Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Exodus 2: Sermon Applications

MAIN POINT: God preserves his people.

First: God preserves His people in the face of wickedness.

The conflict in Exodus is between the kingdom of God and the kingdom of darkness. The way God always works through history is to preserve his people in the face of wickedness. God defeats this kingdom of darkness by the triumph of the kingdom of His Son. God will send an even greater redeemer. The purpose of redemption is to usher in new creation.

Exodus is all about showing the glory and might of our God. He has no rival and no equals. The application is this: who alone can take on and defeat evil and wickedness? YHWH, the LORD. He does this through keeping His covenant. He does this in an unassuming manner.

God works today to preserve his people in the face of evil and wickedness. Jesus himself prays for you:
John 17:15-16 15 "I do not ask You to take them out of the world, but to keep them from the evil one. 16 "They are not of the world, even as I am not of the world.
It is an incredible comfort to know that God keeps us from the evil one.

Second: God preserves us by redeeming us from under wickedness.
i) Jesus’ fulfillment: God preserves Jesus—e.g. from Herod. Satan tries to destroy Jesus just like Pharaoh seeks to destroy Abraham’s seed.
Revelation 12:1-5 NAU Revelation 12:1 A great sign appeared in heaven: a woman clothed with the sun, and the moon under her feet, and on her head a crown of twelve stars; 2 and she was with child; and she cried out, being in labor and in pain to give birth. 3 Then another sign appeared in heaven: and behold, a great red dragon having seven heads and ten horns, and on his heads were seven diadems. 4 And his tail swept away a third of the stars of heaven and threw them to the earth. And the dragon stood before the woman who was about to give birth, so that when she gave birth he might devour her child. 5 And she gave birth to a son, a male child, who is to rule all the nations with a rod of iron; and her child was caught up to God and to His throne.

ii) The church of God today: The church is persecuted and must overcome. The seven churches in Revelation are encouraged in the midst of persecution as they are shown rewards for those who “overcome”. “Overcome” is repeated 8 times in Revelation 2-3 and it is tied throughout the book to the victory of Christ on the cross and His triumph in His return.
ESV 1 John 2:13 I am writing to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I am writing to you, young men, because you have overcome the evil one. I write to you, children, because you know the Father. 14 I write to you, fathers, because you know him who is from the beginning. I write to you, young men, because you are strong, and the word of God abides in you, and you have overcome the evil one.

ESV 1 John 4:4 Little children, you are from God and have overcome them, for he who is in you is greater than he who is in the world.

1 John 5:4-5 4 For whatever is born of God overcomes the world; and this is the victory that has overcome the world-- our faith. 5 Who is the one who overcomes the world, but he who believes that Jesus is the Son of God?
Believers are wandering in exile. We await our Exodus where we are taken to be with the Lord. Part of this entails overcoming evil in the world around us.

Third: God preserves us despite our wickedness.

Our redemption does not come because of our goodness. Our redemption does not come because we can preserve ourselves from evil.

We do not overcome evil:
i) Fighting and taking up our sword.
ii) Exalting ourselves as champions of righteousness and goodness.
iii) Using the church to seek the political prestige of being a ‘prince’ or ‘judge’. (the people of God can be involved in these roles but these roles in a secular government are not the kingdom of God). All work is done to God’s glory but not all work ushers in the kingdom. I am not speaking against Christians serving in political office. I am speaking against the association of evangelical values with politics so that we are a voting block rather than a faith.

The temptation is to fight to preserve ourselves as rather than to trust that God alone preserves His people. This temptation can lead us to seek the triumph of God's kingdom through means other than those God has given.

We overcome evil by:
i) Standing firm in trust in Jesus. Seeing that He is the true overcomer and I just ‘come along for the ride.’
ii) By walking through continual faith and repentance. Humilty.
1 Peter 5:5-6 5 You younger men, likewise, be subject to your elders; and all of you, clothe yourselves with humility toward one another, for GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE. 6 Therefore humble yourselves under the mighty hand of God, that He may exalt you at the proper time,

James 4:6-10 6 But He gives a greater grace. Therefore it says, "GOD IS OPPOSED TO THE PROUD, BUT GIVES GRACE TO THE HUMBLE." 7 Submit therefore to God. Resist the devil and he will flee from you. 8 Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. Cleanse your hands, you sinners; and purify your hearts, you double-minded. 9 Be miserable and mourn and weep; let your laughter be turned into mourning and your joy to gloom. 10 Humble yourselves in the presence of the Lord, and He will exalt you.
iii) Proclaiming the Lordship of Christ. We are to announce good news.
iv) Bearing kingdom fruit of good deeds and love, which entails:
  1. Praying for our coming redemption and the persecuted saints
  2. Helping the sick, the poor, the orphan, the widow. Show compassion and mercy; meekness, gentleness.
  3. Being concerned with justice. Not just ‘political justice’ but with truth, fairness, equality.
  4. Enduring hardship.

Monday, June 29, 2009

Exodus 2: Sermon Intro

Why does God let evil prosper? Why does God allow His people to be surrounded by evil? The Old Testament wrestles with this a lot.
Jeremiah 12:1 Righteous are you, O LORD, when I complain to you; yet I would plead my case before you. Why does the way of the wicked prosper? Why do all who are treacherous thrive?

Habakkuk 1:3-4 Why do you make me see iniquity, and why do you idly look at wrong? Destruction and violence are before me; strife and contention arise. So the law is paralyzed, and justice never goes forth. For the wicked surround the righteous; so justice goes forth perverted.

Ecclesiastes 7:15 In my vain life I have seen everything. There is a righteous man who perishes in his righteousness, and there is a wicked man who prolongs his life in his evildoing.

Ecclesiastes 8:14 There is a vanity that takes place on earth, that there are righteous people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the wicked, and there are wicked people to whom it happens according to the deeds of the righteous. I said that this also is vanity.

Why would God take his people into bondage when He has promised to bless them? Why does God let evil triumph? Why let Israel suffer at all? If God is sovereign and God is good, why does God let evil fall on his people? Why does he allow evil to thrive and prosper?
  1. Wrong answer one: God is not sovereign.
  2. Wrong answer two: God is not good.
It is in the face of evil that God displays His power and glory.

Saturday, June 27, 2009

Biblical Theology in Exodus 1 and 2

There is some fascinating Biblical Theology going on in Exodus 1 & 2:

1) In Exodus 1:6, you clearly have echoes of the creation mandate & God's covenant with Abraham to multiply them.

2) In Exodus 1 & 2 (and the larger battle between God and Pharaoh) you definitely have fulfillments of the covenant promise to Abraham, particularly the prosperity of God's people, being blessed in a foreign land and watching God "bless those who bless you and curse those who curse you" (Genesis 12:3)

3) In Exodus 2:2, Moses' mom looks at him and 'sees that he is good'. This is a clear allusion to Genesis 1. Just one more hint that God is going to use redemption to usher in new creation, although the recreation at Sinai is not the true eschatological just a foretaste.

4) Moses is put in an 'ark' (Ex 2:3) a clear allusion to Noah and the Flood Narrative. This I think connects creation to redemption. It hints at God's pattern of redeeming for the purpose of nrew creation.

5) Moses goes through a 'salvation through judgment' experience. He is saved from the Nile, the means by which Pharaoh wants to kill Israelite males. Not only that Moses is drawn up out of the 'reeds' a clear allusion to the coming deliverance at the Re(e)d Sea. Like elsewhere in Exodus Moses experiences Israel's experience before she does. I think this hints not only at God's pattern of bringing salvation through allowing his people to pass vindicated through the judgment while destroying his enemies, it also gives hints to the Second Adam paradigm that God's chosen leader must pass through judgment on behalf of and before His people.

6) You have the clear deliverance of the child motif. Cf. Matthew 2 and Revelation 12 for this pattern being repeated and coming to climax in God's larger redemptive history.

7) Exodus 2:11-14, Moses seeks to offer deliverance but not only does Israel fail to recognize it (cf Acts 7:24-25), I think you have Moses exalting Himself rather than humbling himself to let God exalt him. This is a clear failure of Moses but points us right to Christ.

Ok, this is just a foretaste of the good things in Exodus, all point to the glories of our God in Christ. I'm looking forward to my upcoming sermon in Exodus and hope to post some things on my blog. Lots of fascinating stuff.

Upcoming Exodus Sermons

Here's the tentative Exodus sermons I envision:

June 28- “The Birth of Moses” Exodus 1 &2

July 5- “Burn, Baby Burn: God’s Call of Moses” Exodus 3

July 12- “Who am I? Moses’ Doubt” Exodus 4

Aug. 9- “Who is the Lord? Responding to God” Exodus 5 & 6

Aug. 16- “God’s Rumble in the Jungle: The 10 Plagues” Exodus 7-11

Aug 23- “Death Among Us: The Passover” Exodus 12

Aug. 30 “Showdown at the Sea” Exodus 14-15

Sept. 6- “God’s Glory at Sinai" Exodus 19

Sept. 13- “The Ten Commandments” Exodus 20

Sept. 20- “Rebels from Grace : The Golden Calf” Exodus 32-34

Sept. 27- “Glory in our Midst: The Tabernacle” Exodus 36-38, & 40

Exodus Preaching Goals

Posting has been a little slow around here. Life has gotten a bit busy including last week doing some preaching/training at Victory Valley Camp for our summer staff. Loved it and had a great time. Second, we found out my wife is expecting our fourth child but that brings on her usual 'morning sickness' which is at times quite extreme and lasts all day. Third, its just plan old summer and I do like to get out.

I am starting a summer sermon series in Exodus. I hope to post extra items, discuss its historicity, give Biblical theological tidbits and supplement my sermon material with some blog posts. We'll see how it goes, no promises.

Here are some preaching goals I have for Exodus:

  1. Proclaim Christ.
  2. Apply the text.
  3. Be faithful to grammatical-historical exegesis.
  4. Provide background info that will illuminate the text.
  5. Help people understand the book, especially within redemptive history and its canonical context.

In my own note to self I wrote "Preach it, don't lecture it". I find that it would probably be easier to lecture on Exodus than actually preach it--so I have these goals to focus my prep work.

Here's my personal goals for my study:
  1. Become knowledgeable in the Hebrew of Exodus.
  2. Become knowledgeable in the background and theology of Exodus.
  3. See Exodus in light of redemptive history.
  4. Grow in personal faith and practice.
  5. Grow in my skill as a preacher.
  6. See and savior Jesus and my redeeming God.
And away we go into Exodus.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

The Surgery of Preaching

A surgeon who won’t apply the knife is no surgeon so also is a preacher who won’t rebuke sin.

2 Timothy 4:1 I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who is to judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingdom: 2 preach the word; be ready in season and out of season; reprove, rebuke, and exhort, with complete patience and teaching

Monday, June 8, 2009

A Thought on Bibliolatry

A while back I wrote this post on Bibliolatry. Bibliolatry is the charge leveled typically upon conservatives to say that the revere the Bible too highly because they ground their life on it. Because we believe the Bible teaches us how to view the world, so we are called Bibliolaters--we make the Bible our idol. Instead, many who level such charges will say that the Bible is engaged in its own thought world and we cannot give is the position of authoritative or norming norm. We must allow it to remain its own, wrapped up, if you will, in its own thought world. So we are to leave the Bible as it is, merely an ancient document, merely culturally conditioned.

D.A. Carson has an execellent repsonse to this kind of think.

"The point is that even the most right-wing fundamentalist thinks that the Bible refers to realities beyond the dieas themselves that are found on the Bible's pages. In that sense, no fundamentalist can rigthly be charged with bibliolatry, since the Bible is not the ultimate object of veneration, but rather the realities to which the Bible refers (God, Christ, Christ's death, and resurrection, etc.). But if [someone] denies that Biblical extratextual referentiality is crucial and utterly essential to faithful Christian existence, he uses the Bible as no fundamentalist ever does: he goes back to the Bible, and stops. That is biblioaltry." (Renewing the Center, page 49)

So I ask: who's the bibliolater now?

Friday, June 5, 2009

Hitler and Atheism

Occasionally, when a Christian encounters an atheist and an atheist is pointing out all the evil done in the name of Christianity, the Christian will point out all the evils done by atheists from men like Hitler, Stalin and Mao (it is even one of the debate points atheists prepare for). The atheist will undoubtedly respond with the following: 'Hitler wasn't an atheist, and Stalin and Mao didn't do there deeds because they were atheists. I'm not going to debate the morals of the latter. You can be an atheist and be moral...it's just highly inconsistent especially if you are a natural materialist.

I do want to just point out that Hitler was no friend to Christianity. Richard Evans, in his book The Third Reich at War, writes:

Hitler’s hostility to Christianity reached new heights, or depths, during the war. It was a frequent theme of his mealtime monologues. After the war was over and victory assured, he said in 1942, the Concordat he had signed with the Catholic Church in 1933 would be formally abrogated and the Church would be dealt with like any other non-Nazi voluntary association. The Third Reich ‘would not tolerate the intervention of any foreign influence’ such as the Pope, and the Papal Nuncio would eventually have to go back to Rome. Priests, he said, were ‘black bugs’, ‘abortions in cassocks’. Hitler emphasized again and again his belief that Nazism was a secular ideology founded on modern science. Science, he declared, would easily destroy the last remaining vestiges of superstition. ‘Put a small telescope in a village, and you destroy a world of superstitions.’ ‘The best thing,’ he declared on 14 October 1941, ‘is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science.’ He was particularly critical of what he saw as its violation of the law of natural selection and the survival of the fittest. ‘Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of human failure.’ It was indelibly Jewish in origin and character. ‘Christianity is a prototype of Bolshevism: the mobilization by the Jew of the masses of slaves with the object of undermining society.’ Christianity was a drug, a kind of sickness: ‘Let’s be the only people who are immunized against the disease.’ ‘In the long run,’ he concluded, ‘National Socialism and religion will no longer be able to exist together.’ He would not persecute the Churches: they would simply wither away. ‘But in that case we must not replace the Church by something equivalent. That would be terrifying!’ The future was Nazi, and the future would be secular. (HT: Al Mohler).

To say Hitler took things to an extreme would be an understatement. To say he was cold, calculating and calloused treats his behavior and vitriol with a sort of sterility that cannot do justice to the inhumanity of his actions. And while we are careful to avoid a reductio ad Hitlerum, the simple fact of the matter is Hitler took his worldview to its natural conclusions.-a worldview with key elements and central tennants that are far too prevelent in today's culture. It was a worldview driven by naturalistic secularism, survival of the fittest, eugenics and populace control. In short, Hitler was no friend to Christianity.

Hitler may have at times marshaled 'god' to his cause, in Mein Kampf he wrote ". I am convinced that I am acting as the agent of our Creator. By fighting off the Jews. I am doing the Lord's work." This was certainly not the God of Christianity. You cannot blame religion for the evils of Hitler. In fact, quite the opposite, it was clearly the irreligion of Hitler and taken them to their natural conclusion was one of the factors that brought about the evil of Hitler's action. And yet, even that is too cold and sterile an analysis of such evil, but then that's my Christian presuppositions speaking--and if you don't have them you have no real non-contradictory moral grounds to unequivocally protest such evil.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Inerrancy History

I just found this interesting and spot on quote by D.A. Carson on the legacy of inerrancy responding to one detractor who traces the rise of foundationalism through Protestant Scholasticism to Princeton to early fundamentalists:

A decade and a half ago, a small group of scholars, well exemplified by Jack Rogers and Donald McKim, tried to convince the world that the Princetonians had transformed the historic doctrine of Scripture into an indefensible precisionism, and indefensible inerrancy. Their own historical errors were nicely put to rest by John Woodbridge and others, whos close knowledge of the primary sources dealt this revisionist historiography a deathblow. The result is that no one of stature makes the same mistake today. But now [this author] is attempting his own wrinkle. The Princetonians may not have changed the doctrine, but they elevated it from one article of faith to the foundation for faith. I very much doubt that this sweeping claim can be sustained. The Princetonians had more to say about Scripture than some of their forebears, precisely because that was one of the most common points of attack from the rising liberalism of the (especially European) university world. Beyond this, I suspect that even-handed reading of the evidence would not find Hodge or Warfield adopting a stance on Scripture greatly different from that of Augustine or Calvin, or far as its role in the structure of Christian theology is concerned."
--Reclaiming the Center p.44

"There is a competent and detailed literature that shows that a "high" view of Scripture is paradigm-independent, or, more accurately, that it keeps recurring in every century of the Christian church." (Reclaiming the Center, p.44 n.4).

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Pixar & Gospel Preaching

I've read a couple of review on the new movie Up by Pixar (one that Frank Turk put me on to, here). Here's an interesting insight from World Magazine:

Pete Docter, writer and director of Up as well as previous Pixar hit Monster's Inc., says he's come to expect this kind of reaction. "We hear it on almost every movie. We heard it with Nemo. On our first movie, Toy Story, which was a movie about toys, we had investors tell us, 'We see no marketing possibilities with this movie.'"

That doesn't mean that he and his fellow filmmakers at Pixar don't take their obligation to investors seriously. Rather, Docter says they believe that telling the best stories they can is a better way of ensuring a good financial return than mimicking the content that worked for other animated releases. "What makes people want to buy stuff is that they like the story and the characters. The dolls are like a souvenir of the movie, so if you like the movie, you'll want a souvenir, and if you don't, then you won't. Our job as far as merchandising goes is to make the characters in the movie likeable. I look at the character of Carl [the old man] and think, 'Who doesn't want an action figure of an old guy like that?'"

Docter also believes investors' demand that animators bow to pop—culture trends is hurting the quality of animated films in general. "We're so bombarded now by our tabloid culture, and it's like, 'Please, give me a break.' That's just not the style that I've ever been after. I grew up loving the old Disney movies like Bambi and Dumbo—there's just such a charm and grace about those films, and I like to think Pixar picked up where they left off. My dad took me to see Snow White, and there were no crazy gags in it. But there were laughs and heart, and that's what makes it appeal to generation after generation. Those are the kinds of films we want to make, so we [at Pixar] don't approach the story looking for ways to insert pop culture references or crass jokes.

Notice how Pixar has a 'product' that wish to distribute to the 'world'. They believe there is an indelible quality to that product. The believe there is a sort of inherent value to their product. And so when investors come along and whine and moan about how to make the product more marketable Pixar sides with the inherent strength of their product and works to attract people with those aspects of the product rather than what the marketing gurus and statistical experts say. Why is Pixar so committed to its product and the excellence of its product? Why does Pixar, in a sense, snub its investors and those who want Pixar to chase after the next cheap gimmick? Why indeed? Because Pixar understands the the relationship between the message and the medium. If they adapt their message to a cheep, marketable, gimmicky message the realize they change the message they are actually seeking to spread. Something will be lost and that something is that which actually appeals to the fans.

What could gospel preachers learn from Pixar?
The church today is enthralled by the gimmicky. We are like drug additcs digging through the trash so that we can pull it together for the next big score. That's the way we typically approach the message. What next big thing can we bait our hook with so that the fish will bite? So we listen to the marketing experts. We put Jesus on a T-shirt and a bobblehead in order to get the 'word out'. Sadly, such cow towing actually reshapes the message that we have.

Because of the inherent power of the gospel, because of the work of the Spirit when we preach, proclaim and give evidence of lives shaped by the gospel, people will come to Jesus Christ in true faith. If we stick to the purity of the message and seek to exalt the message and the person the message is about, we will find people come to Jesus as if be a supernatural appeal. Like Pixar we should believe in telling the best 'stories'--the gospel story of God's kingdom. Like Pixar we should take "investors" serious in that this is the thing they actually need. Like Pixar, we should also avoid fad driven appeals because it robs something from the message we seek to convey.

The gospel will win the affections of people. This is what the gospel does, this is the power of the Trinity and their gospel. When we seek to win the affections of people with things other than the gospel so that we might give them the gospel, we will find people passing us by as soon a we try to ween the off of the elixir and on to the pure gospel. Even more, the longer someone is accustom to the elixir that we add, the more we will have to mix in with the pure message in order to have the same effect. It is like drugs to which the body becomes accustomed so that to have the same effect the dose must be increased. Over time what happens is the mixture that began with just a little additive to make it 'go down smooth' becomes unbalanced: more additive and less medicine. When day we wake up and we have nothing but additive left.

Back to the analogy with Pixar: when you tailor the message for the appeal and for the souvenirs you wake up one day and realize you aren't really selling the message your are just a trinket dealer with some cheap junk.--junk that is pretty much like everybody else's.

Why is it that Pixar gets something about its 'product' that the church can't seem to grasp about its own?

Tuesday, June 2, 2009

An Eschatology Of Heaven

A while back, I took on a series noting that Heaven must be a part of our Biblical worldview (6 parts, starting here). We cannot merely excise it as 'Platonic' although at times Christians have allowed there view to mutate into something along this lines. Obviously, it is an understatement to say that one cannot throw out the baby with the bathwater.

The Christian Worldview is condition by a view of history. Thus, Christian is driven by eschatology, an unfolding of a history of redemption that comes to climax in the first and second advent of Christ. These advents are apocalyptic and Christian theology is equally shaped by this apocalypticism of God's inbreaking. Christianity must have both a horizontal and a vertical eschatology.

Gerhardus Vos, of course, defends this vertical element and horizontal element in his work on Hebrews, The Teaching of the Epistle of Hebrews. (See my appropriation of it here and here). These aspect of vertical and horizontal eschatology are through the whole New Testament. We might more accurately this eschatology as redemptive historical (history unfolding; hence the 'horizontal') and apocalypiticsm, decisive inbreaking of God's activity from heaven (hence the 'vertical'.).

This dual eschatology (or if you prefer: eschaology & apocalytpicism) pervades and undergirds the worldview in Ephesians. This is particularly true in key passages like Ephesians 1:19-23 and Ephesians 6:10-13, which serve as veritiable bookends to some degree of the major themes in Ephesians. It comes across in terms like 'heavenilies' (Eph. 1:3). Or in Ephesians 1:1-7; 3:10 or 4: 7-10. There are clear descent/ascent motifs in the death, resurrection and exaltation of Jesus Christ. This inaugurates the 'age to come' which overlaps the 'present evil age'. Jesus Himself, reveals God and establishes God's kingdom, making Jew and Gentile one. The beleiver who used to walk in 'the course of this world' (denoting both 'earth' and 'the present evil age') has now had a shift in there experience as partaking of both the age to come and being seated with Christ in the heavenlies (2:6-7).

Or eschatology and view thereof cannot be collapse mearly to the 'earthly' realm of the historical. It must retain the inbreaking aspect. At stake is nothing less than the work of Christ and our relationship with him. There cannot be a new creation (of heavens and earth), where in the end the heavenly descends and God's throne and glory pervades all of creation, if we deny the Biblical view of heaven.

Andrew Lincoln writes the following, speaking of Paul's phrase in Ephesians 'in the heavenlies':
"It will become clear that ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις [in the heavenlies] is closely realted to ἐν τοῖς οὐρανοῖς [in the heavens]. But whereas οὐρανος [heaven] can be used in various contexts and with varying shades of meaning, including the eschatological, ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις in this letter particularly places heaven in a Pauline eschatological perspective. All that has been said positvely in exegesis and negatively in criticism of other interpretations has shown that involved in the formula is the concept of heaven with its Old Testament double reference--cosmic and transcendent--but now charged with further meaning. Heaven is viewed as caught up in the history of redemption, and for Paul heaven is now caught up in this history in the light of its focus, Jesus Christ. Rather than turning to Gnostic, Platonic, or existentialist categories it has been seen that the use of the formula can be most adequately understood by referring to the Old Testmant and Jewish concept of heaven. Paul's view was derived ultimately from the opening statement of the Old Testament. 'In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth' (Gen. i.I). Created reality had two major parts. That part known as the heavens could be thought of in terms of atmospheric heaven (e.g. Ps. cxlvii. 8; Matt. vi. 26) or of the firmament (e.g. Gen. i. 7, 14). As the upper or higher part of created reality it also came to stand for the dwelling-place of God, pointing beyond its own createdness to divine transcendence (e.g. Ps. ii. 4; Matt. vi. 9; cf. also the substitution of heaven for the divine name in later Judaism which was carried over into New Testament usage in teh term 'the kingdom of heaven'). Not only so, but the upper limits of the firmament were regarded as concealing a presently invisible created spiritual order (e.g. II Kings vi. 17; Job. i. 6; Zech. iii. I, cf. also Acts ix. 3 f.; xii. 7 f.) It is highly probably that Paul generally adopted this relatively unsophisticated Old Testament structure... Heaven in this structure had priority as the upper and controlling part of the universe, yet as seen in its created aspect it was involved in God's plan for the ages, for in Jahweh's acts of judgment the heavens as well as the earth are shaken (cf. Isa. li. 6; Amos viii. 9; Hag. ii. 6; Heb. xii. 26) and the latter part of Isaiah can speak of the creation of a new heaven and new earth, indicating the need for cosmic renewal. In later Judaism the evil powers in heaven are judged (cf. I Enoch xvi. 1-4; xxi. 1-6; lxxxix. 59 g.) before the commencement of the coming new age with its new heaven (I Enoch xci. 16).

Since Paul also shared this two-age eschatological structure which incorporated both heaven and earth in each age and since Jesus Christ as Lord was central in his particular version of this structure, both heaven and earth took on new significance as they related to the Christ event in his thinking. In Ephesians thaen it would not be surprising if ἐν τοῖς ἐπουρανίοις were to have reference to heaven as a distinct part of the created universe but one which retains its concealing relation to the spiritual world and to God himself, and thus also its aspects of incomprehensibility. The reference is to this heaven as it takes its place in the cosmic drama of redemption, that is, in that act of the drama which Christ has inaugurated by his death, resurrection and ascension...

Paul concieves of the two ages as coexistent, and in this period of overlap the believer is regarded as involved in two spheres of existence simultaneously. Within this framework a vertical point of view can come to expression as well as a linear horizontal, for since the two ages comprehend both heaven and earth, as the beleiver becomes drawns into the history of redemption, he finds himself invovled in these two worlds--the heavenly and the earthly."

--A.T. Lincoln, "A Re-Examination of 'The Heavenlies' in Ephesians" New Test. Stud. 19, pp479-481.

So there you have it, the horizontal and the vertical. Both are pretty central for the unfolding of Ephesians and for the unfolding of are redemption within God's created realm.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Eph. 6:5 on Slavery

Right of the bat as we look at Ephesians 6:5 we have to ask the question: Does the Bible condone and even endorse slavery? This question is sort of the elephant in the room particularly when the Bible tells slaves to obey their masters.

ESV Ephesians 6:5 Slaves, obey your earthly masters with fear and trembling, with a sincere heart, as you would Christ,

To answer this we have to compare and contrast ancient forms of slavery with modern slavery as we have in the New World and early America. Slavery in the first century was not a racial and ethnic form of discrimination and subjugation as it was in the New World/early America.

The Bible is quite clear that kidnapping is wrong. Therefore, kidnapping for the purpose of slavery, whether in piracy or in war, which was known in the ancient world as some of the ways you could get slaves, is wrong. Yet, this form of acquiring slaves was no longer the main way of acquiring slaves by Paul’s day. [1]

NAU 1 Timothy 1:9 realizing the fact that law is not made for a righteous person, but for those who are lawless and rebellious, for the ungodly and sinners, for the unholy and profane, for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers 10 and immoral men and homosexuals and kidnappers and liars and perjurers, and whatever else is contrary to sound teaching, 11 according to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, with which I have been entrusted.

NAU Deuteronomy 24:7 "If a man is caught kidnapping any of his countrymen of the sons of Israel, and he deals with him violently or sells him, then that thief shall die; so you shall purge the evil from among you.

The Old Testament also had strict laws about how to treat the alien in the midst of Israel, e.g. someone racial different. The alien/sojourner in the land was to be treated with remarkable respect and dignity. Just was to be the same for him. He was even to be allowed to given thanks offerings to the Lord if he so wished. Slavery was not racial. Races were treated with respect, albeit at times God judged the nations for idolatry.

NAU Deuteronomy 24:17 "You shall not pervert the justice due an alien or an orphan, nor take a widow's garment in pledge.
NAU Deuteronomy 24:18 "But you shall remember that you were a slave in Egypt, and that the LORD your God redeemed you from there; therefore I am commanding you to do this thing.
NAU Deuteronomy 24:19 "When you reap your harvest in your field and have forgotten a sheaf in the field, you shall not go back to get it; it shall be for the alien, for the orphan, and for the widow, in order that the LORD your God may bless you in all the work of your hands.

NAU Deuteronomy 26:11 and you and the Levite and the alien who is among you shall rejoice in all the good which the LORD your God has given you and your household.

NAU Deuteronomy 1:16 "Then I charged your judges at that time, saying, 'Hear the cases between your fellow countrymen, and judge righteously between a man and his fellow countryman, or the alien who is with him.

In the Old Testament and in the first century Roman Law, one could sell oneself into slavery and under certain prevision by oneself out. Four ways ancient slavery was different: [2]
  1. Skin and race was not a factor.
  2. Freepersons could sell themselves into slavery. Dio Chrysostom states they were “under contract”. We know that sometimes people entered slavery to secure high profile jobs in wealthy families that afforded people with status and wealth. Slaves could earn their own money. One foreign king’s son even voluntarily became a slave so that he could become a Roman citizen and avoid paying Roman taxes.
  3. Slaves could become highly trained and educated. Some served households as tutors. Others taught higher education (like our college).
  4. Slaves could buy freedom and become Roman citizens.

Slavery was not all a bed of roses. Children had while you were a slave belonged to the master. Marriage of slaves was not equal rights as the freeperson. Some masters were cruel, there are discussions in the ancient world how to use fear to get slaves to submit and keep them in line, yet there were debates about how ineffective this was.

“Modern readers [of the Bible] need to free themselves from a number of assumptions about first-century slavery, including assumptions that there was a wide separation between the status of slave and freedperson, that all slaves were badly treated, and that all who were enslaved were trying to free themselves from this bondage. It is true that Roman law distinguished sharply between the status for slave and free in terms of legal powerlessness of the slave, but in practice there was a broad continuum of statuses between slave and free in both Roman and Greek society. For example, slaves of Greek owners could own property, including their own slaves, and could obtain persmission to take employment in addition to their duties as slaves…” [3]
“Many slaves in the Greco-Roman world enjoyed more favorable living conditions than many free laborers. Contrary to the supposition that everyone was trying to avoid slavery at all costs, it is clear that some people actually sold themselves into slavery in order to climb socially, to obtain particular employment open only to slaves, and to enjoy a better standard of living than they had experienced as free persons. Being a slave had the benefit of providing a certain personal and social security.” [4]

Paul tells slave to buy there freedom if they can but not to worry and fret about the fact that they are a slave. In fact, in the church slaves and freemen were equal, according to Paul (cf. Gal. 3:28).

NAU 1 Corinthians 7:21 Were you called while a slave? Do not worry about it; but if you are able also to become free, rather do that. 22 For he who was called in the Lord while a slave, is the Lord's freedman; likewise he who was called while free, is Christ's slave. 23 You were bought with a price; do not become slaves of men. 24 Brethren, each one is to remain with God in that condition in which he was called.

Slavery in the ancient world, while like any human institution had its injustices, but it did not have the systemic injustice that we see in American slavery. To suggest that Paul and the Bible would have endorsed American forms of slavery is false. By the same manner, to consider the Bible as endorsing evil and racism because it mentions slaves and tells them to obey falls is an anachronism where you understand the first century by our modern forms of slavery. I dare say, slavery in the ancient world at this time was less cruel and much more civilized than we find in the modern world within the last three hundred years right up to the present.

It has been Christian efforts in the world that have sought to abolish slavery, many of the Christian making their arguments right from the Bible (e.g. William Wilberforce).
“Although it has been fashionable to deny it, antislavery doctrines began to appear in Christian theology soon after the decline of Rome and were accompanied by the eventual disappearance of slavery in all but the fringes of Christian Europe. When Europeans subsequently instituted slavery in the New World, they did so over strenuous papal opposition, a fact that was conveniently “lost” from history until recently. Finally, the abolition of New World slavery was initiated and achieved by Christian activists…Slavery was once nearly universal to all societies able to afford it, and only in the West did significant moral opposition ever arise and lead to abolition.” [5]

[1] Lincoln, Ephesians p.418.
[2] Adapted from Hoehner, Ephesians, 801-2
[3] Lincoln, 416-17.
[4] Lincoln, 418
[5] Stark, For the Glory of God, p.291; Qtd. Keller The Reason for God, p.267 n.23
"The Voyages..." Forays into Biblical studies, Biblical exegesis, theology, exposition, life, and occasionally some Star Trek...