Does God discipline those whom God loves?

Is being a follower of Jesus primarily about experiencing and living in God’s love, or primarily about living out the disciplines of discipleship? Is it about knowing that we are loved and accepted as we are, or about the need for change and transformation on the journey from sin to salvation? Is it about allowing God to do his sovereign work in us, or about the things we need to do in response to his love? To each of these questions, dear Reader, I am sure you are crying ‘False dichotomy!’—and yet many church contexts and cultures lean to one of these rather than the other, and it shapes the preaching, teaching and general ethos of the church community. 

Does God disciplines those whom God loves? At first glance, this question is easy to answer in the light of Prov 3.12: clearly, yes. But a single text cannot settle an issue, especially a text that talks of discipline in physical ways (‘spare the rod and spoil the child…’; compare Prov 13.24) which we now find problematic for all sorts of reasons. And yet the principle is reappropriated in the new covenant in Hebrew 12.6, and in the context of the eschatological struggle between the power of sin and the work of the Spirit, as an illustration of what it means to be children of God—so it is not easily set aside. 

Paul’s Understanding of Resurrection (iii)

Last year, I wrote some reflections for BRF’s Guidelines Bible reading notes, and they have just been published. I contributed my thoughts on texts in Paul’s letters relation to the resurrection. Here is the third and final instalment of what I wrote: 10. Resurrection lives are cross-shaped 2 Cor 4.7—5.5 Paul’s second letter to the Corinthians … Continue Reading

Can we still talk of being ‘lost’ and ‘found’?

The idea that those outside the Christian faith are ‘lost’ has, in the past, been of central importance in evangelical devotion. Around 10 million times a year, Christians sing John Newton’s autobiographical devotional hymn: Amazing Grace, how sweet the sound, That saved a wretch like me. I once was lost but now am found, Was blind, … Continue Reading

‘Head’ does not mean ‘leader’ in 1 Cor 11.3

The debate about the meaning of ‘head’ and ‘headship’ (even though the latter does not occur in the NT) continues to rumble on. The main reason for this for English speakers is that the term is deeply and widely connected with notions of authority, control and leadership—just think ‘headteacher’ or ‘headmaster’ and other compounds, and … Continue Reading

Did Paul have a pastoral strategy?

The apostle Paul is not generally viewed as a pastor. Teaching, fearless advocate for the faith, traveller, apologist, pioneering church planter, yes—but pastor? As we read Paul’s letters, in some part because of our cultural distance, it is easy not to sense that we are encountering Paul the pastor. But the latest Grove Biblical booklet … Continue Reading