N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 49 (Faith and baptism, Part 4)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Mystery

Now, if I had a little more of the Orthodox or Catholic in me, I might just wave my hands, declare it all a “mystery,” and move on — which is a third possibility that our Enlightenment minds rebel at. We are unwilling to just trust God and move on. But the Jews had no trouble with the concept of “secret things”–

(Deut. 29:29-30:1 ESV)  29 “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

That is, we are accountable for what’s been revealed. If it’s not been revealed, it won’t be on the test, and so don’t sweat the mysteries! Continue reading

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On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 2 (Nehemiah Rebuilds the Wall)

walls-of-jerusalemThe OT book of Nehemiah is remarkably readable — and I’ve just read it. It recounts the story of Nehemiah, cupbearer to the king of Persia.

After the Southern Kingdom (Judah) was taken into Babylonian Captivity by Nebuchadnezzar, the Persians defeated the Babylonians and annexed their territories into the Medo-Persian Empire. Hence, the ruins of Jerusalem became Persian territory, as did the surrounding nations.

Nehemiah and Ezra were Jews serving as officials in the Persian king’s court, and they were contemporaries, each involved in the return of some of the Jews — a minority — back to Jerusalem and the re-establishment of Jerusalem as a city and the rebuilding of the Temple.

Nehemiah was specifically charged by the Persian king with rebuilding the walls of Jerusalem — a hugely significant decision. Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 48 (Faith and baptism, Part 3)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

The sacramental nature of baptism

Of course, in the Churches of Christ, Rom 6 is a famous prooftext for the necessity of baptism as a condition of salvation. In our traditional teaching, baptism is in fact the fifth and final step of five steps essential to being saved: hear, believe, repent, confess, be baptized. Hence, we would quite seriously argue that no one could be saved based on the many salvation passages in Rom 1 – 5 because they mention only faith in Jesus not baptism. Which entirely misses Paul’s point.

If you’ve read the earlier posts and, more importantly, the earlier chapters of Romans, you know that Paul most certainly does not, in Romans, present baptism as the fifth and final step for how to be saved. In fact, he’s just spent the largest part of chapters 1 – 5 to demonstrate that both Jews and Gentiles are saved by faith in Jesus — because God made a covenant with Abraham to count faith as righteousness (covenant faithfulness). And if we’re saved by faith because of God’s covenant with Abraham, well, there’s nothing in Genesis about Abraham being baptized. Continue reading

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On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 1 (The Walls of Jerusalem)

walls-of-jerusalemI have to start with a confession. I have trouble staying awake when the preacher starts a sermon bringing up Nehemiah and building walls. I do.

It’s just that I’ve heard it so many times before. It’s as though preachers think we never listen.

I mean, I can imagine the preacher thinking in his study, “No one ever studies Nehemiah. So let’s do a 30-part series on Nehemiah. And the best part of Nehemiah is the part about building the walls of Jerusalem. We can talk about teamwork, leadership, and all sorts of things that all start with the same letter …”

Heard it. Tired of it. And so I’m not going to do that. This might be boring for entirely different reasons, but it won’t be because it’s been preached 500,000 times.

You see, Pope Francis recently said,

A person who thinks only about building walls, wherever they may be, and not building bridges, is not Christian. This is not the gospel.

Well, someone said something that reminded me of all those Nehemiah-building-the-walls sermons. Why is it okay — preachable, even — for Nehemiah and the Jews to build walls and not okay for the US to build walls? Continue reading

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 47 (Faith and baptism, Part 2)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Romans 6 – 8, Introduction

Wright dwells on these three chapters at some length. He begins with this observation:

These three chapters, in fact, are the full exposition of what Paul meant in Romans 3: 24 when he described the unveiling of God’s saving purpose as “the redemption which is found in the Messiah, Jesus.” Romans 3: 24– 26, to be discussed in our next chapter, seems to be a shorthand summary of this “redemption.” Paul has waited until this point to provide his much fuller account of what he there summarized in advance.

Wright, N. T.. The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion (Kindle Locations 4451-4454). HarperCollins. Kindle Edition.

It helps if we remember that “redemption” means to pay the price to free someone from slavery. We could also translate “manumission” or “escape from slavery.” And Wright notes that when the subject is freedom from slavery, the Exodus is nearly always in mind. Continue reading

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On Sojourners, Walls, and Illegal Aliens, Part 0 (Introduction)

walls-of-jerusalemWay back in May 2016 I posted a series called “On Sojourners, Walls and Illegal Aliens.” I’m going to repost the 7-part series and then extend it by just a post or two — all running concurrently with the present series on N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began.

I thought the series might spark a thoughtful conversation about Christians and immigration — and obviously I have failed. I mean, if Facebook is any indicator of contemporary evangelical thought, there are two camps. Either you believe the government has a duty to protect its citizens against the dangers of terrorists and other criminals who might enter the country as immigrants (It does. Rom 13 is quite clear.) or you believe that the government should be open to immigrants because of the many sojourners passages in the OT and the many hospitality passages in the NT (Kudos on reading and trying to live those passages. They mean what they say.)

What I don’t read on Facebook is any effort to honor both concepts. I mean, both the left and the right are proof-texting their preferred positions rather than seeking a comprehensive understanding of what the Bible really says. We ignore the inconvenient verses and pound on our enemies (often fellow Christians) with proof texts. It’s hard to avoid the impression that we make up our minds and only then thumb through our concordances looking to “prove” what we’ve already concluded — and this is true of both sides.

My view is that the Scriptures actually have quite a lot to say on the subject, but the texts have to be read in historical context and within the overarching narrative of Scripture. This is a lot more work then proof-texting what you already believe, but it’s far more likely not only to find God’s truth but also to establish an understanding that both sides can agree on. We should at least come closer to finding common ground.

Now, that does not mean that I think I have all the answers. I’m sure that I don’t. But I do think we might be asking the wrong questions.

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N. T. Wright’s The Day the Revolution Began, Romans Reconsidered, Part 46 (Introduction to chapter 6; Faith and baptism, Part 1)

dayrevolutionbegan

N. T. “Tom” Wright has just released another paradigm-shifting book suggesting a new, more scriptural way of understanding the atonement, The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus’s Crucifixion. Wright delves deeply into how the crucifixion and resurrection of Jesus accomplish our salvation.

Chapter 6, An Introduction

At last, we get to chapter 6, famous in the Churches of Christ because it begins with a discussion of baptism, closely tying baptism to our salvation.

Now, the problem with traditional Church of Christ interpretation of this passage is that we focus exclusively on baptism and ignore how it fits within the flow of Paul’s argument — thereby missing the points that Paul actually intends to make.

Again: you must first exegete the text to understand what Paul meant to say to the church in Rome. Only then can you ask what it means for today’s church. Continue reading

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