‘For us’ first, last, and always(?)

For several weeks now I’ve been unable to continue my reading in Rutledge’s The Crucifixion and when I picked it up today I came across these lines:

Even as he is the Judge, he is first and last “for us.” He was for us before he was against us, and for us even as he was against us — pro nobis first, last, and always. (515)

At the risk of having my house pounded with a box of Grade-A’s from Arminian Farms, an unequivocal statement like that seems to require far more than our free will or else universalism.

What am I missing?

(S)elected reflections on Romans 9

Unconditional election seems to be the most straightforward interpretation but also the hardest one to come to grips with.

…for though the twins were not yet born and had not done anything good or bad, so that God’s purpose according to His choice would stand, not because of works but because of Him who calls, it was said to her, “The older will serve the younger.”

For He says to Moses, “I WILL HAVE MERCY ON WHOM I HAVE MERCY, AND I WILL HAVE COMPASSION ON WHOM I HAVE COMPASSION.”  So then it does not depend on the man who wills or the man who runs, but on God who has mercy. {Rom 9:11-12, 15-16; NAS}

Some brief thoughts after spending 4-5 weeks teaching Romans 9.

  1. This passage should be taught in a spirit of grace & humility.
  2. Unconditional election seems to be the most straightforward interpretation but also the hardest one to come to grips with.
  3. After acknowledging how utterly sinful and rebellious we are (Rom 1-3) it’s curious that so many of us consider free will to be an advantage for salvation.
  4. God is too often conceived of as cold & indifferent in this passage. Having been on both sides of the lectern, that has as much to do with shallow teaching as anything else.
  5. The implications in this passage will always be acutely felt by Christian parents.
  6. Paul gives us this passage to affirm God’s faithfulness & mercy but our initial impressions seem to run the other way.
  7. A true grasp of unconditional election is not without sorrow.

Irreverent Musings: When prayer & fasting is worldliness

Worldliness, for the Puritan, had meant “excessive love for the wealth, affluence, and pride of the world.” For the late nineteenth-century evangelical, however, it increasingly came to mean the presence of certain visible habits of behavior which marked the nonevangelical off as nonkosher. At the same time, an insidious process of cultural fusion was going on in which Christianity was gradually identified with Americanism, patriotism and the preservation of the status quo. –Richard Lovelace, Dynamics of Spiritual Life [emphasis added]

Is a pastor ever justified in his ambivalence to a call for prayer & fasting? If not, I stand condemned. Chalk it up to immaturity, a contrarian nature, or a hyper-critical spirit, but this quadrennial fervor that solicits a 24-hr renewal of spiritual discipline strikes me as (potentially) misplaced and counterproductive. I’m referring, of course, to calls for the faithful to pray for the outcome of tomorrow’s presidential election.

Yes, yes I know that Scripture warrants the call to pray for our governing leaders and, by implication, elections: God sets rulers in place (Jn 19:11; Rom 13:1); properly functioning government is advantageous for the spread of the gospel (1Tim 2:1-4); a just government rulers is necessary to promote/protect the common good (Rom 13:3-6).  All Christians should be able to affirm such truths & our requisite responsibility to pray.

But the unsettled feeling I find isn’t over the call to pray/fast but the paucity of such calls in the first place. Somehow Jesus’ instructions for prayer & fasting in Matthew 6 strike me as normative–not exceptional–Christian behavior. Unfortunately, our patriotic Christianity would have us read Mat 6:16-17 as “When you fast every four years…” Meanwhile, I can’t think of the last time I heard a call to pray/fast for the persecuted church across the globe or unborn infants or the restoration of a wayward Christian or the mortification of indwelling sin or church renewal or the conversion of our neighbors. Were it not for godly men & women that I know personally who make & take such calls to spiritual action in election time I would be tempted to conclude that all such appeals were little more than the clamor for wealth, affluence, and national pride–worldliness with a spiritual veneer.

In the end the real source of my ambivalence to a day of prayer & fasting for a national election has less to do with the invitation than it does to my/our selective implementation of such spiritual action. Conflicted, I’ll take part in the exercise but only as I confess that the state of our union is a byproduct of my failure to pray/fast more than once every four years.