Here is my write-up about last Wednesday’s Bible study at the Missouri Synod Lutheran church. Next week, we will not be meeting. My understanding is that we will not meet until the last week of May, then we will meet again in August.
Here are some items:
A. One of our texts was Acts 10:34-48. It is within the chapter about the Gospel going out to the Gentiles. V. 34 affirms that Peter opened his mouth and spoke. The pastor said that this phraseology is unique in Acts, and it serves to highlight that what Peter was about to say was divinely-inspired and reflected God’s will. Indeed, the Gentile centurion Cornelius asks Peter in the previous verse to speak what God has commanded him. God wanted to highlight that the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s Kingdom was God’s will. That was controversial, as the prophecy in Joel 2:28 about God’s Spirit being poured out on all flesh was initially believed to apply only to Israel. The Samaritans experienced their own Pentecost in Acts 8, but the Samaritans at least were deemed by Jews to be quasi-Jews due to their acceptance of the Pentateuch. But Gentiles being accepted, and as the equals of the Jews in God’s eyes? That was revolutionary. Yet, there the Gentiles were, speaking in tongues. The pastor said that Gentiles were still accepted by Jews into the Court of the Gentiles in the Temple, and that there were Gentile God-fearers, but Roman centurions were despised on account of their cruelty. Cornelius, by contrast, was a kind centurion.
B. Another text that we read was I John 5:1-8. The pastor talked a lot about agape love, a challenging subject for me, spiritually. He asked how Christians can avoid getting sucked into false doctrine, and his answer was that they should walk in love. That reminded me of something that I read in a book by Kevin Vanhoozer: that, in the New Testament, false doctrine is often contrasted with sin, not doctrinal heresy. I am not entirely sure how that works: cannot a heretic show kindness to others? Yes, but Christians do so, motivated by Christ coming in the flesh, dying for our sins, and rising again bodily. By walking in love, Christians presumably reinforce those concepts, in their own minds and before others.
C. The pastor discussed justification and sanctification. Justification is when God gives us faith. Sanctification is when we live that faith out. Justification is about what God does, while sanctification is about what we do with what God does; yet, God’s love flows through us, enabling us to love and to give. According to the pastor, faith and love are the same gift, two sides of the same coin.
D. The pastor talked before the presentation about his past estrangement from his siblings, and how that hindered his parents years ago from having one big party where they could celebrate their wedding anniversary. He expressed regret about that, for that was a time when all of the bridesmen and bridesmaids were still alive.
E. The pastor contrasted Christ’s active obedience with Christ’s passive obedience. Jesus in John 15:10 refers to his obedience towards his Father’s commandments. The pastor said this was Jesus’ passive obedience: his fulfillment of the Law in Christians’ place. Christ’s active obedience, by contrast, refers to his going to the cross and dying in place of Christians. Some sites (see here and here) say it is actually the other way around: the passive obedience is Christ suffering the penalty of sins in our place, whereas the active obedience is his obedience of God’s law. That latter link addresses the question of which righteousness is imputed to believers, responding essentially that they are two sides of the same coin.