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The Significance of Adam Through the Lens of Temple Theology

Introduction

Biblical scholarship has undergone a transformation in the last few decades. The emergence of the so-called “Third Quest for the Historical Jesus” has challenged the Western Church’s traditional view of how the canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John have portrayed Jesus. Third Quest scholars such as Ed Sanders have argued that Jesus must be a historical figure which squarely fits within first century Judaism.[1] This historical approach to the canonical gospels presentation of Jesus has been picked up by other scholars and applied to the rest of the scripture.

wrightOne such scholar is highly respected New Testament scholar, N. T Wright. He has challenged the traditional Calvinist view of the doctrine of justification.[2] He has suggested that Paul’s understanding of justification derived more from his Jewish temple theology rather than a law court setting. He has suggested that modern biblical scholarship has failed to correct traditional errors because it has offered “Twentieth Century answers to Eighteenth Century questions.”[3] However, Wright does not simply offer temple theology as merely a Pauline theme of justification, he expands it to encompass all Biblical theology. He sees it as a thematic entirety of the biblical metanarrative.[4] Biblical scholar, Ben Meyer agrees with Wright’s assessment, noting, “The indispensability of the temple, an institution increasingly laden with functions, meanings, values basic to national life, is evident from the fierce drive to rebuild it in the late sixth century.”[5]

If scholars like Meyer and Wright are correct in asserting an overarching theme of temple theology throughout the whole of scripture, then, it is necessary to revisit all theological concepts considering this temple theology. The most obvious place to begin such an endeavor would be to understand the significance of humanity within a temple theology perspective. However, this would be a large undertaking in and of itself, therefore this paper aims to revisit the significance of Adam from the correct framework. Namely, the significance of Adam is properly understood when the concepts of “Imago Dei,” and the implications by way of “The Fall” and the “Kenosis of Jesus” are viewed through the perspective of temple theology.

ImagoDei

No biblical or systematic theology can be considered whole and complete without the study of man. “As a matter of fact, the two anchor points of theology, like the two foundations of a cable bridge, are the doctrine of God and the doctrine of man.”[6] Biblically, the doctrine of man begins during the creation scene when God says, “Let us make mankind in our image, in our likeness, so that they may rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground” (Gen 1:26).[7] The key terms in this verse are the Hebrew terms image (tselem) and likeness (demuth). This “image” and “likeness” is known as Imago Dei

Meaning of “Image” and “Likeness”

Scholars have differed as to what these two terms of the Imago Dei mean. Some scholars have attempted to separate these terms in their meanings; while others simply see them as parallelism within the Hebraic writing style. Louis Berkhof comments on these two words,

The terms “image” and “likeness” have been distinguished in numerous ways. Some believed “image” had reference to the body, and “likeness” to the soul. Augustine held that the former referred to the intellectual, and the latter, to the moral faculties of the soul. Bellarmin regarded “image” as a designation of the natural gifts of man, and “likeness” as a designation of that which was supernaturally added to man. Still others asserted that “image” denoted inborn, and “likeness,” the acquired conformity to God.[8]

Towns cites Stevens, who also examines the same issue,

The Hebrew words “image” (tselem) and “likeness” (demuth) mean nothing more nor less in the context than their English equivalents. The LXX translates tselem with the corresponding Greek word eikon, and demuth with the corresponding word homoisis. Whereas there is literally a distinction between an image and a likeness, the latter word being broader and more inclusive one, yet it is futile to attempt to make any precise distinctions between the two words as they are found in this context. Parallel words to give essentially the same thought are a familiar Hebrew mode of expression. The meaning of the passage obviously is that man is created to resemble God in some important ways.[9]

Whether the scholar understands the “image” and “likeness” to be distinct or not, the concept of this anthropology cannot be understated. Since the first man, Adam, is described in the Bible as being made in the “image” of God (v.27), “[he] cannot in every respect be likened to the whole of creation.”[10]

This significant difference of the first man, Adam, from the rest of creation begs a question: In what way does Adam and therefore humanity reflect the image of God? Henry suggests that how one answers the question of “the imago-inquiry soon becomes determinative for the entire gamut of doctrinal affirmation.”[11] The traditional view within biblical scholarship is that the image of God is “limited to immaterial nature and serves to simply reflect specific attributes of God” while distinguishing between essential and nonessential elements in God.[12] For the majority of scholars the image of God does not include any physical or substantive properties. Davis sums up most scholars in this way, “Both terms, therefore, point to spiritual qualities shared by both God and man. It is this image and likeness that completely distinguishes man from the animal kingdom.”[13]

However, a couple of challenges to this view arises. First, it implies a reading of the Old Testament text which the Old Testament itself does not support. Commenting on this issue Von Rad writes,

The interpretations, therefore, are to be rejected which proceed from anthropology strange to the Old Testament and one-sidedly limit God’s image to man’s spiritual nature relating it to man’s “dignity,” his “personality,” or “ability for moral reason,” etc. The marvel of man’s appearance is not to be excepted from God’s image. This was the original notion, and we have no reason to believe that it gave way… to a spiritualizing and intellectualizing tendency.”[14]

The second challenge arises from the resurrection of Jesus. This challenge arises from in what manner was Jesus resurrected. If Jesus was resurrected into a body containing physical properties, and if one affirms that Jesus is the full representation of God (Heb 1:3) then it must be affirmed that physicality properties must be attributed to God. Therefore, any hermeneutical suggestion as to what the image of God is must be able to account for both the physical and spiritual attributes of man.

imago dei

Image Dei from the Perspective of Temple Theology

John Walton has argued that Israelite temple tradition, as well as the Old Testament, has been heavily influenced by Near Eastern thought.[15] Walton notes, “From the standpoint of the deity, the temple is his/her estate and residence. The earthly temple was a symbol, an echo, a shadow of the heavenly residence.”[16] The temple therefore was the place where heaven and earth intersected. While Walton examines several aspects of temple theology, two of them bare significant relevance to the current discourse: 1. Iconism, and 2. Sacred Spaces.

Iconism

No temple is complete without an idol. The idol is the image of the god and signifies the divine presence residing in the temple. According to Walker and Dick, it is on the shoulders of the god being represented to approve and initiate the manufacturing of the idol.[17] Once manufactured, certain rituals where performed to bring about the transference of the divine presence from the spiritual world to the physical one in a process referred to as “actualizing the presence of the god in the temple.”[18] Walton likens this process to the Christian doctrine of inspiration of scripture, in as much as the process was not viewed as a human contrivance, but rather a miraculous act of the god.[19]

Another aspect of the idol was that it did not merely represent the deity but was the means by which the deity manifested its presence. This manifestation would include revelatory and mediation practices.[20] In terms of temple theology, the idol could be said to have been animated by the process of actualization. However, this must not be confused into a thinking which identifies the idol with the deity, itself. [21] Walker and Dick compare it to the Aristotelian philosophical concept of body and soul.[22]

Sacred Spaces

Sacred spaces were the specific locations where ancient peoples believed the gods traversed. Sacred spaces, therefore, were chosen by the gods before the building of the temple. One common type of sacred space was a garden. These locales were chosen, built upon, and sculpted to preserve and signify the sanctity of the sacred place. They were filled with images of the deity to endorse the sanctification of the chosen location.[23]

Revisiting the Creation Narrative

Looking at the creation narrative of Genesis 1 through the lenses of “Iconism” and “Sacred Spaces,” there are some striking similarities. First, it may be shown that God initiated the idol making process through the creation of the first man, Adam (vs.26-27). By imbuing Adam with his own “image” and “likeness,” God created an analogous idol of himself. This explains, the later cultic prohibition of graven images (Ex 20:4), since God had done so through the creation of Adam.

The next striking similarity is the “actualization of the idol” through ritual. Once again, God does not leave it up to the creation to provide the means of transference but does it on his own as a miraculous act of Deity. Towns suggests, “Life is a part of the nature of God, and when God gives life to something; He gives part of his nature to it.”[24] In Genesis 2, the Bible says, “Then the Lord God formed a man from the dust of the ground and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life, and the man became a living being” (v. 7). In this ritual act of resuscitation, God animates Adam through the transference of his nature.

Additionally, Adam is given revelation by God. He is told that all the fruit of the trees are his to eat except the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil (vs. 16-17). This also fits with the idea, that man is the idol of God. He is to receive revelation from his Deity, through which his actions are to be governed.

Finally, there is the sacred space. God places his idol (Adam) into a garden which He planted himself (v.8). This effectively establishes the garden as God’s sacred space. The place where he will traverse. However, God is not content with a mere plot of ground. God tells Adam to be fruitful and multiply (1:28). This multiplication was to increase the number of idols until they covered the whole earth, thereby, designating all of the earth as God’s sacred space.

The Fall

T. Wright has suggested that the Western Church is in danger of moralizing its anthropology.[25] This seems to be due to the idea that the incident related in the third chapter of Genesis commonly known as “The Fall” is the dominate feature of God’s purposes. “The Fall” also known as original sin) is the biblical narrative of the origination of evil in the world. Many scholars and laypersons, alike, have approached the biblical narrative from the point of view that the removal of sin and its effects on human beings by redeeming the marred imago dei and whisking humanity into the heavenly residence of God as the sole purpose of God’s redemptive act. Ascribing to this view, Towns writes,

“According to its largest meaning as used in the Scriptures, the word salvation represents the whole work of God by which He rescues man from the eternal ruin and doom of sin and bestows on him the riches of His grace, even eternal life now and eternal glory in Heaven…Therefore it is in every aspect a work of God in behalf of man, and is in no sense a work of man in behalf of God.”[26]

From this traditional view is the implied exaltation of the character of man. This presents a serious challenge for scholars to explain, “how Adam and Eve, endowed with original righteousness and no hindering force of sin, were seduced into committing sin.”[27] Yet, if one understands the fall from the perspective of Adam as an idol, then, there is no need to presume some original righteousness. Therefore, Adam (and subsequently Eve) were status neutral. In other words, Adam was neither righteous, nor unrighteous; in as much as a statue, in and of itself, is sacred or common.

One additional point of importance must be mentioned concerning “the fall” of mankind; that is its nature. This aspect cannot be overlooked as Davis notes, “Needless to say, it is impossible to understand the rest of the Bible without understanding Genesis 3.”[28] Therefore, in order to understand what God has been and is doing; it is important to understand precisely what occurred. Paul tells Timothy, “And Adam was not the one deceived; it was the woman who was deceived and became a sinner” (2:14). Yet to the Roman Church, Paul would write, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, and in this way death came to all people, because all sinned—” (Rom 5:12). Two very pertinent questions come up when one looks at these two passages: 1) Why the separation between Adam and Eve in relation to deception. 2) What exactly is the nature of the sin committed.

The answer to both these questions lay in understanding the event through the lens of temple theology. Since it has been argued that primary purpose and function of human beings was to be the God created idol through which God traversed his created reality; then the nature of “the fall” is simply this: What was purposed for worship of the creator denied such a vocation and worshiped the creation itself. In simplified language, the living idol did not worship the creator and as such did not reflect the image of God into the creation. Instead, he reflected the sin-marred creation (the serpent) into himself (Gen 3).

As a result, death entered into the world, not because Eve was deceived, but rather because Adam, who was not, did not impart God’s justice into the creation. Such justice actions were seen to be the responsibility of the idol of the god it represented. As Walton notes, “In Egypt of the Early First Millennium, for instance, court cases being tried were set before god Amun.”[29] It may also be argued that Adam failed to properly communicate the divine revelation as the medium through which God had spoken.

Kenosis of Jesus Christ

The final concept in which Adam bears theological significance is upon the kenosis of Jesus. The word itself is taken from the Greek in the Philippian 2:7 passage which reads, “Rather, he made (Gk. kenoó) himself nothing by taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. Kenoó, from which we get kenosis, has the meaning of emptying.[30] In the context in which Paul uses the word, he seems to be saying that the second person of the Triune God, emptied himself of his Godly attributes. In other words, God became man.

Exactly what Godly attributes were emptied and how this was accomplished is debated among Biblical scholars. However, for the purposes of this paper, the concentration will be focused upon the result of the kenosis. The traditional understanding of the result is known as the doctrine of hypostatic union. C. Blaising defines this union, stating, “In the incarnation of the Son of God, a human nature was inseparably united with forever with the divine nature in the one person of Jesus Christ, yet with the two natures remaining whole, and unchanged, without mixture or confusion.”[31]

This doctrine is not without its difficulties. As Blaising also notes, “Admittedly, the doctrine leaves many metaphorical questions unanswered.” Temple theology does little to answer those questions. However, what it does do is hold in unity the anthropology of God with anthropology of man.

Jesus tells the woman at the well, “God is Spirit.” (Jn 4:24). Yet, we know from scripture that Jesus was worshiped as God from very early on in the church’s history (Cf. Matt 2:11, 28:9; Jn 20:28, etc.) Yet, we also find in Jesus that God became a physical being. (Jn 1:1-18). So then, if God is Spirit, how does a physical being come to be worshiped?

Temple theology suggests a very strange and unique occurrence happened. This occurrence, however, is the exception to the rule rather than its affirmation. Sometimes, the exceptions can be more significant than the rule itself as is the case here. It has already been argued that Adam was created by God to be his idol. This idol received the transference of Godly attributes in a process referred to as “actualization.” Yet, it has been maintained that the idol was never identified as the god it represented. Jesus breaks this rule. The writer of Hebrews tells us that Jesus is the “express image” of God (Hebrews 1:3).[32] The Greek word used for image here is charaktér, which carries the connotation of graven image. This connotation brings us back to the temple theology of an idol. God becomes the idol of himself through the person of Jesus by the interlocking of the divine nature with the physical nature in such a way that each nature remains separate yet are interlocked with each other so there is no distinguishing between the end of one with the start of the other—The hypostatic union.

New Testament Scholar N. T. Wright has argued for a bodily resurrection on the grounds of what he has called “transphysicality”. He uses the word in order to put “a label on the demonstrable fact that the early Christians envisaged a body that was robustly physical but also significantly different from the present one.”[33] It must be noted that Wright’s context is dealing with the resurrected body and not the pre-crucifixion body. Still, it is not too difficult to imagine that if Jesus could maintain such a body post-resurrection, then his pre-crucifixion body would be of the same nature. Temple theology would suggest that this is true. Indeed, the first chapter of John is riddled with temple theology from his allusion to the creation narrative (Jn 1:1); to the Word became flesh and tabernacled among us (v.14).

Conclusion

The Significance of Adam does not lie in the narratives historic authenticity or lack thereof. It does not lie in its explanation for the problem of evil. No, it lies in the way it tells the reader who he or she is; and the way it reveals who God is. The significance of Adam is his iconistic vocation as the created idol of God meant to act as the corridor from the heavenly (spiritual, if you like) planes to the physical one. These are not two separate planes of existence but rather one large, immeasurable reality. The significance of Adam is that we are corrupted idols that have blasphemed the temple of creation by marring our representation of the creator God. As a result, God, himself took on flesh, to restore his image and sanctify his temple redeeming the marred idols in the process. This is evidenced throughout the scripture as “New Creation” (Cf. Rev 20; 2 Cor 5). [34] It is only when one peers at the scripture through the lens of temple theology that the whole of Biblical narrative can be understood. Therefore, when John was given his great vision of the future, he says, “The Lord God almighty and the lamb are its temple (Rev. 21:22).” For God will live in the creation and the creation will live in God.

 

 

 


Bibliography

Holy Bible: New King James Version : New Testament. Thomas Nelson Incorporated, 1979.

Holy Bible (Niv). Zondervan, 2008.

Berkhof, Louis. Systematic Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1932.

Blaising, C. “Hypostatic Union.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Davis, J.J. Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis. Sheffield Publishing Company, 1998.

Henry, C. F. H. “Image of God.” In Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, edited by Walter A. Elwell. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001.

Jacobsen, T. “Graven Image.” In Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, edited by P. D. Hanson P. D. Miller, S. D. Mcbride. Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1987.

Meyer, Ben F. “The Temple: Symbol Central to Biblical Theology.” Gregorianum 74, no. 2 (1993): 223-40. http://www.jstor.org/stable/23578885.

Sanders, E.P. Jesus and Judaism. Fortress Press, 1985.

Stevens, W.W. Doctrines of the Christian Religion. William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967.

Strong, J. and W. Baker. Strong’s Complete Word Study Concordance. AMG Publishers, 2004.

Towns, E.L. Theology for Today. Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001.

Von Rad, G. Genesis: A Commentary. Westminster John Knox Press, 1973.

Walker, C.B.F. and M. Dick. The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian Mīs Pî Ritual. Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Institute for Asian and African Studies, University of Helsinki, 2001.

Walton, J.H. Ancient near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible. Baker Publishing Group, 2006.

Winter, I.J. &Apos;Idols of the King&Apos;: Royal Images as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia. On Art in the Ancient Near East Volume II: Brill, 2009.

Wright, N. T., “How God Became King: Why We’ve All Misunderstood the Gospels.” January Series, Calvin College, 2012.

Wright, N. T., “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story.” Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California, 2016.

Wright, N. T., “Jesus at the Crossroads of History.” N. T. Wright at Perkins, Perkins School of Theology, 2016, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgOzZJodlyA.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Fortress Press, 2003.

Wright, N.T. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church. HarperCollins, 2008.

Wright, N.T. Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision. InterVarsity Press, 2009.

Notes

[1] E.P. Sanders, Jesus and Judaism (Fortress Press, 1985), 113.

[2] N.T. Wright, Justification: God’s Plan & Paul’s Vision (InterVarsity Press, 2009).

[3] N. T. Wright, “How God Became King: Why We’ve All Misunderstood the Gospels” (paper presented at the January Series, Calvin College2012).

[4] N. T. Wright, “Jesus at the Crossroads of History” (paper presented at the N. T. Wright at Perkins, Perkins School of Theology2016), https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BgOzZJodlyA.

[5] Ben F. Meyer, “The Temple: Symbol Central to Biblical Theology,” Gregorianum 74, no. 2 (1993): 229, http://www.jstor.org/stable/23578885.

[6] E.L. Towns, Theology for Today (Wadsworth Publishing Company, 2001), 555.

[7] Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are Holy Bible (Niv) (Zondervan, 2008).

[8] Louis Berkhof, Systematic Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: Eerdmans, 1932), 191.

[9] W.W. Stevens, Doctrines of the Christian Religion (William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1967).in Towns, 571.

[10] Towns, 564.

[11] C. F. H. Henry, “Image of God,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 592.

[12] Towns, 572.

[13] J.J. Davis, Paradise to Prison: Studies in Genesis (Sheffield Publishing Company, 1998), 81.

[14] G. Von Rad, Genesis: A Commentary (Westminster John Knox Press, 1973), 58.

[15] J.H. Walton, Ancient near Eastern Thought and the Old Testament: Introducing the Conceptual World of the Hebrew Bible (Baker Publishing Group, 2006).

[16] Ibid., 113.

[17] C.B.F. Walker and M. Dick, The Induction of the Cult Image in Ancient Mesopotamia: The Mesopotamian Mīs Pî Ritual (Neo-Assyrian Text Corpus Project, Institute for Asian and African Studies, University of Helsinki, 2001), 8.

[18] Ibid., 4.

[19] Walton, 114.

[20] I.J. Winter, &Apos;Idols of the King&Apos;: Royal Images as Recipients of Ritual Action in Ancient Mesopotamia, On Art in the Ancient Near East Volume II (Brill, 2009), 13.

[21] T. Jacobsen, “Graven Image,” in Ancient Israelite Religion: Essays in Honor of Frank Moore Cross, ed. P. D. Hanson P. D. Miller, S. D. Mcbride (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1987), 22.

[22] Walker and Dick, 6.

[23] Walton, 118-19.

[24] Towns, 104.

[25] N. T. Wright, “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story” (paper presented at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California2016).

[26] Towns, 420-21.

[27] Ibid.

[28] Davis, 85.

[29] Walton, 115.

[30] J. Strong and W. Baker, Strong’s Complete Word Study Concordance (AMG Publishers, 2004).

[31] C. Blaising, “Hypostatic Union,” in Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, ed. Walter A. Elwell (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2001), 583.

[32] Holy Bible: New King James Version : New Testament (Thomas Nelson Incorporated, 1979).

[33] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003), 539-40.

[34] Cf. N.T. Wright, Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church (HarperCollins, 2008).

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Ponderings on the BIGNESS of God

In this post, I would like to pose a simple question and receive your thoughts and insights. So please feel free to respond with your answer. So here it goes:

Paul tells the Corinthians, “And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love” (1 Cor 13:13). Hebrews tells us, “Now faith is confidence in what we hope for and assurance about what we do not see” (Heb 11:1). Finally, Paul tells us, “For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known (1 Cor 13:12).

Now then it is clear from the Corinthian context, Paul is talking about our state after the return of Christ. So the question I pose is simply this: If we are in the fullness of God’s presence, what will there be to hope for? Since Paul tells us,  “For in this hope we were saved. But hope that is seen is no hope at all. Who hopes for what they already have?” (Rom 8:24). 

I would appreciate your thoughts on what we might be hoping for once Christ comes back and we are changed. Please leave a reply.

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Irrelevance of the American Church: Community

I would like to say one thing before I proceed with my intended posts. The things in which I am stating as reasons for the American Church’s lack of relevance are merely my opinions which are based upon my experiences. I only offer areas where I think the American Church can improve and more effectively fulfill the Great Commission which we are called to.

The next reason, I would like to propose for the declining relevance of the American Church is the loss of sense of a community within a community. This partly is the result of the divided message which I discussed in my last post. The Church is supposed to be a community that was an example community of the Kingdom. A community that interacts with the outside community by challenging injustices. This community is political. It is social. It is personal. It challenges the status quo, not by overthrowing but through love. This is what Jesus meant when He said, “My prayer is not that you take them out of the world but that you protect them from the evil one. They are not of the world, even as I am not of it. Sanctify them by the truth; your word is truth. As you sent me into the world, I have sent them into the world. For them I sanctify myself, that they too may be truly sanctified. (Jn 17:15-19).

Additionally, Luke records the following:

They devoted themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Everyone was filled with awe at the many wonders and signs performed by the apostles. All the believers were together and had everything in common. They sold property and possessions to give to anyone who had need. Every day they continued to meet together in the temple courts. They broke bread in their homes and ate together with glad and sincere hearts, praising God and enjoying the favor of all the people. And the Lord added to their number daily those who were being saved. (Acts 2:42-47, emphasis mine).

Did you notice that God added daily; not weekly; not monthly; not once in a while, but daily! Unless we believe that God is not able to do things like that any more we must look at what God responded to that the church was doing. They were living in a sense of community. What affected one person, deeply and personally affected the other. They lived life together. They didn’t do their own thing throughout the week meeting only a couple of times a week at prearranged times. The early church lived life daily together. They got together daily. They prayed together daily. They ate meals together. They lived together. Unfortunately, the democratic and personal mindset of the American culture has all but destroyed this concept. Sure people pray for others in their church, but as James points out that is not community (Jm 2:16). In many cases the person next to you has no idea what you are going through. They might if they are on the local prayer team and you put in a prayer request, but the average church member doesn’t. There is no sense of collective empathy.

The result of this is that the rest of world sees the Church as just another good works non-profit group. Sure people care, but they don’t see much difference between us and any other charitable organization. We have no relevance because we aren’t being the light to the world we need to be. We aren’t even truly being a light to ourselves because we aren’t unified in to a Kingdom Community.

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Irrelevance of the American Church: The Message

his-response-was-remarkable-for-its-irrelevance-if-for-nothing-else-quote-1In my last post, I suggested that the American Church had lost relevance with the culture. I promised that in the subsequent postings I would give what I considered to be the reasons this irrelevance has occurred.

 

First up: The Message.

 

The first reason the church has lost relevance is because our message has been watered down to an Epicurean, Platonic escapist salvation message. This message is not only watered down, it is not even the Gospel.

 

Romans 1:16 tells us that the Gospel is the power which brings about salvation. This means that it cannot be salvation, itself. A thing cannot both be the result of a power and be the power itself. This means that escaping to Heaven cannot be the Gospel. So, what is the Gospel Message?

 

Romans 1:3-5 tells us that “the gospel he promised beforehand through his prophets in the Holy Scriptures regarding his Son, who as to his earthly life was a descendant of David, and who through the Spirit of holiness was appointed the Son of God in power by his resurrection from the dead: Jesus Christ our Lord.”

 

So, the message is that Jesus is Lord, and no one else is. The Church has surrendered the Earth over to the enemy awaiting some miraculous escape, when the Bible tells us the exact opposite. Jesus has become Lord and inherited all things from the Father (Matt 28:18). The Kingdom has been inaugurated and is here. The crown of thorns, the scarlet robe, the broken reed his ordination. Jesus is King! Jesus is Lord! Not in some future, but now. We are his advance team announcing his reign.

 

However, in this age of personal Jesus’s and separation of Church and State the church has become timid in the political arena. Instead of working towards proper setting the world right justice, they have become more concerned about whether evolution or creationism is taught. Whether prayer should be allowed in school. They should be concerned about how they are going to find a permanent solution to homelessness, hunger, and lack of educational opportunities, ect…
Does the Church want to be relevant again? Start by bringing the Gospel which challenges the status quo. Start by announcing Jesus as Lord and not an escape pod. Start by saying Jesus in Lord!

throne

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The Irrelevance of the American Church

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Look at the following statistics: [1]

 

  • 33% percent of Americans accept the idea of absolute moral truth.
  • Only 49% of Born-again Christians accept the idea of absolute moral truth.
  • 31% percent of Born-again Christians agree with the statement, “A good person can earn his/her way into heaven.”

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Shocking, isn’t it?

 

Barna describes three kinds of Christians:

 

Evangelicals “say they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today,” that their faith is very important in their life today; believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior; strongly believe they have a personal responsibility to share their religious beliefs about Christ with non-Christians; firmly believe that Satan exists; strongly believe that eternal salvation is possible only through grace, not works; strong agree that Jesus Christ lived a sinless life on earth; strong assert that the Bible is accurate in all the principles it teaches; and describing God as the all-knowing, all-powerful, perfect deity who created the universe and still rules it today.”[2]

 

Non-Evangelicals “say they have made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” and believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior. However, they do not accept all of the remaining seven conditions that categorize someone as an evangelical.”[3]

 

Barna identifies a third group which are known as Notional Christians. However one would be hard pressed to find anything which one could use to identify them as Christian. According to Barna, this group “are people who consider themselves to be Christian but they have not made “a personal commitment to Jesus Christ that is still important in their life today” or believe that when they die they will go to Heaven because they have confessed their sins and accepted Jesus Christ as their Savior.”[4]

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Ready for more disturbing statistics?

  • Only 6% of Americans are Evangelical
  • 25% of Americans are Non-Evangelical
  • 40% of Americans are Notional

 

Can we honestly say that the Church is relevant in America today? I think one would be hard pressed to make such an assertion. It is my aim over the next few posts to identify what I believe to be the biggest areas in which the American Church has failed and to offer proposed solutions to these failures. The irrelevancy of the Church must not become just accepted part of life. We must and can do something. Jesus was single most important figure in human history. It’s a shame to think he is being reduced to nothing more than an academic exercise in spirituality. I pray that over the next few posts that God will wake some of the Evangelicals up and revival of Christian relevance will explode. In Jesus Name, Amen.

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Feel Welcome to Download the free e-book on marriage.

 

 

 

 

Group, Barna. “How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America.” Barna Group. Last modified 2017. Accessed September 10, 2017. https://www.barna.com/research/got-spiritual-political-profiles-america/.

 

Moreau, A.S., G.R. Corwin, and G.B. McGee. Introducing World Missions (Encountering Mission): A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey. Baker Publishing Group, 2015.

 

 

[1] Cited in A.S. Moreau, G.R. Corwin, and G.B. McGee, Introducing World Missions (Encountering Mission): A Biblical, Historical, and Practical Survey (Baker Publishing Group, 2015), 14-15.

[2] Barna Group, “How We Got Here: Spiritual and Political Profiles of America,” Barna Group, accessed September 10, 2017. https://www.barna.com/research/got-spiritual-political-profiles-america/.

[3] Ibid.

[4] Ibid.

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A Study of the Life of The Apostle Peter

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Peter may arguably be the second most important person named in the New Testament. Certainly, a case could be made for the Apostle Paul and his thirteen epistles, however, Peter is named over a hundred and fifty times in the New Testament, ranking him second, fittingly, to the name of Jesus. He was a man of an impetuous nature which caused him to him to be paradoxically suited and unfit for leadership at the same time. It is this essential quirk of his nature which makes Peter a perfect and interesting subject for the purposes of a biographical study.

The purpose of any biographical study is to more fully understand practical and applicable life lessons from the life of the subject under study. Therefore, this paper will systematically investigate the biographical information of the Apostle Peter which are reported within scripture. While the primary focus of the investigation will be centered on the nature of Peter’s experiences as related in the four Gospel accounts, this paper will supplement these accounts with appropriate scriptural references which fall outside of the Gospels. Additionally, outside scholarly sources will be investigated as appropriate. The goal of this methodology will be to demonstrate how God qualified Peter to be the leader of His Church and to provide a greater understanding of how Peter is portrayed in the New Testament.

 The Call to Discipleship

Customarily, a biographical study begins with an account of the subject’s birth or early childhood. At the very least, the study would present the reader with a genealogical list. While this tradition is beneficial as it provides historical and cultural background through which the reader may better understand the person being study. However, this paper will unorthodoxically begin with the “call of Peter”; since by the time the reader is introduced within scriptures, he is already a grown Jew with a wife. This literary difficulty necessitates that the study proceeds from the origination of Peter’s preparation which as will be discussed starts with his place within Jewish society.

Common Man

“Peter’s preparation consisted first of all in the fact that he was a man of the common people.”[1] In other words, there was nothing to necessarily separate Peter out as anything special. Peter was merely a Jew who lived in or around the city of Capernaum. His occupation was a simple fisherman. On the surface, there was nothing to indicate that Peter would accomplish anything other than to labor out a living for his family before eventually dying as a subject under Roman rule.

Still, Peter’s commonality shows God’s providence in preparing this future Christian leader in three significant ways. First, Capernaum was a significant commercial city. As Grey notes:

By the time of Jesus and Peter in the early first century AD, Capernaum was situated on the border of two realms: the Jewish tetrarchy of Herod Antipas to the west (in which Capernaum was located) and the predominantly Gentile tetrarchy of Herod Philip to the east. Because of its new status as a border town, Capernaum’s fishing and farming population expanded to include officials from Antipas’ administration, such as toll/tax collectors (see Mark 2:13–17; Matthew 9:9–13; Luke 5:27–32) and military officers (see Matthew 8:5–13; Luke 7:1–10). The growing village’s proximity to the lake and a local trade route also brought interregional traffic and may have attracted less reputable elements of society, such as prostitutes and beggars.[2]

Such an eclectic mixture of societal personages would have given Peter experience in dealing with people from various backgrounds. Such experience would be useful for a leader who would oversee an international organization.

The next way in which we find God’s providence in Peter’s call to leadership through his commonality is simply his Jewishness. Peter was a common Jew who shared the common expectations of the coming Jewish Messiah. This is can be seen by Peter’s quick (and perhaps impetuous) positive response to his brother’s assertion that “We’ve found the Messiah!” (Jn 1:40-43, KNT). [3] Such immediate response would be unlikely if Peter had no notion of the Messiah.

Finally, God’s providence in Peter’s preparation is seen in his occupation as a fisherman. Such an occupation, especially on the Sea of Galilee, required a certain amount of bravery and heroism. Also, the manual labor which such an occupation required would develop a hardy constitution for the experiences which the evangelistic and persecuted life that the church leader would later endure.[4] Additionally while Peter may or may not have been considered wealthy, fishing as an occupation provided a sufficient income to support his family during the three and half years in which he followed Jesus. Keener notes that the text in John’s account does not indicate any other exegesis other than Peter “left a behind relatively well-paying” occupation.[5]

The First Indication of Peter’s Impetuous Nature

The Gospel accounts present three different perspectives concerning the call of Peter. Matthew and Luke’s account are similar in that they place Peter’s call simultaneously with Andrew, his brother (Mt 4:18-22; Lk 5:1-11). However, Luke’s account implies that Peter was the first to recognize Jesus as the Messiah (vs. 8-11). Yet, John’s evidence suggests that Andrew prior to the call had introduced Jesus as the Messiah based upon John the Baptist recommendation (Jn 1:35-42). Peter, then, seemingly rejects this notion. It isn’t until later, as evidenced by Luke’s account, that Jesus is recognized by Peter as the Messiah. This occurs as a result of the miraculous catch of fish to which Peter replies, “Leave me, Lord! I’m a sinner!” (Lk 5:8) This reply echoes Isaiah 6:5;[6] after which Peter immediately responds to Jesus call.

This response gives the reader a glimpse of the impetuous nature of Peter which would re occur in later events. Peter’s initial rejection hastily turned to affirmation in a relatively short period of time. However, John’s Gospel may hint at second thoughts as Peter seems to disappear from the Gospel narrative. Indeed, Brad Blaine, suggests that an entire year may have passed in the Gospel timeline between Peter’s call to discipleship and his first vocal words.[7] This should not suggest that Peter was not being qualified by God. As Blaine also notes, “[H]e shows that he has not been idle in his discipleship.”[8]

There is one last factor that must be mentioned in regard to Peter’s call and his impetuous nature. The reader must not assume that Jesus’s request to follow him was a mere request. R. T. France suggests, “What Jesus issues here is not even an invitation, but rather a demand. Such a summons is more typical of a prophet than of a rabbi.”[9] It must also be remembered that such a summons would have required to most likely leave behind a wife and any kids Peter might have had. This would have made the decision to give up a sustaining job like fishermen in a society which consisted primarily of the “rich and powerful” and the “downtrodden poor.” The middle class was virtually non-existent in the Roman Empire. Additionally, the culture of both Jews and Greeks emphasized the taking care of one’s extended blood lines. “[S]uch abandonment could easily bring them dishonor in the community.”[10] Therefore, Peter’s quick decision to follow Jesus, highlights the impetuousness of his nature.

Discipleship

Two Key Points:

Peter, having decided to enter the discipleship of Jesus, experiences a number of successes and failures as part of his equipping to become the head of the future church. However, when examining these experiences, it is important to keep in mind two significant points. First, it is of tremendous significance to remember that Peter, like all of the disciples, had not yet received the Holy Spirit. Although it may be argued that the Spirit was given when Jesus sends the Twelve out to Israel with the authority to heal and cast out demons (Mt 10:1; Mk 6:7-13; Lk 9:1). However, this seems to be a temporary empowering of the Holy Spirit as was common throughout the Old Testament.[11] This seems especially true given the future events of Pentecost where the Holy Spirit indwells within the disciples (Acts 2).

The second significant point of remembrance is that Peter’s failures were not the result of some personal sin. While one may argue that any failures are the result of the sin nature common to all human beings through Adam (Rom 5:12-21); they certainly were not caused by any specific sin which Peter may have exhibited. In no way, did Peter transgress the law which is the Biblical definition of sin (1 Jn 3:4).

Failures and Successes

Continuing on the premise that Peter’s failures were not the result of some specific sin, nor was his success a result of the Holy Spirit; the impetus for these experiences must be the result of some characteristic which is to be found inherent within his nature. It has been suggested that this characteristic was Peter’s impetuousness. As noted previously, the Gospel accounts highlight this quality within Peter by offering a glimpse with their accounts of his call to discipleship. It is fitting, at this juncture then, to take a closer look at how this particular trait of Peter’s factored into his various decisions and experiences.

Walking On Water

Matthew’s account records this amazing incident where Peter walks on water. (Mt 14:22-36).  There are several unique features of this narrative which highlight both God’s equipping and Peter’s hasty nature. However, many have taught that Peter’s request was a moral shortcoming on Peter’s behalf. Barnes concurs with this exegesis: “Here is an instance of the characteristic ardor and rashness of Peter. He had less real faith than he supposed, and more ardor than his faith would justify. He was rash, headlong, incautious, really attached to Jesus, but still easily daunted and prone to fall.”[12] However, it must be noted that Jesus does not rebuke the request, rather he grants it. (v. 29) This would suggest then, that although Peter’s request was the result of his “characteristic impulsive manner,”[13] such a request was not sinful or Jesus simply would not have granted it.

Still others have suggested that this narrative is a commendation of Peter’s faith in stepping out of the boat. Boiling this narrative down to a simple keep your eyes on Jesus lesson.[14] The real point of this narrative is not that Peter walked on water and failed when he doubted by looking at the waves rather than Jesus (v. 29). This was Jesus teaching his disciples the essence of the Gospel, which is not that Jesus saves (although it’s true he does). No, the essence of the Gospel is simply this, Jesus is Lord; no one else is.[15] Jesus was demonstrating what the disciples would proclaim, “You really are God’s son!” (v. 33)

Peter’s Revelation

The revelation to Peter of the identity of Jesus is perhaps the crux of Peter’s life. Though it may be argued that his restoration was more significant. Still, it cannot be denied that without this revelation the restoration never comes about. It seems likely that this point in which Peter ends his second thoughts and commits to the Messiah.

Peter’s revelation served as an ordination of sorts. His proclamation that Jesus was the Messiah conferred upon him the authority of God’s kingdom (Mt 16:16, 18-19). It also signified that God had called Peter as the leader of the Church. Peter’s hasty nature led him to proclaim this faster than most of other disciples and in a fuller way than even that of his brother Andrew. The proclamation also signified the moment of revelation of Jesus’s death and subsequent resurrection (v. 21).

Once again, Peter’s initial success is short lived. Peter’s hastiness results in a rebuke. As Jesus begins to instruct his followers on His death and subsequent resurrection, Peter immediately get in the way of the death without hearing the resurrection. He cries out, “That’s the last thing God would want, Master! That’s never ever going to happen to you!” (v. 22) Jesus rebuke of Satan rather than Peter indicates that the impetuous nature of his lead disciple is being used to train him for leadership, Satan can use the same quality for his purposes. Peter was in step with Jesus’s identity, not his destiny (v. 23).

Transfiguration

As noted, Peter (and presumably the rest of the disciples) had come to accept Jesus’s identity, but still had to accept his destiny. The purpose of the transfiguration was to train the three most prominent leaders of the first Christians on that destiny. This explains while Peter, John, and James were chosen to experience the event. These three, especially Peter, were going to need to see Jesus in his glory if they were going to persevere through the trials and persecutions of the early church. Without this vision, it seems unlikely that the early church would have remained unified as long as it did. Still, by the late first century and early second the breaking up of the early fellowship has already begun.[16]

Despite the extraordinary significance of the transfiguration appearance to these disciples, Peter’s impulsiveness makes the scene almost comical. Jesus is standing there in full shekinah glory, talking with Moses and Elijah (17:1-3). Here is the first stage of the two-stage post-mortem resurrection being demonstrated and instead of listening, what does Peter do?[17] He talks. He wants to do something. Sitting there watching and learning is just not an option for Peter (v. 4). One can almost imagine the others rolling their eyes as Peter speaks out of turn. Certainly, neither Jesus nor the Father acknowledge the request. The command afterwards to tell no one of the vision is as much for Peter as anyone (v.9).

Washing of Feet

The washing of feet by Jesus was more than a simple demonstration of servant love (Jn. 13:1-17).  It is in John’s gospel the means by which power will be redefined in God’s kingdom.[18] The kingdom will not come by force but through sacrificial love. In typical Petrine fashion, Peter first tries to rashly prevent Jesus from performing such a degrading act (v. 8). After Jesus rebukes Peter once more, Peter then hastily over compensates. Peter now wants Jesus to wash his entire body (v. 9). Jesus responds that this is unnecessary (v. 10). The important thing here for Peter is not that Jesus washed anything. God is training Peter as well as the rest of the disciples to understand the power shift of God’s kingdom. Force will not be necessary. Nor will the Kingdom advance through political assaults and connections. No, it is the simple act of love which will storm the gates of Hades, and depose Caesar as lord. This why Jesus commands the washing of feet as a reminder of how kingdom people are to advance in hostile territory (vs. 12-15).

Garden of Gethsemane

The garden narrative has several interesting features concerning Peter development. First, Jesus takes the three disciples who are to be the cornerstone of the early church with him to the garden. He commands them to keep watch while he prays (Mt 26:36-39). When he returns, he finds all three disciples asleep (v. 40). This is a little odd seeing how it was Passover, and Jews were accustomed to staying up on this particular night in their celebrations. Keener notes: “It was customary to stay awake late on the Passover night and to speak of God’s redemption. They should have been able to stay awake and keep watch; they had probably stayed up late on most other Passovers of their lives.”[19] Yet upon his return, Jesus only calls out Peter (vs. 40-41). The reason for this simple, with the experience of the revelation, Peter had been placed in a role where he was now held responsible for their actions of the entire church. Jesus’s church had been inaugurated at the moment of proclamation. Peter’s leadership role held him as the responsible party.

The next momentous experience for Peter in the Garden is the cutting off of the High Priest’s servant ear. (Jn 18:10). Peter rash action here shows that he certainly did not understand the lesson of the washing of the feet; nor did he learn with his revelation of Jesus identity. Yet Jesus’s rebuke here is an interesting one. He does not rebuke Peter for trying to stop the will of God. Instead, he says, “Don’t you realize that I could call on my father and have him send me more than twelve legions of angels, just like that? But how then can the Bible come true when it says this has to happen” (Mt 26:53-54). Peter did not do wrong by attempting force. Again, he did not sin. Rather, Jesus tells him that the methodology of the advancement of the Kingdom is His prerogative. If it was not, Jesus would not have said that the Father would have honored His request. Again, Jesus is demonstrating the Gospel. He is showing that the methodology of his kingship will be through the suffering servant. This is by His choice, not the Father’s; nor the Holy Spirit. It is by this definition of Power that He will be coronated as Lord. This is what the disciples must come to understand, especially Peter.

Denial and Restoration

It may be correctly noted that the discussion so far as skipped over the prediction of Peter’s denial. For the sake of clarity and unity, this essay will discuss this experience in conjunction with actual event predicted and the subsequent restoration. Other than perhaps the receiving of the revelation, no other event affected Peter than of course his denial of Jesus in the courtyard of the high priest. Such an important event was this that all four Gospel accounts give evidence to it (Mt 26:31-35, 69-75; Mk 14:27-31, 66-72; Lk 22:32, 54-62; Jn 13:31-38, 18:15-27). However, it is Luke’s account that is most relevant for this study.

Luke’s account describes an interesting paradigm in that it seems that the satan wanted to use Peter to betray rather than Judas (22:31). However, this reality does not absolve Peter of his only failure as a result of sin – lying (vs. 54-62). Still, the satan is known as the accuser (Rev 12:10). Up until now, he had nothing upon which to build his case; however, the satan must have also had foreknowledge of Peter’s up-coming sin for he demanded that Peter be turned over to him (v. 31). This event rocked Peter to the core that all four gospels describe him as “weeping” (Mt 26:75; Mk 14:72; Lk 22:62; Jn 18:27). Peter most certainly must have thought what right did He have to lead the others.

While all four gospels focus on the prediction of Peter’s denial, only Luke mentions that Jesus also predicts his restoration (Lk 22:31). This restoring event occurs after Jesus has suffered the cross and been raised from the dead. Peter and John had already examined the empty tomb (Jn 20:1-10). Jesus had already shown himself to the disciples twice (vs. 19-29). Apparently, Jesus had left again and the disciples were waiting for his return. Peter decides to go fishing with some of the other disciples (21:2-4). The unique thing about John’s narrative here is that none of the disciples recognize Jesus as He calls out to them from the shore (v.4). It isn’t until the miracle of the catch of fish that John recognizes Jesus as Jesus. Peter does not recognize Jesus, but at John’s recognition Peter acts typically Peter by jumping into the water and swimming to shore (v.7).

Once all the disciples are on shore, Jesus begins the process of restoring Peter (vs. 15-17). He does not condemn Peter. He simply forces Peter to admit that He did not act in full love towards the Messiah. He commissions Peter to take care of his fellow Christians. Once again, restoring Peter to his role, in front of the others of authority and leadership.

The Selection of Matthias

This study of Peter must fittingly conclude with Peter’s first act as church leader – namely the selection of Matthias to replace Judas. This account is not found in the Gospels, but rather in Luke’s second volume, The Acts of the Apostles. Jesus final command to the disciples before his ascension was “not to go away from Jerusalem, but to wait… for the father’s promise, which I was telling you about earlier” (1:4, author’s emphasis). Peter being Peter, simply could not sit back and wait. He rashly felt that the number of Apostles had to be fulfilled right then and there. A replacement for Judas had to be chosen “for its symbolic message about the restoration of God’s people” (vs. 15-26)[20]

The rest of the disciples agreed despite the fact Jesus had clearly told them to wait. So, under Peter’s guidance the disciples chose Matthias. While it may be argued that replacing Judas was a logical step, it does not appear to be God’s design. This is evidenced by the amount of historical evidence that have been preserved on Matthias in comparison to God’s choice, Saul (Paul) of Tarsus.[21] While thirteen of the letters of Paul have been canonized, there is very little historical data outside the first chapter of Acts concerning Matthias. It must be conceded that God did not prevent Peter’s action, however, this may only imply that God’s sovereign choice was to honor Peter’s authority rather than condemn act.

 Conclusion

 The biographical study of Peter, as discussed in this essay, has demonstrated three very important features about the apostle. First, it shows that Peter was an ordinary man. He was a common Israelite, with a common occupation that provided a sufficient income for his family and nothing more. Peter was not a man of wealth and influence. He was not a natural born leader. He made rash decisions that usually got him rebuked or in trouble. Second, except for the denial of Jesus, these rash decisions were not the result of any specific sin, such as pride or faithlessness. No, rather, they were inherent within his personality. His rashness was no more wrong than a negative outlook by a person who is inherently pessimistic. Finally, despite all the failures, there were also success which point to the providence of God to develop the leader He had chosen. Lewis sums up Peter’s life brilliantly:

“To be sure, his ability may have been merely the happy complex of that variety of talents and experiences which have just been recalled. If so, all the better, since we thus see that efficiency is not a detached, unrelated endowment, but rather the union of ordinary qualities in a ready and responsive soul. Even Peter’s so-called fickleness became a means of might, for the fickleness was really an index of the enthusiastic nature that carried him over difficulties before which calculating minds would have stopped appalled. No other except the impulsive Simon could have been at once both the embodiment of the Adversary and the incarnation of the Rock on which the church should rest (Matt. 16: 16-23).”[22]

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Bibliography

Niv Looseleaf Bible. Hendrickson Publishers, 2004.

Barnes, A. Barnes Notes on the Nt (Barnes). Kregel Publications.

Blaine, B. Peter in the Gospel of John: The Making of an Authentic Disciple. Society of Biblical Literature, 2007.

France, R.T. The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary. Inter-Varsity Press, 1985.

Guzik, D. Matthew. ENDURING WORD MEDIA, 2012.

Jr., Walter Kaiser. “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament.” In Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W. Menzies, edited by Wonsuk Ma and Robert P. Menzies, 38-47. Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997.

Judd, F.F., E.D. Huntsman, and S. Hopkin. The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle: The 43rd Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium. Deseret Book Company, 2014.

Keener, C.S. and InterVarsity Press. The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: New Testament. InterVarsity Press, 1993.

Lewis, Frank Grant. “Peter’s Place in the Early Church.” The Biblical World 33, no. 3 (1909): 191-200. http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141444.

Radmacher, D., R.B. Allen, and H.W. House. Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary: Spreading the Light of God’s Word into Your Life. Thomas Nelson, 1999.

Wood, L.J. The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament. Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998.

Wright, N. T., “How God Became King: Why We’ve All Misunderstood the Gospels.” January Series, Calvin College, 2012.

Wright, N. T., “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story.” Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California, 2016.

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Fortress Press, 2003.

Wright, N.T. The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation. HarperCollins, 2011.

 

 

[1] Frank Grant Lewis, “Peter’s Place in the Early Church,” The Biblical World 33, no. 3 (1909): 191, http://www.jstor.org/stable/3141444.

[2] Matthew J. Grey, “Simon Peter in Capernaum: An Archaeological Survey of the First-Century Village,” in F.F. Judd, E.D. Huntsman, and S. Hopkin, The Ministry of Peter, the Chief Apostle: The 43rd Annual Brigham Young University Sidney B. Sperry Symposium (Deseret Book Company, 2014), 27-66.

[3] Unless otherwise noted, all New Testament scripture references are N.T. Wright, The Kingdom New Testament: A Contemporary Translation (HarperCollins, 2011).

[4] Lewis,  191.

[5] C.S. Keener and InterVarsity Press, The Ivp Bible Background Commentary: New Testament (InterVarsity Press, 1993), 130-31.

[6] Unless otherwise noted, all Old Testament References are  Niv Looseleaf Bible (Hendrickson Publishers, 2004).

[7] B. Blaine, Peter in the Gospel of John: The Making of an Authentic Disciple (Society of Biblical Literature, 2007), 30.

[8] Ibid.

[9] R.T. France, The Gospel According to Matthew: An Introduction and Commentary (Inter-Varsity Press, 1985).

[10] Keener is referencing James in John with this quote. However, the same societal pressures would apply to Peter as well. Keener and Press, 54-55.

[11] The indwelling of the Holy Spirit in the Old Testament is strongly debated among biblical scholars. For more on this debate, see Walter Kaiser Jr., “The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament,” in Pentecostalism in Context: Essays in Honor of William W. Menzies, ed. Wonsuk Ma and Robert P. Menzies (Sheffield, England: Sheffield Academic Press, 1997). L.J. Wood, The Holy Spirit in the Old Testament (Wipf & Stock Publishers, 1998).

[12] A. Barnes, Barnes Notes on the Nt (Barnes) (Kregel Publications), 69.

[13] D. Radmacher, R.B. Allen, and H.W. House, Nelson’s New Illustrated Bible Commentary: Spreading the Light of God’s Word into Your Life (Thomas Nelson, 1999), 1167.

[14] Guzik offers this exegesis, see D. Guzik, Matthew (ENDURING WORD MEDIA, 2012).

[15] N. T. Wright, “How God Became King: Why We’ve All Misunderstood the Gospels” (paper presented at the January Series, Calvin College2012).

[16] Paul deals with these issues in several of his letters. See 1 & 2 Corinthians, Phillipians, and Colossians

[17] For explanation of the two-stage post-mortem resurrection, See N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003).

[18] N. T. Wright, “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story” (paper presented at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California2016).

[19] Keener and Press, 115-16.

[20] Ibid., 320-21.

[21] Paul’s selection as Apostle is recorded in Acts 9:10-42

[22] Lewis,  193.

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A Response to Barton Jahn

In a previous post entitled, Jesus’ Trinitarian Freedom,  I suggested that Jesus was free not to go to the Cross, in the sense that it was not ordained by the Father, but was freely ordained by the Word through the Holy Spirit in the form of scripture. I suggested this on Matthew’s Gospel which suggests that the father would allow Jesus to use force to bring about salvation and the kingdom. I, further, suggested that “thy will be done was not a response to a response of “no,” but rather part of the question itself (See Matt 26:39). It seems likely that the Father’s response was either a “yes” or “whatever you decide” rather than no in light of the events which occur after the prayer (vs. 47-53).(vs. 47-53).

Barton Jahn states in his post, No Shadow of Turning in Perfect Love (James 1:17):

In Gethsemane and at Calvary, Jesus loses some of His individuality…His personal request to the Father to “remove this cup of suffering.”  But in the highest and most sublime sense, in doing so, He gains back His individuality in defining Himself as the sacrificial atonement for sin, the Lamb of God Savior for all eternity.

In what way did Jesus lose his identity? Jesus identity was bound, by his self-determination, to the scriptures. Jesus said that scriptures revealed his identity both as God and the incarnate man (Jn 5:39-40). This is why Jesus says to Peter in Matthew’s Gospel so that scripture might be fulfilled He won’t use force. At no point did Jesus ever lose his identity, if such were the case he would cease to be the Word and the man. His deferment to the Father’s overall plan of a temple-kingdom, did not require; nor need Jesus to lose his identity. Jesus was perfectly capable of bringing about the Kingdom by any means He chose. While the Cross demonstrates God’s love for his creation; it does not make it a necessity; except that the scriptures which ordained it as the methodology required being filled (Rom 5:8). This ordination was a choice, self-imposed by the Word. Which is why Paul would say that Jesus became obedient even to death on a cross. (Phil 2:8)

While I concur with most of Jahn’s claim in his post. I think there is a serious theological flaw in some of his reasoning. I invite others to enter into this discussion and share their thoughts, including Jahn, himself.

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Jesus’ Trinitarian Freedom

Trinity

Most of the time, when I write a blog, I am at least 85% sure of the truth behind its content. At the very least, I feel as though I have shown something by the Holy Spirit to discover and seek out. This post is different in that I am not exactly sure what it is that is disturbing my Spirit. With that being said, I want to describe a challenging scripture which has rocked me to the core. I hope those you of who read this will be kind enough to give me your feed back and opinions. Without much more ado, what follows is my line of thinking:

 

In Matthew’s account we read the following: “Do you think I cannot call on my Father, and he will at once put at my disposal more than twelve legions of angels? But how then would the Scriptures be fulfilled that say it must happen in this way?” (Matt 26:53-54)[1]

 

To put in context, Jesus and his disciples are in the Garden of Gethsemane. Judas has just betrayed Jesus. In typical Petrine fashion, Peter acts without thinking and cuts off the High Priest’s servant’s ear. This is Jesus’ rebuke to Peter.

 

So now, Jesus previously before that has asked the Father to remove the cup from his lips. During his prayer, he utters the famous words. “Yet not as I will, but as you will.” (v. 39). He then prays a second time asking, “My Father, if it is not possible for this cup to be taken away unless I drink it, may your will be done.” (v.42)

Praying

 

Here’s the conundrum: If the Father had already said “NO” to Jesus when praying why then did Jesus say the Father would send angels if He asked. This would mean that the Father would go against His own decree.

 

The logical answer is simply this: Jesus had freedom to decide to use force and not go to the cross. Jesus does not say that He won’t ask for angels because the Father had said “NO.” Rather He says it’s because of the scriptures.Legion

 

This means that the absolute final decision to go to the cross was made by Jesus in the garden. Up until that time, Jesus had the freedom of will to use other means to accomplish the goal of establishing the Kingdom.

 

Now, I realize that what I am writing goes against conservative exegesis. I am not even 85% percent sure I am right. But as N. T. Wright is fond of saying, “A quarter of what I say is wrong, I just don’t know which quarter it is.”[2] Still, If Jesus spoke only truth (which He did) and he says the Father would send them if He asked, then that is what the Father would do. He had a freedom of choice concerning the methodology.

 

Conclusion: There is a freedom within the Trinitarian relationship that has been overlooked in conservative Biblical scholarship and exegesis. The Father is less domineering than has been traditionally taught, and Jesus less submissive (in the sense that He only did what the Father had already decided, not in the submission of will) than has been taught.

 

I look forward to your comments and thoughts on this.

 

 

Holy Bible (Niv). Zondervan, 2008.

 

Wright, N. T., “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story.” Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California, 2016.

 

 

[1] Unless otherwise noted all scripture is Holy Bible (Niv) (Zondervan, 2008).

[2] N. T. Wright, “Cruciformed: Living in the Light of the Jesus Story” (paper presented at the Pepperdine Bible Lectures, Malibu, California2016).

Chat

The Incarnation in Reverse

I would like to begin this post with a listing of several scriptures:

 

John 17:21- that they all may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I in You; that they also may be one in Us, that the world may believe that You sent Me.

Romans 8:14-17- For those who are led by the Spirit of God are the children of God. The Spirit you received does not make you slaves, so that you live in fear again; rather, the Spirit you received brought about your adoption to sonship. And by him we cry, “Abba, Father.” The Spirit himself testifies with our spirit that we are God’s children. Now if we are children, then we are heirs—heirs of God and co-heirs with Christ, if indeed we share in his sufferings in order that we may also share in his glory.

1 Corinthians 3:21-22- So then, no more boasting about human leaders! All things are yours, whether Paul or Apollos or Cephas or the world or life or death or the present or the future—all are yours, and you are of Christ, and Christ is of God.

12:44-49- it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body. If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body. So it is written: “The first man Adam became a living being”; the last Adam, a life-giving spirit. The spiritual did not come first, but the natural, and after that the spiritual. The first man was of the dust of the earth; the second man is of heaven. As was the earthly man, so are those who are of the earth; and as is the heavenly man, so also are those who are of heaven. And just as we have borne the image of the earthly man, so shall we bear the image of the heavenly man.

1 John 3:2- Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when Christ appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is.

 

Now, what do all these scriptures have in common? They all speak of our future glory. They are the New Testament writers attempts at describing what it will be like once we are transformed. The common theme in all of them is that we will be DEIFIED!

 Now before I get the ranting comments saying that I am heretic, let me clarify what I mean by deification. Deification is the state of existence in which human beings bear the image of God so closely that only in two respects will there be a difference.

First, we will differ in that we will never be eternal. Only God has no beginning or end. We by definition as created creature can only be everlasting. Second, and most importantly, we will never have preeminence. This means we will never be worshiped. Let me say that again. WE WILL NEVER BE WORSHIPED! Jesus will be worshiped. The Father will be worshiped. The Spirit will be worshiped. We will never be worshiped.

So what does being deified mean? Being deified means being indwelt by God to such an extent that we are divinely physical image bearers. We will be what N. T. Wright has called transformed physical beings just as Jesus is.[1] It means that our transformation is Jesus’s incarnation in reverse.

It means we have the same power and authority Jesus does. It means we will know what Jesus does. It means we will have the same will as Jesus does. It means that all this will be done to restore creation as Jesus did. This is an amazing thought. God is so much bigger than the Western Church has given him credit for. This excites me and fires me up for Jesus, does it you?

 

Wright, N.T. The Resurrection of the Son of God. Fortress Press, 2003.

 

 

[1] N.T. Wright, The Resurrection of the Son of God (Fortress Press, 2003).

This Could Be Your Biggest Barrier [Hint: It’s in your head]

markcombs

lockIt doesn’t matter if it’s in our personal lives, our families, or where we work, we all face barriers. Sometimes, those barriers are real. Other times, however, they’re not.

  • There’s a situation happening at work with a co-worker who is hurting the entire organization.
  • You want to start getting in shape and run a 5K this year, but you’re convinced you can’t because you’ve never followed through on previous fitness goals you’ve made.

The first barrier is an actual problem in the real world. There needs to be a conversation with that co-worker. The second barrier feels real, but it isn’t. Medically, there’s no reason you can’t run that 5K. The people around you are encouraging you to do it. The problem is in the way that you think. You’ve told yourself you can’t, so you probably won’t.

What if the biggest barrier in your life is the way that you…

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