Excuse Me, Could You Repeat That Please?

Repetitive BiblesSome may think John MacArthur’s current radio series on 2 Peter 1 inspired what I’m about to say. No. I’ve been thinking about this matter for a few months as I’ve watched some fellow bloggers put away their blogs.

I respect them for doing so because of health concerns and/or family commitments. Both are much higher priorities than blogging, and most readers understand that. The same goes for those who need to redirect their time and energy into serving God through their local churches.

It bugs me, however, when they add that they’ve said everything they can say. Sure, within our niche of Bible study and discernment, we can’t avoid repeating the same thoughts time and again. There’s only so much to say.

But over the past six weeks I’ve subscribed to a secular blog about blogging. Although I’m learning a lot from that blog (and have implemented some of its ideas), I’ve noticed Continue reading

According To Scripture: Study #11 On The Resurrection

According to ScriptureDo you remember making up for things when you were a kid? Once my sister snitched a piece of my Trick or Treat candy, and my parents had her make up for it by buying me a bigger candy bar.

I mention this matter because last Monday I only covered one verse in our study of 1 Corinthians 15. Today I will make it up to you by taking you through the remaining five verses of the passage. Are you ready? Okay, then fasten your seatbelts and we’ll begin by reading the entire six verses:

29 Otherwise, what do people mean by being baptized on behalf of the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized on their behalf? 30 Why are we in danger every hour? 31 I protest, brothers, by my pride in you, which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die every day! 32 What do I gain if, humanly speaking, I fought with beasts at Ephesus? If the dead are not raised, “Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die.” 33 Do not be deceived: “Bad company ruins good morals.” 34 Wake up from your drunken stupor, as is right, and do not go on sinning. For some have no knowledge of God. I say this to your shame. ~~1 Corinthians 15:29-34 (ESV)

Last week we saw that, despite false teaching that denied the general resurrection, people lived as if something really did happen after death. The baptism for the dead, whatever that was, evidenced faith in resurrection. As we progress to verse 30, we see that the doctrine of resurrection radically impacted the apostles.

In asking “Why are we in danger…?” Paul refers specifically to himself and the apostles (1 Corinthians 15:9, 1 Corinthians 4:9), who constantly risked their lives proclaiming a Gospel hated by Jews and Gentiles alike. In a human sense, the apostles effectively invited persecution by insisting that Jesus Christ rose from the dead. Paul therefore asks why he and the other apostles would deliberately place themselves in constant danger for something that they knew to be untrue. Indeed, 1 Peter 1:3-4 answers this question; Paul’s hope lay in the eternal life promised in the resurrection.

Paul continues this vein of thought in verse 31 by focusing on his own sacrifices. The phrase “I protest” indicates a solemn affirmation, almost like swearing an oath in a court of law. Paul wants the Corinthian Christians to understand that he isn’t speaking flippantly by saying he dies daily. Moreover, he makes this pseudo oath based on his pride in their spiritual development.

Obviously Paul didn’t physically die every day, but he certainly did live with the constant threat of death (see, for example, 1 Corinthians 4:9-13 and 2 Corinthians 1:8-9). He willingly faced persecution and death both because he preached the resurrection and because he anticipated experiencing it personally.

Verse 32 opens with a puzzling statement about fighting wild beasts, which (if literal) Luke never recorded in Acts. The reference to beasts in Ephesus is almost assuredly metaphoric, possibly borrowed from an Ephesian poet named Heraclitus. Four hundred years prior to Paul’s writing of 1 Corinthians, Heraclitus called his fellow Ephesians “wild beasts.” Certainly the riot against Paul and his companions in Ephesus bears that out, as shown in Acts 19:29-34.

Paul could have avoided the conflict, and indeed enjoyed the self-indulgent lifestyle of Ephesus, had it not been for his firm belief in Christ’s resurrection and the consequent resurrection of believers. If we cease to exist after death, he reasons, why shouldn’t we “party like there’s no tomorrow?” It’s precisely because of the resurrection that Paul willingly subjected himself to suffering and persecution.

Finally, Paul gets to the heart of the matter in verse 33 with a warning against being influenced by those who didn’t believe the resurrection is literal. Early Gnostics made distinctions between soul (or spirit) and body, insisting that any resurrection that occurs is merely spiritual. That being the case, indulging fleshly lusts had no moral implications.

Paul warns the Corinthians that too much exposure to this line of thinking risked their moral purity. He quotes a popular saying to underscore his point. Believers Bible Commentary states that “it is impossible to associate with evil people or evil teachings without being corrupted by them. Evil doctrine inevitably has an effect on one’s life. False teachings do not lead to holiness.” 2 Timothy 2:16-18 provides a specific example of this corruption playing out in Ephesus.

He concludes this passage with some sobering remarks in verse 34. This verse gives the practical application of everything Paul has written up to this point. He entreats the Corinthians to wake up from the false teaching that denies bodily resurrection, calling their acceptance of it a drunken stupor. He wants them to awaken to righteousness. He said something similar to the Christians in Rome (Romans 13:11).

Because their bodies will rise to eternal life, he commands them to stop sinning. Again, this present life isn’t all there is. Thus, the denial of resurrection would naturally result in sinful living.

Paul ends this verse by shaming them for not administering correct teaching to everyone. The very fact that some of them (much like the Sadducees Jesus rebuked in Matthew 22:29) habitually ignored clear teaching on the resurrection exhibited their lack of knowledge.

I pray that these eleven Bible Studies on the doctrine of resurrection have increased your knowledge and strengthened your love for the Lord. I’ve definitely learned a lot!  But as wonderful as this study has been, I need to take a couple months off before we study the remaining 24 verses. I’ve been using my personal Bible study time to prepare each lesson, and I really need to read other portions of Scripture.

When we resume this study (probably in October), we’ll learn about our resurrection bodies. Join me then.

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Nature Just Begins The Story

Marin County California has such beautiful areas to enjoy natural creation! From the beaches edging Point Reyes National Seashore to the breathtaking views from the summit of Mount Tamalpias, the splendor of God’s creation reflects His glory.

Downtown Boston has areas of natural beauty as well in its cultivated gardens and lazy Harbor Walk. The Public Garden and Rose Kennedy Greenway boast ever changing varieties of flowers, while points along the harbor draw the eye to the vastness and strength of the ocean.

All these wonders proclaim the greatness of God. Yet nature only begins to tell the story. As we approach the Gospel, and as we anticipate Christ’s return and the new heavens and new earth of His kingdom, we better grasp an understanding of how absolutely magnificent He truly is!

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Saturday Sampler: July 22 — July 28

3D Beads Sampler

I didn’t read Douglas Wilson’s The Facebook Penalty Box until after I published last week’s edition of Saturday Sampler, but his faithfulness to preserve Robert Gagnon’s banned Facebook post responding to the Revoice conference deserves attention. For several reasons. Wilson blogs at Blog & Mablog.

You’ve heard me say countless times that context is essential to interpreting the Bible. If you want more evidence that context makes a difference, read Do Children Need to Take Care of Their Parents? OR Another Reason Context Is Important by Mike Leake of Borrowed Light. You might even learn something about First Century Roman culture.

Hohn Cho, writing for Pyromaniacs, issues Convictions of the “Social” Justice Movement and Responses Thereto. Though this isn’t exactly light reading, it gives us a handle on this movement’s main tenants and examines those tenants through the lens of Scripture.

Reflecting on the life of a woman who greatly influenced her, Erin Benziger writes A Life Exhausted for Jesus in Do Not Be Surprised.

On her blog, The End Time, Elizabeth Prata reminds us that Taming the Tongue on Social Media is a responsibility that Christians must take seriously.  She offers an interesting perspective on silence that we typically overlook in discussions on this matter. Her essay deserves attention just for that.

We’ve all asked Where Do People Who Never Hear of Jesus Go When They Die? In his weekly contribution to The Cripplegate, Jordan Standridge answers this question from Scripture and then explains our responsibility to evangelize all nations.

Inevitably, most Christians find something about God that, to be honest, we just don’t like. Addressing that reality in his blog post for Things Above Us, Michael Coughlan writes When the Honeymoon is Over to both confront and encourage us. His observations deserve consideration.

What Is The Greatest Motivation In Your Life? asks Carol Ann Kiker in her Biblical Woman blog post. Her application of principles in Colossians 3 to various aspects of daily life is practical and honoring to the Lord.

Giving us a birds eye view of the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5-7, Peter Krol writes Context Matters: You Have Heard That it was Said…But I Say to You in Knowable Word. If the current chatter about laying aside the Old Testament intrigues you, I beg  you to read this study and consider how Jesus regarded it.

Sometimes I believe Michelle Lesley and I lead parallel lives. At least spiritually. I nodded in knowing agreement as I read When God Answers the “Wrong” Prayer. Michelle models how godly women should pray, but also how to respond when God answers the one prayer that our flesh secretly hopes He doesn’t hear.

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Gay Christians? Let’s Think About That

Rainbow Bible

As the Revoice Conference gathers in St. Louis this weekend, you might have expected the Reformed blogosphere to be teeming with articles about homosexuality and LBGTQ issues. During the past four weeks, it’s been a fairly hot topic.  But now that it’s actually upon us, nobody seems interested.

True, the plethora of articles leading up to this week pretty much exhausted the subject. And perhaps next week, people will post reactions. Additionally, nothing can be said that hasn’t already been said. Several times over. In a sense, I can’t contribute much to the conversation. But I want to toss in my two cents anyway, if only because Continue reading

Humility And Standing Firm: A Balancing Act

sola-scriptura-02Being outspoken has its drawbacks, especially when your beliefs hurt people you have known and loved for decades. Sometimes I’d rather have a blog called The Softspoken Pansy.

Being outspoken, I frequently post things on Social Media that challenge established evangelical thought, hoping people might stop and think about my perspectives. I post with the clear understanding that I could get pushback. Anyone posting on Social Media really should post with that expectation. Whether it’s your blog, Facebook or Twitter (or any other app), posting publicly invites conversation — both positive and negative.

On the other hand, I rarely give pushback on someone’s post, reasoning that it’s their forum, giving them every right to express their beliefs without fear of censure. Sometimes their posts trouble me. I see professing Christians make extremely worldly comments, and I just itch to play Holy Spirit and convince them of their errors. But I feel as if doing so would invade their territory.

Anyway, this weekend I posted a quote by Justin Peters that resulted in a firestorm on my personal Facebook page. Continue reading

Now I Understand Why Reading Sojourner’s Magazine Made Me Feel Slimy

Snail

Not long after I graduated from  college in 1977, one of my pastors started teaching Adult Sunday School classes on world hunger and social justice. Several of us fell under his influence, equating socialist politics with Christianity. We justified this equation by pointing to Acts 2:44-45  as a proof-text  supporting our “radical discipleship.”

Like all good radicals, we protested nuclear power plants, boycotted subsidiaries of corporate conglomerates and mourned profusely when Ronald Reagan beat Jimmy Carter. We firmly believed our liberal politics reflected Biblical values.

And we faithfully read Sojourner’s Magazine. I grabbed each issue the moment it hit my mailbox, eagerly flipping to the editorials by Jim Wallis. His writing always assured me that Jesus championed the poor and disenfranchised.

And yet, I always felt a certain discomfort with my so-called Christian socialism. Continue reading