October - Reading 5

Discussion in 'Bible Reading Plan 2016' started by Clint Kritzer, Oct 5, 2002.

  1. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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  2. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Good morning -

    In today's reading, the prophet Jeremiah wraps up his discertation of Temple worship by turning to the subject of idol worship. In verse 2 the statement "signs in the sky" likely refer to meteorological and astronomical events which have been characterized by many, many other religions and cultures as signs of divine communication. He then goes on to speak about the impending exile.
    Chapter 11 begins by referencing the breaking by Israel of the Saniatic Covenant (Exodus 19-24) as the reason for the exile to come. This chapter is rounded out with an interesting account of a plot to kill Jeremiah in order to silence him. Just as God did for Moses in Numbers 12, He intervenes on behalf of His servant and punishes the evil-doers.

    In John tody we read of the calling of Philip and Nathaniel. By process of elimination, we know that Nathaniel is also the name of Bartholomew. John is the only place in the Scriptures where this name is used to designate him.

    Our reading of James tonight is one which comes up often in the other religions forum and it is very frustrating that people use single verses out of this passage without applying the whole context. True faith brings about good deeds. That is the synopsis of this passage. James is not espousing works salvation. Good deeds show evidence of our faith. Paul clearly states in Galatians 2:15-16 that we are saved by Grace through faith. Righteous action is evidence of true faith.

    May God bless you

    - Clint

    [ October 06, 2002, 01:23 AM: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  3. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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    Sunday School lecture - 8/10/03

    James 2:14-26

    Perhaps the most misunderstood 13 verses in the New Testament, entire doctrines and belief systems have been built upon these words. When dissected and taken out of context, this passage seems to contradict the Pauline philosophy of Justification by faith alone, apart from works. Therefore, the Christian is left with two options in dealing with these verses: he can either ignore James in lieu of Paul, or he can find the common ground between them and look for the harmony in Scripture.

    Luther’s solution was to ignore him. He proposed a radical surgery of the New Testament Canon. By the Grace of God, Luther did not have this authority and his proposal was rejected. There was an inherent danger in such a drastic move in that once we begin hacking up the Canon, the authority of the Scriptures is called into question and the Christian community is at liberty to pick and choose what God has preserved. Luther would have turned the Bible into a cafeteria line, allowing the believer to reject one teaching over the other. All denominations do this to some degree depending upon what perspective is taken, but the unchanging Word of God should keep us on course if we allow it to do so.

    Our other alternative of seeking harmony has also led some down the wrong road. There are some who believe that James is speaking of “works salvation”, the same legalism combated by Paul in his Letter to the Galatians. This group views the Message of the Gospel and the teachings of the Apostles as a Law, as stringent and unforgiving as the Torah. The obvious counter to this is the thief on the cross next to Christ, who was saved with his hands nailed in place, completely unable to do any works short of confession nor even able to be heard by anyone but God. Most of us, however, do not have the “advantage” of dying within such a short time of our conversion.

    Still others seek to redefine the intention of James and his view of Justification. They see the cited passage as referring to man’s relationship with his fellow believer. They believe that to gain salvation, we must justify ourselves to each other. The strength of this view is that we do see examples of justification before men in the New Testament. The circumcision of Timothy in Acts 16 comes to mind. Also, Paul’s instructions to Titus in Titus 2 that we not disgrace the Gospel. Matthew 5:16; 10:32-33 also support the notion of Justification before men:

    16 In the same way, let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father who is in heaven.

    And: 32 So everyone who acknowledges me before men, I also will acknowledge before my Father who is in heaven, 33 but whoever denies me before men, I also will deny before my Father who is in heaven.


    Another strength to this argument is that the Book of James is unquestionably geared towards our treatment of our brother.

    Clarence Larkin, a turn of the century Baptist Minister wrote in his well-respected book, Rightly Dividing the Word, in 1920:

    However, there is also a weakness to this argument. The only mention we see of justification before men by Christ is found in Luke 6:15 and he said this to the Pharisees:
    "You are those who justify yourselves before men, but God knows your hearts. For what is exalted among men is an abomination in the sight of God.”

    For me, there is a far better explanation for the second half of James 2 that brings it into focus and harmonizes the Passages of Paul. We must define the terms used by the two men and read them in the context of the writers’ intentions.

    James

    Works - Deeds or actions
    Faith - Belief
    Justification - The daily and lifelong forgiveness of the sinner by the act of Christ: vindication (free from allegation or blame)

    Paul
    Works - Works of the Law of Moses
    Faith - Belief Belief, obedience, and loyalty to God
    Justification - The initial conversion of the believer: acquittal (setting free from the charge of an offense)


    Those who see a contradiction in the teachings of Paul and James will point to verses such as Romans 3:28 “For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law”;
    Galatians 2:16 “yet we know that a person is not justified by works of the law but through faith in Jesus Christ, so we also have believed in Christ Jesus, in order to be justified by faith in Christ and not by works of the law, because by works of the law no one will be justified”;
    and Ephesians 2:8-9 “8For by grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, 9not a result of works, so that no one may boast.”

    However, look at other verses in these same Books. In Romans 2:13, we see that Paul says, “For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but the doers of the law who will be justified.” In Galatians 5 Paul says in verse 6, “For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision counts for anything, but only faith working through love,” and in verse 13, “For you were called to freedom, brothers. Only do not use your freedom as an opportunity for the flesh, but through love serve one another.” Even the well known rebuttal from Ephesians 2 is immediately followed in verse 10 by the statement, “For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them.”

    So as we examine the Pauline and Jamesian intentions and apply the definition of terms as they applied to both writers, the conflict disintegrates. For a true dichotomy of doctrine, James would have to claim that man is Justified by works apart from faith. He never says this. Instead he brings faith and works together a total of 10 times in thirteen verses.

    The text of James 2:14-26 is broken into three distinct parts. The first is the proposition found in verses 16&17: faith by itself, if it does not have works, is dead.

    The second part of the diatribe is found in 18-25. This passage is the argument.

    The final phase of the diatribe is the conclusory statement found in verse 26: For as the body apart from the spirit is dead, so also faith apart from works is dead.

    James may have been addressing members of the Christian community that had corrupted the teachings of Paul by divorcing action from faith. As demonstrated by the preceding verses from Romans, Galatians, and Ephesians, this was not Paul’s intention. Paul felt that the persuasion of the Indwelling Spirit would dictate good works. He never says otherwise. Otherwise, the believer is demonstrating legalism by libertinism, a threat as great as legalism by Law. Both are opposed to the Spirit.

    As an example of faith without works, James sets forth a situation in which a believer in need, that is to say, a neighbor, is lacking food and clothing. Faith without action, that is to say, pure belief, would not aid that person. The literal intention of verse 16 is the Christian saying to his brother, “may God feed and clothe you” or “feed and clothe yourself through your own belief.” Obviously, this is an absurdity. We are the agents of God and it is through us that God aids our neighbor.

    Verse 18 sets up a dilemma for the interpreters. The original Greek did not use punctuation so we must consider at what point the quotation ends. The KJV circumnavigates this quandary by not using quotation marks, merely a comma after the word “say.” Some versions make the remainder of the verse the quote from the hypothetical debater while others end the quote at works, where the KJV inserts a colon. The latter interpretation makes more sense to this reader.

    The statement “Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well,” is in reference to Deuteronomy 6:4 and was a confession called the Shema common among the Jews. James then presents the case of empty belief being displayed by demons. Surely the opposition in the spiritual realm believe in God and Christ and they respond also with action: they tremble.

    From these two examples of the non-acting Christian and the demons who believe, James goes on to show two Old Testament examples of popular heroes who demonstrated faith through works: Abraham and Rahab. They stand in stark contrast to each other, Abraham being the moral man of God called because of his good character and Rahab being the immoral prostitute who found faith through a fear of God and His people.

    In short, Justification is received at the initial confession of a believer, but if the confession is genuine, the fruit of the Spirit, that is the Will of God will show itself in our deeds and actions. As we all continue to sin, we are constant need of Justification, the right to come before God.

    [ October 05, 2004, 08:04 AM: Message edited by: Clint Kritzer ]
     
  4. Clint Kritzer

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    Sunday School lesson 4/3/05

    Jeremiah 11

    Chapters 11-13 of Jeremiah represent a separate section of the Book characterized by the prophecies of doom resulting from disobedience to the Covenant. This particular section is written primarily in prose style (common speech) with bits of poetry, yet the brilliance of Jeremiah’s mastery of his native tongue show through in the various word plays and construction of his sermon. We also encounter several dialogues between God and the prophet in this section.

    “Covenant” is a term we encounter often in the Old Testament and an understanding of this concept is essential to our understanding of Jeremiah‘s prophecies and the fate of the Hebrew Kingdoms. A covenant was an agreement entered into by two or more parties of equal or unequal station. Covenants were often arranged between men such as we see in 1Samuel 18:3. Some covenants were between kings and subjects. Some covenants were conditional and others were not. Of all the covenants mentioned in the Old Testament, however, there was none so important as the Siniatic.

    The Siniatic Covenant was a conditional, Suzerain-vassal arrangement in which God promised to protect the children of Abraham and see to their security. As for the Jews, they were to uphold the Law as it had been given to Moses. The Law was the manifestation of the Siniatic Covenant.

    The Bible reflects the fact that the Jews would periodically renew their Covenant with God. These renewals usually followed a pattern of a reading of the Law, a call for decision, the response of the people in rededication, and a reading of the blessings of obedience and the curses of disobedience. The renewal of the Covenant in 622 under Josiah as retold in 2Kings 23 followed this pattern and issued an all out effort at purification and centralization of worship in Judah.

    Chapters 11-12 of Jeremiah are believed to follow closely on the heels of this renewal. The prophecies may have been uttered at the beginning of the Josianic reforms or during the reign of Jehoiakim. At this latter point in history, the people once again fell away from the Josianic reforms and backslid into their apostasy. It is upon one of these scenes or the other that the Lord hurls Jeremiah into the masses to deliver His proclamation.

    Jeremiah 11:1-14 A Crusader for the Covenant

    Once again in the first verse we see the introductory formula of the word of the Lord “happening” to Jeremiah. The prophet is commanded to deliver this message to the men of Judah and the inhabitants of Jerusalem. The content of the message is of the terms (words) of the Covenant.

    In verses 1-5 Jeremiah is told to hear the words of the Covenant and to herald them to his audience with particular stress on the curses that accompany disobedience. He is told to remind them that he is speaking of the covenant made when God delivered them from “the iron furnace,” a metaphor for great suffering. As was stated repeatedly throughout the Torah, the people’s well being was directly related to their obedience to God’s Will. In response to the injunction, Jeremiah replies “so be it” or literally, “amen.”

    In verses 6-8, Jeremiah is told more specifically to go through the countryside impressing upon the people God’s requirement of obedience, their refusal to obey, and the retribution that followed that disobedience. God’s covenant people were consistent in their refusal to follow their end of the agreement.

    In verses 9-14, Jeremiah divulges an existing conspiracy in Judah. This conspiracy was not the result of hasty planning but of accepted policy. It was a general though secret resistance to Josiah’s reforms. This conspiracy was not necessarily a formal plan but all the people acted upon it as though it were. The people had determined that they would not follow God’s Will but would instead continue in the practice of their fathers who had fallen into apostasy. Even though King Josiah was a man deemed righteous before God, it is the individual’s relationship with God that ensures his election. Of their own accord, the people of Jeremiah’s generation had broken the covenant God had made with their nation. There could only be one result from this atrocious breech of contract: judgment.

    God tells Jeremiah that during that judgment the people would cry out to Him for deliverance but He would not listen. They would then turn to the false gods they had worshipped in desperation – gods that were impotent to help them (Jeremiah 10:5). These idols had become as numerous as the streets of Jerusalem with baal, the “shameful thing” spoken of in verse 13, holding more of the people’s allegiance than the Lord Himself.

    So far had the people fallen into apostasy that once again the Lord puts an injunction on Jeremiah interceding for them in prayer.

    Jeremiah 11:15-17 False Piety and Unavoidable Catastrophe

    In these verse we see that the people of Judea (my beloved) were still going to the Temple (my house) in order to offer sacrifices (holy flesh). The question is asked rhetorically of what right they had to do so considering they had acted in such a corrupt manner. Jeremiah then compares the nation to a beautiful olive tree – the way the Lord had intended it to be. They had now become so barren, however, that they must be consumed with the fire of judgment. Paul uses this same metaphor in Romans 11:17-24.

    Jeremiah 11:18-23 The Conspiracy

    Here we read that it was revealed to Jeremiah through divine revelation that a plot was underway to assassinate him. The irony is that the conspirators were his fellow townspeople of Anathoth. Exactly why such a plot was underway is left to speculation. It could be that they disapproved of Jeremiah’s message, which always seemed to be of doom and never joy. Perhaps they felt that the condemnation he preached to them was unjustified. It is also possible that the Josianic reform supported by the prophet, which focused on bringing worship back to a central focus in Jerusalem, was cutting into their financial gains, as Anathoth was a town of priests. It has also been speculated that this plot was organized after the temple sermon of chapter 7.

    In any case, this revelation that the people of his hometown would even consider such a heinous act against him was hard to bear. Just as God had compared Israel to a barren tree, the conspirators at Anathoth compared Jeremiah to a tree that bore bad fruit. They had warned him to stop his kind of preaching and after his refusal they were now going to stop it for him.

    The prophet was shocked and compared himself to a lamb, thinking it could trust its master only to be led to slaughter. Jeremiah therefor prays that God would avenge him against his enemies. Two points should be noted about this prayer of Jeremiah’s that seems to be set at odds against the imperative of Christ to love our enemies. First, Jeremiah did not take it upon himself to exact revenge but left it to God to do so. Secondly, as a messenger and servant for God, Jeremiah viewed himself as a direct extension of the divine. If his opponents won, God lost. Therefore an attack upon him was an attack upon God Himself.

    With an assurance of retribution against his enemies, Jeremiah turns to a more introspective tone as chapter 12 begins.
     
  5. Clint Kritzer

    Clint Kritzer
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