Are you excited about the goal of being more “devoted” this year to God and the things that please him? Because of this new focus for our church, I decided to look up the word “devoted” in the Bible, and saw that it occurs many times in both the Old and New Testaments. It’s a great study and I want to share some of it with you! Hopefully, this study will prove helpful to you, as it is being for me!
There are many different Greek words in the New Testament that are translated into English (New International Version) as “devoted”. Below, I will give you those words, their basic meaning (according to Strong’s Exhaustive Concordance of the Bible and the Theological Dictionary of the New Testament by Gerhard Kittel), where in the Scriptures they are translated as “devoted”, and other places in the Scriptures where that word occurs (yet not translated as “devoted”), so you can catch the nuances of its basic meaning. Enjoy your study and pray for practical growth in your knowledge of God and his Word!
Our theme passage, Acts 2:42 uses the word proskartereo as “devoted”. Its basic meaning is: to stay by, persist at, remain with, loyal to, occupy oneself diligently with. It helps to think of being loyal to and staying nearby the 4 areas mentioned by Luke in Acts 2. In the context, Peter is explaining how God chose Jesus as the Messiah and had him die by the hands of sinners in order to bring forgiveness and the Holy Spirit to his people. Those who believed that, showed it by continuing diligently with the apostle’s teaching, fellowship, breaking of bread and prayer. Proskartereo is also translated as “devoted” in Colossians 4:2, where Paul also charges the church to devote themselves to prayer (watching, thanking and asking for the message [as spoken by Paul and lived out by the disciples] to reach many people). Are you faithful / devoted to these things? Do you have the same conviction that Peter and Paul had?
The second Greek word I saw translated as “devoted” was euprosedros, which denotes: sitting well towards, sitting constantly by, assiduous, diligent service, attend upon. In 1 Corinthians 7:35, the apostle is expressing his desire that married or single, we live without being distracted from the Lord. Life is busy and has its normal responsibilities and surprises, but our being close to God and diligent about his service is essential throughout it all! Are you making sure that your relationship with the Lord is first and strong, even though you have pressing responsibilities? Review your day and week to evaluate how consistently you sit with and rely on God.
Haplotatos means simplicity, singleness of heart, sincere dedication, sacrificial generosity. You see it in 2 Corinthians 11:3, where the author fears that the disciples will be deceived like Eve was, taking their minds from the sincere dedication that is due to Jesus. He deserves all our sacrifice and devotion! Don’t believe anything that steers you from him! You can see the same word translated in different ways in Eph. 6:5; Col. 3:22; Rom. 12:8; 2 Cor. 8:2; 9:11, 13.
Next we have anthedsetai, meaning cling to, hold to, hold fast, adhere to, or hold alongside. In Matthew 6:24 and its parallel Luke 16:13, Jesus affirms that you can’t serve two masters (God and money). You will cling to one and despise the other one. They are exclusive masters. Which one are you surrendered to? Which one do you cling to more or let go of the easiest? That shows your devotion.
Another word is philostorgoi, is used in the sense of cherishing one’s family, fondness of relatives, fraternal kindness, or loving fervently. So, in Romans 12:10, Paul calls us in brotherly love to “fervently love one another”. Devotion as to your family. Blood is thicker than water, but we are to consider our spiritual brothers and sisters with that type of devotion. Are you tight with the disciples in your family group? Are you dedicated and devoted to your spiritual family? If not, take steps to get there.
Hagia has the connotation of sacred, pure, blameless, consecrated, holy or saintly. This occurs in the same context as our second word above, and it occurs as devoted in 1 Corinthians 7:34. Whether you are married or single, you are concerned about something, but can more easily focus on being “holy” to the Lord in body and spirit when unmarried. Be devoted, as you set yourself apart in your motivations and your actions. The Lord deserves your efforts to please him, no matter your occupation or marital status! As you can imagine, this word is used extensively in the Scriptures. God isHagios (John 17:11; 1 Pet. 1:15; Rev. 6:10); Jesus is sacred (Mk. 1:24; Lk. 1:35; 4:34; 6:69; Acts 3:14; 4:27, 30; 1 Jn. 2:20; Rev. 3:7); the Spirit is Hagios (Mt. 1:18, 20; 3:11; 28:19; Lk. 1:35; 3:22; 4:1; John 20:22; Acts 1:5; 4:31; Rom. 5:5; 15:16; 1 Cor. 6:19); angels are holy (Rev. 14:10); the temple is holy (1 Cor. 3:16-17; Eph. 2:20-21; 5:2); greetings can be holy (1 Cor. 16:20; 2 Cor. 13:12; 1 Thess. 5:26); the church is special (Acts 9:13, 32, 41; 26:10; Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:2; 14:33; 16:1, 15; 2 Cor. 8:4; Eph. 2:19; 5:27; Php. 1:1; 4:21; Col. 1:12; 3:12; Phm. :5; 1 Pet. 1:16; 2:9); and the Christian life is consecrated (Rom. 12:1; 15:16; Eph. 1:4, 15; 4:12). Although there are many other references to being holy, these should fire you up to our calling and status in Jesus!
The next Greek word is etadsan and apparently derives from tasso with the significance of to assign, appoint, arrange, determine, set, or choose. In 1 Cor. 16:15, the apostle Paul lifts up the household of Stephanas because they set (devoted) themselves to serve the disciples. They made a decision to assume responsibility to help other people. Oh, that more of us would imitate this family that stood out as a servant of God’s people! Think about God’s grace in your life and pass it on! He chose you, so you can choose others. This same word is used in Mt. 28:16; Acts 15:2; 28:23 as being appointed or assigned to a certain place, time or function.
We only have a few more words left, so hang on a little longer! Spoudan refers to eagerness, earnestness, diligence, haste or zeal. This word is seen in 2 Corinthians 7:11-12 twice, though only translated as devoted in verse 12, and as earnestness in v. 11. Paul’s letter had grieved them in a good, godly way, because it worked toward producing earnestness on their part. Then Paul expressed that the individuals involved were not the only ones who grew from the experience; everyone in the church was able to see the disciples with Paul were dedicated and concerned for them. It was a bonding time, even though it was a painful one. Even tough times can help us to grow closer to one another and more devoted to God’s standards, and for that we can be grateful and confident! If you would like to see this same word used in other contexts, look at Mk. 6:25; Lk. 1:39; Rom. 12:11; 2 Cor. 8:7-8, 16; Eph. 4:3; 2 Tim. 2:15; 4:9, 21; Tt. 3:12; Hb. 4:11; 6:11; 2 Pet. 1:5, 10, 15; 3:14; and Jd. :3.
The gist of prosekein is to hold to, pay attention, be cautious, apply oneself, adhere to. It appears in a couple of passages in the first letter to Timothy (1:4 and 4:13). In the first passage, Paul urges his mentee to command certain men to avoid false doctrine and “devoting” themselves to senseless discussions. Christianity is not about knowing deep stuff or winning arguments, but about love, purity, a clear conscience and sincere faith. You get the picture that some were digging their heals into certain “interesting” thoughts, applying themselves to studying lots of words, but it wasn’t producing practical and unifying actions, which are the real aims of our devotion. The second passage (4:13) is one of the areas that Timothy himself was being called to pay attention to and apply himself to: reading Scripture publicly, preaching and teaching. These are worth spending our time and efforts on. They help us, but they also encourage others and bring glory to God. Don’t devote yourself to controversy, but devote yourself to helping others grow in their desire to serve the Lord!
Our last word is proistasthai, which carries the meaning to maintain, preside, practice, stand before, be over or rule. This word is found in Titus 3:8, 14. Like Timothy, Titus was called to devote himself, not to controversies, but to doing good works. After charging Titus to help support some brothers who were traveling to encourage other churches, he affirms in general terms that our [fellow brothers in Christ] must learn to devote themselves to doing good; that way, they can provide for themselves financially and also live productive lives. When we practice doing good things every day, we avoid distractions, and bring positive results for God’s glory! Isn’t that what you want – financial independence and productivity?! Devote yourself to doing good!
As we finish this study, I would like to point out that some of the passages that have been translated as “devoted”, use it as an assumed verb or filler. Those texts are Mt. 15:5; Mk. 7:11 (for instance, these two passages literally say, “whoever says to the father and mother–a gift, that which would be to my profit”, so they insert a gift “dedicated, due or devoted to me”, in order for the sentence to flow better in English); Acts 18:5 (was pressed by the Spirit, earnestly testifying to the Jews); 1 Cor. 7:5 (that you may be free for fasting and prayer); and 1 Tim. 6:2 (simply paraphrased in some versions to facilitate a reason for serving believing masters).
There we have it! All the verses in the NIV New Testament where the word “devoted” appears. How exciting to see such a broad meaning and such diverse applications for this concept! I feel challenged to stay close to God, have a single minded focus that doesn’t allow for distractions. What a high calling of love and holiness! It is so great to be emotionally engaged as I make my spiritual decisions. I feel the desire to be constant and concentrate on the things that really matter. Devote yourself in all of these ways and our lives will never be the same; God’s blessings and understanding will overflow more and more!