How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans]

Certeza Unida and Kairos will publish my Romans commentary as part of their Comentario Bíblico Contemporáneo (Contemporary Bible Commentary). More than 160 scholars participated in the project.

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What follows is adapted from the section “How to Read Romans,” in which I show its particular application for Latin America.

The epistle to the Romans meets the Christian on two levels: (1) as a treasure house of beloved gospel texts; (2) as an ancient missionary letter, written for a specific moment in Paul’s work among the nations.

Both levels are valid, since the disciple today first comes to know Romans because of its neat formulations of, for example, the deadliness of sin (3:23), the free gift of eternal life (6:23), the transformation of the new person in Christ (12:1-2). Then beyond that, we must enter into the mind of Paul and appreciate his plan for the final years of the AD 50s – a missionary journey that would take the gospel farther west from Jerusalem than it had ever gone, across several of what we know as time zones. We then see that Romans, when first delivered, was a clear call to action for the believers in the capital to receive Paul for a time, and later to sponsor his trip to evangelize Spain.

In Latin America too we are arming ourselves to take the gospel to the nations, in particular, unreached ones. We too will benefit from knowing, not just what Paul said about salvation, but why he said it to these Christians in Rome, and by extension how it is God’s summons to us to show forth the gospel.

Romans is the largest extant letter by Paul. It is also the most systematic in its structure, touching on many facets of the doctrine of salvation (soteriology) but saying little about other themes, for example, the Last Days. Paul begins with the lostness of the world, then God’s solution in the death of Christ, the power of the new life in the Spirit, and later, details about how to live the Christian life. He also introduces a long section in chapters 9-11 to answer the questions Why don’t Jews believe in their own Messiah? Will Israel come to God eventually?

The best way to enjoy this letter is to read it; one can read Romans aloud at an unhurried pace in about one hour.

“How to Read Romans [Studies in Romans],” by Gary S. Shogren, PhD in New Testament Exegesis, Professor at Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Published in: on February 8, 2017 at 4:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between?

Download the article as a pdf: Shogren_The Emperor Constantine the Great – a villain or a hero, or something in-between

To many, the Emperor Constantine was a saint: in the Orthodox church he is one of the “Equal-to-Apostles” (isapóstolos) a title given to people (such as Patrick, Cyril the evangelist of Russia and others) who were especially effective in establishing the gospel.

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To others, Constantine is Great was a tool of evil, a corrupter of the church.

The attacks against Constantine come from several quarters. Some Messianic believers imagine that he turned the church into a Gentile movement. Others charge him with introducing pagan practices into the church. Seventh-Day Adventists credit him (or some pope) with changing the Sabbath from Saturday to Sunday.[1] Jehovah’s Witnesses think he turned Jesus into God, made the cross a symbol of Christianity, and established Easter and Christmas. All of these parties tend to gang up and use the same materials as the basis for their attacks – for example, many anti-Constantine groups hale back to Babylon Mystery Religion – Ancient and Modern, by Ralph Woodrow (1966). And they and Woodrow borrow much of their “information” from Alexander Hislop’s The Two Babylons (1858), another sketchy attempt to connect Catholicism with Babylonian religion.[2] More on this later.

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Who was Constantine? (more…)

“Oh, before I conclude let me just say…” 1 Thess 5:12-28 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 15]

These are notes of a sermon outline, not a full message.

This is an exciting epistle, full of joy and energy. Despite all the persecution they have experienced, the Thessalonian church is thriving and growing and reaching out with the gospel. Sure, Paul has to remind them about the resurrection of the dead when Jesus returns; and he also wants to remind them to work hard, to keep pure, to be alert for Jesus’s coming, but in general things are fine.

So as he concludes, it’s upbeat and encouraging.

This is common with Paul and other letter-writers of his day, to conclude a letter with a brief list of commands or exhortations. “Time is running out, just a little more space on the page, Do this, don’t do that, don’t forget this! (more…)

Published in: on September 30, 2015 at 1:31 pm  Leave a Comment  
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“The Resurrection, Our Goal” 1 Thess 4:13-18 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 12]

Note: These are sermon outlines, not full messages.

13 Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death, so that you do not grieve like the rest of mankind, who have no hope. 14 For we believe that Jesus died and rose again, and so we believe that God will bring with Jesus those who have fallen asleep in him. 15 According to the Lord’s word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. 16 For the Lord himself will come down from heaven, with a loud command, with the voice of the archangel and with the trumpet call of God, and the dead in Christ will rise first. 17 After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air. And so we will be with the Lord forever. 18 Therefore encourage one another with these words.

Paul has said, You know how to love one another; you know how to live in purity; you know how to work and have a good reputation before “outsiders” – you are all set, just keep on doing what it is you do

Now – Timothy has gone and returned, and he says, “there is only one (doctrinal) problem, one thing where they are confused”.

Brothers and sisters, we do not want you to be uninformed about those who sleep in death (more…)

Published in: on September 9, 2015 at 1:59 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Your preaching: does it go out over “channel clear” or “channel staticky”?

"And so, brothers SSSSSS reason for faith SSSSSSS glorif SSSSSS Amen? SSSSS"

“And so, brothers SSSSSS reason for faith SSSSSSS glorif SSSSSS Amen? SSSSS”

Last Sunday I was on a road trip, and wanted to hear some Bible teaching. I guess we had already driven past the FM station that I picked up, so we got a garbled message:

words words static words static words static static

When the buzzes and pops finally prevailed in their assault against the preacher, I switched it off. Message not received.

People in our congregations may be picking up more static than we would estimate. At times I have put myself in the shoes of people with less mileage in Christ than I have, or even people who are not believers; I’ve listened to sermons and mentally pushed a STATIC button every time the preacher used an uncommon word or failed to explain some concept. At times my index finger has been kept very busy. [1]

On the other hand, it is pleasing to Google “plain preaching” and to see the enthusiasm for that topic. Many cite William Perkins – “It is a by-word [“a popular compliment”, let’s say] among us: It was a very plain sermon: And I say again, the plainer, the better.” By plain he did not mean shallow, but the clear and unavoidable speaking of truth.

If I love my neighbor, than I will make sure that he or she can understand God’s Word. If they fail to obey it, it won’t be because they couldn’t make out what I am saying. (more…)

Frenemies of Christ

Have you met the guy who says:

Yes, I’m a follower of Jesus, but I’m not a “churcher.” I have fellowship with my Christian friends, we pray together, we talk over coffee, we discuss the Bible, we have a commitment to hold each other accountable. These guys are my “church.” And they are more serious than regular church members about their faith. Doesn’t that fulfill God’s expectation that I meet with other believers? [1]

Church: "EVERY-body's invited!"

Church: “EVERY-body’s invited!”

By all means, get together with other believers. Church is not what you do for an hour on Sunday morning. On the other hand, being the church must include a regular, open meeting with all types of believers who draw together at a predetermined place and time. Meeting with a friend requires a special invitation; everyone is invited to the church meeting.

Sociologists and students of brain chemistry have proven that, no matter how broad-minded we think we are, “like” gravitates to “like”. It’s not in our nature to feel comfortable around people of different personalities or education or politics or level of spiritual zeal, and our brain is hardwired to resist diversity. This is why it’s a constant battle if any group survives without breaking into cliques or splitting up. It’s a miracle, literally, how any church can stick together. (more…)

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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FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren

The epistle was sent to a church stationed deep within pagan territory. In Corinth as in no other place to that date, the God of Jesus Christ was pitted against the god of this world. The church sprang up in a soil that was saturated with idolatry, philosophical posturing and social stratification, all driven by a service economy that provided opportunities for the clever and made many rich off the sweat of slaves and the poor. Here Christianity could show in stark relief how it might transform the arrogant, the oppressed, the hopeless, the corrupted and the dissipated.

In exchange for this free commentary, I would ask that you sign up for an Email Subscription, on the right side of this page (your email is safe with me). If after a day or two you don’t enjoy the blog, feel free to unsubscribe.

For a free pdf file click here – Shogren_1_Corinthians

It is also available on Logos Bible Software; it is fully integrated with other books and Bibles – http://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary

I also have a commentary that came out from Zondervan in 2012; you can order it here – http://www.amazon.com/Thessalonians-Zondervan-Exegetical-Commentary-Testament/dp/0310243963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343856671&sr=8-1&keywords=shogren

Will God Heal Us? A Re-Examination of Jas. 5:14-16

By Gary Shogren, Seminario ESEPA, San José, Costa Rica

Originally published in Evangelical Quarterly 61 (1989): 99-108; bibliography and some ancient references updated in 2008.

“Are any among you ill? Let them summon the presbyters of the Church and let them pray over them after anointing them in the name of the Lord with olive oil. And the prayer offered in faith will deliver the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and if they are in the state of having committed sins, they will be forgiven them. Therefore confess (your) sins to each another and pray for each other so that you might be healed.” James 5:1-16a (author’s rendering from the Greek)

Jas 5:14-16 is intriguing on several counts: (1) because it seems to give an unqualified promise of answered prayer, as in Jn 14:13-14; (2) because it involves physical healing; (3) because the Catholic Church bases two of its sacraments on it; (4) because anointing with oil seems exotic to many Protestants. The need for a careful study of Jas 5 is all the more valid in an age when medical technology has taken on religious connotations of its own, when religion and science are neatly divided into Cartesian categories, with healing generally being claimed by the category of science. The issue is further heightened with the latter-day spread of holistic treatment and the Health and Wealth Gospel with its sometime rejection of medical technology,[1] movements which soften the distinction between supernatural healing and natural law. (more…)