For some reason it seems to have started earlier than usual this year. Naïvely perhaps, I’ve always thought “Black Friday” referred to the day after Thanksgiving (i.e., Friday). The reality is that we’ve all been receiving emails and seeing print ads about Black Friday and pre-Black Friday sales for a couple of weeks now.
It has been estimated that last year Americans spent more than $59 billion during Black Friday weekend (Thurs–Sun). Assuming a U.S. population of 315 million, that works out to about $187 spent per person (every man, woman, and child) in the country during a single four-day weekend. Incidentally, total holiday spending for 2012 came to about $580 billion.
There is nothing wrong with purchasing gifts for other people and even spending money on one’s self. But somewhere along the way, we as a nation seem to have crossed the line from enjoying God’s good gifts and displaying generosity toward others to blatant consumerism and greediness.
Many biblical principles come into play when considering how much to spend on gifts and such during the holiday season. One of the first to come to mind is “The borrower becomes the lender’s slave” (Prov 22:7). Admittedly, the Bible nowhere forbids borrowing altogether, but the Scriptures do repeatedly warn us about the dangers of debt. Browse the ads and enjoy some holiday shopping, but don’t let Christmas spending become an entrée to the realm of slavery.
In Gal 3:10–4:7 Paul gives two reasons why works will not justify. One the one hand, he says that justification by works would change the terms of God’s covenant with Abraham. And, Paul adds, one simply isn’t allowed to do that sort of thing with an established covenant (see Gal 3:15–18). On the other hand, he says—or, at the very least, implies—that justification by works is impossible, since one would have to perfectly obey the law in its entirety to be justified (see Gal 3:10). Some think this second point misrepresents Judaism. After all, Paul’s insistence on perfect obedience fails to take on board the law’s own provision for imperfection: the sacrificial system. Has Paul (deliberately?) misrepresented Judaism or did Judaism, as Paul implies, actually require perfect obedience from those who wanted to live (Gal 3:12)? Tom Schreiner nicely slices the onion, noting that “[p]erfect obedience was not required under the Sinai covenant, for the law provided via sacrifices for those who transgressed. In Paul’s view, however (see Gal 3:15–4:7), the Sinai covenant was no longer in force. Therefore, those who observe circumcision and the law to obtain justification (Gal 5:2–4) are turning the clock backwards in salvation history” (Galatians, 213, emphasis added; cf. also n. 65), and are doing so without the benefit of the now-fulfilled sacrificial system. Thus, to borrow E. P. Sanders’ famous (and reductionistic) line, “This is what Paul finds wrong in Judaism: it is not Christianity.”
Note: For Schreiner’s resolution to the tension his solution creates with Paul’s first observation noted above (i.e., inheritance not through obedience but promise), see his comments on pp. 231–33, where he distinguishes between the promises (inheritance) of the Mosaic covenant (see, e.g., “land,” 233) and of the Abrahamic covenant (i.e., “final inheritance,” 231; salvation, 233). One came through obedience; the other through promise (233).
by Bill Combs
I received a phone call from a pastor in Florida a few weeks back who was going to be speaking in his church from the book of Ephesians. He wanted my opinion as to what I considered to be the best commentary on the epistle. I quickly told him to look at Harold Hoehner’s Ephesians, published by Baker, and Peter O’Brien’s Letter to the Ephesians, published by Eerdmans.
This is a question that we often get at the seminary: “What is the best commentary on ______? In order to help students, pastors, and others answer this question, a number of years ago we created what we call the Basic Library Booklist. You can find a copy here. The Booklist has been specifically designed to answer the question of which books are the best on a particular book of the Bible or theological subject. In the case of commentaries, best means those that are the most helpful in exegesis and exposition, as well as understanding the overall argument of a book. The books are listed in order of importance. The first book listed is the one that should probably be purchased first, though it is doubtful that one commentary would be sufficient for adequate sermon preparation.
Besides commentaries the Booklist also rates books in systematic theology, historical theology, and practical theology. Check out the Booklist and let us know what you think.
I’ve been reading the Gospel of Mark together with some Christians and “seekers” over the past several weeks. (We’ve been using a fantastic study put out by the folks at The Good Book Company entitled Christianity Explored.) One thing that has struck me while re-reading Mark is that no one in the narrative doubts that Jesus had power. No one doubts he’s a wonder-worker. That part of his identity was really unmistakable. You don’t find anyone going around trying to dispute it, trying to prove that Jesus really didn’t heal the fellow with leprosy (Mark 1:40-45), the lame guy who’d been lowered through the roof (Mark 2:1-12), or the synagogue leader’s daughter (Mark 5:21-43). Maybe some did—though I suspect they would have had a difficult time, considering the nature of the maladies Jesus cured. (They were slightly higher up on the difficulty—and conspicuous—scale than headaches or insomnia.)
What you find instead are his religious opponents waiting around “to see if he would heal [anyone] on the Sabbath” (Mark 3:2), because, in their view, that would prove that he was colluding with the devil. In fact, this is what leads his opponents to make the implausible suggestion that Jesus healed sickness and cast out demons—i.e., that he brought order out of the chaos sin created—by the power of devil (Mark 3:20-30 and par.; see also Matthew 9:27-34; John 8:48-59; John 10:1-21)! Considering Jesus’ unmistakable power and his attitude toward the law, that was the only option open for them.
What I’ve tried to say to my friends throughout our study is that this is precisely how Mark wants to leave his readers. He only gives us these two options: either Jesus was in league with the devil and was justly crucified as a messianic pretender OR he was Israel’s long-awaited messiah, sent from God to do away with humanity’s sin once-and-for-all (see, e.g., Mark 10:45). There’s really no middle ground.* There’s no version that allows readers to conclude that Jesus was simply a good teacher or an inspiring example. His amazing works and attendant claims refuse to fit into such tight quarters. They will not be domesticated like this. They demand a more profound verdict.
*Editor’s note: For early non-Christian corroboration of Mark’s portrait, see, e.g., the Jewish tradition preserved in Justin, Dial. 69.7 (cf. Deuteronomy 13:5); Jos., Ant. 18.63–64 [XVIII, iii 3]; and b. Sanh. 43A.
Theologically Driven features insight on Scripture, the church, and contemporary culture from faculty and staff at Detroit Baptist Theological Seminary. DBTS has faithfully prepared men for gospel ministry since its founding in 1976. As a ministry of the Inter-City Baptist Church in Allen Park, Michigan, it provides graduate level training with a balance between strong academics and a heart for local church ministry.
Contributors to the blog include:
John Aloisi, Assistant Professor of Church History
Bill Combs, Academic Dean and Professor of New Testament
Bruce Compton, Professor of Biblical Languages and Exposition
Jared Compton, Assistant Professor of New Testament
Sam Dawson, Professor of Systematic Theology
Dave Doran, President and Professor of Pastoral Theology
Pearson Johnson, Assistant Professor of Pastoral Theology
Bob McCabe, Professor of Old Testament
Mark Snoeberger, Associate Professor of Systematic Theology
To find out more, visit Theologically Driven.