Every blessing? (1)

24 02 2009
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I was in northern Nigeria for a big chunk of January. The church there faces 3 big challenges:

It’s the ‘Prosperity Gospel’ that I’d like to focus on in the next couple of posts.  One of the common ways it comes up in Nigeria, would be people saying things like:

Jesus has won every blessing for us at the cross.  “By his wounds we are healed.”  That means Christians can expect to be healed, if they’re putting their faith in Jesus.  During Jesus’ ministry (i.e. before the cross), he never turned away anyone who came to him, and asked him in faith for healing.  He’s the same yesterday, today and forever.  So he won’t turn us away now if we come to him in faith.

Now there’s a whole range of things you could say in response to this.  But the question is – where do you start?  It some situations I’ve had the luxury of taking time to tackle this in depth. But other times I’ve needed to get something basic across within a few sentences.  I’ve got some thoughts on this which I’ll put into my next post.  But I’d be interested to hear what ideas everybody else has.  What are some effective ways into tackling this false teaching?  (Especially when you need to say something brief, but telling.)


If you were speaking to someone who’d be influenced by the Prosperity Gospel, how would you start to tackle the issue?


RJ, in the first comment, made explicit something I was thinking but didn’t say: One really useful way to begin is by asking a question. It’s not the only way to begin, but it’s a great way. So suggested questions are welcome!

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“I want you to know brothers that” 02

23 02 2009

When it comes to Romans, Paul follows the letter form very well in 1:1-15. He starts with himself as the author (“Paul a servant of Jesus

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Christ…”; 1:1), adding details about the gospel he is set apart to present (1:1b-6; NOTE FURTHER BELOW!!). He states the recipients of the letter (“To all God’s beloved in Rome…”; 1:7). Then gives his usual greeting (“Grace and peace to you…”; 1:7b). After this comes the prayer (“First I thank my God…”; 1:8-12).

The “disclosure formula” comes next as letter theory predicts – “I want you to know brothers that…” (RSV, ESV). But what does this say about the his purpose in writing the bulk of the letter – 1:16-15:13? What is it he “wants them to know”? People have commonly struggled with this because they think he simply continues his theme of “visiting” – which ought to be part of the opening and closing frame of the letter (c.f. 15:14f), not the body. They chose to write-off this formula as our clue, in favor of 1:16-17 which is commonly seen as the purpose statement for all that follows. But 1:16-17 is only the statement for the rhetorical argument of the first five chapters (a subject for another day). 1:13-15 really is the purpose for the letter body:

Romans 1:13-15 I want you to know, brethren, that I have often intended to come to you (but thus far have been prevented), in order that I may reap some harvest among you as well as among the rest of the Gentiles.  14 I am a debtor both to Greeks and to barbarians, both to the wise and to the foolish:  15 so I am eager to preach the gospel to you also who are in Rome.

He speaks here not only of visiting, but also of an exchange. Owing the gospel to them, and hoping for a return harvest from them. As you go to the end of the letter the theme of receiving something back comes up – he hopes they will now support his mission (15:24) and partner in prayer for Jerusalem (15:30). Mainly material support is sought in exchange for spiritual instruction which is exactly what the illustration of 15:25-27 is about (using the same Greek word as in 1:13).

So what is the purpose of the letter body? Simple. It is to pay the debt of his gospel, i.e. it is a presentation of Christ’s gospel of which he is servant (1:1-6) with the hope of return fruit.

So with a group he is yet to visit, he is creating an exchange relationships (c.f. 1:11-12… “I long to see you that I may impart some spiritual gift… i.e. that we may be mutually encouraged). He writes to offer them the gospel and then asks for something in return, because he wants them to be connected in Christ’s service and apostle and Gentile followers of God. The disclosure formula is crucial to understanding Romans.

Posted by Bruce Lowe

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Keep your Greek (09)

16 02 2009

Image by Usodesita via Flickr

Image by Usodesita via Flickr

9. Get your Greek back.

I suppose there are many things that might be said when asked the question of how to get one’s Greek back. Here are a few suggestions.

a. Take heart: it will come to you more quickly than it did the first time. Even if you’ve let your Greek go cold, once you start working it up again, I think you’ll find that it will get progressively easier. Don’t be discouraged by relearning what you’ve forgotten; be encouraged that you’ll learn it faster than those who are learning it from scratch!

b. It’s a bit like muscle-building. It hurts at first, and there may not be any visible results right away. But with perseverance, you will get your Greek into shape. Like muscle-building, you’re better off taking small steps to start with, lest you hurt yourself! As you get stronger, turn up the volume (to mix metaphors) and work on harder Greek. You won’t get stronger by only doing the easy stuff that you already know: those muscles have to be strained in order to be rebuilt.

c. Don’t take short-cuts. While you’ll do better by being positive rather than demoralized, still you need to be real. If you have gaps; if your Greek is weak; if you’ve forgotten lots of stuff, don’t pretend you’re in better shape than you are. Do the work: read every day, revise your vocabulary and paradigms, and read every day. Put into practice the suggestions I’ve already made in this blog series.

Remember: the main difference between someone who keeps their Greek and someone who loses it is the commitment to give it a little time each day. Are you up for it?

Posted by Con Campbell

“I want you to Know Brothers, that…” 01

12 02 2009
2004ish - Carolyn - work appreciation - reworked
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(I must apologize. With thesis, teaching an intensive then straight into semester I was down for the count over the last few weeks and the blog suffered. I’m really sorry (not least to Con and Rick!). But I am back now and…)

I don’t know if you realize it, but there is a golden key to understanding Paul‘s letters! It may sound too good to be true, and some people will say it is. But I’ll let you be the judge.

Letter’s in the first century followed a form just like letters today (see the picture). Here’s an example of ancient form:

Petronius Valens to Ptolemaios, my most honored father, greetings.

Most of all, I pray you are well, as at Alexandria I also [prayed] to Sarapis that you live for many years until having grown up I return your kindnesses; for you are worthy of these good things.

I wish you to know that on the twentieth I returned to barracks ten days before my furlough. Therefore I ask you, father, to compel Alima to pursue (the matter of the cloths)…

The above letter looks amazingly similar to Paul’s letters: “Paul… to the Church in Rome… grace… First I thank my God… I do not want you to be uninformed brothers that…” One part is particularly interesting: “I want you to know, that…” (or equivalent). This formula occurs in almost all Paul’s letters and it is meant to be the place where the writer alludes to the purpose of the letter. This ought to be where Paul states why he is writing! Yet it is often ignored or dismissed because we think – “that can’t be it.” What happens when we take this formula seriously? That will be the topic of next few articles, starting with Romans.


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Keep your Greek (08)

11 02 2009

tick18. Get it right the first time.

The more capable you become with Greek when you first learn it, the easier it will be to keep your Greek in the future.

This is really advice for students rather than pastors who want to keep their Greek. Students need to realize that the effort they put in now will have big implications for whether or not they will struggle to keep their Greek in the future. I know some students struggle with the idea of putting so many hours into acquiring Greek (and Hebrew), while they really want to be learning about the Bible and theology. But the reality is that the more on top of Greek you get now, the easier it will be to maintain it later.

The reason for this is simple. Pastors struggle to keep their Greek because they are busy. But the weaker your Greek is to start with, the more time it takes to keep it going. You spend more time looking up vocab and remembering paradigms, not to mention just trying to get the vibe of the thing. It all takes more time than it should. Thus, if your Greek is not strong when you go into ministry, you are far more likely to lose it over time. But if your Greek is pretty strong when you go into ministry, it will take a lot less time to keep it ticking along.

It’s not rocket science: get your Greek strong now; keep your Greek strong in the future.

Posted by Con Campbell

Keep your Greek: Paradigmatic

8 02 2009

img_paradigmaticiconA new tool.

I want to let you know about a new software tool developed by a student at Moore College, Sam Freney.

It’s called Paradigmatic and is designed to help with reviewing and testing paradigms for Greek and Hebrew, which will be of great help in relation to practicing your paradigms.

It’s only for Macs at this stage. It’s free. Get it here.

I think Sam has done a great job, and while there may still be some kinks, please check it out and give Sam your feedback.

Posted by Con Campbell

Keep your Greek (07)

5 02 2009

Image by superhoop via Flickr

Image by superhoop via Flickr

7. Read slow.

While it’s a good thing to practice reading Greek fast (see my last post), it’s very important to balance that with reading slow. Not because reading slow is necessarily an inherently good thing, but the point is that you practice reading Greek carefully. Take care with the details; examine the shape of the clauses, notice what the text is really saying, not just what you think it ought to be saying.

This kind of reading is important because we can find in the Greek text the kinds of things that many of us learnt Greek for in the first place: little hidden nuances and exegetical nuggets that are conveyed by the Greek, but are so often lost in English translation. It also helps in your mission to keep your Greek. If you skip over things all the time, you might find that you eventually lose your hard-earned sharpness.

Posted by Con Campbell

Keep your Greek (06)

1 02 2009

gallardospyderfr6. Read fast.

This advice needs to be tempered by my next post, but it is pretty straightforward: read Greek quickly. At least some of the time. The idea is that it can be frustrating and demoralizing to always read Greek slowly, while paying attention to every detail. Reading slowly is very important (see next post), but so is reading quickly. I benefit from mixing it up.

When we read Greek quickly, it helps us to get ‘the vibe’ of the language. You can get a feel for the shape of clauses and sentence structure, and you might be surprised at how much you can piece together just from reading larger slabs in context. Reading quickly will also help you to ‘internalize’ the language in a way that slow and careful reading may not. It also feels more like ‘reading’ because you’re taking in more content, and therefore piecing together the ideas and wider message of the text, not just going from one word to next, hand-to-mouth-style.

When you try this, just sit down with a Greek New Testament for 10 minutes or so and have a stab at reading. You might want to gear-up with some vocab beforehand, using Sakae-Kubo or something equivalent. But even if you don’t, just skip over words you don’t recognize and go for the vibe. I always enjoy reading Greek this way; try it for yourself!

Posted by Con Campbell