A Father by Grace with and in the Father of Grace

Being a father comes with a lot of responsibility. I am expected to provide, protect, love, forgive, teach, correct, model, and all manner of such things. I mean, at least, I expect myself to do so, and my own father’s selfless love for me has set a pretty high bar. Add to that my heavenly Father’s example, and I have a near impossible task. Continue reading “A Father by Grace with and in the Father of Grace”

Galatians 2:17-21

In other words, if you could have saved yourself, there was no need for God to be on a cross. But God was on a cross, wasn’t He? Why? To save you, because you could not save yourself. And so we do well not to believe, live, or proceed as if God were not on a cross. Christians do not live under law and we do not live in sin. Christ has fulfilled the former and absolved the latter. We now love because He first loved us, serve because He served us, keep the Commandments, not because they are a guide to heaven, but rather because they are an expression of what pleases Him who has granted us heaven as a free gift, though not a cheap gift, costing Jesus His very life. It is, as Paul says, “no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me,” so that “the life I now live in the flesh I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.” Christ does not make us sinners by dying and rising for us, making plain our inability to keep the law perfectly, which is how it must be kept if it is to give life. No, we were already and have been sinners from conception. The law had plenty of which to accuse us and for which to condemn us even had Christ not exposed the depths of our fallen race’s and our own personal sin through His passion. What Christ has done, then, is stopped its mouth and pardoned us, justified us, declared us not guilty, all for His sake. He has become one with us, dwelling in us, working through us, renewing our will and bringing forth fruits of repentance in our actions. It’s all Christ or no Christ. There is no in-between, and comfort is found only in the Christ who is all in all, Alpha and Omega, advocate and judge, all for us. And so, may Christ and His Word dwell in your richly so that all things in your lives abound in Him, for Him, and through Him, to His glory, and sanctified in His name. Continue reading “Galatians 2:17-21”

Galatians 2:15-16

Harsh much, Paul? We were Jews from birth and not Gentile sinners? Well, isn’t that good for you, but what of the Gentile sinners? Who were the Gentile sinners? They were the very people whose freedom in Christ and whose justification by grace, through faith, without the works of the Old Testament Mosaic law, he is defending. So why call them that? Were not the Jews sinners? Surely they were. In fact, they were better sinners, because, while the law cannot save us—not because of its deficiency, but our own—it can certainly reform and refine us, so that we become reformed and refined sinners, better at hiding our impiety and putting up appearances. At this Paul’s foes were professionals. Paul is not looking down on the Gentiles whose salvation he defends and will in no way allow to be compromised with works of the law. No, Paul here is adopting the language of the legalistic Jews who were attacking the gospel and the Gentile’s legitimacy as Christians and children of God. These “Gentile sinners,” as such people would call them, Paul says are in fact the better Christians, not because they are any less sinners, but because they confess it and abandon themselves on Christ, His Word, and His righteousness for hope and salvation. Continue reading “Galatians 2:15-16”

Ivan’s Folly

One of the books I have some of my students read each semester is actually not a book, but a section from a much larger novel. It’s The Grand Inquisitor, which is from The Brothers Karamazov, a wonderful novel, though long, by Fyodor Dostoyevsky. Though no fan of Western Christianity, a devotee of Russian Orthodoxy, Dostoyevsky has some powerful insights into the human psyche and the aspects of human personality and energy that manifest themselves in everyone, although to different extremes. And so, to be very basic about it, three brothers Karamazov, Alyosha, Ivan, and Dmitri, represent three basic human drives: religion, reason, and sensuality. Continue reading “Ivan’s Folly”

The Danger of the SNOOT

David Foster Wallace wrote an essay entitled “Authority and American Usage,” which I have the students read in one of the early Ethics classes of the semester. It is basically a review of a dictionary, which he uses to make some bigger points about life, as he is wont to do in his essays. In it, he talks about SNOOTs, or, as some might know them better, “Grammar Nazis.” He wrestles with whether dictionaries should be prescriptive or descriptive, providing rules for grammar and language or describing how people tend to write and speak. The SNOOT falls squarely in the prescriptivist camp, and no one need doubt it. He or she is always ready with a correction for a misused word or less than perfect punctuation. Continue reading “The Danger of the SNOOT”

Galatians 2:11-14

Didn’t we just discuss how a church ought to conduct itself, how brothers and sisters ought to address possible differences in love? And now what do we have here but Paul acting unlovingly? Or was he? Why didn’t Paul take Peter (Cephas) aside privately? Why embarrass him in front of everyone? That doesn’t sound very nice, does it? Continue reading “Galatians 2:11-14”

A Life Well-Died

One of the questions philosophers have wrestled with, from the beginning, has been “What is a life well-lived?” It’s a Christian question, too, at least if you’ve been to a Christian bookstore. They’re often full of books on Christian living, although not Christian living in a very Lutheran sense. No, they’re often full of books full of principles for a successful life, a life that bears the marks of God’s love in material blessings (listen to Peter’s Scripture narrative in the episode coming out to learn more about the dangers of that thinking). In fact, in frustration, I’ve frequently joked that, if I ever open a Christian bookstore (which is unlikely, although I do have a name for a pub picked out, if my wife ever makes enough money for me to retire and lets me open one), the biggest section will be on Christian dying. Continue reading “A Life Well-Died”

Galatians 2:1-10

Here we have a good example of how the church ought to conduct itself. There was a concern that there was contradiction in the doctrine and practice of the churches of Christ. What did they do? Did they ignore it in the hope that it would just go away? Did they excuse any possible aberrations as quibbling over minor things? Did they refuse to discuss it in pride, certain that if there were error, it certainly couldn’t be on their end? Did they broadcast the potential heterodoxy of their colleagues far and wide and abroad? No, they met with each other, even when meeting together was not easy, when there were no high speed trains, jets, or cell phones, or email addresses. And then what happened? They confessed what they preached and taught and they listened, each in turn. And when it was evident that their doctrine and practice were not inconsistent with the Scriptures and the gospel of Jesus Christ and that each confessed one and the same Christ with the same pattern of sound words and according to the same revelation of the Word, they extended the right hand of fellowship, and in so doing, reminded each other that Christian faith goes hand in hand with Christian love, expressing their concern for the poor, those who had lost family and livelihood for the faith especially. Continue reading “Galatians 2:1-10”