Thursday, September 28, 2006

The Purifying Effect of Looking at Christ

See what kind of love the Father has given to us, that we should be called children of God; and so we are. The reason why the world does not know us is that it did not know him. 2 Beloved, we are God's children now, and what we will be has not yet appeared; but we know that when he appears we shall be like him, because we shall see him as he is. 3 And everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure.
1 John 3:1-3

In 1 John 3:1-3, the author speaks of that great day when we will see Christ face to face. He admits that it is not entirely clear what this will entail, but he does assert on thing very confidently: "when he appears we shall be like him because we shall see him as he is." But being transformed into the image of Christ is not something that is only a future hope. In the very next verse John asserts "everyone who thus hopes in him purifies himself as he is pure." As I read the text, it seems to me that the implication is that in our present condition we are also purified as look upon Christ. In our present condition that looking takes place as we "see" Christ in the proclamation and incarnation of the gospel with the eyes of faith. (Cp. the similar line of through in Paul at 2 Cor 3:18-4:6)

Central, then, to growth in holiness (or as it is sometimes called today "spiritual formation") is looking at Christ.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Knowledge in 1 John and the Postmodern Epistemological Crisis

This semester I am taking my Greek exegesis class through 1 John. This time through the epistle one of the things that has struck me is the emphasis that John places on knowledge. The two verbs meaning "to know" (oida and ginosko) appear a combined total of 39x. Even more striking is the variety of direct objects used with these verbs. They can be broken up into two categories. The first is peronal objects (whether pronouns or proper nouns) that refer to God, sometimes to specific persons of the Trinity (2:3, 4, 13, 14; 3:6; 4:2). The second group consists of abstract concepts such as truth (2:20) or God's commands (2:4). Related to this second category are examples where a verb of knowing is followed by a phrase that expresses the content of what a believer knows (2:3, 5, 29; 3:2, 5, 14, 15, 19, 24; 5:2, 13, 15, 18, 20).

Two reflections suggest themselves from this data:

1. Central to the Christian life is the "experiential" knowing of God, something not reducible to mere intellectual assent to a set of propositions.

2. Central to the Christian life is the cognitive knowing of certain propositional truths about God.

To be biblical, we must embrace both the experiential and cognitive aspects of knowledge. Losing sight of either of these realities results in a distorted view of Christian knowledge. This is important today especially in light of those who, enamored with postmodern critiques of intellectual hubris, wrongly claim that propositional knowledge must be jettisoned as a relic of modernity. Furthermore, not the confidence and certainty that John claims Christians have about the reality/truth of these claims. There is no hint of the false humility of postmodern culture that abandons certainty in the guise of humility. This of course does not mean that Christians have absolute or exhaustive knowledge of such matters, but it does mean that Christians can have sufficient knowledge for certainty on fundamental aspects of the Christian faith. At the same time, these observations also serve to correct those who in their pursuit of propositional truth lose sight of the experiential aspect of knowledge, thus reducing Christianity to a set of beliefs devoid of personal, experiential knowledge of God.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Jonathan Edwards' Blank Bible

Yale University Press has been publicizing the publication of Edwards' Blank Bible, which is one the most anticipated volumes in the series. To whet our appetites, you can now download for free a pdf copy of the section on Galatians. Just click on this link:

and click on the link at the end of the post. Most notable in his notes on Galatians are Edwards' lengthy comments on 5:17 and the work of the Spirit.

For those who may not know, the Blank Bible was Edwards self-made study Bible. He unbound a Bible he had received, placed in between each page a blank sheet of paper, and then had the volume rebound. This allowed JE to make notes on the text as he went. These notes contain his own observations/reflections on the text as well as notes from other sources, in addition to references to his thoughts elsewhere in his writings. No doubt there are many treasures yet to be mined from JE in this new volume.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Christ Publicly Portrayed as Crucified

In his rebuke of the "foolish Galatians," Paul asks the question "Who has bewitched you? It was before your eyes that Jesus Christ was publicly portrayed as crucified." Because there is so much going on in Galatians this little gem of a verse is often overlooked. But notice what Paul is saying--he is claiming that the Galatians "saw" Jesus Christ crucified in his preaching of the gospel. These Gentiles lived hundreds of miles from where Jesus ministered and several decades later; as such they never physically saw Jesus with their physical eyes. But in the preaching of Christ crucufued Paul claims that the Galatians "saw" Jesus publicly portrayed as crucified.

In my estimation this is one of the great descriptions of gospel preaching--preaching in such a way that those who hear the message "see" Jesus Christ as the crucified one. That they see Jesus as the one crucified for their sins. For it is in this seeing of Jesus that we are transformed into his image (2 Cor 3:18). This, then, is the great task of preaching.

Saturday, September 02, 2006

Fulfilling All Righteousness

Recently I've begin working through Matthew in preparation for a retreat series I am doing for Campus Crusade at Ohio University. I'll be speaking four times from Matthew 21-28: the triumphal entry (21:1-11), Garden of Gethsemane (26:36-46), crucifixion (27:33-54), and the resurrection & commissioning (28:1-20).

Matthew's interest in Jesus' fulfillment of the OT is well-known. But as I was reading Matt 3, I was struck by Jesus' words to John to justify John baptizing Jesus - "Permit it at this time; for in this way it is fitting for us to fulfill all righteousness." When I read this it raised the question, "In what sense does John baptizing Jesus fulfill all righteousness?" So then, what does this mean, and why does Jesus (via Matthew) express it in these terms?