Thursday, October 19, 2006

Salvation in Romans 9 - The Importance of vv. 1-5

One of my most contested opionions throughout this blog, contested by emails and replies to posts, is my hypothesis allows Romans 9 to talk about Salvation. I have many reasons for this, some you will find if you take the time to scroll down previous posts; however one which I haven't yet bought out as fully as I possibly could is the importance of vv. 1-5. So here is where I do that.
vv. 1-5 is one of the most important and affection-full (tbcontinuted)

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

The Purpose of Romans 9, 'Has God's word failed?'

Just to make a point a wee bit clearer that I made in passing in a previous post. The key to understanding Romans 9 is the following question:

'Who is Israel?'

Let me bring this out a little bit...

The issue presenting Paul is this: - God made a covenant to his people Israel, yet many ethnic Jews are not believing in Jesus Christ, the Jewish messiah...are they saved? ...are they in the new covenant? And the most pressing and frightening question: - 'Has God's word failed?' (See v. 6), if God cannot keep his 'old' covenant to His people, then how can we trust Him to keep his 'new' covenant with Christians? We cannot be grafted into a dead tree!

Paul is therefore clarifying in Rom. 9 who exactly Israel is, distinguishing ethnic Israel, and the Remnant, the Children of the promise, the true seed of Abraham - and to them God has kept his promises perfectly. Therefore those individuals that he has elected unto salvation just like the remnant, he will keep in his palm, and the covenant will be kept perfectly.

The key to Rom. 9 is not therefore about God 'choosing' his ethnic people Israel over Edom, it’s not simply about Gentile inclusion, and it is not even simply about election unto salvation - although there is certainly an element of all this within the passage. The key is Paul asserting perfectly that God has flawlessly kept his covenant to his people, his word has not failed, and therefore his chosen people in the new covenant can trust his promises perfectly.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Bookchairs are taking over my life!!!

get yours from...

You may notice that these little gizmos are the most expensive bits of wood and cotton you'll ever buy outside of the Queens private doily collection. But what’s worse, because of their design, you actually have to have several of them, as I'm sure the clever design and marketing people at figured. You see, if you have a reasonably crowded desk like me and you’re trying to write a bible study or an essay without endless makeshift paper weights and trips around the room to find all the open books you have decorated every surface with, you have to content yourself with a bookchair. And so you do, and it sits quite happily by your laptop giving your eyes a nice rest and saves you jamming last nights half-eaten cheese butty into the pages so you can see half of the paragraph your trying to read. However after say, three minutes you find you could really use another book ... like a bible, open too. And you must have it open at Gen. 4, or Rev. 13 where it isn't just going to lie flat... so you go to spend another 600 quid and have another happy, innocent looking chappie (maybe in a contrasting colour!) sat on the other side of your laptop. I can't type... so your back at the website ordering another sturdy bookchair to sit under your laptop to raise your keyboard. At this point your arms are getting tired and you can't see the screen, and worse you cannot procrastinate by watching squirrels duke it out with woodpeckers outside your window. However, you have been so subliminally bought by the bookchair boogie-man, that that is the only option you can cognate. SO you order another bookchair so you can place it on your chair and sit on it...then you realise that now you can't reach your coffee, so you by another to hold a coaster and a cup... and Mr. Bear also needs somewhere to sit, so you by him a bookchair, (in fact you buy him two because he might want to read) and squat him on one of the surfaces you rescued from one of the two books you now have perfect access to earlier. ...and then your happy, content perhaps. However, then you need to turn a page, and your little bookchair legs holding the page open perfectly are too tight...and you didn't think to buy a bookchair for your tool set so you can't reach a screwdriver to loosen you try and work your page around it, and of course it rips...poo.

So be warned, don't do as I have done, beware bookchairs...bookchairs ruin lives! JUST SAY NO!

(n.b. it actually isn't quite that bad, I bought one, then my clever dad got carried away and made three more, but annnnyway.)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Another look at Gen. 50:20

As for you, you meant evil against me, but God meant it for good, to bring it about that many [or numerous] people should be kept alive, as they are today. [Gen. 50:20]

A familiar and very beautiful verse, how comforting it is to know that God works all things for good. But note, this verse isn’t simply saying that God brings good out of evil situations, and it isn’t saying that God turns around evil situations to be good situations. The implications of such approaches is God slipped up letting the evil thing happen in the first place and had to use what was available to him, namely the evil event, to re-create good; and, it also diminishes the evil; I.e. ‘don’t worry about the evil, because I will make it good and it will all be ok.’

However, what is going on here is two accomplished intentions of the same event. What Joseph’s brothers meant for evil, namely selling Joseph to slavery out of Jealousy, - this very same event, was intended to happen by God for good, and inevitably a good purpose.

So the paradox between God’s sovereignty and man’s responsibility is scripturally compatible in this passage. God intends and ordains this event totally to bring about good, and was in no way the author of its evil. Man, however, authored the event in its evil to bring about evil – and as such is responsible. So God can be totally sovereign over an event and ordain it to bring about its good, yet man authors the evil within it (and within God’s sovereignty) for evil intensions.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

A Possible Simple Structure of Rom. 9

(Note, this is an exceptionally simplified structure of Romans 9, and its contextual place within Romans...there is obviously much more to it than this, but such a structure allows us a sound stream through Romans, with this chapter being part of the flow, rather than anomaly or a hindrance.)

All of Romans 9 seems to be a single question ‘who now is Israel’ with the single answer ‘those who God has chosen.’ This is to explain the systematic assertion that though Jesus, and His new covenant, those individuals chosen to make up spiritual Israel, are no longer confided to physical Israel but are found in both Jews and Gentiles, united by faith in Christ.

This chapter epilogues the admonishment to, explanation of, and apologetic for, the developing Church shown in chapters 1-8, and it also prologues the explanation of Israel’s Remnant and Gentiles ‘grafting-in’ found in chapters 10-11. This allows a transition back to the place of the Church in chapters 12-16.

This single question is shown by a developing three-fold questioning, to address the same overarching question several ways (as has been posed by the Church in Rome), and provide several angles of answer to the question. Each sub-question builds on the last and develops the point further, leaving the reader with -no doubt- as to the answer of the question, and their subsequent response to the subject and nature of the question. With that in mind:

vv. 1-5Introduction, setting the apologetic and pastoral tone for Paul’s difficult answer(s), it gives us the key themes and peoples involved in the questioning.

vv.6-24The three-fold addressing of the question

- vv. 6-9 – Qu. 1 – Has God’s word failed? – Begins to answer with example (Children of Abraham)
o vv. 10-13 – Concludes answer with example (Jacob an Esau)

- vv. 14-15 – Qu. 2 – Is God unjust? – Begins to answer with example (Ex. 33: 19)
o vv. 16-18 - Concludes answer with example (Pharaoh)

- vv. 19-21 – Qu. 3 – Why does God still blame us? – Begins to answer with illustration (the potter and the clay)
o vv.22-24 – Concludes answer with illustration (vessels) and explanation of God’s ultimate purpose (to show the riches of His glory)

vv. 25-29Concluding and reasserting the answer with scriptural proof

vv. 20-33 – (smaller-version of whole chapter) Epilogue to Rom. 9, and small Prologue (to emphasis the over-all prologue of Rom. 9) to Rom. 10-11

Possible Election Language in Rom. 9

I use the term election here to mean a decision of God held/instigated primarily in the council of God as seemingly un-swervable by the works or actions of humans. - I am surer about some of these than others. The big question however, is who is elected, individuals or collective groups, and what are they elected to, privilege or salvation. (More later).

'before the twins were born or had done anything good or bad'
'in order that God's purpose in election might stand'
'not by works but by him who calls'
'I will have mercy on whom I have mercy'
'I raised you up'
'It does not therefore depend on mans desire or effort, but on God's mercy'
'he hardens whom he wants to harden'
'For who can resist his will'
'prepared for destruction'
'prepared in advance for glory'
'whom he called'
'I will call them/her'
'I lay in Zion, a stone that causes men to stumble'

Note that there does not seem to be an explicit designation of human choice language (as defined by libertarian free-will theology) to be found to compete with election language in this chapter. There are some things like:

'Gentiles did not pursue'
'Israel pursued'
'They pursed it not by faith but as if it were by works'
'the one who trusts in him'

Which seems to designate a level of responsibility to human choice-making faculties, however, for this to be libertarian free will, you have to isolate them from all the above election language in this chapter. One must take them in context with the sovereignty of God as expressed here and see that God is sovereign, yet paradoxically, man responsible. Both meet in God's covenant of grace, won through the life, death, resurrection, and assertion of his Son Jesus Christ. (for more information on this, see Jonathan Edwards on the the covenant of grace at

5 Minute Readings for your Edification

Wondering what to do in your coffee break? Got five minutes to spare before you nip off to work/school etc? Need to break up pieces of work? Feeling low and need some Father-centred encouragment? The following are roughly 5 minute readings which I have found particulary helpful and encouraging. They are things which make me step out of myself/my situation for a moment and realise again my orientation to Christ. Enjoy!

The Innkeeper, by J. Piper
Jonathan Edwards on Procrastination (Section VI - How to live each day) (scroll down to Section VI)

The Sinner and the Spider, by J. Bunyan

Acquiring Peace and Zeal for Perfection, From Thomas A' Kempis, the Imitation of Christ (Book 1, Chapter XI) (book 1, Ch. 11)

The religion in heaven consists very much in affection
, from J. Edwards, The Religious Affections (Part 1, II, 8) (Scroll down to number. 8)

The Affections that make Worship Authentic, from J. Piper, Desiring God, Ch. 3 (scroll about a third of the way down to the section entitled 'the affections that make worship authentic)

Monday, October 02, 2006

Overcoming Lukewarmness - in Reference to Rev. 3:14-22

Being lukewarm is being content with how much –Christ- you have in you!

Being lukewarm stems from ignorance,

- Ignorance of the human condition, the state of the human heart which is wretched, and pitiful, and poor, and blind, and naked
- And ignorance of the extent of the riches and blessings of knowing God through our Lord and our Saviour, the Amen, Jesus Christ, the blessings of gold, and white garments, and ointment for our eyes

How do we transfer from the ignorance of lukewarmness into the glories of hotness and coldness? We transfer – through Christ.

Lukewarm Christians are so content. They (and we!) are so satisfied with the things of this world. They think they are rich, but they couldn’t be more wrong! They have no gold, they can’t earn gold because they are blind so cannot see to work, and they can’t even leave the house to go out in public because they are naked.

The answer – pray. We do not seek to go out of the house but we seek to let him who is knocking at the door in. So he can come in and eat with us and us with him. And when we open the door and let him in he brings with him all gold, and all white garments, and all eye-ointment for our healing and refreshing and cleansing. When we overcome our worldliness and contentedness with wretchedness and pityfulness and poorness and blindness and nakedness....once we overcome these things by letting Jesus into every door of our lives then he promises to let us sit on his throne. The throne of Jesus is the throne of God. We can sit with him and reign with him and take up the dominion creation-mandate to till the ground and honour the Lord like we were created to do. However, now we have dominion in the kingdom of the risen and ascended Lord Jesus Christ, the Amen.

So do not be content with lukewarm Christianity, do not settle for the world-gained things apart form Christ. Be hungry, and thirsty, and hot, and cold for the Kingdom, and the dinner company, and the ruling promises of Jesus Christ our Saviour. Open up every door into your life for him to come in and eat. ‘Delight yourself in the LORD, and he will give you the desires of your heart.’ (Ps. 37:4)

Sunday, October 01, 2006

Open Theism preliminaries

For part of my dissertation, I shall be looking at and refuting open theism. Although open theists may have no such intention, I find this view of historical Christianity and contention with the classically understood biblical God harmful for the individual Christian, dangerous for the contemporary church, and an offense to the name of our bountiful God. It is a view of God which causes tears, heart-ache, and desperate longing for God's truth to be known in His church. I pray that the Father can give me a real depth of humility, insight, and grace to expound the truth of his word in light of this view. - I'm definitely not their yet, my thoughts exist in a haze which needs to be structured and connected with much more clarity than I currently have. So this is (at the moment) just a list of books that I have found really helpful in re-assessing contemporary views of the 'open God.'

Note. I do also recommend looking at Pinnock, Sanders, Boyd, etc. to hear what they also have to say in their own tongue as modern advocators. - I am grateful to these authors (particularly Pinnock) for pointing out problems in the church in relation to the character of God. However I feel that the open theist response to these issues has created an unbiblical God. To find more helpful ways of addressing the issues of seeking emotive, beautiful ways of relating with an affection-full God, read Jonathan Edwards on the Religious Affections. A book besotted with the total love and joy of/ and in, God and the total sovereignty of God.
Anyway - the books:

J. Piper, J. Taylor, P. K. Helseth, (eds.) Beyond the Bounds
J. Frame, No Other God
D. Wilson (ed.) Bound only Once
B. A. Ware, God's lesser Glory

Hot and Cold in Revelation 3:14-22, The Letter to the Church in Laodicea

Not because you are hot of cold but because you are lukewarm will I spit you out of your mouth.

The purpose of this post is 1. (to get away from Romans for a wee bit) and 2. to counter a classic approach to these two words 'hot' and 'cold.'

The classic approach, like I have seen preached, and I'm sure many of you may have seen preached, is it is worse to be middle-of-the-road complacent in your spiritual life and faith, than it is to be hostile to faith. -or- it is better not to know Christ than to be only half-passionate about him. -or- more strongly still, being heretical/anti-gospel is just as good as being on-fire passionate for God in being better than knowing the gospel, but being half-hearted or lukewarm or nearly warm or nearly passionate about it.

This does seem a wee bit odd doesn't it? I think the problem comes primarily from misunderstanding the word 'cold' - and to understand it properly we need to look to extra-biblical sources.

We learn that Laodicea was located nearby Colossae and Hierapolis. Hierapolis was located in and around mineral hot-springs, so had an abundant and well known supply of hot water. This was used in part for bathing in, to heal joints and ligaments, and sweat out impurities in the skin, this included killing germs and bacteria’s. In short, Hot water in nearby Hierapolis was known for its healing properties. Colossae at the other extreme was located in the highlands with pools of refreshing (and very very cold!) water. This was wonderfully refreshing to drink and helped supplement a good diet, healthy life style and alertness/vigour of its drinkers. Laodicea however, being placed on trade routes rather than near natural supplies, piped its waters from Hierapolis. Once this water had arrived it had cooled somewhat to become lukewarm. Lukewarm water lacks the healing properties of hot water, and the refreshing qualities of cold, instead it is good for only one thing: as an emetic (an agent that causes vomiting). Such water is putrid, nauseating, and above all, pretty useless.

The Laodiceans are addressed from the faithful witness. We learn from the other six letters in the beginning of Revelation, that the titles Jesus addresses himself with act as an important prologue/link to the main issues of the receiving church. The Laodiceans thought they had everything they needed; they made themselves rich and content apart from Christ. This makes the Church at Laodicea with this attitude to be little better than a secular pagan institution, one without place in Christ's kingdom, or on his throne (vv. 21-22), so are to be spewed out of his mouth. As a secular institution they are not delighting in the gospel and they are not faithfully witnessing to outsiders. Making them useless (Lukewarm).

Hot and Cold are both positives, they heal and refresh. They take delight in God's kingdom and they spread the gospel. Lukewarm is complacency and uselessness, missing the life-changing delights of being in God's kingdom, and being so worldly loosing the importance of witness.

Jesus is not saying in this letter that it is better to be anti-gospel or heretical than middle-of-the-road, or not always totally passionate in your faith. He is saying, however, that one must let the gospel affect your life and must use that as a witness to those outside the church.

Lets stop being overly worldly and complacent in our lives, so making ourselves fit to be vomited from the kingdom. But lets keep humbly acknowledging the gospel, keep submitting to it, and seek to see how we can be used in the service of the king - making ourselves, in grace, fit to be further digested into Christ's kingdom.

Prayer Request

So for those who haven't guessed – there is a large section of my dissertation based on Romans chapter 9 and verses 22 and 23. I'm discovering that not only is Romans 9 very complicated, but it’s also one of Paul’s heaviest bits of writing affectionately.

Once we step into Paul and his 'great sorrow', his 'unceasing anguish' and his longing to be 'cut off from Christ' for the sake of his people Israel. And yet more, when we open ourselves to his desperate pleas to find our understanding of God not merely in the confines of humanity but in the revealed character of God, we too are hit with the heaviness of God's mercy, and God’s great, holy, righteous justice, and we are hit afresh with the blindness of the human condition, and the darkness of our own hearts.

We are reminded again, in light of the joys of heaven, - the reality of hell. And immersed in all this we are met again and again with the all-encompassing worth, knowledge and truth of all that is done and created is done and created ultimately for God's glory. –The perfect purpose where all our delight will one day lie, and that now we daily try to seek in Jesus.

This is one of those passages which you can easily add 2 and 2 and get 90, or 2 and 2 and get -600! The only way to get 4 is to submit to God's majesty in his character, and long to be humbled in our knowledge of whom he is, to accept the perfected beauty of God as so much bigger than our fallen hearts can contain, and seek to be more like his Son Jesus.

Please pray for me, I’m discovering how heavy the person of God can lie on a mind so influenced by sin, and a heart that has spent so much in darkness. Pray that as I get deeper into this word, I will find delight, and joy, and gold, and white clothes, and eye-ointment. Pray that I will be faithful to God's message, and that I will witness to its truth in real, authentic and submitting ways. Pray that I can discover avenues into and out of this passage that will make me look to and pursue Christ-likeness for many years to come.

Jews and Gentiles as respective vessels in Rom. 9:22-23?

It’s an old counter-Calvinism view that the vessels spoken of in Romans 9:22-23 refer to two collective groups of people, namely; the Jewish nation and the Gentiles. This works as follows:

Vessels of Wrath = Jews (under the old covenant)
Vessels of Mercy = Gentiles (grafted into the new covenant)

Paul is not therefore talking about the eternal destinies of these two peoples obviously, as Paul himself was a Jew saved by Jesus. But about the fates of the two peoples; - Judaism would die out to be replaced by Gentle-grafted Christianity.

However, I feel that there are, some basic problems with such a view. Verse 24 reads (as an immediate follow on from v. 23) - even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentles? Paul notes that both Gentiles and Jews are in the category 'vessels of mercy.'

Therefore, the vessels of wrath and vessels of mercy cannot be Jews and Gentiles respectively, as both Gentiles and Jews are identified as vessels of mercy. And we may infer from this with working parallels that both groups are also found in vessels of wrath.