Julian Freeman

Freed to live through the death of another.

Tag: Theology (page 2 of 2)

The Omnipresence of God

** This is written as part of the series 30 for 30: Reflections on Life at My 30th Birthday **

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There is nothing that changes lives like doctrine. Right doctrine leads to right living. Always. Paul puts it in no uncertain terms when he reminds Timothy why he was left at Ephesus:

As I urged you when I was going to Macedonia, remain at Ephesus so that you may charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith. The aim of our charge is love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience and a sincere faith. (1 Tim 1.3-5)

If life change is the goal, then right doctrine is a must. What can happen sometimes, though, when it comes to doctrine, is that we think we need new, bigger, better, deeper theology. We think we need to see something we’ve never seen before. We think we need something more impressive than the Sunday School stuff we learned so long ago.

In reality, however, the one doctrine that I have neglected that has most affected my life these past 30 years is not something fancy-schmancy (like, say, supralapsarianism), but is in fact something quite simple. It’s a truth that even the smallest child in church knows. But it’s a truth that I astoundingly almost never consider: God is omnipresent.

Here’s what blows my mind: The fact that God is everywhere means that God is here with me now, and present in the room every moment of every day and every night of my life.

We see the power in this thought when we hear the question: ‘Would you do / say / think that if God were here?’ And of course, we immediately feel guilt and stop what we were doing. But the question is wrong. God is here. Our acting / saying / thinking in an ungodly manner was simply exposing the fact that we don’t really believe in the omnipresence of God–just in the potential omnipresence of God (thinking that he could show up at any moment).

Honestly, how would you work if you saw God sitting behind you? What movie would you watch if Jesus came over to your house? Or would you even watch a movie? What types of conversations would you engage in if you could see the Holy Spirit’s presence?

After growing up in a home where I learned the Bible from a young age, and after being a Christian all these years, I am consistently astounded at how often I fail to live like God is omnipresent. I shudder to think of all the things he has seen me do ‘in secret’ and all the thoughts he has heard me whisper when ‘no one will hear.’ I weep to think of all the time I’ve spent in my life in his presence without even speaking to him.

But, as with every doctrine that is true of God, it helps me to grow in my appreciation of his grace to me in Jesus. Even though he has seen what he has seen, he loves me. He is patient with me. He endures living in my presence, even though I ignore him more often than not. He is gracious and kind, patient and loving. His longsuffering mercy is simply astonishing. The grace that he shows me everyday by continuing to be present with me (and at the same time not destroying me!), humbles me. That kind of amazing grace compels me to obedience–I just need to remember it more!

If God will give me 30 more years of life, I pray that they will be lived with an ever-increasing sense of the reality of his presence. I want to live all of my life just as if God were in the room with me–because he is.

Saved Through Childbearing (1 Tim 2.15)

Yesterday, Tim blogged his interpretation of 1 Timothy 2.15 — an admittedly difficult verse. Mary Kassian responded with her take on the verse, which was somewhat different than Tim’s (although, the practical import of the differing interpretations is probably negligible.

I’m thankful for the discussion on the passage, which is tough on any understanding, so I thought I’d contribute my 2 cents. Here’s the passage in question:

11 Let a woman learn quietly with all submissiveness. 12 I do not permit a woman to teach or to exercise authority over a man; rather, she is to remain quiet. 13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve; 14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. 15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing—if they continue in faith and love and holiness, with self-control. (ESV)

The Context

Before getting to verse 15, let me offer a word on the passage. Paul is very clearly addressing the church with very plain, straightforward instructions on how they are to function in a normative sense. He is hoping to come to them soon to give these instructions in fuller detail, but in case he is delayed, he wants them to know how to behave right away (1 Tim 3.14-15).

Furthermore, all these instructions on how the church is to operate (their ‘godliness’) is to be built on the foundation of the ‘mystery’ of Christ, which is the gospel (1 Tim 3.16). That’s what he’s doing in this whole section of the book, so that’s what we can expect to find here. In other words, we won’t here find temporary fixes based on temporary principles, nor will we find allegories or metaphors, but plain pastoral instruction on how to behave because of the gospel.

The Instructions

Now, to our section. Verses 11-12 give the instructions: women must not teach or have authority over men, but should learn quietly, with all submissiveness. Now, don’t miss the obvious. Paul actually commands women to learn in the churches. That is stunningly ground-breaking. Women were not typically allowed to learn, but Paul here commands it. He wants women who care about theology because they love their God. Nevertheless, they are to learn in a manner fitting their role as women.

The Reason

If verses 11-12 give the instructions then verses 13-14 give the reason for the instruction. Paul, a wise pastor (like a wise parent) won’t give blanket instructions with a ‘because I say so’ attitude to a church that loves him. If they are to obey God in a way that honours him, they need to know why this type of behaviour honours him. So he expresses that this was always God’s order–it’s the way God made it. Why did God make it like that? He doesn’t answer here. The mind of God is the mind of God. But we know what we need to know to honour him: he made it this way on purpose, and we’ll do well to keep it that way.

What’s significant about God’s order in this context, however, is that it was inverted in one famous instance: the fall of humanity. There Satan dishonoured God by ignoring his order, and encouraging Eve to do the same. When Paul says ‘Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived,’ he’s not saying outright that Adam wasn’t deceived, and still less is he saying that women in general are more gullible than men. Anyone with a half a brain and a few years’ worth of living under their belt knows that there are just as many gullible men out there as women. What is Paul getting at then? In saying that Eve was deceived, he’s emphasizing that it was Eve that Satan came to; it was Eve who was tempted; it was the woman who took the lead. Satan inverted God’s roles and brought destruction and death to all mankind.

So the instructions are don’t invert God’s order in the male-female relationship in the church. And the reason is that this is the way Satan operates to bring disorder and destruction. But again, as the gospel-centred pastor that Paul is, he will not simply draw out principles and command them without rooting them in the gospel (remember the pattern of 1 Tim 3.14-16). That would be to motivate by law, not gospel, and in the NT it is grace that compels obedience (cf. Rom 6.1-14). So verse 15 offers the gospel hope which is to undergird all of our actions in maintaining role distinctions within the church.

The Gospel-Hope which Compels Endurance

Paul, building on his case from Genesis 2-3, recalls that even the curse (which would bring a competitive striving for ruling the home between the woman and her husband) still brought a promise of deliverance through childbearing (Gen 3.16). Immediately after the curses, comes these words: ‘The man called his wife’s name Eve, because she was the mother of all living’ (Gen 3.20). Before the curse and after the curse, God’s plan was unchanged–women had a role; but it will be cursed with pain now, so that they must endure. Mary would ultimately fulfill this purpose and promise, giving birth to the Saviour of the world, who delivers us from the curse (Gal 4.4-5). The creation of woman in the image of God, the promise of the seed of the woman bringing salvation, and the coming of the Saviour from a woman all give nobility to that role. Paul is reminding the Ephesian women that this is no second class calling, but was the role and the means essential for bringing salvation to men, women, and children worldwide. They will do well to follow in the pattern set in creation and in redemption.

As for the word ‘saved,’ I think it is best to take that in the typical Pauline sense of ‘salvation from sin and judgement.’ But it’s important to see that it’s in the future tense. He is holding out the completion of the work of salvation in a holistic sense–you will be saved, if you endure. The work of salvation will finally be accomplished, if you persevere, content in your role. This fits well with the curse-redemption motif, and with the Satan-temptation motif as well. Just a couple chapters later Paul says, ‘So I would have younger widows marry, bear children, manage their households, and give the adversary no occasion for slander. For some have already strayed after Satan (1 Tim 5.14-15).’ There again we have a reference to biblical femininity and being ‘saved’ from the temptations of Satan who would induce discontentment and uprising from the God-ordained role. Just as Eve would have been saved, and just like younger widows will be saved, the women of the church will be saved by contentedness in fulfilling their role.

But the trouble with this, of course, is that it seems to make childbearing and role-fulfilling a work necessary for salvation. But the remainder of the verse takes care of that. These women will be saved as they persevere in ‘faith, love, and holiness.’ Those are important concepts, as related to salvation within the letter of 1 Timothy. Paul has already said that the aim of his gospel-protecting charge is ‘love that issues from a pure heart and a good conscience (holiness) and a sincere faith‘ (1 Tim 1.5). That only comes from the gospel. Those things that women are called to persevere in are only found in the gospel. Again, in 1 Tim 1.13-14, Paul says of himself, ‘though formerly I was a blasphemer, persecutor, and insolent opponent. But I received mercy … and the grace of our Lord overflowed for me with the faith and love that are in Christ Jesus.’ So even the apostle Paul had no other hope of holiness, faith, and love, than what is found in the gospel Christ Jesus. The gospel which was, after-all, first prophesied to a woman (Gen 3.16) and first witnessed by women at the tomb (Luke 24.10-11).

Conclusion

So what am I saying? That Paul is laying out a gospel-hope as the foundation for living in godly submission as a Christian woman. Christian women, though called to submission in their role, and denied the role of teacher in the church, are no less human and are in no more need of salvation than men. Their role is dignified, honourable, pleasing to God from the beginning of creation to now, and was used powerfully by God in the redemption of humanity. Women are, at the end of the day, to be saved in the exact same way as men–even the apostle himself: clinging to the gospel of Jesus, and walking in a manner worthy of that gospel.

The ‘self-control’ he reminds them of, then, is merely a concluding word, noting that all of what he has written to women from verse 9-15 can only be carried out as they use gospel-gained self-control to persevere in their role, thus saving themselves from the temptation of Satan and the judgement that follows it.

Again, at the end of all the debate, I really don’t think that the practical outworking of all this will be much different from this interpretation than from Tim’s or Mary’s, but I do think this is probably the best way to understand Paul’s line of reasoning in this text.

Hey Calvinist, Play Nice!

A friend of mine sent me this article by Abraham Piper the other day. I found it profoundly humbling and helpful. (When is humbling ever not helpful??)

Anyway, I thought I’d pass this along because even though it’s three years old, it’s always relevant.

My wife and I were fighting—the kind where after 30 seconds you forget what you’re fighting about and you just end up being mean. It doesn’t take long in an argument like this to feel hopeless.

I wanted to call someone to come over and mediate. Actually, I didn’t want to, but I knew I needed to do something. Our close friends who live near by and our small group leaders were all out of town, so I called a pastor who lives in the neighborhood and asked him to come over right then. I think he could tell by the tone of my voice and the unusual request that we really did need help immediately. He cancelled his Saturday plans and came over.

Sitting at our kitchen table, he helped us figure each other out. Soon we were getting to the heart of the matter. Molly turned to me and said, “You never treat me like you appreciate me.”

I looked at her. I looked at our pastor. And then I listed three ways that I’d shown appreciation for her that morning. As far as I was concerned, things were taken care of. She thought I didn’t act appreciatively, but I just showed her (definitively, I might add) that I did. …

… Read the rest of the article here!

Abraham Piper: Be a Kinder Calvinist

Adoption or Justification: Which is Greater?

I found this quote from CJ Mahaney’s blog, where after discussing the doctrine of adoption, he looks at Packer’s answer to the question, ‘Which is greater, adoption or justification?’. I thought it was an interesting question and definitely worth thinking through. Here is Packer’s answer:

That justification—by which we mean God’s forgiveness of the past together with his acceptance for the future—is the primary and fundamental blessing of the gospel is not in question. Justification is the primary blessing, because it meets our primary spiritual need. We all stand by nature under God’s judgment; his law condemns us; guilt gnaws at us, making us restless, miserable, and in our lucid moments afraid; we have no peace in ourselves because we have no peace with our Maker. So we need the forgiveness of our sins, and assurance of a restored relationship with God, more than we need anything else in the world; and this the gospel offers us before it offers us anything else…

But contrast this, now, with adoption. Adoption is a family idea, conceived in terms of love, and viewing God as father. In adoption, God takes us into his family and fellowship—he establishes us as his children and heirs. Closeness, affection and generosity are at the heart of the relationship. To be right with the God the judge is a great thing, but to be loved and cared for by God the Father is greater.*
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Note:
* J.I. Packer, Knowing God (IVP, 1993), pp. 206–207.

Full ’26 Questions’ Series Now Available

Last Autumn at GFC we embarked on a journey. We endeavoured to ask and answer 26 of the most crucial questions that Christians should be asking–and should know the answers to. Basically, it was a sneaky (read: not boring) way to teach our people sytematic theology.

Download_Install_26_Questions

We taught this series on Sunday evenings, with various men from our church leadership and mentoring program teaching each week. Each week we were given a handout outlining the question that would be answered that week. Those outlines have now been put into a single booklet, which you can download below.

It’s a 61 page systematic theology. It’s simple, it’s short, we believe it’s accurate, and it’s as comprehensive as we could be for a short series on Sunday evenings. Best of all, it’s free. If you’re looking for materials for introduction to the Christian faith or something similar, this could be very helpful.

Our 26 questions cover everything from Creation to the end of the world, even to eternity future. You can even click here to view and download the audio messages from the series so you can listen and read along with the notes. Click the image to download the booklet itself.

Here’s a listing of the 26 Questions that you should be asking (and we attempt to answer):

  1. How Can I Know What is True?
  2. Who is God?
  3. How Many Gods are There?
  4. Where Did the World Come From?
  5. Does Prayer Matter?
  6. Are There Other Spiritual Beings?
  7. Why Did God Create Us? What is Our Purpose?
  8. Who is In Control Here?
  9. Is There a Difference Between Men & Women?
  10. What is Sin and What Difference Does it Make?
  11. Who is Jesus?
  12. Why Did Jesus Have to Die?
  13. Where is Jesus Now?
  14. What is the Gospel?
  15. What Does it Mean to Be Born Again?
  16. What is Justification?
  17. What is Sanctification?
  18. Will I Make It?
  19. Who Is the Holy Spirit?
  20. What is the Church?
  21. What is Baptism?
  22. What is the Lord’s Supper?
  23. Where Do I Fit in the Church?
  24. What Will Happen at the End of Time?
  25. What Happens When I Die?
  26. What is the ‘After-Life’?
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