Exposition of 1 Corinthians 15:1–2 The place to take your stand

1 Corinthians 15:1–2

1 Now, brothers and sisters, I want to remind you of the gospel I preached to you, which you received and on which you have taken your stand. 2 By this gospel you are saved, if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you. Otherwise, you have believed in vain.

Commentator Anthony Thiselton affirms the idea that 1 Corinthians 15 is the climax of the book because it completes the theme of God’s grace given to us through the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[1] Most interpreters see the Christians in Roman Corinth as believing in the resurrection but not fully comprehending its importance to their salvation and spiritual condition. Paul starts with the common ground of their faith in what he had proclaimed to them about Christ and then extensively expands their understanding and ours.

As often, Paul sums up his entire message about Christ crucified and resurrected with the term “the gospel” (1 Cor. 15:1). Paul gave his message about Christ, the Corinthians believed, and the result is that they still stand on that faith (Greek perfect tense, stressing current results). This positive thought continues through the first part of verse 2: “through which also you are being saved” (New Revised Standard Bible).

Like any preacher, Paul does not want to give false assurance of salvation, so he introduces some qualifications in the second half of verse 2. All the benefits he has just named are theirs assuming they were serious about their original commitment to Christ (“if you hold firmly to the word I preached to you”). The second possibility that would negate the benefits is that they had not understood their commitment in the first place. Thiselton says, “Here Paul envisages the possibility of such a superficial or confused appropriation of the gospel” that certain Corinthians might hold only an “incoherent belief” in Christ.[2] This result is not an instance of believing “in vain” (NIV) but rather believing “without careful thought” or “in a haphazard manner.”[3] We have a duty toward those who might be in that trap! Make sure they give their allegiance to Jesus.

Copyright © 2014 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.



[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians (Grand Rapids: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 2000) 1169.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 1186.

[3] BDAG-3, eik?i, “without careful thought,” q.v. (meaning 4).

Exposition of 1 Corinthians 12:8-11 Gifts point to the Spirit, not to us

1 Corinthians 12:8-11

8 To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit, 9 to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, 10 to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues, and to still another the interpretation of tongues. 11 All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines.

This section of Pauls argument actually begins with verse 7, a verse we first discussed in the previous post: Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good. After making this summary statement, Paul enumerates some of the gifts (1 Cor. 12:8-10). Some believe that Paul puts the gift of tongues last to counter an overemphasis on it in Corinth, but others think not. Either way, it is plain that Pauls list only includes gifts that can be seen publicly. Anthony Thiselton explains: The Spirit is at work where the public manifestation serves the common advantage of others, and not merely self-affirmation, self-fulfillment, or individual status.[1]

We will proceed mainly with brief statements about the nature of certain gifts in the list; a diversity of opinion exists about many of them. One reason for these differences of opinion is that many have tried to impose on First Corinthians certain dualistic categories like natural and supernatural that did not take on their current meaning until about 1700.[2] What does that statement mean? In the world of the first century, Christians rightly considered God to be involved in all aspects of life, both the natural and supernatural, as we might call them today. But, in our contemporary culture, many people take the term natural to mean something occurring in nature or produced by nature, without any thought of Gods involvement. If you look up the term supernatural in a modern dictionary, its primary meaning is relating to existence outside the natural world and we find no mention of God or his power until definitions three and four.[3]

An example of these dualistic categories could be schools. Our contemporary public schools avoid mention of God and generally offer natural explanations within every subject area. A school in Roman Corinth would have been baffled by the idea that God or the gods could be left out of any subject. Healing and sickness are also topics where many today might look for a solely natural explanation or treatment, but the citizens of Roman Corinth would never have discounted the involvement of God or the gods. These ideas affect how a commentator approaches the grace-gift of healing (1 Cor. 12:9) or that of performance of miracles (1 Cor. 12:10), among others. We must start with the viewpoint of Roman Corinth to understand what Paul would have meant in a message to the people living there.

We begin the gifts-list with the phrase message of wisdom (1 Cor. 12:8). The Christians in Roman Corinth had been accustomed to understand wisdom in terms of Greek philosophy, but Paul has already scorned human wisdom in comparison to the wisdom of God (1 Cor. 1:18-2:5). Thiselton explains what Paul meant by wisdom: Wisdom, in this context, becomes an evaluation of realities in the light of Gods grace and the cross of Christ. . . . Wisdom relates to building up the community for the common advantage of all through appropriation of the power and lifestyle of Christ.[4]

The phrase message of knowledge is more difficult to explain. It seems reasonable to think that the knowledge in view here is that which God has revealed through Christ. This knowledge would be essential to living a life in imitation of Christ (1 Cor. 11:1).

To another the Spirit gives faith, and this cannot be a reference to saving faith, because that is something every Christian must have to become a Christian. David Garland rightly reminds us that Internal trust in God results in external results.[5] Since faith is a response to what God has said or done, perhaps the Spirit gives particular boldness to some to lead the way in implementing what God has said.

The phrase gifts of healing (1 Cor. 12:9b) would probably be more understandable when rendered as various kinds of healing (Thiselton). Thiselton correctly adds, The kinds may appear to include sudden or gradual, physical or mental, [and] the use of medicine or more direct divine agency.[6] Thiselton includes a well-worded Anglican statement which warns us against thinking it is sinful for a Christian to be ill and against making the person seeking healing believe that their own faith is the determining factor in a favorable outcome. Christianity does not advocate some magical process that always results in healing.

Verse 10 is a real bear! The first gift is translated by most English versions as miraculous powers and that is certainly one possibility for Greek words that mean deeds of power or powerful deeds. Thiselton explains, The text leaves open whether these powers or deeds of power are restricted to the miraculous or simply may include the miraculous where otherwise they would not be effective ones.[7] God certainly works miracles; the question is whether the acts accomplished through this gifted person must always be so awesome as to be translated as miraculous.

Next in verse 10 we have the gift of prophecy, a much debated term. Again, we follow Thiselton, who summarizes by saying: Prophecy, as a gift of the Holy Spirit, combines pastoral insight into the needs of persons, communities and situations with the ability to address these with a God-given [message] . . . leading to challenge or comfort, judgment or consolation, but ultimately building up the addresses.[8] This can mean, as it does in our church, a sermon. Thiselton points out that few churches appear to test or challenge preaching from the pulpit as was probably the case in Roman Corinth. Discussion within small groups allows for such testing today.

Our extended discussion of tongues and their interpretation will wait until 1 Corinthians 14. We will note here only that tongues is a gift plainly not given to all or demanded as proof of salvation (1 Cor. 12:10b).

Pauls list of gifts given by the Holy Spirit was not intended to be exhaustive. But the ones he does list are not available for anyone to claim; they are distributed according to the desire of the Holy Spirit (1 Cor. 12:11). For the strong to exalt themselves over others by claiming a gift of the Holy Spirit — possibly one they were not given — is a presumptuous act. We can hope that someone with the gift of wisdom told them what result their audacity would bring.

Copyright 2013 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas.

 


[1] Anthony Thiselton, The First Epistle to the Corinthians, New International Greek Testament Commentary (Grand Rapids: William. B. Eerdmans publishing Company, 2000) 936.

[2] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 946.

[3] supernatural, The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language, 5th edition (New York: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt Publishing Company, 2011) q.v.

[4] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 93940.

[5] David E. Garland, 1 Corinthians, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Academic, 2003) 581.

[6] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 948.

[7] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 953.

[8] Thiselton, First Epistle to the Corinthians, 964.

Exposition of Romans 5:18-19, Jesus used obedience to bring righteousness

We have said more than once that faith is an acceptant response to what God has said and done. Since God has said a lot about what he expects of us, including many explicit commands, it is obvious that obedience plays a central role in Christian faith. Is that not what you would expect since Christ is both Lord of lords and King of kings?

After we trust in Jesus, we still have a lifetime of choices to make about how best to obey our Lord. How will we proceed?

Romans 5:18-19

Therefore, as one trespass led to condemnation for all men, so one act of righteousness leads to justification and life for all men. 19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

The parallelism built into Romans 5:18 is pervasive, as shown below:

Therefore
as one trespass [led to] condemnation for all men, } Adam

so one act of righteousness [leads to] justification and life for all men. } Christ

The square brackets [ ] indicate that the verb has been supplied to make literary English because the Greek sentence has no verbs. Different English translations have supplied different verbs:
NET (came), NLT (brings), HCSB (is), and NASB (resulted). Each of these choices is reasonable.

By dissecting 5:18 in this way, we can easily spot important points. First, each single act affected all men, a comprehensive expression. As to the scope of all, C.E.B. Cranfield says:

It will be wise to take it thoroughly seriously as really meaning all, to understand the implication to be that what Christ has done he has really done for all men, that [life-giving justification HCSB] is truly offered to all, and all are to be summoned urgently to accept the proffered gift, but at the same time to allow that this clause does not foreclose the question whether in the end all will actually come to share it.[1]

Of course, we have already discussed the gift-nature of the justification and life. The gift was explicitly mentioned three times in Rom. 5:15-17. Not all accept the gift by faith.

Using the interpretive principles of salvation history (see Introduction), we point out that Adams deed came first, to the undoing of humanity’s privileged position in Eden and much more. The act of Christ came later and contained such grace as to overwhelm the damage done by Adam. James Dunn says: “The inaugurating act of the new epoch [i.e. the Age To Come] is thus presented as a counter to and cancellation of the inaugurating act of the old [i.e. The Present Age], Christs right turn undoing Adams wrong turn.”[2] Wrong turn is just another term for disobedience.

(ESV) Romans 5:19 For as by the one man’s disobedience the many were made sinners, so by the one man’s obedience the many will be made righteous.

Once again, Romans 5:19 has strong parallelism, but this time with actual Greek verbs:

For
as by the one mans disobedience the many were made sinners, } Adam

so by the one mans obedience the many will be made righteous. } Christ

It is clear from the parallelism that the major difference between what Adam did and what Jesus did is the difference between disobedience by Adam and obedience by Christ.

Sin wears many masks in life and in Romans, and Paul used a variety of terms to refer to it. In 5:12 we have the Greek noun hamartia meaning “a departure from either human or divine standards of uprightness . . . sin.”[3] In 5:15, 17, and 18 he switched to paraptoma meaning “a violation of moral standards, offense, wrongdoing, sin.”[4] Here in 5:19 Paul switched to parakoemeaning “refusal to listen and so be disobedient, unwillingness to hear, disobedience.”[5]

We could say that hamartia means: violating a revealed standard of God. The term paraptoma is used figuratively of making a false step; think of hitting your bare toes against a chair leg and put that pain in the context of a false step in some moral situation. The word in 5:19 gives us the interesting insight that Adam failed to listen to God’s actual voice! God told him explicitly what must not be done (Gen. 2:17), and he did it anyway. Unfortunately, many people can identify!

Cranfield makes one clarification about 5:19 when he says, “The many have not been condemned for someone else’s transgression, for Adam’s sin, but because, as a result of Adam’s transgression, they have themselves been sinners.”[6]

But the good news outshines the bad news by far: Jesus obeyed to bring righteousness to all who put their faith in him! The author of Hebrews says about Jesus: “Although he was a son, he learned obedience through the things he suffered. And by being perfected in this way, he became the source of eternal salvation to all who obey him” (Heb. 5:8-9, NET).

Following Jesus

Surely it is plain that to follow Jesus means we are obedient to the Father just as he was. As the old hymn says, “There’s no other way to be happy in Jesus but to trust and obey.” When you think about it, trusting and obeying are very similar because trusting is faith and obeying is faithfulness.

1. How many of us have heard God's voice about something, but, like Adam, we come to a point at which we do not listen? When have you made that error, and what did you learn from it?

2. What do you consider a difficult thing about obedience? How do you get around that obstacle?

It is no accident that Paul begins the letter to the Romans with the phrase obedience of faith (1:5) and ends the letter with the same phrase (16:26). There is no such thing as faith without obedience!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 290.

[2] James D.G. Dunn, Romans 1-8, Word Biblical Commentary (Dallas: Word Books, 1988) 297.

[3] BDAG-3, hamartia, sin, q.v.

[4] BDAG-3, paraptoma, offense, q.v.

[5] BDAG-3, parakoe, unwillingness to hear, q.v.

[6] Cranfield, Romans, 290.

Exposition of Romans 4:23-25, Abraham believed to show us how

If we were talking about receiving old treasure — Spanish gold doubloons, say — you would snatch them up in an instant! How is it that old words — from God, say — do not produce a similarly enthusiastic reaction?

An older scholar says that God did not put all the cookies on the lower shelf. But they are within your reach. Just how much do you want them?

(ESV) Romans 4:23-25

But the words it was counted to him were not written for his sake alone, 24 but for ours also. It will be counted to us who believe in him who raised from the dead Jesus our Lord, 25 who was delivered up for our trespasses and raised for our justification.

How easily we dismiss events of the past as belonging to another age! Even though we know the Bible is the Word of God, spiritual maturity is required to apply biblical principles to ourselves. Douglas Moo points out, “Paul’s conviction that the OT everywhere speaks to Christians is fundamental to his theology and preaching.”[1] The revelation must be applied with discretion, but that is always so.

Concerning 4:23-24a, Grant Osborne says: “Abraham’s faith was not merely a historical event but was a paradigm for believers in every age. . . . When we exercise the same faith Abraham did, then for us too that faith is counted as righteousness.”[2] The “will be counted” language is not future from our standpoint but rather from the viewpoint of Abraham’s time; for this reason it refers to our salvation through faith and not to deliverance from final judgment. Thomas Schreiner says: “We could paraphrase the verse as follows. Genesis 15:6 was written for the sake of those who would in the future be reckoned righteous by faith.”[3]

But there is more in the depths of Romans 4:24. Notice that those to whom righteousness will be counted are described as “[we] who believe in him” (4:24). The italicized word is a Greek present participle, and the present tense most commonly refers to ongoing action in present time. NT grammarian Daniel Wallace says concerning this participle, “The present was the tense of choice most likely because the NT writers by and large saw continual belief as a necessary condition of salvation.”[4]

In other words, believers are not those who for one minute think favorably about Jesus, pray a short prayer and then lead a life independent or even defiant of God. No, believers are those who, like Abraham, demonstrate their faith over and over. They have committed themselves to faith in Jesus and keep on living for him. Continuing to believe is not a matter of losing our salvation or working for it; it is a matter of demonstrating our saving faith is real. God knows the difference!

Just as he began this letter with the resurrected Jesus, appointed the Son-of-God-in-power (1:4) after rising from the dead, Paul again returns to that theme in 4:24 as he nears the logical end of this portion of the letter. But in making his sectional conclusion, Paul hits some beautiful themes about what Jesus did for us.

Paul joins the death of Jesus with his resurrection (4:25), and that combination maintains a holistic perspective. In saying Jesus “was delivered up for our transgressions” he uses the verb paradidomi, which sounds with ominous regularity in Johns gospel (John 18:2, 5, 30, 35, 36; 19:11, 16, 30) while Jesus is taken to his trial and execution.

Paul does not elaborate here on the statement that Jesus “was raised for our justification” (4:25), but Paul does make comments elsewhere. For example, in 1 Corinthians 15:17, Paul says, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile and you are still in your sins.” But Christ has been raised!

Osborne summarizes: “His death, as seen in the epistles, is the theological basis of justification, and his resurrection, as seen in Acts (2:31-36; 13:32-39), is the apologetic basis of salvation; that is, it proves the reality of the salvation produced in Christ.”[5]

Imitating Abraham’s faith

For the sake of interacting with the questions below, I would define biblical faith as responding in a positive way to what God has said and done. That is what Abraham did.

1. Are there parts of the New Testament that you read over quickly or skip because you do not like what they say? If you are not sure, read a major section of Matthew 57 (The Sermon on the Mount) and then answer.

2. If you have identified parts of the New Testament that you skip over or avoid, is it not reasonable to think that facing those issues could be the greatest source of further spiritual growth? What would it take for you to talk to God, to one of your pastors, or to your life group leader about how to respond to those issues with faith?

Abraham did not relish talking with God about his barren wife and the long-dormant promise God had made about an heir. But when he finally spoke, God gave him even more revelation to accept by faith along with further blessings. Why not give that a try?

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996)287.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004)121.

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998)242.

[4] Daniel B. Wallace, Greek Grammar Beyond the Basics (Grand Rapids: Zondervan, 1996)621, footnote 22, with numerous examples.

[5] Osborne, Romans, 123.

Exposition of Romans 4:20-22, In all, get on God’s page!

Dallas Cowboys football fans have shared some common experiences. One happened when quarterback Tony Romo threw a deep-out to the sideline only to have the pass receiver cut sharply away toward the center of the football field. Then we heard the commentator tell us what we already knew: “Tony and the receiver were not on the same page.” We football fans would grit our teeth and wonder how much more money it would take to get them on the same page!

An errant pass in a football game means little in the grand scheme of things. But what happens when we are not on the same page with God?

(ESV) Romans 4:20-22

No distrust made him waver concerning the promise of God, but he grew strong in his faith as he gave glory to God, 21 fully convinced that God was able to do what he had promised. 22 That is why his faith was counted to him as righteousness.

Romans 4:20 ties very closely to 4:19, where Paul said that Abraham did not weaken in faith when considering Gods promise in relation to his own physical condition and that of barren Sarah. Paul uses the contrast between weak and strong; in 4:19 he said Abraham did not weaken, and in 4:20 he explains how his faith grew strong.

The Greek verb translated waver in 4:20 is diakrino, which in the active voice means “to conclude that there is a difference, make a distinction, differentiate.”[1] Here in 4:20 we actually have the passive voice, but there is value in pausing to consider this verb carefully. Abraham had believed God when he left Haran and many times since, but he could have balked at this promise due to old age. In other words, Abraham could have made a distinction between what God had done in other situations and what he would do in this one. In effect, Abraham would be saying: “God, I believed you about all those other things, but this one is more than I can accept.” This one is different.

We have all had those thoughts at some point, but we probably did not have the nerve to say so overtly to God. We kept the conflict within ourselves. That is how the passive voice of diakrinofunctions, to express internal doubt or wavering. The lexicon says the passive voice of diakrinomeans “to be at variance with someone.”[2] But, in relation to God’s promise of a multitude of descendants, Abraham would have been at variance with God. Romans 4:20 tells us Abraham was never at variance with God about this promise!

Unlike the people described in Romans 1:18, who rejected the truth in unrighteousness, Abraham embraced God’s promise about descendants. Abraham took the view that whatever God said, God would do! Abraham saw no reason to pick and choose among the things God said as if some were reliable and some were not. Abraham struggled at times, but not much overall.

The clear implication of 4:20 is that when we take God at his word and act accordingly, our faith grows stronger. But what does “as he gave glory to God” (4:20) mean? Thomas Schreiner says: “The secret of Abraham’s faith is that he acknowledged God’s glory by acknowledging his ability to carry out his promises . . . . The supreme way to worship God is not to work for him (4:4-5) but to trust that he will fulfill his promises.”[3] Living by faith gives glory to God.

In light of what we have said about 4:20, the meaning of Romans 4:21 is plain as day. C.E.B. Cranfield adds the insight: “Abraham’s faith was faith in the God who had promised, not merely in what had been promised.”[4]

We encounter the now-familiar verb logizomai (counted) in 4:22. Abraham’s response pleased God who counted Abraham as a righteous man. Schreiner says: “We perceive that the faith that results in righteousness is not a vague abstraction. Genuine faith adheres to Gods promise despite the whirlwind of external circumstances that imperil it.”[5]

Who is the quarterback?

All of us have to decide whether we are going to carry out the plays God calls or set out on a rogue play of our own. This metaphor should make it obvious how much success we can expect if we try to pick and choose what part of God’s promises we will believe and which part we will reject.

1. What part of God's revelation is a struggle for you? What can you do to identify the source of your difficulty and seek to resolve it?

2. In what ways have you found that trusting God in specific situations leads to growth in your faith?

The secret to Abraham’s greatness was his wholehearted acceptance of what God had said. Certainly there were times when he did not understand what God wanted of him — times they were not on the same page — but it was never a matter of rejecting what God had said. His example inspires us all to get on the same page with God.

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] BDAG-3, diakrino, differentiate (active), q.v.

[2] BDAG-3, diakrino, to be at variance with someone (passive), q.v.

[3] Thomas R. Schreiner, Romans, Baker Exegetical Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Rapids: Baker Books, 1998) 238.

[4] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 249.

[5] Schreiner, Romans, 239.

Culture: Trust God or trust technology and markets?

In his notable book Bad Religion, conservative columnist Ross Douthat of the New York Times has recounted how many Americans seem to have lost confidence in God or at least in the churches and denominations that represent him. It is a sad tale.

Of course, the Bible calls on us to trust God not only with our physical lives but with our eternal destiny. To do so requires confidence in God’s truthfulness and faithfulness. Let me say at the outset that we can rely with utmost confidence on the truthfulness and faithfulness of Jesus Christ!

 An alternative to trusting God: Technology-trust

But what are the alternatives that some Americans seem to be preferring to trusting God? It seems to me that many people think their iPad, their Facebook account, and their Wall Street Journal are the sources of all wisdom required for life. We increasingly opt for a real-time feed of information provided by high technology. A smart phone is a mark of an informed person. We might call this approach to life Technology-trust, and its adherents think it to be rock solid.

Oh really? Well, one measure of how reliable Technology-trust might be is to consider the inside story of how some of the most sophisticated, experienced and technologically advanced organizations on earth failed to accurately communicate the Supreme Court’s landmark decision on the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, otherwise known as Obamacare. [For those who are bound to wonder, I support the Act.]

In great detail, Tom Goldstein of the highly esteemed SCOTUSblog explains how some well known wire services such as Bloomberg, AP and Reuters correctly analyzed the Court’s landmark decision, Bloomberg doing so just 52 seconds after Chief Justice John Roberts started reading his summary of the case. Other technology giants such as Fox News and CNN erroneously reported that the most disputed provision of Obamacare, the individual mandate to buy health insurance, had been overturned as unconstitutional. It took CNN about 15 minutes to change its screens and Fox News performed about as poorly. CNN apologized for their error, but Fox News never did.

At the White House, several groups were initially informed at various degrees of accuracy. President Barack Obama was first looking at Fox News and CNN after stepping out of his daily briefing. In another location, Press Secretary Jay Carney had gathered his staff, and they had the erroneous Fox News and CNN reports along with slightly slower but completely accurate analysis by the SCOTUSblog. White House Counsel Kathy Ruemmler hosted a policy team in a third location focused on the authoritative SCOTUSblog and they were initially unaware that the cable networks had completely misinformed millions of people, including the President. It took 5.5 minutes to sort out the confusion and inform the President that he had won.

On the other end of Pennsylvania Avenue, behind the US Capitol Building, stands the US Supreme Court Building. Court officials had waived away warnings about a likely overload of their website, which was to upload the Court’s decision about two minutes after the Chief Justice started reading his summary. The site immediately crashed under the crushing load and did not provide the crucial opinion to anyone until about thirty minutes later. The White House could not get the opinion, the news media had to rely on the print copies made available in the Court’s press office, and no one off-site had any chance of seeing the opinion until the dust began to settle.

SCOTUSblog, whose conference call and blog did so much to right the ship, had troubles of their own. At the hour when the Supreme Court’s long-awaited opinion was being released, hackers were trying hard to take down the blog with a distributed denial of service attack. The attack failed. Had it succeeded, the confusion probably would have lasted a lot longer, not least at the White House. At least a million people were monitoring SCOTUSblog.

The whole fascinating story, with many more embarrassing twists, may be found at SCOTUSblog. The story does not inspire confidence.

MORAL: Those following the path of Technology-trust are betting their lives on something that can fail them at the critical moment. They will get burned.

Another alternative: Market-trust

Some among us, especially the affluent, are relying on investments to get them through life comfortably. “The markets” are said to be the secret to almost any problem; just let the markets work — they say — and keep government oversight out of it. I’ll call this one Market-trust, though we might equally name it Money-trust. Its adherents swear by it! You, on the other hand, may have reason to swear at it! (Just ask God “to break the teeth of the wicked,” as David did in Psalm 3:7.)

Just emerging is a story that is hard for most of us to understand. It seems that an obscure number called Libor is used by banks around the world to set the variable interest rates on loans, credit card rates and derivatives. Libor means “London interbank offered rate,” and it has a fundamental influence on trillions of dollars in market transactions. Additional details on Libor may be found here.

Who sets this number? The British Bankers Association, an unregulated association in Britain. They use numbers supplied to them by the largest banks in the world. But the banks have been lying to manipulate this number in a way to favor their trades in the financial markets. Barclays, a British bank, has just agreed to pay a penalty of $450 million dollars for lying about their interest rates over several years, and experts think they got off easy by confessing first. Much more is coming.

This debacle of worldwide market manipulation has just gotten started, even though we have all been unwittingly participating in the mess though our home and auto loans, credit card agreements, and even our pensions and investments. The financial markets are being used to systematically rob us, and a relative few are skimming the cream for themselves. More details can be found in a recent panel discussion.

So, how is Market-trust working for you? Why would you want to bet your life on a crooked game? Jesus warned us about all this: “Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moths and vermin destroy, and where thieves break in and steal” (Matthew 6:19). He also said: “No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and money.” (Matthew 6:24).

MORAL: Market-trust is dangerous and unreliable. Only God will tell you the truth and provide a way to secure your future. He has done so through Jesus Christ.

In a world full of trouble, God is the one to trust.

Copyright © 2012 by Barry Applewhite. All rights reserved worldwide.

Exposition of Romans 4:18-19, Faith accepts reality but trusts God

Abrahams faith was based on a very simple idea: God will do as he has said even if I cannot understand how. This explains, for example, how we may believe in heaven with full assurance even though we have never seen it.

Will we live on the basis of what God has said or restrict ourselves to what our eyes can see?

(ESV) Romans 4:18-19

In hope he believed against hope, that he should become the father of many nations, as he had been told, So shall your offspring be. 19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.

Sometimes I imagine Paul in an ironic humor thinking about all those who would later try to untangle one of his phrases that his associate Peter said were hard to understand (2 Pet. 3:16). We have one of those phrases in Romans 4:18 where the sequence against hope, on the basis of hope[1] occurs. Oh my!

When confronted with such a paradoxical combination, Bible translators have their work cut out for them. However, in this case we have definite help from the immediate context. Grant Osborne points out, The most amazing fact of all is that Abraham accepted his physical situation without weakening in his faith (verse 19), another way of expressing the same idea as in verse 18: against hope, he hoped.[2] That is all the guidance needed to unravel the puzzling phrase in 4:18.

Of course, the phrase against hope looks at the fact that Abraham was about a hundred years old (4:19) as well as the barrenness of Sarahs womb (4:19). The counter-phrase in hope informs us that in spite of the seeming impossibility, Abraham had a solid expectation of descendants as he had been told (4:18).

(ESV) Romans 4:19 He did not weaken in faith when he considered his own body, which was as good as dead (since he was about a hundred years old), or when he considered the barrenness of Sarah’s womb.

C.E.B. Cranfield, when read carefully, does an excellent job explaining Pauls take on the faith of Abraham: Because of his unweakened faith, Abraham considered steadily, without attempting to deceive himself, his unpromising circumstances, but, as verse 20 goes on to indicate, did not allow what he saw to make him doubt Gods promise.[3] Abraham did not close his eyes or fool himself.

Since Christian faith is sometimes portrayed in cartoon-style as a leap-into-the-dark, Douglas Moo says, Abrahams faith is not described as a leap into the dark, a completely baseless, almost irrational decision . . . but as a leap from the evidence of his senses into the security of Gods word and promise.[4]

Science and faith are not enemies

Life is odd sometimes. The religion which named itself Christian Science is neither Christian nor scientific; one of its key beliefs is that disease is an illusion. But that type of denial is not what Christian faith, as taught in the Bible, is about.

There should be no final conflict between science and Christian faith because both should look unflinchingly at reality. But science cannot put God in the test tube any more than Christianity can solve the equations of quantum mechanics. Christians should be as clear-eyed as the most meticulous scientist, and, indeed, Christianity has produced some of the greatest scientists.

Science can only deal with issues that can be tested by the scientific method. It cannot tell you whether Caesar was stabbed in 44 B.C. or whether Jesus Christ will return to rule the world. Science cannot tell you whether murder offends God or what God will do about it. Faith is the only appropriate way to deal with what God has said and done.

1. What has God promised you that you cannot prove in a court of law or a lab?

2. Do you ever feel uncomfortable, as a person living in the twenty-first century, about responding to God with faith? Why or why not?

Christian faith views the world as a system in which God has decisively intervened. He created the world, sent his Son to save it, and will replace it with a new creation in due course. Faith knows these things because God has revealed them, not because we can see it!

Copyright 2012 Barry Applewhite, Plano, Texas. All rights reserved worldwide. Derived from materials created for Christ Fellowship, McKinney, Texas. Used by permission.

 


[1] Douglas Moo, The Epistle to the Romans, The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Wm. B. Eerdmans Pub. Co., 1996) 282.

[2] Grant R. Osborne, Romans, The IVP New Testament Commentary Series (Downers Grove: InterVarsity Press, 2004) 118.

[3] C.E.B. Cranfield, The Epistle to the Romans, The International Critical Commentary (Edinburgh: T.&T. Clark Limited, 1975) 247.

[4] Moo, Romans, 282-283.