Tag Archives: Lexham Press

Review: Transformation—The Heart of Paul’s Gospel

transformation

What is so “good” about Paul’s good news? What was the good news he brought to  his churches? “Are you sure that if you died tonight you would go to heaven?” “All you need to do is to confess Jesus as your savior and believe in his name, and you can be sure that you’re saved”? These are questions we often hear, but is that what Paul was asking? Should these be what we are asking others? Is “heaven” the good news?

In the first volume in the Snapshots series, David A. deSilva gives us Transformation: The Heart of Paul’s Gospel. What does Paul’s gospel entail? DeSilva argues that Paul didn’t separate justification from sanctification like many do today. David deSilva teaches at Ashland Theological Seminary (since 1995) and has been named Trustees’ Distinguished Professor of New Testament and Greek since 2005. He is an extensive writer and is well-versed in the cultural and social context of the New Testament world, having written books on Hebrews, Revelation, 4 Maccabees, the apocrypha, an Introduction to the New Testament (review), and a closer look at the rhetoric of the New Testament (review).

When it comes to the salvation questions above, DeSilva’s concern is “that Christians often fail to connect these statements with passages in Paul’s letters that flesh out his larger understanding of how God has provided—out of his sheer goodness and generosity toward us—for our reconciliation, restoration, and rescue from the consequences of having participated in our race’s rebellion against God’s rule” (1). Paul’s message is about change because “faith, to be faith at all, entails a wholehearted commitment to the person of Christ that must also transform the life of a person” (5). This is seen in Jesus’ call for his followers to deny themselves, pickup their cross, and follow him. Losing your life for his sake and for the sake of the gospel means that you will gain your life in the life to come (Mark 8.34–35; 9.1). This is also seen in

James 2.18b,

Show me your faith apart from your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.

and 2 Corinthians 5:15,

and Christ died for all, that those who live might no longer live for themselves but for him who for their sake died and was raised.

What is God seeking to bring about through the death and resurrection of his Son Jesus Christ and the indwelling of his Spirit? Paul emphasizes the transformation of individuals, communities, and even the whole cosmos itself.

Summary

  1. “Foundations for a Broader Understanding of Paul’s Gospel of Transformation”
    Chapter one focuses on the necessity of our transformation. Why should we assume that just because we claim to be “friends” with the Son that God will judge us differently than the rest of the world? It is Christ who died for all “in order that those who continued to live might live no longer for themselves but for the one who died and was raised on their behalf” (2 Cor 5:15). “Paul’s gospel, however, remains good news: it is the message about how God has undertaken to work out our transformation. It is about God’s provision for our transformation so that by means of his gifts we might become righteous and thus be approved at the Last Judgment without God himself ceasing to be just” (24).

    If deSilva’s description of the Last Judgment sounds like God’s judgment is based purely on our works, deSilva goes on to explain what he means by justification. God is transforming us to be like his Son through his Spirit. If you don’t care to live like Christ, if you live like someone who remains opposed to what Christ says and to how he lived, then you have no true faith. You don’t really believe Christ is the sovereign King. (For similar perspectives, read Justification [Wright] and Covenant and Commandment [Green, for a critique of Wright]).
  2. “The Gospel Means the Transformation of the Individual”
    Through Christ and the reception of God’s Holy Spirit, we were freed from our sin to serve God willingly. We are able to be transformed for we have “put on” the new man in Christ. We no longer need to fear death for we are being made like Christ, and we will live forever with him in all of his beauty.

  3. “The Gospel Means the Transformation of the Community”
    Paul does not spend the majority of his letters writing theology for individuals, but on how individuals are to live together as Christ’s body before the world that watches. The community’s transformation is to be from one of individuals who are opposed to one another to living together as a family. We are being reconciled to one another (2 Cor 2.5-11), and are to be others-centered (Phil 2.1-11). Living in this way breaks through the barriers of culture, race, gender, and class. DeSilva lays out ways in which Paul was thinking along these lines.

  4. “The Gospel Means the Transformation of the Cosmos”
    Here deSilva looks at the interpretive difficulties when we run upon the word “world.” The wisdom of God was revealed through the death and resurrection of the son of God. We have this wisdom in our possession, and we are to live in this wise way, always dying to ourselves and living for Christ. We are transformed and relate to the kosmos (“the world”) in a different way now, and we are looking forward to the time when the creation itself is renewed (Rom 8.19–24a).

Recommended?

There are so many interpretations of Paul: apocalyptic, Old Perspective, New Perspective, and more. But what is Paul’s main goal for his churches? What lies behind his thirteen letters? DeSilva believes, as do I, that Paul wants his readers to be transformed. If not, they would be just like Old Testament Israel—making empty claims while living like the other nations, causing God’s name to be spoken ill of among the Gentiles (Isa 52.5). DeSilva is refuting easy believism. From his NT Introduction, grace is more than just a gift from God. “Reciprocity is such a part of this relationship [between ‘the client and patron,’ or ‘us and God’], that failure to return grace (gratitude) for grace (favor) results in a breach of the patron-client relationship.” We receive grace from God, and we give grace (gratitude) by living “for the one who died and was raised on [our] behalf” (2 Cor 5.15).

Many will think deSilva is blurring the lines between justification and sanctification, but he quotes Mark Seifrid who, in speaking about Luther, a Reformer, said, “because [Luther] regards justification as effecting the new creation, he is able to encompass the whole of the Christian life within its scope.… In contrast to later Protestant thought, in which salvation was divided up into an ordo salutis, it remains for Luther a single divine act” (9). Despite any quibbles or issues people might and do have with this book, I find that there is much to gain from Transformation, because if we are transferred from the kingdom of darkness to the kingdom of light, then there is a transformation that takes place and one that must continue to take place.

Lagniappe

  • Series: Snapshots
  • Author: David deSilva
  • Paperback: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (September 18, 2014)
  • To read some of what deSilva says, here’s a quotable review by Allan Bevere

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. 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.

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Images of God in Revelation

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A few days ago I reviewed Matthew Emerson’s Between the Cross and the Throne. In chapter four, The Portrait of God and His People, Emerson gives us the Skeleton Key to understand some of the cryptic images John uses about God. He reveals three of the images which John uses “to describe Yahweh’s rule over his enemies, his people, and his creation” (35).

God is Sovereign

“And before the throne [of God] there was as it were a sea of glass, like crystal,” Revelation 4.6.

What do we make of this “sea of glass”? Why is there a sea before God’s throne, and why is it of glass? Emerson says, “In the Old Testament, the sea represents chaos and evil” (35).

Psalm 74.12-15 says,

12  Yet God my King is from of old,
working salvation in the midst of the earth.
13  You divided the sea by your might;
you broke the heads of the sea monsters on the waters.
14  You crushed the heads of Leviathan;
you gave him as food for the creatures of the wilderness.
15  You split open springs and brooks;
you dried up ever-flowing streams.

God is the sovereign one who rules over the seas. He is able to dry “up ever-flowing streams” (v15b). The disciples were shocked when Jesus stilled the wind and the waves in Mark 4, saying, “Who then is this, that even the wind and the sea obey him?” If only Yahweh can control the waters, who then is this who does the same?

leviathan

In the rest of Revelation, the sea “is the place from which evil arises” (35).

“And I saw a beast rising out of the sea, with ten horns and seven heads, with ten diadems on its horns and blasphemous names on its heads,” Revelation 13.1.

The sea being “the place from which evil arises” explains why Revelation 21.2 says there will be no sea. In the new creation there will be no chaos nor evil. Thus, “the image of God sitting on or over the sea shows his authority over chaos and evil” (35-36).

God is the Sovereign King of His People

elders

Revelation 4.4 and 11.16 together speak of 24 white-robed elders who sit on 24 thrones before God. While the issue of who the 24 elders represent is ever the debate, Emerson sees 12 elders as representative of Israel and the other 12 of the Church. In his lectures on Revelation, Peter Liethart sees the 24 elders as representing the 24 divisions of the priesthood in Chronicles with Jesus Christ as the 25 priest, the High Priest. The 24 elders would represent the Church, as we are a “kingdom of priests” (Ex 19.6; 1 Pet 2.5) in Christ (though, to be honest, I don’t remember exactly what Leithart said, but I think it was roughly that idea).

These 24 elders fall down before him who is seated on the throne and worship him who lives forever and ever. God is the sovereign King of his people.

God is Lord Over All Creation

rainbow-and-the-throne

The twenty-four elders receive a lot of attention, but we mustn’t forget the equally head-scratching four creatures around Yahweh’s throne. Emerson says, “[T]he creatures likely represent the fullness of creation (represented both by the number four, which is the number of creation . . . and by the diversity of the creatures)” (36).

“After this I saw four angels standing at the four corners of the earth, holding back the four winds of the earth, that no wind might blow on earth or sea or against any tree,” Revelation 7.1.

“And [Satan] will come out to deceive the nations that are at the four corners of the earth,” Revelation 20.8.

So, in Revelation 4.11 when the living creatures and the twenty-four elders fall down before Yahweh and sing, “Worthy are you, our Lord and God, to receive glory and honor and power, for you created all things, and by your will they existed and were created,” it is “[b]oth creation and the people of God [who] fall down before [Yahweh]” and sing praises to him (36).

Here in the throne room scene of Revelation 4, John emphasizes Yahweh’s dominion over everything “because John is exhorting the Church to remain faithful to the end, even in spite of persecution” (36).

bt

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Review: Between the Cross and the Throne

bt

How often do Christians read Revelation? Do you think when you read it? Are you intrigued? Do you feel fear? Anxiety? Confusion? Does it lead you to praise and worship our Lord and Savior, the Lion-Lamb King? Revelation is a very difficult book, especially so for the modern day. The further along into time we go, the farther we get from the culture John write Revelation in. Should Revelation be taken literally? Are there symbols, how many, and what do they mean?

Summary

Emerson summarizes the book of Revelation and it’s application to the church in eight chapters.

Chapter one is the Introduction. Revelation isn’t a decoder ring you get out of your Sunday morning cereal box. “Rather, it is a book that was and is vital for the Church; it assures us, even as we face tribulation, of the triune God’s victorious reign and the imminence of Christ’s return” (1). Emerson says, “Most, if not all, of the book [Revelation] uses figurative images and language” (1). John draws these images from the Old Testament so that we can understand the conflict going on between Satan and God and his people.

Emerson provides his outline and the theological center of Revelation. Despite all of the persecution, it is God who rules on the throne, not Satan. Jesus suffered, died, and is the victorious King who will one day come to crush his (and our) enemies. “We can stand firm because he has already stood firm, and we can fight the Dragon’s servants because Christ has already bound their master” (5-6).

In chapter two Emerson guides the reader in seeing Revelation as a work of literature, a work that is a letter made up of prophecy and containing apocalyptic elements (figurative imagery, a focus on the end of history). Emerson takes a closer look at some of the literary devices, such as John’s use of numbers.

In chapter three, “The Drama of Redemption,” Emerson adds a fourth genre category, narrative. John sees his book “as the completion of the entire biblical narrative, connecting Christ’s work in his first and second coming with the story of creation and the fall (Gen 1–3). The new heavens and new earth (Rev 21–22) “is the consummation [completion] of Christ’s work of redemption to restore and renew creation from the effects of the fall.” John uses repeating patterns throughout Revelation to highlight different aspects of God’s judgment and mercy on the world and his faithfulness to his own people.

In chapters four and five, the reader is given two portraits. First, one of God and his people. Second, one of God’s enemies. Emerson believes that the church is seen all throughout Revelation. The reader is given a look at some of the images of God (“the seven spirits of God” and “the Lamb and Lion”). In writing to the seven churches, “‘[t]o the one who conquers,’ also reminds the church that they are being called to persevere” (40).  Emerson takes a quick guide to some of the phrases that describe the church in Revelation. When looking at the enemies of God, Emerson looks at “the unholy trinity” (made up of the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet) and the harlot of Babylon.

Chapter six looks at the specific time periods (i.e., 1,260 days, 42 months, and “time, times, and half a time”), with Emerson saying that “the book’s time frame is especially structured around the events of Jesus’ first and second coming” (59). The war of the Lamb occurs during this period, where we see the dragon’s destructive dominion, the Lamb’s judgment, and the testimony of the church conquering over the dragon.

Chapter seven show us how to think about Revelation today in our modern world. The word has it’s agenda on how to shape people into its mold, “and it also has the practices to accomplish that purpose” (73). But believers today need to resist the world’s pressure and allow our worship of the crucified and risen Lamb to shape our minds and bodies to react in faithful trust to Christ.

Chapter eight draws the book to a close, reminding us “remain faithful to God in Christ by the power of his Holy Spirit until he returns in glorious victory over all his enemies” (77).

Each chapter ends with some suggested Bible reading and questions for the reader to reflect on which would also be good to use in a group setting.

Recommended?

This is highly recommended. It’s an easy introduction to Revelation. If you’re one who is put off by long, dense books, especially ones written on Revelation, then you really ought to pick up this book. It’s smooth reading, and was honestly hard for me to put down.

For the more academic, this book will be very light. But even still, if you’ve never studied up on Revelation and you’re neck-deep in biblical studies for other subjects, Emerson’s book would be a good side read to help become acquainted with the Apostle’s fantastic book. It’s hard to read this book without wanting more. Hopefully Emerson will provide us with more in the future.

Lagniappe

  • Author: Matthew Emerson
  • Paperback: 96 pages
  • Publisher: Lexham Press (April 27, 2016)

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Disclosure: I received this book free from Lexham Press. 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.

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Who Were the Nephilim?

Gustave_Dor_Dante_Inferno_Titans

One of the questions that many Christians have is, “What is Genesis 6 talking about?”

Genesis 6.1-4 says,

When man began to multiply on the face of the land and daughters were born to them, the sons of God saw that the daughters of man were attractive. And they took as their wives any they chose. Then the Lord said, “My Spirit shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.” The Nephilim were on the earth in those days, and also afterward, when the sons of God came in to the daughters of man and they bore children to them. These were the mighty men who were of old, the men of renown.

It gets worse too. Numbers 13.32b-33 says,

“The land, through which we have gone to spy it out, is a land that devours its inhabitants, and all the people that we saw in it are of great height. And there we saw the Nephilim (the sons of Anak, who come from the Nephilim), and we seemed to ourselves like grasshoppers, and so we seemed to them.”

renders-germans

Dr. Michael Heiser, an Academic Editor at Logos Bible Software, has written a new book called The Unseen Realm (see my previous post here, and his less academic work on the same topic, Supernatural). In this book Heiser takes a look at the cultural worldview of the Israelites and the nations who lived around them. Heiser’s catchphrase is “If it’s weird, it’s important.” The these short verses about the Nephilim surely are more important than Christians make them out to be.

I found Heiser’s discussion to be very interesting, and I hope you do too. Even if you don’t agree, discussion is welcomed. I want these posts to be light reading. Short and easy (a far cry from the norm around here). So I’ll write posts that will be bite-sized chunks of a few chapters in Heiser’s book.

Outline

The Nephilim

Dividing the Nations

The OT Trinity

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UnseenRealmCover_Final-WEB

And also Heiser’s more condensed version,

supernatural

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