Archive for the ‘Uncategorized’ Category


Doing What I Hate

July 27, 2009

Romans 7:15 I do not understand what I do. For what I want to do I do not do, but what I hate I do

Why do we keep doing what we hate?

Churches of Christ have a long history of quarrelling and dividing over virtually any disagreement. Disagreements have been with us throughout history, but division over those disagreements came to churches of Christ in a big way in 1889, at Sand Creek. The issues of that day included instrumental music, choirs, missionary societies, preaching colleges, hired preacher-pastors, and church fund raisers. Since then, further divisions have occurred over communion cups, Sunday Schools, premillennialism, the Holy Spirit, church organization, qualifications for elders, marriage / divorce / remarriage, the role of women in the church, discipling practices, and more.

Churches of Christ continue to repeat the mistakes of our forefathers. The spirit of Sand Creek is alive and well. We keep doing what we hate — which the Lord also hates:

Proverbs 6:16-19
16 There are six things the LORD hates,
seven that are detestable to him:
17 haughty eyes,
a lying tongue,
hands that shed innocent blood,
18 a heart that devises wicked schemes,
feet that are quick to rush into evil,
19 a false witness who pours out lies
and a man who stirs up dissension among brothers.

I am writing this because I recently heard a report that one of the former ICOC congregations was “blacklisted” by leaders at another congregation. Having personal knowledge of the supposedly blacklisted congregation, I find that appalling. What kind of mindset would conclude that it is right to make such a judgment about a church they have not visited, about leaders they have not approached, about a group of penitent baptized believers who have made Jesus their Lord? What scripture gives anyone that right?

Divisiveness is deep in our DNA. It permeates our history, and we have so far failed to learn from that history. If we fear God, we would be wise to learn those lessons. The judgment we use on others will be applied to ourselves as well. Those who create divisions in the church do so at their own peril.


Leaders Need One Another

July 13, 2009

I am registered to attend the 2009 International Leadership Conference in Denver on September 3-6. This will be my third time attending (having also attended in Chicago in 2004 and Los Angeles in 2007). These conferences bring together ministers, elders, and others from ICOC congregations for fellowship and inspiration. As one who is committed to pursuing unity with other Christians, I am glad to be able to attend this year and am hopeful that the time will lead toward greater unity among these churches.

A few days ago I received an emailed article promoting the event, titled “Leaders Need One Another.” The article reminded us of our responsibility to counsel one another (Rom 15:14) . It spoke of how much we need each other, as different parts of the same body (1 Cor 12:21-26). The writer then said,

Boy, do we need one another. We need one another for the encouragement to persevere in an increasingly lost world. We need each other for direction and perspective when the work of ministering gets heavy and disorienting. We need each other for counsel and advice. And perhaps most important, we need each other as reminders of God’s miraculous devotion to the salvation of souls, including our own! We need to be together.

I heartily “amen” all of that. We need more communication, not less. We need to show the world that believers in Christ can be united, so the world will believe (John 17:20-23). We need the love and support of other believers. To the extent that we isolate ourselves from other parts of the body of Christ, we deprive ourselves of the benefits God intended for us to share.

But I wish that the organizers of this event didn’t stop there. This event is focused only on the congregations tracing their roots back to the International Churches of Christ. What about our brothers and sisters in the traditional churches of Christ? What about the independent Christian churches? What about others who have made Jesus Lord and have been baptized into Christ (Gal 3:26-29)? Are we not therefore one in Christ? Do we not need them, and do they not need us? We desperately need those brothers and sisters. And now more than ever, I think we might have something to offer to them also.

In the Chicago ILC of 2004, we had a guest speaker from Abilene Christian University who was the highlight of the conference in my opinion. There have been other interactions between the ICOC and ACU, but I don’t hear much about that any more. There just doesn’t seem to be a lot of interest in those things. With the approaching 200th anniversary of the Declaration and Address, the ICOC should re-examine its roots, and reconcile with the rest of the family.


A Witness Between Us

July 4, 2009

What we have here is a failure to communicate.

The Israelites had taken possession of the Promised Land. Two-and-a-half tribes inherited land on the east side of the Jordan, and the remaining tribes inherited on the west side. By prior arrangement, the fighting men from the “trans-Jordan tribes” — those on the east — crossed over to the west side to help their brothers defeat the inhabitants of the land before returning to their families on the east.

After returning to their inheritance, the trans-Jordan tribes set up an altar as a reminder to future generations that living on the other side of the Jordan did not make them any less a part of God’s people. But the remaining tribes reacted angrily to the building of the altar:

Jos 22:11-12 And when the Israelites heard that they had built the altar on the border of Canaan at Geliloth near the Jordan on the Israelite side, the whole assembly of Israel gathered at Shiloh to go to war against them.

The Israelites presumed that the trans-Jordan tribes would offer sacrifices on the altar in violation of the Law. The Israelites were prepared to go to war, and surely to destroy the trans-Jordan brothers over this matter. Fortunately, before starting a war they sent a delegation to talk things over:

Jos 22:13-14 So the Israelites sent Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, to the land of Gilead–to Reuben, Gad and the half-tribe of Manasseh. With him they sent ten of the chief men, one for each of the tribes of Israel, each the head of a family division among the Israelite clans.

The trans-Jordan tribes indignantly denied that they had built an altar for sacrifices in violation of the Law, insisting that they built the altar as a memorial, not as a place to make burnt offerings:

Jos 22:26-27 “That is why we said, ‘Let us get ready and build an altar–but not for burnt offerings or sacrifices.’ On the contrary, it is to be a witness between us and you and the generations that follow, that we will worship the LORD at his sanctuary with our burnt offerings, sacrifices and fellowship offerings. Then in the future your descendants will not be able to say to ours, ‘You have no share in the LORD.’

After understanding better what their brothers had done, the Israelites were pleased:

Jos 22:30-31 When Phinehas the priest and the leaders of the community–the heads of the clans of the Israelites–heard what Reuben, Gad and Manasseh had to say, they were pleased. And Phinehas son of Eleazar, the priest, said to Reuben, Gad and Manasseh, “Today we know that the LORD is with us, because you have not acted unfaithfully toward the LORD in this matter. Now you have rescued the Israelites from the LORD’s hand.”

Had they failed to talk things over first, the Israelites would have incurred the wrath of God for destroying the trans-Jordan tribes. They were rescued from that fate by a few days of communication.

Maybe we could benefit in similar ways by communicating more.

I’m not aware of any congregations in our area who are prepared to go to war with each other. But the longer we go without communicating, the more distant we become; the more likely we become to mistrust one another; the more likely that rumors, gossip, and slander will create divisions in the church. Communication can stop those things. By communicating we can gain a better understanding of the challenges our brothers face and the motives for their decisions. We can put unfounded rumors to rest. We can learn how much we have in common. We can come to realize how much we could learn from each other. We can build trust.

So our congregation’s leadership is embarking on an experiment. We are planning a Saturday meeting between our elders, ministers, along with our wives. and those of another local congregation. We plan to have some structured discussion and some unstructured, just to share what each congregation is doing, how we are doing it, what is working well and what is not. We will share a meal or two together. We hope to give and to receive some practical advice, to build deeper relationships, and to grow in our trust and love for one another.

We did something similar with a congregation in NC about three years ago, but have never done this locally. The NC experience was a delightful time and one that has definitely helped us feel more connected with a church in another state. Now we want to do the same thing in our own area. If this first round goes well, we hope to schedule a similar event with other congregations, maybe one each quarter. And we hope to inspire these other congregations to do likewise.

This probably won’t bring world peace or cure cancer. But it’s not complicated. Anyone can do it. We hope it will have visible and lasting benefits to the church.


Fear of the LORD

June 24, 2009

Pro 1:7 The fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge,
but fools despise wisdom and discipline.

Fear of God is one of the most frequently encountered concepts in the scriptures. From the time Abraham was commended for his fear of God (Gen 22:12) until the multitudes in heaven are commended for their fear of God (Rev 19:5), the theme is repeated over and over. Solomon stated that fear of the LORD is the beginning of knowledge, the very foundation on which understanding is built. It seems that, in the view of Solomon, a person who does not fear God cannot credibly claim even to know God. Fear of God could be called a central theme of the Old Testament.

But, has the fear of the LORD become obsolete?

Many people who self-identify as Christians would say that Jesus brought an end to the need for God’s people to fear him. For them, God seems to have changed. They acknowledge that God in the Old Testament demonstrated his wrath, smiting people with wars, disease, and death. But they see God in the New Testament quite differently. Some go so far that they teach God will forgive everyone in the end. Perhaps this is the kind of teaching Paul had in mind when he spoke of people having itching ears. So, believing those myths, those folks see no reason for fearing God.

It is true that John wrote “perfect love drives out fear.” But until we reach a state where we sin no more, we cannot help but fear the one who has the power to condemn. Perhaps that is why God’s Word repeatedly admonishes us to fear God.

We find it difficult to understand how God’s love, grace, and mercy can coexist with his righteous wrath. Every person we know leans toward one side or the other — either toward generous grace and mercy, or toward strict judgment. We naturally visualize God being like people we’ve known (often, like our own earthly fathers.) But God is not like anyone you or I ever met. His love and his righteous wrath both exist, and both exceed anything we can imagine. We can’t predict what God will do based on what some human might or might not be inclined to do. God will do whatever he pleases. As the prophet Isaiah wrote,

Isa 46:9 Remember the former things, those of long ago;
I am God, and there is no other;
I am God, and there is none like me.
Isa 46:10 I make known the end from the beginning,
from ancient times, what is still to come.
I say: My purpose will stand,
and I will do all that I please.

Throughout the Old Testament, we learn that fear of God is intended to motivate us to obey and to avoid sin. A few examples:

Lev 19:11 “You shall not steal; you shall not deal falsely; you shall not lie to one another.
Lev 19:12 You shall not swear by my name falsely, and so profane the name of your God: I am the LORD.
Lev 19:13 “You shall not oppress your neighbor or rob him. The wages of a hired servant shall not remain with you all night until the morning.
Lev 19:14 You shall not curse the deaf or put a stumbling block before the blind, but you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Lev 19:32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.

Lev 25:17 You shall not wrong one another, but you shall fear your God, for I am the LORD your God.

The Israelites were commanded to fear God, and to teach their children to do so. (Deut 6:1-2; 6:24, 10:12-21, 31:12-13). Jehoshaphat appointed judges and commanded them to judge justly, out of fear the LORD. A lack of fear of God led the Israelites to turn away from God. (Jer 5:21-24). That is just a small sampling of the Old Testament cases showing how fear of God led to obedience and blessings, while failure to fear God led to sin and destruction.

But someone will say that Jesus changed all that. Notably, Jesus himself addressed the subject:

Luk 12:5 But I will show you whom you should fear: Fear him who, after the killing of the body, has power to throw you into hell. Yes, I tell you, fear him.

Jesus apparently anticipated that some would object to the notion of fearing God. To overcome that objection, Jesus reminded us that God has the power to “throw you into hell” — just about the most frightening prospect that could be mentioned. He was talking about “real” fear, not an unemotional respect.

The early church demonstrated and taught that instruction from Jesus. Acts 9:31, 10:34-35, 2 Cor 7:1, Heb 10:30-31, 1 Pet 2:17.

Paul feared the LORD, and therefore devoted his life to persuading others (2 Cor 5:11).

When we don’t fear God, we tend to take sin lightly. We sin knowingly, anticipating that it will be forgiven. We don’t see God immediately punishing sinners, so we are more inclined to sin.

Ecc 8:11 When the sentence for a crime is not quickly carried out, the hearts of the people are filled with schemes to do wrong.
Ecc 8:12 Although a wicked man commits a hundred crimes and still lives a long time, I know that it will go better with God-fearing men, who are reverent before God.
Ecc 8:13 Yet because the wicked do not fear God, it will not go well with them, and their days will not lengthen like a shadow.

Isa 57:11 “Whom have you so dreaded and feared
that you have been false to me,
and have neither remembered me
nor pondered this in your hearts?
Is it not because I have long been silent
that you do not fear me?

Fear of God is actually a gift of the Holy Spirit:

Isa 11:2 The Spirit of the LORD will rest on him—
the Spirit of wisdom and of understanding,
the Spirit of counsel and of power,
the Spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the LORD
Isa 11:3 and he will delight in the fear of the LORD.
He will not judge by what he sees with his eyes,
or decide by what he hears with his ears;

Perhaps there is no other topic in scripture associated with more blessings than is the fear of the LORD. A few examples of the blessings promised to those who fear God: (Isa 33:5-6; Psa 34:7-9; Psa 112:1-3; Psa 103:11-17) And then there is the 128th Psalm:

Psa 128:1 Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
Psa 128:2 You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.
Psa 128:3 Your wife will be like a fruitful vine
within your house;
your sons will be like olive shoots
around your table.
Psa 128:4 Thus is the man blessed
who fears the LORD.
Psa 128:5 May the LORD bless you from Zion
all the days of your life;
may you see the prosperity of Jerusalem,
Psa 128:6 and may you live to see your children’s children.
Peace be upon Israel.

Fear of God is the beginning of knowledge, and is the source of many blessings. Failure to fear God is the cause of much sin and destruction.

Do we really fear God? If so, I think we would be zealous to get sin out of our lives. We would create wide boundaries for ourselves to keep ourselves as far as possible from committing sin. We would certainly study our Bibles to learn what God has commanded. We would be zealous to obey. We would be concerned for the lost. We would pray humble prayers. We would serve the poor. We would speak up for the cause of the weak and helpless. We would arrive at church on time. We would pay attention to the words in the songs we sing. We would listen attentively to the message preached from the Bible. We would absolutely give rapt attention to the reading of God’s Word. We would not quickly forget what was said and done when we returned home from worship. If we fear God, we would not try to justify ourselves. If we fear God, we would not be people-pleasers. If we fear God, we would not speak evil of our brother. If we really fear God, we will not fit in very well in a world where those around us do not fear God.

If we really fear God, we will be greatly blessed. The fear of the LORD is the key to this treasure.

Heb 12:28 Therefore let us be grateful for receiving a kingdom that cannot be shaken, and thus let us offer to God acceptable worship, with reverence and awe,
Heb 12:29 for our God is a consuming fire.

Ecc 12:13 Now all has been heard;
here is the conclusion of the matter:
Fear God and keep his commandments,
for this is the whole duty of man.


Hello World!

June 20, 2009

In case you were worried, no, I haven’t fallen off the face of the earth. Many things have been going on which have taken my time and attention away from blogging. But let not your hearts be troubled! Just click over to the Grace Conversation, an on-going discussion between progressives and conservatives in churches of Christ. The past couple of days have brought a flurry of posts from the progressive writers, and a promise of more on the near horizon. Jay Guin lists the planned articles on his blog.

Meanwhile, I would appreciate your prayers on behalf of my congregation. Almost weekly for the past six weeks, a different dear brother or sister in our church has gone into the hospital unexpectedly for emergency surgery. Pray that we can have an emergency-free weekend!



June 8, 2009

This blogger has a new grandchild! Abigail was born June 3 at 2:23 am. Baby, parents, and grandparents are all doing fine!

She is now my second granddaughter. You of course remember Abigail’s cousin Evelyn.

In honor of her father’s heritage, Abigail has a Korean middle name:


Speaking Evil

June 5, 2009

James 4:11-12 Do not speak evil against one another, brothers. The one who speaks against a brother or judges his brother, speaks evil against the law and judges the law. But if you judge the law, you are not a doer of the law but a judge. There is only one lawgiver and judge, he who is able to save and to destroy. But who are you to judge your neighbor?

Why do Christians find this passage so difficult to obey?

When James speaks of the Law, he is referring to the Law of Liberty (James 1:25), which Paul calls the Law of the Spirit of life (Rom 8:2) and the Law of Christ (1 Cor 9:21, Gal 6:2). That is the law that governs Christians. And the primary command in that Law is to love one another (John 13:34, 1 John 3:11, 1 John 3:23, etc).

When we speak evil of our brother, we are sinning in two ways. First, we are doing harm to one we are supposed to love. Why speak evil “of” our brother, rather than speaking the truth “to” our brother? Second, we are rejecting the Law of Christ, which calls us to treat our brother as we would like to be treated ourselves. In effect we are saying the law of love is just not that important.

It is likely that James was addressing the controversy over whether Jewish rites like holy days and circumcision continued to be binding on Christians. His instruction, then, was to hold our tongues rather than saying critical things to third parties about our brother. James equates speaking evil against a brother with judging him. And he commands that we should leave that up to God.

Albert Barnes says the following on this issue:

Not a few of the harsh judgments which one class of religionists pronounce on others, are in fact judgments on the laws of Christ. We set up our own standards, or our own interpretations, and then we judge others for not complying with them, when in fact they may be acting only as the law of Christianity, properly understood, would allow them to do. They who set up a claim to a right to judge the conduct of others, should be certain that they understand the nature of religion themselves. It may be presumed, unless there is evidence to the contrary, that others are as conscientious as we are; and it may commonly be supposed that they who differ from us have some reason for what they do, and may be desirous of glorifying their Lord and Master, and that they may possibly be right. — Albert Barnes Commentary

Despite the clear biblical instruction in James and elsewhere, Christians are prone to being critical of those who hold different opinions. Haven’t we all heard Christians question the sincerity of other Christians with whom they disagree? Haven’t we seen Christians treating other Christians with suspicion and disrespect, because they hold a different interpretation of scripture? Haven’t we seen Christians avoiding association with other Christians because their practices are different in some way?

Because we think our brother is wrong about something, we feel justified in ignoring the clear instruction of James. So we speak evil of our brother. It should not be so. Let’s resolve not to speak evil of our brothers, and not to give audience to that kind of talk. If we have a different opinion, let’s keep that between ourselves and God. Our brothers will stand despite the disagreement, because God is able to make them stand.


Relational Unity

June 2, 2009

Here is holy ground; here is the gate of heaven. No such prayer was ever heard before or since. It could only be uttered by the Lord and Savior of men, the mighty Intercessor and Mediator, standing between heaven and earth before his wondering disciples. Even he could pray it only once, in the most momentous crisis of history, in full view of the approaching sacrifice for the sins of the world, which occurred only once, though its effect vibrates through the ages. -B. W. Johnson, The Sunday School Helper

…it is the greatest prayer ever prayed on earth and the greatest prayer recorded anywhere in scripture. John 17 is certainly the “holy of holies” of the gospel record, and we must approach this chapter in a spirit of humility and worship. Warren W. Wiersbe, The Bible Exposition Commentary

The prayer of Jesus at the end of the the Last Supper is a priceless treasure for Christians. In it we learn what was most important to our Savior on the evening before he went to the cross. Necessarily, we also learn what must be most important to us as his disciples.

Jesus prayed asking that his Father protect the disciples so that they might be one. And he prayed for that oneness so that the world might believe the gospel of Jesus. The oneness of the disciples was of surpassing importance to Jesus on this momentous occasion, and therefore it must also be so for his followers.

So, what kind of oneness did Jesus have in mind?

The entire prayer centers around relationships. First, Jesus referred to the relationship he had with the Father before the world began. He defined eternal life as knowing the Father and his Son. He had come to reveal the Father to the disciples, and he had completed that work. He had lived with them and had protected them. Now he was leaving them, and he was concerned for their continued spiritual safety. He wanted them to share his joy. He wanted them to be set apart from the world, for a sanctified relationship with the Father. Indeed, the Lord’s prayer was all about relationships.

Then he spoke of those who would believe because of the apostles’ message. Jesus wanted us to be one, in the same way as the apostles, and in the same way as the Son and the Father. He has given us glory so that we can be one. That oneness would cause the world to believe. And it would show the world that the Father has loved his followers. It is all about relationship.

Jesus prayed that his followers could be with him. He wants us to share the experience of his glory — the glory that came through the relationship of love between the Father and the Son. He wants an eternal relationship of oneness.

Jesus knows the Father. He shared that with the disciples, and they came to know of the Father through Jesus. Jesus wants to continue showing us the Father so the Father’s love will be in us, and so Jesus himself will be in us.

Every phrase of Christ’s prayer was about relationships. He was praying for a relational unity among his followers — a unity that transcends whatever intellectual differences might appear among us.

It is a sad fact that Christians today are far from being “one.” In fact, the lack of oneness among Christians is a primary complaint leveled against Christianity by outsiders. We should not be surprised that this has been the result of our divisions. Jesus told us in advance that we must be one so that the world would believe. All men would know we are his disciples, if we would simply love one another. But our Christian predecessors throughout the ages have chosen to quarrel and divide rather than to hold onto the relational unity. Christians have disagreed on innumerable questions. When they disagreed, more often not they chose to divide, as if that were their only option. They did not find a way to rely on that relational oneness to hold them together.

Far too often, we just follow in the unfortunate footsteps of our forefathers.

The unity for which Jesus prayed is not all about technical points of doctrine. That doesn’t mean doctrine is unimportant. But it does mean we should not base our unity on detailed doctrinal agreement. Jesus said not one word in his prayer about the kinds of things that divide believers today: things like instrumental music (or a cappella music…), qualifications for elders, technical points about divorce and remarriage, kitchens, missionary societies, fund raising techniques, buildings, communion cups, or any other such thing. Those matters are not the basis of unity. Instead, we are called to be one because Jesus is one with his Father, and because the Father and the Son have reached out to save us in the most amazing manner. We are called to a relationship as brothers and sisters, since we have been adopted by the same Father.

We should admit that we might be wrong about disputed points. We are not as perfect as we imagine, doctrinally or otherwise. Our misplaced pride in our exegetical abilities has done immense damage to the church. Our unwarranted trust in our own hearts has blinded us to our own lack of objectivity. We’ve deceived ourselves, and in the process have snuffed out the belief of outsiders. The world does not believe, because we have not been one. That is a huge problem.

I have resolved to be part of the solution and not part of the problem.

It’s time we stopped quarreling about all the things we’ve quarreled about in the past. It’s time we held our tongues rather than speaking evil of our brothers. May God help us to do so.

May we be brought to complete unity to let the world know that God sent Jesus and that God loves us even as He has loved his Son. Amen!


Worship in the New Testament Church

May 2, 2009

John 4:23 Yet a time is coming and has now come when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and truth, for they are the kind of worshipers the Father seeks.

God seeks worshipers. As Jesus told the woman at the well, true worshipers of God worship in spirit and truth. Obviously Christians today need to strive to be that kind of worshipers. But what did Jesus mean by that?

Churches of Christ have traditionally taught five (and only five) authorized “acts of worship” which must be performed in the Sunday “worship service.” A typical explanation of that doctrine is available on the web site of the Knollwood Church of Christ.

The traditionally approved five acts include teaching, contribution, communion, praying, and singing. Based on the hermeneutic of Command, Example, and Necessary Inference (CENI), together with the Regulative Principle (prohibitive silence), these churches hold that all five acts must be present in every Sunday assembly, and that no other activities are authorized. According to the strict application of this doctrine, introduction of other activities to the “worship service” (instrumental music, dramatic presentations, videos, interpretive dance…) constitutes apostasy.

This is obviously a relevant topic for those who long for Christian unity. Did Jesus mean for us to break fellowship over those variations in Sunday worship?

To answer that question, we first need to understand what Jesus meant by “worship.” In John 4:24 the Greek word for “worship is προσκυνέω (proskuneo). This word occurs 60 times in 52 different verses in the New Testament, so we have plenty of examples from which to understand the meaning of the word.

Let’s take a tour through Matthew to see how προσκυνέω is used. The three wise men in Matt 2 sought to find the baby Jesus so they could προσκυνέω. Satan tried to tempt Jesus to προσκυνέω him in the desert. The same word is used for what the leper did when he ran up to Jesus as he descended after the sermon on the mount, and for what Jarius did when he came to Jesus on behalf of his daughter. προσκυνέω was the reaction of the disciples in the boat who saw Jesus walk on the water. The Canaanite woman προσκυνέω when she asked Jesus for the crumbs falling from the children’s table. The unmerciful servant in the parable προσκυνέω when he begged his master to forgive his debt. The mother of the sons of Zebedee προσκυνέω before asking for the favor for her sons. And after Jesus rose from the dead, we are told of two occasions where his disciples προσκυνέω him.

What is evident about all these examples is that none of them involved corporate worship– that is, the kind of worship done together in an assembly of believers. In random places and times where people in need encountered Jesus, they προσκυνέω. Similar examples can be found in the other gospels.

The woman at the well asked about where people should worship God. Jesus answered that it is not where we worship, but how, that matters to God.

The word προσκυνέω occurs several times in Acts, but is not used in reference to a Christian assembly. Once (Acts 24:11) Paul said that he had come to Jerusalem to προσκυνέω, but remember that he had been seeking to arrive in Jerusalem in time for Pentecost, a Jewish religious festival (Acts 20:16)

προσκυνέω is used in the letters only three times. In 1 Cor 14:25 it refers to what an unbeliever would do (falling face down) when convicted by prophecies exposing his heart. The other two occurences are in Hebrews — one referring to angels worshiping God, and the other referring to Jacob worshiping as he blessed his grandsons.

So there is no use of to προσκυνέω in either Acts or the letters referring to the Sunday assembly of Christians.

Similarly, the numerous uses of προσκυνέω in Revelation do not refer to Christian assembly. Instead, it is used in the context of worship in heaven by angels, and by elders. προσκυνέω is also used to identify worship of the beast and idols, as well as a couple of occasions where John fell down to worship the angel bringing him the message.

In short, προσκυνέω is never used in scripture to refer to an assembly of Christians. Nor is it used to describe what Christians do when they assemble. There is no basis for the conclusion that, in his comments to the woman at the well, Jesus had in mind the assembly of Christians.

There are at least seven other Greek words that are translated “worship” in one or more of the English translations of the New Testamant. A similar survey of these words would bring us to the same conclusion: that none of these words refers to the “acts” that are performed in a Christian assembly.

There really is not a lot of detail in scripture about how (nor when) to conduct an assembly of Christians. (1 Corinthians 14 provides the most complete set in a single place of the data points we have available.) People have gone to great lengths to fill in the gaps between the data points, coming to various conclusions. That is understandable and probably inevitable. The problem is not that we imagine different explanations for the data we have been provided. Rather, the problem occurs when someone insists that everyone else accept his explanation as the only valid one… and starts dividing the church over such issues. Some people are entirely too confident in their own understanding, and as a result are dividing Christians.

God wants worshipers who worship in spirit and in truth. Most of our disputes are over the “truth” part. A great place to study what “truth” means in the New Testament is the three part series that Jay Guin recently posted.

God seeks worshipers who come to him on the basis of the core Gospel: the death, burial, and resurrection of his Son as an atonement for our sins. That is the only way for a sinful man to come to God! May God have mercy on me, a sinner! When we come to God on that basis, we come with the right spirit and on the right basis of truth. That is the kind of worshipers God seeks.


Grace Conversation continues

April 27, 2009

Jay and Todd have been prolific in the past few days, posting eight articles at Grace Conversation challenging various aspects of the conservative position. Jay supplemented those posts with a three part series on his own blog where he provides a more in-depth study of how the term “truth” is used in the New Testament.

The conversation is reaching some of the key biblical texts that define the differences between the two sides. These are posts that should make a lot of folks think.

That’s plenty of reading material for you today, without me trying to add to the mix. Please read with an open Bible and an open mind.

I’d love to hear what you think.