Sinners In The Arms Of A Loving God
The world will probably be converted into…a vast ocean of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed…their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall forever be full of glowing, melting fire…they shall eternally… feel the torments…without any end at all, and never, never be delivered.”
The Gospel: Our Invitation To The Kingdom A MESSAGE FROM THE EDITOR
s I put the final edits on this issue, a major event has occurred in my life. Through a retirement of our Calgary pastor, Gordon Graham, and his subsequent replacement by Colin Wallace, I have had the privilege to pastor two additional congregations in Saskatchewan located in Saskatoon and Tisdale.
I mention this because as their new pastor, I have spent the last couple of sermons as a sort of ice breaker, introducing myself and explaining what makes me tick. These messages allow me again to revisit why I am a Christian and what the Gospel means to me.
Des pécheurs dans les bras d’un Dieu bienveillant
« Le monde sera probablement transformé en […] un vaste océan de feu, où les méchants seront affligés […] leur tête, leurs yeux, leur langue, leurs mains, leurs pieds, leurs reins et leurs organes vitaux seront pour toujours remplis d’un feu rougeoyant et fondant […] ils seront éternellement […] tourmentés […] sans fin, et sans jamais, jamais en être délivrés. »
The Beatitudes: The Gospel In Miniature
If asked to summarize Christ’s Gospel in a nutshell most people might cite Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Personal Director’s Desk The Journey Theme Articles Book Review Bible Study Commentary National News
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FRONT COVER: The Gospel is humankind’s invitation to participate in a relationship with our God. Cover Photo: © Designpics Back Cover: © Designpics Additional photos and illustrations: © Designpics unless otherwise noted.
Northern Light magazine is the official magazine of the Worldwide Church of God, Canada. It exists to share the stories of our members and congregations on their Christian journey. Northern Light does this by featuring articles that encourage, nurture and inform. Le magazine Northern Light est le magazine officiel de l’Église universelle de Dieu, au Canada. Il sert à raconter les histoires de nos membres et de nos assemblées tout le long de leur voyage chrétien, au moyen d’articles qui encouragent, nourrissent et informent.
In relating to this subject I often refer to Philip Yancey’s book, The Jesus I Never Knew. When reflecting on this book he wrote a companion article entitled “Unwrapping Jesus” in Christianity Today (see: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/1996/june17/6t7029.html). In the article he lists the top 10 things he learned about Jesus while researching and writing the book. I resonate with much of what he writes in particular with his last article heading, “Jesus Saves My Faith.” It is here that he states: “‘Why am I a Christian?’ I sometimes ask myself, and to be perfectly honest, the reasons reduce to two: (1) the lack of good alternatives and (2) Jesus. Martin Luther encouraged his students to flee the hidden God and run to Christ, and I now know why. If I use a magnifying glass to examine a fine painting, the object in the center of the glass stays crisp and clear, while around the edges the view grows increasingly distorted. For me, Jesus has become the focal point. I learned, in the process of writing this book, to keep the magnifying glass of my faith focused on Jesus.” If the “gospel” that we believe doesn’t have its heart and core as Jesus, then we miss perhaps the most important aspect of the Gospel, that through him we are being offered life in God’s kingdom. Yancey also makes another point that echos many of the points discussed in this issue: “For all my absorption in the Christian faith, I had missed the most important message of all. The story of Jesus is the story of a celebration, a story of love. It involves pain and disappointment, yes, for God as well as for us. But Jesus embodies the promise of a God who will go to any length to get his family back.” Every time I reflect on this fact, I can’t help but get excited about the Gospel all over again! NL
P E R S O N A L By Paul Kroll
Sinners In The Arms Of A Loving God What Is Hell, Is Anyone Going There, And If So Why?
he world will probably be converted into…a vast ocean of fire, in which the wicked shall be overwhelmed…their heads, their eyes, their tongues, their hands, their feet, their loins, and their vitals, shall forever be full of glowing, melting fire…they shall eternally… feel the torments…without any end at all, and never, never be delivered.”1 This scary description of an ever-burning hell comes from the pen of Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), the most influential Christian theologian of Colonial America and one of its most powerful preachers. Edwards’ sermons, such as “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” taught that the unrepentant and spiritually lax would end up in an ever-burning hell-fire. One can understand why people listening to Edwards and other preachers with a similar message might, as some did, wail and shriek in horror, writhe in fearful hysteria and even go insane. This brand of hell-fire preaching has been a long-standing and common strain woven into the fabric of the Church throughout much of its history until recent times. However, you probably won’t hear a hell-fire and brimstone sermon in church today. Hell—to preach or not to preach? A growing chorus of evangelical scholars—including F. F. Bruce (1910-1990), Michael Green, John Stott, John W. Wenham, to name a few—have voiced opposition to the traditional view of hell. Clark Pinnock, a Canadian theologian and biblical scholar, didn’t mince words in the book Four Views on Hell. He wrote: “Everlasting torture is intolerable from a moral point of view because it pictures God acting like a bloodthirsty monster who maintains an everlasting Auschwitz for his enemies whom he does not even allow to die.”2
Although Pinnock has drawn fire from some of his more conservative colleagues, his view of hell-fire preaching is shared by many Christian teachers and scholars, even if they don’t state their objections in such stark terms. They, like Pinnock and a growing number of oth-
ers, “consider the concept of hell as endless torment in body and mind an outrageous doctrine” and a “theological and moral enormity.”3 Moral enormity might be an understatement when we consider the fact that some who teach an everburning hell also teach that God has NORTHERN LIGHT
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arbitrarily chosen only a tiny minority of people for a heavenly life and has automatically, from eternity, consigned everyone else to a fearful destiny in hell forever. Not every Christian teacher and theologian agrees that the idea of an everburning hell as torture chamber is a ghastly teaching. Some insist that we need more preaching about hell. Theologian Larry Dixon, writing some years ago in Moody magazine, decried the lack of hell-fire preaching. “When was the last time you heard a sermon on hell?” he asked. “In your witness for Christ, have you recently warned anyone about eternal judgment?”4 Theologians Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A. Peterson say we must “pro-
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claim the whole counsel of God—yes, including hell—to Christians and nonChristians alike.”5 Dixon believes, as some Christian teachers do today and have throughout the Church’s history, that people need a fear prod to get them to commit to Christ. He insists, “Self-sufficient North Americans will never really listen to the gospel if we don’t at some point warn them about judgment.” His view is, “If all we speak of is love and affirmation, comfortable pagans will politely listen for a while, say they were happy for us, and go on their way.” He concludes by saying, “Unless they fear His wrath, many won’t seek His love.”6
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This approach seems to assume that Americans don’t already believe deep down in their psyche that some kind of “hell” exists. It appears to be a wrong assumption. In virtually every poll taken in recent years, a majority of Americans say they do believe in a real hell. According to a mid-2007 Gallup poll, 69 percent of respondents said they believed in hell. In some polls, the percentage of people expressing their belief in hell has been even higher.7 Yet, if they haven’t heard about hell in church, where does a person’s belief about hell come from? Ultimately, from the Bible, since the Bible is the primary source of information about hell. The problem is that a lot of misinformation has been mixed in with the biblical
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teaching about hell. God has been alltoo-often pictured as an angry Judge, ready to toss people into the torments of hell with minimal provocation. But that is a decidedly unbiblical view both of God and hell. The New Testament testifies that God has no intention of condemning people to “hell” out-of-hand. His goal is to save us from our sins and heal our spiritual brokenness. Gaining perspective on hell When you read the New Testament, you find that hell is a decidedly minor motif. One can literally count the passages that directly speak of hell on one’s fingers and toes. Yet, it is true that every New Testament author has something to say indirectly about hell by speaking of a future self-judgment on anyone who willfully rejects God’s loving grace and the good life God has purposed from eternity to give to his human children.
Here’s a passage from Matthew 25:41— from the lips of Jesus—about anyone who remains faithless: “Depart from me, you who are cursed, into the eternal fire prepared for the devil and his angels.” In Mark 9:43, he spoke about those who might “go into hell, where the fire never goes out.” The book of Hebrews speaks of “a fearful expectation of judgment and of raging fire that will consume the enemies of God” (10:27). Hell, then, is serious business, so we don’t want to discount it, because the witness of Scripture does not do this. We must seriously think about the fact that some kind of hell does exist, whatever its nature might be, if we believe the testimony of the Bible. The question remains: What kind of a hell does the Bible really teach and who actually ends up there? Many Christians have a legalistic view of God’s relationship with humanity. They see God as a condemning Judge, who is angry with the world and throws “bad
people” into the flames of hell for all eternity. He carries only “good people” with him into an eternal heavenly bliss. God is for us, not against us The witness of Scripture gives us an entirely different picture. It tells us that the Triune God has opened the door of his accepting love for everyone. God, who is love (1 John 4:8), is so devoted to saving humanity from the destruction of sin that he took the human condition on himself. He entered his creation as a human being in the Person of his Son. Jesus, God in the flesh, took on our fallen human nature and remade it in his perfect and righteous image, forgiving and destroying human sinfulness. In Christ, says Paul, we are enabled “to put on the new self, created to be like God in true righteousness and holiness,” which means we are his own work, created in Christ in his image (Ephesians
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4:24). It’s all God’s doing for us and in us through Christ and by the Spirit. Robert Farrar Capon, retired Episcopal parish priest and author of many books on important Christian themes, writes, “The old baloney about heaven being for good guys and hell for bad guys is dead wrong. Heaven is populated entirely by
everyone. That’s why he has already acted to save everyone. No one need ever go to hell, except by their own recalcitrant choice. Who’s in hell and why “Whatever we say about hell must be said under the rubric of a universal and
Hell is a dismal, tragic, gloomy and unnecessary disaster. It is in total contradiction to everything God wants for us. A Christian pastor once summarized what it means to be with God as opposed to choosing to be without God in hell. He said simply, “Heaven—goooood. Hell—baaaad.” forgiven sinners… and hell is populated entirely by forgiven sinners. The only difference between the two groups is that those in heaven accept the forgiveness and those in hell reject it.”8 Capon’s words resonate with Scripture. In Christ, God reconciled humanity to himself even while people were still his enemies and in spiritual darkness. “While we were still sinners, Christ died for us,” is the way the apostle Paul puts it (Romans 5:8). Paul again says that even when people hated God in their hearts and were totally ignorant of his eternal promise for all humanity, they “were reconciled to him through the death of his Son” (verse 10). Paul insists this gift of God’s grace and love is universal—meant for everyone! “God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men’s sins against them” (2 Corinthians 5:19) is the way Paul expresses God’s merciful love for us. In fact, everything in heaven and earth has been reconciled to him in Christ, Paul says (Colossians 1:19-20). What does this have to do with hell? If we’re going to talk about how anyone could end up in hell, alienated from God, we have to first understand that this is totally contrary to what God wants for J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
effective reconciliation of all things in Christ,” says Capon. “If we choose to explain how hell can be, we must somehow say that Jesus accepts our choosing of it without willing us into it in any deterministic way.”9 God wants everyone to be saved, to experience forever the joy of fellowship with him. But love is not love if it is forced. God will, in the end, let us have what we really want. As C.S. Lewis wrote, “There are two kinds of people: those who say to God, ‘Thy will be done,’ and those to whom God says, ‘Thy will be done.’”10 When understood theologically, hell is not a jail or a place into which God tosses people he hates. Hell is a state of denial of who God is and who God created us to be—reconciled in Christ, in eternal relationship with him, sharing his life. Hell is refusing to accept the love of God, preferring instead the selfish world of our own making. Those in hell are there because they want no fellowship with the God who made them and loves them. Those in heaven are there because they throw in their lot with Christ, accept him as Savior, follow him as Lord, and trust in his loving and free grace. Lewis wrote, “No soul that seriously and constantly 2 0 0 8
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desires joy will ever miss it. Those who seek find. To those who knock it is opened.”11 People in hell are there in spite of God’s will for them, not because of it. They have what they want, not what God wants for them. God condemns no one to hell by predetermined decree. The testimony of Scripture gives us the gloriously good news that God our Savior “wants all men to be saved and come to a knowledge of the truth” (1Timothy 2:4). He is “not wanting anyone to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2 Peter 3:9). Hell is a dismal, tragic, gloomy and unnecessary disaster. It is in total contradiction to everything God wants for us. A Christian pastor once summarized what it means to be with God as opposed to choosing to be without God in hell. He said simply, “Heaven— goooood. Hell—baaaad.” Amen to that!NL Notes: 1. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards, vol. 7 (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, 1809), pp. 486502. 2. William Crockett, editor, Four Views on Hell (Zondervan, 1992), p. 149. 3. Christopher W. Morgan and Robert A Peterson, Hell Under Fire (Zondervan, 2004), p. 34. 4. Larry Dixon, “Whatever Happened to Hell?” Moody magazine, June 1993, p. 26. 5. Morgan and Peterson, p. 240. 6. Ibid, quotes from pgs. 28-29. 7. Gallup Poll conducted May 10-13, 2007. 8. Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ …And Why We Don’t Get It (Eerdmans, 1993) p. 10. 9. Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three (Eerdmans, 1997), p. 269. 10. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (Simon & Schuster, 1996 edition), p. 72. 11. Ibid.
ÉDITORIAL de Paul Kroll
Des pécheurs dans les bras d’un Dieu bienveillant Qu’est-ce que l’enfer ? Y a-t-il des gens qui s’y retrouveront ? Et si oui, pourquoi ?
e monde sera probablement transformé en […] un vaste océan de feu, où les méchants seront affligés […] leur tête, leurs yeux, leur langue, leurs mains, leurs pieds, leurs reins et leurs organes vitaux seront pour toujours remplis d’un feu rougeoyant et fondant […] ils seront éternellement […] tourmentés […] sans fin, et sans jamais, jamais en
les mains d’un Dieu en colère », Edwards enseignait que celui qui était impénitent et négligent spirituellement finirait dans le feu d’un enfer qui brûle toujours. On peut comprendre pourquoi les gens qui écoutaient Edwards et d’autres prédicateurs qui transmettaient un message semblable pouvaient, comme certains l’ont fait, gémir et hurler d’horreur, se tordre dans une hystérie épouvantable et même devenir fous.
être délivrés. »1
Ce genre de sermons sur le feu de l’enfer a été une pression répandue et de longue date, tissée dans l’étoffe de l’Église au cours de la plupart de son histoire jusqu’à tout récemment. Cependant, vous n’entendrez probablement pas un sermon sur le feu et le souffre de l’enfer dans l’Église aujourd’hui.
Cette description effrayante d’un enfer qui brûle toujours a été écrite par Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758), le théologien chrétien le plus influent de l’Amérique coloniale et l’un de ses prédicateurs les plus puissants. Dans ses sermons, comme « Des pécheurs dans
Doit-on prêcher ou ne pas prêcher sur l’enfer ? Un nombre croissant d’érudits évangéliques – y compris F. F. Bruce (19101990), Michael Green, John Stott, John W. Wenham, pour n’en nommer que quelques-uns – ont exprimé leur opposition à la vision traditionnelle de l’enfer. Clark Pinnock, théologien et érudit biblique canadien, n’a pas mâché ses mots dans le livre Four Views on Hell (Quatre visions sur l’enfer). Il écrit : « La torture éternelle est intolérable d’un point de vue moral parce qu’elle représente Dieu agissant comme un monstre assoiffé de sang qui maintient un Auschwitz éternel pour ses ennemis qu’il ne laisse même pas mourir. »2
Bien que Pinnock ait provoqué la colère de certains de ses collègues les plus conservateurs, son opinion sur les prédications d’un enfer de feu est partagée par beaucoup d’enseignants et d’érudits chrétiens, même s’ils n’exposent pas leurs objections en des termes aussi clairs. À l’instar de Pinnock et d’un nombre croissant de personnes, ils « considèrent que le concept de l’enfer défini comme un tourment sans fin du corps et de l’esprit, est une doctrine outrageante et un crime théologique et moral. »3 Un crime moral peut être un terme faible quand nous considérons le fait que certains, qui enseignent un enfer dont le feu brûle toujours, enseignent également que Dieu n’a choisi arbitrairement qu’une toute petite minorité de gens pour vivre au ciel et qu’il a automatiquement, de toute éternité, confié tous les autres à une destinée effroyable en enfer pour toujours. Ce ne sont pas tous les enseignants et tous les théologiens chrétiens qui sont d’accord avec l’idée qu’enseigner sur un enfer qui brûle toujours comme une chambre de torture, soit terrible. Certains insistent pour dire que nous avons besoin de plus de sermons sur l’enfer. Le théologien Larry Dixon, qui a écrit il y a quelques années dans le magazine Moody, décriait le manque de sermons sur le feu de l’enfer. « À quand remonte la dernière fois où vous avez entendu un sermon sur l’enfer ? a-t-il demandé. Dans votre témoignage pour Christ, avez-vous récemment averti quelqu’un du jugement éternel ? »4 Les théologiens Christopher W. Morgan et J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
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Robert A. Peterson disent que nous devons « proclamer tout le conseil de Dieu – oui, y compris l’enfer – aux chrétiens autant qu’aux non-chrétiens ».5 Comme certains enseignants chrétiens aujourd’hui et d’autres au cours de l’histoire de l’Église, Dixon croit que les gens ont besoin d’un coup de peur pour s’engager envers Christ. Il insiste pour dire que « les Nord-Américains autosuffisants n’écouteront jamais vraiment l’Évangile à moins de les avertir à un moment donné du jugement. » Son opinion est la suivante : « Si nous ne parlons que d’amour et d’affirmation, les païens confortables nous écouteront poliment pendant un certain temps, diront qu’ils sont contents pour nous et poursuivront leur chemin. » Il conclut en disant : « À moins de craindre le jugement de Dieu, beaucoup ne rechercheront pas son amour. »6 Cette approche semble présumer que les Américains ne croient pas au fond d’eux qu’il existe un certain « enfer ». Il semble que ce soit une supposition erronée. Dans presque chaque sondage mené au cours des dernières années, une majorité d’Américains disent croire en un véritable enfer. Selon un sondage Gallup mené au milieu de l’an 2007, 69 pour cent des répondants ont affirmé croire à l’enfer. Dans certains sondages, le pourcentage de personnes disant croire à l’enfer était même plus élevé.7 Toutefois, s’ils n’ont pas entendu parler de l’enfer dans l’Église, d’où la croyance d’une personne sur l’enfer vient-elle ? En fin de compte, de la Bible, puisque la Bible est la principale source d’information sur l’enfer. Le problème, c’est que beaucoup de mauvais renseignements ont été mêlés à l’enseignement biblique sur l’enfer. Dieu a été trop souvent représenté comme un juge en colère, prêt à jeter des gens dans les tourments de l’enfer à la moindre provocation.
Mais c’est incontestablement un point de vue non biblique, à la fois sur Dieu et sur l’enfer. Le Nouveau Testament témoigne que Dieu n’a aucune intention de condamner immédiatement des gens à l’ « enfer ». Son but est de nous libérer de la condamnation que nous méritons à cause de nos péchés et de nous guérir de notre état de brisement spirituel.
Beaucoup de chrétiens ont une vision légaliste de la relation entre Dieu et les êtres humains. Ils perçoivent Dieu comme un juge prêt à condamner, qui est en colère contre le monde, qui jette les « méchants » dans les flammes de l’enfer pour l’éternité et qui n’emmènera avec lui que les « bons » dans une félicité céleste et éternelle.
Développer une nouvelle perspective sur l’enfer
Dieu est pour nous, et non contre nous
En lisant le Nouveau Testament, vous constatez que l’enfer est indubitablement une motivation mineure. On peut littéralement compter sur les doigts de la main les passages qui parlent directement de l’enfer. Cependant, il est vrai que chaque auteur du Nouveau Testament a quelque chose à dire indirectement sur l’enfer en parlant d’un jugement futur sur toute personne qui rejette volontairement la grâce bienveillante de Dieu et la bonne vie que Dieu s’est proposé de toute éternité de donner à ses enfants.
Le témoignage de l’Écriture nous donne une image entièrement différente de l’enfer. Elle dit que le Dieu trinitaire a ouvert la porte de son amour pour tout le monde. Dieu, qui est amour (1 Jn 4.8), veut tellement sauver l’humanité de la destruction du péché qu’il s’est luimême fait homme. Il est entré dans sa création en tant qu’être humain dans la personne de son Fils.
Voici un passage en Matthieu 25.41 – de Jésus lui-même – qui parle de toute personne qui refuse de croire : « […] Retirez-vous loin de moi, vous que Dieu a maudits, et allez dans le feu éternel préparé pour le diable et ses anges ». En Marc 9.43, il parle de ceux qui peuvent « être jeté[s] en enfer dans le feu qui ne s’éteint jamais ». L’épître aux Hébreux parle de « l’attente terrifiante du jugement et [du] feu ardent qui consumera tous ceux qui se révolteront contre Dieu » (10.27). L’enfer est donc une question importante, et c’est pourquoi nous ne voulons pas la négliger, parce que le témoignage de l’Écriture ne le fait pas. Si nous croyons le témoignage de la Bible, nous devons penser sérieusement au fait qu’un genre d’enfer existe, quelle que soit sa nature. La question demeure : Quel genre d’enfer la Bible enseigne-t-elle vraiment et qui en réalité s’y retrouvera ?
Jésus, Dieu fait chair, a pris notre nature humaine déchue et l’a transformée à son image parfaite et juste, pardonnant et détruisant ainsi le péché de l’humanité. Paul a écrit qu’en Christ, nous pouvons nous « revêtir de l’homme nouveau, créé conformément à la pensée de Dieu, pour mener la vie juste et sainte que produit la vérité », ce qui signifie que nous sommes son œuvre, créée en Christ à son image (Ép 4.24). Tout cela est le revêtement de Dieu pour nous et en nous, à travers Christ et par l’Esprit. Robert Farrar Capon, prêtre retraité d’une paroisse épiscopale et auteur de plusieurs livres sur des thèmes chrétiens importants, a écrit : « Toutes les idioties sur le ciel qui est réservé pour les bons et sur l’enfer qui est réservé pour les méchants sont totalement fausses. Le ciel est entièrement peuplé de pécheurs pardonnés […] et l’enfer est entièrement peuplé de pécheurs pardonnés. La seule différence entre les deux groupes est que ceux qui sont au ciel acceptent le pardon de Dieu et ceux qui sont en enfer le rejettent. »8 NORTHERN LIGHT
Les paroles de Capon retentissent avec celles de l’Écriture. En Christ, Dieu a réconcilié le monde avec lui-même même quand les gens étaient encore ses ennemis et dans les ténèbres spirituelles. Paul l’exprime ainsi : « Alors que nous étions encore des pécheurs, le Christ est mort pour nous » (Ro 5.8). Paul dit encore que même lorsque les gens haïssaient Dieu dans leur cœur et qu’ils étaient complètement ignorants de sa promesse éternelle pour toute l’humanité, ils ont été « réconciliés avec lui par la mort de son Fils » (v. 10).
ressembler l’enfer, nous devons d’une manière ou d’une autre dire que Jésus accepte notre choix d’y aller sans nous y forcer d’aucune manière déterministe. »9 Dieu veut que tout le monde soit sauvé pour connaître à jamais la joie de communier avec lui. Mais l’amour n’est pas l’amour s’il est forcé. À la fin, Dieu nous laissera avoir ce que nous voulons réellement. Comme C. S. Lewis l’a écrit : « Il y aura deux sortes de gens à la fin : ceux qui diront à Dieu : “Ainsi soit-il” et ceux à qui Dieu dira, à la fin : “Ainsi soitil”.»10
Ceux qui sont en enfer y sont parce qu’ils ne veulent aucune communion avec le Dieu qui les a créés et qui les aime. Paul insiste pour dire que ce don de la grâce et de l’amour de Dieu est universel – c’est-à-dire destiné à tout le monde ! « En effet, Dieu était en Christ, réconciliant les hommes avec lui-même, sans tenir compte de leurs fautes […] » (2 Co 5.19). C’est ainsi que Paul exprime l’amour miséricordieux de Dieu pour nous. Il dit en fait que tout dans le ciel et sur la terre a été réconcilié avec Dieu en Christ (Col 1.19,20).
Quand nous le comprenons de manière théologique, l’enfer n’est pas une prison ni un endroit où Dieu jette les gens qu’il déteste. L’enfer, c’est nier qui est Dieu et qui nous sommes censés devenir selon son plan : réconciliés en Christ, dans une relation éternelle avec lui pour partager sa vie. L’enfer, c’est refuser d’accepter l’amour de Dieu, préférant plutôt le monde égoïste que nous nous sommes fabriqué.
Qu’est-ce que cela a à voir avec l’enfer ? Si nous voulons parler de la raison pour laquelle une personne pourrait se retrouver en enfer, séparée de Dieu, nous devons d’abord comprendre que cela est totalement contraire à ce que Dieu désire pour tout le monde. C’est pourquoi il a déjà accompli une œuvre pour sauver tous les hommes. Aucun être humain n’a à aller en enfer, sauf s’il le choisit à cause d’un esprit récalcitrant.
Ceux qui sont en enfer y sont parce qu’ils ne veulent aucune communion avec le Dieu qui les a créés et qui les aime. Ceux qui sont au ciel y sont parce qu’ils unissent leur destinée à celle de Christ, l’acceptent comme Sauveur, le suivent comme Seigneur et croient au don de sa grâce bienveillante. Lewis a écrit : « Aucune âme qui désire sérieusement et constamment la joie n’en sera jamais privée. Ceux qui cherchent trouvent. À ceux qui frappent, la porte est
Qui se retrouvera en enfer et pourquoi
« Tout ce que nous disons sur l’enfer doit être dit sous la rubrique d’une réconciliation universelle et véritable de toutes choses en Christ, dit Capon. Si nous choisissons d’expliquer à quoi peut J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
Les gens en enfer s’y retrouvent malgré la volonté de Dieu pour eux, et non à cause d’elle. Ils ont ce qu’ils désirent, et non ce que Dieu désire pour eux.
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Dieu ne condamne personne à l’enfer par un décret prédéterminé. Le témoignage de l’Écriture nous annonce la Bonne Nouvelle glorieuse que Dieu notre Sauveur « veut que tous les hommes soient sauvés et parviennent à la connaissance de la vérité » (1 Timothée 2.4). Il ne « veut pas qu’un seul périsse. Il voudrait, au contraire, que tous parviennent à se convertir » (2 Pierre 3.9). L’enfer est un désastre funeste, tragique, lugubre et non nécessaire. Il est en contradiction totale avec tout ce que Dieu veut pour nous. Un pasteur chrétien a un jour résumé ce que cela signifie être avec Dieu, par opposition à choisir d’être sans lui en enfer. Il a simplement dit : « Le ciel, c’est trèèès bon. L’enfer, c’est trèèès mauvais. » Il a tout à fait raison !NL
Notes: 1. Jonathan Edwards, The Works of President Edwards, vol. 7 (Worcester, Mass.: Isaiah Thomas, 1809), p. 486 à 502. 2. William Crockett, éditeur, Four Views on Hell (Zondervan, 1992), p. 149. 3. Christopher W. Morgan et Robert A Peterson, Hell Under Fire (Zondervan, 2004), p. 34. 4. Larry Dixon, « Whatever Happened to Hell? » édition juin 1993 du magazine Moody, p. 26. 5. Morgan et Peterson, p. 240. 6. Ibid., extraits des pages 28 et 29. 7. Sondage Gallup mené du 10 au 13 mai 2007. 8. Robert Farrar Capon, The Mystery of Christ… And Why We Don’t Get It (Eerdmans, 1993) p. 10. 9. Robert Farrar Capon, Between Noon and Three (Eerdmans, 1997), p. 269. 10. C.S. Lewis, The Great Divorce (Simon et Schuster, édition 1996), p. 72. 11. Ibid.
D I R E C T O R ’ S
D E S K
By Gary Moore National Director
The Gospel: Invitation To The Kingdom
f you keep up with the news – even on a surface level – it becomes clear that there is a lot of suffering going on in the world. There are also good things going on, but sometimes the bad things seem to win the day and cast a pall over everything. The Bible’s overarching story is that humanity at the beginning made a fundamental choice that has created the world we see. The choice was made to become our own supreme authority and decide for ourselves how
we would live. Living by trust and dependence on God and his wisdom was rejected in favour of independence from him. This independence is based on the prideful notion that we human beings know better than God does. Clearly, our first parents were tempted by the appeal of independence. They were drawn to the initial attractiveness of taking what God had forbidden. The loss of a close, personal relationship with him was the outcome of this decision. Mankind chose to move away from the Creator and do “its own thing”. We see the results around us. Thankfully God didn’t give up on humanity. The Bible describes Jesus as “the Lamb that was slain from the creation of the world” (Revelation 13:8, NIV), which strongly indicates God knew the choice Adam and Eve would most likely make, in their naiveté. And indeed they were mesmerized by the guile and seductiveness of the Devil’s pitch. So God made a way back for us, as we now had become lost in a spiritual maze. He is a loving Father, and cares so much for his children – humanity, made in his image and likeness – that he made possible our redemption.
That road back is what the Bible calls the gospel. The gospel is the good news that there is a way back, and through Jesus Christ, God graciously reaches his hand out to each one of us. By coming back into relationship, God’s will is to share real life with us. Eternal life is more than just life without end – it is life as it was meant to be lived. It is a higher quality of life. It is a life grounded in God’s loving nature. It is a life lived in a way that is better in every way than the life we have known apart from God. It is the life of the Kingdom of God. It is the way God is, and as we mature in Christ, it is the life God wants us to share in – to participate in with him (Father, Son, and Holy Spirit). We participate in the Kingdom life when we say “yes” to God. God has, through Christ, already said yes to every human being. All that remains is for each person to decide if they want to say “yes” back. If we do, we are essentially saying we want to reverse the decision that our first parents made. We want to say to God, “Your will be done in my life. We want to put our trust in you for everything. We no longer want to listen to other voices, but want to hear and heed yours. We want to give up our own authority over ourselves, and our supposed independence, and surrender that to you.” It is in that surrender that we begin to learn more about God. The Holy Spirit begins to work in our lives, and we are taught, tapped and molded closer to the image of Christ. All this allows us to increasingly participate in the life of the Kingdom – to which, through Jesus, we are invited. Don’t turn down this incredible invitation God has given you to his Kingdom. This is one “party” you don’t want to miss!NL
CHRONIQUE de Gary Moore
une invitation au royaume de Dieu
i vous suivez bien les nouvelles – même de façon superficielle –, vous constatez qu’il y a beaucoup de souffrances dans le monde. Il y a également de bonnes choses qui arrivent, mais les mauvaises semblent parfois l’emporter sur les bonnes et tout assombrir. L’histoire globale de la Bible est qu’au commencement l’humanité a fait un choix qui a engendré le monde que nous voyons aujourd’hui. Ce choix a été fait pour que nous devenions notre propre autorité suprême et décidions nous-mêmes de la manière dont nous vivrions. L’idée de vivre en faisant confiance à Dieu et en dépendant de lui et de sa sagesse a été rejetée en faveur d’une vie d’indépendance.
veillant et il aime tant ses enfants – les êtres humains faits à son image et à sa ressemblance – qu’il a rendu notre rédemption possible. La route qui nous ramène à Dieu est ce que la Bible appelle l’Évangile. L’Évangile est la Bonne Nouvelle qu’il existe un moyen de revenir à Dieu et que, par Jésus-Christ, Dieu tend miséricordieusement la main à chacun de nous.
Cette indépendance est fondée sur la notion orgueilleuse que nous, êtres humains, sommes plus intelligents que Dieu. Il est clair que nos premiers parents ont été tentés par l’attrait de l’indépendance. Ils ont été attirés par la séduction initiale : celle de prendre ce que Dieu avait défendu. La perte d’une relation étroite et personnelle avec Dieu a été la conséquence de ce choix. L’humanité a choisi de s’éloigner du Créateur et de faire sa propre volonté. Nous en constatons les résultats autour de nous. Heureusement que Dieu n’a pas abandonné l’humanité. La Bible décrit Jésus comme « l’Agneau égorgé » (Ap 13.8), ce qui indique fortement que Dieu connaissait le choix qu’Adam et Ève feraient probablement dans leur naïveté. En effet, ils ont été fascinés par la tromperie et la séduction des verbiages du diable. Dieu a alors conçu un plan pour que nous revenions à lui, puisque que nous étions désormais perdus dans un dédale spirituel. Il est un Père bienJ U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
être humain. Tout ce qu’il reste à faire, c’est de décider si en retour nous voulons dire « oui » aussi. Si c’est le cas, nous disons essentiellement que nous voulons renverser la décision que nos premiers parents ont prise. Nous voulons dire à Dieu : « Que ta volonté soit faite dans ma vie. Nous voulons te faire confiance pour toutes choses. Nous ne voulons plus écouter d’autres voix, mais nous voulons entendre et considérer la tienne. Nous voulons renoncer à notre propre autorité sur nousmêmes, ainsi qu’à notre soi-disant indépendance, et te les abandonner. » C’est dans cet abandon de soi que nous commençons à apprendre plus sur Dieu. Le Saint-Esprit commence alors à œuvrer dans notre vie en nous enseignant, en nous utilisant et en nous façonnant davantage à l’image de Christ. Tout cela nous permet de participer de plus en plus à la vie du royaume, à laquelle, par Jésus, nous sommes invités. Ne refusez pas cette invitation incroyable de Dieu à participer à son royaume. C’est toute une « fête » que vous ne voudrez pas manquer ! NL
En rétablissant la relation, Dieu veut partager la vraie vie avec nous. La vie éternelle est plus que seulement une vie sans fin, c’est la vie comme Dieu voulait que nous la vivions. C’est une vie d’une qualité supérieure. C’est une vie fondée dans la nature aimante de Dieu. C’est une vie vécue d’une manière qui est meilleure en tous points que la vie que nous avons connue sans Dieu. C’est la vie du royaume de Dieu. Dieu est ainsi, et à mesure que nous grandissons en Christ, il veut partager cette vie avec nous – que nous y participions avec lui (Père, Fils et Saint-Esprit). Nous participons à la vie du royaume quand nous disons « oui » à Dieu. Par Christ, Dieu a déjà dit « oui » à chaque 2 0 0 8
T H E
J O U R N E Y
By Phil Gale Member, Victoria congregation
John 3:16 Jesus Came To Save, Not Condemn
nother article about John 3:16, the most quoted and well-known verse in Christendom? Almost – but not quite.
John 3:16 states very plainly that God sent his own Son into the human arena, and that all who believe what he says will not die but live for eternity.
If I were to ask you to state in one short sentence the basic gospel message that the world needs to hear, what would you say? One short sentence is all you have, to tell a non-believer the purpose behind Jesus Christ, and how it fits into God’s eternal plan.
He healed a blind man on the Sabbath which incurred the wrath of the priests, and after the poor man had been thrust out of the synagogue, Jesus went and found him to offer comfort and support.
An excellent reference for the converted or anyone professing to be a Christian. But what does it say to those who are not so well-versed in the writings of the Holy Bible? What does it tell us about God’s plan of salvation for all humankind? In fact what does it tell us about God himself? A common viewpoint of Christianity from believers and non-believers, is that there is a heaven and a hell. If we live a good life, we go to heaven. On the other hand, if our deeds are not so good, we risk going to hell, purgatory, eternal damnation. But John 3:16 says, “God so loved the world.” If God loves the world so much, why would he prepare a place of eternal suffering? Not much room for grace or mercy there – in fact it shows a God who believes in eternal punishment for those of us who have been “naughty”. The two principles of Godly love and eternal punishment seem to be incongruent. (see Sinners In The Arms Of A Loving God) But, John 3:17 comes to the rescue, “For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world through him might be saved.” Christ did not come to condemn! His desire was to see all people saved. I think the problem quoting John 3:16 by itself, is that it is incomplete, even though the majority of professing Christians believe the verse serves an important purpose. A more complete scripture reference, if one wants to quote one passage, is John 3:16-17, and there are some very important reasons why.
Jesus cried when Lazarus died, and resurrected him from the dead. He fed 4,000 hungry mouths and performed the feat a second time with 5,000 people. He dared to touch a leper and healed him, when no other person wanted to come within miles of the disease.
“Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.” That sentence tells us the deep, profound truth about who Christ is and the mission he came to fulfill on earth, and John 3:17 gives us that same message that Jesus was more concerned with saving people not in condemning them. For example, he saved the woman caught in adultery; he saved Nicodemus, and did not condemn him, and he saved the thief on the cross who was crucified alongside him.
How many examples do we need before we see a pattern emerging? The miracles recorded in the gospels are not the sum total of all the works Jesus performed – far from it. But the Man of God, Jesus Christ, Emmanuel, God in the flesh, demonstrated love, mercy, patience, kindness and joy. Does that sound like a God who is bent only on condemnation and eternal punishment? Or a God who has the desire for most to succeed in a relationship with Him? God did not send his Son into the world to condemn, but to save (John 3:17). John 3:16 and 17 complement each other, and each one by itself is incomplete.
For me, the world around us needs to hear more about the God of love who demonstrated edification and encouragement wherever he went; he only did good. He didn’t punish anyone, he didn’t hurt anyone, he didn’t kill anyone, and the only people who received a lashing from his tongue were the money-changers, who had turned his Father’s house into a commercial business area, and the Pharisees for their hypocrisy.
Matthew 28:18-20 contains Christ’s instructions to us to go into the world and represent God. How well are we doing that? By warning people that God is going to seek vengeance through eternal suffering? Or by citing examples from the gospels of how Christ healed the sick, fed the hungry, forgave sinners and suffered a brutal, excruciatingly painful death, in order that you and I might be saved?
He cried over Jerusalem, because like a mother hen who seeks to pull her chicks under her wing and protect them, Christ came to his nation Israel – the one and only Jewish nation. But, for the most part, they rejected him, their own Creator and Benefactor. If it weren’t for him, there wouldn’t be a nation of Israel.
The key message from Christianity to a troubled world needs to be one of love and mercy, “Jesus Christ is the Savior of the world.” Taken together, John 3:16 and 17 help to proclaim that message. NL NORTHERN LIGHT
T H E M E
Love Is All God’s Doing
By Dennis Thibault Pastor, Castlegar, BC congregation
he other day my wife Norma asked me a question that led to us pondering the meaning behind the shortest verse in the Bible: “Jesus wept” (John 11:35).
The same question we asked occurred to the Jews at the time: Jesus wept. Then the Jews said, “See how he loved him!” But some of them said, “Could not he who opened the eyes of the blind man have kept this man from dying?” (John 11:35-37). So what is this story all about? Does it simply show how compassionate Jesus is or does it deal with the more significant subject of human death in general? I don’t think I could have confidently answered this question before reading the works of the theologian Baxter Kruger including his insightful book Jesus and the Undoing of Adam. Kruger is the most readable and understandable proponent of Trinitarian theology I have encountered. He explains that Adam placed God in the kind of position that any rebellious child places a loving parent when he took and ate the forbidden fruit of the tree of “Good and Evil”. Kruger goes on to show that God did not react to Adam’s failure with a resounding “No”! Rather, God behaved like the father in the parable of the “Prodigal Son.” He does not give up on us, his beloved children. Instead, God waits longingly for our return and experiences great joy when we come back to him. This wonder of God’s love is shown even more graphically in the bestselling novel The Shack by author William Paul Young (see book review by Jonathan Buck). Young characterized God’s love in a way that is a real parallel to Baxter Kruger’s theological efforts. (Both men are featured in a number of interviews by Michael Feazell on the WCG website: www.wcg.org.) J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
When Jesus attended Lazarus, was he simply broken up by his friend’s death? Well, back to Lazarus: When Jesus attended Lazarus, was he simply broken up by his friend’s death? Did He intend us to learn only that he loved his friend, or did he intend that we learn how deep his love is for all of us? Certainly Jesus knew he could and would resurrect Lazarus. In fact, wasn’t Jesus more concerned about the state of humanity and the curse of death itself? I am convinced that Jesus “wept” because as God, he was deeply affected by the death sentence and situation humans find themselves under because of Adam’s rejection of the “Tree of Life”. 2 0 0 8
The writings of both Kruger and Young have helped me to see the “Big Picture”. It is interesting that Baxter Kruger uses severely distorted glasses to illustrate what a narrow vision does to the Word of God as opposed to the vision provided by the Holy Spirit when we yield to him as our guide. The book The Shack is able to help us open ourselves to much more of what the Holy Spirit can do. I had an opportunity to speak to Baxter Kruger on the phone some time ago and when I did he asked me, “Have you read The Shack?” When I said I had, he said, “Well, read it again!” Baxter was right. I got much more the second time I read it. NL
T H E M E
C O N T I N U E D
By David Sheridan Pastor, Grace & Truth Fellowship, Red Deer, and Lethbridge congregations
ndiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull is a 2008 adventure film directed by Steven Spielberg, from a story co-written by executive producer George Lucas. Set in 1957, the fourth film in the Indiana Jones film series pits an older Indiana Jones (Harrison Ford) against agents of the Soviet Union, led by Irina Spalko (Cate Blanchett), in the search for a crystal skull. The Soviets believe the skull is from an extraterrestrial life-form, holding great psychic power. The final scene takes place in Peru at the temple of Akator also known as El Dorado (Spanish for “the gilded one”). Inside a chamber tomb thirteen crystal skeletons, one with a missing skull, are seated on thrones... Imagined as a place, El Dorado became a kingdom, an empire, the city of a legendary golden king, a mythical City of Gold. In the mythology of the Muisca today, El Dorado (Mnya) represents the energy contained in the trinity of Chiminigagua, which constitutes the cre-
The Place Of The Skull Really Good News! ative power of everything that exists. El Dorado is also sometimes used as a metaphor to represent an ultimate prize or “Holy Grail“ that one might spend one’s life seeking. It could represent true love, heaven, happiness, or success. The Holy Scriptures reveal the loving, all-powerful Creator’s supreme sovereignty in the Kingdom of God. Rather than a crystal skull, the blood-stained cross of Jesus stood on a place called Golgotha. Calvary or Golgotha are the English language or Western Christian names given to the site, outside of ancient Jerusalem’s early first-century walls, ascribed to Jesus‘ crucifixion. Although the significance of the name is lost to modernity, Calvariae Locus in Latin, Κρανιου Τοπος (Kraniou Topos) in Greek, and Gûlgaltâ in Aramaic all denote “place of [the] skull”. “Carrying his own cross, Jesus went out to the place of the Skull (which in Aramaic is called Golgotha)” (John 19:17). Rather than extraordinary psychic power from thirteen crystal skeletons, the res-
In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is no doubt who the hero is. In real life and death, Jesus is the Savior of all humanity. 14
urrected Lord told his twelve disciples, “you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:8). Rather than a missing skull on a mysterious thirteenth throne, Jesus said to his disciples, “I tell you the truth, at the renewal of all things, when the Son of Man sits on his glorious throne, you who have followed me will also sit on twelve thrones, judging the twelve tribes of Israel” (Matthew 19:28). Extraterrestrial may refer to any object or being beyond (extra) the planet Earth (terrestrial). It is derived from the Latin extra (“outside”, “outwards”) and terrestris (“earthly”, “of or relating to the Earth”). The final chapters of the Bible reveal a visit from beyond space and time by a great extraterrestrial being who wants a relationship with all men and women. “I heard a loud voice from the throne saying, ‘Now the dwelling of God is with men, and he will live with them. They will be his people, and God himself will be with them and be their God’” (Revelation 21:3). The Holy City, the New Jerusalem comes down out of heaven from the triune God shining with his glory. “The wall was made of jasper, and the city of pure gold” (verse 18). The brilliance of this city is like that of a very precious jewel, clear as crystal! Jesus suffered and died on the cross for human sin. “One of the soldiers pierced Jesus’ side with a spear, bringing a sudden flow of blood and water” (John 19:34). In Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, there is no doubt who the hero is. In real life and death, Jesus is the Savior of all humanity. Give him your loving allegiance. The blood-stained cross on the place of the skull really is Good News and an invitation into the kingdom of God! And by the way, enjoy every moment of the movie! I did! NL
T H E M E
The Miracles That Accompany The Gospel
t is an observable fact that when the true gospel is preached real miracles start happening to people.
Paul wrote of this fact in Colossians 1:6-8: “All over the world this gospel is producing fruit and growing, just as it has been among you since the day you heard it and understood God’s grace in all its truth. You learned it from Epaphras…who also told us of your love in the Spirit.” When people heard and accepted “God’s grace in all its truth” it was always accompanied by an obvious manifestation of the Spirit. It was so real that there was no question in the minds of those who experienced it that something remarkable had happened to them. That’s why Paul could ask in Galatians 3:5: “Does God give you his Spirit and work miracles among you because you observe the law, or because you believe what you heard?” He could ask such a question because he knew they’d experienced the Spirit’s miracles. They knew what the Spirit had done to them, and they knew when the miracles had started, too. He knew, and they knew, that the Spirit’s miracles were real. In two churches, then, we see the same thing happening. When the true gospel is preached there are clear and observable miracles that begin to happen, that the people in whom they are happening, know are happening. Does the same thing happen to us, then? Can we see miracles happening to us when we hear and understand God’s grace in all its truth, too? If so, what are these miracles like, and will they be as obvious to us as they were to the Galatians? That depends, of course, on what message we’re hearing, because it’s only after hearing “God’s grace in all its truth” that the Spirit worked miracles in Colossae. It was a revealing question Paul had for the Galatians, too, when he J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
asked them in Galatians 3:3: “After beginning with the Spirit, are you now trying to attain your goal by human effort?” It was a clear reminder that the Spirit’s miracles only accompany a message of grace, not works. So what obvious, noticeable miracles of the Spirit begin to happen when grace, not works, is preached? According to Paul in Colossians 1:4-5, there were two miracles in evidence: “your faith in Christ Jesus,” and “the love you have for all the saints.” Faith and love, two great manifestations of the Spirit, working beautifully in tandem, too, with “faith expressing itself through love,” as mentioned in Galatians 5:6.
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By Jonathan Buck Pastor, Barrie, Huntsville, North Bay, Peterborough, and Sudbury congregations I look at my own life for evidence, too, and it’s not hard to find. When I lived by the law I despised other Christians. I thought me and my denomination were the only true Christians on the planet. But since I heard grace in all its truth, something incredible has happened. I see my fellow Christians through different eyes. I still see their faults, as I’m sure they see mine, but the wall has come down, just as it did between Jew and Gentile when they understood grace, too (Ephesians 2:13-18). So for years now I’ve been able to mix and work happily with Christians in other churches, making the contrast so clear for me between a life ruled by the law and a life lived in the Spirit.
Does the same thing happen to us, then? Can we see miracles happening to us when we hear and understand God’s grace in all its truth, too? If so, what are these miracles like, and will they be as obvious to us as they were to the Galatians? Both miracles are so obvious, too. In a secular world that puts all its faith in human effort, the Spirit creates total trust in Jesus Christ, and in a religious world of divided denominations the Spirit creates a deep affection among God’s people, so noticeable that even nonChristians know something extraordinary is happening, John 13:35. Paul himself was a wonderful demonstration of the power of the Spirit’s miracles, too. All his life Paul had depended on the law, but he dumped all that for trust in Christ, (Philippians 3:1-9). And what did his trust in Christ create? A remarkable ability to love people who were a pain in the neck. He actually thanked God for the Corinthian Christians, even as reports were coming in of their quarrels over which minister was best and who was the most spiritual. Paul loved those flawed people despite their glaring faults. And this from the man who’d hated all Christians before. It truly was a miracle. 2 0 0 8
It helps me know if I’m on track in my preaching, too, because there are two clear signs to go by. Is there an obvious, and growing evidence, in my congregations of trust in Christ replacing dependence on the law and human effort? And is there evidence of affection replacing conflict, and of valuing other members of Christ’s Body rather than finding fault in them (Philippians 2:1-3)? The Spirit works these miracles where the true gospel is being preached, which enables me to relax, because if I’m preaching God’s grace in all its truth, the Spirit does the rest. And very noticeably, too.NL
T H E M E
C O N T I N U E D
By Neil Earle
The Beatitudes: The
Pastor, Glendora, California congregation
f asked to summarize Christ’s Gospel in a nutshell most people might cite Matthew 7:12, “So in everything, do to others what you would have them do to you, for this sums up the Law and the Prophets.”
Many others, however, would turn to Matthew’s crisp compression of eight spiritual thought bombs enunciated in the Sermon on the Mount. They could be called the “How Blessed” but are commonly known as the Beatitudes. Matthew likes to group Jesus’ teachings in summary collections and Matthew 5:1-12 introduces his first of five such blocks of instruction (Matthew 5-7). The words themselves have become part of our culture and literature, so familiar that they tend to be ignored through overuse. This is unfortunate for the simple reason that these eight carefully constructed epigrams, when reflected upon, give the essence of Christian discipleship. They describe the mental and emotional states that will guarantee peace and stability, “makarios” in the Greek—happiness, the kind vitally active among Christ’s disciples. “Made Happy by God” “The Beatitudes come like a bolt out of the blue for any who think of religion as a sad and miserable affair,” writes Michael Green. “But the kingdom of God is quite different. In participating we are the way God meant us to be, and so it is inevitably the happy life. And that is what Blessed means: made happy by God” (The Message of Matthew, page 89). It’s as if Jesus begins his famous Sermon on the Mount with the conclusion—“Here’s the end result of a life spent in my service,” he could be saying. And we think: How typical of the Master to do something we wouldn’t expect!
“The Beatitudes come like a bolt out of the blue for any who think of religion as a sad and miserable affair,” writes Michael Green. “But the kingdom of God is quite different. In participating we are the way God meant us to be, and so it is inevitably the happy life. And that is what Blessed means: made happy by God” (The Message of Matthew, page 89).
Yet Jesus doesn’t paint a Pollyana-like picture. Not at all. The second Beatitude says “happy are the mournful” (Matthew 5:4) and the section ends with a warning about persecution. Like so much else about Jesus, one has to look closer to penetrate to the real meaning. He is the Master of indirection. That’s because he knows that religious folk tend to think they know a lot already and these instructions take us deeply into the Christian life. Jesus knows we need sometimes to be yanked back to Square One. Jesus knows that by looking further below the surface level—investing some thought and energy in the process—people will come away with pearls of great price.
The Beatitudes have been described as a series of eight verbal lightning flashes, tightly constructed mental darts that require concentrated meditation. The Beatitudes, says R.T. France, “outline the attitudes of the true disciple, the one who has accepted the demands of God’s kingdom, in contrast with the attitudes of ‘the man of the world;’ and they present this as NORTHERN LIGHT
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C O N T I N U E D
Gospel In Miniature the best way of life not only in its intrinsic goodness but in its results” (Matthew: Tyndale New Testament Commentaries, page 109).
is the kingdom of heaven” (Matthew 5:3).
The original setting gives this away.
In our day only people toting AK-47s seem to blend the poor with any kind of Kingdom. Our generation has seen a lot of social revolutionaries who, once taking power, become worse than the evil structures they were fighting against.
Jesus is on a hill in Galilee and his disciples have come to him more or less looking for formal instruction (Matthew 5:1-2). What they got was a revolution in thinking that even the 21st century hasn’t caught up with yet. Here was a condensed course in real Christianity, the Gospel in miniature. Let’s get to these eight summaries of the Christian life. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs
The Truly Humble
But Jesus meant what he said. He reserved his kingdom for the “poor in spirit,” an innocent sounding phrase which is rich in meaning. “The emphasis is on piety and suffering, and on dependence on God and not on material
poverty as such,” says R. T. France. The poor in spirit, Michael Green argues, are definitely “not the hard-boiled who push others around.” It seems that Jesus is talking about the humble and the Godfearing, those who have checked out of the power modes of this world whether in the board room or in the cabinet room. That does not mean Christ’s people cannot be there, but it does mean that their motivation is not 100% “this worldly.” They are rather looking for ways to advance Kingdom values. The poor in spirit have developed an almost total dependence on God. The payoff is, as one expositor once put it, that “they are so dependent on God that they are independent of everything else in the universe.” The poor in spirit see God in the picture. This vision gives them the faith and confidence to take the lowliest position. They are represented by Abraham offering the best land to his nephew Lot rather than risk a range war (Genesis 13:1-12). They are seen in David fleeing Jerusalem, as a senior, and manfully bearing the abuse others threw at him without retaliating (2 Samuel 16:5-14). They are Daniel’s three pious friends refusing to bow to the golden image—yet willing to suffer the consequences. The poor in spirit are people who do indeed march to a different drummer. They believe in what Robert Capon calls “left-handed power” as opposed to the “right-handed power” of the police state and the abusive overlord, whether at home, or at work. Mostly, the poor in spirit are a lot like Jesus who could have called ten legions of angels to his defense at
It seems that Jesus is talking about the humble and the Godfearing, those who have checked out of the power modes of this world whether in the board room or in the cabinet room. J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
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any time, but who chose to walk the way of the Cross. Spiritually speaking, this trait separates the men from the boys, as we say. This is why Jesus put it first. It shows up again in “the meek” and in those who agree with their adversaries quickly. Jesus loves the poor in spirit. He brilliantly portrayed their childlike trust in the Parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector. “But the tax collector…would not even look up to heaven but beat his breast and said, ‘God have mercy on me, a sinner’” (Luke 18:13). Christian Empathy “Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted” (Matthew 5:4).
This does not say, necessarily, “Blessed are the bereaved” or even the penitent. They are blessed because “they have seen the depth of the world’s suffering and of their own sin, and it has broken their heart” (Green, page 90). Today we suffer from a tragic lack of empathy. Empathy is being able to put oneself in the condition of another. First Nations people used to say, “Help me not judge my brother until I have walked a day in his moccasins.” This ability to come out of oneself and embrace and engage in the hurts and pains of others shows up often in the Old Testament prophets. “Turn, turn, for why will you die O house of Israel,” says Ezekiel. Jeremiah shed “rivers of tears” for people bringing pain on themselves. Jesus himself was cut to the quick about the city of Jerusalem and its sad fate. “O Jerusalem, Jerusalem” Jesus lamented on one o c c a s i o n (Matthew 23:37). The mourners are blessed because they see Jesus, they have come out of themselves and are motivated to share cups of cold water with the needy—a hallmark of Christian discipleship (Mark 9:41) Who doesn’t admire people like that?
“Wee, little fellows” “Blessed are the meek” —the third Beatitude. The meek are a lot like the poor in spirit. The background here is Psalm 37:11, “But the meek will inherit the land, and enjoy great peace.” We think of the Jewish diplomat Mordecai who was uncle to Esther. Both were immigrants, “strangers in a strange land.” Their strong faith and devotion to God in a time of threatening genocide by the Persian Empire were rewarded by a complete reversal of his predicament (Esther 4:12-17). Mordecai went from a minor official to virtual Prime Minister in one day. “This is revolutionary stuff,” remarks Michael Green, “It says that victory goes not to the wise or to the strong, but to those who are so small before God (which is what ‘meek’ means) that God can afford to exalt them without the danger of their getting proud” (page 90).
Meekness. It’s hard not to think of the violent nemesis of the early church, Saul of Tarsus, in this connection. Before his conversion he vindictively made havoc of the Jerusalem church (Acts 8:3). Later, after God showed him his true spiritual state, he changed his name from “Saul” to “Paul” which William Barclay used to translate as “a wee little fellow.” You may have heard of that man named Paul! “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they will be filled.” In biblical terms, righteousness has a meaning beyond personal high morality—though it includes that. The words convey more the sense of “right dealing” or “justice.” Christians haven’t always lived up to this. Oh, no. Its one of the worst things our enemies can say about us. Christians have been complicit in slavery, injustice,
Today we suffer from a tragic lack of empathy. Empathy is being able to put oneself in the condition of another. First Nations people used to say, “Help me not judge my brother until I have walked a day in his moccasins.” 18
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evictions, the status quo, peace at any price or “don’t disturb the neighborhood.” “Well, Jesus doesn’t want us doing that,” we can easily say and slip back into a comfortable, conformist middle-class Christianity. Watch it. The fourth Beatitude punctures complacency. One of the things that makes Northern Light so interesting are the case histories of activist Christians, those who thirst for right dealings for others, rolling up their sleeves and setting thing right in their own neighborhood. This is easier said than done. Well-aimed Sledgehammers Jesus’ gentle-sounding provocations seem to get more unsettling. What are we to make of “Blessed are the merciful” and “How happy the peacemakers.” Oh, how we all let down here! Noted Christian writer C.S. Lewis once referred to the Beatitudes as being hit over the head with a sledgehammer. The astute Lewis knew that the Gospel called us to live life on a much higher plane than either we or our neighbors have experienced. That’s the way of the Gospel, an impossible calling if left to us (Philippians 3:8-9). Being a peacemaker means turning the other cheek, going the extra mile. It is not taking revenge when you have your opponent dead to rights. Paul made peace between Philemon and his runaway slave, Onesimus, by taking the high road and betting on Philemon’s Christian conscience (Philemon 21). Peacemakers reach out to others across the personal gaps and barriers. Barnabas did this when the Jerusalem church was scared of Paul. Barnabas could see from Paul’s attitude that he was now a changed man. He extended the right hand of friendship and history was changed (Acts 9:26-27). Being merciful is tied very closely to this idea of love for one’s enemies. Christians have an extra incentive towards mercy because they know that their sins caused the death of the spotless Lamb of God (Ephesians 4:32). J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
In the Bible, mercy means more than one single act, as important as that is (Micah 6:8). It is an ongoing, outgoing approach coming from deep within, a conception that everyone we meet is to be treated with kindness and regard and for two reasons. One, all human beings are made in God’s image. Two, as Paul’s case shows, sometimes the most unlikely candidates are destined to become the sons and daughters of God through spiritual adoption (Romans 8:31-32). God is the God of Peace (Romans 15:33), exulting in mercy. These are cardinal attributes he wants us to radiate to this world through the Holy Spirit.
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That trait marks off the pure in heart from most of us. We do get hung up on the gory details. We see faults and flaws where the pure in heart see someone made in God’s image. Jesus saw that in short little Zacchaeus, the Danny DeVito of the Gospels. Stubby Zacchaeus, the hated tax man, was yet humble enough to climb a tree just to catch a glimpse of Jesus (Luke 19:1-10). Jesus loved that kind of enthusiasm. He saw beyond the externals to the zeal for him that Zacchaeus displayed, no matter what the crowds thought. It must have been slightly embarrassing when Jesus walked up to Zacchaeus amid the branches and said, “Come on down, friend. I’m eating at your place tonight.”
The pure in heart; Jesus loves them. So should we. Seek them out. Chances are they might be labeled “do-gooders” or “holier than thou.” Living the Gospel leads to trouble and misunderstandings. The Happy Enthusiasts Last, but not least, we come to the persecuted and the pure in heart (Matthew 5:8, 11). Happy are we when we meet the pure in heart. They are those with a singleminded, all-consuming focus on God and what God wants to see in their lives. Every local congregation has people who are pure in heart—genuine, singleminded servants, people coming to you with no ulterior motives. In a world of phonies and manipulators they stand out like freshened air after a cloudburst. They are like the widow Jesus praised who gave all her livelihood to the Temple treasury, even though she knew the Temple was run by scallywags, thieves and murderers (Luke 21:1-4). This widow was so focused on her worship of God she didn’t care about the gory details. 2 0 0 8
Embarrassing or not, Zacchaeus gave half his goods to the poor after those warm words and restored fourfold anything he had taken by fraud. The pure in heart; Jesus loves them. So should we. Seek them out. Chances are they might be labeled “do-gooders” or “holier than thou.” Living the Gospel leads to trouble and misunderstandings. It’s just not chic to turn the other cheek, go the extra mile, agree with your adversary quickly, let people off the hook. People might think we’re foolish, out of it, “crazy.” But what does it matter what other people think? All we want to hear is the hearty endorsement of our Lord and Savior, “How happy the pure in heart—they shall see God!” NL
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By Camay Achtemichuk Member, Yorkton congregation
ranny had two low bushes in her yard, near the front gate, and in the front yard below the house. In spring they were loaded with beautiful small flowers like deep pink and white hearts with tails. They made such a lovely bushy plant. I usually picked a few during the blooming season. My hands wanted to reach out and touch such exquisite loveliness. Much of the time I would race in and out of the yard heading for somewhere else, but then another time, I’d “stop and smell the roses” as it were. The “tails” of the flower looked like drops falling, so they were, appropriately, called “Bleeding Hearts”. The name meant nothing to me as a child. It was simply the name of the plants. But, in the last few years I’ve read the work of some “professionals” who speak disdainfully of people who have much sympathy for, and a wish to help others. When the author wishes to project his narrowed viewpoint into the mix, he refers to these people as “do-gooders” or “Bleeding Hearts”. Perhaps the projects are not thought out properly, or perhaps they are too idealistic. If the heart is leaning toward serving, it is portrayed, not as a virtue, but as a vice! Then there are the disenfranchised: those discriminated against; the substance abusers; the homeless; the hungry; the “throw-away” children; and the lonely, many of whom are simply elderly. These people are so used to being used, abused – or ignored – they may push you away, even while the eyes may be begging, “See the ‘me’. There’s someone in there. I’m not just the skin you see stretched over some bones and muscle. I don’t expect you to touch me – why should you ever want to? I’m all I’ve got, and it isn’t much, but if you could only know!” Or perhaps, his eyes are saying, “I’ve come this far without you, and have hardened myself. I don’t need anyone. That way, I can make it through another
night. Alone. Because “I’ve cried, until there are no tears within me, to be spent. My head aches, with the memory of words that were not meant.” Whichever or whatever is using up those minds, there is a deep, bare, raw pain, no food, or cardboard “shelter”, or bottle of wine, can quite reach, and no amount of sleep, or wakefulness, or crying can cure. These people need love; they need a true smile and maybe a hug. Yes, sadly, you need to be careful, but only
on the outside. Although the only redness you see may be the nose; the cold hands, or the bleary whites of the haunted, haunting, eyes, these are real “Bleeding Hearts”. That “bleeding” comes from the belief – or in their world, maybe the certainty – that no one cares. Holding the belief that if they were to disappear they would not be missed; that their existence is a nuisance or an embarrassment to the world at large. NORTHERN LIGHT
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If we who say we “love” Jesus don’t show we care, how are they going to believe God loves them? Can’t you see? These are people. They are not statistics. Humanity, who had moms, and dads. Maybe “of a sort”, but they were created in the image of the God who walked this earth as a human, and related to just such people. They live and they breathe. They feel. If we who say we “love” Jesus don’t show we care, how are they going to believe God loves them? And why should they? They may – or may not – have heard about Jesus’ Good News, the Gospel. These people are a small section of those who need to learn, it wasn’t Jesus with the “superiority complex” – it is “society”. And guess who is a part of “society”? You and I. This is one of the “costs” of being Jesus’ disciple – we are asked to learn to love. Yes, we may be better citizens; we may be kinder to others; we may even obey most of the “commandments”. We may be good to our mothers and be sure not to kick the dog. But we need to remem J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
ber that, “morality” can never equal “immortality”. We can have that only by accepting Jesus as Savior and Lord of our lives, and by each of us carrying his own cross. “Humanity at its worst, is often just ‘humanity at its best’ with a problem.” We turn up our noses, and forget, “There, but for the grace of God, go I”. And that’s the answer. Grace. We have it; we crave it. Ironically, some even believe they “deserve” it! Not realizing, if we “deserve” it, it isn’t grace. We want to be free of the awful loads of guilt; of shame; of pain, that is paralyzing us. We don’t just want it lifted; we want to be pardoned, free from any future consequences. In other words, we want grace. We don’t deserve it, any more than do those in prisons, those power-hungry dictators, or those on Skid Row. The abundance of grace we have been given cannot be “paid for” of course, but 2 0 0 8
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the provision has been made: pass it on. (Matt. 25: 34 - 40). If we offer grace (forgiveness), and, (as they ask) let them know where it came from, we are “showing Christ”, with our lives. Which is the lasting way. We are living the Gospel of Jesus Christ, and we are giving it. Many of these people may be way beyond the point of “hearing” (really listening). But there could be still-vulnerable spots on that “Bleeding Heart” and in that blacked out, hurting, twisted mind that will feel. An often “forwarded” e-mail says, “People will forget how you looked, or what you said, but they don’t forget how you made them feel.” We can only “show” love, if we have it.
And then there’s the “how”; the way that makes it all possible. No, the spear didn’t touch his physical heart, but that heart “bled” through his life; his eternal plan; his unconditional love for the Roman soldiers; for the Sanhedrin, for me – and for you. His physical heart wasn’t touched, but in prayer he sweated blood in the intensity of that love. He dreaded the coming pain, but never wavered. It’s difficult even for us to wrap our minds around the fact, the Great I AM – the One who created, and “owns and maintains” all the numberless galaxies – loves us – even me – that much. How much harder it is to believe, for those whose lives are devoid of hope. Any love you have? It isn’t just yours. It came from God. Now it needs to flow through you to others – and back to him. Give it away, to those disenfranchised ones. He loved them so much he bled, for them.NL
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By Joseph Tkach President, Worldwide Church of God
The Best News!
uthor Paul Young’s immensely popular novel, The Shack, about a deeply troubled man’s encounter with the Triune God, recently reached number one on the New York Times Bestseller list. The book has touched so many of its readers in such profound ways that its popularity has spread in an almost unheard of way – by word of mouth without purchased advertising.
This is the gospel, and it is truly good news, not just for a few, but for everyone, as we read in 1 John 2:2.
WCG Vice President J. Michael Feazell interviewed Paul Young in a series of three episodes of our online video program, You’re Included, available at www.wcg.org.
God doesn’t wait until we’re good enough before he forgives us and makes us his own children. He’s already done it.
Dr. Feazell has also interviewed Perichoresis, Inc. founder C. Baxter Kruger, Fuller Theological Seminary Senior Professor of Theology and Ministry Ray S. Anderson, InterVarsity Press Senior Editor Gary Deddo, Reality Ministries founder Jeff McSwain and WCG doctrinal adviser John McKenna. You’re Included producer Tony Murphy is working on scheduling Dr. Elmer Colyer, author of The Promise of Trinitarian Theology, Dr. Michael Jinkins, author of Invitation to Theology, and others. All these Christian writers and scholars are authorities on Trinitarian theology, also known as Incarnational, or Christcentered, theology. Trinitarian theology upholds the historical Christian focus on the question “Who is Jesus Christ?” as the central starting point for all aspects of Christian faith and practice. When we understand that we live and move and have our being in Christ, the One who created all things and redeemed all things and loves us unconditionally (Acts 12:32; Col. 1:19-20; John 3:16-17), we can shed all fear and anxiety about “where we stand” with God and begin to truly rest in the assurance of his love and guiding power in our lives.
It is sad, but true, that a lot of believing Christians are afraid of the final Judgment. Maybe you are, too. After all, if we’re honest with ourselves, we know we fall short of God’s perfect righteousness in many ways. But the important thing to remember about the Judgment is the identity of the Judge. The presid-
ing Judge at the final Judgment is none other than Jesus Christ our Redeemer! The book of Revelation, as you know, has a lot to say about the final Judgment, and some of it might sound scary when we think about our sins. But Revelation also has plenty to say about the Judge. It calls him the One who “loves us and frees us from our sins by his blood.” Jesus is a Judge who loves the sinners he judges so much that he died for them, standing in for them in their place and on their behalf! More than that, he rose from the dead for them, and brought them into the life and presence of the Father, who loves them just as much as Jesus does. And that’s what fills us with relief and joy. Since Jesus himself is the Judge, there is no reason for any of us to be afraid of the Judgment. God loves sinners, including you, so much that the Father sent his Son to take up the human cause and draw all people (see John 12:32), including you, to his side, transforming our minds and hearts by the Holy Spirit. God isn’t trying to find things wrong with you to keep you out of his kingdom. No, he earnestly wants you in his kingdom, and he will never stop drawing you in that direction! Notice how Jesus defines eternal life in this passage from the Gospel of John:
“Now this is eternal life: that they may know you, the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom you have sent” (John 17:3). It’s not hard or complicated to know Jesus. There is no secret handshake or riddle to solve. Jesus says simply, “Come to me, all you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest” (Matthew 11:28).
It’s just a matter of turning to him. He already did everything necessary to make you worthy. He’s already forgiven all your sins. Like the apostle Paul wrote: “But God demonstrates his own love for us in this: While we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). God doesn’t wait until we’re good enough before he forgives us and makes us his own children. He’s already done it. When we turn to God and put our trust in Jesus Christ, we enter a new life. The Holy Spirit comes to dwell in us and begins scraping off the thick hide of our sinfulness — sinful habits, attitudes and thinking — transforming us into the image of Christ from the inside out. That can hurt at times, but it is also freeing and refreshing. Through it, we grow in faith and come to know and love our Savior more and more. And the more we know our Savior, who is also our Judge, the less we fear the Judgment. When we know Jesus, we trust Jesus, and we can rest in full confidence about our salvation. It’s not about how good we are; it never has been. It has always been about how good he is. That’s good news – the best news every person can hear! NL NORTHERN LIGHT
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By Rick and Sheryl Shallenberger
By: William P. Young
ver wondered what a conversation with God would be like? Every wonder how God would respond when you are angry with him? In The Shack, you will meet Mack, whose young daughter was kidnapped and murdered. In his grief, Mack is invited to the shack where his daughter lost her life. The invitation is from “Papa,” the term his wife uses when speaking of God.
his children are suffering but who knows that the suffering will make us stronger in some way. The book helped explain why God does not intervene in every tragedy in ways that we can see, but that he is never separate from us and will always be there to give us his strength.
Mack is surprised with he meets “Papa” the first time, but it’s just the beginning of surprises as he meets and interacts with the Triune God in a very personal and moving way. The weekend spent in the company of God is one he will never forget. And the weekend we spent reading this book is one we will never forget.
The author has a gift in showing how God meets us where we are in life and reassures the reader that God is not judging us by our emotional outbursts. He created our strong emotions and he wants us to learn to use them properly. We can be honest with God about our feelings and emotions because he knows what we are thinking anyway. His goal is to live in us and help us react to things in love as he does. The book encourages readers to take an honest look at the way they view God. Through its pages, you might find yourself rediscovering God as the Father who loves you, the Son who already did everything for you and the Spirit who wants more than anything for you to know and worship the Father and Son.NL
This book helped us see God through another person’s eyes and get some answers for the tragedies we often face in our lives. By the time we were finished reading, we knew “Papa” as we’d never known him before. The book made us laugh, made us cry, made us understand people, made us understand God and made us want to get a copy of the book into as many hands as we could.
William P. Young, The Shack, Windblown Media.
The book has great insight into a myriad of emotions we all face when we suffer a great loss or when we are going through a tragedy. And all along the way, God shows his understanding and his love. There is an answer to everything, but sometimes the answer must wait. The author used the story of Mack to help the reader understand that God does not cause the tragedies we face, but he uses them. He shared the love of a Father who hurts when J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
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By Michael Morrison
The Gospel Revealed A Study Of Galatians 1
aul started several churches in the province of Galatia and then moved on to other regions. Then he learned that some other people had gone to Galatia and were teaching the people that the gospel involved much more than Paul had told them. “Jesus is good,” they apparently said, “but you need to go further. You need to obey the Law that God gave his people. Faith is good, but you need the laws of Moses, too.” Paul was furious! The people were meddling in his territory, making false accusations about him, trying to hijack the work he had done, and worst of all, leading the people away from Christ. Paul wrote a letter1to defend his ministry and to explain what the gospel is. It has much to teach us today. Introduction Greek letters normally began by saying who wrote the letter and the people it is being sent to. Paul modifies this pattern by adding a lengthy comment about the basis of his authority: Paul, an apostle— sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead— (v. 1).2 Several times in this letter, Paul denies that he was sent or authorized by other people, especially the apostles in Jerusalem. Apparently his opponents said that the apostles had sent Paul on a mission, a mission he supposedly had not finished, and the apostles had then sent more people to tell the Galatians about their need to obey the law of Moses (cf. Acts 15:5). Paul says that they are mistaken: They might have been sent by human authority, but he had divine authority for his mission. The letter is being sent not only by Paul, but also all the brothers with me—he has supporters, though the letter does not name them, perhaps because the Galatians do not know them. To the churches in Galatia: Grace and peace to
you from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ (vv. 2-3). Greek letters usually began with charein, or “greetings.” Paul modifies this by using a similar word, charis, “grace,” and adding the Jewish greeting, “peace.” In verse 1, he noted an action of the Father. Here, he describes the work of Christ: who gave himself for our sins to rescue us from the present evil age, according to the will of our God and Father (v. 4). This is the gospel in a nutshell: Jesus has taken care of our sins and rescued us, giving us a place in the age to come as children of God. Paul will elaborate more on this later in his letter. Here he specifies that this rescue is precisely what the Father wanted, and it is to his glory forever and ever. Amen. An astonishing curse Most Greek letters included a brief prayer to the gods; Paul usually expands that by thanking God for the faith of the readers and asking a blessing on them. But in this letter, Paul gives no thanks— he begins abruptly and includes a curse instead of a blessing: I am astonished that you are so quickly deserting the one who called you by the grace of Christ and are turning to a different gospel— (v. 6). “Paul’s expression of amazement…was a common expression of rebuke in Greek letters of his day…. The tone of rebuke pervades the…letter from 1:6 to 4:12” (G. Walter Hansen, Galatians, 36, 35). The readers may have been astonished, too, because Paul is telling them that they are deserting God. That is not what they want to do, but Paul is telling them that’s what it amounts to. They had been called by grace, and if they give their allegiance to the law, they will be denying their call (cf. 5:2). The opponents claimed that their message was the original gospel, but Paul says that it is really no gospel at all (1:7). It was bad news, not good. It was requiring elements of the old age, the age that Jesus had rescued us from.
Evidently some people are throwing you into confusion and are trying to pervert the gospel of Christ. Paul then announces his curse: But even if we or an angel from heaven should preach a gospel other than the one we preached to you, let him be eternally condemned!3 (v. 8). Paul is not asking for personal loyalty—he wants the people to be loyal to the message of Jesus Christ. Paul is so insistent on this that he repeats himself: As we have already said, so now I say again: If 4 anybody is preaching to you a gospel other than what you accepted, let him be eternally condemned! (v. 9). After this strongly worded outburst, Paul asks, Am I now trying to win the approval of men, or of God? Or am I trying to please men? If I were still5 trying to please men, I would not be a servant of Christ (v. 10). His opponents apparently said that Paul focused on grace because he was afraid of telling people about the laws of Moses. But as Paul has just demonstrated, he is not afraid of offending people. He serves Christ, not public opinion. He was commissioned by Christ, not human beings. Paul’s commission from God To support his point, and to show that the opponents were not telling the truth, Paul tells his story, particularly his relationship with the apostles. In the book of Acts, Luke tells us many more details, but this is Paul’s own description of what happened.6 I want you to know, brothers, that the gospel I preached is not something that man made up (v. 11). Paul is here responding to his opponents. I did not receive it from any man, nor was I taught it; rather, I received it by revelation from Jesus Christ (v. 12). It was not just a revelation from Christ—it was Christ being revealed to Paul (v. 16). Paul saw Christ, and that required a re-evaluation of everything that Paul had NORTHERN LIGHT
believed. Based simply on that appearance of Jesus, Paul could have understood quite a bit: “Jesus has been resurrected into glory, so he must be God’s Anointed, the Messiah. But I was persecuting his people! If zeal for the law caused me to persecute God’s people, something must be seriously wrong in my use of the law. Not only that, I was an enemy of God, and yet God spared me—I was accepted by grace, not by careful observance of the law.7 And the Messiah did not bring political blessings, so the salvation that he brought was a spiritual one—one available to Gentiles as well as Jews.” But I am getting ahead of the story. Here’s the way Paul tells it: For you have heard of my previous way of life in Judaism, how intensely I persecuted the church of God and tried to destroy it (v. 13). They already knew the story, but Paul tells it here to highlight certain facts, and to present himself as a model they could imitate. If someone had been there, done that, and found it deficient, then maybe it would not be wise for the Galatians to adopt a law-based approach to religion. I was advancing in Judaism beyond many Jews of my own age and was extremely zealous for the traditions of my fathers’ (v. 14). Paul had viewed Judaism as a “performance” religion, in which some people did better than others, and he did particularly well. Following the example of Phineas, Elijah, and Mattathias, his zeal for the law caused him to persecute people who were leading others astray (see Num. 25:6-18; 1 Kings 19:10; and 1 Maccabees 2:23-26, 58).8 This is one of the ways in which he worked harder than other people his age. According to their standards, he had everything going for him (see Phil. 3:4-6). But he gave it up: But when God, who set me apart from birth and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
might preach him among the Gentiles… (Gal. 1:15-16). The basic components of Paul’s calling are God’s grace, Jesus Christ the Son of God in him9, and the mission to the Gentiles. Paul’s message had its origin in God, not in the apostles. I did not consult any man, nor did I go up to Jerusalem to see those who were apostles before I was, but I went immediately into Arabia and later returned to Damascus (v. 17). Paul spent several days with Ananias and the disciples in Damascus (Acts 9:19), and they no doubt told him what they knew about Jesus. Paul’s point is not that he didn’t talk to anyone, but that he did not ask anyone to tell him what to preach. The opponents in Galatia may have been trained by apostles, but Paul was not. And that’s good—the apostles did not yet know that God was calling Gentiles into his family, and if they had heard Paul talk about a Gentile mission, they probably would have tried to talk him out of it! Paul does not tell us where in Arabia he went, or what he did there. If he began to preach in Damascus, then he may have preached in Arabia, too, perhaps in Nabatea, southeast of Judea. Jesus told him to preach to the Gentiles, so he probably did. Then after three years,10 I went up to Jerusalem to get acquainted with Peter and stayed with him fifteen days (Gal. 1:18). Peter no doubt told him as much as he could about Jesus, but it was not a training session in which Peter told Paul what he should preach. Paul is stressing his independence. I saw none of the other apostles—only James, the Lord’s brother. I assure you before God that what I am writing you is no lie (vv. 19-20). Paul’s insistence that he is not lying indicates that he is responding to accusations—that he was an agent of the apostles. Paul’s opponents claimed an equal authority, so they tried to “flesh out” Paul’s message 2 0 0 8
with more details. They have my story wrong, Paul says, and they have the gospel wrong, too. Paul explained that he left the area: Later I went to Syria and Cilicia. I was personally unknown to the churches of Judea that are in Christ (vv. 21-22). Antioch is the most likely location in Syria, and Tarsus in Cilicia. Paul’s main point is that he did not stay in Judea. Jesus had not sent him to Judea either to preach or to put himself under the apostles’ authority. Paul’s only relationship with the Judean churches was that they heard about him: They only heard the report: “The man who formerly persecuted us is now preaching the faith he once tried to destroy.” And they praised God because of me (vv. 23-24). So Paul abandoned his pursuit of Jewish traditions, and began to preach another faith, the one we call Christianity. The Judean Jewish Christians had not brought this about, but they were in substantial agreement with Paul’s conversion and the faith that he preached.NL
Questions for discussion 1. When God called me, was I aware that it was by the grace of Christ? (v. 6) . 2. Do I ever shirk from the gospel because I am trying to please people? (v. 10) 3. Was there ever a point in my life when I persecuted or belittled the gospel? (v. 13) 4. Does God reveal his Son in me? (v. 16) 5. Have I turned away from a law-based religion to trust the grace of Christ?
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Endnotes: 1. Some scholars believe that this is Paul’s earliest letter, written before the Council of Jerusalem (Acts 15)—it is possible that Paul did not have time to travel back to Galatia because he planned to go to that Council, yet he wanted to address the problem in Galatia right away. Other scholars believe that the letter was written much later. 2. He lists Jesus Christ first, and the Father’s role is relegated to raising Jesus from the dead! Paul’s commission came from Jesus, and when Paul was struck down on the road to Damascus, he was especially stunned that Jesus had been raised from the dead. That was tremendously significant for Paul’s understanding of Jesus and his commission. 3. The Greek word is anathema, and the NIV has added the word “eternally.” But if Paul could be forgiven for persecuting the church, others could be forgiven for preaching a false gospel; the word “eternal” does not seem warranted. Paul is not being vindictive or making objective theological statements—he is just using the rhetoric of his day to denounce his opponents. Sometimes an anathema is appropriate, but church history shows the anathema being pronounced for sometimes petty differences. Paul was tolerant of diversity on some issues (e.g. Rom. 14). 4. Greek has two words for “if.” In v. 8, the word for if indicates a hypothetical, unlikely condition—it is not likely that Paul or the angels will preach a perverted gospel. But the “if” in v. 9 is a different word, implying something that is likely to be true: people are already preaching an erroneous message. 5. With the word “still,” Paul implies that he used to be a people-pleaser. He measured his success in Judaism in comparison to others (v. 14).
6. Historians generally prefer first-person accounts, and some biblical scholars are skeptical of Luke’s accuracy, but we would scarcely be able to reconstruct a history of Paul’s travels from the letters alone. Luke tells us several important facts that Paul does not: that he was from Tarsus, that he was a Roman citizen, and that he was converted while on his way to Damascus.
lived in Damascus three years? N.T. Wright suggests that he went to Mt. Sinai, then to Damascus, following the example of Elijah (1 Kings 19:1-15). The book of Acts says nothing about this three years.
7. Three further lines of thought could have told Paul that the laws of Moses had come to the end of their validity. First, the resurrection of Jesus into glory indicated that the end of the age had come, and the law of Moses was not designed for the new age. 2) Since forgiveness is available without temple rituals, a large chunk of the Mosaic covenant had no purpose, calling into question the entire package. 3) The laws of Moses were not given to Gentiles, and never applied to Gentiles, and it would not make sense for salvation to be more difficult for Jews than it would be for Gentiles. 8. What caused Paul to persecute the early Christians? Several Jews claimed to be the Messiah, both before and after Jesus, and that was apparently not considered blasphemous in itself. Two things in particular may have incensed Paul: 1) the claim that a crucified person was honored by God, when the law says such a person is accursed, and 2) at least some of the Christians were perceived as being against the law (cf. Acts 6:11). The biblical connection between violence and zeal for the law suggests that Paul saw the Jesus-disciples as violators of the law and a threat to the nation’s covenant relationship with God. 9. Paul does not say that God revealed his Son to Paul, but in Paul. In Paul’s work and sufferings, God continued to reveal his Son in Paul. 10. The chronology isn’t clear. Did Paul stay in Arabia for three years, then go to Jerusalem by way of Damascus—or did he have a short stay in Arabia and then NORTHERN LIGHT
de Michael Morrison
Une étude de Galates 1
Après avoir fondé plusieurs Églises dans la province de Galatie, Paul poursuit son travail d’évangélisation dans d’autres régions. Puis, il apprend que certaines personnes se sont aussi rendues en Galatie et enseignent aux gens que l’Évangile implique beaucoup plus que ce qu’il leur a enseigné. « Jésus est bon, disent-ils apparemment, mais ce n’est pas suffisant. Vous devez obéir à la loi que Dieu a donnée à son peuple. La foi est bonne, mais vous avez également besoin des lois de Moïse. » Paul est furieux ! Ces personnes interfèrent dans son territoire, en faisant de fausses accusations à son sujet, en essayant de saboter son travail et, le pire de tout, en détournant les gens de Christ. Paul écrit donc une lettre1 pour défendre son ministère et pour expliquer ce qu’est l’Évangile. Cette lettre a beaucoup à nous enseigner aujourd’hui. Introduction Les lettres grecques commençaient normalement par le nom de l’auteur, suivi par celui du destinataire. Paul modifie ce modèle en ajoutant un commentaire élaboré sur le fondement de son autorité : « Cette lettre vous est adressée par Paul, apôtre, non par une autorité humaine, ni par l’intermédiaire d’un homme, mais par Jésus-Christ et par Dieu le Père, qui l’a ressuscité d’entre les morts » (v. 1).2 Plusieurs fois dans sa lettre, Paul nie avoir été envoyé ou autorisé par d’autres personnes, surtout les apôtres à Jérusalem. Apparemment, ses adversaires affirmaient que les apôtres avaient envoyé Paul en mission, une mission qu’il n’avait soi-disant pas terminée, et qu’ils avaient ensuite envoyé d’autres personnes pour dire aux Galates qu’ils devaient obéir à la loi de Moïse (Actes 15.5). Paul déclare qu’ils font erreur : ces personnes ont peut-être été envoyées par une autorité humaine, mais il avait été envoyé en mission par une autorité divine. J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
La lettre est envoyée non seulement par Paul, mais également par « tous les frères qui sont avec [lui] » (v. 2a) – il était appuyé par d’autres chrétiens, même si la lettre ne mentionne pas leur nom, peut-être parce que les Galates ne les connaissaient pas. « […] je salue les Églises de la Galatie. Que la grâce et la paix vous soient données par Dieu notre Père et par le Seigneur Jésus-Christ » (v. 2b,3). Les lettres grecques commençaient généralement par une charein ou « salutation ». Paul modifie cette salutation en utilisant un mot semblable, charis ou « grâce », suivi par la salutation juive, « paix ». Au verset 1, Paul fait mention d’une action du Père. Au verset 4, il décrit l’œuvre du Fils : « Le Christ s’est offert lui-même en sacrifice pour expier nos péchés, afin de nous délivrer du monde présent dominé par le mal ; il a ainsi accompli la volonté de Dieu, notre Père. » C’est l’Évangile en résumé : Jésus s’est offert lui-même pour expier nos péchés et nous a sauvés pour nous accorder une place dans le monde à venir comme enfants de Dieu. Plus loin dans sa lettre, Paul élaborera davantage ce sujet. Ensuite, il mentionne que ce salut est précisément ce que le Père voulait, et que cela est à sa « gloire pour l’éternité ! Amen ! » (v. 5b) Une malédiction étonnante La plupart des lettres grecques comprenaient une brève prière aux dieux ; en général, Paul utilisait cette partie de la lettre pour remercier Dieu de la foi de ses lecteurs et pour lui demander de les bénir. Mais dans cette lettre-ci, Paul ne fait aucun remerciement. Il commence sans cérémonie et insère une malédiction au lieu d’une bénédiction : « Je m’étonne de la rapidité avec laquelle vous abandonnez celui qui vous a appelés par la grâce du Christ, pour vous tourner vers un autre message » (v. 6). « L’expression d’étonnement de Paul […] était une expression courante de réprimande dans les lettres grecques de son époque […]. Le ton de reproche 2 0 0 8
pénètre la […] lettre de 1.6 à 4.12 » (G. Walter Hansen, Galatians, 36,35). Les lecteurs ont peut-être été également étonnés, parce que Paul leur dit qu’ils délaissaient Dieu. Ce n’est pas ce qu’ils veulent faire, mais Paul leur dit que ce qu’ils font revient au même. Ils ont été appelés par grâce, et s’ils s’engagent à suivre la loi, ils nient leur appel (5.2). Leurs adversaires prétendaient que leur message était l’Évangile original, mais Paul écrit : « Comme s’il pouvait y avoir un autre message ! Non, il n’en existe pas d’autre » (v .7a). Pour lui, c’était une mauvaise nouvelle, et non une bonne. Elle exigeait des éléments de l’ancienne alliance, celle dont Jésus les avait rachetés. « […] mais il y a des gens qui sèment le trouble parmi vous et qui veulent renverser le message du Christ » (v. 7b). Paul annonce ensuite sa malédiction : « Eh bien, si quelqu’un – même nous, même un ange du ciel – vous annonçait un message différent de celui que nous vous avons annoncé, qu’il soit maudit !3 (v. 8). Paul ne demande pas qu’ils soient loyaux envers lui, mais qu’ils le soient envers le message de Jésus-Christ. Paul insiste tellement sur ce point qu’il se répète : « Je l’ai déjà dit et je le répète maintenant : si4 quelqu’un vous prêche un autre message que celui que vous avez reçu, qu’il soit maudit ! » (v. 9.) Après cet accès de paroles sévères, Paul demande : « Qu’en pensez-vous maintenant ? Est-ce la faveur des hommes que je recherche ou celle de Dieu ? Mon désir est-il de plaire aux hommes ? Si je cherchais encore5 à plaire aux hommes, je ne serais pas serviteur du Christ » (v. 10). Ses adversaires disaient apparemment que Paul se concentrait sur la grâce par crainte de parler aux gens de la loi de Moïse. Mais comme Paul venait juste de le démontrer, il ne craint pas d’offenser les gens. Il sert Christ et non l’opinion publique. Il
avait été envoyé par Christ et non par des êtres humains. La mission que Paul a reçue de Dieu Pour appuyer son point et pour montrer que ses adversaires ne disaient pas la vérité, Paul raconte son histoire, en particulier sa relation avec les apôtres. Dans le livre des Actes, Luc relate beaucoup d’autres détails, mais Paul donne sa propre description des événements.6 « Je veux que vous le sachiez, frères : le message que je vous ai annoncé n’est pas le fruit d’une pensée humaine » (v. 11). Paul répond ensuite à ses adversaires. « Car je ne l’ai reçu d’aucun homme, personne ne me l’a enseigné ; c’est Jésus-Christ lui-même qui me l’a fait connaître, par une révélation » (v. 12). Ce n’était pas seulement une révélation de Christ, mais c’était Christ révélé à Paul (v. 16). Puisque Paul avait vu Christ, cela exigeait qu’il réévalue tout ce qu’il avait cru jusque-là. D’après cette seule apparition de Jésus, Paul pouvait avoir compris beaucoup de choses : «Étant donné que Jésus est ressuscité en gloire, il doit être l’oint de Dieu, le Messie. Mais j’ai persécuté son peuple ! Si mon zèle pour la loi me faisait persécuter le peuple de Dieu, il doit y avoir quelque chose de très erroné dans ma façon d’utiliser la loi. Non seulement cela, mais j’étais un ennemi de Dieu, et pourtant Dieu m’a épargné. J’ai été accepté par grâce et non par mon observation minutieuse de la loi.7 Puisque le Messie n’a pas apporté de bénédictions politiques, son salut était donc spirituel – une bénédiction offerte aux Gentils autant qu’aux Juifs. » Mais j’avance un peu trop loin dans l’histoire. Paul la raconte ainsi : « Vous avez entendu parler de ma conduite passée à l’époque où je militais dans le judaïsme. Vous savez avec quel fanatisme je persécutais l’Église de Dieu, dans le but de la détruire » (v. 13). Les Galates connaissaient déjà l’histoire,
mais Paul la raconte dans sa lettre pour souligner certains faits et pour se présenter comme un modèle qu’ils pourraient imiter. Si lui, qui a été là et qui a fait cela, a considéré la loi comme insuffisante, alors il ne serait peut-être pas sage pour les Galates d’adopter une approche de la religion, qui repose sur la loi. « Dans la pratique du judaïsme, j’allais plus loin que la plupart des Juifs de ma génération, et j’étais bien plus zélé qu’eux pour les traditions que j’avais reçues de mes ancêtres » (v. 14). Paul considérait le judaïsme comme une religion d’« œuvres », où certaines personnes en faisaient plus que d’autres, et il réussissait assez bien. À l’exemple de Phinéas, d’Élie et de Matthatias, son zèle pour la loi l’a amené à persécuter les gens qui en éloignaient d’autres de la loi (voir Nombres 25.6-18 ; 1 Rois 19.10 ; et 1 Macchabée 2.23-26,58).8 C’est l’une des façons par lesquelles il travaillait plus dur que les autres gens de sa génération. Selon leurs normes, il était très zélé (voir Philippiens 3.4-6). Mais il a tout abandonné : « Mais, lorsqu’il plut à celui qui m’avait mis à part dès le sein de ma mère, et qui m’a appelé par sa grâce, de révéler en moi son Fils afin que je l’annonce parmi les païens » (Galates 1.15,16b, Bible Louis Segond). Les composantes fondamentales de l’appel de Paul sont la grâce de Dieu, Jésus-Christ le Fils de Dieu en lui 9 et la mission envers les Gentils. Le message de Paul vient de Dieu, et non des apôtres. « Je n’ai consulté personne. Je ne me suis même pas rendu à Jérusalem pour rencontrer ceux qui étaient déjà apôtres avant moi, mais je suis parti pour l’Arabie. De là, je suis retourné à Damas » (v. 16b,17). Paul a passé plusieurs jours à Damas avec Ananias et les disciples (Actes 9.19), et ils lui ont sans doute raconté ce qu’ils savaient de Jésus. Le point de Paul n’est pas qu’il n’a pas parlé à personne, mais qu’il n’a demandé à personne de lui dire quoi prêcher. Et
c’est une bonne chose parce que les apôtres ne savaient pas encore que Dieu appelait les Gentils dans sa famille, et s’ils avaient entendu Paul parler d’une mission auprès des Gentils, ils auraient probablement essayé de l’en dissuader ! Paul ne nous dit pas où il est allé en Arabie, ou ce qu’il y a fait. S’il avait commencé à prêcher à Damas, alors il pouvait également avoir prêché en Arabie, peut-être à Nabatea, au sud-est de la Judée. Puisque Jésus lui a dit de prêcher aux Gentils, c’est probablement ce qu’il a fait. « Ce n’est que trois ans plus tard10 que je suis allé à Jérusalem pour faire la connaissance de Pierre, chez qui je suis resté quinze jours » (Galates 1.18). Pierre lui a sans doute parlé de Jésus autant qu’il le pouvait, mais ce n’était pas une session de formation où Pierre disait à Paul ce qu’il devait prêcher. Paul souligne son indépendance. « À part lui et Jacques, le frère du Seigneur, je n’ai rencontré aucun apôtre. – Dieu m’est témoin que je ne mens pas en vous écrivant cela – (v. 19,20). L’insistance de Paul sur le fait qu’il ne ment pas indique qu’il répond à des accusations, à savoir qu’il était un agent des apôtres. Déclarant détenir une autorité égale à celle de Paul, les adversaires de Paul ont donc essayé d’« étoffer » son message avec plus de détails. Paul dit qu’ils se trompent à son sujet et également au sujet de l’Évangile. Paul explique qu’il a quitté la région : « Ensuite je me suis rendu dans les districts de la Syrie et de la Cilicie. Mais les chrétiens des Églises de la Judée ne me connaissaient pas personnellement » (v. 21,22). Antioche en Syrie et Tarse en Cilicie sont les villes où il est probablement allé. Le point principal de Paul est qu’il n’est pas resté en Judée. Jésus ne l’avait pas envoyé en Judée pour prêcher ni pour se mettre sous l’autorité des apôtres.
Les Églises de la Judée n’avaient comme toute relation avec Paul que celle d’avoir entendu parler de lui : « Ils avaient seulement entendu dire : Celui qui, autrefois, nous persécutait, prêche maintenant la foi qu’il voulait détruire. Et ils louaient Dieu à mon sujet ». (v. 23,24). Paul a donc cessé de suivre les traditions juives et a commencé à prêcher une autre foi, celle que nous appelons le christianisme. Les chrétiens juifs de la Judée n’avaient pas provoqué cela, mais ils étaient essentiellement d’accord avec la conversion de Paul et la foi qu’il prêchait.NL Questions 1. Quand Dieu m’a appelé, étais-je conscient que c’était par la grâce de Christ ? (v. 6) 2. Est-ce que j’évite parfois de parler de l’Évangile parce que j’essaie de plaire aux gens ? (v. 10) 3. Y a-t-il eu un moment dans ma vie où j’ai persécuté ou méprisé l’Évangile ? (v. 13) 4. Dieu révèle-t-il son Fils en moi ? (v. 16) 5. Me suis-je détourné d’une religion fondée sur la loi pour embrasser la grâce de Christ ?
Notes de fin 1. Certains érudits croient que cette lettre de Paul est la première qu’il a écrite, avant le Concile de Jérusalem (Actes 15). Il est possible que Paul n’ait pas eu le temps de retourner en Galatie parce qu’il prévoyait assister à ce Concile ; cependant, il voulait adresser immédiatement le problème qui sévissait en Galatie. D’autres érudits croient que la lettre a été écrite beaucoup plus tard. 2. Il mentionne Jésus-Christ en premier, et le rôle du Père est relégué à ressusciter Jésus d’entre les morts ! La mission de Paul est venue de Jésus, et quand Paul a été frappé sur le chemin de J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
Damas, il a surtout été étonné que Jésus soit ressuscité des morts. Cette apparition était énormément importante pour que Paul comprenne Jésus et sa mission. 3. Le mot grec pour [maudit] est anathema, et la version NIV a ajouté le mot « éternellement ». Mais si Paul pouvait être pardonné d’avoir persécuté l’Église, d’autres pouvaient être pardonnés d’avoir prêché un faux Évangile ; le mot « éternellement » ne semble pas justifié. Paul n’est ni vindicatif ni en train de faire des déclarations théologiques objectives ; il ne fait qu’utiliser la rhétorique de son époque pour dénoncer ses adversaires. Parfois, un anathème est approprié, mais l’histoire de l’Église montre que l’anathème a parfois été prononcé pour de très petites différences. Paul était tolérant quant à la diversité sur certains sujets (Romains 14). 4. Le grec a deux mots pour notre mot « si ». Au verset 8, le mot grec pour si indique une condition hypothétique improbable ; il est peu probable que Paul ou les anges prêchent un Évangile perverti. Mais le « si » au verset 9 est un mot différent qui implique quelque chose qui est probablement vrai : des gens prêchaient déjà un message erroné. 5. Avec les mots « encore », Paul implique qu’il avait l’habitude de vouloir plaire aux gens. Il mesurait sa réussite dans le judaïsme en se comparant aux autres (v. 14). 6. Les historiens préfèrent généralement des récits racontés par la personne concernée, et certains érudits bibliques doutent de la précision du récit de Luc ; cependant, il serait difficile de reconstruire une histoire des voyages de Paul à partir de ses lettres. Luc relate plusieurs faits importants que Paul ne mentionne pas : que Paul venait de Tarse, qu’il avait sa citoyenneté romaine et qu’il s’était converti sur le chemin de Damas.
Moïse n’étaient plus valides. Premièrement, la résurrection de Jésus en gloire indiquait que la fin de la dispensation présente était arrivée et que la loi de Moïse n’est pas conçue pour la nouvelle dispensation. Deuxièmement, étant donné que le pardon est offert sans les rituels du temple, une grande partie de l’alliance mosaïque n’avait plus de raison d’être et remettait en question toute la loi. Troisièmement, comme les lois de Moïse n’ont pas été données aux Gentils et qu’elles ne se sont jamais appliquées à eux, il serait insensé que le salut soit plus difficile à obtenir pour les Juifs qu’il le serait pour les Gentils. 8. Qu’est-ce qui motivait Paul à persécuter les premiers chrétiens ? Plusieurs Juifs avaient déclaré être le Messie, avant et après Jésus, et cela n’était apparemment pas considéré comme blasphématoire en soi. Deux choses en particulier peuvent avoir révolté Paul : premièrement, la déclaration qu’une personne crucifiée soit honorée par Dieu, quand la loi dit qu’une telle personne est maudite et, deuxièmement, au moins quelques-uns des chrétiens étaient perçus comme opposés à la loi (Actes 6.11). Le lien biblique entre la violence et le zèle pour la loi suggère que Paul considérait les disciples de Jésus comme des violateurs de la loi et une menace à la relation d’alliance de la nation avec Dieu. 9. Paul ne dit pas que Dieu a révélé son Fils à Paul, mais en Paul. Dans l’œuvre et dans les souffrances de Paul, Dieu a continué à révéler son Fils en Paul. 10. La chronologie n’est pas claire. Paul est-il resté en Arabie pendant trois ans, pour ensuite se rendre à Jérusalem en passant par Damas ou a-t-il séjourné brièvement en Arabie pour ensuite aller vivre à Damas pendant trois ans ? N. T. Wright suggère qu’il s’est rendu au mont Sinaï, puis à Damas, comme Élie l’a fait (1 Rois 19.1-15). Le livre des Actes ne dit rien au sujet de ces trois années.
7. Trois autres lignes de pensée auraient pu convaincre Paul que les lois de 2 0 0 8
C O M M E N T A R Y By Dennis Estacion Member, Calgary congregation
was laid off from my IT (Information Technology) Coordinator role in June 2007 in Calgary, and because I had some available time while waiting for a new position (it would be rare for someone to make a hiring decision during the Calgary Stampede), I thought it would be the year to volunteer at our church’s youth summer camp at Nakamun, Alberta. My two daughters Ethel and Althea were official campers, and my son Erwin and our cat Crash were tag-alongs.
I’ve heard of wonderful and uplifting camp experiences shared by campers, volunteers and pastors. Yet frankly, I didn’t know what to expect. My apprehensions slowly faded when I saw how welcoming the other volunteers were and how well-behaved the kids were. Everyone had a good laugh during the ice breaker session where each camper picked a written description and tried to identify the person being described. One camper was given the description “I like sushi” and headed straight towards me. Being Asian, with a pony tail, I was the obvious choice. I do like sushi, but interestingly enough, the description was for someone else.
My First Camp Experience was glad to find out that I could actually eat bacon. I shot arrows for the first time, and even hit 3 balloons! I also completed a medium-difficulty wall climb. In addition, I found myself being enriched spiritually because we were all immersed in a continuous Christian fellowship. This was particularly true while I provided service to the campers, shared meals, stories and trials with them and listened to sermons. The worshipful atmosphere in camp helped me to focus on the big picture and to give praise for everything. For me camp also became a place to experience answered prayers. My Toyota 4Runner truck wouldn’t start when I wanted to leave camp on the last Sunday. Pastor Leigh Smithson helped me and we initially thought it was the battery, since one of the battery cables was loose. After checking the fuses, ensuring gears were not stuck, and charging the battery the truck still wouldn’t start. At that moment, Pastor Eric Warren and I prayed about the situation.
Apart from learning new ways of preparing food I already know, I now have an idea how to make Reuben sandwiches, French Toast and beef with beans chili.
Before I could call the auto club for assistance, our head chef Wayne, arrived and thought that shorting the posts on the starter might work. He went under the truck but couldn’t find any exposed terminals to create a short. That inspired me to look in the fuse box and see if there was anything obvious to short out in the starter relay. I took out a metal coat hanger and a small screwdriver, and then shorted two terminals and voila, the engine cranked!
I learned how mashed potatoes are actually “mashed”, how knives are sharpened and how to create a cheaper version of “Pam” non-stick cooking spray.
I then got in the cab, turned the keys, tried the hanger/screwdriver routine again, and the truck started. Was it merely a coincidence, or answered prayer? I truly believe it was the latter.
I also learned there is a turkey version of bacon. Since I prefer not to eat pork, I
In addition to this answer to prayer, something even more incredible hap-
There were lots of firsts for me: I served in the kitchen and got exposed to massive amounts of dishes to wash (about 85 sets per meal)!
pened! Everyone at the camp was aware of my recent job loss and were praying fervently for me. When I returned home after camp, I had received emails from three new job prospects. The week after camp, I got into a fastpaced hiring process with one of those prospects and got an actual offer from that firm which I accepted. To conclude, Silver Meadows 2007 was an incredibly valuable experience for me, and I thank everyone for their loving fellowship. NL
Our cat had an adventure too. He was an indoor cat in the “wild”. I only saw him periodically. He was so skinny after camp, and he must have been in a fight while there. He had some cuts and all his claws were worn out. After our fourhour drive back home in Calgary, I bathed him in the shower while he was still in his cage. I then let him loose in the garage and let him dry over a blanket and fed him. When we let him loose in our rec room as we watched TV, he slept for a few hours on the couch with his tongue hanging out. He was so dead tired he didn’t even retract his tongue when we touched it! After a few days, he’s back to his normal, playful mode, but has become more patient before trying to scratch or bite me when I now rub his belly. NORTHERN LIGHT
N A T I O N A L
Update on 2008 AGM in Montreal The board of WCG Canada held its Annual General Meeting in Montreal, May 31st and June 1st. As well as dealing with the normal business for which the board is responsible, it spent considerable time discussing the matter of policy governance. The board adopted the policy governance model of governance advocated by John Carver in 2004. At the board’s request, the General Counsel of the Denomination, Bernard W. Schnippert was available to the board via telephone hookup, for his professional advice. This discussion was stimulated by certain policy and procedural advice and directives coming from the denominational parent of the Canadian Church, the Worldwide Church of God USA (“the Denomination”). The Board has been advised by the Denomination, including, and specifically, by its General Counsel, Bernard W. Schnippert, that the Denomination is requesting all of its international affiliates, including the Canadian Church, to begin immediately to conform its management and administrative systems and structures to ones deemed superior legally, administratively, and more congruent with the Denominational governance system as a religious institution than the Carver System. Furthermore, all Denominational international affiliates have been asked, if deemed appropriate by the boards of the various affiliates after appropriate discussion and consideration, to rescind their respective Carver System Policy Manuals. After a full hearing of the matter by the Board in consultation with the Denominational General Counsel, a thorough discussion of all relevant issues took place, and including the asking and answering of questions. The Board concluded that (1) the proposed changes requested by the Denomination J U L Y / A U G U S T / S E P T E M B E R
are in fact legally and administratively superior to the Carver System, (2) are more congruent with the Denominational governance and (3) are in the best interests of the Canadian Church and its members and local churches in light of the Canadian Church’s corporate purposes as contained in its Letters Patent. In light of the foregoing findings, the Board decided unanimously to rescind each and every provision of the Worldwide Church of God Canada Policy Governance Manual. The board will continue to work closely with the management of the church to ensure the church is able to pursue its mission in a legally and fiscally prudent manner.
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1968. We showed up in 1972 as the newly married young assistant and were treated quite warmly. Susan and I hadn't been there for about 30 years, so that made it all the sweeter. There really is something about prairie hospitality that you can actually sense, little things like coming back the second day and people waving to you as you walk in....Prairie longevity was well in evidence. So many families never seem to have aged--our hostess was a lively 90-year-old, and she's taking classes at the University of Regina !! Neil Earle Award for Service
Regina Congregation Celebrates 40th The Regina church celebrated its 40th anniversary June 8 with Susan and myself glad to be on hand to bring greetings from the US and the headquarters team. It was orchestrated in fine style. Eric and Amy Warren and Tom and Melody Jamieson and the pastoral team of "Marthas and Marys" made this such a memorable weekend. There was a dinner-dance on Saturday night with the ingenious twist of a magician doing his stuff, which involved both children and adults. Excellent move! The members also appreciated video updates from former pastors Bob Millman and Glen Weber, and former Reginan Trevor Cherry drove all the way from Yorkton to make the dinner. Regina is a lively church with lots of young families and teenagers, which bodes well for its future. One of those teens is Reuben Ross, who is auditioning for the Canadian Olympic Diving Team in Vancouver this month. There was also most of the little Moosomin Church on hand for the service, as the two churches started together in June 2 0 0 8
On April 19, 2008, Lister Chen, member of the Worldwide Church of God congregation in Prince George, B.C., received an Outstanding Community Service Award from Prince George mayor, Colin Kinsley and Councillor Shirley Gratton. He was one of 23 people and organizations receiving various awards that evening. It was to recognize his 14 years of volunteer service to the Prince George Deaf Children's Society in organizing workshops, sign language courses, deaf camps, fundraisers, social activities, applying for grants, and providing assistive devices/interpreting/tutoring to deaf and hard of hearing children . Award recipients, their spouses, and supporters enjoyed a dinner at the civic centre. He received a plaque and pen as a token of the city's appreciation.
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CLAUDE CLENDENING CLENDENING, Claude Grant, 86, died June 6, 2008. Left to cherish his memory are: His loving wife of 61 years, Jewel (nee Stankie); Children: George (Arleen) Clendening; Natalie (Ken) Menzel; Donald (Joan) Clendening; Bill (Anne) Clendening; Ritchie (Toni-Lynn) Clendening; Todd (Nathalie) Clendening; Sisters: Jean â€œBubblesâ€? (Ev) Wiley; June (John) Adams; 21 grandchildren; 5 great-grandchildren. He was predeceased by: His infant son Robert; His father Edwin Earl Clendening; His mother Isabelle Clendening (nee Bain); His brother Donald. PRATHER, Ronald Edward, 81, died in the faith Tuesday, May 20, 2008, at a Bangor hospital. He was born Oct. 5, 1926, in St. Cloud, Fla., the son of Gripp and Annie (Vincent) Prather. Ron honorably served his country during the Korean War and afterwards worked for about 25 years as an assistant coroner for the city of Cleveland. Ron was a
deeply compassionate, caring and loving person, who intimately touched the lives of all those who knew him. He lived by Jesus words in Mat: He is survived by his only daughter, Elanore Vaughan of Middleburg, Fla., and her children, George, Yvonne, Rick and Timothy; two brothers, Ralph and Frank Prather; as well as his dear bosom friends, John Steffes of Caribou and Nathan Kidd of Cleveland, OH. In addition to his parents, he was predeceased by an infant daughter, Marta Elizabeth; and five siblings, Chester, Maxine, Lois, Carl and Lorene. A memorial service was conducted on Saturday, May 24, at Lancaster-Morgan Funeral Home, 11 Clover St., Caribou, with Pastor Eric Vautour officiating. Please pray for the family and for John Steffes at this time. He knew and lived with Ron for 20 years and is struggling greatly with depression. Friends may express their condolences to the family at www.lancastermorgan.com." My father as an influential and admirable man. He was always kind and loving to me and to my children, his grandchildren. He always remembered special days with a call or a card or both. He shared in our accomplishments and celebrated those with us. During our times of hardship in the immediate family he was always there with supporting and loving words and words of encouragement. He never said a derogatory word about anyone. My father taught us valuable life lessons with his kindness and warm heartedness towards all. He was always non-judgmental. Most importantly, he taught us all to be individuals and to not let the world dictate to us who we are or should be. He encouraged and embraced individuality. He did a great job making everyone feel special and important.
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RON PRATHER He tried to share in the grandchildren's activities as best he could. He knew that Rick liked baseball and gave him a baseball. He took a business law class when Yvonne went to law school. I think if he could have, he would have played soccer with Timothy and would have challenged George to an iron chef cookoff. I just discovered yesterday that my father played the tuba in his high school band. What instrument did Rick play in his Jr. High band but a tuba! Those of us who are left behind mourn our loss but this should be a celebration, a celebration of my father's return Home - a return to God and to Jesus. We are sad with his passing because his constant kindnesses and thoughtful actions have gone with him. But the memories of those kindnesses and actions will remain in all of us. My father's memory will live on in his friends, in me, in his family and especially his grandchildren. While he will be dearly missed, his legacy will live on in me, his daughter, and in my children, his grandchildren. We love him very much and he will always be in our hearts. As Timothy often says, "I (We) love him to infinity!"
NORTHERN LIGHT Vol.11, No.3 July-September
Shadows, are only possible – where there is light.
Editor Layout and Design
To serve others, is to master our greatest asset. Real, Godly love, has an open mind, an open heart, and open arms.
David Bacon Doug Collie Copy Editors
Colin Wallace Online Edition Editor
Even the smallest light looks brighter, when the way is dark. Commitment; communication; co-operation; consideration – it is the intangibles, that constitute the fine art of love. It takes the light of the spirit, to combat the darkness in the heart. Make every day count. Remember – life has no “rewind” button. Camay Achtemichuk
Feature Editors Dorothy Nordstrom Jonathan Buck David Sheridan Phil Gale Neil Earle Northern Light is published 4 times annually for members of the Worldwide Church of God in Canada. Editorial contributions and comments on any issue raised in Northern Light are welcome although unsolicited materials may not be returned. Please address all correspondence to: The Editor, Northern Light 101 - 5668 192 Street, Surrey, BC V3S 2V7 or email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org The new online edition of Northern Light is available at www.wcg.ca. Portions of Northern Light are generously provided compliments of Christian Odyssey, published bi-monthly by the Worldwide Church of God.
Northern Light Tape Ministry! Do you love to listen to audio tape messages from dynamic Christian speakers? Northern Light Magazine is pleased to provide an audio cassette tape ministry in conjunction with the Edmonton, Alberta congregation.
A sermon based on the theme for each issue of Northern Light will be prepared by some of the best speakers from across the country. Northern Light Tape Ministries 15641 96 Ave. Edmonton, AB T5P 2R7 Phone: (780) 444-8903 Fax: (780) 484-5661 Email: email@example.com This Month’s Tape Offer : "The Truth About Temptation" Who's responsible for our failings? Is someone "pulling our strings"? Is "Free Will" just an illusion?
Unless noted otherwise, scriptures are quoted from the Holy Bible, New International Version, © Copyright 1973, 1978, 1984 International Bible Society. Used by permission of Zondervan Bible Publishers. À moins d'indication contraire, les versets cités sont tirés de la Bible Le Semeur. Publications Agreement Number 40063058 If undeliverable return to: Northern Light 101 - 5668 192 St. Surrey, BC V3S 2V7 email: firstname.lastname@example.org