Election, Judgment, and Reluctant Prophets. Monday Monologues, March 11, 2019 (podcast)

Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018
Stephen W Hiemstra, 2018

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

In today’s podcast, I will offer a Judgment Prayer and talk about Election, Judgment, and Reluctant Prophets.

After listening, please click here to take a brief listener survey (10 questions).

To listen, click on the link below:

Hear the words; Walk the steps; Experience the joy!

Election, Judgment, and Reluctant Prophets. Monday Monologues, March 11, 2019 (podcast)

Also see:

Monday Monologue On March 26, 2018 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019

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Election, Judgment, and Reluctant Prophets

Stephen W. Hiemstra, Living in Christ

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

No two doctrines of the church are further from the hearts of Americans than the doctrines of election and judgment, as Richard Niebuhr (1937, 137) characterized liberal Protestant theology: “A God without wrath brought men without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministration of a Christ without a cross.” Without judgment there can be no election because the two doctrines are mirror images of one another. Still, election is misunderstood as a kind of holy huddle, when it is at the heart of salvation and the antithesis to judgment.

Blessed to be a Blessing

McDonald (2010, 190-191) observes that the holy huddle is a modern myth writing:  “…election is the expression of—and the chosen means to further—the triune God’s purpose of blessing.” The interpretative verse arises in the covenant of God with Abraham:

“Now the LORD said to Abram, Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house to the land that I will show you. And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing. I will bless those who bless you, and him who dishonors you I will curse, and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (Gen 12:1-3)

Notice how this covenant begins with a stipulation: “Go from your country and your kindred and your father’s house.” In modern parlance, Abraham, grow up and stand on your own feet. If Abraham is willing to take the risk of becoming an independent adult by leaving his father’s protection, connections, and wealth, then God says he will bless him to become a blessing to others. Even before the establishment of the Nation of Israel, God has laid out his plan to evangelize the world, anticipating the Great Commission (Matt 28:19-20) . 

It is interesting that the parable of the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11-15) depicts the son that “took a journey into a far country” as the son who eventually comes to love and appreciate his father. Thus, the inward looking church—the “holy huddle”—appears more like the spiteful, older son who stayed home and, in terms of the covenant, refused to be a blessing to others.

Sodom and Gomorrah

It is interesting that in our generation, the story of the destruction of Sodom and Gomorrah is interpreted primarily in terms of the judgment of God on these two cities for their sexual sin, including homosexual sin. Yet, the context of the story is a dialogue between God and Abraham that begins with: 

“The LORD said, Shall I hide from Abraham what I am about to do, seeing that Abraham shall surely become a great and mighty nation, and all the nations of the earth shall be blessed in him?” (Gen 18:17-18)

While the judgment of the cities is certainly topical, the focus of the story is on Abraham’s handling of God’s disclosure. What does Abraham do? Abraham immediately begins to intercede for Sodom and Gomorrah knowing that his self-absorbed nephew, Lot, lives near Sodom. 

The key phrase in Abraham’s intercession is: “Will you [God] indeed sweep away the righteous with the wicked?” (Gen 18:23) God does not spare the cities, but he does send his angel to rescue Lot and his family.

What is interesting about this passage is that God reveals his judgment to Abraham, a stand in for the rest of us, to see how Abraham will react. In this example, Abraham passes the test when he exhibits compassion for the cities and engages God in intercessory prayer. 

The Reluctant Prophet

How many of us would pass Abraham’s test? In scripture the counter-example to Abraham arises in the story of the Prophet Jonah. In this short story, we read:

“Now the word of the LORD came to Jonah the son of Amittai, saying, Arise, go to Nineveh, that great city, and call out against it, for their evil has come up before me.” (Jonah 1:1-2)

God’s disclosure to Jonah is similar to that of Abraham. Nineveh is another evil city that God that God has basically hinted to Jonah will soon be destroyed. But unlike Sodom and Gomorrah, God offers the city an alternative by means of Jonah who is sent to “call out against it.” 

Knowing that Nineveh was the hometown of Sennacherib king of Assyria who had seized all of Judea, except for Jerusalem (Isa,. 36:1), Jonah hated the Ninevites and, instead of going to preach God’s mercy to them, he got on a ship to escape from God and his mission. Then, as every Sunday school kid knows, a storm came up, the sailors tossed Jonah overboard, and he is swallowed by a whale who, after three days, spits him up on a beach. God then repeats his request for Jonah to go to Nineveh. Listen to why Jonah refused to go:

“And he prayed to the LORD and said, O LORD, is not this what I said when I was yet in my country? That is why I made haste to flee to Tarshish; for I knew that you are a gracious God and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love, and relenting from disaster.” (Jon 4:2)

In this response, Jonah recites Exodus 34:6, which recounts God’s character traits. Knowing God is merciful, Jonah refused to preach repentance to the Ninevites, but later does so reluctantly and they do repent, averting God’s wrath, much to Jonah’s consternation.

Judgment and End Times

Knowing that we are blessed to be a blessing and that God shares his plans for judgment with us through scripture and revelation, our attitude about those under judgment has to change. Judgment of those outside the community faith comes as a test of the hearts for those inside the community. Think about John’s prophecy about the end times:

“The nations raged, but your wrath came, and the time for the dead to be judged, and for rewarding your servants, the prophets and saints, and those who fear your name, both small and great, and for destroying the destroyers of the earth.” (Rev 11:18)

Do we cheer on the destruction of sinners, like Jonah, or intercede in prayer, like Abraham? Scripture is clear that God’s heart runs to mercy quicker than ours.

References

McDonald, Suzanne. 2010. Re-Imaging Election: Divine Election as Representing God to Others & Others to God. Grand Rapids: Eerdmans.

Niebuhr, H. Richard. 1937. The Kingdom of God in America. New York: Harper Torchbooks. 

Election, Judgment, and Reluctant Prophets

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter: http://bit.ly/Lent_2019

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Swindol Introduces an Authentic Abraham

Abraham_review_01212016Charles R. Swindoll. 2014. Abraham:  One Nomad’s Amazing Journey of Faith. Carol Stream: Tyndale House Publications, Inc.

Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Authenticity. I have always been drawn to people who ooze authenticity.

In grade school, a favorite aunt gave me a biography of Winston Churchill—an authentic war hero and statesman (Malkus 1957). I was hooked. Reading biographies and listening carefully to the life-stories of the people around me became a life-long passion. Author John Savage (1996, 82) calls stories from the past with current meaning rehearsal stories.[1] In more recent years, I have been repeatedly drawn to the story of Abraham—a biblical story of an authentic man of faith who continues to inspire me. So when the leader of my church’s men’s group gave me a copy of Charles Swindoll’s[2] Abraham, I knew it would be a page turner.

Swindoll sees 4 reasons why biographies are worth studying:

  1. A good biography translates truth into life.
  2. A good biography creates a closer kinship with people we have admired from a distance.
  3. A good biography offers stability when we go through similar experiences.
  4. A good biography helps us maintain a divine perspective on life (viii-x).

This idea of a rehearsal story is actually part of the Lord’s Prayer: we pray that “your will be done, on earth as it is in heaven” (Matt. 6:10).  In other words, we take the biblical pattern, such as seen in the life of Abraham (a shadow of heaven), as a pattern for our own lives (here on earth). Are you excited yet?

Swindoll sees Abraham as interesting because:

Out of this mass of theologically aimless humanity, one man emerged who began to proclaim what we might call “radical theism.” The man we know today as Abraham not only claimed that one true Creator existed and that all other gods did not, but he also stacked his entire life on this belief (xi).

In other words, Abraham oozed authenticity.

Abraham’s authenticity was apparently attracted a loyal following who were not, per se, his slaves or relatives. Swindol writes:

Abram attracted a large number of loyal followers because he was a wealthy, influential man. His household grew in numbers because people saw how his community enjoyed provision and protection. (43)

Today we might describe this phenomena as an entourage—people just wanted to be with Abraham. Abraham’s faith was part of the attraction.

Part of Abraham’s attraction was that he was a fearless and cunning warrior. Swindol writes:

Genesis 14 would make an exciting action movie. It contains all the necessary elements of a great story. A riveting plot. Villains. A crisis. A hero. Strategy, swordplay, and acts of daring. A surprising twist and—just as critical to good storytelling—meaningful character development. (42)

Abraham defeats the superpowers of his day at their own game in spite of being vastly outnumbered and he rescues his nephew, Lot, from a life of slavery. Having beaten the superpowers, Abraham refuses to grab Canaan (including Sodom and Gomorrah) by force, preferring to wait on God’s timing to claim God’s promise of land in Canaan.[3]

Charles Swindol was senior pastor of churches in Texas, Massachusetts, and California.  He is the former president and chancellor of Dallas Theological Seminary and has led a radio ministry, Insight for Living, for many years. Swindol’s writes a comprehensive account of Abraham’s life and spiritual journey in 20 chapters.

Based on Abraham’s life, Swindol offers this closing advice:

Wherever God leads, follow.

Whatever God promises, believe.

Whenever God tests, trust.

However God blesses, share (260).

May this book bless you and may you, in turn, bless others[4].

References

Malkus, Alida Sim. 1957. The Story of Winston Churchill. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.

Savage, John.  1996.  Listening & Caring Skills:  A Guide for Groups and Leaders.  Nashville:  Abingdon Press.

 

[1] Review: Savage Teaches Listening; Hears Unheard Stories (http://wp.me/p3Xeut-4e)

[2] https://www.insight.org

[3] Interestingly, later in Genesis 18:22-33 he argues (prays) that God spare Sodom and Gomorrah from destruction for the sake of the righteous people found there, including his nephew.

[4]This is a paraphrase of Genesis 12:2-3 which I have used in signing my own book, A Christian Guide to Spirituality (T2Pneuma.com).

 

 

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Romanos: La Fe Buscando Entendimiento

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Iglesia Presbiteriana de Riverside, Sterling, Virginia Marzo 2, 2014

Prefacio

Buenos días. Bienvenido a la Iglesia Presbiteriana de Riverside.

Esta mañana llegamos a la conclusión de nuestro estudio sobre la carta de Pablo a las iglesias en Roma.  A pesar de que hemos saltando  en la parte profunda de la piscina otra vez, la lección es fácil.  ¿Cómo se puede ser bendecidos por algo que no entiende?  Nuestra salvación depende solamente en fe en Jesucristo.

Invocación

Oramos.

Padre Eterno, Hijo Amado, Espíritu de la Esperanza. Haga su presencia conocido entre nosotros esta mañana.  En el poder de su Espíritu Santo, inspirando las palabras pronunciadas e iluminar las palabras escuchadas. En el precioso nombre de Jesús, Amén.

Texto

Nuestra lección de hoy viene de la carta de Pablo a los Romanos 15:7-13.

Escuchen la palabra del Señor:

Por tanto, acéptense mutuamente, así como Cristo los aceptó a ustedes para gloria de Dios. Les digo que Cristo se hizo servidor de los judíos para demostrar la fidelidad de Dios, a fin de confirmar las promesas hechas a los patriarcas, y para que los gentiles glorifiquen a Dios por su compasión, como está escrito: «Por eso te alabaré entre las naciones; cantaré salmos a tu nombre.» [2 Samuel 22:50]

En otro pasaje dice: «Alégrense, naciones, con el pueblo de Dios.» [Deuteronomy 32:43]

Y en otra parte: «¡Alaben al Señor, naciones todas! ¡Pueblos todos, cántenle alabanzas!» [Psalm 117:1]

A su vez, Isaías afirma: «Brotará la raíz de Isaí, el que se levantará para gobernar a las naciones; en él los pueblos pondrán su esperanza.»  [Isaia 11:10]

Que el Dios de la esperanza los llene de toda alegría y paz a ustedes que creen en él, para que rebosen de esperanza por el poder del Espíritu Santo (Romanos 15:7-13 NVI).

La palabra del Señor.  Gracias a Dios.

Introducción

¿Cómo se puede ser bendecidos por algo que no entiende? ( 2X )

Cuando adolescente, estaba apasionado de mi grupo de jóvenes. Cuando el director de jóvenes salió la iglesia, el grupo se derrumbó.  Mi último año de la escuela el grupo estaba tres personas—el pastor, mi amigo mejor, y yo. Ese año entero nos reunimos los miércoles por la pizza, Bonhoeffer, y el libro de Romanos. Desde entonces, he leído la Biblia a través de la lente de los romanos, particularmente Romanos 12:1-2—como esta escrito por allí. En la universidad, cuando me convertí en amarga a la vida, fue romanos que me trajeron de vuelta a Dios. Ahora, después la experiencia del seminario, me pregunto: ¿cómo puedo ser tan bendecida por un libro que entiendo todavía incompletamente? (2X)

Claramente, esto no es una pregunta nueva. La fe no es irracional, sino que es el comienzo de un discurso racional [1].

Discurso organizado siempre comienza con suposiciones. En el contexto del método científico, por ejemplo, la idea de la fe es conocido como una hipótesis o una suposición. En la misma manera, incluso las palabras de esta frase en mi boca es ininteligible sin algún acuerdo previo (un suposición) en cuanto a su significado (2X).

Entonces, el lógico moderno y el lógico de la fe son exactamente lo mismo.  En el método científico, una hipótesis proporciona el enfoque en el problema investigable y un contexto para entenderlo. En la fe, se nos da un enfoque para la comprensión de la vida en el contexto de la narrativa bíblica. En otras palabras, nuestra fe nos bendice al ayudar a comprender la voluntad de Dios y nuestro papel en él.

Escritura

¿Cómo se puede ser bendecidos por algo que no entiende? [2] (2X)

La respuesta de Pablo a esta pregunta viene en el versículo 13. Allí, Pablo dice: Que el Dios de la esperanza los llene de toda alegría y paz a ustedes que creen en él, para que rebosen de esperanza por el poder del Espíritu Santo (v 13).  El bendecidos de Dios son alegría, paz, y esperanza cuando tenemos fe [3].

¿Fe en qué? En Corintios, Pablo escrito: Los judíos piden señales milagrosas y los gentiles buscan sabiduría, mientras que nosotros predicamos a Cristo crucificado. Este mensaje es motivo de tropiezo para los judíos, y es locura para los gentiles, (1Corintios 1:22-23 NVI) [4]  Nuestro fe es en el resurrección de Jesucristo después su muerto por la cruz.

Reflexión

¿Por qué Pablo pasar tanto tiempo en su carta sobre el conflicto entre los Judios y gentiles? (2X)

Es útil para ver la discusión de Pablo de Judios y gentiles como un conflicto entre hermanos, como Caín y Abel.   No hermano debiera tener prioridad sobre el otro en una familia saludable. Este concepto permite Pablo a utilizar esta tensión entre Judios y gentiles como una tipo de naturaleza-nurture argumento (2X) [5].

El argumento nurtura es que la ley nos ensena a renunciar a nuestro estado natural de pecado y ganar la benedicion de Dios—la fuente tradicional de orgullo judío.  Por lo contrario, el argumento naturaleza es que los humanos son básicamente bueno y no necesita ayuda de Dios o la ley. Por Pablo, ni nuestras habilidades naturales (Romanos 1:18-32), ni la tutoría de la ley (Romanos 7:5) es suficientes para ganar la gracia de Dios. Ninguno de los hermanos, ni Judio por la ley ni gentil por la naturaleza, pueden reclamar la justicia de Dios.

Aquí es donde el ejemplo de Abraham es importante. Abraham no era justo en sí mismo ni por sus acciones. Pablo escribe: Pues ¿qué dice la Escritura? Le creyó Abraham a Dios, y esto se le tomó en cuenta como justicia. (Romanos 4:3 NVI; Genesis 15:6) (2X). Al igual que el hijo pródigo no se merecía el perdón de su padre, ni qué nos merecemos el perdón de Dios (Lucas 15:11-23). Así que al igual que Abraham, ya que hemos sido justificados por la fe, tenemos paz para con Dios por medio de nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Romanos 5:1).

En otras palabras, la justicia de Abraham era un don concedido a Abraham por Dios en respuesta a su fe.

Aplicación
En conclusión.

Este argumento de Pablo tiene una relación directa con las divisiones en la iglesia hoy.

Considere el conflicto sobre los últimos cien años entre liberales y evangélicos. Ni a traves de la bondad natural de los seres humanos (la naturaleza) ni a traves de la estricta adhesión a los principios bíblicos (la nurtura) podamos ganar la gracia de Dios. La salvación no depende de ser un liberal o un evangélico.

¿Cómo podemos ser bendecidos por algo que no entendemos? (2x)

En los ojos de Dios: Ya no hay judío ni griego, esclavo ni libre, hombre ni mujer, sino que todos ustedes son uno solo en Cristo Jesús (Galatas 3:28 NVI).  En nuestro contexto, se pueda decir: no hay Liberal ni Evangélica; inteligente ni tonto; bello ni feo; despierto ni comatoso; joven ni viejo, todos somos uno en Cristo Jesús. Nuestra salvación no depende de nuestro género, nuestra cultura, nuestro sueldo, nuestra inteligencia o nuestra corrección política. Es sólo a través de la fe en Jesucristo para que podamos acercarnos a Dios como hijos e hijas.

Oración

Vamos a orar.

Padre Celestial. Damos gracias por la enseñanza de Pablo en el libro de Romanos. Gracias por la iluminación del Espíritu Santo y de las bendiciones que se prodigan en nosotros día tras día, a pesar de nuestra ignorancia. En el nombre de Jesús, Amén.

REFERENCES

Dunn, James D.G.  1993.  “Letter to the Romans” pages 838-50 of Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.  Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid.  Downers Grove:  InverVarsity Press.

Hays, Richard B.  1989.  Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul.  New Haven:  Yale University Press.

Hays, Richard B.  2011.  Interpretation:  A Biblical Commentary for Teaching and Preaching—First Corinthians (Orig pub 1997).  Louisville:  Westminster John Knox Press.

Hiemstra, Stephen W.  June 2009. “Can Bad Culture Kill a Firm?” pages 51-54 of Risk Management.  Society of Actuaries.  Accessed: 18 February 2014. Online:  http://bit.ly/1cmnQ00.

Schaeffer, Francis A.  2006.  Escape from Reason:  A Penetrating Analysis of Trends in Modern Thought (Orig pub 1968).  Downers Grove:  IVP Books.

Wallace, Daniel B.  1996.  Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics:  An Exegetical Syntax of the New Testament.  Grand Rapids:  Zondervan.

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[1]El eslogan—la fe buscando entendimiento (fides quaerens intellectum)—se atribuye a Anselmo Arzobispo de Canterbury en el undécima siglo.  AD 1033-1109.  http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anselm 

[2]El texto del sermón de hoy es Romanos 15:7-13 que resume toda la epístola de Pablo (Hays1989, 70-71). Paul premisa se describe en el versículo 7: Por tanto, acéptense mutuamente, así como Cristo los aceptó a ustedes para gloria de Dios. (Romanos 15:7 NVI) (2X). La palabra, por lo tanto (Διὸ), se refiere al versículo 1, que se refiere a los débiles y fuertes en la fe. Allí se dice: Los que somos fuertes debemos soportar las flaquezas de los débiles, y no agradarnos a nosotros mismos (Romanos 15:1 NVI). Irónicamente, los débiles, en este contexto se refieren a los judíos cristianos preocupados por las leyes de la alimentación (Romanos 14:2).

Esto implica que el versículo 7 se ocupa de Judios y gentiles. En caso de que no ve este punto, Pablo cita 4 pasajes que unen Judios y gentiles: 2 Samuel 22:50; Deuteronomy 32:43; Psalm 117:1; and Isaia 11:10. Está claro que Pablo se centra en la conciliación de Judios y gentiles en las iglesias de Roma.

[3]Teólogo James D. G. Dunn (1993) considera que Pablo tiene tres objetivos en Romanos: un objetivo apologética, un objetivo misionero y un objetivo pastoral. Estos objetivos se superponen en su discusión de Judios y gentiles.

[4]En realidad, todo de 1 Corintos 1:17-23 es útil. Also: (Hays 2011, 27-35).

[5]Mi agradecimiento al Profesor Rollin Gramos de Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, Charlotte, NC por sugerir este argumento en ET / NT 543 del Nuevo Testamento y la ética cristiana, mayo 20-24 2013.

 

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Romans: Faith Seeking Understanding

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace in believing, so that by the power of the Holy Spirit you may abound in hope (Romans 15:13 ESV).

How can one be blessed by something that is not fully understood?

As a teenager, I was passionate about my youth group.  When the youth director left the church, the group collapsed my senior year into a three-person study group—the pastor, my best friend, and I.  That entire year we got together on Wednesday for pizza, Bonhoeffer, and Romans. In college, when I became bitter at life, it was my understanding of God through Romans that brought me back.  Now, looking back at the experience from the other side of seminary, I wonder: how I could have been so blessed by a book that still defies my understanding?

This is not a new question.  Faith is not irrational; it is the beginning of rational discourse. Faith seeking understanding (fides quaerens intellectum)—is a motto attributed to Anselm (1033–1109; Archbishop of Canterbury) taken from his book, Proslogion, where he explored the existence and attributes of God [1].  The idea of faith preceding understanding is enshrined in scientific method, for example, because the method necessarily begins with a hypothesis (problem definition) [2].  Even the words in this sentence are unintelligible without assumptions as to their meaning.

My excursion into epistemology (the study of knowledge) is not out of place in a study of Romans.  Theologian James D.G. Dunn sees apologetics as one of Paul’s three objectives in Romans.  For example, Paul writes: For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek (Romans 1:16 ESV). The other two objectives are a missionary objective [3] and a pastoral objective.  Dunn’s pastoral concern [4] is for unity between Jewish and Gentile Christians who made up the churches in Rome.  Paul is a disciplined writer who typically lays out objectives in his introduction and summarizes them at the end—in this case, Romans 15:7-13 [5].

Paul’s emphasis in Romans on the relationship among Jews and Gentiles sets up a kind of brother’s theme, as is often noted in the book of Genesis [6]. However, in Romans Paul uses tension between Jews and Gentiles as a stand in for a kind of false nurture/nature dichotomy [7].  The argument goes that with law we are nurtured from our natural state of sin—the traditional source of Jewish pride.  However, what might seem like an either—or argument is used by Paul as a neither—nor argument.  But for Paul, neither our natural abilities (Romans 1:18-32) nor the tutorage of law (Romans 7:5) are sufficient to earn us the grace of God.  Neither brother (Jew or Gentile) can claim the righteousness of God.

Here is where the example of Abraham becomes instrumental.  Abraham was not righteous in himself or by his actions.  Paul writes:  Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness (Romans 4:3 ESV).  Just like the prodigal son did not deserve his father’s forgiveness, neither do we deserve God’s forgiveness (Luke 15:11-23).  So just like Abraham:  since we have been justified by faith, we have peace with God through our Lord Jesus Christ; (Romans 5:1 ESV).

How can we be blessed by something that we do not understand?  We are sons and daughters of God through Jesus Christ.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anselm/

[2] The steps often employed in the method are:  felt need, problem definition, observation, analysis, decision, and responsibility bearing.  Stephen W. Hiemstra. June 2009. “Can Bad Culture Kill a Firm?” pages 51-54 of Risk Management.  Society of Actuaries.  Accessed:  18 February 2014. Online:  http://bit.ly/1cmnQ00.

[3] Apostle—Romans 1:1; support for a missionary journey to Spain; Romans 15:24.

[4] Therefore welcome one another as Christ has welcomed you, for the glory of God (Romans 15:7 ESV). James D.G. Dunn.  1993.  “Letter to the Romans” pages 838-50 of Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.  Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid.  Downers Grove:  InverVarsity Press.  Pages 839-40.

[6] Richard B. Hays.  1989.  Echoes of Scripture in the Letters of Paul.  New Haven:  Yale University Press, 70-71.

[7] Genesis has lots of brothers, including—Cain/Abel, Isaac/Ishmael, Jacob/Esau, and Joseph/brothers—which drive the theme of.

[8] My thanks to Professor Rollin Grams of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary,Charlotte, NC for suggesting this argument in  ET/NT 543 New Testament and Christian Ethics, May 20-24, 2013.

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Romanos: La Fe Buscando Comprensión

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Que el Dios de la esperanza los llene de toda alegría y paz a ustedes que creen en él, para que rebosen de esperanza por el poder del Espíritu Santo (Romanos 15:13 NVI).

¿Cómo puede uno ser bendecidos por algo que no se entiende?

Cuando era adolescente, yo era un apasionado de mi grupo de jóvenes. Cuando el director de jóvenes salió de la iglesia, el grupo se derrumbó mi último año en un estudio de tres personas del grupo—el pastor, mi mejor amigo, y yo. Ese año entero nos reunimos el miércoles por la pizza, Bonhoeffer, y Romanos. En la universidad, cuando me convertí en amarga la vida, fue mi entendimiento de Dios a través de los Romanos que me trajeron de vuelta. Ahora, mirando hacia atrás en la experiencia desde el otro lado del seminario, me pregunto cómo pude haber sido tan bendecida por un libro que aún desafía mi entendimiento?

Esto no es una nueva pregunta. La fe no es irracional, sino que es el comienzo de un discurso racional. La fe buscando entendimiento (fides quaerens intellectum)—el lema se atribuye a Anselmo (1033-1109; Arzobispo de Canterbury) en su libro, Proslogion, donde exploró la existencia y atributos de Dios [1]. La idea de la fe, antes de la comprensión sigue siendo consagrado en el método científico, por ejemplo, debido a que el método comienza necesariamente con una hipótesis (definición del problema) [2]. Incluso las palabras de esta frase es ininteligible sin algún acuerdo previo (un supuesto) en cuanto a su significado.

Mi incursión en la epistemología (el estudio del conocimiento) no está fuera de lugar en un estudio de Romanos. Teólogo James D. G. Dunn ve la apologética como uno de los tres objetivos de Pablo en Romanos. Por ejemplo, Pablo escribe: A la verdad, no me avergüenzo del evangelio, pues es poder de Dios para la salvación de todos los que creen: de los judíos primeramente, pero también de los gentiles (Romanos 1:16). Los otros dos objetivos son un objetivo misionero [3] y un objetivo pastoral. Dunn destaca una preocupación pastoral por la unidad entre los cristianos judíos y gentiles que constituían las iglesias en Roma [4]. Paul es un escritor disciplinado que por lo general establece objetivos en su introducción y los resume al final—en Romanos 15:7-13.

El énfasis de Pablo en Romanos sobre la relación entre los Judios y gentiles establece un tipo de tema del hermano, como a menudo se señala en el libro del Génesis [5]. Sin embargo, en Romanos, Pablo usa la tensión entre los Judios y gentiles como un stand en una especie de falsa dicotomía nurture/naturaleza [6]. El argumento es que con la ley que nos nutrimos de nuestro estado natural de pecado—la fuente tradicional de orgullo judío. Sin embargo, lo que podría parecer como una o la otra argumento es usado por Pablo como un ni-ni argumento. Pero para Pablo, ni nuestras habilidades naturales (Romanos 1:18-32), ni la tutoría de la ley (Romanos 7:5) son suficientes para ganar la gracia de Dios. Ninguno de los hermanos (Judio o Gentil) pueden reclamar la justicia de Dios.

Aquí es donde el ejemplo de Abraham se convierte en instrumental. Abraham no era justo en sí mismo o por sus acciones. Pablo escribe: Le creyó Abraham a Dios, y esto se le tomó en cuenta como justicia (Romanos 4:3). Al igual que el hijo pródigo no se merecía el perdón de su padre, ni qué nos merecemos el perdón de Dios (Lucas 15:11-23). Así que al igual que Abraham: En consecuencia, ya que hemos sido justificados mediante la fe, tenemos paz con Dios por medio de nuestro Señor Jesucristo (Romanos 5:1).

¿Cómo podemos ser bendecidos por algo que no entendemos? Somos hijos e hijas de Dios por medio de Jesucristo.

[1] http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/anselm/

[2] Los pasos a menudo empleados en el procedimiento son: necesidad sentida, la definición del problema, la observación, el análisis, la decisión, y teniendo la responsabilidad. Stephen W. Hiemstra. June 2009. “Can Bad Culture Kill a Firm?” pages 51-54 of Risk Management.  Society of Actuaries.  Accessed:  18 February 2014. Online:  http://bit.ly/1cmnQ00.

[3] Apóstol – Romanos 1:1; el apoyo a un viaje misionero a España; Romanos 15:24.

[4] Por tanto, acéptense mutuamente, así como Cristo los aceptó a ustedes para gloria de Dios (Romanos 15:7). James D.G. Dunn.  1993.  “Letter to the Romans” pages 838-50 of Dictionary of Paul and His Letters.  Edited by Gerald F. Hawthorne, Ralph P. Martin, and Daniel G. Reid.  Downers Grove:  InverVarsity Press.  Pages 839-40.

[5] Genesis has lots of brothers, including—Cain/Abel, Isaac/Ishmael, Jacob/Esau, and Joseph/brothers—which drive the theme of.

[6] My thanks to Professor Rollin Grams of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary,Charlotte, NC for suggesting this argument in  ET/NT 543 New Testament and Christian Ethics, May 20-24, 2013.

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Galatians 4: Slave and Free

Pencils by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

And because you are sons and daughters, God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but a child, and if a child, then an heir through God (Galatians 4:6-7).

Aren’t you glad that our relationship with God is not transactional?

What if God were like a Facebook friend who after one “bad hair day” simply unfriended you?  Who would ever be comfortable in their relationship with such a god?  Could you ever really love God knowing that you were constantly being evaluated?  Or, turning the question around, could you ever really love God knowing that your love was purchased with wealth or fame?

Aren’t you glad that our relationship with God is a real relationship?

In Galatians 4, the Apostle Paul describes what it means to be a child of an (unconditional) promise.  When we are promised a gift (like friendship), we need only believe in the promise.  The promise is unconditional.  We do not have to do anything to earn the gift.  That is what the word, gift, implies.  The good news is that God’s grace is a gift.

Law works differently.  Law is a conditional promise.  If you obey the law, then you earn the reward promised under the law.  For example, if you apply to become a U.S. citizen, the law covering citizenship applies.  If you meet the conditions of this law, then you are eligible to become a citizen.  If you do not meet the law’s conditions and you desire the reward of the law, then you are a slave of the law (and your desire) until you meet those conditions.

With this argument concerning conditional (law) and unconditional (grace) promises, Paul is making two points:

  1. Being under law is like kids waiting to be old enough to inherit from their parents (vv 1-3).  Being under law implies immaturity.  Mature adults are under no such restrictions.  What adult would prefer to be a kid again?
  2. Being under gospel implies freedom from law, but it does not imply freedom from relationship.  We are God’s adopted children—children of the promise (vv 5-7, 23-28).  Free people do not behave like slaves because they are in relationship with their parents which includes having an inheritance (v 30).

Paul’s discussion of our freedom in Christ continues into chapter 5.

Paul’s discussion of the relationship between Abraham and his two wives, Hagar and Sarah, has generated a lot of discussion over the years.  Paul argues that being under the Mosaic covenant (the Law of Moses) is like being a slave to law.  Because Hagar was a slave woman, he equates the two (law and Hagar) in his allegory.  This causes heartburn for Jewish interpreters because the Jews were biological descendants of Sarah, not Hagar.

Paul’s argument revolves around God’s covenant with Abraham.  The Jews have not taken to heart the second half of the covenant to Abraham:  And I will make of you a great nation, and I will bless you and make your name great, so that you will be a blessing (Genesis 12:2-3 ESV).  The covenant with Abraham required that Abraham become a blessing (וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה) [to the nations]—which essentially means that the Gospel needs to be told.  The Galatians were like Sarah (and the Jews were not) because they more completely fulfilled Abraham’s covenant obligations.  At a minimum, sharing the love of God has to start with sharing who God is!  Niceness is not enough; obeying the law is not enough (Galatians 5:14).

Our question is:  Are we children of Hagar or of Sarah?

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. Who attended the Worship Workshop and would like to give a report?
  3. Do you have questions from chapter 3?
  4. According to Paul, how is a child like a slave? (vv 1-3)
  5. What does this analogy have to do with law? (v 3)
  6. What is the role of Christ? (vv 4-7)
  7. What is the “fullness of time” mean? What about “born of a woman”? (v 4)
  8. What is the argument—that was then; this is now—that Paul is making? What transition is he referring to? (vv 8-10)
  9. What is a transition? (beginning, middle, and end)
  10. What is Paul’s fear, as expressed in this rant? (vv 11-20)
  11. What is Paul’s argument here in verse 11?
  12. What is Paul’s analogy to Hagar and Sarah? (vv 22-31)
  13. How is the law like Hagar; how is it not? Why would Jewish interpreters be upset?

Galatians 4: Slave and Free

Also see:

Galatians 5: Healthy Boundaries 

Galatians 3: Law and Gospel 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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Gálatas 4: Esclavitud y Libertad

Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

Por Stephen W. Hiemstra

Ustedes ya son hijos y hijas. Dios ha enviado a nuestros corazones el Espíritu de su Hijo, que clama: ¡Abba! ¡Padre! Así que ya no eres esclavo sino hijo/a; y como eres hijo/a, Dios te ha hecho también heredero (Galatas 4:6-7).

¿No estás contento de que nuestra relación con Dios no es transaccional?

¿Y si Dios fuera como “Facebook friend” que después de un “mal día” simplemente un-friend a usted? ¿Quién iba a ser cómodo en su relación con un Dios así? ¿Podría alguna vez realmente amar a Dios sabiendo que se estaban evaluando constantemente? O, volviendo a la pregunta alrededor, ¿podría alguna vez realmente amar a Dios sabiendo que su amor fue comprado con la riqueza o la fama?

¿No estás contento de que nuestra relación con Dios es una relación real?

En Gálatas 4, el apóstol Pablo describe lo que significa ser un niño de un (incondicional) promesa. Cuando se nos promete un regalo (como amistad), sólo necesitamos creer en la promesa. La promesa es incondicional. No tenemos que hacer nada para ganar el regalo. Eso es lo que la palabra, regalo, implica. La buena noticia es que la gracia de Dios es un regalo.

Ley funciona de manera diferente. La ley es una promesa condicional. Si obedeces la ley, entonces usted gana la recompensa prometida por la ley. Por ejemplo, si se aplica para convertirse en un ciudadano de los EE.UU. , la ley que cubre la ciudadanía se aplica. Si usted cumple con las condiciones de esta ley, entonces usted es elegible para convertirse en ciudadano. Si usted no cumple con las condiciones de la ley y que desee la recompensa de la ley, entonces usted es un esclavo de la ley (y el deseo) hasta que cumpla con esas condiciones.

Con este argumento relativo a las promesas incondicionales (la gracia) y condicionales (ley), Pablo está haciendo dos puntos:

  1. Estar bajo la ley es como los niños que esperan para ser lo suficientemente mayor como para heredar de sus padres (vv 1-3). Estar bajo la ley implica la inmadurez. Los adultos maduros están bajo no tales restricciones. Lo que los adultos prefieren ser un niño otra vez?
  2. Estar bajo Evangelio implica la libertad de la ley, pero no implica la ausencia de relación. Somos adoptados hijos- hijos de la promesa (vv. 5-7, 23-28) de Dios. La gente libre no se comportan como los esclavos, porque están en relación con sus padre , que incluye tener una herencia (v 30).

La discusión de Pablo de nuestra libertad en Cristo continúa en el capítulo 5.

Discusión de Pablo sobre la relación entre Abraham y sus dos mujeres, Agar y Sara, ha generado una gran polémica en los últimos años. Pablo argumenta que estar bajo el pacto mosaico (la Ley de Moisés) es como ser un esclavo de la ley. Porque Agar era una esclava , que equivale a los dos (la ley y Agar) en su alegoría. Esto hace que la acidez de los intérpretes judíos porque los Judios eran descendientes biológicos de Sarah, no Agar.

El argumento de Pablo gira en torno a la alianza de Dios con Abraham. Los Judios no han tomado en serio la segunda mitad del pacto a Abraham: Haré de ti una nación grande, y te bendeciré; haré famoso tu nombre, y serás una bendición (Génesis 12:2 – 3). El pacto con Abraham exigió que Abraham se convierta en una bendición ( וֶהְיֵ֖ה בְּרָכָֽה ) [a las naciones] – que esencialmente significa que el Evangelio necesita ser contada. Los gálatas eran como Sarah (y los Judios no eran) porque cumplieron de manera más completa las obligaciones del pacto de Abraham. Como mínimo, compartiendo el amor de Dios tiene que comenzar con el intercambio de quién es Dios! Niceness no es suficiente, la obediencia a la ley no es suficiente (Gálatas 5:14).

Nuestra pregunta es: ¿Somos hijos de Agar o de Sarah?

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Galatians 3: Law and Gospel

Law and Grace by Stephen W. Hiemstra
Art by Stephen W. Hiemstra

By Stephen W. Hiemstra

For all who rely on works of the law are under a curse; for it is written, cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them. Now it is evident that no one is justified before God by the law, for the righteous shall live by faith (Galatians 3:10-11 ESV).

The question of the relationship between law and Gospel is one of the hottest debates today; perhaps, this could be said of the entire history of the church.

F.F. Bruce, in his Commentary on Galatians (1982. NIGTC.  Grand Rapids:  Eerdmans.  147-191), divides chapter 3 of Galatians into 7 sections:

  1. The primacy of faith over law (vv 1-6)
  2. The blessing of Abraham (vv 7-9)
  3. The curse of the law (vv 10-14)
  4. The priority and permanence of the promise (vv 15-18)
  5. The purpose of the law (vv 19-22)
  6. Liberation from the law (vv 23-25) and
  7. Jews and Gentiles one in Christ (vv 26-29).

Every verse is carefully parsed in book after book because the content of these 29 verses seriously affects our attitude about Judaism, Christianity, Islam, and the secular society.  Clearly, a one-page reflection cannot address all that is being said here.

For example, we read in verse 2:  Did you receive the Spirit by works of the law or by hearing with faith? (v 2).  Here the Apostle Paul makes the assumption that the Galatians know firsthand the work of the Holy Spirit in their own lives. The inference is that this experiential knowledge of the Holy Spirit is not only evident, but the sole source of eternal salvation. This question alone condemns religions focused on law as insufficient to warrant salvation. Among Christians, this statement would likely identify you as a charismatic. Do you think Paul is a charismatic?

In this same vein, one could argue that verse 28 defines the basis for social progress over the past 2,000 years, but especially in the modern and postmodern eras.  Paul writes:  There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is no male and female, for you are all one in Christ Jesus.  Tim Keller, in his study guide (Galatians for You. 2013. Good Book Company. 92-93), observes that Paul has broken down three important barriers:  the cultural barrier (neither Jew nor Greek), the class barrier (neither slave nor free), and gender barrier (neither male nor female).  Do you think Paul is politically correct?

Paul’s comments about who is chosen probably got him in the most trouble. Verse 6 quotes Genesis 15:6: And he [Abraham] believed the LORD, and he counted it to him as righteousness. Abraham is not righteousness of himself, he is counted as righteous. Why?  Because he believed God’s promise of providing him an heir. Why is this remarkable?  Abraham was 100 year old at the time and his wife was 90.  This principle of justification by faith alone expressed here (v 11) and in Romans 3:20-27 was the foundation of the protestant reformation [1].  This is because time and time again parts of the church have erred in adding other requirements, especially cultural requirements, on believers beyond that of faith in Christ.  What cultural add-ons to faith can you identify today?

Does justification by faith alone mean that we can ignore the law?  Certainly not! (v 21). The law of Moses restrains evil, instructs us, and guides us until we come to faith (vv 24-25).

Elsewhere Paul wrote:  But whatever gain I had [under law], I counted as loss for the sake of Christ (Philippians 3:7 ESV).

[1]Martin Luther was nearly martyred for his faith at the Diet of Worms; but his own journey of faith began with understanding of this passage (Roland H. Brainton. 1995.  Here I Stand.  New York:  Penguin Group.  49-50, 146-149).

Questions

  1. How was your week? Did anything special happen?
  2. Do you have questions from chapter 2?
  3. Why does Paul call the Galatians foolish? What does Paul mean by foolish?  (See Titus 3:3,9)
  4. What question does Paul ask in verse 2? Why is it interesting? (vv 3-6)
  5. What is Paul’s point about Abraham? (Hint:  Genesis 15:1-6)
  6. Who is considered a child of Abraham? (v 7)
  7. What is the condition of faith that counts for Abraham and us? (vv 8-9)
  8. What is the curse of the law? (v 10; Deuteronomy 27:26, 28:58-59, 30:10)
  9. Was Christ cursed of God? Why? (Deuteronomy 21:23)
  10. Why were the Galatians blessed? (v 14)
  11. What is Paul trying to say about the covenant with Abraham? (v 15)
  12. What is the difference between inheritance by law and inheritance by promise? (vv 18-22)
  13. What is Paul’s point about guardians and law? (vv 23-26)
  14. What is the effect of baptism? (vv 27-29)

 

Galatians 3: Law and Gospel

Also see:

Galatians 4: Slave and Free 

Galatians 2: Jews and Gentiles 

Christian Spirituality 

Looking Back 

Other ways to engage online:

Author site: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Publisher site: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.

Newsletter at: http://bit.ly/2zRkNMJ

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