Psalm: Coram Deo – Weekly Meeting, Week 5

Psalm 46

This Psalm was written in the context of war; Jerusalem was under dire threat. Here, the Psalter urged us to trust God and to have confidence in Him during difficult times and in any situations that we are facing. It is repeated several times in the refrain: the Lord Almighty is with us.

Psalm 46 can be divided into 3 parts.

1) V1-3 God is exalted in the earthquake.

When you know your God, and you have a fear of the Lord, you no longer fear anything else. “an ever-present help in trouble” implies that our experience of God’s help in the past helps us to not fear because we believe that He will help us just like He has in the past.

2) V4-7 God is exalted in the city.

Here, the Psalter talks about man-made disasters like wars. The city of God is secured, not because her walls are strong but because God is within her.

3) V8-11 God is exalted in all the earth

In these verses, the Lord is described as a warrior, bringing peace by destroying the destroyers.

The Lord Almighty is with us; the God of Jacob is our fortress. If God be in our hearts, by his word dwelling richly in us, we shall be established, we shall be helped; let us trust and not be afraid.

Psalm: Coram Deo – Weekly Meeting, Week 1

Coram Deo

Psalm 1

Coram Deo. This is the topic that will be discussed in REF this semester. What does it mean? Coram means “in the face of” or “in the presence of”, and Deo means God. Together, Coram Deo means “in the face of God, in all aspects of our life”. It covers all aspects of life and is not restricted to only the church, our prayers or our fellowship with each other. He should be the most eminent one in our life.

Martin Luther once said that Psalm is the mirror of our hearts. The book of Psalms contains many emotions, and this is because it is a book about humans. Psalms contains many metaphors. For example, a righteous man is like a tree planted by streams of water, which yields its fruit in season. What does it mean for a righteous man to be like a tree planted by streams of water? We could picture him to be firm, stable, mature, fruitful, and prosperous. Another example of a common metaphor found in the bible is used to describe God as king. It means God is powerful; He rules over us, He is sovereign, wise, resourceful, glorious and just.

God uses metaphors concerning the things that we encounter in our everyday life (i.e., king) to help us understand Him. This is because He is the only God and there is none like Him that can be used as a reference to describe Him. But why don’t we describe Him using adjectives such as “cruel, dictator, has many wives, fat, abusive”? These are the adjectives which describe many of the typical kings that we have/had in this world, both in the present and in the past. Apart from that, we also learn, through these metaphors, the true definition of every aspect of our life based on God’s standard. Men are corrupted by sin. Culture is like the air that we breathe. It is embedded in us. It is like fish swimming in the water; they wouldn’t feel wet, just as we wouldn’t realise that we are living a life that is corrupted by sin. Thus, we have to, based on God’s standards, critically question the secular society that we live in, where everybody accepts everything so easily.

In Psalm chapter 1, we can see that there are 2 kinds of people and two different ways of life that lead to two different fates; the way of the righteous and the way of the wicked. In verse 1, the psalmist rejects the totality of evil. He describes the Christian life as a life that is “counter cultural”, because everything is affected by sin in this world. We can see in verse 1 that a righteous man does not think like the wicked does. Not only does he not walk with them, he also does not stand in the way of sinners and will not sit in the company of the sinners. From “walk” to “stand” to “sit”, we can see a progress of conformity to the world. To sum it up, despite a lot of peer pressure, a righteous man will not let himself be influenced by other people and conform to the wicked patterns of this world.

In contrary to verse 1, verse 2 is written in a more positive light. A righteous man does not only “meditate” but he also “delights in the words of God” (the Psalmist also writes in Psalm 19 that the word of God is more precious than gold and sweeter than honey). To “meditate day and night” implies that the word of God becomes the focus of our life. It is equivalent to constantly thinking about something at every moment. Verse 3 then continues to describe what a righteous man is like; “tree by streams of water” and “yields fruits”.

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Compared to the righteous man, we see in verse 4 that the wicked is rootless and useless, like “chaff that the wind drives away”. In Psalms 92:12-15, we can see that the righteous will still bear fruit in old age, and they will stay fresh and green. There are only 2 kinds of people in old age — full of integrity or full of despair. Verse 5 and 6 show the fate of these 2 kinds of people. God intimately and continually watches over the righteous, and they will be preserved until the day of judgement. But this is not so for the wicked, for they will be cut off. These verses serve not only as a warning for the Israelites in those days, but also for non-churchgoers and for us, His chosen people, despite not being Israelites in the biological or geographical sense.

The assembly of the righteous in Christ will be saved (v5), but the way of the wicked will perish. May we always be filled by the presence of God and be moulded to be more like Him.

SOLA FIDE (SEM 2 – WEEK 8 SUMMARY)

In Romans 4:3-5 and 18-24, Paul referred back to Genesis chapter 15 (specifically v16) the promise from God to Abram (later called Abraham) “Abram believed the LORD, and he credited it to him as righteousness.” Abram realised that (and God also knows) there is no hope in bearing a child for both he and his wife were already old (“Without weakening in his faith, he faced the fact that his body was as good as dead – since he was about a hundred years old – and the Sarah’s womb was also deadRom 4:19), but he had faith that with god’s power and grace, He is able to even change “no hope” to “hope”.

So what does it mean by justification by grace alone?

  1. It is a gift “to the one who does not work” (Rom 4:5a)

From the last sharing about Sola Gratia, we learned that work is being put and compared alongside with grace, and now, work can also be put together and discussed with faith. For us, that “did not work” but trust God, it is truly by grace alone, through faith alone that we are justified. We did not work for it, we did not earn it, “so that no one can boast” (Eph 2:8-9)

  1. It is to the “ungodly” or wicked ones

It is not because that we are righteous, or holy that we are being justified. Paul clearly said this in the bible that He justified those that are wicked and ungodly (Rom 3:5).

But here comes the problem, if we look at what King Solomon wrote in Proverbs 17:15Acquitting the guilty and condemning the innocent – the LORD detests them both.”, what Paul mentioned here seems to contradict with what Solomon had wrote. As we can see clearly from Romans 5:8but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us.” So which one is correct? Why are there contradictions?

Firstly we need to know what “Faith” means. Faith connects us to Christ. But faith is not our own righteousness, it is the instrument that connects us to the righteousness which is IN CHRIST. We are justified because the Father sees the righteousness in us that is in Christ Jesus (which are connected through faith).

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There is an illustration which can help you to understand more of this. If we turn on the tap, there is water flowing, filling up our cups. So where did the water come from? Is it from the pipe? The water source is from the reservoir, faith is the pipe. Faith is not our righteousness, the righteousness is in Christ (reservoir), and faith (pipe) alone connects us (the wicked & ungodly) to the source of his righteousness. Faith cannot be our righteousness because that would be works, and that it is from works that we earned the righteousness, and it is no longer grace. How can we be with Him? It is through faith alone.

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  1. “His faith counted as righteous”

So how does our faith be counted as righteous?

An illustration explains this very well. Here is another illustration by Join Piper (but be reminded that there is no perfect analogy to everything, this illustration cannot fully describe this case but nonetheless it can help us to understand).

A dad asked his son to clean his room before he goes to school and if he does not see a clean room before he comes back from work, the son would not be able to watch the football match tonight. But as usual the son got caught up with all the works and games and forgot to clean the room. When the dad came back, he saw that the room was not cleaned and so he helped the son to clean the room and now the room is clean, it is perfect. And when the son came back and saw the clean room he realised that he forgot to clean the room and he turned to the dad and admitted and confessed to his dad and he accepted the consequence that he will not be able to watch the football match today. But now the room is clean (although not cleaned by himself), the Father said, “Because you have confessed with a contrite heart and that now the room is clean, I allow you to watch the match tonight.” As described in Philippians 3:9…not having a righteousness of my own that ones from the law, but that which is through faith in Christ – the righteousness that comes from God on the basis of faith”. The righteousness is imputed to us.

We see in the bible that whenever there are verses about “justified by faith”, the Greek original text is “διὰ πίστεως” (through faith), but never “διὰ πίστιν” (on the account of faith).

It is not anything that we did or will do justify us, it is not from our works. It is by grace alone through faith alone that we are justified by Him. Abraham just believed, the only thing that he did was to realise that he cannot do it by himself. There is nothing in him or that he does can make him righteous.

 

Q1: Where does the faith come from?

It is a gift. (Eph 2:8-9) And how can we get the gift? It is up to the giver. It is His sovereignty and His grace alone that we can believe in Him. However perfect we can share the gospel to somebody, however persuasive is our speech, however hard we pray, we can never change God, it is up to God that whether He will give the gift. For them to reject the gift is their won responsibility, but to accept the gift is by His grace. However note that prayer DOES change things, but prayer never change God.

Q2: The “faith” in other religions.

The faith in us makes us unite with Christ, we are in Christ, and Christ is in us. It is called the “mystical union”. It is not mystic, but mysterious. It is like there is a bucket sunk in the well, the bucket is in the water, and the water is in the bucket. There is nothing like this in other religions.

Q3: What about Muslims and Jews that believe in the “same” YWH as Christians?

If anyone rejects Christ, the faith is already different, there is already a difference to the God we are believing. We believe in the trinity of The Father, The Son and the Holy Spirit. We believe in different God, the faith is totally different. “Jesus answered, ‘I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.’” (Jn 14:6). If they reject Christ, they can’t even reach the Father.

SOLA GRATIA (SEM 2 – WEEK 6 SUMMARY)

This week we discussed another pillar of the reformation, Sola Gratia (meaning by grace alone), but before we get into that, let us first shortly recap what we have learned about Sola Scriptura, which literally means by Scripture alone. Two weeks ago, we established two major causes of the divide between the Roman Catholics and the Protestants, the “formal” cause and the “material” cause. Today we will focus more on the “material” cause of this dispute, “How can one be saved?”, or “How can one be justified with God?”.

Let us first open our Bibles on Ephesians 2:1-9
In regards to a relationship between an individual and God. The assumption: we are not right with God because of our sin. Sin separates us from God. We are by nature object of God’s wrath. His eyes are too pure to look at evil and we are sinners. There is an unbridgeable gap between the Holy God (having no darkness in him) and us (who have fallen into the darkness of sin). Martin Luther had always confessed the sins he had done; however, this did not solve everything. After confessing his sins, he would leave the church and even before he reached home, he would feel guilt from his sins and promptly returned back to church. The pastor would tell him to go back home but he refused. His heart finally found rest when he read the book of Romans and Galatians. From reading the book of Romans and Galatians, Martin Luther concluded that we are saved by grace alone, through faith alone, and in Christ alone, this gave him peace.
Paul wrote letters to the church of Galatians because the church taught the public that one can not be saved unless he/she is circumcised under the law of Moses. Paul argued fiercely (in Galatians 3: 6-14) that no one could be saved by observing the law and that they can only be saved by grace alone, through faith alone in Christ alone. This leads to a question:

Why can’t we be justified by observing the law?



-First of all, it is simply impossible:

Because of the impotence of the law. The law (eg. 10 commandments) by itself cannot give life. God commanded us to obey these commands, but we cannot be justified through these laws, for their purpose is to prove that all humankind are guilty for they would have broken the law whichever way they lived. The Law is said to be like a mirror. It’s importance lies in showing that your face is dirty, but the mirror cannot clean your face. However, this does not imply that the mirror is insignificant. Without it, you would never know that your face is unclean. This “mirror” makes us realise that we are sinful, to show and remind ourselves that we are unclean. The law then, is there to convict that you are sinful because you have been breaking the law.

The impotence of the law-keeper/ law-doer; If you want to be justified by observing the law you have to do everything it says; which is utterly impossible. Everyone in this world has definitely broken the law of God. The ten commandments are impossible to obey and additionally, these laws are linked meaning that when an individual breaks one of the commandments, he/she would have broken all of it as well. An example is the commandment, ‘Do not steal’; this would mean never to steal anything anyone else has, including the time that God has given you for you to do good things for his glory and if you do not use it wisely say, sleeping for too long or procrastinating, then you have stolen God’s time and you have broken one of His commandments (Also breaking the commandment of obeying your parents as you have also wasted their time and money as well). It is a chain reaction in breaking every one of the commandment. Imagine a leaking bucket. How many holes must be present on the bucket for it to be called a leaking bucket? How big must the hole be? One hole and even the smallest hole would make the bucket a leaking bucket.
– Also, it is illegitimate:

God never intended for us to be saved by works (Galatians 3:6). Only by having faith and believing in God, Abraham was counted to be righteous for his faith. And because of his great love for us, we were made alive in Christ Jesus.
Some sections from the Westminster Larger Catechism speak of this:

Q. 70. What is justification? 

A. Justification is an act of God’s free grace unto sinners, in which he pardoneth all their sins, accept and accounted their persons righteous in his sight; not for anything wrought in them, or done by them, by only for the perfect obedience and full satisfaction of Christ, by God imputed to them, and received by faith alone.
Q. 71. How is justification an act of God’s free grace?

A. Although Christ, by his obedience and death, did make a proper, real, and full satisfaction to God’s justice in the behalf of them that are justified; yet inasmuch as God accepteth the satisfaction from a surety, which he might have demanded of them, and did provide this surety, his own only Son, imputing his righteousness to them, and requiring nothing of them for their justification but faith, which also is his gift, their justification is to them of free grace

Why is justification by grace alone? There are 4 reasons to this:

(a) God provided Christ

(b) God accepted Christ’s satisfaction (The redemption that came by Jesus Christ on the cross)

(c) God imputes to us Christ’s righteousness

(d) God requires nothing of us but faith, which is His gift to us (faith itself is His gift for us)
Christ bore our sins and the wrath of God. Christ’s righteousness is being imputed to us; that is why we are justified through faith alone and his grace alone through Christ Jesus.

The law of God is His expression, the law is holy and righteous, the law is there to as if say: I condemn you but you must go to Christ and only through Him you can satisfy the law. When God justifies us, our relationship with God is different, then the law is good and precious. We then understand that the law is his Holy Expression. Galatians 3:10 “For all who rely on works of the law are “under a curse; for it is written, cursed be everyone who does not abide by all things written in the Book of the Law, and do them.”
Let us also look at Galatians 5: 13-15. It says that we are free from the law, as we are all justified by God. However, we are also free FOR the law. (1) + (2) are tied to one another, it can not be separated. We are free not to indulge in sin but free to obey his law because his law is more precious than gold, sweeter than honey.
How can we see that his law is more precious than gold, sweeter than honey?

The key to understand God’s love on the cross, is to also understand that He loves us more than anything. Once you understand, this prompts us to love Him. Thus, it won’t be hard to obey Him.

If you love someone you’d do anything, even if it’s impossible to accomplish. There is a difference between a slave that is doing everything that the master asks out of sheer obedience and a wife who is doing everything that her husband asks out of love and respect. There is a difference in motivation even if the task is similar. The wife does it like to do it because she loves her family. The slave hates to do it and sees it as an obligation.

“The key is love; if you understand God’s love, you will follow his commandments as it is not difficult. Love gives you strength and pushes all boundaries. If you love somebody any work he/she asks, you would see that as reasonable and your emotions would say that work is desirable and your will will say it is doable.

SOLA SCRIPTURA (SEM 2 – WEEK 4 SUMMARY)

This week’s topic was on sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone). The need for people to understand how vital the doctrine of sola Scriptura to the Christian faith did not only exist long time ago, but also now. 

Gary David Comstock, Protestant Chaplain at Wesleyan University, and William M. Kent are among those many Christian leaders who knew and did not deny that the Bible states that the practice of homosexuality is wrong. Therefore, in order to say that the practice of homosexuality is acceptable, they casted off some parts of the Bible and subjected them to the cultural context of that time.
This raised the question as to who/what has the final authority? Is it the bible? Could it be our experience? Or could it be our current knowledge?

There has been a dispute between the Roman Catholic Church and the Reformed Church as to what or who has the final authority. The Roman Catholic Church argued that the church fathers had made the decision regarding the 66 books in the Bible and so the Bible was founded by the Church. Hence, they presented the argument that both the Scripture and traditions hold the final authority. The Reformers however, were strongly against that claim and declared that it was the Bible that formed the foundation of the Church; there is actually a big difference between the Church recognizing the Bible’s authority and the Church creating the Bible’s authority.

The Reformation is thus frequently described as a movement that revolved around two pivotal issues. The so-called “material” cause was the debate over sola Fide (“justification by faith alone”). The “formal” cause was the issue of sola Scriptura, that the Bible and the Bible alone has the authority to bind the conscience of the believer. 
In order to understand clearer regarding the implication of sola Scriptura, let us turn our bible to Psalm 19:1-11.
The Reformers agreed that there are two kinds of divine revelation:

General revelation (v1-6) – God’s beautiful creation of nature and its wonders, which are revealed to everyone.

Special revelation (v7-9) – God’s words (the Scripture) which is revealed to only God’s children.

The content of the special revelation is God himself, and also the history of redemption, which we could only understand by reading and understanding the Word of God—the Bible. Everybody could see and appreciate God’s general revelation. However, why can’t everyone see that everything (general revelation) proclaims the glory of God? Romans 1:18-32 provides us with an answer to this question: sin. Sin has corrupted our hearts and minds, resulting in us not being able to see the glory of God. Thus, it is only by God’s grace alone, and through His special revelation, which is the Bible, that we could realize and comprehend that there is a creator who made and sustains all creations.

 2 Timothy 3:16-17

All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness, so that the servant of God may be thoroughly equipped for every good work.

The Scripture has the final authority above all else. Many had gone through hardships and obstacles in translating the Bible into various languages over the world. Let us appreciate what the Reformers have fought and struggled for and not take the Word of God for granted. Let the Bible be the authority over our faith and life.
-Della Averill

INTRODUCTION TO THE 5 SOLAS OF THE REFORMATION (WEEK 1-SEMESTER 2 SUMMARY-2015)

This semester, we will dive in and discuss the topic: 5 Solas of the Reformation which are: Sola Scriptura (Scripture Alone), Sola Gratia (Grace Alone), Sola Fide (Faith Alone), Solus Christus (Christ Alone), and Soli Deo Gloria (To God Alone Be the Glory). Along with TULIP, these are crucial principles to the Reformed Theology. However, in this first meeting we didn’t dive right into the principles just yet. Instead, to start things off, Reverend Budy gave a lecture on the historical context of Reformed Theology. Why bother learning about something that happened such a long time ago? What does it have to do with us, Christians living in the modern world of the digital age? Well, it has to do with everything. Those who cannot remember the past are bound to repeat it. Let us be wise and carefully observe the past that God has set before us.

There are three main points guiding us in the first meeting, the first one being the fact that Reformed Theology is a Christian Theology. Reformed Theology is deeply rooted in early Christianity. It is a theology that you can trace through the Reformers, the Church Fathers, and eventually the Apostles themselves. Just like the early Christians, Reformed Theology accepts the Bible as the infallible, authoritative Word of God. Reformed Theology recognizes and associate with the creeds and councils of early Christianity, which are the Apostle’s Creed, the Nicene Creed, the Council of Constantinople, and the Council of Chalcedon. Church-going Christians would be familiar with the Apostle’s Creed: a summary and a confession of what we as believers of Christ believe in. It is one of the oldest creeds that have been guiding the Church. According to Church traditions each of the Apostles contributed to the articles of the Creed, although it seems that the Creed emerged several decades after the end of the Apostolic era. That is beside the point though—what matters is its content and significance throughout Church history. The Nicene Creed (325 A.D.) was conceived through the Council of Nicea, to counter the false teachings of Arius. He taught that while Jesus was divine, he was not God and was instead God’s first creation. The council was the first major effort to gain consensus for what Christians believe in, and through it the conflict started by Arius was cleared, asserting that while Jesus is a ‘Son’, he is also God Himself. The Council of Constantinople (381 A.D.) followed years later, and was held mainly in response to the controversies regarding the divinity of the Holy Spirit. The Council of Chalcedon (451 A.D.) is the last major Church council that Reformed Theology recognizes and accepts (the outcomes of later councils contradict the truth of the Scriptures). The main issue in dispute in the council was the two natures that existed in Christ. Through the council, it was affirmed that God was truly God and truly man—the two natures exist unchangeably, invisibly, and inseparably.

The second point is that Reformed Theology is a Protestant Theology. Reformed Theology is a theology rooted in the Protestant Reformation in 1517 when Martin Luther separated from the Roman Catholic Church. Up until then, the Bible’s authority within the Church has been compromised. Yes, it was recognized that the Scriptures were authoritative—but so were church traditions and decisions by the Pope, they claimed. Salvation is not gained only by grace alone, but also through hard works. Protestants, however, insisted that only the Bible has such an authority, and that salvation is through grace alone. Hence the 5 Solas: we know that we are saved because of the Bible, which shows us that we are saved by grace alone, through faith in Christ alone, all for the glory of God alone.

The final point is that Reformed Theology is a Reformed Theology. The Protestant Reformation was one started by Martin Luther (although there were pre-Reformation figures like John Wycliffe and John Huss who proclaimed Scriptural authority), but John Calvin is arguably the most important figure to have taken part in it. Some people say that Luther was there to bring down the false doctrines and teachings that have been clouding the Church up until then, and Calvin was there to build the Church back up with solidified doctrines and strong commitment to the Scriptures. It was from these two men that two Church denominations originate: Lutheran and Reformed. As it can be seen rather blatantly, this is where Reformed Theology came to be. Although that does not mean that Reformed Theology should be treated as ‘Calvin’s teachings of Christianity’ though. When the term ‘Reformed’ is used here, it means ‘reformed according to the Word of God’. So no matter what, Reformed Theology is a theology that, in principle, keeps reforming itself according to the truth of the Bible—Calvin just merely affirmed this reality.

That about wraps it up. We hope that through this trip throughout Church history you may come to know more about the faith we hold dear to and are set to learn more about the 5 Solas in the following weeks!

May God bless, and to Him be the Glory!

-Jordan Franz

THE BEATITUDES (WEEK 10 SUMMARY-2015)

The beatitudes are the first part of the Sermon on the Mount and are another feature in the bible that signify the paradoxes of Christianity. Today, we would only be discussing two out of the nine beatitudes.

Blessed means truly happy. It is of course not wrong to desire happiness, but how do we obtain it?

Matthew 5:1-4

“Blessed are the poor in spirit,

for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

Blessed are those who mourn,

for they will be comforted.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. In order to understand what poor in spirit means, let us look at Luke 18:10-14:

“Two men went up to the temple to pray, one a Pharisee and the other a tax collector. The Pharisee stood by himself and prayed: ‘God, I thank you that I am not like other people—robbers, evildoers, adulterers—or even like this tax collector. I fast twice a week and give a tenth of all I get.

 

“But the tax collector stood at a distance. He would not even look up to heaven, but beat his breast and said, ‘God, have mercy on me, a sinner.’

 

“I tell you that this man, rather than the other, went home justified before God. For all those who exalted themselves will be humbled, and those who humble themselves will be exalted.”

The tax collector is an example of someone who is poor in spirit. He realized his own condition before God–powerless, lacking, hungry and thirsty (not in the material sense). Realizing that we are worthless, powerless, and incapable of doing anything apart from God humbles us and makes us become more and more dependent on God. Humbling ourselves before the Lord allows us to see how desperately we need His grace. Therefore, when we receive His grace, all the more when we are weak and powerless, we feel blessed.

Blessed are those who mourn, for they will be comforted. What does it mean to mourn in this context?

Mourning is a process that follows after being poor in spirit. Due to realizing our condition before God—the sinners that we are, we mourn for our sins and the sins of others. The only way a person can truly repent and turn away from sins and turn towards God is by realizing his true sinfulness. Because knowing that he is forgiven by God and is given eternal salvation even though he is a sinner gives him full joy.

-Della Averill

Strong AND Weak ( WEEK 8 SUMMARY-2015)

Today, the discussion concerned another aspect of the Paradoxes of Christianity – Strong & Weak. It was based on 2 Corinthians 11:16 – 12:10.

In order to understand the meaning and grasp Paul’s message behind these verses, we first need to know the context behind it. What was currently going on between Paul and the church in Corinth was that he was facing against false apostles, of which he called the super apostles. These super apostles claimed that Paul was not a legitimate apostle. However, as we could see from 11:21-28, Paul argued that he could boast whatever those super apostles boasted about, even more actually.

On top of that, Paul mentioned something else in 12:2-4 :

I know a man in Christ who fourteen years ago was caught up to the third heaven. Whether it was in the body or out of the body I do not know – God knows. And I know that this man – whether in the body or apart from the body I do not know, but God knowswas caught up to paradise and heard inexpressible things, things that no one is permitted to tell.

Many commentaries argued that this man was Paul himself, because further down chapter 12 in verses 6-7, Paul said that :

Even if I should choose to boast, I would not be a fool, because I would be speaking the truth. But I refrain, so no one will think more of me than is warranted by what I do or say, or because of these surpassingly great revelations.

No one else could possibly boast about such great things. Therefore, in order to keep Paul from being conceited, he was “given a thorn in his flesh, a messenger of Satan, to torment him” (verse 7). Paul was a very strong man who had encountered and endured the toughest of hardships and obstacles, and yet even this thorn caused him to “plead with theLord to take this thorn away from him” (verse 8). However, the Lord’s reply was :

“My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.”

What does this mean? To answer this question, we can bring this back to the cross, which is actually the point of the highest weakness. However, the cross becomes the greatest place to showcase God’s grace and power, because that is where God overcame the greatest power on earth – death.

This is the reason why Paul “will boast all the more gladly about his weaknesses, so that Christ’s power may rest on him” (verse 9).

This does not imply that we should pretend to be weak and not put effort into anything because we expect the Lord to do everything on our behalf. We should still try our best in everything, but at the core, we should surrender everything to Him because we should not be relying on ourselves. It is only by His grace that we are able to do or achieve anything good in God’s eyes.

How can we apply this in our daily lives? I am pretty sure that all of us have ever experienced a moment of extreme weakness where we feel completely incapable of doing something. However, in actual fact, you are actually strongest at that moment because at that moment, you rely on God instead of yourself. Being in situations like that allows you to truly experience God’s overflowing power and grace. Thus, just like Paul, when you are at this weakest point, you can declare that:

“For when I am weak, then I am strong.

Praying that this post might serve as a reminder for the all of you, of how His grace is sufficient for us and how His power is made perfect in our weaknesses, amidst our stress in facing this busy week and the weeks ahead that are jam-packed with MSTs and assignments. God bless you all!

Della Averill

Foolishness and Wisdom (Week 6 Summary)

1 Corinthians 1:18-25

Cross, to the world, is considered as a foolish thing. By accepting that, it can let us understand that what the price to follow Christ is. “But to us who are being saved it is the power of God.” (1 Cor 1:18b)

1 Corinthians 15:16-19, 30-32

The “eat” and “drink” here do not mean drunk and gluttonous. Christian life is not just against getting drunk and gluttonous, a life that is normal, comfortable, and simple, ordinary life without being troubled by the thoughts of heaven and earth. But that is when Paul said “IF the dead are not raised” (1 Cor 15:16). This is confirmed in verse 19, “If in this life only we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied”, if the dead are not raised. This is the life that we choose to live, a “foolish” life which others in general will see it as a “weird life”.

So why even if the raise of dead is not true, when we can still live a simple ordinary life, or even if it is not true, for the mere reason of “believing” and “following” Christ, there are already loads of “benefits” that we can get. If all these are just delusions, even when it is a delusion, it is not important in the sense that whether the fact that Christ did rise or not, we already “gained”, through for example, studying hard, be responsible, respect others and so on. So why did Paul say “we are of all people most to be pitied.”? (1 Cor 15:19)

The life of Christian is considered foolish because it is a life of suffering and to carry the cross. That is why Paul said “we are of all people most to be pitied.”

Romans 5:3-5

Our hope comes after sufferings, “knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope,” (Rom 5: 3b-4). This is foolish from the point of view of the world, as ultimately we “die”.

Whoever wants to live a godly life, will be persecuted. When we are persecuted, we need to be reminded that Christ is actually the one that is being persecuted or hated, not us. Our joy is in the middle of sufferings, “we rejoice in our sufferings” (Rom 5:3a), we live a foolish life denying ourselves, which leads to the ultimate wisdom from God.

Are we living a simple, happy and comfortable life without any “sufferings”? Do we care for others when they have any burdens? Do we pray for them, or even help our brothers and sisters to carry or share their burdens? When we help to carry their burdens together, we “suffer”. But we find real joy in sufferings, with the strength from God, we sacrifice. But all these are foolish, from the worldly view, but for us, we do not see it as foolish because we understand, they are the wisest and best things for us that we can hope for.

We will not do anything if what we hope for is already in this world, because they are already in this world; but if our hope is the glory given by God later, we will suffer (that is when we choose to obey, to follow Christ, denying ourselves, carry the cross, persecuted).

– Lim Yi Ni

Wrath and Love ( Week 4 Summary- 2015)

They are in some ways similar to “Justice and Mercy” that we had discussed last time, but “Justice and Mercy” is more of forensic and low, whereas “Wrath and Love” is more to personal relationship.

Referring to Romans 1:18-32, many churches nowadays choose to ignore or avoid discussing about the wrath of God, the justice and holiness of Him, and only talk about His love, His mercy and kindness. But from Romans 1:18-32, it is stated clearly in the bible that “For the wrath of God is revealed from heaven…”. It is one of His attributes that we cannot ignore, just like how He is love.

Romans 3:25a introduces the term “sacrifice of atonement”. What does that mean?  What does it mean here in the Bible that Jesus is the “sacrifice of atonement”? The sacrifice of atonement literally means the sprinkle of the lamb’s blood on the seat by the high priest in the tabernacle once a year on the Day of Atonement for the mourning, repentance and ask for cleansing of their sin. To know what does “Jesus as the sacrifice of atonement” mean, there are 2 aspects that we will need to know:

  1. His blood that has been shed for us, to cover the sin of God’s people (the mercy seat). This is the manifestation of His love towards His people.
  2. The wrath of God is shown to us the sinners, but “…through faith in His blood, to declare His righteousness for the remission of sins that are past through the forbearance of God…” (Romans 3:25). Though the lamb’s (Jesus Christ) blood, it’s averted/appeased.

God’s love to the Son is indefinite and the Son’s love to the Father is also indefinite. This can be seen in the bible that when Jesus is baptised, “a voice from heaven said, ‘This is my beloved Son, with whom I am well pleased’”. The Son had always been calling the Father “my Father”, but the only time when Jesus did not call Him “Father”, was when Jesus was on the cross. “My God, my God, why hast Thou forsaken me?” (Matthew 27:46). The love of God (John 3:16) and the love of Christ are both shown powerfully on the cross.

Lim Yi Ni