Apr 11, 2015

Tertullian on the Apostolic Decree

J. Julius Scott has an interesting discussion on Tertullian's view of the Apostolic Decree in Acts 15. According to Scott,
He calls the decree the "pristine law" and the "compendia of discipline" that relaxes the OT law but binds 'from the more noxious' actions that were also prohibited by the OT. He believes the decree is "ever immutable" and exists "in perpetuity." Tertullian affirms that it "will cease [only] with
the world."
Does Tertullian interpret the decree as the basis of a new, Christian legalism? If by "legalism" we mean becoming a Christian, earning God's favor by observing laws. the answer. is negative. It would be a mistake to interpret any version of the decree, including Tertullian's, as legalism in this sense. The thrust of the earlier part of the record of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15 rejects that possibility. Salvation is clearly defined as a state received "by faith" (v 9) "through grace" (v 11). It is true that the provisions of the decree are called "necessary things" (15:28), but the letter containing them concludes with the statement that they are "necessary" in order that the Gentiles "will do well" (15:29). There is no hint in Acts that the decree was considered necessary for salvation, and Tertullian does not appear to introduce any such idea into his discussion of it.

"Legalism" may also refer to precise definition and regulation of the conduct of one already a Christian through stated ordinances. Tertullian's insistence upon the decree as a "compendium of discipline" and an irrevocable law for believers seems to indicate that he did regard it as the standard for a Christian legalism of this sort.

Scott, J. Julius, Jr. “Textual Variants of the Apostolic Decree and Their Setting in the Early Church,” In The Living and Active Word of God: Studies in Honor of Samuel J. Schultz, ed. Morris Inch and Ronald Youngblood (Winona Lake, IN: Eisenbrauns, 1983), 179.

Apr 10, 2015

The Titles for Christ in 1 Corinthians

Some time back, I began digitizing material that I had in my multiple file cabinets. Occasionally, I have posted material from these articles here. Today, I have an extended quote from an article by Stewart Custer entitled “The Theology of First Corinthians” (Biblical Viewpoint 7 [1973]: 137–38). Here Custer discusses the titles of Christ used in 1 Corinthians.
Christ. This is the most frequent title of the Lord in I Corinthians (as in most of the Epistles), occurring sixty-two times. It occurs alone forty-four times; “Christ Jesus” occurs six times; “Jesus Christ” occurs twice; and the full title “Lord Jesus Christ” occurs ten times. “Christ” identifies the Lord as the Messiah, the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy.
Lord. Paul applies the title “Lord” to Jesus fifty-nine times. The full title “Lord Jesus Christ” occurs ten times; “Lord Jesus” occurs six times (5:4 [2]; 9:1; 11:23; 12:3; 16:23). The title ''Lord” alone is applied to Jesus forty-two times in the Greek text (1:31; 3:5; 4:4, 5, 17; 6:13 [2], 14, 7:10, 12, 17, 22 [2], 25 [2], 32 [2], 34, 35, 39; 9:2, 5, 14; 10:9, 21 [2], 22; 11:11, 23, 26, 27 [2], 32; 12:5; 14:37; 15:58 [2]; 16:7, 10, 19, 22).

Maran (Aramaic for “Lord”). This title is found in the watchword Maranatha (I Cor. 16:22). The phrase can be interpreted as a prayer, “Our Lord come,” or as a promise of the second coming, “Our Lord comes.” Either view makes good sense. The term demonstrates that the Lord Jesus was called “Lord” by the Aramaic-speaking church before the gospel moved to Gentile lands.

Jesus. It is used alone in only one passage (12:3) in a set phrase for either confession or repudiation. The other uses are all in combination with other titles, as mentioned above.

Son. Paul teaches that believers are called into the fellowship of God's Son (1:9). When all the universe is brought into subjection to God, the Son also will be subjected, that God may be all in all (15:28). This does not mean that the Son is less than God, but that the Son will bring to a triumphal conclusion the mediatorial office which He now holds.

Power of God. Once the Lord Jesus is called “the Power of God” (1:24). He is the One who has created the universe and now sustains it (Col. 1:16-17). The message about the Lord Jesus is the power to save (Rom. 1:16).

Wisdom of God. In the same passage (1:24) the Lord Jesus is called “the Wisdom of God.” He has made foolish the wisdom of men (1:27), and He is Himself the Wisdom which all believers need (1:30).

Our Passover. The Lord Jesus is the fulfillment of all the typical teaching in the Old Testament concerning the necessity of blood sacrifice. Just as the lamb was sacrificed to avert the judgment of God in Old Testament times, so the Lord Jesus sacrificed Himself as the Lamb of God (John 1:29) to deliver all believers from the judgment of God. Thus He is “Our Passover” (5:7).

The Rock. One passage identifies the Lord Jesus with the great image of the Rock, which occurs throughout Scripture. He is “the Rock” for all God's people, whether in Old Testament or New Testament times (10:4).

The Last Adam. The first man, Adam, was created by the Lord as a living soul, but he soon forfeited life; “the Last Adam” is a life giving Spirit, since eternal life flows through Him to every believer (15:45).

Apr 9, 2015

Pilate's Wife (Matt 27:19)

“Besides, while he was sitting on the judgment seat, his wife sent word to him, "Have nothing to do with that righteous man, for I have suffered much because of him today in a dream" (Matt 27:19, ESV). 

One of the unique contributions of Matthew’s account of the Passion is the reference to Pilate’s wife. Here is a list of observations concerning this brief but intriguing reference.

Matthew does note the name of Pilate’s wife but church tradition calls her Claudia, Claudia Procula, or Claudia Villa Procula. However, the name Claudia was apparently introduced rather late (1619) In the Acts of Pilate in the Gospel of Nicodemus, she is said to be a proselyte or God-fearer (Act. Pil. 2.1). Origen suggested that she later became a convert to Christianity (Comm. ser. Matt. 122) and she was canonized as a Saint in the Greek Orthodox Church. According to Michael Green, she was, “the illegitimate daughter of Claudia, the Emperor Tiberius’ third wife, and so she was a grand-daughter of Augustus. She was therefore much better connected than her husband, and it may be that it was due to her that in ad 26 he gained the appointment as “prefect of Judea” (The Message of Matthew: The Kingdom of Heaven, BST [Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2001], 290).

Pilate’s wife refers to Jesus as a “righteous man.” “Wordsworth well remarks, “In the whole history of the Passion of Christ no one pleads for him but a woman, the wife of a heathen governor, the deputy of the emperor of the world” (H. D. M. Spence-Jones, ed., St. Matthew, vol. 2, The Pulpit Commentary [London: Funk & Wagnalls, 1909], 585. The affirmation of Jesus also undergirds the righteous Gentile motif in the Gospel. As Ulrich Luz states, “Against the dark background of the increasingly obvious Jewish guilt the message of the Gentile woman appears as a ‘bright foil’ (Matthew 21–28: A Commentary, Herm, ed. Helmut Koester [Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg, 2005], 498).”

The reference to a “dream” (or perhaps more technically a nightmare) is consistent with Matthew’s interest in dreams which is particularly prevalent in the birth and infancy narratives (cf. 1:20; 2:12, 13, 19, 22). So dreams bookend Jesus’ life. The implication that this was a revelatory dream emphasizes the spiritual context of the scene even as it is being played out on a political or civic stage.

From a narratival perspective, v. 19 serves as an interruption to the trial narrative. But it is an important one theologically. At the same time it affirms the innocence of Jesus, the travesty of justice that is about to take place, and the guilt of Pilate as a participant in the murder of Jesus.

Apr 8, 2015

Romans: The Musical

Trevin Wax has an interview with Cody Curtis, a musician who has set the epistle to the Romans to music. Check it out here.

Apr 7, 2015

Free Audio: David Platt's Radical

Christianaudio.com is offering David Platt's Radical for free for three days only (ending April 9). Go here.

Apr 6, 2015

Blue Jean Theology!

See this funny article on, "What Your Pastor’s Jeans Say About Their Theology" here.

Apr 5, 2015

He is Risen!

And as Jaroslav Pelikan proclaims, “If Christ is risen—then nothing else matters. And if Christ is not risen—then nothing else matters.”