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.

We live and we die
waiting for the justice of God,
Our hearts rent open,
We try pressing bloodstained bandages
to the festering wounds of the world.

This stark, desolate utopia
once called the Kingdom of God
Now naked having deposed her King
Perhaps thinking that medicine supplied
might work without him.

Where are the believing ones, O God.
Where are those being transformed,
Those not glorying in their brokenness
but selfishly flinging themselves into the arms
The arms of the one who makes us whole in his brokenness
Where are the cracks in our own facade
Why do we still hold these fragile masks of joy so close to our faces
So tightly, these fragile lies
These lying personas with cracks through which reality presses
Presses to make the truth known
Yet we keep them to hide ourselves
The tighter we hold them
The deeper the cracks fracture and reality presses through

That silent whisper in Incarnation,
thundering into the loud roar of atonement.
That the light shines in darkness,
that darkness which will not overtake it.
Those words on the broken dying man’s lips,
It is finished.

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.

God wants men and women fully alive, and fully themselves on His mission, and so we must rebuff on the one hand the patriarchal systems, including the so called “Biblical” complementarianism, but on the other hand we must also rebuff third wave feminism which does not empower women but casts them as the perpetual victim of men, or even in some cases desires to tear down patriarchal systems to set up a matriarchy in its place. I propose instead a radical egalitarianism. Paul has this in mind when he uses the body metaphor in 1 Cor 12, and also in Gal 3:28, in fact I also believe that a careful and meditative reading of Ephesians 2:11-22 mitigates against any identity group (whether on the basis of gender, race, etc) from setting itself up either as a so called ruling class, or as a perpetual victim class.

Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος. οὗτος ἦν ἐν ἀρχῇ πρὸς τὸν θεόν. πάντα διʼ αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο, καὶ χωρὶς αὐτοῦ ἐγένετο οὐδὲ ἕν. ὃ γέγονεν ἐν αὐτῷ ζωὴ ἦν, καὶ ἡ ζωὴ ἦν τὸ φῶς τῶν ἀνθρώπων καὶ τὸ φῶς ἐν τῇ σκοτίᾳ φαίνει, καὶ ἡ σκοτία αὐτὸ οὐ κατέλαβεν. — NA28
In the beginning was the word, and the word was with God, and the word was fully god. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things came into being, and nothing came into being apart from him. In him is life, and that life is the light of all peoples. The light in darkness shines, and the darkness cannot contain it. — My translation
In the very beginning the living expression was already there. And the “Living Expression” was with God, yet fully God. They were together—face to face, in the very beginning. And through his creative inspiration this “Living Expression” made all things, for nothing has existence apart from him! Life came into being because of him, for his life is light for all humanity. And this Living Expression is the Light that bursts through gloom—the Light that darkness could not diminish! — The Passion Translation.


The Passion Translation first came on my radar as a curiosity, in my searching for Bibles that exhibit a readability the concept of how the Passion Translation is currently being released as individual volumes (with from my understanding a New Testament volume to come out when the remaining epistles are also published [a final collection of Paul’s letters 1,2 Thess, Titus, and Philemon, and the book of Revelation]) The Passion Translation bills itself as a translation “To bring words that go right through the human soul, past the defenses of our mind, and go right into our spirit. There is a language of the heart that must express the passion of this love-theology. That’s why The Passion Translation is an important addition to peoples’ devotional and spiritual life with Christ.” And this is where the crux of my issue with this translation lies, I firmly believe that it fails to do this, I have chosen the opening verses of John because I believe that this is a prime example of where this breaks down.

Translational issues in this passage

The novelty of translating λογος as “Living Expression” makes the reading clunky and the footnote explaining the translational choice for this while informative of the milieu into which John wrote only further brings the reader out of the text rather than communicating the heart of God to the reader. The footnote reads as follows; “The Greek is Logos, which has a rich and varied background in both Greek philosophy and Judaism. The Greeks equated Logos with the highest principle of cosmic order. God’s Logos in the Old Testament is his powerful self-expression in creation, revelation, and redemption. In the New Testament we have this new unique view of God given to us by John, which signifies the presence of God himself in the flesh. Some have translated this rich term as “Word.” It could also be translated “Message” or “Blueprint.” Jesus Christ is the eternal Word, the creative Word, and the Word made visible. He is the divine self-expression of all that God is, contains, and reveals in incarnated flesh. Just as we express ourselves in words, God has perfectly expressed himself in Christ.” This footnote interestingly follows one that comments on the nature of the opening of John being revered and used as a hymn in the early church/Johannine community, if this is the case then we should opt for a simpler and smoother translation.
The next issue is the insertion of “through his creative inspiration…” the footnote does not shed light on why this idea has been imported into the text and neither the alternative translation nor the translation of the Aramaic translation of John provided lend credence to this. This is a complaint that I have found often in reviews of other portions of TPT.

Aramaic priority?

One of the things that comes up in the FAQ on the TPT website is the utilisation of the Aramaic in the translation. Reasons for this utilisation boil down to;
  • The use of Aramaic in portions of the Old Testament
  • The assertion of Aramaic as the common tongue in the Holy Land in the first Century
  • Especially in connection with Jesus
implicit in this answer is the now dropped assertion that the Aramaic New Testament portions utilised are closer to the original documents, there is no evidence for this, and while it is good that such an assertion has been dropped we’re left wondering why the Aramaic matters. There has been recent research that suggests that Jesus was likely polylingual and at least bilingual in both Aramaic and Greek, if not Aramaic, Greek, and Hebrew. Given his time spent in Alexandria (one of the centres of Greek Judaism) Jesus’ trade as a carpenter and his ability to discourse with the Roman soldiers I think this is likely. And if Jesus knew Greek, and the earliest extant manuscripts of the New Testament we have are in Greek until we have an Aramaic document that precedes the New Testament in antiquity it is merely an assumption and not a fact and shouldn’t be relied upon.
Further as is evidenced here and complained about elsewhere there are times when the TPT will ignore both the Greek and Aramaic and go off into lala land for no good reason. Supposedly this is what we mean by “go right through the human soul, past the defenses of our mind, and go right into our spirit.” I sense that there is a deep distrust of the work of the Holy Spirit in enlightening the Scriptures and working them into our bones, and I believe that this is covered over with the smoke screen of meeting our “emotions” or “heart” for a Charismatically oriented translation there isn’t a trust in the Spirit to “guide us into all truth”

In a brilliant reaction against the scholasticism of the day the Reformed church became scholastic and continued to chase God into a box, much to the chagrin of God himself.
In a brilliant reaction to the legalistic holiness of their day the Pentecostal church added even more blessings of the Holy Spirit to the point where even the idea of chasing the Holy Spirit into a book as it were seemed backward and out of step with God’s character

Marx wrote in the Communist Manifesto for the “Proletariat of the world [to] unite, you have nothing to lose but your chains.” This sentiment has been radically imbibed by our current culture, and I think the sentiment ensures the victimhood of the so called oppressed class, and a sense of exceptionalism seen upon the so called oppressor class. In our modern post-enlightenment liberal culture I do not believe that the chains being touted by some of these professional victims are real.
We have enshrined in our laws (in fact in most Western countries) the concept of equal pay for equal work regardless of gender, race, religion or sexuality. This is a good thing, and this being both a good thing and the continued reality of a gap between the median wage of different gendered or ethnic groups in our society must call us to seek a more nuanced understanding of the reality of what’s going on. Liberty of choice seems to be the most common explanation for why there remains this perceived gap. Shall we give up this liberty in order that there be equality? I don’t think this should be the case. For this liberty is what gives us the freedom to better ourselves.
Marx wrote against what he saw was an enslavement of the working class by the owner class. He constructed a system that he hoped would be for the working class. However when you look at modern Marxists most of the time they are middle-class and feel guilty for being so. This is the topic that Orwell took up in his 1936 book, “The Road to Wigan Pier” why is it the guilt of the middle-class that drives Marxism/Socialism as a movement rather than that of the working class? He says this; “Sometimes I look at a Socialist… and wonder what the devil his motive really is. It is often difficult to believe that it is a love of anybody, especially of the working class, from whom he is of all people the furthest removed. The underlying motive of many Socialists, I believe, is simply a hypertrophied sense of order. The present state of affairs offends them not because it causes misery, still less because it makes freedom impossible, but because it is untidy; what they desire, basically, is to reduce the world to something resembling a chess-board.” I would go further, we’re concerned or offended with/by the suffering of others, not just because we want to right injustices, but because we’re guilty that we in some small part play into the oppression because we do not share the requisite identity to be truly offended or the victim of the injustice.
This relief of the tension of the guilt upon us is such an endorphin hit that we seek it out again and again. Our opiate of choice is this outrage and guilt interplay, we do not really care for those who suffer injustice, but only play at caring. Like another opium hit to our system. This guilt-release drug of choice is controlled by those around us, whether it is by pointing out those who by disagreeing with the prevailing narrative threaten this drug, or by seeking out more and more obscure ways to be oppressed so that the narcissists among us may thrive on their own drug. Because this guilt-release drug is so prevalent among us it threatens our liberty. Like any drug addict we need to eschew this opiate and seek out better productivity. Shall we get caught into the web of this drug, or shall we work hard to better our position? Shall we blame things out of our control, constantly seeking that drug hit of victimhood, or shall we try to reach our potential?

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.