Archives For Exegesis

Notes from my recent brief exegetical summary of 2 Corinthians 1:1-11. May it be of some encouragement for you today:

Not all affliction is of God, but God, in His freedom, through His love, works His salvation out through all affliction; in such a way as to remind us that we are to rely on Him. 

By affliction what is meant is, burden, trouble, pressure, oppression. Also connected here is the word suffering; pathayma. Pathayma [i] means feeling, inward torment, or to be affected, or vexed. In verse 10, Paul infers pathayma to mean ‘deadly peril’, ‘ utterly burdened beyond Timothy and his own strength’, ‘despairing of life itself, feeling that he was faced with a death sentence’ (vv. 8 & 9).

In this affliction God brought paraklesis: comfort; consolation, solace, nearness, stirring motivation, encouragement, (loosely: teaching, to urge on). My favourites from this list are nearness and consolation. God ‘draws near to the broken-hearted and saves the crushed in spirit’ (Psalm 34:18).

How does He does this? In Jesus Christ, through paraklesis.

The Greek word paraklesis is also linked with the Holy Spirit [paraklete] . What we can then say is that God brings Himself into the trouble, oppression and works His salvation out through it. Comfort does not translate to mean a life of wealth, ease and prosperity. It means that ‘God is our refuge and strength, a very present help in trouble.’ (Psalm, 46:1, ESV)

God ‘rules the raging of the sea; when it’s waves rise, He stills them. He crushed Egypt (Rahab) like a carcass; scattered His enemies with His mighty arm.’ (Psalm 89:9-10, ESV)

According to Romans 8:26-28 ‘the Spirit helps us in our weakness.The Spirit intercedes for the saints according to the will of God. And we know that for those who love God  all things work together for good, for those who are called [those in Christ Jesus] according to His purpose.’

Likewise, in 2 Corinthians 1:1-11, the most unlikely of all Apostles, Paul, once again testifies to the decisive willingness, presence and power of God:

‘He delivered us…from deadly peril; He will deliver us…; He will deliver us again…(v.10)

‘On Him we have set our hope!’.

On Who is it that we set our hope? On Who is it that we rely upon?

‘On God who raises the dead (v.9); is ‘the Father of mercies’; ‘Father of Jesus Christ’; and ‘God of all comfort/consolation’ (v.3)


Notes:

[i] Goodrick. E.W & Kohlenberger III, J.R 1990 NIV Strongs’s Exhaustive Concordance Zondervan Publishers

Artwork by John Martin, 1840. ‘The Destruction of Tyre‘, which is said to have been destroyed by Alexander the Great and be part of biblical prophecy.

The synoptic authors recall the sending forth of the disciples by Jesus.

Matthew, Mark and Luke discuss the event with particular attention to polarity. Their focal point is the contrasts between the ‘for, against’, ‘peace, swords’, ‘binding, loosing’, ‘finding and losing’.(Mt.10:14/Lk.9:3-5/Mk.6:811/Acts 13:51)

Within the texts Jesus employs an economic[i] and political rhetoric. We read words like labouring, wages, authority, power, court and persecution.Within this discourse the sender and the sent are engaged in an economic project of proclamation.

This could be viewed as an economic protest that is both transactional and transformational. Words such as ‘value, worth, pay, giving, receiving, work and reward’ all rotate in and around the commanded reordering evident within the text.There is a transaction taking place, it precedes the announcement of transformation. Accompanying the message is exorcism, deliverance and proclamation of true value and true cost.

We read the words “take up your cross” in recollection of the steps taken by Jesus from stable, temple, workshop, garden, cross, empty tomb, upper room, and the promise of His physical reappearing.

When Jesus points to cost it is true cost. We are found or lost in underlying the notions of presence, arrival, departure and acceptance or rejection. Acknowledging presence means we hear the cost of wrath, value, worth, or worthlessness, unforgiveness or forgiveness.

Here we see that life-is-proclamation. It is not just economic but political. The transaction has no monetary value and yet it becomes transformational. These distinctions are about the strategic advancement of the Kingdom of God which lies outside human conjuring.It is given and cannot be purchased.

We, the post-modern hearers of the texts are confronted by the weight of declaration and doubt. This is a heaviness which takes place in the recollection of John the Baptist’s  call to ‘Repent for the Kingdom of Heaven is at hand – God has come near’ (ESV)

In the reminder of the horror and shame of crucifixion, and John’s call to repentance, we are redirected to align our thoughts onto the polarity between acknowledgement – acceptance, and denial – and evasion (in a word, rejection).

For instance: we read of dust, feet, and wiping away.

Dust in its Anglo-European context is understood as confusion, disturbance, something worthless, a state of humiliation, particles into which something disintegrates[ii]. For the first century audience, dust would have been ‘symbolic’[iii].Reminding them that ‘divine displeasure rests on any place that refused the Gospel’[iv].

Dust can announce arrival and signify departure.The finite significance of dust is its strength as a silent symbolic act of re-ordering; possibly forgiveness. A loving push-back; an assertive handing back of the hat, label,or false accusation that doesn’t fit.

Dust as a declaration of disturbance points us towards distinctions. The qualitative[v]: God is the majestic giver of life and ‘humanity, in its misery’[vi] runs hard and fast towards and artificial light, believing in the ability and power of self to justify.The proclamation mentioned within the texts are not about preaching the ‘manifestation of God as an idea; but about acknowledging that the revelation of God as a whole is a spiritual reality[vii]

Proclamation here is a declaration of disturbance. Our self-reliance is disrupted; as such we are not left in our sin to wallow – because “God has drawn near”.

We are forgiven, raised and reminded, by proclamation, that this state of forgiveness is not about ignoring deliberate injury.  For sin is not justified or legitimised by forgiveness. Forgiveness acknowledges a wrong, and calls for a response, a re-ordering; change. Otherwise there would be no cause for forgiveness. For the sinner this means that we are justified by the final act of the forgiver.

Proclamation calls us to acknowledgment. Here we experience acceptance and see shadows condemned in the true light of ‘veritas’ and the true cost of forgiveness.  By doing this we drop the dust from our feet, stop feeding the echoes of the past and as a consequence find ourselves moved towards healing.

‘In Jesus Christ God comes forth out of the profound hiddenness of His divinity in order to act as God among and upon us…
…In Jesus the living God has spoken to us in accents we cannot fail to hear’[viii]

In repentance thought and speech must meet deed.We acknowledge the negative but assert the positive. In this sense diverse forgiveness, including the act of forgiving the absence of apology, is like exhaling dust, and inhaling grace. The act of removing the dust from our feet.


References:

[i] Green, J.1997 NICNT:The Gospel of Luke, Wm.B.Eerdmans Publishing Company, p.413

[ii] Merriam-Webster

[iii] Hendrickson, W. 1978 NTC: Luke, Baker Academic p.575

[iv] Ibid, p.575

[v] Kierkegaard’s ‘infinite qualitative distinction’

[vi] Barth, K. 1938 The Miracle of Christmas in CD.1.2:173 Hendrickson Publishers

[vii] Ibid, p.178

[viii] Ibid, pp.182-183

Originally posted 17th February 2014  ©RL 

tyranny the god of selfBefore you, is part two of three in a series of posts highlighting some points raised by Barth in Church Dogmatics I/II.

Riding on the wave of content mentioned in my post {here}, Karl Barth connects the authority and government of the Church to that of the Bible ‘as it stands’ in witness to the revelation of Jesus Christ.

He writes:

1. ‘The hearing in obedience is Christian faith and the sphere of Christian faith is the sphere in which God’s Word exercises its power’[i]

2. Another aspect Barth addresses here is how responsible understanding (interpretation) leads to responsible action (application)[ii].

Theologically these two items stem from prayer and exegesis, vital threads in the working out of orthopraxy. Both orthodoxy and orthopraxy can meet where thinking theology (embedded) meets doing theology (deliberative)  – one critiques the other in light of the necessary critique of God’s word.

3. Barth, possibly recalling his strong attempts to oppose the rise of fascism in the 1930’s focuses on the inevitable deception that results from natural theology, writing:

  • Who can exercise a worse tyranny over us than the god in our hearts? And what further tyranny does not this first and decisive one drag in its train?…
  • ‘It is inevitable that the man or woman who claims to be directly in communion with God, and free from all concrete forms of authority, will all the more certainly be delivered over to the powers of nature and history, to the spirit of the age and of contemporary movements, to the demons of his situation and environment.[iii]

4. Barth asserts that the Word of God creates the Church

  • ‘The Word of God is free, and exercises this freedom in the founding of the Church’[iv]
  • From the inner life of the Word, flows the life of the Church’[v]

Exegesis as more than a literary form of archaeology,
and to say that in the Word of God, we are spoken to,
acted upon and ruled by God, is no metaphor[vi].

  • ‘We understand Holy Scripture falsely, that is, not as Holy Scripture, if we regard it as a fixed, inflexible, self-contained quantity…just as by a dint of excavations many important and interesting conclusions are to be expected about the life of those who have lived by the fact that, however hard we try, more cannot be dug up than was originally there. But the investigation of the Bible does not have to reckon with this natural limitation’[vii].
  • To say that Jesus Christ rules the Church is equivalent to saying that Holy Scripture rules the Church’[viii]
  • ‘For the Bible is a living, indeed, in light of its content, an eternally living thing, so that from the study of it we can expect new truths to meet us’[ix]

 5. Although the Church has a social aspect to it, ultimately the Church is not a social club.

  • At the heart and basis, lacking that horizon, as is the case in all “religions,” he is his own master, the master of his own deepest impulses. In this type of religion the fellowship of religious people, what is called the Church, can be only a society with a particular object, a club, which individual believers join for certain enterprises and common endeavours.[x]

I once said to someone, that trying to hold Barth’s theology in your hands was like trying to hold water. It gets complicated and before you know it the water is gone. This is because there appears to be a constant movement of light, one that cannot be pinned down or tamed.

For me now, reading Barth is more like seeing someone you recognise while out on a stroll. You hear them calling out an invitation to stroll along. Then find yourself being pointed towards things that induce both warning and wonder.

Barth spots something strange and out of the ordinary. He sees things others may have failed to see or acknowledge at the time. As a result he calls us to hear and respond to the warnings of history, as well as to respond with prayer and gratitude for the wonder and the work of God, as He meets us in Jesus Christ.

In doing so Barth points us towards the uniqueness of Jesus the Christ; the Word of God who commits to enslaved humanity a responsible freedom that is a direct result of the God who chooses to act on our behalf.

Barth brilliantly wrote: ‘the Holy Spirit through the witness of the Word of God wins the heart of men and women.In the interval between the ascension and the second coming the believer is certainly responsible, but not autonomous’[xi]

We are not left alone.

Source:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics I/II Freedom of the Church; Freedom Under the Word Hendrickson Publishers p.687

[ii] Ibid, pp.696-697: ‘The Church is governed, maintained and created by the Word of God – the testimony to the revelation of Jesus Christ’ We must understand that this ‘testimony cannot be received unless those who accept it are ready and willing themselves to assume the responsibility for its interpretation and application’ (orthodoxy and orthopraxis).’

[iii] Ibid, p.668

[iv] Ibid, p.688

[v] Ibid, p.690

[vi] ‘It is no metaphor when we say that the Word of God speaks, acts and rules’ (p.684)

[vii] Ibid, p.683

[viii] Ibid, p.693

[ix] Ibid, p.684

[x] Ibid, p.692

[xi] Ibid, p.693

(©RL2014)