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Ah, Grammer

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Ah, Grammer

Grammar is not your mama’s mama. It’s plain old English applied like it ought to be. We may not like it, but it matters. Grammar is not just a matter of piddling with words. It’s important. There’s really no choice: if you’re going to read and understand the Bible, you have to deal with grammar. That’s just a fact of life, like it or not. Here is an interesting bit to show you what I mean.

Matthew 28:19-20 and its meaning in light of its grammar is worthy to be discussed. Note the key verbs in this passage as they are translated in the KJV. "Go…teach all nations, baptizing them …and teaching them…" The typical explanation and application of this passage is: Jesus said we should 1) teach people, then 2) baptize them, and then 3) teach them some more. Whereas it is certainly true that we should do just that, this is not the full meaning of Matthew 28:19-20.

For one thing the first "teach" and the second "teaching" are not the same words. The first one is a form of the Greek verb matheiteuo and the second one is a from of the Greek verb didasko. Just looking at them, it is clear that they are not the same. Matheiteuo is the verb form of the noun metheiteis which means "disciple." Jesus said, "Go disciple all nations," or as the ASV says, "Go make disciples of all the nations." It would be the same as saying, "Go make Christians of all the nations."

The logical question here would be, How does one make Christians out of people in all the nations? Jesus says, by "baptizing [and] teaching." Paying attention to grammar, one will look at the ending of the words baptidzontes and didaskontes. People who spent lifetimes in Greek determined that ontes signifies that the verbs with this ending are present active participles. That’s why, when translating into English, they put "ing" on the end of the verbs "baptizing" and "teaching."

A. T. Robertson said, "baptidzontes and didaskontes in Mt. 28:19 f. [are] modal participles." (Grammar of the Greek New Testament, p. 1128). "Modal" comes from "mode," which has to do with manner or method of doing something. Simply put, the modal participles, "baptizing" and "teaching," are there in order to explain the manner or means by which the apostles were to "make disciples of all the nations." It would be like saying, "Make the car look sharp: washing it, waxing it." In such a case, the meaning is not 1) make it sharp, then 2) wash it, and then 3) wax it. "Washing and waxing," explain the mode or manner by which the car is to be made sharp. They are modal participles. This is easy to understand.

Understanding and applying what is taught by the words and grammar of Matthew 28:19-20 has great practical benefit. First, it knocks in the head the all-too- common practice of teaching people who know zip about the Bible, that there once was a man named Jesus, and then in the next breath, telling them they must be immersed in water. Jesus said, "make disci-ples," by not only "baptizing" them, but also by "teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you."

Brother Thomas Warren once said: "Obviously, this does not mean that the one who is teaching the prospective candidate for baptism [must teach the candidate] the specific details of every individual or particular instruction in the gospel…but it does mean that Christ expects those who preach the gospel to the lost to so teach that, when the lost confess their faith in Christ (just prior to being baptized, Acts 8:26-40; Rom. 10:9-10), they are to have been taught that they are, in that confession, publicly committing themselves to being faithful to Christ–i.e., to all of the law (gospel) of Christ for the rest of their lives." (Keeping the Lock in Wedlock, p. 125).

We simply do wrong when, in our exuberance to get people into the water, we fail to impress upon them that they are committing themselves to a lifetime effort of "observing all things whatsoever [Christ] commanded [the apostles]." The unspoken, yet practiced, doctrine of, Baptize [shoot] first, then ask questions later, is false. –Selected and Adapted



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