Cultural / Historical Background: SBL assumed that the book uses a future orientation to challenge the situation of the original readers. Osborn (2002: 1) thinks there are two important attributes associated with the book of Revelation: a. they are predominantly futuristic in perspective, and (b) it is a disjunctive fallacy to take an either-or stance regarding different views and interpretation on a given text. Revelation speaks of certain stability in the situation of the churches but it also indicates a fair amount of persecution. It should be noted that there are both prophecy and apocalyptic in the letter. Prophecy tends to be oracular and apocalyptic visionary. Both center on salvation for the faithful and judgment for the unfaithful.
Contextual Background: Chapter 19 is an illustration of final victory, which is the end of the evil empire at the parousia (19:6-21). It’s the second part of the section of Final judgment at the arrival of the eschaton (17:1-20:15). There are four topics in the section of final judgment: A. Destruction of Babylon the Great (17:1-19:5); B. Final victory (19:6-21); C. The thousand-year reign of Christ and final destruction of Satan (20:1-10); and D. Great white throne judgment (20:11-15). The chorus is indicating the view of believer who is joyful for the returning of Christ. In the selected text, we see the parousia from the view of unbeliever (Osborn, 692).
Cultural / Historical Background: The book of Hebrews is a balanced combination of doctrinal exposition and paraenesis. The audience and author of the book are unknown, but according to the content of the book, traditionally many scholars think it’s written primarily for jewish-Christian audience. The letter was written as an attempt to prevent a relapse into or a failure to move completely out of Judaism (Attridge, 10). However there are other factors involved in this letter, including persecution, the delay of Parousia, and the general fatigue, doubt and lassitude that naturally developed in a community grown too accustomed to its initial commitment.
Contextual Background: the text of 12:1-11 is part of a big chunk starting from 10:26 and finishing at 12:13. It’s the 4th main point of the letter as an exhortation to faithful endurance. It’s the rhetorical climax of the epistle, also contains the author’s last major teaching, and his final general appeal to the readers to avoid apostasy. 10:26-28 is the Paraenetic prelude, 11:1-40 is an encomium on faith, then 12:1-13 is a homily on faithful endurance. The concluding exhortation of the whole book starts from 12:14. The major focus of the text is the virtue mentioned at the end of chapter 10 – the endurance. Particularly toward the conclusion of chapter 11, the endurance here is linked to the endurance of persecution.
Structure: The text has three major sections. The first section is vv. 1-3, talking about Jesus the inaugurator and perfecter of faith and endurance. Then vv 4-6 is a citiation of the Scripture, followed by an expository application of vv. 7-11. I would rather segment it into three metaphors: metaphor of race (vv.1-2), metaphor of wrestling (vv.3-4), and metaphor of discipline (vv.5-11).
Cultural / Historical Background: In Galatians Paul confronts “another gospel.” Those objecting to Paul and his gospel worked to undermine his message of salvation in Jesus Christ by demanding that converts to Messianic Jesus must also become practical Jews. It means that they urge Christians to maintain the ritual expression of the Jewish faith consisting of the “works of the law.” The book of Galatians is Paul’s answer to this threat. Here Paul challenges those who want to “be under the law” (4:21) to consider carefully what the law actually says. It seems that the believers have not fully “bought in” the Judaizers’ idea but tend to accept their opinions.
Contextual Background: The proposition of Paul is stated in 2:15-21, then there are supportive discussions from 3:1 to 4:11, mainly focused on two topics: (1) True Righteousness not “through law” (3:1-18); (2) True faith is not “under law” (3:19-4:7). Afterwards Paul stated his Apostolic Appeal in two aspects: (1) Against Legalism (4:12-5:12) and (2) Against Libertinism (5:13-6:10). The text of 4:21-31 is one of the three appeals against legalism. The other two appeals are (1) Appeals from Paul’s experience (4:12-20) and (2) Appeal to Steadfast Freedom (5:1-12). This section is a logical solicitation to the Galatians to recognize the futility of following after the Judaizers.
Before chapter 5, most of Peter’s teaching is on the problem of suffering. Starting from 3:13, he mainly discusses the topic of suffering due to righteous living. There are two major sources that he relies on to interpret the suffering in his reader’s present life. The first source is Christ (3:13-4:6), and the second source is the Eschatology (4:7-19). The link between eschatology and Christian ethics reaches the peak in the exhortation of 4:17. Since the Eschatology states that the judgment will start within the house of God, which is the church. Then in what follows the writer redirects the teaching to those who oversight the church because they are responsible for the spiritual developments of the church. He also talks to those who are younger in the community and then all members of the community in 5:1-11. Structurally speaking, this text serves as the conclusion of the whole book. He recapitulates by bringing together each of his perspectives on suffering that surfaced earlier in the letter.
This section also reveals the type of shepherd-leadership in the early church. In Peter’s teaching, the leaders are responsible for overseeing the church in a godly way, and the flock is asked to submit to the godly leadership. Since this teaching of the church structure follows the eschatology of judgment starting from God’s church, it is naturally to think that Peter is teaching that God’s judgment is not solely on the individual Christian’s ethics, but also on how God’s house is managed.
Grudem suggests that the letter was written before AD64 when the wide persecution under Nero had not begun yet. From the text it is indicated that the original readers were probably doubting about God’s work and were facing the temptation to step back on their faith, thus the major theme of the letter is to encourage them to “Stand firm in it” (5:12). Peter also expresses his compassion for the readers of the letter and encourages them to think about eternal things, instead of focusing on temporal trials. On the problem of theodicy, he explains that God is still sovereign while His people are in temporal suffering, and God is still carrying on His plan (1:5-9).
The text being studied in this paper is 3:13-17. The major theme of this section is regarding the problem of being persecuted or accused by unbelievers because of the Christian faith. Though it’s the major problem that Peter is trying to solve in the letter, it is the first time that he focuses a section of the text on this topic. The center of 2:13-3:12 is to glorify God by doing good, which is to show respectfulness and obedience in all human relationships. Then Peter quotes Psalm 34 in 3:10-12 as basis for Christian ethics to further support that God’s will is for His people to do good, and God is against even Christians who do evil. It is natural that the readers might start to wonder why God does not protect His people who are doing good, or whether the unjust suffering is from God because we are not good enough. Peter starts to deal with the unjust suffering immediately after applying the quotation to the current situation of his readers.
Colossae was located in the Roman province of Asia, currently in the territory of Turkey, in the Lycus River valley. It’s about 120 miles east to Ephesus, close to Laodicea and Hierapolis. The three cities formed a kind of triangle. It appears that in Paul’s day Colossae is much smaller than its nearby cities like Laodicea and Hierapolis. However, according to geographical research, it was “well positioned on a major trade route and well known for the purple hue of its wool”.
Bible does not tell us how the gospel was preached to the city of Colossae. However 1:4-7 indicates that Paul learned from others about the situation of church in Colossae. Moreover, since in 2:1 Paul mentioned the believers in Laodicea and other believers “who have not met me face to face”, it is widely believed that “the establishing of the church in Colossae is influenced by Paul’s ministry among Ephesians, when ‘all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord’ (Acts 19:10)”. According to 1:7, a coworker named Epaphras was responsible for overseeing and ministering the church. And when Paul was writing the letter, he was in prison (4:3, 18) and he had never got the opportunity to see the congregation face-to-face.
In spring of 1949, right before the communist army went across the Yangtze River to attack the constitutional government of Republic of China, a group of Christians gathered in their normal prayer meeting in Shanghai, led by famous minister Watchman Nee and his disciple Witness Lee. The topic of that night’s prayer meeting is about the upcoming threat from the northern communist army and the stability of the country. “Lord, please leverage the Yangtze River as the Great Wall. Stop the communists from attacking the south. If they go across the river, O Lord, drown them just like you drowned Pharaoh’s army for Israel.” Not only had those Christians in Local Church prayed this prayer but also majority of Christians in southern China prayed like this.
However, the outcome was not optimistic. The communists went across Yangtze River in April 1949 and the constitutional government was defeated and withdrew to Taiwan. All foreign missionaries were driven out of the country, and majority of the ministers who refused to join the state-controlled church were put into prison. Watchman Nee was judged, condemned, and sentenced in 1956 to fifteen years’ imprisonment. He died in confinement in his cell on May 30, 1972.
I still remember one afternoon in my college life. The American brother who I respected was having a serious conversation with me in his dorm with an open Bible in his hand. He quoted several verses from the Bible, mainly Exodus 20:15, and tenderly but firmly stated that using pirated software is equivalent to stealing and must be corrected. I was listening with a smile, but not willing to take the application he suggested: stop using all pirated software and purchase licenses for Windows, Office, Visual Studio and all commercial software that I need to use as an undergraduate student majoring in Computer Science. My mind continuously told me one thing while I was listening: “He is a rich American. This is the American mindset as to copyright. Moreover, there was no copyright law in the ancient Middle Eastern world. ”
a. Challenges for the preachers: “What’s in it for them?”
Before joining seminary, I was a professional trainer for Microsoft. The training for trainers provided by my company always emphasizes “WIIFM”, which means “What’s In It For Me.” And the company asks every trainer to have this in mind while preparing training. Church ministers call it “application” in their sermons. It is a vital part of the sermon. In a modern fast-paced urban setting, everyone who comes to church and sits there for two hours wants to get something when they leave. We as the preachers also want them to have something to take away; not only the truth but the ways to apply the truth in their lives. Thus when preparing a sermon, I always remind myself “WIIFT” – What’s In It For Them?