CENI: So In Conclusion … , Part 1

church_split11Readers here and in other forums where this series has been discussed have asked how I could be so Post-modern as to reject the notion of obeying commands … which means I’ve not adequately explained my thinking.

First point: I’m not a Post-modern thinker. If you ever understand anything I’ve written as questioning the possibility of objective truth or submission to authority, you’ve misunderstood. It may be entirely my fault, but my view of truth is not remotely Post-modern.

I’ve noticed lately that’s it’s become quite fashionable among my conservative brothers to lob in an accusation of Post-modernism nearly from the get-go. The assumption seems to be: you disagree with me; therefore, you must doubt the existence of any sort of objective truth.

No, I was a math major. I’m a lawyer. Both disciplines are pretty big on objective truth. I’m no Post-modern thinker. I just happen to disagree.

Second point: Christians are supposed to obey God’s commands. Obviously. But this is a series about hermeneutics. And hermeneutics is about how to understand what God has inspired — NOT whether to obey what he has commanded. It’s just that you can’t obey — not really — until you’ve truly understood what God has said.

I think a large segment of the Churches of Christ has misunderstood God’s commands — badly. They have obedient hearts, but they have misunderstood what they are to obey because of a seriously flawed, man-made hermeneutic.

Notwithstanding my disagreement with CENI, I certainly believe that the commands and examples found in scripture matter and instruct us — and that real truth can be validly inferred from the scriptures. That’s not the problem.

Unexamined hermeneutics

The first problem with CENI is that the real rules are unstated. You see, we all agree that we should obey real commands and properly inferred obligations. We agree that examples are there for our instruction.

But CENI doesn’t tell us how to decide which commands remain binding today — other than a pro forma mention of “context” and such. On what basis do we decide which commands remain binding today?

On what basis do we decide that an example is binding? How do we decide whether an inference is necessary?

You see, I know of no one who questions the importance of commands, examples, and inferences. But saying that is about as helpful as saying “We must interpret the words.” Of course! But how?

CENI, as practiced, has the practical effect of concealing how the real hermeneutics are being done. We announce “binding example” when in fact we are finding the “binding” in Ignatius and Justin Martyr, not Jesus and Paul.

Thus, my foremost plea is put your cards on the table. Give the real reasons for your conclusions. And stop binding the Patristics on your brothers.

I’ve got no great problem with those who want to worship as Justin Martyr did. It may be the very best way to worship in your community. But don’t dare criticize others for not following his instructions.

Beginning with false assumptions

Another problem is that we in the Churches of Christ have begun our study of the scriptures by presuming that what we should be looking for are commands, binding examples, and necessary inferences about how to worship, organize, and name our churches.

We’ve started with the assumption that the Bible is all about the rules. Hence, when I took “Apostolic Church” under Batsell Barrett Baxter at Lipscomb, the course was all about the rules (I say this despite my great admiration and affection for the man). The course didn’t touch on the work of the Spirit, on the importance of caring for the needy and hurting in the world, or on forming a community of believers living as aliens in this society.

In fact, at Lipscomb I had one Bible teacher who correctly interpreted a verse as saying Christians should live radically different lives from the world around us. We asked him how we would live that way.

The only example he could offer (and I do not exaggerate in the least) was that when he bought something at a store, he didn’t look to see if he’d received correct change.

You see, in the early 1970s, Christianity was (a) obey the rules and (b) be nice. Our notion of being radically different from the world was to be radically different from “the denominations,” by insisting on believer’s baptism, weekly communion, and a cappella singing. Our prayer for unity was that everyone would come to agree with our positions on those issues.

This kind of thinking goes back to Thomas Campbell, who wrote in the “Declaration and Address,”

the New Testament is as perfect a constitution for the worship, discipline and government of the New Testament church, and as perfect a rule for the particular duties of its members; as the Old Testament was for the worship discipline and government of the Old Testament church, and the particular duties of its members.

Alexander Campbell wrote to similar effect —

The true Christian church, or house of God, is composed of all those in every place that do … associate under the constitution which he himself has granted and authorized in the New Testament, and are walking in his ordinances and commandments–and of none else.

The Christian System, p. 76. Now, these men quite plainly saw the New Testament as a body of law, much as the Law of Moses is a body of law.

In other words, when we open our New Testaments, we start with the assumption — before we read a word — that we are about to read a work of statutory law: a constitution, filled with rules, government, ordinances, and commandments. And therefore we start scanning the pages of the Gospels and epistles looking for commands. And when we don’t find the “worship discipline” and “government” we expect, we go looking for examples. And when we don’t find enough examples, we get busy inferring.

But the New Testament nowhere claims to be a constitution of any sort. Nor does it claim to be composed of statutes. Therefore, we’ve violated one of the most fundamental principles of hermeneutics on which both sides — in theory — agree: read literature taking into account the kind of literature it is. Narratives are to be read as narratives, letters as letters, and apocalyptic literature as apocalyptic literature.

Therefore, you don’t read these documents as though they are legislation. Rather, you read them for what they are — as they present themselves — and let the scriptures themselves guide our interpretation.

Context

I was raised in the Church. Third generation, actually. And all my life I’ve been taught to read verses in context — immediate context and the larger context. And I was taught correctly.

When I urge us to read the Bible as narrative and to fit each passage, each book, and each testament into the larger Story of God’s redemptive work among humanity, I’m merely arguing for context. And the Churches of Christ have routinely failed to do this — especially when proper contextualization contradicts our impulse to find laws.

Of course, there are laws — just not nearly as many as we pretend.

Thus, when we study the role of women in context — in light of the flow of history as directed by the Creator of all — everything changes. No longer may we argue that women are subordinate to men because God gave husbands rule over their wives in Genesis 3:16. Rather, by virtue of being serious about context, we see that the Curse of Genesis 3 stands opposed to God and his kingdom.

Just so, as we study God’s purposes as revealed in the history of his dealings with his people, we see the critical importance of unity — not just as a response to a command, but as one of the very purposes for which we’ve been redeemed.

And we see compassion for the poor as more than obedience or conforming to a pattern. It’s conforming to the nature of God himself. Serving the poor, the fatherless, and the widow are the very essence of righteousness.

Yet we are so obsessed with finding rules that don’t even exist that we argue about whether the church — God’s kingdom, the body of Christ on earth — can support orphans. We’ve seriously missed the point.

Advertisements

48 Responses

  1. Amen, brother!

  2. Jay you said “I’ve noticed lately that’s it’s become quite fashionable among my conservative brothers to lob in an accusation of Post-modernism nearly from the get-go. The assumption seems to be: you disagree with me; therefore, you must doubt the existence of any sort of objective truth.”
    If I had a dime for every time that I was accused of being a post modernist I would be wealthy. I have noticed that the main fear behind many of those throw these accusations around is that they are really scared of questioning everything they believe. So instead of dialogue that is brutally honest they accuse. Many regular members in the churches of Christ don’t know what hermeneutic was used to teach them what they believe so many deny any hermeneutic at all; “they just read the Bible”. So ignorance and fear are the main obstacles in helping people re-understand the bible and get to know God and not just the facts and figures of the scripture.

  3. BINGO! Ignorance and fear. If you are relying on being “right” for your salvation then to question it is tantamount to a eternal death sentence. Must not, cannot, question anything. The truth will indeed set you free.

  4. Jay,

    I have learned much from this series. I have a better understanding of some of the prevalent thinking that is spreading within us. I have learned that words once revered by the “Greatest Generation” like responsibility, duty and law, no longer resonate within our society. Today, tolerance is the key word unless one implies what someone else should do, then there is no such thing as tolerance.

    Concerning our issues, a wise brother told me while I was in high school (early seventies), “When it comes to restoring the New Testament church, we may have arrived in terms of form and function. However, when it comes to restoring us back to the love and spirituality of the first century, we have a long way to go.”

    I agree we still have more to do to restore the original love and service portrayed by the NT church. The issue is how to fix the problem. The solution proposed here seems to say the best way to achieve love is to divorce ourselves of the original instructions given to in the NT church to fix and prevent issues.

    If the topic were golf, we would be arguing which is more important, the driver or the putter. On any given day, we may work on our weakness. But we must keep our skills in both. As stated in a business book and elsewhere, “Even Tiger Woods uses every club in his bag.”

    We do not need to divorce ourselves of seeking God’s will for our lives. We need to include, enhance, and emphasize our service.

    Rich.

  5. Amen, once again brother!! We have missed the point, and it is often painfully hard to watch. The Bible is a beautiful story of God’s love and redemption story for us, and the New Testament is not just another set of laws like Leviticus. It all weaves together an awesome narrative of what God has already done, and what we are called to do as His disciples.

    Yes, there are commands we are to obey, and examples we should learn from,…but He told us that His commands are NOT burdensome and His burden is light. It is only our human commands that God never intended that places burden and condemnation on others where God never did.

    I do believe that many of those who believe as they do are sincere and just unaware of the man-made hermeneutic people have created and passed it off as Bible, while others are just stubborn…nevertheless it is sad to watch so many miss the point and people be hurt by the attitude…and for so many others to miss out on the beauty of a real relationship with God and what He really has to offer us in His Word and story of redemption. It is hard to break free from that for many, I know-but I wish that freedom, love, and relationship for EVERYone!! 🙂

  6. Jay

    Great post again’

    i am an engineer of many, many years. I rely on facts and try to be analytical. Before I can obey a set of rule they must make sense and be in context with the problem.

    I have also commputor programmed many foriegn econmic packages that have been translated from something to english.The problem encountered is in the translation to english. At times the translation does not make sense so you go to a source in the country that understands the nuances of both languages.

    The new testament can be that comples also. What was Paul really saying in Romans and Ephesians?
    When we read Galations how can we then make a set of rules so comolecated that even the rule maker cannot completely obey them? I beleeive every word of scripture has meaning to us,however diferently each of us understands it.

    We tried several years ago at a unity meeting in Tulsa hosted by Marvin Phillips to undrersatand each other but were completely blasted as being unscriptural and condemned by the conservatives.

    At this time we just try to please God and worship wih the idea of letting the spirit control our lives for the sake of all those who we come in contact with.

    Again, please keep your freat work.

    Let us suffer the shame that Jesus bore out side the camp. Heb, 13:13 Bob

  7. I agree with the movement towards newer understanding of the scriptures. It seems to me the scriptures were always to be interpreted in light of the times rather its history. If were to look at our own constitution like the second amendment what would a CENI approach create within our society? Civil war! But in age of tolerance the commands of God like the second amendment need to seen as a balance of power. This doesn’t mean we assume rights of forced baptism or confiscate hunting rifles from the community. It does mean that the Bible like contemporary government share in a delicate model of civility towards its people its serve.

  8. Rich,
    First of all golf and God is not analogous. If you had gained a better understanding as you state then you would not make the accusation of divorcing ourselves from the Bible. Nowhere has Jay or most of the so called progressives expressed that sentiment or desire, though they are constantly accused of such. In fact to the contrary they strongly encourage study of the Bible. They have argued for a more consistent hermeneutic. You have a hermeneutic whether you admit it or not. If that bothers you then you might ask yourself this question. Am I seeking to confirm what I already believe or am I examine ideas on their soul merit making every effort to mitigate any per-supposed ideas in the seeking process? From your post it seems that you saying that this dialogue has given you more ammunition to destroy your hermeneutical enemies. I hope that is not the case.

  9. Joe,

    I’ve been trying to think through the history of these accusations. At one point, it was all about the book Situation Ethics. Anyone who said the answer “depends” was accused of being a situation ethicist.

    Then there was the “new hermeneutic” accusation. I’m teaching a different hermeneutic than the CoC has traditionally taught, but it’s not the “new hermeneutic” http://theologytoday.ptsem.edu/apr1966/v23-1-article9.htm.

    And then there’s the classic slander: “liberal.” There aren’t many true theological liberals in the Churches of Christ. http://www.gotquestions.org/liberal-Christian-theology.html

    On the other hand, I’m glad to answer to the epithet “change agent” because in my business, change agents are heroes of enterprise. http://www.themanager.org/Strategy/change_agent.htm (And I think they’re heroes of the Churches, too.)

  10. Jay,
    Just curious about our use of CENI. The other evening at house church, we were looking at the lesson on “Change” in Renewing our worship… (great lesson/ we had some wonderful open discussion). Acts 20:7 was mentioned as apostolic example for worship on Sunday. Well I took another look… I asked “Well, if this is true, then this verse seems to omit, weekly contributions, singing, praying. They gathered together at Troas, they broke bread and listened to Paul till Eutichus fell asleep and fell from the window. Paul raises him up (it appears he had died from the fall), and paul spoke till morning. I guess we have to hunt for other passages and put them together for the whole picture.” I think I would be careful using CENI.
    Thanks,
    Jack Exum Jr.

  11. Jay,
    Forgot to mention how much I am enjoying these articles, and studies. I am enjoying re-studying what I have been teaching over the years, and finding more truth in light of God’s grace. This study, is well worth the reading. Of course the challenge, Is this is as always, ‘change’. Takes time and patience to help brethren understand, but I am finding that these studies are helping brethren here. Even things we don’t agree on, we are learning to disagree without being disagreeable. Always asking the question, “Is this a salvation issue?”
    Your book, which we have given out 50-60, (one went to Charles Hodge Jr.) are really getting good responses. Keep up the writing brother, we need the challenge.

    Thank you brother,
    Jack Exum Jr.

  12. Jack,
    It also says that Paul broke bread after mid-night which would technically be the next day not on Sunday. So if Paul was establishing a hard and fast rule for only taking the LS on Sunday as we suppose he broke his own rule. You must assume that breaking bread in this instance specifically implies communion and not just a fellowship meal, because there are many other references in Acts to breaking of bread such in the later part of chapter 2 where it says that they met in each other’s homes daily and broke bread with glad and sincere hearts.

  13. Joe,

    Although some like to say otherwise, the people at Troas were worshiping based on the Jewish calendar/clock. The day begins at 6:00 pm (dusk) rather than at midnight (as in our time system). Therefore, they met on our Saturday evening (their Sunday) so that after midnight was still the same day, Sunday (first day of week).

  14. and we know that how?

  15. GOD— always the cosmic riddler… yes? Always trying to trip us up with these calendars and clocks and examples of what may or may not be the LS. Or was it a meal? Couldn’t be a meal if it was in their homes each day?? hmmm what to do? Or could it? Who could know? Wait, we can all learn Greek! Then we can know what God REALLY meant!

    If I really believed God had a way for us to do church and our very salvation depended on it, yet he didn’t explicitly lay it out for us in a NON-HIDDEN blueprint manner, I would no longer believe in Him.

    🙂 I enjoy sarcasm. Obviously.

  16. Joe,

    I’m sorry to take so long to reply. I’ve been thinking how to keep it short and sweet.

    I don’t remember talking about a divorce from the Bible. Although I do believe many comments here mean a divorce from many of God’s instructions for us that are in the NT.

    My statement is a response to Jay’s comment from http://oneinjesus.info/2009/05/25/ceni-a-better-way-1-corinthians/ is the key phrase, “…we are told the purpose of the assembly and that whatever accomplishes that purpose is fine.”

    Jay says (unless I misunderstood) that the instructions given by Paul (who received them from the Holy Spirit) are not required to be followed. We have the ability to determine what meets the purpose of worship. This is in spite of Paul emphasizing that these were instructions for “all the churches” 1. Cor 7:17; 14:33.

    Concerning the golf analogy. Thanks for the feedback. I agree that analogies do not prove anything. I was using it to help explain the need for balance.

    Jesus taught balance to the Samaritan woman at the well. The subject concerned the Samaritans who worshiped with heart but in the wrong place and the Jews who worshiped correctly (right place) but had lost the heart. Jesus said there will be a time when both correctly and with heart will be required John 4:23.

    I first came to this site a few weeks ago with the idea that I may need to change my understanding of what the Bible says. It did rejuvenate my passion to do some deep dives studies. However, I saw the late 1800’s Christian Church hermeneutic rephrased with 21st century vocabulary. The rephrasing is very well done. However. there really isn’t anything new.

  17. Rich,

    I did not at all say or mean to say, “the instructions given by Paul (who received them from the Holy Spirit) are not required to be followed.” Rather, Paul’s method of testing the propriety of proposed elements of the assembly are whether they edify, encourage, strengthen, or comfort. That’s the test Paul used. Why would I presume to invent a different test?

    Just what instructions of Paul do you think I said don’t need to be followed?

  18. Rich,

    You say with great assurance “the people at Troas were worshiping based on the Jewish calendar/clock.” How do you come by this knowledge? You may be right, but I don’t see how you can state that conclusion with such assurance.

    On the other hand, as it is in fact a possibility that cannot be dismissed, I don’t think anyone can build an argument on the Roman calendar either. But maybe I’m missing something.

    Of course, the Churches of Christ have long offered a second communion on Sunday night. If we should be following the Jewish calendar, it’s wrong to offer communion on the Jewish Monday! Then again, Richland Hills began a Saturday night worship service, and they’ve been roundly criticized for taking communion on the wrong day. For example, http://www.olathecoc.org/bulletins/02-04-07olathecoc.pdf.

    And then again again, Sunday evening worship is often pre-sunset, which would make it Sunday, especially in West Texas where the sun sets really late due to being on the western end of their time zone. But if the sun sets pre-communion (as in the dead of winter), it’s the Jewish Monday. After all, the Jews don’t go by clocks but by the sun.

    It’s all so confusing … but if you’re really sure that the Jewish way of reckoning is right, then isn’t it just as binding as “first day of the week”? If Luke meant “first day of the week as reckoned by the Jews” in Acts 20:7, then surely that’s the rule. And that means communion after sunset on Sunday is sin — damning sin according to many. Kind of scary when you think about it …

    It seems the safe thing is to move winter Sunday night services to an early enough time to finish before sunset. But what about churches in the far North — like in Alaska or Norway? They may only have two or three hours of daylight in the winter. I’m not sure how they can have a second service on Sunday and yet be safe under both the Roman and Jewish calendars. They may have to deny communion to their Providentially hindered members or else risk guessing the wrong calendar for a night service.

    I wonder why God didn’t just tell us the answer? I mean … don’t our souls depend on getting this right?

  19. RIch,

    I didn’t say, “the best way to achieve love is to divorce ourselves of the original instructions given to in the NT church to fix and prevent issues.” Nor is that my intent. What I said is,

    Christians are supposed to obey God’s commands. Obviously. But this is a series about hermeneutics. And hermeneutics is about how to understand what God has inspired — NOT whether to obey what he has commanded. It’s just that you can’t obey — not really — until you’ve truly understood what God has said.

    Please tell me how you read that statement to mean “divorce ourselves of the original instructions.”

    When I urge us to take seriously Paul’s and Jesus’ and John’s instructions that love fulfills the entire law and that nothing avails other than faith expressing itself through love, how am I divorcing us from the original instructions? Should we ignore those instructions? Amend them by adding other laws? What is the correct interpretation of the passages if I’ve not given it?

  20. Jay,

    Thank you for the response. I sincerely apologize if I have misunderstood your intentions.

    You asked for me to explain how I came to my conclusion. I will try.

    I based my conclusion on your summarizing remark, “…we are told the purpose of the assembly and that whatever accomplishes that purpose is fine.”

    I interpreted the above to mean that you believe anything goes as long as we believe it meets God’s purpose such as edification (from previous paragraphs). This opens up the opportunity to dismiss an instruction that Paul gave the Corinthian church (and us) if we deem it to no longer meet God’s purpose. This leaves our hermeneutic to our opinion on what works rather than God’s.

    I understand Paul’s writings to say what God wants because God knows what is best for us.

    Please let me know if I missed something here.

    Rich.

  21. Rich,

    To be fair to any author, you need to consider the totality of the post — if not the series. Given that I’d said at the beginning of that very post that we must obey God’s commands — protesting those who’d mischaracterized me as saying to the contrary — you’re interpretation of my conclusion was not fair.

    The question Paul addresses (and it’s an example I think we should follow because it’s driven by the overarching narrative of scripture) is to ask what serves the God-given purposes for the assembly. Now, if we were to allow people to rudely interrupt one another, Paul has clearly told us that that violates the purpose of the assembly. I’m sure that’s true today.

    On the other hand, what achieves God’s purpose varies from culture to culture. In 1 Cor 11, Paul plainly insisted that women wear head coverings in the assembly. Most Churches of Christ no longer consider this command applicable today. Why not? Because a head covering (see http://gbgm-umc.org/umw/corinthians/veils.stm for likely examples of Grecian head coverings) is no longer a sign of submission or otherwise in fulfillment of the assembly’s purposes.

    Thus, we have to look at the text through the lens of God’s purposes to discern whether a given sentence, grammatically a command, is binding today. Whether women must be silent and whether we should allow tongues is more than just a matter of reading the rules. After all, most Churches of Christ reject tongues, even though Paul plainly permits them (on conditions) in 1 Cor 14. All these are matters for prayerful discernment, but we make it all too complicated by bringing in the foreign concept of authority — not found in 1 Cor 14 — and ignoring what’s actually said. And what Paul actually said is that he was testing the questions posed to him by the purposes of the assembly. I think we should do the same.

    Do we have to obey God’s commands? Yes, but only those commands that God meant to be binding on us today. How do we tell? Well, in part, by looking at God’s purposes. The Blue Parakeet and CENI series go into greater detail. The most consevative Churches of Christ agree that not all commands are binding. We just disagree about how to discern which are binding and which are not.

  22. Jay,

    The Jewish calendar/clock system is the only one that makes the passage consistent. v7 tells us they met on the first day with the purpose of breaking bread. v11 tells us the actual fulfillment of that purpose occurred after midnight. Paul then left after daybreak (dawn).

    The context dictates the answer here.

  23. Jay,

    I sincerely appreciate the clarification.

    Rich.

  24. If my salvation depended on my performance of obeying a “blueprint”, I would stick a shotgun in my mouth, pull the trigger and call it done. People with good hearts towards God and who are saved genuinely disagree with each others on the details of blueprints for salvation and doing Church. Even, among the Churches of Christ, there is variance, and all claim to have the Original blueprint.

    Salvation is by faith from start to finish. Period. It is sad that the Sommerite COC sect has raised up so many legalists to a “blueprint”, rather than to a living faith in Jesus Christ. What the Sommerite COC sect doesn’t get is that the New Testament is not the New Covenant.

  25. Not necessarily, under a Roman calendar getting together on a Sunday evening would satisfy the “first day of the week” statement. Coming together on the evening of the first day of the week and preaching till midnight because you are leaving on Monday seems to fit. but it also raises the possibility that the “break bread” used herein means more than the Lord’s Supper.

    The fact is there is no conclusive evidence here one way or the other. To construct any doctrine or even clear clear practice from this “example” requires us to assume many facts not entered into evidence. Each of us may assume what is reasonable here, but reasonable and true are not always the same thing.

  26. Hey Joe,
    thank you for your comments. Sorry I am a bit late in getting back to you. you know what, i went back and re read this passage and I believe you have something here. Interesting enough, verse 7 may state the intention of the gathering, but later (after midnight) it actually gets to the bread breaking, and he spoke till day break. So what are we to make of this, since we historically use this verse to prove our position on the Lord’s Supper? It seems that Paul (assuming this is an instance of gatherng to partake of the Supper) was like other preachers who was so ‘in to his message’ that time just flew by, and then Eutichus had his fall, and after midnight they reassembled to continue. they had the Supper and Paul continues to speak. Perhaps the lesson would be that Paul believed that the important thing was to keep the memorial, even if it were on Monday.
    Anyway, I would appreciate it if you would comment more on this. Thanks again.
    JackExum Jr.

  27. Rich,

    That’s actually not true. Note that Luke says that Paul meant to leave the next day. However, he leaves after sun up. If Luke had the Jewish system in mind, he would have said, “Paul spoke until midnight because he intended to leave THAT day.”

    As you pointed out very well, the context does dictate the answer. They came together to meet on the first day of the week, but nobody panicked when the first day became the second.

    Grace and peace,
    Tim Archer

  28. Tim,

    Thanks for the feedback. We need to be careful applying 1st century idioms to the 21st century. Sometimes day stands for a 24 hour period and sometimes it is the period that is opposite of night.

    Luke uses the latter to describe ‘day’ in Acts 2:15. Most bible scholars agree that the phrase ‘third hour of the day’ refers to our 9:00 am (3 hours past dawn 6:00 am), not 9:00 pm by Jewish 24 hour reckoning nor 3:00 am by Roman time reckoning). Thus, to meet on the first day (our Saturday night) and leave the next day (daylight, Sunday) is totally consistent with the context.

    Our idioms today are also imprecise. If someone asks me what time I went to bed last night. I might answer 1:30. Everyone would know what I meant. In general, I would be considered a smart aleck if I had said I didn’t go to bed last night. I went to bed this morning.

  29. “The context dictates the answer here.” – Rich

    Of course, it’s the CofC asking a question that doesn’t even exist in Scripture. Yes, the context might answer the question, but the question doesn’t need to be asked in the first place, unless we’re afraid of God sending us to Hell for not being smart enough to unravel His “hidden” doctrines.

    The interpretation may create “consistency” in the passage, but it is definitely not consistent with the story and character of God. By any good standard of interpretation, then, this must not be the best way to interpret this passage.

    It’s like jumping to the moon. You might get two feet higher than me, but we’re both coming up severely short. But God is so awesome, He saves the lame man who can’t even jump to begin with.

    There is no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus. That is our God.

  30. Why are the comments not sorting by date?

  31. NT Wright says, “Postmodernity is preaching the Fall to arrogant modernity, but the Fall is never the end of the story.”

    I think that is the best theological summation of PM I’ve ever heard.

  32. Rich,

    I don’t believe you can have it both ways. Remember that Luke does not quote Paul discussing his itinerary. Luke himself summarizes Paul’s travel plans for us. That’s why your reference to Acts 2:15 doesn’t fit — Luke is quoting Peter’s usage, not speaking on his own. And Peter is using DAY as we use AM. Just like we have the 3 o’clock AM & 3 o’clock PM, Jews had the third watch of the night and the third hour of the day.

    However, here’s the REAL kicker. Luke doesn’t use the word for day in Acts 20:7. He uses the word for “next” with ‘day’ assumed grammatically.

    Whatever day Luke thinks it is at the time they gather, he believes the next morning (when Paul plans to depart) is the next day. The morning of THIS day, in Jewish reckoning, is not NEXT day — it is still THIS day.

  33. Nick,

    Thanks for trying to keep me on my toes.

    As stated earlier, the 1st century idioms concerning days, morning,s nights are somewhat imprecise. For example, Josephus uses the phrase “following day” to designate the next morning of the same 24 hour period that began the previous evening.

    For example: compare the requirements for the Passover:

    “And you shall let none of it remain until the morning; anything that remains until the morning you shall burn. Exodus 12:10 (English Standard Version)

    with Josephus’ explaination:
    “and so we do celebrate this passover in companies, leaving nothing of what we sacrifice till the day following” Antiquities of the Jews, 3.10.5

    It is a separate issue whether the Troas example is binding today. However, scholarship does not allow us to use Troas as an example that communion was celebrated on Monday.

  34. Rich,

    Josephus was writing to explain the Jews to the Romans, so of course he writes it that way.

    You’re right, though, about imprecision — which is precisely why scholarship cannot prove that the bread-breaking of Acts 20 did not happen on Monday.

    The greater point, which has been raised several times, is that the gathered people in Acts 20 didn’t seem to care what day it was.

  35. Nick,

    It was a big deal on what day they met. Paul waited nearly a week (seven days) specifically until they met for the communion and left almost immediately following meeting together. Communion wasn’t celebrated daily. If it had been, Paul would have probably left sooner because he was in a hurry to get to Jerusalem for Pentecost (I assume a great opportunity to preach to thousands).

    The bigger issue is the length of time the people were willing to spend with the inspired Paul. Oh, our busy schedules today.

  36. Rich, how is it you conclude when they “broke bread” in Acts 20 means they had the Lord’s Supper. Acts 2 shows they “broke bread” each day in different houses eating a meal.

  37. Dear Anonymous,

    The NLT translation actually uses the phrase ‘Lord’s Supper’ instead of the more literal ‘break bread’. That doesn’t prove it though.

    I will refer to the following from http://www.apologeticspress.org/articles/343:

    “Because the phrase “to break bread” refers both to common meals and the Lord’s Supper, one must examine the context of passages in order to understand which one is being discussed. …

    But what about the use of the phrase “to break bread” in Acts 20:7? What textual indicators are present that warrant the phrase in this passage to be understood as the Lord’s Supper? First, the term “to break bread” is a first aorist active infinitive (Robertson, 1997). Since infinitives in Greek and English denote the objective or purpose of action for the principal verb (cf. Mounce, 1993, p. 298), one can know that Paul, Luke, and the disciples at Troas “gathered together” for the primary purpose of “breaking bread.” When this information is processed in light of the fact that Paul earlier had written to the church at Corinth and implied that the purpose for them coming together was to partake of the Lord’s Supper (in an orderly manner—1 Corinthians 11:20,33), then the passage in Acts 20 makes much better sense: “to break bread” was (or at least included) the eating of the Lord’s Supper. What’s more, Paul remained in Troas for seven days despite being in a hurry to get to Jerusalem before Pentecost (which was about 31 days, 10 stops, and 1,000 miles away—cf. Acts 20:6,13-16; 21:1,3,7,8,15). Why tarry in Troas for seven days? It was not simply to eat a common meal with the saints. Rather, Paul desired to worship with the church in Troas “on the first day of the week,” which included observing “communion” with them (1 Corinthians 10:16).”

  38. Rich, Acts 2 shows they “broke bread” each day in different houses eating a meal. Acts 20 is telling about the last day Paul was there with them, I see them coming together to eat a final meal together.

  39. All this about when the first day of the week was. How about that God said He rested on the seventh day, therefore the Jewish Sabbath which was Saturday was the seventh day of the week. That would make Sunday the first day of the week, which means Paul who departed the next day departed on a Monday. Which I believe they were together eating a final meal together before he departed on his long journey.

  40. 1 Corinthians 11:33 “Therefore my brethren, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.”

    Paul stated that when they come together to eat to wait for each other, Paul didn’t tell them every time they came together they had to eat.

  41. Looks to me like we are missing the POINT of the Lord’s Supper which isn’t when we take it but WHY! Also might I add that as long as I have been in the Church of Christ I have yet to see a church really give it the due time it deserves. It’s just a part of the service order. I think it should be more important than the sermon, but we aren’t paying the men who serve it so I guess it can’t be!

  42. Exactly Stephen, that’s what I see are people who turn the Lord’s Supper into when people are allowed to take it rather than the purpose. And when people are more concerned about that it then becomes nothing more than an empty ritual.

  43. We are to take the Lord’s Supper to remember Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross. Jesus said “This do, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of Me.” There is no binding to a specific day of the week nor is it binding to every time there is a gathering.

  44. Stephen,

    I entirely agree. Rule keeping leads to checklists. Eat crumb. Sip juice. Check box. I don’t think our practice remotely approximates the First Century communion service.

  45. Rich,

    How can you be so sure Paul and company waited until the first day of the week so they could partake of the Lord’s Supper with the brethren? I know J. W. McGarvey says so in his commentary on Acts, but I’ve found him in other misunderstandings of the Scriptures as well. McGarvey’s inference may be the real reason Paul waited, but is not necessarily so. He may have waited because the ship on which he and his company were sailing was departing Monday.

    I think it likely that McGarvey’s inference has truth in it, and that the normal day for gathering together to break bread was the 1st day – especially when coupled with Paul’s remarks in 1 Corinthians 11:20 & 16:1-2. However, to take this as a binding example for the sole time to remember the Lord in His unique meal is to make too many inferences based on too many assumptions!

    What if I were departing on a mission trip and would likely not see my brothers and sisters again this side of eternity – and we elected to share the table of the Lord together on a Wednesday evening because I was departing on the morrow? Would we sin? I think not – but many of my brethren do think that would be sinful.

    Such is the power of the unwritten creed that binds us so tightly despite the fact that it is for liberty that Christ has set us free! (Galatians 5:1)

  46. Tim,

    The Roman night was divided into four “watches,” not into hours. The names of the watches were: Evening, Midnight, Cock-crowing, and Dawn. The Midnight Watch would correspond to our 9:00 – 12:00, not to the next second after 11:59:59. Thus, there is plenty of time under the Roman calendar for the episode with Eutycus and the breaking of bread before the Midnight watch was past and the next day began.

    But, it is interesting what conumdrums we debate when legalistic precision is the measure of our obedience to God, isn’t it?

  47. Where’s Waldo? Isn’t that what the CENI hermeneutic asks? God sits up in heaven and giggles at us mere mortals as we a-l-m-o-s-t get it right after pouring over ‘clues’ to our salvation/ church organization/worship found hither and yon in the New Testament.

    Isn’t that what CENI teaches?

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: