Showing posts with label Grace. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Grace. Show all posts

Tuesday, July 04, 2023

Picking and Choosing

Back in April, Greg Koukl at Stand to Reason wrote a helpful post about the Old Testament law. Koukl says critics accuse Christians of picking and choosing from Old Testament laws. They claim we apply some and not others, and do so at our own convenience.

So how should we answer people who object to the use of a verse from Leviticus to condemn, say, homosexuality, because “Christians are no longer under law”?

Wednesday, May 12, 2021

The Wrong Word

Sometimes we’ve just plain got the wrong word in our Bibles.

Oh, don’t get me wrong, I know translators are highly skilled people. In almost every case when it was first translated it was the right word. It was clearly understood by its audience. It was the best English equivalent in its generation for a particular Greek or Hebrew expression.

But languages evolve. Meanings morph. Sometimes they even reverse themselves. Words that worked in one generation no longer transmit the intended message without causing confusion, eroding our ability to grasp what the writers of the word of God were trying to tell us. More than a few beloved expressions hang on well past their expiry dates.

My candidate of choice? The word “grace”.

Wednesday, April 28, 2021

Two Suppers

The differences between the things that are and the things we perceive are probably too great to enumerate.

In North America many of us live in suburbia alongside what appear to be perfectly pleasant, civil human beings. And by the standards of our day they are. Sure, like everyone they have secrets — desires that they wouldn’t express during a family get-together and things they have done about which nobody is aware — but by and large these are pretty normal, civic-minded, responsible individuals.

Have they sold their souls to Satan? We would say it’s unlikely, even absurd.

Saturday, January 02, 2021

Mining the Minors: Jonah (15)

In the last few decades, those of us who live in multicultural societies have been thoroughly propagandized against any visible display of racial animus. The social project of stigmatizing Western “racists” — to the point where even inadvertently acknowledging obvious differences between people groups commonly results in social shaming and summary disemployment — has been a great success among liberal whites, though notably less transformative across other demographics.

Having grown up in an era largely free of war, half-lobotomized by the steadily-mounting pressure of political correctness, more than a few of us may have difficulty imagining a time in which intense race-consciousness might have served the occasional useful purpose.

That would be most of the rest of human history.

Monday, August 31, 2020

Anonymous Asks (108)

“Why do we follow some Levitical laws and not others?”

Whenever we associate living the Christian life with following the Law of Moses, we run the risk of becoming very confused. Surprisingly, the relationship between Christianity and Old Testament Judaism is still much misunderstood today, even though the matter was conclusively sorted out very early in church history. It’s a situation made worse today by systems of theology that conflate the church with Israel.

But if we have our theology right, we will find Christians do not “follow Levitical laws” at all.

Sunday, July 05, 2020

Hide and Seek

“You will ... find me, when you seek me with all your heart.”

“I was ready to be found by those who did not seek me.”

Do those two statements sound the tiniest bit contradictory? They aren’t really. They might contradict each other if they were both promises, and both given to exactly the same people under precisely the same circumstances, but they are not. One is a promise; the other is simply an observation, though a singularly important one for those it affects.

Either way, the notion that God is out there to be found — and, even better, willing it to happen — is something about which we ought to rejoice.

Sunday, November 24, 2019

Grace to the Undeserving

“May the Lord be with you, as he has been with my father.”

Jonathan, son of Israel’s first king, said these words to David, who would become Israel’s second king. If you know the story, it may initially appear he was laying on the irony so thick it required a backhoe, or at least a team of oxen. His father Saul had a history we might optimistically describe as checkered: initially anointed and blessed by God, but characterized by rebellion and self-will. Told that he was to be rejected from being king, he fought God all the way.

He never seemed to realize he was fighting a losing battle. That tells you everything you need to know about Saul.

Tuesday, July 16, 2019


Bea tweets, “If god hates gays why do we keep winning?”

Good question. It sounds an awful lot like a punchline with which marauding Philistines might have taunted Israelite farmers around 1070 BC in the midst of plundering their produce and livestock with impunity: “If the God of Israel really hates the practices of the Canaanites, why is it we are running roughshod over his people?

“And by the way, your mother wears army boots!”

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Semi-Random Musings (13)

“Go, tell his disciples and Peter …”

The earliest manuscripts of the gospel of Mark end with a “young man” (read: angel) instructing three terrified women at the open tomb of the Lord Jesus to go and share the news that while Jesus of Nazareth had died and been buried, Christ the Lord had risen and planned to meet with his followers once more.

No wonder they trembled.

Tuesday, April 30, 2019

When Waiting is Worth It

“O Lord, why have you done evil to this people? Why did you ever send me? For since I came to Pharaoh to speak in your name, he has done evil to this people, and you have not delivered your people at all.”

Here we find Moses complaining to God that the Lord is not fulfilling his promises quite fast enough for Moses’ taste. Perhaps you may have voiced something similar once or twice.

We know how this particular story ends, right? God brings his people out of Egypt with a series of mighty, miraculous works, and makes a name for himself from one end of the known world to the other. The tale is still being told today.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Future Harvest, Present Grace

Fox Business says one reason a significant number of Millennials struggle to find work is that self-control is still considered a major workplace asset. Rightly or wrongly, employers tend to associate that quality with older workers.

Self-control is the ability to subdue our impulses in order to achieve longer-term goals; to do the necessary things even when our emotions get in the way — not a priority much stressed in the last few generations. Karl Moore notes, “Millennials value emotion. They are taught in high school and university a Postmodern worldview which puts thought [and] emotions on nearly the same plane.”

Well, if how I feel is going to dictate what I do today, I should not be surprised to find at the end of the day that I haven’t got a whole lot done. And that is a problem.

Sunday, December 10, 2017

On the Mount (8)

If the chronologists have it right (and they seem to agree more than they disagree), the Sermon on the Mount was preached less than halfway into the Lord’s ministry, probably during its second year.

God’s kingdom is mentioned eight times in the Sermon’s three chapters. In these studies we have tried so far to ensure we don’t ignore the elephant in the room: the Sermon’s original, primarily Jewish audience.

As a nation, Israel did not take up the Lord’s offer to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

Friday, October 06, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Not Going to Nashville [Part 5]

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

The Nashville Statement is a significant evangelical document. It’s an attempt by big names such as John Piper, R.C. Sproul, John MacArthur, Russell Moore, James Dobson and others to formulate a written response to Western culture’s post-Christian “massive revision of what it means to be a human being”, especially as that revision relates to sexuality and marriage.

Significant though it may be, in our final installment we’re discussing why, here at ComingUntrue, we’re Not Going to Nashville.

Tom: On to the ante-penultimate Article then.

Saturday, August 05, 2017

Inbox: Grace and Gratitude

PB takes thoughts from last Monday’s post in an interesting direction:

“ ‘Grace’ as understood today does indeed fall woefully short of conveying the depth of meaning in charis. Gratia, whence cometh grace, was ‘a goddess of charm, beauty, nature, human creativity and fertility in Greek mythology’, so it isn’t that the meaning has changed — it’s pretty close actually. It’s as you say — we don’t have an equivalent in English for charis.”

If we are to talk usefully about grace to people who do not understand what we mean by it, we are probably best to use four or five different English words, each conveying a single aspect of the meaning of charis.

Monday, July 31, 2017

The Wrong Word

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, July 03, 2017

On the Value of Frank Speech

A couple of stories about calling it as you see it.

The first was in a video lecture by Dr. Jordan Peterson. Pointing to a particular vignette in the Hieronymous Bosch triptych The Garden of Earthly Delights, Peterson improvised:

“That’s the lion lying down with the lamb. So that’s this idea that’s maybe projected back in time that there was a time — or maybe will be a time — when the horrors of life are no longer necessary for life itself to exist.

And the horrors of life are, of course, that everything eats everything else and that everything dies and that everything’s born and that the whole bloody place is a charnel house and it’s a catastrophe from beginning to end.

This is the vision of it being ... other than that.”

Boy, you could have heard a pin drop. He had the attention of everyone in the room.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Still Ticking Boxes

How many times have you heard that Christians are not under law, we are under grace?

A fair number, I’m guessing. But living by the Spirit rather than by the letter of the law requires more than just ticking boxes. We cannot read instructions in the New Testament in the same way many Israelites read their law; as if, having observed all direct commands, we are now free to behave however we may please.

Life by the Spirit just doesn’t work that way.

Thursday, March 30, 2017

Under Collective Judgment

I am not my dad. I don’t make quite the same mistakes. I make different mistakes. Likewise, I don’t do many things half as well or half as spiritually as my father does. We’re very different in many ways.

I’m definitely not my dad’s father. I never knew him. Many of his ways seem foreign to me. He lived in another era, one characterized by different assumptions and habits.

And my great-grandfather? You gotta be kidding.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

That Wacky Old Testament (9)

“The law of the Lord is perfect ...”

Not only perfect, but more desirable than gold and sweeter than a honeycomb. So says the word of God, and I believe it. But perhaps we ought to ask ourselves exactly what the Psalmist intended to convey with the word “perfect”. Because when people today examine what the law of Moses says on the subject of slavery, or the role of women, or animal sacrifices, they seem to find an awful lot to quibble about.

They would argue — quite forcefully, I might add — that the law of the Lord is far from perfect. Primitive, even.

Thursday, June 02, 2016

“We Should Only Allow …”

I’m reading a twenty year-old article on the subject of divorce written by a Christian whose judgment and understanding of scripture I respect and whose personal conduct as a believer is excellent.

So it’s hard to explain why I feel a bit irked as I work my way through it. I think it has to do with the phrase: “We should only allow …”

I wonder, who is “we”, and what is the biblical mechanism by which we choose to “allow” or “not allow” certain sorts of choices to be made by other believers?

Saturday, April 09, 2016

Inbox: The Worst Possible Answer

Bernie continues to muse about suffering from a biblical perspective:

“Some other things to consider:
  • Of the four identified types of suffering [see previous post], Christians get all four (yay!), non-Christians only get the first two.
  • Suffering of types two and three is not the mark of a failing Christian, it is the mark of a succeeding one. The more we do for God and the more we get serious about bringing Christ-likeness out fully, the more we will feel the knife — or, a better image — feel the weight of the cross. Opposition grows as we mature and become productive. This is (I think) why the people closest to God seem to suffer the most and endure the greatest hardships.

Thursday, April 07, 2016

Inbox: Applied Grace and the Smoking Ruins of My Life

Bernie holds forth about four causes of suffering:

“I suggest the source of suffering is four-fold in a mature Christian view:
  1. Sin in me (bad choices I make to my own detriment) — God’s purpose is discipline and correction.
  2. Sin around me (sins of others / fallen environment) — God’s purpose is to produce a stronger faith and, in our dissatisfaction here, a longing for our true home.
  3. Satan against me (the opposition made to those who are seeking to be productive for God) — “all who desire to live a godly life in Christ Jesus ...” You know the rest. If you’re going to be productive for God, you’re going to get hit often and painfully.
  4. God for me (a loving Father conforming me — through suffering — to produce Christlikeness: “The fellowship of his suffering”).

Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition

Like many statements about the Spanish Inquisition, that one’s not quite true.

Initially, at least, everyone expected the Spanish Inquisition. When the Inquisition rolled up on your city, the Inquisitor would publicly read out the Edict of Grace after Sunday mass, after which those who presented themselves within the next 30 to 40 days were able to reconcile with the state church without severe consequences.

So much for the cliché. Still, some people have a view of history that’s about as accurate as Michael Palin’s opening salvo from the famous Monty Python skit.

Saturday, July 18, 2015

Fulfilling or Destroying

A couple of days ago I posted some thoughts on the place of the Law of Moses in the life of the Christian.

Most Christians who have read Romans or Galatians understand that we are not under law but under grace. However, because the teaching of the Lord Jesus is traditionally bundled with our New Testament, some believers have difficulty recognizing that things like the Sermon on the Mount are really addressed to people living under and seeking to obey the rules of the Old Covenant.

Confusion on this subject leads to inconsistent interpretation and maybe even inconsistent living. It’s worth a careful and prayerful look.

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Two Suppers

The most recent version of this post is available here

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Christians and the Law: Repercussions

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ ”.
These words in Acts 15:1 introduce an issue that challenged the Christian church soon after its inception and would continue to be debated among the believers for years to come.

But what were the consequences of the Apostles’ attempts to deal with the controversy?

The Consequences 

When the meeting at Jerusalem concluded, Barnabas, Paul and their new companions Judas and Silas promptly carried the apostolic letter to the church at Antioch, where it was received with great rejoicing.

Although the issue of whether or not circumcision and Law-keeping were necessary to salvation remained a hotly debated one in the Christian community for some time afterward, and Paul was soon forced to write a lengthy epistle to the church at Galatia to counteract the grievously effective work of the Judaizers among them, there could no longer be a doubt as to the opinion of the leading apostles and elders on this question. 

The official statement had been made: Gentiles were justified by faith in Jesus Christ alone, and neither circumcision nor observance of the Mosaic Law was necessary to complete their justification.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

Christians and the Law: Answering the Challenge

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ ”.
These words in Acts 15:1 introduce an issue that challenged the Christian church soon after its inception and would continue to be debated among the believers for years to come.

But how did the apostles deal with this challenge to the gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ?

Peter’s attempt to persuade his brethren was based on his personal experience of how God had worked in the hearts and lives of the Gentiles who had believed through his ministry. He described how God had not only directed him to share the gospel with pagan people, but had showed His approval by bestowing the Holy Spirit on those who had believed. By giving the Spirit He had clearly shown that in His sight the Gentile believers were no different from and no less privileged than the Jewish believers.

This being the case, what grounds were there for saying that the uncircumcised Gentiles were inferior in God’s sight and needed to do more to complete their salvation?

Had God Himself made a mistake in giving the Spirit prematurely to people who were not truly saved? 

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Christians and the Law: Controversy

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ ”.
These words in Acts 15:1 introduce an issue that challenged the Christian church soon after its inception and would continue to be debated among the believers for years to come.

But why was it such a crucial matter for the early church?

Paul’s background as a Pharisee certainly gave him a ready understanding of the Judaizers’ position, but on the basis of his knowledge of the gospel of grace, he strongly opposed their teaching. Years later he would explain to the Galatians:
“A man is not justified by the works of the Law but through faith in Christ Jesus ... by the works of the Law shall no flesh be justified ...  if righteousness comes through the Law, then Christ died needlessly.” (Galatians 2:16,21)
Paul and Barnabas fought the Judaizers in Antioch for some time before it became clear that the debate must be officially resolved. At last the church at Antioch decided to send a delegation, led by Paul and Barnabas, to Jerusalem to consult the apostles and elders there.

Whatever was decided at the council would determine the practice of the Gentile believers throughout the Roman Empire and throughout subsequent history.

Saturday, April 05, 2014

Christians and the Law: Why the Confusion?

“And some men came down from Judea and began teaching the brethren, ‘Unless you are circumcised according to the custom of Moses, you cannot be saved’ ”.
These words in Acts 15:1 introduce an issue that challenged the Christian church soon after its inception and would continue to be debated among the believers for years to come.

But where did this controversy originate?

The Cause 

In order to trace this issue back to its roots, one must go back to the Old Testament and consider what it has to say about the relationship between Jew and Gentile.