St. Paul and the Eucharist

One of the central themes in all of Christendom is that of unity.  Though there are many denominations Christians everywhere consider themselves to be in the family of God.  However within the Catholic Church we have something that the other denominations do not.  We have the body, soul, and divinity of Christ present with us in the Eucharist.  In the Catholic Church we are a family, and in that family there are disagreements.  However when we receive the Eucharist we are submitting to our Lord and we become one with Him and with each other.  This unity is important in St. Paul’s first letter to the Corinthians.  This is a nice introduction.

During the course of St. Paul’s missionary journeys he founded the church in Corinth.  The community seemed to have a problem with individuality, but it is not what we think individuality to be.  This was not someone expressing their personality, but individuals who were selfish and put themselves before the welfare of the community.  Laurance states “Many of the Corinthian Christians believe that all that is important is to know the fact of their salvation, and that this fact liberates them from duties of love to their fellow Christians or even to Christ (Laurence, Page 71). There was an individual who was fornicating with his stepmother (1 Corinthians 5:1).  This is bad enough, but the church did nothing to correct the issue.  This vital issue had the potential of ending the young church.  They were taking each other to court instead of working things out internally (1 Corinthians 6:1-6).  How does this look to the unbelievers around them?  They were not setting themselves about and living the example of Christ and their beloved Apostle Paul.  There were many other things wrong with the church, but when it came to the Eucharist.  Many within the church strayed from what they believed and received in an unworthy manner.

Paul is begins his lesson by reminding the Corinthians of Christ.  Laurance states “Contrary to all worldly wisdom and all expectations, God’s power is manifested in Christ’s humbling of himself and finally acceptance of death (Laurance, page 71).”  As previously stated the Corinthians were worrying about their own desires and seemed to forget about the fundamentals of the Gospel.  We are to act like Christ, and they were doing everything but that.

Christ loved us so much that He humbled himself and died for our sin.  Paul was reminding the Corinthians of this and the duty to love others more than yourself.  This is important in preparation to receive the Eucharist.  In mass we offer each other a sign of peace and we pray for each other.  It is in these prayers and offerings of peace that we humble ourselves and place ourselves at the service of others.  Paul was trying to emphasize the importance of this in proper Christian living.

To go along with this the Corinthians were not coming together properly to celebrate the Eucharist.  1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 says “When you meet in one place, then it is not to eat the Lord’s supper, and one goes hungry while another gets drunk.”  Those that were well off in the world were flaunting it in the faces of those that had nothing.  This had the effect of making those less fortunate feel ashamed and it brought disgrace on the Church (1 Corinthians 11:22).  Paul, as a disappointed father, tells them he is ashamed.  Laurence states in plainly “To celebrate it (Eucharist) in a context of selfishness and division is to violate its very nature, to reject Christ who at the Last Supper and in his death shared himself completely.  Such a violation results in condemnation rather than blessing (Laurance, page 72).”

One could get the feeling from reading Paul’s letter that the community was in peril.  Someone was concerned enough to leak this information to Paul, and he swiftly wrote this epistle condemning their behavior.  Paul does this is a way that a father corrects a child.  He does it with love and he is trying to teach them by example.

Paul is telling the Corinthians, and us, that the Eucharistic meal is one which is firmly rooted in family.  In 1 Corinthians 11:26 Paul writes “For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the death of the Lord until He comes.”  After performing the first mass at the Last supper our Lord was betrayed.  He was whipped, beaten, and had nails driven through His hands and feet.  To take this lightly one may as well be at the scene of the crucifixion with a hammer in hand.  We gather to remember that the Lord gave Himself for us and we are to follow His example by giving ourselves to each other.  If a member of the church lost a loved one then we all did.  If a member of the church is sick we are to all pray.  We are to help each other get to heaven, not step all over each other so we can get there first.

Paul reiterates the point of the Eucharist as a means of bringing the community together in 1 Corinthians 11:33, 34.  These verses read “Therefore, my brothers, when you come together to eat, wait for one another.  If anyone is hungry, he should eat at home, so your meetings may not result in judgment.  The other matters I shall set in order when I come.”  Remember that there were certain members of the congregation that were using the church meeting as their own personal buffet.  This passage is not saying that one should not feed someone who is hungry, but is saying that everyone should get a portion of the body and blood of Christ in the Eucharist.

The Eucharist is the high point of the church meeting.  We recall how unworthy we are to receive the Blessed Sacrament, and ask God to forgive us of our shortcoming and fill us with His grace.  We ask for the prayers of our brothers and sisters in Christ, and they ask the same of us.  Paul is trying to tell the Corinthians that we are in this race together, and is beneficial and necessary that we help each other as a family.

Image result for st paul

Reference

1 Corinthians 11:20, 21 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:26 New American Bible

1 Corinthians 11:33, 34 New American Bible

Laurance, John D., S.J., ED.  Introduction to Theology. (Revised Second Edition)  Boston:  Pearson Custom Publishing, 2008.

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The Letter to the Ephesians, Faith, and Marriage

Scripture tells us in 2 Timothy 3:16 that “All scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness.”  However, there are some books that have been absolutely instrumental in forming Christian doctrine and thought.  One of those books is Ephesians, and the other is Romans.  Raymond Brown writes “Among the Pauline writings only Romans can match Ephesians as a candidate for exercising the most influence on Christian thought and spirituality (Brown, page 620).”

Ephesians is also a source of controversy among various groups in Christendom.  One of the issues being addressed in the letter is that the love for God is not only singular, but requires love of neighbor and thus community.  A way of living faith is intertwined with the love of neighbor.  In is in this regard that one of the most popular passages of scripture is sometimes taken out of context.  Ephesians 2:8-9 states “For by grace you have been saved through faith, and this is not of your own doing; it is the gift of God-not the result of works, so that no one may boast.”  This is taken by the Sola Fide crowd as meaning that all we need is faith.  Believe Christ has forgiven you and you have nothing else to do.  This contradicts the context in which this passage should be read as the next verse puts it into perspective.  Ephesians 2:10 states “For we are what he has made us, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand to be our way of life.”

We are indeed saved by faith, but there is more to it.  We are a community of believers and we must take care of each other.  We are to take care of the poor, the sick, and intercede in prayer for our Christian brothers and sisters.  Our faith is to produce good fruit for the Christian community, because a faith kept to ourselves will ultimately die.

A second issue illustrated in the Epistle to the Ephesians is that marriage is compared to the relationship between Christ and the Church, which is a large development from the earlier letters. Marriage is given a spiritual position.  This is another portion of the Epistle that is taken out of context by some.  Ephesians 5:22 states “Wives, be subject to your husbands as you are to the Lord.”  Some take this to mean that wives are to “obey” the husband and be subservient.  However this is not the case as the other verses puts that theory to rest.  Ephesians 5:25 states “Husbands, love your wives, just as Christ loved the church and gave himself for her.” In a sort of ironic way I like to point out that obeying one’s husband is one thing; dying for one’s wife is another.

Brown states “The obligation for the husband to love is treated more extensively than the obligation of the wife to be subject, and both are rooted in God’s initial plan for union in marriage (Brown, page 624).”  Christ came and died for us because he loved us.  This is the responsibly of the husband, and that is to emulate Christ’s love to his wife.  In this regard we are to care, love, and serve just as Christ did for us.

Image result for ephesians

Works Cited

Brown, Raymond, An Introduction to the New Testament. New York: Doubleday, 1997

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Three Ways Suffering Can Lead Us Closer to Christ

There was a man that was hunting in a forest just outside of Pittsburg.  It was early in the morning, the sun was just starting to rise, and there was snow as far as the eye can see.  The hunter sat down against a tree to catch the beautiful sunrise.  He would eventually fall asleep against the tree, and would be awakened by a loud snort.  He opened his eyes and noticed that an 800 pound grizzly bear was right in front of him.  The hunter, who was a professed atheist yelled, “God!  Help me!  Make this bear a Christian bear!  Help him do the right thing.”  The man opened his eyes to look at the bear.  He noticed the bear was on his knees.  Then the bear started speaking and said, “Bless this oh Lord and these thy gifts which we are about to receive from your bounty through Christ our Lord.”

Obviously this story is not true, but it does illustrate something that we all encounter at one time or another.  That something is suffering.  It is in our nature, and popular in our culture to look at suffering as a negative that could not possibly have anything good come out of it.  Our text today shows the suffering of a great man of faith who realizes the great good that has arisen out of his suffering.

You may have heard of this man.  He is perhaps the greatest evangelist who ever lived, he planted many churches, and wrote thirteen books of the New Testament.  His name is Paul, and he suffered much for the sake of the Gospel. Much can be said of the suffering that Paul underwent.  2 Corinthians 11-23-29 states, “23 Are they ministers of Christ? I am talking like a madman—I am a better one: with far greater labors, far more imprisonments, with countless floggings, and often near death. 24 Five times I have received from the Jews the forty lashes minus one. 25 Three times I was beaten with rods. Once I received a stoning. Three times I was shipwrecked; for a night and a day I was adrift at sea; 26 on frequent journeys, in danger from rivers, danger from bandits, danger from my own people, danger from Gentiles, danger in the city, danger in the wilderness, danger at sea, danger from false brothers and sisters; 27 in toil and hardship, through many a sleepless night, hungry and thirsty, often without food, cold and naked. 28 And, besides other things, I am under daily pressure because of my anxiety for all the churches. 29 Who is weak, and I am not weak? Who is made to stumble, and I am not indignant[1]?”  To say that Paul endured suffering for the Gospel would be an understatement.  He endured more than you and I have or may ever will.  Did he see it as a burden?  Did he see it as punishment for something he did?  To answer that question we will look at our primary text for today.

Philippians 1:12-18 states, “Now I want you to know, brethren, that my circumstances have turned out for the greater progress of the gospel, so that my imprisonment in the cause of Christ has become well known throughout the whole praetorian guard and to everyone else, and that most of the brethren, trusting in the Lord because of my imprisonment, have far more courage to speak the word of God without fear.  Some, to be sure, are preaching Christ even from envy and strife, but some also from good will; the latter do it out of love, knowing that I am appointed for the defense of the gospel; the former proclaim Christ out of selfish ambition rather than from pure motives, thinking to cause me distress in my imprisonment. What then? Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in this I rejoice.  Yes, and I will rejoice[2].”

 

SUFFERING CAN BE A BLESSING

Depending on the kind of suffering involved it is hard to see the light that it can bring.  When Paul was writing to the church in Philippi he was writing to reassure them, and to encourage them to continue in the faith.  The churches founder was arrested, and it was well known that Christians were heavily persecuted in Rome.  To see this clearly a closer look at Philippians 1:12 is in order.  Again the passage states, “Now I want you to know, brothers and sisters, that what has happened to me has actually served to advance the gospel[3].”  The KJV Biblical Commentary says in regards to this passage, “His bonds led to a wider witness.  Paul turned his prison cell into a gospel chapel.  His chain did not curtail the gospel, but advanced it[4].”

Paul saw being in prison as having a captive audience, and as a result he added members to the kingdom of God.  This is something that we can incorporate into our own lives.  When we go through trials do we see it as an exercise to increase our faith, or as an obstacle to our faith?  When we go through various trials the Lord may be preparing us for events later on.  It may be a way to better minister to a group, our families, or even our churches.  Just as the suffering of Paul did not hinder his ministry, we must not let it hinder ours[5].  He kept a positive attitude and accepted it as an honor to suffer on behalf of Christ.  This is echoed in Philippians 1:13 where Paul writes, “As a result, it has become clear throughout the whole palace guard and to everyone else that I am in chains for Christ[6].”

No matter where we are or what we are going through there is someone who needs the gospel.  How we handle our suffering may be the witness needed for someone to enter into a relationship with Christ.  What a blessing it would be to be going through a hard time, but at the end of it your words and actions led someone to Christ?  May we echo the words of Paul, “What difference does it make, as long in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is being proclaimed?  And in that I rejoice[7].”  We cannot always trace the hand of God, but we can always trust the heart of God. His heart is devoted to working all things together for good for his people[8].  We must be like Paul and focus on the end that Christ has in store for us.  The enemy will try to discourage us with different trials, but we must proclaim Christ and rejoice that the gospel is being proclaimed in spite of what we are going through[9].

SUFFERING CAN BRING US CLOSER TO CHRIST

In times of great struggle we find out what we are made of.  We find out what is a priority in our lives, and depending on the situation suffering assists us in realigning our priorities.  In my own situation this is really the case.  All was going well in my life.  I had a great job, beautiful wire, two great kids, and we were expecting twins.  One day I was driving to work and was involved in a rollover accident.  I received a severe concussion and fractured a vertebrae in my neck.  More months I was in severe pain and had memory problems, and one day I decided I wanted to end my life.  I was depressed, had anxiety, and became addicted to pain medication.

I could not go through with the deed.  I called a suicide prevention hotline, and later that night I had a heart to heart conversation with God.  I could not do it on my own.  I asked to be delivered from the addiction, and rededicated myself to Christ.  That happened over two years ago and I have not had another pain pill since.  Our worst times help us to realize what is important, and in my case Christ was an afterthought before that day.  We never know when our time on earth will be over, and suffering assists in reminding us that we must be ready.

By taking another look at the Apostle Paul’s situation we can see many examples of suffering bringing him closer to Christ.  We see this in Philippians 1:14 which states, “and so that the majority off brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly[10].”  The Christians in Philippi looked upon the suffering of Paul, drew encouragement from it, drew closer to Christ because of what they witnessed, and proclaimed the truth of the gospel like never before.

The writers of the New Jerome Biblical Commentary say in regards to this, “God’s grace has emboldened others to fill the vacuum in the work of preaching created by the restriction of Paul[11].”  How does this situation described apply to us?

We all attend a church which is a community of Christians.  Each of us has a job to do, and must not ignore or task.  Often times we elevate our leadership to a place they should not be.  How many of us have left a church because the pastor left?  How about when it was discovered that the pastor was in sin?  If we leave the church because of situations like these, though they are difficult, have we left for the right reasons?  Chances are we left under some state of emotional distress and acted irrationally.  If our pastor leaves we are left without leadership.  How is this any different from the church in Philippi when Paul was put in prison?

Let us look again at verse fourteen of our text, “and so that the majority of the brothers, having taken encouragement in the Lord from my imprisonment, dare more than ever to proclaim the word fearlessly[12].”  If our pastor were imprisoned would we take encouragement and proclaim the lord more fearlessly.  In regards to this encouragement the great Bible commentator Matthew Henry writes, “They saw that those who served Christ, served a good master, who could bear them up in their sufferings for Him.  That which was intended by the enemy to discourage preachers of the gospel, was overruled for their encouragement, and they were bold to speak the word without fear[13].”

Would this happen in our church today?  Is your faith such that you would step up with boldness to proclaim Christ in the midst of suffering?  I would venture to say that most congregations in the country would scatter like sheep among wolves.  In this regard we must take the lead of Paul who writes, “I want you to know brothers, that my situation has turned out rather to advance the gospel[14].”  To put this in a fuller context a look at Colossians 1:24 may prove beneficial.  Colossians 1:24 states, “Now I rejoice in my sufferings for your sake, and in my flesh I am filling up what is lacking in the afflictions of Christ on behalf of his body, which is the church[15].”

Paul is not saying that there was something lacking in what Christ did for us on the cross.  However he is saying that if we suffer as Christians that we are participating in that suffering.  By suffering for his cause we are further being conformed to his image.  This will allow us to be bold, be a better witness, stand in the face of tyranny, stand for what is right, and proudly proclaim the gospel.  Theologian Wayne Grudem puts it well by saying, “We should see all the hardship and suffering that comes to us in life as something God brings to us to do us good, strengthening our trust in him and our obedience, and ultimately increasing our ability to glorify him[16].”

WE MUST BE WILLING TO GO WHEREVER CHRIST LEADS US

            Ministry was something that was always in the back of my mind, but it was something that I would only if something else did not work out.  My goal was to get an MBA, go as high as possible in corporate America, and make as much money as possible in as little time as possible.  These are goals I had when I first entered theology in the summer of 2011.  These are not the normal goals of the average theology student.

After six classes I decided to change majors to what I really wanted to do, or what I thought I wanted to do.  I changed my major to Business Administration and set course for everything I had ever wanted.  This path was not what the Lord had intended for my life.  After just two classes there were so many things spiraling out of control in my life that I have to leave the University.  To say that I was disappointed is an understatement.  In my mind I let myself and my family down.

After one year of a meager existence that had little direction I received any email.  This email was from a theology professor who was just checking in to see how I was doing.  This kind gesture came just in time as I had developed a pain pill addiction and was on the verge of losing my family.  I decided to do something I had not done in a while…I decided to pray.  I prayed for help with the pills, help with my family, and completely handed my life over to God.  I have not touched a pill since, my wife and I have had two more children, and I went back to school to pursue my calling of teaching church leaders of the future.  Sometimes in the midst of suffering we get direction, but we must be willing to go where Christ leads us.  This was a lesson that I had to learn the hard way.

The Apostle Paul willingly went where Jesus asked, and the churches he founded flourished.  Some had the issues, but the church in Philippi obeyed Christ and the teaching of Paul.  They willingly went where Jesus was leading them.  In regards to Paul we read in Philippians 1:16, “The latter act out of love, aware that I am here for the defense of the Gospel[17].”  The Holman New Testament Commentary says in regards to this passage, “Motivated by Paul’s example, those who preach with right motives do so in love. Such love flows out to Paul, to unbelievers needing the gospel, and to God. Such love realizes that Paul was suffering, not for some wrong he had done, but because he preached Christ[18].”

In 1 Corinthians chapter 13 the Apostle Paul speaks about the greatness of faith, hope, and love.  He goes on to state that the greatest of the three is love.  It was love that led to God creating each of us.  It was love that gave Christ strength to die for us.  It is love that allows us to persevere in our faith when we are in the midst of suffering.  It is love that allows us to go where Christ wants us to go.  As Christians we have an obligation to go where the master leads.  The question that must be answered is, are we?

Do we have this kind of faith?  We confess Christ, and are quick to call on him but do we believe in him?  When trials arise many Christians look at the Lord as a cosmic butler waiting to budge to our will.  To view God in this manner is to lose sight of who he really is.  We should call upon the Lord when we are suffering.  In fact, he encourages that because he loves us with an everlasting love.  We need to reciprocate that love in all situations, and when we are suffering it will help us draw even closer to him.

 

IN ALL WE DO WE MUST PROCLAIM THE NAME OF JESUS

We see this written plainly by the Apostle Paul who writes, “What then?  Only that in every way, whether in pretense or in truth, Christ is proclaimed; and in that I rejoice[19].”  What really matters is not the attitude of one group or the other to Paul himself but that Christ is being proclaimed. His actions have been for the sake of the gospel, and because his stand has not been ineffective, he is filled with joy[20].

While Paul was in prison there were those who were preaching out of love, and there were those who were preaching to undermine his ministry.  In both of these situations Paul rejoices because the Gospel is being preached.  In not retaliating the great Apostle is showing an incredible sign of Christian virtue.  He is doing what the Lord commanded when he said “Love your enemies[21].”  How much of a witness could this have possibly had on those around Paul?  Those in prison, and the guards surely would have noticed his charity, and the seed of the gospel would have been planted.  Is this something that we do?  If you are like me you jump quickly to defend yourself, and in doing that say something hurtful and foolish.  That may be that individual’s only chance to hear the gospel, and that is not a good first impression.  Every situation in an opportunity to live and share the gospel.  Are you willing to share it?

 

CONTINUE TO ENRICH EACH OTHER

            So far we have looked at how suffering can be a blessing, how it can bring us closer to Christ, how we must be willing to go where Christ leads us, and that we must rejoice and proclaim Christ.  All are critical components to understand and exercise in the Christian faith, but we must also remember that Jesus gave us the church.  His people need to encourage and strengthen each other as we each journey towards our heavenly home.

Paul writes in Philippians 1:12, “I want you to know, brethren, that what has happened to me has really served to advance the gospel[22].”  Although the Philippians were concerned that the apostle’s adverse circumstances in prison as he awaited the outcome of his trial might have dealt a blow to his ministry of the gospel to Gentiles, Paul wants to assure his readers that far from having the effects they had feared his affairs had actually served to advance the gospel[23].  The concern that the church had for Paul served to encourage him and enrich him while he was in prison, and in turn Paul wrote the letter to encourage the church.

As people of faith we must realize that we are in this together.  If we see someone struggling we must not be afraid to say a kind word of encouragement.  If we see a brother stumbling we must reach out to help.  We are called the body of Christ because we are all in this together.  Being accountable and encouraging each other will assist in helping individual faith grow.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Anders, Max. The Holman New Testament Commentary:  Galatians-Colossians. Edited by Max Anders. Nashville, TN:  Broadman &​ Holman Publishers, 1999.

Brown, Raymond E., Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds. The New Jerome Biblical Commentary. Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990.

Ellsworth, Roger. Opening Up Philippians. Leominster, UK: Dayone Publications, 2004.

Grudem, Wayne. Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine. Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994.

Henry, Matthew. Commentary on the Whole Bible. Volume III ed. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979.

King James Version Bible Commentary. Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005.

Loh, I-jin, and Eugene A. Nida. A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians. New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1977.

O’Brien, Peter. The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991.

[1] 2 Corinthians 11: 23-29 (New Revised Standard Version).

[2] Philippians 1:12-18 (New American Standard Version).

[3] Philippians 1:12 (New International Version).

[4] King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 1584.

[5] King James Version Bible Commentary (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, Inc, 2005), 1584.

[6] Philippians 1:13 (New International Version).

[7] Philippians 1:12-18 (New American Bible).

[8] Roger Ellsworth, Opening Up Philippians (Leominster, UK: Dayone Publications, 2004), 27.

[9] I-jin Loh and Eugene A. Nida, A Handbook on Paul’s Letter to the Philippians (New York, NY: United Bible Societies, 1977), 26.

[10] Philippians 1:14 (New American Bible).

[11] Raymond E. Brown, Joseph A. Fitzmyer, and Roland E. Murphy, eds., The New Jerome Biblical Commentary (Englewood Cliffs, NJ: Prentice Hall, 1990), 793.

[12] Philippians 1:14 (New American Bible).

[13] Matthew Henry, Commentary on the Whole Bible, volume III ed (Nashville, TN: Thomas Nelson, 1979), 225.

[14] Philippians 1:12 (New American Bible).

[15] Colossians 1:24 (New American Bible).

[16] Wayne Grudem, Systematic Theology:  An Introduction to Biblical Doctrine (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1994), 812.

[17] Philippians 1:12 (New American Bible).

[18] Max Anders, The Holman New Testament Commentary:  Galatians-Colossians, ed. Max Anders (Nashville, TN:  Broadman &​ Holman Publishers, 1999), 209-210.

[19] Philippians 1:18 (Revised Standard Version).

[20] Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 105.

[21] Matthew 5:44 (New International Version).

[22] Philippians 1:12 (Revised Standard Version).

[23] Peter O’Brien, The Epistle to the Philippians:  A Commentary on the Greek Text (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1991), 89.

Book Review: NICNT The Letter to Philemon

One of my favorite books of the New Testament is the short letter of the Apostle Paul to Philemon.  Coming in at just over 250 words the letter is short, but full of power.  Never read it?  I encourage you to as it is a constant reminder on how to treat our fellow man.  In this commentary, author Scot McKnight, provides excellent insights into this underrated book.

The letter itself deals with the topic of slavery as Paul is writing to Philemon on behalf of Philemon’s slave Oneisimus.  McKnight gives an excellent account of slavery in ancient Rome, and in doing so he calls to mind the church’s job of reconciliation.  On page five he writes, “Reconciled people become agents of reconciliation”.  With this in mind McKnight calls Philemon to a new relationship as siblings in Christ with his runaway slave.

Intermingled in the commentary the author provides various essays and takes aim at the very real problem of slavery in the 21st century.  These essays alone are worth the cost of the book.  The message of Philemon applies to the modern travesty as well, and the church needs to be a place of reconciliation and justice.

Overall this commentary was very well written and researched.  It is a fairly short book and is only 114 pages long, but those pages are power packed.  This is an excellent resource for any serious student of the scriptures.  I highly recommend it!

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from Eerdamans in exchange for an honest review.]

 

Book Review: Paul and His Team

No matter what capacity you have in life you have heard of leadership.  Leadership is something that influences every aspect of our life.  Whether it be work, home, church, or a volunteer activity leadership is something we are involved in.  Leadership involves providing a clear vision, the ability to share the vision, and giving the tools needed for one to succeed.

When we think of Biblical figures there are many leaders, but the Apostle Paul emerges as a leader par excellance.  When he established churches he gave the tools needed, he followed up, provided guidance, and dealt with some very difficult situations (the situation in Corinth comes to mind).  In his new book Paul and His Team:  What the Early Church Can Teach Us About Leadership and Influence, author Ryan Lokkesome evaluates the leadership of the Apostle Paul and helps us apply it to out lives today.

This is not a scholarly textbook, but is written for the average person in the pew.  The author breaks down the lessons that Paul provided then in easy to understand terms.  Not only that, but he provides real world guidance on how to apply the skills that Paul taught.  In describing Paul’s leadership ability the author writes, “We will see qualities like humility, self-sacrifice, and radical grace at work.  This stands in stark contrast to much of the leadership culture today, which often has a strident, boastful tone to it-even in Christian circles” (page 19).

Overall this book is a good one on leadership and gives some decent insights.  I rate it a 4/5.

[Note.  This book was provides free of charge from Moody Publishers in exchange for an honest review.]

Book Review: Paul the Apostle-Missionary, Martyr, Theologian

Besides our Lord himself, there are few men in history that have done more to spread Christianity through the known word than the Apostle Paul.  This great man of God wrote thirteen books of the New Testament, went on numerous missionary journeys, and many leaders of the early Church were disciples of his.

Having a Masters Degree in Church History, and working on a second masters in Theology I have read much about the great Apostle.  Those that I read are very academic and scholarly works that, though very beneficial, would not be volumes that the average layman in the pew would desire to read.  The author, Robert Picirilli, does a masterful job of bridging the gap between a simple and scholarly work.

This book covers much about Paul’s life and covers his life and ministry in its proper historical context.  There are eight chapters that range from his background in Judaism, to his last yeas, and everything in between.  The book also has several pages, a treasure trove, really of recommended resources where one can learn even more about the Apostle Paul.  Most importantly, this work assists one in understanding the letters of Paul in even greater detail.  It is a great read, and I give it 4 of 5 stars.

[Note:  This book was received free of charge from Moody Publishing in exchange for an honest review.]

Importance of the Resurrection

Every Easter we celebrate the resurrection of Christ.  It is the foundation of our faith, and without the resurrection are faith is futile (1 Corinthians 15:14).  Beyond proving that Jesus is the Christ, what does the resurrection prove?  The resurrection is about much more than the eyewitness accounts of the Apostles seeing the risen Jesus.  It is also about the new life that is present in every believer throughout time.

We have finite minds, and it is hard for us to grasp the miracle that is the resurrection.  Jesus is a divine being, and as a divine being he resurrected from the dead to prove who he was.  Though theologically true, this view leads to a somewhat simplistic understanding of the event.  The resurrection can also be seen in the transformation of the believer.  It is about the new life in Christ and not what the ocular vision of the disciples has perceived.  Saint Paul also echoes this sentiment in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation:  everything old has passed away; see, everything has become new” (NRSV).

The resurrection is a religious experience of one who has come to faith in Christ, and is much more than something that happened to those who physically encountered the risen Christ.  According to Scholars such as Luke Johnson this is a common theme in the Pauline Corpus.  Regarding this Dr. Johnson writes, “The resurrection experience, in Paul’s letters, is not something that happens to Jesus alone” (Johnson 25).  Every Christian with a genuine faith in Christ experiences the resurrection in a special way through baptism.  Through the sacrament of baptism original sin is wiped away, and we are raised in the newness of life.

Within the context of introducing the resurrection to Christian audience there are a couple of things to keep in mind.  From an apologetics standpoint, it is important to know the reasoning as to why the resurrection is the foundation of the faith.  One can go into the martyrdom of the early church because they were attesting to the resurrection.  People do not die for a lie.

Secondly, it is more important to assist the audience in learning to relate to the resurrection in a deeper way.  A way that is more personal, and something that they can share.  Everyone has something deep in the recesses of their mind that they are ashamed of.  It may be an addiction, adultery, or a gambling problem.  These things are destructive, but when one comes to faith those things are in the past.  They still may struggle, but through Christ they are resurrected and forgiven for those things that they have done.  Those types of experiences are the modern-day equivalent of the disciples physically seeing the resurrected Jesus.  Our former selves are dead and gone, but we were resurrected spiritually into a new creation.  The disciples’ experience of Jesus raised and exalted is the difference between their faith in the gospel.

 

WORKS CITED

Holy Bible, New Revised Standard Version

Johnson, Luke Timothy. “How Jesus Became GodCommonweal. 2/3/2015. Web. 22 Feb. 2015.

Book Review: The Gospel According to Paul

The book The Gospel According to Paul is written by John Macarthur.  Macarthur has the popular radio program Grace to You and is president of The Master’s Seminary in California.  He has been very critical in recent years about the erosion of the Gospel message in American churches, and this book was partly written as a response to that watered down message.

Macarthur lays out the message of Paul’s letters in an easy to understand format.  In the introduction Macarthur describes who Paul was, how her received his apostleship in a manner different than the other apostles, and his burden to go to the ends of the earth preaching the gospel to the gentiles.

The book itself is made of up of seven chapters and four appendixes.  The chapters lay out the Gospel according to a reformed theology worldview.  The appendixes go to great length defending the penal substitutionary theory of atonement.  Both system are not without their detractors within Christian circles, and are open to criticism and debate.

If you are looking for a basic introduction to Paul this book may fir the bill, but Michael Gorman’s Apostle of the Crucified Lord gives a much better representation of what the Gospel that Paul preached really was and relies a lot less of prooftexting and theological presuppositions.  Overall the book is a good introduction, but the reader must be ready to encounter some theological ideas that are still under debate within evangelical circles.   I also recommend F.F Bruce’s great work Paul:  Apostle of the Heart Set Free as it looks deep into history to discover the person of Paul.

 

[Note:  This book was provided free of charge from Thomas Nelson in exchange for an honest review.]

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