Prepared by Allan L. Winger, 1996
The Written Framework from Scripture
The purpose of this chapter is to consider the written framework of the Bible for Christian growth. The verse chosen for this consideration is Luke 2:52. It was chosen because (1) it describes Christ and all Christians are to emulate Him, (2) it contains all four areas of growth which a normal person should experience, and (3) it can be easily memorized and therefore utilized as a basic reference point for Christian living.
A grammatical diagram of the verse has been given below. In this way key words and separate phrases can be seen more clearly. This diagram will be used in upcoming sections to identify the specific phrase that each section is addressing.
Grammatical Diagram of the Verse
In addition to the use of the above diagram to identify the specific phrase, each area of Christian growth in this verse will be addressed in three ways. First, word studies will be presented for the key terms in the phrase. Second, an interpretation of each phrase will be provided. Third, applications as to how the content of the particular phrase can be applied in this day and age will be given.
The name "Jesus" in this phrase is the Greek word (ee-ay-sooce’) [Strong’s Number 2424]. It is derived from the Hebrew word (yeh-ho-shoo’-ah) [Strong’s Number 3091], which means Jehovah is salvation. Iesous is translated in the AV (Authorized Version: the 1611 King James) as: Jesus (972), Jesus [Joshua] (2), and Jesus [Justus] (1); (total 975) (Logos, 1995).
Foerster (1965, pp. 287-290) writes that the name borne by Jesus is in the first instance an expression of His humanity. It is by this name that He is discussed among the people. Second, the name is not accidental. In Matt. 1:21 the angel tells Joseph, "And she (Mary) will bear a Son; and you shall call His name Jesus, for it is He who will save His people from their sins" (NASB). Third, the name Jesus is important because of the historicity of Jesus. For those who would portray Jesus as a myth, it is documented in more places than just the Bible, that He really did exist.
The word "increased" in this phrase is the Greek word (prok-op’-to) [Strong’s Number 4298]. It is derived from (pro) [Strong’s Number 4253], which means before. It is also derived from (kop’-to) [Strong’s Number 2875], which means to cut down. Prokopto is translated in the AV as: increase (2), be far spent (1), profit (1), proceed (1), and wax (1); (6 total) (Logos, 1995).
First, Stählin (1965, p. 714) writes that the New Testament concept of this word is most clearly seen in the way it used in 1 Tim. 4:15. Paul, in teaching Timothy what he should do with what he has learned, writes, "Take pains with these things; be absorbed in them, so that your progress may be evident by all" (NASB). Secondly, the concept of this word is seen in Gal. 1:14. In writing about his non-Christian past, Paul speaks of his progress in becoming a full Jew. He writes, "and I was advancing in Judaism beyond many of my contemporaries among my countrymen, being more extremely zealous for my ancestral traditions" (NASB).
The word "wisdom" in this phrase is the Greek word (sof-ee’-ah) [Strong’s Number 678]. It is derived from (sof-os') [Strong’s Number 4680], which means wise. Sophia is translated in the AV only as wisdom (51 total) (Logos, 1995).
According to Wilckens (1965, p. 514), this word epitomizes a pious manner of life which shapes the character and which finds expression in early and astonishing knowledge of the Law. An example of this kind of wisdom is also found in Mk. 6:2-3 where it is written, "And when the Sabbath had come, He began to teach in the synagogue; and the many listeners were astonished, saying, "Where did this man get these things, and what is this wisdom given to Him, and such miracles as these performed by His hands? Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary, and brother of James, and Joses, and Judas, and Simon? Are not His sisters here with us?" And they took offense at Him" (NASB).
It is written in verse 46, "And it came about that after three days they (Mary and Joseph) found Him in the temple, sitting in the midst of the teachers, both listening to them, and asking them questions." (NASB). Caird (1978, p. 66) states, concerning this episode in the temple, that at the age of twelve a Jewish boy became a son of the Law (bar mitzvah). He was then able to accept for himself the responsibilities and obligations to which his parents had committed him by the rite of cicumcision. Geldenhuys (1951, p. 131) writes that it was generally admitted that it was a custom for the pupil to present and answer questions. This kind of discourse formed an essential element in the ancient Jewish method of instruction. Morgan (1931, p. 46) explains verse 52 by stating that Jesus had to face problems. He had to seek for information. He had to find out. He is seen having to hack His own way on (literal meaning of the word "increase). Jesus advanced in wisdom by constantly filling His mind with new and different truths.
Hughes (1978, p. 2) states that intellectual growth is, "Reading; studying; academic life; discerning right from wrong; being exposed to and involved in cultural activities and events; being knowledgeable of world events. The world has a craving for instant gratification. It is not easy to slow down and read a book. But the rewards that come from opening the human imagination with the printed page far surpass anything that might be seen on television, in the movie theater, or an amusement park.
The word "stature" in this phrase is the Greek word (hay-lik-ee’-ah) [Strong’s Number 2244]. It is derived from (hay-lee’-kos) [Strong’s Number 2245], which means how great. Helikia is translated in the AV as: stature (5) and age (3); (total 8) (Logos, 1995).
Schneider (1965, pp. 941-942) states that this word speaks of the age of physical maturity, the age of discretion, adult life. It can also be used theologically to mean completeness in Christ. This is shown in Eph. 4:13 where Paul writes, "until we all attain to the unity of the faith, and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to a mature man, to the measure of the stature which belongs to the fullness of Christ" (NASB). With this in mind it matters not whether the word means mature age or full physical maturity. Stature in Christ is more important.
For interpretation of the second phrase, verse 40 should be examined as a comparison with verse 52. There it is written, "And the child continued to grow and become strong, increasing in wisdom; and the grace of God was upon Him" (NASB).
Morgan (1931, pp. 43 & 46) states that verse 40 talks of the first twelve years of the life of Jesus, His childhood. Verse 52 speaks of the next eighteen years between boyhood and maturity. The first verse speaks of normal physical growth that no one can control by the will. The second verse states that He "advanced in growth," practicing the culture of the body, and the restraint of the body, holding passion under the mastery of principle.
Hughes (1978, p. 2) writes that physical growth is, "Keeping in good physical condition; maintaining proper weight; eating a well-balanced diet; getting proper rest and exercise; not contaminating the body with any destructive force." There is nothing wrong with the current craze for physical fitness as long as it is maintained as just part of the Christian life and not all of it. Then it becomes a humanistic religion that replaces true Christianity.
The word "favor" in this phrase is the Greek word (khar’-ece) [Strong’s Number 5485]. It is derived from (khah’-ee-ro) [Strong’s Number 5463], which means to rejoice or be glad. Charis is translated in the AV as: grace (130), favor (6), thanks (4), thank (4), pleasure (2), and miscellaneous other words (7); (total 153) (Logos, 1995).
Strong (Logos, 1995) writes that this word speaks "of the merciful kindness by which God, exerting his holy influence upon souls, turns them to Christ, keeps, strengthens, increases them in Christian faith, knowledge, affection, and kindles them to the exercise of the Christian virtues."
Conzelmann (1965, p. 392) also compares the usage of this word in Luke 2:52 to that in Luke 1:30. This is where the angel is telling Mary about her becoming the mother of Jesus. Luke writes, "And the angel said to her, ‘Do not be afraid, Mary; for you have found favor with God’" (NASB).
The word "God" in this phrase is the Greek word (theh’-os) [Strong’s Number 2316]. It is not derived from another Greek word. It is translated in the AV as: God (1320), god (13), godly (3), miscellaneous other words (5); (total 1341) (Logos, 1995).
Stauffer (1965, p. 101) discusses the usage of this word in the confession and practice of early Christianity. The first biblical reference that is mentioned is Mk. 12:29 where Jesus quotes the great shema from Dt. 6:4. Those words are, "Hear, O Israel, the Lord our God, the Lord is one (NIV). This verse is used to show that monotheism should not only be a firm part of Jewish tradition. It should be a firm part of Christian tradition as well.
For the interpretation of this phrase Morgan (1931, pp. 46-47) compares the content of this phrase with that of the phrase in verse 40 that is similar. As a child the grace of God was on Him. Now, as He is passing through boyhood to full maturity, Jesus is living in grace. He lived in all the years of development, maintaining His fellowship with God, by the side of God. Thus we see the spiritual development of Jesus under the constraint of a will submitted to God.
Hughes (1978, p. 2) states that spirtual growth is, "Spending time with God in prayer, meditation, worship, and Bible reading, study and memorization; following and living the day-to-day experiences of the Christian life." Starting the day with devo’s (devotions) is one example of how all the above can be put into one exercise.
The word "man " is the Greek word (anth’-ro-pos) [Strong’s Number 444). It is derived from (an’-ayr) [Strong’s Number 435], which means man or husband. Anthropos is translated in the AV as: man (552), not translated (4), and miscellaneous other words (3); (total 559). Strong goes on further to define the word anthropos as a generic term that includes all human individuals (Logos, 1995).
Jeremias (1965, p. 364) states that anthropos means "man" as a species that is distinct from animals (Mt. 12:12), angels (1 Cor. 4:9), Jesus Christ (Gal. 1:12), and God (Mk. 11:30). It is further stated that this term denotes not only the sinfulness of human nature. Anthropos also denotes the temporal nature of earthly life as compared with life in eternity.
Hendriksen (1978, p. 186) writes that this phrase shows that what was written in Prov. 3:4 was fulfilled in Jesus. Starting with verse three it is written: "Do not let kindness and truth leave you; bind them around your neck, write them on the tablet of your heart. So you will find favor and good repute in the sight of God and man" (NASB).
Liefeld (1976, p. 852) states that the good reputation Jesus enjoyed with men was continued in the Church. In Acts 2:46-47 it is written, "And day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they (the Church) were taking meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart, praising God, and having favor with all the people. And the Lord was adding to their number day by day those who were being saved" (NASB).
Getz (1969, p. 111) says that this statement in context reveals that Jesus had just amazed the doctors in the temple with His wisdom and knowledge (Acts 2:46-47). In other words Jesus was growing in relationship to people around Him. His personality showing through His humanity was gracious.
Hughes (1978, p. 2) defines social growth by saying that it is "Being with people; giving your life in a witness and ministry to others; growing, serving and sharing with fellow believers in Christ; worshipping with God’s people; using leisure time and recreational activities to maximum benefit; social action involvement." There is more to church than just the sermon or the music. There is a time to be by oneself. There is also a time to be with others. A good balance between the two is important.
Luke 2:52 clearly shows the life that all Christians should emulate. It contains all four areas of Christian growth that each member of the Church should have some level of control over. It is an excellent teaching tool for the family. It is also a user friendly reference point for continuing with what will be discussed in the chapters to follow.