2 Corinthians 5 – is this poetry?

Having preached a series of messages on imbedded hymn texts in the New Testament (such as Philippians 2:6ff) and having spent a lot of time in the Wisdom Literature and Psalms, which are laden with literary pattern, I couldn’t help but wonder if there were not two such passages in last Sunday’s text.  2 Corinthians 14b-15 contain a passage that is set off as a summary, and it’s structure and brevity suggests poetry to me.  I have laid it out schematically below.  v. 14a is an introduction, and 14b and 15 are in an ABABCCB Structure.  A – Christ’s Death (and life); B – consequence; C – detail.  We note that the section is set of with “that” (“hoti” in Greek), often a way to introduce a quotation (not quotations marks in Ancient or Koine Greek).

For the love of Christ controls us,

            because we have concluded this:

                        that one has died for all,

                                    therefore all have died;

[15]                  and he died for all,    

                                    that those who live

                                                might no longer live for themselves

                                                but for him who for their sake

                                    died and was raised.

Further, there seems to be two more:  v. 16 is ABAB

[17]      Therefore, if anyone is in Christ,

he is a new creation.

            The old has passed away;

behold, the new has come.

And v. 21 – ABCABC

            For our sake

                              he made him to be sin

                                         who knew no sin,

             so that in him

                            we might become

                                                the righteousness of God.

the Commentators seem to be disturbed over the lack of detail (who are the “all” who died (v. 14b), for example).  If this shares the OT Poetic  characteristic of terseness, that would be explained.  We can use the example of using the structure of parallelism to explain the meaning.  That is use the A sections together and the B sections to give context to the words used.

Parable of the Talents – Updated

When Jesus told stories he did not have to explain the background, because he used every day objects and customs.  We who live in the 21st Century sometimes need help with understanding sheep, grapes and ancient business practices.  For this reason I re-wrote the parable in a contemporary format.  This might be something you could use for your own benefit – the process of translating the story to a current format will help you observe the original more closely. 

It is not possible to preserve everything of the original and we don’t want to replace it, or even compete with it.  The point is to create a bridge from here to there.  Once you travel the bridge, you don’t need it any longer.

Click here to read: ACME

Does James have an Outline

James is to the NT what Proverbs is to the OT – and both seem to lack a clear outline.  Scholars are discovering that Proverbs, particularly Chapter 10 and following is not as random as it appears.  James also seems to have a plan.

Walter Kaiser quotes from Luke T. Johnson (JBL, 1982) showing that Jame’s book follows the section in Leviticus 19 where the command to love your neighbor is found.

Lev 19:12; James 5:12 – do not swear falsely

Lev 19:13; James 5:4 – do not hold back wages

Lev 19:15; James 2:1 – Don’t show favoritism

Lev 19:16; James 4:11 – Do not slander

Lev 19:17; James 5:20 – Rebuke a sinner

Lev 19:18a; James 5:9 – Do not grumble/ hold grudge

Lev 19:18; James 2:8 – Love your neighbor

“It is most astonishing that a text from the heart of a book containing much of the ceremonial law along with the Holiness Code (Lev 18-20) should become the basis of such practical, ethical and moral nurturing in the New Testament as is found in the book of James.”  Kaiser, Promise-Plan, p. 254

Leviticus 19 – the two loves illustrated

So Leviticus 19 – no don’t change that channel.  This is actually quite interesting.

The chapter divides into 16 sub sections marked by the phrase “I am the LORD your God”, or “I am the Lord”.  The call is to be Holy because God is Holy – a theme picked up in the New Testament as well.  There is a randomness to the logical mind to these various teachings.  But life tends to come to us “randomly” if in fact we mean that some of these teachings have to do with the love of God and others with the love of neighbor.  What we see is the interconnectedness of concrete life – not the logical categorization of theoretical life.

think of your day – is it divided discretely between love of God and neighbor, or are they mixed.  Perhaps you thank God for life when you awaken, then brew coffee for your beloved, then drive safely to work, then answer your email, then encourage a friend at the water cooler, then leave a nice tip at lunch, and stop by the gym on the way home.   You see, mixed, not antiseptically divided.

The immediate context of the command to love your neighbor is verses 11-18, or v. 9 to 18.  (in the first we divide bc v. 1-9 uses “I am the Lord your God” as the section marker, but v, 9 and 10 by content seems to fit with love of neighbor).

To love your neighbor then includes:

  • Be generous with your harvest – v. 9,10
  • Be honest in business v. 11,12
  • Pay a fair and timely wage – v. 13-14
  • Keep justice without favoritism – v. 15-16
  • Don’t hate, but love your neighbor – v. 17-18

Also note that “neighbor” includes the resident Alien (v. 34) – which sheds light on Jesus parable of the Good Samaritan, which was told to answer the question “who is my neighbor” which really means “who can I get away with not loving” in the heart of the Lawyer who spoke to Jesus.

So, as we say, it preaches.

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.