Friday, October 29, 2004

There are several truths that are not taken seriously by Christians. The first is, "Christ is all I need". The second is, "Not I, but Christ". The third is "Our power is in the cross of Christ". I have been going through very hard circumstances lately and these three statements are so true, not only in sense, but literally. These truths are to be taken extremely literally, they are more true than we'll ever know. They are more literal than you can imagine. If we fully grasped the truth of these statements we would be just like Him. The little "platitudes" I heard all my life weren't real until put to the test. Now they are real, but I am still being worked on by God who is forcing me to lean on Him so much harder than I ever dared before. His yoke is easy and His burden light but we never find this out until we trust Him. If God can't handle it, neither can we, yet a man will trust himself more than God?! This is a logical absurdity committed by us all when we doubt God.

Saturday, October 23, 2004

Is soulwinning different from evangelism? Let's look at the words behind our English translation:

32 aggelos - messenger, KJV translation "angel"
2095 eu - good, KJV primary translation "well"

leads to...
2097 euaggelizo - messenger of good, KJV primary translation "preach"
2099 euaggelistes - one who is a messenger of good, KJV translation "evangelist"

compare with...
2784 kerusso - to herald, KJV primary translation "preach"
2783 kerux - one who heralds, KJV primary translation "preacher"

It seems that a "preacher" would be synonymous with an "evangelist". However, "kerusso" and "kerux" pertain more to the giving of the message (heralding or proclaiming) while "euaggelizo" and "euaggelistes" pertain more to the "message of good" being given. It is a difference of emphasis as far as the Biblical usage is concerned.

In other words, you can preach many things but an evangelist specifically denotes one who preaches the gospel, or good news. However preaching in the Biblical NT sense is _always_ giving the gospel, as opposed to teaching, which has to do with the discipleship and continuing instruction of believers.

It should be abundantly clear that the definition of "evangelism" as merely inviting people to church instead of giving them the gospel is without merit. This idea has it's roots in the aggressive soulwinning teachings of Hyles and his followers.

If evangelism is proclaiming the good news, then are all evangelists? This is an interesting thought because of what Paul says concerning gifts:

Eph 4:7-8 ESV But grace was given to each one of us according to the measure of Christ's gift. (8) Therefore it says, "When he ascended on high he led a host of captives, and he gave gifts to men."
[verses 9-10 are a parenthetical statement]
Eph 4:11-14 ESV And he gave the apostles, the prophets, the evangelists, the pastors and teachers, (12) to equip the saints for the work of ministry, for building up the body of Christ, (13) until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ, (14) so that we may no longer be children, tossed to and fro by the waves and carried about by every wind of doctrine, by human cunning, by craftiness in deceitful schemes.

Verse 8 refers back to Psa 68:18, which prophesies Christ's resurrection. After rising from the dead, He gave the Holy Spirit on Pentecost (Acts 2) as He had promised (Jhn 16:7) and through the Spirit gave the gifts (I Cor 12:8-11) listed here in Eph 4.
In the KJV each gift listed is proceeded by the word "some", further clarifying that these gifts are not universal, placing them in the same category as the gifts listed in I Cor 12 where Paul asks:

1Co 12:28-30 ESV And God has appointed in the church first apostles, second prophets, third teachers, then miracles, then gifts of healing, helping, administrating, and various kinds of tongues. (29) Are all apostles? Are all prophets? Are all teachers? Do all work miracles? (30) Do all possess gifts of healing? Do all speak with tongues? Do all interpret?

The question is rhetorical because the answer is obviously, "no". So then we have "some, evangelists" (Eph 4:11 KJV) which seems to make it pretty clear that not everybody is intended to engage in evangelism, which we have previously defined as preaching the gospel.

Is this the case? Does the NT assign special tasks the evangelist that sets him apart from your average "soulwinner"? What is "the work of an evangelist" (II Tim 4:5)? Timothy was not a pastor, but evidently traveled (I Tim 1:3). He taught Christians (II Tim 2:2). I Tim 4:13-15 indicates that Timothy's gift was teaching, and certainly Paul's main encouragement to him in both letters was in this matter. Near the end of his second letter to Timothy, Paul tells him to do "the work of an evangelist". Paul did not call him an evangelist, because Timothy's gift was teaching; but Paul told him to do the work of preaching the gospel anyway.

I think this admonishment of Paul, in telling Timothy to perform evangelism despite the fact that his gift was teaching, should remind us all that at different stages of our life we will have to do things that we are not particularly gifted at. A parent may not have an aptitude for teaching- so while they may not pursue teaching, they still have to teach their children. So it is with evangelism. The gospel has been committed unto us. II Cor 5:18-19 settle the fact that we are to be active in attempting being the world in reconciliation to Christ. We may not be evangelists gifted in preaching to the unsaved, so we won't all pursue a ministry emphasis in this direction. However, we all must, like Timothy, do the work of evangelist on a regular basis.

Textual Notes on I Cor 7:36-38 from the NET Bible:
*****
1 Cor 7:36-38. There are two common approaches to understanding the situation addressed in these verses. One view involves a father or male guardian deciding whether to give his daughter or female ward in marriage (cf. NASB, NIV margin). The evidence for this view is: (1) the phrase in v. 37 (Grk) “to keep his own virgin” fits this view well (“keep his own virgin [in his household]” rather than give her in marriage), but it does not fit the second view (there is little warrant for adding “her” in the way the second view translates it: “to keep her as a virgin”). (2) The verb used twice in v. 38 (gamivzw, gamizw) normally means “to give in marriage” not “to get married.” The latter is usually expressed by gamevw (gamew), as in v. 36b. (3) The father deciding what is best regarding his daughter’s marriage reflects the more likely cultural situation in ancient Corinth, though it does not fit modern Western customs. While Paul gives his advice in such a situation, he does not command that marriages be arranged in this way universally. If this view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his unmarried daughter, if she is past the bloom of youth and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep his daughter unmarried, does well. 7:38 So then the one who gives his daughter in marriage does well, but the one who does not give her does better.” The other view is taken by NRSV, NIV text, NJB, REB: a single man deciding whether to marry the woman to whom he is engaged. The evidence for this view is: (1) it seems odd to use the word “virgin” (vv. 36, 37, 38) if “daughter” or “ward” is intended. (2) The other view requires some difficult shifting of subjects in v. 36, whereas this view manages a more consistent subject for the various verbs used. (3) The phrases in these verses are used consistently elsewhere in this chapter to describe considerations appropriate to the engaged couple themselves (cf. vv. 9, 28, 39). It seems odd not to change the phrasing in speaking about a father or guardian. If this second view is taken, the translation will read as follows: “7:36 If anyone thinks he is acting inappropriately toward his fiancée, if his passions are too strong and it seems necessary, he should do what he wishes; he does not sin. Let them marry. 7:37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well. 7:38 So then, the one who marries his fiancée does well, but the one who does not marry her does better.”
******

The first view, as seen in the KJV and NASB, I would support for several reasons:
1. v.38, ekgamizo, literally means to marry off. Other places where this same Greek word is used have the translation (at least in the KJV) of giving in marriage. The man of v.38(which is the same man in vs.36&37) would not be a fiancee in this case because he would not be wanting to give her in marriage, but rather marry her himself.
2. v.37, parthenos, literally means maiden. The phrase "keep his (own) virgin" is true to the literal meaning of the original language. This poses a problem for the idea that the man is a fiancee- to "keep his (own) virgin" is put in contrast with the end of v.36, "let them/her marry". A fiancee keeping his girl without marrying her makes no sense. The NIV gets around this problem by inserting the word "marry" in v.37 where it doesn't exist; and the otherwise excellent ESV comes off looking very confused by actually recommending what I said doesn't make sense:
"37 But whoever is firmly established in his heart, being under no necessity but having his desire under control, and has determined this in his heart, to keep her as his betrothed, he will do well."
The NET Bible marginal alternate rendering does no better:
"37 But the man who is firm in his commitment, and is under no necessity but has control over his will, and has decided in his own mind to keep her as his fiancée, does well."
The NRSV also recommends a perpetual, never-ending engagement:
"37 But if someone stands firm in his resolve, being under no necessity but having his own desire under control, and has determined in his own mind to keep her as his fiancee, he will do well."

Now to the issue at hand. The father's ability to limit his daughter's chance at marriage is expressly limited in v.37 by the words "having no necessity". The NASB is clearer, "being under no constraint". This phrase connects back to v.36, "if she...need so require" ("if it must be so" NASB). In other words, if the daughter expresses the "need" to be married this places a "constraint" upon the father which does not allow him to "keep his virgin (daughter)" at home.

As to the choice of man he will give his daughter to, this passage does not explicitly give the father veto power. You will have to look elsewhere for that. The end of v.36 simply says, "let them marry" ("gameo" present active imperative).

Sunday, October 17, 2004

Something not my own. Very good stuff. Also see Rom 14:17-18:

*****
Lesson 6 - The Gospel and the Law

Introduction
There is no more practical question than that of the relationship of a Christian to the law of God. Whenever we hear the radical claims of salvation-by-grace, we immediately ask the following questions. “If we are 'free from the law' does that mean I don't have to obey the law of God?” “Why then should I strive to live a holy life?” “What is the
nature of my obligation (if any) to God's law?” Paul addresses these important questions here.

READ Galatians 3:15-25
1. What principle is laid down in v. 18a? Compare and contrast what it means to receive something by promise vs. receiving something by law?
2. Why was the law of Moses not able to set aside or add to the promises spoken to Abraham? (You may wish to review Genesis 15:9-18.)
4. What, then, is the purpose of the law? (vv.19-22) [Key: What do you think it means that we are “prisoners of sin?”]
5. In vv.23-25, how does Paul explain that the law “leads a person to Christ?”
6. If we are not under the law’s “supervision” (v.25), does that imply that we can live any way we wish? Imagine the features of a relationship with the law based on salvation-by-grace rather than one based on fear and salvation-by-performance?

Unit 6 - Exercise
Read and mark “!” - for something that helped you
“?” -for something that raised a question

Deeds, Words, and Heart
This exercise introduces an important concept: that underneath our behavioral sins lies a fundamental refusal to rest in Christ’s salvation and the drive instead to find our own. That is the point of Lovelace’s reading last week.

The 'Sin underneath the Sins'
Here is an excerpt from Martin Luther Treatise Concerning Good Works (1520) All those who do not in all their works or sufferings, life and death, trust in God's favor, grace and good-will, but rather seek His favor in other things or in themselves, do not keep the [First] Commandment, and practice real idolatry, even if they were to do the works of all the other Commandments, and in addition had all the prayers, fasting, obedience, patience, chastity, and innocence of all
the saints combined.

Comment: Luther says if you look to your moral performance as the basis of your relationship with God, then you are breaking the first of the Ten Commandments: "Have no other gods before me." If you fail to grasp and believe the gospel of free justification through Christ's work you violate the first command. How could this be? "If we doubt or do not believe that God is gracious and pleased with us, or if we
presumptuously expect to please Him through our works, then all [our compliance with the law] is pure deception, outwardly honoring God, but inwardly setting up self as a false [savior]... .Note for yourself, then, how far apart these two are: keeping the First Commandment with outward works only, and keeping it with inward [justifying faith]. For this last makes true, living children of God, the other only makes worse idolatry and the most mischievous hypocrites on earth..."

Comment: Luther says that if we obey God's law without a belief that we are already accepted and loved in Christ, then in all our “doing-good” we are really looking to something more than Jesus to be the real source of our meaning, and happiness. We are trusting in our being a good parent, or being a good spouse, or our moral uprightness, or our spiritual performance, or our service to other people as our real "Saviors.” If we aren't sure God already loves us in Christ we will be looking to something else as our foundational significance and worth. This is why Luther says that we are committing idolatry (breaking the First commandment) if we don't thoroughly trust in Christ for our acceptability, even if we are otherwise totally moral
and obedient to God. And as this Commandment is the very first, highest and best, from which all the others proceed, in which they exist, and by which they are directed and measured, so also its work, that is, the faith or confidence in God's favor at all times, is the very first, highest and best, from which all others must proceed, exist, remain, be directed and measured...."

Comment: All people sin in general because we are sinners, but why do we sin in any particular instance? Luther indicates the First Commandment is foundational to all the others. Why? Because we will not break Commandments 2-10 unless we are in some way breaking Commandment One and serving some idol. Every sin is rooted in the inordinate lust for something which comes because we are trusting in that thing rather than in Christ for our righteousness or salvation. At the moment we sin it is because we are looking to something to give us what only Jesus can give us. Beneath any particular sin is the general sin of rejecting Christ-salvation and indulging in self-
salvation.

Case study - A Lie

What if you find that you have a habit of lying? What do you do about it?

Moralistic ways to stop lying:
• Fear: “I must stop doing this because God will punish me, he won't bless me.”
• Pride: "I must stop doing this, because I'm a good Christian. I don't want to be like the kind of person who lies."
In general, you will find that the more you simply lay Biblical principles on your heart, the more your heart resists it. (Rom.7:21--Paul says “When I [most] want to do good,
evil lies close at hand..”)

The gospel way to stop lying:
First, ask the question: “Why am I lying in this particular situation?” The reason we lie (or ever do any sin) is because at that moment there is something we feel that we simply must have and so we lie. One typical reason that we lie (though it is by no means the only one) is because we are deeply fearful of losing face or someone's
approval. That means, that the “sin under the sin” of lying is the idolatry of (at that moment) human approval. If we break the commandment against false witness it is because we are breaking the first commandment against idolatry. We are looking more to human approval than to Jesus as a source of worth, meaning and happiness.
Under the sin of lying is the failure to rejoice in and believe in our acceptance in Christ. Under the sin of lying is a kind of heart-unbelief in the gospel, whatever we may tell ourselves intellectually. As we will see below, anything you add to Jesus
Christ as a requirement for a happy life is a functional salvation, a pseudo-lord, and it is controlling you, whether it be power, approval, comfort or control. The only way to change your habit of lying is to repent of your failure to believe the gospel, that you are not saved and acceptable by pursuing this goal and serving this master, but through the grace of Jesus Christ.

Consider this case study in light of this excerpt from the Belgic Confession (1561): Therefore it is so far from being true that his justifying faith makes us remiss in a holy life, that on the contrary without it we would never do anything out of love to God, but only out of self-love or fear of damnation.

Comment: Unless we believe the gospel, we will be driven in all we do, whether obeying or disobeying, by pride (“self-love”) or fear (“of damnation”). Mere moral effort without the gospel may restrain the heart but cannot truly change the heart. It “jury rigs” the evil of the heart to produce moral behavior out of self-interest. It would be
possible to use fear and pride as ways to motivate a person to be honest, but since fear and pride is also the root for lying, it is only a matter of time before such a thin tissue collapses. Luther was right. If you are obeying the law without deep joy in your acceptance in Christ, you are not loving God with all your heart. You are not obeying God for God. You are being moral so that you can put God in your debt, so he owes you a comfortable life. You are being moral so that you can feel secure in your uprightness. You are being moral in the service of self-salvation, out of the fear and pride that arise without an identity built on Christ in the gospel.

Other kinds of word-sins and what they reveal
1. Which of these three kinds of “mouth-sin” is the biggest problem for you? In which area do you struggle most?

.. TALKING ABOUT MYSELF. Defensiveness rather than taking criticism graciously. Bragging rather than focusing on and complementing others. (cf. Gal. 6:14 "May I never boast except in the cross of our Lord…")

.. TALKING ABOUT OTHERS. Talking unkindly about others more often than
affirming and sincerely praising. Harsh or sarcastic when giving criticism. (cf. Gal. 5:15- "…biting and devouring one another…")

.. TALKING ABOUT LIFE. Complaining and murmuring more than expressing
gratitude and praise. More emphasis on the injustices rather than the mercies of life. (cf. Gal.5:22- "…the fruit of the Spirit is joy, peace, patience...gentleness.")

2. Review the following quote from Richard Lovelace:
“The faith that surmounts the evidence and is able to warm itself at the fire of God’s love, instead of having to steal love and self-acceptance from other sources, is actually
the root of holiness....”

Without a deep grasp of the gospel, we believe that salvation/happiness/blessing depends conditionally on something we are or do. Thus everyone builds their identity on something besides Jesus. Review one psychologist’s categories of four basic ways in which people seek meaning and self-acceptance. Each of the following four
things can become something we depend on to establish our adequacy and worth instead of depending on Jesus.

3. Now look at the circumstances surrounding your typical mouth sins. Answer this question: “When I [commit this particular sin], what is it that I am after? What do I feel I must have for self-acceptance?”

(a) If you need to defend yourself against criticism, where are you
“warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)

(b) If you need to run other people down or make them look bad, where are you “warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)

(c) If you cannot be grateful and happy unless life is going according to your plan, where are you “warming yourself?” (Is it to get comfort, approval, control, power, or something else?)

4. Imagine how you could draw on your hope and standing in Christ at these moments and get control of your tongue?

Sunday, October 10, 2004

Having previously looked at the teaching of Paul concerning an activity that was questionable to certain people, we know not to exercise our liberty when it would offend another Christian or cause an unbeliever to bring reproach on the church.
What does it mean to offend? One person put it this way:
"This freedom I possess is a heavy responsibility. Because I am free to listen to what I want, should I? How about if I offend someone? I thought about this for a long time. I know I must obey God and be sensitive to the weaknesses of others. But how could I guard against offending everyone? What if I were eating foods, listening to music, watching baseball, chewing gum - how would I know if I might unwittingly be offending some other Christian?"
(from Dear Mr. Gothard, by Al Menconi)
This highlights the problem with our concept of "offend". What Paul spoke of in I Cor 8 as offense was not merely doing something someone didn't like, or approve of. As evidenced by I Cor 8:7&11, Paul is speaking of causing people to lose their faith. Many of the liberties that more conservative fundamentalists try to restrict by appealing to Paul's teaching on not giving offense are not anything close to that which would shake the roots of someone's faith to point where they are destroyed as a Christian.
On the contrary those who are most indoctrinated with many of "separatist" teachings (music, dress, etc.) are very securely locked into their positions to start with. They will consider themselves as having a higher level of discernment and therefore more mature. To be asked to be treated as weak Christians is disingenuous at best and a smokescreen at worst.
Those who hold "separatist" ways weakly (through influence or pressure) can give them up without damage to their faith. This is my personal observation.
The above-mentioned author continues:
"I began to understand that if I were constantly wondering if I were offending someone with my freedom, it wouldn't be Christ's freedom at all. It would be a twisted form of bondage to the opinions of others. I would be like the Galatians who turned away from freedom (grace) to a set of rules so as not to offend anyone."
He is referring to Gal 2 where Peter(Cephas) and Barnabas lined up with the Judaizers to avoid offense. Paul was not happy about this at all, but stood up to them in the face! The Judaizers not only taught works for salvation but works for sanctification (Gal 3:3).
The teachers of external separation bear more of a relation to the Judaizers of Gal 2 rather than the weak brethren of I Cor 8. Whereas the weak brethren of I Cor 8 had no wider agenda, the Judaizers were confrontational in their attacks. Whereas the weak brethren did not seek to make others feel as they did, the Judaizers continually sought to get Christians to follow their rules.
In churches that are "separatist"(external) we are often replaying the classic tale of "The Emperor's New Clothes". Joe Six-pack turns off his rock music 5 min from church. Jane Doe switches into dresses before every service. Few people care about the "rules" but everyone thinks everyone else does. As we continue to perpetuate this situation on the back of "don't offend", our children note the hypocrisy and take off.
The few people who really believe in all these "standards" would not be destroyed, they would find another church that believes like them, because they couldn't stand a church that didn't.

Saturday, October 09, 2004

I Cor 8:1-13; 10:16-33

It is often said that we should avoid doing certain things because we are not supposed to offend other Christians. Certainly in I Cor 10:32 we are told to give no offense to anyone:
"Give no offense to Jews or to Greeks or to the church of God,"
Using v.13, it is taught that we should never exercise our liberty:
"Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble."
In I Cor 8 the discussion concerns the eating of meat offered to idols. Some in the early church had a problem with its association with the pagan gods:
1Co 8:1 ESV Now concerning food offered to idols: we know that "all of us possess knowledge." This "knowledge" puffs up, but love builds up.
Paul establishes that the fact that the meat was offered to idols means nothing because there is only one God:
1Co 8:4 ESV Therefore, as to the eating of food offered to idols, we know that "an idol has no real existence," and that "there is no God but one."
But not all Christians understood this:
1Co 8:7 ESV However, not all possess this knowledge. But some, through former association with idols, eat food as really offered to an idol, and their conscience, being weak, is defiled.
This verse holds a key to understanding what kind of offense Paul is speaking of here. The Christians who were offended at this meat (v.7 "some") had "former association with idols" and therefore all too clearly felt that it was real. In other words, these Christians were converted from the Paganism of the day and so they could not get past the association, having spent so much time in the worship of false gods.
This is why verse 9 tells us that our liberty can be a stumbling block to them. Verse 10 explains how this happens:
1Co 8:10 ESV For if anyone sees you who have knowledge eating in an idol's temple, will he not be encouraged, if his conscience is weak, to eat food offered to idols?
What is important to point out here, is that the eating of this meat is not wrong. To clarify Paul's argument, if the idol were in fact real, yes, it would be wrong to eat the meat. Therefore, because the weaker Christian believes the idol is real, it is wrong for him to eat the meat, even though the reality is not so.
If the weaker Christian were to eat this meat, he could fall back into Paganism:
1Co 8:11 ESV And so by your knowledge this weak person is destroyed, the brother for whom Christ died.
How is this? The weak believes the idol is real in some way- and if the eating of meat offered to a real idol is OK, then this creates an irreconcilable conflict with the idea that Christ alone is worthy of our worship.
It is because of this danger that Paul says he will never eat meat:
1Co 8:13 ESV Therefore, if food makes my brother stumble, I will never eat meat, lest I make my brother stumble.

Paul speaks more of the topic in chapter 10, starting in verse 16:
1Co 10:16-18 ESV The cup of blessing that we bless, is it not a participation in the blood of Christ? The bread that we break, is it not a participation in the body of Christ? (17) Because there is one bread, we who are many are one body, for we all partake of the one bread. (18) Consider the people of Israel: are not those who eat the sacrifices participants in the altar?
Concerning the relationship of sacred food to the Lord, it is noted that our partaking of the food, be it Lord's Supper, or in the OT, the sacrifices, we also partake of the Lord. This is an interesting parallel that I think deserves some study, in regard to the Lord's Supper.
Paul continues:
1Co 10:19-20 ESV What do I imply then? That food offered to idols is anything, or that an idol is anything? (20) No, I imply that what pagans sacrifice they offer to demons and not to God. I do not want you to be participants with demons.
In verse 19 Paul anticipates the inevitable question, concerning whether idols, and the food offered to them actually do mean something. Paul's answer in verse 20 is "no", consistent with his earlier statements in chapter 8.
The rest of verse 20 seems to present a contradiction with chapter 8, to claim that meats offered to idols are in fact wrong. Paul here acknowledges that while the pagan gods do not exist, the powers they reverence are actually demonic. In other words, the pagans feel they are worshipping gods, but they are actually following demons. The parallel that Paul sets up between v.20 and vs.16-18 tell us that when Paul says that we should not be participants with demons, then we should not partake of the food offered to them.
All of this is following the command in v.14 to flee idolatry.
So what do we make of the apparent contradiction between I Cor 10:20, which tells us not to participate with demons in eating idol meat, and I Cor 8:4 and 10:19-20a, which indicate that there is actually nothing to the idol or the meat to make it wrong?
The key is found in Paul's command on how to deal with meats:
1Co 10:27-29 ESV If one of the unbelievers invites you to dinner and you are disposed to go, eat whatever is set before you without raising any question on the ground of conscience. (28) But if someone says to you, "This has been offered in sacrifice," then do not eat it, for the sake of the one who informed you, and for the sake of conscience-- (29) I do not mean your conscience, but his. For why should my liberty be determined by someone else's conscience?
First it is to be noted that this scenario involves a believer partaking of a meal in the presence of an unbeliever (v.27). We are told not to ask about the meat, but to go ahead and eat. The setting implies that the "someone" of v.28 is likely an unbeliever as well, making a comment about the status of the meat. Paul tells us in this case to not eat, because our eating could then be seen as participation in idolatry, and give the unbeliever a chance to bring accusation against the church. (v.25 is the same thought, such as unbelievers would be sellers at the market.)

Chapter 10 is telling us then, that in a setting where an unbeliever could take our actions as participation with pagan worship, we should not eat idol meat. This is complimentary with chapter 8, which tells us the same thing, but in the case of a believer.
Because the idol is nothing, and the idol meat is nothing, the Christian has nothing to fear. However, the Christian must not cause other believers to stumble or give unbelievers a reason to reproach. If the Christian can be sure he is doing neither, then he can partake.
This appears to be the conclusion of Paul as evidenced in vs.29-33. The open teaching against eating meats offered to idols (Acts 15:29; 21:25) served to facilitate the church's testimony in that culture, rather than create a binding law for all Christians throughout the centuries. (These same verses also teach against eating strangled animals but this is the method of death used in many chicken farms today.)
When Paul says he will not eat meat, he is referring to those times in which it would offend.

Tuesday, October 05, 2004

Col 2:19 ESV and not holding fast to the Head, from whom the whole body, nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments, grows with a growth that is from God.

Time to comment on Sunday night's message. The preacher put three men in a row, had them connect, then had the line flex. In this way, it is said that the people are able to do the work of the church- each member receives what it needs from another and is flexible.
Paul's picture of a Christian body is set in context of dealing with members of the church who press issues concerning areas in which the Christian has the freedom to choose:
Col 2:18 ESV Let no one disqualify you, insisting on asceticism and worship of angels, going on in detail about visions, puffed up without reason by his sensuous mind,
Of whom Paul goes on to say that this person is not holding fast to the "Head" (Christ) from whence the body grows. In other words, the person who makes much ado about external regulations is not seeking their security and growth from Christ, the Head. These people find their security from keeping rules- which, by the way, do nothing to actually restrain the carnal nature- v.18 tells us of their "sensuous mind" ("fleshly mind" KJV) and v.20 tells us that, in any case, they do nothing as far as "stopping the indulgence of the flesh" (v.23; "not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh" KJV).
Verses 20 to 22 tell us about how "external rules" are different from living in Christ:
Col 2:20-22 ESV If with Christ you died to the elemental spirits of the world, why, as if you were still alive in the world, do you submit to regulations-- (21) "Do not handle, Do not taste, Do not touch" (22) (referring to things that all perish as they are used)--according to human precepts and teachings?
Verse 22 says that the "regulations" ("ordinances" KJV) are based in "human precepts and teachings". Why is this? Verse 20 reveals that not only did we, in Christ, die to sin, we also died to this world's idea of goodness. The sin of this present world, as well as imitation righteousness, are done away with in Christ.
Verse 23 admits that the regulations look good, but are of no value:
Col 2:23 ESV These have indeed an appearance of wisdom in promoting self-made religion and asceticism and severity to the body, but they are of no value in stopping the indulgence of the flesh.
This agrees with Php 2:13 which pin-points the power of the Christian as the "God who works in you".
Returning to v.19, then, the "holding fast to the Head" is a matter of the Christian finding their power, identity, and security in Christ alone, and not in the keeping of external rules or in the opinions of others. This verse goes on to say that it is from this identity with the Head that the body "grows with a growth that is from God."
This agrees with John 15 where Christ promises that if we abide in Him, we will bear much fruit.
One final implication of this context concerns the identity of the body of Christ. If there is one Head, "from whom the whole body...grows", then the body is all saved Christians on earth. The body spoken of here is not the local church.
Paul does not restrict the scope of the body in v.19. The parenthetical statement of this verse clarifies Paul's concept of the body: "nourished and knit together through its joints and ligaments."
The people are not the "joints" and "ligaments". The people are joined by "joints" and "ligaments". The joints and ligaments are more than likely Christian love ("charity" KJV):
Col 3:14 ESV And above all these put on love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony.
So then Christians worldwide "the whole body" are to come together "knit together" and help each other "nourished" through love/charity "joints"/"ligaments".
This type of knitting and nourishing occurs with a local church assembly but this passage transcends the modern idea of a local church entirely. It is important to apply this in a broader sense, and not restrict this to a local assembly. It is important to open ourselves to Christians wherever they are. As we do this, the growth will be natural and not forced ("growth that is from God" [v.19] who "gives the growth" [I Cor 3:7]), but it won't necessarily be in one local church assembly, as the growth involves the entire body.

Sunday, October 03, 2004

While "door-knocking" today I wondered what we might do if every place began to say "no soliciting," or "no leafleting," or "no handbills".

What would we do? How would we accomplish the Great Commission? Of course, common sense says quite simply, that door knocking and the Great Commission are not one in the same.

Certainly in the fervor that many churches encourage their people to go "soul winning," which is in the majority of the cases door-knocking, may leave some scratching their heads as to exactly how the church would promote witnessing if door-knocking (for whatever reason) was no longer possible.

It causes us to ask ourselves to basic questions. First, what is the responsibility of the average Christian in witnessing? Secondly, what methods does God approve or even mandate for getting his gospel out?

God has chosen the "foolishness" of preaching (I Cor 1:18, Rom 10:14) for this task. God has chosen to use men to do his work in this regard. The Christian cannot sit back and do nothing- for the gospel has been committed to every Christian by which Christ endeavors to reconcile the world unto Himself (II Cor 5:19).

We have not yet even mentioned the so-called "Great Commission," possibly the most quoted verses on this topic:

Mat 28:18-20 ESV And Jesus came and said to them, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (19) Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, (20) teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, to the end of the age."

It could be said that the Great Commission only applied to the apostles (Act 10:42). But I will not say that, in light of verses that we have already seen in I/II Corinthians and Romans. In addition, all Christians are "disciples" though they are not apostles; and verse 20 indicates that if the apostles are to teach the disciples to teach more disciples what they have been taught, then certainly the teaching of the Great Commission is intended to apply to all Christians as disciples.

It is self-evident that to teach the gospel requires communication of some form, and that requires taking initiative in approaching non-Christians. So our first question can be answered that God has indeed entrusted us with the message of the gospel and expects us to communicate that gospel to the world.

As to the methods we should use to communicate that gospel to the world, we have to ask if the Bible specifically commands a particular method or if there is a pattern established in the NT of what the early church did; and if we find patterns, are they binding or useful to us today?

The first verse out of the hat for many I know, is Acts 20:20:

Act 20:20 ESV how I did not shrink from declaring to you anything that was profitable, and teaching you in public and from house to house,

Of course, this verse is used to back up door knocking as a scriptural principle, but does it say that? One key element is who Paul is teaching from house to house:

Act 20:17 ESV Now from Miletus he sent to Ephesus and called the elders of the church to come to him.

It should be plain enough by now that Bible is not speaking of what we think of as door knocking or canvassing. What the Bible is speaking of is early church's method of meeting in homes, but this is another topic entirely!

Another verse is used to indicate a method by which the gospel should be given:

Luk 14:23 ESV And the master said to the servant, 'Go out to the highways and hedges and compel people to come in, that my house may be filled.

By this verse it is preached that we ought to be on the streets stopping people with the gospel, but is Christ trying to teach?

In this parable of the wedding feast, certainly Christ's bride, the church, is view. (The realization that the parable refers to such a grand theme should make us pause in attempting super-literal application.) Since the church is composed of the saved (Acts 2:47) the remaining question is to be asked what people are those that are invited beforehand, and who are those in the highways and hedges.

Christ came, not for the Gentiles, but for the Jews (Mat 15:24). The rejection of the invited guests is a picture of the Jews rejection of Christ (Mat 23:37) and the command to go into the highways and hedges is representative of Christ giving the gospel to the Gentiles (Rom 11:11). Certainly Luke 14:23 has nothing to do with how a Christian should communicate the gospel.

Some ways the gospel preached in the NT:

1. In the synagogues (Act 6:9)

2. The temple at Jerusalem (Mat 26:55)

3. In forums of public discussion/debate (Mars Hill, Acts 17)

4. Privately to those of high station (Gal 2:2)

5. On request (Act 10:33)

So we see many different ways, and there are possibly more, that the gospel was preached in the first century. What is evident is that the early church spoke when they could, when there was an opening. Different societies and cultures provide different venues through which a Christian may express the gospel. The gospel today is available by Internet, TV, radio, and telephone hotlines...

It seems evident that instead of locking us into certain methods, the Bible gives us a picture of Christians adjusting and taking advantage of the dynamics of the society and culture they were in.

One serious danger in being particular about methods is missing new methods entirely. It is in this way that more traditional churches often lose their influence. Certainly if a method requires a person to commit sin, then it shouldn't be used; but many methods called sinful are open to debate as to whether they are sinful or not.

On last consideration is this: that "preaching" is often taken to exclusively refer to speech. It is in this way, for example, that the use of music is said to be not appropriate for spreading the gospel. To begin with, the word "preach" means to proclaim, or make known, and does not by definition exclusively refer to speech. Secondly, it is important to point out that the Bible directly calls for Christian music to reach the lost- church services are to be conducted in such a manner that challenges the unsaved:

1Co 14:23-26 ESV If, therefore, the whole church comes together and all speak in tongues, and outsiders or unbelievers enter, will they not say that you are out of your minds? (24) But if all prophesy, and an unbeliever or outsider enters, he is convicted by all, he is called to account by all, (25) the secrets of his heart are disclosed, and so, falling on his face, he will worship God and declare that God is really among you. (26) What then, brothers? When you come together, each one has a hymn, a lesson, a revelation, a tongue, or an interpretation. Let all things be done for building up.

Verse 26 is specific- all things are to be done to build the saints, or edify, because this will also convince the unbeliever. Hymns are part of this.

Satan would love to restrict our methods for getting the gospel out. As we have seen, he does it by appealing to a Christian's sense of piety (causing pride in holiness). Satan also restricts our methods by means of pragmatism, or by judging methods in terms of what "works".

It is evident that although Jesus was sent to Israel, they did not receive Him (Jhn 1:11). According to some teachers today, he was a failure- but most vertainly Jesus was not a failure. Stories are told of missionaries toiling for years with little fruit. Yet the efforts of these missionaries, like Christ's efforts, were vitally important as we see the fruits come later. Some sow the seed, some water, some reap. We are not responsible for results, we are merely responsible to get out the message in any way we can:

1Co 3:7 ESV So neither he who plants nor he who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth.

In conclusion, we should be creative in thinking of new ways to spread the gospel. No one way is THE right way. Just do it! ..and leave the results to God.

Friday, October 01, 2004

According to Hebrews 11, faith is the substance of things hoped for, and the evidence of things not seen. As Christians, we have a hope of being with Christ one day. However, one of the reasons Christ came is to give us abundant joy here in this life as well (Jhn 15:11). Later in the chapter in verse 16, we are told that as we do His work, He will give us answers to our prayers.
Oftentimes, we look at circumstances and grow anxious and depressed. In short, we lose faith. We lose sight of the promises. We question whether He cares.
Jesus Christ suffered as a man, yet did not sin (Heb 4:15). This verse tells us he was touched with the same weaknesses and problems that we are. Jesus Christ can relate to what we are going through, and cares.
We are supposed to live by faith, not by sight (II Cor 5:7). It is obvious that circumstances are the things we see, and as we focus on the circumstances we see we are in fact take our focus away from God, the object of our faith. The evidence of this is when we come to the point of wondering where he is, or whether we cares- we have in essence forgot what it is like to look at God.
Sometimes the future is downright scary and you don't know what you can do... in these times you have to keep looking up to Him.
What does it mean to look up to God in faith as you go through life? First of all, it is realizing that Christ was a man once, and He understands. Then, it means regular prayer- casting all your care upon Him (I Pet 5:7), committing your problems to the Lord. We also have to remember that His ways are often unable to understood by us (Isa 55:9) but he is still working in us and for us (Phl 1:6).
He will give peace, and of course, provide for your need. In the meantime, you enjoy the view of the Lord instead of looking at your circumstances!