Friday, August 15, 2014

Don Carson on Christ's gifts to the church

DAC's final conference address was on Eph 4:1-16. His theme was 'Captured by Christ: A Life Worthy of the Calling we Received'. 

Walking worthy of our calling involves 'keeping the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace' (Eph 4:1-3). Paul's appeal is grounded in three theological reasons:

1. Christian unity (Eph 4:4-6)
2. Christian diversity (Eph 4:7-12)
3. Christian maturity (Eph 4:13-16)

Under the second heading Carson considered Paul's use of Psalm 68:18 in Eph 4:8. The Psalm says 'you have received gifts from among men', while in the apostle's citation it reads, 'gave gifts to men'. Carson justified Paul's use of the Psalm by referring to the background to David's statement in Numbers, where the Levites are given to the Lord, who in turn gives them to the priests (Numbers 8:15-16, 19, 18:6). In one sense the believer has been taken captive by Christ, who 'receives us from among men'. In another sense, as with the Levites, Christ gives those who are his to the church for the building up of his body. Christ takes us to give us. We are captive to him and freely poured out by him to bring the church to maturity. Understanding that will help us keep the 'unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace'. 

This message brought Carson's series on 'The Church of God & the Clash with the Culture' to a fitting conclusion as the preacher challenged us to find freedom in serving the church as slaves of Christ. Counter-culturally we are not to approach the church as consumers, for what we can get out of it, but as servants for what we can give so that others are built up in Christ. I was reminded of John Donne's Holy Sonnet 14, 

Batter my heart, three-personed God, for you
As yet but knock, breathe, shine, and seek to mend;
That I may rise, and stand, o’erthrow me, and bend
Your force to break, blow, burn, and make me new.
I, like an usurped town, to another due,
Labour to admit you, but Oh, to no end.
Reason, your viceroy in me, me should defend,
But is captived, and proves weak or untrue.
Yet dearly I love you, and would be loved fain,
But am betrothed unto your enemy:
Divorce me, untie or break that knot again,
Take me to you, imprison me, for I,
Except you enthrall me, never shall be free,
Nor ever chaste, except you ravish me.
(John Donne, 1572-1631)

See the conference videos here

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