Category: The Epistles

40 Questions for Affirming Christians Part 5

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32. If “love wins,” how would you define love?

Love is patient, love is kind, it isn’t jealous, it doesn’t brag, it isn’t arrogant,it isn’t rude, it doesn’t seek its own advantage, it isn’t irritable, it doesn’t keep a record of complaints, it isn’t happy with injustice, but it is happy with the truth. Love puts up with all things, trusts in all things, hopes for all things, endures all things. (1 Corinthians 13:4-7 CEB)

And even more to the point, love looks like Jesus on the cross:

Dear friends, let’s love each other, because love is from God, and everyone who loves is born from God and knows God. The person who doesn’t love does not know God, because God is love. This is how the love of God is revealed to us: God has sent his only Son into the world so that we can live through him. 10 This is love: it is not that we loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son as the sacrifice that deals with our sins. (1 John 4:7-10)

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40 Questions for Affirming Christians Part 2

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Image Source: Benson Kua, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Rainbow_flag_breeze21.jpg

Continuing to tackle some questions aimed at affirming Christians.

7. When Jesus spoke against porneia what sins do you think he was forbidding?

Most translations render porneia as something broad like “sexual immorality.” Some older translations like the KJV use “fornication” which doesn’t really carry moral weight in modern English. Sometimes it is translated as “adultery” or “sexual unfaithfulness”, which is probably the best option, but the term in and of itself is not particularly specific.

I’ll admit to having not run through a Greek concordance, but as far as I could find with quick Google work, Jesus only uses the word twice, Matthew 5:31-32 and Matthew 19:9 (and parallels). The saying in 19 is really just a shorter version of 5, which says:

31 “It was said, ‘Whoever divorces his wife must give her a divorce certificate.’[a]32 But I say to you that whoever divorces his wife except for sexual unfaithfulness [porneia] forces her to commit adultery. And whoever marries a divorced woman commits adultery. (CEB)

Homosexuality: A Disputable Matter

New Direction CanadaIn the chapter “A Disputable Matter?” Wendy Gritter of New Direction Canada fleshes out her suggested approach to issues around same-sex attraction. She begins with a discussion of the idea of disputable matters in the church, using texts like Romans 14 and 1 Corinthians 8-10. She also discusses Jesus’ words that people should be judged by the fruit of the spirit in their lives, not by whether they have their theology of gender and sexuality correct.

She then moves to the conclusion, applying it to this discussion:

To recap, Paul says that when we encounter a genuine believer who disagrees with us we need to accept them, without quarreling, without viewing them with contempt, and without a judgmental attitude. He says not to put a stumbling block in a brother’s or sister’s way and to work toward peace and mutual edification. He challenges us to keep our convictions about disputable matters to ourselves and to live consistently with our consciences. Imagine if that actually became our posture toward one another in this contentious conversation at the intersection of faith and sexuality. Imagine if we didn’t back one another into a corner demanding to know where we stand on this question of covenanted same-sex relationships as the ultimate orthodoxy test.

Justice = Forgiveness

There’s a verse most of us have heard often:

9 But if we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and cleanse us from everything we’ve done wrong. (1 John 1:9 CEB)

It’s a verse usually quoted in terms of the importance of confession. It definitely is about that. But just now I’ve realized something else about this text. Not what it says about us and what it is good for us to do, but there is an assumption behind this statement about God which makes it good for us to confess (I will ignore for now whether this is talking about a regular confession or whether it is meant to a one-time repentance).

The Submitting Head

I know I’ve talked about this lots, but let’s go over again in a slightly different way what I think Paul means in his household codes. They’re similar, but here’s one to work with as an example:

Instead, be filled with the Spirit in the following ways: 19 speak to each other with psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs; sing and make music to the Lord in your hearts; 20 always give thanks to God the Father for everything in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ; 21 and submit to each other out of respect for Christ. 22 For example, wives should submit to their husbands as if to the Lord. 23 A husband is the head of his wife like Christ is head of the church, that is, the savior of the body. 24 So wives submit to their husbands in everything like the church submits to Christ. 25 As for husbands, love your wives just like Christ loved the church and gave himself for her. 26 He did this to make her holy by washing her in a bath of water with the word. 27 He did this to present himself with a splendid church, one without any sort of stain or wrinkle on her clothes, but rather one that is holy and blameless.28 That’s how husbands ought to love their wives—in the same way as they do their own bodies.

Act 6: Restoration

In the final act of the great drama of Scripture, God’s Kingdom will come on earth as it is in Heaven. There will be no more sin and no more sadness. There will be no abuse of each other and no inequalities. As well as prophetic texts looking forward to this age, we also see pointers toward this age in the life of Jesus as he healed the sick and challenged oppression. This world – not some other world, but this one – will be restored to God’s Kingdom design. In this we put our hope and our daily actions.

Act 5: Church

We now have come to the act of The Drama of Scripture where we ourselves fall: the Church. Jesus has inaugurated the Kingdom as something radically different than everyone had imagined and left us to continue to spread its message. The book of Acts as well as the epistles give us more of a picture of how the earliest church understand this Act of the story.

Paying Sin’s Wages

In youth group, I learned the “Roman Road”, a set of four verses that some would argue adequately summarize the Gospel, primarily in legal transaction terms. Among those four verses is 6:23, which I recently came across again in my reading:

The wages sin pays are death. (CEB)

Hey, wait a minute. The usual translation I’ve seen is “the wages of sin are death.”

So I looked up what the Greek said and inserted a fairly literal translation for each word after:

τὰ [the] γὰρ [for] ὀψώνια [wages] τῆς [the] ἁμαρτίας [sin] θάνατος [death]

Hilasterion and My Atonement Theory

Since my last post detailing my atonement theology, I got a lot of positive feedback (a lot by the standards of this blog). Thank you for that. I also got two variations on the same question: how do I deal with Paul seemingly supporting the penal substitution view, including with the use of the word hilasterion which is often rendered in English as propitiation, which means something like “an appeasing gift” and has a Latin root?

I haven’t read any particularly deep studies on it so you can take anything I read with a grain of salt. I have just had short encounters with the word and what it means, like in my Greek class when I had to translate it working through 1 John. In that case, the dictionary I was using did say propitiation, although didn’t get into what that means or any implications of it. It was also an older dictionary, mid 20th century I think, so probably came from a context where there was less debate about atonement theories and the author very well could have read a bias into the text. So I did some brief research which gave me a general idea again and seems to fit with what I do vaguely remember.