Category Archives: Logos

Logos Review: The Book of Hosea (NICOT)

Hosea (NIVOT)

When I went to CCBCY, I took a class on the Minor Prophets. There were a number of us, including myself, whose favorite class lectures were spent covering Hosea. When I saw that Dearman’s commentary on Hosea (NICOT) was on Logos, I knew I had to get it (quite literally. I have a class this semester that requires this volume).

Why the NICOT Series?

The NICOT series has been around since the 70s, and it’s certainly more technical than what your morning devotional would be. But that’s not a bad thing. The authors of the NICOT volumes don’t “treat the Old Testament as just an ancient literary artifact on a par with the Iliad or Gilgamesh. They are… rigorous, reverent wrestlings with wonderfully human writings through which the living God speaks his powerful Word. NICOT delicately balances ‘criticism’… with humble respect, admiration, and even affection for the biblical text” (x).

Hosea “is… one of the most difficult [OT books] to interpret” (3). “In literary terms his book is among the most poetic of the prophetic collections in the OT, [both] in the allusive character of [Hosea’s] speech and a propensity for metaphor and simile” (3). To be more specific, Dearman later adds

“[Hosea’s] poetic elliptical style, frequent shift of subject, penchant for wordplay and assonance, formidable vocabulary, and even elements of a northern dialect, all contribute to the difficulty of handling and interpreting the text” (9).

The Introduction covers the origin and transmission of the book of Hosea, its literary features, its historical background (set in the 700s B.C.), and ten different aspects of Hosea’s theology.

The Text

Dearman views Hosea through the lens of Israel being a part of God’s family (or household). Here, “the marital relationship of the spouses plays the more prominent role in chs. 1–3 and that of household/children in chs. 4–14” (88).

The point of Hosea “is not only to set forth the folly of Israel as a negative example from which to learn, but also to confess the integrity of YHWH in his ways of dealing with his world” (346). God, who is just in his judgment, is not human, but is divine. Thus, though Israel deserved judgment, and would receive God’s judgment through the nations they are allied with, God would eventually show them undeserved mercy, grace, and redemption. Hosea was written to show Israel how to be wise in the ways of the Lord, that his judgments on the wicked will happen, and that he is loving, gracious, and devoted to his people.

The first three chapters of Hosea have been notoriously difficult for interpreters. When is Hosea writing about his relationship with Gomer, or the relationship between Israel and YHWH? When are they combined an when are they separated? In Hos. 2.3, who is stripped naked, Israel or Gomer? Is it a literal stripping or a metaphorical one? Dearman excels in weaving between the imagery of Gomer and Hosea’s relationship and showing how it pictures the greater relationship between Israel and YHWH.

Dearman is acutely aware of Hebrew wordplays and puns.

  • In Hos 4.16 a part of Israel’s name (śārâ) is similar with the word stubborn (sārar). “Israel is simply stubborn and exhibits little by way of understanding” (168). It would be like punning my name as, “Spencer dispenses his cash before he even gets it.”
    d
  • Again in Hos 13.7 “The leopard will keep watch, ʾāšûr, a term that sounds virtually identical to ʾaššûr, ‘Assyria.’”(323). YHWH is as the leopard lurking over Israel, and it will be through Assyria that he will judge Israel.

There is not too much discussion on NT texts, though there are a few excursus that touch on the NT such as Israel and Sonship [Hosea 11.1]and Hosea 13:14 LXX and 1 Corinthians 15:54–55.There are other excursus throughout the book such as “Hosea and the Decalogue,” “Being Raised on the Third Day,” “Discipline and Correction in Hosea,” and many more.

There are ten appendices at the end of the commentary, some examples being “Love in the Prophecy of Hosea,” “Sexual Infidelity in Hosea,” and “Terms for Election in Hosea.”

Why Logos?

Like real books you can mark up your Logos books.

Hosea Logos

Unlike real books, you can also erase your markings and start over (and keep it simple).

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 12.47.13 PM

Footnotes and the biblical citations are hyperlinked, and lists are laid out clearly and are never jumbled up.
Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 12.43.47 PM

You can search for any word and find it easier than in a physical book, though here you aren’t given a search page that shows each sentence containing “wordplay.” Instead you have to choose the colored lines on the scrollbar to find each selection. It’s still easier than combing the desert of a hardback, but this does make searching more tedious, especially when your search term results are close together.

Screen Shot 2015-10-14 at 12.42.17 PM

And for other features I didn’t cover, you can look at my other Logos reviews and this video on using commentaries in Logos 6.

Recommended?

Though this volume isn’t the kind of morning devotional most would prefer, there is still plenty to learn. Dearman is moderately conservative, at least meaning that he seems to accept the Documentary Hypothesis, holding that the Pentateuch was written from different authors, and it was eventually combined by a series of editors. It’s not that I doubt any editing in the five books of Moses (or the OT), but not to the degree that the DH holds.

There is a fair amount of discussion on suggested editorial processes of the book of Hosea. These can be easily skipped over, though sometimes (yet not often) there are verses that deal more with this history of editing than the verse subject matter.

Regardless, I found much to be gained from this commentary, and was very pleased to be able to read it. I did, in fact, read it from the first to the last page. And I can tell you that my knowledge of Hosea certainly has grown, as has my knowledge and appreciation for God’s mercy, grace, and devotion to his people and his word.

Lagniappe

Buy on Logos or Amazon 

[Special thanks to those at Logos for allowing me to review this! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

2 Comments

Filed under Logos, Review

Logos Review: An Introduction to the New Testament

deSilva

David deSilva (who hosts a blog here) has done the church a wonderful favor in writing An Introduction to the New Testament. While many NT introductions are the same deSilva moves through the NT letters thematically, looking at what makes these letters so special. (My longer review can be found here).

Summary

Chapter One is The New Testament as Pastoral Response where deSilva explains how the NT letters were written for the purpose of forming the beliefs and transforming the lives of the new people of God in Christ. They were to explain the working of God the Father, the Son, and the Holy Spirit in the lives of these new believers. Here DeSilva seeks to bring the academy and a devotional reading of Scripture together, where we study the NT in it’s proper time period, it’s culture, and it’s social milieu, but we also realize the accessibility of the God who came down on earth as a man and how he continues to speak to us through his word. DeSilva employs the socio-rhetorical method in his work. He shows his readers how the social web of life influences the writings of the NT letters, and how they are written and aimed at forming and transforming the lives of its readers (through rhetoric).

Chapter Two is about The Environment of Early Christianity. “When the Word became flesh, it did so within a rich matrix of social, cultural, political, economic and religious realities,” and we need to take into consideration “how the Word spoke within the setting of its incarnation” (37). DeSilva brings his readers through the Intertestamental times and up through the 1st century life looking at how they viewed the Torah and the Temple, along with their writings, rulers, and influences. Chapter Three looks at social world of the early church and looks at how the new Christian believers related to one another. Chapter Four brings the readers through the four Gospels and Jesus, defining a Gospel, why all four were written, and what the quests for the historical Jesus can teach us. Chapters Five to Twenty Four cover the 27 NT letters. Chapter 11 is a prologue to Paul’s letters, covering a look at his encounter with Christ, his ministry to the Gentiles, and the challenges of studying his life (and letters). After Chapter 17 (Philemon) there is an Excursus titled Pseudepigrapha and the NT Canon

In the Exegetical Skill sections, DeSilva’s cues in on a particular interpretive strategy in a NT letter.

Exeg Skill

Each chapter has quite a few (what I call) Quick Quips. They are a brief look at a confusing or interesting topic within a NT letter.

Quip 2

Each chapter on a NT letter ends with a discussion on Ministry Formation. DeSilva puts a large focus o the church. He doesn’t write merely for academia’s sake, but for the purpose of continuing to help transform God’s people through a better understanding of God’s word.

Min Form

Why Logos?

This is a perfect book for Logos. While I enjoy the physical book, it’s a pain to carry around (to school, to work, to another country). Yet, it’s weightless on my Mac Air. But maybe you don’t cross continental borders as often as I do, and you’re not worried about fitting books into your suitcase. What other benefits are there?

Searches – Want to know where deSilva talks about the Intertestamental Qumran community? Rather than flipping endlessly for that one reference, you merely just have to search for it (you can also press cmd+F and search each word/phrase one by one).

Search Qumran

Hyperlinks – the chapters covered in the Table of Contents, the Maps, the Tables, and the Index of Exegetical Skills are all hyperlinked. Want to find a particular topic but you don’t know the page number? You can search for it, find it in it’s listing, and click it!

Area of Focus 1

Even the Maps are clickable!

Figure that Pops Up

Quick Glance

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 8.56.46 AM

If you look at the screenshot above, you’ll see plenty of references to the letter of Hebrews. Unless you plan to write notes in your Bible, rather than flipping back and forth, you can simply put your cursor over the reference and it will pop up. After a quick read, you can move on to the next one with ease. You can read all of the references with out every trying to scan the pages of your Bible. This isn’t to make you a lazy Bible reader, but to save time in studying for a sermon, a lecture, a research paper, or even your morning devotions (if you read books other than your Bible then).

Recommended?

This is a terrific book to have on Logos, and I highly recommend deSilva’s book. The information given here is both deep and accessible for the scholar and the layman. DeSilva wants the 21st century church to be formed by the NT letters just as the 1st century church was, and this involves a knowledge of the culture leading up to the NT era, the social structure of the people in that era, and the how that comes through our NT letters. Rather than carrying around a stack of books (and this one is huge), you simply need your computer (or iPhone, or iPad). This is a top New Testament Introduction choice for me.

Lagniappe

  • Hardcover: 975 pages
  • Publisher: IVP Academic (May 8, 2004)
  • But-It-Now: Logos

Posts

  1. Enemies in Philippi
  2. Money in the Gospel of Luke
  3. Approval in Matthew
  4. Mary, Martha, and the Good Portion
  5. Romans 7, Who Am I?

[Special thanks to those at Logos for allowing me to review this! I was not obligated to provide a positive review in exchange for this book.]

7 Comments

Filed under Logos, Review

Romans 7, Who Am ‘I’?

Another article on this topic that you can read is written by my friend Lindsay and can be found here

Who is Paul talking about in Romans 7.7-25? Is it the present believer or the pre-Christian believer? For all of my life I thought it was the state of the Christian until I took a class on Romans at CCBCY with Randy McCracken, where I was introduced to a few differing opinions.

Why do many think that Paul is talking about the Christian state of living? “This [opinion] is driven first by our own [first-person] experience (we often do what we know not to be right) and then confirmed by the use of the present tense in Romans 7:14–25, which would seem to indicate that Paul must be talking about his current condition” (620).

Though the believer, according to Romans 6.1-7.6, is “living beyond the reach of sin,” our struggle now shows us that there is a conflict. Part of our groaning in this present life “is due to the lingering power of sin over the believer” (620).

Nature_of_Good_and_Evil_by_Young_Wolf-e1400813608950

(Yeah, I guess something like that is the idea)

The Problem

Romans 6.22 says, But now that you have been set free from sin and have become slaves of God, the fruit you get leads to sanctification and its end, eternal life.

Yet Paul, if he is speaking of himself in Romans 7.14, would be saying that he is still sold under sin.

  1. “[What] then exactly what did Paul mean when he said that Christian believers were “set free from sin” (Rom 6:22) and that we have “died to sin” and no longer to “live in it” (Rom 6:2)?
  2. What did Paul mean when he said “sin will have no dominion over you” (Rom 6:14) if the believer is still at the mercy of sin (Rom 7:17–18)?
  3. How can Paul at one point affirm that only the “doers of the law” will be justified (Rom 2:13) but later be content with the mere desire to do good?
  4. How can we “present our bodies to God as instruments of righteousness” (Rom 6:13) and “yield our members to righteousness unto sanctification” (Rom 6:19) if “I can will what is right but I cannot do it” (Rom 7:18)?”

This isn’t simply Paul modifying what he said in Romans 6.1–7.6. This is “a complete recantation of the newness of the life Christ has provided” (620).

A Possible Solution

It may be that Paul is using the “I” in Rom 7.7-25 as a “rhetorical device known as prosopopoiia, where the speaker presents a vivid characterization of some figure or position through first-person speech” (620). So Romans 7.7-25 would be “an expression of life apart from Christ and, in particular, life under the law apart from Christ” (620).

Romans 7.7

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

DeSilva states,

The key to this speech is found in Romans 7:7: Paul is wrestling with the question of the function of the law… and speaks from a particular vantage point in salvation history—the position of humanity convicted by the law but powerless to keep the law. This, then, provides a more vivid depiction of the plight from which Christ frees the human being through the gift of the Spirit (Rom 6:1–7:6; 8:1–17). The verdict of ‘no condemnation’ is in effect because the ‘law of the Spirit of life’ has in fact set the believer free from the ‘law of sin and death’.

The past tense of Romans 8:2 shows Romans 7:23 (and thus Rom 7:7–25 as a whole) to be describing a past state as well…. God is to be thanked precisely because the gift of the Holy Spirit has made it possible to live beyond the dominion of the passions of the flesh, reversing the state of Romans 1:18–32. Now God’s righteousness can take hold of the believer, and God’s standards of righteousness take shape within the believer (620).

So Then What is the Law?

Paul’s opinion of the law seems to be much different than that of other Jewish authors.

  • The Book of Sirach 17.11 says, Beside this he gave them knowledge, and the law of life for an heritage, and in 45.5 declares, He let him hear his voice and led him into the dark cloud, where, face to face, he gave him the commandments, the Law that gives life and knowledge, so that Moses might teach the covenant regulations to the Israelites.
    w
  • Baruch 3.9 states, Hear the commandments of life, O Israel; give ear, and learn wisdom!
    w

    • However in Romans 7.10, Paul says of the law that “the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me,” which is putting the opinion of the Law in stark contrast with that of there other writers. Paul understands the Law as “the occasion for sin to increase its stranglehold on humanity” (626).
      w
  • In fact, the author of 4 Maccabees says in 2.6, In fact, since the law has told us not to covet, I could prove to you all the more that reason is able to control desires. Just so it is with the emotions that hinder one from justice. So if the Law commands it, humans are able to perform it.
    w

    • Paul, on the other hand, quotes the same commandment (“You shall not covet”) and provides a negative perspective: For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, seizing an opportunity through the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. For apart from the law, sin lies dead (Rom 7b-8).
      w
  • The author of 4 Ezra is the most similar to Paul’s view, yet he doesn’t solve the dilemma the individual faces when confronted with the Law. DeSilva gives us the text on page 626:

You bent down the heavens and shook the earth…to give the law to the descendants of Jacob, and your commandment to the posterity of Israel. Yet you did not take away their evil heart from them, so that your law might produce fruit in them. For the first Adam, burdened with an evil heart, transgressed and was overcome, as were also all who were descended from him. Thus the disease became permanent; the law was in the hearts of the people along with the evil root; but what was good departed, and the evil remained. (4 Ezra 3:12–27; 7:92).

The Hope We Have In Christ

La_conversion_de_Saint_Paul_Giordano_Nancy_3018

Why does Paul have such a negative view on the Law, when most of the previous Jewish authors (including David, Ps 19; 119) had nothing but good to say about God’s Law? DeSilva gives his answer:

Paul’s view of the role of the Law is profoundly influenced by his experience of the risen Jesus and the pouring out of God’s Holy Spirit. In view of the glorious liberation from the power of sin that came with the Spirit and its ongoing leading and empowerment, Paul comes to a new view about the limited role of the Law. This ‘limit’ is also established by God’s endowing both Jews and Gentiles with the Spirit, whereas the Law largely served to keep Jews apart from Gentiles rather than extending God’s righteousness to them as well.

While the Law reveals God’s just requirements, it falls to the Spirit to empower human beings to live out those requirements. Only the Spirit is sufficient to overcome the power of sin, against which the human being only had his or her own moral resources prior to the gift of the Spirit…. (627).

Schreiner, in his book 40 Questions About Christians and Biblical Law,

[In] Psalm 119:159, ‘Give me life according to your steadfast love.’ Life comes from God’s steadfast love, that is, from his grace and mercy. Human beings do not merit or gain life by observing the law. Psalm 119:88 is even clearer, ‘In your steadfast love give me life, that I may keep the testimonies of your mouth.’ Life comes only from the grace of God, and the consequence of such life is the keeping of God’s testimonies and precepts. The psalmist does not teach that life is gained by obedience. Life finds its origin in God’s gracious work. Surely this sentiment is very Pauline (85-86).

deSilva

Buy the Book on Amazon or buy it on Logos 

3 Comments

Filed under Biblical Studies, Biblical Theology, Logos, Paul, Preview

Mary, Martha, and the Good Portion

Now as they went on their way, Jesus entered a village. And a woman named Martha welcomed him into her house. And she had a sister called Mary, who sat at the Lord’s feet and listened to his teaching. But Martha was distracted with much serving. And she went up to him and said, “Lord, do you not care that my sister has left me to serve alone? Tell her then to help me.” But the Lord answered her, “Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary. Mary has chosen the good portion, which will not be taken away from her (Lk 10.38-42).

Why does Martha always get the heat in sermons? What did she do that was so wrong? All she was doing was serving, and she simply wanted some help. Luke helps his readers by giving us two key words: Martha was “distracted with much serving.”

DeSilva gives us some timely words on this passage, ones that all believers need to hear.

The story of Mary and Martha speaks in a timely way to an increasingly phrenetic and frantic society (Lk 10:38–42). Jesus points Martha—and all of us who are so very much like Martha—to the core necessity of life. If we possess this one thing, it gives life to all that we do; if we lack it, we cannot compensate for that lack no matter how much we do. The one needful thing is to sit at Jesus’ feet, spend time in his presence undistracted and listen for his word. This is a hard word for many people, myself included, to accept. It is a hard word to believe in an active society where doing and visibly achieving are emphasized so strongly. But if anything must suffer this day, Luke says that it cannot be our spending time with God. We have books to read, committee meetings to attend and leaves to rake, but first and above all, we have to sit at Jesus’ feet, wait on the Lord and seek God’s face (346–347).

Psalm 27.4 says, “One thing have I asked of the Lord, that will I seek after: that I may dwell in the house of the Lord all the days of my life, to gaze upon the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in his temple.“

Jesus’ challenge to Martha and to all who resemble her more than her sister is to reverse [the] mindset [that waiting on the Lord when there is work to be done is procrastination] and to let the way we spend our time help us to be guided in all things by God’s Spirit, not driven in all things by the demands of our studies, our congregations or our own ambitions (347).

Reordering Our Lives Around Christ

It can be, no, it is difficult ordering our lives to revolve around God and his word. It is difficult to read his word and spend time with God. I can easily get caught up in what I need to do, whether it be reading a book to review, learning Norwegian, or, most importantly, spending time with my wife. All of these things are good and I have to (and like to) spending my time doing these things (not that learning a language is always fun), but when time feels tight I must remember that God has ordered this world that I live in and interact with. There is time for him and his word. I can spend time with him. We can make time for him and his life-giving word.

I can easily relate to Martha. I am the Martha of the story. “But Martha was distracted with much serving.” And the Lord answered Martha Martha, Martha, you are anxious and troubled about many things, but one thing is necessary.

“[S]pending time in God’s presence, sitting at the feet of Jesus… is the place where lives are reordered, hearts healed, balance attained and stability found. Our hearts will never find rest until they rest in God, and rest means spending time resting in God’s presence” (347).

deSilva

Buy the Book on Amazon or buy it on Logos 

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Studies, Logos, Preview

Approval in Matthew

Approval. We all want it, whether by one or many. My school consisted roughly of 300 people. And this is my school, not my high school. My school went from Kindergarten up to 12th grade. Junior and Senior high were combined and made up approximately 150 people. The popularity polls really start to make their rounds when students hit 7th grade and they enter into the world of both Junior and Senior High. Every one is bigger and older and stronger than you. They can drive too. It’s a scary place. Yet when I look back, for many students popularity was a high honor in high school. Yet out of 7,000,000,000 people on earth, some felt proud to be among the Top Ten in a high school made up of 150 students.

Of course most schools have more than 300 students. According to one website, Chicago International Charter School borders on 8,900 students, which is roughly 1,000 more students than my alma mater, Nicholls State University. The point remains, being #1 out of 8,000 high school students, out of 320,000,000 in the USA, out of 7,300,000,000 on earth… just isn’t impressive.

In the Gospel of Matthew, Matthew helps to make firm the Christians’ commitment to Jesus “in the face of pressure and rejection from the synagogue” (284). DeSilva shows what Matthew does, that he

“demonstrates Jesus’ credibility and honor as a teacher and the Pharisees’ dishonor and unreliability as teachers of God’s way. Matthew included a striking number of confrontation stories between Jesus and other Jewish teachers (e.g., Mt 9:1–8, 10–13, 14–17; 11:2–6; 12:1–8, 9–14, 24–42; 15:1–20, 21–28; 16:1–4; 19:3–9; 21:15–17, 23–27, 28–32, 33–46; 22:15–22, 23–33, 34–40, 41–46). These confrontations have been rightly analyzed as competitions for honor and, as a result of that honor, the right to speak as authoritative interpreters of God’s Law” (284).

The Finisher

Here how the challenges work. There are three parties:

  1. The Challenger (usually the Pharisees)
  2. The Challenged (usually Jesus)
  3. The Audience

The Challenger (the Pharisees) poses a question to Jesus, the Challenged. If the Challenged doesn’t come up with an answer to win the debate, he loses honor and the Challenger gains honor. “Jesus repeatedly emerges as the victor in these exchanges in the eyes of the public. Without exception he is able to demonstrate that his actions and his teachings are truly in accord with God’s Law, while his opponents distort and miss God’s intentions“ (284).

Test Case: Matt 12.9-14

He went on from there and entered their synagogue. And a man was there with a withered hand. And [the Pharisees] asked him, ‘Is it lawful to heal on the Sabbath?’—so that they might accuse him. He said to them, ‘Which one of you who has a sheep, if it falls into a pit on the Sabbath, will not take hold of it and lift it out? Of how much more value is a man than a sheep! So it is lawful to do good on the Sabbath.’ Then he said to the man, ‘Stretch out your hand.’ And the man stretched it out, and it was restored, healthy like the other. But the Pharisees went out and conspired against him, how to destroy him.

Mark’s account says, And he said to them, ‘Is it lawful on the Sabbath to do good or to do harm, to save life or to kill?’ But they were silent. And he looked around at them with anger, grieved at their hardness of heart…” (Mk 3.4-5a).

Jesus gave the Pharisees his response, and “they were silent.” There was nothing they could say. If they said they wanted to save life, then Jesus would heal the man and, in their eyes, break the Sabbath. They would be approving the actions of a lawless man, a Torah-breaker. If they said they wanted to kill, then of course nobody is going to follow them and instead, they will all follow Jesus. Here we see that Jesus “is able to demonstrate that his actions and his teachings are truly in accord with God’s Law” (284).

How Does This Help Matthew’s Readers?

What this brings to the readers of Matthew is knowing that when they are persecuted by the Pharisees and scribes for following Jesus, they are being persecuted by those who really don’t know God’s Law. These Christians should look “exclusively to Jesus as the teacher of the divinely approved way of fulfilling Torah [Mt 17:5]…. Following the opinion of the dishonorable is to risk becoming dishonorable” (285). Even in persecution the Christians can rejoice that they follow the One who is true and teaches the way of God truthfully (or “in accordance with the truth”, Mt 22.16). Even more so, according to Matt 25, Jesus is the eschatological Judge over all of the universe, and  when the Day of the Lord comes he will separate the sheep from the goats, his people from those who are not his people. DeSilva says,

Matthew 11:20–24 and 12:41–42 suggest that those who reject Jesus’ message will fare far worse than the worst of [pagan] cities” (285). And “[if] the majority, who are entering the broad and easy road to destruction, despise the Christians as dishonorable fools, the Christians will be able to neutralize the force of such pressure to conform by contemplating the ultimate end of the outsiders—destruction. The way of life promoted within the church, even if held as dishonorable by the majority of people, is nevertheless the road to life and eternal honor before the court of God and the Son. (285).

But if Matthew wants to preserve the Christian body of believers, why does he speak about church discipline in Mt 18?

As those who do the will of God, they are the family of the Son of God, hence part of God’s family (Mt 12:48–50) and partners in the honor of the head of that family. Within that family there is a mandate for applying social pressure ‘positively’ on group members who are straying from commitment to the group and its distinctive values (Mt 18:10–14). Within the group all the faithful must be honored and affirmed as they walk in line with the group’s values (Mt 18:10) and on no other basis…. The church is in a position to enforce the wayward member’s conformity with the ethical ideals of Jesus. After all, what member would willingly endure excommunication from the church as long as he or she believed it truly has the authority to bind and loose, and remains the place where the presence of God as mediated by Jesus can be known? If the narrow road is the way to the eternal inheritance of God’s kingdom, the church is the gateway to that inheritance. Attachment to the community and vital engagement of its values is therefore a strong assurance also of God’s approval of an individual’s life and worth, a strong counterbalance to society’s claims to the contrary (286).

Today

While it’s good to have the approval of others (your spouse is a good example) and it’s important to have the approval of others (it’s always good when your boss [and your spouse] actually likes you), ultimately Christians are to seek the approval of Christ. Christians will never be the most popular people on earth. If the world hated Jesus, they will hate his followers as well (Jn 15.18). They will always have something against us because we have been chosen out of this world (Jn 15.19). Let us remember this when we read Matthew, the Gospels, and the whole Bible, that Jesus is the one who has and bestows true honor. He is the only one we are to follow (Mk 8.34).

deSilva

Buy the Book on Amazon or buy it on Logos 

2 Comments

Filed under Biblical Studies, Logos, Preview

Money in the Gospel of Luke

$$ TP

Money. Some pastors love preaching about it. Some brag about buying “not one jet, but two!” with cash. Others, because of the first group, hate preaching about it. They don’t want to be associated with the money-mongers. It’s unfortunate because Jesus set the example for preaching about money (and while the TV evangelistis would probably tell you the same thing, they would never tell you all that Jesus said about money).

Luke 3.14

Soldiers also asked [John the Baptist], “And we, what shall we do?” And he said to them, “Do not extort money from anyone by threats or by false accusation, and be content with your wages.”

Luke 16.13-15

“‘No servant can serve two masters, for either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and money.’ The Pharisees, who were lovers of money, heard all these things, and they ridiculed him. And he said to them, ‘You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.’”

ead7556e27cd39b580a00c98031a4f3b.368x278x1

Other examples could be given, especially that of the other side (16.1-9). And perhaps I’ll write on this too one day soon, but for now I’ll focus on the task at hand. If wealth could have ever been an idol, more so than in ancient Rome, it’s today. We have the “American dream.” Work hard enough and you can get anything. You can work your way up to the top. There are magnitudes of amounts of ways now to make money (whether they work or not is a different story).

Commercials abound and try work their magic to give you the sense that your life will be worse if you don’t have this toy, computer, and this house, or if you’re not listening to this music or watching these movies, or if you don’t have this beach body, or if you can’t do these awesome tricks or tell these incredible jokes, or especially if you’re not taking this medicine taken from this long-extinct but recently discovered skunk (with 3 easy payments of $39.99!). (Speaking of commercials, Norway barely has them! They’re usually at the end of the TV program, and they’re not very long either).

About this lifestyle DeSilva says,

Because of the idolization of the abundance of wealth, however, even people in the Western world who live at a level far above the well-to-do in third-world countries consider themselves and are looked upon by others as ‘poor’. Within a culture that claims ‘more for me’ it is difficult even to hear Luke’s word ‘share with all’ (345).

Zacchaeus, You Come Down

I like the Zacchaeus story in Lk 19.1-10. In 19.8 Zacchaeus says to Jesus, “Behold, Lord, the half of my goods I give to the poor. And if I have defrauded anyone of anything, I restore it fourfold.” The odds are that for many of us, we wish someone would say this to Jesus too, and that we would be the receivers. Somewhere down the line someone has stolen money from us, and we hope we get it back. Who cares that Jesus came to “seek and to save the lost” (19.10) and that salvation has come to Zacc’s house (19.9)? What about my money?

Before an individual can respond to the Gospel like Zacchaeus, he or she must unlearn the definitions of enough and sufficient that our society offers (if it understands these words at all) and learn a definition that is truly in keeping with human need rather than human wants and expectations. This is a difficult task when the entire advertising industry lives by training us to “need” more. We must learn that to love our neighbor as ourselves, we must use our possessions as much for our neighbor’s good as for our own (345).

Why did salvation come to Zacchaeus just because he gave money away? Because unlike the rich ruler (18.18-30), Zacchaeus not only promised to give money back (19.8), but he even began to follow Jesus (19.6).

Long Division

Throughout his Gospel Luke shows us how divisive money can be:

  • The hoarding of wealth cut off the rich man from Lazarus because the rich man valued money more than the life of his neighbor [16.19-31].
  • Covetousness over an inheritance pitted one sibling against another (Lk 12:13–15)—they valued money more than kinship.
  • For years Zacchaeus was cut off from his fellow Jews on account of his valuing of money over solidarity with his people [19.1-10] (345).

The Solution

What is Luke’s solution? The money comes from, and belongs to, the Lord.

A Christian’s wealth belongs to the Lord, to be used as the Lord directs for the good of all rather than the good of the “owner”. This attitude enabled the quality of fellowship found in the early church, the realization of God’s desires for human community (Acts 2:42–47; 4:32–37). Ultimately the true good of the one can only be achieved in concert with the good of all (345).

deSilva

Buy the Book on Amazon or buy it on Logos 

1 Comment

Filed under Biblical Studies, Logos, Preview

Enemies in Philippi

Philippians is a letter that overflows with joy and thanksgiving. Paul thanks the Philippians for their gift which was brought by Epaphroditus. He was sick but now has recovered and is returning to Philippi. Paul is content in any situation, even in prison, and he is thrilled that people are hearing about and accepting Christ.

I’m reading David deSilva’s An Introduction to the New Testament. While most introductions go book by book, giving the bare facts of date, authorship, and what the book is about, deSilva strives to show the cultural and social settings in the lives of the apostles and their readers. When we look at a text from the Bible we often (more often than we like) think, “Why does he say that?” That same question applies here. In a letter so full of joy, “Why, then, did Paul speak about those who ‘preach Christ out of envy’ (Phil 1:15–18), the Judaizing missionaries whom he calls ‘dogs’ (Phil 3:2), and those Christians who live as ‘enemies of the cross of Christ’ (Phil 3:18–19)?” (656).

If you don’t remember those verses I’ll give you a refresher.

1. Those who preach Christ out of envy; 1.15-18

“Some indeed preach Christ from envy and rivalry, but others from good will. The latter do it out of love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely but thinking to afflict me in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed, and in that I rejoice.”

2. The Judaizing dogs; 3.2-3

“Look out for the dogs, look out for the evildoers, look out for those who mutilate the flesh. For we are the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh….“

3. The Christians who live as enemies of the cross; 3.18-19

“For many, of whom I have often told you and now tell you even with tears, walk as enemies of the cross of Christ. Their end is destruction, their god is their belly, and they glory in their shame, with minds set on earthly things.”

Friendship and Enmity

DeSilva says that that fact that this is a letter of friendship actually helps us to figure out Paul’s motives.

In the ancient mind friendship is directly related to enmity. ‘Constant attentiveness to friends automatically meant constant watchfulness of enemies’. Since their friendship is based on mutual commitment to shared values and ideals, the bond of friendship—not just between Paul and the church but among the Philippian Christians who have begun to experience internal conflict—can be strengthened by the awareness of others who do not share these values, who are in fact committed to contradictory values. History has repeatedly shown that a group’s internal cohesion and cooperation can be enhanced by drawing attention to the ‘real’ enemies outside the group (656–657).

By having Paul refer to the “dogs” and “evil workers” (3.2) and the “enemies of the cross of Christ” (3.18), Paul is reminding the Philippian Christians “of those who are truly unlike them, thus reminding them of their essential unity and commonality” (657). Paul presents these three groups as contrasts against a “true Christian mindset” (657). While the “dogs” are “evil workers” who “mutilate the flesh,” Paul places him and the Philippian Christians on the same team by saying that they together are “the circumcision, who worship by the Spirit of God and glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh” (3.3). And then Paul presents the virtuous behavior of a mature Christian in 3.7-16.

Rather than living in strife, rivalry, and selfishness as the rival preachers do (1.15a, 17), the Philippian church is to be of the same mind, have the same love, being in full accord and of one mind (2.1). They are to look out for the interests of others (2.4) just as Christ did when he became a servant who obeyed God and died on the cross (2.5-8). He did this in the midst of an adulterous and sinful generation (Mk 8.38), just like crooked and twisted generation the Philippian believers live in (2.15). The situation in Philippi, then, does not involve rival Christian teachers; rather, Paul makes frequent and brief references to “enemies” in order to build up unity and cooperation within the group (657).

deSilva

Buy the Book on Amazon or buy it on Logos 

3 Comments

Filed under Biblical Studies, Logos, Paul, Preview