‘In Christ” – Outline for Summer Bible Study

Ever had one of those moments when you see something old like it is new; something familiar like it is the first time. As I was opening up the blog to type this post, I accidentally went to the homepage instead of to the log-in page. When I did, I read the by-line for this blog for the ‘first time.’ Sure I see the blog regularly and know that I must read the by-line most of the time, but just now when I read it I realized something – this study of ‘in Christ’ has been brewing in me for a long time. The by-line for this blog was a sub-conscious, as far as I can tell, joining of two phrases that each represent a different part of my life. Let me explain:

First, ‘in Christ’ was a regular part of my childhood church going. It was not necessarily from an academic perspective, although I must admit I don’t remember much more than what I am about to share. My pastor growing up had a favorite line that he repeated often. When I say often, I mean it was enough that even clueless teens, like my friends and I, knew it by heart. In fact, we would guess (“bet” for the non-baptists) every week how many times he might say it and at what point during the sermon he would first say it. The game became so serious we would take the time each week to look in the bulletin for the text he would be preaching from and then before the service read the text searching for the key words or something similar to help as we made our guesses. The phrase we were searching for – ‘in Christ’ because Brother Joe would inevitably say you know the most important word in the Bible is the little two letter word ‘in’ when it comes before ‘Christ.’ I don’t remember all the different ways he applied this slogan, but I now realize from about 7th grade through my graduation from high school I read the Bible paying special attention to this phrase. Even if it wasn’t with the best of intentions.

The second half of the by-line is ‘everything is undone.’ At Duke Divinity School, Douglas Campbell was an integral part of my academic development. One of the things he beat into my head was undoing or getting things undone. It was his way of reminding me that things had to be taken apart before they could be put together – usually he was critiquing one of my arguments, but that is for another day. But even more than that, it was his influence that led me to understand the apocalyptic nature of Paul. That in Christ all the wrong is being undone and through Christ God is acting to set the world right. That God’s apocalyptic act in Jesus Christ’s death and resurrection changed everything. The old defeated. The new inaugurated. The present altered. Nothing will ever be the same again, or in other words ‘In Christ Everything is Undone.’

As I have studied this phrase the last couple of weeks, I have realized how much I believe this statement – ‘In Christ Everything is Undone.’ And not just that I believe it because in the big picture what does that really matter, but Paul believed it. His use of ‘In Christ,’ along with other key phrases such as, through Christ, into Christ, and with Christ, is about everything changing. In Christ the world is being undone not so it can be destroyed but so it can reconciled to God.

This summer I have the privilege of marrying my summer research project with the Bible study I teach at Houston’s First Baptist Church. And for the next seven weeks we are going to study how ‘In Christ Everything is Undone.’ The first class is tonight at 6:30 and this is the outline of the study.

To Live is Christ

Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come. -2 Cor 5:17

1. God’s Activity (2 Cor 5:19)

    • Death and Life – 2 Tim 1:8-10
    • Unity – 1 Cor 8:6

2. Christ as the Cause, Means (1 Cor 1:30)

    • Death and Life – Rom 3:21-26
    • Unity – Eph 2:11-22

3. Being Joined with Christ (Gal 3:27)

    • Death and Life – Rom 6:1-11
    • Unity – 1 Cor 10:16-17

4. Conclusion

    • To Live is Christ – Phi 2:19-30

Summer Blogging

Know what they say about good intentions…but I do have a plan for the blog this summer that has me excited.

1. This week and next finish the series on metaphor. There are two posts left – blending and mapping. I hoped to post these weeks ago, but good intentions…

2. In June and July, a series of post examining Paul’s “in Christ” language. Each week will consist of two posts (…good intentions…):

A. For my thesis (US dissertation), my summer research project is to come to terms with what I think about this language. If you are involved in Pauline studies you are probably aware how much of a wormhole this topic can become. Thus, I have decided to place firm parameters on the amount of time I will devote to specifically studying this phrase – June and July. One post each week will deal with this phrase from an academic perspective.

B. I also decided to use this phrase as the theme for the summer Bible study I teach at Houston’s First Baptist Church. For seven weeks in June and July, we will be discussing this phrase from a pastoral/devotional perspective. I am firm believer that all scholarship should be done for the church and in the church. I am blessed to teach a class that agrees – they are willing to struggle with the hard questions with me, to spend some weeks sinking with no promise of rescue, and to rejoice over insights born out of cooperation. One post each week will present material uncovered during this time together.

Finally, I take the month of August off from my studies. My annual review falls every July so August is the best month to unplug completely. It is likely the blog will fall silent during August also.

Calling: The Move from Praying For to Praying With

Tonight in our Bible study at Houston’s First we are going to turn our attention to calling. Calling is perhaps one of the most misunderstood parts of the Christian life. For many, calling is only something that pastors or missionaries get. For others, a calling is always something extra-ordinary…calling only happens when it is something earth shattering and crowd gathering. And for most, calling is something mysterious, hidden from us by God so that we have to hunt to find it.

Yet, while calling may be any of those things it is often none of them. A simple way to explain calling is the move from praying for to praying with. As Christians, we are commanded to be in prayer and most of us have a long list of things we are praying for. Our church asks us to pray for a new ministry opportunity. A mission organization asks us to pray for the people they are reaching. The news reports a tragedy and we pray for those involved. A neighbor, co-worker,or whoever expresses a struggle or need in their life. The list could go on but I hope we get the point…we should be in prayer for all these things. We should have a list somewhere, by the bed, in your journal, on your phone, or in your Bible where we write all these things down and we should consistently pray for them.

But there will come a moment when praying for will not be enough. The Holy Spirit will lead you to do something,

-to be involved with a new ministry opportunity,

-involved with reaching a certain people,

-involved with responding to a tragedy,

-involved with meeting a need.

These are moments of calling. Calling is basically when we are moved by God to get involved. And we fulfill our calling in those moments when we move from praying for to praying with…when we move from asking God to provide for them and allow ourselves to be used as God’s provision.

The Right Hand of God…Bringing Glory

The blog has been slow the past week, but I have a good excuse…no really, I do.

Last week my right hand had an unfortunate encounter with the car door. I’ll spare you the details and pictures (if you are one of those disappointed right now, you need help!), but today is the first day that typing anything longer than a simple email is even on the radar.

Though the blog was inactive last week, our study of Hebrews was not. We discussed how as the  ‘one-for-all’ sacrifice Jesus Christ brings salvation – what we called the ‘it is finished’ portion of Hebrews. Christ’s death, his sacrifice, his blood put away sin completely, perfecting those who are children (10:14,18). Our guilt has been put away for forever and we can live in full assurance that was is finished cannot be unfinished.

This weeks study moves from the ‘one-for-all’ sacrifice to Jesus being present at the right of God. Hebrews is sometimes accused of lacking a clear view of the resurrection. While it does heavily focus on the sacrifice (the cross), one of the ways Hebrews employs resurrection language is the phrase – the right hand of God (Hebrews 1:3; 1:13; 8:1; 10:12; 12:2  – just a note it is said different ways but all pointing to same reality).

The phrase is popular in the OT, especially Psalms, and draws to mind many different images. Hebrews will use these images, but its ultimate point is  to leave us in awe of Christ. The question is:

Is the presence of this Jesus,

the living king who reigns in power,

intercedes in tenderness,

and is enthroned in majesty,

a reality in your life?

Not theoretically, as in yes I believe that, but reality, as in I walk in that, this reality shapes my existence.

 1. Expected – We all have those things we see coming (retirement, graduation, marriage, children, empty nest, etc.), they are out there and in many cases we even know when they will get here. And even though we can anticipate and plan for them we are still scared, unsure, “Can I do this?”

2. Unexpected – When life hands us a surprise , the things we can’t see coming and most often should be thankful we don’t. It can be negative loss of a job, loss of a loved one, severe illness or injury…but it can also be an unexpected blessing – financial, miracle (in our case our third child is our unexpected blessing!).

3. Ultimate – We will all die, do you trust God will be there at death? Do you trust God to be there as you grow old, to prepare the way for you to meet him face-to-face? Or do you cling to every new promise of the fountain of youth?

To believe Christ is at the right hand of God ruling, interceding, and enthroned reminds us he is in charge. Reminds us that wherever we are going, whether it is expected, unexpected, or ultimate, he is already there…preparing our way to glory. One of the greatest quests of our spiritual life is to see God this way and to stand in awe of him. To believe that our God is bringing his children home, bringing us to glory (2:10).

It all reminds me of the words of the familiar hymn – whatever my lot, thou hast taught me to say – It is well with my soul!