Posts from the GA list

I don’t know yet what to do with these posts of mine I collected from the Gospel Advocate list forum, now inactive, so I’m going to store them here. Lots of good stuff, biblical study material, if you don’t mind the occasional nature of the conversation.


>Having read many of the writings of the early christian fathers and finding that much was said about fasting, I would like to read your comments concerning fasting today. I know that Christ taught that it was not to be done to be seen of men. Was this one of the many Jewish laws that was gradually done away with?

Fasting is one of those subject about which we have little to say, because we practice it little. Being one of those practices associated with intensive and directed prayer, it points up our faults. I went 20 years without hearing a peep about it in the church.

As a commandment, there is no set day nor form. However, Jesus said his people would fast after his departure. And the early church did, as a church. See Acts 13:1-3, where fasting is mentioned back-to-back on two occasions. The Holy Spirit called the church to send missionaries while they were fasting. As a part of the ordaining process, the church fasted. Perhaps those two events, or the lack of them, have something to do with our lack of fasting.

Fasting is not merely an individual practice, but a determination to give ourselves to prayer and dependence upon the Lord as we minister to him and look toward new and greater service.

Here in Brazil in the last months, two churches have called the brotherhood to prayer and fasting as new works have begun. They were doing exactly what the church did in the NT.

Jesus, as did Moses and Elijah before him, fasted 40 days and nights. We do well to go 4 hours!

So put fasting (back) in your spiritual life and ministry, for it is one more means of concentrating wholly on doing the will of God.

Spiritual is

Phil, a wonderful post, yours! Yes, spirituality concentrates in doing the whole will of God and in teaching other to do so as well. Jesus’ Great Commission points up the task of the disciple is to “observe all that I have commanded you,” and to teach the converts to do the same. Just as in his Sermon on the Mount, Jesus said our righteousness must surpass (and certainly be of a completely different kind) that of the scribes and Pharisees, and he who keeps and teaches the least of the commandments will be called great in the kingdom of heaven (Mt 5:19-22).

The spirit of Dt 5:27-33 (who will go read it?) should reign in our hearts, for it does not represent the attitude of legalism nor law. God sighed! Here is what he wants: speak all, keep all commandments, always, with the whole heart, walk in all the way. This is spirituality and holiness, to be devoted wholly to the Lord God and to love him with all one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength.

As far as the word spiritual, see these texts that refer to the actions of the spiritual person. We might say that, among other things, spiritual is:

1. Correcting an erring brother in the spirit of meekness, Gl 6:1.

2. Recognizing the apostolic, authoritative Scripture, instead of being a religious maverick and innovating new, disorderly practices in the church, 1Co 14:37-38.

3. Appraising all things by the words of the Spirit, rather than elevating favorite preachers or personal opinions, 1Co 2:15.

Spiritual is, indeed, walking according to the Spirit’s direction in the way of the Lord. The spiritual mindset is reflected in the decision of Ezra. “For Ezra has set his heart to study the law of the Lord, and to practice it, and to teach His statues and ordinances in Israel,” Ez 7:10, NASB.

GAList Participation

Do you participate in the GA List just because it’s here? My ministry is in Portuguese, but I have purposely made some exceptions to open some fronts in English. Those specific areas have to have some good reasons tucked under my arm. Here is why I participate in the GA List.

1. Some time ago, I mentioned to Greg, our list overseer, that I was on the GA List because I had benefitted for many years from both the GA magazine and its publications. My presence here was in a small way a means of returning the favor.

2. A second reason is to bring a missiological perspective to the list. Discussions often do not get beyond our four walls and our immediate concerns. I hope to throw up a flag now and again to remind us what our mission is all about as God’s people.

3. Rounding it out with a trinitarian third, discussions should be brought around the the central questions of the faith. That means bringing in the sacred text to focus upon the nature and character of God, the eternal plan of global redemption, and the person and work of Christ.

Sure, I get sidetracked now and again, but I try to run through these reasons before posting or responding to a post. Helps weigh the type of material I put up.

Now, what did you say was your reason for participating on the GA List?

Greg’s Ressurrection Post and New Developments

Greg, your post on the ressurrection was most felicitous, and it is the kind of material I really like to see. You dealt well with the skepticism in light of Jesus’ return from the dead. When you posted it, I was up to my ears in work and could not respond.

Your post also reminds me that, from current reports, people are turning away in large numbers from skepticism, because they see it as the dead end that it is. With its high profile, the New Age / Spirituality movement has received many of these skeptical refugees with open arms. It offers a have-it-all smorgasbord, while still pretending to provide some spiritual underpinnings.

Would we not do well to get in there and scrap, not necessarily through mass media, but equip our people to offer a clear and reasonable response to both the skepticism and the New Age alternative? Though we still need to hear the denominational doctrines correctives, we urgently need retooling to deal with other issues in our culture that are passing us by, and, as a result, leave us speaking to ourselves.

On that note, one item I have encountered with denominationals in the modern ecumenical movement abroad even in the most conservative groups, is that people don’t defend denominations anymore (unless you’re in the hierarchy), but see it basically as a non-question. To them, it isn’t relevant anymore. That is a twist in the issue we really haven’t dealt with much. We’re on the same subject, but the thinking has changed. Our arguments could stand brushing up to meet and challenge this development.

All this to say, I’d like to see more posts like the one on the Ressurrection of Christ facing off the current trends around us.

God Cuts a Covenant with Abraham

The smoking furnace (firepot) with the flaming torch in Gn 15:17 as a symbol of God is unique in Scripture. Fire is often used to portray the Lord, but only here is found such a theophany. There is evidently no representation of the triune nature of God. (What are you counting as three here?)

It is significant that only God passes through the pieces, whereas generally both parties did so as a sign of their commitment to the terms of the pact. We may surmise, therefore, that God is designating the covenant as unilateral, dependent entirely upon his goodness and power.

The fire pot was evidently some sort of portable cooking device about a meter high, according to scholars, a kitchen appliance, if you please (see TWOT II:975). As in the NIV text, we may understand that the burning torch proceeded from the mouth of the pot.

It might be, therefore, that the Lord intended to communicate that, just as he provided Abram’s daily food, he was also guaranteeing the fulfilment of the promise of the land, which Abram was doubting and for which requested a sign. How appropriate that each time Abram sat down to eat, he would be reminded of God’s commitment to him by seeing Sara’s fire pot. The sign provided served as a testimony to the faithfulness of God, in spite of the many years that would necessarily pass before the promise would be fulfilled.

A Case of Untickled Ears

>Let’s suppose that over the past two years I have noticed that I wasn’t feeling more spiritual as a result of attending worship services.

Are you proposing a hypothetical situation? Or dealing with your actual state of mind? I’m not one to enjoy supposing. Reminds me too much of the Saducees favorite story about the man with seven wives invented to stump the Pharisees.

I don’t feel spiritual about 80% of the time. But then I quit taking my emotional pulse. Examining my belly button tended to multiply the fat cells and dry up the muscles.

I understand that we gather together for reasons other than to come away feeling spiritual. If you don’t go in the Spirit, you won’t likely come away spiritual.

> In particular the preaching, while biblical, was uninspiring.

It’s difficult to know if the preacher was really churning out flat-line messages or if the hearer was filtering out straight spiritual talk. Assuming the former, one might ask how much the congregation is valuing and encouraging the preacher. Even monetarily. When did you last compliment or encourage him?

> Having heard several others complain privately about the lack of spirituality and emotion in the worship service, I contacted everyone I knew who was dissatisfied and asked for a private meeting with the elders of the church.

My Bible says complaining is a sin.

> Twelve out of two hundred families of the congregation were represented, although I am sure we speak for many more.

How are you sure? Doesn’t sound like you got much of a group there.

> While the elders agreed to look into ways in which worship could be more effective, they are still retaining the services of this emotionally sterile preacher.

Maybe considerations other than cotton candy have led them to retain him.

> What steps could I now take to enhance the church if the leadership is unwilling to embrace the changes that are so obviously needed?

Change yourself and quit worrying about the other guy. That’s what I tell every couple who need counselling. And start working on your mental spiritual capacities and quit trying to fire up the emotion. It’s a lost cause.

May the anonymous poster and readers excuse my directness and brashness, but his sentiments point up exactly what ails the American church: a desire to have ears tickled to get the emotions excited. Sorry, but my Bible reads a lot different than that.

Certainly, I’m not for Sleepytime preaching and anybody who can preach a boring sermon about the most exciting venture of all time and eternity has to work hard at it. On the other hand, entertainment it’s not. Trying to soup up a sermon is like putting Bozo to play in the World Cup. He’s fine in his little party, but don’t ask him to do what he wasn’t cut out for.

Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel (even if I were a gambler) that you are a consistent, deeply devotional person in your walk with God, nor that you´ve led a person to Christ in recent times. You want an emotional high? Baptize someone into Jesus that you have taught. Sweat it out with a couple on the verge of divorce to bring hope into their life. Show someone else how to sit down one-on-one and teach salvation. Get out of the church building and into the streets where the sole wears out so you can produce souls that never die. God forgive our whining and complaining!

A Case of Righteous Judgment

>>On May 19, 12:20 pm, Randal Matheny wrote:
>>Correct me if I’m wrong, but I wouldn’t bet a plug nickel (even if I were a gambler) that you are a consistent, deeply devotional person in your walk with God, nor that you´ve led a person to Christ in recent times.
>Nelta: I don’t know who you are talking to but this statement is the most arrogent display of Christianity I have read in a long time. And to go further it is one of total judging of another of God’s children.

Did you not read the post I was responding to? Read it before judging what I wrote.

American Christianity is so weak, anytime someone speaks prophetically, he is, not unlike the OT prophets, condemned for judging. Jesus said to judge righteous judgment and not by appearances. Ivory’s post, taken as written, was blantantly unChristian and worldly and a number of brethren rightfully called him to task for it. Yes, it was judging, and it was judging according to Scripture, in case you haven’t read yours lately.

>You want an emotional high?

>Nelta: Having an emotional high is not what a humble servant of Christ gets when he serves God. There is too much of himself put into the occasion.

Read the intent of the statement, Nelta. You are reading to criticize, for my statement was exactly a condemnation of the heart which seeks titillation.

>Baptize someone into Jesus that you have taught. Sweat it out with a couple on the verge of divorce to bring hope into their life. Show someone else how to sit down one-on-one and teach salvation.

>Nelta: I’d better not comment here, since my words might come out wrong.

You just did.

>Get out of the church building and into the streets where the sole wears out so you can produce souls that never die. God forgive our whining and complaining!

>Nelta: True we are not to whine or complain (as we all do from time to time), nor are we to brag of our accomplishments as we, at the same time, put-down other children of God. However, God is gracious to forgive….when one repents of such.

I did not make a single statement as to any supposed accomplishment of mine. I told Ivory what he should be doing, according to Scripture, instead of plotting uprisings in his congregation, for which there is ample evidence to condemn severely.

You condemn me for judging, calling it an arrogant display of Christianity. You have just been guilty of what you accuse me of. If there is to be no judging at all, why did you submit your post? By it, you have judged yourself.

Looking for an Evangelist

>I have recently come in contact with a small group of folks meeting in Belfast Northern Ireland, who are desperately seeking help in getting an evangelist to work with them. Anyone interested would need support. I’m sure there is someone out there who is looking for this type of opportunity, and a church or churches who would be looking for something like this to support. How do we go about finding out if there is any interest out there? Any advice in this area would be appreciated.

I would say one creates such interest instead of finding it. Also, in the meantime, send someone to teach them to evangelize instead of relying on a full-time worker. May God bless them to reach out to such a needy region.

For whom did Christ die?

> My question is, When Christ died on the cross over 2000 years ago, for whom did He die and whose sins are then nailed to the cross?

Having read all the posts regarding your question, I confess also as not to understanding completely its direction. Considering, however, that it deals directly with the Cross of Christ, the desire to address it has overtaken me.

Christ died for the sins of the entire world. John declares him to be “the Savior of the world” (1Jo 4:14), just as the Samaritans acclaimed him (Jo 4:42). John declares that Christ “is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1Jo 2:2, NIV).

A phrase of Paul’s gives us another clue when he describes the living God as “the Savior of all men, and especially of those who believe” (1Tm 4:10). Paul’s “especially” (Gr., malista, “above all, especially, particularly”) here suggests the application of Jesus’ sacrifice among “all men” for whom the sacrifice was made. Christ has done his work in benefit of all mankind. It remains, therefore, to apply these benefits through the preaching of “repentance and forgiveness of sins,” as Luke sums up the content of the message (Lk 24:47). The benefits of his death for all men are real, but must be appropriated, accepted, received, or applied in order to take advantage of this great blessing.

Thus, the doctrines of Universalism, on the one hand, and Calvinism, on the other, fail to accurately portray both the reality and reach of Christ’s atoning death as well as the conditional nature of salvation based upon repentance and obedience.

The deep things of God and spirituality

> From 1 Cor. 2:10: “But God hath revealed them unto us by His Spirit: for the Spirit searcheth all things, yea, the deep things of God.” It is these “deep things” I believe is of concern to our “spirituality.

Indeed, so, for it is these deep things of God that the Spirit reveals to us so that we may know the mind of God. These deep things (lit. “depths, profundities,” gr. bathe) are nothing less than “the activity of God” (TDNT) or his “deep laid plans” (Wm Green). Since the Spirit has full knowledge of God, he is quite able to reveal to us those things that pertain to our salvation. All else remains God’s domain (see Dt 29:29).

So much so that “mystery” in Paul’s thought (see 1Co 2:7) is “that which was hidden, but now is revealed,” regarding the purpose of God in Christ. The mystery is now “the object of revelation” (TDNT).

All this goes to say that our spirituality is concerned with those things (let’s sum them up in Christ, shall we?) brought to us from the inscrutable mind of God by his Spirit. With no desire to diminish the sovereignty and transcendence of the Lord, we must devote ourselves to the “open secret” in Christ. In fact, the spiritual person who lives by the word of the Lord is he who appreciates best not only “what God has freely given us” (1Co 2:12), but as well the boundless riches of his wisdom and the unfathomable reach of his providence.

Spirituality, then, is concerned with the Word (John 1:1, 14), that singular expression which reveals the humanly unknowable mind of God.

Fanning the flame

(On the GA List 24 February 99, a man wrote, with the subject line
“Keepin’ It Goin’,” “I just want the flame back stronger than ever and
keep it.” Among good responses by other listers, here was my answer.)

With your sensibility to your need, you have already made the first great step. You are aware of the enormous Grace that made salvation possible and put fullness of life at your grasp. Focus now on the person and work of God in Jesus. Take up the cross to die to self’s small subjects and walk in the joy of the Lord’s presence and in the peace of his care. Find your fulfillment in his task.

Open your eyes to the people, the individuals around you. Take a small step toward doing something for someone, outside of your usual routine. Break the old rut of habit by a small, but important initiative to help someone. Do this because Jesus stopped to help those whom he saw in need.

All of us are subject to doldrums and depressions. They are signs of humanity and plagues to consecration. Yet even in the midst of them, the Father teaches us he is sufficient for this also. In the valleys he takes us by the hand and carries us through.

To keep it going? A phrase sums it up: “Decision determines destiny.” When I decide, really decide, to follow Jesus, the barriers are thrown down and the obstacles exploded. “With your help I can advance against a troop; with my God I can scale a wall” (Ps 18:29, NIV).

The Seven Spirits of God

Whitestone7 has asked where he can find the names of the seven Spirits
of God mentioned in Rev 3:1. The “seven Spirits” are mentioned in 1:4 in between God and Christ, which leads one to conclude that the reference is to the Holy Spirit. Why seven Spirits? The NIV footnote offers an alternate translation of “the sevenfold Spirit.” The number seven in Rev, which is a highly symbolic book, carries the meaning of perfection. Thus the meaning would be “the perfect Spirit.” Or perhaps it refers to the Spirit who is present in each of the seven churches to whom John will address himself shortly.

The names of the seven Spirits are therefore the names of the Holy Spirit of God.

Predestination in Romans 8

Shoeboxlarry asks about predestination in Romans 8:28-31. In this passage, v. 29, predestination refers not to people, but to a purpose. God determined from eternity that those who chose to obey him (see v. 28, “those who love him”) would receive the great promise of sanctification — becoming “conformed to the likeness of his Son” — and the great challenge of realizing effectually this promise set before them. Its final fulfillment will occur at the resurrection, when the likeness will be complete, for “when he appears, we shall be like him” (1 John 3:2).

This predestination, then, defines the goal of those who turn to the Lord. It is not the personal, individual chosing of some to the exclusion of others on a basis beyond our comprehension, but the determination of what the future holds for those who in their free will before God chose to serve him and seek first his Kingdom.

The Gospel is for All

The work of salvation and the privilege of becoming a child of God is dependent upon receiving Jesus, just as John 1:12 affirms: “Yet to all who received him, to those who believed in this name, he gave the right to become children of God.” It is God’s desire that all people everywhere come to repentance and salvation.

Let us note, among other passages, Acts 4:12: “Salvation is found in no one else, for there is no other name under heaven given to men by which we must be saved.”

The salvation to which Peter refers in v. 12 moves from the physical restoration of the lame man to the spiritual hope available in Christ. What Christ did not do physically for all — healing — he does indeed offer spritually, even for those like the rulers and elders of the people who until now have rejected him as the central work of God.

“No other (Gr. heretos) name” implies a personal decision. Since there is no one else, “this is why the message of the Gospel demands decision” (TDNT 2:703). In the context of Peter’s statement, this is why he preaches and, indeed, must preach, for people will not be saved unless they hear and respond to the Good News. Thus, his newfound courage springs from his conviction that only through obedience to this message will people be able to be saved (1Pet 1.2, 22). By Jesus’ “name,” “Peter embraces the whole content of the message of salvation” (TDNT 5:274).

The name of Jesus is “under heaven given to men” for their salvation (Acts 4:12). The phrase “under heaven” (Gr. hupo ton ouranon) expresses what it means “to be man and to live on earth” (TDNT 5: 534), thus indicating the universality of the message and the exclusivisity of salvation in Jesus. (See also Acts 5:5, “every nation under heaven”; Col. 1:23, the gospel proclaimed “to every creature under heaven”.) “Men” here means “people” in general (English Study Bible, Harold Littrell) or “mankind” as a whole. This is borne out by Acts 22:15, where Paul is called to be an apostle to witness “to all men” (pros pantas anthropous) and John’s testimony is given so that “through him [Jesus] all men (Gr. pantes) might believe” (John 1:7). Just as the result of one man condemnation came upon all men, so also the result of Jesus’ death brought life potentially for “all men” (Rom 5:18).

If language means anything, Paul’s statement in 1Tim 2:4 is unmistakable: “God our Savior . . . wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.” Jesus gave himself as a ransom for all men, Paul declares (v. 6), and therefore this salvation must be proclaimed to all in order that they may respond to it and receive the benefits of Jesus’ death. Otherwise, they will be lost in their sins. That is why Paul says that God “is the Savior of all men [in potential], and especially of those who believe [in actuality]” (1Tim 4:10).

This is not some theological stumbling of the apostle, for it represents his constant conviction which compels him to preach the gospel in every place. Christians must conduct themselves in such a way as to “make the teaching about God our Savior attractive” to all, “for the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11). Thus, everyone is a proper target of our attentions as we seek to convince others to receive Jesus as their Lord and Savior in faith and obedience.

Peter’s language is just as clear, for he presents the Lord as “not wanting any one to perish, but everyone to come to repentance” (2Pet 3:9). Repentance here, standing for one’s entire conversion, is the basis upon which one may avoid perishing. Repentance is a personal decision to turn from sin to serve the living God. It is therefore the means by which one may be saved, since it leads one to complete that obedience in confession and baptism, and is so essential to salvation that it is often put to represent one’s conversion to the Lord (Lk 24:47). An individual’s decision, therefore, determines his eternal destiny, for either one trusts in the Lord for salvation or remains in one’s sins for condemnation. It is these destinies the Lord has predestined, rather than single individuals.

The apostle John agrees with Paul and Peter, for he was guided as they were by the Holy Spirit of God. To Christians who might think, as Israel of old did, that the great gift of God was for just a few select individuals, he declares, “Jesus Christ, the Righteous One . . . is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world” (1John 2:1-2). “World” here referes to mankind — Jesus is the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world (John 1:29). “Whole” refers to the entirety. Jesus did not die for a select few, but for every human being who ever lived or ever will live.

Returning to Acts 4:12, the name, or message, “given” to men (Gr. didomi) indicates the grace of God by which this salvation came. The impersonal passive, in Hebrew mode of thought, often pointed to the hand of God, as here.

The word “must” (Gr. dei) expresses the character of necessity or compulsion and, in Luke-Acts, is “used as a general expression for the will of God” (TDNT 2:22) and necessarily included man’s response to the divine event, as expressed by the Philippian jailer: “Sirs, what must (dei) I do to be saved?” (Acts 16:30). This necessity is well expressed by Paul’s declaration that “God commands all people everywhere to repent” (Acts 17:30). Certainly, God would not command all people everywhere to do something for which they could never receive salvation and justification. In fact, verse 31 indicates that those who refuse to repent will be judged; everyone will be saved or condemned based upon their response to “the man he has appointed.”

The Jews understood well that the great goal of preaching was to persuade people to follow Jesus. They charged Paul with “persuading people to worship God in ways contrary to the law” (Acts 18:13). Thus, the great “necessity” is faith and obedience to the message preached, that sins might be forgiven and the individual thereby justified before God. Paul became all things to all men, in order that he might by all possible means “win as many as possible” (1Cor 9:19-22). This language is far from a select number already decided upon by God. Paul sees his ministry as one of preaching Christ and convincing people to convert to him. Understanding that all must appear before the judgment seat of Christ and knowing the fear of God, Paul says, “we try to persuade men” (2Cor 5:10-11). His goal of preaching to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ was to “make plain to everyone the administration of this mystery” now revealed in the Son of God (Eph 3.8-9).

Thus, when Peter declares that it is by this name that we must be saved, he thinks also of what must be done to receive that salvation as well. This demonstrates the fallacy of individual predestination, for it predicates the salvation of the individual based upon his or her response to the gospel message.

The last word in this verse is the word “we” (Gr. hemas). “We must be saved.” Peter emphatically included himself, his apostolic colleagues, and his hearers, the rulers and elders, to emphasize the need to personally receive the message of Christ. For the one who rejects the message also rejects God’s salvation and has no other means of hope. Salvation is in the name given to all men, and, in order for it to be applied individually, its conditions of faith and obedience must be accepted.

The Treasury on Sunday

nib’s definition and description of the treasury was helpful in terms of understanding his perspective and his very correct criticism of wrong attitudes toward money and giving. However, we shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bath water in trying to remediate wrong attitudes and practices. I’m reminded of the Lord’s criticism in Psalm 50 of Israelites who were offering sacrifices as if by them they were in some way satisfying some need that the Lord might have. They also seemed to be proud that they were giving the Lord something from **their** stalls (note the accents in vv. 8-10), when everything they had belonged to God to start with.

Here are a few notes I made earlier regarding the treasury in the NT that may or may not have something to say regarding nib’s concerns or the present discussion.

According to the ISBE (2nd. ed.), a treasury is “either a place where valuables are kept (e.g. 1 Ch. 28:11f.) or a collection made up of valuable items (e.g. Ezr. 2:69)” (4:899). By this definition of biblical usage, the collection of the church automatically constitutes a treasury, although the actual word is used in Scripture of the temple treasury.

The references in 1 Corinthians to “collection” or “gathering” (16:1-2) imply some sort of managing, storing, and accounting of funds. In fact, the word Paul uses in v. 2, “saving it up” (NIV; thesaurizo; “store it up,” RSV) means literally to put into the treasury, being the verb form of the word for treasury (thesauros; see TDNT; McGarvey’s commentary). This meaning should be so understood in 16:2, considering the public nature of the collection and is so translated by Harold Littrell in the English Study Bible.

The Corinthians had to decide on their own where, who and how to care for the offerings while the apostle Paul delayed. The details of such were not unimportant, for the principle of doing right not only in the Lord’s sight, but also in the sight of others would apply to these arrangements, as Paul was careful to do in transporting these funds to Jerusalem (2Cor 8:16-24). But thanks be to God that he leaves such details to his church to arrange according to the principles laid down! Otherwise, we would be burdened with so many volumes of cases and laws and precendents that I suppose the world could not contain them all.

If Richard will allow us to admit Jesus’ example again (no response needed, my friend), we note that Judas was in charge of the “common purse” (John 12:6; 13:29, NRSV; “money bag”, NIV). Many of the commentators, among them Frank Pack in the Sweet series, will say that Judas served as what? The treasurer. Never mind that he had his hand in the till. The divinely approved arrangement served to apply funds to needs as they arose, rather than scraping together monies at the last minute in a shameful, unprepared manner that would bring disrepute upon the Master’s community and his leadership.

Now perhaps nib has a problem with the way the treasury is used in the church. I also have had some quibbles myself in certain situations I have witnessed. But a basic principle applies here: the abuse of a thing is not an argument against its use. Correct the abuse so that the use may contribute to the progress of the gospel and thereby glorify God.

One more note: I disagree vehemently with J. I. Packer in _God’s Words_ (Baker, 1981), when he alleges that the suggestion to return to biblical words and language is “specious and the objections to it seem unanswerable” (p. 13). I stand fully with those who believe it offers the only means of respecting the authority of Scripture and guaranteeing the unity of the Spirit.

At the same time, Scripture must be properly understood (exegeted) and interpreted. The highly criticized “necessary inference” was evidently suggested as a recognition that not all important subjects in Scripture are spelled out in systematic, blatant form (few are, in fact). The Lord expects us to use our intelligence and inately logical mind to think through the message of the Word and apply its story, principles, and commandments to ourselves. He did not see fit to spell out every line and action.

As well, the literature is out there to be consulted and studied. For example, back in 1903, the Gospel Advocate treated a subject almost identical to this one (most appropriate since we are on the GA List). See _Questions Answered by Lipscomb and Sewell_ (GA, 1921; 1974 reprint), p. 129.

Thus, a slavish devotion to a surface reading of the biblical text without an appreciation as to its deeper meaning and application will lead us to quibble with many efforts and methods that do not measure up to our personal stick.

I understand Ray Hawk’s post on the authority for “amen” to be a poke at just such a slavish devotion and I certainly appreciate his effort in that direction. The attention given to such subjects as the treasury, hand clapping and others certainly are within the parameters of biblical consideration. The amount of attention they receive, however, on such a list as this in comparison to the weightier matters of the gospel cause me no little concern.

If Christians from other countries such as Brazil were to sit in on these discussions, they would, in large measure, come away shaking their heads, wondering why the tempest in a teapot. For so many of these concerns simply have little relevance in cross-cultural settings (try talking about the KJV to a Brazilian!). These non-transferable subjects should give us a clue as to their ranking in the Lord’s mind, for the message of the gospel is for all men and only those things that can be preached to all are of first importance.

Laying by in store

>nib: After reading from almost all translations (that I could get my hands on) they each say, “Let everyone of you lay by HIM in store.” … quite clear that whatever was gathered was kept with the person until Paul arrived.

It appears you just read the KJV/ASV, as those two are the only ones I consulted (besides J.B. Phillips, if you want to count his translation) that have the reading “lay by him.” The phrase “par’ heauto” is ambiguous: it may be neuter, translated as “by itself.” It thus means to lay aside, or separate, this amount by itself as an offering into the church treasury.

If it is not a collection (treasury) of the church, the latter part of the verse is nonsense: “so that when I come no collections will have to be made.” If each one keeps an amount separated at home until Paul comes, then a collection would need to be hastily made, exactly what he wants to avoid.

>nib: I don’t see anywhere we are commanded or suggested that we meet on the first day of the week. We really don’t know why Paul told them to gather it on the first day of the week, yet we have made a complete religious day out of it and then did the same about the treasury.

nib, I confess to a certain exasperation here. Biblical evidence, liberal and conservative scholarship, and early church history point toward the first day of the week as the principal day of the church’s meeting in the NT. Jesus rose on the first day, met with his disciples after his resurrection on the first day, the church began on the first day. In Acts 20:6 Paul and company wait seven days in Troas. Why? Because on the first day the church met to break bread and Paul wanted to be present. A special time for the church that Paul didn’t want to miss. Verse 7 presents the actual purpose of the first-day meeting: to take the Lord’s supper, obeying Jesus’ command. This was their practice. John called it the “Lord’s Day” (Rev. 1:10). By the end of the first century, this had already become a technical term for it, so important it was to the Christians. Early second century documents testify to the universal practice. I’ll not parade the evidence, but it is there.

>nib: Actually, that is the gest of what he did say. BTW I can’t see that it had to be money. It could have been goods.

Could have been, but workers at the time were often paid in coin. See Jesus’ parables. And Paul definitely has in mind here money which can be easily transported to Jerusalem. It certainly could not have been perishable goods, as they would be sitting for some time until Paul’s arrival. So scratch any agricultural products. No refrigerators, no preservatives back then.

>nib: If we insist that the first day of the week is when we meet together (no scriptural proof) then we can make that verse mean a treasury.

Why on each first day of the week? You haven’t answered that one. There is no reason for Paul to say each first day of the week if they are to do this at home. His instruction becomes nonsensical and superfluous. And it is each first day of the week, because the church meets each first day of the week.

Let me add this: It is popular and offers a feeling of liberation to be a tradition blaster. Granted, there are many ways of doing biblical things that are non-essential. There are even some things that have crept in that have nothing to do with biblical practice. But most of what we practice as Christians has a solid biblical basis. Broad, sweeping charges about tradition are not helpful and actually damage people’s faith. Where a congregation is missing something, inch them back toward Scripture, instead of start swinging with a manchete. And start on the big issues like speaking a good word for Jesus to our neighbors!

Dear God in Heaven, get us away from navel-gazing and nitpicking and into the harvest!

The conversion of Cornelius

Dee, I deeply enjoyed your response and find your post challenging. Please take my comments below in the spirit of admiration, which I dearly hope they transmit. Probably I have written far too much. The exchange, however, is stimulating for me in our search for better understanding of the Lord’s precious Word.

>Randal: Peter’s question is rhetorical …
>dee: What is the assurance that this question is rhetorical? A command is given in the face of reluctance, and in this story, none of the reluctance is exhibited by Cornelius. Three times Peter refuses to obey a spectacularly-direct command; about the first thing they say to Cornelius is that it is unlawful for them to be there; Peter is speaking for himself when he states his realization that God has no favorite nations. So when he asks about forbidding water, he is shocking the rest of them into seeing the same thing now that he had suddenly seen. A rhetorical question has a strong flavor of, “Well, of course, everyone already knows this…” No, they had not all “of a truth, perceived…” at this moment.

Randal again:
A command is not given only in the face of reluctance. Peter gives a command in Acts 2:38 after the hearers plead with him to inform them what they must do to be saved. A command may also be given in the face of ignorance, as was the case of Cornelius. God sent Peter to tell Cornelius and household the story of Jesus and how they should respond to it — message for salvation (11:14).

>back to Randal—
>and serves to point up the the eligibility of the Gentiles to receive salvation: “Can anyone withhold the water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” (10:47). He even includes himself in this group as he later relates the story: “. . . who was I that I could hinder God?” (11:17).

>dee interrupts —
at several places in the two chapters, there is surprise expressed that the Holy Spirit was given to Gentiles. No one seemed to think that they were unqualified for that blessing because they were not baptized, or not saved, just that they were not Jews.

Randal again: agreed.

> back to Randal–
>Indeed, the issue IS salvation. For it was just as Peter was discoursing about forgiveness of sins (10:43-44) that the Holy Spirit fell upon those who heard the word. His descent was to clear the way of any objections by the Jewish believers to the baptism of Cornelius and family, as Peter’s question in 10:47 demonstrates, so that they might be saved.

>dee interrupts —
>the objections raised in 11:1-3 were based on fellowship, not salvation.

Randal back again: Yes, the objections were based on fellowship, because the circumcised believers from Jerusalem did not at that point consider the Gentiles as possible candidates for God’s salvation. Since they were outside the pale of the divine plan, in their view, they were not worthy of fellowship. Even for the Jewish believers, fellowship hinged on salvation, or we might say, election.

In Joppa, salvation has come (“many believed in the Lord”, 9:42) and, lo and behold! Peter is in the house of Simon the tanner (9:43), an unclean trade, says E. M. Blaiklock in his commentary in the Tyndale series (1959). Peter’s willingness to stay with Simon “indicates that a measure of Jewish prejudice was already banished from his thinking” (p. 94). Peter has also been sensitized sufficiently by the vision that he invites Gentiles into the house as his guests! (10:23). He also apparently stays in Cornelius’s home for several days (10:48), for we may assume the invitation was accepted or we would be informed otherwise.

>now back to Randal—
>>The question of fellowship is a problem that will be raised later in the book of Acts, but at this point it has not surfaced to trouble the church (see, for example, R. N. Longnecker, “The Acts of the Apostles,” _Expositor’s Bible Commentary_, 1981, pp. 397-398). One would surmise that Peter accepted Cornelius’s invitation to stay for several days (10:48).

>dee replies — Later, in this case, is about 3 verses later. Look again at the fraction of the ink in Acts 10 that is used to work on tensions between the ethnic groups. This story happened in Cesarea and Joppa; Peter was called on the carpet in Jerusalem. There is an old saying that it is easier to be a liberal when far from home; this may be the case here.

Randal again:
When you are far from home, you confront new situations that call for new responses which leave you open to the charge of being liberal. Whether that is the case here or not I do not know. I clarify my statement about fellowship problem popping up later: it is a problem between Jew and Gentile **believers** later on. Here it is a problem with Gentiles, period. It is not the same kind of fellowship problem. Later, no one questions whether or not Gentiles can be saved. Here, that fact has yet to be established in the minds of the folks back home in Jerusalem.

>back to Randal–
>>If I. H. Marshall, in his Acts commentary in the Tyndale series (1980), is correct that Peter’s question was designed to encourage the Christians present to perform the baptism of Cornelius and family, the point still remains that he orders the Gentile household to submit to this essential act.

>dee interrupts — what aspects of the narration and the grammar make this an encouragement to the Jews, and at the same time an order for
submission to the Gentiles? Cornelius was submissive from the get-go. The issue is not what was essential, but who needed commanding with respect to doing what was essential.

Randal again:
I am not certain that Marshall is correct here, but IF he is, there are two separate items in the text capable of being directed toward the believers and Cornelius and crew. Peter’s question (rhetorical or not) in verse 47 may be directed toward the believers; his order in verse 48 is clearly directed toward Cornelius. The concern not to omit water baptism from this episode possibly comes from disagreement with Pentecostals who can only see the baptism of the Holy Spirit here and who substitute it for immersion. It is a genuine concern in such polemical contexts. Indeed, you are most correct in that Cornelius was submissive from the beginning. And at this point he needs to know what to do to accept Jesus. Peter exclaims to the Joppa brethren that Cornelius is divinely approved to accept the gospel and that this acceptance is seen at this moment in baptism. Thus, he orders them to be baptized in the name of Jesus Christ (v. 48). The issue is indeed what was essential, for Cornelius did not know and he needed to be informed how to obey Jesus! The Italian centurion had told Peter that they were all gathered “in the presence of God to listen to all that the Lord has COMMANDED you to say” (10:33). Peter commands Cornelius to obey what he has been commanded to preach. When he recounts Cornelius’s words he records this comment of the angel to the centurion: “Peter . . . will give you a message by which you and your entire household will be saved” (11:14). Salvation is written all over this passage. The clincher is 11:18: “God has given even to the Gentiles the repentance that **leads to life**.”

>back to Randal —
>Rather, it demonstrates how much the Gentiles need salvation in Christ through their conversion as do the Jews.

>dee interrupts now to disagree —
>Salvation is more than a relationship with God; it also includes relationships with “the saved”, e.g Acts 2:47. It was easy for God to “grant repentance [11:18]” on His terms; it was hard for the others to grant fellowship on God’s terms.

Randal again:
Agreed, salvation involves both our relationship to God and our relationship to the saved. The question is, which is prior? The issue of salvation for the Gentiles has not yet been settled for the Jews and it is this issue which is under purview in Acts 10-11. The partiality in Acts 10:34 is in reference to being accepted before God. Thus so: “Then Peter began to speak to them: ‘I truly understand that God shows no partiality, but in every nation anyone who fears him and does what is right is acceptable to him . . .” The partiality under consideration, according to Peter, is one’s relationship to God; anyone may come to him and be saved. The gospel must be preached to all! Again, the passages mentioned above point up the issue under question in this passage is whether or not Gentiles can be saved.

>Dee: There are other places where the role of baptism or the role of the Holy Spirit is the central point of the narrative. We need to know
what the Bible says, but we do not really know what it says until we know what it is talking about when it says it. What I see this narrative talking about, the _central_ story, is the universality of fellowship. The universality of the Promise was announced in Acts 2; Acts 10 brings the earthly implication of the heavenly gift — ‘You must treat each other as equally as you and all others have been treated by God’.

Randal again:
What is the promise of Acts 2? Salvation. If the Gentiles are not “entitled” to salvation, then there can be no fellowship. If Jesus has died for all, then all are equal before God. Again, from Acts 10:34-35, I understand that the partiality/universality question is in reference to relationship to God.

Dee: When this episode is redirected to teach the essential aspects of baptism, which are adequately handled elsewhere in places of God’s choosing, then the _central_ lesson is obscured. Count the times you ever heard a pulpit hammered to make the point that they were commanded to be baptized; now count the number of times you ever heard the pulpit hammered to make the point that racism is not a part of God’s character.

Randal again:
I did not attempt to redirect this passage to teach the essential aspects of baptism. I responded to my understanding of your affirmations about baptism in this passage. Baptism does show up and shouldn’t be ignored or played down, though I agree that it may not be the principal element just here, but it certainly is involved in that the passage is included to show that salvation is granted also to the Gentiles. As far as what I’ve heard from the pulpit, being out of the U.S. for nearly 14 years tends to bring you sermons oriented toward a different reality than the American society presents.

Your point is very well taken about racism. We will best repent of our prejudices when we begin to accept fully all brethren regardless of class or skin color and to preach the gospel to all ethnic groups. I worked in Mississippi for a while and saw first-hand Christians whose hearts were much smaller than the heart of the one they called Lord and Savior.

>Dee: and Randal, thanks for the responses. We have been limited to one-way-communicating [pulpit-to-pew, publisher-to-postal-patron] for so long that we need to learn how to have dialog and discourse. Thanks for the practice session.

Randal again:
Dee, I am honored by your attention and delighted by your good will. May we all grow deeper in the Lord’s grace and in the understanding of his Word. God bless you. Pray for us.

J. Randal Matheny

Be pithy.

What do you think?