Thursday, November 17, 2005

Matthew for Everyone

I am using the Matthew for Everyone commentary by N. T. Wright to prepare my weekly sermons. I am following the Revised Common Lectionary for text selection.

The text for this week is from Matthew 25:31-46. Wright has an interesting way of dealing with this text. The usual way of reading this text is to see it as referring to the judgment at the end of the age. Wright, of course, sees the end of the age as being in the first century. Thus, this judgment scene is one that is best seen, by Wright, as on going.

I think this is a very solid reading of the text. The problem is how to preach it that way. Since the idea will be new to many people their instinctive reaction will be to reject it. Of course, no preacher likes rejection. We all prefer to be accepted and understood.

Where is the exegetical center of this passage? The center seems to be in how the nations treat the church. The nations that are open to the church are blessed. The nations which are closed to the church are cursed. That matches what we can see with our own observation. The best thing a nation can do is open itself up for the Gospel and watch God change the nation.

Friday, November 04, 2005

EG: Unit 1, Day 1

Sometimes I think that Christians use words deliberately intended to confuse people who don't already speak their lingo. I went to a Halloween party at a local church which had a puppet show. There were a lot of non-Christians there but the puppets kept quoting scripture in a series of passages which meant very little to the non-Christians since they were not explained. Some got up and left. There needed to be an explanation for the non-Christians there.

The phrase "saving relationship" is one such Christian expression (EG Workbook, p 8). I don't honestly think that anyone who is not a Christian, and even many Christians, have the slightest idea what this phrase means. There is no analogy in daily life because the word "saving" is not one we can understand easily. The word is theologically loaded.

Perhaps we map "saving" into the idea of "going to Heaven" or some other such notion. This phrase is evangelical-speak, and is not Biblical. Remember the principle in EG where we get our ideas not from experience, but from the Bible? They would do well to apply it to the words in this book. This also scares off non-evangelical types.

I'd say ditch the phrase and replace it with something else. Even a phrase like "loving relationship", which would be meaningful for most people. Or find some word picture to explain it such as a strong marriage. There are marriages of convenience where the two are married on paper, but barely even speak with each other. Then there are marriages where people are in love and eager to be with each other. That's probably what is meant by the phrase "saving relationship", but it's hard to know since it is never defined.

To say that God desires a continuing, love relationship with us (chart EG Workbook p 225 point 2) is better. It brings to mind something that we can relate to better. The nature of the relationship and the duration make it clear that it is not a one time event and that it has real committment involved.

EG: Memorizing Scripture

I really respect people who can memorize. I can't. I have very poor memorization skills. Because I am so back at memorization, I have some tricks that the EG materials don't list.

My best memory trick is to write out the verse on a whiteboard. I then erase words and practice saying the verse. I leave just a few keywords at the end. I can then remember the keywords.

For instance, the keywords I have for Unit 1 are:
abide me I Him
apart nothing

With these keywords I can reconstruct the entire memory verse.

My other trick is to draw a picture of what I want to remember. I did this with fourth grade boys for John 15:5 and they all got it quickly. Draw on the whiteboard a vine with branches. Put the name of the boys on each branch. Put the name of another boy, not them since it would be traumatic on another branch. Show that branch as broken off and dying. They will remember the picture long after the words are gone.

Experiencing Experiencing God

Who Am I?

I am a pastor of a small church in the upper midwest USA. We have a group of ladies that went through the Experiencing God materials this past summer and asked me to teach it at our Wednesday Night Prayer/Bible Study Meetings.

Thus, I am facilitating a group of about sixteen people going through the book Experiencing God. This is my first time through this material. There are several in the group who have already been through the materials.

The rest of this particular BLOG post can be skipped if you are not interested in facilitating an Experiencing God group.

Early facilitating notes

I am writing these notes a couple of days after our very first Experiencing God class. All in all, it was a great start. For me it is hard to do materials that are not my own invention. But these materials are pretty well put together.

This would be very tough without using the Experiencing God Adult Leader's Guide. I wish I had taken more time to review the Adult Leader's Guide before starting this. I recommend taking about 8 hours to go through the Leader's Guide before the first class if you are new at this material (like me). If you have taken the course but not facilitated you probably could get ready in six hours. If you have taught it before, probably four hours would do. The Leader's Guide is definitely worth the extra $12 (amazon price).

There is a lot of photocopying in the first week. Copy extra. I had to send a student out to copy five more pages - I chose someone who had already facilitated in the past.

I wish we had purchaged new, blank journals before assigning the first week's unit so that I could have passed them out sooner.

For journaling, I like Composition Books. They are cheap ($1 at my local dollar store). They have wide rule so that there is plenty of room in them. In my opinion, the best ones are quad grided page Composition Books but they are pricier. They are a lot cheaper than the nicer bound journals you buy at a bookstore. They also hold together well.

Personally, I really like the smaller 4.5 x 3.25 version of these. Each page is much smaller but always seems to be enough for what I want to write down. If you buy the little ones don't buy the ones that are glued down the binding as they come apart. Buy the ones that look like paper folded - they are sown and the pages don't fall out of them. You can stiffen the backbone with packaging tape if you need to.

When it comes to journaling, the old motto is true: Your Mileage May Vary.

There are some places where the book could use improvement.

When I did Unit 1, Day 1, it asked for the memory verse. It was at the beginning of unit 1 before the day 1. It would have been helpful the first time through to remind where the memory verse was found (at least for this first lesson). I made the assumption that there was a memory verse for each day but it seems like there is one for each week/unit.

We only have one hour and this material does not easily break down into one hour sections. They have a suggestion in the leader's guide how to do that, but it did not seem obvious as I went through the Leader's Guide.

The video tapes are not cheap, they are about $140 for the class. I have to think that they are probably worth it but expensive for our small church to buy. I guess we will "wing it".

With our group size the book recommends breaking up into two separate classes. That's logistically tough for us since we meet before choir and that is a part of why many of the people turn out. We will see how this works out when the sharing starts.

That's about it for the administrative stuff. I'll post some reflections on the materials later.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

When is the end?

One of the issues that this passage raises for me is that of timing.

Is this describing the events of the Second Coming of Christ, which is yet future from us now, or is this describing the events of 70 A. D.?

Apocalyptic language is much slippier than we often realize. We tend to read apocalyptic phrases in a way that makes them concrete and that is just not the way that they were understood. Add to that, this passage is a parable and not a concrete description of the event.

If the Bible is the best interpreter of the Bible, then we can look to the Bible for the methodology that we need to understand the Bible.

What are the phrases that make this passage tough? The key phrase "you don't know the day or the hour" seems to be the central point of this parable. But day and hour of what? We have to go to the wider context to see what Jesus is talking about.

The scene appears to be judgment:

Mat 25:31 "But when the Son of Man comes in His glory, and all the angels with Him, then He will sit on His glorious throne.
Mat 25:32 "All the nations will be gathered before Him; and He will separate them from one another, as the shepherd separates the sheep from the goats;
Mat 25:33 and He will put the sheep on His right, and the goats on the left.
Mat 25:34 "Then the King will say to those on His right, 'Come, you who are blessed of My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world.
Mat 25:41 "Then He will also say to those on His left, 'Depart from Me, accursed ones, into the eternal fire which has been prepared for the devil and his angels;
Mat 25:46 "These will go away into eternal punishment, but the righteous into eternal life."
This is frequently read as a description of the judgment at the end of time. Particularly taken the phrases "eternal fire" and "eternal punishment".

There is another possible way of viewing these passages, though. They could describe the judgment on Jerusalem in 70 AD. This was taken by the early Christians as proof that Jesus was on the throne, just as the book of Daniel had described.

The ten virgins

Finding the historical center

This passage causes me much difficulty when I try to find its historical center. By that I mean, Jesus referring to something future from Him, but is it past, present or future to us?

If it is describing something in the past, then there are lessons to learn from this, but only if we are the sort of people who will listen to the lessons that the past teaches us.

If it is present, then we sure better be paying attention to what it says.

If it is future, then is it in a future that I need to be concerned about or one that is too far distant to really affect my life.

The idea that this may be describing the present or very near future is what the Tim LaHaye "Left Behind" books are banking on. This way of viewing the Bible is something that I am quite familiar with since I came to the Christian faith in the midst of a group of people who were very apocalyptic minded. This was at the height of the Jesus people movement of the 1960s and 1970s. The group I was a part of read the Bible as if it were a newpaper. The events of the day were clearly fulfillment of the Bible, for us. For the early days of my life as a Christian, there was a great concern about passages like these ones. We saw them describing us and our generation.

When we read this passage, we saw ourselves as being like the five virgins that were prepared for the bridegroom to come. We were in eager anticipation that Jesus would be coming shortly. We saw the reat of the church as slumbering while we saw ourselves as ready.

We had been taught that if the Bible was true, Jesus would return in 1981. When Jesus did not come in 1981, many of us fell away from the faith. This way of viewing passages like this was deadly to the faith of many.

For others, like myself, we dug deeper into the faith in the years before 1981 and we were not unprepared for a long wait. If anything this passage is saying that the time will seem so long that everyone will fall asleep.

Lectionary Text for week ending 11-6-2005

Matt 25:1-13 The Ten Virgins (NASB)

"Then the kingdom of heaven will be comparable to ten virgins, who took their lamps and went out to meet the bridegroom.
"Five of them were foolish, and five were prudent.
"For when the foolish took their lamps, they took no oil with them,
but the prudent took oil in flasks along with their lamps.
"Now while the bridegroom was delaying, they all got drowsy and began to sleep.
"But at midnight there was a shout, 'Behold, the bridegroom! Come out to meet him.'
"Then all those virgins rose and trimmed their lamps.
"The foolish said to the prudent, 'Give us some of your oil, for our lamps are going out.'
"But the prudent answered, 'No, there will not be enough for us and you too; go instead to the dealers and buy some for yourselves.'
"And while they were going away to make the purchase, the bridegroom came, and those who were ready went in with him to the wedding feast; and the door was shut.
"Later the other virgins also came, saying, 'Lord, lord, open up for us.'
"But he answered, 'Truly I say to you, I do not know you.'
"Be on the alert then, for you do not know the day nor the hour.

Monday, October 24, 2005

Experiencing God

A group of the ladies at our church completed the book Experiencing God this past summer and had good things to say about it.

I've started a BLOG to document my own journey through the Experiencing God materials. It's at

Kingdom Principles

Jesus lays out the principles of Servant Leadership in this text.

He starts with the obvious negative examples and then proceeds to tell the disciples how they should act.

It appears in this text that the Pharisees set themselves up as judges over the religious conduct of Israel but they were unwilling to help those who are really in need of help. The Pharisees were quick to criticized anyone who did not conform to their idea of law keeping. They went to exagerated lengths in order to show their own holiness including wearing clothes that really made the point of who they were.

The disciples of Jesus should not be characterized in this way. In every way they are to be unlike the Pharisees. This is similar to the Word of Moses to Israel about not behaving like the surrounding nations when the children of Israel came into the promised land. They are not to take the titles that the Pharisees took. They are not to wear the exagerated clothing. They are not to put burdens on the backs of others, but are to life these burdens from their backs.

Servant Leadership Principles

Matt 23:-12
Then Jesus spoke to the crowds and to His disciples, saying:
"The scribes and the Pharisees have seated themselves in the chair of Moses; therefore all that they tell you, do and observe, but do not do according to their deeds; for they say things and do not do them.
"They tie up heavy burdens and lay them on men's shoulders, but they themselves are unwilling to move them with so much as a finger.
"But they do all their deeds to be noticed by men; for they broaden their phylacteries and lengthen the tassels of their garments.
"They love the place of honor at banquets and the chief seats in the synagogues, and respectful greetings in the market places, and being called Rabbi by men.
"But do not be called Rabbi; for One is your Teacher, and you are all brothers.
"Do not call anyone on earth your father; for One is your Father, He who is in heaven.
"Do not be called leaders; for One is your Leader, that is, Christ.
"But the greatest among you shall be your servant.
"Whoever exalts himself shall be humbled; and whoever humbles himself shall be exalted.

The Wright Apocalyptic View

Or, The Past May Really Be the Future

The apocalyptic is where N. T. Wright may be hardest to follow for many readers who are not used to a more realized eschatology.

What does all of that mean?

When the New Testament writers are writing about the future, is that future one that is mostly in the near future or in the far future? When Jesus predicted the destruction of the temple in Jerusalem, for instance, was he describing the destruction of the temple that happened in 70 AD or was it some future rebuilt temple that will be destroyed once again (in the distant future)? When Jesus spoke of the judgment that would come on "this generation" did He really mean "that [future] generation"?

The view of those who hold to a realized eschatology is that the future described in most of the New Testament verses is that of 70 AD. In particular, the events described are the destruction of the temple by the Roman General Titus and his army. Most Christians today would be surprised to know that for most of Church history these texts have been understood as historically fulfilled.

Reading the New Testament texts carefully it is hard to escape the force of this position. When the Synoptic Gospel writers describe the destruction of Jerusalem they talk about the enemy surrounding the city walls and building a siege ramp (Luke 19:43-44). This makes absolutely no sense in modern warfare. The city walls of Jerusalem today mostly house the ancient city with the modern city sprawling around the surrounding area for miles. There is no need to build a ramp today since one tank could easily knock down the walls. A literal reading of the text would suggest that Jesus was talking about the events of the first century, not some later rebuilt temple.

The primary source materials for understanding the destruction are the writings of Josephus which have an extreme amount of data in them when they are compared with other historical events. This may be no accident. Perhaps the best explanation for the preservation of Josephus is the significance of his writings to the New Testament itself.

This view is also known as preterism and has several varieties ranging from "partial" preterist (Wright seems to be in this camp) to "consistent" preterists. The consistent preterist sees all New Testament prophecy as fulfilled in the past.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

Wright for Everyone

N. T. Wright has a New Testament Bible Commentary set that is intended for laypersons but it quite suitable for pastors. This set is titled the "Everyone" series.

As a preacher of the Gospel, I find coming up with sermon illustrations to be a challenge week in and week out. I spend more time thinking about illustrations than in understanding the text or even in coming up with applications of the text. Wright tackles my problem in these books.

At the start of each section of a passage Wright puts in an illustration drawn from common life (or in some cases obscure English history - remember I'm an American in the Midwest so some of this stuff can get obscure to us here).

In each case, his illustrations are worth their weight in gold if you have ever tried to find a teaching or preaching illustration. They are solid ideas and even if you don't steal the story, you can springboard off the idea that the story conveys. If for nothing else, Wright practices what he preaches when he says that stories subvert worldviews in a way that theology in other forms often don't or even can't.

Here's a list of these commentaries with links to buy them. (Just so you know, I get 5% of the purchase price which helps defray my yearly and monthly internet bills and you pay nothing extra).

Matthew for Everyone (Volume 1)
Matthew for Everyone (Volume 2)
Mark for Everyone
Luke for Everyone
John for Everyone (Volume 1) - Special Order
John for Everyone (Volume 2)
Paul for Everyone Romans 1-8
Paul for Everyone Romans 9-16
Paul for Everyone 1 Corinthians
Paul for Everyone: 2 Corinthians
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians
Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters
Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters
Hebrews for Everyone

Friday, September 16, 2005

Spending my money on Wright books

I've just ordered three more Wright books,

"Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters : Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, Philemon",

"The Epistles of Paul to the Colossians and to Philemon: An Introduction and Commentary", and

"The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering who Jesus was and is".

Loaned out this past week Wright's "Commentary on Romans (New Interpreter's Bible)" and "What Saint Paul Really Said".

Reading more Wright

I'm now up to page 300 in "The New Testament and the People of God" (NTPG). This is the first book in the series of 3 or 5 volumes by N. T. Wright. The second and third volumes are now out as well; "Jesus and the Victory of God" and "The Resurrection of the Son of God".

These are all great books but none of them are a quick read. I haven't been counting but I am guessing that I have more than 20 hours into NTPG. It's about 2/3 done now. I haven't read all the footnotes, but I have been reading the chapters pretty slowly wanting to digest the materials. They are hard to get through the first part since that is about methodology which is all preliminary and necessary before the materials.

The chapter on the "Hope of Israel" has been interesting. We tend to think of the "Messianic Hope of the first century" in a monolithic way. Wright shows some tendencies, but there is far from a uniformity in this area.

Wanna Learn Greek?

The best way that I have found to learn Greek is the book "Greek to Me", by Lyle and I. K. Story. This book is great because it uses memory visualization techniques. For those of us who are visual learners, these pictures are something that we can relate to and are much easier to remember than the Greek paradigms.

Give it a shot. You can be reading from the text of the New Testament in a very short time with this book.

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Christian Socialists and the Jubilee

Christian socialists are fond of citing the Old Testament passages about the Jubilee in support of their socio-economic theories. Easton has the following definition for the Jubilee
Jubilee: A joyful shout or clangour of trumpets, the name of the great semi-centennial festival of the Hebrews. It lasted for a year. During this year the land was to be fallow, and the Israelites were only permitted to gather the spontaneous produce of the fields (Lev 25:11-12). All landed property during that year reverted to its original owner (Lev 25:13-34; Lev 27:16-24), and all who were slaves were set free (Lev. 25:39-54), and all debts were remitted.

Was the Jubilee Ever Actually Done?
There is no record in Scripture of the actual observance of this festival, but there are numerous allusions (Isa 5:7-10; Isa 61:1, Isa 61:2; Eze 7:12, Eze 7:13; Neh 5:1-19; 2Ch 36:21) which place it beyond a doubt that it was observed.
Christian socialists appeal to this passage for a variety of social agenda items including the idea of forgiving foreign debt. A careful reading of the passages on jubilee show that there is nothing in these passages about foreign debt, it is about individual debt, not foreign. It is at that point that the Christian Socialist's agenda becomes more clear as he/she then attempts to make a more general principle out of these specific passages.

Jubilee is not re-distribution of wealth
This is not a system of redistribution of wealth from the wealthy to the poor. Rather, it is a system of ensuring that the land stays in the hands of the families who originally had the land. If your family in the beginning of such a system was wealthy, then they would remain wealthy. If your family had little land, this insured that they would continue to have little land. The only hope for gaining wealth was to work as a sharecropper on someone elses land, or lease that land.

A Question for the Christian Socialist
It would be an interesting question to ask a Christian socialist how and if the jubilee was fulfilled in Jesus Christ? Was it part of the ceremonial laws which Christ fulfilled? Would return to Jubilee be a return back to the Law?

Use of the Law as a General Principle
Certainly, the Christian socialist is not making the case that the Old Testament Laws should be the laws of the United States? That is where the appeal to general principles comes into play. The Christian socialist seem to be able to mine the Old Testament Laws at will, picking and choosing general principles out of the Law, without taking the entire Law. What is the criteria for this mining? Lacking support for a Christian socialist agenda from the New Testament, they are forced to make a case from principles (greatly stretched principle in this case) in the Old Testament.

Economics and Theology Mixed
It is tempting to dismiss Christian Socialists as merely naive thinkers when it comes to issues around economics. After all, many of them have spent a large portion of their adult lives in the ivory towers of academia. The knee jerk reaction is that perhaps they should stick to theology rather than economics. But these questions are all theological ones which ultimately hinge on questions of exegesis of Scripture. The real problem here is how to move from Scripture to application and how far a stretch we can go in our application of Scripture.

What Does the Jubilee Call for?
The Jubilee calls for two things, freedom for slaves and return of real property to the original owners or their heirs. The timeframe of the return is so long (every fifty years) that it would have little relevance for most slaves, unless they were in slavery at or near the end of the fifty year period. A man could become a debt slave at age 40 and remain one until age 90 if he just happened to hit things right. Slaves were to be freed since it was to be made clear that everyone in Israel was God's property. Land was to be returned so that it could not be taken away forever.

What did the Jubilee do?
The Jubilee requires the return of personal property to the individual who owned it at the beginning of that fifty year period. This shows God's support for property rights of individuals. No one could permanently sell his/her birthright. In effect, they were leasing it out for a term up to the next Jubilee. This would clearly affect the lease price of property since leases closer to the term would be of much less value than leases at the start of the new fifty year cycle.

The Jubilee Effect
The Jubilee had the effect of making the value of slaves and property variable depending upon the time to the Jubilee year. Slaves were mostly debt slaves. People who wanted to borrow money would have found it easy to borrow money immediately after the Jubilee year since the money borrowed was secured by their person. As the time got closer to the Jubilee year it would become increasingly harder to borrow money in significant sums since the security of the person themselves becomes less valuable closer to the Jubilee year.

Even Wright is not Right on this one
As much as I respect N. T. Wright in every other area, in this area, he is quite dreadfully mistaken. His position on debt forgiveness of the Western States for the third world is off base and has the same Christian Socialist agenda. Dr. Wright should re-examine his position on these issues. If we are to pick up Jubilee, should we pick up Passover and the other festivals? It seems that Wright is clear enough on those issues, but unclear on these other issues.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Christian Socialism

There is a species of socialism which has survived the fall of the Soviet Union. This form of socialism is to be found primarily in the ivory towers of academia.

The mantra of the Christian socialist is that of Carl Marx, "From each according to his ability to each according to his need". In order words, wealth should be forcibly redistributed, at the point of a gun if necessary from the rich to the poor.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

The two issues in Romans 14

Exactly what is the nature of the two issues that Paul is referring to here in Romans 14?

Eating meat is almost certainly not an issue of vegetarianism or eating meat, but rather of eating meat that had been sacrificed to idols. Paul is saying that since an idol is nothing in and of itself, there is no problem with eating the meats sold in the meat market which may well have been sacrificed to idols.

The problem with this is that the decision of the early church in Acts 15 appears to be at odds with what Paul is saying. The early church at their first council decided that eating meat sacrificed to idols was not acceptable and gave it as a commandment to the new Gentile Christians. Maybe this tension is alright just as it is. It may be nothing more than evidence that Paul got what he wanted on the circumcision issue and was willing to be flexible on the issues that were not as pressing. If that's the right reading, then it weakens the authority of the first council for those who consider church councils to be infallible (typically Eastern Orthodox and Catholic Christians).

The second point revolves around the day that one celebrates. Here the issues seems to be Sabbath vs Sunday worship, although I'd like to hear from our Seventh Day Adventist readers if that is they way that they view this passage. There is much New Testament evidence, as well as the evidence offered from historical continuity that there was a change in day of worship in the early church away from Saturday (to be more precise Friday at sunset to Saturday at sunset). The church seems to have started worship on Sundays in celebration of "The Lord's Day", i. e., the day that Jesus rose from the dead.

Don't Judge

It seems to me that this text is saying that if Jesus is the Lord, then who are we to judge others?

This is true, according to the text, whether they are even a Christian or not.

We will all appear before the judgment seat of God [Christ].

The New Testament and the People of God

Presently I am doing a very hard task.

I am reading from the very first page with the intention of getting to the last page, Dr. Wright's book, The New Testament and the People of God. This book is a lot of work. The first 144 pages of the book are prelimary to the tast. They go over Wright's methodology. If you buy into his methodology - and it's hard not to buy into it - then most of the rest will follow.

The philosophical terms are hard to follow, namely that of critical realism as the proper foundational method of reading the New Testament. But, again, they seem quite sound. I'd be interested in hearing from any philosophy majors out there on this one.

Lectionary Text for week ending 9-11-2005

Romans 14:1-12
Rom 14:1 Now accept the one who is weak in faith, but not for the purpose of passing judgment on his opinions.
Rom 14:2 One person has faith that he may eat all things, but he who is weak eats vegetables only.
Rom 14:3 The one who eats is not to regard with contempt the one who does not eat, and the one who does not eat is not to judge the one who eats, for God has accepted him.
Rom 14:4 Who are you to judge the servant of another? To his own master he stands or falls; and he will stand, for the Lord is able to make him stand.
Rom 14:5 One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind.
Rom 14:6 He who observes the day, observes it for the Lord, and he who eats, does so for the Lord, for he gives thanks to God; and he who eats not, for the Lord he does not eat, and gives thanks to God.
Rom 14:7 For not one of us lives for himself, and not one dies for himself;
Rom 14:8 for if we live, we live for the Lord, or if we die, we die for the Lord; therefore whether we live or die, we are the Lord's.
Rom 14:9 For to this end Christ died and lived again, that He might be Lord both of the dead and of the living.
Rom 14:10 But you, why do you judge your brother? Or you again, why do you regard your brother with contempt? For we will all stand before the judgment seat of God.
Rom 14:11 For it is written,
Rom 14:12 So then each one of us will give an account of himself to God.

Monday, August 29, 2005

Book Review - "What Saint Paul Really Said"

Subtitled: "Was Saul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?"
N. T. Wright published this book in 1997. This book is a great book and is quite readable.

Wright takes the phrase "the righteousness of God" to mean God's own righteousness rather than a forensic, imputed righteousness that man gets from God. Wright demonstrates that this phrase is commonly misunderstood.

The Lectionary and the death penalty

The Lectionary text for last week and the Lectionary text for this week have a large gap of the first verses of Romans 13.

That section of Scripture skips the text which speaks of the government's use of the sword as a messenger of God. These verses are a clearly support for the Death Penalty. I wonder why they are skipped in the Lectionary?

Is there a bias in the Lectionary against these kinds of passages?

Lectionary text for Sept 4, 2005

Lectionary text Romans 13:8-14
Rom 13:8 Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law.
Rom 13:9 For this, "YOU SHALL NOT COMMIT ADULTERY, YOU SHALL NOT MURDER, YOU SHALL NOT STEAL, YOU SHALL NOT COVET," and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, "YOU SHALL LOVE YOUR NEIGHBOR AS YOURSELF."
Rom 13:10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.
Rom 13:11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed.
Rom 13:12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light.
Rom 13:13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy.
Rom 13:14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.

Thursday, August 25, 2005

The problem with Romans 12:9-21

Usually the problem with a text is getting to where we can understand the text.

That's not the case with Romans 12:9-21. I think that we understand it just fine.

Our problem is not understanding the text, it is doing the text.

Treating each other as Christ would have us treat each other is a monumental task. And most of us do not feel up to the task.

Often it's not so important what we do, so much as how we do it. Are we working at love?

Burning coals

I just don't buy it.

One common argument is given that the burning coals poured on someone's head were actually a good thing. Allegedly the people at that time carried coal baskets on their heads. Putting burning coals into their basket was to keep them warm.

I don't buy it.

How can this be anything other than what it says? Doing this shames your enemy and vindicates you when you do this. Repentance is always in mind with God. Suppose though that your enemy remains your enemy after you have responded with good. When your enemy is judged, you were not part of the problem. You have not participate in the evil, but have stepped above it. The judgment of God is then clearly demonstrated.

The Sanders Revolution

Our Debt to E. P. Sanders
Wright's book, What Saint Paul Really Said points out the debt that we owe to E. P. Sanders. The central point of Sanders was that "Judaism in Paul's day was not, as has regularly been supposed, a religion of legalistic works-righteousness." (pp 18-19).

This is the key point in properly reading the writings of the Apostle Paul. As Wright points out, Paul has been read incorrectly at least since the time of Luther. Wright correctly expands on the themes started by Sanders and in doing so it is important to acknowledge the debt to Sanders. Wright correctly does this in his book.

Why this change? Now, we have a lot more information about first century Judaism than was available at the time of the Reformation. Discoveries such as the Dead Sea Scrolls have shed additional light on the beliefs of the first century. In this book, Wright puts Paul into his historical context as best as can be done from this distance.

What this means is that nearly all of the commentators on the book of Romans are completely wrong in their central core points about the book. If Paul is not reacting to a works-righteousness religion of his day, then what is he reacting to?

Lectionary Text Romans 12:9-21

Let love be without hypocrisy.
Abhor what is evil; cling to what is good.
Be devoted to one another in brotherly love; give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality.
Bless those who persecute you; bless and do not curse.
Rejoice with those who rejoice, and weep with those who weep.
Be of the same mind toward one another; do not be haughty in mind, but associate with the lowly Do not be wise in your own estimation.
Never pay back evil for evil to anyone Respect what is right in the sight of all men.
If possible, so far as it depends on you, be at peace with all men.
Never take your own revenge, beloved, but leave room for the wrath of God, for it is written,
says the Lord.
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Thursday, August 11, 2005

N. T. Wright's writings

The unofficial N. T. Wright page has quite a few of Dr. Wright's writings and some audio files as well.

Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Summary of the NPP Five Points

These are directly from N. T. Wright's paper New Perspectives in Paul.

Stating the five points in the positive.
  1. When Paul refers to ‘the gospel’, he is to the proclamation that the crucified Jesus of Nazareth has been raised from the dead and thereby demonstrated to be both Israel’s Messiah and the world’s true Lord.
  2. Paul always uses the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’, (dikaiosune theou), to denote the righteousness of God himself.
  3. Paul affirms that God’s final judgment will be in accordance with the entirety of a life led - in accordance, in other words, with works.
  4. For Paul, ‘justification’ is something that follows on from the ‘call’ through which a sinner is summoned to turn from idols and serve the living God, to turn from sin and follow Christ, to turn from death and believe in the God who raised Jesus from the dead.
  5. Paul uses ‘vindication’ language, i.e. the dikaioo word-group, when he is describing the verdict which God pronounces consequent upon that event.
Restating each of the five in the negative.
  1. When Paul refers to ‘the gospel’, he is not referring to a system of salvation, though of course the gospel implies and contains this, nor even to the good news that there now is a way of salvation open to all.
  2. Paul is not using the phrase ‘the righteousness of God’, (dikaiosune theou) to denote the status which God’s people have from him or in his presence.
  3. The righteousness of the law has been mistreated as a hypothetical position which Paul then undermines by showing that nobody can actually achieve it.
  4. To ‘justify’ does not mean to ‘become a Christian’.
  5. Justification is not conversion itself nor is it the establishment of a ‘relationship’ between a person and God.

The NPP and Rom 10:6-7

Romans 10:6-7 are admittedly tough verses. Testing them against the standard Reformed views of these passage is quite informative. Something is seriously wrong with the standard Reformed views of this passage.

The problem posed by these passage is not the passage in and of itself, but in the passage that they are quotes from. They are taken from Deut 30:13-14. The problem comes in when Deut 30 is read for what it says on it's own. When Deut 30 is read it clearly poses a challenge to the Lutheran and Reformed readings in Romans. These traditional readings of Romans tease out a wider divide between Law and Gospel than this verse will allow.

Why? Because the Deut 30:11-14 passage has a view of the Law that is widely at variance with the traditional Protestant (and Catholic) reading of the text. Deut says that the Law is not impossible to follow, and can, in fact, be followed.

The NASB with reference notes (sitting on the desk next to me) solves this problem in an odd way. It indents the quotes which show they are quotes and then fails to provide a cross-reference for their source.

Most, if not all of the commentators end up saying that Paul is making this up. Moses only supported Law and Paul is supporting Gospel. So then, Paul is quoting Moses as a support but without any basis at all. This makes mincemeat of Paul's argument.

This passage, run through the traditional Reformed paradigm breaks the paradigm. What can be put in it's place? N. T. Wright and the NPP have an answer which makes sense of this (and many other passages on the Law). But, that's to be seen in another post...

Lectionary Text - Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32

This week's Lectionary Text is Romans 11:1-2a, 29-32:
Rom 11:1 I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin.
Rom 11:2 God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew
Rom 11:29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.
Rom 11:30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience,
Rom 11:31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy.
Rom 11:32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

The Lectionary

The Lectionary is a weekly selection of Biblical texts. Two of the texts are taken from the Old Testament and two come out of the New Testament. One of the Old Testament texts is from the Psalms. One of the New Testament texts is taken from the Gospels and the other text is taken from the Epistles.

The Lectionary texts are widely used in worship services in a variety of Christian worship services. The Lectionary texts cycle through on a three year rotation. These texts are often read and preached from on any given Sunday.

In theory, using the Lectionary texts allows a preacher to avoid pet subjects. There are possibilities for doing series going through a particular book of the Bible. For instance, the Epistle readings for this summer go through much of the book of Romans. Next summer the Old Testament series will go through the life of King David. This way the preacher can preach a series with predefined texts. Not all verses in a given book are selected. For instance, the Lectionary text for this week is Rom 9:1-5 and the rest of Rom 9 is not used.

Having the texts known ahead of time helps worship committees plan services in advance. Local area ministerial associations may provide a reference for local Lectionary study groups. In these groups, preachers get together and discuss the texts that they will be preaching on that Sunday. This allows for the ideas of others to help in forming Sunday morning messages. There are also a number of Lectionary websites and on-line study materials. Often these archive the materials over multiple Lectionary cycles. These are good sources for sermon illustrations and children's sermons as well.

From time to time, this blog will have Lectionary study notes posted - most often for past weeks. I make no promise to keep them current for the given week, but if there is enough interest and feedback to the BLOG then I will consider doing that.

Dr. N. T. Wright - Incredible guy!

It may be too early to say for sure but it seems quite possible to me that N. T. Wright may be the next Martin Luther.

Luther shot across the bow of the church with his understanding of justification found in his reading of Romans.

Wright is reading Romans with fresh eyes in our day. He presents a view of justification that is not a traditional Protestant reading, nor a traditional Catholic reading.

Wright has a significant amount of work with the question of what Paul means by certain phrases in the Book of Romans. These words/phrases include "The Law", "justification" and "righteousness of God". Wright's conclusions are significant for the church's understanding of Romans and Galatians. This corrective is already sending shockwaves through the Reformed community which is committed to reading Romans through the lenses of John Calvin. Wright sends waves through the Lutheran community who reads Romans in a "Lutheran" way.

Dr. Wright is an impressive scholar. If you have seen the recent specials on National Geographic channel, Biography channel A&E and other channels you have seen him single handedly take on the liberal scholars of the Jesus seminar.

Let me add a personal note. I had the pleasure of meeting NT Wright in April 2001. He was Canon at Westminster at that time. He preached the Evensong service to a nearly empty congregation made up mostly of tourists. It was the week after Easter and Wright delivered the best sermon on the resurrection of Jesus that I have ever heard. That wasn't all that impressed me, though. I was most impressed that Dr. Wright took the time to talk with me when I met him in the line after the service. He took about 10 minutes in fact. He asked me about my background and why I had come to see him in London (all the way from California). At the end, he took time to lay hands on me and pray for my future ministry.

Monday, August 08, 2005

Test cases and proof texts

Test cases are almost the reverse of proof texts.

A test case is a passage that is run through a paradigm to see if the paradigm can work with the test cases.

A set of proof tests is used to construct a paradigm. Theological systems are paradigms.

My last BLOG entry consisted of one such test case run against a paradigm. The paradigm examined was that of the view of Dispensationalism and the Law. This paradigm which is constructed from a set of proof texts states that the only commandments from the Law which have continuing force are those which are repeated in the New Testament. The proof texts include the fact that Christ repeated most of the ten commandments in his conversation with the Rich Young Man. Christ did not repeat the Sabbath commandment. Thus, the Dispensational view is that the ten commandments minus the Sabbath commandment have some continuing force. Exactly what that force is would be a contour within that view.

The standard Reformed position places a much higher view on the Law. Of the Protestant traditions, these are most likely to see the Law with some continuing force.

The Lutheran view is both much higher and much lower at the same time. The Law continues in force but the purpose of the Law is to convict of sin.

In my example, the Dispensational paradigm failed to deal with the Old Testament prohibition against beastiality. It is only mentioned in Levitcus and neither Paul nor Christ deal with the question.

The problem with any paradigm is that it is inherently a selection of some subset of the texts. The real test is how well the excluded passages deal with this paradigm.

In a future BLOG I will start testing some of the claims of N. T. Wright and the NPP with this methodology. The methodology is to isolate the paradigm and then run signficant proof texts against the paradigm.

Christians and the Law

I have been a Christian for a over 25 years and have struggled in one way or another with one question above all other questions during my years.

The question centers around the relationship of the Christian and the Law. Where the problem comes in is with the seemingly irreconcilable passages where Christ and Paul speak both against and for the Law, almost in the same breath. These are beyond the scope of this paper to address.

I have had a number of experiences which shaped this understanding. The initial experience is one that I barely remember due to my age at the time. I was raised in the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod. In the LCMS, there is a strong emphasis on the distinction between Law and Gospel. This is exemplified by the book by Walther on the subject. Although I was confirmed in the Lutheran Church, I don't remember much of this experience since I was not a Christian at the time. My last attendance at the Lutheran church was my confirmation. By the time I was confirmed, I was a committed atheist.

My next experience was with Calvary Chapel. Although I did not know it at the time, Calvary Chapel was a heavily Dispensationalist sect. For folks in this way of thinking, the Law has little if anything to do with Christians. Eventually, I shifted to the Vineyard with a wider view of the Second Coming - more in the Historical Premillenial vein, I still had little change in view of the relationship of the Christian and the Law.

To sum up this view, the only parts of the Law that are still valid are the ones that are explicitly mentioned in the New Testament as valid by Jesus and/or the Apostles. A test case for this is the sin of beastiality. Neither Christ, nor the Apostles, nor anywhere in the New Testament is there an explicit condemnation of beastiality. Thus, in this viewpoint it is no longer a valid law. It is clear that this test case breaks this paradigm.

About 1991 or 1992 I got connected up with some Messianic Christians at Temple Beth Yeshua in Southern California. Their view of the Law seemed to make more sense to me than the Calvary Chapel view, although I now see that their view was also deficient. When asked about their view, they said that Jewish Christians are to obey the Law, including kosher laws but that non-Jewish Christians are not bound to follow the Law. It may have been mostly for apologetic purposes in their own Jewish communities that they kept more continuity, but it was also apparent that they struggled with the question themselves. Interestingly, in the movement I saw what could best be described as the conversion of Gentile Christians into Jewish Christians. One man even legally changed his name from Charles to Levi. I grew disillusioned with the radical Dispensationalism of the Messianic Christians and eventually left the synagogue. Their views on Israel and their refusal to even mouth the term "church" left me convinced that my children would be raised in a subsect of a subsect of a subsect if I stayed on.

Next in my journey I ran into the Reconstructionists. I was introduced to them by Bob and Gretchen Passantino who were interestingly enough, LCMS-style Lutherans. I was initially attracted to the Reconstructionists by their refutations of Dispensationalism. They had their fingers on the pulse of all of the things that I saw that were wrong with Dispensationalism. In particular, the book "Last Days Madness" by Gary DeMar was a major part of killing off Dispensational thinking in my mind.

The Reconstructionists are typically Reformed Presbyterians. The Reconstructionists also were five point Calvinists, which Bob Passantino (peace be to his memory) preached against with a passion that I have never met before or since.

The Reconstructionists added a nuance to the discussion of the Law that others had not mentioned (or I had missed). They pointed out that the Law consisted of three parts; ceremonial, moral and civil.

Ceremonial laws are those that have to due with the temple practices but may also include such things are kosher law. There are some Reconstructionists that even challenge that point and hold to kosher law.

Moral laws are things that do not change and are rooted in the character of God. Do not bear false witness, is one such example. Prohibitions against beastiality and homosexuality fit in here as well.

Civil laws are the way that society is organized. The basic question asked by Reconstructionists is "By What Standard?". In other words, if the law of the country is not based on God's Word, in particular the Old Testament, then what is it based on? For surely there will be some basis, either God's Word or man's.

Sorting out whether a particular law is in this category or one of the other categories can be a challenge although it is easier than you may initially suspect. Rushdooney's impressive book "The Institutes of Biblical Law" is once such attempt.

This allows for a solution to the initial dilemma of how there could be passages for and against the Law. Some passages state that that Law will never pass away. Others say that it is quickly passing away. The cermonial law was based largely on temple worship. With the destruction in 70 AD of the temple, this law was gone. The book of Hebrews is particularly compelling in this regard. The moral law of God can never change being based in the character of God. In that sense it is a mirror of the personality of God.

Their treatment of the civil law is the tripping point for those who reject Reconstructionism. However, the basic question has yet to be adequately answered by the other since "By Which Standard?". The standard answer of "if it is repeated in the NT" has proven inadequate with test case after test case.

Saturday, August 06, 2005

Sermon Manuscript for Romans 10:5-15

Romans 10:5-15

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness, which is based on law, shall live by that righteousness. But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:


(that is, to bring Christ down),



(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)." But what does it say?


--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. For the Scripture says,


For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for


How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,


My High School algebra teacher, Mrs. Chen was a great teacher. She was one of the smartest people I have ever met, but, we could get her to go off the subject matter with a question. She could go on for hours about leaving communist China when it fell. She was a young woman and moved to Taiwan. One day, Mrs. Chen passed out a test and told the students in the room to read the instructions and then take the test. She told the students in the class to put their tests on her desk when they had finished. The test was fairly long and had a lot of algebra problems on it. It seemed strange since some students finished it very quickly - within a minute or so. Most of the class was working on the test for the whole time period. There were way too many problems to get them all done in the time allotted. At the end of the class, stopped the students who were still working on their paper. She reiterated that she had told the students to read the instructions. Apparently only a few students had read the instructions since if you read the instructions you could see that they said that all you needed to do was sign your name at the bottom of the last page and you would get an "A" on this quiz. If you listened, you didn't have to do any math problems at all. What she was really testing was how well the students followed instructions. The natural thing is to skip the instructions and jump right into the work. But that was the hard way and in this case it couldn't be done.

The point here in this text is a lot like that. People say that life comes with no instruction manual. People spend their lives trying to figure out what they are supposed to do. God made us. God wrote the instruction manual. The answer is only found in God's Word. Our lives are like that test. The instruction manual tells us that we can skip all the other questions. At the end of your lives you will come to one final question. You will be judged on your answer to this ONE question. "Who is Jesus?" Is He really the Lord? Is He your Lord?

Israel had misunderstood their assignment from God. They thought that their right standing with God was based on their identify as part of ethnic Israel. John the Baptist said that it was repentance that mattered not national identity. John said that "God could make stones into sons of God". There would soon be a new basis for a new covenant people.

Let's look carefully at the Lectionary text for this week.

For Moses writes
The appeal to Moses is a bit removed from our generation since we accept Paul as authoritative now. Paul had to establish his authority from the accepted writings. An appeal to the Moses is an appeal to a respected authority.Most commentators miss the connection in the next few verses to Moses. Their exegesis removes the connection that Paul is making. Certainly for Paul's audience, it is necessary to show a continuity with the teachings of Moses. A prophet is to be accepted or rejected based on that continuity based on Deut 13 and Deut 18. Let's look at how Paul agrees with Moses. Paul has to justify what appeared to be a departure from Moses. Paul has to show that this faith principle comes from Moses himself. Paul shows the Jews who cling to the law that the law itself is against national identity as the of securing righteousness.

that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law
Could there be real righteousness based on the law? Paul's argument is that there could be not Law given which would result in righteousness. The righteousness from Christ is apart from the Law (Rom 3:21). Israel had pursued righteousness based on observing the law but did not obtain righteousness (Rom 9:31). Finally, Christ is the end of the law for righteousness for all believers (Rom 10:4). Paul says that if righteousness comes through Law, then Christ died needlessly (Gal 2:21). Righteousness never was based on Law keeping (Gal 3:21). Paul's own personal hope was to be found in the righteousness from faith not law (Phi 3:9).

shall live by that righteousness.
The passage where Moses says that you have to live by the Law (Lev 18:5). The passage where it shows that Israel failed to live by the Law (Eze 20:21).

V6 -

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:
Paul is contrasting righteousness based on national identity with righteousness based on faith. Following the flow of the previous chapter Moses has gone from Abraham through Isaac and Jacob, through Moses, through the Law, through the words of the prophets (Hosea, Isaiah). It is the consistent word of the Old Testament that God chooses a people for Himself.

This passage is taken from Deut 13. The context of Deu 30 is found in Deu 30:1. This is for a people who have returned from exile. A remnant will return out of the nations of the earth from exile. Paul develops this in more detail later in Roman 11. It is a remnant of Israel who get this point. They are taken from all nations. This expands beyond national Israel to the nations. Now, God has chosen a people from among the Jews and the Gentiles. The passage in Deut 30 is a prediction of the formation of the church. Paul's use of Joel 2 later will confirm this is his intent.Their identity is based on the promised Messiah, not on their national ancestry.

This is where more than a few commentators start to get muddle headed. This quote is clearly taken from Deu 30:12, which is within the entire context of Deu 30:10-14.

Deu 30:10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
Deu 30:11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
Deu 30:12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say, ' Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.

This passage is very much contrary to how we as Protestants normally understand the Old Testament Law. We have learned from Luther and other that the purpose of the Law was to show us that the Law cannot be followed. Yet, this passage shows us God saying that it can be followed. That following it is not too hard for us. We don't need to go into Heaven to get the answer, it is in the book. Yet, Paul has demonstrated that the Law showed us sin. We are all convicted as lawbreakers by the Law. There has to be a solution to this problem.

The answer is that the only way to follow the Law is by the Spirit of God. At first glance, the "commandment (singular)" in Deu 30:11 seems to be to obey the entire set of commandments (plural). But the commandment here in Moses is faith. The call here is to obey God's voice (His Spirit) from the heart (Deu 30:2 and Deu 30:10). God will circumcise their hearts and the hearts of their children (Deu 30:6). The definitive identification is that Paul refers to this earlier in Romans as the New Covenant.

Rom 2:29 But he is a Jew who is one inwardly; and circumcision is that which is of the heart, by the Spirit, not by the letter.

V7 -
Quotation here is from Deu_30:13. The abyss is often represented as at the bottom of the sea. In Moses' time, the sea represented that which was beyond reach. Paul translates this for his own time as the abyss. is no need to go to beyond the ends of the earth for the strength to obey the covenant. All that was needed was to turn to the one who had done both of these things. Christ had gone down from Heaven in the incarnation. Christ had risen from the deep in the resurrection. To have faith in Christ is to do the necessary work of God.

V8 -
But what does it say?
Speaking anachronisitically, Paul, fits well into the Covenant Church when he asks the question, "Where is it written?" Even the Apostle Paul tests his own teachings with Scripture. How much more us who teach here and now should do the same!

· Quote of Deu_30:14. Again most commentators are muddle headed on this reference. They nearly all miss the connection. Paul saying that Moses already understood and was saying this same thing in Deut as he is saying here. That is why he quotes Moses to a people who know the Law (Rom 7:1).

that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
The word of faith in Jesus. The gospel message concerning faith (objective genitive). Only used here in the Greek. In contrast to the law. This is misused by so-call word of faith preachers. The Word of Faith is defined in the next verse. It is salvation by belief and confession of the Lord Jesus Christ. "We are preaching". Not just Paul was preaching this word, but others known to Rome were their preachers.

that if you confess with your mouth
Jesus said the same thing (Mat_10:32, Luk_12:8). Compare the story of Philip and the Ethiopian Eunuch in Act_8:37. To openly confess Christ in those days of persecution was a trial of faith of the severest kind. Can a secret faith save? Note distinctly that there is no promise here to a concealed faith. There are no secret Christians. A Christian is one who publicly confesses their faith. This is more than church attendance There are always people at church who have never taken that step of faith to publicly confess Jesus as their Lord.

Jesus as Lord,
· Jesus is Lord (Rom_14:9). The Holy Spirit helps us confess Jesus as Lord (1Co_12:3). Every tongue will confess that Jesus is Lord ( Phi_2:11). Lord goes beyond simply master here to deity. This is how a first century person would have heard it. No Jew would do this who had not really trusted Christ, for Kurios in the lxx is used of God. Gentile would do it who had not ceased worshipping the emperor as Kurios.

and believe in your heart
It is not the national descent that matter with God. It is the state of your heart that matters with God.

that God raised Him from the dead,
The Father raised Jesus from the dead (Rom_4:24, Act_2:24). To deny that Jesus rose from the dead is to deny the most crucial act of God. It is less serious to deny that God is the Creator of the universe than to deny that He raised Jesus. We are justified by this raising. This is the stumbling stone that the Jews tripped over in not believing in Jesus

you will be saved;
· There is a grace here. This is not based on our actions which will always fall short. This is based on the actions of Jesus which have already been accomplished. He has already gone into the tomb. He has already ascended into Heaven. He now sits at the right hand of the Majesty.

v10 - heart and mouth together

for with the heart a person believes
Belief is not just intellectual assent. Belief is shown as exhibiting a trusting response to God. As a person matures it will develop intellectually into reasons to believe. But even then belief is still not just mental assent.

resulting in righteousness
In most modern religious systems righteousness is something that a person does.
IN the Jewish religion that Paul was once a part of, their identity was based on Moses. · Christianity is unique among the world religions. Our righteousness is not based on something we do. Our righteousness is based on the One we trust in. He was righteous and we are blessed with His righteousness if we believe in Him.

and with the mouth he confesses
Here is the rub. There are no secret Christians. A Christian confesses his belief before others. This is the evidence of the internal faith. For us, this confession is ultimately made in baptism. The Covenant church honors this in two ways. If a person has never been baptized, we baptize that person. If a person was already baptized and had an significant lapse, then we will not re-baptize, but that person can recommit themselves to that original baptismal commitment by water.

We also provide a public place for a person to confess. We will do that this morning. This will take the form of an invitation to come forward. You don't have to say anything, unless you want to say something. All you will need to do is come forward and stand with me. By doing that you will be saying that you want to let others know that you are a follower of Christ. This is something that anyone who is a Christian has done at some point in their life.

v12 - Jesus is the foundation stone

Paul has already quoted the stumbling stone passage before in (Rom_9:33). Crucial reference to the stone again (Isa_28:16).

Isa 28:16 Therefore thus says the Lord GOD,
"Behold, I am laying in Zion a stone, a tested stone,
A costly cornerstone for the foundation, firmly placed.
He who believes in it will not be disturbed.

This foundation is also a stumbling stone. What is a stumbling stone exactly? Did you ever trip on your way into a building? Perhaps the foundation of the structure is higher than the surrounding area.The foundation holds up the building. But the foundation can also trip you up if you don't see it. Jesus is such a foundation. He holds up the building. But some people trip over Jesus. They think that they can be all right with God without faith in Jesus. It does not work that way, since Jesus is the foundation. Faith in Jesus is the only source of righteousness. Not our own actions. We are helpless in that regard. If you don't yet know that, I pray that you will come to see it.

For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek
· This is understood by many as a statement of justice although this is not the primary intention. See parallel text in Gal_3:28.

Gal 3:28 There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free man, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus.

The ordinary categories by which we view each other are removed in Christ. We may still be in those categories externally. Internally we are all children of God if we are in Christ. This point of justice was the subject of the first church argument. Issue was the administration to the Gentile widows of financial support. There was a need to support widows in the church. The state did not provide a welfare system for widows. The NT welfare system was from the church. This is a good thing since it had a basis of discrimination. Lower taxes overall since the government is not doing all of these things. The Gentile widows did not receive an equal distribution - the Jews were favored. Paul has said the same thing earlier in (Rom_3:22, Rom_3:29). Most of what Paul writes is based on his own experience in sharing his faith with the Jews and Gentiles. This part is based on dialogs with Jews.

Paul declares that it is for Greek (Gentile), as well as Jew

for the same Lord is Lord of all
There is not one Lord of the Jews and another of the Gentiles. Jesus is Lord of both Jew and Gentile (Act_10:36).

abounding in riches for all who call on Him;
If a Jew can justify a Greek certainly the Jew justifies the Jews as well. Riches (Eph_3:8).

The justification is taken from the Bible for Paul's position. "whoever" includes all people, Jew and Gentile. Paul quotes both Moses and the Prophets on the need to follow the Christ. From (Joe_2:32).

Joe 2:32 "And it will come about that whoever calls on the name of the LORD
Will be delivered;
For on Mount Zion and in Jerusalem
There will be those who escape,
As the LORD has said,
Even among the survivors whom the LORD calls.

This passage was quoted at Pentecost (Act_2:21). It was historically fulfilled by the gathering together at Pentecost. Paul's point is to point to the word "Whoever". This promise of Joel, since it says "whosoever," is not limited to the Jewish race. The promise goes out to the Gentiles. The promise goes through time to us. Anyone now who calls on the name of the Lord will be saved.The call is open to all. Men, women, boys, girls

How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
The rest of this section is on the need for a preacher to bring the good news. Answering the question if the word is in our hearts then why are you preaching, preacher? The simple answer is that you have to hear it to believe it.

What the Jews missed was that our righteousness is based on faith in the final promise of God found in Christ. How does this map into our situation? We don't make the mistake of Israel, do we? What mistake might we make? Surely we don't think that we are automatically saved because we are Americans? Or that we have automatic entrance into God's kingdom based on church attendance?Or that we are saved if our parents were Christians? All of these are false hopes. It is only faith in Jesus ourselves that saves.

Invitation to make public confession
If you have never made a public confession of your faith. I would like to invite you to come forward (or post to this BLOG if you are on-line). If you have already made a public confession of Jesus you can remain in your seat. I am assuming that you have asked Jesus into your heart. If you have not already asked him in, we can pray for that as well.

If you know that you need a Savior and want to confess Jesus, come forward. I won't embarrass you. All of us have made confession of our faith in Jesus by coming before others. This is not joining a church. This is telling people that you believe in Jesus. Today is the day, now is the time to confess Jesus before men. If you confess Jesus before men, He will confess you before the Father. Angels rejoice over one person who confesses Jesus.


Thursday, August 04, 2005

Old Testament quotations in Rom 10:6-8

The Old Testament quotations in Romans 10:6-8 are much tougher to make sense of. The text is:
Rom 10:6 But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: "DO NOT SAY IN YOUR HEART, 'WHO WILL ASCEND INTO HEAVEN?' (that is, to bring Christ down),
Rom 10:7 or 'WHO WILL DESCEND INTO THE ABYSS?' (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
Rom 10:8 But what does it say? "THE WORD IS NEAR YOU, IN YOUR MOUTH AND IN YOUR HEART"--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching,
These are quotation from Deut.:
Deu 30:10 if you obey the LORD your God to keep His commandments and His statutes which are written in this book of the law, if you turn to the LORD your God with all your heart and soul.
Deu 30:11 "For this commandment which I command you today is not too difficult for you, nor is it out of reach.
Deu 30:12 "It is not in heaven, that you should say, 'Who will go up to heaven for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:13 "Nor is it beyond the sea, that you should say, 'Who will cross the sea for us to get it for us and make us hear it, that we may observe it?'
Deu 30:14 "But the word is very near you, in your mouth and in your heart, that you may observe it.
The first issue here seems to be finding the connection between what Moses wrote and what Paul wrote. Rom 10:6 is a quote of Deut 30:12 with Paul adding the phrase "(that is, to bring Christ down)". There seems to be nothing in Deut to indicate that Christ was any part of this commandment. This seems to also be the same issue with the next part.

The commandment that Moses is giving is to observe all the Law. The spirit of what Moses is saying is that a person has to turn to God with all their heart and soul. The commandment is not out of reach but was given to them. It was incarnated in the Law. The commandment is not in heaven, but it right before them. This does reflect the idea of the mission of the prophet. The prophet took the words of God and made the people listen to God. This is the same notion as in the next verse which it also contains the phrase "and make us hear it". It doesn't take a trip into Heaven or across the sea to get the answer. The answer is right there in the commandment.

Paul's quotation of Deut 30:13 seems to be problematic as well. The point there is about "across the sea" and yet Paul's quotation is about "the abyss". This may be resolved by examining the Septuagint.

What does match well is the sense of the passage that follows in both the Deut and Romans texts. Paul is laying before them an option of either following or rejecting Christ. That is exactly what Deut 30:15-20 does as well.
Deu 30:15 "See, I have set before you today life and prosperity, and death and adversity;
Deu 30:16 in that I command you today to love the LORD your God, to walk in His ways and to keep His commandments and His statutes and His judgments, that you may live and multiply, and that the LORD your God may bless you in the land where you are entering to possess it.
Deu 30:17 "But if your heart turns away and you will not obey, but are drawn away and worship other gods and serve them,
Deu 30:18 I declare to you today that you shall surely perish. You will not prolong your days in the land where you are crossing the Jordan to enter and possess it.
Deu 30:19 "I call heaven and earth to witness against you today, that I have set before you life and death, the blessing and the curse. So choose life in order that you may live, you and your descendants,
Deu 30:20 by loving the LORD your God, by obeying His voice, and by holding fast to Him; for this is your life and the length of your days, that you may live in the land which the LORD swore to your fathers, to Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob, to give them."
The key issue here seems to be that of a choice. The way of God is to follow Jesus Christ and live. The alternative is death. In the Old Testament the choice was physical life and safety or death and destruction. In the New Testament the choice is between eternal life and death.

Any thoughts in what Paul is doing here are appreciated. This is an obscure point to figure out.

Old Testament quotation in Rom 10:5

Rom 10:5-15 has a number of interesting quotes of the Old Testament.

I am struggling to figure out exactly what Paul intends with these quotes.

The first quote is an indirect quote Moses from Levitcus. Paul wrote:
Rom 10:5 For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
This is a quote of Lev 18:5:
Lev 18:5 'So you shall keep My statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD.
The fact of the matter was that Israel had failed to live up to the statutes and judgements. By the time of Ezekiel this was quite plain.
Eze 20:21 "But the children rebelled against Me; they did not walk in My statutes, nor were they careful to observe My ordinances, by which, if a man observes them, he will live; they profaned My sabbaths. So I resolved to pour out My wrath on them, to accomplish My anger against them in the wilderness.
This quotation seems pretty straightforward. It does seem also to match the sense in which Moses wrote it. If a person lives by the statutes and judgements they will live. Was the mistake that the Jews made to assume that live meant be deemed righteous? Moses does not make that statement there.

Romans 10:5-15 Lectionary text for 8-7-2005

For Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness.
But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows:


(that is, to bring Christ down),



(that is, to bring Christ up from the dead)."
But what does it say?


--that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation.
For the Scripture says,


For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him; for


How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed?
How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard?
And how will they hear without a preacher?
How will they preach unless they are sent?
Just as it is written,


Tuesday, July 26, 2005

The Church and Israel - Rom 9:1-5

Few topics have caused as much controversy in the Evangelical churches as that of the relationship of the church and Israel. Much of this controversy comes from the popularity of End Times books by Tim LaHaye. Having failed to have a lasting effect in the scholarly community, modern Dispensationalists, like LaHaye, have taken up the genre of popular fictional writing. Few Evangelicals know the history of these teachings which started with John Nelson Darby in the early decades of the 19th century. Couple that with concern for the state of the world and the potential for profit is enormous.

Lectionary text for Week ending July 31, 2005
This week the Lectionary text is Romans 9:1-5. The subject of Romans 9-11 is God's relationship to Israel. Earlier in Romans 8, Paul has just completed saying that God does not forsake His people. He then proceeds to say why Israel was forsaken by God. The stumbling block is Jesus as Messiah. Their refusal to accept Jesus as their Messiah is the reason that they are rejected by God. They were loved for the Fathers, but if they do not love the Son, they are not accepted by God.

Weakness of the Lectionary text this week
Unfortunately, the Lectionary text is quite short. That allows the preacher to bring in extra information. Verses from the rest of chapter 9 of Romans can be used. The idea that God has extended the call from beyond historical/national Israel into the world is both humbling and awe inspiring. We are not to take this the wrong way. We could be grafted out if we do not have faith, too.

Preaching Option #2
Another course may be to go into the life story of the Apostle Paul. The conversion of St. Paul is one of the best proofs of the Christian faith. How else could one explain the change in Paul unless he really met Jesus on the road to Damascus. The fact that Paul was willing to die for Israel is seen clearly in his return to Jerusalem in Acts 21.

Preaching Option #3
Another course may be to explain the future of Israel. The Lectionary texts of the following weeks will cover Romans 10 and Romans 11 so it is probably best to leave that for another week.

The Lectionary

The Lectionary is a weekly selection of Biblical texts. Two of the texts are taken from the Old Testament and two come out of the New Testament. One of the Old Testament texts is from the Psalms. One of the New Testament texts is taken from the Gospels and the other text is taken from the Epistles.

The Lectionary texts are widely used in worship services in a variety of Christian worship services. The Lectionary texts cycle through on a three year rotation. These texts are often read and preached from on any given Sunday.

In theory, using the Lectionary texts allows a preacher to avoid pet subjects. There are possibilities for doing series going through a particular book of the Bible. For instance, the Epistle readings for this summer go through much of the book of Romans. Next summer the Old Testament series will go through the life of King David. This way the preacher can preach a series with predefined texts. Not all verses in a given book are selected. For instance, the Lectionary text for this week is Rom 9:1-5 and the rest of Rom 9 is not used.

Having the texts known ahead of time helps worship committees plan services in advance. Local area ministerial associations may provide a reference for local Lectionary study groups. In these groups, preachers get together and discuss the texts that they will be preaching on that Sunday. This allows for the ideas of others to help in forming Sunday morning messages. There are also a number of Lectionary websites and on-line study materials. Often these archive the materials over multiple Lectionary cycles. These are good sources for sermon illustrations and children's sermons as well.

From time to time, this blog will have Lectionary study notes posted - most often for past weeks. I make no promise to keep them current for the given week, but if there is enough interest and feedback to the BLOG then I will consider doing that.

No condemnation

Lectionary Text - Rom 8:1-11

Series: Help for the helpless

Message: No Condemnation

<>Therefore there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

For what the Law could not do, weak as it was through the flesh, God did: sending His own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and as an offering for sin, He condemned sin in the flesh, so that the requirement of the Law might be fulfilled in us, who do not walk according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

For those who are according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who are according to the Spirit, the things of the Spirit.

For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God; for it does not subject itself to the law of God, for it is not even able to do so, and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ, he does not belong to Him.

If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

But if the Spirit of Him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through His Spirit who dwells in you.

v1 - No condemnation for those in Christ.

§ We have been told the mosquito is the state bird of MN

o Are mosquitos then in flocks at sunset?

§ The mosquito illustrates the power of the flesh

o Mosquito is a very small bug

§ Yet the mosquito can control a very large person

§ Sends a group of people running

Power Point of this text

· As Christians we have the power to overcome sin.

· Before coming to Christ, we were helpless

· Our help has come

Looking at the text verse 1


· therefore = based on the previous points in the previous chapters

· The overall case that Paul is making

· because we are saved by grace ...

· because justification is by faith and not by the works of the Law

· certain things follow

there is now no condemnation

· Illustration - prisoners on the way to the electric chair

· At the very last moment a call comes in from the governor granting a pardoned

· Not because we were found to be innocent

· But because of pure mercy

· There are no more wonderful words than to have no condemnation

· This was back in Romans 5…

· Rom 5:1 Therefore, having been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ,

for those who are in Christ Jesus

· for those - select set

· Not all people are justified

· There are people who just play church

· They are not in Christ

· “in Christ Jesus” - key phrase in Paul’s writings

· Our identity is found in Jesus

· We stand in the righteousness of Jesus

v2 - Christ set us free from sin and death.

For the law of the Spirit of life

· Unusual usage of the phrase “Law of the Spirit of Life”

· We usually think of the spirit in contrast to the Law

· In Paul’s writings, "Law" usually refers to the Old Testament Law.

· Law of the Spirit of Life is the Spirit Himself

· Important to remember that the Holy Spirit is not a principle

· The Holy Spirit is a person

· The third person of the Holy Trinity

· Trinity - The Father is God, the Son is God, the Holy Spirit is God. There is only one God.

in Christ Jesus

· This phrase “in Christ” again

· Identity - who are you?

· As Christians, we are in the process of discovering our identity.

· We wrongly think of ourselves as individuals.

· We ought rather to think of ourselves as being a part of something bigger – the body of Christ.

· For many people the 1960s and 70s were a search for identity.

· The children of those people who were trying to "find themselves" in the 1970s face the consequences of that search today.

· The search to "find themselves" took people far and wide - many away from their Christian heritage.

· The Beatles are a good example of this

· Did any of them become Christians?

· Paul uses "in Christ" 8 times in the book of Romans.

· Paul uses the phrase more than fifty times in his letters

· He uses the phrase "in Christ" three times in significant passages in Romans

· Rom_3:24 - redemption is "in Christ"

· Rom_6:11 - consider yourselves to be dead to sin "in Christ"

· Rom_6:23 - eternal life is the free gift of God found "in Christ"

· The phrase "in Christ" is the key to the reality of our identity as Christians.

· To say that the church is the body of Christ is to say quite a bit about us and Him.

· You could meditate on the phrase and never come to the end of the meditation.

· The search for who we are can only properly be ended by finding our place "in Christ".

· First you find out who He is, then you find your place in Him.

has set you free from the law of sin and of death.

· The Law of the Spirit is set in contrast to the Law of sin and death.

· If you have the Holy Spirit in you, then you have been set free from sin and death.

· Are they equal and opposites?

· Things are never equal and opposite when it comes to God.

· There were slaves at the end of the Civil War who chose to stay on the land of their masters.

· They are freed by they kept acting as if they are slaves.

· We do not have to be slaves to sin any longer if we have been freed by Christ.

· We need to stop acting like we are slaves.

v3 - The Law was weak and could not save

For what the Law could not do

· The Law did not have in it the ability to give eternal life

· Gal 3:21 Is the Law then contrary to the promises of God? May it never be!
For if a law had been given which was able to impart life, then righteousness would indeed have been based on law.

· The Law was never intended to give eternal life.

· The Law only had a downside.

· If a person did not keep the Law they were lost.

· Those who kept the Law were never promised eternal life for keeping the Law.

weak as it was through the flesh

· The Law was not inherently flawed.

· The Law came from God.

· The Law is the revelation of the will of God.

· The Law is perfect, holy and true.

· But the Law was weak

· The Law required humans to participate.

· That's where the weakness is found.

God did

· God was the one who put the Law into place

· God was not surprised by the inherent weakness of the Law.

· The weakness of the Law was known even in the creation of the Law.

· There was provision for human failure in the law.

· The law provided a sacrificial system for sin offering.

· But as Heb_10:1 points out even that system had weaknesses.

· Heb 10:1-3 For the Law, since it has only a shadow of the good things to come and not the very form of things, can never, by the same sacrifices which they offer continually year by year, make perfect those who draw near.
Otherwise, would they not have ceased to be offered, because the worshipers, having once been cleansed, would no longer have had consciousness of sins?
But in those sacrifices there is a reminder of sins year by year.

· The system required repetitious offerings.

· Jesus appeared at the right time and place.

· After the destruction of the temple in 70 AD there was no longer a place for sacrifice.

· It took God to do the thing that made us righteous.

· God's requirement was righteousness.

· The Law could not make a person permanently righteous.

· It took a sacrifice on God's part since God is the only truly righteous Being.

· The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient for all time and for all people.

· We don't continue to re-sacrifice Jesus.

sending His own Son

· God sent His own pure and holy Son to pay the price for sin.

· This was pointed to way back before the Law.

· God asked Abraham to take His Son, Isaac and sacrifice Him on Mount Moriah.

· This was done as a shadow of what was to come.

· 2200 years later, God sent His Son to die on the very same hillside.

in the likeness of sinful flesh

· This verse has been difficult for some to understand.

· The flesh is not inherently evil.

· Jesus was in the flesh but did not live according to the flesh.

· Jesus faced the same temptations because He was in the body just like we are.

· Jesus was not a puppet for God.

· Jesus overcame these real temptations.

· The three temptations were both real and significant

· Hunger

· Desire to have a sign/wonder to easily convince the Jews

· To be given the entire world

· We do not face temptations of this scale.

· It's not just the death of Christ that gives us power over sin, but the life of Christ that gives us power.

· Great mystery here.

· Jesus had to be in the flesh to die for our flesh.

and as an offering for sin

· The Old Testament had offerings for sin, but they had to be repeated showing their weakness.

· The sacrifice of Jesus is a human sacrifice.

· The Jews were forbidden to sacrifice humans.

· The pagan nations sacrificed children and adults.

· The sacrifice of a human was to only be Jesus - unique in Israel.

He condemned sin in the flesh.

· We were the ones who deserved to be condemned.

· Rather than condemning us, God condemned sin itself.

· This was a might big cost.

· It cost God His only Son.

v4 - The requirements of the Law are fulfilled in the believer

so that the requirement of the Law

· All of the translations have issues with this passage

· GNT "τὸ δικαίωμα τοῦ νόμου "

· LITV "righteous demand of the Law"

· NASB "requirement of the Law"

· NIV "righteous requirements of the Law"

· KJV "righteousness of the Law"

· The minor problem is the word translated.

· Most of the words a pretty close.

· Usually the word is translated as righteousness.

· The nuance here is the requirement or demand of the law.

· Bigger issue here is the singular "requirement" since the text is singular, not plural.

· NIV's use of the plural "requirements" is just plain wrong and obscures the point of the text.

· It could have been translated as righteous requirement.

· If you are comfortable with the idea

· You can cross out the "s" on the word if you want to get closer to the text.

· What is being pointed to here is not the hundreds of individual laws, but the single requirement.

· Perfect obedience to the Law is the single requirement of the Law.

· If you break the Law in one point, you break it in all the points (Jam_2:10).

· The problem with this standard is that we all broke that requirement.

· If perfect obedience is required we are doomed without help from outside of us.

might be fulfilled in us

· We are created to obey the Law.

· God wants nothing less than obedience from us.

· But God made provision for our weaknesses.

who do not walk according to the flesh

· Paul is a black/white thinker

· This passage is black and white

· Flesh/Spirit

· Most of us feel like we walk part of the time in the flesh and part of the time in the spirit.

· When we fail to walk in the Spirit, we are sure that we are in the flesh and feel lost.

but according to the Spirit.

· Walking in the Spirit is the only way to have victory over sin.

· Walking in our own flesh will result in death.

v5 - Setting our minds on the things of God

For those who are according to the flesh

· More of Paul's black white thinking

· There are two kinds of people in this world

· Those who believe that there are two kinds of people and those who don't.

· Either you are in Christ, or in the flesh.

· As Christians we are not so much bothered by those who are in the flesh

· We can usually recognize them

· What bothers us more is when we feel like we are in the flesh

set their minds on the things of the flesh

· Here is the place of the battle ground.

but those who are according to the Spirit

· This is part of casting our new identity.

· Do we see ourselves properly - as living in the Spirit?

· Or are we setting our minds on the flesh?

the things of the Spirit.

· Set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

· If you are not in that mode, you can be.

· This is not some mystical thing.

· It is the day to day life of a fully committed follower of Jesus Christ.

· We are to set our minds on the things of the Spirit.

· Parallel passage in Gal_5:16-18.

v6 - Living by the flesh leads to death

· Paul presents yet another contrast here between the flesh and the spirit.

For the mind set on the flesh is death

· The wages of sin is death.

· If you have your mind set on the flesh then the result will be death.

· Not just physical death is in view here, but spiritual death.

· This is a life that is the opposite of life and peace

· This is death and anxiety.

but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace.

· The gift of God is eternal life.

· Life that is eternal.

· Peace is here and now.

· This peace is between us and God.

· We are no longer enemies of God since we have set our minds on God.

· That may or may not be peace in our external situation.

v7 - To live accord to the flesh is to be hostile to God

because the mind set on the flesh is hostile toward God

· Battleground is in the mind

· The battle is a daily battle.

· There is no vacation from this battle.

· In fact, taking a vacation from the battle would be to lose the battle.

for it does not subject itself to the law of God

· If you belong to God, then you subject yourself to the Law of God.

· The subjection starts in the mind and the flesh is to follow along.

· "not subject" - military term for taking orders

· Used here to represent continued insubordination to orders

for it is not even able to do so

· Description here is that of a helpless person.

· This person cannot rescue himself.

v8 - In the flesh we cannot please God

and those who are in the flesh cannot please God

· God has extremely high standards.

· God does not find pleasure off those who set their minds against Him.

· The reverse is true.

· If you set your mind on the things of God, then God does have pleasure in you.

· RWP puts it as:

· "This does not mean that the sinner has no responsibility and cannot be saved.

· He is responsible and can be saved by the change of heart through the Holy Spirit."

v9 - If the Spirit is in you, then you are not in the flesh

· Using Paul's black and white thinking

· Either you are in Christ or you are not in Christ.

· How do I know if I am in the flesh?

· Where is my mind set?

However, you are not in the flesh but in the Spirit

· The test is not your actions.

· Good deeds are not the test of whether a person is a Christian or not.

· Church attendance or membership does not make a person a Christian.

if indeed the Spirit of God dwells in you

· The test is the indwelling presence of the Spirit of God.

· The Spirit will abide with you always.

· The Spirit promises to never leave or forsake you.

· The key word here is "indeed"

· There are those in this world who have deluded themselves on this point.

· They think that they have God's Spirit but they don't.

But if anyone does not have the Spirit of Christ

· Spirit of God = Spirit of Christ in the same verse here.

· Parallel usage same thing described.

· RWP sees this as an argument for the deity of Christ.

· The test for Paul was simple.

· This all comes down to the Son.

· Either a person has the Spirit or they don't.

he does not belong to Him.

· Universalism is not true.

· Not everyone is included here.

· Not everyone is saved.

· Either you are a child of God or not.

v10 - Body of the believer is dead but the spirit is alive

If Christ is in you

· Christ is in every believer in the person of the Holy Spirit.

· Christ is in you and you are "in Christ"

though the body is dead because of sin

· We are told to recon the body as dead to sin.

· Paul is going to do something remarkable in the next verse with this point.

· The body will not remain dead.

yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness.

· The Holy Spirit dwells in the believer.

· The Holy Spirit is called by several names in this passage.

· Spirit of Christ.

· Spirit of God.

· These are the same Spirit.

· The Holy Spirit is the source of our righteousness.

· This righteousness does not depend upon our right actions.

· This righteousness comes from God.

· We did not get this righteousness by actions, nor do we maintain it by actions.

· We aquired this righteousness by faith.

· We maintain this righteousness by faith.

v11 - The Spirit gives life to even our bodies

But if the Spirit of Him

· Spirit of Him - Holy Spirit

· If the Holy Spirit...

· There is no easy test for whether this is the case or not.

· There is no secret handshake or special mark on the body of the believer.

It is the mind set on the things of God.

who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you

· Raised Jesus from the dead - used twice in this passage

· More to this than meets the eye.

· The resurrection of Jesus is more than just a promise for us of our own resurrection.

· There is a connection between Jesus being raised from the dead and our present life.

He who raised Christ Jesus from the dead

· God was the one who raised Jesus from the dead.

will also give life to your mortal bodies

· Interesting part of the passage.

· Some commentators see this as describing the resurrection of the body.

· Others see it as describing more than the resurrection of our body.

· Calvin and others see it as the "ethical renewal of the believer".

· Either way it is a remarkable thing.

· The life of Jesus extends to our physical bodies.

· If the Spirit of God dwells in your body there has to be some difference in that body.

· It may be dying, but it has to be touched with life at the same time.

· The Spirit of life is in you.

· IMO "mortal bodies" - not just in our resurrection bodies, but our current state of mortality

· Parallel passage in 2Co_4:11.

· Even though our bodies continue to be mortal

· They are endowed with life from God.

· This is, in part, why we pray for physical healing.

· True, sickness is a part of this world.

· We all get sick,

· We will all die,

· but the life of God in the body of the believer is a reality, too!

· Our bodies are given life by God here and now.

· We are not completely done with sin or sickness, but we are not powerless over either.

· In Christ we have victory in both areas.

· Ultimate victory is in the eternal state.

· Our bodies won't get sick and we won't die there.

through His Spirit who dwells in you

· People try cosmetic surgery.

· There is only one source of life for your mortal bodies.

· The life of Christ in you.

· Even if the mind was set on the flesh it would still not make a person righteous.


· How do you know if you are Christ's?

· After all, we all do sin.

· A simple test is:

· If you do not belong to Christ, then you don't care about this point at all.

· The things of God are foolishness to you.

· 1 Cor 1:18 For the word of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God.

· It is only if you are Christ's that the tension of this point is significant to you.

· Failure and recognition of that failure is a good sign.

· A battle present in the mind with sin is a good sign of life.

· If there is no battle then there is no hope.

· If there is a battle then you have a hope.

· Even if you presently do not yet have victory, do you want victory over sin?

· This points back to the inability of the Law to make someone righteous.