Released from the Law (Paul’s letter to the Romans, chapter 7)

7:1 “Or do you not know, brothers —for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only as long as he lives? 2 For a married woman is bound by law to her husband while he lives, but if her husband dies she is released from the law of marriage.  3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man she is not an adulteress.

4 Likewise, my brothers, you also have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead, in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 For while we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are released from the law, having died to that which held us captive, so that we serve in the new way of the Spirit and not in the old way of the written code. “

The Holy Bible, English Standard Version copyright © 2001 by Crossway Bibles

This is the way of deliverance appointed by Our Redeemer through the salvation He has provided in His Beloved Son, JESUS!

True liberty is found only in Christ. This deliverance from the power and condemnation of sin, is what Christ was sent into the world that first Christmas to accomplish. This is the heart of the New Testament faith and the center of Saint Paul’s preaching and teaching. (see “Imitating the Incarnation” by Benjamin Warfield)

A Christmas gift: the best interpretation I have found on what I believe is the heart of Saint Paul’s life of faith & teaching. “The Apostles’ Doctrine of The Atonement” by George Smeaton (1870). (commenting on Romans chapter 6, pages 161-167)

Older posts on “The Abolition of Death” (2009) and “Understanding Saint Paul” (2008)

20th Century Prophet that captures the theme of Death in his Biblical ethics: William Stringfellow

What does character have to do with it?

The last supper, Corinthian version

On this thursday of Passion week our thoughts turn to the Last Supper and the Biblical narratives that tell us all that went on there between Christ and his disciples. While the gospels are the main source for the actual initiation of the sacrament of communion, there is one other occurance of it recorded in Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians. This text should also be carefully considered.

Robert Hart, writing in the Nov/Dec issue of  Touchstone Magazine, presents a strong argument for what he considers was a main issue in the letter, “That Corinthian Problem”.

“The disarray, foolishness, and sin that St.Paul addressed when writing his first extant epistle to the Church in Corinth have worked to our benefit, for they gave rise to teaching in the Scriptures that has been needed throughout the subsequent history of the Church, and that we need today.”

He ties this main problem and thus the main concern for the Apostle as he writes to several of the main themes dealt with in the letter and shows that these are not disconnected thoughts but all examples of the main problem in the church.

“The same people who have gifts to work miracles and to prophecy, can, at the same time, be guilty of creating and perpetuating sinful divisions within the Bodu of Christ. The same people who truly discern spirits, and are able to test and know which spirits are not of God, can at the same time be proud to have a notorious fornicator among them, allowing him to receive the Communion of Christ’s Body and Blood along with all the rest.”

Hart points out that “they knew the right doctrine about idols” and that Paul did not question their knowledge and orthodoxy. No, the major rebuke was reserved for their lack of love and consideration for oneanother (see the warning in I Cor. 8). I think that he is correct in his exegesis of the text and its purpose for us today as we approach the Lord’s Table.

As I have posted before there is a very common attitude present at the observance of this solemn moment in the worship of the church which misses entirely its significance. If it is, for example, only about my individual forgiveness of sin, and not about participation along with my fellow Christians in the death of the Head of the Body, then I have missed a large part of what God was accomplishing in the death of His only begotten Son; I am in fact “not discerning the Lord’s Body” (11:29).

One final word from Hart, demonstrates that this was exactly what the selfish Corinthians were doing as they approached the Supper of Our Lord (I Cor.11).

“How, in their knowledge so enriched, with utterances so gifted, did they miss the obvious point? How could they have been so blind to the simple rule of putting the needs of their brothers and sisters ahead of their own desires? They were orthodox. They were learned. They were gifted. They were also carnal.”

This article by Robert Hart has thrown a whole new light on Chapter 13  for me. I now agree that it was originally meant as a rebuke, ” a fire lit to melt their frozen, unloving, selfish hearts.” May God grant all His people to come to the Supper with an unselfish attitude of gratitude for what He has accomplished to free us from our sin of selfishness and make us partakers of His divine nature.

Related: The Communion of Saints-A.W.Tozer

The Coming of The Missionary Spirit- Roland Allen

 (abridged from Pentecost and the World)

The coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost was the coming of a missionary Spirit. The Spirit stirred in the hearts of the disciples of Christ a great desire to impart that which they had received. He revealed to them the need which Christ the Redeemer alone could supply. He enabled them to pass on to others that Gospel which they had so generously received. He directed them to reach out farther and farther into the Gentile world, breaking down barriers of prejudice which might have hindered their witness, or prevented them from receiving into communion those most remote from them in habits of thought and life.

pentecost

In the book of Acts, the gospel was spread not only by those set apart for this work, but also by the general body of disciples. After the death of Stephen “they that were scattered abroad went everywhere preaching the word”, and the Apostles are expressly excluded from the number of those who were so scattered. In Galatia, after Paul’s second visit, it is said that the churches were established in the faith, and increased in number daily. From Thessalonica “the Word of the Lord sounded forth, and not only in Macedonia and Achaia”, but far beyond. The whole history of the Church in the early centuries witnesses to the fact that the disciples were missionaries to the nations among whom they lived.

This Spirit, the missionary Spirit, was given to every believer. Whosoever received the Spirit of Christ in some degree, if only by approval and support of the efforts of others, expressed that desire for the conversion of the world which the Spirit inspired. What was wholly unknown, what was unthinkable in the early Church, was that Christians should oppose, or deride, or even fail to support, men who were laboring to spread the knowledge of Christ in the regions beyond. Those that knew the Biblical narrative knew that God had the “ends of the earth” as His ultimate passion.

Not even the Judaizing party in Jerusalem did that. The Judaizers protested strongly against the form in which the Gospel was proclaimed to the Greeks; they sent out their own emissaries to attack, to undermine, and to destroy the influence and teaching of Saint Paul. But their opposition was directed, not against the conversion of the Gentiles, not against missionary work itself, but only against a particular form of evangelism which they deemed to be dangerous. It was universally agreed that the Gospel must be preached to all the nations. (see Luke’s statement from the resurrected Christ himself that is used to bring to a close his first volume- Luke 24:45-49)

All who received the Spirit of the exalted Christ were more or less conscious then of the missionary passion and impulse of the Spirit. They all truly obeyed the command of their Lord to go into all the world, for they possessed a Spirit which impelled them to desire the world-wide manifestation of their Lord. Now it is the world-embracing Spirit himself which obeys the command rather than the wandering body. Christ came into all the world, though in the flesh He never went outside Palestine. It is obviously necessary to avoid the mistake of thinking that the reception and expression of the missionary Spirit of necessity involves going on missionary journeys, or that missionary journeys are truer and fuller expressions of the missionary Spirit than any other. The Spirit of redeeming love is manifestly expressed as truly in striving for the salvation of those around us where we live as in preaching to multitudes across the seas. It is the reception and the expression of redeeming love which is the all important issue, rather than the manner or the form of the work in which that Spirit is expressed.

The desire produced by the Spirit for the salvation of the world may be expressed in any form of Christian activity; but that Spirit is not revealed to others with equal clearness by every form of activity. In the book of Acts, Saint Luke makes the revelation of the Spirit clear to us by setting before us the acts of those whose lives were devoted to what we, today, call “missionary” work. If he had dwelt upon the labors of those who were not engaged in this special missionary work the revelation would have been less clear. The work of those who organized the churches may well have been as true expression of the Spirit of redeeming love as the work of those of whom we are told the most. But if Luke had written at length of church organization we should have probably missed the revelation of the Spirit of Christ as the Spirit which labors for the salvation of the world.

By insisting upon the missionary aspect in the book of Acts, we learn to know the Spirit as the Spirit who inspires active zeal for the salvation of others which enables us to easily perceive the same Spirit in other forms of activity as well. We understand that the organization of the churches and the addressing of social conditions are equally forms in which the Spirit in us finds expression. Every form of work can be undertaken by that same Spirit, each individual finding his unique activity to best manifest that same desire for the salvation of humanity which the Holy Spirit inspires.

In this sense, if we believe in the Holy Spirit as He is revealed in the Acts, we must be missionaries. We cannot accept the teaching, we cannot believe that the one thing of eternal importance to our souls is to receive and to know this Spirit, without feeling ourselves impelled to the missionary task of Christ. We cannot believe that the Holy Spirit reveals our own need and the need of all humankind without beginning to feel that need of others for Christ laid upon us as a serious call to participation. We simply cannot believe that this Spirit is given to us precisely that those who so need Christ may be brought by us to find the one way of salvation for their souls and bodies in this world and in the world to come, without feeling impelled to present ourselves as His human instruments. We must embrace the world because Christ embraces the world, and Christ has come to us, and Christ in us desires to embrace the world.

Activity world-wide in its vision and intention and hope and goal is inevitable for us unless we are ready to deny the Holy Spirit of Christ revealed so clearly in the Acts.

Roland Allen was an Anglican missionary in China working with the Society of the Propagation of the Gospel. Later he labored some 40 years writing missionary principles, retiring to Africa, where he died in Kenya in 1947. First edition of Pentecost and The World was in 1912. 
-another selection from Pentecost and the World: The Sole Test of Communion
-for further reflection, The Embodying of The Spirit , A.J.Gordon
Spirit of Life in The Life of Christ – John Owen
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Athletic competition has long been present in western civilization. The use of the athlete competing for a prize was a common metaphor in the writings of Paul the Apostle.  The Gospel calls us to follow Christ- to engage in the race of Life.  raceThis race requires all the diligence and discipline of other human competitions but they are all entered into to gain “an earthly” reward. The race of Life is set before us to obtain an everlasting Crown of Glory. This race is the over arching theme of the Lenten readings for this week. Read carefully and thoughtfully.

Lenten Readings from Saint Paul– week 5

Wednesday- Rom 9  According to God’s plan        Thursday- Rom 10 The Obedience of Faith                                         Friday- 2 Cor 3  Ministry of the New Covenant                              Saturday- 2 Cor 4  Treasure in Clay Pots                                                Sunday- 2 Cor 5 Ambassadors of Reconciliation          Monday- Heb 12The Race set before us                            Tuesday- Heb 13Bearing the reproach of Christ

spring-breakI am happy to announce that the first signs of spring  are showing up here in the bluegrass. Not the full blown spring mind you, but just enough to set off the break from the dull routine of winter. I wouldn’t live anywhere else.

The early spring bloomers are putting on a show, the trees are begining to show their buds and of course the birds that leave for the winter are back with their own special songs. The wife and I have already headed for the dirt piles and the flower beds. It all holds the promise of about three weeks of gorgeous surprises. By now you realize that spring break for us doesn’t mean the same thing as it did when we both in University. Now we wouldn’t even think of “going” somewhere else to celebrate the glad event.

Scripture readings from Saint Paul’s writings: Week 4

Wednesday – Heb 4   Be diligent to enter                                

ThursdayPhilip 3  Pressing toward the goal

 FridayPhilip 4  Rejoice Always

SaturdayRom 8  Grace and Duty of living by the Spirit               

Sunday Heb 8  The New Covenant                                               

MondayHeb 9  The Old is Obsolete                                              

TuesdayHeb 10  The High Priest over the House of God

More than ever, I am convinced of the wisdom, not only of nature’s own cycle of springtime & harvest, but of the churches spiritual cycle as well.

 

Why Hoard the Treasure?

I intended to only pass this on to some of my close friends and ministry partners, but I kept thinking “this is just too good to keep in a private stash!” So I want to publically invite all to aquaint themselves with this theme, this author, and especially this book. “Gospel and Kingdom“, by Graeme Goldsworthy trilogy is no longer available as a stand alone but is readily available in most on-line book stores as the first of a three book trilogy. The first link will take you to a pdf where you can read the first chapter about the Church’s historical use of the Old Covenant scriptures. In my humble opinion, this is an excellent resource for all readers of the english Bible, regardless of your faith tradition, and I wish I could tell the whole world about it.

Goldsworthy is not an American, but he did study in America under the late Dr. John Bright, a leading evangelical authority on the history of Israel. His doctoral dissertation was on the “Wisdom Literature” of the Old Testament and shows up as the third book in the Trilogy.

Fortunately there is a very good review available on-line of “Gospel and Kingdom” from which I will give you this tasty sample:

Jesus is the Temple and Zion is where Jesus now reigns at the right hand of God (Hebrews 12:22). The “Rule of the Kingdom” (God’s rule) is testified in the Old Testament with the themes of covenant and kingdom. The great covenant summary was “I will be your God, you shall be my people.” This goal was implicit in Eden, and progressively explicit in God’s covenants with Abraham, Israel (Moses), and David, finally culminating in the prophetic hope of a “new covenant”- which would be written in the hearts of God’s people.

The New Testament shows that the gospel fulfills the hope of the new covenant by perfectly achieving what could only be foreshadowed in the old (cf.Hebrews 8-9). The New Testament also takes up the theme of kingdom by showing how Jesus, the Son of David, fulfilled the prophecies concerning David’s restored rule in his resurrection (cf. Acts 2:30-31,36).

But the kingdom is both “now and not yet” (p.118) and Christians live in the tension between the inauguration and the consumation of the kingdom. This chapter concludes with Goldsworthy’s assertion that “to see the kingdom of God we must look at Jesus Christ” (p.120).

The theme of the kingdom fits right into our Lenten readings from Saint Paul’s letters and one of the questions we need to ask is the one about “which” gospel he preached. I’ll leave a little hint where we will go next with that: read ACTS 28:30,31 and Acts 20:17-27. To read the complete review of Gospel and Kingdom go here.

Readings from Saint Paul’s Writings

After one week of  meditating on chapters from Saint Paul’s epistles, I am having a very profitable Lenten observance. I have put a live link on the chapter to be read each day and if you move your mouse over the link you will see it takes you to that chapter over at the ESVersion of Holy Scripture. If you click on it you can read the chapter on-line or click on the listen option and it will be read for you. I find listening to God’s Word read very helpful.

I found at least one local church that has incorporated the observance of the “Year of Saint Paul” into their church calendar, Saint Paul Episcopal Church. I really like their introduction:

“It is impossible to overstate the effect and impact of Saint Paul the Apostle on the early Christian Church. His bold proclamation of the Gospel, his challenge to paul-called established thought, and his unwavering commitment to Jesus Christ changed the early Church and enabled it to spread to every part of the known world.

Our world today needs more Christians to act like Saint Paul. Our world, so filled with hatred, prejudice, violence, injustice, needs the Gospel of Jesus Christ. If we don’t become a Saint Paul for our world – who will?

Our Year of Saint Paul will celebrate Saint Paul the man – his power; his accomplishments; his writings; his mission; and his ministry. We will stand ‘boldy before the Throne of God’ and take pride that our parish family is named in honor of this great Saint of an undivided church.”

Week Two:

Wednesday – I Thess. 4  Taught by God

Thursday – I Thess. 5  Preserved blameless

Friday – Rom 2  The Coming Judgment of God

Saturday – II Thess 2   Mystery of Lawlessness

Sunday – I Tim 4  Why Godliness matters

Monday –  Titus 2  Adorning the Gospel

Tuesday – I Tim 6  Lay hold of eternal life                                         

A Perfect Lead-In to what Lent is all about  (watch the videogreenspan Alan Greenspan, Chairman of the powerful Federal Reserve Board 1987-2006, was interviewed lately about the housing/banking debacle. After patiently explaining all the complex factors that were involved he ended the interview (or at least the part that was shown) by summarizing it all by saying in essence it couldn’t be avoided because of  “a basic flaw in human nature“!

I believe that the Apostle Paul would say that’s exactly what we should be focused on in our Lenten meditations. And I also believe that is the area, this basic flaw in human nature, where the Apostle makes his greatest contribution to the christian foundations. So here is the schedule I’ve devised for reading a chapter a day from his writings as I meditate with him on the meaning behind Lent.

First Week

Wednesday- Romans 1       – The Bad News in the Gospel

Thursday- I Corinthians 1    – The Gospel of the Cross

Friday- Romans 7          – The Human Predicament

Saturday- Galatians 3      – God’s way of Redemption

Sunday- Colossians 2     – Putting away the Body of Death

Monday- Ephesians 2   –  God’s New Man

Tuesday- Galatians 4    – Children of God’s Promise

Just a careful reading of these chapters with an open mind and a  reverent spirit will put us in a position to understand what Saint Paul is trying to tell us about the relationship between the basic flaw in human nature and what happened at the crucifixion of Jesus Christ, according to God’s purpose,” which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth.”

Consider what Lent Observance Means to so many

If you come from a faith tradition that is non-liturgical, one that does not follow the christian calendar for example, do yourself a favor. Take a peek at what the observance of Lent- the 40 days that begins on Ash Wednesday and leads up to the Easter celebration- means to the different faith traditions that practice the christian faith in this way. Follow the LENT ‘tag’ on WordPress to the wonderful diversity manifested in our unity of One Faith and One Lord.lentMy wife is reading through a book of meditations on the atonement-The Passion of Christ, by John Piper- I think this will make the third year she has used those meditations along with Scripture to great benefit. Me, I was thinking of choosing 40 chapters from the Apostle Paul’s letters to reflect upon his unique interpretation of the ‘flesh’ and our need to be rid of it in order to live the new life in Christ.

Here is the begining of my list, not in any order yet, but definitely ones I want to meditate on: Galatians 3,4,5; I Corinthians 1,2,3; II Corinthians 3,4,5,6; and Ephesians 2,3,4,5; Romans 1,2,5,6,7,8. I haven’t listed any from Hebrews or the Pastoral letters. I don’t think I’m going to have any trouble in finding 40 worthy chapters, do you?

As Presented by Eckhart Tolle

I was astonished Sunday evening as I watched 60 Minutes on CBS. There on national television was something that sounded very familiar: the center of all the problems we are facing in life is due to the EGO. For Oprah and in particular this author and his theory that all we have to do to break free is to learn how to get rid of ego, has been met with eager acceptance. oprahFrom the comments in the program and from those available on her website, I think it is fair to say that this has been embraced in Oprah’s version of christianity.

There is something very basic in this version that I believe Saint Paul himself lived and taught involving humanity under the bondage of sin. He used various ways to designate this human tragedy and what God has done in Christ to heal it- the old man, the flesh, Adamic humanity.

Yet in Paul’s christianity this problem of ego is first and foremost a problem of rebellion against our Creator and the solution begins with His own provision of the Savior, Jesus Christ. So getting rid of the ego/self life begins with being reconciled to God’s broken law and that Paul says happened at a definite time in the history of humankind at the cross of his Son. Here in Paul’s own words is God’s secret-

Justified by Faith  (letter to the Galatians)

2:15 We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; 16 yet we know that a person is not justified [1] by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.

17 But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! 18 For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. 19 For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God. 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. 21 I do not nullify the grace of God, for if righteousness [2] were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

A New Earth                                                                                                     There is no doubt that there is a great spiritual hunger in our society for Tolle’s thesis and his books to find such success in the marketplace. On the otherhand, my own sense is that this is exactly where the churches with their version of the Gospel are not boldly speaking into that same society. I would even go further and suggest that the great majority of christians in America do not even know Paul’s secret of dealing with the ego- the part about what it means to be “crucified with Christ” in order to live free of the broken law. This is not just a theory, it is a way of living, and yes, it is about experiencing God’s new creation on earth. For Paul, this is included in what he called “living by faith” and “walking in the Spirit”.

Happy birthday to my oldest son, Philip!