Jesusians

A Courteous Contrararian

Fun Run

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Feb• 23•15

A few weeks ago, they held the Instant Gratification 0.0 Fun Run in Philadelphia. I think it was 0.0 kilometers but it might have been 0.0 miles. The starting line was also the finish line.

http://www.nytimes.com/2015/02/09/sports/for-the-slothful-a-race-is-a-one-step-process.html

I wish I would have known about it, so I could have intended to run. Because I give myself credit for my intentions. I think most of us unconsciously do. On the other hand, few us give others credit for their intentions, probably because we don’t know the intentions of other people for the most part.

So back to the “race.” Is it an analogy for Salvation? Do we take one step and we’re “in?” Or is one step too much; does God actually push us over the starting line?

And one more question. Is God’s starting line the same as his finish line in regards to Salvation? This is the only question I can answer. Paul, and the author of Hebrews 6, and maybe even John in early Revelation, think that Salvation has a starting point distinct from the finish line.

Predestination 9

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Feb• 09•15

Paul has shifted from the present tense to our hope for the future. Creation groans, we groan inwardly, and in a few verses, the Spirit himself intercedes for us through wordless groans.

What is God doing in response to all this groaning? 27 And he who searches our hearts knows the mind of the Spirit, because the Spirit intercedes for God’s people in accordance with the will of God. He’s working his will. He’s working all things for our good. 28 And we know that in all things God works for the good of those who love him, who have been called according to his purpose.

Verse 28 has always bugged me. Not the verse itself, the sentence construction. The phrases are in unbalanced parallel. Even in the translation that I memorized. And we know that God works all things together for the good of those who love him, those called according to his purpose.

The second translation makes it seem like there are two groups, those who love him and those called according to his purpose. In the first, the clause seems like a clarification – those who love him have been called according to his purpose. The difference between the two is the word together. 

In the Greek, the verb in question means works together. We could say “God works together all things for the good” but it is clumsy to our ear. Inserting “all things” in the middle of the verb sounds better. But apparently there is a good grammatical reason in the Greek to insert even more words between works and together. (I stumbled upon this alternate reading years ago, although since I prefer to think God was working things for my good, perhaps I didn’t just stumble upon it.) The newest NIV even lists it in the footnotes as an alternate reading.

For we know God works all things together for the good of those who love him together with those who have been called according to his purpose.

Now the sentence is more elegant and balanced, but it makes sense in a different way. It means something different. God is still working all things for our good, but now he is doing it together with people who have been called, and he’s doing it to achieve his purpose.

And those who are called? Just to confuse things, they are not Jesus’ called, they are the chosen. The chosen are those called according to his purpose. Paul says he was called to be an Apostle, all the Apostles were called, pastors are called. We are called, but to a different task. We are called to follow the right leaders. We are the “those who love him” that he is working all things for the good of. They, the chosen, are those working together with God to bring about that good.

Now the next section makes sense in a different way as well. And flows better as a narrative. And matches Ephesians 1:1-12 concept for concept and almost pronoun for pronoun.

29 For those God foreknew he also predestined to be conformed to the image of his Son, that he might be the firstborn among many brothers and sisters. 30 And those he predestined, he also called; those he called, he also justified; those he justified, he also glorified.

With these verses we begin to glimpse the parallels to Ephesians 1. Jesus is the firstborn among many brothers and sisters, one of his many preeminences. That he is firstborn echoes back a few verses to Paul’s claim to be among the first to believe; to Paul’s we ourselves differentiation. Now we see the cavalry emerging in Paul’s thought. The chosen were predestined, that was when they were chosen. Then God called them to their tasks, at some specific point in their lives. Those he called, he justified. Those he justified, he glorified.

How did he glorify them? Someday we’ll know. But they have been glorified even here on earth. The Apostles have made a lasting impact. We will never forget them. They shaped the church. They wrote the Bible!

The church and the Bible are some of the things they worked for our good, and the church and the Bible are still working for our good. Because the church and the Bible are God’s idea, the Apostles were only working together with him to bring them to us.

And so now, finally, we have the complete answer to the dilemma Paul brought us in in chapter 7. He didn’t do the good he wanted to do. Indeed, he performed less than optimally even when he intended better. This is not the bombastic Paul we considered early in this series. This is Paul at his most vulnerable. The dilemma is how can we live out our status in Christ.

When Paul considers it in the first person it is an act of mercy on his part. I have thanked God for Romans 7. Paul tells us that not even he can live as he should. But there’s hope. We can achieve what God would have us achieve but, as I said earlier, it’s up to us. So how can we achieve it, what makes Paul so sure it is possible? We have helps that he believes are more than sufficient.

First and foremost, we have Jesus Christ. As a reminder and an encouragement he tells us that there is no condemnation, even when we do screw up. And then be begins to lists the helps. The Holy Spirit that indwells is the biggest helper and so his role takes up most of chapter 8. We must sow to the Spirit.

Jesus alone should be enough for us. The Holy Spirit alone should be enough for us. But no. God lists additional helps. All of creation clues us in, as it waits for the children of God to be revealed. N. T. Wright says all creation stands on tiptoes in anticipation. Creation is pulling for us, cheering us on. It is groaning just like the Spirit is groaning on our behalf.

Paul has to tell us all this because we don’t seem to get it. We didn’t understand the Spirit groans for us until Paul told us because the Holy Spirit’s understanding and communications with the Father are too deep. We don’t understand how creation pulls for us either. We tend to think of creation as an obstacle or an adversary.

So the players in our struggle so far mentioned are the Father, Jesus, the Holy Spirit, and creation itself. Together they make up the “all things” that Paul summarizes in verse 28. They are all working for our good if we love God. But wait, there’s more!

We’ve never seen God or Jesus. We can grieve or quench the Spirit. We’ve always tended to misinterpret nature. So God gives us more. He not only works all these things, he works them together with those who have been called according to his purpose; the prophets and apostles and whatever other cavalry he deems necessary.

That cavalry has provided us with the Bible, quite a help, don’t you think? They also established the early church, the blueprint we still use today. (I come to this in part from Jesus’ clarification to Peter, “whatever you bind on earth has been bound in heaven…” Jesus tells this to Peter right after he tells him that all authority has been given to him – in other words Jesus has the authority and is passing some of it on to Peter and the other Apostles. They used it to finish the NT and establish the church.)

So Paul’s dilemma, way back in chapter 7, was that he didn’t do what he intended and did do what he wished not to do, because the old nature resided within him along with Jesus’ work in making him a new creation. How could he overcome the old nature?

His answer takes most of chapter 8. It is up to us, Paul implies. (If it were only up to God, Paul wouldn’t have been doing the things he didn’t wish to do.) It is up to us but we have plenty of help. We have

The Father

Jesus

The Holy Spirit

All Creation

God’s Plan (which is working all these things for our good)

Those called according to his purpose

The Bible and

The church.

Quite an array of weaponry to help us. But is it enough? Here’s Paul’s take. 31 What, then, shall we say in response to these things? If God is for us, who can be against us? 

In fact, he can’t keep himself from praising God for everything he has listed in chapter 8. Here is his conclusion.

37 No, in all these things we are more than conquerors through him who loved us. 38 For I am convinced that neither death nor life, neither angels nor demons, neither the present nor the future, nor any powers, 39 neither height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God that is in Christ Jesus our Lord.

We are more than conquerors through him! Woo hoo!

 

Predestination 8

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Feb• 04•15

So.

The Chosen and the called. The Predestined and the rest of us. Two ways to the Father and both through Jesus. We’ve been considering how God works with us all using the same methods but varies the degree of pressure he exerts on each group. The more power and responsibility entrusted, the greater the molding and shaping.

The one difference is that one group was pre-chosen and the other was not. But the chosen were chosen to help the rest of us to hear the word of truth. The chosen are God’s strike force, inserted into history to influence the rest of us without inhibiting our free will. The chosen are the cavalry and thank God for the cavalry! If I’m right in my conclusions, we’ve all been affected by Calvary and the cavalry.

I can’t resist going back to Romans one more tie to wrap this all up. To me, chapters 1-5 are a salvation history and beginning in chapter 6, Paul brings his discourse down to the personal level: We are a new creation but the old creature remains. Sometimes even Paul does things he shouldn’t or fails to do what is right. Evil is right beside him and another law is at work inside him.

What should we do? Beginning in chapter 8, one of the most glorious in all the Bible, he gives us the answer. But before he does, he gives a reassurance; there is no condemnation for those who are in Christ.

The answer to the lawlessness of our old hearts and the evil that is beside us? It’s up to us. At 8:2 Paul begins to show everything God has done to equip us and help us to choose correctly. Jesus not only died and rose to make us a new creation, the Holy Spirit indwells us. The Spirit is, as Jesus told us, another helper. And God has a plan – to redeem all creation, and creation knows about it. The Holy Spirit not only helps us to do what we know we need to do, he intercedes at times and we don’t know anything about it. Paul had to clue us in.

And finally, God has provided the Bible, and the church, and people chosen for just such a time as they are planted in, to help us become what God would have us be. That’s God’s methods and praise be to God!

“Whoa,” you should say here, “just where did you get the conclusions of that previous paragraph?”

From our old friends, the pronouns. He starts with those who are in Christ in verse 1. In verse 2-11, he uses “you,” meaning us. In verse 12 he uses brothers and sister and then alternates between “you” and “we” or “us.” Here because of context, I believe he speaking of all of us because he is back to speaking of the Spirit and the Spirit will work with the chosen as well as the called.

Then in verse 23 he changes his pronoun stance once more, this time with a double pronoun to strengthen the contrast. We ourselves.

23 Not only so, but we ourselves, who have the firstfruits of the Spirit, groan inwardly as we wait eagerly for our adoption to sonship, the redemption of our bodies.

This verse is the one that first caught my attention, and later it was the verse that helped me tie Romans 8 to Ephesians 1. We ourselves sets off a group within God’s kingdom. Who are they? Those who have the firstfruits of the spirit. Paul himself belonged to that first group but evidently the Roman believers didn’t. I wondered if there was a cut off point between the two groups and I wondered if it was chronological.

When I noticed the corresponding concept in Ephesians, we who were among the first to believe, I began to think differently. It would have been odd for Paul to locate himself chronologically among the first to believe – he persecuted the first to believe. Unless we remember another statement of Paul’s, he was chosen before birth. Paul was a zealous believer in God, a staunch Pharisee.

Yet it wasn’t until he met Jesus that his beliefs began to focus on the right thing, a person who was God. As he was careful to tell us repeatedly, it wasn’t his doing, it was a gift from God. He was on his way, he thought, to Damascus, not a meeting with Jesus.

If this is the way he became among the firstfruits of the Spirit, we can also see how he considered himself among the first to believe. Just later in Romans Paul talks about Jesus being the firstborn among brothers and sisters. Being first is a position of eminence, not a statement of chronology. We ourselves, the firstfruits, and we, the first to believe, I think, are positions of secondary eminence, the new Chosen. And just like the inviters in Jesus’ parable, Paul was beaten (many times) and finally killed (once).

Let’s see how this idea that Paul, with we ourselves, is now talking about the Chosen few, the cavalry, affects the rest of Romans 8.

Predestination 7

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 29•15

Jesus’ parable contains a few groups that I’ve tried to correlate to real life groups, which is what we should do with a parable. The original chosen were God’s chosen people, the Jews. In the parable, the many chosen were replaced in this part of God’s kingdom plan by a few, who are chosen but on a different basis. The many who are called are called from among the gentile nations when, as Paul said, they heard the word of truth. The “job” of the Chosen is to call the called. The individual that was thrown out of the banquet was called. He wanted to be at the wedding, but on his terms. not the king’s. I think his inclusion in the story is as a cautionary detail. He wanted to clothe himself while the standard biblical image is of God provided us with new robes or clothing us with righteousness.

That’s my hypothesis and I’m sticking with it. Now we need to ask, and answer, “why?” Why are some chosen and the rest of us called? Why even have two groups? And why the change from many chosen to few chosen?

My answer has to do with the intersection of free will and God’s will. Another word for free will is choice. God is big on choice. Examples of choice are on almost every page of the Bible, starting with Eve’s choice in Genesis. No, starting with Satan’s choice in heaven.

The enemy of choice is sin and the slavery it causes, but the opposite of choice is foreordination, a concept we’ve developed because of predestination. The debate as to whether God preordains every action of history or whether we have free will will continue, I think, until Jesus returns. Personally, I believe in free will, I have no choice.

To me, it’s simple, (but then, to me, everything’s simple, that’s the way God made me) if God continually offers us a choice in scripture but yet we are predestined to do what we do, then God is a liar. Why make an offer we have no power to accept or reject?

But if we have free will, what of the apostles and the prophets, and anyone else God has Chosen? Do they not have free will? I think they do.

Here’s how I think it works. The Chosen were chosen by God to intercede in history in the way he would have them intercede. Paul says he was chosen before birth. Jeremiah said he was chosen before he was conceived. Cyrus was chosen, at least for one specific task, at least 150 years before he was conceived.

However, just because they were chosen doesn’t necessarily mean they were automatons. I think it means God liked their spirits (a heresy) and so inserted them into history for his purposes. Then he molded and shaped them through circumstance. God does the same with all of us but perhaps to a lesser degree.

Yet they retain a freedom of choice. They could cooperate or they could rebel. We have record of prophets perhaps not being all they could be.  Think of Anna the seer, or Simeon the prophet, both mentioned in the story of Jesus’ circumcision. Perhaps their only job was the one they accomplished that day, one solitary prophecy and mention in a gospel. But perhaps God had a greater role for them that they did not accomplish. Saul prophesied for a short time and yet God later rejected him. God chose Jeremiah but there was still a question of whether he could accurately relate God’s message (Jeremiah 1). And let’s not forget the the Jews were all God’s Chosen, and yet we think of them as not being very successful in the long run. Hence, the parable under consideration.

Proverbs says God directs a king’s path like a watercourse. Such a method feels like God orchestrated circumstances to make a particular decision more likely rather than eliminating free will. Scripture also tells us God chooses our leaders. They may not belong to the group of the few chosen that Jesus was speaking of, but because they wielded power they probably receive more attention from God than the average person. God directs our steps but to do so he only has to build a sidewalk. To direct a king like a watercourse God has to build a canal.

God orchestrates circumstances. He also works with our natural predilections, which would be effective because he knows us so perfectly. This is how I picture God exercising his sovereignty without tampering with our free will, and you probably do too. We see it in sayings like when God closes a door, he opens a window. (Which is not a problem because he doesn’t pay for heat or air conditioning.)

We see the same principle at play in our minds when we wonder what God’s will is for our lives. The question assumes we might not carry it out effectively (free will or choice) and also that he has a method of cluing us in if we are spiritually sensitive enough to discern it. Sometimes, with me, he has to lock the door and throw me out the window. Defenestration feels terrible at the time but afterwards I can enjoy my time outdoors. I’ve always wanted to use the word defenestration. It means to throw out a window.

Let’s try to tie everything together.

 

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Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 26•15

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Predestination 6

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 26•15

Many are called but few are chosen  (Matthew 22:14 NASB)

You’ve probably not thought deeply about what this might mean. They are the words of Jesus, the summation of a parable.

I used to think, just in passing, that it meant God called many to the faith but few actually responded but that doesn’t make much sense theologically. In fact, it’s the opposite of predestination.

Now I think it is Jesus talking about the two groups, Paul’s “we” and “you.”  The chosen are the predestined; apostles and the like. The called are those of us who came when we heard the word of truth. We’ll spend a post or two trying to strengthen the correlation.

The immediate conclusion we can draw, if we allow that the correlation exists for a moment, is that Jesus thought there were two paths. More, that there have always been two paths.

For who would Jesus have considered to be chosen? The Jews. The Chosen people, the royal priesthood. God tells them in various places in the OT that he did not choose them because they were a large group, or strong, or worthy. He chose them because he wanted to choose them. In other places God says he chose them because of his love for their father, Abraham.

He chose them to be his people, and he would be their God, but they didn’t complete their part of the bargain very effectively. And so with this parable and its summation, Jesus announces a prophetic change in method. The Chosen people did not bring God effectively to the world and so he would choose now on a different basis.

The parable in question is the story of a king who would hold a wedding banquet. He invited the citizens in his kingdom to attend, but when the big day came, they all had excuses as to why they couldn’t make it. In every case, life got in the way. The people of the kingdom all considered life’s small milestones as too important compared to the king’s wishes. Not only didn’t they attend, they beat and killed the people doing the inviting. Shades of the fate of the prophets throughout the OT, from Abel to Zechariah.

So then the king invited a different group. In fact, he was going to invite everybody; those traveling the main roads and those on the side streets, the good and the evil. And they showed up. So the Chosen people begged out but the called came.

But now we have a puzzle. When we view the parable in light of Jesus’ conclusion, we can understand “the many” of whom he speaks. The many who were called are the from gentile nations, those not of his kingdom. But who were the chosen?

Jesus says few are chosen, but we have two large groups in the parable, the original invitees and the ones that were subsequently invited. Who were the few?

We have two possible candidates, two groups of few. There’s the man who did not honor the king by wearing appropriate clothing. (We’re taught that appropriate clothing would have been provided by the king at a royal wedding, so no one would have been shamed by being too poor.) But that man was not “few,” he was “one.” More about him and his place in the parable later.

That leaves only one group that can qualify as the few. We might miss them if we’re not careful, but they are there, and more than once: those doing the inviting. They are the chosen of whom Jesus speaks.

Yet before we can understand Jesus’ conclusion, we must look at one inconsistency in what I’ve just written. In the paragraph above I said that the Chosen few are the inviters, but earlier i mentioned that all the citizens of the kingdom, all the Jews, were God’s chosen people. Well, which is it?

The answer to the question is the reason for the parable and the point of it. Those originally chosen were set aside because they chose not to participate. The Jews listening to the parable understood this; we can tell by their immediate reaction. Then the Pharisees went and plotted together how they might trap Him in what He said. [Mat 22:15 NASB]

More next time.

Predestination 5

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 22•15

I’d like to think we’ve built a strong case for two different paths to the same salvation, some were predestined and some came when they heard the word of truth. All come through Jesus, for there is one name under heaven by which someone must be saved.

We’ve considered that we are setting a false parameter when we decree there could only be one path, and how it is a by-product of power. We’ve looked at Paul’s possible slight inferiority complex and his resultant bombastic tendencies when considering his equality with the other apostles. We’ve seen the distinctive pronoun switch in Ephesians 1.

Next. I was going to draw parallels between Ephesians 1 and Romans 8 – to better show Paul’s predilection for separating believers into “us” (the apostles) and “you” (the non-apostles). This proved to be too involved for a blog post. I attempted it offline and it would probably take at least half a dozen posts just to provide the bare minimum correlation.

So instead I’ll move to another passage that shows that same predilection, 1 Corinthians 4. Even a cursory reading shows Paul’s separation in his own mind.

6 Now, brothers and sisters, I have applied these things to myself and Apollos for your benefit, so that you may learn from us the meaning of the saying, “Do not go beyond what is written.” Then you will not be puffed up in being a follower of one of us over against the other.

7 For who makes you different from anyone else? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you did receive it, why do you boast as though you did not? 8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! You have begun to reign–and that without us!

How I wish that you really had begun to reign so that we also might reign with you! 9 For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.

10 We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ!

We are weak, but you are strong!

You are honored, we are dishonored!

11 To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. 12 We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; 13 when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world–right up to this moment. 14 I am writing this not to shame you but to warn you as my dear children. [1Co 4:6-14 NIV]

Ah, there’s Paul at his sarcastic, and bombastic, best. Or worst. Clearly differentiating between “we” the apostles and “you” followers. The passage is defining. Paul has a mental tendency to divide believers into two categories.

But was this idea only in the fertile mind of Paul? Or is there substantiation elsewhere in scripture?

Let’s look next at the words of Jesus.

 

 

 

Predestination 4

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 21•15

We’ve been in Ephesians 1, looking at the pronouns.

I’ve put forth the idea that when Paul writes “you,” he means us. Not so hard to swallow. The hard part of that idea is that when he uses a word that means the opposite of “you,” he doesn’t mean us. He means himself and the rest of the predestined. Not always, but at least in two extended passages.

Whenever we read “we” or “us” we read ourselves into the verse, after all the Bible is for us. Especially when the text says we have been pre-chosen, we have been blessed, etc. It’s hard to write ourselves out of such a passage.

But I’ve claimed the pronoun pattern forces us to a different conclusion. Let’s review the pronouns in early Ephesians 1.

Verse 1                                                                                                                                Verse 2: you                                                                                                                      Verses 3-12: our, us, us, us, us, us, we, us, us, we                                                 Verse 13: you, you, your, you, you

Pretty dramatic. Let’s take a closer look at verse 13. And you were also included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit. (NIV)

That’s good! We believe this. We believe that when we believed, the Holy Spirit came to indwell us. And don’t all of us know we have been marked by it?

But what about Paul and all the people included in “we” or “us?” Weren’t they also indwelt? If he and they were, why switch to “and you” before he talks about it? This logic is valid whether you agree with me as to whom “us” refers, or whether you would still insist that we means all of us: Paul and you and me.

If Paul means all of us, why the distinction of suddenly switching to “you” midstream unless he was saying (God forbid) that “they” weren’t indwelt by the Spirit but “(the new) we” were. If they weren’t indwelt by the Spirit, how could we trust their teachings and counsel. If they were indwelt, then “(the old) we” is a different group than the group “you.” “You” means us, just like we’ve always assumed, but “we” means them – the predestined.

If this is true, it would be terrifying to some. I know the predestined are secure in their salvation because it was foreordained, but what about us? We made a weak human decision to follow Jesus. The thought occurred to Paul. It was the first thing that occurred to him.

In the very next sentence he gives the “you also” people reassurance. We have been sealed by the Holy Spirit. How do I know that my weak decision was valid and true? You have been sealed. You are safe and secure. And what a seal! The promised Holy Spirit.

Paul elaborates in verse 14. who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession – to the praise of his glory. (NIV) The Holy Spirit gives us a guaranty. that’s how we can be sure. And even if that other group was predestined, we are still God’s possession.  

More next time.

 

Predestination 3

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 15•15

And now on to the third way of looking at predestination.

We’ve seen how a Calvinist might say God has predestined who gets to heaven (and how everyone else by default goes to hell). We’ve also seen how the Arminian can point to all the commands to believe, and all the commands for believers to evangelize, and say we must somehow have a choice. To them, predestination means God has “middle knowledge,” he knows everything that might ever possibly occur, and so predestines those he knows will accept the Lord.

The middle way relies on the words “us” and “we” and “our.” I noticed them first in Romans 8, the way the pronouns unfold. I thought about them for months without discovering if they had some special meaning. Then I noticed the same pattern in Ephesians 1 and by verse 13 hit me like a thunderbolt.

Let’s look at Ephesians 1; only the common pronouns, excluding those referring to God or Jesus, starting in verse 3.

Our, us, us, us, us, us, we, us, us, we.

The passage is about the wonderful things God has done for us through his son, our Lord. He blessed us, he chose us, he predestined us, he has freely given us grace, he has redeemed us and lavished grace on us. I love lavish as a verb when God is doing the lavishing.

God did all these things in order that we who were the first to put our hope in Christ might be for the praise of his glory (Eph 1:12 NIV). So that we might be what, you may ask? Just so we might be. That we might be for the praise of his glory. I’m for the praise of his glory, that’s for sure, even though I don’t know for certain what it means. But I digress.

Whenever I’ve read Ephesians 1:1-12, or its parallel toward the end of Romans 8, I’ve always marveled at all that God has done for us. But are we the “we” to whom Paul is referring? You know I think the answer is no. I think he is referring the the Apostles.

The Apostles of which he was one. Paul is saying he is the same as them in the way he has been treated by God. Chosen, lavished with grace, predestined, among the first to believe (Romans has it as among the first fruits). He made known to the apostles the mystery of his will and they have made much of it known to us. Paul is saying he was predestined like the other apostles were. His wisdom and knowledge is at least on a par with theirs.

Right about now you might be thinking, “that’s why he wrote the previous post, to bolster this shaky conclusion. You’d be partially right, that was exactly why I wrote the last post. But I’ve got a good deal more evidence.

It starts with Ephesians 1:13 and 14, and a pronoun change. and you also.

Let’s revisit Paul’s common pronouns thus far. There is one in verse 2 that we haven’t mentioned, “you.” grace and peace to you. “You” here are the Ephesians he is writing to. And then, in verses 3-12 we have the earlier list.

Our, us, us, us, us, us, we, us, us, we.

And then suddenly in verse 13, And you also were included in Christ when you heard the message of truth, the gospel of your salvation. Paul and the Apostles (a mid-first century punk rock group) were predestined. The rest of us – and the Ephesians – on the other hand, were included in Christ when we hear the truth.

That’s the third way. It’s been lying right there for everybody to see all along and yet we haven’t. We’ve been so busy defending our ingrained positions that a very simple thought has never occurred to us: God can have more than one method to bring people to salvation.

The Calvinists are right when they insist that God predestines people.        The Arminians are right when they say people must choose to be saved.

It’s only that not all people are predestined and not all come by hearing the word of truth from other believers. Some, like Peter and John, heard not from other believers, but from Jesus himself, and the Father, and the Holy Spirit. Others, like Paul, were also visited and taught by the Lord, but in what manner we don’t quite know. And the rest of us have generally been drawn through the word of truth. (Technically, that’s three ways, but hey.) The point is, God is not limited, especially by our limited imaginations. Just because we’ve been unable to imagine it doesn’t mean he hasn’t.

We’ll begin tightening up my little theory in the next post. There’s quite a bit more evidence, so it may take two or three more posts.

 

 

Predestination 2

Written By: Jon Jaroszewski - Jan• 14•15

We can’t start right in with the subject at hand. In order to get clarity, in order to find that third way, we have to start with the Apostle Paul’s mindset.

There is a thread that runs through most of his letters. Most of the time it is imperceptible. Occasionally it rears its head a little more forcefully, and it is because of those few incidents that we can ferret out that which is imperceptible in other passages.

I am talking about Paul’s defensiveness about his apostleship. Paul hadn’t walked with Jesus while Jesus walked the earth. That was one of the qualifications of an apostle, after all, that one had learned at the feet of Jesus, and in the strictest sense, Paul didn’t qualify.

In another way Paul did qualify. Jesus did speak to him on the road to Damascus. He was taught by the Lord somehow, although the means and the method is not very clear to us. But I think Paul either heard talk, or imagined talk that he didn’t qualify in the strictest sense and it caused a bit of an inferiority complex. Perhaps he imagined others thought of him as an Apostle Lite.

We can glean all this from his writings, especially when he wrote about apostleship or the other apostles. He complained that he and Barnabas had the same right to earn their living through their work that Peter and the other apostles did. (1 Cor 9:5). The complaint seems a little envious and entirely human. But is it what we would expect from the man who told us he no longer lives, but it is Christ who lives in him? Perhaps it was because Christ was more into carpentry than tentmaking.

And then there’s this from his letter to the Galatians. But from those who were of high reputation (what they were makes no difference to me; God shows no partiality)–well, those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me. [Gal 2:6 NASB] Perhaps God is indeed no respecter of persons, but Paul isn’t commenting on who they were, he was talking about what they were. What they were was Apostles, at least Peter and John were. And James, according to Eusebius, was appointed head of the Jerusalem church – by the Apostles. So we are left with Paul, or maybe the Holy Spirit, looking like he (or He) wanted to take apostleship down a peg. And so much for apostolic succession.

But wait, that’s not it at all. The high regard Paul had for apostleship,or at least his own apostleship, is evident in his letters as well. In two-thirds of his New Testament letters he manages to work his own claim of apostleship into the very first sentence! So it wasn’t the office that was the problem. It seems more likely that he just wanted to be held in equal regard.

Especially when we compare the vignette is Acts to his reporting of it in Galatians 2. In Acts, the leaders of the church instructed him to continue his mission to the gentiles with no prohibition other than to refrain from sexual immorality and the eating of blood. In Galatians Paul says the only instruction was that they continue to care for the poor. More, Paul didn’t forget their advice, he disregarded it. Or he didn’t think it worthy of passing on. those who were of reputation contributed nothing to me.

Immediately after talking about the poor, Paul tells the story of how Peter bowed to pressures from the Judaizers at Antioch, and how Paul had to publicly rebuke him for it. Intimating that he had the right to do so.

If we add it all up, we see that Paul did recognize the importance of the work of the Apostles, he only wanted to be seen as their equal. His bombastic defensiveness shows through.

He wanted the Galatians, and the Corinthians, to realize he was an apostle on par with the rest of them. It wasn’t, in his own mind, “them” and him, it was “us”.

And the point of this post has been to get here, to that little word “us”. Because us and its correlate we become very important in the next post.