Saturday, July 19, 2008

Book Recommendation: Salvation Belongs to Our God

In the past couple of years, Christopher Wright has quickly become one of my all-time favorite authors, so I was real excited to read his new book, Salvation Belongs to Our God: Celebrating the Bible’s Central Story. The book did not disappoint.

In Wright’s new book, he seeks to give a biblical perspective on salvation, using the biblical passage Rev. 7:10 (Salvation belongs to our God, who sits on the throne, and to the Lamb) as a template.

Here are some things I loved about this book.

  1. The holistic view of salvation by surveying the OT and NT (ch. 1) and recognizing that the Bible makes priorities within salvation. For an example, Wright notes that “being saved from the wrath of God matters a lot more in the end than being saved from illness or injustice (pg. 17- 18).

  1. The emphasis that salvation belongs only to God and that he is the ultimate source of it (ch. 2)

  1. An understanding that blessings includes creational (material) relational (both with God and humans), covenantal, ethical (makes demands), multinational and Christological properties (Ch. 3)

  1. The story of salvation is found deeply embedded in the story of God's covenant with Israel and with the climax of the narrative being found in Christ’s new covenant (pg 88 -93)

  1. I found Wright to be extremely sensitive and wise on how he deals with tough issues like salvation in other religions (pg. 109 – 110), assurance of salvation (pg. 129 -135) and the consequences of those who never hear the gospel (pg. 157 – 171)

  1. Wright gives a great overview of understanding how Christ’s cross and resurrection accomplishes salvation (pg 182 -193).

  1. The book also includes questions after each chapter, so that it could be easily used in a small group.

If John Murray’s book, Redemption, Accomplished and Applied, is the classic book on salvation from an ordo salutis (order of salvation) perspective (I believe it is) than I think Christopher Wright’s book should be the standard for a chronological survey of the OT and NT perspective on salvation for years to come. GET THIS BOOK!!!!

Friday, July 18, 2008

"Reconciling James and Paul": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 3

So how does James' thought on justification by faith and works (v.24) relate to Paul's thought on justification by faith (Rom. 4 and Gal. 2)? I think James' thought can be harmonizes with Paul's, but I also think it's important to note that James' main point is to stress that good works is important for salvation and not to give a dissertation on how faith, works, and justification (salvation) are related.

Differences in Paul and James

I think the best way to harmonies Paul and James is to note the following differences:

1. Paul and James appears to have different definitions of faith.

Robert Stein notes that "the faith of James's opponent involves merely intellectual assent to propositions such as "God is one." It is a belief that certain propositions are true. Paul's use of the words "faith" and "believe" involves faith in God and his Son. It is not merely propositional, although that element is present. It is also relational! Faith for Paul involves a relationship of grace and love toward God that results in a transformed life" [1]

2. In Romans and Gal, Paul's tension is between faith and "works of the law" (Mosaic law) and not "good works" in general.

Richard Bauckham writes " When Paul refers to "works of the law" (a phrase not used by James) it is with special, though not exclusive, reference to boundary markers, such circumcision and food laws, which symbolized Jewish exclusivity. James, on the other hand, is entirely oblivious to the question of Gentile believers in Christ, and the works he has in mind are acts of neighborly love." [2]

3. Paul seems to have a more realized understanding of justification while James has a more futuristic (eschatological) one. [3]


With these points in mind, I believe James is stressing the importance of the final judgment in accordance with works (Romans 2:), while Paul is stressing the importance of initial or realized justification by faith alone over and against those who are obedient to the Mosaic law [4]

[1] pg 6 of "Saved by Faith [Alone]" in Paul "Not Saved faith Alone" in James by Robert Stein.

[2] pg 1488 of Eerdmans Commentary on the Bible.

[3] See Gathercole on pg 234 in "Justification in Perspective" (McCormack), M. Seifrid on pg 182 in "Christ, our Righteousness", and pg 13 and 14 of R. Stein's article mentioned above.

[4] Even though James states a person is "justified by works" and not "will be justified by works". I think James is using proleptic language (bringing in the future verdict into present) to stress the importance of having good works in the present because the final verdict is in accordance with it.

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

James' Main Point: Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 2

1. Faith without good works can't save someone because it's "dead" (v14-17).

2. Faith without good works is useless and absurd because the demons have faith that mentally asserts in God's monotheistic existence which produces nothing but fear (v. 18-20)

3. Abraham is cited as an example of being justified by works (v.21) in his offering of Isaac (Gen.22) and his faith was somehow completed by this work (v.22) thus confirming God's declaration of Abraham as righteous by faith in Gen. 15:6 (v.23).

4. James summarizes that a person is declared right by God because of works and faith (v.24)

5. Rahab is cited as an example as a person justified by works (v.25)

6. James concludes with a metaphor that compares a body apart from the spirit and faith without works, starting that both of these things are dead (v.26).

Conclusion- I believe that the main point of James 2:14-26 is to stress the importance of good works to Christians over and against the idea that a mental assertion of God's monotheistic existence is enough to get one saved.

Debate on the Topic of Divorce: Instone-Brewer vs Piper

Last October (I know this is "old" news, but my small group was discussing divorce yesterday), David Instone-Brewer and John Piper had a very informative debate on divorce. Instone-Brewer defends a position which would allow divorce for 1) adultery 2) persistent emotional and physical neglect and 3) abandonment and abuse. [1] Piper responds with a position that only allows for divorce in the case of "fornication during betrothal" [2].

Later, Andreas Köstenberger weighs-in and offers a position that would allow divorce for 1) adultery and 2) non-believer's abandonment of a believer. [3] In another blog post, Köstenberger answers questions in regards to his position, which is definitely worth reading [4]

Divorce is a tough topic and I sympathize with all the position mentioned above, but I think Köstenberger probably has the best interpretation as it relates to the plain biblical texts on divorce, but I am very intrigued by Instone-Brewer use of extra-biblical sources to hash out the meaning of Jesus and Paul.

[1] See Instone-Brewer's CT article, "What God Has Joined: What does the Bible really teach about divorce?" and his short response to Piper's critique.

[2] See Piper's article, critiquing Instone-Brewer, entitled "Tragically Widening the Grounds of Legitimate Divorce: A Response to Instone-Brewer's Article In Christianity Today".

[3] See Köstenberger's blog entry, "Clarfying the NT on Divorce"

[4] See Köstenberger;s blog entry, "Q&A on Divorce and Remarriage". *A MUST READ!!!!)

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

Eternal or Physical Salvation": Thoughts on James 2:14:26 Part 1

"14What good is it, my brothers, if someone says he has faith but does not have works? Can that faith save him?"

Eternal or Physical Salvation?

It's clear from James 2:14 that good works are necessary in faith for salvation? But how is James defining salvation here? Does he mean eternal or physical salvation?

2 Reasons for the Meaning of Eternal Salvation

I think he could mean both, but with more of an emphasis on eternal salvation. I think James 5:13-20 clearly focuses on physical salvation (healing from physical illness) but I also believe eternal salvation is also in view because of the following 2 reasons:

1) The "Crown of Life" reference found in James 1:12 is used in Revelation 2:9-11 as referring to eternal salvation (It's interesting that John uses this phrase in the context of a call for Christians to persevere in suffering and poverty, which is similar to James' context).

9"'I know your tribulation and your poverty but you are rich) and the slander of those who say that they are Jews and are not, but are a synagogue of Satan. 10Do not fear what you are about to suffer. Behold, the devil is about to throw some of you into prison, that you may be tested, and for ten days you will have tribulation. Be faithful unto death, and I will give you the crown of life. 11He who has an ear, let him hear what the Spirit says to the churches.The one who conquers will not be hurt by the second death.' -Rev. 2:9-11

2) There are a bunch of verses that suggest the need for good works (sanctification) in order to receive eternal life (Rom. 2:6-11, Gal 5:16-24, John 5:29, Mathew 25:31-46, 2 and Peter 3:11-13)


I believe that James is stating that good works are usually necessary for eternal and physical salvation [1].

[1] In regards to physical salvation, I do believe James realize that physical death can occur despite a Christian, who lives righteously (cf.James 5:6) so that one's holiness doesn't guarantee a person's good health.