Themes from Acts of the Apostles

Introduction: Acts of the Apostles

The Book of Acts is written by Luke for the purpose of solidifying the Christian faith and all who follow the teachings of Jesus Christ (Luke. 1:4). Luke is writing as a Greek, having come to understand the impact of the good news of Jesus Christ. Throughout Acts, the good news of Jesus Christ proves itself in its ability to transcend the influences of culture and history. In Luke’s Gospel, he highlights certain aspects of Jesus’ life—to showcase Jesus as both the God of the Jews and Gentiles. As many scholars have pointed out, Acts is understood as a progression or continuation of Luke’s Gospel. That said, analyzing Acts in connection to Luke’s Gospel allows readers the ability to properly understand the overall intention of this writing in antiquity. Here, I must argue this approach to do the advancement of the Kingdom of God clearly seen throughout Luke and Acts. The full revelation and realization of the Kingdom of God is God’s ultimate will for creation and most importantly human beings. Jesus being God incarnate, announced the coming of the Kingdom which is clearly portrayed throughout the various Gospels. Early on in Acts, we see this continuation of what Christ proclaimed, not only in speech but in the power of the Spirit which is responsible for the formation of the early Church. Although Acts contains various themes and ideas concerning the Kingdom of God, three themes help capture the true nature of this profound text.

The Spirit of God:

God’s Spirit is constantly mentioned and alluded to throughout the Book of Acts. Early on the text introduces the Holy Spirit as the One who initiates a sort of spiritual rebirth. In the first chapter alone, there is an immediate introduction of the Holy Spirit (Acts 1:1, 1:8). In verse eight, Luke recalls Jesus’ command to wait on the Spirit before advancing the Kingdom through the gospel message. Perhaps, Luke is opening Acts in this way to highlight the necessity of the Spirit as it relates to “power” and “witnessing in Jerusalem and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (Acts 1:7-8). Moreover, Jesus’ command to “wait” reveals that the forming of the Church simply cannot take place apart from His own Spirit. Fundamentally, this helps us comprehend that although Christ is no longer in the flesh, His Spirit is alive and active throughout the entire Book of Acts. As many have concluded, most of the content in Acts portrays the spreading of the gospel message in the attempt to make disciples (the formation of the Church). Those permitted to share the gospel are those whom the Spirit has come to reside. Moreover, how can one testify to things in which one has failed to experience?

In Acts chapter 2, the Holy Spirit is given at Pentecost to believers for them to receive God’s own presence. Acts chapter 2 embodies an Old Testament prophecy—the doing away with limitations on where the Spirit of God dwells. Not that the Spirit ever had limits, but God in His wisdom pursued a new way which included the indwelling of the Spirit of all who call on His name (Jer. 32:38, 2 Cor. 6:16). The entire Book of Acts is reliant on the ministry of the Holy Spirit. Throughout Acts, there is a mentioning of “boldness” and “power” in relation to the Spirit (Acts 4:29,31, 14:3, 13:46, 19:8, 18:26, 28:31). The “boldness” described is paired with the preaching and witnessing of the gospel message. Furthermore, the Spirit gives the followers of “the Way” the ability to bring forth spiritual matters relating to the Kingdom of God. Later, in moments of suffering in Acts the Spirit helps Paul and the other apostles navigate the difficulties associated with witnessing to both Jews and Gentiles. Lastly, it is important to mention that much of Acts is concerned with the life and ministry of Paul. In Acts 9, Paul has his conversion experience on the road to Damascus. Ananias laid hands on Paul so that he could receive the Spirit before becoming a great witness to the things of God. This encountering of the Spirit for Paul not only makes him new in Christ, but also reflects Pentecost once more. Therefore, the Spirit of God is foundational for other key themes seen throughout Acts.

Triumphal Inclusive Gospel:

As mentioned previously, the primary concern throughout the Book of Acts is the bringing forth the Kingdom of God—which takes places through the formation of the Church and the growing of believers through the gospel message. The gospel message in the simplest form is rooted in the reconciliation between God and humanity, which happens through Christ’ atonement, leading to the resurrection and life of His people. Acts is primarily concerned with evangelizing to both Jews and Gentiles for the sake of making disciples of all nations. Throughout Acts, there is a distinct progression of gospel being shared first in Jerusalem and eventually to Rome and cities throughout Greece. When Christ said, “you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth” that is exactly what He meant (Acts 1:8). Early in the Apostle Paul’s ministry, he is viewed as the Apostle of the Gentiles. As many scholars have pointed out, Acts 13-28 details Paul’s missionary journeys and his faithful witnessing to the Gentiles. Acts proves the gospel to be inclusive, not reserved for the Jews only, but all who call upon the name of the Lord. Perhaps, there was no one better to witness to the Gentiles. Paul understood the culture of the Greeks and Jews alike having grown up in Tarsus. Tarsus was a trade city influenced by different cultures which played a great deal in shaping Paul in his early years. Most importantly, Jeremiah 32:38 is coming into full effect as Paul is attesting to the gospel. Paul challenges believers and non-believers alike to realize that Christ’ is not the Messiah of the Jews only, but all who believe.

Persecution:

The theme of persecution is constantly being portrayed throughout the entire Book of Acts. As mentioned above, Luke’s Gospel is a foretaste of the things which eventually take place in the Acts of the Apostles. Jesus clearly states, “you will be hated because of me” (Luke 21:17). Jesus told His followers that part of following Him will be the reality of persecution. As Jesus witnesses to the crowds to the coming of the Kingdom of God the gospel goes forth, but persecution seems to always follow. In Acts chapter 6, we are introduced to Stephen—a faithful and devout follower of the Way. Luke does not simply mention Stephen but details his account of persecution for Christ’ name’s sake. Moreover, Stephen is eventually taken outside the temple walls and stoned to death for being a witness to Christ. Christ was killed by his own people, Jesus said, “he who delivered me over to you has the greater sin” (John 19:11). It seems that Luke introduces Stephen as a representation of the perfect witness. Later in Acts, Paul is being afflicted and persecuted on every front during his missionary journeys (Acts 13:50, 14:5, 14:19,16:22, 18:12, 21:36, 22:22, 23:10). Paul discusses his sufferings in detail in 2 Corinthians 11:23-28. Although the Kingdom of God is being proclaimed, it often comes with persecution of the Church. Despite the realities for suffering for His name’s sake, those who are being converted continue to grow.

Genesis 6-9 (The Flood)

Robert Alter’s analysis of Genesis chapters 6-9 does an excellent job at explaining the theological significance of the Flood account. Alter begins chapter 6 by elaborating on the fact that all of mankind was wicked prior to the Flood.[1] In doing so, Alter gives us glimpse into the justice of God as well as the cause for the preservation of only Noah and his offspring. Before God sends heavy rain leading to the flood of the earth, God assesses mankind. In this this evaluation of obedience, God finds not one person righteous except for Noah. Alter goes on to explain that the world was full of “corruption” which is a word that is referenced frequently throughout Genesis 6.[2] John Walton also mentions “corruption” and identifies the root meaning of the word in the same way as Alter. Both Alter and Walton explain that the use of the word “corruption” in Genesis 6, algins with the word “destroy” which is used regarding the flood.[3] Ultimately, God finds favor with Noah based on his obedience and righteousness’s (Genesis 6:9). Simply, through the preservation of Noah and his family, we see that God’s desire is that no one would perish. Christ Jesus often explains this divine reality further in the gospels (John 10:28). Walton also concurs with Alter’s explanation for the Flood and the preservation of Noah and his offspring. Walton believes that the Flood was just, based off the fact that the human heart was both “wicked” and “unbelieving”.[4] One thing Walton makes clear is that the disobedience of mankind was that of the “heart” and “behavior”. Was this wickedness of the heart a clear result of what took place in the Garden? Is mankind naturally inclined towards sin based on the “original sin”. The totality of mankind excluding Noah, was in fact wicked in their thoughts and actions. This is important in understanding the very nature of sin and disobedience. Clearly, Walton believes that the wickedness of mankind originates in the heart; therefore, leading to sinful behavior.

            In Genesis 6:9, Noah is defined righteous in the eyes of God. One thing Walton points out, is that not one person is completely righteous. Specifically, he uses New Testament texts to makes his point more precise (Romans 3:10). In fact, Walton clears up this confusion by interpreting Noah’s “righteousness” by stating, “righteous in comparison to the people of his time”.[5] So, we can see that Noah was not a perfect man whatsoever, I believe it is safe to say that Noah had sinned prior to the Flood. So then, what separated Noah from the rest of his counterparts? Personally, I believe it was the fact that he had reverence for God. Despite his imperfections, Noah still sought the will of God. Many of the Pauline texts explain this idea of “righteous through faith” (Romans 4:3, 4:9, Gal 3:6, Phil 3:9). Just like Abraham, Noah was declared righteous based on his faith in God. This declaration by God, benefits Noah’s offspring as well. Walton explains that “Noah’s righteousness was duplicated and imitated” by those belonging to his family.[6] Why does Noah’s faith ultimately rescue his family? Does this foreshadow the life of Christ regarding His life benefiting us all?  Alter explains that Noah was told to take both “clean” and “unclean” animals into the Ark. Jewish tradition identifies “clean” as those allowed for consumption, on the other hand “unclean” refers to animals which are banned from the Jewish diet. Alter and Walton explain that though Levitical Law was yet to be established, we see a foreshadowing of it as early as Genesis 8.[7] Therefore, all birds, cattle and wild animals were instructed to enter the Ark in “pairs”. Simply, for the purpose of preserving all that God has created. Reflecting on this, we see that God cares for the whole of creation. Reinforcing that fact that “God saw that everything was good” (Genesis 1:31). If in fact creation was not “good” or “pleasing” to God, God would have allowed everything to perish. Why are certain animals designated as “clean” and “unclean” what identifies them as such?


[1] Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997), 29.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Walton, The NIV Application Commentary: Genesis, n.d., 308.

[4] Ibid., 307.

[5] Ibid., 311.

[6] Ibid.

[7] Ibid., 313.

Genesis 1 “Creation” Reflection

The biblical account of creation gives us a clear description of God – the ultimate Creator of the cosmos. In Genesis 1, God begins this process of establishing order through the things He created. Throughout the Process of Creation as Bruce Waltke describes, the Creator God is displaying power, majesty, and wisdom.[1] It is important to note that the Process of Creation follows a systematic pattern, which is important in understanding the created order and ultimately the dominion mankind has been given over all of creation (Genesis 1:26). Waltke explains this reality that all of creation is split into “two triads”, this helps us in understanding the dominion humanity has been entrusted with over all creation. There is a parallelism, which is revealed in Genesis 1 that Waltke explains as “the inhabitants of the second triad are to rule over the corresponding first triad”.[2] To understand this further, those belonging to the first triad are as follows – light, sea, sky, land, and vegetation. Those who are to rule over all God has created in the first triad belong to the second triad, including, lights, birds, fish, and land animals. The fifth day then marks God’s command, which is for mankind to rule over all of creation (Genesis 1:28). This description of created order brings me to my first question: Was part of being made in the “image of God” allowing mankind to rule over creation? Just as God rules over mankind?

            In Genesis 1, we realize that nothing was created without the word of God (Genesis 1:3). For all creation to come into existence, God must speak. Robert Alter explains this as such, God “does not summon things into being from a lofty distance through the mere agency of divine speech…”.[3] Alter explains that God’s speech is a manifestation of His will and authority. Waltke agrees with Alter’s assessment regarding the will of God through divine speech. Waltke writes, “creation cannot be remotely considered an emanation from God…but a product of his personal will”.[4] All of creation then is an act of God’s will, not by chance, but through God’s desire to unite with all He has created, especially mankind. Although God’s omnipotence is revealed within creation, we must remember that God transcends creation.[5] We know this because Genesis 1 tells us that in the beginning “God created the heavens” meaning God was in the beginning, while the earth was “formless and empty” (Genesis 1:2). My second question then becomes: When God spoke creation into existence was God speaking an example of anthropomorphism? Or was it a literal vocal command of God?

            When reading the beginning of Genesis 2, the text explains that God “rested” from all that He created (Genesis 2:2). This “rest” represents the perfect finality of all God created. Waltke explains that it can be expressed as the “climatic moment” of creation. Therefore, in Jewish tradition today the number seven represents this idea of completion. This rest in which God takes on the seventh day foreshadows a coming rest which is eternal (Hebrews 4:8-11). As believers of Christ, we have come to know this as “eternal life”. Eternal life is found in Christ, not of works which no man shall boast (Ephesians 2:9). This eschatological truth becomes reality for all who call upon the name of the Lord (Romans 10:13). This question persists: Does the “rest” spoken in Genesis 2 highlight the “New Heaven” and “New Jerusalem” that we read in Revelation 21?


[1] Bruce Waltke and Cathi J. Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary (Zondervan Publishing, 2001), 56.

[2] Ibid., 57.

[3] Robert Alter, Genesis: Translation and Commentary (W. W. Norton & Company, 1997), 7.

[4] Waltke and Fredricks, Genesis: A Commentary, 60.

[5] Ibid., 58.

Augustine Theology (On Genesis)

Augustine – On Genesis: Literal Interpretation of Book XI

            This paper seeks to provide a critical literary analysis of Saint Augustine’s commentary, On Genesis. Specifically, we will be looking at the literary content, historical importance, and formation of Augustine’s thought as he moves throughout Genesis 2:25-3:24. Augustine of Hippo (b. 354) was one of the great pioneers of the third and fourth century with regards to both a literal and figurative interpretation of the biblical text. It is important to note that Augustine was not always a follower of Christ, he was greatly influenced by Saint Ambrose. Ambrose was the Bishop of Milan (d. 374), who impressed Augustine through his ability to communicate the truths of Scripture. Once Augustine became a follower of the Lord Jesus, he eventually became ordained. This resulted in a series of writings by Augustine, including his thoughts on theology, philosophy, and sex. To this day, works like Confessions and City of God are read with an attempt to capture Augustine’s unique understanding of the biblical text. In providing a critical analysis, it is important to note that when interpreting a text like On Genesis, it is essential that we do so in a way that provides clarity, with respect to proper exegetical principles. Therefore, the desire is that we honor Augustine’s theological framework as he has been regarded as one of the most influential theologians of all time. With that being said, we must remember that Augustine was writing during a time in which the natural sciences were limited in what impact they could have on the biblical text. To this day, Augustine’s writings have an extraordinary influence on modern sociocultural anthropology.

“Ensouled” VS “Enspirited”

Augustine explains in the beginning of his analysis, that a literal interpretation of the biblical text must suffice when referencing a historical event (489). In other words, when Augustine gives his literal interpretation of the text, he simply means that his interpretation is rooted in an event which transpired. With regards to a figurative interpretation, Augustine explains that anything which sounds “absurd” upon reading, is best to be interpreted as figurative (489). I will take a moment to mention that this methodology is quite simple and flawed. There are more precise methods of determining when to read the biblical text using a figurative interpretation. However, Augustine believes that the biblical text is authoritative. Since this is the case, he exhorts his readers to uphold a proper text reading. When looking at Augustine’s analysis of Genesis 2:25-3:24, we see several consistent ideologies in which he keeps referring to. The first being, “ensouled” which according to Augustine originates in the transfer of the “breathe of life” which was breathed into Adam (451). Adam was “ensouled” by God for the very purposes of God. Since Adam was given the command to “rule” and “fill the earth” Augustine believes that being “ensouled” is directly related to the five senses of the human body. Later, Augustine mentions this idea of humans being “enspirited” (356). Augustine contrasts the differences between “ensouled” and “enspirited” through the comparison of Adam and Christ. All of mankind is imputed with a soul through the original “soul” which was placed in Adam. Therefore, the soul of humans is constantly affected by sin. As for the “spirit” Augustine mentions Christ is the one who initiates the coming of the Spirit who ultimately renews the original condition of mankind. To understand the theological significance of Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis 2:25-3:24, it was important to identify these reoccurring philosophical ideas. They help us in grasping Augustine’s movement of thought as he reflects on the “original sin” (Genesis 3).

Genesis 3: The Fall

Augustine begins Book XI by reflecting on the fact that everything was “good” prior to “the fall”. Specifically, Augustine mentions that Adam and Eve were “unashamed” of their nakedness before they ate of the tree (489). I believe Augustine does this to help put emphasis on the actual physical and psychological repercussions of the “original sin”. Augustine goes on to say that “death” and “lust” have been imputed on human nature. What we find is that sin brings “death” which is a physical reality in which all people experience. As for the psychological effect of sin, “lust” now dominates the mind. Augustine explains, “then they turned their eyes on their own genitals and lusted after them…” (517). I find it interesting that Augustine seems to believe that there was no desire of sexual relations prior to the fall. Something to ponder is Genesis 1:28, God gives this command to “be fruitful and multiply” which to do so, humans must partake in sexual activity. Clearly, sexual relations are blessed by God, so we know that it is just. Personally, I think Augustine’s argument regarding sexual relations is a bit vague in its description and understanding. Augustine does not provide a conclusion into the difference between “lust” and the biblical command to be “fruitful and multiply”. Augustine believes the entire Genesis 3 account is best interpreted allegorically (516). He goes on to say that the “awareness” of being “naked” is best understood as a non-physical reality which gives humans the desire to have shameless curiosity and greed for fresh experiences (517). Firmly, I agree with Augustine’s interpretation of Genesis 3:7. The text states, “then the eyes of both of them were opened” — this opening of the eyes must be understood in a non-literal sense. Augustine points out, “how could the woman see that the tree was good for eating and pleasurable” if in fact her eyes were closed (516). The opening of the eyes is an awareness; in which they did not have prior to committing the orginal sin. This “awareness” leads mankind to resist God through a sense of independent authority.

Satan and Divine Beings

Augustine explains the theological significance of the “serpent” and the origin of sin in reference to Satan. Satan was known as “Lucifer” who was a fallen angel (509). Augustine explains that Satan was a “liar” and never stood in the truth from the beginning (505). The point Augustine is making is that Satan, like the rest of the angels was given “free will” to either choose obedience to God or to reject Him. As the biblical text explains, Satan rejects God to fulfill his own will. Augustine believes that though God had foreknowledge of Satan’s future disobedience, he was still granted the ability to choose God or reject Him. In doing so, Satan has become the “tempter” of both angels and humans. Augustine makes a clear difference between two kinds of angels, the first being the angels of God who remain obedient. The angels of God are more “exalted” and “blessed” according to Augustine (505). The latter of the two angels, are fallen and condemned. Therefore, the “bad” angels are subject to the “good” angels (508). Augustine believes that though evil is a true reality, everything God had created is still “good”. Augustine describes this as God’s ultimate assessment of creation. Augustine states, “not that the bad are in fact good in it, but under the command, the power…” (506). Simply put, Augustine believes that the wicked benefit the righteous. One of the ways the righteous benefit is through overcoming the temptation in which Satan tries to entice. In doing so, the saints of God shame Satan, Augustine refers to this as “make fun of” (507). Augustine believes that Satan could not have received wisdom because of his inability to turn to God. I find this fascinating, especially looking into the teachings of Jesus through the New Testament. Jesus is often referred to the “wisdom” of God (1 Cor 1:24, Colossians 2:3). Augustine is consistently referring to the Trinity in his analysis of the biblical text.

Temptation/Pride

The temptation of Eve comes through a “cunning” serpent. It is important to note that Augustine believes the serpent has been permitted to tempt Eve (513). Although God permits the temptation, Augustine makes it clear that Eve was led into sin by her own deception. Therefore, human beings are held accountable by their sin. According to Augustine, sin is the result of a “proud soul” (492). In having a “proud soul” an individual is excessively over-confident in their own powers. We see this with Eve in the Garden, she believed that she knew better than God (Genesis 3:6). Ultimately, this leads to sin entering the world which results in both physical and spiritual death pertaining to all of humanity. So, then the question becomes, why did God allow sin in the first place? Augustine believes that sin makes God’s grace more abundant (494). Sin allows us to comprehend the goodness of God and the mercy He expresses to all who turn to Him (Romans 9:15). If mankind was not corrupted by sin, there would be no reason for Christ to come and die (Galatians 2:21). Perhaps, Augustine is reflecting on the writings of Saint Paul. Before Adam and Eve sinned against God, there was “pride”. Augustine explains that pride was the reason in which Adam and Eve were discontent within their circumstances. Instead of continually subjecting themselves to God through humility, Adam and Eve eventually turn their own way toward a “fresh experience” which leads them into transgression. Augustine goes on to say, “pride renders them even more insensitive, so that they fail to totally to perceive what is so evil about their desertion of God” (492). In simpler terms, Adam and Eve were blinded by pride leaving no room for the discernment of God. To receive discernment, an individual must devout themselves to God continually.

Questions for Consideration

            Augustine page 518, “when they forfeited this condition, then, contracted the liability to disease and death…”  Q.1 I wonder if Adam and Eve knew the just punishment for their transgression? In other words, did they know that they would have to now experience death, if they gave into the temptation?

            Q.2 Did Adam and Eve fully understand the repercussions of their sin prior to eating the forbidden fruit? Specifically, did they know that their sin would be imputed on the totality of humanity going forward? Clearly, Adam and Eve became aware of the effects of sin after the transgression (Genesis 3:14-24).

MARRIAGE METAPHOR: AN ETHICAL FRAMEWORK FOR ECCLESIAL RECONCILIATION

Christian A. Breud

April 19th, 2022

Contents

Part 1.                          Introduction

Part 2.                          Toward a Theology of Reconciliation: Atonement and Christology

Part 3.                          Marriage Covenant: A Binding Contract Between God, Man and Woman

Part 4.                          HOSEA 1-3: A Framework for Reconciliation

Part 5.                          Narrative Ethics: A Means for Reconciliation Between the Church/World

Introduction

The theological theme of reconciliation has influenced the not only the development of church doctrine, but also, the significance of Christ’s coming. Perhaps, more than any other theological theme, reconciliation is needed for the Church, and those who do not share in fellowship with the Father, Son, and Spirit. Although Christians are called to live set apart, Christians must also be intergraded within the world, to fulfill the exhortations of Christ. This paper seeks to provide a proper theological analysis of Hosea 1-3. Above all, the hope is to reveal the desperate need for reconciliation within God’s created order, for the Body of Christ and those who remain outside of it. Reconciliation begins with God; this foundational for recognizing the need for reconciliation between Christ and the Church. This paper is not an attempt to explain the historical and modern realties of the marriage covenant, but rather, to show the use divine marriage metaphor found in Hosea 1-3 as a means that brings forth reconciliation in modernity.

Hosea 1-3 embodies the greatest of all human relationships, the covenant of marriage. Therefore, the marriage covenant found in Hosea provides an extraordinary framework for how individuals ought to perform reconciliation in their day to day lives. Ethically speaking, I would argue that an individual cannot participate in ethical formation apart from understanding the relationship between morality and reconciliation. Ethics forces individuals to develop their own understanding of the world and their place within it. Therefore, as humans seek to develop some sort of morality, they are ultimately desiring reconciliation amongst human relationships. Unearthing the relationship between narrative ethics and the theological doctrine of reconciliation remains at the forefront of my rationale. Two questions remain central to this work: First, how does the marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-3 embody ecclesial reconciliation? Second, why is reconciliation needed for forming Christian ethics in modernity? A life reconciled, is not just for those inside the Church, but the Church is to pursue reconciliation in all places, spaces, and situations.

 Toward a Theology of Reconciliation

            The doctrine of reconciliation has been thought of as the “heart of the Christian faith, the origin of Christian love and the content of Christian hope”.[1] Perhaps, it is beneficial to mention that reconciliation is often transactional and relational in nature. Often, reconciliation requires an action, and that action has ongoing implications in the future. Reconciliation in the purest form is simply God with us.[2] It must be stated that reconciliation is initiated by God for the benefit of human beings. Therefore, two questions are central to the formation of the doctrine of reconciliation. First, what is the biblical reconciliation? Second, why is reconciliation needed in the first place? Biblical reconciliation has to do with the redemption of human beings. As creatures who are constantly inflicted with sin, redemption is needed for the sake of preservation of the Church and those who need salvation. Scot McKnight states, “Atonement showcases the ecclesial focus of redemption…”.[3] In turn, the Atonement is the complete fulfillment of reconciliation between God and humanity.[4]

Therefore, to understand reconciliation, one must seek to comprehend the significance of the Atonement or “exiléosi” (εξιλέωση). McKnight affirms that reconciliation and the Atonement are interwoven with one another.[5] In simpler terms, an individual cannot grasp one without the other. Although unpacking the theological importance of the Atonement is not an easy task, the Atonement can be understood using narrative ethics. Narrative ethics from a Christian perspective, challenges individuals to place themselves within God’s story.[6] That said, the life, death and resurrection of Christ captures the complexity of the Atonement. Often, when individuals discuss Atonement, they think only of Christ’ crucifixion on the cross. Here, I must argue that the Atonement encompasses the totality of Jesus’ earthly experience. That said, we must be careful in focusing on only one aspect of Jesus’ life.

Marriage Covenant: A Binding Contract Between God, Man and Woman

        Marriage has often been understood historically as a covenant, between a man and a woman. To grasp the theological significance of marriage, a few things must be stated. First, the marriage covenant was instituted between the relationship of Adam and Eve. Although Genesis fails to mention the word “marriage”, the text does allude to intimacy of their relationship (Genesis 2:24). The text states, “this explains why a man leaves his father and mother and is joined to his wife, and the two are united into one” (Gen. 2:24). Therefore, this is the earliest account of marriage recorded through the entire OT. The covenant of marriage seeks to unite a man and a woman into one flesh. That said, it is essential that individuals realize that marriage is the most intimate relationship within the human experience. Second, a prophetic text like Malachi 2:10-16, have helped identify the nature of marriage as covenant. Briefly, it must be mentioned that a covenant implies imposition, liability, or obligation.[7]

The historical understanding of a Hebrew covenant differs from other traditional forms of a promise. As John Tarwater states, “a Hebrew covenant is a natural, relationship of obligation established under divine sanction”.[8] The word covenant in Hebrew is “bĕriyth” (בְּרִית) embodying in itself an “irrevocable nature”.[9] Recognizing marriage as covenant reveals the exclusivity associated with this form of relationship. Above all, marriage embodies the fulfilment of knowing someone in the most profound way. In the context of Malachi 2:10-16, readers become aware of the sacredness associated with marriage. Here, Malachi warns the consequences of “mixed marriages” with others outside the realm of Judaism.[10] Intermarrying results in the transgression of the marriage covenant.[11] In broader terms, the Book of the Twelve reveals severe warnings issued by YHWH for any failure to uphold the covenant previously established with the patriarchs. Moreover, acknowledging marriage as covenant helps to provide a framework for understanding the significance of the divine marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-3.

Hosea 1-3: A Framework for Reconciliation

Hosea acts as the prelude to the entire corpus of the Minor Prophets. Furthermore, Hosea provides historical background and context to the circumstances leading up to divided monarchy.[12] Hosea being a northern prophet, wrote for the purpose of revealing God’s divine judgment against Israel due to the realities of idol worship.[13] That said, YHWH pleads with Hosea to reconcile with Gomer even though Gomer stands as unfaithful and adulterous.[14] In this instance, Hosea is a direct representation of YHWH. As many scholars have pointed out, Hosea 1-3 reveals God’s genuine love and faithfulness toward to people of Israel.[15] Often, when analyzing the Book of the Twelve, there is a characterization of God in his dealings with Israel, Judah, and the nations.[16] In reference to Hosea 1-3, the metaphor is used to disclose the true nature of YHWH. Moreover, the message of Hosea moves from “judgment to deliverance”.[17]  

Hosea uses the divine marriage metaphor to reveal the detachment between YHWH and Israel.[18] Hosea 1:1 begins with an oracle showing “divine communication” on behalf of YHWH to Israel.[19] The marriage metaphor depicted in Hosea 1-3 is designed to reflect, “relationships, loyalty and compassion”.[20] These facets are central to the overall implementation of the metaphor being used. As mentioned earlier, marriage is covenant, and covenant is utterly dependent on God. That said, YHWH must initiate reconciliation if Israel is to be redeemed.

Therefore, the marriage metaphor reveals two primary realties. First, Israel’s failure to remain faithful to YHWH despite YHWH’s faithfulness. Second, YHWH’s pursuit for reconciliation with the people of Israel. Marriage is the most intimate of all human relationships. For that reason, the prophet Hosea uses marriage as a metaphor to capture YHWH’s heart for the people of Israel. The theological theme of reconciliation is implicitly revealed by using the marriage metaphor. For the sake of space, I will use Hosea 3:1 as the primary text revealing a theology of reconciliation between YHWH (Hosea) and Israel (Gomer).

Chapter 3 begins with the divine command of reconciliation,

Hosea 3:1 – “and the LORD said to me, “go again, love a woman who is loved by another man and is an adulteress, even as the LORD loves the children of Israel, though they turn to other gods and love cakes of raisins”.

Verse 1 brings us into the reality of Israel’s failure to uphold YHWH’s covenant. Here, Hosea is told to return and love Gomer who has committed atrocities against Hosea. Hosea depicted as YHWH shows YHWH’s desire to be reconciled with Israel. A few distinctions must be made between Hosea 1:2 and Hosea 3:1. Hosea 1:2 introduces YHWH’s command for Hosea to marry a prostitute.[21] On the contrary, in Hosea 3:1 YHWH tells the prophet to love an adulteress.[22] Although this may appear as slight difference within the text, there are theological reasons for the change of verbiage. Nogalski affirms that this intertextual change is simply to place emphasis on YHWH’s love for the people of Israel.[23] An important aspect of love is the desire to be reconciled. In this case, YHWH’s love is manifested in His desire to restore the broken marriage between Israel and Himself. As mentioned earlier, reconciliation often takes place in relational settings and begets future action. When referencing Hosea 3:1, the action is a complete reconciliation initiated by YHWH for the sake of the people of Israel. The Prophet Hosea reveals the emotions and challenges that come with reconciliation. In Hosea 3:1, it is clear what the transgression against YHWH was—the worship of idols. Early in the Torah, the Israelites are warned of the consequences of the worship of idols. Exodus 20:2-5 states,

“You shall have no other gods before me. You shall not make for yourself an image in the form of anything in heaven above or on the earth beneath or in the waters below. You shall not bow down to them or worship them; for I, the Lord your God”

            Idolatry is the worst sin imaginable. A refusal to worship the Creator leads to a life of corruption, deceit, malice, and wickedness. When the desire to worship YHWH is removed, destruction is on the way. In Book of the Twelve, it seems there is a never-ending cycle of violence. As Fretheim affirms, “violence begets violence”.[24] Therefore, the divine marriage metaphor in Hosea 1-3 is extraordinary in its ability to reveal YHWH as a God of love, who pursues reconciliation even amongst unfaithful individuals. Not only does YHWH desire reconciliation with Israel and Judah, but also the nations.[25] Hosea 1-3 reveals YHWH’s emotions, which signifies YHWH’s desire to relate with human beings. In the text, YHWH takes on human characteristics for the very purpose of identifying Himself with humankind. Hosea 1-3 foreshadows the inevitable—the incarnation of Jesus Christ. 

Narrative Ethics: A Means for Reconciliation Between the Church and the World

            Historically, the Church has faced both separation and persecution on various fronts. Although this is a true reality, the church is to embody reconciliation as a community and with the world. Perhaps Saint Paul said it best,

“All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting people’s sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation” (2 Cor. 5:18-19).

Therefore, the Church is tasked with the responsibility of reconciliation with the hope of making disciples of “all nations” (Matt. 28:19). The Church is a redeeming community, a community that lives to love and defend all human beings.[26] Moreover, the Church is to reflect the life of Christ’ in both thought and practice. These two functions are central to the role of the Church, throughout history and now in modernity. The practice of forgiveness is essential if the Church is to accomplish reconciliation. Gregory Jones states, “the Christian practice of forgiveness involves us in a whole way of life”.[27] Furthermore, Hauerwas pairs forgiveness with the mission of the Church in saying, “through Jesus’ life and teachings we see how the church came to understand that God’s kingship and power consists not in coercion but in God’s willingness to forgive”.[28] In the case of Hosea 1-3, Hosea had to choose forgiveness for the result to be reconciliation. It is important to note that Hosea 1-3 puts emphasis on YHWH’s willingness to forgive Israel with the aspiration of a reconciled relationship. YHWH pursuing reconciliation with Israel is an example for the Church to follow. Christians must seek to live in unity with one another, despite the realities that often cause division. Individuals belonging to this community of faith must recognize that the Church is often influenced by culture and other social norms.[29] Jesus prayed to the Father on behalf of the disciples saying, “they are in the world but not of the world” (John 17:16). Being in the world requires that Christians participate in societal functions, but not at the expense of the Church being conformed to the world. That poses as serious question, how does the Church pursue reconciliation with secular society without abandoning the Church’s practices and commands? In this section, I will argue that narrative ethics acts as a means for providing reconciliation between the Church and the world.

Stanley Hauerwas challenges Christians to recognize that their story is not their own.[30] That said, narrative ethics forces individuals to identify themselves within a particular “story”.[31] For Christians, they locate their identify in God’s story. Hauerwas states, “we know ourselves truthfully only when we know ourselves in relation to God”.[32] Narrative ethics is reliant on history since the very nature of narrative is formed in a particular story of the past.[33] As Christians, God’s story is revealed in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ.[34] The ultimate task for Christian ethics is to help believers envision the world.[35] Therefore, the ecclesial community must begin formulating ethics based upon Jesus earthly experiences. Narrative ethics allows Christians to envision and participate in a world that Jesus proclaimed—the Kingdom of God.[36] Moreover, if narrative ethics is about envisioning a new world, Christians must live out this new world as they exist in society.[37] This means pursuing reconciliation with people who may not share in the same Christian beliefs and convictions. One might ask how is this then possible? Jesus said, “Therefore go and make disciples of all nations baptizing them in the name of the Father, Son, and Spirit” (Matt. 28:19). The Church must initiate reconciliation with those outside the Body of Christ. As mentioned in my analysis of Hosea 1-3, YHWH pursued reconciliation with Israel, from His own desire to be unified. Likewise, Christians in modernity are to represent Christ through the ministry of reconciliation (2 Cor. 5:18-19).  Looking at Jesus life using narrative ethics, allows Christians to see Jesus’ love toward those who opposed, threatened, and persecuted Him. Clearly, Jesus pursued reconciliation with those who were the least deserving. Jesus initiated reconciliation up until to the point of death. The deepest desire for the Church is the integration of the world and God’s Kingdom.[38] That said, the Church must pursue reconciliation with those who do not belong to Christ. Although this is not an easy task, it remains central to the “Missio Dei”.

Conclusion

The divine marriage metaphor used in Hosea 1-3 acts as an introduction into the entire Book of the Twelve. That said, redactors have composed the Book of the Twelve’s ordering with the marriage metaphor in mind. Simply, due to the marriage metaphor’s ability to reveal YHWH’s heart for the people of Israel, Judah, and the nations. In addition, YHWH is implicitly introduced as the God of Reconciliation. Hosea 1-3 allows readers to realize that YHWH seeks to identify with human beings. In the text, YHWH takes on human characteristics and emotions for the very purpose of identifying with His most prized possession. This gives individuals a glimpse of the future hope—the incarnation of Jesus Christ. Narrative ethics acts as a means for envisioning an integration between the Church and the world.[39] The Kingdom of God gives the clearest vision into the “New Heaven” and “New Earth” for the sake reconciliation between creation and eternity (Rev. 21:1). Therefore, Christians are tasked with the responsibility of envisioning a new world using narrative ethics. Narrative ethics challenges Christians to understand that their story is not their own, but found in Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection.[40]

Bibliography

Baldwin, Joyce G. Haggai, Zechariah, Malachi. Inter-Varsity, 1972.

Barth, Karl, and G. W. Bromiley. The Doctrine of Reconciliation. T & T Clark, 1988.

Bass, Dorothy C., et al. Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People. Fortress Press, 2019.

Downing, Gerald F. Reconciliation: Politics and Theology, vol. 58, no. 1, Jan. 2017.

Fretheim, Terence. “‘I Was Only a Little Angry’: Divine Violence in the Prophets.” Sage Publications, vol. 58, no. 4, Oct. 2004, pp. 365–375.

Fretheim, Terence E. Reading Hosea-Micah: A Literary and Theological Commentary. Smyth Et Helwys Pub., 2013.

Harper, William Rainey. Amos and Hosea. Bloomsbury, 2015.

Haste, Matthew. “Your Maker Is Your Husband: The Divine Marriage Metaphor and the New Covenant.” Puritan Reformed Journal, vol. 5, no. 1, Jan. 2013, pp. 15–28.

Hauerwas, Stanley. The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics. Univ. of Notre Dame Press, 2006.

Hunter, Danny. Radical Ecclesiology: The Church as an Arena for Reconciliation through Cultivating Alternative Community, vol. 48, no. 1, Jan. 2020, pp. 75–82.

Lovin, Robin W. Christian Ethics an Essential Guide. Abingdon Press, 2000.

McClendon, James William, and Nancey Murphy. Systematic Theology. Ethics. Baylor University Press, 2012.

McKnight, Scot. A Community Called Atonement. Abingdon Press, 2007.

McLachlan, David. Accessible Atonement: Disability, Theology, and the Cross of Christ. Baylor University Press, 2021.

House, Paul R. Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve. Soc. of Biblical Literature, 2000.

Nogalski, James. The Book of the Twelve: Hosea–Jonah. Smyth & Helwys Pub., 2011.

Reardon, Patrick Henry, and Patrick Henry Reardon. Reclaiming the Atonement: An Orthodox Theology of Redemption. Ancient Faith Publishing, 2015.

Tarwater, John. “Are Biblical Covenants Dissoluble? A Theology Toward Marriage.” Southwestern Journal of Theology, vol. 47, no. 1, 2004, pp. 1–11.

Taylor, Richard A., and E. Ray Clendenen. Haggai, Malachi. Broadman & Holman, 2004.

Thomas, John Christopher. Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel. CPT Press, 2010.


[1] Karl Barth, The Doctrine of Reconciliation: The Subject-Matter and Problems of the Doctrine of Reconciliation (Continuum Publishing, 1956), 4.

[2] Ibid.

[3] Scot McKnight, A Community Called Atonement (Abingdon Press, 2007), 27.

[4] David McLachlan, Accessible Atonement: Disability, Theology, and the Cross of Christ (Baylor University Press, 2021), 73.

[5] McKnight, A Community Called Atonement, 51.

[6] Stanley Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics (Notre Dame Press, 1983), 27.

[7] John Tarwater and David Jones, “Are Biblical Covenants Dissoluble? Toward a Theology of Marriage,” Southwestern Journal of Theology 47, no. 1 (Fall 2004): 4.

[8] Ibid., 5.

[9] Ibid., 6.

[10] Richard Taylor, Haggai, Malachi: An Exegetical and Theological Exposition of Holy Scripture, vol. 21A (Holman Reference, 2004), 47.

[11] Joyce Baldwin, Haggai, Zechariah, and Malachi: An Introduction and Commentary. Vol. 28. Tyndale Old Testament Commentaries. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 1972, vol. 28 (IVP Academic, 1972), 260.

[12] Terence E. Fretheim, Reading Hosea-Micah: A Literary and Theological Commentary (Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2013), 8.

[13] Andrew Macintosh, A Critical and Exegetical Commentary on Hosea (Bloomsbury T & T Clark, 2014), 6.

[14] James Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Hosea-Jonah (Smyth & Helwys Publishing, Inc., 2011), 61.

[15] Paul R House, Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve (Society of Biblical Literature, 2000), 130.

[16] Ibid., 126.

[17] Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Hosea-Jonah, 135.

[18] Matthew Haste, “Your Maker Is Your Husband: Divine Marriage Metaphor and the New Covenant,” Puritan Reformed Journal 5, no. 1 (January 2013): 17.

[19] William Harper, A Critical Exegetical Commentary on Amos, and Hosea (Wentworth Press, 2019), 201.

[20] Nogalski, The Book of the Twelve: Hosea-Jonah, 59.

[21] Ibid., 66.

[22] Ibid.

[23] Ibid.

[24] Terence E. Fretheim, ‘I Was Only a Little Angry’: Divine Violence in the Prophets,” Sage Publications 58, no. 4, Interpretations (October 2004): 366.

[25] House, Reading and Hearing the Book of the Twelve, 129.

[26] John Christopher Thomas, Toward a Pentecostal Ecclesiology: The Church and the Fivefold Gospel (CPT Press, 2010), 69.

[27] Dorothy Bass, Practicing Our Faith: A Way of Life for a Searching People (Fortress Press Minneapolis, 2019), 132.

[28] Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, 85.

[29] Danny Hunter, “Radical Ecclesiology: The Church as an Arena for Reconciliation Through Cultivating Alternate Community,” Missiology 48, no. 1 (January 2020): 80.

[30] Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, 26.

[31] Ibid.

[32] Ibid., 27.

[33] Ibid., 28.

[34] Barth, The Doctrine of Reconciliation: The Subject-Matter and Problems of the Doctrine of Reconciliation, 95.

[35] Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, 29.

[36] James Wm. McClendon, Ethics: Systematic Theology, vol. 1 (Abingdon Press, 1986), 243.

[37] Gerald Downing, “Reconciliation: Politics and Theology,” Modern Believing 58, no. 1 (2017): 9.

[38] Hunter, “Radical Ecclesiology: The Church as an Arena for Reconciliation Through Cultivating Alternate Community,” 81.

[39] Hauerwas, The Peaceable Kingdom: A Primer in Christian Ethics, 81.

[40] McClendon, Ethics: Systematic Theology, 1:243.

An Interpretation of Some Theological Concepts (NT)

08/13/22 by Christian Breud

The Incarnate Word

God (the Father) has given Christ to the world, for He is the ultimate fulfillment of divine revelation. The Father speaks through Christ as the heir of all things. Christ was with the Father in the beginning of creation and Christ was the Divine Agency which brought forth creation. How did the Father create the cosmos then? The Scripture says, “through His Word” which in fact is Christ (Heb. 1:3). Often, we come to conceive the Father as being made up of bodily material. Origen affirmed that the Father is greater than matter and form, therefore it is insufficient to think of Him as being bound to such things (De Principiis, Ch. 1). Moreover, the Father does not ‘speak’ things into existence as we have come to understand it, but rather, as Augustine puts it He ‘wills’ things into existence (Augustine, On Genesis). In doing so, the Father gave Christ authority over all that would be made and all that has been made. Christ Himself is the essence of life– therefore, nothing could possibly exist apart from Him (John 1:4). The Father and the Son have equal partnership– since being composed of one singular essence. Hebrews 3:1, “the Son is the radiance of God’s glory and the exact representation of his being”. That said, Christ is God incarnate.

Contrasting Light and Darkness: A Symbolic Interpretation

St. John teaches about light and darkness. Here, light is represented by truth and darkness by sin (rebellion). Throughout the OT and NT the word “truth” (ἀλήθεια) is understood differently depending on the context of its usage. In 1 John 1, St. John is using the word to unpack a reality and or fact of being in relationship with God. The big idea for John is if one is in Christ, then Christ ought to be evident in their life. Moreover, one must pattern their lives after His own (1 John 2:3-4). Furthermore, anyone who claims they have no sin or has not sinned is a lair for Christ cannot be in that person– since the conversion experience is built off of belief (trust) and confession (Rom. 10:9). Why is this? Perhaps because without recognizing ourselves as a “sinners” we fail to capture the awesomeness of Christ life, death and resurrection. Without acknowledging our sins, we miss out on the full comprehension of what Christ did on the cross. When we see ourselves as sinners, we can understand that Christ died for us personally. St. Paul said, “for all have sinned” and Christ said, “none are good, but God” (Rom. 3:23.,Mark 10:18). The reality is that God standard for ‘good’ is much different than ours. Good is not defined by ‘works’ for one can only be declared righteous through ‘faith’ (Eph. 2:9). Therefore, it is Christ life in us that makes us righteous and is obtained start to finish through faith (Phil 3:9).

Faith > Legalism

The Apostle Paul desires that his brothers and sisters belonging to Judaism would come to the full and complete knowledge of revelation in Jesus Christ. Therefore, that they will be adopted in to the family of believers (Rom. 8:15). St. Paul is exhorting this idea of death to the Law and life through faith in Christ (Gal. 2:19). Paul does not condemn the Law but states that Law is good, since it has the capacity to reveal sins which stem from the human condition (Rom. 7:12, Gen. 3). What St. Paul challenges us with is not that we must choose between the Law or faith but through our faith in Christ we instinctively obey the Law since the Law was given as a sign post pointing to Christ (Gal. 3:19-26). Christ said, “I have not come to abolish the Law or the Prophets, but to fulfill them” (Matt. 5:17). The Law cannot bring fourth salvation for a multitude of reasons– perhaps the most evident reason remains that no one has ever upheld the Law without finding fault. As Paul states, “for all have sinned and have fallen short of God’s glorious standard” (Rom. 3:23). That said, we as human beings are all in need of God’s mercy which cannot be earned but only bestowed through faith in Christ’ bloodshed on the cross.