Grace, then Law

The Gospel is all about Grace, then Law. Religion is about do it, then I will love you. The Gospel is about I love you, so do it.

The Old Testament God is this way: God delivers His people from the grips of Egypt, then gives them the Law in the form of the Ten Commandments through Moses on Mt. Sinai.

The New Testament God is this way: God sends his only Son to this world only to send Him to the Cross to show His great love for us, then commissions us and calls us to be holy as He is holy.

God is consistent. He is the same then and now. The Gospel has always been good news. And I hope it always stays that way.

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Obama: A Mere Shifting Shadow

The New Lincoln? The New Eisenhower? The New Roosevelt? The New Reagan? Is Barack Obama all these things? Is he the fulfillment of the dreams of a certain doctor who gave a speech in the shadows of Lincoln’s memorial? Is he the promised liberator of America?

All these things have been stirring in our news, on our blogs, and on the pages of of our books. Some say Obama is the the hope of our nation. Others say that Obama is the fulfillment of a dream and a vision of the better future. And in the midst of all this speculation and forecasting, I can’t help but to think about what it must have been like in the 1st century. The Israelites had experienced the rule of faulty kings and leaders for centuries. And through it all, they had heard all the rumors and put their hope in one final perfect leader that would be the hope of their nation. All of Israel was waiting with bated breath for this Messiah.

Judging from what our nation is currently going through, I can’t help but to think how much more escalated the anticipation was when there were spreading stories of a man that was fulfilling these great promises, visions, and dreams. A man born in the small city of Bethlehem that their great King David was born in. A man that spoke prophetically and mightily like a certain prophet Moses, who God used to liberate their ancestors. A man that proclaimed to be the son of Adam, who was created by the very breath of God. A man that performed the great miracles of a once revered prophet Elijah. A man that fulfilled all the predictions of the Law and the Prophets. His name was Jesus.

Imagine all the questions that were swirling around the cities and towns in those years. Was he really our coming deliverer? Was he to be our protector? Will he finally end our oppression? Will he make our name great?! And imagine the deep sorrow and broken dreams of those that stood in the wake of this pronounced Messiah as he hung on that tree. But those with the eyes of faith knew that this was yet another fulfillment of that which God had planned from the beginning. And they were assured that he indeed was the Son of God! Jesus was the Christ, the Anointed One – Israel’s Messiah.

I’m not certain how Obama’s presidency will pan out, but I know for sure that there is a man named Jesus that fulfilled all that God said he would do. He comes not only to restore one nation, but He came to inaugurate His Kingdom, which included all the nations. Obama is merely a shifting shadow in the brief history of the world, but Jesus is the true king who will claim his rightful place on the throne forever.


The Old in the New

It’s bone-numbingly cold today. Boston is Sunny with a high of 29 (Sunny and any number below 60 shouldn’t be in the same sentence).

I think when God created the world, he didn’t intend it to be cold. I suspect cold weather is a consequence of the fall of man. I might be wrong, but it sure does feel right. 🙂

N.T. Wright, a notable New Testament scholar, was preaching at a Pastor’s Forum this week at GCTS. It was the first time I ever had a chance to hear him speak. I’ve read some books and articles by him, but never heard him speak before. So like a good seminarian, I was giddy to hear a leading scholarly voice expound the New Testament. His focus that day was on the Gospel of John. Now I won’t go in to the particulars of what he preached, but I mainly wanted to emphasize something he got into and what I am learning more and more these days about Scripture, especially regarding the New Testament.

The normative background of the New Testament is the Old Testament. You may even benefit from reading that again, due to its simplicity. As I learn more about how to interpret the Bible, I’m learning that the NT (New Testament) is inextricably linked to the OT (Old Testament). It makes perfect sense even on the surface.

Any good writer knows that you write about what you already know. Even fictional writers will write in light of what they have experienced in real life (even sci-fi has parallels to one’s own understanding of life). Why do guys talk about sports? Because they’re always watching Sportscenter. Why do girls always talk about boys? Because men are awesome (ok, I just threw that in there to see if you were paying attention). Think about it. What comes out of us has correlation with what’s already in us. Now, transplant yourself to the age of the NT writers. What was most prominent on their minds? Duh. The OT. Their religion was rooted in this text and they would’ve known it inside and out, as was customary of teachers and scribes. So in writing the inspired texts of the NT, what would’ve naturally come out? The OT scriptures. It’s that simple.

Why do I even bring this up? Well, because I think in all my studying of the Scripture, up until now, I saw the two testaments as somewhat mutually exclusive. Yes, I did notice that the OT was quoted here and there by several NT authors, but never did I think the relationship went beyond that. What I’m seeing now, as I reread the NT scriptures, is the overwhelming presence of the OT. And in seeing this undeniable link, I’m beginning to gain such a depth of understanding of what the NT writers are actually wanting to communicate through their writing. Amazing stuff that probably only interests me at the moment, but amazing nonetheless.

I’ll give you a small tidbit of what I’m talking about. Look at John 1 and Genesis 1 in parallel. From the get go, do you see something similar? “In the beginning…” Now, I don’t have time nor the scholarship to expound this adequately, but suffice it to say that John is undoubtedly repeating this phrase from the well-known beginning parts of the creation account in Genesis. In the first book of the Pentateuch, God created the earth by His Word. Man destroyed the earth in his sin. But what John is doing here is introducing a New Creation. By referring back to Genesis, John is saying that Jesus is the Word by which God will recreate and reestablish His creation into right order. Jesus is the dawn of the New Creation. What we managed to destroy, Jesus is coming to reclaim and renew. God doesn’t just throw His tainted creation away, as if to give up on it and start all over. But He chooses to restore us back to the way things ought to have been. He saves us. That’s the amazing Gospel! And all of that from just the first three words in John’s Gospel. Trust me, there’s more where that came from, just look.

I encourage you, if you haven’t already, to begin reading your New Testament through the lens of the Old Testament. It will blow your mind. (hint: use those cross-references that you always neglected)