Exegetical Theology: Easter Triumph, Easter Joy: Exploring the Joy in 1 Peter 1:3-9
The CW Second Lesson for Easter 2 (1 Peter 1:3-9) offers a rare take on a believer’s joy in Jesus. Peter is on a mission to remove any harmful shards of fear from his reader’s hearts in the midst of their trials and suffering, by anchoring the powerhouse main verb ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, not once, but twice in this text (verse 6 and again in verse 8).
To take it all in, back up a moment. Within the subunit of verses 3-5, notice the switch in person. Peter had been praising God from the inclusive “we” perspective: “…τοῦ κυρίου ἡμῶν Ἰησοῦ Χριστοῦ…” and later in verse 3: “…ἀναγεννήσας ἡμᾶς…” Later, in verse 4, the switch is made as Peter draws attention to the inheritance secured in heaven “…εἰς ὑμᾶς…” and this switch is emphasized by the relative clause that follows, spelling out exactly what Peter wants them all to remember about themselves (verse 5). With this switch in person, Peter has deliberately changed his posture in his letter from one that stood side-by-side in collective praise of God (“we”) to one that counsels his brothers and sisters in Christ heart-to-heart (“you”).
Back to the two appearances of the imperative ἀγαλλιᾶσθε. Peter shifted from future tense hope to present tense realities. Note how a preposition and relative pronoun introduces each of these imperatives (ἐν ᾧ ἀγαλλιᾶσθε, and εἰς ὃν… ἀγαλλιᾶσθε. This reveals to us the mini-structure of verses 6-9. Verses 6-7 explain our ongoing, persistent joy even in the midst of suffering as we know God’s purposes for us. Therefore, having overcome that emotional and mental stumbling block, verses 8-9 underscore the full present reality of a believer’s love (ἀγαπᾶτε), confidence (πιστεύοντες) and joy even among those who cannot see our dear Lord. Yes, to walk by faith and not by sight is no second-rate way to live in the least! Just wait, there’s more.
This Easter joy in Jesus reaches its peak at the close of verse 8 and through 9. When Peter writes, “ἀγαλλιᾶσθε χαρᾷ” he is using a cognate dative, a type of dative of manner. The adjective χαρᾷ is not a cognate in form but is a cognate in meaning. Blass suggests the use of a cognate dative “intensifies the verb in so far as it indicates that the action is to be understood as taking place in the fullest sense. (Gr. of N.T. Gk., p. 119; emphasis mine).
In addition, Peter further describes this real joy we have as ἀνεκλαλήτῳ καὶ δεδοξασμένῃ, “inexpressible [a hapax] and filled with glory,” a possible hendiadys, saying one thing with two words. Try it yourself. Can you put your joy into words…what it means to you to be “receiving the goal of your faith, the salvation of your soul”?
Peter had seen Jesus by sight. These troubled Christians had not, yet Peter wants to emphasize that their joy need not suffer in the least because of it. Enjoy communicating these unique expressions that give such a rare take on Easter joy.
Rev. Daniel Bondow serves at Living Savior in Littleton, CO.
Systematic Theology: The Christian and Politics – Part One: Putting Church Back into the State
In an election year, we expect some uncertainty. Current events have only magnified the importance of wisdom among our leaders—these men and women who will write and enforce policy to handle emergencies, keep the peace in society, and wage war when necessary. What is a Christian’s place in politics? We are used to the separation of church and state, and that idea has its place. However, I’d suggest that as we aim to share the full counsel of God in an election year, the first goal is to put church back into our dealings with the state.
Let me explain. Wise biblical teachers may often speak of the two kingdoms: church and state, civil righteousness and divine righteousness, the realm of reason and the realm of the gospel—all of these are useful distinctions. We take great pains to describe how the means and the goals of each are not the same, nor should they intermingle, lest either institution go beyond its scope and miss its divinely assigned purpose. More on that in a future installment.
Permit me to suggest, however, that we must be careful in how we present the relationship between—or the separation of—church and state. The temptation for those who are passionate about politics is to enter the fray and set aside the greater principles as we engage. Sharp disagreement (even for good moral reasons) might seem to call for personal attacks against candidates or fellow voters whom we oppose. Distrust for elected officials might be used to excuse slander, disrespect, and ridicule. Corruption might seem to call for rebellion and lawlessness in extreme cases. This is where our preaching and teaching ought to cut and guide with specific law even as the gospel heals, comforts, and motivates us to love God and our neighbor, with a special emphasis on good citizenship.
We dare not set aside either our faith or its fruits as we step into the realm of the state; instead, we model our discipleship to Christ and love for our fellow citizens as we enter the political arena. Our eternal standing as children of God gives us the greatest reason to be salt and light in a world of darkness.
For biblical encouragement, see Romans 13, 1 Peter 2, and especially 1 Timothy 2, where we are reminded that praying for our leaders can have a direct impact on our opportunities for preaching the gospel.
See also Wade Johnston’s book Let the Bird Fly (1517 Publishing, 2019), especially chapters 6 and 7.
Rev. Eric Schroeder serves as pastor at St. John’s in Wauwatosa, WI.
Historical Theology: How Do We Pastor Through a Pandemic? Part 1: Martin Luther’s Wisdom
COVID-19 is not the first pandemic to infect our nation or world, nor is it the first time pastors have had to work in the midst of one. A quick glance through history reveals all sorts of plagues and pandemics with devastating effects. However, most of us have never experienced a pandemic, its effects, and long-term ramifications. This is new territory for many of us. In addition, pastoring our people through the pandemic becomes a challenge, too.
We are used to home visits, in-person worship, community outreach, and generally lots of people time. Much of that has been suspended with the stay-at-home orders. How should we respond to all that is happening around us? How do we treat and interact with our neighbors? What help should we be to the sick? How should we react to the orders from federal and state leaders? Let’s take a look back in history, particularly our Lutheran forefathers and see how they approached these situations. What wisdom did Martin Luther have?
In 1527, there was an outbreak of bubonic plague in Wittenberg. Duke John shut down the university and ordered professors and students to Jena. Luther stayed in Wittenberg, continuing his work as pastor there. After many requests for a response to the situation as well as criticism that he stayed to help the sick, Luther wrote an open letter entitled “How Should a Christian Act During a Deadly Pandemic?” You can read the letter in its entirety at this link.
What Luther says is still just as valuable today and if you haven’t read the letter yet, I’d encourage you to do that. For our purposes, a few highlights from the letter.
- We are in a unique position as we know God is in control and uses all things for his own purposes. Pandemics are another opportunity for the gospel to be shared in word and deed.
- We know eternal life awaits us through Jesus. This world and its diseases are temporary.
- We desire to serve our neighbor because in our neighbor we see Jesus. (Matt. 25:46)
- A pandemic is another opportunity to repent and seek God’s grace in Christ, personally.
- We will seek to honor the sanctity of life, both our own and especially the lives of those around us. We’ll want to do what is best for both. Take all the precautions that are necessary and also know if God wants to call you home, he will.
Much could be said about this whole subject, but the encouragement is to read Luther’s letter, notice his great use of Scripture for all his wisdom, and the way walks the “narrow Lutheran middle.” I pray this letter can be of help as you pastor your family and congregation through this pandemic.
Rev. Jeremy Belter serves as mission pastor at Shepherd of the Valley in Arvada, CO.
Practical Theology: The New Homiletic
The New Homiletic gained momentum as a decisive trend in homiletical theory in the late twentieth century and remains a significant factor in homiletical research today. For those trained heavily in deductive forms of a theme and two/three subpoints or running expositional commentary on the text, New Homiletical forms free a preacher from these classic molds and promises to enrich preaching with alternate inductive models. For all its potential benefits to diversify preaching, the New Homiletic comes with its fair share of caveats that are rooted to the historical period in which it arose.
The New Homiletic stemmed out of American mainline preaching in denominations in which the battle for biblical inerrancy had long since past. In a time period when American church attendance was plummeting, mainline preachers began to search for new ways to proclaim the Word of God in a tumultuous time when people were suspicious of authoritarian claims. As such, many of the New Homileticians ironically have a high view of the literary genres of Scripture yet a low view of inspiration. This is largely because the New Homiletic flows out of the New Hermeneutic, an existential approach to biblical interpretation that seeks to recreate the word event of Scripture in the preaching event today. In 2007 Wesley Allen, Jr. brought the New Homileticians together for the Renewed Homiletic Conference and notes three common characteristics of the New Homiletic:
- a turn to the hearer
- a shift from deductive to inductive sermonic structure
- imagery that is the message instead of an illustration of the message
Although the turn to the hearers appears like it is simply advocating for the application of the text, the New Homiletic’s existential hermeneutics argue that the hearers contribute to the meaning of the text. Thus, when preachers committed to the authority of the text study the New Homiletic, they must sift the existential hermeneutics out from the many worthwhile lessons that can be made for inductive sermonic structures. Since I highlighted Thomas Long in my series of posts last year, in my next two posts I will highlight arguably the two most famous New Homileticians, Fred Craddock and Eugene Lowry, and how we can use their insights into inductive preaching today.
- Look out for my forthcoming WLQ article on the New Homiletic.
For those new to the New Homiletic, the place to start would be Fred Craddock’s seminal book As One Without Authority, which began the movement, or Eugene Lowry’s The Homiletical Plot: The Sermon as Narrative Art Form.
 O. Wesley Allen, “Introduction: The Pillars of the New Homiletic,” in The Renewed Homiletic, ed. O. Wesley Allen and David Buttrick (Minneapolis: Fortress Press, 2010), 7-9.
Rev. Jacob Haag is pastor at Redeemer Lutheran Church in Ann Arbor, MI, and a member of the Michigan District Commission on Worship.