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The New Covenant of God for His People (I)

If asked to think of passages in the Old Testament that foretell the coming of a new covenant, Christians regularly turn to Jeremiah 31.31-34.  After all, this is the text that has the exact phrase, ‘new covenant,’ and it is the text that Jesus references at the Last Supper (Luke 22.20; 1 Corinthians 11.25).  Hebrews quotes the passage at length (Hebrews 8.8-12).  Yet there are parallel texts in Isaiah 59.20-21 and Ezekiel 36.25-28 (these are key verses in a longer passage). 
All three texts are significant for understanding the New Testament itself.  These passages help us to understand (1) the continuity of the Law in the new covenant; (2) the role of Christ as redeemer; (3) the underlying narrative of the restoration of Israel from exile for the New Testament and for Christian perspective; (4) the understanding of the Holy Spirit as God’s transforming power; (5) the understanding of Christians as a righteous people of God; (6) the inclusion of the Gentiles into God’s re…
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1 Timothy 2:12-14: What We Can Learn from Paul's Chiasm

The present essay focusses on several verses in a paragraph in Paul’s first letter to Timothy:
1 Timothy 2:8-15 I desire, then, that in every place the men should pray, lifting up holy hands without anger or argument;  9 also that the women should dress themselves modestly and decently in suitable clothing, not with their hair braided, or with gold, pearls, or expensive clothes,  10 but with good works, as is proper for women who profess reverence for God.  11 Let a woman1 learn in silence with full submission.  12 I permit no womanto teach or to have authority over a man;2 she is to keep silent.  13 For Adam was formed first, then Eve;  14 and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor.  15 Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.  (New Revised Standard Version—and throughout)
Much has been written on 1 Timothy 2.8-15 in recent decades because of questions about the rol…

Immigration and Violence in South Africa, and Contours of a Christian Response

Immigration and Violence in South Africa

In the news today is a story, once again, about violence against immigrants in South Africa.  There has been occasional such violence over the years, with 60 people dying in 2008.  The issue is complex in South Africa for various reasons, but the problems of illegal immigration, the economy, and violence are real.  What is needed, first, is a better understanding of the situation, and that on a regional basis.  Second, the Church is somewhat disadvantaged in offering a significant response to the situation because the 'institutional' churches are in decline.  Third, South Africa's own politics and narrative plays into the situation beyond simply speaking of 'immigration' per se.  Having been received by other countries during Apartheid, there is some sense of responsibility to pay back the debt.

According to Statistics South Africa, 69,216 temporary permits and 4,136 permanent permits were granted in 2014 (see online: http:/…

A Short Biblical Study on the Causes of Suffering

What does the Bible say about suffering?  Scripture describes creation as good and initially without sin (Gen. 1-2).  When sin entered the world as a result of Eve and Adam yielding to the temptation to act like God determining for themselves what is good and evil, God responded to their explicit disobedience with suffering and punishment (Genesis 3.1-19).  In this sin, all humanity has participated (Rom. 5.17).  Scripture also teaches that suffering will one day come to an end when God brings final judgement to a sin-ridden world and restores a sinless world (Revelation 21.3-4).  This basic narrative undergirds Biblical teaching on suffering.  Suffering is ultimately due to sin, whether as God’s punishment or by experiencing the results of sinful choices, living in a sinful society, or, in general, in a fallen world. 
Yet Scripture gives more reasons for suffering, and a specific individual’s suffering cannot always be related to his or her particular sin.  The following chart inte…

The Ethic of Moral Compromise: What the Pharisees Could Teach the Church of England

Mainline denominations in the west in the twentieth century orchestrated their own demise.  The twenty-first century will only be the denouement.  Their implosion is due to their willful embrace of theological and moral compromise.  Such compromise manifested itself in magisterial reversals of orthodox teaching.  On ethical issues, they entailed the reversal of views on divorce and remarriage, abortion, premarital sex, and homosexuality.  The result was an inability to bear witness to the righteousness of the Kingdom of God in an increasingly secular world--a failure of mission.  The mainline denominations still speak of a ‘Jesus movement’ or evangelism and church growth, but their great compromise with the world was only a matter of paving their own path to irrelevance in a cultural context that increasingly needed a relevant Church witness.  Compromise was something Jesus addressed as well in his ministerial conflict with the Pharisees, and from this engagement we can le…