googlef87758e9b6df9bec.html A Sure Word: Running on Empty

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Running on Empty

As I’ve studied Koine Greek, I’ve found it interesting to see how a particular word might be translated in different passages. This gives me a much broader understanding of the meaning of the word, which perhaps leads to a better understanding of a particular passage. One of the first “aha!” moments I had was with the verb, ὑστερέω (hustereō).

Romans 3:23 says,

πάντες γὰρ ἥμαρτον καὶ ὑστεροῦνται τῆς δόξης τοῦ θεοῦ

“For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God.” (KJV)

“Come short of” in this verse is the translation of the word ὑστερέω. In English, the phrase, “come short of,” suggests that something was very close but just not completely where it should be. If I had a goal of losing 30 pounds and lost only 28 pounds, I might say, “I came just short of my goal.” So in English, the phrase “come short of the glory of God,” suggests we have some glory, just not as much as God’s glory.

However, the same word is used in John 2:3,

καὶ ὑστερήσαντος οἴνου λέγει μήτηρ τοῦ Ἰησοῦ πρὸς αὐτόν· οἶνον οὐκ ἔχουσιν.

“And when they wanted wine, the mother of Jesus saith unto him, They have no wine.” John 2 describes the wedding in Cana where Jesus performed His first miracle of turning water into wine. In this verse, the word hustereō is translated as “when they wanted…”

The word ὑστερέω means to become exhausted or depleted; basically, “to run out of something.” At the wedding in Cana, they had run out of wine. So if we look back at Romans 3:23, we see that we’re not “just short of” glory – we have none. Because of our sin, we have depleted our glory; and not just a little bit, we’re completely empty.

Most of us like to think of ourselves as nice people. Each of us will admit we’ve made a mistake or two, but overall, we’re not that bad, are we? As much as we hate to admit it, in the eyes of God we’re all sinners and there’s nothing good about us. Fortunately, it’s not my good works that matter for anything. Jesus is the only One who did not sin and I am justified by His righteousness.

Romans 3:23 is not the end of the story, it’s the beginning. Read the passage in context (Romans 3:23-26):
For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God; Being justified freely by his grace through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus: Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.
Wow! I guess that’s why they call it, “the Good News.”

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