IT’S SIMPLY TOO LATE NOW TO…

Christ comes from afar, comes to redeem and deliver us from Death and all that that means (John 3:17). He spends His entire life doing that in a life of teaching, giving, forgiving, helping and healing and then consummating it by sharing death with us—He hangs there streaked with sweat, spit and blood and speaks to us from there:
“I know you hear otherwise, but do I LOOK like I want you to grovel and crawl for forgiveness of sins? Have I EVER said a word that suggests that? Trust me, I don’t want that at all. You don’t feel that way toward those you love dearly. Neither do I. Rejoice in Me and that will make it easier to speak of Me when the opportunity is there. Lovers seek to please each other and to be good for each other. I believe in you as I believed in Isaiah and Peter and Paul and Moses and David—sinners every one. I DO believe in you! I DO. Believe in Me.”

When we reflect on His life, death, resurrection and His continued faithfulness now, it’s simply too late to doubt Him. It’s just too late now to do that.

“OUT WHERE THE RUBBER MEETS THE ROAD! THAT’S WHERE IT’S AT!”

It was some years back (maybe ten, something like that) but without effort I can see him as though it was yesterday (“were yesterday” if you prefer). There we were, a people in dire need of being gospeled and there he was with the tone and air of someone very wise and experienced. What he had to say was so well known to him that it wasn’t exactly boring to him but it was too bad that he had to say it one…more…time. Had we gained his eminence and knowledge we should have known what he was informing us about but obviously………
There he stood very casually dressed telling us in that understanding tone that it was all right for us to want to get things “right” when we assemble (you know, our singing and reading and prayers and engaging in the Lord’s Supper—“that kind of thing”) but it’s outside the building that “the rubber meets the road.” He had his soft-covered translation opened at some text and frequently gestured with it as he held it in his fist, rolled up, the way we often hold a rolled up magazine. What we carry to the assembly is only paper and ink. (A devout Hindu Christian in India some years ago gently instructed me on some things I was not to do with my Bible and some places where I should not set it down.) It was well known to our speaker anyway, it’s not having a paper and ink copy of the Holy Scriptures, it’s living them—out where the “rubber meets the road.”
It would be tragic—beyond tragic—if we thought that the sum total of our life with and for God is what happens during our gatherings and our getting all our religious convictions correctly in line. But, dear God, demeaning what happens, what hungry and reverent hearts purpose to happen, what they seek to experience in His nearer presence when they come to Supper with the Lord Jesus and in fellowship with one another in the Lord Jesus in heartfelt obedience—to speak dismissively of all that and more, is crass ignorance of who we are and what our gatherings are about.

Our speaker with his fistful of rolled up NT, his very casual dress and his (not quite) bored tone plainly told us that he knew so well what we obviously didn’t, went on to tell us that we needed to be kind and compassionate, honest, and in general we needed to be virtuous. Even that was spoken to us in a calm lecturing fashion. Having by this time exorcised all the wonder from the rolled up NT he waved from time to time, from the hymns we sang, the prayers the Suppering with and on the living Lord Jesus and the collection that was Jesus-imaging (2 Corinthians 8:9), he patiently moralized until closing when he offered an invitation to respond to “the gospel.”
There was no revealed mystery here, there was no declaration of war in the name of God and His Holy Son against all the rulers of the darkness of this world and their influence in us or around us and on behalf of a suffering and kept-ignorant world; there was no muted astonishment about sins forgiven, no presence of burdened people who needed their hearts lifted or cleansed or assured; there must have been no happy Christians made glad and further inspired.
He needed to put all that and so much more to the side, less important than our moral response away from this sacred (yes!) gathering, and take us out there “where the rubber meets the road.” What ignorance! What injury! When the moral becomes all and the religious becomes nothing. When the moral is spoken of in patient (or earnest) tones and the lovely mystery of the religious is (virtually) dismissed in very casual dress and with the waving and pointing of a fistful of rolled up Scriptures. (See the contrast in John 2:13-17 and 1 Corinthians 11:17-34 and Malachi 3:16.)

They had been looking for Him for some days, asking friends and neighbors, (“Have you seen our son Jesus?”) and when they finally found Him in the temple they told Him, using an active imperfect verb, of their unceasing effort and concern). Bless me; he was a twelve year-old boy, the visit from up north to Jerusalem, the trip with all the excitement, his peers, the laughter, the games on the way, the running, chasing, the stories, the chores, the social joys and the anticipation of seeing the big city and the vast crowds. Wonderful! Life “out where the rubber meets the road” with its pleasures and responsibilities.
All that, without apology, and then He turned in loving religious reverence to the Temple. Just a building, and yet, not “just” a building, but a place dedicated to the telling of “the ancient story of miracle and the mystery of prophecy explained.” A place where the morally fine (and now gathered) people were reminded of their calling, of their peculiar existence as the People of God, and of their service to their God and the human family He loved so much.
“Oh,” He said, when they found Him in the Temple, listening to the teachers and asking them questions, and in response to HIS PARENTS’ distress He said, “I thought you would have known I must be about My Father’s business.” Luke 2:41-49
Poor boy Jesus. No matter, He would understand better when He was older and wiser, that being in the place of worship while it was…“yes, all right,” what really mattered only happened out “where the rubber meets the road.” Sigh.

(Holy Father, help us please. Give us servant ministers who drink deeply from your Holy Scriptures and learn of you and your Holy Son so that we will be enlightened and empowered to be about your business. This prayer in the Lord Jesus.)

 

APPROVED OR TOLERATED?

The Bible doesn’t supply and doesn’t pretend that it supplies every answer to every moral question we can raise. But it reveals God and comes to its greatest height when it reveals God in and as Jesus Christ. It does this in numerous rich ways and having done it the Bible urges us to work on that basis in answer to the question, “How then shall we live?” It provides the groundwork by which we can learn to “think theologically”.

Leviticus 19 tells Israel to leave the edges of their fields for the poor but doesn’t define an “edge”. Nor does it define “the poor” How are they to obey the call if they don’t know what an “edge” is or who “the poor” are? God concludes numerous verses with the motivational phrase, “I am the Lord your God!” But that’s more than motivation. It teaches them how to think of an “edge” or how to think of “the poor.” Not with a measuring line or a dictionary. They will know what an “edge” or “the poor” means when they know who their Lord is and wish to please Him; when they wish to act like Him. He’s the one that “brought you out of the land of Egypt.” Bearing that in mind, when they come to harvesting they’ll not quibble and get as near to the edge of their property as possible and they won’t debate the identity of “the poor” every generation. The issue isn’t settled by lexicons and logic, it’s by one’s experience with God and how that shapes his or her response to the neighbor.

It’s clear that the Bible tolerates things and we are seduced into thinking that that means those things are approved. To think this might not be sheer hardness of heart but it’s certainly ignorance. Pharisees saw “divorce for any cause” as approved by God and Jesus showed it was only tolerated and regulated. He makes it clear in Matthew 19 that they judged it approved because they were hard-hearted and often heartless.

The notion that polygamy was approved in the OT is false—it was tolerated and it was regulated. And slavery is tolerated in both the OT and NT but it’s never approved. (More needs to be said about “slavery” and what the word means in numerous OT texts because it is only a shallow reading of the OT that equates all OT “slavery” with what it has come to mean to us.) Concubinage is tolerated in the OT but never approved.

But since we in the West are not troubled with polygamy and concubinage we can shrug at all that. Now “slavery”—that’s another matter. It wasn’t very long ago that Western nations were using the OT to approve of slavery. (Let me repeat: in the OT, all “slavery” is not slavery.) Not long ago I heard a Bible teacher whose views I judge, borrowing a phrase, are like the older photographs we used to have—they are “underdeveloped and over-exposed”—I heard him tell a crowd that “Paul was wrong about slavery.” Poor soul, he thought Paul approved of it and then said Paul couldn’t conceive of a world without slavery. Someone who could conceive of a creation transformed (Romans 8:18-23) couldn’t think of a world without slavery? (That’s what this professor said and he went on to say worse.)

I want to make it clear that it simply isn’t enough to quote verses in support of our claims and conclude we have a right to practice the same or something similar.

The Pharisees as a group could quote Deuteronomy 24:1-4 and look back on many centuries of history and practice to support their divorcing their wives for what so often were trivial reasons. Jesus condemned their hearts and their behavior as “adulterous”. In essence He told them that that text wouldn’t have been in the Bible if they hadn’t been heartless fools.

They said, “See? We have lined our lives up with Deuteronomy 24:1-4,” and were proud of it; they had some verses to support them. He said, “If you hadn’t been doing wrong that text would never have been needed.” I once had a 20th century Western man argue with me his right to have more than one wife because the OT regulated (rather than outlawed) polygamy. It must have been okay because it was “regulated,” he insisted.

The same thing is done to defend and support “our friend” the booze industry. Because people in the Bible daily drank intoxicating wine and because God is said to give “wine” as a gift to humans it’s immediately assumed that that means He would be pleased with our supporting the booze industry. (I won’t enter the discussion here about the generic nature of the biblical words rendered “wine” and “strong drink” or “beer”. Another time perhaps, though it’s hardly worth the time—so I now judge, though I didn’t always take that view.) But the very idea that naturally fermented wine or beer or “strong drink” (as the Hebrew term is translated in English and you know what “strong drink” means to us) is anything like the wines and beers or spirits the modern booze industry sells—that’s nonsense! And I would suppose if you can drink it, you can share it, if you can share it you can make it and if you can make it you can sell it.

It doesn’t matter to me that tens of thousands of people can support the booze industry and not get overwhelmed. Good for them! If they were all that mattered I suppose the matter wouldn’t ever be worth discussing. But hundreds of millions of people—drinkers and those they affect—are put through torment by what the booze industry sells. There isn’t another “respectable” business under heaven that does the damage to a countless host of our struggling fellow-humans that comes anywhere near the ruin the booze industry generates.

We boycott all kinds of companies (from fur companies to soap to sauce) if we think they’re hurting animals or poor people in “sweat shops” and then we do what? We support and defend the worst plague on earth. And all because they drank intoxicating wine in the Bible and because Jesus made gallons and gallons of it (so we’re told though oinos doesn’t mean intoxicating wine). Well, there’s more to it than that, isn’t there! We prize our “freedom”.

One of these days if we’re “lucky” we’ll come to see that the booze industry is against all we’re for and for all we’re against!

To interpret the Bible in the spirit of the Story as a whole requires more than lexicons, grammars and other exegetical tools. I understand for personal reasons that we don’t always live up to what we know—my life has been littered with failures—and that’s tragic. But our failure to live up to the best we know mustn’t be used to lower the loving response to God that we see and hear in scripture.

God’s heart, His purpose and His love for the human family seen climactically in the Lord Jesus is the best hermeneutical tool available to us (see Ephesians 5:1-2; Romans 15:1-3 and chapter 14 as context). Each Christian will have to work this out within his/her own heart. But surely: “I have the right…” (real or imagined) is not to be and will not be the last word about a host of things to those who live before us reflecting the heart and mind of God better than the rest of us.

 

McGUIGGAN REFLECTIONS ON YOU TUBE

My daughter Linda and I record some video lessons. Should you be interested in checking them out all you would have to do is Google the title above. If you know a little group that has no teacher and you thought these were useful maybe you could tell them about the video lessons. They’re completely free of course.

Thank you and God bless you.

linda and jim

SATAN: BRIEF & UNFINISHED REFLECTIONS

Satan is not omniscient! Satan isn’t omnipotent! Satan is not omnipresent!  The idea that he can and does read the thoughts of billions of people, that he can and does construct and customize temptations to suit our make-up, that he is everywhere at the same time constructing custom made temptations for every person on the planet is not only false, it is injurious. By the time I hear this (and I hear and read it more often that I care to) I know I’m being “tempted” to think there are two Gods rather than one. I hear that Satan has control of planetary weather conditions like Tornadoes or hurricanes that can blow your house down and kill your children; that he is in control of lightning storms that can burn up crops, that he can gather together marauding armies to steal and devastate  property, that he has get into your body and bend your spine double, gives you disease, ulcers and kill you. The power some of us ascribe to him is limitless.
I hear that if we don’t take such a Satan seriously, a Satan like that, that we don’t take Sin seriously.
I think if we did take such a Satan seriously that we would NOT take our Sin seriously! We’d put all the blame on him and excuse ourselves.
I think if he knew everything he wouldn’t have wasted his time tempting Jesus and he would have worked to keep Him from the Cross rather than using Judas to get Him put on it.
And God gave JESUS a name that is above EVERY name…God raised Him and set Him at his own right hand, far above all principalities, powers, might and dominion and above EVERY name that is named, not only in this world but in the world to come.
More to come, God enabling.

Satan    Omnipotence

DEMONS: BRIEF & UNFINISHED REFLECTIONS

In what follows, some of what I say I say with conviction but there are proposals that while I think they might well be correct I don’t feel sure about them. I only offer my opinion thinking it might be going in the right direction.
God raised Jesus from the dead and gave Him authority over all principalities, powers, might and dominion, and over every name that is named not only in this world but in the world to come! Ephesians 1:19-23.
Whatever is true about Satan or demons, Ephesians 1 and numerous other texts speak the truth about Jesus Christ and that is to be kept at the center of the Christian’s thought and reflections in this area. Even in the days of His creaturely weakness (2 Corinthians 13:4) He dismissed demons with a word and loosed with a touch or a thought what Satan had bound (Matthew 8:16; Acts 10:37-38; Luke 13:12, 16).
Discussion about Satan or demons should never be undertaken without the above truth in mind! Jesus is Lord of All!
I mean no insult or anything that would demean others in what I’m about to say in the next few sentences. If I know my heart I feel sad about it (but not a sadness that denies the above truths about the gracious and glorious God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ).
While it is true that where the Judeo–Christian Scriptures have taken root there is still talk about and fear of the demonic and gods but for the most part the fear and marked awareness (in many forms) of these is seen in parts of the world where the God and Father of Jesus Christ has not been taught or embraced. Faith in Jesus Christ and the God of Holy Scripture sidelines and often completely destroys such fear and a constant thinking of them.
As you’d expect there’s still a mass of material on angels and demons around and much of it is a rehearsal of what ancients believed and wrote. It must all be taken into account because it does (and should) affect how we read the scriptures but most of us don’t have the time, energy, interest or ability to weigh the evidence with any degree of certainty. And while it’s obvious that some of the background is important, in various ways, it’s also clear that much of it is as fatuous as our own modern stuff. (The kind of stuff you see in the rash of television shows about ghosts, demons, angels and the like as well as some religious books that claim to be echoing the biblical witness and aren’t.)
Demons are said to be “unclean spirits” (Matthew 10:1 and Mark 3:15). Angels are “spirits” also and some of them are said to be allies of Satan (Matthew 25:41 and Revelation 12:7). We call angels “angels” not because they’re “made of” a certain kind of “stuff” or substance but because they are messengers and presumably they were all originally servants of God. The word “demon” was used in ancient Greek to speak of what was supernatural, a god or goddess, something divine or the spirit or essence of someone. It could be either good or bad. But when we come to the New Testament the central thrust is this: a demon is an evil spirit that expresses opposition to God and His reign and often shows that opposition (in the Gospels especially) by injuring humans. Angels can be good or evil but in the Old and New Testaments demons are invariably evil.

[I won’t deal with the words “spirit” or “spirits” here but that needs to be done at some point. The use of those words in the Holy Scriptures is not at all simple but how we deal with them affects major issues.]

I will be working on the assumption that demons are objective beings rather than a word used to personify evil events and situations or a word used to “explain” the invisible cause of some disease (mental or physical).
Where do demons get their power? What is true of angels is true of demons. As the crucifixion of Christ is at one and the same time God’s holy work and man’s sinful act so demonic activity is at one and the same time their satanic work and God’s redemptive activity. If you ask me how human hurt carried out by evil beings can be God at work redeeming I’ll do no more than point you to cross of Jesus, the case of Joseph and his brothers and Isaiah 10:5-12 on Assyria. If God can use Nebuchadnezzar, Ashurbanipal and the Pharaohs of Egypt for redemptive purposes he can use Stalin, Hitler and demonic beings. The sinful choice remains with both the humans and demonic forces. That God uses their sin to further His good purposes is no glory to them.
There’s little point about being impatient with statements like this because it’s the truth whether we like it or not. Until we come to terms with the truth that God sustains the existence of evil beings as well as good beings we’ll have no peace. He does that in regard to evil nations and individuals and He does it in regard to being beyond the physical creation.  Evil beings are evil beings because they choose to be and God holds them responsible for their evil but in the meantime He allows them to live and uses them to serve His holy and redemptive purposes. Have you seen the fearful passages like 2 Thessalonians 2:10-12 and 1 Kings 22:19-23 where Micaiah describes in a picture the truth he tells in 22:23? Whatever we are to make of those texts it would be a mistake not to take them seriously and it would be a mistake not to allow God to claim He is responsible. God takes overall responsibility for creation and the fact that He “allows” things to go on that He is opposed to. We need to remember that what God allows He wills to allow.
Then there’s that startling text in Psalm 78:49 (Lxx 77:49) where the Greek text has God sending against Egypt a band of “evil angels”  (KJV). This should warn us that an angel may be called “evil” either because he is himself intending to be sinful or that he is called “evil” because he is the bringer of calamity (see the NIV and RSV). A satanic angel would be malicious in intent so that his act from his standpoint is evil. Nevertheless he might be furthering the will of God so that from God’s angle the event is holy and righteous because that’s God’s motive and purpose. See 2 Corinthians 12:7 where a “messenger of Satan” serves  holy purpose by delivering Paul from self-aggrandizing thoughts and actions and so made him a better servant of the Lord.
I think demons are personal beings that are part of the rebellious forces that seek God’s hurt by spreading their malice and error throughout the creation. [This conviction needs to be tested.] I think that at the time when God became incarnate in Jesus Christ God “allowed” (He willed to allow) demons added freedom, public notoriety, to underscore the arrival of God’s reign in Christ.
The tangible entrance of demons into human affairs matched God’s tangible entrance into human affairs. I think God did this to demonstrate in public His reign over the invisible powers that work their evil to humanity’s loss. God at his most vulnerable (in weakness–2 Corinthians 13:4) confronted the unclean and destructive forces at their most powerful and dismissed them with a word (compare Matthew 8:16 and elsewhere).
It’s clear enough that the Old Testament knows nothing quite like “demon possession” as it’s seen in the Gospels. There is little talk of demon worship as it is seen in the worship of gods and idols (Deuteronomy 32:17; Leviticus 17:7; Psalm 96:5 (LXX, 95:5 and “demons”). While demons are still a force to be reckoned with after the personal ministry of Christ two things need to be said about it.
One, there is not the same intensity about the subject, that is, it doesn’t jump out at you from everywhere as it does in the Gospels. Two, the miraculous and healing activity of the apostles and early church was seen as an immediate continuation of the ministry of the risen and glorified Lord (compare Acts 1:1; 2:33; 3:6 and see particularly 9:34). I say that to make the point that the public confrontation between the vulnerable Lord and the powerful demons was still being seen in the vulnerable Church which is the form the exalted Lord takes in making His presence known in the world today. And I say that to say that “demonic possession” was less visible and less “in your face” as time passed.
And what was demon “possession”? Demon possession was a starker exhibition of the influence of demonic beings/forces in human affairs. Apparently they’ve always been around but they haven’t always been as visibly oppressive as they were during the personal ministry of Jesus. Paul insisted there was only one God and that gods are non-existent but he did say that to worship idols and non-existent gods was to fall in line with “demons” (1 Corinthians 8:5-6 and 10:19-21). To do that was to eat at a table with demons, though he isn’t suggesting that demons became visible there or that the worshipers consciously meant to eat with demons. Lies and unholiness brought them into contact with a “world” in which the demonic had its home but it wasn’t marked and visible as it was in the Gospel records.
So what was demon possession? It might mean that demons actually entered into the bodies of the victims or it might mean that so powerful was their influence on them that they took over their bodies and minds without actually getting inside their bodies. Satan entered Judas but there’s no compelling reason—none at all— to think he took up spatial residence in him or entered into his body the way we would enter a room. We don’t think that strange; not when we give it some thought. Many of us might have experienced it but I suppose the most of us have heard of cases where a wicked person had such influence over another that the dominated one did exactly what their “lord” wanted them to do or think or say. There was no need for them to morph and get inside their bodies; they “owned them” from outside by gaining control of their minds.
Is demon possession possible today? If we mean do demons literally enter the bodies of people today and live in them I don’t know they ever did; but I don’t think the answer matters a lot. If evil beings can influence us to do evil things while literally outside us then it doesn’t matter if they can get inside our skin.
I think the stark and visible manifestation of demonic forces was a passing phase of their activity confined to the period when God visibly showed Himself in weakness. Has Christ defeated demons? Utterly and eternally! See Colossians 2:15 and numerous other texts on the defeat of the powers.
But are there not texts that seem to plainly say that demons actually became embodied inside people (see especially Mark 5:8-13 and the use of words like “in” and “out”)? Yes, there are texts that look that way and it may be that we are to understand them literally but words like “in” or “under” or “into” often function not as spatial realities but relational or effect realities. We hear in Scripture of people being “filled” with or “full” of anger or compassion or love and we don’t think about these as “volume/capacity” terms. We daily speak of people being “driven” by this or that or people “carried away “by/with” this or that. We speak of people being “in” our hearts or “coming into” our thoughts or lives. Bible language works in the same way. The Holy Spirit is said to be “poured out” (Acts 2:33 and elsewhere) and people are said to be “baptized in the Spirit” but no one thinks of the Spirit as a liquid that persons are immersed in. There’s talk of a “baptism of suffering” or a “baptism of fire” (see Matthew 3:11 and elsewhere).
Christ’s followers are said to be “in” God and God “in” them. God is said to “dwell in” them, but I don’t believe that we’re supposed to think that the triune God has literally taken up spatial bodily residence inside their bodies somewhere. Penitent believers are said to be baptized “into” Christ (Romans 6:3-7; Galatians 3:26-27) but I’m sure we aren’t to think they literally take up bodily residence inside Him. (I’m acquainted with the truth about a “corporate” Christ but that’s another discussion and another area.) The Corinthians are said to have been “bought” 1 Corinthians 6:15, 19-20) and are “parts of Christ” and have been made “temples”. None of these phrases are supposed to be taken literally/physically. They tell of relational realities (expressed in images) that have consequences and that identify the Corinthians.
Here’s what I think though there’s plenty of speculation here. At some time in the past there was a sinful rebellion against God in the world beyond the human (see 2 Peter 2:4; Jude 6, and note “where” the rebels ended up). Spirit beings revolted against the Holy God and so at that point we had angelic beings and demons headed up by Satan. We then have to assume that some spirit rebels were not incarcerated. That moral/spiritual infection which permeated them was brought to humans and they eagerly embraced it and have been spreading it ever since. This human rebellion has the same quality as the supra-natural rebellion and finds its inspiration and model there; hence it is demonic and satanic. Their demonic models trigger the hurt and loss that humans experience (though the guilt is ours and ours alone because we choose to follow—demons and wicked angels have their own problems).
When humans reject God and follow evil they are esteeming Satan and demons above and against God (compare 1 Corinthians 10:18-21 and note the profound  meaning  of Lord’s Supper as it witnesses against demonism and the gods—that’s the Lord’s Supper that we often hurry through so we can get on with other things). When people reject profound truth and embrace palatable error they embrace doctrines of demons (see 1 Timothy 4:1 and compare 1 John 4:1-6).
Once more, I think that a very marked entrance of demons into human affairs matched God’s very marked entrance into human affairs. I think God allowed this to demonstrate in public His reign over the invisible powers that work their evil to humanity’s loss. I don’t believe that the demons came and went simply on their own accord and I think their visibility in the Gospels was a God-allowed and stark manifestation to signal the arrival of God’s reign in Jesus Christ. That’s what I think!
The Bible discussion (but the NT in particular) about what is anti-God, anti-life and anti-human serves the purpose of branding evil thought and conduct by humans with cosmic significance. We’re being told that evil is evil beyond what is visible and acknowledged by us. We’re being told that there are WORLDS IN COLLISION! Do see Ephesians 6:10-20!
There are invisible forces and powers, influences, philosophies, religions that shape individuals and institutions and governments and schools and cultures and nations in destructive thoughts and deeds. That’s their nature and so they are branded in Holy Scripture as satanic & demonic. I have no problem holding Satan and demons as actual beings but I do have a problem with our building a theology about them that makes them (and particularly Satan) into a being who knows all, can do all and is everywhere.
I think that those who take it on themselves to speak like oracles about the presence of demons in people need to realize what a very serious injury they may be doing to very sensitive people already drowning in the moral struggle. Already vulnerable people can be driven over the moral edge if they think they are controlled by demons. And sinners can be led to despair and then there are others of a different disposition who can be encouraged to place the blame for their sin where it doesn’t belong. “The Devil made me do it.”
To be continued, God enabling.

(Holy Father, whoever and whatever Satan and demons be in Holy Scripture or in life, we by your grace oppose them because they are enemies of yours and since they are enemies of yours they are the enemies of our fellow-humans, enemies of our beloved ones and enemies to us. Our happy we are that the Lord Jesus in whose name we pray is Conqueror of all the forces that are anti-God, anti-life and anti-human.)

DEMONS      demon possession

REFLECTIONS ON ROMANS (3)

                             Human Faithlessness Chapter 1:18-3:20

Bearing in mind that he’s writing to a congregation of Christians made up of Jews and Gentiles and knowing that he wants these brothers and sisters to help him in his missionary work (15:14-24) Paul wants to let them know his understanding of God’s gospel that would work unity among them (14:1—15:13; Acts 28:17-31). In 1:1-17 he makes it clear that “the gospel of God” has Jewish roots but embraces the Gentiles as part of His intention (1:1-4, 16-17 in particular—a truth he keeps in mind throughout Romans).
In 1:16 he speaks of God’s “righteousness” by which he has in mind God’s faithfulness, that is, God doing what “is right” in the matter of keeping His commitment to Abraham’s physical children and through them to the nations (see Acts 15:13-21 where James sees Gentile conversions as part of God’s faithfulness in keeping with Amos 9:11-12). The word Dikaiosune has a wider semantic domain than faithfulness but context determines what aspect of a big rich word is on a writer’s mind when he uses it. In Romans 1:16 Paul says that God’s gospel about His Son (1:1-3; 15:16, 19) reveals His keeping faith with Himself and His commitment to saving anyone that wants Him.

                        The faithless human family from Adam until Moses

In 1:18—3:20 Paul begins to stress the unfaithfulness of the human family. It knew the nature and will of God (1:18, 21) and suppressed that truth “in unrighteousness”—note what they knew in 1:21-32. Paul isn’t doing “natural theology”—he is painting a picture of a faithless human family (from the creation until Moses) hat suppressed the truth they knew and corrupted themselves and all around them. They made gods out of the creation and fools out of themselves and despised life by choosing death (1:32). They were created in God’s image to rejoice in life, reflecting Him, and they corrupted themselves.
(In that human rebellion the non-human creation became an unwitting instrument and servant of Sin. See Romans 8:18-22 and texts such as Leviticus 18:24-30; Numbers 35:33-34; Isaiah 62:4-6; Ezekiel 33:29 and context with a careful reading of 36 in its entirety which addresses the land and how it became (as it is to this day) an occasion for many to jeer at God. In addition it was perverted and was treated as if it were God instead of the creature (Romans 1:18-23). Note the Pantheists like Einstein and Kaku, Spinoza, Tillich and others who call the creation “God”.) Paul stamps FAITHLESS (unrighteous) across the “Gentile” world.
From there he moves to Sinai, the creation of Israel (compare Isaiah 43:1,7; 44:2,21,24; 49:5 and elsewhere) and Israel’s apostasy (Romans 2:1-3:19) and stamps FAITHLESS (unrighteousness) across Israel’s history. The whole world is under God’s judgment and whether it had a specially enacted covenantal Law as Israel did or had the moral truth not in covenant form as Gentiles did (see Ephesians 2:11-12) the human family as a family proved faithless (Romans 3:19-20).
(He will later summarize humanity as non-redeemed and “in Adam”, the old man—5:12-14, 20-21 with 6:6.)
                                                            The Faithful God

From history and Holy Scripture Paul has shown human faithlessness and now in 3:21—5:11 the shows God’s faithfulness. God had not abandoned his eternal purpose and the proof of that was the witness of the Old Testament scriptures that culminated in the person and mission of the Lord Jesus Christ (3:21-26).

He reminds the Jewish element that their own confession (the Shema) is that there is one God and if that’s true there is only one Creator and so there is only one human family and God cares for it in its entirety as its Father Creator (3:27-31). And since that human family (Jew & non-Jew) has no claim based either on its response to God’s manifest will or its fleshly link to Abraham, salvation and glory is sourced in a gracious God (Romans 11:32) and not in fleshly connection, circumcision as a mark of a covenant. In fact, with Israel having been especially gifted they were the more responsible for their faithless response (Romans 3:1-2, 9 and see Ezekiel 16:48-52 as illustrating greater accountability due to greater blessing).
Why is a message about God’s faithfulness such good news? Part of the answer is implied in 1:18—3:20 where Paul charts the sinful course of human history. In light of humanity’s treacherous betrayal of God and our crass abuse of the dominion he gave to us (Genesis 1:26-27 with Genesis 3) it might be thought that God would obliterate us.
And in some ways the biblical record could be seen as proof that God had abandoned humanity. The expulsion of Adam, Eve and Cain from God’s presence, Noah’s flood and the destruction of Sodom & Gomorrah could be used as proof that God had turned from humanity and was bent only on destroying them in outbursts of His anger. If such expressions of His anger were typical of His full feelings toward the human race our situation would be hopeless and lead to utter despair. But Paul’s good news is that God is righteous (faithful to His commitments)  even in the face of our faithlessness. This means that however we understand the wrath of God it is to be seen as part of his faithfulness toward us.
                                 God’s faithfulness through Abraham is for All

Romans 4 develops the history of God’s faithfulness and how it moves through Abraham and culminates in Jesus in 5:12-21. Od’s choice of Abraham as His instrument of blessing was all about God’s holy generosity and not Abraham’s pedigree or his behavior. (Glance at Joshua 24:2-3 & Abraham’s dealings with Pharaoh, Abimelech and Sarah when he feared contrary to God’s promise and how he engaged with Hagar to gain an heir through her). Sarah’s inability to conceive and Abraham’s own aged body that wasn’t old (Romans 4:13-25) said that the initiative was always of the gracious God. The man himself was not special—God was and Abraham trusted God to be faithful and was faithful to God and all that was prior to circumcision & Sinai the covenant. The entire Abrahamic history was about faith in God to bring life out of death and that is the point Paul makes in 4:19-25. The consequences and implications flowing from that are mentioned in 5:1-11.
Then he summarizes human death and loss in father Adam, as a fit representative of a fallen humanity and the last Adam (5:14; 1 Corinthians 15:21-22, 45 with Romans 6:6 and 7:4-6).