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Showing posts with the label #Apostles

Stay on the lookout for the second coming.

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1 Thessalonians 5.6-11. In the original text of 1 Thessalonians it was all one continuous stream. No punctuation, no sentences, no paragraphs. We had to figure these things out by their context. The sentences are easy enough to figure out, but naturally Christians are gonna disagree on the rest. Hence different Greek New Testaments disagree on where the paragraph breaks should go… and since I’ve been writing about this book a paragraph at a time, y’might notice I’m not precisely following any one GNT. Textus Receptus and United Bible Societies’ edition: One big paragraph from 1-11. Nestle-Aland: One big paragraph, but they capitalize the first word in the sentences which they think might be the start of a new subject, and therefore are debatably new paragraphs. Tyndale House: Four paragraphs. 1-3, 4-5, 6-10, and 11 by itself. The Jehovah’s Witnesses’ Emphatic Diaglott has 1-4, and 5 all the way to the end of the chapter. But I don’t think its focus was on proper paragr

When Jesus catches us by surprise.

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1 Thessalonians 5.1-5. Since Paul, Silas, and Timothy just finished writing about the rapture at Jesus’s second coming in the previous paragraph, Christians read today’s paragraph (or paragraphs; the Tyndale House Greek New Testament is pretty sure this is two) as if they’re still talking about it. And they kinda are. Because the apostles didn’t know when Jesus is returning—none of us do!—and for all they knew, the next big disaster might end with the second coming. Which might still be true. You don’t know. Neither do I. All we know is Jesus can return at any time. Which the Thessalonians shoulda learned fairly quickly after they first followed Jesus. The apostles even write they’ve known it perfectly well. 1Th 5.2 When he returns, it won’t be predictable—no matter how often “prophecy scholars” try to predict it. It won’t be at a time we expect—no matter how often “prophecy scholars” say we should definitely expect it. It comes like a thief at night, and as Jesus said,

The rapture. Yes, there is one.

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1 Thessalonians 4.15-18. RAPTURE 'ræp.tʃər noun. Feeling of intense pleasure or joy. 2. Capture: The act of seizing and carrying off. 3. The transporting of Christian believers to meet with Christ Jesus [or, to heaven] at his second coming. 4. [ verb. ] Seizing and carrying off. 5. [ verb. ] To be taken up [to heaven] to meet with Christ. A number of Christians don’t believe in the rapture —when the Son of Man appears in the clouds, and his followers meet him in midair. As is taught in today’s passage of scripture, in 1 Thessalonians 4. Yeah, it’s in the bible, but they still don’t believe in it; they don’t take this passage literally. Nor do they interpret it in any way where it loosely represents what’s gonna happen in future. They simply don’t believe in it. Largely because their churches don’t teach it. Their favorite preachers proclaim an End Times scenario which doesn’t include any rapture. The End of Days theory, fr’instance: The world ends, or we o

Our dead won’t stay dead.

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1 Thessalonians 4.13-14. The Greeks claimed when you died, you went to the netherworld. Specifically, you went to the god of the netherworld, Ἅ́δης / Ádis (or as the Romans called him, Pluto; or as well call him, Hades; no, he’s not a bad guy like the movies make him out to be, although he did kidnap Persephone) and he determined where you went. Good people went to Ἠλύσιον / Ilýsion , a continent or island in the far west (you know, like where the Elves went in The Lord of the Rings ), full of green fields. Bad people went to Τάρταρος / Tártaros , a place as deep below Ádis as he was below earth, to be imprisoned with the Titans whom Zeus defeated when he took over the world. Special cases, like Dionýsios and Iraklís (whom the Romans called Hercules) were turned into gods, and lived with them on Ὀλυμπος / Ólympos —a literal mountain near Thessaloniki, where the Greeks imagined the gods lived when they weren’t busy on adventures. The rest stayed with Ádis as he deter

Encouragement to a persecuted church.

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1 Thessalonians 4.9-12. Though the Thessalonians appeared to be doing just fine, behaving themselves and living a holy lifestyle, Paul, Silas, and Timothy just wanted to reiterate a few things for their encouragement. It needed repeating. Likewise we need to be reminded of such things, from time to time. Even though we may not suffering to any persecution remotely like that of the Thessalonians—and therefore have even less of a justification for not loving one another, loving our neighbors, and not living uprightly towards outsiders. (Not that suffering is any justification anyway.) 1 Thessalonians 4.9-12 KWL 9 As for loving one’s Christian family, we needn’t write you: You yourselves are taught by God himself to love one another, 10 and you do it throughout the Christian family, throughout the whole of Macedon. We wish to help you, fellow Christians , so you can abound more— 11 to love the value of rest, to do your own work with your own hands, just as w

Now called to a holy lifestyle.

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1 Thessalonians 4.1-8. Since Paul, Silas, and Timothy now know the Thessalonians haven’t fallen away from Christ Jesus, they wanted to encourage them: Good job. Keep it up. And do more . Remember, God’s called us Christians to be uniquely holy. That’s more than just being good, ’cause just about anybody can be good, with effort… plus a fear of bad karma. God isn’t interested in that. He doesn’t just want us to be pagans saved by grace who happen to hold better beliefs than average. He wants us to stand out from the rest of the world. Like Jesus. 1 Thessalonians 4.1-8 KWL 1 So from now on fellow Christians , we ask you— we wish to help, in Master Jesus ’s name so, same as you received from us information on how one has to walk and please God, same as you already do walk—so you can abound more : 2 You know which mandates we gave you through Master Jesus: 3 This is God’s will: Your holiness. To keep you rselves away from porn. 4 For each of you to know your o

Worries, faith, and confirmation.

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1 Thessalonians 3.1-5. 1 Thessalonians lists three authors: Paul, Silas, and Timothy. People presume Paul’s the one who really wrote it, and included those other guys as a courtesy, but that’s not how letters were composed back then. All three really did write it. It was written by dictation. The reason you may not realize it’s dictation, is because we translators try our darnedest to make it sound like a coherent whole—and succeed. But in so doing, sometimes we lose a little bit of the sense of tag-team preaching. The apostles spoke—sometimes Paul, sometimes Silas, sometimes Timothy. Maybe Paul spoke most often; then again maybe not. Sometimes they interrupted one another, which is why the original text is full of sentence fragments, and translators wind up tearing our hair out because we want complete sentences , dangit, with proper subjects and predicates. Other times we get big ol’ run-on sentences, with only one proper verb at the beginning of a 13-verse stretch. S

False accusations, false beliefs; you know, as the devil does.

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1 Thessalonians 2.17-20. Added to the Thessalonians’ hardships was the fact the apostles couldn’t get to them. We don’t know the specifics; we only know Paul really wanted to, and tried, but couldn’t. Maybe it was logistics; they tried to find a boat headed for Thessaloniki and just couldn’t. Maybe they were officially banned from Thessaloniki. Or maybe they were unofficially banned, and warned that if they set foot in town they’d be murdered. I point out that a lot of foolhardy Christian missionaries nowadays will ignore death threats and go to such towns anyway; I’m not claiming they had more guts than Paul (which is why I call ’em foolhardy), but I am pointing out that Paul darn near got murdered, more than once, which tends to make you take death threats more seriously. The criminal justice system in the Roman Empire was a joke, so death threats weren’t always just talk. And Paul did eventually get to see them—sorta. After Paul and Silas were rushed out of town, Ac 17.5-

When Christians suffer… and those who make us suffer.

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1 Thessalonians 2.13-16. Paul, Silas, and Timothy were very pleased with the Thessalonian church, and say as much throughout this letter. These folks didn’t just embrace the message, the λόγον lógon of God’s kingdom they heard from the apostles; it sparked faith in them, and got ’em to act upon what they heard and believed. With consequences, ’cause they got persecuted for it almost immediately. While the apostles were still there preaching the gospel. Ac 17.5-9 Got people arrested for disturbing the peace, and if you know anything about Romans, you know they have the bad habit of crucifying everyone they can until they get peace again. It’s why they got the apostles out of town as quick as they could—and that concern for the apostles only goes to show what a compassionate relationship they had with one another. 1 Thessalonians 2.13-16 KWL 13 This relationship is also why we unceasingly praise God: You who received the message of God you heard from us— not a mess

How the apostles approached the Thessalonians.

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1 Thessalonians 2.1-12. When a salesman shows up to pitch something, how do they usually look? Most of the time—unless they’re trying out a clever new tactic—they try to look successful. They try to give off the vibe that what they’re selling made them a success, and if you buy it you’ll be a success. They figure successful-looking people are attractive… and they’re not wrong. So they dress nice. They try to appear classy and stylish. They bring in plenty of resources, plenty of helpers. They look like a big deal. Contrast that with how Paul and Silas first appeared in Thessaloniki, Macedon. It was right after they left Macedon’s biggest city, Philippi—right after having been been arrested, caned, jailed, then thrown out of town. Ac 16.12-40 They didn’t look successful; just the opposite. Even if they had a miraculous getting-out-of-jail story, they sure didn’t look like success stories. That’s the condition the Thessalonians found ’em in, and how they appeared when the Th

The Thessalonians’ reputation. And ours.

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1 Thessalonians 1.6-10. In a few of the apostles’ other letters, the churches they were writing to had gone wrong, so they seriously needed to correct ’em. (I’m looking at you, 1 Corinthians and Revelation .) In the letters to Thessaloniki, Macedon, the locals needed a few pointers and minor corrections, but for the most part they were good. Better than good: They had a reputation for being amazing Christians. Not just in cranking out the good works, good fruit, and miracles: They were known for being a bunch of reformed pagans who eagerly pursued Jesus. And that’s a reputation you want . Certainly the reputation I want; certainly the reputation we all should have. Paul, Silas, and Timothy continue to recap their experiences with the Thessalonians: 1 Thessalonians 1.6-10 KWL 6 You became imitators of both us and the Master, accepting the message in great persecution, yet joy in the Holy Spirit. 7 Thus you became an example to all the believers in Macedon and Achae

The Spirit’s power in a new church.

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1 Thessalonians 1.1-5. This letter, which we traditionally call 1 Thessalonians , was a team effort. Most commentators, myself included, usually talk about it as if Paul of Tarsus did all the writing, and gave co-authorship to his team members out of courtesy. Timothy gets a mention in 1 Thessalonians 3.6 , and since he’s spoken of in third person whereas Paul is always “I,” y’gotta wonder how much authoring Timothy really did. But the giant run-on Greek sentences are a dead giveaway: This letter, same as probably all Paul’s letters, was dictated , spoken aloud to a scribe. Probably Paul doing most of the talking; possibly the other guys added a sentence or two. We don’t know the level of their contributions. We do know they’re listed as co-authors, so it wasn’t nothing. Still, for convenience, I’ll refer to 1 Thessalonians ’s authors as “Paul.” Here they go. 1 Thessalonians 1.1-5 KWL 1 Paul and Silas and Timothy. To the Thessalonian church, in Father God and Master C

Satan’s excuses precede lawless Christians.

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1 John 3.7-12. Many of the verses from today’s passage tend to be yanked out of context. “Let no one deceive you” 1Jn 3.7 —used to refer to anything which might trick or mislead Christians, from heresy to the latest internet conspiracy theories. “The Son of God came to destroy the works of the devil” 1Jn 3.8 —treated as though it’s the only reason Jesus came to earth, so certain dark Christians use it to justify their fixation on demonology instead of good news. “Everyone borne of God doesn’t sin” 1Jn 3.9 —used to condemn Christians who do sin, instead of encouraging them (really, all of us) to go back into the light. And of course those folks who wanna interpret the Cain and Abel story to make Cain an irredeemably evil person… instead of recognizing the L ORD and Cain had a conversational relationship, Ge 4.9-15 and God obviously wanted to redeem Cain, not destroy him. (Otherwise he’d have destroyed him!) All right, best I jump into the text before unpacki

If you think it’s okay to dismiss the Law, you clearly don’t know Jesus.

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1 John 3.4-6. Here we get to the parts of 1 John which bug Christians. 1 John 3.4-6 KWL 4 Everyone who commits sin also violates the Law. Sin’s against the Law. 5 You knew Jesus was revealed so he could take away our sins, and there’s no sin in him. 6 Everyone who remains in Jesus doesn’t sin: Everyone who sins has neither seen him, nor knows him. “Violates the Law” is my translation of τὴν ἀνομίαν ποιεῖ / tin anomían piheí , literally “does the anti-Law.” ( KJV has “transgresseth… the law”; NIV “breaks the law.”) I capitalize Law because John wasn’t writing about Roman law; plenty of Roman laws encouraged if not committed sin. John meant the Law of Moses, the Hebrew Law, the תּוֹרָה / Toráh . The stuff God commanded the Hebrews at Sinai and thereafter. It’s the formal part of the relationship between the L ORD and Israel, the backbone of Hebrew culture, the foundation of the Old Testament, the basis of the commands and interpretations Jesus himself presen

Making us Christians like God.

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1 John 3.2-3. Elsewhere in the New Testament, Paul, Silas, and Timothy wrote that we’re gonna get raptured at Jesus’s second coming: Dead Christians will be resurrected, living Christians will be transformed into our resurrected selves, and all of us will meet Jesus in the air. 1Th 4.15-18 These sinful sacks of meat we currently carry around: They get swapped for something eternal, to match the eternal life God always meant for us to have. They no longer have the same self-preservation instincts we currently do, ’cause they last forever… and therefore these instincts won’t go overboard and become self-centered and depraved. Our first impulse won’t be to do the selfish, sinful thing; it’ll be to do as Jesus does. Christians call this “the new nature.” Human nature is considered selfish and fallible, but this’ll become the new human nature: Selfless and Spirit-led. Plus we can finally see Jesus as he really is. Without freaking out, Mk 9.2-8 passing out, Rv 1.17 or going b

Society doesn’t know what to make of Christ-followers.

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1 John 3.1. John didn’t write any of his books and letters with chapters and verses. Medieval Christians did it: They gave every line in the bible an address, so we could more easily find it. It’s great for that. But every so often, it splits a sentence, paragraph, or train of thought, right where it ought not. As a result Christians tend to lose the train of thought, if not miss it altogether. Don’t love society, which is passing away. 1Jn 2.15-17 Don’t be misled by antichrists; you know better. 1Jn 2.18-23 Hold on to what you learned in the beginning. 1Jn 2.24-29 After all, society doesn’t understand us, or God, anyway. 1Jn 3.1 Meanwhile clean yourselves up. Jesus is coming! 1Jn 3.2-3 And stop sinning, wouldya? 1Jn 3.4-6 And so on. But today’s bit is gonna zero in on that bit about society not understanding us Christians. The word I translate “society” is κόσμος / kósmos , and I already explained why I’m interpreting it that way: The KJV renders it “world,” but

Needing not that any man teach you.

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1 John 2.26-29. Ever heard of a “life verse”? It’s an idea y’find in some Evangelical circles; it means there’s a bible verse which isn’t just a Christian’s favorite verse, but one they kinda consider their personal mission statement. They base their life on it. Heck, a number of these “life verses” are all found in the very same chapter of 1 Thessalonians : “Always rejoice” 1Th 5.16 for people who are big on joy. “Pray without ceasing” 1Th 5.17 for people who are big on prayer. “Give thanks for everything” 1Th 5.18 for those who definitely do. “Don’t quench the Spirit” 1Th 5.19 for those who love to listen to the Spirit. “Don’t dismiss prophecy” 1Th 5.20 for prophecy (or prophecy scholar ) fans. “Test everything” 1Th 5.21 for big skeptics. “Abstain from every form of evil” 1Th 5.22 for big legalists. Anyway. I once worked with this woman whom I’m gonna call Eustacia. Her “life verse” was clearly this one: 1 John 2.27 KJV But the anointing which ye hav