Notes from A Preacher & His Models

As a pastor I am always seeking new opportunity to grow in my calling. At a pastor’s meeting I recently attended, Mr. James Stalker’s lectures at Yale were recommended. I know I can surely say I was blessed by reading through The Preacher & His Models, and wanted to share my notes and prayerfully edify others.

“…the mission of Christianity is not to occupy a respectable place apart, but to leaven life through and through” – Penetrate the world with the Gospel! Heal the Nations! Callings the Restorers!

Pastoral calling is not tame!

“We have too tame and conventional way of thinking about our career. Men are not even ambitious about doing more than settling in a comfortable position and getting through its duties in a respectable way. WE NEED TO HAVE MEN PENETRATED WITH THE PROBLEMS AS A WHOLE, AND LABORING WITH NEW DEVELOPMENTS WHICH THE TIMES REQUIRE”.

THE PREACHER AS A MAN OF GOD
“God’s man” – prophetic call, vision of God, vision of sin
“His whole being is taken possession of for the Divine purposes and subjected to the sway of Divine inspiration”.
“…the outer must be preceded by the inner; public life for God must be preceded by private life with God; unless God has first spoken to a man, it is vain for a man to attempt to speak for God”.

THE PREACHER AS A PATRIOT
“Our message in modern times is addressed to the individual; but the message was addressed to the nation”. – we are called to implore the nation with criticism, denunciation, comfort (Isaiah 51:8)
“It will be conceded by all that the preacher exists for the promotion of righteousness and the denunciation of sin in the world”.

THE PREACHER AS A MAN OF THE WORD
Compelled to preach – Jeremiah 20:9; 1 Corinthians 9:16
Demolish Strongholds – Jeremiah 23:29; 2 Corinthians 10
“The prophets had to go amongst men, even if it were at risk of life, and deliver the Divine message. They had to use every device to make it telling, striking it at every opportunity and giving line upon line, precept upon precept, here a little and there a little. They did not disdain the homliest means, if it served a purpose”.
– thought and expression – win their attention and keep it!
“The more a Bible is searched, the more it will be loved; and the stronger the conviction will grow, that its deep truths are the Divine answers to the deep wants of human nature”.
“To obtain command of language it is good to hear the best speakers and to read the best books”.
“The writing of books is perhaps the likeliest of all avenues by which to carry religious influence to the most select minds”.

THE PREACHER AS A FALSE PROPHET
“There will always be a demand for smooth things and an appropriate reward for him who is willing to supply them in the name of God…But popularity may be purchased at too dear a rate. It may be bought by the suppression of the Truth and the letting down of the demands of Christianity. There will always be a demand for a religion which does not agitate the mind too much to interfere with the pursuits of a worldly life”.
“Neither orthodoxy nor heterodoxy is a guarantee: the only guarantee is a humble mind living in the secret of the Lord”. (1 Corinthians 10:12-13)

THE PREACHER AS A MAN
– responsibility
– use of intellectual gifts – “Cultivate your strengths”
Using the Apostle Paul as an example – “…there was never a time when to receive the approval of God was not the deepest passion of His nature”.; “He could never have allowed himself that which would have robbed him of his SELF-RESPECT”.
“People do not respect “the cloth”, unless they find a man inside it”.
“It is the manhood in ourselves which enables us to understand the human nature of our hearers; and we must have had life experience, if we are to preach to the life of men”.

Martin Luther’s Qualifications of a Minister
He should be able to teach plainly and in order
He should have a good, level head
Possess a good power of language
A good voice
A good memory
He should know when to stop speaking/ giving wisdom
He should be sure of what he wants to say
He should stake everything on the Truth
Study diligently
Suffer himself to be vexed and criticized by everyone

THE PREACHER AS A CHRISTIAN
1Timothy 1:5; 2 Peter 1 – BeingCHRISTIAN; Growth charts
A personal attachment to the Savior

THE PREACHER AS AN APOSTLE
“…obtain a a definite sphere to fill and a definite work to do” – “God inspired impulses”
“The Christian man says: Here is my own task – If I do not accomplish it, no one else can. This is my corner in the great labor field, which I, and no one else, have to make fruitful and beautiful. I shall be answerable to the Judge of All at the last day for the manner in which the work assigned to me is done”.
“…to love and be loved is the secret to a happy and successful ministry”.

THE PREACHER AS A THINKER
Titus 1:9 – encourage in sound doctrine and rebuke those who oppose it
– knowledge of Church History and thought
– The Holy Spirit by Owens
– New Testament Theology by Weiss
– Life and Epistles of St. Paul by Conybeare

“Pay close attention to YOURSELF and YOUR TEACHING; persevere in these things, for as you do this you will ensure salvation both for yourself and for those who hear you (1 Timothy 4:16)”.

“All of our work is determined by this – the Spirit and power of our preaching, the quality of the influence we exert, and the tenor of our walk and conversation”.

 

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2 Peter 1 – “Growth Chart”

“Healthy systems to sustain growth”

Grace and peace be multiplied to you in the knowledge of God and of Jesus our Lord; seeing that His divine power has granted everything pertaining to life and Godliness, through the true knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence.
For by these He has granted to us His precious and magnificent promises, so that by them you may become partakers of the divine nature, having escaped the corruption that is in the world by lust.

Now for this very reason also, applying all diligence, in your faith supply:

 

MORAL EXCELLENCE:

 

KNOWLEDGE:

 

SELF-CONTROL:

 

PERSEVERANCE:

 

GODLINESS:

 

BROTHERLY KINDNESS:

 

LOVE:

For if these qualities are yours and are increasing, they render you neither useless nor unfruitful in the true knowledge of our Lord Jesus Christ.

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PURCHASE – MGW Resources

It’s been busy putting together resources for MGW (Miano Gone Wild): Apologetics and Ministry. I must thank God that he had given me the ability and opportunity to put some things these things together.

The latest purchase opportunity you can participate in until August 1st is a bundle of my 2 published books, Freaked Out by the New Covenant & Wicked. You can order both for $30 + S&H at the following link:
https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=AC2YW5BSN6H9E

If you only want to purchase Freaked Out by the New Covenant for $18 + S&H, visit this link, https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=TTS83S9ELR9CQ

And the recently, published Wicked for 19.95 + S&H, visit this link, https://www.paypal.com/cgi-bin/webscr?cmd=_s-xclick&hosted_button_id=K223XQ97HW33A

 

Thank you for your support and encouragement.

Blessings in Christ,
Pastor Michael Miano
The Blue Point Bible Church

 

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July 25, 2017 · 7:11 pm

Notebook Review: Resurrection of the Dead

As I have studied through the “resurrection of the dead” I have noted the words of Mr. R.C. Sproul, a well-known Bible teacher;

“There is much confusion regarding the “literal” sense of Scripture…To interpret the Bible “literally” in the classic sense requires that we learn to recognize in Scripture different genres of literature. Poetry is to be interpreted as poetry, and didactic passages are to be interpreted according to the grammar of the didactic. Historical narrative must not be treated as parable, nor parable as strict historical narrative. Much of Bible prophecy is cast in an apocalyptic genre that employs graphic imaginative language and often mixes elements of common historical narrative with the figurative language.”

Here are a couple links to resources I have written and compiled on the doctrine of the “resurrection of the dead”.

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2014/04/17/1-corinthians-15-summaries/

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2013/01/13/the-hope-of-israel-transition-part-3/

http://www.academia.edu/26905171/One_New_Man_Sermon_Series_Summary

https://powerofpreterism.wordpress.com/2017/05/03/an-introduction-to-and-praise-of-the-corporate-body-view-cbv/

As I reviewed my notebook notes on the “resurrection of the dead”, it revealed the following studies:

1/4/16 – Defining the Resurrection Hope: William Bell

Utilizing this study from Mr. William Bell, which I unfortunately cannot seem to find a link for, will allow for us to see “cuts in the beautiful diamonds of hope”, as well as understand what some “powers of the age to come” are.

In Hebrews 6:1-9  – Resurrection of the dead is among the “elementary teachings”  that the Hebrew Christians were encouraged to  move beyond. This notes the simplistic understanding they would have had through the Law and the Prophets (cf. Acts 24:

In Hebrews chapter 3, the writing contrasts:

The “house of Moses” with the “house of Christ”.

“But Christ is faithful as the Son over God’s house. And we are his house, if indeed we hold firmly to our confidence and the hope in which we glory (Hebrews 3:6)”.  The resurrection of the dead is the “one hope” of Ephesians 4:4, which belonged to the Hebrews (Hebrews 4:6).

Here is a listing of “several cuts of this one hope”:

Heb. 2:14 – release from the power of death and Satan
Heb. 2:14 – release from bondage
Heb. 3:6 – move from servant’s house to Son’s
Heb.  4:1 – entering His rest
Heb. 6:1; 11:40 – maturity/ perfection
Heb. 2:5; 6:5 – age to come
Heb. 6:9; 9:28 – salvation
Heb. 6:19 – entrance into the veil
Heb. 7:12, 23-24; 8:1 – new priesthood
Heb. 8:6, 13 – better covenant
Heb. 8:2 – true tabernacle
Heb. 9:8 – access to Most Holy Place
Heb. 9:12 – eternal redemption
Heb. 9:15 – eternal inheritance
Heb. 10:35 – based on faith and has great reward
Heb. 10:29 – preservation of the soul
Heb. 11:10, 13, 16; 12:22; 13:14 – Heavenly City
Heb. 12:24 – Jesus’ sprinkled blood
Heb. 12:28 – a kingdom that cannot be shaken
Heb. 13:10 – a new altar
Heb. 13:35 – better resurrection

Here are some links to more beneficial studies from Mr. William Bell:

https://www.preteristarchive.com/Hyper/0000_bell_resurrection.html

http://donkpreston.com/the-resurrection-the-kingdom-and-1-corinthians-15-william-bell-part-1/

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Qz3ml0sgUw8

https://www.allthingsfulfilled.com/a-response-to-kurt-simmons-exposition-of-2-corinthians-5/

Also, it is always good to take a look at teachings you may disagree with you challenge your perspective. Therefore, here are some teachings on the IBV of the resurrection held by Mr. Ed Stevens:

http://www.preterist.org/our-body-collec-individ/

http://lastdayspast.com/wp-content/uploads/2014/07/Change_of_Living-Ed-Stevens.pdf

 

Beginning in December 2016, I began to loosely follow some of Sam Frost’s YouTube videos on “resurrection”.  While much of his videos were him explaining how much he understands Preterism and making claims that Full Preterists to an injustice to Scripture, he did make some good points. Sam highlighted that the resurrection of the dead was the “hope of Israel” and he utilized Romans chapter 5 to out that resurrection is contrasting the death of Adam. I finished watching quite a few of Sam’s videos and left thinking – so when we physically die we still suffer the curse of Adam (according to Sam’s position). Also, the questions I came away asking were: In Scripture what is resurrection of the dead compared to? When does the resurrection of the dead happen according to Scripture? And what are the difference in views? Here is a link to begin watching his videos, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=CrRhp6iDyHc

 

 

 

 

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Intro to Covenant Creation

When we open up the Book of Genesis we are immediately brought into the beginning (literally the Hebrew word which Genesis comes from bereshit means “beginning”). The important and common question to ask is, “the beginning of what?”. Unfortunately, many people within Church History and often today pick up the Book of Genesis and assume it is detailing the beginning of the physical cosmos. Gaining an understanding of “Covenant Creation” allows for a more true and reasonable apologetic in regards to the creation account.

A familiarity with the Biblical narrative is required to understand the details in the Bible, or in the very least establishing historical context. It is important to understand how terms like “heaven and earth” are used in the whole of Scripture, how six day Temple Texts were used in the Ancient Near East, and how God worked corporately and coventally with Israel, the progeny of Adam, in order to understand the focus of the beginning. The failure of many to “study to show themselves approved” is evident within the Church as many have proposed all sorts of wild notions regarding the purpose and content of Genesis. This leads Genesis discussions rather than understanding the purpose of the text to establish the One True God’s reign in and among His people. That would have been what was most important to establish clarity about, rather than the specifics of how old the planet is or the physical composition/ creation of man.

In more recent years, understanding these details in regards to the Book of Genesis has come to be known as “Covenant Creation”. This view takes into account the framework of the Biblical narrative as the One True God covenanting among His Creation. As authors Tim Martin and Jeff Vaughn note in their seminal work, Beyond Creation Science, “Genesis creation is a symbolic statement, involving real people in real history, describing the “beginning” of God’s covenant world of friendship and relationship with His people”.

 

MORE RESOURCES FROM PASTOR MICHAEL MIANO:

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2013/01/28/the-god-of-abraham-isaac-and-jacob-its-a-covenant-thing/

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2017/01/06/authentic-spirituality-through-the-lens-of-genesis-chapter-1/

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2016/08/17/genesis-1-detailed/

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2015/10/09/man-of-dust-genesis-ancient-near-eastern-origins/

https://mianogonewild.wordpress.com/2013/08/02/the-creation-question-that-needs-to-be-answered-review-of-john-waltons-book-the-lost-world-of-genesis-one/

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“Human Fascination With Evil”

I recently picked up a book that looked interesting at a local thrift store. The book is titled “ANTICHRIST: TWO THOUSAND YEARS OF HUMAN FASCINATION WITH EVIL” written by Bernard McGinn. This might be the one of the best texts I have read that explains the various understandings of the devil, demons, antichrist, evil, and wickedness that I have ever read. McGinn writes in a textbook manner and offers so much historical data to consider and review. It’s safe to say I was shocked at how much I enjoyed this book I bought for less than $3 at the thrift store.

I have been working steadily on Wicked. (which is expected to be released at the end of May 2017). As I come to chapters in regards to these wicked things (Satan, evil, demons, etc) I have been reviewing some books I own on the topics. I was not expecting such a fascinating book as ANTICHRIST. Now, I want to say something about fascination and the topic of evil. Unfortunately our “total depravity” (to borrow a doctrinal term from reformer John Calvin) shows all to often when we are so quick to jump into topics about wicked things, and offer up our opinions and thoughts (leaning upon our own misunderstandings and offering more confusion to the mix). And boy oh boy are we quick to do so.

Last week I post a status on my Facebook page and it brought over 87 mostly aggressive comments within 2 hours. Yikes! Arguments went on and on. Some almost calling each other Satan and evil things. Wickedness ran rampant.

I’d like to say that my fascination with the topic is a bit different and prayerfully I will detail that as I share some of the points from ANTICHRIST with you in this blog. Ultimately of course, I would encourage you to keep an eye out for my upcoming book, Wicked. My fascination is more from the standpoint of a student of Scripture and a follower of Jesus Christ. I desire to know the depths of what the Scriptures are revealing. In doing so, I often times bump heads with the Establishment (the traditional Fundamentalist crowd within the Church). An honest study through history show this. Reading and studying through the chaos revealed through Church history on the topic is outrageous, especially detailed so fully in Bernard McGinn. This is or should be a textbook on the topic.

“…I write in the conviction that the Antichrist has already come – That is, the most important message of the Antichrist legend in Western history is what it has to tell us about our past, and perhaps our present attitudes toward evil”. – McGinn 

McGinn begins by detailing Isaac Newton’s distaste for those who were always searching for the Antichrist, as well as explaining that much of what people believe today as wickedness show influence of 2nd Temple Judaism/ Hellenism (ultimately confusion that ran rampant among national Israel (God’s vessel up until the time of Christ) from the 3rd century BC to AD 70. “Ultimately that and more led to the coming of the Lord in that generation”. I surely could appreciate even though we may disagree on many specifics – end times taken “seriously but not literally”.

There is so much that can be said about how McGinn shared all these details on the Antichrist. I loved the format of the book! McGinn highlighted the views that were noted (the resources he looked into could be compiled as an encyclopedia) throughout various points of history (which I will share near the end of this blog). Also, McGinn really piqued my interest in reading quite a few resources:

  • 2nd Temple literature/ Apocalypses, Enoch, etc)
  • The Maccabees and some highlights in Hellenism (1 Macc: 1:11-16; 2 Macc 4:7-18)
  • Sibylline Oracles and the Book of Jubilees

In talking about the ancient world McGinn rightly noted the importances of myths:
“Myths serve as archetypal narratives that exercise a special part of the human imagination” to which I would challenge with a proper understanding of the “prophetic imagination” as seemingly understood by the early Hebrews. McGinn notes, “Myth explains, not in an intellectual way by giving an argument, but rather by presenting an accounts of origin or essential structure that mediates meaning to the present”. Essentially myths were natural man’s way of “making sense of reality”.

McGinn really helps provide for an appreciate in regards to history. The style in which he writes captures what he refers to  as the “Matrix of Early Christianity” –
– Positive memories of Israel’s great kings
– Remembrance of oppressors and fear of worst in future
– The Messiah as an apocalyptic hope

The best way I can show you some of the great details McGinn brought forth is to use his historical outline/ sections and share my notes.

300 BC – AD 50 : A time marked by Jewish apocalyptic visions, 2nd Temple period, and the Qumran community.  A time filled with blasphemy against the One True God, persecution of His Faithful, and false religious leadership (hypocrites). We also see how these historic times mark out the internal conflict between good and evil, or what we might call the “psychological dualism of the struggle of the spirits of good and evil within the human heart”.

AD 50 – 100: A time of the 2nd Adam and His opposite. McGinn highlights that “After the destruction of the Temple by the Romans in AD 70, both Jews and Christians had to face a new religious situation, one that profoundly affected their respective beliefs and the increasing divergent roads these religious traditions would take”.

The teachings of Jesus Christ surely took precedent during this time. In literature and preaching we read of the “Man of Sin”, “the Beast”, Satan/ devil, the evil trinity, and the abomination of desolation. I love the following quote from Gerhard Eberling because it demonstrates that the Christian hope is based upon a reorienting all that was being hoped for through the lens of Jesus:

“What stands at the beginning of Christian theology is the apocalyptic modified by faith in Jesus”. 

AD 100 – 500: Throughout this time period we see the Antichrist develop as Christianity itself is developing. We read of “provocative new twists” from Church Fathers through this time of “persecution, heresy, and self-deceit”. Unfortunately, confusion runs rampant during this time. Surely applying the “end times” and the “Deceiver of the world” to a time past the events of the Roman-Jewish war is a misplace concept and bred much confusion in the Church. Some writings that stand out from this period which I seek to read and review in the near future are:

– The Apocalypse of Peter
– The Apocalypse of Elijah – which has been said to be “one of the most complete, but also obscure accounts of the Antichrist in patristic literature”.
– The writings of Hippolytus, presbyter in Rome from AD 200-235A
– The Catechetical Lectures by Cyril (AD 315-386) – these were instructions given to converts as the Roman world became increasingly Christian.

Prior to the Middle Ages it could be said, “….in the West at least, the apocalyptic theology advanced by Augustine and Tyconius emphasized a moral and internal reading of the Antichrist symbolism…”

AD 500 – 1100: The Middle Ages were characterized by various and different enemies being labeled “antichrist” by the Church. The confusion continued into what I would refer to as “scattered thoughts lacking consistency and context”. For example, a monk named Adso wrote some apocalyptic thoughts in which he detailed a 40 day period (or completeness) wherein the Elect would not be temped by the Antichrist due to offer up penance (“…the Lord will grand the Elect 40 days to do penance because they were led astray by the Antichrist”).  During this time we see the rise of the “Irish Antichrist tradition” (a writing that stands out is “The 15 Signs Before Doomsday”). Also, Islam saw a rise during this time, and the development of the Dajjal (Antichrist) which resulted from the Hadiths.

AD 1100-1200: In this period of time we saw the effects of the Great Schism in the Church between the East and the West. The formation of the Ordinary Gloss which is “a great Biblical textbook created in the nascent universities of the 1200’s”, which served as commentary during that time and further. We also read of the Moralized Bibles, or “medieval picture Bibles”  published during this period which largely included imagery of the Antichrist in different perspectives. This period of time provided interest in reading through the works of Honorious, namely his commentary on the Song of Songs.

AD 1200 – 1335: A time of Church issues and Papal name calling.

AD 1335 – 1500: Surely this period of time was seen as the eve of the Reformation. The term “Antichrist” during this time surely came to be a “symbolic representation of ultimate human evil”. We see the late medieval pessimism during this time with calculations of the coming Antichrist in almost every year (prophesies of 1346, 1347, 1348, 1360, 1365, 1375, 1387, 1396, 1400, 1418, —> and these are just some of the dates listed up until 1450 (that surely should cause us to pause and reconsider dating details that are so often abused in regards to Bible prophecy).

The rise of reformers during this time period is very evident and mark out some of the contemporary mindsets as well. John Wycliffe (1337) labeled the Papacy as Antichrist and John Huss (1372-1415) was apparently killed for referring to the Pope as Antichrist.

AD 1500 – 1660: During this reformation time we surely read of the cries of Reformation regarding the Antichrist Papacy. “Antichrist was definitely seen as a legendary projection of human evil forming the reverse image of the Christian Redeemer”. The splinter groups formed after the Reformation surely caused differences in regards to how evil was viewed, aways seeming to be defined in more contemporary styles. During this time we read of reformers such as Englishman John Jewell, Nicholas von Amsdorf, John Calvin, and Melchior Hoffman. Hoffman was an Anabaptist who prophesied of the end and the coming Antichrist in 1553. Von Amsdorf in 1554 wrote “Five Principles & Certain Signs Before the End”.

We also read of the “counter-reforms” being done in and through the Catholic Church during this time. We see the rise of various Jesuit understandings (some which pointed backwards in history as the fulfillment of prophecy rathering than regarding the Pope as Antichrist). It’s been said, “Catholic preaching and teaching on the Antichrist down to the latter half of the 17th century was partly a repetition of patterns inherited from early era’s and partly a reaction to the Protestant challenge”.

AD 1660 – 1900’s: McGinn properly noted, “While a number of important thinkers continued to speculate about the Antichrist, in many ways the Last Enemy became the hobby of cranks after 1660”. More defining of things based on contemporary situations led to more and more confusion. The early Puritans who had come to America viewed England as the Antichrist, in France due to the French Revolution there was a lot of throwing around of who was the “Antichrist”, and so we see the early confusion and void of clarity that allowed for a renewed interest in Milleniarism and ultimate Dispensationalism. These two doctrinal views has crept in and caused so many chaotic and confusing interpretations into the Christian Church.

That is where we are at now. McGinn’s eloquently detailed where all the confusion has led us: “…the increasing vagueness of the term Antichrist (as seen through the history of the Christian Church) has reached the point where universal invective overwhelmed effective application”. 

As I plan to continue to sift through and study these details further I am glad that I sit on the side of careful historical and context review. A Preterist. Every generation thinks excitedly that they are the “terminal generation” as shown through this lengthy review. Surely, I would apply much of the details found in prophecy to the generations it was prophesied to as well as ultimately the generation to whom Christ came and revealed things to. The Biblical Antichrist was revealed in that generation.

However, our understanding of Antichrist, or better said our understanding of evil, need not, must not, stop there. McGinn wrote and I couldn’t agree more, “…Biblical texts, such as the 1st epistle of John, and other major Christian thinkers – Origen, Augustine, Gregory the Great, William Langland – use Antichrist motifs – and insist that the true meaning of antichrist is to be found within, that is, the spirit that resists Christ”.  I regularly praise God that as I “study to show myself approved (2 Tim. 2:15)” and go through details for my writing of Wicked. I see the application of various concepts in Scripture.

In my upcoming release Wicked. I detail these “conceptual realities”, which the philosopher Paul Rocoeur in his seminal work, The Symbolism of Evil, explained very well when he noted how contemporary reflection on the symbols found in the ancient myths of the origin of evil could “still give rise to thought”; that is, they provide an “occasion for thought, something to think about”. Surely looking through history in regards to all the characters of evil we have pinpointed we have a lot to ponder. The Qumran community in the first century spoke of the “spirit of perversity” (which we all have the capability to live in and under) as the ultimate evil. In a similar vein, detailing “Who is the Antichrist?”, Church Fathers like Augustine noted “Everyone must question his conscience whether he be such”. In closing, let’s catch this concept as our definite understanding of the Antichrist:

“There you have the Antichrist – everyone that denies Christ by his works”. – Augustine

Some more contemporary resources I plan to take a look at (noting here for my and your benefit):

  • The Antichrist by Vincent P. Micelli
  • Catholic Prophecy: The Coming Chastisement by Ives DuPont
  • The Devil (4 part series) by Jeffrey Burton Russel

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Authentic Spirituality: Through the Lens of Genesis Chapter 1

 

When we open up our Bibles to the Book of Genesis we are immediately introduced to the the Ancient Near Eastern culture (*think – ancient Sumer, Mespotamia, etc). By examining Genesis chapter 1 we can gain an understanding of “spirituality” and ultimately reinforce our spirituality which is established in and through Jesus Christ as “authentic”. Take a minute to read through Genesis 1:1-31.

What you just read is the Genesis creation account. The phrase “formless and void” which can be found in Genesis 1:2 highlights that the creation at that time (“earth”) was comparable to a dry, useless desert wilderness with no possibility to sustain life (as expressed in the Hebrew -“tohu wabohu”). As we read, “In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth. The earth was formless and void, the darkness was over the surface of the deep, and the Spirit of God was moving over the surface of the waters (Genesis 1:1-2)”. Unfortunately, many have failed to note that “heaven and earth” is a covenant phrase used all throughout the Scriptures to refer to God’s old covenant people (Israel), as well as their covenant with Him (the Temple was referred to as “heaven and earth”) in contrast to earth simply being all of creation. This unfortunate failure to understand the covenantal aspect of these details has led to a distorted understanding regarding what is happening at the beginning and throughout the Bible. Far too many people think the phrase “heaven and earth” means the sky and the terra firma we are standing upon and that the beginning of the Bible is trying to explain the beginning of that. That is simply not the case.

(“Heaven and Earth” as used through the Old Testament cf. Leviticus 26:14-20; Deuteronomy 30:19; Deuteronomy 31:30-32:1; Isaiah 1:1-2; Isaiah 13:1-13; Isaiah 24:3-6, 19-20; Isaiah 34:3-5; Isaiah 51:16; Jeremiah 4:28)

As we “study to show ourselves approved, rightly dividing the Word of Truth (2 Timothy 2:15)”, we should be gaining a narrative understanding of what is being detailed from Genesis to Revelation. In step with gaining a narrative understanding, we should we learning the historical context and scene of the details we are reading, and picking up a familiarity with words and phrases that are used. Doing so will enable for a more beautiful, worthwhile, and wholesome understanding of God’s truth.

In Genesis 1:2, as mentioned above, there are quite a few covenant features. For example, “darkness” hints at confusion all throughout the Scriptures, and the “deep” or the waters, symbolize the mass of people outside of the covenant people (“Heaven and Earth”) all throughout the Old Testament. Also, the mention of the Spirit of God hovering over the chaotic waters should provoke the image of God initiating something within His creation. The big question is – what was God doing?

Again I mention that it is truly lamentable how far off people have gone in trying to gain understanding of what is happening in Genesis chapter 1. If confusion takes place at the start of reading the Bible, we end up going through the rest of the Biblical details with a bit of confusion. This speaks to to the rather weak and divided nature of Christ’s Church today, summarized by a failure to apply humility and understanding regarding the details of Scripture, and the various historical contexts through which they were revealed.

If and when we begin to understand Genesis as an ANE text and take in to account the historical context, we open up the door to gaining a radical (rooted) spirituality. Instead of Genesis 1 speaking to our contemporary concerns about God’s creation of the physical things we see – heaven and earth – the historical context speaks to the rampant idolatry and confusion that characterized the ancient near east. Surely God has created all things (cf. Colossians 1:16), however Genesis 1 is understood to be an ancient near eastern “temple text” aimed at establishing the sovereignty of the One True God covenanting with His creation. He establishes the “heaven and earth” (His covenant people) in a formless and void society all with the intention to begin a work (“hovering”) among the mass of people. In a more contemporary fashion we might say, “He was bringing light to darkness”, or clarity to confusion, which is exactly the first creative act highlighted in Genesis 1:3. Genesis chapter 1 is all about God establishing His covenant people to have an affect on the nations around them (“the waters”). This truth of how God worked with and among His people is conveyed through Moses’s song in Deuteronomy chapter 32.

“He found him in a desert land, and in the howling waste of a wilderness; He encircled him, He cared for him, He guarded him as the pupil of His eye. Like an eagle that stirs up its nest, that hovers over its young, He spread His wings and caught them, He carried them on His pinions. The Lord alone guided him, and their was no foreign god with him. (Duet. 32:10-12)”.

Remember the “big question” I mentioned above? What was God doing?

In order to make it explicitly clear that God was bringing forth judgment upon an idolatrous culture in Genesis chapter 1, and ultimately declaring His sovereignty and covenant among His people (“heaven and earth”) through what is known as“temple text”, I want to take us to a passage that uses similar language. Let’s read Jeremiah 4:22-28.

“For my people are foolish. They know me not; they are stupid children and have no understanding. They are shrewd to do evil, but to do good they do not know. I looked on the earth, and behold, it was formless and void; and to the heavens, and they had no light. I looked on the mountains, and behold, they were quaking, and the hills moved to and fro. I looked and behold, there was no man, and all the birds of the heavens had fled. I looked, and behold, the fruitful land was a wilderness, and all its cities were pulled down before the Lord, before His fierce anger. For thus says the Lord, “The whole land shall be a desolation, yet I will not execute a complete destruction. For this the earth shall mourn and the heavens above be dark, because I have spoken, I have purposed, and will not change my mind, nor will I turn from it”.

Exactly what we read in Genesis chapter 1, right? The prophet Jeremiah is prophesying to Israel the coming judgment at the hands of Babylonians which occurred in 586 BC. Jeremiah is using powerful imagery to declare this judgment showing that God’s people, as well as the surrounding nations would be confounded. The prophets continually bring to the forefront the reality that all of God’s creation yearn for His glory to be manifest – the creation and His creation. However, that glory is revealed through His creation, and due to carnality His creation seemingly stumbles again and again. Jeremiah uses rather powerful language to convey what we might call a “conceptual reality”.

A conceptual reality is the formation of thoughts pertaining to the natural environment that are understood as more real, more defining than the reality itself. This is in contrast to an abstract reality which is understood as otherworldly, and sadly enough this is how most people view things of the Spirit. Not so much the Hebrew people though. Many people view spirituality and what is often referred to as the “spirit realm” as mysterious and far away, where as the Hebrew people understood God as near and present to them, being understood through their concept of covenant. Instead of spirituality being understood as an otherworldly phenomenon that wooden images could only mysteriously convey, the Hebrew people saw themselves as the image of God to the nations through their elevated understanding (i.e. their understanding of Spirituality) of His covenanting among them.

It is exactly that, Israel being the image of God to the nations, which is a conceptual reality finding its beginning in Genesis chapter 1 and flowing through the rest of the Scriptures. God creating “heaven and earth” and “hovering over the surface of the deep” was illustrated through the calling out of Adam from the “formless and void” creation of Genesis 1:1 – all a picture of God establishing covenant among His people (Adam being the progenitor of that covenant). The spirituality (or understanding that comes from outside of man, beyond, elevated above) that flows from that “conceptual reality” is that Israel was to obey Torah knowing the sovereignty of the One True God who was manifest in, through, and among them.

Possessing an “authentic spirituality” requires a proper understanding of spirituality that was manifest from God covenanting among His people, as well as an understanding of what authentic means. The carnal manifestations of man’s logic and reasoning, ultimately leaning upon his own misunderstanding is characterizes by confusion and chaos, rather than a clear and clarifying (dare I say elevated/ spiritual) reality which was offered by God through covenant – first through His natural covenant with Israel (Torah) and today through the eternal spiritual covenant established in and through Jesus Christ.

“Now we have received, not the spirit of the world, but the Spirit who is from God, so that we may know the things freely given to us by God, which things we also speak, not in words taught by human wisdom, but in those taught by the Spirit, combining Spiritual thoughts with Spiritual words. But a natural man does not accept the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness to him; and he cannot understand them, because they are spiritually appraised… For who has known the mind of the Lord, that we will instruct Him? But we have the mind of Christ (1 Corinthians 2:12-14,16)”.

In this blog I have offered an honest look at the historical context and details of Genesis chapter 1 in an effort to establish an “authentic spirituality”. We noted that instead of detailing the creation of physical things, we know Genesis 1 to be a ANE temple text highlighting the One True God covenanting with His creation (which would later become Israel). Understanding that allows for an “authentic spirituality” (those who have eyes to see and ears to hear) in regards to the conceptual reality being highlighted in Genesis chapter 1.

What many are defining and trusting as “spiritual” is actually a stronghold delivering them right into the hand of the enemy (the carnal mind – The Satan). What many understand the details of Genesis 1 to be about is also leading many into the hands of the enemy through skepticism, doubt, and confusion. The work of the Satan is the be an adversary to God’s truth and lead us to lean upon our own misunderstandings. Christ was manifest to destroy the devil (1 John 3:8), to give the Church victory over him,(“crush him under their feet” cf. Romans 16:20), and allow for the true knowledge of God to be established among His people (cf. Revelation 21:22-26). Let’s continue to walk as children of the Light offering clarity where there is confusion.

  • I am looking to publish a new book, Wicked, in March 2017. Wicked will deal with much of what was mentioned in this blog in regards to the Biblical narrative, covenant, spirituality, and more.

To God be the Glory!

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