Baptism: Once More into the Fray

baptism of Jesus

Kevin asked his question about baptism with such insight that I hate not giving him the best answer I can. On the other hand, like many readers, I’ve had my fill of the wrangling and false accusations and repetition of stale arguments.

I’m not going to go long with this, and I’m not going to tolerate the “my verse is truer than your verse” proof texting so common in both Church of Christ and Baptist rhetoric. We’ve heard it all before so very many times.

Rather, the only question I want to consider is whether baptism is a “work” as Paul uses the term. Therefore, there’s just not much in the Gospels or Acts relevant to the question. Obviously, there is much in those books relevant to baptism, but not to Paul’s use of “work.” Continue reading

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1 Corinthians 1:1-10 (Salutation, Introduction)

1corinthians

(1Co 1:1 ESV) Paul, called by the will of God to be an apostle of Christ Jesus, and our brother Sosthenes,

Paul credits Sosthenes with participating in the composition of the letter. This is likely the same Sosthenes had been the ruler of the synagogue in Corinth, and paid dearly to follow Jesus.

(Act 18:17 ESV) 17 And they all seized Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him in front of the tribunal. But Gallio paid no attention to any of this.

Actually, the text doesn’t say that Sosthenes converted, but it’s hard to make sense of the account unless we assume that to be the case. Evidently, he became a missionary and joined Paul’s missionary team in Ephesus.

(1Co 1:2-3 ESV) 2 To the church of God that is in Corinth, to those sanctified in Christ Jesus, called to be saints together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours: 3 Grace to you and peace from God our Father and the Lord Jesus Christ.

Paul begins with an interesting rhetorical turn. He refers to them as “saints” (holy people, having the same root in Greek as “sanctified”) “together with all those who in every place call upon the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, both their Lord and ours.” He seems to want to remind his readers that they are part of a bigger church universal.

He will make further reference to this fact a few times in the book, likely to emphasize the importance of respecting the sensibilities of the Jews. In short, he’s saying that you aren’t saved to be alone with God but to be part of a church filled with all kinds of people — people who matter just as much as you. And this fact will prove to be significant in Paul’s hermeneutics.

(1Co 1:4-7a ESV) 4 I give thanks to my God always for you because of the grace of God that was given you in Christ Jesus, 5 that in every way you were enriched in him in all speech and all knowledge — 6 even as the testimony about Christ was confirmed among you — 7 so that you are not lacking in any gift,

 

Again, looking ahead to passages chapters away, Paul refers to the spiritual gifts that God has richly given to the congregation. These are good things — so much so that Paul thanks God for giving these gifts.

Moreover, Paul tells us that gifts serve to confirm the “testimony about Christ,” that is, the gospel. Notice that the past tense of “confirmed” does not mean that the gifts no longer exist. The church was still very gifted — suggesting that confirmation of the gospel is not necessarily a singular event. (We’ll discuss the question in more detail when we get to chapter 13.)

(1Co 1:7b-9 ESV) as you wait for the revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ, 8 who will sustain you to the end, guiltless in the day of our Lord Jesus Christ. 9 God is faithful, by whom you were called into the fellowship of his Son, Jesus Christ our Lord.

The “revealing of our Lord Jesus Christ” is a reference to the Second Coming.

Paul then promises that Jesus will keep the Corinthians “guiltless” when Jesus returns. And yet 1 Corinthians is more than plain that they were guilty of some pretty outrageous sins. Grace …

QUESTION: Can you find faith, hope, and love all expressed in vv. 1 – 9?

In v. 9, “faithful” translates pistos, meaning either faithful or … believing. Christians must have faith/be faithful because to have faith/be faithful is to become like God. Really.

It’s implicit in what Paul says. 1 Corinthian is not a great exposition on salvation by faith, as are Galatians and Romans, but there is deep theology tucked away here.

QUESTION: God is faithful to what?

Well, Paul doesn’t say here, but Paul is referencing the element of the gospel tracing all the way back to Genesis when he made a covenant with Abraham, crediting Abraham with righteousness for faith and to bless all nations. Those promises are part of the worldview of Paul and his converts and is implicit in nearly every word. (And expressly laid out in Gal 3 and Rom 4.)

What is the “fellowship of his Son”? “Fellowship” translates koinonia, which can be rendering sharing, partnership, community, or fellowship. The root idea is having something in common. What does Paul think we have in common with Jesus? Likely, sonship because for the first time he refers to Jesus as Son of God.

QUESTION: What else do we have in common with Jesus?

(1Co 1:10 ESV) 10 I appeal to you, brothers, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment.

QUESTION: Why should we agree and be united?

Well, because we are in fellowship with Jesus — and Jesus defines our commonality. We are in common community with each other because we’re all part of the community of Jesus.

And this is critically important: We are saved into a church, living, breathing, growing community. To refer to Christianity as a “personal relationship” denies the even more important corporate relationship.

QUESTION: How can we “agree, and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same judgment” when we disagree about so many things? Can we reasonably expect to agree about everything?

QUESTION: What is essential for us to agree on? What else? (Hint: cheat ahead to vv. 17-18.)

Now that we know that Paul is deeply concerned about unity of the congregation, we might look over vv. 1 – 10 consider how he set up the discussion and how what he’s already said goes to argue the case.

Paul declares the congregation “sanctified” and “saints together with” all other Christians everywhere. The church-universal matters as to how a single congregation conducts itself. Unity is not merely a congregational issue. It’s a church-universal issue.

QUESTION: How well are we doing with that?

In v. 4, Paul reminds them of the grace they’ve received.

QUESTION: How does receiving grace affect how we should treat our brothers? If we’re to be like God, then …

QUESTION: How do the gifts given by God demonstrate their essential unity? Think about confirming the gospel. What does the gospel itself say about unity?

QUESTION: If God considers us guiltless, how should we consider each other?

QUESTION: If God will sustain us to the end, how are we to treat each other? (And, no, it’s not time to discuss the perseverance of the saints. Let’s stick with Paul’s point.)

You see, it’s asking questions like these, pouring over the text time and time again, not proof text by proof text, that helps us dig into what Paul is really saying. He’s not just spouting aphorisms about grace and love to stick on refrigerator magnets. He’s saying that these elemental principles that he’s already taught them while he was there answer the question. If you get the gospel, you get the necessity for unity — and the behaviors and attitudes that will achieve it.

As an aside, the great failure of the 20th Century Churches of Christ is our failure to be like God. We claim grace for ourselves and refuse to extend it to others, using the gospel to divide rather than to unite.

Obviously, there are limits. Not everyone is saved. But if God can view the Corinthians as guiltless despite their division and many other sins, we can accept the church down the road that worships a little different from how we do.

 

 

 

 

 

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Josh Garrels: “The Original Spacefan”

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1 Corinthians: An Introduction, Part 2

1corinthiansThe intended audience

Obviously many members of the church in Corinth were Gentiles. Among the Greeks, prostitution was considered perfectly acceptable behavior, whereas Jews considered it wicked. The fact that the church needed to ask about prostitution shows it had a substantial Greek element.

On the other hand, Paul freely alludes to and argues from the Old Testament as though his readers were familiar with it. That is, he assumes that many of his readers are Jews or God-fearers. In Acts, Luke refers to certain Gentiles as “God fearers,” likely Gentiles associated with the synagogues and worship of Yahweh but who were not circumcised — that is, not proselytes (Acts 10:2; 13:16,26). Continue reading

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1 Corinthians: An Introduction, Part 1

1corinthiansI’ve been asked to write some lesson materials on 1 Corinthians for my church’s fall quarter adult Bible classes. I’ll try to offer some insights into what Paul is saying in 1 Corinthians, especially on questions that are important to today’s church. The lessons should naturally flow from understanding the text.

And 1 Corinthians is very much a book for today’s Churches of Christ. It addresses disfellowshipping a member, the role of women, tongues and other gifts of the Spirit, submitting to the scruples of the “weak” brother, and most importantly, love within the congregation, unity, and the gospel. Continue reading

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Eerdman’s New Testament Commentaries Collection

Eerdmans New Testament Commentaries Collection (4 vols.)Shortly after my back surgery, in November of last year, the good people at Logos Bible Software asked me to review the Logos electronic version of the Eerdmans New Testament Commentaries Collection.

I warned Logos that I had several books ahead of them and could be a long time getting well — all of which proved true.

Nonetheless, I’ve been plugging along, reading these books on Vyrso or Logos software. Vyrso is the Logos version of Kindle, allowing me to read these books on my iPhone as well as on my PC. Continue reading

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Apologetics: Presuppositional Apologetics

[It'll be well worth your time to watch all three videos.] Continue reading

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Apologetics: The Resurrection of Jesus

emptytomb3A central claim of Christianity is that Jesus was resurrected from the dead. In particular, “resurrection” is not a dead man’s incorporeal, phantasmagorical spirit floating off to heaven.

Rather, the claim is that Jesus’ body left the grave re-animated and transformed into a body given by the Spirit (1 Cor 15:44). That is, Christian faith insists on an empty tomb.

What evidence of an empty tomb is there? After all, finding a First Century tomb with no one in it would hardly prove that Jesus had been buried there. No, the evidence is not archaeological but historical. Continue reading

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Apologetics: Archaeology and the Bible, Part 2

archaeologyOld Testament

The Dead Sea Scrolls

These were found in 1946 by a shepherd boy in caves near the Dead Sea. There are hundreds of such caves, and many are very difficult to reach. Fortunately, the boy’s goats wandered into a cave that held scrolls, leading to the greatest Biblical archaeological discovery of the 20th Century.

Scholars have only recently published the full texts of the scrolls, and they have shed tremendous light on Second Temple Judaism from about 200 BC to shortly after the time of the apostles. Continue reading

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Apologetics: Archaeology and the Bible, Part 1

archaeologyWe really can’t fairly consider the impact of archaeology on the Bible’s authenticity without knowing a little history.

Of course, for centuries, the Western world just assumed the Bible to be true and felt no need to test its claims against archaeology. However, by the late 19th Century, European skepticism had come to dominate Christian education. In fact, at this time the center of Christian scholarship was Germany, with Tübingen University being the center of New Testament Higher Criticism. Continue reading

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