Romans 5:7-9

For one will scarcely die for a righteous person—though perhaps for a good person one would dare even to die—but God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Philemon - Outline

I finished working trough the letter to Philemon a couple months ago and I thought I'd post the outline I used to teach. Perhaps someone will find it useful. Philemon Outline

1.    Introduction
a.    Prison epistle – written in Rome
                           i.      Ephesians, Colossians, and Philippians
b.    Date: around 60, with Ephesians. Mark also had written around 60
c.    Political environment
                           i.      Jewish persecution of Church (33-64)
                         ii.      Nero’s reign (54-68)
1.       Eusebius attributed Paul’s death to Nero (also Peter)
2.    The letter’s structure
a.    Greeting/addressed recipients
b.    Thanksgiving
c.    Addressing issue
d.    Closing
3.    Paul introduced himself and addressed the letter (vv. 1-2)
a.    Remember to think of this as a personal letter between friends and brothers in Christ.
b.    Paul & Timothy
                           i.      Dictated to Timothy; could have delivered it
                         ii.      From both of them in concert
c.    To Philemon & Apphia & Archippus
                           i.      Apphia is Philemon’s wife (Calvin)
                         ii.      Fellow soldier—a title belonging particularly to ministers (Col. 4:17, another mention) – son?
                        iii.      Church in Philemon’s house
4.    A typical greeting
a.    Rom. 1:7; 1 Cor. 1:3; 2 Cor. 1:2; Gal. 1:3; Eph. 1:2; 2 Thess. 1:2 (God THE Father); Phil. 1:3
                           i.      “Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.”
                         ii.      Calvin actually preferred the translation: “joy and consolation
5.    Paul expressed thanks
a.    Paul’s prayer is that their faith will produce forgiveness (v. 6) “sharing” = fellowship
b.    Philemon’s household exhibited love toward neighbors and faith in Jesus Christ (v.7)
c.    Philemon’s household “refreshed” the hearts of the saints (v. 7)
                           i.      Christ’s benefits have been faithfully preached to them
1.       This, in turn, gave Paul joy and comfort; encouraged to see disciples generated
6.    All of the intro, greeting and expression of thanks preface Paul’s command
7.    Vv. 8-16
a.    Context
                           i.      Paul in Roman prison for the gospel/Prisoner of Christ and an old man.
                         ii.      Onesimus is Paul’s son in the faith.
                        iii.      Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who ran away/useful to Paul after being saved.
1.       Onesimus” means profitable.
                       iv.      Paul asked Philemon to receive Onesimus.
b.    Vv. 8-9 Paul says he’s able to command but he “appeals” instead.
                           i.      Why does Paul have such authority?
1.       Cringe at Paul’s right to command.
a.     Paul pointed out authority he wouldn’t exercise—results:
                                                           i.     Extended mercy
                                                         ii.     maintained seriousness of obedience
2.       In individualistic democracy, no context for Kings and commands.
                         ii.      What is it that is required?
1.       v. 17 “…receive him as you would receive me.”
                        iii.      Why wouldn’t he just command Philemon to take Onesimus back?
1.       “…for love’s sake…” Calvin says, “Philemon’s love”.
2.       The tone of the letter is gentle tactfulness.
c.    Vv. 10-14
                           i.      Paul deeply appreciated Onesimus’ company/service.
                         ii.      Onesimus is sent back with Paul’s very heart.
                        iii.      Desire for Onesimus to stay = declaration of his usefulness.
d.    Vv. 15-16
1.       Paul expected freedom—v. 22
2.       v. 15 “…have him back forever.”
                         ii.      v. 15 Paul appealed to the sovereign work of God through the sinful acts of men.
1.       Contending for Onesimus, Paul said, “…parted from you…” instead of “ran away”.
                        iii.      Added variable in the master/slave relationship—Onesimus is Philemon’s brother eternally.
1.       “…especially to me…” or, immensely, intensely, exceedingly. “Elative sense”.
2.       “…both in the flesh and in the Lord.”—as regards Onesimus’ relationship to Philemon
a.     “…in the flesh…”
                                                           i.     Master: slave = father: son
                                                         ii.     Fellow Colossian
                                                       iii.     In the affairs of this world in contrast to the affairs of the eternal world
b.     “…in the Lord.” is obviously as a fellow member of Christ’s body.
e.    Vv. 17-20
                           i.      v. 17 Here is the request – receive him as you would receive your partner in Christ.
1.       koinonos”—sharer in the koinonia.
                         ii.      v. 18 Illustrates atonement.
1.       Forgiveness doesn’t mean that debt isn’t paid.
a.     A company “forgives your debt”—they pay the price themselves.
b.     You forgive your neighbor—you absorb that debt.
                                                           i.     “You do not make the other person pay the debt of emotional pain, but you pay it down yourself. When someone wrongs you it creates an emotional debt of pain, it’s a debt that you feel.”—Tim Keller
c.     Christ is punished and God forgives us —our debts are actually paid.
                                                           i.     Jesus absorbed our debt. Asked His Father to forgive—I will pay for it (Luke 23:34).
                        iii.      v. 19 Paul asked Philemon to absorb Onesimus’ debt or charge it to Paul’s account.
a.     Philemon shouldn’t charge it to Paul—Paul appeals to Philemon’s debt (Matt. 18:21-35).
                       iv.      v. 20 Paul answers the objection Philemon might have after reading v. 19.
1.       Paul desires benefit from Philemon, “…in the Lord.”
a.     Philemon would refresh Paul’s heart by receiving Onesimus.
                                                           i.     Receiving in v. 17 is—Philemon absorbing any debt incurred by Onesimus.
f.      Vv. 21-25
                           i.      v. 21 Paul began verse 8 with an appeal to obedience and concludes with confidence.
                         ii.      v. Paul is confident that he would return to Colossae.
                        iii.      vv. 23-24 List of companions.
1.       Epaphras—fellow prisoner (Col. 1:17).
2.       Mark—the cousin of Barnabus (Col. 4:10).
3.       Aristarchus—(Col. 4:10); (Acts 20:4—a Thessalonian).
4.       Demas—later forsook Paul (2 Tim. 4:10).
5.       Luke—the doctor, the author of the Acts and a gospel account.
                       iv.      v. 25 Benediction
g.    Recap
                           i.      A personal letter from Paul to Philemon and his household, but especially to Philemon.
                         ii.      Onesimus was Philemon’s slave who fled to Roman
1.       Saved under Paul’s ministry
2.       Made useful again, to Philemon and for the first time to Paul.
                        iii.      Paul appealed to Philemon’s love for the saints
1.       Onesimus is now counted among saints, so “receive him as you would receive me.”
2.       Paul is confident of Philemon’s forgiveness/mercy. Philemon experienced God’s mercy.
                       iv.      Paul hoped to see Philemon again and sent greetings from his fellow workers.
h.    Questions:
                           i.      What would you say this letter is about? One or two words.
                         ii.      How does it challenge us?
                        iii.      Is there any “Good News” in it?


Well it's been 2 months since I last posted...very very busy.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Concluding Remarks

Concluding Remarks
 So, as I conclude I will make a summary comparison of the atonement theologies of the three men in question. We can say that Anslem approached the theory of substitutionary atonement as expressed in Reformed and Evangelical circles today: satisfaction for sins, the necessity of Christ’s death for our life, etc. The Abelardian view maintained that by God’s grace we are made lovers of God so as to prove our fellowship with him. Often loosely interpreted in our day as the moral theory of the atonement, it far more emphasized the idea of God’s love being shown through Christ’s passion than an answer to His justice. And Thomas’ view was worked out in the difference between the imputation of and the infusion of Christ’s righteousness to the believer; Thomas saw the atonement as a provision of the grace God used to make a sinner righteous before He called him just. His theory, like Anselm’s, counted on God’s grace, but where Anselm saw this in terms of God’s grace extended in mercy by forgiving the guilty because He punished the Innocent, Thomas saw it in more of what we would now consider Roman Catholic terms, that in order for God to call someone just that person must actually be just, thus God makes them so by infusing Christ’s righteousness thereby transmuting their soul from wickedness to righteousness.
Thus in the final assessment, even though their lives were separated by no more than 200 years, neither Anselm of Canterbury, nor Peter Abelard, nor Thomas Aquinas shared the same view of the atonement. Some of their ideas overlapped but the three of them drew rather different conclusions and therefore have influenced the world of theology in different ways: Anselm: penal substitution, Abelard: moral influence, and Aquinas: Roman Catholic Sacramentalism.

Sunday, April 4, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Theological Comparisons: The Westminster Divines

Theological Comparisons

The Westminster Divines
     So to put forth what may be considered the present day expression of the Reformed view of the atonement, I shall employ the words of the Westminster Confession.
The Lord Jesus, by His perfect obedience, and sacrifice of Himself, which He through the eternal Spirit, once offered up unto God, hath fully satisfied the justice of His Father; and purchased, not only reconciliation, but an everlasting inheritance in the kingdom of heaven, for all those whom the Father hath given unto Him.[i]
     This is one basis for the present formulation of the atonement theory which is referred to as “penal substitution” or “substitutionary atonement”. It has been worked out in all its implications in various sources since then; to name a few reliable ones: Loraine Boettner, John Murray, J.I. Packer, Mark Dever, Leon Morris, Robert L. Reymond, and John Stott. This theory has obvious legal overtones and surmises that, being the due punishment for original and actual sins, Christ’s death was a substitute for our own which is henceforth applied by God’s gracious instrument—faith.

[i] Westminster Confession of Faith contributors, The Westminster Confession of Faith, (Georgia: Great Commission Publications, 2006), 33.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Theological Comparisons: Aquinas - 2

Theological Comparisons


It must first be pointed out that Thomas saw the need to conciliate God’s justice, which was quite different than the terms Anselm employed in his theory. “This is Aquinas' major difference with Anselm. Rather than seeing the debt as one of honor, he sees the debt as a moral injustice to be righted.”[i] Now regarding Thomas on the act of atonement itself, he first, with Anslem saw the necessity of Christ’s incarnation. “Now a mere man could not have satisfied for the whole human race, and God was not bound to satisfy; hence it was needful for Jesus Christ to be both God and man.”[ii] Secondly, that the death of Christ was perfectly satisfactory because of His infinite deity and was necessary due to the highly offensive nature of our sin. “…a sin committed against God has a kind of infinity from the infinity of the Divine majesty, because the greater the person we offend, the more grievous the offence. Hence for adequate satisfaction it was necessary that the act of the one satisfying should have an infinite efficacy, as being of God and man.”[iii] Thirdly, that Christ came into the world to blot out both original and actual sin. “It is certain that Christ came into this world not only to take away the sin which is handed on originally to posterity, but also in order to take away all sins subsequently added to it…”[iv]Fourth that in some way in Thomas’ mind, Christ’s merit is extended to the whole church. Thomas pointed out the objections to the merit of Christ extending to others by asserting that, just as Adam’s demerit is extended to the whole race physically, Christ’s merit is extended to the members of His body, the church, because He is its head. Thomas responded to those objections in these varied ways. “But Adam’s demerits reached to the condemnation of others. Much more, therefore does the merit of Christ reach others.”[v] And here is his logical progress from the representation of Adam to the representation of Christ, “As the sin of Adam reaches others only by carnal generation, so, too, the merit of Christ reaches others only by spiritual regeneration, which takes place in baptism; wherein we are incorporated with Christ…and it is by grace that it is granted to man to be regenerated in Christ. And thus man’s salvation is from grace.”[vi] Now it is clear from this last statement that Thomas’ understanding of the sacraments is in contrast to the Reformers, and that the division of the Calvinistic categories of the church into “visible” and invisible” are likewise not yet present. Even further, it is clear that Thomas differed from Anselm in yet another way.
Aquinas articulated the formal beginning of the idea of a superabundance of merit, which became the basis for the Catholic concept of the Treasury of Merit…Aquinas also articulated the ideas of salvation that are now standard within the Catholic church: that justifying grace is provided through the sacraments; that the condign merit of our actions is matched by Christ's merit from the Treasury of Merit; and that sins can be classified as mortal and venial. For Aquinas, one is saved by drawing on Christ's merit, which is provided through the sacraments of the church. Aquinas' view may sound like penal substitution, but he is careful to say that he does not intend substitution to be taken in legal terms[vii]
     Thus Thomas—I believe contrary to Gesner’s assertion, alluded to earlier—is now aligned with the current Roman Catholic understanding of the atonement, in all its parts and implications.

[i] New World Encyclopedia contributors. “Atonement (satisfaction view)”. New World Encyclopedia; 2008 Sep 4, 22:35 UTC [cited 17 Mar, 2010]. Online:
[ii] Thomas Aquinas, The Suma Theologica of Saint Thomas Aquinas: vol. II Daniel J. Sullivan, ed., (Chicago, London, Toronto: Encyclopaedia Britannica, Inc., 1952), 702.
[iii] Ibid. 704
[iv] Ibid. 706
[v] Ibid. 820
[vi] Ibid. 821
[vii] New World Encyclopedia contributors. “Atonement (satisfaction view)”. New World Encyclopedia; 2008 Sep 4, 22:35 UTC [cited 17 Mar, 2010]. Online:

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Theological Comparisons: Aquinas - 1

Theological Comparisons
     So much could be said of the good Doctor Angelicus, Saint Thomas Aquinas; short life though he lived, his copious collection of theological musings warranted a more Methuselan period of time. On the particular doctrine of the atonement, Thomas has been quoted by Roman Catholic and protestant scholars both, as having held to their position. One such extreme instance of this is an article in Table Talk magazine where Dr. John Gerstner claimed that Saint Thomas held to justification by grace, through faith alone; while others remain more cautious because of the dichotomy he made between congruent and condign merit: congruent being that merit that one has outside of the gracious work of Christ and condign being that merit graciously provided by God, yet still a merit that Thomas finds in the act of the justification of a sinner. Make no mistake, Thomas firmly believed that God’s grace was absolutely necessary and any good deed would ultimately be attributed to its infusion. Thomas proved this in his own words,
Now everlasting life is a good exceeding the proportion of created nature; since it exceeds its knowledge and desire, according to 1 Cor. 2:9: ‘Eye hath not seen, nor ear heard, neither hath it entered into the heart of man.’ And hence it is that no created nature is a sufficient principle of an act meritorious of eternal life, unless there is added a supernatural gift, which we call grace.[i]
But therein lays the true issue. Thomas proved this in his own words as he attempted to answer this question, May a man, by God’s grace, condignly merit eternal life? To that effect, “If, however, we speak of a meritorious work, inasmuch as it proceeds from the grace of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting, it is meritorious of life everlasting condignly. For thus the value of its merit depends upon the power of the Holy Ghost moving us to life everlasting according to John 4:14.”[ii]
The major difference in Thomas’ theory of atonement and that of Anselm’s is this idea of righteousness infused. To import our own categories into the discussion, the Reformers were careful to say that we are not made righteous at all (especially by the infusion of meritorious acts such as belief), but that we are instead declared righteous on account of Christ’s merit for us. This was in fact Anselm’s position; he claimed that Christ’s death—which was an act over and above what God demands of all His creatures, a life of perfect obedience—merited infinite righteousness which would be imparted, as an alien source, to the sinner God chose to benefit. Thomas’s opinion of the sinner made righteous before God, graciously being given the capacity to do that which God commanded, was what he referred to as the transmutation of the human soul. By virtue of the soul being caused to obey, the person becomes righteous before God, therefore God can (and is in fact obliged—insinuated by Thomas) really and actually call the person righteous because they indeed are righteous.

[i] Thomas Aquinas, “Suma Theologica,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library ST Ia.114.2. Cited 17 March 2010. Online:
[ii] Thomas Aquinas, “Suma Theologica,” Christian Classics Ethereal Library ST Ia.114.3. Cited 17 March 2010. Online:

Tuesday, March 30, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Mix up

Sorry a couple of the posts miss-timed. Notice the section of Anselm divided in two; the earlier post was supposed to follow the one posted on 3/29.

Monday, March 29, 2010

A Comparison of Christ's Atonement in the Medieval Scholastic Period - Theological Comparisons: Anselm - 1

Theological Comparisons


     Anselm, being perhaps the first theologian in 800 years to say so, did not find propitious, this theory of atonement which had an exclusive emphasis on ransom, thus facilitating his proposition of another theory. Anselm’s pioneering ideas in general proved to have influenced a 1000 years of atonement theology since his death. 55 years ago one philosopher described Anselm in this way.
The theology of Anselm is so full of rational speculation that one of his historians has labeled it a “Christian rationalism,”[i] Its ambivalence is due to the fact that, expressing the inner life of faith that seeks understanding, it is both overflowing with a religious feeling which sometimes borders on mysticism and full of dialectical passion which translates faith into terms of rational necessity. Hence its twofold influence in the fields of theology and of philosophy.[ii]
Though this sounds somewhat critical, the influence can’t be denied. He went so far as to object to the contemporary trend of questioning the radical nature of the cross because of its abject violence—why would the God of the universe chose to show His love to His creatures in such a brutal way? Anselm was careful to point out that this God could only incarnate the way that He did and that incarnation could only lead to the end we observe through the narrative of the four Gospels. Anselm put to his readers this hypothetical objection to God’s death on a cross,
Therefore, if he was willing to save the human race only in the way you described when he could have done it by sheer will, to put it mildly, you really disparage his wisdom. For surely, if for no reason a man did by hard labor what he could have done with ease no one would regard him as wide. And you have no rational ground for saying that God showed in this way how much he loved us unless you can show that it was quite impossible for him to save man in some other way.[iii]
It’s not as though God was forced to restore the relationship of His creatures and creation to Himself after it had been broken by Adam’s sin, but when He chose to do so He chose to reconcile some of mankind to Himself by not imputing the consequence of Adam’s sin to them, thus forgiving them their debts and loving them instead. But it is not as though this sin and offense—one we know is infinite because it is an offense against an infinite God—no longer exists and God has simple shrugged it off the way we do when we are actually asked to forgive one another. On the contrary, the sins we have committed, the sin nature we have inherited from Adam must be dealt with even if it is not counted to our own debt. So Anselm postulated the representation of Christ as our sin bearer, converse to our representation in Adam as he sinned and stored up guilt for all his children to inherit. Christ on the other hand stored up positive merit for our inheritance which should be counted to us by the Father in place of our demerit.

[i] H. Bouchitte, Le rationalisme chretien de saint Anselme,—Anslem as “father of scholasticism”: M. Grabman, Geschichte der schol. Meth., I, (Paris, 1842), 58.
[ii] Etienne Gilson, History of Christian Philosophy in the Middle Ages (New York: Random House, 1955), 139.
[iii] Anselm, Cur Deus Homo, in A Scholastic Miscellany: Anselm to Ockham, trans. and ed. by Eugene R. Fairweather, M.A., B.D., Th.D, (Philadelphia: The Westminster Press, 1956), 107