Author: Bill Klein
The noun μεριμνα is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word μεριζω (Strong’s 3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Soμεριμνα represents a mental state or condition in which someone isoccupied with or is dwelling upon something.
Derived from the noun, the verb form μεριμναςω means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” In early Greek literature it is used to convey the concept of meditation.
The noun and verb forms of μεριμνα are used in the New Testament and can convey either positive or negative understandings. Used in the positive, these words convey the idea of focused care. By contrast, their negative connotation conveys the idea of distraction in occupying the attention of the mind. We are going to study both of these uses in our eight-part study.
In this study we are going to follow these two words through the New Testament in order to observe how they are used to reveal the tool by which Satan occupies the believer’s mind. 1 Peter 5:5-8 is the foundation Scripture for our study. In this text, Peter presents μεριμνα as Satan’s only weapon against a believer in Christ.
Before we study the text in I Peter, we have to establish an understanding of the phases comprising the Christian life: the first being Salvation; the second being Growth and Change. This understanding enables us to perceive why μεριμνα is the only weapon Satan can use against a believer.
As previously stated, Salvation is the first phase of the Christian life. The Bible teaches that a person must experience a spiritual birth from the Spirit of God in order to be saved. Just believing in the Lord does not establish salvation; a person must experience the Spirit of Christ coming into their spirit or soul. The presence of the Spirit of Christ within the believer was established as the proof of salvation by the Early Church. Paul said to the Christians in Corinth,
“Test yourselves if you are in the faith, prove yourselves. Or do you not know yourselves that Jesus Christ is in you? If not you are unapproved?” (2 Corinthians 13:5 Literal Translation)
Paul also said,
“but you are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you; but if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, this one is not of Him.” (Romans 8:9 Lit. Trans.)
John in his polemic style of writing said,
“And the one keeping His commandments abides in Him, and He in him. And in this we know that He abides in us, from the Spirit which He gave to us.” (1 John 3:24 Lit. Trans.)
Again John says,
“In this we know that we abide in Him and He in us, because He has given to us of His Spirit.” (1 John 4:13Lit. Trans.)
Not only did the New Testament writers establish that a person must be born from above through a spiritual birth in Christ in order to be saved, but Paul also said,
“in whom also you, having heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, in whom also after having believed you were sealed by means of the Holy Spirit of promise, 14) who is the guarantee of our inheritance, for redemption of the possession, unto the praise of His glory.” (Ephesians 1:13,14 Lit. Trans.).
Here Paul states that Christ not only fills our soul or spirit, but our soul is additionally “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. Peter said concerning the ones who have an inheritance in heaven waiting for them,
“the ones being kept (guarded) in the power of God through faith, for salvation ready to be revealed in thelast time.” (1 Peter 1:5 Lit. Trans.)
“We know that everyone who has been born of God is not continuously sinning; but the one who has been born of God He (God) keeps him and the evil one does not touch him.” (1 John 5:18 Lit. Trans.).
So the Bible teaches and establishes that a person who is saved belongs to Christ. He is a person who is born of the Spirit of Christ and has the Spirit of Christ dwelling in his spirit or soul. This person’s soul or spirit has been sealed by the Holy Spirit. And this condition of salvation does not allow for penetration by any force or spirit into the spirit of the saved person.
The second phase of the Christian life is that of Growth and Change. It is designated as Growth and Change because growth produces change. After a person is saved by receiving the Spirit of Christ, he begins to grow by the inward working of God’s Spirit Who abides within him. The growth process takes place within the arena of the mind. Paul said,
“and do not continually be conformed to this age, but be continually transformed by means of the renewing of your mind, for you to prove what is the good, well pleasing, and perfect will of God.” (Romans 12:2 Lit. Trans.)
Paul also said,
“for you to put off the old man according to the former lifestyle, the one being corrupt according to the desires of the deceit; 23) and to be renewed by the spirit of your mind;” (Ephesians 4:22,23 Lit. Trans.).
Since a believer’s spirit is saved and sealed, the only area in which Satan can attack is the mind. Consequently, Satan is fighting for the “occupation of the attention of the mind,” also known in Scripture asμεριμνα.
Having discussed the phases of the Christian life, we can now understand the importance of Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 5:5-8 where He says,
“Likewise, you younger ones be submissive to the older ones; and everyone put on humility while being submissive to one another; because God is resisting the proud, but is giving grace to the humble. 6) Therefore be humbled under the mighty hand of God, in order that he might exalt you in time; 7) having cast all your care (μεριμνα) upon Him, because it is a concern to Him about you. 8) Be sober, be watchful, because your adversary the devil, is walking around as a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour.” (1 Peter 5:5-8 Lit. Trans.).
In this text, Peter presents μεριμνα – the occupation of the attention of the mind as the only weapon Satan uses against a believer. Peter said in Verse 6 that we should submit to God’s humbling process. The aorist participle in Verse 7 tells us that we are to submit to this humbling process having cast all of our care upon the Lord. We are to cast all of the things that are occupying our minds onto the Lord.
Peter, in verses 7,8, states that the Lord is concerned about us because our adversary, the devil, is walking around as a roaring lion. The Lord is concerned for us because Satan is looking to devour God’s people, not spiritually, but mentally. How? By occupying the attention of our minds so that we are too busy and too worried about the things of this earthly life. Consequently, we do not have the time or the focus to study and receive from God’s Word. The end result is that we fail to grow; we are saved but we remain unchanged.
We know from Job chapters 1,2 that Satan “scouts” God’s people just as an army scout surveys the opposing army before an attack. Satan scouts us in order to accuse us before God. He plans his attack upon our minds using those things he perceives as our weaknesses. Our weakness could be our career. It could be someone with whom we are too emotionally attached. It could even be an activity for which we have a passion. Satan cannot attack and penetrate a believer’s spirit, but he can and does make an all out effort to distract us by drawing our attention away from the Word of God.
“in order that we should not be taken advantage of by Satan, for we are not ignorant of his schemes.” (2 Corinthians 2:11 Lit. Trans.)
The Early Church was not ignorant of Satan’s schemes or plots and ways of attack. Peter commands,
“Be sober” and “be watchful.” (1 Peter 5:8)
We are commanded to be alert and not be “ignorant of Satan’s schemes.” The significance of the Growth and Change phase of a believer’s life cannot be overemphasized; which is why Satan works so diligently to distract us from this process using his only weapon, μεριμνα.
This week’s study served to introduce the concept of μεριμνα. Next week we will dig deeper into its meaning when we study from the teachings of Jesus Himself as presented in Matthew 6:24-34.
This week we are continuing with the second part of our eight-part study on the Greek word mevrimna (Strong’s 3308) and its verb form merinmavw (Strong’s 3309). The noun mevrimna is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word merivzw (Strong’s 3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Derived from the noun, the verb form merimnavw means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” So mevrimna represents a mental state or condition in which someone is occupied with or is dwelling upon something.
As a foundation for our word study, we first established a scriptural understanding of the phases comprising the Christian life: the first being Salvation; the second being Growth and Change.
As discussed last week, Scripture shows that the Early Church established as the proof of salvation the presence of the Spirit of Christ dwelling within a person (Romans 8:9; 2 Corinthians 13:5; 1 John 3:24; 1 John 4:13). Additionally, Paul states in Ephesians 1:13 that a believer is also “sealed” by the Holy Spirit. Hence, any one who belongs to Christ has the indwelling of the Spirit of Christ in his spirit and the Holy Spirit has also sealed his spirit. These two things make it impossible for the soul or spirit of any believer to be penetrated by any other spirit.
Based upon these scriptural facts, 1 Peter 5:5-8 becomes the foundation Scripture for our study on “merimna”. In verse 7, Peter exhorts us to cast our care (mevrimna) upon the Lord because Satan, our adversary, is walking around like a roaring lion seeking whom he may devour. Since Scripture presents that the spirit of a believer has been saved and sealed by the Holy Spirit, we understand this scripture to mean that Satan is looking to devour a believer in Christ, not spiritually, but mentally. Satan attempts to devour the growth and maturity of the believer by occupying the attention of the believer’s mind. This (mevrimna) is the only weapon Satan can use against a believer. He cannot take a believer’s salvation. He cannot unseal a believer’s soul. He can only attack through the believer’s mind, attempting to distract one from God’s Word in order to hinder growth and maturity.
This week we are going to study from the teaching of Jesus Himself in Matthew 6:24-34. This is the teaching upon which Peter and Paul based their teachings on this important issue.
Matthew 6:24 is the primary teaching upon which Verses 25-34 are based. We must understand this most important principle before we can understand the importance of the Lord’s teaching on mevrimna.24)No one is able to serve two lords; for either he will hate the one, and he will love the other; or he will cling to one, and he will despise the other. You are not able to serve God and mammon. (Literal Translation)
The word “able” in this text is the Greek word duvnamai (Strong’s 1410) and means “ability” or “capacity.” Jesus is saying that a human being has been created with a capacity to serve only one lord or master. He cannot and does not have the capacity to serve two.
At the end of the verse Jesus says, “You are not able (do not have the capacity) to serve God and mammon. The word mammon (mamwna=v Strong’s 3126) is from an Aramaic root meaning “materialism.” Here Jesus personifies mammon as being the god of materialism. Materialism, according to the word mammon, involves both physical things as well as ambitions and desires for them. Jesus is saying that a human being is created with the capacity to serve either God or the material realm, but is unable to serve both.
Notice how Verse 25 starts:25)On account of this I say to you, do not be anxious for your life, what you should eat and what you should drink; nor for your body, what you should put on. Is not life more than the food and the body more than the clothing. (Literal Translation)
The phrase, “On account of this” (dia; tou`to) means “On the basis of the truth I just stated.” Jesus follows this with His teaching on mevrimna and merimnavw: We are instructed to not be anxious about the things pertaining to life because a human being has been created with the capacity to serve only one realm or master.
Jesus then presents the first of two main commands in this text: “do not be anxious (merimnavw) for your life…” We are commanded to not have the attention of our minds occupied with the things about our life, even the necessities. Jesus knows that because we have the capacity to serve only one master, we can’t be consumed with thinking and worrying about the necessities of our life and be serving Him at the same time.
Jesus then goes on to say:26)Look at the birds of heaven, that they do not sow, nor do they reap, nor do they gather into barns, and your heavenly Father is feeding them; do you not differ more than they?27)And which of you while being anxious is able to add one cubit upon his stature?28)And why are you anxious concerning clothing? Observe the lilies of the field, how they grow; they do not labor nor do they spin;29)but I say to you that not even Solomon in all his glory clothed himself as one of these.30)And if God clothes in this way the grass of the field, which is existing today and tomorrow is being cast into an oven, will He not much more clothe you, little faith ones? (Literal Translation)
In the body of His message, Jesus presents two secondary commands and four questions in order to drive home the importance of the knowledge of merimnavw. The first secondary command is “Look” (eÍmba/llw Strong’s 1689, “To consider, to study”). Jesus is commanding the disciples to study the birds of the air and how their heavenly Father takes care of them. Jesus then asks the first question: “do you not differ more than they?” He is saying that since the heavenly Father feeds the birds, He will certainly feed the ones who belong to Him.
In Verse 27, Jesus asks the second question: “And which of you while being anxious (merimnavw) is able to add one cubit upon his stature?” The word anxious is the participial form of (merimnavw) and denotes a habit of life. Jesus is showing that a person can be continually occupied with his height but will not be able to add to it even though he is constantly thinking on it.
In Verse 28, He asks the third question: “And why are you anxious (merimnavw) concerning clothing?” He then gives the second secondary command, “Observe (katamanqavnw Strong’s 2648, “To examine, to observe”) the lilies…” drawing attention to the fact that God clothes the flowers and grass of the field. They do not labor or spin in order to obtain their clothing; He provides it for them. Jesus said that when Solomon clothed himself he was not clothed as one of these. The Lord then asks the fourth question in Verse 30: “…will He not much more clothe you, little faith ones?” Jesus is presenting throughout these scriptures that trust in the Lord is the key to dealing with the necessities of life. We do not have the capacity to be occupied with our necessities and to trust the Lord at the same time; but when we occupy our minds with the Lord, He makes sure that we have what we need for life.
The Lord presents the first of two conclusions in Verse 31. He starts with the conclusion “Therefore” (ou Strong’s 3767) and presents a series of subjunctives working off of the main command in Verse 25 – “do not be anxious for your life.” He said, “…you should not be anxious (merimnavw) saying, ‘What should we eat?’ or ‘What should we drink?’ or ‘With what should we be clothed?’” The reasons we should not be anxious about these things are given in verse 32: “For all these things the nations are seeking after” and secondly, “for your heavenly Father knows that you are in need of all these things.” The heathen of the world are seeking the things of survival and have the attention of their minds constantly on mammon. Jesus is saying our heavenly Father already knows the things that we need.
The second main command of this teaching comes in verse 33. In light of the fact that a human being has the capacity to serve only one master, either God or mammon, Jesus says: “But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Since we have been created to have the capacity to seek and serve only one master, we are commanded to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. Since our Father knows that we are in need of earthly things, they will be given to us by God while we focus our attention on the things of the Lord. Note that He did not say we would get what we want, but that we will have our needs taken care of.
There is a second conclusion in Verse 34 (ou Strong’s 3767). Jesus again uses a subjunctive mood to express what we should not do based upon the main command in Verse 25 – “do not be anxious for your life.” He said, “Therefore you should not be anxious (merimnavw) for tomorrow…” Jesus not only warns us that having the attention of our minds occupied with the necessities of life will distract us from seeking and serving the Lord, but He presents that being anxious about tomorrow will also occupy our thinking processes. He says that there will be enough worry (merimnavw) coming with the day itself and the adversity in each day is sufficient in itself without our worrying over tomorrow before it gets here.
These verses contain one of the main teachings of Jesus as He introduced “the occupation of the attention of the mind.” He established for us that a human being does not have the capacity to serve God and the material realm at the same time. He established for us that Satan uses even the necessities of life to occupy our thinking and take our attention away from the Lord. This fact and teaching is extremely important. There are many believers today who find themselves occupied with the material realm all week long. On Sunday they attend church, but experience frustration over not growing in the Lord. This happens because sometimes our minds are occupied with the things of the physical realm even while we are sitting in church. We simply have not focused on the Word. Similarly, We go to fellowship because it is our duty, but we do not experience the “transformation of the mind” because we are occupied and anxious about so many things. We believers must understand that after we are saved the battle is not over. Salvation has been assured; but another battle is being waged. It is the battle for the attention of our minds and our growth, our maturity as believers is at stake. The mind is the arena where God ministers His Word and brings healing from the affects of sin. This is why Peter in 1 Peter 1:5-8 told us to be humbled under the mighty hand of God having cast all our care (mevrimna) upon the Lord. Peter wants believers to understand that God has a concern for us because we have an adversary who desires to devour us through attempts to occupy the attention of our minds. Satan will use any goal, any ambition, any activity, and any material thing to occupy the attention of our minds; so that we will not be receptive to God’s Word; and, consequently, we will not grow or be changed.
Next week we will continue our study on the teaching of mevrimna by Jesus in Luke 8:4-18.
This week we are continuing with the third part of our eight-part study on the Greek word meÑrimna (Strong’s #3308) and its verb form merimna/w (Strong’s #3309). The noun mevrimna is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word meriðzw (Strong’s #3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Derived from the noun, the verb form merimnavw means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” The noun and verb forms used in the New Testament convey either positive or negative understandings. Used in the positive, these words convey the idea of focused care. By contrast, their negative connotation conveys the idea of distraction in occupying the attention of the mind. This week we are continuing our study on the importance of understanding how Satan uses meÑrimna – the occupation of the attention of our minds – to distract us from the things of the Lord.
Last week we studied from the teaching of Jesus inMatthew 6:24-34. In this text, Jesus established four basic principles involved in meÑrimna. The first principle is found in Verse 24. Jesus said that a human being was not created with a capacity to serve two masters. He specifically said we do not have the capacity to serve God and materialism. The second principle Jesus presented is in Verse 25. He commanded, “Do not be anxious (merimna/w – occupied) for your life, what you should eat and what you should drink; nor for your body, what you should put on…” Based upon these two, Jesus then presents a third principle in Verse 33, “But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” The fourth principle is found in Verse 34. He said we should not be anxious (merimna/w) about tomorrow.
This week we are going to study the importance of the concept of meÑrimna as presented in Luke 8:4-15: The Parable of the Sower .4)And while a large crowd was gathering together and the ones from city after city were traveling to Him, He spoke through a parable,5)”The one sowing went out to sow his seed; and as he was sowing some indeed fell along the road, and it was trampled down, and the birds of heaven ate it.6)”And other seed fell upon the rock, and after it sprung up it withered, on account of it had no moisture;7)”and other seed fell in the middle of the thorns, and after the thorns sprang up with it they chocked it;8)”and other seed fell upon the good ground, and after it sprung up it produced fruit a hundred times. While he was saying these things He was crying out, “The one having ears to hear let him hear.9)And His disciples were asking Him, saying, “What might this parable mean?”10)And He said, “To you it has been given to know the mysteries of the kingdom of God, but to the rest in parables, in order that seeing they might not see, and hearing they might not understand.11)”Now this is the parable; the seed is the Word of God;12)”and the ones along the road are the ones who while hearing then the Devil comes and removes the Word from their heart, in order that they should not be saved having believed.13)”And the ones upon the rock are those who when they should hear, they received the word with joy, and these have no root, they believe for a time, and in time of testing they fall away.14)”And that which fell into the thorns, these are the ones having heard, and while going under the cares (meÑrimna) and riches and pleasures of life are chocked and do not bring to completion.15)”And that which in the good ground, these are they who in a right and good heart after having heard the Word they hold it down, and they bring forth fruit in endurance. (Literal Translation).
Before we can discuss the importance of this parable, we must first understand the overall theme of this section of Scripture as given to us in Verse 18. Jesus states,18)”Therefore, be observing how you are hearing; for whoever may have, it will be given to him; and whoever may not have, even what he seems to have will be taken from him.” (Literal Translation).
The meaning of the Parable of the Sower is found in Verses 11-15. Four different ways in which a person can hear the Word of God are presented. Of the four, only one produces salvation. This means that there are three conditions where salvation is not brought to completion. The first of these occurs when a person’s heart is so hard in resisting God’s Word that the Word of God does not penetrate his heart and therefore can be and is removed by Satan. The second heart condition occurs when a person hears the Word with excitement but does not allow it to take root within himself. Consequently, he only lasts until trials come. Those trials then cause him to fall away from the things of the Lord. The third heart condition is presented in Verse 14. This occurs when a person hears the Word of God but continues “under” the influence of the “cares (meÑrimna), riches, and pleasures of life” which then choke out the influence of the Word of God.
This parable teaches us that the Word of God will not bear the fruit of salvation if a person who is hearing the Word of God remains under the influence of the “cares” of this life. Bearing in mind that we have the capacity to serve only one master (Matthew 6:24-34), Jesus is teaching here that if a person chooses to be occupied with the cares of this life, the influence of the Word of God will not bring salvation to completion in his life. A good example of this is the rich, young ruler in Luke 18:18-23. Jesus told him that he lacked one thing to inherit eternal life. Jesus told him to “Sell as much as you have and distribute it to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven, and come follow Me.” (Luke 18:22). When the rich, young ruler heard this, he became very grieved, for he was exceedingly rich. He was grieved because his focus in life was on his riches and he couldn’t give them up for Christ.
We can begin to understand some of the more difficult teachings of the Lord if we understand the presentation of merimnavw in the Scriptures. The Lord, being aware of Satan’s schemes and knowing that each of us has the capacity to serve only one master, addressed this issue with each individual person He met. A good example is found in Luke 9:57-62.57)And it happened while they were going in the way someone said to Him, “I will follow You wherever you should go, Lord.”58)And Jesus said to him, “The foxes have holes, and the birds of heaven nests; but the Son of Man does not have where he may lay His head.”59)And He said to another, “Follow Me.” And he said, “Lord, allow me after having gone to first bury my father.”60)But Jesus said to him, “Allow the dead to bury their own dead; but when you yourself go declare the kingdom of God.”61)And also another said, “I will follow You, Lord; but first allow me to say good-bye to the ones at my house.”62)But Jesus said to him, “No one after having put his hand upon the plough, and continually looking toward the things behind, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Literal Translation).
In this section of Scripture, Jesus interacted with three men. One was called by the Lord and two volunteered to follow Him. The first volunteer stated that he would follow the Lord wherever He went. The Lord’s reply touched the very heart of the man’s worldly “care” (meÑrimna). Jesus told him that He Himself didn’t have a place to lay His head. It gave the man something to consider in making his decision to follow Jesus. This man obviously had to make a choice between following Jesus and not having house to live in. It was even possible that he might have to give up his own home. The second man was called by Jesus to follow Him; but this man expressed the need to first take care of his father. The Lord said that he should allow the spiritual dead to bury their own physical dead. This could seem like a cruel response, but the Lord was pointing out that the man’s concern was keeping him from following Jesus. The third man, the other volunteer, told the Lord that he would follow Him after he had said good-bye to his household back home. At this point, the Lord reiterated what He first presented in Matthew 6:24-34 andLuke 8:4-15. He said, “No one after having put his hand to the plough, and continually looking toward the things behind, is fit for the kingdom of God.” (Verse 62) The word “fit” is the Greek word euàqetov (Strong’s #2111) and means, “to be lined up with.” Jesus clearly taught that a person could not be aligned with the kingdom of God if he is constantly looking back at the things behind (meÑrimna) as he attempts to put his hand to the plow (salvation).
The Lord is not the only one who understands how we were formed. Satan also understands that a person has the capacity to serve only one master, either the Lord or the things and people of this earthly life. Therefore, he will use whatever is important to us, anyone or anything, in order to pull our attention away from the Lord.
Next week we will study an important lesson about merimna/w from the story of Mary and Martha which is found in Luke 10:38-42.
This week we are continuing with the fourth part of our eight-part study on the Greek word mevrimna (Strong’s #3308) and its verb form merinmavw (Strong’s #3309). The noun mevrimna is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word merivzw (Strong’s #3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Derived from the noun, the verb form merimnavw means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” Somevrimna represents a mental state or condition in which someone is occupied with or is dwelling uponsomething.
Jesus introduces the importance of the lesson ofmevrimna in Matthew 6:24-34. Here He presents four basic principles. The first is found in Verse 24. Jesus says that man is created with the capacity to serve only one master, God or the material realm. Therefore, man cannot serve both. The second principle is found in Verse 25. It is a command. Jesus says, “Do not be anxious (mevrimna) for your life, what you should eat and what you should drink; nor for your body, what you should put on.” The third principle, also a command, is found in Verse 33. Jesus says, “But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” Jesus gives these two commands because He understands that if we occupy ourselves with even the necessities of life, we will not be able to seek, serve, or be able to focus on His Word. The fourth principle is presented in Verse 34: “Therefore you should not be anxious (merimnavw) about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious (merimnavw) for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the adversity of it.” Jesus is teaching here that we will be tempted to be occupied with the things pertaining to tomorrow before tomorrow even arrives.
Both Paul and Peter minister concerning mevrimnaw and mevrimna basing their teachings on the Lord’s in Matthew 6. In 1 Peter 5:5-8, Peter presents that the only weapon Satan can use against those who belong to Christ is the occupation of the attention of the mind. Satan attempts to occupy the attention of a believer’s mind with worldly things in order to divert the believer from God’s Word. This distraction away from the Word hinders Christian growth and maturity.
Luke 10:38-42 is the only text in the Scriptures that presents a detailed description of the function of mevrimna and what it looks like from an observer’s point of view. This text presents the three phases of Satan’s psychological attack against the believer.38)And it happened as they traveled, that He Himself entered into a certain village; and a certain woman, Martha by name, received Him into her house.39)And there was a sister to her being called Mary, who also when she sat beside the feet of Jesus, was hearing His Word.40)But Martha was being distracted concerning much service; and when she stood over Him she said, “Lord, is it not a concern to You that my sister left me alone to serve? Therefore speak to her in order that she might give help to me.”41)And when Jesus answered He said to her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious (merimnavw) and troubled concerning many things;42)”but one thing is necessary; and Mary chose the good part, which will not be taken away from her.” (Literal Translation)
This important portion of Scripture in best understood in four sections.
Introduction: Verses 38,39
Luke sets the scene by introducing the two main people in this teaching, the first being Martha, who welcomes Jesus into her home. The second is her sister, Mary. Luke uses an aorist participle in Verse 39 to show that when Mary hears the Lord, her position is beside or alongside of His feet. Luke also uses an imperfect tense verb to indicate that the habit of Mary’s life in the past has been that of “continually hearing His Word.”
The Circumstance Reveals the Problem: Verse 40
Verse 40 describes Martha as being in the kitchen and she is “distracted” concerning much “service.” The word “service” is the Greek word diakoniva (Strong’s #1248) and is properly translated “service.” This word comes from the Greek word that is translated “deacon.” In this text, Luke is not calling her a deacon but rather is describing the kind of work she is doing; she is in “service” for Christ. It is important to notice that this text is pointing out that self-imposed, humanly motivated “service for Christ” can be a distraction from the top priority of the believer, which is the hearing and studying of God’s Word.
Martha is serving as she does every time Jesus comes for dinner. But at this particular time, Jesus isn’t just eating dinner. He is teaching.
Luke describes Martha as being “distracted.” The word “distracted” perispavw(Strong’s #4049) means “to draw around” as in pulling a net up and around fish. The facts of her circumstance catch Martha’s attention. She is working in the kitchen alone and Mary is not helping her. Instead, Mary is with the others enjoying the Lord’s teaching. The circumstances then surround her, or draw a net over her. The attention of her mind has been distracted and her circumstances have captured and consumed her.
The situation is so upsetting to Martha that she comes in and “stands over” Jesus saying, “Lord, is it not a concern to You that my sister left me alone to serve?” Martha thinks she must do all of the work herself because Mary is sitting down listening to Jesus.
Apparently Jesus nods His head yes in answer to Martha’s question because Martha’s next statement is, “Therefore speak to her in order that she might give help to me.”
The Cause of the Problem: Verse 41
In His response to her, Jesus says, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled concerning many things.” The Greek word translated “anxious” is the word merimnavw- the occupation of the attention of the mind. The Greek word translated “troubled” isturbavzw (Strong’s #5023) and means “to stir up and trouble the mind.”
Luke is here presenting the three phases of Satan’s psychological attack on God’s people. The first phase is merimnavw – the occupation of the attention of the mind. Martha notices that Mary is not helping her. Instead, Mary is listening to Jesus’ teaching. She dwells on this until she reaches the second phase – perispavw. Now her concerns draw a net around her and so capture her to the point that her attention is consumed by the situation. This leads to the third phase -turbavzw, the outward expression of frustration and/or anger in speech, face, and body language. This entire incident starts with the attention of Martha’s mind being occupied with her circumstance. Her circumstance then captures her as a net would capture a fish. The end result is that she storms into the room and stands over Jesus expressing her frustration.
The Cure for the Problem: Verse 42
Jesus continues speaking to Martha telling her the cure for the problem: “but one thing is necessary; and Mary chose the good part, which will not be taken away from her.”
Luke’s text describes for us in detail the Lord’s teaching on the psychological attack Satan mounts against a believer in Christ. He tempts a believer to become occupied with something. If the believer “takes the bait” allowing himself to be distracted, that distraction then becomes consuming to the point that the believer expresses the stress and frustration of his state of mind. The outward expression of the believer demonstrates what is occupying his mind.
Luke also points out that believers can even be consumed by “serving” the Lord. Sometimes service for Christ is given priority over hearing the Word. Some believers are tired and spiritually starving because, as they serve so sacrificially, they are not feeding on the Word. Satan knows that the design for a believer’s growth is: “but grow in grace and knowledge of our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.” (2 Peter 3:18 Literal Translation). Therefore, he will use any method at his disposal to occupy the attention of the mind, thereby robbing the believer of any growth.
Understand that Satan is not fair. He will use loved ones; he will use life’s circumstances; he will even attempt to use service for Christ as a way to divert a believer’s attention from the hearing of God’s Word.
Next week we will study Paul’s teaching on mevrimna and merimnavw from1 Corinthians 7:29-35.
This week we are continuing with the fifth part of our eight-part study on the Greek word me/rimna (Strong’s #3308) and the verb form merimna/w, which means “to have the attention of the mind occupied.”For review, we need to remember that Jesus introduced, in Matthew 6:24-34, the concepts embodied within the teaching of me/rimna. He taught that each human being was created with the capacity to serve only one realm – God or the material. Because of this, Jesus commanded, “Do not be anxious (me/rimna) for your life, what you should eat and what you should drink; nor for your body, what you should put on.”
He also gave a second command: “But you seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness, and all these things will be added to you.” When Jesus gave these two commands, He did so knowing that if we occupy ourselves even with the necessities of life, we will not be able to serve Him, seek Him or be able to focus on His Word. He first tells us which realm to function within and then reassures us that God will take care of our material needs.
Next Jesus said, “Therefore you should not be anxious, (merimna/w) for tomorrow will be anxious (merimna/w) for the things of itself. Sufficient to the day is the adversity of it.” Here Jesus teaches that we will be tempted to be occupied with the things concerning tomorrow before the things of tomorrow get here.
Both Paul and Peter based their teachings concerning merimna/w and me/rimna on this teaching of the Lord’s in Matthew Chapter 6. Peter did it in 1 Peter 5:5-8.
He presented that the only weapon Satan can use against those who belong to Christ is to attempt to occupy the attention of their minds. Satan’s goal is to distract believers from God’s Word so that their growth and maturity will be hindered.Last week we studied from Luke 10:38-42, the only place in the Scriptures presenting a detailed description of the function of me/rimna and what it looks like from an observer’s point of view.
This text presents the three phases of Satan’s psychological attack against believers. The first phase is merimna/w – the occupation of the attention of the mind. Martha noticed that she had been left alone to serve while Mary went to hear the Word of Jesus. Martha dwelt upon her circumstances until she reached the second phase, perispa/w. This is the point at which her circumstances captured her mind just as a net would have captured a fish.
This set her up for the third phase that is expressed by the Greek word turba/zw. This is the outward expression of frustration and/or anger in speech, face, and body language. Martha stormed into the room, stood over Jesus, expressed her frustration, and demanded that He do what she wanted done about it.This week we are going to study from the writings of Paul in 1 Corinthians 7:29-35.
It is apparent that Paul is familiar with the teaching recorded in Luke 10:38-42 concerning Mary and Martha, because he uses two key words that are found only in Luke 10:38-42 and in 1 Corinthians 7:29-35.
The two root words are me/rimna – to have the attention of the mind occupied – and perispa/w – to draw up and around.1 Corinthians 7:29-3529)And this I say, brothers, the time has been shortened; the remaining time is, that even the ones having wives, should be as not having;
30)and the ones weeping, as not weeping; and the ones rejoicing as not rejoicing; and the ones buying, as not possessing;
31)and the ones using this world, as not overusing it. For the fashion of this world is passing away.
32)I desire you to be without care (a)me/rimnov). The unmarried man cares (merimna/w) for the things of the Lord, how he will please the Lord;
33)but the man who has married cares (merimna/w)for the things of the world, how he will please the wife.
34)The wife and the virgin have become different. The unmarried woman cares (merimna/w) for the things of the Lord, in order that she may be holy both in body and spirit; but the woman who has married cares (merimna/w)for the things of the world, how she will please the husband.
35)I say this for your own benefit; not in order that I may cast a noose around you, but toward that which is proper and devotion to the Lord without distraction (a)perispa/twv). (Literal Translation).
Starting with I Corinthians Chapter 7, Paul begins answering some of the questions posed to him by the Corinthian Christians.
Chapter 7 deals with marriage relationships among those Gentiles who are not under the law. Some are having problems because they themselves have received the Lord, but their spouses have not.
The point of Paul’s directive is to make sure that the Christian in the relationship does not cause a break-up of the marriage unless his/her devotion to Christ is the offense.
In Verse 29 Paul presents the first of five basic principles for dealing with the world while walking with Christ. He begins Verse 29 by presenting the motive for these principles. He says, “The time has shortened.”
He then says that believers should approach life in these five basic ways for the time that is remaining. The first of these principles is that those who have wives should be as not having wives.
Paul is not teaching that a married man should conduct himself as if he is single, but rather is saying that a man’s devotion to the Lord should not change after he gets married. The Lord must remain his first devotion and love.Verse 30 incorporates the next three principles.
In the first of these, those who weep are told to weep without being consumed by their weeping. Paul acknowledges that there will be times when it will be natural and even necessary to grieve, but he is instructing that we are not to become consumed by grief.
The next principle found in this verse is an instruction to those who are rejoicing. They are told to rejoice as not rejoicing. Again Paul is presenting the fact that even times of joy are temporary here on the earth, and that we should not be consumed with rejoicing.
The last principle found here tells those who purchase things from out of the world not to possess them. Paul is saying that we should approach our worldly possessions as though not possessing them.
They, like everything else earthly, are just temporary. We could lose them just as quickly as we purchased them.Verse 31 contains the last of Paul’s basic life principles.
He says that those who use this world should use it only for their necessities. We should not indulge ourselves or overuse it. He then gives the reason for these principles: “For the fashion of this world is passing away.”
The world and the things of this world are temporary, including our human relationships as we know them here upon the earth.In Verse 32, Paul presents the purpose for his counsel given in the preceding verses.
He says, “I desire you to be without care.” The translation “without care” is the Greek word a)me/rimnov (Strong’s #275). It is the adjective form of me/rimna with the negative particle Alpha placed in front of it. Paul is saying that he desires for them to be “without having their minds occupied with the things of the world.”
In Verses 33,34, Paul returns to focus on the marriage relationship issue addressed by the first basic principle in Verse 29. He says that the unmarried man and the unmarried woman are free to merimna/w – be occupied with the things of the Lord, each considering how he or she may please the Lord.
The married man and the married woman are merimna/w – occupied with the things of the world, each dwelling on how he or she may please the marriage partner. Paul did not say that this should not happen.
He is simply presenting the facts about life. Since a person does not have the capacity to be devoted to both pleasing the Lord and the things of earth, the marriage of a believer must be to another believer; and their main devotion must be to the Lord.
However, there will still be natural distractions taking place even among believers.In Verse 35, Paul summarizes his motive and concern for them. He says he is not saying all of this to put them on a leash or to rope them into misery, but to instruct them in that which is proper for the believer in his or her handling of the world, so that the believer can be devoted to the Lord a)perispa/twv(Strong’s #563) – without distraction.
This adverb is from the Greek word perispa/w – to draw around, and the negative particle Alpha.
Paul knew that his counsel would be difficult for some to receive; but he also knew the teaching of Jesus as recorded in Luke 10:38-42 and perceived the necessity for believers to understand this most important concept: once a person belongs to Christ, Satan will use every aspect of this worldly life to occupy the attention of his mind in order to distract him from devotion to the Lord and His Word.
Although Satan cannot possess a believer’s spirit, he can rob him of God given opportunities for growth through the hearing of the Word.We have spent the first five weeks of our study presenting this essential teaching basing our understanding upon the concepts of Greek thought.
Next week we will finish this part of our study by presenting Paul’s teaching in Philippians 4:2-7 on how we should handle the situations that occupy the attention of our minds.Copyright Statement:
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This week we are continuing with the sixth part of our eight-part study on the Greek word me/rimna (Strong’s #3308) and its verb form merinma/w (Strong’s #3309). The noun me/rimna is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word meri/zw (Strong’s #3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Derived from the noun, the verb form merinma/w means “to be anxious, to be troubled” and “careful thought.” Some/rimna represents a mental state or condition in which someone is occupied with or is dwelling upon something.
To date, we have learned that a person who has been born of the Spirit of God belongs to Christ and as such is saved. After a person has been saved, he is then changed and transformed by the Spirit of God living within him. Each human being has been created with the capacity to serve only one realm – God or the material (Matthew 6:24), so Satan is looking for believers to devour through me/rimna – the occupation of the attention of the mind (1 Peter 5:5-8). Satan cannot penetrate or occupy a believer’s spirit, so he attacks with the only weapon he has at his disposal – the distraction of a believer from God’s Word so that the believer’s growth and maturity are hindered. In our study this week, we want to learn from God’s Word what the believer is to do when the attention of his or her mind becomes occupied causing a distraction from God’s Word. This study is from Philippians 4:2-7.2)I encourage Euodia, and I encourage Syntyche, to think the same thing in the Lord.
3)And I ask you also, genuine comrade, help them, who contended together with me in the gospel, with Clement also, and the rest of my fellow workers, whose names are in the book of life.
4)Be satisfied in the Lord always; again I will say, be satisfied.
5)Let your yielding be known to all men. The Lord is near.
6)Do not be anxious (merimna/w) for one thing, but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God;
7)and the peace of God, the peace surpassing all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.
The theme of the letter written by Paul to the Christians in Philippi is fellowship. In this letter Paul presents changes to a believer’s inner life that are necessary for Christian fellowship. The main command and focus of the letter is found in Philippians 2:5 where Paul says, “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.” The word for “mind” is the present passive imperative of frone/w (Strong’s #5426) – the frame of mind or the mind-set. Paul is commanding the believer to be receptive to the Lord creating within him that same frame of mind with which Jesus approached this earthly life. While being God, Jesus emptied Himself, humbled Himself, and submitted Himself to the Father’s will, even to death on the Cross. This is the frame of mind that must be developed within the believer by the Holy Spirit for the purpose of fellowship with other believers.
In Philippians 4:2 Paul introduces two women who Paul considers to be precious to him and to the Lord’s work. He describes them as women who have “contended together with me in the Gospel” and “whose names are in the book of life.” However, they are in disagreement concerning something in the church at Philippi. Paul encourages them “to think the same thing in the Lord.” The word used for “think” is the infinitive form offrone/w – the frame of mind or mind-set. Paul is telling them that their frame of mind or attitude in their approach to the issues of life must be the same – to give up what they want in order to seek what the Lord wants. Believers can only have genuine, spiritual fellowship when they are willing to empty themselves of their own desires and wants, humbling and submitting themselves to the Lord’s leadership in the church.
After Paul’s encouragement, he lists four commands in Verses 4-6 that are necessary to come to the same mind in the Lord. The first command is in Verse 4: “Be satisfied in the Lord always; again I will say, be satisfied.” The Greek word translated “be satisfied” is the word xai/rw (Strong’s #5463) and is generally translated “rejoice” in most English translations. The entire family of Greek words coming from the root xa/r carries with it the sense of gratification or satisfaction. This word is used to express the gratification or satisfaction of the soldier who is involved in war. It is also used to describe the satisfaction of an athlete when he participates in the Coliseum games. Paul is commanding that believers find their satisfaction in the Lord, not in getting their own way.
The second command is in Verse 5. Paul says, “Let your yielding be known to all men.” Believers are to be known for moderation and yielding, not for indulging in the things of the world. The things of this material world should not be important to the believer. Again, the satisfaction of the believer is to be in the Lord, not in the accomplishment of getting his own way.
The third command is found in Verse 6. Paul says, “Do not be anxious for one thing…” The word used for anxious is the word merimna/w – the occupation of the attention of the mind. Paul commands that we are not to allow even one thing of this material realm to consume us, because it will preclude us from unity and fellowship in Christ. Instead, we are to be yielding, finding our satisfaction in what the Lord wants.
In the fourth command, also found in Verse 6, Paul teaches what the believer is to do about the anxiety that occupies his mind: He says, “…but in everything by prayer and petition with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God;” Through prayer the believer is to submit any issue that is consuming him to the Lord. A very picturesque presentation of this is found in Peter’s teaching in 1 Peter 5:7: “having cast all your care (me/rimna) upon Him, because it is a concern to Him about you.” (Literal Translation). Peter said we are to “cast” our mevrim/a upon the Lord. The word translated “cast” is from the Greek word e)pir¹rºi/ptw (Strong’s #1977) – to throw or cast upon. The only other place it is found in the New Testament is Luke 19:35: “…and after they threw (e)pir¹rºi/ptw) their own garments upon the Colt, they set Jesus upon him.” (Literal Translation). This is a wonderful picture of the function of prayer with regard tomerimna/w. The believer is told to do more than just pray; the believer is told to throw or cast the issues that are consuming him upon the Lord through prayer. The believer is to place the issue into the hands of the Lord and ask for His will to be done (See 1 John 5:14,15).
In Philippians 4:7, Paul presents the promise given to those who have given their concerns to the Lord: “and the peace of God, the peace surpassing all understanding, will guard your hearts and your thoughts in Christ Jesus.” The believer has the promise that when he gives an issue to the Lord, the Lord will guard his heart and mind thereby allowing him to experience the peace of God in Christ Jesus.
With this study, we conclude the negative connotation of merimna/w – distraction in occupying the attention of the mind. Next week we will begin a two-part study fromPhilippians 2:19-24 on how me/rimna and merimna/w are used in a positive understanding of focused care.
This week we are continuing with the seventh part of our eight-part study on the Greek word me/rimna (Strong’s #3308) and the verb form merimna/w (Strong’s #3309), which means “to have the attention of the mind occupied.” The first six parts of our study focused on the negative connotation of these words, conveying the idea of distraction in occupying the attention of the mind.
This week, we introduce how these words are used in the Scriptures to convey the positive idea of focused care. Our text for this week is Philippians 2:19-24.
19)But I hope in the Lord Jesus, to send Timothy to you soon, in order that I myself also may be encouraged, after having known the things concerning you.
20)For I have no one like-minded, who will genuinely care for the things concerning you.
21)For all the ones are seeking their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.
22)But you know the proof of him, that as a child to his father he served with me for the gospel.
23)Therefore I hope to send this one at once, whenever I should see about the things concerning me;
Paul wrote his letter to the Christians in Philippi to outline for them the things necessary for fellowship and unity. Paul commanded in Philippians 2:5: “Let this mind be in you which was also in Christ Jesus.”
The word used here for mind is frone/w (Strong’s #5426) and means “frame of mind” or “mind-set.” The command is in the passive voice, which means we are to be receptive to the Lord developing this frame of mind and attitude within us.
Paul is making the point that it is necessary for all believers to approach this material life with the same frame of mind and the same attitude with which Jesus did.
Then, beginning with Philippians 2:19, Paul reveals the hardships he and the rest of the Body of Christ face while serving the Lord.
Paul desires to send Timothy to Philippi in order to find out how the Christians there are doing, especially in the areas of fellowship and growth. He anticipates being encouraged when he hears of their condition.
In Verse 20, Paul reveals two characteristics about Timothy that make him usable for the Lord’s work. Paul said, “I have no one like-minded…” The first point Paul makes is that no one with him in Rome is of the same mind with him except Timothy.
More than likely, Paul has many brothers and sisters in the Lord serving with him. But here he states that he has “no one”, except Timothy, who is like-minded with him. The word like-minded is i¹so/yuxov (Strong’s #2473) which means to be “of equal mind or soul” with someone. This word is used to express a common motive with someone.
Paul is saying that only Timothy shares his motive for ministry. The motivation he is talking about is shown in every activity Paul does. Whether he is teaching or making tents, Paul functions in service to Christ. Evidently, so does Timothy.
The second characteristic attributed to Timothy is that he “will genuinely care for the things concerning you.” The word for care is merimna/w – to have the attention of the mind occupied.
Here the word merimna/w is used to describe a good quality about Timothy. Paul could send no one else who would be genuinely occupied with the spiritual welfare and condition of the Christians in Philippi.
In Verse 21, Paul presents a characteristic about the other believers with him in Rome. In contrast to Timothy, all the others “are seeking their own things, not the things of Christ Jesus.”
This characteristic is one that believers in general do not understand. They are deceived into thinking that they need only to attend church and fellowship with other believers; the rest of their time, they believe, is their own.
However, life with Christ and service to Christ is not a portion of a believer’s life; it is the entirety of a believer’s life. This is Paul’s motivation and understanding when he says in Philippians 1:21, “for me to live is Christ, and to die is gain.”
Our text this week shows a clear contrast in motive and approach to life among the believers in Rome. Paul and Timothy are motivated to serve and support the spiritual welfare of the Body of Christ.
The other believers, those who are all around Paul, even those fellowshipping with him, are focused on their own cares.
Consequently, they are not available to focus on the spiritual needs of others; they are not available for the Lord’s use.
Paul’s life shows that he has a clear understanding of the fact that the Lord established three things for us. First, each human being has the capacity to serve only one realm – God or the material.
Second, a person can be occupied with the necessities of life to the point of being consumed by those necessities.
Third, in light of these truths, the Lord commands us to “… seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and all of these things will be added to you.”
What is true of Paul’s day is true in our time as well. Many believers today are attending church and are fellowshipping with other believers out of a sense of duty.
They may even be doing these things in order to fulfill their own needs for enjoyment, pleasure, and/or entertainment. Sadly, they do not realize that their attention has been diverted from seeking the mind of Christ and that their attention has actually become centered on seeking the things that are of importance to themselves.
Of course, as we have learned in past lessons, this results in a lack of spiritual growth for Christians such as these.
In order to be what Christ plans for us to be, in order to accomplish what He plans for us to do, we must believe what Jesus says regarding the necessities of this earthly life.
We must be of the same mind as Christ, trusting that if we first seek the kingdom of God, He will take care of the necessities related to our physical life.
Only then can our minds be fully occupied with the things of the Lord. Only then will our motives and actions be led of the Lord.
Next week, the final lesson in this study on me/rimna and merimna/w will be taken from Paul’s ministry in 2 Corinthians 11:22-31.
This week’s lesson is the final part of our eight-part study on the Greek word me/rimna (Strong’s #3308) and its verb form merimna/w (Strong’s #3309). The nounme/rimna is translated as “care, anxiety, and worry.” Its root is the Greek word meri/zw (Strong’s #3307) that means “to divide, to separate.” Derived from the noun, the verb form merimna/w means “to be anxious, to be troubled” as well as “careful thought.” Consequently,me/rimna represents a mental state or condition in which someone is occupied with or is dwelling uponsomething.
The use of me/rimna or merimna/w can convey the negative idea of distraction in occupying the attention of the mind as was presented in the first five parts of this study. However, these words can also have a positive Scriptural application, which would be the idea of focused care.
Last week we began a two-part presentation showing the positive application of me/rimna and merimna/w. The study was taken from Philippians 2:20 where Timothy is described as one who “will genuinely care(merimna/w) for the things concerning you.” Paul says that Timothy is the only one who is like-minded with Paul. Paul is saying that he and Timothy are the only Christians in Rome whose minds are occupied with, are dwelling upon, the spiritual condition of the Philippian Christians.
This week we conclude our study with Paul’s presentation of the qualifications of his apostleship as found in 2 Corinthians 11:16-28. It is necessary to do so, not only because Paul uses me/rimna within his self- description, but also because his qualifications give us a picture of the leader who genuinely cares (merimna/w) for the spiritual condition of others. We need this description today as much as did the Corinthian Christians, both as a guide for our own spiritual growth and for the discerning of Godly leadership within the Body of Christ.
2 Corinthians 11:16-2816)Again I say, that not anyone should think me to be foolish, but if not indeed, even if as a foolish one receive me, in order that I also may boast a little something.17)What I speak, I do not speak according to the Lord, but as in foolishness, in this confidence of boasting.18)Since many are boasting according to the flesh, I also will boast.19)For you gladly tolerate the foolish ones, while being wise.20)For you tolerate if anyone enslaves you, if anyone devours you, if anyone takesfrom you, if anyone exalts himself, if anyone strikes you in the face.21)According to dishonor I speak as that we ourselves became weak; but in whatever anyone might be bold – I speak in foolishness – I myself also am bold.22)Are they Hebrews? I also am. Are they Israelites? I also am. Are they the seed of Abraham? I also am.23)Are they ministers of Christ? I am speaking being beside myself – I am beyondthem; in labors more abundantly, in stripes beyond measure, in imprisonments more abundantly, in deaths often.24)By the Jews five times I received forty stripes minus one.25)Three times I was beaten with rods, once I was stoned, three times I was shipwrecked, I have spent a night and a day in the deep;26)in travels often, in dangers of rivers, in dangers of robbers, in dangers from myrace, in dangers from the Gentiles, in dangers in the city, in dangers in the desert,in dangers in the sea, in dangers among false brothers;27)in labor and toil, in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, in cold and nakedness;28)apart from the things outside, the daily pressure, the care (me/rimna) of all of the churches.
False teachers had come into the Corinthian church presenting themselves as super apostles. They claimed to have superior spiritual knowledge and greater revelation than that which had been given to Paul. Paul answers these charges by giving his qualifications as an apostle of Christ in II Corinthians Chapters 11,12. First, in Chapter 11, Paul outlines the hardship and suffering he has endured from two sources, his outward circumstances and the mental process of being constantly occupied with the cares of the churches. In Chapter 12, he presents the hardships he had to suffer in order to receive spiritual revelation. In this study, we are going to focus on Paul’s presentation of his outward circumstances and the mental hardship he outlines in2 Corinthians 11: 16-28.
In 2 Corinthians 11:17-19, Paul says that he is presenting his own ministry on the same basis as the so-called super apostles are. He says that since they are boasting according to the flesh, he is going to do so as well; at the same time acknowledging that such boasting is foolishness. In Verse 19, he points out to the Corinthians that they gladly tolerate those who present themselves as wise, but who are actually fools. Then he presents six lists contrasting the carnal qualifications of the “super apostles” with his credentials as a genuine apostle of Christ.
Paul’s first list is given in Verse 20 where he enumerates five things that the Corinthians are tolerating from false teachers. They are tolerating their own enslavement. They are allowing these false leaders to take and devour their things. In addition, the Corinthians are tolerating the self-exaltation of these false leaders, even to the point of suffering humiliation at their hands. Paul is showing the Corinthians they are tolerating leadership that is ruling from fleshly motivation.
The second list, found in Verses 22,23, presents Paul’s pedigree. He finds it necessary to remind them of this because some were questioning whether he was even a Hebrew. In his defense, Paul asks that they judge both sides on four things: Are they Hebrews, Israelites, the seed of Abraham, and ministers of Christ? Reminding them that speaking of these fleshly things is foolishness, Paul says that he is all of these things and more. Then he elaborates on his credentials as a minister of Christ by presenting three things (his third list) in Verse 23. He reminds them that his ministry is in labors beyond measure, imprisonments more abundant, and in situations of death often.
In his fourth list (Verses 24-26), Paul continues giving his credentials as a minister of Christ focusing on the things he has physically endured: He received 39 stripes from the Jews five times; was beaten with rods three times; was stoned once; shipwrecked three times; spent a day and a night floating in the ocean; and traveled often. In Verse 26, Paul amplifies on what he has had to endure while traveling. Here he lists (fifth list) the various dangers he has endured; rivers, robbers, those of his own race, and the Gentiles. He has encountered these dangers everywhere he has gone; in the city, in the desert, in the sea and among false brothers.
Paul gives his sixth and final list in Verse 27 where he presents the personal hardships he has had to endure in serving Christ. His hardships came in labor and toil as he worked with his own hands in order to earn a living so as not to create an offense to the hearing of the Gospel; also in sleeplessness often, in hunger and thirst, in fastings often, and in cold without adequate clothing.
In Verse 28, Paul focuses on the mental hardship he has endured as a result of serving the Lord: “apart from the things outside, the daily pressure, the care (me/rimna)of all of the churches.” Paul shows that he is not only wrestling with the circumstances that come against him, but his mind is also continually occupied with the spiritual welfare of all of the churches.
Paul has had to defend his calling and ministry against the charge that he is weak as compared to the strength of the false teachers infiltrating the Corinthian church. While the false teachers point to their financial wealth and the multitude of their followers as proof of their authenticity as ministers of Christ, Paul points to his own motivation of sacrificial love which he proves by enumerating what he has suffered and sacrificed for the spiritual well being of believers. In this section of Scripture, Paul clearly shows that false leaders oppress and misuse people for their own gain, in contrast to the true apostle who is motivated by concern for God’s people, which concern can be measured by what the apostle endures and what he sacrifices for the spiritual well being of the Lord’s people.
Paul has spent much time showing what a true servant of Christ experiences in ministry because it is essential for Christians to understand that we need to look for the spiritual motivation behind the actions of leaders. A true servant of Christ is up against opposition. That opposition comes from all directions and encompasses many difficult circumstances. In addition, the true servant of Christ is mentally consumed with concern for the spiritual well being of the Lord’s people and the Lord’s work. We must not gauge spiritual success by fleshly, external standards such as the size of a bank account or an increase in attendance figures.
Hopefully, this eight-part series has given you an understanding of the importance of the words me/rimna and merimna/w in revealing Scriptural truth. 1 Peter 5:5-8presents that me/rimna – the occupation of the attention of the mind – is Satan’s only weapon against a believer in Christ. Jesus, in Matthew 6:24-34, established that a human being can serve only one realm – God or the material. He also commanded that we not be occupied with the necessities of life, but rather we are to seek the kingdom of God and His righteousness. In addition, Paul, in Philippians 2:19-24 and in our text for this lesson – 2 Corinthians 11:16-28, points out how important it is to be occupied with the Lord and His work.