Israel and Palestine and a Hope for Peace

Seminario ESEPA held a conference in 2014 on the topic of “Israel and Palestine.” They asked me to be one of the participants; I offered the following thoughts, which I have updated a bit, with the warning that they come from a Bible student with only cursory knowledge of world affairs.

Good evening, and thank you for allowing me to participate tonight, alongside of my esteemed colleagues.

1. Where are the answers?

In my case, and I think in yours, there are answers to the Israel-Palestine conflict in the Word of God. There are many other levels, of course – historical, political, military, etc. – but our focus and our authority will be the Bible. And from the gospel I offer you two basic truths:

First – God’s people today is not equivalent to the modern State of Israel; rather, God’s people are those who believe in Christ, no more and no less. As it says in Romans 9:24-26 – “even us, whom he also called, not only from the Jews but also from the Gentiles? As he says in Hosea: “I will call them ‘my people’ who are not my people; and I will call her ‘my loved one’ who is not my loved one,” and, “In the very place where it was said to them, ‘You are not my people,’ there they will be called ‘children of the living God.’” And in Galatians 3:7 we have – “Understand, then, that those who have faith are children of Abraham.” That is the promise for the gentiles and the Jews who believe in Jesus, period; and there is no other manner for anyone, not even Israelites, to be saved, as some teach today, falsely teach, in my opinion. Any believer in Jesus is now a true descendant of Abraham. That is not Replacement Theology (or Supersessionism), by the way, as we shall now see, since:

Second – our other, corresponding, gospel truth is from Romans 11, which speaks of the olive tree, in which Gentile believers have been “grafted.” But in his conclusion, Paul adds a surprising note in Rom 11:23 – “And if they do not persist in unbelief, they will be grafted in, for God is able to graft them in again” and 11:26 – “and in this way all Israel will be saved.” I take this passage, admittedly a difficult one, to predict a universal conversion of Israelites to Christ as an eschatological even at or around the Second Coming. Paul does not, however, speak of a return of Israel to the Land in unbelief, nor of any mandate to control both halves of Jerusalem, nor the need or desirability to build a Third Temple – the temple he is concerned with in his letters (1 Corinthians, Ephesians) is the temple that is the body of Christ.

2. How does the Bible help us to solve modern questions about the Middle East?

I am not at all convinced that current events in the Middle East are specifically predicted in the Bible; that is to say, I see little to nothing in the prophets that speaks directly to 2017, the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, ISIS, Iranian nuclear development, Iraq I, Iraq II, Afghanistan, and so forth. Taking the two truths described above as a basis, I will offer some brief thoughts to some of the main questions regarding Israel and Palestine, and will conclude my time with a positive suggestion. I will focus on Israel, because that’s the side that seems to interest my fellow Christians tonight.

Should Christians regard the modern state of Israel as God’s chosen nation? Or to use the language of one group, Christians United For Israel (CUFI), are we obligated “to stand with our brothers and sisters in Israel and to speak out on their behalf whenever and wherever necessary until the attacks stop and they are finally living in peace and security with their neighbors”? I say no, or at least I reject that this encapsulates the whole truth. I would suggest we say that, God’s ancient people will be redeemed in the End, when they come to Christ, but as of now the State of Israel has no special claim on our support, other than the justice we should seek for any nation; nor is it proper to call them “brothers and sisters” any more than we would say of any fellow human being.  A commitment to the Bible does not lead one to “Christian Zionism.”

Should Christians defend Israel, just as some hid Jews during the Holocaust? I say that, yes, Christians are always obligated to defend the persecuted. If we are speaking of Nazi persecution, we would have been under the solemn obligation to defend and protect the 6 million Jews and the 5 million non-Jews, which included Slavs, Catholic leaders, Gypsies, the mentally and physically handicapped, and – oh, yes! – Jehovah’s Witnesses and homosexuals. When ISIS looked about to exterminate thousands of Christians and Yazidis in August 2014, it was our obligation to pray for and aid all of them, despite the fact that theologically we Christians have been at odds with the Yazidis for almost 2000 years.

Does the modern state of Israel have an absolute, immediate right to annex all the territory God promised to Abraham, which would include not just all of Palestine but also parts of Egypt, Jordan, Lebanon and Syria? I say no. In Genesis 15:18 God says to Abraham “To your descendants I give this land, from the river of Egypt to the great river, the river Euphrates.” This is repeated almost wholesale in Joshua 1:4 – “From the wilderness and the Lebanon as far as the great river, the river Euphrates, all the land of the Hittites, to the Great Sea in the west shall be your territory.” There are people who say that if Israel allows even a square meter of the West Bank to be under Palestinian control, then it is acting out of wickedness and unbelief. For example, in 1967 Rabbi Tzvi Yehuda Kook argued that all land west of the Jordan had to be occupied by Israel: “Yes, where is our Hebron? Have we forgotten it? And where is our Shechem? And our Jericho? Will we forget them? And the far side of the Jordan, it is ours, every clod of soil, every region and bit of earth belonging to the Lord’s land. Is it in our hands to give up even one millimeter?”[i] To this I must say No. Israel has never in any one moment of time occupied all of the territory of these two texts; so why, all of a sudden, do they have to, are they obligated by God to, occupy Palestine and not, one should hasten to add, the areas of Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, Gaza, and Egypt that are also implied?

Are the Palestinians an “invented” people, as said US politician Newt Gingrich? That they do not deserve a state, and should just pull up stakes and “go elsewhere”?[ii] I say no. (more…)

“Sex and the Christian Life” 1 Thess 4:1-8 [Sermon Notes on 1 Thessalonians, Week 10]

 

Note: These are sermon outlines, not full messages.

As for other matters, brothers and sisters, we instructed you how to live in order to please God, as in fact you are living. Now we ask you and urge you in the Lord Jesus to do this more and more. For you know what instructions we gave you by the authority of the Lord Jesus.

It is God’s will that you should be sanctified: that you should avoid sexual immorality; that each of you should learn to control your own body in a way that is holy and honorable, not in passionate lust like the pagans, who do not know God; and that in this matter no one should wrong or take advantage of a brother or sister. The Lord will punish all those who commit such sins, as we told you and warned you before. For God did not call us to be impure, but to live a holy life. Therefore, anyone who rejects this instruction does not reject a human being but God, the very God who gives you his Holy Spirit.

When I was taught the epistles of the New Testament, they told us – okay, these chapters are the “theology” ones, and then come the “practical” ones. So Romans 1-11 is doctrine, and then 12 to 16 is application. Ephesians 1-3, doctrine, 4-6, practical. Although there is some truth to that, we have to keep this in mind: sound doctrine must lead to holy living; if not, there is a breakdown somewhere.

And today it is popular to preach “here are practical tips for successful living” – but they avoid the underlying truths, the doctrine. (more…)

Published in: on August 26, 2015 at 2:41 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , ,

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

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)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

My Four Decades in the Bible, Part IV, Conclusion

Studying with my Logos Bible cap

Studying with my Logos Bible cap

Chapter Seven – I teach in seminary

I’ve now been a professor, teaching in English and then in Spanish, for 25 years.

The first seminary where I taught put us through a sort of Professor Boot Camp. Our academic dean stressed: “Your students will remember only a portion of the content you teach; they will always remember your attitudes and values.

That principle has been true as far as my memories: I can remember a few professors who came across as, well, self-satisfied, distant, or lethargic; I hope my impressions were mistaken.

Other professors seemed to be hard workers, careful students of the Word, loving individuals and encouraging. (more…)

1 Corinthians commentary, available from Logos!

Announcement! The English version of my 1 Corinthians commentary is now available from Logos.com; it is fully integrated with the Logos system. Only $19.95. Or you can download a pdf version for free from this blog! (https://openoureyeslord.com/2012/05/21/free-commentary-on-1-corinthians-2/)

What does agape mean?
What are the spiritual gifts?
Should women wear veils to church? Or remain absolutely silent?
What about divorce?
Do we exist as spirits forever?
Paul was a missionary – how did he know where to go?

These issues and many more!

https://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary

Published in: on February 28, 2013 at 1:51 pm  Comments (3)  
Tags: , , ,

How to write a commentary when your library is 2000 miles away

in November 2012, Zondervan published my commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, a volume I’ve been working on since 2005 (click HERE). When I saw it on display at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I heaved a sigh of relief, and not just because finishing a book, any book, lightens the spirit. (My 1 Corinthians commentary is available for free download HERE).

I was pleased because the whole production seemed like a gamble from the outset. I had to figure out how to write a commentary without a library. I felt like the first person to invent the flourless cake.

I teach at a Bible college and seminary located in Costa Rica. Most Americans know it as a land of natural wonders, with beaches, rafting, rainforests, volcanoes and of course, gold-standard coffee. We are located in San José, a city of a million: not exactly the “bush,” but I might as well be when I sit down to do my writing. (more…)

“Help! I can’t stop sinning!” [Studies in the New Covenant]

The Bible says that “if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come” (2 Cor 5:17). That’s why, when we come to Christ, we experience rapid changes in our conduct. People start telling us, “You’ve changed, you’re different.” Different, yes: but we haven’t become perfect, not yet. That is why the Bible tells us that we must keep on fighting against sin, every day, every minute. [1] (more…)

1 Corinthians and Thessalonians: My New Commentaries now available!

zecnt-cover.jpg

The English version of my Thessalonian commentary is available from Amazon! http://www.amazon.com/Thessalonians-Zondervan-Exegetical-Commentary-Testament/dp/0310243963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343856671&sr=8-1&keywords=shogren

It is also available as a book on Logos.

And the English version of my 1 Corinthians is available on Logos software – http://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary

Spanish versions to come in the future!

Blessings! Gary

Published in: on August 2, 2012 at 12:22 pm  Comments (2)  
Tags: , , , , , ,

Zombies and the Bible [Studies in 1 Corinthians]

Since one night in 1985, I know what the world looks like through a zombie’s eyes.

In Scotland, I would go out evangelizing on Thursdays and then take the hour-long hike home in the dark. But then one night I figured that I could cut out to the main highway, grab a bus, and save 20 minutes. The only hitch was that the short-cut went through Grove Cemetery. No problem, I would enter the gate, do a 100-yard dash through a dark graveyard, go over the wall, and there was the bus stop.

Grove Cemetery by day, the north gate was the starting line of Gary’s night-time sprints

I did it only twice. Not because I got spooked going through a cemetery in the dark, mind you, but because as I clambered over the 6-foot wall and jumped out onto the shoulder of the highway, well, it caused problems with the flow of traffic. Eyes popped open, jaws dropped, women shrieked, as they saw me apparently escaping from the graveyard and stumbling up the embankment toward them.

So, I know how a zombie feels.

I’ve seen, twice, George Romero’s black-and-white “Night of the Living Dead,” the original 1968 version. Oh, and Charlton Heston in “The Omega Man.” Beyond that I sat through about 20 minutes of that movie where Bill Murray gets accidentally shot.

Nevertheless, I’m confident that I can develop “What the Bible Says about Zombies,” (more…)