Romans 7:7-25


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BEYOND OPINIONS

Romans 7:7-25

by

Angel Casiano

March 2018

Table of Context

Introduction……………………………………………………………………………….3

Historical Context…………………………………………………………………………3

Literary Context……………………………………………………………………………4

Textual Analysis…………………………………………………………………………10

Application……………………………………………………………………………….16

Conclusion……………………………………………………………………………….18

Bibliography……………………………………………………………………………..20

Introduction

            I subscribe to the point of view that in Romans 7:7-25 the great Apostle Paul was talking about himself and his struggles; thus articulating the struggle of every believer. Paul voiced this harsh truth about himself and the rest of the world with refreshing transparency, admirable honesty, and uncommon humility. This portion of Scripture should be the foundation for the physiological reality of every believer: the dynamic between the flesh, the soul, and the spirit within us.

            In this portion of Scripture, Paul crushes any justification for arrogance and pride in our lives as he defines himself as a wretched man. Nevertheless, Romans 7:7-25 is not only describing the reality of our struggle, but also the reality of our redemption through Christ Jesus, a major theme in the book of Romans. This paper will briefly discuss the spirit, the soul, the body and the work of the Holy Spirit within us. Lastly, this paper will attempt to make the case for Christians to realize that there is more beyond salvation. Salvation is the door, but Christ’s redemptive plan for our lives involves the restoration of our souls even in the midst of a sinful world and an uncooperative flesh.

Historical Context

            There is consensus that the book of Romans was written by the Apostle Paul. Cox describes Romans as, “The Longest and most intensely theological of the 13 NT letters written by Paul.”[1] Cox ads “this letter is also the most significant in the history of the church.” Martin Luther was studying Romans when he concluded that a person becomes righteous in the sight of God through faith alone. His discovery led to the Reformation battle cry, sola fide, “by faith alone.”[2]

            It is said that the Book of Romans was written in Corinth during the winter of A. D. 56 -57.[3] “Douglas identified the genre of Romans as a letter, but recognizes that the primary impetus of Paul’s effort is the development of key theological augments.”[4] “Morris, along with most commentators, assert that at the time of Paul’s writing, the church at Rome would have included both a large Gentile component and, due to the numerous references to the Old Testament, a significant Jewish element as well.”[5]

Literary Context

            The book of Romans has well defined themes. Its central team is the gospel, “the good news that God declares to sinners to be righteous when they trust in the sacrifice of Jesus Christ on their behalf. It involves both the imputed righteousness of justification according to Romans 3-5 and the imparted righteousness of sanctification, worked out progressively through the power of the indwelling Holy Ghost (Romans 6-8). Other sub-themes, such as “flesh versus Spirit,” and “law versus grace,” relate this overall theme.”[6]

            It is precisely here, as we attempt to make sense of the literary context that Romans 7:7-25 seems not to feed. Piper articulated this seemingly contradiction this way,

Neither thinks that when Paul says, “I delight in the law of God, in my inner being (esō anthrōpon)” (Romans 7:22), or when he says, “I, my very self (autos egō) serve the law of God with my mind” (Romans 7:25), he is speaking for himself as a Christian. This is because Paul also says, “I am of the flesh, sold under sin” (Romans 7:14); “I do the very thing I hate” (Romans 7:15); “I see in my members another law . . . making me captive to the law of sin” (Romans 7:23); “wretched man that I am!” (Romans 7:24); and “with my flesh I serve the law of sin” (Romans 7:25). These statements of defeat do not sound like the person who says in Romans 8:2, “The law of the Spirit of life has set you free in Christ Jesus from the law of sin and death.”[7]

            Piper calls the transparency of Paul as statements of defeat. Piper can’t reconcile such statements in light of Romans 8:2 that declares the freedom every believer has found through and in Christ. Dockery also states, “The interpretation of Rom 7:14-25 has been problematic historically. Does the passage reflect Paul’s pre-conversion experience under the law? This was a major interpretation of the church fathers, or does this passage describe Paul’s tension in the Christian life?”[8]

            The reality is that, after taking a first glance at Romans 7 and attempting to take a look at the context by looking at the chapter before and the chapter after, there seems to be an unavoidable tension. This tension has been the cause of many diverse interpretations that are as different as day and night. Romans 7 begs the question, are we free from the guilt of sin, but not really free from sin?

            Even classical theologians such as Augustine struggle with this portion of Scripture. In an indebt study of the way St. Augustine interpreted Romans 7:7-25, Bounds states, “The history and development of Augustine of Hippo’s exegesis of this passage has received significant scholarly attention. In his initial forays into Pauline study in 394/395, Propositions from the Epistle to the Romans, Augustine interpreted Romans 7:14-25 as a human being “under the law, prior to grace. The “I” pictured here is the quintessential unregenerate person, who has knowledge of the law of God, senses true guilt for sinfulness, longs for deliverance, but is without the grace of Christ to overcome sin. In contrast, the Christian “under grace,” infused with the love of God, is victorious over sin and “ceases to sin.”[9]

            It should be noted that Augustine went as far as stating that the Christian under grace ceases to sin. However, by the end of his life, an Augustine view of Romans 7 was completely different. Bounds states, “In 327, three years before his death, Augustine, writing his Retractions, renounces again his earliest position on Romans 7 as a description of an unconverted person “under law” and reiterates his belief that this is Paul’s Christian testimony and the experience of every person “under grace.”[10]

            To get a deeper understanding of Romans 7, other portions of scripture need to be evaluated. The Apostle John tells us in 1 John 1:8-10, “If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. 10 If we say that we have not sinned, we make Him a liar and His word is not in us.” (NASB)

            Galatians 5:16-17 is another portion of Scripture that describes our inner struggles, Paul states, “But I say, walk by the Spirit, and you will not carry out the desire of the flesh. 17 For the flesh sets its desire against the Spirit, and the Spirit against the flesh; for these are in opposition to one another, so that you may not do the things that you please.” (NASB)

            This struggle can be better explained if we take a journey back to Genesis and what took place there. The sin of Adam and Eve had devastating consequences for humanity. 1) It brought physical death into the world; and had an even worse consequence, 2) spiritual death. From that moment on men started hiding from God, many still hiding from Him today. A person with a dead spirit does not have the ability to even hear the Gospel much less understand it (2 Corinthians 4:4). In John 3:3-6 Jesus explains to us the born-again experience by stating,

“…Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born again he cannot see the kingdom of God. Nicodemus said to Him, “How can a man be born when he is old? He cannot enter a second time into his mother’s womb and be born, can he?” Jesus answered, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless one is born of water and the Spirit he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. That which is born of the flesh is flesh, and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.” (NASB)

            The only part of us that is born again is the spirit in us. Neither the flesh nor the soul is born again. This is the root of the struggle found in Romans 7. We as humans are not only spirit, but we are also soul and body. The Apostle Paul explains this truth in First Thessalonians 5:23, “Now may the God of peace Himself sanctify you entirely; and may your spirit and soul and body be preserved complete, without blame at the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ.” (NASB)

            By reading Scripture we learn that the spirit in us is willing (Matthew 26:41). Paul states in Romans 7:22 “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man,” (NASB). The spirit is the part of us with the natural ability to cooperate with God. David understood the importance of his own spirit; in Psalm 51:10 he prayed, “Create in me a clean heart, O God, And renew a steadfast spirit within me.” (NASB) It is with our spirit that we fulfill one, if not the greatest call as God’s people. With our spirit, with our innermost being, we are able to worship God. Jesus told the Samaritan woman, “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers. 24 God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (NASB)

            In our soul we have our mind (Our mindset), our will (decision making) and the seat for our emotions. We know that our soul is not born again, but as born again believers we know that our mind has been renewed. Romans 12:2 tells us, “And do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind, so that you may prove what the will of God is, that which is good and acceptable and perfect.” (NASB) Psalm 23:3 and Lamentations 1:16 speaks of the restoration of the soul.

            The flesh, on the other hand, has no hope; the flesh will always resist God (Galatians 5:17). However in First Corinthians 9:27 the Apostle Paul states the following regarding the flesh,  but I discipline my body and make it my slave, so that, after I have preached to others, I myself will not be disqualified.” (NASB) The word discipline here is the Greek word, hupōpiázō; meaning “To strike under the eyes, beat the face black and blue, give a black eye.[11] By this definition we can see that, as the spirit is the part of us that is willing to follow and cooperate with God, the flesh is the contrary. Romans 7 is the description of the doings of the flesh in the life of, even a believer.

            As we look at Romans 7:7-25, based on the overwhelming biblical evidence, by no means can we conclude that it represents a contradiction of Romans 6 or 8 or that it is a discouragement to any victorious declaration in Scripture. Romans 7, if anything, explains the nature of our struggle and is not unique to Romans 7. It can be seen all throughout Scriptures in the Old and New Testament. Romans 7 places a stamp and seal on what the work of Christ truly represents; his love, his mercy, his patience and his power to change us.

            To say that we no longer have the ability to sin as believers is lying, it’s deceiving ourselves and is evidence that the truth is not in us. This is a serious matter! Our weakness through the pages of history are well documented; I am sorry, I know that many would like to see themselves as so powerful and so victorious, and we are… but only through Jesus. If you are willing to accept all that we are in Christ and all that we are not in our own power, then you will have a problem with Romans 7; however if you recognize your dependency in Him for every aspect of your life, you will have no problem simplifying Romans 7.

            It is all about Jesus, without him we are simply nothing. Through Him we are free from the guilt of sin, through him we have power to overcome sin and through him we find mercy when we fail to access such power and our weakness overtakes us. His victory was announced from the very beginning after the fall of man. In Genesis 3:15 God the Father tells us, “And I will put enmity between you and the woman, and between your seed and her seed; He shall bruise you on the head, and you shall bruise him on the heel.” (NASB) That is the theme of the whole Scripture, that is the good news… that is the Gospel and the central theme of the whole book of Romans. Yes… Jesus is our Savior (Acts 13:23), but the Gospel goes beyond our salvation. Jesus is also our Lord (2 Corinthians 4:5), Jesus is our Intercessor, (Romans 8:34), Jesus is our Attorney (1 John 2:1) and Jesus is our healer (Matthew 8:16).

            The Holy Ghost dwells in me, He ministers to my spirit, He restores my soul and He fights off the flesh. I am not defeated, my victory is sure. I serve a God who is love and the Bible declares that love never fails. Is important to remember that we are going through a process, we are changing indeed; God is not wasting his time. 2 Corinthians 3:18 tells us, “But we all, with unveiled face, beholding as in a mirror the glory of the Lord, are being transformed into the same image from glory to glory, just as from the Lord, the Spirit.” (NASB) There are two powerful promises we must keep in mind 1) God will place that law that Paul was talking about in Romans, in our minds and in our hearts (Jeremiah 31:33) and 2) God will successfully finish the work that he started in us (Philippians 1:6)

Textual Analysis

What shall we say then? Is the Law sin? May it never be! On the contrary, I would not have come to know sin except through the Law; for I would not have known about coveting if the Law had not said, “You shall not covet.” But sin, taking opportunity through the commandment, produced in me coveting of every kind; for apart from the Law sin is dead. Romans 7:7-9 (NASB)

            In the Garden, Adam and Eve were given permission to eat from every tree in the Garden, only one tree was off-limits, the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. Why did God place such prohibition? What is it about having knowledge of good and evil that is so bad? Everything was ok in the Garden until their eyes were open to the reality of evil. Without the knowledge of what is evil we were created to do right. Such knowledge must not be a good thing for us to have.

            Responsible parents, for example, do the same thing with their children; they protect their ears and eyes to keep them pure. Only God is able to know evil and not be affected by it. The knowledge of evil is never good for us, it sucks us into doing evil; the flesh rides in such knowledge. What happens when a child is exposed to domestic violence, bad language, pornography and so on? They lose their purity. That’s the reason behind the rating on movies, PG, PG 13, Rated R, etc. Without the knowledge of evil Adam and Eve would have continues to live a pure life.

            The law itself is not sin, that’s what Paul is saying here, but the knowledge of sin produces in us a desire for sin. That knowledge of what is evil, Paul said, produces all kinds of evil coveting. Those evil desires come from our flesh; that is the part of us that delights in sin.

9I was once alive apart from the Law; but when the commandment came, sin became alive and I died; 10 and this commandment, which was to result in life, proved to result in death for me; 11 for sin, taking an opportunity through the commandment, deceived me and through it killed me. 12 So then, the Law is holy, and the commandment is holy and righteous and good.

            Without the command, what is out there to convict us of any sin? Nothing! That is because there is nothing to establish what is sin and what is not. However, through Moses God did give us the Law and clear definitions of what is right and what is wrong. So when was Paul apart from the law? This may be a general statement because we know for a fact that Paul existed way after the Law was given through Moses.

13 Therefore did that which is good become a cause of death for me? May it never be! Rather it was sin, in order that it might be shown to be sin by effecting my death through that which is good, so that through the commandment sin would become utterly sinful.

            Again we see Paul defending the Law and pointing out what is the real problem… sin! He then continues the theme of defending the law by stating,

14 For we know that the Law is spiritual, but I am of flesh, sold into bondage to sin. 15 For what I am doing, I do not understand; for I am not practicing what I would like to do, but I am doing the very thing I hate. 16 But if I do the very thing I do not want to do, I agree with the Law, confessing that the Law is good. 17 So now, no longer am I the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me. 18 For I know that nothing good dwells in me, that is, in my flesh; for the willing is present in me, but the doing of the good is not. 19 For the good that I want, I do not do, but I practice the very evil that I do not want. 20 But if I am doing the very thing I do not want, I am no longer the one doing it, but sin which dwells in me.

            There is an argument regarding the verb between Romans 7:7-13 and Romans 7:14-25. Dockery points out that

            “The first six verses of the chapter assert strongly the fact of the believer’s death         to the law. This is done by a somewhat imperfect analogy with the husband and          wife. The following verses demonstrate the character of the law, i.e., it is “holy,  just and good.” This is done by expressing the character of the law and its relation   to Paul in his transitional experience before his conversion (7:7-13). This can be demonstrated primarily by the past tense verbs. The shift to the present tense in vv    14-25 is indicative that this section describes Paul’s struggle with sin as a believer. Vv 24 and 25 form a conclusion to this difficult section.”[12]

            While we can subscribe to the idea that in Romans 7:7-13 Paul could have been referring to his life before becoming a believer; it is very clear that in verses 14-25, he is indeed confessing his struggles as a believer as the past tense transition into a present tense.

            As we continue our analysis we go back to establishing that we are spirit, soul and body. We see these three components of who we are in the following verves. In Romans 7:21 Paul tells us, “I find then the principle that evil is present in me…” This is the flesh in action. In Romans 7:22 he adds, “For I joyfully concur with the law of God in the inner man…” This is the spirit in us; the one who is willing and capable of cooperating with God as previously established. In Galatian we are able to see that the flesh fights against the Spirit and the Spirit against the flesh. The flesh also attacks the soul. In Romans 7:23 the Apostle Paul tells us, “but I see a different law in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin which is in my members. The word mind here is Greek word, “νοῦς noús; meaning mind, the organ of mental perception and apprehension, of conscious life, of the consciousness preceding actions or recognizing and judging them, intelligent understanding. (I) As the seat of emotions and affections, mode of thinking and feeling, disposition, moral inclination, equivalent to the heart (Rom. 1:28; 12:2; 1 Cor. 1:10; Eph. 4:17, 23; Col. 2:18; 1 Tim. 6:5; 2 Tim. 3:8; Titus 1:15); firmness or presence of mind (2 Thess. 2:2); implying heart, reason, conscience, in opposition to fleshly appetites (Rom. 7:23, 25; Sept.: Is. 10:7, 12).[13]

            As you can see there is a brutal fight taking place in the inside of us. In Romans 7 Paul goes beyond describing the struggle, he confessed that he is in the struggle also. As established before, Romans 7 is not the only place in the Bible that speaks and makes this struggle obvious. A study of the seven churches in Revelation are another large portion of Scripture that also illustrates how our sinful nature can find its way in our lives and even in our doctrines. However, Romans 7 is not a contradiction of the rest of this book or the Bible for that matter. Verses 24 and 25 establishes our condition, but also our one and only hope… Jesus Christ! 24 Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. (NASB)

            Why are so many theologians alarmed and suspicious of Romans 7? Why do so many go as far as twisting Scripture to accommodate a doctrine that does not exist? We often say, I am not perfect, nobody is; so why are we having such a hard time reconciling the fact that we have victory over sin, and at the same time, there is a nature in us that is a slave of sin? Why are we having such a hard time understanding that we are going through a process? Why are we having such a hard time accepting that through Jesus we are victorious and through the Holy Ghost he is transforming us and changing us from glory to glory?

            It is not that Paul was fornicating; it is not that Paul was stealing, lying or murdering people, etc. after becoming a born again believer. What we are dealing with is a man who understood the power of God, but also understood sin. See, we have the tendency to divide sin between the big sins and the small sins and we know that not every sin is an abomination before the Lord; however there is no sin acceptable by God. We can’t enter heaven without the forgiveness of all of our sins.

            In the famous Sermon of the Mount Jesus said,  “Do not think that I came to abolish the Law or the Prophets; I did not come to abolish but to fulfill. 18 For truly I say to you, until heaven and earth pass away, not the smallest letter or stroke shall pass from the Law until all is accomplished.19 Matthew 5:17-19 (NASB)

            Every commandment is important. Also, do we not remember that we don’t have to actually commit an act in what we know as, our time and space, for that act to enter the realm of reality? In that same Sermon of the Mount Jesus states, “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery’; 28 but I say to you that everyone who looks at a woman with lust for her has already committed adultery with her in his heart.” Matthew 5:27-28 (NASB) How many sins are hidden in our hearts? Nobody can see them, we have not acted on them, but before God, they are just as real as if we go out and actually commit these acts. All of those folks that have a hard time with the transparency of Paul and refuse to accept our sinful nature as a reality in our Christian life fail to understand or accept that truth, so they walk either in great denial or, great hypocrisy. The Apostle Paul, on the other, understood his victory in Christ, who he was in Christ, his dependency in Christ, and his daily struggle with sin. Paul states that he dies daily (1 Corinthians 15:31). Jesus goes as far as telling us, “If anyone wishes to come after Me, he must deny himself, and take up his cross and follow Me. 25 For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it; but whoever loses his life for My sake will find it. 26 For what will it profit a man if he gains the whole world and forfeits his soul? Or what will a man give in exchange for his soul?” Matthew 16:24-26 (NASB)

Application

            Interpretations regarding Romans 7:7-25, as you can see, are all over the place. If I embrace the conclusion that Paul’s statements in Romans 7:7-25 are those of a non-believer and that it is impossible for a Christian to experience such struggle, I must then question my own salvation. I have experienced the struggle described in this portion of Scripture my whole life as a believer. It seems to me that some Christians cannot fathom a Christian living in such struggle. However, if we are honest, to prove that even born again Christians struggle with sin, all we have to do is take a sincere look at our own mirrors and look at our own stories, not before, but since becoming born again believers.

            How can I finish a paper on Romans 7 and just keep moving on to my next assignment without pausing and reflecting on my own life as a believer? The reality is that every time I read Romans 7 I am deeply touched and moved, even to the point of tears. So I turn this portion of my paper into a heartfelt and sincere prayer:

Father, today, like everyday, I need your help, I need your guidance, I need your forgiveness, I need the cleansing and healing power of the Blood of Jesus and the activity of the Holy Ghost in my life. There is a journey I am in Lord; it has been a tough journey, a journey filled with filth, mistakes, sin, errors and everything in between. I see myself as a wretched men, my victory is in Jesus and in Jesus alone. I thank you for all that I am through Christ and I thank you that through your Holy Spirit you are working in me. I am innocent through Christ; without HIM I am guilty. I am righteous through Christ, without HIM I am unrighteous. I am holy through Christ, without HIM I am a filthy man and I am victorious also through Christ, without HIM I am a looser. The condition of my flesh makes me a slave to sin; my soul is going through a process of restoration. I am changing the way I think, I am getting better with my decision making and better in connecting my emotions to the reality of who I am IN CHRIST; to allow joy and peace to decorate my soul and brighten my days. I thank God for the born-again spirit within me; God has created an upright spirit within me, a spirit who is willing to cooperate with God every day. Oh I thank God for the indwelling of the Holy Ghost and how He ministers to my spirit, how He restores my soul and how he fights my flesh. I praise you today oh God… Wash me and make me white like snow. I desire holiness and not a lifestyle of sin. Thank you for your precious Law that is being formed in my heart… Yes Lord! Thank you that the good work you started in me… YOU will complete! In Jesus’ name… Amen!

Conclusion

            In Romans 7:7-25 we see the great Apostle Paul talking about himself: those were his own words. Not only did he describe his own condition and struggle with sin, but the condition and struggle with sin of all of us. Paul gave us an example of transparency and humility; something very hard to find amongst many of our brethren today. They don’t understand themselves as spirit, soul and body because they were presented with the idea that we could be perfect and unable to sin. They would rather answer to the questing of, “How are you doing?” By stating, “blessed and highly favored.” They were told that to accept that there is a part of us that is a slave to sin is the same as denying their own salvation. So they lie, they embrace hypocrisy and run from transparency.

            Romans 7:7-25 crushes any justification for arrogance and pride in our lives, even as believers and brings us to the point of facing the reality that without Christ we are indeed a bunch of wretched men and women. Romans 7:7-25 establishes that Jesus is everything and ONLY HE deserves the glory. There is no reason for pessimism, Romans 7:25 is not only describing the reality of our struggle, but also the tangible reality of our redemption through Christ Jesus, this is an undeniable theme through the entire book of Romans. Paul closes Romans 7 confirming the power of such redemption by stating, “Wretched man that I am! Who will set me free from the body of this death? 25 Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, on the one hand I myself with my mind am serving the law of God, but on the other, with my flesh the law of sin. Romans 7:24-25 (NASB)

            Thank God that Romans 7 did not end with the reality that we are wretched, but with the announcement of Jesus who will indeed set us free from this body of death; from this sinful and disgusting nature that lives in us. That, my friends, is the Gospel, that is indeed… good news!

            I believe that Romans 7 helps us understand the magnitude of the evil that is in us. However, Romans 7 also teaches us that the death and resurrection of Christ gave us more than taking away our guilt. Christ is making us free by the power of His Spirit and by the power of his blood. Christ stands as our Saviour; soon we will all go home with him. Christ stands as our Lord; he is dealing with us. The devil’s accusations have no power over us. God disciplines us when he needs to, gives us mercy to hold back the judgment we really deserve; gives us grace that we don’t deserve, empowers us to do right, stands as our Attorney when we mess up, and is our number One intercessor to guaranty our victory. When everything is said and done, one thing is for sure; God will restore our souls in the midst of a sinful world and in spite of our uncooperative flesh. This flesh has no hope; this flesh will die, but the true me, the “I” in the inner man that Paul spoke about, will be glorified. That’s good news!

Bibliography

“An Exegesis of Romans”. A Discipleship and Coaching Services, accessed February 18,   2018,   https://www.livestransforming.com/an-exegesis-of-romans-77-      25/?doing_wp_cron=1519003891.9462900161743164062500
Berding, Kenneth, “A Key Insight about Romans 7 from a Conversation with J. I.             Packer.” The Good Book Blog Talbot School of Theology. Accessed February 18,           2018, https://www.biola.edu/blogs/good-book-blog/2012/a-key-insight-about-       romans-7-from-a-conversation-with-j-i-packer
Bounds, Christopher. “Augustine’s Interpretation of Romans 7:14-25, His Ordo Salutis   and His Consistent Belief in a Christian Victory over Sin.” Asbury Theological    Seminary. (2009):
Dockery, David S,. Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”. Grace          Theological      Journal. (Fall, 1981): 239-257.
Garlington, Don B. “Romans 7:14–25 And The Creation Theology Of Paul.” Accessed     February 18, 2018. http://www.galaxie.com/article/trinj11-2-04
Lesson 1: Romans: The Gospel of God (Romans 1:1, Introduction), accesses March          9, 2018, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-1-romans-gospel-god-romans-11-         introduction
Mathew Henry’s Bible Commentary. Accessed February 18, 2018,           https://www.christianity.com/bible/commentary.php?com=mhc&b=45&c=7
Piper, John. “Clarifying Romans 7:24-25 As Christian Experience”. (October, 2014).
Quarles, Charles. “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated        Bible Dictionary An Introduction to the Book of Romans, accessed March 9,       2018, https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-romans
Schreiner, Thomas. “Romans 7 Does Not Describe Your Christian Experience.” The          Gospel Coalition. Accessed February 18, 2018,             https://www.thegospelcoalition.org/article/romans-7-does-not-describe-your-         christian-experience/
Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga,     TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[1] Charles L. Quarles, “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary (Nashville, TN: Holman Bible Publishers, 2003), 1409.
[2] Charles L. Quarles, “Romans, Letter to The,” ed. Chad Brand et al., Holman Illustrated Bible Dictionary, 1409.
[3] An Introduction to the Book of Romans, accessed March 9, 2018, https://bible.org/article/introduction-book-romans
[4] “An Exegesis of Romans”, A Discipleship and Coaching Services, accessed February 18, 2018,             https://www.livestransforming.com/an-exegesis-of-romans-77- 25/?doing_wp_cron=1519003891.9462900161743164062500
[5] Ibid.
[6]Lesson 1: Romans: The Gospel of God (Romans 1:1, Introduction), accesses March 9, 2018, https://bible.org/seriespage/lesson-1-romans-gospel-god-romans-11-introduction
[7] John Piper, “Clarifying Romans 7:24-25 As Christian Experience”, (October, 2014).
[8] David S. Dockery, Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”, Grace Theological            Journal, (Fall, 1981): 239.
[9] Christopher Bounds, “Augustine’s Interpretation of Romans 7:14-25, His Ordo Salutis and His             Consistent Belief in a Christian Victory over Sin.” Asbury Theological Seminary. (2009):            20
[10] Ibid. 21
[11] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).
[12] David S. Dockery, Romans 7:14-25: “Pauline Tension in the Christian Life”,
[13] Spiros Zodhiates, The Complete Word Study Dictionary: New Testament (Chattanooga, TN: AMG Publishers, 2000).

Seniors Benefit Emotionally and Spiritually from Church Attendance by Jason Lewis


old hands

For older adults, loneliness, isolation, poor mental health and declining physical health are all too real. This is a sad reality that much of our aging population is faced with today, but with community support, especially from church, seniors can to improve their health and reverse this trend. Attending church is actually one of the best ways of fighting these problems and improving the health of seniors.

Church Provides Community and Social Support

Loneliness is one of the greatest problems that older adults face, and living in isolation can lead to depression and poor physical health. When older adults attend church, they can rebuild a social network that they may have lost over the years. The social benefit of attending church does more than give seniors a chance to get out of the house and see friends a couple of times a week. According to Health Fitness Revolution, connecting with others through church and praying together creates a strong sense of community. Being a part of this community gives you a support system of people you can depend on.

Church Provides Services for Physical Health

Many churches offer activities for senior citizens that help care for their physical well-being, such as exercise classes and periodic health checks. They may have a supper club or weekly luncheon for senior church members, which is especially beneficial for older adults who live alone and may struggle to maintain good nutrition. Some older adults who aren’t active may not get out of the house often, but going to church gives them a reason to get up and get moving.

Spiritual Faith Builds Hope

We often focus spiritual outreach efforts toward younger people who haven’t discovered faith, but maintaining and strengthening spiritual belief is essential for older adults to thrive. When older adults attend church services regularly, they continue to grow in their spiritual journey and this faith helps them cope with stresses they face as they age. The sense of hope that comes from faith helps fight the tendency for older adults to experience depression.

Church Activities Enrich Lives

 Older adults who are retired and have finished raising a family often feel like they no longer have a purpose in life. Whether it’s recreation, fellowship or service activities, being involved gives seniors a renewed feeling of worth. Seniors and younger people alike benefit from intergenerational opportunities they get through church, as each generation can love, support, and learn from one another.

Due to life circumstances that may be unique to their age or health concerns, elderly people often confront a variety of emotions that may be somewhat debilitating and hard to bear. These include a sense of isolation, loneliness, boredom, and grief, as well as others. Engaging in church activities is not just spiritually fulfilling, but it also helps combat these negative health concerns and emotions. Fighting these often debilitating conditions is a serious health concern.

Older adults who experience isolation and depression often take poor care of their health and are more likely to engage in risky behaviors such as substance abuse as a way to self-medicate when they feel overwhelmed.

Attending Church Has Been Linked to Better Health and Greater Longevity

According to CNN, in a study of church attendance and longevity, those who attended church regularly had a lower risk of death during the study period. The combined effects of community support, healthy activities and a greater motivation to take care of their physical health are likely all related to churchgoers experiencing, on average, less serious disease in old age.

Other studies have shown that older adults who attend church have fewer cognitive disorders as they age, and those who do experience a slower decline in cognitive function.

The great news for older adults is that attending church is one solution that helps with many different problems. The relationship between faith, mental health and physical health is complex with each strengthening the others. If you know an older adult who may be struggling, help give them that connection by inviting them to attend church with you.

 

Photo credit: Pexels

Protecting our Children!


IMG_2055

Yes, I get it, it is not a gun problem; it is a heart problem! We do have the right to go hunting, defend ourselves, defend our families, and especially to defend ourselves against the government, if need be! It is our constitutional right! However, why is it that you have to wait until you are 21 years of age to legally drink and smoke in most states here in the United States, but you are able to buy a gun at 18? Really? You realize that to rent a car you need to be at least 24 years of age? Something to think about!

            Adjustments MUST be made! Until everything that can be done is done, we can’t continue business as usual, If four people get food poison in any restaurant, that restaurant might be force to shutdown until they fix the problem, right? September 11th changed us; it changed the way we do things, and that is, understandably so! We change policies all the time based on situations that we want to prevent from ever happening again! What is it about this mass shooting that seems to leave us with the same thing? 1) Press conferences where politicians always speak about the great job this or that organization is doing, and, 2) the typical expressions of “our thoughts and prayers are with you.” I wonder how many folks are actually praying!

            We definitely need prayer because I see one side that seems strangely passive. The same Republicans that seems so passionately when a Muslim is involved in a terrorist attack or when an illegal immigrant kills an American, seems to have no answers in moments when terrorism comes from within. On the other hand, we have another side of the argument that is ridiculously irrational. At the heart of Democrats, they seem to want to do away without guns. That may be a good idea if, EVERYBODY, the good guys and the bad guys, are willing to do so. But we know that the bad guys are going to continue to arm themselves while the law-abiding citizens are set to suffer more victimization.

            I say 1) lets gather the parents of current students who are already active in any law enforcement and lets form an organization where they are placed in charge, together with the school principal and School Board to analyze and come up with plans to protect their own schools. Lets start right there! 2) Unauthorized people should not have access to the classrooms…period! 3) The doors with outside access should remain locked. Only the police, firefighters and any other authorized official should have access to enter. 4) Students should be provided with special IDs to enter the school building. 5) We need to have at least two officers patrolling the outside of the school, 6) an officer guarding the front door and 7) another officer making his rounds around the classrooms; depending on the size of the School. 8) We need selective teachers with the appropriate training to be able to carry guns while in school, the more teachers the better! 9) We need to start a nationwide volunteer organization that will also help with protecting our schools. There are volunteers for everything else, why not have people who are trained to also serve in protecting our schools. Many will be happy to do it. 10) Look at the private sector for help and 11) look for those retired cops and military men and women to come in, in part-time basis! These are just some practical ideas!

            In the practical side this is not necessarily an issue of laws, but an issue of protecting our children from those who do not follow the law. In the spiritual side this is an issue of iniquity. We have become a society that celebrates and glorifies iniquity through some of the movies and TV Shows we watch, through some of the music we listen to and through some of the video games we play. Iniquity will always find ways to come out of the TV show, the movie, the song and the video game and into our nation, our street, our school and yes…even our own homes.

 

The Canon of the Bible


canon-of-the-bible

Give a definition of “canon.”

      Klein proposes a very standard definition of the word Canon; “meaning list, ruler or standard of faith.”[1]

Where does the word come from and what does it mean with relationship to the study of the Bible?

      The word Canon comes from the Greek word Kanon and it refers to the collection of biblical books that Christians accept as uniquely authoritative.

Discuss the development of the New Testament and the criteria of canonicity used by the early church.

        The canon of the New Testament seems to be complicated. It seems to be even more complicated when we considered the many books that claimed canonicity. However, when looking deeply at the matter, it was not as complicated as it seems. As I have written consistently through these forums, I prefer to go back to the divine. I prefer to go back to the Holy Spirit and look at the men who were divinely inspired to write the scriptures. That is why the focus of the canon should be place on the original apostles, not in the church’s fathers and not in the arrogance of the Catholic or any other church or individual. To be able to identify the canon of the New Testament, we must look first at who did the writing. Ephesians 2:20 tell us, “having been built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, Jesus Christ Himself being the chief cornerstone,” (NKJV).

       Some argue that the Canon was not put together until about 400 years after Christ; against this loud argument Kruger adds, “Childs (as well as others inside and outside canonical criticism) has offered and alternative… Canon exists not when there is a final, close list, but when books function as authoritative Scripture for the community – and this happen well before the fourth century.”[2] Scripture itself support this alternative.

       Did the apostles know they were writing the heart of God? Kruger speaks of Apostolic Self-Awareness.[3] Scriptures such as, 2 Peter 3:15-16 leaves no doubt that the apostles indeed knew they were writing Scripture, “and consider that the longsuffering of our Lord is salvation—as also our beloved brother Paul, according to the wisdom given to him, has written to you, 16 as also in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things, in which are some things hard to understand, which untaught and unstable people twist to their own destruction, as they do also the rest of the Scriptures.” (NKJV)

     Notice that Peter was aware that Paul was writing Scripture. Also notice the uniformity of Scripture, “…in all his epistles, speaking in them of these things…” Furthermore, First Thessalonians 2:13 tells us, “For this reason we also thank God without ceasing, because when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you welcomed it not as the word of men, but as it is in truth, the word of God, which also effectively works in you who believe.” (NKJV)

      Klein also seems to agree with Kruger as he made a “Crucial Distinction: The process of canonization did not grant biblical books their authority. Rather, books that were recognized as authoritative were admitted to the canon.”[4] Klein gives the following criteria for the New Testament Canonicity: 1) Apostolic connection, 2) Orthodoxy in the theology and ethics of the New Testament and 3) books passed the test of times in their effectiveness in helping a large number of churches since the early generations of Christianity.”[5]

      Kruger echoes the same criteria for the canonicity of Scripture; in his case he writes, “1) Divine qualities… 2) Corporate reception and 3) Apostolic Origins.[6] Furthermore, Bruce also offers very similar explanations for the criteria for the canonicity of Scripture, 1) Apostolic Authority, 2) Antiquity: (Needed to be written during the apostolic age), 3) Orthodoxy (Again referring exclusively to the apostolic faith), 4) Catholicity (It needed to be recognized universally, even the Catholic Church agreed on the 66 books recognized by the rest of the orthodox Christendom.) 5) Traditionally use, 6) Inspiration (Books were indeed included in the canon because they were recognized as inspired.)[7]

Why did early Christians feel a need to establish an authoritative list of Scripture?

      Klein gives the basic reasons that I have also found in other books, 1) an increasing amount of heretics such as Marcion, 2) the rise of Gnostic writings and 3) the increase persecution against Christians; particularly, Christians wanted to know exactly what books to die for.[8]

What element in the criteria of canonicity is most important in your opinion? And Why?

      I find all of them very important; it is impossible for me to chose one, but I can settle for two, 1) apostolic origins and 2) apostolic theological orthodoxy. As I have been stating, I find peace in staying close to the men whom God supernaturally gave the Word to.

Which element is least important in your opinion? And Why?

       I can’t take away the importance of each one of these elements I have discussed through this forum.

How would you respond to a person who claimed that the canon of the Bible should still be open?

       I really don’t know; I feel that those 66 books I have been reading for over 20 years are divinely inspired. I have no doubts! Nevertheless, I am doing some studies on the book of Enoch. I actually took the time to read this fascinating book and it reads like the Bible. I have found that many brothers and sisters in the Body of Christ, in fact consider this book Scripture. I am not sure I am ready to agree with that, but who does not want to read a book written by a man who walked with God? This may be a good a good question for our professor; maybe he has more insight on this matter.

Bibliography

Bruce, F. F. The Canon of Scripture. Downers Grove: IVP Academic, 1988.

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

Kruger, Michael J. Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the           New Testament Books, Wheaton: Crossway, 2012.

 

 

 

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 165

[2] Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books, (Wheaton: Crossway, 2012) 57

[3] Ibid. 184

 

[4] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 180

[5] Ibid. 179-180

[6] Michael J. Kruger, Canon Revisited: Canon Revisited, 97 – 113

[7] F. F. Bruce, The Canon of the Scripture, (Grove: IVP Academic), 256 – 263

[8] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 174

 

Five Qualifications to Interpret Scripture


hermeneutic

Introduction

         We know that God does not make mistakes; we know that his Word is without error. We know that even as the prophets and apostles God chose to write His Word, were not perfect themselves, every word they wrote under the inspiration of the Holy Spirit was. So neither God nor the original writers are the problem. The problem was, the problem is and, the problem will continue to be found in, the interpreter; that is… us!

         It is of fundamental importance that we develop a relationship with God, that we learn to hear from Him[1], that we study the Scriptures, that we grow in our knowledge of good theology and sound doctrine and, that we get a hold of hermeneutics as a tool to properly interpret Scripture. This post is designed to help us do just that.

Offer a list and description of the qualifications needed for an interpreter to offer a proper reading of Scripture.

     Klein offers five qualifications for the interpreter of Scripture. Klein adds that the following set of qualifications “put the interpreter in the best position to obtain valid interpretation of the biblical text.”[2] Those are,

  1. A reasoned faith in the God who reveals.
  2. Willingness to obey the message.
  3. Illumination of the Holy Spirit.
  4. Membership in the church.
  5. Willingness to employ appropriate methods.

Give the importance of each qualification for understanding Scripture.

A Reasoned Faith in the God who reveals

     Klein states, “all understanding requires a framework or context within which to interpret.”[3] As it refers to us as believers it is essential, as Klein also points out, “that we have a relationship with God in order to fully understand the book God has authored.”[4] Klein also includes faith as “foundational for a full comprehension of Scripture. It is not the only qualification, nor does it guaranty correct interpretation.”[5]

         As I read this portion of our reading assignment I am reminded of First Peter 3:15, “ but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts, always being ready to make a defense to everyone who asks you to give an account for the hope that is in you, yet with gentleness and reverence;” (New American Standard Bible)

         No doubts that we should be ready, able and willing to give a reasonable account for why we believe what we believe. However, I believe we must also keep in mind that ultimately, the gospel is foolishness to the world (First Corinthians 1:18). I am not saying that we can’t apply reason to our faith, but without scientific evidence how can we be considered reasonable to the world when giving the story of Eve speaking to a serpent, or Jesus born out of a virgin or demons, miracles, etc.?

Willingness to Obey the Message

         This is the “willingness to put oneself “under” the text, to submit one’s will to hear and respond to the text in a faithful manner. The truly faithful reader seeks to obey what God reveals in Scripture.”[6] This is true humility before God, refusing to be wise in our own opinons (Proverbs 3:7), dying to self (1 Corinthians 15:31), personal agendas, ideas culture, etc. and a willingness to submit ourselves to the truth of the Bible.

Illumination of the Holy Spirit

     Klein connects this third qualification with the first two already mentioned; “…is to allow the Holy Spirit to complement the process of exegesis. For this part, God provides the resources for an obedient understanding of his truth: the regeneration of the Holy Spirit.”[7] The Holy Spirit gets the job done; if the goal is to show the true principle and application of the text, that is Holy Ghost territory.

Membership in the Church

   We are indeed a family… a big family. There is nothing in Scripture that promotes or support individualism; no Rambo Christians. The church should be the primary place where the family of God is able to learn about God and these tools of Bible interpretation. If anything, it should be the place where we can humbly listen to what other believers have to say and as Klein adds, “Likewise, our conclusions, if they are correct, have importance for the other.”[8]

Willingness to Employ Appropriate Methods

     If we are Born Again believers, if we love God and if we love others, there will be willingness in our hearts to study and understand the Scripture. How can we love anybody and have no interest in listening to what he or she has to say? Impossible. However, I am at peace with the fact that, as Klein explains, there are different levels of proficiency from the uneducated Christian to the scholar,[9] I believe that God is able to reveal the necessary truth to each believer according to their call.

Which of these qualifications are most important?

     In my opinion, they are all important; if I have to place them in order of importance it will go something like this: 1) A Reasoned faith in the God who reveals, particularly because here Klein speaks about the vital importance of having a relationship with God. Everything starts there. 2) Illumination of the Holy Spirit. The ultimate goal of Scripture is to show us the way of God, his righteousness, the way he wants us to live this life, etc. Only the Holy Spirit is able to do that. 3) Willingness to obey the message. The flesh in us, we know is weak, but the spirit of a born again believer is willing (Matthew 26:41). That willingness to follow God is the fruit of the Spirit in the believers; it is Christianity becoming real in the life of a believer. 4) Willingness to employ appropriate methods. Jesus tells us in Matthew 5:6, “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.” (NASB) I believe that this kind of hunger and thirst for righteousness creates a willingness in a child of God to employ any method that will assist them in knowing God and his Word in a more intimate way. 5) Lastly, Membership in the church. Without implementing the first four qualifications when interpreting Scripture in our lives, I don’t think the church experience will be as rich and, worst of all, we may be unaware or desensitize to heresy, bad theology and false doctrines.

Which do you think are not as necessary?

     They are all necessary, in my opinion.

Give reasons for your choices.

     I chose “A reasoned faith in the God who reveals” with emphasis on cultivating a relationship with God. Jesus die, not only to save our souls, but to give us the precious gift of being able to have a direct relationship with the Father. We don’t need a priest to go to God in our behalf; we can go to God ourselves. That does not mean that we throw out the teachers, the need for pastors, the need to study and utilize these diverse tools such as hermeneutics, but we are aware of first things first, we are called to love God above all things.

What role does the Holy Spirit play in interpretation?

     I feel very uncomfortable with limiting the Holy Spirit in anything. As far as I know, the only thing God cannot do is lie. The role of the Holy Spirit is central and is vital in interpreting Scripture. The cultural, social, economical and languages spoken at the time the Scripture was written are of secondary importance.

     The Holy Spirit is the one who reveals the meaning and he reveals that meaning to whomever he wants; to children (Matthew 21-15-16), to uneducated men such as the original apostles, the humble man in the church that does not speak much and the old lady who prays a lot. We can’t forget that God choses the foolish and the weak to shame the strong (I Corinthians 1:27).

How do we determine the impact of the Spirit on an individual’s interpretation?

     The whole law of the prophets was summarized in two commandments, to love God above all things and to love our neighbor (Matthew 22:36-40). I believe that Augustine answers this question perfectly as he states, “the first principle of Bible interpretation is that it leads readers to love God and to love others.”[10] Furthermore, Professor Roy B. Zuck offer fourteen powerful points concerning the Holy Spirit and interpretation of Scripture, for the sake of space I will only quote one,

The role of the Spirit in interpreting the Bible does not mean that one’s interpretations are infallible. Inerrancy and hence infallibility are characteristics of the Bible’s original manuscripts, but not of the Bible’s interpreters. The manuscripts were inerrant because of the Holy Spirit’s guarding and guiding the writers to record what He wanted recorded, word for word. But such a superintending work cannot be claimed for interpreters of the Word. In inspiration the Holy Spirit superintended the authors in order to override any human error. In interpretation the Holy Spirit guides but He does not guard against infallibility. To elevate one’s interpretations to the level of infallibility would blur the distinctions between inspiration (a past, now completed work of the Spirit in the recording of Scripture) and interpretation (a present, ongoing work of the Spirit in helping interpreters in the comprehending of Scripture). Also it would ascribe to Protestants a level of infallibility for human leaders which evangelicals reject in Roman Catholicism.[11]

Conclusion

         I have no doubt that a non believer will be able to look at the Scripture and apply certain aspects of hermeneutics, perhaps better than some of us. Some of them perhaps would be able to explain the culture of the time or even understand the language in better detail that some Christians that are not trained in those matters. Nevertheless, unless the Holy Ghost reveals to them the principle, they will not be able to see it nor accept it; they are blind to the things of God (2 Corinthians 4:4). Klein brings this point home when he states, “…full understanding comes only to the sincere follower of the God who revealed – the follower who diligently seeks to practice the message of the text studied.”[12]

         Klein is very cleaver in describing the arrogance of those that totally reject hermeneutics, exegesis or any other tool[13] and I agree with him. That arrogance also exists in the academic world. So the problem is not necessarily refusing to use those tools or using them diligently… the problem is pride! Not everybody is able to afford classes at Liberty University and not everybody is bless with a pastor that actually understands and takes the time to teach hermeneutics, but everybody has access to the Holy Ghost!

         Humility is indeed the key; when our opinions do not lineup with Scripture we must let it go; when we insist in doing things our way, then we are operating in pride and we know that “…God is opposed to the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” (James 4:6 NASB)

Bibliography

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

Zuck, Roy B. The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, Biblioteca Sacra: 1984.

 

 

 

 

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 202

 

[2] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 202

[3] Ibid. 202

[4] Ibid, 202

[5] Ibid. 203

[6] Ibid. 205

[7] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

 

[8] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 208

[9] Ibid. 210

[10] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 87

[11] Roy B. Zuck, The Role of the Holy Spirit in Hermeneutics, (Biblioteca Sacra: 1984) 122

[12] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation, 206

[13] Ibid. 206 – 208

A “Racist” President & the Blacks and Latinos in this Country


Image: Donald Trump

I am still hanging on to the Word of God and the promise that the last will be first (Matthew 20:16). For the last 50 years we have had many democratic presidents and a whole democratic party who have been passionately fighting poverty for all these years. I am sure many of them fought and continued to fight with sincere hearts. Nevertheless, the fight, so far, has been a failure! What is it that we were left to celebrate after 8 years of our first black president? The facts were staring at our faces: a weak economy, a historical accumulation of debt, and record numbers of people that look like me who are on food stamps and other government assistant programs. I guess we were supposed to celebrate that! But I did not… I know that, with God’s help, we can do much better than that!

         We, as a people, have a long way to go… I am aware of that! However, it is amazing to me that it is taking the policies of a “racist” president such as Donald Trump for us to enjoy such amazing statistics. During his campaign he challenge us by asking us, “what the h*** do you have to lose?” A year later, we are not celebrating that we have more of our people on food stamps, Medicaid and so on. These are times when we should be in great celebration for my Hispanic and African-American family. The unemployment rate amongst us is the lowest in over 50 years! Maybe, just maybe, we need more racist politicians in Washington!

 

Sticking to the Bible


Old Bible With Sword

Introduction

      The older I get the more peace I find in sticking to the Bible, to the orthodoxy of the Old and New Testament, the direct commands of Christ and to the divine call of the apostles to make sense of it all. We may struggle to find the truth, to navigate through the many OPINIONS of man, bad teachings, cultural differences, Bible verses taken out of context, the challenges of languages, diverse Bible versions and many other challenges; however, we were not left alone to depend on our own opinions. We were given the blessing of the Holy Spirit and Godly examples to follow. There is no need to reinvent the wheel or to guess; we must stay focus on the divine. That is, 1) the divine Word of God, 2) the greatest teacher of all, the Holy Ghost and, 3) I go as far as saying, the divine methodology for biblical interpretation given by the original apostles.

A time period and a person whose method offers the most promise for attaining a clear interpretation of Scripture today

      The apostles were not perfect men, but they were the only men in the history of the world, outside of the Old Testament prophets, to receive perfect doctrine. I go as far as saying that they gave us also, the proper method of interpretation. Klein refers to the original apostles as “the first Christian interpreters.”[1]

      The Apostles left us with a very simple and yet, powerful hermeneutical system. Klein identify several such as, 1) they regarded Jesus as Israel’s promised Messiah; they acknowledge Jesus as the fulfillment of Judaism’s hope. 2) They appeal to the Old Testament to support their beliefs. Is important to point out that Jesus validated the Old Testament by quoting it and referring to it as Scripture. They interpreted the OT from radically new perspective – in light of the Messiahship of Jesus. When interpreting the Old Testament Klein points out that they a) applied Literal interpretation: The fundamental hermeneutic principle was viewing Jesus as the ultimate fulfillment of OT prophecy. The focus here was the application of typology interpretation; the idea that the Old Testament pointed at Jesus and at events to come. b) Literal-contextual Interpretation: this is the application of the Old Testament as it is; and c) Principle/application Interpretation: This is the utilization of getting a hold of examples of principles in he OT that could be applicable in current situations. 3) They revered Jesus as superior than Moses and the law.[2]

      The closer we keep these principles in minds the closer we will be to walking in truth. The Jewish Interpretation’s greatest flaw is that they miss the Messiah. With the Patristic Period we see the beginning stages of the church disregarding the Holy Spirit and the orthodoxy of the Apostles for that of these apostolic fathers. However, Augustine approach and contribution to hermeneutics can’t be ignored.

      To guard against the subjective excesses of allegory, he offered three interpretative             principles for finding the figurative meaning of difficult texts. 1) One consults what            other, clearer passages of Scripture say on the subject. 2) One consults the “rule of faith” or the apostolic interpretation of the major doctrines of Scripture. 3) If conflicting views      meet both criteria, one should consult the context to see which best commends itself.[3]

      I look at Augustine method with great respect, as it is an attempt to go back to the apostles’ way. In that regard I also respect Luther and Calvin; their high view of Scripture was a refreshing return to what truly works when attempting to interpret Scripture.

How that method aids a modern interpreter in understanding Scripture?

            It is the only way; Christ centered and Holy Ghost dependent. That system was good then, is good now and will forever be good. At the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society in 2003, McCartney states,

            Hence there is a sense in which we must emulate the exegetical practice of the        New Testament writers. If we do not adopt the viewpoint of Jesus and the apostles            that Christ’s death and resurrection is the key focus of the Old Testament, thatChrist is himself the centerpiece of all God’s promises, that Christ is the true Israel, true Son of God, that the meaning of the biblical texts for the present-day people of God has to do with our relation to God in Christ, then how can our interpretation be deemed in any sense Christian?[4]

Conclusion

            As long as we have humans involve, there will always be problems. Lets face it, we are carnal folks with souls in need of restoration; we will mess up. Bias, ambitions, personal agendas and the pride of man will always get on the way of truth. However, if we keep our eyes on Jesus and stop placing ourselves at the center, if we are “…diligent to preserve the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace” we will be ok (Ephesians 4:3 NASB). If we embrace humility and find satisfaction in being the echo of the voices of the Old and New Testament writers and don’t try to speak over them… we will be ok!

Bibliography

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

McCartney, Dan G. “Should We Employ the Hermeneutics of the New Testament Writers?”, (2003)

 

 

 

 

 

[1] [1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 77

[2] Ibid. 77 – 79

[3] Ibid. 87

[4] Dan G. McCartney, “Should We Employ the Hermeneutics of the New Testament Writers?”, (2003)

My Issues with Hermeneutics


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Introduction

        It is not mi intention, through this post, to dismiss the importance of Hermeneutics. Klein states that we are “in an era of increasing biblical illiteracy…”[1] and I can’t agree with him more. Furthermore, the Bible tells us “Be diligent to present yourself approved to God as a workman who does not need to be ashamed, accurately handling the word of truth.” (2 Timothy 2:15 – NASB) I want to make it clear that I am not against any system that assists in giving us organized, structured and disciplined methods when studying and interpreting the Scripture. However, as I attempt to answer a few basic questions for this post, I will also, with great humility, present issues that deeply concerned me.

A Definition of Hermeneutics

           Hermeneutics describes the task of explaining the meaning of Scripture. The word              derives from the Greek verb hermeneuo “to explain or to translate,” while the                                    noun hermeneia means “interpretation” or “translations.”[2]

         Klein simplified the term hermeneutic by describing it as “The art and science of interpretation.”[3] Klein list several reasons to justify the need for hermeneutics. I do agree with Klein when he states, “the interpreter’s personal freedom has come with considerable risk of bias and distortion.”[4] However, bias and distortion has been around from the very beginning, when Satan tempted and deceived Eve in the Garden. Personal agendas have caused a lot of physical and theological murders through the pages of church history. Taking Bible verses out of context to conveniently fit a particular mindset continues to be a problem today and will continue to be so until the return of our Lord. It comes with the territory! In this regard I see the usefulness of Hermeneutics to be able to quickly disregard obvious atrocities when dealing with Bible interpretation. However, Klein gives other reasons to justify the need for hermeneutics that left me, either standing for the truth or, in need of a great deal of clarification.

         Klein stated, “The Bible is God’s Word, yet it has come to us through human means.”[5] This is a great talking point for an atheist or humanist who stand against the divine nature of Scripture. It implies imperfection in the way God delivered his Word to us. Klein added even more talking points to the atheist and humanist by stating, “The divine message must be clear, yet many passages seem all too ambiguous.”[6] Lastly, and this seems to be a theme through this initial reading, Klein stated that, “We acknowledge the crucial role of the Holy Spirit, yet scholarship is surely necessary to understand what the Spirit has inspired.”[7] It implies that even as the Holy Spirit plays a “crucial role”, He is not powerful enough to help us with the understanding of the Scripture that HE HIMSELF inspired. (2 Timothy 3:16 / 2 Peter 1:21) Later, Klein made his point crystal clear regarding this topic as he describes how the illumination of the Holy Spirit helps believers understand Scripture by giving us “the ability to apprehend, not comprehend, the meaning.”[8] What an amazing arrogant point of view! It is the Holy Ghost who guide us into the truth according to John 16:13, “But when He, the Spirit of truth, comes, He will guide you into all the truth; for He will not speak on His own initiative, but whatever He hears, He will speak; and He will disclose to you what is to come.” (NASB) Have we forgotten that God has given us the ability to know His voice and to follow him? (John 10:27) Professor Hanko stole the words out of my mouth when he states,

    From a certain point of view, the child of God needs no instruction in         Hermeneutics. If Hermeneutics is the science of biblical interpretation, it follows            from the very nature of Scripture itself that no formal instruction is necessary for a regenerated saint to be able to understand what God is saying in His Word.    Countless saints over the centuries have read the Word of God without ever           knowing the first thing about Hermeneutics, without even having heard the word. They have read Scripture, understood what God was saying to them with stark     clarity, and have taken that Word into their hearts.

      It is true that we teach Hermeneutics in Seminary as a required course for prospective ministers of the gospel. Students are obligated to learn the principles of biblical interpretation and to apply them to Scripture. But if they, with their  acquired learning, think that by these studies they have gained an edge on God’s  people, they are sadly mistaken.[9]

The importance of the following components as we search for effective ways to properly interpret Scripture

        If I focus on 1) the role of the writters of the text, I find myself handicap as, obviously, all of the writers of Scripture are long-gone. If I focus on, 2) the role of the original readers of the text, I run into two problems, a) they are also long-gone and b) I can be a victim of their own bias and personal agendas. Lastly, if I focus on, 3) the role of the interpreter then the focus is on me and that can’t be good either. I find it intellectually useful to study the cultures[10] of the day, to dig deep into the language differences[11] and so on, but at the end of the day what is the ultimate purpose of Scripture? Whose ultimate responsibility is to show us that purpose? And who will truly help us to live out that purpose?

What kind of impact does this particular participant provide on an attempt to discover the meaning of a text?

        For the sake of this post I will focus on the author of the text. At first, the Theological Interpretation of Scripture (TIS) gave me a great deal of hope. TIC is an attempt to look at Scripture in its context, the corporate and personal view of the Scripture by what was establish in the past and even what is established as truth in the present.[12] However, as Klein points out, “The danger is that TIS puts the authority of a text of the Bible not in the divine text itself but in how the church father’s, or creed, or some church community understands the meaning of the text.”[13] Therefor I see, in this initial reading of Klein, a lot of Catholic influences; the need for a “priest” to tells us what the Scripture means.

        The Bible is very clear about our need to deny ourselves. That is dying to our ideas, to our culture, to the way we are raise, to what is popular and even to what we like and everything that is against the culture of the Bible. The more we put ourselves in Scripture the more bad theology and bad interpretations will occur. The idea is for us to die to self, to come to the Lord naked, without any ideas or agendas and to allow the Holy Spirit to guide us into all truth.

How important is this component?

        To know about the author has an intellectual value; who is he, his time, the culture that surrounded him, the political atmosphere, some interesting contemporaries, etc. I suppose, in a minuscular way, knowing these things, could help us understand the Scripture a little better. However, I can’t place my hope in hermeneutics as a way to properly interpret Scripture. If that is so, then any unbeliever with the ability to read will be able to use hermeneutical tools in order to be able to understand Scripture and, we know, that is biblically inaccurate. The lost cannot see the reality of the Gospel (2 Corinthians 4:4). It is the power of the Holy Ghost that is able to navigate through all the geographical distance, cultural distance, language distance, bias and selfish agendas through the ages, etc. etc. etc.

Conclusion

      Lastly and in conclusion, I refuse to subscribe to the central idea of what the following quote is trying to communicate regarding the Bible; that it “was originally written to somebody else…”[14] Klein expanded by stating that, “Though the Bible originates through human agents in the normal circumstances of life, it is fundamentally God’s word to his people, it has an “eternal relevance.” The Bible DOES NOT ORIGINATE through human agents. John tells us, “In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.” (John 1:1 NASB). 2 Peter 1:20-21 explained this truth even further as he states, “But know this first of all, that no prophecy of Scripture is a matter of one’s own interpretation, 21 for no prophecy was ever made by an act of human will, but men moved by the Holy Spirit spoke from God.” (NASB)

         Human agents were not the authors of Scripture, God is. Human agents simply wrote what the Spirit of God uttered. When it comes down to interpretations, human agents can definitely assist, God has indeed given us teachers (Ephesians 4:11), but it is only God who is able to transform, to give us revelation of Scripture and cause us to grow (1 Corinthians 3:7). Through God and only through HIM we are able to grow in grace and in the knowledge of our Lord. (2 Peter 3:18)

Bibliography

Klein, W.W., C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard. Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition. Zondervan, 2017.

Richards, Randolph E., O’Brien, Brandon J. Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes.       Inter Varsity Press, 2012.

Hanko, Herman C. Issues in Hermeneutics. Protestant Reformed Theological Journals: 1990.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Submit your threads by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Thursday and your replies by 11:59 p.m. (ET) on Sunday.

 

[1] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation: 3rd Edition (Zondervan, 2017), 33

[2] Ibid. 39, 40

       [3] Ibid. 42

[4] Ibid. 39

[5] Ibid. 39

[6] Ibid. 39

[7] Ibid. 39

[8] Ibid. 41

[9] Herman C. Hanko, Issues in Hermeneutics, (Protestant Reformed Theological Journals: 1990), 2.

[10] E. Randolph Richards, Brandon J. O’Brien, Misreading Scripture With Western Eyes. (Downer’s Grove, IL: Inter Varsity Press, 2012), 15.

[11] Ibid. 70 – 72

[12] W.W. Klein, C.L. Blomberg, and R.L. Hubbard, Introduction to Biblical Interpretation. 50

[13] Ibid. 50, 51