An employer suddenly emphasizes proper procedure or a spouse describes what needs to be accomplished. Does it make a difference whether someone understands these statements as belittling criticism or helpful instruction? Of course it does!
While correctly interpreting social interactions can be extremely significant in navigating relationships, our perspectives regarding how a biblical author intended his words to function can dramatically shape what we teach for better or for worse. For example, what was Paul’s purpose in Romans 4 and Galatians 3 regarding Abram’s faith? Did Paul define what constitutes faith or did this apostle defend the principle of faith? Or both? Continue reading “Romans 4 and Galatians 3: defining faith or defending faith?”
The unthinkable had happened. The Messiah – at least they thought he was the Messiah – had been crucified. None of his close followers had come to the place of execution, except for one, the one who is referred to as “the disciple whom Jesus loved” (John 19:26).
A strange darkness had descended on the land at noon. The sun disappearing at mid-day was unprecedented. Although some suggested an eclipse was happening, no eclipse had lasted more than ten minutes or so and this went on for three hours! Besides, being the Passover, the moon was full, so it couldn’t have been between the earth and the sun. Continue reading “Secret disciples”
The words, God “brought them to the man to see what he would name them,” (Genesis 2:19) draws our attention to something beyond the truth that God sees everything. Here is a statement of focus and deliberate study. God wanted to see how Adam would reason.
Assigning names is no menial assignment. The labels we create as well as how narrowly or broadly we use those terms shape human perspectives for better or for worse. Continue reading “God watched as humanity tackled its first job – identification”
“Baptism, which corresponds to this, now saves you, not as a removal of dirt from the body but as an appeal (the NIV says ‘pledge’) to God for a good conscience, through the resurrection of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 3:21 ESV).
I often say to a couple who wants to get married that I am far more concerned with their marriage than I am with their wedding. It’s funny how people put so much emphasis on one day, and so little on what follows. They need to be prepared for life together, too! Continue reading “Of weddings and baptism”
The New Testament is very clear on the necessity of baptism in salvation. Yet, no matter how hard we try, people refuse to see the simple words on the page. Instead of digging deep to discover why, we dismiss them with insults and hurt the work of the Lord. Continue reading “Why won’t people accept the truth on baptism?”
In their recent book, Down to the River to Pray: Revisioning Baptism as God’s Transforming Work, John Mark Hicks and Greg Taylor observe that in baptism it is God who transforms us, not we ourselves. However, they also claim that God has many ways to express his gift of grace, and we ought not to “limit” (in their words) the ways God offers it. Thus their ultimate conclusion is that baptism is not necessary for salvation. Continue reading “Baptism: only the beginning”
Some time ago I attended a funeral conducted by one of our religious neighbors. The minister did, for the most part, a good job of comforting the bereaved. But near the end of the service I was jolted out of my contemplation when the “pastor” had us stand and recite the “Sinner’s Prayer.” This amounted to what we would call the offering of an “Invitation.” Continue reading “Sinner’s prayer”
Can you imagine living in Corinth and getting a letter from Paul, the apostle, in which he wrote, “I thank God that I did not baptise any of you except Crispus and Gaius” (1 Corinthians 1:14 NET)? Why would Paul thank God that he had not baptised very many people? Continue reading “Preach the gospel!”
It seems that throughout the history of mankind, people have developed words to distinguish groups of people. The Greeks referred to all those who were not Greek as barbarians. In Rome you were either a citizen or a non-citizen. The Jews called all those who were not Jews by the term “Gentiles.” It would seem the purpose of creating such distinctions was to elevate your own group and put down those who you considered less than your group. Even today we can find this type of terminology in places. Continue reading “No more “us” and “them””
“But thanks be to God that though you were slaves to sin, you obeyed from the heart that pattern of teaching you were entrusted to, and having been freed from sin, you became enslaved to righteousness” (Romans 8:17-18 NET).
The picture the apostle Paul gives us of our lives before becoming a Christian was that we were a slave – we were slaves to sin. The word slavery brings to mind all sorts of negative thoughts due to the history of slavery in the Western World, particularly in the 1800s. A slave was a person who served someone else – totally. What they said to do they had to do, where they said to go they had to go. They served a master who might be cruel or who might be lenient, depending on how he felt. Continue reading “Freed to be a slave”