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Q&A on April Readings

Note: The questions alone (with a link to their answers) are listed above the line in the opposite order that they were received, which means the most recent questions are at the top of the page. Below the line, questions and answers are given in the readings' order of the verses that prompted the question.

Q: I was surprised to find in reading Galatians 3:19 a reference to angels being involved in the law being put into effect. When I read Exodus’s account of Moses on Mt. Sinai, I don’t find any reference to angels being involved. What gives? Answer

Q: In Philippians 1:1, as the KJV has it, Paul and Timothy are writing to the saints at Philippi, along with the bishops and deacons (the CEV translates “overseers and officials”). Is the modern day equivalent “pastors and elders”? In particular, what was a “deacon” then? I ask in part because the LCMS has recently created “commissioned ministers”, sometimes labeled “deacons”, who seem sometimes to be doing a pastor’s job without ordination. Answer

Q: You noted in the April 30, 2006 Biblog post that in 2 Timothy 4:22 Paul directs a singular “your” to Timothy and a plural “you” to the congregation. How do you get that? Does this have anything to do with the response “And also with you” in some forms of the liturgy? Answer

Q: As we were reading the letters to Timothy, you said Timothy received the Holy Spirit at his ordination. Would you say that of every ordination? I know that the Office of the Holy Ministry probably requires all the help candidates can get. I also notice you have not called ordination a sacrament. I have always considered the ministry a special call, but I know some say only that ordination ratifies the call—either the call to the ministry or the call to the congregation. Answer

Q: Who is restraining the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)? God? Does it mean God will not allow Satan’s tool (man of lawlessness) to come until God’s time? I’m not quite following these verses. Answer

Q: I know we discussed Colossians 1:24 in Bible Class on Sunday, April 30, 2006, but I still struggle with Paul's choice of words: "in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."  The words "filling up" to me imply that Christ's suffering was not full and complete, which I know is not what Paul means. The explanation I read in the notes in my NASB and the translation in The Living Bible do not make sense to me, though I know I don’t have to have complete understanding of this verse in order to be saved! Answer

Q: In the April 22, 2006 Biblog post, you say, “Creation itself is attributed to Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity"? Where does this stem from? I would have thought creation would be attributed to the Father, First Person in the Trinity. Answer

Q: Do the Jews give any credence to the New Testament? Or do they only believe in the Old Testament. I wonder what their take is on Philippians 3:3. Answer

Q: As I read Psalm 119:97-104, I wondered, is this supposed to be David, or someone else? Isn't he just a little sure of himself? This has occurred to me from the beginning of Psalm 119, but your "school of hard knocks" comment in the April 19, 2006 Biblog post was especially interesting. Answer


Q: I was surprised to find in reading Galatians 3:19 a reference to angels being involved in the law being put into effect. When I read Exodus’s account of Moses on Mt. Sinai, I don’t find any reference to angels being involved. What gives?
A: The notes in my study Bible point to Deuteronomy 33:2; Acts 7:38, 53; and Hebrews 2:2. Apparently Jewish interpretation was that at least one angel mediated the law being given. For example, the apocryphal (perhaps more correctly pseudepigraphal) book of Jubilees (1:27 and 2:1) refers to an angel talking to Moses on Sinai. The reference to one angel makes me think of the Pre-Incarnate Christ, Who could have been accompanied by other angels, I suppose. However, that the author of Hebrews argues that the New Covenant is better because it has different mediation probably wants to make us exclude the possibility of the Pre-Incarnate Christ as the “angel” mediating the Old Covenant. Dr. Luther in his 1519 Galatians commentary does not object to understanding 3:19 as explaining “angels” by referring to the mediator and seeing that as a reference to Moses himself (AE 27:272), which understanding is not inconsistent of the use of the Greek word aggelos for human messengers. The angel mediation need not exclude God talking to Moses face to face. Dr. Luther rightly, I think, moves past this question and gets to the point of the matter:

It is indeed a great thing that it was ordained by angels; but this has no bearing on righteousness, since the angels are unable either to fulfill it for us or to give that by which it may be fulfilled. They have transmitted it to us in accordance with God’s arrangement. This is the only thing they can do. … For the angels were not the authors of the Law; they were its servants, through whom, according to the arrangement, it was to come to us. That arrangement, then, is to be broken; and now it is not an angel who is to be the mediator between God and man. No, He Himself, who ordains by angels and has us at a distance from Himself – He Himself, I say, is to come and teach us the Law, He whose words will be Spirit and words of life (John 6:63). For it profits nothing for Him to send any messengers if He Himself does not come. (AE 27:271) Back to Top

Q: As I read Psalm 119:97-104, I wondered, is this supposed to be David, or someone else? Isn't he just a little sure of himself? This has occurred to me from the beginning of Psalm 119, but your "school of hard knocks" comment in the April 19, 2006 Biblog post was especially interesting.
A: As I noted in the April 7, 2006 Biblog post when we began Psalm 119, the author was probably a priest who wrote the psalm some time after the exile. Psalmists like this one and even David can sound sure of themselves. We might say that in view of faith and faith-produced good works their lives are not as those of the unbelievers with their crass sins. Also, we recognize that the psalms are best placed on the lips of our Lord, and He has every reason to sound sure of Himself. As for my comment about the “school of hard knocks”, well it is a way of referring to lessons taught by life experience, and the psalmist in verse 100 said, despite being younger, he had more understanding than his elders, who presumably had more experience than he did. The whole point in these verses is that the wisdom given believers by the Holy Spirit through the Word is better than the wisdom unbelievers can obtain on their own. Back to Top

Q: In Philippians 1:1, as the KJV has it, Paul and Timothy are writing to the saints at Philippi, along with the bishops and deacons (the CEV translates “overseers and officials”). Is the modern day equivalent “pastors and elders”? In particular, what was a “deacon” then? I ask in part because the LCMS has recently created “commissioned ministers”, sometimes labeled “deacons”, who seem sometimes to be doing a pastor’s job without ordination.
A: The best translation of the pairing at the end of Philippians 1:1 is “bishops and deacons”, as the KJV and ASV have it, although, somewhat like the CEV, the NIV and NASB both translate “overseers and deacons”. Interestingly, the LCMS’s “new” translation, the ESV, also puts “overseers and deacons” in the text, but respectively adds “bishops” and “servants” or “ministers” in the margin. The first Greek word, episkopos, can be equivalent to regular pastors, who did have “oversight” responsibilities for their congregations. The second Greek word, diakonos, is hard to take relating to the Divinely-instituted Office of the Holy Ministry but refers more to the humanly-created office that handled material relief of the people (see Acts 6:1-6, this post on those verses, and this “folo” to that post). The Greek word presbuteros that is usually translated “elder”, in part carrying over from the positions of leadership (such as those in the Sanhedrin) that often went to the older men, refers to the pastors and is generally used interchangeably in New Testament Christian references with the “bishops”. So, “elders” as we know lay leaders in our modern congregations are hardly to be in view when a New Testament translation says “elder”. “Deacons” did not do the same thing in every place and at every time, of course, and I suppose the LCMS is free to appropriate the term for whatever humanly-created positions they want. But, to have such “deacons” carry out word and sacrament ministry that is the purview of the pastor (something I suppose the ESV margin reading of “ministers” will facilitate) is to go against Christ’s teaching and practice as faithful Lutherans understand them. Back to Top

Q: Do the Jews give any credence to the New Testament? Or do they only believe in the Old Testament. I wonder what their take is on Philippians 3:3.
A: You might find different positions on the New Testament depending on which Jew you ask. I know a friend of mine who was a reformed Jew growing up believed that Jesus really existed and was a “good” teacher, so in some ways he must have given some credence to the New Testament. As for Philippians 3:3, I think you could get as many different takes as Jews you asked. As for my friend, I doubt he would have been able to agree with that verse and to maintain the spiritual value of his own circumcision. Back to Top

Q: In the April 22, 2006 Biblog post, you say, “Creation itself is attributed to Jesus, the Second Person of the Trinity"? Where does this stem from? I would have thought creation would be attributed to the Father, First Person in the Trinity.
A: The primary reason I made that particular comment that particular day was our reading of Colossians 1:16: “by Him all things were created” (NIV). You can find similar statements, however, in such places as John 1:3 (and see Psalm 33:6a and Hebrews 1:10). You are right in that we usually think of the Father as being responsible for creation, as in the Apostolic Creed when we confess, “I believe in God the Father Almighty, Maker of heaven and earth”. Yet, in the Nicene Creed we confess of the Son, “by Whom all things were made”. These statements are not in conflict, for, as I also said in the same Biblog post, “works of the Trinity towards the world can properly be attributed to any one of the three Persons” and Scripture does that because such works are the work of all three together. (The theological maxim in Latin is opera Trinitatis ad extra sunt indivisa, which means, “the works of the Trinity to the outside are not divisible”, or, we might say, they are not attributed to any one of the Persons individually to the exclusion of the others.) Thus, we should not be surprised, when we find in the Bible that creation is also attributed to the Holy Spirit, as in Psalm 33:6b and Job 33:4. Back to Top

Q: I know we discussed Colossians 1:24 in Bible Class on Sunday, April 30, 2006, but I still struggle with Paul's choice of words: "in filling up what is lacking in Christ's afflictions."  The words "filling up" to me imply that Christ's suffering was not full and complete, which I know is not what Paul means. The explanation I read in the notes in my NASB and the translation in The Living Bible do not make sense to me, though I know I don’t have to have complete understanding of this verse in order to be saved!
A: Good News magazine issue 23 on “Suffering”, page 22, brought up the verse, its use by the Council of Trent, and Martin Chemnitz’s “examination” of the Council, although the magazine did not really tell us much of what Chemnitz said in response to the Council’s use of this passage, which can be found on pages 173-175 of volume 4 of Fred Kramer’s translation of Chemnitz’s Latin. There Chemnitz says that, on the basis of Colossians 1:24, the Council tried to claim that the church collected, from the saints’ suffering and works, a treasury of merits that the pope could dispense through indulgences. Chemnitz pointed out that the Council’s understanding made Christ’s suffering inadequate for satisfying God on account of our sins, and Chemnitz said such an understanding contradicted the analogy of faith and shocked pious ears. Chemnitz cites numerous passages of Holy Scripture that indicate Christ’s sacrifice did satisfy God, and Chemnitz argues that what is lacking is lacking in us, in whom Christ can be said to continue to suffer (as Acts 9:4 makes clear; see also Acts 9:16). Thus, as I suggested that Sunday in Bible Class, a key seems to be in properly understanding how the prepositional phrase “in my flesh” relates to the rest of the verse. (In the Markus Barth and Helmut Blanke Anchor Bible commentary, they point out how extremely difficult the construction of this passage is, with some 14 different possible grammatical alternatives.) Paul’s flesh, and presumably ours, is where the afflictions for the sake of Christ are lacking and where the filling up is taking place, though not with any sort of merit towards our salvation. The Greek word used of the “lack” does not mean something needing to be completed but a general “want” or “poverty”, and we know from elsewhere that Paul sees suffering as a necessary result of proclaiming the Gospel. The verb for “filling up” can mean “supplementing”, which can have the sense of going beyond what is needed, and in the immediate context of Colossians Paul has made clear that Christ’s redemptive work is itself complete. Also noteworthy is that the noun used for describing that which is lacking is never to refer to the Lord’s “passion” but rather our “affliction” or “tribulation”, although the word is set parallel to a word that is usually used of the Lord’s suffering for our sins. Dr. Paul E. Deterding’s 2003 Concordia Commentary on Colossians when discussing this verse (pages 75-79) gives a good background on Christians’ suffering, if you want to read more. Back to Top

Q: Who is restraining the “man of lawlessness” (2 Thessalonians 2:6)? God? Does it mean God will not allow Satan’s tool (man of lawlessness) to come until God’s time? I’m not quite following these verses.
A: Well, verse 7 tells us that what or who is holding the man of lawlessness back at some point will be taken out of the way so that the man of lawlessness can be more fully revealed (v.8), so I would probably rule out God. My Self-study Bible makes a number of suggestions, including the work of Paul, the Roman state with its emperor, the Jewish state, and the state’s principle of law and government. The Lutheran editors of the Self-study Bible lean toward the Roman state and emperor, as if no bishop could rise to temporal power as long as the Roman emperors were persecuting Christians. If we stay with the thought that the office of the pope is the greatest manifestation of the Antichrist known so far, then we could say that at some point whatever or whoever was restraining the man of lawlessness has already been removed. At least one commentator says this removal happened when the Reformation restored the Gospel and people could see for themselves how anti-Christian the papacy was. We might think of the time after the unrestraining of the man of lawlessness as equivalent to what is called “Satan’s little season” (Revelation 20:7-8), and so thinking would mean that we are in Satan’s little season already. There is no problem with that from a Scriptural point of view, since, in prophecy like this, centuries and even millennia can be collapsed to where events are described as happening more closely together than how they actually happen. To a great extent, however, all of this is speculation. In 2 Thessalonians Paul is just reminding the people of his previous teaching (see vv.5, 6), and what we have in the letter itself is hardly clear to us, nor must it be clear to us—the point is not central to our salvation. We want to avoid the very extremes against which St. Paul is writing, so we do not try to calculate when the end will come but to live every day in sorrow over our sin and with faith in Christ so that we are always ready for and at peace with our Lord’s coming. Back to Top

Q: As we were reading the letters to Timothy, you said Timothy received the Holy Spirit at his ordination. Would you say that of every ordination? I know that the Office of the Holy Ministry probably requires all the help candidates can get. I also notice you have not called ordination a sacrament. I have always considered the ministry a special call, but I know some say only that ordination ratifies the call—either the call to the ministry or the call to the congregation.
A: Your question takes in a good deal of ground, including some which is not common for everyone in our church body today. The nature of the Church and her Ministry have been much debated, not only in modern or earlier Lutheranism but also back into New Testament and even Old Testament times. Passages of Holy Scripture that we have read recently, as I suggested in the corresponding Biblogs, do seem to indicate that there is a special gift of the Holy Spirit in the laying on of hands of a pastor’s ordination (1 Timothy 4:14 and 5:22 in the April 28, 2006 Biblog post; 2 Timothy 1:6-7 in the April 29, 2006 Biblog post; and 2 Timothy 4:22 in the April 30, 2006 Biblog post). Presumably that gift would be given in every valid ordination and then could benefit whatever congregation that pastor would serve. I think there can be invalid ordinations, and, based on passages such as 2 Timothy 1:6, a pastor potentially could not make use of the gift, although I certainly agree with you that pastors need all the help from the Holy Spirit that they can get. As for calls into the ministry, we want to be sure to distinguish between an internal call a man might think he has, which might lead him to go to seminary, and an external call to the Office of the Holy Ministry made by the Church through his ordination into the Ministry and investiture of a particular charge, which external call is repeatedly affirmed with each subsequent investiture (Kurt Marquart has rightly said the term “installation” is somewhat spoiled “by images of soulless appliances”). All that said, you are right in that I have not called ordination a “sacrament”, principally because ordination does not fit the criteria of our usual definition of a sacrament: a sacred act instituted by God Himself, in which there are visible means connected with His Word, and by which God offers, gives, and seals unto us the forgiveness of sins earned by Christ. Some argue ordination does fit this definition; however, I am much more ready to grant that ordination is a sacrament if “sacrament” is defined differently (and see the Apology of the Augsburg Confession, XIII:11), just as I could say individual absolution is a sacrament (see, for example, Apology XIII:4). Back to Top

Q: You noted in the April 30, 2006 Biblog post that in 2 Timothy 4:22 Paul directs a singular “your” to Timothy and a plural “you” to the congregation. How do you get that? Does this have anything to do with the response “And also with you” in some forms of the liturgy?
A: Our English translations hide what is an obvious difference in the original Greek of the New Testament. What the Greek makes clear is that Paul’s meaning is something like this in English: “The Lord Jesus Christ be with thy spirit, Timothy; grace be with all of you in the congregation.” Furthermore, you are right in seeing a connection to the liturgy. At several key points in the liturgy of the Divine Service as we have it in The Lutheran Hymnal, page 15 and following, the pastor says to the congregation, “The Lord be with you”, and the congregation replies, “And with thy Spirit”. In this Salutation—before the Collect, the consecration, and the Benediction—the pastor reminds the people that the Lord, as promised in Matthew 18:20; 28:20, is with them in Word and Sacrament. The people in turn remind the pastor that the Lord is with him, as he has the special ordination gift of the Holy Spirit and needs it for his work on their and the Lord’s behalf. (The Salutation has even been called a “little ordination”.) The 1982 Missouri Synod hymnal, Lutheran Worship, in its new orders of service (not the one more closely resembling The Lutheran Hymnal) did change the people’s response to “And also with you”, following the International Consultation on English Texts and work done for the earlier Lutheran Book of Worship, for which “spirit” is said to be simply a figure of speech for the whole person. The forthcoming Lutheran Service Book preserves the Lutheran Worship change even in its new settings of the communion liturgy, keeping the people’s response “And with thy Spirit” only in the setting that most closely resembles that of The Lutheran Hymnal. The Rev. Dr. Timothy C. J. Quill rightly argued for theological reasons that the traditional response should have been reintroduced when the liturgies were revised (Logia VII:2, pp.27-35), but sadly those in positions to do so did not do so.
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