Wednesday, May 16, 2018

Reading Through 1 Corinthians #1 (1-4)

schenk 1 CorinthiansThis post will begin a read through Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians accompanied by 1 & 2 Corinthians: A Commentary for Bible Students, by Kenneth Schenck. This commentary approaches the text from a Wesleyan perspective. The read through will be pretty quick (2-3 chapters in each sitting) and will focus on the main points in the letter. If there are questions we can go into more detail on the Facebook discussion. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul writes to the Corinthians to deal with some problems in the church there that have come to his attention. It is important for us to always read this letter, and all of Paul's letters, with their original audience in mind, and to not read them as abstract theological treatises. The big problem that the church had was that it was not unified and was divided into factions. Paul first deals with the big issue: the church must be unified because of its loyalty to Christ alone. Paul then deals with several issues that were causing the disunity. The bottom line is that the church becomes unified when we, together, imitate the self-giving of Jesus' cross and give up our "rights" for those of one another and the gospel. We can do this because God is faithful and will use our service to accomplish his plan for the resurrection (as Jesus rose) and renewal of all creation. 

God’s church is much bigger than any lone individual or even a particular denomination. Paul will drive us again and again to read the truths of 1 Corinthians together as a body of Christians rather than as individuals. 1 Corinthians 1.1-3, 33

The thanksgiving section thus both begins and ends with God’s graciousness. It is the gracious God who has enriched the Corinthians in speaking and knowledge (1:5). It is the gracious God who has dispensed gifts on the community, confirming their calling (1:7). This same gracious God would be faithful to see them through to the end so that by His power they would be blameless when Christ returned to the earth. God has accomplished all these things by bringing the Corinthians into fellowship with his Son Jesus Christ (1 Cor. 1:9). 1 Corinthians 1.4-9, 37

Paul lays out the basic issue in 1.10-17. The church's unity must be based on its absolute loyalty to Jesus Christ. Ultimate loyalty is not to anyone but Jesus. Any leader that is followed must be followed only as he/she follows Christ. There is no room for pride or human power because everyone comes into the Christian family on the basis of Jesus' death on the cross. This is totally contrary to world's way of accomplishing things. The world works on the basis of power and status. God works through self-sacrifice, admission of weakness and humility. This does not seem wise in a human sense, but this is how God changes the world. Thus, Paul calls the Corinthians to a cross-shaped life that submits its power, status, abilities, positions to God and to serving God's people and the gospel. We can trust that God will be faithful to accomplish his plan and use our service to glorify him and renew his creation.

1 Corinthians 1:10 is arguably the “proposition” of the letter, the basic point Paul was trying to make. If the church would only learn to be united in their attitudes, their problems would be solved. 1 Corinthians 1.10-17, 39

Did Paul really mean to suggest that God’s messiah showed His victory by dying on the Roman tool of shame and humiliation?...We may not always understand what God is doing in our lives and in the world. At times it may seem like we are in a position of weakness and that we are defeated. It is at this point we must remind ourselves of God’s priorities. 1 Corinthians 1.18-31, 49

Paul ends this section where he began it: with a reminder that the Christian gospel is about God’s power (2:3–5) and wisdom, not ours...Paul reminds the Corinthians that it is not eloquence or philosophical wisdom that counts, but the power of God. 1 Corinthians 2.1-5, 50–51

In chapters 2-4 Paul continues to apply the principle that the church must be unified around Jesus and his mission for the church. It seems that one group in the Corinthian church, possibly led by Apollos, was claiming superiority as Christians to the rest of the church based on their standing in the community and, perhaps, on an over-realized eschatology that saw themselves as already ruling with Christ and free from the moral restraints of Torah. Paul counters this with the idea that true wisdom comes only from the Spirit who teaches us that, in this age, the self-sacrifice of the cross provides our standard for living. The divisions in the church demonstrate this group's lack of spiritual wisdom and maturity. Those who strive for status and rely on worldly power show that they are not connected to the Spirit. Thus, to emphasize human leaders, placing oneself above others, and other arrogant actions betray the spirit of the world in action rather than the spirit of Christ. While we are called to judge words and actions (for the purpose of redemption and in concert with the whole church), judging motivations, condemning others, and dividing over non-essential issues betrays a lack of spirituality and immaturity. The church belongs to Jesus, not to any person, human theology or denomination.

Suffice it to say we often find Christians today who think themselves more spiritual than others, “holier than thou.” It is exactly this attitude that Paul was combating at Corinth. As soon as you have this attitude, you are beginning to think according to the wisdom of the world, for it is worldly thinking that thinks in terms of superiority and higher status. 1 Corinthians 2.6-3.4, 56

God’s wisdom is a hidden wisdom discerned by the Spirit. The truly spiritual grasp the wisdom of the cross and the power of weakness. Our weakness underlines God’s strength. The factionalism at Corinth indicated that the problem Corinthians were not spiritual at all, but carnal, mere infants in Christ. 1 Corinthians 3.5-23, 61

Paul clearly believed that there was a time to pass judgment on the immoral actions of others, particularly other believers. But God is the one who ultimately passes judgment on hidden human motives...In general, it is best to err on the side of compassion than on the side of judgment, for this is the attitude God and Christ have modeled for us. 1 Corinthians 4, 71–72

Tuesday, May 15, 2018

Psalm 19 Message and Outline

Psalm 19 1-6 parallel elements

Outline of 19.1-6

Creation is overwhelming evidence of God’s wonderful character, power and universal care for his creation and His people.

  • Creation is a constant, universal and non-verbal evidence to God’s character and power
    • The creation is evidence to God’s glorious character and work.
    • The evidence of the creation is constant.
    • The evidence provided by the creation is non-verbal
    • The evidence provided by the creation is universal
  • The sun is evidence of God’s glory, power and universal control and care
    • The brightness of the sun is evidence of God’s glory
    • The scope of the sun’s influence is evidence of God’s power
    • The sun is evidence of God’s universal control and care

Psalm 19.7-11 parallel elements

Outline and Message of 19.7-11

Torah (God’s wise instructions for life) is desirable and enjoyable because it shows and leads to the practical and eternal benefits of righteous living within God’s creation.

  • The Word of God is absolutely reliable to produce the eternal and practical benefits of righteous living
  • Living by God’s Word brings meaning and joy to life.
  • Living by God’s Word protects from evil and brings reward

Psalm 19 12-14 parallel elements

Outline and Message of 19.12-14 (A Prayer)

When combined with a desire for for God and pleasing him, the Word of God can guide us toward discernment, victory over and forgiveness of sin, and produce a lifestyle pleasing to God.

  • God can use his word to provide discernment
  • God can use his word to deliver one from the power and guilt of sin
  • God can use his  word to make our thoughts and actions acceptable to Him

Monday, May 14, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #4 (12-16)

Romans KeenerThis post concludes my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In the final section of the letter Paul explains how the church, based on a common salvation by grace through faith, lives together in unity. I do recommend this commentary for pastors as a good resource for sermon preparation and teaching. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

In chapter 12 Paul turns to practical behavior that will demonstrate to the world that, because of Christ, believers of different cultures and backgrounds can live in peace, unity and love. This is only possible when the basis of life is viewed as relationship with God empowered by the Spirit. First, the believer must be willing to sacrifice self (one's own body and desires) for the greater body, the body of Christ. Each one must be willing to humbly use the gifts God has given to love and serve each other and God's kingdom mission. This means that each one must honor the other more than oneself. In response to government this means that Christians should be model citizens, though with a higher allegiance to God. The proper response to persecution is love and service to the persecutor. Within the body, freedoms should be used to "build up one another" and we should be sensitive and tolerant of differences in custom and perspective in non-essential areas. The bottom line is that loyalty to Christ, love for His body and commitment to His kingdom should overrule any other allegiance. When the church models this kind of unity its witness is very powerful. 

Paul will show that believers can choose in their minds to present their bodies for the service of a greater “body,” the body of Christ with whom they have been united (12:4–5). When believers offer themselves as sacrifices, they imitate Jesus, whose death Paul has already presented as a bloody sacrifice (3:25; 5:9; 8:3). Nevertheless, believers offer themselves not only by sometimes being martyred (cf. 8:36), but while alive (“living”). Romans 12, 143

Paul cooperated with the Jerusalem church’s identification with their culture (which was also his culture, Acts 21:20–26), but not to the extent of honoring such nationalism above his commitment to the Gentile mission (Acts 22:21–22). When Christians are more loyal to our ethnicity or nation than to Christ’s body, when nationalism or racism corrupts our love for fellow believers, we have gone beyond giving Caesar what is Caesar’s to giving Caesar what is God’s. Romans 13, 157

For Paul, then, sin is not only a matter of behaviors, but of motives. A weak conscience with weak faith would be healthier if it were strong, but such maturation must come by persuasion regarding what is God’s will, not by simply changing behavior without regard for motives. By appealing to the larger principle that “anything not ‘from faith’ is sin,” Paul also returns to his emphasis on faith as a relationship with God in contrast to mere regulations. Romans 14, 168–169

Paul concludes the body of the letter with a summary encouragement to not just tolerate each other across cultural lines, but to serve one another and demonstrate the unity that their common salvation brings in practical ways. This is why Paul was returning to Jerusalem to bring the monetary gift from the Gentile churches to serve the poor in the Jewish church in Jerusalem. Another way this unity would be shown was by the churches providing the support for Paul's mission to bring the gospel to Spain. Paul closes the letter with greetings to the church in Rome from Paul and his fellow believers in Corinth. Significantly, most of Paul's commendations go to women who served prominently in the Gentile churches. Paul concludes the letter with a blessing that the church would continue to go out and bring the gospel, which brings both Jews and Gentiles together into relationship with God, to all the world.

Believers should again follow Jesus’s example by accepting one another as he accepted all of them (15:7). This expectation climaxes the section’s opening exhortation to accept one another (14:1) because of God’s acceptance (14:3). That Christ accepted believers to the Father’s “glory” (15:7) fits the exhortation to “glorify” God together (15:6), a model relevant for Gentile believers (15:9). Romans 15.1-13, 171–172

Paul’s mission of laying foundations for the unevangelized (15:20) coheres with his mission of keeping the new Diaspora churches in spiritual unity with the Jerusalem church despite all their differences. It also provides a model for the unity of the culturally different Jewish and Gentile believers in Rome. Romans 15.14-33, 178

Paul’s frequent concern for God’s honor and name in this letter climaxes in a final praise to God for the wise way he has arranged history so that Gentiles as well as Jews may come to obey Israel’s God through faith in Jesus the Messiah. Romans 16, 193

Friday, May 11, 2018

Family Stuff in California

20180507_182834 (1024x768)

989 (768x1024)We really do miss our Guam and PIU families. It was pretty hard for us to not be there last weekend to see so many of our students, that we spent so much time with, graduate. But, one of the benefits of being in California is that we are able to participate in family events that we missed while overseas. We enjoyed doing that twice this week. Early in the week we celebrated my sister’s 20180510_175650 (1024x768)birthday with several family members. (Above: Nate, Joyce, Jayne, mom, Jonah) The Mexican food was good but the conversation and laughter was even better. Then last night we got to be “grandma and grandpa” at Leila’s kindergarten open house. Again it was an enjoyable time and she was very pleased to guide us around her classroom. She then chose pizza to celebrate so we ended the evening at Round Table. What a blessing for us!

Thursday, May 10, 2018

Chart and Message of the Psalms

Psalms Chart

Message of the Psalms

God's people need to focus their entire being (mind, emotions, body and will) on God's character, attributes and actions so that they can properly worship Him and live their lives in a way that pleases Him and brings glory to Him.

The Psalms celebrate the unchangeable nature of God's character and attributes (compassion, grace, faithfulness, patience, power, omnipresence, love, justice et. al) so that His people will put trust in his consistency and practice covenant love with Him and others.

  • Psalms were meant to be sung. God is to be worshipped with emotion. They involve strong feeling, anger, life, love, joy etc. They are not just information.
  • The hymn psalms praise God's character and attributes. Knowledge of and relationship with God is the key to understanding and handling life correctly.  8
  • Pilgrimage Psalms were designed to be sung by travelers on their way to Jerusalem for festivals and celebrate the joy of worship. 133

The Psalms recount God's great acts of creation and redemption in the past to encourage worship, prayer, and praise and to encourage those in difficult situations that He will act in the future in the same way to deliver those who are faithful to his covenant.

  • The thanksgiving psalms celebrate God's acts of deliverance and give examples of praise. 9

The Psalms celebrate the hope of redemption and righteousness, both spiritual (forgiveness) and physical (national deliverance, resurrection), to encourage God's people to have faith in God's promises. 

  • The Lament Psalms express faith in the midst of difficulty. The distress is faced realistically but the psalmist prays and hopes in God. The difficulty is seen as a chance for God to act.   3
  • Penitential Psalms expressed the confession of the psalmist for sin.  51
  • Psalms of Victory and Confidence express the psalmist’s faith that the LORD will bring covenant   blessing. 23

Some Psalms celebrate the Kingdom of God both in its manifestation in God's present rule over all creation and in the future coming kingdom in which God will be present in His fullness to encourage His people to submit to Him now.

  • Enthronement psalms celebrate the rule of God over creation and His people.  93
  • Imprecatory psalms called down a curse on the enemies of God. 58

The Psalms emphasize the coming of the Davidic Messiah as God's instrument in extending God's kingdom throughout the earth, fulfilling all the covenant promises and fulfilling God's purposes for the Davidic dynasty, Israel, and mankind.

  • The Royal psalms celebrate God's rule in Israel and look ahead to the coming Messiah  2
  • Prophetic Psalms reveal God's future plans, usually about the Messiah. 110
  • Messianic Psalms describe the Messiah and his life usually in typological form. 22

Some Psalms emphasize the wisdom that God's people should display in their response to His revelation by seeking Him, maintaining the correct perspective on the ups and downs of life, and living faithfully.

  • Wisdom psalms teach the reader to live righteously and wisely. 1       
  • Torah psalms celebrate God's revelation in the Law and urge obedience to it.  119

The Psalms are the heart cry of God's people to God that speak to God's people of all ages.

Wednesday, May 09, 2018

Reading Through the Letter to the Romans #3 (9-11)

Romans KeenerThis post continues my reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans accompanied by Romans, New Covenant Commentary Series, by Craig S. Keener. In this important section Paul argues that the Gentile mission was always in the plan of God. However, this does not mean that the Gentiles displace the Jews. The church will always have a Jewish remnant and. before Christ returns, there will be a great return of Israelites to God. I am posting from my reading in the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries on Monday, Wednesday and Friday and welcome comments and discussion on my Facebook page. I am using the Logos version of the book. As usual my comments are in black and quotes from the book are in blue.

Paul returns to the issue of Jew and Gentile in the church in chapter 9. First, he shares his concern for his Jewish countrymen who have not believed in the One who fulfills their scriptures and God's purpose for them. First, he again answers the objection to the gospel that most Jews have not believed with the fact that not all ethnic Jews or sons of Abraham were in the covenant. God has always worked through a chosen remnant. The Hebrew scriptures show that God is free to choose His people and show mercy to whomever He pleases. Keener sees Paul as using the Exodus story here as a paradigm of how God works in saving and preparing a people. God "raised up" pharaoh, an evil man, to show His power over evil to save the nation and even lead Egyptians to join with them. Paul's point is that what is happening in his time is consistent with the way God has worked in His people in the past.

Because Scripture often associated God’s righteousness with his covenant faithfulness to Israel, the failure of some Israelites to believe could appear to some as a sign of God’s unrighteousness (9:14, essentially repackaging the objection in 3:3, 5). But the very question is misplaced, Paul shows, for God is right to do as he pleases, and what he pleases will always be what is right. Humanity merits punishment, but God shows mercy and compassion where he wills (9:15), graciously saving some though he is obligated to save none (cf. 3:23). Romans 9.1-15, 118

Paul can infer that God cares about Gentiles as well as Jews (9:24). Just as the new exodus of salvation evokes the pattern of how God saved Israel in the first exodus, so is the pattern in this passage. In 9:22–23 the wrath against the Gentile Pharaoh prefigures the eschatological wrath (cf. 2:5; 5:9), but the mercy (evoking 9:16–18 and especially the text in 9:15) involves salvation, for both Gentiles and ultimately Israel (11:30–32; 15:9). Romans 9.16-30, 120–121

Paul continues his discussion of the relationship between Jews and Gentiles in the church in 9.30-11.36. First he deals with the issue of so few Jews receiving the message of Christ. He says that the reason so few Jews have followed Christ is the same as in the OT (and the same reason most people in general don't respond): they refuse to trust God for their righteousness and want to establish it on their own terms. This is why the true people of God have always been a "remnant." The problem is not with God because salvation has always been readily available to everyone by faith (chapter 10). In chapter 11 he responds to the idea that God has rejected the Jews. Paul's presence, along with a Jewish remnant, in the church is present proof that God has not rejected the Jews. Paul sees Jewish "disobedience" as temporary, which allows the gathering of the nations into God's family. He thinks that the massive influx of Gentiles in the church will "provoke the Jews to jealousy," and in the end, there will be a great Jewish movement to turn to Christ and God's plan will be complete. The big point is that Jew and Gentile should humbly serve together in the church and love one another because all of us are in God's family by God's grace. Nobody is righteous before God because of their ethnic origin or their own good deeds.  

Just as God prefaced the Ten Commandments with a reminder of redemption (Exod 20:2), so now salvation from sin was by grace through faith, expressed by right-doing. God’s way of saving through the newer historical salvation event in Christ is analogous to the way he saved through the law. Romans 9.30-10.10, 127

As Christ’s death produced reconciliation, so did Israel’s loss (5:10; 11:15). But just as Christ’s risen life will produce even greater benefits than his death (5:9; 8:32), so also Israel’s restoration will produce greater blessings than their failure (11:12). Romans 11.1-24, 133

Paul expects the obedience of a number of Gentiles from all nations to the God of Israel to provoke Israel to jealousy, hence to turn to Jesus, bringing about the promised restoration (11:11–15). This observation suggests Paul’s expectation of the second option: the completion of the Gentile mission in 11:25 would in turn lead to the Jewish people trusting in Christ, precipitating his return. Romans 11.25-36, 138

Tuesday, May 08, 2018

Chart, Message and Outline of Malachi

Malachi Chart

Message of Malachi

Repent NOW from your spiritual apathy and show your commitment to God with your words and actions because the Messiah is coming soon to judge and bless.

Preaching/Theological Outline of Malachi

The message is URGENT because God’s soon arrival means judgment is coming soon.

  • The message is a “burden.” Something is wrong and needs to be fixed. 1:1
  • God will separate the wicked for judgment and the righteous for blessing when He comes. 4:1-4
    God’s messenger will give a final opportunity to repent before judgment. 4:5-6

LOVE: God reaches out to you in love so respond to His love. 1:2-5

  • Charge: God reached out in love to Israel with covenant and promises and they have not responded.
  • Proof: God chose them to be His special people and gave them a wonderful inheritance. 
  • God has given the church special blessing and privilege (Ephesians 1:3-5). Our response should be loving, passionate commitment.

HONOR: Give God the respect He deserves. 1:6-2:9

  • Charge: God is not getting the respect He deserves as Father and Master  1:6
  • Evidence:
    • Sloppy half-hearted worship; giving their “leftovers.”  1:7-10
    • They gave less than their best, as little as possible. Worship was a tiresome duty 11-12
    • The priests despised the privilege of service. 2:1-9
  • We need to serve God in a way fitting to His character and to the Kingdom privileges He gives us.

FAITHFULNESS: Keep covenant with God if you want to experience blessing. 2:10-16

  • Charge: Israel was treacherous and had broken the covenant. 2:10
  • Evidence:
    • Idolatry: Their idolatrous marriages were a compromise with sin.   11-12
      • Those who compromise with sin shouldn’t expect to experience God’s blessing 13
    • Divorce: Divorce is treachery against a spouse and against God who is the witness. 14
      • God views divorce as violence; It makes Him sick 15-16
  • Solution: Guard faithfulness in all your relationships. Keep your commitments.  16b

HOPE: Trust God for the future. His character guarantees His promises. 2:17-3:6

  • Charge: God is tired of people acting and talking like He doesn’t keep His promises. 2:17
  • Warning: God is coming to His temple to purge out sin completely. 3:1-6
    • God will send warnings but His coming will be sudden (Be ready!!)
    • The character of  “God with us” guarantees salvation but also guarantees purging of sin.  5-6

OBEDIENCE: Our obedient use of money is a good measure of our commitment. 3:7-12

  • Charge: The people have not turned to God and in fact, are robbing God. 7-8
  • Evidence: The people were not paying the tithe commanded in the Mosaic Covenant. 8
  • Solution: Bring the whole tithe. Complete obedience will yield complete blessing. 10-12
  • Application: Our use of money is a good measure of our commitment under the new covenant

REVERENCE: God wants heartfelt worship that leads to committed service. 3:13-18

  • Charge: Arrogance against God 13
  • Evidence: The way the people talk to each other.  14-15  They say....
    • “It is useless to serve God” - There are no absolutes.
    • “No reward for obedience” - Self centered
    • “arrogant blessed” - Wrong, present oriented, value system.
  • Solution: Encourage one another that God has a “book of remembrance” and He will never forget faithful sacrificial service. Christians should act in the now and be motivated by the future

Do your words and actions show that you are ready for Messiah to come suddenly?