Sonship and Suffering–Slides from My Sermon

Yesterday I preached a sermon called “Sonship and Suffering” at Followers of Jesus Church of Thomaston, Georgia, as part of our pulpit exchange. The sermon texts came from Hebrews 2 and 12.

My sermon notes this time were in the form of slides, so I will share them here. Most of the key sermon points will be self-evident from the slides. (The sermon was not recorded.)

I began the Scripture exposition by reviewing the importance of the title “Son” for the author of Hebrews. It is this title that he uses to emphasize that Jesus is greater than both the angels and Moses.

Yet this exalted Son—“the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature” (Heb. 1:3)—“had to” suffer (Heb. 2:17, 10). He had to suffer in order to become like us and complete his mission of “bringing many sons to glory” (Heb. 2:10).

Did you catch that? “Sons!” Yes, the very word used to exalt the exalted Jesus is also used by God of all who belong to Jesus.

Later the preacher of Hebrews asks us this: “Have you forgotten the exhortation that addresses you as sons?” (Heb. 12:5). Yes, as sons. When you suffer, “God is treating you as sons” (Heb. 12:7). Now that gives us a life-changing new lens through which to view all our suffering!

If you want to ponder sonship and suffering more, check out the slides in the link below. Bonus: You will also find a very simple outline of Hebrews that shows its remarkable mirrored structure—which explains why yesterday’s sermon had two texts.

Hebrews – Sonship and Suffering

Download Slides/View Large

What do you know about sonship and suffering? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Postscript: We decided to name our house church here in Atlanta “Followers of Jesus Atlanta Church.” In doing so, we were influenced by our former church, “Followers of Jesus Mennonite Church” in Brooklyn, NY. We actually cleared our name with the lead pastor there, my good friend and former co-pastor Richard Schwartz. Then we learned that the little church in Thomaston, Georgia—whose pastor Gary Kauffman has agreed to be a counselor for us and Smuckers here in Atlanta—has also chosen the name “Followers of Jesus.” No, none of us are formally affiliated with each other (besides our relationship with Gary and our agreement to share pulpits every few months). But I think I sense a common theme, and I like it! Now may we live up to our names.


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“Let Him” Or “If He”? Translating Divorce in Deuteronomy

I learned today that the King James Version has a misleading translation of an important OT passage about divorce. The translation is not only misleading, but misleading in a direction that will concern you if you are concerned about today’s easy divorce culture.

The poor translation is found in Deuteronomy 24:1-4, in a law addressing a sticky question about a particular kind of remarriage. Here is the relevant passage, as translated in the KJV, with a few key terms in BOLD ALL CAPS:

1 When a man hath taken a wife, and married her, and it come to pass that she find no favour in his eyes, because he hath found some uncleanness in her: then LET HIM write her a bill of divorcement, and give it in her hand, and send her out of his house. 2 And when she is departed out of his house, she MAY go and be another man’s wife. 3 And IF the latter husband hate her, and write her a bill of divorcement, and giveth it in her hand, and sendeth her out of his house; or if the latter husband die, which took her to be his wife; 4 Her former husband, which sent her away, MAY NOT take her again to be his wife, after that she is defiled; for that is abomination before the Lord…” (KJV, emphasis added)

First, notice that the KJV divides this passage into three sentences. Second, notice that the first sentence reads as if it is a command all by itself: if a husband finds certain conditions in his wife, then “let him write her a bill of divorcement.” “Let him” could be understood as either a “must” or a “may,” but either way, the syntax turns the clause into a command. According to the KJV, it would, at minimum, be wrong to discourage a man in this situation from divorcing his wife. And depending on how you read “let him,” you might even be responsible to insist that he follows through with divorce.

The English Standard Version, in contrast, clarifies (1) that the passage is one single flow of thought, and (2) that there is only one command, which comes at the end:

1 When a man takes a wife and marries her, IF then she finds no favor in his eyes because he has found some indecency in her, and he writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and s her out of his house, and she departs out of his house, 2 and IF she goes and becomes another man’s wife, 3 and the latter man hates her and writes her a certificate of divorce and puts it in her hand and sends her out of his house, or if the latter man dies, who took her to be his wife, 4 then her former husband, who sent her away, MAY NOT take her again to be his wife, after she has been defiled, for that is an abomination before the Lord.” (ESV, emphasis added)

Both translations correctly convey that divorce was permitted. And both correctly convey the prohibition against remarrying a spouse whom you had formerly divorced, if they had been married to someone else meantime.

But you have to read a translation besides the KJV to realize that divorce was never commanded, or even directly affirmed, under the Law of Moses. (The NKJV gets it right, and even the NIV has a long run-on sentence to guide readers to the solitary command at the end.)

I learned of this translation problem from Andrew Cornes, since I am currently reading his helpful book Divorce and Remarriage: Biblical Principle and Pastoral Practice.  He says “the Authorized Translation [KJV] is seriously misleading here” (p. 131). [Edit: It appears we can thank Jerome in AD 383 for this translation error. See here.]

And when we clear up this mistranslation, what can we observe?  Cornes again:

Nowhere, in all the legal material, is there any law which directly makes provision for divorce. Nowhere in the first five books, or indeed the whole Old Testament, do we find anything approaching the formula: ‘If a woman does… then a man may send her away.’ Divorce law as such simply does not exist… This is not to say that no laws deal with divorce. But significantly all the laws which touch on this area (and there are not very many) are formulated either to restrict divorce or to restrict remarriage. (p. 130, bold added)

Divorce and remarriage are not easy topics to handle, whether as translators, Bible interpreters, or counselors. This brief post is certainly not intended to provide a final word on the topic, especially for those for whom divorce is no theoretical matter. I invite your prayers as I read this book, and hopefully others on the same topic, this year.

Do you have a response that will help us learn together? Share it in the comments below!


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Churchfunding: 2016 Year-End Report

I thought it would be fitting to give a brief year-end report on our house loan repayments. “Fitting” not because this is the sort of thing that is usually published publicly, but because our churchfunding activities were also unusually public. What an adventure this has been! We want to honor God again for providing for all our needs through the kindness of so many people!

(Here is the post that officially launched this churchfunding adventure.)

Renovating a room and adding a new entrance for a piano studio was one of the big house projects we tackled this summer.

Since I am an English literature major and not an accountant, I will give my report in prose instead of a spreadsheet. But rest assured, we do indeed have spreadsheets to keep track of the data. 🙂

We purchased our house on March 25, paying the seller in full immediately, thanks to loans and gifts from nearly 90 individuals or families. About 70 of those were loans.

At the time we purchased the house, we owed a total of $66,162.50. As of the end of 2016, we now owe $61,162.50. Here is the story of the $5000 difference.

We began repaying loans in April, at the rate of $500 per month. We created a pool of our older lenders to repay first, as planned. Prayer and a random number generator in Google Docs selected a person to repay each month. In some months the person selected was owned less than $500, so a second lender was chosen so we could repay the full $500 for that month.

In three months (April, June, September), when we contacted our lender to initiate repayment, they declined repayment, turning the amount due that month into a gift. In addition, another lender, without being selected, contacted us to turn a $500 loan into a gift. In all, $1,475 worth of loans was forgiven in 2016!

The total we actually repaid in 2016 was $3,525. Add that to the $1,475 forgiven, and our total loans due have been reduced by $5000 in 2016—$500 more than expected.

When can the remaining lenders expect repayment?

We still have $4875 due to our pool of older lenders. At $500 per month, that is nearly 10 months. So, unless you are reasonably senior :-), the end of 2017 is the soonest you might expect a repayment.

God willing, however, all lenders should be repaid within 10 years and 3 months—by March of 2027. (That’s $61,162.50 repaid at $500 per month.) And we have not forgotten our plans to ensure we repay a few of you well before that time.

I’ll add a brief cash flow report, too.

Our income is still less than our expenses, so our bank account is declining. But we expected this as we transition to Atlanta income. I am gradually gathering more piano students. (I just signed up another this week, making a total of eight, representing $584 of piano income most months. I hope to eventually have about thirty students.) Choice Books has provided a steady part-time income as expected, and I am continuing Open Hands writing work as I find the time. The decline in our bank account is slowing, and I am hopeful the tide will reverse sometime in the new year. Meanwhile, we do have a little short-term savings that could cover normal needs for a couple months even if income stopped entirely.

House repairs have come a long way! There are still several big projects left that will make life more pleasant, but I think most of the repairs that were urgent for the structural health of the house (sewer leak, termite treatment, pest protection, heat pump, etc.) are now done.

We had some unexpected expenses this summer due to a ministry opportunity. But this opportunity also stirred a few people to share unexpected gifts with us. I am reminded of Paul’s words:

God is able to make all grace abound to you, so that having all sufficiency in all things at all times, you may abound in every good work… He who supplies seed to the sower and bread for food will supply and multiply your seed for sowing and increase the harvest of your righteousness. You will be enriched in every way to be generous in every way, which through us will produce thanksgiving to God. (2 Cor. 9:8, 10-11 ESV)

May God make each of us channels of blessing in 2017!

Gratefully,
Dwight & Zonya Gingrich


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