Getting the Emphasis (W)right

I was listening to D.A. Carson lecture on the New Perspective of Paul. I found this following statement in the middle of the lecture to a major criticism of the New Perspective, but also for much of our own bible readings if we are not careful. Since he spoke it and I tried to write it the quote is meant to catch the spirit of his statement, not every word.

“[The issue of justification in Galatians is ] Not just a nationalistic issue. It is a fundamental issue of how you are accepted before God, how you are justified. What makes you acceptable before God? It is the whole flow of the argument. And to think you can simplify the issue to just being “one people before God” so as to eliminate boundary markers and have a unified church is not completely wrong, but it is putting the focus in the wrong place. It’s not listening close enough to the text. It’s not putting the emphasis where Paul puts the emphasis, which brings me to another exegetical observation. Are you familiar with Gordon Fee’s quite magnificent book God’s Empowering Spirit? It’s a major treatment of the Holy Spirit in Paul. What he does is work through all the Pauline passages on the Holy Spirit and then puts them all together. Last week I was in Australia speaking in at a conference. The subject of the conference was the Holy Spirit in Acts. I worked through the big passages in Acts, and all the small ones so that I worked through every place in Acts where the Holy Spirit is mentioned. After I preached through it I said to myself, “I think what I’ve done, in one sense, is accurate, but in another sense, without meaning to is that I just distorted the whole book of Acts.” Because I don’t think Luke sat down and said “I’m going to write about the Holy Spirit.” That’s not Luke’s theme as he is writing Acts. It is merely a supporting theme. It is interwoven throughout the book to support the primary theme. So you may preach on the Holy Spirit in Acts in every situation and be absolutely correct in what you say about the Holy Spirit, but miss the point of Acts. You get a distorted picture of Acts. So I spent the last two talks to deconstruct my sermons to show how they were supportive of the heartbeat of Acts, which is the extension of the gospel. To speak of the Holy Spirit of Acts is a way to quietly distort the book of Acts if you are not careful….you are foregrounding that which is in the background, and backgrounding that which is the foreground.”

You can listen to the lectures at http://thegospelcoalition.org/resources/category/courses/a/series/the_new_perspective_on_paul/

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