Review: Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

Joni Eareckson Tada, a quadriplegic of 50 years, said in a review on Keller’s book that, “like pickles in a jar, our minds are soaked with all sorts of secular subtleties.” It was Job who said, “I have uttered what I did not understand, things too wonderful for me, which I did not know…. I had heard of you by the hearing of the ear, but now my eye sees you; therefore I despise myself, and repent in dust and ashes” (Job 42.3b, 5-6).

Timothy Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church (though he was pastoring there when he wrote this book), gives his reader a few steps with which to climb out of that pickle jar. His book contains three units: (1) philosophical, (2) theological, and (3) practical answers to the problem of evil. He helps us to (1) understand the furnace, (2) to face the furnace, and (3) to walk with God in the furnace.

Outline and Content

In Understanding the Furnace, Keller takes the philosophical route to talk about pain. He examines how other cultures have viewed suffering, how Christianity is better, and how our view should challenge the secular view. This is not to say that the wisest Christian will not be troubled by suffering, but they will not be debilitated by it. We are not to look for instant gratification. Through sacrificing for others, gain we a love, appreciation, and even a joy with them in the long-term. To many, “words life ‘suffering’ are unbelievably negative” (78). “The belief—that because we cannot think of something, God cannot think of it either—is more than a fallacy. It is a mark of great pride and faith in one’s own mind” (99).

Facing the Furnace offers the Christian a chance to grow in their ideas of suffering. Do we deserve the good life? Is God sovereign? Is he just? Is suffering just? We are self-centered beings. We want our independence and the ability to do whatever we want to do. But suffering shatters our false gods. Suffering shows us that we are not in command. But Keller remarks, “Suffering is both just and unjust” (130). Keller later adds, “This balance—that God is just and will bring final justice, but life in the meantime is often deeply unfair—keeps us from many deadly errors” (130). “God is both a sovereign and a suffering God” (130). The psalmist proclaims that it is this God who “fulfills his purpose for me” (Ps 57.2), but our God suffers and reigns. It was the wounded Lamb who was worthy to open the scrolls (Rev 5.6-7) of judgment against evil. “And so it is a wounded lamb who now is able not simply to judge wrongdoing but actually to undo the damage that evil has wreaked on creation” (156).

Walking with God in the Furnace brings along practices that we ought to grow into. It’s not enough to have a right mindset about God during suffering. We must show that correct thinking by doing; we need to so that we don’t revert back to our old ways of thinking. We learn to walk with God in daily prayer, Bible reading, loving our Christian family, worshiping together in community as we await Christ’s return. We learn to weep. We learn to listen to those who weep. Keller emphasizes that not all people suffer in the same way. Some need to hear the logical reasons first. Some need to hear the Bible verses of God’s faithfulness. Some just need to have someone nearby, to know someone cares, to know someone is there for them. We trust in the God we can’t see. We pray honestly to him.

“You have taken from me friend and neighbor—darkness is my closest friend” (Ps. 88.18).

The Chocolate Milk

Keller uses the image of a fiery furnace because of the well-known image of torment which fire brings. However, “if used properly, it does not destroy,” but instead refines (8). Keller acknowledges that this book does not need to be read in order (9). In fact, for the one who is suffering now, they shouldn’t start with part one. They should probably begin with part three, learning how to walk with God in their torment. They can read sections of part two when they need it.

Keller rightly points out that the reason the secular world emphasizes fixing the here and now is because that is all they have. They have no other happiness to offer. That isn’t to say we shouldn’t love others and do what we can to fix the world, but we know we can’t. All it takes is one hurricane to drown Houston, one ice storm for towns to lose power for weeks, one tornado to level buildings and houses—all that we have worked for. Keller doesn’t mince words. It’s not if we will suffer, it’s when. Christians need to get into the habit of walking with God now, praying, living in community, serving one another, and being ready to love when tragedy—small, great—strikes.

A true highlight of Keller’s book is the inclusion of a true story of suffering at the end of each chapter. Some stories finish with a good ending in sight. Others don’t. But they all present the growing faith of the sufferer and their stronger relationship with Christ.

Somehow in modern-day Christian circles, we tend to see God’s faithfulness as saving us from suffering. And yes, sometimes, in His great mercy, He does save us from suffering. But that is not the mark of His faithfulness. We see in Scripture that many of those He loved deeply are also those who suffered greatly. (Gigi, 185)

It is one of the many excellences of the book that Job is brought to contentment without ever knowing all the facts of his case…. [T]he test would work only if Job did not know what it was for. God thrusts Job into an experience of dereliction to make it possible for Job to enter into a life of naked faith, to learn to love God for himself alone. God does not seem to give this privilege to many people, for they pay a terrible price of suffering for their discoveries. But part of the discovery is to see the suffering itself as one of God’s most precious gifts. To withhold the full story from Job, even after the test was over, keeps him walking by faith, not by sight. He does not say in the end, “Now I see it all.” He never sees it all. He sees God (Job 42:5). Perhaps it is better if God never tells any of us the whole story of our life. (283, from Francis Anderson’s Job [TOTC] volume, pg. 270, n1)

Recommended?

Keller’s book should be read by all Christians. It is a solid reservoir of biblical truth. As The Princess Bride tells us, “Life is pain. Anyone who says differently is selling something.” The Bible admits to our pain. It gives us no prosperity gospel, health-and-wealth, pie in the sky doctrines. Some have it easier, some just have it rough. We will walk through a furnace, but Godwho hung like meat on a cross before a crowd who couldn’t stop mocking him he will walk with you.

Lagniappe

Buy from Amazon or Penguin Random House

Disclosure: I received this book free from Penguin Books. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

Advertisements

1 Comment

Filed under Review

Review: Jeremiah (Kidner)

During his lifetime, Derek Kidner (1913-2008) was a prolific commentator for the TOTC and BST series. He wrote commentaries on Genesis, Proverbs (review), Ecclesiastes, Ezra & Nehemiah, Hosea, and two volumes on Psalms (review of Pss 73–150). His pastor’s heart and his OT scholarship come out in all of his commentaries. He’s pithy, wise, discerning, and easily draws his readers to look to Christ in the NT.

Kidner has Old Testament wisdom/skill (ḥokmâ) when it comes to exegesis and application. One can observe his pithiness in this commentary—Kidner explains Jeremiah’s 1,364 verses in only 150 pages! While many other commentaries explain everything almost to the point that you no longer need to look at the biblical text itself, a reading of Kidner requires an open Bible.

Kidner divides Jeremiah into 3 units according to historical dates. 

  • Prologue (1)
  • From Josiah to the first year of Nebuchadnezzar (2–20)
  • From Josiah’s successors to the captivity (21–45)
  • Oracles concerning the nations (46–51)
  • Epilogue (52)

Kidner also provides three appendices:

  1. Sin, judgment, repentance, grace and salvation in the preaching of Jeremiah
  2. The chapters of the book in their chronological setting
  3. A table of dates

At 150 pages, Kidner’s Introduction is a mere 9 pages, though it gives the surrounding historical context. That context is vitally important in a book that dates many of its passages, they just aren’t usually in chronological order. Knowing the dates and the historical events in Kings and Chronicles (references also given throughout this volume) brings more life to Jeremiah.

Kidner points out the irony in Jeremiah’s statements against his opponents. In Jeremiah 7.8–15, concerning Jeremiah’s appeal to reason and to history, Kidner says,

Its first step is to expose the nonsense — and the effrontery — of tearing up the ten commandments and turning up in church (10), as though saved to sin. The second, the den of robbers saying (11), brings out the greater nonsense of thinking to tie God’s hands. The temple could only give sanctuary as a sanctuary. Let man take it over, and God will have left it (49).

When Jeremiah’s cousin Hanamel comes to him in prison and asks if he would redeem and purchase Hanamel’s land (it was probably inhabited by the Babylonians at this point and, thus, was basically worthless), Kidner replies, “Was there ever a more insensitive prison-visitor?” (112). And should we expect anything less? His family plotted against him (12.6). Why should we expect kind words from his cousin? Given that this was of the Lord, Jeremiah bought the measly plot of land as a sign of God’s promise to return his people. Kidner says, “Each [field] a vindication of his [Jeremiah’s] gallant act of faith and of the Lord’s delight in doing [his people] good…. Seventeen shekels of silver (9) were surely never better spent” (114).

His proverbial twists and applicable thoughts express, in a nutshell, God’s words to Jeremiah, his Jerusalem audience, his Babylonian audience, and his present day audience and exhorts and encourages both God’s people and God’s preachers today. In Jeremiah 17.17–18, Kidner writes,

Jeramiah (sp) recalls the warning he received at his commissioning… for dismay [1.17, and “terror” in 17.17] is the word he now dwells on… but we should not miss the note of “fear and trembling” (cf. 1 Cor. 2:3) which was the cost of his outspokenness. It silently rebukes the blandness of the safe preacher (74).

As with Hetty and Wright, there is no Scripture index.

Recommended?

While Kidner’s volume isn’t strong in detailed exegesis, and it won’t be the go-to commentary for many because of it’s brevity, those brief comments give you a taste of each section’s distinct meaning and, ultimately, of all of Jeremiah. Kidner would be best used for both the Bible study and in sermon prep. He’s strong on the historical events of Jeremiah, drawing in the NT, and summarizing the main idea(s) in a section of Scripture.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Kidner Classic Commentaries
  • Author: Derek Kidner
  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 3, 2014)

Buy this from IVP Academic or Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

1 Comment

Filed under Review

Review: Jeremiah (BST)

The Bible Speaks Today (BST) series has a threefold ideal:

  • to expound the biblical text with accuracy
  • to relate it to contemporary life, and
  • to be readable.

While it is not exactly a “commentary,” this is not a sermon series either (a la Preaching the Word). In his volume, Wright writes specifically to pastors and preachers, those called to fill God’s people with his word and a solid, biblical knowledge of him. Wright is an ideal person to write on Jeremiah. He is an OT theologian who has been writing on the OT, OT ethics, and OT commentaries for years (e.g., Deuteronomy, Lamentations, Ezekiel, Daniel). Having written so much about the OT, Wright is able to keeps the entire story and canon of the Bible in mind as he fills in the details about the suffering prophet.

The weeping prophet, who weeps God’s tears for his people and relays God’s anger against his people. Jeremiah images God’s relationship with Israel in two primary ways: one of a husband and his bride, the other of a father and his son. God is a “betrayed husband” and a “rejected father” (29). Thus, “God and his prophet suffer together in the anticipation and the actuality of the disaster” (30).

Structure and Content

Unfortunately, Wright doesn’t provide an outline. Instead his volume is made up of 34 chapters, with Jeremiah 25 as the “hinge” chapter. He says, “Chapter 25 is clearly a ‘hinge’ chapter that first looks back to all that has gone before in chapters 1–24 (25:1–7). Then it effectively ‘programmes’ the rest of the book by looking forward to the inevitable judgment on Judah that God will bring through the agency of Nebuchadnezzar and Babylon (25:8–11), followed by God’s promised judgment on Babylon itself and indeed on all the earth (25:12–38)” (27).

Chapters end with a section on “theological and expository reflections” which present short thoughts for the reader (paster/congregation) to consider. For example, Wright says, “Jeremiah highlights biblical standards for human governments,” and then asks why Christians are more vocal over the new sexual agenda than they are about government policies which keep the poor and the vulnerable confined in their present state (246). To know God is “to practice steadfast love, justice, and righteousness” in this life now (Jer 9.23–24).

Wright sees wordplays, alliteration, OT allusions, the repetition of words and themes all throughout Jeremiah. He draws together Jeremiah’s messages throughout the book and shows his unified message. In commenting on the abrupt, jarring verses of 30:23–24, Wright says, “Why is that past oracle of doom repeated here? For the purpose of wrapping it in the smothering embrace of the core covenant promise that Israel had known from their origins” (311).

Wright has rhetoric and uses imagery well, saying that Jeremiah and his message “stick out like a funeral director at a wedding,” which is very true (51). Considering all the false prophets who cried, “Peace, peace,” Jeremiah wept that Jerusalem would be overtaken by Babylon. The false prophets preached a wedding; Jeremiah preached a funeral.

Wright is not only sensitive to OT themes, but to NT themes and references as well. God’s promise in Jeremiah 30–33 and 35–37 that nothing could separate him from his people is echoed in Romans 8.38–39.

The Spoiled Milks

My two disappointments with this volume concern the lack of an outline and a lack of indexes, specifically a Scripture index (my same complaint with Lalleman’s and Kidner’s volumes). With so many NT Scriptures referenced, this volume would have been even more resourceful if one could easily see all of the Bible verses used.

Recommended?

Wright is a highly trusted exegete who has written numerous books and commentaries. Get this one, and don’t stop there. Wright, like Lalleman, is good to have for all Bible teaching settings. His chapters are longer than Lalleman’s (only Mackay’s are longer), but are packed with exegetical and expositional insights. I would use his volume if I taught a Bible study, a Bible college class, or preparation for a sermon. Good to be paired with Lalleman’s volume.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Christopher J. H. Wright
  • Series: Bible Speaks Today
  • Paperback: 448 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic; 1st edition (March 10, 2014)

Buy this from IVP Academic or Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

2 Comments

Filed under Review

Review: Jeremiah & Lamentations (TOTC)

Since the 1960s, Tyndale Old (and New) Testament Commentaries (TOTC) series has sought to be faithful to the text of Scripture in a scholarly way without running into the despairing Bog of Details. New discoveries of ancient Near Eastern artifacts and texts increasingly give a sharper understanding of the Old Testament, 75% of the Bible which too often goes unnoticed. However, a significant reason the OT is often ignored is because, being so far removed from today’s reader, it is difficult to understand. Why would the Lord command Jeremiah three different times not to pray for Israel (7.16; 11.14; 14.11)? Why are six of the final seven chapters denunciations against the surrounding nations? How do we work out that God is in control of what happens to Israel, he is their enemy, yet he is also their loving husband (same in Lamentations too)? And why is Jeremiah impossible to outline?

Hetty Lalleman-de Winkel has set forth an excellent volume on Jeremiah and Lamentations. She teaches Old Testament studies at Spurgeon’s College in London, wrote her Master’s thesis and PhD on Jeremiah, and has also written Celebrating the Law? Rethinking Old Testament Ethics.

Content

It’s should be no surprise that Jeremiah takes up the bulk of this volume (299 pages) with Lamentations running at 55 pages. There are three parts to each section of the commentary—context, comment, and meaning. Context sets the new text within the flow of the book. Comment is the exegetical portion where Lalleman emphasis repeated themes, rhetorical questions, the שׁוּב motif of “repenting”/“returning”/“turning away,” Jeremiah’s laments, chiastic structures, what makes a prophet true or false, and contrasts (33.5//33.8-9;  31.4//31.22;  31.5//5.17). While she doesn’t comment on everything (which isn’t a drawback), she does draw the reader back and forth to many other places in Scripture (Jer 33.11 with Pss 100.5 + 136; Lam 2.14 with Jer 6.14 + 8.11).

Finally, the Meaning section draws the main points of the passage together into a brief paragraph so that the reader can get his bearings. Lalleman doesn’t speak much about the NT, but it does come up, and especially when there is messianic language (see the Meaning section at the end of Jer 33 [pgs 243–44]). This strength is seen more in the volumes by Kidner and Wright. The primary purpose of the TOTC volumes is to discuss what the OT text is saying. It’s the job of the TNTC (NT commentaries) to take the OT information and show its fulfillment in Christ.

Lalleman makes some comments about the chronology and structuring of Jeremiah, but doesn’t have an extended conversation about it. Primarily, Jeremiah isn’t set in a chronological manner because he/Baruch wanted to emphasize certain themes throughout the book (see her outline here). Thus, the chronology has been “rearranged” to make certain themes visible.

Lamentations is easier to outline, and it divided into 5 units based on each chapter. Further outlining can be found at the beginning of each unit.

Unfortunately, I can’t cover everything in Lalleman’s volume here, but I will try to show what Lalleman says about some of the complex issues raised above.

  • Don’t pray (7.16; 11.14; 14.11)? Jeremiah is told not to intercede for Israel because they are too far gone. Babylon will come, and exile will happen. “Judgment is now irreversible” (135).
  • Oracles against the nations (OAN): Theologically, the OAN “emphasize that God is in control over all nations” (55). God will not be bested by any earthly superpower, not even Babylon. He even uses them for his own purposes, which goes for the other nations too. Israel and Judah are often times worse than their pagan neighbors, yet if God can change the hearts of his own rebellious people, then he can even change those of the Gentiles.
  • Israel’s enemy and loving Husband?: “Israel will be punished for their sins, but will eventually be saved through judgment” (226). The new covenant is promised, and God promises throughout the book, especially here in the Book of Comfort (30–33) to “turn” the hearts of his people to him. It is in the exile that Israel realizes their need for repentance (Lam 3.40).
  • Structure of Jeremiah: There are many ways to divide Jeremiah, and “a consensus is not in sight” (62). However, she disagrees with other commentators (e.g., Wright, Mackay, Wilcock) who see Jeremiah 25 as a hinge chapter. Instead she takes Jeremiah 23–29 together, “because the theme of ‘false prophets versus true prophet’ extends through these chapters” (63).

Unfortunately, as with Kidner and Wright, there is no Scripture index.

Recommended?

Lalleman has helped explain the big picture and the nuances of Jeremiah to me. She has sat with me for a number of Sunday mornings and has guided me through this long, foreign, and bewildering text, and I wouldn’t want to be far away from her volume when I study this book. A good expositional companion to Lalleman on Jermeiah would be Christopher Wright’s BST volume, and a good companion commentary on Lamentations would be Parry’s THOTC volume.

Lalleman’s volume is good to use as preparation for a Bible study, for a sermon, and for teaching in a Bible college/seminary atmosphere. She gives enough detail without being overbearing, and that makes her volume a delight to use in all settings.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries (Book 21)
  • Author: Hetty Lalleman
  • Paperback: 373 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (March 1, 2013)
  • Read a sample here

Buy from IVP Academic or Amazon

Disclosure: I received this book free from IVP Academic. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

5 Comments

Filed under Review

Review: Greek I (Zondervan Online Lectures)

(See bottom of my review for the Discount Code)

The Zondervan Academic Online Course for Greek I is taught by William Mounce, best known for his book Basics of Biblical Greek along with his commentary on the pastoral epistles (WBC). He used to teach at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, but is now the President of BiblicalTraining (which offers free lectures from top scholars). Zondervan has approximately 43 online courses, though some have yet to be released. 

The course is self-paced, but it must be completed within 12 months. It is 16 units long with each unit following a four-part structure: OverviewStudyReview, and Assess, and ends with a midterm. Greek II is also made up of 16 units and ends with the final.

Basics of Biblical Greek I

Class Lectures

  1. Alphabet, Pronunciation, Punctuation, and Syllabification
  2. Beginning Nouns
  3. Genitive and Dative
  4. Prepositions, εἶμι, and Adjectives
  5. Third Declension Nouns
  6. First and Second Person Personal Pronouns
  7. αὐτὸς
  8. Demonstrative Pronouns/Adjectives
  9. Relative Pronoun
  10. Introduction to Verbs and Present Active Indicative
  11. Contract Verbs
  12. Present Middle/Passive Indicative
  13. Future Active/Middle Indicative
  14. Verbal Roots, and Other Forms of the Future
  15. Conclusion

One value with these videos is that you can replay them as many times as you want, and most run from 25-45 minutes per video/chapter. As you can see in the course lectures above, Mounce takes you through the Nouns, adjectives, and pronouns first before you learn about verbs. Without getting into all the reasons, throughout his years teaching Mounce saw that one of the most confusing aspects to students learning Greek was constantly switching back and forth between nouns and verbs. Mounce has found that it’s easiest for students to learn the nouns first before the verbs. And, really, the noun/pronoun/adjective chapters go pretty quickly. You’re going to want to have those down before you start learning verbs and all of their different moods, aspects, and tenses.

The vocabulary program used was developed by Cerego. It shows you the vocabulary word, lets you hear the pronunciation, and it tracks which words you are strong in and which ones you are weak in. I found the system to be pretty fun, actually. Each unit ends with a quiz. There is a keyboard system to know how to type the letters (and it’s a lot easier than the one provided for Hebrew).

Audience

Those who will do this will either need to be self-learners or motivated enough to become self-learners. These could be pastors, students, or anybody who wants to learn/re-learn biblical Greek. You could use this for yourself, as a group study, or a class at church. Professors could use it and integrate it into their classrooms alongside their courses or as a new online program. As classes are slowly going the way of online learning, schools can implement these courses too. 

Recommended?

  • Pros:
    • Replayable
    • Self-paced
    • Words and their new forms are written out and explained.
    • The course is cheaper than a physical seminary class.
    • 8 hours of video
  • Cons/Limits:
    • You can’t ask questions
    • You have access to the course for only one year (though, that’s more than you get with a seminary class).
    • The course is more expensive than if you were to buy only the Grammar and Workbook (and other helpful material).

With many subjects, once you read a few books on that subject, you had a decent grasp of it, at least enough to be able to hold a small conversation. But when it comes to languages, the best way to learn any language is to have a teacher right in front of you who can answer every question you might have. Those who aren’t able to go to seminary have to rely on books to learn Greek, and you can’t ask books questions. While you can’t ask Mounce questions directly, he has more time to explain the subject matter.  Most of the grammar that you would find in the Grammar book is found here, but you will want to buy the Workbook so that you can practice, practice, practice. The Workbook will help you more than you can believe.

Lagniappe

This course discount code will get you 15% of of the course price: SPENCER

  • See my review of Zondervan’s Hebrew I Online Course

Disclosure: I received these lectures free from Zondervan. The opinions I have expressed are my own, and I was not required to write a positive review. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255 http://www.access.gpo.gov/nara/cfr/waisidx_03/16cfr255_03.html.

1 Comment

Filed under Review

Separation Anxiety VI (2 Cor 7.1)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. They have promises from God that he welcomes his children and will walk among them. Having all of God’s promises should compel us to complete devotion to him, for he is a Father who gives generously to his children.

Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)

1 Since we have these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from every defilement of body and spirit, bringing holiness to completion in the fear of God.


B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7.1)

Because of the Old Testament promises, referenced in 6:17–18, Paul reminds his “beloved” children (6:13) that, as God’s temple, they, including Paul, are to cleanse themselves from all defilement of body and spirit and bring “holiness to completion in the fear of God” (7:1). But what promises are Paul referencing? Are the promises in 6:17–18 the only ones he is referring to? Beale points out,

The observation that 1:20 and 7:1 both refer to ‘promises’ . . . is one of the signposts that it is this section, at least, within which he expounds prophetic fulfilment. Certainly, Paul is thinking partly about the promises of a ‘new covenant’ with Israel (3:1–18), her resurrection (5:14–15), new creation (5:16–17) and restoration from captivity (5:18–6:18) . . . [and] the establishment of a new temple was to be part of Israel’s restoration (e.g., see Ezek. 37:26–28; 40–48). Accordingly, Paul lists the temple among the initial fulfilments of Old Testament prophecy.[1]

After recalling all of the promises Paul has mentioned since 1:20 which the Corinthians have in Christ, Paul displays his affections for the Corinthians by calling them “beloved.” Hafemann says, “The obedience in view is not the believer’s attempt to win God’s love, but the covenant… response that flows from already being loved by God in Christ” (1:1; 12:19).[2] 

The cleansing imagery picks up the images of priesthood from Isaiah 52:11 and the temple from Leviticus 26:11–12 in 2 Corinthians 6:16b. Inheriting God’s future promises means keeping his present commands which are brought about by the working of holiness already granted to God’s people (“saints,” 1 Cor 1:2; 2 Cor 1:1b). Because they are sanctified by Christ (1 Cor 6:11b) and are new creations in him (2 Cor 5:17), they can separate and cleanse themselves from all defilement (1 Cor 5:7) by the power of God (Phil 2:12; 2 Cor 6.18) Almighty. The way they are to cleanse themselves is through repentance and separation in 12:20–21.

The Corinthians are to remember that there will be a judgment at the end of history (5:10). “Knowing the fear of the Lord,” Paul and his associates persuade others to follow Christ (5:11). It is imperative that the Corinthians share this same fear of the Lord so that they will cleanse themselves from their immorality (12:20–21), including their infatuation of the false apostles. If they are God’s “saints,” then they must be “holy as he is holy” (Lev 19:1; 1 Pet 1.16).

Just as Jesus “cleansed” the temple (Mark 11:15–17), Paul exhorts the Corinthians that they would cleanse themselves of every defilement.[5] And as he does earlier in the book (2 Cor 1:11, 14b; 2:11; 3:18; 4:12), Paul includes himself here in 7:1 with the Corinthians. He does not lord his authority over their faith, but he works alongside of them for their joy (1:24; 2.3). However, if they do not rid themselves of the unclean influence now, when Paul returns for a third time he will “spare no one” (13.2) and punish all disobedience (10:6).

Those who do not separate from the unbelievers are not reconciled to God’s ambassador, Paul. They believe a different gospel and are neither reconciled to God nor to Christ. They are not new creations but are blinded not by the God who shines light, but by the god of this age who disguises himself as an angel of light. They will not be spared by Paul, and they will no longer be apart of the Corinthian family in Christ. God will not be their Father. Instead, their father will be the devil (Jn 8:44), Satan, who has outwitted them by his own designs—designs which they should not have been but were indeed ignorant to (2 Cor 2:11). They have been deceived by Satan’s cunning (11:3), for the gospel is veiled to them (3:14), and they are perishing (2:15). They will stand naked and ashamed (5:3) before the Judge on his throne (5:10). They have missed the day of salvation (6:2b) and have taken God’s grace in vain (6:1). The Holy Spirit will not have fellowship with them (13:14) for they are in darkness (6:14c; 4:4). They have no guarantee of future hopes and promises (1:22; 5:5). Their end will correspond to their deeds (11:15b). They have, indeed, failed to meet the test (13:5).

However, Paul remains hopeful. He believes they will complete their obedience (10:6; 13:5b), as he has already seen proof of this (2:6, 9; 7:7ff.; 8:7, 24). He is bold (3:12) because the Holy Spirit is at work (3:3) and Christ is in them (13:5). Opening their hearts wide to Paul means closing their hearts and separating from Paul’s opponents. Whether or not any of the Corinthians responds to Paul’s call will reveal whether or not any of them have been reconciled to God as a genuine believer.[6]

Christ initially fulfilled the temple promise (cf. 1:20), and the readers participate in that fulfilment also, as they are ones ‘having these promises’ (7:1).” Paul and the Corinthians are able to fulfill the same promise as Christ “because God ‘establishes [them] in Christ’ by ‘sealing’ believers and giving the ‘Spirit in our hearts as a down payment’ (1:21–22).”[7]


Conclusion

That was basically my paper for my Hermeneutics class (as the writing style represents). In my paper I tried to demonstrate that 2 Corinthians 6:14–7:1 is original to the letter by showing themes and literary connections. Paul was in his right mind when he wrote this text for the Corinthians (5:13). I hope I have built up (12:19) your confidence that this section was written to the Corinthian church by Paul. As God’s temple, we need to train our minds to know the true gospel and to be leery of any and all false sources of light which seek to tear down God’s temple-bride (6:14–16; 11.2). We have fled from Babylon, and we can never return to it. We have a Father who has welcomed us into his family (6:17–18). To make sure Babylon never again becomes appealing to our once blinded minds, fear God and freely repent from all big and small sins, for the promises God has given us are many (1.20–7.1).

3 Comments

Filed under Biblical Studies, Paul

Separation Anxiety V (2 Cor 6.17-18)

Paul has given the Corinthians commands to separate from the false teachers and reminds them that they are the place where God’s presence dwells. Because of this, they should follow God’s commands to separate from the unclean false teachers and and their followers. By doing so they will be welcomed by their Father as they are re-reconciled to his ambassador, Paul.

Detailed Outline

A. We Are the Temple of God (6:14–18)

1. God’s Commands and Promises (6:14–16)

2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

17  Therefore go out from their midst,

and be separate from them, says the Lord,

and touch no unclean thing;

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

then I will welcome you,

18  and I will be a father to you,

and you shall be sons and daughters to me,

says the Lord Almighty.”

B. Bringing Holiness to Completion (7:1)


2. Our Welcoming Father (6:17–18)

a. Leave (v. 17a-c)

The Corinthians are God’s people (6:16). They are being transformed into his righteous image day by day (3:18; 5:21). Those who do not live for Christ “who for their sake died and was raised” (5:15) will be part of the old creation and will pass away (5:17). Because they are God’s own, they should separate from the unclean unbelievers (6:14a), “deceitful workmen” who teach a false gospel (11:13–15; cf. Gal 1:9).

In the first three lines of 2 Cor 6:17 Paul quotes from Isaiah 52:11. In Isaiah 52:7-10, God reigns as King from Zion and exhorts his people to leave Babylon and not touch any unclean thing. “Presumably, the sense is that a grand return to Zion, the city of the holy king, requires that anyone returning be pure.”[1] The “sprinkling” that occurs in v. 15 “will effect a purification that will enable not only exiled Jews but also ‘many nations’ to approach the holy king and be part of the holy community.”[2]

Because of the death of God’s Servant (53:4) which brings peace between the believer and God (53:5; cf. Rom 5:1; 2 Cor 5:18), the Corinthians have been sanctified (1 Cor 1:2) and are called to remain pure. In this second exodus, it is “precisely because that work has been accomplished for [the Corinthians, that] they therefore are to so act and do.”[3] Because God revealed his holy arm for all to see his salvific work (Isa 52:10), the priests are to bring the Lord’s vessels out of Babylon.

All of the Corinthians, likened to priests (cf. 1 Pet 2:5, 9 from Exod 19:5–6), are to separate from what is unclean. The unbelievers are not outside of God’s people; they are threatening the very life of his people from within. The Corinthians must not remain where they are, but they must actually do something. “In the new covenant, works are a God-elicited and necessary part of the life of the converted person, a constant theme in the New Testament.”[4]

Here the Corinthians are to “go out from their midst” (2 Cor 6:17a). “The city is naturally associated with its people” (Rev 18:4), and the people here are the false teachers (and perhaps, any who remain associated to them, [“from among them” in Exod 7:5; Ps 136:11]).[5] Yet, at one time, such were the Corinthians (1 Cor 6:11a) associated with “Babylon,” but they have been sanctified (1 Cor 6:11b). The imperative to separate is limited and defined by the larger context of God’s welcoming his people, despite their rebellions and ill-chosen actions.[6]

b. Welcome Home (v. 17d–18)

What is this larger context? If the Corinthians will obey this command, God will welcome them, be a father to them, and they will be his sons and daughters (2 Cor 6:17d–18). In Isaiah 52 God calls his people out of Babylon as a result of his “second exodus” redemptive act (Isa 43:18–19). As a result of their obedience, God promises to gather Israel back and bless them (Ezek 11:17; cf. 20:34, 41). Likewise, just as the Corinthians should separate because of their redemption out from Babylon’s sin and death, the result will be the God will welcome them as a father welcomes his children.

Besides the brief mention of Ezekiel 11:17, Paul conflates 2 Samuel 7:14 and Isaiah 43:6 here in 2 Corinthians 6:18. “During his public accession to the throne, the king underwent an enthronement ceremony in which he was designated as God’s son” (2 Sam 7:14a; Ps 2:7). In 89:27 the king cries a declaration that God is his Father, and he is promised an eternal throne (89:27, 36). Jesus, descending from King David, was declared to be the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead (Rom 1:3-4), and those in him are “sons of God” (8:14). Believers in Christ, the Davidic king who simultaneously shared in God’s kingship and Spirit and uniquely represented God’s people,[7] can cry a declaration that God is their Father (8:15; cf. 2 Cor 1:20).

Isaiah 43.6 expresses the second exodus in terms of God bringing back his sons and daughters. This promise is seen also in 60:4, which includes “in its context the promise that Israel will again worship at a restored temple” (Isa. 60:7, 13).[8] By using “sons and daughters,” Paul shows that God’s presence is not found in a mere temple, but in a family.[9]

Why should the Corinthians not be unequally yoked and separate from the false apostles? Because God is their Father and has redeemed them and reconciled them to himself; they are new creations in Christ. Who are God’s sons and daughters? The Corinthians who separate from the false teachers. They must detach themselves from the false teachers while anticipating God’s final promises of a continued relationship and of the final redemption of this world.

The Corinthians are able to be separate only by the power of the One who announced these Old Testament commands, “the Lord Almighty” (2 Cor 6:18c). This is the only time the phrase “the Lord Almighty” is used in Paul’s writings. It comes from 2 Sam 7:8 and 27 [LXX] and “stresses the invincible power that belongs to God.”[10] The Lord, as the loving Father, is almighty enough to give His children the ability they need to separate from unclean. He keeps his promises (2 Cor 1.20), and they must walk by faith in obedience to him (5.7).

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Studies, Paul