Salutation1 Corinthians 1:1 Paul, called to be an apostle of Christ Jesus by the will of God, and our brother Sosthenes,
2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those who are sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints, together with all those who in every place call on the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours:
3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.
4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that has been given you in Christ Jesus, 5 for in every way you have been enriched in him, in speech and knowledge of every kind— 6 just as the testimony of Christ has been strengthened among you— 7 so that you are not lacking in any spiritual gift as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ. 8 He will also strengthen you to the end, so that you may be blameless on the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful; by him you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.
Divisions in the Church10 Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. 11 For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters. 12 What I mean is that each of you says, “I belong to Paul,” or “I belong to Apollos,” or “I belong to Cephas,” or “I belong to Christ.” 13 Has Christ been divided? Was Paul crucified for you? Or were you baptized in the name of Paul? 14 I thank God that I baptized none of you except Crispus and Gaius, 15 so that no one can say that you were baptized in my name. 16 (I did baptize also the household of Stephanas; beyond that, I do not know whether I baptized anyone else.) 17 For Christ did not send me to baptize but to proclaim the Gospel, and not with eloquent wisdom, so that the cross of Christ might not be emptied of its power.
Christ the Power and Wisdom of God (Cp Isa 29:14)18 For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. 19 For it is written,
“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”
26 Consider your own call, brothers and sisters: not many of you were wise by human standards, not many were powerful, not many were of noble birth. 27 But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; 28 God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, 29 so that no one might boast in the presence of God. 30 He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, 31 in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
Proclaiming Christ Crucified1 Corinthians 2 When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. 2 For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. 3 And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. 4 My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, 5 so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
The True Wisdom of God6 Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. 7 But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. 8 None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory. 9 But, as it is written,
“What no eye has seen, nor ear heard,
nor the human heart conceived,
what God has prepared for those who love him”—
14 Those who are unspiritual do not receive the gifts of God’s Spirit, for they are foolishness to them, and they are unable to understand them because they are spiritually discerned. Please see Who What Determines Canon in the panel on the right. 15 Those who are spiritual discern all things, and they are themselves subject to no one else’s scrutiny.
16 “For who has known the mind of the Lord
so as to instruct him?”
On Divisions in the Corinthian Church1 Corinthians 3:1 And so, brothers and sisters, I could not speak to you as spiritual people, but rather as people of the flesh, as infants in Christ. 2 I fed you with milk, not solid food, for you were not ready for solid food. Even now you are still not ready, 3 for you are still of the flesh. For as long as there is jealousy and quarreling among you, are you not of the flesh, and behaving according to human inclinations? 4 For when one says, “I belong to Paul,” and another, “I belong to Apollos,” are you not merely human?
5 What then is Apollos? What is Paul? Servants through whom you came to believe, as the Lord assigned to each. 6 I planted, Apollos watered, but God gave the growth. 7 So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God who gives the growth. 8 The one who plants and the one who waters have a common purpose, and each will receive wages according to the labor of each. 9 For we are God’s servants, working together; you are God’s field, God’s building.
10 According to the grace of God given to me, like a skilled master builder I laid a foundation, and someone else is building on it. Each builder must choose with care how to build on it. 11 For no one can lay any foundation other than the one that has been laid; that foundation is Jesus Christ. 12 Now if anyone builds on the foundation with gold, silver, precious stones, wood, hay, straw— 13 the work of each builder will become visible, for the Day will disclose it, because it will be revealed with fire, and the fire will test what sort of work each has done. 14 If what has been built on the foundation survives, the builder will receive a reward. 15 If the work is burned up, the builder will suffer loss; the builder will be saved, but only as through fire.
16 Do you not know that you are God’s temple and that God’s Spirit dwells in you? 17 If anyone destroys God’s temple, God will destroy that person. For God’s temple is holy, and you are that temple.
18 Do not deceive yourselves. If you think that you are wise in this age, you should become fools so that you may become wise. 19 For the wisdom of this world is foolishness with God. For it is written,
“He catches the wise in their craftiness,”
20 and again,
“The Lord knows the thoughts of the wise,
that they are futile.”
The Ministry of the Apostles1 Corinthians 4:1 Think of us in this way, as servants of Christ and stewards of God’s mysteries. 2 Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. 3 But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. 4 I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. 5 Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
6 I have applied all this to Apollos and myself for your benefit, brothers and sisters, so that you may learn through us the meaning of the saying, “Nothing beyond what is written,” so that none of you will be puffed up in favor of one against another. 7 For who sees anything different in you? What do you have that you did not receive? And if you received it, why do you boast as if it were not a gift?
8 Already you have all you want! Already you have become rich! Quite apart from us you have become kings! Indeed, I wish that you had become kings, so that we might be kings with you! 9 For I think that God has exhibited us apostles as last of all, as though sentenced to death, because we have become a spectacle to the world, to angels and to mortals. 10 We are fools for the sake of Christ, but you are wise in Christ. We are weak, but you are strong. You are held in honor, but we in disrepute. 11 To the present hour we are hungry and thirsty, we are poorly clothed and beaten and homeless, 12 and we grow weary from the work of our own hands. When reviled, we bless; when persecuted, we endure; 13 when slandered, we speak kindly. We have become like the rubbish of the world, the dregs of all things, to this very day.
Fatherly Admonition14 I am not writing this to make you ashamed, but to admonish you as my beloved children. 15 For though you might have ten thousand guardians in Christ, you do not have many fathers. Indeed, in Christ Jesus I became your father through the Gospel. 16 I appeal to you, then, be imitators of me. 17 For this reason I sent you Timothy, who is my beloved and faithful child in the Lord, to remind you of my ways in Christ Jesus, as I teach them everywhere in every church. 18 But some of you, thinking that I am not coming to you, have become arrogant. 19 But I will come to you soon, if the Lord wills, and I will find out not the talk of these arrogant people but their power. 20 For the kingdom of God depends not on talk but on power. 21 What would you prefer? Am I to come to you with a stick, or with love in a spirit of gentleness?
Sexual Immorality Defiles the Church1 Corinthians 5:1 It is actually reported that there is sexual mmorality among you, and of a kind that is not found even among pagans; for a man is living with his father’s wife. 2 And you are arrogant! Should you not rather have mourned, so that he who has done this would have been removed from among you?
3 For though absent in body, I am present in spirit; and as if present I have already pronounced judgment 4 in the name of the Lord Jesus on the man who has done such a thing. When you are assembled, and my spirit is present with the power of our Lord Jesus, 5 you are to hand this man over to Satan for the destruction of the flesh, so that his spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord.
6 Your boasting is not a good thing. Do you not know that a little yeast leavens the whole batch of dough? 7 Clean out the old yeast so that you may be a new batch, as you really are unleavened. For our paschal lamb, Christ, has been sacrificed. 8 Therefore, let us celebrate the festival, not with the old yeast, the yeast of malice and evil, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth.
Sexual Immorality Must Be Judged9 I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— 10 not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. 11 But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. 12 For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? 13 God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
The Holy Bible: containing the Old and New Testaments with the Apocryphal / Deuterocanonical Books [New Revised Standard Version]
What I'm Reading
By James S. Stewart(1 Co 2:2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. NRSV
(1 Co 15:31) I die every day! That is as certain, brothers and sisters, as my boasting of you—a boast that I make in Christ Jesus our Lord. NRSV
This leads to the third consideration which ought to warn us against forcing a system upon Paul. We have referred to the subject-matter of his teaching and the situation to which it was addressed. To these we must add the man's own view of his vocation. If it would have startled the Christians of Corinth and Thessalonica to be confronted with a dogmatic system, containing carefully mapped-out sections on Anthropology, Hamar-tiology, Soteriology, and the rest, the whole being labelled Paulinism, it would have startled the apostle himself even more. Paul was not aware when he wrote that his writings were to become Holy Scripture. He was not aware that future generations would pore over these letters and seek to fit together every thought they contained. Certainly the last thing that he can have imagined, when he set himself to send a message to one or other of his Christian communities, was that centuries later men would be building theologies on words thrown off to an amanuensis, as many of his words were, in moments of intense feeling. The fact of the matter is, Paul had no great love for systems, and very little faith in the speculations which produce them. The wisdom of this world was such a poor thing, and mere intellect so bankrupt, and the best possible formulations of doctrine so pitifully short of the mark, when they tried to measure Christ! Once indeed Paul did conduct the experiment of philosophizing Jesus; but his Athenian experience was the exception which proves the rule, and the failure of the experiment made him more resolute than ever not to exchange the herald's calling for the apologist's. Henceforward he was determined, as he told the Corinthians, "not to know anything among you, save Jesus Christ, and Him crucified." It was faith in Christ, not faith in any creed or articles about Christ, that was "the master-light of all his seeing." Men do not gamble with their lives, nor stake their souls, on abstract truths and systems; but a great love is different. They will do it, Paul did it, for that. "I die daily," he cried—a sudden flash which, to all who have eyes to see, reveals the essential difference between the Christ of Paul's devotion and the Christ of a formal Paulinism. By the use of two Greek words, Deissmann has brought out this contrast most admirably. "Paul is not so much the great Christologos as the great Christophoros." That goes to the root of the matter. The man knew himself charged to bear Christ, to herald Christ, not to rationalize Christ. Indeed, nothing else was possible, for the fundamental fact about the Christ of Paul's experience was that He was alive. Historical data and reminiscences you can rationalize: a living Lord you can only proclaim. There must, of course, have been considerable difference, both of matter and of manner, between the apostle's preaching and the letters which he wrote; but let us not forget that he was a preacher first and a writer second. And both spheres—preaching and writing—were ruled by one great fact—the fact of a living, present Lord; and by one all-decisive experience—the experience of union and communion with Him. This was the apostle's calling. This was his sole vocation and concern. This it was for which he had been born. He came to bring, not a system, but the living Christ.
(2 Co 1:3–5) 3 Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of mercies and the God of all consolation, 4 who consoles us in all our affliction, so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the consolation with which we ourselves are consoled by God. 5 For just as the sufferings of Christ are abundant for us, so also our consolation is abundant through Christ. NRSV
(1 Co 15:57) 57 But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ. NRSV
A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)
Message Of The Cross
Paul found no anomaly in defining his gospel as ‘the message of the cross’, his ministry as ‘we preach Christ crucified’, baptism as initiation ‘into his death’ and the Lord’s Supper as a proclamation of the Lord’s death. He boldly declared that, though the cross seemed either foolishness or a ‘stumbling block’ to the self-confident, it was in fact the very essence of God’s wisdom and power. 1 Cor. 1:18–25; Rom. 6:3; 1 Cor. 11:26 So convinced was he of this that he had deliberately resolved, he told the Corinthians, to renounce worldly wisdom and instead to know nothing among them ‘except Jesus Christ and him crucified’ (1 Cor. 2:1–2). When later in the same letter he wished to remind them of his gospel, which he had himself received and had handed on to them, which had become the foundation on which they were standing and the good news by which they were being saved, what was ‘of first importance’ (he said) was ‘that Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures, and that he appeared...’ (1 Cor. 15:1–5). And when a few years later he developed this outline into the full gospel manifesto which his letter to the Romans is, his emphasis is even more strongly on the cross. For having proved all humankind sinful and guilty before God, he explains that God’s righteous way of putting the unrighteous right with himself operates ‘through the redemption that came by Christ Jesus’, whom ‘God presented as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood’ (Rom. 3:21–25). Consequently, we are ‘justified by his blood’ and ‘reconciled to God through the death of his Son’ (Rom. 5:9–10). Without Christ’s sacrificial death for us salvation would have been impossible. No wonder Paul boasted in nothing except the cross (Gal. 6:14)
( The Cross of Christ )
Paul The Theologian, Not
By James S. Stewart(1 Co 2:2) For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. NRSV
We have seen reason, then, while agreeing with the reaction from the rigidly scholastic view of Paul, to criticize these two forms which that reaction has assumed. The patronizing way of approving of his religion, while forgiving him for his theology, is as little to be commended as the attempt to ignore him altogether. He was a Christ-apprehended, Christ-filled man, with nothing in his religion that was not rooted and grounded in experience; but the very vividness of that experience, and its daily growth and development, made reflection on it inevitable. Always the experience was primary, the reflection secondary. " He is not a ' theologian ' in the technical or modern sense of the word. . . . Yet neither is he a dreamer, indifferent to history and to reason, satisfied with emotion, sentiment or ecstasy." A systematic theologian he certainly was not. No system in the world could satisfy that untrammelled spirit, that mind of surpassing boldness, that heart of flame. This can be seen even in an epistle so elaborate and compendious as that to the Romans. Here Paul, desiring to prepare the way for his visit to a Christian community to which he was still personally unknown, has given a summary of certain main points of his teaching, and it is not without reason that Julicher calls this letter the apostle's " confession of faith." But beyond that we cannot go: and those who would find here "a compendium of systematic theology," "a manual of Christian doctrine," are certainly mistaken. For Romans, like all Paul's letters, is ultimately not abstract but personal, not metaphysical but experimental. Written on the eve of his last journey to Jerusalem, it looks back on all he had learnt of Christ since he had given Him his heart, and gathers up the ripe fruits of those years of experience and meditation and ever deepened consecration. Passages there are, notably in chapters 3 and 4, where the voice of the theologian trained in the ways of Rabbinism seems to speak almost as loudly as the voice of the herald of Christ (though even there, for those who have ears to hear, the heart is speaking): but when you turn the page, the trumpet tones ring out again. The section from chapter 9 to chapter 11, to take another instance, has sometimes been regarded as a rather academic discussion of the question of predestination and free-will: in point of fact, right from the impassioned utterance at the beginning, "I could wish that myself were accursed from Christ for my brethren," to the ascription of glory at the end, it is a cry straight from the heart. The man who spoke like that was not interested in abstractions. He cared little, if at all, for logical structure. Romans, the most elaborate of the apostle's letters, the one which, superficially at any rate, shows most resemblance to a treatise in theology, refuses as stubbornly as any of the others to bear the role that Bernhard Weiss would assign to it. If it is a "compendium" at all, it is a compendium, not of abstract doctrine, but of vital religion.
A Man in Christ: The Vital Elements of St. Paul's Religion (Classic Reprint)
Faithful with Little, Joyful in Much How God Meets Us in the Small Things
By Adam Cavalier 8/10/2017
Immediately after sending the text message I was confronted by a moral dilemma. Honestly, I felt a little silly at the triviality of it. I was running late to a meeting and said I would only be five minutes late. But that wasn’t the truth. Having driven the same route on a weekly basis, I knew exactly how long it would take. It would take me fifteen minutes. So why did I send a message knowing it was wrong?
Catch the Little Foxes | We are called to obey God — even in the small things.
Circumstances test our integrity every day. It often seems easier to lie about a situation than to tell the truth. My coworkers won’t care if it’s not an exact estimation. Surely, they’ll give a little extra measure of grace knowing I’m a little later than anticipated. What’s a few additional minutes? Stretching the truth in this situation isn’t really that big of a deal.
In fact, the world would have us think that these sorts of things are not only acceptable, but necessary. If we knowingly deceive, saying, “No, officer, I don’t know how fast I was going” — we are told that it is less likely we get a traffic ticket. It seems as though it was just an innocent mistake. If we’re drawn into that popular TV show that looks a little risqué, we’re not really committing an egregious sin. It’s just a small indulgence that keeps you relevant and culturally up-to-date. Or so we tell ourselves.
But Song of Solomon 2:15 tells us that it is “the little foxes that spoil the vineyards.” Little areas of our life feel so minuscule and unimportant. It’s easy to dismiss these things as inconsequential, if not petty, in the grand scope of things. Undoubtedly, following God’s ways is certainly about obedience in bigger things, but it is also about choosing to submit to his will in the little details.
Contagious Joy in a Never-Enough World What Gratitude Says About God
By Adam Cavalier 11/23/2016
As Christians visit with extended family this Thanksgiving, most of us will come into close contact with unbelievers.
The apostle Paul says, “Being affectionately desirous of you, we were ready to share with you not only the gospel of God but also our own selves, because you had become very dear to us” (1 Thessalonians 2:8). Our witness should not simply be about transmitting information, but becoming living proof that God has the ability to save and change sinners. Our time together will say either that God is our only hope, or subtly preach another gospel.
Our witness should also serve as a living invitation to all, testifying to God’s sovereign ability to meet the deepest cravings of the human heart: “He satisfies the longing soul, and the hungry soul he fills with good things” (Psalm 107:9). Our time together either will say God is enough for us, or it will tell another story about our happiness.
This Thanksgiving, how will you interact with lost loved ones in your life? Will you view your conversations as an opportunity to exhibit the all-satisfying power of God? Or will you be lured into the temptations to avoid spiritual things or to grumble about your circumstances?
Hunger for More | We live in a world that leaves us constantly wanting more. This moves people to be frustrated and unsatisfied in their jobs, friendships, and marriages. Never having enough, we feel entitled to grumble and complain. Protesting about the things we don’t have comes all too naturally, and over time poisons the soul.
The Cattle on a Thousand Hills Overcoming Anxiety in Support Raising
By Adam Cavalier 4/5/2016
Frustrated and angry at the task in front of me, I simply wanted to throw in the towel. Working through my list of contacts and not seeing much return, the thought of giving up was appealing like never before. No one had prepared me for how difficult support raising would be.
One of the primary methods missionaries and other vocational ministers use to receive their wages is support raising. These workers enlist the financial support of local churches and individuals. This integrated partnership provides an opportunity for the body of Christ to work in tandem in order to complete his kingdom work around the world. One goes down; the other holds the rope. That image was popularized by Andrew Fuller, who held the rope for William Carey while he served in India.
Often the thought of support raising can scare a potential worker away before ministry even begins. Much like the ten spies who returned after scouting the Promised Land, a paralyzing fear can halt gospel workers from pursuing God’s call on their lives.
How Anxiety Hamstrings Us | Even for those that have crossed the initial threshold, the process can be intimidating and fearful. While there are encouraging times, the moments of uncertainty and apprehension can dominate one’s thoughts. Not only from personal experience, but also from my interactions with others whom are actively support raising, it can be hard to trust that God will provide for our every need, when the checks or commitments are few and far between.
This spirit of anxiety hamstrings those who are actively raising support. It also deprives the church of potential workers for the harvest field, whether locally or globally. At its worst, this debilitating fear causes us to doubt that their Father really will provide for his children. This kind of challenge can be a sobering test as to where we find our ultimate satisfaction and security.
The Happy Choir of Heaven
By Adam Cavalier 12/9/2015
In the popular Christmas hymn, Angels We Have Heard on High, the opening line describes angels singing God’s praises over the open fields. Their cry is retained in the famous Latin phrase, “Gloria, in excelsis Deo!” which translated means, “Glory to God in the highest!” It’s taken from Luke 2:14, where the angels joyfully sing God’s praise.
Too often seen as shrouded in mystical experiences or lost in speculative theology, angels are either ignored or relegated to the thoughts of a few especially spiritual people. The rampant materialism and anti-supernaturalism of the world has caused Christians to question the presence and influence of angels. Reflecting on angels is thought of as impractical and useless.
Sadly, many Christians today are ignorant to the startling and strengthening ministry of angels. This unfortunate neglect has blinded believers of an excellent model for Christian living. Not only did they minister to Jesus and the apostles, they minister to believers today. One of the most important ways this happens is through their example to us. This is most notable in the model they provide for us in their enjoyment of God. We sing this in Angels We Have Heard on High.
They Worship God | The angels cry out, “Holy, holy, holy is the Lord of hosts; the whole earth is full of his glory!” (Isaiah 6:3). In another passage, we see them raising their voices to exclaim, “Worthy is the Lamb who was slain, to receive power and wealth and wisdom and might and honor and glory and blessing!” (Revelation 5:12). On the day of Christ’s first advent, we hear them celebrate Jesus’s kingship before the shepherds. We hear him lauded for bringing peace.
Repeatedly in Scripture, angels joyfully proclaim the infinite worth of God’s name. It is their duty and delight to worship the Lord. Their enjoyment and satisfaction in him does not stand still. It overflows into declarations of praise. In this hymn, they’re seen “sweetly singing” the “gladsome tidings” that the Christ has come.
Devotionals, notes, poetry and more
by Bill Federer
“Beloved Cherokees,” wrote President Washington on this day, August 29, 1796, “The wise men of the United States meet… once a year, to consider what will be for the good their people…. I have thought that a meeting of your wise men… would be alike useful to you…. I now send my best wishes to the Cherokees and pray the Great Spirit to preserve them.” On another occasion, the Delaware Chiefs brought him three of their sons to be trained in American schools. Washington replied: “You do well… to learn our arts and ways of life, and above all, the religion of Jesus Christ… I pray God He may make your Nation wise and strong.”
Compiled by Richard S. Adams
There are two kinds of people:
those who say to God,
“Thy will be done,”
and those to whom God says,
“All right, then, have it your way.”
--- C.S. Lewis
Over the years, I have come to realize that the greatest trap in our life is not success, popularity, or power, but self-rejection. Success, popularity, and power can indeed present a great temptation, but their seductive quality often comes from the way they are part of the much larger temptation to self-rejection. When we have come to believe in the voices that call us worthless and unlovable, then success, popularity, and power are easily perceived as attractive solutions. The real trap, however, is self-rejection. As soon as someone accuses me or criticizes me, as soon as I am rejected, left alone, or abandoned, I find myself thinking, "Well, that proves once again that I am a nobody." ... [My dark side says,] I am no good... I deserve to be pushed aside, forgotten, rejected, and abandoned. Self-rejection is the greatest enemy of the spiritual life because it contradicts the sacred voice that calls us the "Beloved." Being the Beloved constitutes the core truth of our existence.
--- Henri J.M. Nouwen
T is heaven alone that is given away,
'T is only God may be had for the asking;...
--- James Russell Lowell The vision of Sir Launfal
... from here, there and everywhere
We apologists love to offer evidence for the existence of God, the reliability of the Bible, and the resurrection of Jesus. These are powerful truths that have convinced many to personally trust Christ. Yet amidst our desire to defend the truth of Christianity, let us not forget the power of forgiveness, which, in my view, is perhaps our greatest apologetic today.
Our world seems to be falling apart at the seams. Each week the news is filled with increasing awareness that our world is profoundly broken and that humanity’s problems—whether racial, economic, political, moral, or religious—run deeper than we can imagine.
In light of the current state of the world, and given how many outsiders increasingly have a negative view of Bible-believing Christians, here is a question we must contemplate: How can we demonstrate the unique power of Christ in a world in which everyone has a microphone?
We certainly need to keep proclaiming the truth of the Christian message. In fact, as I show in A New Kind of Apologist, we need apologetics in the church today as urgently today as ever before. Jesus, Paul, the apostles, and the early church fathers were all apologists. And yet there is something we must not forget: our willingness to offer forgiveness to people who have wronged us, and especially our enemies, demonstrates the unique power of the cross more robustly than arguments alone. Genuinely offering forgiveness often breaks down barriers and invites people to consider reasons for our faith.
Why is this so? For one, there is always a way to avoid truth (2 Peter 3:15-16). It is our human nature to suppress it (Romans 1:18-20). We naturally get defensive when people challenge our cherished beliefs. But unexpected, grace-filled acts of forgiveness are harder to dismiss. They subvert our defensiveness. In fact, they often catch us off guard and invite us to consider the deeper reasons motivating people to act with such kindness. And it is uniquely the Christian worldview that can provide both the moral basis and motivation for forgiveness (e.g., Matthew 18:21-35; Ephesians 4:32).
This was clearly on display a decade ago in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. A man stormed into an Amish schoolhouse, shooting ten girls and killing five. Although clearly grieved, shocked, and heart-broken, the Amish community responded in a manner that the world had trouble comprehending—they offered forgiveness to the man, and reached out lovingly to his family. Some members of the Amish community went to the cemetery for the killer's burial and others donated money to the widow and her kids.
Why did they respond in this manner? First, the Amish believe that God is sovereign, even when things appear to be spiraling out of control. Second, they have experienced God’s love and grace, and believe He has called them to extend His grace to other people. They hold no grudges and willingly offer the same forgiveness to other people that God has extended to them.
The world was watching when the Amish forgave the man who committed this horrific act. Many people were inspired, and others simply in wonder, just as some people were at the death of Jesus. After seeing the calm and gracious manner in which Jesus faced execution, the Roman centurion professed, “Truly this man was the Son of God!” (Mark 15:39).
Few things invite people to consider the power of Christianity more than the genuine offer of forgiveness in the face of wretched evil. This is what Jesus did, and if we care about the proclaiming and defending the gospel, we must be willing to do no less.
Sean McDowell, Ph.D. is a professor of Christian Apologetics at Biola University, a best-selling author of over 18 books, an internationally recognized speaker, and a part-time high school teacher. Follow him on Twitter: @sean_mcdowell and his blog: seanmcdowell.org.
We must now pass by the details of the betrayal and arrest of Jesus, his trials before Annas and Caiaphas, Herod and Pilate, Peter’s denials, the cruel mockery by priests and soldiers, the spitting and the scourging, and the hysteria of the mob who demanded his death. We move on to the end of the story. Condemned to death by crucifixion, ‘he was led like a lamb to the slaughter, and as a sheep before her shearers is silent, so he did not open his mouth’ (Isa. 53:7). Carrying his own cross, until Simon of Cyrene was compelled to carry it for him, he will have walked along the Via Dolorosa, out of the city, to Golgotha, ‘the place of the skull’. ‘Here they crucified him’, the evangelists write, declining to dwell on the stripping, the clumsy hammering home of the nails, or the wrenching of his limbs as the cross was hoisted and dropped into its place. Even the excruciating pain could not silence his repeated entreaties: ‘Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.’ The soldiers gambled for his clothes. Some women stood afar off. The crowd remained a while to watch. Jesus commended his mother to John’s care and John to hers. He spoke words of kingly assurance to the penitent criminal crucified at his side. Meanwhile, the rulers sneered at him, shouting: ‘He saved others, but he can’t save himself!’ Their words, spoken as an insult, were the literal truth. He could not save himself and others simultaneously. He chose to sacrifice himself in order to save the world.
Gradually the crowd thinned out, their curiosity glutted. At last silence fell and darkness came – darkness perhaps because no eye should see, and silence because no tongue could tell, the anguish of soul which the sinless Saviour now endured. ‘At the birth of the Son of God’, Douglas Webster has written, ‘there was brightness at midnight; at the death of the Son of God there was darkness at noon.’ (Douglas Webster, In Debt to Christ) What happened in the darkness is expressed by biblical writers in a variety of ways:
Isa. 53:5–6; John 1:29; Mark 10:45; Heb. 9:28; 1 Pet. 2:24; 3:18; 2 Cor. 5:21; Gal. 3:13
... it seems that the darkness of the sky was an outward symbol of the spiritual darkness which enveloped him. For what is darkness in biblical symbolism but separation from God who is light and in whom ‘there is no darkness at all’ (1 John 1:5)? ‘Outer darkness’ was one of the expressions Jesus used for hell, since it is an absolute exclusion from the light of God’s presence. Into that outer darkness the Son of God plunged for us. Our sins blotted out the sunshine of his Father’s face. We may even dare to say that our sins sent Christ to hell – not to the ‘hell’ (hadēs, the abode of the dead) to which the Creed says he ‘descended’ after death, but to the ‘hell’ (gehenna, the place of punishment) to which our sins condemned him before his body died.
The darkness seems to have lasted for three hours. For it was at the third hour (9 a.m.) that he was crucified, at the sixth hour (12 noon) that the darkness came over the whole land, and at the ninth hour (3 p.m.) that, emerging out of the darkness, Jesus cried out in a loud voice in Aramaic: ‘Eloi, Eloi, lama sabachthani?’ meaning, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ Mark 15:25, 33–34 The Greek speakers present misunderstood his words and thought he was calling for Elijah. What he said is still misunderstood by many today. Four main explanations of his terrible cry of ‘dereliction’ (desertion, abandonment) have been offered. All commentators agree that he was quoting Psalm 22:1. But they are not agreed as to why he did so. What was the significance of this quotation on his lips?
First, some suggest that it was a cry of anger, unbelief or despair. Perhaps he had clung to the hope that even at the last moment the Father would send angels to rescue him, or at least that in the midst of his utter obedience to the Father’s will he would continue to experience the comfort of the Father’s presence. But no, it was now clear to him that he had been abandoned, and he cried out with a heart-rending ‘why?’ of dismay or defiance. His faith failed him. But of course, these interpreters add, he was mistaken. He imagined he was forsaken, when he was not. Those who thus explain the cry of dereliction can scarcely realize what they are doing. They are denying the moral perfection of the character of Jesus. They are saying that he was guilty of unbelief on the cross, as of cowardice in the garden. They are accusing him of failure, and failure at the moment of his greatest and supremest self-sacrifice. Christian faith protests against this explanation.
A second interpretation, which is a modification of the first, is to understand the shout of dereliction as a cry of loneliness. Jesus, it is now maintained, knew God’s promises never to fail or forsake his people. E.g. Josh. 1:5, 9 and Isa. 41:10 He knew the steadfastness of God’s covenant love. So his ‘why?’ was not a complaint that God had actually forsaken him, but rather that he had allowed him to feel forsaken. ‘I have sometimes thought’, wrote T. R. Glover, ‘there never was an utterance that reveals more amazingly the distance between feeling and fact.’ (T. R. Glover, The Jesus of History) Instead of addressing God as ‘Father’, he could now call him only ‘my God’, which is indeed an affirmation of faith in his covenant faithfulness, but falls short of declaring his fatherly loving-kindness. In this case Jesus was neither mistaken, nor unbelieving, but experiencing what the saints have called ‘the dark night of the soul’, and indeed doing so deliberately out of solidarity with us. In this condition, as Thomas J. Crawford puts it, the people of God ‘derive no conscious satisfaction from the joys of his favour and the comforts of his fellowship’. They are granted ‘no approving smile, no commending voice, no inward manifestation of the divine favour’. (Thomas J. Crawford, The Doctrine Of Holy Scripture Respecting The Atonement (1871)) This explanation is possible. It does not cast a slur on the character of Jesus like the first. Yet there seems to be an insuperable difficulty in the way of adopting it, namely that the words of Psalm 22:1 express an experience of being, and not just feeling, God-forsaken.
A third quite popular interpretation is to say that Jesus was uttering a cry of victory, the exact opposite of the first explanation, the cry of despair. The argument now is that, although Jesus quoted only the first verse of Psalm 22, he did so to represent the whole Psalm which begins and continues with an account of appalling sufferings, but ends with great confidence, and even triumph: ‘I will declare your name to my brothers; in the congregation I will praise you. You who fear the Lord, praise him!...For he has not despised or disdained the suffering of the afflicted one; he has not hidden his face from him but has listened to his cry for help’ (vv. 22). This is ingenious but (it seems to me) far-fetched. Why should Jesus have quoted from the Psalm’s beginning if in reality he was alluding to its end? It would seem rather perverse. Would anybody have understood his purpose?
The fourth explanation is simple and straightforward. It is to take the words at their face value and to understand them as a cry of real dereliction. I agree with Dale who wrote: ‘I decline to accept any explanation of these words which implies that they do not represent the actual truth of our Lord’s position.’ (R. W. Dale, The Atonement) Jesus had no need to repent of uttering a false cry. Up to this moment, though forsaken by men, he could add, ‘Yet I am not alone, for my Father is with me’ (John 16:32).
In the darkness, however, he was absolutely alone, being now also God-forsaken. As Calvin put it, ‘If Christ had died only a bodily death, it would have been ineffectual...Unless his soul shared in the punishment, he would have been the Redeemer of bodies alone.’ In consequence, ‘he paid a greater and more excellent price in suffering in his soul the terrible torments of a condemned and forsaken man’. (Calvin’s Institutes, II. Institutes of the Christian Religion (Set of 2 volumes)) So then an actual and dreadful separation took place between the Father and the Son; it was voluntarily accepted by both the Father and the Son; it was due to our sins and their just reward; and Jesus expressed this horror of great darkness, this God-forsakenness, by quoting the only verse of Scripture which accurately described it, and which he had perfectly fulfilled, namely, ‘My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?’ The theological objections and problems we shall come to later, although we already insist that the God-forsakenness of Jesus on the cross must be balanced with such an equally biblical assertion as ‘God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ’. C. E. B. Cranfield is right to emphasize both the truth that Jesus experienced ‘not merely a felt, but a real, abandonment by his Father’ and ‘the paradox that, while this God-forsakenness was utterly real, the unity of the Blessed Trinity was even then unbroken’. (C. E. B. Cranfield, The Gospel according to St Mark: An Introduction and Commentary (Cambridge Greek Testament Commentaries)) At this point, however, it is enough to suggest that Jesus had been meditating on Psalm 22, which describes the cruel persecution of an innocent and godly man, as he was meditating on other Psalms which he quoted from the cross; (E.g. ‘I am thirsty’ (John 19:28) is an allusion to Ps. 69:21 (cf. Ps. 22:15), and ‘Into your hands I commit my spirit’ (Luke 23:46), a quotation of Ps. 31:5.) that he quoted verse 1 for the same reason that he quoted every other Scripture, namely that he believed he was fulfilling it; and that his cry was in the form of a question (‘Why...?’), not because he did not know its answer, but only because the Old Testament text itself (which he was quoting) was in that form.
Almost immediately after the cry of dereliction, Jesus uttered three more words or sentences in quick succession. First, ‘I am thirsty’, his great spiritual sufferings having taken their toll of him physically. Secondly, he called out, again (according to Matthew and Mark) in a loud voice, ‘It is finished.’ And thirdly the tranquil, voluntary, confident self-commendation, ‘Father, into your hands I commit my spirit,’ as he breathed his last breath. (John 19:28, 30; Luke 23:46) The middle cry, the loud shout of victory, is in the Gospel text the single word tetelestai. Being in the perfect tense, it means ‘it has been and will for ever remain finished’. We note the achievement Jesus claimed just before he died. It is not men who have finished their brutal deed; it is he who has accomplished what he came into the world to do. He has borne the sins of the world. Deliberately, freely and in perfect love he has endured the judgment in our place. He has procured salvation for us, established a new covenant between God and humankind, and made available the chief covenant blessing, the forgiveness of sins. At once the curtain of the Temple, which for centuries had symbolized the alienation of sinners from God, was torn in two from top to bottom, in order to demonstrate that the sin-barrier had been thrown down by God, and the way into his presence opened.
Thirty-six hours later God raised Jesus from the dead. He who had been condemned for us in his death, was publicly vindicated in his resurrection. It was God’s decisive demonstration that he had not died in vain.
All this presents a coherent and logical picture. It gives an explanation of the death of Jesus which takes into proper scientific account all the available data, without avoiding any. It explains the central importance which Jesus attached to his death, why he instituted his supper to commemorate it, and how by his death the new covenant has been ratified, with its promise of forgiveness. It explains his agony of anticipation in the garden, his anguish of dereliction on the cross, and his claim to have decisively accomplished our salvation. All these phenomena become intelligible if we accept the explanation given by Jesus and his apostles that ‘he himself bore our sins in his body on the tree’.
In conclusion, the cross enforces three truths – about ourselves, about God and about Jesus Christ.
First, our sin must be extremely horrible. Nothing reveals the gravity of sin like the cross. For ultimately what sent Christ there was neither the greed of Judas, nor the envy of the priests, nor the vacillating cowardice of Pilate, but our own greed, envy, cowardice and other sins, and Christ’s resolve in love and mercy to bear their judgment and so put them away. It is impossible for us to face Christ’s cross with integrity and not to feel ashamed of ourselves. Apathy, selfishness and complacency blossom everywhere in the world except at the cross. There these noxious weeds shrivel and die. They are seen for the tatty, poisonous things they are. For if there was no way by which the righteous God could righteously forgive our unrighteousness, except that he should bear it himself in Christ, it must be serious indeed. It is only when we see this that, stripped of our self-righteousness and self-satisfaction, we are ready to put our trust in Jesus Christ as the Saviour we urgently need.
Secondly, God’s love must be wonderful beyond comprehension. God could quite justly have abandoned us to our fate. He could have left us alone to reap the fruit of our wrongdoing and to perish in our sins. It is what we deserved. But he did not. Because he loved us, he came after us in Christ. He pursued us even to the desolate anguish of the cross, where he bore our sin, guilt, judgment and death. It takes a hard and stony heart to remain unmoved by love like that. It is more than love. Its proper name is ‘grace’, which is love to the undeserving.
Thirdly, Christ’s salvation must be a free gift. He ‘purchased’ it for us at the high price of his own life-blood. So what is there left for us to pay? Nothing! Since he claimed that all was now ‘finished’, there is nothing for us to contribute. Not of course that we now have a licence to sin and can always count on God’s forgiveness. On the contrary, the same cross of Christ, which is the ground of a free salvation, is also the most powerful incentive to a holy life. But this new life follows. First, we have to humble ourselves at the foot of the cross, confess that we have sinned and deserve nothing at his hand but judgment, thank him that he loved us and died for us, and receive from him a full and free forgiveness. Against this self-humbling our ingrained pride rebels. We resent the idea that we cannot earn – or even contribute to – our own salvation. So we stumble, as Paul put it, over the stumbling-block of the cross.36
( The Cross of Christ )
Thanks to Meir Yona
8. And these were the hard circumstances that the people of Gamala were in. But now Vespasian went about other work by the by, during this siege, and that was to subdue those that had seized upon Mount Tabor, a place that lies in the middle between the great plain and Scythopolis, whose top is elevated as high as thirty furlongs 2 and is hardly to be ascended on its north side; its top is a plain of twenty-six furlongs, and all encompassed with a wall. Now Josephus erected this so long a wall in forty days' time, and furnished it with other materials, and with water from below, for the inhabitants only made use of rain water. As therefore there was a great multitude of people gotten together upon this mountain, Vespasian sent Placidus with six hundred horsemen thither. Now, as it was impossible for him to ascend the mountain, he invited many of them to peace, by the offer of his right hand for their security, and of his intercession for them. Accordingly they came down, but with a treacherous design, as well as he had the like treacherous design upon them on the other side; for Placidus spoke mildly to them, as aiming to take them, when he got them into the plain; they also came down, as complying with his proposals, but it was in order to fall upon him when he was not aware of it: however, Placidus's stratagem was too hard for theirs; for when the Jews began to fight, he pretended to run away, and when they were in pursuit of the Romans, he enticed them a great way along the plain, and then made his horsemen turn back; whereupon he beat them, and slew a great number of them, and cut off the retreat of the rest of the multitude, and hindered their return. So they left Tabor, and fled to Jerusalem, while the people of the country came to terms with him, for their water failed them, and so they delivered up the mountain and themselves to Placidus.
9. But of the people of Gamala, those that were of the bolder sort fled away and hid themselves, while the more infirm perished by famine; but the men of war sustained the siege till the two and twentieth day of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] when three soldiers of the fifteenth legion, about the Morning watch, got under a high tower that was near them, and undermined it, without making any noise; nor when they either came to it, which was in the night time, nor when they were under it, did those that guarded it perceive them. These soldiers then upon their coming avoided making a noise, and when they had rolled away five of its strongest stones, they went away hastily; whereupon the tower fell down on a sudden, with a very great noise, and its guard fell headlong with it; so that those that kept guard at other places were under such disturbance, that they ran away; the Romans also slew many of those that ventured to oppose them, among whom was Joseph, who was slain by a dart, as he was running away over that part of the wall that was broken down: but as those that were in the city were greatly affrighted at the noise, they ran hither and thither, and a great consternation fell upon them, as though all the enemy had fallen in at once upon them. Then it was that Chares, who was ill, and under the physician's hands, gave up the ghost, the fear he was in greatly contributing to make his distemper fatal to him. But the Romans so well remembered their former ill success, that they did not enter the city till the three and twentieth day of the forementioned month.
10. At which time Titus, who was now returned, out of the indignation he had at the destruction the Romans had undergone while he was absent, took two hundred chosen horsemen and some footmen with him, and entered without noise into the city. Now as the watch perceived that he was coming, they made a noise, and betook themselves to their arms; and as that his entrance was presently known to those that were in the city, some of them caught hold of their children and their wives, and drew them after them, and fled away to the citadel, with lamentations and cries, while others of them went to meet Titus, and were killed perpetually; but so many of them as were hindered from running up to the citadel, not knowing what in the world to do, fell among the Roman guards, while the groans of those that were killed were prodigiously great every where, and blood ran down over all the lower parts of the city, from the upper. But then Vespasian himself came to his assistance against those that had fled to the citadel, and brought his whole army with him; now this upper part of the city was every way rocky, and difficult of ascent, and elevated to a vast altitude, and very full of people on all sides, and encompassed with precipices, whereby the Jews cut off those that came up to them, and did much mischief to others by their darts, and the large stones which they rolled down upon them, while they were themselves so high that the enemy's darts could hardly reach them. However, there arose such a Divine storm against them as was instrumental to their destruction; this carried the Roman darts upon them, and made those which they threw return back, and drove them obliquely away from them; nor could the Jews indeed stand upon their precipices, by reason of the violence of the wind, having nothing that was stable to stand upon, nor could they see those that were ascending up to them; so the Romans got up and surrounded them, and some they slew before they could defend themselves, and others as they were delivering up themselves; and the remembrance of those that were slain at their former entrance into the city increased their rage against them now; a great number also of those that were surrounded on every side, and despaired of escaping, threw their children and their wives, and themselves also, down the precipices, into the valley beneath, which, near the citadel, had been dug hollow to a vast depth; but so it happened, that the anger of the Romans appeared not to be so extravagant as was the madness of those that were now taken, while the Romans slew but four thousand, whereas the number of those that had thrown themselves down was found to be five thousand: nor did any one escape except two women, who were the daughters of Philip, and Philip himself was the son of a certain eminent man called Jacimus, who had been general of king Agrippa's army; and these did therefore escape, because they lay concealed from the rage of the Romans when the city was taken; for otherwise they spared not so much as the infants, of which many were flung down by them from the citadel. And thus was Gamala taken on the three and twentieth day of the month Hyperbereteus, [Tisri,] whereas the city had first revolted on the four and twentieth day of the month Gorpieus [Elul].
The Project Gutenberg EBook of The Wars of the Jews or History of the Destruction of Jerusalem, by Flavius Josephus Translator: William Whiston
The War of the Jews: The History of the Destruction of Jerusalem (complete edition, 7 books)
by D.H. Stern
let your eyes observe my ways.
Complete Jewish Bible : An English Version of the Tanakh (Old Testament) and B'Rit Hadashah (New Testament)
A Daily Devotional by Oswald Chambers
Said I not unto thee, that if thou wouldest believe, thou shouldest see the glory of God? --- John 11:40.
Every time you venture out in the life of faith, you will find something in your commonsense circumstances that flatly contradicts your faith. Common sense is not faith, and faith is not common sense; they stand in the relation of the natural and the spiritual. Can you trust Jesus Christ where your common sense cannot trust Him? Can you venture heroically on Jesus Christ’s statements when the facts of your commonsense life shout ‘It’s a lie’? On the mount it is easy to say—‘Oh yes, I believe God can do it’; but you have to come down into the demon-possessed valley and meet with facts that laugh ironically at the whole of your mount-of-transfiguration belief. Every time my programme of belief is clear to my own mind, I come across something that contradicts it. Let me say I believe God will supply all my need, and then let me run dry, with no outlook, and see whether I will go through the trial of faith, or whether I will sink back to something lower.
Faith must be tested, because it can be turned into a personal possession only through conflict. What is your faith up against just now? The test will either prove that your faith is right, or it will kill it. “Blessed is he whosoever shall not be offended in Me.” The final thing is confidence in Jesus. Believe steadfastly on Him and all you come up against will develop your faith. There is continual testing in the life of faith, and the last great test is death. May God keep us in fighting trim! Faith is unutterable trust in God which never dreams that He will not stand by us.
My Utmost for His Highest: Quality Paperback Edition
the Poetry of RS Thomas
The fox drags its wounded belly
Over the snow, the crimson seeds
Of blood burst with a mild explosion,
Soft as excrement, bold as roses.
Over the snow that feels no pity,
Whose white hands can give no healing,
The fox drags its wounded belly.
Selected poems, 1946-1968
BIBLE TEXT / Leviticus 20:25–26 / So you shall set apart the clean beast from the unclean, the unclean bird from the clean. You shall not draw abomination upon yourselves through beast or bird or anything with which the ground is alive, which I have set apart for you to treat as unclean. You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy, and I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine.
MIDRASH TEXT / Sifra Kedoshim 9:11–12 / You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy. Just as I am holy, so you too shall be holy. Just as I abstain, so too you shall abstain.
I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine. If you are set apart from other peoples—then you are Mine. And if not, you belong to Nebuchadnezzar, King of Babylon, and his associates.
Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah says, “From where [do we know] that a person should not say, ‘It is impossible for me to eat pork; it is impossible for me to have sexual relations with a forbidden person,’ but rather, ‘It is possible for me, but what can I do since my Father in heaven has decreed this upon me?’ The Torah says, ‘I have set you apart from other peoples to be Mine’—this means abstaining from sin and accepting upon himself the Kingdom of heaven.”
CONTEXT / Our Midrash looks to define the concept of “holiness” and to understand what it means to be “a holy people.” Since no independent definition of the term is given in the Bible, the Rabbis have to develop their understanding of holiness based upon the context in which the concept is used. From the biblical passage that is quoted, we can see an important clue. To be holy is, in some way, to be like God, since God is holy: “You shall be holy to Me, for I the Lord am holy.” We then have to ask: What aspect of God is it possible for human beings to emulate? The Rabbis center on the idea that God is different, special, unique. By nature, God is distinct from every other thing in the universe. However, the Jewish people are not, by their very nature, different from every other people. If the Jews are going to emulate God’s uniqueness, then it can be only by their making conscious choices to be different. Consequently, the word “holy” is translated by the Rabbis using the Hebrew word פָּרוּשׁ/parush, “abstaining.” Just as I abstain, so too you shall abstain. One becomes holy by abstaining from certain behaviors in which the rest of the world engages.
This brings us to why Rabbi Elazar ben Azariah chose as his two examples pork and forbidden sexual relations. Chapter 20 of the Book of Leviticus speaks about “holiness.” Much of this chapter then concerns itself with biblical notions of sexual immorality: adultery, incest, homosexuality, and bestiality (20:10–21). This is the basis of the statement in the Midrash about forbidden sexual relations. The Torah then goes on, in verse 25, to refer to the dietary restrictions, mentioning in particular animals and fowl. Because the Torah discusses both together, Rabbi Elazar uses both examples.
The Midrash continues by advising how one should relate to these restrictions. One should not say, “It is impossible for me to eat pork.” That is, “Pork is disgusting; I hate pork.” “It is impossible for me to have sexual relations with a forbidden person,” in other words, “That woman is repulsive, and therefore I could never have sex with her.” Rather, one should take the approach: “There is nothing inherently bad about pork. We Jews don’t eat it because God told us not to.” And “That woman is desirable, but because she is married, I may not have relations with her.” In the words of the Midrash, “What can I do since my Father in heaven has decreed this upon me?” By abstaining from such forbidden things, the Jews would be set apart as different, unique, special—that is, holy.
In the middle section of this Midrash, Nebuchadnezzar is cast as the negative alternative to God. Nebuchadnezzar was King of Babylon (605–562 B.C.E.), conqueror of Judah, and the destroyer of the First Temple in Jerusalem. He is often used by the Rabbis as a veiled substitute for the Roman emperor of their own time.
Searching for Meaning in Midrash: Lessons for Everyday Living
He spoke, and it came to be; he commanded, and it stood firm.--- Psalm 33:9.
The power of God appears in raising up a church to himself in spite of all his enemies. (Thomas Boston, “Of God and His Perfections,” downloaded from The Boston Homepage at www.geocities.com/~thomasboston, accessed Aug. 21, 2001.) For there were many and great difficulties in the way, such as gross and detestable idolatry. The princes of the world thought themselves obliged to prevent the introduction of a new religion, for fear that their empires should be in danger or the greatness and majesty of them impaired. If we consider the means by which the Gospel was propagated, the divine power will evidently appear. The persons employed in this great work were a few illiterate fishers, with a publican and a tentmaker, without authority to force people to obedience and without eloquence to enforce the belief of the doctrines they taught. Yet this doctrine prevailed, and the Gospel had wonderful success through all the parts of the then-known world. How could this possibly be, without a mighty operation of the power of God on human hearts?
The power of God appears in preserving, defending, and supporting his church under the trouble and persecution that were raised against it: “The gates of Hades will not overcome it” (Matt. 16:18). The most flourishing monarchies have decayed and wasted, and the strongest kingdoms have been broken in pieces, yet the church has been preserved to this very day. God has displayed his power in the preservation of his church and people, notwithstanding all the rage, power, and malice of their enemies.
The power of God appears in the conversion of the elect. O what a mighty power quells the lusts and stubbornness of the heart, demolishes the strongholds of sin in the soul, routs all the armies of corrupt nature, and makes the obstinate and rebellious will strike sail to Christ! The power of God that is exerted here is greater than there was in the creation of the world. For when God made the world, he met with no opposition; but when he comes to convert a sinner, he meets with all the opposition that the Devil and a corrupt heart can make against him. God wrought only one miracle in the creation, but there are many miracles wrought in conversion. The blind is made to see, the dead raised, and the deaf hears the voice of the Son of God. O the infinite power of Jehovah! In this work the mighty arm of the Lord in revealed.
--- Thomas Boston
Take Heart: Daily Devotions with the Church's Great Preachers
Mass Escape August 29
John Dick, son of an Edinburgh lawyer, was a graduate of Edinburgh University where he studied theology in hope of becoming a minister of the Gospel. He didn’t make it, for he was among the Presbyterians deemed outlaws during the reign of Charles II. He lived a fugitive’s life until betrayed by a poor woman who later lost her mind over the incident.
John was brought before the Committee of Public Affairs on August 29, 1683, found guilty of treason, and sentenced to die by hanging. The Canongate tollbooth contained two large upper cells, and John, tossed into one of them, found there two dozen other religious prisoners. The men joined hearts in prayer, asking God’s help as they planned a mass escape. News seeped out, and Presbyterians all over Edinburgh prayed for a successful breakout. On the appointed night, the men begin sawing painstakingly through the iron bars of their glassless window.
The first bar was cut about nine o’clock, but to the horror of all, before any of them could catch it, it fell down into the narrow street near the sentry. They held their breath and watched and prayed, but no alarm sounded. They continued their furtive work; then one by one, the men dropped from the window and disappeared into the night. The next Morning, confusion erupted through official Edinburgh. Police, city fathers, guards and sentries were questioned; but none of the prisoners was ever recaptured—except John Dick. He enjoyed but six months of freedom, using the time to write his 58-page The One Year Christian History (One Year Books) which, despite its unwieldy title, circulated widely. Then, his book finished, he was captured; and on the scaffold he sang Psalm 2, read Ezekiel 9, and preached his last sermon, saying: “Remember when Abraham was about to sacrifice his son? Isaac said, ‘Here is the wood, and the fire, but where is the sacrifice?’ ” John Dick turned and gazed upon the gallows. “Now blessed be the Lord,” he said, “here is the sacrifice.”
They arrested the apostles and put them in the city jail. But that night an angel from the Lord opened the doors of the jail and led the apostles out.
--- Acts 5:18.
On This Day 365 Amazing And Inspiring Stories About Saints, Martyrs And Heroes
Daily Readings / CHARLES H. SPURGEON
Morning - August 29
“Have mercy upon me, O God.”
--- Psalm 51:1.
When Dr. Carey was suffering from a dangerous illness, the enquiry was made, “If this sickness should prove fatal, what passage would you select as the text for your funeral sermon?” He replied, “Oh, I feel that such a poor sinful creature is unworthy to have anything said about him; but if a funeral sermon must be preached, let it be from the words, ‘Have mercy upon me, O God, according to thy lovingkindness; according unto the multitude of thy tender mercies blot out my transgressions.’ ” In the same spirit of humility he directed in his will that the following inscription and nothing more should be cut on his gravestone:—
WILLIAM CAREY, BORN AUGUST 17th, 1761: DIED - -
“A wretched, poor, and helpless worm
On thy kind arms I fall.”
Only on the footing of free grace can the most experienced and most honoured of the saints approach their God. The best of men are conscious above all others that they are men at the best. Empty boats float high, but heavily laden vessels are low in the water; mere professors can boast, but true children of God cry for mercy upon their unprofitableness. We have need that the Lord should have mercy upon our good works, our prayers, our preachings, our alms-givings, and our holiest things. The blood was not only sprinkled upon the doorposts of Israel’s dwelling houses, but upon the sanctuary, the mercy-seat, and the altar, because as sin intrudes into our holiest things, the blood of Jesus is needed to purify them from defilement. If mercy be needed to be exercised towards our duties, what shall be said of our sins? How sweet the remembrance that inexhaustible mercy is waiting to be gracious to us, to restore our backslidings, and make our broken bones rejoice!
Evening - August 29
“All the days of his separation shall he eat nothing that is made of the vine tree, from the kernels even to the husk.” --- Numbers 6:4.
Nazarites had taken, among other vows, one which debarred them from the use of wine. In order that they might not violate the obligation, they were forbidden to drink the vinegar of wine or strong liquors, and to make the rule still more clear, they were not to touch the unfermented juice of grapes, nor even to eat the fruit either fresh or dried. In order, altogether, to secure the integrity of the vow, they were not even allowed anything that had to do with the vine; they were, in fact, to avoid the appearance of evil. Surely this is a lesson to the Lord’s separated ones, teaching them to come away from sin in every form, to avoid not merely its grosser shapes, but even its spirit and similitude. Strict walking is much despised in these days, but rest assured, dear reader, it is both the safest and the happiest. He who yields a point or two to the world is in fearful peril; he who eats the grapes of Sodom will soon drink the wine of Gomorrah. A little crevice in the sea-bank in Holland lets in the sea, and the gap speedily swells till a province is drowned. Worldly conformity, in any degree, is a snare to the soul, and makes it more and more liable to presumptuous sins. Moreover, as the Nazarite who drank grape juice could not be quite sure whether it might not have endured a degree of fermentation, and consequently could not be clear in heart that his vow was intact, so the yielding, temporizing Christian cannot wear a conscience void of offence, but must feel that the inward monitor is in doubt of him. Things doubtful we need not doubt about; they are wrong to us. Things tempting we must not dally with, but flee from them with speed. Better be sneered at as a Puritan than be despised as a hypocrite. Careful walking may involve much self-denial, but it has pleasures of its own which are more than a sufficient recompense.
Morning and Evening: A New Edition of the Classic Devotional Based on The Holy Bible, English Standard Version
PRECIOUS LORD, TAKE MY HAND
Thomas A. Dorsey, 1899–1993
For I am the Lord, your God, who takes hold of your right hand and says to you, “Do not fear; I will help you.” Isaiah 41:13)
Out of a broken heart after his wife and newly born son had both died, Thomas Dorsey cried to his Lord to lead him “through the storm, through the night” In doing so, he created lines that have since ministered to others in an unusual way. This tender song, written by a black Gospel musician in 1932, has since been a favorite with Christians everywhere.
Thomas A. Dorsey grew up in Georgia as a “preacher’s kid.” As he began to be successful as a composer of jazz and blues songs, however, he drifted away from God. After it seemed to him that he was miraculously spared in brushes with death, Dorsey came back to the Lord. As his life dramatically changed he began to write Gospel songs and to sing in church services. It was during a revival meeting in St. Louis, Missouri, that he received a telegram telling the tragic news of his wife and infant son. Stunned and grief-stricken, Dorsey cried, “God, you aren’t worth a dime to me right now!”
A few weeks later, however, as Dorsey fingered the keyboard of a piano, he created the lines of “Precious Lord” to fit a tune that was familiar to him. The following Sunday the choir of the Ebenezer Baptist Church in South Chicago, Illinois, sang the new song with Dorsey playing the accompaniment. “It tore up the church!”
God continued to lead Thomas Dorsey by the hand until he had written more than 250 Gospel songs. He once stated:
“My business is to try to bring people to Christ instead of leaving them where they are. I write for all of God’s people. All people are my people. What I share with people is love. I try to lift their spirits and let them know that God still loves them. He’s still saving, and He can still give that power.”
* * * *
Precious Lord, take my hand, lead me on, help me stand—I am tired, I am weak, I am worn; thro’ the storm, thro’ the night, lead me on to the light—Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
When my way grows drear, Precious Lord, linger near—when my life is almost gone. Hear my cry, hear my call, hold my hand lest I fall—Take my hand, precious Lord, lead me home.
For Today: 27:11; 48:14; John 1:7; 10:3
Enjoy the fellowship of God so strongly that you feel He is holding your hand and leading you in whatever circumstances you may find yourself. Share this testimony of Thomas Dorsey as you go ---
Amazing Grace: 366 Inspiring Hymn Stories for Daily Devotions
Origins and Authority of NT
"Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
At this point, the critic of the New Testament might respond by saying that this whole affair sounds suspiciously circular. After all, it is no surprise that Christians “conclude” that the New Testament is harmonious—they already believe in the truth of the New Testament from the outset! Therefore, it is not proper (it is argued) to allow those who believe the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony. (112) However, this argument cuts both ways. If the Christian assumes the truth of the New Testament while arguing for its unity, then it is clear that the non-Christian assumes the falsity of the New Testament while arguing for its disunity. He assumes that (at least) 1 Corinthians 2:14 is mistaken and that New Testament theology can be understood rightly by those without the Spirit. (113) Thus, one could ask why we should allow those who have already rejected the New Testament to be the final judges of its theological harmony? Again, keeping with the music analogy, that would be like allowing a person who is tone-deaf (and thus rejects this whole concept of being “on key”) to judge a singing contest. If the tone-deaf person were kept from judging, he might object and claim that this whole “on key” thing is a sham run by musical insiders who claim to have a special ability to hear such things. But despite all the protests, the truth of the matter would remain: there is such a thing as being on key whether the tone-deaf person hears it or not.
Canon Revisited: Establishing the Origins and Authority of the New Testament Books
Tuesday, August 29, 2017 | After Pentecost
Proper 16, Tuesday
Psalms (Morning) Psalm 5, 6
Psalms (Evening) Psalm 10, 11
Old Testament 1 Kings 1:38–2:4
New Testament Acts 26:24–27:8
Gospel Mark 13:28–37
Index of Readings
Psalm 5, 6
To the leader: for the flutes. A Psalm of David.
1 Give ear to my words, O LORD;
give heed to my sighing.
2 Listen to the sound of my cry,
my King and my God,
for to you I pray.
3 O LORD, in the morning you hear my voice;
in the morning I plead my case to you, and watch.
4 For you are not a God who delights in wickedness;
evil will not sojourn with you.
5 The boastful will not stand before your eyes;
you hate all evildoers.
6 You destroy those who speak lies;
the LORD abhors the bloodthirsty and deceitful.
7 But I, through the abundance of your steadfast love,
will enter your house,
I will bow down toward your holy temple
in awe of you.
8 Lead me, O LORD, in your righteousness
because of my enemies;
make your way straight before me.
9 For there is no truth in their mouths;
their hearts are destruction;
their throats are open graves;
they flatter with their tongues.
10 Make them bear their guilt, O God;
let them fall by their own counsels;
because of their many transgressions cast them out,
for they have rebelled against you.
11 But let all who take refuge in you rejoice;
let them ever sing for joy.
Spread your protection over them,
so that those who love your name may exult in you.
12 For you bless the righteous, O LORD;
you cover them with favor as with a shield.
To the leader: with stringed instruments; according to The Sheminith. A Psalm of David.
1 O LORD, do not rebuke me in your anger,
or discipline me in your wrath.
2 Be gracious to me, O LORD, for I am languishing;
O LORD, heal me, for my bones are shaking with terror.
3 My soul also is struck with terror,
while you, O LORD—how long?
4 Turn, O LORD, save my life;
deliver me for the sake of your steadfast love.
5 For in death there is no remembrance of you;
in Sheol who can give you praise?
6 I am weary with my moaning;
every night I flood my bed with tears;
I drench my couch with my weeping.
7 My eyes waste away because of grief;
they grow weak because of all my foes.
8 Depart from me, all you workers of evil,
for the LORD has heard the sound of my weeping.
9 The LORD has heard my supplication;
the LORD accepts my prayer.
10 All my enemies shall be ashamed and struck with terror;
they shall turn back, and in a moment be put to shame.
Psalm 10, 11
1 Why, O LORD, do you stand far off?
Why do you hide yourself in times of trouble?
2 In arrogance the wicked persecute the poor—
let them be caught in the schemes they have devised.
3 For the wicked boast of the desires of their heart,
those greedy for gain curse and renounce the LORD.
4 In the pride of their countenance the wicked say, “God will not seek it out”;
all their thoughts are, “There is no God.”
5 Their ways prosper at all times;
your judgments are on high, out of their sight;
as for their foes, they scoff at them.
6 They think in their heart, “We shall not be moved;
throughout all generations we shall not meet adversity.”
7 Their mouths are filled with cursing and deceit and oppression;
under their tongues are mischief and iniquity.
8 They sit in ambush in the villages;
in hiding places they murder the innocent.
Their eyes stealthily watch for the helpless;
9 they lurk in secret like a lion in its covert;
they lurk that they may seize the poor;
they seize the poor and drag them off in their net.
10 They stoop, they crouch,
and the helpless fall by their might.
11 They think in their heart, “God has forgotten,
he has hidden his face, he will never see it.”
12 Rise up, O LORD; O God, lift up your hand;
do not forget the oppressed.
13 Why do the wicked renounce God,
and say in their hearts, “You will not call us to account”?
14 But you do see! Indeed you note trouble and grief,
that you may take it into your hands;
the helpless commit themselves to you;
you have been the helper of the orphan.
15 Break the arm of the wicked and evildoers;
seek out their wickedness until you find none.
16 The LORD is king forever and ever;
the nations shall perish from his land.
17 O LORD, you will hear the desire of the meek;
you will strengthen their heart, you will incline your ear
18 to do justice for the orphan and the oppressed,
so that those from earth may strike terror no more.
To the leader. Of David.
1 In the LORD I take refuge; how can you say to me,
“Flee like a bird to the mountains;
2 for look, the wicked bend the bow,
they have fitted their arrow to the string,
to shoot in the dark at the upright in heart.
3 If the foundations are destroyed,
what can the righteous do?”
4 The LORD is in his holy temple;
the LORD’s throne is in heaven.
His eyes behold, his gaze examines humankind.
5 The LORD tests the righteous and the wicked,
and his soul hates the lover of violence.
6 On the wicked he will rain coals of fire and sulfur;
a scorching wind shall be the portion of their cup.
7 For the LORD is righteous;
he loves righteous deeds;
the upright shall behold his face.
1 Kings 1:38–2:4
38 So the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites, went down and had Solomon ride on King David’s mule, and led him to Gihon. 39 There the priest Zadok took the horn of oil from the tent and anointed Solomon. Then they blew the trumpet, and all the people said, “Long live King Solomon!” 40 And all the people went up following him, playing on pipes and rejoicing with great joy, so that the earth quaked at their noise.
41 Adonijah and all the guests who were with him heard it as they finished feasting. When Joab heard the sound of the trumpet, he said, “Why is the city in an uproar?” 42 While he was still speaking, Jonathan son of the priest Abiathar arrived. Adonijah said, “Come in, for you are a worthy man and surely you bring good news.” 43 Jonathan answered Adonijah, “No, for our lord King David has made Solomon king; 44 the king has sent with him the priest Zadok, the prophet Nathan, and Benaiah son of Jehoiada, and the Cherethites and the Pelethites; and they had him ride on the king’s mule; 45 the priest Zadok and the prophet Nathan have anointed him king at Gihon; and they have gone up from there rejoicing, so that the city is in an uproar. This is the noise that you heard. 46 Solomon now sits on the royal throne. 47 Moreover the king’s servants came to congratulate our lord King David, saying, ‘May God make the name of Solomon more famous than yours, and make his throne greater than your throne.’ The king bowed in worship on the bed 48 and went on to pray thus, ‘Blessed be the LORD, the God of Israel, who today has granted one of my offspring to sit on my throne and permitted me to witness it.’ ”
49 Then all the guests of Adonijah got up trembling and went their own ways. 50 Adonijah, fearing Solomon, got up and went to grasp the horns of the altar. 51 Solomon was informed, “Adonijah is afraid of King Solomon; see, he has laid hold of the horns of the altar, saying, ‘Let King Solomon swear to me first that he will not kill his servant with the sword.’ ” 52 So Solomon responded, “If he proves to be a worthy man, not one of his hairs shall fall to the ground; but if wickedness is found in him, he shall die.” 53 Then King Solomon sent to have him brought down from the altar. He came to do obeisance to King Solomon; and Solomon said to him, “Go home.”
2 When David’s time to die drew near, he charged his son Solomon, saying: 2 “I am about to go the way of all the earth. Be strong, be courageous, 3 and keep the charge of the LORD your God, walking in his ways and keeping his statutes, his commandments, his ordinances, and his testimonies, as it is written in the law of Moses, so that you may prosper in all that you do and wherever you turn. 4 Then the LORD will establish his word that he spoke concerning me: ‘If your heirs take heed to their way, to walk before me in faithfulness with all their heart and with all their soul, there shall not fail you a successor on the throne of Israel.’
24 While he was making this defense, Festus exclaimed, “You are out of your mind, Paul! Too much learning is driving you insane!” 25 But Paul said, “I am not out of my mind, most excellent Festus, but I am speaking the sober truth. 26 Indeed the king knows about these things, and to him I speak freely; for I am certain that none of these things has escaped his notice, for this was not done in a corner. 27 King Agrippa, do you believe the prophets? I know that you believe.” 28 Agrippa said to Paul, “Are you so quickly persuading me to become a Christian?” 29 Paul replied, “Whether quickly or not, I pray to God that not only you but also all who are listening to me today might become such as I am—except for these chains.”
30 Then the king got up, and with him the governor and Bernice and those who had been seated with them; 31 and as they were leaving, they said to one another, “This man is doing nothing to deserve death or imprisonment.” 32 Agrippa said to Festus, “This man could have been set free if he had not appealed to the emperor.”
27 When it was decided that we were to sail for Italy, they transferred Paul and some other prisoners to a centurion of the Augustan Cohort, named Julius. 2 Embarking on a ship of Adramyttium that was about to set sail to the ports along the coast of Asia, we put to sea, accompanied by Aristarchus, a Macedonian from Thessalonica. 3 The next day we put in at Sidon; and Julius treated Paul kindly, and allowed him to go to his friends to be cared for. 4 Putting out to sea from there, we sailed under the lee of Cyprus, because the winds were against us. 5 After we had sailed across the sea that is off Cilicia and Pamphylia, we came to Myra in Lycia. 6 There the centurion found an Alexandrian ship bound for Italy and put us on board. 7 We sailed slowly for a number of days and arrived with difficulty off Cnidus, and as the wind was against us, we sailed under the lee of Crete off Salmone. 8 Sailing past it with difficulty, we came to a place called Fair Havens, near the city of Lasea.
28 “From the fig tree learn its lesson: as soon as its branch becomes tender and puts forth its leaves, you know that summer is near. 29 So also, when you see these things taking place, you know that he is near, at the very gates. 30 Truly I tell you, this generation will not pass away until all these things have taken place. 31 Heaven and earth will pass away, but my words will not pass away.
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, neither the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father. 33 Beware, keep alert; for you do not know when the time will come. 34 It is like a man going on a journey, when he leaves home and puts his slaves in charge, each with his work, and commands the doorkeeper to be on the watch. 35 Therefore, keep awake—for you do not know when the master of the house will come, in the evening, or at midnight, or at cockcrow, or at dawn, 36 or else he may find you asleep when he comes suddenly. 37 And what I say to you I say to all: Keep awake.”
The Book of Common Prayer: And Administration of the Sacraments and Other Rites and Ceremonies of the Church
Excerpt From Simply Christian
If the Spirit is the one who brings God’s future into the present, the Spirit is also the one who joins heaven and earth together. We are back again with Option Three. We had better remind ourselves how this works.
Option One, you’ll recall, is to see heaven and earth as basically coterminous. It is a way of saying that there is a divine power, force, or presence in and with all that exists, ourselves included. This is pantheism. It is a way of recognizing that nothing in the world we know is free from the smell of divinity—but it goes on to conclude that that’s all there is, that divinity is simply the sum total of this divine flavor we find in the earth, the rivers, the animals, the stars, and ourselves. Panentheism allows that there is more to God than this but still has all of creation permeated with God’s presence.
Within that scheme, speaking of God’s Spirit at work within us appears easy. Of course, thinks the pantheist: if something we call “God” is within everything, talking of God’s Spirit is just another way of saying the same thing. This seems fine and, in our modern world, “democratic.” We don’t like to think that God would be more particularly in and with some people or places than others; it offends our post-Enlightenment Western sensibilities.
I well remember the first pantheist I ever encountered, a girl I met while hitchhiking half the length of British Columbia in the summer of 1968. “Of course Jesus is divine,” she said. (I can’t remember how the conversation started, but she must have discovered that I was a Christian.) “But so am I. So are you. So is my pet rabbit.”
Now I have nothing against pet rabbits (except that their owners, in my household, used to leave other people—namely, me—to clear out their hutches).
But—and this, no doubt, is why the conversation stuck in my mind—to say that God’s Spirit is in and with a pet rabbit in the same sense that God’s Spirit was in and with Jesus struck me (and still strikes me) as absurd. That’s the trouble with pantheism. It leaves you where you are. You already have all that there is. Not only is there no solution to evil; there is no future beyond where we now are. If Option One is true, Jesus was indeed a deluded fanatic.
Option Two might seem at first sight a better prospect for understanding the idea of God’s fresh, fiery rushing wind. It suggests that God’s sphere and ours are utterly different places. How wonderful, how exciting, how dramatic, to think of a power coming all the way from God’s distant world to ours—to us—to me! This is where the language about “natural” and “supernatural” has played a key role for many people in our world. They suppose that everything in our sphere is “natural,” to be explained by the ordinary laws of nature, physics, history, and so on, and that everything in God’s sphere is “supernatural,” entirely “other,” completely unlike our ordinary experience. (I know that the words “natural” and “supernatural” have a longer and more interesting history than this last sentence might imply, but I’m talking about the way in which the words are commonly used today.) That is why people who have assumed a worldview something like Option Two have looked for evidence of the Holy Spirit’s presence and work, not in a quiet growth of moral wisdom, a steady, undramatic lifetime of selfless service, but in spectacular “supernatural” events such as healings, speaking in tongues, wonderful conversions, and so on.
Please note: I am not saying that healings and speaking in tongues don’t happen, or don’t matter. They do, and they do. I’m not saying that God doesn’t sometimes convert people with wonderful, dramatic suddenness. He does. What I am saying is that Option Two sets up the wrong framework for understanding what is going on. In particular, it excludes that sense of God’s presence and power which already exists within the “natural” world.
Neither of the first two options will do as a framework for understanding what the New Testament says about the Spirit. For that, we need Option Three. Somehow, God’s dimension and our dimension—heaven and earth—overlap and interlock. All the questions we want to ask—how does this happen, who does it happen to, when, where, why, under what conditions, what does it look like when it does?—remain partly mysterious, and will do so until creation is finally renewed and the two dimensions are joined into one as they were designed to be (and as Christians pray daily that they will be). But the point of talking about the Spirit within Option Three ought by now to be clear. If it wasn’t, St. Paul would rub our noses in it: those in whom the Spirit comes to live are God’s new Temple. They are, individually and corporately, places where heaven and earth meet.
Most of the next section of this book will be devoted to exploring and explaining what this means in practice. But one or two things must be said right away.
First, the obvious retort. “It doesn’t look like that to me!” Most of us, thinking even of those Christians to whom we look up as examples, find it difficult to imagine that those people are walking Temples, places where heaven and earth meet. Most of us have even more difficulty thinking of ourselves in that way. We certainly find it hard, looking at all the tragic nonsense that has marred the history of Christianity, to see the church as a whole in this light.
But the counter-retort is equally obvious to anyone who knows the writings of St. Paul. He could see the failings of the church, and of individual Christians, just as clearly as we can. And it’s in one of the letters where those failings are most embarrassingly obvious—Paul’s first letter to the Christians in Corinth—where he makes the claim. You corporately, he says to the whole church, are God’s Temple, and God’s Spirit dwells within you (1 Corinthians 3:16). That’s why the unity of the church matters so much. Your bodies, he says to them one by one, are Temples of the Holy Spirit within you (6:19). That’s why bodily holiness, including sexual holiness, matters so much. Unity and holiness have been two great problems for the church in the last generation. Could it be that we need to recapture Paul’s bracing teaching about the Holy Spirit?
Simply Christian: Why Christianity Makes Sense