Six Months Down!

Well, the year is halfway over. As is my custom, I’ll post links to the most popular posts for the last month. And while I’m at it, I’ll post the top 20 for all time. (Software won’t let me do the last 6 months. Oh, well.) Continue reading

Which Gospel? The Gospel of Baptism (The Gospels and Acts), Part 1

First, a word of explanation.

I’m trying to carefully work through the scriptures to decide for myself where the emphasis should be. I mean, I’ve read too many books and too many blogs and am having trouble sorting all this information out for myself and for my congregation.

It seems as though each week the elders are pushed to go one direction and then another and then yet another. There are too many good ideas, too many wonderful insights, too many directions.

And so, this is for me. I’m figuring this out as I go. In the end, I hope to have figured out what’s most important to Jesus — not what works best, what’s most fashionable, what the members want or feel they need, not even what I want. Continue reading

Buried Talents: More Questions and Answers

Q. Doesn’t the fact that there were women deacons and not women elders in the early church tell us that God did not mean for women to be elders?

A. No, for two reasons. First, deacons were servants of the congregation and women could easily fill the role of deacon without violating cultural norms. But elders were foremost teachers and leaders. First Century Christians would never have accepted women as elders. Indeed, few women would have been qualified to be elders, due to lack of education or exposure to the world. The same cultural conditions that dictated that women not teach and that women not ask questions in the assemblies made eldership an impossibility. Continue reading

Surprised by Hope: “Salvation”

Most commentaries, heavily influenced by Luther and Calvin, speak of “salvation” as getting to go to heaven when we die. Modern churches often speak of making “Jesus your personal Savior,” as though Jesus could be owned personally.

But, of course, this isn’t quite right. And part of the inadequacy of this perspective is that it completely ignores the Old Testament’s use of “salvation.” And we really can’t understand the Old Testament idea until we understand the long-standing promise of a new heaven and new earth. Continue reading

Surprised by Hope: The Downpayment and Inheritance

And so we were talking about Surprised by Hope in class on Sunday and someone brought up the idea that the Holy Spirit is a “deposit.” For example —

(2 Cor 1:21-22) Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, 22 set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come.

Also 2 Cor 5:5; Eph 1:13-14.

The word translated “deposit” in the Greek is arrhabon. In modern Greek, it means “engagement ring,” which is pretty cool when you remember that the church is the bride of Christ! Continue reading

Which Gospel? Introduction, Part 4

Sexually pure gospel

Watch enough 24-hour news shows and pretty soon you’ll see some evangelist interviewed. The subject will be sex — abortion, divorce, homosexuality, abstinence. It’s as though the only thing Jesus taught us was to keep our pants on outside of marriage!

Now, the Bible is very, very moral and holds us to very high standards. But is this center of the gospel?

Ask a Christian teenager about the youth rally he just returned from, and he’ll tell you that most of the lessons were on sexual purity. It’s good they’re being taught this. They need to hear it. What else do they need to hear? And what else might the government or the TV audience need to hear? Continue reading

Buried Talents: How Do We Decide?

What is the rule in this case? Do we presume a rule or do we presume freedom? What does the Bible say?

(Gal. 3:25) Now that faith has come, we are no longer under the supervision of the law.

Why do we insist on replacing the law that Christ died to free us from with a new, equally strict law? Can you tell any difference between our debates over whether a man must resign as elder if his wife dies or if his only child (or one of his two children) dies or is divorced and the debates the Pharisees had as to whether it is right to heal on the Sabbath? I can’t. They thought they were honoring God by strictly construing His commands to be “safe.” They built fences around the law to be doubly safe. They are burning in hell. Let’s not follow their example. Continue reading