FREE BOOK FOR CHRISTMAS!

As a Christmas gift this year, I have bundled together some of my blog posts that have to deal with “How to Life the Christian Life: throw out the old rules and play by the New Covenant.” Over a hundred of you have downloaded it already – enjoy!

Simply click here: How to live the Christian Life_Shogren

I ask only that you consider signing up for my blog on the right-hand column. Either way, the gift is without obligation, and I will not use your email or name in any way.

Gary Shogren, Christmas 2014

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Life in the New Covenant, according to Romans

[The following thoughts are taken from my new commentary on Romans in the Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo, to be published in 2015 by Ediciones Kairós. It is also available in pdf forms as a small book, How to Live the Christian Life – in the right-hand column look under “Four of my books”.]

A “paradigm shift” is not simply coming up with new answers to the same old problems; rather, it involves reworking one’s assumptions and attempting to reframe the questions. For example, the apostle Paul grew up under one paradigm, that the people of God was constituted by the covenant God made with Abraham and the Law given to Moses. That meant that the Israelite was automatically one of God’s own, unless he or she came to reject God’s Law; and that non-Israelites could be saved if only they converted to Judaism. They believed that the Holy Spirit would come upon Israel, but only in the future kingdom, when God would establish a New Covenant with his people.

Throughout his letter to the Romans, Paul offers sweeping paradigm shifts: one of them appears in Rom 5:5 – “hope does not put us to shame, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us.” This means that one cannot begin to understand the gospel without taking the New Covenant and the gift of the Spirit as the basis for the Christian life. He had hinted at this new element somewhat abstractly in Rom 2:14-15, that Gentiles could do what the Torah requires – that is, the life of love that is the goal of the Torah (Rom 13:10).

The new element is the gift of the Spirit in the New Covenant, predicted in the prophets and now brought to fruition in this age. Jesus said that by shedding his blood he was initiating that covenant (1 Cor 11:24-25), and Paul self-identifies as a minister of that same covenant (2 Cor 3:6). It is the basis for transformation of believers in this age (1 Thess 4:9-10).

new covenant image

All this to say that in place of the old paradigm, which divided the world into Israelites and non-Israelites, the gospel places everyone in “those in Christ, who by definition have the Spirit” and those who are not: “You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you. Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him.” (Rom 8:9). We are not “saved by faith, sanctified by works”; far from it! Rather, those with the Spirit find themselves not only enabled but also propelled to walk in holiness, beginning with the power to love truly.

All of this shifting of paradigms might escape the attention of today’s Christian reader of Romans, who is accustomed to see references to the Spirit and his transforming power in the Bible and in life. But for people in the first century, the ancient prophecies about the New Covenant in the Spirit were end-time events, not for life in the here and now. Yes, Paul can still say that this same New Covenant will bring about the eschatological transformation of “all Israel” at the end of the age: “and this will be my covenant with them when I take away their sins.” (Rom 11:27).

But at the same time, all Christians are in the now time experiencing this covenant as predicted in the prophets: “For this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the Lord: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts. And I will be their God, and they shall be my people.” (Jer 31:33, quoted in Heb 8:8). Ezekiel 36:22-28 contains a reference to the gift of God’s Spirit and also the sprinkling of purifying water; these are the two elements that underlie Jesus’ teaching that “unless one is born of water and the Spirit, he cannot enter the kingdom of God” (John 3:5). Jesus also taught that “the hour is coming, and is now here (!), when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for the Father is seeking such people to worship him. God is spirit, and those who worship him must worship in spirit and truth.” (or better, “in the Spirit and in truth” or “truly, that is, through the Spirit”; see John 4:23-24). Thus, another important prediction (Joel 2:28-32) is now fulfilled on Pentecost, and the falls upon all believers in Jesus (Acts 2:16-21).

What is lacking from the prophetic passages above is any thought that Gentile believers would experience the New Covenant, the forgiveness of their sins, the gift of the Spirit, the Spirit of prophecy, the guidance of God in righteousness. That provided an opening for some opponents of Paul, the Judaizers, to argue that non-Jewish believers could not simply declare their trust in Jesus and be saved; rather, they had to in effect convert to Judaism, taking the rite of circumcision and pledging themselves to obey the 613 rules of the Law.

This is why it is important for Paul to demonstrate that the gift of the Spirit stands prior to anything else in the Christian walk (see Gal 3:1-6). Galatians 5 and Romans 8 show that the Christian life is a life in the Spirit, and that if anyone tries to blend the Spirit and the Torah for power to live the holy life, the whole affair will fall to pieces: a Torah or ethics directed Christian, no matter what the brand of legalism, is inevitably a spiritual failure. If God himself promised that “you shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you” (Ezek 36:25) – the very evils the Gentiles inevitably fall into (Rom 1:23, 24) – then it becomes ridiculous to argue that they would be better if only they would follow the hundreds of statutes of Torah in order to keep them on the narrow path.

But no – step by step it became clear to the apostles that non-Israelites could be saved through faith, manifested when they received the Spirit of holiness – “And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.” (Acts 15:8-9). This leaves us with the power of God, and also the serious yet joyful responsibility to carry out his wishes: “So then, brothers, we are debtors, not to the flesh, to live according to the flesh. For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. For all who are led by the Spirit of God are sons of God. (Rom 8:12-14).

“Life in the New Covenant, according to Romans,” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Those Veiled Women of Corinth

[Note: I spent a number of years writing a commentary on 1 Corinthians for a Latin American audience (you can get it free in English HERE). 20 pages contain the full exegesis of the passage; in this blog I will mainly spell out my conclusions].

Part of Bible study is not just understanding what the author was teaching, but what problem the Scripture was intended to solve, and also to apply his teaching in a context today. In this case, we live in a culture that is far removed from first-century Corinth:

 …every wife who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head, since it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a wife will not cover her head, then she should cut her hair short. But since it is disgraceful for a wife to cut off her hair or shave her head, let her cover her head. (1 Cor 11:4-6)

My interpretation of this section is:

Paul taught all his churches that in a worship service both men and women are free to pray aloud and to speak prophetically to the congregation. Men should pray and prophesy with their heads bared; women, who arrive already wearing a veil – like a scarf or small shawl on their head, as dictated the local culture – should continue to wear it throughout the meeting. This rule was given for several reasons: it reflected the created order as described in Genesis; because it was “natural”; because to do otherwise would bring cultural shame. But later on, some Corinthian women wanted to shed the veil. Paul perceives that, while the veil in itself is not a fundamental issue of the faith, the motivations for rejecting the veil were questionable: to declare independence from men/husbands; to reject the relevance of cultural mores for a Christian; to act as if gender differences did not exist. For these reasons he reaffirms that women and men must maintain the status quo that he has established for Christian meetings.

Those women who wish to pray without a veil need to realize that they are obligated to glorify God in part by honoring “the men,” that is their brothers in Christ. Neither man nor woman in Christ is an individual unit; each must come to Christ through serving the other. Thus Paul also reminds the men: if you are tempted to lord it over women, remember that you came from a woman (11:8) and that you too have to answer to a head, that is Christ, and to make very sure that you are reflecting glory to another, not to yourself.

A "respectable" Roman woman with veil

A “respectable” Roman woman with veil

Clothing in some societies conveys strong signals about social position, self-consciousness, and gender. For example, not many generations ago, when a girl reached a certain age and started wearing her hear bound “up,” she was signaling that she was available for marriage. For boys, the purchase of their first pair of long pants was an anxiously-awaited step toward manhood. In Roman society, a respectable married woman or widow went out in public with her hair worn up and covered with a veil or shawl (more…)

The Eclectic Text of the New Testament – a conspiracy against the Word?

God’s beloved Word – you bet I study it daily. Yes, as a Bible teacher, since my ministry is teaching the New Testament in Spanish and English, and also from the Greek. But more fundamentally I read the Bible simply as a Christian, because it is through the reading, meditation, and obedience of God’s Word that we grow as believers. [1]

Therefore it concerns me when I read about a supposed conspiracy, made up of people who secretly despise God’s Word and are paving the way for antichrist, out to destroy the Bible and leave us in the dark. These charges are leveled against the Nestle-Aland edition of the Greek New Testament, the very “critical” edition I and my students read and interpret. [2]

That’s why I am impelled to read up on the so-called Alexandrian Conspiracy to ruin the Bible. If it is a real and present danger, I want to know. If it is a false alarm, then I must communicate that to you, the readers.

"Don't destroy God's Word! Or change it!"

“Don’t destroy God’s Word! Or change it!”

My conclusion:

If the critical edition of the New Testament be treason against God’s Holy Word, then it’s the most poorly executed conspiracy in the history of Bible study.

Let’s see why. One extreme theory has it (more…)

Published in: on October 9, 2014 at 2:37 pm  Comments (10)  
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Fake fruits sold here, cheap as they come!

So basically, we can offer you two plans.

Plan A.

The spiritual produce wagon arrives every day, full to overflowing for those who wish to ask the Father. Love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control, and that’s not the complete list; it’s only a summary. They are miracle gifts, planted, watered, grown, harvested, replanted by the Almighty. Just nod your head Yes, the Gardener is standing by.

Or do you imagine we’re speaking about doing some housecleaning, where we clench our teeth to sort through and toss out old behaviors? No – Spirit-gifts arrive come with the power to displace antagonism, condescension, digital addictions, self-abandonment, playing half-on-half-off with Heaven, materialism, both consumerist soft- or Wall Street hardcore. You name the weed, the Spirit knows best how to pull it.

Plan B.

Of course, it’s easy enough to fake that you’re on good terms with the Spirit, if that’s what you want. Just repeat after us as we recite the formulas! Pat a back or two; work one sacrificial act into your weekly lifestyle; count all the way to eleven before you open up to irritation. Repression can be made up to look like peacefulness, hubbub can masquerade as joy. Is that generosity I see, or are you paying off a hungry man so he will let you go? Only an expert can tell the difference! Is it patience, or protocol you follow? Are you self-controlled or only too fatigued to do anything really nasty? Is it unity you promote, or have you withdrawn because you have just stopped caring enough to fight?

Now, when things start to fall apart, don’t come to this desk to complain. We’ll just tell you to relax those facial muscles and for goodness sake, when you clench your fists do it behind your back! Subtler insults, laser-guided gossip, humble brags, use minimal force to split one group into three, erase your browser history after every use. Things can be spiffed up, there are ways and there are ways.

Yum!

Yum! I guess…

But a warning: this plan B is basically a secular way of life, grafted onto a spiritual one. It’s what Paul warned about, that there are people with the mere form of piety, but who deny its power. Eventually this will backfire on you, and the conversion of fake fruit to an evil harvest is not a long or complicated process. (It turns out that the Spirit won’t long invest his time on the self-made Christian, and when he pulls out on your life, things tend to get real messy, real fast.)

Plan B, plastic fruit in a plastic bowl. Plan A, the reality. The choice is yours.

Related Posts:

The Holy Spirit is not limited by our brain chemistry

The Forgotten Sign of the End Times: Icy Relations among God´s People

“Fake fruits sold here, cheap as they come!” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

1 Cor 13 – when and how will “the perfect” come?

Shogren_1 Cor 13 Perfect in Patristic Exegesis

This article is a technical study of how the Church Fathers interpreted Paul´s prediction that tongues, prophecy, and knowledge would pass away when “the perfect” comes. My conclusion is that nearly all orthodox fathers believed it referred to the age to come, whereas Marcion, Mani, the Gnostics and others believed that their particular groups now possessed a more perfect revelation.

This article was originally going to be re-published in the forthcoming anthology, Stranger to Fire, the refutation of John MacArthur´s Strange Fire. Unfortunately there were copyright issues. Two other articles of mine will be included instead.

Get my full-length commentary on 1 Corinthians HERE, along with two other free books!

 

“HOW DID THEY SUPPOSE ‘THE PERFECT’ WOULD COME? 1 CORINTHIANS 13.8-12 IN PATRISTIC EXEGESIS,” by Gary S. Shogren, Ph. D., Professor of New Testament Exegesis, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

A most unusual wish: “Damn me to hell!”

Should you pray for the lost? I mean, as if it’s crushing you like a huge weight? Let’s step back 2000 years.

You and Paul are walking past the synagogue of Corinth, a building where he is unwelcome and could be beaten for trying to attend the Sabbath service. He sees dozens of men inside, chanting a psalm. His eyes grow misty: “You know,” he finally gets out, “I pray for them and for all of my fellow Israelites, constantly, that they might have redemption in the Messiah. It’s a burden on my soul, to see them saved. I can taste it, I ache for it.”

“I would give up everything I have in Jesus just to see the nation of Israel come to his feet. No exaggeration; all of it, 100%.”

“You don’t believe me?” he says. “Well, let me spell it out for you:”hell

  • God works out all things for my good; I would forego that.
  • The Holy Spirit prays for me, constantly; I would unplug that.
  • I have a purpose in God’s eternal plan; I would allow my name to be erased from it.
  • “Save them, not me!” I would cry out.
  • I was predestined to be like Christ for eternity; I would give that up.
  • I felt God’s call on me to believe on the Damascus Road; I would rewrite that history.
  • I was given the verdict that I am absolutely right with God my Judge; I would petition to have that decision reversed.
  • I would allow charges to be brought against me.
  • I am on my way to the glory of the final resurrection; I would willingly get in the other line, for those  who will be resurrected to damnation
  • I would make myself forget that Christ died for sinners. I would bare my chest to trouble and hardship without God’s kind protection.
  • I would settle for being less than a conqueror, in fact, a loser.
  • I would let death be the victor over me.
  • I would allow demons to do their worst to me.
  • I would taunt anything, in all creation, I would dare them to demolish me and separate me from God.

(more…)

The Proverbs 31 Woman: Have we made her something she was never meant to be?

“Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies.” (Prov. 31:10 KJV) J1746

Is it ever safe – or sane? – for a man to meddle in a passage beloved by Christian women? Am I grabbing hold of a live wire? For I hear a lot of sisters referring to Proverbs 31:10-31 as the pattern they want to follow. Google “Proverbs 31 woman” and there will be a landslide of hits, book ads, even “Proverbs 31 Ministries.” People seem completely intimidated by “Miss/Mrs./Ms. Perfect” in Proverbs 31, for example: “She was someone who had it all together. She actually enjoyed cooking and cleaning. She raised flawless children who never had outbursts. She never had issues with her friends. She stayed balanced with her finances. And she never had hormonal responses with her husband.” [1] Others reported that it took them a long time to get up the nerve even to open and read Proverbs 31! (more…)

14 things your missionaries might like to tell you, but feel inhibited

NOTE: Many thousands have read this little article, thanks so much! May I invite you to share it with your mission board; your friends; sign up for my blog, at right; to read an article about missionary letters;  a recent article on Acts 1:8; and our missionary website where we describe our works as theological educators in Costa Rica.

Let me put on my missionary hat!

When Paul and Barnabas returned home from their journey, they “gathered the church together, they declared all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith to the Gentiles” (Acts 14:27). Your church’s missionaries periodically pay you a brief visit. They will tell you about their successes and failures, and thank you for your support.

 There are things your visiting missionaries might wish to tell you but feel they cannot:

 When we’re visiting you, we haven’t actually “come home.” We live elsewhere, and are temporarily visiting the place where we used to live. Especially for missionary kids, “home” is far from here. We are usually keen to get back to where we belong.

Don’t assume that we are up to date on all the latest U.S. culture.

"So, where was I? Anyway, that was so sad when Billie Dee got hurt. And, and!...I think that Meryl and Maks might have a little romance going...Of course, I wouldn't be caught dead voting for Chelsea..."

“So, where was I? Anyway, that was so sad when Billie Dee got hurt. And, AND!…I think that Meryl and Maks might have a little romance going…Well of course, I wouldn’t be caught dead voting for Chelsea…”

We are aware that we look older-heavier-greyer-balder than the last time we passed through town. Everyone at your church does, too, but it’s basic courtesy not to mention it! (more…)

Sure, like, why not?

[I’m a theologian and it’s been a long day spent on the Greek of Romans 13. Let’s take a break]

Looked at from one angle, my life may be divided into two halves.

The first half was labeled: No thanks.

The second half: Yes, lets!

stock-footage-newport-rhode-island-circa-september-sailboat-moving-fast-in-narragansett-bayActual Examples of “No Thanks”: Gary, you want to go sailing in the bay with us? No thanks. How about playing some hoops? Don’t feel like it. You want to go and hear this messianic group, “The Liberated Wailing Wall”? Thank you, no. You’ve gotta come to our clam bake! Thanks anyway.

What made me change directions? Probably just growing up some, but two events made me rethink things.

First: a College Retreat. I almost never went to any social or sport event in high school or college. I’m just not interested, I thought. I have things to do. Then my fiancée Karen and I decided to go on our senior class retreat. And I had an excellent time. I became friendly with people whom I knew mainly as backs of heads from class. So, I asked, why hadn’t I done this before?

Second: My college roommate Sam just would not stop pestering me to go to this Christian concert with him. You’ll love it, he said. He’s not Larry Norman, he said – guess where my head was at! – but he’s amazing. Naw, I replied. I’d better not; I have stuff to do, I retorted. C’mon, man! No. It turns out that was my last opportunity to hear Keith Green perform before he died in that plane crash. I became a big fan of his – but posthumously.

I hear there’s a Jim Carrey movie called “Yes Man”. “Carl Allen is at a standstill. No future…Until the day he enrolls into a personal development program based on a very simple idea: say yes to everything!” Lessons are learned, perils are avoided, the boy gets the girl (Zooey Deschanel!), etc.

I joke around with my kids that they ought to be “Yes let’s! Guys and Gal”, to go to a game or get ice cream or see a show, just because someone suggests it. I try to make my rapid response, “Absolutely, let’s do it!”

One way of viewing the Christian life is that it is a long list of things Not To Do. And certainly, there is some truth here, and we see Christians doing plenty of bad stuff. Just say no.

But at the heart of the matter is a ringing Yes: ‘All of God’s promises have been fulfilled in Christ with a resounding “Yes!” And through Christ, our “Amen” (which means “Yes”) ascends to God for his glory’ (2 Cor 1:20 NLT). God designed our new life in Christ to be positive, open, vital, growing. The new life is meant to be lived, not locked away. Like the parent who scatters Easter eggs [1] for the little ones to discover, our loving Father delights for us to find new blessings, learn new truths, share our joy with others. May we live firmly in God’s truth, in his own armor, but unintimidated by life.

NOTES:

[1] And yes, I know all about the origins of Easter eggs. It’s an illustration.

“Sure, like, why not?” by Gary Shogren, Professor of New Testament at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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