1st Person Plural – Ephesians 1:13,14

Several unrelated comments came together this week.

Members of Bethany Church expressing the importance of this community of believers in their lives and in that of their families over many years.

A comment by a mission strategist saying that new believers who do not connect with a church often show no signs of continuing in the faith, suggesting that the Great Commission requires the planting of churches.

Noticing all the 3rd Person Plurals in the New Testament.

Years ago, with a copy of Ephesian and a few colored pencils, we noticed that there is a lot of Church and a lot of “we” in that letter.  That lead to noticing all the talk of church, community and “we” throughout the Epistles.

WE as Americans tend to think in terms of “me”.  For example, is the Sealing and Guaranteeing of the Holy Spirit in Ephesians 1:13,14 something that I can know and experience?  What is it that lets “me” know that I am signed, sealed and to be delivered to eternal glory?

Ephesians 1:13-14 ESV
    In him you also, when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation, and believed in him, were sealed with the promised Holy Spirit, [14] who is the guarantee of our inheritance until we acquire possession of it, to the praise of his glory.  

(all red words are plurals, some 2nd some 3rd person, as are the verbs thourghout)

   Maybe part of the awareness of our “signed, sealed and to be delivered” status is from living in community with believers.  Not just having some Face Book Friends, or a Twitter Church, or by listening to Pod-cast church.  It is a living, breathing, sinning, forgiving, struggling, caring  group of people who are climbing the hill together.

Just a thought.

Simeon Trust Lessons – Intro

So we took 2 and 1/2 days from this week to sit with other pastors discussing various passages from the Wisdom literature of the Bible.  The

Simeon Trust has some basic insights into biblical study called Lucas Lessons.   We will share and demonstrate those over the next few posts.  Also, we discussed several passages from Psalms, Proverbs, Ecclesiastes, Song of Songs as well as New Testament passages.  This will be enough to fill these pages for a time.

Now a question for you dear readers:  Have any of you taught or sat under the teaching or preaching of the Song of Songs?  Was the treatment about sexuality (more literal) or the spiritual life (more allegorical)?

link: Simon Trust   www.simeontrust.org


Wisdom and Blessing – Mt 5:1-11

The Beatitudes

This week i am attending a workshop for pastors on preaching the Wisdom Literature.  My texts to prepare are Matthew 5:1-11 and Psalm 1.  These share the concept of a Blessing. 

Matthew 5:1-12 –  ESV
    Seeing the crowds, he went up on the mountain, and when he sat down, his disciples came to him.
    [2] And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:
    [3] “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [4] “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.
    [5] “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.
    [6] “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.
    [7] “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.
    [8] “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.
    [9] “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.
    [10] “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.
    [11] “Blessed are you when others revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. [12] Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so they persecuted the prophets who were before you.

 Some see a progression of the individual in the “Beatitudes” of Matthew 5.  Each blessing is seen as a step in the path.  The interpretation has a long history, but it seems weak to me for three reasons.  First of all, there is an “inclusio” the 1st and 8th beatitudes share the same goal “for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”  So a circle or switch back is happening here.  Second, is the goal of the disciple to be persecuted?  Third, the words are plurals (those who mourn, etc), so the progress of the individual soul appears to be an import.

I have experimented with a chiastic structure.  Verse 1-2 and 11-12 are Intro and Exit (teacher/disciple; prophet as example) then the beatitudes break out in this pattern.  B = Beatitude

A A’  v. 1,2, 11-12      Intro/exit – Teacher/way

B B’   v. 3,10               Poor/Persecute

C C’  v. 4,9                  Mourn/Peacemaker

D D’  v. 5, 8                Meek/Pure

E E’   v. 6,7                 Righteousness/Mercy 

The E/E’ verses at the center might then be the emphasis – and that gives the follower of Jesus the goal to seek Righteousness (or Justice) and to give Mercy.  All of which is an echo of

Micah 6:8
    He has told you, O man, what is good;
        and what does the Lord require of you
    but to do justice, and to love kindness(mercy),
        and to walk humbly with your God?

   I will let you know how this develops.

The Other Book – Romans 1:20

tossing the Confession over the wall

About the Knowledge of God – Moreover, we know God by two means, first, by the creation, preservation, and government of this whole world. For it is before our eyes as a most beautiful Book in which all creatures, from the least to the greatest, are as certain letters and marks through which the invisible things of God can be examined and understood, certainly His eternal power and His divinity as the Apostle Paul says in Romans 1:20. This knowledge is sufficient for convicting any given people and rendering them inexcusable. But He also bears His very self to us, much more clearly and openly, in His holy and divine Word; indeed, as much as is expedient in this life for His glory and for the salvation of His own people.  (Belgic Confession, Article 2)

Once yearly I name a Theologian of the Year on Halloween/Reformation Sunday.  This year it was Guido De Bres, primary author of the Belgic Confession.  The above quotation is from Article 2 of that confession, which first came to light when, presumably, De Bres tossed it over the fence of the castle of Doornik on November 2, 1562 (45 years and 2 days after Luther posted his 95 Theses.)  De Bres was trained as a painter of stained glass, came to be a preacher in the underground reformed church in the Netherlands, at the time under the government of Spain.  As remarkable as the line about the world and it’s creatures being like marks in a book, it is more remarkable to know that De Bres had to preach in secret, under constant threat of arrest, and finally died  by the hand of the Inquisition.

So as Bobby McFerrin might have said, “Do Theology; Be Happy!”