Blogroll: Sussex Parson
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In case these are of any interest or use for anyone who would like to do some preparation for our midweek Bible study on Wed 7th Oct on James 2:1-13:
(These notes may evolve.)
Midweek Meeting Wednesday 7th Oct 2020
As we think about this passage, we might keep 1vv21-22 in mind: humbly accepting the word planted in us which can save us, we seek not only to listen to the word but to do what it says, to put it into practice, to live in the light of the gospel.
How might belief in our glorious Lord Jesus Christ exclude favouritism / partiality? (v1)
Can you think of anything else from earlier in the letter or indeed any other biblical teaching which tends against favouritism?
Compare 1v27 with the despising of the poor in 2v3. What should our attitude be to the poor and needy? Why?
Look again at vv1-3. What are the two types of “glory” talked about?
Can you explain why “discriminating amongst yourselves” would be wrong for the Christian? (v4)
What arguments does the passage give against it?
(We have already heard about the rich and the poor in 1vv9-11)
2v5 cf. 1 Cor 1:26-27
Cf. 1v25 and 2vv8-12 on the law
What reasons does the passage give me for avoiding condemning and looking down on others (e.g. because of their poverty)?
What hope does the passage give us if we are conscious of being law breakers?
What reason does v13 give for showing mercy?
On mercy see Matthew 5:7; 18:21-35
Are there ways you / we are tempted to show favouritism?
How might our passage encourage praise and prayer?
Because everyone loves a snappy and finely crafted sermon heading.
Acts 19vv1-22 show us three responses to the gospel, two of which are lacking proper faith in Jesus and one which expresses it.
(1) The sincere ignorance of twelve disciples of John the Baptist who haven’t heard about Jesus show us the need for accurate teaching about Jesus and faith in him (vv1-7)
(2) The corrupt magic of the seven sons of Sceva who fail by trying to use the name of Jesus for their own ends shows us the need for genuine commitment to Jesus (vv13-17)
(3) The costly repentance of many who believe in Jesus and publicly change for fear of his name shows us the radical difference faith in Jesus makes (vv18-20)
Alan Jacobs, Breaking Bread with the Dead: Reading the Past in Search of a Tranquil Mind
(Profile Books / Penguin Random House, 2020)
An eloquent manifesto for reading the voices of the past in all their difference and strangeness both critically but also with a generous thinking disposition of hope, neither idealising nor demonising but negotiating. This might help to free us from our presentism and give us temporal bandwidth and personal density extending a bigger here and a longer now in an age of information overload, social acceleration and algorithmic marketing which constantly presents us with more of the same (if you clicked on that, you might like this). We must get beyond a hasty triage and risk anger, boredom and confusion and, like Jacob, wrestle with the past until it yields a blessing.
Jacobs has also made me think I might like to read some C. V. Wedgwood.Marc Lloyd
Anyone connected to our churches is always welcome to our midweek meetings via Zoom (please email me for details). But this Wednesday 23rd Sept would be an especially good time to join us as we begin looking at the Letter of James together (1vv1-18). There is no need to prepare, but in case this is helpful:
These notes may evolve!
A very practical letter addressing issues such as wealth and poverty, conflict, sickness, suffering, how we speak. A punchy direct vivid style.
Can seem a little disjointed. Maybe based on sermons or sermon notes.
A particularly Jewish flavour?
God’s wisdom for Christian living under pressure.
Putting our Christian faith into action.
What genuine faith looks like in real life.
Living out and in the light of the implanted word.
Key verses: 1v21-22: “humbly accept the word planted in you, which can save you. Do not merely listen to the word… do what it says.”
Who was this James?
The New Testament probably mentions five James-es:
(1) The Apostle, the son of Zebedee, brother of John, the fisherman – martyred ?AD44
(2) The Apostle James the Son of Alphaeus – Mk 3:18 - possibly = James the younger / James the less – Mk 15:40
(3) James the (half) brother of Jesus
(4) James the brother of Jude (Jude 1)
(5) The father of the Apostle Judas (not Judas Iscariot)
This James was probably / traditionally (3), Jesus’ brother. See 1 Cor 15:7; Acts 12:17; 15:13ff; 21:17-18; Gal 1:19; 2:9.
James’ death is traditionally dated to AD 62.
Who do you think “the twelve tribes scattered among the nations” refers to? (v1)
What would James be driving at by that description?
Cf. Gal 6:16?; Gal 3:7; Rm 4:11, 16
How might we / others often / naturally respond to trials / difficulties?
This passage talks about facing struggles / difficulties external (trails, vv2, 12) and internal (temptations, vv13-14).
What is the right response to trials / temptations? What would be the results of this?
What distinguishes v2 from masochism?
Granted that a trial by definition is not a pure joy (v2), why does James urge us to consider it pure joy when we face trials?
Why should the Christian persevere under trial? (vv2-4, 12)
What encouragement is given in v5?
What can undo / defeat this prayer for wisdom? (vv6-8)
In what way is this different from a momentary doubt?
Look at 4v8 where double-mindedness is mentioned again. Might 4vv2ff shed any light on what might be meant by double-mindedness?
What high position does the brother in humble circumstances enjoy? (v9)
What reason for humility is given in vv10-11?
What wrong understanding of trials is corrected in v13-15? How?
What does this passage tell us about God?
Matthew Barrett, None Greater: The Undomesticated Attributes of God (Baker Books, 2019)
A helpful and engaging look at classical attributes of God (incomprehensibility, infinity, aseity, simplicity, immutability, impassibility, eternity, omni-s etc.) in the company of what Barrett calls The A Team, Augustine, Anselm and Aquinas but also with a debt to Puritans such as Stephen Charnock and, I felt, especially Bavinck.
Text boxes introduce some figures from history and there are some tables and a glossary. Bibliography.
I'm not quite sure of the level of this book. Some of it is popular and introductory and there are some anecdotes and illustrations but I think some things here were new to me and it does get a bit technical in places. Some of the end notes are worth a look.
I'm a sucker for a self-help type book. How much will change is of course debatable.
I found this highly readable with good quotations and endnotes of some interesting research etc. and basically convincing, though there might be some scope for quibbles.
Wisdom on Christ's easy yoke.
Somewhat American and autobiographical. Marc Lloyd
God willing, we'll look at Psalm 27 in our midweek meeting this week on Wed 16th Sept at 7:30pm via Zoom. Locals can email me if they'd like to join us. There's no need to prepare, but if you'd like to you may find some of the following helpful:
(These notes might possibly evolve!)
Who / what do you / people in our society (your friends, family, neighbours) fear and why?
What antidote does the Psalm hold out to fear and why? What is the logic of that?
What do you think “the LORD is my light” (v1) might mean?
What particular threat does the Psalmist have in mind? What things might he reasonably be afraid of?
What two things does the Psalmist seek?
What do those two things mean / involve?
Look at vv4-6. Do you think David wants to literally move into the tabernacle and live there 24/7? If not, (!), what does he want?
Given that God is a spiritual being and doesn’t have a body, what does it mean to seek his face? (v8)
How do your desires compare to David’s?
Are there any other specific prayers in the Psalm we should notice?
What is the Psalmist confident of?
What arguments does the Psalmist use? What is the basis of his appeal?
How would you sum up the application in v14 in your own words?
How would you relate this Psalm to Jesus?
How would you sum up the whole Psalm?
What difference should this Psalm make to us?
What fuel for praise and prayer is there in this Psalm?
Wilcock: “Two key words here are confident (vv3, 13) and seek (v4a, 8). The four sections of the Psalm crystallize around them, in a chiastic pattern… : confidence / seeking // seeking / confidence.” (p95)
Links to Psalm 23:
Paths of righteousness
The valley of the shadow
Desire for God’s house
The Psalm combines the imagery of law court (a person crying out for vindication), battle and a hunt
Kidner: David is a worshipper seeking god’s face and a pilgrim committed to his way
(1) Confidence in the LORD: faith not fear (vv1-3)
(2) Seek the shelter in God’s house: he will keep you safe (vv4-6)
(3) Seek the smile of God’s face: he will not forsake you (vv7-12)
(4) Confidence in the LORD: take heart and wait for him (vv13-14)
* * *
Prayer arising out of Testimony
Based on Goldingay p391:
Vv1-2 presumably address the congregation, making a declaration of confidence based on the past event
Vv3-6 develop this logic at greater length
Vv7-12 address Yahweh with a plea for deliverance and reasons for confidence
Vv13-14 address the self, returning to urging confidence in Yahweh
* * *
Expositor’s Bible Commentary:
Confidence in the Lord
(1) Confidence in God’s presence (vv1-3)
(2) Prayer for God’s presence (vv4-6)
(3) Prayer for God’s presence (vv7-12)
(4) Confidence in God’s presence (vv13-14)
* * *
(1) Confidence in Yahweh (vv1-3)
(2) Desire to dwell in the house of Yahweh (vv4-6)
(3) Plea for deliverance from enemies (vv7-12)
(4) Confidence and encouragement (vv13-14)
* * *
(1) Confidence (vv1-3)
(2) Seeking: focused on God (vv4-6)
(3) Seeking: stressed by circumstances (vv7-12)
(4) Confidence (vv13-14)
* * *
(1) Whom shall I fear? (vv1-3)
(2) Sanctuary (vv4-6)
(3) Thy face…, Thy way (vv7-12)
(4) Believe and wait (vv13-14)
* * *
Motyer: The Confident Life
A1: Confidence (vv1-3)
B1: Yahweh’s house, my security in his shelter (vv4-6)
B2: Yahweh’s face, my security in his favour (vv7-12)
A2: Confidence (vv13-14)
* * *
The Psalmist’s sure confidence in his God (vv1-3)
His love of communion with his God (vv4-6)
Acknowledgement of the sustaining power of faith and encouragement for others to follow his example (vv7-12)
* * *
I posted about this the other day and there are a couple of sermons on this passage on the Warbleton Parish Church website but here are some further jottings from my preparation:
David Cook, Teaching Acts
Athens – The philosophical capital
Bottom Line (vv30-31)
* * *
Chris Green, The Word of His Grace
Why intelligent people can also be stupid
3 reasons people are stupid:
(1) People are stupid because they should know the creator of the universe does not live in buildings, but they act as if he did
(2) People are stupid because they should know that the God who sustains them does not need their care, but they act as if he did
(3) People are stupid because they should know that the God who made us must be infinitely greater than us, but they still reduce him to a statue
5 things people know, or ought to know, about the good God:
The Good God is a creator God (v24)
The Good God is a caring God (v25)
The Good God is a controlling God (v26)
The Good God is a close God (vv27-28)
The Good God is a compassionate God (v30)
* * *
The Word in Athens (vv16-34)
(1) Responding to idolatry (vv6-21)
(2) Establishing God’s Claim on All People (vv22-31)
(a) The truth about God (vv24-25)
(b) The truth about humanity (vv26-29)
(c) The truth about divine judgement (vv30-31)
(3) Founding a Church (vv32-34)
* * *
What Paul saw
What Paul felt
What Paul did
What Paul said
How Paul challenges us
I preached on this passage on 25th August 2019 and this week I’ve listened again to that sermon on the church website.
I’m pleased to say that I still agree with myself and it seemed to me still a true and useful sermon so I commend it to you.
So how to approach this passage in a different and complementary way? What might we learn for Christian mission today from Paul in Athens in Acts 17?
This is not necessarily the primary purpose of the passage!
The Bible is about God before it’s about us – and this passage has lots of important and useful things to know about God.
The Bible is not first of all a How To Guide / 7 Tips on Mission, or whatever.
The primary purpose of Scripture is that we might come to Jesus and have life in him through faith.
And obviously if we have not repented and turned to Christ in faith, that is the first application of Acts 17.
But no doubt there is much to learn about church life and mission from this passage.
(Likely, of course, we have only a brief summary of what Paul said in Athens, not a word for word transcript of it all. Arguably Paul was interrupted when he tried to speak about the resurrection v31f.)
What can we notice and infer?
Paul is greatly distressed (lit. his spirit was aroused within him) to see the idolatry of the city. (v16)
That is what strikes him above all as he waits in the great city of Athens: not the art or learning but the forest of idols.
Do we care about the glory of God and about the lost? Do these things move us as they moved Paul?
Paul’s distress moves him to engage, to speak. Paul debates / discusses / reasons (vv17-18). (Paul continues to “reason” (v17) as he did in the synagogue in Thessalonica (v2) – dielegeto – he addressed, lectured, reasoned, dispute, discuss, argument, debate, speak.)
V17 – Paul is a bit like Socrates, the archetypal philosopher, engaging people in the market place (the agora) which is also a market place of ideas as well as a hub for commerce and trade.
But Paul also proclaims the good news about Jesus and the resurrection (v18, v23). Paul brings an announcement of God’s action in Christ, not just a contribution to religious dialogue. The gospel is a summons to repentance and faith, not an interesting perspective to add to the best of human spirituality.
Paul’s address to the Areopagus is different from Paul’s sermons in the synagogue.
He doesn’t start with / quote Scripture here.
Rather he quotes one of their own poets (v28).
He shares the same essential message (Jesus Christ is Lord) but with a different method / approach / way in / point of contact.
Paul connects with his hearers. He starts where they are. He shows some knowledge of their culture.
Could we engage with the non-Christian culture around us like this? Are we able to evaluate where our culture might be on to something (which is fulfilled in Christ) and where it has gone wrong and needs to repent?
Paul tries to get inside his hearer’s heads. He tries to anticipate what they might think and respond to it (v29).
To some extent there may have been some common ground between Paul and at least some of his hearers, which he seeks to make the most of. Some of the points Paul makes can be paralleled in Greek writers of the period.
Paul is willing to be negative (v29).
He refutes false ideas.
Paul seems to appeal to creation and reason. He gives the impression that certain things about God ought to be obvious to everyone, although they might not be: they need saying!
Cf. Romans 1 – some things about God are obvious from the creation but people suppress / exchange the truth about God which they know.
Paul really seems to be pretty critical of non-Christian / pagan religion / spirituality.
He characterises it as ignorant (v23, v30).
No obvious hope is held out here for supposedly devout pagans who honestly seek after God within paganism. Paul thinks they need to repent and come to Christ. Christ claims the allegiance of, and will be the judge of, all people (vv30-31).
For Paul, revelation, God’s action in Christ and the resurrection are essential and decisive (vv30-31). Creation and reason only go so far. The good news of salvation concerns Jesus.
The gospel comes with a universal command to repent (v30). Even interested sophisticated religious intellectuals need to radically change their minds.
The gospel produces a mixed response: some scorn and rejection (v18), some interest and desire to hear more (vv19-21) (v32), some faith and joining the church (v34).Marc Lloyd
Karen Swallow Prior, On Reading Well: Finding the Good Life Through Great Books
Brazos Press, 2018
This is an enjoyable and edifying look at the virtues through great books. The introduction is engaging and worthwhile and the chapters could be read alone or out of order. Discussion questions are included.
I enjoyed reading about the virtues (cardinal, theological and heavenly) and a number of the books cited look interesting.Marc Lloyd
God-willing we'll be looking at Psalm 26 this Wednesday in our midweek meetings.
Here are a few questions prepared by a member of the congregation for anyone who would like to have a think about it in advance:
- v1 What is David asking the Lord to do for him?
- What are the grounds for his asking this?
- v2 What is David asking the Lord to do?
- v3 What gives him the confidence to ask this?
- v4-5 What does David avoid?
- v6-8 Where does David love to be - in contrast with v4-5?
- v9-10 What is David’s plea to the Lord in these verses?
- v11-12 What are the grounds for this plea?
Which aspects of this Psalm point us to the Lord Jesus Christ?
What can we learn from this Psalm to help us in our walk with the Lord?
Maybe we could each choose a verse to learn to remind us of what the Lord has said to us tonight?Marc Lloyd