Friday, September 29, 2006

Disunity--Teachers

I mentioned earlier that “followers” are a major cause of disunity. So are some teachers. Paul warns against such teachers in his charge to the Ephesian elders in Acts 20:30.

“Even from your own number men will arise and distort the truth in order to draw away disciples after them.” Acts 20:30

Teachers are gifted. They can distort the truth, and do it effectively. The reason is to get Christians to follow them. Paul mentions another kind of teacher in Philippians 1:15-18.

“It is true that some preach Christ out of envy and rivalry, but others out of goodwill. The latter do so in love, knowing that I am put here for the defense of the gospel. The former preach Christ out of selfish ambition, not sincerely, supposing that they can stir up trouble for me while I am in chains. But what does it matter? The important thing is that in every way, whether from false motives or true, Christ is preached. And because of this I rejoice.” Philippians 1:15-18

Here are some additional motives, envy, rivalry, selfish ambition, insincerity, and to stir up trouble.

Paul again speaks to the problem in Galatians 2:4, 5.

“This matter arose because some false brothers had infiltrated our ranks to spy on the freedom we have in Christ Jesus and to make us slaves. We did not give in to them for a moment, so that the truth of the gospel might remain with you.” Galatians 2:4, 5

Peter speaks to this in 2 Peter 2:1-3.

“But there were also false prophets among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you. They will secretly introduce destructive heresies, even denying the sovereign Lord who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. Many will follow their shameful ways and will bring the way of truth into disrepute. In their greed these teachers will exploit you with stories they have made up. Their condemnation has long been hanging over them, and their destruction has not been sleeping.” 2 Peter 2:1-3

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3

This is the Enemy of our souls at work seeking to destroy the Church by division. Deception is the major means. Jesus warned us several times in Matthew 24:5, 10, 11, 24.

“For many will come in my name, claiming, 'I am the Christ,' and will deceive many.” Matthew 24:5

“At that time many will turn away from the faith and will betray and hate each other, and many false prophets will appear and deceive many people.” Matthew 24:10-11

“For false Christs and false prophets will appear and perform great signs and miracles to deceive even the elect—if that were possible.” Matthew 24:24

Christians are credulous. They easily believe deceivers.

Thursday, September 28, 2006

Teachers: Disunity

How can a teacher, who is a Christian and otherwise living a godly life, be a cause of disunity? It seems to be easy enough because there are so many participants. Let us suppose that the doctrines taught are absolutely true and that the students learn these doctrines well. Then, of course, the students will be more like Jesus, more Godly, and more Holy. This does not seem to be the normal outcome. Why?

There are several reasons.

These truths were taught to the head, not the heart.

The teacher was not an example, he was just a teacher.

This is compounded, if in fact, the doctrines are not true.

Or if they are held to be as important as the gospel or if they are taught by ungodly men. There are hundreds of differences among evangelicals and many different subjects. They all could be wrong on “something”, if not everything. They could all be right on “something”. They are different “somethings”.

If we are right we should hold our “rightness” in humility.

If we are wrong and think we are right we are doubly wrong.

Our solution? Everyone else should admit they’re their wrongness in repentance and agree with us, the right ones. This last solution is held by everyone. We are one in that we all agree that all the others are wrong.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Too Many Opinions (cont...)

How does this affect our study of the Scriptures? Suppose we come upon 1 Thessalonians 5:17, “Pray without ceasing” (KJV) and “Pray continually” (NIV). If we ask the group what they think it means, there will be much discussion, largely based upon the prayer habits or abilities of the people in the group. Any discussion which maintains that it could not possibly mean what it says because none of us knows how to pray continually (or because, knowing how, we do not do it) will be invalid. If that line of reasoning dominates the discussion, there will be very little to say when we come to personal application of the passage. We will have already conformed the Scriptures to our experience, so we do not have to conform our lives to the Scripture. There is no possibility of making any application.

Instead let us see what the passage says. We go back to verse fourteen for the subject, “And we urge you, brothers.” The subject of verse seventeen is “you, brothers.” The verb is “pray,” and the adverbs “without ceasing” or “continually” modify the verb, “pray.” If we understand the definitions and grammar, we now understand the sentence, for the function of sentences is to convey meaning. If God did not mean, “Pray continually,” then he would not have said it. If he did not mean what the passage says, then there is no possible way of knowing what he did mean.

Now, if we accept the passage’s meaning as we stated, we have much to discuss concerning the application, including how we must increase our prayer life. We acknowledge our need of praying lessons.

Unless our experience already conforms to Scripture, we cannot interpret Scripture in the light of experience. As long as our experiences fall short, we will be constantly tempted to pull Scripture down to our size, which may not be very big.

Whenever someone volunteers, “This is what verse two means,” you can suspect he is going to change it slightly to fit his own experience and/or theological position. This is not honest. He is attempting to hold to the inspiration of the Scriptures and also to a certain doctrinal position. Since he does not want them to be inconsistent with each other, he changes the Scripture rather than his doctrine. The same man would be very literal with a verse that seemingly agreed with his position. He would put his finger on the key words and say authoritatively, “That’s what it says!”

We must bear in mind that we cannot expect to completely understand all the passages of Scripture right now. Understanding increases only as we act and grow according to what is already clear.

Suppose we were working on a jigsaw puzzle, and after getting the square framework, I get a fixation upon a place that needs a certain shape and an odd shade of green. After looking impatiently for a while, I start trying pieces that are almost that shape and almost that shade. Finally I persuade myself that I’ve found the right one. I must have an answer now, so I pound it in, a forced fit. Unless I undo my work I am going to run into trouble later on.

True, I will get a picture. It will not be the right one but it will be a picture. I might not recognize the oddness of the picture because I have gotten used to it, and because of my pride, I will not admit I am wrong. When I finally come across the real piece that belongs in the position, I am forced to say it belongs some place else.

Foolish, isn’t it? Yet the same thing goes on in our Christian beliefs. Jigsaw puzzles have many complicated looking pieces. Nevertheless they all fit together simply and easily but not all at once. It is only when we want everything to fit together right now that we will get a wrong picture.

In our study of the Scriptures let us recognize that even complicated portions fit together easily and simply, though not all at once. We need not have the whole theological picture fitted perfectly together in order to study one chapter. We do not have to have all the answers right now, nor do we necessarily have to fit every single verse into the whole. Because we do not know how or where a verse fits does not mean it doesn’t fit. It may be enough to recognize the apparent meaning and act upon it as God enables us. It is better to have a few loose passages than it is to force any one passage into an inadequate theology now.

At this point you may be thinking, “If all we are going to do is find out what the chapter says, it will be too simple.” Well, in some ways, Bible study ought to be kept simple. But determining what a passage says will not be as easy as you might think. It will take real effort on the part of all members of the group to keep from interpreting the Scripture in the light of experience and to keep from forcing Scripture into their previous doctrinal framework.

It will also take effort on the part of the leader to formulate objective questions on the chapter. As a guide to forming questions, it is good to remember that questions beginning with who, what, or where, ask for factual answers. The answer will be somewhere in the text. Avoid questions beginning with why or how. These questions generally lead to opinion discussions not to end the study because each person wants to have the last word. The people involved are more interested in who is right, rather than what is right.

The last part of every discussion should be spent on personal application of the truths learned.

[Inter-Varsity Press publishes a book entitled Search the Scriptures. It is a book that has a series of objective textual questions about every chapter in the Bible. It gives no answers. The answers are in the text being studied.]

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Too Many Opinions

Over the years I have heard the comment that small group Bible studies were events where each member of the group “shared his ignorance” with the other members. This has gotten a defensive reaction from me because I did not think it was true. That is why I thought I was defensive. Probably the real reason I was defensive was because it was true, or true enough, to warrant a reaction.

The person who attacks small group studies as “sharing ignorance” is a person who wants a teacher. However we have a problem with this. Teachers also have been known to “share ignorance” or false teaching with students. Having a teacher is no guarantee of getting true Bible teaching.

In Acts 17:11, Luke speaks of the people at Berea as having “a more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” The people were commended because they did not receive the teaching from the teacher as absolute. They examined the Scriptures for their final authority.

When people in a small group share ignorance with each other, it is because they are sharing opinions, many of which previously came from a teacher. The small group is not to share opinions but to examine the Scriptures. When we learn how to examine the Scriptures, we will be able to judge the teaching of teachers and the opinions of people.

Perhaps your group has this problem. When there are many opinions, there is always a lively discussion. Sometimes there are several discussions going on at once, in which case it is probably too lively!

You may not think this is a problem, for participation is good and is sometimes difficult to get. But participation is only a means to the end. The ultimate object of group Bible study discussion is to:

1. Learn the content of the chapter.
2. Make personal application of the content.
3. Motivate people to read the Bible daily.

An opinion discussion does not necessarily accomplish any of these three objectives—in some cases it may make it all but impossible to realize these goals.

A personal opinion is based upon a personal experience, a previous prejudice, an arbitrary opinion or guess, or a previous doctrinal position. Strictly speaking these are not valid means of Bible study, nor are they legitimate in the discussion.

Opinions are generally encouraged by a leader who wants to get the silence broken. He starts out by saying, “What do you think verse one means?” It works! In a matter of seconds a discussion is going, with everybody giving his opinion on the meaning of verse one. However we do not want everyone’s opinion on verse one. In fact we do not want anyone’s opinion.

How are we going to have a discussion without individual opinions? First, we can limit the number of opinions by refusing to ask the participants what they think verse one means. Second, we can ask questions which do not allow for differences of opinion, such as, “What does verse one say?” Someone may answer by simply reading verse one over again. This is not bad; it can be the beginning of content study.

Questions can be more specific: “What is the subject of the first sentence?” “List the people mentioned in the chapter.” “What does the chapter teach about obedience?” “Are there any imperatives in the chapter?” These and many other “what” questions will keep everyone’s eyes on the text, searching the Scripture.

The discussion will not be so excited: egos will not be involved. People will find out what the chapter says.

To ask for the meaning is to ask for an interpretation. Unless the grammar is unclear or definitions are not understood, an interpretation is not valid. If grammar and definitions are understood, then we can read a sentence and understand what it means, for it means what it says.

If you speak French and I speak English, we will need an interpreter in order to converse. We would authorize the interpreter only to translate French grammar into English grammar and French words into English words having the same definition. He would not be allowed to throw in his own opinions or his own ideas of what you really wanted to say. That would not be honest.

If you and I both speak English, we do not need an interpreter. If a mutual friend decides we do need one and volunteers, he can only twist and inhibit the conversation. Each time I complete a sentence, he would say, “Joe, Jim means this…” With your reply, he would say, “Jim, Joe means this…” After three sentences, we would both ask him to leave the room.

We have a similar situation in Bible study. We have English Bible s and we understand English. If we do not understand what it says because the grammar is unclear, we can read form an English version which brings the grammar up to date. If the definition of a word is not clear, we can use another English translation or look up the word in a dictionary. Once we understand what it says, we need no further interpretation.

We can illustrate the point further. If I said to you, “Joe, go jump over the Missouri River,” you might have several reactions:

1. I understand what he said, and apparently, he isn’t kidding. If he were kidding, he would probably say, “Jump in,” not “Jump over.” (That is your prerogative; you neither have to believe nor obey, but you do understand.)

2. I understand what he said, but he is not over me in authority, so I do not have to jump over the Missouri. (This is also an honest, consistent answer.)

3. I understand what he said. Since I believe he is over me in authority, and since I do not know how to jump over the Missouri River, I will take jumping lessons and learn how!

4. I understand Jim to say, “Joe, go jump over the Missouri River.” But since I do not know how, he could not possibly mean, “Jump over the Missouri.” He must mean, “Jump off the front porch.” (This last is not honest. It is adding interpretation to a sentence which is already understood, and it definitely changes the meaning. It interprets according to the previous experience of the individual, conforming the originator’s sentence to the capability of the individual.)

It may be the originator will not be believed or obeyed. But nevertheless, the hearer should conform his understanding to the originator’s words. If I do not mean what I say, there is no possible way of knowing what I do mean. Your ability or inability to carry out my command has no bearing on what I mean.


(To Be Continued...)

Monday, September 25, 2006

Read the New Testament in 67 Days

There are many Christians who read the Scriptures sporadically in time and place. In other words, they read the Scriptures “now and then” and “here and there.” They gravitate to their favorite chapters. If asked the last time they had read the New Testament through, they would not be sure they had ever had read it through. Consequently there is an appalling ignorance of God’s Word in the body of Christ, and a consequent lack of obedience. Listening to the best Bible teachers in the world will not make up for the personal ignorance of the individual.

First, the genealogies in the New Testament take up less than two chapters total in Matthew and Luke. If they are a problem to you, skip them. Then go back over then separately; it will only take five minutes. They are important or they would not be there. However, they are not intended to stop you from reading the rest of the New Testament.

Second, when you read, do not stop for hard to understand passages; keep reading. They will make more sense because you kept reading. They will make even more sense the second time through.

Third, if you think the Bible is dull reading, start with exciting parts like Luke and the Acts of the Apostles.

Fourth, if you are a slow reader (150 words a minute), the whole Bible would take only 80 hours of reading. The reason it takes so long is the days, weeks, or months you do not read from it at all. You can get the whole Bible read out loud on 48 tapes.

Fifth, a schedule may help some of you. If you read four chapters each day, only Matthew and Acts would take a week to read. All of the rest (25 books) would take less than a week, and of those, 17 have from one to six chapters each, so you would finish reading each in a maximum of one and a half days.

The object is to know God and obey Him more and more. The object is not to finish so you can say, “I finish.” You cannot say that you know what God wants from you without knowing all His revelation and knowing His revelation will.

The New Testament—Four Chapters a Day

Name of Book, No. of Chapters, No. of Days

Matthew, 28, 7
Mark, 16, 4
Luke, 24, 6
John, 21, 5
Acts, 28, 7
Romans, 16, 4
1 Corinthians, 16, 4
2 Corinthians, 13, 3
Galatians, 6, 1.5
Ephesians, 6, 1.5
Philippians, 4, 1
Colossians, 4, 1
1 Thessalonians, 5, 1
2 Thessalonians, 3, 1
1 Timothy, 6, 1.5
2 Timothy, 4, 1
Titus, 3, 1
Philemon, 1, 1
Hebrews, 13, 3
James, 5, 1
1 Peter, 5, 1
2 Peter, 3, 1
1 John, 5, 1
2 John, 1, 1
3 John, 1, 1
Jude, 1, 1
Revelation, 22, 5.5

Total Days to finish New Testament, 67

Teachers and Students

Here are a few random thoughts from and about the scriptures.

“Not many of you should presume to be teachers, my brothers, because you know that we who teach will be judged more strictly.” James 3:1

This text should thin out the teachers because of stricter judgment on the possibility of teaching something false.

When I observe, among conservative believing churches, the vast number of differences on ecclesiology liturgy, eschatology, holiness, music and other forms of worship I have come to the conclusion that some of this is wrong teaching. At least some of the teachers should not be teachers. I suspect they cannot all be right.

Of course, each teacher thinks he is peculiarly right so he does not disqualify himself as a teacher.

Then we have problems with the students of the teachers. They believe what their teacher teaches. Aren’t they supposed to believe their teacher? No!

“Dear friends, do not believe every spirit, but test the spirits to see whether they are from God, because many false prophets have gone out into the world. This is how you can recognize the Spirit of God: Every spirit that acknowledges that Jesus Christ has come in the flesh is from God, but every spirit that does not acknowledge Jesus is not from God. This is the spirit of the antichrist, which you have heard is coming and even now is already in the world.” 1 John 4:1-3

“Now the Bereans were of more noble character than the Thessalonians, for they received the message with great eagerness and examined the Scriptures every day to see if what Paul said was true.” Acts 17:11

The teacher has the responsibility to teach truth. The student has the responsibility to recognize truth.

We should not become cynical or hypercritical but we should stay awake and alert to what and how the teacher is teaching.

For instance, if the teacher is going into great detail explaining a verse of scripture then get suspicious. Most scripture does not need involved explanations.

Friday, September 22, 2006

Unity: Inductive Bible Studies

Inductive Bible Study groups flourished in the 1950’s-80’s. They were a major cause of unity in the believers. Christians were meeting together in small groups to study the Bible to find out what it said. They submitted to the text.

See my next Roots by the River, “Too Many Opinions.”

Thursday, September 21, 2006

Unity: Groups Are Formed

Much evangelism took place in the American Armed Forces during World War II. Returning soldiers and sailors went to Bible College, formed missionary societies and went back to the Far East and Europe. They also joined many other missionary societies. They had seen first hand the need for the Gospel in Europe and Asia.

Evangelism on the universities with new effective groups like InterVarsity, the Navigators, and Campus Crusade for Christ increased. The same with high school work like Youth for Christ, Young Life, and Hi BA. The first International Student Missionary Convention was held in Toronto in 1946 and has been held every three years since. Most of these conventions have been held at the University of Illinois at Urbana. This year it will be in St. Louis, Dec. 27-31st.

Most of these groups have been called para church. This is the church as it is meant to function in spiritual unity.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Disunity--Teachers and Followers

Here are two of the major causes of disunity.

They are:

1) Teachers
2) Followers of the teachers.

The Bible speaks to followers clearly in 1 Corinthians 1, 3, and 11.

“I appeal to you, brothers, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another so that there may be no divisions among you and that you may be perfectly united in mind and thought. My brothers, some from Chloe's household have informed me that there are quarrels among you. What I mean is this: One of you says, "I follow Paul"; another, "I follow Apollos"; another, "I follow Cephas"; still another, "I follow Christ.” 1 Corinthians 1:10-12

“Brothers, I could not address you as spiritual but as worldly—mere infants in Christ. I gave you milk, not solid food, for you were not yet ready for it. Indeed, you are still not ready. You are still worldly. For since there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not worldly? Are you not acting like mere men? For when one says, "I follow Paul," and another, "I follow Apollos," are you not mere men?” 1 Corinthians 3:1-4

“In the first place, I hear that when you come together as a church, there are divisions among you, and to some extent I believe it. No doubt there have to be differences among you to show which of you have God's approval.” 1 Corinthians 11:18, 19

There is no evidence that the teachers disagreed at all in anything. Their teachers were Peter, Apollos, and Paul. It was wrong to have loyalty to the best of teachers. Even those who said they were followers of Christ were saying it in a superior way. The followers were at fault. If you have loyalty to a teacher you are a major cause of disunity.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Causes of Disunity

The last part of the nineteenth century and the first fifty years of the twentieth century was a major blow to Christian Unity in that liberalism had taken over many seminaries and many denominations. There was also an ecumenical movement by the same denominations. “Ecumenical” means “promoting or tending toward worldwide Christian unity.” The difficulty with this movement was that the cardinal doctrines were denied or played down and so was the “born again” experience. Real Christians were marginalized in their own churches. Many Christians and churches left these liberal denominations. That was good in that there was no compromise. It was bad in that the attitude was more of an anti-modernist than a love for enemies. This turned around at the end of WWII.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Maintaining Unity

One of the best ways to maintain the unity that come about when we first received Christ is the contextual reading and rereading of scripture.

This includes reading all of the New Testament fairly rapidly, four chapters a day. If you are a slow reader it will take you about twenty minutes each day. You will finish the New Testament in about two months.

Concurrent with this, pick a short book of the New Testament (1 John) and read all five chapters each day for a week. This will reinforce what you read yesterday plus you will learn more each day.

Confess as sin any violations of the text. Choose to believe and obey what you read. Add a new book each week to your repetitive reading.

The next post will give you a reading schedule.

Friday, September 15, 2006

Merit

If God judges on merit, where is the bar? Is it high? How do you know? Is it low? How low? How high? Does God grade on the curve? What happens to those who do not make the grade regardless of how low the bar is? Do they go to Heaven anyway? If so, then the bar has no significance.

If everyone goes to Heaven when they die regardless of their belief or character does their character change when they die? How? Why? If it does not change then Heaven would be Hell. Heaven would be filled with immoral people.

If, however, God has a high bar then overwhelming numbers of people are lost. If merit is the way then they have no hope. If God has 4.0 moral standard then 100% of the population is lost.

If God has a solution which is not based upon the merit of man, but on his own merit of Justice and Love, Mercy and Forgiveness, then there is a solution for everyone. That is the way it is!

Without the cross of Christ the bar is very high, so high that no one has ever made it except Jesus.

“There is not a righteous man on earth who does what is right and never sins.” Ecclesiastes 7:20

“Therefore no one will be declared righteous in his sight by observing the law; rather, through the law we become conscious of sin.” Romans 3:20

“For whoever keeps the whole law and yet stumbles at just one point is guilty of breaking all of it.” James 2:10

“All of us have become like one who is unclean, and all our righteous acts are like filthy rags; we all shrivel up like a leaf, and like the wind our sins sweep us away.” Isaiah 64:6

If this were the only scriptures then there is not hope for anyone.

But there is hope.

“For the wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life in Christ Jesus our Lord.” Romans 6:23

“But now a righteousness from God, apart from law, has been made known, to which the Law and the Prophets testify. This righteousness from God comes through faith in Jesus Christ to all who believe. There is no difference, for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified freely by his grace through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus. God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—he did it to demonstrate his justice at the present time, so as to be just and the one who justifies those who have faith in Jesus.” Romans 3:21-26

“As for you, you were dead in your transgressions and sins, in which you used to live when you followed the ways of this world and of the ruler of the kingdom of the air, the spirit who is now at work in those who are disobedient. All of us also lived among them at one time, gratifying the cravings of our sinful nature and following its desires and thoughts. Like the rest, we were by nature objects of wrath. But because of his great love for us, God, who is rich in mercy, made us alive with Christ even when we were dead in transgressions—it is by grace you have been saved. And God raised us up with Christ and seated us with him in the heavenly realms in Christ Jesus, in order that in the coming ages he might show the incomparable riches of his grace, expressed in his kindness to us in Christ Jesus. For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast.” Ephesians 2:1-9

“God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.” 2 Corinthians 5:21

“he saved us, not because of righteous things we had done, but because of his mercy. He saved us through the washing of rebirth and renewal by the Holy Spirit, whom he poured out on us generously through Jesus Christ our Savior, so that, having been justified by his grace, we might become heirs having the hope of eternal life. This is a trustworthy saying. And I want you to stress these things, so that those who have trusted in God may be careful to devote themselves to doing what is good. These things are excellent and profitable for everyone.” Titus 3:5-8

“We all, like sheep, have gone astray, each of us has turned to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all.” Isaiah 53:6

If this inclusive free salvation for all people is not the way, then if there is a way in the world religions and philosophies, ancient or modern, advanced or primitive none have yet shown an inclusive way that guarantees salvation and has a solution for sin, past, present, and future.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Unity Continued

The greatest advocates of unity in practice, not necessarily in words, are the evangelists. They are in the work of bringing people into the kingdom. At the instant of conversion, a person is one with all other Christians in the world.

Those people who are major on evangelism are workers for unity. Here are a few that you may recognize: Campus Crusade for Christ, Young Life, Youth for Christ, Child Evangelism, Billy Graham, YWAM, OM, most foreign missions, African Enterprise.

Many years ago I was riding a bus from a refugee camp (Rennie’s Mill) back to Hong Kong. I was seated with an older woman, a Missouri Synod Lutheran missionary. We had great fellowship. Then she told me how close she was with the Southern Baptist missionaries. She also added that she had to be careful when she got back to the states. That was a “No, No.” Evangelism is a great means of unity.

Wednesday, September 13, 2006

More On Disunity

I can imagine all of the saints in this world, all of the assemblies, all of the congregations with no seekers and no hypocrites in them. Boy! That is a great imagination. I can further imagine that they are all in agreement in everything biblical, salvation, holiness, end times, form of worship, theology, singing, preaching, and church government. That is wild!

Here is the easy part of this imagination. No one or very few would like this unity. Why not, it is wonderful? Because no one is more right or most right about one or more of the above mentioned. Look at the present denominations. Each one is most right. We like that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2006

Disunity

The following reasons are not separate reasons. They are mixed together, intertwined. I am arbitrary by putting them in an order.

“Knowledge puffs up, but love builds up. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. But the man who loves God is known by God.” 1 Corinthians 8:1-3

It looks like knowledge is the opposite of love. If that were so, we would have to stay ignorant in order to love. No! The knowledge is the temptation. Being puffed up is the sin. The man who thinks he knows something does not yet know as he ought to know. He is the man in sin and a cause of disunity.

There is a “knowing” that is way beyond knowledge. We see it in Ephesians 3:17-19. “To know this love that surpasses knowledge.” This prayer is for all the saints.

Knowledge can be measured on a written exam. Knowing love cannot be measured by any means, “wide, long, high, and deep.” We are to grasp it by the power of God. It is like grasping the Pacific Ocean in our hands.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Unity

The next several posts will be talking about the cause of disunity, but first I will quote a few verses on the normalness and requirement of unity in the body of believers.

“For we were all baptized by one Spirit into one body—whether Jews or Greeks, slave or free—and we were all given the one Spirit to drink.” 1 Corinthians 12:13

Regardless of our social, religious or racial background we become one body when we’re baptized by the Holy Spirit.

“This is the message we have heard from him and declare to you: God is light; in him there is no darkness at all.” 1 John 1:5

“But if we walk in the light, as he is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus, his Son, purifies us from all sin.” 1 John 1:7

When you are walking in the light and I am walking in the light we have fellowship with one another. We cannot help having fellowship.

“Be completely humble and gentle; be patient, bearing with one another in love. Make every effort to keep the unity of the Spirit through the bond of peace. There is one body and one Spirit—just as you were called to one hope when you were called— one Lord, one faith, one baptism; one God and Father of all, who is over all and through all and in all.” Ephesians 4:2-6

This unity that we had when we were born again of the Spirit; our highest priority is to keep it.

Friday, September 08, 2006

Paul & Barnabas

There is a short piece of scripture that describes an argument between Paul and Barnabas.

Here it is:

“Barnabas wanted to take John, also called Mark, with them, but Paul did not think it wise to take him, because he had deserted them in Pamphylia and had not continued with them in the work. They had such a sharp disagreement that they parted company. Barnabas took Mark and sailed for Cyprus, but Paul chose Silas and left, commended by the brothers to the grace of the Lord.” Acts 15:37-40

Barnabas was the one who endorsed Paul when the Apostles would not accept him.

“When he came to Jerusalem, he tried to join the disciples, but they were all afraid of him, not believing that he really was a disciple. But Barnabas took him and brought him to the apostles. He told them how Saul on his journey had seen the Lord and that the Lord had spoken to him, and how in Damascus he had preached fearlessly in the name of Jesus. So Saul stayed with them and moved about freely in Jerusalem, speaking boldly in the name of the Lord. He talked and debated with the Grecian Jews, but they tried to kill him. When the brothers learned of this, they took him down to Caesarea and sent him off to Tarsus.” Acts 9:26-30

It was Barnabas who went a hundred miles to search and find Paul in Tarsus to help Barnabas in Antioch.

“Then Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he found him, he brought him to Antioch. So for a whole year Barnabas and Saul met with the church and taught great numbers of people. The disciples were called Christians first at Antioch.” Acts 11:25, 26

The Lord clearly called both of them on their first missionary journey.

“While they were worshiping the Lord and fasting, the Holy Spirit said, "Set apart for me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.” Acts 13:2
It was the beginning of their second missionary when Barnabas and Paul split.
It was on Paul’s third missionary that Paul writes 1 Corinthians. In chapter 9:6:

“Or is it only I and Barnabas who must work for a living?”

From this last statement we can see that Paul still identified with Barnabas even though he had not been with Barnabas for several years. They were not out of fellowship with each other. They decided that God wanted them to go to two different places. They had wanted to stay together, hence the argument.

Friday, September 01, 2006

Grace

“Big words” normally mean lots of letters and a surplus of syllables. I will use “big” in its frequency of use and its influence on society. I will use wide in its breadth of definition, that is not precise English. There are many wonderful words in the languages of the world. Some of these words have precise definitions like the word “kind.” Because of this preciseness, the word is not a “wide” word. There are other words that are “big,” “wide” and are NOT wonderful. “Sin” is one of those words. However, there is a word whose definition is “big,” “wide,” and it I is still wonderful. The word is GRACE.

Before we start to tell you about this word, let us look at the definitions of the word “definition.”

The dictionary defines “definition” as:

Definition #1: A statement of the meaning of a word or word group or a sign or symbol.

Definition #2: The meaning of a word from the context of a paragraph or a story or a lecture.

There are many such examples from the books of L.M. Montgomery.

Definition #3: An agreed upon meaning of a word within a certain group of people.

They know what they are talking about, but others who have in their understanding a dictionary definition or a contextual definition of the same word, but who are not in on the agreement, do not know what they are talking about. They will think that they know.

“But an August afternoon, with blue hazes scarfing the harvest slopes, little winds whispering elfishly in the poplars and a dancing splendor of red poppies outflowing against the dark coppice of young firs in a corner of the cherry orchard, was fitter for dreams than dead languages.”

Anne of Avonlea

Both “scarfing” and “outflaming” are two invented participles made up of two legitimate words “scarf” and “flaming.” The definitions are clear from the basic words and the context. Harvest is a legitimate word if it is a verb or a noun. Here it is an adjective. However, the definition is clear. “Dancing” is a legitimate word, but it modifies “splendor” which should not make sense, but it does.

Two people invited to dinner could agree, before they arrived at the dinner, that the main dish would be called “garbage.” At the table they would say things like this to each other, but in the hearing of the hostess, “Please pass the garbage,” or “Boy, this garbage tastes good.” The hostess, because she knows the standard meaning of “garbage” might be offended. She was not in on the agreement.

This happens in religion frequently. The Mormons, Christian Scientists, Jehovah Witnesses and Muslims all speak of Jesus, but have different definitions of who He is from each other and from the Bible. However, if we do not know that each group has an “agreed upon” definition, we might think that they are talking about the same person we are talking about.

Now let’s look at that wonderful word “grace” primarily from the context of the Bible. Second: Webster’s Ninth New Collegiate Dictionary:

Definition #1: Grace??? 1(a) unmerited divine assistance given man for his regeneration or sanctification.

Definition #2 vt 1: to confer dignity or honor on; 2: adorn, embellish.

This is derived from the contextual definition.

First, let’s talk about the contextual definition. This is difficult because there is a lot of context. I will quote enough from each occurrence of the word to give some, if limited, meaning. I will group the quotations in an order based upon common sayings. If I leave a quotation out it will be because there has been enough repetition in that group.

The Source of Grace

• Luke 2:40
• John 1:14
• John 1:16-17
• Acts 15:40
• Acts 20:24, 32
• Romans 1:7
• Ephesians 2:5, 8

For Whom is this Grace?

• Titus 3:7
• Ephesians 3:2, 7, 8
• II Corinthians 12:9
• II Corinthians 1:2

Modifiers of Grace

• Acts 4:33
• Acts 6:8
• Romans 5:15, 17, 20

Rejection of Grace

• Jonah 2:8
• Galatians 5:4
• Hebrews 12:15

Relationship to Mercy, Faith, and Love

• Acts 18:27
• I Timothy 1:14

What Does Grace Do?

• Acts 15:11
• Romans 3:24
• Romans 5:21

Agreed upon definitions are O.K. for small societies using “in” words. They are not legitimate for words of world-wide import. We should then stick to the dictionary definition, contextual definition or common usage if the common usage is language wide.

We will not consider “grace” as in “saying grace” before a meal. It is, though, in common usage. Nor will we consider “grace” as a name or “grace” as in “gracious living.” These are spin-off definitions. There are others as in speaking to a duke or a king in a kingdom, “Your Grace.”