Category Archives: Biblical Meditations

Calvin’s Modest Method

I have been reading Calvin this semester and have been quite enjoying it. One of the most wonderful things is his insistence on contentment with God’s self-revelation. Calvin is a champion of having a humble epistemology, a modest theological method. In speaking of the Trinity he says:

“Here, indeed, if anywhere in the secret mysteries of Scripture we ought to play the philosopher soberly and with great moderation; let us use great caution that neither our thoughts nor our speech go beyond the limits to which the Word of God itself extends. For how can the human mind measure off the measureless essence of God according to its own little measure … Indeed, how can the mind by its own leading come to search out God’s essence when it cannot even get to is own? Let us then willingly leave to God the knowledge of himself. For, as Hilary says, he is the one fit to witness of himself, and is not known except through himself. But we shall be ‘leaving it to him’ if we conceive him to be as he reveals himself to us, without inquiring about him elsewhere than from his Word.” (1.13.21)

Advertisements
Tagged

Philippians 2 – The Characteristics of a Servant of Christ

Philippians 2:1-30 – An Outline and Brief Commentary

How do recognize genuine Christianity? What sort of things do you look for in a minister? The Philippians have opponents who are preaching Christ, but instead of being characterized by prison and suffering, they are characterized by glory, satisfaction, and certainly no suffering. These opponents seem to have the same ministry, but they don’t suffer for it. In fact, their fame gets bigger and bigger; they career and ambition just grows.

The Philippians have been the subject of persecution, hardship and affliction. They see Paul their founding apostle now imprisoned and suffering. Paul’s ministry even seems to be characterized by a constant mode of self-sacrifice, one of self-abasement instead of self-exaltation. Epaphroditus, being sent by the Philippians, fell sick and almost died. It might seem that Christianity was a religion of failure and suffering only. The opponents in Philippi apparently have no place for the cross, suffering, or lacking anything (even food) since they “Live as enemies of the cross of Christ, whose end is destruction, whose god is their belly, whose glory is in their shame, and whose minds are set on earthly things.” (3:18-19) Where is the glory for Christians? Where is the joy and life? Phil 1:27-2:30 are Paul’s answer to the Philippians: a true Christian is one who follows Christ to the cross. This is Paul’s theologia crucis.

Outline:

1:27-2:30 – Having the Mindset and Interests of Christ Results in A Ministry of the Cross

  • 1:27-30 – Conduct Yourselves As Good Citizens
    • v.27-28 – Standing firm in one spirit
      • v.27 – striving side by side for the faith of the gospel
      • v.28 – not frightened by opponents (a sign: their destruction, your salvation)
    • v.29-30 – Graced to Suffer
      • v.29 – for the sake of Christ; part and parcel of Christianity
      • v.30 – same agony/conflict (ἀγῶνα) as Paul (which they see and hear about)
  • 2:1-18 – Christ’s Humility as the Foundation for the Church’s Unity and Godliness
    • vv.1-5 – Have the Mindset of Christ
      • v.1 – the benefits of Christ
        • παρακλησις ἐν χριστῳ – encouragement/comfort in Christ
        • παραμυθιαν ἀγαπης – comfort/consolation of/from love
        • κοινωνια πνευματος – fellowship of the Spirit
        • σπλανγχα – affection (lit: bowels, guts)
        • οἰκιτιρμοι – mercies (also used Rom 12:1 and 2 Cor 1:3)
      • vv.2-4 – the mindset of Christ complete Paul’s joy (cf. 2:16, laboring in vain)
        • Do:
          • το αὐτο φρονῆτε –the same mind/posture
          • την αὐτην αγαπην ἐχοντες – the same love
          • συμψυχοι – sharing a soul, heart
          • το ἑν φροθνοῦντες – thinking in one, having one posture
          • τῃ ταπαεινοφροσυνῃ ἁλληλους ἡγουμενοι ὑπερεχοντας ἑαυτῶν – by humility counting each other as superior
          • [σκοποῦντες] τα ἑτερων ἑκαστοι – look towards others’ interests/things
        • Don’t:
          • κατ’ ἐριθειαν – rivalry, selfish ambition; cf. 1:17
          • κατα κενοδοξιαν – “A person, then, who is motivated by κενοδοξια is a person who assertively, even arrogantly, claims to have the right opinion (δοξα), but who is in fact in error (κενος).” (Hawthorne, p.69)
          • τα ἑαυτῶν ἑκαστος σκοποῦντες
    • vv.5-11 – Humble Obedience characterized Christ’s life
      • v.5 – This (φρονεῖτε)mindset should be among you as was in Christ
        • [Paul seems to
          always be subtly asking “Are we better than him? Does the
          servant not need to follow the master?” The Philippians are to
          see in Christ as their Savior the very same pattern of
          self-abasement and God exalting him.]
        • [“The
          Christ-hymn (vv 6-11) present Jesus as the supreme example of the
          humble, self-sacrificing, self-denying, self-giving service that
          Paul has just been urging the Philippians to practice in their
          relations one toward another (vv 1-4). … Paul’s motive in using
          it here is not theological but ethical. … it is quite in
          keeping with Paul’s practice elsewhere of using life/death of
          Christa as a pattern for Christians to follow” (Ibid, pp. 79-80)]
        • [“This verse
          means that the hoped-for attitude outlined by Paul in vv2-4
          corresponds with that exhibited by Christ Jesus, especially in vv
          6-9, and that the Philippians are bound to act in accordance with
          this attitude toward one another if they wish to imitate their
          Lord … and share with him in his exaltation and glory” (Ibid, p.
          80)]
      • vv.6-8 – Jesus’ humbled himself (Hawthorne helpfully notes the theological parallel with John 13, pp. 77-78)
        • Jesus did not:
          • count equality with God a thing to be grasped
        • Jesus was/did:
          • in the form (μορφῃ) of God
          • made himself nothing/emptied himself (ἐκενωσεν)
          • took the form (μορφῃ) of a servant
          • born in the likeness (ὁμοιοματι) of men
          • found in human appearance (σχηματι)
          • humbled himself to the point of death, even death by a cross
      • vv.9-11 – The Father has exalted him
    • vv.12-18 – Therefore Obey as Christ Obeyed
      • work out your salvation in fear and trembling
      • for it is God who works in you both to will and to energize for his good pleasure
      • lights in the midst of a crooked generation
      • looking forward to the day of Christ
      • Their obedience and humble unity
        • v.12 – Absence and presence of Paul (cf. 1:27)
        • v.16 – Ministry Not in Vain
        • v.17-18 – Even if costly, their faith as acceptable offering is worth it for the sake of rejoicing together.

2:19-30 – Timothy and Epaphroditus are humble servants and thus are to be received well vv.19-24 – Timothy as Paul’s Messenger v.19 – Timothy is sent for Paul’s joy vv.20-22 – Timothy’s humble servitude like Christ v.20 is genuinely concerned for their welfare v.21 seeks the interests of Christ v.22 is of proven worth in light of his service in the gospel as a son v.23-24 – Timothy is beloved and helpful to Paul vv.25-30 – Epaphroditus as the Philippians Messenger Epaphroditus’ humble servitude like Christ v.25 – Paul’s brother, fellow worker, fellow soldier v.25 – Their messenger and minister to Paul v.30 – Nearly died for the work of Christ Paul is eager to send Epaphroditus: v.26 – he has been longing to see them (because of their worry over his illness) v.28 – so that the Philippians might rejoice in reunion v.28 – so that Paul may be less anxious v.29 – Receive in the Lord and Honor such men

Paul then moves on to show that his own ministry is characterized by the cross of Christ. In fact, his warning against the false teachers, the dogs, is largely based on the fact that their ministry is not characterized by the cross but by boasting. Whatever it is they are boasting in is of little significance, since the cross renders all human contribution as dung (σκύβαλα). Paul’s boast and earnest desire is that he “might be found in him, not having his own righteousness from the law, but rather that which is through the faithfulness of Christ, the righteousness of God on the basis of faith, knowing him and the power of his resurrection and the fellowship of his suffering, being co-conformed to his death, if thereby somehow I might attain to the resurrection from the dead.” (3:9-11; my translation) Paul does not hope in glory in this life, but in resurrection glory in the next. In fact, his continuing in this life is for the sake of the church; he understands his ministry as self-sacrificial (2:17).

The following table illustrates the difference between servants of Christ, and those who serve themselves (εριθεια). It could certainly be filled in more, but as it is provides the broad outlines of what I think Paul is hoping to accomplish with his letter.

Christ Paul Timothy Epaphr. Opponents Philippians
φρονητε 2:7 took the form (μορφη) of a servant/slave2:8 humbled

2:6 did not count equality

2:8 obedient unto death

CROSS

2:9 God highly exalted him

1:1 servant/slave3:10 being conformed (συμμορφιζωμαι) to his death

4:12 brought low

2:17 Poured out on offering of their faith

4:11 in whatever situation I am content

3:10 know the power of his resurrection

2:20 genuinely concerned for your welfare2:21 seeks Christ’s interests 2:27, 30 risked death for service to Christ2:26 longing for them 1:15,17 – strife, ambition (some from good will)3:19 glory is their shame

3:19 enemies of the CROSS

3:19 their god is their belly

3:19 end is destruction

2:3 – Not selfish ambition2:4 – by humility

1:29 graced to believe and suffer

2:12 obeying, working out salvation

2:4 looking out for each others interests, not their own

1:10 pure and blameless on the day of Christ

For Further Reading see: Gerald Hawthorne Word Biblical Commentary vol.43

Tagged , ,

Romans 12-16

Here is a sample of what I have been doing for the past few days:(And forgive me for the mess of fonts that happened when I transferred this from my word file)

Brief Commentary on Romans 12:1-2 and An Outline of Romans 12-16

Up until 12:1 Paul has been carefully working through his argumentation regarding the righteousness of God, his wrath and justice, sin, human rebellion, justification, union with Christ who died and rose, the Spirit, and the Father’s intentions toward Israel. He now moves on to the point he has been arguing towards the whole letter. For most of us, the doctrinal discussion which forms the foundation and argumentative backbone of Paul’s application is, perhaps, more experientially revolutionary. But, we must not forget that Paul wrote this letter for a reason. The reason was to address the issues in the church in Rome. It seems best to me to understand Paul to be addressing the tension between the newly authoritative and established Gentiles and the returning but foundational Jews (this is clear from his discussions in Rom 1-3, and 14-15). What is informative for us is that Paul does not simply address the issue with a terse letter saying “be nice.” Rather, he unpacks the implications of the gospel. Moreover, the first implication of the gospel he draws out is not peculiar to the Jew-Gentile relationship but to the very character of every Christian life. Having surveyed the nature of the Christian life in the body of Christ, in society, in relation to authority and in relation to righteousness and the law, he moves on to Jew-Gentile issues.

Some Comments on 12:1-2

There are three imperatives which Paul gives us:

1) Present your bodies as living sacrifices (parasthsai ta swmata uvmwn qusian zwsan)

2) Do not be conformed to this age (mh suscematizesqe tw|/ aivw/ni toutw|)

3) Be transformed (metamorfou/sqe)

Of course, Paul is no moralist but is concerned with seeing the gospel, the power of God, bear fruit. Thus he provides two1 means by which these imperatives are to be accomplished, respectively:

1) Through the mercies of God (dia tw/n oivtirmw/n tou/ qeou/),

2) By the renewal of the mind (th|/ avnakainwsei tou/ nooj).

Paul sees these not as ends in themselves. Obedience is desirable for the end of God’s glory. He wants the Romans to these things:

1) As their spiritual service (or reasonable service; th/n logikh/n latreian)

2) So that they can discern the will of God (eivj to dokimazein u`maj ti to qelhma tou/ qeou/)

There are four major theological themes at play here.

  1. “Therefore, …. through the mercies of God” – In some way this has been what he has been arguing towards, and wanting to get to through the whole letter. This is the goal of his theology. All of that he has argued for in chs. 1-11 now has its pay out: a living sacrifice. If you are united to Christ through the Spirit in his death and resurrection then live your life as a living sacrifice. This is in line with the way Paul describes his own ministry in the beginning of the letter. He was called as an apostle “to bring about the obedience of faith” (1:5). What does this mean about the worth of theological education? It is useless if we are not godlier for it. If we do not love the Lord more and serve with less hesitation, and pray more fervently, then we have not properly worked out the knowledge about Christ which we are amassing.
  1. “This age” – Admittedly, it may be better to translate this as the NIV does, “the pattern of this world.” But what is clearly underlying Paul’s phrase here is an “already” and “not yet” eschatology. Though especially developed in other epistles (Ephesians), nonetheless this understanding of the aeons of time and redemptive history is what Paul is referring to here. This becomes clear when we survey the other places in Romans where Paul makes claims with reference to time:

6:19 – “For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to lawlessness leading to more lawlessness, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness leading to sanctification”

8:18 – “the sufferings of the present time (nu/n kairou/) are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be (mellousan) revealed to us”

8:22 – “creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now

11:5 – “at the present time (nu/n kairw|/) there is a remnant, chosen by grace.”

13:11 – “Besides this you know the time, that the hour has come for you to wake from sleep. For salvation is nearer to us now than when we first believed”

16:25-26 – “the revelation of the mystery that was kept secret for long ages but has now been disclosed and through the prophetic writings has been made known to all nations, according to the command of the eternal God, to bring about the obedience of faith”

(cf. 3:21, 26; 5:6; 8:1)

The Romans have received the Spirit of adoption (8:15) and yet wait eagerly for their adoption (8:23). They suffer presently and yet look forward to the glory to be revealed to them. The hope of Christians is God’s final restoration of the earth and his people and not the benefits they might receive from conforming to the worldly standards of this age. Their heavenly citizenship is the model which they are to follow; Jesus himself.

  1. Bodily Obedience is Produced by Mind Renewal – Romans 12:2 needs to be read as a companion text to Romans 8:4-8 or any other discussion of Paul’s usage of the flesh. How can the body be the location of our spiritual or reasonable worship if those in the flesh cannot please God? Flesh should be read as a quick reference word to the dominion of sin over mankind, the old aeon. As well, Paul is not a gnostic. Rather, Paul understands the body to be pleasing and good as part of the creation groaning for God’s restoration. Those who would have us believe that existential, transcendent and maybe even ecstatic exhibitions of the ‘spirit’ are the main component of Christian holiness have horribly neglected Paul’s imperative here. If our bodily life is not holy and pleasing to our Holy God, then whatever ‘spiritual’ manifestations we may claim are fraudulent. The same could be said of theological knowledge; if our bodies don’t follow suit then our knowledge is just arrogance.
  1. The Will of God – While we often speak of or hear of others trying to find the will of God for our lives, this is not what is meant by Paul here. Certainly, I am not denying that the Lord has a providential will for every detail of our lives, including if and who we will marry, what job we will take when, and what hardships we will face. Paul emphasizes, at length, that “all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.” (8:28) But, just before Romans 12:2, is 11:33-35 where Paul says “How unsearchable his judgments, and how inscrutable his ways! ‘For who has known the mind of the Lord?’” The sovereign will of God exists, but it is not what Paul is focusing on here. Rather Paul is focusing on the moral will of God, that we would be “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). Again, “this is the will of God, your sanctification” (1 Thess 4:3). What exactly does Paul have in mind that would be the good, pleasing/acceptable and perfect/mature of God? He goes into great detail unfolding exactly this in 12:3-15:13.

An Outline of Romans 12-16

  • 12:1-2 – Theological Implications of All the Preceded
    • Three Imperatives
    • Two Means
    • Two Results (see above for discussion)
  • 12:3-13:14 – The Will of God for the Christian’s Life
    • 12:3-8 – Gifts for the Body of Christ
      • [This is the

        first means listed of being a living sacrifice]

      • v.3 – Gifts are a matter of sober judgment and not a means for self-exaltation
      • vv.4-5 – Gifts are a means of service for the whole body
      • v.6 “let us use them” – Using our gifts requires risk on our part and encouragement from others
      • vv.7-8 – The gift list here is not exhaustive, just as all the others in the NT. Not the absence of tongues from the list. Does this imply anything about its importance, the presence or absence of its practice in Rome or something else? Healing, miracles and administration which are found in gift lists in 1 Corinthians are also missing here.
      • [The very next

        section is on love in relationship. Just as Paul transitions from

        gifts in 1 Cor 12 to love in 1 Cor 13, so he does here.]

    • 12:9-21 – Love and Godliness in Relationship
      • vv.9-13 – Love of Good and Hate of Evil in the Body of Christ
        • v.9 could very well be used as a motto for Christian discipleship.
        • v.12 is a constant theme in Romans (5:1-5; 8:18ff).
      • vv.14-21 – Love of Enemies and Neighbors
        • v.16 “do not be haughty but associate with the lowly” – Theological students who would do well in theology and in ministry must take these words to heart. If you are to be conformed to the image of Christ, then you are to serve, not to be served. We, as ministers, must be the first to wash the feet of our people, even enemies. This may mean that we need to consider taking a second job which requires hard work as an example to our flocks. Or it may mean that we need to consider what areas are in need of ministers but have been neglected because of the lack of prestige and resources available to that post.
        • v.21 – “Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.” – Paul is not simply saying “be the change you want to see.” He is rather suggesting that through our obedience to the will of God, God himself will bring about the effects of his righteous reign. The ramifications and effects of our obedience are the undoing of evil on all levels of society.
    • 13:1-7 – Submission to Divinely Instituted Authorities
      • vv.1-4 – Why you ought to submit to “governing authorities”
        • v.2 “There is no authority except from God, and those that exist have been instituted by God”
        • v.3 “Who ever resists the authorities resists what God has appointed”
        • v.4 “he [the

          authority] is God’s servant for your good”

        • v.4 “he is the servant of God, an avenger who carries out God’s wrath on the wrongdoer.”
        • v.4 “he does not bear the sword in vain” – There is a good argument to be made for capital punishment from this verse
      • vv.5-7 – What submission looks like
        • v.5 “be in subjection, not only to avoid God’s wrath, but also for the sake of conscience.” (cf. v.3)
        • v.6-7 “Pay to all what is owed to them” – This should sound just like Jesus’ saying “Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s” (Mark 12:17).
        • [At issue is law

          keeping, tax paying and generally being a good citizen. This does

          not necessarily seem to prohibit civil disagreement with a

          governmental regime nor civil regime change. Submissive regime

          change does happen, and it is utterly distinct from military

          coups common in countries which have been oppressed for a long

          time. This passage assumes that Christians are not in power.]

    • 13:8-14 – People of the Day of Salvation: Two Appeals for Holy Living
      • vv.8-10 – Love fulfills the law
        • [That love

          fulfills the law flows perfectly from Paul’s theology of the law,

          righteousness and the Spirit; 8:2 “the law of the Spirit and

          life.” Paul’s understanding of the law is either dependent on

          or at least coherent with what Jesus says in Matt 22:34-40 and

          Mark 12:28-34. It is noteworthy that at the end of Mark’s account

          of Jesus summing up the law, he says that the scribe is “not

          far from the kingdom of God. Paul understands the Jew-Gentile

          relationship to be one that ought to be characterized by the

          kingdom of God. (15:17)]

      • vv.11-14 – Love puts on the armor of light
        • v.13 – Public chastity (no orgies nor drunkeness), bodily purity (no sexual immorality nor sensuality), and peaceful relationships (no quarreling nor jealousy) are to characterize the Christian’s life.
        • v.14 – Love for Jesus “makes no provision for the flesh, to gratify its desires.”
        • [The second

          appeal Paul makes for holy living is that the time calls for it.

          We are those who are awaiting the day of salvation which is

          coming nearer and nearer and so we ought to put off the “works

          of darkness and put on the armor of light.” This is an appeal

          based on the eschatological dawning of the kingdom of God in

          Christ.]

  • 14:1-15:13 – The Kingdom of God is not a Matter of Eating, but of Righteousness: Jew and Gentiles in the Body of Christ
    • 14:1-15:7 – The Issue of Food, Judgment and the Weak2
      • [I understand

        this to be an issue between Jews and Gentiles because of similar

        (1 Cor 8-10) and related contexts (Acts 15:20 “abstain from

        things polluted by idols, and from sexual immorality, and from

        what has been strangled, and from blood.”)]

      • Pursue, therefore, what makes for peace because:
        • 14:3 – God has welcomed the weak
        • 14:4 – Before his own master each man is judged and will stand or fall (and the Lord will make his own stand v.10
        • 14:7 – No Christian lives or dies unto themselves, but all things are toward the Lord
        • 14:9 – Christ died for the weak brother (cf. 14:15)
        • 14:17 – The kingdom of God is not a matter of eating and drinking but of righteousness, peace and joy in his Son.
        • 14:19-20 – Division among God’s people destroys God’s work
        • 14:23 – Whatever does not proceed from faith is sin
        • 15:1 – We have strong obligation to bear with the failings of the weak
        • 15:3 – For Christ did not please himself, but took on our reproach
        • 15:7 – As Christ has welcomed you, welcome each other for God’s glory.
        • [The weak are

          not to be understood as simply people of different but equally

          valid opinion. The weak are those whose opinions are wrong or

          lacking and thus hamper and confine their consciences unduly.

          Paul says we must bear with the failings of

          the weak, not the differences of mere opinion. The Jews in this

          context should have recognized that their diet does nothing to

          gain or lose their standing with God; Christ has fully purchased

          them. This was a wrong belief (14:14). But, there is grace in the

          body of Christ for believers whose faith is immature and mixed

          with false beliefs. But this grace is there so that they may

          mature into the true faith more and more fully.]

        • [We are in need

          of encouragement if this sort of ministry and character will be

          true of us and our congregations. As well, true reconciliation

          and unity will never be accomplished unless it is done for God’s

          glory. (15:7)]

    • 15:8-13 – Christ’s Ministry to the Circumcised
      • vv.8-9a – Jesus ministered to the Jews first, for two reasons:3
        • in order that the promises to the patriarchs might be confirmed (and thus show God’s faithfulness; cf. 3:3)
        • in order that the Gentiles might praise God for his mercy
      • vv.9b-12 – Paul’s understanding of the ministry of Christ is firmly rooted in a continuance of the Old Testament offices under the covenant
      • v.13 – The power of the Holy Spirit works towards hope and unity
  • 15:22-16:16 – Personal Matters
    • 15:22-33 – Paul’s Ministry Plans
      • v.22-24 – Paul’s work up to date, and future plans of going to Spain
      • v.25-27 – The Jerusalem collection is a major means of Paul uniting the Jewish and Gentile churches. The Gentiles owe this merciful service to the Jews, for:
        • “if the Gentiles have come to share in their spiritual blessing, they ought also to be of service to them in material blessings.” (15:27; cf. 11:17-22)
        • [This is a

          younger, less established church sending a gift of food and money

          to the older more mature church, to whom the younger church owes

          its existence. An analogy would be the African church sending

          material support to the American or European churches because of

          a famine ruining those lands.]

      • vv.28-33 – Paul expects to come by Rome, after Jerusalem where he expects hardship.
    • 16:1-16 – Personal Greetings to the Saints “In Christ”
      • NB: This chapter has the highest concentration of the phrase “evn cristw|/” “In Christ”
  • 16:17-25 – Final Exhortation and Doxology
    • vv.17-19 – Those who cause division; these seem to be operating behind the scenes of the Jew-Gentile relationship, and its issues (14:1-15:13; cf. Phil 2:21; 3:2-3)
    • v.20 “God of peace will soon crush Satan under your feet” – This is clear reference to the first gospel promise in Genesis 3:15, where the God of peace places enmity between the seed of the serpent and the seed of the woman. Enmity and peace are major motifs in Romans and Paul’s theology in general (cf. Eph 2:14-16)
    • NB: There is an inclusio here in v.26 with 1:5 “to bring about the obedience of faith”

1In class I wrongly claimed a third means, namely “by testing.” This was based on the grammar of the ESV and not the Greek test itself. Translations seem insert “testing” as an addition to “discern” to draw out the nuance of dokimazein

2I understand this passage to be one unit because of the inclusio of God welcoming his people in 14:3 and 15:7.

3Both of the following verbs are Infinitive Aorist and so I understand them both to be subordinate to eivj to at the beginning of the clause.

Tagged , ,

Suffering, Paul and Ministry

I’ve been reading Tom Schreiner’s Paul: Apostle of God’s Glory in Christ. These quotes were helpful and encouraging to me:

“The manifest power of the kingdom, therefore, is expressed in and through the weakness and suffering of Paul. The manner in which Paul preaches, then, replicates the cross of Christ, for the message of the cross is foolish and weak in the eyes of those who are dazzled by human wisdom and signs and wonders (1 Cor 1:18-25)” (93)

“The Corinthians conceived of high status and success as an indication that they were under God’s favor. Paul counters that the oppositie is the case; those who are condemned by the world and rejected as nobodies are God’s genuine messengers. Paul’s suffering does not undercut the legitimacy of his message; it testifies to its authenticity and truth.” (93)

Want confirmation that you are in Christ? Does your service to the Lord earn you disregard or disdain from some of those who don’t submit to the Lord? It seems that if the answer is yes, then you can be overjoyed that you are indeed in Christ and counted worthy of the name. This brings to mind the way the Apostles suffered at the hands of the sanhedrin, and what they took from it:

"when they had called in the apostles, they beat them and charged them not to speak in the name of Jesus, and let them go. 41Then they left the presence of the council, rejoicing that they were counted worthy to suffer dishonor for the name" (Acts 5:40-41).

At the very least all of this taken together is a reminder that to follow Christ is to follow the way of the cross, the way of the suffering servant. Increasing ignominy is the pattern; we can take on shame because the Lord himself will give us his glory.

DFR

Contentment vs. Asceticism

I have been thinking about contentment quite a bit lately. Here are some various thoughts. Please feel free to comment, I am still in flux on many of these topics.

I have begun to think of contentment in this way: knowing of something better (either in quality or quantity), and even being able to get said object, but choosing to continue without it (presumably using the thing you already possess). An example of this: I know of many bikes with better frames, nicer components which I could buy if we were to contort our budget. I won’t because my current bike works just fine. Another example: We want a wagon with a third row of seats, but right now our little Civic is sufficient for all our needs.

I have, up until now, consistently thought of contentment in terms of quantity only: you are content (and not greedy) if you have just enough for yourself. But I am beginning to think of my obsession with quality as an obsession of a privileged American, certainly not an obsession reflecting a hearty contentment with the Father’s care for me.

Asceticsm (I suppose), would be to say that you ought not to have any object unless it specifically pertains to your physical sustenance: food, shelter, clothing. But even this is close to Paul’s comments in 1 Timothy 6.

1 Timothy 6:6-10
Now there is great gain in godliness with contentment, 7 for we brought nothing into the world, and we cannot take anything out of the world. 8 But if we have food and clothing, with these we will be content. 9 But those who desire to be rich fall into temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and harmful desires that plunge people into ruin and destruction. 10 For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evils. It is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced themselves with many pangs.

What would asceticism be, then? To refuse a quality of living in respect to the essential areas. Thus the ascetic would limit his intake to certain types of food which would be seen as basic, or barely sufficient. To avoid luxury, or any enjoyment of luxury seems like a better definition of asceticism.

Paul has a different idea of contentment than most of us: he is able to enjoy plenty (we might read luxury here) and scarcity. His enjoyment and luxury and desire is in Christ; thus he is not troubled by scarcity (though he would say it is a bad thing), and not wooed by luxury nor scared of it. The ascetic is afraid of enjoying luxury in order to preserve the pristine self-righteousness they have constructed. Luxury can be a gift; but as with all gifts only the bratty and entitled demand them.

Phillipians 4:11-13
11 Not that I am speaking of being in need, for I have learned in whatever situation I am to be content. 12 I know how to be brought low, and I know how to abound. In any and every circumstance, I have learned the secret of facing plenty and hunger, abundance and need. 13 I can do all things through him who strengthens me.

The posture toward possessions seems central: the sense of entitlement is the evil of greed. Only in Christ can we avoid being brats (even though the objects we desire are very mature and grown-up).

DFR

Intention of Jesus

Here is a small paper I finished this last week. Its been one of the most helpful assignments to date. It forced me to connect Jesus’ death with his kingdom, and the church. The assignment was to write a two page paper which answered this question "What did Jesus intend to accomplish in his first century earthly ministry?"

There are three overlapping themes which are central to the characteristic sketch of Jesus we receive in the gospels: the Kingdom, the cross, and the disciples. These three themes are understood to confront and invite the reader to participate in his kingdom as a cross-bearing disciple. Jesus came to inaugurate his kingdom by means of his ministry, cross and resurrection and thereby form a church to both benefit from and champion his kingdom throughout the world. All that follows is just the relationship of the details to this overarching purpose.

Jesus came to inaugurate the kingdom of God as Davidic Messiah – The kingdom he inaugurates is unlike all the others on earth (Jn. 18:36). It is a kingdom of repentance, restoration, and righteousness, and only those who have been born of the Spirit can see it (Jn. 3:3). Despite the public revelation at his baptism1 he nonetheless rejects the Satanic temptation to seize power over all the nations (Mt 4:8ff.; Lk. 4:4ff.) His kingdom is not to be established by power grabbing, but humble, inconspicuous submission to his Father’s will (Jn. 5:43; 7:28). He was sent for the express purpose of “[preaching] the kingdom of God” (Lk. 4:43). Indeed because “the kingdom of God is at hand” (Mt. 4:17; Mk. 1:15), repentance is imperative. While he preaches, he also cures, cleanses, and casts out demons (Mt. 4:23-25; Mk. 1:21-34; Lk. 4:31-41). In doing so he demonstrates his kingly authority which is used for the restoration of God’s world. He also forgives sin with full divine authority (Mt. 9:2-8; Mk. 2:5-11; Lk. 2:20-24), because he is God himself. Jesus is Immanuel; the Son of Man (Dn. 7:13) himself has come to begin his reign. He also is the long-awaited Davidic king (Mt. 1:1-17; Lk. 4:23-38; cf. Mt. 20:30; Mk. 10:47; Lk 18:39). Thus when Jesus approaches Jerusalem the people express their expectant excitement, “Blessed is the coming kingdom of our father David! Hosanna in the highest!” (Mk. 11:10; cf Mt. 21:9; Lk. 19:37). He embraces the title “son of David” and yet flips it; he is not only king, he is God himself, the savior (Mt. 22:45; Mk. 12:37; Lk. 20:44).Yet his kingdom is not what the 1st century Palestinians expected it to be (Jn. 6:15); a relief from their centuries of political bondage and oppression. He insists that the kingdom of God, that heavenly eternal kingdom in Daniel, is like a mustard seed (Mt. 13:31-32; Mk. 2:30-32; Lk. 13:18-19) before the day when it grows and provides shade for all the birds of the air (Dn. 4:12). It is like leaven, silently spreading, pervading the whole loaf (Mt. 13:33; Lk. 13:21); it quietly supplants the satanic powers despite their machinations. This kingdom is the fulfillment of the righteousness of God on earth (Mt. 6:10; Lk. 11:2) and so has some aspects which are already taking place and some which are awaiting the final eschatological day (Mt.16:68; 24:4ff; Mk. 13; Lk. 21:5-36; Jn. 11:25-28; 18:36).

Jesus came to suffer, die, rise again and thereby bring judgment – The cross forms the central moment in Jesus’ ministry in tandem with his resurrection as vindicating all his claims of authority (Mt. 16:21; 17:12; 26:54; Mk. 8:31; 9:12, 31-32; 10:33-34; Lk. 9:22; 13:33; 17:25; 22:37; 24:7, 26, 44; Jn. 3:14). His death is what John the Baptist presents as mission, to separate the wheat from the chaff which “he will burn with unquenchable fire” (Mt. 3:12; Lk. 3:17; cf. Mk. 1:9). Jesus did not come into the world to condemn it (Jn. 3:17), but to bring to light all of the evil that is in the hearts of men. Jesus himself says “For judgment I came into this world, that those who do not see may see, and those who see may become blind” (Jn. 9:39; cf. 3:19). Those who claim favor from God, and loyalty to God are shown to be loyal to themselves as they are confronted with Jesus’ cross, and the cost of discipleship. The kingdom authority Jesus claims is universal and so is universally threatening to those who have something to lose. His execution on the cross demonstrates the malicious abuse of power by the Sanhedrin (Mt. 26:29ff.; Mk. 14:55ff.; Lk. 22:66ff.; Jn. 18:19ff.), and the acquiescing power of Pilate (Mt. 27:24; Mk. 15:15; Lk. 23:24; Jn. 18:38; 19:1); it is the hour of “the power of darkness” (Lk. 22:53). His birth excited genocide from Herod for in order to snuff out this new king, (Mt. 2:16; cf. similar reaction to John Mk. 6:18; Lk. 3:19).2 His death is the judgment of this world and its ruler (Jn. 12:31). Most importantly, his death is judgment on sin; an atoning work (Mk 10:45). It seals the new covenant (Mt. 26:28; Mk. 14:24; Lk. 22:20). His blood is the means which the Father has given for people to be members of that kingdom. This is true in terms of participation in the eternal life of the kingdom (Jn. 6:53-56), and being ransomed from the reign of death and sin (Mt. 20:28; Mk. 10:45; Lk. 22:37; Jn. 3:15). Indeed, it is the one who believes “that Jesus is the Christ, the son of God” (Jn. 20:31), who receives the eternal life of the kingdom and will drink wine in the kingdom of God (Mt. 26:29; Mk. 14:25; cf. Lk 22:30). For all those who are well acquainted with their need for forgiveness (Mt. 18:23ff.), their need to be saved not only from the power of others, but also of their own sin, this kingdom is good news, peace and good will from God (Lk. 2:10-14).

Jesus came to disciple and form the ἐκκλησια – This is the point of the parable of the sower (Mt. 13:1ff; Mk. 4:1ff; Lk. 8:4ff). Those who have good soil are few, but they receive the light that has come into the darkness (Jn. 1:10-11; 8:12). The reader is unable to hear this testimony about Jesus without being confronted with their own decision to believe or reject the word of Jesus (Jn. 5:39-40), the seed of the kingdom (Mt. 13:19; Mk. 4:14; Lk. 8:11). The parable makes clear that the line between those who are members of the kingdom of God and those who will be cast out does not follow the boundaries of socioeconomic classes (Joseph of Arimathea was righteous and waiting for the kingdom of God Mt. 27:57; Mk.15:43; Lk. 23:50-51; Jn. 19:38-39), or the distinction between the powerful and the powerless (Mt. 26:51ff.; Mk. 14:47; Lk. 22:49ff.; Jn. 18:10ff.) It is the soil of the heart, whether it is able to receive the light of Jesus, which determines entrance to the kingdom. This ability to receive the word is no small feat. It is so difficult that it Jesus says that you must lose your life to accept it (Mt. 10:38-39; 16:24-25; Mk. 8:34-35; Lk. 9:23-24; Jn. 12:24-26). To believe that Jesus the King was killed because of our sin, was resurrected, exalted as judge, and that you would have done the same thing that those in power did; this requires the death of all pride and self-sufficiency. Indeed, Peter’s denial of Jesus is a window into his own heart, his own ultimate loyalty to himself (Mt. 26:75; Mk. 14:72; Lk 22:61-62; Jn. 18:27). The other disciples fled (Mt.26:31, 56; Mk. 14:50; Lk 22:31-32; Jn. 16:32) when they saw what following Jesus would mean: being persecuted for righteousness’ sake (Mt. 5:10; cf. Lk. 6:22). Yet, Peter is restored (Jn 21:15). Members of this kingdom recognize that they have been forgiven much, and so they love much (Lk. 7:47).

Yet, no disciple is greater than his master (Mt. 10:24; Lk. 6:40; Jn. 13:16; 15:20). Indeed, it is only because Jesus has prepared the way that his disciples who abide in him are able to bear their crosses and thus obey their Lord’s command (Jn. 15:4-11). As the disciple is baptized into Jesus, and drinks from his cup (Mt. 20:23; esp. Mk. 10:39), so the disciple receives his life (Jn. 6:53-56) and his commission. Not only are the twelve sent out on a mission to Israel (Mt. 10:1ff; Mk. 3:13-15; Lk. 9:1ff.) but are also given a global commission (Mt. 28:18-20; Jn. 17:18; Acts 1:4-8). They are appointed a kingdom (Mt. 24:34; Lk. 12:32; esp. 22:29); they are the ambassadors of Jesus’ global kingdom sent out into the world.

1After publicly embodying and legitimating the repentant spirit present in John’s baptism (Mt. 3:15), he is also publicly confirmed as the Son of God in whom the Father is well pleased (Mt. 3:17; Mk. 1:11; Lk. 3:21).

2Indeed, Jesus lambastes the Jews because of their unbelief (Mt 10:15; 11:22, 24; Lk. 10:14; 11:31-32), which would lead them to demand his death (Mt. 27:22,25; Mk. 15:14; Lk. 23:21, 23; Jn. 19:6).

Recent Sermon

It always looks better on paper. If this manuscript looks long and slightly confusing…. that because it is. I received some helpful critique from my classmates and teacher about sharpening the points, and paring down excess material. These are the same comments my loving and perceptive wife has been telling me for years. I know what to do, now is a matter of developing the skills.

We were told to pick a context to preach in, thinking of where we might end up after seminary. I picked the church we used to attend in Malawi with its very diverse socio-economic, religious, age and political mix. Hopefully this should make some sense of the applications (i.e. polygamy).

Introduction:

In the last two hundred years Africa has been home to many conquests and following these, revolutions. Most of the colonies were marked by racism, extortion, and ruthless economic principles which allowed the colonizing nations to strip the land of its resources and leave the people of that land without the wealth, dignity, or rights which their good and generous God had given them. There were notable exceptions, no doubt. Yet, in the face of this oppression, this affliction, the people rebelled. They fought against the strong and the noble, often at a great cost to their own families and their own lives, in order to gain back what they were made for, as image bearers of God.

Yet, as often happens, once the the oppressed were put into power they soon became the oppressors. This pattern is not unique to Africa. This is an old and common pattern. It turns out that when we are given the same opportunity to take advantage of others, and oppress, we will do the same as our previous oppressors. The drive to exert power over another for your own benefit is part and parcel of the sinfulness we all share. Robert Mugabe is a great example of this. He opposed the oppression that the old Rhodesian regime represented; their elitism, their suppression of the rights of the blacks. Yet, what happened once he was in power? He became an oppressive force toward the old regime, as well as toward the other tribes within Zimbabwe. We witnessed this same phenomenon in the most recent election in Kenya. The United States after gaining their independence from Britain who had violated their rights, then went on to deny those same rights to the Native Americans, the African slaves, and the poor European immigrants who lived within her new borders. You might say that it is a vicious cycle: oppression begets oppression.

But what are the oppressed supposed to do? What about justice? Are they simply to ignore what has happened, and smile on the past? What hope do the oppressed have, other than their victory over their enemies?

The picture we get in 1 Samuel is very different. Rather than Hannah grasping around for something that would let her take revenge, she prays. She doesn’t wave Elkanah’s love for her in the face of her rival. She doesn’t respond in violence to Peninnah. She doesn’t curse Peninnah. Her hope is not centered in what sort of vengence she can accomplish, but on her Lord, YHWH. The lowly of this life have hope, not because they will gain power, or because they will be able to oppress. Rather, the lowly can hope in the midst of hardship because our Lord will overcome oppression. We have hope in the face of oppression because our Lord is the true King

The first way we see this hope in Hannah’s prayer is that Our Lord, YHWH, watches his people.

[Main Point 1] Our Lord, YHWH, watches over his people

2:2-3 – “There is none holy like the LORD; there is none besides you; there is no rock like our God. Talk no more so very proudly, let not arrogance come from your mouth; for the LORD is a God of knowledge, and by him actions are weighed.”

  • He is not ignorant like the false gods of the nations
    • The Lord is a God of knowledge.
      • He knows all that has happened to Hannah.
        • He is not like the selfish gods, the false idols, the evil spirits whom the surrounding nations worshipped and trusted.
        • You see, we all know that there are many evil spirits. There are many who are more powerful than us, and who hate our God. Yet we can say two things about these spirits:
          • they are weak and creaturely: Our God is the creator of all, they cannot esacpe his power. They don’t know everything. They are just as ignorant as we are.
          • they are manipulative and selfish: they require many sacrifices, prayers, self-punishment → but they don’t care for you. They don’t know you.
      • Hannah knows that the nations give themselves to these false gods. But she has entrusted herself to YHWH, our Creator God, because He is the one who sees all, and is intimately aware of Hannah; who she is, what she has gone through and needs
      • In fact, the Lord is the one who closed Hannah’s womb, (1:5). He was intimately involved in her inability to have children. We are not told why. But we are told that he knows. He was not surprised by her sorrow. He was not oblivious to the great hardship she was going through.

– He weighs actions unlike the false gods of the nations.

  • Our Lord is not passive in his knowledge, though at times he certainly seems distant. No, our Lord is intimately involved with the situation and is evaluating all of the things people say and do.
  • The statues which people worship not only do not see, they also don’t judge. They are not alive. The evil spirits which seem to have so much power may encourage us toward evil, but they themselves will be judged. Our God is watching them too.
  • This is what the Biblical writers mean when they say that he is watching us, and that he never sleeps. He is actively aware of all the oppression that happens. He is actively documenting, and noting the evil and good that happen to his people, and that his people do.
  • 2:9 reflects the same sentiment when it says that “He will guard the feet of this faithful ones, but the wicked shall be cut off in darkness, for not by might shall a man prevail.”
  • He welcomes us to Himself: 1:27 – “For this child I prayed, and the Lord has granted to me my petition that I made to him.”
    • We saw Hannah becoming so distressed that she couldn’t eat or drink. She couldn’t participate in the sacrificial meal. She tells Eli that far from being drunk, she is actually pouring out her soul to the LORD. That is, she is offering to the Lord a whole separate offering from the one her family has given. She offers her soul to the LORD; she gives herself to the LORD in her distress.
    • This is remarkable: Think of who she had to believe the LORD was in order to do this confidently. Hannah, though she has no children to offer to her husband, and has no standing in society, she nonetheless has hope that the Lord will listen to her. She actually believes that the Lord will pay attention to her, and cares for her in her distress. She sees that the Lord welcomes his people to himself regardless of their situation.
    • We certainly want to embrace the Lord with the same faith that Hannah exemplifies to us. But, let’s not miss the point: look at how she views the Lord that would encourage her to approach with this amount of freedom and confidence.
    • 1:18 – “Then the woman went her way and ate, and her face was no longer sad.” This sort of contentment with having only prayed is the direct result of who she understands the Lord to be. She can trust her prayers to him, and so she can move on from her sorrow.
    • She can hope because she knows that she is completely welcomed by the Lord.

ILLUSTRATION:

  • When I was growing up, I had two older brothers, who would harass me constantly.
  • Coming to my parents was only so helpful because they only knew part of the story.
  • They were comfort for some things, but I always felt like they never really understood.
  • With my parents I was always welcome. They were as good as any other parent, I was always welcome to come to them with whatever was bothering me whether it be my brothers, or something else completely.
  • Yet they were ignorant of a lot. They couldn’t help this either; you can’t be everywhere and see everything.
  • The other extreme is a spy. Someone who taps your phone line, listens to your conversations, watches you in your own home. They are completely aware of your every move, but they are only interested in gaining information from you, or using you for something else. These are completely aware, but totally untrustworthy.
  • The spy is someone who is involved in all of the affairs of a nation, he knows all. Yet he is sering a different government. He is looking for the ways in which this nation is weak so that his home nation to which he is truly loyal can take advantage. His true loyalty is to another nation.
  • Our Lord is not ignorant, but he is trustworthy. He is not weak, or at a disadvantage; He is the King, the one who made the world. Yet He is as kind and gentle as the best fathers are; he is our constant refuge.

APPLICATION:

  • This is a little bit scary, and also very comforting for his people. It depends on which side you are on.
    • Even though you might be in the darkest corner of your house, though you think you can hide your sin from the Lord, he is still watching. He is watching not only your actions, but also he is watching how your heart is wooed by other loyalties.
    • Likewise, though you might be locked in the deepest darkest dungeon, or depression; indeed the Lord knows, and he will not let it go unpunished. He is a good judge. But he is better than the judges of this earth; he knows who is guilty and who is innocent before the trial begins.
  • For many of you, you are trapped in many types of oppression and hardship. You are living on someone else’s land, or in a dangerous area. So you are constantly exposed to danger, robbery, and violence. Yet, you are also employed by someone who barely pays you enough to live on. You have no connections to anyone who can get you a better job, because you have left your home village, and are new to the city. What hope do you have?
    • Will you make a way for yourself? Many try to do this by stealing and robbing what the Lord has given to others.
    • Will you try and forget your hardship? Getting drunk will only contribute to your hardship; it distracts you from reality.
    • Will you turn to the spirits who seem so powerful, and lurk around in the dark corners? They too will be judged by our God.
    • Hope in the Lord. He sees you. He knows your needs. He hears your prayers.

While the Lord may watch us, and welcome us to come to him with our difficulties; is this the only reason to hope? Is our Lord kind, but unable to help? Is our God like a useless neighbor who says “be warm and well fed” but does nothing? Quite the opposite. YHWH, our great Creator God, not only sees our oppression, but also subverts the oppressor.

[Main Point 2]: (Hope, because) YHWH subverts one who oppresses His people

  • Read 2:4-8
  • Who is the oppressor?
  • Rich/Poor, Full/Hungry, Many Children/barren, powerful/lowly: all of these are from the Lord’s hand. This is the main point of this passage, not that one position is inherently worse, or more sinful than the others. This is how liberation theology would read this passage. Yet what is essential to YHWH’s subversion of the statuses listed in the passage is that they have begun to view and use their status as a means of oppression.

1:6-7 – “And her rival used to provoke her grievously to irritate her, because the LORD had closed her womb. So it went on year by year. As often as she went up to the house of the LORD, she used to provoke her. Therefore Hannah wept and would not eat.” Peninnah is an oppressor, not because she has children and Hannah doesn’t. Rather Peninnah is an oppressor because she begins to use this over and against Hannah. Hannah has done nothing wrong, and yet Peninnah takes Hannah’s weakness and uses I against her. What would allow her to do this without any hesitation? What would allow her to systematically abuse Hannah with no shame? The text tells us that she harassed her specifically because the LORD had closed Hannah’s womb. What did Peninnah believe about herself that would fundamentally motivate her to degrade Hannah so ruthlessly? Pride: She might have begun to believe that it was her goodness, or because she was better that she was able to have children. Entitlement: or maybe she thought that her status as mother was something that was hers by right. She simply deserved those children and Hannah did not. Hatred: or maybe her own insecurity about having a rival wife provoked her to scorn Hannah. → Peninnah is an oppressor because she has used her status as a means of degrading Hannah, not because she has this status in the first place.

  • How does the Lord subvert?
  • 2:4-8 – He reverses human fortunes. Those who were able to mock and scorn the needy and low, are now made needy and weak themselves.
  • He silences the accuser: provision in the midst of weakness. What can Penninah say to Hannah now? What superiority does Peninnah have to use? She only has what the Lord gave to her in the first place, and what the Lord has now given to Hannah.
  • He exalts us before our enemies. Hannah now has God’s glory around her. Her prayer has been honored, and her name lifted up from the dust. She is given a child straight from the hand of the Lord. She is given a child right in front of her rival. The irony here is powerful, and this victory was surely sweet. But more than that, she is exalted because the Lord cared for her.
  • How does the Lord care?
  • He identifies with his people.
  • Hannah says that her mouth derides her enemies because of the Lord’s salvation. But then by the end of her prayer it has become clear that her enemies were actually the Lord’s enemies.
  • Peninnah has aligned herself with the enemies of God. She has opposed Hannah because of what the Lord has done, and she has scorned the Lord by tarnishing the sanctuary.
  • This is what Satan does by means of the various evil spirits. They remind us of our status, what we consider our rights, and we believe them and begin to tear down those whom our Lord has called his own.
  • To be an enemy to our neighbor is to align ourselves with sin, Satan and death. These three are the Lord’s enemies. And any who align themselves are in danger of being borken to pieces as the Lord does to his adversaries.
  • His work and salvation belong to us.
  • Hannah repeats this phrase; “in the Lord”. Her heart exults in the Lord, she is exalted in the Lord. And finally she can rejoice because of the Lord’s salvation.
  • The picture we are given is that it is the Lord’s doing. He was acting all along; but it was always for her benefit. Hannah makes it clear that her glory, strength and joy are a direct result of how YHWH has moved in history. Her being blessed with a son is one of many instances where the Lord has “brought up the needy from the ash heap to make them sit with princes.”
  • ILLUSTRATION:
    • All of what we have been saying is good and right. The truth of it, though, is that I can relate much better to the rival wife, Peninnah, than I can to Hannah.
  • I am going to tell you one of the most shameful things I have ever done.
  • In the 4th year of my primary education, I was accepted to a special program, a program for accelerated students. I had been excelling at my previous school, finishing my work before my classmates and so on.
  • I had made some great friends in this new program, and was really enjoying this close group. I felt valued, welcomed, I felt enjoyed by my friends. I made it, I arrived at the best possible situation.
  • Then one of the kids from my church was transferred into my class. He had been bored in his classes, and as is common in the U.S., this is often taken to be a sign of advanced intelligence. You are bored because you get it all already.
    • I grew up with this kid. He had some strange ways about him. Not only did he act strange, but he also had some medical problems that made him look funny too. His nose was always running; which looked horrible. On top of that, instead of wiping it with a tissue, he licked the stream of snot that ran from his nose .
    • His ear had some skin problem, which he had a cream for, and which he applied in the middle of our class sessions.
  • All of a sudden, this new kid with whom I was associated was not just new, he was completely embarassing. All that had been given to me was threatened. I couldn’t be identified with this snot-licking kid, not if I was going to continue to be liked by my classmates. My new status was under threat. I couldn’t let this status go; it would be a violation of my rights.
  • So I acted. I began a systematic program of mocking, tearing down, degrading, ridiculing, and publicly betraying this childhood friend of mine. The boy who attended all my birthday parties as a little boy was now my enemy because he threatened my status.
  • This ruthless, public mocking went on day after day, month after month. I was harsher than all my friends to him. I risked getting in trouble by my own teacher in order to shame him publicly. I wanted to not only distance myself from him, but to demonstrate to everyone else why they should hate him too.
  • Finally, I got my way. One day we showed up to class, and he wasn’t there. His parents had transferred him back to his old school.
  • They never told us why he left. But there was no question; anyone with that amount of constant scorn, and public hatred poured over them day after day will break. They will need to run away, and heal. I am sure he didn’t perform well academically during that time; who could in his situation?
  • Well, interestingly enough my life returned to normal. I was back in my sweet spot of having great friends, and being one of the smart kids in the school. I went to great birthday parties, and we even took a week long trip as a class to some geological wonders in California.
  • My next year was even better. I had a blast and learned a lot. It was as if I had succeeded. A threat came and I snuffed it out with all the hatred of hell behind me.
  • But then we all graduated primary school, and went on to what we call middle school. But most of my friends went to different schools. The ones who did come with me ended up in different groups of friends, none of whom I fit in with. I did not have a place.
  • I went throughout each day quietly, trying to avoid being made fun of by all the new kids in my grade.
  • I had no friends, no one to sit with at lunch, no one to joke around with during class. No one to defend me.
  • Now I was the one who was ridiculed. All of my pride and entitlement surrounding my status was thrown out the window. The tables were turned, my status was reversed. My arrogance was subverted.
  • And all of my malice which I carried with me soon became directed at myself. I began to believe all of what my classmates were saying about me. This went on for sometime as I became horribly depressed. It finally got to the point where I began considering what it would mean to take my life. Now as a boy I would not have actually done it; but I was quite desperate for the pain to stop.
  • In the span of two years I had gone from the oppressor to the oppressed. I had my status completely turned upside down.
  • It took the next three years for the Lord to slowly wear own my stubborness. I was made low, but was not humbled and brought back to the Lord until I was 14.
  • By the time I finished my secondary education I had reconnected with my childhood friend whom I ridiculed. I was able to apologize to him. I had been brought low by the Lord and I finally understood what I had put him through.
  • The point here is just this: while the Lord did not humble me right away, he certainly did eventually. The Lord vindicated my friend, because this is what he does. He defends his people. And when it is his people who are setting themselves in opposition to Him, he has no problem stripping them of all the blessings and status which he gave them in the first place in order to humble them. My scorn and hatred was silenced.
  • APPLICATION:

He is the King, in charge → He can actually do something. All that you have was given to you from the Lord. He can take it away too. humble yourself under the mighty hand of God, lest he oppose you You have reason to hope You have reason to repent Polygamy: A biblical rendering The only command we have against polygamy is simply a positive command for elders and deacons, that they have one spouse only. These are the people who are to exemplify the Christian faith; living out a righteous life, not simply following the rules. This is the exact issue we run into: while it is permissible it is not encouraged. This is an issue of how we read the text. Polygamy is rampant in the OT, but it is never portrayed in a good light. The first man to have two wives was one of the most wicked descendants of Cain. Abraham and Jacob were harassed by their wives. Elkanah is a good man. There is no question that he loves both his wives. It may be that he loved Hannah more and this is why Peninnah hated her so deeply. But the text doesn’t tell us. What is important to notice is that despite Elkanah’s overwhelming affection for Hannah, and goodness to his family there is still deep, bitter, devastating damage done to both wives because of the inherent competition between them. This rivalry and the resulting deep sorrow is made clear (1:6, 7, 10, 15) over and over again. This damage is so deep that only YHWH can repair it. What does this mean for us? If you have not married, or only have one wife: please be warned, and please search your heart and examine your motivations. If you already have two wives; do not put one of them away. When Abraham does this it is to protect the child of promise, Isaac, and so to safeguard the work of God. The only thing you will accomplish in putting away one of your wives is to make her destitute, and put her in great danger.

Conclusion:

Hannah’s prayer closes with these words: “The adversaries of YHWH shall be broken to pieces; against them he will thunder in heaven. YHWH will judge the ends of the earth; he will give strength to his king and exalt the power of his anointed”

The Lord has a king through whom he will break all his enemies, judge and bring to light all evil, and bring everyone under his reign. We know who this king is: Jesus. In fact, Paul, in Philippians 2, tells us that this king has been exalted to the right hand of God his Father so that every knee may bow and every tongue confess that he is Lord.

But what else does Paul say? That King Jesus, who was equal with God, and truly had every right to maintain his status as the glorified Son, this King willingly lowered himself. He gave himself over to God’s enemies and let them do with him as they wanted. Those who had aligned themselves with the arrogance and pride of Satan now exercised their God-given authority to snuff out this Son of God. And this King Jesus let them do it. He was murdered by a state-approved, religious elite approved crucifixion.

But what? He is the true King, and so he defeated even death. The enemies of God exhausted themselves on him and he took all of it; but he got up afterward. He rose from the grave, as the Lord over the living and the dead. He defeated death, and has been vindicated by His Father.

Yet Our Lord, in His glorious vindication uses his status as King to extend grace to us who were his enemies. We have often been his enemy and aligned ourselves with evil. We have often given our loyalty to the evil spirits of our time. We have often opposed the work of God, and loved what is evil. We have often been in great need of reconciliation, forgiveness with King Jesus.

To be his subject then means that we have been humbled and asked for his forgiveness. His subjects are all his old enemies who have now been reconciled. There is no one who has not been forgiven for their own evil and oppression.

To be his subject then, also means that we are to extend this grace, this forgiveness to our oppressors. We are called not only to give up our own oppression, but to extend forgiveness as we have been forgiven. This is the gospel of the kingdom.

The only question that remains then is just this: will you continue in your oppressing others, or will you come humbly to the crucified Lord and be reconciled?

Bearing true witness: not the same as proof

In reference to the structuralist interpretive school among those who have agreed with the dichotomy between absolute objective knoweldge, and radical skepticism.

For it is not enough to fill our minds with biblical ideas, vocabulary, and images, unless we think that by ddoing so we are being led to think true thoughts about what is actually there – that the Bible actually refers to peope, events and even God himself, as living outside the Bible, and that the Bible bears true witness to them (even though, transparently, it cannot bear exhustive witness to them, or produce ominscient knowledge of these extra-biblical realities among those who read about them in the Bible’s pages). We are not saved by biblical ideas: this is a narrowly intellectualist approach. We are saved by the God and the biblical events to which the Bible refers, bearing true witness.

Pg 65, An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed., Carson and Moo.

The usage of witness and testimony in the NT, especially John, is prolific. It seems to stand as a symbol of a godly epistemology: a humble but trustworthy approach. I am becoming more and more interested in the sort of knowledge the Bible expects us to have, and expects us to gain by believing; its not exhaustive, and its not skeptical.

DFR

Rough Translation of John 1:14-18

And the word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we watched (beheld) his glory, glory as the only begotten from a father, full of grace and truth. John witnesses concerning him, and has cried out saying, "this one was the one about whom I said, ‘the one who is coming after me, has become above me, because he was first before me.’" Because, from his fullness we have all received even grace for grace. Because the Law was given through Moses, the grace and truth came about through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God, the only begotten of God who was in the embrace (bosom) of his father has expounded (exegeted) him.

Prayers of Evaluation: Lord is it worthwhile?

I have been reading through the psalms for my devotions (though not very consistently). There has been a recurring theme which has cropped up, that of evaluation. The Psalmist is either writing about a time, or is now in a place where he is risking total failure and tragedy by banking on the Lord. Whether it is physical danger, or envy of the wicked prospering by breaking the Lord’s law, it seems like the psalmist is consistently pressed by the question; is it worthwhile for me to trust the Lord? Will he come through? Are his promises true?

These questions are asked from a stance of obedience and current risk, and not from a removed and disobedient posture. These are not unbelieving doubts, but faithful worries. There are many examples where the success of the king or the people of Israel is at stake and the Psalmist is crying out for God to be true to his covenant and to prosper his people in the face of the enemies. The wicked and the enemies of the psalms seem to occupy the envied position of prosperity and independence. But the worldly evaluation of the wicked’s strength and immutability is washed away and turned upside down in God’s presence or in light of some facet of God’s promise. Psalm 73 seems to stand out as the clearest example:

1Truly God is good to(B) Israel,

to those who are(C) pure in heart.
2But as for me, my feet had almost stumbled,

my steps had nearly slipped.
3(D) For I was(E) envious of the arrogant

when I saw the(F) prosperity of the wicked.

4For they have no pangs until death;

their bodies are fat and sleek.
5They are not in trouble as others are;

they are not(G) stricken like the rest of mankind.
6Therefore pride is(H) their necklace;

violence covers them as(I) a garment.
7Their(J) eyes swell out through fatness;

their hearts overflow with follies.
8They scoff and(K) speak with malice;

loftily they threaten oppression.
9They set their mouths against the heavens,

and their tongue struts through the earth.
10Therefore his people turn back to them,

and find(L) no fault in them.[a]
11And they say,(M) "How can God know?

Is there knowledge in the Most High?"
12Behold, these are the wicked;

always at ease, they(N) increase in riches.
13All in vain have I(O) kept my heart clean

and(P) washed my hands in innocence.
14For all the day long I have been(Q) stricken

and(R) rebuked(S) every morning.
15If I had said, "I will speak thus,"

I would have betrayed(T) the generation of your children.

16But when I thought how to understand this,

it seemed to me(U) a wearisome task,
17until I went into(V) the sanctuary of God;

then I discerned their(W) end.

18Truly you set them in(X) slippery places;

you make them fall to ruin.
19How they are destroyed(Y) in a moment,

swept away utterly by(Z) terrors!
20Like(AA) a dream when one awakes,

O Lord, when(AB) you rouse yourself, you despise them as phantoms.
21When my soul was embittered,

when I was pricked in heart,
22I was(AC) brutish and ignorant;

I was like(AD) a beast toward you.

23Nevertheless, I am continually with you;

you(AE) hold my right hand.
24You(AF) guide me with your counsel,

and afterward you will(AG) receive me to glory.
25(AH) Whom have I in heaven but you?

And there is nothing on earth that I desire besides you.
26(AI) My flesh and my heart may fail,

but God is(AJ) the strength[b] of my heart and my(AK) portion(AL) forever.

27For behold, those who are(AM) far from you shall perish;

you put an end to everyone who is(AN) unfaithful to you.
28But for me it is good to(AO) be near God;

I have made the Lord GOD my(AP) refuge,

that I may(AQ) tell of all your works.

Can you think of any other psalms in which the author has a similar burden on his mind?