Samples From Seminary – Love Keeps No Record of Wrongs

1 Corinthians 13 contains the beautiful and poetic depiction of love. Among the various descriptions of love, we read in verse 5 that charity…“thinketh no evil” (KJV).

I forget how it came up at seminary, but it was pointed out that the original Greek verb that is translated in KJV as “thinketh” means “to count” or “to take into account.” The idea is this: love keeps no record of wrongs. In other words, love does not count or keep track of the evils that an individual suffers.

To use an illustration, love does not maintain an account book, in which every wrong committed against us is entered on the debit side, with the expectation that the person who wronged us must somehow repay us in order to make an entry on the credit side. Love does not keep such records of the evils that are committed against us.

It is important to keep this in mind since we are called to love our neighbor. Even though they sin against us, we ought not keep track of such evils with the expectation that they must somehow pay us back.

You may retort: “How is it possible to do this? If only you knew what kind of evils and wrongs have been done to me. I can’t help but keep track of them!”

Well, the power to keep no record of the wrongs committed against us comes from the cross of Jesus Christ. I hope you don’t think this is simply the generic answer to the question: “how is it possible to do this?” It is the answer. But, I bring it up for good reason.

Namely, the Greek verb that has just been explained as meaning “to count” or “to take into account,” is same verb used to describe the pardoning act of God: he does not impute to us the guilt of our sins, but rather imputes to us the righteousness of Jesus Christ. That’s right, impute is another way to translate this verb. Think, for example, of Psalm 32:2 –  “Blessed is the man unto whom the LORD imputeth not iniquity.” Jehovah God’s account book with your name on it has no debts recorded.  How is that possible? Because the righteousness of Jesus Christ has been imputed to us. God counts his righteousness as our righteousness.

Beloved, since God has so loved us, we ought also to love each other in this same way: keeping no record of the wrongs and evils committed against us.

Matt Kortus

 

 

Samples from Seminary – What is Mercy?

At seminary, the professors stress the importance of coming up with clear definitions whenever we develop a concept. Recently, we had a discussion over the idea of mercy.

The question arises: what exactly is mercy?

Some speak of mercy as it relates to grace. Grace is God’s undeserved favor toward those who deserve the opposite. In other words, because God is gracious toward us, we receive something we do not deserve. Some assert that mercy is just the opposite. Namely, that out of his mercy for us, God withholds what we rightly deserve. For example, while we deserve to be condemned for ours sins, in his mercy, God withholds that condemnation from us.

While this is an attractive way to keep these two concepts straight, I’m not sure that it gets at the heart of mercy. Certainly this explanation is not unbiblical; however, it is more of an example of mercy rather than a definition.

So what is mercy? Well let’s look at an example of mercy from the Bible.

Matthew 20:30-34 records the instance of Jesus healing two blind men who cried out for mercy. As Jesus was departing from the city of Jericho, two blind men heard that Jesus was passing by. Scripture indicates that they “cried out, saying, have mercy upon us, O Lord, thou Son of David.” When the multitude rebuked them for shouting, they cried out all the more: “Have mercy upon us.”

In the following verses, Scripture records that Jesus approached these men and asked them what they wanted him to do. They replied: “that our eyes may open.” Then in Matthew 20:34, we read –  “So Jesus had compassion on them, and touched their eyes: and immediately their eyes received sight.”

So how does this help us understand the meaning of mercy, you may ask. Well, Jesus showed mercy to these men. Importantly, prior to Jesus restoring their sight, these men were in a miserable state: they were blind. Thus, we can say mercy is something shown toward those who are in a state of misery.

In addition, in this example mercy consists of two things. First, Matthew 20:34 indicates that Jesus had compassion on these men. In other words, he was conscious of their miserable state and desired to deliver them from it. He had pity on them. Second, Jesus took action. He actually healed them so that they received their sight. In other words, he delivered them from the state of misery that they were in and unto a state of blessedness.

If we take all of this together, we can say that mercy is compassion on those who are in misery and the subsequent action of delivering them from a state of misery unto a state of blessedness.

Perhaps that is a mouthful to remember though. If so, remember two key words: compassion and action. And then, remember that the action part of mercy delivers from a state of misery and unto a state of blessedness.

So why is it so important to have all of this straight. Well, remember that we are the objects of God’s mercy. On account of our sin, we are in a miserable state. However, in his mercy, God looks upon us with compassion. But he does more than merely pity us. His mercy takes action, delivering us from our sin and misery and unto a state of blessedness, namely, unto covenant fellowship with him as our God.

Matt Kortus

 

Samples from Seminary – “Cross, Cross,” and There Is No Cross!

We consider October 31 to be Reformation Day. On October 31, 1517, Martin Luther nailed his Ninety-Five Theses to the church door in Wittenberg, Germany. Historians view this as the start of the 16th century Protestant Reformation. Today, we celebrate the 499th anniversary of this important event.

While this was an important event in church history, many of us have little knowledge of what Luther’s Ninety-Five Theses actually say. I certainly didn’t until they were assigned as reading for our church history class this semester. Today’s post will give a brief overview of the Ninety-Five Theses and then focus in on one of them.

In his Ninety-Five Theses, Luther shows the conflict between the practice of selling indulgences and true repentance. In Luther’s day, men such as Johann Tetzel were selling these indulgences, which were paper statements that could, according to the Roman Catholic Church, clear away the guilt of sin. Thus, the men who sold these indulgences were like prophets in Jeremiah’s day, who cried out: “Peace, peace,” when there was no peace. The people were led to believe that by purchasing indulgences, they could have their guilt removed and thus have peace with God.

Luther wrote his Ninety-Five Theses to undermine this practice and thinking.

Luther points out that there is no peace to be found in purchasing indulgence letters, for they cannot guarantee salvation. In addition, Luther notes the friction between indulgences and repentance. Luther writes, “It is very difficult… at one and the same time to commend to the people the bounty of indulgences and the need of true contrition.” This was true because those who sold indulgences made repentance unnecessary. There is no need to poor out your heart to God in sorrow for sin when instead you can simply purchase an indulgence letter.

In opposition to this practice, Luther hammers home the importance of repentance from the very first thesis to the end. He maintained that those who truly repent have the right to the full remission of both the penalty and guilt of sin, even without indulgence letters.

This all leads up to Thesis #93, my personal favorite, which reads: “Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “cross, cross,” and there is no cross!” This stands in contrast to those who said, “peace, peace,” but there was no peace. The point of thesis #93 is this: due to the cross of Jesus Christ, there is no cross for us. In the cross of Christ, we have the remission of sins. Thus, those prophets are blessed who preach the cross of Christ and make it clear that there is no cross for us when it comes to paying for our sins.

Matt Kortus