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Showing posts with the label #Apostles

When a church holds firm. Or doesn’t.

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1 Thessalonians 3.6-10. The biggest worry for any apostle, for any ministry leader or missionary or evangelist, is their work might be for nothing. That everybody they’ve worked with were only running high on emotion: They were excited about this new thing they were trying out, were feeding off the adrenalin and other people’s zeal, were feeling their own endorphins instead of the Holy Spirit… or were faking it because everybody else seemed to be so into it. That as soon as the apostle leaves, everything they built just collapses, because nothing else was holding things together. Because this happens. Has happened before to a lot of apostles. No doubt happened to Paul, Silas, and Timothy. Acts records the places Paul went, and the churches he either found there, or started there… or didn’t. It doesn’t mention the churches he started which flopped. Sometimes that’s because Luke simply didn’t have the data. But if failed churches weren’t a real thing, the apostles who 1 T

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

We can’t have the Father without the Son.

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1 John 2.20-25. In my article about antichrists, I pointed out not every antichrist is a radical atheist. Plenty of people totally believe in God… yet deny Jesus is Christ, or Lord, or in any way like Christians describe him, or that he’s even real. Jews fr’instance. And let me preface this with a warning about antisemitism. ’Cause there’s still a ton of racism out there. Racists want to hassle and exclude anybody they consider different, and they don’t care if there’s no reason for it, or if their “reasons” are stupid or nonsense. They wanna hassle Jews, and any excuse will do for them. They will, and historically have, used “antichrists” as an excuse. It is not an excuse, not a valid reason. The racists are simply being evil. In John’s definition of antichrist, anybody who actively rejects Christ Jesus is an antichrist. Plain and simple. So if you worship Y HWH , Abraham’s God, same as Christians, yet reject Jesus the Nazarene as Christ the Lord, you’d be an antichris

Antichrists: When pagans wanna see Christianity gone.

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1 John 2.18-23. There are four definitions of antichrist we find in our culture: Someone who’s anti-Christ: They object to Christ Jesus and his authority, refuse to recognize him, and counter those who do. Someone who rejects the orthodox Christian view that Jesus the Nazarene is Christ. They insist he’s not, or that he’s not human, not divine, not historical. Someone who claims they, not Jesus the Nazarene, is Christ. The Beast, Rv 13.7 or lawless one, 2Ti 2.3 an End Times figure who attempts to deceive and conquer the world. Christ Jesus overthrows him. Most of the time when people, Christians and pagans alike, refer to an antichrist, they mean the Beast. And it may surprise you to learn the Beast is never called an antichrist in the scriptures . Seriously. Oh, it’s definitely anti-Christ, so medieval Christians got into the habit of calling it Antichrist, and it stuck. But in the bible it’s just the θηρίον / thiríon , “wild animal,” KJV “beast.” The apostle