Romans 8, the Holy Spirit & Election

Romans logo ENG PART 2Romans 7 in my view is more or less the idea that we are not under the law and the struggle there would be that of someone attempting to keep the law by asserting our sinful human nature (flesh).  Take a pencil and mark all the uses of “I” and you’ll see what I mean.

Romans 8 turns the page to the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Mark the uses of the word Spirit to see the difference.

Now then Romans 8:26 – 30 seems to start with the idea that “The Spirit helps us in our weakness.” and then discusses three points.

  • Prayer v. 26-27 – “…the Spirit himself intercedes for us…”
  • Providence v. 28 – :… all things work together for good…”
  • Predestination v. 29-30 “…those whom he foreknew he predestined…”

The connection to the Holy spirit and Prayer is clear in the text and intuitively.  Prayer generally takes the shape of appealing to the Father in the name of the Son.  the Spirit enables, and so some extend prays for us.

Providence in verse 28 is God’s care over all the parts of our lives so that for the believer they come to a good purpose.  We generally think of this is a God the Father issue – Isn’t the Father the one who decrees and orders things? So then what role does the Spirit have in this?    This is a new perspective for me on this question. I have a few thoughts

  • The Spirit enables our response to hardship to be beneficial.  hardship can just as easily lead to anger or bitterness.  However, the internal work of the Spirit can be seen to work transformation in us, so we gain perseverance, empathy, hope and other virtues.  (See Romans 5; James 1 and 2 Corinthians 1).
  • The external ordering of things seems to be the Fatherly part. The internal transformation of us seems to be the Spirit’s part.

Election and Predestination again seem to be the work of the Father, who decrees all things.  Yet can see a role of the Holy Spirit in this.  I learned the difference between “eternal security” and “Perseverance of the saints” some time ago. I had tought of them as the same. However, the first idea seems to be that God says “what is saved will be saved.”  The second has the idea that God acts in us to cause us to persevere.  His care goes with his decree.  Now some thoughts of the Holy Spirit in this.

  • The Spirit walks us through foreknowledge, when we remember that to “know” in the Bible us usually a personal thing not just intellectual.  The Spirit knows us deeply (V. 27).
  • Predestination in the text is tied to “being conformed to the likeness of his Son”. This is a transformation, and are we not accustomed to see that the process of sanctification is spiritual?
  • Predestination is also linked to  Christ “being the firstborn among many brothers.”  This is the new birth (our part of it).  John 3 has Jesus telling Nicodemus that he must be born of the Spirit.
  • Calling of course reminds us of the decree of the Father, but how is the call accomplished?  Does not the Spirit of God draw, convince and convict us?
  • Justification is a legal status, where the work of Christ is applied to the believer.  How is that applied?  I think of the classic theology text, “Redemption Accomplished and Applied” by John Murray.  Is it not the work of Christ to accomplish redemption. He said, “it is finished.”  Yet is it not the work of the Spirit to attach that work to us?
  • Glorification is the final transformation to perfection. Then the struggle of Romans 7 is forever gone, as are the struggles of Romans 8 (which meet with more success.)  when we are transformed.  I Corinthians 15 speaks of being raised to a Spiritual Body.

These are just rumination at this point.  The main insight ist hat we can look at these words from the standpoint of the Father and his decrees, the Son and his finished work and the Spirit who lives in us and attaches Christs work to us.

As the Church Fathers (and probably some Mothers) said, “All the works of God are undivided.”   This means that in creation and is redemption the Father, Son and Spirit work as one.

Reflection

(I carved a flat relief representation of the Tree of Life for an Advent art show for a local congregation. Their theme was Home: Away from Home and tied the incarnation to the idea of immigration.)

smallWe lived there

long generations ago

for a brief time

a garden with

pathways

flowing water and

trees in bloom

one forbidden and

one was life.

He came from before,

before generations

and time and

before imperfection.

We were blocked by

sword and fire

from a life sustaining

tree with healing leaves.

We hear the story of

what we lost and

we see in one tree and another

reminders of life and

we grasp on to it.

He sees our trees

and remembers one

by a stream, perfect,

living and abundant.

David E. Carlson

December 2018

Memories of Home: Advent Art

I was invited to participate in an Advent Art show at Christ Presbyterian Church, Madison, WI.  The theme was “Home: Away from Home” and the idea is of Christ as an immigrant.  I was planning a sermon series on the Tree of Life, and so the two came together.

Christ would have seen things here as a reminder of things there.

Genesis 2:8-10

And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden, in the east; and there he put the man whom he had formed. Out of the ground the Lord God made to grow every tree that is pleasant to the sight and good for food, the tree of life also in the midst of the garden, and the tree of the knowledge of good and evil.  10 A river flows out of Eden to water the garden, and from there it divides and becomes four branches. 

Proverbs 3:13-18

Happy are those who find wisdom,
    and those who get understanding,
14 for her income is better than silver,
    and her revenue better than gold.
15 She is more precious than jewels,
    and nothing you desire can compare with her.
16 Long life is in her right hand;
    in her left hand are riches and honor.
17 Her ways are ways of pleasantness,
    and all her paths are peace.
18 She is a tree of life to those who lay hold of her;
    those who hold her fast are called happy.

Revelation 22:1-2

Then the angel showed me the river of the water of life, bright as crystal, flowing from the throne of God and of the Lamb through the middle of the street of the city. On either side of the river is the tree of life with its twelve kinds of fruit, producing its fruit each month; and the leaves of the tree are for the healing of the nations

Planning

greekI asked around if people read blogs. The answer is unclear. Why did I ask? Well in January each year I ask, should I keep this going? If yes, should I tweak it?

I think yes and yes. Yes, continue the blog. If nothing else it’s an outlet and a place to try out ideas.

Yes to tweaking. I think I can read more things under the rubric of Fresh Read. The scriptures as always. But the people also need to be read. So does the physical world around us. So there may be more stuff on how to read the book in light of the culture, the culture in light of the book, the First Book in light of the Second Book…you get the idea.

So see you soon!

Resonance – Genesis 22 and Advent

Abraham-e-Isaac-sacrifican (1)In our Christmas Eve service, we read Genesis 22

Why should we read this story at Christmas?  Genesis 22 is maybe the most provoking passage in the Bible.  We wonder why God would challenge Abraham with this.

My answer is that it resonates with the Christmas story.  If you play a note on a piano that same string on a violin or a guitar, if they are tuned the same, will resonate.  The likeness will cause a vibration.  Consider a few facts:

Isaac was a long promised child.  We know that the Messiah was promised from the time of the Garden of Eden, later in the promise of a greater Moses, and then through he prophets in a variety of ways.

Isaac was a miracle child.  Sarah had Isaac at 90 years of age. It was so unlikely that she laughed with the Angel told Abraham that she would have a child.  It was so fantastic that his name “Isaac” means laughter.  Jesus was born as a miracle – no human father and yet Mary gave birth.

Isaac was a beloved child.  God said, “Take your son, your only son, whom you love – Isaac and go to the region of Moriah…”  When we speak of Jesus as the Son of God, we capitalize it since he is the only one.  God took his son, his only son, whom he loves – Jesus, and sent him into our world.

Isaac was obedient to his father – as was Jesus who submitted to the will of the Father when he became a sacrifice for sin.

There was a substitute – Isaac was spared and a ram found nearby was his substitute.  Jesus was not spared, but he became our substitute.

The sacrifice was on a hill.  In fact there is good reason to believe that this hill was in the same area and perhaps the same hill where Mt Zion sits.

Are all these just by coincidence?  No.  Did we pull them out of the text when they are not really there? No, they are there.

Genesis 22 points us to John 3:16.  For God so loved the world that he sent his only begotten son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have everlasting life.

            God the father did what Abraham did not have to do.  If we want to imagine the gift of God, consider how hard it must have been for Abraham – and multiply it many times.   Abraham had waited a matter of years to have a son, but God and the Eternal Son had forever.

Jesus the Son came willingly.  Isaac was willing to obey his father, but he did not know what his Father was planning to do.  Jesus knew his destiny before his birth.  He fully and willingly obeyed the Father.

What string does this cause to resonate in you?  We all desire to know Love. Can you begin to feel the love of God?  Can you feel in your heart the incredible depth of his love?  With long planning and total sacrifice, he sent his son to the world to rescue all who will believe.

a 5 star vacation

big8This is the sort of resort

That provides a view

And an escape

Where your needs

are met by the staff

A star for the location

A star for peace

A star for the food

A star for the staff

A star because it does it all

You are safe from the residents

And crime

And unsightly poverty

That could ruin your time.

How this resort elevates this place!

here is the church

This is the sort of church

That gives you a view

And an escape

Where you needs

Are met by the staff

A star for the campus

A star for the speaker

A star for the music

A star for the programs

A star to make a difference.

You are safe from the world

And its strife

And those who have fallen

Into poverty, addiction and despair.

How this church elevates this place?

 

Psalm 113 and the “-ologies”

hallelujah

 

This Psalm is a reflection on the name of God (Yahweh) which is rendered LORD in most modern translations.

 

First I notice the variations on the phrase “Praise the Lord” which are all variations on the word Hallelujah (“praise Yahweh”).

  • Praise the Lord (hallelu jah)
  • Praise  (him) the servants of the LORD (hallelu abedey yahweh)
  • Praise the name of the LORD (hallelu eth shem yahweh)
  • Let the name of the LORD be blessed (yahi shem yahweh mebarak)
  • Praise to the name of the LORD (mehulal shem yahweh)

This reminds me of musical compositions that take a theme and vary it through the piece, both in classical music and jazz.  It seems a kind of memditation by repetitive variation.

Then I notice contrasts in categories of time, space, people.  So I made this outline.

ps113

These show the LORDS praiseworthiness in regards to

  • time (now and forever)
  • location (place of sun rising and setting)
  • the nations
  • the heavens (which the Lord has to stoop down to even see)
  • classes of people (Poor, princes, childless woman, mother)

It’s a bit ironic that in the tradition of the text, we change the actual NAME of the LORD to the word “LORD” so as not to break the commandment against taking the LORD’s name in vain.

 

Power or Persuasion

It was in 1976 when Jimmy Carter was running for president that it was declared to be the Year of the Evangelical.  It was supposed to be a return from the fundamentalist wilderness, brought on by Scopes and the Modernist/Fundamentalist controversy.

Just three years prior, Roe v Wade was decided.  Abortion became legal (the part about trimesters fell to the side).  By 1980 there was a marriage between “Evangelical” and “Republican” that lasts to this day.

Carter was ambiguous on the issue.  Reagan ran with it.  Though in office he did little until the last months of his second term.  He was really about the economy and the national defense.

It takes 2/3 of the congress of the US and 3/4 of the states to pass an amendment to the constitution.    I was in college in the time of that marriage, and it seemed to me then that it would take a long stretch to get any amendment through congress, and certainly one on Abortion.  After all, some states had already legalized Abortion before Roe.

The term “Evangelical” is hardly usable any longer.

To Charismatics it means those bookish Christians with whom they agree about Jesus.

To Liberals  it means those tho are married to the wrong party.  They chose to marry the Democratic party instead.

To Fundamentalists it means wishy-washy on some of the fighting issues.

To those who used the term back in the day, it meant committed to the Gospel, to the Bible and to an educated presentation of “conservative” or “Biblical” theology.

Now in popular media it means, those people who vote for Republicans almost all the time.  Watch how the term is used in an election year.  Now every year is an election year.  Mid term elections start the day after the Inauguration.  Presidential elections start the day after the mid term elections.

Lots of us (I still use the term “evangelical” to describe my theological position) fell in for using the power of the ballot box to fix the country.  Butevangelicals

the marriage to a party or a candidate makes us an apologist for the same.  Reagan was theologically uninterested.  George W Bush waved his faith to gain votes, but could not speak well for what he was for biblically.  (I give him credit for trying to deal with Immigration, cutting across the grain of the crowd.)  Donald Trump is hard to define politically and religiously. I heard my family members say, “we are electing a president not a Sunday School Teacher.”  However, they were not so forgiving of Bill Clinton.

I think we missed the boat.  Power is held in place by persuasion.  We opted for power, and did little to persuade people about the value of life, and the cause for what marriage should be.

Abortions have gone down since the heyday.  I think that the current technology of ultrasounds destroyed the argument that a fetus was only a “blob of flesh.”  The court appointees of Republican presidents have made no difference on this issue.  Persuasion from technology has.

Dear Fellow Evangelicals, lets go back to the ministry of the word, persuasion, engaging people respectfully without name calling and listening to criticisms of our position. Are we single issue? Can we separate being pro-life for the pre-born from pro-life about health care, poverty, racism, the environment, refugees and other issues?  How does being an American fit with being a Christian?

Whomever we support politically, we cannot promise fidelity. Our fidelity has to be the the Lord and his Word.  If we have common cause, so be it. If not, we can not put up with immoral or indecent words and actions because things we like get done.

Done.