Trading Kleos Aphthiton for Kharis Aphthiton

But God, who is rich in mercy, because of His great love that He had for us, made us alive with the Messiah even though we were dead in trespasses.  You are saved by grace [kharis]!  ~ Ephesians 2:4-5

I let a week lapse between this and my last post, and I thought about not posting this at all and calling it a season.  But it wouldn’t stay quiet, and I knew I would get nothing done if I failed to heed the call.  Also, it fits quite nicely after my last post.

In my last post, I talked about how the reason for the manger was the cross and resurrection of the Messiah.

But the reason for the Cross was to give us kharis aphthiton – undying grace.

This is not a phrase you’ll find anywhere, but I liked the word play with kleos, and  kleos aphthiton – undying glory – IS a phrase, and a very important one to the ancient Greeks…


The First Triumphus of the Babe of Bethlehem

“…having forgiven us all our transgressions, having canceled out the certificate of debt consisting of decrees against us, which was hostile to us; and He has taken it out of the way, having nailed it to the cross.  When He had disarmed the rulers and authorities, He made a public display of them, having triumphed over them…” ~ Colossians 2:13b-15

Everyone loves a baby, and so it is no wonder the secular world has fallen in love with Christmas.  It’s a time for giving and being with family, when cozy traditions are made, and lights are all around us.

Yes, our world loves Christmas, but they seldom love the Savior who initiated it. They want the glitz and the warmth, but they don’t want the cross He was destined for.  I think a lot of people are like Ricky Bobby, choosing to think of an “8 pound baby Jesus” rather than the victorious, risen Messiah.

But the cross was the reason for the manger, and so you cannot separate the two.  Paul makes it clear in the verses above that the cross was the reason for Jesus’ first advent, His coming.  And so we must ask ourselves: why did He come, this Babe of Bethlehem?

Paul supplies the answer readily: He came to forgive and cancel out our debt.  He came to triumph over our enemies…


For the Stone-People

But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of great joy which will be for all the people” ~ Luke 2:10

“And do not suppose that you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham for our father’; for I say to you that from these stones God is able to raise up children to Abraham.” ~ John the Baptist to the Pharisees and Sadducees, Matthew 3:8-9

Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to Him, “Teacher, rebuke Your disciples.”  But Jesus answered, “I tell you, if these become silent, the stones will cry out!” ~ As Jesus enters Jerusalem, Luke 19:39-40

That seems like an odd collection of verses up there.  What does the angel’s declaration to the shepherds have to do with rebuking Pharisees and God making stones have voices?

Truth be told, I have no clear “evidence,” except for one Greek myth and faith in an all-knowing God…


Loving your Inamici: Christmas Lived Out

“You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy. But I say to you, love your enemies…’” ~ Matthew 5:43-44a

“For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life.” ~ Romans 5:10

Last week I talked about how we were strangers to God, and how He showed us unimaginable xenia by coming to us.  However, to leave it at “strangers” is a bit of an understatement.  As Paul says in Romans, “we were enemies” of God.

And yet, we know God loved us.

To love your enemy is counter-cultural in any age, however I can’t help but laugh at what the Romans would have thought of this.  After all, hating your enemy was thoroughly ingrained in their very politics…


Xenia with an Almighty God

Remember that you were at that time separate from Christ, excluded from the commonwealth of Israel, and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.  But now in Christ Jesus you who formerly were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. (Ephesians 2:12-13)

Welcome to the Christmas season, where everything is merry and bright!  To many, this season represents fond memories, the coziness of family, and the joy of giving (and receiving, if we are honest!).

However, it would be far less merry and bright if God did not come in the form of a babe so long ago.  As the verse above says, we were separate…excluded…strangers.

A stranger to God.

The word for “stranger” in the verse above is xenos, and it is related to an extremely important concept in ancient Greece: xenia


God the Epic Poet

“For we are His workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand so that we would walk in them” ~ Ephesians 2:10

Similar to Tuesday’s post, this verse doesn’t need a lot of explanation on the surface.  We get the word picture: God makes us, and He makes us for good works that He has prepared for us.  Not a hard concept.

Whenever I hear “workmanship,” I always think of carpentry work.  I’m not exactly sure why, unless it’s because Jesus was a carpenter.  So, I imagine being made into a table, or chairs, or maybe even an ornately carved fireplace.  Something practical and useful; something that can be a thing of beauty, but doesn’t have to be.

However, in my Bible study in college, my friend pointed out something about this verse that completely changed how I viewed it: the actual word used for “workmanship” is poiēma[1] – the root of our word for “poem.”[2]

Poems in the Mind of the Ancients

That’s right, you are God’s poem.  When we think of poetry, we generally think of beautiful words, some of which we struggle to understand, some of which don’t seem to apply to us, and some of which are just silly.  We also may think of angsty and depressing fellows, such as Edgar Allan Poe or Lord Byron.



“[Odysseos] dug a pit, of about a cubit in each direction, and poured it full of drink offerings for all the dead.” Homer’s Odyssey[1]

“These are my prayers.  Over them I pour libations.  And now it’s your task to wreathe them with the flowers of mourning, to sing praises of the dead” ~ Electra in Aeschylus’ Libation Bearers after praying to her father for vengeance[2]

But even if I am being poured out as a drink offering upon the sacrifice and service of your faith, I rejoice and share my joy with you all. ~ Philippians 2:17

This is one verse in the midst of a multitude, and yet it describes a practice completely foreign to us.  Granted, we get the picture: Paul is being poured out for the Philippians, and he is rejoicing.  He is enduring trials, giving sacrificial service in order to bring the Philippians to faith.

Certainly, this is the case. And yet, he is saying so much more.  We understand the concept, but we miss the beauty of his reference.  Knowing what the Ancients thought about libations gives so much more depth to this concept…