Faith Triumphs in Trouble
Results of Justification
6 For while we were still weak, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. 7 Indeed, rarely will anyone die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person someone might actually dare to die. 8 But God proves his love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. 9 Much more surely then, now that we have been justified by his blood, will we be saved through him from the wrath of God. 10 For if while we were enemies, we were reconciled to God through the death of his Son, much more surely, having been reconciled, will we be saved by his life. 11 But more than that, we even boast in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation.
Adam and Christ (Gen 3.1—19)12 Therefore, just as sin came into the world through one man, and death came through sin, and so death spread to all because all have sinned— … because all have sinned … If we could just remember this before we throw a stone or hang a sign of condemnation around the neck of another. Yes, this and that are sins, but Jesus told us to look to ourselves first. Who among us is without sin? Jesus told us that if we have no sin than we should throw the first stone, but if we too have sinned, than … 13 sin was indeed in the world before the law, but sin is not reckoned when there is no law. 14 Yet death exercised dominion from Adam to Moses, even over those whose sins were not like the transgression of Adam, who is a type of the one who was to come.
15 But the free gift is not like the trespass. For if the many died through the one man’s trespass, much more surely have the grace of God and the free gift in the grace of the one man, Jesus Christ, abounded for the many. 16 And the free gift is not like the effect of the one man’s sin. For the judgment following one trespass brought condemnation, but the free gift following many trespasses brings justification.
17 If, because of the one man’s trespass, death exercised dominion through that one, much more surely will those who receive the abundance of grace and the free gift of righteousness exercise dominion in life through the one man, Jesus Christ.
18 Therefore just as one man’s trespass led to condemnation for all, so one man’s act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all. 19 For just as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous. 20 But law came in, with the result that the trespass multiplied; but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more, 21 so that, just as sin exercised dominion in death, so grace might also exercise dominion through justification leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.
Dying and Rising with ChristRomans 6:1 What then are we to say? Should we continue in sin in order that grace may abound? 2 By no means! How can we who died to sin go on living in it? 3 Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death? 4 Therefore we have been buried with him by baptism into death, so that, just as Christ was raised from the dead by the glory of the Father, so we too might walk in newness of life.
What Paul was doing by this response was to show that justification is not the only image of salvation. It would be entirely mistaken to make the equation ‘salvation equals justification’. ‘Salvation’ is the comprehensive word, but it has many facets which are illustrated by different pictures, of which justification is only one. Redemption, as we have seen, is another, and bears witness to our radical deliverance from sin as well as guilt. Another is re-creation, so that ‘if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation’ (2 Cor. 5:17). Yet another is regeneration or new birth, which is the inward work of the Holy Spirit, who then remains as a gracious indwelling presence, transforming the believer into the image of Christ, which is the process of sanctification. All these belong together. Regeneration is not an aspect of justification, but both are aspects of salvation, and neither can take place without the other. Indeed, the great affirmation ‘he saved us’ is broken down into its component parts, which are ‘the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit’ on the one hand and being ‘justified by his grace’ on the other (Titus 3:5–7). The justifying work of the Son and the regenerating work of the Spirit cannot be separated. It is for this reason that good works of love follow justification and new birth as their necessary evidence. For salvation, which is never ‘by works’, is always ‘unto works’. Luther used to illustrate the correct order of events by reference to the tree and its fruit: ‘The tree must be first, and then the fruit. For the apples make not the tree, but the tree makes the apples. So faith first makes the person, who afterwards brings forth works.’ (Commentary on the Epistle to the Galatians)
Once we hold fast that the work of the Son for us and the work of the Spirit in us, that is to say, justification and regeneration, are inseparable twins, it is quite safe to go on insisting that justification is an external, legal declaration that the sinner has been put right with God, forgiven and reinstated. This is plain from the popular use of the word. As Leon Morris has pointed out, ‘when we speak of justifying an opinion or an action, we do not mean that we change or improve it. Rather we mean that we secure a verdict for it, we vindicate it’. (The Cross in The New Testament) Similarly, when Luke says that everybody, on hearing Jesus’ teaching, ‘justified God’, what he means is that they ‘acknowledged that God’s way was right’ (Luke 7:29). The Cross of Christ
5 For if we have been united with him in a death like his, we will certainly be united with him in a resurrection like his. 6 We know that our old self was crucified with him so that the body of sin might be destroyed, and we might no longer be enslaved to sin. 7 For whoever has died is freed from sin. 8 But if we have died with Christ, we believe that we will also live with him. 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him. 10 The death he died, he died to sin, once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. 11 So you also must consider yourselves dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus.
Now go to, reader, and according to the order of Paul’s writing, even so do thou...Remember that Christ made not this atonement that thou shouldest anger God again; neither died he for thy sins, that thou shouldest live still in them; neither cleansed he thee, that thou shouldest return, as a swine, unto thine old puddle again; but that thou shouldest be a new creature, and live a new life after the will of God, and not of the flesh. William Tyndale, Doctrinal Treatises
12 Therefore, do not let sin exercise dominion in your mortal bodies, to make you obey their passions. 13 No longer present your members to sin as instruments of wickedness, but present yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life, and present your members to God as instruments of righteousness. 14 For sin will have no dominion over you, since you are not under law but under grace.
Slaves of Righteousness15 What then? Should we sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! 16 Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? 17 But thanks be to God that you, having once been slaves of sin, have become obedient from the heart to the form of teaching to which you were entrusted, 18 and that you, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness. 19 I am speaking in human terms because of your natural limitations. For just as you once presented your members as slaves to impurity and to greater and greater iniquity, so now present your members as slaves to righteousness for sanctification.
20 When you were slaves of sin, you were free in regard to righteousness. 21 So what advantage did you then get from the things of which you now are ashamed? The end of those things is death. 22 But now that you have been freed from sin and enslaved to God, the advantage you get is sanctification. The end is eternal life. 23 For the wages of sin is death, but the free gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord. (See The Cross Of Christ in the panel on the right.)
An Analogy from MarriageRomans 7:1 Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law is binding on a person only during that person’s lifetime? 2 Thus a married woman is bound by the law to her husband as long as he lives; but if her husband dies, she is discharged from the law concerning the husband. 3 Accordingly, she will be called an adulteress if she lives with another man while her husband is alive. But if her husband dies, she is free from that law, and if she marries another man, she is not an adulteress.
4 In the same way, my friends, you have died to the law through the body of Christ, so that you may belong to another, to him who has been raised from the dead in order that we may bear fruit for God. 5 While we were living in the flesh, our sinful passions, aroused by the law, were at work in our members to bear fruit for death. 6 But now we are discharged from the law, dead to that which held us captive, so that we are slaves not under the old written code but in the new life of the Spirit.
The Law and Sin7 What then should we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet, if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” 8 But sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, produced in me all kinds of covetousness. Apart from the law sin lies dead. 9 I was once alive apart from the law, but when the commandment came, sin revived 10 and I died, and the very commandment that promised life proved to be death to me. 11 For sin, seizing an opportunity in the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So the law is holy, and the commandment is holy and just and good.
13 Did what is good, then, bring death to me? By no means! It was sin, working death in me through what is good, in order that sin might be shown to be sin, and through the commandment might become sinful beyond measure.
The Inner Conflict14 For we know that the law is spiritual; but I am of the flesh, sold into slavery under sin. 15 I do not understand my own actions. For I do not do what I want, but I do the very thing I hate. 16 Now if I do what I do not want, I agree that the law is good. 17 But in fact it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells within me, that is, in my flesh. I can will what is right, but I cannot do it. 19 For I do not do the good I want, but the evil I do not want is what I do. 20 Now if I do what I do not want, it is no longer I that do it, but sin that dwells within me.
21 So I find it to be a law that when I want to do what is good, evil lies close at hand. 22 For I delight in the law of God in my inmost self, 23 but I see in my members another law at war with the law of my mind, making me captive to the law of sin that dwells in my members. 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord!
So then, with my mind I am a slave to the law of God, but with my flesh I am a slave to the law of sin.
Romans 8:1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. 2 For the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus has set you free from the law of sin and of death. 3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do: by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and to deal with sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 so that the just requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit. 5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For this reason the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law—indeed it cannot, 8 and those who are in the flesh cannot please God.
Life in the Spirit
9 But you are not in the flesh; you are in the Spirit, since the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, though the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will give life to your mortal bodies also through his Spirit that dwells in you.
12 So then, brothers and sisters, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh— 13 for if you live according to the flesh, you will die; but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. 14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. 15 For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received a spirit of adoption. When we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 it is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ—if, in fact, we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Future Glory18 I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. 19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the children of God; 20 for the creation was subjected to futility, not of its own will but by the will of the one who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and will obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 We know that the whole creation has been groaning in labor pains until now; 23 and not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the first fruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly while we wait for adoption, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what is seen? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.
26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. 27 And God, who searches the heart, knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.
28 We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose. 29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn within a large family. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called; and those whom he called he also justified; and those whom he justified he also glorified.
God’s Love in Christ Jesus31 What then are we to say about these things? If God is for us, who is against us? 32 He who did not withhold his own Son, but gave him up for all of us, will he not with him also give us everything else? 33 Who will bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? It is Christ Jesus, who died, yes, who was raised, who is at the right hand of God, who indeed intercedes for us. 35 Who will separate us from the love of Christ? Will hardship, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or peril, or sword? 36 As it is written,
“For your sake we are being killed all day long;
we are accounted as sheep to be slaughtered.”
The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books [New Revised Standard Version]
What I'm Reading
Reconciliation (Rom 5:1)
By John R.W. Stott from The Cross of Christ
The first thing that has to be said about the biblical gospel of reconciliation, however, is that it begins with reconciliation to God, and continues with a reconciled community in Christ. Reconciliation is not a term the Bible uses to describe ‘coming to terms with oneself’, although it does insist that it is only through losing ourselves in love for God and neighbour that we truly find ourselves.
Reconciliation with God, then, is the beginning. This is the meaning of ‘atonement’. It alludes to the event through which God and human beings, previously alienated from one another, are made ‘at one’ again. The word occurs only once in the New Testament’s Authorized (King James) Version, namely in the statement that through Christ ‘we have now received the atonement’ (Rom. 5:11), that is to say, ‘the reconciliation’. It is significant that in Romans 5:9–11, which is one of the four great passages on reconciliation in the New Testament, to be reconciled and to be justified are parallels. ‘Since we have now been justified by his blood’ is balanced by ‘if, when we were God’s enemies, we were reconciled to him through the death of his Son’. The two states, though both effected by the cross, are not identical, however. Justification is our legal standing before our Judge in the court; reconciliation is our personal relationship with our Father in the home. Indeed, the latter is the sequel and fruit of the former. It is only when we have been justified by faith that we have peace with God (Rom. 5:1), which is reconciliation.
Two other New Testament terms confirm this emphasis that reconciliation means peace with God, namely ‘adoption’ and ‘access’. With regard to the former, it was Jesus himself who always addressed God intimately as ‘Abba, Father’, who gave us permission to do the same, approaching him as ‘our Father in heaven’. The apostles enlarged on it. John, who attributes our being children of God to our being born of God, expresses his sense of wonder that the Father should have loved us enough to call us, and indeed make us, his children. (John 1:12–13; 1 John 3:1–10) Paul, on the other hand, traces our status as God’s children rather to our adoption than to our new birth, and emphasizes the privileges we have in being sons instead of slaves, and therefore God’s heirs as well. (E.g. Rom. 8:14–17; Gal. 3:26–29; 4:1–7.)
Paul on Salvation
By Dallas Willard from Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
The substance of Paul’s teachings about salvation is drained off when we fail to take literally his words about our union and identification with Christ. Without this his writings can be handily subjected to elaborate plans of salvation or made into a “Roman road” of doctrinal assents, by which we supposedly gain God’s approval merely for believing what every demon believes to be true about Jesus and his work. James S. Stewart’s profound book A Man in Christ deals with this tendency in interpreting Paul and forcefully corrects it:
Beyond the reproduction in the believer’s spiritual life of his Lord’s death and burial lies the glorious fact of union with Christ in His resurrection. “Like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we also should walk in newness of life” (Romans 6:4). Everything that Paul associates with salvation—joy, and peace, and power, and progress, and moral victory—is gathered up in the one word he uses so constantly, “life.” Only those who through Christ have entered into a vital relationship to God are really “alive.” . . . But what Paul now saw with piercing clearness was that this life into possession of which souls entered by conversion was nothing else than the life of Christ Himself. He shared His very being with them. [James S. Stewart A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)]
Stewart points out how Paul speaks of “Christ who is your life” (Col 3:4) and of “the life of Jesus” being “made visible in our bodies” (2 Cor 4:10). He points to Paul’s contrast of the law of sin and death with “the law of the Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom 8:2). And he emphasizes that “this life which flows from Christ into man is something totally different from anything experienced on the merely natural plane. It is different, not only in degree, but also in kind. It is kainoteˉs zoˉeˉs (Romans 6:4), a new quality of life, a supernatural quality.” This is what Paul means when he says that if one is in Christ, one is a new creation (2 Cor 5:17).
It is this identity between the additional life of the regenerate, or restarted, individual and the person and life of Christ himself that turns believers into “a colony of heaven” (as Moffatt translates Phil 3:20) and enables them to fulfill their call to be the light of the world, showing the world what it is really like to be alive.
The Divine Conspiracy: Rediscovering Our Hidden Life In God
The Spirit of the Disciplines: Understanding How God Changes Lives
Hearing God: Developing a Conversational Relationship with God
How God is in Business
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ
The Allure of Gentleness: Defending the Faith in the Manner of Jesus
Living in Christ's Presence: Final Words on Heaven and the Kingdom of God
The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus&8217;s Essential Teachings on Discipleship
Renovation of the Heart: Putting On the Character of Christ (Designed for Influence)
Renewing the Christian Mind: Essays, Interviews, and Talks
The Kingdom Life: A Practical Theology of Discipleship and Spiritual Formation
Knowing Christ Today
Getting Love Right
Archaeology Silences Bible Critics
By Christians In Pakistan 7/28/2015
For many years, the critics of the Old Testament continued to argue that Moses invented the stories found in Genesis. The critics contended that the ancient people of the Old Testament times were too primitive to record documents with precise details.
In doing so, these critics basically claimed that there was no verification that the people and cities mentioned in the oldest of Biblical accounts ever really existed.
The discovery of the Ebla archive in northern Syria in the 1970′s confirmed that the Biblical records concerning the Patriarchs are spot on. It was during the excavations in northern Syria that the excavating found a large library inside a royal archive room. This library had tablets dating from 2400 -2300 BC.
The excavating team discovered almost 15,000 ancient tablets and fragments which when joined together accounted for about 2,500 tablets. Amazingly, these tablets confirmed that personal and location titles in the Biblical Patriarchal accounts are authentic. These tablets are known as the Ebla Tablets.
For a long period of time, the critics of the Old Testament used to argue that the name ‘Canaan’ was used wrongly in the early chapters of the Bible. They claimed the name Canaan was never used at that specific time in history. They further accused that the name was inserted in the Old Testament afterwards, while the earliest books of The Holy Bible were not written in the times that are described.
Toward Christian Spirituality
By N.T. Wright from Simply Christian
According to Christian belief, God’s own Spirit offers the answer to the four questions with which this book began—questions about our yearnings for beauty, relationship, spirituality, and justice. We take them in reverse order. N.T. Wright Books
God has promised that, through his Spirit, he will remake the creation so that it becomes what it is straining and yearning to be. All the beauty of the present world will be enhanced, ennobled, set free from that which at present corrupts and defaces it. Then there will appear that greater beauty for which the beauty we already know is simply an advance signpost.
God offers us, by the Spirit, a fresh kind of relationship with himself—and, at the same time, a fresh kind of relationship with our neighbors and with the whole of creation. The renewal of human lives by the Spirit provides the energy through which damaged and fractured human relationships can be mended and healed.
God offers us, through the Spirit, the gift of being at last what we know in our bones we were meant to be: creatures that live in both dimensions of his created order. The quest for spirituality now appears as a search for that coming together of heaven and earth which, deeply challenging though of course it is, is genuinely on offer to those who believe.
Finally, God wants to anticipate now, by the Spirit, a world set right, a world in which the good and joyful gift of justice has flooded creation. The work of the Spirit in the lives of individuals in the present time is designed to be another advance sign, a down payment and guarantee, as it were, of that eventual setting-right of all things. We are “justified” in the present (I’ll say more about that later) in order to bring God’s justice to the world, against the day when—still by the operation of the Spirit—the earth is filled with the knowledge of YHWH as the waters cover the sea.
Within this remarkable picture, two things stand out about characteristically Christian spirituality.
First, Christian spirituality combines a sense of the awe and majesty of God with a sense of his intimate presence. This is hard to describe but easy to experience. As Jesus addressed God by the Aramaic family word Abba, Father, so Christians are encouraged to do the same: to come to know God in the way in which, in the best sort of family, the child knows the parent. From time to time I have met Christians who look puzzled at this, and say that they have no idea what all that stuff is about. I have to say that being a Christian without having at least something of that intimate knowledge of the God who is at the same time majestic, awesome, and holy sounds like a contradiction in terms. I freely grant that there may be conditions under which, because of wounds in the personality, or some special calling of God, or some other reason, people may genuinely believe in the gospel of Jesus, strive to live by the Spirit, and yet have no sense of God’s intimate presence. There is, after all, such a thing as the “dark night of the soul,” reported by some who have probed the mysteries of prayer further than most of us. But Jesus declares that the Holy Spirit will not be denied to those who ask (Luke 11:13). One of the characteristic signs of the Spirit’s work is precisely that sense of the intimate presence of God.
Second, Christian spirituality normally involves a measure of suffering. One of the times when Jesus is recorded as having used the Abba-prayer was when, in Gethsemane, he asked his Father if there was another way, if he really had to go through the horrible fate that lay in store for him. The answer was yes, he did. But if Jesus prayed like that, we can be sure that we will often have to as well. Both Paul and John lay great stress on this. Those who follow Jesus are called to live by the rules of the new world rather than the old one, and the old one won’t like it. Although the life of heaven is designed to bring healing to the life of earth, the powers that presently run this earth have carved it up to their own advantage, and they resent any suggestion of a different way. That is why the powers—whether they are in politics or the media, in the professions or the business world—bitterly resent any suggestion from Christian leaders as to how things ought to be, even while sneering at the church for not “speaking out” on issues of the day.
Suffering may, then, take the form of actual persecution. Even in the liberal modern Western world—perhaps precisely in that world!—people can suffer discrimination because of their commitment to Jesus Christ. How much more so, in places where the worldview of those in power is explicitly stated to be opposed to the Christian faith in all its forms, as in some (not all) Muslim countries today. But suffering comes in many other forms, too: illness, depression, bereavement, moral dilemmas, poverty, tragedy, accidents, and death. Nobody reading the New Testament or any of the other Christian literature from the first two or three centuries could have accused the early Christians of painting too rosy a picture of what life would be like for those who follow Jesus. But the point is this: it is precisely when we are suffering that we can most confidently expect the Spirit to be with us. We don’t seek, or court, suffering or martyrdom. But if and when it comes, in whatever guise, we know that, as Paul says toward the end of his great Spirit-chapter, “in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us” (Romans 8:37).
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
The Day the Revolution Began: Reconsidering the Meaning of Jesus's Crucifixion
Evil and the Justice of God
Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels
The Resurrection of the Son of God (Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol. 3)
Romans (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
After You Believe: Why Christian Character Matters
Simply Jesus: A New Vision of Who He Was, What He Did, and Why He Matters
Scripture and the Authority of God: How to Read the Bible Today
Simply Good News: Why the Gospel Is News and What Makes It Good
Surprised by Scripture: Engaging Contemporary Issues
Acts (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
Paul and the Faithfulness of God
John (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation
Philippians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The New Testament and the People of God/ Christian Origins and the Question of God, Vol.1 (Christian Origins and the Question of God (Paperback))
Justification: God's Plan & Paul's Vision
Revelation (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Challenge of Jesus: Rediscovering Who Jesus Was and Is
The Case for the Psalms: Why They Are Essential
The Lord and His Prayer
1 Corinthians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul: In Fresh Perspective
James (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
The Letters of John (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Revelation for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meal Jesus Gave Us, Revised Edition
Acts for Everyone, Part One: Chapters 1-12 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Meaning of Jesus: Two Visions
Mark (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part 2, Chapters 9-16 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Following Jesus: Biblical Reflections on Discipleship
Ephesians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Luke (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul and His Recent Interpreters
Paul: A Biography
Pauline Perspectives: Essays on Paul, 1978–-2013
1 & 2 Peter and Jude (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Hebrews (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
Galatians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Acts for Everyone, Part Two: Chapters 13-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Early Christian Letters for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Paul for Everyone: Romans, Part One (For Everyone)
Colossians and Philemon (Tyndale New Testament Commentaries (IVP Numbered))
Paul for Everyone: The Pastoral Letters: 1 and 2 Timothy, and Titus (The New Testament for Everyone)
Colossians & Philemon (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
Paul for Everyone: Galatians and Thessalonians (The New Testament for Everyone)
John for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-10 (The New Testament for Everyone)
1 & 2 Timothy and Titus (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
1 & 2 Thessalonians (N.T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity?
2 Corinthians (N. T. Wright for Everyone Bible Study Guides)
For All the Saints: Remembering the Christian Departed
Luke for Everyone (The New Testament for Everyone)
Surprised by Hope Participant's Guide with DVD: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church
Jesus, the Final Days: What Really Happened
The Paul Debate: Critical Questions for Understanding the Apostle
Paul for Everyone: The Prison Letters: Ephesians, Philippians, Colossians, and Philemon (The New Testament for Everyone)
Matthew for Everyone, Part 1: Chapters 1-15 (The New Testament for Everyone)
Who Was Jesus?
Twelve Months of Sundays: Biblical Meditations on the Christian Years A, B and C
The Last Word
Matthew for Everyone, Part 2: Chapters 16-28 (The New Testament for Everyone)
The Way of the Lord: Christian Pilgrimage Today
N.T. Wright Books
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
On this day, August 17, 1955, President Dwight Eisenhower authorized the code of conduct for American soldiers in captured in war. Revealing the high level of commitment made by those in the armed services, the code states: “I serve in the forces which guard my country and our way of life. I am prepared to give my life in their defense… If captured… I will accept neither parole nor special favors from the enemy… I will never forget I am an American fighting man, responsible for my actions and dedicated to the principles which made my country free. I will trust in my God and in the United States of America.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
Is what you're living for
the same thing Jesus died for?
--- Ryan Rhoades
People who lean on logic and philosophy
and rational exposition
end by starving
the best part of the mind.
--- William Butler Yeats
He must pull out his own eyes, and see no creature, before he can say, he sees no God; He must be no man, and quench his reasonable soul, before he can say to himself, there is no God.
--- John Donne
Earth’s crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God;
But only he who sees, takes off his shoes,
The rest sit round it and pluck blackberries,
And daub their natural faces unaware
--- Elizabeth Barrett Browning (Aurora Leigh)
... from here, there and everywhere
Dr. John Stott
First, Christ died for us. In addition to being necessary and voluntary, his death was altruistic and beneficial. He undertook it for our sake, not for his own, and he believed that through it he would secure for us a good which could be secured in no other way. The Good Shepherd, he said, was going to lay down his life ‘for the sheep’, for their benefit. Similarly, the words he spoke in the upper room when giving them the bread were, ‘This is my body given for you.’ The apostles picked up this simple concept and repeated it, sometimes making it more personal by changing it from the second person to the first: ‘Christ died for us.’ (1) There is no explanation yet, and no identification of the blessing he died to procure for us, but at least we are agreed over the ‘for you’ and ‘for us’.
Secondly, Christ died for us that he might bring us to God (1 Pet. 3:18). The beneficial purpose of his death focuses down on our reconciliation. As the Nicene Creed expresses it, ‘for us (general) and for our salvation (particular) he came down from heaven...’. The salvation he died to win for us is variously portrayed. At times it is conceived negatively as redemption, forgiveness or deliverance. At other times it is positive – new or eternal life, or peace with God in the enjoyment of his favour and fellowship. (2) The precise vocabulary does not matter at present. The important point is that it is in consequence of his death that he is able to confer upon us the great blessing of salvation.
Thirdly, Christ died for our sins. Our sins were the obstacle preventing us from receiving the gift he wanted to give us. So they had to be removed before it could be bestowed. And he dealt with our sins, or took them away, by his death. This expression ‘for our sins’ (or very similar phrases) is used by most of the major New Testament authors; they seem to have been quite clear that – in some way still to be determined – Christ’s death and our sins were related to each other. Here is a sample of quotations: ‘Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures’ (Paul); ‘Christ died for sins once for all’ (Peter); ‘he has appeared once for all...to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself’, and he ‘offered for all time one sacrifice for sins’ (Hebrews); ‘the blood of Jesus, (God’s) Son, purifies us from all sin’ (John); ‘to him who loves us and has freed us from our sins by his blood...be glory’ (Revelation). 1 Cor. 15:3; 1 Pet. 3:18; Heb. 9:26; 10:12; 1 John 1:7; Rev. 1:5–6 All these verses (and many more) link his death with our sins. What, then, is the link?
Fourthly, Christ died our death, when he died for our sins. That is to say, granted that his death and our sins are linked, the link is not merely that of consequence (he was the victim of our human brutality) but of penalty (he endured in his innocent person the penalty our sins had deserved). For, according to Scripture, death is related to sin as its just reward: ‘the wages of sin is death’ (Rom. 6:23). The Bible everywhere views human death not as a natural but as a penal event. It is an alien intrusion into God’s good world, and not part of his original intention for humankind. To be sure, the fossil record indicates that predation and death existed in the animal kingdom before the creation of man. But God seems to have intended for his human image-bearers a more noble end, akin perhaps to the ‘translation’ which Enoch and Elijah experienced, and to the ‘transformation’ which will take place in those who are alive when Jesus comes. See Gen. 5:24; 2 Kgs 2:1–11; 1 Cor. 15:50–54 Throughout Scripture, then, death (both physical and spiritual) is seen as a divine judgment on human disobedience. E.g. Gen. 2:17; 3:3, 19, 23; Rom. 5:12–14; Rev. 20:14; 21:8.5, / Hence the expressions of horror in relation to death, the sense of anomaly that man should have become ‘like the beasts that perish’, since ‘the same fate awaits them both’. Ps. 49:12, 20; Eccl. 3:19–21 Hence too the violent ‘snorting’ of indignation which Jesus experienced in his confrontation with death at the graveside of Lazarus. (3) Death was a foreign body. Jesus resisted it; he could not come to terms with it.
(1) John 10:11, 15; Luke 22:19; Rom. 5:8; Eph. 5:2; 1 Thess. 5:10; Titus 2:14. Professor Martin Hengel has shown with great erudition that the concept of a person voluntarily dying for his city, family and friends, truth, or to pacify the gods, was widespread in the Graeco-Roman world. A special composite word hyperapothnēskein (‘to die for’) had been formed to express it. The gospel that ‘Christ died for us’ would, therefore, have been readily intelligible to first-century pagan audiences. (Martin Hengel, Atonement, pp.1–32.)/span>
(2) For the negative see, e.g., Gal. 1:4; Eph. 1:7; Heb. 9:28. For the positive see, e.g., John 3:14–16; Eph. 2:16; Col. 1:20; 1 Thess. 5:10; 1 Pet. 3:18.
(3) See the occurrence of the verb embrimaomai in John 11:33, 38. Used of the snorting of horses, it was transferred to the strong human emotions of displeasure and indignation.
The Cross of Christ
Thanks to Meir Yona
22. After these men's performances, Josephus, and the rest of the multitude with him, took a great deal of fire, and burnt both the machines and their coverings, with the works belonging to the fifth and to the tenth legion, which they put to flight; when others followed them immediately, and buried those instruments and all their materials under ground. However, about the Evening, the Romans erected the battering ram again, against that part of the wall which had suffered before; where a certain Jew that defended the city from the Romans hit Vespasian with a dart in his foot, and wounded him a little, the distance being so great, that no mighty impression could be made by the dart thrown so far off. However, this caused the greatest disorder among the Romans; for when those who stood near him saw his blood, they were disturbed at it, and a report went abroad, through the whole army, that the general was wounded, while the greatest part left the siege, and came running together with surprise and fear to the general; and before them all came Titus, out of the concern he had for his father, insomuch that the multitude were in great confusion, and this out of the regard they had for their general, and by reason of the agony that the son was in. Yet did the father soon put an end to the son's fear, and to the disorder the army was under, for being superior to his pains, and endeavoring soon to be seen by all that had been in a fright about him, he excited them to fight the Jews more briskly; for now every body was willing to expose himself to danger immediately, in order to avenge their general; and then they encouraged one another with loud voices, and ran hastily to the walls.
23. But still Josephus and those with him, although they fell down dead one upon another by the darts and stones which the engines threw upon them, yet did not they desert the wall, but fell upon those who managed the ram, under the protection of the hurdles, with fire, and iron weapons, and stones; and these could do little or nothing, but fell themselves perpetually, while they were seen by those whom they could not see, for the light of their own flame shone about them, and made them a most visible mark to the enemy, as they were in the day time, while the engines could not be seen at a great distance, and so what was thrown at them was hard to be avoided; for the force with which these engines threw stones and darts made them hurt several at a time, and the violent noise of the stones that were cast by the engines was so great, that they carried away the pinnacles of the wall, and broke off the corners of the towers; for no body of men could be so strong as not to be overthrown to the last rank by the largeness of the stones. And any one may learn the force of the engines by what happened this very night; for as one of those that stood round about Josephus was near the wall, his head was carried away by such a stone, and his skull was flung as far as three furlongs. In the day time also, a woman with child had her belly so violently struck, as she was just come out of her house, that the infant was carried to the distance of half a furlong, so great was the force of that engine. The noise of the instruments themselves was very terrible, the sound of the darts and stones that were thrown by them was so also; of the same sort was that noise the dead bodies made, when they were dashed against the wall; and indeed dreadful was the clamor which these things raised in the women within the city, which was echoed back at the same time by the cries of such as were slain; while the whole space of ground whereon they fought ran with blood, and the wall might have been ascended over by the bodies of the dead carcasses; the mountains also contributed to increase the noise by their echoes; nor was there on that night any thing of terror wanting that could either affect the hearing or the sight: yet did a great part of those that fought so hard for Jotapata fall manfully, as were a great part of them wounded. However, the Morning watch was come ere the wall yielded to the machines employed against it, though it had been battered without intermission. However, those within covered their bodies with their armor, and raised works over against that part which was thrown down, before those machines were laid by which the Romans were to ascend into the city.
24. In the Morning Vespasian got his army together, in order to take the city [by storm], after a little recreation upon the hard pains they had been at the night before; and as he was desirous to draw off those that opposed him from the places where the wall had been thrown down, he made the most courageous of the horsemen get off their horses, and placed them in three ranks over against those ruins of the wall, but covered with their armor on every side, and with poles in their hands, that so these might begin their ascent as soon as the instruments for such ascent were laid; behind them he placed the flower of the footmen; but for the rest of the horse, he ordered them to extend themselves over against the wall, upon the whole hilly country, in order to prevent any from escaping out of the city when it should be taken; and behind these he placed the archers round about, and commanded them to have their darts ready to shoot. The same command he gave to the slingers, and to those that managed the engines, and bid them to take up other ladders, and have them ready to lay upon those parts of the wall which were yet untouched, that the besieged might be engaged in trying to hinder their ascent by them, and leave the guard of the parts that were thrown down, while the rest of them should be overborne by the darts cast at them, and might afford his men an entrance into the city.
25. But Josephus, understanding the meaning of Vespasian's contrivance, set the old men, together with those that were tired out, at the sound parts of the wall, as expecting no harm from those quarters, but set the strongest of his men at the place where the wall was broken down, and before them all six men by themselves, among whom he took his share of the first and greatest danger. He also gave orders, that when the legions made a shout, they should stop their ears, that they might not be affrighted at it, and that, to avoid the multitude of the enemy's darts, they should bend down on their knees, and cover themselves with their shields, and that they should retreat a little backward for a while, till the archers should have emptied their quivers; but that When the Romans should lay their instruments for ascending the walls, they should leap out on the sudden, and with their own instruments should meet the enemy, and that every one should strive to do his best, in order not to defend his own city, as if it were possible to be preserved, but in order to revenge it, when it was already destroyed; and that they should set before their eyes how their old men were to be slain, and their children and wives were to be killed immediately by the enemy; and that they would beforehand spend all their fury, on account of the calamities just coming upon them, and pour it out on the actors.
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
be smart enough to desist.
5 If you make your eyes rush at it,
it’s no longer there!
For wealth will surely grow wings,
like an eagle flying off to the sky.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
Excerpt From Simply Christian
Once we glimpse this vision of the Holy Spirit coming to live within human beings, making them Temples of the living God—which ought to make us shiver in our shoes—we are able to grasp the point of the Spirit’s work in several other ways as well.
To begin with, building on the startling call to holiness we just noticed, we see right across the early Christian writings the notion that those who follow Jesus are called to fulfill the Law—that is, the Torah, the Jewish Law. Paul says it; James says it; Jesus himself says it. Now there are all kinds of senses in which Christians do not, and are not meant to, perform the Jewish Law. The New Testament Letter to the Hebrews insists that with the death of Jesus the sacrificial system came to an end, and with it the whole point of the Temple. Paul insists that when pagan men and boys believe the gospel of Jesus and get baptized, they do not have to get circumcised. Jesus himself hinted strongly that the food laws which had marked out the Jews from their pagan neighbors were to be set aside in favor of a different kind of marking out, a different kind of holiness. The early Christians, following Jesus himself, were quite clear that keeping the Jewish Sabbath was no longer mandatory, even though doing so was one of the Ten Commandments.
Nevertheless, the early Christians continued to speak, not least in the passages where they talked of the Spirit, of the obligation to fulfill the Law. If you are guided and energized by the Spirit, declares Paul, you will no longer do those things which the Law forbids—murder, adultery, and the rest. “The mind set on the flesh is hostile to God’s Law,” he writes in the Letter to the Romans. “Such a mindset does not submit to God’s Law, indeed it can’t; and those of that sort cannot please God.” But, as he goes on at once, “You are not in the flesh, but in the Spirit, if God’s Spirit does indeed dwell in you” (note the Temple language again). The Spirit will give life—resurrection life—to all those in whom the Spirit dwells; and this is to be anticipated (future-in-the-present language again) in holiness of life here and now (Romans 8:7–17). Later in the same letter, he explains further: “Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore love is the fulfilling of the Law” (13:10).
The point, once again, is not that the Law is a convenient moral guide, ancient and venerable. It is that the Torah, like the Temple, is one of the places where heaven and earth meet, so that, as some Jewish teachers had suggested, those who study and keep the Torah are like those who worship in the Temple. And the early Christians are encouraging one another to live as points of intersection, points of overlap, between heaven and earth. Again, this sounds fearsomely difficult, not to say downright impossible. But there is no getting around it. Fortunately, as we shall see, what ought to be normal Christianity is actually all about finding out how to sustain this kind of life and even grow in it.
The fulfillment of the Torah by the Spirit is one of the main themes underlying the spectacular description, in Acts 2, of the day of Pentecost itself. To this day, Pentecost is observed in Judaism as the feast of the giving of the Law. First comes Passover, the day when the Israelites leave their Egyptian slavery behind for good. Off they go through the desert, and fifty days later they reach Mount Sinai. Moses goes up the mountain and comes down with the Law, the tablets of the covenant, God’s gift to his people of the way of life by which they will be able to demonstrate that they really are his people.
This is the picture we ought to have in mind as we read Acts 2. The previous Passover, Jesus had died and been raised, opening the way out of slavery, the way to forgiveness and a new start for the whole world—especially for all those who follow him. Now, fifty days later, Jesus has been taken into “heaven,” into God’s dimension of reality; but, like Moses, he comes down again, to ratify the renewed covenant and to provide the way of life, written not on stone but in human hearts, by which Jesus’s followers may gratefully demonstrate that they really are his people. That is the underlying theology by which the remarkable phenomenon of Pentecost as Luke tells it—the wind, the fire, the tongues, and the sudden, powerful proclamation of Jesus to the astonished crowds—is given its deepest meaning. Those in whom the Spirit comes to dwell are to be people who live at the intersection between heaven and earth.
Nor is it only Temple and Torah that are fulfilled by the Spirit. Remember the two additional ways in which, in the language of ancient Judaism, God was at work within the world: God’s word and God’s wisdom.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
From Simply Christian-N.T. Wright
Christian prayer is simple, in the sense that a small child can pray the prayer Jesus taught. But it’s hard in the demands it makes as we go on with it. The agony of the Psalmist reached its own climax when Jesus wept and sweated blood in Gethsemane, struggling with his Father about the final step in his lifelong vocation. That led, in turn, to his hanging in despair on the cross, with the first verse of Psalm 22 (“My God, why did you abandon me?”) all that was left to say, the God-given way of shouting out his Godforsakenness. When Jesus told us to take up our cross and follow him, he presumably expected that following him would include moments like that for us, too.
We are called to live at the overlap both of heaven and earth—the earth that has yet to be fully redeemed as one day it will be—and of God’s future and this world’s present. We are caught on a small island near the point where these tectonic plates—heaven and earth, future and present—are scrunching themselves together. Be ready for earthquakes! When Paul writes his greatest chapter about life in the Spirit and the coming renewal of the whole cosmos, he points out at the heart of it all that, while we don’t know how to pray as we ought, the Spirit—God’s very own Spirit—intercedes for us according to God’s will. It’s a small passage (Romans 8:26–27), but it’s extremely important both for what it says and for where it says it. Here’s the context: God’s whole creation is groaning in labor pains, says Paul, waiting for the new world to be born from its womb. The church, God’s people in the Messiah, find themselves caught up in this, as we, too, groan in longing for redemption. (Paul was talking, a few verses earlier, about sharing the sufferings of the Messiah. Did he, perhaps, have Gethsemane in mind?) Christian prayer is at its most characteristic when we find ourselves caught in the overlap of the ages, part of the creation that aches for new birth.
And the strange new promise, the point at which Christian prayer is marked out over against pantheism and Deism and a good deal else besides, is that, by the Spirit, God himself is groaning from within the heart of the world, because God himself, by the Spirit, dwells in our hearts as we resonate with the pain of the world. This isn’t the pantheistic getting-in-touch-with-the-heart-of-things. This is the strange, new getting-in-touch-with-the-living-God, who is doing a new thing, who has come to the heart of the world in Jesus precisely because all is not well (a point the pantheist can never acknowledge) and it needs to be put right, who now comes by his Spirit to the place where the world is in pain (a point the Deist can never contemplate) in order that, in and through us—those who pray in Christ and by the Spirit—the groaning of all creation may come before the Father himself, the heart-searcher (8:27), the one who works all things together for good for those who love him (8:28). This is what it means to be “conformed to the image of his Son” (8:29). This is what it means, within the present age, to share his glory (8:18, 30).
This explains why specifically Christian prayer makes the sense it does within the world where heaven and earth belong together. It is worth developing the picture we sketched earlier, to show how prayer within the Christian worldview is significantly different from prayer as seen from within the two other main options.
For the pantheist, living in Option One, prayer is simply getting in tune with the deepest realities of the world and of oneself. Divinity is everywhere, including within me. Prayer is therefore not so much addressing someone else, who lives somewhere else, but rather discovering and getting in tune with an inner truth and life that are to be found deep within my own heart and within the silent rhythms of the world around. That is pantheistic prayer. It is (in my judgment) a lot healthier than pagan prayer, where a human being tries to invoke, placate, cajole, or bribe the sea-god, the wargod, the river-god, or the marriage-god to get special favors or avoid particular dangers. Compared with that, pantheistic prayer has a certain stately nobility about it. But it isn’t Christian prayer.
For the Deist, living in Option Two, prayer is calling across a void to a distant deity. This lofty figure may or may not be listening. He, or it, may or may not be inclined, or even able, to do very much about us and our world, even if he (or it) wanted to. So, at the extreme of Option Two, all you can do is send off a message, like a marooned sailor scribbling a note and putting it in a bottle, on the off-chance that someone out there might pick it up. That kind of prayer takes a good deal of faith and hope. But it isn’t Christian prayer.
Sometimes, of course, prayer within the Jewish and Christian traditions feels exactly like the prayer of Option Two, as the Psalms themselves bear witness. But, for the Psalmist, the sense of a void, an emptiness where there ought to be a Presence, isn’t something to accept calmly as the way things simply are. It is something to complain at, to jump up and down about. “Wake up, YHWH!” shouts the Psalmist, like someone standing at the foot of the bed, hands on hips, looking crossly at a sleeping form. (That is of course how the disciples addressed Jesus, asleep in the boat during the storm.) “It’s time to get up and do something about this mess!”
But the whole point of the Christian story, at the climax of the Jewish story, is that the curtain has been pulled back, the door has been opened from the other side, and like Jacob we have glimpsed a ladder between heaven and earth with messengers going to and fro upon it. “The kingdom of heaven is at hand,” says Jesus in Matthew’s gospel, not offering a new way of getting to heaven hereafter, but announcing that the rule of heaven, the very life of heaven, is now overlapping with earth in a new way—a way which sweeps together all the moments from Jacob’s ladder to Isaiah’s vision, all the patriarchal insights and prophetic dreams, and turns them into a human form, a human voice, a human life, a human death. Jesus is the reason for Option Three; and, with that, prayer has come of age. Heaven and earth have overlapped permanently where he stands, where he hung, where he rises, wherever the fresh wind of his Spirit now blows. Living as a Christian means living in the world as it’s been reshaped by and around Jesus and his Spirit. And that means that Christian prayer is a different kind of thing—different both from the prayer of the pantheist, getting in touch with the inwardness of nature, and that of the Deist, sending out messages across a lonely emptiness.
Christian prayer is about standing at the fault line, being shaped by the Jesus who knelt in Gethsemane, groaning in travail, holding heaven and earth together like someone trying to tie two pieces of rope with people tugging at the other ends to pull them apart. It goes, quite closely, with the triple identity of the true God at which we stared, dazzled, in the previous section of this book. No wonder we give up so easily. No wonder we need help.
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Are you discouraged in devotion?
Yet lackest thou one thing; sell all that thou hast … and come, follow Me. --- Luke 18:22.
“And when he heard this …” Have you ever heard the Master say a hard word? If you have not, I question whether you have heard Him say anything. Jesus Christ says a great deal that we listen to, but do not hear; when we do hear, His words are amazingly hard.
Jesus did not seem in the least solicitous that this man should do what He told him, He made no attempt to keep him with Him. He simply said—‘Sell all you have, and come, follow Me.’ Our Lord never pleaded, He never cajoled, He never entrapped; He simply spoke the sternest words mortal ears ever listened to, and then left it alone.
Have I ever heard Jesus say a hard word? Has He said something personally to me to which I have deliberately listened? Not something I can expound or say this and that about, but something I have heard Him say to me? This man did understand what Jesus said, he heard it and he sized up what it meant, and it broke his heart. He did not go away defiant; he went away sorrowful, thoroughly discouraged. He had come to Jesus full of the fire of earnest desire, and the word of Jesus simply froze him; instead of producing an enthusiastic devotion, it produced a heart-breaking discouragement. And Jesus did not go after him, He let him go. Our Lord knows perfectly that when once His word is heard, it will bear fruit sooner or later. The terrible thing is that some of us prevent it bearing fruit in actual life. I wonder what we will say when we do make up our minds to be devoted to Him on that particular point? One thing is certain, He will never cast anything up at us.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of RS Thomas
He touched it. It exploded.
Man was inside with his many
Devices. He turned from him as from his own
Excrement. He could not stomach his grin.
I'll mark you, he thought. He put his finger
On him. The result was poetry:
The lament of Job, Aeschylus,
The groveling of the theologians.
Man went limping through life, holding
But who were these in the laboratories
Of the world? He followed the mazes
Of their calculations, and returned
To his centre to await their coming for him.
It was not his first time to be crucified.
Dr. Carole Spencer used a metaphor in one of my seminary classes I have now seen in many places, but that does not negate the power of the metaphor. I would like to put my own spin on it.
Each of us travels our own journey toward or away from God. (I am writing to those of us who are seeking after the Lord.) We tend to look at the rungs of the ladder above us and below us to measure our progress and inevitably compare ourselves to others. We think of these rungs as our accomplishments for God. You know, proof that we love the Lord.
We evaluate our relationship with God by comparing our accomplishments to the accomplishments of others; where we are on the ladder. We see each of us on a different rung of that ladder. Some folks are above us and some are below us.
Remember, this is according to our own way of understanding. We give points for church attendance, tithing, ministry, yada, yada, yada. However, God looks on the heart, not what we think are accomplishments.
As for the ladder, God sees the ladder laying flat on the ground. That means the person we perceive at the top of the ladder, let’s say the world famous evangelist, is no closer geographically than the poor orphan on the bottom rung of the ladder.
BIBLE TEXT / Exodus 22:28–29 / You shall not put off the skimming of the first yield of your vats. You shall give Me the first-born among your sons. You shall do the same with your cattle and your flocks: seven days it shall remain with its mother; on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.
MIDRASH TEXT / Exodus Rabbah 31, 9 / You shall do the same with your cattle. “And from the eighth day on” (Leviticus 22:27). And so it is written, “on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” If you give it, you’re not giving yours but Mine. And so it says, “but all is from You, and it is Your gift that we have given to You” (1 Chronicles 29:14). If you do this, “You shall be Holy people to Me” (Exodus 22:30). And so it is written, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest” (Jeremiah 2:3). Just as this pile stands and the Kohen takes terumah from it, so did the Holy One, praised is He: The world is the pile, and He took our ancestors who are His terumah, as it says, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.” Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, “Since you are terumah, you do not have the right to eat treifah, as it says, ‘You must not eat flesh torn [triefah] by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs’ ” (Exodus 22:30). Why to the dogs? The Holy One, praised is He, said, “You owe the dogs: When I slew the first-born Egyptians, they were up all night burying their dead, and the dogs barked at them, but at Israel, they didn’t bark, as it says, ‘But not a dog shall snarl at any of the Israelites’ ” (Exodus 11:7). Therefore, you owe the dogs, as it says, “you shall cast it to the dogs.” So it is with dogs: When one barks, all of them gather round and start barking at nothing. But you must not be like that, because you are a holy people, as it says, “You shall be Holy people to Me.”
CONTEXT / God tells the Israelites that their first-born children belong to God. (The pidyon ha-ben ceremony that is done in our day exempts the first-born from service to God.) Similarly, you shall do the same with your cattle—the first-born of cattle belong to God and were to be offered as a sacrifice. The same principle applies whether we find the proof from the verse in Leviticus 22:27, “and from the eighth day on,” or from the verse in this section of Exodus 22:28, “on the eighth day you shall give it to Me.” The Midrash continues, speaking on behalf of God: If you give it, the cow to God as a sacrifice, you’re not giving up anything of yours but Mine, because everything ultimately is Mine. The proof for this is from 1 Chronicles: David announced plans for a Temple in Jerusalem and asked the Israelites for offerings. The people responded with copious amounts of gold, silver, and precious stones. David then blessed God, saying that “riches and honor are Yours to dispense.” Therefore, in responding so generously, the people were only returning to God what was God’s: “All is from You, and it is Your gift that we have given to You.”
God further tells the people: If you do this, follow the laws that I have outlined, including those of the first-born being Mine, then you shall be Holy people to Me. Proof for this is seen in a verse from Jeremiah: “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.” By giving the terumah, a special portion of the harvest set aside for the Kohanim in the Temple, Israel (the people) became God’s “special portion,” God’s chosen and prized possession. Just as the pile of grain stands and the Kohen takes terumah from it, keeping a select portion for himself, so did the Holy One, praised is He, choose Israel from all peoples. The world is the pile, and He took our ancestors who are His terumah, as it says, “Israel was holy to the Lord, the first fruits of His harvest.”
By being chosen as a “special portion,” the Israelites also have special responsibilities: Therefore, the Holy One, praised is He, said to Israel, “Since you are terumah, you do not have the right to eat treifah.…” We now use the words treif and treifah to mean “non-kosher.” In their original sense, these words meant “torn,” referring to the flesh of animals not slaughtered but “torn” in the field by other animals. Exodus tells us, “You must not eat flesh torn [triefah] by beasts in the field; you shall cast it to the dogs.” The Rabbis wonder, Why to the dogs? If we cannot eat it, why specifically throw it to the dogs? The Holy One, praised is He, said, “You owe the dogs”; casting this unfit food to the dogs is a reward for what they previously did: “When I slew the first-born Egyptians in the tenth plague, they, the Egyptians, were up all night burying their dead, and the dogs barked at them, but at Israel, they didn’t bark, as it says, in describing the tenth plague, ‘And there shall be a loud cry in the land of Egypt, such as has never been or will ever be again, but not a dog shall snarl at any of the Israelites.’ ” Therefore, God says, you owe the dogs for their deference during the final plague. And therefore, meat that is treifah and not for human consumption “you shall cast it to the dogs.”
The Midrash next makes an observation about dogs, which is also a veiled criticism of human nature. So it is with dogs: When one barks, all of them gather round and start barking at nothing. God tells the Israelites: Don’t act like dogs who blindly follow a leader in yelping for no particular reason. “You must not be like that, because you are holy people, as it says, “You shall be Holy people to Me.’ ”
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
I pray for them. --- John 17:9.
Jesus was speaking immediately of the little company of men who were right around him, the disciples. (John A. Broadus, “The Saviour Praying for Us,” downloaded from the Blessed Hope Ministries of Shiloh Baptist Church, Gainesville, Ga. at members.aol.com/blesshope, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) On the Evening before the crucifixion he said, “I pray for them,” but a little later he said, “My prayer is not for them alone. I pray also for those who will believe in me through their message, that all of them may be one” (John 17:20–21). Through them and their word the circle would continue to widen until it would embrace all that would ever become believers in him.
I invite you to take this prayer in John 17 as an idea of what sort of things the Lord Jesus Christ is asking for [right] now in your behalf. Oh, the Savior who always lives prays for you and me, knowing us better than we know ourselves.
Notice this first petition: “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one” (v. 15). What a common mistake it is to think that the only object Jesus Christ has with reference to the human race is to gather a few of us out of this world and carry us to the better world. But he was going out of the world, and his heart longed after those who had been with him. They wondered why they could not go with him, and one even said, in self-confident fervor, “I will lay down my life for you” (John 13:37). Many good people think hard of themselves because they do not want to die. I have heard such persons say, “Ah, me! I am so unwilling to die! I think anyone who loves God ought to be willing to die.” Well, that is against nature. It is impossible; it is wrong. The Lord Jesus Christ proposes not merely to rescue some souls from this world, but to rescue them in this world and make them live in this world as they were meant to live, by the help of his grace. This world belongs to him, and he proposes to help those—all that will come to him—that are thus oppressed by sin to live a life such as they should live.
Elijah lay under a juniper tree in the desert and requested that he might die. In answer to his prayer, an angel came with food that he might eat and lie down and sleep again, and getting up might go work in God’s service. Often when people are whining that they do not want to live, what they really need is food and sleep and exercise so that they may be ready to serve God.
--- John A. Broadus
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
The Two Lips of God August 17
When the British monarchy was reinstated in 1660, a series of new laws stifled religious liberty. The Act of Uniformity, for example, required all ministers to use The Book of Common Prayer as a format for worship. Many non-Anglicans refused, and in August, 1662, over 2,000 of England’s finest ministers were ejected from their pulpits. Among them, Thomas Watson of Cambridge, who preached his “Farewell Sermon” on August 17, 1662:
I have exercised my ministry among you for sixteen years and have received many demonstrations of love from you. I have observed your reverent attentions to the word preached. I have observed your zeal against error; and as much as could be expected in a critical time, your unity. Though I should not be permitted to preach to you, yet shall I not cease to love and pray for you; but why should there be any interruption made? Where is the crime? Some say that we are disloyal and seditious. Beloved, what my actions and sufferings for his majesty have been is known. I desire to be guided by the silver thread of God’s word and of God’s providence. And if I must die, let me leave some legacy with you before I go from you, some counsel.
First, keep your constant hours every day with God. Begin the day with God, visit God in the Morning before you make any other visit; wind up your hearts towards heaven in the Morning and they will go the better all the day after! Oh turn your closets into temples; read the scriptures. The two Testaments are the two lips by which God speaks to us; this will make you wise unto salvation. Besiege heaven every day with your prayer, thus perfume your houses.
Watson proceeded to give his listeners 19 more “directions” then he ended, saying: I have many things yet to say to you, but I know not whether God will give me another opportunity. My strength is almost gone. Consider what hath been said, and the Lord will give you understanding in all things.
Enemies spend the whole day finding fault with me;
All they think about is how to do me harm.
They attack from ambush,
Watching my every step and hoping to kill me.
You have kept record of my days of wandering.
You have stored my tears in your bottle
And counted each of them.
--- Psalm 56:5,6,8.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 17
“The mercy of God.” --- Psalm 52:8.
Meditate a little on this mercy of the Lord. It is tender mercy. With gentle, loving touch, he healeth the broken in heart, and bindeth up their wounds. He is as gracious in the manner of his mercy as in the matter of it. It is great mercy. There is nothing little in God; his mercy is like himself—it is infinite. You cannot measure it. His mercy is so great that it forgives great sins to great sinners, after great lengths of time, and then gives great favours and great privileges, and raises us up to great enjoyments in the great heaven of the great God. It is undeserved mercy, as indeed all true mercy must be, for deserved mercy is only a misnomer for justice. There was no right on the sinner’s part to the kind consideration of the Most High; had the rebel been doomed at once to eternal fire he would have richly merited the doom, and if delivered from wrath, sovereign love alone has found a cause, for there was none in the sinner himself. It is rich mercy. Some things are great, but have little efficacy in them, but this mercy is a cordial to your drooping spirits; a golden ointment to your bleeding wounds; a heavenly bandage to your broken bones; a royal chariot for your weary feet; a bosom of love for your trembling heart. It is manifold mercy. As Bunyan says, “All the flowers in God’s garden are double.” There is no single mercy. You may think you have but one mercy, but you shall find it to be a whole cluster of mercies. It is abounding mercy. Millions have received it, yet far from its being exhausted; it is as fresh, as full, and as free as ever. It is unfailing mercy. It will never leave thee. If mercy be thy friend, mercy will be with thee in temptation to keep thee from yielding; with thee in trouble to prevent thee from sinking; with thee living to be the light and life of thy countenance; and with thee dying to be the joy of thy soul when earthly comfort is ebbing fast.
Evening - August 17
“This sickness is not unto death.” --- John 11:4.
From our Lord’s words we learn that there is a limit to sickness. Here is an “unto” within which its ultimate end is restrained, and beyond which it cannot go. Lazarus might pass through death, but death was not to be the ultimatum of his sickness. In all sickness, the Lord saith to the waves of pain, “Hitherto shall ye go, but no further.” His fixed purpose is not the destruction, but the instruction of his people. Wisdom hangs up the thermometer at the furnace mouth, and regulates the heat.
1. The limit is encouragingly comprehensive. The God of providence has limited the time, manner, intensity, repetition, and effects of all our sicknesses; each throb is decreed, each sleepless hour predestinated, each relapse ordained, each depression of spirit foreknown, and each sanctifying result eternally purposed. Nothing great or small escapes the ordaining hand of him who numbers the hairs of our head.
2. This limit is wisely adjusted to our strength, to the end designed, and to the grace apportioned. Affliction comes not at haphazard—the weight of every stroke of the rod is accurately measured. He who made no mistakes in balancing the clouds and meting out the heavens, commits no errors in measuring out the ingredients which compose the medicine of souls. We cannot suffer too much nor be relieved too late.
3. The limit is tenderly appointed. The knife of the heavenly Surgeon never cuts deeper than is absolutely necessary. “He doth not afflict willingly, nor grieve the children of men.” A mother’s heart cries, “Spare my child”; but no mother is more compassionate than our gracious God. When we consider how hard-mouthed we are, it is a wonder that we are not driven with a sharper bit. The thought is full of consolation, that he who has fixed the bounds of our habitation, has also fixed the bounds of our tribulation.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
I NEED THEE EVERY HOUR
Annie S. Hawks, 1835–1918
Refrain added by Robert Lowry
In the day of my trouble I will call to You, for You will answer me. (Psalm 86:7
This deeply personal hymn came from the heart of a busy housewife and mother who had no idea of the spiritual strength that her own hastily written words would bring her later during a sorrowful time in her life.
The author, Annie S. Hawks, has left this account about the writing of her poem in 1872:
One day as a young wife and mother of 37 years of age, I was busy with my regular household tasks. Suddenly, I became filled with the sense of nearness to the Master, and I began to wonder how anyone could ever live without Him, either in joy or pain. Then the words were ushered into my mind and these thoughts took full possession of me.
Sixteen years later, Mrs. Hawks experienced the death of her husband. Years after, she wrote:
I did not understand at first why this hymn had touched the great throbbing heart of humanity. It was not until long after, when the shadow fell over my way, the shadow of a great loss, that I understood something of the comforting power in the words which I had been permitted to give out to others in my hour of sweet serenity and peace.
One of the blessings of a victorious Christian life is knowing the closeness of our Lord in every circumstance of life. Like Annie Hawks, it is so important that we develop strong spiritual lives during the peaceful hours in order that we will be able to be victorious when difficulties come, which they surely will to everyone at some time.
I need Thee every hour, most gracious Lord. No tender voice like Thine can peace afford.
I need Thee every hour; stay Thou near by. Temptations lose their pow’r when Thou art nigh.
I need Thee every hour, in joy or pain. Come quickly, and abide, or life is vain.
I need Thee every hour; teach me Thy will, and Thy rich promises in me fulfill.
I need Thee every hour, Most Holy One; O make me Thine indeed, Thou blessed Son.
Refrain: I need Thee, O I need Thee; every hour I need Thee! O bless me now, my Savior—I come to Thee!
For Today: Psalm 4:1; 86; John 15:4, 5; 16:33; 1 Corinthians 10:13; Hebrews 4:16
Consciously practice walking close to the Savior each hour so that whether there are times of joy or grief, He will be there to meet every need. Sing as you go meditating on the fact ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Thursday, August 17, 2017 | After Pentecost
Proper 14, Thursday
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 105:1–22
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 105:23–45
Old Testament 2 Samuel 15:1–18
New Testament Acts 21:27–36
Gospel Mark 10:32–45
Index of Readings
1 O give thanks to the LORD, call on his name,
make known his deeds among the peoples.
2 Sing to him, sing praises to him;
tell of all his wonderful works.
3 Glory in his holy name;
let the hearts of those who seek the LORD rejoice.
4 Seek the LORD and his strength;
seek his presence continually.
5 Remember the wonderful works he has done,
his miracles, and the judgments he has uttered,
6 O offspring of his servant Abraham,
children of Jacob, his chosen ones.
7 He is the LORD our God;
his judgments are in all the earth.
8 He is mindful of his covenant forever,
of the word that he commanded, for a thousand generations,
9 the covenant that he made with Abraham,
his sworn promise to Isaac,
10 which he confirmed to Jacob as a statute,
to Israel as an everlasting covenant,
11 saying, “To you I will give the land of Canaan
as your portion for an inheritance.”
12 When they were few in number,
of little account, and strangers in it,
13 wandering from nation to nation,
from one kingdom to another people,
14 he allowed no one to oppress them;
he rebuked kings on their account,
15 saying, “Do not touch my anointed ones;
do my prophets no harm.”
16 When he summoned famine against the land,
and broke every staff of bread,
17 he had sent a man ahead of them,
Joseph, who was sold as a slave.
18 His feet were hurt with fetters,
his neck was put in a collar of iron;
19 until what he had said came to pass,
the word of the LORD kept testing him.
20 The king sent and released him;
the ruler of the peoples set him free.
21 He made him lord of his house,
and ruler of all his possessions,
22 to instruct his officials at his pleasure,
and to teach his elders wisdom.
23 Then Israel came to Egypt;
Jacob lived as an alien in the land of Ham.
24 And the LORD made his people very fruitful,
and made them stronger than their foes,
25 whose hearts he then turned to hate his people,
to deal craftily with his servants.
26 He sent his servant Moses,
and Aaron whom he had chosen.
27 They performed his signs among them,
and miracles in the land of Ham.
28 He sent darkness, and made the land dark;
they rebelled against his words.
29 He turned their waters into blood,
and caused their fish to die.
30 Their land swarmed with frogs,
even in the chambers of their kings.
31 He spoke, and there came swarms of flies,
and gnats throughout their country.
32 He gave them hail for rain,
and lightning that flashed through their land.
33 He struck their vines and fig trees,
and shattered the trees of their country.
34 He spoke, and the locusts came,
and young locusts without number;
35 they devoured all the vegetation in their land,
and ate up the fruit of their ground.
36 He struck down all the firstborn in their land,
the first issue of all their strength.
37 Then he brought Israel out with silver and gold,
and there was no one among their tribes who stumbled.
38 Egypt was glad when they departed,
for dread of them had fallen upon it.
39 He spread a cloud for a covering,
and fire to give light by night.
40 They asked, and he brought quails,
and gave them food from heaven in abundance.
41 He opened the rock, and water gushed out;
it flowed through the desert like a river.
42 For he remembered his holy promise,
and Abraham, his servant.
43 So he brought his people out with joy,
his chosen ones with singing.
44 He gave them the lands of the nations,
and they took possession of the wealth of the peoples,
45 that they might keep his statutes
and observe his laws.
Praise the LORD!
2 Samuel 15:1–18
15 After this Absalom got himself a chariot and horses, and fifty men to run ahead of him. 2 Absalom used to rise early and stand beside the road into the gate; and when anyone brought a suit before the king for judgment, Absalom would call out and say, “From what city are you?” When the person said, “Your servant is of such and such a tribe in Israel,” 3 Absalom would say, “See, your claims are good and right; but there is no one deputed by the king to hear you.” 4 Absalom said moreover, “If only I were judge in the land! Then all who had a suit or cause might come to me, and I would give them justice.” 5 Whenever people came near to do obeisance to him, he would put out his hand and take hold of them, and kiss them. 6 Thus Absalom did to every Israelite who came to the king for judgment; so Absalom stole the hearts of the people of Israel.
7 At the end of four years Absalom said to the king, “Please let me go to Hebron and pay the vow that I have made to the LORD. 8 For your servant made a vow while I lived at Geshur in Aram: If the LORD will indeed bring me back to Jerusalem, then I will worship the LORD in Hebron.” 9 The king said to him, “Go in peace.” So he got up, and went to Hebron. 10 But Absalom sent secret messengers throughout all the tribes of Israel, saying, “As soon as you hear the sound of the trumpet, then shout: Absalom has become king at Hebron!” 11 Two hundred men from Jerusalem went with Absalom; they were invited guests, and they went in their innocence, knowing nothing of the matter. 12 While Absalom was offering the sacrifices, he sent for Ahithophel the Gilonite, David’s counselor, from his city Giloh. The conspiracy grew in strength, and the people with Absalom kept increasing.
13 A messenger came to David, saying, “The hearts of the Israelites have gone after Absalom.” 14 Then David said to all his officials who were with him at Jerusalem, “Get up! Let us flee, or there will be no escape for us from Absalom. Hurry, or he will soon overtake us, and bring disaster down upon us, and attack the city with the edge of the sword.” 15 The king’s officials said to the king, “Your servants are ready to do whatever our lord the king decides.” 16 So the king left, followed by all his household, except ten concubines whom he left behind to look after the house. 17 The king left, followed by all the people; and they stopped at the last house. 18 All his officials passed by him; and all the Cherethites, and all the Pelethites, and all the six hundred Gittites who had followed him from Gath, passed on before the king.
27 When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, 28 shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” 29 For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. 30 Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. 31 While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. 32 Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. 33 Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. 34 Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. 35 When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. 36 The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!”
32 They were on the road, going up to Jerusalem, and Jesus was walking ahead of them; they were amazed, and those who followed were afraid. He took the twelve aside again and began to tell them what was to happen to him, 33 saying, “See, we are going up to Jerusalem, and the Son of Man will be handed over to the chief priests and the scribes, and they will condemn him to death; then they will hand him over to the Gentiles; 34 they will mock him, and spit upon him, and flog him, and kill him; and after three days he will rise again.”
35 James and John, the sons of Zebedee, came forward to him and said to him, “Teacher, we want you to do for us whatever we ask of you.” 36 And he said to them, “What is it you want me to do for you?” 37 And they said to him, “Grant us to sit, one at your right hand and one at your left, in your glory.” 38 But Jesus said to them, “You do not know what you are asking. Are you able to drink the cup that I drink, or be baptized with the baptism that I am baptized with?” 39 They replied, “We are able.” Then Jesus said to them, “The cup that I drink you will drink; and with the baptism with which I am baptized, you will be baptized; 40 but to sit at my right hand or at my left is not mine to grant, but it is for those for whom it has been prepared.”
41 When the ten heard this, they began to be angry with James and John. 42 So Jesus called them and said to them, “You know that among the Gentiles those whom they recognize as their rulers lord it over them, and their great ones are tyrants over them. 43 But it is not so among you; but whoever wishes to become great among you must be your servant, 44 and whoever wishes to be first among you must be slave of all. 45 For the Son of Man came not to be served but to serve, and to give his life a ransom for many.”
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church