Together with Passionate Zeal for Jesus Christ

In my Bible reading recently, I came across the Greek word, ὁμοθυμαδόν (homothymadon). This is an important word that Luke uses 10 times in the book of the Acts of the Apostles.

Homothymadon is a compound word. The first part of the word, homo, is probably familiar to us: “homo” means the same or together. Thymos is the more challenging part of the word. It has a variety of meanings: passion, heat, boiling up, wrath, glow, ardor, fierceness, and more.

The King James and Revised Standard Bibles use the phrase “one accord” to translate homothymadon; while the Douay-Rheims and New International translation use “joined together.” Thus, we read in Acts 1 that the apostles were in “one accord” and devoted themselves in prayer with the women and Mary the mother of Jesus. Likewise, Acts 2 says the new believers continued daily in “one accord” in the temple and breaking bread from house to house.

What struck me as I read the various translations is that they drained all the passion out of homothymadon. They maintain the sameness, but where is the heat, the boiling up, the ardor, and the fierceness. The translations take a word that is filled with zeal and render it as simple agreement. Acts 2 begins “When the day of Pentecost had come, they were all together in one place.” How different this passage would look if we used a more literal translation for homothymadon” “When the day of Pentecost had come, they had the same passionate zeal,” or, “When the day of Pentecost had come, they had the same boiling ardor.”

Homothymadon is something of a watchword in the book of Acts: when you see the believers having the same passionate, boiling, and ardent zeal, watch closely because something important is about to happen.

  • Acts 1:14: They continued in homothymadon… and then selected Matthias to replace Judas.
  • Acts 2:1: They were all homothymadon… and suddenly the Holy Spirit came as a rushing wind.
  • Acts 2:46: They continued with homothymadon… and the Lord added to their number.
  • Acts 4:24: After Peter and John were commanded not to preach the name of Jesus, the believers lifted up their voices in homothymadon and prayed for boldness… and were again filled with the Holy Spirit.
  • Acts 5:12: They were all homothymadon at Solomon’s Porch, and people were afraid to join them… even so more believers were added and healings happened.
  • Acts 8:6: When Philip preached in Samaria… those who heard responded with homothymadon.
  • The Jerusalem Council assembled with homothymadon… and sent Paul and Barnabas to the Gentile churches.

Back when I used to teach Sunday School, I would often ask my class, “Where were the disciples on the day of Pentecost?” The answer I was looking for was, “All together in one place.” I wanted my students to learn to answer questions about the Bible by saying what the Bible says. (An important skill, I think.) The disciples being in “one place” was an important factor in their homothymadon, their being in one passion. That is why, I think, Jesus commanded His followers not to depart from Jerusalem, but to wait (together) for the Promise of the Father—the baptism of the Holy Spirit.

The challenge for many of our communities right now is that being “all together in one place” is against the law [during the Covid 19 pandemic lockdown]. I would love for all of my brothers and sisters in the Lord to be all together at our community gatherings, where we can greet one another warmly and worship our God with charismatic zeal – and I want that more and more as every day goes by. So here is a question: given the long and generous work of the Lord in our lives and in our life together, can we maintain homothymadon: a boiling, passionate, and fierce zeal for Jesus Christ – even when we are not together? It is my hope that we can and that we will. It is also my conviction that as we do, we should watch to see what God does in and through that homothymadon.

Homothymadon, our common zeal, is one of the precious gifts we have in covenant community. As it was in the early church, it can put people off and draw them at the same time. I joined the Work of Christ 46 years ago (long before I learned the meaning of the word) because I saw homothymadon, and I wanted to be part of it. Maintaining zeal for God when the external support of being otherwise together is a challenge. This time, I think, is both a test for us and an opportunity to grow. May we strive to be of one zealous heart for God, and then watch for evangelistic fruit even when (or especially when) evangelistic fruit seems impossible. Use us, Lord!

This word, homothymadon, is used just once by any other Bible author. The Apostle Paul prays that the Romans, “may with homothymadon (one passionate zeal) and one mouth glorify the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. Let this be our prayer; let this be our work; let this be our reality.

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