Word of the Week
November 4, 2023
Phaneroō: The Big Reveal
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory.
Colossians 3:4 NASB
Those who have watched the TV show Fixer Upper know that the climax comes when a couple is standing before a huge screen waiting to see their transformed home for the first time. Chip and Joanna Gaines ask, “Are you ready to see your new home?” Then they pull the screen aside, revealing the results of the weeks of renovation. You can’t help but be blown away by the transformation.
On an infinitely larger scale, the Lord God is the great Fixer of the universe. Throughout history, He has been working on a renovation project that we can scarcely imagine. Much of the work goes on behind the scenes, out of our sight. But He plans to go public with the finished product one day.
The New Testament uses a vivid Greek word to describe the unveiling, and we are going to take a closer look at that word today.
The word is phaneroō [fah-neh-RAH-oh], which occurs 49 times in the New Testament. Paul and John both use it extensively in their writings. It is usually translated as “to reveal, to make known, to make manifest.”
It comes from the root word phainō, which means “to shine, to be bright, to give light.” The key idea is to bring something hidden into the light so that all can see it. You can see that picture in Ephesians 5:13, where Paul declares that “all things become visible when they are exposed by the light, for everything that becomes visible is light.”
Phaneroō describes something that has been hidden, but is not brought into the light. Jesus said,
Nothing is hidden, except to be revealed” (Mark 4:22).
It marks the difference between something held privately and something made known publicly. Christ’s brothers once urged him to go public by attending the national festival in Jerusalem:
For no one does anything in secret when he himself seeks to be known publicly. If You do these things, show Yourself to the world” (John 7:4).
Now let’s ask, “What does God reveal when He brings something hidden into the light?
- He makes His character known through the creation. According to Romans 1, the invisible attributes of God can be clearly seen through the world He made.
- “Because that which is known about God is evident within them; for God made it evident to them” (Romans 1:19).
- He made His plan known through the first coming of Christ. When Jesus was born, God Himself assumed visible form. You could watch Jesus and find out what God was like!
- “You know that He appeared in order to take away sins; and in Him there is no sin” (1 John 3:5).
- “By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, was vindicated in the Spirit, seen by angels, proclaimed among the nations, believed on in the world, taken up in glory” (1 Timothy 3:16).
Paul summarizes it well in Colossians 1:26, where he explains that the gospel message is a “mystery which had been hidden from the past ages and generations, but now has been revealed to His saints.”
- He is going to reveal the finished product when Christ returns. What we can see now is an amazing display of God’s wisdom and grace, but the best is yet to come!
God will pull back the screen and reveal the world that He has been planning since time began. More than that, He will reveal US – not in our current stumbling state, but as the radiant members of His family, standing in His presence without flaw.
“Beloved, now we are children of God, and it has not appeared as yet what we will be. We know that when He appears, we will be like Him, because we will see Him just as He is” (1 John 3:2).
When Christ, who is our life, is revealed, then you also will be revealed with Him in glory” (Colossians 3:4).
- S. Lewis caught a glimpse of this truth when he reminded us that every person is far more than we can see right now:
“It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest most uninteresting person you can talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruption such as you now meet, if at all, only in a nightmare.” (C. S. Lewis, Weight of Glory)
How can you go deeper into this study of what God brings to light? One of the best ways is to look at all the references where phaneroō appears. Here is a complete list: Mark 4:22; 16:12, 14; John 1:31; 2:11; 3:21; 7:4; 9:3; 17:6; 21:1, 14; Romans 1:19; 3:21; 16:26; 1 Corinthians 4:8; 2 Corinthians 2:14; 3:3; 4:10, 11; 5:10, 11; 7:12; 11:6; Ephesians 5:13; Colossians 1:26; 3;4; 4:4; 1 Timothy 3:16; 2 Timothy 1:10; Titus 1:3; Hebrews 9:8, 26; 1 Peter 1:20; 5:4; 1 John 1:2; 2:19, 28; 3:2, 5, 8; 4:9; Revelation 3:18; 15:4.
You can also look up the related adjective phaneros, “manifest, revealed” (18 times) and the synonym apokaluptō, which means “to uncover.”
Q – I originally learned Romans 12:1 in the King James version, which says that presenting my body to God is a “reasonable service.” I see in other versions like the New American Standard Bible that they translate this as “spiritual service of worship.” Why the difference?
A – The word translated “reasonable” is the Greek logikos, and you can see the resemblance to our word “logic.” It made sense to connect logic and “reason.” However, the actual use of that word in first century Greek wasn’t limited to that concept, so modern translators have sometimes used the alternate translation “spiritual” or something similar.
Why did they add “of worship”? Because Paul used a Greek word for service that referred specifically to the kind of service that a priest would do in the temple, serving God in the worship ceremonies. The translators added the extra phrase to let you know about this special flavor of the word’s meaning.
Next week we will encounter a verse that warns us against committing the sin that gave the Devil his name. Join me to find out more.
©Ezra Project 2023