300th BLOG POST! Love: a simple command, not an easy one

I have been blogging on this site since 2010 and just realized that this is my 300th post (on my other site, http://razondelaesperanza.com, I’m up to 212). So in order to celebrate with a really important theme, here are some thoughts from my Romans commentary. Enjoy! And sign up to be notified when new articles come out. Gary

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:8-10

For those Christians who can relax only when they have lists of rules to follow, the simple command to Love one another seems vague, subjective, even perilous. They feel more in sync with those who believed that a walk of 2000 steps (1 kilometer) did not transgress God’s law, but taking one step more was a sin (see Acts 1:12); or that one is obliged to forgive seven times, but not eight.

On the one hand, the law of love is liberating. At the same time an exacting master.

Why? Because it obligates us to seek the Spirit’s guidance and power, rather than check off holiness boxes or to consult huge 3-ring binders which purport to give God’s answer to every question. We pray, not to get God to help us keep our own rules, but to ask him to remake our minds. We are forced to use those minds – and we are gifted with a transformed way of thinking! (Rom 12:2) – about what is loving behavior. We are pressed to behave in ways that are new and strange to our old selves. We are led to do more than seems reasonable; to be cheerful and generous when others think we are being taken advantage of. We find that love means in this moment to speak courageously and in another moment to close our mouths.

We find this all over the New Testament. The Lord Jesus shows that love might mean washing someone’s feet – and you wouldn’t have found that in the Torah. James shows how the rule of love makes in impact on how we seat people in our meetings (James 2:1-4). Paul insists that if people were really loving, they would think through what to eat for supper (1 Cor 8:13). And all three seem to leave the question hanging: Were you acting in love, you would have known what to do in these situations!

Love – Christ is our teacher

The definition of a loving Christian is not one those happy souls who go around with smiles and hugs for everyone; not the one who does nice things for their friends. Rather, they are the ones who cross boundaries, make costly choices, and take daring action in the name of Christ.

“Love: a simple command, not an easy one,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

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Beware “The Pure Word” New Testament!

There are way too many English Bible translations and way too many people claiming – as in this case – to have the one true guide to its interpretation.

These are the stars that I sail by when I evaluate a Bible version or guide.

Fortunately, one new publication, The Pure Word – New Testament (TPW), has made my job simple: the TPW, far from helping the Bible student, in fact takes the reader farther away from the plain sense of scripture. This is why my thoughts in this article will seem brusque and more black-and-white than usual.

Part One: What is “The Pure Word”?

What they claim to do and what they have actually done are two different things. They claim to have (at long last!) gone back to the original Greek to produce the perfect and pure paraphrase of the King James Version, one which they imply will take away the misunderstandings in the Christian church to evaporate! [see their video on their page] So Arminians and Calvinists, Baptists and Pentecostals will finally be able to see the light and shake hands all around!

Let the buyer beware of claims that a new key has finally, after 2000 years, unlocked the true hidden meaning of the Bible. That is why my stomach clenched when the first thing I saw was “The Pure Word is an unprecedented New Testament resource, over 20-years in the making, that reveals the original Koine-Greek depths-of-meaning from the time of Christ…[allowing the reader to] experience deeper scriptural meaning that has never before been achievable in English.” Oh, and their claim that all, 100%, of Bible translations are “riddled with inaccuracies that never referenced the original Greek scriptures” and “incredibly rarely did they ever go back and look at even of the few original Greek words. Never mind this project which took over 20 years and a major scholarly group looking at every single word in the Greek.”

This last statement is either incredible hubris or simply a complete lack of awareness of what English Bible translators have been doing in the original languages for the past 500 years! (more…)

Bible word studies!!

It is a common idea that doing Bible word studies is the method for digging deep into the Bible.

A common enough idea, but a myth. One propagated by some popular “expository” preachers, in fact, who take a somewhat useful tool and use it on all the wrong jobs.

To illustrate: if you were to do a Word Search Game on the Bible, the vast majority of words would be things like “is, are, the, a, an, some, of, this, that, to,” etc.

Here’s how the frequency list begins in the KJV, for example, and the same principle applies in the Hebrew and Greek –

Bible meaning:
it’s not just the words used the counts,
it’s the way they’re arranged.

Added note: a method that seeks to interpret the Bible by such breaking down of the text into its tiniest components is said to be “atomistic.”

Bible word studies!!” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Two of my essays included in a new collection!

They have just published a pair if my essays in Strangers to Fire: When Tradition Trumps Scripture. It’s now available on Amazon. You might recognize the title as a response to John MacArthur’s book, Strange Fire: The Danger of Offending the Holy Spirit with Counterfeit Worship.

download

The contributors of these 35 essays are not the sort of televangelists I usually object to, but top Pentecostal scholars who are taking a stand against abuses such as faux apostles, the Prosperity Gospel, and Onenness Pentecostalism. They are exactly the guys who (more…)

The Holy Spirit is not limited by our brain chemistry

This morning I attended a service in Costa Rica. It’s not our church, but one I sometimes visit. The congregation is English-speaking, Afro-Caribbean. They have a strong island accent. I was one of a few white people in the congregation.

As usual, they greeted me warmly.

Our home church is Latin American and Spanish-speaking. We go to one of the lightly attended services, and we are two white faces among 100 Latinos. And they always treat us as family.

I could go on: Romanian churches, where I knew almost nothing of the language; an African American church in Philly; campesino rural churches in Costa Rica; churches in a communist land, where every billboard and TV news program proclaim that they should hate me because I’m from the USA. [1]

Different languages, cultures, colors. Yet they make me, a minority, feel at home.

This is miraculous, Spirit-inspired, Christian love.

imageBrain specialists and sociologists have now shown that people automatically gravitate toward those who look like them. Like feels comfortable with like, uncomfortable with different. So whether we realize it or not, our brains push us to clump together with people like ourselves.

But in the end, what does it matter? Because God is a mighty God; and the Spirit is not limited by our hard wiring. Therefore, like Samson on his better days,  we people of the new birth can and must stretch to breaking the dictates of our brain chemistry.

Those who authentically walk in the Holy Spirit love don’t just run to their friends – they stand on tip-toe, trying to spot people who look isolated, confused, friendless, disconnected, and make a beeline to them.

Lord, I surely hope that when I’m in a group, surrounded by friends, in the racial and cultural majority, that I make “the unlike” feel as welcomed as these brothers and sisters make me.

NOTE:

[1] By the way, I am very much aware that my positive experiences might be due to the fact that I run in circles in which white people are seen positively. Were I a black man in an all-white American church; a Chinese or Nicaraguan person in a Costa Rican church; a biker covered in tattoos; a farmer in a sophisticated upper middle-class church; then perhaps their acceptance of me would be the heartier miracle. It’s a good way to test how supernaturally loving we are, not when we are tolerant of the favored Other, but of the disfavored.

Related Posts:

The Sheep and the Goats on Sunday Morning

A Pastor’s Love for the Flock

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

Fake Fruits Sole Here – as Cheap as they Come

“The Holy Spirit is not limited by our brain chemistry,” by Gary S. Shogren, Professor of New Testament, Seminario ESEPA, San Jose, Costa Rica

The Forgotten Sign of the End Times: icy relations among God’s people

The signs of the End Times, you say? Sure, I can list a few! Earthquakes, wars, famines, pestilence! Persecution, false Messiahs, false prophets!

Indeed, and they are right there in the Olivet Discourse (Matt 24-25).[1]

What’s more, beyond the actual teaching of the New Testament, there exists an entire industry of people working double shifts, vainly calculating the identity of the Antichrist, the role the USA plays in prophecy, where are they hiding that giant computer in Belgium, Obamacare microchips and so forth. But even these prophecy experts go blank over one “sign”: for among Jesus’ words, hiding in plain sight, is a characteristic of the End that seems to be consistently missed or minimized, that during tribulation

…many will fall away and betray one another and hate one another…the love of many will grow cold (Matt 24:10, 12 ESV).

"The End is Nigh!"

“The End is Nigh!”

“Fall away” indicates that these are professing believers. Persecution comes, and Christians, feeling the pressure, turn on each other. As I have argued elsewhere (click HERE),  against conventional wisdom, tribulation as such does not make Christians more caring or more unified – when human nature has its way, people will betray each other in order to survive. As one commentator says about these verses: “What only outsiders had done previously is now said of members of the church: they too will ‘deliver up’ Christian brothers and sisters. Hate, the way the world relates to the church, will also surface in the church.”[2] This Love Recession will not grab the headlines that a war or an earthquake would (more…)

JETS review of my Thessalonians commentary

JETS review of Shogren ZECNT

“But the Greek REALLY says…” Why Greek and Hebrew are not needed in the pulpit, Part 3

In Part 1 and Part 2 I offered one individual’s philosophy of Expository Preaching without Ancient Words:

  • I use the biblical languages, virtually daily. [1]
  • I cannot remember the last time I did not study the Hebrew or Greek when I was preparing a sermon.
  • I cannot remember the last time I did use a Hebrew or Greek word when I was preaching a sermon.
  • The better I study the original text, the easier I find it is to explain its meaning in plain English/Spanish.
Preaching: an open Book, not a sealed scroll

Preaching: an open Book, not a sealed scroll

The exception is that when I give devotionals to my own Greek students, I will often show how a knowledge of the original languages is helpful. But now let’s focus on the positive, and think of times when it is illuminating to mention the Hebrew or Greek while preaching to a “regular” church audience.

The following list might make a start:

HEBREW WORDS:

  • Shema confession in its entirety from Deut 6:4, including the meaning of “one” (echad) as unity, not singularity (more…)

“But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 2

“…Okay, wait, so then, hah, hah, so then the second guy says to the first one, ἐκεινος οὐκ ἐστιν ὁ κυῶν μου!! Oh, that one gets me every time!"

“…Okay, wait, so then, hah, hah, so then the second guy says to the first one, ἐκεινος οὐκ ἐστιν ὁ κυῶν μου!! Oh, mercy, that one gets me every time!”

In Part 1, I argued in favor of a sharply minimalist use of ancient Hebrew and Greek words during a sermon, especially if there is no compelling purpose or, worse, if the goal is to impress the crowd: it is a pitiable housepainter who departs the job with his scaffolding still up, hoping you’ll notice how far he had to climb. See “But the Greek REALLY says…”: Why Hebrew and Greek are not needed in the pulpit, Part 1 and Part 3.

Now, I believe an interpreter of the Word should invest the time necessary to work through it in the original, just as you would learn Spanish if you were going to teach Don Quixote, week in and week out, for the rest of your life. However, in our sermons we should avoid Hebrewfying and Greekitizing, simply because it is rarely of help.

Now we will explore some issues with the Greek language (more…)

Published in: on June 29, 2013 at 11:15 am  Comments (22)  
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Studies in 1 Corinthians by Gary Shogren

Free commentary!

Free commentary!

These posts are adaptations of my commentary on 1 Corinthians, based on my own study of the critical Greek text, the early church fathers and the best of contemporary scholarship. It is available from Logos, and downloadable free from this blog: FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren

ENJOY!

Why you’ve never heard of the Second Corinthian Church [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Terminal Uniqueness: a spiritual disease [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Pastor, tell your flock the truth about itself

The theology of the chocolate sampler [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

“Dear Paul: We are sorry, but you are unqualified to be our apostle…” [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Where is MY special someone?? [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Lord’s Supper: one invitation you don’t want to miss [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

The Sheep and the Goats on Sunday Morning [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Zombies and the Bible [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Published in: on April 19, 2013 at 10:50 am  Comments (10)  
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