Today @ Healingsprings fellowship

For the Jewish authorities, the embarrassment, excruciating pain, and suffering that hallmark’s crucifixion was meant to bring the activities of a fringe group, following a little known Rabbi called Jesus to an end.

For the followers of Jesus, his arrest and subsequent death would have meant that their messianic hopes had been dashed. God had not shown up to vindicate their leader, and only hope against the scourge of the Roman authorities, and the oppression of their corrupt and short sighted religious leaders.

Jesus had died only because he was “a friend of sinners”. For the Jewish leaders, he was messing up their religious and philosophical foundations. Sinners should be Exiled from the community, in other instances, killed.

But who were these sinners? Those within their community that didn’t measure up to their incredibly high standards. The lepers, widows, orphans, poor, Samaritans, divorced, and those in debt. Even amongst these people, not all believed in Jesus. A lot had given up all hopes, hence the reason why they chose Barabbas instead of Jesus. The wealthy and those from nobility were righteous. To a very large extent this is still the case. The time and setting might have changed, but the mind set is still the same.

His followers were lost completely unsure of their future until his appearance at various locations, following his resurrection.

To this end, I will be exploring Jesus’ Crucifixion with a view to recapture it’s essence, and strengthen us as we anticipate his Second Coming.

Join us for the series: God was in Christ.

3pm – 4:30pm

The Parish Hall

St John’s Sidcup,

Church Road,

Sidcup,

Kent DA14 6BX

Reachout | Revive | Recover

http://www.healingsprings.org.uk

Today @ Healingsprings fellowship

There is no dispute that Jesus was a figure in history. In fact, apart from the New Testament accounts, we also have sources from non-Christians like Pliny and Josephus.

Within Christianity some have challenged his divinity. But even if we do not agree on the Trinity, the traditional formula for Salvation (The Fall, Incarnation, Atonement and Redemption); and we fail to agree on the virgin birth, miracles, death, and resurrection; I believe that the teachings of Jesus still attests to his uniqueness.

Interestingly, while people might have issues with the church or Christianity as a religion, most people still have varying degrees of reverence for Jesus. They see him as a social reformer, political activist, kind man, community organiser, humanist, philosopher, thinker, or teacher. His life has inspired many to greater works.

For me Jesus is all of these and even more. His non-violent position against the oppression from the Roman authorities and Jewish rulers of his era, his position as the spokesperson for sinners, his outreach to the ostracised and those at the fringes of society, his vision for equality and World Unity, and his selfless nature; are things to be greatly admired.

I say this to illustrate that we do not need the formula for salvation, understanding of the Trinity and even the resurrection to believe in his saving power. His ideas and philosophy are divine enough to bring about lasting peace, harmony and prosperity for humanity.

Dear friends, even that is sufficient reason for me to believe in him, and attest him as The Son of God.

Join us as we continue with: God was in Christ. Today, we focus on Jesus' ministry.

3pm – 4:30pm
The Parish Hall
St John's Sidcup,
Church Road,
Sidcup,
Kent DA14 6BX

Reachout | Revive | Recover
http://www.healingsprings.org.uk

Today @ Healingsprings fellowship

As we close the curtains on the Book of Ruth, my focus will be on the kinsman’s decision not to marry Ruth, which by default meant he was interested in marrying Naomi. 

As well as Deuteronomy 23 which explicitly forbids relationship with Moabites, chances are that the Kinsman also saw through the lenses of retributive justice (Ex.20:6). 

This doctrine was challenged by Ezekiel (18:2), and Jeremiah (31:29), but it still persevered, raising its ugly head in John 9:2, in the incident of the man born blind, where Jesus dealt with it squarely.
Sadly, it still persists today in the shape of ‘generational curses’ which requires further ‘deliverance’, apart from repentance and acceptance of Jesus as Lord of all.

So, the fate of Elimelek’s family would have hinged on the fact that he left for Moab, and that he allowed his sons to marry Moabite women. This being the case, Ruth was bad news. 

But in the spirit of love “which does not seek her own” (1 Cor 13), Boaz stepped-up to the challenge. And in typical fashion, the God who carefully orchestrates everything to “work together for the good of those who love him, who are called according to his purpose” (Rom. 8:28) backed him, raising his seed to sit on the throne of Israel, in the persons of David, and ultimately – our lord Jesus Christ! Hallelujah!!!

So join us this Sunday at our new venue as I crystallise this epic Book.

3pm (light refreshment afterwards)

Church Hall

St John’s Sidcup,

Church Road, 

Sidcup, Kent DA14 6BX

(Just behind the Morrisons in Sidcup)

This Sunday @ Healingsprings fellowship! 

Grace and Works

On 27 March 2015, Hotel Makka al-Mukarama in Mogadishu was attacked by Al-Shabaab militant group. One of its occupants later died as a result of injuries sustained from the attack.

He was a Somali diplomat and politician, the Ambassador of Somalia to the United Nations Human Rights Office in Geneva.

A Muslim who used his position to fight tirelessly for Christians suffering persecution in Africa. His name, Yusuf Mohamed Ismail.

In the words of Paul, 

When Gentiles, who do not possess the law, do instinctively what the law requires, these, though not having the law, are a law to themselves. They show that what the law requires is written on their hearts, to which their own conscience also bears witness; and their conflicting thoughts will accuse or perhaps excuse them on the day when, according to my gospel, God, through Jesus Christ, will judge the secret thoughts of all – (Rom. 2:14-16)

I’m so excited about what God is doing through our Church Reloaded series, so I extend an invite to you as we crystallise our series on Grace with a lecture entitled, Grace and Works!

(6:00-7:30)pm

Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA 

(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)

Grace or Merit: An exegesis on Matthew 22, verses 1–14

Introduction

The saying by Jesus as recorded in Matthew’s gospel: Many are called, but a few are chosen (Matt. 22:1–14), has always been a source of much controversy within and outside the church community. Within the church it has been used to promote some sort of elitism, strengthen the concept of predestination, or as an excuse for mediocrity. The unchurched on the other hand sometimes use it as an excuse for disengagement with Christendom, hence statements like “You are chosen, I am not blessed with the gift of faith. To this end my essay seeks to:

– provide a brief overview of the term exegesis;

– carry out an exegesis on Matthew 22:1–14; and

– explore its implication with the concepts of Salvation by Grace, and Salvation by Merit.

A brief overview of the term exegesis

The Oxford Dictionary defines it as critical explanation or interpretation of a text, especially of scripture. Exegesis is a Greek word which means to lead out.

Originally used primarily for the Bible, these days it is now used in a broader context in other disciplines. It may include the study of history and cultural background, the text and the original audience, an analysis of the type of literary genres in the body of text, and its grammatical and syntactical features.

At this juncture I hasten to qualify that hermeneutics and exegesis are sometimes used interchangeably, however hermeneutics includes nonverbal, verbal, and written communications, while exegesis focuses primarily on texts. Biblical Criticism emerged out of the 17th and 18th century as a scientific approach to humanities, as part of the quest for the origin and authorship of the biblical text (especially the Torah). These questions led to the revelation of some contradictions and inconsistencies within the texts, thereby putting into question the authenticity of traditional belief that Moses wrote these books.

With the use of textual criticism which was already tried and tested in investigation of Greek and Roman texts, in the 18th century Jean Astruc (1684–1766), a French physician, set out in zealous pursuit to refute these findings. In the process, he discovered what he believed to be two distinct documents within Genesis, which he felt were the original scrolls written by Moses. However he concluded that later versions of this document were produced overtime, hence the inconsistencies and contradictions noted by the likes of Hobbes and Spinoza.

This led to a paradigm shift, stirring other theologians to adopt the same methods in their examination of biblical text. By the 1870’s it was widely believed that the Bible was a human document, suffice to say that not many agreed with this view, most notably the Catholic Church. But the tides had shifted, even the church would later embrace this methodology as part of its theological rigours. In between this spectrum, there were others within the church that agreed that it was in fact a human document, however, these humans were inspired by God, quoting from Paul’s writing to Timothy:

All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, so that everyone who belongs to God may be proficient, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16–17).

An exegesis of Matthew 22:1–14

22 Once more Jesus spoke to them in parables, saying: 2 “The kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who gave a wedding banquet for his son. 3 He sent his slaves to call those who had been invited to the wedding banquet, but they would not come. 4 Again he sent other slaves, saying, ‘Tell those who have been invited: Look, I have prepared my dinner, my oxen and my fat calves have been slaughtered, and everything is ready; come to the wedding banquet.’ 5 But they made light of it and went away, one to his farm, another to his business, 6 while the rest seized his slaves, mistreated them, and killed them. 7 The king was enraged. He sent his troops, destroyed those murderers, and burned their city. 8 Then he said to his slaves, ‘The wedding is ready, but those invited were not worthy. 9 Go therefore into the main streets, and invite everyone you find to the wedding banquet.’ 10 Those slaves went out into the streets and gathered all whom they found, both good and bad; so the wedding hall was filled with guests.

11 But when the king came in to see the guests, he noticed a man there who was not wearing a wedding robe, 12 and he said to him, ‘Friend, how did you get in here without a wedding robe?’ And he was speechless. 13 Then the king said to the attendants, ‘Bind him hand and foot, and throw him into the outer darkness, where there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.’ 14 For many are called, but few are chosen. (Matthew 22:1–14).

In his analysis of parables and allegories, Bloomberg (1990) noted that parables “revolve around one main point of comparison between the activity in the story and Jesus’ understanding of the kingdom of God, and thus they teach one primary lesson. Subordinate details are significant only to the extent that they fit in with and reinforce the central emphasis.” (p.30).

According to Matthew Henry’s commentary on this parable, it “represents the gospel offer, and the entertainment it meets with”. The parable ismonarchic because its unifying character, in this the case the king, relates directly with each of the other two: replacement guests, and those who refused to attend. Bloomberg included this parable amongst other Complex Three Point Parables, however in the case of this parable, “both positive and negative subordinates are divided into two and three groups respectively” (p. 233).

There are three main entities to consider in this parable: the king (God), the first set of guests (A-list celebrities, using contemporary term), the second set of guests (the undeserving); these all make up the whole — meaningmany.

With this in mind, let us explore the term many. In Greek and English it refers to a large group, however in English it is restrictive (some), while in Greek it is inclusive (whole) which is in line with Jesus’ teaching that the gospel should be preached to all the nations (Matt. 28: 19–20). The servants are the disciples, commissioned to preach the gospel starting from Jerusalem (Luke 24:47). Out of the whole, the first set refused to attend, citing flimsy reasons for their decisions, and the man who was not dressed appropriately was sent out of the banquet.

According to Klaus Haacker (1973), as cited in Bloomberg (1990), this man was intentionally disrespecting his host, as it was a known custom for Kings to provide robes. Therefore it is likely that Jesus gave this parable to prepare the disciples for the fact that when they went out to preach, they would be met with disappointments for the most part; that they should spread out beyond Judea into other countries; that even amongst the gentiles, some will refuse the gospel outright while others will respond initially — then lose emotional capital with the passing of time.

The implication of the proverb with concepts of Grace and Merit

Charis (the Greek word for grace), the New Testament word for Grace, was translated for the word Hen in Hebrew which means: favour, mercy, kindness, graciousness; for example in Genesis 6:8: ‘But Noah found favourin the sight of the Lord’. Charis means: that which brings delight, joy, happiness, or good fortune.

In the OT it highlights God’s benevolence towards humanity, most especially to worshippers of Yahweh, and in the NT it is Christocentric. It centres on God’s love and generosity towards all humanity,

For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God — not the result of works, so that no one may boast. (Ephesians 2:8–9).

Two major schools of thought (Pelagianism and Augustinianism) debated their views on grace in the early fifth century, first the Council of Carthage (418), then Council of Orange (529). According to McGrath (1993), Augustine of Hippo’s Fallenness of human nature, allude that human nature has fallen from its original pristine state (Gen 3:1–7), and the implication of this catastrophe includes the fact that: the present state of human nature is not what God intended it to be; all human beings are now contaminated with sin from birth — an inherent human nature; it has been ruined — but not irredeemable, humanity could not re-enter a relationship with God through her own devices and resources, and nothing in our power can break the stranglehold of sin. (p. 72).

However, God intervened even though he did not need to, but he chose to. It is God who initiates the process of salvation through his dealings, for instance with: Noah, Abraham, Moses, David then finally — Jesus Christ (the messiah or anointed ONE); after the fall of humanity.

Pelagius on the other hand held the view that salvation was by Merit, known through church history as the Pelagian Controversy. For him, the resources of salvation are located within humanity; we are not trapped by sin — we have the capacity to save ourselves; salvation is something that is earned by good works — which places God under obligation to humanity. To him, salvation can be achieved by demands made by God on humanity, for example: the Ten Commandments and the moral standards of Christ. (p. 73).

At the core of both arguments was a difference in understanding of human nature. “For Augustine human nature is weak, fallen and powerless; for Pelagius, human nature is autonomous and self-sufficient. For Augustine it is necessary to depend on God for salvation; for Pelagius God merely indicates what has to be done if salvation is to be attained, and then leaves men and women to meet those conditions unaided. For Augustine salvation is an unmerited gift; and for Pelagius salvation is a justly earned reward” (p. 73).

Augustine also pressed on with the view that, since human beings are incapable of saving themselves, and since God has given the gift of grace to some, God has pre-selected those who are to be saved — hence the doctrine of predestination, “We know that all things work together for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose” (Romans 8:28).

At both sittings, the church council ruled in favour of Augustine’s view of Grace, however they disagreed with his doctrine on predestination. Pelagius on the other hand was considered a heretic and his view discredited. Some theologians disagree with the verdict against him, and sadly we have access to very limited writings from him as they were either burnt or destroyed.

Matthew 22:1–14, poses immense doctrinal challenges for both schools of thought on grace, a fundamental building block of the Christian faith. For instance, how can the benevolence of the king towards his subjects be explained by Pelagians who belief that salvation is achieved by merit? What good deeds did they do to deserve the king’s invitation? Where does merit begin?

How can Augustinians explain the punishment met by the man who was not appropriately dressed? Was he not predestined to be in the wedding banquet — on the basis that he was called, but not chosen? Where does grace end?

Conclusion

As well as the Oxford Dictionary’s definition of grace, I also looked at a wide spectrum of sources.

Generous, free and totally unexpected and undeserved. (The New Dictionary of Theology)

Grace that takes the form of divine favour, love, clemency, and a share in the divine life of God. (Denis Diderot (1757), Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts)

the love and mercy given to us by God because God desires us to have it, not because of anything we have done to earn it. (Our Wesleyan Theological Heritage)

the condescension or benevolence shown by God toward the human race. (John Hardon, Modern Catholic Dictionary)

If Pelagius had won those debates, the definitions or doctrine on grace as we know it today would have been different. Who knows how that trajectory would have shaped the philosophy and praxis of the church?

Perhaps, Luke’s opener to this parable in verse 15 gives us a better angle to place our lenses today. According to Bloomberg, Jesus was challenging the narrow-mindedness of his audience, notably the Pharisees, as he had done in verses 1–14 of the same chapter (p. 235). It also echoes a resounding theme in the Bible against complacency with issues upon us today, issues like civil partnership, poverty, racism, discrimination, inequality, injustice, treatment of refugees and asylum seekers. In the words of Amos,

Alas for those who are at ease in Zion, and for those who feel secure on Mount Samaria, the notables of the first of the nations, to whom the house of Israel resorts! Cross over to Calneh, and see; from there go to Hamath the great; then go down to Gath of the Philistines. Are you better than these kingdoms? Or is your territory greater than their territory, O you that put far away the evil day, and bring near a reign of violence? (Amos 6:1–3).

So like the man who sat at the table with Jesus in the house of that prominent Pharisee, when next we come together in Christian fellowship, we need remember: those who refused our invitation, those who were not invited to join in, and most importantly, those who lack the freedom that we most times take for granted in the West.

Bibliography

Blomberg, C. L. (2012) Interpreting the Parables. Leicester: Apollos

Denis Diderot (1757), Encyclopaedia, or a Systematic Dictionary of the Sciences, Arts, and Crafts

Ferguson, S and Al, and (eds) (1988), New Dictionary of Theology. United States: Inter-Varsity Press, US

Hardon, J. A. (ed.) (1981), Modern Catholic Dictionary. London: Robert Hale

Henry, M. (2006) Matthew Henry’s Commentary of the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in 6 Volumes with CD, USA: Hendrickson Publishers

McGrath, A. E. (1999) Reformation Thought: An Introduction. 3rd edn. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishers

Our Wesleyan Theological Heritage, http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/our-wesleyan-heritage, last accessed: 22/4/15

This Sunday @ Healingsprings fellowship!

Church Reloaded: Grace

By way of recap, church reloaded kicked off with a lecture on Gratitude, then we made steady progress under the subheading of Revolution, and last week we arrived at Merit or Grace; focussing on Matt. 22:1-24. 

This Sunday I will be starting a series simply entitled: Grace. 

Drawing from biblical texts, major Christian thinkers and church history; this lecture will examine themes from the following key questions:

  • What is grace?
  • Are we saved by works or grace?
  • Are we saved by works and grace?
  • Are we saved by grace alone?
  • Are some predestined to be saved?
  • Once saved, always saved?

I’m so excited about what God is doing through our Church Reloaded series, so I extend an invite to you!

(6:00-7:30)pm

Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA 

(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)

For *free audio lectures: https://soundcloud.com/clementakran

*Please note that audio lectures are available for free for 14days after they have been upload. After that, you can place an order for CDs for £2:50 each.

Easter Sunday @ Healingsprings fellowship! 

Church Reloaded: Grace or Merit?

The saying by Jesus as recorded by Matthew: ‘Many are called, but a few are chosen’; has always been a source of much controversy within and outside the church.

Within the church it has been used to promote some sort of elitism, strengthen the concept of predestination, or as an excuse for mediocrity. 

The unchurched sometimes use it as an reason for disengagement with Christianity, hence statements like: ‘You are chosen, I am not blessed with the gift of faith’.

To this end, this Easter Sunday our focal point is on Matt. 22:1-24, under the title: Grace or Merit?

Drawing from other biblical texts and contemporary thoughts, this lecture will examine the following key themes:

  • the context that gave birth to this statement;
  • what the writer was trying to convey to his audience at the time it was written; and 
  • what we can glean from it in our era

I’m so excited about what God is doing through our Church Reloaded series, so I extend an invite to you!

(6:00-7:30)pm

Art Centre, Drama Room, Bexleyheath Academy, Woolwich Rd, Bexleyheath, Kent DA6 7DA 

(Free parking in front of the school and adjacent streets)