Saturday, June 3, 2017

Letter to the Churches of Christ

Dear beloved in Christ Jesus:

I just finished reading “Reclaiming a Heritage” (2002) by Richard T. Hughes, and this is one book that should be recommended reading by every church member; especially the leadership. The author grew up in the Church of Christ and is therefore eminently qualified to write this book, not only from a scholarly perspective but he has an insider perspective about the mindset and inner workings of this religious group. The first thing that has to be admitted is the influence of such men as Alexander Campbell, Barton Stone, David Lipscomb, James Harding, and others in the Restoration Movement in general and Churches of Christ/Disciples of Christ (The Christian Church) in particular. Although Jesus Christ is the founder of our ‘Faith’ these reformers are the founders of our religious tradition. In this article I will use the author’s words mostly taken from his book to help better explain the Churches of Christ from a perspective that is seldom taught, or if at all, in the congregations.

The main point that Hughes wants to make is that the in the beginning the foundational principle behind the movement was that everyone had the right and privilege to search out the truth for themselves, and that such an endeavor may take a lifetime because humans are imperfect and our understanding of Scripture is constantly evolving. Since we are imperfect and infallible, no mere human person can fully capture, possess, comprehend, preserve, dispense or attempt to codify the full measure of God’s eternal truth. The central theme of the Restoration Movement was first, to return back to the ancient order as presented in the New Testament and secondly, Christian unity (p. 30). There are those among the Churches of Christ who believe and teach that they have already restored the foundation or structure of the ancient Church in all its purity and perfection. I suppose they think they have fulfilled what it says in Ephesians 4: 13:  until we all attain to the unity of the faith and of the knowledge of the Son of God, to mature manhood, to the measure of the stature of the fullness of Christ.

Barton Stone said: “View all children of God as your brother, whatever [religious] name they may bear” (p. 32).There seems to have been a seismic shift from that viewpoint where in modern times there is an overemphasis on being “the One True Church” as opposed to unifying all Christians on the basis of following the ancient faith as outlined in the New Testament, and not following sectarian creeds, dogma, ritual or ecumenical authorities. Churches of Christ claim not to be a denomination because they do not have a written creed or that each congregation is autonomous, but they follow an unwritten code where they exclude (dis-fellowship/withdraw) from their fellowship anyone or entire groups of people who disagree with the standard or accepted orthodoxy. On page 47, the author correctly opines that in our zeal to restore the primitive church in its purity we deny the history of the human founders of our faith tradition.

Churches of Christ claim to follow the Bible and the Bible alone and that our congregations are nothing more or less than those of the first Christian Age. The other Churches are a product of the powerful forces of history, culture and tradition; but not Churches of Christ. The thing is, though, what started out as a sincere movement to restore New Testament pattern of faith practice and teaching has instead, become a religious organization with our own particular ‘brand’ of Christianity as evidenced by our own distinct Churches, lectureships, publications, colleges, disciplinary measures, and theology- hence a denomination. Perhaps the one fatal flaw in all of this is that since we are so preoccupied or convinced of our restorative perfection then whenever the Gospel is preached among and out from us it has the seal of approval from God and the Lord Jesus Christ. The Plan of Salvation almost seems to lose some of its meaning because it is presented as a series of steps to do instead of as it pictured in Ephesians 2: 8-9, which says: For it is by grace you have been saved, through faith—and this is not from yourselves, it is the gift of God— not by works, so that no one can boast. Richard Hughes, near the end of the book goes on to say that Churches of Christ are facing enormous challenges over forms and methods- worship, baptism, administering the Lord’s Supper (p. 121). 

He concludes by saying that we need to restore the passion of the former times by what is referred to as “radical discipleship,” which is similar to the commitment of the Anabaptists/Mennonite/Amish believers. Instead of withdrawing from society in separatist communities there should be a more proactive engagement in society and the world for the cause of social justice; which the Churches of Christ have been somewhat derelict in this area as opposed to other Christians. The Cross of Christ is more than facts, forms, methods and structures (p. 132), it must be engagement with or in the world where we shine as a beacon of light on a hill (Cp. Matthew 15: 14-16). Another Bible verses worth considering are found in Titus 2: 14: Who gave himself for us, that he might redeem us from all iniquity, and purify unto himself a peculiar people, zealous of good works; Colossians 1: 10: that you may walk worthy of the Lord, fully pleasing Him, being fruitful in every good work and increasing in the knowledge of God. Further information regarding the Churches of Christ is suggested below in the following:

Sounding Brass and Clanging Cymbals by Choate/Woodson; Encyclopedia of the Stone-Campbell Movement by Foster/Blowers/Dunnavant/Williams; Distant Voices: Uncovering a Forgotten past for a Changing Church by Leonard C. Allen; Evangelism & the Stone-Campbell Movement by William R. Baker; Radical Restoration by F. LaGard Smith


Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
June 3, 2017

Friday, May 19, 2017

Is being right more important than maintaining unity?

There are some Christian Churches or congregations who have withdrawn fellowship from one another based upon doctrinal differences, and decisions arrived at by a consensus of the membership and their congregational leaders; but is this the way it should be done? This brief study will examine whether the New Testament authorizes such an action as to ex-communicate entire faith communities over issues that may or may not be all that serious.

Acts 15: 1-2a, 12-13, 19-21, 28
Certain people came down from Judea to Antioch and were teaching the believers: “Unless you are circumcised, according to the custom taught by Moses, you cannot be saved.” This brought Paul and Barnabas into sharp dispute and debate with them. The whole assembly became silent as they listened to Barnabas and Paul telling about the signs and wonders God had done among the Gentiles through them. When they finished, James spoke up. “Brothers,” he said, “listen to me. It is my judgment, therefore, that we should not make it difficult for the Gentiles who are turning to God. 20 Instead we should write to them, telling them to abstain from food polluted by idols, from sexual immorality, from the meat of strangled animals and from blood.  It seemed good to the Holy Spirit and to us not to burden you with anything beyond the following requirements: 

Acts 16: 1a, 4
Paul came to Derbe and then to Lystra, where a disciple named Timothy lived.  As they traveled from town to town, they delivered the decisions reached by the apostles and elders in Jerusalem for the people to obey.

1 Corinthians 8: 1, 4, 7-8
Now about food sacrificed to idols: We know that “We all possess knowledge.” But knowledge puffs up while love builds up. So then, about eating food sacrificed to idols: We know that “An idol is nothing at all in the world” and that “There is no God but one.”  But not everyone possesses this knowledge. Some people are still so accustomed to idols that when they eat sacrificial food they think of it as having been sacrificed to a god, and since their conscience is weak, it is defiled. But food does not bring us near to God; we are no worse if we do not eat and no better if we do.

Acts 21: 17-18, 25
 When we arrived at Jerusalem, the brothers and sisters received us warmly. The next day Paul and the rest of us went to see James, and all the elders were present. As for the Gentile believers, we have written to them our decision that they should abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from the meat of strangled animals and from sexual immorality.”

NOTE: The leadership of the Church in Jerusalem had heard some disturbing news about the Apostle Paul’s teachings and they wanted to know whether the things they heard were true; and they were which was in odds with the decrees that all who were present back in Acts chapter 15 agreed upon. So, should the believers separate or disassociate from the Apostle Paul and those he led to Christ because he no longer taught the same thing as they did in this matter?

Here’s another example:

Galatians 2: 15-16a
We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles know that a person is not justified by the works of the law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. 

Galatians 3: 11
Clearly no one who relies on the law is justified before God, because “the righteous will live by faith.”

James 2: 18, 21-24
Yea, a man may say, Thou hast faith, and I have works: shew me thy faith without thy works, and I will shew thee my faith by my works. Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which said, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.

Now, what would the Apostle Paul’s reply be to James interpretation?

Romans 4: 1-3
What shall we say then that Abraham our father, as pertaining to the flesh, hath found? For if Abraham were justified by works, he hath whereof to glory; but not before God. For what saith the scripture? Abraham believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness.

Romans 4: 18-24
Who (Abraham) against hope believed in hope, that he might become the father of many nations, according to that which was spoken, so shall thy seed be. And being not weak in faith, he considered not his own body now dead, when he was about an hundred years old, neither yet the deadness of Sarah's womb: He staggered not at the promise of God through unbelief; but was strong in faith, giving glory to God; And being fully persuaded that, what he had promised, he was able also to perform. And therefore it was imputed to him for righteousness. Now it was not written for his sake alone, that it was imputed to him; But for us also, to whom it shall be imputed, if we believe on him that raised up Jesus our Lord from the dead;

NOTE: Should the congregations that are taught justification by works separate from those who are taught justification by faith; I mean, who is right, Paul or James- can both of them be right?

Ok, one more point:

Acts 21: 17b, 20-21
Thou seest, brother, how many thousands of Jews there are which believe; and they are all zealous of the law: And they are informed of thee, that thou teachest all the Jews which are among the Gentiles to forsake Moses, saying that they ought not to circumcise their children, neither to walk after the customs.

Well, what did the Apostle Paul teach and were these rumors true?

Galatians 5: 6a, 12
For in Christ Jesus neither circumcision nor uncircumcision has any value.  As for those agitators, I wish they would go the whole way and emasculate themselves!

Galatians 6: 15
Neither circumcision nor uncircumcision means anything; what counts is the new creation.

Colossians 2: 11, 6
In Him you were also circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands. Your whole self ruled by the flesh was put off when you were circumcised by Christ; therefore do not let anyone judge you by what you eat or drink, or with regard to a religious festival, a New Moon celebration or a Sabbath day. 

CONCLUSION:
The apostles and early leaders of the Christian movement didn’t always agree on everything, even after Paul admonished the believers in Corinth “I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought” (1 Corinthians 1: 10). There are examples of instructions to withdraw from any believer who lives in a manner contrary to the teachings of Christ or the indwelling Holy Spirit, but that is only as a measure to bring the individual to repentance and to be welcomed back into the fellowship and support of the local congregation. The practice of splitting and forming a separate group or church is without authorization in the New Testament and is counter to the injunction against divisions, factions, and violates the spirit of unity. You can be right but if the price is withdrawing from other believers over perhaps some small matter of Biblical interpretation, then that might be too high a price to pay. The thing that the Lord wants is, again, not to have division or cause a stumbling block for other believers (Cp. Romans 14: 13; 1 Corinthians 8: 9; 10: 23; Galatians 5: 19a; and Proverbs 6: 16, 19b). Even the Apostle Paul wrote that all things are lawful for him but all things are not expedient (Cp. 1 Corinthians 6: 12; 10: 23).


Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
May 19, 2017

Wednesday, May 3, 2017

Which day is the Lord’s Day, Sunday or the Sabbath?

This article might be a little difficult for believers of mainstream fundamentalist or evangelical Christian Churches, not to mention those who practice another religious faith or spiritual tradition. As a matter of fact, I doubt the remaining secular humanist, agnostic, rational pragmatist, atheist, free thinker, philosopher, metaphysical or esoteric adept, as well as the average person on the street ill agree that the Sabbath is still sacred to God. I wrote a couple articles about this subject back in 2009, but the more I continue to read the Bible I am increasingly convinced of the certainty of this conviction. However, I want to state for the record that I am not a Seventh day Adventist, Hebraic Christian, Messianic Jew (“Netzarim”), or Christian Sabbatarian; just a believer who has a love for studying the Word of God. So, with that out of the way, let’s begin this fascinating study (again).

Genesis 2: 2-3
And on the seventh day God ended His work which He had done, and He rested on the seventh day from all His work which He had done. Then God blessed the seventh day and sanctified it, because in it He rested from all His work which God had created and made.

NOTE: God sanctified this special day as a memorial for the work of creation which had now been accomplished, and it had nothing to do with religion or even a racial/ethnic group of people.

Exodus 20: 8-11
Remember the Sabbath Day, to keep it holy. Six days you shall labor and do all your work, but the seventh day is the Sabbath of the LORD your God. In it you shall do no work: you, or your son, or your daughter, or your male servant, or your female servant, or your cattle, or your stranger who is within your gates. For in six days the LORD made the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them, and rested the seventh day. Therefore the LORD blessed the Sabbath day and hallowed it.

NOTE: According to “Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary” 10th. Ed.  remember 1: to bring to mind or think of again. This commandment was not to inaugurate something new or unfamiliar, but rather to remind the Israelites to set this day apart by observing it as it was originally intended by God from the beginning.

Leviticus 25: 1-2, 8
The Lord spoke to Moses on Mount Sinai, saying, “Speak to the people of Israel and say to them, when you come into the land that I give you, the land shall keep a Sabbath to the Lord.You shall count seven weeks of years, seven times seven years, so that the time of the seven weeks of years shall give you forty-nine years.

NOTE: Not only are people required the Sabbath but it applies to the land (agricultural practices) also.

Psalms 92: 1
A Psalm, a Song for the Sabbath day. It is good to give thanks to the LORD And to sing praises to Your name, O Most High;

Ezekiel 22: 8
You have despised my holy things and profaned my Sabbaths.

Ezekiel 23: 38
Moreover, this they have done to me: they have defiled my sanctuary on the same day and profaned my Sabbaths.

Matthew 12: 5
Or have you not read in the Law how on the Sabbath the priests in the temple profane the Sabbath and are guiltless?

NOTE: In “Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary” 10th Ed.   profane 1: to treat something sacred with irreverence. In this particular it carries the meaning of treating this “day” as ordinary, without any particular special significance or meaning.

So, what about the “first day of the week”?

Matthew 28: 1
After the Sabbath, at dawn on the first day of the week, Mary Magdalene and the other Mary went to look at the tomb (Cp. Mark 16: 1-2; Luke 24: 1; John 20: 1).

NOTE: There is nothing mentioned here about this day replacing the Sabbath or as particularly special in and of itself. It just so happens to be the day the Lord Jesus arose from the grave, but this is explained below, in the following:

Matthew 12: 40
For as Jonah was three days and three nights in the whale’s belly, so shall the Son of Man be three days and three nights in the heart of the earth.

Mark 8: 31
And He began to teach them that the Son of Man must suffer many things, and be rejected by the elders and by the chief priests and scribes, and be killed, and after three days rise again.

John 2: 19
Jesus answered and said unto them, “Destroy this temple, and in three days I will raise it up.”

Ok, so what about other places in the New Testament mentioning the first day?

Acts 20: 6-7, 11
And we sailed away from Philippi after the Days of Unleavened Bread and came unto them in five days at Troas, where we stayed seven days. And upon the first day of the week, when the disciples came together to break bread, Paul preached unto them, ready to depart on the morrow, and continued his speech until midnight. When he therefore had come up again, and had broken bread and eaten and talked for a long while, even until break of day, he departed.

Acts 2: 42, 46
 And they continued steadfastly in the apostles’ doctrine and fellowship, and in the breaking of bread and in prayers. And continuing daily with one accord in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house, they ate their meat with gladness and singleness of heart.

1 Corinthians 11: 18-21
For first of all, when ye come together in the church, I hear that there are divisions among you, and I partly believe it. For there must be also heresies among you, that those who are approved may be made manifest among you. When ye therefore come together into one place, this is not to eat the Lord’s Supper.
For in eating, every one taketh his own supper ahead of another, and one is hungry and another is drunken.


NOTE: The main purposes of these meetings were more social than religious observance or worship because “breaking bread” had more to do with eating than anything else. Even today, Christians often pray together before partaking of their meals. The Lord’s Supper” or ‘Eucharist’ doubtless started from these common meal gatherings.

1 Corinthians 16: 1-3
Now concerning the collection for the saints: As I have given orders to the churches of Galatia, even so do you. Upon the first day of the week, let every one of you lay aside in store as God hath prospered him, so that there need be no gatherings when I come. And when I come, whomever you shall approve by your letters I will send to bring your liberality unto Jerusalem.

NOTE: This was a special occasion to send relief to the saints in Jerusalem, and this was the day the Apostle Paul chose for that purpose. Again, nothing special about that day, even if the primitive Church decided to worship on that day.

Still not convinced?

Matthew 12: 8b
For the Son of Man is Lord even of the Sabbath day.” (Cp. Mark 2: 28; Luke 6: 5)

NOTE: Jesus as the Son of Man is Lord of, not “over” the Sabbath day. The conjunction “of” gives the meaning as pertaining to deriving its source or origin from.

Hebrews 4: 4, 9-10
For He spoke in a certain place of the seventh day in this way: “And God rested on the seventh day from all His works.” here remains therefore a rest for the people of God. For he that has entered into His rest, he also hath ceased from his own works, as God did from His.

Revelations 1: 8-10a
I Am Alpha And Omega, The Beginning And The Ending,” says the Lord, who is, and who was, and who is to come, the Almighty. I, John, who also am your brother and companion in tribulation and in the Kingdom and patience of Jesus Christ, was on the isle that is called Patmos, for the Word of God and for the testimony of Jesus Christ. I was in the Spirit on the Lord’s Day, and I heard behind me a great voice as of a trumpet,

NOTE: It is doubtful that the meaning applies to the first day of the week.

CONCLUSION (short):
There isn’t anywhere in the entire Bible that the “First day of the week” is given any mention as being sanctified, consecrated, or holy to God. It (Sunday/”Sol” day) has become a day of worship for Christians thanks to the pagan sun worshiping Emperor Constantine. The blessings of observing the Sabbath are included below and I think it not only refers to the Israelites but to anyone who honors this day because it is for all people, and not just a certain Semitic family out of all the nations on earth.

Isaiah 56: 2
Blessed is the man that doeth this, and the son of man that lays hold on it; that keeps the Sabbath from polluting it, and keeps his hand from doing any evil.

Isaiah 58: 13-14
If thou turn away thy foot from the Sabbath, from doing thy pleasure on my holy day; and call the Sabbath a delight, the holy of the Lord, honorable; and shalt honor him, not doing thine own ways, nor finding thine own pleasure, nor speaking thine own words: Then shalt thou delight thyself in the Lord; and I will cause thee to ride upon the high places of the earth, and feed thee with the heritage of Jacob thy father: for the mouth of the Lord hath spoken it.


Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
May 3, 2017

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why are you really a Christian?


This almost sounds like a trick question from a Bible class on “Christian Fundamentals 101” but in truth, it is a very serious and personal appeal to introspection as well as perhaps, brutal honesty. I mean, this is not asking about “how” you became a Christian-such as the formula, technique, ritual, or reciting the ‘Sinner’s Prayer,’ but rather the modus operandi or reason for such a decision. So, with that thought in mind, let’s pull back from looking too closely at the canvas and see the larger framework surrounding your faith portrait. Where you stand in Christ or your introduction to the gospel of salvation has very much to do with where you were born. Unlike in many parts of the world, the United States of America has a rich history and tradition which allows for religious freedom, and Christian is the most dominant one; in-spite of all its sectarian and doctrinal variations. There are very few households absent a King James Bible or some other popular version, and what hotel room hasn’t included a copy of the Gideon’s Bible?

Even if someone were not already a Christian it would still be easier to convert someone to the faith just by virtue of the cultural and social proximity to this religious belief system. There is hardly anyone who is not acquainted with a Christian, whether it is a classmate, friend, co-worker, or family member. This last part is my main argument, namely that probably the reason many people become Christians is because of ‘family ties.’ Just like in the case of Timothy, it was due to the influence of his mother and grandmother (2 Timothy 1: 5). It is a rare person indeed, who can be dragged to Bible class all the time or preached to by relatives of a particular denomination, and yet choose to join a different Church or remain a non-believer for the rest of their lives. So, why did you want to receive God’s saving grace- was it parental pressure; a condition of marriage (like Ivanka Trump embracing the Jewish religion); was it a promise made to a loved one on their deathbed; how about a traumatic life experience such as a terrible accident or incurable disease that after recovering you promised God your service; was it a near-death experience where you saw the divine light and glory of God? Would you have come to the Lord without any of these occurrences or influences?

I think much of the growth in some of the Christian Churches comes from families passing down through faith practices and values down through their generations as opposed to active evangelism outside kinships. Of course, there are always people seeking salvation when a catastrophic event happens like a World War, terrorist attack, rumors of a Martian invasion or UFO sighting, and any time there is a movie like “Left Behind” (the Rapture) or hearing a prophesy about the Apocalypse or End of Days. During these times Church membership swells but when the danger passes the pews slowly but steadily empty out or return to the pre-crisis numbers. Being a Christian is more than being ‘convinced’ but are you truly converted? One last time: Did you become a Christian because it was a last ditch effort and desperate cling to reality before going completely off the rails? Maybe attending church services gives you a sense of belonging, value, worth, attention; a feeling of  being a ‘somebody’ as opposed to being unnoticed, neglected, shunned, underappreciated, ignored, unacknowledged, or feeling like a nobody? For others to be a Christian is like belonging to a family, or it could be a sort of social status especially if one belongs to a Mega-Church and is involved in one of the ministries there.  Again, why are you really a Christian?


Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 21, 2017

Saturday, April 15, 2017

The poor have the gospel preached to them

Jesus gave the “Great Commission” to the disciples fifty days after His resurrection,  before ascending back to heaven (Matthew 28: 18-20), and this imperative has become the driving force behind Christian missionaries in a multitude countries around the world. Having planted the seed of the Word in many places, the gospel fruit seems to spring from among the most impoverished, illiterate, and poorest people on the planet- so why is this the case? It is one thing to convert an individual who is malnourished, shabbily clothed, sickly, feeble, and diseased; or where there aren’t schools, safe drinking water, no hospital or doctor, working toilet, and whose parents can’t read and write or living in a dilapidated house that is a makeshift construction of whatever is available.

I wonder what would be the results if missionaries would take the “Good News” to some of the most secular and high standard of living countries like Denmark, Switzerland, Finland, Sweden, Austria, Canada, The Netherlands, or New Zealand? Of course, this is not to say that there are not Christian missions or Churches in these countries but the concentration appears to be overwhelmingly among those living in the most dire and urgent circumstances of poverty, and experiencing all the ills of what this condition brings with it. With these thoughts in mind, I want to find something in the New Testament that would give me a picture of how the first missionary efforts were conducted, especially who were the targets of receiving the message of salvation. Let’s look at the following:

Acts 8: 26-27
Now an angel of the Lord spoke to Philip, saying, “Arise and go toward the south along the road which goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza.” This is desert. So he arose and went. And behold, a man of Ethiopia, a eunuch (royal official) of great authority under Candace the queen of the Ethiopians, who had charge of all her treasury, and had come to Jerusalem to worship.

NOTE: This was not some poor illiterate villager.

Acts 10: 1-2
There was a certain man in Caesarea called Cornelius, a centurion of what was called the Italian Regiment, a devout man and one who feared God with his entire household, who gave alms generously to the people, and prayed to God always. 

NOTE: This man was a military commander in the Roman Legion.

Acts 13: 1a, 2, 6-7
Now in the church that was at Antioch there were certain prophets and teachers: As they ministered to the Lord and fasted, the Holy Spirit said, “Now separate to Me Barnabas and Saul for the work to which I have called them.”  Now when they had gone through the island to Paphos, they found a certain sorcerer, a false prophet, a Jew whose name was Bar-Jesus, who was with the proconsul, Sergius Paulus, an intelligent man. This man called for Barnabas and Saul and sought to hear the word of God.

NOTE: This is technically where the Christian missionary work [outside of Judea, Samaria, and Syria] begins as it launches into Asia Minor and Europe. Also, this named person is a high ranking official of the entire province and educated as well.

Acts 16: 12a, 14
and from there to Philippi, which is the foremost city of that part of Macedonia, a [Roman] colony. Now a certain woman named Lydia heard us. She was a seller of purple from the city of Thyatira, who worshiped God. The Lord opened her heart to heed the things spoken by Paul.

NOTE: Philippi was an important metropolitan city and Roman colony, not some remote village somewhere. Lydia was a successful businesswoman and most likely was educated or quite literate at the very least.

Acts 17: 1-2, 4
Now when they had passed through Amphipolis and Apollonia, they came to Thessalonica, where there was a synagogue of the Jews. Then Paul, as his custom was, went in to them, and for three Sabbaths reasoned with them from the Scriptures.  And some of them were persuaded; and a great multitude of the devout Greeks, and not a few of the leading women, joined Paul and Silas.

NOTE: These were intelligent and educated people in all likelihood, too. Paul “reasoned” with them which is another way of saying that he used philosophical argumentation or ‘inductive reasoning’ or some type of logic. Interestingly, a few of the leaders, or socially prominent Greek women, whether business owners or officials of some sort, were part of those who were persuaded.

Acts 17: 10-12
Then the brethren immediately sent Paul and Silas away by night to Berea. When they arrived, they went into the synagogue of the Jews. These were more fair-minded than those in Thessalonica, in that they received the word with all readiness, and searched the Scriptures (Old Testament) daily to find out whether these things were so. Therefore many of them believed and also not a few of the Greeks, prominent women as well as men.

Acts 17: 18, 21, 34
Then certain Epicurean and Stoic philosophers encountered him (the Apostle Paul). And some said, “What does this babbler want to say?” Others said, “He seems to be a proclaimer of foreign gods,” because he preached to them Jesus and the resurrection. For all the Athenians and the foreigners who were there spent their time in nothing else but either to tell or to hear some new thing. However, some men joined him and believed, among them Dionysius the Areopagite, a woman named Damaris, and others with them.

NOTE: I think Athens was a very important cultural learning center and metropolitan city that valued intellectual debate and reasoning. Dionysius was a judge in the Areopagite Court.

Acts 18: 1, 8
After this, Paul left Athens and went to Corinth. Crispus, the synagogue leader, and his entire household believed in the Lord; and many of the Corinthians who heard Paul believed and were baptized.

NOTE: Corinth was not a small village, either.

Acts 19: 1, 8-9
While Apollos was at Corinth, Paul took the road through the interior and arrived at Ephesus. There he found some disciples. Paul entered the synagogue and spoke boldly there for three months, arguing persuasively about the kingdom of God. But some of them became obstinate; they refused to believe and publicly maligned the Way. So Paul left them. He took the disciples with him and had discussions daily in the lecture hall of Tyrannus.

Acts 19: 17-20
When this became known to the Jews and Greeks living in Ephesus, they were all seized with fear, and the name of the Lord Jesus was held in high honor. Many of those who believed now came and openly confessed what they had done.  A number who had practiced sorcery brought their scrolls together and burned them publicly. When they calculated the value of the scrolls, the total came to fifty thousand drachmas. In this way the word of the Lord spread widely and grew in power.

NOTE: A Greek “drachma” was about a day’s wages so these adepts of the magic arts must not only have been literate enough to read the scrolls, but they must also have had the financial means to practice their craft.

CONCLUSION:

Author Wayne K. Meeks wrote a book titled: “The First Urban Christians: The Social World of the Apostle Paul” in which he makes several valid points, as cited by blogpost below:

Paul was a city person and planted small cells of Christianity in households "strategically located" in cities around the northeast of the Mediterranean. Meeks argues that city life created a stable and secure atmosphere for urban people - local government, law, consistency in application of law, roads built and maintained, stable taxes, education, etc. (12) Road maintenance and military presence also make travel much easier/safer, which plays into Paul's story. (17) Sea travel is also faster and cheaper than travel by land. (18)

City life allowed for more, if perhaps still limited, social mobility. Physical and social advantages weighed in favor of city living. Cities "were where power was." (14-15) Paul's role as an artisan tent-maker made travel easier for him, natural relationships for him with artisans in places he visited. (17) Movement of artisans and tradespeople facilitates movement of religions/cults: Foreign settlers find neighbors, set up shrine to gods, and increase in numbers, demand government recognition. (18) Cults spread not just through intentional 'evangelism', but through chatter and 'gossip.' (19) Families and households of individuals are important starting points for Paul, with connections of work and trade. (28)

Ephesus is the center of Paul's and his circle's activity. (41) Takes root in 4 provinces in Empire: Galatia (although what region this is exactly can't be determined), Asia, Macedonia, and Achaia. (42) Trade centers. (44) Philippi (Asia) has a more Latin character than other of these because of "double colonization" and constant passage of military through area. (45) Also different because was primarily a center of agriculture, not commerce. (46) We know less about Thessalonica because of modern city built on top of remains without less disaster/destruction through history. Was a free city, with own coins, government, no Roman garrison, etc. (46-47) Achaia: Corinth. Italian. (47) Wealthy. Commerce. Entrepreneurs. Many freedmen, who, in unique setting, could actually be local aristocracy, (48)
Paul's world, his target, is the Greek-speaking Jew of the Roman world. (50)

NOTE: References supplied by bethquick.blogspot.com

I think this information reveals that the earliest missionary endeavors centered on reaching Jews living among the Greeks of the “Dispersion” living in the cities and larger metropolitan areas of Asia Minor; not remote villages. The purpose of this article is not to demean or criticize the tremendous success and personal sacrifice s made in the Name of Jesus by Christian missionaries, but why not follow Paul’s example? Why not take the gospel to the Philosophers, Scientists, government officials, police, and military? There is a big difference between persuading a poor laborer who works for a dollar a day and someone else who can afford to stop by a local Starbucks for a “Frappuccino.” How about a quick look at some of the Apostle Paul’s coworkers and/or probable converts- Erastus was the Director of Public Works (Romans 16: 23-24); Caesar’s household (Philippians 4: 22); Luke the Doctor (Colossians 4: 14a); Zemas the Lawyer (Titus 3: 13); Philemon who had a servant/slave named Onesimus (Philemon 1: 1). I know the gospel is to be proclaimed to the poor (Luke 4: 18a; 7: 22b) but I am sure that Jesus didn’t mean “mainly” or almost exclusively to the poor.


Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 15, 2017
robertrandle51@yahoo.com