by Darrel Cline (darrelcline biblical-thinking.org)
Chapter # 9 Paragraph # 1 Study # 9 September 9, 2008 Lincolnton, N.C.
(432)Thesis:Possessing "the service" meant having a legitimate "form" for "pleasing God".
Introduction:As we have inched our way along Paul's litany of privileges that had been extended to Israel, we have seen that he focused both upon the eventual "future" and upon the foundations that were to give that "future" substance. The future issues were the "adoption" and the "glory". The foundational issues are the "covenants", the "giving of the Law", the "service", and the "promises".
We have given a cursory look at the covenants and the giving of the Law. Tonight we will look for a brief time at what Paul calls "the service". It is a huge subject, but it can be wrestled down into a couple of basic issues. Those issues surface by looking at the use of the verb form (serving) and the lesser used noun form of Paul's subject: "the service".
I. The General/Central Issue in "Serving".
A. Jesus' use of the word in John 16:2 implies that men attach "pleasing God" to their "service".
1. Paul's use of the same word in Romans 12:1 has the same underlying implication.
2. The issue of "pleasing God" is no small issue if we take Hebrews 11:6 seriously.
B. In his letter to Titus, Paul highlighted the extreme wickedness of substituting men for God in this issue of "trying to please".
C. Acts 7:42 becomes a very illuminating text when we understand "service".
1. Acts 24:14 directly tells us that "service" has two elements beyond the basic issue of "seeking to please".
a. One of those elements is what a person "believes".
b. The second of those elements is what Paul called "the way"; a phrase that demands prescribedactions.
2. In that light, Acts 7:42 becomes highly informative.
a. There is no indication anywhere that men have a "prescribed form" for gaining the approval of the "host of heaven", yet the rebels of Israel turned in that direction.
b. In the turn, being bereft of any foundation for hope that they knew what it would take to please the "host of heaven", they simply took what Yahweh had said would please Him and assumed that the same "forms" would please the other gods.
c. This is extraordinarily blameworthy (and bringing it up got Stephen killed) because only Yahweh had spoken with any semblance of a background for belief.
D. Summary: the concept of "serving/service" has one underlying central issue: pleasing someone.
II. The Basic Issue of "the Service" (as Paul phrased it in Romans 9:4).
A. Assuming the central issue of pleasing God, "the service" had to contain the means to that end.
B. But, since pleasing God, by anyone's measure, has to be more than simple outward conformity, "the service" had to have had both the outward actions as well as what Paul addressed in Acts 24:14: "belief".
1. The outward actions were highly detailed in the Law.
2. The inner issue of faith was a different breed of cat.
a. Behind every prescribed outward action lie two questions.
1) Why would God require this? [What is it in the essential nature of God that requires this?]
2) What is it about this overt action that makes "faith" possible?
b. The answers to the questions are not "easy".
1) There are two "essential nature" realities that are overwhelming in the actions God has taken, but the remainder require some words of explanation (Romans1:20).
2) Since actions are really metaphors of the heart, and since metaphors are notoriously difficult for precision of understanding, the actions God required in "the service" required more than simple "performance" for faith to dawn.
a) Ronald Nash, in his TheWordofGodandtheMindofMan, puts forth a theory about how human beings learn that includes a three-part reality.
i. There is a basic "outline" built in.
ii. There is a basic "logic unto recognition" built in.
iii. There is a necessity for exposure with questioning that allows the data to become available and be subject to the question, "How does this fit?".
b) It is the issue of the questioning that becomes the major "problem" for grasping the meaning of the metaphor.
i. The constant repetition of the overt action keeps the individual in close touch with the bits and pieces.
ii. The question of whether this will lead to true "service" (i.e., action that pleases God) is only resolved if the person involved in the repetition is open to being taught by the questioning process.
C. Paul's Point.
1. Possessing "the service" meant being constantly exposed to the heart and mind of God by activity-metaphors.
2. Possessing "the service" meant being given a huge privilege with absolutely amazing possibilities.
3. That Israel had consistently missed the point over her entire life as a nation was the apostles' condemnation (note how Stephen pressed the historical failure upon his audience in Acts 7) and the cause of Paul's continual grief of heart.