DUSTING OFF THE SHELVES

Posted by Tori on Apr 29, 2013 in a good word., theology

“Men’s minds need to be fed just as much as their bodies. And the kind of food our minds devour will determine the kind of person we become.”  John Stott, Your Mind Matters

I mentioned in my last post that I have been re-reading literature that I once fell in love with, but has since been relegated to the dusty bookshelf or (God-forbid, but it’s true) an old box. I fear that in our present age of, literally, the world at our fingertips, we are actually missing out on a great deal.

There is a false idea that the classics are only for the intellectuals, or the book-worms, or the culturally out of touch. And that the ones who are well-read on the modern works of “literature” are the ones who are most relevant and able to most profoundly influence the current culture.  Unfortunately, this is now an out-of-control trend in Christian circles. Have you visited a Christian bookstore recently? It has turned into a gift shop, filled with inspirational baubles, self-help, Be Your Best You books, and daily 10-minute devotionals — not to mention books by contemporary church leaders out to show “how traditional ideas have grown stale and dysfunctional” (RobBell.com).

Sadly, this has left us both spiritually and mentally poorer and less equipped to produce the lasting influence on our culture that we desire (not to mention less equipped to live victoriously). We are in a dangerous place when we build an entire theology around the preacher on Sunday morning and the 365-day daily devotional. Yet, this is the reality for a shocking number of Christians.

One of my passions for the women of our day — whether you’re a stay-at-home mom, working professional, retired school teacher, or any other combination of the roles and responsibilities we take on throughout the various seasons of our lives — is that we exercise the mind the Creator has given us to truly understand how to study His Word for ourselves and create a careful, thorough hermeneutic. Part of that involves familiarizing ourselves with the conversation that has developed over centuries of thought.

These classic works have proven themselves over time, and have acted like savory salt over centuries of history to preserve culture and proclaim the Gospel of Christ. C.S. Lewis writes in his essay, On the Reading of Old Books:

A new book is still on its trial and the amateur is not in a position to judge it. It has to be tested against the great body of Christian thought down the ages, and all its hidden implications (often unsuspected by the author himself) have to be brought to light…. If you join at eleven o’clock a conversation which began at eight you will often not see the real bearing of what is said…. The only safety is to have a standard of plain, central Christianity (‘mere Christianity’ as Baxter called it) which puts the controversies of the moment in their proper perspective. Such a standard can be acquired only from the old books. It is a good rule, after reading a new book, never allow yourself another new one till you have read an old one in between. If that is too much for you, you should at least read one old one to every three new ones.
 

He makes me chuckle, but he’s right. And, as one with aspirations as a writer (even just as a blogger), I must be careful to measure the weight of my words. If I’m going to write, I want to write something that will endure and contribute to the conversation. Lewis rightly points out that the classic authors were no more clever or any less prone to making mistakes than we are today. He says, “Two heads are better than one, not because either is infallible, but because they are unlikely to go wrong in the same direction.”

Bottom line: don’t be intimated by old books or label them as “boring,” and be aware of the dangers of an entirely modern diet.

“Thus says the Lord: ‘Stand by the roads, and look, and ask for the ancient paths, where the good way is; and walk in it, and find rest for your souls.'” Jeremiah 6:16 ESV

And…just for kicks, here’s another favorite Lewis quote from that same essay. Has very little to do with what I’ve just said, but maybe I’m not the only one who relates…

“For my own part, I tend to find the doctrinal books often more helpful in devotion than the devotional books, and I rather suspect that the same experience may await many others. I believe that many who find that ‘nothing happens’ when they sit down, or kneel down, to a book of devotion, would find that the heart sings unbidden while they are working their way through a tough bit of theology with a pipe in their teeth and a pencil in their hand.” C.S. Lewis, “On the Reading of Old Books.”

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TO FEEL A PRAYER

Posted by Tori on Feb 18, 2013 in a good word., thankful heart., theology

I have been thinking, and practicing, and learning more and more about prayer in recent weeks. [As if God had something He intended to teach me 😉 ] It’s at times like these that I often find it difficult to articulate all that I’m taking in from everything that life holds right now. But, I will try.

Because another season will come when I will need to look back and be reminded of these lessons. Because the Word of God was not given to build up our theology; it was given to change our reality. That’s why I study. That’s why I write the way I do. Because His Word is is alive, and it changes us. That’s why theology is so important — not so we’ll be smarter — but so we will be different, more like Him.

There have been countless, endless words written and spoken on what it means to pray, and how one should do it. I don’t have anything relevant to contribute to that conversation…at least not now. But, I will share a few elements I’ve been focusing on currently:

1. We are to pray with persistence. Even to the point of seeming annoyance.

I love the example Jesus gives in Luke 11:5-13 when teaching His disciples to pray. He talks about a friend who comes knocking at his neighbor’s door at midnight asking for bread to serve an unexpected guest. The neighbor calls back to his friend to go away because his house is already sleeping. But, if his friend keeps on knocking and asking for the bread, he will get up and give him whatever he needs.

I’m not a fan of this usually, but let’s modernize just for kicks. You’re tired and sleeping. Your whole house is sleeping. You are awakened by a text, but ignore it and roll over. Then, they call. You silence the phone, huff, and roll over again. Then, it rings again. Finally, you get up and answer the phone. Not because it was your friend who wanted something, but because they kept on calling.

I love this about Jesus. For SO many reasons. I love that I don’t have to walk away discouraged because I think He’s silent. It doesn’t mean He doesn’t hear, or doesn’t care, or wants me to stop asking. I love that it’s okay to be annoying in how often I bring something to Him. He can take that. In fact, He takes delight in it.

2. We can approach our Father in prayer with confidence & humility. These two are not conflicting. We come full of passion, emotion, raw honesty, truth, and surrender.

I love this picture of confidence clothed in humility as we approach the Lord in prayer. We come humble, bowing low, realizing that in our prayer, we have audience with the Most High, the Maker of heaven and earth. We bow low, perhaps both symbolically and physically, in reverence. Yet, we come with the full confidence awarded to us by the finished work of Christ.

Few things get me charged up like the book of Hebrews. I LOVE spending time there (I think I have some writing to do about this book….). And, even fewer things get me fired up like chapter 10. It might just be one of my favorite portions in all of Scripture. Read what the author says in verses 19-25.

“Therefore, brethren, since we have confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus, by a new and living way which He inaugurated for us through the veil, that is, His flesh, and since we have a great priest over the house of God, let us draw near with a sincere heart in full assurance of faith, having our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water. Let us hold fast the confession of our hope without wavering, for He who promised is faithful; and let us consider how to stimulate one another to love and good deeds, not forsaking our own assembling together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another; and all the more as you see the day drawing near.”

So, the book of Hebrews was written to Jewish Christians, explaining the inadequacy of the Law and it’s role as a shadow of what was to come in Christ. Christ is the complete fulfillment for the religious system that these Jews had known and been taught their whole lives. That’s mainly what the beginning of this chapter is making clear (10:1-19). (I’m really fighting the urge to unpack all 19 of these verses right now…because IT’S SO GOOD!!!)  Bottom line: The first section of 10:1-25 explains the necessity and efficacy of Christ’s sacrifice (10:1-18), and the second applies that truth to the lives of the readers (10:19-25), which is the part we’re interested in today.

What we learn about prayer here is that, as believers, we are to draw near to God in full assurance that Christ’s blood is an adequate covering and cleansing agent for our souls.  This involves recognition of who we are in Christ, and agreement with God that His sacrifice is complete and enough to save us.  We are able to approach Him boldly as His children, whom He loves and has redeemed.

The doctrine of the priesthood of Jesus is a major theme throughout the book of Hebrews, but it is sort of a foreign concept to Western believers in our culture today. We should remember that, under the Law, only the high priest was permitted to enter the holy of holies once a year on the Day of Atonement. As he entered, he sprinkled blood from the sin offering on the mercy seat and offered incense. But, now, we read that through the high priestly work of Christ, we can have “confidence to enter the holy place by the blood of Jesus” (Hebrews 10:19-20).

This leads us beautifully into our next consideration…

3. We are to pray according to His Word and in His name.

John 14:13-15 says, “Whatever you ask in my name, that will I do, so that the Father may be glorified in the Son. If you ask me anything in my name, I will do it. If you love me, you will keep my commandments.”

Compare these verses to similar Scriptures on asking things of the Lord in prayer.

John 15:7, “If you abide in me, and my words abide in you, ask whatever you wish, and it will be done for you.”

1 John 5:14–15, “If we ask anything according to his will he hears us. And if we know that he hears us in whatever we ask, we know that we have the requests that we have asked of him.”

Mark 11:24, “Whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.”

Here in John 14, we don’t find any of the conditions italicized in the verses above. Instead, there is only one condition: “in my name.” So, does this imply that we can ignore all the other conditions: abide in him; ask according to his will; believe his word? Or, could it be, that, as John Piper suggests, all these are included in the meaning of asking in my name?

I think so. I think that’s what Jesus would say.

And, in case I have to say it, it is inappropriate to tack “in Jesus’ name” on the end of anything you want to pray.

Praying “in Jesus’ name” means that we come, asking: For His fame, not mine. Because of His infinite worth. On the basis of the payment He made on the cross. According to His wisdom (submission to His wise will and plan). Anything asked on that basis for the glory of the Father; anything prayed for through the filter of His fame, His worth, His purchase, and His wisdom will be answered and done.

And we are promised to have everything we need to do the work He’s called us to do. Like Jesus says in John 14:12, “Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes in me, the works that I do, he will do also; and greater works than these he will do; because I go to the Father.

Now, that’s powerful.

There’s a big difference in “God, be glorified in what I’m doing.” and “God, do your thing for your glory.” That’s what I want to pray. And that’s how I want to live.

4. He loves. He listens. He responds.

Friends, the One we approach in prayer is our Father. Prayer gives us fellowship with Him. Because of Christ, we can come to Him at any time, with any thing. Prayer continually teaches us to see our world, and our circumstances with the eyes of eternity. He is for us. And my soul is ever grateful.

As our kindred spirit, Anne, once said:

“Why must people kneel down to pray? If I really wanted to pray I’ll tell you what I’d do. I’d go out into a great big field all alone or in the deep, deep woods and I’d look up into the sky—up—up—up—into that lovely blue sky that looks as if there was no end to its blueness. And then I’d just feel a prayer.”
― L.M. MontgomeryAnne of Green Gables

Might be loose theology, but we’re benefited to remember the freedom we have to approach Him as His daughters and sons.

Never forget the enormous gift and privilege that we have to come to Him anytime, anywhere, with anything.

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SOME LESSONS FROM THE UNNAMED WOMAN OF SAMARIA

Posted by Tori on Jan 30, 2013 in a good word., theology

Y’all. I am so blessed to be able to serve in a rock star women’s ministry. I’ve attended for several years, and the past couple have been privileged to co-lead a small discussion group. These ladies are the real deal. They don’t mess around when it comes to studying God’s Word. This semester, we’re doing a study called, Nameless. It’s a look at several unnamed women in the Bible — women whose stories are recorded in Scripture, but for whatever reason, their names are not mentioned. These accounts are incredible and they teach us so much about the Lord, and about ourselves. I studied and taught on the Woman of Samaria that Jesus meets by Jacob’s well in John 4. (If you’d like to listen to the full lesson, click HERE.) I learned SO MUCH through this, and it really did change meThere is SO MUCH truth packed into these 42 verses, it will literally blow your mind. Here’s some of what rocked my world:

I. Jesus is multi-purposeful.

From the text in John 4 and surrounding passages, we could assume several possible reasons for Christ’s leaving Judea and choosing to travel to Galilee by way of Samaria. He knew this woman intimately. Do we suppose that He only knew her when He saw her? That would be ridiculous. No, He was coming for her. He knew exactly who He’d find drawing water from that well in the middle of the day.

You see, there are hundreds, if not thousands, of reasons and purposes behind every one action of Jesus. He is never doing just one thing when He deals with us. He is always doing a whole host of things we can’t see. Take the disciples in this situation. What did they see when they walked up? Jesus talking with this woman of ill-repute. John records that no one asked him what He was doing talking to her. But, they were confused. They tried to get Jesus to eat. Lunch was the only thing on their minds. They didn’t see what Jesus was really up to here. We have to remember that He is infinitely wise. He may be accomplishing 10 million purposes through something, and we may only know 3. So, we should be very slow to try to take control of a situation or distrust Him as if the three we see aren’t enough to work the way we think things ought.

When my world looks shaken, there are a million reasons why and I may see 1 – or none at all – except what is revealed to me in Scripture. But, I can trust Him. He is infinitely sovereign, infinitely wise, and infinitely good. And, oh how exciting when He is gracious to show us a glimpse of what He is doing. We are left jaws dropped to the floor, worshiping Him in wonder.

II. The thing I love most about Jesus in this passage is His ability to come in and completely level the playing field.

He loved this woman and desired for her to have right relationship with God. Regardless of her sin, regardless of her race, regardless of cultural precedents, regardless of the opinion of others. None of that mattered. What mattered was that from the beginning of time, God knew His creation would fall, and Jesus was the remedy. The Gospel of Christ always levels the playing field. When the Holy Spirit is doing kingdom work in and through us, His purposes are always higher than whatever barriers man has built.

John 4:17-18, “The woman answered and said, ‘I have no husband.’ Jesus said to her, ‘You have correctly said, “I have no husband”; for you have had five husbands, and the one whom you now have is not your husband; this you have said truly.'”

This is where Jesus reveals His greatness to her. He proceeds to tell her everything about her life and her past. He knows exactly who she is and what she’s up to.

We may not have had five husbands, and we may not be living with a man that is not our husband, but we too are adulterous over and over in one form or another. Up until this question, she had NO idea of her need for Him. When we see ourselves like she does now, and stare straight into our true condition, it allows us to see His greatness and His provision more profoundly.

In verse 16, it may strike us as random that Jesus asks her to go get her husband, but He is intentionally exposing her sin…to her. He already knew full well that she didn’t have a husband when he made His remark. He is intending to expose the areas of her heart and life where she is in the deepest need of living water. Another thing that makes this portion of their dialogue appear so random, is that Jesus never returns to it. It is left completely open-ended. He brought it up to expose her thirst. She had no idea just how thirsty she really was. He is forcing her to deal with the secret places. In order for the living water to really saturate and do its work, it has to go deep. The living water is for your soul, not for your mouth. He touches every single raw, hidden, shameful nerve in your life. You see, just like this woman, we cannot open ourselves up to receive the living water. Look back at John 3:20, “Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed.” Jesus knows this is how we are. The reason He presses in so is not to condemn or aggravate an open wound. It is to heal us. To bring life to our lifeless bones. He is the only one who can do it.

His love is compassionate, relentless, and complete. This is how He meets us. Nothing hidden. All laid bare before Him. Ministering to the deepest part of our being.

He offers us living water that we might be deeply satisfied, rooted and secure in our identity in Him. Our hearts have endless desires, appetites, and cravings. The living water of Jesus offers a well that continually satisfies day after day. We no longer have to run from man to man or hobby to hobby, or whatever it is in search of fulfillment. When we come to him with all our hungers and longings, He provides a stable, secure, rock-solid, deep contentment that is only found in Him.

III. He will not have you on just on the surface.

And, praise Him for it! Sisters, He is for you. He is the fulfillment. We are all made to be filled by Christ. Apart from Him, we will never be satisfied. We have to see the reality of our need for Him. What substitutes have you settled for instead of the living water? Thrust them all aside. For He is far greater than them all.

John 4:20, The woman continues, “Our fathers worshiped in this mountain, and you people say that in Jerusalem is the place where men ought to worship.”

She shifts the focus again and brings up the age-old controversy over places of worship. We see it over and over in the course of their conversation. She is always reverting back to the external. The temporary. You don’t have a bucket, give me water so I don’t have to come here to draw, which is the right place of worship? Even though she may have been genuinely interested to know where He stood on this matter since she now sees Him as a prophet, her whole life is one of externals. Jesus will not deal at that level. He is prying open her heart. He is after her. He wants all of her. She is ironically oblivious to the thirst that she is trying so hard to quench with failed marriage after failed marriage. Jesus knows. He is well acquainted with pain, loneliness, desire, passion, craving. He made her! He alone can explain why she lives the way she lives.

IV. We go through Jesus, or we don’t go to God at all.

John 4:22, “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.”

Verse 22 shows the supremacy of Jesus above all other religions. Any worship that does not hold Christ, as He is revealed in Scripture, as the focal point is completely meaningless and false. Jesus states it plainly in Luke 10:16, “Whoever listens to you listens to me; whoever rejects you rejects me; but whoever rejects me rejects him who sent me.” And in John 5:23, “Whoever does not honor the Son does not honor the Father, who sent him.” Also, in 5:46, “If you believed Moses, you would believe me…”

This is HUGE even today. Not just for modern-day Jewish people who are sincere and devout in their religion, yet still await a Messiah. There are many who call themselves Christians in our own culture, yet to not know or live according to His Word. Even though they claim to worship the same God, they do not. They have got it wrong and have missed what Jesus came to do. Any other “brand” of Christianity or the Gospel other than what we find in Scripture is a false religion.

John Piper says it this way: “The more people you know personally who are very religious but who do not embrace Jesus as their Lord and Savior, the harder it will be to believe that their worship is not true worship. But if the courage of your faith gives way [He’s meaning when you are given the opportunity to share truth with them], you will forsake the Jesus of the New Testament and join the world in creating your own.”

Woosh. Sounds harsh. But it is true. Be bold when you talk about your faith with your friends and neighbors. Don’t shrink back for fear of offending them. Tell them the truth.

V. Jesus treats women differently.

I find it interesting that John specifically says that, upon their return, the disciples were surprised to find Him talking to a woman. Then in verse 31, the first way they addressed Christ was as “Rabbi.” Rabbis back then did not talk to women. In fact, the Jewish women were not even taught the Torah. Historically, we know that women were not largely treated with the respect and dignity they are today. But, Jesus treated women differently. With the Fall, came a distortion of God’s design. One that could swing to either spectrum of extremes. With women being either overly timid and helpless or either overly dominating and controlling. And with men being either sheepishly passive and spineless or overly harsh and demanding. But Jesus came to reverse the distortions and to redeem mankind from the effects of the Fall and He treated women as God designed them. As being made in God’s image, possessing equal worth and dignity, while embracing their specific, differing, and complementary roles. That’s how Jesus means for it to be. I think that is likely another reason that of all the people of Samaria He could have revealed Himself to, and out of all the different ways in which He could have done that, He chose this woman, and this way.

VI. Everything about this scene is remarkable.

Jesus asked this woman for a drink, and then proceeded to offer to quench her thirst, a thirst she didn’t even know she had, and not quench it with water, but with Himself, the living water.

Jesus knows. He meets you where you are. He destroys barriers and levels the playing field. He is the living water you were made to drink. He knows everything about you and still wants you. He is the Savior who came into the world to redeem sinners and make true worship possible for you.

It is no small thing that Christ mentioned Samaria with regard to the spread of the Gospel in Acts 1:8. You can read about the coming of the Holy Spirit to the people of Samaria in Acts 8:4-25. His plan for this people stretches far beyond just that woman at Jacob’s well. It reached to the entire race of Samaritans and it reaches straight to all of us sitting here today.

We are this woman. We need Jesus. A lot of people teach about Jesus engaging the woman in this passage. That we should imitate Jesus and be intentional about bringing people to Him. Which is true. But, if we really met ourselves in this woman. If we really see that we have desperate need for Him that we can’t even recognize until He shows up and reveals it to us. If we really got that to the core, we wouldn’t need to be taught to share Him with others. We would just do it. Exactly how this woman left her bucket at the well and ran back to town.

Revelation 22:17, “The Spirit and the bride say, ‘Come!’ And let the one who hears say, ‘Come!’ Let the one who is thirsty come; and let the one who wishes take the free gift of the water of life.”

You can listen to the full audio of this lesson here. Enjoy! His Word is so rich. We can dig and study and never reach the depths of its wisdom.

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A LITTLE GREEK NEVER HURT ANYONE

Posted by Tori on Dec 19, 2012 in a good word., theology

The main reason why I’m here online is to encourage you to grow in your faith through deeper study of His Word. easoms.com was born out of my love for writing and my love for God’s Word. My educational background is entirely devoted to these two loves. I have a deep desire for women to live passionately for their Savior and grow closer to Him through the study of His Word. If that’s not what I’m doing with the words and influence He’s given me, then I believe I’m wasting my time and my gifts.

Another passion of mine is that we would reengage our minds as a part of Bible study, just as highly as we engage our hearts.

The Lord always blesses the study of His Word. Always. So, with this in mind, I humbly ask you to indulge me while I go, quite possibly, where no other blogger has gone before.

I plan to introduce a new study series in 2013, focused on the book of Hebrews. You’ll be hearing more about that after the first of the year. And, I promise it will not be anywhere nearly as “academic” as this post. But, today I am sharing a word study on propitiation: perhaps one of the best, most exciting words you’ll find in Scripture. So, grab a cup of coffee and dig in with me. It will be well worth our time. Promise.

No matter if you’re new to Bible study, or have been studying Scripture for the majority of your lifetime, you may or may not have ever read or conducted a word study. Word studies are not just for making your head hurt, or making you feel smarter. They really are beneficial to a deeper understanding of the meaning and application associated with a particular passage. I think you’ll find this to be true when we’re finished. And, relax. I’ve done all the work for you. All you have to do is reap the rewards!

HILASTERION

The word we are looking at today is propitiation from Romans 3:25 (NASB). To give you a bit of context, here are the surrounding verses (Romans 3:21-26).

(21)But now apart from the Law the righteousness of God has been manifested, being witnessed by the Law and the Prophets, (22)even the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all those who believe; for there is no distinction; (23)for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, (24)being justified as a gift by His grace through the redemption which is in Christ Jesus; (25)whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith. This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed; (26)for the demonstration, I say, of His righteousness at the present time, so that He would be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.

This particular Greek word (hilasterion) is used only twice in Scripture – here in Romans 3:25 and, once again, in Hebrews 9:5 referencing the mercy seat (the place where the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the sacrifice on the Day of Atonement).

The word “propitiation” is probably never used in our society apart from a Christian context.  It is difficult to think of this word being used within the context of casual conversation, especially among unbelievers.  “Propitiation” seems to have lost any usage in our culture apart from a Biblical or theological context. It refers to the appeasement of divine wrath, and a correct understanding/interpretation of this has enormous implications for our theology.

Hilasterion comes from a larger word family found all throughout the New Testament. In studying other words in the same family, it is striking to understand that words that originally denoted our human action in relation to God are now used instead for God’s divine action in relation to us and on our behalf.

The Septuagint (the Greek translation of the Old Testament, also referred to as LXX) uses hilasterion approximately 20 times for the Hebrew word kapporet, which refers to the covering for the Ark of the Covenant. Every year on the Day of Atonement, the high priest would sprinkle the blood of the sin offering on and before the kapporet (hilasterion). Closely related to kapporet is the Hebrew verb kaphar, which is associated with kopher (referring to the mercy seat, and used in connection with the burnt offering).

Who cares? Well…you might…hang on…

Romans 3:25 says, “…whom [referring to Jesus Christ] God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith.  This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed…”

Through faith” is to be understood in connection with hilasterion.  Christ is the object of faith; he is our hilasterion.  “In his blood” refers to hilasterion, not to faith.  The revelation of the righteousness demonstrated in Jesus as hilasterion is linked with the passing over of former sins, in which the kapporet plays a significant role.  Romans 3:25 seems to be making the point that Jesus is a higher kapporet.  If this view is taken, then Paul is using the kapporet as a symbol for Christ’s atoning work.  However, if he has the actual kapporet in mind, it is reoriened to Jesus as the one in whom true and full atonement has been made.  Relating hilasterion to the Day of Atonement in Leviticus 16 suggests that Christ is the new covenant equivalent, or fulfillment of the Old Testament kapporet.

It is important, though, as we study hilasterion to remain mindful of the larger context preceding Romans 3:25 (Romans 1:18-3:20), which begins with a discussion of God’s wrath revealed against godlessness.  In 3:25, Paul explains that Christ has become our propitiatory sacrifice to satisfy the wrath of God. Christ, as the hilasterion, reveals God’s character to us, and represents us to God through His vicarious work on the cross, whereby He bore the divine judgement and secured redemption for those who would believe.

3 TAKE-AWAYS

So…3 important lessons:

  1. It is important to understand that propitiation is the “means by which justice is satisfied, God’s wrath is averted, and mercy can be shown on the basis of an acceptable sacrifice” (Believer’s Bible Commentary). Those who have their faith in Christ find mercy through His shed blood. The blood is not the object of faith; Christ is the object of faith! He Himself is the propitiation.
  2. Hilasterion refers to the aversion of God’s wrath. This is seen when the passage is taken in context (Romans 1:18).  In his commentary on the book of Romans, John Stott compares the pagan and the Christian response to the need, author, and nature of propitiation (The Message of Romans). The need for propitiation according to the pagan is the placation of ill-tempered gods, whereas the Christian need is the satisfaction of God’s holy wrath toward evil.  The author of propitiation for the pagan is the human; the Christian author of propitiation is God Himself through Christ.  The nature of propitiation according to the pagan is the bribing of the gods through various sacrifices, whereas the nature of propitiation for the Christian is the atoning death of Christ on the cross.  It is necessary that we keep in mind that God is not placated or propitiated like the pagan deities claim to be.
  3. Through this study, we see the reconciliation that occurs through Christ as our hilasterion. We are dependent on Christ to be our reconciliation.  God set Him forth for this purpose.  He initiates the action of reconciliation, not as the offending party, but as the offended party.

A WORD ON TRANSLATIONS

Now that you have a deeper understanding of the Greek word hilasterion, look at these popular translations of Romans 3:25, with the translation of hilasterion bolded:

“whom God displayed publicly as a propitiation in His blood through faith This was to demonstrate His righteousness, because in the forbearance of God He passed over the sins previously committed;” (NASB)

“God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—” (NIV)

“Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God;” (KJV)

“For God presented Jesus as the sacrifice for sin. People are made right with God when they believe that Jesus sacrificed his life, shedding his blood. This sacrifice shows that God was being fair when he held back and did not punish those who sinned in times past,” (NLT)

“God sacrificed Jesus on the altar of the world to clear that world of sin. Having faith in him sets us in the clear. God decided on this course of action in full view of the public—to set the world in the clear with himself through the sacrifice of Jesus, finally taking care of the sins he had so patiently endured. This is not only clear, but it’s now—this is current history! God sets things right. He also makes it possible for us to live in his rightness.” (The Message).

In these translations, “propitiation” is only used twice to translate hilasterion.  The most common translation is “sacrifice of atonement,” or “sacrifice for sin.”  Such translations seem to cheat the reader of the element of satisfaction of God’s wrath toward sin.  In order to grasp this meaning of hilasterion, one would have to study significantly beyond the English translation.

APPLICATION: WHAT DOES THIS MEAN FOR ME?

So…props to you if you’re still reading. I think I love you.

Leon Morris writes, “It is the combination of the deep love for the sinner and the reaction against sin which brings about the situation in which the Bible refers to propitiation” (The Apostolic Preaching of the Cross).  God is not to be placated like the pagan deities.  He is holy, and His wrath towards sin is just as righteous as His goodness.  I pray that studying this word has deepened your love for Christ and His atoning work on the cross.  Although we sinned and initially severed fellowship with God, He acted on our behalf to reconcile the broken relationship through Christ as our hilasterion.  The propitiation originates with God, not to appease Himself, but to justify Himself in His uniform kindness to men deserving His wrath. John Stott beautifully summarizes the idea behind propitiation, “God himself gave himself to save us from himself.”

Propitiation communicates the atonement associated with the work of Christ on the cross, as well as the appeasement or satisfaction of the wrath of God toward sin.  Christ, in His sacrifice, became the object of God’s wrath to restore the broken fellowship that sin severed.  A proper understanding of hilasterion is essential to an accurate understanding of Paul’s argument in Romans 3.  Hilasterion communicates what Christ has done on behalf of the sinner, as well as exalts the holy, righteous character of God.  He is just in all He does, and has shown His mercy to sinners through providing Christ as our hilasterion.

Am I the only one who enjoyed the connection between Christ as the hilasterion and the mercy seat?  God has always provided a means of atonement for His people, under both the old covenant and the new.  He initiates the action of reconciliation, not as the offending party, but as the offended party.  God has made a way for us to be free from the bondage of our sin, yet He did so, not by laying aside the aspect of His character that must deal with sin, but by satisfying the demands of His character and justice in Christ. His mercy is consistent with His righteousness, as is His justice.  He is worthy of the highest praise!

This makes my adoration of the newborn King at Christmas that much sweeter. Knowing full well this is why He came. So, maybe you’ll remember this little word on Christmas morn and all that it means for you. Praise Him, our Emmanuel, our perfect Hilasterion.

(Please note: I am happy to provide this work as a resource to you in your personal Bible study, but should you choose to reference it in any other setting, I ask that you give reference to this post.)

 

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PERFECT DOESN’T MEAN PRETTY

Posted by Tori on Dec 13, 2012 in a good word., theology, video.

It’s funny how music influences you so deeply. And it’s funny how you sometimes feel more alive in a certain place, or doing a certain thing. But that’s just the beauty, mastery, and intricacy of our incomprehensible Creator. Listening to this song tonight, with everyone else in the house asleep in their beds, stirred up so much of this in me.

I’ve been thinking a lot this Advent season about Mary. Her words in Luke 1:46-55 play over and over in my head. This is what she said while she was staying with Elizabeth before she had given birth to Jesus. I’ve been thinking about what those months of anticipation and preparation must have been like for her. Scripture tells us that she stayed with Elizabeth for an entire trimester before returning home (3 months, Luke 1:56).

Finally, she is reaching the end of her pregnancy as she and Joseph travel to Bethlehem for the census. I have been thinking about what it may have really looked like for Mary and her betrothed that night. Not like the picture that is often painted for us this time of year.

Somehow, over the course of time, we have sanitized the picture of His birth. The traditional hymns of the season sing of a baby who doesn’t cry, and marry peace with silence. Is the reality of that night any less holy in the humanity of the moment? Do we have to make the scene seem calm and perfect because of the sacredness of the Incarnation? Absolutely not! In fact, that is the beauty of the whole thing! The Maker of heaven and earth becomes a baby to redeem His creation back to Himself. The perfect, holy God has entered our messy, untidy world — just as it is. The humanness of the moment here is sacred. Not something to be edited out of the story.

We are made in His image. The anticipation of pregnancy, the waiting, the wondering, the pain of labor, the sacrifice that comes with love, the expectation and joy of the moment while giving birth mingled with the exhaustion and the feelings of “this is too much for me!” All of this and more, I think most mothers can relate to. We’ve experienced it. And there aren’t words to describe it. But, God is very much alive and on display in those moments. He made them. And they can bring him honor in ways that other moments are inadequate to do. Isn’t it beautiful how sometimes the messiest moments can also be the most sacred? The ones where He meets us and speaks straight to our hearts.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

I can imagine how exhausting and difficult the journey was for her. Mamas, think about traveling on the back of an animal 40 weeks pregnant! That alone was probably enough to induce her labor. The place was crowded with people. There was nowhere for them to stay. Finally they find shelter in a barn. Her labor growing ever more intense. Far from a glamorous scenario, it was absolutely comfortless. Dirty, smelly, harsh, cold, and the constant temptation to be very scared. She was with the man she would marry, yet they had not been intimate. And they were about to become VERY intimate! Sweating, screaming…finally, the Savior of the world has arrived. First cries, wrapped snug, and laid in a feeding trough – as clean as they could get it. There was nowhere else for Him to go. They made their home in the barn. Mary recovering; a new family formed. Perhaps surprised by the visiting shepherds who came as fast as they could, explaining what had been revealed to them in their fields.

And the Scripture says that Mary treasured all these things, pondering them in her heart.

Oh, how full her heart must have been. A million emotions, a million questions, yet no record of a complaint. Instead, we get the impression of a thankful heart, knowing that she is in the middle of something way bigger than she could fathom.

I could learn a few things from her.

The glory of those hours is overwhelming. Oh, how perfectly he came, even though the night wasn’t pretty. It gives such incredible perspective to me. In the celebration of Christmas it is easy to become more engrossed in the celebrating than the celebrated. Oh, may it never be! Comfort, security, beautiful homes, and time with family are such wonderful gifts. But, He is what is needed. He is our salvation.

This makes me think of my own heart right now. I have a million emotions, and a million questions. But I am asking His Spirit to find me faithful. He has called me out and marked me with the message of His glory and I will proclaim it loud and clear wherever He leads. Maybe not where I would expect. Maybe not somewhere pretty, or clean, or nice smelling. But one where He has come.

He has come!

Praise you, O Lord! You have come and you have made your dwelling among us.

And you are coming.

Come, Lord, Jesus! Come and do not tarry. Find us faithful. Our lives are yours. I don’t need the answers to my million questions. I know you are here and that what you are doing is way bigger than what I can see. Your plan is perfect. My soul finds rest in you. My heart is full. These lessons pondered and treasured in my heart.

This is a revised version of a post published on December 7, 2011.

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