Remember: my goal is not to provide a final, definitive answer. My goal is to lay out some principles that must be considered to reach a final, definitive answer.
As always, the readers are invited to discuss, and maybe even provide a final, definitive answer.
Here’s the problem: government and the church are two different things, given to us by God to accomplish different purposes. What is true for one might or might not be true of the other.
For example, there are plenty of things that are plainly sins that few of us would want the government to criminalize. For example — Continue reading
There are three questions that have popped up in the comments that I imagine would be of interest to many readers. I’m going to try to give my understanding of the answers in three posts.
1. If gay marriage is contrary to God’s will, shouldn’t it be illegal?
2. Why does God declare homosexual conduct immoral?
3. How should Christians deal with believers who approve of gay marriage?
These are very hard questions, and I don’t claim to have the final word. Rather, my goal is to further the conversation by helping to build the foundation for scriptural, godly conclusions.
I think there are principles that apply that are rarely considered, and so my aim to introduce these principles into the conversation — even if I’ve not yet entirely figured out what the final outcome should be.
So what? I mean, this whole Jew-Gentile thing has been over for nearly 2,000 years. Why should we spend Sunday school Bible class time studying how First Century Jews should get along with First Century Gentiles?
And if this is what the NT books are really about, why study them at all? I mean, this is great stuff for historians and theologians and guys looking for dissertation topics, but what does it mean at the down-home church member, regular pewsitter level? How do we teach Romans and Galatians and Ephesians today to a class that cares nothing about ethnic issues of the First Century?
Good questions all. And questions that the New Perspective on New Testament studies has forced us to deal with. The scriptures now make much better sense. They fit in their time and place very well. Finally, Paul isn’t debating Medieval Scholasticism, Augustinianism, or Calvin vs. Arminius. He isn’t even debating the Baptists on behalf of the Churches of Christ. He’s dealing with the issues of his day in terms of the scriptures of his day — the Old Testament.
But when we finally get Jesus, Paul, and other NT authors into their historical context, they become, at first, more distant. The 2,000-year gulf that separates us becomes more real. Their debates become less relevant — seemingly. It’s certain less familiar. I mean, we know how to debate Calvinists and Baptists. Why should we instead spend our time dealing with the New Perspective? Continue reading
We need to skip ahead a bit. Paul follows the verses we just covered with a discussion of the greatness of Jesus the Messiah, and then he returns to the question of Jews and Gentiles.
(Eph 2:11-12 ESV) Therefore remember that at one time you Gentiles in the flesh, called “the uncircumcision” by what is called the circumcision [the Jews], which is made in the flesh by hands — 12 remember that you were at that time separated from Christ, alienated from the commonwealth of Israel and strangers to the covenants of promise, having no hope and without God in the world.
Paul is now quite plain. Before Jesus, the covenants were just for the Jews, and the Gentiles had “no hope” and were “without God in the world.”
(Eph 2:13-16 ESV) 13 But now in Christ Jesus you who once were far off have been brought near by the blood of Christ. 14 For he himself is our peace, who has made us both one and has broken down in his flesh the dividing wall of hostility 15 by abolishing the law of commandments expressed in ordinances, that he might create in himself one new man in place of the two, so making peace, 16 and might reconcile us both to God in one body through the cross, thereby killing the hostility.
Jesus has now changed all that by the cross. The “dividing wall of hostility” is likely a reference to the wall in the Temple that kept the Gentiles separate from the Jews — allowing only Jews near the special presence of God in the Holy of Holies. Continue reading
Let’s take another look at Eph 1 and consider what these verses meant in Paul’s context. Paul’s point is that the Gentile converts enjoy the same covenant promises as the Jews.
Well, what are those promises? Why does that matter?
Think about it. There’s no reason that God should grant Gentiles salvation by faith. That promise was made to Abraham and his descendants. To invite the Gentiles in is to give them rights of inheritance that they don’t own. They inherit nothing from Abraham since they aren’t genetic descendants of Abraham.
Just so, when God chose Israel as his “treasured possession” and granted them sonship, he did that for Israel in contrast to the surrounding nations. Indeed, one of the points often made in Deu is that God has a special, unique relationship with Israel. Continue reading
Several posts ago, I mentioned my belief that the NT doctrine of election is the same as the OT doctrine of election — that is, “election” means that God has elected Israel as the chosen people. The Gentiles have been grafted into Israel so that they enjoy God’s covenant promises with Abraham, and so they are elect, too (Rom 11).
The Calvinist view is that NT election is quite unlike OT election, being individual and unconditional — that is, not even conditioned on faith. Rather, in the Calvinist view, if you are among the elect, God grants you faith through the Spirit and you will necessarily be saved.
Calvin’s teachings were rejected by Jacob Arminius. And the Arminian view is that we have free will to decide whether to believe, but then what does Paul’s teaching on election add to “those who believe are saved”? In the Arminian view, not much.
A better view is to think, not in terms of 16th Century Reformation theological disputation, but like Paul — a First Century Jewish rabbi who thought in OT categories and terms. This is why I conclude that the Pauline teachings of election and predestination are about the Gentiles enjoying the same blessings as Israel as God’s chosen or elect people.
Let’s check some key passages to see just how crazy my theory is. And as promised, I want to start in Ephesians. (I covered Rom 9 – 11 in another series some time ago.) Continue reading
Something old, something new …
So having hopefully avoided some of the more tedious arguments, let’s talk about something new. Well, not “new” but old. Really old.
Paul writes in Gal 3 and Rom 4 that we are saved by the covenant with Abraham in which God promised to count faith as righteousness. That covenant survives the Mosaic covenant, the Davidic covenant, and remains true today.
But faith saved Abraham without baptism. God went through an incredibly elaborate blood oath covenant to demonstrate his sincerity to Abraham in Gen 15:9-21. But God credited Abraham with righteousness based on his faith before the ceremony (in Gen 15:6), in fact, the day before.
There was no ceremony exactly comparable to baptism in Judaism. (Proselyte baptism was a human invention and dates no earlier than the First Century so far as the historians can determine.) Continue reading
I admit it. I’m still recovering from back surgery. I’ve been in a lot of pain for a long time. And I’m running low on patience. I’m especially impatient with the endless repeating of the Church of Christ vs. Baptist arguments on baptism.
It’s not that the issue isn’t important, but —
1. It’s not nearly as important as we imagine. If it were, then every third word of the NT would be “baptism” or “Sinner’s Prayer.” And it’s just not. The NT authors seem to have had other priorities.
2. Quoting your pet verses while ignoring the other side’s pet verses is not Christian argumentation. It’s a waste of everyone’s time and energy. It’s self-deceiving. The other side’s verses are just as true as yours, regardless of how many times you put your verses in all caps, bold, italics, and underlined — with exclamation points. Continue reading
Has Pink Floyd been reincarnated? With a little Radiohead mixed in?
Pillars & Pyre
This is Hell for the weak ones
For the strong, this is Heaven on Earth
Anyone’s guess as to the meaning of the lyrics, but I think I hear biblical echoes.
We continue to consider how, if salvation by faith is based on the covenant with Abraham, Christianity is different. So far, we’ve covered two points:
1. Christianity is based on promises already fulfilled. Judaism is based on promises not yet fulfilled.
2. “Faith” in Christianity is faith in Jesus of Nazareth as Messiah and LORD. In Judaism, it’s faith in God and a Messiah not yet revealed.
To these we now add —
3. In Christianity, the nations are invited in, granted repentance unto salvation, and grafted into the Jewish root. This was promised to Abraham and appears occasionally in the prophets, but it was a radical change in God’s relationship with his people.
Before Jesus, much of the Torah was dedicated to separating the Jews from the Gentiles. Commands such as circumcision, the Sabbath, the food laws, and the annual festivals marked the Jews as a distinctive people. When the Gentiles were invited in, these commands were obsolesced and needed to be obeyed no longer. Gentiles did not have to become Jews to be saved. Rather, the intent in Christianity was to erase the distinction altogether. Continue reading