EFAC Australia

Spring 2020

Bible exposition

In the previous edition of Essentials, Simon Flinders invited us to reconsider in what ways we should — and should not — interpret the messianic content of Genesis 3:15. We can avoid a simplistic approach, where the answer to every question is Jesus, and use responsible biblical theology to plot an equally-exciting trajectory concerning God's plans for his world and for his victory over Satan.

Similar caution should be applied to the third chapter of the last book of the Old Testament. And similarly-exciting results can be found…

The Problem

Malachi 3:1 has long been considered a messianic proof text. To his people who had resettled in Judah after returning from exile, Yahweh Sabaoth announces:

See, I will send my messenger, who will prepare the way before me.
Then suddenly the Lord you are seeking will come to his temple;
the messenger of the covenant, whom you desire, will come. (NIV)

What do you understand these words to promise?

Open any catalogue from a Christian book retailer and you will find pages and pages of different Bibles for sale. Study bibles, devotional bibles, Bibles for men, women, teenagers, seniors and children. There are Bibles to suit every possible occasion in life – baptisms, confirmations, weddings - with only funerals thus far escaping the ploy of the marketing experts!

Yet although we have plenty of Bibles on hand to own and look at, very few of us really spend much time seeking to read and understand its message. The most recent Australian Church Life Survey showed that only 19% of church attendees read the Bible daily or on most days, with another 46% reading it only occasionally and 37% hardly ever or never at all.
The Bible may be perhaps the most owned (US Statistics point to an average of 6.8 Bibles per household) but least read of any book ever printed.
And not only least read, but also least understood of any book. Those Sunday school bloopers - "the epistles were the wives of the apostles", "Solomon had 300 wives and 700 porcupines" - are humorous, but also are sadly true of many people in our churches for whom the Bible is largely a mystery. The old saying, "Wonderful things in the Bible I see, most of them put there by you and by me", is often an all too common experience.
It was with this in mind that the leadership team of our church devised a 10 week series called the Hitchhikers' Guide to the Bible to help our church members and visitors understand something of the big picture of the Bible and thus make it more accessible and able to be read and enjoyed.

One of the important issues of recent times is the 'new perspective' on Paul (the name Professor Dunn gave it in 1983).

I want to look at Paul's own perspective on something, the righteousness of God, focusing on Galatians.

Let me make four preliminary observations.

First, the word 'righteousness' and its brother word, 'justified' are law court words. For example, in 1 Cor 4:4 Paul speaks about the Corinthians' 'judgement' about his ministry where he says,'I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted (Greek: justified').

Paul uses this language to describe the relationship with God of those who are (in Paul's words) 'in Christ', Christian believers. He says that they are 'justified' (= 'acquitted').

The passive voice means that if I am 'justified' it means that someone else has 'justified' me, and that someone else is God. So: to be 'justified' means to be 'acquitted', acquitted by God.