Showing posts with the label Church

Fulfilled in Jesus

A charge commonly heard in popular preaching is “replacement theology.” It is usually hurled against anyone who claims a promise from the Hebrew Bible made originally to Israel now finds its fulfillment in the church. But the accusation misses the point. The New Testament teaches neither “replacement theology” nor the idea that God has two distinct covenants and peoples, each with a separate eternal destiny.

Gender and Spirituality

The commonly held view that women are by nature “more spiritual” than men is debatable, at least, scripturally speaking. This is the idea that women are more “spiritual” because their emotional nature tends to render them more open to “spiritual things,” “realms,” and the like. Perhaps. But this raises the more important question – Just what do we mean by the term “spiritual”?

Apostolic Credentials

What are the marks of a genuine apostle? “Signs and wonder?” Visions and dreams? Eloquent speech and a commanding presence? Such things are wonderful and have their place, but are they criteria by which disciples of Jesus can evaluate claims of apostolic authority?

American Revival

A popular view often voiced today is that what the church and society need is “revival.” Amen! A little revival would be great. However, there is a twist, for it seems that the heart and focus of this idea is “revival” in the United States of America. If mentioned at all, the other nations of the earth are an afterthought.

This Evil Age

The death of Jesus inaugurated the messianic age with consequent changes in the status of the Law and God’s people .  In  Galatians , Paul declares that his apostleship originates from the same God who raised Jesus from the dead, the Messiah who gave his life to “ deliver us from this evil age .” His declaration anticipates his proposition that the arrival of Jesus changed the status of the Law for the covenant community.

Heirs in Jesus

Returning to the custodianship of the Law means rebuilding the wall between Jew and Gentile - but “you are all one in Christ, heirs of Abraham.”   Paul compares the Mosaic Law to a “ custodian ” or “ pedagogue ” assigned to supervise Israel “ until  the seed comes ,” and that “ seed ” is Jesus. In Greco-Roman society, the “ pedagogue ” was a slave with custodial and disciplinary authority over an underage child until he reached maturity, even though the custodian was a slave.

Controversy at Galatia

The issue at Galatia was whether Gentiles must be circumcised and keep some, at least, of the deeds of the Torah .  The letter to the Galatians is the response of the Apostle Paul to a specific controversy that had arisen among the churches of Galatia. At issue was the status of Gentile believers. Must Gentile the convert to the faith conform to Jewish practices and submit to the regulation of the Mosaic Law, especially to the rite of circumcision?

Who is the Light of the World?

Contrary to the claims of politicians and some church leaders, Jesus is the “light of the world,” not any nation or political ideology .  Politicians invoke “god” to validate their agendas and status, and the most popular religion is employed to do so. Just as today’s officeholders pay lip service to “Judeo-Christian values,” so the emperors of Rome appealed to their traditional gods for divine approval. Patriotism and religious faith become synonymous, and lack of nationalistic fervor becomes heresy.

Some Politicians Get a Pass

Why do church leaders excuse lying, adultery, and other serious sins when committed by their political friends and allies?   Early in my Christian walk, I was taught to strive for holiness in every area of life. Sin must not be tolerated in thought, word, or deed. “ Do not evil that good may come !”  As a disciple of Jesus, I was to live “separate” from the fallen world, not physically, but spiritually and morally. His follower must not be “ unequally yoked ” with sinners.

One New People

Paul is adamant. Now, “ in Christ Jesus ,” no longer can there be “ Jew or Gentile .” He has “ dismantled the middle wall of partition ” that once separated Jew from Gentile, “ that he might reconcile them both in one body for God through the cross .” Having voided the “ law of the commands in ordinances ” that separated them, he is “ creating in himself one new man .”

The Sanctuary of God

Paul consistently applies the term “ sanctuary of God ” to the church, and he also uses related language when describing Christian congregations, terms used originally in the Hebrew Bible for the Tabernacle and Temple. While the Apostle’s language is metaphorical, it describes new realities and the identity of God’s new covenant people.

Ekklésia - The Assembly

The New Testament usage of the term “assembly” is based on the image of Israel assembled before Yahweh for worship in the Hebrew Bible. The Greek noun rendered “church” in English is  ekklésia , meaning “assembly, congregation.” In secular Greek it may refer to an “assembly” of citizens gathered to conduct matters of state; however, that is not the sense found in the New Testament.

Song of the Lamb

Having “overcome” the Beast and its “mark,” the saints stand on the Sea of Glass and sing the song of the Lamb – Revelation 15:1-4.  The fifteenth chapter introduces the seven angels who were poised to pour out the contents of the “ seven bowls of wrath .” Before they did so, John saw the “ overcoming ” saints standing on the “ sea of glass mingled with fire ,” where they “ sang the song of Moses and of the Lamb .” They had successfully overcome the “ beast and its number .”

Redeemed of the Earth

In Revelation, the people of God are comprised of the men purchased from every nation by the blood of Jesus .  The book of  Revelation  applies several terms and symbols to the church that is under assault. The men who are redeemed from the earth form a company that transcends all national, social, and cultural boundaries. And “ tribulation ” is not an aberration to be avoided at all costs. Instead, persevering through trials is integral to what it means to follow the “ Lamb wherever he goes .”

Pentecost - Outcome

The final paragraph of the second chapter of Acts summarizes the results of the Spirit’s outpouring. It describes the basic practices of the young congregation that resulted from the Spirit’s presence – Teaching, shared meals, fellowship, prayers, unity, and material support for individuals in need. The one unique feature is the holding of possessions “in common” under the administration of the Apostles.

When Pentecost Arrived

The book of  Acts  lays stress on fulfillment. The things foreshadowed in the Hebrew scriptures are actualized when the disciples are “ filled with the Spirit and spoke in other tongues ” on Pentecost. This is the seminal event that marks the inauguration of the Church, the age of the Spirit, and the commencement of the final harvest.

Priestly Reign of the Saints

During the “ thousand years ,” Satan is imprisoned, and the victorious saints reign as priests. Ironically, the “ rest of the dead ” do not live until the “ second death ” at the “ Great White Throne of Judgment .” Behind this image is Daniel’s vision of “ one like a Son of Man ” who receives the kingdom from the “ Ancient of Days .”

People of the Last Days

The church is the battlefield where the final war is being waged between the Lamb and the Ancient Serpent, Satan .  The book of  Revelation  is addressed to seven first-century churches in Asia, and it deals with their real-life situation and trials. In the process, it presents messages relevant to all churches throughout the present age. Their daily struggles are a microcosm of the cosmic battle between Jesus and the “ Dragon .”

Absent Church?

Revelation is a message to the church, the people of God, and one concerned with its situation on the earth  – Revelation 4:1-3.  After Jesus finished dictating his letters to the “ seven churches ,” John saw an “ open door in heaven ” and heard the voice from his first vision summoning him to “ come up here .” He then found himself standing before the “ throne set in heaven .”

Tribulation of the Church

In Chapter 7 of  Revelation , John sees countless followers of the “ Lamb ” exiting the “ great tribulation ” after persevering through it. This striking image is central to his vision of the “ innumerable multitude ” comprised of men purchased from every nation by the lifeblood of Jesus. Having “ overcome ,” they now stand triumphantly before the “ Lamb ” and the “ throne ” in “ New Jerusalem .”