Friday, December 28, 2007

Top Books of 2007

1. The Future of Justification: A Response to N.T. Wright - John Piper gives us a great example on how to engage in theological controversy and does a great job in representing and understanding Wright's view on justification.

2. Lord Jesus Christ Devotion of Jesus in Earliest Christianity - Larry Hurtado builds a historical case for the divinity of Christ based on the early church early devotion to him.

3. Shadow of the Temple:Jewish Influences on Early Christianity - Oskar Skarsaune shows that early Christianity was build upon a very Jewish world-view.

4. The Mission of God:Unlocking the Bible's Grand Narrative - Christopher Wright illustrates that the entire biblical narrative from the OT to the NT is grounded in a missonal God, who aims to bless the nations. A must read!!!

5. Hell Under Fire:Modern Scholarship Reinvents Eternal Punishment - A great defense of the traditional view of hell (eternal punishment) over and against the idea of annihilation from a variety of conservative scholars (Bock, Moo, Beale). I particularly enjoyed Bock's article on the OT thoughts on the afterlife and Sinclair Ferguson's article on how to preach on hell.

6. Paul, Judaism, and the Gentiles, Beyond the New Perspective - Francis Watson gives a great exegetical study of Paul which seems to take seriously it's historical and social context.

7. Fundamentalism and American Culture - George Marsden gives a penetrating historical account of Fundamentalism. A must read in understanding Fundamentalism.

8. Knowing Jesus Through the Old Testament - Christopher Wright has written a great book on understanding Jesus in his OT context. Probably my favorite book of the year.

9. Iustitia Dei A History of the Christian Doctrine of Justification - Alister McGrath gives a historical account of the doctrine of justification. I learned a lot from this book and especially the notion that the doctrine of justification was pretty diverse throughout history.

10. Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of Exile: Restoration Eschatology and the Origin of the Atonement - Brant Pitre has written a thought-provoking book on understanding how tribulation, exile, and restoration relate to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Volf's The End of Memory

In Miroslav Volf’s book, "The End of Memory: Remembering Rightly in a Violent World”, he teaches us how and for how long we should remember wrongs committed by others.

Volf teaches that we should remember in light of the “Exodus and Passion” narratives, which provides the appropriate framework in understanding God, who provides unconditional grace, affirms justice, and aims for communion and reconciliation. (pg. 121)

As for the question of “how long we should remember wrongs committed against us”, Volf teaches us that during the new heaven and earth we will not remember them after they have been appropriately dealt with and reconciliation between the offended and offender has occurred. It’s important to note the non-remembrance of wrongs during God’s consummated kingdom is a result of our minds being “rapt in the goodness of God and in the goodness of God’s new world”. (pg 214)

Not only has Volf drawn from scripture and other capable thinkers (Luther and Barth) in dealing with this subject but he includes his personal experience of being harshly interrogated as a Yugoslavian soldier thus producing a mature, challenging, and thoughtful book.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

God’s Promises

In Christopher Wright’s “Knowing Jesus through the Old Testament”, he reminds us that God doesn’t give his people “flat predications” but promises which involves more of a personal and dynamic commitment. Wright states that because there is a relationship behind God’s promises “the material form in which it is fulfilled may be quite different from the literal form in which it was original made, and yet it is no less a valid fulfillment of the promise. (pg. 71)”

To help the reader understand this point, Wright gives a wonderful analogy of a father and a son. He writes:

“Imagine a father who, in the days before mechanized transport, promises his son, aged 5, that when he is 21 he will give him a horse for himself. Meanwhile the motor car is invented. So on his 21st birthday the son awakes to find a motor car outside, ‘with love from Dad’. It would be a strange son who would accuse his father of breaking his promise just because there was no horse. And even stranger if, in spite of having received the far superior motor car, the son insisted that the promised would only be fulfilled if a horse also materialized, since that was the literal promise. It is obvious that with the change in circumstances, unknown at the time the promise was made, the father has more than kept his promise. In fact he has done so in a way that surpasses the original words of the promise which were necessarily limited by the mode of transport available at that time. The promise was made in terms understood at the time. It was fulfilled in the light of new historical events. (pg 71)”

I think this idea is helpful in understanding things like God’s promising the land of Canaan in the Abrahamic covenant (Genesis 17:8) to his people and Paul redrawing it to include the whole world (Romans 4 :13).

The Ultimacy of Evangelism

What is the relationship between evangelism and social action? In the past, I have come to the conclusion that evangelism is primary or a priority over and against social action, but recently, I was challenged by Christopher Wright’s thinking on the subject in his book, The Mission of God. Wright doesn’t like describing the relationship between evangelism and social action as one of primacy or priority because of the following reasons:

“The language of the “priority of evangelism” implies that the only proper starting point must always be evangelistic proclamation. Priority means it is the most important, most urgent, thing to be done first, and everything else must take second, third, or fourth place. But the difficulty with this is that (1) it is not always possible or desirable in the immediate situation, and (2) it does not even reflect the actual practice of Jesus” -pg. 318

Wright then suggests that we describe the relationship of evangelism and social action as one of ultimacy rather than primacy. He writes:

Mission may not always begin with evangelism. But mission that does not ultimately include declaring the Word and the name of Christ, the call to repentance, and faith obedience has not completed its task. It is defective mission, not holistic mission” –pg 319

Saturday, November 03, 2007

The Chens go to Washington

We visited Washington DC a few weeks ago, and we had a blast!! What a fun and exciting city!! We had a great time with Monica and friends. Here are a few pics from our trip.

Tour of the capitol.
Lincoln Memorial
Corcoran had a Lebowitz and Ansel Adams exhibit. Really cool!

Loved how all the Smithsonians are gratis. Dan being goofy.

Bored in the subway station.
Dan, Monica, Julia, Christine, Andy.

Dan and Geoff.

Washington Monument.

National Mall.

Tour of the White House. Last stop on the tour was a visit to the Press room. Thank you to Geoff, and Justin, for being so kind to take the time to take us on this special tour. It was one of our favorite parts of our trip.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Life in Pictures

A few pictures
that recap the highlights
from the last few months.

Vacation to Tulum, Mexico. One year anniversary!! :) Thu and Van's shower. Monica graduates Berkeley!! After a year of medicine and some other things, Julia starts the 2nd year of residency, and the 1st year of anesthesiology. Random visits by Clifford.....always a treat!! (Literally, he brings us cookies and pecan pie!) Monica visits Houston en route to DC, her next new home. We celebrate her birthday, but forget to take pictures. So we substitute with cute baby picture (see left). Phuong's bachlorette party in Cozumel. More fun in the sun for Julia. Vanessa's baby shower!! Lots of pink, yummy snacks, and a diaper cake. Danny gets engaged!! Congrats to Danny and Katie!! Harriet and Chuck get married!! Congrats to the newlyweds!! Eric and Fiona visit, and we have the 2nd annual crab fest at the Crab House in Kemah. Julia's Birthday! Dan made me add this picture. We've been buying a lot of baby presents this year, but Dan's proudest present is the one below: Baby Air Jordan's for Baby Alex. :)

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Part 3)

Hurtado notes two important features of Jewish monotheism:

"First, in addition to refusing to accept and worship any of the other deities of the Roman religious environment, conscientious Jews also maintained a distinction between the God of Israel and any of the exalted figures who could be seen as prominent in God's entourage, such as principal angels or revered human figures like Moses or Enoch. This distinction was most clearly maintained in discouraging the worship of these figures; and devout Jew insisted that worship was to be given to God alone".

"Second, the Jewish monotheistic stance forbade apotheosis, the divinization of human figures, and thus clashed with a major theme in pagan religion of the time. "

-pg 95

Friday, September 14, 2007

Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Part 2)

Hurtatdo's 4 historic forces/factors that initiated and formed an early Christ-devotion:

1) Jewish exclusivist monotheism
2) The impact of Jesus, particularly the polarizing effects of his career (people either loved or hated him)
3) Revelatory religious experience that communicated that Jesus had been given heavenly glory and that it was God's will for him to be given extraordinary reverence in their devotional life.
4) The encounter with larger religious environment, particularly the dynamics of countering Jewish polemics and of differentiating and justifying Christian devotion over against the dominant pagan practices. [1]

[1] pg.78

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Give God the Glory for Our White Garments

The call to be faithful to Christ is no small matter. For instance, John writes in Revelation 3 about Christ's word to the church in Sardis (Asia Minor):

Remember, then, what you received and heard. Keep it, and repent. If you will not wake up, I will come like a thief, and you will not know at what hour I will come against you. 4Yet you have still a few names in Sardis, people who have not soiled their garments, and they will walk with me in white, for they are worthy. 5 The one who conquers will be clothed thus in white garments, and I will never blot his name out of the book of life. (Revelation 3:2-5)

In these verses, Christ warns some Christians to repent in order to avoid judgment (v.3) and commends others, who have not "soiled their garments" (v.4) and thus will be receiving the benefits of walking with Christ in their white garments (v.4-5) and having their names never blotted out of the book of life (v.5) It's interesting to note that these white garments are later described as having been washed in the blood of Christ (Revelation 7:13-14) and made up of our faithfulness (righteous deeds) that will allow us to be properly covered and dressed for the presence of Christ (Revelation 19:7-8) [1]

13Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and from where have they come?" 14I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are the ones coming out of the great tribulation. They have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb. (Rev. 7:13-14)

7Let us rejoice and exult and give him the glory,for the marriage of the Lamb has come, and his Bride has made herself ready;8 it was granted her to clothe herself with fine linen, bright and pure"— for the fine linen is the righteous deeds of the saints. (Rev. 19:7-8)

If our righteous deeds are necessary to make ourselves ready for Christ's presence, how should we go about doing them? I think Piper said it best:

We do our righteous deeds, and therefore it is fitting that heaven cry out: "The Bride has made herself ready." But we do not do them in our own strength. They are a gift from God—prepared before the foundation of the world that we might walk in them (Ephesians 2:10). And therefore it is even more fitting that heaven cry out, "Give God the glory." [2]

[1] The connection between Christ's blood and the empowerment towards righteous deeds can also be seen in verses like 1 Peter 1:17-19, 2:24 and 3:18

[2] Sermon by John Piper, "Worship God", Revelation 19:1-10

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity (Part 1)

There are some scholars who believe that worship of Jesus Christ did not originate with the original Jewish-Christian groups but appeared later, after a long period of time, in a more Hellenistic-Christian groups.

In Larry Hurtado's book, "Lord Jesus Christ, Devotion to Jesus in Earliest Christianity", he argues against the idea above by making 3 points [1]:

1) Early stage of devotion to Christ
2) Unparalleled and intense devotion to Christ
3) Devotion to Christ was made in the context of strict Jewish monotheism

[1] pg 2 and 3

Expectations For John and Jesus

Zechariah's expectations:

1) Israel's redemption (Luke 1:67) through the house of David (v.69)
2) Saved from our enemies (Romans/Herod?) (Luke 1:71,74)
3) Fulfillment of Abraham's covenant (Luke 1:72)
4) Allow Israel to serve God without fear but in holiness (v.75)
5) God's return to Zion (v.76)
6) Forgiveness of sins (v.77)
7) Peace (v.79)

Mary's expectations:

1) Jesus will be the Son of God (Luke 1:32) and receive the throne of David (v.32)
2) Jesus will reign over the house of Jacob forever (v.33)
3) Save Israel from their sins (Matthew 1:21)

Wise Men's expectations:

1) Jesus as the king of the Jews (Matt.2:2)
2) Jesus as the shepherd of Israel (v.6)
3) Jesus as worthy to be worshiped (v.2)

Simon's expectations:

1) Consolation of Israel (Luke 1:25)
2) Jesus will be a light to the Gentiles (v.32)
3) Jesus will be for the glory of Israel (v.32)
4) Jesus will be appointed for the falling and rising of many in Israel (v.34)

Anna's expectation:

1) The redemption of Jerusalem

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Christ's Victory

One amazing thing about the gospel is that Christ provides both justification (forgiveness) sanctification (progressive innate holiness until the 2nd coming) and glorification (innate perfect holiness after the 2nd coming) to those who receive Him as Lord, Savior, and treasure. I think it's important to remember that if God ,through Christ, doesn't provide glorification ( the perfect and holy resurrection of our bodies) then sin and death would not be ultimately defeated (1 Corinthians 15:54-58). For if God's plan of redemption just provided forgiveness of sins and thus allowed us to go to a spiritual realm called heaven (Phil 1:23 and 2 Corthinians 5:8- which would be great too a large degree) then Satan/sin/death would have ultimately foiled God's good and physical creation (Genesis 1).

But since Christ has physically risen from the dead and because Christians are connected by faith to him, we will also rise (Romans 6) thus we can sing of Christ's victory now and forever.

"Death is swallowed up in victory." 55 "O death, where is your
victory? O death, where is your sting?" 56The sting
of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. 57But thanks be to God, who
gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. (1 Corthinians

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 3

Simon Gathercole has an interesting view on God's final judgment. First, Gathercole believes that Paul’s Jewish contemporaries anticipated in a final judgment based on works.

“[T]he function of works, then, is, for Paul’s Jewish contemporaries, not primarily to mark them out as distinct from Gentiles but to secure vindication at the eschatological judgment. This is what is most immediately in view in Romans 3:19-10: Paul is opposing the idea that his Jewish contemporaries will be vindicated by God at the final judgment on the basis of a wholehearted obedience to the law. [pg. 239]

Secondly, Gathercole thinks Paul's principal disagreement with his Jewish contemporaries is the idea that sinful man (the flesh) can’t receive “God’s transforming grace” not that the final judgment is based on works.

“Paul particular complaint is that this impossible for the flesh, for the sinful person who has not received God’s transforming grace in Christ. Paul is not opposed in principle to the idea of final vindication on the basis of obedience; in this respect he agrees with his Jewish interlocutor (Rom. 2:7-10) What he disputes is the ability of the flesh to obey sufficiently to attain this justification (Rom. 8:3,7) [pg.239]

“In the light of this, then, Paul can be seen to be opposing the confidence of Jews in final vindication on the basis of obedience to the law. Again, this is not because he disagrees with the eschatological framework of his Jewish contemporaries or because he thinks obedience is unimportant but, rather, because he views obedience to Torah as impossible without the transforming power of Christ and the Spirit. [pg.240]

Lastly, Gathercole has some interesting thoughts on the relationship between “initial justification” and “the final judgment”, with the link being perseverance.

“Can this diversity, even within Paul himself, be accounted for? If can as long as we do not have a monolithic conception of justification whereby it only ever refers in the New Testament to the justification of the ungodly. A particularly important clue comes in the Jesus tradition from Matthew 12. The New Testament does not offer two ways of salvation, one by faith and one by works. Rather, the category of those who are justified by faith is coextensive with those will be justified on the final day after a whole life of perseverance. The two groups are identical; there are none who begin in faith but, as a result of not obeying, are not vindicated. Similarly, for Paul, it does not make sense to speak those who have somehow managed to obey outside faith. Obedience is the “the obedience of faith” (Rom. 1:5, etc.). [pg.235]

[1] These quotes are taken from the book "Justification in Perspectives: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges" edited by Bruce McCormack

Monday, July 30, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 2

In my opinion, Gathercole has a unique view of how God justifies the ungodly. Normally, I think of justification as occurring after regeneration and faith, but Gathercole seems to have justification as creating the latter two.

Gathercole, speaking on the “potential dangerous” of Protestant view, writes:

“The principal trouble is if one supposes that God can declare something to be the case (namely, that the sinner is righteous) but that in reality the opposite state of affairs persists: in God’s eyes, that believer is justus (“righteous”), but his or her real being is fundamentally as peccator (“sinner”). We should more properly consider that God’s “speech-acts” are what determine reality; they do not merely create an alternative, Platonic reality. If God declares a sinner to be righteous, then he or she really is righteous. Reality at the forensic level (justus) is no less real then the reality made up of human actions (peccator).” [pg. 226]

Later Gathercole writes:

“In the light of the explanation of justification as a declaration with creative power, it is proper to see it as constituting a true definition of the being of the believer. The believer has not had an infusion of moral righteousness but is determined by God- in the cross- to be righteous. The righteousness here should not be understood either as an infused moral power or as covenant membership (as we will see in discussion with Wright below). According to Paul, when we are reckoned righteous, it is not that we have done what God requires, such that he is recognizing the status quo. Rather, even as we are ungodly, he declares us righteous. By God’s creative word, then, we stand as embodying everything that God requires. In our identity and being we have been determined righteous by God”. [pg 227].

Towards the end of the Gathercole’s essay, he states that “God’s creative word” gives faith in order to allow Christians to meet God’s entire requirement:

“Paul says “yes” to the alternative “instrumental cause” of faith, which he understands as trusting God’s promise. By divine decision, this reckoned as righteousness. That is to say, the believer is reckoned as having accomplished all that God requires. Justification then is not merely a reckoning as being in covenant membership. It is something bigger- God’s creative act whereby, through divine determination, the believer has done everything that God requires. [pg 240]

Thank Mike

All of FPC is indebted to Mike Chiu's humble service at the church. If it wasn't for him, FPC wouldn't have experienced the great successes and joys over the years or be where it is at today. About 10 years ago, Mike was left as the only godly shepherd at FPC EM after the departure of most (and later all) of the adult leaders. From there, Mike could have easily left FPC for green pastures but instead decided to stay to help the remnant of youth still at the church, thus laying the foundation for its future successes and blessings.

Without Mike, there would have been no John Potter, Powerball, study on Romans, graduation banquet at Pepper Tree, Mexico and New Orleans mission trips, basketball goal, lock-in, corny jokes, bowling, stupid Jedi/Ninja videos, Darko, Marie nicknames, City Fest, Wii, help on school projects, worship team, expository preaching, membership class, good bbq at that one retreat, Chi Chi's summer group, Wilson turning CRAZY at the sight of a wasp, no "Silly, Billy, or Killy", Circle of Death, Chicken butt, and retreat shirts with a chicken on it.

Maybe the statement above is overstated and that we in some measure would have experienced all these things at FPC even without Mike, but I know for a fact it wouldn't have been the same enjoyable, life changing, and God-exalting experience without him. So as Mike leaves for San Diego, we should all remember to "thank Mike".

Monday, July 16, 2007

Seifrid and Alien Righteousness

"Faith spans the gap between the present and the day of judgment. It is the true worship, which sets the believer in constant movement forwards, and which counts as righteousness before God (Phil. 3 verses 3, 9). Paul has it as his aim 'that I might be found in him not having my own righteousness which is from the law, but the righteousness which through "the faith of Christ", the righteousness from God on the basis of faith' (verse 9). Here he has in view the day when God will examine him, and hopes to meet that judgment with the 'righteousness of faith'. The righteousness Paul desires come from God, 'on the basis of faith'. Faith, not the righteousness from the law, constitutes piety before God. Yet this righteousness accorded to faith is an 'alien righteousness', which does not belong to Paul as his righteousness from the law once did. Faith and its righteousness from the law once did. Faith and its righteousness are present only "in Christ'. The 'faith of Christ' is faith which has its source in him, in his death and resurrection (verse 9). Paul's thought here is very close to his discussion of Abraham's faith in Romans 4. The 'righteousness from God on the basis faith' is at once absolute gift and recompense of obedience. "

- from Mark Seifrid's book "Christ, our Righteousness" pg. 90

Saturday, July 14, 2007

Gathercole and Justification Part 1

In Simon Gathercole’s essay “The Doctrine of Justification in Paul and Beyond” [1], he describes a view of the righteous that is “found in Christ”and how it relates to justification that is different to what I am accustomed to. Normally, I am use to hearing Christ’s fulfilling all of the law in order to earn salvation (Christ’s active obedience) [2].

In Gathercole’s “Forgiveness and Justification” selection, his view of how righteous relates to justification becomes clearer through his equating the term “righteous” with “forgiveness”. He writes while commenting on Romans 4:1-5:

“Despite numerous attempts by a wide variety of very different interpreters to avoid the face, Paul seems here to be defining the reckoning of righteousness as forgiveness of wrongs, covering sins, and not reckoning sin.” [pg 224].

From there, Gathercole explains why defining “righteousness” as “forgiveness” is tough for some people to do.

“The reason for the difficulty that interpreters have with this idea stems, it seems, from understanding forgiveness in too minimalistic terms. It is sometimes regarded merely as wiping the slate clean, which leaves us at zero-where we have no record of sin against us but no positive righteousness either. Paul, however, combines forgiveness with blessed and justification (Rom. 4:6-8) and also with reconciliation and justification (2 Cor. 5:18-21). Forgiveness appears, then not merely as a clearing of the account; it has (and there is a thoroughly Pauline mixing of metaphors) relational contours as well. Justification is not forgiveness in the sense of forgiveness of a debt in abstraction from a relationship (e.g. a waiver of a debt to a bank). Rather, it is forgiveness of a personal wrong (disobedience and offense against God’s glory), such that forgiveness of the personal wrong means restoration of the relationship. And restoration of the relationship is tantamount to talking of divine acceptance, since the initiative needs to come from the divine side. There has perhaps been too much separation of images such as justification, forgiveness, and reconciliation when such a separation does not really seem to work with Paul: for him, one image often suggests another (Rom.3:24-26;5:8-9; 2 Cor.5:17-21)” [pg 225]

[1] This essay is found in the book "Justification in Perspectives: Historical Developments and Contemporary Challenges" edited by Bruce McCormack

[2] Gathercole in discussing the current debates surrounding imputation states plainly that he holds to traditional view of imputation of Christ’s righteousness. See pg 223

Tuesday, June 26, 2007

No More ICEEs

My beautiful doctor-wife, Julia, sent me to get a blood test last week. And I found out that I am high in Triglycerides, which means:

1. Eat less of foods high in sugar ('sweets' like candy, cookies, cake, pie; non-diet sodas; fruit juices).
2. Eat less of the foods high in rapidly-digested starches (white bread, rice, potatoes, noodles or pasta). The 'Sugar Busters' diet book, available in most bookstores, suggests alternatives like whole wheat bread and pasta, brown rice, and sweet potatoes (without marshmallows or brown sugar topping).
3. Limit your intake of alcohol to no more than 2 drinks a day.
4. If your triglyceride level is very high, avoid alcohol altogether.
5. Eat more broiled or baked fish (twice a week). The best sources of healthy 'omega-3 fatty acids' are fatty fish like salmon, herring, sardines, trout, and tuna. If you don't eat fish often enough, you could take 3 fish oil capsules a day (or the number needed to supply the recommended total of 1 gram of omega-3 fatty acids EPA & DHA).
6. Minimize your intake of saturated fat by following the guidelines above.
7. Exercise as close to daily as possible, for at least 30 minutes each time (walking, jogging, biking, etc.)
8. Lose weight if you are overweight or obese, and keep your weight as close to ideal as possible

I also found out that I am "pre-diabetic" which means:

1. Limit sweets in diet.
2. Increase exercise
3. No more ICEEs

It's time for a new lifestyle. Which should be easy since I got friends to encourage me like Pat, who said: "haha. you don't need any more cookies, fatso."

Monday, June 18, 2007

Ezekiel 18 and Individual Sins

Ezekiel 18 addresses how God not only takes into account Israel's corporate sin but also the sins of the individual (v.1-4) for "the soul who sins shall die" (v.4). Even though God punish the wicked for their sins (v.10-13), he also gives life to the righteous, who is described as obeying God's commandments (v.5-9):

"5"If a man is righteous and does what is just and right-- 6if he does not eat upon the mountains or lift up his eyes to the idols of the house of Israel, does not defile his neighbor's wife or approach a woman in her time of menstrual impurity, 7does not oppress anyone, but restores to the debtor his pledge, commits no robbery, gives his bread to the hungry and covers the naked with a garment, 8does not lend at interest or take any profit, withholds his hand from injustice, executes true justice between man and man, 9walks in my statutes, and keeps my rules by acting faithfully--he is righteous; he shall surely live, declares the Lord GOD" (Ezekiel 18:5-9)

And if the wicked (v.10-13) repents and turns to God, his or her sins will be forgiven (v.21-23).

"21"But if a wicked person turns away from all his sins that he has committed and keeps all my statutes and does what is just and right, he shall surely live; he shall not die. 22None of the transgressions that he has committed shall be remembered against him; for the righteousness that he has done he shall live. 23Have I any pleasure in the death of the wicked, declares the Lord GOD, and not rather that he should turn from his way and live?" (Ezekiel 18-21-23)

But if the righteous (v.5-9) departs from faith, he will be punished (v.24)

24But when a righteous person turns away from his righteousness and does injustice and does the same abominations that the wicked person does, shall he live? None of the righteous deeds that he has done shall be remembered; for the treachery of which he is guilty and the sin he has committed, for them he shall die. (Ezekiel 18:24)

Ezekiel 18 ends with a call to repent and turn to God with "a new heart and new spirit", which seems to echo the New Covenant (Ezekiel 37:14 and Jeremiah 31:33)

30"Therefore I will judge you, O house of Israel, every one according to his ways, declares the Lord GOD. Repent and turn from all your transgressions, lest iniquity be your ruin.[c] 31Cast away from you all the transgressions that you have committed, and make yourselves a new heart and a new spirit! Why will you die, O house of Israel? 32For I have no pleasure in the death of anyone, declares the Lord GOD; so turn, and live." (Ezekiel 18:20-32)

It's interesting that Ezekiel's audience considered God's way of life and punishment as unjust (v.25-27) in the OT, which appears to be solved by Christ's propitiatory death in the NT (Romans 3:21-26).

21But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it-- 22the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction: 23for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, 24and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, 25whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God's righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. 26It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus. (Romans 3:21-16)

Friday, June 15, 2007

The New Covenant in Jeremiah 30-33

New Covenant= Regeneration and Justification?

When I first heard of the New Covenant I thought it just consisted of 1) Regeneration (law written on the “heart” (Jer. 31: 33)) and 2) Justification (forgiveness of sins (Jer. 31.34)) as expounded in Jeremiah 31:31-34:

31"Behold, the days are coming, declares the LORD, when I will make a new covenant with the house of Israel and the house of Judah, 32not like the covenant that I made with their fathers on the day when I took them by the hand to bring them out of the land of Egypt, my covenant that they broke, though I was their husband, declares the LORD. 33But this is the covenant that I will make with the house of Israel after those days, declares the LORD: I will put my law within them, and I will write it on their hearts (REGENERATION). And I will be their God, and they shall be my people. 34And no longer shall each one teach his neighbor and each his brother, saying, 'Know the LORD,' for they shall all know me, from the least of them to the greatest, declares the LORD. For I will forgive their iniquity, and I will remember their sin no more(JUSTIFICATION)".

The Return from Exile and The Restoration of Israel and Judah

But as I examine the surrounding context of Jer. 31:31-34, it seems that the “regeneration” and “justification” elements are situated in the “Return from Exile” (Jer. 30:3, 10,18, 31:6,8-9.10,16-17,21, and 32:37) and the “Restoration of Israel and Judah” (Jer. 30:3.7,10,11,17-20,22,31:1,4,38,40 and 33:6-9,11, 14) motifs.

An example of the“regeneration” element being found in the context of the “Return from Exile” and the “Restoration of Israel and Judah” motifs can be found in Jeremiah 32:37-41:

“37Behold, I will gather them from all the countries to which I drove them in my anger and my wrath and in great indignation. I will bring them back to this place (RETURN FROM EXILE), and I will make them dwell in safety. 38And they shall be my people, and I will be their God. 39I will give them one heart and one way, that they may fear me forever (REGENERATION) , for their own good and the good of their children after them. 40I will make with them an everlasting covenant, that I will not turn away from doing good to them. And I will put the fear of me in their hearts, that they may not turn from me. 41I will rejoice in doing them good, and I will plant them in this land in faithfulness, with all my heart and all my soul (RESTORATION).”

Also an example of the "justification" element being situated in the “Restoration of Israel and Judah” motif can be found in Jeremiah 33:6-9:

6Behold, I will bring to it health and healing, and I will heal them and reveal to them abundance of prosperity and security. 7I will restore the fortunes of Judah and the fortunes of Israel, and rebuild them as they were at first (RESTORATION). 8I will cleanse them from all the guilt of their sin against me, and I will forgive all the guilt of their sin and rebellion against me. (JUSTIFICATION) 9And this city[c] shall be to me a name of joy, a praise and a glory before all the nations of the earth who shall hear of all the good that I do for them. They shall fear and tremble because of all the good and all the prosperity I provide for it (RESTORATION).


So maybe when the Jews of Jesus’ and Paul’s day heard the term “new covenant” (Luke 22:20, 1 Corinthians 11:25), they thought of “regeneration” and “justification” in the context of Return from Exile” and “Restoration of Israel and Judah” motifs

Saturday, June 09, 2007


Check-out John MacArthur, C.J. Mahaney, and Thabiti Anyabwile ballin. (HERE)

And check-out The Office fellas below:

Friday, June 08, 2007

Piper, Wright, and Justification Part 1

I love both of John Piper's and N.T. Wright's writings and I also believe both of these guys are precious gifts to the church. Beyond this, I know Piper's upcoming book will do justice to Wright's view of justification even though they will probably and ultimately disagree because of their different views on "imputation of Christ's active righteousness".

I believe Piper's biggest problem with Wright's view of justification is his belief that works will some how "merit", "earn", or "be credited for" our final justification. In some sense, Piper is right to note this, for Wright clearly states that Christian good works will some how be "credited" for our final justification. Wright states

"What we are not encouraged to do is to draw up a checklist of things done and not done, to weigh them against one another and thereby to arrive at the final verdict. This suggests that Paul is being careful not to endorse the merit-measuring schemes that, despite not being at the covenantal heart of Judaism, nevertheless played some role in discussions of final judgment" [1]

"What is our hope and joy and crown of boasting before our Lord Jesus Christ at his royal appearing? Is it not you? For you are our glory and our joy.’ (1 Thess. 3.19f.; cp. Phil. 2.16f.) I suspect that if you or I were to say such a thing, we could expect a swift rebuke of ‘nothing in my hand I bring, simply to thy cross I cling’. The fact that Paul does not feel obliged at every point to say this shows, I think, that he is not as concerned as we are about the danger of speaking of the things he himself has done – though sometimes, to be sure, he adds a rider, which proves my point, that it is not his own energy but that which God gives and inspires within him (1 Cor. 15.10; Col. 1.29). But he is still clear that the things he does in the present, by moral and physical effort, will count to his credit on the last day, precisely because they are the effective signs that the Spirit of the living Christ has been at work in him." [2]

Add to this, Wright's open denial of Christ crediting his perfect obedience to Christians (imputation) and it seems we got a problem. Wright states:

What I do object to is calling this truth by a name which, within the world of thought where it is common coin, is bound to be heard to say that Jesus has himself earned something called ‘righteousness’, and that he then reckons this to be true of his people (as in the phrase ‘the merits of Christ’ [3]

In Piper's theological system, he also believes in the necessity of Christian good works at the final judgment, but he can describe these good works as "evidences" or "fruits" of truth faith and not something that "earns" justification because in his system, Christ's has already perfectly obeyed the law and thus "earned" and is the "basis" of the Christians' justification. Piper commenting on Romans 2:6-10:

(I)n general, there are two possible answers to this question. One says that eternal life would be based on perfect obedience if anybody had it. But nobody does, and so the only way to eternal life is by faith in Christ. The other way says that God never promised eternal life on the basis of good deeds, but always makes good deeds the evidence of faith that unites us to God in Christ, who is the basis of eternal life.

The other answer would say, it means that God does indeed give eternal life to those who persevere in obedience not because this obedience is perfect or because it is the basis or the merit of eternal life, but because saving faith always changes our lives in the power of the Holy Spirit so that true believers persevere in doing good. In other words, a changed life of obedience to God's truth (verse 8) is not the basis of eternal life, but the evidence of authentic faith which unites us to Christ who is the basis of eternal life. [4]

So within Piper's theological system, Wright will always be a "semi-Pelagian", no matter how many times he states that Christians are saved by grace. But it's important to note that in order for Piper to make Wright fit into his theological system, he needs to first prove that God requires perfect obedience from all men for salvation, which I believe is a very hard thing to do [5].

[1] Wright's Romans commentary pg 440

[2] Wright's essay “New Perspective on Paul"

[3] Wright's essay "Paul in Different Perspective"

[4] John Piper's sermon, "The Final Divide: Eternal Life or Eternal Wrath, Part 2"

[5] See "A Defense of the “Active Obedience” of Jesus Christ In The Justification of Sinners: A Biblical Refutation of Norman Shepherd on the Perceptive Obedience of the Savior" by Brian Schwertley

Thursday, June 07, 2007

Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile

Brant Pitre's book, " Jesus, the Tribulation, and the End of the Exile" is one of the most interesting and stimulating books I have ever read. In the book, Dr. Pitre carefully works through OT, NT, and 2nd Temple Jewish sources and concludes:

"Jesus, speaking of himself as both Son of Man and Messiah, deliberately took the suffering of the tribulation upon himself in order to atone for the sins of Israel, sins which had led them into exile. Because he saw this tribulation as nothing less than an eschatological Passover, he sought to inaugurate it in both word and deed and thereby, to bring about the End of the Exile and the restoration of the twelve tribes in a New Exodus." - pg 506

Tuesday, April 03, 2007

Rockets' Play Day

Rockets' Play Day consisted of:

shooting on the Rocket court (I missed all 8 three-pointers...I was nervous)

free hotdogs
free nachos and sodas
BillyBen with Big Jake
Ben with J. Ho (the real one)

me and Luther

Shane playing ping-pong with the kidsBen with Novak
Yao with the people
Yao playing air hockey with the kids

And Dirk scaring the kids