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.


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

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

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

Were the sources of the other gospels “Alternative Facts”?

The one thing that this 2016 presidential election in America has brought to the forefront is the integrity of professional journalism and fact-checking. The importance of this practice cannot be understated, especially when it involves the dissemination of relevant information to the public. There are two terms which have been tossed back and forth in the media coverage of the campaign, election, presidential inauguration and its aftermath, namely, “Fake News” and “Alternative facts.” I was thinking about this conundrum while reading the gospel “according” to Luke. In the opening introduction the anonymous editor, reporter, or redactor says: “Many have undertaken to draw up an account of the things that have been fulfilled among us, just as they were handed down to us by those who from the first were eyewitnesses and servants of the word. With this in mind, since I myself have carefully investigated everything from the beginning, I too decided to write an orderly (chronological??) account for you, most Excellent Theophilus” (Luke 1: 1-3).

Since Luke was corresponding with a government official, I think it would seem prudent to provide accurate information. There were apparently other written versions of the New Movement and its controversial leader, but hearsay and oral testimonies have to be corroborated by the facts as they existed back then. Rumor had to be investigated, witnesses interviewed and vetted, and document sources authenticated for accuracy. If you stop and think about it for a moment, this just might have been the only gospel that had a historical basis. The information was not something spurious like an unofficial entry in ‘Wikiperia’ but rather, these claims were more closely subjected to the rigor of a one-person modern version of I mean, it is from this lone gospel that gives us the Annunciation, Nativity, and Christmas imagery which has been so profitable for Hallmark greeting cards and national retailers during the Winter holiday season.  This study will comprise the first twenty one chapters of Luke’s gospel as more of a comparative overview, highlighting some of the information not included in the other narratives, as well as listing these broader themes in chronological order.

Luke 2: 41-42
Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom.

Luke 3: 1a
In the fifteenth year of the reign of Tiberius Caesar—when Pontius Pilate was governor of Judea.

NOTE: Since the emperor ruled from 14 to 37AD, this time period would be 29 AD.

Luke 3: 21, 23a
When all the people were being baptized, Jesus was baptized too. And as he was praying, heaven was opened and the Holy Spirit descended on him in bodily form like a dove. And a voice came from heaven: “You are my Son, whom I love; with you I am well pleased.” Now Jesus himself was about thirty years old when he began his ministry. He was the son, so it was thought, of Joseph.

NOTE: Jesus was 30 years old in 29 AD so that means he was born around 2 BC, and eighteen years has elapsed between the second and third chapter.


Jesus is rejected at Nazareth (Luke 4: 1-30); The Beatitudes: Woes (Luke 6: 24-27); Jesus raises a widow’s son in Nain (Luke 7: 11-18); the parable of the Sower (Luke 8: 4-15/short version); The Transfiguration (Luke 9: 28-36/short version); the disciples wanted to rain down fire on a Samaritan village (Luke 9: 51-56); Jesus sends out the seventy-two missionaries (Luke 10: 1-12, 16-17, 19-20); parable of the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 28-37); Jesus teaching on Prayer (Luke 11: 5-8); Jesus talks about an impure spirit (Luke 11: 24-28); Jesus pronounces the Six Woes (Luke 11: 37-54); parable of the rich fool (Luke 12: 13-21); interpreting the Times (Luke 12: 54-59); repent or perish (Luke 13: 1-9); a cripple woman healed on the Sabbath (Luke 13: 10-17; the narrow door (Luke 13: 22-30); Jesus at a Pharisee house (Luke 14: 1-14); the cost of being a disciple (Luke 14: 28-33; parable of the lost coin (Luke 15: 8-10); parable of the Prodigal/Lost Son (Luke 15: 11-32); parable of the shrewd manager (Luke 16: 1-15); parable of the rich man and Lazarus (Luke 16: 19-31); Jesus teaches about having mustard seed faith (Luke 17: 6-10; Jesus heals ten lepers (Luke 17: 11-19); coming of the kingdom of God and the example of Lot (Luke 17: 28-29); parable of the persistent widow (Luke 18: 1-8); parable of the Pharisee and the Tax Collector (Luke 18: 9-14); Jesus predicts his death (Luke 18: 31-33, esp. 34); Zacchaeus the tax Collector (Luke  19: 1-10); Jesus at the Temple (Luke 19: 45-48/NOTE: This is a lot different than Matthew 21: 12-17 or Mark 11: 11, 15-19, and Luke omits Jesus cursing the fig tree);

Signs of the End of the Age: Luke excludes the Lord shortening the day and the gospel must be preached to the nations; Luke includes Jerusalem trampled until the Times of the Gentiles are fulfilled; Luke excludes mentioning false Christs and false prophets; Luke includes the phrase “your redemption draws near.” Luke includes the admonition about watchfulness (Luke 21: 34-36); Luke excludes “No man knows the day or the hour”  (Mark’s version in 13: 32-36 is really short and totally different from Matthew 24: 36-51); the last few things that are excluded in Luke’s narrative for this study are: Parable of the Ten Virgins/Parable of the Talents/Parable of the Sheep and Goats (Matthew 25: 1-13; 14-30; and 31-46), respectively.

Final Points: Luke doesn’t say that the other accounts “according to” the writers of Matthew, Mark, and/or John aren’t true, but possibly suggests that they just might contain some ‘alternative facts’ to the sources that he used. This is sort of a freebie- Jesus’ fate was sealed (in this narrative) the moment when his actions or statements affected economic issues, such as, the interruption of temple revenues controlled by the banking cartel (money lenders), and the unpopular issue of paying taxes (Cp. Luke 19: 45-47 and 20: 20-22).

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 11, 2017

Friday, April 7, 2017

Traveling along the road between Jericho and Jerusalem

This is one of the more interesting parables that Jesus taught His disciples. It has profound meaning as it relates to practical Christian principles of showing compassion to someone in dire circumstances. Before I get to unpack some of this, a little comparative analysis might serve as a necessary background. This life lesson taught by Jesus comes after He successfully refutes the Sadducees about the resurrection, which they don’t believe in.

Matthew 22: 34-40
Hearing that Jesus had silenced the Sadducees, the Pharisees got together. One of them, an expert in the law, tested him with this question: “Teacher, which is the greatest commandment in the Law?”
Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind (Cp. Deuteronomy 6: 5). ’This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself (Cp. Leviticus 19: 18b). ‘All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.”

NOTE: Matthew’s version omits the “Shema” found in Deuteronomy 6: 4.

Mark 12: 28-34
One of the teachers of the law came and heard them debating. Noticing that Jesus had given them a good answer, he asked him, “Of all the commandments, which is the most important?”  “The most important one,” answered Jesus, “is this: ‘Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one.  Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength (Cp. Deuteronomy 6: 4-5). ‘The second is this: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself. ’There is no commandment greater than these.” “Well said, teacher,” the man replied. “You are right in saying that God is one and there is no other but him. To love him with all your heart, with all your understanding and with all your strength, and to love your neighbor as yourself (Cp. Leviticus 19: 18b) is more important than all burnt offerings and sacrifices.” When Jesus saw that he had answered wisely, he said to him, “You are not far from the kingdom of God.” And from then on no one dared ask him any more questions.

NOTE: Mark’s gospel expands the narrative even more, including not only the ‘Shema’ but adding the word “strength” as well as mentioning the connection with or the superiority over ‘offerings and sacrifices.’

Now the main text for our study a in the following below:

Luke 10: 25-37
On one occasion an expert in the law stood up to test Jesus. “Teacher,” he asked, “what must I do to inherit eternal life?” “What is written in the Law?” he replied. “How do you read it?”  He answered, “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind ‘and, ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’” “You have answered correctly,” Jesus replied. “Do this and you will live.” But he wanted to justify himself, so he asked Jesus, “And who is my neighbor?”
In reply Jesus said: “A man was going down from Jerusalem to Jericho, when he was attacked by robbers. They stripped him of his clothes, beat him and went away, leaving him half dead.  A priest happened to be going down the same road, and when he saw the man, he passed by on the other side. So too, a Levite, when he came to the place and saw him, passed by on the other side. But a Samaritan, as he traveled, came where the man was; and when he saw him, he took pity on him. He went to him and bandaged his wounds, pouring on oil and wine. Then he put the man on his own donkey, brought him to an inn and took care of him. The next day he took out two denarii and gave them to the innkeeper. ‘Look after him,’ he said, ‘and when I return, I will reimburse you for any extra expense you may have.’
 “Which of these three do you think was a neighbor to the man who fell into the hands of robbers?” The expert in the law replied, “The one who had mercy on him.” Jesus told him, “Go and do likewise.”

NOTE: Luke’s gospel expands the story even more than mark’s version to include this parable. This account omits the “Shema’ (Deuteronomy 6: 4) but it includes narration that seems unexpected here. It is interesting that one event can have such variation, especially when comparing Luke with the other gospels of Matthew and Mark.

Now that the theological musings are out of the way, let’s see what spiritual nuggets of wisdom can be uncovered. At first glance it doesn’t go unnoticed that there is a stark cultural tension between two of the most pious religious officials of the Jewish religion, and a person who is despised. The identity of the victim is unknown, which adds more intrigue to the story. The Levite was assigned the work of ministering in the sanctuary and the function of the priests was primarily concerned with offering sacrifices on the altar. These two men who represent the piety and holiness of Israel see a person wounded and distress but show no empathy at all; they don’t even speak to the person but avoid him by walking on the other side of the road. I would not be surprised if either one of them wasn’t going up to Jerusalem to perform some service to God at the Temple/sanctuary. So, what does this story have to do with believing Christians today? Jesus asked a poignant question in verse 36: “Which of these three do you think was the neighbor?”

It is very possible that many Christians are so busy traveling down the road between Jericho and Jerusalem so that they can get to Bible class on time; or choir rehearsal; or to make the altar call; or to hear the homily, tithe, partake of the Lord’s Supper, and other Church functions that when they see a man holding a “HOMELESS” sign they pass by on the other side.  There are believers who attend Christian worship but rely on public transportation, and yet after the conclusion of the closing benediction, walk outside to wait at the bus stop during adverse weather conditions but not one of the fellow parishioners who previously shook your hand and smiled in your face, greets you lovingly, and yet, never thinks about offering you a ride. Of course, there are some congregations who, upon learning of your circumstances if you volunteer the information, will provide for you to ride in the church van or bus; just so long it is not their personal vehicle. That’s a little different from the ‘Samaritan’ who put the wounded and probably bloody person on his own donkey. This would also imply that this caring person had to be inconvenienced all the way to the inn; let alone pay for the victim’s lodging, meals, and whatever other charges he might have incurred.

It is more than just being religious because in Hosea 6: 6 God says, “For I desire mercy, not sacrifice, and acknowledgment of God rather than burnt offerings.

1 John 3: 17, 4: 20
If anyone has material possessions and sees a brother or sister in need but has no pity on them, how can the love of God be in that person? Whoever claims to love God yet hates a brother or sister is a liar. For whoever does not love their brother and sister, whom they have seen, cannot love God, whom they have not seen.

Hebrews 13: 2
Do not forget to show hospitality to strangers (your neighbor??), for by so doing some people have shown hospitality to angels without knowing it.

Matthew 25: 44-45
They also will answer, ‘Lord, when did we see you hungry or thirsty or a stranger or needing clothes or sick or in prison, and did not help you?’ “He will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did not do for one of the least of these, you did not do for me.’

As you travel down the road of Life ask yourself this one question, do you want to live it as the Levite, Priest, or the Samaritan?

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 7, 2017

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Does the Name of your Church really matter?

There are literally thousands of Churches in Christendom with varying modes of worship, liturgy, faith practices, theological doctrine, rituals, hermeneutics and homilies; so is there one particular Church that has the “right” name, and teaching that makes it stand out as the One True Church?  Let’s just investigate this claim and see what the Bible has to say about it.

Matthew 16: 18
And I tell you, you are Peter, and on this rock, I will build my church, and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it.

Acts 8: 1a
And there arose on that day a great persecution against the church in Jerusalem. . .

Acts 11: 25-26
So Barnabas went to Tarsus to look for Saul, and when he had found him, he brought him to Antioch. For a whole year they met with the church and taught a great many people. And in Antioch the disciples were first called Christians.

NOTE: What were the believers called before this time and what was the Name of the Church?

Acts 12: 1
About that time Herod the king laid violent hands on some who belonged to the church (Name??).

Acts 18: 22
When he had landed at Caesarea, he went up and greeted the church (Name??), and then went down to Antioch. 

Acts 20: 28
Pay careful attention to yourselves and to all the flock, in which the Holy Spirit has made you overseers, to care for the Church of God, which he obtained with his own blood.

NOTE: This is this first time this is mentioned, other than the generic “Church.”

Acts 24: 5, 14
For we have found this man a plague, one who stirs up riots among all the Jews throughout the world and is a ringleader of the sect of the Nazarenes. But this I confess to you, that according to the Way (Heb. ha Derekh), which they call a sect, I worship the God of our fathers, believing everything laid down by the Law and written in the Prophets.

NOTE: Is the apostle Paul saying that he is a member of or associated with the Church of the Way, or Church of the Nazarene (Nazarene Church)?

Romans 16: 16
Greet one another with a holy kiss. All the churches of (in??) Christ greet you.

NOTE: Church of Christ; Disciples of Christ Church are possibilities.

1 Corinthians 15: 9
 For I am the least of the apostles, unworthy to be called an apostle, because I persecuted the church of God.

1 Corinthians 16: 16
If anyone is inclined to be contentious, we have no such practice, nor do the churches of God.

2 Corinthians 1: 1b
To the church of God that is at Corinth, with all the saints who are in the whole of Achaia:

Galatians 1: 13
For you have heard of my former life in Judaism, how I persecuted the church of God violently and tried to destroy it.

1 Thessalonians 2: 14a
 For you, brothers, became imitators of the churches of God in Christ Jesus that are in Judea. 

NOTE: Another possible Name can be Church of God in Christ.

1 Timothy 3: 15
 If I delay, you may know how one ought to behave in the household of God, which is the church of the living God, a pillar and buttress of the truth.

NOTE: The Church of the Living God is possible, too.

Hebrews 12: 23
To the general assembly and church of the firstborn, which are written in heaven, and to God the Judge of all, and to the spirits of just men made perfect. . . KJV

NOTE: This General Assembly and Church of the Firstborn is as viable as any Name mentioned, and as a matter-of-fact, this denomination used to be around but I don’t know if they are anymore.

COMMENTARY: By the sheer frequency of times that it is mentioned, Church of God would be the most likely for any for saints and believing Christians to identify with; as opposed to any of the other Names listed. However, this fact alone does not validate this or any other Christian Church as the “One True Church” based solely on this occurrence in the New Testament, but it would make a strong debate point. Of course, one can counter that it isn’t the Name but whether you are following the example of First Century Christians in the manner they practiced the “pure” religion from the beginning. There were definitely significant differences in the ministry of the Apostle Paul and the leadership of the Mother Church in Jerusalem. I don’t want to get too far afield in this area but I did want to make note of some earlier teaching in one Christian Church that used Acts 20: 7 as Biblical sanction to observe the Lord’s Supper (“Eucharist”) on Sunday. Is that really the case or was it part of a social custom that was incorporated into the fellowship of believers?

Acts 20: 7a, 11
On the first day of the week, when we were gathered together to break bread, Paul began talking to them, intending to leave the next day. . . When he had gone back up and had broken the bread and eaten, he talked with them a long while until daybreak, and then left. 

Acts 2: 42, 46
They were continually devoting themselves to the apostles’ teaching and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to prayer. Day by day continuing with one mind in the temple, and breaking bread from house to house (not in the Church or assembly), they were taking their meals together with gladness and sincerity of heart. 

As a final thought, it is not what Church you belong to but rather, Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new (2 Corinthians 5: 17).

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 5, 2017

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

What does the Bible have to say about slavery?

This is an emotionally-charged topic as well as a sensitive hot-button social issue that offers no middle ground- either you are aggrieved by its barbaric practice or you are not. I think from the standpoint of African-American descendants of slaves brought to the shores of this continent in chains, this is an extremely painful subject to discuss. That being said, slavery is not unique in the human experience but the practice of perpetuating this unjust institution solely on the basis of color is quite recent; at least as far as millennia of years of world history goes. In this study it will be to look at what the Bible has to say about this subject, and does it offer any perspective that is helpful in determining the moral justification or negative sanction for such cruelty.

Genesis 16: 1-2, 6-10a
Now Sarai, Abram’s wife, had borne him no children. But she had an Egyptian slave named Hagar; so she said to Abram, “The Lord has kept me from having children. Go, sleep with my slave; perhaps I can build a family through her.” Your slave is in your hands,” Abram said. “Do with her whatever you think best.” Then Sarai mistreated Hagar; so she fled from her. But Sarah saw that the son whom Hagar the Egyptian had borne to Abraham was mocking, 10 and she said to Abraham, “Get rid of that slave woman and her son. . . (Cp. Genesis 21: 10)

NOTE: Sarai/Sarah is considered the epitome of a God-fearing, faithful, loving and compassionate woman.

Genesis 30: 1a, 3, 9
And when Rachel saw that she bare Jacob no children. And she said, Behold my maid (female slave/bondmaid)) Bilhah, go in unto her; and she shall bear upon my knees, that I may also have children by her. When Leah saw that she had left bearing, she took Zilpah her maid (female slave/bondmaid), and gave her Jacob to wife.

Joshua 9: 21
And the princes said unto them, Let them live; but let them be hewers of wood and drawers of water (slaves/forced labor) unto the entire congregation; as the princes had promised them.

Joshua 9: 23
Now you are condemned to perpetual servitude as woodcutters and water carriers (slaves/forced labor) for the house of my God." NET Bible

Joshua 9: 27a
But that day he made the Gibeonites the woodcutters and water carriers (slaves/forced labor) for the community of Israel and for the altar of the LORD. NLT

1 Kings 5: 13, 14b
Then King Solomon drafted (“conscripted”) forced laborers from all Israel; the labor force numbered 30,000 men. He sent 10,000 to Lebanon each month in shifts; one month they were in Lebanon, two months they were at home. Adoniram was in charge (the Overseer) of the forced labor. Holman Christian Standard Bible

NOTE: The magnificent temple that King Solomon dedicated the Lord, the House where the Name would be memorialized, was built with a large pool of slave labor.

Jeremiah 34: 9, 14a
That everyone should set free his Hebrew slaves, male and female, so that no one should enslave a Jew, his brother. At the end of seven years each of you must set free the fellow Hebrew who has been sold to you and has served you six years; you must set him free from your service (Cp. Exodus 21: 2-6; Deuteronomy 15: 12-17).  ESV

Leviticus 25: 39-42, 44-46
If any of your fellow Israelites become poor and sell themselves to you, do not make them work as slaves. They are to be treated as hired workers or temporary residents among you; they are to work for you until the Year of Jubilee. Then they and their children are to be released, and they will go back to their own clans and to the property of their ancestors. Because the Israelites are my servants, whom I brought out of Egypt, they must not be sold as slaves. Do not rule over them ruthlessly, but fear your God. Your male and female slaves are to come from the nations around you; from them you may buy slaves. You may also buy some of the temporary residents living among you and members of their clans born in your country, and they will become your property. You can bequeath them to your children as inherited property and can make them slaves for life (Wow!!), but you must not rule over your fellow Israelites ruthlessly.

NOTE: This is a lot more expanded than other parts of the Old Testament.

Now, let’s look at the New Testament:

Ephesians 6: 5-9
Slaves, obey your earthly masters with respect and fear, and with sincerity of heart, just as you would obey Christ. Obey them not only to win their favor when their eye is on you, but as slaves of Christ, doing the will of God from your heart. Serve wholeheartedly, as if you were serving the Lord, not people, because you know that the Lord will reward each one for whatever good they do, whether they are slave or free. And masters, treat your slaves in the same way. Do not threaten them, since you know that he who is both their Master and yours is in heaven, and there is no favoritism with him.

NOTE: This is a fine thing if you just so happen to have a God-fearing master.

Colossians 3: 22-25
Slaves obey your earthly masters in everything; and do it, not only when their eye is on you and to curry their favor, but with sincerity of heart and reverence for the Lord. Whatever you do, work at it with all your heart, as working for the Lord, not for human masters, since  you know that you will receive an inheritance from the Lord as a reward. It is the Lord Christ you are serving.  Anyone who does wrong will be repaid for their wrongs, and there is no favoritism.

Titus 2: 9-10
Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them, and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive. Teach slaves to be subject to their masters in everything, to try to please them, not to talk back to them (complain about reasonable grievances or mistreatment??),  and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior them,  and not to steal from them, but to show that they can be fully trusted, so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

It is interesting that one of the reasons that God liberated the Israelites was that they were slaves in Egypt and harshly treated, but somehow it is acceptable for them to enslave other people, consider them as inherited property, and they can be subjected to a lifetime of servitude. Even if another Hebrew enslaved one of his fellow countrymen that person was to be treated like hired labor, or as an “indentured servant” for a temporary period lasting no more than seven years. The New Testament admonishes slaves to just be faithful and bear with it, looking toward to a heavenly reward but when it came to the plight of the Israelites the response from on High was quite different- Acts 7: 34a says, “I have indeed seen the oppression of my people in Egypt. I have heard their groaning and have come down to set them free.” It isn’t just slavery in the past that is of paramount importance but the psychological as well as the socio-cultural, economic, educational and mental components that can affect people generations into the future. Maybe the sins of the fathers are not passed down past the third and fourth generation, but what they went through could; especially if, as in the Bible a generation can be anywhere from forty years to a thousand.

Robert Randle
776 Commerce St Apt 701
Tacoma, WA 98402
April 4, 2017