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Missions 101

Conjunctions: A Matter of Life and Death?

Apr. 27, 2015By: Jackson WuAuthor Bio

In my last post, I highlighted the most important words in the Bible––conjunctions! 

I showed how the devil tempted Jesus in the desert by omitting the conjunctions found in Psalm 91. In so doing, the devil highlights God’s promise of blessing but not the precondition of faithfulness. I summarized the devil’s strategy in this way:

Promise – Precondition = Presumption.

By paying attention to words like “because,” “therefore”, “so that”, “yet” etc., we protect others and ourselves from various temptations.

mm831schoolhouse-rock-conjunction-junction-postersIn this post, I will continue to show how conjunctions help us faithfully apply biblical teaching. In other words, there is practical payoff by observing these small but critical words. If we’re honest, we all tend to skip over them when we read the Bible.

Conjunctions are Practical 

Our life decisions are based on various ideas and beliefs. If we don’t pay attention to conjunctions, we open ourselves up to temptation. What happens if we take conjunctions a bit more seriously? I suggest an alternative formula:

Promise + Precondition = Perseverance

Among various applications, we gain the perseverance needed to glorify God as Christ’s followers. The devil tempted Jesus to take a short cut to “ministry success.” However, Jesus knew that the true path to blessing had a cost. He must be faithful to the work the Father had given him.

Ultimately, Christ was faithful. As a result, God vindicated Christ by raising him from the dead.

Many people know that 1 Corinthians 15 is all about Christ’s resurrection. People don’t always see the logical flow that pervades the passage. On the one hand, Paul wants his readers to be sure of God’s promise to resurrect His people in the last day. On the other hand, he wants the Corinthians to accept the cost of discipleship.

In 1 Cor 15:30–32, Paul reminds them that suffering follows those who do ministry. Also, 1 Cor 15:33–34 exposes the fact that the Corinthians were tempted to flounder in their faith by immoral living. One of Paul’s main objectives in the chapter, however, is to spur the Corinthians to perseverance.

I think people frequently overlook this goal when reading the chapter. He’s not merely giving a philosophical defense of resurrection. Notice v. 58. What’s the key word?  A conjunction!

Therefore, my beloved brothers, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain.

Because of a conjunction, we can discern that Paul preaches the resurrection in order to motivate perseverance in the lives of the Corinthian believers. He wants them to recognize that faithfulness entails the willingness to live a different sort of life––one that endures persecution and resists godlessness.

 The Link Between Thinking and Doing

I once led a study with a group of very biblically literate people. We read John 10:26, which says, “you do not believe because you are not among my sheep.” I immediately asked them to tell me what that verse said. Every one of them replied, “you are not among my sheep because you do not believe.”

Even though it was a very simple, short sentence, they literally flipped the sentence, saying it in exactly the opposite sequence. Why? They didn’t slow down. They presumed the Bible said something it didn’t. How often do we do this?

People tend to read Scripture too quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important insights. Perhaps, we believe right doctrines but our conclusions are not the precise point of the specific text we are reading.

 

People tend to read Scripture too quickly. They rush over key logical words and consequently miss important insights. - Tweet this


Conjunctions are the theological link between thinking right and doing right. By observing the conjunctions, the writers give us boundaries. They bound our interpretations and thus guide our applications.

We miss out on discerning God’s will for our lives and key biblical applications when we ignore conjunctions.

 

Jackson Wu (PhD, SEBTS) teaches theology and missiology in a seminary for Chinese church leaders. Previously, he also worked as a church planter. He has just released his second book One Gospel for All Nations: A Practical Approach to Biblical Contextualization. In addition to his blog, jacksonwu.org, follow him on Twitter @jacksonwu4china.

Tags:  bible study, theology
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