Category: Exegesis

A stirring fire in my heart burns against the falsities of Dispensationalism which evangelically neuters the church in its witness to natural Israel, and makes her complacent in picking up the promises that her lover made to her. Some of my readers may not know what Dispensationalism is, so for their sake I will give a definition from Charles C. Ryrie’s book “Dispensationalism.” Ryrie defines it as follows; “Dispensationalism claims to be a help in supplying the answer to the need for biblical distinctions, in offering a satisfying philosophy of history, and in employing a consistently normal principle of interpretation.” He follows up this with the marks of a Dispensationalist, these three marks are,

1. A distinction between Israel and the Church.

2. Literal interpretation

3. The glory of God as the underlying purpose of God in the world.

It is true that these are what dispensationalists often claim to themselves as what marks them out over against other Christian world-views, and interpretive grids. However it is my contention that at least in conservative interpretational schools within the church the only distinctive mark that the Dispensationalist can claim to themselves is the first, and this I believe is a distinction which is read into rather than out of Scripture.

So, further why the name Dispensationalism? The name comes from the idea that there are distinct times, ages, or dispensations in which God relates to his people in different ways. The word dispensations is used by 17th Century writers to talk about this phenomenon which is seen somewhat clearly in Scripture. (The distinction between the New and Old Covenants for instance) However given their allegiance to the distinctive of Dispensationalism the Dispensationalist sees in Scripture two distinct people groups, that of the Jews, or Israel to which Christ came to proclaim a new Messianic Kingdom, and the Gentiles, with whom God is currently dealing with in the Church dispensation. The Dispensationalist broadly will see three relevant Dispensations, there is the Dispensation of Israel in which God deals with Israel, culminating in Israel’s rejection of the risen Jesus leading to the Church age in which God deals with the Gentiles, offering them salvation through Christ, which gives way eventually with the Rapture, the Tribulation, and finally the acceptance of Jesus as Messiah and King by Israel and the Millennium. It is this disjunction between Israel and the church that I wish to deal with.

I believe a firm place to start is the polemical thrust of Luke in writing the book of Acts, while the Dispensationalist claims that there should be a firm place where given the rejection by Israel in diaspora of the risen Jesus as Messiah that God then turns to the Gentiles and that this then is the Church. However this is not what we see, though Paul says “It was necessary that we first preach the word of God to you Jews. But since you have rejected it and judged yourselves unworthy of eternal life, we will offer it to the Gentiles.” This is entirely situational, it is to a specific group of Jews, and Paul and Barnabas continue their pattern of going to the Synagogue first to preach the Gospel there before opening it up to the Gentiles. Further before the inclusion of the Samaritan village in Acts 8 the Church was a thoroughly Jewish affair, the dispute that lead to the appointment of Stephen, Philip and others to leadership roles in Acts 6 was one between Hebrew speaking Jews in Jerusalem, and Greek speaking Jews in Jerusalem, there is a tentativeness to bring in both the Samaritans of Acts 8, and subsequently the Gentiles in Acts 10. The inclusion of the Gentiles in the church is a debate that lasts from Acts 9 through to at least the end of Acts 15. But they are included in what Paul would later call the grafting in. (Rom 11:17-18) A remnant of Israel has been filled in by God with those from the nations in order that God might receive the Glory. This is what was prophesied in Isaiah 2:2-4

In the last days, the mountain of the LORD’s house

will be the highest of all

the most important place on earth.

It will be raised above the other hills,

and people from all over the world will stream there to worship.

People from many nations will come and say,

Come, let us go up to the mountain of the LORD,

to the house of Jacob’s God.

There he will teach us his ways,

and we will walk in his paths.

For the LORD’s teaching will go out from Zion;

his word will go out from Jerusalem.

The LORD will mediate between nations

and will settle international disputes.

They will hammer their swords into ploughshares

and their spears into pruning hooks.

Nation will no longer fight against nation,

nor train for war any more.

The Dispensationalist in seeking to interpret literally appears to gloss over the prophecies that Israel will be filled up with people from every nation, or places them into the Millennial dispensation because it could not possibly refer to the Church dispensation.

But the nail in the distinctive of Dispensationalism is truly Paul’s rant against Judaisation in his letter to the Ephesians, he is passionate and eloquent, but most importantly he sees a dire need that the Church not be split on any identitarian issue, she is Christ’s Israel, that remnant borne in his body on the Cross, such that God might receive Glory in creation for His People going about on His business. Paul writes;

“Don’t forget that you Gentiles used to be outsiders. You were called “uncircumcised heathens” by the Jews, who were proud of their circumcision, even though it affected only their bodies and not their hearts. In those days you were living apart from Christ. You were excluded from citizenship among the people of Israel, and you did not know the covenant promises God had made to them. You lived in this world without God and without hope. But now you have been united with Christ Jesus. Once you were far away from God, but now you have been brought near to him through the blood of Christ. For Christ himself has brought peace to us. He united Jews and Gentiles into one people when, in his own body on the cross, he broke down the wall of hostility that separated us. He did this by ending the system of law with its commandments and regulations. He made peace between Jews and Gentiles by creating in himself one new people from the two groups. Together as one body, Christ reconciled both groups to God by means of his death on the cross, and our hostility toward each other was put to death. He brought this Good News of peace to you Gentiles who were far away from him, and peace to the Jews who were near. Now all of us can come to the Father through the same Holy Spirit because of what Christ has done for us. So now you Gentiles are no longer strangers and foreigners. You are citizens along with all of God¡¦s holy people. You are members of God¡¦s family. Together, we are his house, built on the foundation of the apostles and the prophets. And the cornerstone is Christ Jesus himself. We are carefully joined together in him, becoming a holy temple for the Lord. Through him you Gentiles are also being made part of this dwelling where God lives by his Spirit.” (Eph 2:11-22)

The solution to the problem that the Judaisers were placing before the Ephesian Church was not to claim that we are of a different dispensation, but to affirm the place of the Ephesian church as included in the citizenship of Israel based on their faith in the Jewish Messiah Jesus of Nazareth. So then from here and other places in Scripture what I propose as an understanding of the place of Israel is not as some secular state over in the middle east in turmoil with Palestine, but rather the Remnant of Israel dwindled down to a sole individual who was bloodied and executed at the hands of the rest of the world. He bore in his body a new people that has become the Church. Jesus is the true Israel, and the only way for anyone to become a part of Israel is through Him.

Since, therefore you have been raised with Christ, set your desires on things above, where Christ in glory is seated with God. Set your mind on things above, not on things on earth.

I have started to really look into the topic of Union with Christ. It has been something on the periphery of my theology as a whole, but as I have been reading over the past year and a bit I have felt the need to bring it into the center. According to Con Campbell in his work Paul and Union With Christ, for Paul too this concept of the believer being united with Christ in a mysterious and powerful way lies at the center.

Now that I have chosen to delve into the topic in a deeper way this is the first verse that has come to mind as significant. I have provided my own translation above. There are a few comments that I would like to make on this out of the Greek.

συνηγερθητε which I have translated as raised with  is a Pauline construction that I’m lead to believe is part of a host of similar συμ- words created to deal with these new concepts. This particular one dealing with the resurrection, if you are partaking in the Christian life then you are enjoying the benefits of resurrection life. That we partake in the resurrection life of Christ also points us to the fact dwelt on elsewhere and raised us with him, and seated us with him in heavenly places in Christ Jesus.  (Eph 2:6) the two συμ- words (raised with, and seated with) here in Eph 2:6 confirm for us our relationship both to Jesus’ resurrection and his glorification, we have as a now-not-yet reality that we partake in the resurrection life, so too do we have foretastes of our being glorified.

Our being with/in union with Christ in his resurrection is not just a happy coincidence, or a factoid to think “Oh that’s nice” and to store away as a piece of trivia, no, Paul says “Since, therefore…” there is an action to take if this is a reality that we taste and see. We are to set our desires, set our thoughts upon the things above in contrast to where we find ourselves. Life is fundamentally messy and if we’re always focused on ourselves then we often get bogged down in the details. Paul’s antidote to this is to look up, to fix our attention on the things which are in many ways more real, more concrete. For the Christian it is a far more primordial reality that we are united with Christ in his death, resurrection and glorification than any problem, or drudgery of “ordinary” life. A true living and vibrant union with Christ gives us courage to live out the ordinary, the suffering, and know that the life we live in the flesh we live by faith in the Son of God, who loved us and gave himself for us.

The interpretation of what lies behind the factionalism that Paul addresses here in this opening section of 1 Corinthians is many and varied, one of the less plausible ones in my opinion is that of the Kephas group being aligned with the “Super-Apostles” of 2 Corinthians, that this group saw itself being positioned behind an elite apostle in opposition to Paul. But the nature of the “Super-Apostle” controversy in 2 Corinthians is typified rather by a love of Rhetoric and Triumphalism, that is the “Super-Apostles” are “Super” because their speech adheres to the trends and currents in Greek/Hellenistic persuasive speech, and that the signs of an apostle are to be found in victory. While the Apollos group is likely to find itself alongside the “Super-Apostle” group in their love for Hellenistic Rhetoric (Acts 18:24 introduces Apollos as eloquent which is thought to be gifted in the Rhetoric of the day) there is little evidence to suggest that Apollos, (or his group) would find themselves comfortable in the triumphalism of the “Super-Apostles” The lack of such a mention of the “Super-Apostle” group in 1 Corinthians would lead us to believe that between when Chloe’s people reported on the schism at Corinth and when Paul probably visited this group arose.

Paul’s main point as seen in this passage, however is not to dwell on the nature of the factions, factions are wrong, and divide Christ. The most common modern question that comes up in relation to this text is that of how do we understand denominationalism in light of this text? We separate ourselves on practice, and some other points of doctrine, and Paul later in this same letter says that some of these disagreements can be tolerated within the church. These days often theologians separate issues into three teirs; Those of primary, secondary, and tertiary importance, of primary importance is clearly the doctrines of the nature of God, and of how he has saved us, in second place come issues of practice; do we baptise infants, or believers, and then there are things which we can totally differ on such as “how often should we take communion” The words of Rupertus Meldenius seem rather poignant in connection with this;

“In Essentials Unity, In Non-Essentials Liberty, In All Things Charity”

Paul called an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother.
To the church of God, beloved in Christ Jesus, that is in Corinth, called saints, with all those who call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ in every place, both their Lord and ours.

Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ. I give thanks to God always concerning the grace of God that was given to you in Christ Jesus, that in every way you have been enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge. Just as the witness of Christ was established in you, so that you might be not be lacking in any gift, as we eagerly wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, who will also establish you to the end, with view that you might be blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.
God is faithful, through whom you have been called in fellowship with his son; Jesus Christ our Lord.

I call upon you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, as you all say; that there should be no schisms among you, but you should be complete in his mind, and in his judgement. But it has been revealed to me about you, by Chloe, my brothers, that there is strife among you. It is said to me that each of you says;
“I am of Paul,” or “I am of Apollos,” or “I am of Kephas,” or “I am of Christ.”
Is Christ divided? Was Paul crucified on your behalf? Or, were you baptised into Paul’s name?
I thank God that I baptised none of you apart from Krispus and Gaius, In order that no one may say that they were baptised in my name. (I baptised also the house of Stephanas, I know not whether I baptised anyone else!)
For I was not sent by Christ to Baptise, but to evangelise, not in wise words, in order the Cross of Christ not be emptied.

We Believe…

The first statement of the Apostle’s Creed is a statement of belief, an affirmation that what is laid out following is borne by the Spirit into the hearts of men (Eph 2:8) A Spirit borne testimony by which God makes foolish the things of the world.

The Mighty One, God, The LORD, speaks,
and calls the earth from sunrise to sunset.
Out of Zion, the perfection of beauty,
God shines out.
Here we see Yahweh, speaking out from His dwelling place, and to whom does he speak; He is addressing the peoples of the earth. God is speaking out from His place of abode amongst the peoples of the earth unto the nations that he disinherited at Babel.
There is a few more things of note here; Yahweh is described as Mighty, His dwelling place is the perfection of beauty, (As for me it is God to be near God (Ps 73:28)) and His Glory, just as his call goes out to the ends of the earth (from sunrise to sunset)

The Investigative Judgment, is the distinctive doctrine of Seventh Day Adventism codified to cover themselves after their belief that Christ would return in 1844 failed to come true, instead it was postulated by some of the early Adventists that it was actually at this point that Christ entered the Most Holy Place, this belief was later supported by the “prophet” of the group Ellen G White and found its way into most of her writings, part of the original doctrine included the shut door belief that no-one who wasn’t a Christian (or in some cases an Adventist) at the time in which Christ entered the most Holy Place could not come under Grace, however as the group grew both through converts and births this part of the doctrine was dropped.

Now I have found no Scriptural evidence for this doctrine and I worry about the consequences of this belief as from my study, the SDA legalism flows from this doctrine.

In fact the book of Hebrews where the drumbeat of εφαπαξ “once-for-all” in relation to Christ’s work on the Cross destroys the doctrine.

If we follow the writer’s argument throughout the book we find that he culminates in the comparison of Christ’s work and that of the High Priest in 9:7-10 for the High Priest and 9:11-14 for Christ:

In verses 7-10 we see the Atonement ritual being described, being performed by the High Priest

verse 11 Christ has appeared, a High Priest, herald of the good! and so he enters in to the place (v12a) and we have this strange reference in 12b it’s not with the blood that the Old High Priests used to use (cf. Lev 16:15ff), but his own blood, by his own blood he is doing this and as opposed to what the Old High Priest managed to get done (cf. v9) Christ has secured eternal redemption (12c) we are then reminded of the inefficiency of the atoning work done by the Old High Priest in comparison to Christ (13-14b), he has accomplished a purification! Our consciences are no longer weighed down by the dead works! We serve the living and reigning God! (14c) These are all in the past tense, Christ has come and has completed the ministry in which the Old High Priest used to continually find remembrance of the sins of Israel, yet because Christ has done it once for all time, there is now no longer any remembrance for sin.

We draw near to God, not by the “same sacrifices continually offered yearly, not perfecting those who rely on them.” (10:1) but by the “sanctification that comes through the offered up blood of Jesus Christ once for all.” (10:10) Jesus entered into the presence of God (9:24) this cannot be merely into the antechamber, the presence of God was only ever thought of in that place when it was leaving or entering the earthly temple as in the dedication, or in Ezekiel’s vision, because the earthly temple’s Most Holy Place is the place of the Ark and the Mercy Seat of God’s Judgment that is where His presence is, so too when the writer talks of Christ as our sure and steadfast anchor beyond the veil what is being talked about when we are told to draw near is that we are being called into the Most Holy Place, and why? Because of the confidence we have in the blood of Christ, in His office as a priest after the type of Melchizedek.

The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment relies on reading into this passage another ritual that is not being discussed immediately beforehand in v7-10, nor immediately afterwards in 9:15-10:4 which continue to parallel Christ’s sacrifice with that of the atonement and other High Priestly functions, namely that of a mediator, rather to justify this importation of ideas we jump down to 10:11, and ignore 10:14 and the following discussion of the forgiveness wrought through Christ’s atonement work.

I have been redeemed and I have been judged through the Cross of Christ, I need not rely on my own righteousness, it is but rags, however God made him who knew no sin, become my sin, so that in him, I might be counted as his righteousness.

 

Let’s walk through the passage.

1 There is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus.

The use of the word therefore tells us that Paul is building of what has come before, immediately before Paul has talked about us obeying God with our mind even if we do not with our bodies, but this is not what I think what Paul is pointing to as he qualifies it by the phrase those who are in Christ Jesus he is pointing to the start of chapter 6 where he talks of how we have been united with Christ through baptism, made slaves to God, etc. The following verse continues to support this idea:

2 For the law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.

see the second argument for righteousness in chapter 6; no longer are we slaves to sin but slaves to righteousness…

3 For God has done what the law, weakened by the flesh, could not do. By sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh and for sin, he condemned sin in the flesh, 4 in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fulfilled in us, who walk not according to the flesh but according to the Spirit.

Paul ties in chapter 7 this is therefore the concluding idea of a section that began in chapter 6, Christ through his death and resurrection has made the conquering of the flesh possible.

5 For those who live according to the flesh set their minds on the things of the flesh, but those who live according to the Spirit set their minds on the things of the Spirit. 6 To set the mind on the flesh is death, but to set the mind on the Spirit is life and peace. 7 For the mind that is set on the flesh is hostile to God, for it does not submit to God’s law; indeed, it cannot. 8 Those who are in the flesh cannot please God.

Paul sums up the position we were in, and the position that some remain in, see also Romans 3. The default position (see Romans 5; we once were in Adam, but now we are in Christ, we once were fleshly but now we are spiritual) is opposed to God, unable to submit to God’s law.

9 You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him. 10 But if Christ is in you, although the body is dead because of sin, the Spirit is life because of righteousness. 11 If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you.

Paul now describes the process we have come through to where we are now, the major change is that the Spirit of Christ now dwells within the believer, we are no longer dead in our transgressions but alive because of Christ.

12 So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. 13 For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live.

Because of what has happened, we should not look to the flesh for our direction, but to the spirit, we should put to death the acts of the flesh. No longer are we unable to do things which are pleasing to God, no longer are we at enmity with God.

14 For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. 15 For you did not receive the spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you have received the Spirit of adoption as sons, by whom we cry, “Abba! Father!” 16 The Spirit himself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, 17 and if children, then heirs—heirs of God and fellow heirs with Christ, provided we suffer with him in order that we may also be glorified with him.

Our placement now as people who seek after the spirit, who seek after God’s will puts us in a unique standing, we are now deemed as sons of God and where there is sonship there is inheritance, both in good things and bad things, our suffering is part and parcel of our inheritance that eventually leads to our own glorification, after all we are the brothers of Christ, so if his inheritance has lead to his glorification then our inheritance will lead to the same. Paul puts it in a reassuring tone that suffering will ultimately give way to the glorification of the faithful. Also to be pointed out Paul sees the Spirit as the seal and guarantee of the believer’s adoption as a son of God.

18 For I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory that is to be revealed to us.

Paul continues to reassure the Romans that their suffering will lead to greater things.

19 For the creation waits with eager longing for the revealing of the sons of God. 20 For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope 21 that the creation itself will be set free from its bondage to decay and obtain the freedom of the glory of the children of God. 22 For we know that the whole creation has been groaning together in the pains of childbirth until now.

The expectancy of Gods creation is as a pregnant woman, but what is interesting here, the point Paul is making here is that even though Creation is in a state of futility, in a state of decay, it is God himself who has made it this way, Creation is longing, groaning hoping for the end of its futility where it is released, and even glorified through the revelation of the sons of God.

23 And not only the creation, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for adoption as sons, the redemption of our bodies. 24 For in this hope we were saved. Now hope that is seen is not hope. For who hopes for what he sees? 25 But if we hope for what we do not see, we wait for it with patience.

Paul now moves to see this expectancy of Creation as the same as that of the believer, we are expectant, we are hopeful for the Resurrection where we will be as Christ.

26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words. 27 And he who searches hearts knows what is the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God.

So as the Spirit is the guarantee of our adoption so it is our intercessor and our strength in weakness, he is the supernatural link between the believer and God.

28 And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose.

After going on about the glorification of ourselves as the ultimate inheritance in which all believers have been adopted to gain the good in my mind is one to look forward to, not the wealth and fame which the prosperity heretics would have us believe is the point of this verse. This heretical reading also does not fit in with the idea of being called according to God’s purpose, God’s purpose throughout scripture is his glorification not our wealth.

29 For those whom he foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, in order that he might be the firstborn among many brothers. 30 And those whom he predestined he also called, and those whom he called he also justified, and those whom he justified he also glorified.

I’ll start in this passage from God’s act of glorification since that is a theme that has been going through the passage so far, we know that it is the sons of God who are glorified (v17), going backwards this group has also been justified, they are in right standing with God, they have been called by God and finally they are predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son. Does man then have the ability to choose God? Well we saw earlier in v5-8 that those who are not indwelt by the Spirit are actively opposed to God. As Paul puts it the Spirit comes into us whereby we are able to cry “Abba! Father!”(v15) we become sons of God through this act, we become right with God [justified] (for on what level can a son of God not be justified?) What does Paul mean by foreknew? The Greek here is active; God knows what is going to happen in an active sense, he is not sitting back looking at history going “oh they’ll choose me,” the Greek here is intimate, the idea of knowing can be traced back throughout the Bible, Adam knows Eve and Cain and Abel result, as Christ says God knows every hair on our heads (Lk 12:7) it is Salvific, when the false believers approach Christ at the end, he says depart from me I never knew you. So what then? Then God predestines those to be conformed into the image of his Son, this to my mind is the only piece that is exclusively present/future as opposed to all the others which are past/present/future, God has already known us, and as we will see God has already, called, justified and glorified us. Then God calls us, is this calling universal? Well this plays into whether God’s justification is universal as God justifies those who he calls, since we know that justification is not universal it is easy to say that God’s calling is not universal. Is the calling effectual? Well since God justifies all he calls it must be, all respond positively to the call of God. So then God justifies all who he calls and calls only those who he will justify. The justification of all who are to be justified happens at the Cross, as following this Paul says that the only person who is to condemn is Christ, yet as we see earlier in Romans while we were still sinners, while we were still opposed to God Christ died in order that we might have life. (c5) So we also have been glorified, remember we have been united with Christ through baptism (6:3) are we not also united in his resurrection and ultimate glorification?

31 What then shall we say to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 32 He who did not spare his own Son but gave him up for us all, how will he not also with him graciously give us all things?

We have therefore firmly established that God is for us, especially through the death of his Son a willing (on the part of the Father) sacrifice for the people of God.

33 Who shall bring any charge against God’s elect? It is God who justifies. 34 Who is to condemn? Christ Jesus is the one who died—more than that, who was raised—who is at the right hand of God, who indeed is interceding for us.

So then since we have been justified through the Father’s giving up his Son, the charge of condemnation is laid at the Son’s feet, yet since he also willingly died for us we have security, more than that we have hope, and the knowledge that Christ also intercedes on our behalf.

The following is just beautiful and I don’t think I need to add anything to it, however I will point out that the quote Paul uses is a celebration of us being counted worthy of the persecution of the world for the sake of Christ!

35 Who shall separate us from the love of Christ? Shall tribulation, or distress, or persecution, or famine, or nakedness, or danger, or sword? 36 As it is written,

“For your sake we are being killed all the day long;
we are regarded as sheep to be slaughtered.”

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, 39 nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.

To the glory of God the Father and the Lord Jesus Christ for all eternity Amen!

I do not think that success should be a metric of whether we are able to bully someone into professing a few statements of faith, and so the passage that I will be exegeting in regards to this work which Christ commanded us to perform before he left work shall be to do with the Church.

1 Corinthians 3:5-9

What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you believed, as the Lord assigned to each. I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. He who plants and he who waters are one, and each will receive his wages according to his labor. For we are God’s fellow workers. You are God’s field, God’s building.

I have chosen this passage first of all because it points to the one who is truly at work in the believer, if we are to claim conversion, or acceptance of Christ as a measure of success in Evangelism, then it is God and not us who is successful, so then if we are to charge ourselves with failure at converting someone does not our foot tarry over the abyss of calling God a failure? This is monstrous and our thoughts should not turn to even the mere thought of such. What do I propose instead as the metric by which we are to judge our success? In his earlier discussion of this subject I think the Apostle Paul gives us an answer;  “Christ did not send me to baptize but to preach the gospel, and not with words of eloquent wisdom, lest the cross of Christ be emptied of its power.” ((1 Cor 1:17)) and “I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified.” ((1 Cor 2:2)) I think if anything is to define success for us in the ministry of evangelism it is to be whether we preached Jesus Christ and him crucified it is this matter which as Paul says is the power of God ((1 Cor 1:18)) so our metric for evangelism should be us clearly presenting to the lost Christ. If we fail at this then we have failed at evangelism and no amount of bullying will put in the man’s heart the pressing need for Christ. ((As an aside I must point out that regardless of our own failing at evangelism God will continue to use us, and an in depth look at this is coming))

So what then is Apollos? What is Paul? The apostle is ever so pained to point out that both himself and his fellow apostle Apollos are merely human, they are fallen and cannot live up to the standards of God. Yet as he goes on to say they are servants through whom you believed, it is a joy to join with our heavenly master in talking about his graciousness in his mercy upon his people. What greater joy could there be but to arrive at the end and be greeted by Him saying; well done good and faithful servant ((Matt 25:21, 23)) So I truly think that we must be both servants and heralds for our master.

This is the work of God that we are joining in, he who gave his only Son, ((Jhn 3:16)) calls us to join with him, God goes before us ((Deut 31:8)) and he is already at work in the hearts of his people. He has his chosen ones, whom he will bring unto repentance, ((Rom 8:28-30)) but as the Apostle Paul says how can they believe in him whom they have never heard of? How are they to hear if there is no one preaching? And how is anyone to preach without being sent? ((Rom 10:14-15)) So it is clear while God will save whom he wills he compels us and uses us as his tools in order that the Gospel concerning Christ go to the ends of the earth, the Lord has assigned to each their job, and to each he has given a ministry, this is the work of God in the justification and sanctification of the believer, that we participate in the Church and so grow it both numerically (that is evangelism) and to grow it into Christ. (that is discipleship)

God gave the growth, ultimately we must recognise that this is God’s work, it is for his Glory that we are sent out into the world to proclaim the Gospel, we do not do this in some feeble attempt to save sinners from the Lake of Fire, but rather to call to man’s attention the Glory and Holiness of God. For it is in that realisation of the Glory and Holiness of God that sinners who are being moved on by the Holy Spirit are convicted of their sinfulness and their failing at their true purpose (that is to bring Glory to God) It is in that moment that men realise their need for a saviour and it is only at that moment that we can present Christ and him Crucified to any effect. But what if the Holy Spirit is not moving on that sinner and convicting him of his sin? We still present Christ and him Crucified because that is what we are told to do, the sinner will undoubtedly stumble and think us mad, but this is ever been the charge against the Church on these matters. So I feel I must adjure you to dwell upon the words of Paul; we preach Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and folly to Gentiles, but to those who are called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. ((1 Cor 1:23-24)) reminding us again that what we preach is Christ and him Crucified.

So great is Paul’s admonition to us that God gave the growth that this concept is repeated again, this time to accompany neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything we should keep this in mind, we are but the messenger and our message is Christ plainly so, we do not need to wrap him up as if he is desirable, God will do that if he is so inclined, for Isaiah said of old concerning Christ; he was despised, and we esteemed him not. ((Is 53:5)) No, if there be any dressing up of the story we are in danger of sharing a false Christ with our audience and a false Christ is no Christ at all. We present God in his holiness and man in his fallen state, yes. We present Christ; emmanuel and curse for us. We present Christ now King and present again that man is fallen. The Holy Spirit will quicken man to respond, so we need not be discouraged if he does not, for after all we are not seeking to please man, but God. It is God that will be glorified whether he brings men back to himself or not. As Christ said to Peter concerning the Disciple Whom He Loved, what is that to you? You follow me! ((Jhn 21:22)) We have our charge it is to glorify God, we have our method, it is to preach to the world Christ and him Crucified, what is it to us if there seems to be no fruit from our preaching? We follow Christ!

An Exegesis of 2 Cor 3:7-18

In Opposition to the claims of the Adventists in regards to the 10 Commandments

Now if the ministry of death, carved in letters on stone, came with such glory that the Israelites could not gaze at Moses’ face because of its glory, which was being brought to an end, will not the ministry of the Spirit have even more glory? For if there was glory in the ministry of condemnation, the ministry of righteousness must far exceed it in glory.

Paul Identifies the Law which has given way to the Spirit, he uses the phrase carved in letters on stone it is of high importance to the Seventh Day Adventist (SDA) that this carving of letters of stone point to the eternality of the Law, however as the Apostle describes it was being brought to an end to give way to the ministry of the Spirit it is of high importance to the SDA that the Judgment be prefigured in condemnation this is after all the ministry of the Law, however the ministry of the Spirit is one of righteousness Let’s continue on.

Indeed, in this case, what once had glory has come to have no glory at all, because of the glory that surpasses it. For if what was being brought to an end came with glory, much more will what is permanent have glory.

Since that which was carved in letters on stone has a glory that fades, surely it too will fade, that is the argument of the Apostle here, it is also surpassed in glory by that which supercedes it, that which is permanent is far surpassing in glory.

Since we have such a hope, we are very bold, not like Moses, who would put a veil over his face so that the Israelites might not gaze at the outcome of what was being brought to an end. But their minds were hardened. For to this day, when they read the old covenant, that same veil remains unlifted, because only through Christ is it taken away. Yes, to this day whenever Moses is read a veil lies over their hearts.

Here Paul continues to talk about the effects of the Law, remember it is that which was carved in letters on stone Since we can easily see Moses as a figuring of Christ in his Priesthood in his work of Mediation between the People of Israel and God at Sinai, we have as a result of the Law the veiling of Moses, yet we are very bold surely in one sense this means that we commune, or are able to commune with God, for how else would such a comparison be made, indeed Christ himself may speak of this when he says You are the Light of the World. We are to radiate the glory of God so that men might be convicted of heart, for he says elsewhere Be blameless and innocent, children of God without blemish amongst a twisted and perverse generation, to whom you shine as lights of the world, we who are of the Spirit are bold to expose the evil of man, Moses was timid and because of this he veiled his face to stifle the glory of God. Christ however takes away the veil that is in place because of the Law.

when one turns to the Lord, the veil is removed. Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom. And we all, with unveiled face, beholding the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from one degree of glory to another. For this comes from the Lord who is the Spirit.

Having been unshackled from the bonds of the veil of the Law, we truly behold the Glory of God and in beholding the Glory of God we die.

This death is not one such that we are bound in Hades, no it is death to self, death to the flesh, we crucify the old man with his passions and the Spirit takes us like a lump of clay and begins his work, he identifies us with Christ through our Baptism, and grows us into Christ himself through faith and his enduring faithfulness.