Thursday, October 30, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 24 – The Plot Thickens (Acts 23:1-35))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered how Roman justice saves Paul..

Acts 23:1-35

While Paul was looking intently at the council he said, “Brothers, up to this day I have lived my life with a clear conscience before God.” Then the high priest Ananias ordered those standing near him to strike him on the mouth. At this Paul said to him, “God will strike you, you whitewashed wall! Are you sitting there to judge me according to the law, and yet in violation of the law you order me to be struck?” Those standing nearby said, “Do you dare to insult God’s high priest?” And Paul said, “I did not realize, brothers, that he was high priest; for it is written, ‘You shall not speak evil of a leader of your people.’”

When Paul noticed that some were Sadducees and others were Pharisees, he called out in the council, “Brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. I am on trial concerning the hope of the resurrection of the dead.” When he said this, a dissension began between the Pharisees and the Sadducees, and the assembly was divided. (The Sadducees say that there is no resurrection, or angel, or spirit; but the Pharisees acknowledge all three.) Then a great clamor arose, and certain scribes of the Pharisees’ group stood up and contended, “We find nothing wrong with this man. What if a spirit or an angel has spoken to him?” When the dissension became violent, the tribune, fearing that they would tear Paul to pieces, ordered the soldiers to go down, take him by force, and bring him into the barracks. That night the Lord stood near him and said, “Keep up your courage! For just as you have testified for me in Jerusalem, so you must bear witness also in Rome.”

In the morning the Jews joined in a conspiracy and bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they had killed Paul. There were more than forty who joined in this conspiracy. They went to the chief priests and elders and said, “We have strictly bound ourselves by an oath to taste no food until we have killed Paul. Now then, you and the council must notify the tribune to bring him down to you, on the pretext that you want to make a more thorough examination of his case. And we are ready to do away with him before he arrives.” Now the son of Paul’s sister heard about the ambush; so he went and gained entrance to the barracks and told Paul. Paul called one of the centurions and said, “Take this young man to the tribune, for he has something to report to him.” So he took him, brought him to the tribune, and said, “The prisoner Paul called me and asked me to bring this young man to you; he has something to tell you.” The tribune took him by the hand, drew him aside privately, and asked, “What is it that you have to report to me?” He answered, “The Jews have agreed to ask you to bring Paul down to the council tomorrow, as though they were going to inquire more thoroughly into his case. But do not be persuaded by them, for more than forty of their men are lying in ambush for him. They have bound themselves by an oath neither to eat nor drink until they kill him. They are ready now and are waiting for your consent.” So the tribune dismissed the young man, ordering him, “Tell no one that you have informed me of this.” Then he summoned two of the centurions and said, “Get ready to leave by nine o’clock tonight for Caesarea with two hundred soldiers, seventy horsemen, and two hundred spearmen. Also provide mounts for Paul to ride, and take him safely to Felix the governor.” He wrote a letter to this effect: “Claudius Lysias to his Excellency the governor Felix, greetings. This man was seized by the Jews and was about to be killed by them, but when I had learned that he was a Roman citizen, I came with the guard and rescued him. Since I wanted to know the charge for which they accused him, I had him brought to their council. I found that he was accused concerning questions of their law, but was charged with nothing deserving death or imprisonment. When I was informed that there would be a plot against the man, I sent him to you at once, ordering his accusers also to state before you what they have against him.” So the soldiers, according to their instructions, took Paul and brought him during the night to Antipatris. The next day they let the horsemen go on with him, while they returned to the barracks. When they came to Caesarea and delivered the letter to the governor, they presented Paul also before him. On reading the letter, he asked what province he belonged to, and when he learned that he was from Cilicia, he said, “I will give you a hearing when your accusers arrive.” Then he ordered that he be kept under guard in Herod’s headquarters.

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 18 – The Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude.

Considering the Letters of Peter & the Letter of Jude

The First Letter of Peter was probably written around AD 90.

Several factors cause scholars to question whether the Apostle Peter was the author. They include the following:

  • The Greek style is fairly sophisticated.
  • The quotes from the Old Testament seem to have been taken from the Septuagint.
  • The issues of faced by these communities seem to be closer to the Ephesians and the Pastoral Letters.
  • The writer seems to have been aware of the Apostle Paul.
  • The social teachings are closer to those in later letters.

It was written to a group of churches in Asia Minor. Although there’s not a formal description within the letter, a couple of passages offer insight into the congregation:

  • 1 Peter 4:3-4: You have already spent enough time in doing what the Gentiles like to do, living in licentiousness, passions, drunkenness, revels, carousing, and lawless idolatry. They are surprised that you no longer join them in the same excesses of dissipation, and so they blaspheme.
  • 1 Peter 4:12: Beloved, do not be surprised at the fiery ordeal that is taking place among you to test you, as though something strange were happening to you. 

The writer of 1 Peter makes use of the Old Testament.

  • The church and Jesus is compared to Israel.
    • 1 Peter 2:10: Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. 
    • 1 Peter 2:22-25: "He committed no sin, and no deceit was found in his mouth." When he was abused, he did not return abuse; when he suffered, he did not threaten; but he entrusted himself to the one who judges justly. He himself bore our sins in his body on the cross, so that, free from sins, we might live for righteousness; by his wounds you have been healed. For you were going astray like sheep, but now you have returned to the shepherd and guardian of your souls.
  • Key words from the Old Testament are used to describe Jesus and the church. 
    • 1 Peter 2:4-8: Come to him, a living stone, though rejected by mortals yet chosen and precious in God's sight, and like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house, to be a holy priesthood, to offer spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ. For it stands in scripture: "See, I am laying in Zion a stone, a cornerstone chosen and precious; and whoever believes in him will not be put to shame." To you then who believe, he is precious; but for those who do not believe, "The stone that the builders rejected has become the very head of the corner," and "A stone that makes them stumble, and a rock that makes them fall." They stumble because they disobey the word, as they were destined to do. 
    • 1 Peter 2:9-11: But you are a chosen race, a royal priesthood, a holy nation, God's own people, in order that you may proclaim the mighty acts of him who called you out of darkness into his marvelous light. Once you were not a people, but now you are God's people; once you had not received mercy, but now you have received mercy. Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul. 
  • The author uses references outside the canon. For example, the claim that Jesus preached to those who were "in prison" after the resurrection is based on a quote from 1 Enoch.

In 1 Peter, the life of faith is defined by it's relationship with the world.

  • 1 Peter 2:11: Beloved, I urge you as aliens and exiles to abstain from the desires of the flesh that wage war against the soul.
  • 1 Peter 2:1-3: Rid yourselves, therefore, of all malice, and all guile, insincerity, envy, and all slander. Like newborn infants, long for the pure, spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow into salvation— if indeed you have tasted that the Lord is good.
  • 1 Peter 2:13-15: For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. 
  • 1 Peter 3:1-7: Wives, in the same way, accept the authority of your husbands, so that, even if some of them do not obey the word, they may be won over without a word by their wives' conduct, when they see the purity and reverence of your lives. Do not adorn yourselves outwardly by braiding your hair, and by wearing gold ornaments or fine clothing; rather, let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit, which is very precious in God's sight. It was in this way long ago that the holy women who hoped in God used to adorn themselves by accepting the authority of their husbands. Thus Sarah obeyed Abraham and called him lord. You have become her daughters as long as you do what is good and never let fears alarm you. Husbands, in the same way, show consideration for your wives in your life together, paying honor to the woman as the weaker sex, since they too are also heirs of the gracious gift of life—so that nothing may hinder your prayers.
  • 1 Peter 5:5-7: In the same way, you who are younger must accept the authority of the elders. And all of you must clothe yourselves with humility in your dealings with one another, for "God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble." Humble yourselves therefore under the mighty hand of God, so that he may exalt you in due time. Cast all your anxiety on him, because he cares for you.
  • 1 Peter 2.13-23: For the Lord's sake accept the authority of every human institution, whether of the emperor as supreme, or of governors, as sent by him to punish those who do wrong and to praise those who do right. For it is God's will that by doing right you should silence the ignorance of the foolish. As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. Honor everyone. Love the family of believers. Fear God. Honor the emperor. Slaves, accept the authority of your masters with all deference, not only those who are kind and gentle but also those who are harsh. For it is a credit to you if, being aware of God, you endure pain while suffering unjustly.

Although it claims to be written by Peter, most consider 2 Peter to be pseudonymous, written between AD 80-90. This is offered for the following reasons:

  • It's a farewell address.
  • 1 and 2 Peter appear to be written to different people.
  • 2 Peter reflects a rich Greek vocabulary.
  • 2 Peter would seem to be written after the apostolic era. 

2 Peter defines the audience.

  • 2 Peter 2:1-2: But false prophets also arose among the people, just as there will be false teachers among you, who will secretly bring in destructive opinions. They will even deny the Master who bought them—bringing swift destruction on themselves. 
  •  2 Peter 3:15: and regard the patience of our Lord as salvation. So also our beloved brother Paul wrote to you according to the wisdom given him

The writer of 2 Peter seeks to accomplish three things:

  • Exhortation to Christian Virtue (2 Peter 1:3–21)
  • Condemnation of the False Teachers (2 Peter 2:1–22)
  • The Delay of the Second Coming (2 Peter 3:1–16)

2 Peter draws on Jude.

  • 2 Peter 2 is very similar to Jude in that both draws on books outside the Old Testament canon. 
    • Jude 9: But when the archangel Michael contended with the devil and disputed about the body of Moses, he did not dare to bring a condemnation of slander against him, but said, "The Lord rebuke you!" 
    • Jude 14-15: It was also about these that Enoch, in the seventh generation from Adam, prophesied, saying, "See, the Lord is coming with ten thousands of his holy ones, 15to execute judgment on all, and to convict everyone of all the deeds of ungodliness that they have committed in such an ungodly way, and of all the harsh things that ungodly sinners have spoken against him."
  • Both focus on false teachers.

Jude was written to circulate among churches, warning against false teachings.

Thursday, October 23, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 23 – A Personal Testimony (Acts 22:1-30))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul arrival and arrest in Jerusalem.

Acts 22:1-30

”Brothers and fathers, listen to the defense that I now make before you.” When they heard him addressing them in Hebrew, they became even more quiet. Then he said:

”I am a Jew, born in Tarsus in Cilicia, but brought up in this city at the feet of Gamaliel, educated strictly according to our ancestral law, being zealous for God, just as all of you are today. I persecuted this Way up to the point of death by binding both men and women and putting them in prison, as the high priest and the whole council of elders can testify about me. From them I also received letters to the brothers in Damascus, and I went there in order to bind those who were there and to bring them back to Jerusalem for punishment.

“While I was on my way and approaching Damascus, about noon a great light from heaven suddenly shone about me. I fell to the ground and heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’ I answered, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ Then he said to me, ‘I am Jesus of Nazareth whom you are persecuting.’ Now those who were with me saw the light but did not hear the voice of the one who was speaking to me. I asked, ‘What am I to do, Lord?’ The Lord said to me, ‘Get up and go to Damascus; there you will be told everything that has been assigned to you to do.’ Since I could not see because of the brightness of that light, those who were with me took my hand and led me to Damascus.

“A certain Ananias, who was a devout man according to the law and well spoken of by all the Jews living there, came to me; and standing beside me, he said, ‘Brother Saul, regain your sight!’ In that very hour I regained my sight and saw him. Then he said, ‘The God of our ancestors has chosen you to know his will, to see the Righteous One and to hear his own voice; for you will be his witness to all the world of what you have seen and heard. And now why do you delay? Get up, be baptized, and have your sins washed away, calling on his name.’

“After I had returned to Jerusalem and while I was praying in the temple, I fell into a trance and saw Jesus saying to me, ‘Hurry and get out of Jerusalem quickly, because they will not accept your testimony about me.’ And I said, ‘Lord, they themselves know that in every synagogue I imprisoned and beat those who believed in you. And while the blood of your witness Stephen was shed, I myself was standing by, approving and keeping the coats of those who killed him.’ Then he said to me, ‘Go, for I will send you far away to the Gentiles.’”

Up to this point they listened to him, but then they shouted, “Away with such a fellow from the earth! For he should not be allowed to live.” And while they were shouting, throwing off their cloaks, and tossing dust into the air, the tribune directed that he was to be brought into the barracks, and ordered him to be examined by flogging, to find out the reason for this outcry against him. But when they had tied him up with thongs, Paul said to the centurion who was standing by, “Is it legal for you to flog a Roman citizen who is uncondemned?” When the centurion heard that, he went to the tribune and said to him, “What are you about to do? This man is a Roman citizen.” The tribune came and asked Paul, “Tell me, are you a Roman citizen?” And he said, “Yes.” The tribune answered, “It cost me a large sum of money to get my citizenship.” Paul said, “But I was born a citizen.” Immediately those who were about to examine him drew back from him; and the tribune also was afraid, for he realized that Paul was a Roman citizen and that he had bound him. Since he wanted to find out what Paul was being accused of by the Jews, the next day he released him and ordered the chief priests and the entire council to meet. He brought Paul down and had him stand before them.

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 17 – The Letter of James)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Letter of James.

Considering the Letter of James

Although it was used by at least two writers in the mid-second century, it’s addition to the canon was late, and it was not favored by Martin Luther.

The circumstance around the letter are difficult to determine. James 1:1: James, a servant of God and of the Lord Jesus Christ, To the twelve tribes in the Dispersion.

James is similar to wisdom literature.

  • Characteristics of James as wisdom
    • High view of the law - James 2:8-13: You do well if you really fulfill the royal law according to the scripture, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” But if you show partiality, you commit sin and are convicted by the law as transgressors. For whoever keeps the whole law but fails in one point has become accountable for all of it. For the one who said, “You shall not commit adultery,” also said, “You shall not murder.” Now if you do not commit adultery but if you murder, you have become a transgressor of the law. So speak and so act as those who are to be judged by the law of liberty. For judgment will be without mercy to anyone who has shown no mercy; mercy triumphs over judgment.
    • Speaks like the prophets - James 4:13-17: Come now, you who say, “Today or tomorrow we will go to such and such a town and spend a year there, doing business and making money.” Yet you do not even know what tomorrow will bring. What is your life? For you are a mist that appears for a little while and then vanishes. Instead you ought to say, “If the Lord wishes, we will live and do this or that.” As it is, you boast in your arrogance; all such boasting is evil. Anyone, then, who knows the right thing to do and fails to do it, commits sin.
    • Uses the word “wisdom”  - James 1:5: If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
  • James differs from traditional wisdom literature in four ways:
    • Focuses on morals, rather than manners
    • Addressed to a community, rather than a household
    • Egalitarian rather hierarchical
    • Communitarian rather than individualistic
James spends more time discussing God than Jesus

  • James 1:5: If any of you is lacking in wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously and ungrudgingly, and it will be given you.
  • James 1:17: Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above, coming down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variation or shadow due to change.
  • James 1:18: In fulfillment of his own purpose he gave us birth by the word of truth, so that we would become a kind of first fruits of his creatures.
  • James 2:5: Listen, my beloved brothers and sisters. Has not God chosen the poor in the world to be rich in faith and to be heirs of the kingdom that he has promised to those who love him?
  • James 2:19: You believe that God is one; you do well. Even the demons believe—and shudder.
  • James 3:9: With it we bless the Lord and Father, and with it we curse those who are made in the likeness of God.
  • James 5:4: Listen! The wages of the laborers who mowed your fields, which you kept back by fraud, cry out, and the cries of the harvesters have reached the ears of the Lord of hosts.
  • James 5:11: Indeed we call blessed those who showed endurance. You have heard of the endurance of Job, and you have seen the purpose of the Lord, how the Lord is compassionate and merciful.
  • James 5:15: The prayer of faith will save the sick, and the Lord will raise them up; and anyone who has committed sins will be forgiven.

James’s ethic is grounded in this theology.

Thursday, October 16, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 22 – Jerusalem (Acts 21:1-40))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul arrival and arrest in Jerusalem.

Acts 21:1-40

When we had parted from them and set sail, we came by a straight course to Cos, and the next day to Rhodes, and from there to Patara. When we found a ship bound for Phoenicia, we went on board and set sail. We came in sight of Cyprus; and leaving it on our left, we sailed to Syria and landed at Tyre, because the ship was to unload its cargo there. We looked up the disciples and stayed there for seven days. Through the Spirit they told Paul not to go on to Jerusalem. When our days there were ended, we left and proceeded on our journey; and all of them, with wives and children, escorted us outside the city. There we knelt down on the beach and prayed and said farewell to one another. Then we went on board the ship, and they returned home. When we had finished the voyage from Tyre, we arrived at Ptolemais; and we greeted the believers and stayed with them for one day.

The next day we left and came to Caesarea; and we went into the house of Philip the evangelist, one of the seven, and stayed with him. He had four unmarried daughters who had the gift of prophecy. While we were staying there for several days, a prophet named Agabus came down from Judea. He came to us and took Paul’s belt, bound his own feet and hands with it, and said, “Thus says the Holy Spirit, ‘This is the way the Jews in Jerusalem will bind the man who owns this belt and will hand him over to the Gentiles.’” When we heard this, we and the people there urged him not to go up to Jerusalem. Then Paul answered, “What are you doing, weeping and breaking my heart? For I am ready not only to be bound but even to die in Jerusalem for the name of the Lord Jesus.” Since he would not be persuaded, we remained silent except to say, “The Lord’s will be done.”

After these days we got ready and started to go up to Jerusalem. Some of the disciples from Caesarea also came along and brought us to the house of Mnason of Cyprus, an early disciple, with whom we were to stay. When we arrived in Jerusalem, the brothers welcomed us warmly. The next day Paul went with us to visit James; and all the elders were present. After greeting them, he related one by one the things that God had done among the Gentiles through his ministry. When they heard it, they praised God. Then they said to him, “You see, brother, how many thousands of believers there are among the Jews, and they are all zealous for the law. They have been told about you that you teach all the Jews living among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, and that you tell them not to circumcise their children or observe the customs. What then is to be done? They will certainly hear that you have come. So do what we tell you. We have four men who are under a vow. Join these men, go through the rite of purification with them, and pay for the shaving of their heads. Thus all will know that there is nothing in what they have been told about you, but that you yourself observe and guard the law. But as for the Gentiles who have become believers, we have sent a letter with our judgment that they should abstain from what has been sacrificed to idols and from blood and from what is strangled and from fornication.” Then Paul took the men, and the next day, having purified himself, he entered the temple with them, making public the completion of the days of purification when the sacrifice would be made for each of them.

When the seven days were almost completed, the Jews from Asia, who had seen him in the temple, stirred up the whole crowd. They seized him, shouting, “Fellow Israelites, help! This is the man who is teaching everyone everywhere against our people, our law, and this place; more than that, he has actually brought Greeks into the temple and has defiled this holy place.” For they had previously seen Trophimus the Ephesian with him in the city, and they supposed that Paul had brought him into the temple. Then all the city was aroused, and the people rushed together. They seized Paul and dragged him out of the temple, and immediately the doors were shut. While they were trying to kill him, word came to the tribune of the cohort that all Jerusalem was in an uproar. Immediately he took soldiers and centurions and ran down to them. When they saw the tribune and the soldiers, they stopped beating Paul. Then the tribune came, arrested him, and ordered him to be bound with two chains; he inquired who he was and what he had done. Some in the crowd shouted one thing, some another; and as he could not learn the facts because of the uproar, he ordered him to be brought into the barracks. When Paul came to the steps, the violence of the mob was so great that he had to be carried by the soldiers. The crowd that followed kept shouting, “Away with him!” Just as Paul was about to be brought into the barracks, he said to the tribune, “May I say something to you?” The tribune replied, “Do you know Greek? Then you are not the Egyptian who recently stirred up a revolt and led the four thousand assassins out into the wilderness?” Paul replied, “I am a Jew, from Tarsus in Cilicia, a citizen of an important city; I beg you, let me speak to the people.” When he had given him permission, Paul stood on the steps and motioned to the people for silence; and when there was a great hush, he addressed them in the Hebrew language, saying:

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 16 – The Letter to the Hebrews)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered the Letter to the Hebrews.

Considering the Letter to the Hebrews

Although the specific author, date and audience are unknown, we can understand who they were by the letter itself.
  • About the author
    • Hebrew 2:3: how can we escape if we neglect so great a salvation? It was declared at first through the Lord, and it was attested to us by those who heard him,
    • Hebrew 13:7: Remember your leaders, those who spoke the word of God to you; consider the outcome of their way of life, and imitate their faith.
    • Hebrew 13:17: Obey your leaders and submit to them, for they are keeping watch over your souls and will give an account. Let them do this with joy and not with sighing—for that would be harmful to you.
    • Hebrew 13:19: I urge you all the more to do this, so that I may be restored to you very soon.
    • Hebrew 13:23: I want you to know that our brother Timothy has been set free; and if he comes in time, he will be with me when I see you.
  • About the date
    • Hebrew 7:27-28: Unlike the other high priests, he has no need to offer sacrifices day after day, first for his own sins, and then for those of the people; this he did once for all when he offered himself. For the law appoints as high priests those who are subject to weakness, but the word of the oath, which came later than the law, appoints a Son who has been made perfect forever.
    • Hebrew 8:3-5: For every high priest is appointed to offer gifts and sacrifices; hence it is necessary for this priest also to have something to offer. Now if he were on earth, he would not be a priest at all, since there are priests who offer gifts according to the law. They offer worship in a sanctuary that is a sketch and shadow of the heavenly one; for Moses, when he was about to erect the tent, was warned, “See that you make everything according to the pattern that was shown you on the mountain.”
    • Hebrew 9:7-8: but only the high priest goes into the second, and he but once a year, and not without taking the blood that he offers for himself and for the sins committed unintentionally by the people. By this the Holy Spirit indicates that the way into the sanctuary has not yet been disclosed as long as the first tent is still standing.
  • About the audience
    • Hebrew 3:6: Christ, however, was faithful over God’s house as a son, and we are his house if we hold firm the confidence and the pride that belong to hope.
    • Hebrew 4:14: Since, then, we have a great high priest who has passed through the heavens, Jesus, the Son of God, let us hold fast to our confession.
    • Hebrew 5:12: For though by this time you ought to be teachers, you need someone to teach you again the basic elements of the oracles of God. You need milk, not solid food;
    • Hebrew 6:4-8: For it is impossible to restore again to repentance those who have once been enlightened, and have tasted the heavenly gift, and have shared in the Holy Spirit, and have tasted the goodness of the word of God and the powers of the age to come, and then have fallen away, since on their own they are crucifying again the Son of God and are holding him up to contempt. Ground that drinks up the rain falling on it repeatedly, and that produces a crop useful to those for whom it is cultivated, receives a blessing from God. But if it produces thorns and thistles, it is worthless and on the verge of being cursed; its end is to be burned over.
    • Hebrew 10:22: let us approach with a true heart in full assurance of faith, with our hearts sprinkled clean from an evil conscience and our bodies washed with pure water.
    • Hebrew 10:25, 35-39: not neglecting to meet together, as is the habit of some, but encouraging one another, and all the more as you see the Day approaching. Do not, therefore, abandon that confidence of yours; it brings a great reward. For you need endurance, so that when you have done the will of God, you may receive what was promised. For yet “in a very little while, the one who is coming will come and will not delay; but my righteous one will live by faith. My soul takes no pleasure in anyone who shrinks back.” But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved.
    • Hebrew 10:34: For you had compassion for those who were in prison, and you cheerfully accepted the plundering of your possessions, knowing that you yourselves possessed something better and more lasting.
    • Hebrew 13:3: Remember those who are in prison, as though you were in prison with them; those who are being tortured, as though you yourselves were being tortured

It’s difficult to classify Hebrews.

The letter begins with statement of faith. Hebrew 1:1-4: Long ago God spoke to our ancestors in many and various ways by the prophets, but in these last days he has spoken to us by a Son, whom he appointed heir of all things, through whom he also created the worlds. He is the reflection of God’s glory and the exact imprint of God’s very being, and he sustains all things by his powerful word. When he had made purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high, 

The letter can be divided into three sections, excluding the beginning and the end.

  • Jesus is superior to all things. (Hebrews 1:5–4:13)
  • Jesus came to earth and returned to heaven to complete the work of salvation. In that way, he functions as the perfect high priest and sacrifice. (Hebrews 4:14–10:18)
  • We need to accept what Jesus has done and hold fast. (Hebrews 10:19–13:17)

Friday, October 10, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 15 – Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus.

Considering Paul’s Letters to Timothy and Titus

These three letters are generally viewed as a group and referred to as the Pastoral Letters.

Most Biblical scholars believe that the Apostle Paul wasn’t the author of these letters. They site the following:

  • The vocabulary and style of the Pastors are unique. 
  • “Faith” seems to have been formalized into “the faith.” 
  • The threats to the truth seem to be different.
  • The church seems more developed than in the other letters. 
    • 1 Timothy 3:1: The saying is sure: whoever aspires to the office of bishop desires a noble task.
    • 1 Timothy 3:8: Deacons likewise must be serious, not double-tongued, not indulging in much wine, not greedy for money;
    • Titus 1:5: I left you behind in Crete for this reason, so that you should put in order what remained to be done, and should appoint elders in every town, as I directed you:
  • There seems to be a greater accommodation with norms and structures of society. 
    • Titus 3:1: Remind them to be subject to rulers and authorities, to be obedient, to be ready for every good work,
    • 1 Timothy 5:5: Do not speak harshly to an older man, but speak to him as to a father, to younger men as brothers, . . . 
    • 1 Timothy 2:11-15: Let a woman learn in silence with full submission. I permit no woman to teach or to have authority over a man; she is to keep silent. For Adam was formed first, then Eve; and Adam was not deceived, but the woman was deceived and became a transgressor. Yet she will be saved through childbearing, provided they continue in faith and love and holiness, with modesty.

Those who believe Paul wrote it point to the personal notes in 2 Timothy and Titus.

If the letters weren’t written by the Apostle Paul, they probably date from the mid-60 to 110 to congregations.

Although the opponents are vague, they have certain characteristics, reflected in these verses:

  • 1 Timothy 4:3: They forbid marriage and demand abstinence from foods, which God created to be received with thanksgiving by those who believe and know the truth. 
  • 1 Timothy 6:20: Timothy, guard what has been entrusted to you. Avoid the profane chatter and contradictions of what is falsely called knowledge;
  • 2 Timothy 2:18: who have swerved from the truth by claiming that the resurrection has already taken place. They are upsetting the faith of some.

The letters emphasize four ideas.

  • The importance of the Jewish heritage 
  • Centrality of Christ and of salvation as the goal
  • The importance of faith clearly formulated and a well-ordered church
  • Appreciation of Paul

Thursday, October 2, 2014

The Journey from Jerusalem (Session 21 – Farewell (Acts 20:1-38))

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered some instructions offered by Paul to church leaders.

Acts 20:1-38

After the uproar had ceased, Paul sent for the disciples; and after encouraging them and saying farewell, he left for Macedonia. When he had gone through those regions and had given the believers much encouragement, he came to Greece, where he stayed for three months. He was about to set sail for Syria when a plot was made against him by the Jews, and so he decided to return through Macedonia. He was accompanied by Sopater son of Pyrrhus from Beroea, by Aristarchus and Secundus from Thessalonica, by Gaius from Derbe, and by Timothy, as well as by Tychicus and Trophimus from Asia. They went ahead and were waiting for us in Troas; but we sailed from Philippi after the days of Unleavened Bread, and in five days we joined them in Troas, where we stayed for seven days.

On the first day of the week, when we met to break bread, Paul was holding a discussion with them; since he intended to leave the next day, he continued speaking until midnight. There were many lamps in the room upstairs where we were meeting. A young man named Eutychus, who was sitting in the window, began to sink off into a deep sleep while Paul talked still longer. Overcome by sleep, he fell to the ground three floors below and was picked up dead. But Paul went down, and bending over him took him in his arms, and said, “Do not be alarmed, for his life is in him.” Then Paul went upstairs, and after he had broken bread and eaten, he continued to converse with them until dawn; then he left. Meanwhile they had taken the boy away alive and were not a little comforted.

We went ahead to the ship and set sail for Assos, intending to take Paul on board there; for he had made this arrangement, intending to go by land himself. When he met us in Assos, we took him on board and went to Mitylene. We sailed from there, and on the following day we arrived opposite Chios. The next day we touched at Samos, and the day after that we came to Miletus. For Paul had decided to sail past Ephesus, so that he might not have to spend time in Asia; he was eager to be in Jerusalem, if possible, on the day of Pentecost.

From Miletus he sent a message to Ephesus, asking the elders of the church to meet him. When they came to him, he said to them: “You yourselves know how I lived among you the entire time from the first day that I set foot in Asia, serving the Lord with all humility and with tears, enduring the trials that came to me through the plots of the Jews. I did not shrink from doing anything helpful, proclaiming the message to you and teaching you publicly and from house to house, as I testified to both Jews and Greeks about repentance toward God and faith toward our Lord Jesus. And now, as a captive to the Spirit, I am on my way to Jerusalem, not knowing what will happen to me there, except that the Holy Spirit testifies to me in every city that imprisonment and persecutions are waiting for me. But I do not count my life of any value to myself, if only I may finish my course and the ministry that I received from the Lord Jesus, to testify to the good news of God’s grace. “And now I know that none of you, among whom I have gone about proclaiming the kingdom, will ever see my face again. Therefore I declare to you this day that I am not responsible for the blood of any of you, for I did not shrink from declaring to you the whole purpose of God. Keep watch over yourselves and over all the flock, of which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to shepherd the church of God that he obtained with the blood of his own Son. I know that after I have gone, savage wolves will come in among you, not sparing the flock. Some even from your own group will come distorting the truth in order to entice the disciples to follow them. Therefore be alert, remembering that for three years I did not cease night or day to warn everyone with tears. And now I commend you to God and to the message of his grace, a message that is able to build you up and to give you the inheritance among all who are sanctified. I coveted no one’s silver or gold or clothing. You know for yourselves that I worked with my own hands to support myself and my companions. In all this I have given you an example that by such work we must support the weak, remembering the words of the Lord Jesus, for he himself said, ‘It is more blessed to give than to receive.’”

When he had finished speaking, he knelt down with them all and prayed. There was much weeping among them all; they embraced Paul and kissed him, grieving especially because of what he had said, that they would not see him again. Then they brought him to the ship.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

An Introduction to the New Testament (Session 14 – Paul’s Letter to the Colossians & His Second Letter to the Thessalonians)

You may listen to a podcast of this session at PodBean.

During this session, we considered Paul’s Letter to the Colossians and his Second Letter to the Thessalonians.

Considering Paul’s Letter to the Colossians

Among  Biblical scholars, opinion is split concerning Paul’s authorship of Colossians. Those who doubt the authorship point to the following:

  • At the beginning of the letter, the author is identified as Paul and Timothy. 
  • Colossians and Ephesians have a lot in common. 
  • The style of Colossians seems to differ from the undisputed letters. For example, in Colossians “which is” is used five times but no where else in Pauline writings.
  • The vocabulary is slightly different. 
    • Some important Pauline words aren’t in Colossians, such as “to trust,” “law,” “freedom,” “righteousness,” and “salvation.”
    • In Colossians, the reader is never addressed as “brother.”
    • Although some words appear separately in the other letter, they’re combine in Colossians, like “blood of the cross” and “body of flesh.”
  • There are theological differences. 
    • The Spirit is only mentioned once.
    • The future would seem to be now in Colossians, without mention of Jesus return.
    • Like in Ephesians, the church is the body with Christ as the head.
    • Paul sounds as though he’s being described, rather than describing himself. 
  • Those who believe Paul wrote the letter note the following: 
    • There’s a connection with the Letter to Philemon. 
    • The writer sends greetings to people in the church.

There’s a problem with the church that received the letter. According to ancient records, the city of Colossae was destroyed by an earthquake in AD 60-61.

Regardless of the author, the letter seem focused on two issues: confronting a dangerous philosophy and establishing a code of conduct.

  • The nature of the philosophy is offered in Colossians 2:8-23
  • The code of conduct can be found in Colossians 3:5-4:1

Considering Paul's Second Letter to the Thessalonians

There’s also disagreement over 2 Thessalonians. Although it seems to deal with the same general issue, it does it in a very different way.

  • 1 Thessalonians 4:13-18: But we do not want you to be uninformed, brothers and sisters, about those who have died, so that you may not grieve as others do who have no hope. For since we believe that Jesus died and rose again, even so, through Jesus, God will bring with him those who have died. For this we declare to you by the word of the Lord, that we who are alive, who are left until the coming of the Lord, will by no means precede those who have died. For the Lord himself, with a cry of command, with the archangel’s call and with the sound of God’s trumpet, will descend from heaven, and the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive, who are left, will be caught up in the clouds together with them to meet the Lord in the air; and so we will be with the Lord forever. Therefore encourage one another with these words. 
  • 2 Thessalonians 2:1-12: As to the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ and our being gathered together to him, we beg you, brothers and sisters, not to be quickly shaken in mind or alarmed, either by spirit or by word or by letter, as though from us, to the effect that the day of the Lord is already here. Let no one deceive you in any way; for that day will not come unless the rebellion comes first and the lawless one is revealed, the one destined for destruction. He opposes and exalts himself above every so-called god or object of worship, so that he takes his seat in the temple of God, declaring himself to be God. Do you not remember that I told you these things when I was still with you? And you know what is now restraining him, so that he may be revealed when his time comes. For the mystery of lawlessness is already at work, but only until the one who now restrains it is removed. And then the lawless one will be revealed, whom the Lord Jesus will destroy with the breath of his mouth, annihilating him by the manifestation of his coming. The coming of the lawless one is apparent in the working of Satan, who uses all power, signs, lying wonders, and every kind of wicked deception for those who are perishing, because they refused to love the truth and so be saved. For this reason God sends them a powerful delusion, leading them to believe what is false, so that all who have not believed the truth but took pleasure in unrighteousness will be condemned.