Friday, April 30, 2010

Still Incredulous

John 4:29 "Come, see a man who told me all that I ever did. Can this be the Christ?"

29 δεῦτε ἴδετε ἄνθρωπον ὃς εἶπέν μοι πάντα ὅσα ἐποίησα, μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός;

This is at the very end of a wonderful narrative about a Samaritan woman.  Jesus has a conversation with this woman that is life-changing for her and for all of us who read it.  He makes the offer for her to have living water that will always satisfy her.  This passage transformed my life through the ministry of Setting Captives Free.  I started to see that Jesus really does satisfy in a way that sin never can.  I need to be reminded of this frequently.  I think we all do.

What struck me this morning is that perhaps this is not the best passage to be used for evangelism.  It is often presented that way though.  The woman comes to know Jesus and she wants to introduce others to Him.  She becomes a great evangelist in bringing people to Christ.  And she certainly does that.  But what struck me is the way she phrases the question.  When she asks μήτι οὗτός ἐστιν ὁ χριστός; she expects a negative response.  We know that because she started the question with μήτι.  What she is effectively saying is, "This can't really be the Christ, can it?"

However, I also find some encouragement in this.  The woman was faithful despite her doubt.  She was obedient as well.  There are plenty of us who claim to be sure that Jesus of Nazareth is indeed the Christ.  We say that we've built our lives on Him.  But are we even as faithful as this woman who was pretty open about her doubts? This certainly convicts me.

Thursday, April 29, 2010

Remaining in Wrath

John 3:36 Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life; whoever does not obey the Son shall not see life, but the wrath of God remains on him.

36 ὁ πιστεύων εἰς τὸν υἱὸν ἔχει ζωὴν αἰώνιον· ὁ δὲ ἀπειθῶν τῷ υἱῷ οὐκ ὄψεται ζωήν, ἀλλ᾽ ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μένει ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν.

John 3 may be the most famous chapter in the Bible because of all the signs exhorting people to read and believe John 3:16.  I love John 3:16 as much as the next guy, but I think that we lose something when we read it out of context, as we do with any other verse.  No verse exists in isolation.  So before we try to use John 3:16 as the big Arminian trump card, let's look at another verse.

This verse gives us a different picture of who God is, doesn't it?  The more famous verse gives one the image of God sitting up in heaven with something akin to a teenage crush on every person, but He is anxiously waiting for our acceptance of Him.  Here we see the same offer, but a point is clarified a bit.  Here we see that ἡ ὀργὴ τοῦ θεοῦ μένει ἐπ᾽ αὐτόν.

I was really struck by the word μένει when I read this today.  It "remains" on him?  Really?  That implies that God's wrath was there all along.  In other words, every person is in a default state of having God's wrath justly upon him until there is faith in the Son.  That's what it takes.

Does this seem unfair or unjust to you?  Then you do not know the holiness of God.  He is, by definition, perfect.  How can perfection live with sin?  The good news is that Jesus Christ bore this wrath for those who would believe in Him.  I urge you to repent of your sin and turn to Jesus Christ as the lord of your life.  You will still fail Him from time to time as we all do, but His grace is sufficient for us.

Vintner's Collection

John 2:9 When the master of the feast tasted the water now become wine, and did not know where it came from (though the servants who had drawn the water knew), the master of the feast called the bridegroom 10 and said to him, "Everyone serves the good wine first, and when people have drunk freely, then the poor wine. But you have kept the good wine until now."

9 ὡς δὲ ἐγεύσατο ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος τὸ ὕδωρ οἶνον γεγενημένον καὶ οὐκ ᾔδει πόθεν ἐστίν, οἱ δὲ διάκονοι ᾔδεισαν οἱ ἠντληκότες τὸ ὕδωρ, φωνεῖ τὸν νυμφίον ὁ ἀρχιτρίκλινος 10  καὶ λέγει αὐτῷ· πᾶς ἄνθρωπος πρῶτον τὸν καλὸν οἶνον τίθησιν καὶ ὅταν μεθυσθῶσιν τὸν ἐλάσσω· σὺ τετήρηκας τὸν καλὸν οἶνον ἕως ἄρτι.

This is end of the account of Jesus' first public miracle.  Here He made up for a shortage in wine at a wedding He attended with His mother.  The Roman Catholic Church uses this text as a proof that we should use Mary as an intercessor because she can make Jesus do things that He otherwise wouldn't do.  I don't think that is what this text is all about.  Instead, I think that this shows that Jesus has command over creation.  After all, He did create it.  He is God and should be worshiped as such.

It also throws a wrench into anyone who tries to say that the Bible argues for abstinence from alcohol.  Abstinence is a fine idea and, frankly, there are not many good reasons to drink; however, we need to be careful about making the Bible say what our tradition says that it says.  To me, the interesting word is μεθυσθῶσιν, which is a subjunctive aorist passive 3rd person plural.  The phrase "drunk freely" is a euphemism for what Thayer describes as "to become intoxicated, to make drunk."  In other words, you serve inferior wine after people have had their senses dulled.  The only way to make sense of that is to understand this as real wine that was consumed in a way that we would normally think of.

Apparently Jesus made real wine.  To argue otherwise is to go against the plain reading of the passage as well as reason.  I do not want to minimize the deleterious effects of alcohol.  I see some of them every time my mom visits.  I lost an aunt partly because of it.  But let's not try to make the Bible say something it doesn't say.  If our Lord made real wine then we should just leave it at that.

Tuesday, April 27, 2010

Come and See

John 1:46 Nathanael said to him, "Can anything good come out of Nazareth?" Philip said to him, "Come and see."

46 καὶ εἶπεν αὐτῷ Ναθαναήλ· ἐκ Ναζαρὲτ δύναταί τι ἀγαθὸν εἶναι; λέγει αὐτῷ [ὁ] Φίλιππος· ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε.

There is a repeated phrase in John 1 that I think bears mentioning.  Here Philip says  ἔρχου καὶ ἴδε, which means "come and see" or "come and behold."  Both are in the imperative.  Earlier when one of the first two disciples asked Jesus where He was staying He commanded him to ἔρχεσθε with the promise ὄψεσθε.

The book of John rocks my theological world a bit because it focuses a bit more on the experiential than I typically like.  I tend to be more about raw facts.  The raw facts are of course important, but here Jesus reminds us that we need to experience Him as well.  He is not just an interesting historical figure in a book on a shelf.  He is someone real and living.

It seems that this is part of the vocabulary of good evangelism.  The invitation is to "come and see."  This is a repeated refrain throughout Scripture.  We can invite folks to do this with the confidence that what they see will be compelling.  However, they still need to obey the call to come.

Where are you?  Have you seen the Lord?  Do you trust Him?  If not, I invite you to come and see.  You won't be disappointed.

Monday, April 26, 2010

In the Beginning

John 1:1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.

1 Ἐν ἀρχῇ ἦν ὁ λόγος, καὶ ὁ λόγος ἦν πρὸς τὸν θεόν, καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος.

I can't think of too many passages that bring as much hope and controversy.  It brings hope if we read it as it is translated here, particularly the last phrase.  The Word was God.  This means that Jesus was the same as God.  He was there in the beginning, or Ἐν ἀρχῇ.  This is the same phrase used to start the Septuagint at Genesis 1:1.  It takes us right back to the creation narrative.

The controversy also comes from the last phrase.  What does καὶ θεὸς ἦν ὁ λόγος mean?  Technically, this is ambiguous.  Arians translate this as "the Word was a God."  A modern example of Arians would be the Jehovah's Witnesses.  It would be possible, though less likely to translate it as "the Word was the God," though you probably wouldn't because of the article on λόγος.  The wooden translation of "what God was, the Word was."

The lack of a definite article on θεὸς keeps us from making the person of Jesus the same as the person of God the Father.  The word order tells us that all of the attributes of θεὸς are present in ὁ λόγος.  Luther's concise explanation is that "the lack of an article is against Sabellianism; the word order is against Arianism." (Mounce, Basics of Biblical Greek, 2nd Ed, 27-28).

You may disagree with this translation, though it is the traditional one of the church.  What you will have to determine is who you trust when it comes to Greek translation.  Was Arius a heretic or a saint?  Translation is not just a matter of pure grammar, though in some cases it is.  The Arian translation is possible, though very unlikely.  Do you want to stake your eternity on that?

Sunday, April 25, 2010

The Hope of Israel

 Acts 28:20 For this reason, therefore, I have asked to see you and speak with you, since it is because of the hope of Israel that I am wearing this chain."

20 διὰ ταύτην οὖν τὴν αἰτίαν παρεκάλεσα ὑμᾶς ἰδεῖν καὶ προσλαλῆσαι, ἕνεκεν γὰρ τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ τὴν ἅλυσιν ταύτην περίκειμαι.

This is Paul's address to the Jews in Rome.  He got there on Caesar's dime and then stayed at his own expense. It astounds me that he was voluntarily imprisoned so that he could preach the gospel.  This is how Paul operated.  Everything was about the gospel to him.

He was all about  τῆς ἐλπίδος τοῦ Ἰσραὴλ.  What is this hope?  It is Jesus.  He is the hope for Israel and for the world.  Apart from Him there is no hope.  But with Him we have a genuine hope.  It is not the hope of the fan who hopes that his team will win the championship.  This is a hope that we can be sure of.  Jesus is real and He is coming back.  That fact anchors our hope.

Is that your hope?  If not, what is your hope?  What gets you through the day?  What gets you through the trials?  I take great comfort knowing that the God of the universe who created everything cares about me.  I have a relationship with Him that I certainly do not deserve.  What about you?

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Working the Room

Acts 23:6 Now when Paul perceived that one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, "Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. It is with respect to the hope and the resurrection of the dead that I am on trial."

6 Γνοὺς δὲ ὁ Παῦλος ὅτι τὸ ἓν μέρος ἐστὶν Σαδδουκαίων τὸ δὲ ἕτερον Φαρισαίων ἔκραζεν ἐν τῷ συνεδρίῳ· ἄνδρες ἀδελφοί, ἐγὼ Φαρισαῖός εἰμι, υἱὸς Φαρισαίων, περὶ ἐλπίδος καὶ ἀναστάσεως νεκρῶν [ἐγὼ] κρίνομαι

I've always liked this verse.  Paul was standing before the Sanhedrin, which was like the Supreme Court of the Jews.  Paul's whole mission was to evangelize.  We know from Galatians that he was specifically called to evangelize to the Gentiles, but he still had a heart for his people.  He preached the gospel to them every chance he got.

What I like about this passage is that it shows how Paul remained shrewd in his dealings.  We will see later how he appeals to Caesar so that he can get a free trip to Rome.  Paul was aware of what was going on around him and he used things to his advantage.

I do not think that this means we should be trying to "work the system" every chance we get.  However, I do think that it means that we need to be aware of the conditions in which we find ourselves.  We need to know the rules of the game and operate within them.  The danger is that we would do this for personal gain.  Paul did it for the sake of the gospel.  He knew that this statement would put the Pharisees on his side because the Pharisees and Sadducees hated each other more than they hated him.  This gave him the opportunity he needed.

Let us be wise about spreading the gospel.  God gives us many opportunities.  Are we going to be wise enough to take them?  The word here is that Paul Γνοὺς.  Are we going to "come to know" or "recognize?"

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Reaching the World

 Acts 22:21 And he said to me, 'Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.'" 22 Up to this word they listened to him. Then they raised their voices and said, "Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live."

21 καὶ εἶπεν πρός με· πορεύου, ὅτι ἐγὼ εἰς ἔθνη μακρὰν ἐξαποστελῶ σε. 22  Ἤκουον δὲ αὐτοῦ ἄχρι τούτου τοῦ λόγου καὶ ἐπῆραν τὴν φωνὴν αὐτῶν λέγοντες· αἶρε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τὸν τοιοῦτον, οὐ γὰρ καθῆκεν αὐτὸν ζῆν.

This is one of those passages that is initially difficult for us to relate to in our cultural context.  What is the big deal with Paul going to the Gentiles?  You would think this to be much more serious if you had spent your whole life being separate from those people who were considered "unclean."  The idea of God coming to the Gentiles was pretty much unthinkable for the Jews.  It certainly was for Paul before Christ saved him.  And here he is telling the story of his commission.  Their reaction was to say αἶρε ἀπὸ τῆς γῆς τὸν τοιοῦτον.  They used αἶρε, which is an imperative.  They weren't kidding about this.

This may be over-spiritualizing a bit, but I think that this does have application for our day.  We all have folks to whom we don't want to preach the message.  A Korean reading this may have trouble preaching the gospel to someone who is Japanese.  An older southern African-American may have trouble preaching the gospel to an older white man.  A widow from the 9/11 terrorist attacks would have a hard time preaching the gospel to a Muslim.  And so on.  To whom do you struggle with preaching the gospel?  Is there a people group you deem unworthy of God's grace?

This passage shows us that God truly does love the world.  His gospel is meant for everyone.  He uses means to spread it.  Are you going to be part of that?

Sunday, April 18, 2010

Ready to Speak

 Acts 21:39 Paul replied, "I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of no obscure city. I beg you, permit me to speak to the people." 40 And when he had given him permission, Paul, standing on the steps, motioned with his hand to the people. And when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

39 εἶπεν δὲ ὁ Παῦλος· ἐγὼ ἄνθρωπος μέν εἰμι Ἰουδαῖος, Ταρσεὺς τῆς Κιλικίας, οὐκ ἀσήμου πόλεως πολίτης· δέομαι δέ σου, ἐπίτρεψόν μοι λαλῆσαι πρὸς τὸν λαόν. 40  ἐπιτρέψαντος δὲ αὐτοῦ ὁ Παῦλος ἑστὼς ἐπὶ τῶν ἀναβαθμῶν κατέσεισεν τῇ χειρὶ τῷ λαῷ. πολλῆς δὲ σιγῆς γενομένης προσεφώνησεν τῇ Ἑβραΐδι διαλέκτῳ λέγων·

I don't have anything particularly profound today.  However, I do want to make note of one thing in this passage.  Here Paul is getting ready to address the mob in Jerusalem.  This is not a huge deal as Paul preached quite a bit. However, what amazes me is that he was just beaten.  As far as I could tell, there is no significant lapse in time between the beating and this address that we'll deal with tomorrow.

How ready are you to preach the gospel?  How ready am I?  Could you roll out of bed and give a clear defense of the hope that is within you?  Could you suffer a beating and then be ready to talk about Jesus?  I would submit that you should be able to at some level if Jesus really is your Lord.  If He's just an addition to your life then you probably won't be.

One small Greek note.  I felt silly when I looked at the footnote for διαλέκτῳ.  This is clearly the word from which we get the word "dialect."  Duh.

Saturday, April 17, 2010


Acts 20:25 And now, behold, I know that none of you among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom will see my face again.

25 Καὶ νῦν ἰδοὺ ἐγὼ οἶδα ὅτι οὐκέτι ὄψεσθε τὸ πρόσωπόν μου ὑμεῖς πάντες ἐν οἷς διῆλθον κηρύσσων τὴν βασιλείαν.

One of the things I've always loved about Paul is how he doesn't tend to sugarcoat things.  He didn't live in a dream world of vain hopes.  He lived in reality.  Here he realized that he was never going to see these folks again.  He knew that he was going to die from persecution one of these days and that he would not come back.  There was no sense of a door being slightly open.  He then took this opportunity to share the gospel.

This strikes me as contrasting with our typical way of viewing things.  The when French-speaking folks separate they say "au revoir."  This carries the idea of "until I see you again."  In America we have the idiom "see you later," which is shortened to either "see ya" or "later."  There is always the idea that we are going to encounter each other again.

I don't think that gospel ministry is like that.  Frankly, there should be an assumption that you are never going to see this person again.  One of you may die before there is a chance to talk again.  It's probably less likely than seeing each other again, but it is possible.  Where is the urgency in our sharing of the gospel?

If you're reading this and do not know Jesus please consider that today may be your last.  I don't want to be in the business of scaring anyone away from hell because I don't think that works.  However, I do want to be realistic about it.  Our days are numbered.  We are all going to die.  The statistics bear it out very well.  Therefore, we need to be ready to meet our Maker.  Are you?

And if you know Jesus what is the urgency with which you share the gospel?  I am ashamed of my own personal lack of urgency.  How about you?  I cannot say with quite such surety that ἐγὼ οἶδα ὅτι οὐκέτι (I, myself, know that none of you -- the ἐγὼ adds emphasis) will die before I have a chance to communicate with you again.  I don't even know how many people have read this far.  But I do know that it is my job to let you know that you are going to one day meet your Maker and you need to be ready for that encounter.  Are you?

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Damaging Trade

Acts 19:27 And there is danger not only that this trade of ours may come into disrepute but also that the temple of the great goddess Artemis may be counted as nothing, and that she may even be deposed from her magnificence, she whom all Asia and the world worship."

27 οὐ μόνον δὲ τοῦτο κινδυνεύει ἡμῖν τὸ μέρος εἰς ἀπελεγμὸν ἐλθεῖν ἀλλὰ καὶ τὸ τῆς μεγάλης θεᾶς Ἀρτέμιδος ἱερὸν εἰς οὐθὲν λογισθῆναι, μέλλειν τε καὶ καθαιρεῖσθαι τῆς μεγαλειότητος αὐτῆς ἣν ὅλη ἡ Ἀσία καὶ ἡ οἰκουμένη σέβεται.

This is the end of a speech that Demetrius, a silversmith, makes to the people of Ephesus.  He saw the writing on the wall with respect to the gospel.  He understood that the message Paul preached would be bad for his business.  Who needs to buy silver idols of Artemis when they can worship the true and living God?

I find it interesting that he only appeals to Artemis' honor at the end of his speech.  If you read the whole passage in context you will see that he is very concerned about the loss of trade.  He should be.  He is after all a pagan and he is doing what pagans do.  I can't fault him for that based on the values he had.

However, my fear is that we have the same mentality in the church.  I highly recommend the book Crazy Love by Francis Chan.  I think it is typical for us to filter decisions through our wallets.  I know that I do.  I'm thinking about going on for further schooling.  Yet we are likely going to need to replace our home's air conditioner this year.  The well is going to be pretty dry if we do that.  How am I going to pay for more school if we don't have the money readily available?  I don't know.  This is a good test of my faith.

If you are a preacher consider how this affects your preaching.  Are you going to challenge your people to get off their fat American backsides and sacrifice?  Are you going to threaten the American way?  I don't mean to do that for the sake of doing it, but to challenge them to put the cross of Christ front and center and leave everything else as secondary.  Can you bring yourself to do that?  Can you do that if you are working in a Baptist or otherwise independent church knowing that you are likely to offend a prominent family that supports a major part of your church's operating budget?  I don't know if I could.

Demetrius is everywhere in a sense.  He is in our churches.  And he is in our hearts.  Let's be sure not to let his pragmatism get in the way of the truth of the gospel.

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Being Known

Acts 19:15 But the evil spirit answered them, "Jesus I know, and Paul I recognize, but who are you?"

15 ἀποκριθὲν δὲ τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ πονηρὸν εἶπεν αὐτοῖς· τὸν [μὲν] Ἰησοῦν γινώσκω καὶ τὸν Παῦλον ἐπίσταμαι, ὑμεῖς δὲ τίνες ἐστέ;

Some Jewish exorcists thought that they could do what Paul did by invoking Jesus' name indirectly.  They spoke of the Jesus that Paul preached.  The evil spirit was not impressed by this and overpowered them.

This begs a question for us.  Do you know Jesus or do you just know about Him?  Do you know a Jesus that has been made for you either by things you've experienced or things you've thought?  Or do you know the Jesus of Scripture?  Is He a hippie in a pink dress or is He the King of Glory who will return in triumph to judge the world?  One is cultural and one is biblical.

It is vital that we know Him.  When He comes to judge the world you are going to want to know Him.  He is either going to be your best friend who has come to take you home or He is going to be someone you don't know and you will be terrified of Him.  I look forward to that day.  Do you?

Sunday, April 11, 2010

Mocking and Listening

 Acts 17:32 Now when they heard of the resurrection of the dead, some mocked. But others said, "We will hear you again about this."

32 Ἀκούσαντες δὲ ἀνάστασιν νεκρῶν οἱ μὲν ἐχλεύαζον, οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· ἀκουσόμεθά σου περὶ τούτου καὶ πάλιν.

This is the final result of the sermon Paul preached at Mars Hill in Athens.  Of course, much is made about this sermon these days.  Some like to emphasize Paul's use of contextualization.  He noted something about their culture and used it to share the gospel.  There are two particularly famous Mars Hill churches in America, one emergent and one definitely not.  Both are interested in reaching the culture, though I would maintain that the latter does it much more faithfully to Scripture.

I don't really want to discuss that though.  I want to discuss this verse at the end.  It's vital for us to understand this.  Here we see how the people reacted to a sermon preached by Paul.  This is the Paul that wrote half of the New Testament.  He was a pretty good preacher, despite being the self-proclaimed "chief of sinners."  And yet at the end his message was mocked by some and accepted by others.  Literally this would be "on the one hand, there were mockers, but on the other hand some said..."

This greatly encourages me as I preach and teach.  It may be through a formal preaching ministry or it may just be through this blog and conversations I have with people.  Either way, I understand that I will be mocked.  However, I must remember that it is the message that they mock, not me.  It is my job to share the gospel faithfully.  In other words, I must scatter seed.  I cannot determine if it will grow.  This is certainly liberating.  This is what I take Mark Driscoll to mean when he exhorts faithful evangelism and then you should "sleep like a Calvinist."

Saturday, April 10, 2010

The Essential Thing

Acts 16:30 Then he brought them out and said, "Sirs, what must I do to be saved?" 31 And they said, "Believe in the Lord Jesus, and you will be saved, you and your household."

30 καὶ προαγαγὼν αὐτοὺς ἔξω ἔφη· κύριοι, τί με δεῖ ποιεῖν ἵνα σωθῶ; 31  οἱ δὲ εἶπαν· πίστευσον ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ σωθήσῃ σὺ καὶ ὁ οἶκός σου.

This is the jailer addressing Paul and Silas.  There had just been an earthquake and they could have gone free.  The jailer was ready to kill himself as was the custom.  Paul stopped him and the jailer was just blown away by all that he had seen and heard.  Here he asks the pivotal question.  The answer is quite simple -- πίστευσον ἐπὶ τὸν κύριον Ἰησοῦν καὶ σωθήσῃ.  This is an imperative to believe.  The result is σωθήσῃ, which is a future passive.  You will have salvation done to you.

The jailer's belief was not of the one moved to tears at the revival.  He did not simply walk an aisle or fill out a card.  His life was shaken down to the very core.  He was broken to the point of death.  That was what it took to bring him to saving faith.

I would maintain that is what it takes for all of us.  We do not necessarily need to experience an earthquake and be brought to the point of physical death.  However, we do need to be brought to the end of ourselves.  Jesus is not an add-on to an otherwise great life.  Jesus is everything.

Where are you?  Are you living a nominal life for Jesus?  Is He just a part of your life or is He your life?  If He is not your whole life then I would submit that you don't really understand what it means to follow Him.  This is not to say that everything about your life changes in an instant.  Sanctification is a process.  However, if your heart is not focused on bringing Him glory then I would say that you still don't really understand what it means to "Believe in the Lord Jesus and you will be saved."

Thursday, April 08, 2010

Faithful Workers

Acts 15:38 But Paul thought best not to take with them one who had withdrawn from them in Pamphylia and had not gone with them to the work.

38 Παῦλος δὲ ἠξίου, τὸν ἀποστάντα ἀπ᾽ αὐτῶν ἀπὸ Παμφυλίας καὶ μὴ συνελθόντα αὐτοῖς εἰς τὸ ἔργον μὴ συμπαραλαμβάνειν τοῦτον.

This is part of a passage that church polity folks like to discuss.  Who was in the right here?  Should John Mark get a second chance?  Or was Paul right?  I typically side with Paul, but he was certainly not infallible and I think he would be the first to tell you that.

What I do think it shows us is that there is value in being consistently faithful in ministry.  If you want to be an asset to your church then you need to show yourself faithful.  It doesn't take too many missed appointments to be seen as a "flake."  That's true in life as well.  I know some people who I can count on and others who I expect will change things at the last minute.

Obviously sometimes last-minute changes are legitimate.  Cars break down, people get sick, etc.  Other times there are just things that come up.  With some people those things are a pattern.  That tells everyone else that these other things really occupy a higher priority in our lives.  That's fine if that's the case, but understand that is what you implicitly communicate when you regularly change plans at the last minute.

I don't want to be known as someone who τὸ ἔργον μὴ συμπαραλαμβάνειν τοῦτον..  I want to show myself faithful, amen?

Wednesday, April 07, 2010

No Distinction

 Acts 15:8 And God, who knows the heart, bore witness to them, by giving them the Holy Spirit just as he did to us, 9 and he made no distinction between us and them, having cleansed their hearts by faith.

8 καὶ ὁ καρδιογνώστης θεὸς ἐμαρτύρησεν αὐτοῖς δοὺς τὸ πνεῦμα τὸ ἅγιον καθὼς καὶ ἡμῖν 9  καὶ οὐθὲν διέκρινεν μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν τῇ πίστει καθαρίσας τὰς καρδίας αὐτῶν.

This is part of Peter's speech at the Jerusalem Council.  The question was whether the Gentiles should be circumcised.  The answer was no.  Here is Peter's account of how the gospel went out to the Gentiles.  He should know after what he experienced with Cornelius.

I suspect that this chapter is a big part of the debate over Dispensationalism and Covenant Theology.  Simeon later says:

16 "'After this I will return, and I will rebuild the tent of David that has fallen; I will rebuild its ruins, and I will restore it,
 17 that the remnant of mankind may seek the Lord, and all the Gentiles who are called by my name, says the Lord, who makes these things 18 known from of old.'

It seems like the Jews need the gospel now as much as the Gentiles.  Though they can trace their lineage to Abraham they still need grace.  But the phrase καὶ οὐθὲν διέκρινεν μεταξὺ ἡμῶν τε καὶ αὐτῶν leaps out at me.  There is no distinction between the Jews and the Gentiles now in the sense that we all need grace.

However, Simeon's statement indicates that there is some kind of promise coming for the Jews.  Or at the very least it indicates that Jerusalem will be a major factor in the end.  I would take this to refer to the New Jerusalem that will come at the end.  Those who are ἐπικέκληται will come to it.  That seems consistent with the idea that the elect will spend eternity with Him in the New Jerusalem.  In other words, as far as I know, we don't need a Dispensational reading to make sense of this text.

Thanks for sticking through this post if you've made it this far.  The purpose of this blog is for me to think some things through more deeply.  I'd appreciate any comments on this that anyone wants to make.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Eternal Appointment

Acts 13:48 And when the Gentiles heard this, they began rejoicing and glorifying the word of the Lord, and as many as were appointed to eternal life believed.

48 Ἀκούοντα δὲ τὰ ἔθνη ἔχαιρον καὶ ἐδόξαζον τὸν λόγον τοῦ κυρίου καὶ ἐπίστευσαν ὅσοι ἦσαν τεταγμένοι εἰς ζωὴν αἰώνιον·

This was the result of Paul's public preaching.  It's hard for us to imagine how glorious this news was to the Gentiles.  They continually had to look at the temple from the outside.  They figured that they could never be God's chosen people and, therefore, had no chance of the kind of relationship the Jews enjoyed.  Paul taught otherwise.  This resulted in great delight for the Gentiles.

There are two things that really strike me about this short verse.  First, there is a sense of divine appointment.  The word τεταγμένοι is a perfect passive participle.  A rule of thumb for the perfect tense is that there was some past action with present effect.  It is a participle to show the nominative nature of it.  It is in the passive tense to show that something was done to the subject.  In this case, it refers to those who had previously been appointed to eternal life.  They could now believe, which was the present effect.  This is a very strong verse in support of the doctrine of election.

The other thing is that it refers to ζωὴν αἰώνιον.  This is once again a defense for the orthodox view of eternity.  Those who believe will spend eternity in life.  What a glorious promise that we have to hang onto!  I pray that those of us who believe would hang onto that.  And I pray that those who do not yet believe would come to faith.  I don't know who is elected, so I'm going to keep writing as if everyone who reads this is.

Sunday, April 04, 2010

Holy Rebuke

Acts 13:9 But Saul, who was also called Paul, filled with the Holy Spirit, looked intently at him 10 and said, "You son of the devil, you enemy of all righteousness, full of all deceit and villainy, will you not stop making crooked the straight paths of the Lord? 11 And now, behold, the hand of the Lord is upon you, and you will be blind and unable to see the sun for a time." Immediately mist and darkness fell upon him, and he went about seeking people to lead him by the hand.

9 Σαῦλος δέ, ὁ καὶ Παῦλος, πλησθεὶς πνεύματος ἁγίου ἀτενίσας εἰς αὐτὸν 10  εἶπεν· ὦ πλήρης παντὸς δόλου καὶ πάσης ῥᾳδιουργίας, υἱὲ διαβόλου, ἐχθρὲ πάσης δικαιοσύνης, οὐ παύσῃ διαστρέφων τὰς ὁδοὺς [τοῦ] κυρίου τὰς εὐθείας; 11  καὶ νῦν ἰδοὺ χεὶρ κυρίου ἐπὶ σὲ καὶ ἔσῃ τυφλὸς μὴ βλέπων τὸν ἥλιον ἄχρι καιροῦ. παραχρῆμά τε ἔπεσεν ἐπ᾽ αὐτὸν ἀχλὺς καὶ σκότος καὶ περιάγων ἐζήτει χειραγωγούς.

I thought about doing a special Easter post, but I also want to keep going through Acts.  After all, this is what  I read this morning and that is the point of this blog.  For those of you who know Jesus -- HAPPY EASTER!

This is Paul's rebuke of the magician Elymas who was trying to lead people away from the faith.  Paul had zero patience for this man.  As he was filled with the Holy Spirit he rebuked the man.  And for good measure the man was made blind.

This story seems very foreign to us because we are unaccustomed to anyone being this serious about the truth.  We put up with all kinds of crazy shenanigans and refuse to "curse what God is blessing."  There is an element of truth to that statement, but overall we need to uphold the sanctity of truth.

Today of all days this becomes very important.  We need to understand the bedrock of our faith and what the truth is all about.  We do not worship Jesus because He was a great teacher.  We do not believe the Bible because it has lots of wise teachings.  We worship Jesus because He is God and proved it to the world by "the sign of Jonah."  He spent three days (by Jewish reckoning) in the ground and then rose from the dead.  That is the bedrock of our faith.

Let us be sure to oppose any who stand in the way of that.  We may agree to disagree on some secondary matters.  But when it comes to who Jesus is let us never waver from the truth.

Thursday, April 01, 2010

Enjoy Your Ham

Acts 10:15 And the voice came to him again a second time, "What God has made clean, do not call common." 16 This happened three times, and the thing was taken up at once to heaven.

15 καὶ φωνὴ πάλιν ἐκ δευτέρου πρὸς αὐτόν· ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἐκαθάρισεν, σὺ μὴ κοίνου. 16  τοῦτο δὲ ἐγένετο ἐπὶ τρίς καὶ εὐθὺς ἀνελήμφθη τὸ σκεῦος εἰς τὸν οὐρανόν.

This passage comes at the end of a vision that really shocked Peter.  He saw a sheet descend from heaven with all kinds of animals on it.  A voice told him to go, kill, and eat.  This astounded Peter because he was a devout Jew.  He would not even think of eating ham, for example.  The Law strictly forbade it and that was enough for him.  Yet here we see that God made all foods clean.  I might even translate ἃ ὁ θεὸς ἐκαθάρισεν very literally as "what God cleansed."  The verb ἐκαθάρισεν is a third-person aorist indicative.  That means that there was some undefined time that God cleansed all things, but that it certainly did happen.

On one hand, this passage is great because it gives us the liberty to enjoy ham this Easter.  I don't know for sure, but I suspect that one of the reasons why ham is such a traditional Easter food is because it shows us the liberty we have in Christ.  On the other hand, I was able to find a site that says it has pagan roots.  Either way, it is a very tasty food and we can enjoy it with full liberty because we are not under the Law.

I think that this passage goes beyond salted meats though.  The chapter goes on to describe Peter's encounter with Cornelius, a gentile centurion.  The Lord also appeared to Cornelius in a vision and that brought the two together.  He sent Cornelius to the house where Peter was staying and this vision from the Lord prepared Peter to have an encounter with an unclean gentile.  Thus began the gospel ministry to the gentiles.

As a gentile I rejoice in this fact.  Christ's death made me clean.  I can enjoy fellowship with God because of Christ's life, death, burial, and resurrection.  Think about this on Sunday as you sit down to enjoy food that Moses declared to be unclean.