the weblog of Alan Knox


Scripture… As We Live It #266

Posted by on Jun 23, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 3 comments

This is the 266th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

You, however, are not in the flesh but in the Spirit, if in fact the Spirit of God dwells in you, and if you keep all the rules and live in the right way. (Romans 8:9a re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Replay: Scripture and Inspiration

Posted by on Jun 22, 2013 in scripture | 19 comments

Five years ago, I wrote a post called “Scripture and Inspiration.” Why? Well, to be honest, I’m not content with most of the pat answers that I’ve heard related to Scripture and inspiration. In fact, I don’t think most of the things I’ve been taught related to Scripture and inspiration can be backed up by Scripture itself. So, I wrote this post mainly to ask questions. When I first wrote the post, it resulted in a very good and edifying discussion, even among people who disagreed. Hopefully, we’ll find the same kind of discussion this time.


Scripture and Inspiration

Last Sunday evening, I took part in another discussion group meeting. As I mentioned in a previous post, some friends of mine have started a discussion groups that meets about every other week to discuss a particular topic. For this meeting, the topic was “Scripture” – which is a very broad topic. We discussed several aspects of Scripture, but much of the time was spent discussing Scripture and inspiration. The following passage found itself woven through much of our discussion:

All Scripture is breathed out by God (inspired) and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be competent, equipped for every good work. (2 Timothy 3:16-17 ESV)

I thought I would list some of the questions that we discussed. If you’d like to take part in this discussion (after the fact), feel free to offer your answers, or other related questions, in the comments.

1) If we accept that “all Scripture is inspired”, does this also mean that “all that is inspired is Scripture”?

2) In Colossians 4:16, Paul says:

And when this letter has been read among you, have it also read in the church of the Laodiceans; and see that you also read the letter from Laodicea. (Colossians 4:16 ESV)

Paul seems to treat the non-existent “letter to the Laodiceans” as being in the same category as the “letter to the Colossians”. Would the “letter to the Laodiceans” be inspired? Should it be considered Scripture?

3) We know (from Scripture) that God communicated many times with people in the past, but that communication was not included in Scripture. Was God’s communication which was not included in Scripture also inspired?

4) Many would say that God continues to communicate with people today, although many would also say that that communication is not the same as Scripture. Would God’s communication with people today be considered inspired?

Primarily, the discussion last Sunday evening helped me think about the terms “inspired” and “Scripture” separately. I think this discussion is going to continue helping me understand the role of Scripture in my life and in the lives of other people.

Come now, let us reason together…

Posted by on Jun 19, 2013 in edification, gathering, scripture | 1 comment

No, this post is not about Isaiah (from Isaiah 1:18). Instead, it is about the early church as described by Luke in the book of Acts.

But, you may be wondering, what does “reasoning together” have to do with the early church? Not only is this related to the early church, but the phrase “reasoning together” is used by Luke to describe what happened when the church gathered together.

Here’s the passage that I’m talking about:

And he [Paul] entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading them about the kingdom of God. But when some became stubborn and continued in unbelief, speaking evil of the Way before the congregation, he withdrew from them and took the disciples with him, reasoning daily in the hall of Tyrannus. This continued for two years, so that all the residents of Asia heard the word of the Lord, both Jews and Greeks. (Acts 19:8-10 ESV)

If you would allow me, I’d like to retell this story in my own words. It begins with Paul coming back to Ephesus. He had visited the city briefly, and had returned. As was his custom, his began by going to the synagogue where he often found people who were interested in hearing about God’s kingdom and the gospel of Jesus Christ.

Luke says he continued gathering with the synagogue for three months. Now, he may have only met with them weekly on the Sabbath, but many texts from that time period indicate that Hellenistic Jews gathered as the synagogue more often than weekly. Regardless, while Paul was gathered with them, he had opportunities to proclaim the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some believed and began to walk in “the Way” (one of the earliest names given for following Jesus Christ, i.e., Christianity). However, others became more stubborn and contentious and even began to “speak evil” of the new manner of life in Jesus Christ that Paul was proclaiming.

So, Paul and the disciples stopped gathering with the synagogue and began gathering in “the hall of Tyrannus.” For two years, followers of Jesus Christ in the city of Ephesus gathered daily at that hall (perhaps a school?). (I’m not assuming that the same group of believers gathered every day. I’m assuming that at least some of the believers were there at some point every day.)

What did the disciples of Jesus Christ do when they gathered at the hall of Tyrannus? They were “reasoning.” What does this mean? While the word “reasoning” is a translation of the Greek verb διαλέγομαι (dialegomai). This is the verb that eventually becomes the English verb “dialog.” But, we can’t assume that’s what διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) means – that would be a logical fallacy.

Instead, let’s look at a few other places where διαλέγομαι (dialegomai) is used in Scripture:

But they kept silent, for on the way they had argued (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with one another about who was the greatest. (Mark 9:34 ESV)

But when the archangel Michael, contending with the devil, was disputing (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) about the body of Moses, he did not presume to pronounce a blasphemous judgment, but said, “The Lord rebuke you.” (Jude 1:9 ESV)

We can see that this verb is used to indicate some type of discussion (at least in the instances above). It definitely did not indicate one person speaking.

We also find this verb used to describe what Paul did when he gathered with other Jews among the synagogue:

And Paul went in, as was his custom, and on three Sabbath days he reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with them from the Scriptures… (Acts 17:2 ESV)

So he reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) in the synagogue with the Jews and the devout persons, and in the marketplace every day with those who happened to be there. (Acts 17:17 ESV)

This makes sense also, since we know that many of the Jews often disagreed with him. We can assume that Paul would not have been allowed to make a prolonged speech concerning the gospel without some response from those who disagreed.

In fact, Luke used the same verb to describe what Paul did in the synagogue in Ephesus, both the first time he visited the city and also in the passage quote above just before he and the disciples left the synagogue:

And they came to Ephesus, and he left them there, but he himself went into the synagogue and reasoned (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with the Jews. (Acts 18:19 ESV)

And he entered the synagogue and for three months spoke boldly, reasoning and persuading (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) them about the kingdom of God. (Acts 19:8 ESV)

We also find this same other verb later in Acts when Paul spent some time with the church in Troas:

On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul talked (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) with them, intending to depart on the next day, and he prolonged his speech until midnight. There were many lamps in the upper room where we were gathered. And a young man named Eutychus, sitting at the window, sank into a deep sleep as Paul talked (διαλέγομαιdialegomai) still longer. And being overcome by sleep, he fell down from the third story and was taken up dead. (Acts 20:7-9 ESV)

So, for Luke especially, one of the favorite verbs to describe what happened when the church gathered is a verb that points to some type of discussion… so much so that it can even be used to describe a dispute or argument.

Who chooses bishops/elders/pastors among the church?

Posted by on Jun 18, 2013 in church history, elders, scripture | 11 comments

Before you jump on me for my title, I’m using the traditional nomenclature. I’d prefer to simply use the term “elders,” which is the normal term in Scripture. However, for many among the church today, “elders” are different than “bishops” and both of those are different than “pastors.” So, if you feel they are different, then you can assume that I’m talking about all three in this post.

In Scripture, there are only two passages related to “choosing/appointing” bishops/elders/pastors:

When they [Paul and Barnabas] had preached the gospel to that city and had made many disciples, they returned to Lystra and to Iconium and to Antioch, strengthening the souls of the disciples, encouraging them to continue in the faith, and saying that through many tribulations we must enter the kingdom of God. And when they had appointed elders for them in every church, with prayer and fasting they committed them to the Lord in whom they had believed. (Acts 14:21-23 ESV)

This is why I [Paul] left you [Titus] in Crete, so that you might put what remained into order, and appoint elders in every town as I directed you… (Titus 1:5 ESV)

On the surface, it looks like Paul and Barnabas personally chose “elders” among the churches of Galatia (in Acts 14:23) and that Paul instructed Titus to personally choose “elders” among the churches (in each town) in Crete. And, that would definitely be a valid interpretation.

When we turn to later Christian writings, the interpretations become muddled:

Therefore, choose for yourselves bishops and deacons worthy of the Lord… (Didache 15:1)

Those [elders] therefore who were appointed by them [apostles], or afterward by other men of repute with the consent of the whole church… (1 Clement 44:3)

In the Didache, the author(s) definitely expected the church to choose “bishops” for themselves. There is no mention of bishops, elders, or deacons being appointed by others for the church.

Clement, meanwhile, seems to say that apostles and then later others appointed “elders.” However, he adds that little phrase “with the consent of the whole church,” which again muddles the answer. Was the just the apostles who chose “elders”? Was it later just “other men of repute” who chose elders? What does it mean that the whole church consented?

(Interestingly, while Ignatius has alot to say about “the bishop, the presbyters, and the deacons,” he does not mention who appointed or chose them. Likewise, Polycarp mentions “elders,” but he does not say who chose them.)

Of the four texts above (Acts, Titus, Didache, and 1 Clement) written by four different authors, is there any way that all four authors related the same way of choosing “bishops” and “elders” (or “pastors” if you prefer, although that term wasn’t used until much later).

If Acts 14:26 and Titus 1:5 indicate that ONLY Paul and Barnabas and ONLY Titus picked people to be “elders,” then we have to conclude that the Didache strays from that position.

Is it possible, though, that Luke did not intend to indicate that ONLY Paul and Barnabas were involved in appointing elders for the churches of Galatia? Is it possible that Paul did not intend to indicate that ONLY Titus was to appoint elders for the churches of Crete?

(By the way, within about 100 years of the texts listed here, the standard practice was for ONLY bishops to appoint bishops and elders, a practice which became known as successionism. But, as you can see, it was not that clear in the earliest Christian texts.)

Scripture… As We Live It #265

Posted by on Jun 16, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 2 comments

This is the 265th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

And Judas and Silas, who were themselves prophets visiting preachers, encouraged and strengthened the brothers with many words were mentioned and acknowledged from the pulpit during the pastor’s sermon. (Acts 15:32 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Replay: Jesus is the Great High Priest

Posted by on Jun 15, 2013 in discipleship, scripture | 3 comments

Six years ago, I wrote a post called “Jesus is the Great High Priest.” He is called “the great high priest” in the book of Hebrews, and when we start to examine what that author says about Jesus as priest, it is amazing. I enjoyed working through the various passages and determining the promises and presence that we have through our high priest. I learned so much from this exercise; I hope you find it beneficial as well.


Jesus is the Great High Priest

I was tagged by Bryan at “Charis Shalom” to post five things I dig about Jesus. Besides the fact that I have never used the word “dig” in this context, I enjoyed thinking through this meme (it was groovy). In fact, I’ve decided to blog about each of my five things. The first thing that I dig is that Jesus is the Great High Priest.

I’ve grown to love the book of Hebrews. I love the way the author of Hebrews shows that the way of Jesus is far superior to the way of the law and ritual. In fact, Hebrews argues that Jesus is not only superior, but that the “former things” were mere shadows of the real things, which were initiated by Jesus himself.

One of the comparisons made by the author of Hebrews is between Jesus as High Priest and the priestly system that began with Aaron. The priest was responsible for offering bulls or goats as sacrifices, which were actually ineffective at removing sins. (Heb 9:13; 10:4) The priest was appointed to act as a mediator between God and man, but he had to offer sacrifices for himself and for his sins first, then he could enter the holy place in the tabernacle or temple. (Heb 5:1-3; 9:1-4) These ritualistic sacrifices had to be carried out continuously. (Heb 7:27) But, if these rituals were ineffective, then why did God command that they be carried out? Because they were a shadow (an imitation) of what was to come through Jesus Christ! (Heb 8:5; 10:1)

Jesus Christ, our Great High Priest, has now come. He has offered the perfect sacrifice (himself) once for all. (Heb 9:11-14) He does not need to offer this sacrifice continuously, because his death is sufficient. (Heb 7:27; 9:27-28) Now, Christ has entered into the very holy place – that is, into the presence of God himself. (Heb 9:24)

But, beyond what Christ did for us, Jesus as our Great High Priest continues to work on our behalf. Our Great High Priest does not die as other priests, but he lives forever! First, he mediates between us and God. (Heb 9:15; 12:22-24) Jesus intercedes on our behalf. (Heb 7:25) Finally, Jesus prepares the way for us to enter into the presence of God with him. (Heb 10:19-22)

Also, Jesus is not a high priest who is cold and distant. He is a high priest who came to us, who identifies with us, who suffered and was tempted as we are, and who is compassionate and sympathetic toward us! (Heb 4:15) This is the Great High Priest who ushers us into God’s presence, presenting our petitions when words fail us, mediating when we fail, lifting us when we fall, carrying us when we are too weak. This is the Great High Priest who will reign forever!

What does it mean for Jesus to be my Great High Priest? When someone tells me, “You can’t do that,” I just smile inside and remember the Great High Priest. When someone whispers, “God will not like you if you do that,” I nod and recognize that Jesus is mediating for me. When someone points out my sin and reminds me that I’m a loser, I remember that Jesus cleansed me of my sin and won on my behalf. When God seems distant because I have wandered far away from him, I remember that Jesus prepared a new and living way into the very presence of God, and He has given me permission to enter.

And, when I remember that I can’t do enough, and I can’t think enough, and I can’t say enough, and I can’t love enough, and I can’t serve enough… the Great High Priest reminds me that he did it all – once for all – and there’s nothing left for me to do, except to enter his rest – to abide with him.

This is the Great High Priest – the better priest who offered the better sacrifice in the better sanctuary to establish a better covenant over a better house. The shadows are no longer necessary because the light of the Son – our Great High Priest – has come and has conquered and is here.

The Disciples, the Apostles, and the Twelve

Posted by on Jun 12, 2013 in discipleship, scripture | 8 comments

When I was growing up, I thought that the terms “disciples,” “apostles,” and “the twelve” all referred to the same group of twelve men who followed Jesus around between his baptism and his death, burial, resurrection, and ascension. In fact, I often heard the terms combined as in “the twelve disciples” or “the twelve apostles,” and I rarely heard the terms “disciples” or “apostles” used to refer to anyone other than “the twelve.”

Now, I understand that “the twelve” were “apostles,” but other people were apostles as well. I also understand that “the twelve” and the “apostles” were “disciples,” but other people were disciples as well.

Believe it or not, Matthew only uses the term “apostle” once. He uses the term “twelve” eight times. But, he uses the term “disciple” over 30 times. A few times, Matthew combines the terms: “twelve apostles” or “twelve disciples.” That clarification (i.e., the fact that Matthew occasionally says “the twelve disciples”) indicates that at times Matthew is using the term “disciple” to refer to a group that does not include ONLY the twelve.

It’s clear from reading the Gospels and Acts that many people – not just the Twelve – followed Jesus as his disciples. In fact, we learn in Acts 1, that at least 2 people – but probably more – followed Jesus from the time of his baptism by John and were still with the 120 when they were gathered in Jerusalem after Jesus’ ascension. (See Acts 1:21-23.)

Here’s a passage from Matthew, for example, that indicates that the term “disicples” was used to refer to more than just the twelve:

While he was still speaking to the people, behold, his mother and his brothers stood outside, asking to speak to him. But he replied to the man who told him, “Who is my mother, and who are my brothers?” And stretching out his hand toward his disciples, he said, “Here are my mother and my brothers! For whoever does the will of my Father in heaven is my brother and sister and mother.” (Matthew 12:47-50 ESV)

Why is this important? Well, think about these questions:

Who was in the boat with Jesus when he calmed the storm? (“And when he [Jesus] got into the boat, his disciples followed him…” Matthew 8:23 ESV)

Who did Jesus teach privately? (“Then he [Jesus] left the crowds and went into the house. And his disciples came to him, saying, ‘Explain to us the parable of the weeds of the field.'” Matthew 13:36 ESV)

Who did Jesus eat ‘the Last Supper’ with? (“He [Jesus] said, ‘Go into the city to a certain man and say to him, “The Teacher says, My time is at hand. I will keep the Passover at your house with my disciples.”‘” Matthew 26:18 ESV)

In the same way, we know that other people (besides the twelve) were referred to as “apostles,” especially in Acts and Paul’s epistles. Therefore, when we read that apostles said or did something, we cannot assume that the author was referring to the twelve. (However, as an interesting aside, perhaps Matthais was chosen to replace Judas as one of “the Twelve” in Acts 1:15-26.)

This passage by Paul specifically points out this difference:

For I delivered to you as of first importance what I also received: that Christ died for our sins in accordance with the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day in accordance with the Scriptures, and that he appeared to Cephas, then to the twelve. Then he appeared to more than five hundred brothers at one time, most of whom are still alive, though some have fallen asleep. Then he appeared to James, then to all the apostles. Last of all, as to one untimely born, he appeared also to me. (1 Corinthians 15:3-8 ESV)

Did you notice that Paul makes a distinction between “the twelve” and “the apostles”? Notice that we see that Jesus also appears to “more than five hundred brothers (and sisters).”

So, we should be careful when we read these terms in Scripture. Otherwise, we might limit the scope and reference more narrowly than the authors intended.

Scripture… As We Live It #264

Posted by on Jun 9, 2013 in as we live it, scripture | 1 comment

This is the 264th passage in “Scripture… As We Live It.”

For the time is coming when people will not endure sound teaching the method of preaching and the topics preferred by your pastor, but having itching ears they will accumulate for themselves teachers to suit their own passions with different kinds of preaching styles who focus on different topics. (2 Timothy 4:3 re-mix)

(Please read the first post for an explanation of this series.)

Pervasive Mutuality – 1 Peter 4:7-11

Posted by on Jun 7, 2013 in discipleship, edification, fellowship, scripture | 3 comments

Whenever I talk about mutuality, I tend to focus on a few passages, such as Ephesians 4:7-16 or 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. However, mutuality (the one-another’ing aspect of our lives together in Christ) is actually very pervasive (widespread) in Scripture.

One of those mutuality passages is 1 Peter 4:7-11. In his first letter, Peter writes about suffering while living in Christ. In chapter 4, Peter talks about those who are choose to live their own way and are surprised with God’s people refuse to go along with it.

According to Peter, what should our response be when we are maligned because we refuse to live according to immoral cultural norms? He writes:

The end of all things is at hand; therefore be self-controlled and sober-minded for the sake of your prayers. Above all, keep loving one another earnestly, since love covers a multitude of sins. Show hospitality to one another without grumbling. As each has received a gift, use it to serve one another, as good stewards of God’s varied grace: whoever speaks, as one who speaks oracles of God; whoever serves, as one who serves by the strength that God supplies—in order that in everything God may be glorified through Jesus Christ. To him belong glory and dominion forever and ever. Amen. (1 Peter 4:7-11 ESV)

So, what is Peter’s answer to living in a society filled with “living in sensuality, passions, drunkenness, orgies, drinking parties, and lawless idolatry”? (1 Peter 4:3 ESV) His answer is self-control, sober-mindedness, love, hospitality, and service. While the first couple of things (self-control and sober-mindedness) can be personal, the last three are very practices of mutuality: love, hospitality, and service.

In this passage, Peter stresses love, because, as he says, “love covers a multitude of sins.” It’s clear that he’s talking about sins among and between brothers and sisters in Christ, since he introduced this with “keep loving one another earnestly.” In other words, even when someone sins against you or sins against your sister/brother, keep on loving that person earnestly – really – truly – in deed, not just in words. (By the way, I find it both interesting and important that almost every “mutuality” passage in Scripture includes a focus on love.)

Next he encourages his readers to open their homes to one another and practice hospitality “without grumbling.” While hospitality is always an important way for us to demonstrate our love and support to our brothers and sisters in Christ, it becomes even more important when Christians are being persecuted. When we open our homes, we share our lives, and this is extremely important to our maturity in Christ.

Finally, Peter concludes this mutuality passage with a focus on spiritual gifts. Believe it or not, this is my favorite scriptural passage on spiritual gifts. Peter reminds us that these gives are given to us for the sake of others – to serve them -not for our own sake. I love how Peter boils down all spiritual gifts into two categories: speaking and serving. And, whenever we do those things, we do them from God, not from ourselves.

Once again we see that mutuality among the body of Christ is extremely important and is found throughout the writings of Scripture.

Pervasive Mutuality – Jude 20-23

Posted by on Jun 6, 2013 in discipleship, edification, fellowship, scripture | 5 comments

Whenever I talk about mutuality, I tend to focus on a few passages, such as Ephesians 4:7-16 or 1 Corinthians 14:26-40. However, mutuality (the one-another’ing aspect of our lives together in Christ) is actually very pervasive (widespread) in Scripture.

One of those mutuality passages is Jude 20-23. Most people know that Jude writes about false teachers that had attached themselves to the church. He tells his readers that God would judge these false teachers just as he had judged others in history. But, what was the church supposed to do about these false teachers?

These are the only instructions that Jude gives directly to the believers reading his letter:

But you, beloved, building yourselves up in your most holy faith and praying in the Holy Spirit, keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life. And have mercy on those who doubt; save others by snatching them out of the fire; to others show mercy with fear, hating even the garment stained by the flesh. (Jude 20-23 ESV)

Interestingly, Jude never tells his readers to confront the false teachers. He never tells them to correct them. That doesn’t mean that confrontation or correction is wrong. Instead, it shows that neither confrontation nor correction was the focus for Jude.

What was his focus? His focus was on the continued growth of the believers who were reading his letter. And, he knew that growth would only happen if they worked together to help each other grow in maturity – even in face of false teaching. Why? Because shared life and shared service and shared discipleship is stronger than any false teacher.

How were the believers supposed to respond to false teachers? By continuing to keep themselves in the love of God by building up (edifying) each other and praying. In other words, Jude’s response to false teachers is mutuality – the whole church working together to help each other mature in Jesus Christ. In fact, instead of telling his readers to respond or react to the false teachers, he tells them to “[wait] for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ.”

And, what should the church do about those who follow these false teachers? Again, mutuality is the answer. They are to show mercy to those who need it and rescue those who will accept their help.

Perhaps most interesting to me is the fact that, in the face of false teaching, Jude does not tell his readers to keep themselves in the “truth of God.” He tells them to keep themselves in the love of God. Obviously, there is some correlation between God’s truth and God’s love, but it’s intriguing that Jude focuses on God’s love as a response to false teaching.

And, again, it’s not each person keeping himself or herself in the love of God. Jude envisions the church working together to help each other reamin in the love of God. Once again, a beautiful picture of mutuality where we might not expect it.