Wherefore Therefore?

In memory work, at times I find myself struggling to recall the correct word in a context which might contain either one of two very similar sounding words, and also very similarly defined words.

For example, does it say wherefore or therefore? Both words relate to explaining the cause of something, providing a reason, but not in exactly the same way. Perhaps there’s a way to help by noting more carefully the nuance between these two words.

If the context is a question, the correct word is always wherefore. Therefore clearly doesn’t belong. For example, “Wherefore then serveth the law? It was added because of transgressions, till the seed should come to whom the promise was made; and it was ordained by angels in the hand of a mediator.” (Ga 3:19) Therefore won’t work here.

There happens to be a text in Acts which uses both words and the context clearly distinguishes the meanings: “Some therefore cried one thing, and some another: for the assembly was confused; and the more part knew not wherefore they were come together.” (Ac 19:32) Both words relate to explaining why, yet in different ways. The therefore could be “for this reason,” but this  wouldn’t work for wherefore, which is more of a “for what reason”. Wherefore seems to be more related to uncertainty than explaining a known cause.

So, what shall we do with this one? “Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed?” (Mt 6:30-31) The wherefore is drawing a conclusion based on what has been stated, as and so, while therefore is, again, drawing an inference based on facts:  for this reason.

This suggests that there may be a hint in where the word is placed in flow of the logic: wherefore is often referencing a point just made, something already stated or which occurred in the past, where and so is explaining which is why in light of it (Ga 3:23-24); whereas therefore is often placed before the reasoning or explanation, preceding it in the logic and pointing forward to it. (Ro 2:1)

These thoughts may be somewhat helpful in sorting out the meaning of a text and recalling it more accurately, or useful in employing the nuances of such words to try to more reliably understand the flow of logic in the text.

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Repent and Believe

John the Baptist prepared the way for Christ by preaching repentance (Mk 1:4); Christ Himself preached the same (Mk 1:14-15) and so did His disciples. (Mk 6:12) Repent: this is Christ’s first call.

To repent is to change your mind, to start thinking differently, and the context here is sin (Mk 2:17), which is breaking God’s Law. (1Jn 3:4) God is introducing Himself by saying, Change your mind about breaking My Law.

This isn’t quite the same as, stop sinning; no one can totally stop sinning and live perfectly. (1Jn 1:8) It’s more like … stop sinning on purpose, deliberately, intentionally; stop thinking it’s OK to sin, that God doesn’t mind.

Sin is offensive to God, and willful, intentional sin angers Him. (He 10:26-27) Choosing sin is choosing darkness (Jn 3:19), choosing the lie; and God is light (1Jn 1:5); God is Truth. (Jn 14:6) Walk in the light. Pursue the truth. Do your best to obey God’s Law, all of it, as well as you can, and keep asking Him for help where you’re still failing to keep it perfectly. It’s the only way to be in relationship with God. (1Jn 1:6-7)

Christ follows this call to repentance with a call to believe the gospel, the good news that the kingdom of God is open to us. He doesn’t start with this message; that would be like the King giving us directions to His home while we’re still defying Him and running away; it doesn’t even make sense. Before giving us directions to help us find the Way, we must be seeking Him. (He 11:6)

Those who aren’t trying to obey God don’t know Him (1Jn 3:6); those who intend to continue offending Him have alienated themselves from salvation itself. (Ps 119:155)

Salvation isn’t so much about deliverance from Hell as it is the offer of a new nature that’s inclined to obey God’s Law (He 8:10), freeing us from the power and dominion of sin so we can fellowship with Him. (Ro 6:22) Repentance is God’s gift (1Ti 2:25), opening the door to salvation, enabling us to turn from death to life. (Ac 11:18)

This may explain why Christ replied to the rich young ruler the way He did (Mk 10:17-19); it was an invitation to take God’s Law seriously. The Law is our teacher to bring us to Christ (Ga 3:24); until we earnestly submit to this divine teacher and learn from Him we won’t find Christ.

To profess Christ yet not do what He says (Lk 6:46) is to deceive ourselves (Ja 1:22), miss Heaven altogether (Mt 7:21), and store up eternal wrath for ourselves. (Ro 2:8-9)

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Full of Sores

Until very recently, I’ve been troubled by the idea of arbitrary suffering; not persecution, but the agony which falls upon many of us for no apparent reason. It was perhaps my greatest fear, that some day I’d be abandoned to suffer pointlessly and alone.

God’s promise to care for me (1Pe 5:7) wasn’t actually helping much; He does, in fact, let some of His children suffer unspeakable things for prolonged periods, not for any obvious wrong-doing, like Lazarus: immobile, full of sores, exposed, vulnerable and dependent, begging for scraps until his very last day. (Lk 16:19-21) This was a mystery and a worry, until I heard Maybel’s story.

Maybel, an elderly, ailing woman with no family or friends, suffered for over a quarter century, wasting away in a convalescent home. Blind, mostly deaf, ravaged by painful stomach and back issues, debilitating headaches, disfigured by facial cancer, constantly drooling, surrounded day and night with unbearable stench and shrieks of the insane, she spent her days strapped in a wheelchair – her only human contact from overworked nursing staff, who considered her the most daunting to care for of all their patients due to the horror of her appearance.

She was discovered quite accidentally by a seminary student back in the mid-70’s, as he offered her a flower and wished her a Happy Mother’s Day, not expecting much of a response. She held up the flower to smell it, thanked him for his kindness, and promptly asked if she could give it away to someone who could enjoy its beauty, since she was blind. He wheeled her over to another patient, and she offered it up saying, “Here, this is from Jesus.”

As he wheeled Maybel back to her room and learned more of her story, it became clear that this was no ordinary woman. Over the course of the next three years they become friends. He often read scripture to her, pausing to let her continue quoting from memory. They’d sing the old hymns; she knew them all by heart and would pause to explain how much a certain phrase or verse meant to her. He took notes from their conversations as she encouraged, challenged and comforted him, ministering to him and praying for him. She never complained, always cheerful, thoughtful, kind and joyful.

One Sunday afternoon during final exams, overwhelmed with distraction and worry, unable to keep his mind in focus, he wondered what Maybel thought about, lying in bed or strapped to her wheelchair, as the seconds ticked by, day after day, year after year … decade after decade. When he asked her she said, “I think about my Jesus. I think about how good he’s been to me. He’s been awfully good to me in my life, you know … I’m one of those kind who’s mostly satisfied … Lots of folks wouldn’t care much for what I think. Lots of folks would think I’m kind of old-fashioned. But I don’t care. I’d rather have Jesus. He’s all the world to me.” She then began to sing an old hymn …

Jesus is all the world to me,
My life, my joy, my all.
He is my strength from day to day,
Without him I would fall.
When I am sad, to him I go,
No other one can cheer me so.
When I am sad he makes me glad.
He’s my friend.

Mabel was an overcomer, remaining thankful, cheerful and joyful through the most unspeakable afflictions. God worked in the midst of what appeared to be arbitrary and pointless suffering to glorify Himself and His mighty power through the frailest and ugliest of us. Maybel was a broken woman in every earthly sense, but she was powerful (Ep 1:19-20), a Spartan on the spiritual battlefield until she went home to glory.

It turns out my greatest fear wasn’t being left alone, or suffering, in itself. I was afraid I’d never be able to glorify God in such a state. (1Pe 1:7) After hearing what God did in Maybel, I’m no longer afraid; she’s living proof that we can suffer with God, in God, and for God no matter what the trial. (Ro 8:35-37)

I will overcome, I already have, because greater is He that is in me, than he that is in the world. (1Jn 4:4)

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