FEBRUARY 1, 2007
Introduction: Two months ago, the Lord spoke about doing "a study in excellence" for the February l, 2007, newsletter. When He speaks clearly like that, I know He has a reason beyond the obvious. Perhaps He was desirous of having more excellent people or at least a people who make more excellent choices. Nonetheless, He reminded me of my "college prof" days and how much fun it was to "play a few mind tricks" on the students. One of my favorites was designing an examination of just a few questions with five multiple choice answers, all of which were correct. It was such fun to observe the faces of the students. However, such an indice was not without merit. This was a learning discrimination evaluation. The more knowledgeable students found the best answer of the multiples and chose its corresponding letter for their answer. It is needless to say that students more or less ranked themselves based on their responses. Although I will not go into the intricacies of how to compose such a test, I will say that every question had been asked many times before with attention paid to which level student favored one answer above another. Aside from the "fun," the test served as a tool for grading.
Perhaps for a different reason, God often places before His "upright ones" a range of choices. The choices of the righteous tend to be similar and through the ages are calculatable. (With my testing program, I was the one amazed when an outstanding student would choose an answer different to his peers. Such became a subject for discussion.)
Because teachers aren't the only crafty ones using the science of choice, one must point to the "Catalogue" folks who publish a quality range in their offerings to the public. On a given page might be such terms as, "Good, Better and Best," normally featured with an upward monetary consideration.
Across the Kingdom today, choices are being made along "testing" and "catalogue" lines. Even the laziest of pew-sitters has observed the choosing of the "good" over the "best" whether it be in sermon subject or ministry direction. "Better and best" are conveniently left outside purposefully. Perhaps a small headline from the business news of the Houston Chronicle would be appropriate in such circumstances: "Why not the best? It costs too much (Jan.19, 2007 edition).
An article by Jerry Sevelle:
Just as I was studying the Bible material on excellence, someone sent me a copy of Jerry Sevelle's frontlet for his work, "Receive God's Best." As I analyzed the reason for this treatise, it dawned on me that inside charismatica, as well as all of Christianity, is a huge need to promote excellence. Why? Modern Christians, by and large, are not profligate enough to overtly choose evil, but often find themselves choosing the "good" to the dereliction of the "best." Mr. Sevelle made some interesting points while citing various Scriptures. Without a full critique, here are the Scriptures and here are his conclusions based on his premise of: "To have God's best, you must be willing to give God your best." His advice is to "take the limits off God" as his first "key" to understanding.
Scriptures and conclusions: In Genesis 17:1-4, Sevelle claimed God was looking for Abraham to affirm his own "As for Me." Since God has already designed the best for us, He is waiting for us to assert this fact in our lives. Jerry cites Joshua: "As for me and my house…" and states: "God's best in all areas of this life requires a firm decision, a resolution that you're not willing to back off."
"God is saying, 'I've already made My decision, now what's yours?'" Turning to Psalm 84:11, JS declared, "If no good thing is being withheld, that says to me I'm walking in God's best. But notice the requirement: 'from them that walk uprightly.'"
Savelle continued by paraphrasing God, "I'll give you My best…now all I'm asking from you: 'Be willing to give Me your best…and my best is endeavoring to walk uprightly.'" Jerry went on to re-define "walking uprightly" as "excelling." Again he paraphrased, "No good thing will HE withhold from them who will endeavor to excel. And to excel is simply to 'go beyond all previous efforts.'" "The key is taking baby steps. Let each step be a step beyond all previous efforts." " That's what walking uprightly is all about----going beyond all previous effort---excelling (BVOV, kcm publications, pages 12-14, January 2007)."
If it is necessary to scrutinize what was being said: Then let it be a part of the spirit of discernment and let the reader determine the validity of what was said. Here is a starting place, "Is walking uprightly properly defined as 'going beyond all previous effort---excelling?" Is that what the Scripture says and is this "rightly dividing the word of Truth?"
Let one scrutinize the text scripture used for the premise of Sevelle's teaching, Psalm 84:11.
Psalms 84:11 is a great promise to those who will to "be" perfect" or "upright." The Hebrew word for "upright" is "tamiym." Here is the true definition of the word:
Because there is such a compromising "interfaith" spirit prevalent in today's society and especially among the churches, it is necessary to re-establish a base for excellence. Aside from moral failure among clergy, fewer and fewer models for excellence exist among us. When the appeal to "go beyond all previous efforts" becomes the supreme motivation, why would anyone wish to enroll in a class on "excellence?"
Three English words are used to translate multiple Hebrew and Greek words. They are Excellent, Excellence and Excellency. Actually, these words refer to God Himself, His Son Jesus and the people of His blessing.
Although these three words are often used interchangeably, an attempt will be made to show the areas where they differ and where they stand as unique markers in the Word.
Take this Pauline passage as an example:Underlined are various subjects which are interwoven. The Spirit does this for the discerning heart. In one O.T. passage, the excellence of God is shown to be like a "woven tapestry," intricate and beautiful.Philippians 1:9-11 And this I pray, that your love may abound still more and more in knowledge and all discernment, that you may approve the things that are excellent, that you may be sincere and without offense till the day of Christ, being filled with the fruits of righteousness which are by Jesus Christ, to the glory and praise of God.
Paul had a rabbinical knowledge of Hebrew and its word meanings. One could assume he knew all the variations and interweavings of Old Testament verbiage. He knew the implied facets of words, so when he used "knowledge," "discernment" and "excellent" as part of his prayer, he was using them in their O.T. fullness. Most of his readers knew the same.
Paul's prayer was for those followers in Philippi to abound in love and even more in knowledge and ALL discernment, in order to approve (put their hand of blessing on) things that are "excellent." Even the Greek word by itself gives understanding.
NT:1308 excellent: diaphero (dee-af-er'-o); to bear through, i.e. (literally) transport; usually to bear apart, i.e. (objectively) to toss about (figuratively, report); subjectively, to "differ", or (by implication) surpass: KJV - be better, carry, differ from, drive up and down, be (more) excellent, make matter, publish, be of more value.In Paul's repertoire of learning was a passage in the O.T.:
Psalms 16:1-3 Preserve (seal) me, O God, for in You I put my trust. O my soul, you have said to the LORD, "You are my Lord, My goodness is nothing apart from You." As for the saints who are on the earth,Paul wanted the Philippians to be numbered among those "holiness one (saints)." The "holiness ones" are declared to be the "excellent ones" and the true recipients of the "BEST."
Paul knew the derivation of the Hebrew used in this passage:
OT:117 'addiyr (ad-deer'); from OT:142; wide or (generally) large; figuratively, powerful: KJV - excellent, famous, gallant, glorious, goodly, lordly, mighty (-ier one), noble, principal, worthHe knew there is nobility in excellence. He knew there is gallantry in excellence. He knew there is a lordly quality that affords "worth and value" to the possessor! That is the aim of excellence-a nobility of holiness! "In whom is ALL my delight" is not a trite phrase.
Paul would have known the intricate nature of Psalms 110:2. He knew that the kingdom of Jesus was comprised of those spoken of in this passage.
The LORD shall send the rod of thy strength out of Zion: rule thou in the midst of thine enemies. Thy people shall be willing in the day of thy power, in the beauties of holiness (OT1926: excellencies) from the womb of the morning: thou hast the dew of thy youth.(Translated as "the beauties of holiness" is the word designated as OT 1926 by Strong as "excellent.")
OT:1926 hadar (haw-dawr'); from OT:1921; magnificence, i.e. ornament or splendor: -beauty, comeliness, excellency, glorious, glory, goodly, honour, majesty.Both Jesus and His people are excellent in holiness. (Ask: "Is this ever preached, taught or emphasized, anywhere?") Paul chose not to preach to them in excellence of speech, but in the splendor of holiness through the Spirit and in Power!
Isaiah 35:2 The excellence (hadar) of Carmel and Sharon. They shall see the glory of the LORD, The excellency (hadar) of our God.Beyond "trying," yes, even beyond "endeavoring," is "hadar." It is "possessing" that which is possessed by our God-it is Excellency! (Review how many times the word Excellent is used with the Name of our God. The following passages reveal the different words used.
Psalms 8:1 O LORD, our Lord, How excellent (5414: nathan) is Your name in all the earth. (Remember this word "nathan" for it appears all over the Abrahamic covenant.)The song of Moses and Miriam used another form:
Exodus 15:5-7 They sank to the bottom like a stone. 'Your right hand, O LORD, has become glorious in power; Your right hand, O LORD, has dashed the enemy in pieces. And in the greatness of Your excellence (OT:1347 ga'own) You have overthrown those who rose against You.'These several words have one thing in common, they point to a majesty which is high and lifted up. Every man and women in the Bible, who has meant anything to the working of the Lord, has had an understanding (and many have had a vision) of His Majesty and Excellency. It is the same today. "Be perfect, Be holy as I am Holy" requires such understanding and is not a suggestion.
God has always demanded a people of excellence. He spoke excellence to Israel in Isaiah 60:15: "Whereas you have been forsaken and hated, So that no one went through you, I will make you an eternal excellence, a joy of many generations."
Returning to the N.T., observe Peter and Paul's contribution to the same theme:
Philippians 3:8-11 "Yet indeed I also count all things loss for the excellence of the knowledge of Christ Jesus my Lord."Simon Peter met Moses and Elijah and witnessed the words of the Almighty to His Son, Jesus. He never eclipsed the power of the transfiguration, where he witnessed the power and excellent glory of the Lord. The event marked him forever and colored his understanding of walking with God.
2 Peter 1:16-21 For we did not follow cunningly devised fables when we made known to you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of His majesty. For He received from God the Father honor and glory when such a voice came to Him from the Excellent Glory: "This is My beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased." And we heard this voice which came from heaven when we were with Him on the holy mountain. And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit.Simon chose this word, "megaloprepes," making it the only time it is appears in the N.T. and was sacred to his Hebrew thinking mind, even as the Name, Jehovah.
Prophetic utterance comes from such majesty. In February, 2006, Michael Boldea, grandson of Demetrius Dudeman, foresaw a tragic event happening to America (www.handofhelp.com). A powerful observation about this prophetic vision can be found in Michael's own words: "In my dream I began to weep, not due to the devastation I was seeing, but due to the great power of the voice I was hearing. I woke up trembling, unable to breathe, and tired as I was, I could not go to sleep again."
Paul knew well Boldea's "the great power of the voice I was hearing." Observe what he said in 2 Corinthians 4:7: "But we have this treasure in earthen vessels, that the excellence (huperbole) of the power may be of God and not of us."
"Huperbole" is the "excellent answer" to the multitudes of voices decrying random teachings among a gullible people! (NT:5236 Grk: huperbole [hoop-er-bol-ay'; from NT:5235]; a throwing beyond others, i.e. [figuratively] supereminence; adverbially [with NT:1519 or NT:2596] preeminently: KJV - abundance, [far more] exceeding, excellency.)
This word even has mathematical meaning. Check out its cognate in an English dictionary: hyperbola and hyperbole. It is the same word used in Paul's work in 2 Corinthians 4:17, "For our light affliction, which is but for a moment, worketh for us a far more exceeding *(excellent) and eternal weight of glory."
What Christiandom refuses to review is that this matter of excellence has its base in Cain and Able. Its roots run back to the earliest manifestations of sin and rebellion as well as obedience and sacrifice. The choice is as blatant today as then. Will the body of followers offer to God less than the excellent gift of Able? Will they sin the sin of Cain and say to God, "I will do it my way, be satisfied with what I bring?"
Hebrews 11:4 says, "By faith Abel offered to God a more excellent sacrifice than Cain, through which he obtained witness that he was righteous…"The ministry of Jesus was the excellent ministry. There really is an Excellent ministry and it really is what is lacking in our world today. Hebrews 8:6 says, "But now He has obtained a more excellent ministry, inasmuch as He is also Mediator of a better covenant, which was established on better promises."
(NT:1313 diaphoros; from NT:1308; varying; also surpassing: KJV - differing, divers, more excellent.)Why is this passage so important? The answer is found in Genesis in the very passages cited as the promise of Abraham. "Nathan" (OT:5414) is the word used in the following passages: "I will make (Nathan: excellent) My covenant between thee and Me (Genesis 17:2)." "For a father of many nations, I have made (nathan) thee (Genesis 17:5)." "I will make (nathan) nations of thee (Genesis 17:6)." "I will give unto thee (nathan) and unto thy seed after thee, the land (Genesis 17:8)."
Every time the phrase, "I will make," "I will give, etc.," the word (nathan) is used. It is the word, "excellent," found in Psalms 8:1! It means that if the Abrahamic covenant was "excellent," what does Hebrews 1:4 really imply?
Hebrews 1:4 Having become so much better than the angels, as He has by inheritance obtained a more excellent name than they.His excellent name and His excellent ministry will be carried on by His Excellence Saints.
Three times in the book of Daniel the term "excellent" is associated with this prophet of God.
Dan 5:12 Inasmuch as an excellent spirit, knowledge, understanding, interpreting dreams, solving riddles, and explaining enigmas were found in this Daniel,Because those who are "in" Christ Jesus possess the Spirit of God in them, why then is there not more "excellent wisdom" displayed? Are we unable to attain the excellent spirit of Daniel? Flatly stated, there are fewer examples of the "excellent spirit" today than in the days preceding the "dark ages" of history. Herein lies the judgment on our legislators and national leaders, the excellent spirit of our forbearers has become an extinguished torch! The judgment that now lies on all nations is the lack of witness from an Excellent spirit! But oh, how can one not say the same for denominations, religious groups and Christendom in general?
If Luke were to address the modern congregation could he find "a most excellent Theophilus (Luke 1:3)?" (NT: 2903 kratistos (krat'-is-tos); superlative of a derivative of NT: 2904; strongest, i.e. [in dignity] very honorable: KJV - most excellent [noble]). There it is. There is that word again, "noble." We have lost our nobility and the people languish.
Here are two random passages from the writings of Paul which underscore the problem being faced universally among churchmen/women.
1 Corinthians 12:29-31 Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Are all workers of miracles? Do all have gifts of healings? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret? But earnestly desire the best gifts. And yet I show you a more excellent way.Striving to be leaders, our leadership has lost the "more excellent way." Striving to perform and conform, leadership has hailed its merit and program from legalism, which has a divergent definition of "excellence" than that of the ministry of Jesus. Let the Psalmist be heard once again.
Ps 47:1-4 Oh, clap your hands, all you peoples!Let the prophet again signal truth:
And it shall come to pass that he who is left in Zion and remains in Jerusalem will be called holy--everyone who is recorded among the living in Jerusalem. When the Lord has washed away the filth of the daughters of Zion, and purged the blood of Jerusalem from her midst, by the spirit of judgment and by the spirit of burning, then the LORD will create above every dwelling place of Mount Zion, and above her assemblies, a cloud and smoke by day and the shining of a flaming fire by night. For over all the glory there will be a covering. And there will be a tabernacle for shade in the daytime from the heat, for a place of refuge, and for a shelter from storm and rain. Now let me sing to my Well-beloved A song of my Beloved regarding His vineyard (Solomon's Secret).Until Next Month, Dr. Cosby R. Oliver, PhD.
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