Thursday, 11 October 2007

What do you see in 1 John 3? Is John bending the gospel and speaking about moralism? Are we condemned by statements like 3.6 'noone who abides in him keeps on sinning?' No I don't think so. Just like the visual illusion to the left seems to have bent lines but when you take a ruler to them you see they are straight, John's message is straight down the line gospel., even if at first glance it seems bent.

In chapter 3 he presents the gospel in terms of 3 OT concepts: purity, rebellion and righteousness. Purity 3.3 is found not in sinlessness, but by hoping in Jesus. Rebellion is probably the best way to translate the OT concept of lawlessness, and this is the sin (3.4) that John has on view when he says literally v6 'everyone who abides in him is not sinning'. That is, everyone who abides in Jesus is not rebelling against him. Then finally he makes the same point using the concept of righteousness. The one who practices righteousness 1 John style, not sinlessness, but confessing sins to Jesus who is faithful to forgive because he is our advocate with God based on his propitiatory death, is righteous. Not the one who thinks legalism or morality somehow impresses God or earns his favor. Righteousness is trusting in God's way of relating to us sinners - through Jesus. Which seems to be the point of Romans 3.21-26.

It is easy for our inherently moralistic and legalistic hearts to think 1 John is saying Christianity is about earning God's approval through our efforts, but that is an illusion when we read 1 John 3 in its context and in the context of the NT.The conceptual framework for understanding 1 John's logic in chapter 3 is union with Christ. For humans are only right, pure and not rebelling from God when they are united with Christ. Now union with Christ is a particularly Pauline way of expressing this concept, but the concept stands right at the heart of John's thought. For this is where his thought lands in chapter 3.

"23 And this is his commandment, that we believe in the name of his Son Jesus Christ and love one another, just as he has commanded us. 24 Whoever keeps his commandments abides in God,and God in him. And by this we know that he abides in us, by the Spirit whom he has given us."

Friday, 5 October 2007

limited v unlimited discussion

This is a transcript (slightly edited) of an email discussion I had with Andrew last week after I preached on 1 John 2.2

Andrew: 1 John 2:2 has Jesus dying for the sins of the whole world. Do you take that to mean everyone who has ever existed? If so then why are people in hell suffering for their sins if Jesus has dealt with them on the cross. If not then how do you limit the "sins of the whole world" to only mean the church (or elect)?

Antman: My answer to your questions is "Yes with an if"... Yes I do take it that Jesus death was for the sins of everyone who ever existed and not just that but also for the liberation of the creation, IF it is rightly understood that the NT nowhere says that everyone is automatically saved. There are more than the two options you gave for putting this together
A. he died for the elect
B. he died for everyone and this leads to universal salvation
Of the other alternatives, the one I favour, you could call Hypothetical Arminianism. I'll explain: Jesus did die as the propitiation (wrath appeasing and favor winning death) for the sins of the whole world. The Arminian would say, and yes now people must choose between believing or rejecting that work.

However, I only believe this is right in part, because my reading of the bible and 1 John is that everyone is so far gone in their sin, that no one in their natural rebelliousness against God chooses or is able to choose Jesus as their advocate and propitiatory sacrifice. In fact what God has done in Christ only seems to harden the human heart in its natural state of sin. John 3 rings a bell, here no one comes to the light because their deeds are evil, ... so though Jesus died for all, all reject him and thus ... Nicodemus ... Israel's teacher must be born from above to enter into the kingdom of heaven.

That is, God by his Spirit changes, reinvigorates, recreates our hearts and minds and wills so that we are able to accept what God himself has done at the cross. Jesus' work is universal in scope. The Spirit's work is particular to bring individuals to accept Jesus' work on their behalf, to unite people to Christ, for without accepting (trusting/believing) Jesus no one will be saved.

Jesus and the Spirit are working together but in different ways to reconcile God to rebellious humans. Why are only some reconciled ... Romans 9-11!

Andrew: So to clarify your saying that Jesus died for everyone's sin and by default no one is saved. My question is then, what are people being saved from, if Jesus has dealt with everyone's sin?

Antman: Jesus died for everyone's sin and no-one's sin. It all depends on what you mean by he died for 'my/your/our' sin.

What 1 John says is that Jesus' death is the propitiation for the sin of the whole world. That is, Jesus death turns God's wrath at our sin into favour. Jesus death has its primary effect on God himself not on us, it changes God, not us. Yet, Jesus death is not automatically applied to anyone far less everyone. What changes people is the Holy Spirit. So understood this way the reconciliation of sinner to God is properly Trinitarian. God in all three persons is involved in reconciliation, not in the same way but in complimentary ways.

People are being saved from the coming judgement of God. Jesus death releases, frees, exonerates, pardons, ransoms, atones for our sins because the father's wrath at sin was exhausted when he punished Jesus at the cross. Yet given the enormity of what God has done at his own initiative to deal with his wrath, God is now even angrier with those who reject Jesus wrath propitiating death.

I wouldn't say that Jesus has dealt with everyone's sin, rather that he has dealt with God's wrath at everyone's sin, but not automatically. We can then see further into the doctrine of grace, logically (rather than temporally) God within himself deals with his own anger at sin before he turns to consider any particular sinner.

Thanks mate for letting me publish this. I hope the world who isn't listening finds it helpful.

Tuesday, 11 September 2007

2 weeks turned into two months

Hi world who isn't listening (probably because there has been nothing to listen to). Well you don't want a sob story, but what will become of blogs universally if we don't allow a bit of personal bleating to creep in now and again?

At the aforementioned conference I came down with the 'killer flu' that hit the east coast of Australia pretty hard this winter, I seem to remember there being about a dozen deaths. I was out of action for two weeks and not fully recovered for three, so I fared pretty well comparatively. Then I found myself in the middle of a preaching series on Judges that ran for seven weeks which took everything I could give it (not preaching NT stuff also meant I didn't have anything meaningful to say about Greek exegesis and my Hebrew is too shoddy to post my thoughts). If you're still interested in my OT preaching the sermons are available at, and don't miss out on the powerpoint slides which took me hours and hours to prepare. That pretty much accounts for the last two months, oh except for the extreme lack of sleep thanks to my two children who have been gorgeous by day and hideous by night. Anyway that just about does the sobbing and it isn't why I'm posting really.

What I really wanted to say was that I'll be back in the game really soon.

I'm planning to finish my Spirit in the OT series, post a few songs I've written (well at least the words) and post some of my exegetical insights from 1 John.

Sunday, 1 July 2007

I'm going offline for a while

I'm sorry to say World Who Isn't Listening that I'm going to be out of action for about two weeks. First I've got a weeks break and then I'm away on a conference with a group of students looking at the person and work of the Holy Spirit. I'm excited we have almost 100 uni students coming. I meant to finish my Spirit of God in the OT series before then but I didn't, so I'll pick it up when I return. Happy .hunting. I'll be back!

Friday, 29 June 2007

Spirit of God in the OT - pt4 - Creation

The spirit of God is involved in creating, at least Job (33.4) considers that he was created by the Spirit. The Spirit is also implicated in Genesis 1.2 with the initial creation of things. But not only is the Spirit of God involved in creating, the Spirit of God is responsible for the spirit (or breath) of humanity

Consider Gen 6.3 ...

My Spirit (‏ר֣וּחַ) shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.

And compare it with Genesis 6.17 ...

For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath (‏ר֣וּחַ) of life under heaven.

Usually the
breath of life translates another word (‏נֶפֶשׁ) e.g. Gen 1.20, 1.24, 1.30, 2.7, 2.19, 9.12. But in chapter 6 the is a direct link between God's ‏ר֣וּחַ and the ‏ ר֣וּחַ that abides in humans. So in some sense all humans have the Spirit of God, what the NT seems to be teaching then is that Christians have the "Holy Spirit" in a radical new way that transforms the person.

Spirit of God in the OT - pt3

How can a word meaning wind or breath come to mean spirit?

As best I can work it out, (without access to a large theological library) it seems, that through the idea of wind and breath being invisible and breath being tied to life itself, that רוּחַ came to be used for the invisible inner unseen life of people and of God himself. Spirit came to be used for the inner disposition and happenings of a person. However, when applied to God the idea of his Spirit took on some radical qualities in the OT. Qualities that any person's Spirit could not take on.

Thursday, 28 June 2007

Spirit of God in the OT - pt2

In the OT the Holy Spirit is only referred to as the “Holy” Spirit (‏רוּחַ ruach) explicitly on 3 occasions (Psalm 51.11, Is 63.10, 11). However, there are many references to 'my spirit' or the 'spirit of God' or the 'spirit of the LORD'. What is the Spirit of God?

The word for 'spirit' in the OT (‏רוּחַ ruach) could mean spirit, wind or breath. Sometimes the 'spirit' connotation is even translated heart. For example ...
* 2 Sam 22.16, Job 15.30, Ps 135.16 = breath
* Ex 35.21, Ps 32.2, Prov 29.23 = spirit
* Gen 8.1, Ex 14.21, Job 1.19) = wind

These three basic meanings sometimes overlap. Compare Genesis 6.3 with 6.17.

6.3 Then the LORD said, “My Spirit (רוּחַ ruach) shall not abide in man forever, for he is flesh: his days shall be 120 years.”

6.17 For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath (רוּחַ ruach) of life under heaven.

In 6.3 is it the Spirit or breath of God that won't abide with man? Is what animates the man of dust the spirit or breath of life? See also Exodus 15.10. Was it God's wind that blew, his breath, or his Spirit? Or Sam 23.3 is it the spirit or breath of God that speaks?

Can you see how any one of the three ideas in (‏רוּחַ ruach) might give rise to the others? Can you account for how a word for wind or breath can also mean spirit?