Roman relief: sacrifice of bull. Now at the Antiques Museum, Royal Palace, Stockholm
Have you ever noticed that the world of the Bible is very different from our own society? Sometimes it can seem hard to relate to some of the topics.
But we’re not as far removed from the ancients as we like to think. After all, we’re human, too.
The church at Corinth sent Paul a letter with some questions. We can reconstruct them in the structure of 1 Corinthians.
Paul begins various sections with the phrase “now concerning.” In 1 Corinthians 8, it’s “Now concerning meat sacrificed to idols.”
It still matters.… Read the rest
Society acts like it’s a good thing! The church mustn’t.
Have you ever noticed that much of the American church today doesn’t like to mention sin?
Try saying aloud that something is sinful. If you’re not careful about what company you say it in, someone is bound to thunder, “Judge not, lest ye be judged.”
Why do they always quote it in King James? Simply because they have memorized it that way, and it becomes a handy club to beat up anyone who dares to criticize sin.
They have no clue that their use of the verse amounts to judgment of you, the one who dares to bring up the very idea of sin.… Read the rest
Rhoda leaves Peter outside the door
Peter was miraculously delivered from prison. He had more trouble getting into a prayer meeting.
The story is told in Acts 12. It has a haunting resemblance to Jesus’ first resurrection appearance. In both cases, people who should have had faith show the sin of unbelief instead.
The chapter opens with the murder of James, one of Jesus’ inner circle.
The king apparently planned to follow it by executing Peter after a public show trial. Passover interfered with his plans, so he put Peter in prison under heavy guard.
Peter had no apprehension the night before his scheduled death.… Read the rest
Pentecost / El Greco (1597)
Did your church acknowledge Pentecost? If so, how? The church has become divided over the significance of the events of the first Christian Pentecost.
Pentecostals emphasize the supernatural events and consider them normative. Others fear them and try to explain them away.
Some even teach that God no longer performs supernatural acts and that anyone who claims otherwise follows the devil! So what happened? And what does it matter now?
… Read the rest
Mosaic of St. Peter in Basilica Saint Peter Vatican Rome Italy
Have you ever wondered about what Jesus meant when he gave Peter the keys of the kingdom of heaven? It can be confusing.
Somehow, the phrase has been turned into “keys to the kingdom,” which incorrectly suggests that Peter somehow had authority to decide whom to allow into the kingdom. God, not Peter is the ultimate judge.
Use of the wrong preposition isn’t the only way Christians have interpreted the passage in Matthew 16:19 in ways Jesus probably didn’t intend.
… Read the rest
The Manna Harvest / Giuseppe Angeli (18th century), but doesn’t it look more like the griping before the manna came?
Have you ever noticed that some people just like to complain? They don’t even need a legitimate reason. Alas, you can easily find them in churches.
But here’s a better question. What is the effect when griping goes into overdrive? It would try the patience of a saint. Or in the case of an Old Testament illustration, Moses. Nobody comes out looking good in the sorry story told in Numbers 11.
We often refer to the people Moses led out of Egypt as the children of Israel.… Read the rest
A small but vocal minority of people have managed to redefine marriage in the United States by judicial fiat.
Justice Kennedy excused his setting aside all of human tradition on grounds that most Americans now accept same-sex marriage.
Ten years ago most Americans rejected it. Why the change?
Because the church failed to be the church. It followed the sorry pattern of Old Testament prophets and priests.
Judgment is coming. It will not be pleasant. “For it is time for judgment to begin with God’s household; and if it begins with us, what will the outcome be for those who do not obey the gospel of God?” 1 Peter 4:17
Someone on social media sarcastically noted that God did not send anyone to hell because of slavery, so why would he send anyone to hell because of same-sex marriage?… Read the rest
Holy wisdom icon (Yaroslavl) / Russian, 17th century
Paul’s epistle to the Colossians is the only one he wrote where he hadn’t founded the church.
The church was rife with heresy, and its leader Epaphras visited Paul in prison to get some guidance. Paul addressed the epistle not to the church at Colossae, but to the saints and faithful there.
Paul’s opening prayer for the Colossian saints, and I’m sure for all Christians anywhere, was that they would “be filled with the knowledge of God’s will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding” (Colossians 1:9).
… Read the rest
We prepare to go to church. That’s not quite the same as preparing for worship. It is quite possible to come to church and go home without having worshiped.
Some churches make it nearly impossible for anyone to worship.
I’m thinking in particular of a service where the sermon was little more than a book review and the congregation had little chance to participate. Or of other services where the sermon has consisted of the preacher explaining away what the Scripture lesson clearly taught.
But even in churches where the content of the service is good and the congregation has ample ways to participate, it is too easy just to go through the motions and leave unmoved.… Read the rest
Saint Matthias / workshop of Simone Martini, ca. 1318
There is a common teaching that God intended that there would be only 12 apostles. When Judas killed himself, Peter and the church chose Matthias to take his place, but later God overruled them and chose Paul. Then how come the New Testament names other men—and a woman—as apostles?
In order to believe the teaching that the appointment of Matthias was a mistake, it is necessary to believe that
- Peter acted impulsively, having been misled in his prayer and meditation on the Word as described in Acts 1.
- After Peter and the entire assembly prayed, the Holy Spirit allowed them to make a fundamental error and start the whole church on the wrong foot.
… Read the rest