Day 333 (Nov. 29): Forgiveness for the sinner, God’s apostles are genuine, old covenant doesn’t compare to glory of new covenant, our power is from God, bodies die but spirits are renewed daily, we are God’s ambassadors, Paul’s hardships

Countdown: 32 days

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

2 Corinthians 2:5-6:13

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Corinthians 2:5-11): Who is the sinner Paul is talking about and what trouble did he/she cause?

A. We don’t know: we are never given that information, but it was clearly someone who was attempting to lead members of the congregation astray.  It is possible that it is one of the Jewish cult group members that Paul referred to in the first letter.

Q. (3:6): So, in the OT, there was no reward to look forward to if the people obeyed the laws?  But, we know it wasn’t all death.  Many of the “Hall of Famers” — Abraham, Moses, Elijah — are with God because they are mentioned later of being in heaven.  And, those who didn’t obey, certainly faced death from God’s wrath, some died almost instantly.

A. I do not think Paul is making afterlife distinctions, but is rather arguing that the New covenant is an improvement on the old from his perspective.  Even the “winners” of the Old covenant were saved by their faith, not by their actions under the Law.

Q. (3:16-18): Back to our discussion about the Trinity and the Holy Spirit being separate from God, but still God.  Here, it clearly states that the Spirit is the Lord.  This would support the Jehovah Witnesses’ belief (Note from Rob: are you sure you wrote that right?  It’s the opposite- a scripture indicating the Spirit is God IS THE OPPOSITE of what JWs believe).  Personally, the Trinity is a little confusing.  I definitely understand the concept, but I think the arguments play a game of semantics that, in the end, doesn’t really matter.  I believe that the Spirit acts for us in God’s behalf.  But, whether the Spirit is separate (but acts in the same vein) or is God himself doesn’t really matter.  It’s all holy and kind of one in the same to a certain degree. (I know God, the Father, is the ultimate).  But, like Jesus said, if you have seen Him (Jesus), you have seen the Father.  I would think the Spirit would be the same thing, separate, but connected.

A. The Trinity has been a source of difficulty and confusion for a long time, so I wouldn’t worry about your comfort level with it.  The important thing to understand is that God has been at work in three Persons — Father, Son (Jesus) and the Spirit, which the Bible has said are ALL God.  The Bible doesn’t say that Jesus appeared to be God in human form, which is a common criticism of scripture, but that He was the Word of God made flesh — with God from the very beginning of time.  Christians do what some might consider a bit of hairsplitting by saying the Spirit of God is separate from God the Father, but we are doing so only because JESUS told us that the Spirit would be the gift of Father and Son to those who follow His name.  If you reread that last message Jesus gave His followers back in John, you can see that the clear doctrine of the Trinity, without the name, is what He has in mind.

Q. (4:16-18): So, with the struggles we have in proclaiming Jesus as our Savior, our selves starts to die and our new selves emerge.  That is so cool!

A. We start to die because that is the way of all life, with or without the Gospel.  But only those who are in Christ can have the great blessing of knowing that this decay can be amended and stopped by God’s intervention.  This is one of the central promises of the NT: that decay and death do not have to be the end.

O. Paul obviously has God working in him saying these amazing revelations.  No human alone could make all of these connections and say them so eloquently that your mind feels like it’s glowing in glory.

Day 290 (Oct. 17): Those who are “ready” for Jesus’s return will be rewarded, the call to follow Jesus causes division, barren fig tree parable, Jesus rebuked for healing on Sabbath, parable of mustard seed, Jesus heals blind man, spiritual blindness

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Luke 12:35-13:21

John 9:1-41

Questions & Observations

Q. (Luke 12:35-36): Why a master and a wedding feast?  The person waiting is a servant, I guess, getting a dinner party ready?

A. Not in this story.  This is the master returning home FROM a party.  In the ancient world, banquets and wedding feasts could literally go for days and weeks.  Thus, a master who was returning home would not be able to tell his servants exactly WHEN he was going to come home.  That is the idea behind what Jesus is telling the people in this story: you’re not going to know the hour of the return.

Q. (12:42-48): After reading this several times, I take it that Jesus means that all of those who proclaim him and are ready in Spirit to welcome Him will be rewarded.  Those who think they’ll “get their act together” and follow Him later will … not be rewarded.  Servant means believer/follower?  Then, v. 48, says that the more Jesus/God has entrusted us with His flock, the more He expects.

A. Yes, I would say you’ve judged correctly.

Q. (12:49-53): Why would Jesus want to cause division?

A. The call to follow Jesus is a radical one, by its very nature.  It is difficult to think of a stronger contrast between men and women who are powerfully following after the Gospel and those who see it as foolishness (as many today do).  So Jesus is not necessarily interesting in CAUSING division, but division is a natural by-product of the message that He has come to proclaim.  We will see this type of division come to its zenith in Matthew 25 with the story of the sheep and goats, so watch for that during Holy Week.

Q. (12:56): Just an interesting point … I always think of the kajillions of things that God could control.  Here, it sounds like the weather just goes on it’s own because the people can monitor it with close speculation.  So, it sounds like to me, God created nature, but it’s on its own unless God chooses to use it for a lesson or reward.

A. The normal way I have heard such things explained is that God established the “laws” of the universe, including for our world.  God certainly has the ability to supersede these laws, but generally chooses not to except for the reasons you mentioned.  So we can study the way that God made the world — what we would call Science, even if you don’t think there is a Creator behind it — which is what the people in Jesus’ story are doing.

Q. (13:1-5): I don’t understand quite what’s going on in this Scripture, but I think I get from it that the people who Pilate murdered were not the worst of sinners.  So, unless they/we repent, we will face the same fate, or worse.

A. It fits under a notion that we have talked about a few times, when you asked me about “good people,” and my reply was basically to say, “there’s no such thing.”  What Jesus is sharing here is we are all deserving of death for our sins, but God spares us in His mercy, and we are not called to judgment for our actions — which the grace of Jesus would cover, but still… .  But even if God chooses NOT to call us into judgment, that does not mean that, on our own, we are undeserving of God declaring that our time is up.  It’s a tough message, no doubt about it, but notice what Jesus is doing: trying to convict people and lead them to repentance.

Q. (13:10-13): This Scripture just reminds me (I’m not saying that Jesus is like them) of the healings I’ve seen on TV where an evangelist will be on stage and start healing people.  They may fall on the floor or whatever.  Can anyone now say they can heal in the name of Jesus?  I would think it would be just for those Jesus had chosen to be in His inner circle.  But, the one man who the disciples didn’t recognize and was healing in the name of Jesus, Jesus was OK with that.

A. I do not put much stock in such efforts: many of those individuals are snake oil salesmen who are just trying to get wealthy, and they do no honor to the Gospel.  Honestly, I am of two minds about your question: I have no doubt that God is capable of using His people today to heal, but I have never witnesses such a thing personally (its not a miracle for nothing — they are rare!)

My big concern is this: imagine the potential for abuse in a person such as your TV preacher were able to heal just by calling on Jesus.  It is nearly unfathomable!  Such a power could be — and frankly would be, knowing human nature — completely exploited for personal gain and fame, and the power of God would be completely forgotten.  It is a sad fact about human nature (see question above) that such and ability would wind up generating fame and wealth for the person rather than glory to God.  Now, let me repeat: God is capable of doing whatever He pleases, but I have not seen a lot of evidence that God DESIRES to provide healing in this way, and clearly the reasons I have mentioned have something to do with that in my opinion.  We will see more about such issues as healing and raising the dead as we get a little deeper into the story, and especially into the story of the early church, so hang in there for more.

O. (13:18-19): Yesterday a friend called in the morning to talk because she was upset.  She called me because she knew I would have good answers on showing grace.  Let me tell you, that is a compliment, but I must say that I struggle with it too.  But, I have been working on it, mostly as a result of reading the Scripture for this blog.  So, I have seen this verse at work. What I have been sifting through this year in the Bible helped me help her.  Jesus used me as an avenue to communicate His love and grace.  I’m so glad she called!  And thus, the “harvest” gets larger!

Q. (John 9:3): I used to think that this kind of structure God has built was not fair at all.  I felt like we are puppets in His world helping His story come true.  Well, we are like that in a way, except we are much more than puppets.  We are His children who He loves very much.  Everything He does is orchestrating our lives so we can live with Him in heaven.  Yes, we have difficulties, but those can just serves as tests to see if we can be faithful.  They are opportunities to be humble, to show that we are not in control.  And, if we believe in Jesus and let Him take over, we will live fulfilled lives all the way to heaven.  Question: I still don’t understand God’s reason for mentally handicapped.

A. Honestly, I don’t have much to say about that.  But I know that there are families that have been so blessed by the joy that a child with, say, Down’s syndrome brings to the family, even if the “side effect” is mental retardation.  I have read stories of the way that special needs children have become cherished members of families and communities, and that many are blown away by their faith in Christ.  It certainly sounds like God can have a myriad of “reasons” for the mentally handicapped: they are still His children, and I suspect that God finds very special ways to communicate to them and through them.

For example, try this one (I confess, I wept a little): http://www.patheos.com/blogs/christophers/2012/05/what-down-syndrome-taught-one-mother-about-brokenness-beauty-and-perfection/

Q. (9:16): Jesus is not setting aside the Sabbath for complete rest, but if He didn’t heal people who ask to be healed and have faith in Him, he wouldn’t have peace of mind, i.e. peace.  And, maybe the healing gives Him rest.  It would certainly ease the hearts of the ones He was healing.  But, I think the main point is that the Commandment of “Love one another” outweighs keeping the Sabbath.  And, if you don’t help people because it’s the Sabbath, you are disobeying God’s commandment and causing the person to continue their pain.  That doesn’t sound loving.

A. Amen sister!