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 (Gal 3:28 ESV).
Are you led by the spirit?
One of the most striking things about the Apostle Paul is that he was led by the Holy Spirit. Paul writes: I went up [to Jerusalem] because of a revelation (v 2). In Acts 16:7-9, 14, we read that Paul was forbidden by the spirit to enter Bithynia and later had a vision of a man of Macedonia bidding him to come. Following this vision, Paul entered Macedonia where he met a woman named Lydia in Philippi—an unlikely place to start a church because it was a Roman city. Yet, the Philippian church was not only established, it became one of Paul’s strongest supporters.
Council of Jerusalem
Why would the spirit lead Paul to Jerusalem and into open controversy even with Peter over the relationship between Jews and Gentiles?
Paul’s ministry was on the line. He writes: set before them (though privately before those who seemed influential) the gospel that I proclaim among the Gentiles, in order to make sure I was not running or had not run in vain (v 2). Paul was teaching that salvation was available to anyone—Greek or Hebrew—through Jesus Christ and through Jesus Christ alone (v 4). Others were teaching that one needed to become a Jew and obey the law of Moses in order to become a Christian (v 16).
After Paul shared his teaching with church leaders in Jerusalem, it was resolved that Paul and Peter taught the same Gospel. However, Paul’s ministry focused on Gentiles while Peter’s focused on Jews (vv 7-9). Paul was reminded, however, that he needed to remember the poor—which he was happy to do (v 10).
The Jerusalem discussions did not, however, settle the problem. Peter and others, such as Barnabas, were pressured to adhere to Jewish dietary regulations (vv 12-13). The pressure must have been great because Peter himself was one of the first to argue for evangelization of Gentiles and he personally witnessed a Gentile Pentecost in Jappa (Acts 11:1-18). For this reason, Paul felt compelled to confront Peter openly during a visit to Antioch about his backsliding on the question of eating with Gentile converts (vv 11-14).
What was the heart of Paul’s concern? Our salvation is through faith in Jesus Christ, not through obeying the law of Moses (v 16). Our faith is in Jesus alone; our faith is not in Jesus plus other things.
While the Holy Spirit may lead us into different ministries and we must all care for the poor, Christian unity lies in Christ alone.
How was your week? Did anything special happen?
Do you have questions from chapter 1?
What was the subject of Paul’s visit to Jerusalem? Who did he take along? (vv 1-2)
Was Paul anxious? About what? (v 2)
What is the role of revelation in verse 2?
What was Titus’ role? (v 3)
Who are the false brothers? What is Christian freedom? What is the slavery Paul is referring to? (v 4)
What is the outcome? Who benefitted? (v 5)
Who are the influential? (vv 7-9)
What was the agreement that came out of the Jerusalem meeting? What key points were made? (vv 7-10)
What is the role of charity? Was charity a requirement? (v 10)
Did the Jerusalem agreement stick? Why not? (vv 11-13)
How did Paul respond? (v 14) Why was this response appropriate or not?
How did Paul justify his response? (vv 15-16)
What is Paul’s point about sin? (v 17)
How are we justified before God? How are we not justified? (vv 17-21)
What more was there to do for my vineyard, that I have not done in it? When I looked for it to yield grapes, why did it yield wild grapes? … For the vineyard of the LORD of hosts is the house of Israel (Isa 5:4-7 ESV).
The metaphor of the vine and the branches is simple, yet disturbing.
At one point when I was working as a chaplain intern in a psyche ward, I overheard a young woman pleading over the phone with her parents to be transferred to another hospital. The reason? She had been given a New Testament and had read all the way to chapter 15 of John’s Gospel. Reading about the vine and the branches she had interpreted the metaphor to mean that, because she had had no children (no fruit in her mind), she stood under God’s judgment. So, she wanted to be transferred to another hospital!
While most of us probably have not understood the metaphor of the vine and the branches quite the same way as this young patient, yet the metaphor is a challenging description of a life of discipleship. For example, verse 6 speaks to the exclusively of Christ in salvation and judgment: If anyone does not abide in me he is thrown away like a branch and withers; and the branches are gathered, thrown into the fire, and burned (v 6). Neither notion is popular today. Yet even verse 2 is enough to generate serious controversy: Every branch in me that does not bear fruit he takes away, and every branch that does bear fruit he prunes, that it may bear more fruit (v 2). Branches bearing no fruit get taken away; branches bearing fruit get pruned!
Most discussions of this metaphor of the vine and the branches seem to skip both verses and head immediately for verse 7: If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you (v 7). We all love to ask for things! Yet, verse 8 makes it clear that it is the fruit that we bear that makes us Christ’s disciples. Looking back at verse 7, we note that the sentence is conditional–if you abide in me and my words. The Greek word for abide means stay or remain. Bearing fruit is evidence that you abide in Christ. The key to answered prayer is to abide in Christ and bear fruit, as repeated in verse 16.
The love commandment in verse 12 may also disturb a careful reader. The measure of love is found in verse 13: Greater love has no one than this, that someone lay down his life for his friends (v 13). Jesus did just that–he died on the cross; Jesus is our model. This implies that a life of discipleship requires sacrifice, maybe even death. This implication is underscored in verse 14 when Jesus says: You are my friends if you do what I command you (v 14). Jesus kept the Father’s commands; we are to keep his. It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the love commandment embodies not just warm fuzzy feelings on sunny days but also obedience to the entire witness of scripture–especially the law.
Disturbing also is John’s discussion of the world. Jesus says: If the world hates you, know that it has hated me before it hated you (v 18). The life of Christ’s disciple is to be modeled after Christ–the good, the bad, and the ugly.
The good news is that we are promised the Spirit of Truth, the Helper–the Holy Spirit–who will bear witness to Christ (vv 28-29).
What is the metaphor used in verses 1 and 2?What are the different parts in the metaphor? What does it say to you? (Also see Isaiah 5:4-7)
Verse 3 uses the words clean. Why? (Hint: prune and clean are the same word in Greek)
What does the word, abide, mean in verses 4-7?What does it mean to you?
How does Jesus extend the metaphor introduced in verses 1-2 in verses 4-7?
How is God glorified? (v 8) What does glorified mean?
What does it mean to abide in Christ’s love? (vv 9-10)
What is Jesus’ commandment? What is its measure? (vv 10-14,17)
What is the difference between a servant (δούλους) and a friend? (v 15)
What view of election do you get in verses 16 and 27?
¿Qué más se podría hacer por mi viña que yo no lo haya hecho? Yo esperaba que diera buenas uvas; ¿por qué dio uvas agrias? … La viña del Senor Todopoderoso es el pueblo de Israel (Isaias 5:4-7 NVI).
La metáfora de la vid y las ramas es simple, pero inquietante.
En un momento , cuando estaba trabajando como pasante de capellán en una sala psique, escuché a una joven suplicando por teléfono con sus padres para ser transferidos a otro hospital. ¿La razón? Le habían dado un Nuevo Testamento, y había leído todo el camino hasta el capítulo 15 del Evangelio de Juan. Leer sobre la vid y las ramas que había interpretado la metáfora en el sentido de que, debido a que ella no había tenido hijos ( no hay fruta en su mente ), se situó bajo el juicio de Dios. Por lo tanto, quería ser trasladado a otro hospital!
Mientras que la mayoría de nosotros probablemente no han entendido la metáfora de la vid y las ramas de la misma manera que un paciente joven, sin embargo, la metáfora es una descripción reto de una vida de discipulado. Por ejemplo, el versículo 6 habla de la exclusiva de Cristo en la salvación y el juicio: El que no permanece en mí es desechado y se seca, como las ramas que se recogen, se arrojan al fuego y se queman (v 6). Ninguna idea es muy popular hoy. Sin embargo, incluso el versículo 2 es suficiente para generar controversia seria: Toda rama que en mí no da fruto, la corta; pero toda rama que da fruto la poda para que dé más fruto todavía (v 2). Las ramas que no llevan fruto consiguen quitados; las ramas que llevan fruto conseguir podado!
La mayoría de las discusiones de esta metáfora de la vid y las ramas parecen saltar ambos versículos y la cabeza de inmediato para el verso 7: Si permanecen en mí y mis palabras permanecen en ustedes, pidan lo que quieran, y se les concederá (v 7). A todos nos gusta pedir cosas ! Sin embargo, el verso 8 deja en claro que es el fruto que tenemos que nos hace discípulos de Cristo. Mirando hacia atrás en el versículo 7, se observa que la sentencia es condicional – Si permanecen en mí y mis palabras permanecen. La palabra griega para cumplir significa quedarse o permanecer. Fruto es la evidencia de que permanecéis en Cristo. La clave de la respuesta a la oración es permanecer en Cristo y dar fruto, ya que repite en el versículo 16.
Inquietante tambien por un lector atento es el mandamiento del amor en el versículo 12. La medida del amor se encuentra en el versículo 13: Nadie tiene amor más grande que el dar la vida por sus amigos (v 13). Jesús hizo exactamente eso – él murió en la cruz, Jesús es nuestro modelo. Esto implica que una vida de discipulado requiere sacrificio, tal vez incluso la muerte. Esta implicación se subrayó en el versículo 14, cuando Jesús dice: Ustedes son mis amigos si hacen lo que yo les mando (v 14). Jesús guardó los mandamientos del Padre, hemos de mantener el suyo. Es difícil evitar la conclusión de que el mandamiento del amor no sólo encarna cálidos sentimientos difusos en los días soleados, sino también la obediencia a todo el testimonio de la Escritura – sobre todo la ley.
Inquietante también la discusión de Juan del mundo. Jesús dice: Si el mundo los aborrece, tengan presente que antes que a ustedes, me aborreció a mí (v 18). La vida del discípulo de Cristo ha de ser el modelo de Cristo – lo bueno, lo malo y lo feo.
La buena noticia es que se nos promete el Espíritu de la Verdad , el Consolador – el Espíritu Santo – que va a dar testimonio de Cristo (vv 28-29) .
Juan 15: La Vid y Las Ramas
Sitio del autor: http://www.StephenWHiemstra.net, Sitio del publicador: http://www.T2Pneuma.com.
The Capital Christian Writers club (www.CapitalChristianWriters.org) meets bi-monthly in Fairfax, VA. The September meeting focused on creating a blog. While I came to the meeting to network, I left the meeting convinced that blogging would simplify online ministry.
I also left experiencing a bit of fear.
Yes. I have had a website forever. Yes. I have different accounts—Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn—but I was clueless about how to use these accounts in ministry. I opened a Facebook account when I started seminary and was invited to join a group online. I opened a Twitter account just before the PCUSA’s General Assembly last year. I have no clue how or when I opened the LinkedIn account. The fear arose because I did not want to become famous online for reasons that only my kids would understand!
So I bought some books and started reading. First, I set up a free blog on WordPress.com. Second, I registered a web address to look a bit more sophisticated: T2Pneuma.net. This acronym is short for To Deuteron Pneuma or The Second Wind in English. Third, I matched my Twitter account address to the blog (@T2Pneuma). And, fourth, I also opened a matching Gmail email account: T2Pneuma@gmail.com. The basic idea is to create a simple online identity that can serve as a personal, brand image in cyberspace.
A blog offers several advantages over a website. The first advantage is that it is requires no programming and automates most features. My website (www.StephenWHiemstra.net) is built from scratch in Microsoft Word and offers no bells and whistles. A second advantage is that a blog displays recent articles up front and that allows you to time when articles are posted. A third advantage is that the blog allows readers to subscribe (or following) to the blog and receive an automatic email when you update the blog. A final advantage is that blog keeps basic statistics on how many people visit the blog and which articles they read. (My website service also keeps such statistics, but they are kept on a separate website). Having traffic statistics is a big selling point with publishers.
WordPress.com also makes it easy to link with other social media. When I post an article to the blog, the blog can automatically generate a small blurb with a link and post it in my Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn accounts. Facebook speaks primarily to your family and close friends; Twitter speaks directly to the under thirty crowd on the cell-phone; LinkedIn speaks into your office crowd presenting an evangelism opportunity not usually open during business hours.
All these features offer hope that I can migrate my email mailing lists to the blog over the coming weeks.
So what is my writing project? My book is entitled: A Christian Guide to Spirituality. It consists of 50 apologetic devotionals focused on the Ten Commandments, the Lord’s Prayer, and the Apostle’s Creed. Learn more by visiting–T2Pneuma.net—and clicking on the menu title called: Guide. The book is currently under review and I am looking for a publisher.
To subscribe to my blog (www.T2Pneuma.net), pull it up in your browser. At the bottom right corner, you will see a button entitled: FOLLOW. Click it and enter your email address in the box. My blog will send an email to you at that address. Be sure to confirm that email when it arrives.