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In All Circumstances

 

1 thess 5-18

 

What does ‘in all circumstances’ mean?

I mean, we’re probably fine with ‘give thanks’, since it is, after all, ‘the will of God’, but in all circumstances?

Well, that’s just exaggeration. It has to be. Hasn’t it?

Not exactly.

 


 

The Problem With ‘In All Circumstances’

Modern society (even modern Christian society) has a tendency to run on a situation-response system, in that what we do rests largely on how we are feeling and what’s going on at the moment. For this reason, the idea of giving thanks in all circumstances is rather foreign, at least to us.

By contrast, Hebrew society has been doing this for millennia. There are dozens of Psalms which begin with lament but end in praise despite no change occurring physically – the change is in the psalmist’s heart, as they repent of failing to trust God.

I understand that Thanksgiving is over. Those of us who took vacations are likely already back – and that’s intentional. I waited until today to post this in part because it’s more effective further away from Thanksgiving.

After all, everyone is talking about thankfulness on Thanksgiving (at least in the United States). It’s easy to enthuse about how thankful you are for everything, the same way it’s easy to be generous on Christmas or make resolutions on New Year’s Day.

But now – just five days after Thanksgiving – you’ve likely hardly thought about being thankful today. Right?

Thankfulness should be a year-round thing. So should charity (Christmas) and faithfulness (New Year’s), to name but a few.

Thanksgiving – and other holidays like it, celebrating positive aspects such as thankfulness – can be very useful to Christianity. We can use them to point unbelievers to the Bible, as many do. But be wary that you do not relegate such aspects to solely these occasions.

Don’t just be thankful at Thanksgiving – give thanks in all circumstances.

 


 

The Remnant is working on launching a podcast! We’re aiming to have it ready by Christmas, so stay tuned and look for Theology Over Tea in Google Play and on YouTube once we launch.

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Word Study – Love

FotS 1

What is love?

The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines it as ‘strong affection for another arising out of kinship or personal ties’, which is accurate, but that’s not what we usually use love as. Love is more likely to be a verb than a noun – for instance, I love you rather than Love is what I have for you.

The term ‘love’ first appears in the Bible (at least in the ESV) in Genesis 22:2: ‘He said, “Take your son, your only son Isaac, whom you love, and go to the land of Moriah, and offer him there as a burnt offering on one of the mountains of which I shall tell you.”‘

In this context, as in many other contexts throughout the Bible, love refers to what we think of now as paternal love. An oft-used – but still applicable – metaphor is that of a mother bear protecting her cubs.

But not all love in the Bible is paternal. The four most common words in original Biblical manuscripts are phileo, agape, storgē, and eros.

 

I. Phileo: Love of Friendship

Phileowhich is used most noticeably in contrast to agape in John 21, is a Greek term referring to a companionable love: one between friends. To use the term ‘love’ for one’s friends nowadays would be considered rather strange, so certain translators may choose to render this as a less amorous term; nevertheless, it is still a form of love.

Companionable love is an important but lacking aspect in society in modern times. Love is a term that has become increasingly polarised in recent times, hence the taboo nature of love among friends. This definition is virtually unknown nowadays, the word typically meaning either relational (among family members) or amorous (between lovers) love.

 

II. Agape: Love of Esteem

Agape refers to a love born of esteem for that which is loved. This, too, is an obsolete usage in modern English, typically replaced by ‘respect’ or ‘awe’. Though used rarely outside of the Bible, it appears 320 times in the New Testament.

An agape love wants only the best for that which is loved. It is unselfish and is best exemplified by 1 Corinthians 13, which serves well as a general description of the term. In other words, this is a platonic love.

 

III. Storgē: Love of Relation

Storgē is a love for one’s relation. Purely platonic, it is rare in the Bible, usually appearing only in the sense of negation (e.g., ‘unloving’ in Romans 1:31).

At its most basic form, however, storgē refers to a love for one’s family member – for one’s spouse, child, parent, relation, or even pet.

 

IV. Eros: Earthly Love

Eros is a curious case. Referring to a love existent for the lover’s benefit, it does not appear in the Bible, despite being a common Greek term. Why?

Well, eros represents all that the Bible opposes. It embodies egocentrism, lust, and self-satisfaction all in one. Eros is an earthly love, one which desires more for itself. It has the implication of sexual love, but by itself, sexual love is not morally inclined. Indeed, it is encouraged in the Bible, and it is the way God’s relationship to us is portrayed (translated typically as a form of the word know).

But nevertheless, eros is absent from the Bible for two reasons: firstly, it carries with it the baggage of its Roman origins: Eros (whose Roman counterpart was the more famous Cupid) was the Greek god of lust (though not always explicitly; he is also sometimes portrayed as the god of ‘sexual attraction’). And secondly (and more to the point), it is clearly not a part of the Bible’s vision. Marriage is, indeed, a temporary, earthly thing, and its facets should be enjoyed (as God directs), but eternally, our love and complete allegiance is to God, not to one another. It is a brotherly love that we are commanded to share eternally, not a sexual one.

 

In conclusion, the term love may be misleading. It can refer to friendship, honour, family, or lust. At any rate, it is a mistake merely to read passages containing this term without context or understanding. Properly interpreting love is not something to be taken lightly.

But it is supposed to be more common than it is. We are to have brotherly love for each other (see Hebrews 13:1, which puts it succinctly). So do so.

 

Love one another.

 


Sources

McLean Bible

Bible Gateway

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Here We Stand

Here We Stand

It’s a question as old as time itself: how did we get here? There are many conflicting views, but here are some of the major beliefs as to the origin of the universe.

Beliefs (1)

The first theory we’ll look at is the primary evolutionary belief: the Big Bang.

According to the Big Bang Theory, the universe – and time itself – began nearly fourteen billion years ago, during a spontaneous explosion of infinitely compressed matter. The explanation for this event is still unknown according to evolutionary theory. Supposedly, after the Big Bang, the universe, superheated to incredible amounts of heat, expanded at incredible speed, eventually cooling down enough to allow the creation of various elements, then stars, and finally planets and life.

Key problems with the Big Bang theory include the lack of explanation for the original explosion or existence of matter as well as the sheer impossibility of life originating from non-living components.

 

Beliefs (2)

The next theory (and the primary Biblical theory) is that of divine creation.

According to this theory, the events of Genesis are to be taken literally, with creation occurring in six literal days. Holding up this is the usage of ‘evening’ and ‘morning’ in the original passages of Genesis 1.

Some problems raised with this theory are those of the believed non-existence of an omnipotent, eternal being or the believed impossibility of a six-day creation.

 

Beliefs (3)

The Day-Age Theory holds that the days in Genesis are actually long amounts of time, allowing evolution and/or an old earth.

This theory holds up its argument with 2 Peter 3:8 (‘a day is as a thousand years’), though this verse, opponents of the theory argue, does not apply to the Genesis account. It is also supported by the variable use of the word day in Hebrew, though the original texts are clearly referring to a twenty-four hour period (similarly to the use of the word in the phrase ‘in my day’).

 

BeliefsThe last theory we’ll look at is the Gap Theory, which postulates a billions-of-years period between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2.

The Gap Theory holds up its argument by stating that divine creation is flatly impossible, and by pointing out that there is technically no indication that time does not pass between the aforementioned verses.

Key problems with this theory include the complete lack of an implication that time passes between Genesis 1:1 and 1:2, and the statement that the creation was ‘very good’ multiple times during creation, since a creation with preexisting death (as a result of sin) would not be ‘very good’ by any means.

 

Conclusion

There is a large wish to compromise between the divine Creation and Big Bang theories in certain Christian circles which wish to remain respectable with their evolutionary friends.

However, these theories typically consider Genesis as something that it is not: a story, or a metaphor, or a non-literal account. There are dozens of other, smaller compromise theories, but the two shown in this article should give a good example of what this field of blended Christianity and evolution looks like.

Draw from them what you will.

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Deo Gloria

gloria

Look.

I wanted to write this yesterday. I really did.

It’s my own fault, to be honest. I’ve spent quite a lot of time on other things – things which shouldn’t take up my time.

And that is the point of the Reformation. Soli Deo gloria. To the glory of God alone. It’s our ministry’s motto, as well.

But what does that mean? What’s the point of Soli Deo gloria?

 

Soli Deo Gloria: A Biography

Soli Deo gloria didn’t start out as ‘to the glory of God alone’. It really means ‘glory to God alone’, but even earlier in its lifetime, it had yet another meaning, the one used by the earliest coiners of the word: ‘glory to the only God’.

The first people to use Soli Deo gloria were not the reformers. Such a phrase might even have been entirely foreign to them, though it was likely in use by that time. Rather, the original use of the phrase was as a postscript to the musical works of Johann Sebastian Bach, where he abbreviated it SDG.

 

Later still, in the mid-twentieth century, Soli Deo gloria was combined with the other four solae to create the first known instances of the five solae together. They were not all used in the Reformation, but they do well to encapsulate the idea behind it: the fundamentals of the church returned to the stage and cast in a starring role.

 

Soli Deo Gloria: A Meaning

So what does Soli Deo gloria mean?

This is by far the most contentiously translated sola of the bunch. While others are straightforward, Soli Deo gloria can be rephrased as ‘to the glory of God alone’, ‘glory to God alone’, or ‘glory in all things to God alone’, to name but a few. Each of these takes a slightly different point of view, but all boil down to the concept expressed by Paul in 1 Corinthians 10:31 – ‘So whether you eat or drink or whatever you do, do it all for the glory of God.’

So what is the application?

Firstly, beware pitfalls. Do not misconstrue God’s will as your own, lest you consider your own desires over that of both your fellow man and your righteous God.

Secondly, glorify God in all things. This is a somewhat strange idea, since many things we do have nothing to do (at first glance) with moral or spiritual choices, but if we delve deeper we can tell that even our everyday actions – the way we talk, the people we befriend or spurn, even the very food and drink we consume – have Biblical aspects to them. Emphasise godly friendships, consider terminating ungodly ones. Care for your body as a temple of God (1 Corinthians 6:19). Strive to lead others to Christ by your speech and your actions.

Glorify God in all you do, and glorify God alone.

 

sdg

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Christus

christus

Solus Christus. By Christ alone.

What does that mean?

We’ve been examining the central tenets of the Reformation, those indisputable solae which defined the basis of the protests against supposed truths which had been held by the Catholic church for hundreds of years. The first three are easily understandable; they are the very basis of the Christian faith, no less. Scripture, faith, and grace are some of the first things one learns about in Sunday school. Easy topics, they seem, though every part of the Bible has reams of knowledge and wisdom. It is a shame to consider these unimportant to your Christian walk.

But solus Christus is something that many find it hard to admit: their helplessness. Egocentrism is an integral part of the nature of our flesh. That is part of the reason that so many have denied the death and resurrection of Christ over the centuries. It’s also the primary cause of the Catholic church’s embracement of indulgences and works as a central part of salvation.

(Mind you, do not use this as an excuse to avoid works. They may not be a prerequisite, but they are most certainly a – shall we say – post-requisite. See Romans 6:1.)

Fundamentally, the problem with the Catholic church was that their indulgences, along with their emphasis on works as a condition for salvation, belittled the work of Christ on the cross. If one believes that our works are necessary for the completion of justification, by definition one must either believe that God is withholding His whole salvation for us or, perhaps even worse, that He is not a God with ultimate power and is thus unable to completely save us. Both the former and the latter are refuted again and again and again throughout Scripture. There is no excuse, for those who believe the Bible, to consider its God anything less than an omnipotent One – One who does not need our paltry efforts to do whatever He desires. To say so is nothing less than unthinkable folly.

But even if you do not believe in indulgences, or in works as part of salvation, you are still suspect to the same snares of that which is earthly. We all consider ourselves greater than Christ, whether consciously or not.

Do not delude yourself – a person who truly places the needs of God before their own, however logical it may be, is as rare as a rose without thorns.

Search yourself, Christian. Perhaps you read the sixty-six books of the Bible devoutly. Perhaps you have great faith in God’s plan of salvation and are forever thankful for His grace.

But do you truly believe in Christ, and Christ alone?

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Gratia

Due to unforeseen difficulties, the Remnant has had to delay its post from 17 October to 23 October. Our sincere apologies for the delay; we will return to our typical posting schedule for the month of October with the next post.

gratia

Feeling good about your salvation?

Probably. About two-thirds of Americans, according to one survey by Deseret News, believe they’re heaven-bound, as compared to half a percent who say they’ll end up in hell.

It makes sense, though. If you believe in hell, you likely do everything you can to avoid going there (well, you should; many don’t do so, but that’s a topic for another time).

But how much can we do?

Zip. Zilch. Nada. We have no power over our eternal destiny; we ourselves cannot stop it or presume to direct its course. Fortunately, we are acquainted with someone who can – which is to say, God.

Yeah, yeah, yeah, you Christians are all the same. Pretend you’re talking facts and then nickel-and-dime over to theology and all that. I’ve heard it all before.

Well, this won’t be a very rousing message for you, most likely. It’s the typical gospel message: sin, salvation and justification, the doctrines, the solae, all of that. But when you hear someone lecturing on grace or salvation or sin, do you really care? Or are you as ignorant as those who think they’ll get to heaven on a wing and a prayer?

Beware, fellow Christian (or, as the case may be, unbeliever), of forgetting yourself. Of considering yourself greater than the rest, or of God Himself. Be sure that you do not make a god or an idol of yourself.

But honestly – stop yourself, sit down and think. What are you thinking about right now? Salvation? Evangelism? The sovereign word of the sovereign God?

Or are you thinking about yourself, your friends and family, your worldly lusts and desires, your favourite sports team, your date next week, the movies you want to see, your assignments within work?

How much of your time do you spend thinking about the fact that you are a wretch – a fallen, worthless being that deserves nothing and has yet been given everything? Can you recall the last time? Or any time?

Do not take grace for granted; do not consider yourself the helmsman of your life (Proverbs 16:9). For you have been given everything – the salvation that you do not deserve, the gift of salvation to those who do not deserve it, and your very raison d’être; the purpose of your life: the eternal destiny given to you.

So ask yourself, in the light of those facts, two things: did you realise?

And did you remember?