Monthly Archives: April 2005

Dealing with attacks

The leaders in Jerusalem killed Jesus with the support of the mob. You would think that the Apostles would be rather upset about this, and sometimes they show they were. But they also do something quite different:

And now, brothers, I know that you acted in ignorance, as did also your rulers.

Brothers, brothers, sometimes become zealous without knowledge. It happens. And those on the persecuted side start attributing all sorts of hardness to them. In the book of Acts we learn in the case of something much more essential than our own squabbles that some did prove themselves hardened in sin. But also many responded to the Apostolic preaching and to their willingness to treat their sin lightly, as a sin of ignorance, by becoming obedient to the faith.

How much more then should we think the best of those who we believe have misrepresented us in various battles of church politics?

People make mistakes and react in a zeal that is not according to knowledge. Happens all the time. How many times have I done it? I’m afraid to find out. Once the madness passes we need to simply reestablish fraternal relationships and get on with the ministry of the Gospel.

Hatches are for burial grounds.

The pattern of death, resurrection, ascension

OK, here’s a question for all the Bible scholars out there: First, look at this text preferably using the option of stripping out chapter and verse.

How would you describe the relationship between 1.19-23, 2.1-7, and 2.11-22?

We could say it simply describes teh death, resurrection, and ascension of Christ three times:


Or we could say the first is the description and the second two dependent interprestations like this:


But couldn’t we formulate it more specifically with the second giving equal time to Jew and Gentile, the last emphasizing Gentiles joining with Jews, and the first simply mentioning the Chuch without old covenant specificity?

DRA Xp/Church

Just wondering out loud.

(Notice two how 4.7-12 elaborates on 2.20 in context.)

Does the Faith include Paul’s Apostleship?

Here is Titus 1.1 in the ASV (precursor to the NASB):

Paul, a servant of God, and an apostle of Jesus Christ, according to the faith of God’s elect, and the knowledge of the truth which is according to godliness.

The ESV’s interpretation of this is quite commonplace

Paul, a servant of God and an apostle of Jesus Christ, for the sake of the faith of God’s elect and their knowledge of the truth, which accords with godliness,

But I wonder if this interpretation is the most likely. In Ephesians 1 we learn that Paul is called as an Apostle “through the will of God” and that God’s will here is his redemptive plan for the ages, the mystery fulfilled in Christ. As Ridderbos points out, the content of Paul’s Gospel is the announcement of the fulfillment of this mystery. So we have:

Paul, an apostle of Christ Jesus through the will of God… In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of our trespasses, according to the riches of his grace, which he lavished upon us, in all wisdom and insight making known to us the mystery of his will, according to his purpose, which he set forth in Christ as a plan for the fullness of time, to unite all things in him, things in heaven and things on earth. In him we have obtained an inheritance, having been predestined according to the purpose of him who works all things according to the counsel of his will

In Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians, we have the content of this Gospel recorded in what seems to be a standard formula. Notice what the content includes:

Now I would remind you, brothers, of the gospel I preached to you, which you received, in which you stand, and by which you are being saved, if you hold fast to the word I preached to you—unless you believed in vain.  For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve.  Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep.  Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles.  Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me.

Obviously, when Paul speaks of himself, he is hardly using public Church formulas. But it still seems clear that the Gospel includes some statements about how the Gospel is being faithfully transmitted under God’s direct care and according to his plan.

In which case, it seems to me perfectly possible that Paul would speak of “the faith of God’s elect” and “the knowledge of the truth,” as a charter that acknowledges his calling. After all, the knowledge of the truth is “according to godliness” which reminds us of the confession in First Timothy 3.16 which includes affirmations that Christ was

seen by angels [messengers],
proclaimed among the nations,
believed on in the world

At the store

So the other day I walk into Shop & Save and see an elderly frail gentleman pulling a grocery cart and simultaneously pushing a wheelchair with an elderly women wearing an oxygen tube under her nose–his wife, I assume. They weren’t making good time with him using only one hand for the wheelchair. I tried to help him by offering to take the cart but he declined.

I watched them drift out the door and a lady standing there commented how sad it was. “You never know when that will be you.” I said I wish he had let me help. He shouldn’t have to deal with things completely alone. “I’ll keep an eye on them while I’m out there and make sure they’re OK,” she assured me.

Later, at the checkout with ice cream and wine, the cashier joked that I was going to mix them and the guy after me in line chimed in. No, I said. One’s for the children and the other is our reward after the children go to bed. We bantered about the domestic R&R of getting couch time with a DVD and a bottle of wine after the children are down. Then, in a tone that was meant to be humorous, the man said, “You almost make me wish I wasn’t divorced.” I didn’t see that coming and had no idea how to respond. Didn’t seem funny.


It has been an exhausting weekend with two days spent travelling and lecturing and then another road trip yesterday with the family to do pulpit supply. I loved my time speaking, listening, and leading worship, but it adds up to a rather weary Monday. Next weekend will even be busier for me, and Jennifer will be on her own for the entire weekend.

Which is which?

Here are two quotations. One is from the Bible and the other is uninspired Jewish literature that was widely read in Second Temple Judaism. Can you tell which is which?

Wine is unrighteous, the king is unrighteous, women are unrighteous, all the sons of men are unrighteous, all their works are unrighteous, and all such things. There is no truth in them and in their unrighteousness they will perish.

Arise, O Lord, in your anger; lift yourself up against the fury of my enemies; awake for me; you have appointed a judgment. Let the assembly of the peoples be gathered about you; over it return on high. The Lord judges the peoples; judge me, O Lord, according to my righteousness and according to the integrity that is in me. Oh, let the evil of the wicked come to an end, and may you establish the righteous—you who test the minds and hearts, O righteous God! My shield is with God, who saves the upright in heart. God is a righteous judge, and a God who feels indignation every day. If a man does not repent, God will whet his sword; he has bent and readied his bow; he has prepared for him his deadly weapons, making his arrows fiery shafts. Behold, the wicked man conceives evil and is pregnant with mischief and gives birth to lies.  He makes a pit, digging it out, and falls into the hole that he has made.  His mischief returns upon his own head, and on his own skull his violence descends. I will give to the Lord the thanks due to his righteousness, and I will sing praise to the name of the Lord, the Most High.

Augustinianism, Pelagianism (Semi or not) and Works

One of the frustrating things about some writings within the so-called “New Perspective on Paul” is the mistake that justification by general good works can simply be equated with Pelagianism. The claim is made that Paul’s contemporaries were not Pelagians and, therefore, they were not guilty of “legalism” as Evangelicals understand it. What has been even more frustrating is to see Reformed Church historians allow this construction to stand.

The fact is that while it is easierfor Augustinianism to understand justification as being based on an extrinsic relationship and received by faith (and it is impossible for Pelagianism to conceive of such a thing), the fact remains that Augustine and many of his followers since have preached salvation by grace without understanding justification in this way. As Alister McGrath writes:

Luther’s understanding of “righteousness” as external to us led him to criticize Augustine, who understood the righteousness in question to be part of our being. Luther and Augustine agreed that the righteousness through which we are justified is given to us by God and not something which we ourselves can acquire–but they did not agree on the nature of that righteousness. For Augustine, justifying righteousness is an internal righteousness, something God works within us; for Luther, it is external, something God works outside us. And it is the development of this idea of an “external” or “alien righteousness” that led to the establishment of the characteristically Protestant idea of forensic justification.

Obviously, if one conceives of justification as an internal change that renders one acceptable to God, then the role of works will be far different from Luther’s view.

Following Calvin I think Augustine has much to teach us about grace, predestination, and pastoral wisdom in applying such truth. But, as far as the relationship between works and justification is concerned, Augustine was a heretic (note: in my vocabulary heretics can be saints. Augustine did not have the added centuries behind him that allowed us to understand justification better than he did). And if the Jews were all Augustinians rather than Pelagians, that doesn’t mean a thing as far as their having a soteriology that was acceptable to the Apostle Paul. The idea that we must reply to the rebuttal of Pelagianism by invoking the specter of semi-Pelagianism seems entirely beside the point to me, as far as vindicating Reformed Orthodoxy is concerned. If one has exegetical reasons for portraying the First-Century Jews in this way, well and good. But if the issue is simply why Paul might have had to oppose the Judaizers, there is another reason available. Augustinianism does not give us justification as an alien righteousness received by faith alone.