Summary of “DEATH IN THE CITY” by Francis Schaeffer

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In his book Death in the City, Schaeffer accentuates six sobering observations.  First, the reason for why there’s death in the city is that we have turned away from our Reformation roots.  God has been discarded by not only our culture but also by many professed Christians. The propositional force and nature of the Scriptures is what has been abandoned and what we must return to in order for life to spring forth in said desolation.

Second, just as the God who is there exists, it follows biblically that He is both holy and gracious in revealing to us His propositional truth.  To neglect Him and thus His self-disclosure (which we have) is to fall into judgment.  Jeremiah  wept for the church and the culture.  We must also.  His message was one of truth and grace.  When said truth is trampled, judgment follows.  Nothing has changed.  To speak prophetically to our culture it will require us to preach the two sides of the same coin with humility and love.  That’s a tall task and one which God enables us to accomplish.

Hence, there must be a dual weeping, a knowing that preaching judgment is hard but indispensable.  For where false religion, adultery, extortion, lying, and the oppression of the poor by the powerful exist, there’s judgment.  We must call sin, sin; beware of our affluence and its trappings, and put our hope not in man’s power but God’s strength ultimately.  If we preach this way coupled with humility and love, then the world might start taking us seriously.  We’re truly in Jeremiah’s days.

Third, are we perturbed that the message of judgment is ever lingering before men but do we love God and people in such a way that we cry out with the truth compassionately?  Jeremiah did and his message of judgment on both great and small brought a price on his head.  The people wanted him dead.  Nothing’s changed, people want us dead as well.  Disdain for God’s word is ever real, nothing new and always our doom.  God help us in our weakness.

Fourth, in light of the aforesaid, persistent compassion is vital and yet costly.  Jeremiah illustrates the physical and psychological price that will be paid by those who follow in his footsteps.  Like Jeremiah we must:  a) preach the truth of judgment, b) recognize that our country is already under God’s judgment, c) practice the truth, d) know it will be costly, e) persevere doing the above regardless of the price.  When historically the church fails to do the above, defection is followed by destruction.

Fifth, the man without the Bible will be judged according to his own standards which he has broken.  The man with the Bible will be judged according to the light of Scripture which he has broken.  The fact is that all are under judgment.  But in Christ, God’s rescue is available and can be realized by the compassionate clear preaching of the Gospel.  We are debtors to the lost and often we don’t feel this.  God help us here.

Lastly, we must live as Christians before the lost.  This includes a life of dependent prayer to the God of Creation who is there.  He will hear the cry of our hearts and respond to believing supplication.  And when He is silent, we must continue to trust the Faithful One who is amazing.

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Summary of Chapter 3:  THE MIDDLE AGES Part 1_[PP.72-111]

 

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The apostolic struggle during this period was not with old pagans or young barbarians, but with other races that had a rich cultural heritage.  Among these were Jewish and Moslems.

DISPUTES WITH SARACENS AND JEWS: 600-1000 [Pp.72-76]

JOHN DAMASCENE (d. c. 754) is often designated as the last Father of the East. He was born in Damascus.  Among his works the following obtain: In 727, he wrote his first apologetic piece defending the veneration of images contra the Iconoclastic emperor, Leo the Isaurian.  In The Source of Knowledge and The Exact Exposition of the Orthodox Faith (around 745), in the monastery of St. Sabas, near Jerusalem, he composed these masterpieces and from the latter argued that: All men naturally know God through creation; that the Biblical revelation is however the zenith of God’s self-disclosure; and he addresses the controversy between Christians and Jews over the Sabbath.  In his, Dialogue between a Saracen and a Christian, he considers the problem of evil and points to Christ as not avoiding it but rather experiencing its hardships.

THEODORE ABU QURRAH (c. 740 to c. 820) [Pp.73-74] a disciple of John Damascene, became the Bishop of Kara (Haran) in Mesopotamia.  He is best known for his Arabic treatise God and the True Religion, where he analyzes and confronts the problem of choosing among the various religions that claim to be revealed (E.g., Zoroastrianism, The Samaritan religion, Judaism, Christianity, Manicheism, Sects of Marcion, Bardesenes, and Mohammed.

After examining the similarities and differences, Abu Qurrah concludes that Christianity: first, presents the most plausible idea of God; second that it exhibits the fullest understanding of man’s actual religious needs; third that it prescribes the most appropriate remedy and that miracles and the expansion of Christianity point to its truthfulness.

ABD AL-MASIH AL-KINDI (10th century) allegedly wrote an Arabic apology titled The Epistle of Abdallah ibn-Ismail al-Hashimi to Abd-al-Misah ibn-Ishac al-Kindi, inviting him to embrace Islam; and the Reply of Abd-al-Masih, refuting the same, and inviting the Hashimiteto to embrace the Christian Faith.  In this work he considers the prophecies and miracles of Jesus as reasons that testify in favor of Christ, not Mohammed; he contrasts the methods of spreading the message of Christianity and Muslims, where the former by the apostles won people through miracles, their example, and preaching, as opposed to Mohammed’s message was spread through the sword.

ISIDORE OF SEVILLE [P.74] composed a work titled Against the Jews: On the Catholic Faith from the Old and New Testament.  The aim of the treatise was to educate believers on how to converse with Jews, rather than on how to convert them.

CARDINAL PETER DAMIAN [Pp.75-76] (1007-72) composed two polemical opuscules (i.e., a small or minor literary or musical work) against the Jews.

In his, A Reply to the Jews, Peter contends with his monks that it is better to war with the flesh than with the Jews who are but extinct.  Moreover to protect the faithful, it is admonished that vain disputes be shunned and with the Jews to show the most evident prophetic texts concerning the Christian faith.  In the book, Peter also deals with: The Trinity, The Incarnation, and The Sufferings of Christ.

In Peter’s, A Dialogue between a Jew Asking Questions and a Christian Responding, he addresses the non-observance of the laws such as: Circumcision, the Sabbath, the Dietary laws, and Animal Sacrifices.  Unfortunately, in concluding this treatise, he impatiently scolds the Jews for their incredulity.

            ANSELM (A.D. 1033-1109) [Pp.76-81], known as the great Benedictine Abbot who became the Arch Bishop of Canterbury in (A.D. 1093).  Very important to the apologetic enterprise is the thought Anselm disclosed concerning the relationship between faith and reason, which impacted greatly the High Middle Ages.  In his classic, Cur Deus Homo, (started around A.D. 1094 and completed around 1098), Anselm stands in the tradition of the Jewish-Christian polemical dialogues of the Middle-Ages.  This treatise deals with the reasons for the Incarnation of Christ Jesus and the theology of Redemption tied to it.

            In Anselm’s Proslogian (A.D. 1077-78) and the Monologion (1076) he deals both with the existence and attributes of God.  There’s a similarity with the three works:  First, Anselm begins in faith in order that he may ground his understanding in both the Scriptures and in the creeds.  Second, Anselm is far removed from the rationalism of the Enlightenment, for although he uses reason to discover and understand the depths of God, there remains our faith in redemption that keeps us persevering.

Third, for Anselm, to understand is the grasping of objective reasons that underlie and illumine the data of faith.  Fourth, Anselm sees man’s image as effaced, not erased through the fall and as such, man is not fully rational. [P.78]

Theology for Anselm must therefore be conducted prayerfully and with divine aid.  But it must necessarily be conducted sola ratione.  He understands that circular reasoning must be avoided when doing exegesis (Monologion).

Fifth, He does his apologetic partly for the benefit of believers (1 Pet.3:15) thus doing his theological reasoning to equip believers to deal with non-Christians.  Anselm sees theological knowledge as a single science, which operates by reason under the leading of faith, but arguments, as long as they were cogent reasons, could be understood from those who have no faith.  Anselm has a high view of reason.

Concluding Thoughts: Anselm’s ominous contribution to the history of apologetics is seen in his raising so clearly the question of the intrinsic demonstrability of the Christian faith.

Reflections From ROMANS 13:3-14 “BEFORE RULERS, WHAT ARE BELIEVERS CALLED TO DEMONSTRATE?”

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In verses 1-2 Paul commands believers to submit to the governing authorities, not because they are ultimate but because God who is ultimate has placed them in said positions according to His all-wise counsel and purposes.

In the following verses Paul further explains this command of why we are to submit, who these in authority actually are, and as a result the way we are to live our lives in light of the consummation.  Paul starts by explaining the reason believers are to submit to rulers tying it to verse 1:

For rulers are not a cause of fear for good behavior, but for evil. Do you want to have no fear of authority? Do what is good and you will have praise from the same; for it is a minister of God to you for good. But if you do what is evil, be afraid; for it does not bear the sword for nothing; for it is a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath on the one who practices evil.”    

Paul here implores believers to do the good (C.f., Rom.12:1-2) so that they need not fear rulers.  A great remedy for not fearing man, and especially those who are in authority, is to walk in God’s precepts.  Paul calls rulers, “a minister of God for your good” and they are “a minister of God, an avenger who brings wrath” on evil doers.  Thus rulers bring a “”double-edged sword” ordained by God to keep order and peace through fear of lethal force.  He continues and says:

Therefore it is necessary to be in subjection, not only because of wrath, but also for conscience’ sake.

Paul here appeals to wrath (we should fear) and to conscience (I take to mean: we should care about our witness) for why we are to be law-abiding citizens.  But is there ever a time when rebellion is warranted?  What do we do if a ruler calls what is good, evil, or conversely calls what is evil, good?  Throughout Christian history believers have differed on this issue.  We have Old Testament examples lauded by the Hebrews writer who actually disobeyed those in authority:

23 By faith Moses, when he was born, was hidden for three months by his parents, because they saw he was a beautiful child; and they were not afraid of the king’s edict… 31 By faith Rahab the harlot did not perish along with those who were disobedient, after she had welcomed the spies in peace.”    

             The king’s edict was disobeyed; Rahab lied to save these spies (she turned on her leaders).  How about Daniel’s three friends who defied the kings command to bow before the golden statue?  How about the apostles in the book of Acts who disobeyed the rulers command to stop preaching in the name of Jesus?  What of Corrie Ten Boom who hid Jews and lied about it, in order to save Jews from Nazi sure destruction?  How about the “Machine Gun Preacher” fighting off ruthless murderers in Africa in order to rescue and save orphans?

Some things are clearer than others granted, but all of us will give an account to God of how we lived in our time with the light given to us.  Nevertheless, what makes Paul’s command so weighty is that he will be eventually executed by the Roman Emperor of his day.  He continues in verses 6-10 calling believers to walk in love and thus fulfill the law:

For because of this you also pay taxes, for rulers are servants of God, devoting themselves to this very thing. Render to all what is due them: tax to whom tax is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honor to whom honor.

Owe nothing to anyone except to love one another; for he who loves his neighbor has fulfilled the law. For this, “You shall not commit adultery, You shall not murder, You shall not steal, You shall not covet,” and if there is any other commandment, it is summed up in this saying, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” 10 Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfillment of the law.

                        To love God and neighbor is what stirs the heart to obey Christ’s great commission to disciple the nations—nations which along with their rulers are even hostile to the message.  We are being commanded to do what Christ did—go to those who hate you and love them through sacrifice.  That’s powerful!  Paul not only considers this present time, but also appeals to the consummation as a motivator, or carrot of how we are to live and why:

11 Do this, knowing the time, that it is already the hour for you to awaken from sleep; for now salvation is nearer to us than when we believed. 12 The night is almost gone, and the day is near. Therefore let us lay aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. 13 Let us behave properly as in the day, not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual promiscuity and sensuality, not in strife and jealousy. 14 But put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the flesh in regard to its lusts.  

Here the apostle calls all believers to vigilance during their journey on earth.  He calls for strategies to be put in place so that our sinful inclinations don’t get the opportunity to manifest.  Opportunities to sin that numb the senses so that we don’t have to think about life’s perils under rulers like: carousing and drunkenness, sexual promiscuity and sensuality, strife and jealousy.

It’s because of God’s mercies that Paul is calling believers to show this sin-riddled, broken and confused world the way of real love which comes from the Master alone.  It’s a call to be and do exactly the opposite of what the world commands.  It’s a call to love which will often require our lives in the process.  God, may Your people submit to the grace and power of the gospel that alone can propel us to action of this sort.

(SDG)

Reflections From ROMANS 11:13-36 “THE GENTILES ARE TO WALK IN HUMILITY BEFORE THE JEWS LEST THEY TOO BE CUT OFF”

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            Paul goes from explaining the Jewish hardening of heart to warning the Gentile Christians he’s been called to reach to walk humbly before the Jews and God:

13 But I am speaking to you who are Gentiles. Inasmuch then as I am an apostle of Gentiles, I magnify my ministry, 14 if somehow I might move to jealousy my fellow countrymen and save some of them. 15 For if their rejection is the reconciliation of the world, what will their acceptance be but life from the dead? 16 If the first piece of dough is holy, the lump is also; and if the root is holy, the branches are too.

             Here, the apostle seems to continue explaining the hardness of Israel’s heart with the goal to achieve Gentile salvation.  He now glory’s in his ministry to the Gentiles wanting to magnify or placard its’ preciousness so that some Jews may be stirred by jealousy and come to salvation in Christ.  The reason Paul thinks in this manner is because if their rejection (the Jews) or stupor lead to gentile salvation, which is glorious, then their acceptance (i.e., reconciliation to God) is gloriously being raised from the dead (metaphor for salvation).

That’s my understanding but now verse 16 is a bit tricky.  The metaphor of bread and trees that follow seems to explain that the fruit or result of good bread is holy dough, and the reason that branches are holy is because the root also is.  Paul seems to be telling his Gentile converts that they owe their relationship to Christ in large measure to what God did in and through Israel.  He continues this argument:

17 But if some of the branches were broken off, and you, being a wild olive, were grafted in among them and became partaker with them of the rich root of the olive tree, 18 do not be arrogant toward the branches; but if you are arrogant, remember that it is not you who supports the root, but the root supports you.

It seems that the apostle is arguing for the respect that is rightly due to Jews because of God’s choice to use them as a light to the nations through which Messiah would arrive.   Moreover, Paul here also appears to be accentuating that salvation is of the Jews (e.g., Jesus and the woman at the well) and as such a proper appreciation for them should in their lives.

Unfortunately, church history is riddled and loaded with Jews being mistreated by the Christian (Gentile) Church and much of it is based on the arrogance Paul here denounces.  This arrogance as is often the case is based on ignorance, not knowledge.  Why this attitude towards Jews?  Human nature is such that often when one is privileged and another is not, the fortunate person brags and “rubs into another’s nose” that fact.  Ill feelings often arise and alienation between people takes place.  But such an attitude has no place in the lives of God’s redeemed people.  Undoubtedly Gentiles must have been made to feel inferior to Jews who kept kosher food laws and celebrated the festivals.

Now Gentiles (and Paul knows it) are in a similar place being in Christ to think of themselves as better than their Jewish counterparts who are apparently “not chosen” which utterly misses Paul’s point.  He continues and says:

19 You will say then, “Branches were broken off so that I might be grafted in.” 20 Quite right, they were broken off for their unbelief, but you stand by your faith. Do not be conceited, but fear; 21 for if God did not spare the natural branches, He will not spare you, either.”              

Unbelief, broken off, faith and conceited are terms that refer to what Paul has already explained in Romans.  It’s because of unbelief that both Jew and Gentile alike are under God’s just wrath.  Broken off seems to metaphorically refer to those relying on law keeping to attain righteousness.  Faith contrarily is trusting in Christ’s righteousness alone to secure our peace before God.  Conceited  are those who boast in anything other than in Christ’s cross.

Paul is warning the Gentile believers to consider Israel’s past (the good and the bad) and walk humbly before God for if they don’t, God will deal with them as he did with the Jews.  Contextually it seems that arrogance and conceit mark the Gentile believer (a bad sign) and may indeed prove they are not in fact part of the remnant (chosen by God) even as so many Jews proved not to be.

The reason I say this and don’t believe it’s talking about one losing their salvation is in light of God’s kindness and choice—which is utterly up to Him, never up to us.  Paul continues:

22 Behold then the kindness and severity of God; to those who fell, severity, but to you, God’s kindness, if you continue in His kindness; otherwise you also will be cut off. 23 And they also, if they do not continue in their unbelief, will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again.

There’s no letting up in Paul, we demonstrate with our living whether or not we trust God in Christ.  To continue in His kindness I take to mean that we trust in Christ’s work alone to secure our salvation, while unbelief is to rely on law-keeping to secure salvation—it’s the means to attain a righteousness that’s acceptable before God.  Yet, recall that the purpose of the Law was to utterly show how sinful sin is by shining its’ light on it.  The Law can never make anyone righteous before God because that’s not its’ design.  Only Christ can make the unrighteous righteous.

I want to briefly mention the idea of bread and the root from this chapter.  According to Jesus, the things written in the Old Testament were in one way or another pointing to Him.  We know first that the manna God fed Israel in the wilderness was from heaven.  Jesus said that he was the true bread which comes down from heaven, “I am the bread of life”.  In this chapter I can see Paul playing off this Hebraic motif of bread and holiness, both of which bring life, both of which point to the resurrected Christ.

Another popular Old Testament motif is that of the “root”. The root sustains the “Tree of life” in the Garden of Eden, and the root is also used to speak of the coming Messiah’s Davidic lineage originating from the “root of Jesse”.  The idea of root is tied to that which brings “life” originating from the Holy One Israel.  The Holy One sent Messiah to rescue dead sinners from wrath.  Both lump and root are holy for they come from the Holy One of and this holiness is required to see the LORD according to the Hebrews account.  What’s the fruit of this holiness?  Not pride, arrogance, or conceit (which is Paul’s warning to the Gentile believer) but humility and gratitude for God’s kindness.  Paul proceeds:

24 For if you were cut off from what is by nature a wild olive tree, and were grafted contrary to nature into a cultivated olive tree, how much more will these who are the natural branches be grafted into their own olive tree?      25 For I do not want you, brethren, to be uninformed of this mystery—so that you will not be wise in your own estimation—that a partial hardening has happened to Israel until the fullness of the Gentiles has come in; 26 and so all Israel will be saved; just as it is written, “The Deliverer will come from Zion, He will remove ungodliness from Jacob.” 27 “This is My covenant with them, When I take away their sins.”         28 From the standpoint of the gospel they are enemies for your sake, but from the standpoint of God’s choice they are beloved for the sake of the fathers; 29 for the gifts and the calling of God are irrevocable.

            I want to work backwards here with Paul’s argument to see if I can get at his point.  First, I take “gifts” and “calling” of God here to mean those God has sovereignly chosen to rescue in accordance to His promise to Abraham that he would be the father of faith for a multitude (that’s a lot of souls).  God has kept His word to Abraham through Christ’s redemptive work.

Second, the sad reality in Paul’s day was that Jews who rejected Christ as Messiah were enemies of the gospel, but why for “your sake”?  Perhaps to make it clear to the Gentiles the kindness and severity of God, moreover to highlight God’s mercy toward them which should and does work holiness, humility and gratitude in the recipient of said favor, not pride, conceit or arrogance in the soul.

Third, Paul wants the Gentiles to see this in light of Israel’s partial hardening of heart.  That is, this partial hardening has a purpose in God’s salvific design which is to bring into the fold every Gentile whom God has chosen from eternity past.  The point seems to be so that Gentiles don’t think themselves more “special” than Israel and thus fall into conceit and pride.  God has allotted a time to everything under heaven—this includes the time of Israel’s rescue for his names sake.  I want to note here when the text says, “all Israel will be saved” contextually means those whom God has chosen, the remnant.

Fourth, Paul argues from the lesser to the greater.  The lesser here is the “wild olive branch” which is the Gentile grafted into the greater “cultivated tree” which is Israel.  The point here is that if Gentiles can be rescued while being strangers to the commonwealth of Israel, the fathers and the covenant, how much more does the same mercy obtain for the Jews?  Paul continues emphasizing God’s mercy:

30 For just as you once were disobedient to God, but now have been shown mercy because of their disobedience, 31 so these also now have been disobedient, that because of the mercy shown to you they also may now be shown mercy. 32 For God has shut up all in disobedience so that He may show mercy to all.

             Paul here hearkens back to Romans 1:18-20 where all are justly condemned for the purpose of showing His mercy to all.  The “all” again contextually I take to mean the called, the chosen, the elect both Jew and Gentile alike, not every human being that’s ever lived (which is universalism: a view of salvation fraught with contradictions).  And the jealousy motif earlier in verse (14) is connected to a means God uses in order to save both Jew and Gentile.  This motif of jealousy is clear in the book of Acts where Paul after repeatedly being rejected by the Jews with his message determines only to minister to the Gentiles.

Paul buttons off this long argument with a doxology.  Overwhelmed with God’s knowledge, power and wisdom, he declares what Job came to understand when confronted by the living God Himself:

33 Oh, the depth of the riches both of the wisdom and knowledge of God! How unsearchable are His judgments and unfathomable His ways! 34 For who has known the mind of the Lord, or who became His counselor? 35 Or who has first given to Him that it might be paid back to him again? 36 For from Him and through Him and to Him are all things. To Him be the glory forever. Amen.

             God’s election, choice and mercy are grounded in His being which the creature can barely began figure out, only perhaps to scratch the surface.  Because of this Paul can only declare the utter greatness of God comparable to nothing created, and as such, His ways supersede our abilities to understand.  What God has however revealed, has made known to us, is that this Gospel is the fulfillment of what Isaiah 40:11 said: Like a shepherd He will tend His flock, In His arm He will gather the lambs And carry them in His bosom; He will gently lead the nursing ewes.

Paul has argued for and laid out the Gospel indicatives (facts) that in Christ alone both Jew and Gentile alike are rescued from God’s just wrath through the righteousness of Jesus which is imputed to the believer (it’s an alien righteousness which is from God and never ourselves).  Now while this rescue is real it is nevertheless accompanied by a battle with sin which remains.  And lest anyone think they are something when they are nothing, Paul finishes accentuating God’s mercy with the emphasis on His being and attributes of knowledge and wisdom perhaps to aid the reader from pride and conceit.

The remainder of Romans will now focus on the Gospel imperatives (commands) which is the obedience of faith Paul mentioned in (1:5-6).

Reflections From ROMANS 11:1-12 “THE REMNANT IS ACCORDING TO GOD’S CHOICE, NOT OURS”

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            In this section of Romans we see here that God reveals how people become His precious possession.  Paul writes:

I say then, God has not rejected His people, has He? May it never be! For I too am an Israelite, a descendant of Abraham, of the tribe of Benjamin. God has not rejected His people whom He foreknew. Or do you not know what the Scripture says in the passage about Elijah, how he pleads with God against Israel? “Lord, they have killed Your prophets, they have torn down Your altars, and I alone am left, and they are seeking my life.” But what is the divine response to him? “I have kept for Myself seven thousand men who have not bowed the knee to Baal.” In the same way then, there has also come to be at the present time a remnant according to God’s gracious choice.”

             Paul here basis his view of God not rejecting His people whom He foreknew first by: pointing to himself, his nation, and his tribe.   Paul’s life is evidence that Jews were, are and will be saved.  They will be loved, not abandoned.  Secondly, Paul points to Elijah’s presupposition and uncloaks its’ deceptiveness.   The reality is that there’s way more children of God than we can fathom.  The main agent in this turn of events is not Elijah or any creature but God.  Finally, Paul assures his readers that this remnant like the former one is according to Gods’ gracious choice, implying not the choice of the creature.

Thus, Gods gracious choice is the centerpiece here, not the false notion that God forsakes His people.  So thus far according to the previous chapters salvation comes to both Jew and Gentile alike, through embracing the proclaimed word of God.  This word is not received by all which is evidenced by Israel’s rejection of it.  Lastly, this rescue results from God’s gracious choice, not ours.

I know this is a tough knot to untie or a hard will to swallow, but I can’t exegetically come to any other conclusion that it is God’s gracious choice by means of the preached word embraced, we come into God’s fold made of Jew and Gentile alike.  Specifically speaking of Israel, God has never removed His love toward them—which seems to be evidenced through the existence of the remnant contextually.  Thus, God has not rejected His people.

Paul continues explaining Israel’s state and says: But if it is by grace, it is no longer on the basis of works, otherwise grace is no longer grace.  Here I take Paul to affirm what he’s previously argued (chapters 5-8) that becoming acceptable (righteous) before God never entailed doing works of the law.  Instead, righteousness comes only through grace which is through the 2nd Adam Christ Jesus.  Remove God’s gracious choice of rescue from the Messiah, and the result will be death.   Paul ensues:

What then? What Israel is seeking, it has not obtained, but those who were chosen obtained it, and the rest were hardened; just as it is written, “God gave them a spirit of stupor, Eyes to see not and ears to hear not, Down to this very day.”  And David says, “Let their table become a snare and a trap, And a stumbling block and a retribution to them.  10 “Let their eyes be darkened to see not, And bend their backs forever.”     

The text seems to be saying that those who cared about knowing God, did not come to know Him (recall they rejected His word chapter 10), but rather those chosen obtained this knowledge of God which results in salvation.  The reason the former (Israel) did not obtain salvation is because God hardened them, and reason the latter did obtain it is because He chose them.  This reality is difficult to bear (and we must nevertheless remember that there’s no injustice with God), but I can’t make sense out of the passage in any other way.

God however is always working out the counsel of His will and Paul is thus going to explain the reason for why God hardened Israel:

11 I say then, they did not stumble so as to fall, did they? May it never be! But by their transgression salvation has come to the Gentiles, to make them jealous.

             It seems that God’s end in Israel’s stumbling had the purpose of bringing salvation to the Gentile world and as a result would cause Israel to become jealous: jealous of what?  Jealous that now outsiders, foreigners, aliens and those once estranged from Israel’s common wealth are now partakers of it.  That wealth, that treasure is nothing less than being part of God’s redeemed family.  There’s nothing more precious here than to be God’s child, God’s friend.  Paul continues:

12 Now if their transgression is riches for the world and their failure is riches for the Gentiles, how much more will their fulfillment be”  

             Paul seems to be transitioning into a deeper thought concerning Israel and Gentile believers, the goal of which is going from degree of glory to the next level of glory.  I think Paul is arguing that if Israel’s sin is the means through which the riches of heaven have come to earth (i.e., salvation to non-Jews), then Israel’s salvation after their own transgression will be ever more glorious (11:25-27).  The drama of redemption truly is the greatest story ever told.  (SDG)

 

 

   

Reflections From ROMANS 10: “THE WORD OF FAITH IS NECESSARY FOR SALVATION—CONTRA INCLUSIVISM’S CLAIM”

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            Paul picks up where he left off in the previous chapter referring to Israel and their present standing before God.  He prays for Israel’s salvation but knows that their ignorance of the gospel is the reason they’re not yet redeemed.  Their zeal for God has blinded them (zeal without knowledge Scripture condemns) to God’s righteousness while trying to establish their own through law-keeping (Vv.1-3):

Brethren, my heart’s desire and my prayer to God for them is for their salvation. For I testify about them that they have a zeal for God, but not in accordance with knowledge. For not knowing about God’s righteousness and seeking to establish their own, they did not subject themselves to the righteousness of God.

Paul continues to pound the anvil with the hammer of Christ’s work and says that, “Christ is the end of the Law for righteousness to everyone who believes, for Moses writes that the man who practices the righteousness which is based on law shall live by that righteousness” (Vv.4-5).  Paul here is quoting Leviticus 18:5 which is the giving of God’s moral commands and says:

You shall keep my statutes and My judgments, by which a man may live if he does them; I am the LORD

It seems that the life of the individual is to rely solely on his ability to do the requirements of the law.  It seems that Paul is accentuating the motif again between Christ’s righteousness which is given not merited (thus crushing human boasting), it’s imputed not earned.  Recall that the Law’s purpose was never to be a means of “I do and God rewards”, but instead to shine the light on the sin within, never was it to liberate us from its jaws.  If one trusts in law-keeping to become righteous before God it will only result in death.

Having said that, a believer must not conclude all is well even if he lives an immoral life.  This is a gross misunderstanding of the gospel, for to be in Christ produces the fruit of obedience to God (never without the struggle of Rom.7).  Here, the believer has been freed from slavery to sin in order to live for God.  And by living for God we are thus freed to live for one another (Rom.5:17-6:23; 8:1-14).   By Israel trying to establish their own righteousness apart from Christ, they have rejected God and have been cut off from life indeed.

So the righteousness based on law can’t save, but the righteousness based on faith (i.e., Christ’s work) does save (Vv.6-7):

But the righteousness based on faith speaks as follows: “Do not say in your heart, ‘Who will ascend into heaven?’ (that is, to bring Christ down), or ‘Who will descend into the abyss?’ (that is, to bring Christ up from the dead).

I’m however a bit puzzled here about the meaning of verses 6-7.  First, verse 6 is a quote from Deuteronomy 30:12 where God is laying out before Israel the blessings and cursing if they choose to obey or disobey.  Now much attention in Deuteronomy 30 is given to what God did and will do for Israel: namely restoring them from captivity which we know occurred because of their idolatry.  God is said to:

…restore you from captivity…have compassion on you…etc”.  (Deut.30:3-8) “circumcise your heart (v.6) to love the Lord which is to obey the Lord (v.8)

This word of salvation is not far, seems to be the point or would eventually manifest (which it did in Christ the Logos), but is now here.  Still a bit hazy on verses 6-7.  Nevertheless, the word is being preached and its content is faith (trust) in Jesus of Nazareth as the Messiah who conquered the grave and offers the righteousness of God as a gift to all peoples and this word will not disappoint because God always keeps His promises.  Let God be true and every man a liar (Vv.8-13):

But what does it say? “The word is near you, in your mouth and in your heart”—that is, the word of faith which we are preaching, that if you confess with your mouth Jesus as Lord, and believe in your heart that God raised Him from the dead, you will be saved; 10 for with the heart a person believes, resulting in righteousness, and with the mouth he confesses, resulting in salvation. 11 For the Scripture says, “Whoever believes in Him will not be disappointed.” 12 For there is no distinction between Jew and Greek; for the same Lord is Lord of all, abounding in riches for all who call on Him;13 for “Whoever will call on the name of the Lord will be saved.”                  

This word of faith however comes in a specific way which if not given dooms sinners with no hope of rescue.  Paul now asks four rhetorical questions which an inclusivist view of salvation seems to contradict.  I’m going to point these out in reverse order because the apostle Paul begins with the end and ends with the beginning of the logical order (Vv.14-15):

“14 How then will they call on Him in whom they have not believed? How will they believe in Him whom they have not heard? And how will they hear without a preacher? 15 How will they preach unless they are sent? Just as it is written, “How beautiful are the feet of those who bring good news of good things!”

First, there’s the bearer of good news whose beauty is too often hidden from those presented with the Gospel (v.15).  Second, there’s the need to send vessels willing to impart this good news which means they must be supported with finances and prayer.  Third, the sent must be preachers who proclaim the news of the Kings arrival in a way that’s understandable so that people may have the opportunity to both hear and respond to the message.  Fourth, hearing is essential for belief to arise, otherwise they will not trust in Christ which is the word of faith that requires preaching.  Fifth, after the message is preached and the preacher heard, people then have an opportunity to believe and when belief arises, then one is ready to call on the Name of the LORD and be saved.

Now Paul says that that word is preached in both creation (v.18 cf., Ps.19:4) and through the prophets (Isa.53:1; Dt.32:21; Isa.65:1-2).  And so in response to Israel’s hard heart, God will stir them to jealousy by revealing to the pagan world Christ’s righteousness of which the apostle has been writing.  Thus, Israel has no excuse for their unbelief and God is not unjust having mercy on whomever He wills.

But when the word goes forth and people respond we must understand that God has ordained conversions to happen through the word of Christ—God’s word of promise fulfilled in the Messiah by the lips of a preacher proclaiming it.  This is foolishness to the Greeks, and a stumbling block to the Jews, but to the called, Christ is both the wisdom of God and the power of God to us who believe.  (SDG)            

Book Summary Now Available!

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Available now is my summary of The Universe Next Door by James Sire.  This worldview catalog is part of the arsenal needed  for believers to understand the major beliefs held by both their neighbors and also themselves.

The value of this study is akin to a baseball scout taking the necessary time to understand the opposing team’s ball player’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies.  After such due diligence is accomplished, the odds of “competing” and “beating” the “opposition” are enhanced.  Too often Christians are bested in the classroom, boardroom, or family room because we have not done our due diligence regarding other worldviews when compared to Christendom.  This book is a remedy for such maladies as Sire notes:

“For any of us to be fully conscious intellectually we should not only be able to detect the worldviews of others but be aware of our own—why it is ours and why in light of so many options we think it is true” [Opening page]

Reflections From ROMANS 1:8-17 “PAUL’S INTRODUCTION: His Personal Tenor” Part 3

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            One thing I enjoy in Paul’s letters is how personal he can tend to be.  He’s marked by many qualities one of which is his thankfulness to God:

First, I thank my God through Jesus Christ for you all, because your faith is being proclaimed throughout the whole world.

Note that the thankfulness is through the mediation of the Son, Paul’s high priest and ours through whom we have Gods’ attention and ear.  Next, Paul is thankful for believers.  These were precious to him and yet he never met them.  Nevertheless his love for them was genuinely sincere and heartfelt.  His gratitude had a reason.  He was grateful for their faith being “proclaimed” throughout the whole world”.  That is, the gospel of Christ came to them and their words and deeds matched their lives.  The reason for writing this letter (which many Romans were already demonstrating) was for the obedience of faith.

The term faith in the Bible is very specific and has nothing to do with wishful thinking or believing in something that’s not real or impossible (even if many try to impose that definition on us).  Instead, faith is “trust”, “belief”, or “confidence” in that which is true.  But trust in God comes as a result of the gospel being preached, heard, understood and loved—obeyed! That is, when it comes to biblical faith it’s a disposition of trust the creature demonstrates in the words and deeds the Creator has revealed.  Paul continues and reveals his love for these saints by unceasingly praying for them so that he may impart to them some spiritual gift so they’ll be established:

For God, whom I serve in my spirit in the preaching of the gospel of His Son, is my witness as to how unceasingly I make mention of you, 10 always in my prayers making request, if perhaps now at last by the will of God I may succeed in coming to you. 11 For I long to see you so that I may impart some spiritual gift to you, that you may be established.” 

 Paul here clarifies that mutual encouragement may take place between he and the Roman saints (V.12).  In Paul’s mind they need each other, the differences which come through the church to strengthen God’s people.  Too often instead of appreciating our differences in the Body of Christ, our different gift mixes are deplored evidenced in our rejection of them.  Not Paul.  He explains that often he wanted to come to them but was detained from meeting his goal of making disciples (V.13)

Paul gets even more transparent by admitting that he had to preach, 14 I am under obligation both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish.  This was a joyful disposition, “15So, for my part, I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome,” which reveals his passion and single-mindedness.  He gives the reason for his eagerness and its pride—in a good sense (I think), in the gospel of God;

16I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. 17 For in it the righteousness of God is revealed from faith to faith; as it is written, “But the righteous man shall live by faith.”

 He’s not ashamed (but proud) of the gospel because God’s righteousness and power for salvation is made available to those who believe in the gospel, for believers.  This gospel produces disciples which is the means for righteousness and living by faith.  Up until this point, Paul has made it his mission and message clear that the gospel of Christ is what produces a faith that’s obedient indeed.  Thus it is the means to Pauls’ desires of mutual encouragement and this gospel alone has the power to save believers.

This gospel is the gospel of God; it’s the gospel of His Son and instead of being ashamed of the Father and the Son, Paul is ready to declare them to the Romans.  Are we ready to do the same to those around us?  LORD, may we have the resolve to preach this message of Christ as Paul your servant demonstrated.  (SDG)

Summary of Chapter 2: A UNIVERSE CHARGED WITH THE GRANDEUR OF GOD: CHRISTIAN THEISM (Pgs.20-38)

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In this chapter Sire points out that up until the 17th century intellectual strife was “in house” between Christians but the Enlightenment changed that forever.  Christianity and Western civilization were hand and glove such that the cradle’s milk began with theistic presuppositions (Pgs.22-23).

Christianity was the meteor that dented the world with its view of reality starting with how we viewed human beings: Since God is a personal God; those created in his image are also personal creatures, not chance accidents.

The universe contra naturalism is not a closed system but one that is open meaning that both divine and human decisions significantly shape the present and the future (Pgs.26-29). Consider the quote on page 29 regarding human longing and how God fulfills it.

Our epistemology is also grounded in the God of creation.  That’s why we can know anything about reality as it truly is (pg.30).  The Fall demonstrates the significance of human decisions then and now (pgs.32-33), our ethics are grounded in God and history is linear which means that it’s filled with purpose even though much of it we don’t get.    An excellent overview of the Christian worldview.

The Universe Next Door: A Basic Worldview Catalog

51WMWG0MWVL._SX315_BO1,204,203,200_There’s much talk about worldviews these days and rightly so, for if we are going to do our apologetic work faithfully as Christ’s representatives we’ll need to familiarize ourselves with our neighbors beliefs which come from their view of reality.

Worldview thinking considers the big ideas that govern individuals and nations.  I thought it profitable to consider James Sire’s book on the topic for it’s brevity, clarity and organization.

If you’ll recall, Os Guinness’ book dealt with the art and science of Christian persuasion; Alister McGrath’s book dealt with a general view of apologetics and emphasized the importance for each individual to formulate their own approach.

Now, James Sire’s book is a catalog on what a worldview is and the differences that obtain when human beings are trying to make sense of death and dying, purpose and meaning, laughter and grief, love and hate.  As with the previous books, I’ll be offering weekly summaries of this book’s chapters with the hope to entice you to pick up a copy and read it yourself.  If however you don’t then may the brief summaries I provide be useful to you and Christ’s kingdom.

Introduction: the value of this study is akin to a baseball scout taking the necessary time to understand the opposing team’s ball player’s strengths, weaknesses and tendencies. Such due diligence increases the odds of “competing” and “beating” the “opposition”.  While the aforesaid may be crude and offensive, in the world of ideas it’s true.

Too often Christians are bested in the classroom, boardroom, or family room because they have not done their homework regarding other worldviews.  When opportunities arise to witness fear, rather than courage manifest.  Sometimes we fear sounding stupid; being offensive; or even fear being unable to answer the challenges leveled against the Christian faith.  This book is a remedy for such maladies as Sire answers the following questions:

What is prime reality, the real?  What’s the nature of external reality—the world around us?   What is a human being?  What happens to persons after death?  Why can we know anything at all?  How do we know what’s right and wrong?  And what’s the meaning of human history?

A great read friends.