Many in the religious world, including “Christendom”, label the apostle Paul as a fraud guilty of changing the teachings of Jesus into something that better suited his own beliefs. Hence the phrase, “Pauline theology.”
But is such the case? Not according to the church of the first century.
Fact is, concerning his conversion, Paul acknowledged the amazement of the early church when he said, “And I was unknown by face to the churches of Judea which were in Christ. But they were hearing only, “He who formerly persecuted us now preaches the faith which he once tried to destroy.” And they glorified God in me.” (Galatians 1:22-24 NKJV)
Paul didn’t change the faith taught by Jesus, the faith taught by Jesus changed Paul!
For those who say defending someone by using a quote from that same individual is untrustworthy, all you have to do is read the book of Acts. Or is the entire book of Acts unreliable too?
Labeling someone as fraud because you do not what like what they teach (as is the case with Paul) is no different than what the Jewish leaders did to Jesus when they refused to hear what he said about his relationship with the Father (John 5:16-47).
“For do I now persuade men, or God? Or do I seek to please men? For if I still pleased men, I would not be a bondservant of Christ. But I make known to you, brethren, that the gospel which was preached by me is not according to man. For I neither received it from man, nor was I taught it, but it came through the revelation of Jesus Christ.” (Galatians 1:10-12 NKJV)
An individual from Peru has been teaching a class at my day-job the last couple of days.
Yesterday, during a lull in the actual teaching, he was asked about some of the differences between Peru and America. One of the differences he mentioned was food. In one specific example he said people from certain areas in Peru will raise and eat Guinea Pigs. As would be expected, that bit of information garnered a few “not happening” comments.
During lunch I told the teacher to not let anyone give him a hard-time because around here people eat squirrels and rabbits … which, whether or not anyone realizes it, are rodents like the Guinea Pig.
There are times in life when differences between people and cultures are not as wrong or as different as we think – at least not in God’s eyes. So we should not allow these differences to create barriers that could prevent us from seeing people as persons who need Jesus like ourselves. God does not care about where we are from as much as he cares about where we are going.
By the way, I also told the teacher I didn’t mind trying a little of almost anything as long as it was not raw, and I have a good reason that has nothing to do with the taste (Acts 15:19-20).
“Then he became very hungry and wanted to eat; but while they made ready, he fell into a trance and saw heaven opened and an object like a great sheet bound at the four corners, descending to him and let down to the earth. In it were all kinds of four-footed animals of the earth, wild beasts, creeping things, and birds of the air. And a voice came to him, “Rise, Peter; kill and eat.” But Peter said, “Not so, Lord! For I have never eaten anything common or unclean.” And a voice spoke to him again the second time, “What God has cleansed you must not call common.” This was done three times. And the object was taken up into heaven again.” (Acts 10:10-16 NKJV)
There is no doubting hurricane Harvey’s devastation.
Hundreds of thousands of people have been directly affected. Infrastructure has been rendered useless. Houses turned into pits of mold and piled-up garbage. Education and jobs put on hold.
People need help! But what some people consider help serves as a prime example of a deeply seeded sign of depravity in our culture.
Help, by its very nature, is an action meant to create improvement! When one understands the nature of help, then one can understand how pro-abortionists view children – an inconvenient and optional choice that creates an undue, unwarranted and unwanted burden that is better-off put to death … a point of view that is far from understanding the responsibility attached to having sex and the value of the life it helps to create.
When someone offers “help” the question must be asked, “What are they trying to help me accomplish?” Because all help doesn’t improve our situation in life.
“Now in the time of his distress King Ahaz became increasingly unfaithful to the Lord. This is that King Ahaz. For he sacrificed to the gods of Damascus which had defeated him, saying, “Because the gods of the kings of Syria help them, I will sacrifice to them that they may help me.” But they were the ruin of him and of all Israel.” (2 Chronicles 28:22-23 NKJV)
On one occasion, the apostle Paul had a serious issue to settle with the apostle Peter:
“Now when Peter had come to Antioch, I withstood him to his face, because he was to be blamed; for before certain men came from James, he would eat with the Gentiles; but when they came, he withdrew and separated himself, fearing those who were of the circumcision. And the rest of the Jews also played the hypocrite with him, so that even Barnabas was carried away with their hypocrisy.” (Galatians 2:11-13 NKJV)
Several lessons can be learned from this passage but if the church were to learn only one, it could be found by noting where Paul talked to Peter … and I’m not talking about Antioch.
Paul didn’t talk about Peter behind his back – Paul talked to Peter to his face. And if the church could remember this point, we would all be much better off.
““Moreover if your brother sins against you, go and tell him his fault between you and him alone. If he hears you, you have gained your brother.” (Matthew 18:15 NKJV)
“I can recall many times in my life when I gave “good advice” to someone, only to realize very quickly how little I had known of the situation. Many times that advice exploded in my face and damaged the lives of others. Those mistakes were regrettable. I have had to learn to offer advice only if I knew the whole story and understood the motives and values of those with whom I was talking.”
(David Thurman – ‘Jesus and Legalists’, Gospel Minutes, Vol. 66, Number 36, September 8, 2017, Page 1, Paragraph 1)
Context is key … to rightly dividing, rightly understanding, rightly applying and rightly explaining.
Yet context is often ignored for multiple reasons despite the fact there is hardly a verse that can be properly understood, to its fullest extent, without knowing the context!
With this small example let me show you why context is so important:
“This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” (1 Timothy 4:9 NKJV)
What saying? How can it be reliable or worthy of receiving into our lives if we don’t know what it is?
This point applies to what a saving faith looks like. This point applies to what mode of baptism is expected. This point applies to what we actually do in remembrance of Jesus.
Lessons can indeed be learned from individual verses, but the lesson intended by the Spirit of God can only be found by looking at what is being said before and after the thought under consideration. The whole counsel comes from looking at whole texts, not snippets here and there.
“If you instruct the brethren in these things, you will be a good minister of Jesus Christ, nourished in the words of faith and of the good doctrine which you have carefully followed. But reject profane and old wives’ fables, and exercise yourself toward godliness. For bodily exercise profits a little, but godliness is profitable for all things, having promise of the life that now is and of that which is to come. This is a faithful saying and worthy of all acceptance.” (1 Timothy 4:6-9 NKJV)
Now you know the saying worthy of faithfulness and acceptance, but if you get the point I’m talking about you’ll look at the first verse in the “paragraph” and ask the question, “What things?”
In last week’s Adult Gospel Advocate Foundations study, the topic of “The Commission to Preach” was discussed.
It’s a good lesson. It particularly does a fine job at distinguishing between preaching and teaching.
I’ve told people I enjoy teaching more than preaching only to have them look at me as if I have a third eye. To most people there is no distinction. I assure you there is.
Many of the questions at the end of this particular lesson were simplistic. I don’t believe it’s to the fault of the editors – it just comes with the territory of the topic. But one question generated a lot more thought in my mind than it did in the class. “What components must be present in a biblical sermon?”
I think it’s hard to be “technical” about answering such a question. Doesn’t mean I haven’t had people share their thoughts with me on how I should preach, what I should talk about or what I shouldn’t say! What I mean is there are many component examples from the scriptures, but very few examples are constantly repeated.
For example: Continue reading