Raised with Christ: Review part 7

This is now part 7 of my review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6.

Chapters 15 and 16, which have been written as one long chapter, are central to the book in that they take it beyond theoretical teaching to show the effect that the resurrection should have on the lives of Christians. Here Adrian teaches that we, his readers, should have a relationship with the risen Jesus, including assurance that God loves us and an experience of the Holy Spirit.

Adrian illustrates this in terms which his intended readership can appreciate, with examples and quotations from older Puritans and from recent Reformed writers. He shows how these people rejected dead orthodoxy and experienced a real relationship with Jesus. He rejoices that

In recent years in many churches there has been a coming together of a love of the Bible and a desire to know God personally. (p.205)

In all this Adrian navigates skilfully through the various controversies connected with the charismatic movement. He avoids one issue:

Unfortunately, over the last few decades the controversy about whether or not the gifts of the Spirit are for today has largely obscured the more fundamental question – are Christians today able to experience a truly personal relationship with Jesus? (p.196, emphasis in the original)

But later on Adrian tackles head on the issue over terms like “baptism with the Holy Spirit”, “sealing with the Spirit” and “receiving the Spirit”, arguing against many conservative evangelicals that all of these refer to an experience which may follow conversion. With the help of quotations from John Piper and Martyn Lloyd-Jones, he thoroughly demolishes the arguments that Christians fully receive the Holy Spirit at conversion and that his primary role is to bring people to faith. Rather, he argues, receiving the Holy Spirit is a conscious experience, and may come after someone starts to believe. He writes that

Jesus died in order that we might taste heaven even here on earth. That is the role of the Spirit when we are aware of him at work in our lives. He is a gift, or foretaste, given to believers until the day comes when we are finally reunited fully with Christ. (p.219)

(Oddly, no mention here that Jesus rose again.) Christians who have received the Spirit

have been given a tangible awareness of God’s love and empowering presence as a reality in their lives. (p.221)

This seems to be what Adrian means by having a relationship with the risen Jesus. He is not denying that

Becoming a Christian is actually a secret act of the Spirit in regenerating us and joining us to Christ and imparting faith to us. … However, … it would be wrong for us to insist that we have experienced the Spirit in all his fullness automatically. (p.223)

He then points out the danger for all believers of thinking that they “got it all” in the past, whether at conversion or at some subsequent experience, with the result that

we miss out on the repeated times of blessing and refreshing that God wants to pour out on us. (pp.223-224)

So, he says, we should ask the Holy Spirit to come on us and fill us.

In the course of his argument Adrian manages to make the same mistake that I pointed out here in a preacher at my own church. He writes:

… faith in God (which from Ephesians 2 we know is itself a work of the Spirit) … (p.215)

No, Adrian, Ephesians 2 does not teach this. That is clear from the Greek, but even your favourite ESV doesn’t actually say quite this. Read what I wrote. Now you may be able to get this teaching from elsewhere in the Bible, perhaps even from Galatians 5:6 which I have been discussing (see the long comment thread), but not from Ephesians 2. This of course illustrates the danger of offering authoritative written teaching without a proper theological education.

In chapter 17 Adrian points out that

We did not accept Jesus to selfishly enjoy all the benefits of salvation. We have a job to do. (p.227)

That job is “Our Mission from the Risen Jesus”. Part of this is described as “to be full of God”:

Many of us seem to show by our conversations that we are more excited about the latest iPhone than we are about Jesus. … As we become excited about Jesus and begin sharing him with others, we will receive still more joy and satisfaction from him. (pp.227-228)

While much of what Adrian writes about mission is standard evangelical material, he does bring in the resurrection:

When called to do so, we can undertake brave projects that are so large, we will need miraculous assistance to complete them. What shall we do that would be impossible if Jesus was not alive? … Because the tomb is empty and Jesus is on the throne, we will also be victorious irrespective of what is happening in today’s world. (p.229)

Adrian then starts to “explore the changes that Jesus’ resurrection can make to our local churches” (p.233): joy in our meetings; love seen by outsiders; works of mercy; and we will no longer be ashamed of the gospel. He closes the chapter with a reminder that it is the risen Jesus who sent us out, who “provides the power we need to equip us for service” (p.235), and has promised to be with us for ever.

Concluded in Part 8.

When it does matter how we say "Jesus"

A couple of days ago I asked, Does it matter how we pronounce Jesus’ or God’s name? My answer was a qualified “No”, and that

when speaking English, we would do best to stick with “Jesus”.

But I realised as soon as I had written this that there were good reasons for making exceptions to this rule, in English and in other languages which already have a well-known pronunciation of the name. And those exceptions are basically when that well-known pronunciation is somehow unacceptable or scandalous to the particular audience it is being used to address.

This is presumably a large part of the reason why Messianic Jews, when speaking English, tend to avoid the name “Jesus”, and use instead the Hebrew form “Yeshua” or some variant. People who have been brought up as Jews have been conditioned to have a negative reaction to the name “Jesus”, so often used by their persecutors. So it is not surprising, and very sensible, that believers in Jesus from this background prefer to use a different form of the name, which is less of a stumbling block for them, and for the unbelieving Jews they seek to witness to. I have no objection to this practice – as long as there is a recognition that they are believers in the same Jesus as all true Christians, just using a different name.

In practice Messianic Jews, and others influenced by them, tend to use Hebrew forms not only of the name of Jesus but also of other biblical characters. Thus Jacob in the Old Testament and James in the New both become “Ya’akov” or similar. There are several versions of the Bible in English which use Hebrew names in this way: Stern’s Complete Jewish Bible which I know slightly; the Hebrew Names Version of the World English Bible, which in  fact doesn’t use Hebrew names for Old Testament characters, only for a few New Testament ones including “Yeshua”; and others which I found mentioned at a Wikipedia page.

This principle which applies to Jews and Jewish background believers applies also to adherents and former adherents of other religions – and especially to Muslims and Muslim background believers, an issue mentioned on this blog in this recent comment, and in this post and this one from over a year ago.

Muslims have a high regard for Jesus Christ, considering him to be a prophet second only to Muhammad. But most of them know him under the name “Isa (al-)Masih”, an Arabic form clearly derived from the Hebrew and Greek for “Jesus the Messiah”. However, other forms of the name “Jesus” are known and used by Christian minorities in some Muslim majority countries, for example, Yasu among Christian Arabs, a similar form among Urdu-speaking Pakistani Christians, and the Russian Iisus in Central Asia. Also of course in other countries, in Europe, North America etc, Muslim minorities using the form “Isa” live among nominally Christian peoples using the local form of “Jesus”. These Christian forms of the name are not recognised or accepted by Muslims as referring to their Isa, but instead are understood as referring to one of the idols (i.e. statues or icons) which traditional Christians are understood to worship.

It is therefore for very good reasons that Muslim background Christian believers often prefer to use the Islamic form “Isa”, rather than the form of “Jesus” used by traditional Christians in their language. This is especially helpful for them in their conversations with Muslims – including in protecting them from persecution for becoming “idolaters”.

In several languages used in Muslim majority countries special editions of the Bible have been prepared, or are in progress, which are designed to be acceptable to Muslims. For example, The Eastern Russian Scriptures Translation, published in 2003, was

designed for Central Asians and other nationalities of the former Soviet Union who read best in Russian and belong to ethnic groups traditionally considered Islamic.

Among the distinctives of this translation was

the careful attention given to the … forms of the names of central figures.

Not surprisingly one of the many resulting changes is to use Isa rather than Iisus for Jesus.

I don’t know if there is a similar Bible in English designed for a Muslim audience. But I suspect that Christian witness to many of the millions of English-speaking Muslims around the world would be considerably enhanced if the name “Isa” were used instead of “Jesus”.

What kind of political animal are you?

I thank the Church Times blog for a link to SUSA, which is a new initiative “led by Bible Society with support from 24-7 Prayer” with the vision

To encourage and equip Christians in the UK to become more extensively and effectively engaged in politics and government.

On the SUSA front page you can take a light-hearted quiz “What kind of political animal are you?”, with questions which allow readers to

create your virtual cabinet and find out how your faith and politics match up!

I took the test, with questions which really made me think, for example about how far it is the government’s job to uphold moral standards. I ended up with a personal “cabinet” consisting of Tony Blair, Che Guevara and Bono! Presumably my views are supposed to line up with theirs. I also received a report complete with cute cartoons of my cabinet members, as well as with a personalised list of recommended resources – you may be able to see it here.

But, better than reading my report, take the test for yourself – and let me know in the comments who is in your cabinet.

Does it matter how we pronounce Jesus' or God's name?

A Facebook friend writes:

some people in our church have recently been insisting on pronouncing Jesus’ name in the Hebrew tongue, something like Yesu. They believe this is important …

He doesn’t agree, but he asks for my thoughts on the matter. What follows is an edited and expanded version of my Facebook reply to him. I have widened the issue to cover also pronunciation of God’s name, the Tetragrammaton.

I don’t see any biblical warrant for Christians worrying about exactly how to pronounce Jesus’ name or God’s name. When we are told to pray etc in God’s name or in Jesus’ name, that doesn’t mean that we have to pronounce the actual sounds of either name as a kind of magic spell. So while the pronunciations of the name vary from language to language (the Greek form of “Jesus” is very different from the Hebrew form), and the precise Hebrew pronunciation of the divine name (the tetragrammaton) is unknown, that really doesn’t matter.

What praying etc in God’s name or in Jesus’ name does mean is that we are claiming the authority that we have from God through Jesus. It is like when an ambassador or a government official does something in the name of the Queen or of their President. That is nothing to do with pronouncing the Queen’s or the President’s name. What it means is that the ambassador or official is acting under the authority vested in them by the Queen or President. Similarly we are ambassadors for Christ (2 Corinthians 5:20) and so we can act and make pronouncements “in his name”, meaning by the authority vested in us by him.

Note that this authority is held by all Christians, not only by pastors, teachers or even apostles. It is not authority over other people. But it is authority to declare the word of God and to make the appeal to others “be reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). Similarly when we pray in Jesus’ name we have this authority, and so when we ask for anything in his name and for his glory he will do it for us (John 14:13-14).

God will understand the intentions of our heart whatever name we call him. But what does matter is that what we say is understood by the humans we are speaking to. So while it is not a big deal to use “Yeshua” or something else instead of “Jesus”, it is likely to confuse the people we talk to, who even in the secularised western world have some idea of who Jesus is. So in our language, especially to outsiders and all the more when appealing to them “be reconciled to God”, we need to speak so that we will be understood. That probably means that, when speaking English, we would do best to stick with “Jesus”.

More details on Michael Reid losing unfair dismissal claim

More details have now emerged about how Bishop Michael Reid lost his claim for unfair dismissal at an employment tribunal, as I reported in brief on Monday. The new details are in an article just published online by the local newspaper the Brentwood Gazette. This is also the top article at the Gazette’s online front page, and is likely to be on the front page of tomorrow’s print edition.

The main new information in the Gazette article is what the tribunal chairman said:

Tribunal chairman Michael Haynes said as he threw out the claim: “His admitted adultery was entirely contrary to the ethos of the church.

“He was the leader of the respondents, a Bishop in their church and it is not unreasonable to expect such a person, and the figurehead of the organisation, to comply with the same high standards of conduct which he proposes for others.

“He has shown throughout the correspondence, and at the various hearings before us, no repentance for what he has done, which appears to be an entire contravention of what he purports to believe in.”

The chairman continued: “Such a breach of confidence by the most senior person is a most serious matter and a reasonable employer in those circumstances would consider that dismissal was an appropriate option.”

It is heartening to see this tribunal upholding the principle, under attack from the current UK government, that an employee of a church, at least one in a senior position, can be expected to conform to the “high standards of conduct” taught by that church.

The church’s lawyer said:

“My client took no pleasure in the situation but ended up having to take part in this litigation because Michael Reid refused to comply with a more conciliatory approach to dealing with these matters.”

Reid may now be regretting his refusal, because that “more conciliatory approach” included an offer of £500,000 in settlement of their claims, according to this 2008 article in the same newspaper. Now he and his wife will not see a penny of compensation.

It also seems that they will have to leave their luxury house, which is owned by the church and next to its main building. That will be a relief to the church, which will be able to get on with its own life without having Reid watching their every move from next door. The Reids could have bought a nice new home for the £500,000 they were offered, but now they will be homeless – although I doubt if they will be penniless.

At least they have not yet received “the wages of sin” (Romans 6:23). I wonder if they will ultimately show enough repentance and humility to accept “the free gift of God … eternal life”.

Positive discussions among evangelicals about women leaders

In recent weeks on this blog, and elsewhere, for example at the Ugley Vicar, the picture may have been given that evangelicals, and others, in the Church of England are at all-out war with one another over the prospect of women being accepted as bishops. It is of course regrettable when Christians fight among themselves in public – although for some of us the continuing marginalisation of women in the church is an even greater scandal.

So I was pleased this morning to find a report of some positive discussions on this issue (PDF) (also available here, as HTML). The meeting described here, held in January, was one of a series between representatives of Reform (including Carrie Sandom who I mentioned here before) and of AWESOME (Anglican Women Evangelicals: Supporting our Ordained Ministry), a network of ordained Anglican women. At the meeting there were also some high-powered theological advisers.

The report states:

Our focus was mainly but not exclusively on issues of biblical theology, exegesis and hermeneutics rather than current political issues relating to women bishops.

Nevertheless it is an important contribution towards the current debate as it seeks to ensure that this issue does not drive a wedge into evangelical unity within the C of E:

We believe it is important that evangelicals in the Church of England with different understandings of Scripture’s teaching and divergent views on women presbyters and bishops should treat each other as evangelicals and Anglicans. The experience of AWESOME and other bodies within evangelicalism shows that differences here need not prevent us working together in the cause of the gospel as brothers and sisters in Christ who are committed evangelicals and Anglicans.

In order to accomplish this we believe more sustained discussions must continue between evangelicals, especially on the practical and pastoral implications of our differences in the life of both the local and the national church. We need to be clearer as to the patterns of evangelical love towards those with whom we disagree and how our views can be held while recognising others as evangelicals seeking faithfully to obey Scripture.

Indeed. But this whole process is threatened by inflammatory actions and blog posts from Reform members – and perhaps by inflammatory reactions like mine from those on the other side!

I found the report through the website of the Church of England Evangelical Council. I see that they are holding elections for their council members, and that nominations close this week. I understand that at least one of the candidates seeking re-election is a prominent and somewhat strident opponent of women leadership in the church. This may be a chance to nominate candidates who take a more conciliatory line. As a member of the Chelmsford Diocesan Evangelical Association I am eligible to nominate or second a candidate – but I will not accept nomination myself.

Raised with Christ: Review part 6

Sorry for some delay to the continuation of this series. I have been busy blogging on other matters, both here and at Better Bibles Blog.

As I write part 6 of this review of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ, which I started herepart 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, I note Adrian’s report that the book has now been launched in the UK, although not all Christian bookshops yet have it in stock.

In chapter 11 of the book Adrian writes that in response to the resurrection we Christians should let ourselves be transformed to live holy lives, not to earn salvation but in response to it.

By gazing on the resurrected Jesus we will be transformed and will find that Jesus himself is at work within us, changing our appetites and desires. (p.148)

Our biggest problem is that we do not see Jesus as he is. (p.149)

Adrian argues that how we should see him is not still as the one suffering on the cross but as the resurrected one. He continues by looking at the two picture of the risen Christ in Revelation chapters 1 and 19. As we see him as he is, the appropriate reaction is “reverence, awe and wonder” (p.156), but not terror, because we belong to him.

In chapter 12 Adrian moves on from the individual to the corporate, and discusses revival, times when “the church seems to be resurrected from a state of near-deadness” (p.160). He writes that “Today we do not speak much about revival” (p.160). That may be true in his circles, but in some of the circles I move in there is never-ending talk about revivals – history of past ones, rumours of present ones, and hopes of future ones. So it is interesting to see Adrian’s take on this matter. For him

Revival is nothing more than a wide-scale outworking of Jesus’ resurrection power. … “a powerful intensification by Jesus of the Holy Spirit’s normal activity.” … the Spirit of revival is always available to us. Thus, when a revival comes, we should recognize it as a greater manifestation of normal Christianity. (p.161, quoting Stuart Piggin with Adrian’s emphasis)

If we experience personal revival and it begins to spread, then, history suggests, church growth will result. (p.162)

In other words, revival is not something exceptional which we should just long for, but is what should come about if we as Christians are individually revived and live in the light of that. Adrian illustrates his point from stories of revival in Acts and in church history. He also points out that

Today, from a global perspective, we are seeing the largest revival the world has ever seen. (p.166)

He remembers how as a teenager he was involved in a mini-revival which I was also on the edge of, and which I talked about in one of my first posts here. He avoids commenting on controversial recent “revivals” in North America, with effects around the world, such as the Toronto Blessing and the Lakeland outpouring. But he does agree with the expectation of many of those who talk about revival today:

There is biblical warrant to optimistically expect a global end time revival before Jesus returns. (p.167)

This leads Adrian into chapter 13, “Reviving Prayer”, which he calls “potentially the most important chapter in this whole book.” (p.169) He recognises how revival always follows special seasons of prayer – but Christians are expected to do God’s work as well as pray.

However, I was a little concerned at Adrian’s suggestion that some particular kind of prayer will produce revival, and that the prayers of Elijah, as commended in James 5:16-18, are the best model for that. Certainly there is a lot to be learned from what Adrian has to say about Elijah at prayer, but I’m not sure why he links this to revival. Also he fails to recognise that 1 Kings 17:1 is a record that Elijah “prayed fervently that it might not rain”, that this kind of declaration in God’s name is a part of prayer. Perhaps, applying to revival what I concluded here, if our prayers were a little less “Please, God, send revival, if it is your will” and a bit more “As the Lord lives there will be revival” (at least if we have heard from God that this is his intention), we might see a bit more of the revival.

In chapter 14, “God’s Reviving Word”, Adrian finishes the part of his book about revival with a look at how God speaks today, primarily through preaching and by speaking personally through his written word. Adrian’s emphasis on how God’s word is alive is a welcome contrast to the picture which sometimes comes out of the Reformed camp, of the Bible as a collection of lifeless propositional truths to be analysed and synthesised into a sound theology. Adrian illustrates his understanding with a selection of verses from Psalm 119. He concludes with:

We must learn to feast on God’s Word and to drink in his presence through prayer. If we want to be connected to the power made available to us through Jesus’ resurrection, God’s Word and prayer are the most effective tools we can use to access that power. (p.194)

Continued in part 7.

Effective prayer: James 5:16-17

The last part of James 5:16 has come to my attention recently from two different directions.

It was one of the passages I looked at  for my post at Better Bibles Blog about the meaning of energeo in Galatians 5:6 – this verb, in fact exactly the same form of it, is used in a similar way in both these verses (and I note for Mike Aubrey‘s benefit that both are in split noun phrases, the specifically Greek construction “hyperbaton”). Joel Hoffman also comments on this verse in his post on Galatians 5:6.

And then the same sentence came up again as I read chapter 13 of Adrian Warnock’s book Raised with Christ and prepared part 6 of my review of that book. Adrian quotes this part verse from ESV (p.172 of his book):

The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

The ESV offers a marginal reading:

The effective prayer of a righteous person has great power.

The TNIV rendering is

The prayer of a righteous person is powerful and effective.

So which of these, if any, is correct? If James’ usage of energeo is similar to that of Paul (and that is something which should not be assumed), then I can apply the conclusion I came to in my BBB post, and which is supported by J. Armitage Robinson, as linked to in a comment at BBB by Tony Pope. That conclusion is that the passive of energeo, as found here, implies a divine or superhuman agent and can be understood as something like “be set into operation”. The implication of this for James 5:16 is that the prayer he has in mind is set into operation by God, that he is the one who makes it effective.

It is hard to be sure, in the absence of any definite articles, whether the participle of energeo here is to be understood as attributive (“effective prayer”) or predicative (“prayer is effective”). But if James had intended a double predicate as in the TNIV rendering it seems odd to me that he would use an indicative verb and a participle in parallel in this way. So it seems more likely to me that the participle is attributive.

Thus I come down to preferring the ESV marginal reading, but with “effective” to be understood as “put into effect by God”. Prayer, even that of a righteous person, is not powerful simply because of the form of words, but only as God works through it and makes it effective. And since energeo in the New Testament is often linked with working of miracles, surely this verse implies that God intervenes supernaturally, miraculously, to put our prayers into effect.

James’ first example of this kind of prayer certainly had a miraculous effect:

Elijah … prayed earnestly that it would not rain, and it did not rain on the land for three and a half years.

James 5:17 (TNIV)

I note that “prayed earnestly” here is literally “prayed with prayer”, probably a Hebraic idiom of emphasis. As Adrian points out, there is no record in the Bible of Elijah saying any normal kind of prayer to this effect. What is recorded is these words of Elijah, addressed to Ahab:

“As the LORD, the God of Israel, lives, whom I serve, there will be neither dew nor rain in the next few years except at my word.”

1 Kings 17:1 (TNIV)

Surely this is what James had in mind as Elijah’s prayer, which was emphatic or earnest – and effective. That implies that this kind of declaration in God’s name is a form of prayer.

So perhaps our prayers would be more effective if they were a little less “Please, God, do such and such, if it is your will” and a bit more “As the Lord lives such and such will happen”. First, of course, we need to know from God’s word that “such and such” is in line with his general will, and then hear from God that it is his intention for our situation. But if as we pray, instead of making pious wishes, we listen to God to know what he wants to do and then declare that he will do that, then we too will find that God makes our prayers effective.

Mounce on requirements for church leaders, including "husband of one wife"

Bill Mounce has just posted an interesting item, in his regular Monday series at Koinonia, on the requirements for church leaders. listed in 1 Timothy and Titus. He gives primacy to “an overseer must be (δει) above reproach” in 1 Timothy 3:2. But he points out that if every aspect of the list of requirements which follows, and of the similar list in Titus 1:6-9, is taken as absolute, the requirements are in tension with one another and with other New Testament teaching. So he writes:

My conclusion is that the lists show us the type of person who can be in leadership. Some of the requirements would by definition apply to all people: above reproach, hospitable, skilled teacher, etc. But others would depend on the person’s life situation: if married, he would have (δει) to be a “one-woman” man; if he has a family, he would have (δει) to manage his family well.

And to extend the same argument, if male and married, he would have to be a “one-woman” man. That is to say, it would be wrong to read this passage as an argument that overseers or elders must be male. This is the same conclusion as I came to, for similar but not identical reasons, in my series from several years ago The Scholarly and Fundamentalist Approaches to the Bible. It is good to see my conclusions supported by the complementarian (I think) scholar Bill Mounce.

So, if this argument is conceded, on what other biblical grounds do some Christians not allow women to be elders/presbyters/priests or overseers/bishops?

Michael Reid loses unfair dismissal claim

The Daily Express reports that


This is of course a reference to Bishop Michael Reid, formerly of Peniel Church in Brentwood, near my home town of Chelmsford. See this post of mine for background, and this more recent one for an update.

For the moment the story seems to be only in the Express, but it confirms the latest update at this site. The Express is perhaps not the most reliable of newspapers, but I assume that at least the basic facts of its report are accurate. But there is tantalisingly little information in the article. These are the only parts which will be new to my readers here: Reid

has lost his claim for unfair dismissal after admitting to an affair with his choir mistress. …

Tribunal chairman Michael Haynes described the bishop as “forceful” and “abrasive” as he refused the claim saying his behaviour was utterly contrary to his church’s teachings.

I look forward to more details, including confirmation of the report that

reid has lost his employment tribunal claim ‘on all points’.

I will keep you, my readers, posted on this matter.