Saturday, May 28, 2016

Very Good Work on Psalms

Book Review on PSALMS Volume 3

Allen P. Ross, KREGEL EXEGETICAL LIBRARY: A COMMENTARY ON THE PSALMS: Volume 3 (90-15), Grand Rapids MI, Kregel, 2016.

The is the last volume of Ross’s series on the book of Psalms. His work is impressive, but not overbearing. His style is helpful, understandable, and very readable. It is written precisely for the Pastor and teacher of the Psalms. Technical issues and background are found in the footnotes, not the text. The book is clearly not written with those in mind. Its heart is exegetical and expository; of which Ross is a master. He does provide insight to the text and its meaning, as well as the Hebrew language and Old Testament poetry. I found his grammar and syntax helpful.

He stays true to the helpful layout of the other volumes. Each Psalm is treated in a fivefold manner:
(1) He gives his own translation of the Psalm.
(2) Composition and context.
(3) Exegetical analysis.
(4) Expository form in commentary.
(5) Message and application.

I found this very helpful in my study of the Psalms. It saves time over digging the information out of some of the heavily technical treatments. His approach is completely evangelical. He covers each Psalm well and completely. He is thoughtful on how he writes, handles the text, and makes practical applications of the text. It will aid in sermon ideas for the Pastor.  He is enjoyable to read.

I do see two weaknesses in volumes 2 and 3. First, there is no introduction to the volume, which I believe would have been helpful. Second, no overall index, either of subject or scripture. I find this second point troubling. These issues may not be that important to other readers.
In spite of these weaknesses, it does not affect the overall purpose or value of the commentary. I would recommend this commentary be in every Pastor’s and Bible students library. It is well worth it. I recommend this set on Psalms.

 I received this book from Kregel Academic in return for a review but was under no obligation to provide a favorable review.

Friday, May 20, 2016

Studies in Colossians # 20

Peril of Philosophy (2:8-16)

1. Warning against Philosophy (2:8). 

Paul now directs the reader’s attention to a warning against philosophy. Geisler reminds us...the context of Col 2:8 probably has reference to a proto-gnostic type of philosophy at Colossae that had a disastrous mix of legalism, asceticism, and mysticism with Christianity... The text opens with the strong word to introduce the warning—Beware (2:8 KJV). It signifies to take heed, “to see to it” (NASB), watch out, or be on guard and carries the idea of shun. It indicates being alert to danger. It requires being exercised by perception and discernment. Paul uses the word a number of times to warn believers of danger (cf. 1 Cor. 8:9; 10:12; Gal 5:15; Eph. 5:15). The word emphasizes the need for alertness against the danger and its inroads. It speaks of being on the defense against such danger.
 The reason one must take heed is so “that no one takes you captive” (2:8). The word captive or spoil (sulagogo) is a rare word, and is found only here in the New Testament. It means to “carry off as booty.”[2] Campbell translates it as “make prey of.”[3] It speaks of being a victim of a fraud. It later is used as kidnapped. It signifies “carrying someone away from the truth into the slavery of error.”[4] It indicates both the danger and the seriousness of the influence of error. It speaks of the ability and power of the false philosophy that is spread by the false teachers. It reinforces the concept of danger.

There are two consequences that reinforce the idea of being taken captive: (1) Being moved away from the hope of the gospel—cf. 1:23. (2) Being defrauded of the prize—cf. 2:18. Is this suggesting a loss of salvation? I do not believe so—our salvation is secure in Christ, not us. Charles Bing observes: Such an interpretation seems unreasonable in light of his strong statements about their possession of the benefits of salvation, as already noted. It is important to note that they would be moved away not from their salvation but from their hope. This suggests that their movement would be in relation to their confidence in the gospel‘s promise, not their objective standing or position before Christ. If Paul spoke of moving away from eternal salvation, then his language was obscure and indirect. To be moved away from hope is not the same thing as losing or forfeiting potential salvation, if hope is understood in its biblical sense.... The Colossian believers would lose their hope in the sense that their assurance would be subverted. Likewise, the prize jeopardized in 2:18 (Let no one keep defrauding you of your prize) does not fit eternal life. The word means ―to be robbed of a prize, to condemn, or to withhold the victor‘s prize. It is formed from the verb (to award a prize, to judge, to rule) or the noun (prize of conflict). Nowhere in the New Testament is salvation or eternal life represented by the terminology of a prize won by human effort.[5]
The means by which they (and we) are taken captive is by “philosophy and empty deception” (2:8). There are two points that must be looked at to gain understanding here. First, what is the sense of the word philosophy? Second, does the text “empty deception or vain deceit” describe or qualify the philosophy?

  • The Greek word is philosophia and is unique to this passage, not appearing anywhere in the New Testament (although the noun philosopher does in Acts 17:18). The term is not specific. It literal meaning is the “love of wisdom.” Used in the context of Colossians, Paul is not thinking of philosophy in general; but is thinking of a specific syncretistic-religious group that is separate from the Colossian community, but are a powerful attraction to those within the community.[6] The difference between Paul and contemporary philosophers was found in their approach to the knowledge of God. The false philosophy of the time asserted reasoning as the means to God. Paul on the other hand asserted it was only by revelation. The word itself is no help toward identification of the false teaching. (No doubt Paul and the Colossians would have known, but what would be clear to them is not to us). The group or philosophy is hard, if not impossible to determine.[7] Both the Greek Hellenistic and Jewish world was filled by various philosophies (i.e., Stoics, Epicurean, Mysticism, Essenes, Sadducees and Pharisees). “Paul no doubt adopted the term here because it was used by the false teachers themselves to refer to their own teachings in a positive way,” notes O’Brien.[8] Most agree it was some basic form of Gnosticism, either Jewish, pagan, or a little of both. House points out: 
    No single view has arguments that can lead to its being endorsed exclusively. It is best to recognize that both Jewish and Gentile elements were present in the Colossian heresy, many of which were generally shared by the populace in the highly charged world of the first century, especially in the syncretistic and Hellenistic mood of Achaia and western Asia Minor. Many of the elements developed into the Gnosticism of the second century but with far more elaborate philosophical-religious views than are found in Colossians. The most one can say of the error in Colossians is that it was a syncretism of Jewish, Gentile, and Christian features that diminished the all sufficiency of Christ's salvation and His personal preeminence.[9]
    In light of this, Bruce tries to make a case for Merkabah mysticism which has been identified as Jewish Gnosticism in early form.[10]
  • Empty deceit” seems to describe the philosophy.[11] The two nouns, philosophy and deceit are the objects of the preposition dia (through). It is a prepositional phrase which describes the weapon by which believers are deceived—empty or deceptive philosophy. It is a false wisdom. Philosophy is both empty and deceitful both in its source or subject manner. Paul sees the Colossians as being attacked and directed toward a destructive philosophy of human wisdom and speculative philosophy which is empty of edification (cf. 1 Cor. 1:19-31). Paul is not attacking all philosophy, only that which is contrary with divine revelation. 

    The basis of this philosophy is governed by three prepositional phrases—“according to.” Some consider these three as steps as the expansive character of this philosophy: first, the source, then the last two as content or the lack thereof.[12] There is little question that these are descriptive of the basis or ground upon which this philosophy was built.
  • The tradition of men” (2:8). Tradition is paradosis, meaning a handing down of teaching or rituals. In this context the source is not revelation, but on human ideas and theories. These were normally expressed and taught orally and not in written form. Both Judaism and paganism were filled with such theories and ideas. Jesus had condemned the pharisaic traditions in Mark 7:3-13; Matt. 15:2-9. For Paul true tradition was revelation based, not finite reason based. Paul urged believers to hold fast the traditions they had received from him (2 Thess. 2:15; 3:6). It is a part of be established in the faith (Col. 2:6-7). But these are in contrast to the traditions of men. These traditions of men were both pagan and Jewish, but not biblical.
  • "The elementary principles of the world” (2:8). There is somewhat of a debate how this phrase should be understood. The Greek word for basic principles can mean personified forces (spirits); or it can mean basic principles or elements. Survey of its use in the New Testament shows that it refers to the elementary teaching (Gal. 4:3, 9) referring to the principles of the law and wisdom. In Hebrews 5:12 the fundamental principles of the Word of God. 2 Peter 3:10, 12 refers to the elementary elements of the universe—earth, wind, and fire. However, the two found in Colossians (2:8, 20) are not clear and somewhat obscure. It is clear from the survey that it is context that determines the meaning. The same is true here in Colossians. Many commentators see the passage as referring to spiritual forces (i.e., Pao; Vaughan; O’Brien). That is not strongly seen in the context. Lenski says the idea of spirits “are not connected with the word itself but are added speculatively from what Paul says in this epistle about angelic powers.”[13] The context is dealing with false philosophy, which was based on tradition and worldly rudiments (elementary teaching). It seems that the context is centered upon the elements that this philosophy teaches. The word principles or rudiments “conveys the idea of basic physical elements, first principles, or basic mundane elements associated with a religious system.”[14] There are two points that should be made: First, the context suggest some mode on instruction. Second, the emphasis of the instruction centers are external observances, such as circumcision (2:11); dietary laws (2:16, 21); and special days (2:16). It seems clear to me that in most references Jewish traditions, rituals, and worshipers are at the heart of this philosophy, although not limited to it. Gromacki observes: “the term probably denoted the outline for the initial requirements of new converts. Such legal conformity was the first step toward the ultimate denial which was accomplished at the cross.[15] This is consistent with the 2:16 (and Gal. 4:3,9) showing that the elementary principles of ritualism—food, festivals, new moon, and Sabbath days are mere shadows, which have no real value and have become empty to bring one to maturity in Christ.
  • Rather than according to Christ” (2:8). This is a statement that tradition and elementary principles are against the truth of Christ. The word according is in the accusative case meaning to conform, or agree and is used with the negative, thus not in conformity or agreement with Christ, His word or work. Any system not after Christ must be human and wrong. This is a transitional phrase as well. It connects the contrast between the error of philosophy against the sufficiency of Christ.

     to be continued

[1]  Norman Geisler, “Beware of Philosophy: A Warning to Scholars,” JETS, March 1999, 3.
[2]  Peter O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 108.
[3]  Ernest R. Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 92.
[4]  Peter O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 109.
[5]  Charles C. Bing, “The Warning in Colossians 1:21-23,” BIBLIOTHECA SACA, January 2007.
[6]  Michel, “jilosojia,” TDNT, Vol 9, 186.
[7] There are 44 opinions scholars have offered as to its identity, H. Wayne House, “Heresies in the Colossians Letter,” Part 1, BIBLIOTHECA SACA, January 1992, 45.
[8]  Peter T. O’Brien, WBC: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, 109.
[9]  Ibid, 59.
[10]  F.F. Bruce, NICNT: COLOSSIANS, PHILEMON, AND EPHESIANS, 95=97. “The Colossians Heresy,” BIBLIOTHEA SACRA, July 84, 96-206. However he does not seem to be well followed in this, but worth consideration.
[11]  A.T. Robertson, WORD PICTURES, IV, 490.
[12]  J.B. Lightfoot, COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 177-178. Murray C. Harris, EGGNT: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 84-85. Douglas J. Moo, PNTC: COLOSSIANS AND PHILEMON, 186.
[14] Ernest R. Campbell, COLOSSIANS & PHILEMON, 94.
[15]  Robert Gromacki, STAND PERFECT, 100-101.

Friday, May 6, 2016

Comments on the gospel of God

 The Gospel of God / Romans 1:1

Pastor Jim Gray

Paul uses this phrase 6 times (Romans 1:1; 15:16; 1 Thessalonians 2:2, 8, 9; 1 Timothy 1:11). Mark (1:14) and Peter uses it once (1 Peter 4:7). This has two possible meanings, both related: First, it could mean God’s ownership, or second, the giving by God of the gospel. A survey of the expression as used in Scripture indicates that this is a generic term referring to any type of good news given by God. A survey of the term reveals:
  • The preaching and message of John the Baptist (Mark 1:14), popularly called the gospel of the kingdom. It is identified as the Gospel of God.
  • Paul connects the term with the gospel he was called and set aside for, which reached back to the promise of Jesus’ humanity and exaltation. (Romans 1:1-6). This promise was through the prophets, Old Testament scriptures and certainly refers back to the promise given to Abraham. 
  • Ministering the gospel of God to Christ and to the Gentiles (Romans 15:16).
  • Paul preached the gospel of God (1 Thessalonians 2:2, 9).
  • God imparted the gospel of God to believers (1 Thessalonians 2:8).
  • Peter uses the term (1 Peter 4:17) in the context of rejection of the gospel of God.
We can safely conclude that the term does not apply automatically to any particular gospel. It is a generic term. All gospels or aspects of the gospel can be said to the gospel of God. He is the origin and giver of good news in all dispensations. It can be said that the gospel of God is the core of any gospel. The common core is all the uses of the gospel of God is Jesus Christ—his person, work, and exaltation. Two vital things need to be understood as to the term.
  • It does not rule out the fact that there can be different aspects or gospels under this general heading, such as the gospel of the kingdom; the gospel of grace; the gospel of peace, and others. All gospels are the gospel of God. He is their originator, communicator, and definer.
  • Each Gospel of God is determined or identified by the context or modifiers. Gospels can have a different focus, forms, instructions, and limitations; but all are the Gospel of God and have a common core—Jesus Christ (cf. Mark 1:1; Rom. 15:19).
Dispensationally we could diagram the Gospel of God as:

TO ISRAEL                                  TO THE PRESENT CHURCH
Gospel of the Kingdom                          Gospel of Grace

 Both gospels are referred to as the gospel of God as are other gospels.