The Future of the Churches of Christ: More Statistics from Ed Stetzer

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There’s a lot of false teaching going on within the evangelical church regarding statistics. Authors sell more books when they persuade their audience that sky is falling, the evangelical church is collapsing, and their book offers the solution. Preachers more easily persuade their members to knock on doors and attend next week’s gospel meeting when they are afraid of the imminent collapse of American Christianity. Politicians get more votes when the next election will decide the fate of the church in America.

But the stats say otherwise, according to Ed Stetzer, author and consultant on church growth — Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: The Roll Call of the Faithful

jewish_starNow, I had to explain that in order to explain this.

Chapter 11 is a list of the faithful heroes of the First Testament. It begins with Abel and continues to —

(Heb 11:35-38 ESV)  35 Women received back their dead by resurrection. Some were tortured, refusing to accept release, so that they might rise again to a better life.  36 Others suffered mocking and flogging, and even chains and imprisonment.  37 They were stoned, they were sawn in two, they were killed with the sword. They went about in skins of sheep and goats, destitute, afflicted, mistreated —  38 of whom the world was not worthy — wandering about in deserts and mountains, and in dens and caves of the earth. 

These heroes did great things and suffered horribly for the sake of the coming Messiah. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Once for All and Perfect Forever

jewish_starWhile Paul touches on the salvation of the Jews under the Law of Moses, Hebrews deals more thoroughly with the question, although the point of Hebrews is to demonstrate the superiority of the covenant under Christ to the Mosaic covenant.

To see the point, we need to trace a couple of thoughts through the text, beginning with the author’s doctrine of “once for all” salvation.

We should start, though, back in Romans —

(Rom 6:9-10 ESV) 9 We know that Christ, being raised from the dead, will never die again; death no longer has dominion over him.  10 For the death he died he died to sin, once for all, but the life he lives he lives to God.

The Greek for “once for all” is ἐφάπαξ  (ephapax), meaning all at once and never again (BDAG).

Paul’s point, of course, is that Jesus was crucified just once, and this sacrifice is sufficient for all time and for all who will follow him. His one sacrifice is fully sufficient for all and never needs to be repeated. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Grace Abounding

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Ponder for a moment this passage —

(Rom 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in death, grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord.

It’s not so much difficult as surprising. Let me retranslate it a hair —

(Rom 5:20-21 ESV)  20 Now the law [of Moses] came in to increase the trespass, but where sin increased, [God’s] grace abounded all the more,  21 so that, as sin reigned in [eternal] death [before Abraham], grace also might reign through righteousness leading to eternal life through Jesus Christ our Lord [under the Law of Moses!].

Now, in Romans, “law” means “the will of God as revealed in the Law of Moses or by other means.” The Law is considered by Paul as the ultimate revelation of God’s will, and hence the ultimate source of accountability. The Israelites, having been told God’s will on so many things, became accountable for violating God’s will on so many things. As a result, “sin increased.” And it’s obviously true.

The fact is that when God reveals himself more thoroughly, the likelihood of greater accountability for sin skyrockets. The more we know, the more we must obey, the more we fail to obey. Continue reading

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Christology: “Did Jesus Know Everything?”

shepherd3Interesting post from Peter Enns over at “Jesus Creed.” He raises an issue from Raymond E. Brown’s book Jesus: God and Man : Modern Biblical Reflections.

A Jesus who walked through the world knowing exactly what the morrow would bring, knowing with certainty that three days after his death his Father would raise him up, is a Jesus who can arouse our admiration, but still a Jesus far from us.

He is a Jesus far from mankind that can only hope in the future and believe in God’s goodness, far from a mankind that must face the supreme uncertainty of death with faith but without knowledge of what is beyond.

On the other hand, a Jesus for whom the future was as such a mystery, a dread, and a hope as it is for us and yet, at the same time a Jesus who would say, “Not my will but yours”–this is a Jesus who could effectively teach us how to live, for this is a Jesus who would have gone through life’s real trials.

Read the post and then consider: How much did Jesus as God-man know while in human form? Was he omniscient? Or was he walking in faith in the same sense in which he asks us to walk in faith?

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Suicide and the Unforgivable Sin

offer_hope_prevent_suicide_psaI get emails —

I have recently learned that the greatest part of the grieving from my friend’s son’s suicide comes from her belief that he son is eternally lost. She was taught that suicide is a sin and there can be no hope for him.

I want to be very careful in what I say to her, and we are naturally taking about grace, but I’m feeling inadequate in helping her. We have reasoned that he never left his faith, nor was there any rebellion in Him. Somehow I seem to not be able to see trees for looking at the forest.  

Can you give me some thoughts, scripture, directions, etc. to go with my quest to help my friend in her grief?

The Bible doesn’t address suicide specifically. However, in Heb 11:32, Samson is listed as among the ancient faithful of Israel, and yet he died by killing himself (Judg 16:23-31).

On the other hand, murder has been considered a sin going back to Cain and Abel. “You shall not murder” is part of the Ten Commandments. Continue reading

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The Salvation of the Jews: Introduction

jewish_starSo we’ve covered Exile and Repentance in the last series, discussing how the Old Testament (or First Testament) led up to the events of Pentecost and the coming of the Kingdom. Hopefully, we gained a better sense of how the Jews of NT times reacted to the gospel and the coming of the Messiah.

Before that, in the How to Study the Bible series, we covered the covenants and how they connect with each other. From Abraham on, each covenant built on the covenant that preceded. The covenants are like Russian dolls, so that each new covenant contains the preceding covenants, but the preceding covenants re-envisioned in light of God’s new covenant. After all, each covenant is a step in God’s self-revelation to mankind. Each covenant reveals more about God and helps us to see the earlier covenants in a clearer light.

I now want to consider the nature of salvation pre-Jesus. Maybe we’ll talk about the salvation of the Jews post-Jesus as well, but as hard as that question is, their salvation from Abraham until Jesus is harder.

At first, the question might seem a bit pointless. After all, Jesus came 2,000 years ago. Why does it matter how the Jews were saved before then? Isn’t today what matters? Continue reading

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How to Study the Bible: Context according to Richard Beck

biblepage-781x1024It’s amazing how our reading of the Scriptures is colored by our own prejudices and background.

Richard Beck, at “Experimental Theology,” offers a reading of James’ famous passage on faith and works that I’d never heard before. But he just might be
right …

What do you think?

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Exile and Repentance, Part 19 (Conclusions, Part 2)

Arch_of_Titus_MenorahOf course, an element of all of this has to be social justice. Well … “social justice” isn’t really the best term and is likely more confusing than helpful.

In the Law and the Prophets, the repeatedly stated reasons for the Exile were a lack of faith, idolatry, breaking God’s commandments, and a lack of concern for the poor and vulnerable of society, especially the fatherless, the widows, and the sojourners.

When we read Luke, we find Mary, the mother of Jesus, and Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, inspired by the Spirit to announce the coming of the Messiah and the Kingdom in terms of God’s blessings on the needy.

In Luke’s version of the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus announces blessings on the poor and curses on the rich.

In Acts, we find the newly founded church sharing their possessions, food, and homes not only in hospitality but to care for those in need. Continue reading

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Exile and Repentance, Part 19 (Conclusions, Part 1)

Arch_of_Titus_Menorah“Exile and Repentance” seems rather an odd topic for a single blog post, much less a ridiculous 19 posts (so far). But I hope that the series has helped us all see scriptures in a new light.

It’s not that what we’ve been traditionally taught is wrong but our traditional reading of the text has been very incomplete. We’ve very nearly read the Jewish background out of the texts, forcing countless round texts into square holes.

The OT was written to the Jewish people. The NT was written to a church that was partly Jewish and partly Gentile, but it was largely written by Jews to address Jewish concerns derived from the Jews’ understanding of their place in God’s covenant history. Continue reading

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