Series A — Baptism of Jesus

It doesn’t take much to be confused. Just when we think we get it, something throws us off track. Take a look at many of the items made today that we buy in the U.S. Most of them say “Made in China.” Imagine my surprise last week when I bought a prominent Chinese hot sauce — it was made in the USA!

I think John might have experienced something like that with Jesus. He knew something about Jesus, more than most. His preaching pointed ahead to Jesus, the Messiah. As John begins his ministry of baptizing and preaching repentance, the last person he expected to see is Jesus. If anybody did not need what he was offering, it was Jesus. Little wonder that John tried to “deter him” (NIV), “prevent him” (NAS/NAB), “stop him” (GW).

Yet here is Jesus, at the Jordan to be baptized by John. Jesus said: “It is proper for us to do this to fulfill all righteousness” (Matt. 3:15). The obvious intent is that Jesus fulfills all righteousness (perfect obedience: active, in living for God; passive, dying for all who fail). Yet, Jesus says that “it is proper for us to do this.” In other words, John’s role is essential in Jesus fulfilling all righteousness.

So there is a double surprise: Jesus to be baptized, and John’s role in God’s plan for Jesus fulfilling all righteousness.

Perhaps we need the reminder that with God there are no insignificant words, acts, or even thoughts.

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SBL New Testament

Accordance
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For my study and use, Accordance 9 is top notch, and I use it daily.

But sometimes, access to my computer is limited. Hence this new product from a joint work between SBL and Logos Software is a valuable new edition to Biblical studies, especially on the go.

I haven’t had a chance to look at it in depth, but from the initial review, it should be a good resource for all users of the Greek.

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Press Release for SBL:

Free critically edited Greek New Testament propels biblical scholarship forward

BELLINGHAM, WA—October 28, 2010—The Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software announced today the release of The Greek New Testament: SBL Edition (SBLGNT), a critically edited Greek New Testament.

For the first time ever, students, teachers, pastors and laypeople throughout the world can access a reliable, critically edited version of the Greek New Testament for free electronically. And because the SBLGNT has a generous end-user license agreement and doesn’t require proprietary fonts, users can easily interact with and share the text at no cost.

With the work of textual criticism far from complete, there is a continual need for fresh research and analysis. The SBLGNT, edited by Michael W. Holmes, utilizes a wide range of printed editions, all the major critical apparatuses, and the latest technical resources and manuscript discoveries to establish the text. The result is a critically edited text that differs from the Nestle-Aland/United Bible Societies text in more than 540 variation units.

In addition to the free electronic edition, the Society of Biblical Literature and Logos Bible Software also offer a reasonably priced, professionally produced print edition of the SBLGNT, which includes the full apparatus of variant readings from the NA27 and the four primary editions on which the SBLGNT is based.

To find out more about the SBLGNT or to download a copy, visit http://www.sblgnt.com.

Discipleship #5

Regular Use of Spiritual Gifts:

Many seem to think that speaking of spiritual gifts is almost “un-Lutheran.” Nothing could be further from the truth. According to Peter’s first letter every Christian is a priest. The Reformation was founded on that principle. Paul adds that every Christian is gifted by the Holy Spirit to carry out the ministry of the priesthood of all believers. Not all have the same gifts, nor are all of us in competition to see who has the more noticeable gift. God gives the gifts for us Christians to use—to bring honor to His Name, to expand the Church, and to build and strengthen those already in the Church. Your gifts and giftedness are vital to the Church!

Romans 12:4–6 For as we have many members in one body, but all the members do not have the same function, so we, being many, are one body in Christ, and individually members of one another. Having then gifts differing according to the grace that is given to us, let us use them: if prophecy, let us prophesy in proportion to our faith;

1 Corinthians 12:4–7 There are diversities of gifts, but the same Spirit. There are differences of ministries, but the same Lord. And there are diversities of activities, but it is the same God who works all in all. But the manifestation of the Spirit is given to each one for the profit of all:

1 Peter 4:10–11 As each one has received a gift, minister it to one another, as good stewards of the manifold grace of God. If anyone speaks, let him speak as the oracles of God. If anyone ministers, let him do it as with the ability which God supplies, that in all things God may be glorified through Jesus Christ, to whom belong the glory and the dominion forever and ever. Amen.

Discipleship #4

The Flagellation of Our Lord Jesus Christ (1880)
Image via Wikipedia

Regular Giving:

True stewardship is hard to find today. We are bombarded by abuses on all sides. People give according to law—the church’s, the leaders’, their own, the church budget—and the Church seems to financially be drained. This leads to long-term problems for the Lord’s work. BUT Christian giving is be based on the Gospel—what Jesus has done for us. Therefore, giving results from our relationship with God. The Christian recognizes that everything is the Lord’s, giving is first fruits, giving is done regularly, and giving is according to God’s riches and His blessings.

Matthew 6:24 “No one can serve two masters; for either he will hate the one and love the other, or else he will be loyal to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve God and mammon.”

1 Corinthians 16:2 On the first day of the week let each one of you lay something aside, storing up as he may prosper, that there be no collections when I come.

2 Corinthians 8:9 For you know the grace of our Lord Jesus Christ, that though He was rich, yet for your sakes He became poor, that you through His poverty might become rich.

Discipleship Intro

The following posts will offer some thoughts about discipleship from a Lutheran perspective.

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As a child of God through faith in Jesus Christ, Who is the Head of the Church, we have been granted great and precious promises, namely, the forgiveness of sins and the assurance of everlasting life in heaven. This means more, however, than attending worship services occasionally. As a member of the Body of Christ, we are a branch grafted into the Vine, Jesus Christ. Our life and health are tied to Him.

We as Christians have agreed to walk together in faith. We support, encourage, ex­hort, and rebuke one another—always in love. We also seek together to do the will of our heavenly Father. The primary task of the Church is to worship God and make disciples. That can be done only through a Word and Sacrament ministry (see Matthew 28:18–20). Every Christian is to be involved in the disciple-making process. God gives us the vision, the resources, and the strength for this most important work.

Chief Article of the Christian Faith

The Lutheran Confessions state clearly that justification by grace through faith in Jesus Christ is the article by which the Church stands or falls. Carl Braaten (Principles of Lutheran Theology, Fortress, 2007) in his chapter on “The Confessional Principle” posed the challenge for us, “The question we face today as Lutherans is whether justification by faith alone is still the right key for the church” (p. 43). And yet, he fails to give an adequate response, especially in light of two shifts in recent decades that challenge such a claim.

1. New Perspective on Paul: Breaking ground on this was Krister Stendahl and James D. G. Dunn. However, N. T. Wright has led the way in challenging the essential issue at stake in Pauline with what is called the New Perspective on Paul. He claims that Luther and the reformers framed the issue around their own current topics, not around what Paul and the NT presented. In essence, Luther asked the wrong question (how can a sinner be justified before a holy God?).

Recently Dan Wallace offered a compelling critique of Wright and the NPP, “Δικαιοσύνη Θεοῦ and N. T. Wright.” As a convenient summary, Wallace writes about the problem from a lexical perspective, “It has coherence when it is not interacting with the particulars of the text, but it wreaks havoc at the lexical level for it is self-defeating.” But Wallace further highlights the ultimate failure of Wright’s approach and method, “I would view Wright’s synthesis of Romans as a brilliant failure—brilliant because of how coherent it is, but a failure because it sits three feet above the text at all points where it would be inconvenient to wrestle with what the text actually says.”

Paul McCain offers a Lutheran starting point for evaluating the NPP with his article on CyberBrethren.

2. Post-modernism: Braaten is definitely a “modern” writer. As you read his works, it almost seems as if he is reluctant to give up the modern perspective for the post-modern reality of life. He has regularly written about the failures of the ELCA and its abandonment of the Lutheran perspective, whether due to the reduction to social gospel or the emphasis on the gospel of inclusiveness. But still his framework is the absolutes of modernity. Thus, while he offers valuable critiques of what went wrong, he offers nothing with regard to a post-modern world view.

So, the challenge of Braaten’s question is still there, but the response has to deal with the post-modern challenges. Stay tuned.