Christocentricity without Christoconformity: An Evaluation of the Healing Ministry of Jesus

Christocentricity without Christoconformity: An Evaluation of the Healing Ministry of Jesus

 

 

By

Jose Antonio de Carvalho

A Thesis presented for the

Degree of Master of Theology

at the South African Theological Seminary

May 2017

Supervisor: Dr Kevin G Smith

 

Declaration

By submitting this work to the South African Theological Seminary (SATS), I hereby declare that it is my own work, that nobody did it for me, and that I did not copy any of it from anyone else. I cited all sources such as books, journals and websites. I understand and accept that if this declaration is proved to be false, I will automatically fail the course and be subject to disciplinary action by SATS.

Jose Antonio de Carvalho

 

Dedication

In memory of Isabella Maria Cornelia Bester 1928-2011 whose death has been swallowed up in victory (1 Cor. 15:54).

 

Acknowledgements

I wish to express my deepest gratitude to my best friend and dear wife Isabel, who has sacrificed much to enable me to reach this season in my life.

A special word of thanks needs to go to my supervisor, Dr. Kevin Smith, whose wisdom made this project possible. His exemplary conduct as a supervisor was a continuous source of encouragement and inspiration.

Although many individuals, especially SATS staff, have exhorted me throughout my academic journey, I am particularly indebted to my daughter, Candice, as well as the de Bruin, Ferreira and Bester families for their continuous prayers, love and support.

 

Table of Contents

Declaration. i

Dedication. ii

Acknowledgements. iii

Table of Contents. iv

Abbreviations. viii

Chapter 1—Introduction. 1

Part 1—The Research Problem.. 1

1.1 Background. 1

1.2 Problem.. 5

1.3 Hypothesis. 6

1.4 Delimitations and Definitions. 6

Part 2—Research Methodology. 7

Chapter 2—An Exegetical Study of Luke 4:18. 10

Section 1: Introduction. 10

1.1 The Passage, Objectives and Perspectives. 10

1.2 The Plan. 12

Section 2: The Context of the Book. 13

2.1 General Background. 13

2.2 Historical Context 16

2.3 Argument, Structure and Literary Considerations. 16

Section 3 Textual and Contextual Analysis. 26

3.1 Preliminary Analysis, Textual Criticism and Translation. 26

3.2 Isaiah 61:1-2, 58:6 in context 42

Section 4: Exegesis of the Passage and Commentary. 44

4.1 The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me. 44

4.2 Because he has anointed me to preach the gospel to the poor; 56

4.3 He has sent me to heal the brokenhearted, 58

4.4 To proclaim liberty to the captives. 58

4.5 And recovery of sight to the blind, 59

4.6 To set at liberty those who are oppressed; 60

Conclusion. 62

Chapter 3—The Accounts of Healings in the Gospel of Mark. 65

Section 1: Introduction. 65

1.1 The Passages, Objectives and Perspectives. 65

1.2 The Plan. 66

Section 2: The Context of the Book. 67

2.1 General Background. 67

2.2 Historical Context 70

2.3 Argument, Structure and Literary Considerations. 71

Section 3: Exegesis of the Passages and Commentary. 80

3.1 The Healing of Simon’s Mother-in-law. 80

3.2 Jesus Heals Many. 84

3.3 A Leper Cleansed. 87

3.4 The Healing of a Paralytic. 90

3.5 The Shrivelled Hand. 94

3.6. Jairus’ Daughter Restored to Life. 95

3.7 The healing of the Woman with the Haemorrhage. 97

3.8 The Rejection of Jesus at Nazareth. 100

3.9 Healing the Crowds at Gennesaret 101

3.10 A Deaf-Mute Healed. 102

3.11 The Healing of a Blind Man at Bethsaida. 104

3.12 Healing of Blind Bartimaeus at Jericho. 108

Conclusion. 111

Table 1. 117

Chapter 4—An Integrated Evaluation of the Person of Jesus. 118

Section 1—Introduction. 118

1.1 The Passages, Objectives and Perspectives. 118

1:2 The Plan. 121

Section 2—The Person of Jesus. 123

2.1 The Humanity and Deity of Jesus—One Life, Four Accounts. 123

2.2. Did Jesus give up some of his divine attributes while on Earth?. 145

Section 3—Historical Interpretations of the Person of Jesus. 155

Section 4—A Systematic Formulation of the Functional Jesus. 163

4.1 An Integrated Evaluation of Jesus’ Sinlessness. 163

4.2 An Integrated Evaluation of Jesus and the Spirit 171

4.3 Relevance for Life and Ministry. 178

Conclusion. 183

Chapter 5—Conclusion. 185

5.1 Conclusions of the Research. 185

5.1.1 Primary Objectives of the Study. 185

5.1.2 Conclusions Regarding the Implication of the Uniqueness of Jesus’ Anointing. 185

5.1.3 Conclusions Regarding the Implication of the Uniqueness of Jesus’ Mission. 186

5.1.4 Conclusions Regarding the Implication of the Uniqueness of Jesus’ Person. 186

5.1.5 Qualified Acceptance of the Hypothesis. 187

5.2 The Significance of Conclusions. 188

5.3 Recommendations of the Research. 189

5.3.1Recommendations for SATS’ Christ-centered assertions. 189

5.3.2 Recommendations for Christ-centeredness as a hermeneutic. 191

Works Cited. 193

 

Abbreviations

 

A.D.              anno Domini

ca.                Approximately

ed.               Edition

cf.                Compare

ch.                Chapter

chs.              Chapters

e.g.              For Example

etc.               Other things

Eccl. Hist.     Eusebius, Ecclesiastical History

ESV              English Standard Version

ff.                 Following verses

Haer.           Adversus Haereses

i.e.                That is

ibid               In the same place

LXX             Septuagint

MT               Masoretic Text

NKJV            New King James Version

NRSV          New Revised Standard Version

NT                New Testament

OT               Old Testament

Par.              Parallel Passage(s)

Q                  Quelle

v.                 Verse

vv.                Verses

 

Chapter 1—Introduction

Part 1—The Research Problem

1.1 Background

This research project brings together two areas of deep personal interest to the researcher: physical healing and Christ-centred hermeneutics. The point of synergy between the two areas of interest lies in the use of the healing ministry of Jesus as a test case for re-examining and refining a christocentric approach to interpreting scripture.

The researcher’s intrinsic interest in the christocentric principle as a hermeneutical lens for interpreting scripture, theology, and praxis gives rise to the other dimension of the thesis. The christocentric principle has its roots in the writing and teaching of Dr Christopher Peppler, the founder of the South African Theological Seminary (SATS) and long-time senior pastor of the Lonehill Village Church. As long ago as 1998, shortly after its genesis, the Prospectus of SATS stated the seminary’s mission as follows:

To provide Christocentric biblical distance education and training to South African Christians, and pastors in particular, within their local church environments to equip them to be Holy Spirit empowered members of God’s household. (Prospectus 1998)

The phrase ‘christocentric distance education and training’ remains in the seminary’s mission statement to this day, and is captured in the seminary’s by-line: ‘Bible-based, Christ-centred, and Spirit-led’.

Peppler originally formulated the christocentric principle as a model for doing systematic theology—a method of examining what the whole Bible taught about a given question or topic (Smith 2012:159). Peppler (2007:181) defined christocentric hermeneutics as ‘the method of interpreting the Bible from the primary perspective of what Jesus said and did’. Since God revealed himself most clearly and completely in and through Jesus Christ—the Living Word (John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15)—his life should hold a central place in the way we base our doctrine and practice. Therefore, Peppler argued that a topical study should begin by considering what Jesus said and did. Then it should turn to the Old Testament (OT) to understand the rationale for Jesus’s words and works, ‘the why’ behind his revelatory life and deeds. Lastly, it should consider the remainder of the New Testament (NT)—Acts to Revelation—as these books reveal how the inspired writers of the NT interpreted and applied the words and works of Jesus Christ to various situations and contexts (Smith 2012:159-160). Peppler’s (2007:181) original model endorsed the following:

Peppler’s emphasis on the christocentric principle gave rise to a robust debate amongst the academics at SATS as to what the seminary’s christocentricity entails. These four points emerged:

  • In all we do, we seek to give due honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The goal of the Christian life is to become like the Lord Jesus Christ.
  • The person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to all Christian life, doctrine, and ministry.
  • The nature of God as revealed in the words and works of the Lord Jesus Christ is a lens for interpreting God’s word and discerning his will.

There was a general consensus regarding the first three points, but the legitimacy and meaning of the fourth point, which takes christocentricity as a hermeneutic, was contested (2012:158; 2013:26). The debate culminated in Peppler’s article, ‘The Christocentric Principle: A Jesus-Centred Hermeneutic’, which defined the Christocentric principle as:

an approach to biblical interpretation that seeks to understand all parts of scripture from a Jesus-perspective. In other words, it is a way of interpreting scripture primarily from the perspective of what Jesus taught and modelled, and from what he revealed concerning the nature, character, values, principles, and priorities of the Godhead (Peppler 2012:120).

The clause ‘what Jesus … modelled’ presses christocentricity beyond the exegetical sphere into the realm of practical theology. Peppler’s more recent writings confirm that he believes christocentricity extends to practical theology. Peppler (2013:89) asserts that when he ‘hears the voice of the Spirit of God calling for the restoration of truth in the church of our day’; he understands it ‘as a call to refocus our doctrine and practice on Jesus’ (italics added).[1] In 2013, in an article entitled ‘The Potential of Proclamation’ in his blog Truth is the Word, Peppler applied his christocentric approach to interpret the healing ministry of Jesus and propose a proclamation-based praxis of faith healing for the contemporary church. The article is true to Peppler’s christocentric approach, since he endeavours to interpret scripture from the perspective of what Jesus modelled concerning the topic of physical healing, and then seeks to apply it to current church life. He argues that Jesus ‘was fully human and therefore a valid example for us to follow’ and that ‘the Holy Spirit’s main task on earth is to empower believers to minister like him [Jesus]’. The implications of formulating healing ministry praxis based on what Jesus modelled are articulated as follows:

I have noted this before, but it is worth repeating, Jesus did not pray for any of the people to whom he ministered. He identified their need, most often made physical contact with them, and then either pronounced them healed or instructed them to do something which indicated their restored condition.

Peppler concludes that a christocentric reading of Jesus’s healing ministry leads to the conclusion that it is possible for followers of Jesus to imitate his healing ministry. He writes, ‘as Jesus did not instruct the disciples to pray that God do these things for them, but that they perform the acts themselves’ (Peppler 2013).[2]

These convictions pre-date Peppler as they are also the convictions of John Wimber’s[3] healing ministry model. Wimber (1986:58) originally believed that ‘Jesus is our model in faith and practice’, and therefore he modelled his healing ministry on Jesus, advocating healing by means of a word of commanded, but limiting this to when the Lord leads (58, 197, 217-218). These ideas were expounded in Wimber (1985; 1986), Springer (1987) and Greig and Springer (1993). Wimber did not claim that Jesus never prayed for the sick, citing Mark 7:32-35. Under the influence of the Vineyard movement’s most influential early theology, Dr Jack Deere, Wimber later changed his mind on this foundational point of his healing theology, admitting that his healing minister should not be modelled on Jesus (Jensen 1990).

Smith (2012:159) affirms that Peppler’s christocentric principle can aid theological reflection in all branches of theology. Smith then refines the principle as:

a hermeneutical tool to help God’s people to interpret texts, practices, and situations. It serves as something of a hermeneutical compass, orienting us towards a proper understanding of God’s will and purposes for his people—the person and work of the Lord Jesus Christ is central to all Christian life, doctrine, and ministry.

Smith (2012:161) correctly directs christocentricity as a hermeneutic enterprise to practical theology—the study of both present and preferred praxis—stating that ‘In this regard, the christocentric principle seems to be a valuable lens for interpreting present praxis and envisioning preferred praxis’. Although the trajectory of Smith’s (2012; 2013) reflections suggest that the christocentric principle should aid theological reflection on praxis, he does not develop this train of thought. Part of the motivation for this study of Jesus’s healing ministry as a test case for a Christ-centered hermeneutic for praxis is to continue Smith’s endeavors and to carry the discussion beyond the hermeneutical discourse to practical theology, as this reflects the conviction that theology should be both biblical and practical (Smith 2008:153-154). In this regard the writer is mindful of Smith’s (2012:161) contention that ‘the christocentric principle seems to be a valuable lens for interpreting present praxis and envisioning preferred praxis’.

The researcher is supportive of Peppler’s christocentric principle, including the hermeneutical dimension of treating the nature of God as revealed in the words and works of the Lord Jesus Christ as a lens for interpreting God’s word and discerning his will. The writer supports the view that an evangelical reading of scripture should be Bible-based and Christ-centered. He is not concerned with christocentricity as a hermeneutic per se, but he is concerned about the broader application of the hermeneutical enterprise—how to deploy a Christ-centred hermeneutic to inform church praxis. If we are to ‘base our doctrine and practice on what He [Jesus] said and did’, as one of SATS’ three foundational pillars advocates, what parameters guide legitimate imitation of Christ from illegitimate. Considering the empirical evidence indicating the low success rates of healing ministries that attempt to proclaim healing the way Jesus did, Peppler’s chosen test case for applying his christocentric hermeneutic to inform church praxis begs many questions. To what extent are contemporary disciples of Jesus able to imitate his ministry? Does any claim that we can imitate Jesus give ‘due honor and glory to the Lord Jesus Christ’?

1.2 Problem

The main research problem is to refine the christocentric principle (Peppler 2007, 2012, 2013; Smith 2012, 2013) so that its deployment as a hermeneutical lens avoids the pitfall of not taking into account the uniqueness of Jesus’s person, mission, representative anointing, and authority, thus guarding against advocating an over-simplistic emulation of his ministry practices (christoconformity).

The problem will be solved through a case study of the healing ministry of Jesus, by answering these key questions:

  1. How does the uniqueness of Jesus’ anointing impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry?
  2. How does the uniqueness of Jesus’ mission impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry?
  3. How does the uniqueness of Jesus’ person impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry?

1.3 Hypothesis

The christocentric principle is a valuable and legitimate hermeneutic lens, provided that the ontological and missional uniqueness of Jesus is considered in order to guard against the potential pit-fall of advocating an over-simplistic christocentric praxis—christoconformity.

1.4 Delimitations and Definitions

Delimitations

The research accepts the christocentric principle as a hermeneutic lens. The researcher’s goal is not to critique the legitimacy of christocentric interpretation as such, but to evaluate the boundaries of patterning Christian life and ministry on the model of Jesus’s works, using his healing ministry as a test case.

The focus on physical healing is delimited to Jesus’s healing ministry, to the exclusion Christian healing ministries after Pentecost. A complete biblical theology of healing must give due attention to the rest of the scriptures, especially Acts–Revelation, but that task is beyond the focus of this study, and it has been well treated in studies by Turner (1996), Brown (1995), Warrington (2000), Dickinson (1995), Wimber (1986), Grudem (1996), Greig and Springer (1993), and Deere (1993). Similarly, an empirical investigation of contemporary healing is beyond the scope of this study, and has been addressed in several other studies (Keener 2001; Warrington 2000; Gardner 1986; Dickinson 1995; Porterfield 2005; Deere 1993).

Definitions

The concepts of christocentricity (= Christ-centered) and christoconformity are crucial to this this, the writer’s understanding of Christ-centred is that:

  • God has revealed himself most clearly and completely in Christ—the Living Word (John 1:1; Heb. 1:1-3; Col. 1:15)—and the life and teaching of Jesus Christ should hold a central place in the way we seek to discern God’s will.
  • Jesus Christ is God the Son and the full revelation of the Godhead to humankind. He is head of the church and the Lord of our lives. As a result, we are to base our doctrine and practice on what He said and did.

Considering that the term ‘christocentric’ means different things to different people[4] the writer speaks of christocentricity as per Peppler’s (2012:120) definition stated above.

Christoconformity

The writer’s definition of christoconformity is modelling ministry praxis in continuity to the pattern modelled by Jesus.

 

Part 2—Research Methodology

The research problem positions this study within the domain of biblical and theological research. It will be a literary study and therefore does not require empirical research. The research methodologies will logically follow the steps required to answer each sub-problem. In addition to the standard introduction and conclusion chapters, there is a chapter dedicated to each of the three research questions presented in section 2.2.

Methodology for chapter 2—An exegetical study of Luke 4:18

This chapter deals with question one of the research questions—how does the uniqueness of Jesus’ anointing impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry?

The synoptics all make Isaianic allusions in their account of Jesus’ healing miracles. However, Luke 4:18 appears to be the most important biblical text dealing with this parallel; therefore, it will be the anchor text in this chapter. Luke’s redactional use of Isaiah 61:1-2 will be the object of the enquiry, which will inform the interpretation of the anchor text, leading to a systematic synthesis of the interpretation of the Spirit on Jesus in terms of Isaiah 61:1-2 as presented by Luke in 4:18.  The synthesis of these texts will inform the significance of ‘The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me…’[5] in Isaianic tradition and how that impacts the way the Lord ministered healing. The antecedent scripture and the anchor text will interact with what Jesus said and did in order to enable a systematic understanding of why Jesus was able to minister healing the way he did.

Methodology for chapter 3—The accounts of healings in the Gospel of Mark

Chapter two focused on the uniqueness of Jesus anointing, this chapter deals with question two of the research questions—how does the uniqueness of Jesus’ mission impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry? The overall objective will be attempted by evaluating whether Jesus’ healing accounts, when soundly interpreted by a grammatical-historical hermeneutic, provide a theological foundation for the practice of christoconformity in a contemporary healing ministry.

In determining the significance of Jesus’ healing ministry for disciples today, it is imperative to evaluate how this ministry should be understood in the context of first-century culture, which is the objective attempt of this exegesis. The selection of healing accounts to be evaluated is limited to Mark’s accounts of healings conducted by Jesus and it excludes exorcisms. The parallel accounts in Matthew and Luke will be woven into the discussion to supplement the analysis of Mark’s accounts. There are several reasons for choosing to anchor the study in Mark’s gospel:

  • Mark proportionally recorded more healing miracles than any of the other gospels.
  • Where there are parallel accounts of a healing miracle, Mark’s account tends to be the most detailed.
  • The healing ministry of Jesus holds a more prominent place in Mark than it does in the other gospels.

Methodology for chapter 4—An integrated evaluation of the person of Jesus

Chapter two focused on Jesus’ anointing; chapter three focused on the uniqueness of Jesus’ mission; this chapter will deal with question three of the research questions—how does the uniqueness of Jesus’ person impact the extent to which Christians can emulate his healing ministry?

In order to form a holistic understanding of the topic under investigation this chapter will take an integrated theological approach to study the person of Jesus. The premise of this approach is that theology is a single discipline. It therefore needs the contribution of all the branches/sub-disciplines within theology in forming a holistic understanding; hence an integrated theological approach (Smith 2013:35-38). The structure of this chapter will comprise of a biblical perspective and historical perspective to inform the systematic formulation of the topic at hand and relevance for life and ministry (Lewis and Demarest 1996:46-48).

 



[1] Albeit not with a uniformed voice, for approximately 50 years evangelical Christians have repeatedly been calling for a christocentric approach to life and scripture (Ortlund 2009:311). See Ortlund (2009) and Padgett (2006), among others, for comprehensive discussions on christocentric hermeneutics pre-dating the debate amongst the academics at SATS.

 

[2] For an article expressing the same convictions see ‘Jesus never told us to pray for the sick, Jesus commanded us to heal the sick’ (Bert Farias, CharismaNews 2015).

[3] John Wimber was the main founding leader of the Vineyard Church, a Christian movement that began in the United States and become a global denomination.

[4] For a fuller discussion see Peppler (2012, 2013).

[5] Unless otherwise indicated all scripture cited emanates from the ESV Bible version.

 

The Spirit of Truth

 

 

“Beloved, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, for many false prophets have gone out into the world” (1 John 4:1).

 

 

What does this mean? It is that believers lay prostrated waiting for the Holy Spirit to guide then in all truth?

Maybe!
More likely is that the test is to compare what is being taught with the clear teaching of the Bible.
The Bible alone is the Word of God; it alone is inspired and inerrant. Therefore, the way to test the spirits is to see if what is being taught is in line with the clear teaching of Scripture. In Acts 17:10-11 the Berean Jews were commended because, after they heard the teachings of Paul and Silas, they “examined the Scriptures daily to see if these things were so.” The Bereans were called “noble” for doing so.
Testing the spirits means that one must know how to “examine the Scriptures.” Rather than accept every teaching, discerning Christians diligently study the Scriptures. Then they know what the Bible says and therefore can “test all things and hold fast to what is true.” In order to do this, a Christian must “be diligent to present yourself approved to God, a worker who does not need to be ashamed, rightly dividing the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15).

Pinocchio On Singleness

PinocchioPaul advises: To the unmarried and the widows I say that it is good for them to remain single as I am. (1 Cor. 7:8)

This statement needs to be contextualized by that Paul spoke strongly in favor of the married state elsewhere in Scripture, confirming (Gen. 2:18), going as far as stating that forbidding marriage would be a sign of the end time apostasy (1 Tim. 4:1-3).

Although singleness has advantages, not everyone is equipped for this lifestyle. What Paul is advocating is that the unmarried state is ‘freer to serve God’, like he is, provided one has the gift of celibacy (vv. 6-7).

Having contextualized Paul’s admonition, I can now make my contribution to the thread. It is my opinion that anyone administrating God’s wisdom to the single is required to carefully observe the above and should be very cautions is admonishing the single to find partners, as it may not be God’s will for the season. More importantly in admonishing the married state as if it is superior to singleness, only serves the purpose to evoke negative emotions.

My observation especially in the smaller Churches is the tendency to encourage pairing off within the church, this also lacks wisdom. Further, given the lack of available potential partners, it often happens that a wise period dating and engagement is rushed — often advocated from the pulpit. It is in this regard (and others) that bigger churches have an advantage.

This is a copy of my post to a thread on the topic
Jose

To Judge or not to Judge

Only God can Judge

Do not Judge

by

Jose de Carvalho

‘God Himself doesn’t judge a man until he is dead. So why should you?’ How often have you seen this? Is it true? What does Jesus mean that we are not to judge others? (Matt 7:1) Many people use this verse as an attempt to silence/intimidate their critics.

The statement is actually not true, biblical history is replete with God judging His chosen and others in His interaction with human kind thought-out history. What does Jesus mean that we are not to judge others?

I find this comment from a Bible commentator interesting; ‘Jesus’ command not to judge others could be the most widely quoted of His sayings’.

Subsequent to reflection I have to agree! Considering that non-Christians also use the saying and quote the biblical verse as some sort of a proverb, meaning in the secular context; ‘the truth is relative.’

Many others claim that this is one of the most misquoted verses in the New Testament. This is an indication of how a non-biblical worldview influences biblical interpretation (ethical relativism that denies the existence of moral absolutes).

What did Jesus mean? Did he mean that we must never voice an adverse or unfavorable opinion? He certainly does not prohibit negative assessments, considering that Jesus has given us permission to tell right from wrong later on in the following verse and chapters (see vv.7, 15-16; 10:11-15; 16:6, 12; 18:17-18).

Whatever the case merits, what is certain is that Jesus is expecting merciful judgment, and if you judge without mercy, you will be judged without mercy (v.2). The immediate context also cautions that one should not judge others more harshly or by a different standard than one judge oneself.  ‘Lest you be judged’ does not mean you will not be judged by God if you do not judge.  The principle is that if you are judging, while you yourself are guilty, you are condemning yourself (see parallels 6:14-15; 18:32-35). Therefore make a more charitable judgment of your brother.

Another commentator stated, ‘to be discriminating and critical is necessary; to be hypercritical or a hypocrite is wrong’ which the immediate context of Jesus’ teaching (vv. 3-5).

The same original commentator then rightly concludes:

Anything that contradicts the truth is a lie—but, of course, to call something a “lie” is to pass judgment. For example to call fornication a sin is to likewise pass judgment—but it’s also to agree with God. When Jesus said not to judge others, He did not mean that no one can identify sin for what it is, based on God’s definition of sin.

So, it appears that we have a standard to evaluate after all. Not that this is going to convince those that deny the existence of moral absolutes. For others at this point of the interaction the common saying that God is a loving God (unconditional) card is played.

However in this context this comment just displays a lack of understanding of God character. So, what does it mean that God is love?

Love is one of the attributes of God. Love is a core aspect of God’s character, His Person. God’s love is in no sense in conflict with His holiness, righteousness, justice, or even His wrath. All of God’s attributes are in perfect harmony.

Love and Truth

 

 

Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? (Deut. 25:9)

428px-Family-bible[1]

Why does the widow of the brother have to spit in his face and take off his shoe? (Deut. 25:9)

by

Jose de Carvalho

 

 

This section concerns the applicability of the Law in context of justice, marriage and business. More directly to the question this section deals with the provision for widows. Deuteronomy 25:9 has its roots in the legislation of Leviticus 25:25-55, ‘redemption’ and Levirate marriage.

The primary concern in the narrative is the preservation of the family line/name via a Levirate marriage in a society where polygamy was allowed. Hence; “her husband’s brother shall go in to her and take her as his wife and perform the duty of a husband’s brother to her. And the first son whom she bears shall succeed to the name of his dead brother, that his name may not be blotted out of Israel.(Deut. 25:5-6, ESV).

Although he has the obligation, he is however not forced into taking the widow as his wife, which is in actual fact to protect the widow from a reluctant husband. In which case a ceremony takes place (halizah) to officiate his decision not to marry her, after her husband’s his brother’s, death.

This is an official ceremony, intended on bringing shame and public humiliation for not cooperating, involving “pull his sandal off his foot and spit in his face.” (v.9) by the widow of a brother who has died childless, through which ceremony he is released from the obligation of marrying her, and she becomes free to marry whomever she desires.

“Sandals were the ordinary footwear in the ancient Near East, but they were also a symbolic item of clothing, especially in the relationship between the widow and her legal guardian or levir. This is due to the fact that land was purchased based on whatever size triangle of land one could walk off in an hour, a day, a week or a month (1Ki. 21:16-17). Land was surveyed in triangles, and a benchmark was constructed of fieldstones to serve as a boundary marker (Deut. 19:14). Since they walked on the land in sandals, the sandals became the movable title to that land. By removing the sandals of her guardian (Rth. 4:7), a widow removed his authorization to administer the land of her household.”

In today’s contemporary society, the concept of levirate marriage as portrayed in the Law is not common. Nevertheless there are a few African communities that practice it, but its tradition is not rooted in the scriptures (allegedly in Lesotho this custom in Setswana is called Seya-ntlo they still practice Levirate Law, the Zulu (ukungenwa) nations certainly use it to look after vulnerable windows with small children). In many cases it tends to go against the wishes of the widow and therefore violates their rights (1 Cor. 7:39). Today’s western society would treat this kind of marriage as incestuous and the couple would suffer rejection.

Nevertheless the application of the spirit of the Law in terms of looking after the vulnerable like widows, in contemporaneous society by the Church is worthy of taking note.

James charges the Church to look after the vulnerable among us (1:27).

Paul repeats this theme in 1 Timothy 5:8 “But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.”(ESV)

 

 

 

Providence in Prayer

praying

Providence in Prayer

By

Jose de Carvalho

So much is written about prayer.

Much of it begins with the premise that if believers pray their prayers will be answered.

Firstly let me clarify that God is not a cosmic Santa Claus, therefore if believers are good and exercise all of the prayer formulas documented in all the popular literature like persistence, positive confession and remain in faith without wavering, it does not mean that God is expected to respond positively to their prayer requests.

Given the premise that God should grant prayer requests, if prayer is not answered it is then classified as unanswered prayer. Therefore it stands to reason that if prayers are not answered it is due to incorrect application of the prayer formulas, lack of faith, or sin in the lives of the petitioners. More sinister, salvation is questioned, or God has just plainly rejected them at a personal level.

However, this is an incorrect understanding of prayer. God answers every prayer that is lifted to Him. Sometimes God answers “yes”, “no” or “wait.”

I cannot do justice to the complexity of the topic of God being ultimately sovereign and the effectiveness of prayer in a brief post, nor do I believe it to be necessary, so I will end will the words of Packer (1997:29)

‘Ask and you will receive’ is always true, and what they receive when they ask is always God’s best for them long-term, even when it is a short-term disappointment.

Some things are certain, and that is one of them.

Reading the Bible Out of Context

Jeremiah

Out of Context

By

Jose de Carvalho

Ben Irwin as compiled an interesting series of popular verses Christians keep quoting that do not mean what they think it means. Please follow the link for a paraphrased example.

Jer 29:11  For I know the plans I have for you, declares the LORD, plans for welfare and not for evil, to give you a future and a hope. (ESV)

 

Jeremiah 29:11 reads like a Christian motivational poster. Wait, It is a Christian motivational poster. No wonder it was Bible Gateway’s second-most shared verse of 2013.

Woke up on the wrong side of the bed? Don’t worry. God has a plan for your day. Facing a rough patch at work? Take a breath. Your future is bright. Money’s a bit tight? Relax. God’s going to prosper you.

Except the words in Jeremiah 29:11 have nothing to do with bad hair days, corporate ladders, or financial success. In 597 BC, King Nebuchadnezzar invaded Judah. He rounded up 10,000 leading citizens of Jerusalem and dumped them in Babylon, 500 miles from home. They lost everything. They didn’t know what to do next.

From Jerusalem, Jeremiah wrote to the exiles — and told them to get on with their lives: “Build houses and settle down; plant gardens and eat what they produce. Marry and have sons and daughters.” In other words: you’re going to be there a while. Yet God promised this wasn’t the end for them. In 70 years, the exiles would return home. This was the “hope and . . . future” mentioned in Jeremiah 29:11.

Incidentally, that hope and future was something most of the original exiles wouldn’t live to see for themselves. (Seventy years was a long time then, too.) The future described in this passage would be for their children and grandchildren (Israel).

It is true that God know the plans He has for you and that He is a good God, as well as that our hope is sealed with eternal hope. Nevertheless Jeremiah 29:11 doesn’t guarantee your personal fulfilment.

 

When is a lying not a lie?

Pinocchio           When is a lying not a lie?

By

Jose de Carvalho

 

I am following this question in a biblical platform that I very often interact on and post my very humble opinion to perplexing questions. Like many others in the body of Christ this is a contestable topic.

As expected the responses have ranged from believers can never lie, to a little white lie that does not cause warm is somewhat Ok. As well as the moral high ground, emphasizing that God does not lie, Jesus our perfect example could not lie, therefore we should conform to this example. Others have tried to re-contextually what is meant by a lie in the Bible. Nothing unusual!

Firstly I must affirm that I fully concur that lying is a sin and that God hates lies (10 Commandments; Levitical Law; Prov. 6:16), so I am not going to decontextualize, liberalise or somewhat condone it for the purposes of adding weight to my argument. 

However, apart from examples in the polemical life of David, Rahab (Joshua 2:5) and the Hebrew midwife (Ex 1:15-20) lied to protect the Israelites, God also used a form of deceit to punish Ahab in battle (1Kings 22:20), God is sovereign, thus uses whatever means He deems necessary to accomplish His Holy purposes.

Therefore what also appears to be true is that in certain circumstances lying to avoid a sin with much greater consequences maybe warranted; ‘Christian principal of greater good’. (I am aware that the western mind set has difficulties in accepting 2 possible contradictory ideas being true. This was not so in the Hebrew mind-set especially if the Word affirms it).

This line of reasoning is given validation by many secular ethicists*, but this is not my frame of reference.

In all the examples of lies for the greater good in the Bible, I am not aware of God’s condemnation ever being made.

*Teleological ethicists, affirm that actions are judged right or wrong on the basis of the result. Deontological ethicists, emphasize duty, asserting that actions are inherently/morally right or wrong.

Although the above ethical models may appear to have some credit, they both fail on account of the basis of appeal to reason; so then who decides what is right or wrong? Christian ethics must be grounded on biblical principles, dependant on a biblical world view for decision making processes. On this basis I offer as follows:

Christian ethics and behaviour models should just not be concerned with present situations and realities.  The impact of our decisions in the future must be considered, both now and eternally. Christians conduct in the present is challenged by the realities of living in a fallen sinful world as it impacts the community of believers everywhere. In this context, biblical principles, the Holy Spirit and Jesus are our guidelines for the principle of greater good as believers make decisions on a daily basis. Further believers have to be very mindful that they will be held accountable for all our moral actions.

I close with Lane Craig:

“Despite the inequities of this life, in the end the scales of God’s justice will be balanced. Thus, the moral choices we make in this life are infused with an eternal significance”

So I wait for our Lord’s return

Yours in Christ

Tithes

Tithes

Tithes

by

Jose de Carvalho

Upfront it must be said that some people do not agree with the following concept. Nevertheless, it is my opinion that there were three different tithes in the Old Testament; this assertion is well supported by early writers in Israel’s history.

The first tithe was for God’s workers (Lev. 27:30-32)

The second tithe was for a community meal (Det. 12:12,22-23)

The third tithe was for the needy (Det. 14:28-29)

If the interpretation here is correct, then the total of three tides in the Old Testament adds up to more than 20% per year. There was 10% for the Lord’s workers, 10% to be used within the family celebration and 10% every three years for the needy.

These were the mandatory offerings, it must be noted that there were other voluntary/freewill offerings.

Considering that New Testament believers are not obliged by the Law, offerings by percentage do not apply. Including the traditional assertion that 10% is a good standard to apply. Those that agree with this statement revert to the principle of generosity. However this may not be very helpful either.  

Biblically the principles that underline the tithes are repeated in the New Testament. Therefore, God’s people are to give towards God’s workers, in celebration as a family in the presence of the Lord and in support for the vulnerable amongst us.

In précis, what is clear is that the emphasis is not on percentage, but on principle.

 

 

To Judge or not to Judge?

Judging

To Judge or not to Judge?

By

Jose de Carvalho

The topic of judgement has bothered me in my early christian life, especially in light of the fact that when a christian points out another’s fault, whatever it may be, he/she is always accused of judgement by the proof text in the Bible,  Matthew 7:1  ‘Judge not, that you be not judged’. The conundrum for me has been balancing the above with the other biblical exhortations, namely to beware of evil doers in the Church and that believers are to test everything for false prophets and to avoid those who practice all kinds of evil – now we have to do all this without making some sort of judgement and with careful discernment of course (John 7:24).

In my experience, in most cases these issues arises out of misinterpretation of the Word and the fact that western thought (being based on Greek education processes) cannot deal with antimonies – when the Bible asserts to seemingly different things and that they both are true – whereas Hebrew philosophical thought can and did.

The key interpretive issue in Matthew is that he was telling us not to judge hypocritically; not , not to judge; a point that any interpreter that is not using scripture out of context to prove a point, will clearly identify by just reading the rest of Matthew’s discourse.

Matthew (7:2-5) declares:

Mat 7:2  For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and with the measure you use it will be measured to you.

Mat 7:3  Why do you see the speck that is in your brother’s eye, but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?

Mat 7:4  Or how can you say to your brother, ‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’ when there is the log in your own eye?

Mat 7:5  You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye, and then you will see clearly to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.

 

‘What Jesus was condemning here was hypocritical, self-righteous judgments of others.’