Scary Number

Our reader count is 11,666.  well 11 is not good and 666 is not so great for those into numerology.  Fortunately we are not a big fan of biblical numerology – rather too subjective for us.

Even so, dear reader, come and read and move the number along!

John 17 – Glory re-imagined

Glory is a fairly clear concept in the bible.  In the Hebrew the root word means “weight”.  So we think of the immensity of God, of his power, and of his love.  Moses had to be hidden in a crevice as the Glory of God passed by him and God declared his name – see Exodus 33:12 to Exodus 34:9.  Isaiah collapsed with an awareness of his sinfulness in the presence of the Almighty – see Isaiah 6.

In John 13-17, called the Upper Room Discourse, which contains his last evening together with the 12, ‘glory’ is uniquely defined. 

When Judas had just left to betray him, Jesus said, “Now is the Son of Man glorified.”  This is not a future event, but a completed event.  At the moment of betrayal Jesus is glorified.

At the start of John 17, he prays for his ministry and for his followers.  the first verses use the words glory or glorify five times – starting with “Father, the hour has come to glorify your Son…”  Later in the prayer he says that the glory has been given to the disciples (v. 22), and still later he speaks of his eternal glory (v. 24).

At the outset of John’s Gospel we read, “The Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us.  We have seen his glory, the glory of the One and Only, who came from the Father full of grace and truth.”  John 1:14.

So this glory was seen by John.  Some say at the Transfiguration event.  That was when Jesus was temporarily glorified in their sight.  But we think, in light of John 13-17, that the glory is broader.  It includes his pre-existence, but also the crucifixion – consider this passage

John 12:23-26  ESV
    And Jesus answered them, “The hour has come for the Son of Man to be glorified. [24] Truly, truly, I say to you, unless a grain of wheat falls into the earth and dies, it remains alone; but if it dies, it bears much fruit. [25] Whoever loves his life loses it, and whoever hates his life in this world will keep it for eternal life. [26] If anyone serves me, he must follow me; and where I am, there will my servant be also. If anyone serves me, the Father will honor him.

   So it seems to us that Glory includes what we see as being majestic, but it also includes what we see as humiliating – the long drawn out death of Christ that we summarize with the word crucifixion. 

  Is it that Glory refers to love?

Dimensions – Ephesians 3:18

Ephesians speaks of the immensity of God’s love in 4 dimensions:

Ephesians  3:18
    may have strength to comprehend with all the saints what is the breadth and length and height and depth,

We have noted in commentaries nothing that helpful with this.  Of course the NT precedes the Cartesian XYZ system.  And discussion of time as a 4th dimension is anachronistic.

I imagine a person standing and pointing side to side, front to back, upward and then downward.  In this light, it makes sense, because we are not trying to coordinate a rather poetic statement with what we learned in Geometry.

The temptation is to do what John Stott (The Message of Ephesians, P. 137) said:

“Yet it seems legitimate to say that the love of Christ is ‘broad’ enough to encompass all mankind (especially Jews and Gentiles, the theme of these chapters), ‘long’ enough to last for eternity, ‘deep’ enough to reach the most degraded sinner, and ‘high’ enough to exalt him to heaven.”

Often preachers refer to the directions of the cross.

What do you think?

Conjunctions – Ephesians 3:19

So here is a typical translation of Ephesians 3:19

Ephesians 3:19 – ESV
    and to know the love of Christ that surpasses knowledge, that you may be filled with all the fullness of God.

   When we checked the original language, Greek, the word “with” in the phrase “filled with all the fullness” is the conjunction “eis”.  This word is usually translated as “into”.

   So why is it translated as “with”.  The metaphor is of being filled, and things are filled with other things.  A glass is filled with water.  A house is filled with music.

What sense is it to be filled “into” all the fullness?  The conjunction “eis” is described in one reference: “if “en”is punctiliar, “eis” is the corresponding ‘linear’ word;  where “en” = “in”, “eis” would rather = “into”.  It may be added, as a rough-and-ready distinction between the meanings of “eis” and “pros”[toward], that “eis” tends to include the idea of entry…”

Bear with me – that bit of grammar from C. F. D. Moule’s “Idiom Book of the NT Greek” suggests that the picture should not be the fullness of God filling us like a cup, but of us plunging into the fullness of God.  The prayer had previously sought that we be strengthened or enlarged in capacity to be the dwelling for Christ, now this idea is reversed to one where we move into the fullness of God.   Or as we might say “take the plunge”.


Unity and Justification – Galatians 2:11-21

We are part of a congregation that ministers through four languages, directly or indirectly – actually 5 if you count Mandarin and Cantonese as two languages.  So unity is something we talk about.  So it is interesting to read about the conflict between Paul and Peter in the multi-cultural church in Antioch. 

Peter, who had brought in the first Gentile converts (see Acts 10) was first enjoying a fine church supper and close friendship with gentile believers in Antioch, until some nay sayers appeared.  Then he separated – we presume in order not to divide the church or not to put a stumbling block in front of a Jewish audience.

Paul would not let this stand – because it was not only a breach of unity, it was a denial of the Gospel, and specifically a denial of the concept of justification.

It is not clear if verses 17 through 21 were part of the Paul to Peter speech, or Paul’s explanatory aside to the Galatians.  In any case, Justification by faith is the basis of unity; conversely division is a denial of that gospel.

Galatians 2:15-21
    We ourselves are Jews by birth and not Gentile sinners; [16] yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified.
    [17] But if, in our endeavor to be justified in Christ, we too were found to be sinners, is Christ then a servant of sin? Certainly not! [18] For if I rebuild what I tore down, I prove myself to be a transgressor. [19] For through the law I died to the law, so that I might live to God.  I have been crucified with Christ. [20] It is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me. And the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me. [21] I do not nullify the grace of God, for if justification were through the law, then Christ died for no purpose.

We have never heard a sermon that ties multicultural unity to the doctrine of Justification.  We have heard that it is too much to ask for people to overcome their prejudices and divisions in order to appreciate the work of Christ.

Incognito – Leviathan

This was in an article in the Washington Post about the president’s chief of staff: Rahm Emanuel is officially a Washington caricature. He’s the town’s resident leviathan, a bullying, bruising White House chief of staff who is a prime target for the failings of the Obama administration

We have no wish to comment on Mr. Emanuel, other than to note this incognito reference to “leviathan”.  This refers to an entwining beast discussed in Job 3:8 and 41:1-34 and mentioned in some other places: Ps 104:26, Isaiah 27:1, Psalm 124:14, Ezk 29:3-5.

It refers to a sea creature, sort of sea serpent, whose entwining coils speak of an evil entwining power.  Isaiah and Ezekiel use the image in regard to large and imposing empires such as Egypt and Assyria.  Psalm 104 has the Leviathan making sport in the ocean.  In Job it seems to refer to something more than a creature, but to the evil embedded in the world.

So Mr. Emanuel, in the view of some, is a powerful and pervading power for something sinister.

Incognito – a new category

They are everywhere – places where themes, words, concepts and quotes from the Bible appear in popular culture, unnoticed and unreferenced.  For example, how love is supreme and Harry Potter wins by dying, literary themes such as “loss of innocence” and “redemption”.  

So we will be noting these as we find them.