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Daniel of Doulogos Name:Daniel
Home: Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada
About Me: I used to believe that evolution was reasonable, that homosexuality was genetic, and that people became Christians because they couldn't deal with the 'reality' that this life was all there was. I used to believe, that if there was a heaven - I could get there by being good - and I used to think I was more or less a good person. I was wrong on all counts. One day I finally had my eyes opened and I saw that I was not going to go to heaven, but that I was certainly going to suffer the wrath of God for all my sin. I saw myself as a treasonous rebel at heart - I hated God for creating me just to send me to Hell - and I was wretched beyond my own comprehension. Into this spiritual vacuum Jesus Christ came and he opened my understanding - delivering me from God's wrath into God's grace. I was "saved" as an adult, and now my life is hid in Christ. I am by no means sinless, but by God's grace I am a repenting believer - a born again Christian.
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Tuesday, April 03, 2012
Paul Anticipates Trouble
I want you to notice something in Acts 24. There we find Ananias' attorney (Tertullus) accusing Paul before (Procurator Marcus Antonius) Felix at Ceasarea. Note that Tertullus describes Paul as a ringleader of sect of Nazarenes (c.f. Acts 24:5). We see that word, "sect" (Greek: αἱρέσεως), used to describe both Sadducees (Acts 5:17) and Pharisees (Acts 15:5); that is, we see this word being used by Terullus (and by extension: the High Priest Ananias) to describe Christianity as a Jewish sect.

Why did the High Priest think Christianity was just the latest Jewish sect? Because those Jews who had converted to Christianity still considered themeselves to be Jews. Ananias was spiritually and theologically blind. He did not understand that the New Covenant that God had promised previously through such prophets as Jeremiah and Ezekiel had not only arrived but even now was replacing the Mosaic Covenant. Ananias saw only a new and wayward teaching that needed to be silenced.

Before I say that we shouldn't marvel at this blindness, as though Ananias was especially blind. Consider Peter's reaction to Christ's command in Acts 11:4-10:

But Peter began and explained it to them in order: “I was in the city of Joppa praying, and in a trance I saw a vision, something like a great sheet descending, being let down from heaven by its four corners, and it came down to me. Looking at it closely, I observed animals and beasts of prey and reptiles and birds of the air. And I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Rise, Peter; kill and eat.’ But I said, ‘By no means, Lord; for nothing common or unclean has ever entered my mouth.’ But the voice answered a second time from heaven, ‘What God has made clean, do not call common.’ This happened three times, and all was drawn up again into heaven. - [ESV]

Peter was so shocked by this command that he (initially) refused to even entertain it! Nevertheless God used Peter to usher the Gentiles into the kingdom, even though the Gentiles were not keepers of the law! You would expect with that kind of one-on-one instruction, and having been used to bring those who were not law keepers into the kingdom, that Peter would have understood that the laws given to Israel through Moses were no longer in effect because they belonged to a covenant that was no longer in effect. You would think that Peter would have grasped sooner, rather than later, the understanding that what was handed down from Moses, was incompatible with what had been received through Christ. You would think that Peter, having entered into the new (and better) covenant, would have put aside the old one like a hot potato...

Yet at Antioch, Peter played the Jew, as it were, when Judaizers came from Jerusalem to Antioch, and sat apart from the Gentiles at meal time. It was there, at Antioch, that Paul had to rebuke Peter, because Peter began again to set aside the New Covenant in order to observe regulations from the Old (Mosaic) Covenant.

If Peter himself - the man God used to bring the Gentiles into the kingdom - had a difficult time transitioning from the Mosaic Covenant to the New Covenant, it is fair to conclude that it was no easy thing for a Jew to accept the notion that the Mosaic law had served it's purpose, and was no longer binding.

This tidbit of information is germane to our study of Paul's letter to the church at Rome. Those Jews who had converted to Christ in Rome would have considered themselves Jews (who had received their Messiah); and what's more, Gentiles joining themselves to this church at Rome would have understood themselves to be becoming Jews, albeit Jews who understood that Christ was their Messiah.

With that in mind, consider the Gentile who was converted (or converting) to this form of Judaism (Christianity). Whom do you think the Gentiles would be looking to for their primary instruction in Judaism, other Gentiles converts, or those (converted) Jews at Rome? I mean, if you want to learn to speak Mandarin Chinese, and go so far as to move to China, do you then seek out a teacher among those who are themselves still learning the language? No. You (typically) seek out instruction from a native speaker of the language.

So too the Gentiles in Rome who had converted to Christianity, would have regarded the converted Jews as their primary instructors in the faith. That's an important thing to keep in mind, because as Paul labours to bring the believers at Rome into obedience of faith. He has to contend with the errant (though popular) notion that Christianity was just the latest sect being sewn into the existing fabric of Judaism.

Before Paul could really get into meat of his message, he would have to untangle this particular knot, and do so in a way that gently disarmed (beforehand) any anticipated "Jewish" arguments to the contrary.

Specifically, Paul needed to show those Jewish believers that Judaism had misunderstood the purpose and scope of Law, as delivered by Moses. To do that end, Paul begins, In Romans 1:18 to show that law not only [1] did not make anyone righteous, but more importantly, [2] could not make anyone righteous.

More on this in next post.


posted by Daniel @ 11:14 AM  
  • At 1:02 PM, April 03, 2012, Blogger Daniel said…

    I can't believe how many little grammar, spelling, and punctuation errors I left in there when I first posted it. I had to make about 20 corrections - even re-writing a couple of paragraphs to do so!

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