Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John

The faithful are left with no choice but to love the unlovable

1 John is written at a particularly troubling time for a section of the faithful community. 1 John 2:18 says

“Children, it is the last hour, and just as you heard that the antichrist is coming, so now many antichrists have appeared. We know from this that it is the last hour.”

What does this mean the last hour? It does not refer to the shadow of AD70, that event had gone. Clearly it is not the return of Jesus since we are now 1930 odd years on from this epistle. What does it mean? Simply – and more concerningly – it means John’s readers face an existential threat. Continue reading “Implementing Principles under pressure – 1 John”

Agapaō and phileō

Use and abuse in the gospels

Love is one of the central themes of the holy scriptures. The glorious hope of everlasting life that we share is a gift from our Heavenly Father, whose love was the prime motivation in sacrificing His Son for us (John 3:16). A recognition of this fact naturally leads us to demonstrate love to one another. The Apostle John says as much in his First Epistle:

“In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. Beloved, if God so loved us, we also ought to love one another.” (1 John 4:10-11)1

Many of us have a passing familiarity with two of the common Greek words behind our English term “love” in the New Testament: agapaō and phileō.2 Common wisdom is that two different kinds of love are intended whenever these words appear: Continue reading “Agapaō and phileō”

You are my witnesses

Who’s who and what’s what in God’s courtroom

After all the horrors they’ve been subjected to over the centuries it’s remarkable that the Jews people remain a distinct group of people. Many Christians point to the existence of the Jews as evidence that God exists and keeps the promises he’s made for very good reasons.

However, in our enthusiasm for the idea that the Jewish people are evidence God exists we sometimes read the concept into passages which are about something else altogether. Continue reading “You are my witnesses”

A Case Study In Allegory

Why Biblical imagery must often deviate from physical reality

Perhaps the most famous Christian allegory comes, not from the pages of the Bible, but rather from the pen of John Bunyan in 1678. His work, “The Pilgrims Progress”, describes in vivid detail a long journey taken by a man named ‘Christian’ from the ‘City of Destruction’ to the ‘Celestial City’. This text illustrates many Christian concepts, and teaches many spiritual lessons. It has captivated readers for generations around the globe.

But for many believers, the concept of allegory remains obscure. It is accepted as legitimate, in theory, but in practice it is not well understood or defined. It would seem on the surface to be an elusive catch phrase for any type of spiritual symbolism we would like to superimpose upon any particular Biblical text. The fact is that alleged allegories are often arbitrary and speculative, and for no good reason. There exists an almost limitless number of ways in which one might claim allegorical meaning from any passage.

It turns out there is only one explicit instance of the word ‘allegory’ in the whole Bible. In Galatians 4, Paul uses it to describe his spiritual exposition of Abraham’s two wives and two sons. This certainly does not preclude the existence of other allegories elsewhere1, but it does provide us with a clear test case for the genre. And since Paul leans on Isaiah to make his point, we should do the same. Continue reading “A Case Study In Allegory”

Prophet Model: the divine perspective

Challenging and questioning the dominant culture from the divine perspective

It is unsurprising to find that the poetic form and language of prophecy speaks to individual Christians in different ways. Writ large in metaphor and hyperbole, the motifs of judgement and salvation present an enduring message of hope that has universal reach. But indiscriminate application of these words to contemporary events imposes modern concerns on text intended to convey something entirely different: the divine perspective. Continue reading “Prophet Model: the divine perspective”

Prophet Model: A War of Words

Building a foundation for understanding the message of the prophets

Modern prophetic interpretation is surprisingly diverse, often presenting a bewildering array of national, personal, and cosmic predictions. Opaque scriptural symbols appear to have insufficient predictive potential, making even fulfilled prophecy frustrating to understand. As blood moons pass, “significant” dates come and go, and Planet X stubbornly refuses to destroy the earth, we are forced to reflect on our approach to prophecy. Are we doing it wrong? Continue reading “Prophet Model: A War of Words”

Exploring Psalm 147

Recognising God’s care, provision and power

Psalm 147 doesn’t get the same airtime as the more well known psalms, e.g. 1, 22, 23, 51, and 110, and yet there is much that we can learn from it that is of value today. In this post we’ll work through the psalm looking at its history, structure, and teaching. Continue reading “Exploring Psalm 147”

On being eaten by worms

Before his untimely death Herod Agrippa I had been quite smart in his dealings with both Rome and with the Jews. He’d prevented a rerun of the Jewish Revolt by talking Emperor Caligula out of setting up a statue to himself in the Temple at Jerusalem1, and he also followed Jewish custom to the point that Josephus records:

…he loved to live continually at Jerusalem, and was exactly careful in the observance of the laws of his country. He therefore kept himself entirely pure: nor did any day pass over his head without its appointed sacrifice.2

He knew his audience and played them well. Continue reading “On being eaten by worms”

The rock that followed them

The Jewish background to an odd passage

One of Paul’s more unusual uses of the Old Testament is found in his warning to the believers in Corinth not to fall into the same complacency as some of the Israelites had on the Exodus. Continue reading “The rock that followed them”