A Ministry of the School of Theology and Christian Ministry—Olivet Nazarene University

Biblically Speaking

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When Theology and Life Collide

 

Paul’s letter to the church at Rome has long been recognized as presenting the most thorough explication of his understandings relating to the Christian faith.  This is not surprising in that Paul wrote this letter to a church neither established nor previously visited by him.  This introductory letter to the Christian community at Rome was likely written near the close of Paul’s third missionary journey and before his consequential journey to Jerusalem (15:28-29).    

Numerous structural breakdowns have been provided for Romans; however, generally this letter is recognized as beginning with a common Pauline salutation followed by a direct address to the church (1:1-7).  This introduction is followed by Paul’s words of thanksgiving for what he has heard of the church in Rome and by an expression of his desire to come to them (1:8-15). 

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Is N. T. Wright Right?

Book Review

 

Wright, N.T. How God became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels. New York: HarperOne, 2012.

In How God Became King: The Forgotten Story of the Gospels, N.T. Wright begins his preface with a bold claim. “Most of the Western Christian tradition,” he says, “has simply forgotten what the [canonical] gospels are really all about” (ix). We know that they are about Jesus. We know that they are about God. We know that they are about the beginnings of Christianity. But exactly what are they saying about Jesus, God, and Christianity? Wright spends most of the book arguing that the answer to that question lies imbedded in the fundamental story that the gospels tell: the story of the coming of the kingdom of God, or, as Wright’s title puts it, the story of “how God became King” of the whole world.

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The Woman and the Dragon – A Lesser Known Infancy Narrative (Revelation 12:1-17)

 

As Christmas nears, we commonly hear readings from some of the most familiar passages in the New Testament, namely the infancy narratives of Matthew and Luke.  In both, we learn that Jesus was born in Bethlehem during the reign of Herod the Great.  Jesus’ mother is identified as Mary who conceived him virginally by the power of the Holy Spirit.  Mary’s husband is identified as a descendant of David named Joseph.  Jesus’ name is given by divine command which is relayed through an angel.   Differences do appear between Matthew and Luke concerning such details as the parent of focus (Mary or Joseph) and the identity of Jesus’ visitors (Magi or pagan astrologers in Matthew and shepherds in Luke).   In both cases, however, Jesus is clearly presented as a child of promise.  Matthew depicts him as the “one who will save his people from their sins” (1:21, NRSV) and as Emmanuel meaning “God is with us” (1:23, NRSV).  In Luke, Jesus is described as a Savior, the Messiah, the Lord.  He is the One upon whom all the hopes of Israel and ultimately the entire world depend.

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Remember

 

February 13 is Ash Wednesday, which begins the liturgical season of Lent, traditionally a time when we Christians, in preparation for the celebration of Easter, examine our hearts and reflect on Jesus’ suffering in our behalf. One of our most cherished ways of calling to mind Jesus’ work on the cross is the sacrament of Holy Communion, or the Lord’s Supper. It seems fitting here, then, to consider a few Scripture passages that relate to the Lord’s Supper and ask what they teach us about the meaning of Jesus’ death and the meaning of the sacrament itself.

In Mark 14:24, as Jesus and his disciples eat the Passover meal, Jesus says, “This is my blood of the covenant, poured out for many.”1 The phrase “blood of the covenant” calls to mind the establishment of the covenant between the LORD and the people of Israel on Mount Sinai in Exodus 24:4-8. In that passage, Moses wets the people with the blood of oxen that have been offered to the LORD and says, “See the blood of the covenant that the LORD has made with you . . . ” (v. 8).The idea of establishing a covenant takes us back to a time even earlier in the history of the people of Israel, the time of Abraham. In Genesis 15, Abraham, at the LORD’s command, brings to the LORD a heifer, a goat, a ram, a turtledove, and a pigeon. He cuts the heifer, the goat, and the ram in half, lays the halves opposite each other, and waits. Around sunset, Abraham falls into a deep sleep, and a “deep and terrifying darkness” (v. 12) comes over him. As Abraham sleeps, “a smoking firepot and a flaming torch” (v. 17), symbolizing the presence of the LORD, pass between the halves of the animals.” The LORD says to Abraham, “To your descendants I give this land . . . ” (v. 18). In Abraham’s world, the Ancient Near East, the parties to a covenant typically passed between the pieces of slaughtered animals and said something like, “May the gods do to me what has been done to these animals if I ever violate this covenant.” By passing between the pieces of the animals, the LORD Himself takes this oath of self-curse, pledging to remain faithful to Abraham and his descendants. To say that the blood of Jesus is the blood of the covenant, then, is to say that his death establishes a covenant relationship between God and human beings. The Lord’s Supper calls us to remember both our status as God’s covenant people and the great price at which that status was bought for us.

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Preaching and Teaching the Psalms

As a church leader, do you ever have difficulty locating useful resources for preaching and teaching from the Old Testament?  The attempt to find stimulating books that will enrich the mind and connect with the audience in a practical, meaningful way can be quite challenging and frustrating.  In light of this, I would like to propose a monograph written by V. Steven Parrish entitled, A Story of the Psalms: Conversation, Canon, and Congregation.1   In this book, Parrish examines how the canonical arrangement of the Psalter recounts the story of the people of Israel (thus Canon), and he demonstrates how the narrative sequence within the Psalms shares many parallels with the modern congregation (thus Congregation).  He then constructs a historical-contextual bridge between an ancient context and a modern one, thereby making it possible for the church to be in constructive dialogue with the biblical text (thus Conversation).

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Tags: Bible, Psalms
 

Hermeneutical Reflections Concerning N. T. Wright’s Eschatological Understanding of the Relationship Between the Present and Future

 

I listened intently as a pastor spoke with anguish of wanting to invest in things which last.  My first reaction was surprise.  Does not the work of ministry inherently have lasting value?  The pastor, however, was not thinking of encouraging people to make decisions which have eternal consequences, but rather looking to lasting results in the present world.

Recently, this desire has been loudly voiced by those who passionately want their lives for Christ to produce lasting results for this world.  The focus in not on what God will do at some future time, but what he is doing in the present.  At times, these persons refer to a hope looking toward a future world as a type of escapism.  They rightly recognize what the church, at its best, always has always taught.  Followers of Christ are to be engaged in living out the implications of their faith now.  They are to show the love of God in all their activities within the present time.  This includes being a voice for the poor, the outcast, and disenfranchised in society.  It includes a concern for all God’s creation.

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