17 June 2008

A Little Theology

This is a post from listserv that I'm on, and I was responding to someone else. I thought this was pretty good theologically, so I thought I'd put it on my blog that no one reads.

Should a tree not bear fruit?

The question is not whether Jesus is the Messiah, but whether his children will continue to stand with those in whose life evil has manifested, and seek the restoration of the kingdom in tangible ways.

Of course a tree should bear fruit. Knowing nothing about trees, and since just about everything I know about the shape of leaves is summed up in a Canadian flag, just about the only way I can tell what kind of tree a tree is is by the fruit it bears.

This again is a matter of distinguishing between the Kingdoms. Sanctification, being made more holy, is God's work. 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2; John 17:17;1 Thessalonians 5:23; Acts 20:32; Acts 26:18; Romans 15:16; 1 Corinthians 1:2; 1 Corinthians 6:11;1 Corinthians 7:14; 1 Thessalonians 4:3. Did I miss any? My handy dandy NIV computer Bible says that these are all the references to sanctify, sanctifying & sanctified in the NT. They are all passive, except when Jesus talks about sanctifying himself, and he gets to do that because he's God. Unless I am missing something here, any claim I make to sanctifying myself is a claim that I am God. And I do very badly in that role.

So sanctification is God's work, a matter of the Kingdom at God's Right Hand, where our will is bound, and where the gospel of grace is God's modus operandi.

In the Kingdom at God's Left Hand, OTOH :-) , we have freedom, we live under the law and, like Yertle the turtle, we are rulers of all we see. This is the place in which we do good works, do good things, bear fruit. This is the place in which we pray for the other kingdom to come, today, especially, into the lives of a mother, a child and a baby-daddy in Iowa. This is the place in which we make decisions, day after day, moment by moment, about our behavior.

Consider the 1 Thessalonians 4:3 passage. The NIV renders this passage, badly in my opinion, as though our abstaining from fornication is a cause of our sanctification. KJV, RSV & NRSV do more justice to Paul and the Greek, in my opinion. Based on those, the TSV* would read "God is who makes you holy; it is his will that you not screw around!" In other words, God having sanctified you, you should exercise your freedom in the Kingdom on the Left to avoid willful sin.

This will not sanctify you further - how much more holy can you make yourself than God can make you? - and it will not make you not a sinner, though it will make you a slightly better behaved one. You should avoid willful sin because 1) it protects your neighbor - 1st Use, 2) it allows you to be serving God rather than Satan, and 3) by trying to live a life that is in consonance with your faith, your witness is enhanced. This last reason is what I think you're getting at John, when you speak of growing the kingdom.

(As for "restoration of the kingdom" (?), see Acts 1:6-8. Which is not an excuse to do nothing; even if we do not know the when, we have been empowered to be part of the how.)

I think this kind of thinking, and preaching, is pure Lutheran doctrine. It is not pietistic, in the negative sense, it is not works righteousness, it is not legalistic, it is not antinomian, it is not judgmental, and it is the pure good news of God in Jesus Christ. I sincerely hope that this is a message that will resonate.

Am I wrong? If not, then what are we teaching our what methods are we using that are muddling this message so that someone is hearing something else or the message is not resonating with our mission field?

Peace, Tony

*the perpetually in progress Tony Stoutenburg Version

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