Romans 13 & Proverbs: Wisdom Says No to Violent Revolution & The KING Says Yes Only to Love

Does Paul derive the critical passage in Romans 13 on how Christian’s should relate to “the king” from the very pragmatic, earthy & Jewish book of Proverbs? Below is a demonstration that Romans 13:1-7 seems to essentially be the Apostle Paul using Proverbs as pragmatic & pithy advice to early Christians to discourage violent revolution, against withholding the hated tribute & against unwisely & unnecessarily invoking the inevitable violence of the king. But more importantly it is a positive call, along with the entire text of Romans 12 and 13, to use Love (not violent revolution!) as the force to overcomes evil in the world.

Here is a comparison that might indicate Paul is stitching together Proverbs to create the text of the first part of Romans 13.

Romans 13:1 – Let every soul be subject unto the higher powers. For there is no power but of God: the powers that be are ordained of God. Proverbs 24:21 – Fear the king. Proverbs 8:15-16 – By God kings reign. By God all princes & judges on earth rule. Proverbs 21:1a – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD…
Romans 13:2 – Whosoever therefore resisteth the power, resisteth the ordinance of God: and they that resist shall receive to themselves damnation. Proverbs 24:21 -…meddle not with them that are given to change [NIV=rebellion]: Proverbs 24:22/NLT – for disaster will hit them suddenly. Who knows what punishment will come from the LORD and the king? Proverbs 20:2b – whoso provoketh him [the king] to anger sinneth against his own soul.
Romans 13:3 – For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil. Wilt thou then not be afraid of the power? do that which is good, and thou shalt have praise of the same: Proverbs 14:35 – The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.
Romans 13:4 – For he is the minister of God to thee for good. But if thou do that which is evil, be afraid; for he beareth not the sword in vain: for he is the minister of God, a revenger to execute wrath upon him that doeth evil. Proverbs 8:15 – By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. Proverbs 14:35a – The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame. Proverbs 20:2 – The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul. Proverbs 16:14a – The wrath of a king is as messengers of death…
Romans 13:5 – Wherefore ye must needs be subject, not only for wrath, but also for conscience sake. Proverbs 14:35 – The king’s… wrath is against him that causeth shame. Ecclesiastes 8:2/NIV – Obey the king’s command, I say, because you took an oath before God.
Romans 13:6 – For for this cause pay ye tribute also: for they are God’s ministers, attending continually upon this very thing. Proverbs 3:27a – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due… Proverbs 21:1a – The king’s heart is in the hand of the LORD…
Romans 13:7 –  Render therefore to all their dues: tribute to whom tribute is due; custom to whom custom; fear to whom fear; honour to whom honour. Proverbs 3:27 – Do not withhold good from those to whom it is due, When it is in your power to do it. (Commentary: and the king is due fear!) Proverbs 24:21 -…fear thou the LORD and the king:

If Proverbs guides us in what Romans 13:1-7 is saying, it certainly communicates a Christian condemnation of the kind of violent revolution that is at the core of the founding of many nations, including the United States. If Romans 13:1-7 says anything, it condemns “Christian’s” founding a nation using violent revolution.

An implicit condemnation in Romans 13 comes from the fact that the characteristics of “the king” are characteristics Christians should expressly not have! “The king” as a “violent lion” is contrasted with the very different standard that Paul is explicitly calling the Romans to, and God is calling all men to, that of Love , which was taught & modeled by the King of Kings (the Lion of Judah! the one “Lion & Lamb” referred to in the Bible). The King of Kings first call to humans is to “Owe no many anything but Love”.

Kingdoms which use violence, even in the name of a more perfect order, are doomed to be kingdoms that pass away. Outside Christ and His Kingdom, outside of the “very good” Creation, God has given power to a “rev limiter”, a stop gap on evil run out of control, and that is the human self destruction of violence against violence. As Jesus says it: “They that take the sword shall perish by it.” and John confirms that the holy are patient because “They that kill with the sword will be killed by it” (Re 13:10) This world is by necessity one which will “perish” and “pass away” because destruction is in it’s DNA.

Daniel says “[God’s kingdom] will crush all those kingdoms and bring them to an end” (Daniel 2:44/NIV). How? Paul himself notes one way just a few chapters later in Romans “The God of Peace will soon crush Satan under your feet.” (Romans 16:20) What can Love of Jesus in the hearts of humans do other than be the “destruction of destruction”?

This post triggered by another post: Is Romans 12 & 13 a Medley of Proverbs?

Some Things You May Not Have Known about Martin Luther King

I’ve recently been working through Martin Luther King’s “A Testament of Hope”. Here are some quick thoughts from my notes on this holiday honoring Martin Luther King.

My overall thoughts are that MLK challenged practices in “Christian” America that were anything but Christian. I am continually scandalized at what “Christian America” could consider Christian not that long ago! The challenge for me today is humility & repentance for the perpetual challenge, facing even those of us inside the church, of setting ourselves up as superior to others and seeing God’s Kingdom as big as it truly is.

So now, some other random thoughts:

MLK says much about peace that conservative Anabaptist’s agree with & Evangelical Christian’s can learn from

For example he notes on page 10 “Always avoid violence…” and he meant exactly what he said. Also: “violence, even in self-defense, creates more problems than it solves…” [p58] MLK spent much effort convincing others that the proper Christian response was one of love and not violence.

I am impressed by the many meetings (noted in “Stride Toward Freedom”) the black leaders of Montgomery had to train in extremely practical ways (It reminds me of Mennonite bible school sessions on nonresistance!) on how to respond with love and respect in challenging situations. A question I have: If we are going to “learn war no more” (as the ancient Jewish prophet noted) wouldn’t it stand to reason that we will start “learning peace”?

Surprisingly MLK might not have been as gung-ho about Boycotts as you might expect

I always had the impression that MLK was an all out, no questions asked “boycott” supporter. But then I came across this: “I had to recognize that the boycott method could be used to unethical and unchristian ends…From then on I rarely used the word ‘boycott’…” [p428]. This was at the beginning of the events in Montgomery, which was at the beginning of MLK’s career as a civil rights leader.

MLK only had 20 minutes to prepare for “the most decisive speech of my life”

The Dec 5, 1955 speech launching the “noncooperation with the evil” of the Montgomery bus system was prepared in 5 minutes of prayer and 15 minutes of study [p433]. MLK had considerable concern about only having 20 minutes to prepare when he normally spent 15 hours preparing for a sermon. One of his main concerns was ensuring that he communicated & encouraged the Love of Jesus for all in the response. Listen to it here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5TmoFoG5P-U

MLK had words of truth for his fellow blacks

“Many of us [Negros] live above our means, spend money on nonessentials and frivolities…” [p150] In a magazine interview MLK was asked why donations largely come from non blacks and he noted:”We have to face and live with the fact that the Negro has not developed a sense of stewardship…”

I recommend reading “Stride Toward Freedom”

This is the narrative of what MLK called the non-cooperation with the Montgomery bus discrimination. It is very accessible and a good story to be familiar with.

Point of Disagreement: Nonresistance vs Nonviolence

In “Stride Toward Freedom” [p335] MLK notes “Nonresistance leaves you in a state of stagnant passivity and deadly complacency.” A question for those of us who use the term nonresistance might be: Is our nonresistance actually more passivity than loving the enemy? Is what I call nonresistance  actually a complacent attitude?

As I have thought about the difference between King’s “nonviolence” and conservative Anabaptist “nonresistance” I think the difference is not “action” versus “passivity”. This seems well demonstrated by the stories we tell. The “action” of Dirk Willems actively rescuing his pursuer. Or the “action” of the Mennonite pastor who heard his roof being destroyed in the night by hoodlums and who welcomed the troublemakers in for a good breakfast, thereby “loving them” into appropriate behavior.

Neither is the difference a willingness or unwillingness to be involved in nonviolent civil disobedience. Anabaptists have continually shown themselves willing to “obey God rather than men”. From the subversive act of baptizing only believers in the 1500’s to a willingness to reject portions[1] of the Pennsylvania Child Care Act in the 21st century because it is deemed to inappropriately place the State between brothers & sisters speaking truth to each other and is seen as compromising the structural integrity of an autonomous church, conservative Anabaptist’s are no stranger to “obeying God rather than men”.

The crucial difference between King’s nonviolence and conservative Anabaptist’s nonresistance seems to be who is being demanded to change. The conservative Anabaptist’s “protest for justice” includes demands only of themselves and to others only a offer and call to voluntarily join the Kingdom.

I am challenged to ensure that what I call nonresistance is living the Power of God’s Love, and that this love is something that is seen as “Overcoming Evil”. In another passage MLK makes a comment that might indicate he is not as far away from “nonresistance” as even he thinks: “History has proven…unmerited suffering is redemptive…” [p222]


[1] – I say “reject portions” very advisedly. Conservative Anabaptists agree with the goal of the Pennsylvania Child Care Act: to protect children against abuse. This cannot be over emphasized. It is only the means that causes disagreement.

The Dordrecht Confession & the Ordination of Women

Some time ago I was perusing the Dordrecht Confession of 1632 for no particular reason other than I like its clear wording on “Repentence & Reformation of Life” and came across the startling observation (considering that the Dordrecht Confession is what Amish and other Old Order churches use) that it appears to take as not controversial that women would be ordained as deaconesses. This seems to indicate that early Mennonites were apparently not opposed to the ordination of women per se.

This is found in Article IX which is titled:

IX. Of the Election, and Offices of Teachers, Deacons, and Deaconesses, in the Church

The article then goes on to explicitly discuss the ordination of deaconesses:

And that also honorable aged widows should be chosen and ordained deaconesses, that they with the deacons may visit, comfort, and care for, the poor, feeble, sick, sorrowing and needy, as also the widows and orphans, and assist in attending to other wants and necessities of the church to the best of their ability. 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 16:1; James 1:27. (translation by Joseph Sohm in 1886 from the Dutch to English: source)

Recently my dad gave me a copy of the Dordrecht Confession from his boyhood. It was published 1939 and S. F. Coffman is listed as the editor. (NOTE: This is apparently a translation by S. F. Coffman around 1930, if I’m reading Gameo correctly)

What is interesting is that the article on deaconesses is a translated differently and the Article IX title goes from “Of the Election, and Offices of … Deaconesses” to “The Office of Teacher and Ministers – Males and Female” and “ordained deaconesses” becomes “chosen as servants”:

Article IX. The Office of Teacher and Ministers – Males and Female – In the Church

Also that honorable old widows should should be chosen as servants, who, besides the almoners, are to visit, comfort, and take care of the poor, the weak, afflicted, and the needy, as also to visit, comfort, and take care of widows and orphans; and further to assist in taking care of any matters in the church that properly come within their sphere, according to their best ability. 1 Timothy 5:9; Romans 16:1,2. (p37,38)

The “almoners” are what the 1886 translation calls “deacons”. Noticeably the “almoners” are “ordained” according to my 1939 (1930 translation) copy:

And as it further regards the almoners, that they (particularly if they are fit persons, and chosen and ordained thereto by the church), may also in aid and relief of the bishops, exhort the church (being, as already remarked, chosen thereto), and thus assist in word and doctrine… (p38)

The 1886 translation reads:

Furthermore, concerning deacons, that they, especially when they are fit, and chosen and ordained thereto by the church, for the assistance and relief of the elders, may exhort the church (since they, as has been said, are chosen thereto), and labor also in the Word and in teaching;

I’m not sure which translation is more accurate, but in any case we seem to have a situation where earlier Mennonites seem to be less opposed to using the English word “ordination” in relation to women or to using a term like “deaconess” that could imply an ordained church position. It would also almost seem that early Mennonites were not opposed to the ordination of women or women being called deaconesses which is associated with an ordained office in the church. From deduction it would appear instead that 17th century Mennonites approved of using women as deaconesses but not in the preaching and teaching offices.

If you have anything more to add to the difference between the 1886 Sohm translation and the circa 1930 Coffman translation, I would be glad to hear from you.

What You Might Not Know About Menno Simons

I recently finished The Complete Works of Menno Simons and thought it might be interesting to list some of the ways Menno Simons might raise some eyebrows..

If you can think of any I missed, I would welcome a comment.

Menno Told State Officials How They Should Live & Govern

As you read the Complete Writings of Menno Simons you will likely be struck at how often he addresses magistrates. Menno sounds like John the Baptist challenging Herod’s moral indiscretions or the Jewish prophets calling Israel’s kings on the carpet as he calls state officials to justice, a life of sobriety, care for the poor and the fear of God. One example:

…fear the Lord, your God, with all your powers; judge in all wisdom with fear and trembling; help the oppressed; grieve not the distressed; promote the just cause of the widows and orphans; protect the good; punish the evil in a christian manner [1]; discharge the duties of your offices properly; seek the kingdom and country that will endure forever; and reflect that you, however highly esteemed, upon earth are only pilgrims and sojourners in a strange land. [Location 2790]

or

…Yes, beloved lords, Can you thus convert yourselves with all your hearts? Can you change your hearts and humble yourselves before God? Deny yourselves, seek and follow Christ and his righteousness? Renounce the world and flesh with all its lusts, as you have heard? [Location 4199]

Menno’s caveat below, “as far as Scripture permits”,  is likely alluding to the fact that the Scripture does not permit the Christian to take part in capital punishment, based on other comments he makes:

Do not excuse yourselves, beloved sirs, and judges, that you are the servants of the emperor; this will not acquit you in the day of vengeance. It availed Pilate nothing that he crucified Christ in the name of the emperor. Serve the emperor in imperial matters, so far as Scripture permits, and serve God in divine matters, then you may claim his grace and call yourselves after his name. [Location 2735]

Menno Was Opposed to Capital Punishment

Answering Micron who painted Menno as a Christian anarchist:

I said nothing more to you than that it would hardly become a true, christian ruler to shed blood, for this reason: If the transgressor should truly repent before his God, … and for such an one to be hanged on the gallows…or in any manner be harmed by another christian, …would look somewhat strange and unbecoming, according to the…example of Christ, the meek Lamb, which example he has commanded all his chosen children to follow.  Again, If he remain impenitent, and his life be taken, one would do nothing else but unmercifully rob him of the time of repentance… [Location 20156]

Next Menno says he approves of the example of the pagan Lacedaemonians, who did not practice capital punishment:

Profane history shows that the Lacedæmonians, who were gentiles, did not practice capital punishment; but they imprisoned them and put them at labor. [Location 20178]

Did Menno Abstain from All Wine? Perhaps No

Menno notes:

“Some…say…that I…drink more wine than they do beer.” [Location 315]

And his response is not that he does not drink, but that

My Lord and Master, Jesus Christ, was also called a winebibber, and a glutton. I trust that through the grace of the Lord, I am innocent in this matter, and stand acquitted before God. [Location 315]

Does this mean he drank? It should be noted that Menno gives many and long exhortations against drunkenness. As GAMEO points out, he gave “many admonitions to a sober life with warnings against drunkenness”.

Menno Was Encouraged by Reading Martin Luther

Not too often that you’ll hear a Mennonite quote Martin Luther as a source of encouragement, but Menno Simon in fact does:

I was encouraged by Luther in the belief, that human authority cannot bind to eternal death… [Location 196]

But, to be sure, Menno also deeply disagreed with Luther on many points.

Menno Was Familiar with Pagan History & the Philosophers

Menno could throw in a quote from Socrates or about Plato without blinking eye.

But all those who are not instructed in this wisdom from God, though they were as glorious as Solomon, as victorious as Alexander, as rich as Croesus, as strong as Hercules, as learned as Plato, as subtle as Aristotle, as eloquent as Demosthenes and Cicero, and as well skilled in languages as Mithridates… [Location 3294]

And a little Socrates:

Yea, dear reader, I freely admit, as did Socrates, that I only know one thing, as regards human skill and wisdom, and that is, that I know nothing. [Location 12778]

And Aristotle & Plato as examples of approving generosity:

But, as to the alms and support of the poor, I would say, that it is a good and praise-worthy work, and cordially approve of it. Also, that many pious, gentile philosophers, as Aristotle, Plato, etc., have considered it as right and just. [Location 9208]

Menno Quotes the Apocrypha & Its Characters Alongside the Bible Without a Pause

Peter and Susanna in one breath…

We think with holy Peter, that we should rather obey God than man; and with virtuous Susanna, it is better to fall into the hands of man, than into the hands of God. [Location 2096]

Daniel and “the fair virtuous Susanna…”

…the three faithful young men in the fiery furnace, the beloved Daniel, and the fair, virtuous Susanna, the honorable pattern of all pious women, Daniel 13. They would rather endure for a season the wrath and fury of tyrants, than sin, and thus bring upon themselves the eternal anger and wrath of God. [Location 3551]

Menno Repeatedly Requested to Have Debates with Magisterial Reformers

Menno apparently did not subscribe to merely being “the quiet in the land” as he repeatedly requested the opportunity to debate. (as did Humaier and other early Anabaptists) One example:

I voluntarily make this offer: If they allow me a discourse with them under safe conduct, either privately before witnesses, or publicly, before a full assembly, and if I cannot prove or maintain, by the power of the truth that the preachers, in general, are deceivers and not pastors, and that their pompous, avaricious, extortionate swearing and cursing disciples… [Location 10578]

Menno Was Familiar With the Theologians & Theologies of His Day

Menno read & was familiar with the theologians of his day. In between duties, writing, running and hiding, apparently he read the theologians of his day: Luther, Bucer, & Bullinger [Location 188] and critiqued their theology: Infant baptism, focus on grace to the exclusion of obedience, their views on the sword and more. Once example:

Martin Luther says, The word is that which God speaks in himself, and which remains in him and is never separated from him. We do not controvert the testimony of Erasmus and of Luther; but we cited them for the reason that it might be observed what diversity of opinion exists. [Location 12825]

Menno Uses Imagery from the Book of Revelation to Describe Events of History

Menno uses Revelation as a description of the past:

…it is annotated in the Lutheran New Testament, that this Origen is the great star which fell from heaven, burning like a lamp, and that his name is Wormwood, Rev. 8:11.

Or the present, his debate partners Micron & Herman:

Justly has the Holy Spirit likened this generation unto the fearful apocalyptic locusts whose shapes were like unto horses prepared unto battle, who have crowns on their heads, like gold; which however are not gold; of which Micron and Herman have placed one on each others head, by their writings; their teeth are as the teeth of lions, and they have tails like unto scorpions, and there are stings in their tails, Rev. 9. [Location 19044]

And, of course, the future.

Menno Was Vitally Interested in the Question: What Is Faith?

In fact he wrote a book on the subject of “The True Christian Faith Which Converts, Changes, Makes Pious…” in  1556. [Location 3258] “True Evangelical Faith” was not just a one time quote, but a subject that Menno was very interested in and a theme he often brought up. This may be one of the missed theological contributions of Menno Simons.

…for a true, sincere, Christian faith cannot be idle; but it changes, renews, purifies, sanctifies and justifies more and more; it makes joyous and glad, for by faith it knows that hell, devil, sin and death, are conquered through Christ [Location 4915]

We do not agree with dead faith or meritorious work:

we testify before you and before all the world that we do not agree with those who teach and institute a dead faith..Secondly, that we can be saved by our own merits and works,… [Location 15975]

And the quintessential Menno Simons (which incidentally is not in his book on “The True Christian Faith” mentioned above, but in “The Reasons Menno Simon Does Not Cease Teaching & Writing”):

For true evangelical faith is of such a nature that it cannot lay dormant; but manifests itself in all righteousness and works of love; it dies unto flesh and blood; destroys all forbidden lusts and desires; cordially seeks, serves and fears God; clothes the naked; feeds the hungry; consoles the afflicted; shelters the miserable; aids and consoles all the oppressed; returns good for evil; serves those that injure it; prays for those that persecute it; teaches, admonishes and reproves with the Word of the Lord; seeks that which is lost; binds up that which is wounded; heals that which is diseased and saves that which is sound. The persecution, suffering and anxiety which befalls it for the sake of the truth of the Lord, is to it a glorious joy and consolation.[Location 15503]

Interestingly Menno Simon’s description of true evangelical faith above errs neither on the side of a mere social gospel (which some shortened versions of the above quote seem to imply) nor the “faith as belief” gospel of some others.

Menno Far Too Often Used 100 Words When 5 Would Have Been Just Fine

Menno is quite wordy and often far too wordy. In Menno’s writing on the “Incarnation of Christ” the publishers graciously note:

…the publishers have taken the liberty to condense and abridge some
parts thereof and also, here and there, to leave out such parts as they
considered of no importance in the illustration and explanation of the
subject, and which were not edifying to the reader. [Location 21457]

Menno Sported a Mustache with His Beard

The source for this is every drawing of Menno Simons there is, including the one on the front of your copy of “The Complete Writings of Menno Simons” edited by J. C. Wenger and published by Herald Press. (below) This is a very ill kept secret, but there it is.

menno

In conclusion I would note that you can get The Complete Works of Menno Simons Kindle Edition for only $1.99 on Amazon. (this is Menno’s writings as published by the Funks, not the J C Wenger edition).

Let’s be inspired by those who’s voices faithfully call to the way of Jesus, and humbled by the march of time which continues to change the context into which we are called to do so today.

This article was reprinted on the Mennonite World Review on Oct 19, 2016. If you want to follow the discussion generated there here is the link.

Is Romans 12 and 13 A Medley of Proverbs?

At our congregation we are working through Proverbs in our midweek prayer meetings. I’ve been aware for some time that the the famous “If your enemy in hungry, feed him” in the middle of Romans 12 is a direct quote from Proverbs 25:21. But I started to notice more and more passages that seem to be evocative of Romans 12 & 13 (or vice versa).

Did Paul take the very this-worldly Proverbs and arranged them into a punchy medley about the radical love of Jesus and Christians being a living sacrifice? It almost seems like he might!

Below I list Proverbs match to Romans 12/13. I asterisk those passages that don’t seem to have a close Proverbs passage. But, if I missed one, please let me know. Brackets enclose my commentary. Enjoy.

Romans 12:9 Pr 8:7 For my mouth shall speak truth; and wickedness is an abomination to my lips. Pr 8:13 The fear of the LORD is to hate evil… {But maybe Paul was thinking of Amos?} Am 5:15 Hate the evil, and love the good…

Romans 12:10 *

Romans 12:11 Pr 22:29 Seest thou a man diligent in his business? he shall stand {serve?} before kings {King of Kings? Clever Paul!}…

Romans 12:12 Pr 10:28 The hope of the righteous shall be gladness…

Romans 12:13 Pr 31:20 She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy.

Romans 12:14 Pr 24:29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me…

*15 Ecc 3:4 A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance; or…Pr 24:17 Rejoice not when thine enemy falleth, and let not thine heart be glad when he stumbleth;

Romans 12:16 Pr 16:19 ¶ Better it is to be of an humble spirit with the lowly… Pr 3:7 ¶ Be not wise in thine own eyes…

Romans 12:17 Pr 24:29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me; Pr 20:22 ¶ Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee…

Romans 12:18 Pr 3:30 Strive not with a man without cause…

Romans 12:19 Pr 24:29 Say not, I will do so to him as he hath done to me: I will render to the man according to his work; Pr 20:22 ¶ Say not thou, I will recompense evil; but wait on the LORD, and he shall save thee.

Romans 12:20  Pr 25:21 ¶ If thine enemy be hungry, give him bread to eat; and if he be thirsty, give him water to drink: Pr 25:22 For thou shalt heap coals of fire upon his head, and the LORD shall reward thee.

*21 Pr 16:32 ¶ He that is slow to anger is better than the mighty; Pr 19:11 ¶ The discretion of a man deferreth his anger; and it is his glory to pass over a transgression

Romans 13:1 Pr 8:15 By me kings reign, and princes decree justice. Pr 8:16 By me princes rule, and nobles, even all the judges of the earth.

Romans 13:2 Pr 20:2 ¶ The fear of a king is as the roaring of a lion: whoso provoketh him to anger sinneth against his own soul.; Pr 16:14 ¶ The wrath of a king is as messengers of death: but a wise man will pacify it.

Romans 13:3 Pr 24:21 ¶ My son, fear thou the LORD and the king: and meddle not with them that are given to change: Pr 24:22 For their calamity shall rise suddenly; and who knoweth the ruin of them both? Pr 14:35 ¶ The king’s favour is toward a wise servant: but his wrath is against him that causeth shame.

*4

*5

*6

Romans 13:7 Pr 3:27 ¶ Withhold not good from them to whom it is due, when it is in the power of thine hand to do it.

*8

According to Fundamentalists: Will the World Be Destroyed at Jesus’ Return?

I’ve been reading the The Fundamentals, the essays that form the backbone of the fundamentalist movement, (incidentally at the same time as I read the Complete Writings of Menno Simons for some interesting contrast) and was surprised to read the answer to question: Will the World Be Destroyed at Jesus’ Return? The short answer: No. A bit longer reason why not? Because the millennial reign requires an earth. Read the quotes below from essay 85 on “The Return of Christ” by Charles R. Erdman, D. D. (Princeton Theological Seminary): He first outlines the problem:

The great objection to the Pre-Millennial position is the apparent prediction of 2 Peter 3, that at the coming of Christ, in “the day of the Lord,” the earth will be destroyed; there could then be no place for a millennium. 18212

Notice that pre-millennial Erdman notes that “the earth shall be burned with fervent heat” is not literal:

The predictions of fiery judgments and consequent “new heavens and new earth” must be read in connection with Isaiah 65 and 66, from which Peter is quoting. It will then be seen that these expressions are in-so-far figurative that the earth still continues with its life, its nations, its progress, after these judgments are over. Terrific convulsions, and governmental, social and cosmic changes, only introduce a new and better age. 18218

Other passages indicate the world is still here, the Nile is flowing, etc.

So, too, “the day of the Lord” is a familiar phrase, and as we read Zechariah 14 we see that while, in that day, the Lord comes amidst appalling portents, His coming and the day itself are followed by a scene of great blessedness on this same earth; the Nile is still flowing in its course and the nations are going up to Jerusalem to worship. (Note also that in 2Pe 3:10 the most ancient manuscripts do not read “burned up” but “discovered.”) 18221

And this one is quoteable:

According to our Lord Himself His return is to bring “the regeneration,” not the destruction of the world (Mat 19:28; Luk 22:28-30). 18231

According to Peter, “seasons of refreshing” and “the restitution of all things,” not annihilation of the globe, will come with the return of Christ (Act 3:19-21). 18233

Even so Come, Lord Jesus!

If the Spirit is leading Christians, why are Paul’s commands needed?

John Piper, in his thesis on “Enemy Love” covers an interesting question: “If the Spirit is leading Christians and yielding fruit, why does Paul and the early Christian tradition with him think it necessary to command them specifically and repeatedly to love their enemy?” Piper’s answer is below:

“If the almighty Spirit of Christ is leading the Christians and yielding fruit, why does Paul and the early Christian tradition with him think it necessary to command them specifically and repeatedly to love their enemy? The presupposition underlying this question is that the leading of the Holy Spirit takes place through a private communion with the divine in which the Christian is informed of the right and motivated to do it apart from human influences. This, however, was not Paul’s understanding of the way the Spirit worked. This may be illustrated first from II Cor 5:20. Here we find the well-known imperative, ‘Be reconciled to God!’ Nevertheless, it is a clear element of Paul’s theology that a man’s reconciling himself to God is the work of the Spirit (I Thess 1:5); it happens only when the creator ‘shines in our hearts to give the light of the knowledge of the glory of God in the face of Christ’ (II Cor 4:6; cf II Cor 4:16,17; Rom 9:16; Eph 2:8). From a false preconception of how the Spirit of God works one could theoretically deny the need for the imperative ‘Be reconciled to God!’ on the ground, namely, that God is great enough to accomplish our salvation without humans stepping in to inform us of our need and God’s offer. This objection fails to see that man does not merely step in; he is called in, indeed he is drawn in even before his birth (Gal 1:15). He is made an ambassador of the risen Christ (ὑπὲρ ριστοῦ οῦν πρεσβεύομεν, II Cor 5:20), and thus speaks on Christ’s behalf (δεόμεθα ὑπὲρ χριστοῦ). “Indeed, it is not merely man but God who says, ‘Be reconciled.’ In other words God has chosen not to do his saving work privately with an individual; rather he makes his appeal through men (ὼς τοῦ θεοῦ παρακαλοῦντος δἰ ἡμῶν). Here we do not see a conflict between a human imperative and God’s work in the heart. Rather we see a single working of God, from one side, making his appeal through men and, from the other side, enlightening the heart (II Cor 4:6). The fact that God’s speaking is here called παρακαλοῦντος (II Cor 5:20) suggests that this same pattern may characterize the παράκλησις in general.

The point at which this divine word meets the believer effectively is in the ‘body of Christ.’ The paradoxes of Christian ethics find their practical solution in the local community of believers. This is suggested by the following observations. For the Christian ‘all things are permitted.’28 This does not mean for Paul that the question of sin no longer exists for the Christian. The question of good and evil still exists but is answered not by referring the Christian to legal codes or to his own private experience of the Holy Spirit, but rather by placing him in the body of Christ. ‘All things are permitted but not all things συμφἐρεῖ (I Cor 6:12). But in the body of Christ ‘each is given the manifestation of the Spirit πρὸς τὸ συμφἐρον’ (12:7). ‘All things are permitted but not all οἰκοδομεῖ. But in the body of Christ ‘the one who prophesies speaks to men οἰκοδομήν’ (14:3), indeed ‘all things are to be done for the οἰκοδομήν’ (14:26). In other words, the ethical question for the completely free man is answered not with a legal code which specifies what is permitted, nor by mere private communion with the Spirit, but rather with his incorporation into the body of Christ in which the Spirit of Christ ‘leads’ his people through the apostolic paraenesis, the prophetic utterance and the enlightenment of the heart.”

Its interesting to hear Piper put it that way. The Christian alternative to “legal code” is not mere private communion with the Spirit, but being incorporated into the body of Christ in which the Spirit of Christ ‘leads’ his people through:

  • Apostolic paraenesis
  • Prophetic utterance
  • Enlightenment of the heart

I think not to different from historic Anabaptist pulling together of community & Spirit.

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Is The Lord’s Prayer Based on 1 Chronicles 29?

Is the Lord’s Prayer based on David’s prayer in 1 Chronicles 29? It’s hard to miss the similarity of the doxology at the end: “Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty…” (1Chron 29:10) and the rest has interesting similarities & parallels. Below is a comparison with common ideas & themes from 1 Chronicles 29 following the Lord’s Prayer with verses noted in parenthesis.

Our father which art in heaven | Blessed be thou, Lord God of Israel our Father… (10) …thou art exalted as head above all. (10)

“Our Father” who is above All.

Hallowed be thy name | Blessed be thou, Lord God ; O Lord, and thou art exalted as head above all. (10) …We…praise thy glorious Name. (13) …thine holy Name cometh of thine hand…(16)

“Thy Name”, like “Our Father” is also holy, blessed, exalted & glorious. His Name is exalted & unlike (holy/hagios) any other name (Philippians 2:9) and comes entirely from Himself.

Thy kingdom come, thy will be done on earth as in heaven | Thou reignest over all; and in thine hand is power and might; and in thine hand it is to make great, and to give strength unto all. (12) …all that is in the heaven and in the earth is thine; thine is the kingdom… (11)

“Thy Kingdom” will come because God’s reigns over everything. Thine is the Kingdom.

Give us this day our daily bread | all things come of thee, and of thine own have we given thee. (14) …Both riches and honor come of Thee…(12)

Everything comes from God from the daily necessity to “riches & honor”.

Forgive us our debts as we forgive our debtors | For we are strangers before thee, and sojourners, as were all our fathers (15)

Debtors & Strangers: This might be the theme that is the most tentative. But remember that God persistently reminds us to treat the stranger as we would want to be treated. Why? Because we are also a stranger. The rationale that one ought treat someone who is in an disadvantaged state  well because they also are or were in that same disadvantaged state. See Exodus 22:21 “You shall not wrong a [debtor/stranger]… for you were [debtors/stranger]…”

Lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil | (17-19) …Thou triest the heart, and hast pleasure in uprightness… prepare their heart unto thee… And give unto Solomon my son a perfect heart, to keep thy commandments, thy testimonies, and thy statutes

“Temptation” & “Deliverance”. Temptation is a test. God “tests” the heart. God searches the…heart. (Revelation 2:23).  God tries the reigns & heart.” (Jeremiah 11:20) And God delivers from every test & trouble (Psalm 34:19), that is, “gives…a perfect heart”.

For thine is the Kingdom, the power and the glory forever. | Thine, O Lord is the greatness, and the power, and the glory, and the victory, and the majesty… (11) …for ever and ever. (10)

“Thine is the Kingdom” needs no comment as it is essentially identical.

The contextual parallels are also interesting.

  • A Son is looking forward to building the great “Temple of God”
  • A Son establishing the eternal Kingdom of God on earth
  • A Son who would soon sit on the throne
  • A prayer to prepare a People to build God’s Temple & Kingdom

What Evangelicals Won’t Tell You About Dietrich Bonhoeffer: The Sermon on the Mount

According to Bonhoeffer “Everything changed” when  he discovered the Sermon on the Mount:

I was lacking in humility…terribly ambitious…alone…then something happened…for the first time I discovered the Bible…Then the Bible freed me from that, in particular the Sermon on the Mount. Since then everything has changed. I have felt this plainly, and so have other people around me. –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.95

Bonhoeffer scholar Ferdinand Schlingensiepen says the influence of Jean Lasserre was influential in Bonhoeffer’s transition from theologian to Christian:

Bonhoeffer’s ‘transition from theologian to Christian’ …was induced by Bonhoeffer’s experience in the USA, particularly his conversations with Jean Lasserre (A Christian pacifist who believed Christians should live the Sermon on the Mount today) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.94

In 1935 Bonhoeffer still believed the Sermon on the Mount was the hope of the church:

The restoration of the church must surely depend on a new kind of monasticism, which has nothing in common with the old but a life of uncompromising discipleship, follow Christ according to the Sermon on the Mount. I believe the time as come to gather people together and do this” (Bonhoeffer in letter to his brother in 1935) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance pg.175

How should the Church celebrate Memorial Day? Some thoughts from Bonhoeffer’s 1932 Memorial Day sermon:

The demons rise up. It is a rebellion against Christ. And one great power of this uprising is called war! …

“What does faithfulness of the church-community of Christ mean here other than calling out into this furious raging [of war] again and again – unto exhaustion, unto humiliation, unto martyrdom – the words of Christ that there should be peace, that there should be love, that there should be blessing, and that he is our peace, and that God is a God of peace?

“And the more they rage, the more we should call out. And the more we call out, the more wildly they will rage. For wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world senses that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers its very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death.” —The Collected Sermons of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Dietrich Bonhoeffer (editor: Isabel Best) via TGC

What did Bonhoeffer think was necessary to destroy Nazism? Assassination? Living the Sermon on the Mount?

I would only achieve true inner clarity & honesty by really starting to take the Sermon on the Mount seriously. Here alone lies the force that can blow all this hocu pocus [of Nazism] sky high – like fireworks, leaving only a few burnt-out shells behind…  (Dietrich Bonhoeffer in a letter to his brother Karl) –Ferdinand Schlingensiepen,  Dietrich Bonhoeffer 1906-1945: Martyr, Thinker, Man of Resistance

Bonhoeffer has well documented his confidence in living the Sermon on the Mount in “The Cost of Discipleship” (in which Bonhoeffer is more radical about cheap grace & the living the Sermon on the Mount than many Mennonites I have met!) . I have scoured his later “Ethics” to find any trace of a reversing of his earlier strongly held beliefs and I can find none.