Checking The Greek

by William J. Stewart

I’ve heard a good friend and fellow preacher say from time to time that he knows a little Greek. And then, the punch line comes, “He owns a great little restaurant down the street.” All joking aside, I know that he, like all preachers, would like to be more familiar with the Greek, the language that the New Testament was originally penned in.

My knowledge of Greek is quite limited. I know only a handful of words, and though I have a Greek New Testament, I cannot read it. I am thankful for tools such as Strong’s, Vine’s and Thayer’s. With these, even the unlearned are able to appreciate the significance of words in a text. To illustrate the benefit of checking the Greek, let us look at Jude 3, and see what extra insight the Greek gives us.

Our Common Salvation
With urgency, Jude wrote to those called in Christ “concerning our common salvation.” Vine says what is koinov (koine) “belong(s) to several … in contrast to idiov (idios), one’s own.” Thayer reveals “ordinary” or “unhallowed” as an alternate meaning but it is evident that this is not the thought on Jude’s mind.

We share in a universal salvation. It is not limited by education, culture, gender, wealth, or other such classification. Paul declared that “…the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men… (Titus 2:11)

I Found It Necessary
Our common salvation is the reason Jude penned this epistle. As he wrote, the Spirit directed him to address our responsibility to the gospel, by which we have been saved (James 1:21; 1 Peter 1:22-25).

He did not just think it good to write concerning our duty, but says it was necessary. Strong’s defines anagkh (angke) as a “constraint.” Thayer says it is “…imposed either by the external condition of things, or by the law of duty.”

If the message of Jude’s epistle was so important that he was constrained to write it, then it ought to be equally important to us as readers.

Exhorting You
The word exhort does not have a place in our everyday speech. It is an English word that I have never heard used outside a religious context. In Jude 3, the Greek word parakalew (parakaleo) is rendered exhort. Strong’s provides synonyms such as “to call near, invite, invoke,” but Vine captures the thought in saying, “to urge one to pursue some course of conduct.” Jude did not write just for the sake of writing—he has a mission for those who are partakers of the common salvation in Christ Jesus.

Contend Earnestly
These two words, contend earnestly, come from the Greek epagwnizomai (epagonizomai). The English fails to convey the intensity of this word. Strong defines the word as “to struggle for,” while Vine speaks of “a combatant.” Even those with no Greek knowledge may see a familiar word here. One of the roots in this word is agon, from which our English word agony comes. It has been said that the word Jude used here is descriptive of the exertion level required in Grecian wrestling!

Our stand for the faith is not just a mild agreement, it is a battle (Ephesians 6:11-12; 1 Corinthians 15:58). We are in a spiritual battle, and our souls are the battlefield! Let us give our utmost to the Lord!

Once For All Delivered
Jude wants you and I to contend for the faith, the gospel of Jesus Christ. Of the faith, he says it was once for all delivered to the saints.” Jude used the word apax (hapax). Strong says this is “numerically or conclusively” once. Thayer adds that the word is “…used of what is so done as to be of perpetual validity and never need repetition.”

This is a significant word, for it tells us that the faith or gospel has been given; we should not look for or receive new revelation, for God has already revealed His will for us. Peter says that we have been given “all things that pertain to life and godliness” (2 Peter 1:32). We have no authority to change or add to what has been given (Galatians 1:6-9; 1 Peter 4:11).

May this look at the Greek help us to appreciate the intricate detail of God’s word, and perhaps cause us to make this a part of our study habits.

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