Tuesday, 19 May 2015

Did God forsake Jesus on the cross?

“My God, My God, why have You forsaken Me?” – Jesus (Matthew 27:46)

I have been having some interesting conversations around the purpose of Jesus death and resurrection of late. One thing that often raises eyebrows among friends is when they discover that I am skeptical of the idea that Jesus died on the cross to satisfy the Fathers wrath that was aimed at us. Certainly, He suffered on our behalf and in our place. But did He die to save us from the Father or was it to save us from something else? So I have now begun to make notes of any Bible verses that I find relating to why Jesus died on the cross and what His death and resurrection means for you and me. I have only just started and the list is already sitting at over 100 verses! I will post my findings here once they are a bit more complete and organized. But for now, I wanted to maybe write a few posts addressing the scriptures that often get used to validate the idea that Jesus went to the cross to appease the wrath of the Father, starting with the above mentioned quote from Matthew 27.

The interpretation of Matthew 27:46 presented by some says that when Jesus took on our sin and shame upon Himself (which did happen) the Father turned His back on Him. At the same time it is argued that He poured His wrath out on Him so that His anger might rescind against us. The argument as far as this particular verse goes rests on two points; the first being that Jesus almost always preferred saying ‘Father’ instead of ‘God’. So it is suggested by some that by calling God 'God' instead of Father on the cross, that the special connection shared between Father and Son had been broken and the godhead had suffered a temporary divide. The second point would be that the plain meaning of the words Jesus spoke seems to be present a pretty clear case that He was indeed forsaken.Or does it?

Starting with the first and weaker argument, it feels like I am pointing out the obvious when saying that the reason as to why Jesus used the word ‘God’ rather than ‘Father’ here is that He is quoting directly from the Old Testament. “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me” is the opening line of Psalm 22. So it makes sense then that Jesus would use ‘God’ rather than ‘Father’ if He is quoting from scripture which He clearly is. As to why He said it, one can only speculate; perhaps the reality of what was happening on the cross reminded Him of this Psalm or maybe He said to encourage those around Him (which will make sense later on). Maybe it was simply said to fulfill what David had written? Whatever the reason, the link between Psalm 22 and Matthew 27:46 is vital in our quest to answer our original question of whether or not the Son had been abandoned by His Father.

Psalm 22 is clearly Messianic, verses 7 and 8 (derided by His enemies) are fulfilled in Luke 23:35, verse 16 (hands and feet pierced) in John 20:27 and verse 18 (lots cast for His clothes) in Matthew 27:35, 36. It is after verse 18 though that it takes a turn from one of despair to hope and praise. It is verse 24 in particular that I want to highlight to you,

“For He has not despised nor abhorred the affliction of the afflicted; nor has He hidden His face from Him; but when He cried to Him, He heard”.

You can be sure that Jesus knew the rest of David’s Psalm, including verse 24, as would many of those around Him as well. In fact, to really drive this home, Jesus Himself, just before going to the Garden of Gethsemane, where He was arrested, told His disciples in John 16:32 that they would all soon leave Him but that He would not be forsaken by the Father! “Indeed the hour is coming, yes, and now has come, that you will all be scattered, each to his own, and will leave Me alone. And yet, I am not alone, because the Father is with Me.” How wonderful and amazing! This is why Paul can say that “God was in Christ reconciling the world to Himself” (2 Corinthians 5:19). This is why Jesus could, just after quoting Psalm 22, with confidence quote from Psalm 31 and say “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit”.

The Father never forsook Him, not even for a moment, not a chance.

Sunday, 17 May 2015

House church 101 - Clergy, laity and the Priesthood of all believers

This is part 7 in a series on the theology behind house churches. To see the other posts in this series you can find a link to them at the bottom of this entry. As stated previously, these posts are about the nature and practices of the ekklesia. They are not meant to be taken as a criticism of the people of God regardless of how anyone chooses to ‘assemble’.

In this series of posts we have already covered enough scripture to have answered the question of whether there is a legitimate claim in the bible for a separate class of believers (clergy) to rule over a lesser class of believers (laity) in a hierarchical manner. So instead of repeating myself here I thought that I would take a look at some of the things that we have not covered thus far.

The first would be that one may be surprised to discover that clergy (kleros) and laity (laos) are indeed biblical terms. Kleros is used 13 times in the New Testament and is translated in various ways; in Matthew 27:35 for example it is translated as ‘lots’ when the soldiers cast lots for Jesus’ garments. In Acts 1:17 and 25 it gets translated as ‘part’ and then in Colossians 1:12 it is translated as ‘inheritance’. The only time that I am aware of kleros referring to people is in 1 Peter 5:3 where Peter, addressing the overseers, warns them “not to lord over God’s heritage (kleros) but to serve as examples to them”. The striking thing about this verse is that it suggests that the entire fold or church is made up of clergy which would certainly fit with what he said in chapter 2:5 regarding the priesthood of all believers.

Laity or laos on the other hand is mentioned 143 times in the New Testament and simply refers to ‘the people’. Nowhere in the bible is there a suggestion that the clergy and laity are a separate group of people. If anything scripture makes the opposite claim, most of the New Testament letters are addressed to the ‘saints’ in a certain locale. People sometimes miss that the words ‘saint’ and ‘holy’ both come from the same Greek word hagios which means 'set apart'.

Likewise, the idea that only some are called to full-time ministry is bewildering to say the least. Christian living is a full-time deal for anyone who wants to follow Jesus regardless of what career they find themselves in (see Luke 9:23, Acts 17:11 and Hebrews 3:13). The consequences of applying the Pareto principle to church ministry (where 20 percent of the church does eighty percent of the work) has had devastating consequences for people on both sides of the line. Consider the following statistics on pastors:-

- 40 percent of pastors have considered leaving their pastorates n the last 3 months.
- Between 20 and 40 percent (depending where you get your stats from) admit to having had an affair while in the ministry.
- 80 percent say they have insufficient time to be with their families.
- 80 percent of spouses wish their husbands would choose another profession.
- Sixty-six percent say they feel pressure to model the ideal family to their congregation.
- Seventy percent do not have someone they consider to be a close friend in their life.
- Forty five percent have experienced depression or burnout to the extent that they needed to take a leave of absence.

Reliable statistics are a bit harder to find on people who attend but play no active role in church meetings. So instead, I have considered a few scriptures which show how individuals and churches suffer from the institutional model. Consider the following:-

Whenever you come together, each of you has a psalm, has a teaching, has a tongue, has a revelation… - 1 Corinthians 14:26

For in fact the body is not one member but many…if the whole body were an eye, where would be the hearing?...But now God has set the members, each one of them, in the body just as He pleased…And the eye cannot say to the hand, “I have no need of you”… - 1 Corinthians 12:12-21

Take heed what you hear. With the same measure you use, it will be measured to you; and to you who hear, more will be given. For whoever has, more will be given; but whoever does not have, even what he has will be taken away from him. – Mark 4:24-25

To paraphrase, the clergy/laity system puts unfair stress on the few while the majority remain babes in Christ. Ultimately, the whole assembly suffers as each one does not give as God has equipped them to and those who are permitted or ordained to do so oftentimes will end up carrying the load in their own strength. So where do elders fit into things then and what about the five-fold ministers? That is a question for next time, until then, peace.

Other posts in this series

Gathering to Christ
Two kinds of church
the Lords supper
A church without tithing
Temples made by men and the temple built by God
On authority, submission, coverings and accountability

Monday, 4 May 2015

A short break


If you visited this site this week expecting a new post in the house church 101 series I am unfortunately taking a two week break from it. I was away from my local assembly last week and this coming one and because I have been sharing these concurrently with you guys and them I had to hit the pause button. For the time being you can read an old post by clicking here which will form part of the series even though it was written prior to the rest of the articles. It is all about the temples that men build and the temple that God Himself promised to build.

I may still post something here in the coming days before getting back to the house church series on Psalm 22. I am currently studying up on the purpose of the cross and looking to address some of the false assumptions that people have regarding the atonement. That will almost definitely turn into a series as well so stay tuned.

Till next time.