Sunday, December 7, 2014

What is the Kingdom of God - beginning from Acts 1:6

What is the Kingdom of God?

This is one of the most important questions a Christian needs to come to grips with in his study of the word of God. It’s something in the main not grappled with by preachers in the Australian scene. Sydney preachers tend to focus on “the gospel” the good news of Jesus, but then fail to notice that the good news was in the context of the preaching of the KOG. For example, john the Baptist led the way with this message and so did Jesus after him.

Sadly some think the unifying theme of the Bible is salvation history. Yet the Kingdom of God is the one theme that can be said to cover revelation from Genesis to Revelation.

To grapple with this notion and indeed grapple is the operative word, one needs to deal with Acts 1:6.

One cannot pass over it as many preachers do even though sadly they claim to study and preach the word in context yet to considering context is actually something they are selective about. Other don’t ignore it but dismiss it by saying that the disciples were wrong in asking this question. But again though claiming to read the passage in context, one asks where in the passage it is dismissed as a wrong expectation?

Jesus was never short in correcting the disciples wrongly held ideas. Indeed over and over again on the Gospels he does just that with their concept of the Messiah. Mark 8:31-32 for example. He also did it with the religious leaders, and the Scribes and Pharisees by saying they had great zeal but were ignorant. “you do not know the Scriptures or the power of God.” Matt 22:9. Or when they went by their traditions instead of the Scriptures,  Matt 15:3. He confronted peoples wrong motives for following him Matt 8:18-22.  He corrects the Samaritan error with “Salvation is from the Jews”.

So what are we to make of Acts 1:6? Hermann Ridderbos and Bruce K. Waltke with conviction state that there is no future for Israel. indeed Waltke announces that there’s no clear passage of Scripture that teaches the restoration of national Israel. However this is exactly what the disciples question in Acts 1:6 claims.

It is truly amazing that someone of Calvin’s stature attributes their question to blindness.  However one must again ask “where in Acts 1 does Jesus say their question was wrong? Indeed all one can say is that Jesus said it was not for them to know the times or epochs which the Father has fixed by his own authority. Acts 1:7

The context of the disciples Question:

Acts 1 begins with the disciples spending 40 days in in-depth teaching with Jesus about the KOG. It is immediately after this that they ask Jesus the question regarding the KOG and Israel. 1:3. More importantly they ask their question after he’s told them to remain in Jerusalem until they are baptized with the Holy Spirit. 1:4-5. [ Further investigation required here - for this, the coming of the Holy Spirit, seems to raise the issue about the restoration of Israel. Certainly the book of Leviticus with its cycle of feasts is relevant here, thus The Passover with the sacrifice for sin, yet the feast of Pentecost infers the Holy spirit will be given to unite the people of Israel. Perhaps also ? are the passages in Jeremiah 24:7; 31:30-34, and Ezek 36 when Israel with receive a heart of flesh and the Holy Spirit is given where no man will need to teach his brother but all will know the truth … ] Still even without settling this issue for the moment, we can see the broader context is their having just been taught by Jesus regarding the KOG.

What then they ask is about whether Jesus is going to restore again the Kingdom to Israel. we need to take careful note of what they meant. Restore again implies there was a time when Israel was a kingdom. It’s not referring to “the spiritual reign of kingdom in people’s hearts” but their national physical kingdom of David and Solomon. Cf 2 Sa 7:16 and Psalm 89:3-4.

Jesus’ answer is pertinent. It’s “not for you to know the times and epochs the father has set.” Here many ignore again the words ”has set” which gives affirmation to God’s plan being carried out no matter what and no matter what the appearances suggest. Rather Jesus suggests that what is for them is the plan suggested in Acts 1:8 which is what we find filled out in the rest of the book of Acts. That commission is their agenda. On no plain reading can the words “it’s not for you to know” be understood as a rejection of the idea of a restoration of national Israel.

So here we have a big challenge for the preacher. To deal faithfully with what God says in His Word. To not pass over it or introduce assumptions that the text does not make and which go against the actual plain reading of the text in context.
You might say “But that unravels my understanding of the Kingdom of God as the spiritual reign of the Lord Jesus in people’s hearts.” Well then friend, go back to the Scriptures and investigate afresh the notion of the Kingdom of God.

In Christ

Monday, October 6, 2014

Krakauer on how Chris McCandless died: Into the wild

John Krakauer, author of Into the Wild has written a piece on the New Yorker in which he again investigates how Chris McCandless died.
It makes a case for ODAP poisoning leading to starvation. Yet what is required for the effectiveness of ODAP poisoning is that one be severely suffering from malnutrition, stress and acute hunger. In the end it makes for a tragic story of a self centred life.


Saturday, October 4, 2014

Exegetical analysis on Paul's conversion in Acts 9

In preparation for preaching on Acts 9. Saul's conversion I was struck by Paul's response to being blinded and hearing the voice of Jesus.
The first point is that Saul calls him Lord. Have you ever wondered why? Some might think is it the nature of the encounter that convinced him, yet our text hints that it is more. It starts with the voice calling Saul Saul. Why the repetition? Saul was blinded, he wasn't made deaf!
Being a Pharisee Saul knew his Scriptures. He knew how God had called to Abraham who was about to sacrifice his son. Genesis 22:11  Then in Genesis 46:2 God called to Jacob, it's "Jacob, Jacob. - don't be afraid to go down to Egypt" Again in Exodus 3:3 when God calls to Moses from the burning bush .. it's "Moses, Moses." He knew how also when God called to Samuel in 1 Sam 3 it's the repetition of the name again. "Samuel Samuel". [ This pointed calling is also significant in Jesus' words to Martha Martha in Luke 10:38-42 ] Scripture tells us that this repetition was common in the way God called to people for whom He had a significant part for them to play in His Plan. I am not detracting at all from God's self authenticating  authority by pointing this out, merely to say When God himself revealed himself to people in the Old Testament this characterised the encounter.

A second thing that strikes me as unusual is that Saul on having his blindness removed, in the next verse, vs 18, then he arose and even before he'd eaten he gets baptised. Context shows us that this is not Baptism in the Spirit, and anyway such Spirit Baptism would not require one to get up and be baptised before eating! That being the case it is water baptism being spoken of here. What is unusual about this is that baptism was only required of gentiles who wanted to come into the covenant fold of Israel and Worship the God of Israel. They needed cleansing but the Jews did not consider that they themselves needed it. That's why when John the Baptist came preaching and baptising it was confronting to Israel.
We read nothing in our text in chapter 9 that stands out as the reason for Saul to be baptised.
Yet there is a reason when one again considers context. When one remembers that Saul was at Stephen's stoning as recorded in Acts 7 things take on a different perspective.  The witnesses laid their garments at the feet of  young Saul as we are told in Acts 7:58. As John MacArthur says, the fact that the witnesses laid their garments at the feet of Saul, [ following Levitical law ] highly suggests Saul was at the forefront of the proceedings.
Now what had enraged the religious leaders was Stephen's declaration that he saw the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God 7:56. But almost passed over here in Stephen's speech is verse 51. where he calls them a stiff necked people, uncircumcised in hearts and ears. that is - just like gentiles and what follows is that if they are just like gentiles [ the uncircumcised ] they the Sanhedrin, are in need of cleansing! And this is just what Saul himself had been like!
Paul's Proclamation:

The last "anomaly" in our text, something that confronts us, is found in verse 20 The first recorded proclamation of Jesus to the Jews is to declare Him the Son of God. We know from reading and studying the Pauline letters a bit about Paul, and what figures as central in his teaching is the Messiah, the Christ. But that's not the first word on his lips, something we would have thought would be given his Jewish hearers. Here is something in need of deeper research. Indeed the Son is intimately tied up with the Messiah in Paul's writings, not merely as the same person but in conceptual terms. Now besides being intelligible to the Jews who saw Moses as a son, Israel as a son, angels as sons, more importantly given Nathans oracle in 2 Sam 7:14 God himself would adopt David's Royal descendants as heirs, "his house" of 2 Sam 7:11. Then it has been found that certain circles of the Qumran fellowship link the Davidic Messiah as Son of God. Scripturally, Paul's emphasis in Romans 1:3-4, Heb 1:5, 5:5 are focusing more on enthronement than birth ... see again the specifics of Acts 13:33 concerning this aspect.
In this regard also one cannot again bypass Acts 7 with Stephen's speech where he accuses the religious leaders of slaying the righteous one, who Stephen's declares he now sees standing at the right hand of God, a declaration that enrages the Sanhedrin who take him out of the city and stone him.

This isn't to say the Son does not signify the one of unique standing and intimate favour in God's Work. It is to suggest that enthronement, Jesus as God, is the focus here.

Some of the gems of Acts 9

In Christ

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Hermeneutics and Ricoeur - one avenue worth investigating

Ricoeur's teachings on hermeneutics has found a wide reading in the field of hermeneutics, and also specifically in the arena of biblical Hermeneutics. Yet I think one can see parallels between Ricoeur's and that of Schleiermacher's, whose concept of God drove his hermeneutics.

As J I Packer noted about Schleiermacher in 'Scripture and Truth' ed Carson and Woodbridge pg 336.
Schleiermacher's God stirs our feelings but does not tell us things. Schleiermacher conceptualized the impact of biblical and later Christian language on the model of ritual incantation that casts an emotional spell rather than of person-to-person communication that informs. He read Scripture, dogma, and theology as religious feeling evocatively verbalized, just as his English contemporary and fellow romantic William Wordsworth. .. As a romantic valuing sensitivity of response to actual and potential experiences above all, and committed to vindicate religious awareness as part of the good life, Schleiermacher the theologian naturally drew his hermeneutical model from the world of art and aesthetics, and equally naturally turned his back on models from the worlds of philosophy and law, where the conveying of public facts, arguments, and lines of thought is the essence of the communicative process.... The biblical material is not at any point or in any respect the relaying of divinely uttered instruction, even when its writers think and claim the contrary.

What is important about the above statement is that if one has a "God" who only stirs our feeling and does not tell us things then our Hermeneutics is set to follow a certain course. It tells us that God does not speak, He does not call anyone to Covenantal faithfulness because there is no cognitive communication to mankind. it is purely emotion that stirs the feelings.  Thus there is no point in seeking the meaning of the text for the author of scripture does not tell us things or give us facts. It evacuates the text of the personhood of God and the nature of man's personhood. Just as one can eat chili and experience a pleasant stimulation of the taste buds, so another gets indigestion.

Now a similar evacuation of the meaningful communication of God to man happens in Ricoeur's schema.
As you read Ricoeur you see central to his hermeneutical method is that of poetic language. This he believes overcomes the problem that arose with Kant where Kant split the Noumena and Phenomenal, and relegated God to the Noumena. the problem with that was that the Noumena was unknowable, making God unknowlable. however, by suggesting that religious language is poetic, made up of metaphor and symbol, Ricoeur believes he has given a bridge from the noumenal to the phenomenal realm.
Yet truth on his approach escapes us just like it did with Schleiermacher. We are left with paradox. The nature of poetry is that it likewise does not give us facts about things. On his approach don't we presume that the resurrection of Jesus wasn't an historical reality but just a metaphor or symbol to garner feelings in our being?

Apart from the philosophical and theological issues we also have the problem of whether Ricoeur's theory comports with Scripture itself.
After all, what does one do with poetry itself and it appears as a definite genre in Scripture. The Psalms in places reflect poetry which is clearly different to the genre of historical narrative, or gospel commands and exhortations.
In the end doesn't Ricoeur's focus and emphasis that religious language is symbol and metaphor mean that truth has escaped us.
This is not to say Schleiermacher was all wrong. he drew our attention to the empathy etc of the writers and our situation [ see Packer pg 336 ] perhaps then Ricoeour has some positive things to say.
Still if what I outline above is correct then his approach is misguided.

In Christ

Saturday, September 20, 2014

Preaching Noah from Genesis 9vs1-17 Exegesis and Application

When we come to Genesis 9 verses 1-17 what we immediately ask is what is the point of this passage and how we would preach it?
For many, the text is simply Noah and his family get a "fresh start" with God "recreating" after the destruction of the flood with the Lord God forming a new Covenant with them. It's almost like a rerun of Genesis 1 & 2.
Yet is it?
Even though there are parallels between Genesis 9 and Gen 1 & 2, still there is more at play here.

After the destruction of the world by the flood God does again direct man as to his role on the earth "be fruitful and multiply" and as we read this is again mentioned in verse 7. Here one needs to ask "why the repetition?"
Is it merely an emphasis on the new beginning?
I don't believe so. Just look closely at the literary flow of the text.
After the command to be fruitful and multiply in verse 1, God indicates that unlike in the garden Gen 1-2, the animals will now fear mankind, vs 2.
Secondly, now everything is edible, not merely the green plants, vs 3. And given that, one must make sure the animal is dead, that there is no life blood, before eating. vs 4.
Also importantly, if a person is killed by another man or animal they will be held accountable. vs 5-6. Indeed whoever sheds the blood of man [ death  ] will forfeit his life! After this our text repeats the command to be fruitful and multiply! Why?
I'd suggest it is telling you that even though sin will continue, man is to be fruitful and multiply.
After the massive judgment upon mankind because of man's sin, even after that, with a new beginning the sin problem remains. One may have been tempted to give up. In the face of the affirmation that man will still commit evil, that he will still kill his fellow man, man is still called upon to covenantal obedience and be fruitful and multiply.
So we need to ask, What will God do?
Well, the following verses tell us that he will not ever again flood the earth and destroy everything. and he confirms this promise by the sign of a rainbow.
[ as an aside here we note for those who suggest that the flood was local in extent doesn't gel with the text because it makes God to a liar since there have been destructive local floods with great loss of life since then. ]
So how do we go about seeing the application here?
The first is to see God keeps his promises. After the fall Genesis 3, God gave a promise to defeat Satan through His seed. Gen 3:15. The promised one, won't eventuate if all mankind is destroyed. so even though Man does his utmost to destroy each other and break relationship with God, to reject Him, and in all this satan works to stop the coming seed, despite all this God works to fulfil his promise! that encourages you doesn't it? From the beginning God allows nothing to thwart his gracious promises, so that we see Jesus crucified for our sin, for all mankind's sin and resurrected. That God keeps his promises should make us delight in the promise of His return.
A second application here has to do with man created in the image of God. That makes him special so that even though we see in the flood the Sovereign judgment of God, still He will persevere with man, until Jesus, the perfect image of God. it's not an ogre God, a judgmental God but one who also shows great patience and Grace.
Third, one cannot ignore that the commands to be fruitful and multiply is a demand of obedience so that with relationship comes responsibility.

In Christ,

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Hermeneutics sermon series #1

What I would do perhaps???
1.       Define hermeneutics – simply, it is how a persons reads and interprets the bible, something you already do. the question is how well!

      Technically it is the science and art of interpretation of texts. When it comes to the Bible it is the method in which we approach the Bible to interpret it and then apply it. James I Packer rightly points out the indispensable role of the Holy Spirit in this endeavour as it is He who illuminates the Bible for us. Yet there re are also principles we use in discovering the meaning of the text. namely we pay attention to the grammatical and the historical context of when it was written and also the historical meaning of the words used. Since the reformation this was called the grammatical historical hermeneutical method.

So why is this so important – such a big word? you might recoil at the word and such a technical definition as above.

Some might respond - "I prefer to just drift along", "I like to  keep things simple" "I want to just feel good" Yet we learn big words in our culture because they are significant to us. Eg "warranty." Our New car goes bust and I quickly appeal to warranty and read the complicated fine print.
2.       Why is the way to interpret scripture so important?
Because we want to make sure that we are going in the right direction concerning life and good works, 2 Tim 3:16-17 and not getting distracted from good works into second best or second rate or bad works! God has given us his revealed Word – don’t we need to hear what he says? And if so we need to hear it right – nothing worse than a spouse not interpreting what you say right – then all the more with listening to God.
And it’s important because God tells us here 2 Tim 3 that there are deceivers around – elsewhere we are told there are those who twist scripture to their own destruction and lead others astray. This no small matter.
3.       So first thing to understand is All Scripture is God – breathed2 Timothy 3:16-17. The very first point here is that God has spoken, even that He continues to speak in Scripture Hebrews 3:7 and the word is present tense. This is so important because there have been those who over the centuries have taught that God doesn't speak through His Word the Bible, and that there's an immense gulf [ Lessing's Ditch ] between the culture of the times of the Bible and today and we cannot understand the meaning of the text anyway. But this is nonsense.
      Secondly, God used people sure, but He used them with their cultural background and their experiences to say exactly what He wanted said. Explain "all Scripture = all writings", specifically the Old Testament, yet Peter 2 Peter 3:15-15, treats Paul's writings as Scripture and ...
So How am I to hear God? To listen, to Read His Word to us, the Scriptures. In Context.

      Perhaps I might also speak about Authority. The Authority of God and His Word in relation to Hermeneutics because we are tempted to follow and listen to other man centred and man made Authorities.

Your brother in Christ,

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Why John Dickson's argument in Hearing Her Voice fails

Over at Lionel Windor's blog you can read an article by Andrew Heard critiquing John Dickson's argument in Hearing Her Voice.

I must say Andrew's argument is both well reasoned and thought provoking.
I would add to this that given John Dickson's argument hangs to a large extent on the meaning of didasko [ teach ] in 1 Tim 2:12, which Andrew points out that John wants to restrict to a technical sense of "passing on the oral traditions of the Apostles" in it's more narrow sense, which John wants to say means "deliver" or "pass on" then John's argument fails.
Why? Because Paul could more appropriately have used paradidomi [ deliver or pass on ] which when Paul used this in 1 Cor 11:23-24 has the very meaning that John wants it to have in 1 Timothy 2. This word is not rare in Paul's writings, he uses it at least 12 times in Romans and 1 Cor [ 6 each ]. So the very fact that Paul doesn't use the most appropriate Greek word to put his case [ as John
Dickson perceives it ] speaks volumes against Dickson's interpretation. It is part of hermeneutics that we take careful note of which words the author used and which ones he didn't when interpreting a passage, and that presents a powerful case against John's thesis. Certainly another possible alternative - rhuomi cannot be considered for for Paul's purpose in 1 Tim 2.
When you add to this how Paul uses teach [ didasko ] in 1 Timothy ( read both Claire Scott's articles, summarized by Lionel and Andrew's article to get the gist of this ) then his thesis is indeed weak and I'd say unacceptable.

But I would say this is not all to be said in critiquing it.
I would add as I've pointed out before, the scholarly support for his understanding of oral traditions doesn't say what he wants it to say, at least not in the case of Dunn 'Jesus Remembered'.
Secondly, and this follows on the tack of John's argument itself, that if we grant for the moment that teach in 1 Timothy 2 refers to passing on the oral traditions of the apostles, then Why does Paul go on to say in the same breath "nor have Authority." For if didasko meant what John wants it to mean nor have Authority is redundant since the apostolic oral tradition carries its own Authority.
Lastly, does this line of argument by Dickson mean that the "nebulous' oral traditions of the Apostles carry more Authority than the actual Scriptures before us? is that not a ludicrous idea?

In Christ