The Corinthian Correspondence

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church-disciplinePaul’s letters to the church in the city of Corinth still stand today as shining examples of both pastoral love and the necessity of Christian discipline. As we read through the two letters to the Corinthians we cannot help but notice the tension in Paul’s words, along with the heartfelt love he obviously has for this baby church. Like a doting Daddy, Paul writes these letters in response to some disturbing reports that have come to him regarding the unhealthy situation in Corinth. Since first planting the church some 18 months prior, Paul had heard that there were serious unconfessed sins being overlooked within the body, as well as arrogance and numerous other flaws, all threatening to tear the tiny church apart (1 Cor 5). It was vital that Paul offer some course correction before the fledgling work was destroyed from within. Adultery, incest, infighting, gossip, false teachings were just a few of the serious issues faced by the Christians in Corinth. It was in these letters that Paul sought to correct the leadership of the church in Corinth, as a precursor to him coming to visit them.

Although there is considerable debate on actually how many letters Paul wrote to the Corinthians on this matter, we do know that the two that we have are not the entire conversation. Paul references his first correspondence in 1 Cor 5:9 AMPI wrote you in my [previous] letter not to associate [closely and habitually] with unchaste (impure) people…” So we know that Paul had been writing to these Christians before what we now know as 1 Corinthians. In that previous letter he had addressed many of the issues that were plaguing this church, namely that they were unwilling to deal with the sin in some of their members. This is a letter that could be written to many of our modern churches who feel the need to love the member without confronting their sin. Paul makes it clear that sin is deadly and that overlooking it will only spread the disease.

In 2 Corinthians, Paul continues to attempt to correct this misguided church, yet we see a bit different tone. He again mentions another letter that he had sent to the Corinthians. “For I wrote you out of great sorrow and deep distress [with mental torture and anxiety] of heart, [yes, and] with many tears, not to cause you pain but in order to make you realize the overflowing love that I continue increasingly to have for you.” – 2 Cor 2:4 AMP. This tearful correspondence is not the 1 Corinthians which we have, but points to another letter which Paul had written. In that letter he had obviously written some gut-wrenching rebukes that had stirred up the church. In 2 Corinthians we are offered a glimpse into Paul’s pastoral heart as he pleads with the Christians to take his rebukes to heart.

Church discipline can be a messy and difficult subject. In our modern view of individuality and independence, we have come to assume that any form of correction is an affront against our personal freedoms. Yet, according to Paul, that is exactly how Satan wants us to view it. Paul reminds us that we are not ignorant of the devils methods (2 Cor 2:11). Satan will use any gap or weakness he can to tear apart what God is doing in the world. Paul knew that if the church in Corinth did not openly and succinctly deal with the openly practiced sin in their community that Satan would use it to destroy them. But, Paul also teaches them to be quick to forgive once the sin has been confessed and repented of. Obviously the man mentioned in 1 Corinthians as being in an inappropriate relationship with his step-mother had repented and was seeking restoration. Paul encouraged the Christian in Corinth to be quick to forgive and surround that man with love in order to build him back up.

As Christians, we must reject the modern fallacy of our society which labels any sort of rebuke of correction as “judgment”. In Matthew 7 when Jesus reminds His followers to “Judge not”, He is speaking about Christians not judging unbelievers. He is not telling all Christians to just turn and ignore obvious sin in the body. Instead, we are told to be discerning, and to watch out for each other. When Cain asked God, “Am I my brothers keeper?” when referring to his brother Able in Gen 4:9, do you notice that God does not answer him? In fact, since God was the one who asked Cain where Able was, we can surmise that, according to God, we ARE our brother’s keeper. Cain was wrong because he was trying to cover his sin.

Am I my brother’s keeper? Yes – because my brothers/sisters need me to help them resist the devil (James 4:7). As well, I need them to help me say no to sin and yes to godliness. We are on the same team!

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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1 Corinthians 4 – Gladiators

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arenaAs I was reading my chapter today (1 Cor 4), I was struck by Paul’s description of what he (and his fellow Apostles) was enduring as the initial leaders of the Christian Church. First – lets take a look at what Paul says in 1 Cor 4:9-13.

“For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like those condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to human beings.  We are fools for Christ, but you are so wise in Christ! We are weak, but you are strong! You are honored, we are dishonored! To this very hour we go hungry and thirsty, we are in rags, we are brutally treated, we are homeless. We work hard with our own hands. When we are cursed, we bless; when we are persecuted, we endure it; when we are slandered, we answer kindly. We have become the scum of the earth, the garbage of the world—right up to this moment.” – 1 Cor 4:9-13

A couple of things to note:

  •  Vs 9 – Paul says God has put them on display at the end
    • Paul is intentionally using language representing a gladiator match in the arenas throughout the Roman world of his day. In the morning of a show the gladiators/prisoners who were to fight the wild beasts were given armor to protect themselves a bit. But in the afternoon portion of the show the gladiators fought naked – with nothing to defend themselves. (If any escaped these matches they were put back in the next day). These gladiators who fought last were referred to as “men appointed to die” because of the unlikelihood they would survive the confrontation without defense.
    • Paul also uses the word “spectacle” to describe this. It is the Greek word for “theater” and also echoes the gladiator fights in the arena (theater).
  •  Vs 10 – Paul then uses the word “fools” to describe their position. The word used is “moros” and it is referring to the audience hissing, booing, and insulting the gladiator/prisoners in the arena.
  • Then Paul uses several adjectives to describe their present state:
    • Weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless

So what is Paul saying here?

Many people take statements like this from Paul and attribute it to all Christians. (All Christians will be weak, dishonored, hungry, thirsty, naked, homeless…). They say that we must “suffer for Christ” as the Apostles did – and that suffering is in the form of being sick, losing your job, your children dying, etc.

The problem is that this completely stands against much of the many promises in God’s Word for us as His children.

Instead – we need to actually hear what Paul is saying. Paul isn’t saying that all Christians will endure this. He says they (the Apostles) are enduring it. They are paraded through the streets and abused like the gladiator/prisoners are –those men “appointed to die” at the end of the day’s fighting.

Paul said God chose them for this task – to be persecuted. That meant being attacked – even killed – for the sake of the gospel message that Jesus saves from sin.

For Paul (and other martyrs) to “suffer for Christ meant actual bodily harm, torture, imprisonment, even death ALL because they stood for the name of Jesus and refused to bow under outside pressure.

Sickness, poverty, and the like are NOT included in this “suffering” because those are part of the curse – removed on the cross in the atonement (Isaiah 53, etc).

We are so very fortunate to live in a nation that was founded on Christianity – were we can worship Jesus and live our faith without fear of torture, imprisonment, and death.

But not everyone has been afforded that luxury. Many have been martyred over the past 2000 years for standing up for Jesus.

When you lump colds, flu, cancer, disease, poverty, calamity, and other modern day satanic attacks in with the real sufferings others have gone through – you discredit and cheapen the prices they all paid.

To suffer persecution, in Biblical terms, is to face harm as retribution for your stand on the Word of God and His Son, Jesus. Today that can come in the form of physical, financial, emotional – but it must be in response to you making a stand for Christ:

  • Such as getting fired because you are a Christian.
  • Being imprisoned for preaching the Gospel.
  • Being physically attacked because you are a Christian.

That is what it means to “share in the sufferings of Christ” (read 1 Pet 4:12-19). It is never in the form of those things we were redeemed from by Jesus on the cross.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Paul’s Letter to the Romans

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Pauls Letter to the RomansOf the 27 books in the New Testament, 14 have traditionally been attributed to the Apostle Paul of Tarsus. These 14 books all take the form of letters addressed to a given individual or community. In the traditional order of the New Testament, these 14 books follow the Book of Acts, according to length, and separated into three groups:

  • 9 letters addressed to communities
  • 4 letters addressed to individuals
  • The Book of Hebrews

The first of these “community letters” is the letter to the Christians in Rome. Most likely written during the height of Paul’s missionary activity, between A.D. 50 and 58, these letters are some of the earliest surviving Christian documents – predating the earliest of the Gospels, Mark, by at least ten years. What makes this letter to the Romans even more interesting is that Paul did not plant the Christian church in Rome. Although it is not known when exactly the first Christians began to gather together in the capital city, it is clear that they were beginning to be established during the reign of Emperor Claudius (A.D. 41-54). We also know that there was some sort of ruckus which developed involving the Jews in Rome which caused Claudius to order all Jews out of the city. Not only do we have writings from the Roman historians Suetonius (A.D. 69-122) and Cassius Dio (A.D. 150-235), but we also have verification from Paulus Orosius – a 5th Century Christian historian. Furthermore, in Acts 18:2 we are told that Paul’s companions Aquila and Priscila were from Rome and part of this expelled group. Historians believe that some of the issues that Paul addresses to the Roman Christians were a direct result of the Jews being expelled and then coming back to find the Gentile Christians in charge of the church!

During the winter of 57–58 a.d., Paul was in the Greek city of Corinth. From Corinth, he wrote this longest single letter in the New Testament, which he addressed to “God’s beloved in Rome” (1:7). Like most New Testament letters, this letter is known by the name of the recipients, the Romans. Paul’s letters tended to be written in response to specific crises. For instance, 1 Corinthians was written to reprove the Christian community in Corinth for its internal divisions and for its immoral sexual practices. But Romans is remarkably devoid of this kind of specificity, addressing broad questions of theology rather than specific questions of contemporary practice. Whereas other Pauline letters—2 Corinthians, for instance—are full of impassioned rhetoric and personal pleas, Romans is written in a solemn and restrained tone. Perhaps this solemnity can be explained by the fact that not only was the Roman church not founded by Paul himself, but at the time when he wrote Romans, Paul had never even visited Rome (although Chapter 16 of Romans does indicate that he had acquaintances there). Writing to a community largely composed of strangers, then, Paul may have felt compelled to use the restrained and magisterial declarations of Roman style, rather than the impassioned pleas and parental sternness that permeate his letters to the churches at Corinth.

Because he is not personally familiar with the Roman church, Paul begins his letter by introducing himself. He has been “called to be an apostle,” and his mission is “to bring about the obedience of faith among all the Gentiles” (1:1–5). Paul follows his introduction with a flattering greeting to the Roman church, and expresses his desire to preach in Rome someday. Paul gives a summary of the theme of his letter: “The Gospel . . . is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes, first for the Jew, then for the Gentile. For in the Gospel a righteousness of God is revealed, a righteousness that is by faith…” (1:16–17).

Paul begins the meat of his letter with a discussion of the state of humanity before the possibility of salvation through faith in Jesus. He tells how Gentiles worshipped idols, disdaining devotion to God, and how Jews failed to follow the law properly, acting hypocritically by proclaiming allegiance to Jewish law while surreptitiously sinning. Paul says that God’s ancestral promise to the Jews, symbolized by circumcision, does not bring automatic salvation: “A person is a Jew who is one inwardly, and real circumcision is a matter of the heart—it is spiritual” (2:29). Paul concludes, “We have already charged that all, both Jews and Greeks, are under the power of sin” (3:9).

Paul teaches that salvation from sin is only possible through faith. Paul cites the example of the biblical patriarch Abraham, who received God’s blessing and passed it on to his descendants through “the righteousness of faith” (4:13). The free gift of grace, Paul continues, unearned and undeserved, is a product of God’s love manifested toward the unworthy. Whereas Adam’s fall brought sin and death into the world, Jesus’s sacrifice brought grace and life. The importance of baptism, Paul explains, is that baptism initiates a new life of grace and purity: the sinner symbolically dies, baptized into the death of Jesus, and the person who emerges is “dead to sin and alive to God in Christ Jesus” (6:11). Christians, then, must be governed by holiness, not by sin: holiness alone will lead to eternal life. Jewish law ceases to be binding: the law arouses sinful passions, and as people who are dead to sin, Christians become dead to the law. Paul urges the Romans to live not “according to the flesh” but rather by the Spirit (8:4). Through the Spirit, all believers become spiritual children of God, called by God to glory. This potential is a source of strength for the Christian: “If God is for us, who is against us?” (8:31).

Paul’s next topic is the problem of reconciling the doctrine of salvation through faith in Christ with the Old Testament promise of the salvation of the Jewish people. This section begins with a lamentation, as Paul, who was himself born a Jew, expresses his wish to help the Israelites, the supposed firstborn children of God. But he goes on to explain that the Christian covenant of grace is by no means a betrayal of Abraham’s covenant with God. Those who have faith in Jesus, who believe “with the heart,” are “children of the promise,” the spiritual children of Israel (10:10, 9:8). The genetic children of Israel, the Jews, stumbled when they mistook Jewish law for the means to salvation. But the Jews have not been entirely cast aside. Paul teaches that eventually the Jews will come to express faith in Jesus, enabling God to keep his original promise to them.

Finished with his summary of Christian doctrine, Paul embarks upon a lengthy exhortation to the Romans, advising them on the proper means of living a Christian life. Harmony, humility, and love are his main concerns. He urges charity, forbearance, and submission. Paul returns to the apocalyptic theme on which he dwells in his other letters. He says that it is doubly important to act righteously in an apocalyptic age. In a long segment, Paul mandates tolerance and freedom of religious conscience within the church. The strong in faith are not to judge and reject the weak in faith—that is, those who have given up Jewish law are to accept the observances of those who continue to practice Jewish law. Paul finishes this section with a set of Old Testament quotations about the worship of God spreading among all nations.

Paul concludes his letter with a section in which he discusses his own ministry, proving his authority through a discussion of his credentials: “I have reason to boast of my work for God” (15:17). He informs the Romans that he is preparing to bring the contributions of the Greek and Macedonian churches to Jerusalem, where he speculates that he might run into difficulties. Chapter 16 contains a long list of greetings, in which Paul sends the greetings to the Roman Christians, warning the Romans to be wary of “those who cause dissensions and offenses” (16:17).

As you read through Paul’s letter to the Romans, it is easy to feel overwhelmed by the deep theological language and weighty perspectives you find. But, if you keep your mind on the birds-eye view and remember who Paul is writing to and what he is trying to say then the overall picture will become clearer – leading to your understanding of the details.

Major Themes in Acts

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Themes in Acts Right after the four accounts of the life of Jesus (referred to as the gospels), we enter the Book of Acts. The actual formal name is the “Acts of the Apostles”, but it has also been said that it could more accurately be entitled the “Acts of the Holy Spirit” because all that happens in the book is through the power of the Holy Spirit. Either way, this book is one of my personal favorites. It is written by Luke – almost like a 2nd part to his account of Jesus as investigated for Theophilus (Acts 1:1). While in his first part Luke shares with Theophilus what he has found out about Jesus while He was physically here on earth, the things he did, the reports of what He said, all that would be of interest to the inquiring Theophilus; in this second part Luke extends his investigation into what the small group of disciples did after Jesus rose from the dead. Many (myself included) see the Book of Acts as the prototype of how the Christian church should function still today. Afterall, remember that Luke was a scientific guy – a doctor – who was putting his own name on the investigation for Theophilus. He was vouching that what he had found out was true. (Some of which he personally witnessed!). If we can trust that his report of Jesus was based on fact then we should have no trouble viewing the circumstances in his second part as factual as well.

So as you read through the Book of Acts, there are several main things to note and ask yourself about. You could consider them themes, which are based on facts (from Luke), and therefore demanding our attention and discussion on their existence (or non-existence) in our lives (both individual and corporate).

  1.  Holy Spirit

– The first major change we come across as Acts opens is that Jesus is alive! The disciples saw Him on numerous occasions over the course of 40 days (1:3). After that time of teaching and encouraging, Jesus leaves for Heaven – telling them to wait for what the “Father has promised” (1:4) which will be the power and authority through the Holy Spirit (1:8).   This is a major revelation of who God is and what He is up to within human history. While He has revealed Himself as Father – Creator (Gen 1) and then The Son – The Word (John 1), now He is about to reveal Himself as the Holy Spirit – Performer of the Word (Acts 2). As the Son points mankind to the Father (to be re-created), the Holy Spirit points men to the Son.

Question: Is the Holy Spirit active in my life or my church?

 

  1. Baptism in Holy Spirit

– All throughout the Book of Acts we see people both saved and “filled with the Holy Spirit”. Right from the outset the disciples (already believers) were told by Jesus to wait for this to happen before proceeding into their monumental task. Luke records four different accounts of the Holy Spirit descending upon individuals (what we call “Baptism in the Holy Spirit”). These are;

  •  Acts 2 – The original 120 followers (all saved) – accompanied with tongues.
  • Acts 8 – The believers in Samaria (already saved) – tongues are not mentioned, but Simon obviously “saw something happen (vs 15-18).
  • Acts 10 – The family of Cornelius (first were saved, then…) – accompanied by tongues.
  • Acts 19 – The believers in Ephesus (already baptized by John for salvation) – accompanied by tongues.

In each account recorded by the scientific Luke, we see individuals being saved and THEN baptized with the Holy Spirit. As well, in each case there is a clear demonstration of that baptism by the recipient speaking in tongues.

Question: Have you received the Holy Spirit with tongues? If not, what is preventing you?

 

  1. Healing

– Luke also records numerous examples of the early Christians continuing the work of Jesus by healing those who are sick and in need. The lame man (chp 3), their shadows (5:15-16), by handkerchiefs (19:11-12), and Paul on the island of Melita (28:8-9) are just a few examples. Obviously Luke felt it was important for Theophilus to understand that the healing power of Jesus was STILL present in the initial believers after He had left and gone back to heaven (and the Holy Spirit has taken His place).

Question: Are you seeing healings take place when you pray?

 

  1. Tithing

– Another specific characteristic of the early Christians was their insistence that God would provide for their needs (both individually and as a group). Acts 2:44-45 describes them as having “all things in common”, even to the point of selling their stuff to help each other out financially “as every man had need”. As well, Acts 4:32-37 further describes them as giving a portion of their provisions for the good of the whole, to further the work of the community. Then in Acts 5 we see the unfortunate results of failing to be a part in this way (and lying to God about it). This is a continuation of the OT concept of paying tithes to God.

Question: Is tithing still viable for the Christian today? Is God still reacting like He did with Ananias and Sapphira?

 

  1. Persecution

– The final major theme we see in the days of the initial Christians is that of persecution. We see them imprisoned (chp 5), put to death (chp 7), Paul & Silas in prison (chp 16), along with a more detailed account of Paul’s arrest and trial (chp 23-28). Clearly the early Christians faced much opposition from the surrounding culture and the unbelievers. The opposition was physical – in the form of prison and death – not emotional, or illness (remember the healing) – and was in direct response to their insistence that Jesus was who He said He was, that he had risen, and that all men must repent of sin.

Question: Are you facing persecution for being a Christian? If so – how? If not – why not?


So there are some of the major themes in the Book of Acts. As you read it this month, ask yourself the questions posed here. Allow the Holy Spirit room to work as you read and pray…

 

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

The Disciple that Jesus loved

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JohnThe Gospel of John is as unique as the author himself. While the other three gospel accounts share similarities in their descriptions of Jesus’ earthly ministry, John’s is quite different in both focus and the details of the situations he shares. Scholars have debated as to why this is the case – but one reason may be that John was a different sort of disciple then the others. While Matthew wrote to the Jews and Luke investigated from a scientific/rational perspective, it was John who spoke of love. Known as the “Apostle of Love”, the account of Jesus’ ministry that John left us with is saturated in the love of God. Why is this?

For one, John the disciple clearly loved Jesus in a deeper way then the other disciples. Perhaps you remember that John was the first to follow Jesus (John 1:35-39) and the last to remain at the foot of the cross (John 19:26). According to NT scholar Everett Harrison, “John was more alert than the others to the greatness of Jesus and was conscious of being at the center of an epochal, transforming movement in human history”. John was part of the inner circle (with James and Peter), which afforded him several rare opportunities to witness parts of Jesus so few humans ever have to this day. For example, John was 1 of only 5 who saw Jesus raise Jarius’ daughter (Mark 5); he was 1 of 3 who witnessed the amazing events on the Mount of Transfiguration (Mark 9); and it was John who was of the select few eye witnesses to the wrenching suffering of Jesus in the Garden of Gethsemane (Mark 14). We can only imagine how these monumental events deeply impacted this young man.

One thing is obvious; the effects of his three years with Jesus dramatically changed his life forever! It was John whom Jesus quietly revealed the identity of the one who would betray Him at the Last Supper (John 13:21-30); it was John who (along with Peter) overcame their fear sufficiently to watch the mock trial of Jesus (yet without denying Him) (John 18:12-16). Furthermore, it was John to whom Jesus entrusted His mother while dying on the cross (John 19:25-27); and it was John who first “saw and believed” in the resurrection of Jesus (John 20:2-10). John held a special place in the heart of Jesus – that would be the foundation of his ministry of love years later.

In his gospel, John would pen many of our favorite and most foundational scripture verses. Verses such as:

“For God so loved the world, that he gave his only Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life.” – John 3:16

“A new command I give you: Love one another. As I have loved you, so you must love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you love one another.” – John 13:34-35

 “Greater love has no one than this: to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.” – John 15:13

And in another letter of his, John would pen the simple, yet clarifying, statement: “God is love” – 1 John 4:16b

So we can see that John was one deeply in love with His Master. Eventually, during the reign of Emperor Domitian (A.D. 81-96) John would be banished to the island of Patmos, where he would see the vision of the Book of Revelations. Upon release, John would become the Pastor to the Church of Ephesus – where tradition says that his disciples would carry him as an old man into the worship service of the community of Christians, where he would simply urge them again and again to “love one another”.

So as you read through this beautiful love letter from John, pay attention to the many ways this love of God purposefully points out the great love Jesus displayed. This love forever changed the life of this young Jewish man, and it will forever change yours as well!

 

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

Can We Trust Luke’s Account?

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lukeThe writings of Luke provide us with many valuable insights into not only the life/teachings of Jesus, but the state of early Christianity and how portions of the Bible came to us. Luke’s gospel can more accurately be seen as part 1 (with the Acts of the Apostles being part 2). As we read through this gospel (and a bit later through Acts) it will assist us in knowing a bit about the author, what reasons he may have had for writing, and whether he can be trusted.

So first, who was Luke? Although, as in most cases, the author of the book does not name himself, we do have some clues to go on when determining his identity. We know that he was a direct eyewitness or an active investigator into many of the things he is describing based upon his statements in Luke 1:1-4 (as well as the “we” statements in Acts 1:1-2). Although we cannot tell for certain, early Christians (such as Ireneaus) asserted that Luke was a traveling companion of Paul. This label is given more credibility by the fact that no early Christian writers coming after Ireneaus dispute this claim. (Obviously they agreed with him!). Some have guessed that Luke may be Lucius the Cyrene who is addressed by Paul in Acts 13:1 and Romans 16:1 – but that is only a guess. Another thing we know about Luke is that he was a well-respected, well-educated doctor. Not only is much of the terminology used by Luke indicative of a higher degree of literacy and medical knowledge, but Paul specifically tells us this in Col 4:14. These facts alone place some high degree of trust worthiness upon what Luke documents.

Next, to when (and to whom) was Luke writing? Most scholars place Luke’s writings at (or before) 70 A.D. Since we know that Paul was beheaded in Rome around 68 A.D. – it can be safe to assume that Luke would have put his own memories of his journey with Paul down on paper soon after. The reason for doing this is stated by Luke’s addressing both books to the “most excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1:3 and Acts 1:1). Theophilus is evidently a wealthy early Christian convert who has been hearing the circulating message of Jesus through mainly oral accounts/teachings. He enlists Luke to investigate the facts and write them do for him. Perhaps Theophilus longs to confirm what he is hearing and believes? Perhaps he wants to ensure these details are not lost with the death of the original apostles? Perhaps he understands the importance of verifying events such as these? Whatever the reasoning, we have Theophilus to thanks for enlisting the scholarly Luke to his work. Through his financial support, Luke was able to not only investigate the claims to which he could not personally verify, but also to write them down (no small matter in those days!).

The name Theophilus means “friend of God” and has led some to believe that Luke was not addressing an individual, but a group of Christian in general. The problem with this belief lies not only in the language Luke himself uses (clearly speaking to an intimate individual) but the name is a typical name used in that period of time. It was not uncommon for an author to name his financial benefactor – something done in countless non-Biblical writings of the day as well. We can have no qualms with seeing both volumes as the result of a wealthy Christian leader (“most excellent”) named Theophilus who hired a respected scholarly Christian physician named Luke to verify the facts being spread around.

So what does this mean for us as we read through this Gospel? For me, it settles the tiring dispute against the reliability of the Bible. The fact that Luke is a respected physician serves to lend credence to what he confirms as “an orderly account” that was carefully investigated by himself (Luke 1:3). It is difficult to surmise that a man of learning and logic (such as Luke) would spin fables and tales in some 1st Century conspiracy theory. Instead what we have is a well-investigated account of what happened from both a historical and factual position. Therefore, as you read about the miracles of Jesus, the events of His crucifixion, and most importantly the details of His resurrection, you can be encouraged that much work was done to verify these facts. Let it be an encouragement to you in your quest to be His disciple.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

How to read the Gospel of Mark

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Gospel of MarkAfter Matthew, our second version of the life/ministry of Jesus is that of John Mark. Unlike Matthew (which follows a basic chronological order and speaks to the Jews), Mark seems to be more a collection of snapshots taken from Jesus’ 3 year time on earth. There are clear signs that the audience for Mark’s gospel were Greek speaking – lending credibility that the recipients were originally the community of Christians in Rome.

So who was Mark? Papias of Herapolis was a 2nd century Christian author who recorded much of the original history of the early church. His following quote (recorded by Eusebius) provides us some rather concrete information about the author of Mark’s gospel:

 “The elder also used to say, “Mark, who had been Peter’s interpreter, wrote down carefully, but not in order, all that he remembered of the Lord’s sayings and doing. For he had not heard the Lord or been one of His followers, but later, as I said, one of Peter’s. Peter used to adapt his teachings to the occasion, without making a systematic arrangement of the Lord’s sayings, so that Mark was quite justified in writing down some things just as he remembered them. For he had one purpose only – to leave out nothing that he had heard, and to make no mistake about it.” History of the Church 3.39.15

 From this 2nd century quote we have it on pretty good authority (although not absolute) that john Mark was a disciple of Peter. Although Mark was not an actual disciple of Jesus, he obviously became a believer after hearing Peter. Mark would become Peter’s interpreter as he shared the message of Jesus in various cities throughout the Roman world. It is also known that Peter had a connection to the Christians in Rome (where he would eventually be crucified upside down). So we can surmise that Mark was with Peter, probably living in Rome, and wrote down the things he learned/heard from Peter about the 3 years of Jesus’ ministry and teachings.

As you read through the shortest Gospel – remember that you are reading a collection of things that Jesus did/said as remembered by Peter. You can trust them to be accurate because the Holy Spirit equipped Peter (and Mark) for the task. The Holy Spirit would bring different situations to Peter’s memory (as he taught) and then Mark would write them down (2 Pet 1:21). There is no reason to suspect that what we have handed down to us is in error simply based upon different details/order of events between what Mark wrote and what Matthew/Luke/John wrote. The reason for this is that Mark was a guy – who was recording what Peter (another guy) remembered. We can trust that the Holy Spirit helped Peter remember the important parts of what Jesus did and His message – all while allowing Peter/Mark to retain their humanity.

As we read about from Papias, Peter would “adapt his teachings to fit the occasion”. This doesn’t mean he changed them or embellished them, but he simply allowed them to breathe for the audience to whom he was speaking. This is the same as sharing a story and then applying it to those to whom you are speaking. Mark isn’t attempting to share an autobiography of Jesus’ life – but instead collecting the different things He did and taught as portrayed through the eyes of Peter (an eye witness). Think of it like you are looking at a photo album that Mark constructed of different pictures Peter had taken during his 3 years with Jesus. The details of the story may not be fully recorded – but the point is still the same.

 

Be Fruitful & Multiply,

PK

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