The God-fearing Gentiles

The apostle Paul is known for having been commissioned by Jesus to reach the Gentiles (Galatians 2:7).  However, we mustn’t think that  this meant Paul indiscriminately sought any and every Gentile he could find.  Rather, the Scripture describes Paul’s efforts as being focused on “God-fearers among the Gentiles” (Acts 17:17).  Even when Paul said to the Jews in Corinth, “From now on I shall go to the Gentiles,” (Acts 18:6), he only went next door (Acts 18:7).  And in the very next city he entered, which was Ephesus, and started at the synagogue once again (Acts 18:19) reasoning with Jews.

Does this mean that Paul was vacillating?  Hardly.  It simply indicates that Paul focused his attention on the Gentiles where he had the greatest chance of success – that is, those Gentiles who were already convinced that there was but one God, that He was righteous, and that the Jews spoke for Him.  This is what made them “God-fearers” in the eye of the Jews.  And they hung around synagogues – not around the red-light district of town.

Among both Jews and Gentiles of that age, there were those who feared God and those who didn’t.  The preaching of the gospel polarized each of these two populations, drawing those whose hearts were tender toward God to Him – hardening and repelling the rest.

The true people of God could not be determined by whether or not they were Jew or Gentile, but by whether or not they loved righteousness (Hebrews 1:9).  This is still true today.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Posted in The People of God | Leave a comment

New Testament Elder Functions Were Limited and Temporary

Church leaders today want to claim biblical authority over you.  However, the Bible gives them none.

The term elder as used in the New Testament is synonymous with “overseer,” “bishop,” “shepherd,” and “pastor.”  (See this post for more explanation.)  These were leaders appointed by the apostles, and by subordinates of the apostles (e.g. Timothy and Titus).

1 Timothy 3:1ff and Titus 1:5ff are the two New Testament passages which give the most extensive lists of qualifications and responsibilities of church elders.  Nowhere in those lists are elders themselves authorized to appoint elders.  That is, these church elders were given no means of providing for their own succession.  This is quite understandable since the return of the Lord was expected in their lifetimes (and return He did: Jesus Christ Has Already Come Again).  Elders were being appointed because there weren’t enough apostles to keep up with the growth of disciples.  (To distinguish apostles from disciples, see this post.)  However, if the church ran low on elders, only the apostles were authorized to appoint more in order to replenish those ranks.

Elders therefore had 1) less authority than the apostles, and 2) like the apostles, had authority that was expected to soon expire (i.e. with the coming of the Lord).  For this reason, Peter included himself with the elders in anticipation of the Lord’s arrival to assume personal responsibility for His flock (1 Peter 5:1-4), and thereby relieve the apostles and elders of their respective authority (1 Corinthians 15:24 – the abolishment of all prior authority).

With such limited and temporary biblical authority for elders, it is surprising that church leaders today say that their authority over anyone is based on the Bible.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Posted in The People of God | Leave a comment

The Bible Tells of a God Who Governs His Creation, Speaks, and Reveals Himself

The Bible documents that God governs His creation, speaks, and reveals Himself.  Thus God is interacting with us far more than the world realizes.

God governs His creation.  He rules and judges.  He superintends all that takes place – even when He doesn’t agree with what is taking place.  Whatever happens, our God is in control.

God speaks.  Throughout the Bible, God speaks.  Because He speaks, there is a Bible.  If He did not speak, there would be no Bible.  At least there wouldn’t be a Bible that looks anything like the one we have.

God reveals Himself through His speaking.  He does not desire to be a mystery – at least not to those who want to know Him.

If you want to know God, go to the Bible so that He might reveal Himself to you.  There you will learn of Jesus Christ – God’s great and enduring revelation of Himself to the world.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Posted in Concepts, The Bible | Leave a comment

“Walk Before Me and Be Blameless”

“Walk before Me and be blameless” is the charge God gave to Abram when He changed his name to Abraham in Genesis 17:1ff.

Abraham walked before God as he understood Him.  Abraham’s descendants were to do the same.  Of course, that understanding grew enormously with the coming of Jesus Christ.  As the apostle John said:

1 John 5:20 And we know that the Son of God has come, and has given us understanding so that we may know Him who is true; and we are in Him who is true, in His Son Jesus Christ. This is the true God and eternal life.

Therefore, the charge to “walk before God and be blameless” carries significantly greater meaning for those living after Jesus than it did for those living before.  This is, of course, because we can see the “Me” so much more clearly in Jesus.

Even pious Jews were at first shocked by the idea that the Messiah could be crucified, because they could not see God putting up with that sort of treatment.  To put it another way, the psalmist could write “His mercy endureth forever” but wouldn’t have had the chutzah to say, “Well, sure, God would be willing to have Himself crucified by evil men” – even though, when you stop and think about it, that’s just what a “forever enduring mercy” would do.  God redefined mercy beyond limits that most human beings would consider appropriate.

Therefore, to walk before Jesus and be blameless requires much more of us than walking before a Creator God whose character and response to evil is something we have not yet fully tested.

Let us therefore walk before Jesus Christ and be blameless.  We have seen for ourselves through the pages of the Gospels just what sort of behavior He considers blameless.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Posted in Jesus Christ, The Prophets, The Ways of God | Leave a comment

God Speaks into Chaos…and Forms Life in Its Place

In Genesis 1:2, the earth is described as “formless and void” (“waste and emptiness” in the NASB margin).  The remainder of the first two chapters of Genesis are taken up with describing how God spoke form and life into that darkness.

This is the same pattern God follows as we let His word come into our individual lives.   Our hearts are dark without Him – “formless and void,” “waste and emptiness.”  His word brings light, life, and shape to the chaos of our hearts.

Therefore, continue to hold fast His word in your heart.  Let it shape your mind and your life. Let His word performs its creative work in you.  Let it be said of you what Paul was able to say to the Thessalonians:

1 Thessalonians 2:13 For this reason we also constantly thank God that when you received the word of God which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but for what it really is, the word of God, which also performs its work in you who believe.

Let His word perform its creative work in you by holding it fast in your heart.  A seed must stay in the ground if it is to germinate and sprout.  In every other location it will stay dormant.

The Parable of the Sower (Matthew 13:3ff, Mark 4:3ff, and Luke 8:5ff) makes clear that Satan comes immediately to take out the word of God that is sown.  Failing that, Satan resists the word of God with persecution and affliction, and competes with it through worries, riches, and pleasures of this life.  Recognize that the word of God can overpower all these things – but we must keep it in the ground – that is, in our hearts. That’s where it grows.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted.

Posted in The Ways of God, The Word of God | Leave a comment

The Bible Documents the Fact That God Makes Promises…and Keeps Them

The Bible testifies in Genesis that God made a promise to Abraham that he would have numerous descendants – even though Abraham was aged and childless when God made the promise to him.  Exodus through Deuteronomy chronicles the multitude that his descendants had become by the time of Moses.

Genesis also testified that God promised Abraham that his descendants would inherit the land of Canaan.  The book of Joshua documents the fulfillment of this promise.

The entire Old Testament testifies that God gave many promises regarding Messiah.  The New Testament testifies that these messianic promises were fulfilled in Jesus Christ.

The prophet Joel told of God’s promise to pour out His Spirit upon all flesh (Joel 2:28-32).  The book of Acts testifies of just how abundantly God did this (in Acts 2:1-47 and throughout).

To summarize, the Bible is a record of God’s faithfulness.  It tells of things that God promised that were fulfilled.  So abundant are these testimonies that we may know with certainty that if God has promised something, He will keep that promise.

This is one of the fundamental purposes of the Bible: to make sure that we know God will keep His promises where we are concerned, because He is faithful and impartial and always keeps His promises.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. (In the NASB New Testament, quotations of the Old Testament are rendered in all capital letters in order to make them easier to identify.)

Posted in The Bible | Leave a comment

The Bible Documents the Fact That God Speaks

The Bible provides voluminous evidence that the Creator speaks.

The Bible testifies that God has spoken to many people in many different ways.

God speaks most to those who are most like Him.  That is, God mainly speaks to and through godly people.

Thus when Jesus came into the world, His story was not told by the heralds and historians of the great Roman empire but rather by the fellow Jews who left their occupations as fishermen, tax collectors, and such to follow Him.

To deny that God speaks to human beings means you believe that those who wrote the documents we call the Bible were lying when they said God did speak to them.  I don’t see how anyone who has read these documents in a fair-minded way can justify that conclusion.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Posted in The Bible | Leave a comment

SL015 – Reviewing the Structure of the Bible

Scriptural Literacy:

Understanding the Bible -

An Ancient Text of Timeless Truths for a Modern Age

SL015 – Reviewing the Structure of the Bible

Our purpose in this blog and podcast is to increase our biblical literacy – that is, to become more comfortable reading the Bible.  The purpose of reading the Bible is to understand Jesus Christ – God’s revelation of Himself to the world.  Proverbs 25:2 and Jeremiah 15:19 speak of discerning the principles to be found in this ancient set of texts.  See also James 1:5 to establish that God wants to share with us His wisdom.

Understanding the structure of the Bible (OT = Old Testament, NT = New Testament):

The order of our study in these podcasts: Gospels, Psalms, Acts, Prophets, Epistles, Torah, History, Wisdom

OT: Torah (Pentateuch, Law of Moses), History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: Gospels, Acts, Epistles

OT: History, Wisdom, Prophets
NT: History, Letters

Review-to-Date (starts at 00:00)

I.  The Structure of the Bible (begins at 2:21)

canon
Protestant (core canon), Roman Catholic, Greek Orthodox
Jewish
Septuagint (LXX)
The order of the books
The purpose of the NT is not to replace the OT but rather to explain it
A walk through the contents
History begins each testament; a thousand years and a hundred years
The OT was written initially to guide ancient Israel but ultimately to testify to Christ; these two purposes account for contours which can confuse modern minds
Repetition in the Bible:  Deuteronomy 19:15; Philippians 3:1
Apostles and Prophets:
The apostles were chosen by Christ. They did not, and could not, appoint apostles themselves.
The apostles continued “The Jewish Mission.”
The Bible is not a magic book; it has authority because its authors did.
1 Thessalonians 2:13
The prophets and apostles came first – then the Bible (not the other way around)
The apostles and prophets lived and died as He did. Where is there another story like this?
The apostles and prophets wrote to answer the questions of their day; not the questions of ours – yet we can extract the precious from the worthless (Jeremiah 15:19)

II.  Navigating the Anthology (begins at 24:25 )

Gateways
The NT is a gateway to the OT
Gateways to the NT: GJohn, GMark, Paul’s letters
Gateways to the OT: NT quotes, Psalms, Proverbs, Genesis, Isaiah
Landing zones
underlining and highlighting; print and digital
Mark inviting gateways; the most inviting gateway is probably personal to you
The apostles have told us His name, that we might call upon it.
Practically everything we know about Jesus comes through the apostles; Christ has designed it such that we cannot get to Him except through them.  And we cannot truly get to the prophets, except through the apostles
The Bible is a collection of the writings of men of God – a collection of what they wrote
John 17:20; 2 Tim 2:7; Heb 2:1-4; John 6:29
Bible Reading Plans (BRP’s)
Daily Quiet Time (DQT)
Why are you listening to Scriptural Literacy if you are not reading the Bible?
The man who does not read the Bible is no better off than the man who cannot

III.  The Holy Spirit in Your Bible Reading (begins at 42:26 )

2 Timothy 2:7
John 16:13
2 Peter 1:12-21
Acts 8:25-35

Total time elapsed is 58:46

Unless otherwise noted, all scripture references are to the New American Standard Bible (NASB)

Posted in Podcast | Leave a comment

How the Apostles See Our Lives Being Redirected by Christ

The following New Testament scriptures demonstrate a consistent point of view from the apostles about just how fundamentally and dramatically our lives are changed when we decide to follow Jesus Christ.

When people first approach the Bible, or are only superficially familiar with it, they think it is saying many different things.  The actuality is that it is sounding the same fundamental themes over and over and over.  This is so we might thoroughly understand those themes, incorporating the truths into our thinking and the principles into our behavior.

The apostles wrote this way because they thought this way.  And they thought this way because Jesus taught them to think this way.

From One Way of Living to Another

Chapter and verse
Our Old Way of LIving
Our New Way of Living
Matthew 16:23setting your mind on man's interestssetting your mind on God's interests
Matthew 26:39, 42, 44your will be doneHis will be done
Mark 8:33setting your mind on man's interestssetting your mind on God's interests
John 5:30seeking your own willseeking the will of Him who sent you
Acts 14:15turned to vain thingsturned to the living God
Acts 26:18turned to darknessturned to light
Acts 26:18the dominion of Satanthe dominion of God
1 Corinthians 10:24seeking your own goodseeking the good of your neighbor
2 Corinthians 5:15living for yourselfliving for Him who died and rose again on your behalf
Philippians 2:4looking out for your own personal interestslooking out for the interests of others
Colossians 1:13the domain of darknessthe kingdom of God's Son
2 Timothy 3:4loving pleasureloving God
Hebrews 11:25enjoying the passing pleasures of sinenduring ill-treatment with the people of God
1 Peter 2:24living to sinliving to righteousness
1 Peter 4:2living for the lusts of menliving for the will of God
This table shows the similarity of thinking in various New Testament verses regarding the old way of life being abandoned and the new way of life being adopted by believers in Christ.
Posted in The Apostles, The Ways of Christ, Verses | Leave a comment

John 4:21-24

John 4:21 Jesus *said to her, “Woman, believe Me, an hour is coming when neither in this mountain nor in Jerusalem will you worship the Father.
John 4:22 “You worship what you do not know; we worship what we know, for salvation is from the Jews.
John 4:23 “But an hour is coming, and now is, when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth; for such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.
John 4:24 “God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.”

How is it that Jesus said almost 2,000 years ago that “an hour is coming and now is” that physical location would cease to be an issue for true worship of God and yet some today say that He wants people to go to a certain place and gather with certain others in order to properly worship?  I’m talking, of course, about those who say that God wants His followers to belong to a local church.

We are not sanctified by our location in a specific place or by our inclusion with a certain group, but rather by the Spirit (Romans 15:16; 2 Thessalonians 2:13; 1 Peter 1:2).  That is, “the Lord knows those who are His” (2 Timothy 2:19) and there’s no need for your name to be on some earthly attendance list.

If you want to belong to the house of the Lord, then belong to the Lord…and you will be of His house.

The purpose of this blog is to proclaim Jesus Christ in terms familiar to those who read the Bible, and to help others become more familiar with the Bible. For those unfamiliar with the Bible, see the blog A Nonchurchgoer’s Guide to Jesus and His Kingdom.

Scripture quotations taken from the NASB, unless otherwise noted. 

Posted in The People of God | Leave a comment