Tag Archives: history

Romans 9: Magnifying the God of the Earth

For a class this semester I have to choose a passage from either Romans or Hebrews to study in depth. I wanted a “difficult” passage because those are the most fun for me to study so I chose everyone’s favorite chapter: Romans 9. You read that right. I decided to dive deep into Romans 9 for this project and have already started to love this passage. I wanted to share three things I’ve already seen thus far.

  1. Paul’s imitation of Christ
  2. God’s definition of injustice
  3. God’s sovereignty in human history

Paul’s Imitation of Christ: Romans 9:3 contains some very surprising words: “I could wish that I myself were accursed and cut off from Christ for the sake of my brothers, my kinsmen according to the flesh.” To be honest, I’ve always thought this was a little over-the-top. Surely Paul is exaggerating, right? Surely Paul would never even consider being “accursed and cut off” from God, right? But this week I remembered something incredible. The words of Christ on the cross: “My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46 and Mark 15:34; see also Psalm 22:1). Where Paul wished himself accursed and cut off from God, Christ actually was accursed and cut off from God the Father. Paul is merely imitating Christ in his desire to see others come to know the Father. They both desired to share Christ with others so much that they were willing to suffer for it.

God’s definition of injustice: After recalling the story of God choosing to love Jacob and hate Esau before either had been born (Rm. 9:13), the next verse asks this question: “What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part?” (Romans 9:14) When we read this, we assume the “injustice” is that God hated Esau. But, in the context of the passage, this is completely wrong. Look at verses 14-16 and pay attention to the words I have made bold:

14 What shall we say then? Is there injustice on God’s part? By no means! 15 For he says to Moses, “I will have mercy on whom I have mercy, and I will have compassion on whom I have compassion.”16 So then it depends not on human will or exertion, but on God, who has mercy.

Notice anything? The injustice is not that God hated Esau. The injustice is that God loved Jacob! Think about it for a minute. What is justice? Merriam-Webster defines justice as: “the maintenance or administration of what is just especially by the impartial adjustment of conflicting claims or the assignment of merited rewards or punishments.” The key word there is merited: merited rewards or punishments. Justice is giving people exactly what they deserve. Because we’ve already established—in Romans, no less—that everyone has committed rebellion against God (Rom. 3:23) we know that everyone deserves eternal death (Rom. 6:23). Justice would be giving us our merited punishments. Injustice would be giving us grace, forgiveness, love, and eternal life. God’s grace to sinners is the ultimate act of injustice, but He has the right to have mercy on whom He will have mercy, and compassion on whom He will have compassion. Why? Because He’s God! J

God’s sovereignty in human history: Take a look at this list of historical people in Israel’s history:

  • Abraham
  • Sarah
  • Isaac
  • Rebekah
  • Jacob
  • Esau
  • Moses
  • Pharaoh
  • David
  • Daniel
  • Hosea
  • Isaiah
  • Jeremiah
  • Malachi
  • Amos
  • Joel
  • Jesus Christ

Believe it or not, all of those people are mentioned, quoted, or alluded to in Romans 9. Just verses 4 & 5 contain all of this: “They are Israelites, and to them belong the adoption, the glory, the covenants, the giving of the law, the worship, and the promises. To them belong the patriarchs, and from their race, according to the flesh, is the Christ, who is God over all, blessed forever. Amen. (Romans 9:4-5)” That is a ton of Jewish history and Paul was writing to Jews, which makes me think that he understood that they would understand many of these references.

So what’s my point? My point is that Romans 9 rapidly and succinctly traces almost all of Jewish history from Abraham to Jesus. In the context of a discussion about God’s sovereignty, and when we think about God’s sovereignty, I think it’s important to remember that God has been around a lot longer than us and He has guided all of human history for His purposes. If we view human history as being guided by God, we suddenly get a much larger view of who God is and how His purposes span centuries and even millennia.

Romans 9 is a humbling passage and I look forward to sitting under it, learning from it, and growing as a result.

Book Review: Water From a Deep Well

I have mix feelings about Water from a Deep Well: Christian Spirituality from Early Martyrs to Modern Missionaries by Gerald Sittser. On the one hand, it’s very well written and goes to great length to explain some of the major traditions from the history of the Church. On the other hand, it didn’t go deep enough to put many of these disciplines into practices. It was very wide but sometimes very shallow. Even more concerning, I felt like some of the traditions were “all bad.” What I mean by “all bad” is that I didn’t feel like a couple of the traditions were redeemable and would have been better off left out of this devotional survey of Church history.

For example, I didn’t find the chapter on icons and saints to be as helpful as it could have been. Spiritual heroes are great and we find them in the Bible, so my objection isn’t there. What I found unnecessary was how in-depth the author went into iconography. Biographies are great because they give us practical examples of what it looks like to live for Christ, but I didn’t feel comfortable with the adoration that icons received. To be fair, the author remains very impartial in his discussions, but I feel like he sacrificed discernment for the sake of neutrality. Simply by virtue of including iconography, he has provided an implicit endorsement of its use. The book is marketed and even self-described as a book that will take us into some of the valuable things from our past we’ve forgotten and should recover. For this reason, if something was included in the book, it was implicitly endorsed. I disagreed with some of the “old ways” that were endorsed.

That being said, I do agree with the book’s central anthem:  “There is more. So much more!” It’s easy in a world dominated by the latest Tweet to develop an attention span and cultural/historical perspective like that of a fruit fly. I definitely feel as though the 2,000 year history of the Church is an oft untapped gold mine of examples, testimonies, and lessons that we can learn from. As I mentioned in my review of Thirsting for God, I plan on making it a routine to dig deeper into the rich history we’re all a part of. That being said, I plan on doing so with great discernment so I can “swallow the meat and spit out the bones” as a dear friend of mine has put it.

I think my favorite two chapters of the book were the chapter on the martyrs and the chapter on the Reformation. As Gerald L. Sittser put it, “The martyrs’ fate might not be ours. But their faith and conviction must be” (pg. 48). Sittser makes the assertion several times throughout the book, and I agree, that our lukewarm, self-help Gospel needs to be replaced with an authentic, self-denying faith that seeks to make Christ king of all facets of life. And I feel like the best way to do that is through the method of the Reformers: “returning to one central message [in our preaching and teaching]—Jesus Christ is the very Word of God who came to reveal God and make us right with God” (230). I hope that my faith will be like that of the martyrs and my teaching will be like that of the Reformers.

In the end, I probably would not recommend this book to a young, undiscerning Christian. Nor would I recommend it in its entirety to a mature Christian. Instead, I would likely recommend about half of the chapters while suggesting someone skip the other half. Bottom line, I would only recommend this book to people who are very discerning and who really want to learn about the history of the church in a devotional manner.

5 Reasons to Study Church History

Although I wouldn’t consider myself a history buff (yet), I’m becoming increasingly convinced that it’s absolutely essential for us to study and know our history. I’m beginning to think that history only repeats itself because we fail to learn from it. We can change that! Therefore, I wrote for a guest post for my seminary blog about just that topic, you can read it here: http://www.transformedblog.com/2012/01/28/5-reasons-to-study-church-history/

The Empty Tomb

jesustomb
In light of a talk I’ll be giving on the 23rd of April, I thought I’d get some reading done on Jesus’ resurrection. I found a couple of really great articles that I thought I’d share!

Jesus’ Tomb is Empty! and The Resurrection is Credible & Historical by Justin Holcomb
Evidence for the Resurrection of Christ: A Challenge for Skeptics by Peter Kreeft and Ronald Tacelli
Evidence for the Resurrection by Josh McDowell
Historical Evidence for the Resurrection by Matt Perman
Historical Evidence for the Resurrection by Christopher Louis Lang
Evidence for the Resurrection from Existence-of-God.com

I also found some free PDF books by Josh McDowell: Christianity: Hoax or History?, Resurrection Growth Guide:  The Resurrection Factor, Reasons Skeptics Should Consider Christianity, and Skeptics Who Demanded a Verdict.

http://www.marshillchurch.org/v/nrb7h5bxbr1d

born of the Virgin Mary

(This is part five of a multi-entry blog series exploring the Apostles’ Creed.)

We’ve covered the Father, Son, and the Spirit in the previous entries. This entry focuses in on something very specific about Jesus; he was:

“Born of the Virgin Mary,”

The interesting thing about this statement is that Isaiah prophesied that the Messiah would be born of a virgin over 700 years before Jesus was born (Isaiah 7:14). Many people claim that the term used in this verse could also translate to “maiden” or simply “woman.” But what about the narrative in Luke where Mary specifically says she is a virgin in Luke 1:26-37? An angel appears to Mary and tells her she will have a child; Mary is perplexed and says, “How can this be since I am still a virgin?” (Luke 1:34) Some people might try to claim that the word virgin here can also mean “maiden.”

My first question is this: Why would Mary be surprised and say, “How can this be since I am a woman”? Does that make any logical sense? I’m pretty sure that, since Mary was engaged to Joseph, she knew where babies came from or at least understood that babies came from women.

Additionally, if you do some homework and look at the literal Greek, Mary says something like “How can this be since I have not known a man” which was an idiom for “How can this be since I have not had sexual relations with a man.” Mary had not “known” a man and that’s why she was surprised that she was going to have a baby.

Another verse that addresses Mary’s virginity is Matthew 1:18, which says that Mary was found to be with child “before they came together;” which is another way of saying they had not had sex. We also read that Joseph and Mary did not have sex until after Jesus was born (Matthew 1:24-25).

So why did Jesus have to be born of a woman and of God? Couldn’t Jesus have just floated down from Heaven? I’m going to rip off Wayne Grudem for just a minute here. In his book Systematic Theology (Chapter 26: “The Person of Christ”) he was a wonderful job explaining the significance of the “doctrinal importance of the virgin birth.” He says there are three reasons this is important:

1. “It shows that salvation ultimately must come from the Lord.” As Grudem states here, salvation is not the result of human good works and efforts. Salvation is the direct result of the will and power of God and can only come to us as a gift. This was made possible in the person of Jesus.

2. “The virgin birth made possible the uniting of full deity and full humanity in one person.”  While it is possible that God could have sent Jesus to earth in a different way, this is the best way. Jesus could have floated down to earth, fully human and fully God; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how he could have been united with humanity since he had none of the same origins as us. On the other hand, Jesus could have been born of two human parents and then been filled with godliness early on in his life or even in the womb; but then it would have been hard for us to understand how Jesus could have been fully divine in he had all of the same origins as us.

3. “The virgin birth also makes possible Christ’s true humanity without inherited sin.” What’s interesting about this is that, according to tradition, original sin is passed from Adam and through the father to the children. Since Jesus did not have a human father, He did not inherit any original sin. (Additionally, although I will readily admit I don’t remember where I read this, in Jesus time you were not considered Jewish unless your mother was a Jew.) From Mary, Jesus inherited full humanity but was free from the legal guilt and moral corruption of Adam.

Was it necessary for Jesus to be fully human? You betcha! Once again Grudem does a great job answering this question, although I won’t go into detail for each point, but Jesus was fully human for representative obedience (Romans 5:18-19; 1 Corinthians 15:45, 47), the be a substitute for sacrifice (John 3:16; Hebrews 2:16-17), to be the one mediator between God and men (1 Timothy 2:5), to fulfill God’s original purpose for man to rule of creation (Matthew 28:18; Ephesians 1:22; Revelation 3:21), to be our example and pattern in life (1 John 2:6, 3:2-3; 2 Corinthians 3:18; Romans 8:29, 1 Peter 1:21; Hebrews 12:2; Philippians 3:10; Acts 7:60; 1 Peter 3:17-18, 4:1), to be the pattern for our redeemed bodies (1 Corinthians 15:42-44, 49; Colossians 1:18), and to sympathize as a high priest (Hebrews 2:18, 4:15-16). Just to name a few…

So, to conclude, we find that God united humanity and divinity in the unique person of Jesus Christ. He did this through a woman named Mary, who was considered a highly favored servant of God. Jesus inherited full divinity from His Father and fully humanity from His mother. He did this so that Jesus could be a substitute for our sins, and example for our lives, a preview of our resurrection, and a mediator (literally a “bridge”) between us and our Heavenly Father.

Systematic Theology: An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine

The main character: God

This is part five of a multi-entry blog series titled “Lessons I Learned in the Desert.”

One of the things that struck me as I went through the “Read the Bible in 90 Days” challenge was how quickly the Bible narrative seemed to move along after someone died. Abraham, for instance, is a pretty big deal in Genesis, but when he dies in Gen 25:8 the story doesn’t come to a screeching halt. Instead, after briefly giving the details of Abraham’s burial, the story nonchalantly picks right up and continues.
 
Another great example is Moses. Moses was the man! He lead God’s people out of Egypt, parted the Red Sea, lead the Hebrew’s through the desert, saw God face to face (Ex 33:11), and was the mediator of the Mosaic Law. In short, if anyone was a big deal in the Old Testament, it would’ve been Moses, right? In fact, he was central in the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Numbers, and Deuteronomy. However, in Joshua 1:1-2 we see that as soon as Moses dies the story just keeps on going!

It almost seems odd. What gives? Were these guys unimportant? Did they not matter? I think the answer is not that they were unimportant; it’s not that they didn’t matter. It’s just that they weren’t the point. The story isn’t about Abraham. The story isn’t about Moses.
 
The story is about God.
 
God is the central character of the Bible. It’s all about Him. He’s the main character. Supporting actors and actresses may come on stage for a moment, but they never, ever take center stage. The spot light always has been, and always will be, rightfully aimed at God. History truly is, as the cliche goes, His story.
 
I’ve talked to a lot of people who have problems with the Old Testament. They wonder how God could kill people, which He does a lot of in the Old Testament. They wonder why God would order His people to kill other people, which He does a lot of in the Old Testament. They ask questions like, “What right does God have to take human life?” Read that question again, does that even sound logical? People who ask questions like that, whether they realize it or not, have decided that man is sovereign and God is secondary.
 
Who are we to question what “rights” God has? God is God and has any and every right to do whatever He wants. When we, the created being, question the rights of our Creator, we unwittingly assume that God has to answer to us, as though we are a higher authority than Him. History is about Him, not us.
 
Once accepted, this realization is actually quite freeing. It means that my life isn’t even about me in the first place, it’s about God. As Rick Warren puts it in the beginning of The Purpose Driven Life, “It’s not about you.” Life is much simpler and much less stressful when viewed against the backdrop of all human history!
 
The most amazing fact is that, although history is all about God, He still loves us enough to die for us. God, the main character and hero of the story, sent Jesus to rescue us from the mess we’d gotten ourselves into. I can’t even imagine such love. It’s beyond us! It blows my mind that the central character of all history knows me and loves me. It should blow your mind, too!
 

I Am Not But I Know I AM: Welcome to the Story of God

Communion Message

This is the Communion Message I gave a week ago at the campus-lead church service:

Good morning church, my name is Daniel Delgado and I’m going to give a communion message. Today is a campus-led service, so this will be a little longer than most communion messages. I hope we’ve all been touched by the stories that were just shared with us. I also hope that we’ve all seen a common theme of lives changed, hearts set right, and souls liberated. And it’s with the theme of liberation that I’d like to look at communion. The word “communion” comes from the Latin word “communio,” which means “sharing in common.” I think that, as Christians, there are many things we share in common. But arguably, the most important is the fact that we’ve all been liberated from sin and communion is a time to not only remember that, but also to celebrate our liberation! I’m not sure if this is a new take on communion or not, but I’d like to share it with you. Let’s open our bibles to Mark 14:12-16:

12On the first day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, when it was customary to sacrifice the Passover lamb, Jesus’ disciples asked him, “Where do you want us to go and make preparations for you to eat the Passover?”

13So he sent two of his disciples, telling them, “Go into the city, and a man carrying a jar of water will meet you. Follow him. 14Say to the owner of the house he enters, ‘The Teacher asks: Where is my guest room, where I may eat the Passover with my disciples?’ 15He will show you a large upper room, furnished and ready. Make preparations for us there.”

16The disciples left, went into the city and found things just as Jesus had told them. So they prepared the Passover.

We’ve all heard this before and we’ve all had the chance to get bored with it and think we’ve got this passage figured out. But have we dissected it yet? Have we really rolled up our sleeves and dug deep into this passage? Or have we simply taken it at face value? I think if we look carefully, we find that there are a couple questions that beg to be asked:

What is the Feast of Unleavened Bread and what is the significance of Passover?

Well I’m glad you asked, the Feast of Unleavened Bread is a celebration established by God in Exodus 12:17-20. This is when the Jews celebrate God liberating His people from slavery in Egypt.

This is like the Jewish Independence Day. Now in America, when we think Independence Day, we think red, white, and blue, fireworks, and barbeques. But for the Jews, this holy holiday is a time of reverence, fasting, and remembering what God has done. This holiday is a little more holy to the Jews of Jesus’ time that the 4th of July is to modern America.

And as we all know, freedom isn’t free, so who paid the price for the Jewish freedom? Well, in order for the Egyptian Pharaoh to set the Jews free, it took ten plagues, culminating with the death of the entire first born population in Egypt. This was especially devastating because the first born was supposed to carry on the family legacy; they received a double-portion of the family inheritance, and were also first in line to inherit the throne in royal families. The loss of an entire generation of firstborns had catastrophic effects to Egypt. Also, up until now, the plagues hadn’t affected Pharaoh—just his subjects—but this hit close to home because now his throne had no heir. There was no on to carry on his legacy. After this the Pharaoh didn’t want to have anything to do with the Jewish people.

From then on, this holiday has been celebrated by the Jews. So here are some key points.

* God’s People were slaves.

* God sacrificed the firstborn.

* God’s people were set free so they could worship God.

* God commanded the Jews to celebrate this liberation with the Passover Feast.

Do you see where I’m going with this? Let’s look at communion. When Jesus, at the Passover Feast, established the Lord’s Supper, he was telling us that The Firstborn over all creation was preparing to die for us to set us free from our bondage to sin. We all know what happens next, Jesus is betrayed and crucified within 24hrs of establishing communion. Coincidence? I doubt it! But it was necessary for Him to die if we were ever going to be set free. It was a cost that had to be paid if God’s people were ever going to see liberation from slavery.

I can’t help but marvel at the connection between the Passover Feast and communion. And as we take communion today, I want us all to think about what we share in common. Communion connects us all. It’s one body, broken into many pieces and becomes a part of us. We all, like God’s people so long ago, have been liberated from slavery.