Friday, December 29, 2006

Response to Christ-Centered Preaching

Reading Chapell's Christ-Centered Preaching really provoked me to farther thought as to why I preach the way I preach, and why I say what I say when I preach. To be perfectly honest, many of these thoughts came into my mind because of questions I had in regards to the reasoning behind Chapell's goal of a “reclamation and rescue”[1] of the expository sermon and his seeming lack of Biblical backing to this “reclamation” and “rescue”.

Right off the bat, Chapell makes his views on preaching very clear, in regards to its relationship with God and man, “Ultimately, preaching accomplishes its spiritual purposes not because of the skills or the wisdom of a preacher but because of the power of the Scripture proclaimed (1 Cor. 2:4-5)”. And I would agree with him there, and I appreciate him putting this statement along with others at the beginning of the book. He goes on to say, “The text governs the preacher. Expository preachers do not expect others to honor their opinions. Such ministers adhere to Scripture's truths and expect their listeners to heed the same.” But as he continues to speak on preaching it seems he drifts away from these first strongly Biblical thoughts and begins to introduce principles for expository preaching that I feel do not come from a Biblical basis, but rather come from man's own ideas and opinions which caused me to evaluate how I preach, and the reasons behind the way I preach.

The downhill trend in Chapell's book seems to begin when he introduces Aristotle's classic rhetorical distinctions: logos, pathos, and ethos. I have no problem with this, but he seems to try to back up the Bible with Aristotle[2], or actually vice versa, in that he introduces Aristotle's thoughts before even going into what he feels the Bible has to say about speaking the word and the components therein. When Aristotle thoughts on a subject come before the Bible's in a person's argument, I quickly began to wonder as to the validity of that argument (Psa 94:11) “The LORD knows man's thoughts; they are meaningless” (HCSB).

Another interesting subject is the acronym that I assume Chapell coined, the “Fallen Condition Focus (FCF)”[3] is defined as, “the mutual human condition that contemporary believers share with those to or about whom the text was written that requires the grace of the passage for God's people to glorify and enjoy him.” He then goes on to say that God Himself has assured us that, “all Scripture has a Fallen Condition Focus”. In some ways I understand where Chapell is going here, because the thought is true (we are all fallen creatures and God wrote to us, as fallen creatures), but he puts this “FCF” of his too high in his own thoughts; almost as though he feels he has discovered the the key to preaching. The absence of Scriptural backing on this statement that God has told us that all Scripture uses this “FCF” principal is concerning. I really don't think anyone will ever find the acronym “FCF” in Scripture no matter how hard they try (therefore God did NOT say it). There was no reason for Chapell to pull a rabbit out of a hat on this one; he could have used Scripture to back his claim, but he wanted to use his cool acronym instead. A bad choice in my mind.

Chapell then goes on to give examples of how, “The more specific the statement of the FCF early in the sermon, the more powerful and poignant the message will be. An FCF of 'not being faithful to God' is not nearly as riveting as 'How can I maintain my integrity when my boss has none?”. He continues, “Specificity tends to breed interest and power by demonstrating that Scripture speaks to the real concerns of individual lives.”[4] I have a couple of problems with these statements. First of all, he is really going extra-Biblical here. These are his own opinions, and opinions that any Communications 101 professor could give you. He has strayed from the original principle that the Bible governs what the expository preacher says. The true expository preacher does not say what he wants and then make the text match his own preconceived ideas. To be honest, his example of a well formed FCF statement breeds man-centeredness. A focus on me, rather than trying to see myself as God sees me and being concerned about what God thinks rather than my own struggle to keep my integrity when other people make it difficult. It also breeds pride, in comparing myself with the world and making a statement that I am better than my boss, for he has no integrity whatsoever. When in fact, the Word of God would have us on our knees begging God for mercy and not comparing ourselves with those around us (or should we be like the Pharisee?). Also, while he says being specific breeds interest and power in our hearers, I would say that if these FCF statements are given as the point of a passage they will severely limit the scope of application in the hearts of our hearers. In many ways, I don't see a difference between these FCF statements and the “applications” many give in sermons – but while there is one intended meaning, I would argue that there are many applications – not limited to this one FCF statement that the supposed “expository preacher” is supposed to come up with. Chapell feels it essential to “determine” the FCF in order to properly understand a passage and correctly form a sermon – he even goes so far as to say, “If we do not determine an FCF of a text, we do not really know what the passage is about”, but I beg to differ. For why is it so often the case (not always, there are also instances where a general application was given to all, ex. “Repent!”) that the crowds preached to in the New Testament, or even individuals for that matter, asked the preachers, “Brethren, what shall we do?” (cf. Acts 2:37)? If the preacher had given them application already, there would be no reason to ask that question. No, first the crowds were, “cut to the heart” (cf. Acts 2:37) and then application was provided by the preacher – it's almost as though the preacher withheld the application, knowing that those who were called would seek out the needed application and pursue it on their own through the direction of the Spirit who was opening their eyes to see the truth. If Chapell wants to be Biblical in his writing, why does he feel it necessary to primarily use non-Biblical examples? Does he think Scripture insufficient?

In Chapell's “Application” section (while I still do not see a strong line between his idea of FCF and application) he states, “Paul refuses to leave biblical truth in the stratosphere of theological abstraction. He earths his message in the concerns of the people he addresses. Preaching that is true to the pattern of Scripture should do the same.”[5] I agree whole-heartedly with this statement, but, I would differ as to the the implications of it. Chapell uses this thought to prove that preachers need to create applications out of thin air, or at least, logically create them. But if it is true that Paul already made application, then should we really make new ones? If Paul already digested the truth for his people, then how should that cause us as preachers to to re-digest the truth? Why should a preacher make up an application if the application has already been made by Scripture? Chapell's train of thought here isn't really all that logical here in my mind and does not prove his point.

At the end of this chapter two Chapell makes a good point – something that I think should be taken to heart. When we preach we should be able to have an answer to this question: “why did you tell them that?”.[6] And this really has been the thrust of my thoughts in regards to Chapell's book, for while he makes many claims to things we should include in our sermons, it really seems that he lacks on getting his ideas from Scripture. When I ask myself why I said something, shouldn't I have an answer that finds its root in the Bible?

The next chapter is entitled, “The Priority of the Text” but pretty much at the very beginning Chapell continues in his “experiential” reasoning rather than taking lessons from “the Text”. He states, “Preachers will be regarded as out of touch and/or insensitive if they press forward with their sermon programs while ignoring a community's employment dilemma, the death of a pillar in the church, a local disaster, a building program...or a host of similar matters of significance in the life of the church.”[7] I am just amazed that Chapell dares to put such a paragraph in a chapter talking about the “Priority of the Text”. There is no “Priority of the Text” in the line of thought that he is condoning. Rather it is “The Priority of Your Situation and Condition”. Not to say that there is no wisdom in what Chapell says, but I just can't help but think about what Jesus had to say when confronted with this type of thinking in Luke 13:1-3.

Later in this chapter, in a section talking about tools that can be used to interpret a passage, Chapell states, “It is not wise habitually to run to commentaries as the first step of sermon preparation, lest your thoughts start running in a groove carved by one not in touch with what you need to address.”[8] Again, Chapell advocates a strange and seemingly man-centered doctrine here, that almost has the sound of some type of new age teaching. As one would say, “be in touch with yourself and with that which is around you”, he sounds as if a passage should mean different things to different people in different times and places and that by following the interpretation of someone not in your specific situation you would be misinterpreting the verse. Ironically he mixes his own advice with Spurgeon's reason for not habitually turning to commentaries, a reason which differs immensely from Chapell's own reasoning, “The commentators are good instructors but the author himself is far better”[9]. Spurgeon states a far better reason to not use commentaries as the first step in preparation for a sermon, one that truly does have the Text as its priority.

When Chapell speaks about the “Components of Exposition” it seems to me that he believes the main component is application, “In fact, the real meaning of a text remains hidden until we discern how its truths affect our lives. This means that full exposition cannot be limited to a presentation of biblical information. A preacher should frame every explanatory detail of a sermon so that its impact on the lives of listeners is evident.” He cites the first sentence I have quoted as coming from his own study of D. Martyn Lloyd-Jones and John Frame, and I will admit that I have not read either, but his take on the components of exposition seems neither Biblical nor logical. He goes on to say, “A true expository message...uses all its resources to move application.” This he states with a diagram in the same paragraph illustrating his thoughts about how these ideas of his form an “Exposition-Priority Message” But I would argue, that from the place he gives to application, his preaching module should in fact be called an “Application-Priority Message”! I understand his feeling that application is important, but I would question the level of importance that he gives it – over and above the revealed Word of God – to say that we must create application in order for the true meaning of the Text to be unveiled, to me, boarders on the heretical. What of God? And though I doubt that Chapell would disagree with me here (on page 26, “Ultimately, preaching accomplishes its spiritual purpose...because of the power of the Scripture proclaimed”), Scripture makes it clear that the Holy Spirit is our teacher and apart from His work, the Text will never be unveiled – it is only because of the work of the Spirit that I can understand the Truth (1Co 2:10a).

Overall, I appreciate Chapell's efforts in his book, and while I had trouble agreeing with much of what he had to say, it was a very helpful book because it caused me to really think about why I do what I do in regards to preaching. He has many interesting points, and knowing that he is much more experienced and wiser than I am I must strive to consider all his advice and seek out the Biblical mandate for how I am to preach and pursue those things, by the grace of God, with all my might

[1] Brian Chapell, Christ-Centered Preaching, (Baker Academic, 2005), page 19

[2] Page 34

[3] Page 50

[4] Page 51

[5] Page 54

[6] Page 56

[7] Page 63

[8] Page 74

[9] Page 75

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God = Father, according to Calvin [part 1 of 4]

A caricature, at its most fundamental level, either over-exaggerates or under-exaggerates distinctive elements of a person or thing, distorting its actual appearance. And so, like funny pictures drawn at an amusement park, portraits painted of John Calvin’s theology often render his doctrine with the equivalent of an inflated head and dwarfish body. Scholarship has neglected a pervasive concept in Calvin’s theology, an idea that saturates his thought on the character and work of God. This concept is the fatherhood of God.[1] And it is an idea which permeates Calvin’s theology comprehensively; and to formulate any interpretation of his thought without consideration of this notion inflates other elements of his thinking much like a caricature distorts the features of a person. Many have rightly explained that Calvin emphasizes God’s sovereignty absolutely. But Calvin’s God is not a monolithic sovereign. He is a Father. This paper, then, will seek to argue the following: the Fatherhood of God is an idea which is woven integrally and organically into the fabric of Calvin’s theology, interrelating, especially, his doctrines of faith, salvation and providence.

These posts will trace this theme of Fatherhood in Calvin’s theology in the following way:

  1. The Relationship Severed [part 1]
    1. At Creation, Adam stood in unaffected relationship to God, relating to him as a son
    2. The Fall severed that relationship in a profound way, and men were then condemned
  2. The Relationship Restored [parts 2 & 3]
    1. God, in his fatherly character, initiated reconciliation
      1. This reconciliation is enacted by faith in Christ
      2. By faith we are adopted into Christ (the true Son) and again relate to God as Father
  1. The Relationship Trusted [part 4]
    1. Because believers relate to God as Father, they may trust him in his sovereign and providential work in their lives

The Relationship Severed

Calvin fairly clearly implies that at creation Adam related to God as Father. Though he does not elaborate upon this pre-Fall relationship, Calvin comments on the fatherly kindness of God toward humanity at creation. He explains that “we ought in the very order of things diligently to contemplate God’s fatherly love toward mankind, in that he did not create Adam until he had lavished upon the universe all manner of good things.”[2] From this we infer that Calvin sees between un-fallen man and God himself an unbroken and tender Father-son relationship. Both what God created and when he created it revealed perfectly his “fatherly love toward mankind.” Because he loved Adam, and thus all mankind, he created “all manner of good things” (what) before (when) he created Adam, lovingly purposing that Adam might be the beneficiary of all God’s good and creative work, receiving only and all good things from this ever- and all-loving Creator-Father.

But this relationship was then profoundly disrupted by the Fall. Calvin treats the effects of the Fall at length, and much of his discussion lies beyond the scope of this discussion. However, several points are relevant for our purpose here. Calvin defines man’s fall into sin as “the depravation of a nature previously good and pure.”[3] Similarly, in his treatment of Original Sin, Calvin explains, “Original sin, therefore, seems to be a hereditary depravity and a corruption of our nature, diffused into all parts of the soul, which first makes us liable to God’s wrath.”[4] We note here that Calvin explains that man is “liable to God’s wrath.” This means that God no longer interacts with man as a beneficent, loving Father, but as an angry and wrathful judge.

In a profound and foundational way God is no longer father to Adam, a point well summarized when Calvin says, “In this ruin of mankind no one now experiences God either as Father or as Author of salvation, or favorable in any way.”[5] So, again, for Calvin, the Fall’s most profoundly constituted a breach in the Father-son relationship between God and man because the Father could not righteously relate as Father with a son perverted and depraved by sin. Just as sin brought judgment upon Adam and all of his natural offspring (the rest of humanity), so too did it corrupt the created order, especially in its testimony of God’s character.

Because the Fall subverted creation’s perfect testimony to the fatherly goodness of its Creator, Calvin explains that “even if God wills to manifest his fatherly favor to us in many ways […] we cannot by contemplating the universe infer that he is Father.”[6] Here we note that the Fall not only breached the relationship between God and man, but also had massive epistemological ramifications. It distorted our ability to discern that God, out of his gracious character alone, would still manifest his fatherly love toward wretched humanity. Calvin still sees God as acting in some way toward humanity in fatherly love (very much related to Calvin’s doctrine of common grace). This leads to the provision of reconciliation in Christ, the true Son, as will be seen. This implies what we will below see Calvin explicitly illustrate: that God still operates out of fatherly love toward condemned men, desiring and initiating the restoration of his relationship to them.

[1] As far as I can tell, only Garret A. Wilterdink has written explicitly on this topic. Wilterdink first explores this notion in “The Fatherhood of God in Calvin’s Thought,” in Reformed Review (Vol. 30, no. 1, Autumn 1976, 9-22), then in his book, Tyrant or Father? A Study of Calvin’s Doctrine of God, 2 vols. (Bristol, IN: Wyndam Hall, 1985).

[2] John Calvin, Institutes of the Christian Religion [Inst.], ed. John T. McNeill, trans. Ford Lewis Battle, 2 vols (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Know, 2006),1.14.2.

[3] Ibid., 2.1.5.

[4] Ibid., 2.1.8.

[5] Ibid., 1.2.1.

[6] Ibid., 2.6.1.

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Thursday, December 28, 2006

What are we waiting for?

What do you feel Joe "Christian" is waiting for? What holds Christians back from living a life sold out for Christ?

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Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Impressions on Leonard Verduin's The Reformers and Their Stepchildren

If someone has ever thought that history should be re-written it was Leonard Verduin. In his book, The Reformers and Their Stepchildren he drives hard at the historically accepted Reformers and paints a picture that is not very pretty. Verduin makes the Reformers out to be no better than their Catholic counterparts and almost gives the impression that all that occurred during the Reformation was a switch in political power. But as we look at history we must accept the fact that although the Reformers did return to Biblical thought, and, from a human perspective, saved true Christianity, there were some things that they did that were not right, and are hard to even imagine as something that a Christian would do. Lessons can be learned from looking into the dark side of the Reformation, even though they are unpleasant.

Verduin's main argument in his crusade to condemn the Reformers as the true “heretics” of the Reformation is that they had a sacral understanding of Christianity, simply stated, that the Reformers believed true and strong Christianity to be, “a society held together by a religion to which all the members of that society are committed” (p. 23). The sacral understanding of Christianity has its roots in Constantine – the first “Christian” ruler of the ancient world and was held as the correct philosophy by the Roman Catholic church since that time. Arguments for a sacral Christianity stem from the Old Testament and the Theocracy of Israel - “Every member of the Old Testament society was considered to be in the same religious category as was every other member of it. This makes Old Testament society sacral and pre-Christian. It was a monolithic society rather than a composite one. It had no room for diversity, for for and against” (p. 23). Other societies outside of the example of Israel were sacral as well, while they had many gods, many times there was a local god that everyone was expected to worship. Verduin claims, “there would in all probability never have been a Second Front if the Reformers had been aware of the pre-Christian quality of the Old Testament in this matter...It was their refusal to grant that the one had outmoded the other at this point, that caused the exodus of the Stepchildren” (p. 23). Verduin pounds this point multiple times during the course of his book, almost to the point that he kills his argument by stating it too many times making this reader feel that he is not quite convinced of the argument himself and therefore overcompensates.

Throughout the book, Verduin cites specific stories and records of the Radical Reformers beliefs in contrast to the Reformers – many times the quotes are taken from court cases that ended in the execution of the Radical. The scope of this paper does not allow to look at multiple cases, but one should serve to be enough to direct our minds to some unanswered questions. Really I do not think this reader can do anything beyond ask questions without first doing extensive research into the historical facts, but the questions that Verduin leaves unanswered are interesting nonetheless. The topic we will look into is that of the Radical reformers being accused of being perfectionists and to this effect Justus Menius, an associate of Martin Luther said, “Like the Donatists of long ago, they [the Radical Reformers] seek to rend the Church because we allow evil men in the Church. They seek to assemble a pure Church and wherever that is undertaken the public order is sure to be overthrown, for a pure Church is not possible, as Christ cautioned often enough – we must therefore put up with them” (p. 104). But on the other side, Michael Sattler, one of the first Radical Reformers to die for his beliefs said that the Reformers, “throw works without faith so far to one side that they erect a faith without works” (p. 105). Both sides had interesting views of the other – and views that are such that they are hard to reconcile with each other. Who has the correct view of the other? What had the Radical Reformers done to make the Reformers think them to hold to a type of Christian perfectionism? What had the Reformers done to make the Radical Reformers think them to believe in a faith that does not have works as its fruit? These questions and more rage inside this readers mind but Verduin did not provide a convincing answer or really even attempt to convince his readers of anything in this regard.

Another interesting bent of Verduin is at the end of the book in the “Post Script”. Throughout the whole book Verduin accuses the Reformers of believing in a sacral Christianity, and rightly so, for I believe Verduin proved this in quoting the Reformers themselves. He blames the Reformers sacral understanding for the creation of the Radical Reformers and for their deaths as “heretics” and leads this reader to believe that if the Reformers had just kept their hands out of politics and focused on being Christians that everything would have been alright. But to close his book, Verduin himself makes a strong political statement and begins to dabble himself in the things he had forbade the Reformers to do, “the First Amendment...intended to preclude the rise of sacralism in the United States, is being quoted in support of a new sacralism, the sacralism of secularism. The upshot of all this is that, in the classroom, he who believes that the universe is 'running' talks at the top of his voice while he who believes that the universe is 'run' must prudently lower his voice. This handicap for the person of the latter conviction is an intolerable violation of the First Amendment, which forbids the highest law of the land to prevent the free exercise of religion no less than it forbids the 'establishment' thereof” (pp. 279-80). Verduin has argued for the length of a book that because of the Reformers sacralism, “the 'world' is no longer something that lies around the Church but has become identical with the Church” (p. 95) and therefore the Church has no reason to care of persecution but rather persecution is the test of the true Church, for the world is not the Church and the world hates the Church. But why does Verduin think it important that America provide an environment where no one is looked down upon for his or her beliefs? The Reformers looked down on you (even killed you) if you did not believe what they did – but isn't it ironic that Verduin complains of the very thing he asked for? He wished that the Reformers didn't force the “world” to believe what the Reformers believed and he wished that they did not use government backing to enforce their Reformed beliefs on others – and we now have a society here in America that has neither of those things. The Church does not impose their beliefs on others, and the Church therefore does not use the government to impose their beliefs on anyone. So what is Verduin complaining about – this “violation of the First Amendment”? That the “world” thinks Christians are dumb? And what is Verduin insinuating that we as Christians do about this problem? He does not elaborate, but only confuses his argument for a his definition of a Biblical Church.

Overall this reader was confronted with the fact that the Reformers made huge mistakes in their dealings with the Radical Reformers, but that said, something smells fishy in parts of Verduin's argument against the Reformers, and it is a smell whose source can really only be found through farther, independent research.

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Tuesday, October 31, 2006

What is meant in Matthew 16:18, “upon this rock I will build my church . . .”?

Statement of the Problem. What is meant in Matthew 16:18, “upon this rock I will build my church . . .”?

Proposed Solutions. Throughout history this passage has been “among the most controversial in all of Scripture” (W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., "The Gospel According to Saint Matthew", The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, eds. J. A. Emerton, C. E. B. Cranfield, and G. N. Stanton (1991), II, 623) and so there are many different views that have been held by scholars on what this passage means. But the three three predominate views on the meaning of this passage are as follows:

A) The view that Christ will build his church on Peter (CP) is the traditional Roman Catholic view being that seeks to prove the total “primacy” of Peter (Steinmueller and Sullivan, Catholic Biblical Encyclopedia – New Testament, pp. 503-504) but this view has also been held by Protestants without a view to Peter being commissioned by Christ as the first pope (John A. Broadus, "The Gospel According to Saint Matthew", An American Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Alvah Hovey (1886), I, 358).

B) The view that Christ will build his church on the confession of Peter (CC) is the traditional Protestant belief that seems to have been largely motivated by an attempt to counter the Catholic usage of this passage in proving the legitimacy of the papacy (Donald A. Hagner, "Matthew 14-28", Word Biblical Commentary, eds. David A. Hubbard and Glenn W. Barker (1995), 33b, 470) but there were some early church fathers who held to this view as well (Broadus, p. 356).

C) The view that Christ will build his church on himself (CJ) has been held by many prominent theologians including, Origen, Augustine, and Luther (W. D. Davies and Dale C. Allison, Jr., "The Gospel According to Saint Matthew", The International Critical Commentary on the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments, eds. J. A. Emerton, C. E. B. Cranfield, and G. N. Stanton (1991), II, 627). This view relies heavily on various passages in the Bible that call Christ the rock and the foundation of the church (Dallas Seminary faculty, The Bible Knowledge Commentary, eds. John F. Walvoord and Roy B. Zuck (1984), p. 57).

Preferred View. Solution A, CP, is the preferred view of this student. This view is believed to be correct based on the following hermeneutical principles:

A) The Principle of Word Study

The arguments used in all the proposed solutions depend heavily on the meanings of two Greek words in this passage. The first word is πετρος which is translated “Peter” and the second word is πετρα which is translated “rock”. Πετρος means a piece of rock or a rock and πετρα means a mass of rock or a rock (James Strong, “Greek Dictionary of the New Testament”, Strong's Exhaustive Concordance, p. 57). Proponents of CC and CJ use the difference of the two words to say that Jesus could not have been referring to Peter when he stated that he would build his church “on this rock” because Peter is a little rock and the rock the church is built on is a big one (John Calvin, “A Harmony of the Synoptic Gospels”, Calvin's Commentaries, IX, 339). Those aligned with CC then draw the conclusion that Jesus must have been referring to the confession that Peter had made about Jesus for, “All who confess the same as Peter are joined to the church – therefore, the church is built on the confession” (Alfred Kuen, I Will Build My Church, p. 111). But there are some problems in making this jump based only on dictionary definitions and ignoring the Biblical usage of the words. To show this we must look at the meaning of another Greek word, λιθος, which translated into English means a “stone” (Strong, p. 45). In 1 Peter 2:8 the words πετρα and λιθος are used interchangeably to refer to Christ and being that λιθος refers to a rock smaller than πετρος (Strong, p. 57) it is not required to conclude that Jesus was not referring to Peter in this passage because of the change in words. Even if it is true that the Greek allows for a strong distinction between πετρα and πετρος as defenders of CC and CJ believe, it must be noted that such a “distinction is almost entirely confined to poetry, the common prose word instead of petros being lithos” (John A. Broadus, "The Gospel According to Saint Matthew", An American Commentary on the New Testament, ed. Alvah Hovey (1886), I, 355).
To take this argument farther it is helpful to look at another Greek word that is used to refer to Peter throughout the New Testament, κηφας which is a rendering of the Aramaic word, כֵּיפָא meaning rock (Frederick William Danker, A Greek-English Lexicon of the NT and Other Christian Literature, p. 544). And if it is said that this is mere speculation, we must remember that the Apostle John supports that the word πετρος has its root in the Aramaic when he translates the Greek rendering of the Aramaic word (κηφας) into Greek (πετρος) for his readers in John 1:42. So a likely reason for the two different words in this passage is not that Jesus was trying to refer to two different types of rocks but that when the words that Jesus spoke, most likely in Aramaic, were “translated into Greek, the masculine form petros would lend itself as a more likely designation of a person (Simon), and a literary variant, the feminine petra, for an aspect of him that was to be played upon” (Joseph Fitzmyer, To Advance the Gospel, p. 119). In fact, Christ only directly refers to Simon as “πετρος” once (not including Matthew 16:18 for Jesus addresses himself to Simon first) in all the Gospels (Luke 22:34) while he directly refers to him as Simon eight times (Matt. 16:1, Matt 17:25, Mk. 14:37, Lk. 22:31, Jn. 1:42, Jn. 21:15, 16, 17). From this we can gather that Jesus specifically chose this time in Matthew 16:18 to call Simon “πετρος” for the sake of word-play in relating his nickname to the “πετρα” on which Christ would build his church.
Another aspect of word study that supports CP is that πετρος was not used as a proper name prior to its usage as a name for Simon by Christ (Fitzmyer, p. 119) and so when Christ uses it in this passage to refer to Simon the literal meaning of the word would have been what was on the minds of his hearers. The translation of κηφας into Greek as was cited before (Jn. 1:42) also “supports the view that Kephas is not a proper name, since one does not usually translate proper names.” (O. Cullmann, "Petros [Peter], Kephas [Cephas]", Theological Dictionary of the New Testament Abridged in One Volume, eds. G. Kittel and G. Bromiley (1985), pp. 835-836).

B) The Principle of Literal Interpretation

Even though Jesus was speaking in a figurative sense (the Church is not built on a real literal “rock”) it does not mean that this passage cannot be literally interpreted based on the normal and customary usage of language (Roy B. Zuck, Basic Bible Interpretation, p. 147-148). The natural understanding of what Jesus states in this passage brings us to see a clear word-play with the name “πετρος” and the word “πετρα”. There is no reason for Christ to bring up the fact that Simon's nickname is “πετρος” other than Christ's desire to relate Simon's nickname to the word πετρα.
In addition, when Jesus says, “this rock” which rock is he referring to? Proponents of CC and CJ say that the word “this” proves their respective views, but that “the word THIS makes reference to anything else than the immediately preceding petros is very unnatural. In the sentence, 'You are Margaret [meaning pearl] and on this pearl I am about to bestow a favor,' it would be very difficult to interpret 'this pearl' in any other sense than as referring to Margaret.” (William Hendriksen, New Testament commentary : exposition of the Gospel according to Matthew, p. 647). Those who defend CC and CJ have to force their view on the text and “depend on bringing in another 'rock' and ignoring the 'rock' that is already there” (T. W. Manson, The Sayings of Jesus, p. 204). This parallelism between the two words cannot be ignored – the text must be literally interpreted (Cullmann , p. 836). We must not conjure up words that are not there but rather use the words provided in the inspired text in order understand the natural meaning.
Defenders of CJ additionally fail in their interpretation in that they make Christ both the rock and the builder, and this is a very confusing image that goes against the grain of normal literal interpretation (Broadus, p. 356). “As Peter means rock, the natural interpretation is that 'upon this rock' means upon thee. No other explanation would probably at the present day be attempted, but for the fact that the obvious meaning has been abused by Papists to the support of their theory. But we must not allow the abuse of truth to turn us away from its use” (Broadus, p. 355).

C) The Principle of Cross-Reference (Scripture Interprets Scripture)

One of the main reasons defenders of CC and CJ believe that Peter could not be the rock that Christ referred to is because of other scriptures that state that Christ is the rock (1 Pet. 2:8) or that he is the foundation that the church is built on (1 Cor. 3:11) and therefore this verse could only be referring to Peter's confession about Christ or about Christ himself. But this can be countered by the fact that the apostles and the prophets are said to be the foundation of the church in Ephesians 2:20 and in Revelation 21:14 they are the “foundation stones”. Christ is called “a living stone” as are believers in 1 Peter 2:4-5 and therefore we see that it is possible for there to be multiple meanings behind these words in that they do not all refer to one specific person or one specific meaning at all times throughout Scripture. Also in regards the argument that the word “rock” other places in Scripture is normally applied only to God and never to a mere man, it is clear that this name was given to a man by our Lord and so all complaints must be ignored (Broadus, p. 355).
Another verse that is commonly used by commentators of CC bent is 1 Peter 2:5 which refers to all Christians as “living stones” to prove that Peter is not the rock on which the church is built (Calvin, p. 337). But we must notice the difficulty in using this passage to interpret the passage in Matthew because the word “stones” referred to here by Peter is translated from the Greek word λιθος not πετρος. Peter could have easily related all believers to the name that Christ gave to him but he did not. “The apostles are the foundation (Eph. 1:20; Rev. 21:14) because they bear witness to Christ's death and resurrection. Among the apostles Peter is the first and chief eyewitness.” (Cullmann, p. 836). Peter's name is unique throughout Scripture and along with it, the special place given to him by Christ as the rock on which he would build his church.

D) The Principle of Context

One of the arguments against CP is that if this view were true, Peter must have exercised an authoritative role over the church but that in Scripture no such role is seen and even the reverse is true in passages like Acts 2:2ff and Galatians 2:11 (Manson, p. 203). But in reality, this argument only does away with the traditional Roman Catholic view in which Catholics add meaning to the Biblical text, giving Peter sovereign authority over all Christians and supposing this authority to be transmissible to their many popes (Broadus, p. 357). Scripture does not back the Catholic view of Peter's primacy but Scripture does tell us that Peter was of great influence and had a special place among the other apostles and in the church. Peter is always listed first in lists given of the apostles in the New Testament (Matt. 10:2, Lk. 6:14, Acts 1:14), he was the leader of Jesus's disciples and was spokesman for the apostles (Matt. 18:21; 19:27; Mk. 8:27ff; Lk. 12:41; 18:28), he was one of the three closest disciples to Jesus (Mk. 9:5), he was seen as a leader even by those on the outside (Matt. 17:24), he was specifically prayed for by Christ so that his faith would not fail (Lk. 22:32), Christ gives him special care as he restored him into service after having denied Christ and is called to shepherd Christ's sheep (John 21:15-17), he preached the sermon on Pentecost and about three-thousand believed (Acts 2:14ff), Peter took a leading role in the choosing of Matthias to take the place of Judas Iscariot (Acts 1:15-22), and again, mainly through the testimony of Peter two thousand more believed after Peter performed a miracle near the temple (Acts 3-4), he was considered one of the pillars of the early church (Gal 2:9), and the Apostle Paul went to Jerusalem to “become acquainted” with Peter (Gal 1:18).
Many of the CC and CJ persuasion cite two passages after Matthew 16:18 where the disciples asked a question about who would be greatest in the kingdom (Matt. 18:1) and where James and John's mother asked that her two sons might have the seats on the right and left of Christ in his kingdom (Matt. 20:21) as proof that Christ had not given any type of primacy to Peter (John MacArthur Jr., "Matthew 16-23", The MacArthur New Testament Commentary, ed. (1988), 29). But the position that the disciples wanted, was not the position that Christ gave to Peter, for they wanted to lord their position over others as is seen in the response that Christ gives after the request made by James and John's mother (Matt. 20:25). The position that Christ gave to Peter in Matthew 16:18 is not such that he could lord it over others, for that is against Christ's explicit teaching (Matt. 20:25). But rather, Peter is “the first among equals” (Broadus, p. 358). Christ's words about Peter do not mean that Peter was made sovereign over his fellows, but rather that, “because of his significant name, appropriate character, spokemanship on this occasion, and recognized leadership in general” (Broadus, p. 358), the church was built on him by Christ.

E) The Checking Principle

While it is true that throughout history there have been many godly men on all three sides of this issue, checking Biblical scholarly resources confirm that many of these men have held and do hold to the CP solution as does this student. Included in the many who hold to the CP solution are: Broadus (pp. 355-360), France (pp. 254-256), Hendriksen (pp. 645-650), Davies-Allison (pp. 623-634), Manson (pp. 204-205), Cullmann (pp. 835-836), and Hagner (pp. 469-472).

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Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Impressions on The Confessions

The opening sentence of The Confessions, written around A.D. 397 by Saint Augustine, reads, “Great are you, O Lord, and exceedingly worthy of praise” (p. 39). And so it is that right from the beginning of the book Augustine makes it clear that he is writing, not to boast about his colorful past or about his unlikely conversion, but rather to give praise and honor to God.

The Confessions is not, as most books, written solely for the sake of man. The uniqueness of this work is that it allowed me to listen in on the prayerful confessions of a man as he confessed directly to God. In fact, many times it felt as though Augustine did not care if anyone else ever read his confessions but rather he wrote it to God and to God alone. This allows for an extraordinary opportunity to peer into the soul of this great man of old and his precious relationship with God. Augustine's writing is as the Psalms, honest, deep, and wholly existing to give glory to his God, the one true God and Lord of all. It is because of its uniqueness that I was drawn into its pages as a story unfolded of a man, as of all men, void of good, who was found and sought out by the Source of all good and brought to salvation.

Throughout the book as Augustine reflects on the grace of God in his own life, one cannot help but be entranced with a God-centered view of salvation – truly, “we were weak and unable to find the truth by pure reason” (p. 142). No room is left for man's empty boasting, for if there was once a man who could have discovered the truth on his own, it was Augustine, considered by many to be the greatest thinker of all the early church fathers. But even he, of the world's intellectually elite, failed to find truth on his own apart from God's graceful intervention. What a testimony, that this man, whose thoughts were and still are far above the common man, would confess his own inability and despair in his pursuit of the truth apart from the Source of truth. And what a great warning it is, lest we, of much lesser mental caliber, should try to go our own way and exchange the wisdom of the Creator for the wisdom of man.

While it is true that Augustine does delve into some of the greatest mysteries of the universe such as the origin of evil, the existence of absolute truth, the multiplicity of the will, along with many other troubling questions, he always uses these mysteries as an opportunity to return to exalting and praising his Maker. Seeking answers to mysteries apart from Christ leads one to meet only with darkness. Augustine recalls some of these attempts he and his friends made to discover the answers to the most difficult questions: “we made no attempt to change our ways, because we had no light to see what we should grasp instead, if we were to let go of them” (p. 150). And so a constant thread is seen in this book — even the pursuits of a man able to philosophize and produce hypotheses on the deepest thoughts men have ever had are to be considered foolishness and a worthless thing apart from Christ. As Augustine himself states, “Unhappy is anyone who knows it all but does not know you [Christ], whereas one who knows you is blessed, even if ignorant of all these” (p. 117).

Aside from the more deep discussions on the mysteries that have plagued mankind's thoughts for ages, there are some interesting Catholic traditions that are scattered throughout the book. Even more interesting is that there is virtually no explanation by Augustine of where these traditions came from, only a somewhat disturbing acceptance that they exist and are essential in the life of a believer. Various traditions are introduced such as, the various stages of the catechumenate, rebirth in baptism, and the saving sacraments. I found it interesting, that a man who so profoundly thought and dealt with so many other matters in regards to the truth, did not question the Scriptural validity of some of these traditions but rather accepted them without so much as an inquiry. But these troublesome traditions aside, it is clear that Augustine was not confused as to the church's role in the believer's life – for not once does he ever claim that he was saved by the church or by good works, but rightly acclaims salvation wholly to the Lord. Shortly after relating the time of his conversion, Augustine states, “He who begot me is also he who keeps me safe; you yourself are all the good I have, you are almighty and you are with me before ever I am with you” (p. 241).

Of all the lessons one could glean from such a precious work this, for me no lesson was more apparent than that of praising God in and through all things. As I read Augustine’s confession to God, I could not ignore how he constantly breaks out in praise, giving glory to God for his gracious works — for bringing sinful men to salvation, orchestrating life's circumstances according to His good pleasure, foiling the best intentions of man, and bringing them to their knees as they come to behold His glory. Augustine was so aware of his own depravity that at every opportunity he burst out, declaring the holiness of God, giving Him the praise and honor due His name for bringing Augustine to see the truth. How often in my own life, though I too see my own weakness and my own inability, how often I fail to declare the holy name of my Lord and Savior and give Him praise for all that He has brought about. What praises I should offer to God that I, such a worm as I, am saved from sin and death, that God cared to orchestrate history so that I would come to see Him as the one true God, and that He would grant me the privilege to call Him my God, the freedom to worship and serve Him, and partake in the joy that He so freely gives. How can His praise not constantly be on my lips? My only limitation is that I do not know Him as I ought and am still far from Him, though He has opened His arms wide to embrace me. May God grant that I too would praise Him as Augustine, that I too would tell the world of my own depravity so the world might turn to God and glorify His holy name.

What a glorious privilege it is to look through the windows of people's lives and be able to see all that God has accomplished in them, to see the many amazing wonders that He has done in the midst of His people, that we might give Him glory and grow closer in our love and affections towards Him. The Confessions is one such window we can look through and see the wondrous grace of God in the life of one of His humble servants.

*All quotations taken from: Augustine, “The Confessions”, THE WORKS OF SAINT AUGUSTINE A Translation for the 21st Century, ed. J. Rotelle (1997), Volume I.*

* This "book review" was done for my Historical Theology class with Dr. Vlach webmaster of *

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Thursday, July 06, 2006

The Manifestation of Christ

John 14:21-24

Whoever has my commandments and keeps them, he it is who loves me. And he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him and manifest myself to him."
Judas (not Iscariot) said to him, "Lord, how is it that you will manifest yourself to us, and not to the world?"
Jesus answered him, "If anyone loves me, he will keep my word, and my Father will love him, and we will come to him and make our home with him.
Whoever does not love me does not keep my words. And the word that you hear is not mine but the Father's who sent me.

I want us to take some time and focus on this manifestation that is promised to all those who have and keep Jesus’ Word – the manifestation that is given only to those who love Christ and not to the world.

There are two simple questions:

What does it mean that Christ will manifest Himself to those that love Him?

What must we do in order for Christ to manifest Himself to us?

Let’s look at the first one:

What does it mean that Christ will manifest Himself to those that love Him?

This is a manifestation of Christ – a revealing of Christ that is special and given only to those who are Christ’s – not to the world – we see that in the question that Judas poses, it is not to the world – it is only to the ones who love Christ, and keep His commandments and be in God’s loving favor and to whom Christ will manifest Himself.

But what type of manifestation is it? Does it mean that Jesus will come in person, in the flesh and visit these chosen ones?

It is not that Christ will come in person – for He no longer lives among us. He no longer says what He said to Doubting Thomas, "Put your finger here, and see my hands; and put out your hand, and place it in my side. Do not disbelieve, but believe." (John 20:27)

For in that same passage it is clear that there are those who will not have the benefit of sight or touch and we are blessed for it, Blessed are those who have not seen and yet have believed." (John 20:29). Beyond that, we know that while Jesus was on the earth, many saw Him who did not love Him – in fact the ones who killed Him saw Him – therefore this manifestation that Jesus is talking about is not one of Him coming in the flesh, face to face – but something else.

If not in the flesh – what of visions and dreams? It is clear that this manifestation is not one of mere dreams or visions. For we know that even those who do not love God at times receive visions and dreams from God. Laban was warned by God in a dream not to say anything good or bad to his nephew Jacob (Gen. 3:24) – and yet there is no indication that He even was trying to follow God, quite the opposite – it seems that he was consumed by greed and did everything he could to gain the upper-hand. Another, even more clear example is that of Balaam. God came and spoke with Balaam (Num. 22:9), and yet we know he was, “a man who loved gain from wrongdoing” (2 Pet. 2:15) and, “one who practiced divination” (Jos. 13:22). Visions and dreams, while, extraordinary are not exclusive to believers – but when God wills, are given to the unbeliever. Therefore visions and dreams cannot be the manifestation spoken of by Jesus in this passage, for this manifestation is exclusive – given only to those who love Christ.

I believe this manifestation is one that is given in the heart of those who love Christ. For seeing Jesus with your physical eyes, or having a dream, vision or hearing the voice of God do not necessarily change you – for many saw Jesus, many have had dreams, many have heard the voice of God – and yet they still remain in darkness – many are in hell who have had those privileges.

But there is a manifestation of Christ that is special, and given only to those who believe.

I read of a man who lived in the late 1800’s named Mr. Tennant. One evening he was about to go to a small church to preach but thought he would take a short walk in the woods before he headed over. As he walked along in the woods he felt the overwhelming power of the presence of Christ, so much so that he knelt down. The time came for him to preach at the church and when he didn’t show up some of the church members in the small town went looking for him. They did not find him until a few hours later, and when they did find him – he looked like a man who had been with Jesus – his face shining with joy. Mr. Tennant said, even to his dying day, that he should never forget that communion he had with Christ – for though he could not see Christ, Christ was there, in fellowship with him, heart to heart in such a sweet way.

What a wonderful thing fellowship with Christ is in our hearts when we love Him. And you must know something of it, if you do in fact love Him.

It is a manifestation as the one Job experienced – Though there is no indication that Job saw God with his physical eyes – he says in Job 42

Job 42:5

"I have heard of You by the hearing of the ear; But now my eye sees You;

This “sight” is unexplainable to the unregenerate – to those who are yet dead in their sins. Trying to explain it is as trying to explain what a rainbow looks like to a blind man. And yet, all who have seen and experienced the rainbow themselves can easily talk to each other and relate to one another for they have experienced the same manifestation.

2 Corinthians 4:6

For God, who said, "Light shall shine out of darkness," is the One who has shone in our hearts to give the Light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ.

In what other ways is this manifestation unique and separate from other manifestations? It is unique in that it since it is a manifestation to the heart it changes the one who has received it. It produces humility. If someone says, “I have had such high communion with God – I am a great man!” that person has never had any communion with God at all. For God does not come close to the proud, He does not reveal Himself to them,

Psalms 138:6

“Though the LORD is exalted, He takes note of the humble; but He knows the haughty [or the proud] from afar.”

It produce holiness in the life of the recipient. A person who is not holy has never taken part in this special manifestation. Some people talk a lot about their experiences and their enlightenment – but do not believe them unless their lives mirror what they say. God is not mocked – He will not show favor to the wicked – He will not respect and evil doer.

This manifestation causes us to see the surpassing beauty and glory of Christ – causing us to lay aside all else, so as to better take in the beauty of Christ – it causes us to lay down all hindrances all sins that entangle, so that we can just behold Him.

So we see that this manifestation is special – given only to those who love Christ and that it is a inward manifestation – heart to heart.

But what must we do in order for Christ to manifest Himself to us?

The answer is quite simple – if you desire Christ to manifest Himself to you, you must love Him.

Christ asked Peter, after being raised from the dead, “Do you love me”.

What is your answer? Do you love Christ?

If you do not, than these verses and the privileges that are contained in them are not for you.

Do you love Christ? Do not just gloss over this question – but seek to answer honestly in your heart before the Lord. It is not enough to say you Love Christ – for some make their profession loudly, and yet they are hypocrites for their conduct tells everyone that in fact they are haters of Christ. Do you love Jesus with your whole heart?

If there is any question in your mind – do not pass over this question – but seek until you have a definite answer.

But remember this – if you do love Him, he loved you first.

John 17:6

"I have manifested Your name to the men whom You gave Me out of the world; they were Yours and You gave them to Me, and they have kept Your word.

All those who belong to Christ keep God’s Word – all who belong to Christ love Him.

But He loved you first for He knew you were His before even the world was created. You were created to be His, you were created for Him.

Before time began you were loved by him. Even though you are a sinner, though you were an enemy and a worker of evil – He loved and still loves you. And think of Christ – who stripped Himself of all His glory, descended from a throne of infinite glory to a manger made to feed animals – will you not love Him who became flesh for you? He lived a life of poverty – no where to lay His head, a life of rejection, for even His own countrymen did not receive Him – a life of pain, for He bore all ours – a life of dishonor, for the world hated Him.

Think of the tears He cried in the garden – will you not love Him whose tears fell to the ground like blood, and who groaned, pleading with God in His final hour? What of the blood that flowed as they beat Him and whipped Him – tearing and cutting into His flesh. What of the jeering of the crowds as they mocked Him while He hung on the cross. Do you see Him suffer? Do you see Him hanging on the cross – and all this for you?

Do you love Him? He loved you first.

Beyond his death – Now He is risen, and He is in heaven with the Father – and there what is He doing? He pleads your case before the throne, He is preparing a place there in heaven for you – and He will come again a second time, to take you with Him.

Think on all these things and love Him! Love Him with all that you are.

Do you love Christ?

Do you know and keep His Word? That really is the same question – for all who love Him keep His Word and all who keep His Word love Him.

Do you treasure His Word? Are His words worth more than gold? Do you treasure His Word above all earthly things?

Do you try and know His Word – do you diligently study – searching the Scriptures – is His Word your daily bread? Do you live by it?

Is your life different from the world? Are you like Christ? Do you live as He lived?

Do you seek to keep His word in your hearts?

To keep means to obey. Obedience flows from the heart. In every Christian there is an passionate, and steady longing to do what God wants – to walk as He tells us to walk in His Word. Some might have this longing stronger than others, but it is there!

Think of Peter – He denied Christ – and not just denied Him once, but three times. Not with a sword to his throat, but to the question of a servant girl!

Christ is risen, and He meets the disciples on the beach – let’s read it together: John 21:1

John 21:1-17

After this Jesus revealed himself again to the disciples by the Sea of Tiberias, and he revealed himself in this way.
Simon Peter, Thomas (called the Twin), Nathanael of Cana in Galilee, the sons of Zebedee, and two others of his disciples were together.
Simon Peter said to them, "I am going fishing." They said to him, "We will go with you." They went out and got into the boat, but that night they caught nothing.
Just as day was breaking, Jesus stood on the shore; yet the disciples did not know that it was Jesus.
Jesus said to them, "Children, do you have any fish?" They answered him, "No."
He said to them, "Cast the net on the right side of the boat, and you will find some." So they cast it, and now they were not able to haul it in, because of the quantity of fish.
That disciple whom Jesus loved therefore said to Peter, "It is the Lord!" When Simon Peter heard that it was the Lord, he put on his outer garment, for he was stripped for work, and threw himself into the sea.
The other disciples came in the boat, dragging the net full of fish, for they were not far from the land, but about a hundred yards off.
When they got out on land, they saw a charcoal fire in place, with fish laid out on it, and bread.
Jesus said to them, "Bring some of the fish that you have just caught."
So Simon Peter went aboard and hauled the net ashore, full of large fish, 153 of them. And although there were so many, the net was not torn.
Jesus said to them, "Come and have breakfast." Now none of the disciples dared ask him, "Who are you?" They knew it was the Lord.
Jesus came and took the bread and gave it to them, and so with the fish.
This was now the third time that Jesus was revealed to the disciples after he was raised from the dead.
When they had finished breakfast, Jesus said to Simon Peter, "Simon, son of John, do you love me more than these?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Feed my lambs."
He said to him a second time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" He said to him, "Yes, Lord; you know that I love you." He said to him, "Tend my sheep."
He said to him the third time, "Simon, son of John, do you love me?" Peter was grieved because he said to him the third time, "Do you love me?" and he said to him, "Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you." Jesus said to him, "Feed my sheep.

Jesus asks Peter three times if he loves Him. Three times Peter answers, but the last time there is something different about his plea.

Each time before Peter said, “Yes, Lord; you know that I love you.”

But the third time – he says, “Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

When I read some of the passages in the Psalms that say things like, “Search me O God and know my heart…see if there be any grievous way in me…test my heart and my mind…I walk in faithfulness” I quiver – Do I really want God to look into my heart? There is so much evil there! I am so far from perfect!

But listen to what Peter says – listen to how he pleads with Christ

“Lord, you know everything; you know that I love you.”

It is as if Peter is saying, “I know my denial of you contradicts me love; my fellow-disciples have good reason to wonder if I really do love you. But you know my heart, you know that I do love you and that I desire to do what you command with all of my heart!”

He pleads before Christ – “Look into my heart, though there is sin there, though I am imperfect, look to my heart, for deep down my whole being groans within me with longing to do Your will”

When we love Christ – there is sorrow when we disobey. When we know that we have grieved Christ – we can not help but mourn as Peter did. But following that sorrow, there will be repentance and earnest pleading with God for the grace to enable us to do what He has asked us to do. There will be a pleading from the bottom of our heart – “Lord! You know that I love you!”

Do you desire for Christ to show Himself to you? Then love Him – do what He has commanded – and by the Grace of God, though you fail, He will manifest Himself to you.

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Wednesday, June 28, 2006


Danny made an interesting comment to me in a discussion that we were having the other day, on the nature of the New Covenant. I said, "The conflict of the judaizers against Paul in the Book of Acts illustrates that the break with the Old Law is also a break with culturally-based law, and the Law of the Spirit is not a replacement, but a new kind of law that is grace-based and less specific." Although I didn't say it that concisely. He disagreed, saying that the commands in the New Testament are a replacement or update of the Old Law, for instance those regarding the place of women in the church (feel free to post your arguments, Danny ... obviously I'm not going to be able to do them justice).

I thought I might illustrate my idea/theory with a brief look at Galatians Ch. 5 (NASB). Actually, I was thinking of supporting my argument with v.1 and then I said to myself, "Um, maybe I should actually read the whole passage to try and make sure it really says what I think it's saying, rather than just using it to support my theory." I'm posting my process of study here.

1 It was for freedom that Christ set us free; therefore keep standing firm and do not be subject again to a yoke of slavery.
2 Behold I, Paul, say to you that if you receive circumcision, Christ will be of no benefit to you. 3 And I testify again to every man who receives circumcision, that he is under obligation to keep the whole Law.

Ok, what is the freedom he's talking about? Freedom from circumcision first of all, and the Law by extension. What does he mean when he says they don't have to keep the law? He probably talks about it later -- I don't imagine that he means, "Hey, go ahead and start stealing and killing and etc."

4 You have been severed from Christ, you who are seeking to be justified by law; you have fallen from grace. 5 For we through the Spirit, by faith, are waiting for the hope of righteousness.

So, now maybe he's talking about justification, putting your hope of salvation in the law? Here he warns of the danger of trusting the Law rather than grace, but we've still got to wonder what the freedom he's talking about is. Maybe, freedom from obligation to the Law? But which parts? Just circumcision is probably not what he's talking about.

6 For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything, but faith working through love.
7 You were running well; who hindered you from obeying the truth?
8 This persuasion did not come from Him who calls you.

Ok, so now he says "faith working through love" is the means of salvation. But it's not just that following the Law is unnecessary: he says that they are being "hindered from obeying the truth".

9 A little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough.
I have confidence in you in the Lord that you will adopt no other view; but the one who is disturbing you will bear his judgment, whoever he is.
But I, brethren, if I still preach circumcision, why am I still persecuted? Then the stumbling block of the cross has been abolished.

What is the stumbling block of the cross? It is that salvation is received not through following the law, but by grace. He's being persecuted because he encourages Gentiles to seek Christ without adopting the Jewish Law.

I wish that those who are troubling you would even mutilate themselves.

Read this one in NIV for a good laugh. This is coming from the same guy who admonishes against "coarse joking" in Ephesians. For everything there is a season, eh?

For you were called to freedom, brethren; only do not turn your freedom into an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.
For the whole Law is fulfilled in one word, in the statement, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."

Interesting that he doesn't mention the precursor "Love God" component. This may be the part where we can really start answering my question, "Is it a replacement law, or a new kind of law?" If, following on the heels of a declamation of putting your trust in following the letter of the law, he comments "The whole law is fullfiled in this" ... perhaps he might be pointing to a new principle that replaces the old rules, because it transcends them? Not as a libertinous opportunity to do all sorts of bad things ("don't turn to opportunity for the flesh"). But maybe something like the speed limit in Montana? There's no speed limit, they just expect you to drive no faster than is safe. :)

15 But if you bite and devour one another, take care that you are not consumed by one another.

Hm. Indeed.

But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh.
For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.
18 But if you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law.

Well, that is something interesting. "If you are led by the Spirit, you are not under the Law." That, if anything, justifies my "Spirit of the Law" = "Law of the Spirit" idea. This is not mere knowledge of the correct set of beliefs and practices. This is an injunction to "walk by the Spirit". Of course, I'm sure all of us can call up images of some adulterous husband saying, "Well it felt right to have an affair. I'm sure God wanted me to." Etc. I guess we can only deduce they are mistaken ... ?

Now the deeds of the flesh are evident, which are: immorality, impurity, sensuality,
idolatry, sorcery, enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions,
envying, drunkenness, carousing, and things like these, of which I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God.

Yikes ... try to find anyone who doesn't show up in that list somewhere. I know that it's orthodox to take passages like this in the context of other "grace-oriented" passages, but I still always feel a little uncomfortable reading them.

22 But the fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness,
23 gentleness, self-control; against such things there is no law.

How often can mere study produce these? The fruit of the Spirit requires the Spirit.

24 Now those who belong to Christ Jesus have crucified the flesh with its passions and desires.
If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit.

Now, that's another interesting thing. If we live by the Spirit, let us also walk by the Spirit. A command and a separation of the two concepts. Basically saying that we all live by the Spirit (if we are saved, I guess), but we need to take it a step further and walk by the Spirit. Interesting.

26 Let us not become boastful, challenging one another, envying one another.

Haha! I've got to watch out for that one too.

So did the passage support my idea? I think so, but you're welcome to disagree. Later on I may delve more into what I think my idea actually consists of ... that may not even be entirely clear. I came up with it while studying the Jerusalem Council in Acts, and also passages about eating meat sacrificed to idols, etc. More to follow.

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