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Sunday, July 29, 2012

more notes on Philippians 2

Last time, I wrote some ideas I obtained while reading and reading about Philippians 2. A couple of days later, while digging through my bookshelf, I ran across Luke Timothy Johnson's "The Writings of the New Testament" and stopped to read what he wrote on Philippians (that book treats each of the books of the New Testament as books, as opposed to others that examine chapter or verse segments). I ran into a couple of ideas I would have added to the last entry, other than that that time has passed.

Johnson writes that, in the Greek, it is more obvious that Paul is emphasizing the theme of fellowship, as a number of words have the prefix syn-, which literally means "with", which implies the concept of fellowship tied in. In my reading this over, some places in English reflect this, some do not. These include: verse 2, Johnson wrote "soul", NKJV has "Spirit", verse 2 "like-minded", verses 6 and 20 "equal", verses 17 and 18 "rejoice", verse 25 "worker", verse "soldier". Additionally, verse 14 speaks of "complaining and disputing", which is the opposite of fellowship. This concept is further heightened in that Paul was writing to people who lived in Greek culture, and the Greek moral philosophers of that day considered the concept of friendship important, and Acts 2:41-45 is phrased extremely close to some of the statements they wrote, so "holding all things in common" came across differently in that culture than it does in ours. Although in our Bible, Acts appears before Philippians, when Luke is believed to have written Acts and when Paul wrote Philippians are both at about the same time, so one cannot totally assume that the Philippian church either did or did not know about Acts 2 when they read Paul's letter. We can be certain that they knew about the Old Testament, "the scriptures" as the books of the NT were not clearly thought of as scripture until much later.

In verse 6, the phrase "thing to be grasped", in the Greek, suggests gaining "booty" like an attacking force, which, again, is an opposite to the attitude of fellowship.

Sunday, July 22, 2012

Some notes about Philippians 2

Today, I am writing down some ideas that crossed my mind while studying Philippians chapter 2. If you sit down and study the same chapter, you may, and hopefully will, find the Holy Spirit showing you some totally valid points that I have totally failed to mention. That is one of the notable things about scripture. To quote a supposedly clever line I heard somewhere (probably in a traditional sermon, strangely enough), other books we read, the Bible reads us, provided that one is allowing the Spirit of God to speak into one's spirit.

I believe it is Kay Arthur, in How to Study the Bible, that said, correctly, that if you discover something totally new in the Bible, you are probably wrong. Conversely, when conventional wisdom in the church goes astray, bad things can be accepted as good. The notable example is in the Middle Ages, when most Bible commentaries were written by celibate monks, the most written about book was Song of Songs, and they all got it wrong (but in accordance with Catholic doctrine of that time) that that book was not to be understood literally. Also, just for note, along with the fact that I will be bringing this up later, I tend to start out by reading the passage in the New King James, because, from people who I trust who also have the ability to evaluate the job done in translating, I understand that to be the case. From that understanding, NIV is also very good, except on verses which concern spiritual gifts and the role of women, where the translation reflects a point of view I am convinced is an incorrect understanding of scripture. Also, one of my favorite sources for additional information that helps in filling in some of the blanks with regard to the culture in a Bible passage and our culture is the IVP Bible Background Commentary--New Testament, edited by Craig Keener, which I refer to a couple of times below. With all that said, my notes:

Verse 1: "consolation" is the noun form of console, and not the more common modern meaning of non-winner, as in consolation prize. As this verse speaks with words such as comfort, fellowship, consolation, it is very similar to 1 Thess. 5:11. This is important, in that I would guess some outside of simple, organic church may see how 1 Thess. 5:11 is emphasized, and how much of the rest of the church glosses over that verse, as being imbalanced or incorrect. This verse comes close to saying the same thing in different words.

Verse 3: states the converse of verses 1 and 2.

Question for discussion: Can a believer do something out of selfish ambition or conceit and not be aware of it? Can you (or any believer) consistently be able to tell the difference between a person who is deceived or self-deceived from a charlatan?

Verse 4: Paul writes as if it is correct for the believer, at times, to look out for his own interests.

Question: What does, and does not, Paul mean by this phrase, and how can we tell for certain? (this should produce comments about understanding in and out of context, and what context is)

Verse 5: "bondservant" is the Roman love-slave, a person who, when given the chance to be free, chooses to remain a slave of his/her master, with the knowledge that such a choice cannot be reneged on in the future, because the slave loves his master. This structure is archaic to us, and for those of us in the U.S. distorted by this country's highly different history with slavery, but is referred to by Paul in that it is an example of the believer's relationship with God.

Verses 6-11: Keener writes that these verses were part of a song that predates Paul, or that Paul reshaped these thoughts into a form that was more like a song.

Verses 10-11: "should" in the NKJV. The sentence this word appears in is making reference to what a defeated people would do before a victorious ruler. This is the first time I've run into a translation in the NKJV which I (disclaimer: I'm no Greek scholar, so I'm open to be proven wrong) think to less correct than other versions, which tend to say "shall" or "will". In its context, to my thinking, "should" is saying that every person who has in the past or present or future on earth should bow before the lordship of Jesus. "Shall" or "will" is saying prophetically that, sometime between death and the final judgment that every person that did not submit to Jesus as Lord on earth will acknowledge their spiritual error. This is also a reference to Isaiah 45:23. As with anything going on in Heaven, Hell, the mind of God, the relationship between Father, Son, and Spirit, we don't understand very much of it, obviously by God's design.

 

Verse 12-13: speaks of the church in Philippi obeying God when Paul is not around, and that God is working in them so they can do what He pleases.

Question for discussion: Is obedience only when superiors are watching really obedience? If God loves us, and Jesus called us not servants, but friends, and we are saved by grace, in Jesus dying for our sins on the cross, then what does "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" mean?

What is God doing in us? "To will", i.e. to desire to do what pleases Him, and "to do", i.e. to act on that desire.

Verses 14-17: God, through Paul, tells us to do all things without complaining and disputing. How do we understand this sentence? (context tells us what is meant by all things) They were also warned about their living in a "crooked and perverse generation". Doesn't that describe all generations between the fall and the second coming?

Being "poured out" as a drink offering. To an unbeliever (of anything), a sacrifice is a waste, and Paul is speaking about this attitude about one's life. Can this even be attempted without accepting the "lowliness of mind" in verse 2?

Verse 16: Paul uses "day of Christ" in the same manner as the phrase "day of the Lord" is used in the Old Testament. We need to remember that the early churches had the Old Testament (and maybe not literally, as synagouges owned most physical copies of Tanak), the guidance of the Holy Spirit, and the teaching of apostles, but were not to actually have all of the New Testament in their lifetime.

Verse 21: "Let all seek their own"::verse 4 "look out not only for his own interests". How do we reconcile these statements?

Verse 22: Timothy has proven his character to Paul, "will sincerely care for your state." We know from other passages that Tim was a young adult, but Paul highly trusted him and his gifting for leadership and, apparently, teaching and correction.

Verses 25-29: about Epaphroditis: "hold such men in esteem". Why did Paul say this? For Epaph acted, and nearly died, being the representative of the Philippi group to Paul.

Verse 30: According to Keener, "risked his life" was used as a gambling term in that day, and gamblers would call to Venus, the goddess, with a word similar to Epaphroditis, i.e. Paul was making a play on words in this sentence.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

On sermons running amuck

A few days ago, my lot in life was to sit and disassemble some ancient computer equipment that I had been attempting to sell for the past few months, with no success, as they were too old for anyone to find utility in them. As disassembly is mindless work, I turned the tv in the room to one of the Christian stations on cable, which was playing soft, instrumental music. At the top of the hour, it changed to a preaching program of a well known name, who emphasizes the prosperity doctrine (to borrow a phrase from an old comedy skit, the names are changed because only one is Innocent). He was speaking on Matthew 7:13, which says, "Enter through the narrow gate. For wide is the gate and broad is the road that leads to destruction, and many enter through it." He started off by asserting that, in this sentence, "destruction" was not referring to hell (spiritual destruction) but to various types of destruction, such as financial or other personal features, that can happen in a believer's life. He specifically states that the church has not taught that verse in that context, and, given that this is a recording of a sermon in a traditional church, he gave no intellectual evidence for it, told a story about teaching this in someone else's church, and having an elder upbraid him for this, to which he said he didn't defend his point at the time because it was in someone else's building, and told a couple of other stories to bring out a couple of lesser points he wished to make within this concept.

There was a point in my life in which I attended institutional churches that tolerated occassion prosperity teaching. This appears to be a theme that is particularly appealing to persons of significantly below average income, and an explanation of why it is incorrect is probably too complicated and uninteresting for some of my brothers and sisters in Jesus to desire to follow (online I can find that a person named Koch at Indiana U. has a dissertation that deals with that subject; I did not read it for this writing, as I am drifting off point, although, to drift even further off point, it is interesting how often truly original research, even in Christian studies, comes out of secular institutions). It does, once again, bring out the point I, quoting others, have brought up before. Participatory discussions on a Bible topic bring out more true learning, as a) one cannot just assert anything, although, as the old line says, to can find something in the Bible (out of context, of course) to defend anything, b) in a participatory study, the group can answer questions someone truly has, c) because every person in the group is considered equal before God, except as they are experienced and gifted, a person just asserting something not shown to be the line of all of scripture can be lovingly corrected, and d) if a question could possibly come up that those in the group were unsure to be correct, it would be totally normal to search the scriptures, and what other teachers have said, and come back to the topic the next time.

Conversely, the problem with traditional sermons is the exact opposite: a) one person has prepared to share everything to be shared, which leads to the temptation to defend a "party line" (such as the example above, to pick on a reletively new one with minimal organizational pressure behind it), and b) the listeners rarely know what is coming, will not get to either discuss or be tested on it (as in school). I could, I believe, come up with a number of other points in criticism, but others have, and most will be nuances of the main two above.

Finally, one learns more from preparation on a subject than one does from receiving the preparation. In a participatory Bible study, there can be the possibility that everyone involved may know the next subject and do their own preparation for the study. I say this as, at the church I am involved in, the facilitator comes from a background of fundamentalist churches and military and tech business experience, and I come from a background of Calvinistic and pentecostal/charismatic churches, secular college campus experience (as a student and some campus ministry), and retail business. If one's hearts are in the wrong place, that would engender conflict, but when our hearts are in building up everyone, the different backgrounds compliment one another. Next time, I will write on some things I have been studying for an upcoming study.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

My response to Viola's challanging question




This evening, I was reading Frank Viola’s blog from three days ago, and he posed a question for persons who have a blog to answer.  Given that, I decided to take up the challenge of answering this question.



The following exercise is from the synchroblog at http://frankviola.org/2012/07/09/gospelforthemiddle



Fielding Melish and his wife Felicia have two children, ages 10 and 6. They live in a very remote part of Maine, USA. They are surrounded by extended family, none of whom are Christians. The nearest churches are one hour away, and by all evangelical standards, none of them are good. These churches are either highly legalistic, highly libertine, or just flat-out flaky.



One of Fielding’s cousins is a practicing Christian. They see each other once a year. Fielding’s cousin has shared Christ with Fielding many times over the years. Whenever they’ve talked about spiritual things, Fielding shows interest.



Felicia grew up in a Christian home. She’s received Christ, but she isn’t evangelistic and is overwhelmed with working long hours and raising two small children. She would love to find a church nearby for the spiritual support and instruction, but none exist.



Fielding has no college education. While he is capable of reading, he is not a reader. He doesn’t use the Web either. He’s a man who works with his hands, both for his career and for recreation. He’s an “outdoorsman.” He hunts, he builds, he does manual labor, etc. In his spare time, he helps his elderly parents with various building projects.



Fielding is not an atheist. Neither is he an agnostic. He believes in God. He believes Jesus is the Savior of the world who died for our sins and rose again from the dead. He hasn’t fully surrendered his life to Christ, but he is not sure what that looks like exactly. His children know a little about the Lord, mostly because of what their mother has taught them.



Recently Fielding asked this question:



When I’m with my cousin once a year, I want to learn more about God. But when I come back home, and I’m around everyone else, my mind is off of God, and I am back to working, raising my kids, and helping my parents. Someone needs to come up with a solution for people like me . . . people who are in the middle. (By “in the middle,” Fielding means someone who believes in Jesus, but who isn’t fully absorbed in the faith yet either. They simply don’t know enough nor do they have any spiritual support system around them.)



Relocating is not an option for Fielding and his wife. Even if they wanted to relocate, they don’t see a way they could do it financially.



Remember: Fielding and his wife don’t personally know any Christians. None of their extended family or coworkers are believers either. And the nearest churches (which are an hour away) aren’t recommended.



Question: If you were Fielding’s cousin, how would you instruct him and his wife the next time you saw them?



            First, I would make clear to Fielding that, as much as it doesn’t look like it in western society, a Christian church is a group of believers.  Jesus taught that, where two or three are gathered in His name, He is with them, and that Jesus is with them because He is Head of the Church.  He and his wife can be the beginning of a church, and that, in the books telling us of the New Covenant, church wasn’t a one day a week thing.

            I would encourage them to pray together, and study the Bible together.  I would volunteer to help Fielding by phone or email, as I am certain that neither Fielding nor his wife will feel comfortable with this at first.  Possibly, I would use the phrase “family Bible study”, even if it would be technically incorrect, if that would help them get this mutual encouragement going.   Many of the other details would be connected to their motivation and personal details I would know if this situation was real.

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

1001--beginnings


As I mentioned a few days ago, I have written Simple Church Minute commentaries in one-, two-, and five-minute sizes.  I just realized that I, somehow, never got around to posting the transcripts of some of the one-minute commentaries.  I should further mention that what is below couldn’t be crammed into one minute (at least by me) without a sound editing program.  It is a great test of what is important to say on any subject by forcing one to put it into a time frame that is small.

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1001—beginnings

My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Between 313 and 323 A.D., Constantine, emperor of Rome, declared Christianity legal in the Empire, making it co-equal with paganism.  As part of that, Rome poured money into the church to have buildings of worship, people to be in charge of the buildings, legal tax exempt status for the organizations and persons who managed the churches and buildings, and introduced regular collections of gifts to pay for all this bureaucratic mess. Roman orators started “converting” to Christianity and taking the paid positions of overseeing the churches and their getting a regular speaking gig.  As with any bureaucracy, the system stuck and morphed in various directions.  The Reformation discarded many theological distortions that would happen over the next dozen centuries, but the structure remained untouched, just morphed again.  Today, in countries where faith in Jesus is illegal, churches are groups of persons who meet together to worship Jesus and encourage each other without man made organization attached, but the amount of believers who worship this way in the free world is small.  For more information about organic worship, visit www.hrscn.org.

Monday, July 9, 2012

1002--church, as a one-minute commentary


            I recently found that I never posted a number of transcripts of one-minute Simple Church Minute commentaries.  This is another of those.

1002—church

            This is Simple Church Minute.  To the believers in the days of the New Testament, what did the word translated in English as “church” mean?  In Acts 19, when the guys who made statues for the sex cult started a riot against Paul because people coming to follow Jesus was putting a dent in their sales, the word Luke used to describe the mob was the same one used other places for church.  The word was ekklesia; it meant gathering, assembly, group; it did not have any religious connotation.  As the church was illegal, the group of believers who met together to worship Jesus and build up each other was small enough to meet in a home and for each person to know each other and care about each other.  It was basically devoid of ritual, unlike any belief the world had seen. Oftentimes, possibly in some areas even daily, they ate simple meals together informally. Assuredly, they talked and got to know each other.  Today, in our churches we call this fellowship, which is a synonym with the word communion, which is how they would have understood what, over the centuries, has been made a ritual.  The early believers held to what their society would have seen as a quite irreligious religion.  You can find out more about simple church at www.hrscn.org.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

1005--sermons, as a one-minute commentary


            Today, I am posting another of the one-minute Simple Church Minute transcripts that I somehow failed to post previously.  As I have said at other times, all the one-minute transcripts have numbers in the 1000’s, five-minute transcripts in the 2000’s, and two-minute versions with numbers below 1000.  If someone is interested in seeing these commentaries on a radio station in your area, contact me, as the recordings done so far all reference the metro area I live in.

1005—sermons

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Why are there sermons in church?  Matthew 5, called the Sermon on the Mount, isn’t structured like a sermon, and covers way too many topics.  In Acts 17, where Paul is speaking at Mars Hill, it is clear he was doing dialogue, not monologue.  From Acts 20 verse 7 and other places, where we see someone doing something that looks like what we now call preaching, the Bible uses the word “spoke.”  Some say Second Timothy 4 verse 2 connects preaching to speaking to the church, but that context isn’t clear.  First Thessalonians 5 verse 11 tells believers to build up each other, which is nearly impossible when one person is designated to do monologue.  Romans 12 and 15, First Corinthians 14, and Colossians 3 show worship involved every member, was conversational and impromptu.  One can find out more about worship at www.simplechurch.com or locally at www.hrscn.org. You can call me at 757-735-3639.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

1004--pastor, as a one minute commentary


Today, I am posting another one-minute commentary that I somehow neglected to publish earlier.

1004—pastor

            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  You may have heard that the one place that the word “pastor” appears in the New Testament is Ephesians 4 verse 11.  In English, this is true.  A standard tenant of the Christian faith is that we believe that God inspired the writers of the Bible to say what they did in the original languages.  In studying the Bible, one finds that the original words have some extremely meaningful nuances, and, as much as we can appreciate translations, they invariably and unavoidably add and delete nuances.  In the original Koine Greek, the word translated “pastor” is poimen, and that appears 18 times in the New Testament.  All the other times it is translated “shepherd” and refers to either a sheep herder, or that Jesus cares for us as a shepherd cares for his sheep.  In Ephesians 4, there is reason to believe that the word is modifying the following word, “teacher”.  We have no evidence of this being used to designate a type of leader in the church by itself until after the Reformation.  You can find out more about simple worship at www.hrscn.org. You can call me at 757-735-3639.

Monday, July 2, 2012

1106--calling, the one-minute transcript


1106—calling

            On July 1, I wrote a word study on the word “calling”.  As this blog, originally, was a place to post transcripts of the Simple Church Minute commentaries, of which, over time, I have one-, two-, and five-minute versions.  This is a one minute version. For reference, all one minute transcripts have a 1000 number, five minute versions have a 2000 number, and the original two minute versions are in the 1 to 999 range.  I have learned that the one- and five-minute lengths will be favored when I finally get to use these on air.

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            My name is Tom; this is Simple Church Minute.  Over time, plenty of confusion has entered the believers in Jesus over the concept of calling.  Oftentimes, it is because it is mentioned, but never taught about.  Further, in the King James Version, Ephesians chapter 4 verse 1 implies that calling is connected to a career job, which is incorrect, as more recent translations make clear.  I see three parts to calling: Romans chapter 1 verse 7 tells us we are called to be saints.  We are called to salvation.  First Corinthians 1 verse 22 to 31 and Second Thessalonians 2 verse 13 tell us we are called to grow in faith.  Mark 3 verse 13 and all the verses about spiritual gifts tell us that, as we grow in faith, the Spirit shows us an individual calling based on his gifts, talents, and interests.  Galatians 5 verse 13 tells us we are called to liberty, to serve one another.
            I have more about this on my blog, tevyebird.blogspot.com, on the entry of July 1, 2012.  I can be contacted at 757-735-3639. You can find out more about groups of believers not built around corporation structures, at www.hrscn.org.

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Calling: a word study


            About a week ago, thanks to the wonder of the internet, I was in a discussion with a brother in another part of the world, with regard to the posting I have on 13 definitions of the word “church” (my latest revision being on June 20, 2012).  He stated the idea that church means “called out ones.”  I have heard that numerous times in sermons, and is generally a true interpretation, but is not a literal definition of the word in the original language, and does not at all fit the use in Acts 19.  A further problem is that we believers in our culture have a fuzzy definition of what “called” means.  I struggled with this, as I grew up going to an institutional church in a Calvinistic denomination.  I do not remember the idea of what “called” meant ever being taught, but I do remember that, before graduating from high school, I already knew that, if the pastor got up and spoke about Acts 16, about Paul receiving a dream guiding him to go to Macedonia, the sermon would end with the announcement that the pastor was leaving his current position.  There was this vague feeling that “calling” had something to do with holding a position of leadership.  This makes some sense in that, in the King James Version, which was used far more extensively among believers then, than now, Ephesians 4:1 reads, “I therefore, the prisoner of the Lord, beseech you that ye walk worthy of the vocation wherewith ye are called,” which appears to say that calling is connected to doing a paid job.  As other versions show, this, at most innocently, is a function of the translators reading their own experience into the text, and, at worst, their writing a justification for their jobs into the text. Newer translations show that that was not a nuance in the original language.

            Be that as it may, I dove into studying what “call/called/calling” actually means with regard to New Testament believers.  Two meanings are common uses of the word, one of which is to ask/command another to move from a place further away from one to another place closer, and the other is an introduction to a synonym, such as “that animal is called a cat.”  Many of the uses fall into those categories.

            I wish to deal with the spiritual meaning of calling, God’s direction to persons.  In Matthew chapter 4, we see Jesus called the disciples.  2 Peter 1:3 tells us Jesus called us because He is virtuous, not us.  That should be obvious in that some of us, by the world’s standards, were evil people before we were saved, and others, who seem to be nice people, do not come follow Jesus.  Of course, the world’s standards are inconsistent even to themselves. 

            I will take one paragraph to mention a problem that has vexed students of theology.  Is every person on earth called, or only some?  Mt. 20:16 and Mt. 22:14 appear to indicate that every person is called, but only some accept the call to follow Jesus.  Romans 8:30 and Hebrews 9:15 appear to indicate that only those who follow Jesus are called.  This brings up, to us humans, of God’s perfection and whether those not called have no opportunity to avoid hell, which seems to us quite imperfect.  Theologians have debated that in their halls of study for centuries, to no good resolution, but we are incapable to understand God in full, anyway, so I have nothing further to add to this.

            It appears to me that there are three general levels to God’s call on a believer’s life.  Romans 1:7 tells us that we are called to be saints.  All believers are saints.  The Roman Catholic use of the word is incorrect.  Acts 20:1 indicates that “saints” and “disciples” are synonyms.  A disciple is one who is following the master, Jesus, to learn what He has to teach.  If someone says he/she is a Christian, but shows no signs of desiring to follow Jesus, something is wrong.  In most societies where there is freedom of belief, and no governmentally or socially sanctioned persecution, there are plenty of persons who fall into this category.  Much could be said about this.

            John 15:15 tells us Jesus said that we are no longer His servants, but His friends. 1 Corinthians 1:9 tells us we are called into fellowship.  A local fellowship of believers is one correct definition of church.  1 Corinthians 7:15 tells us we are called to peace. Again in 1 Corinthians 7, verses 20 and 24 tell us that our calling is part of our life circumstances, which imply, along with the rest of the New Testament, that there are no special positions for the called, no “holy men” as in the surrounding religions.  We, the church, got (or maybe were forced) off-track during the early Middle Ages.  Colossians  3:15 tells us that we are called into one body, the Bride of Christ.  2 Timothy 1:9 tells us that this is a holy calling, not according to our works.  Holiness is not for the special few.  While the calling is not according to our works, the Holy Spirit in the believer’s life changes our heart, and therefore, our works, and that doesn’t happen in the person trying to fake being a believer.  Hebrews 5:1-4 and 1 Peter 2:9 defines Revelation 1:6, which helps us understand that saints are priests.  Now, if all believers are priests, and priests intercede between God and man, who are we interceding for but other persons and the situations surrounding them.  This is the basic level of God’s call on a person’s life.

            We are not to sit around, just feeling good about being saved, avoiding hell, nor, by the Spirit speaking into one’s spirit, would one wish to.  1 Corinthinans 1:22-31 tells us that we are to grow in faith.  Galatians 5:22, 23 tell us the results of growing in faith, which Paul describes as the fruit of the Spirit. 2 Thessalonians 2:13 and Jude 1:1 tell us another word that describes this part of a believer’s calling—sanctification.  Ephesians 5:11 describe four or five general gifts God bestows on persons, and in verse 12 tells us that they are for equipping the saints (the believers) for the work of ministry.  Therefore, every believer ministers, not just the gifted.  That, in turn, is for the edifying of the body (other believers).  1 Thessalonians 5:11 tells us that the church is a group of believers that comfort and edify each other.  If one person dominates the group and is attempting to be above others, that is wrong; that is normal in the world’s businesses, politics, and military, and in the religions around the world, and in the Old Covenant, but now Jesus is Head of the Church, as stated in Ephesians 5:23 and Colossians 1:18.  God gifts persons, but did not put any gifted person between God and the average believer.      

            All believers receive the first calling.  To some degree, believer’s grow spiritually, although it is clear that some grow faster than others, and do not grow evenly.  Any of us can see that in our own life.  The third area of calling is one some believers do not ever enter.  Some believers, and even non-believers, are tempted to fake being in.  This is the special calling on a person’s life.  This ties in, in some way, to the general gifts God gave to us via our DNA, and life experiences, and added to once we accept Jesus’ salvation for us and have grown in faith to a degree.  Unlike deciding what occupation to study, we don’t choose this call, although to others, it sometimes might appear that way.  Mark 3:13 indicates this.  Luke 6:13 tells us that the 12 were apostles still while Jesus was on earth.  Yes, some will have a theological problem with that, given that Judas Iscariot was in their midst, and the Holy Spirit was yet to come upon them.  Some might argue that an indication of our imperfection, even while saved and desiring to follow the Holy Spirit was Acts 1:23, as an example of how special calling does not happen.   Acts 9:11 and 16:10 are examples of special guidance.  Acts 13:2, 1 Corinthians 1:1, and Romans 1:1 are examples of special gifting.  These are not examples of titles.  Paul said that he was an apostle, but he didn’t call himself Apostle Paul.  None of these words that are descriptions of gifts were titles, with the exception, as mentioned above, of Jesus, Head of the Church. In Mark 9:35, Jesus taught the twelve that to be great, one must be the servant of all.  This speaks a word of warning about those persons whose “ministry” is such that such person is impossible to access, and whom appears, as one person, to be the equivalent to a whole church.  Then, again, this is a form that has been taught to both leaders and non-leaders for centuries, and wrongdoing is only deliberate sin when the Holy Spirit brings a thing to a person’s attention.  Just to clarify that these gifts were not just natural abilities, Ephesians 4:9 tells us that God gave gifts of ministry to men (humans).  I say that in that Romans 16:7 tells us that a woman named Junia was an apostle.  Further, Galatians 5:13 tells us that we are called to liberty, to serve one another.  Further, when we look at Romans 12, Ephesians 4, and 1 Corinthians 12, we see in two spots where Paul is inspired to say “gifts”, which is plural, about healing and administration, but we have no indication of why.  Also, there is nothing that tells us that the various list of gifts is complete.  The point of God’s gifts is not that we can attach a name to it, but that one uses one’s gift for the benefit of the body to God’s honor.

            Above, I rattled off many scriptures in a proof-texting style.  One of the problems of that style, which goes back to the rabbis of the Old Testament, and, while I do not know this, probably extends even to the false religions of men, is that a sentence can be taken out of its context to say something that, in its correct literary and/or cultural context, it doesn’t mean.  To the best of my knowledge, I do not believe that I have quoted any of these scriptures out of such context. Part of the reason for this writing is that this is an idea which has been misunderstood because others, intentionally or not, have taken this idea out of its proper context, oftentimes not by actually teaching incorrectly, but implying ideas “between the lines” of other teachings which give believers an incorrect understanding.  Therefore, not just now, but always, I would urge others, along with myself, to examine this and any teaching, to search the scriptures, and I would add history, to see that I have quoted these passages correctly.  This is one of the problems of the modern sermon, versus the participatory Bible study, that it is way too easy in a speech to miss a dubious point, and impossible for any leader wishing to teach correctly to explain a point.   

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An exact transcript of the one minute version of Simple Church Minute appears as the entry for July 8, 2012.