemptuously the Pharisees held the Samaritan” in order to really hear what this man heard Jesus say.  “Notice that he does not even bring himself to use the word ‘Samaritan’ at the end.”[18]

KBH, Fee and Stuart, and others suggest that one needs to bring this key cultural note to light by contemporizing it. KBH state, “To have the proper impact on a typical conservative American congregation in the twenty-first century, a preacher ought to consider retelling the story with the man in the ditch as a white Anglo-Saxon Protestant, the priest the Levite as two upstanding local pastors, and the Samaritan as a fundamentalist Arab Muslim (or perhaps an atheist black feminist!)”[19]

The expert in the law zeroed in on the word “neighbor.” He knew that loving God (from Deut. 6:5) and loving his neighbor (from Lev. 19:18) were critical to inheriting eternal life.  The text states that he wanted to “justify himself” (NIV), so he asked “And who is my neighbor?”  He obviously knew what Scripture said.  Weeldreyer emphasizes, “In Hebrew Scripture, ‘neighbor’ connotes certain rights and responsibilities within covenant relations as a just foundation for order in society.”[20] Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary summarizes that the Ten Commandments prohibited slander of a neighbor and envying a neighbor’s wife, servant, etc.  Additionally, “A person was not to cheat or rob from his neighbor (Lev. 19:13) . . . Despising one’s neighbor was sin (Prov. 14:21), as was leading him morally astray (Prov. 16:29-30) or deceiving him, then saying ‘I was only joking’ (Prov. 26:19)  A person was not even permitted to think evil of his neighbor (Zech. 8:17).”[21]

V.  Conclusion

So, what is the main point of this parable? From The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, we read, “The NT parables aim to lead one to a decision; Jesus’ question in v.36 (‘Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?’) forces the ‘expert in the law’ to voice his decision.  In this question, Jesus focuses on the person who loved, the Samaritan who made himself a neighbor.  This reversal of the ‘expert’s’ question (‘And who is my neighbor?’) (v.29) provides in itself the key to the meaning of the parable and to Jesus’ teaching on love.  Love should not be limited by its object; its extent and quality are in the control of its subject.  Furthermore, love is demonstrated in action, in this case in an act of mercy, and it may be costly.”[22]

Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary offers this excellent observation on the main point of this parable, which is seen in Jesus’ response found in verse 36, “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?”.  They state that the “central issue is not determining who one’s neighbor is, but being a good neighbor to all.”  I find this to be a common understanding of what Jesus wanted the expert in the law, the others close by who heard Jesus give this parable, and readers throughout the centuries to take away.

KBH suggest that we “consider each parable from the perspective of each of the main characters . . . From the example of the priest and Levite comes the principle that religious status or legalistic casuistry does not excuse lovelessness; from the Samaritan we learn that we must show compassion to those in need; from the man in the ditch emerges the lesson that even an enemy is a neighbor.”[23]


[1] Gordon D. Fee and Douglas Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 2003), 149.

[2] Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 150.

[3] Ronald F. Youngblood, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1995), 943.

[4] Grant R. Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2006), 292.

[5] Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 152.

[6] Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 296.

[7] Osborne, The Hermeneutical Spiral, 299-300.

[8] Gary T. Meadors, lecture notes, Literary Genres and Hermeneutics: NT Gospels.

[9] William W. Klein, Craig L. Blomberg, and Robert L. Hubbard, Jr., Introduction to Biblical Interpretation (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 2004): 403.

[10] Gary T. Meadors, “The ‘Poor’ in the Beatitudes of Matthew and Luke”, Grace Theological Journal 6.2 (1985): 305.

[11] Earl D. Radmacher, ed., Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1999), 1272.

[12] Youngblood, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 979.

[13] Youngblood, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 981.

[14] Kenneth L. Barker and John R. Kohlenberger III, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary (Abridged Edition) (2 vols: Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1994): 250.

[15] Radmacher, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 1272.

[16] Youngblood, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1116.

[17] Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 415.

[18] Fee and Stuart, How to Read the Bible for All Its Worth, 155-156.

[19] Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 415.

[20] Seth E. Weeldreyer, “Between Text & Sermon”, Interpretation 62, 2 (2008): 167.

[21] Youngblood, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 891.

[22] Barker and Kohlenberger, The Expositor’s Bible Commentary, 250.

[23] Klein, Blomberg, and Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 413-414.

Spirit-filled Tabernacle Construction Workers


A few months ago I reflected on a pattern I discovered in Scripture: the presence of God is often connected to the work of His people.  I call this idea “Immanuel Labor”.  Here is the link to this overview, where I shared several examples I found of this connection in both the OT and NT.

I would like to discuss those that God called to build His tabernacle at Mount Sinai in the book of Exodus.  It is a great illustration that clearly links man’s work to God’s presence.  Gene Veith, in his book, God at Work: Your Christian Vocation in All of Life, states that this narrative is “the first explicit treatment of the doctrine of vocation in the Bible” (p. 158).

Ex. 25:8-31:11 lays out Yahweh’s detailed instructions to Moses regarding the design and construction of the tabernacle, its components, and the priests’ attire.  It tells us a great deal about a theology of work.  Building this portable temple would require a variety of skilled craftsmen who were empowered by the very Spirit of God.  The results of their work would enable the priests to serve as Yahweh required so that He would dwell among them.

The Zondervan NIV Bible Commentary reminds us that the significance of this tabernacle where God’s presence resided pointed forward to a day when He would come in the Incarnation (see John 1:14) and again at the consummation (Rev. 21:3).  “The Lord who dwelt in his visible glory in his sanctuary among his people (Ex. 25:8) will one day come and dwell in all his glory among his saints forever” (vol. I, p. 110).

What makes this passage especially relevant to the topic of a theology of work?  There are several implications.

First, as God describes His plan to Moses, this project would require a variety of skilled craftsmen and craftswomen.  These chosen people with special occupations that Yahweh called upon were artisans and construction workers, what we would call “blue-collar” workers.  These are the kinds of talented people that would be needed: carpenters (no, not the brother-sister pop duo from the 70’s), furniture makers, metalworkers, jewelers, those who could make curtains and garments, embroiders, and even perfume makers.  All of these laborers were necessary to get the tabernacle done safely, on time, and under budget.  The work of these individuals would matter to God.  The “big picture” they had to keep in mind was that the tabernacle would be the centerpiece of the Israelites’ home in the wilderness. Wherever they would be called to go, the presence of Yahweh would rest on this portable temple.  It would be the place where “They will know that I am the LORD their God, who brought them out of Egypt so that I might dwell among them, I am the LORD their God” (Ex. 29:45-46).

Next, we meet Bezalel and his worthy assistant, Oholiab.  These two men were selected by the LORD God to take charge of this huge project and to teach, coach, and mentor those who would help construct it.  With these construction workers running around with their hard hats, they would need supervision.  Moses could not oversee this task directly.  He had learned the value of delegating important tasks to trustworthy men back in Ex. 18.

Listen to how Yahweh describes Bezalel in Ex. 31:1-3: “I have filled him with the Spirit of God, with skill, ability and knowledge in all kinds of crafts.”  (See also Ex. 35:31-35.)  I do not take this to mean that he suddenly developed these things overnight.  To the contrary.  I believe he already possessed these technical skills, aptitudes, and know-how.  He had developed them over the course of his entire life “for such a time as this”.  Tom Nelson, in Work Matters, agrees.  “Bezalel’s craftsmanship and skillful hands had been honed through years of diligent learning and practical experience.  Like all skilled workmen, Bezalel had learned from master craftsmen who had gone before him” (p. 146).

Isn’t it just like God to providentially equip His people to be at the right time and place to be able to do His work long before they are aware of His call?  The presence of the Spirit of God on these men enabled them to do the job well, with the strength that He provided, and in the right attitude, in order to meet the extremely high standards that Yahweh required.

Yahweh acknowledges that He enabled His chosen workforce to be able to complete this monumental task: “I have given skill to all the craftsmen to make everything I have commanded you.” (Ex. 31:6).  Every one of them worked naturally, yet supernaturally.

At the end, this collection of supermen and superwomen completed the job, as described by Ex. 39:32-42.  The entire community would experience many blessings as a result of their Spirit-filled efforts as co-workers with Yahweh.  The last chapter of the book of Exodus tells us that after the tabernacle was completely set up and operational, “the glory of the LORD filled the tabernacle.” (Ex. 40:34).  God’s presence is again directly linked to our work.

There are two more ideas to point out.  One is a tie to creation; another is a link to the Church.

The connection to the “creation mandate” in Gen. 1:26-38 may not be clear, but let us see how it relates.  Adam was called to work under God’s authority to subdue the earth and expand God’s presence beyond the borders of Eden.  A major component of the work of subduing is taking the elements that God created in the earth and harvesting and harnessing them to feed our families and build stuff for the common good: shelters, roads, cities, and culture.  The abundance of trees, rocks, animals, etc., could be used by Adam and his successors as God’s co-workers to meet the needs of His people and bring glory to Him.  The Israelites took these raw materials out of the earth and subdued them to fashion a tabernacle where God could be worshipped as they journeyed towards the Promised Land.

This episode about Spirit-filled tabernacle construction workers also clearly ties in with the New Testament concept of spiritual gifts (see Rom. 12:3-8, 1 Cor. 12, Eph. 4:11-13, and 1 Peter 4:10-11).  Each of these passages has a different list of spiritual gifts.  There is some overlap, but they are unique, applicable to the purpose of the epistle which was tailored to the needs of the readers.  Many commentators have concluded that the gifts mentioned in these passages are not an exhaustive list; there may be other talents given to believers that can be empowered by the Holy Spirit to build up the body of Christ.  In 1 Cor. 12:7, Paul highlights the value of these Spirit-filled abilities: “Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.”  Tying this verse to the passage in Exodus helps us understand that these talents to be able to fashion wood, metal, fabric, perfume, and provide leadership, can easily be seen as an Old Testament examples of spiritual gifts.

In conclusion, we see a clear connection here between work and God’s presence.  The workers that God called and equipped were not evangelists, preachers, or missionaries.  They were ordinary men and women in “secular” occupations who were willing to be used to contribute to God’s kingdom.  God can and will use people just like that to build His church, both inside and outside the walls of our local body of believers.

Nelson, in Work Matters, boldly states that “You were created with work in mind.  You have been gifted to do a particular work.  As a follower of Christ who has been born from above, you have been equipped and empowered by the Holy Spirit to make an important vocational contribution, a contribution that God has providentially arranged for you to make in this world” (p. 147).  Meditate on this, and your attitude toward work will change.