Saturday, 24 December 2011

O come, o come ... Melchizedek?

Dear brothers,
we are about to celebrate the coming of the King. He is God's King, whom the Father has set over His own people, His own family, to rule them in sweet love. He was always God's King over Israel, as it was said about them, that "The LORD their God is with them, and the shout of a king is among them" (Num 23:21), even long before the first Christmas. He was with His own, though not yet one of them. Again, it was prophesied, "His [God's] King shall be higher than Agag, and His kingdom shall be exalted." (Num 24:7).

The Christian saints of old knew Him, and prayed concerning Him, "The LORD will judge the ends of the earth; He will give strength to His king, and exalt the power of His Christ" (1 Sam 2:10). Such was Hannah's prayer, after she had conceived the son she longed for with the help of God, and had given birth to him. She dedicated him to God, and he became a prophet over God's people. This prophet, Samuel, they asked for a king (1 Sam 8:5), not knowing Jesus, The King, whom Samuel's mother worshipped and living as though there was no king (Jgs 21:22). Samuel, distressed when seeing his beloved Christ rejected as king, prayed to the LORD, and Christ Himself answered, "Obey the voice of the people in all that they say to you, for they have not rejected you, but they have rejected me from being king over them." (1 Sam 8:7). Yet, one day, in all His mercy, He would come anyway, to a people who rejected Him, to bring salvation to the poor.

And so He did - and the wise men, having learnt their wisdom from reading Scriptures diligently, came to Judea. They said to a king, "where is The King?" (after Mt. 2:2). Had they not known that Jesus was The King, they would have been content with the normal king, whom they had already found. But they came to see The King, bringing gifts to Him: Gold, and frankincense, and myrrh (Mt 2:11).

Why these gifts? Some say, Gold because Jesus is our glorious king, frankincense because He is our priest, and myrrh cause He's going to die (for myrrh was used to anoint the dead). And it sounds good, but is it the point? Are we seeing wonderful things in them that they didn't actually mean? Let's look again..
Gold for the king - but does Moses say that? (Please tell me, if you know!) Was not the High Priest the only person to be clothed in gold from top to bottom? He had golden bells above his feet, a plate of gold on his chest, and a plate of gold on his head, saying, "Holy to the LORD" (Ex. 28). It was also the priests and the High Priest who was anointed with myrrh (Ex. 30:22-30). Again, it was the High Priest who burned incense in the tabernacle (Lev. 16:12).

Remains the question: Why go to the baby-shower of a King, and bring presents for a High Priest? Surely they would have known that Jesus was a Jew? "For it is evident that our Lord was descended from Judah, and in connection with that tribe Moses said nothing about priests." (Heb. 7:14). Why then do they bring priesthood-gifts to a Jewish-born baby? Especially, since everything is so clear that they are looking for a King? There has been no-one in the Old Testament who was both king and priest ... except one: Melchizedek. "This Melchizedek, king of Salem, priest of the Most High God [that is, of the Father], met Abraham returning from the slaughter of the kings and blessed him" (what follows is all from Heb 7:1-4). Let us "see how great this man was". Who is he? "He is without father or mother or genealogy, having neither beginning of days nor end of life...". He has no father or mother, so is not a human being. He has no beginning of days, so he is not an angel either, nor any created being. That leaves us with three options, for there is only three who have no beginning of days: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. Who is He? He's *the* "priest of the Most High God". Jesus is the only one to be both King and Priest. More than that, He is both the original King and the original Priest. Abraham knew Him, Hannah prayed about Him, Samuel talked to Him. But now He has come in the flesh! This God, our God, has become one of us, forever!

Merry Christmas!

Wednesday, 14 December 2011

God's Pleasure - to dwell with us

An attempt at a sermon based on Wesley's line "Pleased as Man with Man to Dwell"

- Scripture text was John 1:9-16

Saturday, 3 December 2011

Anachronistic Insufficiency

In Bible interpretation - the accusation is that the OT was often read anachronistically:
i.e. reading the NT back into the OT

the opponents against this stand by the fact that the OT is Christian Scripture - and therefore they are reading what is already there - and explicitly meant to be there

actually, I think the problem is we don't read Scripture relationally - as though the same Person(s) is speaking
and we have the knowledge that this Person(s) does not change

so in theory - we should read Scripture contextually (more about within the setting, rather than the 'extent of the revelation'), and then apply it both currently, exponentially in to the future, and anachronistically impose it onto the past - since the goal is to find out about the character of God Who does not change

it is also understanding the basis of the fact that humanity is inherently the same at the core - sinful  - and we merely see differential expressions of sin (and faith) according to culture

What do you think?

Tuesday, 29 November 2011


Leon's done a couple of sermons on Leviticus recently: - an overview of the whole book - one on Lev 23


Friday, 18 November 2011

Grace is the hardest thing of all to believe..

(From Paul Blackham's Jesus Talks – Trinity 8 – from 18mins to end)

Grace is the hardest thing of all to understand and believe. It makes no sense at all in terms of human logic and instinct. Our first thought really, our first thought is always, “What do I need to do? How can I sort myself out?”

And even in these ultimate questions, we assume that there’s some kind of tradition or creed or technique or religious system or self-improvement programme or new resolutions that will sort us out. We always vastly underestimate the problem and vastly overestimate our abilities.

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is a statement that He alone has the ability to sort out our problem that is so huge. And He has the love and the servant-heart and the humility and the glory to do it. We might ask, “What do I need to do? How can I sort myself out? How can I fix things?”

To which, God replies, “Do you mean what do you need to do in order to pacify the living God whose eyes are too pure to even look on sin? What do you need to do in order to turn back history, to take away the things that you shudder to remember? What do you need to do in order to encompass the whole universe in yourself so that it can be purified by you? What do you need to do to disarm the devil, defeat death, answer the gaping abyss of hell? What do you need to do in order to bring perfect justice, mercy, goodness, and life to a desperate and lost world? What do you need to do to heal all sicknesses and create new resurrection bodies in a perfect new creation? What do you need to do to renew the universe so that it can be the home of the living God forever? What do you need to do to lay a hand on both God and humanity to brings us both together? Well what can you do about all that?... Not much.”

The grace of the Lord Jesus Christ is that He was given such a task by His Father and He went out in the Father’s will and the power of the Spirit to accomplish this at enormous, infinite, personal cost. The pure and perfect and obedient Son, Jesus Christ, takes us filthy and double-minded and selfish people as His personal friends and members of His family. He takes up our cause and gives His all to the ultimate degree in order to save us from ourselves. He makes it possible for our past to be forgiven and for us to be made into copies of Himself and it’s possible for us, even us, to be given a warm welcome into the eternal life of God, now and forever.

Wednesday, 16 November 2011

Wealth Distribution

2 Corinthians 8:13-15  13 I do not mean that others should be eased and you burdened, but that as a matter of fairness  14 your abundance at the present time should supply their need, so that their abundance may supply your need, that there may be fairness.  15 As it is written, "Whoever gathered much had nothing left over, and whoever gathered little had no lack."

One wonders if this is true for the whole world
the Father daily provides in abundance - more than sufficient for everyone

the reason there is poverty - is that some have gathered too much
or that some are too lazy to gather ("he who does not work shall not eat")
the former imply a lack of trust that their Father will provide tomorrow
the latter imply a lack of gratitude that their Father has already provided

the former will also have wealth which rots in the end:
James 5:2   2 Your riches have rotted and your garments are moth-eaten.

The point of provision - is not just sufficiency, but enjoyment
but not at the expense of others

Distribution has never been 'unequal' per se - but always enough such that those who can gather can supply abundantly to those who cannot (rather than will not)

Thursday, 3 November 2011

Visual Preaching

John Stott commenting on Gal 3:1-3

"Grapho can sometimes mean to draw or paint, rather than to write, an pro can mean 'before' in space (before our eyes) rather than in time (previously). So Paul here likens his gospel-preaching either to a huge canvas painting or to a placard publicly exhibiting a notice or advertisement. The subject of his painting or placard was Jesus Christ on the cross. Of course it was not literally a painting; the picture was created by words,. Yet it was so visual, so vivid, in its appeal to their imagination, that the placard was presented 'before your very eyes'. One of the greatest arts or gifts in gospel-preaching is to turn people's ears into eyes, and to make them see what we are talking about'.

Pretty much sums up my philosophy of preaching... 3 point sermon anyone?

Wednesday, 26 October 2011

Theology of time

... any thoughts?

What if the "fulfilled time" (i.e. Ephesians) indicates "Time" is relational - rather than a linear definition, it is a definition of when God's plan comes to fruition. Time is not fulfilled until Jesus is pierced on the cross. Therefore, all time we spend in Christ is "fulfilled time" - and all time spent outside of Christ is wasted time - or, as Barth would imply, timelessness.

Could have wide implications of how the Holy Spirit indwells in the saints in the Old Testament and how the OT saints (i.e. how we could even call them OT Christians) could be saved, if Jesus hasn't "yet" been glorified. If time is relational, and not linear, then the OT saints very much enjoyed that time as fulfilled even before the incarnation.

Monday, 10 October 2011

Thursday, 6 October 2011

random thoughts

things that i'm too lazy to write out...

 -  to be generous implies to be connected to an unlimited source of wealth (i.e. the Giver), rather than a quantifiable amount

- Jesus does not set us free to go, but to come

- The man who is completely free from his bonds, is the one who is free to be completely bound

Wednesday, 5 October 2011

Solus Christus

My version of Solus Christus - based on Galatians & Martin Luther

Wednesday, 21 September 2011


My new definition of Work

Work is to produce life

Thus sinful work only works for the self and is ultimately futile

God's work is to produce life in others, for we already have life in self - we are to create an Eden for others (despite it costing us dearly)

In this way - we testify to our Working, Resting God
Who longs to live in the Eden He made for us, with us

is that a complete enough definition?

Tuesday, 20 September 2011

OT Spirit

avid Murray has a series of posts on the Spirit in the OT

His conclusions are these:

Five conclusionsI’ll post some quotes tomorrow from ancient and modern commentators to support this interpretation of this passage. But in the meantime, here are some conclusions:
1. All Old Testament believers were born again from above, had faith in the coming Messiah, and were continually indwelt by the Holy Spirit. The indwelling Spirit was given to Old Testament saints prospectively, just as pardon of sin was given in view of Christ’s future atonement.
2. Old Testament believers’ experience of the Holy Spirit was usually limited to a degree of personal filling, but rarely a filling full, and even more rarely an overflowing to others in witness, evangelism, and mission.
3. The reason for the more limited experience of the Spirit’s indwelling was because of their more limited knowledge of Christ’s person and work.
4. Once Christ’s person and work and reached its apex of revelation, the Holy Spirit’s power was fully manifested in overflowing power.
5. The more we are filled with Christ, the more we will be filled with the Spirit, and the more we will overflow into the lives of others in witness, evangelism, and witness.

I wonder for points 2-3 it is not so much an individual sense, but in a corporate sense - i.e. limited to Israel, vs overflowing to the whole world - surely Moses' evangelism and mission was as 'powerful' as ours?
any thoughts?

Thursday, 15 September 2011

Ranting on 1 Samuel

So just heard the dean of a certain Australian college give a series of sermons on 1 Samuel as training on how to preach OT narratives in a Christ-focused manner:

which to him means explaining the passage in detail and then putting 1-3 minutes of Jesus at the end...
does that qualify as preaching Christ?

For example, 1 Sam 13,
Amnon & Tamar... explain whole story, let it come out in feeling...
then at the end Jesus is the true son of David who will live the way David never could
unlike the real sons of David which brought out the murderer and rapist in him

ok i guess.. but is that all we've got??

what about this...

as we trace how sin works and affects the prince and his half-sister-bride

we then come to trace the faithful prince, with his sister, his bride,

Song of Solomon 4:9 You have captivated my heart, my sister, my bride; you have captivated my heart with one glance of your eyes, with one jewel of your necklace.

he then knows how to wait for love, for if he advances on her too soon, she will reject him and be his tool, not his helper, and he indeed will be like all the other fools who: stir up or awaken love (before)  it pleases.

No, He will woo her, and die for her, instead of murdering her husband.. to allow her to open up slowly and surely, 

then he will take his (half) sister, bride - according to the King's command, into their mother's bed chamber 

or something like that?

Wednesday, 14 September 2011

optimism & pessimism

Being realistic is to be pessimistic about all the works of man, and to be optimistic about the compelling love of God

Godly Hermaneutics

According to the Living God...

Jeremiah 1:11-12   11 And the word of the LORD came to me, saying, "Jeremiah, what do you see?" And I said, "I see an almond branch."  12 Then the LORD said to me, "You have seen well, for I am watching over my word to perform it."

"sounds like" - is a perfectly acceptable form of understanding something

NLT 1 Kings 18:44 Finally the seventh time, his servant told him, "I saw a little cloud about the size of a hand rising from the sea." Then Elijah shouted, "Hurry to Ahab and tell him, 'Climb into your chariot and go back home. If you don't hurry, the rain will stop you!'"

"looks like" is also acceptable

so i don't see what the heck is wrong with allegorizing and making quite generic allusions to both things in Scripture and creation...

Friday, 9 September 2011

Another sermon on Proverbs

Must admit, didn't quite know what else to say apart from what I already said last week, but wanted to zoom in on us being reacquainted with Wisdom - Jesus - Father. Wasn't explicit with this, but also wanted to drop the hint that a sermon is not just about us coming as subjects before a king to hear a list of decrees or applications to work on; but simply spending time with Jesus, and receiving Him and from Him, being loved by Him and loving Him. Again, not sure I dealt with it properly, and basically ran out of time to think through more... Don't know why but didn't really want to preach this sermon and felt like I just went through the motions.
As always... comments very much appreciated...

Sorry... still don't now how to do the link thing!

Friday, 2 September 2011

A sermon on Proverbs

Not sure how this went down, but from whatever comments I had, it didn't seem to 'do much' for people. So comments very much appreciated. It's not sleek public speaking as I'm trying to preach without a script - finally taking Prentice's advice - but really just want to know if the gospel was presented. Getting a bit disheartened by not much happening through sermons.

By the way, how do you put a link in a post that you can click on to take you to another site or sermon etc?

Friday, 19 August 2011

Lashing with the law or applying the balm of Christ?

Something a dear friend of mine wrote when talking about how he's beginning to be led out of 'spiritual depression':

"I heard an encouraging sermon at church from a visiting missionary from Pakistan. It occurred to me that people who minister with Muslims have a greater emphasis on grace than people who minister with your average Westerners. People who spend all their days with (apparently) complacent Christians seem to fall into the trap of thinking that it will help to bash them over the head a bit. But people who minister with those who are already being bashed over the head by a false religion seem to understand that grace is the answer."

Tuesday, 16 August 2011

Going Home to Jesus

A sermon on 2 Cor 5 - continuing from the last one on 2 Cor 4:

Paul... if you read this.. i hope you don't mind me referring a bit to Project Abraham

Oh and is it ok to quote Bryan Adams in a sermon?

Baby when you're gone, I realize I'm in love days go on and on, and the nights just seem so long Even food don't taste that good, drink ain't doing what it should things just feel so wrong, baby when you're gone

Thursday, 11 August 2011

Bodily Control

From Augustine's City of God:

"Then (had there been no sin)....

... people can move their ears, either at one time or both together...

...a number of people produce at will such musical sounds from their behind (without any stink) that they seem to be singing from that region...

... I  know a man who used to sweat whenever he chose...

.. We observe then that the body, even under present conditions, is an obedient servant to some people in a remarkable fashion...if this is so, is there any reason why we should not believe that before the sin of disobedience... the members of a man's body could have been the servant's of a man's will."

Book XIV, Chapter 24

Monday, 8 August 2011

Jars of Clay

My sermon on 2 Cor 4:

a short quote:

At the cross, Christ was given over to the cruel world by God. Darkness was never as black as it was that day – so dark was it that even the noonday sun could not shine. It as though the heavens over His head became as bronze and the earth under Him was as iron - as if Christ was refused by both as all our sins lay upon Him. Darkness closed in, thinking it had won the victory, one final death blow, and it would all be over – God would come to nothing. Yet it is when the darkness was so great, when selfish humanity killed its Master, was when the light shone most brightly out of the darkness - into the whole universe – just like Day 1 in Genesis – when creation began in earnest, now new creation flowed out of the shattering of Christ.  The Clay Jar, was utterly shattered (action) and the love of God, shone so brightly so that we, like the Roman Centurion, could finally see the heart of God and believe. Behold Him, This is your God. That is what we are about to remind ourselves today as we take communion, the body of Christ was torn, that we may see our God and believe– come and see how much He loves you, let Him take the scales away from our veiled eyes.

Tuesday, 2 August 2011


From Leithart:

In the modern view, miracles, if believed at all, are the paradigmatic “supernatural” events.  Verhey suggests that we should think of miracles “not as violations of nature but as the eschatological fulfillment, completion, and perfection of nature.  In these works of power the creation itself is being made new, not violated.  In these works of power the Word that was present at the creation summons nature to its own perfection.”   When Jesus exorcises a demon, he does not violate nature but liberates it and brings it to fulfillment.  When he calms the storm, He is bringing the sea to eschatological peace.  And by healing He brings damaged human beings to their restoration: “The healing miracles of Jesus demonstrate that God’s cause is life, not death, that God’s cause is human flourishing, including the human flourishing we call health, not disease. . . . And the nature miracles make it plain that God’s cause is the blessing upon nature that calms the waters of chaos and restores nature itself to what God intends.”
God is not identified with natural processes, nor with supernatural miraculous processes.  In miracles, we have warrant for altering nature, but altering it in the direction of God’s kingdom, to serve His purposes.  Altering nature to heal, Verhey says, is consistent with Jesus’ purposes, as is altering nature to bring freedom and blessing to the poor.  These works are “supernatural” not in the modern sense, but in the sense that by God’s work in His people, He is bringing creation to its telos.

Moses (i.e. the gospel of Jesus Christ) preached in every city from the earliest times? (Acts 15:21)

The gospel was preached universally even earlier than Moses! Here's a bit of a gem in Wiliam Haslam's (the guy who was converted as he was preaching!) autobiography:

My attention was directed to Cornish crosses; about which I also sent a paper, with illustrations, as a good secretary and correspondent to the same Journal. My researches on this subject took me back to a very remote time. I found crosses among Roman remains, with inscriptions, something like those in the Catacombs near Rome--these were evidently Christian; but I found crosses also among Druidic antiquities. I could not help inquiring, "Where did the Druids get this sign?" From the Phoenicians. "Where did they get it?" From the Egyptians. "Where did they get it?" Then I discovered that the cross had come to Egypt with traditions about a garden, a woman, a child, and a serpent, and that the cross was always represented in the hand of the second person of their trinity of gods. This personage had a human mother, and slew the serpent which had persecuted her.( These traditions came to the Egyptians from an ancestor who had come over the flood with seven others.)

Here was a wonderful discovery! The mythology of Egypt was based on original tradition, handed down from Antediluvian times! From further investigation, it was evident that the substance of Hindoo mythology came from the same source; as also that of the Greeks, Chinese, Mexicans, and Scandinavians. This is how the Druids got the cross also: it was in the hand of their demi-god Thor, the second person of their triad, who slew the great serpent with his famous hammer, which he bequeathed to his followers.

I was beside myself with excitement, and walked bout the room in a most agitated state. I then made a table or harmony of these various mythologies, and when placed side by side, it was quite clear that they were just one and the same story, though dressed up in a variety of mythological forms, and that the story was none other than that of the Bible.

In my architectural journeys I used to entertain, people with these wondrous subjects; and one evening I had the honour of agitating even the Bishop of Exeter himself, who, in his enthusiasm, bade me write a book, and dedicate it to him. I did so. "The Cross and the Serpent" is the title of it, and it was duly inscribed to his lordship. []

It excites me even now to think about it, though it is thirty-five years since I made these discoveries. The old librarian at Oxford declared that I was mad, and yet he could not keep away from the subject, and he was never weary of hearing something more about it. This reverend Doctor said, "If you are right, then all the great antiquaries are wrong." I suggested that they had not had the advantage I possessed of placing their various theories side by side, or of making their observations from my point of view.

Saturday, 23 July 2011

Let's keep the world moving forward


I find this the video very disturbing... 

Thursday, 21 July 2011

The Google Effect

What do you think?

The researchers on the Google-Effect have hit on something about the human condition. They conclude that Google is doing something to change our brains. I think they have scratched only the surface of the problem. In other words, it goes much deeper. This Google-Effect is another of those symptoms of a vulnerable, and desperate vacuum of the human heart. It is not Google actively ‘changing’ one’s brain. It is the human heart’s tendency to prefer the easy way out. Just like more water preferring to flow down a steeper incline, the human soul prefers to go down the trail of self-seeking desires to anything else. Refusing to exercise one’s desire to remember things, one unwittingly lets the computers do the remembering. The net effect is that humans will have lost a part of their identity, and computers will have gained no meaning beyond additional amount of binary data comprising simply of 0s and 1s. 

The other aspect of the human condition is to seek its sense of identity through its own means, rather than God’s ways. Lost, restless, and impatient, the human soul thinks that it is the master of its own destiny. Here are three areas of concern I have, to argue that Google is doing something more than changing our brains.

Wednesday, 20 July 2011

The Most Risky Profession

An article from Christianity Today:


What makes the pastor's job even more spiritually vulnerable is the expectation that he also be the cathartic head of the church—someone with whom members can identify and live through vicariously. Someone who articulates their fears and hopes, someone to whom they can relate—at a distance. This is key, because the pastor has time to relate to very, very few members. Thus it is all the more important that he be able to communicate in public settings the personable, humble, vulnerable, and likable human being he is.
Thus, preaching in the modern church has devolved into the pastor telling stories from his own life. The sermon is still grounded in some biblical text, and there is an attempt to articulate what that text means today. But more and more, pastors begin their sermons and illustrate their points repeatedly from their own lives. Next time you listen to your pastor, count the number of illustrations that come from his life, and you'll see what I mean. The idea is to show how this biblical truth meets daily life, and that the pastor has a daily life. All well and good. But when personal illustrations become as ubiquitous as they have, and when they are crafted with pathos and humor as they so often are, they naturally become the emotional cornerstone of the sermon. The pastor's life, and not the biblical teaching, is what becomes memorable week after week.
Again, this is not because the pastor is egotistical. It's because, again, we demand this of our preachers. Preachers who don't reveal their personal lives are considered, well, impersonal and aloof. Share a couple of cute stories about your family, or a time in college when you acted less than Christian, and people will come up to you weeks and months later to thank you for your "wonderful, vulnerable sermons." Preachers are not dummies, and they want approval like everyone else. You soon learn that if you want those affirmative comments—and if you want people to listen to you!—you need to include a few personal and, if possible, humorous stories in your sermon.
The inadvertent effect of all this is that most pastors have become heads of personality cults. Churches become identified more with the pastor—this is Such-and-Such's church—than with anything larger. When that pastor leaves, or is forced to leave, it's devastating. It feels a like a divorce, or a death in the family, so symbiotic is today's relationship between pastor and people.

Wednesday, 13 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians - Done

That's the whole essay

any comments or thoughts?

Monday, 11 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (6)

So in conclusion, in this epistle, slavery is simply living the life of the flesh. Freedom is to crucify the flesh and live the life of the Spirit, a life lived to God the Father, through faith in the crucified Christ.

It is expounded in these ways:

1.      We are free from the slavery of sins in this present evil age[1] – that is the true ‘good news’[2].
2.      We are free from seeking the approval or justification[3] of fellow men – for we are justified by God in Christ.
3.      We are free from the fear of men[4], even the persecution of men[5] (especially those who are ‘religious’), for we are safe in the salvation of God.
4.      We are free from the law – its legal demands[6], its curse[7], its imprisonment[8]. We no longer have to prove our own righteousness – ‘it is finished’.
5.      Through faith in the crucified Christ, we receive the Spirit of God[9] - that is the basis of the free life we now live[10]. This has always been true – proven by Abraham’s life recorded in the Scriptures[11].
6.      We are free from regarding anyone according to the flesh, but only according to Christ Jesus[12].
7.      We are no longer slave to either the stoikeia[13] (initially the Jews) or those who by nature are not gods[14] (the Gentiles) – but we are all free sons of the Living God (Christ is formed in us[15]): children of the promise[16].
8.      The free life of faith in the Spirit, expresses itself in love[17] – including love for our neighbour[18] (which is what the law required[19]). The enslaving life of the flesh only produces the works of death[20].
9.      The free life longs to set others free[21], the slave’s life only enslaves others, and ultimately destroys everyone[22].
10.  The cross of Christ frees us from boasting in our work in ‘building-up’[23] others[24] (implying that we have a ‘better system’ than anyone else) – for all is the work of God[25].

So we can infer that the root cause of our slavery is insecurity with our new identity and status in and through Christ’s crucifixion that causes human religion to creep back in. The desire to set up systems and practices that are supposed to ‘ensure’ our justification before God (and cause us to boast in others as they join ‘our system’) – yet they only undermine our faith, causing more slavery than before! Freedom on the other hand, comes from understanding and trusting in the crucifixion of Christ. That we, with Him, are now dead to the world and the world’s influences – because we are alive in God, a new creation[26].

The result is that if one continues to grow in faith and maturity in Christ, one slowly begins to be free from self[27], as the self dies on the cross with Christ – free from the need to self-glorify, whether it be in front of men or God. God accepts us in the cross of Christ – there lies our freedom, our righteousness, our justification, and even our sanctification, through firmly abiding in that truth. That freedom allows us to willingly serve others[28], since we no longer need to serve self and because that is what the Spirit always does.

True Sons and Fathers

The true son rests solely in the love of God shown in the cross of Christ – He needs no other affirmation, encouragement or reassurance. The Spirit of God is the one that constantly pours that love fresh into our hearts[29]. If we are true sons, like Paul, we can become true fathers to others – to beget others through the same Spirit and not through the flesh.

If we are insecure[30], then all our disciple-making will only bind others to ourselves[31], to boost out own standing with men and God – while actually making others slaves to the same insecurity. We will insist on certain practices and systems that we have invented[32] for others to follow in as well[33]. Once the Son sets us free, we are free indeed – people are allowed to express the one faith differently, in a way that harmonizes together[34] – that the world may know we are a liberated people – for the flesh has no hold on how we view one another. We are a crucified people, through the cross of Christ.

(Appendix A - I used Dave Bish's article:

[1] Gal 1:4
[2] Gal 1:7
[3] Gal 1:10
[4] Gal 2:12
[5] Gal 6:12
[6] Gal 2:16
[7] Gal 3:10
[8] Gal 3:23
[9] Gal 3:2
[10] Gal 2:20
[11] Gal 3:7, etc
[12] Gal 3:28
[13]Gal 4:3
[14] Gal 3:8
[15] Gal 4:19
[16] Gal 4:23
[17] Gal 5:6
[18] Gal 5:13
[19] Gal 5:14
[20] Gal 5:19
[21] Gal 6:2
[22] Gal 5:15
[23] Although according to Paul, he implies we are not actually building-up if we do this, but rather, tearing-down
[24] Gal 6:4
[25] Gal 6:14
[26] Gal 6:15
[27] As Luther, quoting Augustine comments that sin is man ‘curved in on himself’ (homo in curvatus se)
[28] Gal 5:13-15
[29] Cf. Romans 5:5
[30] See Appendix A for an example of insecurity
[31] For further discussion, see D. Bonhoeffer, Works Volume 5, Fortress Press, 2005, pg. 44-5
[32] Whether or not it is through ‘Scripture’ (as the Pharisees often claimed)
[33] For example, even something like attending Sunday church eventually becomes a measure of someone’s spirituality. Although it is highly beneficial – it is definitely not the basis of salvation, and not the basis of spiritual judgment.
[34] God is the Chief Musician who arranges the symphony – not us

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (5)

The Offense of the Cross

            Preaching the free grace of Christ always causes offense[1]. “The offense of the cross is the abolition of all religion[2]. The cross proves that we can do nothing to save ourselves. The cross shows that we are cursed and condemned. The cross demonstrates the sinfulness of our sin, the cost of our corruption… It is always easier and more popular to preach about religion and self help rather than the offense of the cross and the crucified Jesus.[3] Indeed to truly preach Christ crucified alone, brings everyone into condemnation and all efforts to vanity - this is the stumbling-block to the Jews[4]. It is this very way of practicing religion that enslaves, and it is the total destruction of the self in the flesh of Christ that sets one free.

The Root of the Matter

The problem in Galatia is just as much about justification about men, as it is about justification before God… Paul identifies with Jesus, the ultimate outsider – crucified outside the camp, a reject, a traitor. Therefore the world cannot intimidate him nor has any power over him[5] - the men of the world hold no persuasion. “If you want to be justified before men, you don’t understand justification before God – you don’t need to be patted on the back by the crowds because you are justified before God.”[6]When we finally get everything out into the open, we can see that what they (the circumcisers) want is to boast in the flesh… their bragging reveals where their confidence lies (in the world)[7]. When we are free from the slavery of self[8], our only concern is to be faithful[9] - causing us to boast only in the cross of Christ[10].

[1] Gal 5:11
[2] In the sense that religion is all men’s efforts to reach or prove oneself to God
[3] Blackham, pg. 62
[4] Cf. 1 Cor 1:23
[5] S. Timmis, A Gospel Centered Community, Total Church Sermon Series
[6] Ibid.
[7] Blackham, pg. 74 – cf. Gal 6:12-14
[8] “The trouble with these seekers after glory is… All they think about is whether people will like and praise them. Theirs is a threefold sin. First, they are greedy of praise. Secondly, they are very sly and wily in suggesting that the ministry of other pastors is not what it should be. By way of contrast they hope to rise in the estimation of the people. Thirdly, once they have established a reputation for themselves they become so chesty that they stop short of nothing. When they have won the praise of men, pride leads them on to belittle the work of other men and to applaud their own. In this artful manner they hoodwink the people who rather enjoy to see their former pastors taken down a few notches by such upstarts.” – Luther commenting on Galatians 6:4
[9] Gal 6:4
[10] Gal 6:14

Saturday, 9 July 2011

Freedom and Slavery in Galatians (4)

Childish Slaves

            In fact to be under the law, is to be under the curse[1], is to be a captive, or a slave[2]. The law was given to be like a guardian[3] to imprison the Jews, much like little children under supervision – through the angels[4]. To be free in Christ is to come to maturity, when rules and regulations are no longer needed; “ready to enjoy the freedoms and bear the responsibilities of the full life of Israel across the whole globe[5]. To be enslaved is to be like a child[6], constantly needing to be told what to do to prevent one from going out of control.

            For the Gentiles, they were enslaved as well, by other beings ‘that by nature are not gods’[7]. Therefore it is quite foolish for Gentile Christians, once being under these beings that seem to encourage ‘sinning behaviour’[8], then being set free in Christ, to go back to other slaving angelic beings[9] that encourage ‘religious behaviour’[10] – both of which enslave in two different ways!

The Christian life is the life of sons and daughters; it is not the life of slaves. It is freedom, not bondage… As it is, our salvation rests upon the finished work of Christ, on His sin-bearing, curse-bearing death, embraced by faithYet so many religious people are in bondage to their religion! They are like John Wesley… He was the son of a clergyman and already a clergyman himself. He was orthodox in belief, religious in practice, upright in conduct and full of good works… But they were bound in the fetters of their own religion, for they were trusting in themselves that they were righteous, instead of putting their trust in Jesus Christ and Him crucified. A few years later, John Wesley (in this own words) came to "trust in Christ, in Christ only for salvation" and was given an inward assurance that his sins had been taken away. After this, looking back to his pre-conversion experience, he wrote: "I had even then the faith of a servant (slave), though not that of a son." [11]

Solus Christus

            True sons of God are free sons no longer under the enslaving yoke of the law[12], but under grace, under the Spirit of God[13]. To even remotely toy with the idea of wanting to do something else in addition to trusting Christ is to diminish faith[14]! “In this way, we can never have too much freedom (just as we can never have too much faith, or Christ, or grace etc.) The answer to the abuses of freedom is never to curb freedom… Instead Paul insists on more freedom, better freedom, purer freedom. Thus, freedom is not balanced by other forces like ‘service’ or ‘responsibility’.  It is never a case of ‘Yes we are free, but we must keep that in check by remembering our…’ Such concepts as service or responsibility do not stand outside freedom as its referee. Service and responsibility are, instead, included as integral factors in our unmitigated liberty.”[15]

            Entertaining even small thoughts of this type of Pharisaical way of thinking[16] can quickly spread throughout the entire church and destroy it – Cole’s suspicions were true – and Paul hunts them out like rabies-infested dogs!

[1] Gal 3:13
[2] Gal 3:23
[3] Gal 3:24
[4] Gal 3:19
[5] Blackham, pg. 47
[6] This aspect of childhood is not commended by Scripture like other aspects e.g. child-like faith, innocence to evil, etc
[7] Gal 4:8
[8] We imply that there are all kinds of demonic forces out there, making people sin in different ways (e.g. the 2 different prodigal sons of Luke 15). This letter is primarily about the ‘religious sinners’, and Gentiles that switch from the rebels to the religious, rather than perhaps the epistle to Romans – which may be talking about convicting everyone that they are ‘sinners’ according to traditional definitions.
[9] Stoikeia
[10] Such as those listed in Gal 4:10, and 1 Tim 4:1-3
[11] Stott, pg. 109
[12] Gal 5:1
[13] Gal 5:18
[14] Gal 5:2
[15] Scrivener
[16] Gal 5:9, cf. Mark 8:15