Author: Mark Johnson


I have suggested that while there can be differences between the meaning of agapaō and phileō, those differences are because of the context in which the words are used and are not necessarily inherent in the words themselves. This understanding directly influences the way one understands what is going on between Peter and Jesus in John 21:15-17.

The author of the Fourth Gospel is using agapaō and phileō as synonyms in this interchange between Jesus and Peter, and the point of the narrative is not about the quality of Peter’s love for Jesus, but Jesus restoring Peter. Peter’s threefold affirmation of love for Jesus (Jn. 21:15-17) matches Peter’s triple denial of Jesus (Jn. 18:17, 25, 27). Peter needs to be restored from his denials and return to fishing (Jn. 21:3).

John used four sets of synonyms in relating the restoration scene between Jesus and Peter (as reflected in the above chart). There are synonyms for 1) “love” – agapaō and phileō (by the way, Hebrew and Aramaic do not have different verbs for expressing love, and one of those languages would have been what was spoken); 2) “know” – oida and ginōskō (reference to the same knowledge); 3) “feed” or “care” – boskō and poimainō (reference to the same activity); and 4) “sheep” and “lambs” – arnia and probate (reference to the same group).

Notice also that the text reads that “Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, Do you love (phileō) me?” (Jn. 21:17). Yet, as the text stands, Jesus did not literally ask Peter about his phileō three times. What Jesus did was ask Peter about his “love” three times, using agapaō and phileō interchangeably in the text to communicate “love.”


When We Love The Lord

When we love the Lord we do not sit around and try to figure out which of His commandments we do not have to obey.  The question is not “is this a salvation issue?”  When we love the Lord we are willing and eager to obey because, “For this is the love of God, that we keep His commandments; and His commandments are not burdensome” (1 John 5:3).

When we love the Lord we do not seek excuses to stay away from assembling together.  Love says, “I was glad when they said to me, ‘Let us go to the house of the LORD!'” (Psalm 122:1).  “But if we walk in the Light as He Himself is in the Light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin” (1 John 1:7).

When we love the Lord we do not try to find out how little we can do for the Lord, our fellow Christians, and those who are not in Christ.  “Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that in the Lord your labor is not in vain” (1 Corinthians 15:58).

In this is love, not that we loved God, but that He loved us and sent His Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another (1 John 4:10-11).

We love because He first loved us (1 John 4:19).

O how I love Jesus,

O how I love Jesus,

O how I love Jesus,

Because He first loved me.

Love never feels that it has done too much for its benefactor.  “So you too, when you do all the things which are commanded you, say, ‘We are unworthy slaves; we have done only that which we ought to have done.’” (Luke 17:10).

Along The Way: Discipleship In Luke’s Writings

01-05-20       Along The Way 1: The Description Of Discipleship

01-12-20       Along The Way 2: Defining Discipleship – Luke 6:40

01-19-20       Along The Way 3: The Depiction Of Discipleship

01-26-20       Along The Way 4: The Demonstration Of Discipleship

02-02-20       Along The Way 5: The Decisiveness Of Discipleship – Luke 9:57-62

02-09-20       Along The Way 6: The Dependency Of Discipleship – Luke 11:1-13

02-16-20       Along The Way 7: The Devotion Of Discipleship – Luke 12:1-9

02-23-20       Along The Way 8: The Direction Of Discipleship – Luke 13:1-9

03-01-20       Along The Way 9: The Doorway Of Discipleship – Luke 13:23-30; 20:21

03-08-20       Along The Way 10: The Demands Of Discipleship – Luke 14:15-24

03-15-20       Along The Way 11: The Difficulties Of Discipleship – Luke 14:25-33

03-22-20       Along The Way 12: The Duty Of Discipleship – Luke 22:24-30

03-29-20       Along The Way 13: The Discernment Of Discipleship – Luke 24:13-35

04-05-20       Along The Way 14: The Designation Of Discipleship

04-12-20       Along The Way 15: The Design Of Discipleship – Acts 2:22-42

04-17-20       Along The Way 16: The Discovery Of Discipleship – Acts 8:26-40

04-26-20       Along The Way 17: The Disclosure Of Discipleship – Acts 9; 22; 26


There were several terms in antiquity used about followers of a teacher, with “disciple” being one of the most commonly used. Usage of the word “disciple” included the senses of “learner,” “adherent,” and “institutional pupil.” “The world Jesus encountered when he entered human history displayed a variety of religious, philosophical, and political leaders. Each of these leaders had followers who were committed to their cause, teaching, and beliefs” (Wilkins, Following the Master: A Biblical Theology of Discipleship, 57).

“Disciple (mathētēs) was used in many of the Greek philosophical schools of the classical and koine periods for one who learned from and became a follower of a particular teacher” (Longenecker, “Introduction” in Patterns of Discipleship in the New Testament, 2–3). The master determined the type of adherence. “The relationship assumed the development of a sustained commitment of the disciple to the master and to the master’s particular teaching or mission, and the relationship extended to imitation of the conduct of the master as it impacted the personal life of the disciple” (Wilkins, “Disciples and Discipleship” in Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels, 2nd, 203).

In the Hebrew Scriptures, the equivalent Hebrew term for “disciple” (talmid, “pupil”/ “learner”) occurs only once (1 Chron. 25:8 about a student among the temple musicians). The related participle “one who is taught” (limmud) occurs in Isaiah 8:16 about disciples of Isaiah.

Although the word “disciple” is infrequent in the Hebrew Scriptures, the concept is not. The existence of master-disciple relationships within Israel frequently surfaces in the biblical text. Joshua seems to take the role a disciple of Moses (Exod. 24:13; 33:11; Num. 11:28; Josh. 1:1). Elisha follows after Elijah (1 Kgs. 19:19-21) in the sense of being his disciple. The prophets associated with Samuel (1 Sam. 19:20–24) and the sons of the prophets connected to Elisha (2 Kgs. 4:1, 38; 9:1). The master-disciple relationship may have been the relationship between Jeremiah and Baruch (Jer. 36:32), Ezra and the scribal tradition (Ezra 7:6, 11), and in the wisdom tradition (Prov 22:17; 25:1).

The New Testament indicates several groups had disciples. John the Immerser and the Pharisees both had disciples (Mark 2:18). Some of the Pharisees claimed that they were “disciples of Moses” (John 9:28). The Mishnah (a compilation of Jewish rabbinic teachings) records, “They said three things: Be prudent in judgment. Raise up many disciples. Make a fence for the Torah.” (m.abot 1.1).

The type of “disciple” and the corresponding life of “discipleship” was determined by the kind of master. Central to the concept of being a disciple was allegiance to the master. According to Wilkins, “Jesus took a commonly occurring phenomenon—a master with disciples—and used it as an expression of the kind of relationship that he would develop with his followers” (Wilkins, DJG, 203). Disciples of Jesus pledge their allegiance to Him and are not followers of any other master.


I think I’ve heard most of the excuses. “You don’t need to attend church to be a good Christian.” “We give our family priority when we miss church to do sports on Sunday.” “My church really doesn’t meet my needs.” “I’m not getting fed at my church.” “Sunday is really the only day we have off.” “My church has a bunch of hypocrites.”

Why is it important for us to attend church services regularly?

  1. The local church is God’s plan in the New Testament. From the founding of the first local church in Jerusalem to the growth of new congregations throughout the Roman Empire, the New Testament is clear. God wants His people gathering regularly and faithfully. And lest we forget, all of these congregations had problems. All of these churches had problem people, but it was not a valid excuse to give up the local church.
  2. The Bible clearly indicates the priority of local congregations. If you read the New Testament from Acts to Revelation, you will see that a gathered people was not just one important factor for the Christian, it was one of the highest priorities. After the ascension of Jesus, the local church is truly “the body of Christ.”
  3. We are commanded and designed to enjoy worshipping the one true God as a gathered community. What if church members really did one thing in worship services? What if they asked God to let them see Him and know Him fully as the church is assembled? What if that was the priority over evaluating the quality of the singing? What if that was more important than the preacher preaching five minutes more than you deemed appropriate?
  4. A unified church can stand strong in a culture turning away from God. We can’t be a unified church with sporadic attendance. We can’t stand together if we aren’t persistently gathered together. Do you remember how the early church in Jerusalem reached a culture opposed to God? The outside world saw the unity and joy of the church and wanted to know more about this Jesus they worshipped. Remember, they were “praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. Every day the Lord added to their number those were being saved” (Acts 2:47). A faithfully attended church is a unified church.
  5. The world looks at our priorities and evaluates what we deem as important. We can’t expect the community we serve to get excited about our church if the members of the community see it to be a low priority among the members. The twice-a-month attendees make the church an afterthought. The once-a-month attendee seems to hardly think about the church at all.
  6. Families that attend church faithfully and regularly are happier and healthier families. The research from the secular world is overwhelming. Study after study shows that families who are in assemble with the church almost every week are among those with the best-adjusted children. Marriages are healthier. Small children grow to become mature and joyous adults. Though these studies are affirming, we can see throughout the New Testament how God has a clear and compelling plan for His children and their families to gather together regularly and faithfully.

We are neither obedient nor are we able to experience the full joy of our church if we attend once or twice a month or even less. Faithful weekly church attendance is important. It brings us joy. It helps us to grow spiritually. It is one of the primary characteristics of a healthy family. Above all, it is an act of obedience to God. And that’s what really matters.

Thom Rainer (adapted by Mark Johnson)

Hanukkah: Jewish Feast of Dedication or Lights

Hanukkah: Jewish Feast of Dedication or Lights

This calendar year, the Jewish “feast of dedication” or Hanukkah (as it is popularly known) begins on December 22. The institution of the Jewish feast known as Hanukkah occurred during the time between the close of the Hebrew Scriptures and the beginning of the New Testament period.

The apocryphal books of Maccabees provide background information concerning Hanukkah.  The feast was instituted as a commemoration of the victory of the Jews over the Syrians in 165 B.C. and the cleansing of the temple during the Maccabean Revolt (1 Macc. 4:36–61; 2 Macc. 1:18; 2:16–19; 10:1–8). The word “Hanukkah” means “consecration” or “dedication.” The festival is mentioned once in the New Testament (John 10:22-23 At that time the Feast of Dedication took place at Jerusalem. It was winter, 23 and Jesus was walking in the temple, in the colonnade of Solomon).

Hanukkah is also known as the Feast of Lights and is associated with the ceremonial lighting of eight lamps during the festival (one more is lit on each day of the feast). This practice derives from the legend that only one cruse of oil was found when the Jews reoccupied the temple, but it (“miraculously”) lasted for seven days, so the lamp in the temple continued to burn until a new supply of oil could be consecrated (b. Shabbat 21b). The candle lighting is accompanied by the singing of the Hallel (Psalms 113–118) and the waving of branches.

Hanukkah seems to be modeled on the ceremonies that Solomon observed to dedicate the Jerusalem temple and/or the temple purification by Hezekiah (both having some connection with the Feast of Succoth – 2 Chron. 7; 29; 2 Macc. 1:9, 18; 2:1; 10:6–8).

Despite the destruction of the Jerusalem temple in A.D. 70, Hanukkah continues to be celebrated as a significant Jewish festival and is observed by the lighting of lamps in private homes.

Hanukkah is a Jewish festival and not a Christian festival.

I And You Statements

Not long ago, comments were made in a social media thread concerning the use of “I” and “you” statements in grief situations that I think are helpful. The thread was started by Michael Whitworth, and John Mark Hicks added significant suggestions. Both of these men have experienced the death of a young son.

Whitworth began the thread by noting some of the unhelpful and even (unintentionally) hurtful things that people say to try to soften the blow of death and loss. He stated that he gives “permission to say two things, and only two things at the funeral home: ‘I love you’ and ‘I’m so sorry.’”

There were several responses, but the ones that had the most depth were by Hicks:

I counsel people to use only “I” statements that express their sympathy or their own feelings. This would include, “I love you” and “I’m so sorry.” “You” statements are interpretative or directive (e.g., “You need to sit down”), and something like “they are in a better place” is interpretative. We don’t interpret in such circumstances but express solidarity through “I” statements. I really like the “I” statements concept. It also allows for the expression of personal memories, “I will never forget the time…” Or, “I always appreciated how…”

Another person added to the thread with “I’ve found we use ‘you’ statements to stroke our own ego as fixers. There are some things we cannot fix, and that is our own problem we project on to others. Using ‘I’ statements is more intimate and ultimately helps us connect with those who are grieving. Great thought!”

One of Whitworth’s last responses was, “the point is that in our teaching and sharing with people about what is appropriate in our comforting the grieving, this is a good policy. It is more preventive and reflective than it is enforcement. For example, if you really want to help grievers, think in terms of ‘I’ statements rather than ‘You’ or interpretative statements.”


I think this is good and helpful information. As I have reflected on these comments, I also believe that using “I” statements instead of “you” statements is beneficial in many more situations than providing comfort for the grieving. What do you think?

Rebuke Him

Our Wednesday night class has been studying the biblical idea and contours of “forgiveness.” A text that we recently encountered was Luke 17:3Pay attention to yourselves! If your brother sins, rebuke him, and if he repents, forgive him.” Since our focus was on forgiveness, we did not spend much time on “rebuke.” We did note that we do not use the word “rebuke” too often and provided a few definitions of the word. So, this little article will give some information concerning the word “rebuke.”

The Greek verb that is translated “rebuke” is epitimaoo (ἐπιτιμάω) and it occurs 29 times in the Greek New Testament. There are only occurrences of the word (2 Timothy 4:2 and Jude 9) outside the Synoptic Gospels (Matthew – 6x, Mark – 9x, and Luke – 12x). Jesus usually is the subject, and the word always has a negative meaning. The standard scholarly Greek references all provide similar definitions: 1) “to express strong disapproval of someone, rebuke, reprove, censure also speak seriously, warn in order to prevent an action or bring one to an end” (Bauer, Danker, Arndt, and Gingrich); 2) “to express strong disapproval of someone – to rebuke, to denounce” (Louw and Nida); 3) “overcome with a powerful word, rebuke” (Exegetical Dictionary of the New Testament);and 4) “to rebuke, punishment” (New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology and Exegesis).

Ἐπιτιμάω is closely connected with Jesus’ message and the reaction to it. Sometimes Jesus rebukes to inhibit and suppress: when He casts out demons (Matthew 17:18; Mark 1:25; 9:25; Luke 4:35, 41; 9:42), dispels a fever (Luke 4:39), or stills a storm (Matthew 8:26; Mark 4:39; Luke 8:42). These texts depict Jesus as the bringer of salvation, overcoming the evil powers, and demonstrating His Lordship.

This  Greek verb that is used when Jesus “ordered” the demons, the healed, or even the disciples (Matthew 12:16; Mark 1:25; 3:12; 8:30; Luke 4:35, 41; 9:21).

People rebuke one another as a sign of displeasure. The disciples toward those who presented children to Jesus (Matthew 19:13; Mark 10:13; Luke 18:15). The crowd toward the blind man who sought Jesus (Matthew 20:31; Mark 10:48; Luke 18:39). Peter toward Jesus for His passion prediction (Matthew 16:22; Mark 8:32). The Pharisees asked Jesus to censure the disciples (Luke 19:39). In each of these instances, Jesus disapproved of the rebuke, though He Himself was free to deliver a reprimand (to Peter, Mark 8:33; to the Sons of Thunder, Luke 9:55). Also, there was no condemnation of the penitent thief when he scolded the other criminal (Luke 23:40).

The presupposition for the brotherly rebuke (Luke 17:3) is sin. When a disciple of the Lord sins against a saint, the saint is to speak to the offending disciple powerful words of disapproval to bring the sin to an end. Its goal is repentance before God and the brother’s forgiveness.

Mark Johnson


When you are celebrating Thanksgiving, be sure to express gratitude to God for these blessings:

  1. If you’ve heard of Jesus, you’ve had more access to the gospel than 3 billion people in the world.
  2. If you have the entire Bible in your language, your language is one of only 600 out of 7000 languages with a complete translation.
  3. If you worshiped this past Sunday without a threat to your life, you’ve had more privilege than many believers around the world.
  4. If you have sufficient food today, you’re better off than 800 million people around the globe who are chronically undernourished.
  5. If your children have clean water, good sanitation, and proper hygiene, they’re uniquely blessed (in fact, World Vision estimates that 1000 children under five die every day from contaminated water, poor sanitation, and improper hygiene).
  6. If your children have a roof over their heads, they’re better off than at least 100 million street children in the world.
  7. If you’re a Christian, you’re redeemed, held in the hands of God. No matter what you’re facing today, you have reason to be grateful.


Are you satisfied with where your spiritual life is at? Why or why not? Are you spiritual growing, stagnant or declining (2 Peter 1:5-11)? Is your faith lacking something (1 Thess. 3:10)? If you are dissatisfied with where your spirituality is currently at, what can this congregation do to help bolster your faith?

Are you satisfied with the spirituality and vitality of the Columbine congregation? Why or why not? If you are not satisfied with the current state of the congregation, what can you do to help promote the spirituality of the Columbine congregation?

What activities are you willing to be involved in? What activities does this congregation need to stop doing (Sunday and Wednesday Bible classes and Sunday assemblies are not under consideration for this question)? Why are you not more involved in the current congregational activities? At the Men’s Breakfast, I suggested a men’s Bible study during breakfast or at a coffee shop. It looked there was some interest in this.

What is the identity of the Columbine congregation? What do we want the congregational identity to be?

Someone has said that there are three types of people. Those who do not know what is happening. Those who watch what is happening. Those who make things happen. Based on your participation in congregational activities this past year (not your intentions, thoughts, etc.) which group describes you?

There is work to be done, walls to be built (we have a big project to tackle). Kingdom building is hard work. It can be discouraging. There are many enemies and conspirators. The task seems overwhelming. There are parallels to the time of Nehemiah. Let us be like the people in the book of Nehemiah who rebuilt the walls of Jerusalem in fifty-two days (Neh. 6:15-16). They were about able to accomplish the task because of the help of God (Neh. 2:18, 20; 4:15-16) and they committed to the work (Neh. 2:17-18; 4:6).

desire to see Columbine “rebuilt.” Please share your answers to the above questions concerning this congregation with me (text, email, a note, a phone call, etc.). Please do not be the person in the stands who just watches what is going on. Everyone is needed. Your input is needed. “And they said, “Let us rise up and build.” So they strengthened their hands for the good work” (Neh. 2:18).