Posts for July 2010
5 Posts found

Matthew 15.12-13 – Being born of God
Posted: 7 July 2010 in Matthew

Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up.

This is just a passing thought. Being born of God as a prerequisite for salvation is an idea normally associated with the Gospel of John. Here, however, is the same idea. The metaphor is different – the necessity of our being a plant which God has cultivated (brought into existence) – but the meaning is the same.

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Matthew 7.13-14 – Universalism
Posted: 6 July 2010 in Matthew

Enter ye in at the strait gate: for wide is the gate, and broad is the way, that leadeth to destruction, and many there be which go in thereat: Because strait is the gate, and narrow is the way, which leadeth unto life, and few there be that find it.

A priest friend of mine is a staunch universalist. The obvious problem with the universalism is that it cannot very easily be squared with what the Bible has to say on the subject of salvation, and the above passage is an example of that. Another example is Matthew 25.31-46.

I am not one of those who thinks that we can take whatever we find in the Bible, and indiscriminately apply it to the world we live in today. Clearly we cannot do that, and there are hopefully few people who think that Paul’s uncritical acceptance of slavery is in any way applicable in today’s world.

Nevertheless, if something is going to be set aside as not being applicable in the twenty first century, a better reason is needed than simply not liking what scripture has to say for itself – especially when it is reporting words which come directly from the lips of Jesus himself. There is nothing in the two passages mentioned above to suggest that they are in any way culturally conditioned, and so universalism must be set aside as false.

We cannot properly revere God unless we accept as revealed truth whatever he has to say for himself in the Bible. In the twenty first century it is too easily forgotten that God is not inviting us to take part in a debate: He is telling us what the situation is.

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Daniel 9.4-13 – God’s Judgment
Posted: 5 July 2010 in Daniel

And I prayed unto the LORD my God, and made my confession, and said, O Lord, the great and dreadful God, keeping the covenant and mercy to them that love him, and to them that keep his commandments; We have sinned, and have committed iniquity, and have done wickedly, and have rebelled, even by departing from thy precepts and from thy judgments: Neither have we hearkened unto thy servants the prophets…. O LORD, righteousness belongeth unto thee, but unto us confusion of faces, as at this day….. all this evil is come upon us: yet made we not our prayer before the LORD our God, that we might turn from our iniquities, and understand thy truth.

The idea that God’s activity in history can include judgment, and the attendant punishment is not a terribly fashionable one today. It is certainly possible to see why. It is all too easy for somebody to see divine retribution at work when misfortune befalls somebody, or something, which they have taken a dislike to. So AIDS becomes God’s retribution upon the gay community; the events of 9/11 become God’s judgment upon American capitalism, and so on. (Although another reason might be that twentieth century theology manufactured a God who was too soft and cuddly.)

Nevertheless, it remains a fact that God’s judgment, as something active in history, is a concept far from being foreign to either the Bible or to Jesus. In the book of Proverbs it is often likened to a parent’s attempt to bring recalcitrant children into line:

“My son, despise not the chastening of the LORD; neither be weary of his correction.” (Proverbs 3.11)

The last sentence in the passage quoted from Daniel suggests the same thing. So what we have here is not a bad tempered deity out to seek his revenge, but a merciful God whose purposes include the salvation of his people.

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1 Thessalonians 2.11-12 – Coming to Faith
Posted: 2 July 2010 in 1 Thessalonians, Scripture

As ye know how we exhorted and comforted and charged every one of you, as a father doth his children, That ye would walk worthy of God, who hath called you unto his kingdom and glory.

Elsewhere on the web yesterday somebody was asking her readers whether they were sure they had chosen God. I think she knew the answer – namely that God has chosen us. The Bible is everywhere insistent that nobody chooses God – instead it is God who chooses and calls whom he wishes. Even our response of thanksgiving for our faith is only possible because God has gifted us with a desire to worship him.

“Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning.” (James 1.17)

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Numbers 6.6-11 – The nature of sin
Posted: 1 July 2010 in Numbers

All the days that he [a Nazarite] separateth himself unto the LORD he shall come at no dead body. He shall not make himself unclean for his father, or for his mother, for his brother, or for his sister, when they die: because the consecration of his God is upon his head. All the days of his separation he is holy unto the LORD. And if any man die very suddenly by him, and he hath defiled the head of his consecration; then he shall shave his head in the day of his cleansing, on the seventh day shall he shave it. And on the eighth day he shall bring two turtles, or two young pigeons, to the priest, to the door of the tabernacle of the congregation: And the priest shall offer the one for a sin offering, and the other for a burnt offering, and make an atonement for him, for that he sinned by the dead, and shall hallow his head that same day.

Although this passage refers to the consecration of a Nazarite, and there are not too many of them around nowadays, there is something here which may be of more general applicability.

It is common to think of sin in terms of moral failure. In the above passage, however, there is no suggestion that a Nazarite, who accidentally defiles his consecration, is thereby guilty of any deliberate wrong doing, or even of carelessness. And yet he is still required to offer an atonement for sin. There would seem to be here a conception of sin as something objective, which adversely impacts upon the divine/human relationship, quite independently of any moral failure.

If that is what sin is, then it may help to explain why, quite independently of any actual sins, original sin puts members of the human race in need of salvation. There has been a rupture in the divine/human relationship, whose ontological dimensions mean that it can only be put right by God himself.

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