Archive for the ‘Bible’ Tag

Paul Greets the Church at Corinth   Leave a comment

Paul the apostle was well-known to the Christians at Corinth. He’d ministered there for 18 months only a few years before. Paul lived in Corinth around AD 53 and at Ephesus, where he wrote the letter we call 1Corinthians, from AD 55-56. Some of what he dealts with in the letter were concerns the church had actually asked him about while other topics were concerns Paul had heard about from believers who were from Corinth or had recently traveled through there.

Preamble
(1Corinthians 1:1-3)

Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours: Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

I doubt the Corinthians were surprised to receive this letter. Paul had already written one letter which was not preserved for us. Paul was the first to present the gospel in Corinth,, so many of the members of the church in Corinth were the fruit of his ministry (1 Corinthians 9:2; 2 Corinthians 3:1-4). Paul wrote with apostolic authority. By the will of God, he had been chosen and called as an apostle, so he wrote with full authority and his words were not to be ignored.

Paul addressed his letter to the church at Corinth and then proceeded to define the church. We ought to pay close attention to that definition. Paul asserted that the church belongs to God. It didn’t belong to the pastor or the members. The church at Corinth belonged to God as our churches today should belong to God. God is the One who brought the church into existence through the shed blood of His Son, Jesus Christ. God is the One who sustains His church. It is God’s church.

The “church” is defined in two categories: (a) the local church and (b) the church universal. The local church is that body of believers who gather regularly in one place. The “universal church” consists of all believers in every place and in the whole course of church history. But we recognize that Paul defined the church as (a) “those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling,” and (b) “all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ” (verse 2).

The first category roughly correlates with “the local church.”, but when Paul spoke of the church, he simply referred to a group of believers. Sometimes this group was a “house church,” a group of believers meeting in a certain person’s home (Romans 16:5, 19; Colossians 4:15; Philemon 1:2). These “house churches” may have met in a larger gathering, as did the saints in Jerusalem (Acts 2:46). Then, Paul referred to the “city church,”  — the group of all believers in a particular city (Revelation 2 and 3) or the church at a particular city (Acts 11:22; 13:1; 18:22; Romans 16:1). This is the way Paul referred to the Corinthian church, the “church of God which is at Corinth” (1 Corinthians 1:2; 2 Corinthians 1:1). Finally, Paul spoke of the church as all those living at one time, who have trusted in Jesus Christ for salvation.

Our view of the church is sometimes too narrow (the local church—our church) and sometimes too broad (all those who have ever lived and trusted in Christ for salvation). We pray for our missionaries, the missionaries we have sent out from our local church, or more broadly, from our denominational group. A few churches share with those in need within their own fellowship or local church. When the new believers (the church) at Antioch heard a famine was coming upon the world, they enthusiastically began to prepare to give to their brethren in Judea. They understood, even at this early stage in their growth and maturity, that the church is bigger than the local congregation.

In this broader sense of the church, Paul’s epistle, though addressed to the saints at Corinth, was also written to the church at large. Look once again at the first two verses of Paul’s salutation: “Paul, called as an apostle of Jesus Christ by the will of God, and Sosthenes our brother, to the church of God which is at Corinth, to those who have been sanctified in Christ Jesus, saints by calling, with all who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, their Lord and ours.”

This broader element in Paul’s salutation is important because Paul’s teaching to the saints at Corinth is just as applicable and authoritative for the church at Philippi, Ephesus, Dallas or Fairbanks, Alaska. Too many have tried to avoid Paul’s teaching in his Corinthians letters by insisting he was speaking to a very special and unique problem found only in Corinth. This simply does not square with Paul’s words. His instructions to the Corinthians apply to every other saint, those who lived then and those who live now.

Thanksgiving
(1:4-9)

I thank my God always concerning you, for the grace of God which was given you in Christ Jesus, that in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ, who shall also confirm you to the end, blameless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. God is faithful, through whom you were called into fellowship with His Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s not a standard reaction to express thanksgiving when a church has begun to listen to false teachers and is challenging godly authority. The church at Corinth was condoning immorality and unconditionally accepting a man whose sin shocked even the unbelieving pagans of that city. This church’s personal conflicts were being aired out before unbelieving eyes in secular courts. How could Paul possibly give thanks?

The point is to understand what Paul gave thanks for. He wasn’t praising the sins and failures of these saints. He thanked God for what He had done and for what He will ultimately do for His children. Paul gave thanks for the “grace of God,” which He has given the saints in Christ Jesus (verse 4). Grace is unmerited favor, and we must surely agree that these Corinthian saints were as unworthy of that grace as we are in the 21st century. The good things which have already been accomplished, and all those good things yet to be accomplished, are manifestations of God’s infinite grace, bestowed upon those who are unworthy.

That in everything you were enriched in Him, in all speech and all knowledge, even as the testimony concerning Christ was confirmed in you, so that you are not lacking in any gift, awaiting eagerly the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ.

God’s grace to the saints in Corinth and everywhere was boundless. He enriched them in everything. They were enriched in all speech and all knowledge, achieved through the preaching of the “testimony of Christ,” as it was confirmed in the individual believer. The Corinthians had no critical need for which God had not made provision through the preaching of Christ. Were there false teachers who indicated the Corinthians were lacking and that they needed more of something? Any who taught that were liars! God had already provided all that was necessary for “life and godliness” in Christ (2 Peter 1:2-4). No gift was lacking in the church. God had provided just the right gifts for the growth, maturity and ministry of the saints in Corinth. If the church at Corinth was failing, it was not due to any failure on God’s part to provide for their needs, but rather a failure on their part to properly claim and use those resources.

Finally, Paul expressed his thanksgiving for the faithfulness of God and the resulting assurance that He would complete that which He had begun in the Corinthian saints (verses 7-9).

These saints were eagerly awaiting the revelation of our Lord Jesus Christ (7a). Their salvation had not only past and present benefits, referred to earlier, but a future hope. Their salvation and security were God’s doing. Consequently, Paul had great confidence concerning this church and the future of each saint. Paul thanked God because He would confirm these saints to the end. What God had started, He would finish. They were secure, and their hope was certain, just as Peter also wrote:

Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who according to His great mercy has caused us to be born again to a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, to obtain an inheritance which is imperishable and undefiled and will not fade away, reserved in heaven for you, who are protected by the power of God through faith for a salvation ready to be revealed in the last time (1 Peter 1:3-5).

While these Corinthian saints weren’t consistently faithful, God is faithful. It is through His faithfulness that each believer has been called to salvation. It is because of His faithfulness that we will persevere and enter blamelessly into His kingdom in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ.

In spite of the stumbling and sin which is evident in the Corinthian church, God had saved the saints there. He had sufficiently provided for their every spiritual need, purposing to present them faultless when He establishes His kingdom. Paul was assured that his ministry was not in vain, because the salvation and sanctification of the saints in Corinth and elsewhere are the work of God. The God who called these saints and destined them for glory was the same God who called Paul to be an apostle and to minister to these saints. Paul’s work was not in vain, for his work was ultimately God’s work.

Conclusion

Paul wrote to a very troubled church, a church which existed in the midst of a very corrupt city and culture. In spite of this, Paul had a very confident mood as he addressed the saints at Corinth and around the world of his day and ours. Despite the weaknesses and willful sins of these saints, Paul did not question the reality of their conversion, but began his letter by affirming the present and future benefits of their salvation. These saints needed to be reminded of the certainty of their salvation, the foundation of which rested not within themselves, but in the One who called them and the One who will complete all that He has begun. This certainty assured Paul that his continued ministry to this church was not in vain.

Reading this letter, we ought to reject the myth of the perfect New Testament church. The New Testament 21st century churches face many of the same challenges. We are shepherded by individual pastors, meeting in different buildings in many different cities and countries, but we recognize Christ as the only Head of the church. So often Christians look back to the New Testament times as though the church in those days was nearly perfect. If you read the Book of Acts the way I do, there is a wonderful period of bliss in the infancy of the church, but this lasted only from late in chapter 2 to the end of chapter 4. In chapter 5, a couple was struck dead for lying to the Holy Spirit. In chapter 6, there was strife between two groups of Jewish Christians over the care of their widows. By the time we get to the Corinthian church, it was far from perfect and hardly what could be called good.The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in

The final words of our Lord to the seven churches of Asia in Revelation 2 and 3 are not complimentary either. The church was not perfect in New Testament times, and it is far from perfect today. The same sins which Paul exposed in 1 and 2 Corinthians are present and evident in evangelical churches today. And so Paul’s words of admonition and correction are just as applicable to us today as they were to the saints of his day.

We deceive ourselves if we think we can retreat within the church walls to escape the evils of the world. The Corinthians letters inform us that the world easily and quickly finds its way into the church. The church is not the place where we go to escape from sin. It’s where we should go to confront our sin and stimulate each other to love and good deeds. The church should be a spiritual hospital, where we can find help and healing through the ministry of the Word and prayer.

 

Corinth in History   Leave a comment

Image result for image of corinthSecular history verifies and clarifies the impression of the city of Corinth offered by Luke (Acts) and Paul (1 and 2 Corinthians). Politically, Corinth was the capital city of the Roman province of Achaia, a territory including nearly all of Greece, which is why Gallio, the proconsul of Achaia, was in Corinth and heard the charge against Paul. Geographically, Corinth was so strategically located its prosperity was almost assured. It was situated on a plateau overlooking the Isthmus of Corinth, two miles from the Gulf. Nearby Acrocorinth, a 1900-foot mountain, acted as a citadel for the city, a fortress so secure it was never taken by force until the invention of gunpowder. It contained an inexhaustible water supply in the fountain of Peirene. A temple of Aphrodite, the goddess of love, sat on the summit of Acrocorinth. At the base of the citadel stood the temple of Melicertes, the patron of seafarers.

Located on an isthmus, Corinth became a crossroads for both land and sea trade. Located between two large bodies of water and two land areas, Corinth was virtually surrounded by the Mediterranean Sea. Were it not for the isthmus on which Corinth was founded, the southern part of Greece would be an island in the Mediterranean Sea. Goods exchanged between the north and south would normally be shipped by land through Corinth.

Much of the sea trade of the Mediterranean from east to west also passed through Corinth. To the west of Corinth was the port city of Lechaeum on the Gulf of Corinth. On her east was the port of Cenchrae on the Saronic Gulf. These acted as ports of call for ships. Travel across the isthmus and through Corinth was generally considered safer than the 200-mile voyage around Cape Malea, the most dangerous cape in the Mediterranean.

To avoid the distance and danger of the journey around the Cape of Malea (now called Cape Matapan), goods would be unloaded at one port, transported across the four-mile strip of land (through Corinth), and reloaded on the other side. Smaller ships were actually transported with their cargo over the isthmus by means of rollers. Consequently, the isthmus was named the Diolkos, “the place of dragging across.” Nero had planned a canal to join the Aegean and Ionian seas, and he even began construction in A.D. 66. The three and one-half mile canal was finished in 1893.

So Corinth became a great commercial center. Luxuries from all over the world were available and so were the vices of the world. These evils did not all have to be imported, however. The temple of Aphrodite had 1,000 cult prostitutes who sold themselves in the name of religion. The Greeks of the day used the verb “corinthianize” to describe an act of immorality. “Corinthian girl” was a synonym for prostitute.

Estimates of the population of Corinth range from 100,000 to 600,000 and it was a very diverse city with an ancient history and a vibrant present. The site had been inhabited since the 4th millennium BC. Alexander made Corinth the center of a new Hellenic League as he prepared for war with Persia. In 146 B.C., the city was destroyed by Roman soldiers because it led the Greek resistance to Roman rule. All the males of the city were exterminated, and the women and children were sold as slaves. The city was rebuilt by Julius Caesar 100 years later, and eventually became the capital of the province of Achaia. Many of those who settled in Corinth were not Greeks. Roman soldiers retired there after receiving their freedom and Roman citizenship in addition to grants of land. A variety of nationalities settled in Corinth, enticed by the prospects of economic prosperity. A good number of the immigrants were Jews.

… this mongrel and heterogeneous population of Greek adventurers and Roman bourgeois, with a tainting infusion of Phoenicians; this mass of Jews, ex-soldiers, philosophers, merchants, sailors, freedmen, slaves, trades-people, hucksters and agents of every form of vice … without aristocracy, without traditions and without well-established citizens. William Barclay, The Letters to the Corinthians, rev. ed. (Philadelphia: Westminster Press, 1975), p. 2.

Posted January 29, 2017 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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I Tell You True Truth   1 comment

This is Part 10 of a series What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

John the apostle wrote his account of Jesus’ life decades after the events. What are termed the synoptic gospels had already been written and were in circulation. As an elder in Ephesus, John no doubt read one of the traveling copies. Why did John feel he needed to write his own gospel? There is a theory that Luke asked him to and there is some evidence for Luke’s involvement (I’ll get to that someday).

John may have been the last of the apostles still living by the time he set pen to parchment. The others had all died in persecutions. Although he wrote his gospel later, he had to have written before AD 79 because there is no textual evidence that he knew about the destruction of the Temple. He speaks of the Temple as though it still existed. So it’s about 30-35 years after the events he wrote of, but he had the other gospels to refresh his memory and Luke may have been there as well. Luke was not witness to the events of Jesus’ life, but textual critics say his gospel evidences the skills of a historian.

I suspect John had found something missing in the other gospels. The other gospels were not inadequate for their own purposes, but John had a somewhat different message. Thus, his gospel (while a book of history) is really a book of theology. It focuses less on details of where Jesus traveled when and more on what Jesus taught.

Thus the exact chronology of the gospel may not be wholly accurate and that’s why the gospel is not “synoptic”. It doesn’t matter because it is a book of theology and not a historical text.

At the age of 12, Jesus accompanied Mary and Joseph to Jerusalem to celebrate the Passover with them. When His family left for home, Jesus stayed behind, His absence unnoticed. When Mary and Joseph returned to Jerusalem in search of Jesus, they found Him in the temple listening to the teachers and asking questions (Luke 2:46). It wasn’t long before they were asking Jesus questions, and they were amazed at His answers (2:47). Jesus was already an astounding teacher at 12 years of age, whose understanding of the Scriptures amazed Israel’s finest scholars.

Several years later, John the Baptist commenced his public ministry, proclaiming the Word of God and calling Israel to repentance in preparation for the coming of Messiah. The Jewish religious leaders took note of him and sent a delegation to inquire about his ministry and message. It is apparent that the Pharisees chose not to identify themselves with John and his preaching, as they refused to be baptized by him (Luke 7:30).

Nicodemus came to Jesus at night, but not to talk about himself or Pharisaism, but to learn more about Jesus, His message, and His relationship with God. What does Jesus say about Himself? Nicodemus opened the door by assuring Jesus that he sees Him as a man with a mission and a message from God. All Jesus had to do is pick up from here and tell Nicodemus what His mission is. I think Nicodemus was surprised where the conversation ended up.

Jesus replied, “I tell you the solemn truth, unless a person is [re]born from above, he cannot see the kingdom of God.”

Jesus began by indicating to Nicodemus that the words He is about to speak convey a most solemn truth. He uses an expression unique to this Gospel, which in the King James Version is rendered, “Verily, verily …”  In essence, Jesus said “This is true truth” and then He swept away all that Nicodemus stood for and demanded that he be re-made by the power of God.

Nicodemus’ brand of Judaism did not know anything of re-birth. Quite frankly, the Pharisees thought one birth of the “right kind” was quite enough.

But when he saw many Pharisees and Sadducees coming to his baptism, he said to them, “Offspring of vipers! Who warned you to flee from the coming wrath? Produce fruit worthy of repentance! And do not think you can say to yourselves, ‘We have Abraham as our father,’ because I tell you that God can raise up children for Abraham from these stones! 10 Even now the ax is ready at the root of the trees, and every tree that does not produce good fruit is cut down and thrown into the fire” (Matthew 3:7-10, emphasis mine).

To many Jews, to be born a Jew was to be born into the kingdom of God. We know the Jews also believed that Gentiles are born “lost.” Even the Jerusalem church leaders had to be forcefully convinced that God had purposed the salvation of Gentiles (Acts 10; 11:15-18), and even then, the practice of many Jewish believers did not match their profession (Acts 11:19). Paul, likewise, hit hard at this point. All Israelites are not true Israelites (Romans 9:6). Those who trust in the atoning work of Jesus Christ for salvation are true Israelites, whether their racial origins are Jewish or Gentile (Galatians 3:28; 6:16).

I can imagine the shocked look on Nicodemus’s face when Jesus told him that his natural birth (as a Jew) wouldn’t save him, and that he must be reborn from above. The implication was (and remains) clear: Unless Nicodemus was reborn from above, he would not see the kingdom of God. Here was a man who thought he had reserved seats on the blue line of heaven. Jesus told him that he was not even going to get into heaven as he was. He first must be born again, from above.

And that, folks, is Jesus’ brand of true truth.

Part 9 – Secret Meeting

Part 10 –

Truth on Trial   2 comments

This is Part 6 of a series What If Truth Went Viral? Check it out.

Jesus stood accused before the Roman governor, who had the power of judge, jury, and executioner. Pontius Pilate was accountable to no one on earth but Caesar himself, and his singular thought was how to handle this thorny local issue in such a way as to please Caesar and advance his own cause. Pilate was a typical Roman politician–skilled, devious, educated, and thoroughly cynical in his approach to life, not unlike today’s politicians and administrative state officials. Pilate was likely feeling a little grumpy, because this time of year was always a tense one for every Roman ruler of Judea. Jerusalem was viewed by the Romans as a miserable, grimy city full of trouble and troublesome people and the Passover forced Pilate to leave his comfortable residence in Caesarea. The Jews were gathering for one of their interminable religious festivals where they worshiped their strange oriental God, their uniquely solitary deity who was so jealous that He wouldn’t even let them make an image of Himself. Passover was the center of their feasts, so Pilate was in Jerusalem, where he did not want to be, and he had been awakened very early in the morning at the summons of the Jewish religious leaders, to handle the case of this prisoner, Jesus. Pilate had tried to avoid making the decision by sending Jesus to the appointed king Herod, but that wily old fox had deftly sidestepped the issue and landed it back in Pilate’s lap. So here they stood, an inscrutable Jewish prophet and the Roman governor.

So Pilate went back into the governor’s residence, summoned Jesus, and asked him, “Are you the king of the Jews?

Jesus replied, “Are you saying this on your own initiative, or have others told you about me?

Pilate answered, “I am not a Jew, am I? Your own people and your chief priests handed you over to me.What have you done?

Jesus replied, “My kingdom is not from this world. If my kingdom were from this world, my servants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jewish authorities. But as it is, my kingdom is not from here.”

Then Pilate said, “So you are a king!”

Jesus replied, “You say that I am a king. For this reason I was born, and for this reason I came into the world – to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice.”

Pilate asked, “What is truth?” (John 18:33-38 – NET)

We know the rest of the story. Pilate didn’t really have anything against this solitary prophet and he’d been warned by his wife to avoid making a decision, so he tried to worm out of the situation, but when faced with a political threat to himself, “. . . If you let this man go, you are no friend of Caesar.” (John 19:12), he turned Jesus over to the executioners. Pilate’s words to Jesus, however, ring in our ears, because they sound so current, so “now.”

“What is Truth?”

Pilate, the cynical politician, probably had no idea of the answer to his own question–he most likely wasn’t sure there was such a thing as truth. He wasn’t very different from those in our own society. We live in a civilization that will admit the existence of “little truths,” and technological facts:

  • 2+2 = 4
  • elements have certain chemical and physical properties
  • bodies in motion behave in a predictable way

However, our civilization officially denies the existence of ultimate Truth–the concept that Francis Schaeffer called “true truth.” For the Christian, however, Truth exists, and it is ultimate, rational, and real.

Your first step in developing and using a Christian worldview is to realize “your word is truth. ” (John 17:17).

As believers, we are blessed by God with such a glorious gift. While the rest of human gropes in the dark for answers about the most basic questions of life, we have them all bound up in one book–the Bible. We can know where mankind came from, how we got to be where we are today, and what the future holds for us. For the cost of some hours of reading, you can discover principles and laws that will tell you what is right and what is wrong. If you want to know Who God is, what He is like, and what He wants from you, you can find that out in the Bible–the Bible can even guide your steps in getting to know Him personally. The history of God’s dealing with mankind is founded in literal, historical events–they really happened, and they are recorded for us in the Bible.

You can know the truth and the truth can set you free … if you will let it.

Part 7

Latest Cult   Leave a comment

Jesus, Paul, Peter and John the Evangelist all warned us that cults would rise that would pretend to speak for God and even pretend to bear the gospel of Jesus. So this shouldn’t surprise us.

Christ is a Woman

The ad did make the front page of our local newspaper, however, so I’m thinking they’re pretty well financed.

It’s not unlike any of the other cults that have come along that wrap a grain of truth in some attractive, but ultimately specious package.

Yes, the spirit of Christ inhabits all Christians, male and female. Although the Bible uses male imagery to describe God the Father, God is spirit and therefore, male and female are probably not concepts that really apply to Him.

But ….

Jesus was male. There is no evidence that He was female. The Bible depicts Him as male. The Bible depicts Him as doing things that only males did in His cultural era. The only way you could get a concept of Jesus being a woman is if you twisted the words of the Bible, which is an exceedingly cult-like behavior.

What’s more, this site refers to God in the plural and says God is 2 in 1, which is also not a concept found in the Bible. You can easily come to the concept of 3 in 1 (Trinity). Jesus Himself provided the framework for that by talking about Himself and the Father and then also claiming to be God. He followed that by saying the Holy Spirit would come from the Father to be a constant presence in our lives after Jesus’s physical body die. Jesus appears to breathe the Spirit onto His disciples. Then Paul explains it in concise terms in Philippians 2. 3 in 1 is a discoverable concept in the Bible.

The concept of 2 in 1 meaning both male and female is not discoverable in the Bible.

So, just beware, folks, that we have another cult on the rise and this Christ Lisbet apparently has a marketing budget.

Challenging My Presuppositions   Leave a comment

Ever have one of those nights when someone you care a great deal about challenges your spiritual presuppositions?

Yeah. So this person accused me of not knowing what the Bible says and not actually believing God. She’s one of those who believes that the voice of her own self-will is far more wise than the words of the Bible. The only words of the Bible she accepts are the ones Jesus said. There’s nothing right in the Old Testament and mostly nothing right in the New Testament. It’s all just mean old men writing things she disagrees with.

Since I care about this person a lot, I’m still trying to stop crying. I love her so much and she has hurt me so deeply, but more …

I am grieving because there are a handful of people that I really want to spend eternity with and I thought she would be one of them.

And maybe she’s just an arrogant young lady who will change her mind as she mellows and reacquaint herself with the Holy Spirit some time down the road. Her Christian walk does not have to look like my walk, but — DAMN IT! — it has to look like God’s definition of Christianity. She has accepted syncretism as the pathway to God and that leads out into a muskeg from which it is incredibly hard to escape.

When my presuppositions are challenged, I go to the Source. And, because I have this blog, I get to share my mental meanderings with those willing to read them.

Just a head’s up — I’m still sort of on the “in the world, not of it” line, but I’m about to launch out into a Bible study or two. Maybe while I’m at it, I’ll talk about how that applies to today.

Posted January 30, 2016 by aurorawatcherak in Christianity

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Tension of the Testaments   Leave a comment

These days non-Christians with an agenda spend a lot of effort trying to point out what they view as “Biblical illiteracy” among Christians. If you as a Christian state you will not comply with the latest secular law that asks you to violate Biblical principles, you are told you’re a hypocrite because you “eat cheeseburgers” and “get your hair cut”. Sometimes you may not have the foggiest idea what they are talking about. Sometimes that is actually due to a lack of careful scholarship on your part (you can do something about that, of course). Ofttimes it is the result of their misunderstanding of the Bible.

Christians do not live under the Old Covenant. The vast majority of us were born Gentles and are not required in any way to obey the Mosaic Law. It is merely a guide for us to follow because it shows the moral standards that are important to God. My next posting will be on the Jerusalem Council.

So, Old Testament laws by and large have no hold on Gentile-background Christians unless they are repeated in the New Testament. We live under the New Covenant and the New Testament is our guide and, yes, we are required to follow it (except for those handful of passages where Paul explicitly says he’s giving his opinion). If Old Testament laws are repeated in the New Testament, then it’s usually a good idea for New Covenant Christians to know the Levitical law in order to know God’s full teaching on the subject at hand.

So what are the Biblical scriptures that support what I just wrote?

Acts 9 and 10 recount how Peter — a Jewish Christian — began to be separated from the Mosaic Law through God’s actions.

He was traveling in Lydda, a Christian named Tabitha (or Dorcas), died of a severe illness in nearby Joppa. The church at Joppa sent messengers to Peter asking him to come with them “without delay”. Peter complied. When he got there, he cleared the room and resurrected the woman. But that isn’t what is really important in this passage. He laid hands on her dead body, which was a violation of Jewish laws. It made Peter ritually unclean. He then stayed for several days in Joppa with Simon the tanner, a man who also would have been ritually unclean due to his job. Why is that detail important? Because it shows that the believers in Joppa at that time were still following the Jewish law. Only the tanner had room for one of the acknowledged heads of the Jerusalem church because he had made himself ritually unclean by resurrecting one of their own. (Actions 9:36-43)

In Caesarea there lived a Gentile centurion named Cornelius. He was a God-fearer — a Gentile who believed in the Jewish God, but who had not converted to Judaism by being circumcised or keeping kosher. He prayed regularly and during one of those prayers (at 3 in the afternoon … so we know he wasn’t sleeping) he saw a vision in which an angel of God told him to send messengers to Joppa to get Peter. He sent three men, including one soldier who was also a God-fearer. (Acts 10:1-8)

Although the Jews considered all Gentiles to be unclean, soldiers were considered especially unclean because of their work … killing people involves a lot of blood. So it could reasonably be expected that Peter would reject them not only because they were Gentiles, but because they were soldiers.

While they were traveling, Peter received a vision of his own. He could smell lunch being prepared and a trance fell over him. Heaven opened and a sheet-like object descended. On this screen, Peter saw all kinds of four-footed animals, reptiles and birds. A voice said “Get up, Peter, slaughter and eat!” Peter objected. “Certainly not, Lord, fr I have never eaten anything defiled and ritually unclean.” The voice of God (as Peter recognized it) said “What God has made clean, you must not consider ritually unclean.” This exchange repeated three times before the screen was withdrawn into heaven. (Acts 10:9-16)

Peter was a good Jew for a fisherman. Jews who worked harvesting food spent part of the year ritually unclean by virtue of what they did for a living. So he had touched the dead bodies of fish before. In that case, raising Tabitha from the dead was acceptable and he took the consequences from his society for doing that. But he was about to launch into totally unexplored and stormy waters. We know from later in Acts and from Galatians that the Jewish Christians were going to have a hard time understanding and accepting this New Covenant that was not actually new. The Levitical dietary restrictions were instituted for some good reasons and for some teaching reasons. A camp of thousands on a march through the desert needed to maintain high hygiene standards if they were going to survive the trip. Living in the Promised Land alongside of pagans like the Philistines and Canaanites, dietary restrictions kept them separate from their neighbors. It taught them discipline as well. That unique identity, exemplified by rituals and dietary strictures, helped keep the Jews as Jews through the Babylonian captivity and Roman occupation.

But it had also made them very insular and self-involved and now God was ready to use the Jewish Christians as a missionary force to the whole of the Gentile world. They wouldn’t be able to maintain those standards which had always been cultural in nature. Now they were moving toward worshiping in spirit and in truth.

Peter puzzled over the vision even as Cornelius’ men approached Simon’s house. When they showed up at the gate, the Holy Spirit spoke to him and said “Go with them because I have sent them to you.” Peter responded, but verified that they were there from a corresponding vision. Then he invited them into Simon the tanner’s house. If Peter had not been made to stay there because of his ritual uncleanness, he could not have offered these Gentiles shelter for the night. God knew what He was doing. (Acts 10:17-23)

The next day he traveled to Caesarea with Cornelius’ men and some of the believers from Joppa. Cornelius called together his relatives and close friends to witness as he paid homage to Peter, but Peter rejected worship. “I’m a mere mortal.” When they went into the house, he saw that he was surrounded by Gentiles. He pointed out that this violated Jewish laws, but that God had given him a new understanding. (Acts 24-33). Despite the fact that these were Gentiles, Peter preached the gospel.

Then Peter started speaking: “I now truly understand that God does not show favoritism in dealing with people, but in every nation the person who fears him and does what is right is welcomed before him. You know the message he sent to the people of Israel, proclaiming the good news of peace through Jesus Christ (he is Lord of all) – you know what happened throughout Judea, beginning from Galilee after the baptism that John announcedwith respect to Jesus from Nazareththat God anointed him with the Holy Spirit and with power. He went around doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devilbecause God was with himWe are witnesses of all the things he did both in Judea and in JerusalemThey killed him by hanging him on a treebut God raised him up on the third day and caused him to be seen, not by all the people, but by us, the witnesses God had already chosen, who ate and dranwith him after he rose from the dead. He commanded us to preach to the people and to warn them that he is the one appointed by God as judge of the living and the deadAbout him all the prophets testifythat everyone who believes in him receives forgiveness of sins through his name.” (Acts 10:34-43)

The Gentiles gathered in Cornelius’ house began to praise God and speak in tongues, evidence of salvation. Peter arranged for them to be baptized and then he stayed several days with them. (Acts 10:44-48).

When Peter got back to Jerusalem, however, the Jewish Christians called him to account because they had already heard he’d been eating with Gentiles. Peter explained what he had done and why and also detailed the results — Gentiles exhibiting the Holy Spirit. The Jerusalem elders stopped objecting at this point and praised God. (Acts 11:1-17)

Meanwhile, at the same time as Peter was going through this miraculous set of events, ministry was continuing elsewhere. Believers had been scattered because of the persecution that took place over Stephen. So far Christians had been witnessing to Jews, but then some Christians from Cyprus and Cyrene began to speak with Gentles. God brought in a large harvest there. Hearing this, the church at Jerusalem sent Barnabas to Antioch to investigate and train these new believers. Barnabas quickly saw this was a work of God among people who did not have a Jewish background. He recognized a need for these new Christians to be taught properly. Apparently feeling inadequate to do this all by himself, Barnabas went to nearby Tarsus and got Paul, who had spent the last several years since his miraculous salvation experience in Damascus quietly growing in the Lord and studying how the Mosaic law interacted with Christianity. It was a bold step given Paul’s history, but it was also a brilliant and God-directed choice. (Acts 11:19-26) The church at Antioch was so distinctive and powerful that it was here that believers were first called Christians.

It would be this church in Antioch — a mixed congregation of Jewish Christians and God-fearers (Gentiles who accepted Judaism’s principles) — that would launch the ministries that brought Christianity to Europe.

So when non-Christians who have used a search engine to find what they suppose are contradictions in the Bible try to win an argument with you by making you feel as if you don’t know the Bible … remember this passage. God didn’t just let things run amok. He gave us specific instructions. When Jesus said “I haven’t come to destroy the old covenant, but to fulfill it,” it pays to know what He meant by that. It wasn’t the Levitical law that was the old covenant. The old covenant was the promises He made to Abraham in exchange for Abraham’s obedient faith. The new covenant is the promises He has made to us in exchange for our faithful obedience. They are the same, just lived out differently because of our different cultures … except when the New Testament speaks on something that is also in the Old Testament.

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