“Word for Today” – Philippians 2 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

November 18, 2009 at 4:45 am Leave a comment

Stars 1This fall, Concordia once again held its bi-annual STARS retreats.  These retreats, which are held separately for men and women, are meant to be intense devotional times, where retreatents can share their struggles, encounter Christ through his Word, and be led by his Spirit in community with others.  The goal of these retreats is to energize, refresh, and renew their participants to go back to their families, jobs, and communities and “shine like stars in the universe, as they hold out the word of life.”  Indeed, this is Concordia’s mission statement.

Concordia’s mission statement is also our text for today from Philippians 2:

Do everything without complaining or arguing, so that you may become blameless and pure, children of God without fault in a crooked and depraved generation, in which you shine like stars in the universe as you hold out the word of life. (verses 14-16)

Interestingly, the English Standard Version of the Bible translates verse 16 not as, “holding out the word of life,” as does the New International Version, quoted above, but as, “holding fast to the word of life.”  The NIV, then, translates Paul’s words as an encouragement to share God’s word of life with others.  The ESV translates Paul’s words as an admonishment to guard God’s word of life, even in the most trying of times.  Which translation is correct?

Actually, both translations are correct.  The Greek word for “hold out,” or “hold fast” as the case may be, is epecho.  This is a compound word, made up of the verb echo, meaning, “to hold” and the word epi, a notoriously ambiguous preposition which can mean either “out” or “on to.”  Thus, this verb can be taken to denote either that Paul’s readers should “hold out” the word of life in evangelism or “hold on to” the word of life in faithfulness.

Many people who have attended a Concordia’s STARS retreat relay stories of how, before the retreat, they were “barely hanging on.”  A marriage was on the rocks.  An addiction had taken over.  A sense of guilt was strangling a soul.  But then these retreatents worship and fellowship with other brothers and sisters in Christ and re-learn, or, in some cases, learn for the first time, how to hold on to God’s word of life for every trial, every need, and every promise of salvation.  Then, when they return, firmly holding on to God’s word of life, they are ready and reinvigorated to hold out that word of life to others.  And indeed they do.  They more freely share their faith and offer spiritual counsel to others.  They worship joyfully and pray earnestly.  An experience holding on to the word of life at the retreat leads to a desire to hold out the word of life every day.

Both translations of Paul’s epecho in Philippians 2:16 are vital to the Christian life.  For in a world that regularly scoffs at the gospel, and in times where comfort, strength, and hope are sorely needed, a Christian must hold on to God’s Word.  But they must also not merely keep it to themselves.  For they are also to hold it out to others.  They are to share it with others so that more sainted stars can be added to God’s universe.  It is my prayer that, in faith, you will both hold on to and hold out God’s word of life today.

Entry filed under: Word for Today.

“Word for Today” – Philippians 1 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com “Word for Today” – Philippians 3 – www.concordialutheranchurch.com

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