Thursday, September 23, 2004

Two Things are Needful

Who is my Christian Brother?

There are two criteria for what makes a person a Christian.

One is belief that Jesus is the Messiah.
The other is belief that Jesus is the Son of God.

What this all means is where the rub comes in.

Going from Specific to General

It can be problematic going from a specific Bible passage to a generality. One obvious example is:
Exo 4:20 And Moses took his wife and his sons, and set them upon an ass, and he returned to the land of Egypt: and Moses took the rod of God in his hand.

Taking this passage as a generality, everyone would be setting their wife and sons on a donkey and going to Egypt.

Clearly this passage is descriptive and a narrative passage. It was not intended to be taken as instruction for the church or individuals in the church. It describes what Moses did one day. We should not send our wives and sons on an ass and then go to Egypt.

A Less Clear Example

Other passages are less clear. One example is:
1 John 2:18-19 Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. They went out from us, but they were not of us; for if they had been of us, they would no doubt have continued with us: but they went out, that they might be made manifest that they were not all of us.
This passage describes some individuals who were a part of the church for some time and then left the church. The reason that they left was that they were not one of the church. This could be seen a question begging without understanding the historical context. Anyone who leaves the church might be said to have never been a part of the church. This is how many use this passage.

But is this passage really a general case or is it more specific to the historical situation of the early church? Certainly there were converts who came to faith and then returned back into the Jewish religion for various reasons. At the very least it is likely that they simply ceased believing that Jesus was the Messiah and Son of God.

Tuesday, September 07, 2004

Unity at What Cost?

I am thinking today a bit more about Acts 2:42 and the order of the passage.

In the passage, Luke lists the four basic things that the early church was doing. This is an important passage since it is the first glance of what the earliest church was doing.

These four things were devoting themselves continually to;

- The Apostle's Teaching
- Fellowship
- Breaking of Bread
- Prayer

Preeminence, in order, is given to the Apostle's Teaching. Next comes fellowship.

Why did Luke chose this particular order for his text? Why is teaching above fellowship?

What is the basis for our fellowship as Christians? Our fellowship is based on the person of Christ. This is a question of truth. "Who is Jesus?" was the fundamental question that the early church was struggling with. It is the fundamental question that we struggle with today although from a much different vantage point.

Consider the historical context. The early church was initially formed from the Jews. Persecution started very early. By only five years later Saul had papers to arrest Christians. But at this very early moment the church was still free to meet even in the Jewish temple. The word was spreading very quickly. God was forming a new people inside Israel. Not just another Jewish sect, but a new people. This gives us a clue as to why Teaching was above Unity. Unity was no longer to be found around the teachings of Moses. The new focal point of unity was the teachings of Christ. This was contrary to the previous focus which was centered around the Law. This new focus would be on Christ.

What would have happened if the early Jewish Christians had chosen to remain unified with the rest of the Jews? Would there be a faith today? Or would they have had to compromise on the essentials of who Jesus is?

Monday, September 06, 2004

Are we doing the right things?

Ever wonder if we are doing the right things as a church?

Acts 2:42 gives us a snapshot of the first moments of the new church. It is shortly after the day of Pentecost when the Holy Spirit came on the disciples. Three thousand people were saved that day.

Acts 2:42 tells us that "they continued stedfastly in the apostles' doctrine and fellowship, and in breaking of bread, and in prayers."

These are still the basic functions of the church. That hasn't changed.

The teachings of the Apostle's are listed first. Even before fellowship. These teachings formed a new basis for fellowship. No longer would the teachings of Moses be at the center, rather the teachings of Jesus would be front and center.

Next was fellowship. They quickly fell into opposition as their own family members rejected them. Jesus had warned the church it would be this way. They were formed into a new family, the church.

Break of Bread
Jesus had modeled this to them. They way that He had spread the word was often through eating a meal at someone's house. And it didn't matter if that person was a sinner or Gentile. They all needed what He had to bring into the house. And the Apostles carried on this tradition. They went house to house breaking bread.

Who would be bold enough to say that they pray enough? This text tells us that they devoted themselves to constant prayer. And they saw changes as a result. Is the reason we don't see our communites turning to Christ a lack of prayer on our part?

If our church is formed around these same four things then it seems like we are probably basically on the right track.

The quality of these four things is another matter altogether. For us, it can be a reminder to return to our first love. We should be devoting ourselves to each of these things. Perhaps then we will begin to see our world turned upside down like the early Christians.