[ho agathopoion ek tou theou estin; ho kakopoion ouk heoraken ton theon.]
The one who does good is
[of/from/because of/in the manner of/apart from/part of/controlled by]
The one who does evil has not seen God.
Forgive these fragmented and perhaps poorly-written or elementary thoughts. I write this post not to “show off my Greek” (today was the first I had opened it up in the past couple of months) nor to confuse people by talking very technically. I (hopefully) write this as worship.
I finished translating 3 John today. I’m starting with the shortest New Testament book and just continually trying to translate up to the longest. It’ll probably never be done, but it’s some sort of system, so it works for me. I always know what’s next so that’s helpful.
Anyway, like I said earlier, this was the first day I had gone back to 3 John in a couple of months. I only had a few more verses left so I quickly finished it and then started the first couple of verses of 2 John. I then began to shut my books and move on to the next item on my reading list when I realized something: I couldn’t even remember vaguely what I had translated in 3 John. I had been so concerned with just translating and “getting it done” that I forgot to even meditate or think on it.
I turned to my translation and looked over what I had written and the above verse popped out at me. So, I’m writing this as my act of both repentance for having this gift of the ability to translate and not using it to know God more, and as my act of worship, that I might explore some nuances in this text.
The problem with this verse is a problem common in any language: the preposition. That word εκ [ek] means any of the bracketed things above. Most simply, it’s translated as “of”, but the question always turns to “what does ‘of’ mean here? “Which of the myriad of possible translations does this mean? Well, you look at the context.
What I noticed is that whatever it means, it’s supposed to be a contrast to “The one who does evil has not seen God”. So whatever this “of God” means, it is in contrast with “not seeing God”. It also means that being “of” or “from” God is a matter of seeing him. To see Him is to be joined to Him, to be of Him, or to be from Him. I don’t know enough about Greek to make a definitive call about precisely which translation is correct, but this idea is enough for me: walking obediently so as to please God is a matter of seeing God, and those that continue in disobedience show that they have not.
The way this is phrased let’s us know that whoever is walking obediently can take no credit for this, because their obedience is of/from God. But at the same time, those that are still walking in disobedience bear the full weight of responsibility for their disobedience because they have not seen Him. It is a mystery that leads to God’s greatest Glory and our greatest joy.
So for those saints weary under the weight of their sin and disobedience, be encouraged: obedience and doing good is not a matter of striving and fighting your own will. It is a matter of seeing Him and therefore being joined with Him so that all our being, living, and moving is from/of/in the manner of God. Seeing and therefore being joined to Him through Christ allows us to move according to His nature and will. All disobedience, sin, and evil results from not seeing God. He is our hope. He is our salvation.
Let us therefore fix our eyes on Him, and run.