Apotithemi: Shedding Layers

Word of the Week

October 7, 2023

Apotithēmi: Shedding Layers


Therefore, since we have so great a cloud of witnesses surrounding us, let us also lay aside every encumbrance, and the sin which so easily entangles us, and let us run with endurance the race that is set before us.

Hebrews 12:1 NASB


We were at the starting line for a 10K race this morning.  Most people were getting ready to run 6 miles; I was getting ready to walk – briskly.  Temperatures touching the 30s and a brisk breeze motivated most people to bundle up against the cold.

Then the horn blasted and we all started moving.  A mile later, the exercise generated enough body heat to overcome the chill, so people started shedding layers of clothing.  Take off the sweater and tie it around your waist.  Pull off the windbreaker and toss it to the side of the path.  The extra garb had become a hindrance, not a help.

Hebrews 12 describes a first-century race using a Greek word that describes a scene much like the one that I witnessed today.

The word is apotithēmi, a simple word crafted from two Greek terms that mean “put or place” and “away from.” It is an apt word for taking off things that you want to get rid of.

Two New Testament passages illustrate the basic idea.

Stephen stood before the Jewish Sanhedrin and gave such a ringing testimony about Jesus that the session broke up in disorder.  Furious men dragged him out to stone him to death, and as they prepared to heft the rocks that would kill him, they “laid aside their robes” and piled them at the feet of a young man named Saul (Acts 7:58).  Long robes would hamper their throwing arms, so they took them off.

John the Baptist irked king Herod by denouncing his illicit marriage, so the monarch decided to silence John by arresting him.  He “put him in prison,” getting rid of an unwanted annoyance by removing him from the public square (Matthew 14:3).

As you can see, apotithēmi describes a person removing something (or someone) undesirable.  You are taking off excess clothing that hinders you or getting rid of a problem person.

Apotithēmi appears in 7 other New Testament passages, all describing things that followers of Jesus can do without.  Anything that hinders our spiritual progress must go!

What are the things that we should shed?

  • Romans 13:12 – Lay aside the deeds of darkness.
  • Ephesians 4:22 – Lay aside the old self.
  • Ephesians 4:25 – Lay aside falsehood
  • Colossians 3:8 – Lay aside your old behaviors such as anger, wrath, malice, slander, and abusive speech.
  • James 1:21 – Lay aside all filthiness and all that remains of wickedness.
  • 1 Peter 2:1 – Lay aside all malice, deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander.

It is an ugly collection of character traits that interfere with God’s intention to transform us in people who resemble Jesus.

Some are blatant evils while others are more subtle sins, but all are outcomes of our natural bent to selfishness and pride.  They are standard behavior in the “domain of darkness” (Romans 13:12; cf. Colossians 1:13).

They surface in every life.  When they do, God says, “Lay them aside!”

When a person places their faith in Jesus as their Savior and Lord, they have a new identity as a child of God.  The Lord changes us on the inside so that change is possible.

It is not just an exercise in self-control, struggling to squelch bad attitudes.  We lay aside sinful patterns and put on the garments of our new identity, a wardrobe of righteousness.

  • Romans 13:12 – We put on the armor of light.
  • Ephesians 4:22-23 – We put on the new self, which has been created in righteousness and holiness of the truth.
  • Ephesians 4:25 – We put on truth instead of falsehood.
  • Colossians 3:9 – We put on the new self.

As you run the race, you will find that you no longer need the old garb that holds you back.  You can toss it to the side and speed toward the finish line unhindered.

Study Hint:

Colossians uses a different word with a similar meaning:  apekduō, “to put off, put away.”  This word is a strong word that describes a complete putting off and removal, one that cannot be reversed.  Paul reminds us that we “have laid aside the old self with its evil practices” (Colossians 3:9).  He uses the same word in Colossians 2:15, describing the way the victorious Christ stripped His enemies of their robes of office at the cross.  Some think the verse refers to stripping off the armor of His foes.  Either way, Satan is defeated and is powerless to make a comeback.




Q – My Bible says we should  be ready to preach God’s Word “in season and out of season” in 2 Timothy 4:2.  What do those phrases mean?

A – Perhaps the easiest way to explain these words is to look at how they’re constructed.  Both are build on the Greek word Kairos, which means “time,” but not in the sense of minutes ticking away on a clock.  Kairos refers to a crucial moment in time, a turning point or opportunity.  Paul took that word and added two different syllables to the front to make two separate words.  First, he added eu, which means “good, well.”  A eukairos would be “a good opportunity.”  This might describe a situation where everything comes together to provide a natural way to share God’s Word.  Second, he made another word by adding a, which means “not.”  The new word akairos would be a “not opportunity,” a situation where it seems that there is no good opportunity to talk about the gospel.

In practical terms, God may nudge you to be His spokesman in a given situation.  Obey His nudge whether you can see a natural opening or you seem to be facing a brick wall.  God promises to handle results; our part is faithful obedience.


Coming Up

I recently received a question from a physician in Australia who wants to investigate what the Bible says about healing.  Next week we will look at Greek words which touch that topic.

©Ezra Project 2023

One Response

  1. Thank you for your explanation of 2 Timothy 4:2, using eukairos and akairos. That smooths out the rough edges of the KJV here.
    Thanks for your intuitive approach to Biblical Greek, especially giving 3 levels. This is much more like the natural way we learn any language as children. May God continue blessing your ministry!

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