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Expecting The Soon Return Pt 2

God gave us a spirit not of fear but of power and love and self-control. (2 Timothy 1:7)

I wrote a previous piece that Christians have always lived anticipating the “soon return of our Lord”. Unfortunately, there have also always been people who “hold their Bibles in one hand and the newspaper in the other” to pronounce how current events and current people are the direct fulfillment of this prophecy. Continue reading

Posted in 1 Thessalonians 4, 2 Thessalonians 2, 2 Timothy 1, Acts 1, Biblical Studies, Ephesians 4, Eschatology | 1 Comment

Hope in Futility

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope – Romans 8:20

In my last post, I spoke about Paul’s statement in Romans about the ordering of creation by God who subjected creation to an order of futility. I connected this with the events in Genesis 3. Starting in verse 14, a section commonly mislabeled, “curses”, God subjects the serpent, Eve, Adam and all creation to futility ending in death. The post was heavy on the futility and more than a little short on hope. What is the hope of which this passage speaks? Continue reading

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Futility in Hope

For the creation was subjected to futility, not willingly, but because of him who subjected it, in hope – Romans 8:20

It seems to me that this verse is among the Great Ignored in Scriptures. It says something about creation which should be common knowledge in the Church. It should be part of our Biblical Anthropology; our Soteriology, especially our doctrine of Sanctification; and even if we do not study Theology and know the big words, it should be part of the man in the pew’s common understanding of How Things Are. Continue reading

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Flesh Vs Faith: Getting Out of the Boat

This is my take on the well-known incident in Matthew 14 of Jesus and Peter walking on the water. Like many of my writings, it is in response to things I have read. Snapshots of those writings will be here without links and their authors may or may not like how I have characterized them. In this instance, I read a blog on this event in Jesus’ ministry. In his “giving context” to the event, the blogger made what I thought was a stunningly bad characterization of one of the principals (Peter, of course) which, again I thought, turned the story on its head, teaching this as a story of Peter’s massive hubris and arrogance – and yet, Peter walked on water! In the blog’s comments, I criticized his context-giving (not always in the most gracious way possible, it probably need not be said) and in the interaction which followed, the point came out that his blog was really an attempt to discredit some “If you want to walk on water, you have to get out of the boat” sub-category of “name it and claim it” teaching. Far be it from me to be in support of any “name it and claim it” theology but far be it also to throw left turns into a passage of Scripture for the purpose of hamstringing its use by people with whom I disagree.

I would like to suggest a different approach to Peter’s comment. I believe that Peter’s statement is really a prayer which shows not only faith but the opposite of impetuousness. Wait, asking to walk on water is not impetuous? That’s what I said. Continue reading

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Flesh vs Faith: Hebrews 11:1

Now faith is the assurance of things hoped for, the conviction of things not seen. (Hebrews 11:1)

This is part of the continuing series I have called Flesh vs Faith. It started as a study in Genesis from the creation, to the rebellion and through the life of Abraham. I also included some other biblical characters. In defining Faith, I have noted that Faith, as described in the popularly called “Hall of Faith” (Hebrews 11), is a response to revelation. I think this is important. For many, Faith is barely different from wishful thinking. Others see Faith as a characteristic they have in varying degrees of fullness and must will (or some other form of personal effort, even prayer – Luke 17:5,6) into themselves. Still others place their denomination or teachers or church leaders or tradition in between themselves and the revelation and call the relationship with their intermediary “Faith”.

Also, I observed that in the Old Testament, the word “Faith” is not used in the same way as the New Testament. Rather, the Old Testament concept corresponding to New Testament “Faith” is “The Fear of the Lord” and the shortened “Fear” (ie I fear God=I worship God – Genesis 42:18). The point is not “God scares me” as much as “What God says matters to me”.

In this article, I want to look at the well-known characterization of “Faith” found in Hebrews 11:1 quoted above. My inspiration for wanting to look at this was an interesting translation of the verse found in the Anchor Bible commentary series – Now faith is [the] groundwork of things hoped for, [the] basis for testing things not seen. (George Wesley Buchanan, The Anchor Bible: To The Hebrews, p. 177)

As Buchanan translates this verse, both words – “groundwork” and “basis for testing” – have foundational components. In other words, faith is something one builds upon. One lives his life out of, rather than in pursuit of, Faith. The Greek behind these translations are both fairly technical words.

The first, translated “groundwork” by Dr Buchanan, is ὑπόστασις. It was used in philosophy as a technical term for essence or existence. It is found in Hebrews 1:3, who [the son=Jesus] being the effulgence of his [the Father] glory, and the very image of his substance (RV) and also in 3:14, where it is commonly translated “confidence”. It would seem, based on the parallelism with 1:3, that faith has a similar revelatory relationship with “things hoped for” as Jesus with the Father. That is, just as Jesus shows the reality of the Father, so Faith shows the reality of our hope – hope, that is, in the sense of confident looking forward and not wishing. In other words, as will be shown by the rest of Hebrews 11, The Revelation presents a future hope and by Faith, that hope is substance or reality upon which to act.

The second, translated “basis for testing’ by Dr Buchanan, is ελεγχος is a technical term from the scientific and legal realms meaning evidence. More than evidence, which can be believed or disbelieved, it is evidence which has been established. Thus, this word is often translated “reproof” (2 Timothy 3:16), your actions are against what is established by evidence (the Word of God). Hence, by Faith, the Revelation evidences what is not seeable and becomes the basis for testing what is seeable.

In both of these clauses, Faith is neither a subjective persuasion nor any personal effort. As one writer says, the reference is to the presence of the groundwork or basis, not their achievement. He goes on to summarize, “A faith which of itself contained or offered proof of things unseen would not be the faith of Hebrews, which stands on the Revelation, Word and the promise of God and has nothing but what it receives. Thus faith is confidence in what is hoped for because it is the divinely given conviction of things unseen.” (Theological Dictionary of the New Testament, vol. II p. 476)

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Expecting the Return of Our Lord

Several years ago, I read a book which was written in the 1800s. Sorry I can’t give you more information on the book itself as most all information has slipped the mortal coil which is my memory. One line, though, I remember. The author said, in a book which was not about end-times, something about “the soon return of our Lord”. It made me think about The Blessed Hope (Titus 2:13) and how universal that Hope is within Christianity. Paul was looking for it; skip ahead to 19th century and at least one author was looking for it “soon”. And neither one of them was wrong. I tried to express that to a friend who said “Yeah, but we are seeing so many more signs today than that guy”, which, I think, missed the point. Continue reading

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