Category : Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Tim Tennant–Uniting Methodists Document and the Local Option (Part IV): What is the New Testament Teaching on sexual morality?

But, for now, it is clear that the Uniting Methodists document requires that we consider all of the language around sexual immorality in the New Testament as either generic, non-specific or only referring to a very tiny slice of sexual immorality; namely, pederasty. Yet, as we have seen, the exegetical case for this is not defensible. If we are being asked to sign off on this option and “agree to disagree” on this issue, then we will need to have a much better conversation about the biblical data which pertains to this question.

I, for one, remain completely unconvinced by the progressive argument and am actually disappointed that they would argue so strongly about their commitment to biblical authority and yet provide no serious exegetical argument for the dramatic changes they wish to usher into the life and faith of the church. To move a named sin from a New Testament “sin list” and declare that we are now to regard it as a sacrament is unprecedented. Christians have every right to resist this doctrinal innovation which is being embraced by a few declining mainline denominations in the western world.

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Posted in Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Methodist, Sexuality Debate (Other denominations and faiths)

Monday Morning Food for Thought–Daring to Believe the Gospel, Craig Keener on Matthew 13

Sometimes daring to believe in opposition to the values around us means believing the gospel even in contrast to the practice of Christianity we see around us! These people dare to make a difference in the world for the name of their Lord Jesus. Jesus already understood what many of us who work for him have yet to learn: in the long run, drawing crowds is less significant for the kingdom than training those who will multiply the work by training others in turn. Perhaps many of us prefer numbers in the short term over spiritual depth because we lack the faith to believe that such depth is essential (compare v. 12); but fifty disciples with spiritual depth will produce greater numbers in the end than a million raised hands without commitment ever could.

We should take careful note, however, of Matthew’s description of the fruitful person: the fruitful person is the one who understands the message (v. 23). Only those who press close to Jesus, persevering until they understand the real point of his teaching, will prove to be long-term disciples (vv. 10-17; compare Jn 8:31-32; Marshall 1974:62-63).

–from his Matthew IVP New Testament Commentary

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Theology: Scripture

[Ian Paul] Can We Fix Bible Translation?

… there are at least three reasons why translations can never really be fixed. The first is that we might make discoveries in the ancient world which shed new light on the significance of ideas, terms or episodes. The second is that, there continue to be discoveries of new and earlier manuscripts of the NT which might affect translation. The primary reason why the KJV is not a good Bible to read and study (apart from its archaic language) is that, since it was fixed 150 years after the first version, we have discovered many more better, earlier manuscripts of both Old and New Testaments, the most significant being the Dead Sea Scrolls. But the third reason has to do with our world; contemporary language continues to change, and so translation to this changing ”˜target language’ will need to be open to review.

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

English Standard Version Bible News

Beginning in the summer of 2016, the text of the ESV Bible will remain unchanged in all future editions printed and published by Crossway””in much the same way that the King James Version (KJV) has remained unchanged ever since the final KJV text was established almost 250 years ago (in 1769). This decision was made unanimously by the Crossway Board of Directors and the ESV Translation Oversight Committee. All future Crossway editions of the ESV, therefore, will contain the Permanent Text of the ESV Bible””unchanged throughout the life of the copyright, in perpetuity.

The creation of the ESV Permanent Text represents the culmination of more than seventeen years of comprehensive work by the Translation Oversight Committee, as authorized and initiated by the Crossway Board in 1998. (For additional information about the ESV Bible translation, read more about the translation philosophy). The decision now to create the Permanent Text of the ESV was made with equally great care””so that people who love the ESV Bible can have full confidence in the ESV, knowing that it will continue to be published as is, without being changed, for the rest of their lives, and for generations to come….

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Al Mohler: The scandal of Biblical illiteracy

..Churches must recover the centrality and urgency of biblical teaching and preaching, and refuse to sideline the teaching ministry of the preacher. Pastors and churches too busy”“or too distracted”“to make biblical knowledge a central aim of ministry will produce believers who simply do not know enough to be faithful disciples.

We will not believe more than we know, and we will not live higher than our beliefs. The many fronts of Christian compromise in this generation can be directly traced to biblical illiteracy in the pews and the absence of biblical preaching and teaching in our homes and churches.

This generation must get deadly serious about the problem of biblical illiteracy, or a frighteningly large number of Americans”“Christians included”“will go on thinking that Sodom and Gomorrah lived happily ever after.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Jesus – our older brother – A Kendall Harmon sermon on Hebrews 2

“He is your great high priest, He is your elder brother and pioneer, He is the conqueror of death”
Dr Kendall Harmon’s sermon from Sunday on Hebrews 2:5-18

Listen to it all or download it here if you wish.

Posted in * By Kendall, * Christian Life / Church Life, * South Carolina, Biblical Commentary & Reflection, Christology, Ministry of the Ordained, Parish Ministry, Preaching / Homiletics, Sermons & Teachings, Theology, Theology: Scripture

Archbishop Ben Kwashi: Unconditional love for our enemies

The love of God is revolutionary. It is not a careless, sentimental, “I love you.” The love of God transforms, it changes you completely! When Jesus died on the cross carrying our sins and our burdens, he literally took our hatred, our bitterness, our lies and our unforgiveness into the grave. When He rose on the third day, He left those unwanted commodities in the grave. He came out triumphant bursting out with love!. God is LOVE!

When you hate, you are walking back into the grave to take what Jesus has already deposited there. When you say you will not forgive, you are going back to the grave and taking something that is like contraband in heaven! You cannot take hatred or lies or unforgiveness to heaven. If it is useless to God and to you so why carry it around?

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Archbishop Gregory Venables on Mission Accomplished

Fifth and final Bible Study at New Wine Ireland on July 17th summarised by Ruth Garvey-Williams
Most things are never done because people never start. While they are procrastinating, things never happen. God will deal with things while you are getting on with it. You cannot get into the Promised Land sitting in a chair thinking and praying about it. There is a time to get up and do it! Tomorrow we are going to do it. Whatever happens we are going to do it. Then you find that God is with you. Otherwise it won’t happen.

2 Timothy 1:7. Timothy was fearful. Peter was the same Peter who denied Christ. Don’t say, “It is not me.”

How many of you do not open your mouths because you are ashamed? The fear of man can stop you doing what you need to do. Don’t be ashamed. Be shameless! Share in the suffering. You are not called to avoid suffering. You are called to share in the suffering.

We know whom we have believed. I don’t look at the problem, I look at Him. God has been faithful and kept us over all these years! He is good. And all those times when we didn’t know what was going to happen and how we were going to go on, He was there. So we are not ashamed. We might not understand it all, we might not have it all worked out but we know Him.

Paul knew where he was going. If you know where you are going, then you are fine! CS Lewis wrote, “If you read history you will find that the Christians who did most for the present world were those who thought most of the next.”

Read it all from half way down
Earlier Bible Studies in this series:
1. First Things First
2. Saying ‘Yes’
3. Spiritual Warfare
4. All Through the Storm

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Archbishop Gregory Venables on All through the Storm

Fourth Bible Study at New Wine Ireland on July 16th summarised by Ruth Garvey-Williams

Reading from Mark 4:35-42. We know the story so we need to read it very carefully. Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side.” Keep that in your mind. Our general theme is how do we grow into maturity. Jesus wants us to stay childlike but not childish. He wants us to grow up. This often means a change in our thinking. How you think changes how you are.

Growing up doesn’t mean moving on from the foundation. When you stand on the rock, you might tremble but the rock will never tremble under your feet. The rock on which you stand is always secure! It is eternal and safe. Becoming mature doesn’t mean becoming more self-assured, self-confident or self-dependent. It means getting to the end of yourself and becoming more dependent on Him and more open to Him.

This morning we are looking at the issues of suffering, pain and sorrow. Christ went down to death itself and came out in glory. 2 Corinthians 4: We have this treasure in jars of clay to show that the surpassing power belongs to God and not to us. What is it like to serve God 100%? We are afflicted in every way but not crushed, perplexed but not despairing, persecuted but not forsaken, struck down but no destroyed”¦ We who live are always being given over to death for Jesus sake so that the life of Jesus may also be manifested at our mortal flesh. If you are feeling afflicted, perplexed, persecuted and struck down, then you are in good company. This is the Christian life. So often in recent years, this gospel has been misrepresented and there is a lot of confusion.

1) Very often the storm lies in the path of obedience.

Jesus said, “Let us go over to the other side.” Then the storm came. That is not OUR theology, that is God’s theology. We want to believe that if Jesus is in the boat, there is no storm. God’s way of obedience often means travelling through the storm. If the wind is blowing around you, it doesn’t mean necessarily that you are out of God’s will…

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Archbishop Gregory Venables on Spiritual Warfare

Third Bible Study at New Wine Ireland on July 15th summarised by Ruth Garvey-Williams

We are made in the image of God. God is spirit and we are spiritual beings (body, soul and spirit) and our spirit has been separated from God by sin. We are blind and we rebel and therefore no amount of human reasoning and argument and methodology will work because the problem is spiritual. Intellectual argument is useless.

In Acts 26:18 God says, “I’m sending you to open their eyes so that they might turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God.” How do you do that? You just GO and the Holy Spirit does His work. Light comes into darkness. That is what we have been called to do. Each one of us has been called to be light in the darkness – every single one of us! Not just one or two special people. If you don’t do it, it won’t be done. It begins with you being there. Pentecost was not an implosion. They did not stay in the upper room having a wonderful meeting. It was an explosion. Many of our churches need an explosion. Can you imagine if they had not gone out? What would have happened?

You will find that when you go out into the real world and start being light and salt”¦ all those things that weigh you down and burden you, all those things that make you feel sorry for yourself”¦ just start to disappear. It doesn’t mean you won’t have problems, but you will see them differently.
Some people are unnecessarily afraid. It is the enemy is the one who needs to be afraid. God has looked after us every second. We’ve been through fire and water but we weren’t burnt and we were not drowned! Put on the armour every day! And remember that Satan cannot hold on to you!

Protect your mind. Be careful who you listen to and what you listen to. Be careful what you watch on TV. Satan will fight until the end the battle of the mind. That is why you need to have the word of God because that it will change your way of thinking. God has not given us a spirit of fear. If there is fear, it is not from God!

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Archbishop Gregory Venables on saying 'Yes'

Second Bible Study at New Wine Ireland on July 14th summarised by Ruth Garvey-Williams
Reading from John 7: 37 -39. God has so much more for you – rivers of living water, not a little trickle! And God wants so much more. God wants all of you. Every single little tiny bit of you. If you were the only sinner in the world, Christ would have died for you. That is love. And it is 100%. Do not judge God in the light of your experience, judge your experience in the light of God.

When I proposed to my wife, she said not a word. But one little tear trickled down her cheek and that said it all!

God will never overcome your free will. He will always wait to hear you say welcome. Love depends on how you respond. Are you thirsty?

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Archbishop Gregory Venables on 'First Things First'

First Bible Study at New Wine Ireland on July 13th summarised by Ruth Garvey-Williams
Corinthians 14:20: Brothers and sisters, stop thinking like children. In regard to evil be infants, but in your thinking be adults.

Somebody has to say it. At this stage in world history, God is saying, “I want you to grow up.” Unless the church matures and begins to function as the church was intended to function, what is going to happen? In the western world, we have abandoned the word of God and we have abandoned everything that makes sense.

How can I grow up? How can I take steps towards the maturity God wants in my life?

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Sunday Sermon: Christopher Seitz: The Wedding Banquet

Sermon given at St Matthews, Riverdale, Toronto on Sunday October 12th, Canadian Thanksgiving Weekend

Matthew 22: 1-14
As the rector reminded us last week, we are at that place in Matthew’s Gospel, and in our lectionary readings, where a series of parables come one after the other, repeat themes, and reinforce one another. Jesus has now arrived in Jerusalem before his passion. He has spoken openly to his disciples about his pending death, and the violence that will precede it.

“The Son of Man will be delivered over to the chief priests and scribes and they will condemn him to death and deliver him over to the Gentiles to be mocked and flogged and crucified.”

Now he has arrived at the fateful moment and he begins to address them in parables. One thing is striking. The theme of violence is unmistakable. A prominent householder builds a fine vineyard with all the bells and whistles. He lets it out to tenants who not only produce nothing worth mentioning but beat and kill his servants when they arrive to inspect. He sends in reinforcements and they get the same terrible treatment. At last he sends his own son, thinking this will bring them to their senses. Instead they devise to kill him, so the vineyard will be theirs.

At this point Jesus turns to the religious leaders and asks what ought to be done? Their verdict is swift: put the wretches to a miserable death and let the vineyard out to those who will produce fruit.

This morning we get a similar story in three rounds. Now we have a king who puts on a lavish banquet, in honor of his son. Save the date notices have gone out, and servants are dispatched when the great day arrives. But the invited guests refuse to show up…
He sends out servants to clarify what a grand affair it is; and the food is piping hot! For their effort they are ignored, or indeed, beaten and killed. This time the king’s response matches the verdict given earlier by the religious leaders. Incensed, the king sends out troops who destroy the murderers and burn down their city.

Before we turn to the parable’s conclusion, notable surely is the almost irrational violence displayed, first to servants and the son of the vineyard owner. And then to the servants of the King…by guests invited to a lavish banquet! This is not only refusing to attend Mom’s thanksgiving dinner, but going on a senseless rampage when she says to turn off the TV and blowing up the car in the driveway.

The violence within these parables in Jerusalem only makes sense against the backdrop of Jesus’ last days. Accurately, if tragically, they anticipate the treatment Jesus will receive from his own people, as well as the gentile rulers. The vineyard owner’s son has come! The messianic banquet is ready! But Jesus knows what is in store for him. And he is right.

Now at one level the parables are fairly straightforward. God expected a responsive vineyard and joy at a banquet he had labored to prepare. But rather than seeing Jesus as its true fulfillment, the very son of God, the invited guests reject and kill him.

So what does he do? He goes out into the streets and invites others to come. Good and bad, you and me.

But as with last week, the parable is not so straightforward as it first seems. Someone is there at the banquet and notable for not bothering with a wedding garment, appropriate to the occasion and available for free at the door. Unlike the others, he is at the buffet table in a trench coat with deep pockets, piling in the chess pie and turkey with dressing. For this, we should note, his treatment is every bit as severe as that of the ingrates who killed the King’s servants. “Bind him hand and foot and cast him into outer darkness.”

Surely at this point the parable turns on its searchlight and scans for you and me. Am I wearing a wedding garment? What does that mean? One answer for sure is: to be a joyous participant at God’s banquet is more than just shuttling in with someone else’s battered and unused invitation, left behind after the city of invited guests was razed.

Last week it was the stone that caused stumbling. This week the wedding garment. To remind us surely that God’s final work in Jesus, for you and for me, is much, much more than getting to sit in seats vacated by those who refused to come before us, who indeed refused violently, who had high-grade stock invitations and clothes fit for the occasion.

Brother Jim was bad and had to go to his room, so I got to eat his turkey with stuffing.

I have found it difficult for my mind not to go to the movie that captures something of the deep truth of Jesus parable today, Babette’s Feast. If you don’t know the story please bear with me.

The pious daughters of a stern but holy minister have now reached ripe old age. Though the catch of the small Danish town where they grew up, they never married. Instead they lived lives of religious simplicity and sanctity, and did good deeds. Fleeing persecution in France, the mysterious Babette one day appears and places herself at their service. As the days go forward, Babette discovers that an old lottery ticket she has kept is in fact a winner. She proposes to the elderly daughters a banquet to honor the 100th anniversary of their pious father. They do not know the vastness of the sums she has won, and that she in turn spends, to prepare this lavish banquet for them, having all the exotic herbs, and vegetables, meat and poultry and fish, cases of wines for each course, all brought over from France.

Now as the feast approaches they grow restive and worried. The rich and foreign food frightens them, and they fear the sensual pleasure will dishonor their father. Who knows all the reasons for their anxiety? The strangeness of the food, patterns and habits they have grown used to, which are now threatened, the things done and left undone in the way their lives and ours unfold.

But in the end they agree. Fortunately one of the old suitors, who has lived a rich and worldly life, returns and is a guest alongside them. Twelve in number. He savors each dish. He eases them into the enjoyment of this unbelievable banquet Babette has so lovingly prepared. He declares only once in his life ever to have eaten such a meal, long ago, at a restaurant in Paris.

Now it is in the midst of the banquet, lost a bit in the food and wine, that their minds return to the past, the years now gone, and their stern but loving father. Old scenes are played out, wounds and petty skirmishing amongst them re-lived, and forgivenesses exchanged and received. Life brought back over so many years past, and redeemed in the presence of the banquet and of one another and of their loving hostess.

For the people of God, the messianic banquet was one in which the faithful in Israel moved from this life to the life to come. In the fullness of time Jesus comes personally to set the table for the banquet. But it frightens his own to the point of death itself. The reasons are not fully clear or stated, though the reaction is deeply wounding. And for those of us who have been invited to take their places, or sit alongside those who did come, we cannot enjoy all that Christ comes to give us without a wedding garment. So where do we get that?

Jesus says the one without the garment is cast into outer darkness where there is weeping and gnashing of teeth. And that is of course the place he has himself come to occupy amongst us, without a garment of his own, except one parted and for which soldiers cast lots. So that, in him, fresh garments might be made for all. The first and the last.

The parable does not stay at the level of ”˜they are out, so you are in’ but probes more deeply. The ladies in Babette’s feast never wore wedding garments of their own, and in their duty and in their ordered lives must have missed out on much. Things that over time seemed lost for good, or upon their approach, scared them. So a man sat at table with them and helped them view the broad landscape of their lives without fear, and where regret and wounds arose, to heal and to bind them up. Clothing them in the love the banquet released then and now.

In the end they anticipate that, with the banquet now completed, their beloved Babette will leave and return home to France, not knowing that she has spent every single penny she has on them.

It is of course to this kind of banquet we have been invited, every day of our life. Our wedding garments have been woven by the one who spent all he had that we might be rich in his poverty and in his love. The outer darkness has been laid claim to, so that the save the date time is always there for our Yes and our decision to join in the feast. Will we join in? Will we put on the lovely garment he has made just for us and in our size? It sounds too good to be true because in Christ it is.

As for the Israel that refused, or that ignored or went away on business: Isaiah speaks from deep within their own number and proclaims the promise we hear this morning. So let’s end with that. It was directed from afar to us, who were not of the household of Israel and had no wedding garment. But now it speaks to them and bids, them and us both, come.

On this mountain the LORD Almighty will prepare
a feast of rich food for all peoples,
a banquet of aged wine””
the best of meats and the finest of wines.
On this mountain he will destroy
the shroud that enfolds all peoples,
the sheet that covers all nations;
he will swallow up death forever.
The Sovereign LORD will wipe away the tears
from all faces;
he will remove his people’s disgrace
from all the earth.
The LORD has spoken.

In that day they will say,

“Surely this is our God;
we trusted in him, and he saved us.
This is the LORD, we trusted in him;
let us rejoice and be glad in his salvation.”
[Isaiah 25:6-9]

The Reverend Professor Christopher Seitz is Senior Research Professor at Wycliffe College, Toronto and has recently published a Commentary on Colossians. He also serves as Canon Theologian in the Episcopal Diocese of Dallas.

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

A new site from Stephen Trott with Commentary on Sunday's Readings

The Reverend Stephen Trott, Bible teacher, canon lawyer, longtime lectionary contributor to the Church of England Newspaper and Rector of Pitsford with Boughton in Northamptonshire has started a new service online with commentary on each Sunday’s readings – Check it out and wish him well
Jonah 3.10 ”“ 4.11 Philippians 1.21-30 Matthew 20.1-16

Humanly speaking, we often expect things to happen in a certain way, or at least we think they should, or we hope and pray for a particular outcome, and yet we are disappointed. But Jonah’s reply to the Lord goes far beyond disappointment or even frustration: “Yes, angry enough to die.” He is angry because he has experienced great hardship, and despite all that he has been through he has still not understood why he finds himself in apparent confrontation with the Lord, who has ultimately forgiven the people of Nineveh, seeing their repentance. It had seemed appropriate to Jonah that Nineveh should perish at the Lord’s hand, but it is through Jonah’s reluctant obedience to his calling to prophesy there, that the city has been saved. Repentance first saved Jonah, in the belly of the great fish, and now the Lord has looked in mercy upon Nineveh. The Lord seeks always to save those who repent, however grave their rebellion against him, and he chooses Jonah and many more in his footsteps to proclaim repentance and salvation to his people in each generation.

Centuries later, Paul opens up his own heart and mind in his letter to the Philippians, as he wrestles with his calling and his hopes and expectations of the Lord…

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Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection

Father Terry Tee: Homily on Matthew 16.13-20

Jesus and the disciples are in the region of Caesarea Philippi. In Caesarea Philippi there was a huge temple of white marble built by King Herod and dedicated to Caesar Augustus, hailing him as a god. You could see the glistening white temple for miles around. Now, imagine the scene. Jesus, a humble man from among the people, giving them hope and encouragement. Around him his followers, very ordinary men, fishermen, tax-collectors, the like. You wonder, was it deliberately here that Jesus asked his followers who they believed in, who they trusted, where they pinned their allegiance. Was it to him or to the glittering powers of the day symbolised by the pagan temple?

It must have seemed that power would be found in the pagan temple, linked to the Roman Empire and the king. But they are no more than a footnote in history. Jesus turned to his weary, footsore band of fellow-pilgrims and said, in effect: choose. It was a huge leap of faith. The ministry of Jesus must have seemed a fragile thing, that could be swept away at any moment. In fact, a year or so later, Herod and Pilate thought that they had managed to do just that.

But Peter sees that Jesus is the Christ. The long-awaited promises of the coming of the Messiah are being fulfilled. Peter and the other disciples, despite their weaknesses, will be rock-like foundations for the Church, on which God can build. Their faith and love must seem so little against the powerful forces of the world. It must feel the same today for the beleaguered Christians of Iraq. When I see the masked faces of gunmen or evil executioners like those who killed James Foley this week, I see people who think that they have power. But then you have to ask yourself, why do they keep their faces covered? If they are so powerful, why hide their identity? It is because, deep down, they are afraid. Indeed, I would go further and say that despite the swashbuckling with guns, they are cowards.

The men with masked faces and Kalashnikovs will learn the hard way that earthly power comes and goes, like that pagan temple. But the City of God goes on eternally. I would also remind them of the words of the one who had so little power that he hung upon a cross:

Blessed are the meek,
for they will inherit the earth.
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness,
for they will be filled.
Blessed are the merciful,
for they will be shown mercy.
Blessed are the pure in heart,
for they will see God.
Blessed are the peacemakers,
for they will be called children of God.
Blessed are those who are persecuted because of righteousness,
for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

These words come from true strength. These words come from a faith that endures. The men with the masked faces will create nothing. They can only destroy. True strength comes from the faith that creates justice, love and integrity. Only if we have these then we can build under God that which endures

From here with thanks to our long-standing member

Posted in * Christian Life / Church Life, Biblical Commentary & Reflection