Monday, April 5, 2010

God - He is the Subject!

Galatians 4:9 (ESV) — But now that you have come to know God, or rather to be known by God, how can you turn back again to the weak and worthless elementary principles of the world, whose slaves you want to be once more?

So much can be said about this verse. Let's leave the theological implications alone for a moment and take a closer look at the construction of this clause. What strikes me as significant is Paul's flip flop in how he states what he is trying to say in this verse. It is almost as if Paul is having an "Ahh-haa" moment. This is what I see. First, Paul states in the first half of the clause that the Galatians have come to know God. The aorist active participle is an example of the Galatians knowing by experience. In this first half of the clause, Paul is saying that the people have found God. Specifically, they are the ones who did the searching; they are the ones that found; they are the active participants in the relationship and God is a passive participant. In a nutshell, the people are the subject and God is the object.

In the second half of this clause, Paul seems to take a step back from what he just wrote and after examining it changes everything. After putting a little thought into it, Paul says that the people are not the subject, but God is the subject. God is the active participant. The people are the recipients. The people are not the ones who have come to know God, but rather they have come to be known by God. This is a shift in subject and object.

The implications are simply that we should be sure to recognize that God is the subject of the activity. We don't come to know God. We don't do this or that for God. God, as the subject, actively works in our lives.

Saturday, April 3, 2010

Grace and Works?

Galatians 2:20 (ESV) — 20 I have been crucified with Christ. It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.

This is a continuation of the treatise regarding law and grace. The imagery of verse 20 is somewhat bitter sweet. The finality of being crucified with Christ is contrasted with the new life that he lives with Christ. What great imagery! Life and death are contrasted in this verse. This brings to mind Jesus' words in John's gospel.

John 5:24 (ESV) — 24 Truly, truly, I say to you, whoever hears my word and believes him who sent me has eternal life. He does not come into judgment, but has passed from death to life.

According to Jesus, the one who hears his words and believes him who sent him has eternal life. The imagery here is similar to Paul's. This person passes from "death" to "life." The contrast between death and life and profound. John continues this theme in his epistle:

1 John 3:14 (ESV) — 14 We know that we have passed out of death into life, because we love the brothers. Whoever does not love abides in death.

Here the passing from death to life is centered upon a knowledge of a work. The passing from one to the other is centered upon the loving of our brothers. In reality, the words of Jesus mentioned earlier could be also centered upon a work: the hearing and believing. These works are what I would consider to be responses to the initial or prevenient grace of God. Make no mistake, our sovereign God is the author and finisher of our salvation. But, it is apparent that scripture is peppered with commands and instances where people had to respond to such grace.

Let's make this quite clear. As mentioned in a previous clipping, our salvation or justification is not based upon works. There is nothing we can do to earn our salvation or justification. All we can do is respond to it and accept it. It is not forced upon us nor are we cohersed into it (Rev 3.20). Once we are saved or justified, we respond once again to God's gift by loving our brother as mentioned in John's epistle.

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

The Gospel According to Paul

2 Corinthians 11:4 (ESV) — 4 For if someone comes and proclaims another Jesus than the one we proclaimed, or if you receive a different spirit from the one you received, or if you accept a different gospel from the one you accepted, you put up with it readily enough.

What is Paul's idea of "Gospel"? Does the Gospel of Christ or the Gospel of God mean that the subject of the Gospel is God or does it mean that God authored the Gospel? The passage above seems to point to the former rather than the latter. Although, God may in fact be the author of the Gospel, it seems apparent that the salvific work of Christ on the cross and his resurrection from the dead is the Good News! Both of which seem to be the foundation for salvation as described in Romans 10:9-10.

In this passage, Paul interchanges his use of preaching the "Gospel" and preaching "Jesus" which seems to point to the fact that they are interchangeable.

Interestingly, Paul interchanges this phrase with "God's Gospel" in verse 7. In these two letters, there are 20 instances of this word in 17 verses. In the entire Pauline corpus, there are 73 instances in 67 verses. In the entire NT, there are 97 instances. Twenty percent of all uses are in these two letters and there is no doubt that Paul's usage of this word is paramount in the entire NT. The single use of this word in the LXX is translated "Good News." The question that remains after this preliminary and incomplete word study is where Paul got his idea of "Gospel" (εὐαγγέλιον). It seems that the Gospel for Paul as set forth in his letters is centered upon the plan of salvation, its doctrines, declarations, precepts, and promises (WSNTIDICT).

There are also instances in the NT where Paul uses the phrase "My Gospel" (Ro 2.16, Ro 16.25, and 2 Ti 2.8).

There is one instance where Paul uses Gospel with the preposition δια with the accusative in 1 Co 9.23. This is the only instance where Paul says that he has done something "because of" or "for the sake of" the Gospel. He writes, "I do it all for the sake of the gospel, that I may share with them in its blessings." Another translation may allude to the fact that "on account of" the Gospel, Paul does all things. It is clear that the Gospel was not merely an intellectual assent that Paul had in his mind. It was not something that he studied and thought about once and a while. No. Paul allowed the Gospel to infiltrate every area of his life. He had done "all things." It was not just one area or one group of people. He allowed the Gospel to flow through him and affect those around him at every time and in every place.

Quite simply, the message here is that the Gospel is not just a one time thing that we do. It is not just something that we learn and master at one time in our lives. No, it is to envelop and flow through and out of every nook and cranny of our core being. Let it affect us all in this manner.