Monday, March 28, 2016

Worship vs Service

Lucas Necessary writes:
I think that two words are important: worship and service. Old covenant worship was in Jerusalem, and occurred when the non-priest presented himself to the Lord at the temple in Jerusalem. Old covenant service was the activity of the priest in presenting offerings and sacrifices to the Lord. Hence the people of Israel collectively worshiped and served God. And if the hearts of the worshipers were not right, then the offering of sacrifices was in vain (see Isaiah 1). Acceptable service thus flows from worship.

But worship under the new covenant is not in Jerusalem, nor in any other physical location - it is internal; it is in Spirit and in truth (John 4:20-24). Just as old covenant service of the priests flowed from the worship of the people, new covenant service is derived from new covenant worship. Rather than flowing from people to priest, new covenant worship moves from external to internal. Worship is in spirit; in service the body is offered as a living and holy sacrifice (Romans 12:1). Worship is the internal devotion of the individual; service is the outward expression of that which flows from within. If the heart is not right, then that which is offered externally is in vain. "To the pure, all things are pure; but to those who are defiled and unbelieving, nothing is pure, but both their mind and their conscience are defiled" (Titus 1:15).

Let us consider, then, five acts of service - spiritual sacrifices of a spiritual priesthood, which are misnamed worship in denominational, unscriptural terminology.

Singing and Praying

These two can be considered together in that they are both audible expressions which ascend to God. "Through Him [Christ] then, let us continually offer up a sacrifice of praise to God, that is, the fruit of lips that give thanks to His name" (Hebrews 13:15). Sacrifice of praise is the offering of a priest; it is service.


"Do not neglect doing good and sharing; for with such sacrifices God is pleased" (Hebrews 13:16). Again, sharing or giving is a sacrifice; it is a service.

Preaching or Bible study

Paul wrote that he was "a minister of Christ Jesus to the Gentiles, ministering as a priest the Gospel of God, that my offering of the Gentiles might become acceptable, sanctified by the Holy Spirit" (Romans 15:16). Preaching the gospel, as well as the fruit of that preaching, is an offering of a spiritual priest. It is a sacrifice; it is service.

The Lord’s Supper

"Is not the cup of blessing which we bless a sharing in the blood of Christ? Is not the bread which we break a sharing in the body of Christ?" (I Corinthians 10:16). The participation in the body and blood of Christ is compared to the Levitical priests sharing in their offering. "Look at the nation Israel; are not those who eat the sacrifices sharers in the alter?" (I Corinthians 10:18). Thus the participation in the Lord’s Supper is participation in a spiritual sacrifice offered on a spiritual altar. "We have an altar, from which those who serve the tabernacle have no right to eat" (Hebrews 13:10). Those who participate in the Lord’s Supper, participate in a sacrifice, it is service.


Worshiping in spirit and truth - internally and continually - results in spiritual service - external actions - from a spiritual priesthood. This is what is acceptable to God. "You also as living stones are being built up as a spiritual house for a holy priesthood, to offer up spiritual sacrifices acceptable to God through Jesus Christ" (I Peter 2:5).

Do All In the Name of the Lord

WEB Col 3:17 - Whatever you do, in word or in deed, do all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father, through him.
"In the name of" simply means "as an authorized agent of"; it does not mean everything done must be specifically pre-authorized.

It means asking, "Is my action honoring to the authorizer, in accord with his wishes?" It does not mean, "Is my action specifically authorized by the authorizer?"

The concepts are easy to confuse, but they are not the same.

You can make a donation to the anti-cancer society in the name of your deceased friend; that doesn't mean the deceased friend authorized you to make that donation; it means you do it in honor of your friend, in a way with which he would agree.

To do all in the name of the Lord means to do everything as an authorized spokesperson/ambassador of the Lord. It means you have the keys to Jesus' kingdom, locking and unlocking doors as you judge best, as long as you do so in honor of and in accord with the wishes of Jesus. Specific authorization is not required; adult, faith-led, decision-making capability is.

Tuesday, March 22, 2016

Muscle and a Shovel

A quick note about Michael Shank's book, A Muscle and a Shovel....

As I read Muscle..., I was reminded of our (traditional Church of Christ) insistence on using and knowing the Bible, and it made me proud of our brotherhood for that.

On the other hand, I was discouraged that the book found salvation in keeping legalities supposedly given by God rather than in relationship with God. I understand that mentality; I was raised in it. I understand that when you're in that mentality you can't see that you're in it, you only see that if you get the legalities wrong you go to hell, so we have to get the legalities right.

That's the first error of this book, seeking legalities rather than relationship.

The second error is a natural consequence of the first; since we must find the legalities, and since the New Testament doesn't provide a nice numbered list of them (like the Ten Legalities), we have to find those legalities by reading between the lines and by back-porting our current doctrines into the text (whether they're there or not) and by using a jigsaw-puzzle approach whereby we take this verse out of context and match it with that verse out of context to create a picture that isn't really in the text but seems like it came from the text.

This is what Muscle... does, and it does it very convincingly. And many people, especially those who haven't learned to see beyond this method, will gobble it up as if it's gospel.

Wednesday, March 16, 2016

Christianity is a Jewish Sect

Christianity, all the way through to the end of the book of Acts, was a sect of Judaism, not something separate and distinct:
WEB Acts 2:46 Day by day, continuing steadfastly with one accord in the temple ...47 praising God, and having favor with all the people.
Note that the Christians were meeting in a Jewish place, praising God alongside other Jews in this Jewish place, having favor with those Jews, who would not take kindly to having their religion maligned in any way.
Acts 3:1 Peter and John were going up into the temple at the hour of prayer, the ninth hour.
Note that these new Christians still went to Temple at the hour of prayer, like good Jews would do.
Acts 5:42 Every day, in the temple and at home, they never stopped teaching and preaching Jesus, the Christ.
The Christians were still Jews, meeting in the Jewish temple.
Acts 9:1-2 But Saul, still breathing threats and slaughter against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest, 2 and asked for letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.
Note that Saul expected to find Christians in the Jewish synagogues.
Acts 10:28 [Peter] said to them, “You yourselves know how it is an unlawful thing for a man who is a Jew to join himself or come to one of another nation, but God has shown me that I shouldn’t call any man unholy or unclean. 29 Therefore also I came without complaint when I was sent for. I ask therefore, why did you send for me?”
Note that until the apostle Peter was given a special miraculous vision, he wasn't going to have anything to do with Gentiles.
Acts 10:34 Peter opened his mouth and said, “Truly I perceive that God doesn’t show favoritism; 35 but in every nation he who fears him and works righteousness is acceptable to him. 36 The word which he sent to the children of Israel, preaching good news of peace by Jesus Christ—he is Lord of all....
Note that up until this point in time, Peter was convinced that the message of Jesus was sent only to the children of Israel, and is astounded to realize that it's for non-Jews also.
Acts 11:1 Now the apostles and the brothers who were in Judea heard that the Gentiles had also received the word of God. 2 When Peter had come up to Jerusalem, those who were of the circumcision contended with him, 3 saying, “You went in to uncircumcised men, and ate with them!”
Note that the other apostles and Christians were shocked that Peter went to non-Jews.
Acts 11:18 When they heard these things, they held their peace, and glorified God, saying, “Then God has also granted to the Gentiles repentance to life!”
Note that the other apostles and Christians were finally convinced that Christianity was not just for Jews.
Acts 11:19 They therefore who were scattered abroad by the oppression that arose about Stephen traveled as far as Phoenicia, Cyprus, and Antioch, speaking the word to no one except to Jews only.
And yet some of them just couldn't get beyond the belief that Christianity was for Jews only.
Acts 11:25 Barnabas went out to Tarsus to look for Saul. 26 When he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they were gathered together with the assembly, and taught many people. The disciples were first called Christians in Antioch.
Note that it wasn't until non-Jews became followers of the Way that a new name was needed to refer to this non-Jewish branch of the sect.
Acts 13:2 As they served the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Separate Barnabas and Saul for me, for the work to which I have called them.” 3 Then, when they had fasted and prayed and laid their hands on them, they sent them away. 4 So, being sent out by the Holy Spirit, they went down to Seleucia. From there they sailed to Cyprus. 5 When they were at Salamis, they proclaimed the word of God in the Jewish synagogues.
Note that still, for the most part, Christianity was a Jewish phenomenon; the apostles didn't go to the Greek temples to preach, but to the Jewish meeting houses.
Acts 13:23 From this man’s offspring, God has brought salvation to Israel according to his promise, 24 before his coming, when John had first preached the baptism of repentance to Israel. 25 As John was fulfilling his course, he said, ‘What do you suppose that I am? I am not he. But behold, one comes after me the sandals of whose feet I am not worthy to untie.’ 26 Brothers, children of the stock of Abraham, and those among you who fear God, the word of this salvation is sent out to you.
Note that even though Paul was specifically called to be an apostle to the Gentiles, he still preached in his early years "to Israel", that the salvation was "for Israel", to the children of the stock of Abraham.
Acts 13:46 Paul and Barnabas spoke out boldly, and said, “It was necessary that God’s word should be spoken to you first. Since indeed you thrust it from you, and judge yourselves unworthy of eternal life, behold, we turn to the Gentiles. 47 For so has the Lord commanded us, saying, ‘I have set you as a light for the Gentiles, that you should bring salvation to the uttermost parts of the earth.’”
Note that finally Paul starts to get it; Christianity is not just for the Jews!
Acts 15:1 Some men came down from Judea and taught the brothers, “Unless you are circumcised after the custom of Moses, you can’t be saved.” 2 Therefore when Paul and Barnabas had no small discord and discussion with them, they appointed Paul and Barnabas, and some others of them, to go up to Jerusalem to the apostles and elders about this question.
Now Paul has to go back to the other apostles to convince them that the new Gentile believers don't have to "become Jews" to be included in the Way.
Acts 15:30 So, when they were sent off, they came to Antioch. Having gathered the multitude together, they delivered the letter. 31 When they had read it, they rejoiced over the encouragement.
Yea, the Gentiles don't have to become Jews to be saved!
Acts 16:4 As they went on their way through the cities, they delivered the decrees to them to keep which had been ordained by the apostles and elders who were at Jerusalem.
Let's tell all the Gentiles they don't have to become Jews!
Acts 17:22 Paul stood in the middle of the Areopagus, and said, “You men of Athens, I perceive that you are very religious in all things.
Now Paul goes to the Greek temples to preach.
Acts 18:7 He departed there, and went into the house of a certain man named Justus, one who worshiped God, whose house was next door to the synagogue. 8 Crispus, the ruler of the synagogue, believed in the Lord with all his house. Many of the Corinthians, when they heard, believed and were baptized.
But Paul still does most of his preaching to the Jews, sometimes converting the ruler of the synagogue.
Acts 18:17 Then all the Greeks laid hold on Sosthenes, the ruler of the synagogue, and beat him before the judgment seat. Gallio didn’t care about any of these things.
Sometimes these converted synagogue rulers retained their position as synagogue ruler. (This particular one winds up co-writing 1 Corinthians - 1 Cor 1:1.)
Acts 18:26 He began to speak boldly in the synagogue. But when Priscilla and Aquila heard him, they took him aside, and explained to him the way of God more accurately.
Note that Priscilla and Aquila are still assembling in the synagogue. Cf the Greek of James 2:2, which also shows Christians meeting in synagogues.
Acts 21:21 They have been informed about you, that you teach all the Jews who are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, telling them not to circumcise their children neither to walk after the customs. 22 What then? The assembly must certainly meet, for they will hear that you have come. 23 Therefore do what we tell you. We have four men who have taken a vow. 24 Take them, and purify yourself with them, and pay their expenses for them, that they may shave their heads. Then all will know that there is no truth in the things that they have been informed about you, but that you yourself also walk keeping the law.
The rumor was that Paul was telling Jews to stop being Jewish; that was a false rumor. In fact, Paul himself continued being Jewish, walking according to the Law of Moses.
Acts 23:6 But when Paul perceived that the one part were Sadducees and the other Pharisees, he cried out in the council, “Men and brothers, I am a Pharisee, a son of Pharisees. Concerning the hope and resurrection of the dead I am being judged!”
Paul declares himself, loudly, to be a Pharisee, currently. Not a former Pharisee. He's still very much a Jew.
Acts 24:5 For we have found this man to be a plague, an instigator of insurrections among all the Jews throughout the world, and a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes.
Note that the enemies of Paul considered his new religion a "sect" aimed at Jews.
Acts 24:14 But this I confess to you, that after the Way, which they call a sect, so I serve the God of our fathers, believing all things which are according to the law, and which are written in the prophets;
Note that the enemies of Paul considered his new religion a "sect".
Acts 25:8 while he said in his defense, “Neither against the law of the Jews, nor against the temple, nor against Caesar, have I sinned at all.”
Paul has done nothing against the Jewish law or temple.
Acts 25:18 Concerning whom, when the accusers stood up, they brought no charge of such things as I supposed; 19 but had certain questions against him about their own religion, and about one Jesus, who was dead, whom Paul affirmed to be alive.
Note that Governor Festus believed Christianity to be about "their own religion", referring to Judaism.
Acts 26:3 especially because you are expert in all customs and questions which are among the Jews.
Note that Paul's defense hinges on the customs and questions among the Jews.
Acts 28:7 After three days Paul called together those who were the leaders of the Jews. When they had come together, he said to them, “I, brothers, though I had done nothing against the people, or the customs of our fathers, still was delivered prisoner from Jerusalem into the hands of the Romans....
Note that Paul had done nothing against Judaism.
Acts 28:22 But we desire to hear from you what you think. For, as concerning this sect, it is known to us that everywhere it is spoken against.
Note that in context, the Jews in Rome had not gotten any letters or info from Judea against Paul, only against his sect.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Justified by Faith

WEB Gal 5:4 You are alienated from Christ, you who desire to be justified by the law. You have fallen away from grace.
There's a huge difference between studying (and even keeping! see Acts 21:21-24) the law and desiring to be justified by keeping that law.

Paul kept the law (as did thousands of other Jewish believers, zealously - Acts 21:21-24), but he did not seek to be justified by that keeping of the law; he was justified by his faith in Christ.

Seeking to be justified by anything other than faith in Christ (whether that be by keeping the Law of Moses, or keeping the sub-set of that Law known as the Ten Commandments, or keeping the supposed law of the Five-Step Plan of Salvation, etc) is to fall from grace which Jesus bestows upon those who trust in him (as opposed to those who trust in their own right-ness in keeping some "law"); this doctrine is the other gospel about which Paul warns four chapters earlier (Gal 1:6ff).

Paul spends chapter two of Galatians explaining how it took a major conference with the elders and apostles in Jerusalem to conclude that Gentiles were not required to keep the law (detailed in Acts 15), because law-keeping (either by Jews or Gentiles) is not the way to justification. Justification is by faith, and justification by law-keeping is "another gospel".

Paul spends chapter three of Galatians explaining that Abraham was justified when he believed, before he acted, and that no man is justified by law, and that trying to keep the law is a curse, because no one can do it (you must live by the rules perfectly or you're a law-breaker; only Jesus did that perfectly, and he became that curse for us). So who are the blessed now? The ones who seek to be justified by law-keeping? No. The ones who are blessed are those who are of faith with the faithful Abraham, who was declared right when he had faith, before he did any right action. (Note that his faith was not a dead faith; it was a working faith, that drove him to do right actions; it was not a faith without works, but rather a faith before works, as opposed to the faith of demons, which has no works other than to make those demons tremble - Jam 2.)

Paul spends chapter four of Galatians explaining how that keeping rules and regulations are merely worldly, "miserable elemental principles", a form of "bondage" (v. 9-10). He tells the Colossians the same thing, but in more detail even (see Col 2:16ff).

Paul then wraps up in chapter five of Galatians, telling his readers to stand firm in liberty, not becoming again entangled with a yoke of bondage; if you keep law, you have to keep all of it. And if you go that route, seeking to be justified by keeping some law, any law, not just the Mosaic Law, you are fallen from grace. The "law" you are to fulfill is this - "You shall love your neighbor as yourself" (v. 14). (He repeats himself a chapter later, emphasizing that "the law of Christ" is fulfilled by bearing one another's burdens - 6:2.) Walk by the spirit, not by the law. (He says in another place that we are to serve in the newness of the spirit, not in the oldness of the letter - Rom 7:6; and that his team are servants of a covenant, not of the letter, but of the spirit - 2 Cor 3:6; and that the true Jew is one who is circumcised in the spirit, not the letter - Rom 2:29.)

Paul finishes out his letter in chapter 6 of Galatians by pointing out that even the law-keepers fail to keep the law - 6:13.

Yet even though Paul is adamant that we are saved by faith rather than by law-keeping, he himself walked according to the law (Acts 21:24), and he upholds the law (Rom 3:31), and says it's holy (Rom 7:12) and good (7:16).

Paul makes a huge distinction between keeping the law as something good to keep, and keeping it in order to be justified by keeping it. We, too, should make that distinction.

Monday, March 14, 2016

No More Corruption/Death

When the resurrected Jesus appeared to his disciples::
WEB Luke 24:38 He said to them, “Why are you troubled? Why do doubts arise in your hearts? 39 See my hands and my feet, that it is truly me. Touch me and see, for a spirit doesn’t have flesh and bones, as you see that I have.”
Later, the apostle Paul said:
WEB Acts 13:34 “Concerning that he raised him up from the dead, now no more to return to corruption, he has spoken thus: ‘I will give you the holy and sure blessings of David.’"
Elsewhere Paul writes:
WEB Rom 6:9 [We know] that Christ, being raised from the dead, dies no more. Death no more has dominion over him!

Two New Prayer Thoughts

Yesterday I had cause to plead earnestly in prayer to God, and as I did so, two "new" thoughts came to my mind.
  • I did not want to pray for "resolve"; I wanted to pray for God's Spirit/Power within me.
If I decide to do something, that is Me doing; but if I have the Power of God within me, if his Spirit is my spirit, mingled, intertwined, then it is God doing it.

It makes no sense to pray to God that I would make my own decision and resolve; it makes sense that I would tell God about it, but not to ask him to "help" me to do it, unless, of course, he's actually involved in helping.

When I ask for help from God, I'm really asking for his Spirit to be active within me, not just for me to resolve to do something myself.
  • I wanted to pray to "be a Man".
I wasn't praying to be a bully, or to "take control", or to ignore the needs of others; I was praying to not be passive-aggressive, to not be a whiner.

I tend to be a peace-maker; I want people to be gentle with each other; I'm a great believer in trying to "walk in the other person's shoes", to understand their perspective and their needs and wants, and to be self-sacrificial in meeting those needs/wants.

But I also have needs/wants, and sometimes in being self-sacrificial, I wind up stuffing my own needs/wants, and all that does is allow those needs/wants to simmer beneath the surface. This passiveness of mine eventually erupts in a moment of greater need/want, and I become aggressive, but in an unhealthy way.

The better solution is to "be a Man"; to hear the other person's perspective/needs/wants, but to also express my own perspective/needs/wants, rather than simply stuffing them to deal with them later. (And I need to express them in a manly manner, not in a simpering, whiny way.)

Already I've written way more words on these two issues than what is justified by my as-yet limited understanding of what either of them really mean, but I sense that both of these prayer thoughts are important, and wanted to get them written down in some form before they fall out of my memory/consciousness.

Friday, March 11, 2016

Wearing the Name of Christ

Might I suggest a re-think of what is meant by "wears the name of Christ"?

It has been strong in our Church of Christ culture to think in physical terms, of having the label "of Christ" on our buildings and our web sites and our bulletin letterheads.

But I'm reminded of the second of the Ten Commandments: You shall not take the name of YHWH your God in vain. For years, I took this to mean that we weren't supposed to *use* the "name" in an improper way, such as saying, "Oh, God, this pizza is good!"

The Jews took it that way too, which eventually evolved into their thinking that the name shouldn't be used at all, which is why they then altered the written scriptures to hide the name of YHWH behind the generic term "Lord" (the way most of our printed English Bibles still do).

But since then I've come to believe that it's more like a bride being encouraged to honor her husband's name by living honorably with him; don't take your husband's name in vain by having dalliances with the milkman and the pool-boy; be faithful to the name you have taken.

If you're going to wear the name "of Christ", then behave worthy of the name.

I'm not sure that "wearing the name of Christ" really refers to having "Church of Christ" on the sign out front of your meeting place; I think it refers to having "of Christ" in your everyday behavior.

Restoring the New Testament Church

Which New Testament church should we restore?

The one that was exclusively Jewish, and praised God in the Temple daily wherein instruments were used (Acts 2:46-47), and lived a communistic lifestyle (Acts 2:44-45; 4:32), and didn't have deacons, but having the need, invented the role (Acts 6:1-6)?

The later one that moved out of Jerusalem into the surrounding territories and met in houses (Acts 8:3), wherein they had their prayer meetings at night (Acts 12:4,12), and in synagogues (Acts 19:8-9; 22:19; Jam 2:2), and thought that non-Jews were unclean and were not to be socialized with, requiring a vision and a miracle to get them to accept non-Jews (Acts 10-1, esp 11:3), and that had elders
(from amongst mere days-old Christians) appointed for every assembly by a higher authority rather than the assemblies appointing their own (Acts 14:23)?

The still later, short-lived one, that accepted Gentiles, but only if the Gentiles were circumcised and obeyed the rest of the law of Moses (Acts 15:1,5)?

The one shortly after that which called together a multi-church conference, and issued a decree for all the churches (Acts 16:4) to accept Gentiles without them first "converting to Judaism", resulting in two "denominations" within the church of Jesus Christ, one called "the Circumcision" (Gal 2:12), composed of Jews who still kept the law of Moses zealously (Acts 21:20), and one called "the Gentiles" (Gal 2:12), which did not keep the law of Moses (Acts 21:24-25), which though they had different worship practices (Paul even kept Nazirite vows (Acts 18:18), necessitating animal sacrifice and purity rituals at its conclusion (Acts 21:26; 24:18)), were united because Jesus had torn down the middle wall of hostility dividing them (Eph 2:14), even though some of "the Circumcision" kept trying to re-erect that wall (for which Paul publicly scolded Peter - Gal 2:11ff)?

Or perhaps you mean the later Gentile-only church that started turning against "the Circumcision", blaming all of them for what a few of their leaders did, which after the destruction of the Temple, culminated in a post-New Testament exclusively-Gentile church that rejected all things Jewish, not just as un-needed in a Gentile culture, but as sinful, such as Sabbath-keeping or musical instruments in [Temple] worship (the synagogues, wherein the Gentiles learned "church", never had instruments (as a rule)), re-erecting that wall which Jesus had torn down just as "the Circumcision" (in contradiction to the Gospel - Gal 2:14) before them had tried to re-erect?

So when we speak of restoring the New Testament church, just which of these churches should we restore? The oldest, most original, which was exclusively Jewish and worshiped daily in a place where instruments were used and didn't have deacons? Or the latest, which was turning anti-Jewish, re-erecting that wall which Jesus had torn down and headed toward forbidding marriage and the eating of certain foods (1 Tim 4:3), and which had stopped meeting daily? Or something in between those two ends?

And do we try to restore the practice of praying for gifts of the spirit (1 Cor 14:13) and fan the flame of that gift (2 Tim 1:6)), or do we quench the Spirit (1 Thess 5:19) because now we "now know in full" and we have all matured to the unity of the faith (Eph 4:13), therefore such gifts have ceased (1 Cor 13:12)?

I judge that it's just not all that simple to restore the New Testament church, and that if we think we've accomplished that goal (or even can), we may not have thought it through very well.