If We Know Our Own Hearts (Henry)

Matthew Henry's Commentary on the Bible

Romans 12:9a says, “Love must be without hypocrisy” (NET). Matthew Henry said this love is affectionate and respectful. Concerning the latter he wrote,

2) A respectful love: In honor preferring one another (v10b). Instead of contending for superiority, let us be forward to give to others the pre-eminence. This is explained in Phil. 2:3, Let each esteem other better than themselves.

And there is this good reason for it, because, if we know our own hearts, we know more evil by ourselves than we do by any one else in the world. We should be forward to take notice of the gifts, and graces, and performances of our brethren, and value them accordingly, be more forward to praise another, and more pleased to hear another praised, than ourselves….

Matthew Henry, Matthew Henry’s Commentary on the Whole Bible: Complete and Unabridged in One Volume (Peabody: Hendrickson, 1994), 2228.

Shane Lems
Hammond, WI

Ryan Job: Duty, Courage, Faith

There are certain people in this world that are just plain inspiring.  Maybe you know someone who is a solid Christian and also a principled helper and encourager – devoted to Christ, his family, and others.  These are people you enjoy being around because God uses them to bless you in various ways.  Ryan Job was a man like that.  Not only did he sweat and bleed his way through SEAL training (BUD/S), combat in Iraq, and a debilitating gunshot wound, he also was devoted to the Lord, his wife, his SEAL team, and many others.  Granted, Job had his flaws, but in the big scheme of things, God used this man to help a lot of people.

Robert Vera writes about Job in his book, A Warrior’s Faith (Nelson Books: Nashville, 2015).  This book isn’t a biography, but it does give a window into Ryan Job’s life and outlook on life.  The book is divided into three sections: 1) Tested, 2) Transformed, and 3) Redeemed.  Vera describes Job’s life in the SEALs, his perseverance through tough situations, his motivation to live each day, and his dedication to core principles.  I’ve thought of this before as well, since I was in the Army: some military principles are very helpful in the Christian life (e.g. duty, honor, courage, respect, etc.).  I don’t want to give all the details of Job’s story away, but suffice it to say that there are many aspects of his life that encouraged, motivated, and helped me in my own life.  I wasn’t familiar with Job’s story, so the whole thing was a treat to read.

My main (and really only) critique of the book is that the theology isn’t that great.  For example, Vera finds many parallels between Ryan Job’s life and the life of biblical Job.  Those seemed like a stretch to me.  Also, Vera several times notes that God speaks to people through random events, which is quite debatable.  The book was about faith and following the Lord, but it doesn’t really explain the gospel or other aspects of the Christian faith.

However, aside from my critique, one can still benefit from this book since Job’s story is an inspiring one.  Perhaps Vera heaped too much praise on Job – perhaps.  But the main point stands: God used Ryan Job to bless a lot of people, and Job is a good example of living a purposeful God-centered life.  I urge men to read this book – even teenage boys who need a “hero” (in the very best sense of the term) should read this book.  I’ll for sure give it to other men who could use some direction and encouragement in the Christian life.  Vera does a good job of weaving Ryan Job’s story with practical life application and guidance.  Even though I have some theological disagreements with this book, I do recommend it!

Robert Vera, A Warrior’s Faith (Nashville: Nelson Books, 2015).

NOTE: I received this book as part of the BookLook blogger program, and was not required to write a positive review.

shane lems
hammond, wi

Tertullian on Honoring Caesar

The Ante-Nicene Fathers, 10 vols.   -              Edited By: Alexander Roberts       Tertullian’s (145-220 AD) Apology is an outstanding early defense of Christianity.  Lord willing, I’ll comment more on this in the near future.  For now, I want to highlight a section (chap. 31-34) where Tertullian said that Christians neither hated Caesar nor dishonored him.  Rather, they prayed for him and gave him high honor, as the Scriptures commanded.

“[Do you think that we care nothing for the welfare of Caesar?] …Most clearly the Scripture says, ‘Pray for kings, and rulers, and powers, that all may be peace with you.’ …We respect in the emperors the ordinance of God, who has set them over the nations.”

“…Why dwell longer on the reverence and sacred respect of Christians to the emperor, whom we cannot but look up to as called by our Lord to his office?  So that on valid grounds I might say Caesar is more ours than yours, for  our God has appointed him.  Therefore, as having this propriety in him, I do more than you for his welfare, not merely because I ask it of Him who can give it…but also because, in keeping the majesty of Caesar within due limits, and putting it under the Most High, and making it less than divine, I commend him the more to the favor of Deity, to whom I make him alone inferior.”

“But I place him [Caesar] in subjection to one I regard as more glorious than himself.  Never will I call the emperor God….  If he is but a man, it is his interest as man to give God his higher place.  Let him think it enough to bear the name of the emperor.  That, too, is a great name of God’s giving.  To call him God, is to rob him of his title.  If he is not a man, emperor he could not be.  Even when, amid the honors of triumph, he sits on that lofty chariot, he is reminded that he is only human.  A voice at his back keeps whispering in his ear, ‘Look behind thee; remember thou art but a man.'”

“I am willing to give the emperor this designation [lord], and when I am not forced to call him Lord as in God’s place.  …For I have but one true Lord, the God omnipotent and eternal, who is Lord of the emperor as well.”

In other words, though early Christians absolutely refused to call Caesar Lord (as in “Most High God”), they did call him lord (as in “Your Majesty”), they did pray for him, and they did show him honor.  They did not mock him, ridicule him, or make jokes about him – instead they showed him respect.  Therefore, Tertullian argued, rather than be charged with treason, Christians should have been commended for showing such great honor to Caesar.  Indeed, Christians from the past can teach us lessons for today.

shane lems
hammond, wi

John’s Gospel, Irony, and First Century Shame/Honor

 

Jerome H. Neyrey wrote a nice article in Semeia called “Despising the Shame of the Cross: Honor and Shame in the Johannine Passion Narrative” (#68 [1994] 113-137) (the above image is not the issue in which Neyrey wrote).  In this article, Neyrey discusses what shame and honor meant in the first century (which is a bit different than our culture’s understanding).  He then relates them to Jesus’ shame and honor in John’s Gospel.  This article is another “must read” for those who preach/teach/study the Gospel of John.  Here are a few ‘teaser’ quotes.

“…In the perception of the ancients, honor, like all other goods, existed in quite limited supply.  There was only so much gold, so much strength, so much honor available.  When someone achieved honor, it was thought to be at the expense of others.  Philo, for example, condemns polytheism, because in honoring others as deities, the honor due to the true God is diminished: ‘God’s honor is set at naught by those who deify mortals….'”

“When John’s disciples lament to their master that Jesus is gaining more disciples and honor, they understand that Jesus’ gain must be John’s loss.  John confirms this, ‘He must increase, but I must decrease’ (John 3:30).  Thus, claims to honor by one person will tend to be perceived as threats to the honor of others, and consequently need to be challenged, not acknowledged.  In fact, two Gospels state that it was out of envy that Jesus’ enemies handed him over (Mark 15:10//Matt 27:18; cf. John 11:47-48).”

Later, Neyrey writes about shame in the 1st century.  “Contempt, loss of face, defeat, and ridicule all describe shame, the loss of honor.  The grammar of honor presented above can be reversed to describe ‘shame.’  Shame can be ascribed or achieved.  A magistrate may ascribe shame by declaring one guilty and so worth of public flogging (2 Cor 11:23-25); a king may mock and treat one with contempt (Luke 23:11)….  Thus the elite and those in power may declare one honorless and worthy of contempt….  Yet shame may be achieved by one’s folly or by cowardice and failure to respond to a challenge.”

“If the honorable parts of the body, the head and face, are struck, spat upon, slapped, blind-folded, or otherwise maltreated, shame ensues.  If the right arm, symbol of male power and strength, is bound, tied, or nailed, the resulting powerlessness denotes shame.  If one is publicly stripped naked, flogged, paraded before the crowds, and led through the streets, one is shamed.”

Neyrey’s remarks certainly help us evaluate other NT statements that include honor and shame, specifically in light of John’s Gospel and irony: how Jesus’ suffering and death can be “shame” and “glory/honor” at the same time.  Also, for more intellectual exercise, compare this with Luther’s Theology of Glory v Theology of the Cross

shane

sunnyside wa