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More House Photos

April 29, 2006 1 comment

So today we had our townhouse inspected and it passed with flying colors.

Here are some photographs that I took today

Our address as of June 15th will be
806 Bruton Drive
Gibsonia, PA  15044

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Ephesians 1:15-18

Biblical Text
"For this reason, ever since I heard about your faith in the Lord Jesus and your love for all his people, I have not stopped giving thanks for you, remembering you in my prayers. I keep asking that the God of our Lord Jesus Christ, the glorious Father, may give you the Spirit of wisdom and revelation, so that you may know him better. I pray that the eyes of your heart may be enlightened in order that you may know the hope to which he has called you, the riches of his glorious inheritance in his people," (Ephesians 1:15-18, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
The Eyes of the Heart. Jerome: His phrase “eyes of the heart” clearly refers to those things we cannot understand without sense and intelligence…. Faith sees beyond what the physical eyes see. Physical eyes are in the heads of not only the wise but the unwise. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.15 seq.

These Eyes Have Become Opened Among the Gentiles. Ephrem the Syrian: The signs manifested to the external eyes of the Jews did them little good. But faith opened the eyes of the hearts of the Gentiles. Homily on Our Lord 32.

That You May Know by Insight and Revelation. Marius Victorinus: Let us understand that we arrive at the full mystery of God by two routes: We ourselves by rational insight may come to understand and discern something of the knowledge of divine things. But when there is a certain divine self-disclosure God himself reveals his divinity to us. Some may directly perceive by this revelation something remarkable, majestic and close to truth. … But when we receive wisdom we apprehend what is divine both through our own rational insight and through God’s own Spirit. When we come to know what is true in the way this text intends, both these ways of knowing correspond. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.17–18.

My Comments
I really like Jerome's line, "Faith sees beyond what the physical eyes see" and Ephrem points out that the Jewish authorities of Jesus' day saw many signs and it did them no good whatsoever, as they still refused to believe.

I include the comments from Victorinus not because I agree with him (as I do with Jerome and Ephrem) but because I think he's mistaken. A number of theologians embrace this dualistic knowledge of God often referred to as natural and special revelation. While I agree that there is biblical support for the position that God is revealed through natural means (Psalm 19:1 and Romans 1) come to mind, there is also a common theme that comes out particularly in the Romans passage. People seem to get natural revelation wrong. As Paul notes what has revealed has been made plain from what has been made (Romans 1:19-20) but according to Paul people rejected this knowledge.

The other point of contention that I have with Victorinus comes from my recent study of Moltmann. What Moltmann argues, and I think persuasively, is that at least in the West classical theism, or "The Spy in the Sky Theology" (NT Wright's phrase) dominates people's understanding of who God is. So when people talk about God they talk about the creator of the universe – not the crucified Jesus the Christ.

On a more personal note, as I prepare for my final few weeks at Northmont I found Paul's words very relevant to my own feelings as I am preparing to leave the church that I have been apart for the past three years as both a volunteer and staff member.

Notes(2)
Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.

Ephrem the Syrian (b. c. 306; fl. 363–373). Syrian writer of commentaries and devotional hymns which are sometimes regarded as the greatest specimens of Christian poetry prior to Dante.

Marius Victorinus (b. c. 280/285; fl. c. 355–363). Grammarian of African origin who taught rhetoric at Rome and translated works of Platonists. After his conversion (c. 355), he wrote against the Arians and commentaries on Paul’s letters.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), ???.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Ephesians 1:11-14

Biblical Text
"In him we were also chosen, having been predestined according to the plan of him who works out everything in conformity with the purpose of his will, in order that we, who were the first to put our hope in Christ, might be for the praise of his glory. And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation. When you believed, you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit, who is a deposit guaranteeing our inheritance until the redemption of those who are God’s possession—to the praise of his glory."
(Ephesians 1:11-14, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
Our Inheritance Is Secured. Chrysostom: By this seal God shows great forethought for humanity. He not only sets apart a people and gives them an inheritance but secures it as well. It is just as if someone might stamp his heirs plainly in advance; so God set us apart to believe and sealed us for the inheritance of future glory

My Comments
Ah, the predestination verses from Ephesians. I will admit that there was a day when these verses dominated my thinking like nothing else, primarily because of my training in Westminster Calvinism (aka TULIP). But, in more recent years my thinking has broadened out and I now take more seriously the question of what does it mean that "In him we were also chosen…" What does it mean to view election/predestination through Jesus the Christ?

The part about these versus that caught my attention were the ending – "When you believe you were marked in him with a seal, the promised Holy Spirit…" and "And you also were included in Christ when you heard the word of truth, the gospel of your salvation". The phrase, "in Christ" is one of the most common in the New Testament (perhaps the most common, depending on how you define a phrase) and is worthy of great consideration. It is this spirit that joins us to Christ and allows us to share in his life.

Notes(2)
John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), ???.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Brian’s Big News…

April 24, 2006 3 comments

Renee and I bought a townhouse!!! We had looked at it last weekend and really liked it, so we visited again this morning and decided it was the one and put in an offer. They counter offered an hour later, we counter offered, they responded, and we took it. It’s a townhouse in Richland, about a mile and a half from Hampton Presbyterian (where I’ll be working). It has three bedrooms and four baths (two full, two half), a finished basement, and a nice, big deck. We close on June 15th!

Here are some photos:

This is the exterior

This is the kitchen looking out into the dining room/living room

This is the dining room end of the living room/dining room

This is the living room end of the dining room/living room, looking into the kitchen

This is the family room

This is the bathroom off the family room

Categories: Pictures, Wedding/Marriage

The Church’s Job Description

Date:4/23/06

Location: Northmont SON Service

Texts: John 20:19-23

Sermon Text: PDF

Audio: mp3 

Categories: Sermons

Ephesians 2:4-10

Biblical Text
"But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. For we are God’s handiwork, created in Christ Jesus to do good works, which God prepared in advance for us to do." (Ephesians 2:4-10, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)
God Did Not Originally Desire That Any Should Perish. Ambrosiaster: These are the true riches of God’s mercy, that even when we did not seek it mercy was made known through his own initiative…. This is God’s love to us, that having made us he did not want us to perish. His reason for making us was that he might love what he had made, seeing that no one hates his own workmanship. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.4.

He Formed Us Anew as His Members. Ambrosiaster: God made us in Christ. So it is through Christ once again that he has formed us anew. We are his members; he our Head. Epistle to the Ephesians 2.5.

Already Exalted. Jerome: Above he said that God raised Christ from the dead and seated him at his right hand…. Some may ask how God who has saved us and raised us with him has also made us sit with Christ. A simple response would be indeed that, in the light of God’s foreknowledge, Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done. … One who understands the resurrection and the kingdom of Christ spiritually does not scruple to say that the saints already sit and reign with Christ! Just as a person may become truly holy even in the flesh, when he lives in the flesh and has his conversation in heaven, when he walks on earth and, ceasing to be flesh, is wholly converted into spirit, so he also is seated in heaven with Christ. For indeed “the kingdom of God is within us.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.2.1 seq.

My Comments
These two comments from Ambrosiaster and Jerome stood out to me. In the past I've usually focused on the later part of this verse, especially Ephesians 2:8. Ephesians 2:8 is a verse that contradicts "faithism" – the idea that it is our decision for Jesus that saves us, thereby turning faith into a work that we do in order that God might have mercy.

Ambrosiaster clearly argues against this type of attitude toward salvation. God's love is shown that even when we did not seek his mercy he made it known through his own initiative. The act of God in, through, and as Jesus Christ was the embodiment of the mission of God to reconcile the whole world to himself. Ambosiaster continues that just as we were made through Christ (John 1:3 – all things were made through the Word of God) so too we are redeemed through Christ. The reconciliation and restoration of us is at God's initiatve. All that we can do is respond in faithful obedience, but this response is not the condition of salvation.

Finally, Jerome strikes an "eschatological" cord here. Paul writes this unusual line, "And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus." Taken literally, at the time of Jesus' ascension we too were taken into the heavenly realms. The interesting note here is that at the time of Jesus' ascension none of us were born. So what does Paul mean? I think Jerome gets at it well, "Paul is speaking of what is to come as though it had already been done." I agree with Jerome here but want to phrase it a little differently. Moltmann, in his introduction to Theology of Hope, talks about how Christians live in the tension of knowing that there is something more – the knowing anticipation of the full revelation of God's reign on earth. The telos, or end point, to which all of history is driving this will literally be true – those who are "In Christ" will be seated in the heavenly places with Christ. As for now, "in Christ" we too have been taken up into the heavenly places. What is a reality has not yet been revealed, but is real none the less. Christ, as our representative has taken us up into the heavenly places: we simply await the eschatological fulfillment of this.

Notes(2)
Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.

Ambrosiaster (fl. c. 366–384). Name given by Erasmus to the author of a work once thought to have been composed by Ambrose.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 131.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).

Ephesians 1:7-10

Biblical Text

"In him we have redemption through his blood, the forgiveness of sins, in accordance with the riches of God’s grace that he lavished on us. With all wisdom and understanding, he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times reach their fulfillment—to bring unity to all things in heaven and on earth under Christ." (Ephesians 1:7-10, TNIV)

Commentary from the Early Church Fathers(1)

What Is Redemption. Jerome: The one who is yet to be redeemed is a captive. He has ceased to be free by coming under the power of the enemy. So we are captives in this world and bound by the yoke of slavery to the principalities and powers, unable to release our hands from our chains. So we raise our eyes upward until the Redeemer arrives. Epistle to the Ephesians 1.1.7

How the Fullness of Time Was Determined. Chrysostom: The “fullness of time” was the Son’s appearing. When, then, God had done all through angels, through prophets and through the law, yet nothing had improved, there was a danger that humanity had come into being for nothing. It was not going merely nowhere but to the bad. All were perishing together, just like in the days of the flood but more so. Just then he offered this gracious dispensation—to ensure that creation should not have come into being for nothing or in vain. The “fullness of time” is that divine wisdom by which, at the moment when all were most likely to perish, they were saved. Homily on Ephesians 1.1.10.

Uniting Heavenly and Earthly Things. Irenaeus: Thus Christ unites … in himself all that is earthly and all that is spiritual. He unites humanity to Spirit and places the Spirit in humanity. Being himself made the fountainhead of the Spirit, Christ gives the Spirit to be the head of humanity. Thus through the Son by the Spirit we ourselves now see and hear and speak. Against Heresies 5.20.2. 

Recapitulating Heaven and Earth. Theodoret: Only God’s nature needs nothing. The whole creation stood in need of his healing order of gifts. For, since the elements came into being to serve human needs, he made them subject to corruption, for he could foresee that transgression was going to make humanity mortal also. As for the unseen powers, they were naturally aggrieved when they saw human beings living in wickedness. … By recapitulation he means the complete transformation of things. For through the gift given through Christ the Lord the human nature is raised anew and puts on incorruptibility. Ultimately the visible creation, delivered from corruption, will receive incorruption. The hosts of unseen powers will rejoice continually, because sorrow and grief and sighing have fled away. This is what the divine apostle teaches through these words; for he said not simply “heaven and earth” but “those in heaven” and “those on earth.” Epistle to the Ephesians 1.10.

My Comments

It’s almost not worth writing today as the comments above are plenty good enough to stand alone without my help. But just a few thoughts on these verses from Ephesians…

A common theme in among the Fathers in this section was that Jesus’ death freed us from something greater than just personal sin. As Theodoret noted, Jesus’ action was one of cosmic significance that recapitulated and thus completely transformed all things. He makes the point that the work of Christ not only freed us from our own personal sins, but also freed us from the bondage in which we live (to our sinful nature – Jerome’s point) and set the whole of creation on a path by which someday it will receive incorruption.

Once again Chrysostom was helpful in offering an answer to the question “Why did Jesus come when he did? Why not earlier, why not later?” I think to add a bit to what Chysostom said, as Christians we believe that God has a plan for the world, and this is a plan that has been revealed to us through scripture. All things are headed to an end, namely the creating anew of all things (Rev. 21-22). The timing of Jesus’ incarnation was part of God’s plan for the creation, reconciliation, and redemption of the whole world.

Irenaeus’ comments I thought were helpful to understand this point well. The Word of God has always been the mediator between God and the creation (See John 1:1-4), but by becoming incarnate in the world God took creation unto himself and brought the two into union. This action thus allows us to be united to him through the power of the Holy Spirit (aka John Calvin’s doctrine of Union in Christ).

Notes(2)

Jerome (c. 347–420). Gifted exegete and exponent of a classical Latin style, now best known as the translator of the Latin Vulgate. He defended the perpetual virginity of Mary, attacked Origen and Pelagius and supported extreme ascetic practices.
John Chrysostom (344/354–407; fl. 386–407). Bishop of Constantinople who was noted for his orthodoxy, his eloquence and his attacks on Christian laxity in high places.
Irenaeus of Lyons (c. 135-c. 202). Bishop of Lyons who published the most famous and influential refutation of Gnostic thought.
Theodoret of Cyr (c. 393–466). Bishop of Cyr (Cyrrhus), he was an opponent of Cyril who commented extensively on Old Testament texts as a lucid exponent of Antiochene exegesis.

  1. All comments taken from: M. J. Edwards, Galatians, Ephesians, Philippians, Ancient Christian Commentary on Scripture NT 8. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 1999), 115-116.
  2. Biographical information is from: ACCS Introduction and Bibliographic Information, Ancient Christian commentary on Scripture. (Downers Grove, Ill.: InterVarsity Press, 2005).