Gallery & Co. and the Uselessness of OT Sacrifices

After a quick lunch in Singapore’s CBD with tired lawyers and their heavy eyebags, full of chat that was tear-inducingly hilarious, I walked over the Singapore River to Gallery & Co. (facebook. City Hall Wing, National Gallery Singapore, 1 St. Andrew’s Road, Singapore 178957) to work on Hebrews 10:1-18.

Along one side of cafe/cafeteria are French doors that let in the afternoon light (and some heat). Aside from the occasional blast of hot air from the outside, a good place to work.

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeHebrews 10:1-18 is an absolutely fascinating end to the section on the superiority of Jesus as better high priest, ministering in a better tabernacle, having brought about a better redemption, mediator of a new and better covenant.

The passage totally rams it home that it’s not just that Jesus and what he does is greatly superior, but that frankly, the Old Testament stuff just never worked.

A friend’s Jewish (not Talmudic) law professor recently argued strongly in lectures that the way forward in Jewish-Christian relations would be for Christians to acknowledge that the Jews were saved by the Law, while the Gentiles were saved by Jesus. But he fails to realise that the Law was never the solution in and of itself – it was always pointing to the real and final solution in Christ.

The sacrifices made daily and yearly weren’t just limited in atonement, they did nothing at all (how could they?). It is impossible that the mere blood of bulls and goats should be able to take away sin. And if they could not take away sin, then not only were the worshippers not cleansed from their sins, their consciences were still impure, and the regular sacrifices merely reminded them of their miserable position (Hebrews 10:1-4). So the Law actually begs the question: what is the reality to which sacrifices are merely a shadow (and not in a Platonic way)?

mugging Hebrews 10:1-18 with a Sarnie's flat white coffee at Gallery & Co, National Gallery of SingaporeThis is all I had to show for 2 hours of work. 😦

Further, sacrifices are just second best, and a far far second. What God really wants is obedience, not sacrifice. And no human, pre-Jesus had been perfectly obedient, hence the need for sacrifice. When Jesus appeared (in accordance with (in fulfilment of, as a type of David in) Psalm 40:6-8a),  he was perfectly obedient, and by his sacrifice, he did away with the need for any more sacrifice (Hebrews 10:5-14).

Even better, there is total forgiveness of sins, so no more sacrifice is needed! And in typical typological trajectory, Psalm 40:8b (“your law is within my heart”) has been fulfilled in us believers, as promised in Jeremiah 31:33, by the gift of the Holy Spirit since Pentecost (Hebrews 10:16). So, as never before, we are now able to obey. And we look forward to the Day when we will do so completely.

Absolutely awesome possum.

…………………….

Gallery & Co. cafe
beans: Sarnies
coffee: a pity this was overextracted – somewhat bitter and astringent
milk: foam a little too thick
price: $6 (but mine was on the house)
air-conditioning: yes but balmy
free wifi: yes
power sockets: scattered

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Dal.Komm Coffee, Sidney Greidanus’ “Preaching Christ from the Old Testament”

Dal.Komm Coffee, Centrepoint, Orchard Road, Singapore

After: Ephesians with med students; post-: loads of catch-up chats with parachurch workers, there was a bit of a breather to sit down for a mug of K3 cafe latte at Dal.Komm Coffee (a Korean joint, apparently famous for being in a famous Korean sitcom) and to binge-read Sidney Greidanus’ Preaching Christ from the Old Testament.

D.A. Carson demonstrated that there is little scope for clearly delineating objects/themes of continuity and discontinuity in the Old and New Testaments.

Perhaps, then, Greidanus’ theories, undergirded by biblical evidence (some more convincing than others), might be the way forward.

Dangers

  • danger of Christomonism – replacing God with Christ; “the impression that faith in Christ had replaced faith in God or that faith in Christ had been added to faith in God as though an increase in the number of items in one’s faith meant an increase in salvific effect”. Rather, “Christ is not to be separated from God but was sent by God, accomplished the work of God, and sought the glory of God.” “Today some would use the divinity of Christ as a way of preaching him from the Old Testament. Some speak of “Christophanies”…like the Angel of Yahweh, the Commander of the Lord’s army, and the Wisdom of God are…identified with Christ…but this…short-circuits the task of preaching Christ as the fullness of God’s self-revelation in his incarnate Son…when the New Testament authors speak of Christ as God, their intent is not to suggest that Christ can be identified with a number of figures in the Old Testament, but to witness to the divinity of Jesus.”
  • danger of “preaching the Old Testament in a God-centered way without relating it to God’s ultimate revelation of himself in Jesus Christ“. We need to realise that we “cannot understand God unless we understand who Jesus was and is.”
  • danger of focusing on Jewish methods of interpretation. The New Testament writers interpreted the Old Testament in unique ways that were different from rabbinic practices. They were conscious of interpreting the OT “(1) from a Christocentric perspective, (2) in conformity with a Christian tradition, and (3) along Christological lines.”
  • danger of using the NT as a textbook on biblical hermeneutics. “Simply to copy their methods of interpretation in preaching on specific Old Testament passages is to go beyond their intent.”

However, he follows the advice of Longenecker who opines that:

  • where NT exegesis is based on a revelatory stance, where it evidences itself to be merely cultural, or where it shows itself to be circumstantial or ad hominem in nature, do not reproduce such exegesis
  • where NT exegesis treats the OT in a more literal fashion, with historico-grammatical exegesis, then we can reproduce such exegesis

Sidney Greidanus' As I was saying to MK (via the magic of the internet, while taking a break from Greidanus), an old friend in Sydney: we’d all grown up with the constant refrain of Spurgeon crashing through hedge and ditch to get to Christ, and of teachers chanting that “Christ is the prism” and “Jesus is the lens” through which we must interpret the OT, etc etc. but hardly anyone ever explained in detail what that looked like, or what principles ought attend such an outing.

Everyone would of course express shock at anything that smelled of a “character study”, yet we were hard-pressed to explain the difference between that and apparently-ok application questions in OT studies asking:”So how can we be/not be like David?”

According to Greidanus, the overall map to Christ should look like this:

  • first, understand the passage in its original historical context: (i) literary – what genre of literature is this? How does it mean what it means? (ii) historical – what was the author’s intended meaning for his original hearers? (iii) theocentric – what does this passage reveal about God and his will?
  • next, understand the message in the contexts of canon and redemptive history as sensus plenior – (i) canonical interpretation – what does this passage mean (not just in the context of the book, but) in the context of the whole Bible? (ii) how does the redemptive-historical context from creation to new creation inform the contemporary significance of this text? It will reveal continuity as well as discontinuity (as noted above). (iii) consider the Christocentric interpretation – what does this  passage mean in light of Jesus Christ? What does the passage reveal about Jesus Christ?

Sound Blending, Dal.Komm Coffee, Centrepoint, Orchard Road, SingaporeAnd Greidanus suggests that the specific legit routes to Christ would be:

  • redemptive-historical progression – the context of the Bible’s metanarrative or Story is the “bedrock for preaching Christ from the Old Testament”. Every OT text and its addresses are seen “in the context of God’s dynamic history which progresses steadily and reaches its climax in the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus Christ and ultimately in the new creation.” OT narratives can be understood at 3 levels: (i) personal history, (ii) national history, (iii) redemptive history.Eg. the story of David and Goliath. (i) personal history – David with only a sling and a stone killing giant Goliath. Ooooh, courageous boy, commentators coo. But that’s not the point. (ii) biblical author actually goes to great lengths to show that this is an important part of Israel’s national/royal history. David, God’s anointed king, delivers Israel and secures its safety in the promised land. (iii) the essence though is not just Israel’s king defeating the enemy but the Lord himself defeating the enemy of his people (1 Samuel 17:45-47). This leads straight to Jesus’ victory over Satan.
  • promise-fulfilment – this is embedded in redemptive history. (i) take into account that God usually fills up his promises progressively – in installments, (ii) in interpreting the text, move from the promise of the OT to the fulfilment in Christ and back again to the OT text “in order not to miss the full impact of the prophetic message as a basis for the hope in the promise of God”.
  • typology – this is quite different from allegorical interpretation. Typology “functions within redemptive history because God acts in redemptive history in regular patterns. The New Testament writers are able, therefore, to discern analogies between God’s present acts in Christ and his redemptive acts in the Old Testament…Typology is…characterised by analogy and escalation…but also by theocentricity, that is, both type and antitype should reveal a meaningful connection with God’s acts in redemptive history”. Types are “persons, institutions, and events of the Old Testament which are regarded as divinely established models or prerepresentations of corresponding realities in the New Testament salvation history”. To guard against the danger of eisegesis, genuine type can be identified by: (i) literary-historical interpretation first, (ii) looking for type not in the details but in the central message of the text concerning God’s activity to redeem his people, (iii) determining the symbolic meaning of the person, institution, or event in Old Testament times. If it has no symbolic meaning in the OT times, it cannot be a type, (iv) noting points of contrast between the OT type and the NT antitype. “The difference is as important as the resemblance, for the difference reveals not only the imperfect nature of OT types but also the escalation entailed in the unfolding of redemptive history”, (v) in moving from the OT symbol/type to Christ, carry forward the meaning of the symbol even as its meaning escalates…do not switch to a different sense. Eg. God providing manna in the desert symbolising God’s miraculous provision in keeping his people alive, should not be linked to “daily bread” but Jesus as “the bread of God” (John 6:33), (vi) not simply drawing a typological line to Christ but preaching Christ.
  • analogy – this is more general than promise-fulfilment and typology. The “pivotal position of Christ in redemptive history enables preachers to use analogy to direct the Old Testament message to the New Testament church. For through Christ, Israel and the church have become the same kind of people of God: recipients of the same covenant of grace, sharing the same faith, living in the same hope, seeking to demonstrate the same love.”  Look for: (i) analogy between what God is and does for Israel and what God in Christ is and does for the church, (ii) similarity between what God teaches his people Israel and what Christ teaches his church, (iii) parallels between God’s demands in the Old Testament and Christ’s demands in the New Testament.
  • longitudinal themes – tracing themes from the Old Testament to the New. Ask: (i) what truth about God and his saving work is disclosed in this passage? (ii) how is this particular truth carried forward in the history of revelation? (iii) how does it find fulfilment in Christ?
  • NT references
  • contrast

……………………

Dal.Komm Coffee
The Centrepoint, 176 Orchard Road
#01-01/02, #01-03/04,#01-05/06, #01-102/103
Singapore 238843

Review of regular K3 cafe latte:
coffee: good chocolate and cherry bod
milk: pity the foam was so thick you needed a spoon to tunnel through to the drink
air-conditioning: yes, and quite fierce in some parts of the cafe
free wifi: yes
power sockets: yes at tables along the walls

Other specialty coffee cafes near Orchard Road to sit and do work in

Candour Coffee and a Failed Attempt at Ephesians Overview

Candour Coffee, Beach Road, SingaporeCame across Candour Coffee (facebook, 41 Beach Road) while on my way to Arab Street. Eyeballed the place: Synesso, Market Lane coffee on the menu…why not?

flat white, Market Lane beans, Candour Coffee, Beach Road, SingaporeSadly, any distinctive taste of the Market Lane espresso was overridden by the weird milk. The microfoam looked about right – good enough to hold some latte art. But instead of that velvet cream, it was sour (dairy sour, not coffee bean acid sour) and thin. Overheated or reheated milk, perhaps.

Wasn’t faring any better with my work on Ephesians. Is the big idea of Paul’s letter:

  • about the biggest mystery in the world that has now been revealed?
  • that the mystery is about God’s will and plan for the world – to unite all things under Christ (and therefore unity in Christ and unity in the body of Christ)?
  • about the hope and inheritance that believers have in Christ?
  • about the fullness in God?
  • about God’s power as present reality?
  • love pops up alot too – God’s love for us in predestining believers for salvation, our love that enables us to comprehend the love of Christ, love that builds up the body, etc.

Needs more work (and a lot of revelation)!

Morning Swim and the Work Ethic of 2 Thessalonians 3

competitive pool, OCBC Arena, Singapore Sports HubNothing like a good swim to attempt to clear the mind, even if laps at OCBC Aquatic Centre at the Singapore Sports Hub aren’t quite as heartily bracing as a dip in the pool on a blustery day in Portishead, Bristol.

The Singapore Church is coming to the end of 2 Thessalonians at the moment. Last night, we read the passage below:

Now we command you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that you keep away from any brother who is walking in idleness and not in accord with the tradition that you received from us. For you yourselves know how you ought to imitate us, because we were not idle when we were with you, nor did we eat anyone’s bread without paying for it, but with toil and labour we worked night and day, that we might not be a burden to any of you. It was not because we do not have that right, but to give you in ourselves an example to imitate. 10 For even when we were with you, we would give you this command: If anyone is not willing to work, let him not eat. 11 For we hear that some among you walk in idleness, not busy at work, but busybodies. 12 Now such persons we command and encourage in the Lord Jesus Christ to do their work quietly and to earn their own living. (2 Thessalonians 3:6-11)

A bible study leader opined that this demonstrated Paul’s single-minded devotion to the gospel, with the application to us today that we too should follow his example. Paul does set such an admirable example in, say, Philippians.

D.A. Carson thinks that this is an example of the benefactor-benefactee relationship that was rife in those days, with the contemporary application being that we should not be of-the-world, but should be distinct from it.

But Paul’s instruction, nay, command, in 2 Thessalonians seemed quite a bit more pointed than that – work and not be sponge off others; be busy at work and not be idle busybodies.

If read together with the preceding chapters, it could be that some Thessalonians were so affected by the prevalent erroneous over-realised eschatology that they’d given up all attempts at “normal” life. But as BL pointed out, as we were discussing this over a picnic, there’s nothing in the letter to suggest that this might not be a completely separate point.

Ah well, parking it here for now.

flat white coffee at Symmetry Cafe, 9 Jalan Kubor, SingaporeThis flat white at Symmetry Cafe (9 Jalan Kubor, Singapore) was all creamy chocolate and hazelnut in the cup. Not sure which roaster they got the coffee beans from but the Etcetera is a blend of Guatemala Antigua, some Columbian, and some Panama. Excellent service as well, with one waitress coming round to top up the complimentary tap-water, even as I sat there trying to figure out 2 Thessalonians for several hours!

Killiney Curry Chicken, the Shadow of Joseph Schooling, and Hebrews 1:1-4

Peter O'Brien's Commentary on Hebrews, prata, curry chicken at Killiney Kopitiam, SingaporeI’d just settled down to a late breakfast of lemak curry chicken and crispy prata at Killiney Kopitiam, when the honking and shouting began.

Joseph Schooling's victory parade bus passing Killiney, SingaporeJoseph Schooling’s victory parade bus was just trundling past the Singtel building at Killiney, and the waiting drivers were saluting him with their horns, as people along the road waved flags and hailed him.

A small swell of pride – ah, our first Olympic gold medallist!

Unfortunately, it was difficult to be well and truly star-struck when working on Hebrews 1:1-4:

Long ago, at many times and in many ways, God spoke to our fathers by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son,

whom he appointed the heir of all things,

through whom also he created the world.

He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high,

having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs. (Hebrews 1:1-4, ESVUK)

Somewhat fresh from a summer of working on an overview of Psalms (oh how a tiny swing on the Hermeneutical Spiral gives hope to fallen brains!), these four familiar verses totally blew my mind (again)!

flat white at The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Jesus – God’s full and final revelation.

Like most Christians, I’d readily assent to this without stopping to consider the biblical evidence for this and on the strength of that, the necessity of my acting on such belief.

Revelation

(Am fairly persuaded that there is a chiasm in Hebrews 1:1-4*, so that the passage is topped and tailed by methods of divine revelation in the past – the prophets (ie. most if not all of God’s revelation in the Old Testament) and the angels (the belief was that Moses got his official copy from angels – Acts 7:38-39, Galatians 3:19).

*friends will know that I’m well skeptical of “sandwiches”, especially when in the company of those adamant that they are as thick on biblical ground as Rattata in Pokemon Go.)

Our God isn’t one made up by deists – who creates the universe, then goes to the pub and leaves it to run itself in a closed system. The God of the Bible is fully engaged with his creation since he made the world, and has taken the initiative to reveal himself to humankind (mostly through one people, the Israelites) – he did this

at many times and in many ways…by the prophets…

In each archaeological layer of human history, as recorded in the Bible, God has spoken about himself and what he is doing in the world, in varied and fragmented ways. This revelation was progressive (but was not a progression “from the less true to the more true, from the less worthy to the more worthy, or from the less mature to the more mature” (F.F. Bruce, The Epistle to the Hebrews)).

The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore

Final Revelation

but in these last days he has spoken to us by his Son, whom he appointed the heir of all things,

Jesus, however, was/is God’s final revelation. There has been/will be no more new revelation from God.

This is because Jesus came to bring human history to a close, to bring this world to an end. It didn’t happen all at once, as might be obvious. But the eschatological last days began when Jesus was born as a human, and they will end when he finally and fully comes into his inheritance of the whole universe.

This is the utterly universally victorious divine king Psalm 2 has been looking forward to!

I will tell of the decree:
The Lord said to me, “You are my Son;
    today I have begotten you.
Ask of me, and I will make the nations your heritage,
    and the ends of the earth your possession.

And it was Jesus’ death on the cross that led him into this inheritance:

After making purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, having become as much superior to angels as the name he has inherited is more excellent than theirs.

Jesus’ offering of the sacrifice of his own life on the cross cleansed us from our sins. That high priestly act was forever effective (unlike the Jewish priests who have to keep offering sacrifices), so Jesus sat down.

He didn’t just sit anywhere, by on the right hand of God the King – showing that God approved and honoured him. The king that Psalm 110 had also been looking forward to – who will execute judgement on all the world (Psalm 110:1,5).

There is no further revelation to be had – God has said what he was going to do in the world, the Old Testament has been looking forward to the coming of Jesus, and now in 2016 Jesus has come and gone. And he has left word that he will definitely come again, to judge all the nations in relation to whether they’d acknowledged him as king; to wrap up human history. These are the last days.

Hand brew bar. The Coffee Academics, Scotts Square, Singapore
Full Revelation

 He is the radiance of the glory of God and the exact imprint of his nature, and he upholds the universe by the word of his power.

 In case any one was still thinking that Jesus being God’s official, approved, totally final wasn’t enough…the writer of Hebrews positively hyperventilates that Jesus wasn’t/isn’t just some model servant – he was/is exactly as divine as God. There was/is no one superior to him. He created the entire universe. And notice that the “laws” of physics/chemistry/biology seem to keep working? Oh, that’s because Jesus is maintaining the universe.

Therefore, says Hebrews 2:1, as if it wasn’t already, like, duh!

we must pay much closer attention to what we have heard, lest we drift away from it.

Yet, how skeptics assume that only the brain-washed to think that way!

And how Christians assume that it is by strict practices (Quiet Time, accountability groups, regular church attendance, etc) under their own steam that they manage not to fall away! Hardly, in and of themselves. It is only by meditating on the revelation of Christ that we are hard-put to leave him for any (necessarily lesser) thing.

…….

(flat white from The Coffee Academics, Scott Square, Singapore – a well-balanced classic cup.)

Compound Coffee, The Interlace, Depot Road, Singapore

Compound Coffee (facebook. 180 Depot Road, #01-08, The Interlace) is impossible to patronise unless you’re an insider – that is, if you are a resident of The Interlace.

Compound Coffee, The Interlace, Depot Road, Singapore Compound Coffee, The Interlace, Depot Road, Singapore

Walking into the compact space, you were alerted at once that the coffee here was the main star. A roaster in a corner, a Slayer espresso machine flanked by two Mahlkonig EK43 (probs?) grinders, and a Marco Uber boiler in another corner showed they really meant business.

Compound Coffee, The Interlace, Depot Road, SingaporeAnd exclusively single origin espressos? Well then!

Neiver Samboni‘s Columbian was in the hopper that day. Beautifully done in milk (flat white = S$7 (£3.50)), it was honey in a cup. Clean. Short finish (probably due to fully washed beans?). We wondered if another shot or a higher espresso:milk ratio would have pushed this to perfection.

Compound Coffee, The Interlace, Depot Road, Singapore

Would love to return, and hopefully, at these prices, on the company tab again!

The Plain Jane Cafe and the Word in Psalm 119

I love coffee.

When I used to sell the stuff, I’d passionately defend the Ethiopians against all aunties who wrinkled their noses and puckered their lips and complained,”Aiyoh, why so sour?”

“Auntie, not bad sour – is a citrus taste. Like lemon!”

“Oh yah hor. Hmm. Actually, not bad lah. Let me try again.”

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeBecause I love coffee, I want more people to have access to the good stuff; to enjoy the richness and breadth and depth of the coffee world. So I was pleased to hear that The Plain Jane (Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, Singapore. facebook) had opened at the properly heartland Serangoon Avenue 4.

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeIt had some of the accoutrements of a hipster cafe of course – this decorative table with bits of nostalgia, and bunting overhead,

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, Singapore
and a bevy of hanging naked lightbulbs. The rest of the cafe was wood laminate and whitewash, with a display case full of Swiss rolls in tantalising flavours.

We chose the Thai milk tea version. Deliciously full-flavoured.

The coffee was made from Gentlemen’s Coffee Company‘s Handlebar Espresso blend. The lady at the espresso machine was quite apologetic about not knowing what a flat white was, saying that she was still learning. Not a problem, I said. Practice makes perfect. Also, I’d be happy to return and marvel at any improvement in her barista skills.
Thai milk tea swiss roll. The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeAnother thing I love is the gospel, and similarly, I want people from all walks of life to get access to good Bible-teaching so that they can taste how absolutely wondering and refreshing and life-giving God’s word is.

The problem is that, locally there hasn’t been that much improvement in that regard for the last decade or so. There’s been a lot of noise about the advent of proper Bible teaching, and certainly there is the intentional push towards it – but in a sense, that’s always been what Christians have been on about since Singapore’s independence 50 years ago: the large number of Bible colleges, the immense number from every denomination attending Bible Study Fellowship, overwhelming number of campus ministries (Navigators, Campus Crusade, Varsity Christian Fellowship etc), Precept Ministries with their OIA (observation, interpretation, application), the Baptist churches getting inspiration from Reformed Americans (and John Piper’s arcing method) etc etc.

And different churches import faithful speakers – the Sydney/FOCUS/Unichurch camp get Phillip Jensen, Paul Barker, and Joshua Ng; the UK/St. Helen’s Bishopsgate/Cornhill gang get their usual fare; the Baptist churches, their modern-day Puritans…

The Plain Jane Cafe, Blk 211 Serangoon Avenue 4, SingaporeSomeone was just lamenting today how these foreign speakers’ schedules are so highly regulated by their sponsors that groups with little money or clout are unable to get access to them. Further, the public talks are sometimes more dear than fence-sitters would pay (about S$40 – S$60. in purchasing power parity terms, £40-£60).

I didn’t really think this was much of a problem. What, after all, is the aim of breathing the same air as these faithful speakers? We certainly aren’t the celebrity-chasers that Kevin DeYoung claims the Americans are. And arguably, the ultimate goal isn’t learning to handle the Word correctly.

What does the Psalmist say in Psalm 119? Erm, ok, we haven’t gotten quite far in yet but just from the first few alphabetic acrostic chunks, knowing God’s commandments and statutes enable us to seek God and not sin against him, to keep our way blameless so that we will not be put to shame.

How can we do so? Not by imported preachers however charismatic and faithful; not by insufferable goody-two-shoes-ness. Rather, it is God who must open our eyes so that we can understand the wondrous things in his law. We are all literate, but it is God who must import the meaning of his commandments into our fallen-yet-somewhat-renewed minds.

Therefore, let us pray more earnestly that it is his good pleasure to do so. (Also, be thankful for the blessing of the internets!)