Friday, August 14, 2015

WWJD: Would Jesus Encourage Women to Go to Preacher Training School?

When Mary "sat at the Lord's feet" ("went to seminary class" - as Paul had done under Rabbi ("Teacher") Gamaliel's tutelage - Acts 22:3), her sister Martha complained to Jesus, asking that he tell Mary to get back to the womens' work rather than being involved in a man's role of being a Rabbinical disciple ("student", who's task it was to become like his teacher - Matt 10:25).

Jesus' response was:
Mary has made the right choice, and it will not be taken away from her.
(HCSB Luke 10:42b).
It's also interesting that the first people Jesus assigned to proclaim the good news that Jesus was alive, and to men at that, were women, one of whom, a different Mary, specifically called Jesus "Rabbi" (John 20:16).

Monday, August 10, 2015

Is the "Church of Christ" a Denomination? Yes. And No.

Wes McAdams has an interesting article at Is the “Church of Christ” a Denomination? Wes manifests a lot of wisdom; he's a breath of fresh air in the "Church of Christ" denomination (yes, that's tongue-in-cheek).

There are two things I'd like to point out about this article of his:

1) the definition of "denomination" really comes from the action of denominating, or naming. To insist that all Christians are in a congregation wearing the name "Church of Christ" is to denominate, and is to make that body of believers a denomination.

Thankfully, Wes does not do that. He is careful to note that the label "Church of Christ" is not required on the building or group.

In fact, a more common label in the New Testament is "church of God", or "The Way". There are dozens of labels in the NT for the body of Christ. "Church of Christ" is perfectly acceptable, although I would lower-case the "c" of "Church" to make it clear that this is a description rather than a proper name.

2) As Wes rightly points out, "If you are a Christian, you are already a member of the church of Christ!"

But what some of us fail to realize is that it's possible, at least theoretically, for a Christian to only know the religious church in which he was raised (say, Baptist), but via independent study has come to sufficient knowledge to be scripturally converted into a true Christian. Not knowing enough yet to come out of the "extra" trappings of a denomination, he might very well consider himself a Baptist Christian. Many within the Restoration Movement would not recognize such a person as a member of the church of Christ, but if he truly is a Christian, but merely a Christian in error (who of us isn't in error, at some point or another?), then he is indeed a member of the church of Christ.

When we divide ourselves from such a person, we have divided the true church of Christ, and have made the "Church of Christ" into a denomination.

In other words, the church of Christ is larger (at least theoretically) than the "Church of Christ" "brotherhood", as defined by signs above the door and registrations in brotherhood lists of churches and adherence to brotherhood publications.

So Wes is correct; the church of Christ is not a denomination. But the "Church of Christ brotherhood" is (if it's exclusive, even in principle, of other possible Christians).

As Wes says, we are "Christians only"; but he neglected to quote the rest of that phrase coined by the early Restorationists - "But not the only Christians".

I agree with Wes: Let's "lay down our man-made traditions, titles, and creeds and be Christians only!" But let's not make the mistake of claiming that we're the only Christians.

Two final points:

1 - in Acts 19, Paul found "some disciples" who were ignorant on some important points concerning conversion. They had not even been properly baptized! But the scriptures testify that they were indeed, "disciples" (v. 1).

2 - God testified to Cornelius and crew that he had cleansed (past tense) their hearts by faith when he gave them the Holy Spirit (Acts 15:8-9). This occurred *before* they were baptized - Acts 10:44-48.

Neither of these two final points is intended to negate the command to be baptized, at which it becomes "official" that we are a Christian, but it does highlight that baptism does not save because of the action of bathing, but rather that baptism is the "loyalty-pledge" generated by a freshly-cleansed conscience (1 Pet 3:21), just as in the case with Cornelius.

God's concerned with the inside of the cup, not the outside.

We rebel against the idea that baptism is a seal, but I encourage you to consider 2 Cor 1:22 (when are we sealed? when we're given the Holy Spirit; when are we given the HS?) and Eph 1:13 and Eph 4:30 and Rom 4:11 + Col 2:11-12 (circumcision is a seal of having already attained righteousness by faith; baptism is the "Christian circumcision"; you do the math).

We have no business claiming to be saved or claiming to be a Christian prior to baptism, because we can't see the heart, and should go by the "letter of the law" (as well as we can, without relying on our success in the matter but rather on Christ's right-ness given to us by faith); but God can see the heart, and he goes by the spirit of the law, and at least in the case of Acts 19, he considered improperly-baptized believers to be "disciples".

We must be wary of excluding those whom God may very well have included.

Sunday, August 09, 2015

Cain's and Abel's Offerings

What we know about God's response to the offerings of Cain and Abel is that
YHWH had regard for Abel and his offering, but for Cain and his offering he had no regard. -- Gen 4:4-5
By faith Abel offered to God a more acceptable sacrifice than Cain, through which he was commended as righteous, God commending him by accepting his gifts. -- Heb 11:4
Hebrews tells us that it wasn't the offering that was acceptable or not, but the person, and that Abel made his offering by faith, and that the acceptance of the offering was to show that the person was acceptable. The converse of that is that the non-acceptance of an offering shows that the person is not acceptable.

We see from this point on that Cain gets angry, kills his brother, has an attitude with God, whines about his punishment, and raises another kid down the line with more problems than he himself had.

The problem wasn't Cain's offering; the problem was Cain.