Examining "Not" and "Now"
The scriptures claim to be of Divine origin (2 Tim. 3: 16, 17). This claim is substantiated in many internal and external ways. I have been a student of Greek for many years and each time I engage in a serious study of the scriptures, I witness the mind of God not only in what is taught, but also in the way it is taught. I am referring to Greek grammar, vocabulary, and syntax. The Holy Spirit, the member of the Godhead directly responsible for revelation, not only presented through various men concepts, but the very words themselves and then, the words mixed with syntax (cp. I Cor. 2: 13, John 14: 26, 16: 13). In this written teaching circumstance, we do not observe recklessness and the irresponsible use of words and grammar, but rather a learned, precise, and highly correct written conveyance.
A study of "not" as used by the Holy Spirit. The word "not" (ma) is observed in Greek grammar as an adverb of negation, conjunction, and an interrogative particle. In addition, there is what I call the use of "not" as negation of explanation, an adversative conjunction, and to list or enumerate items, such a list containing negation. It is evident that we have a negation circumstance in Hebrews 4: 2 when the writer mentions the fact that God’s people of old were rejected, but it is more than a negation. Notice the wording: "For unto us was the gospel preached, as well as unto them: but the word preached did not profit them, not being mixed with faith in them that heard it." The latter part of the verse does not contain a simple negation, but a "not situation" that explains why the word did not profit them. The adversative conjunction posture presents an opposite, a converse circumstance that also provides explanation.
"Think not that I am come to destroy the law, or the prophets," Jesus states, "I am not come to destroy, but to fulfil" (Matt. 5: 17). It was not Jesus’ intention to collide with the moral teaching of the Law of Moses. Rather he taught conformity to it (cp. Matt. 23: 1, 2). Jesus became the substance for the Mosaic shadows. Jesus himself perfectly kept the teaching of the Law (Heb. 4: 15). Jesus was the "end" (Greek, fulfillment) of the Law (Rom. 10: 4). Jesus defended the Law and challenged all teaching that perverted the Law (cp. Matt. 5: 21ff.). However, the types and shadows were fulfilled in Jesus and his teaching.
The Spirit used "not" to set forth some of the qualifications for elders in I Timothy 3: 3. These qualifications for God’s leaders and superintendents in the local church are all presented as requisite and necessary (Acts 14: 23, I Tim. 3: 7). In our society, "not" teaching is often viewed as simply negative and not wanted. However, what elders are "not to be" was just as important as what they "are to be." "Not" functions as conceptional as well as didactic or informational.
"Not" in Colossians 3: 1, 2. Consider Paul’s teaching: "If ye then be risen with Christ, seek those things which are above, where Christ sitteth on the right hand of God. Set your affection on things above, not on things on the earth." After stating what is to be the focus of the affections of the Christian, the Spirit through Paul then shows what must not be the attention, "…things of the earth." Jesus earlier explained that where one’s attention is placed, there one’s heart will also be (Matt. 6: 19-24). The idea of "risen" in Colossians 3: 1 (see Romans 6) coupled with where the focus is to be involves gradation. To rather have one’s affection on earthly things is to lower oneself.
The Spirit used "not" to teach regarding the husband’s love for his wife. Paul penned, "Husbands, love your wives, and be not bitter against them" (Col. 3: 19). Here we have an apparent adversative conjunction use of "not," a case of explanatory contrast. Love seeks the best and respects its object. Bitterness is incongruous with such love. To be "bitter against them" is to not love as one should. Some husbands seem to have the mindset that they may not love their wives, but they are not bitter against them. In reality, when there is the absence of such enjoined love, bitterness often prevails.
"Not" is used to explain what walking disorderly means. "Now we command you, brethren, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that ye withdraw yourselves from every brother that walketh disorderly, and not after the tradition which he received of us" Paul enjoins (2 Thes. 3: 6). "Traditions" are the commandments from God that have been "handed down" (cp. 2 Thes. 2: 15). Hence, when a Christian "breaks rank" or gets out-of-step with the teaching of God’s word and so persists, they are to experience the withdrawal action of God’s faithful. "Not" stresses the importance of God’s directives and shows how true fellowship is predicated on mutual conformity to God’s word.
There are many other instances of the Spirit using "not" to set forth urgent truths. Christians are to be "settled, not moved away," women are to be "…adorned in modest apparel…not with broided hair…," and are to be "children of the day…let us not sleep" (Col. 1: 22, 23; I Tim. 2: 9, 10; I Thes. 5: 5, 6).
The common teaching today that preachers of the gospel must not use "not," because such stresses the wrong thing and is negative is thus shown to be false. The Spirit often used "not," as a simple negation of explanation, adversative conjunction, and to spell out a number of spiritually enjoined items. "Not" so used announces that there is a right and wrong. Some matters are acceptable and some are not acceptable and are to be avoided.
There are about twenty-five different Greek words in the vocabulary of the New Testament translated into our English "now." A simple collective meaning of "now" is, "Today; already; a step; time; at present; now." "Now" is used by the Spirit to emphasize the present (Rom. 5: 9), and sometimes to contrast with the past (Gal. 1: 23). The "past" can also be "now," in the sense of Ecclesiastes 3: 15. "Now" as often used in the scriptures, presents a present set of circumstances that are special, due to various considerations and conditions.
"Now" as seen in Romans 5: 9. Consider Paul’s statement: "Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through him." The special circumstance and applied meaning of "now" in the text of Romans 5: 9 is seen in such verses as verse 2, 6, and 8. Christians "now" have justification in view of Jesus Christ (v. 2); Christ died for the ungodly (v. 6); and God commended His love toward us through and in Jesus (v. 8). The "now" of Romans 5: 9 is powerful when thus contextually understood.
"Now" as considered in Nehemiah 1: 6. It is evident that the prayer of Nehemiah is special and extraordinary; the "now" shows this to be the case. The question is why? The answer resides in verses 3, 4, and 5-7. God’s people were in great affliction and the wall of Jerusalem was broken down (v. 3), Nehemiah was greatly burdened by this news (v. 4), and Nehemiah is aware of the sins of the people and their desperate need of forgiveness and God’s help (vs. 4-11). Prayer should always have special meaning and place in the life of the Christian (I Thes. 5: 17). However, there are times when prayer is even more urgent and important. The word "now" in the case of Nehemiah illustrates this.
"Now" be baptized. In the case of Jesus being baptized of John, we read: "And Jesus answering said unto him, Suffer it to be so now: for thus it becometh us to fulfil all righteousness. Then he suffered him" (Matt. 3). Jesus is the greatest exemplar who has ever lived (I Pet. 2: 21). While John’s baptism had some dissimilarities to the baptism Jesus would later include in his Great Commission (Mark 16: 15, 16), it, nonetheless, had to be obeyed. Being baptized of John was part of "fulfilling all righteousness." In fact, regarding the baptism applicable to all today, the baptism of the Great Commission, we read how those who believed were "immediately baptized" (cp. Acts 16: 33). An act that resulted in the "forgiveness of sins" as well as many other accomplishments was and is a "now" matter.
"Now" in heaviness. "Wherein ye greatly rejoice, though now for a season, if need be, ye are in heaviness through manifold temptations," Peter taught (I Pet. 1: 6). The distress or heaviness was a result of the suffering. This suffering, though, was only "for a season." Thus, Peter by using "now" places emphasis on the then condition, the circumstance of suffering as compared to a following time providing the absence of such affliction. In other words, Peter or the Spirit is showing how they could endure, knowing that the "now" would not be involved in the subsequent (cp. I Cor. 10: 13).
"Now" in the case of the man whose sight was realized. "He answered and said, Whether he be a sinner or no, I know not," John records, "one thing I know, that, whereas I was blind, now I see (John 9: 25). The man was born blind or was "blind from his birth" (v. 1). What is the significance of "now" in this case? The "now" not only shows a different situation, he now sees, but also stresses the source of his vision, Jesus who healed him (see v. 11).
In conclusion, the word "not" along with all of its potential and situationally actual grammatical meaning, conveys many precise thoughts and truths. "Now" as used by the Holy Spirit, also richly contributes not only to the vocabulary of the New Testament, but also intelligently sets forth many lessons. The vocabulary is not only grammatically correct and affluent, but it illustrates the nature of God’s communiqué to man. Rich, precise, correct, and exceedingly intelligible. If so many truths can be gleaned relative to two relatively small words in the functional vocabulary of the Spirit, "not" and "now," so many more observations can be made regarding many other more involved and manifold in thought words. Of a truth, the Bible is from God and is not simply the result of comparatively uneducated men writing it.