God keeps giving…
April 6th, 2019
There is a fascinating function of Greek language that isn’t found in English. English only has three tenses; past, present, and future. This feature in Greek modifies the condition of the tense of a verb, effectively creating five common tenses in the Greek. The tense that has my attention this morning is ‘present-continuous’ and its use in one particular passage of scripture.
“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.”
John 3:16 (ESV)
The Greek word translated to English for ‘gave’ is in the present-continuous tense. This event isn’t a onetime action, this verb is persistent. Because of this mode of the verb ‘give’ it persists over time and isn’t limited to a specific period of duration.
This is entirely appropriate for a God who exists outside of time and space to convey His own grace. God who exists in eternity gave His Son. This action is eternal because God Himself is eternal.
We see the same tense applied in other places too.
“Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you.”
Matthew 7:7 (ESV)
‘Given’ is in the present-continuous tense as well. This is an intentional use of the language to express a truth in God’s Word. The generosity God pours out on us is prolonged, it endures over time.
There are other instances where this tense is used, for now let’s stay on us being the benefactors of God’s grace.
Back to John 3:16
How do we respond to grace that is expressed in a present-continuous manner? Response in-kind would seem to be appropriate, but our flesh isn’t eternal. But our souls are eternal. Depending on our response to grace we will exist in the presence of God or eternally separated from Him.
We as Disciples of Jesus have given our lives to Jesus, we surrender to him.
I want to suggest that the appropriate response to what God did in John 3:16 should be met with a response in the same tense.
But my flesh is not eternal!
Your soul is! Our appropriate response to Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross for us, is to surrender in a present-continuous tense.
When we apply Romans 12:1 to our lives, our action should be prolonged to correspond with what God gives to us.
I appeal to you therefore, brothers, by the mercies of God, to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God, which is your spiritual worship. (ESV)
And you guessed it, the word ‘present’ is translated from a verb which is in the present-continuous tense. The right way to express our commitment to Jesus in response to His love for us is to say, “I’m giving my life to Christ!”. Not ‘gave my life’, I’m giving. This is persistent, it continues.
I think most of us that have ever consider Romans 12:1 have realized that this living sacrifice is a continuous thing. What I find so fascinating is that we don’t have to assume that God wants us to continually give ourselves to Him and His will, it is spelled out in scripture.
If we take this giving action and communicate that attitude to what Paul tells us in 1st Thessalonians it even further underscores just how persistent we are to do these things.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
1 Thessalonians 5:16-18 (ESV)
In our rejoicing, prayer and thanks; this persistence is to be present and active and in doing so we accomplish the will God through Jesus in us. It’s the will of the one who gives us His Son that we are always rejoicing, constantly praying, and in every circumstance give Him thanks.
There aren’t any hold backs. Our recognition of the sovereignty of God weighs in the balance. It doesn’t change how sovereign God is, but it affects our recognition of that sovereignty.
This “Present-Continuous” tense is something we can and should apply to our entire service to the Lord every day. It would be our reasonable service.
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