Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD: Tertullian, Against Praxeas by Sergio Tangari

Tertullian

Tertullian, Against Praxeas[1]

In his letter Against Praxeas, Tertullian defends the orthodox doctrine of the Trinity.  He acknowledges that the heresy to be refuted is caused by Satan himself.  The heresy of Praxeas, “He says that the Father Himself came down into the virgin, was Himself born of her.  Himself suffered, indeed was himself Jesus Christ”.  These “tares” of Praxeas, force Tertullian to both explain the church’s position on the doctrine, and secondly move him to deal with the misapprehensions of the opposing view.

The Church’s Position

First, there is The Church’s Position.  There is only one God, but in the economy (i.e., the distinct roles each member of the triune Godhead fulfills) of the Godhead is the Son who proceeds from the Father, who created all things, who was sent into the virgin by the Father, and from the Father through the Son the Holy Spirit is sent.  Tertullian asserts that this rule of faith is not new, but rather has been handed down to the church from its inception.  The unity is one of substance (i.e., of nature—divine,), and the three-ness constitutes the persons Father, Son, and Spirit (i.e., one of identity—distinctions).

Objection Raised

Second, there is Praxeas’ Objection.  Although the following objection did not originate with Praxeas, the allegation raised against the church’s view of the Trinity, is that it leads people to either bi-theism (i.e., two Gods) or tri-theism (i.e., three Gods), whereas their view of God leads them to the true worship of the one God.  Moreover, they assert that their view maintains the sole monarchy of God, whereas the church’s view destroys it.  Tertullians’ essential response is that the unity of the monarchy is not destroyed, but rather it is preserved, if the Son and the Spirit are indeed sharers of the one monarchy.

 Varied Responses to Heresy

Third, there is Tertullians’ Varied Responses to the Heresy.  One response to the heresy is that the unity of the Godhead and the supremacy and sole government of the divine being are not impaired according to Catholic doctrine.  Tertullian argues that since the Son is derived from the substance of the Father, does only the will of the Father, and is given all power from the Father, then the Monarchy is not destroyed from the faith.  Moreover, since the Spirit proceeds from the Father through the Son, the monarchy ends up not being destroyed, but rather, it is preserved.  Furthermore, the fact that the Son will restore the monarchy back to the Father, demonstrates the clear distinction of persons within the Godhead.  Henceforth, those who are claiming to preserve the sole monarchy are actually destroying it, because they are overthrowing the very arrangement and dispensation employed by God.

 Clarification of the Trinity

Fourth, Tertullian clarifies the Catholic rule of faith concerning the Trinity.  He argues that the Father, Son, and Spirit are a unity of substance, but are three distinct persons.  The Father is seen as the entire substance, the Son and the Spirit are derivations of that whole.  The distinction of persons can be seen in that the Father begets, and the Son is begotten, and the Son sends another Paraclete.  The distinction of persons is further seen in the names of Father, Son, and Spirit. 

 Monarchian Position not Coherent

Fifth, he shows the incoherence of the Monarchian position that maintains the Father is the Son and vice versa.  He does this by distinguishing being from having.  Tertullian argues that in order for a father to be one, he must first have a son.  Likewise, in order for a son to be one, he must first have a father.  Moreover, how can I be my own son, or be my own father?  The logic is faulty, and yet the Monarchian responds with “nothing is impossible with God!”   Tertullian’s challenge is to consider whether or not God has really done it.  For he reasons that God really could have made man with wings to fly, but reality does not bear it out, nor does the Monarchian argument for that matter.

 Scripture Must Ground Our Positions

Sixth, Tertullian then challenges Praxeas to biblically ground his position.  He then distorts a passage to make his point concerning the distinction between the Father and Son, “The Lord said unto Himself, I am my own son, today I have begotten myself “.  If this is the case, then God is a deceiver, an imposter, and a tamperer with His word.  But since the contrary obtains, the position asserted by Praxeas is egregiously false.

 Textual Evidence for Plurality of Persons

Seventh, he then demonstrates the scriptural basis for the plurality of persons (Gen.1: 3, 26-27; 3:22; Jn.1: 1, 3, 9), and the unity of substance within the Godhead as a remedy to combat polytheism (Ps.45: 6-7; Isa.45: 14-15; Jn. 1:1; etc.), and then chastises Praxeas for not accepting the clear declarations of scripture.

 Further Evidence From Both OT and NT

Eigth, Tertullian continues with scripture passages in the OT (Gen. 32:30; Ex. 33:13, 11; Num. 12:6-8; 1 Cor.13: 12; Mk. 9:4; Mt. 17:3; etc.) and in the NT (Jn.1: 1-2, 18; 4:12; 1 Cor.9: 1; 1 Tim. 4:16; etc.) demonstrating the Fathers’ invisibility and the Sons’ visibility.  Moreover, he deals with OT manifestations of Christ, with titles that both the Son and the Father share depicting their deity, and he abundantly shows how in Johns’ Gospel, the distinction of persons between the Father and Son obtain.

Tertullian not only sees that the doctrine of the Trinity is the great divide between Christianity and Judaism, but he also sees the Monarchian doctrine as blasphemous, and as such, damnable.

Many well-meaning professing believers today fall under the error of Praxeas punting to “nothing is impossible with God” God is “mysterious” and a host of other responses that undermine the clarity of Scripture concerning God’s nature and the distinction of persons within the Trinity.  While mystery obtains (e.g., Christ’s incarnation) it’s the duty of disciples to not take the Name of the LORD our God in vain (i.e., misrepresenting His Character or Being).

The doctrine of the Trinity is in fact one of the pillars of Christendom distinguishing it from all other beliefs, and it is foundational to understanding so much of Scripture.

(SDG)

[1]  Tertullian, “Against Praxeas,” Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume III, Pp.597-627, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1997)

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Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

Justin-Martyr

Justin Martyr, First Apology[1]

In his first Apology, Justin addresses the Roman Emperor; Pius Augustus Caesar, his sons Versimmus and Lucius, both of which are philosophers, the Senate and all of the Roman people.  Martyr’s chief concern is regarding the injustice Christians are suffering at the hands of Roman authorities.  The Christian worldview is being egregiously misrepresented, and as such, Justin challenges these “lovers of truth” (the philosophers) to listen to reason, and to investigate to see whether or not the allegations raised against believers are warranted.

First, Christians are being condemned for simply bearing the name.  Justin points out that a mere name does not constitute whether one is evil or good, but rather the actions one does or does not commit should condemn or acquit them.

Second, Christians are charged of being atheists and Justin points out that they are atheists of a certain kind.  This atheism is not equivalent to our modern usage of the word.  Instead, it concerns the refusal of Christians to worship the pantheon of Roman gods, which Justin rightly labels as “demons”, which are not gods at all.  Instead Christians acknowledge only Jesus Christ as God, the only one worthy to be worshipped.

Third, Justin accentuates the need for Christians individually to be tried to see if they actually are evildoers, and if found guilty, they ought to be punished.  But to merely condemn one for bearing the name “Christian” lacks reason, and it is a travesty of justice.

Fourth, Justin points out the foolishness of idol worship and demonstrates how God is to be served.  Idols are nothing but soulless dead representations of contingent beings (creatures) and as such, to worship them is not only senseless but an offense to God (creator).  Since God is the only necessary being, he is the source of all things, and as such, the service that God accepts, must conform to the excellencies that reside in Him.  Moreover, Justin points out that the Christians worship is rational and is based on Christ’s teaching, who among other things, calls all men to repentance from dead works to serve the living God.

Fifth, Justin continues with a litany of Christ’s teaching found in the Gospels.  Concerning truth telling, the believer is to let “your yes be yes, and your no, no”.   Regarding civil obedience, give to Caesar what belongs to him, and to God what belongs to Him.  Here, Justin distinguishes the proper relationship the Christian is to have with the state and with God.

Sixth, Justin answers the heathen analogies to Christian doctrine, to the history of Christ and to his Sonship and points out that although there are similarities, truth and redemption are only found in Christ Jesus the Lord.  Since the aforementioned obtains, Christians have abandoned the worship of false gods, the practice of sorcery, and promiscuous behavior.

Seventh, Martyr points out that the life and works of Christ are predicted in the Hebrew prophets, and as such uses fulfilled prophecy to argue for the veracity of Christian doctrine.  He starts off with Moses describing the time of Jesus’ coming and his passion.  Then Isaiah (the most quoted prophet) describes the predicted virgin birth, reign, and crucifixion of Christ, while Micah describes Bethlehem as the place of his birth.  Furthermore, the Psalmist predicts his incarnation, crucifixion, and ascension.   Justin also points out that Judea’s desolation, Christ’s healing ministry, and rejection by the Jews are also foretold.  Hence, if what was foretold has already been fulfilled, for Justin, it stands to reason that the predictions not yet fulfilled, will be.  And are thus worthy to be believed.

Eighth, Justin explains that even though demons have instituted the rite of baptism in their temples, true baptism is reserved only for those who are born again.  He continues to explain that partaking of the Eucharist is reserved only for those who have been regenerated and baptized.  He finally explains the reason they worship on Sunday and explains their liturgy.

Justin concludes his letter in the manner in which he started, he appeals to reason and justice. He challenges his audience, if the material presented is reasonable and true, and then they should honor it and not decree the innocent to be killed.  If it is nonsensical, they should totally disregard it. He then warns them that they will not escape the coming judgment of God if they do not stop their injustice.

[1] Martyr, Justin, “The First Apology of Justin,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, pp.163-187,) T & T

Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

1

Ignatius, Epistle to Polycarp

Ignatius like Polycarp comprised part of the band of disciples after the apostles.  They are known as the “Apostolic Fathers” the bishop of Smyrna, a disciple of the apostle John

While Ignatius highly esteems Polycarp and feels privileged to behold him, nevertheless he commends and exhorts the bishop of Smyrna for many things.  Polycarp is commended for his steadfastness in the faith and is exhorted to be constant in evangelism, diligent in intercessions, focused on church unity, winsome in his speech, sober as God’s athlete who awaits his eternal reward.  Moreover, Polycarp is exhorted to consider the times and zealously contend for the faith, which is being challenged with false doctrine.

Polycarp now focuses on household codes.  Concerning widows, they are to be nurtured, protected and befriended.  Concerning slaves, both male and female are to be treated with dignity.  If marriage is to honor God, it must be patterned after Christ’s relationship with his church, and the husband/wife union must have the bishop’s approval.  To heed the bishop results in God heeding the flock, the goal of which is the unity of the body.  Finally, Polycarp is exhorted to appoint a Messenger in Antioch for the work of the gospel.

This is definitely not business as usual.  Note the preoccupation Ignatius reveals with eternal issues in correspondence to the Great Commission (MT. 28:18-20):

18 And Jesus came up and spoke to them, saying, “All authority has been given to Me in heaven and on earth. 19 Go therefore and make disciples of all the nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, 20 teaching them to observe all that I commanded you; and lo, I am with you always, even to the end of the age.”

To accomplish Christ’s command, Ignatius understood the urgent need for Polycarp to practice the things exhorted (i.e., evangelism, intercessions, church unity, gracious speech, etc.)

It’s uncanny how relevant this letter was then and is so today.  These exhortations are pointed, concise, and conspicuously God centered.  Christians would do well to pattern their discipleship according to this brief powerful letter.

(SDG)

Now Available in Summary form “THE CREATION HYPOTHESIS” Editor J.P. Moreland

1698

In  The Creation Hypothesis_  J.P. Moreland and others  argue for the possibility of an intelligent designer as an alternative to Darwinian evolution concerning the question of origins.

The apologetic value of the book, other than the extensive bibliographies at the end of each chapter, is the scientific evidence that argues strongly on behalf of an intelligent designer and as such, it seems to be a useful tool for dialogue with naturalistic skeptics.

Moreover, it’s also a much needed tool to educate the church who have unwittingly swallowed a naturalistic worldview, and as such, have crippled many in their respective vocations (be it biology, education, law, philosophy, etc.) to letting their light shine for Christ

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 6: WHY OBEY GOD’S COMMAND TO SEXUAL PURITY? (Vvs.12-20)

1-corinthians

Paul continues his exhortation to holiness to the Corinthians.  In the previous section the apostle shames the Corinthians for their lack of wisdom before the watching world, and their ignorance of their inheritance as saints evidenced by the lawsuits brought against one another.  He challenges their profession of faith (those who will not enter the kingdom) and reminds them that this described some of them but now they belonged to Christ.

Thus, Paul now brings up the issue between what is lawful compared to what’s profitable.  That is (my understanding), what is not sinful versus what does not contribute to kingdom of God flourishing.  Now, while this state of affairs is true (lawful/profitable) he refuses to be mastered by anything.

12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable. All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything. 13 Food is for the stomach and the stomach is for food, but God will do away with both of them. Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body. 

When Paul says, “12 All things are lawful for me, but not all things are profitable” he may be referring to a refrain the Corinthians proudly touted where their freedom in Christ was correct concerning food (e.g., Jesus did make all foods clean) but mistaken regarding sexual practices (e.g., Jesus demanded “…you are to be perfect, as your heavenly Father is perfect”).

And the second part of the clause, “All things are lawful for me, but I will not be mastered by anything.”  Paul can’t be excluding being mastered by Christ, (which was their problem and ours) for in verse 20 he rounds off his command to the Corinthians to glorify God in their bodies (the implication here is to submit to Christ in your sexuality).

Paul explains that the purpose of food (v.13) is to feed the stomach, and the purpose of the body is for holy purposes, not immorality.  Both food and immorality are temporal “God will do away with both of them”.  The former is good, the latter is bad, “Yet the body is not for immorality, but for the Lord, and the Lord is for the body.”  Contextually, the Corinthian’s were not living according to God’s design.  They misused their capacities for knowledge (i.e., warped thinking, caused by their pride, and thus they acted like fools) which resulted in their misuse of the body (i.e., sexual immorality).  God has called believers to be Holy even as He is holy (i.e., live in accord with God’s design) because they belong to Him.

It is God’s holiness where our deepest joy resides and the age old satanic lie that it’s not presently remains.  When things cease to operate according to their design, disintegration occurs, and when this obtains what is true beautiful and good dies.  Immorality is not the purpose for why God created our bodies, but rather they were made to glorify and enjoy Him forever.

God is always about our highest Good which necessarily puts Him at the center of all reality, the implication of which is kingdom flourishing because of His favorable presence on the Christian community.  Thus, just like food and the stomach are temporal (even though they are good) so is immorality (which is bad, part of this evil age, unlawful and it is passing away).

Paul seems to be exhorting the Corinthians to live in light of the future coming eternal kingdom of the new heavens and the new earth with an emphasis on the resurrection of our bodies: 14 Now God has not only raised the Lord, but will also raise us up through His power.”  Thus, in light of future resurrection where death no longer reigns, and because of new birth and the indwelling power of the Spirit within believers, Paul buttresses the following question with the emphasis on the believers’ union with Christ:

15 Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Shall I then take away the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? May it never be! 16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”

 When Paul asks, “Do you not know…” implying they should know, he exposes their lack of knowledge and wisdom. Their comfort with immorality (Chapter 5-6:11) is shameful and reveals their ignorance of both who they are and who they serve.  Paul is not saying that the body is bad for God created all things good, Christ’s incarnation affirms that, and both body and soul will experience final salvation at the resurrection.

Again, Paul is not saying that sex is bad, for He created and designed it to consummate its’ full expression within the confines of marriage between one man and one woman.

Paul is saying that there’s a spiritual union that occurs when bodies through intercourse are united.  However, when this union occurs outside the marital borders, it goes contra God’s design and thus does not promote human flourishing, as in the case of prostitution.  Moreover, said acts of immorality take the Name of the LORD our God in vain because His nature as Holy is not represented, but rather a distortion of His being is placarded for the watching world to observe and critique.

Paul asks: “16 Or do you not know that the one who joins himself to a prostitute is one body with her? For He says, “The two shall become one flesh.”  He again leads with the question, “Or do you not know”, implying that they should.  When illicit physical intercourse occurs, there’s an immaterial union that damages the soul, and if left un-repented, it will lead to utter destruction (one shall not inherit the kingdom of God 6:9).

This one flesh union began in the Garden of Eden where conjugal purposes where designed by God not only to procreate and enjoy the wonder of sexual union, but ultimately it was to mirror the intimacy and covenant fidelity God  demonstrates to His people ultimately in Jesus Christ (Eph. 5: 22-33).  That’s why I think Paul says, “17 But whoever is united with the Lord is one with him in spirit.

Now Paul gives this command in light of verses 12-17:

18 Flee immorality. Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body. 19 Or do you not know that your body is a temple of the Holy Spirit who is in you, whom you have from God, and that you are not your own? 20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body.” 

 This command to holiness is based on Christ’s atonement “20 For you have been bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body”.  Believers are not to “be good“, as an end in itself (biblically that’s unattainable and contra the Gospel).  Instead, believers are to reflect the reality of new birth in their sexuality.  This is a command, not a suggestion, based on God’s fidelity toward His bride, the Church.

When Paul says, “Flee immorality”, I’m reminded of Joseph who fled from Potiphar’s wife who wanted to sexually seduce him, but he refused her.  She then falsely accused joseph of making advances on her, which resulted in his unjust imprisonment.  He suffered for righteousness sake.  When we stand for sexual purity because of Christ, we may suffer great harm as Joseph did, but our fidelity to God is revealed.  We must nevertheless follow said example, if in fact we are wed to Him.

Every other sin that a man commits is outside the body, but the immoral man sins against his own body.  Note that sexual immorality is distinct from every other sin for it somehow “pollutes the body”.  Here, Paul places supreme value on the body.  As image bearers we are soul and body both of which are to honor God, both of which are to love God.  To obey this it would include ceasing from engaging with temple prostitutes (a popular practice in Greek culture).  In our day, it would mean refraining from “same-sex marriage”, from internet pornography, from “hooking-up”, from having “friends with benefits”, etc.

Why obey this command?  Because Jesus Christ purchased you believer out of the slave market with his precious blood, thus God’s just holy righteous wrath no longer is yours to bear.  Because through Christ’s substitutionary atonement, death has been defeated on Calvary’s cross, because if we actually belong to him, it will show up in our sexuality and if it does not, it may be evidence we have a “said faith” not a real “saving faith”.  That’s why!

(SDG)

 

 

Selected Book Summaries from the PATRISTIC & MEDIEVAL PERIOD by Sergio Tangari

1Considering Some Who Have Shaped the Church’s Thought  

The writer to the Hebrews wrote: “Remember those who led you, who spoke the word of God to you; and considering the result of their conduct, imitate their faith” Hebrews 13:7.  Too often Christians find themselves imitating the faith of those who actually do not speak the word of God to them in truth.  Instead, they listen to teachers who proclaim what their itching ears want to hear to their utter destruction.  One way to guard against that is to consider how believers through the centuries understood the Gospel, and treasured Christ as they lived out its implications.

There are two cautions, two extremes, I think are critical to consider if we are to love God with our minds and hearts.  First, we must guard against thinking that because something is old (pick a number) it’s irrelevant in the present and for our future.  Second, we must guard against thinking that because something is new it’s relevant for the present and future.  Both extremes are foolish, irrational, clothed in hubris and blind us from discovering objective truth so that we may live out its implications presently and in the days ahead.

The following summaries are provided to encourage, challenge, comfort and invigorate the follower of Christ to consider how in the last two millennia followers of Christ understood and lived out the implications of their faith.  It’s to consider how these believers spent their energies for the glory of God and the cause of the kingdom, and to see where their example is worthy to be emulated.

Some things will seem odd, some things odious, some things onerous, and some things endearing.  I trust in no way you will be bored.  These summaries are but a taste of their substance that I’ve attempted to capture so that you the reader will take up and read at the source.

(Soli Deo Gloria)

                                                           

 The Patristic & Medieval Period

Ignatius, Epistle to the Romans[1]

In his letter to the Romans, Ignatius addresses the issue of his death.  As a prisoner, Ignatius first encourages the Romans to pray not for his deliverance, but for his death.  Secondly, he desires a martyr’s death to prove the genuineness of his faith.  Third, martyrdom is to be via the wild beasts.  Fourth, Ignatius desires death to rid himself from his persecutors.  If the wild beasts don’t want him, he will entice them to rip him to shreds.  For his goal is to attain to Jesus.

Fifth, only by death could Ignatius attain to the true life.  He desires neither the pleasures of this world nor it’s kingdoms, but rather the pleasures of God and His kingdom.  Only through death can he attain to this true life.  Sixth, he exhorts the Romans to demonstrate their fidelity to Christ by imitating him.  Seventh, Ignatius affirms that what he has written to the Romans is in accordance with Gods will.  Hence, to prevent Ignatius from martyrdom is equivalent to the Romans hating him.  Finally, he encourages the Romans to pray for the Syrian church, who only have Jesus Christ as the overseer.

If Christ is not risen from the dead, then Ignatius was a fool.  But if Christ is risen from the dead according to eyewitness accounts (The Gospels, Acts, 1 Corinthians 15, etc.) then Ignatius understood true treasure and was thus willing to lay down his life for the Master.

As a young man, in 1984 I attended a lecture where Richard Wurmbrand, the Lutheran pastor tortured for Christ, imprisoned in a communist prison for over 14 years, spoke of his experiences.  It was humbling for I was in the presence of one who loved Jesus in word and deed.  While not all believers are chosen by God to journey that road of suffering, all believers are called by Christ do die to self.  This is why Jesus made it clear that in order to follow him, we must deny ourselves, pick up our cross, and follow Him.  The road is hard, for some more than others, but the rewards far outweigh the temporary hardships.  What say you friend?

[1] Ignatius, “Epistle to the Romans,” The Ante-Nicene Fathers, Volume I, 73, (T & T Clark Edinburgh, Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, Reprinted in 1996).

Reflections From 1st Corinthians Chapter 6: HOW IS INEPT JUDGMENT BASED ON IGNORANCE and WHAT MAY RESULT? (Vs. 1-11)

1-corinthians

In this chapter Paul continues the theme of how believers are to properly judge one another in the church.  He does this by; first shaming those who don’t judge (for they will even judge angels), and secondly by warning those who live cavalierly of the shaky ground they are on:

“Does any one of you, when he has a case against his neighbor, dare to go to law before the unrighteous and not before the saints? Or do you not know that the saints will judge the world? If the world is judged by you, are you not competent to constitute the smallest law courts? Do you not know that we will judge angels? How much more matters of this life? So if you have law courts dealing with matters of this life, do you appoint them as judges who are of no account in the church? I say this to your shame. Is it so, that there is not among you one wise man who will be able to decide between his brethren, but brother goes to law with brother, and that before unbelievers?

Actually, then, it is already a defeat for you, that you have lawsuits with one another. Why not rather be wronged? Why not rather be defrauded? On the contrary, you yourselves wrong and defraud. You do this even to your brethren.  Or do you not know that the unrighteous will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived; neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers, will inherit the kingdom of God. 11 Such were some of you; but you were washed, but you were sanctified, but you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and in the Spirit of our God.”

First, Paul uses an “a fortiori argument” (from the lesser to the greater, or with greater force all the more[1]) in order to point out the gravity of what’s occurring with believers, namely they are “suing each other”.

These whom the apostle calls; “saints” are acting like “aint’s”.  Those whom Paul describes as “called” are living like the “not called”.  Their inability to properly make judgments within the church (Chapter 5) spills over into the court of a heathen judge.  Their moral ineptness to make righteous distinctions was lamentable and occurred because of their ignorance regarding final salvation (e.g., the future judgment of angelic beings and the world they were to execute).  Thus, if the forthcoming judgments are weightier, these present judgments should be much simpler.  But for them it was not the case.

Paul here seems to undermine (perhaps mock) their (lack of) “knowledge and wisdom” about ultimate issues and say something that may seem to be contradictory.  In chapter 5:12-13 Paul says that believers judge insiders and God judges outsiders:  “For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges,” yet in chapter 6:2 he says that believers will judge the world.

If world means angelic and human beings (v.3)—supporting said notion, then the issue is not if, but when we are to judge these beings—in the future.  Thus, presently, we are to focus on our own, God will deal with the non-believer.  But I’m still puzzled about future judgement.

Presently we are judging whether or not something is in accord with godliness or not, whether it is sinful or righteous.  In the future, sin will be no more, so what then will we judge?  I think the answer is that we will judge not over what is righteous or wicked, but on how righteousness will inform our distinctions (e.g. the wiser way to rule and reign perhaps?).

That is, the present judgments we are to presently make have a moral texture to them.  Distinguishing between what is good and evil.  However, in the future (in the new heaven and the new earth) these judgments will have an application to righteousness alone, for the former world of sin death and corruption will be no more.

I think this makes sense because God is the fountain and eternal source of just judgments before creation and after it.  As the redeemed creation and community of God, in the future there will no longer be slavery to wickedness, only the freedom to make righteous judgments.  I’m aware of the weightiness and nuanced intricacies of the aforesaid, but that seems to me a reasonable view.  So, Paul uses an argument from the lessor (i.e., judge among yourselves) to the greater (i.e., since, or because you will judge angels and the world).

Second, Paul shames the Corinthians because of their ignorance (i.e., they are the redeemed community of God the Righteous Judge) and subsequent ungodly dealings with one another.  These people thought more highly of themselves then they should have, blinded by their own pride, instead of being wronged or defrauded, they executed lawsuits against each other before unrighteous judges.  Both parties (the perpetrators and the victims) were guilty of unrighteousness according to the apostle.  This state of affairs was a bad sign of the genuineness of their faith.

Third, Paul warns them to not be deceived, and then describes those who will not enter God’s kingdom (neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, nor effeminate, nor homosexuals, 10 nor thieves, nor the covetous, nor drunkards, nor revilers, nor swindlers).  Paul reminds the Corinthians that once they were practiced these things, but now exhorts them to leave it all behind, and embrace Christ in their life, in how they live.

I see Paul alluding to the topic of new birth which brings about new life, and includes the real battle of sin each believer contends with (Romans 6-7).  Paul confronts the Corinthians wickedness with gospel truth and he calls them back to live in light of their identity.  The real followers of Christ will eventually return to Christ, the hypocrites ultimately won’t.

So, it could be said that inept judgment is based on ignorance.  That is, ignorance of our identity in Christ and our inheritance in Him inevitably results in a community that flounders rather than flourishes.

God give your church the grace to courageously, compassionately and swiftly deal with the strays within our own ranks as we entrust those outside the fold to You; the Just Judge who always does what is good beautiful and true.

(SDG)

[1] Peter Angeles, The Harper Collins Dictionary of Philosophy, pg.5, © 1992 by Peter A. Angeles

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: WHO ARE BELIEVERS COMMANDED TO JUDGE? (Vvs.9-13)

1-corinthians

Up to this point in the chapter, Paul explains that adultery far from being an act of love (whose ground is God not man) is actually an act of hate, rooted in arrogance it is the—“wisdom” of this world vs. the “foolishness” of God.  This circumstance like all others must be handled with loving discipline, not indifferent neglect, because of the eternal peril it presents to the community God has redeemed by Christ’s cross.

Now Paul turns his gaze on what it means to be God’s people in this present evil age as those who await final redemption (i.e., in theology this is referred to as “the now and the not yet”):

I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people; 10 I did not at all mean with the immoral people of this world, or with the covetous and swindlers, or with idolaters, for then you would have to go out of the world. 11 But actually, I wrote to you not to associate with any so-called brother if he is an immoral person, or covetous, or an idolater, or a reviler, or a drunkard, or a swindler—not even to eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging outsiders? Do you not judge those who are within the church? 13 But those who are outside, God judges.”

Here Paul explains that association with non-believers is unavoidable.    Contextually and as modeled by Jesus (a friend of tax collectors and sinners), association is not discouraged but assumed as a means of being salt and light in the world.  Thus, as Christ influenced those around him with righteousness, we too his people are to follow suit.

Thus, the command to not associate (share our lives with the person) was not with those outside Christ, but with those professing to love God with their lips (“so-called brother”) whose heart (revealed through lifestyle) is far from Him.  Paul, like Christ, refused to tolerate hypocrisy and thus God’s people must do likewise.

Paul concludes the command to not associate with the “so-called brother” to “not even to eat with such a one” which probably includes the table fellowship (i.e., the communion table) of the Lord.  Thus, to prohibit communion serves to tangibly illustrate the persons’ broken fellowship with God, the need for self-examination, and the need for repentance so that the fractured relationship between God and this man may mended.

Paul by this command for church discipline is commanding that righteous judgment be practiced.  This must be done humbly and lovingly before the God who is there.  Thus, the duty of believers is to judge their own ranks, not outsiders (i.e., those outside Christ, nonbelievers).  But why do this, it seems so “unloving” and “antiquated” and “intolerant”.  Far from God being a “kill-joy”, He delights in our joy and that is why He invites His people to share in his holiness—the fountain of everlasting joy.  Paul is commanding and entreating the Corinthians to fight for each other’s joy in God, rather than not love one another by letting sin pollute their assembly.

Paul reminds the church that it’s God’s job to judge outsiders, and their job to judge insiders.  The command from verse two to remove the wicked man from their midst is rooted in the holiness principle found in the Old Testament.

This is where the covenant people of God who have been redeemed from the slavery of Egypt (which included the false worship of many gods) are to safeguard their ranks from being enslaved once again by removing the false prophets who encouraged Israel to revert to the bondage of worshipping other gods.  At times, even stoning was commanded.  That seems extremely harsh to us “enlightened” people, but could it be that said action is only a shadow of the reality when God judges a people?

Could it be that we have it all wrong when judging non-believers?  Too often we don’t gaze at our own iniquity, but instead target those outside our ranks and are the worse off for it.

Paul is not prohibiting on occasion the need to speak up within the culture and humbly but firmly challenge it’s presuppositions by exposing their false ideas of what is good, beautiful, and true through reason (as clearly the Old Testament prophets demonstrate).

Paul is not stating that there will be times (as in his own life before Felix) where believers will stand before rulers and give an account of righteousness.  It seems that Paul is rather in this instance, saying that the church needs to clean house when the occasion calls for it.  When the uncomfortable reprimand is warranted, for loves sake, the church, not just its leaders, must act.

In the Corinthian situation like in our day, the cultural voice of “wisdom” had to be corrected with the “foolishness” of God’s Word.  It had to be corrected with the orthodox voice of Scripture, and while it may be increasingly uncomfortable, it’s absolutely necessary for the LORD’s sake and our joy in Him.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians CHAPTER 5: HOW IS ADULTERY AN EXPRESSION OF ARROGANCE RATHER THAN LOVE?  Part 2 (Vvs.6-8)

1-corinthians

We boast in many things, the majority of which tends to be sinful.  Paul indicts the Corinthian church of boasting in immorality (e.g., the son committing adultery with his mother) because they did not discipline this immoral act.  This is perhaps grounded in their perverted view of what it means to have “freedom in Christ” (1 Cor.6:12-20).  The point here is their boasting is sinful because it glorifies sin and Paul uses the metaphor of leaven to explain it:

Your boasting is not good. Do you not know that a little leaven leavens the whole lump of dough? Clean out the old leaven so that you may be a new lump, just as you are in fact unleavened. For Christ our Passover also has been sacrificed.

The apostle here reminds the Gentile Corinthian church of their roots in the Passover meal which Christ came to personify and fulfill through his death as the Passover Lamb (his body represented in the unleavened bread) holy and pure.

In the beginning of this letter, Paul describes the Corinthians as the “called” and as “saints” even though their lives were imbibing the world’s “wisdom” and its darkness.  The apostle (as God’s divinely appointed spokesman) is commanding zero tolerance for compromise to the Church because like a virus it will spread and eventually destroy the whole body (e.g., leaven, lump, dough).  Moreover, just as Christ is the Passover Lamb who died to sin and is now alive to God, so to the Corinthian’s are to emulate the Master in their sexuality (E.g., Rom.6:1-14), not the wisdom of this world with its’ “enlightened” and “liberated” views of sexual expression that is often praised among the unregenerate.  Paul continues:

Therefore let us celebrate the feast, not with old leaven, nor with the leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.

So, since we belong to Christ and are in this world that’s “leavened-sinful”, we’re to celebrate that feast (i.e., rejoice in God’s holiness that believers partake in) and not go back to “Egypt” into the slavery of the world with it’s greed, malice, wickedness, immorality, etc.  We are to ground our actions in what is sincere (i.e., un-hypocritical) and in the truth (i.e., what’s objectively true—Christ our Passover Lamb, risen from the grave).

The relevance of this passage can’t be overstated.  Adultery, fornication, and all kinds of sexual expression contra God’s design for human flourishing, not human misery, as some contend, are leaving image bearers empty, confused, unfulfilled, and eventually if un-repented of, will take them into a Christ-less eternity (i.e., Hell).

When believers buy into the prevailing “Same-sex” marriage and “Transgender” rhetoric of legitimizing its’ position which is blatantly contra design, are we not drinking in the “wisdom” of this world?  Yes, we are and far from being an expression of love, it’s an expression of treason against the self-existent Creator, who alone is the ground of what is beautiful, good and true, not the finite, feeble, dependent creature.

(SDG)

Reflections From 1 Corinthians 4: IS THEIR EVER A TIME TO JUDGE ANOTHER’S WORK IN THE GOSPEL? (Vvs.1-5)

1-corinthians

Paul continues his thought from chapter three and exhorts the believers to think biblically, truthfully, when they regard the apostle’s status:

“Let a man regard us in this manner, as servants of Christ and stewards of the mysteries of God. In this case, moreover, it is required of stewards that one be found trustworthy. But to me it is a very small thing that I may be examined by you, or by any human court; in fact, I do not even examine myself. For I am conscious of nothing against myself, yet I am not by this acquitted; but the one who examines me is the Lord.”

Like the Corinthians, many of us tend to label and decipher a person’s value based on their status in life.  To assist them in their view of the apostle, Paul says; “regard us as servants of Christ…stewards of God’s mysteries.”  Note the gravity and humility of this statement.

On the one hand, the gravity of being put in charge to steward, care for and appropriately handle the mysteries of God (i.e., to unfold the meaning of the incarnation and work of Christ on Calvary’s cross) as revealed to the apostle by Christ himself.

On the other hand, consider Paul’s humility recognizing that he’s Christ’s servant not a “superstar apostle” celebrity.  Contrary to the Corinthian blunder of comparing themselves among each other, Paul compares himself to no mere man, but recognizes his status before the risen Lord as a servant.  All who are in ministerial work are just that, servants and nothing more.

They are servants who have received mercy and God’s kindnesses.  That’s why any boasting that’s not Christ centered is truly in vain.  The Creator has given all things which the creature enjoys (i.e., salvation and gifts which accompany God’s people) freely, these are not earned.  Thus, to boast in that which you have not accomplished and posing as if you did is indeed delusional.

After describing his position as servant and steward, Paul accentuates that not just anyone can be a steward, only he who is “trustworthy” which implies that many are not and as a result, can’t be stewards (i.e., the Corinthians).  This is emphasized because the Corinthian’s seem to have questioned Paul’s legitimacy as an authority to heed.

Paul explains to these believers that their view of him and especially his apostleship is insignificant because he knows that God the Judge will have the last word on such matters and will rightly approve or disapprove of his work on the final day.  Do we realize the weight of this understanding?  Can we appreciate the profundity of this reality that we will all stand before the judgment seat of God and be rewarded for our service and receive our praise from God?

Paul thus commands these believers to withhold their judgment because the day approaches when our works and motives fueling said works will be exposed by the all-knowing, all-powerful, all-good, all-just, all-wise God who perfectly and without bias judges.

We all long for praise, it seems, especially when we do something well because of our skill set.  This brings a measure of satisfaction, nevertheless, longing for the creatures praise is too short sighted, since they too only see our actions through the “key-hole” of life.  Paul is wisely pointing the Corinthians and us to look for God’s approval, praise and reward for its’ worth has an infinite texture to it that our creaturely praise can’t compare.

(SDG)