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Showing posts with the label #Apostles

Tongues build up the individual.

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1 Corinthians 14.1-4. Most of the time when Christians quote this particular passage about speaking in tongues, they quote verse 4 thisaway. 1 Corinthians 14.4 KWL Anyone who speaks in a tongue edifies themselves, but the one who prophesies edifies the church. Yeah, tongues are okay, but . But but but. Except the word but isn’t in the original text of this verse. The word which gets translated but in nearly every English-language bible, is δέ / de . It’s a conjunction which indicates the speaker just started a new sentence, and the new sentence is logically connected to the old sentence. You can, as bibles do most of the time, just leave it untranslated. Or, if you really, really wanna connect it to the previous sentence ’cause they fit together just so well, a semicolon will work. Thing is, whenever translators think there’s a contrast between the two sentences, they can’t just translate de as a new sentence, a semicolon, or even “and.” They gotta turn it into a

When supernatural gifts will no longer be needed.

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1 Corinthians 13.7-13. I grew up among Christians who loved to use this passage of 1 Corinthians to make the claim God turned off the miracles. He never did, but a number of Christians claim he did, because they’re entirely sure they never saw a miracle, and consider their experiences the norm. Plus they subscribe to certain End Times theories which kinda require the miracles to be deactivated till the tribulation hits. So when Paul and Sosthenes wrote the following, they put a cessationist spin on it. Here, I’ll quote it in their favorite translation (and, often, mine) the King James Version. 1 Corinthians 13.8-10 KJV 8 Charity never faileth: but whether there be prophecies, they shall fail; whether there be tongues, they shall cease; whether there be knowledge, it shall vanish away. 9 For we know in part, and we prophesy in part. 10 But when that which is perfect is come, then that which is in part shall be done away. The passage is about love (Greek ἀγάπ

The love we oughta see in supernatural gifts.

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1 Corinthians 13.4-8. When Christians write the about the bit from 1 Corinthians 13 which defines love, we almost universally take it out of context. Myself included. ’Tain’t necessarily a bad thing: We quote it when we’re defining love. It states what love is, as opposed to what popular culture, and sometimes even popular Christian culture, claims it is. The apostles defined it properly, and we need to adjust our concept of ἀγάπη / agápi ( KJV “charity”) accordingly. But in context, the apostles defined it because they were correcting the Corinthians’ misperceptions about the supernatural. If you’re gonna strive for greater gifts, the only valid way to pursue them and do them is in love. If you’re not doing ’em in love, you’re doing ’em wrong. And if you’re not entirely certain what the apostles meant by this “love” concept, permit ’em to straighten you out a bit. 1 Corinthians 13.4-8 KWL 4 Love has patience. Love behaves kindly. It doesn’t act with uncontr

Fleshly supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 13.1-3. When Paul and Sosthenes wrote 1 Corinthians , specifically the parts about the supernatural, y’might notice they didn’t write about fake supernatural. They didn’t write about frauds, like people who pretend to be faith healers but actually do nothing, or “miracle workers” who are only doing impressive stage magic tricks, or “prophets” who are really practicing mentalism. Certainly they could’ve written about such people, because there have always been such people. Just about every religion in the Roman Empire had one—because their worshipers expected the supernatural, so the priests had to show ’em something. There are two particularly famous stories of frauds in the apocrypha’s extra chapters of Daniel , and you can read it here. But the apostles didn’t write about the fake stuff. They only wrote about the real stuff. Their main concern was the Corinthians were doing ’em wrong. Because that’s what we Christians do: The real stuff, wrong. And the ma

Strive for greater supernatural gifts!

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1 Corinthians 12.28-31. Part of the reason Paul and Sosthenes raised the subject of supernatural gifts was so we Christians wouldn’t be ignorant of ’em. 1Co 12.1 Too many are—both those who recognize God still empowers them, and those who insist he doesn’t. I, like the apostles, am only addressing that first group. That second group can just ignore me, same as they do the apostles. There are all sorts of gifts, empowered by one and the same Holy Spirit, 1Co 12.4 distributed among Christians so they can contribute to Christianity’s unity. But do we see all Christians using these gifts to energize their various ministries? Do we see all Christians seeking and practicing these supernatural gifts? Miracles breaking out everywhere, mighty acts of power convincing the world God is really among us, the weak and sick flocking to churches because they know God has the cure, the lost and confused seeking out Christians because they know God has answers? I wish . And I’m pretty

One Spirit for the one body of Christ.

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1 Corinthians 12.4-27. The way first-century pagans understood the supernatural, there were many supernatural abilities… but each of ’em was produced by a different spirit. If you wanted healing power, you prayed to Apollo. For wisdom, Athena. For speaking in tongues, Dionysius. For mighty acts of power, Zeus. The Greek pantheon included a lot of gods, so if Apollo got ’em nowhere, they could also pray to Asklipiós, Panákia, and Ygihía. And frequently Greeks didn’t limit themselves to only Greek gods: If they got word the Egyptian or Persian or Arabian or Norse gods actually got stuff done, they’d try ’em out. Or if they figured the big gods were too busy, they’d try out lesser gods, personal gods, helper gods, known as δαιμόνια / demónia , from which we get our word demon . But nope, they’re not capital-G gods. Just unclean spirits. Today’s pagans still think this way. If sick, they might try western medicine: They’ll grab some painkillers at the pharmacy, and

Some of the Spirit’s supernatural gifts.

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1 Corinthians 12.4-11. When the apostles Paul and Sosthenes corrected the church of Corinth regarding the supernatural —in particular about the gifts the Holy Spirit distributes to his church—the apostles listed a few of these gifts. Didn’t define ’em; just listed ’em. Nothing wrong with that. But the problem is cessationists , those Christians who believe God turned off the miracles once the New Testament was complete. So what do they do with Paul and Sosthenes’s list of supernatural gifts? They redefined every last one of them: They’re no longer supernatural, but natural. They’re the same sort of gifts any “gifted person,” any talented individual, any genius, might happen to have. Like perfect pitch, or instant recall, or the ability to do rapid math in your head, or amazing physical coordination. Hey, it’s not like the Creator doesn’t grant natural gifts! So in a cessationist’s mind, the 1 Corinthians passages aren’t at all about supernatural gifts empowered by the Holy

The Holy Spirit and the supernatural.

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1 Corinthians 12.1-7. SUPERNATURAL su.pər'nætʃ(.ə).rəl noun. Event caused by (or credited to) some force beyond scientific understanding, beyond natural laws. If you wanna get technical, whenever anyone interferes with the natural course of events, it’s more-than-natural. It’s supernatural . Fr’instance if I install plastic pink flamingos in my front yard. Clearly they aren’t the product of Mommy plastic flamingo and Daddy plastic flamingo loving one another very much, and giving one another a special kind of “hug.” Nor did they sprout up from the ground like mutant orchids. Somebody —really a whole bunch of somebodies—drilled for petroleum, extracted the plastic, colored it pink, molded it into a flamingo shape, and painted it to resemble a living flamingo. Somebody else—i.e. me—lost all sense of what’s appropriate for lawn ornaments, bought them, put ’em in the lawn, and got all the neighbors to seriously consider banding together in a homeowner’s association just

Quenching the Spirit.

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1 Thessalonians 5.19-21. More farewell stuff from the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians ; general advice which can apply to Christians of any and every church. Each of these one-verse or one-line instructions have turned into entire sermons, lessons, and even doctrines. And in fact today I’m only gonna deal with three short verses, mainly because of what’s been taught about them… and of course what’s been mistaught. 1 Thessalonians 5.19-21 KWL 19 Don’t extinguish the Spirit: 20 Don’t void prophecies. 21 Examine everything: Hold onto what’s good. In the King James Version this becomes “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good.” That’s the version I memorized as a child. Back in the 11th century, Margaret Atheling of Wessex (later, St. Margaret) was an English princess who grew up in exile in Hungary. She went to Scotland to marry King Malcolm Canmore, third of his name. The story has it she nearly drowned while cro

Building up our fellow Christians.

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1 Thessalonians 5.12-18. This is the last chapter of 1 Thessalonians , and we’re getting to the part where the apostles wrapped up the letter: They moved away from the specific concerns of this particular church, and gave the same general advice they’d give any Christians of any church. So of course these things apply to us as well. 1 Thessalonians 5.12-18 KWL 12 Fellow Christians , we ask you to get to know those who labor hardest among you, who stand up for you in the Master, and correct you. 13 We ask you to be led by them, more in love than anything, because of the work they do. Keep the peace with one another. 14 Fellow Christians , we urge you to correct the irreligious. Share your story with those who keep messing up. Help the weak. Be patient with all. 15 Watch out lest anyone might pay back evil for evil; instead always pursue good for one another, and everyone. 16 Always rejoice. 17 Pray without slacking. 18 Give thanks for everything, for this

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

Getting ready for the second coming?

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1 Thessalonians 3.11-13. If you read 1 Thessalonians 3 in its entirety—and maybe read the whole book like the letter it is, instead of breaking it up into paragraphs, then analyzing the crap out of each paragraph, much like preachers in a sermon series, or me in these articles—you notice how Paul, Silas, and Timothy went on and on and on about how they missed the Thessalonians, fretted about the Thessalonians, wanted so very badly to visit the Thessalonians (well not so much Timothy; he was just there), and were thrilled to pieces about how well the Thessalonians were doing. So in today’s paragraph, they finally wrap all that up. 1 Thessalonians 3.11-13 KWL 11 God himself, and our Father, and our Master Jesus, has hopefully directed our path to you. 12 The Master hopefully provided more than enough for you, in love for one another and for all, just as we also have for you. 13 All to strengthen your blameless minds in holiness before God our Father. Namely at t

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-