Word of the Week
July 16, 2022
Hikanoō: Do You Qualify?
Giving thanks to the Father, who has qualified us to share in the inheritance of the saints in light.
To qualify for membership in Mensa International, you must score in the top 2% of the population on a standard IQ test.
To join the Daughters of the American Revolution, you have to provide documentation showing that you are a bloodline descendant from someone who served in the American Revolutionary War.
To receive a share in a billionaire’s estate, you need to be mentioned in his will.
If you don’t have the right credentials, you don’t qualify for the benefits.
In Colossians 1:12, the apostle Paul explained how we can share in the greatest inheritance of all – and he used a fascinating Greek word to reveal the secret.
When he described the way that we can qualify for a share in this inheritance, he used the Greek word hikanoō, which appears only twice in the New Testament. To understand the underlying idea, we must go to another word in the same family, hikanos, which is found 39 times, usually translated “large, sufficient, enough.”.
Luke likes to use hikanos to describe something large or substantial, like a big crowd (Luke 7:12; Acts 11:26), a long time (Luke 8:27; Acts 9:43; 14:3) or even a herd of pigs large enough to absorb two thousand demons (Luke 8:32). Herod had wanted for a long time to see Jesus (Luke 23:8), and when he finally had his chance, he questioned the teacher for a long time (Luke 23:9). In Ephesus, a great many Christians burned the magic books they had formerly used (Acts 19:19). When Paul was describing his experience on the road to Damascus, he said, “A very bright [hikanos] light suddenly flashed from heaven all around me” (Acts 22:6).
In other passages, the word goes further – hikanos is not just a lot; it is enough to accomplish its intended purpose. When Paul told the Corinthian church to discipline a man involved in blatant immorality, they put him out of their fellowship. By the time the apostle wrote another letter, the penalty had motivated the man to repent, so Paul told them to restore him: “Sufficient for such a person is the punishment which was inflicted” (2 Corinthians 2:6).
Then there is one other shade of meaning: hikanos can mean “fit, worthy” – qualified for a position of privilege or responsibility.
- John the Baptist said, “I am not fit to remove the sandals of Him who is coming after me” (Matthew 3:11).
- Paul said, “I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God” (1 Corinthians 15:9).
- The apostle Paul instructed Timothy to entrust the teachings he had received to “faithful people who will be able [fit, worthy] to teach others also (2 Timothy 2:2).
Do you notice that Paul and John do not consider themselves worthy of the ministry they have been assigned? How could you say that a man who tried to drive Christians to death could qualify to lead the churches springing up across the Roman Empire?
It’s a question we can ask ourselves: What makes me think I am qualified to be part of God’s church at all, much less an effective ambassador of the Kingdom? The New Testament teaches clearly that we are sinners who do not deserve a place in the Lord’s family. And a realistic look in the mirror will remind us that we don’t have what it takes to adequately represent the Lord of glory.
That’s where we come back to the word where we began: hikanoō. This verb doesn’t mean “to be qualified or adequate.” It means “to make someone qualified.”
Colossians 1:12 doesn’t say that God looked around to check out potential candidates and noticed that we had all the qualifications for the job. No, He made us qualified to share in the vast body of family members who enjoy a chance to participate in the inheritance provided by the One who died for us. On our own merits, we would never qualify for eternity with God. But by His remarkable grace, He has put our names on the list. We are in His will, you might say, and we get a share of the inheritance!
And that’s not all! The same grace that allowed us to share an inheritance also made us adequate to serve our Lord with eternal impact. Paul declared, “Not that we are adequate in ourselves so that we could consider anything as coming from ourselves. Our adequacy is from God, who also made us adequate as servants of a new covenant” (2 Corinthians 3:5-6). We simply don’t have the ability to accomplish spiritual objectives, but we serve a God who provides the power and direction to do remarkable things through our lives.
How humbling and refreshing to remember that we are not qualified for anything, but we serve a God who provides our credentials!
The word hikanos also appears frequently in the Greek Old Testament, the Septuagint. If you click on the right spot in a software program like Blue Letter Bible, you can pull up a list of the 28 verses where the word is used. Hikanos is used to describe what craftsmen need for work (Exodus 36:7), the help that a brother needs (Leviticus 25:25), the food needed to ward off hunger (Proverbs 25:16), the animal required for a sacrifice (Leviticus 5:7) and more.
Q – Does the Greek tell us anything that will help us understand Christ’s statement, “Whatever you bind on earth will be bound in heaven:?
A – The significance of binding (and loosing) in passages like Matthew 16:19 and 18:18 has been explained in various ways because the words can have more than one meaning. Personally, I think that it refers to the act of a religious leader telling someone that an action is sinful and wrong (binding) or permissible and right (loosing). Other ideas are possible.
There’s one feature of the Greek grammar that does seem important to me. Jesus uses an unusual combination of verbs here: the verb “to be” followed by a thing called a perfect participle, which describes something that has already happened, with lasting results. In this verse, I would paraphrase it this way, “Whatever you declare to be bound on earth is something that has already been settled in heaven.” In other words, Peter and the other disciples are not making their own decisions about what is right and wrong; they are simply announcing what God has already determined.
At a time when people are sensitive to any variety of prejudice, it is important to build a biblical perspective on the subject. Next week we will examine the Greek word that describes the type of prejudice that existed in the first century church.
©Ezra Project 2022