Wednesday, 24 June 2015

Gordon Fee argues against Torah Observance

"...the ultimate contrast in Galatians is not between "works" and "faith", but between life under Torah and life by the Spirit. Life under Torah means to come under the very curse from which Christ has set us free; moreover life under Torah does not lead to righteousness, either in terms of relationship with God or in terms of godly behaviour. Only the Spirit, who appropriates the righteousness secured through Christ's death and resurrection, can bring life and effect righteousness of the real kind. So having begun by the Spirit, the Galatians are urged to finish by the Spirit. And this, not only because here alone is the way of life in Christ, but also because here alone is God's own antidote to the life of the flesh. Christ's death provided both freedom from Torah observance and crucifixion with regard to the former way of life; the Spirit appropriates this freedom in such a way that the believer neither lives under the slavery of the law nor makes provision for the indulgence of the flesh. But to "finish" by ten Spirit means to walk by the Spirit; it means, in the final words of the argument, to sow to the Spirit by doing (lit. "working"!) what is good to all people, especially those of one's own family in Christ."

-- Fee, Gordon (2007). Pentecostal Commentary on Galatians. Pages 242-243.

Monday, 15 June 2015

Grace is not an irresistible force

"Grace is not an irresistible force, it is God's unmerited favour and what you choose to do with it, is entirely your own choice."
David Pawson, Unlocking the Bible

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Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Clive Wearing: A Communion Message

In November, I was rostered for Communion duty for the first time.  This was the Homily I gave:

Welcome, this is now the time where we share communion, and if you are visiting our church, then please feel free to join in or to pass the elements on, whatever you feel most comfortable doing.  If you have your bibles with you let’s turn to 1 Corinthians 11:24-25.

Jesus says “Do this in remembrance of me.”   A few moments later he stresses the importance of this thought by repeating it: “Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me.”

You may have had this passage brought to your attention many times. Today I’d like you to focus on these words in particular:   “In remembrance of me…”

Or to put it into less formal words, Jesus is saying “Remember me.”

I’d like to introduce you to Clive Wearing. Clive was an acclaimed musicologist, conductor, tenor and keyboardist.  By the time he was 47, he was at the height of his powers, an acknowledged expert in 14th Century to 18th Century European music and he was in charge of music for BBC Radio 3.   But in that year, his brain was attacked by a virus and now it cannot form new memories.  

He can only remember 30 seconds at a time. Every 30 seconds his brain reboots.  So every 30 seconds, he “wakes up” with no memory of the previous 30 seconds. As part of his therapy he was encouraged to keep a diary. You can see his entries next to his photograph. His entries repeatedly say, things like “I’m now awake,” or “I’m really awake”. But the previous entries are crossed out, because he has no memory of how they got there so he discounts them.

For Clive Wearing, with no memory, he is forever in the present, with no past and no way to plan a future.

And now we return to what Jesus said: “Remember me.” But in saying, “Remember me,” what memories is he referring to?

Let's read Jeremiah 29:11.

And unlike Brian Wearing, who without memories, can never make plans or have hope for the future, our memories of Jesus,  the sacrifice of his body for our sins, the shedding of His blood that cleanses us from sin, the memory of his interactions with him over the years, months, weeks, even in the last few hours or minutes, encourage us and give us hope for the future.  

But its possible that all this may seem very abstract and distant for you. Perhaps the idea of God talking to you or acting in your life and influencing your circumstances seems remote and far removed from your everyday experience,  then I encourage you to read on in this passage from Jeremiah: Jeremiah 29:12-14.

So you see, whether you are walking closely with God or if He seems remote and far away from you, Communion has something for us all.

And now we return to what Jesus said: “Remember me.”

May the servers come forward please

So let’s pray:

    “Blessed be you, O Lord our God, King of the Universe, who gives us the fruit of the vine, bread from the earth, and Jesus to be the true vine,

When we read Jesus’ words, “Remember me,” and as we eat this bread and wine, we remember,

we remember, His sacrifice for us  that redeemed us from our sins,

we remember, the things you have said, done and continue to do in our own lives,

we remember, the hope for the future that these memories bring,

we remember your invitation to seek you with all that we are,

and we remember, your promise that you will be found by us.

Thanks to my dear friend Anne Askey for the inspiration for this message.


Friday, 14 November 2014

Challah Crumbs: Great resource for teaching Torah to preteens

Here is an outstanding site with excellent material for primary school children and pre-teens.   Includes colouring pages, craft projects and comprehension questions.

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Torah studies for teens

I stumbled upon a website with studies and outlines that follow the Parasha reading system.   An inspection of the studies reveals that they are more suitable for children with a reading ability of age 13 years and above.

Written by Christians.

Here is another.

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Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?

J D G Dunn
Respected theologian James Dunn set out to answer the controversial question, "Did the First Christians worship Jesus?" His answer may surprise you:
So our central question can indeed be answered negatively, and perhaps it should be. But not if the result is a far less adequate worship of God. For the worship that really constitutes Christianity and forms its distinctive contribution to the dialogue of the religions, is the worship of God as enabled by Jesus, the worship of God as revealed in and through Jesus. Christianity remains a monotheistic faith. The only one to be worshipped is the one God. But how can Christians fail to honour the one through whom it believes the only God has most fully revealed himself, the one through whom the only God has come closest to the condition of humankind? Jesus cannot fail to feature in their worship, their hymns of praise, their petitions to God. But such worship is always, should always be offered to the glory of God the Father. Such worship is always, should always be offered in the recognition that God is all in all, and that the majesty of the Lord Jesus in the end of the day expresses and affirms the majesty of the one God more clearly than anything else in the world.

Dunn, J. D. G. (2010). Did the First Christians Worship Jesus?: The New Testament Evidence (p. 151). London; Louisville, KY: Society for Promoting Christian Knowledge; Westminster John Knox Press.

James D. G. "Jimmy" Dunn (born 1939) is a British New Testament scholar who was for many years the Lightfoot Professor of Divinity in the Department of Theology at the University of Durham, now Emeritus Lightfoot Professor.  Dunn has an MA and BD from the University of Glasgow and a PhD and DD from the University of Cambridge. For 2002, Dunn was the President of the Studiorum Novi Testamenti Societas, an international body for New Testament study. Only three other British scholars had been made President of the body in the preceding 25 years. In 2006 he became a Fellow of the British Academy.  In 2005 a festschrift was published dedicated to Dunn, comprising articles by 27 New Testament scholars, examining early Christian communities and their beliefs about the Holy Spirit.


Monday, 10 November 2014

Dwight Pryor: Unity Not Uniformity

Finally, Supersessionism suffers from what I would call an unfortunate reductionism in the distinction between Jew and Gentile.  This is based mostly on a misapplication of a passage from Paul's letter to the Church in Galatia.
Paul states tha tin Messiah there is "neither Jew nor Greek, male nor female, free or slave" (Galatians 3:28).  This statement was written in a polemical setting and a particular context, in which some were arguing that Gentiles who have faith in the Messiah are not in fact part of covenant Israel:  and to become part of the covenant people they must become proselytes to Judaism, i.e., be circumcised.  The Apostle Paul counters:  To the contrary, because of what God has accomplished in Messiah, in fact believing Gentiles are co-heirs, fellow sharers, and part of Isrel's commonwealth.  They are in full covenant standing.
When you take this text to say that Messiah has abolished all distinction between Jew and Gentile you are violating the witness of Scripture.  Paul continues to make this distinction in his letters -- because the distinction between Jews and Gentile was established by God Himself.

Moses states it poetically:  When God allotted the portions of the earth to the sons of Adam, He did so in rleationship to the sons of Israel, (Deuteronomy 32:8).  Through Abraham God intended a mutuality of blessing between Jew and Gentile.  For there to be a blessing, there must be distinction, an 'other' that is to be blessed.

The point is that from Paul's perspective the division between Jew and Gentile has been removed in Messiah -- the divisiveness -- but not the distinction.  That will continue not only in the Church, but even unto the final fulfillment of Scripture.  When we come to the consummation of all things, Revelation records that in the New Jerusalem the gates will be named after the Tribes of Israel,  and to Jerusalem will come the kings of the Gentiles, bearing their gifts, their glory (Revelations 21:12, 24).
God intended from the beginning for the nations to find their blessing through His covenant people Israel.   Of course Jesus fulfills that promise in large measure. But fulfilment is more than a discharge of duty; it is filling-full of a relationship. In such a 'filling-full' can occur again.  Even his Jesus fulfilled the commandment to love God and love your neighbour, so we too must the phone. Everytime engage in loving and kind it is one to another we are fulfilling the Torah.

When therefore we reduce or abolish the God-given distinction between Jew and Gentile, between Israel and the nations, we engage in a kind of forced uniformity, whereas the Bible speaks of unity.

There is a difference between unity and uniformity. In Galatia there were those (whomever they were) saying that the only way Gentiles could become part of the covenant people was to become Jews, i.e., be circumcised. Ironically the church went to the opposite extreme, claiming that the only way Jews could become part of the new covenant people (the Church) was to cease being a Jew and in effect becoming a Gentile. Jewishness no longer had a relevance; in fact it was an obstacle to true faith.

The problem we face is twofold: as Protestants, invariably our faith t and ends to be individualistically focused and other-worldly oriented. The Hebraic point of view by contrast tends to speak of corporate faithfulness, with a this-world orientation.

As I sat at the same time ago, questions are keenly interested in "going up" -- in getting people up and out of this world. People often ask me when the rapture is going to occur. My response was: "I don't know. But this I know: While you are so concerned about going up, God is passionate about coming down!"

Look at this from right to left from the beginning, in Genesis, to the end, in Revelation, God is coming down. And at the end, the New Jerusalem, is it going up? No, it is coming down. God is perenially in pursuit of a people.  According to the apostle Paul, we Gentiles have experienced the mercies of God in order that we could be joined to that people and and His covenant story in the earth.  And that story from beginning to end involves Israel.

When all things are said and done, in the final consummating act of God's creation, the chief player will not be the church, nor will it be the nations. It will be Israel.  Through Israel, God says, "I will show myself wholly to the nations" (Ezekiel 36:23). And together the nations shall stream up to Jerusalem -- for blessing, fellowship and the fullness of worship of God who will take up permanent habitation in Zion.

When the Son of Man comes, he returns not to London, impressive as it is, nor to New York. He returns to Jerusalem.  To there the nations will go up. There the fullness of God's intended mutuality of blessing Jew and Gentile will be consummated. For too long the Church has tried to expropriate the blessings to itself apart from Israel.

Sometimes Israel itself, as Abraham Heschel said, is a messenger who has forgotten the message. I'm not speaking today about the spiritual state of a particular Jew. Nor am I speaking about the merits of the current administration of the State of Israel. I'm talking about God -- the God who has a purpose for a covenant people, and who in His sovereign will and freedom of choice elected to identify His name forever with the Jewish people.

We who worship the living and true God, we who have been brought near to him through Messiah's sacrifice, surely we must never suggest that God has rejected the Jews, replaced Israel or revoked the Torah. As Paul insists, "God forbid!"
Source: Pryor, D (7 February 2007). A different God? An edited and amended transcript of a lecture given at Salters Hall London. Pages 14-17.

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