The Holy Spirit and Biblical Interpretation

Scott Hafemann in his commentary on 2 Corinthians 3:14–15:

Thus, Paul’s recognition of the root problem behind Israel’s rejection of the gospel demonstrates that the Spirit must create within us a willingness to accept God’s Word so that, being receptive to its message, we will be more apt to comprehend its meaning. Paul’s argument from the Scriptures as common ground with his opponents assumes that the role of the Holy Spirit in biblical interpretation is not to provide God’s people with hidden information or insights into the Scriptures, but to change their moral disposition (cf. 3:14).

The “Mount Everest of Pauline Texts”

Dr. Matthew Barrett in the opening paragraph of his article, What is So New About the New Covenant? Exploring the Contours of Paul’s New Covenant Theology in 2 Corinthians 3, written for The Southern Baptist Journal of Theology:

Second Corinthians 3 is a hotly debated and difficult text. For example, Thomas Schreiner says 2 Corinthians 3 is “one of the most controverted texts in the Pauline corpus,” and is “full of exegetical difficulties and knotty problems.” David Garland believes the passage is “notoriously obscure” and Anthony Hanson says it is the “mount Everest of Pauline texts as far as difficulty is concerned—or should we rather call it the sphinx among texts, since its difficulty lies in its enigmatic quality rather than its com- plexity?” The result has been a hermeneutical maze of literature almost impossible to navigate.

We're currently working through 2 Corinthians as a church and I've been attempting to climb "Mount Everest" all week long in preparation for my sermon on 2 Corinthians 3:7–18. I feel like I need at least another month or two to write this one.

Knotty indeed.

A Word of Caution Regarding Bible Reading Resolutions

Sam Allberry: 

This is truly frightening: it is possible for us to hold to the authority of God’s word, and to never miss a day of carefully reading our Bible, and yet all the while neglect coming to Jesus. There is a way to be biblical but not relational. But it makes us into a Pharisee, not a disciple. Biblical it may be, in one sense, but in a way that is profoundly unbiblical. [...]
But what matters most is love for God. So I say to myself and to you: read the Bible in 2017. Read it, not to “conquer” books of the Bible or to “get them under your belt” (scare-quotes entirely necessary). Read it to kindle a fire for the Lord. Read it to prove his love for you, not to prove your self-discipline to him or to others.

Consider covering up the dates on your Bible reading plan. This doesn't solve the problem, of course (which is ultimately a matter of the heart), but it's a step in a healthy direction. 

Lincoln Students React to the Election

Margaret Reist, reporting for the Lincoln Journal Star, did an excellent job of capturing the post-election reaction of students in Lincoln, a Refugee Friendly city. I think it's safe to say these Lincoln Public Schools teachers and administrators earned their salaries this week.

Lincoln High School principal, Mark Larson:

"When students began to enter the building there was a palpable tension, a palpable anxiety in the air,” he said. “You could feel it. Students were raw yesterday, emotionally. More than any other day that I can remember in my career.”

And it wasn't just the older high school students who were affected:

At Belmont Elementary, a first-grade student in Laurie Martinez's English Language Learner class raised her hand.

“How soon am I going to have to go back?” she asked. 

Martinez said she was not prepared for first-graders to be worried about the election.

"I was naive," she said.

The Consequences of the Fall in the Political Realm

Bruce Ashford and Chris Pappalardo in their book, One Nation Under God: A Christian Hope for American Politics:

So, the political realm has everything to do with our relationships to other people. In the aftermath of the fall, the political realm remains structurally good but has been corrupted directionally. In other words, God structured the world in such a way that we would have politics and public life, and the fact of its existence is good. But because of the depravity of the human heart, politics and public life are always to some extent directed toward idols rather than toward God.

They continue:

The problem runs deep, deeper than most political analysts even conceive. But the problem is never politics, per se. Liberals aren't the problem. Conservatives aren't the problem. Politicians aren't the problem. We are. We all are—because we all have the entrenched tendency to twist God's created order into idolatry. Pointed toward Christ, anything in creation becomes a blessing. Pointed away from him, the greatest blessing becomes a curse.

Repentance and Faith

In his commentary on the book of Acts, Darrell Bock offers a helpful explanation of how repentance and faith in Jesus relate with one another:

Repentance and faith are two sides of the same coin.
[...]
Repentance to God represents a change of direction in how one relates to God. It entails faith in Jesus, so that the turning results in one placing trust in what God did through Jesus as one embraces his person and work.

There is a good reminder here that repentance is ultimately about God and how we relate with God. Therefore, repentance isn't simply a turning from sin, but also a turning to Jesus, in faith. A 'gospel' that demands the former and disregards the latter is no gospel at all.

How Should Christians Comment Online?

Jon Bloom on Desiring God:

Reading people’s comments online is an interesting and sometimes troubling study in human nature. And reading comments by professing Christians on Christian sites (as well as other sites) can be a discouraging study in applied theology.

The immediate, shoot-from-the-hip nature of comments on websites and social media is what can often make them minimally helpful or even destructive. Comments can easily be careless. That’s why we must heed Jesus’s warning: “on the day of judgment people will give account for every careless word they speak” (Matthew 12:36). This caution makes commenting serious business to God.

Can We Still Weep Together After Orlando?

Russell Moore:

Our national divisions increasingly make it difficult for us not just to work together, but even to pause and weep together. We become more concerned about protecting ourselves from one another’s political pronouncements than we do with mourning with those who mourn.

This is especially true of gun violence. Is our nation even capable of mourning a tragedy together when guns are involved? I'm not so sure any more.

Moore ends his piece with this exhortation to Christians:

How then do we weep with those who weep?

Let’s call our congregations to pray together. Let’s realize that, in this case, our gay and lesbian neighbors are likely quite scared. Who wouldn’t be? Demonstrate the sacrificial love of Jesus to them. We don’t have to agree on the meaning of marriage and sexuality to love one another and to see the murderous sin of terrorism. Let’s also pray for our leaders who have challenging decisions to make in the midst of crisis. Let’s mobilize our congregations and others to give blood for the victims. Let’s call for governing authorities to do their primary duty of keeping its people safe from evildoers.

[...]

As the Body of Christ, though, we can love and serve and weep and mourn. And we can remind ourselves and our neighbors that this is not the way it is supposed to be. We mourn, but we mourn in the hope of a kingdom where blood is not shed and where bullets never fly.

Why We Talk About Sin

The late John Stott in Confess Your Sins:

We are not in the least ashamed of the fact that we think and talk a lot about sin. We do so for the simple reason that we are realists. Sin is an ugly fact. It is to be neither ignored nor ridiculed, but honestly faced. Indeed, Christianity is the only religion in the world which takes sin seriously and offers a satisfactory remedy for it. And the way to enjoy this remedy is not to deny the disease, but to confess it.

Sin, Confession, and Community

In confession there takes place a breakthrough to community. Sin wants to be alone with people. It takes them away from the community. The more lonely people become, the more destructive the power of sin over them. The more deeply they become entangled in it, the more unholy is their loneliness. Sin wants to remain unknown. It shuns the light. In the darkness of what is left unsaid sin poisons the whole being of a person. This can happen in the midst of a pious community. In confession the light of the gospel breaks into the darkness and closed isolation of the heart. Sin must be brought into the light. What is unspoken is said openly and confessed. All that is secret and hidden comes to light. It is a hard struggle until the sin crosses one’s lips in confession.

– Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Life Together

"One Anothers" Not in the New Testament

We started a new sermon series today in which we'll be taking a look at a number of the "one anothers" found in the New Testament. As I was doing some reading and research in anticipation of the new series, I ran across the following list of "one anothers" not found in the Bible by Ray Ortlund:

Sanctify one another, humble one another, scrutinize one another, pressure one another, embarrass one another, corner one another, interrupt one another, defeat one another, sacrifice one another, shame one another, judge one another, run one another’s lives, confess one another’s sins, intensify one another’s sufferings, point out one another’s failings . . . .

The Churchgoing Evangelical Vote Split

Justin Taylor via Twitter:

Super-Abounding Grace

Sinclair Ferguson in his book, Man Overboard: The Story of Jonah:

We would be foolish to think that anything God ever says or does means that we can treat sin lightly. But, when his children return to him in true evangelical repentance, accepting his chastisements and humbling themeselves before him, they should hang on firmly to the knowledge that God is able to make his name a praise among the nations even on the shoulders of his children's failures and sins. Nothing will stop him. If need be he will use the devil himself (as indeed he ultimately will) to bring glory to his name, and to fit his own people for their temporary and eternal destinies.

The principle by which God works is that where sin abounds grace super-abounds (Rom. 5:20). It is this super-abundance of grace and wisdom in God which can make our experiences, even in rebellion against him, serviceable in his hands to equip us for the future.

As Far as the East Is from the West

I made reference to Psalm 103:12 in my Good Friday sermon last night:

as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.

I also included some of Charles Spurgeon's reflections upon this same verse from The Treasury of David. The quote is so good that I had to post it here, too:

O glorious verse, no word even upon the inspired page can excel it! Sin is removed from us by a miracle of love! What a load to move, and yet is it removed so far that the distance is incalculable. Fly as far as the wing of imagination can bear you, and if you journey through space eastward, you are further from the west at every beat of your wing. If sin be removed so far, then we may be sure that the scent, the trace, the very memory of it must be entirely gone. If this be the distance of its removal, there is no shade of fear of its ever being brought back again; even Satan himself could not achieve such a task. Our sins are gone, Jesus has borne them away. Far as the place of sunrise is removed from yonder west, where the sun sinks when his day’s journey is done, so far were our sins carried by our scapegoat nineteen centuries ago, and now if they be sought for, they shall not be found, yea, they shall not be, saith the Lord. Come, my soul, awaken thyself thoroughly and glorify the Lord for this richest of blessings. Hallelujah. The Lord alone could remove sin at all, and he has done it in a godlike fashion, making a final sweep of all our transgressions.

Jerry Bridges on Propitiation and Expiation

I'm studying the topic of expiation in anticipation of Good Friday and I recently ran across this clear and helpful quote in The Gospel for Real Life by the late Jerry Bridges:

Propitiation, as we saw in Chapter 5, addresses the wrath of God. It is the work of Christ saving us from God’s wrath by absorbing it in His own person as our substitute. Expiation which basically means “removal,” accompanies propitiation and speaks of the work of Christ in removing or putting away our sin. Such is the symbolism of the two goats used on the Day of Atonement. The first goat represented Christ’s work of propitiation as it was killed and its blood sprinkled on the mercy seat. The second goat represented Christ’s work of expiation in removing or blotting out the sins that were against us. The object of propitiation is the wrath of God. The object of expiation is the sin, which must be removed from His presence.

Bridges finishes the chapter in this way:

The work of Christ in finished. Nothing more remains to be done. God's wrath has been propitiated. Our sins have been removed. The question is, will we appreciate it, not only for our initial moment of salvation, but for our day-to-day acceptance with God? It is only as we do the latter that we will truly begin to appreciate the glory of the cross and the unsearchable riches of Christ.

Amen.



¯\_(ツ)_/¯ © 2016 Adam Stahr