Showing posts with label Apostle Paul. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Apostle Paul. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 10, 2024

The Best Laid Plans

I am at one of those junctures in life at which circumstances oblige me to decide where, and to some degree how, I may spend my next few years, always assuming I have them to spend. As I often do, I am talking up the various possibilities with other Christians, from whom I have occasionally picked up a useful insight or two.

In the course of doing so, as you might expect, I am hearing a fair bit about the will of God, the call of God and the leading of God. “Well, if the Lord leads,” said one friend, “perhaps you’ll end up here.”

Perhaps. But even apostles and prophets don’t always know with certainty what their future holds.

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Better Second Fiddle

Back in 1939, theorist Kurt Goldstein coined the term “self-actualization” to describe the motive to realize what he called “one’s full potential”.

In Goldstein’s view this drive might take the form of creative expression, pursuit of knowledge or the desire to contribute to society in some personally-defined way. Goldstein believed self-actualization was any organism’s “master motive” and its most basic drive in life. Abraham Maslow’s hierarchy of needs theory built on Goldstein’s concept and is probably the most familiar expression of it.

Among others in Christian circles, Rachel Held Evans seems to have bought into Goldstein’s theories.

Thursday, December 01, 2022

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

Churches today need leaders — badly. And biblically speaking, that means they need elders.

“Elder” doesn’t necessarily mean old but it does mean spiritually mature, so some age and experience are required, of course.

Unfortunately, spiritually mature people are in short supply these days. I fear that the majority of my generation, the currently middle-aged, didn’t spend much of their youth reading the Bible or seeking spiritual growth opportunities. Consequently, those now in the best age group to be selected as elders to lead the churches are not quite up to the task.

But churches still need leadership.

Wednesday, October 12, 2022

Inbox: Paul Denies All Righteousness

Anonymous writes:

“Paul denies all righteousness in the Old Testament by misquoting the Psalms and using them to make up his new doctrines on sin.

In Romans 3:10, Paul says that Abel was not righteous as Jesus said, Samuel did not understand, Moses did not seek God’s face, that Abraham has turned away, that Elijah and Elisha were altogether worthless, that Boaz had no true kindness, that Enoch’s throat was an open grave, the venom of the asp lay behind Jeremiah’s lips, Deborah’s mouth was filled with cursing and bitterness, Esther’s feet were eager to spill blood at any time, that Solomon knew nothing of peace, that they all deserve to burn in hell forever and ever. Jesus’s instruction to keep the commandments were obsolete, that, but that it is faith alone without works that gets you into heaven, not loving attitude, not good intentions, not benevolence, but choosing the right religion. That’s Paul’s message, and it’s nothing that Jesus taught, which was trusting that which is haShem of Jesus (righteousness and love), not intellectual assent that somehow magically makes you a new person.”

There’s lots to process here (some of it is almost poetic), but at least three points on which our commenter and I disagree. I’ll leave the first paragraph alone, because it stands or falls on the truth or falsehood of the allegations made in the second paragraph.

Wednesday, April 06, 2022

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

Online commentators argue that the apostle Paul misuses the Old Testament.

Some of these are garden-variety cranks, determined to prove all English versions of the Bible inaccurate. They insist reading the Jewish Tanakh is the only way to go. There’s really no placating people like that. Others set Paul against Jesus, maintaining that only the words of Christ really matter, and that the writings of the apostles are unreliable, inferior and downright wrong. Still others, like Pete Enns, object particularly to Paul, arguing that he read the Old Testament out of context, failing to respect what its authors intended to communicate.

How does the average Christian reply to such accusations?

Thursday, March 24, 2022

Inbox: Sucking the Life Out of ‘Vampire Churches’

R.J. sent me an article this week and asked me what I thought.

I read the title: “Vampire Churches”. Instantly, visions of caped characters sweeping across the congregation, making “Nyuh ha ha” noises all the while sprang into my mind. I could see them clamping eager fangs on the swooning portly matrons of row three, their stodgy husbands standing by and intoning, “This is just not on!”

I read a little further. The article seemed passionately worried about the defection of pop writer Anne Rice from Catholicism. Strangely, I was not as troubled as the author about that.

Thursday, January 20, 2022

When Life Really Hurts

There’s a woman in my church — a lovely woman, a mother and a wife, and selfless servant of the Lord’s people, one most highly esteemed. She has been a grief and addiction counselor, and has spent her whole life ministering to others in their moments of darkest sorrow. Her husband is also a wonderful person, and his career for several decades has been as chaplain to the elderly, caring for fragile souls on the doorstep of eternity.

This woman has just been diagnosed with aggressive, metastasizing liver cancer. The fatal kind.

Thursday, October 28, 2021

Present Perfect

Everybody likes gifts, they say. Still, some are better than others.

A funny story: My in-laws were on their way to a wedding. Along the roadside, a hack artist was selling a number of truly horrible original oil paintings. (Doubtless this poor soul labored under the delusion he was some sort of Michelangelo.) Anyway, my relatives pulled over for a look. These ‘masterpieces’ were supposed to be landscapes, but they all looked like they’d been painted with a really fat brush using earth tones, pale blues and dark blacks. (If you imagine an explosion in a factory that produces toothpaste, peanut butter and licorice, you’ve roughly got the aesthetic here.)

Sunday, August 22, 2021

Bible Study 12 — Context [Part 6]

The final instalment in the re-presentation of our 2013-2014 series about studying the Bible using methods deduced from the Bible itself. The series introduction can be found here.

The second Bible study tool we are discussing is context. For justification, see the first post on this subject.

Sunday, July 04, 2021

With One Hand Behind His Back

“This is the reason why I have so often been hindered from coming to you.”

It must be very frustrating to be Satan.

Picture this: you are bound and determined to thwart the will of God, to destroy his work, to make null and void his promises, to corrupt his servants and taint everything he touches, to remake the world in your own image and to make your name greater than his.

And God beats you every time. With one almighty hand metaphorically tied behind his metaphorical back.

Sunday, January 31, 2021

Nothing New Under the Sun

If the shifting political and social narratives of the last several years have not convinced you that the vast majority of the general public are being lied to deliberately and repeatedly, then probably nothing will.

For myself, I am convinced that no matter the subject, just about the only story that isn’t accurate in any given news cycle is the one being told to us by politicians, corporations and media; the one which is said to be most popularly acceptable, and the one its authors are at greatest pains to preserve by censoring any contradictory information or expression of opinion that might make it less persuasive.

Sunday, October 25, 2020

Worth Dying For

When King David wrote, “He trains my hands for war, so that my arms can bend a bow of bronze,” the great warrior-poet was not reaching for an apt figure of speech to describe some vigorous spiritual exercise. He meant it absolutely literally. David had men on every side who were trying to kill him with bows, arrows, swords and spears. His enemies were not looking for a bracing intellectual argument; they intended to spill David’s blood, and spill it in copious quantities.

Moreover, God was not standing aloof from David’s very physical struggles. He was right in there equipping his servant to pierce, crush, injure and maim his fellow man.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

How Saved Are You?

Most of us associate our salvation with a specific incident: a conversation, a sudden realization, a moment in which it became clear to us that the Lord was speaking; that God was right and we were wrong; that we were sinners and that there was something we urgently needed to do about that. So in our own way we cried out to God: some with tears, some more tentatively, still not completely sure what might be involved. How much we may have fully grasped of the role of Christ in both salvation and in the government of our lives from then on almost certainly differed from person to person.

But my point is … it was a point in time. And if you say the word “salvation”, that event is primarily what we think of.

An event is good. If you have one to look back on, I’m glad.

Sunday, July 26, 2020

David’s Covenant and the Resurrection

On Tuesday we looked at the first six public messages in the book of Acts to consider how one’s audience ought to determine the content of a gospel message, a pattern well established by the apostles in their preaching.

It seems obvious that the apostles did not simply memorize a few key points to preach about in every situation. They did not utilize a predictable series of Old Testament proof texts. They were not merely checking boxes, but responded to the needs of the particular audience to whom they were preaching.

So now here we are in Acts 13.

Tuesday, June 30, 2020

Vessels of Wrath and Vessels of Mercy

We’ve been looking at the question of whether God really prepares some people for destruction and others for glory. How and to what extent is his sovereignty exercised within the human heart?

Romans 9 is much misunderstood where this subject is concerned. In yesterday’s post I made the case that nothing in the first 18 verses of the chapter deals with the subject of individual salvation. Paul’s subject there is God’s election of nations and other groups to strategic roles in human history for his own sovereign purposes.

Sunday, April 26, 2020

The Point of Faith

“I will show him how much he must suffer for the sake of my name.”

Imagine for a second that at the time you came to Christ you had been told that your life from this day forward was to be characterized by people throwing rocks at you, telling lies about you, betraying you and letting you down, calling you names, hitting you, throwing you in jail and trying to kill you. Moreover, in addition to all the abuse you could expect as a matter of course from your fellow man for the sake of your testimony to Christ, you could also expect more than your fair share of all the nasty, apparently random things that happen to people the world over: getting mugged, having to work hard, getting no sleep, getting sick, suffering chronic pain from old injuries, lacking food and having your transportation fail regularly in spectacular and dangerous ways.

Would that have changed anything? Might a bout of frantic back-peddling have ensued?

In some cases, maybe.

Tuesday, January 21, 2020

Is Christianity a Religion?

Depends on your definition, doesn’t it.

As a unit of language, the word ‘religion’ has acquired so many nuances that it is almost useless. Everyone has his or her own idea of what religion means, but they often differ drastically from one another. It has become one of those words that just doesn’t really communicate much anymore.

If I ask, “Are you religious?” and you say “Yes”, I have actually discovered very little indeed about what you believe.

Sunday, January 19, 2020

Agnosticism and Folly

“Stolen water is sweet, and bread eaten in secret is pleasant.”

Solomon, wisest man of his day and the greatest king of Israel — at least by the world’s standard of measurement — talks about two alternatives we all face in life, picturing them by extended metaphor as a pair of women offering invitations.

On the surface there are similarities: both women are offering food of a sort to those who are simple, naïve or untaught, just as we all are when we come into the world.

But the similarities end there.

Monday, December 02, 2019

Anonymous Asks (69)

“If it is true that ‘whoever says, “You fool!” will be liable to the hell of fire,’ then why did both Jesus and his apostles call people fools?”

Normally the questions answered in this series of posts come from anonymous sources, all of whom are (at least to the best of my knowledge) actual people. Their problems may be real or hypothetical (or, in at least one case, just plain old trolling), but I answer them here because their writers make a decent effort to submit questions we have good reason to believe might be of concern to our readers or people they know.

In this case, I freely admit I submitted this one to myself just for the dubious pleasure of working it through.

Wednesday, October 30, 2019

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 6]

Continuing an examination of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We started with what the sacrifices WERE NOT and are now examining what they WERE.

In my last post we looked at the sacrifices as a reminder of sins and asked why a constant reminder was necessary for God’s people.

But what other purposes did the sacrifices serve?

Tuesday, October 29, 2019

The Purpose of the Sacrifices [Part 5]

Continuing an examination of the sacrifices of the Old Testament. We started with what the sacrifices WERE NOT and are now examining what they WERE.

In my last post we examined the way in which the sacrifices served the very practical purpose of providing food for God’s servants and their families.

What other purposes did the sacrifices serve?

Wednesday, July 03, 2019

Conspiracy Theory

I’ve been enjoying the account of the conversion of Saul of Tarsus, who became the apostle Paul, the writer of many books in the New Testament. The book of Acts tells Paul’s story several times, each version bringing out new details not recorded in the others.

Atheists and detractors like to point out alleged contradictions in scripture; anything that might be interpreted, however implausibly, with sufficient elasticity as to make less than perfect, logical sense of the biblical narrative. Such things are accounted for variously as factual mistakes, copyist’s errors or conspiracies among believers to commit pious fraud. is a great place to go if you want to see the sort of thing that passes for Bible criticism among those who have already made up their minds before reading a single verse.

Thursday, February 28, 2019

When Life Really Hurts

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, January 16, 2019

Facts and Conjectures

The facts are these: about 57 A.D., give or take, the apostle Paul traveled to Jerusalem, where he was arrested something less than seven days after his arrival. Initially at least, he was (falsely or mistakenly) accused by the Jewish religious authorities of profaning the temple. Later he was also accused of disturbing the peace, a charge more likely to be taken seriously by the Romans than any merely religious disagreement between members of a subject people group. His Roman custodians took him first to Caesarea and finally to Rome when he made an appeal to have his case heard by Caesar himself. He was imprisoned there for approximately two years.

Contrary to what I thought as a teen and young adult, Paul did not die in Rome. Not that time at least. I had my chronology muddled for years. In any case, even if martyrdom was not the result, we can reasonably conclude these four-plus years in Roman custody were not exactly fun and games.

And they were entirely voluntary.

Sunday, January 13, 2019

Criticism and Grace

The apostle Paul (and Timothy) to the church of God in Corinth:

“For even if I made you grieve with my letter, I do not regret it — though I did regret it, for I see that that letter grieved you, though only for a while. As it is, I rejoice, not because you were grieved, but because you were grieved into repenting. For you felt a godly grief, so that you suffered no loss through us.

For godly grief produces a repentance that leads to salvation without regret, whereas worldly grief produces death. For see what earnestness this godly grief has produced in you, but also what eagerness to clear yourselves, what indignation, what fear, what longing, what zeal, what punishment! At every point you have proved yourselves innocent in the matter.”

You may already know the background here …

Sunday, December 16, 2018

Real Paul and Fake Paul

Marcus Antonius Felix was the procurator of the Roman province of Iudaea between A.D. 52 and 58. Secular history tells us he was a Greek, known for his cruelty and fond of bribes. His rule was characterized by political unrest, which he put down ruthlessly. He married three times, his middle wife being a Jewish divorcee named Drusilla who died two decades later in the famous first century eruption of Mount Vesuvius.

It would not be wildly out of line to suggest Felix’s “rather accurate knowledge” of The Way was likely a direct consequence of this second marriage.

Thursday, November 29, 2018

Present Perfect

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Sunday, November 18, 2018

Credentialism and Truth

“As they were speaking to the people, the priests and the captain of the temple and the Sadducees came upon them, greatly annoyed because they were teaching the people and proclaiming in Jesus the resurrection from the dead.”

The Jewish religious authorities came teeming out of the woodwork to harass the apostles for two reasons. Primarily it was the public proclamation of resurrection through Jesus that irked them. Resurrection was a huge bone of contention for Sadducees in particular, who did not believe in it. Adding the name of Jesus to the mix, a man the authorities had only recently had put to death, only compounded the problem.

But we should not overlook Luke’s observation that they really did not like the apostles teaching the people.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Deprived of this Grace

I’ve been struck lately by the relevance of the Lord’s kingdom parables to the whole issue of John Calvin’s concept of election.

You may have noticed that the Lord’s disciples appear to be not entirely comfortable with the whole ‘parables’ concept. We know this because they have to ask the Lord to explain the parables to them, and enthuse about it when he does. They obviously find themselves on surer ground when he speaks “plainly” than when he tells stories that require interpretation.

But the Lord explains the reason for parables to them in this way:

“To you has been given the secret of the kingdom of God, but for those outside everything is in parables, so that ‘they may indeed see but not perceive, and may indeed hear but not understand, lest they should turn and be forgiven.’ ”

On the face of it, this sounds terribly determinist, doesn’t it.

Wednesday, August 01, 2018

On the Supposed Misuse of the Old Testament

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Wednesday, February 07, 2018

A Better Job

Paul had Timothy circumcised. He didn’t require the same of Titus, and makes a point of saying so. Then he went and told the Galatians, “If you accept circumcision, Christ will be of no advantage to you.”

Three apparently similar situations. Three completely different responses: You SHOULD, You don’t NEED to and You absolutely must NOT under any circumstances. Yet Paul had not made some sudden grand discovery about the circumcision question right in the middle of his life and ministry. And he certainly was neither inconsistent nor hypocritical.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Who’s Running This Place Anyway?

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Monday, October 09, 2017

Implementing the Peace Principle

Legally speaking, a conflict of interest is a situation in which a person owes a duty to more than one party, the execution of which duties are either incompatible or mutually exclusive. In other words, discharging one’s responsibility to the first party may result in negatively impacting or failing to discharge one’s responsibility to the second.

This is not a situation with which Christians are unfamiliar. Conflicts of interest are part of the package.

Thursday, August 03, 2017

Unmuddling the Muddle

I don’t think it’s an overstatement to say that Christian teaching about prophecy is a chaotic muddle.

Within Christendom, in the broadest and most general terms, we find Preterists, Historicists, Futurists and Idealists. When we get into specific features of the prophetic calendar such as the Millennium, we fragment further into Pre-, Post- and Amillennialists, and the Premillennialists subdivide yet further into Pre-Tribulationists, Mid-Tribulationists and Post-Tribulationists. If I’ve left your view out, forgive me.

You will be unsurprised to find that I have no particular interest in trying to straighten all that out, and no patience for it even if I had the skill.

Thursday, July 20, 2017

The Snare Is Broken

We have escaped like a bird
  from the snare of the fowlers;
  the snare is broken,
  and we have escaped!

The escape David refers to in Psalm 124 was a literal, physical one, from an enemy that would have swallowed both him and his alive if it could; an enemy with “teeth” that regarded him as “prey”. He uses metaphors in his praise, but there was nothing metaphorical about the things from which he escaped. Very likely it was cold steel or a slew of arrows aimed in his direction.

The escape I’m thinking about is of a different sort.

Friday, July 14, 2017

Too Hot to Handle: Unsanctioned “Churches”

In which our regular writers toss around subjects a little more volatile than usual.

Tom: I just came across a blog entry by a Christian fellow named Danny Eason. Danny had this silly idea of inviting a bunch of random (I believe his own description is “ragamuffin”) believers into his home for “Coffee and Jesus”. He describes their get-togethers like this:

“... fellowship, studying the Word (we’re walking through Ephesians), corporate confession and prayer, and worship through song. The time together is incredibly relaxed with no official format.”

That and, oh yeah, “Breaking of Bread”.

Sunday, April 23, 2017

How Much Does It Have To Hurt?

So ... how much do you need to hurt before God will forgive you?

It’s a good question. I have a friend who holds himself responsible for a tragedy that occurred a few years ago. I’m not even sure he’s actually guilty of the sin he believes he committed: when others make choices so fast you don’t have time to think of how to respond until it’s too late, how much responsibility is yours and how much is theirs?

The Lord knows. I wouldn’t dare guess.

Sunday, April 09, 2017

Yet Another Rigged Election

Does God really prepare some people for destruction and others for glory?

It’s a good question.

Most Christians accept that God is, by definition, able to control all that he creates down to the last detail; it is difficult to read the Bible and come away with any other picture of him. But the question of how and to what extent his sovereignty is exercised within the human heart is what generally divides believers.

Sunday, March 05, 2017

The Word, Uncontained

“It’s got to be in here somewhere ...”
This YouTuber, blasting away in ALL CAPS, wants us to know that “THE BIBLE CANNOT BE THE WORD OF GOD.”

Oh, he calls himself a Christian, make no mistake. But he insists the Bible is “the words of men that have recorded some words of God sometimes”. So much so that the caps come out again:

“Our focus and our trust must be in Jesus, WE MUST BE LED BY THE HOLY SPIRIT OF GOD.”

Being led by the Holy Spirit with our focus on and trust in Jesus seems a pretty good deal to me. It’s his understanding of what that means that’s the problem.

Tuesday, December 06, 2016

Don’t Be Outdone

Nowadays we don’t like to hurt anybody’s self-esteem. The solution? Give out prizes, ribbons and accolades just for showing up. My youngest son once brought home a trophy for participation.

“Hey Dad, look, I was there!”

No, actually, he didn’t say that. He rightly recognized even at the age of six or seven that there was little value to an award received for no particular effort. For merely dignifying an event with his illustrious presence. For managing to breathe and stand upright without any unanticipated side-effects.

I don’t know where the trophy is now and I suspect neither does he. If you ask me it was kind of pathetic.

Monday, September 05, 2016


Here is the apostle Paul describing his gospel to the Romans:

“I will not venture to speak of anything except what Christ has accomplished through me to bring the Gentiles to obedience …”

“… through whom we have received grace and apostleship to bring about the obedience of faith for the sake of his name among all the nations.”

That’s an awfully funny way to put it, don’t you think? Bring the Gentiles to obedience. The obedience of faith. Those sorts of catchphrases could put people off.

Saturday, August 27, 2016

Under Construction

Twice each day for the past two weeks, my morning constitutional has taken me past an older house in the middle of major renovations. Each day, any remotely attentive passer-by could observe two to three men on the job along with all the requisite heavy equipment, trucks and supplies. A radio blasted encouragement as the construction crew scurried back and forth.

And ... nothing happened. Not a thing. From the street, there was no observable progress whatsoever.

In a way, it reminds me of many of us.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

What Lies Behind

What do we do with the past?

In one sense, obviously, not much. It is what it is. We can’t change it, we can’t rewrite it, and while we can reinterpret it, that may not be a particularly useful exercise if our current outlook is an honest one.

Still, how we process our past and how our thoughts about it affect us today are significant.

Monday, August 01, 2016

What We’re Here For

I don’t know how many people remember Rocky (1976), the boxing drama about a loan shark’s debt collector from the Philadelphia slums who gets a shot at the world heavyweight championship. It was released forty years ago, after all.

I saw it as a kid and don’t remember being particularly impressed by the story or enthralled by the characters. I found it all a bit grimy, if I recall. What stuck with me about the Rocky Balboa character, though, was that he just wouldn’t stay down.

Oh, he takes a beating alright.

Monday, June 06, 2016

Inbox: Sucking the Life Out of ‘Vampire Churches’

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Work Your Way Upstream

Douglas Wilson is, in his own words, “evangelical, postmill, Calvinist, Reformed, and Presbyterian, pretty much in that order”.

One out of five ain’t bad, I suppose.

But hey, I’m an equal opportunity reader. Despite my lack of common ground with many of Mr. Wilson’s expressed convictions, I find much of what he writes profitable.

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

How Not To Be Forgiven

Forgiveness is the great equalizer.

In extending Christian forgiveness, we acknowledge our own ongoing sins and failures and accept back those who have sinned against us in the knowledge that we, too, will fail them tomorrow and will go on failing them until the Lord returns.

Forgiveness makes every person my equal and everyone my brother or sister in the only sense that equality can ever be attained on earth and in the only sense that, from a human perspective, really matters.

But some people will not be forgiven.

Monday, April 18, 2016

The Author of Confusion

Paul Mizzi is an evangelical pastor on the largely-Catholic island of Malta. His essays on various aspects of the Christian faith may be found on the website Truth for Today.

Malta got a visit from the apostle Paul in the first century that included a number of miracles of healing (and undoubtedly the preaching of the gospel to go with them). But despite the fact that Malta has had apostolic testimony for two thousand years, the structure and function of their evangelical churches today seems to have more in common with that of North American denominational Protestantism than with that of the church of the New Testament.

In Paul Mizzi’s church the distinction between clergy and laity is very well defined.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

When Life Really Hurts

The most recent version of this post is available here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Better Second Fiddle

The most recent version of this post is available here.