The dangers of unbelief in the face of adversity: Hebrews Chapter 3 6-12

June 12, 2021

12 06 2021

The dangers of unbelief.

As we saw in Psalm’s unbelief is the opposite of faith.   God wants a people who will trust him.  Looking at this chapter holistically, it was bad enough to disobey God when Moses was in charge of the people of God.  How much worse it is to be disobedient to the Son of God!  To Apollos, Jesus is greater than Moses therefore the punishment of disobedience will be greater.   It is God who saved Israel from the Egyptians with mighty miracles which were unheard of.    The people of God in that generation were pushing all the wrong buttons.  Out of that generation only Joshua and Caleb made it into the promised land.  God takes pleasure in a people who trust and obey him.   This is a lesson we learned from the Psalm.

Apollos then spells it out to his readers.

“12 Take care, brethren, that there not be in any one of you an evil, unbelieving heart that falls away from the living God. 13 But encourage one another day after day, as long as it is still called “Today,” so that none of you will be hardened by the deceitfulness of sin. 14 For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end, 15 while it is said,

“TODAY IF YOU HEAR HIS VOICE,

DO NOT HARDEN YOUR HEARTS, AS WHEN THEY PROVOKED ME.”

16 For who provoked Him when they had heard? Indeed, did not all those who came out of Egypt led by Moses? 17 And with whom was He angry for forty years? Was it not with those who sinned, whose bodies fell in the wilderness? 18 And to whom did He swear that they would not enter His rest, but to those who were disobedient? 19 So we see that they were not able to enter because of unbelief. “Hebrews 3:12-19 NASB

It is so easy for us to take the wider road of pleasure and putting self before God.  In this paraenetic material of exhortation there was a very real danger of some of the believers falling away.  Even before AD 70 both Jews and Christians were being persecuted and if we read this letter very carefully, we can see material pointing to this for example later on before the faith chapter:

“But remember the former days, when, after being enlightened, you endured a great conflict of sufferings, partly by being made a public spectacle through reproaches and tribulations, and partly by becoming sharers with those who were so treated. For you showed sympathy to the prisoners and accepted joyfully the seizure of your property, knowing that you have for yourselves a better possession and a lasting one. Therefore, do not throw away your confidence, which has a great reward.  For you have need of endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised.” Hebrews 10:32-36 NASB

These Jewish Christians were suffering for their faith.  There was a clear danger for them to lose hope.  Apollos was a great pastor!  He was able to draw from the wellsprings of Scripture to encourage them to follow the Lord whatever the outcome.  It is so easy for someone to call themselves a Christian when they live in the lap of luxury with no financial woes.  We need to be reminded today that everything can be swept away in an instant.  Some of these believers to whom Apollos is writing to suffered loss of houses goods and in some situations even life.  This was the reality.  As believers we have a choice, this moment; Do we serve the Lord Jesus, or do we turn our back on all the good things God has done for us?  Jesus Christ, God of God, light of light, becoming full human and a man broke into our human domain and for a season became a human being like all of us.  This was not enough!  We deserved to be judged and to be punished by eternal death for the sins we have committed.  Instead, it was God’s plan to send his son to a hill and be crucified in our place.   The wonder the mystery of this.  Now the door is open for us to enter heaven.

You as the reader of Hebrews like these early believers are called to make a choice. Today if you hear his voice.  As long as it is called today.  Apollos is not mincing words: Today is now.  Today is not yesterday and it is not in the future, it is now.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is no, then good carry on serving him.  As a Christian have you suffered? If the answer is yes keep on worshipping him.  Have you passed the litmus test of faith?

Verse 14 says:  For we have become partakers of Christ, if we hold fast the beginning of our assurance firm until the end. NASB

If you haven’t suffered my friend, you might in the future.  Live by faith and live by faith including all the responsibilities as a child of God.  He commands us to love and to live by faith.  If you are living by faith, then where is the fruit of that love?    It wasn’t cheap for God to become a human being and to die on a cross.  Do you have a cheap my friend or is there substance to it.  Many people have lost homes because of war and famine.  As a believer if you have been in a position to help another human being ; what did you do?

I’m not judging, I will be found lacking and it is only by grace that I stand!

You might be suffering and there may be a possibility to turn your back on god’s ways and go to crime.  I’m saying don’t do it.  God loves you my friend and in him, in Christ there is always a way.

Lets look at the text more carefully;

Verse 12-14 are an explanation of the theme found in verse 6, that the believers should stay faithful. It does imply suffering as a consequence of the sin they committed. The mood of verse 12 to 13 move from – to +.  Verse 12 says ‘take care’ the beginning of verse 13 says ‘but encourage…’ 

From a negative point of view verse 12 says that they should keep away from unbelief.  For example the readers may have entertained the idea that perhaps Jesus is not the Christ after all.

From a positive point of view verse 13 says that the readers should encourage each other day by day.  These questions for the readers being of Jewish background are of the highest importance. The answer to the question however is that Jesus is the Christ the true King of Israel. 

Verse 14 has the same feel to it as verse 6. By looking at the key words in both sentences we find the following.

Verse 6 confidence = verse 14 assurance.

“     6 firm       =  “    14 firm.

“     6 end        =  “    14 end.

Obviously if I was going to use the above words then there must have been something that was discouraging me.  In chapter 12/3 the writer does give us a clue to the problem.  Possibly within the Jewish community (and I am convinced there was) there was a Jewish voice that said Jesus was not the Christ but an imposter.  These Jewish Christians were worn down and they were ‘tired’, they were losing heart (12/3b). They were under some type of persecution (verse 4) possibly losing jobs, being rejected by the family and friends.  It does not seem to be the case that any of these believers were being murdered (12/4) for their faith.  More like they were under peer pressure to conform to the standard beliefs of the Jewish community.

chapter 3/15-19 a summary.

Having looked at the situation of these Jewish Christians, the writer quotes a part of the wilderness experiences of Israel (see chapter 3/7-8 from Psalm 95/7). He then explains that the reason why the Jews did not listen was because of unbelief and this was worked out in disobedience. So, Israel did not listen to God. 

Reflection

How can I finish this section of scripture?  What have we learned?  The main lesson I think is that the way of faith is better than the way of unbelief.    Jesus is fully God and fully man.  He came into the world to save us from our sins.  If we turn our back on Jesus, we turn our back on God.  It is that simple.  So let us not shrink from faith ‘now’ but stay firm, lock ourselves away and pray and seek wisdom.  Whether we are suffering or nor not suffering Jesus is always close to us.  It is not a feeling thing, it is an objective reality.

Psalm 95; An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

June 2, 2021

An Old Testament Study on Psalm 95, a key text used for the book of Hebrews

02 06 2021

An old Testament Background study for Hebrews Chapter 3. 7-11 Part 1

This study is a background study on Psalm 95.  When we have completed the background study, then we will return to Apollos’ commentary at chapter 3. 7-11.  If we are to understand the book Hebrews here, then we need a deeper understanding of the quotations in Hebrews.   I know that Herman Bavinck touches on a key word ‘bahan = to test or to examine’. 

We need to be extra mindful of the proceeding verses in Hebrews (chapter 3. 7-11).  This takes us to Psalm 95.  Before Apollos quotes from the Psalm though, he tells his readers that it is the Holy Spirit who says.  For us it is the very words of God.  In that case before we even look at these sections let us look at Psalm 95 first and then come back to this section later.

Praise to the LORD, and Warning against Unbelief.
1 O come, let us sing for joy to the LORD,
Let us shout joyfully to the rock of our salvation.
2 Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving,
Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.
3 For the LORD is a great God
And a great King above all gods,
4 In whose hand are the depths of the earth,
The peaks of the mountains are His also.
5  The sea is His, for it was He who made it,
And His hands formed the dry land.
6 Come, let us worship and bow down,
Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.
7 For He is our God,
And we are the people of His  pasture and the sheep of His hand.
Today, if you would hear His voice,
8 Do not harden your hearts, as at  Meribah,
As in the day of  Massah in the wilderness,
9 “When your fathers tested Me,
They tried Me, though they had seen My work.
10 “For forty years I loathed that generation,
And said they are a people who err in their heart,
And they do not know My ways.
11 “Therefore I swore in My anger,
Truly they shall not enter into My rest.” Psalms 95 NASB

The commentator below breaks the Psalm into sections:

verses 1 and 2 shows worship in many forms

Oh come, let us sing to the LORD!

Let us shout joyfully to the Rock of our salvation.

Let us come before His presence with thanksgiving;

Let us shout joyfully to Him with psalms.

Verses 3-5:

God’s greatness is worshiped

For the LORD is the great God,

And the great King above all gods.

In His hand are the deep places of the earth;

The heights of the hills are His also.

The sea is His, for He made it;

And His hands formed the dry land.

Verses 6-7a

a call to worship in humility.

Oh come, let us worship and bow down.

Let us kneel before the LORD our Maker.

For He is our God,

And we are the people of His pasture,

And the sheep of His hand.

Verses 7b – 9

The warning to those who reject Worship.

Today, if you will hear His voice:

“Do not harden your hearts, as in the rebellion,

As in the day of trial in the wilderness,

When your fathers tested Me;

They tried Me, though they saw My work.”

In summary form then:

  1. We can worship God in various forms.
  2. We are called to look at the greatness of God, his Majesty and that he is the Creator and Judge.
  3. In contrast we are to humble ourselves and worship God.
  4. A dire warning to those who reject worshipping God.

In the first half of Psalm 95 there is true joy and happiness in the presence of God from within the congregation of worshippers of God.  This section is a section of faith and belief towards God.  The last section is turned on its head and sorrow and unhappiness will be with those who choose unbelief.

A breakdown of Psalm 95

verse 1 God is our rock.

verse 2 we come into his presence.

verse3 God is a great king above all the gods!

verse 4 -5 everything belongs to God the depths of the earths are in his hands.

verse 6 we are called to worship.

verse 7 He is our God, and we are his sheep.

Verse 8 warning on hardening our hearts.

Verse 9 Don’t test God through unbelief.

Verse 10 God loathed a generation because of their unbelief.

Verse 11 A judgement was announced on the unbelievers.

Special notes

As you can see the Psalm itself contrasts the walk of faith to the walk of unbelief. 

Verse 9 the testing is an examination type of testing.  The word usually denotes God who is doing the testing. 

The Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament (Moody Press) on page 100 says:

“In the exceptions (in the use of the Hebrew word Bahan), it is God who is tested. It is evident that this is abnormal procedure. In Ps 95:9 the people are reminded of the folly of testing God at Meribah.”

This is a very important finding.  As Bavinck explains to us that there are good senses and bad senses of words in Scripture pages 446 – 449 Reformed Ethics; edited by John Bolt

This is one of those situations where ‘testing, examining’ has negative connotations because it is from the place of unbelief.   The commentator in the TWOT (TWOT= Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament) says that ‘bahan= testing, examining’ is used as an abnormal procedure.  The point is that these people knowingly turned their back on God even though he saved them from Pharoah, starvation and so on.   This is very serious situation.

Reflection

By nature, God is good and his love and compassion for his people know no limits.  This why believers by the Holy Spirit walk in faith.  Therefore, it is a perversion to think that we can examine God from the point of view of unbelief.  In the next study we will be going to look at the Book of Hebrews and how these verse from Psalms are interpreted by Apollos.

Jesus is greater than Moses. Hebrews chapter 3 verses 1 -6

May 29, 2021

I wrote a basic commentary a few years ago and my basic tools at the time were Philip Hughes commentary and Donald Guthries commentary from the Tyndale series.   I usually did this at the Weekends prayerfully.  Since then, I have been in charge of religious studies, Humanities and lower Maths.  I left the teaching world and did a basic carpentry degree at a college.  It feels good to offer wholesome biblical teaching to anyone who wants it.  Whatever you background, religious or non-religious I feel there is something for you.  What does the book of Hebrews mean to me?   At university King’s College London, I studied 1 Corinthians; 1 Peter; Galatians; Johns Gospel (unofficially).   I wanted to tread some new ground in the New Testament.  The Book of Hebrews was so different.  This book is a very early book, and it was written before the destruction of the Temple in AD 70.  A history teacher at a school I taught at said that historians use it for that time period as a primary text.  Although the book of Hebrews entered the cannon of Scripture under the name of Paul, the evidence I feel points to Apollos.  This book is a fantastic book to read but we need to do the spadework to really understand it.    As I share my early writings, I am at the same time revising some of my earlier work.   I will keep referring to the writer as Apollos because for two reasons.  I think there is enough evidence to make Apollos a strong contender from internal evidence in the New Testament.  Paul certainly did not write it; an example of this is how the book of Hebrews quotes scriptures ‘never in the style of St Paul’.   I hope in the future there are new discoveries on papyri archaeology that might shed more light on this.

Jesus is greater than Moses.

We have seen that Jesus is seen as the Son of God.  The writer has proven through scripture that Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus came from heaven and returned to heaven and will come back again one day to take his Church (bride).  Moses a very important person along with Elijah one night came to visit Jesus and some of the Apostles saw this.  I will quote this story because I think it sheds light on how Chrsitians from the 1st and second centuries viewed Moses and Elijah

“The Transfiguration

17 Six days later, Jesus *took with Him Peter and [a]James, and his brother John, and *led them up on a high mountain by themselves. 2 And He was transfigured before them; and His face shone like the sun, and His garments became as white as light. 3 And behold, Moses and Elijah appeared to them, talking with Him. 4 Peter responded and said to Jesus, “Lord, it is good that we are here. If You want, I will make three [b]tabernacles here: one for You, one for Moses, and one for Elijah.” 5 While he was still speaking, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and behold, a voice from the cloud said, “This is My beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased; listen to Him!” 6 When the disciples heard this, they fell [c]face down to the ground and were terrified. 7 And Jesus came to them and touched them and said, “Get up, and do not be afraid.” 8 And raising their eyes, they saw no one except Jesus Himself alone.” (From Bible gateway https://www.biblegateway.com/passage/?search=Matthew%2017:1-8&version=NASB  )

As you can see: Here Jesus is referred to as the Son of God.  Note Moses and Elijah were witnesses but Jesus was seen in his divine glory.  Some of the Apostles witnessed this event.  When we think about this chapter, certainly Apollos would have known about this story.  In fact, I feel that Apollos is going to explain the real significance of Jesus glory and in relation to Moses.  Something that at the time, the Apostles themselves, didn’t wholly grasp (understand) themselves.

Jesus Our High Priest

1 Therefore, holy brethren, partakers of a heavenly calling, consider Jesus, the Apostle and High Priest of our confession; 2 He was faithful to Him who appointed Him, as Moses also was in all His house. 3 For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. 4 For every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. 5 Now Moses was faithful in all His house as a servant, for a testimony of those things which were to be spoken later; 6 but Christ was faithful as a Son over His house—whose house we are, if we hold fast our confidence and the boast of our hope firm until the end. Hebrews 3:1-6

life and teachings of Christ, Chapter 3.

This chapter begins with a, therefore. This is important in light of everything that the writer has already said about Jesus in relation to the Father.  Jesus is referred to as ‘the Apostle’. The word literally means ‘sent forth’.  In other words, Jesus was sent directly from God.  God did not give Jesus a message ‘indirectly’ through an angel or other agency.  This point will become clearer as we work through the Moses material and Jesus’ position as greater than the angels.  So, then Jesus is not a high priest but he is The High Priest. Donald Guthrie made an important point here as well.  This is the only reference to Jesus as Apostle.   From that point of view Jesus was sent from the Father and then he appointed the twelve inferior weak apostles.  Although weak as ambassadors of Christ, the world would never be the same again.

Verse 1b ‘of our confession:  Obviously the Pharisees, Saducees, Scribes who did not accept Jesus as the Christ would disagree with the Apollos’ point of view.  Yet Apollos is using the first-person plural pronoun ‘our’… He is writing as one having the same point of view as the audience.  Yet in a sense the writer is not writing outside of the fold of Judaism otherwise his interpretation of Moses in relation to Jesus would not make sense.

In verses 2-6 we see a qualitative difference between Christ and Moses. Moses was a servant over the house of God, but Jesus is the Son of God as found in Psalm 2. 7.  A servant does not own a house and in that sense, he is always a guest… They were both faithful to God in their own way etc.  

Digging into the background of what Messiah really is: Let us just stop right here and consider what sonship is.  If we start at chapter 1 and work our way through, we will see how great Jesus our saviour is. The Messianic Psalm 2 that has already been quoted chapter 1 verse 5 straight from Psalm 2.  

The Reign of the LORD’S Anointed.

“1 Why are the nations in an uproar

And the peoples devising a vain thing?

2 The kings of the earth take their stand

And the rulers take counsel together

Against the LORD and against His Anointed, saying,

3 “Let us tear their fetters apart

And cast away their cords from us!”

4 He who sits in the heavens laughs,

The Lord scoffs at them.

5 Then He will speak to them in His anger

And terrify them in His fury, saying,

6 “But as for Me, I have installed My King

Upon Zion, My holy mountain.”

7 “I will surely tell of the decree of the LORD:

He said to Me, ‘You are My Son,

Today I have begotten You.

8 ‘Ask of Me, and I will surely give the nations as Your inheritance,

And the very ends of the earth as Your possession.

9 ‘You shall break them with a rod of iron,

You shall shatter them like earthenware.’”

10 Now therefore, O kings, show discernment;

Take warning, O judges of the earth.

11 Worship the LORD with reverence

And rejoice with trembling.

12 Do homage to the Son, that He not become angry, and you perish in the way,

For His wrath may soon be kindled.

How blessed are all who take refuge in Him!” Psalms 2 NASB

Sonship and Kingship are very powerful motifs from the Old Testament.  All Apollos is doing is showing to his readers what it means to be the Messiah.   Messiah, God’s anointed is above the mundane nations doing their things.  The Messiah is God’s chosen King. Jesus is the second person of the Trinity, and the full force of the Trinity is with him. In his divinity he is the second person of the Trinity. 

Obviously for Apollos to write in this strong way and having to prove that Jesus is above Moses possibly means that some of the readers may have been close to idolatry (The worship of Moses, putting him on a pedestal figuratively speaking).  I am here trying to mirror read the text.

Verse 3

There are contrasts going on in verse 3: For He has been counted worthy of more glory than Moses, by just so much as the builder of the house has more honor than the house. NASB

In the Greek then in this sentence the ‘He’ referring to Jesus is in the nominative and Moses is in the accusative.   Jesus is given the glory and Moses is a special servant, but he is still only a servant.  As Christians we ought to respect Moses and his teachings as he was a prophet and, in that sense, pointed us to Christ.  This is obvious from the Transfiguration that we looked at earlier.

So, the writer up to verse 4 has said that Jesus is greater than Moses…  In this verse the writer says God is the builder of everything in the universe.

In verse 5 the writer makes the important point that Moses was looking forward to the promise.

If I was going to paraphrase verse 6 I would say that whilst Moses looked forward to the promise ‘Jesus is the promise’ that Moses was looking forward to.  What a blessing for us to see Moses at the transfiguration with our Lord. 

In light of verse 6b where a great promise was given to Moses, ‘we’ as the readers are also asked to keep faith to the end of time.  The writer having spoken about Moses in relation to Christ and shown from the scriptures that Moses spoke about the Christ…  He then turns to an event from the life of Moses and is about to challenge the readers faith so that they will stop doubting.

Reflection

Apollos has proven that Jesus is greater than Moses.  As Christians we did not have a problem with this but before AD 70 believers did not have computers that they could go to check the facts.  Let us not be too judgmental of these early believers.  As Christians let us show respect to Moses and all the early Holy Ones that God spoke through.  We should also be thankful to the Jewish community who preserved these Scriptures as they are our Scriptures too.  I speak in this way because every human being has been created in the image of God.  We are all special in God’s sight.  Let us also love our Palestinian friends.  I hope and pray that in the future peace will come to everyone in the middle east.  Guns will be made into farming implements and the golden rule will reign amongst all human beings of whatever nationality or religion.

Our Lord and High Priest Jesus Christ who cares for his flock. Hebrews 2. 14-18

May 21, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 14-18.

I will not be using a digital voice this week as the blog is longer than normal.

Let us read.

14 Therefore, since the children share in flesh and blood, He Himself likewise also partook of the same, that through death He might render powerless him who had the power of death, that is, the devil, 15 and might free those who through fear of death were subject to slavery all their lives. 16 For assuredly He does not give help to angels, but He gives help to the descendant of Abraham. 17 Therefore, He had to be made like His brethren in all things, so that He might become a merciful and faithful high priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. 18 For since He Himself was tempted in that which He has suffered, He is able to come to the aid of those who are tempted. Hebrews 2:14-18 NASB

These verses are very interesting in that they discuss humanity in the grand scheme of God’s will.  Jesus became a man and shared in the same life as we are in.  Even as everyone will one day face death, Jesus also had to face and experience death.

Verse 14

This verse has two sections part a refers to us and Christ, and part b to the power of death. We will look at both parts in sequence.

Therefore since = Ἐπεὶ οὖν Hebrews 2:14  This takes us to the previous thought that comes straight from Isaiah 8 18. “BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:13 NASB This is a very important and this chapter has a grain of Messianic kingship truth running straight through.  How terrible and great at the same time are these verses and Apollos understood this.   The first part of Isaiah 8 talks about the Northern Kingdom being taken captive and as we know this terrible event really did happen.  This judgement will also spill into Judah and only a remnant will be saved.  These events happened my friends.   Everything seems to be lost and if it wasn’t for the Lord there would be no hope. 

I want to look now at background information to Isaiah 8 verses 16 to 18”  16 Bind up the testimony, seal the [q]Law among my disciples. 17 And I will wait for the Lord who is hiding His face from the house of Jacob; I will wait eagerly for Him. 18 Behold, I and the children whom the Lord has given me are for signs and wonders in Israel from the Lord of armies, who dwells on Mount Zion.”  

The context is clear the children in verse 18 refer to the saved remnant.  The people Apollos was talking to were from their point of view the saved remnant.  Now we understand the background to verse 13 b we can return to verse 14.   The since and the children in verse 13 and 14 are those who are the remnant and being saved.  This is the context.  The children mentioned in verse 14 makes us children of the promise.  The children and the Lord go hand in hand, “behold I and the children whom God has given to me.” The I refers to the Lord Jesus Christ and we are his children, the church, the community of believers.  Jesus the Lord shared our humanity, he became a man, that is what flesh and blood means.  The lord Jesus went further than that and tasted the suffering of death.   We need to be careful to read the second part of verse 14 carefully.  God is always in control.  Satan is only a creature, a created being.   As Philip Edgecumbe Hughes says.  Satan having power of death can only be understood secondarily.  On page 113c of his Hebrews commentary he writes;

“ in considering these questions it should be recognized that the power of death is held by the devil only In a secondary and not in an ultimate sense. Death is indeed the dark reality of his tyranny. But God is still supreme in his sovereignty: unfailingly, it is for him and by him that all things exist, as we have already been reminded (v. 10)- Death Is not a sphere that has broken loose from God 3 command. On the contrary, Scripture, as Aquinas observes, clearly teaches that death, like all else, is under God’s control (cf. Gen. 2:17; Dt. 32:39; 1 KL 216; Mt. 10:28; Lk. 12:5; 1 Cor. 15:25f.; Rev. 1:18); and the clinching proof of this is the conquest of death and Satan by the incarnate Son. Besides, the devil is a creature—and, significantly within the present context, an angelic creature—finite and futile in his rebellion, and subject to judgment and destruction. There is no question or possibility of an insoluble dilemma involving a cosmic dualism of God and Satan, as though they were eternally opposed to each other as two equal and ultimate realities. The power of death wielded by the devil is not an absolute power, indeed, death is the sentence of God pronounced against man who sinfully has transferred his allegiance from his Creator to the creature (Gen. 3:1ff.; Ezek. 18:4; Rom. 3:23) and who in doing so has turned His back on God’s realm of life in favour of Satan’s realm of death. It is in this sense that the devil is said to hold the power of death. But the power which he presently wields is also the power by which he is destroyed (1 In: 318] Rev. 20:10). Death is-the awful reality of divine judgment, not satanic Victory. Creation and destruction—and salvation from destruction—belong properly and absolutely to God alone. When we read that it was through death that the devil was overcome, we should carefully consider whose death it was that achieved this triumph and what kind of death it was that he died; otherwise, we shall never have a due appreciation of the logic and the necessity of that death by which we were redeemed. The spectacle of the cross is not that of any man enduring the pains of death, but of the incarnate Son of God in his pure innocence suffering a death which is not his due. It is the death, moreover, of one who, though guiltless, has been tried by and legal process condemned to die the death of a common criminal and in the place of the common criminal (Barabbas), so that it is plain to all that in this death the Innocent One is suffering for the guilty, the Holy One for the unholy. Any other kind of death, peaceful or violent, would have obscured this central truth of the cross. Death, therefore, and more specifically the death of Christ and death of this the overthrow of him who had persuaded death. “This of all others seemed the most kind, was necessary for mankind to abandon life for t unlikely way and means,” ”

From Philip Edgecumbe Hughes commentary, Eerdmans, page 113

So when reading this God holds all the power.  It is through the work of Christ, his work on the cross that defeated death.  The real number one enemy for mankind is death.  We do not need to read holy books to understand this.  All the graveyards which house our loved one’s remind us of this.  But we have an eternal hope.  Without the Lord Jesus Christ this would not have been possible.

Satan has been defeated (the adversary, see Job).  It was Jesus who overcame death…  He was the first to overcome death and according to Apollos in verse 15 we don’t need to face death anymore.  In verse 16 the writer emphasises that we are the inheritors of salvation not the angels.  Obviously, he is writing to an audience who were educated into the teachings of the OT. 

The name of Abraham would resonate with the promise (Genesis 22). However, let us remember that according to the Jewish scriptures the blessing to Abraham in the end was meant for everyone.  In Genesis Abraham is referred to as the ‘father of many nations’ and obviously this includes the gentile nations.  In this context however it is better to remember the Jewish context of the letter…  It is only in the context of Jesus as High Priest that gives sense to the text that we are reading. 

In verse 17 we come to the theological debates that surround ‘expiate’ and ‘propitiate’.  The high priests job was to mediate between God and the Jewish community at different levels.  It is in light of this that our two words need to be understood.  In Greek usage of the time propitiate meant to ‘appease the gods’ thus some commentators prefer expiate or ‘atone for’.  The most important point however is that both meanings take us towards ‘peace with God’. So as high priest Jesus made peace with God for the people of God in line with OT theologies.

However, in verse 18 we see the focus being on Jesus as a human being who was prone to suffering as we are yet without sin. James 1 verse 13 seems to on the surface to contradict this verse. However, I think there is a difference between ‘tempt’ and ‘test’.  The nuances in the Greek and the Hebrew are very important. One should read the ‘test’ of Abraham concerning his only son.  Perhaps one way forward is to say that God ‘tests’ but we ‘tempt’ ourselves by our dark motives.  The context is of the highest importance.  As I said this seems to be a contradiction only on the surface.  The grounds of motivation are different.

Summary

In chapters one and two the writer works through some themes which are found in the OT.  The conclusion the writer reached was that Jesus is the Messiah the king of Israel and greater than the angels.

The angels belonged firmly in the ‘creatures’ part of reality not on the divine side of the reality even though they were in God’s presence himself.

In summary then, Jesus is greater than the angels and only for a ‘brief period of time’ was he made ‘lower’.  ‘Son of God’ needs to be understood as a title which in its truest sense is explained in the life and teachings of Christ.

Jesus is Briefly Humbled on the line of the infinite finite. Hebrews chapter 2 verses 9-13.

May 15, 2021

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” Hebrews 2:9-13 NASB

Verse nine

When we think of eternity, it is a long time, and our understanding breaks down.  On this line where time is meaningless to the human mind because the human mind cannot grasp it; although mathematicians have a symbol of infinity and it is used in calculus, the real true infinity in which Jesus Christ is from makes these marks and thoughts of humanity on a piece of paper or technical device a grasping after thin air.  The human mind cannot and will never be able to grasp this true infinity from above because by nature we are from the earth and finite. Yet even though this is the case for a period of about 33 years, the second person of the trinity Jesus Christ, put on humanity and became a man.  As Apollos says.

“But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels” …

For the true follower of Christ, In Jesus Christ we have the fullness of God and the fullness of man in a man a man from Nazareth who lived among us.  It is a mystery that can only be grasped by faith and that by submissive faith.  This is not a renunciation of reason, on the contrary this reason is built upon the facts and on the eyewitnesses that actually met Jesus Christ our Lord. Some would argue that Jesus is ‘a’ god.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. John 1

And in Greek

 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. John 1

In the Greek, God and Word are in the nominative.  Actually, the Word has the definite article.  One would have to do grammatical summersaults, reject the history of this sentence, change the word order and then to add an indefinite article to this that does not exist.  No, my friend, John and Apollos agree that the Word was God or God was the Word. 

So, we see that for a moment Jesus was lower than the angels.   The emphasis is on the ‘moment’.  He stayed there at that point for 33 years.  In terms of eternity 33 years as a moment is a very small amount of time.

We then move on in verse nine and the second part says:

“namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.”

Here we have the Easter story and in all the meaningful creeds testify to the fact that Jesus died and rose again. This work Jesus did was at the scale of the whole of humanity.  Jesus’ grace is poured forth onto his Church.  We who believe in him are of that congregation.  His work is universal then in scope, but it is his elect that will reap the reward by grace.  If Jesus tastes death for everyone then why can’t everyone enter heaven?  God is holy, God is just, God is love.  Even in the natural order of the city streets when help is offered to the homeless, some refuse to take it.  The world is full of anomalies like this. The only way we can be saved is by God the Holy Spirit working on our spirit to make it a possibility and yet even in Ephesians it says that we were called and chosen before the foundation of the world.  What does that actually mean?  The truth is that for me election is a mystery, and I must bow down and worship a Holy God through the Son By the Holy Spirit.   I don’t even believe in free will because after the Fall (Adam and Eve disobeying God) we lost the ability to choose God because of our fallen nature.  Jesus really does understand what a universal death for all of humanity tastes like.  Even though this was the case, Jesus still obeyed the Father and went to the cross in place of you and me.

I am getting really excited with these verses. These verses are oozing the doctrine of election.  Election was only through the Sacrificial work of Jesus Christ.

Let us look at verses 10 and 11.

For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings.  For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren,

There is One God the Father and through the work of Jesus Christ and in Christ we are brought and can stand in the presence of God; holy and sanctified because of the work Jesus did.  My brothers and sisters; Jesus is not ashamed to call us brothers and sisters!  I’m translating brothers generically to include male and female.  Let us remember that women were also disciples of Jesus and I would go as far saying that they helped the Apostles and Jesus materially with food and clothing so they could get on with their mission of the Gospel.

We finish off this section with Apollos quoting Old Testament proof texts:

saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION, I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.”

The first quotation is from Psalm 22 verse 22.  This comes from a Messianic Psalm.  That Psalm begins in verse one with: “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me?

Far from my deliverance are the words of my groaning.” Psalms 22:1 This saying is what came from the lips of Jesus while on the cross.   The second quote seems to be from Isaiah 8 18 with echoes of psalm 18 2 That God is the refuge of the believer, the one who trusts in God.  These verses were not chosen haphazardly and if anyone says such a thing, you ought not to believe them.

Reflection

God the Son is the second person of the economic Trinity.  God came down to earth and became a man.  The infinite clothed himself with limitedness. His death in scope is enough for the whole of the human race.  Man does not have free will because of the fall and is completely helpless.  The Holy Spirit works in the lives of people by faith and grace alone in Jesus Christ.  Our election is in Jesus Christ.  Election is a mystery and only God understands it but by faith we rely on God and his love to bring us home to heaven through the Son by the Holy Spirit.   The reason why we can never understand it (but are able to enjoy it through gratitude to a God of love); is because these decisions were done on the infinite line of the knowledge of God within the economy of God.  Even quantum computers or artificial intelligence cannot penetrate into this wisdom.

It may be that you are thinking about these spiritual things and you have not bowed the knee to a Holy God.  I would advise you to seek out your local mainline church and ask for guidance.  If you really do see yourself as a sinner someone who has turned their back on God.  You need to repent.  What that means is that you ask God to forgive you and accept that Jesus died personally for you and your sin.  And you need to believe that Jesus rose from the dead.  That this resurrection is also for you personally in Jesus Christ. That you make this your confession by faith.  Obviously, you might not know what a Christian is supposed to be like.   I would encourage you to join a church and be baptized and read your Bible, to begin with, the New Testament and then the Old Testament too. 

Jesus is the King whom God sent into the world, for a moment was made lower than angels but now glorified in Him we have eternal life.

May 8, 2021

Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5 upto 8b. Part 1

When I have the text I will be rmoving the verse numbers because a robot turns my text into speech to that you can listen to.  It may take a couple of days before it comes up on spotify and other platforms.

First let us read the text; 

Earth Subject to Man

For He did not subject to angels the world to come, concerning which we are speaking. But one has testified somewhere, saying,

“WHAT IS MAN, THAT YOU REMEMBER HIM?

OR THE SON OF MAN, THAT YOU ARE CONCERNED ABOUT HIM?

 “YOU HAVE MADE HIM FOR A LITTLE WHILE LOWER THAN THE ANGELS;

YOU HAVE CROWNED HIM WITH GLORY AND HONOR,

AND HAVE APPOINTED HIM OVER THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

YOU HAVE PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET.”

For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him.

Jesus Briefly Humbled

But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honor, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone.   For it was fitting for Him, for whom are all things, and through whom are all things, in bringing many sons to glory, to perfect the author of their salvation through sufferings. For both He who sanctifies and those who are sanctified are all from one Father; for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren, saying,

“I WILL PROCLAIM YOUR NAME TO MY BRETHREN,

IN THE MIDST OF THE CONGREGATION I WILL SING YOUR PRAISE.”

And again,

“I WILL PUT MY TRUST IN HIM.”

And again,

“BEHOLD, I AND THE CHILDREN WHOM GOD HAS GIVEN ME.” From Hebrews 2:5-13 NASB

The writer places Psalm 8 in context of the Son. Although the subject of the Psalm (man) may seem to be in the context of the whole of the human race.  Using the methodology of his day for Biblical interpretation this was ok. 

I am going to give the writer a name from now on and I am going to call him Apollos.  There is no hard evidence, but some theologians think that he is the best fit.  I’m taking this line because it is easier to say ‘Apollos’ than to say ‘the writer to the Hebrews’.  

These verses that Apollos quotes are straight from Psalm 8.  Psalm is very important because it is a Messianic Psalm.  The kings of Israel in the old days were anointed with oil. (Mashiach). The Apostles inferred that Jesus was The King of Israel the anointed of God.  Apollos and Paul are in complete agreement here but first let us work through the text.  Apollos proved that all the angels were our servants.  That Jesus is greater than the angels and because of this the only legitimate claimant is the King of Israel; That everything was subjected to his Christ.  Having said that the Christ was to be made in subjection for a while under the angels but not for all time.  I wrote a while ago.

The phrase in the Greek ‘a little while’ can also in the Greek be ‘a little than’.  It has been understood both spatially and from a time perspective.  However, I have to say that a pure spatial understanding would make a mockery of Hebrews 1 where Jesus is made greater than the angels. The ‘time aspect is needed to understand that Christ has only been made less than the angels for a short period. This was in accordance with the scriptures that it was for the sake of the salvation of humanity that he was made a little lower.

So then, let us keep in mind when we read this section of Hebrews.  In verse 8b Apollos writes.

“For in subjecting all things to him, He left nothing that is not subject to him. But now we do not yet see all things subjected to him. Hebrews 2:8b”

Obviously even today we don’t see everything subjected to Christ, but we do know that at the end of times this will actually take place. Calvin says the same type of thing (Calvin’s new testament commentaries, Eerdmans, Hebrews 1, and 2 Peter, pages 23 – 24).  As evidence for this understanding Calvin Turns to 1 Corinthians 15. 28 I came to the same conclusion earlier and Apollos and Paul are in total agreement although they have a different way of saying it.

“ For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:27-28”

I touched on the above in “When time becomes unnecessary, we will be sharing in the Trinitarian Divine Life for eternity!”

“The Apostolic teaching is that Christ indeed did rise from the dead according to God’s plan and one day we will also rise from the dead.  The day will come when Jesus as the King will hand over everything to the Father including the greatest enemy ‘death’.  Then Christ will subject himself to the Father and the Church in Christ will be brought into the Trinitarian Divine Life and everything will be Perfect.” Taken from my Corinthian lessons in wordpress

This theology my friends has a name ‘recapitulation’ and here it is stated in a different style. 

I also think Irenaeus helps us understand these truths as he wrote;

“As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If our Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

And again Irenaeus writes;

He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for (observabit) thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.” For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “that the law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” This fact is exhibited in a still clearer light in the same Epistle, where he thus speaks: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/irenaeus_on_recapitulation_in_christ.htm

I was planning to go to the end of verse 13 but I covered a lot of ground up to verse 8b.

Reflection

Who is Jesus?

 Where did Jesus come from?

How does our salvation fit into this?

We have come to the conclusion that Jesus is God who became a human being.  For a little while he lived with us and he communed with us. He is the King of Israel.

For the last question I can say that our salvation is dependent on his being, person and actions from the economic eternal Trinity. 

Run, run away from evil and pay homage to the Son from whom by the Holy Spirit we receive grace in abundance… Hebrews 2. 1-5

May 2, 2021

The opening verses.

Listen Carefully!

“1 For this reason we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, so that we do not drift away from it. 2 For if the word spoken through angels proved unalterable, and every transgression and disobedience received a just penalty, 3 how will we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? After it was at the first spoken through the Lord, it was confirmed to us by those who heard, 4 God also testifying with them, both by signs and wonders and by various miracles and by gifts of the Holy Spirit according to His own will.” Hebrews 2:1-4

A lot of angels were also locked up in judgement.  Let us take scripture more seriously and see what God is trying to teach us.   Let us come in humility and find out God’s message to us in the 21st century.  In Jesus Christ, God became a man.  The whole of the Trinity is involved in this salvific movement and by faith we can be the recipients of this gift of grace. (salvation)

When looking at verses 1-4 his attention focuses on the situation of the readers. The majority of the time the writer is expounding the teachings about the Christ but at crucial moments he is challenging the readers and asks them where their allegiance lies.  The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is greater than the angels and that Jesus has come from God as his representative here on earth. The readers are invited to consider the evidence. They can come to only one conclusion, Jesus is the Christ.

Preliminary remarks on Hebrews chapter 2 verses 5-8.

But discussion of the Son does not stay on the side of the divine.  The eternal son takes on flesh and becomes a human being. As it says ‘for a little while’, the Son was made a little lower than the angels.  The eternal Son is not only made a little lower than the angels, but he is a man.

As a man he faces all the problems that men and women do. The eternal Son as a man suffers even the greatest evil itself ‘death’.  In his death there is real forgiveness from our sin and for the Jewish Christians there is real comfort (verse 18).

The writer to the Hebrews uses proof texts which his readers would have understood.   Psalm 8 verses 4-6, Psalm 22 verse22, Isaiah 8 verses 17-18 et al.

Some theologians have argued that the early Christians used the sacred texts to fit there circumstances in a haphazard way (I am thinking of Heikki Häkkinen at this point).

Obviously, the book of Hebrews shows this not to be the case.  The writer chooses and selects proof texts very carefully for the purpose of his argument. There is nothing haphazard about the choices of the above scripture quotations. These were well known Messianic texts that were used in the Jewish community in the first century AD.

I also must disagree with the theory than Pannenberg puts forward concerning history. Old facts are modified by newer facts as history progresses to the eschaton (thesis/antithesis/synthesis).  Christianity and Judaism are both in a lot of ways remembering religions not progressive religions. The Jews every year celebrate the Passover as a significant point in their history. Christians remember the sacrifice of Jesus every Sunday at Holy communion. ‘Do this in remembrance of me’.  A fuller explanation is needed such as progressive revelation. God reveals a little more of his nature as time moves on.

Although the OT was interpreted in light of the Christ there is nothing arbitrary about the way the writer used the scriptures.  These were texts that pointed to the Christ and were believed to point to the Christ even before the time that the Christ was born (a road map to the king). Contrary to Häkkinen’s point of view.

On the other hand the writer is ‘reminding’ the readers of the importance of these scriptures. Contrary to what Pannenberg might emphasize.  These texts take on decisive meaning and there is nothing arbitrary about them.

In layman’s terms:

As I said Jesus is really the eternal son which I spoke to you centuries ago. Now that the Son has come you can see how all these scriptures fall into place.

In other words, the prophecies have bee fulfilled not modified.  In Hegelianism older facts can be modified by newer facts by contingent accident. Revelation is not accidental it has a purpose from the heart of God.

Reflection

As Christians we really do need to understand what Jesus taught us. We have various tools to do this.

  1. We do this by genuine prayer asking God to help us understand and to walk in his love. 
  2. Reading the scriptures and prayerfully searching the scriptures.

For us we are blessed to have such teachers of the Old Testament who have opened up its meaning to us in the book of Hebrews.  John Owen wrote a tome on the book of Hebrews; under the surface it is a very rich book. Perhaps you have become a believer recently or have been a believer for decades; This book is speaking to you.  The letter is explaining who Jesus is.  We do well to do the same.

O God of God! O Light of Light! Thou Prince of Peace, Thou King of kings,

April 24, 2021

The above title was taken from https://hymnary.org/text/o_god_of_god_o_light_of_light

So we came to the conclusion that Jesus is fully God and fully man.  What about the angels.  They are powerful beings and how do they compare to the Son? For early Jews and Christians angels had and still do have a role to play. 

7 And of the angels He says,

“WHO MAKES HIS ANGELS WINDS,

AND HIS MINISTERS A FLAME OF FIRE.”

8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.

9 “YOU HAVE LOVED RIGHTEOUSNESS AND HATED LAWLESSNESS;

THEREFORE GOD, YOUR GOD, HAS ANOINTED YOU

WITH THE OIL OF GLADNESS ABOVE YOUR COMPANIONS.”

10 And,

“YOU, LORD, IN THE BEGINNING LAID THE FOUNDATION OF THE EARTH,

AND THE HEAVENS ARE THE WORKS OF YOUR HANDS;

11 THEY WILL PERISH, BUT YOU REMAIN;

AND THEY ALL WILL BECOME OLD LIKE A GARMENT,

12 AND LIKE A MANTLE YOU WILL ROLL THEM UP;

LIKE A GARMENT THEY WILL ALSO BE CHANGED.

BUT YOU ARE THE SAME,

AND YOUR YEARS WILL NOT COME TO AN END.”

13 But to which of the angels has He ever said,

“SIT AT MY RIGHT HAND,

UNTIL I MAKE YOUR ENEMIES

A FOOTSTOOL FOR YOUR FEET”?

14 Are they not all ministering spirits, sent out to render service for the sake of those who will inherit salvation? Hebrews 1:7-14

Verses 7-13. The writer in these verses is pushing the point home that was found in verse 6.  The bottom line is that Jesus is God the angels are only servants. The writer does not compromise on this belief.

Verses 7 8. Make sure you don’t miss the contrast here;

verse 7 ‘and of the angel he says’. Then the quotation (according to Barclay in ancient Jewish tradition angels could become pure etheral creatures). More importantly angels are still only ‘servants’.

Verse 8 The quotation about the Son is very strong, ‘But of the son he says thy throne O God…’ According to this reading Jesus is called both ‘God’ and ‘Lord’ (Ellingworth commentary page 122).

Verses 9-12 The evidence of Jesus as ‘God’ grows as the writer heaps up the ‘and’ words. See the beginning of verse 10 (kai=and at the beginning of the sentence. The beginning of verse 12 is the same another ‘and’). If one reads especially Psalm 102 verses 125 and 126 one can see the divinity status of the king.

Verse 13 This forms the ‘inclusion of his argument in which sarcastically the writer says But to which of the angels… relating Psalm 110 to Jesus and not the angels…

Verse 14 The writer at this point has proven that Jesus is God and is then able in verse 14 to say that the angels are only ‘servants’.

 This summarises his findings.  The point has been made that Jesus is greater than the angels. You can see that these verses were not chosen by accident. All these verses point to the messiah.

Excursus: A question to the philosophers of kalam.

When looking at the truth of religion, the categories of the infinite and finite must always be taken seriously. The categories of the eternal and that of the contingent, religionists would argue that revelation takes place when the eternal and finite touch, which allows the ‘moment’ of touching to take a most profound meaning for our human lives, making it possible for us to have life in the presence of Allah/ Eloah/ Elohim/ Elgibor.  The eternal taking on physical form is an aspect that touches most religion.

In Hinduism, the divine resides in the murti. The Koran is also seen as coming from heaven and taking on physical form.

The charge has been made that Christians have committed shirk… (the unpardonable sin). The unpardonable sin is allowing an earthly category to touch the divine.  But is it not also the case that the Koran from heaven takes on physical form in this world and the same charge can be placed on Muslims?

The answer of course is that Muslims have not committed shirk and neither have the Christians!

I am not interested in winning a polemical argument because using logical categories it is so easy to put down someone else’s point of view. All I am asking is that we meet on the ground of piety and show respect for each other’s beliefs (even if we don’t agree).

This is not a negation of our beliefs because in the domain of public conversation we are talking about our future destiny which takes us either into God’s presence or away from God’s presence.  We are talking about fellowship with God which is the most serious issue in the universe.

In the context which the writer to the Hebrews was writing, it is possible that some of these Jewish Christians were involved in angel worship. It was very important that the writer pointed the readers to the Son, true God of true God, true light from true light.

For Christians as with Muslims, belief in the one true God is of primary importance.  The paths separate only at the point when we try to understand this Unity.  Thus, Aquinas and al Ghazali could believe and agree on most of the ninety nine names of God. The problem came at the place of understanding this Unity.  For Christians there are eternal relations within the unity.  For Islamic theology there is only unity.

There are heresies as well that would want to make Jesus just a creature.  That he was the first of the creatures therefore the most elevated.  This is false teaching.  As well as the first four verses say 8 But of the Son He says,

“YOUR THRONE, O GOD, IS FOREVER AND EVER,

AND THE RIGHTEOUS SCEPTER IS THE SCEPTER OF HIS KINGDOM.”

Arianism of the 4th century taught; “Arianism is also used to refer to other nontrinitarian theological systems of the 4th century, which regarded Jesus Christ—the Son of God, the Logos—as either a begotten creature of a similar or different substance to that of the Father, but not identical (as Homoiousian and Anomoeanism) or as neither uncreated nor created in the sense other beings are created (as in semi-Arianism). “

From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arianism

This is an interesting article of Arian belief within the Jehovah’s Witnesses.

From https://www.evangelical-times.org/22235/arianism-and-jehovahs-witnesses/

Reflection

The book of Hebrews has a lot to teach us in the 21st century.  Jesus has commanded us to love our neighbour, whoever our neighbour is.  Angels play a very important role in the 21st century and they are here to serve us.  We need to be careful not to elevate angels to the point of divinity because once that line has been reached, we switch to demonology.   The writer to the Hebrews had already seen the danger of what we call Arianism.  As Hebrews shows Jesus is greater than angels as he has always existed but, in his humanity, just for a short while he humbled himself and became lower than the angels to save us. As a pre-taster of what we will write later it says in the next chapter.

9 But we do see Him who was made for a little while lower than the angels, namely, Jesus, because of the suffering of death crowned with glory and honour, so that by the grace of God He might taste death for everyone. Hebrews 2:9 NASB

And Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of His nature and upholds all things by the word of His power. When Jesus had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, Hebrews 1:3

April 18, 2021

18 04 2021

Chapter 1 On reflection when the writer speaks of Jesus Christ.  Jesus is seen as fully divine.  In the economy of the Trinitarian God, Jesus is divine.   We will continue with verse one because I want to dig deeper until we reach verse 6.

Although there are scholars who would choose to water down the divinity of Christ in this book we are not of that school.  They are mistaken. The writer starts from the side of the infinite ‘heaven’. Jesus is fully God and that is the only way that the introduction can be interpreted.  The writer does not speak of the angels being the ‘radiance of God’s glory’. Jesus is the radiance of God’s glory.  The whole argument in chapters 1 and 2 proves that Jesus is greater than the angels. In the order of creation angels were placed in the presence of God… Yet Jesus is greater than the angels.  Jesus is no ordinary prophet. It was the Father’s good pleasure to create the universe through and for the Son (Heb1/2- Jn1/3) So then the mystery:

‘Jesus is fully God’.

The movement of thought in this epistle is in terms of who Jesus was starts from an infinite category.

Verse 3. Jesus is not ‘compared’ to the Majesty on High but is given the seat of Honour.  Jesus is referred to as sitting ‘on the right hand’. There is no language of comparison only symbolism of power and authority.  God’s goodness to the universe is channelled through the son not angels.

The next movement of thought is Jesus being moved into the infinite categories.

Verse4 sets the agenda for the rest of the chapter. Jesus has ‘inherited’ a more excellent name than the angels. The word inheritance conveys the idea of ‘rightful ownership’. The angels could not be spoken of in terms of ‘inheritance’. Angels could only be servants.

Verse 5. There are two quotations in this verse, and they are both Messianic (that is they relate to the king of Israel). Psalm 2 and 2 Samuel 7.14. Both quotations point towards the relationship of the father and the Son within the Godhead. 

Some scholars have suggested that these quotations were taken in some sort of haphazard way… This is not the case……………. 

Verse 6. Here is a quotation from verse from Psalm 97.7. I assume he is using the LXX that the angels are expected to worship Jesus! If the Writer was to use the Masoretic text, the meaning would be even sharper than angels!! That the ‘gods’ are expected to worship Jesus. The Hebrew word here is Elohim.  Although Elohim can be translated as angels, it may not always be the situation. You need to realize that some of these writings go back into almost pre-history in which El was used in the sense of the ‘titular head of the gods’. Clay tablets have been found which show this to be the case. Thus, I would argue for the reading of ‘gods’ rather than angels.

The writer is moving in high theology that Jesus is fully divine.  He will also move onto him as fully human.  I think of Hebrews in some ways as steppingstones.  He starts from the heavenly realms and verse 6 sets up Jesus Contrasted to angels and that Jesus in greater than angels.  I do not remember where, but I think FF Bruce mentioned that there was a real danger of some people worshiping angels.  We too need to be careful and keep our eyes fixed on Jesus and not worship gods.  The gods of today might look different but they are the same.  Maybe not stone, clay special stones and metals but football, technology, the ego…

God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, 2 in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. Hebrews 1:1-2 NASB

April 10, 2021

A while ago I wrote an unpublished commentary on Hebrews.  I wrote this soon after leaving King’s College London in my spare time.  For me this is another Gospel form.  It is a beautiful picture of our Saviour Jesus Christ our King, High Priest, and sacrifice.  There is so much more.  For the Christian Jesus is greater than the prophets, higher than the angels, greater than Moses…

Chapter 1

The opening verses of Hebrews gives us the theme and agenda for the whole book. ‘That in these last days God has spoken to us in His Son’.  Throughout this book the speech of God is unfolded.  From this point of view the commentary sets out on an incredible journey of discovery to find out the meaning of this holy scripture.  We must begin and say that Hebrews is couched in the culture and language of Hebraic and Hellenic rhetoric.  It seems so far removed from the modern world yet for the follower of Christ it is a jewel of spiritual inspiration. We don’t even know who the writer was (although I personally think Apollos wrote it).

In verses 1-4 we do not find any full stop until the end of verse 4.  This is a significant point because it shows a single argument.  It is trying to explain to some Jewish Christians that they should stay faithful to Christ.  Serious assumptions are made in these four verses in which the readers are expected to agree with.  Whatever the case might be, the writer to the Hebrews knows his OT inside out and the Greek in these verses also reflect a training in some Hellenic school of thought (Alexandria).

The first assumption he makes in verse one is that God spoke to the Jewish nation through the prophets to the leaders.  The second verse works this out. Yet it goes a stage further and explains that in the ‘Son’ God has spoken his final and ultimate word.  This is backed up with the statement that all things exist because of and through the Son.

Obviously, this is no small claim because it is a statement that goes to the heart of a central motif, namely the motif of Kingship that is found in the Royal Psalms.

Verse 1.  At the end of this claim we find out the reason for the existence of all things is because of the Son.  The Son is a title of Royal kingship and the original readers of the OT would have understood it as such.  The relation of Jesus to God the Father must always be understood in terms of the OT and especially that of the Messianic Psalms such as Ps110/1, “YHWH says to Adonay sit at my right hand…” Or in the LXX no difference is made between Kurios and Kurios!

To the Jewish Christians who read this letter, they would have known the Greek version rather than the Hebrew version.  Both versions carry equal authority. In sum the source of the Trinitarian theology is found here in the OT.

Verse 3.  So then, royal Kingship is the contextual understanding for the identity of the Son.  It is only in this context that we start to comprehend verse three.  Here the writer is trying to explain the relation of the Father to the Son.  On reflection the main reason I think that the writer is struggling to explain the uniqueness of the Son in relation to the Father is because we have crossed the boundary of our natural and physical understanding to the realm of the meta-physical.

Yes, for believers Jesus is God incarnate.  In = in, carne= flesh, body.  This is a beautiful book and I’m told that the first few verses are some of the finest Greek from the ancient world. 

Anselm on Reconciliation and the Atonement

April 2, 2021

ANSELM

Last Week we looked at Irenaeus and how his method was more Biblical and historical withing the framework of the rule. Anselm is not like that. He is more philosophical and he grinds things down to basic premises. Without atonement and reconciliation there would be no relationship with God. Anselm is another way of looking at these great themes of our salvation especially now at this Easter Weekend.

Anselm 1033-1166 was archbishop of Canterbury, thus he always had responsibilities on the political scene. Anselm’s life thus revolved around the monastery and one of the functions of any monk was to pray. Southern says that from the time that Anselm arrived in Bec (in 1059), one can see ‘three threads running through the whole development’ of Anselm’s life and thought; 1) Anselm received his intellectual tools from Lanfranc in who’s footsteps he followed. 2) Anselm immersed himself totally in St Augustine’s thought and language. These two points in some way influenced the writings of ‘Prayers and Letters’ and the ‘Proslogion’. 3) From 1078 new influences in the world took Anselm outside of the Monastery. His theological questioning was also growing due to contact with Roscelin. Jewish arguments were brought to the attention of Anselm via Gilbert Crispin. There were also the teachings from the Laon school which was brought to the attention of Anselm via Boso. These were contributary factors for the culminating works of the Proslogion of 1078 and his more mature work of the Cur Deus Homo in 1098 (15/437). In our search for Anselm’s understanding of reconciliation and atonement we shall concern ourselves mainly with the Cur Deus Homo? (why did God become man?).

Anselm is one of the first theologians to have written a systematic theology on the atonement (1/87). Anselm rejected the view that, ” The Devil, it was held, had obtained, as a result of the Fall certain rights over humankind, either on his own account or by divine permission. Freedom from this bondage was won by means of the payment represented by the blood of Christ” (1/87). (It would be unfair to say that Irenaeus held this view completely as there is also atonement language in his writings). Anselm rejected this view. He wanted to give an account that was rational in relation to the Atonement. Gunton says that at places Anselm is being too systematic with his approach to the atonement and the incarnation (1/88). This does seem to be the case, as in the CDH Anselm does put a great deal of emphasis upon the death of Christ and not enough emphasis on other historical questions in the second part of the CDH.

Anselm viewed the Fall,”…as sin, which was the cause of our condemnation, had its beginning from a woman, so should the author of our righteousness and salvation be born of a woman. And as the Devil had conquered man by the tasting of a tree, to which he persuaded him, so by the suffering endured on a tree, which he inflicted, should he, by a man, be conquered” (2/38). It is interesting to see in this quotation that Anselm does give the Incarnation a high priority, as does Irenaeus. But it must be said that in between the Incarnation and the Passion, the historical works of Christ (for example the miracles etc) are omitted.

Whatever the case maybe concerning the ballance of atonement ~n the CDH there are important points to consider for the rejection of the ransom language which was mentioned before. If one for example holds to the ransom language it does have too much of a dualism in ~t. In Mark 10/45 for example where it says, ” to give his life a ransom for many” (1/88). If the blood of Jesus is treated as a literal price which was for payment to the Devil, then this is going beyond what the NT actual ly al lows in its language (1 /88). The next point to realize

is that ransom language gives too much autonomy and too much authority to the Devil. Gunton quotes CDH1/7,” the Devil and man belong to God alone, and neither one stands outside God’s power; what case, then, did God have to plead with his own creature, in his own affair…?” (1/88 and CDH 1/7).

Satan can only give out punishment according to what God allows. Ransom language does not give an account that is reasonable enough to explain the atonement. Satan is only a creature like all of the other creatures and if he should be given a priority of place as is implied in the ransom language, then the authority of God is undermined. With the rejection of ransom language Anselm turns to a new metaphor which is language of ‘satisfaction’. ‘Satisfaction’ was taken from the legal establishment (1/89). The starting point for Anselm is,” The entire will of a rational creature ought to be subject to the will of God” (2/63). If this formula is broken by sin, then the one that has committed the sin is ‘owing to God’.

Anselm has a particular concept of Justice. God will not allow injustice to have its own way in the universe, otherwise the universe would be seen as irrational (1/89-90). If the universe is seen as irrational, then God does not deserve the name ‘God’. Sin must be punished, ” And since it is not possible to bring sin into accordance with right order without satisfaction being made, except by punishing it, if it is not punished, it is let go without being brought into due order” (2/65).

The important words in the above quotation are ‘right order’. If we also look at CDH I/15 (pages7l-72) where it has the expression ‘order and the beauty of the universe’, we start to see that Anselm sees satisfaction in terms of the welfare of God’s creation. Satisfaction initially is not in terms of the honour of God. Anselm writes that nothing can harm ‘the power and dignity of God’ (2/15/pages7l-72). It is with this in mind that Gunton writes, ” The point is that God does not demand satisfaction for sin because he is in some way personally affronted or offended by transgression” (1/90).

As well as God who is seen as the guardian of universal justice we must also take into account ‘the seriousness of sin’ (1/90). To do something that goes against God’s will is a very serious thing. In the dialogue between Anselm and Boso, Anselm writes,” You do not, therefore, make satisfaction unless you return something greater than that for the sake of which you were under obligation not to have committed the sin”. Then Boso replies,” I see that reason requires it, and yet, that it is altogether impossible” (2/pages 100-101//CDH/I/21). Anselm goes on to say that if it wasn’t for faith, he would despair of there being any possibility of reconciliation to God (2/100).

It is within the framework of justice that mercy must be understood. Man is in a state by which he is incapable of paying God back for his sins. At the same time God cannot forgive man without there being a payment for the debt of sin. God’s Mercy has to be understood within the framework of justice. After what has been said, it must also be noted that ‘satisfaction’ must not be understood in terms of the primary emphasis being on penal substitution.

When Anselm uses the word satisfaction we must also take into account the word ‘poena’ . Satisfactio and poena must be seen as alternatives. Gunton writes,” Satisfaction is therefore according to Anselm the way by which God is enabled not to exact a tribute of compensating penalty from the sinner” (1/90). Then Gunton writes, ” He (Anselm) is therefore not propounding a version of what came to be called penal substitution, in which Jesus is conceived to be punished by God in place of the sinner. There is a substitution, an exchange, but it is not penal in character” (1/90-91).

The framework for the theology of satisfaction in terms of ‘human fallenness’ is only a secondary consideration. The main “focus is on the goodness of God and the excellence of creation’s crown” (1/91). Satisfaction was made because of a gracious act of God. God was not willing to see his creatures annihilated. This act of God is to be understood in terms of a Trinitarian framework. Anselm writes,” Hut this Man (Jesus) freely offered to the Father what it would never have been necessary for Him to lose and paid for sinners what He did not owe for Himself” (2/166 book i I/8). Anselm in the same chapter goes on to say,”…He offered himself for his own honour, to Himself, as he did to the Father and the Holy Spirit i.e., His human nature to his divine nature, which is also one of the Three Persons” (2/170). Barth makes use of this motif and he makes this abstract motif relational, ” … the only One who is judged… He is the only who has come and acts among us as the Judge” (16/237-238). In the same context Barth is also fond of the language of Jesus Christ being ‘ for us’ (16/235). The point is that Anselm did extremely well to think up this motif, yet he misses to bring it into the context of ‘our time’ as opposed to God’s eternity.

CONCLUSON

To begin with both Irenaeus’ and Anselm’s historical settings and hence world views were different. At the same time however they wanted to make a defence of the Christian faith. In the AH, Irenaeus begins by outlining the heresies and showing what is ‘apparent’. After this groundwork has been covered, only then does he begin ~n a rational way to demolish the heretical positions. Contrasting to this method, Anselm has inherited certain philosophical tools for use on behalf of the Christian faith against other religious or atheistic systems. He begins by trying to whittle down ‘ as he sees it’ to the common denominators of the Christian faith, particularly such things as, Fall, Incarnation, Passion etc. Both theologians took the Fall seriously and though their methods differed a great deal, it is interesting that some of the motifs later to be mentioned (in our conclusion) have remarkable similarities. The point is that Anselm looked at reconciliation and atonement from a rational perspective. It has to be noted though that it is ‘faith seeking understanding’ (not natural theology) which is one of his presuppositions. Irenaeus doesn’t spell out a concept of faith seeking understanding, but maybe his ‘rule of faith can in some way be seen a loose equivalent (both presuppose the existence of God). In their search for explaining how God reconciles man to Himself, maybe a way to explain their contrasting methods, one can use the analogy of the Mathematician and the historian. The mathematician uses abstract concepts to gain insight into universal truths, Anselm tends to use this method. Irenaeus on the other hand sees the historical data and sets out to explain and evaluate the data in the best way he knows how. This is a crude analogy, but it does show that both methods are valuable in

explaining reconciliation and atonement.

Concerning the Fall, for both of them Mary plays an important part for its reversal . For Irenaeus Mary corresponded to Eve (in the reversal procedure), for Anselm Seeing that a woman was responsible at the Fall it was only fitting that a woman should be present at the incarnation. Obedience is also an important concept for the two of them. In Irenaeus, Christ obeyed the Father at every point of the natural sequence of human development and thus reversing the Fall at each of those particular points. For Anselm aswell the obedience of Christ was also important. Christ offered himself to his own honour. There is a contrast though, for Anselm propitiation seemed more of an abstract mathematical sum in putting the universe in harmony in relation to its Creator. For Irenaeus on the other hand, the obedience of Christ came out of love and there is more of a personal element of fellowship. With the previous statement it must also be stressed that mercy (as an abstract concept) seemed to replace the love motif as found in the Hible. This contrast must take into consideration their historical contexts. Concerning Satan, it may be true to say that he is given a more elevated role in Irenaeus due to the ‘ransom’ concept, it has to be stressed though, that even in Irenaeus Satan is still only a creature like all other creatures. In the plan of the historico-salvation, ‘the obedience of Christ’ is more important. Irenaeus and Anselm agree on the obedience of Christ but the history-salvation motif is unique to the second century theologian. Irenaeus and Anselm also contrast on the concept of sin and evil. For Irenaeus evil ~s held relative to free will thus sin is not treated as seriously as maybe it should be. Sin for Anselm is a very serious concept because it is this particular evil that knocked the universe out of right order. (presumably Anselm inherited this concept of evil from Augustine, then later after Anselm, Calvin) . So then at certain points anselm and Irenaeus do contrast but ‘at crucial points they agree’. Without the perfect obedience of Christ it would be impossible for salvation to be effected. The other point that I want to make is that, one could probably say and should say up to a point that both theologians seem to be ‘both sides of the same coin’ (colloquialism intended). The reason why I say this is that a great deal of the motifs used by Irenaeus and Anselm is found in the theological grammar of Karl Barth but that is another question.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1) THE ACTUALITY OF THE ATONEMENT/ BY COLIN GUNTON. 2) CUR DEUS HOMO?/ ANSELM.

3) EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES/ JND KELLY/ 5TH EDITION. 4) MAN AND THE INCARNATION/VINGREN

5) AGAINST HERESIES VOLUME 1/ANCIENT CHRISTIAN WRITERS/TRANSLATED HY DOMINIC J UNGER.

6) THE WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS HOOKS 1-4/ T AND T CLARK 1867. 7) IRENAEUS 2 HOOKS 4-5/ T AND T CLARK 1869.

8) IRENAEUS/ DENIS MINNS OP/OUTSTANDING CHRISTIAN THINKERS SERIES.

9) THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS/ TRANSLATED BY HENRY HETTENSON. 10) NEW DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY/ IVP.

11) VISIBILE PATRIS FILIUS/JUAN OCHAGAVIA/ ORIENTALIA CHRISTIANA ANLECTA/171/1964.

12) THE GLORY OF THE LORD/ VOLUME II/HANS URS VON BALTHASAAR. 13) ANSELM AND A NEW GENERARION/ EVANS/ OXFORD PRESS. 14) NEW AMERICAN STANDARD HIHLE.

15) SAINT ANSELM/ SOUTHERN.

16) CHURCH DOGMATICS VOL IV,I BY KARL BARTH (THE DOCTRINE OF RECONCILIATION).

Part 1 Irenaeus’ interpretation of reconciliation and the atonement

March 27, 2021

I have completed the book of Ruth, so I wanted to do an ‘Easter Special’ 

This is half of an essay I wrote on the Incarnations for the points of view of Irenaeus and Anselm. Irenaeus was a very important voice in the early Church.  He personally knew St Polycarp from Izmir in Turkey.  He was also a Bishop of Lyon (France).  The next quote is from Wikipedia

“Irenaeus (/ɪrɪˈneɪəs/;[1] Greek: Εἰρηναῖος Eirēnaios; c. 130 – c. 202 AD)[2] was a Greek bishop noted for his role in guiding and expanding Christian communities in what is now the south of France and, more widely, for the development of Christian theology by combating heresy and defining orthodoxy. Originating from Smyrna, he had seen and heard the preaching of Polycarp,[3] the last known living connection with the Apostles, who in turn was said to have heard John the Evangelist.[4] ” from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Irenaeus

Compare and contrast Irenaeus and Anselm’s interpretations of reconciliation and atonement.

To begin with we shall look at Irenaeus and Anselm separately, we want to do justice to what they actually said within their historical contexts. Only then shall we give a brief discussion, in order to illuminate both comparisons and contrasts relating to our question. If we were to talk of the rules that governed their respective theologies, then the syntax they both employs are different to each other. Von Balthasaar says there are three collecting points for the theology of Irenaeus; 1) One point is that we need to think in terms of God hidden and revealed, in terms of unity and Trinity. 2) The relation of being and becoming, especially in particular God and man. 3) In the ordering of salvation, the relationship of time and eternity in terms of old covenant, gospel and church etc (12/58). Anselm on the hand is more philosophical in that he identifies three ‘ forces of change’ in the Cur Deus Homo; that of 1) will, 2) power, 3) and necessity (13/187). As can be seen there is no similarity of approach to how God reconciles and makes atonement for mankind. If anything, their particular approaches and hence their methods tend to be poles apart. For example, Irenaeus is not afraid of using the Bible to the fullest extent in his scheme of salvation. On the other hand, for Anselm, he uses as little Biblical information as possible to allow him to give a convincing argument for the need of the Incarnation and passion. Anselm then is more concerned with philosophical criterion which is a part of his training. (In this essay the Cur Deus Homo will be abbreviated to CDH and Against Heresies will be abbreviated to AH).

IRENAEUS

Irenaeus was concerned about the gnostic heresies due to certain apparent reasons, especially because it tended to use a Catholic language but with a different meaning for the initiates of Gnosticism ( 12/41 ) . In summary the Valentinian system began from Buthos and from him emanations’ went out from him until matter was created (it has to be stressed that Buthos always remains untouched by evil 1 matter). So according to the Valentinians, matter was made out of ‘ignorance, grief, fear and bewilderment’ (5/26. This is contrary to the Genesis account where the phrase ‘and God saw that it was good’ is repeated (Gen,chapter 1 verses 10,12,18 etc.). The distinction between God and creation becomes blurred (12/380). The concepts of person and idea also become blurred etc. Balthasaar writes,” Every concept becomes an aeon, every conceptual tension becomes a male-female relationship” etc (12/39). A great deal more could be said (but cannot be said due to length of essay) but one can see that this outline shows a new (false) foundation for the Christian faith.

Irenaeus believed that- mankind fell in solidarity due to the sin of Adam, this process through the work of Christ can be reversed. His main concept is ‘recapitulation’. He borrows Paul’s idea from Ephesians 1/10 ‘to sum up all things in Christ’. He sees this text in terms of as Kelly puts it,” He understands the Pauline text as implying that the Redeemer gathers together, includes or comprises the whole of reality in himself, (Christ) the human race being included”(3/172). Kelly goes on to say that Irenaeus takes advantage of Paul’s use of first and second Adam language. Christ being understood as the ‘second Adam’. Christ then as the second Adam recapitulated or reproduced the first Adam in the same way, in terms of birth from the virgin earth horn from the virgin Mary.

We also need to compare what Unger has to say, “It (recapitulation) must convey the idea of being brought to ahead as a unifying principle and of somehow resuming all things. This process of recapitulation of all things begins with the Incarnation and will be completed with the glorification of the body, yet because the Word pre-existed creation and was in the planning, and was operative from creation on, the Incarnate Word recapitulates all things. He summarizes in Himself all creation and unites all people and angels too to Himself as under one head, and in so doing He duplicates, or resumes, the acts of Adam either by similarity or by opposition” (7/185-186). As can be seen God’s plan of reconciliation precedes creation and works its way through to the end times. Through this term then, Man is not seen as an afterthought, but he is at the heart of what God will for his

creation.

Irenaeus’ important point is that Christ as the second Adam went through all the same sequences of human life such as birth, even including death. Each stage of human life then was being made holy. In doing this Christ reversed Adam’s sin at each stage of human development and thus brought about a new redeemed humanity. An important point to remember is that when Adam sinned so did the whole of the human race. The whole of the human race that was yet to be born was, as it were, locked up in Adam. Christ as the second Adam, in his ‘mystical body’ again brought about deathlessness and undid what the first Adam had done. For example, as the first Adam was disobedient the second Adam was obedient and so on (3/173).

The question that we have to ask ourselves at this juncture is,” If the Christian God is such a good God, why did he allow evil to exist in it? Concerning this major question, it has to be linked to the understanding of free will (8/66-76). Whatever the case, Minns makes his argument around AH 4/37-38. In AH 4/37.6 Irenaeus implies that if God should have created his creatures only for the good then freedom would in some way be hindered. Though Irenaeus’ argument is not full proof, it is a groundwork for an optimistic view of the Fall. Whatever the case may be, Irenaeus does have a concept of being and becoming. That is to say that God ‘is’ and that his creation is constantly growing and increasing (8/70). For Augustine and Athanasius however the free will of Adam and Eve was central for the outcome of the whole of creation. This situation could only be reversed, if God himself became incarnate (8/69).

In opposition to the Valentinian system, God was directly responsible for the creation of this world. Irenaeus directly contributed in the explanation of the Trinity through the notion of the ‘two hands of God’. The two hands were Jesus and the Holy Spirit, they were co-working with the Father in creation (Word and Wisdom 10/345). This allows Irenaeus to say that the Father is in the Son and the Son is in the Father. The point is that creation is to be seen as the product of love. This also takes away any platonic philosophical basis that creation is evil. There are some writers that try to intimate implicitly that the Son before creation had a creature 1 likeness about him. Ochagavia writes, ” Since the Son was not created out of nothing, as creatures were, we can infer that, before he was established, He existed in God in an unstable state, namely, without a determinate form and circumscription” (11/110). This mind is reading too far into the writings of Irenaeus. There is language in Irenaeus that explicitly rejects such a notion; ” For the Creator of the world is truly the Word of God” (6/105).

Concerning the doctrine of Man, he was created as a child with the view to grow into the image and likeness of God. Instead he did the opposite by disobeying God. If the Fall had not happened man would still have grown into communion with God and would have reached the status of manhood. Wingren goes on to say that it is this very communion that man had with God that has been broken due to disobedience (4/51-52 ) . Though man disobeyed God all in the end would work out for the good of man, ” …The Lord restored us to friendship through his incarnation, becoming the ‘mediator between God and man’. He propitiated on our behalf the Father, against whom we had sinned and cancelled our disobedience by his obedience, restoring us to fellowship with our Maker and submission to him (9/80//AH5/17/1). Man was made in the image (tselem) and likeness (demot) of God (Genesis 1/26). Irenaeus sometimes when he uses the term ‘image’, he sometimes refers to the creation of man and at other times he refers to Christ, depending on context. The original image of God is the Son and it is in his image that man was created. Man is different to the rest of creation because of this. It must be noted however that man has not yet reached his destiny, because he needs to grow up from childhood to adult hood, and this is what he is predestined for. Though man has been created in the image of God he still remains a created creature while the Son still remains the Creator. Man though, he was created with the view to reach maturity, but he yielded and was taken captive by the Devil (4/21).

Because Christ was a real man, he was able to defeat the Devil who had gained power over mankind due to the Fall. The previous sentence implies that the Incarnation itself effected the redemption; this is not entirely correct. This is the line that a commentator in the CDH takes concerning Irenaeus. Irenaeus when talking in terms of redemption is explicit that it is affected through or by the blood of Christ. The concept of the Devil owning the rights of humanity is present in the thoughts of Irenaeus. This thought though is not exhaustive to the theology of Irenaeus. Kelly writes,”…the essence of Adam’s sin was disobedience, the obedience of Christ was indispensable; it is obedience that God requires, and in which man’ s glory consists” (3/174). Concerning reconciliation Wingren summarising says that we need to recognize that there is a general move in the NT of God’s 1 love (because God is love) towards man. Thus, Irenaeus strives to bring this out in his writings.

The burning question then because of this is,” How shall anyone be able to overcome this adversary of mankind unless he is different from the man who has suffered defeat”? (4/21). The answer to this question is that only the Son is stronger than the Devil. The Incarnation then becomes central for Irenaeus due to saving man from this bondage. A proviso needs to be mentioned at this juncture due to ‘bondage language’. It is true that Irenaeus writes in terms of a ‘rational transaction’, at the same time though he uses propitiation language. We cite for example AH5/1/1-2, ” The lord redeemed us by his blood and gave his life for our life, his flesh for our flesh, and poured out the Spirit of the Father to unite us and reconcile God and man, bringing God down to man through the Spirit, and raising man to God through his Incarnation, and by his coming truly and surely conferring on us immortality by means of our fellowship with God” (9/80).

BIBLIOGRAPHY

1) THE ACTUALITY OF THE ATONEMENT/ BY COLIN GUNTON. 2) CUR DEUS HOMO?/ ANSELM.

3) EARLY CHRISTIAN DOCTRINES/ JND KELLY/ 5TH EDITION. 4) MAN AND THE INCARNATION/VINGREN

5) AGAINST HERESIES VOLUME 1/ANCIENT CHRISTIAN WRITERS/TRANSLATED HY DOMINIC J UNGER.

6) THE WRITINGS OF IRENAEUS HOOKS 1-4/ T AND T CLARK 1867. 7) IRENAEUS 2 HOOKS 4-5/ T AND T CLARK 1869.

8) IRENAEUS/ DENIS MINNS OP/OUTSTANDING CHRISTIAN THINKERS SERIES.

9) THE EARLY CHRISTIAN FATHERS/ TRANSLATED BY HENRY HETTENSON. 10) NEW DICTIONARY OF THEOLOGY/ IVP.

11) VISIBILE PATRIS FILIUS/JUAN OCHAGAVIA/ ORIENTALIA CHRISTIANA ANLECTA/171/1964.

12) THE GLORY OF THE LORD/ VOLUME II/HANS URS VON BALTHASAAR. 13) ANSELM AND A NEW GENERARION/ EVANS/ OXFORD PRESS. 14) NEW AMERICAN STANDARD HIHLE.

15) SAINT ANSELM/ SOUTHERN.

16) CHURCH DOGMATICS VOL IV,I BY KARL BARTH (THE DOCTRINE OF RECONCILIATION).

Ruth gets married. What does it all mean? Ruth chapter 4 final part

March 21, 2021
  I love this part of the story because it shows that people were haggling over rights thousands of years ago.  However, this was a divine haggling and the decision was from the Lord.    

So, this is how they did property rights in those days.  They had witnesses, 10 witnesses who were elders.  That means they were trustworthy men of the community.   The nearest kinsman was offered Naomi’s land to buy it at a bargain price.  The nearest relative seemed overjoyed.

  Boaz then goes into the detail of the purchase that Ruth the Moabitess was a part of the deal.  The man understood that he had a duty to Elimelech the deceased man his closest relative.    Near the end of the haggling we have.   “6 The closest relative said, “I cannot redeem it for myself, because I would jeopardize my own inheritance. Redeem it for yourself; you may have my right of redemption, for I cannot redeem it.””  

So, the closest relative takes his sandal off as a pledge, something physical and Boaz becomes the Redeemer.   We know the rest of the story.  God blessed this line.  King David the greatest King of Israel came to the throne.  The story is a lot deeper than that however and sometimes one needs to look deeper into the story and find other interesting things.    Rabbi Sacks draws on this story similarities between Tamar and Ruth.  They were both outcasts.  One was seen To be a prostitute (although she wasn’t) Ruth was A foreigner.

The giving of the leverate marriage that is non normative before the giving of the Torah   “Levirate marriage is a type of marriage in which the brother of a deceased man is obliged to marry his brother’s widow. Levirate marriage has been practiced by societies with a strong clan structure in which exogamous marriage (i.e. marriage outside the clan) was forbidden. It has been known in many societies around the world.”   https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Levirate_marriage  

Tamar gets pregant by her father in Law Judah because he refused his last son ‘the closest’ to do his duty Naomi’s closest unknown relative refuses to Do his duty by marrying Ruth the deceased brother in law.    Both these ladies Tamar and Naomi are in David’s line. Tamar and Ruth were nobodies in that society, but God takes the worthless things and moves mountains.  Ruth and Tamar wanted to keep the line going determined to do this and it was God who chooses nobodies to do amazing things.   

What did King David get from these women?

Rabbi Sacks shared the wording of Rameses and Moses. The Ra part of the Rameses points to Rameses being semi divine of the sun god.  Moses was just a child. Rabbi Sacks then said, ‘God does not look at outward appearances God looks at the heart’. He then moves on to the picking of David as King.  On the outward appearance David did not fit the picture he was just a shepherd boy.  The stereo typical hero is turned upside down in Judaism. 

If you have time, watch the video. Rabbi Sacks in his wisdom has something for everyone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nNg1Z5lijJ8&t=1360s        

You can also visit my other blog at we are looking at the 4. Natural Good and Moral Good part 4 by Herman Bavinck in his Reformed Ethics.
https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Ruth and Boaz, Preparing the contract: Ruth chapter 3

March 14, 2021

Before I look at chapter 3 of Ruth we need to look at some points of Jewish law.

“5 If brothers are living together and one of them dies without a son, his widow must not marry outside the family. Her husband’s brother shall take her and marry her and fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to her. 6 The first son she bears shall carry on the name of the dead brother so that his name will not be blotted out from Israel.

7 However, if a man does not want to marry his brother’s wife, she shall go to the elders at the town gate and say, “My husband’s brother refuses to carry on his brother’s name in Israel. He will not fulfill the duty of a brother-in-law to me.” 8 Then the elders of his town shall summon him and talk to him. If he persists in saying, “I do not want to marry her,” 9 his brother’s widow shall go up to him in the presence of the elders, take off one of his sandals, spit in his face and say, “This is what is done to the man who will not build up his brother’s family line.” 10 That man’s line shall be known in Israel as The Family of the Unsandaled.” Deutronomy chapter 5. Verses 5-9

Remember that we said earlier that God cares for the widow, the weak and orphaned.  God will fight their cause.  If a brother dies childless and there is a widow, the closest relative is supposed to take up the cause of his brother so that his name is not blotted out.  This is a duty.

Verse 1 Naomi is helping Naomi to find some safety and life security when there wasn’t any.   Naomi knew that Boaz was a close family member and that he would be ideal for Ruth.  Ruth has been commanded to look her best. Anointing (looking fresh), washing (being clean), Putting the best clothes on.   So as not to embarrass Boaz but also to fulfil legal obligations she has to play a waiting game.  For some reason shoes are important for wheeling and dealing.  That is the way things were done in those days.    

Boaz was tired and he went to sleep.      She came secretly to him and uncovered his feet.  This was done as an intention of marriage. (legal obligation)   Boaz got scared and then realized it was Ruth.  She asks Boaz for marriage security. Uncovering his feet and covering Ruth were legal acts.   The contract continues.  Boaz is excited because she chose him instead of the other men, although legally the man holds all the cards. He could have said to Ruth; What do you think you are doing?   He didn’t do that.  He whole heartedly took up his obligations.  He calls her a woman of Excellence (proverbs 31:10 onwards if you care to read) Boaz knew there was a closer relative so he had to have first pickings.   Boaz explains the Law to Ruth about redemption.     She left before anybody could recognize her.  This was not only for Ruth but it would also protect the reputation of Boaz.      Boaz then gives barley to Ruth and Naomi as a symbol of his seriousness about this situation.  It was quite a lot of Barley but obviously she was able to carry it.      

You can find more at https://www.ancientpath.net/Bible/OT/08_ruth/Addendum/Addendum-5/08_ruth_Innuendo.htm

This chapter 3 is preparation for a marriage. There are legal obligations that need to be fulfilled.

How faithful is God to his people and the nobodies of this world? Ruth 2.8-23

March 6, 2021

Ruth Chapter 2. 8-23

I would encourage you to read the whole chapter of Ruth again before we start to look at the text.  God is with Naomi and Ruth.  God has not forgotten the faithfulness of this Ruth who was a foreigner. 

I think to understand everything that is happening to Ruth one should look at verse 12 and use that as a key to understand the whole chapter.

In verse 12 Boaz is speaking God’s mind.  Boaz reminds Ruth that she has stayed faithful to the God of Israel even through the death of loved ones.  She also did not turn her back on the old and frail (Naomi).  It is now time for the God of Israel to take Ruth under his wings for refuge.  The truth is God never let Ruth and Naomi go.  When they were walking back to Bethlehem Naomi and Ruth could not see what the future held.  With the natural eye they would see disaster.  I think we have all been there some time in our life.  This is not what happened. Naomi earlier said God caused this to happen, but she never gave up her faith in God.  Although she could not see beyond, something greater was happening in their world that would eventually to even influence us in the 21st Century through Christ. 

It may be that you have faith, but your world has turned upside down.  St Paul said somewhere that three things remain: Faith, Hope and Love.  Then he says that the greatest one of these is love.   When the end of times has completed its course there will be no need for hope as it is hope that has been realized.  Our believing our reliance on God will also be realized.  What will hold everything together then? The answer is simple, Love! Indeed, St Paul is right.   So, will faith be found in the land? Yes, Naomi and Ruth were faithful, and God made the impossible possible.  Therefore, let us keep on loving God and our neighbour leaving racism far away. 

I have left the verses of note for you to reflect on.  Thanks for taking the time to read my blog.

11 Boaz replied to her, “All that you have done for your mother-in-law after the death of your husband has been fully reported to me, and how you left your father and your mother and the land of your birth, and came to a people that you did not previously know. Ruth 2:11

12  May the LORD reward your work, and your wages be full from the LORD, the God of Israel, under whose wings you have come to seek refuge.” Ruth 2:12

20 Naomi said to her daughter-in-law, “May he be blessed of the LORD who has not withdrawn his kindness to the living and to the dead.” Again Naomi said to her, “The man is our relative, he is one of our closest relatives.” Ruth 2:20

23 So she stayed close by the maids of Boaz in order to glean until the end of the barley harvest and the wheat harvest. And she lived with her mother-in-law. Ruth 2:23

A true love story with a divine twist; Boaz and Ruth. Chapter 2.1-7

February 27, 2021

“There are no accidents” said Master Oogway

Before we start let us talk about Boaz.  One commentary said that Boaz was probably a judge from Bethlehem.  Indicators for this could be that he owned land, he had lots of servants and he was a respected leader.  This story is not about wealth though, I think it is more to do with faith in God and duty to God and his close relatives.

Before we begin let us read Ruth chapter 2 first and then we can go into the text and start to interrogate it reverentially

1 Now Naomi had a kinsman of her husband, a man of great wealth, of the family of Elimelech, whose name was Boaz. 2 And Ruth the Moabitess said to Naomi, “Please let me go to the field and glean among the ears of grain after one in whose sight I may find favour.” And she said to her, “Go, my daughter.”

Here we learn definitely who Boaz was; He was a kinsman of Naomi’s husband from Jerusalem and he was wealthy.   In verse 2 we have the opposite; Naomi and Ruth who have nothing and destitute.  Ruth would have known this, and she would have also known that Boaz’ field was the safest due to Naomi being a close relative.  Ruth shows complete obedience to Naomi her mother in law when she asked permission to go and glean so that they could have a meal.  Naomi gives her blessing for this enterprise, so she went to glean. 

We need to be careful when we read this story not to read into it the American dream.  It has nothing to do with the American dream and all to do with God’s love for those who are his.

3 So she departed and went and gleaned in the field after the reapers; and she happened to come to the portion of the field belonging to Boaz, who was of the family of Elimelech. 4 Now behold, Boaz came from Bethlehem and said to the reapers, “May the LORD be with you.” And they said to him, “May the LORD bless you.” 5 Then Boaz said to his servant who was in charge of the reapers, “Whose young woman is this?” 6 The servant in charge of the reapers replied, “She is the young Moabite woman who returned with Naomi from the land of Moab. 7 And she said, ‘Please let me glean and gather after the reapers among the sheaves.’ Thus, she came and has remained from the morning until now; she has been sitting in the house for a little while.”

Verse 3

Ruth did not know Boaz when she was gleaning at first.  It says she “happened to come” by chance on Boaz’ field.   This was part of the divine plan.  In the divine plan there are no accidents such as these. 

Verse 4-5

Boaz was not a selfish man and he was a God fearer.  We know this because he is fulfilling God’s law by allowing the poor and needy on to his property to glean and have some food as it says in the Torah

19 “When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands. Deuteronomy 24:19

All three are represented in Ruth. Naomi was a widow and Ruth’s mother in law.  Ruth can be considered an orphan because she gave up her parents to follow the God of Israel and she was a foreigner.  Boaz acted on this commandment.  He was a righteous man and everything about him was righteous.  He had pure motives. 

Verse 5-7

Boaz wants inside knowledge of the people in his field.  He finds out that Ruth was gleaning and was the daughter in law of Naomi a close kinsman of Elimelech her dead husband.  He found out that not only did Ruth Glean but she gleaned for the whole day and was weary and tired.  Ruth was a hard worker who also had good manners.  She didn’t just come onto his property, but she asked the helpers if she could.   This is a beautiful romantic divine love story that shows God’s caring hand in it. 

Boaz and Ruth! Ancestors of King David.  We are now into the second chapter and already God is doing something wonderful.  God knows who are his own.  Although Ruth is a Moabitess, she has an eternal destiny and as long as this story is told of her she will always be remembered.

Boaz and Ruth are not only important for the Jewish faith but also for the Christian faith. 

5 Salmon was the father of Boaz by Rahab, Boaz was the father of Obed by Ruth, and Obed the father of Jesse. Matthew 1:5

32 the son of Jesse, the son of Obed, the son of Boaz, the son of Salmon, the son of Nahshon, Luke 3:32

Matthew mentions the women as well who were in the genealogy whereas Luke only mentions the sons. 

We started with Kung Fu Panda and the quote that there are no accidents.  We can believe that in this story of love it was no accident. We can go further and say that if we love and trust God our lives are destined to go on that exciting journey to be with the Lord Jesus for eternity.

How loyal are you to loving God and your neighbour? Ruth shows true loyalty to God and her neighbour and she will not be forgotten by the passage of time. Ruth Chapter 1.14-22

February 20, 2021

Before we start; let us read this section of Ruth.

14 And they lifted up their voices and wept again; and Orpah kissed her mother-in-law, but Ruth clung to her. 15 Then she said, “Behold, your sister-in-law has gone back to her people and her gods; return after your sister-in-law.” 16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

19 So they both went until they came to Bethlehem. And when they had come to Bethlehem, all the city was stirred because of them, and the women said, “Is this Naomi?” 20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?”

22 So Naomi returned, and with her Ruth the Moabitess, her daughter-in-law, who returned from the land of Moab. And they came to Bethlehem at the beginning of barley harvest. Ruth 1:14-22

Commentary

So we saw that Naomi was dedicated to the Lord.  Although her future seemed completely destroyed God was active and at work on her behalf and Ruth’s behalf as she had great faith in the face of adversity.   So Orpah cried, kissed her mother in law and left back to her people.   Ruth clung onto Naomi and it is in the perfect form.   As Orpah was leaving Ruth was clinging and it is in the cal perfect 3rd person singular.  Ruth was already determined to stay with Naomi even before Naomi tried to discourage her from going to Bethlehem with her.  Still Naomi was trying to persuade Ruth to go back to the old life.  Naomi said look your sister in law has gone back (cal perfect).  Orpah is gone and she is not coming back, that’s what the cal perfect means here.   but Ruth did not, on the contrary what did she say?

16 But Ruth said, “Do not urge me to leave you or turn back from following you; for where you go, I will go, and where you lodge, I will lodge. Your people shall be my people, and your God, my God. 17 Where you die, I will die, and there I will be buried. Thus, may the LORD do to me, and worse, if anything but death parts you and me.” 18 When she saw that she was determined to go with her, she said no more to her.

This is packed with information about the determination of Ruth. Ruth is clinging and this clinging is a symbol of staying around way into the future.   Then when Ruth speaks it is in the imperfect with will.  The imperfect carries the idea that it is not a completed state but rather takes Naomi into a future relationship.  She hasn’t left like Orpah this is a continual state and into the future and Ruth will die as a true Jew worshipping the Lord.  The story continues in the imperfect into verse 19 when the villagers ask if this is Naomi.  They were excited.  Naomi was really sad and she says a few things in the perfect as if this was the end of the situation;

20 She said to them, “Do not call me Naomi; call me Mara, for the Almighty has dealt very bitterly with me. 21 I went out full, but the LORD has brought me back empty. Why do you call me Naomi, since the LORD has witnessed against me and the Almighty has afflicted me?” NASB

From Naomi’s point of view there was disaster from the Lord and the destiny of Elimelech’s name was going to be cut off.  She is thinking in the perfect.  The men died (Perfect); Orpah left her (perfect). The Lord has acted bitterly towards her (Perfect).  Naomi’s personal world had collapsed and in her soul, she was a broken woman (on the surface of things.)

Verse 22. 

The return was a real thing and these verbs are in the perfect.  It looks like Naomi and Ruth’s situation is now going to start to change for the better.    The reason I say this is because Deuteronomy tells us about the widow, orphan and foreigner. God will fight their case.  Rabbi Sacks made this point in a you tube video where he talks about Ruth and Naomi.

Deuteronomy 10:18 says,” 18 He executes justice for the orphan and the widow, and shows His love for the stranger by giving him food and clothing.”

These are indicators from the Torah.  Naomi is a true widow.  Ruth is a true foreigner.  God says that they will not be abandoned. Ruth also has no family as her family is Naomi.  Naomi has also come to a place of the first beatitude “Blessed are the poor in spirit”.  God will step in, there is no question about tha

The Dire Situation of Naomi; Ruth 1;6-13

February 14, 2021
Photo by Haley Black on Pexels.com

Let us begin by reading verses 6 through to 13

What can we learn from verses 6-13

6 Then she arose with her daughters-in-law that she might return from the land of Moab, for she had heard in the land of Moab that the LORD had visited His people in giving them food. 7 So she departed from the place where she was, and her two daughters-in-law with her; and they went on the way to return to the land of Judah. 8 And Naomi said to her two daughters-in-law, “Go, return each of you to her mother’s house. May the LORD deal kindly with you as you have dealt with the dead and with me. 9 May the LORD grant that you may find rest, each in the house of her husband.” Then she kissed them, and they lifted up their voices and wept. 10 And they said to her, “No, but we will surely return with you to your people.” 11 But Naomi said, “Return, my daughters. Why should you go with me? Have I yet sons in my womb, that they may be your husbands? 12 Return, my daughters! Go, for I am too old to have a husband. If I said I have hope, if I should even have a husband tonight and also bear sons, 13 would you therefore wait until they were grown? Would you therefore refrain from marrying? No, my daughters; for it is harder for me than for you, for the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” Ruth 1:6-13

In Chess a knight might move back to make progress.  Life can be like that.  A family went out and the vestiges of a family returned.  Naomi and Ruth.  The future looks quite bleak.

Naomi heard that the famine in Judah had finished and that there was food.  The bread winners for the family were dead in Moab.  Even when Naomi returns who says they will have any security?

Verse 7

Naomi being the head of the house released the two daughters in law to return to the families they came from so that they could find new husbands.  Naomi would return then to face her shame of failing to get an heir for her husband.

Verse 8.

If this was a worldly situation there would be no hope because on the face of things Elimelech’s name would soon be forgotten.  But something amazing is happening; Naomi is trusting God. She is not trusting herself. May the Lord deal kindly and May the Lord grant…  Most verbs in this chapter are in the Hebrew the active form. The imperfect is not a completed action the story keeps on moving forward.  Here in verse 8;

 h6213a. עָשָׂה asah; a prim. root; do, make:– 

(From Olive tree Bible software.)

This root verb here in the story takes on the perfect form. In other words a completed action.

The women had kept to their duty to the dead and Naomi.  There duty was ‘complete’.  They were now released from their obligations and were free to go back to Moab and find new husbands.  This is a very serious situation in Judaism; the cutting off of a line of a Jewish family.  Naomi would have to live with this until she died and then she also would be forgotten in the annals of time.  However, Naomi never spoke against the Lord.  She was completely faithful and devoted.

Verses 9-13 goes back into the active story mode. She tries to put her daughters off from following her.

Even though things have gone against her and she is suffering with these two ladies, it looks like a hopeless situation.  At the end of verse 13 she says, “the hand of the LORD has gone forth against me.” 

She is stating fact about her situation, but she is not blaming God.  The Lord in the Old Testament is moving and living.  Brueggemann shows this in his writings and how the verbs are used.

When things go against you; How do you as a believer deal with the situation? Naomi is sad and upset about the situation, but she has not lost her faith.  Her faith is being tried out as if in a furnace.  She is a tough lady of faith and will accept whatever the future throws at her alone before her Lord. 

Reflection

As a teenager all those years ago, I heard a preacher talk about this in a prosperity mode.  Although blessing is involved, it is not the main point of this story.  This is about our devotion to God and for this Jewish family it is God’s covenant devotion to the family.  Even in dire situations God is acting for the good of his people.  We sometimes cannot see the good, but it is a relationship of quiet worship and trust.  The Lord Loves Naomi and what looks like on the surface a broken situation that can never be fixed.

This inner spiritual strength is not her doing but it will be found in the greatest king of Israel in the Old Testament; King David.

Is there a future after destruction?

February 11, 2021

Let us start by reading the first few verses from the book of Ruth

Naomi Widowed
1 Now it came about in the days when the judges governed, that there was a famine in the land. And a certain man of Bethlehem in Judah went to sojourn in the land of Moab with his wife and his two sons. 2 The name of the man was Elimelech, and the name of his wife, Naomi; and the names of his two sons were Mahlon and Chilion, Ephrathites of Bethlehem in Judah. Now they entered the land of Moab and remained there. 3 Then Elimelech, Naomi’s husband, died; and she was left with her two sons. 4 They took for themselves Moabite women as wives; the name of the one was Orpah and the name of the other Ruth. And they lived there about ten years. 5 Then both Mahlon and Chilion also died, and the woman was bereft of her two children and her husband. Ruth 1:1-5 NASB

So, the story starts from this very old town in Bethlehem.  It was at the time of the Judges.  Joshua had defeated most that lived in that land in fair combat.  After the main wars a time of peace and prosperity must have entered the area.  Unfortunately, the text says that there was a famine in Bethlehem. 

As we found out in the book of Genesis God made Joseph second in command over the whole of Egypt to protect life and the lives of those who belonged to Jacob.

This man made the decision to leave the area and go to Moab.  Obviously, he took his wife and two sons.  The American dream forced on him and his family because of necessity. If we were in the same situation of Elimelech, we would certainly be tempted to move away from the small town of Bethlehem. 

The names of this family also have meanings.

“  The realistic nature of the story is established from the start through the names of the participants: the husband and father was Elimelech, meaning “My God is King”, and his wife was Naomi, “Pleasing”, but after the deaths of her sons Mahlon, “Sickness”, and Chilion, “Wasting”, she asked to be called Mara, “Bitter”.[4]

Taken from: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Book_of_Ruth

Elimelech and Naomi were G-d fearing.  ‘My God is king’ and ‘Pleasing’.  The father died and their boys married foreigners.  The father probably would not have liked these marriages to those outside of the faith.  Anyhow the boys died.  Naomi is left devastated.   This is a very serious situation for Naomi and her tradition.  Elimelech’s name seems to be getting blotted out.  Elimelech whose name means G-d is my king is going to be forgotten in Moab.  Naomi’s integrity seems to be thrown back in her face as the pleasing one has inherited a very displeasing situation.  These Ephraphites (fruitful) through the two sons of Sickness and Wasting  have become very unfruitful.   This is a dire situation:

How will God start to change this dire situation?

There are two interpretations for the name that I know of.

  • Bethlehem means house of Bread
  • Bethlehem means the house of Lahmu.
  • Beth-lahm  in Arabic means house of meat.

In the ancient Middle East visiting various ‘houses’ was not uncommon as these houses were usually temples.  So its original meaning for me would be the House of Lahmu but after the area passed into a monotheistic religion the name ended up as a place name that is easier to say for the local people. 

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lahmu

Reflection so far

Everyone faces a crisis situation sometime.  We have plans for the future, but something happens, and our future seems to be ruined.  How do we deal with this situation?

The socially rejected woman who can teach us a lesson or two about faith and how to live.

February 6, 2021

The book of Ruth is a jewel of a book after Judges and before Samuel.  No one has claimed to be the writer of this book.  My own opinion is that it was written during the time of King David or after king David had died.  My reasoning for this is that the Book itself shows that Ruth the Moabitess was in the genealogy of King David.  She was a great woman of faith.  

A friend of mine when I was 16, Edith Heaton gave me a tape with the following song on it.  It is a Lullaby, but it talks about the faith of Ruth.

This was sung by Nancy HoneyTree: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nancy_Honeytree

When I think of this song I think of Edith.  She used to pray that God would allow her to walk again but she never did.  She had a deep evangelical faith from the AOG Pentecostal tradition.  She said to me that being in a wheelchair was a way to reach a lot of people with the Gospel, people who were also in her situation. 

The Gospel is the good news about Jesus Christ. Paul said;”If you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord and believe in your hear that God raised him from the dead, You will be saved!” (From memory) Added to this the word Gospel ‘euangelion’ has a history. When armies returned from a successful battle it was good news. This was from an Old commentary I read on the Gospel of Mark. (From Memory) Later on if I remember we can look at this.

Anyhow at the moment I am doing some background reading for this lovely book and next week we can start to look into it deeper.

As Followers of Christ we are co-workers looking out for the needs of the poorest among us. 1 Cor. 16 whole chapter

January 29, 2021

We now come to the last chapter of 1 Corinthians namely chapter 16.  When this letter was originally written there were no chapter and verses added to it.  Let us remember that this was a letter St Paul wrote and it involved real people who loved Jesus Christ and wanted to serve him. We sometimes might think that there wasn’t much social movement in the ancient world.  With the Roman peace at the time of St Paul people could move around freely and this is one of the main reasons why the Church grew so fast.  The churches at this time also at times knew how to move on the international scale.  Let’s begin by looking at the whole chapter;

Instructions and Greetings

1 Now concerning the collection for the saints, as I directed the churches of Galatia, so do you also. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 3 When I arrive, whomever you may approve, I will send them with letters to carry your gift to Jerusalem; 4 and if it is fitting for me to go also, they will go with me.

5 But I will come to you after I go through Macedonia, for I am going through Macedonia; 6 and perhaps I will stay with you, or even spend the winter, so that you may send me on my way wherever I may go. 7 For I do not wish to see you now just in passing; for I hope to remain with you for some time, if the Lord permits. 8 But I will remain in Ephesus until Pentecost; 9 for a wide door for effective service has opened to me, and there are many adversaries.

10 Now if Timothy comes, see that he is with you without cause to be afraid, for he is doing the Lord’s work, as I also am. 11 So let no one despise him. But send him on his way in peace, so that he may come to me; for I expect him with the brethren.

12 But concerning Apollos our brother, I encouraged him greatly to come to you with the brethren; and it was not at all his desire to come now, but he will come when he has opportunity.

13 Be on the alert, stand firm in the faith, act like men, be strong. 14 Let all that you do be done in love.

15 Now I urge you, brethren (you know the household of Stephanas, that they were the first fruits of Achaia, and that they have devoted themselves for ministry to the saints), 16 that you also be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labours. 17 I rejoice over the coming of Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus, because they have supplied what was lacking on your part. 18 For they have refreshed my spirit and yours. Therefore, acknowledge such men.

19 The churches of Asia greet you. Aquila and Prisca greet you heartily in the Lord, with the church that is in their house. 20 All the brethren greet you. Greet one another with a holy kiss.

21 The greeting is in my own hand—Paul. 22 If anyone does not love the Lord, he is to be accursed. Maranatha. 23 The grace of the Lord Jesus be with you. 24 My love be with you all in Christ Jesus. Amen. 1 Corinthians 16 NASB

You can see straight away that there was a collection for the Church in Jerusalem.  The Church is one big family and wherever there is a need, the needs were met.  Paul wanted to spend time at Corinth and eventually stayed there for a while.  This chapter is buzzing with life with itinerant preachers and teachers passing through and building the church.  At the same time however, there were the trouble makes inside the Church trying to take advantage.   Verse 22 is a hard verse.  If anyone does not love the Lord let him be accursed.   I don’t believe he is talking about outsiders but those who wiggles there way into the Church pretending to be part of the church and bringing false teachings with them.  There are a lot of names in this chapter;

  • Timothy
  • Apollos
  • household of Stephanas
  • Stephanas and Fortunatus and Achaicus
  • Aquila and Prisca
  • We know about Timothy because two letters were sent to him and he was an important ambassador for the Gospel.  Paul really trusted him.
  • Apollos was a top theologian and some think that he wrote the book of Hebrews because of its Alexandrian style not Paul.  The first four verses of Hebrews are one sentence.  I don’t believe that Paul could have written this way.
  • “Stephanas has been supposed by some to have been the repentant “jailer of Philippi” (comp. Acts 16:33). The First Epistle to the Corinthians was written from Ephesus some six years after the jailer’s conversion, and he was with the apostle there at that time.” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanas
  •   “  I was glad when Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus arrived, because they have supplied what was lacking from you Teignmouth Shore, writing in Ellicott’s Commentary for Modern Readers, suggests that Stephanas, Fortunatus and Achaicus had come from Corinth to Ephesus, probably with the letter from the Corinthians (1 Corinthians 7:1) to which Paul was sending a response.[6] Paul urged the church in Corinth to “be in subjection to such men and to everyone who helps in the work and labours” and to “acknowledge such men”.” From https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Stephanas
  • Priscilla (/prɪˈsɪlə/; Greek: Πρίσκιλλα, Priskilla or sometimes misspelled as Priscila) and Aquila (/ˈækwɪlə/; Greek: Ἀκύλας, Akylas) were a first century Christian missionary married couple described in the New Testament. Aquila is traditionally listed among the Seventy Disciples. They lived, worked, and travelled with the Apostle Paul, who described them as his “fellow workers in Christ Jesus” (Romans 16:3).[1]  Priscilla and Aquila are described in the New Testament as providing a presence that strengthened the early Christian churches. Paul was generous in his recognition and acknowledgment of his indebtedness to them (Romans 16:3–4). Together, they are credited with instructing Apollos, a major evangelist of the first century, and “[explaining] to him the way of God more accurately” (Acts 18:26).  It is thought by some to be possible, in light of her apparent prominence, that Priscilla held the office of presbyter.[2] She also is thought by some to be the anonymous author of the Epistle to the Hebrews.[3] from https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Priscilla_and_Aquila

So, we have some very powerful members in the Church.  I found it interesting that some think that Priscilla wrote the Book of Hebrews.  I would ask the question; Was she trained in Alexandrian grammar?  She would need this in her job description.  If the answer is ‘no’, then she is certainly not a contender.  That brings us to the end of our study on 1 Corinthians! Wow what a city! Life in the first century then wasn’t necessarily that slow.  I am so glad that this book is in the Bible because it helps us now in the 21st century.  They were ordinary people just like us today and they also had fast food shops like we have.  They were into beauty and staying clean like we are.  They were a literate society like we are.  They had children and family problems and quarrels like we have today.   We really need to listen to what God is trying to teach us in this letter of St Paul.

This was just a quick study but perhaps I want to later look at the book even deeper but I have to say those who followed this study will have a greater understanding of what life was like for Christians at the time of Paul.  Not long after these times great persecutions came into the ancient world. The destruction of the temple in AD 70; the burning of Christians and feeding them to the lions under Nero and other emperors of the time.  The Jewish and Christian religions made it through to the modern era which is an amazing feat. 

We can look forward to eternity; death is certainly not the end!

January 23, 2021

35 But someone will say, “How are the dead raised? And with what kind of body do they come?” 36 You fool! That which you sow does not come to life unless it dies; 37 and that which you sow, you do not sow the body which is to be, but a bare grain, perhaps of wheat or of something else. 38 But God gives it a body just as He wished, and to each of the seeds a body of its own. 39 All flesh is not the same flesh, but there is one flesh of men, and another flesh of beasts, and another flesh of birds, and another of fish. 40 There are also heavenly bodies and earthly bodies, but the glory of the heavenly is one, and the glory of the earthly is another. 41 There is one glory of the sun, and another glory of the moon, and another glory of the stars; for star differs from star in glory.

Verse 35 -42

Paul now starts to put correction on the Corinthians thinking.  Paul is going to follow through the logic, so the opening statement is also his intention.

•          How are the dead raised?

•          What kind of body do they come?

According to the.

Cambridge Greek Testament for Schools and Colleges

Paul is covering ground that the Pharisees and Sadducees would have covered. The two sides; one side disagreeing with a real resurrection of the body and the other side agreeing about the resurrection of the body. So, he goes into smaller detail explaining that there are different types of body; fauna, animal, celestial bodies such as the moon and stars.

Paul starts by the simple fact that unless a seed (body) dies there cannot be another body.  Ver36 this argument is seen in nature.

42 So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown a perishable body, it is raised an imperishable body; 43 it is sown in dishonour, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness, it is raised in power; 44 it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. 45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit. 46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

So, in the previous section Paul answered the first of his intentions that there are various types of bodies.  He is now intending to explain the second question from verse 35.

What kind of body do they come?

Paul gives the contrasts of the resurrected to the natural man.

Buried                        resurrected

perishable                   imperishable

Dishonour                   Glory

weakness                   power

natural body          spiritual body

Paul tells the Corinthians what type of body will be when we are resurrected.   We should take encouragement from this.

Paul doesn’t stop here but he goes into detail how God would accomplish this. Jesus Christ: Being fully God and fully man was in the perfect position to make this happen.

So, let us dig a little deeper by looking at verse 45

45 So also it is written, “The first MAN, Adam, BECAME A LIVING SOUL.” The last Adam became a life-giving spirit.

This is very important, and it is sometimes overlooked. My first point is that when Adam was created, he was perfect and there is no reason why he would not have lived forever but unfortunately, He sinned and the whole human race died.  Not literally but the separation and broken relationship from God.  God did not give up on the human race but sent his Son and through the son we are brought back into this divine fellowship by faith and grace.

So let us work out how this resurrection works and why it works;

46 However, the spiritual is not first, but the natural; then the spiritual. 47 The first man is from the earth, earthy; the second man is from heaven. 48 As is the earthy, so also are those who are earthy; and as is the heavenly, so also are those who are heavenly. 49 Just as we have borne the image of the earthy, we will also bear the image of the heavenly.

Paul is following God’s creation. For there to be life death came first.  From this life would spring up.  Adam is like the original natural seed that falls into the ground.  This needs to take place so that there can be a resurrection for eternal fellowship with God.  This is our destiny and it was our destiny from before the foundation of the world.

The Mystery of Resurrection

50 Now I say this, brethren, that flesh and blood cannot inherit the kingdom of God; nor does the perishable inherit the imperishable. 51 Behold, I tell you a mystery; we will not all sleep, but we will all be changed, 52 in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we will be changed. 53 For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality. 54 But when this perishable will have put on the imperishable, and this mortal will have put on immortality, then will come about the saying that is written, “DEATH IS SWALLOWED UP in victory. 55 O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR VICTORY? O DEATH, WHERE IS YOUR STING?” 56 The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law; 57 but thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. 1 Corinthians 15:35-58

Death is cruel and in the natural world because of the fall there is a sting in death.  The sting of death is that we are separated from our relatives; we can be separated from God. But it does not have to be that way and in Jesus Christ through the cross and his resurrection this situation by faith can be reversed.  As it says in these verses the perishable will become imperishable and the mortal will become immortal.  Verse 37 tells us that the victory over death is through Jesus Christ. 

Isaiah 25:8 says.

“8 He will swallow up death for all time,

And the Lord GOD will wipe tears away from all faces,

And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth.

For the LORD has spoken. “(NASB)

This idea of a resurrection is especially alive in Ezekiel.

“12 Therefore prophesy and say to them, ‘Thus says the Lord GOD, “Behold, I will open your graves and cause you to come up out of your graves, My people; and I will bring you into the land of Israel. 13 Then you will know that I am the LORD, when I have opened your graves and caused you to come up out of your graves, My people. 14 I will put My Spirit within you, and you will come to life, and I will place you on your own land. Then you will know that I, the LORD, have spoken and done it,” declares the LORD.’” Ezekiel 37:12-14 NASB

So then, the idea of resurrection my friends from the time of the great prophets into the New Testament spoke of the defeat of death.  At the last trumpet call we will all be changed.  This work was achieved through Jesus Christ.  In the last verse “58 Therefore, my beloved brethren, be steadfast, immovable, always abounding in the work of the Lord, knowing that your toil is not in vain in the Lord. “1 Corinthians 15:58 NASB

All we are asked to do is stay steadfast and continue to work and live for the Lord. 1 Corinthians is very interesting at many different levels.  These early believers would have known some of the eyewitnesses.  These eyewitnesses to the resurrection of Christ had started to die and perhaps they started to lose hope.  Perhaps some of them started to doubt in the resurrection.  Paul came at the right time to dispel these doubts. St Paul reminded the Corinthians of these basic Bible truths that culminated in Jesus Christ and in the Lord, the Corinthians and us in the 21st century will have a taste the resurrection too.  This is the great promise. The hope of the resurrection started in the Old Testament and was fulfilled in the new.  This really excites me about the future.  We can look forward to eternity; death is certainly not the end!

Did Paul allow people to be baptized on behalf of the dead? My answer is no.

January 16, 2021

1 corinthians 15 29-34

Whole books have been written on verse 29.  The reason being is that is Paul talking about baptism on behalf of the dead.   I will go into these arguments in more detail, but I think this is a problem that is grammatically easy to resolve. The little word Otherwise is seriously important, and my argument is that Paul switches back to those who don’t believe in the resurrection.  Let us follow the logic

Verses 12 – 20 is about those who don’t believe in the resurrection.

Verses 21 – 28 is about those who believe in the resurrection.

Verse 29 switches topic again to those who don’t believe in the resurrection.

That word otherwise is my paraphrase interpretation rather than translation.

From the point of view of those who don’t believe in the resurrection is there any real point to be baptized on behalf of a dead person.  Then verse 30 He switches back to the 1st person plural pronoun we. Let us be clear from this vantage point the argument continues for the resurrection.  This section is pure ethics.  The Apostles ‘we’ are in danger of dying on a daily basis. This was not a problem for Paul because he has the hope of the resurrection.

29 Otherwise, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why then are they baptized for them? 30 Why are we also in danger every hour? 31 I affirm, brethren, by the boasting in you which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily. 32 If from human motives I fought with wild beasts at Ephesus, what does it profit me? If the dead are not raised, LET US EAT AND DRINK, FOR TOMORROW WE DIE. 33  Do not be deceived: “Bad company corrupts good morals.” 34  Become sober-minded as you ought, and stop sinning; for some have no knowledge of God. I speak this to your shame. 1 Corinthians 15:29-34 NASB

Verse 29

Did Paul allow people to be baptized on behalf of the dead? My answer is no he didn’t.  Having said that though whole books have been written on this verse.    I will first give my view on this first.  Paul is writing in the third person plural.  No where in the verse or before or after the verse did Paul ever say that he agreed with baptism of the dead.   I have to admit though I think that there were Pagan traditions that obviously did believe and do this sort of thing somehow.  Halfway through this section Paul does mention human motives.  So, he is questioning things.  So, to get the meaning could I read … What are the human motives of those who are baptized on behalf of the dead?  What is the motives behind us as Apostles putting our lives in danger?  From Paul’s point of view Paul in Jesus Christ ‘dies daily’ for his beliefs and this is an affirmation.  In verse 32 Paul goes into uncertainties about people’s motives for what they do.  I don’t actually think he fought with wild beasts although it was a Roman thing to see at the gladiator’s ring.  There probably were gladiators that were just down the road from where he stayed because Corinth was a popular Roman resort where lots of soldiers would have retired to.  He goes on to quote, “Eat, drink and be merry for tomorrow we die!” Even more uncertainties going on.  Then Paul lets rip and gives the readers a good telling off! (in love) It seems to be the case that some of these believers may have got mixed up with the wrong crowd and were doubting the resurrection of the dead; People mythologizing and who did not know what they were talking about.  I think we see a battle of spiritual ideas going on here.  Christianity being at the forefront of a battle with Paganism. 

When time becomes unnecessary, we will be sharing in the Trinitarian Divine Life for eternity!

January 10, 2021

Note; My last blog has been updated about three times until we reached the end of verse 28.

My reflections on 1 Corinthians 15 verses 1-28

Paul begins his teachings with reminding them of what Christ did for us and that he did indeed rise from the dead with a real physical body. We also need to remember that Judaism and Christianity did not completely split at this time.  In fact, the life and work of Christ was about the perfection of Judaism and not all groups agreed with this.  One can see the fractures taking place over time.  Paul defends the resurrection of the physical body and our union with God at the end of times.

What we have learned so far is that there were some in Corinth that did not share Pauls optimism of a resurrection.  The possible places this could have come from could have been from those with a background in the mystery religions in Corinth at that time; and or Sadducee groups from within Judaism; and or from those who held gnostic tendencies of matter being evil therefore a salvific birth of the flesh or matter would be seen as completely abhorrent.  These three types of teachings were completely against the teachings of the Apostles and it also goes against the Judaic idea that when God created and gave the world life that it was ‘good’ and not ‘bad’. 

The Apostolic teaching is that Christ indeed did rise from the dead according to God’s plan and one day we will also rise from the dead.  The day will come when Jesus as the King will hand over everything to the Father including the greatest enemy ‘death’.  Then Christ will subject himself to the Father and the Church in Christ will be brought into the Trinitarian Divine Life and everything will be Perfect.

I want to finish by quoting one of my favourite Church Fathers from his Against Heresies Chapter 3.  The Apostolic Tradition is so reach with Apostolic Teaching;

https://earlychurchtexts.com/public/irenaeus_on_recapitulation_in_christ.htm

3.18.1
As it has been clearly demonstrated that the Word, who existed in the beginning with God, by whom all things were made, who was also always present with mankind, was in these last days, according to the time appointed by the Father, united to His own workmanship, inasmuch as He became a man liable to suffering, [it follows] that every objection is set aside of those who say, “If our Lord was born at that time, Christ had therefore no previous existence.” For I have shown that the Son of God did not then begin to exist, being with the Father from the beginning; but when He became incarnate, and was made man, He commenced afresh the long line of human beings, and furnished us, in a brief, comprehensive manner, with salvation; so that what we had lost in Adam—namely, to be according to the image and likeness of God—that we might recover in Christ Jesus.

5.21.1
He has therefore, in His work of recapitulation, summed up all things, both waging war against our enemy, and crushing him who had at the beginning led us away captives in Adam, and trampled upon his head, as thou canst perceive in Genesis that God said to the serpent, “And I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed; He shall be on the watch for (observabit) thy head, and thou on the watch for His heel.” For from that time, He who should be born of a woman, [namely] from the Virgin, after the likeness of Adam, was preached as keeping watch for the head of the serpent. This is the seed of which the apostle says in the Epistle to the Galatians, “that the law of works was established until the seed should come to whom the promise was made.” This fact is exhibited in a still clearer light in the same Epistle, where he thus speaks: “But when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son, made of a woman.” For indeed the enemy would not have been fairly vanquished, unless it had been a man [born] of a woman who conquered him. For it was by means of a woman that he got the advantage over man at first, setting himself up as man’s opponent. And therefore does the Lord profess Himself to be the Son of man, comprising in Himself that original man out of whom the woman was fashioned (ex quo ea quae secundum mulierem est plasmatio facta est), in order that, as our species went down to death through a vanquished man, so we may ascend to life again through a victorious one; and as through a man death received the palm [of victory] against us, so again by a man we may receive the palm against death.

The resurrection order and our future lives as believers!

January 3, 2021

From time to time I will add to this page new verses until I get to the end of verse 28.

1 Corinthians 15 and the first section had a lot of ifs.  In this next section I only see our future life in Christ with a resurrected body.  This is a very important subject for all times and Paul does not hold back but shows us that in Christ we are going to have a real resurrected body.  After we die, if we stay in spirit form, how will someone know us?  On the other hand, if we have a real body then we can be recognised immediately. It is through our speech, the way we look, the gestures we show that people know who we are.  This is the inheritance we have in Christ.  In Christ we will be made perfect even as he is perfect.


20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead. 22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive. 23 But each in his own order: Christ the first fruits, after that those who are Christ’s at His coming, 24 then comes the end, when He hands over the kingdom to the God and Father, when He has abolished all rule and all authority and power. 25 For He must reign until He has put all His enemies under His feet. 26 The last enemy that will be abolished is death. 27 For HE HAS PUT ALL THINGS IN SUBJECTION UNDER HIS FEET. But when He says, “All things are put in subjection,” it is evident that He is excepted who put all things in subjection to Him. 28 When all things are subjected to Him, then the Son Himself also will be subjected to the One who subjected all things to Him, so that God may be all in all. 1 Corinthians 15:20-28 NASB

20 Νυνὶ δὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται ἐκ νεκρῶν, ἀπαρχὴ τῶν κεκοιμημένων.

20 But now Christ has been raised from the dead, the first fruits of those who are asleep.

This is very straight forward.  There are no ‘ifs’ here but certainty.  The phrase’ has been raised from the dead’ this is in the perfect tense.  The perfect tense an action that has happened in the past but has continual effect for all time.  Here Jesus is ‘the first fruits’.  He is the first man to be raised from the dead. The first fruits are the first agricultural offering to God, but I think it can also be used of the first person in a family to be born (especially in Jewish thought).  The equivalent to first fruit is Bikkurim meaning ‘promise to come’ (https://get.tithe.ly/blog/first-fruit)

With reference to the firstborn person, the Hebrew word is bekor.  A Jewish use of the term I find helpful to give us a deeper understanding of it being used for Christ;

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Firstborn_(Judaism)

Where it says first fruits(plural) I don’t know if I agree with the NASB here.  First fruit is in the feminine singular.  I would translate the verse as and now Christ has been raised from the dead who is the first fruit from those who are asleep.  Before being conclusive I think one needs to read and compare other translations and commentaries on this text.  This is my interpretation for what it is trying to say.  It may be that the translators wanted to somehow follow the Hebrew Bekkorim (plural)

There are other reasons why I would translate it as this.  If one reads all the verses up to verse 28 one can see that Christ is the subject not the church or the dead believers.

When we look at the section of ‘those who have fallen asleep’ this is a verbal noun or participle in Greek, and it is in the perfect! I find this encouraging because the sleep is in Christ the first fruit from the dead.  When we die, we will also sleep in Christ and we will rise with Christ.  This is our hope.  All the mystery religions found it Corinth could not give this promise;  

In relation to the mystery religions I found Terri D. Moore’s paper from Dallas theological seminary College very interesting; http://tdarbymoore.com/

Her dissertation on the mystery religions I think may have a lot more bearing on how we understand parts of 1 Corinthians.

I will continue to publish on this page until I hit verse 28 so if you are a subscriber you might not see this new add ons so please every few day have a look. It takes time to write this blog especially as I need to check my facts and make correct judgements. As I see the Bible as sacred scripture I feel it important to comment in a reverential way and give God the glory.

Added 04.01.2021

Verse 21

21 ἐπειδὴ γὰρ δι’ ἀνθρώπου θάνατος, καὶ δι’ ἀνθρώπου ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν·

. 21 For since by a man came death, by a man also came the resurrection of the dead.

Here is a woody translation for you without verbs; ‘For since by a man death and by a man resurrection from the dead.’

The verb in the English translation was added to get the sense of the meaning!  Translators do these types of things to make it easier for us to understand the actual text.

For ‘by a man’ or ‘though a man’.  This man, human being is not mentioned yet but we know who he is talking about; Adam from the garden. It is through this man that death came into the world, but we also know that it was by a man, a human being namely Christ that there would be a resurrection from the dead. This is a very important verse because it compares Adam and Christ. They were both the same in that they were human beings, but they had different functions namely;

  • Through Adam came death
  • Through Christ came eternal life in a physical body

One man brought death to the human race and the other man eternal life.  I know who I want to follow! We don’t have any serious verbs in the comparison here, but we certainly get the meaning

Feel free to visit my other blog https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

09.01.2021

22 ὥσπερ γὰρ ἐν τῷ Ἀδὰμ πάντες ἀποθνῄσκουσιν, οὕτως καὶ ἐν τῷ Χριστῷ πάντες ζῳοποιηθήσονται.

22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ all will be made alive.

In this verse we now have the actual names of those who are responsible for life and death.  Adam and Christ are mentioned. Hosper gar is best translated as ‘For as’; The word ‘for’ is important because it points to what preceded it.  The important point we learned is that both Adam and Christ were fully human.

A theological digression

At the creation as Bavinck would say humanity did not lose their humanity until after the fall but sin changed their humanity somehow.  When we think of death it can mean for some non-being but as Bavinck says spiritual death is never none-being but rather a state.  He says on page 93, Reformed Ethics, Herman Bavinck. The state of natural humanity is generally called death.  This death means a life that is lived in opposition to God. In this natural state we stand corrupted and we need Jesus Christ by his Holy Spirit to bring new life into us.

To put it bluntly;

Jesus Christ died on the cross so that we may have eternal life, in the future, a new physical eternal life!  Looking at the verse again we have two verbs to die and to live.  The first verb in regard to Adam is in the present and now, but the second verb that relates to Christ, and us, is in the future!  Paul makes sure that we understand our future hope…

10.01.2021

The resurrection and the events around it will follow a particular order;

  • Christ the First Fruit verse 23
  • Those who belong to Christ at his second coming verse 23
  • ‘The end’ When Christ hands over the Church (Kingdom) to the Father verse 24
  • This includes ‘death’ verse 26
  • When all things have been subjected to the Father
  • Then the Son will also subject himself to the Father.
  • Then there is ‘completion’ verse 28 all in all

From my reading of this text we are brought into to be sharers of this divine trinitarian life of God

So let us recap what we have learned. 

Verse 20; Christ has been raised from the dead intro

Verse 21; through an ordinary person death came into the world so to through an ordinary person life would enter the world once again.

Verse 22; Namely through Adam’s disobedience death came into the world but through the work of Christ all could be brought to life

Verse 23; The order of the resurrection and allied activities start; Christ the first fruit; His Church at his second coming

Verses 24- 26; At the end Christ will reign until all enemies including death are subjected to Christ.

Verses 27 -28; At the end when Christ is in complete control of everything good and bad, he will subject himself to the Father.  In Christ we are brought into the Divine Life of the Trinity in the ‘all in all’ perfection. 

Let us now look at some background stuff.  Psalm 8 is not any ordinary Psalm; For Christians it is a Messianic Psalm and it is about the Son of Man; one of the titles of Jesus Christ the anointed one.  This Psalm is seen as a reference to the Kingship of Christ in relationship to YHWH (Tetragrammaton).

Part 1; The Greek text; 1 Corinthians 15:12-14 (Appended text 29/12/2020 )

December 27, 2020

From verses 12 to 19 St Paul is laying into these people who want to deny a physical resurrection.  The tone of those verses is fairly negative, and a lot of the verbs tend to be in the aorist. An action that happened in the past and has no future consequences.  If he does use actives, he is relating it to the present troubled situation.  We will go through this section in small bits so that we can build a masterpiece of understanding.  I will begin each section by the verse from the NASB.  The software I am using is olive tree.  The Greek text is from the SBL new testament within olive tree.  I’m not interested in variants because that would be another level of spade work and I think this is enough to get the main gist of what Paul is saying about the troublemakers.  Maybe on a later date, when I decide to turn this into a commentary I will probably take more of an interest in the variants.  The thing is that there are never enough hours in the day to do everything on their own.

12 Now if Christ is preached, that He has been raised from the dead, how do some among you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? 1 Corinthians 15:12 NASB

Commentary

Basically, Paul is telling them in the present and active tenses that the Apostles and Paul himself came and were preaching that Christ was raised from the dead. Then Paul says that some of the Corinthians were saying that Christ wasn’t raised from the dead.

This is a very serious situation because it is at the heart of the Christian hope and teaching.  There were different types of people in Corinth.  From the Greek side there were the Gnostics who basically taught that the material body was evil and salvation was when the body could break out of its prison, then there was a particular Judaic group and sympathizers of the Sadducee type, who also denied the resurrection.

We don’t really know who these groups were so this is a calculated guess.

Notes

12 Εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς κηρύσσεται ὅτι ἐκ νεκρῶν ἐγήγερται, πῶς λέγουσιν ἐν ὑμῖν τινες ὅτι ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν; 1 Corinthians 15:12 SBL NT

This verse is in question form (notice the ‘;’) You can see the Greek question mark.

If Christ is preached that he is raised for the dead

This comes with an ‘if’

How is it that ‘some of you’ say that he has not been raised from the dead.

So, we have ‘How’

‘They say’ is in the present active third person plural

/////////////////

13 But if there is no resurrection of the dead, not even Christ has been raised; 1 Corinthians 15:13 NASB

Commentary

So, he takes their position to pieces by saying that if the dead are not raised neither has Christ been raised.   So, I think Paul is saying that if resurrection is not a possibility then according to their point of view Christ has not been raised.  

Notes

13 εἰ δὲ ἀνάστασις νεκρῶν οὐκ ἔστιν, οὐδὲ Χριστὸς ἐγήγερται·

1 Corinthians 15:13 SBL NT

Up to the comma I think Paul is saying generally / universally if there isn’t any resurrection then the logical conclusion after the comma is that Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead.  This makes the materialists position completely untenable.

/////////////

14 and if Christ has not been raised, then our preaching is vain, your faith also is vain. 1 Corinthians 15:14

Commentary

Paul is not holding back; this little word which is translated ‘vain’ in the NASB is used twice.  If Christ hasn’t been raised then basically the preaching is worthless and their faith is also ‘worthless, empty, in vain’

Notes

14 εἰ δὲ Χριστὸς οὐκ ἐγήγερται, κενὸν ἄρα τὸ κήρυγμα ἡμῶν, κενὴ καὶ ἡ πίστις ὑμῶν, 1 Corinthians 15:14

κενὸν and κενὴ = meaning ‘empty’ ‘vain’

If Christ hasn’t been raised from the dead, then the Corinthians faith is also empty.  St Paul is milking this argument to the very last drop.  There is no escape for the materialists who deny the resurrection. Empty or vain is used twice in one sentence this has consequences in the interpretation.

Verse 15

15 Moreover we are even found to be false witnesses of God, because we testified against God that He raised Christ, whom He did not raise, if in fact the dead are not raised. 1 Corinthians 15:15

Commentary

(In the Greek text image above I have shown the tenses of the verb and also some of the word order with the numbers. Where you see 1, 2, 3. Just follow the word order.)

No perfect tenses are used in this verse.  It is in the here and now and it is a conversation that shows Paul explaining to the Corinthians that if the resurrection didn’t happen then the apostles would be found out to be false witnesses.

///////////////

Verses 16-19

16 For if the dead are not raised, not even Christ has been raised; 17 and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins. 18 Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ have perished. 19 If we have hoped in Christ in this life only, we are of all men most to be pitied. 1 Corinthians 15:16-19

Commentary

He continues in the same way.  The word mataios = worthless found in verse 17 was interesting.  Obviously, it carries the same idea of vanity and worthlessness as we found in verse 14 but this word here has been used in Acts 14:15 of idolatrous ‘vain things.  He goes even as far as to say that those who believed and died in the faith would have done so for nothing. Out of all of this in verse 15 I like ‘εἴπερ ἄρα’= if then (indeed or in fact). If the dead are not raised.  This section finishes off with lots of ‘if’ words! Verses 15, 16 and 19 start the sentences with ‘if’ words.  This is good news for us as believers because if there are if then there has to be a lot of ‘then’ words. This section has been very disquieting on the Corinthians. Paul in the next section is going to start to build the believers faith and give them hope. Paul had to go this way because of the troublemakers in the Corinthian assembly of believers. I hope and pray that you will follow me into the next section that hasn’t been commented on just yet.

Feel free to visit my other theological blog; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Is there a resurrection or is there not a resurrection; Who were those that were causing all the problems? Part 1

December 18, 2020

 

18 12 2020

Introduction to 1 Corinthians 1512-19

Verses 12 – 19

There is a logical argument here.  The reason that Paul said this must have been that in the congregation there were people who didn’t believe in the resurrection.  Who could they be? Calvin suggested that it could have been the Sadducees.

I thought that Wayne. A. Meeks would have something to say in this section from a sociological perspective. I didn’t find any verses for this section that we are looking at. So, I looked at what Meeks said about the resurrection and I have to say I was disappointed.  He mentions something about the ‘death resurrection paradox’ and then he mentions Ephesians and Colossians as deutero-Pauline letters. 

The First Urban Chrsitians pages 182 – 183

Obviously, there were some groups that rejected the resurrection; Has he got nothing to say about these groups who did not believe in the resurrection?  There was evidence that there were Jewish communities throughout the whole known Roman world; for example, sometimes Jews were kicked out of cities because of their different values.  There were Saducees in Israel at the time of Christ because they were one of the opposing groups.  Did they as a group of Saducees not travel outside of Israel?

Yes, there were Jewish groups that were hostile to Paul in Corinth;

CORINTH, Greek city. The earliest evidence of Jews in Corinth is contained in Agrippa I’s letter to Caligula (Philo, De Legatione ad Caium, 281). The apostle Paul spent one and a half years in Corinth, preaching in the synagogue on Sabbaths (cf. the two Epistles to the Corinthians), and through his influence Crispus and his family were baptized. The Jews were embittered by Paul’s activities; they brought him before Gallio, procurator of Achea, who, refusing to judge in a religious matter, said they would have to resolve their differences themselves (Acts 18:2ff.). Corinthian Jewry apparently belonged to the lower classes. Aquila and Priscilla, with whom Paul dwelt, were weavers, and he worked with them for his bread. These Jews went to Corinth from Rome when Claudius expelled the Jews from the city. There were no direct links between the Jews of Corinth and Ereẓ Israel, but Corinthian products were known in the Holy Land. Josephus (Wars, 5:201) mentions the Corinthian copper that coated one of the Temple gates, the Gate of Nicanor (whose special copper is also noted in talmudic sources, Tosef., Yoma 2:4; Yoma 38a), and he similarly mentions the Corinthian candelabra in Agrippa II’s house (Life, 68). Vespasian, after his victory in Galilee, sent 6,000 captive youths to Nero to dig at the Isthmus of Corinth (Wars, 3: 540). Conceivably, some of them might have escaped and found haven in the nearby settlements including Corinth.”

From

https://www.jewishvirtuallibrary.org/corinth

If Meeks is looking at Corinth from a sociological perspective, he should have made more of the disagreeing groups. Death and resurrection were not a paradox.  The fact is that the Apostles including Paul believed in this message and they died for the message of the Gospel.   Yes, the Christian message vied with Pagans and Jews.  Actually, Christianity was at the time still in a sense a Jewish religion if it wasn’t seen as this Paul would not have been allowed to go into synagogues to preach!  We need to remember that there have also always been various schools of thought in Judaism.  Some hold to the First five books such as the Sadducees whereas the Pharisees had a wider view.  Both these groups would have definitely been represented in Corinth.  In various Wikipediaes even today we have Rabbinic Judaism and Karaite Judaism two forms of Judaism although there are a lot more.  By no way am I an expert but if there is someone with knowledge of the links between the saducees and the Karaites of today please point me in the right direction.

What I am saying is that Meeks could have argued that in Corinth there was a highly likelihood that there were two groups of Judaism.  Those that believed in a bodily resurrection and those that didn’t.

I found this article interesting for my above reflection.

https://jewsforjesus.org/publications/issues/issues-v06-n09/resurrection-rabbinic-judaism-hebrew-scripture-and-the-new-testament

Having looked at the evidence I am firmly in agreement with John Calvin that the Saducee type of groups were causing problems for the Corinthian church and St Paul.  St Paul gave a direct refutation to those who did not believe in a physical resurrection!

Next time we will start working our way through the text in 1 Corinthians 15. This was meant to be some background information to help us analyse the text in a way that respects the text and do exegesis rather than eisegesis.

Meanings

  1. Exegesis is reading out of the text the original meaning for the writer and the original readers. This is a scientific endeavour in search of the truth
  2. Eisegesis is reading into the text our own imagnery assumptions. This is not scientific but can be dangerous. If we go down this road then it is safer to stick to the Noddy books series!

St Paul proves his credentials before moving into the beautiful deep waters of the resurrection!

December 10, 2020
This to me is one of the most wonderful chapters in the whole Bible.  You might ask why, and I can explain why;

 Jesus rose from the dead with a resurrected body and the day will come that we will also have resurrected bodies.  You might ask the question; Why is the body important after we are dead?  

If you are without a body but have a soul and spirit it sounds good enough.  My friends, it is not enough!  How do I know your identity if I cannot see you face?

We all have gestures and we all speak words, and this is the wonderful thing about a body.  This chapter is wonderful because Paul goes into great detail to explain to us why the resurrection is so important.  I am not an expert in the resurrection, but I hope by the end of this commentary we will all have a certain amount of expertise that we can share. I will just go through a basic commentary for the first eleven verses and then I will look at some of the technical stuff afterwards to make it more interesting.  

1 Corinthians chapter 151-11 The first 11 verses set the scene and is a summary for the  preaching of the Gospel that they heard; It is also a summary of what the essence of the Gospel is in a nut shell.  He starts from the foundational beliefs before moving into the deeper things that make being a Christian a worthwhile thing.
Verse 1
1 Now I make known to you, brethren, the gospel which I preached to you, which also you received, in which also you stand, NASB    

This is a reminder to them of the gospel they believed in.  They stand in these basic teachings;
  Verse 2
2 by which also you are saved, if you hold fast the word which I preached to you, unless you believed in vain. NASB  

The Apostles were those who were sent by Jesus and we need to take their words very seriously.  St Paul was also an Apostle and he was validated by the other Apostles.  If the Corinthians reject St Paul, then they reject the Lord Jesus Christ.   

As I was reading this section, I found it interesting that John Calvin mentioned the Sadducees.  Obviously, they had a problem with the resurrection.  If we mirror read the text, there must have been some who were saying things contrary to the Apostles.  Even if we cannot prove that it was the Sadducees there were those who just would not agree with the resurrection; At that juncture John Calvin is surely right. From https://biblehub.com/commentaries/calvin/1_corinthians/15.htm    

Verses 3-8
3 For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received, that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, 4 and that He was buried, and that He was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, 5 and that He appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. 6 After that He appeared to more than five hundred brethren at one time, most of whom remain until now, but some have fallen asleep; 7 then He appeared to James, then to all the apostles; 8 and last of all, as to one untimely born, He appeared to me also.  NASB      

Here Paul sums up the series of events (verses 3-8) from the death and resurrection of Christ all the way to when he got his Apostleship. So, let us sequence it out;  

1. Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures
2. Christ was buried
3. Christ was raised from the dead according to the Scriptures
4. Christ appeared to Peter
5. Christ appeared to the other disciples
6. Christ appeared to more than 500
7. Christ Appeared to James
8. Christ appeared to all the Apostles
9. Christ appeared to St Paul  

This list is very important because it shows solid eyewitness account to the resurrection.  Look at how many times he uses the word appeared in the text.  A historian who reads this bit which is one of the oldest letters in the whole New Testament sees a heavy weight of evidence for the resurrection.  Before Paul even goes into the subject of the resurrection, he shows them the evidence.  This evidence cannot be refuted by the Corinthians and it ought not be refuted by us.  We need to take this seriously and to fall on our knees and worship God for everything he has done for us in Christ by the Holy Spirit.  This is really exciting stuff.    

Verse 9-11

9 For I am the least of the apostles, and not fit to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God. 10 But by the grace of God I am what I am, and His grace toward me did not prove vain; but I labored even more than all of them, yet not I, but the grace of God with me. 11 Whether then it was I or they, so we preach and so you believed. NASB    

Paul calls himself the least of the Apostles.  We see from the Book of Acts and Galatians that Paul was a persecutor of the church.  At the time he was happy at the martyrdom of Stephen, but something happened.  Jesus Met Paul and he was chosen to be an Apostle out of time.  When Jesus was going on about his itinerary around Palestine for those 3 years Paul was not there. Yet as far as the Apostles were concerned after his conversion he was accepted as an Apostle.  God works in mysterious ways and his plans are beyond our plans.   

So, let us dig a little deeper here in these verses and find out a little more about Paul the Man and look at the facts;

1. Paul did not see himself fit to be called an Apostle
2. Paul  persecuted the church and he was forgiven
3. Paul was chosen by Jesus, literally out of the blue and Paul was converted.
4. Paul had to work harder than all the other Apostles  

We can see that indeed Paul did work harder than all of the other Apostles and if tradition is correct, he was rewarded by being beheaded in Rome.  He truly repented of his sins and sold himself completely to the service of Christ; He suffered, was ostracized, laughed at, mocked, stoned and left for dead!  There are people that mock Paul even today, but we can see from the evidence that he was one of the Apostles.  He was an Apostle because Jesus chose Paul to work tirelessly for the gentiles.  In Galatians; How could Paul stand up to St Peters hypocrisy if he was not an Apostle? The Corinthians accepted him as an Apostle and as Christians we accept him as an Apostle.  The Apostolic Hand on this scripture in this chapter is seriously important for us today and we can be assured that we are in safe hands when trying to understand the resurrection that will also happen to us one day.          

We lost our way and since the Fall in relation to God we have lost our free will. God did not give up on the human race.

December 6, 2020

I posted this on the wrong blog but you might find this interesting anyway;

So, on page 82 we have seen a change of condition and now we found ourselves separated from God. 

Bavinck raises the question of whether or not this condition is permanent and whether or not we as humans have the power to change our human condition in relation to God.  This is a very important question because if it is permanent then we would be separated from God for all eternity. 

In this situation according to Bavincks interpretation of Pelagius the heretic we are of our own accord able to change our condition. For Pelagius ‘sin only has power because of habit’.  So, all you have to do is break the habit of sin.  Bavinck then proves from the Scriptures that this is completely impossible.

As Bavinck says, “The will has lost its real, material freedom”.  This is the traditional and right view for me as well.  I know for example that Martin Luther in a huge disagreement with Erasmus wrote the Bondage of the Will that the will is a prisoner and cannot break out of this prison of sin which humanity through Adam’s sin put itself in.

Bavinck then gives us an undisputed walk through the New Testament showing the condition after the Fall.  So, let us learn from Bavinck.  Before I start, I will make a table with the phrase and then the verses. 

Even before we look at Bavinck here a little deeper, I think there are dangers of interpreting terms out of context.  First of all, in the New Testament writings ‘flesh’ has different contexts.  For example, when John uses flesh it can be used in a positive manner; ‘Christ came in the flesh’.  The use of flesh here was to counter gnostic tendencies of saying that Christ wasn’t really a physical man in the flesh but only seemed to be this.

A text out of context is a pretext so Bavinck does not fall into this trap but as a reader you may not have been aware of this.  Before interpreting any word it is good to look at the context and ask the question ‘What did this text mean to its original audience that it was intended for?’ After this we can start asking other questions.

Sayings

The Old Self

In Romans 6 verse 6 Christ had to die so that we could be set free from sin.  We are referred to as ‘slaves.’ A slave is not a free person.

6 knowing this, that our old self was crucified with Him, in order that our body of sin might be done away with, so that we would no longer be slaves to sin; Romans 6:6 NASB

Flesh

We are naturally born as flesh and God wasn’t happy with the situation.

From the New Testament Jesus explains, that there are two births.  Flesh and Spirit.

3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit shall not strive with man forever, because he also is flesh; nevertheless, his days shall be one hundred and twenty years.” Genesis 6:3; NASB

6 That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit. John 3:6; NASB

Flesh is used a lot by Paul

Here Paul is referring to the condition of sinful man after the Fall. 

5 For while we were in the flesh, the sinful passions, which were aroused by the Law, were at work in the members of our body to bear fruit for death. Romans 7:5; NASB

The Body of sin

Paul is using a figure of speech here.  The New life in Christ has reversed our condition to what it ought to have been. It has to be a figure of speech because this circumcision does not need a blade e.g. ‘made without hands’ They didn’t have lasers in those days such as found in the James Bond film Gold Finger.

Taken from: Yahoo.com

11 and in Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision made without hands, in the removal of the body of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ; Colossians 2:11; NASB

And

Obviously, people are not zombies it has to be a certain type of death.  The death Paul is talking about is the broken relationship with God.

10  If Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, yet the spirit is alive because of righteousness. Romans 8:10; NASB

The natural person

This is the person living for himself and not for God.

14 But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised. 1 Corinthians 2:14; NASB

By nature, ‘children of wrath’

The converted person is a changed person towards the light and a closer relationship with God. 

3 Among them we too all formerly lived in the lusts of our flesh, indulging the desires of the flesh and of the mind, and were by nature children of wrath, even as the rest. Ephesians 2:3 NASB

And contrasted to

In contrast to the ‘spiritual person’

15 But he who is spiritual appraises all things, yet he himself is appraised by no one. 1 Corinthians 2:15; NASB

These verses clearly show that our condition was a fallen condition after we were created perfect.

Herman Bavinck was no dualist and he was very careful to prove it.  In the last paragraph of page 82 he says;

“However, there is this one difference—namely, that the “old self” and the “new self” each flow forth from the activity of the flesh and the activity of the Spirit, respectively. In other words, they are the phenomena, the manifestations, of human nature itself, in the one case the fallen nature and in the other the new nature in Christ. “

Herman Bavinck Reformed Ethics page 82.

Or in my words being in the condition of the Fall and the Condition of regeneration in Christ. Dualism in Christianity is a dangerous concept and it would allow gnostic ideas to seep into Christian teaching and separate us from the pure Gospel.   Bavinck on page 83 is right to not accept this;

“Ammon, Baur, Hausrath, and Pfleiderer® all argue that Paul was a dualist because he held that sin has its origin and seat in sensuality, in matter”.  Page 83 Bavinck

Bavinck rebuffs this by giving a list of reasons why this is not the case;

•             The body is the temple of the Holy Spirit

•             Paul teaches about the resurrection of the body

•             Paul is not an ascetic as he sees marriage as sacred and all for is good food.

•             Jesus was in the flesh but without sin

From Page 83; Bavinck; Reformed Ethics

And then he goes on.  Bavincks interpretation goes on over the next few pages and he has very important things to remind us. 

Reflection about what we have learned up to now.

Paul has a lot to teach us about what condition the human race finds itself.  Only God in Christ by the Holy Spirit can break this cycle as we are slaves to the sinful nature. 

I haven’t even gone below the surface, but Herman Bavinck the Master theologian has a lot to teach us about our human condition.  We will continue to plough through this material because through it we can get closer to Christ and live the life God wants us to live.  In todays world there are many dangers for the Christian but there were great men of God such as Herman Bavinck who were willing to stand up against false teachers who were also found in the universities.  We also need to remember that Scripture was given to the Church and there are outside forces that would like to have rid of it.  On Twitter I have seen for example that there are forces that are trying to outlaw the reading of the Bible in your own home (Scotland).  As believers we need to stand up and be counted for the protection of our liberties.  Let us not forget people like William Tyndale who was murdered by the state to allow us to have our translation in English.  Yes, Bavinck is seriously important for not only the Reformed tradition but also for all the other denominations.  They might not realize it now but one day they will. 

What these scholars did that Bavinck spoke out against was to get rid of the idea of the fall. 

What does this mean in real terms?

•             People are free and they don’t have to be accountable to a higher Force

•             They make their decisions based upon secular and atheistic principles

•             The family is less important than individual rights.

•             The state works towards dismantling religious rights.

•             Crimes become relative and are based on ethics of relativity.

•             Human DNA becomes relative and they can do as they please.

I could go on and on, but I won’t.  Bavinck reminds us that;

•             We are accountable to God

•             Decisions made are based on Scripture and the fear of God

•             The family as an institution is important for the welfare of the individual and the welfare of the state.

•             Religious Rights need to be protected.

•             Crime is against God’s law (10 commandments) there is a place for reformation of the criminal, but justice has to be fair

•             Human DNA is not a tennis ball but is sacred because God created us, and we should accept people as they are and protect life.

Let us love God and our neighbour for this will hold us in good stead.

The Lord Jesus Christ is the Ultimate Answer to the Ultimate question of You living into Infinity with your Creator by the defeat of Death.

December 4, 2020

A general introduction on the Resurrection

Before we move into 1 Corinthians chapter 15, I felt it important to look at general ideas about the resurrection in the English-speaking world.  This is the order that I will follow;

  • Everyday use of the word resurrection
  • Historical roots of the word ‘resurrection ‘in the English-speaking world
  • Vines definitions found in the Greek New Testament
  • Resurrection in the New Testament
  • Work will then begin on 1 Corinthians 15

So, let us look at a definition found in the Learners Definition of the Resurrection;

“The act of causing something that had ended or been forgotten or lost to exist again, to be used again, etc.”

Every day Use

A resurrection from a secular perspective can be negative or positive. 

“Stop resurrecting old news!”

A person does not want to be reminded about something that happened in the past.

“We can now make a pudding from Gran’s resurrected recipe”

Something that was important to the family has been found again and they will be able to enjoy the food that they enjoyed when they were small.

History and Etymology for resurrection

Middle English resurreccioun, from Anglo-French, from Late Latin resurrection-, resurrectio act of rising from the dead, from resurgere to rise from the dead, from Latin, to rise again, from re- + surgere to rise — more at surge”  From: https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/resurrection

I find the etymology here very interesting because we have two parts for the English. Re when put on the front of words means again, for example ‘revamp’ making something new.  We also have the word surge which in modern English is used in English in various ways

  • Electrical surge; When too much power goes through and cause havoc
  • Sea waves surge; Water rising and moving fast
  • A mob of people surging forward.

In all of these words we have an idea of ‘power’ involved.

So, re-surging some ‘powerful force moving forward again’.

As well as that the word erect (standing).

In the end we have the word resurrection.

So even within a natural point of view there is a reanimation of something that was dead.  In this word there is energy, there is life and there is something that can bring a dead stone to life.

The word resurrection then is a beautiful word which has a lot of meaning in the English-speaking world as it came down to us.

  • Middle English
  • from Late Latin
  • Anglo-French

Vines Definition from the Greek page 290

So, the words is anastasis and it means a raising or a raising up and it is made up of two words; ana = up and histemi= to cause to stand.

The word anastasis is used here, Romans 14

who was declared the Son of God with power according to the Spirit of holiness by the resurrection from the dead, Jesus Christ our Lord, NASB from BibleGateway.

The word resurrection in the New Testament

This is just a very general brush but as you can see at first glance one can see that the word resurrection is a central concept in the New Testament.   It is dealing with an ultimate question. Is there life after death? The New Testament answer to this is a resolute yes. I could have also looked at other words such as ‘rose’ from the dead and I would have an even larger list.  This list will suffice, however.  

The Gospels

The first thing I noticed that the word resurrection for the synoptic Gospels usually starts in the second half of the Gospels.  This is telling because the resurrection is centrally linked to the Lord Jesus Christ and his resurrection.  From the Gospels point of view including Johns Gospel, the central theme revolves around the life and work of our Lord Jesus Christ.  There are many stories of resurrections even today but for the Apostles who penned down information about the resurrection, it was mostly if not completely linked to Christ.  For the book of Acts which is the second edition of Luke’s work, the resurrection is central to the whole book of Acts!

Jesus is risen from the dead and what does this mean to you, to me and to the world?  The resurrection of Christ is the ultimate answer to the ultimate question of; What happens after death?

The ancient world realized this, and they dropped Paganism and turned to the Christian religion.   This is also important to us!  The world today in the West has been turning its back on Christianity and has begun to take science as having all the answers.  My friend’s science cannot answer this ultimate question about the resurrection.  Science can make us more comfortable and helps us to live longer and helps to find new ways to feed the world, but it is not the ultimate answer.  Politics is the same. Politics can make us more comfortable and make things work for our good and give us things, make us rich but it cannot answer the ultimate question about our ultimate destiny; Our destiny to meet death.  What then?  The West has gone out of its way to make you comfortable and live the hedonist way (not all).  It has failed on the ultimate question of life after death.  As you can see 1 Corinthians 15 is a central chapter in the whole of the New Testament that goes out of its way to answer this ultimate question. Next time I will start to go through this chapter.  Let us go through chapter 15 then and turn to Jesus Christ as our personal saviour who can bring us into a living relationship with God. 

You can also visit my other blog at; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/       

Should women stay quiet in the church? Check out verses 34 to 35 to find out! 1 Corinthians 14

November 30, 2020

Verse 15; When praying with the spirit, obviously one is in an emotional state.  That emotional state might have come about by God doing something very important for you.  You have a feeling of indebtedness to God and perhaps you show this outwardly through speaking in tongues.  Although this is important to you and it is important to Paul as well.  For the sake of other people praying with understanding is also important.  If everyone speaks in tongues and there is no interpretation there will be a lack of understanding and perhaps confusion.

Verse 16; Paul understands that the mind is the seat of understanding and it is where the spiritual battle takes place.  Blessing in the spirit can show thanks and gratitude but it cannot give reasons for this thanks and gratitude.

A person can only really be built up if he understands why!

Verse 18; I don’t know what to make of this verse.  Paul says that he speaks in tongues more than all of them.  What does he mean? Should we take this literally or is Paul using irony.

CK Barrett translates it as; “than any of you”.

If Paul was using irony, it would be to say that their gift wasn’t so important. On the other hand, I think it makes better sense to take it literally.  F.F. Bruce cites 2 Corinthians 123 In which Paul was caught up to heaven somehow and saw things that he wasn’t allowed to talk about!  If anyone could brag Paul could brag.  Even from a natural point of view, being a rabbi, he would have known possibly a few different languages; Hebrew, Greek and being a Roman citizen possibly Latin and also what language was spoken in Tarsus (a local Greek, or Aramaic). This is just guessing work. 

Verse 19-23; Although Paul could brag, that wasn’t the main point. In the Church one ought to speak intelligible words.  Paul is interested in order not chaos.  We have the same problems today in Churches.  In their thinking and speech, they should be mature. Concerning the evil, he is basically saying ‘stay away from it’. In verse 21 Paul quotes a verse from the Old Testament and he says that this is a sign for unbelievers (outsiders from the church).  Prophecy (preaching kind of) is for the believers (Those in the church)

Verse 23; There isn’t much point in tongues when outsiders walk into the church.  From Paul’s point of view, they will say that you are crazy.

When God speaks there is repentance.  There is one church there is order there will be convictions of the mind and heart.

Verse 25; He or she will see their sin and fall before God declaring that God is truly in that place.

Verse 26 give order to the church at Corinth. 

  1. A psalm; a hymn of worship
  2. A teaching; learning something new
  3. A revelation; a disclosure from God
  4. A tongue and interpretation; from experience.

Verse 27 coming to the final parts of Pauls argument about prophecy and speaking in tongues; Paul does not condemn tongues, but it has to be in a framework of order, and it must be for edification.

Verse 27; Paul gives directions for when they can speak in tongues and interpret.

Verse 28; No interpreter = no tongues spoken in the Church, but he can speak in tongues to himself and to God. 

Prophets were around for quite a long time in the church and there were directions on how to spot false ones. The information can be found in the Didache an early church manuscript.

Verse 29; when a prophet speaks the others had to check what they were saying was from God.

Verse 30; When God discloses something, this has to be done in order. Letting someone else speak is important.

Verse 31; Prophecy isn’t the way it was understood in the first century.  William Barclay and Margaret E Thrall make the point that it is closer to preaching as we understand it today.  We actually touched on this earlier in the chapter.

Verse 32; Prophets are not robots; they can also make decisions.

Verse 33: Order in the churches is very important.  Paul has pushed this agenda very hard.

Verses 34 – 35; These two verses are seriously misunderstood I hope my explanation helps;

1 Corinthians 14 34-35 Women being silent in the church.

Before we begin let us look at the places in which Paul uses the ‘keeping silent’ phrase.  There were different types of people that had to say silent in the Church under certain conditions.   At first reading it seems on the surface that Paul was biased towards women, but this is reading a 21st century mindset on to a first century document.   Within the congregation probable inherited from Judaism that women were not allowed to read the scripture publicly. All that Paul did was to validate a law that was already accepted by the churches in the first century.  I think that sometimes feminists find a pink elephant in an empty room devoid of historicity.  This is one of those situations. 

28 but if there is no interpreter, he must keep silent in the church; and let him speak to himself and to God. 1 Corinthians 14:28

30 But if a revelation is made to another who is seated, the first one must keep silent. 1 Corinthians 14:30

34 The women are to keep silent in the churches; for they are not permitted to speak, but are to subject themselves, just as the Law also says. 1 Corinthians 14:34

In the following article there is evidence to suggest that Paul wasn’t putting women down, only following a legal tradition accepted by first century Christians;

“An Inequality In Jesus’ time, women participated fully in the religious life of the community. This included participation in synagogue services and in the regular study sessions that were conducted in the synagogue’s bet midrash (house of study). There was no separation of the sexes in synagogues, and women could be counted as part of the required congregational quorum of ten adults. There was, however, one inequality. For social reasons, women were not allowed to read the Scriptures publicly.

In the Babylonian Talmud and the Tosefta, we find an early rabbinic (tannaic) ruling: “All are qualified to be among the seven [who read from the Torah in the synagogue on the Sabbath], even a minor or a woman; however, the sages ruled that a woman should not read from the Torah out of respect for the congregation.”21 This is apparently a reference to the same social custom or decorum that we find mentioned in Paul’s letter to the Corinthians: “Women should keep silent in the churches. They are not permitted to speak, but should be in submission, as the Torah states. If they want to learn anything, they should ask their husbands at home, for it is a disgrace for a woman to speak in the congregation.”22

Paul felt it necessary to issue his corrective because in early Christian congregations, following Jewish practice, it was permissible and customary to interrupt the preacher to ask questions. In first-century synagogues, a sermon followed the reading of Scripture. This exposition of Scripture was more a lesson than a sermon, and congregants were encouraged to ask questions. In fact, the asking of questions was so central to the rabbinic teaching method that often the preacher-teacher began his sermon by just seating himself and waiting until someone from the audience asked a question. There is a whole category of Jewish literature called xxx xxxxx (ye lam DE nu ra BE nu, May our teacher instruct us). It is similar to what we now call “Questions and Answers.” Today public speakers often employ a Question-and-Answer period, especially as a means of clarification at the end of a lecture. In first-century Jewish society this approach was usually the main method of instruction.

From Paul’s injunction we learn that at public religious gatherings of early Christians, women sat with men in the same hall, perhaps even next to their husbands or fathers. Paul’s command itself implies a mixed audience: there would have been nothing indecorous about a woman asking a question in a group composed entirely of women.

If there had been separation of men and women in first-century synagogues, it is likely that the early church would have continued the custom. However, the New Testament gives no indication that the early church had such a custom.” From https://www.cbeinternational.org/resource/article/priscilla-papers-academic-journal/place-women-first-century-synagogues

Verse 36; Paul challenges their pride that they think higher of themselves.  Verse 37; It is ok to be a Prophet but please follow Pauls advice. 

Verse 38; If anyone contradicts Paul and does not recognize what he said then they should not be recognized

Verse 39-40; Both prophecy (preaching) and speaking in tongues is allowed but desire prophecy more.  Make sure that everything in church is done in an orderly manner. 

I will return to this chapter at some point but before I finish, I found some of William Barclays words interesting here.  He said that in the early church they did not have professional ministers, and everyone had to take part somehow in the churches.  We may have gained something with having a main minister, but we might have also lost out.  Lost out because congregations don’t do much spadework like their predecessors from the early church.

You can also visit my other blog at; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/       

An excursion from Corinthians in understanding Paul’s teaching on the mind.

November 27, 2020

Before I move on, I think that for Paul the ‘mind is very important’ in all his writings.  This is not an exhaustive study it is only on the word ‘nous’.

The Mind in Romans and Corinthians

As I said we need to look at Pauls use of nous (mind).  1/3 of all occurrences in Paul happens in Romans so it is an appropriate book to start from.  I am baffled with Galatians though.  He never uses it in Galatians.  I will save that question for a rainy day.  What we can do now is go through each verse and reflect on how mind is used there.  Please feel free to come to your own decisions about this.  You may come to conclusions I didn’t come to but that is ok.

Let us start;

28 And just as they did not see fit to acknowledge God any longer, God gave them over to a depraved mind, to do those things which are not proper, Romans 1:28

God gave them over to a depraved mind.  This use is negative.  If you live in sin then one is going to be sinful because the influence of the world is sin, for example materialsm, greed and so on.

23 but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. Romans 7:23

There is a spiritual battle here and the body is physical and its nature is obviously pulled in the sin direction like a magnet.

25  Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin.

So, it is important to think about good things in Christ but there is a north pole and a south pole


Romans 7:25

6  For the mind set on the flesh is death, but the mind set on the Spirit is life and peace, Romans 8:6

The mind can be set in a direction by God’s grace

7 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, Romans 8:7

The mind without God can only point to the south pole of sin.

27 and He who searches the hearts knows what the mind of the Spirit is, because He intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
Romans 8:27

Only the Holy Spirit can set the mind. It is a gift of God for the mind to be set towards the North Pole God and holiness.

34 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, OR WHO BECAME HIS COUNSELOR? Romans 11:34

Only the Holy Spirit knows the mind of the Lord.

2 And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may  prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.
Romans 12:2

Your mind needs to be renewed and it can only be renewed by the Holy Spirit

16  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. Romans 12:16

Being of one mind is also a group of minds working together for the glory of God

5  One person regards one day above another, another regards every day alike. Each person must be fully convinced in his own mind. Romans 14:5

You are in control of your own mind by the Holy Spirit.

5 Now may the God who gives perseverance and encouragement grant you to be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, Romans 15:5

Love is a  driving force for the mind as God is love.

10 Now I exhort you, brethren, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you all agree and that there be no  divisions among you, but that you be made complete in the same mind and in the same judgment. 1 Corinthians 1:10

Being on the same page with each other.

16 For WHO HAS KNOWN THE MIND OF THE LORD, THAT HE WILL INSTRUCT HIM? But we have the mind of Christ.
1 Corinthians 2:16

By the Holy Spirit we can have the mind of Christ

14 For if I pray in a tongue, my spirit prays, but my mind is unfruitful. 1 Corinthians 14:14

The mind needs to understand

15  What is the outcome then? I will pray with the spirit and I will pray with the mind also; I will sing with the spirit and I will sing with the mind also. 1 Corinthians 14:15

Praying with understanding and without understanding are both ok but with the mind is important.  Obviously when you feel in your soul something one cannot always put it into words.  I think this is part of the human condition; empathy, feel, sympathy et al.

19 however, in the church I desire to speak five words with my mind so that I may instruct others also, rather than ten thousand words in a tongue.
1 Corinthians 14:19

Understanding with the mind is more important than just living with not knowing or feeling.

13 For if we are beside ourselves, it is for God; if we are of sound mind, it is for you. 2 Corinthians 5:13

Sound mind is having an appropriate level of understanding.

Reflection

So for Paul the mind is the seat of understanding.  This mind can be influenced either by the Holy Spirit or by the world.  The mind can also be a group of minds agreed on something.   It is the main human processor for making rational judgments.  Metanoia (repentance) literally means change of mind.  The Holy Spirit gives us faith so that we have the capability to turn away from sin and to God.  Once we have accepted Christ as our saviour then we are grateful for his love towards us and we reciprocate this love back to God by worshiping Him and loving our neighbour through practical deeds (Ethics).

This is my basic understanding but there are many other words that Paul uses but I will leave this here.   We can now return to 1 Corinthians because we have an idea of how Paul uses the word mind.  I think knowing in an appropriate way and making rational decisions was very important for St Paul

You can also visit my other blog at; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/           

The Gospel is Public Knowledge and when someone comes into a Church they should be able to understand what you say. We are not Gnostics there is no secret knowledge that make you into meta-human beings.

November 20, 2020

20th November 2020

6 But now, brethren, if I come to you speaking in tongues, what will I profit you unless I speak to you either by way of revelation or of knowledge or of prophecy or of teaching? 7 Yet even lifeless things, either flute or harp, in producing a sound, if they do not produce a distinction in the tones, how will it be known what is played on the flute or on the harp? 8 For if the bugle produces an indistinct sound, who will prepare himself for battle? 9 So also you, unless you utter by the tongue speech that is clear, how will it be known what is spoken? For you will be speaking into the air. 10 There are, perhaps, a great many kinds of languages in the world, and no kind is without meaning. 11 If then I do not know the meaning of the language, I will be to the one who speaks a barbarian, and the one who speaks will be a barbarian to me. 12 So also you, since you are zealous of spiritual gifts, seek to abound for the edification of the church. 1 Corinthians 14:6-12

Verse 6; So his talk of edifying the Church is Pauls primary concern.  Tongues does not edify unless it comes with an interpretation.  He lays down for key words.

  • Revelation
  • Knowledge
  • Prophecy
  • Teaching

The above are important for Paul because it is through these ways of sharing that the church can be built up.  Paul is very concerned about understanding with the ‘mind’.   You just have to take my word for it for the moment but we will touch on this theme later.

Verse 7 – 9; He talks about music and the importance of the distinctive sounds.  This is a very important example because he is basically saying that tongues on its own cannot build the church because the elements from verse 6 are missing. 

Verse 10; Paul makes the point that there are many languages in the world, and they all have a meaning. I inverted the meaning, but the point is made.

Barbarian basically means a foreigner who cannot speak each other’s language hence there is no understanding between you and the Barbarian.  The context is tongues so his meaning must point to the lack of edification between brothers and sisters in the Lord.

Verse 12; So he is basically saying is that the gifts the believers need to seek have to touch on the list from verse 6;

Revelation; Knowledge; Prophecy; Teaching

The Gospel is no secret knowledge.  It is public knowledge that everyone ought to understand.  Obviously in Corinth there were aesthetic groups and some of these groups would have believed in this secret knowledge that only the initiated could take part in.  This type of knowledge has never been part of the Gospel.  Even with the gift of tongues, Paul I think emphasizes its meaning to you personally before God but apart from interpretation it has no part in the edification of the church. As a spiritual gift it has a place, but it is at the bottom of the list of importance.  Secret knowledge is a ‘no, no!’ because the New Testament is wary about this.  All you need to do is look at Johns Gospel and 1 John to realize why secret knowledge was a danger to the historicity of Christ.  The movement was known as Gnosticism and it took on various shapes and forms. 

Verse 13; Interpretation leads to edification because others understand what has been said.  Interpretation means that it is public knowledge that is open to all so that they can question what has been said

Verse 14; It is not good that the mind doesn’t understand what is going on.

Before moving on to other verses I feel the need to do a Pauline Study on the mind.  The reason for this is that the term for me is loaded with inuendo.  As an example, a simple word such as metanoia in NT Greek literally means a change of mind.  In English meta can be used in various forms such as meta-physics. Beyond the physical realm.

Preaching (prophecy) is more important than tongues but does tongues have a value or can it be misused?

November 13, 2020

So let us look at some of the Greek in the first two verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 14;

1 Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην, ζηλοῦτε δὲ τὰ πνευματικά, μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε. 1 Corinthians 14:1

  1. Διώκετε τὴν ἀγάπην Seek after love (the goal is love)
  2. δὲ τὰ πνευματικά and desire the spiritual (gifts)
  3. μᾶλλον δὲ ἵνα προφητεύητε  but especially (mallon) that you might prophecy

The first part of verse one the verb diokete seek   is imperative 2nd person plural.  It is a command that Paul gives.

The second verb ζηλοῦτε desire (zealous) is also in the imperative and is therefore a command.

Mallon; especially or more is a comparative… but linked to prophecy. 

Prophecy  is in the subjunctive  and active (in the now ).  It means may prophecy

So, what is Paul saying?

My paraphrase after all the reading;

Make love your goal and at the same time be zealous for spiritual gifts and more so for the gift of prophecy.

In the first verse tongues doesn’t even get a look in!  

Why?

Paul will spell it out and he isn’t against tongues but tongues (ecstatic speaking) doesn’t build the church.  This was the problem. Let us continue looking at verse 2

2 ὁ γὰρ λαλῶν γλώσσῃ οὐκ ἀνθρώποις λαλεῖ ἀλλὰ θεῷ, οὐδεὶς γὰρ ἀκούει, πνεύματι δὲ λαλεῖ μυστήρια· 1 Corinthians 14:2

2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 1 Corinthians 14:2

Obviously verse two is interesting that speaking in a tongue is seen as speaking to God and it is a mystery.  At the time of Paul, a lot of the cults in Greece and Turkey would have been classified as mystery religions.  One had to be initiated into the rite of a particular god.  Paul was using language that they understood because everyone inside the church and outside the church used this language. 

Christianity is not a mystery religion; it is a public religion that all can understand.  It is the antithesis of mystery.   I don’t have a problem with tongues being used in this way and used in one’s own devotional times, the problem is though, if no one understands the message of the Gospel in church. There is a danger that when tongues are used that people want to know the ‘secret’.  Could this also be a danger in all tongues speaking churches that there is a hankering for a mystery that God wants to share.  Could the ordinary church goer be misled and give over hard cash for some secret?

So, we have had Pauls premise that prophecy is superior in the first five verses.  This hasn’t changed but now he is going to go into an example.   I think the key word here would be ‘clarity’.  Tongues speaking at Corinth wasn’t clear for the outsider.  It seems very strange to me that Paul starts talking about bugle sounds and so forth, but I think the tongues here is in a particular genre type.  The genre has come from the Hellenic world.

Encyclopaedia Britannica says;

“Glossolalia, also called speaking in tongues, (from Greek glōssa, “tongue,” and lalia, “talking”), utterances approximating words and speech, usually produced during states of intense religious experience. The vocal organs of the speaker are affected; the tongue moves, in many cases without the conscious control of the speaker; and generally unintelligible speech pours forth. Speakers and witnesses may interpret the phenomenon as possession by a supernatural entity, conversation with divine beings, or the channelling of a divine proclamation or inspiration.” Taken from https://www.britannica.com/topic/glossolalia

In Corinth speaking in tongues was a norm inside and outside of the Church especially I think in the Temples.  The question I suppose is what spirit is controlling the speaker.  Obviously tongues of a different genre could be seen at Peters proclamation of the Gospel where everyone understood him!  Paul could not deny tongues as the Holy Spirit has also used this as a vehicle to proclaim the Gospel.  This Apostolic Tongues was very special, and it was a sign and the people literally understood everything the Apostles said; as the Holy Spirit was the interpreter of the tongues.    

In Corinth tongues speaking compared to the Apostolic version was a mere shadow of the real thing.  Nether the less St Paul did not condemn it.  This was seen as a gift from the Holy Spirit.  For the user of tongues in their own devotion, there wasn’t a problem. The other difference was that; in Acts the Apostles, Peter spoke with all of his faculties, there was no loss of the conscious mind.  The tongues in Corinth was the opposite; they would have gone into uncontrollable bliss (experience).  It would have been closer to how tongues were spoken in the Pagan Temples but sanctified tongues. The type of tongues speaking from my point of view is that it is only a copy of the real thing but still within the framework of the Holy Spirit.               

You can also visit my other blog at; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/                                              

Paul, Chrysostom, Calvin and speaking in tongues

November 10, 2020

Before we dig deeper which I have, let us see what some Bible commentators have said which represent quite a large section of the Church.  Historically in about ad 400 Chrysostom had a few words also to say about the gift.  Have they any words of wisdom for us as it seems to be the case that in various parts of the church anything goes, and I think this is not healthy and comes from a lack of understanding.  It is dangerous I think to read out of the text our culture or to read into the text our culture.  God speaks to us by his Holy Spirit and we must be humble and keen to learn.

Calvin wasn’t negative about tongues, but it had to be in its rightful place.  Prophecy was more important because it edifies the Church.  Tongues only edifies the person who does it and it is speaking to God.  Prophecy is speaking God’s message to the people.  As said earlier, I agree with Margaret. E Thrall that prophecy was more like preaching.  In verse 3 the functions of prophecy were “for edification and exhortation and consolation”.  Tongues doesn’t do any of that.  Tongues was in a sense ecstatic speech and it differed from the miracle of Acts of the Apostles when Peter preached, and many were converted. As Paul said this tongues that was spoken at Corinth was speaking to God. It didn’t touch on edification and exhortation and consolation.

The early church fathers were not negative either but an interesting thought from Chrysostom AD 407;  

“The Corinthians thought that speaking in tongues was a great gift because it was the one which the apostles received first, and with a great display. But this was no reason to think it was the greatest gift of all. The reason the apostles got it first was because it was a sign that they were to go everywhere, preaching the gospel. “ https://catenabible.com/1cor/14

He goes on to say;

“At this point he makes a comparison between the gifts, and lowers that of the tongues, showing it to be neither altogether useless, nor very profitable by itself. For in fact they were greatly puffed up on account of this, because the gift was considered to be a great one. And it was thought great because the Apostles received it first, and with so great display; it was not however therefore to be…”

Tongues is a gift of the Holy Spirit but unfortunately for the Corinthians they were too puffed up and only thought about themselves.  Anyone seeking any gift of the Holy Spirit needs to start from humility but unfortunately today many churches prioritise this gift and they are as puffed up as much as the Corinthians.  Order in the church is very important but I get confused when I see ‘new gifts introduced’ which are not found in the Bible.  The Toronto blessing for example its characteristics;

Freshwind band leading worship at Toronto Airport Christian Fellowship in 2008

The Toronto Blessing has become synonymous within charismatic Christian circles for terms and actions that include an increased awareness of the God’s love, religious ecstasy, external observances of ecstatic worship, being slain in the Spirit, uncontrollable laughter, emotional and/or physical euphoria, crying, healing from emotional wounds, healing of damaged relationships, and electric waves of the spirit.[1][4] “Holy laughter”, as a result of overwhelming joy, was a hallmark manifestation,[5] and there were also some reports of instances of participants roaring like lions or making other animal noises.[6][7] Leaders and participants present in these services claim that most of these manifestations, including some people roaring like lions, were physical manifestations of the Holy Spirit’s presence and power, while some Pentecostal and charismatic leaders believe these were the counterfeits of the Spirit as is mentioned in the biblical passage of 2 Thessalonians 2:9.[8][9] In December, 1994, Toronto Life Magazine declared TAV as Toronto’s most notable tourist attraction for the year.[10]

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toronto_Blessing#Characteristics

The Azuza street phenomenon of 1908 was different and it claimed that this was the tongues found in Scripture and it is possible to argue for it.  The Pentecostal movement was born from this.   However, this phenomenon from Toronto has to perhaps be rejected as unscriptural.  In other words, the experience is not found in the Bible at all.

Paul made the point that there has to be order in the Church.  Has your church thought through these issues?  The Holy Spirit is the third person of the Trinity. He is God and He gives good gifts to his children not ‘electric shocks’.  One needs to be careful with the religious ecstasy as well.  Even though Paul himself had such as experience in 2 Corinthians 12 he would not put his name to it;

12 Boasting is necessary, though it is not profitable; but I will go on to visions and revelations [a]of the Lord. I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago—whether in the body I do not know, or out of the body I do not know, God knows—such a man was caught up to the third heaven. And I know how such a man—whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, God knows— was caught up into Paradise and heard inexpressible words, which a man is not permitted to speak. On behalf of such a man I will boast; but on my own behalf I will not boast, except in regard to my weaknesses. For if I do wish to boast I will not be foolish, for I will be speaking the truth; but I refrain from this, so that no one will credit me with more than he sees in me or hears from me. NASB

Boasting is dangerous and it can puff up the selfish human Spirit.  All I am saying is that we need to be careful before our Holy God and give him the worship that is due to him alone.  None-charismatics will reject both Azuza Street and the so-called Toronto blessing.  I have a Pentecostal background in my faith but unfortunately, I have seen too much greed and unprofessional practices.   I used to enjoy the AOG.  The preaching of the word was central and Bible studies on top with the prayer meetings.  In a lot of these Churches; Where is the Bible? Where is the prayer meeting?  Tongues as a gift shouldn’t be pushed out but it ought not to be rejected either. 

You can also visit my other blog at; https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

Persue Love second part of 1 Corinthians 4 verses 1 -5

November 8, 2020

Of course, love is more important, so sometimes both sides will disagree with me but remember Love.  Paul is so right for putting that chapter in the middle of this conversation.  The master Pastor at work weaving a tapestry of love by the Holy Spirit.   We can disagree God has given us a mind and that is so important. But let our minds be tempered with God’s grace and his love. 

6th November 2020

So, let us look at the first few verses of 1 Corinthians chapter 14 verses 1 to 5

1  Pursue love, yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts, but especially that you may prophesy. 2 For one who speaks in a tongue does not speak to men but to God; for no one understands, but in his spirit he speaks mysteries. 3 But one who prophesies speaks to men  . 4 One who speaks in a tongue edifies himself; but one who prophesies edifies the church. 5 Now I wish that you all spoke in tongues, but even more that you would prophesy; and greater is one who prophesies than one who speaks in tongues, unless he interprets, so that the church may receive edifying. 1 Corinthians 14:1-5

We will start from a general reading and then get more particular as we go deeper.  The first assumption we can make is that we ought to pursue love. This is Pauls command but even when he says yet desire earnestly spiritual gifts.  If we then jump to verse 3, we see that that the gift isn’t for any selfish reason but to edify others.  In love there is an I, you, and a them, it is relational. In verse 4 Paul spells it out and talks about the edification of the Church.  This is a long way from the earlier chapters of Corinthians where they were only interested in their own little groups.

When we look at prophecy Paul here in these verses gives it three functions

  1. Edification
  2. Exhortation
  3. Consolation

So, in whatever church even today Pauls advice is really important, and he lays down three principles that ought to be followed in any prophecy.  It is interesting that he didn’t make telling the future one of them.   This is very interesting because sermons in traditional churches would follow these three points and yet in a Charismatic setting the three points above would be a locus for encouraging the believers to come closer to God.  Could the understanding of prophecy in Corinth have a wider scope than the 21st century?  I don’t know the answer to that, but the ancient world certainly has a place for prophecy inside the church and outside of the church.  This was part of the culture and it a historical fact. 

The next general overview of these verse also talks about tongues.  I’m not interested in the question of whether they died out or not, you need to come to your own conclusions about that. 

  1. Tongues edifies the self and prophecy edifies the Church.
  2. Unless tongues have an interpreter

The main point I think is are other believers other than yourself being built up in the faith.  This is what Paul is getting at.  Love shows greater esteem to the other.  Isn’t that so?  It is a fact that Paul was a little upset in the early parts of the letter in which he has told them off. So however, your church works;

  1. through the sermon (A traditional reformed church type)
  2. or prophecy and the sermon (Pentecostal type)
  3. or tongues with interpretation and a sermon (Charismatic type)
  4. Or no sermon at all (I certainly think this is not healthy for a church// new age type)
  5. Sacramental, sermon, tongues with interpretation (Some type of neo- orthodox, for example a local Church of England type)

I’m not making any judgements but as you can see the Church has rich and diverse traditions.  It is not for me to say which is right. When one looks at the varied backgrounds of Christians; How could I ever say this is right or that is right.  We ought to agree on one thing though.  The Bible as Holy Scripture needs to be looked at and with the help of the Holy Spirit, we can get closer to God.

We will look at the Greek text of verses 1 – 5 next time. It just takes a long time to dig into the text so patience is needed!

my other blog is https://hasan-godtalk.blogspot.com/

The Hermeneutic of Love, Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14 before we start.

November 5, 2020

4th of November 2020

Introductory note to 1 Corinthians 14

As we said earlier, this world of the Corinthians seems very strange to the European mind.  Things are going on and as far as intellect is concerned, we can indeed say we only know in part.  It is so important to try to piece together the background to this letter without demeaning Holy Scripture because that is what it is.  Paul has given us the tools to walk through this maze.  The most important thing he has reminded us is the importance of love;

  1. Here we have a bunch of Christians who couldn’t even agree on a lot of things. 
  2. Paul reminds them of the importance of love.

Love is the glue that holds the church together.  Love is something that can overlook wrongs. Love makes a friend stick to you closer that a brother or sister.  Love makes the other person more esteemed than yourself. I could go on, but I think you get the idea.   Every person has baggage from their old life, but the baggage is not always anti.  Culture is not necessarily a bad thing; it just means things in that culture are done in a particular manner.  It isn’t a sin to come from a culture.  Everyone has a culture even anti-cultures, but I don’t want to go down that road just yet. So, let us remind ourselves where we came from.  In 1 Corinthians we had our Lord show us the power of love, even to die on the cross so that we wouldn’t die of the second death. We then went into 1 Corinthians 11 and we looked at the spiritual gifts.  We found out that perhaps the Corinthians at times could be a little proud.  Let us not get proud either because we are not any different to them.  1 Corinthians 13 was also about love and what love is all about.  Paul spelled it out to the Corinthians! Are we listening to the words of St Paul? Now we are going to embark on chapter 14 and we need to move with humility otherwise we will ‘miss the whole of the heavenly glory’ (Bruce Lee).  I don’t really care if you believe or don’t believe in the gifts but please stay humble before the Holy Spirit. Love should be a driving force not the gifts.  We need to get this the right way around. Isn’t this so?  O Charismatic person is love more important than the gift. Strict Brethren believer; Is love more important than thinking the gifts died out?

The Timeline for Faith, Hope and Love.

November 1, 2020

1st November 2020

Let us begin by reading the following from 1 Corinthians 139-1313.

9 For we know in part and we prophesy in part; 10 but when the perfect comes, the partial will be done away. 11 When I was a child, I used to speak like a child, think like a child, reason like a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things. 12 For now we see in a mirror dimly, but then face to face; now I know in part, but then I will know fully just as I also have been fully known. 13 But now faith, hope, love, abide these three; but the greatest of these is love. 1 Corinthians 13:9-13 NASB

Verse 9

Love is still the theme but there is still a lot to unpack here.  We don’t know everything and because we don’t know everything, we can only say a certain amount. 

Verse 10

Teleios (end, maturation) This partial knowledge we have will one day give way to perfection or maturation, so that we understand everything.  The word hope in verse 13 is not an accident.  Hope is about the future.  Hope will one day be turned into the now and there will be no need for hope anymore. Because we will be there in God’s presence for all eternity.

Verse 11

With this example Paul is showing some type of timeline.  Where on the timeline can we be found as Christians?

Verse 12

Again, he speaks about a mirror.  We don’t know everything yet but hopefully one day we will.  One day we will see Jesus face to face and then we will understand but until then our knowledge is incomplete although the Lord’s knowledge is always complete.

Verse 13

Calvin makes a comment about this verse;

“Because faith and hope are our own: love is diffused among others.” Calvin. (I haven’t found the source of this quote yet but I found it at; https://biblehub.com/commentaries/1_corinthians/13-13.htm It is very true, love indeed is the second greatest commandment and we are expected to show love to all our neighbours.  It is true also that faith is personal, and hope is personal, although hope can also be understood in a collective manner.  More thinking is needed here.

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The True Lover; 1 Corinthians chapter 13 verses 4 – 8

October 25, 2020

What love is?

Last time we looked at what love is not. Now we will look at what love is.  Before we go deeper, I think it is important to look at the idea of the nature of love.  In the English language love can be used in many different ways and it is not always love.  In the Greek language there are a few words for love

  • Eros, or sexual passion
  • Philia, or deep friendship
  • Storge  (Love of family, ptriotic love) https://conservapedia.com/Storge ()
  • Ludus, or playful love
  • Agape, or love for everyone
  • Pragma, or longstanding love (modern idea)
  • Philautia, or love of the self (Two types; healthy love of self or narcissistic)

Taken from (www.yesmagazine.org/health-happiness/2013/12/28/the-ancient-greeks-6-words-for-love-and-why-knowing-them-can-change-your-life/)

The type of love Paul means is sacrificial love, putting others before yourself.

Let us now read 1 Corinthians 134-8 ;

4 Love is patient, love is kind and is not jealous; love does not brag and is not arrogant, 5 does not act unbecomingly; it does not seek its own, is not provoked, does not take into account a wrong suffered, 6  does not rejoice in unrighteousness, but rejoices with the truth; 7   bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things. 1 Corinthians 13:4-7

So, there could be two types of people the Hater or the True Lover.  We as well as the Corinthians have choices to make.  I have personified the above text negatively and positively and this was the result;

The Hater

  1.  I am impatient and want things now; I am unkind and seriously jealous; I brag a lot and I am full of myself; At times I act disgracefully no matter what people may think;  I am selfish and always want my own way; I am provoked easily and get into verbal or physical fights regularly; If someone takes advantage of me I will make them pay for it; If someone breaks the law and steals something, I think good for them, I wish I could get away with that too.  I am a compulsive liar and if someone crosses me they are going to know about it;  I don’t trust anyone; Hope is for weaklings; if some one does me wrong they are going to pay me back in kind and then some more on top!

The True Lover

  1. I am very patient even when it hurts me and makes me sad; I always show a kind act, if someone is hungry I will buy them a sandwich and put them in contact with the Salvation Army;  If I here something that is a little bit  off I keep quiet about it so that I can help them on the straight and narrow;  I am always doing the right thing and keep on the straight and narrow with humility; If someone does me wrong I will pray for them but I won’t look to pay them back because that isn’t me; When I see someone break the law and steals something then I feel sad and I pray about it; If someone want a fight I try peaceful means and if I do get hit I try to keep my composure even though I know the martial arts well, I understand the importance of wisdom; I like people who are always honest with me even if it means I get hurt sometimes; I will go the extra mile to help people out;  I have a great hope that I will one day be in heaven and I put up with people doing bad things to me on a regular basis although I am no weakling.

The question is; Paul is asking the Corinthians what type of person they want to be. A loving person or an unloving person.  They had their faults at Corinth and the majesty of the second type of person is what Paul wanted the Corinthians to become. The second type of person is only possible through the work of the Holy Spirit.  I personified this love in verses 4 -8 to find out what Paul was really getting at.  One does not need to understand the Greek to get the feel of Pauls meaning.  It is now your call and your choice. 

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https://weaver1hasonline.international/

When there is no love! 1 Corinthians 13

October 16, 2020

Once the late professor Stanton said to me, “A text out of context is a pretext”. (1 Corinthians in English lectures KCL about 1995).  So, I think a general discussion about the letter is important.  From the beginning of the book we learned that this group of people liked to argue, “I am of Paul, I am of Cephas, I am of Apollos” and so on.  Each group thought they were the best.  It doesn’t surprise me that there is a chapter on love. Having had discussions about moral/ethical issues he moved on to the Last Supper in which Christ showed ultimate love for us by dying on a cross.  He then began talking about Spiritual gifts (gifts from the Holy Spirit). Right smack bang in the middle of these gifts there is a chapter on love.  After the gifts Paul will move on to talk about the resurrection.  Paul is taking the believers of Corinth from their sinful earthy ways to the glorious heights of the Gospel.  He will finish the book by AOB (any other business)

Let us read the first three verses and reflect on it;

1 If I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have love, I have become a noisy gong or a clanging cymbal. 2 If I have the gift of prophecy and know all mysteries and all knowledge; and if I have all faith, so as to remove mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. 3 And if I give all my possessions to feed the poor, and if I surrender my body to be burned, but do not have love, it profits me nothing. 1 Corinthians 13:1-3 NASB

IfExtreme activityPlus no love = A complete waste
  If   Able to speak divine and human languages.+ no love= Nothing achieved
  If    Prophet who knows everything.+ no love= Nothing achieved
  IfMost powerful faith+ no love= Nothing achieved
If  Giving all wealth away+ no love= Nothing achieved
IfDie for a cause+ no love= Nothing achieved
The Logic of the first three verses

I like the logic in these verses as we see Paul the great master of letter writing takes us to another dimension.  Let us break it down a little

It seems strange to a person born in the 21st century that Paul speaks in this way but let us remember that this was written approximately 2000 years ago.  It was a very different world, and this was the world of Rome.  They had many gods who the people consulted for advice.  Priestesses’ of orders would have claimed to be in contact with the gods.  They spoke in tongues; they believed the gods spoke to them so they could give advice to people how they should live.  They would have had a deep belief in their divine heroes.  Sometimes they would give their wealth away and even be willing to die for their god.  This was commonplace in a lot of Roman cities especially Corinth.  Poseidon’s Temple can still be seen. So why did I come to these conclusions you may ask. 1 Don’t be surprised then that this culture can also be found in the Church but here it has become a sanctified culture.  The believers are no longer under the influence of Paganism but under the Gospel.

A general introduction to the relationship of faith and love before proceeding to 1 Cor 13 proper

October 12, 2020

1 Corinthians chapter 13

Where should I start? God is love and being created in his image should love not be the goal of faith? So, we need to start to open up this glorious chapter.   The chapter is full of beautiful language it seems a long way away from earlier book in which there are all these factions vying for who’s preacher or teacher is the greatest.  Paul pushes in the opposite direction and his love for the Corinthians is to bring them to maturity as Christians. 

31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
   And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:31

At the end of chapter 12 and halfway through the discussion on gifts we have this excellent verse.   Without this ‘way’ the gifts are no different to the Pagan use of their gifts of the ‘spirit/spirits’.

The way of love! As Bavinck says, ‘the fruit of faith is love’. (Pages 68- 69 of his ethics). 

  1. I think there are different strands we need to look at as a general introduction to the relationship of faith and love and we will do this through Herman Bavinck the great Dutch theologian (What Bavinck says).
  2. Our second stage will be to go through 1 Corinthians 13 and look at especially how he speaks in the negative and those key words.  Perhaps these words will give us a deeper understanding and goal found in Corinthians (What the Greek says).
  3. Our third stage will be to ask the questions; Why this chapter on love bang smack in the middle of the gifts and prophecies; There is a reason (The order and topic of love).
  4. Any other findings (any other Business)
  5. Conclusions

Stage 1

What Herman Bavinck Says

The following quotation is taken from;

Herman Bavinck, Reformed Ethics, created and fallen and converted Humanity, edited by John Bolt.

I hope John Bolt doesn’t mind me using this quote but I seriously would urge anyone to read it who is interested in the relationship of faith and love. 

Page 68

The fruit of faith is love:

The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good Conscience

and a sincere faith. (1 Tim. 1:5)

Whoever says, “I know him,” but does not keep his commandments is a liar

and the truth is not in him, but whoever keeps his word, in him truly the love

of God is perfected. By this we may know that we are in him: whoever says he

abides in him ought to walk in the same way in which he walked. (1 John 2:44

For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything,

but only faith working through love. (Gal. 5:6)

So also, faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead. But someone will say,

“You have faith and I have works.” Show me your faith apart from your works,

and I will show you my faith by my works. (James 2:17-18)

Page 69

Similarly, “every healthy tree bears good fruit, but the diseased tree bears bad fruit.  

A healthy tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a diseased tree bear good

Fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit is cut down and thrown into the

fire” (Matt. 7:17=195 cf. 12:33; Luke 3:9; 6:43- 45). A tree is known by its fruit.

The examples of people given in Scripture also demonstrate the same connection

between faith and deeds: Lydia (Acts 16:14-15); Tabitha (Acts 9:36);

Cornelius (Acts 10:2, 48); Zacchaeus (Luke 19:8); the church at Colossae

(Col. 1:4); the church at Thessalonica (1 Thess. 1:3). New birth brings about

changed lives: “And such were some of you. But you were washed, you were

sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the

Spirit of our God™ (1 Cor. 6:11). Love is a fruit of the Spirit (Gal. 5:22); faith

in Christ Jesus results in love for the saints (Eph. 1:15). Paul’s prayer for the

Ephesians is that their new faith may bring forth love, “that according to the

riches of his glory he may grant you to be strengthened with power through

his Spirit in your inner being, so that Christ may dwell in your hearts through

faith—that you, being rooted and grounded in love, may have strength to

comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height

and depth, and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that

you may be filled with all the fullness of God” (Eph. 3:16—19; cf. Col. 1:4).

Love is the highest virtue, the bond of perfection: “And above all these put

on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony” (Col. 3:14).

So, Scripture teaches that also subjectively religion and morality cohere

intimately and inseparably. The one demonstrates itself and is authenticated

in the other. The one is the fruit of the other.

5. The church of all ages has taught this, including Gregory the Great,

Bernard of Clairvaux, Lactantius, Augustine, Luther, and Calvin.” Zwingli

showed the relation more psychologically and ethically. For Zwingli, even

the good works of the unbelievers were the fruit of faith. In answer to the

question “What are good works?” the Heidelberg Catechism (Q&A 91) gives

this answer: “Only those which are done out of true faith, conform to God’s

law, and are done for God’s glory; and not those based on our own opinion or

human tradition.” And this is what all the Reformed teach. There is no morality

except what proceeds from faith, but also there is no faith without morality.”

The problem is in a lot of theologies is that we get lots about faith but it seems to be disjointed on how we live this life in God’s way.  This is why Bavincks ethics advice is so important because we have a deeper understanding of this faith love rationale.  Galatians 5 6,another book of Paul’s, he says, ‘faith working through love’.  He then gives examples of people who after conversion lives ‘new lives.’  We are not any different!  Then he quotes;

15 For this reason I too, having heard of the faith in the Lord Jesus which exists among you and your love for all the saints, Ephesians 1:15

Then Bavinck quotes;

14 Beyond all these things put on love, which is the perfect bond of unity. Colossians 3:14

‘put on’ is not in the Greek here but is implied by context.  I think you can see the link between faith and love.  There can be no sacred love without true faith and the outworking of faith is works and love in that order.  Faith is a gift and it comes from A God who is described by John as ‘Love’.  At the end Bavinck says;

There is no morality except what proceeds from faith, but also there is no faith without morality.”

So now we have a deeper understanding of the relationship of faith and love and how it works.  This was important because as we go through this chapter, we have an inkling into Pauls use of faith and love in his other writings.   This is where higher criticism fails: It tries to dissect each text individually and think of the books and letters as separate entities. How Many St Paul’s were there?  There is only one Paul, there are not five or six Pauls. I am stating the obvious, but this needs to be stressed.  The man Paul directed by the Holy Spirit will come to a sanctified understanding of love.

Pauls analogy of the body for the Church!

October 3, 2020

One Body

‘Each One’ comes up a lot in 1 Corinthians and the questions is why (13x in the letter).  We need to take note of this as it an important syntax that Paul uses.  In no other letter of Paul or other writers does the words each one come up so often.  This underlying theme of unity and division is something that runs through the whole of the book and sometimes we might not realize that.

The list;

  1. 12 Now I mean this, that each one of you is saying, “I am of Paul,” and “I of Apollos,” and “I of Cephas,” and “I of Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:12
  2. 5 What then is Apollos? And what is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, even as the Lord gave opportunity to each one. 1 Corinthians 3:5
  3. 8 Now he who plants and he who waters are one; but each will receive his own reward according to his own labor. 1 Corinthians 3:8
  4. 7  Yet I wish that all men were even as I myself am. However, each man has his own gift from God, one in this manner, and another in that.
    1 Corinthians 7:7
  5. 17 Only, as the Lord has assigned to each one, as God has called each, in this manner let him walk. And so I direct in all the churches. 1 Corinthians 7:17
  6. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.
    1 Corinthians 7:24
  7. 21 for in your eating each one takes his own supper first; and one is hungry and another is drunk. 1 Corinthians 11:21
  8. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7
  9. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills.
    1 Corinthians 12:11
  10. 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 1 Corinthians 12:18
  11. 26  What is the outcome then, brethren? When you assemble, each one has a psalm, has a teaching, has a revelation, has a tongue, has an interpretation. Let all things be done for edification. 1 Corinthians 14:26
  12. 27 If anyone speaks in a tongue, it should be by two or at the most three, and each in turn, and one must interpret; 1 Corinthians 14:27
  13. 2 On the first day of every week each one of you is to put aside and save, as he may prosper, so that no collections be made when I come. 1 Corinthians 16:2

This is important because Paul is separating each member of the Church. The Holy Spirit deals and gives gifts on an individual basis.  The problem in this letter tends to be that some people think they are better than others.  Paul needs to change this arrogant mindset to one of humility and get the Corinthians to realize that they are ‘all’ important and that it is time to ditch their divisions.  Paul can only now turn to talk about ‘the body’  which is a fitting and suitable topic by Paul for the Corinthians.

Before we turn to the text of 1 Corinthians; What does body actually mean?

The Greek is σῶμα sōma and it means body.  We need to find the context from the passage.  The passage that we are going to read uses words such as feet hands unseemly parts.  It sounds like the human body so in his example we interpret body as any human body.


12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 13 For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body, whether Jews or Greeks, whether slaves or free, and we were all made to drink of one Spirit.
14 For the body is not one member, but many. 15 If the foot says, “Because I am not a hand, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 16 And if the ear says, “Because I am not an eye, I am not a part of the body,” it is not for this reason any the less a part of the body. 17 If the whole body were an eye, where would the hearing be? If the whole were hearing, where would the sense of smell be? 18 But now God has placed the members, each one of them, in the body, just as He desired. 19 If they were all one member, where would the body be? 20 But now there are many members, but one body. 21 And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”; or again the head to the feet, “I have no need of you.” 22 On the contrary, it is much truer that the members of the body which seem to be weaker are necessary; 23 and those members of the body which we deem less honorable, on these we bestow more abundant honor, and our less presentable members become much more presentable, 24 whereas our more presentable members have no need of it. But God has so composed the body, giving more abundant honor to that member which lacked, 25 so that there may be no division in the body, but that the members may have the same care for one another. 26 And if one member suffers, all the members suffer with it; if one member is honored, all the members rejoice with it.
27 Now you are Christ’s body, and individually members of it. 28 And God has  appointed in the church, first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then  miracles, then gifts of healings, helps, administrations, various kinds of tongues. 29 All are not apostles, are they? All are not prophets, are they? All are not teachers, are they? All are not workers of miracles, are they? 30 All do not have gifts of healings, do they? All do not speak with tongues, do they? All do not interpret, do they? 31 But earnestly desire the greater gifts.
And I show you a still more excellent way. 1 Corinthians 12:11-31 From Olive tree.

My interpretation of this would be that Paul is using analogy of the body to explain that all members of the church are equally important.   In that sense perhaps the ‘the spiritual gifts of prophecy, tongues etc’ was room for Paul to be concerned with the pride in the church; that some members, because they practiced such and such gifts were better and more important than the other members.  This goes on in the Church today. In some churches it might not be spiritual gifts, but it could be something else; ‘I am the treasurer of the church and everyone needs me’ at the expense of the cleaner.  In Pentecostal churches and other charismatic churches this is directly relevant and also the other things I said that was aimed at a non-charismatic readership of my writings. 

Going back to whether or not Paul is using analogy I found this

‘The point needed to be made in a concrete way and

the body analogy achieves this by showing first that diversity is

necessary in the body, and then that the members of the body are

interdependent and interrelated.

Gale10 locates several elements in the analogy which evidence the

influence of the situation on its use. Among these are:

(i) The inclusion of v. 13 after the initial analogical statement

in v. 12 shows that something other than the picture of the

human body occupied the central position in Paul’s mind.

This was an explanation of how this unity in diversity came

into being.

(ii) Reflection on the physical body would not suggest even the

possibility that one member or another might not “belong

to the body” (vv. 15, 16.).

(iii) The idea of discord is not a possibility within the physical

body (v. 25).

(iv) Members of the physical body cannot “have the same care

for one another” (v. 25), nor strictly speaking can they

“suffer together” or “rejoice together” (v. 26).

All this indicates that Paul has introduced the analogy for a

polemical purpose.’

Brian Daines, Evangelical quarterly 1978;

I think analogy is a better word to describe the body than metaphor because in a metaphor the idea is to use one idea to make with comparisons with another.  It is up to you to decide on that; I’m now going to dive into the text and see where it takes us.

12 For even as the body is one and yet has many members, and all the members of the body, though they are many, are one body, so also is Christ. 1 Corinthians 12:12

The general word used for body here is soma (body).  The church of Christ is one body, one Church. The number one (εἷς heis) is used; One body = One Christ.  Paul is emphasising the importance of the unity of the church   and we haven’t even left verse 12. I have an interesting question here though; Why does Paul give us ‘so also is Christ?’  οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός 1 Corinthians 12:12  So also is Christ.  Maybe a better way to read this might be thus indeed is the Christ.

Christ is the head of the Church let us leave it at that for now.

I’m also interested in the switch verse 12 – 13

οὕτως καὶ ὁ Χριστός· 13 καὶ γὰρ ἐν ἑνὶ πνεύματι ἡμεῖς πάντες εἰς ἓν σῶμα ἐβαπτίσθημεν 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

so also is Christ. 13 For  by one Spirit we were all baptized into one body 1 Corinthians 12:12-13

Something is missing here in the NASB and has been left untranslated.  The small ‘kai’ which is usually a conjunction ‘and’.  However, when it is used with ‘gar= for’ then the ‘and’ turns into indeed or something like it(adverbial).  I looked at a few translations and they all don’t add that little extra.  I think the reason might be that the idea of ‘indeed’ came with the earlier ‘kai’.  The NIV from my point of view was a disaster in translation;

13 For we were all baptized by[a] one Spirit so as to form one body—whether Jews or Gentiles, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.’ Taken from Bible Gateway.

The words ‘so as to form’ is not in the Greek text at all.  Dynamic equivalence is acting more as a commentary on the text than a translation.   The body of Christ is already here we don’t need the Bible translators to tell us the obvious.  I suppose that a more literal and wood text will protect scripture more.  If one starts adding a little here and a little there, there is room for religious cults to mince up the Holy Scriptures and give us a fairy tale.

The Giver of Gifts is Holy and therefore let us reciprocate this great love for the church and look beyond ourselves in love.

September 25, 2020

Now I decided to go over this section again.  I felt that it was important to look at some key words that can help us get deeper into the text.  So, the first thing I will do is just give a word list based on the text below.  Once we have gotten acquainted with the words, we can start to find out what Paul was really trying to say to the Corinthians.  When I do give the list of words don’t fret.  Like in English a word can have several meanings or interpretations.   But I felt it was important for you to see other ways it has been translated in the Bible.

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, and to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit, 10 and to another the effecting of  miracles, and to another prophecy, and to another the  distinguishing of spirits, to another various kinds of tongues, and to another the interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills. 1 Corinthians 12:4-11

EnglishGreek
Varieties  3xg1243. διαίρεσις diairesis ; from 1244; a division:–   varieties(3).
Gifts x2g5486. χάρισμα charisma ; from 5483; a gift of grace, a free gift:–
favor(1), free gift(3), gift(5), gifts(7), spiritual gift(1).

Ministriesg1248. διακονία diakonia ; from 1249; service, ministry:–
ministries(1), ministry(19), mission(1), preparations(1), relief(1), serve(1), service(7), serving(2), support(1).
giveng1325. δίδωμι didōmi ; redupl. from the root δο- do-; to give (in various senses lit. or fig.):–
add(1), allow(2), bestowed(4), cause(2), commanded*(1), dealing(1), drew(1), gave(79), give(122), given(117), gives(14), giving(12), grant(15), granted(10), granting(2), leave(1), make(1), offer(2), pass(1), pay(5), permitted(1), pour(1), poured(1), produce(1), produces(1), producing(1), put(6), puts(1), putting(1), show(1), struck*(1), utter(1), venture*(1), yielded(3).

So in verse 4 Paul  says that there  are a varieties of gifts.  It just means that there are various gifts.  The word for gift here is χάρισμα charisma which is to do with grace. In other words a free gift from God that has positive implications and is supposed to benefit the whole church.   I went on to Wikipedia and I found it interesting that this word come from being happy (from χαίρω (khaírō, “I am happy”)) + -μα (-ma).) . 

https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/%CF%87%CE%AC%CF%81%CE%B9%CF%83%CE%BC%CE%B1

Anyway, we should be happy that God loves us so much that he meets all our needs.  From the point of view of the 21st century however, people can interpret this in a selfish manner.  For example, this is a gift for me.  God wants to bless the whole church and not just the individual although I am not saying that you are not important.  When you are given a gift what do you do with it?  Perhaps you were given some money for some new clothes; Did you spend it on alcohol instead?  The gifts that are given here are by God, so we ought to show them the greatest of respect for we stand on holy ground.  If we stand on holy ground, then the gifts must be holy and must be used in a holy manner and how the Giver intended them to be used.

These gifts whatever they are those mentioned here and elsewhere have been given by the Holy Spirit for the Church.  Not any one person has all the gifts.  They are shared out.  Paul keeps saying ‘to another’ 4 or 5 times. 

The gift that has the most contention I suppose in the 21st century outside of Pentecostal and charismatic circles is tongues. Glossolalia from my point of view ought to be understood as a divine language rather than a foreign language.  Why do I come to this conclusion?  The reason is that as well as Christian glossolalia there were other mystic religions at the time that used it.  It was part of the ancient universal culture of the Middle East at the time. 

This article is interesting even if you don’t agree with it.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Glossolalia

I don’t claim to really understand what is going on in these chapters but I can say that God is bigger than us, his love is bigger than us, and his gifts are bigger than we could imagine or think.  God became a man and died in our place so that we could be in an eternal relationship with the divine.  What a blessing. Let us look beyond the gifts to our great Trinitarian God; Father, Son and Holy Spirit.

Where does wisdom and knowledge in the Church come from?

September 20, 2020

9/20/2020

8 For to one is given the word of wisdom through the Spirit, and to another the word of knowledge according to the same Spirit; 1 Corinthians 12:8

It is God the Holy Spirit who gives wisdom and knowledge to the Church through its members. Whether we take these words literally depending on our church tradtions; We can agree that the Holy Spirit shares out this wisdom and knowledge so, let us give God the glory and not puff up our own pride.

I want to say a few more words on a more general topic concerning chapters 12 through to chapter 14. For a lot of teachers of the Bible it causes them problems because they don’t know what to do with the spiritual gifts so they are denied. We cannot escape the fact that they are found in every Bible and it is God’s word. So are there any keys in the text itself to help us interpet these things. I think Paul really helps us here and let us not forget how 1 Corinthians actually started. There were different groups in the Church and this caused a lot of confusion for the church. Paul is laying down ground rules for the edification of the Church. Tongues was not a problem in the first century as it was practiced all over the ancient world especially in the temples, Roman and Greek. It is only natural for this culture to also be found in the Church among the believers as a mirror of society. This was not a problem; The problem was that their was a lack of discipline.

The Holy Spirit likes order as the text says and Paul lays this out. For me, my opinion; 1 Corinthians was an introduction to the spritual gifts and how they are used in the Church. Chapter 13 is the glue that gives cohesian to everything. Let us not forget chapter 11 in all of this as the launch pad for the rest of 1 Corinthians is Holy Communion. Be aware though that tongues was usually the last in the list of spiritual gifts unless there was an interpretor

Whatever our view on these verses as Christians we ought to love one another as a reality in our lives. We will continue on these verses.

Just a short note; I have decided to slow down on my blogs as I am studying and working at the moment. However I will attempt to still write two or three times a Week. Thanks a lot for following my blogs and feel free to leave mesages or even follow.

God the Holy Spirit manifests Himself in the believers for the good of all in the Church.

September 19, 2020

9/19/2020

7 But to each one is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. 1 Corinthians 12:7

We ought to remember the Holy Spirit gives these manifestations for the common good in the Church.  We do not force the Holy Spirit.  The problem I have in a lot of this is that some pastor somewhere comes up with some ‘new gift’ and he says that this is for the 21 century.   Test everything by Scripture and prayer with humility. There are too many false prophets out there claiming this and that.

The same God who works all things in all!

September 18, 2020

9/18/2020

6 There are varieties of effects, but the same God who works all things in all persons. 1 Corinthians 12:6

I like this verse.  The reason I like it is that the Holy Spirit works how he wills.  Who is to say that because these spiritual gifts are not practiced that this effect may be what the Holy Spirit wants or that where these gifts are practiced that that may be what the Holy Spirit wants? It is that as human beings we all think our way is the best way.  Let us stop and remember that it is the Holy Spirit that works in the church and so we ought to put are false humility aside.

There is but one Lord!

September 17, 2020

9/17/2020

5 And there are varieties of ministries, and the same Lord. 1 Corinthians 12:5

There is one Lord.  It is interesting that Jesus said whoever is the first will be the last and whoever is the last will be the first.  We ought to practice this in our congregations.  A ministry is a service whatever the service might be.  It could be making a cup of tea for someone in the church or buying a burger for a homeless person because they haven’t had anything to eat.  

There are many gifts which God the Holy Spirit shares out as He wills

September 16, 2020

9/16/2020

4 Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:4

When we talk about the gifts, let us be aware that it is God the Holy Spirit that gives these gifts. There is no evidence in the Bible that these gifts died out as some segments of the Church says.  God does not Change; He is the Same yesterday, today and forever. In Corinth there were many false gifts in these cultic religions but not the real thing. The Church is different. We need to search our hearts and make sure it is in the appropriate place. If we are from a charismatic background do, we emphasis the ‘power’ and get some type of emotional kick out of it and offer false worship to God and live a lie. We think more about the gift that the Giver.  This is a real danger and if you have done this repent and get your life aligned how it ought to be.

We might be on the other spectrum and say that the gifts are dead and gone.  I would say; What are you afraid of? Are you scared that the outer appearance of church discipline will break the church? Perhaps you as a church are being too disciplinarian and stifling the work of the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is God and you are not the giver of these gifts.  Be careful that you don’t stand in Gods way.  Although as Christians let us always remember the Lords table that we humble ourselves.  It is no accident that the greatest gift to the world and the church is the death of Christ and everything should point us to Christ and what he accomplished.

In all of this let us remember that there is no such thing as the perfect Christian and when discussing let us show true humility in these things. Whatever side of the Church you are from.  For there is only one church, not three hundred or four hundred.

The Use of Spiritual Gifts

September 15, 2020

9/15/2020

1 Now concerning spiritual gifts, brethren, I do not want you to be unaware. 2 You know that when you were pagans, you were led astray to the mute idols, however you were led. 3 Therefore I make known to you that no one speaking by the Spirit of God says, “Jesus is accursed”; and no one can say, “Jesus is Lord,” except by the Holy Spirit. 1 Corinthians 12:1-3

If we have learned anything from the previous chapter, it is this; Christ gave Himself for us in the sacrifice.  It is also very interesting that in the Gospels Christ said that the first will be last and the last will be first.  We need this mindset when we come to 1 Corinthians 12 and leave all selfishness outside the church door.  So here at the beginning of chapter 12 Pauls sets out some base rules for Chrsitians.  Spiritual gifts are given by the Holy Spirit, the third Person of the Trinity so let us walk in humilty when talking about these things.  The spiritual gifts do exist and they exist for the building up of the church.   So, Paul starts with ‘I do not want you to be unaware… you were led astray by mute idols and then he reinforces it ‘howver you were led astray.’

My question at this point is; If the Corinthians were led astray in the first place, could this going in the wrong direction happen in the Church.  Yes, you already know the answer; We can be led astray.

Paul here at the very beginning of his talk puts down some base rules…

He says that ‘no one by the Holy Spirit can say Jesus is accursed’Then he continues Except by the Holy Spirit no one can say Jesus is Lord.

This is a very fundamental saying Paul Makes and it should hit us to the core of our lives… How do we walk in this world.  Is Jesus indeed our Lord? Do we love our neighbour and our enemies?  Do we desire only the will of the Lord… For to call someone Lord means being obedient to that Lord.  As the Corinthians already knew they used to worship idols. The idols were their gods.   Have you really repented of your sins? Have you genuinely made Jesus your Lord.   Humility is a prereuisite for anything spiritual so if a persons seeks out of selfish motives for some type of emotional power kick then there is something seriously wrong.