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G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150327

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.

Amen.

Romans 7:7

What then shall we say? That the law is sin? By no means! Yet if it had not been for the law, I would not have known sin. For I would not have known what it is to covet if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.”

Galatians 3:13-14
Passing on the Blessing of Abraham (Galatians #32)

13-14 You know what is written: “The cursed will be hung on a tree.” This is why Christ endured crucifixion for us, to redeem us from the curse of the law by taking our place. In this way He transmitted the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles, so that we all might receive, by faith, God’s promise of the spirit.

Galatians 3

About the Daily Prayer BibleThe “Daily Prayer Bible” is a paraphrase translation. This means accuracy to the original text has been sacrificed, to make it more readable and readily understood. This is especially useful in the Epistles of Paul. Verses are often out of order and often explanatory matter is included in the actual translation.

It is part of a larger work, DP 3-Column Bible, a Bible translation with 3 different levels of literal accuracy, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of the Scripture section. We call the most readable and least accurate translation the “Daily Prayer Bible”. The middle translation (“The American Bible”) is what is called a “literal” translation, accurate to the original text but using English grammar and idioms.

The third translation is a unique transliterative text, called “Verbatim Bible”, that has an unparalleled degree of accuracy but is not readable except with difficulty. It gives the non-Greek-reading user the ability to see the inaccuracies and ambiguities that become invisible in even the best so-called “literal” translations, such as the NASB or our own American Bible..

Notes on the Scripture

Paul’s theological argument becomes hard to follow at this point. So, let’s dig into it and see if we can make sense of what he is saying.

Abraham lived before Moses; there was no law. (There were a few random laws and guidelines given orally by God. For example, prohibitions against murder and the drinking of animal blood and/or eating live animals. Gen. 9:1-7.) All Abraham had as a guideline for his conduct were several specific direct revelations on how he should behave in order that God would fulfill his covenant. First, to be circumcised and to have other males in his household circumcised (Gen. 17:1-14), and second, a very specific order that his son Isaac be given as a sacrifice by Abraham’s own hand; if for some reason you do not know the story of Abraham and Isaac, you need to read it or you will have no idea of what Paul is talking about. (Genesis 22)

Note that the idea of killing and burning an animal on an altar as a thanksgiving to God was a practice already known by the tribe who would become the Hebrews. The origins of this form of worship are not given to us. But the practice began very early; for example, Noah gave a burnt offering on an altar after the flood receded, and God was pleased. (Gen. 8:20-21.)

It seems, from what we can tell, that Abraham was reckoned righteous before God; in Christian terms, he was justified, he was “saved” and given the benefits of eternal life. We might also conclude that there were other ancient figures deemed righteous by God, such as Enoch. (Gen. 5:24.) Abraham’s life with God after his death was so strongly believed, among the Jews, that they thought the righteous would be taken into the “bosom of Abraham” after they died. (See Luke 16:19–31.)

The details are sketchy about the relationship God created with these nearly prehistoric patriarchs. But for certain, it ended with the giving of the Law of Moses. The law effectively prevented people from going to heaven. Nobody could follow it. It was not a means of salvation; it was a means of showing mankind that we are incapable of behaving well enough to satisfy God. The only person who managed it, in the entire Bible, was Jesus. (There are some special cases that are hard to characterize, especially Elijah, but also David.)

It was, therefore, a curse. It ended the period of righteousness through primitive faith. Of course, Abraham did what God told him to do. But Paul’s first point is that Abraham was reckoned righteous, not because he followed the few rules God had given him — and certainly not because he followed the Law, because the Law did not exist. Rather, it was Abraham’s utter faith in God that made God smile on him; and God promised that his seed — that is, his descendant(s) — would inherit the Kingdom of God.

So Abraham’s faith made him righteous before God. It is important to see that the relationship of humanity and God changes over time. God makes the covenants, and He changes them when the time has come for the next step. He made it impossible for the Hebrews to be righteous when He announced the covenant of Moses. That is why Paul calls it a “curse”.

The Law created sin, in one very specific manner of speaking (although it did not create sin in the broader and more important sense of disobedience to God.) If this does not make sense to you, think about an ancient primative civilization. Theft is punished only if the victim catches the thief and is strong enough to punish him. It is not a crime. But when a government is formed and passes a law forbidding theft, then and only then does it become a “crime”.

Coveting a neighbor’s sheep was always displeasing to God. But it did not become a known “sin” until God announced it as a law. Once they knew it was wrong — when the Ten Commandments were given to Moses — people became fully responsible for their transgressions of the law against coveting.

To be continued Monday . . . .

G-MM™: Meditation Moment   150326

The Gilmer Free Press

Our Father, who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name. Thy kingdom come; Thy will be done, on earth as it is in heaven. Give us this day our daily bread, and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil.

For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever and ever.


Amen.

Psalm 137:1-4

By the rivers of Babylon, there we sat down,
yea, we wept, when we remembered Zion.
We hanged our harps upon the willows
in the midst thereof.

For there they that carried us away captive
required of us a song;
and they that wasted us required of us mirth, saying,
Sing us one of the songs of Zion.

How shall we sing the Lord’s song
in a strange land?

Galatians 3:13-14
Redemption from the Curse (Galatians #31)

13-14 You know what is written: “The cursed will be hung on a tree.” This is why Christ endured crucifixion for us, to redeem us from the curse of the law by taking our place. In this way He transmitted the blessing of Abraham to the Gentiles, so that we all might receive, by faith, God’s promise of the spirit.

Galatians 3

About the Daily Prayer BibleThe “Daily Prayer Bible” is a paraphrase translation. This means accuracy to the original text has been sacrificed, to make it more readable and readily understood. This is especially useful in the Epistles of Paul. Verses are often out of order and often explanatory matter is included in the actual translation.

It is part of a larger work, DP 3-Column Bible, a Bible translation with 3 different levels of literal accuracy, which you can access by clicking the link at the bottom of the Scripture section. We call the most readable and least accurate translation the “Daily Prayer Bible”. The middle translation (“The American Bible”) is what is called a “literal” translation, accurate to the original text but using English grammar and idioms.

The third translation is a unique transliterative text, called “Verbatim Bible”, that has an unparalleled degree of accuracy but is not readable except with difficulty. It gives the non-Greek-reading user the ability to see the inaccuracies and ambiguities that become invisible in even the best so-called “literal” translations, such as the NASB or our own American Bible..

Notes on the Scripture

We head off into a tangent today, but hopefully an interesting one. We will start with a proposition that many people will find alarming: Jesus might not have been crucified. There is a debate among scholars about whether Christ was crucified on a cross, at all, or instead hung upon an upright pole with no crossbeam. If you are interested in the arguments, here are two examples: Theology Network and Wikipedia.

But the point I want to examine is not the arguments, but our reaction to the proposition. If your first reaction is, “that is complete nonsense,” well — so was mine. But this is a good lesson for us. Why do we react with complete, and even angry, dismissal? What if it is true? Few readers are going to have the training (or the time) to actually examine the issue and, thus, be in a position to know whether it is true or not.

We do have some good reasons, even without examining the arguments, to doubt the “hung on a pole” theory. We might think that early scholars would have been well-situated to translate the various terms correctly, and thus, the tradition of the cross would not have been propogated without good reason; furthermore, history tells us that the Romans often used a cross to execute criminals.

But there is another factor at work: People tend to think that whatever they have previously learned is true, and we will cling to falsehood simply because it is what we first learned. This is a major impediment to knowing the truth. With only a few exceptions, we must be open to the possibility that something we have learned in the past was misinformed. Otherwise, our quest to know God’s Word will be hindered by sheer personal bias.

After examining all the arguments, I have to say, it seems to me like the tradition gets this one right. Jesus was, in fact, hung on a cross to die. As pertains to our faith, however, the question is completely irrelevant. The only significance of how Jesus died is whether He fulfilled Old Testamant prophecy in the manner of death. And what the prophecy says is not that He would be crucified, but that He would be hung on a tree.

Hebrew had one word, etz, that meant both “tree” and “wood”. The Old Testament prophecy applicable to the crucifixion comes from Deuteronomy:
If a man has committed a sin deserving of death, and he is put to death, and you hang him on a tree, his body shall not remain overnight on the tree, but you shall surely bury him that day, so that you do not defile the land which the LORD your God is giving you as an inheritance; for he who is hanged is accursed of God. (Deut. 21:22-23)

The Romans, on the other hand, would often leave bodies of criminals hanging for many days, until they rotted, as a sort of warning. So the initial relevance of the passage to the crucifixion is that Jesus’ body was taken down before sunset and buried.

Paul uses another part of the passage, however: “he who is hanged is accursed.” Now, the Jews would actually hang a particularly shameful criminal from a tree; and so we tend to see the word etz (meaning either wood or tree) as referring to a tree, within the Old Testament. But Greek (unlike Hebrew) has a specific word meaning tree, dendron, that Paul does not use. He uses a word (xylon) that means wood, but can be used to mean tree, the same way we might use “steel” to mean “sword”.

It is a masterstroke by Paul, in his argument that the Law is a curse. If you are confused at this point — and I bet you are — confusion is the intention of the passage! “Tree” and “wood” are so jumbled together that one can only conclude they mean the same thing.

Jesus was killed by the Law — because the Pharisees and Sadducees thought He had committed an offense against the Law of Moses punishable by death — and he was killed by a method that can be translated both “hung on wood” and “hung on a tree”. That which killed Him — the Law — cursed the Son of God. And cursing God is to be cursed by God. (Leviticus 24:15-16)

 

Meditation Moment - THE CHURCH

The Gilmer Free Press

THE CHURCH

In Matt. 16:13-18 Jesus speaks of the church he intends to build.  “…I will build my church…”  It is a matter of historic record he did build or establish His church on the first Pentecost following His resurrection in 33AD.  Ephesians 2:20 says “built on the foundation of the apostles and prophets, with Christ Jesus himself as the chief cornerstone.”  Paul also told the Corinthian church, “For other foundation can no man lay then that is laid, which is Jesus Christ.” (I Cor. 3:11)  “For I delivered unto you how first of all that which I also received, how that Christ died for our sins according to the scriptures; and that He was buried, and that He rose again the third day according to the scriptures.” (I Cor. 15:3-4) The death burial and resurrection was first preached to the people on Pentecost.

Pentecost was the time when the apostles received the Holy Ghost in Acts chapter 2.  In vs. 14 Peter began to speak.  And then in vs. 37 the people he was speaking to asked, “Men and brethren what shall we do?”  Peter told them, “Repent and be baptized every one of you in the name of Jesus Christ for the remission of sins, and ye shall receive the gift of the Holy Ghost.”  The foundation was laid, the church built or established and people were added to it.  Vs. 47 “…And the Lord added to the church daily such as should be saved.”

The gospel is God’s power to save. (Rom 1:16)  It is the death, burial and resurrection of Christ. (I Cor. 15;1-4)  Rom. 6:3-8   says “Or don’t you know that all of us who were baptized into Christ Jesus were baptized into his death?  Therefore we were are buried with him by baptism into death; that like as Christ was raised up from the dead by the glory of the Father, even so we too also should walk in new newness of life.

For if we have been planted together in the likeness of his death, we shall be also in the likeness of his resurrection.  Know this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin.  For he that is dead is freed from sin. Now if we be dead with Christ, we believe that we shall also live with Him.”  When we obey the form of Jesus’ death, burial and resurrection we become members of the church Jesus built and he adds us to His church.

 

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