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Questions & Answers

Kurios

First posted: February 15, 2009

 

Question

 

{Hyperlinks in the question added by us}

 

In your [Q & A posting] "Grains of mustard" posted September 24, 2007, you had mentioned that some Greeks wanted to meet Jesus, but they first approached Philip, and they said "Sir, we would see Jesus", and you stated that he was in fact saying "Lord, we desire to see Jesus", which shows how "far above them" they saw Philip, with Jesus standing "even higher up" above Philip. But did Philip consider himself so? That is important because in another place, Acts.16:30, we read "and brought them out, and said Sirs what must I do to be saved." They used the same words that the Greeks used for Philip. So did Paul also consider himself as Lord?

 

 

Answer

The context

This question is related to the following passages:

 

"20And there were certain Greeks among them that came up to worship at the feast: 21The same came therefore to Philip, which was of Bethsaida of Galilee, and desired him, saying, Sir, we would see Jesus. 22Philip cometh and telleth Andrew: and again Andrew and Philip tell Jesus." (John 12:20-22)

 

"25And at midnight Paul and Silas prayed, and sang praises unto God: and the prisoners heard them. 26And suddenly there was a great earthquake, so that the foundations of the prison were shaken: and immediately all the doors were opened, and every one’s bands were loosed. 27And the keeper of the prison awaking out of his sleep, and seeing the prison doors open, he drew out his sword, and would have killed himself, supposing that the prisoners had been fled. 28But Paul cried with a loud voice, saying, Do thyself no harm: for we are all here. 29Then he called for a light, and sprang in, and came trembling, and fell down before Paul and Silas, 30And brought them out, and said, Sirs, what must I do to be saved? 31And they said, Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved, and thy house. 32And they spake unto him the word of the Lord, and to all that were in his house." (Acts 16:25-32)

 

It is true that the word "Sirs" in Acts 16:30 was translated from the Greek word kurios, which is the word used by the Greeks in John 12:21. However, to understand the difference, you must consider the context of Acts 16, starting with the verse that immediately follows Acts 16:30:

 

  1. Jesus is immediately called Lord

    In Acts 16:31, Paul and Silas said to the jail keeper "Believe on the Lord Jesus Christ, and thou shalt be saved". Both the word "Sirs" in verse 30 and "Lord" in verse 31 were translated from the same Greek word kurios, which means that the spiritual contrast intended by the Holy Spirit was lost in the translation as a result of translators who were comfortable using the word "Lord" for Jesus but not for Paul and Silas. Instead of simply translating what was in front of them, they adjusted it to their understanding, thereby muddling the message the Lord intended to portray.

     

    Thus, if you consider the fact that the word kurios is being used in both verse 30 and 31, you get the following: After the jail keeper referred to Paul and Silas as "lords" (kurios in Greek), they immediately replied by pointing the jail keeper to the lordship of Jesus Christ. In other words, they did not allow their feeble humanity to get in the way between the jail keeper and Christ. They immediately stepped out of the way and said, "He is the One". By contrast, Jesus is never referred to as "Lord" (kurios) throughout John 12. Why? Because the book of John is written from an "eagle face's perspective", i.e.- from a high spiritual perspective where spiritual principles are made to contrast and even seem ridiculous when seen from a natural perspective. This is why this book is the only gospel that has Jesus telling a crowd to eat His flesh and drink His blood (John 6:51), and it is the only gospel where Jesus openly says "Ye are gods" (John 10:34). The fact that Jesus is not referred to as "Lord" either by the Greeks (John 12:21) or even by Philip (John 12:22) means that, when seen from a purely spiritual perspective, the only one who was being glorified in that passage was natural man, not the God-nature in man, which Jesus came to reveal. The Greeks beheld a natural man, Philip, and called him "lord" because of his humanly visible ministerial position, not because they saw Jesus in him. Otherwise, they would not have said "We want to see Jesus" when they were seeing Philip.

     

    [Philip and Andrew never refer to Jesus as "Lord" in John 12, at least as the Holy Spirit heard the events unfold; maybe they did use the word "Lord" in the natural, but the Holy Spirit did not hear the word "Lord" in its true sense, for which reason He chose not to include it in the text of John 12 (Matthew 7:22-23).]

     

  2. Paul and Silas did not seem relevant at first

    The second point you must consider is all the events that had happened prior to Acts 16:30. After Paul and Silas had been severely beaten and whipped, they were handed over to the jail keeper, "... who, having received such a charge, thrust them into the inner prison, and made their feet fast in the stocks" (Acts 16:24). In other words, the jail keeper did not care much for Paul and Silas. To him, they were nothing more than another pair of worthless criminals, so much so that he put them all the way in the "inner prison". There was no sense of "ministerial reverence" or "gooey tingling up and down his legs" when he beheld them. By contrast, the Greeks who approached Philip approached him with great reverence, even though they had not seen Philip do anything other than be a "close disciple" of Jesus. The jail keeper referred to Paul and Silas as "lords" because he had seen the supernatural manifestation of God in them, even as they remained clothed in human weakness; he had seen how these chained and whipped men had triggered an earthquake through their prayer and singing (Acts 16:25-26). He beheld the presence of God Himself as he stood before them after the earthquake, even when, in the natural, he was still "lord" over them, given that he was the "jail keeper" and they were the "prisoners".

     

  3. Paul and Silas did not leave the requester behind

    The third thing you must consider (which is closely related to the first point), is the fact that Paul and Silas did not "go and do something for the jail keeper". In other words, when the jail keeper finally approached them and asked for help from them, they did not leave him there in order to go and do something on his behalf. When catholics pray to their "saints", they see these so-called "saints" as intermediaries who can "put in a good word for them" before God, which is, in a sense, what the Greeks were doing when they approached Philip. Upon receiving the Greeks' request, "saint Philip" proceeded to leave them there as he went to do what the Greeks supposedly could not do for themselves. By contrast, Paul and Silas did not "go and do a favour" for the jail keeper; instead, they showed him how to have direct access to God, right then and there. Whereas Philip [and Andrew] went to get a "fish" for the Greeks, Paul and Silas taught the jail keeper how to "fish" for himself.

     

    This idea of "going to get something for the poor chap" is emphasised by the fact that Philip went to get Andrew before going to get Jesus (John 12:22). The fact that the Holy Spirit mentioned this is to emphasise the bureaucratic and hierarchical nature of what the Greeks, Philip, and Andrew were doing. By contrast, there is no hierarchical "chain of command" illustrated in Acts 16. There, the jail keeper asks how he can have access to the God of salvation, and he is presented with the access straightaway. He is immediately introduced to the Lord Jesus Christ (Acts 16:31) and he is introduced to the fact that access is gained by faith (i.e.- believing).

     

God's testimony elsewhere

In his question, the visitor asked whether it was fair to conclude that Philip thought more highly of himself than he should if that conclusion was derived from the fact that the word kurios was applied to him, given that the faithful servants Paul and Silas were applied the same word in another passage. From all of the above, it becomes evident that the context and the spirit with which the word kurios was used in John 12 is very different from the context and spirit in Acts 16; therefore, the conclusion about what it says of the word's recipients must also be very different. Even so, the Holy Spirit made sure that there would be no possible doubt as to what Paul thought of himself when He narrated an incident that happened to Paul and his colleague (Barnabas at that time) just two chapters before Acts 16.

 

In Acts 14, the Holy Spirit narrates the day when Paul was in Lystra and he spoke a word that caused a cripple from his mother's womb to leap and walk. The crowd were so stunned by what happened that they began to "deify" Paul and Barnabas, not because they saw that the nature of God could manifest itself through weakly man, but because they saw Paul and Barnabas as beings who belonged to a "higher spiritual class". Whereas the crowd continued to see themselves as "lowly men", they began to see Paul and Barnabas as manifestations of the "gods" Jupiter and Mercury. It is interesting to consider that they gave the higher title of "Jupiter" to Barnabas because he had not said a word during the miracle (in other words, they said to themselves, "it is beneath kings to do lesser chores; that is what the king's ministers are for"; that is why Paul, who was the one who spoke the word, was seen as a minister in the service of "Barnabas Jupiter").

 

Notice, now, what Paul and Barnabas' reaction was as they were being "raised" above the crowd's level:

 

"13Then the priest of Jupiter, which was before their city, brought oxen and garlands unto the gates, and would have done sacrifice with the people. 14Which when the apostles, Barnabas and Paul, heard of, they rent their clothes, and ran in among the people, crying out, 15And saying, Sirs, why do ye these things? We also are men of like passions with you, and preach unto you that ye should turn from these vanities unto the living God, which made heaven, and earth, and the sea, and all things that are therein" (Acts 14:13-15)

 

Instead of enjoying the fact that he was being called a higher "god" (a higher "kurios"), Paul felt saddened and outraged by what the crowd were doing, and he immediately "ran in among the people" (v14), meaning that he went down to their [physical] level and said, "We are men just like you; we are at the same level as you; we do not belong to some higher echelon", and he immediately pointed them to the "living God" (v15). This episode, included in the book of Acts by the Holy Spirit, clearly certifies what Paul thought of himself and why the fact that the word kurios was applied to him (in Acts 16:30) is actually an indication that he reflected the nature of God in man, and not an indication that he deemed himself a minister "superior" to the average "plebeian". By contrast, the Holy Spirit did not make any such witness regarding Philip in the book of John. In fact, the Holy Spirit actually emphasises Philip's inability to shed the "hierarchy paradigm" in the book of John, as shown by the following passage:

 

"6Jesus saith unto him, I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me. 7If ye had known me, ye should have known my Father also: and from henceforth ye know him, and have seen him. 8Philip saith unto him, Lord, shew us the Father, and it sufficeth us. 9Jesus saith unto him, Have I been so long time with you, and yet hast thou not known me, Philip? he that hath seen me hath seen the Father; and how sayest thou then, Shew us the Father? 10Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I speak unto you I speak not of myself: but the Father that dwelleth in me, he doeth the works. 11Believe me that I am in the Father, and the Father in me: or else believe me for the very works’ sake." (John 14:6-11)

[Whereas the Lord vindicates Paul in Acts 14, the Lord indicts Philip in John 14]

 

Notice how Philip saw Jesus as just another intermediate step in the hierarchical ladder to reach the Father. Just as the Greeks had asked him to show them Jesus, he was now asking Jesus to show him the Father. Instead of congratulating him, Jesus scolds him and tries to get him to understand that God intends to manifest Himself (i.e.- make Himself seen) directly in and through man ("he that hath seen me hath seen the Father", v10). We are the direct "conduits" of God's glory on Earth, not "steps" to reach Him. The nature of God is like a river that flows from God Himself and through man into the Earth. Whatever is caught in that stream becomes One with Him. The stream is a unifying "thread" or "beam" that allows God to be all in all. This is how God intends to inundate the Earth with His glory:

 

"14For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the LORD, as the waters cover the sea. 15Woe unto him that giveth his neighbour drink, that puttest thy bottle to him, and makest him drunken also, that thou mayest look on their nakedness!" (Habakkuk 2:14-15)

 

Verse 14 is well known by many preachers. Most of these preachers, however, have yet to notice the verse that follows, which speaks a word of judgement against those who like to humiliate and put other people down. This emphasises the fact that God's Glory can only cover the Earth through believers who know that God's infinite nature can manifest itself through man; such believers know that, as His nature flows from Him through each man, it unifies all unto God. You must believe in the God-potential of man. If you believe that man is nothing more than a finite being that can be categorised into "spiritual echelons", you shall not be a conduit of God's glory. You cannot "categorise" God's infinite nature. If you try to partition an infinite set in "half", you get two infinite sets of the same "cardinality" (i.e.- size) as the original set. By contrast, if you partition a finite set in "half", you get two finite sets whose cardinality is lower than that of the original set.