Wednesday, September 8, 2021

"Press On" Or "Be Carried Along"? (Heb. 6:1)

In the Greek of Heb. 6:1, we find the verb pherometha. This verb is usually rendered something like "Let us go on to maturity" or "Let us press on to maturity." But is that really the idea here? Let's take a closer look.

There are three things that stand out to me about the verb pherometha. First, the verb comes from phero, a a very common Greek word is usually translated "carry" or "bring." Second, the verb is in the passive voice, indicating that this is not something we are doing but rather something that is being done to us. It's the difference between "we carry" and "we are carried." Finally, the verb is in a Greek tense that often implies continuous action. Thus, our "we are carried" now becomes "we are being carried." 

With these three points in mind, we might decide on the following translation: "Let us continue to be carried along to maturity." In short, the author doesn't seem to calling his readers to increase their self-effort to make progress in the Christian life. The opposite, in fact, seems to be true. Have you ever sailed? I can remember once sailing from Maui to Oahu on a friend's 35-foot yacht. It was the wind, and the wind alone, that carried us across the dangerous and sometimes deadly Molokai Channel to safety at the Alawai yacht harbor in Waikiki. 


Similarly, here the author of Hebrews is using a sailing metaphor. Picture a boat being carried along by the wind, as in Acts 27:15, 17. It's as though the author was saying, "Let us raise our sails as it were and allow ourselves to be carried along to maturity by the Spirit (wind) of God." Interestingly, we find the exact same idea in 2 Pet. 1:21. Here Peter describes the Old Testament prophets as being "carried along by the Holy Spirit" as they spoke for God. Here the Greek text has the same verb phero, also in the passive voice!

At times in our lives, all of us are faced with seemingly insurmountable odds. Obstacles and even horrible circumstances get in the way of our "smooth sailing." What storm are you facing this very day? What great crisis looms in your path this week? Whatever it is, and no matter what it is, God is whispering "With my strength, all things are possible." Let's allow the Holy Spirit to carry us forward. Yes, the challenge is great. But obstacles mean little to God. 

Cue the angels!

Raise your sails! 

Ask God for help! 

He is able and willing.