Tuesday, July 31, 2018

Reading Through Philemon

witheringtonI am continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “prison” letters. I am reading  Paul’s letter to Philemon accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. This short epistle powerfully asserts the social implications of the gospel. 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 Philemon, with the entire Colossian church as a witness, to urge him to forgive and free his runaway slave Onesimus and allow him to work with Paul as a helper to his ministry. Paul asserts that he has the authority as an apostle to command Philemon to do this but he will not use that authority. Instead uses several means to persuade Philemon to do the right thing. He appeals to his imprisonment and need for Onesimus' service. He reminds Philemon that he owes his opportunity for salvation to Paul. Paul also appeals to the spiritual truth that Onesimus is now Philemon's spiritual brother and that relationship, rather than legal or social conventions, should guide the way that he treats Onesimus in this situation. Our relationship to Christ, and the unmerited blessing and forgiveness we have received, should always be the basis for the way we live out social relationships, especially when this involves being wronged. 

“Calling Jesus Christ kyrios in this letter is particularly significant, because as a common noun the word denotes ‘lord, master’ and was particularly used in the contrast of kyrios and doulos, ‘master’ and ‘slave’ in the social world of the time.” This takes on added significance in this letter because Philemon himself has a Master, who provides him with a model as to how he should behave in this situation. Philemon 1-7, 56

Paul contrasts acting according to constraint to acting according to a freewill offering. Philemon must be free to set Onesimus free; otherwise the kind of constraint imposed on a slave would be imposed on a reluctant and unwilling Philemon. Paul does not wish to enslave Philemon to his own will in order to free Onesimus. “Paul touches here on a delicate human problem: that the good that humans do must come from them spontaneously and of their own free will, and not because of any necessity or constraint. This is the essence of being human. Philemon 8-16, 77

In Paul’s mind Philemon has only one option, but in Philemon’s mind there are two because prior to Onesimus’ running away he lived in two worlds. Previously, he could be “in Christ” while still being and acting like the master of a slave “in the world.” Now he finds that “being in Christ” makes a totalistic claim upon him from which there are no exceptions. If he is to remain in the service of Christ the Lord, he cannot be “in Christ” only when he is “in church.” … Because they are in Christ, Onesimus cannot be both Philemon’s slave and his brother, and Philemon cannot be both Onesimus’ master and his brother. Philemon 17-22, Quoting N.R. Peterson, 88–89

In this letter, Paul is subtly overturning Roman social conventions, based on Christian relationships. I think this is also what he is doing in the "household codes" in Ephesians, Colossians and in the pastoral epistles. Paul does not command or enforce social change. He wants it to come from the changed hearts of both those in power and those who are oppressed. Paul does not coerce Philemon because he wants him to see his own blind spots to his failure to apply the gospel to his daily life. Paul wants to bring about social change by changing the hearts and perspectives of both the powerful oppressor and the slave, so that both see themselves as Christ's "slaves" and each other as brothers equal before Christ and practically relate to each other accordingly.

All of us have blind spots, some moral, some of other sorts. Yes, even Christians can have huge blind spots and bouts with selective conscience. Before we too quickly condemn a Paul for not being more strident in his condemnation of slavery, we need to bear in mind that he was seeking a way to remedy an existing evil, not endorsing an oppressive situation. Philemon, 96

The church today, as in Paul’s day, is a voluntary society. And as such, it must live and die by persuasion, freely offered and freely received, if we are to treat each other with respect and dignity and love. Persuasion is just a sort of prayer or faith act turned toward our fellow believers and offered up in the sight of the one who is capable of things that mere mortals are not capable of. Philemon, 96–97

Saturday, July 28, 2018

Reading Through Paul’s Letter to Titus

cornerstone tim to hebI am continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” letters. I am reading  Paul’s letter to Titus accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 2 Timothy commentary is written by John Laansma. Paul wrote to Titus to instruct him to organize the church in Crete, develop godly leadership, oppose false teaching and disciple the new converts there into a lifestyle that showed God's grace at work in their lives. 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 the first chapter Paul jumps right into the issue. His greeting outlines the basis of the ministry Titus was called to and into which he would ordain and train leaders. God has entrusted his word to people who are gifted to train others in understanding and applying the scriptures, especially the message about Jesus and what he has done. As grace is applied the church grows. Thus, elders must be people of integrity who demonstrate the work of grace in their behavior, families, and relationships and are able to teach that to others. This is important because the surrounding culture (each culture has its own manifestation of God's image, but also its own pet sins that demonstrate its rebellion against God) is trying to influence people away from grace. Thus, Titus must appoint leaders who will stand against the false teachers and be shining examples of gracious living.

The church has the profound privilege of sharing in the work that Christ came to do; our work in the present is an extension of his saving appearance in the past... In some sense, which is only hinted at, we participate in eternal life now. Titus 1.1-4, 227

The elder-overseer must be a theologian, deep and true. This is true for whatever the precise form the job profile takes in a given church or cultural setting. That person must be steeped in the Scriptures, must be schooled in the church’s teaching, and must possess the ability to teach the Good News in truth and correct error. Titus 1.5-9, 241

Paul’s argument seems to assume the fact that sin and evil were not for him merely abstractions and universals. They always take particular forms within the world, uniquely expressing themselves in each time and culture. Our own struggles with sin, too, are not merely struggles with a timeless, transcendent reality but with the concreteness that sin has taken in our culture and society, both locally and globally. Titus 1.10-16, 249

Thus, the church must be characterized by grace in its teaching and behavior. The mature people must be able to live as examples of people who know the word and are able understand how to apply it in their specific cultural, family and social situations. Grace should not result in license, but in disciplined, serving, and loving lifestyles that are attractive to the people within the culture around them, even as they change many aspects of that culture to bring them into step with the movement of grace in their midst. The church does this in the world because that is how Jesus came to them. He meets people where they are and changed them into the image of God they were meant to be. If believers really understand this they will want to be like Christ. God's grace changes people!

Application must have a theological basis or it withers and dies. Once again, theology (which is not merely propositional, but it is propositional) is the soil in which right living grows or the vine from which it sprouts. Application without theology is a cut flower, beautiful only for a short while. The modern church craves relevance and authentic living. That is very good. But if this represents a neglect of the underlying wholesome teaching in all its depth and richness, things will not fare well for long. Titus 2.1-10, 260

Receiving God’s grace means more than just getting a ticket out of hell. It means “getting on board” with what God is doing in the world. The language of the past and future “saving appearances” of Christ is exciting stuff, and we are called to participate in it—to be a part of the game, not merely to applaud it; to join the struggle, not merely to watch it. Titus 2.11-15, 272

This doesn't mean it will be easy. Believers need to work hard, be good citizens, stand for grace and sometimes endure opposition and persecution because of their stand. All these things must be handled as Christ handled them. The ultimate purpose of grace is that you might share in Christ’s character for all eternity. Believers must Work hard to give God’s grace to others as He has given grace to them.

For both Paul and Jesus, believers are those who follow their lead into the public square, and the good works have a point that goes well beyond staying under the speed limit, keeping a nice lawn, and paying the bills on time. The ambition is larger: the promotion of faith, love, and hope, justice, mercy, and faithfulness to whatever degree possible, always with a view to the expansion of the ultimate and perfect salvation and life that are in Christ. Titus 3.1-8, 281

Certainly this depiction of God’s behavior in salvation was meant to serve as a model for the behavior of the Cretans toward their compatriots. Titus 3.1-11, 285

As individual believers center their identity in Christ, this means they also center their identity within the body of Christ, the church. It has been noted more than once in the preceding commentary that Paul’s churches were sharing in and animated by the same life-giving vision that propelled his own apostolic mission. The spiritual gifts of the body are distinct, and the individual members of the church accordingly have different responsibilities, but the body as a whole is unified in its purpose and activity. Titus 3.12-15, 295

Friday, July 27, 2018

Latest Medical Update–July 2018

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20180726_140049The Picture above was taken in front of Stanford hospital where Joyce and I spent most of last week. We had three doctor appointments, 2 sets of blood tests and a PET scan. The bottom line: The news is very good. First, there was no trace of the lymphoma in the PET scan. The spots on the previous scans had faded almost completely. I will need to have one more scan in December-January. Though I am cancer-free now (PTL!), I need to be cancer-free for a full year after my stem cell transplant to be declared officially cancer-free. So that will happen with my next scan. Thank you for praying. This is a tremendous answer to prayer. The edema doctor says that my edema is chronic and will require life-time management. He is working with the physical therapist to come up with a plan for managing that. I am hoping that the edema can be reduced and my life can be a bit more “normal.” (Picture is me with our transplant doctor and Stanford social worker.) What a great blessing all the Stanford people have been to us!

20180725_140241So we are hoping to resume doing some mission work soon. We need to work out some of our insurance issues before we can make firm plans but we hope to be able to do that soon. We’d appreciate your prayers for that and more information will be coming as soon as we can figure that out. We did get a chance to spend some time in Scotts Valley and Santa Cruz. We had a good chance to talk with several of our friends at Gateway Bible Church and plan to be there for their Missions Conference in November. We also enjoyed eating lunch on the wharf in Santa Cruz. It has been a good week.

Thursday, July 26, 2018

Structure and Message of Esther

Esther Chart

Message of Esther

God works within all events and the choices of people to bring about His purposes (Providence) to preserve His people, bless those He chooses and bring about His kingdom (despite the faithlessness of God’s own people). Human beings can cooperate and be blessed or they can resist and bear the just consequences and judgment of God for their actions.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Reading Through Second Timothy

cornerstone tim to hebWe are continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” letters. I am reading  Paul’s second letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 2 Timothy commentary is written by John Laansma. 2 Timothy is Paul's final letter. He writes to "pass on the baton" of gospel ministry to Timothy and the next generation of church leaders. 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 reminds Timothy and the Ephesian church leaders of the need to endure in ministry relationships because they are in the "last days" when the battle between spiritual forces of evil and the kingdom of God will reach its greatest intensity. Timothy must pass down the gospel he received from Paul with his words and with his life despite the opposition it will cause. But Timothy can be confident because God's plan assures that the kingdom of God will win in the end.

First, Paul urges Timothy endure in his loyalty to God, to Paul and to the gospel message. Timothy can minister boldly because God's grace that raised Christ from the dead is working in him through God's Spirit and calling. Timothy must be loyal to Jesus because Jesus is, ultimately, the only one who is able to guarantee our salvation individually and corporately. Paul cites Onesiphorus as an example of one who boldly came to visit Paul and identify himself with Paul and his suffering. Paul asks Timothy to come to him and do the same thing.

Paul would not have recognized our present-day contrasts of mind and heart or intellect and spiritual devotion. He was a theologian whose penetrating and expansive reflections both grew out of and engendered a deep and living piety. Enacting the fellowship of the gospel in daily sessions of prayer was a natural reflex, a discipline formed during his Jewish upbringing and transformed through his Christian faith. 2 Timothy 1.1-4, 135

The responsibility of maintaining the “deposit” of the Good News faithfully is not merely a matter of protecting a particular creedal statement and passing it on. It must be understood and embodied. It must be creatively and dynamically developed as we respond to our world in ways that are wise, compelling, and winsome. 2 Timothy 1.5-14, 148

Servants of the Good News who, like Onesiphorus, have left their families vulnerable for the sake of the Kingdom of God may find strong reassurance in these words, as may their families. 2 Timothy 1.15-18, 153–154

Paul wants Timothy to come to him to stress the point that, just as Paul poured his life into Timothy as an example, Timothy is to find faithful people into whom he can pour the truth into their lives through teaching and example. He is to endure hardship and avoid anything that will detract from his mission of discipleship. This includes diligent study of the scriptures so he can teach them accurately, and a pursuit of righteous character. This will create great opposition (inside and outside the church) to which he must respond boldly, gently, kindly, and with the goal, not to win arguments (a waste of time) but to win back estranged brothers and sisters.

Timothy was to search out people who will manifest the same virtues that Paul was exhorting Timothy himself to exhibit and to “deposit” the Good News with them, just as Paul had done with Timothy (1:12–14). Timothy was to form with them a relationship that would be sufficiently strong to assess their character and their capabilities, ensuring that they would understand what they receive, embody it, teach and defend it, and then, in like manner, raise up their own successors. 2 Timothy 2.1-7, 159

This self-giving, welling up out of Christ’s death and resurrection, is a fount of life that runs through the streambed of our own self-giving. Where does it all end, and what is the vision that draws us in mutual support and self-giving along the way? Salvation—resurrection and life—where death and dying are no more. And eternal glory! 2 Timothy 2.8-13, 164

For any who carry the feeling of stain on their lives—either through evil done by them or evil done to them—Scripture’s promises of cleansing are, for those who believe them, a source of unbelievable freedom and joyful service. Such a person will know himself or herself to be objectively qualified by God, immune from any accusation of wrongdoing, and subjectively emboldened, freed from an accusing conscience (1 John 3:18–24). The thought here is of no mere legal declaration of holiness that is contradicted by one’s actual living. In this context exactly the opposite is in view: This is a life marked by cleansing and holiness. 2 Timothy 2.14-26, 177

In chapter 3 Paul warns Timothy that the opposition of the false teachers is only part of the "great apostacy" that will get worse and worse until the appearing of Christ at the 2nd coming. Timothy must boldly endure in the power of the Spirit and oppose these false teachers and evil people by the godly character of his life and by preaching the gospel message of the scriptures. As Timothy grows in his knowledge and application of the scripture he will become wise and able to lead people to righteousness and oppose false teaching within the church. He will also be able to withstand the persecution he will receive.

Though alone in the darkness of prison, both the promise of God and the dangers of the last times are clear as day before his eyes. Speaking as a grizzled veteran to the new recruits, Paul’s attempt in 3:1–9 has been to make clear to them the hardships and enticements that will rush like waves over their attempts to maintain the ministry described in 2:14–26. Not all are up to the unvarnished truth of what lies ahead, and many, like the contemporaries of the prophet Jeremiah, prefer soothing, “optimistic” words. Paul’s wisdom is better; it belongs to what must be faithfully passed on.  2 Timothy 3.1-9, 191

The possibility of godliness and its orientation were now centered on Christ. As a life that would take up its cross and follow Jesus (Mark 8:34), such a life would partake in the willingness to suffer (and die, if necessary) for others. Thus, the idea goes beyond profession to denote an inner orientation with its resulting life lived before, because of, and for the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 3.10-13, 195

To say that Scripture is inspired is to say that its words are God-breathed (a more literal translation); it is God’s own personal speech breathed out by God. This does not negate the active involvement of human authors, but it does affirm that God is fully responsible for Scripture, and it is therefore as true, reliable, authoritative, permanent, and powerful as is God himself. Its message is coherent and consistent, and it is such in its witness to Jesus Christ. If it were not so, it could not bring salvation nor inspire faith. 2 Timothy 3.14-17, 198

Paul concludes with another exhortation to Timothy to never stop the preaching the word whether people want to hear it or not. He is to consistently apply scripture to his own life and patiently work with people to help them do the same. Even when people respond negatively to the word, keep at it. Paul closes the letter with another plea for Timothy to come to him. For various reasons, good and bad, he is alone in his imprisonment. He alludes to Psalm 22 to compare his sufferings with that of Jesus and his assurance that God will not abandon him and will bring from his impending death, the same victory assured by Christ's resurrection. People may disappoint us, but ultimately, God will not. The victory of his kingdom is sure.

When all is said and done, it is the word that must be preached, and this is not something that one simply wakes up and decides to do on any given day, nor is it necessarily what is happening when a speaker or the music makes our skin tingle. 2 Timothy 4.1-8, 203

In facing death the greatest burden of the faithful heart is not the nature of death’s instruments, whether they will be “natural” or hostile, not the degree of pain and suffering to be inflicted, but whether one will remain faithful in extremis, whether one’s confession will continue firm and uncompromised through the ravages of illness, tragedy, or torture, whether Jesus will be honored or we will be ashamed. In response, every servant of the Lord who aligns his or her life with the Good News can face not only death but the processes of death with a confidence equal to Paul’s. 2 Timothy 4.9-18, 216

What we have before us is not a mere “work” to be orchestrated and “professional relationships” of interest. Not even merely close friendships. Rather, before us is the “household of God” (1 Tim 3:15), whose brothers and sisters, though scattered over the world, shared a true sibling affection and a common passion for the Good News of Jesus Christ. 2 Timothy 4.19-22, 219

Saturday, July 21, 2018

Structure and Message of 2nd Thessalonians

2 Thessalonians Color Chart

Message of Second Thessalonians

Stand firm, keep growing and fulfill God’s calling with prayer, hard work and discipline because you can be confident that God will accomplish his plan to defeat evil and glorify Christ within you.

Brief Outline

  1. God‘s character and His purpose for your life encourage growth and give comfort in trials.
  2. The final Day of the LORD will not come until after the deception and revelation of the “lawless man.”
  3. Commands: Pray for one another and hold each other accountable now.

Friday, July 20, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #2, (Chapters 4-6)

cornerstone tim to hebWe are continuing my devotional study of Paul’s “pastoral” letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. Paul’s continues to urge Timothy to live out an example of Christlike servanthood, while at the same time urging him to be bold in his leadership. 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 denouncing the false teachers in 4.1-6. Timothy should not be surprised that they are there because they were predicted by Jesus and subsequent prophets in the church. Timothy must boldly oppose them (but without harshness) by exposing their errors (legalism, elitism and asceticism) and accurately and completely teaching the truth. Even though he is young Timothy is urged to boldly fulfill his responsibility to read and teach the scriptures and the apostolic doctrines and use the spiritual gifts God has given him. The best way to do it is with an example that lives out the teaching and gives more authority to his preaching and teaching.

Paul gives no restrictions or qualifications on what can be eaten except one: The food must be eaten “with thanks” by people who believe and recognize the truth through God’s word and prayer (4:5)...This makes gratitude more than a perfunctory blessing; it is an attitude toward life and all its blessings. 1 Timothy 4.1-6, 85

The statement that God is the “Savior of all people” on the face of it sounds like universalism, but it is not. Throughout the Pastorals, Paul is at pains to address the heretical teaching that claimed salvation is for only the chosen few who possess certain spiritual knowledge. Over against this few, Paul asserted that “all people” have access to “the living God” and hence to salvation (4:10). The emphasis is not on the whole of humanity being saved but on salvation’s availability to each and every person. 1 Timothy 4.7-16, 89–90

Paul now moves on to Timothy's administrative duties in the church which included appointing and removing church ministers and leaders. The driving idea is that Timothy is to treat the people in the church as family; brothers and sisters, mothers and fathers. Paul starts with widows. It seems that this was both a ministry position and a charitable ministry. There were some widows with no means of support and the church had an obligation to help them. There were also widows that had responsibilities in the church (the list) and they were to be paid as well. The principle for putting women on this list was commitment to the LORD and to the task and that they were already doing it before they were widows and without payment. This idea is a good rule for any church office: no one should be paid to do something in the church that they weren't already doing before they were paid. The second half of the chapter moves on to elders, church leadership. Timothy is cautioned to be careful in appointing and removing elders. Elders should only be ordained after some time is spent discerning their character and should only be removed with due process. Those that lead well should be paid out of the church's resources so that they can devote more time to ministry and should be respected.

The early church was not unique in recognizing the ministry potential of elderly women...Their duties were wide ranging, including praying for the church, teaching the basics of the faith, hospitality, caring for the sick, fasting, prophecy, and caring for the needs of destitute widows and orphans. 1 Timothy 5.1-16, 101

It is important to notice where Paul put his emphasis. Today the position of leadership is often elevated—especially preaching and teaching. Paul’s emphasis is on the function of leadership. The key terms are “well” and “hard,” which Paul places first in the word order for emphasis. 1 Timothy 5.17-25, 106

In closing, Paul urges Timothy to live and lead as "God's man." He gives instructions to slaves that continue the family focus. Slaves are to serve as serving God. This is not because Paul is in favor of slavery, but the best way to deal with it is a loving response. The "brother-sister" focus ultimately undermines slavery at its core, but Paul is concerned that Christians' behavior should never impede the progress of the gospel. Paul then turns toward the rich (probably the slave owners) and rebukes those (probably the false teachers) who are focused on wealth. Instead the focus should be on godliness. "Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum." (115) The purpose of wealth is to provide resources to share with those in need and to accomplish the mission of the church. Ultimately, everything comes to us by God's grace. Thus, leaders must be focused on godliness and on teaching the church with their lives and words to have that same focus.

Spiritual realities supersede worldly ones. Although the social reality is that of master—slave, the spiritual reality is that of brothers and sisters. In Christ the master and the slave are family and as such to be valued. Family feeling must carry the day. And within the family structure the operative phrase is “work all the harder.” A slave’s service is not merely to be adequate but the best it can be (6:2a). 1 Timothy 6.1-2, 111

Self-sufficiency is the ability to supply the necessities of life without help from others. Godly sufficiency is to be content with the bare minimum...It is the love of money and not money per se that is the issue...It is not the rich person per se that Paul targets but the discontented—people who set their heart on material wealth. It is true that Jesus taught that the rich have greater difficulty entering God’s kingdom . But the fool is the person who puts his or her trust in riches. 1 Timothy 6.2-10, 115

There is an alternative track to aggressively pursue. “Pursue” is a word used of a predator stalking its prey. The picture is one of a single-minded focus. The prey in sight is “righteousness and a godly life, along with faith, love, perseverance, and gentleness.” Each of the nouns lacks an article, indicating that character qualities are in view. All the qualities are what leaders of God’s flock should exemplify (see 4:12). 1 Timothy 6.11-21, 118

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Memorial Service For Pastor Hiob

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IMG_20180714_115140010Last Saturday Joyce and I had the privilege of participating in the memorial service for Pastor Hiob Ngirachemoi of the Palauan Evangelical Church in Sacramento. As was said many times there, it was a sad occasion because we will miss Hiob and all he did, but it is also a happy one because we know he is with the Lord now and we can celebrate what the Lord did through him while he was with us here. We had a chance to minister to Leah, Hiob’s wife (pictured above), and ask for your prayers for her and her children as they adjust to him being gone. I was able to do a eulogy for Pastor Hiob. There is a video of it here. Hiob was a good friend and valuable colleague and he will be greatly missed.

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We also got to see many of our friends from Palau that we have missed so much. As I continue to recover from the cancer and chemo we are planning to begin working with the Micronesian communities in the USA and with Liebenzell Mission to provide support and training for these churches. Joyce and I are looking forward to renewing these relationships as the Lord allows us to do that. We’d appreciate your prayers that we would be sensitive to God’s direction on these next steps in our life.

Structure and Message of Ecclesiastes

Ecclesiastes Chart

Message of Ecclesiastes

Human efforts to independently understand and master life, despite our limits and the mysteries of life, are foolish. We need to give up our false hope of independent existence and our illusion of fully understanding and/or controlling God, and enjoy life as a gift from the Creator and submit to His authority.

Live joyously and responsibly under the authority of God.


Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Reading Through First Timothy #1, (Chapters 1-3)

cornerstone tim to hebI am reading a new commentary series as I begin my devotional study of the next few New Testament letters. I am reading  Paul’s first letter to Timothy accompanied by The Cornerstone Biblical Commentary. The 1 Timothy commentary is written by Linda Belleville. 1 Timothy, the first of Paul’s pastoral epistles is written to Timothy, who Paul left in Ephesus to pastor the difficult church there.  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.

1 Timothy is written by Paul to Timothy (and the church in Ephesus) to deal with a crisis brought on by false teachers who denied the inclusiveness of the gospel of grace and tried to add other mystical, ritualistic or legalistic requirements to participation and leadership in the church. This had set the church at odds and made the worship services a place of conflict. Paul commands and authorizes Timothy to deal with the situation, remove the unrepentant false teachers and reestablish servant leadership and public worship that focused on and glorified God. Timothy will do this effectively, by being an example of godliness, and by teaching and gently, but firmly, leading others to the truth.

Timothy’s task at Ephesus was to command certain persons not to teach false doctrines any longer. Things apparently had not been going well, for Paul begins by urging Timothy to stay put in Ephesus and deal decisively with the false teachers (1 Tim 1:3–6). That this was Paul’s primary reason for writing is clear from the fact that he bypassed the normal letter-writing convention of a thanksgiving section and instead got right down to business. It is also evident from how often the topic of false teaching surfaces in the letter. It consumes roughly 35 percent of Paul’s direct attention and colors much of the rest. 1 Timothy Intro, 9

Paul launches into the false teachers after a brief greeting. He tells Timothy to take a strong public stand against the false teaching that would add to the gospel to the point of removing them from the church if they will not repent. A false gospel inevitably leads to a bad lifestyle, disunity in the church and a poor witness to the community. 

There is no pitting of law against gospel here. The notion of moral standards for the Christian life is wholly consonant with the gospel...Paul defines the law’s legitimate use as that of a social restraint “for the lawless.” Its function is not that of a source for idle speculation or mythmaking, as the Ephesian teachers were making it out to be. Its ethical norms are wholly appropriate as boundary markers for the society of any day or age. 1 Timothy 1.1-11, 35

Christ picked the worst so that he might display his best (“great patience”), thereby encouraging belief in him and the receipt of eternal life. Paul, as a result, became the prototype or “prime example” for all future believers. He was not merely an example but a determinative forerunner. The pattern is an important one; for the outcome is no less than “eternal life” (v. 16). 1 Timothy 1.12-17, 38

The implication is that moral collapse invariably leads to a crisis of faith. Sound ethics and sound theology go hand in hand. When one falters, the other is not far behind. 1 Timothy 1.18-20, 40

In chapter 2 Paul provides some instruction for the administration of the public worship service. It seems that there was open conflict between men and women, and between combatting doctrines, during the worship time. Paul urges the public prayer to be a seeking of God for the church and for the outside community rather than an assertion of rights. Men's prayers should be holy and peaceful, while he urges the women to dress and behave with modesty and to avoid offense. Women are given freedom to learn but not to be domineering teachers (as the priestesses in the Ephesian Artemis cult were), but, as with all teachers, to teach as properly instructed in apostolic doctrine and with humility. 

The target audience for mediation is all-embracing: “He gave his life to purchase freedom for everyone.” But the route to freedom is wholly exclusive. Salvation comes solely through this mediator and none other. 1 Timothy 2.1-7, 47

Proper demeanor of a worship leader is a theological concern. It is always wrong for a worship leader to flaunt wealth (even pretend wealth). It is also theologically improper to behave in a way that distracts from worshiping God. The better “look” in Paul’s opinion is doing good—especially deeds of charity. 1 Timothy 2.8-10, 54

In the Greek, we see a “neither—nor” construction: “neither teach nor domineer” ...This means that women here are not prohibited from roles that involve teaching men. The issue is rather the manner in which they teach—that is, they should not teach in a dictatorial or domineering way. 1 Timothy 2.11-15, 55

Then in chapter 3, Paul gives instruction for training and appointing new leaders. Overseers (pastors, elders) must have integrity and a good reputation in their family life, character and self-controlled lifestyles. Their lives and possessions must be given over to serving Christ. They also should able and trained to teach. Male and female deacons, likewise, should be servants of good character with good reputations in the community. They must lead the church family by examples loving service. This is important because this is how the church will fulfill its mission to be God’s family where Jesus is lived out and the truth is defended and upheld in lifestyle and word. 

The specific duties of an overseer are not spelled out. Instead, Paul targets qualifications. They are not qualifications, however, of which today’s society would immediately think. There is no mention of education or degrees, no talk of job experience, and no request for formal references. Instead, the key issues are character, family, and lifestyle. 1 Timothy 3.1-7, 66–67

By “do well” Paul was not talking about skill competency but what we today call customer-service excellence. For those who excel in serving, there are two job perks. The first job perk is increased respect in the eyes of the community of believers and greater esteem from those they serve. The second job perk is increased confidence...Christ Jesus is the object of all faith and the raison d’etre of all Christian service. 1 Timothy 3.8-13, 76

Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets” (Eph 2:20)—that “base” of firm support on which the “pillar” is thrust upward to steady the truth against the storms of heterodoxy and pagan idolatry. The job of every local congregation is to be that unshakable monument for the “truth”—to “Lift high the cross, the love of Christ proclaim, till all the world adore His sacred Name." 1 Timothy 3.14-16, 79

Tuesday, July 17, 2018

Structure and Message of First Thessalonians

1 thess. color chart

Message of 1 Thessalonians

God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return, that assures us that we will be with Him and each other forever.

Brief Outline of 1 Thessalonians

  • Past: God’s work in the lives of His faithful people is evidenced by holy changed lives. 1:1-3:13

    • The changed lives of the Thessalonians are evidence of the holiness that God produces through faith 1:1-10

    • The ministry of Paul‘s missionary team is a good example of holy living and holy ministry. 2:1-12

    • Faithful Response to God‘s Word Produces Holy Living and effects the world. 2:13-20

    • Holiness matures as believers minister together, endure hardship together and pray together 3:1-13

  • Present: salvation produces a growing holiness (likeness to the character of Jesus) 4:1-12

    • Our lifestyles should reflect a growing desire to please God by being what He made us to be. 1-2

    • Salvation should produce growing holiness, growing love and growing contentment 3-12

  • Future: The future hope of salvation produces holiness and endurance now. 4:13-5:28

    • The hope of the return of Jesus should comfort us and encourage us to love and serve Christ. 4:13-18

    • The Day of the Lord should warn believers to be vigilant, self-controlled and prepared for eternity. 5:1-11

    • The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. 5:12-28

Structure and Message of Lamentations

Lamentations Structure

Message of Lamentations

The ultimate end of sin and unfaithfulness to covenant is total and complete destruction, but there is hope for the repentant remnant because of the character of God who keeps His promises with His people.

Theology of Lamentations

  • The Ultimate Consequence of Sin is Total Destruction.
  • The Experience of Covenant Blessing, and favor and the responsibility that goes with that, make one more liable for judgment, not less
  • Judgment brings affliction to the faithful minority, but there is always hope because of God's character and covenant.
  • Sin can remove one from being under God’s protection and thus bring destruction and chaos.
  • The discipline of God is painful and has effects even beyond the unfaithful generation.

Friday, July 13, 2018

Reading Through Second Thessalonians

This is the second post in my devotional study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. Basically, 2 Thessalonians continues the message of the first letter and deals with the same problems. Paul focuses on the 2nd coming of Jesus as motivation for how believers are to live in the present. All the trials, opposition and difficulties will be worth it because God will use them to produce Christ-likeness in us and will set things right when Jesus returns to set up his eternal kingdom.  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 1 Paul assures the Thessalonians that God's character and kingdom plan assures their growth and eternal well-being despite their present trials and persecution. God’s plan is just and right and He will bring relief to His suffering people and judgment to those who cause the suffering. At the 2nd Coming, Jesus will be glorified in His people and believers will marvel in His presence. In the meantime, Paul prays that Jesus will be glorified in the present as he makes empowers believers to fulfill His calling in their daily actions.

Our standing before God is a gift (INDICATIVE), but also a mandate (IMPERATIVE). One way to express this truth may be with an athletic metaphor. Believers have won the race by their faith relationship with Christ. Now they must run the race for Him in faithfulness. Gratitude, not required performance, drives the Christian to godliness. II Thessalonians 1.1-5, 126

Fallen mankind will flee the glorious presence of the Holy One of Israel. The tragedy of creation is that mankind’s greatness need is fellowship with God, but because of sin and rebellion, we fear Him and flee Him who created us like Himself for glorious fellowship. II Thessalonians 1.6-13, 127

In chapter 2 Paul corrects a misunderstanding that the Thessalonians were already in the "Day of the LORD" end-time events. The Day of the LORD will not come until after the deception and revelation of the man of sin, and any communication claiming otherwise is not from Paul. He remined them to remember that he had taught them that the "man of sin" was presently restrained by God though evil is still active in the present age, he would be let loose and revealed with evil supernatural events that would deceive many, and then Christ would come to judge and set up His kingdom. He closes the chapter with application to the present: Believers were chosen by God, based on His love, from the beginning, to salvation, holiness and glory, so they need to hang on to the truth now and trust that God will empower them to glorify Jesus Christ in their attitudes, words and actions.
 
Others of us see these eschatological events as referring to both past first-century events and future events. The OT prophets often took the events of their day and projected them into a future “Day of the Lord” setting. In this way the NT has a message to its own day and every succeeding period of history. We must take seriously the historical setting of the original author, but also the surprising 2000 year delay of the Second Coming. II Thessalonians 2.1-5, 132

This spiritual rebellion has been occurring since the Fall. The rebellion will one day be personified. Currently God is restraining this influence. The Scriptures project an end-time confrontation between personal evil and God’s Messiah (cf. Psalm 2). II Thessalonians 2.6-12, 134

The believers’ comfort and hope are based on the grace of God seen and enacted through Christ. Notice the pastoral context of encouragement just like 1 Thess. 4:18. Paul’s insights about the Second Coming were not given to fill out our charts and theories, but to energize our daily Christlikeness. II Thessalonians 2.13-17, 138.

He closes the letter with further application of future truth to the present. First, believers should pray that the gospel with spread throughout the world and that its messengers would be protected. Secondly, they must hold each other accountable to work hard to serve others without demanding one's own rights. When this happens God will provide His peace to His people and the world will notice and be drawn to God.

Evil is always present, but so too, the faithful Lord! He will rescue and preserve His followers from evil men and He will strengthen and protect them from the evil one. II Thessalonians 3.1-5, 143

Believers are not to draw undue attention to themselves by strange, unusual behavior, but by living appropriate quiet, gentle, patient, moral, loving, caring, working lives (the opposite of 3:11). So often in our day believers make the “headlines” because of their strange beliefs or actions! As Paul was an example to working and witnessing, so too, should modern believers. If the message causes conflict, so be it, but not the messengers! II Thessalonians 3.6-18, 145

Thursday, July 12, 2018

Book of Ruth: Structure and Message

Ruth Structure Chart

Message of the Book of Ruth

Because God is faithful under the covenant to love, guide and care for His people, God's people are responsible to respond to Him with covenant loyalty (obedience) and to take the opportunities He puts in their way to participate in His kingdom by graciously serving others.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

We’re Moved In

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13081305We are all moved in now to the apartment on the bottom floor of my parents’ house. We started moving our stuff on Saturday and Joyce moved in the last of our stuff last  night. The team from Gold Country Baptist (left) moved our heavy furniture in on Monday night. We appreciated that very much. We slept there for the first time Monday night after moving over several van loads of the smaller stuff. I was exhausted and I did less than a tenth of what Joyce did. We both slept well last night. Then Monday night we had our first guests (right). Joyce’s mom and dad are moving into a retirement home in the area and spent the night with us last night while waiting for their furniture. Thank you to everyone who helped us move. We appreciate it very much. If you are in our area in the next few months please come by and visit us. We anticipate being here 5-6 months and then God only knows were we will end up. <smiling>!

Reading Through First Thessalonians #2 (3.14-5.28)

This post continues my devotional study of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. This commentary is more like a handbook for lay readers that helps with grammatical, background and other issues with some brief commentary. 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 4.1-12 Paul urges the Thessalonians to continue what they have started by taking the resources God has given them and become more Christlike and live this out in loving relationships within the church and to those outside. Christ’s character grows in our life as the Spirit teaches us to control our bodies, as we allow him to love others through us and as we become content by making his ambition for us our own.

Christianity was originally called “The Way” (cf. Acts 9:2; 19:9, 23; 22:4; 24:14, 22; 18:25–26). This speaks of an abiding lifestyle faith. Our initial response in repentance and faith must be followed by continuing obedience and perseverance. I Thessalonians 4.1-7, 104

Love is the signature of God. We never love enough...Believers are to use their resources for the needs of the Christian family. I Thessalonians 4.8-12, 107-8

In 4.13-5.11 Paul responds to the Thessalonians questions about the 2nd coming of Jesus and how to be ready for it. The Thessalonians were concerned about what would happen to people that had died before Christ returned. Paul's response was that they would be the first to join Christ in the air and then, with living believers, would receive resurrection bodies and rule with Him forever. The 2nd coming will catch unbelievers unaware, but believers should be vigilant and ready for it. We prepare for the 2nd coming, and are eternally minded, by being faithful to live out our salvation day to day.

The Thessalonian believers did not understand Paul’s preaching about the Second Coming. They wanted to know if those of their church who had already died would participate in the end-time events. This is Paul’s positive response. Not only will they participate, they will receive their new bodies first and will accompany Jesus on the clouds of heaven. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 109

Believers are going to meet the Lord in the air, because in the NT the air was seen as the realm of Satan (cf. Eph. 2:2) and Greeks thought the lower air (atmosphere) was unclean and, therefore, the domain of unclean spirits. Believers will be reunited with their Lord in the midst of Satan’s kingdom to show its complete overthrow. I Thessalonians 4.13-18, 110

Salvation is not a product, but a relationship. It is not finished when one trusts Christ; it has only begun! It is not a fire insurance policy, nor a ticket to heaven but a life of growing Christlikeness. I Thessalonians 5.1-11, 116

Paul closes the letter by applying the truth that Christ is returning to present, daily life. The hope of Christ’s coming should encourage alertness and present living focused on eternity. This is seen as church relationships are characterized by faithfulness in ministry to one another, attitudes of joy, prayer and thankfulness, discernment that clings to what is of God and avoids what is not, and uses the sufficient resources God provides for holiness.

Leadership is a gift from God (cf. Eph. 4:11–13). When He assigns the task, he honors the task, not necessarily the person who receives it...NT Christianity does not make a distinction between “clergy” and “laity.” We are all God-called, Spirit—gifted ministers of Jesus. Within this family of gifted ministers God does choose leaders! I Thessalonians 5.12-18, 118

Clearly NT prophets are not synonymous with OT prophets. The NT gift usually relates to practical application issues, not new revelatory information. However, there is a predictive element in Acts 11:27–30 and 21:10–11. In I and II Corinthians prophecy and prophesy (cf. 1 Cor. 13:1; 14:1, 39) mean proclaim the gospel. Exactly how this proclamation differed between: apostles, prophets, evangelists, pastors, and teachers is uncertain. I Thessalonians 5.19-28, 119–120

Monday, July 09, 2018

Reading Through First Thessalonians #1 (1.1-3.13)

This post continues my 1 year read through of the New Testament accompanied by various commentaries. This post comments on a quick read through of Paul’s first letter to the Thessalonians accompanied by Paul’s First Letters: Galatians and I & II Thessalonians, Study Guide Commentary Series, by Robert James Utley. This commentary is more like a handbook for lay readers that helps with grammatical, background and other issues with some brief commentary. 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.

1 Thessalonians is a very emotional letter written by Paul to a church that he planted during his 2nd missionary journey. Because of persecution, he had to leave Thessalonica and was unable to disciple the congregation as long as he wanted to. He sends Timothy back to check on the progress of the church and minister to them. The letter is occasioned by Timothy's report on returning to Paul. He brings back a glowing report on the progress of the church, but also reports that the church is still under tremendous persecution and has some confusion about the return of Jesus. Paul encourages the church by praising them and giving thanks to God for their faithfulness. He prays for their ability to withstand persecution and to continue growing in Christ-likeness. He also answers their questions about the return of Christ. The letter encourages the Thessalonians that God will produce holiness in you as stand faithfully on his promises, allow him to love through you and focus on the sure hope of his return to take us to be with Him forever.

The Thessalonian Letters have a threefold purpose: to share Paul’s joy and thanksgiving to God for the faithfulness and Christlikeness of the Thessalonians, even amidst persecution; to answer the criticism of his motives and character which had been brought against him; to discuss the return of the Lord. I Thessalonians Intro, 75

The letter opens with Paul's relieved praise for the progress of the Thessalonian church. He is thankful that the church is acting by faith in the gospel truths which he taught, is working hard to love another and reach out to their community and maintaining their hope with joyful living in Christ despite persecution. Their response shows that the Holy Spirit is acting within their community and that they will be ready for 2nd coming.

The theological concept of “covenant” unites the sovereignty of God (who always takes the initiative and sets the agenda) with a mandatory initial and continuing repentant, faith response from man. Be careful of proof-texting one side of the paradox and depreciating the other! Be careful of asserting only your favorite doctrine or system of theology! I Thessalonians 1.1-4, 80

Salvation is both a message and a person. We receive the gospel message and befriend Jesus. We must trust completely in both. This results in a new life of faithfulness and holiness. I Thessalonians 1.4-10,  81

Paul begins chapter 2 by using his missionary team as an example of how ministry is to be done and the image of Christ is to be lived out. They faithfully and boldly announced the truth of the gospel despite persecution. Their motives for ministry were right. They did not minister for self-glorification, money, or honor. They lovingly met the needs of the Thessalonians like a "nursing mother." No one in this world works harder, gives more with less wages, and has a closer relational connection than the mother of an infant! Paul's ministry was done with integrity and self-sacrificing love. Paul then calls the Thessalonians to faithfully respond to God’s Word in the power of the Spirit and let it produce His character in them. That is how it will affects everyone around them.

The believer’s confidence in Christ’s work on his behalf gives him courage to speak the truth of the gospel. The preaching of the gospel always caused problems. Paul prays for opportunities and boldness, not for tranquility. I Thessalonians 2.1-2, 86

Ministry is not something we do—it is who we are.  I Thessalonians 2.3-10, 88

The gospel focuses around three emphases: (1) personal relationship, (2) doctrinal truth, and (3) lifestyle Christlikeness. The believer must respond to all three for maturity. I Thessalonians 2.11-20, 90–91

He ends the opening section of the letter by responding to Timothy's good news by calling the Thessalonians to become even more mature in Christ. Believers grow in Christ as they minister together, endure hardship together and pray together. They must minister together to one another with self-sacrificing commitment by teaching one another the truths of the faith, encouraging one another to do what is right even in trials, and by holding one another accountable to apply the Word to life. The must live together in the presence of Jesus, basing their lives on His Word and seeking His presence together in prayer. They will then experience God's peace despite difficulty and be able to be a burden bearer rather than a burden to others.

The Bible presents our salvation in a tension-filled pair of truths: (1) it is free, it is in Christ, but (2) it is costly, it is progressive, it is seen in our lifestyle choices. Both are true. This verse emphasizes the first truth. I Thessalonians 3.1-10, 100

Paul prayed for himself in v. 11 but now his petition turns toward the church at Thessalonica. He prayed for their love for one another and all people (cf. Eph. 6:18). He also prayed for the believers’ holiness (cf. v. 13; Eph. 1:4). God’s will for every believer is Christlikeness...God’s love is as wide as the world, so too, must be ours who know Him. I Thessalonians 3.11-13, 101

Saturday, July 07, 2018

We Are Moving Again

20170925_103209 (1024x768)Joyce and I are moving again. We have enjoyed living the past 10 months in the parsonage at Gold Country Baptist Church. It has been a tremendous blessing to us to have a place where I could quietly recover from the stem cell transplant last November and yet still be close to friends, family and help when we needed it. We have been able to stay in the house longer than we expected, but the church has recently hired a new associate pastor who will arrive before the end of July. We are extremely thankful and appreciative for how Gold Country Baptist has provided for our needs.

20170402_165201_002 (1024x768)So we will be moving back to my parents’ place this weekend for probably the next few months. We have an application in at an apartment complex but there is at least a 4-5 month waiting period before we can get in. Our mailing address, phone numbers will all stay the same. Life is always interesting, and, after 15 years of living in the same place, moving around is teaching us again about being flexible and trusting God for our future. Our real life is bound up in the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit and we are working on applying Paul’s ideal (even though we do have far more) of being content with “food and covering.”

Structure and Message of the Song of Songs

Song of Songs Structure Chart

Song of Songs is most likely a collection of love songs that have been cleverly edited together to form a story that provides wisdom about love and marriage.

Song of Songs xhiastic structure Exum

Song of Songs Xiastic Structure Webster

Here are a couple different ways that Old Testament scholars see the structure of the book

Message of the Song of Songs

Marital love must be monogamous, exclusive, committed and faithful. Love’s power may be celebrated and enjoyed exuberantly within an exclusive married relationship, but it is dangerous when misused.

  • Marriage requires exclusive commitment from both partners and reciprocal methods which result in mutual satisfaction
  • In this sinful world marriage can be dangerous and painful, but one must continue to love despite the dangers
  • Marriage can overcome the curse, or it can magnify the curse
  • Ideally, marriage should reflect the love of God within the Trinity and His love for His people. It does seem that in this world that ideal is never fully reached
  • How much more should we love Christ who loves us with a holy passion, and perfect love

Friday, July 06, 2018

Structure and Message of Colossians

Colossians Color Chart

Message of Colossians

 Faith in Christ, without added human rules or ideas, is enough to move us on to spiritual maturity, which is seen in godly attitudes and actions lived out in daily relationships.

  • The way to maturity as a Christian is deepening relationship with Jesus. This comes through faith, not human rules or ideas.  “Jesus is ALL you need!” 1:1-2:23
    • Relationship with Jesus, through the Gospel, is the only way to Christian maturity.  1:1-2:5

      • Faith in Christ is sufficient to grow the godly attitudes and actions of a successful Christian. 1:1-14
      • Jesus is able to make you into what God wants you to be because He is God. 1:15-20
      • Jesus has provided more than enough to make you what He wants you to be and to prepare you for eternal service to God.  1:21-2:5
    • Maturity comes through continuing faith in the Gospel, not human rules or ideas. 2:6-23
      • Grow in Christ the same way you began in Christ, trust in His promises. 2:6-7
      • Adding to the Gospel does not improve it. Instead, it dilutes it and makes it ineffective. 2:8-2
  • Live maturely in relationships as you live out who you actually are in Jesus Christ. 3:1-4:18
    • The key is to understand who you are in Christ and live it out in the power of the Spirit. 3:1-16
    • The evidence of Christian maturity is Christ-likeness lived out in our closest relationships 3:18-4:18

Wednesday, July 04, 2018

Reading Through Colossians #2 (3.5-4.18)

witheringtonThis post concludes a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Colossians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. Colossians’ point is that faith in Christ produces all the Christian needs for a lifestyle that honors God and accomplishes His  purposes for his people. 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.

Life by grace and faith does not mean that believers live without restraint. Because they are new persons they cannot live in their old ways. They must live their lives with the attitude and wisdom of Jesus. Thus, they must "put off," like old clothes, the selfish, unrestrained actions they did before they knew Christ and "put on," the new clothes of Christlike, unselfish, service according to the example and teachings of Jesus and his apostles. This should especially be seen in relationships within the Christian households. Christians, especially those in power, should rethink all their relationships so that they serve Christ and one another. The world should be able to look at a Christian's closest social relationships and see the evidence of Christ's love, submission to one another's needs and high regard for everyone, regardless of social station, as the image of God and equal before Him. 

According to v. 17 the Christian life is also to be characterized by being and showing oneself thankful for all God has done, and by doing and saying all that one does and says in the name and according to the nature of Christ. Colossians 3.5-17, 181

In Christ, whoever one is, one is a new person, because Christ is all and is in all these different kinds of people...Paul does not mean that these distinctions and differences cease to exist when one becomes a Christian. Greeks are still Greeks and Jews are still Jews, of course...What matters is that all are equally new persons in Christ and equally in the process of being renewed. There is then a spiritual basis for real equality in Christ. The basis of any kind of ordering in the church is according to what one is called and gifted to do, a rather bold break from the way things tended to be determined in the pagan world, and also to a larger degree in the Jewish world. Colossians 3.5-17, 179

Paul is, rather, trying to ameliorate the harm the existing structure does and can do. Chrysostom grasped the spirit of what Paul was trying to accomplish in these exhortations to husband and wife: “Observe again that Paul has exhorted husbands and wives to reciprocity.… From being loved, the wife too becomes loving; and from her being submissive, the husband learns to yield” (tenth homily on Colossians). Colossians 3.18-21, 191–192

The head of the household as a Christian must alter his conduct in his relationships with his wife, children, and slaves so that the Lord will be pleased. It is this curtailing and Christianizing of the head of the household’s rights, privileges, and roles that especially stands out in these exhortations as Paul, attempts to transform the character of Christian household relationships by ameliorating the harsh edges of the existing institutions of slavery and patriarchy. 3.18-4.1, 196

Paul closes his letter with one final exhortation and closing greetings from his fellow workers. Ultimately, Paul is all about the gospel so he asks the Colossians to live and talk in a way that draws people to Christ. He urges the letter to copied and read in Laeodicea as well. 

Christians are to “walk wisely” toward non-Christians (this echoes 1:9–10; 2:6–7). This means they are to act in a way that is cognizant of who is watching and of the impact their behavior may have for the gospel. Colossians 4.2-6, 199

What we do have a hint of here is how the process of collecting and later canonizing Paul’s letters transpired. Letters were exchanged or copied and exchanged, and precisely because they were seen as of ongoing value they were kept and reused. Colossians 4.7-18, 206

The bottom line in Colossians is that faith in Christ, without added human rules or ideas, is enough to move us on to spiritual maturity, which is seen in godly attitudes and actions lived out in daily relationships. As we focus on Christ and trust him he enables us to "put on" the behavior and attitudes of Christ. As the Spirit works within the church, His people work together to produce Christlikeness within the church and enables the church to do the mission of discipling the nations. 

Paul in Colossians is dealing with a specific sort of spiritual problem—aberrant forms of worship engaged in by Christians. Christians were striving through ascetic acts to enter the heavenly worship with the angels, perhaps to enter into a visionary or ecstatic state. Here we have the use of ascetic acts in hopes that they will trigger some specific “spiritual experience.” Yet in fact genuine spiritual experiences cannot be triggered by some human “technique.” They are caused by the Holy Spirit, who blows in whatever direction the Spirit chooses. If the Spirit is not moving, the experience either is not happening or is contrived and not genuine. 209

There needs to be a community of saved sinners that is forming into an accountable body of Christ, helping each other to grow in grace. Instead of pointing fingers, we need to hold outstretched hands and help each other follow all the proper moral paths for the Lord’s name’s sake. Tolerance of sin is no more a virtue than hypocritical condemnation of selective sins. We are all called to accountability, and will have to render account to Christ one day as well. 211

Tuesday, July 03, 2018

Book of Job–Structure and Message

Job Structure

Themes in Job

  • God is in Control – He operates the universe in sovereign grace not by Divine retribution
    • Point: We cannot fully understand the questions of life but we can trust our sovereign, gracious God to do what is right and best for us.
  • God and Wisdom are incomprehensible
    • Wisdom is very difficult to get, it comes from revelation of God
    • God never answers Job's questions; He just reveals Himself to Job.

Message of Job

God's relationship to man is based totally on grace, not retribution and reward!!!

False religion:

Relationship with God is earned; legalistic, ritualistic

Biblical religion

God is above and beyond our comprehension

Relationship with God and every blessing from God is a gift of grace.

  • The book of Job explores God's basis for His dealings with man. GRACE!!!
    • Everyone in the book assumes that God deals with man based only on retribution.
    • Satan assumes that Job is faithful only because God blesses him (he never understood grace)
    • The three friends assumed that Job was a sinner because Job was suffering.
    • Job assumes God is unjust because he is righteous, yet is suffering.
    • Elihu concludes that Job must be ignorant of his sin, since he suffers
  • Job reveals that God deals with man according to His own free sovereign gracious choice.
    • 2 reasons for blessings are sovereign choice (Eph. 1:3-14) and our obedience (Gal 6:7). We tend to emphasize what we can control and thus over-emphasize the second reason.
    • This leads to theologies which conclude that we can control God. (Word-Faith, legalism, modernism)
    • God’s speeches reveal that man cannot even comprehend God, or what He does, much less control Him.
  • The ultimate basis for God's dealings with man is His absolutely free, sovereign grace.
    • Job is doubly blessed despite his mistrust, doubt and challenge to God.
    • Job's friends are forgiven (through Job’s intercession)
    • All the characters in the book experience unmerited favor and undeserved forgiveness. (Except the satan and Job’s wife who disappear in the epilogue.)
  • God does not always bring justice in this life
    • All people, good or evil, experience God's common grace.
    • God has his own reasons. He brings rain in the desert where there are no people. It is not always about us!!
  • God is superior to the satan (adversaries) – The satan can do nothing but what God allows him to do.
  • We must live by grace through faith.
    • It is basic for our faith to understand that God deals with us on the basis of grace. We do not need to be perfect to approach or serve God. We just must be receptive to allowing His grace to lead, empower and sustain us.
    • Living by grace through faith must always include a spirit of gratitude. God owes us nothing. When we begin to emphasize our rights before God we are sure to fall into sin.
    • Living by grace through faith must always includes a spirit of humility. God controls us, we do not control God. We can count on God's promises, but we cannot make Him do what we want.
    • Submission to God frees us to be what God wants us to be and to receive and enjoy God's blessings. Job’s friends had to swallow a lot of pride to experience restoration.


A Night of NBA Basketball

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20180702_211153I enjoyed another nice adventure last night with my brother-in-law Nate Hartt. We went down to the Golden 1 Center and saw the opening games of the California Classic, which involved the newer players from the Miami Heat, Golden State Warriors, LA Lakers, and Sacramento Kings. The 6.00 game was between the Heat and Warriors, followed by the 8.00 game between the Kings and Lakers. We had a fun night talking basketball with each other and the fans around us. The Golden 1 Center is also an amazing place to watch a basketball game. The Kings’ fans, to understate the case, are extremely enthusiastic. I’d love to see a concert there sometime too. We especially enjoyed seeing the Kings unveil their much talked about rookies Giles and Bagley. They did not disappoint. Both teams we cheered for, The Warriors and Kings (well, I cheered for the Warriors – Nate is a hardcore Kings fan and would not do that), won their games. We closed out the evening with burgers, fries, chips and guacamole dip at BJ’s in Folsom. A good time was had by all!

Monday, July 02, 2018

Reading Through Colossians #1 (1.1-3.4)

witheringtonThis post begins a quick read through of Paul’s letter to the Colossians accompanied by The Letters to Philemon, the Colossians, and the Ephesians: A Socio-Rhetorical Commentary on the Captivity Epistles, by Ben Witherington III. Colossians and Ephesians are quite similar and provide commentary on one another. 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 Colossians to deal with a teaching in their church that would add other requirements to the gospel to become a complete or an elite Christian. In other words, some were teaching that faith in Christ was enough to get into the family of God, but to take God's blessings fully required additional rites, secret teachings, mystical experiences or ascetic practices. Paul counters that Jesus, who is fully God indwelling human beings, is all one needs to move from entry into God's family to the fulness of glory that will be received in God's eternal kingdom. Jesus is all you need!   

Paul insists that not specific Jewish practices (calendrical, ascetic, ritual, or mystical) but rather a relationship with the one mediator between God and humankind, Jesus Christ, is what ushers one into the presence of God and the doxological center of the universe...Paul shows how Christian belief affects and transforms Christian behavior and relationships. Intro, 114

Paul begins the letter by making a positive connection with the people of the Colossian congregation. He thanks God that they are already making progress in Christian growth and he prays that it will continue. He is thankful that they have already made so much progress toward being complete in Christ. He then reminds them, in a hymn, that Jesus, who indwells them through the Spirit, has all the qualifications (He is God the Creator in human form) necessary to complete God's plan for them. Thus, to add other requirements to Christ adulterates and weakens the gospel rather than making it more effective.

Christ is the key both subjectively and objectively. He will fulfill the objective hope when he comes, but he is already the basis of the Christian’s subjective hope: “Christ in us” is both the foretaste of glory and the solid basis for the hope of human glorification. Colossians 1.1-14, 122

“All things” are repeatedly connected to Christ. Everything points to him... The hymn thus not only makes clear the basis on which the Colossians already have the salvific benefits they need and the reason they need not entertain supplements or replacements for what they have already believed and have been doing, but also provides a pattern or trajectory of the Christian life which involves death, resurrection, and eventual glorification. Colossians 1.15-23, 129–130

He begins to support this argument in 1.24-2.5. First, he points to the Colossians experience of receiving Christ and their initial growth. Their experience of coming to Christ was life-changing. They have already experienced victory over sins and the dark powers that had controlled them. God indwells them and there is no rite or human teaching that can accomplish what God can do in their lives.

In its eschatological sense this term (Teleion, “complete”) refers to a completely Christlike condition, the opposite of being lost, bound in sin, or alienated from God. This is the eschatological hope of the believer: to be fully conformed to Christ’s image and so made perfect by means of the resurrection, which puts one beyond disease, decay, and death, beyond sin, suffering, and sorrow. Such a goal is of course not fully attainable before the return of Christ and the raising of the believing dead. Colossians 1.24-2.5, 147–148

Secondly (2.6-3.4), the methods the false teachers were advocating to become spiritually complete do not work. Asceticism, mysticism, legalism and syncretism are inadequate for becoming what God wants Christians to be. The way one gets into the family of God, by reliance on Christ and what He has provided, is also the way to maturity in Christ. Believers are now called to live under the new covenant and leave behind the "shadows" and rules of the old one. Practically, this is applied as believers focus on Christ and growing in relationship with Him. This begins to change the believer's character and values into those of Christ.

God dwells in the embodied Christ in fullness or in person. This would mean that there can be nothing inherently wrong or evil about matter, which the ascetic teachers may have been suggesting, hence the rules about abstinence, and that the fullness and personal presence of God is to be found in Christ and nowhere else. Colossians 2.6-15, 156

Christians are not under such OT rules. Rather they are creatures of the new covenant...Christ fulfilled or brought to an end (or both) all such rules and paid the price so that believers are no longer in their debt. We owe the rules nothing. As Paul says in v. 17, these rules, while good in their day, are but shadows to be left behind now that the real substance that they foreshadowed has appeared—Christ. Colossians 2.16-23, 160–161

Paul sees the starting-point and source of the believer’s life in the resurrected Christ in heaven, from where it works itself out into earthly life (3:5ff.) and from where it will eventually be revealed for what it is (3:4).” Life, power, and spiritual vitality flows from the heavenly Christ into his body and cannot be grasped by human efforts...Heavenly-mindedness is not an escape from worldly concerns but rather provides the basis for structuring human relations and proceeding in human affairs. Colossians 3.1-4, 166