Tuesday, March 30, 2021

Noting The Contrast Between Faith And Works Throughout The Pauline Epistles

  • Paul's Epistle To The Romans:
          -A freely received gift and an earned wage are mutually exclusive concepts (Romans 4:4).
          -Justification in the sight of God is not earned as a result of what one has done, but is received with the empty hand of faith (Romans 4:5).
          -Abraham was declared righteous on the basis of his faith rather than his circumcision (Romans 4:9-12). Faith is contrasted with circumcision, which is a type of good work.
          -The promise of God to Abraham and his descendants comes not through the Law but by faith (Romans 4:13).
          -The promises of God to those who have faith would be made of no effect if righteousness came through the Law (Romans 4:14).
          -Faith is consistent with grace in order that the promises of God to Abraham and his descendants be brought to fulfillment (Romans 4:16). The Law brings forth condemnation (Romans 4:15).
  • Paul's Epistle To The Galatians:
          -The Holy Spirit is received by faith and not by "works of the Law" or "the flesh" (Galatians 3:2-3).
          -Those who rely on faith, not the works of the Law, are regarded as children of Abraham in the sight of God (Galatians 3:6-9).
          -Dependence on works of the Law for salvation brings about a curse (Galatians 3:10-14).
          -The inheritance that we receive through the promises of God depends on His grace and not Law (Galatians 3:15-18).
  • Paul's Epistle To The Ephesians:
          -We have been saved by grace through faith, not as a result of works (Ephesians 2:8-9).
  • Paul's Epistle To The Philippians:
          -We serve God in the Spirit and place no confidence in the flesh (Philippians 3:3).
          -Even though the Apostle Paul could point to the deeds of the flesh that he performed in his days as a Pharisee (Philippians 3:4-6), he gave all that up for faith in Christ (Philippians 3:7).
          -Paul regarded his fleshly works done under the Law as rubbish in order that he be known by Jesus Christ (Philippians 3:8).
          -We receive righteousness from God on the basis of faith, not by deeds performed under the Law (Philippians 3:9).
  • Paul's Second Epistle To Timothy:
          -We are saved and called to glorify God by His grace through our faith in Him and not because of our works (2 Timothy 1:9).
  • Paul's Epistle To Titus:
          -We are saved by the grace and mercy of God, not on the basis of our works (Titus 3:5).
          -We become heirs having the confident expectation of eternal life on the basis of grace (Titus 3:7).

Saturday, March 27, 2021

A Commentary On Shekinah Glory

Shechinah. This term is not found in the Bible. It was used by the later Jews, and borrowed by Christians from them, to express the visible majesty of the Divine Presence especially when resting or dwelling between cherubim on the mercy-seat in the Tabernacle and in the temple of Solomon; but not in Zerubbabel's temple, for it was one of the five particulars which the Jews reckon to have been wanting in the second Temple. The use of the term is first found in the Targums, where it a frequent periphrasis for God, considered as dwelling amongst the children of Israel, and is thus used, especially by Onkelos, to avoid ascribing corporeity to God Himself. In Ex. xxv. 8, where the Hebrew has "Let them make me a sanctuary that I may dwell among them," Onkelos has, "I will make my Shechinah to among them." In xxix. 45, 46, for the Hebrew "I will dwell among the children of Israel," Onkelos has, "I will make my Shechinah to dwell," &c. In Ps. lxxiv. 2, "for this Mount Zion wherein thou hast dwelt," the Targum has "wherein thy Shechinah hath dwelt." In the description of the dedication of  Solomon's Temple (1 K. viii. 12, 13), the Targum of Jonathan runs thus: "The Lord is to make His Shechinah dwell in Jerusalem. I have built the house of the sanctuary for the house of thy Shechinah forever." And in 1 K. vi. 13, for the Heb. "I will dwell among the children of Israel," Jonathan has "I will make my Shechinah dwell." In Is. vi. 5, he has the combination, "the glory of the Shechinah of the King of ages the Lord of Hosts;" and in the next verse he paraphrases "from off the altar" by "from before His Shechinah on the throne of glory in the lofty heavens that are above the altar." Compare also Num. v. 3, xxxv. 34; Ps. lxviii. 17, 18, cxxxv. 21; Is. xxxiii. 5, lvii. 15; Joel iii. 17, 21, and numerous other passages. On the other hand, it should be noticed that the Targums never render "the cloud" or "the glory" by Shechinah. Hence, as regards the use of the word Shechinah in the Targums, it may be defined as a periphrasis for God whenever He is said to dwell on, Zion amongst Israel, or between the cherubims, and so on, in order as before said, to avoid the slightest approach to materialism. Our view of the Targumistic of the Shechinah would not be complete if we did not add, that though, as we have seen, the Jews reckoned the Shechinah among the marks of the divine favor which were wanting to the second Temple, they manifestly expected the return of the Shechinah in the days of the Messiah. Thus Hagg. i. 8, "Build the house, and I will take pleasure in it, and I will be glorified, saith the Lord," is paraphrased by Jonathan, "I will cause my Shechinah to dwell in it in glory." Compare also Ez. xliii. 7, 9; Zech. ii. 10, viii. 3. As regards the visible manifestation of the Divine Presence dwelling amongst the Israelites, to which the term Shechinah has attached itself, the idea which the different accounts in Scripture convey is that of a most brilliant and glorious light, enveloped in a cloud, and usually concealed by the cloud, so that the cloud itself was for the most part alone visible; but on particular occasions, the glory appeared. The allusions in the NT to the Shechinah are not unfrequent. Thus in the account of the Nativity, the words, "Lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them and, the glory of the Lord shone round about them" (Luke ii. 9), followed by the apparition of "the multitude of the heavenly host," recall the appearance of the divine glory on Sinai, when "He shined forth from Paran, and came with ten thousands of saints" (Deut. xxxiii. 2; comp. Ps. lxviii. 17; Ezek. xliii. 2; Acts vii. 53; Heb ii. 2). The "God of glory" (Acts vii. 2, 55), the "cherubims of glory" (Heb ix. 5), "the glory" (Rom. ix. 4), and other like passages, are distinct references to the manifestations of the glory in the O.T. When we read in John i. 14, that "the Word was made flesh and dwelt among us and we beheld His glory" or in 2 Cor. xii. 9, "that the power of Christ may rest upon me;" or in Rev. xxi. 3, "Behold the tabernacle of God is with men, and He will dwell with them,"-we have not only references to the Shechinah, but are distinctly taught to connect it with the incarnation and future coming of Messiah, as type with antitype. It should also be specially noticed that the attendance of angels is usually associated with the Shechinah. These are most frequently called (Ez. x., xi.) cherubim; but sometimes, as in Is. vi., seraphim (comp. Rev. iv. 7, 8). The predominant association, however, is with the cherubim, of which the golden cherubim on the mercy-seat were the representation.

William Smith, A Dictionary Of the Bible Comprising Its Antiquities, Biography, Geography, and Natural History, p. 878-879

Sunday, March 14, 2021

Hebrews 1:3 And The Deity Of Christ

        "And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high." (Hebrews 1:3)

        This text is a very strong affirmation of the deity of Christ and is packed with meaning. The phrase "exact representation" can be illustrated using an ideal cut diamond as an analogy. The glory of Christ transcends the effulgence of even the most precious gems.

        God the Son possesses the same divine nature as God the Father. He has the same divine glory as God the Father. He is the wisdom of God. He is wisdom incarnate (1 Corinthians 1:24; 30; Colossians 2:3).

        The English Standard Version renders "exact representation" as "the exact imprint." The New Living Translation renders "exact representation" as "represents God exactly." The New Century Version renders "exact representation" as "shows exactly what God is like." No man or angel can rightfully have this kind of description applied to themselves.

        How can Hebrews 1:3 not be a supporting text for the deity of Christ when we know from the Old Testament that God will not give His glory to another (Psalm 83:18; Isaiah 42:8; 48:11)?

        Some commentators believe that the author of Hebrews drew from the Wisdom of Solomon in asserting the divinity of Christ:

        "She is a breath of God's power—a pure and radiant stream of glory from the Almighty. Nothing that is defiled can ever steal its way into Wisdom. She is a reflection of eternal light, a perfect mirror of God's activity and goodness. " (Wisdom 7:25-26) 

        Wisdom is personified in the above excerpt. Wisdom is a prominent exhibition of the divine glory of God. This wisdom and glory shines forth in the Person of Jesus Christ.

Friday, March 12, 2021

Is Mary The Mother Of The Church?

        One of the Marian dogmas of the Roman Catholic Church is that Mary is our spiritual mother:

        "Everyone has a mother. Yes, the mother who gave them birth in the physical order of life. But Christian believers have another mother, the Blessed Virgin Mary, in the spiritual order of grace. Jesus willed to give Mary as a mother to the early Church, when, from the cross, he looked at his mother and said, “Woman, behold, your son” (John 19:26). And to the beloved disciple, “Behold, your mother” (John 19:27)." (http://www.catholicdigest.com/faith/spirituality/mother-of-the-church/)

        The Apostle Paul tells us in Galatians 4:26 that the heavenly Jerusalem is the mother of the church:

        "But the Jerusalem above is free; she is our mother."

        In that same context, the virgin birth is alluded to and Mary is only described as a woman: 

        "But when the fullness of the time came, God sent His Son, born of a woman, born under the Law." (Galatians 4:4)

        In his epistle to the Romans, Paul mentioned Rufus' mother and said that she had been a motherly figure to him: 

        "Greet Rufus, a choice man in the Lord, also his mother and mine." (Romans 16:13)

        If Mary is the mother of the church, then it would seem ironic and even disrespectful for him to say nothing in regards to her.

        The Apostle John says nothing about Mary in his letters to the churches and mentions her only twice in his gospel (the wedding at Cana and the crucifixion of Jesus). This is significant because he took Mary into his home after Jesus was crucified.

        John was the disciple who Jesus loved (John 21:20). He was present at His crucifixion. Because John believed Christ to be the Son of God, he was considered a part of the true family of God (Luke 8:21). Christ's blood brothers did not believe at that point in time and hence were not a part of His true family (John 7:5). That is why Christ handing His mother Mary to John for care rather than one of His blood brothers can be viewed as appropriate. In so doing, He was being faithful to both the letter and spirit of the Law.

        "The Fathers of the Church and early Christian writers did not so interpret the words of the dying Christ [John 19:25-27]. Development of the idea of Mary's spiritual motherhood was slow and did not enter the consciousnesses of the Church until medieval times. During those early centuries, the sacred text did not immediately convey the notion. Lengthy reflection was needed to reach it." (Michael O'Carroll, cited in Cult of the Virgin: Catholic Mariology and the Apparitions of Mary, Elliot Miller and Kenneth R. Samples, p. 44)