When you finish this session you should be able to:
- Understand the general background of 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans
- Comprehend the flow of the content of 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans
- Interact with the theology of 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans
- Review the theological considerations of 1 & 2 Corinthians and Romans
First Corinthians is about solving ecclesiae problems. Second Corinthians demonstrates the ministry of reconciliation. Romans is Paul’s Magna Carta of the Christian faith. In each of these books we will follow this pattern: First, we will review the book’s background. Then, we will overview its content. Finally, we will consider its theology.
Where We Are Going
About 1 Corinthians
A Quick Look at 1 Corinthians
A Theological Glance at 1 Corinthians
About 2 Corinthians
A Quick Look at 2 Corinthians
A Theological Glance at 2 Corinthians
A Quick Look at Romans
A Theological Glance at Romans
Date: AD 55-56. Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. Zondervan Academic; 5 edition (June 24, 2012), Grand Rapids, MI. 572-574.
To: Ecclesia at Corinth
Subject: Correction of Problems within the Corinthian Ecclesiae
About 1 Corinthians
The literature in the Second Testament, especially the letters, is best understood as problem-solving literature. The first letter to the ecclesia at Corinth certainly fits this categorization. After Paul planted the ecclesia in Corinth (Acts 18), he returned to Jerusalem ending his second missionary journey. The beginning of his third trip took him to Ephesus. While there he was visited by a group from Chloe’s household in Corinth bringing him news of divisions in the ecclesiae. He first wrote the ecclesiae at Corinth to teach them about their need for maturity and about the news he had received before he sent what he had written to another set of visitors that had brought him a letter listing other problems in the Corinthian ecclesiae. First Corinthians is the answer to the problems these groups of folks shared with him.
First Corinthians 13 is one of the best-known chapters in Scripture. It is often read at weddings to define love. However, the context of this chapter is the [ref]Gracelets[/ref] of the Spirit. It is often isolated and studied by itself, but it seems best to understand it within its context in which Paul identifies love as the lubricant while the gracelets are operating among believers.
A Quick Look at 1 Corinthians
Introduction. 1 Corinthians 1.1-3
Admonition Concerning Divisions 1 Corinthians 1.4-4.20
Chloe’s people brought a report of disunity within the ecclesia at Corinth. Four different men were being chosen by others as their leader. They were Paul, Apollos, Peter, and Christ. He responded with what we have as the four chapters, which suggests that their activity of choosing sides was a sure sign of their immaturity.
Activities Denounced 1 Corinthians 5.1-6.20
Three men (16.17) arrived from Corinth and informed Paul via a letter about their concerns about the church. In addition to the set of problems in the letter, these three visitors from Corinth inform Paul that there are other concerns that were not recorded in the letter. They are:
- There was a specific case of immorality in which a member was sleeping with his stepmother.
- Members were trying to resolve lawsuits outside the confines of the ecclesiae.
- There was immorality, in general, idolaters, adulterers, male prostitution and homosexuality, thieves, greedy, drunkards, slanderers, and swindlers.
Answers to Corinthian Questions 1 Corinthians 7.1-16.9
There are seven specific questions to which the Corinthians wanted Paul to give them a response:
- Marriage Activities
- Food which had been offered to idols
- The length of women’s hair
- The Lord’s Supper
- Gracelets (Spiritual Gifts)
- Misconceptions about the Resurrection
- Receiving an Offering
Conclusion. 1 Corinthians 16.10-24
A Theological Glance at 1 Corinthians
The following are some of the theological concepts that Paul wrote about;
For the Corinthians, spirituality was determining that in human nature the spirit had greater value than the body.
Unity is the quality of having the same passion. In the pages of Scripture unity is never organizational, but rather an expression of love and consideration of other followers of Jesus because we are all a part of one family. It is not uniformity or the sharing of one opinion. It is the God-given ability to put aside differences because of a shared common goal. Jesus prayed that the believers have unity, so that the world may see the love of God.
The Second Testament writers are not embarrassed by human sexuality. In 1 Cor. 7.5, Paul told married couples that sex is very important within a marriage relationship. This passage is set in the context of the Corinthians’ belief that men should remain single (7.1). Couples are told that they are not to deprive each other of sex, except for a limited time for prayer. Young widows and virgins who have strong sexual desires should not hesitate to marry (1 Cor. 7.36-40).
For Paul, idolatry serves as a contact with the demonic (1 Cor. 10.20). Paul wanted his readers to understand that any spiritual aid offered through an idol was demonic in nature.
Spiritual Gifts (Gracelets)
There are two ways gifts are understood: constituted and spontaneous. Those who believe that the gifts are constituted believe that a person can discover and then develop that gift by using it. Those who believe that the gifts are spontaneous believe that each believer is eligible for God to use him or her at any time to deliver a gracelet to another person(s).
In Scripture, there seems to be a difference between the Gracelet of Tongues and speaking in tongues. They are often confused as being the same, but they are not! It appears that the Gracelet of Tongues is used in a public worship setting and the speaker is speaking to God (1 Cor. 13.2) and the interpretation would then be God directed. The term Praying in the Spirit became a technical phrase in the Second Testament that meant to speak in tongues. Today, this is often referred to as one’s prayer language.
The 1 Corinthian 15.1-3 passage gives the reader insight into a part of Paul’s theology of giving. Therein giving indicates that regular systematic giving should be nurtured. The Second Testament does not teach tithe as a form of giving. Giving is a reflection of the believer’s new covenant relationship with God through Jesus (see 2 Corinthians for a fuller discussion.)
The Resurrection of Christ is one of the cardinal facts and doctrines of the gospel. Paul wrote, “…if Christ has not been raised,z our preaching is useless and so is your faith” (1 Cor. 15.14). The whole of the Second Testament revelation rests on this as a historical fact. On the day of Pentecost, Peter argued the necessity of Christ’s resurrection (Acts 2.24-28). In his own discourses, also, Jesus clearly intimated his resurrection (Matt. 20.19; Mark 9.9; 14.28; Luke 18.33; John 2.19-22).
The Gospel writers give circumstantial accounts of the facts connected with that event, and the apostles, also, in their public teaching largely insist upon it. Ten different appearances of our risen Lord are recorded in the Second Testament. They may be arranged as follows:
- To Mary Magdalene at the tomb alone. This is recorded at length only by John (20.11-18) and alluded to by Mark (16.9-11).
- To certain women, “the other Mary,” Salome, Joanna, and others, as they returned from the tomb. Matthew (28.1-10) alone gives an account of this (cp. Mark 16.1-8, and Luke 24.1-11).
- To Simon Peter alone on the day of the resurrection (see Luke 24.34; 1 Cor. 15.5).
- To the two disciples on the way to Emmaus on the day of the resurrection, recorded fully only in Luke (24.13-35 cp/w. Mark 16.12, 13).
- To the ten disciples (Thomas being absent) and others “with them,” at Jerusalem on the evening of the resurrection day. One of the evangelists gives an account of this appearance in John (20.19-24).
- To the disciples again (Thomas being present) at Jerusalem (Mark 16.14-18; Luke 24.33-40; John 20.26-28. See also 1 Cor. 15.5).
- To the disciples when fishing at the Sea of Galilee. Of this appearance, also, see John (21.1-23) alone gives an account.
- To the eleven, and above 500 brothers and sisters at once, at an appointed place in Galilee (1 Cor. 15.6; cp. Matt. 28.16-20).
- To James, but under what circumstances we are not informed (1 Cor. 15.7).
- To his ambassadors and missionaries immediately before the ascension. They accompanied him from Jerusalem to Mount Olivet, and there they saw him ascend “till a cloud received him out of their sight” (Mark 16.19; Luke 24.50-52; Acts 1.4-10).
It is worthy of note that we are told that on most of these occasions, our Lord afforded his disciples the abundant opportunity of testing the fact of his resurrection. He conversed with them face to face. They touched him (Matt. 28.9; Luke 24.39; John 20.27), and he ate bread with them (Luke 24.42, 43; John 21.12, 13).
In addition to the above, we should note Christ’s manifestation of himself to Paul at Damascus, who speaks of it as an appearance of the risen Saviour (Acts 9.3-9, 17; 1 Cor. 15.8; 9.1). It is implied in the words of Luke (Acts 1.3) that there may have been other appearances of which we have no record.
The resurrection is spoken of as the act:
- of God the Father (Ps. 16.10; Acts 2.24; 3.15; Rom. 8.11; Eph. 1.20; Col. 2.12; Heb. 13.20)
- of Christ himself (John 2.19; 10.18);
- of the Holy Spirit (1 Peter 3.18).
The resurrection is a public testimony, evidence of the Father’s acceptance of his work of redemption. It was a victory over death and the grave for all those who followed him.[ref] Tom Wright. Surprised by Hope: Rethinking Heaven, the Resurrection, and the Mission of the Church.[/ref]
- The faith of the followers of Jesus should be seen in their conduct.
- Following gifted leaders should never divide the ecclesiae.
- We must understand and carry out discipline in the ecclesia.
- We are a special dwelling place of the Holy Spirit.
- We should take great care to strengthen our marriage relationship.
- We should learn to be the loving conduits of God’s gracelets to others.
- The resurrection of Jesus is one of the foundations of Christian belief.
Questions 1 Corinthians Answers
How does the ecclesia solve its internal problems?
What part does the word of God play in solving ecclesiae problems?
There were at least thirteen problem areas in the Corinthians ecclesiae that Paul addresses:
- General Immorality
- Public Worship
- Veiling of women
- The Lord’s Supper
- Spiritual Gifts
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- In what way have you made a choice to choose the spirit over the body?
- Why is unity in the ecclesia important for the mission of the ecclesia?
- What would happen in the ecclesia if each member of the body took Paul’s admonition about sex seriously?
- Do you have any idols in your life? What are they?
- Which gracelet does God use through you most often?
- How well is the gracelet packaged when it is delivered?
- How important do you think the Gracelet of Tongues is in relationship with all the other gracelets? Why?
- Are you tithing? If so, do you give 23.3 percent of your income? Why not?
- In what way does the Resurrection of Jesus form a firm foundation for the rest of the message of the gospel?
- Resurrection power is still available to the ecclesia today.
- Healthy ecclesia life comes from a high standard of ecclesia discipline.
Thought To Contemplate
Problems in the ecclesia and in the individual do not go away when we become Jesus followers, however, we do have someone to help us (ecclesia and individual) solve them.
Date: AD 56. Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. 572-574
To: Ecclesia at Corinth
Subject: Paul’s Defense of His Ministry
About 2 Corinthians
Opinion is divided among Biblical scholars on how 2 Corinthians came into existence. There are some who believe that 2 Corinthians is a complete unit as it stands in our Scriptures. Others believe that the verses between chapter 6.14 and 7.2 are not a part of the book but were later added by an editor in its present position, but were part of a previous piece of authentic correspondence which Paul wrote prior to 1 Corinthians and is referred to by him at 1 Corinthians 5.9. There are yet others who believe that 2 Corinthians is made up of two letters which were written by Paul and later combined. One of the possible ways to view 2 Corinthians is as follows:
- Eighteen months after Paul began his ministry at Corinth, he left for Jerusalem. On his way, he visited Ephesus. After a short stop in Jerusalem, he went to Antioch of Syria. This was the conclusion of his second ecclesiae planting trip. Sometime during the last part of his trip, he received a message that there were some problems back in Corinth. He wrote a letter to the Corinthian ecclesia during this time period which he referred to in 1 Corinthians 5.9. Some evangelical scholars believe that the verses between 6.14 and 7.2 in 2 Corinthians is a fragment of this pre 1 Corinthian letter.
- From Antioch of Syria, Paul began his third ecclesia planting trip. He traveled to Ephesus and began working with the ecclesia which had been started by Aquila and Priscilla. While he was ministering in Ephesus, a group from Corinth called Chloe’s people visited him and asked for his guidance about a problem of unity in the ecclesia. Before he could send his message back to them, three others from the Corinthian ecclesia, Stephanus, Fortunatus, and Achaicus, arrived bringing a letter asking Paul for his guidance in some other problems the Corinthian ecclesia was having. They also brought him news of three recent problems, which also needed attention. Paul wrote 1 Corinthians in response to these questions and gives it to Timothy to deliver back to the Corinthian ecclesia.
- The problems in the Corinthian church degenerate. Paul believed that it was necessary for him to make a personal visit to the Corinthian ecclesia to restore some order (2 Corinthians 2.1; 12.14; 13.1). He was not successful in his endeavor to solve the problems.
- Upon his return to Ephesus, he wrote a letter (2 Corinthians 2.3ff.) which is often called The Severe Letter because of its tone. This letter is found in 2 Corinthians 10-13.
- Paul left Ephesus to return to Corinth via Macedonia. There he meets Titus who shared that the Corinthian ecclesia had finally taken care of the discipline problem. He wrote a fourth letter, often called the Letter of Reconciliation, which is found in 2 Corinthians 1-9 excluding 2 Corinthians 6.14-7.2.
- Paul continued his trip to Corinth from which he wrote the book of Romans.
A Quick Look at 2 Corinthians
Introduction 2 Corinthians 1.1-2
Devoted Majority 1.3-7.16
Paul wrote to reconcile with his ecclesiae and to defend his ministry to the ecclesiae.
Deliverance for Jerusalem Saints 2 Corinthians 8.1-9.15
Paul gave the ecclesiae at Corinth instructions about meeting the financial needs of the ecclesiae at Jerusalem.
Disobedient Minority 2 Corinthians 10.1-13.10
Opponents to the ministry of Paul attacked his ministry. He defends himself. The tone of Paul in this letter is much harder than the first chapters of this book which are much softer.
Conclusion 2 Corinthians 13.11-14
A Theological Glance at 2 Corinthians
The root idea of reconciliation is a change in attitude or relationship. It is the change that brings harmony between two humans or between human beings and God. Reconciliation is closely aligned with justification. It might be seen as the flip side of the coin. Justification acquits the sinner from the guilt of sin.
Reconciliation restores the justified person to a relationship with God. It does not play a large role in terms of space in Paul’s writings, but it does play an essential and integral part of his thought.
Reconciliation suggests alienation. It is necessary between two parties where something or someone has disrupted fellowship, which causes one or both parties to become hostile toward each other. In theological terms, sin alienated man from God. It broke a relationship and became an obstacle between man and God.
Reconciliation was initiated by God and accomplished in the work of Jesus (2 Cor. 5.19). Reconciliation does not have to do with a person’s attitude toward God, but with God’s attitude toward the person and his or her sin. God views a person who sins as an enemy, as the object of his divine wrath. The divine character of God manifests itself in wrath against sin.
Reconciliation is an act of God in which he no longer counts a person’s sin against him or her. It is the divine attitude toward human beings in which he no longer sees them as objects of his wrath, but as benefactors of his love. The obstacle of sin has been removed. When sin is forgiven, God not only loves the repentant child but changes his attitude about him or her. In the experience of forgiveness, we are reconciled to God and God is reconciled to us.
Reconciliation with God provides access to be reconciled with others with whom we have been alienated. In Jesus, there can be peace among human beings.
Prayer was an important aspect of the life of Paul. He shared the importance of intercessory prayer (1.11). He gave God praise for the comfort he had received when he was in trouble (1.3-4). He thanked God for the care and concern Titus had for the Corinthians (8.16).
Paul believed that prayer was brought about by the Spirit (Rom. 8.15, 26; Gal. 4.6). The means of prayer does not originate in any power that man possesses and is not a meritorious work. Prayer was ultimately the energizing Spirit speaking with God himself (Rom. 8.26-27). Prayer is not dependent on the eloquence of humanity.
Paul’s prayer was sometimes stated in the form of a wish. He expresses a desire that God would take some action regarding a person or ecclesia mentioned in his prayer. An example would be: “May the God of hope fill you with all joy and peace as you trust in him, so that you may overflow with hope by the power of the Holy Spirit” (Rom. 15.13; 1 Thess. 3. 11ff.; 2 Thess. 2.16ff.).
He also refers to prayer reports. The reports are mostly at the beginning of his letters. He assured his readers that he is continually thankful for them and that he is in constant intercession for them. He often shared some of the contents of his prayers for them (Rom. 1.9f.; Phil. 1.4, 9ff. 1 Thess. 1.2f.; 3.10; 2 Cor. 1.7; Eph. 1.16-23; Col. 1.3, 9-14; 2 Thess. 1.11ff.).
There are at least ten kinds of prayer in the writings of Paul. Only a fair representation of passages are listed with each heading.
- Doxology, using doxazo, glory. Rom. 1.21, 23; 1 Cor. 6.20; 10.31. Gal. 1.5
- Praise, using exomologeomai, confess, and epainos, praise. Rom. 14.11; Eph. 1.6, 12; Phil. 2.11
- Blessing, using eulogeomai, bless. Rom. 1.25; 1 Cor. 14.16, 2 Cor. 1.3ff.
- Worship, using prokyneo, worship. 1 Cor. 14.25
- Hymns and community singing, psalms, etc., using psalmos, hymn, psalm, psallo, sing, hymnos, hymn or song, ode, song. 1 Cor. 15.26, Eph. 5.19; Col. 3.16
- Thanksgiving, using eucharistia, thankfulness, gratitude, eucharistos, thankful, eucharisteo, give thanks. Rom. 1.8ff.; 1 Cor. 1.4ff.; Eph. 1.15ff.
- Boasting in Christ, using kauchaomai, boast. Rom. 5.2f.; 2 Cor. 1.12ff.
- Petition for self, using deomai, ask, request, beg, proseuchomai, pray. Rom. 1.10; 7.24; 1 Cor. 14.13; 1 Thess. 3.10
- Intercessory prayer for others, including blessing and curses, using huperentunchano, intercede. Rom. 1.7b; 8.15f.; 1 Cor. 1.3, 8; Eph. 1.2; 16-23; Phil. 4.6f.; Philem. 3, 4, 6
- General prayer, which is not specific. 1 Cor. 11.4f., 13; 14.14f.; 28; Rom. 10.12ff.; 1 Cor. 1.2; 2 Cor. 1.23).[ref] Colin Brown. Dictionary of Second Testament Theology. 2:873-875.[/ref].
Pick one way of prayer from the list above and use it one time on one day. Then, pick another the next day, etc. This may add some variety to your prayer time and cause it not to be so boring (assuming it is boring).
There are two important chapters on giving in 2 Corinthians. The following material provides you with an overview of money beginning with the First Testament.
| First Testament
- Money is portrayed positively in Abraham (Gen. 13.2). Abraham is seen as very wealthy in livestock, silver, and gold.
- Job was a wealthy man.
- Solomon was granted riches and honor that was unparalleled by the kings of his day (1 Kings 3.13).
- Proverbs tells us that the blessing of the Lord brings wealth (10.22).
- The First Testament reminds us that God gives the ability to produce wealth (Deut. 8.18)
- God will bring destruction on the person who does not make him his stronghold, but trusts in his great wealth (Psalm 52.7).
- The possession of wealth has an obligation to care for the needy (Proverbs 19.17).
- Tithes, the Sabbath, and the year of Jubilee were to remind Israel that their wealth was ultimately God’s and they were to use it for his glory.
| The Second Testament
- Jesus speaks more about money than any other subject in the Second Testament (Luke 12. 19; 12.31, 16.13; Matt. 5.3, 13.22; 19.23-24).
- The biblical teaching on money is twofold: Money is a gift from God, one sign of his blessing. Money is not to be a god in itself. Scripture does not teach asceticism, poverty is not virtuous, wealth is not sinful. True wealth is always spiritual and not material.
How The Early Ecclesiae Saw Money
- The early ecclesiae was generally poor itself. It believed that money was of no value because of the soon coming of Jesus. Gradually with its unfulfilled expectation, the ecclesiae developed a distrust of wealth and a glorification of poverty.
- They believed that the private ownership of property and commercial activities were post-fall institutions and accommodations to man’s sinfulness by God. Therefore, both were forbidden to the clergy. This is a belief that carries down to the ecclesiae today.[ref]“Money and the Bible.” Christianity History Institute.[/ref]
- Wealth and private property were to be used solely for the good of the poor. Polycarp of Smyrna said, “When it is in your power to do good, withhold not, because alms deliver from death.”[ref] Polycarp. The Epistle of Polycarp. 10.2[/ref]
- It was not the amount of wealth that was wrong, but the attitude toward wealth that was condemned. One can be rich or poor and still covet.
- The ecclesiae fathers address the wealth of individuals and not social justice with the exception of usury or high interest.
- The ecclesiae of the medieval period saw money as unspiritual, the product of the fallen world. One should only have what was necessary for minimum survival.
- The ecclesiae of the middle ages had legislative attempts to alleviate the problem of poverty. Members of the ecclesiae were required to pay a tenth of their income to the bishop so that he could provide relief for the poor.
How The Reformers Saw Money
- The rediscovery of the doctrine of justification by faith in the Reformation had an important impact on the interpretation of economic matters.
- The Reformers rejected the glorification of poverty. The monastic movements had become a means of seeking salvation. Justification by faith taught that salvation is the foundation of faith, not a goal to be achieved by denying oneself.
- Luther believed that a believer had the need for three conversions: the conversion of the heart, the mind, and the purse.
- Calvin wrote that poverty was as dangerous to spirituality as wealth.
From the right are, for example, riches, powers, honors, which often dull men’s keenness of sight by the glitter and seeming goodness they display, and allure with their blandishments, so that, captivated by such tricks and drunk with such sweetness, men forget their God. From the left are, for example, poverty, disgrace, contempt, afflictions, and the like. Thwarted by hardship and difficulty of these, they become despondent in mind, cast away assurance and hope, and are at last completely estranged from God.
- The Reformers saw no incompatibility between commercial activity and the Christian life. [ref] “Money and the Bible.” Christianity History Institute.[/ref]
How The Anabaptists Saw Money
- The Anabaptists believed that the Reformation had made the gospel “easygoing.” They criticized the Reformers for not caring for the poor. Menno Simons wrote the following:
Is it not sad and intolerable hypocrisy that these poor people boast of having the Word of God, of being the true, Christian ecclesiae, never remembering that they have entirely lost their sign of true Christianity? For although many of them have plenty of everything, go about in silk and velvet, gold and silver, and in all manner of pomp and splendor; ornament their houses with all manner of costly furniture; have their coffers filled, and live in luxury and splendor, yet they suffer many of their own poor, afflicted members to ask alms; and poor, hungry suffering, old, lame, blind, and sick people to beg their bread at their doors.[ref] Menno Simons. Complete Works 1496-1561 (Scottdale, PA. Herald Press. 1956). 559.[/ref]
- For Simons, the gospel carried a radical obligation to care for the poor.
- Most Anabaptists permitted private ownership of property while some sects went so far as to renounce property. They practiced Christian communism. One of the most popular sayings of the day was: “one, common builds the Lord’s house and is pure; but mine, thine, his, own divides the Lord’s house and is impure”[ref] George H. Williams and Angel M. Mergal. Spiritual and Anabaptist Writers (Library of Christian Classics). The Westminister Press. Philadelphia 1957 278 [/ref] The implication was that if you owned anything you were outside the family of God.
- The Anabaptists were a persecuted minority and their influence was limited.
How The Puritans Saw Money
- The legacy of the Reformation concerning money was carried to the new world by the Puritans.
- The Puritans pursued an ethic of industry, moderation, and simple living. Ironically this ethic tended to produce great wealth.
- The Puritans tried to balance their beliefs about wealth and poverty. They believed that moderation was the key. It was not how much or how little one had, it was the amount of money that was spent on oneself that mattered. This was seen as the golden means between two extremes.
How American Christians See Money
We live in a money-crazed age. Hundreds of books tell you how to make, keep, and use your money. Hundreds of experts—for a fee—are ready and willing to tell you the secrets to the success of making money.
What are Christians to do? The Bible as we saw earlier provided two aspects of money: wealth is a sign of God’s blessings, the love of money can bring evil into our lives. We must remember that the Bible was written to people in a situation different from ours today.
The modern Christian is treated to a cacophony of voices about the biblical use of money.
The Simple Living Approach. This system took root in the late ’60s and became fairly popular. Ron Sider wrote Rich Christians in an Age of Hunger to explain the philosophy of this approach. There were two prongs within this belief system, personal and social. First, in the personal area, the movement had a strong Mennonite influence. It believed that Christians should withdraw from the world and its idols that were noted as money and the things it could buy. These things could and most likely would get into the way of a personal relationship with God. Because of this belief, they should be shunned. Second, the social area believed that in order to be a faithful disciple of Christ, one must minister to the least of the brothers, which is to say, to the poor. Sider believed that it was a shame that a rich Christian hoarded his resources while a world went hungry. For Sider the answer was redistribution. Christians must give to alleviate hunger. Other books representing this point of view are Richard Foster’s books: Celebration of Discipline, Freedom of Simplicity, and Money, Sex, and Power form a cadre of books about this belief system. For Foster, the shame of a rich Christian is that he tends to worship and trust his money instead of God. To restore appropriate Christian priorities, one must practice discipline in the handling of money.
The Mission Movement. The ecclesiae is always asking for support to carry on missions in other parts of the world. The last Ralph Winter (d. 2009), who was the founder of the U.S. Center for World Missions, talked about rich Christians in an age of hunger, but hunger for him is spiritual hunger. He can tell you exactly how many people groups in the world have yet to hear about Jesus. He has counted the number of languages in which the Scriptures have not yet been translated. The rich Christian should be concerned with those who have not yet heard.
The Liberation Theology Movement. Developed in Latin America in response to the oppression of the poor by the rich and sometimes the oppression of the poor by the ecclesiae, this theology believes that the prime reason that Jesus came into the world was to preach the gospel to the poor. What is the “good news” to be preached? So that in God’s kingdom there will no longer be poor. This all sounds favorable. This theology goes on to say that it is the responsibility of the ecclesiae to bring in the kingdom of God. It is a political theology to bring economic prosperity. It desires to tear down the structures that keep the poor chained to their poverty. The goal is a revolt against the government to bring about liberation in the name of Jesus.
The Theonomy Movement. This movement was founded by Rousas J. Rushdoony and is often known as reconstructionism. It believes that America should return to the economic system of the First Testament in its laws and actions. The ecclesiae should take America back to the First Testament economic system. Money in their view is a gift from God and should be used by Christians. Non-Christians don’t know how to use money properly, so Christians should get as much as they can if for no other reason, to keep it out of the hands of unbelievers.
The Health and Wealth Movement. This gospel was proclaimed regularly on nationwide TV and radio by the late Kenneth Hagin Sr., along with Kenneth and Gloria Copeland who are in their early ‘80s and late ‘70s respectively. The late Oral Roberts brought the idea to the fore with his “seed-faith” promise in the 1950s and 1960s. The idea is that the financial gift that is given to God (especially to their ministries) will grow into an abundant material blessing for you. They believe that God wants everyone to be rich and healthy and all you have to do to receive is ask in faith. Some like Jerry Savelle (now in his ’70s), the late Charles Capps, and the now 88-year-old Fred Price built large prosperous ecclesiae on this theology. Youngers like Creflo Dollar (not a pun, it is his actual name) have kept this tradition alive. This is a theology of a selective canon of Scripture. What is selected are the Scriptures about money and prosperity. What is not selected are the Scriptures about suffering in this world as a redemptive act of God.[ref]All ages in this paragraph were the ages of the individuals mentioned at the time of this writing. Christian History Magazine #14. 1987. Randy Petersen. “Money Modern Voices: The Christian and Money”[/ref]
What are we to understand about money?
- Money is amoral, it is neither good nor bad. It becomes good or bad depending on how we use it.
Here are some things to remember about money:
- All money belongs to God (Haggai 2.8; Deut. 8.18a; 1 Cor. 4.7b)
- God provides guidelines to gain wealth
- Work (Proverbs 6.6-8, 14.23, 20.4; 2 Thess. 3.10-11; 1 Tim. 5.8)
- Save (Proverbs 21.20 LB)
- Plan (Proverbs 24.2-3)
The Way To Give Money: Ten Second Testament Guidelines
- Giving is investing with God (Luke 6.38; Matt. 6.19-21, 24;
2 Cor. 9.6-7)
- Giving is to be sacrificial (Mark 12.41-44; Hebrews 13.16)
- Giving is not a matter of what you have (Luke 16.10;
2 Cor. 8.1-2, 7)
- Giving affects spiritual riches (Luke 16.11)
- Giving amounts are personally determined (Luke 19.1-8)
- Giving is to be in response to need (Acts 11.27-29)
- Giving is to demonstrate love, not law (2 Cor. 8.8, 9.7)
- Giving is to be planned (1 Cor. 16.1)
- Giving is to be generous (2 Cor. 8.2b)
- Giving generously results in blessing (Phil. 4.10; 2 Cor. 9.6b)
- Reconciliation is God restoring relationship with humankind.
- Reconciliation with God opens the door to reconciliation with others.
- Prayer is an important aspect of our relationship with God.
Questions 2 Corinthians Answers
- How can I be reconciled with God and others?
- What is the ministry of reconciliation?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- Who in your family, work arena, ecclesia, or other parts of your life do you need to be reconciled with? How would you begin the process?
- What percentage of your day do you use to communicate with God? Do you need to increase that? What are some strategies that you could use to improve your time of communication with God?
- How could this model of a prayerful wish be used in your daily prayer life?
- Do you give because you think that you must fulfill some system which must be accomplished? Why?
- How does this implied First Testament attitude compare with your attitude about giving?
- If Jesus spoke more about money than any other subject in the Second Testament, why do you think it is so offensive to some when the ecclesiae speaks about money?
- In what way does your attitude about giving compare with the Second Testament’s understanding?
- Should there be a category in the ecclesiae called clergy that get paid?
- What of the monastic movement is alive in your ecclesia today? How does it function? What should you do about it?
- Do you think one should become poor in order to care for the poor? Why? or Why not?
- How does the Puritan balance affect the ecclesiae today?
- How have you been influenced to buy a book and make a million dollars? Is this a part of your cultural heritage?
How is this attitude alive and well in the ecclesiae of the twenty-first-century?
- Are the suggestions made in this approach biblical? Why? or Why not?
- Does the ecclesiae have the ability to bring in the kingdom of God to the poor? How? or How not?
- Healing broken relationships is a worthwhile ministry.
- Divisions in the ecclesiae will destroy the ministry of the ecclesiae to the world.
- We should reflect on the redemptive love and forgiveness of God in all areas of our life and ministry.
Thought To Contemplate
Financial giving for the support of God’s ministry is based on the model of self-giving not on a legalistic percentage.
Date: AD 57 Gundry, Robert H. A Survey of the New Testament. 572-574.
To: Ecclesiae in Rome
Subject: Justification by Faith
Till this moment in Paul’s writing career, he had written to ecclesiae that he had planted. Now, he was going to write to an ecclesia that he had not founded nor had he ever visited it. In the moments of peace after sending the Corinthian ecclesia the solutions to their present problems, Paul wrote his view of the Christian faith and how to live in its story as he had come to understand it to this point in his life.
The book of Romans has had tremendous influence over the years with significant historical figures like Augustine, Martin Luther, John Wesley, and Karl Barth as well as all those who have been blessed because of them. It has been suggested that the book has multiple purposes: first, a missionary and public relations purpose. Every place he had gone to minister, unrest had broken out because of what he preached. He didn’t want to go to the seat of the Roman government and cause unrest for the Jesus followers in Rome. After all, it had been less than a decade since the emperor Claudius had issued an edict that expelled Jews including Jewish followers of Jesus, though later they were allowed to return. So he wrote to assure the Roman ecclesia that his intentions were to bring a balanced gospel and to move on from their midst to minister in Spain (Rom. 15.24).
Second, Romans can be understood as having an apologetic purpose. Therein, Paul wanted to defend the gospel he had come to understand. Finally, Romans has a pastoral purpose that shares Paul’s thinking about how God has broken the barriers between Gentiles and Jews so that a full-on rupture between Jewish and Gentile Christians could be avoided.
A Quick Look at Romans
Introduction Romans 1.1-17
Slave to Sin Romans 1.18-3.20
God has created a worldwide family of Jews and Gentiles as the fulfillment of the promise to Abraham. This is marked out by the covenant sign of faith.
Slave to God 3.21-8.39
Slavery to sin, because of Adam, is to be exchanged with slavery to God because of his faithfulness to his covenant. The power to live a new life in Christ comes only through the Holy Spirit who works in every area of our life to make us just like Jesus.
Salvation of Israel 9.1-11.36
The failure of Israel to follow God’s covenant turns out to be used by God through Jesus brought about salvation for the whole world. Israel, too, must be saved not as nationalistic salvation, but an individual one. Every Jew must come to God the same way as every Gentile. While enjoying the benefits of a relationship with God, Gentiles are not to become anti-Jewish.
Service to God 12.1-16.24
God has created new humanity through the death of Jesus. Life as a newly created human means the coming together of races heretofore separated to worship the Creator God. The greetings of the final chapter may be a way of putting this picture together in the Roman ecclesiae.
A Theological Glance At Romans
The following comes from “Session 5: AD 49-51: Understanding the Theology of Galatians, James, 1 & 2 Thessalonians>”
Tom Wright says:
“Many people, including many supposedly ‘Pauline’ Christians, would say, off the cuff, that the heart of Paul’s teaching is ‘justification by faith.’ What many such people understand as the meaning of this phrase is something like this. People are always trying to pull themselves up by their own moral bootstraps. They try to save themselves by their own efforts; to make themselves good enough for God, or for heaven. This doesn’t work; one can only be saved by the sheer unmerited grace of God, appropriated not by good works but by faith. This account of justification owes a good deal both to the controversy between Pelagius and Augustine in the early fifth century and to that between Erasmus and Luther in the early sixteenth century.”[ref]N.T. Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said: Was Paul of Tarsus the Real Founder of Christianity? Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids, MI. 1991 113. [/ref]
And Wright continues:
“Justification in the first century was not about how someone might establish a relationship with God. It was about God’s eschatological definition, both future, and present, of who was, in fact, a member of his people. In Sanders’ terms, it was not so much about ‘getting in’, or indeed about ‘staying in’, as about ‘how you could tell who was in’. In standard Christian theological language, it wasn’t so much about soteriology as about ecclesiology; not so much about salvation as about the church” In addition to justification, Paul uses other metaphors to describe the nature of God’s act, namely, redemption, reconciliation, and salvation.[ref]Wright. What Saint Paul Really Said. 119.[/ref]
Faith alone in Christ will set the sinner in a right relationship with God (Gal. 2.1-6.18). This has been the rallying cry for reformers through the ages. Paul wanted the converts at Galatia to understand that the liberty that came in Jesus was not a license to do what they wanted when they wanted (Gal. 5.13). The freedom, which Christ brought to a believer, is a quality of life that causes the believer to care and enter into a life of service in the new community (Gal. 5.22-6.10). He taught them that they as the ecclesia were a direct descendant of Abraham and because of that they should be united (Gal. 3.16ff.). Because of Jesus, there were now no differences which had formerly brought separation. The ecclesia was made up of Jews, Gentiles, men, women, slaves, and free and table fellowship, which included all these together was a true sign of justification. Yet in this new community, there was no difference between these groups because they were all one in Jesus. (Gal. 3.27-29).
Justification by Faith Means Three Things
Paul used the concept of justification without any explanation. One can draw a conclusion that his first readers understood what he meant by the use of the word. He can simply say to the Corinthians that they are justified, yet not explain what that means.
Or do you not know that wrongdoers will not inherit the kingdom of God? Do not be deceived: Neither the sexually immoral nor idolaters nor adulterers nor men who have sex with men nor thieves nor the greedy nor drunkards nor slanderers nor swindlers will inherit the kingdom of God. And that is what some of you were. But you were washed, you were sanctified, you were justified in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ and by the Spirit of our God. (1 Cor. 6.9-11).
Paul used the word in the way we suggested above. In his sermon to the synagogue in Pisidian Antioch (Acts 13.38-39), he said that everyone who believes is justified from everything you could not be justified from by the law of Moses. Justifying faith is believing in the gospel of the kingdom. It is relying on Christ’s merit. It is receiving God’s declared righteousness into our lives. For Paul, “by faith” essentially means three things.
- Salvation is without works. Works never influenced God in justifying a person. Justification is “by grace.” Works follow faith; they do not proceed faith.
- Faith is the God-given instrument by which a man accepts that God’s justification equals forgiveness in Christ (Eph. 2.8; Rom. 1.17).
- Faith is always faith in Christ.
Eight Things to Remember about Justification
- Justification is an act of God.
- Justification is based on the fact that Christ died for us.
- Justification is the forgiveness of sins.
- Justification is acquittal from punishment due to us for sin.
- Justification is a reconciliation of the sinner to a loving God.
- Justification is the imputation of the righteousness of Christ.
- Justification is given through grace.
- Justification is followed by good works and a life of faith.
The death of Jesus on the cross benefited man with redemption. From the beginning fall in the garden, God has been seeking out humans to redeem them. The sacrificial system in the First Testament is a foreshadowing of the work of Jesus on the cross in the Second Testament.
The Development of Redemption: An Overview
- The killing of an animal to provide a covering for Adam and Eve in the garden has often been interpreted as the first sign of atonement in the First Testament (Gen. 3.21). However, it seems better to understand this picture in the garden as God meeting an immediate need for his children out of his love and care for them.
- The first mention of sacrifice in the book of Genesis was the gift offerings that Cain and Abel brought to God.
Later she gave birth to his brother Abel.
Now Abel kept flocks, and Cain worked the soil. In the course of time, Cain brought some of the fruits of the soil as an offering to the Lord.f 4 And Abel also brought an offering—fat portions from some of the firstborn of his flock.h The Lord looked with favor on Abel and his offering, but on Cain and his offering, he did not look with favor. So Cain was very angry, and his face was downcast. (Gen. 4.2-5).
- This passage is usually thought to be a contrast between an offering of animal life and an offering of plant life. God rejected the plant life because of the need for a blood sacrifice. However, the real contrast is between a thoughtless offering and a generous offering. God looked at the offender’s heart and not the offering itself.
- The first reference of an altar was the occasion when Noah built one and gave God a burnt offering (Gen. 8.20). From the animals in the ark, Noah took one of every clean animal and sacrificed it to God. This is the first reference to atonement in the First Testament.
- God begins in Abraham to deal with sin in a redemptive way. Abraham is commanded by God to kill the heir to the promise given to him. God took Isaac and went to the designated place. Isaac wanted to know what was going to be sacrificed and Abraham told him that God would provide for them.
- The mission of Moses was to free the children of God from their bondage in Egypt. After nine plagues, Pharaoh would not let the people be freed. In the tenth plague, God told Moses to kill a lamb and place the blood of the lamb on the doorposts and over the doors. He told Moses that when he saw the blood he would pass over that home and spare the firstborn.
- In the redemptive act of the Exodus, God made Israel his children. During their stay and training at Mt. Sinai, God gave them instructions about sacrifices. The book of Leviticus gives detailed directions about these sacrifices.
- In the sin offering, the priest, who represented the people of Israel, would put his hands on the head of the “sin offering” and slay the offering. He would take the blood from the sacrificed animal and pour it on the altar by the act of placing his hands on the animal to be sacrificed, the priest presented Israel a picture of the transference of their sin to a sin-bearer who would die a violent death.
- During the time of Samuel, Israel had taken the sacrificial system and made a ritual out of it. What was more important to God was that Israel obeyed the stipulations of the covenant they had made with him.
- Does the Lord delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices as much as in obeying the voice of the Lord? To obey is better than sacrifice, and to heed is better than the fat of rams (1 Sam. 15.22b).
- The prophet Hosea told the people of his time that God desired mercy and not sacrifice, that Israel should acknowledge God rather than provide endless burnt offerings (Hosea 6.6). The word mercy in Hosea’s passage is the word for covenant love in the First Testament. It means to be loyal to the covenant relationship which they had with God. To acknowledge God was another way of saying that they should keep his covenant stipulations.
The New Covenant
The coming of Jesus to be crucified is the apex of the story of the Second Testament. John the Baptist saw Jesus as the lamb of God who had come to take away the sins of the world. In the Second Testament, the aspect of sacrifice is understood from the many references to the blood of Jesus.
- God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood (Rom. 3.25).
- Since we have now been justified by his blood, how much more shall we be saved from God’s wrath through him! (Rom. 5.9)
- In him, we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us with all wisdom and understanding (Eph.1.7).
- But now in Christ Jesus, you who once were far away have been brought near through the blood of Christ (Eph. 2.13).
- For God was pleased to have all his fullness dwell in him, and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross (Col. 1.19-20).
The church has taken the word blood and impregnated it with sacrificial meaning. The actual physical blood of Jesus is not of primary importance in the above passages. There is no indication that Jesus shed very much blood at all even though there have been many sermons, songs, and movies to depict that he did. The idea of blood being shed is a picture of the slaughter of a sacrificial lamb whose throat was cut and the blood gushed out. Nothing like this happened to Jesus on the cross. The blood and water that came from the side of Jesus occurred only after he had died. In the Second Testament as well as the First Testament, blood means a life that has been violently taken away, a life that has been offered in sacrifice.
Chapters 9-11 are a case study in which Paul demonstrates that God’s salvation is for all. He applies the truths of chapters three through eight in chapters nine through eleven. Israel rejected God and God rejected Israel (9-10). Whoever calls on the name of the Lord will be saved (10.13). Israel will be grafted into the church by believing in Jesus (11).
In the twentieth and early twenty-first-century,, the Institutional Church was exposed, or maybe overexposed, to the idea that Israel is God’s time clock. To understand Biblical prophecy, we have been told, we must watch what is happening to Israel, a kind of theology informed by news reports. However, in Romans 9-11 Paul provided his readers in Rome some insights on the question of who Israel is. He began in chapter 9 by sharing that he had great sorrow and anguish in his heart because Israel had rejected the Messiah (Rom. 8.2). In the next few verses (Rom. 8.6-8), Paul recalled First Testament history to prove his point. Even though the family of Esau was the natural descendant of the promise, they were not included in the chosen ones. The fulfillment came through Isaac. Romans 8.8 demonstrates that the true descendants of Abraham, the true Israel, are determined by the divine election of God, not by physical descendants. In short, God can and does choose to do as he wishes. The implication of this for Paul’s readers was that not all Jews of his own day could call themselves Israel, only those who emulated the faith of Abraham were the children of promise. He had stated this earlier in Romans 2.28-29. From a Second Testament perspective, the ecclesiae is the new Israel, the new humanity of God.
Confession and Salvation
When Paul was in jail in Philippi, his jailer cross-examined him with this question: “What must I do to be saved?” That night in the jail had not been a happy one for the jailer and his crew. He knew well that the escape of any prisoner meant termination of his own life. With earthquakes and jail doors opened, he was apprehensive over his future. When he heard Paul and his companions singing, he must have felt great relief and blurted out his question. Remember, he was a Roman and had no grid for salvation as a Western Christian might understand it. We tend to read our modern definition into this story and believe the jailer was asking Paul about eternal life. Such is not the case! What he was asking was “How can I be safe from the danger of being put to death for negligence?”
His question was purely secular. The answer, which he received, was not what he expected. It must have handcuffed his mouth. His question was for immediate safety, the answer was for eternal safety. “Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved…” responded Paul. Paul understood salvation to be something that God does for people. It delivers them from their past sins and brings them power over continued sin in their lives.
In Mark’s gospel, we have a beginning explanation of salvation.
So John appeared in the desert, baptizing and preaching.‘Turn away from your sins and be baptized,’ he told the people, ‘and God will forgive your sins.’ Many people from the province of Judea and the city of Jerusalem went out to hear John. They confessed their sins, and he baptized them in the Jordan River (Mark 1 verses 4 and 5, GNB).
The Greek word translated confessed is homologeo, (pronounced ho-mo-lo-ge-o). It can be defined as “saying the same thing” or “to agree with one’s statement.” When we come to God to confess our sins, we are only saying what God has already said about our sins. John 6.44 tells us that no one comes to the Son unless the Father draws him. Part of that drawing is the Father revealing our sins. When confession takes place, we say what God says they are. He initiates confession and our part is to get in line with what he is saying by our confession.
Confession is the door to salvation. Paul has many things to say about salvation, but two of the most important tell us about the freedom salvation brings. In Galatians 3.13, Paul wrote that salvation brings us freedom from the curse of the law. To the Thessalonian church, he wrote that they have freedom from wrath (1 Thess. 5.9).
The conflict in the Galatian churches was overtaking Judaistic customs like circumcision so that one could become a true believer. The message being peddled by the agitators was that the gospel of Christ plus something equaled salvation, in their case the Law! On the contrary, Paul says that salvation delivers us from the Law, which had become something which you did in order to be accepted. Paul’s message was and is that salvation delivers us from the idea of performance and presents us with the new idea of acceptability to God.
Paul provided clear insight as to who initiates salvation in our lives. Ephesians 2.8-9 states, “For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith – and this not from yourself, it is the gift of God – not by works, so that no one can boast.” Most believers today feel that they found God. In fact, Scripture suggests that God found us. Francis Thompson is noted for calling God the hound of heaven.[ref]Wikipedia. “The Hound of Heaven.” accessed 1.6.2020.[/ref] He picks up our scent and pursues us until he catches us.
The purpose that he sets our course toward is to become like his son Jesus. Paul explained this in his book to the Romans, we “should be conformed to the image of his son.” This means that we become like Jesus inside. We do not have to be conformed to the image of the world or squeezed into its mold as J.B. Phillips translates this passage [ref]J. B. Phillips Translation[/ref] suggests: “We must be conformed internally.” William Barclay says that this means “a change of inward personality, of the very essence of our being.”[ref]William Barclay. Romans 12.[/ref] In Romans 12.1ff, we are told that “God transform you into a new person by changing the way you think.
The person who has entered into a relationship with God is now in the process of being saved. Aging usually adds to the quality of some products and this is true of salvation also. The ‘being saved’ idea was presented by Paul to the Corinthians who were all young in their relationship with God. Paul tells them that “the message of the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God” (1 Cor. 1.18). The idea of being in a process is a part of the now-but-not-yet concept of the kingdom of God as presented in the Second Testament. God has invaded his world in the person of Jesus. He has begun the process of recovery. It has happened and is complete but it awaits a final fulfillment. This process of salvation will continue with us all of our earthly lives. Complete salvation awaits in the hereafter, in the presence of Jesus in life after death, as we await “life after life after death” in the new heaven and heath.[ref]Tom Wright. “America: The Jesuit Review” Life After Live After Death. accessed 1.6.2020)[/ref] Eternal life which started when we accepted Jesus in this life is fulfilled beyond our physical death. This leads us to ask the following question.
Like any other group of people, Christians have their own language system. It has often been called Christianese. With that language, we describe what has occurred with a new Jesus follower as “God saving a soul.” This betrays a definite Greek thought-form which becomes the foundation for our use of the soul language. Dr. George Ladd presents us with a more natural view of this in his book A Theology Of The New Testament. (Revised Edition)
Soul (nepes) is not a higher part of a human standing over against his body, but designates the vitality of life principle in man. God breathed into Adam’s nostrils the breath of life, and he became a living soul (Gen. 2.7). Body and the divine breath together make the vital, active soul. The word is then extended from the life principle to include the feelings, passions, will, and even the mentality of the individual. It then comes to be used as a synonym for humanity itself (p. 500 italics mine).
Psyche (often translated soul) and pneuma (translated spirit) are not strictly interchangeable but refer to man’s inner life viewed from two points of view. Pneuma is man’s inner self viewed in terms of man’s relationship to God and to other men; psyche is man as a living being, as a human personality…Paul never speaks of the salvation of the soul, nor is there any intimation of the preexistence of the soul” (p. 502). (Italics mine)
A way to understand this is to provide an equation. Soul equals Body (the outward part of man) and Spirit (the inward part of man). If we choose to use the terminology that God wants to save our souls, we need to be Hebraic instead of Greek. Yes, God does want to save our soul, i.e., our complete being, physical and spiritual. You may ask if my soul is saved then what does it mean to have Jesus in my heart?
Heart. The word heart is another word, which the Second Testament uses to describe a person. In Paul’s writings, heart is used in the following ways. It is seen as displaying affection. It is used to talk about a human’s intellectual activity. It is seen as the center of the emotions, both bad and good. It is viewed as the seat of the will. Finally, it is seen at the center of an experience with God.
Paul says that God shines in the heart (2 Cor. 4.6) and that the heart receives the down payment of the Spirit (2 Cor. 1.22). The heart can experience the outpouring of God’s love (Rom. 5.5) as well as being the place where God dwells (Eph. 3.17). In regards to mending the brokenhearted Paul believed that the peace of Christ reigns in the heart (Col. 3.15).
You can see that when you become a follower of Jesus and your sins are forgiven, that the result of the sin which you committed may remain in the heart, i.e., our emotions, affections, intellectual activity, etc. These are the areas that Jesus came to save.
Scripture has a word to describe this activity. It is sanctification. That sounds like a large scary word to most people, but it can be properly understood if one has a good basis for understanding. The structure, that theologians call the indicative and the imperative, can help us understand sanctification.
The indicative involves the declaration of what God has done to inaugurate the new age in the present world. The imperative involves the exhortation to live out this new life in the setting of the old world.
Declaration (Indicative) and Exhortation (Imperative)
The two-age structure is fundamental for Jesus followers to understand. This structure pervades Scripture and is demonstrated by the tension between the two ages. Followers of Jesus live in two ages simultaneously. Scripture calls these ages by several names while the most common terms are: the present evil age and the age to come. Paul uses the present evil age language in his introductory words in the book of Galatians.
Grace and peace to you from God the Father and from our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to the Father’s plan gave himself for our sins and thereby rescued us from the present evil world-order. To him be glory forever and ever! (Gal. 1.3-5)
We are citizens of two worlds at the same time. We live in the present evil age, while we are members of the age to come. We could say that the future has invaded the present in the life of Jesus. We now live in the presence of the future. The old-age remains with all its evil and corruption. But, the new has invaded the old. This structure is seen in declaration and exhortation.
The best illustrations for this structure are ones from Scripture. Here are a few which will give you a taste of how this structure works. Knowing how to spot them when you are reading will make Scripture come alive in a new and exciting way.
The first illustration is from Romans 12.1-2:
Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is your true and proper worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will.
In this passage, God’s mercy is the declaration. Mercy is something that God has given to each follower of Jesus. Based on what he gave, we must respond to the exhortation, “Do not conform any longer to the pattern of this world….” The ultimate act of worship is to offer ourselves to God. Paul wants his readers to understand that the mercy of the age to come has arrived. That is a fact! Our part is to receive the exhortation and respond to this-age-to-come-mercy that is occurring in this present evil age.
The second illustration is from Romans 6.1-2:
What shall we say, then? Shall we go on sinning so that grace may increase? By no means! We are those who have died to sin; how can we live in it any longer?
The declaration which Paul is giving is directed toward stimulating human responsibility to become active. The exhortation is given in verses Romans 6.12-13.
Therefore do not let sin reign in your mortal body so that you obey its evil desires. Do not offer any part of yourself to sin as an instrument of wickedness, but rather offer yourselves to God as those who have been brought from death to life; and offer every part of yourself to him as an instrument of righteousness.
What we see developing is a his-part and our-part perspective in Scripture. God will always do his part. He expects us to likewise do our part. What we most often want is something instant to happen so we don’t have to deal with the problems at hand. One of the deceptions which we all fall into is that God will go back in our lives and always instantly remove something and then we will be all better, sometimes called inner healing. It is not always as easy as taking two aspirin for a headache.
The third illustration is in Colossians 3.3-5:
For you died, and your life is now hidden with Christ in God. When Christ, who is your life, appears, then you also will appear with him in glory.
The declaration is that death to our former life has occurred. We are dead-now-but-not-yet. The power of sin has been broken, but we still choose to sin. The question is often asked: if we are really dead and our life is hidden with God, then why do we continue to sin? Because we live between the times. We are dead-now-but-not-yet. We can see this very idea illustrated in this passage of Scripture. The next verse in Colossians is the exhortation for us to do our part.
Put to death, therefore, whatever belongs to your earthly nature: sexual immorality, impurity, lust, evil desires and greed, which is idolatry.
Having once died with Jesus does not mean that it is not our responsibility to put to death what belongs to the fallen humankind. Having died with Christ gives us a more urgent reason for putting the things mentioned to death in our lives. In short, the life pattern of a believer living in this present evil age is not the life pattern or standard of living which is a part of the age to come.
A final illustration can be seen in Galatians 4 and 5:
Because you are his sons, God sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, the Spirit who calls out, “Abba, Father.” So you are no longer a slave, but God’s child; and since you are his child, God has made you also an heir (Gal. 4.6-7).
Since we live by the Spirit, let us keep in step with the Spirit ”(Gal. 5.25).
What Paul wanted his readers to understand is that in their new life of following Jesus, they had received the Spirit. But receiving the Spirit and living by the precepts of the Spirit is the difference between the declaration and the exhortation. Receiving is the declaration of what God has done. Now follows the exhortation.
So I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not gratify the desires of the flesh (Gal. 5.16).
The exhortations in Scripture are grounded in the reality of what has been accomplished by God, i.e., the declarations. The exhortations are intended to bring to full reality the declarations. We are new people in Christ. We have been fully forgiven of our sins. We do have the Holy Spirit dwelling in our lives. These above are some of the declarations of Scripture. The exhortations of Scripture help to bring to full reality what already is.
You may be asking the question: how does this declaration and exhortation idea work with salvation? That’s a good question. Here is a beginning answer. God initiated our coming to him and we responded with confession and became his children by saying the same thing about our sins that he had said about them. Our sins were forgiven. We are cleansed from our unrighteous past. While the sin has gone, the marks of the sin remain. Let me illustrate. A friend of mine discovered that he had a cancerous growth on his back. He had an operation to remove it. The incision the surgeon made was a “u” shape under his arm from his chest to his back. Several months after the operation, while taking a shower, he allowed a hard pulse of water to hit the scar. He told me it was hard to describe the pain he felt. He almost passed out in the shower from that pain. He was reminded of the operation, recovery, and other memories of the surgery. Over a year later after guarding his underarm against pulsing water, and without realizing that he was doing it, he allowed the water to hit the scar. This time there was no pain involved. The scar remained, but the pain was gone.
This is the way it is with salvation. We are saved-but-not-yet. The process has begun with an event and continues throughout our life. The sins are gone, but the scars remain. As God initiates, the pain associated with the scar is looked at. It is here that declaration and exhortation are at work. God’s declaration of sin removed is the sacrifice of Jesus.
- God always does what is just.
- Salvation is a free gift to all who will receive it.
- Practical living is the outcome of being saved.
Questions Romans Answers
- Who needs to be saved?
- What is the source of salvation?
- What is the practical result of faith in a believer’s life?
Community Discussion Questions
➡ |CDQ Info|
- If God is looking for people, why do you think that you should evangelize?
- How has our Greek way of viewing man kept us from viewing man as a whole? What can be done to change this foreign theology of compartmentalization of body, soul, and spirit to Body + Spirit = Soul
- If you sing the chorus, “Change my heart O God?” what would that mean in light of the discussion in the paragraphs above?
- How can your heart be saved, but not yet?
- Why do you think we receive mercy and then do nothing about it?
- Read through each of the following examples and reflect on how each works out in your own life.
- Fulfilling God’s will in your life is becoming involved in what God wants to accomplish in the world.
- Salvation gives you assurance, confidence, and hope in a world dominated by insecurity and hopelessness.
- To be a believer is to be in the struggle with the sin in one’s life and the sin in the life of a community of faith, realizing that God has made a way to escape.
Thought To Contemplate
Allow the power of the Holy Spirit to make you (think plural here) into the image of Jesus by following the teaching of Paul in the last chapters of Romans.
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