Thursday, August 29, 2013

When Paul wrote the Corinthians, he said in 1 Cor. 10.5--with most of them God was not well-pleased. He was referring to the generation who came out of Egypt but did not enter the Promised Land. He said they were idolaters, acting immorally, trying the Lord and grumbling.

These are stern accusations considering that the generation which came out of Egypt saw the Red Sea part, they saw God do miracles, defeat enemies and give them a beautiful land.

Still they idolized stone and clay gods rather than worship the Lord God who was in their midst.

What is God's answer?
In Romans 15.1 Paul encourages the Romans in this way--we who are strong ought to bear the weaknesses of those without strength and not just please ourselves.

The idea is that--what was written in earlier times was written for our instruction, that through perseverence and the encouragement of the Scriptures, we might have hope.

encouragement in the Scriptures =

How does this work?
We are to be like Christ in pleasing God. 
Paul says in Rom. 15.5 that we should be of the same mind that was in Christ Jesus, with one accord, one voice to glorify God.
That probably refers to Philippians 2.3-5. In Philippians Paul says--let each one of you regard one another as more important than himself. In Romans 15.1 Paul says--let each of us please his neighbor for his good, to his edification.

In Philippians 2.5 Paul says--Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus... In Romans 15.5,6 Paul says--be of the same mind with one another according to Christ Jesus, that with one accord you may with one voice gloriy the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The result of this is Romans 15.13--Now may the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing that you may abound in hope by the power of the Holy Spirit. When we are of the same mind, filled with the same Spirit, we will abound in the hope which comes through Jesus.

Paul can boast about his preaching, about what Christ has accomplished through him, Rom. 15.18. What about us?
Paul said in Romans 5.3-5 that--we also exullt in our tribulationss, knowing that tribulation brings about perseverance; and perseverance, proven character and proven character, hope; and hope does not disappoint because the love of God has been poured out within our hearts through the Holy Spirit who was given to us.

This is what has happened to us, this is pleasing to God.
And yet, this is not enough. Paul mentions what Christ accomplished through him which has brought about faith in the Gentiles is the--obedience of the Gentiles in word and deed. It is word and deed which shows that Paul has--fully preached the gospel of Christ.

To believe the Word and to do the deeds of faith is the full gospel of Christ, which is pleasing to God

Thursday, August 22, 2013


One of the deep passages of the NT is Philippians 2.5,6--
having this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus,
who although He existed in the form of God,
did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped,
but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant
and being made in the likeness of men.
The passage has an overall point which is not difficult to understand but monumentally difficult to experience. Paul's point here is that, as he has experienced Christ on the road to Damascus, he wishes all of us to have that same experience.

So he writes Phil. 2.5-12 in a way to convey that experience and then understand it.
Paul begins in verse 5 by saying--Have this attitude in yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus... What he means is what Jesus experienced, we will also; the attitude which was in Him should be in us as what was given to Him will be given to us. Pretty incredible, isn't it?

So Paul begins.

He says Jesus did not grasp the things of God, keeping them to Himself. Because He did not, these things can be given to us--did not regard equality with God a thing to be grasped, 2.6.

Now this verse in Greek is difficult. It is 12 words, and 3 of the words are key while they are obscure.
The word for 'equality' doesn't mean equality; it means, 'possessions.' The word is uparcw, to be at one's disposal, possessions, means. You might even translate it, 'things of God,' rather than equality.

The word for 'a thing to be grasped,' is arpagmon, which means to take by force. It is used in Heb. 10.34--seizure of your property.

But the real obscure word is hghsato, which means to consider, regard, think. It is used only in Acts 14.12--chief speaker. It refers to a leader or ruler doing the decision-making.

So these four words--uparxwn oux arpagmon ngnsato--is translated, he did not regard possessions (equality) a thing to be grasped.

Then for, equality with God, we have--to evai isa theu--meaning, the things to exist as God.

What Paul is doing here is taking 12 words, really 3 key words, to load them up with such spiritual intensity they become difficult to translate. He is compressing the sentence to intensify it because he wants to convey an experience of Christ, not merely an understanding of Him. That's what this passage is about.

Having done that, in v. 8-12 he will elaborate on this to make an incredible point. His point is that the spirit which infilled Jesus is for us.
First, he says Jesus came down from heaven (emptied Himself) to become a man (made in the likeness of men). What Jesus did was He--became obedient to the point of death, even death on the cross, v. 8. As a result, God bestowed upon Him the name above every name.

Then Paul makes his monumental application, v.12. He says--So out your salvation with fear and trembling. This is our version of v. 8--becoming obedient to the point of death, even death on a cross. We are to work out our salvation, our death to self so that we, too, might be resurrected by the Father. We are to be filled so that we would be saved and exalted and resurrected.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

FRIEND Week 10

It's a simple word, one we use often and yet in the NT it is used to mean so much. If Jesus were to speak about the ultimate idea of love, the ultimate sacrifice, if He were to speak of the greatest thing He could give from His Father, would you think of the word, 'Friend'?

I don't think I would. I might think of a tragic word to convey some ultimate truth, but not friend.

And yet Jesus uses that simple word in John 15.
First He says that the greatest expression of love is to lay down your life for a friend--You are My friend if you do what I command you, John 15.14. He does not say lay down your life for your parent, your spiritual guide or a famous person, but for your friend.

Then Jesus says what makes someone His friend is to obey His commandments. He does not limit that to the Jews, to the religious, to his close friends, or even His followers. Whoever obeys is one of His friends.

In Luke 14 Jesus tells a parable of a king who invited many to a feast, but they would not come, they would not obey the invitation. So he had his servants compel anyone--even the lame, the poor, the crippled, and the blind--who would come to come. Those who obeyed were the friends of the king.

Friendship in the Lord is a special thing.
Jesus says--Not everyone who says to Me, 'Lord, Lord,' will enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of My Father, who is in heaven, Matt. 7.21.

Once, His mother and brothers came wishing to speak to Jesus. He said--For whoever shall do the will of My Father who is in heaven, he is My brother and sister and mother, Matt. 12.50.

While we might notice the exclusive tone here, we might also notice the family element. Whoever does the will of the Father is the family of Jesus, His mother, brother or sister. This means that anyone, of any tribe, kindred, nation, ethnic group, gender, anyone can be in the family of God.
When Paul wrote the Corinthians the second time, he thought of them as his family. He begins chapter 7 by calling them, 'beloved.' The Greek word is , loved ones. He asks them to make room for him in their hearts, almost as if he were saying, 'make room for me in your house.' He says the Corinthians are in his heart--to die together and to live together, 2 Cor. 7.3.

He says that toward the people at that church, he is filled with comfort and overflowing with joy. And when Titus came, Paul was comforted not only by Titus but also by how the Corinthians treated Titus. He is glad his first letter led the Corinthians from sorrow to repentance to the will of God (there's that obedience again) unto salvation, 2 Cor. 7.9,10.

They are friends.

We don't often think of the apostle Paul as so endearing. We might think of him as the doctrinal giant he was, but he had been brough through doctrine to love. He knew no one could relate to God except through love, which comes in a family.

Thursday, August 8, 2013


I just made up that word, 'begendings' to relate beginnings with endings. Since I have been quite sick--and I'm nnot completely free of my sickness--I have been thinking of how life is more about beginnings and endings than the long middle years in between.

So I've been wondering what that means. The two famous beginnings in the Bible are of Adam and Paul. Adam was born of God's breadth, Paul was born again of Jesus' word.

Adam was brough down from the Garden by way of sin to a world into which he was not born. It must have been a frightening thought to have to livee where he was not born, to be an alien in a strange land because of what he did in another world
And Paul was jealous for the Lord within traditional Judaism, yet the God whom he thought he served asked him--Why are you persecuting Me, Acts 9.4. This upset Paul's thinking about God and Judaism. Paul had to start all over again, to begin again.

In the endings of our lives, Adam's life ended in the hope of a messiah who was promised. Paul's life ended after the messiah had come, in the summation of God's will. It was his death in Rome that culminated his life as the follower and preacher of Christ.

For Adam, he was given a great deal in the Garden, and had a great deal taken away in the Fall. So he lived in hope that one of his ancestors would be the messiah, the one who would bruise the serpent's head.
Paul living centuries later was misguided until he met Jesus on the road to Damascus. Then, having encountered Jesus, he lived the rest of his life on the basis and understanding of that moment. His preaching and teaching was the understanding of what Jesus did on the road to begin his life again. As the writer to the Hebrews said--in these last days He has spoken to us in His Son, Heb. 1.2.

In between the beginning and ending is the plateau each of us has for a few years or many more.
Paul is aware of this level time and place. In one of his famous phrases, he says--I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Jesus Christ, Philippians 3.14. Paul knows he's on a plateau, although he sees it as an upward call. He may have been thinking of the pilgrimmage to Jerusalem in which the last few miles are upward in altitude until the pilgrim reaches the city gates. Paul says we are headed to Zion, we are on our upward pilgrimmage to the heavenly Jerusalem.

We have had our salvation procured by Jesus; we are on the walk of sanctification which secures our safety from the enemy until we come to the consummation devoutly to be wished, our glorification.
The Holy Spirit is our protection along the way. Joel 2.28 had said the Spirit of the Lord would be upon all mankind. John said we would be baptized by the Spirit, John 3.5. David said Thy word is a lamp unto Thy feet, and a light unto Thy path, Ps. 109.105. David also said God would--make known to me the path of life, Ps. 16.11.

Along the way Paul tells Timothy to--Guard, through the Holy Spirit, who dwells in us, the treasure which has been enturusted to you, 2 Tim. 1.14. Paul hopes the Colossians will--walk in a manner worthy of the Lord, to please Him in all respects, bearing fruit in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God, Col. 1.10.

We persevere as we have been called to do so. In Mark 4.35 Jesus told the disciples to get into a boat--Let us go to the other side. A fierce gale had come up, but Jesus had said they were going to the other side. No matter what comes up, we are going to the other side. Jesus rebuked the winds, saying to the sea--Hush, be still, Mark 4.39. So Matt. 8.28 finishes it off by saying--He had come to the other side...

Thursday, August 1, 2013


In the western culture we often think of the church as a building, an institution or a sort-of club to join.

David in Psalm 65.4 sung--
How blessed is the one in whom Thou does choose
and bring near to Thee,
to dwell in Thy courts;
we will be satisfied with the goodness of Thy house,
thy holy temple.

In Isaiah 56.7 God says--
for My house shall be a house of prayer.

In Ephesians 2.21 Paul calls the church--
a holy temple in the Lord.

These quotes bring the church from a courtyard to a house to a temple. The building is there but it is a house for a family, that is, God and His children. And more than that, it is a temple in which He is worshiped, a place of reverence and awe and spirit. When you stand there and inhale, more than air enters you; it is the spirit of divinity of which you are aware; it is as if you'd rather not touch anything but you adore the place as it glows within you.

The church has a beautiful strangeness. It is not like learning about someone's life, it is entering into someone's life, that of Jesus Christ. Just think what it would be like to enter into Christ when He heals a leper, or raises Lazarus from the dead or touches children or speaks to a woman caught in adultery. What would it be like to enter into Jesus when He speaks to His Father, sees His Father, is with His Father?

To hear those whisperings, to feel that surge of power, to see that horizon.

That would be a complicated environment, would it not? And yet, that is Christ. That is the church.

It is the place in which we experience healing, wholeness, forgiveness, blessing and love.

It is the place where the knot of sin is untied so that our souls can relax.

We can lay ourselves down, to rest in Him. We rest because we are in Him. Have you ever sat on the banks of a leisurely stream, the glowing reflection of a momentary sun off the network of trickling water, easing by? That is rest.

But it is also the place in which we learn who God is.

The blessed man delights in the Law, meditates on the Law day and night in the assembly of the righteous, Psalm 1 We have the eyes of our heart enlightened to know the hope of our calling, the riches of the glory of the inheritance in the saints, Eph. 1.18. John Donne called church the college of God. The church is the pillar of the truth.
We hear the Scriptures read and expounded in the church. We hear and obey the Scriptures in the church. When Jesus read the scroll from Isaiah, He said--Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing, Luke 4.21. It is in the church that proclaiming becomes hearing to be evangelizing.

Is there a NT church in which these things happened?
It may have been the church at Thessalonica. Paul uses the phrase in Ephesians 5.1--be imitators of God, as beloved children. But how do we do this?

In 1 Thessalonians 1. 3-10 Paul was always thanking God for the saints at Thessalonica because of the--word of faith and labor of love and steadfastness of hope in our Lord Jesus Christ...

He says they became--imitators of us and of the Lord, having received the Word in much tribulation and with the joy of the Holy Spirit.

He says they--became an example to all the believers in Macedonia and in Achaia.

He says--the Word of the Lord sounded forth from every place the word of your faith has gone forth.

That is the Word of God.

What did they have, to make all of that possible?
Paul says in 1 Thes. 5.11--encourage one another and build up one another, just as you are doing...appreciate those who diligently labor among you and have charge over you in the Lord and give you instructions, and that you esteem them very highly in love because of their work.

The second time Paul wrote to this church, he completed his instructions to them by saying--stand firm and hold to the tradition which you were taught, whether by word of mouth or by letter from us, 1 Thes. 2.15. Now we can only imagine what letters or what sermon or teaching came to the Thessalonians, but they believed it. They believed it as a church, as a group of believers with one mind, spirit, soul, so that they became one church under God.