everyday theology: trust in Galatians 3

et_galatians 3

‘everyday theology’ posts are bite-sized ideas to chew on from scripture, from other works of theology, and from life. feel free to share wherever you hang out on the internet!

Paul’s contrast of the Spirit and flesh in Galatians is strong (and not without some dramatic language!) He uses the Greek word “pistis” (meaning: trust) in this context in chapter 3—challenging the Galatians on the issue of whether they would put their trust in the message of the gospel that they first believed (as Abraham did), or whether they would put their trust in the “works of the flesh” (likely, circumcision as an outward sign.)

To be “sons of Abraham” (3:6-9) means that our righteousness before God comes by way of our trusting in God. It is by faith (belief and trust working together) that we are made right before God and are able to live by the power of the Holy Spirit. Faith is the living out of belief, as we see exemplified in Abraham’s life. He trusted God.

This word, trust, is key to my own experience in the Spirit. I came to knowledge and faith as a child (about 8) and grew in the measure of what I understood for many years. However, in my 20’s, I faced some serious trials that I was not mature enough to withstand, which broke my trust of the Lord for a season. Even though I had info/knowledge of Jesus, and of the Christian life, I was not walking in belief. In fact, I actually had a dis-trust of God during that time.

After a major trauma, the Lord used this low point to bring me back to Himself in a way that was both confrontational (specifically in that issue of belief) and so sweet (in His pursuit of me.) I turned to Him at 27 and have been growing in faith (and trust!) ever since.

There are key moments that I remember the Spirit being so real to me, especially moments when I was at a crossroad or point of decision. Each of those times, it was as if the Spirit was inviting me into something…a new/deeper kind of life. This looked like a simple trusting of the gospel message as a child. As a teenager it was a choice to follow in the “narrow way” (that looked different from my peers.) Later, as an adult, the invitation was more of a challenge–like the Spirit was asking me, do you believe? do you really trust me?

Wuest translates Paul’s message to the Galatians this way:

“Having begun by means of the Spirit, now are you being brought to spiritual maturity by the flesh? So many things did you suffer in vain…? Therefore, the One who is constantly supplying the Spirit to you in bountiful measure, and constantly working miracles among you, by means of law/works is He doing these things, or by means of the message which proclaims faith? …Those who are [the] believing ones are being blessed in company with believing Abraham.” (3:1-5, 9)

In my free will, sometimes I choose my own way, which always leads to pain, frustration, and brokenness (within myself and with others.) But when I am able to choose His way, by grace, the fruit that comes is always life, peace, and whole-ness. My trust of the Lord deepens every time that I turn to Him and trust that He is who the scriptures say that He is: the Good Shepherd, the light of the world, the righteous King, and the true source of eternal Life.


Exploring the Gospel of John: Part 1

gospel of john_ part 1

Doesn’t this time of year just make you want to learn something new?

It’s officially autumn (or, fawl, as we Southerners say) and for anyone enrolled in school–that means new classes! There’s a chill in the air so it’s finally appropriate to dig out that old college sweatshirt and wear it with your favorite pair of perfectly-broken-in jeans. While we’re at it, go ahead and fill up your travel mug with some fresh coffee and let’s hit the books, okay? If you’re hungry to learn, grab your Bible, a notebook, and something to write with and let’s get started.

If we want to learn about Jesus, a good place to start is in one of the four gospels…and John is my favorite. The gospel of John is the unique book of the four biblical gospels, standing out in a myriad of ways. John’s author is anonymous, it’s style unmatched, and the receiving audience is wildly broad. While the book has stood the test of time, it wasn’t without conflict. But before we analyze the many differences of John’s gospel, it is worthwhile to begin with the similarities between John and the synoptics (the other three gospels–Matthew, Mark, and Luke.)

A Bit of History

Fundamentally, all four books are historical accounts of the birth, life, death, and resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth, told in a narrative form of ancient biography. In his book “The Gospel and Letters of John,” Alan Culpepper highlights the many similarities between the books, as follows:

  • stating the “significance of John the Baptist;”
  • describing the overall ministry of Jesus to his disciples, the crowds, and his response to the religious authorities;
  • by giving an account of Jesus’ demonstration in the Temple, his entry into Jerusalem, his last meal with the disciples, and his crucifixion;
  • and finally, how all four testify of the “the discovery of the empty tomb.”

Because of the consistency of each book’s account of Jesus, and of the unprecedented form of literature genre that is the “gospel,” it is reasonable to accept John among the synoptics (even taking into account it’s differences.)

Where there might be discussion about John’s particular style, we can turn now to examine the author’s exceptional approach and agree that there are also notable differences from the synoptic gospels. Here Culpepper categorizes the five main themes that distinguishes John: the journeys of Jesus, the chronology of the narrative, the signs (or miraculous works) of Jesus, his teachings, and the author’s overall Christology. As an example, the journeys of Jesus are structured around the Jewish festivals in Jerusalem in the book of John, lending a specific significance to the time of Jesus’ death by suggesting that he was/is the personified Passover lamb. Similarly, the gospel of John is distinct in the way that Jesus is portrayed as the Revealer, the one sent from heaven to reveal the truth of God.

It is not clear to the reader if the author of John had previous knowledge of the other three gospels. There isn’t conclusive evidence either way, but many held to the belief that the author had some acquaintance with the testimonies and chose to approach this account from a more “spiritual,” or theological, perspective. [1] Craig Koester, author of “The Word of Life: A Theology of John’s Gospel,” asserts however, that

“a more plausible alternative is that John is largely independent of the other gospels…may have been acquainted with one or more of the other written gospels…[but] he did not feel constrained to tell the story in the same way.”

It is clear that the account was written post-resurrection, as the reader has evidence for in 2:22, when the author gives an aside about the disciple’s understanding coming only later, after Jesus “was raised from the dead.”

Koester continues by agreeing that all four gospels “works with traditions about Jesus’ life, death, and resurrection, and each of them reshapes the tradition theologically.” In this way, we can clearly see that each gospel has its own particular bent of the author’s style of writing and each follows the same basic themes. We can be confident then, as readers, that we are hearing the story of the same Jesus, from four unique points of view.

A Unique Gospel, Indeed

The impact of John’s gospel can hardly be overstated. Had John’s gospel not made its way into the canon, we would be poorer in our understanding of the role of the Holy Spirit in co-mission with Christ. John’s emphasis on pneumatology (the study or doctrine of the Holy Spirit) is another special element of the book; the gospel introduces the theme as early as chapter 3, in the account of Jesus and Nicodemus.

John is adamant in showing Jesus as on mission from the Father, empowered by the Spirit, for the sake of all people.

The presence of the Spirit in John as an active person of the Trinity was monumental in shaping centuries of theology to come…had the author downplayed or dismissed this element, our orthodox doctrine of the Trinitarian (Father, Son, AND Spirit) love of God for humanity could be virtually non-existent.

If you are curious to follow along, go ahead and read John 3:1-21, in both the Amplified translation and another widely accepted version (like ESV or HCSB.) Reading two versions like this will give you a better sense of the ideas being communicated.

While you are reading, make notes of the imagery that Jesus uses–what kind of adjectives does he use? What verbs? What can we gather about the context of Jesus and Nicodemus’ encounter? Jot down anything that stands out to you as strange, interesting, or confusing.

While you are reading, ask the Holy Spirit to teach you. We will continue with John next week!

[1] Clement of Alexandria (d. ca. 215) held this opinion, calling John the “spiritual gospel.”

SHARED: “No Happy Harmony” by Elizabeth C. Corey


“Both the ethical imperatives I’ve described—“must work” and “must stay at home”—reflect noble desires, the one for talents fully used and the other for the vocation of motherhood. But I worry that both are too often promoted ideologically, prescribed as answers to the anxieties young women naturally feel about what they should do. This problem is especially pressing for those high-achieving college students I have been describing, who cannot imagine doing anything—be it career or motherhood—halfheartedly.” via No Happy Harmony by Elizabeth C. Corey

As you might already know, the topic of motherhood and vocation has been on my mind and heart lately and Dr. Corey’s insight in this article from First Things exposes the root of tension that I feel almost daily.

It’s about a 20 minute read (well, if you’re a slow reader like me) but well worth it…grab a cup of something warm and dive in.

Grieving the Flood

grieving the flood

The year of the Nashville flood was the hardest year of my adult life. The news reported of the unrelenting brown waters rising higher and higher through the streets of the city that I loved, the city that had been an extended home for most of my 20’s. I was transfixed by the devastation on a small tv screen, watching helpless from two states away, alone in a row house in Treme. All of my friends were there and some of my family. I was not there. My heart was there, but it was also here, slowly shattering into tiny fragments as a marriage I once belonged to and believed in fell apart.

[Read more over at The Mudroom Blog]

Too Late?

illustration Michelle Rial _Too Late

This illustration by Michelle Rial made me smile because, as I’ve hinted at recently, I deal with this fear a lot.

I’m staring down my email inbox on a Monday morning, organizing my class workload for the week, and wondering if it’s too early to make myself a second espresso (it’s 9:30am, I think not.) This isn’t what I thought my mid-thirties would look like. Being back in freaking college? All the lol’s.

Continue reading “Too Late?”

Style Me September (One Week In)

style me sept

As if you didn’t already know this, but September is traditionally fashion month. (Because I know “fashion month” is at the top of your priority list…) New York Fashion Week always happens in September and the “September issue” of Vogue is always the thickest and glossiest issue of all. It’s also back-to-school month, which stirs up nostalgia for picking out that first day of school look. Do you remember what you wore to the first day of seventh grade? I do. A black a-line skirt dotted with tiny colorful flowers paired with a black, short sleeved mock-neck sweater from The Limited (and probably low cut sneakers.) I would 100% wear that outfit today.

This September, I’ve decided to route some of my creative energy to my wardrobe. My goals are to 1.) figure out what pieces I don’t wear (or hesitate to wear) and 2.) get more creative with the pieces that I do wear. Here I’m sharing the custom method that I’m crafting as I go along (feel free to implement one or all of these suggestions to your closet!)

Continue reading “Style Me September (One Week In)”

Thoughts on the French/Ahmari debate (or, why the struggle for conservatism will endure)

Did y’all watch the David French vs. Sohrab Ahmari debate last Thursday? I finally got around to watching the replay (above) over the weekend and boy howdy was it fun.*

(*Fun is a relative term. Do you find political/religious pundits trying not to punch each other in front of a tense crowd, fun? If so, you’ll love this!)

Continue reading “Thoughts on the French/Ahmari debate (or, why the struggle for conservatism will endure)”

SHARED: How To Write by Elizabeth Gilbert — via swissmiss

1) Tell your story TO someone. Pick one person you love or admire or want to connect with, and write the whole thing directly to them —like you’re writing a letter. 327 more words

I caught this on Elizabeth Gilbert’s Instagram account last week and loved it so much that I stashed it in my “Saved” tab. So glad to catch it here via swissmiss and be able to share it with y’all.  For the full post: How To Write by Elizabeth Gilbert — swissmiss