These Days After Pentecost: On Law & Spirit


In the Christian Church Calendar, we are currently in a season that is numbered according to the Holy Day of Pentecost, the day we celebrate the Holy Spirit falling on the apostles fifty days after Jesus’ death (hence the name Penta-cost).

Jesus had told the disciples to go out into the world ministering this Gospel to the world, but first, to wait. What would be so important as to put the brakes on the mission of God in the world?

The Holy Spirit.
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The Sermon’s Essence & Power | 1 Corinthians 2.1-5


When I came to you, brothers and sisters, I did not come proclaiming the mystery of God to you in lofty words or wisdom. For I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ, and him crucified. And I came to you in weakness and in fear and in much trembling. My speech and my proclamation were not with plausible words of wisdom, but with a demonstration of the Spirit and of power, so that your faith might rest not on human wisdom but on the power of God.
1 Corinthians 2.1-5

This encourages me so much in preaching. No matter the exegesis, eloquence, or whatever, we preach Christ and him crucified, and that makes a good sermon. We also live a life in accordance with that outside of the sermon and it supports our preaching as well. Just as in the nature of God Himself, our words and our deeds cannot be separated from one another.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

My Gospel Terror, Acts, & Letters [photo sermon]


Acts-bible-lomo

Each week, WordPress has a Weekly Photo Challenge, where they give a theme and invite people to highlight photography representing that theme, accompanied by a few meditations on it. OccasionallyI try and write a “photo sermon” or meditation based on those themes, accompanied by a photo of mine . This week’s theme is “Letters“.

* * * * *

I grew up in church and grew up loving the Bible. I did devotionals and sat in Sunday School classes for the vast majority of my life. And yet, it wasn’t until I got to my junior year of college and took a class on the Gospels that I read any of the Gospels all the way through. Sure, I had probably heard most of the Gospels preached on or excerpted in devotionals and books, but I had never read a Gospel from beginning to end.

At the time, I thought it was because they seemed too holy. It felt like too much for my young soul to handle to read the very words of Jesus on my own. It was too weighty for me and scared me. Maybe I just wanted to wait until I could drink whiskey or wine while reading them.
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Fundamentalist vs. Pentecostals vs. the Cross | 1 Corinthians 1.27-31


For the message about the cross is foolishness to those who are perishing, but to us who are being saved it is the power of God. For it is written,

“I will destroy the wisdom of the wise,
    and the discernment of the discerning I will thwart.”

Where is the one who is wise? Where is the scribe? Where is the debater of this age? Has not God made foolish the wisdom of the world? For since, in the wisdom of God, the world did not know God through wisdom, God decided, through the foolishness of our proclamation, to save those who believe. For Jews demand signs and Greeks desire wisdom, but we proclaim Christ crucified, a stumbling block to Jews and foolishness to Gentiles, but to those who are the called, both Jews and Greeks, Christ the power of God and the wisdom of God. For God’s foolishness is wiser than human wisdom, and God’s weakness is stronger than human strength.

1 Corinthians 1.27-31

So good. And also really appropriate for this age. The fundamentalists want knowledge and certainty, and the Pentecostals want experience and signs. But we preach Christ crucified.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Responding to Prophets: The Holy Spirit Changes Everything | Acts 11:27-30


At that time prophets came down from Jerusalem to Antioch. One of them named Agabus stood up and predicted by the Spirit that there would be a severe famine over all the world; and this took place during the reign of Claudius. The disciples determined that according to their ability, each would send relief to the believers living in Judea; this they did, sending it to the elders by Barnabas and Saul.

Acts 11:27-30

Sounds pretty Old Testament to me. But notice how the people of God respond. In the OT, when prophets spoke all of this, the people either barely responded, or responded in overdramatic wailing and (temporary) repenting. This group of God’s people, however, indwelt with the Holy Spirit, proceed to act in light of the prophecy to seek human flourishing and societal good. This is the response that the prophets of old were looking for and never got.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Our Exile is for the world’s salvation | Acts 7.6-7


And God spoke in these terms, that his descendants would be resident aliens in a country belonging to others, who would enslave them and mistreat them during four hundred years.‘But I will judge the nation that they serve,’ said God, ‘and after that they shall come out and worship me in this place.’

Acts 7.6-7

Our exile/ambassadorship/pilgrim-nature as well as God’s judgment are all for the sake of the ultimate worshipnot condemnation–of the nations and the world!

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

When & How to Criticize Other People’s Pastors | 1 Corinthians 4.2-5


Moreover, it is required of stewards that they be found trustworthy. But with me it is a very small thing that I should be judged by you or by any human court. I do not even judge myself. I am not aware of anything against myself, but I am not thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. Therefore do not pronounce judgment before the time, before the Lord comes, who will bring to light the things now hidden in darkness and will disclose the purposes of the heart. Then each one will receive commendation from God.
1 Corinthians 4.2-5

What does this mean? At least right now, my instinct is to take it like this: outside of clear sin issues, we should not divide and judge other Church leaders (nor effusively favor them). If you can’t find clear sin issues in their lives, churches, or teaching, then don’t demean their doctrine, style, gifting, or missional emphases. In the same way, though, even if there are no clear sin issues going on, don’t exalt them because of their doctrine, style, gifting, or Missional emphasis.

If a church doesn’t fit for you, fine. Go in peace to love and serve the Lord. But don’t bad-mouth, criticize, gossip, complain, or be overly-sensitive and judgmental at them. To both conservatives and liberals, neither of us should criticize other members of the family, no matter how kooky they are–not even for what we feel is “bad” teaching. “Sinful” teaching, however is another issue. Clear historical heresy, teaching that abuses and harms the dignity of humanity, and things like prosperity preaching are examples of things that should be judged harshly and criticized.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

For the times you want to be strong, but aren’t | 1 Corinthians 1.27-31


But God chose what is foolish in the world to shame the wise; God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong; God chose what is low and despised in the world, things that are not, to reduce to nothing things that are, so that no one might boast in the presence of God. He is the source of your life in Christ Jesus, who became for us wisdom from God, and righteousness and sanctification and redemption, in order that, as it is written, “Let the one who boasts, boast in the Lord.”
1 Corinthians 1.27-31

Oh how encouraging this is in those moments that I feel most inadequate intellectually and spiritually.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

We worship Christ and…. the Resurrection? | Acts 17 & 24


Also some Epicurean and Stoic philosophers debated with him. Some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign divinities.” (This was because he was telling the good news about Jesus and the resurrection.)

Acts 17:18

One of the funniest moments in Acts. Notice they accuse him of preaching foreign “divinities” (plural). The Greek word for Resurrection is Anastasis. Paul has rolled in preaching “ton Iesous kai thn Anastasin”, or “the Jesus and the Resurrection”. The Philosophers think that Paul is preaching about two gods: “Jesus” and his wife, “Resurrection”.

I have a hope in God—a hope that they themselves also accept—that there will be a resurrection of both the righteous and the unrighteous. Therefore I do my best always to have a clear conscience toward God and all people.

Acts 24:15-16

Paul is obsessed with the resurrection. Well technically, Luke is. If you see the charge against Paul earlier, it was that he was preaching Christ and the Resurrection. They thought he was teaching two gods. Apparently, he must have been talking about the Resurrection so passionately. Almost as passionately as Christ.

They did not accuse him of preaching Jesus and the Cross, Jesus and the Tomb, Jesus and the Jews, Jesus and Grace through Faith, or even Jesus and the New Creation! It was Jesus and the Resurrection. The Resurrection is Paul’s way out of trouble. It’s his way of telling his story. Of causing divisions between himself and some Jews, and to show his solidarity with others. It’s everything to who Paul is and what he’s come to do.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Really. What is this “Mystery” Paul is talking about? | 1 Corinthians 2.6-8


Yet among the mature we do speak wisdom, though it is not a wisdom of this age or of the rulers of this age, who are doomed to perish. But we speak God’s wisdom, secret and hidden, which God decreed before the ages for our glory. None of the rulers of this age understood this; for if they had, they would not have crucified the Lord of glory.
1 Corinthians 2.6-8

What an odd set of lines. I’ll be brutally honest. I get that “the mystery” is the inclusion of the Gentiles but in hindsight, it doesn’t seem that mysterious. From the beginning, God has promised a multitude of peoples would be counted among his people. Perhaps, the mystery was not merely the inclusion of the Gentiles as we commonly express it, but rather the way in which they are connected to God’s people? Maybe the “mystery” is more that it is no longer by becoming an ethnic group, but rather by both Jew and Gentile becoming something different and wholly other from what they have been.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Paul: Diverse Theology, Singular Mission | 1 Corinthians 1.10-11


Now I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, by the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you be in agreement and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be united in the same mind and the same purpose. For it has been reported to me by Chloe’s people that there are quarrels among you, my brothers and sisters.
1 Corinthians 1.10-11

Notice here that Paul does not say they need to be one in doctrine or theology. Rather, he says mind and purpose. They should have the same goals for the church. They should have the same sense of mission. They should all be moving in the same direction.

They should also be of one mind. This can mean lots of things, but the sense that I get is that it’s closely related to the purpose. They are singularly focused on what is essential and have proper weight and proper priority given to the proper things. Looking at the different allegiances that Paul goes on to criticize within the Church, there does seem to be a lot of doctrinal and theological diversity in this church. Paul, in a sense, seems overjoyed about this. He has a problem, rather, with their disjointed sense of purpose and mission. So, doctrinal diversity is good. Loss of mission is bad.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

“How to rail against sex stuff” by St. Paul | 1 Corinthians 5.9–13


I wrote to you in my letter not to associate with sexually immoral persons— not at all meaning the immoral of this world, or the greedy and robbers, or idolaters, since you would then need to go out of the world. But now I am writing to you not to associate with anyone who bears the name of brother or sister who is sexually immoral or greedy, or is an idolater, reviler, drunkard, or robber. Do not even eat with such a one. For what have I to do with judging those outside? Is it not those who are inside that you are to judge? God will judge those outside. “Drive out the wicked person from among you.”
1 Corinthians 5.9–13

Oh what a loving and common sense principal for how to engage the sexual immorality of others. Paul sounds like such a liberal (or the Pope, haha) here when he says that it is not his place to judge or condemn those outside the church. He in essence says that they are acting exactly as they should act. There should be no shock, surprise, or offence at “the culture” acting like “the culture”. No railing against the immorality of society. Instead, work to foster purity among the people of God. We are to be more eager to spend time with the “immoral” outside the church then the immoral inside the church.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

Phillip the Baptizing Magician?| Acts 8.39-40


When they came up out of the water, the Spirit of the Lord snatched Philip away; the eunuch saw him no more, and went on his way rejoicing. But Philip found himself at Azotus, and as he was passing through the region, he proclaimed the good news to all the towns until he came to Caesarea.

Acts 8.39-40

What the heck? This happens and the eunuch just goes on his merry way? This is unlike most things in the book of Acts.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

The Storied Propaganda of Acts | Acts 6.7,15


The word of God continued to spread; the number of the disciples increased greatly in Jerusalem, and a great many of the priests became obedient to the faith.

Acts 6.7

That’s odd phrasing. This is telling a certain version of history. Surely this fact would be denied by the Jews at the time. And yet, Luke is trying to paint a picture of the Gospel spreading, to the Jews first (in this section, the focus is on Jerusalem and Peter) and then to the ends of the earth (the big Paul section).

And all who sat in the council looked intently at him [Stephen], and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.
–Acts 6:15

Here we see one of the inklings and beginning of the long Christian tradition of saint veneration and myth-making (St. George and the Dragon, anyone?)

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.

St. Stephen & the History of Israel | Acts 7.48-53


Yet the Most High does not dwell in houses made with human hands; as the prophet says,

‘Heaven is my throne,
and the earth is my footstool.
What kind of house will you build for me, says the Lord,
or what is the place of my rest?
Did not my hand make all these things?’

“You stiff-necked people, uncircumcised in heart and ears, you are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it.”
Acts 7.48-53

Notice how Stephen does a few things here in this turn.

  1. He skips the history of Israel that includes the Divided Monarchy, Exile, Return, Intertestamental Victories and and Sorrows, and the establishment of the Jewish state under Roman Rule.
  2. He jumps straight from the temple to their Rejection of Jesus. This could be Jesus’ connection as a New Temple among us, it could highlight Israel’s inordinate obsession with the temple, even unto the rejection of their Messiah, or it could be a reference to the charges they brought against Jesus to get him crucified: blasphemy against the temple.

See other Marginalia here. Read more about the series here.