You Are Not Christ’s Plunder

Christ’s present role in glory is referred to as his “heavenly session.” Session means “sitting.” Presbyterian churches have a form of church government led by elders, who collectively constitute the session. The body of elders is known as the session because when they meet to deliberate, to establish policy, and to give supervision to the spiritual lives of the Christians under their care, they sit down and discuss these things. Likewise, when we say that Congress is in session, we mean that our representatives are assembled, and in their seats, ready to transact the business of the United States. The word session is appropriate to describe these situations because it is derived from the Latin sessio, which simply means “the act of sitting.” The most important session of all is the session of Jesus Christ in heaven.

In Psalm 110 God sets the Messiah at his right hand as king and priest—as king to see all his enemies under his feet, and as priest to serve God and channel God’s grace forever. This picture is applied directly to Jesus Christ, who since the Ascension actively reigns in the mediatorial kingdom of God. This was the early church’s confession and framework for Jesus’ rule.

Ephesians 1:20–23 that he worked in Christ when he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly places, far above all rule and authority and power and dominion, and above every name that is named, not only in this age but also in the one to come. And he put all things under his feet and gave him as head over all things to the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who fills all in all. Acts 2:34–35 For David did not ascend into the heavens, but he himself says, “‘The Lord said to my Lord, “Sit at my right hand, until I make your enemies your footstool.”’ Hebrews 1:13 And to which of the angels has he ever said, “Sit at my right hand until I make your enemies a footstool for your feet”? 1 Peter 3:21–22 through the resurrection of Jesus Christ, who has gone into heaven and is at the right hand of God, with angels, authorities, and powers having been subjected to him.

In the NT world the triumphal procession was developed by the Romans to celebrate the occasion of a major victory. The victorious general or ruler in ceremonial dress would drive his captives – usually those of high status – and the spoils of war before him through the outer districts and into the very heart of Rome. When the victor arrived at the god’s temple, the prisoners, or representatives of their number, would be executed. In this processional the glory and power of Rome was celebrated, with the triumphant general playing the role of Jupiter, the god who had blessed the warrior with victory in battle. Then distribute the wealth to his followers. Paul employs the image of the Roman triumphal procession to depict the victory of Christ on the cross. Ephesians 4:7–8 But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ’s gift. Therefore it says, “When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men.”

How does Paul understand his own Christian life amidst these realities? 2 Corinthians 2:14 But thanks be to God, who in Christ always leads us in triumphal procession, and through us spreads the fragrance of the knowledge of him everywhere. Continue reading “You Are Not Christ’s Plunder”

The Garden of Obedience

Mark 14:32–42 [32] And they went to a place called Gethsemane. And he said to his disciples, “Sit here while I pray.” [33] And he took with him Peter and James and John, and began to be greatly distressed and troubled. [34] And he said to them, “My soul is very sorrowful, even to death. Remain here and watch.” [35] And going a little farther, he fell on the ground and prayed that, if it were possible, the hour might pass from him. [36] And he said, “Abba, Father, all things are possible for you. Remove this cup from me. Yet not what I will, but what you will.” [37] And he came and found them sleeping, and he said to Peter, “Simon, are you asleep? Could you not watch one hour? [38] Watch and pray that you may not enter into temptation. The spirit indeed is willing, but the flesh is weak.” [39] And again he went away and prayed, saying the same words. [40] And again he came and found them sleeping, for their eyes were very heavy, and they did not know what to answer him. [41] And he came the third time and said to them, “Are you still sleeping and taking your rest? It is enough; the hour has come. The Son of Man is betrayed into the hands of sinners. [42] Rise, let us be going; see, my betrayer is at hand.”

 Obedience is a responsive action. It assumes that God has already acted on our behalf, and that our fitting reply is to follow his will. This is understood even in the basic commandments of God. The preamble to the ten commandments, intended to be the basis for obeying those commands, as we see in Exodus 20:2 “I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of slavery. The ten commandments are a response. To what? To a God who simply commands from on high? They are a response to God’s deliverance.

In both the OT and the NT, the category of words relating to obedience are often words related conceptually to hearing and watchfulness. Both concepts express the ideas of yielding to persuasion and submitting to authority. Commands “to hear” often express a general call to God’s people to follow God’s commands, whereas the visual words (signifying “to watch, to keep”) tend to focus on individual statutes as in the Garden of Eden. The first man was told to Watch and keep the Garden and was given a Command; “don’t eat of the tree of the knowledge of Good and evil.”

The biblical idea of obedience is a response to the actions and commands of God – hearing that leads to compliance with his requirements. The first Adam failed to watch out for enemies. He failed to keep what was given to Him by disobeying the word of God’s command. Adam failed to protect the garden by disobeying in the garden, leading to His hiding in the garden.

Paul comments on this passage in the book of Hebrews.

In the days of his flesh, Jesus offered up prayers and supplications, with loud cries and tears, to him who was able to save him from death, and he was heard because of his reverence. [8] Although he was a son, he learned obedience through what he suffered. [9] And being made perfect, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him (Hebrews 5:7–9).

The only begotten of the Father prayed in anguish, was heard and yet still suffered death, that he might be taught fully what it means to obey. Every word of this passage is full of meaning. Without the dark night of the soul and its anguish of sorrow; no solace would be found in Christ’s suffering for us. Jesus prayed with tears, in intense grief and by showing forth this miracle of the incarnation, Mark encourages his readers to do likewise. Continue reading “The Garden of Obedience”

Stand Firm

Introduction

Paul did not establish the church in Colossae, the preacher Epaphras did (1:7). But Paul wrote to the Colossians to encourage their faith, reliance and devotion to Jesus Christ, as the Church struggled to grow toward maturity.

Paul, by long standing tradition, is designated as the author. The author claims to be Paul in the greeting (1:1). Paul also refers to himself in 1:23 and 4:18.[1]Modern scholarship casts doubt on this, but it merely distracts from the richer study of the clarity of thought and supreme beauty of Paul’s Christology.

The Colossians were “faithful in Christ” (1:2), exhibited “faith in Jesus Christ” (1:4), were “bearing fruit” (1:6) and “love in the Spirit” (1:8). These statements put the scholarship about the so called “Colossian Heresy,” into proper perspective. Paul was writing these churches, not to admonish them, like the Corinthians, but to encourage them to “continue in the faith, stable and steadfast,” (1:23). This is crucial to determine exactly what the so-called “Colossian Heresy,” consisted of.

As an Epistle, the New Testament book of Colossians follows Paul’s epistolary style. Paul generally begin with a greeting, moving on to thanksgiving and prayer. The body of the epistle is generally apportioned equally between theological instruction and application, while personal greetings reinforce the writer’s attachment to the recipients. The book of Colossians is rhetorically persuasive, with well-styled argumentation clarifying the gospel and its application as one side of a debate between the all-sufficiency of Christ and the false teaching of man-made religion that threatened the Colossian church.[2] Continue reading “Stand Firm”

Standing On The Promises

There is unquestionably an element of understanding to faith. But there is more to it than that. For Luther, Faith is fundamentally trust. He uses the word fiducia, which means confidence. Faith is about trusting a God who makes promises, and whose promises may be relied upon.

Luther wrote in The Babylonian Captivity of the Church, “Where there is the word of God, who makes promises, there must necessarily be the faith of the person who accepts those promises.”

Faith lays hold of promise. Assurance is not established on reason or science but on the apprehension and acceptance of the word of God.

Witsius comments on Hebrews 11:1 by stating that there is ‘substance,’ or hypostasisor existence to the objects of our faith, “the properties and circumstances of things have a hypostatis, that is, really exist, and are not mere figments of our imagination. Accordingly, faith causes the thing hoped for, though not yet actually existing, to exist in the mind of the believer; who assents as firmly to the promises of God, as if he saw the blessings promised already present.”[1]

Calvin also used this term hypostasis when referring to the object of our faith. Calvin states, “Faith is the hypostasis, that the support or possession, on which we fix our foot.”[2]

Witsius also states that, “We understand by the term [faith], a principle which pervades all the faculties of the soul, and is the proper mean of uniting them to Christ, and of thus quickening, and making them holy, and happy.” [3]

The final resurrection of all men has not yet occurred, nor does it exist in itself, but faith gives it substance in our mind, because we believe God’s promise. The object of our faith; God’s promise of the resurrection, becomes a fact, a historical event just like the battle of Gettysburg.

Likewise, this principle works backward in time to lay hold of the promises of past events. Christ’s declaration in John 19:30 that “It is finished,” though stated in the past and fulfilled in the future, has substance or existence as truth in the present by faith.

Also, in communion we believe that Christ is present in the elements because He said He is, and faith in those words makes the communion, not a figment of our imagination, but something substantive and real. We believe and by believing we come to know that it is not merely bread and wine we hold. And this faith animates our spiritual life and relationship with Christ.

Faith lays hold of God’s words, objects both past and future, and makes them present.  This supports the soul, upon which it steadfastly fixes its foot and stands firm.

[1]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 43

[2]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 44.

[3]The Apostle’s Creed, Vol. 1. Witsius, Herman. 35.

The Light of the Mind

How does man know what he knows? How does man think? How does the mind process information? Augustine’s influence on man’s understanding of his own understanding can’t be overstated[1], especially when it comes to philosophy, theology and culture. Augustine thought deeply about how man thinks. Given Augustine’s classical education, thirst for philosophical inquiry and deep religious faith, he was particularly equipped by God to teach the Church what Athens has to do with Jerusalem; becoming the second founding father of Christianity[2].  Ronald H. Nash’s contribution to the ongoing debate about exactly what Augustine thought about how man thinks is an important scholarly work. What makes Nash’s work The Light of the Mind[3], so valuable to Augustinian and epistemological studies, is Nash’s approach. Nash accepts the fact that it was never “Augustine’s plan to construct a systematic theory of knowledge.”[4]So Nash’s approach to Augustine’s work is to formulate a system for evaluation. Augustine sometimes said very complicated things about faith’s relationship to knowledge [5]leading some to wonder if, as he aged, Augustine perhaps changed his position on truth, knowledge and faith. But Nash collects Augustine’s ideas into buckets to show exactly what Augustine taught about each idea and then proceeds to show how the buckets; skepticism, truth, faith, sensation, cognition and intellection flow forth into a consistent whole. Nash both attempts and accomplishes his goal. To show that “one can find throughout his [Augustine’s] writings the same general framework of knowledge. From some of his earliest letters to the definitive writings of his mature years he accepted approximately the same position.”[6]Augustine did not write a systematic work of philosophy, aesthetics or theology, but produced works in each with a systematic and poetic mind. Nash suggests that if we break down Augustine’s statements about various aspects of knowledge, we can develop a systematic and defensible Augustinian view on knowledge. Continue reading “The Light of the Mind”

Dead in Adam or Alive in Christ

Who are you? How do you define yourself? By your Job, your sin, your socio-economic circumstances, your familial relationships, your personality traits or your birth order?

There are two kinds of people. Genesis 3:15 I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your offspring and her offspring; he shall bruise your head, and you shall bruise his heel.” 1 Corinthians 15:22 For as in Adam all die, so also in Christ shall all be made alive.

The first Adam turned from the Father in a garden; the last Adam turned to the Father in a garden. The first Adam was naked and unashamed; the last Adam was naked and bore our shame. The first Adam’s sin brought us thorns; the last Adam wore a crown of thorns. The first Adam substituted himself for God; the last Adam was God substituting himself for sinners. The first Adam sinned at a tree; the last Adam bore our sin on a tree. The first Adam died as a sinner; the last Adam died for sinners. Continue reading “Dead in Adam or Alive in Christ”