Wednesday, March 27, 2013

In 2 Corinthians 1.24 Paul says about taking spiritual authority over the believers in Corinth, Not that we lord it over your faith, but are workers with you for your joy, for in your faith you are standing firm. The Greek word is kurieuw, to have possession of, or control. Paul is refusing to have possession or control over the saints at Corinth.

This recalls what Jesus said in Matthew 20.25, You know that the rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their great men exercise authotity over them. It is not so among you, but whoever wishes to become great among you shall be your servant. The Greek word for 'lord it over them,' is a long Greek word. It uses kata, meaning against, with kurieuw, to have authority over.

Peter uses the same Greek word in 1 Peter 5.3. He is speaking to the elders of a church about shepherding the flock. He tells them to shepherd the flock, not under compulsion but voluntarily, nor yet as lording it over those alloted to your charge, but proving to be examples to the flock. Peter is so intent on serving, he doesn't even mention the names of those who will follow him in ministry.

To give you an idea of the force of this word, Acts 19.16 translates this word as, leaped on subdue them and overpower them.

Jesus will not allow the church to be run as governments are run--the ruler must be a servant. Jesus said He came to seek and to serve. Jesus said in Matt. 20.27, whoever wishes to be first among you shall be your slave; just as the Son of Man did not come to be served but to serve and to give His life a ransom for many. .

A wonderful example of serving one another is Matt. 21.2. Jesus tells two disciples to go into a village to find a donkey and colt tied up. He tells them to bring the donkey and colt to Him. What was the result of such a simple act? The Triumphal Entry of Jesus into Jerusalem which led to His crucifixion which led to His resurrection and then ours.

When Jesus and his mother and disciples go to a wedding in John 2, the guests run out of wine. Mary expects Jesus to turn the water into wine before everyone, to great acclaim. However, Jesus is the servant of God--not a ruler. He waits, turns the water into wine by using pots reserved for purification. These pots would not be at the wedding itself, but where only the servants could get them. The servants pour water into these pots. When Jesus transforms the water into wine, the headwaiter did not know who did this because Jesus didn't broadcast it, but the servants did, John 2.9. Jesus was with the servants when He did the miracle.
He was among us all as one who serves, Matt. 20.28. Paul says, through love serve one another, Galatians 5.13. But the great word from God about serving is Joshua 22.5, serve Him with all of your heart all of your soul.

In Matt. 20.30 Jesus walks by two blind men on His way to Jericho. They call out to Him, 'Lord have mercy on us, Son of David'. Does Jesus tell them what they need to do? Does He tell them what He's going to do? No, He came to serve. So He asks them, 'What do you want me to do for you?' Jesus says 'Me' once; 'you' twice. When they say, 'We want our eyes to be opened,' Jesus opens their eyes.

In Matt. 5.39 Jesus tells of what might happen when we do not lord it over another. Jesus says, I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you.... What would be the result in heaven if we did that? Jesus then says, in order that you may be sons of your Father who is in heaven...

What would be the result here and now if we served rather than ruled? Paul tells the Romans to, serve in the newness of the Spirit, Rom. 7.6. He develops the thought with, Be devoted to one another in brotherly love, give preference to one another in honor; not lagging behind in diligence, fervent in spirit, serving the Lord; rejoicing in hope, persevering in tribulation, devoted to prayer, contributing to the needs of the saints, practicing hospitality, Rom. 7.10-13.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


It's always interesting to see how others view you. An example of how Christianity is seen is from a well-known Jewish scholar Dr. Lawerence Shiffman. He has several things to say against Jesus and Christianity but they all seem to depend on one point.

He says Christian writers living 50 years after the death of Christ made up the gospels to appear to agree with OT prophecies.

Now if this is true, the epistles written before the gospels would not have any similiarity to them.. Since the historians say James was martyred in AD 62, his letter must have been written before then. Shiffman states that the gospels were written after that, to appear to make the life of Christ a fulfillment of OT prophecy. If this is true, James' epistle would have no relationship to Matthew's gospel.

So what do we find in James?

We know that when Jesus came, He came preaching the kingdom of God, not salvation or last things. Most of us recognize that the Sermon on the Mount is the Lord's great explanation of the kingdom which He brought and taught. But this kingdom is not just precepts but actions in the real world. Christianity according to Jesus is not just something you believe, but something you do.
Jesus uses some word pictures to say that. He says, You are the light of the world. A city set on a hill cannot be hid...Let your light so shine before men in such a way that they may see your good works and glorify your Father who is in heaven, Matt. 5.14-16. That is an obvious call to make the kingdom of God apparent and visible to anyone and everyone in society.

When we go to James 1.22, James says the famous line, But prove yourselves doers of the word, 1.22. He has learned from Jesus that the kingdom must be seen, it must be in front of an unbelieving society. It is the be presence of God before the world. Peter Marshall, chaplain of the Senate in the 1940s, once said his task as preacher was to enable people to see Jesus. This means to make Christianity something you do, not just something you believe.

In the literature of the ancient classical world, when a poet uses an extended metaphor he means to put something deep into the soul. this extended metaphor is saying the same thing more than once, using different images. When Jesus wants to speak against anxiety in the Sermon on the Mount, He uses 9 consecutive verses to do so, Matt. 6.25-34. So when James does the same thing in James 1.22-27 we should sit up and hear. He begins with hearing and then doing the Word. He goes on to a man looking at himself in a mirror; then he goes on from looking in a mirror to looking at the perfect law of Jesus and abiding in it. Then he goes on to controlling the tongue; and finally he mentions taking care of the widows and orphans as pure religion. James has gone from hearing to looking to abiding to controlling the tongue to aiding the widows and orphans.

You see what James has done? He has taken us from the inner quality of believing the Word to the outward gesture of taking care of others. He has taken Matthew 5.14 as a principle to be applied in his own day and time.

But that is only one instance, without a real close phrase or word linking James with Matthew. So let's look on.

In Matthew 5 Jesus will then mention five famous points of the Law: adultery, divorce, vows, and revenge (an eye for an eye), and loving your neighbor. Jesus will address each of these as indicating the sin in the heart which must be brought out to be forgiven. The role of the Law is to bring these inner things out into the open.

Does James have anything similar to this? Let's look at Matthew 5 and James 2.
In Matthew 5.25, 26 Jesus says if a man has a dispute with an opponent Jesus says, Make friends quickly with your order that your opponent may not deliver you to the judge and the judge to the officer, and you be thrown into prison. This is what happened to people who did not have money for a legal defense.

James says in chapter 2 to show no favoritism to the rich because if you do, you have become a, judge with evil motives, James 2.4. Then James says, God choose the poor of this world to be rich in faith and heirs of the kingdom which He promised to those who love Him? And then James says what Jesus had said in Matthew 5, Is it not the rich who oppress you and personally drag you into court, James 2.6.

Now let's look at Matt. 5.17-19 and James 2.10, 11.
In Matt. 5.17 Jesus says, Whoever annuls the least of these commandments and teaches others shall be the least in the kingdom of heaven...unless your righteousness surpasses that of the scribes and Pharisees you shall not enter the kingdom of heaven... Matthew 5.20.

James 2.10 says, whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles in one point, he has become guilty of all. James knows this brings up the question, How could someone be guilty of transgressing the whole law, yet have righteousness which surpasses the scribes and Pharisees? James says, by obeying the law of liberty, James 2.12. What is that law? Paul says in Romans 8.2 that it is the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus which has set us free from the law of sin and death. James then says in 2.25 that we abide by the law of liberty by being a doer of the word, not just hearer.

Our conclusion is that the gospels were not written later than James to fabricate a certain kind of Jesus, but that James knew what his brother Jesus taught, he knew what the gospel of God was, he understood the kingdom of God.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

When I think of what the Christian faith is all about, I think of the presence of God first of all. He was present in creation--Let us make man in Our image(1.26)--He was present at the Fall when the Lord God said to Adam--Where are you?(3.9) He was present with Cain and Abel when He said to Cain--Why has your countenance fallen(4.6). He was present with Noah, even remembering Noah (8.1), and with Abraham many times.

He was with Abraham, Isaac and Jacob. He heard the cry of His people in Egypt, sending them Moses and then Joshua and the judges and kings and prophets and prophetesses. He was with Israel in His own glory in the tabernacle and later in the temple of Solomon.

In the NT He was with Jesus at His baptism, Matthew 3.17, He was with Paul on the road to Damascus, Acts 9.4,5, He was with Peter in Acts 10.14, and He will be with us in the heavenly Jerusalem.

Yet, this is not all. What does the Bible say God was like in His presence? What the OT says first is that God is the origin of us all, the One who breathed on Adam and the One to whom we will return, Revelation 21.6. More than that, in the Psalms He is the One who provides us with our life, our planet and food and drink. But most important, He is the One who provides us with a person to be like, Gen. 1.26, Philippians 3.10, Colossians 1.28, Hebrews 3.14.

When we realize God gave us a person to be, we are close to Him, He is close to us.

At first God provides an altar, Gen. 8.20 by which Noah and his family could approach God. Then with Moses He provided a covenant, laws and a tabernacle, Exodus 24. Later He would provide a land, Joshua 1. And then in the NT God provided Jesus to take upon Himself our nature, as we had taken upon ourselves His nature in Genesis 2. Philippians 2.7 speaks of Jesus taking on the form of a man. The Greek word is morphe. In Homer used it to mean the outward appearance which revealed an inner quality. So in Odyssey 11.367 it is usually translated, grace. In the Philippians passage, Paul says Jesus--
emptied Himself, taking the form (morphe) of a bondservant

and being made in the likeness of men.

The human form Jesus took showed us His human form while revealing His divinity. This is reinforced by Paul when he says in Phil. 2.8 that he was found in the appearance as a man--He looked like a man. Paul is saying He appeared to be an ordinary man, even though his morphe indicated that He was more than that. This is the image of God mentioned in Genesis 1.27--an outward image revealing an inner quality. So when Jesus comes to fishermen in Matthew 4, they just drop their nets to follow Him. In Matt. 8 a leper calls Him, Lord. A demon calls Him, Son of God, Matt. 8.29. They all know Jesus is a man, but much more than that.


When Adam and Eve fell, their inward quality was ruined although their outward form was not. As it turned out, God used their outward form, their morphe, to eventually renew their inward quality. This we see when God promised to send a savior through the seed of a woman.

What God is doing is beginning with His own nature, then enhancing it by giving His image to new creatures, Adam and Eve. When God provided an altar, He gave us the earth upon which to worship God. When He provided a tabernacle and the Law, He bestowed His presence in the midst of a nation so that the Jews could approach Him. And then He gave Himself to every individual, tribe, tongue and nation.

But that is not all. To make the circle of holiness complete, God gave His own nature and being to us through the Spirit, He took us into Himself that we would be in Him.


Now if all this is true, how how are we in Him and He in us?

After the Fall and before Jesus was born, a great many people displayed great talents. The first instance of this is Cain. He left the presence of God in Gen. 4.16, built a city, and his descendants became livestock herders, musicians, and metal forgers, Gen. 4.20-22. Being out of the worship of God did not ruin Cain's talents and those of his descendants.

What this means is that when Adam fell he could never fall out of God's care. Even Cain is given a city and skills. And by the way, those very same skills will be honored and used by God when Moses builds the tabernacle out of animal hides, metal for utensils and musicians to celebrate the tabernacle. Does this mean that even Cain in all his failure has a place with God's economy? Possibly it does. Does it mean that Cain did all of what he did on his own, entirely separated from God? Probably not. He was sent out of God's worship presence in order that his descendants might be brought back generations later.

We have this same pattern with Jacob and Esau. They were enemies first--Jacob was sent away--but then reconciled years later, Genesis 32. Cain and Esau never did take the role in God's plan of redemption that Abel and Jacob did. Still we can say they were cast down by God but not cast off. The same thing is true of Israel--they were cast out of Palestine into slavery in Babylon but God brought them back to be in the land when their messiah Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea.

God honored the image of God in man, even in Cain and Esau, no matter how defaced that image was.


We might not even know that He is in us, but Paul says He is.
The apostle says in Ephesians 1.18 he is praying, that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened so that you may know what is the hope of your calling... There is no other way to realize such glorious spiritual realities. They cannot be discovered on a scroll, by someone with special gifts or an overheated religious imagination, or someone possessing a secret map or language or viewpoint. Such insight must come from God.

Now we realize that what God did was true but not visible to us until we receive the inner sight to see it. What exactly are we to see? Hope, inheritance, power. The hope is His calling of us out of darkness, into light as John says in John 1.9. Our inheritance is the riches of His glory which is given to us now in part and then entirely when we reach heaven, Eph. 1.18. His power means the same power that raised Jesus from the dead will raise us up also, Eph. 2.6.

All of this is seen by grace, believed through faith. But as James says, faith is not alone for it always results in what can be seen. That brings us to the understanding that the presence of God in us reaches into our everyday life like bubbles coming to the surface of water. The woman caught in adultery saw forgiveness in Jesus. When Jesus healed a leper in Luke 5.13 Jesus tells the leper to go to the priest--
and make an offering for your cleansing, jus as Moses commanded, for a testimony to them.

Notice it is not a testimony against the priest, but to him. This is the faith which results in the works of love. It is the presence of God in us and among us which glorifies God.

Wednesday, March 6, 2013


We all have read of St. Paul's encounter with the living God on the road to Damascus. Years later Paul tells the Corinthians what he's gone through for the gospel of God.

He says he went through labors, imprisonments, beatings and the danger of death. He took lashes from the Jews, beatings with rods, a stoning, a shipwreck, dangers from rivers, robbers, Jews and Gentiles who were against him.

What kept him going through all of this?

When Saul met Jesus on the road, He resculptured Saul's soul from inside out. He changed his heart, his name, his mind, his resolve and his purpose in life. God was present in Paul in much the same way God was present in the Holy of Holies---powerfully, purely, and in ecstasy. In the manner in which God was present with Adam and Eve in the Garden, in the manner in which God was upon David, God's Spirit was upon Jesus, so God was present in Paul. His life was changed, his travels were changed, his mind was changed, his relationships were changed, his vision of God was changed.

The JB Phillips translation of Romans 12 brings this out:
let God re-mould your mind from within so that you may prove
in practice that the plan of God for you is good, meets all His
demands and moves toward the goal of maturity.

We might be more familiar with another wording of this transformation:
be transformed by the renewing of your mind...
but the mind does not transform the soul, rather the presence of God in the soul then transforms the mind. The mind does not originate, it recognizes what God has done, what God is doing.

It is the presence of God from Adam to Christ to us. When God's presence is in us, we will desire His truth, we will seek Him through our will, and love His through our heart.
John 15 is famous for the 'I am' statements. Jesus is describing God's presence as the vine and branches: he who abides in Me and I in him, he bears much fruit, John 15.5. Jesus will describe this quality of Him in us and we in Him with several images--fruit, branch, abide, commandments, but they all will culminate in love. When Jesus comes to a Pharisee's house in Luke 7, a woman washed Jesus' feet with her tears and hair, and anointed His feet with perfume. Jesus says, her sins, which are many, are forgiven, for she loved much... The forgiveness which Saul experienced on a road, the woman experienced at dinner.

We don't always know that God's presence is in us. Paul has to write to the Ephesians, I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlighted, so that you may know what is the hope of His calling, what are the riches of the glory of His inheritance in the saints, Eph.1.18. Notice that Paul says the inheritance is, in the saints. With the OT, God's presence was upon the Jews or in their midst with the Law but not in them as it is with us.

God's presence gives us a new heart, a new mind, a new soul and will and life. When we are different people from the inside out, we have a new life, a new marriage, a new relationship with our children, friends, employees and all the saints whatever the denomination.