Category Archives: Bible History

The Colossian Heresy(ies)

Explain the nature of the “Colossian heresy” as inferred from Paul’s correctives.

The Colossian heresy, as it is called by many, involved many false teachings at the church of Colossae. It was a mix of Jewish legalism, Greek philosophic speculation, and Oriental mysticism. It has been speculated that the location of Colossae played an important part in the mixed character of the false teachings in the church. This may be true since most of the beliefs and features appear later in Gnostic philosophy and in Greek and Oriental mystery religions. Paul uses the epistle of Colossians to combat this heresy and to set the church on the right track.

One can conclude from the counter-emphasis of Paul that the Colossian heresy involved first the diminishing of the person of Christ. Paul countered this false teaching by stressing the preeminence and realness of Christ the person. In Colossians 1:15, Paul says, “He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation.” (HCSB).

The next issue of the Colossian heresy involves the emphasis on human philosophy. Paul fought the human philosophy which taught that human speculation was divorced from divine revelation. Paul boldly and with accurate precision counteracted these human philosophies with Colossians 2:8, which says, “Be careful that no one takes you captive through philosophy and empty deceit based on elemental forces of the world and not based on Christ” (HCSB).

Paul also used Colossians to counteract elements of Judaism. These elements included circumcision, rabbinic traditions, dietary regulations, and Sabbath and festival observations. Paul addressed these problems by enlightening the Colossians on spiritual circumcision and spiritual liberty.

Next Paul addresses problems of false humility and the worship of angels. Those who taught this false humility and angelic worship assumed that the angels were intermediaries between them and God. Paul commands against such a belief in a visionary realm and states that such a person does not “hold on to the head, from whom the whole body, nourished and held together by its ligaments and tendons, develops with growth from God” (Colossians 2:19 HSCB).

Finally, Paul counteracts the idea that Christianity is exclusive or secret. Some of the Colossians flaunted an air or secrecy and of superiority. Paul emphasizes the all inclusiveness of Jesus and the gospel by stressing that Christ is all and in all.

Although the problems Paul addressed in Colossians were different, Paul provided one solution; Jesus Christ. We would do well to have the same philosophy!! Paul exalts Christ in His person and work and the believer’s oneness with Him as the solution to the heresies and false beliefs that were arising in the Colossians’ church. This great truth is just as fitting as the solution for the false teaching and philosophies of today, for Jesus Christ and His word are the same yesterday, today, and forever, and thus the solution is the same.

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Paul’s great love for the folks at First Baptist Corinth

What was Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian Church?

Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian church reaches far and wide and extends over a long period of time. This relationship ranges from rejoicing to sorrowful and from anxiousness to calmness. Paul’s love, concern, and affection for the Corinthians can be seen in both of his epistles to them.

First, Paul evangelizes in Corinth while he is on his second missionary journey. While Paul was here, he made tents with Priscilla and Aquila. He preached in the synagogues. It is probably here that he wrote First and Second Thessalonians. Additionally, it is there in Corinth that Paul received a dismissal of charges against him from the Roman Proconsul. Paul ministered there on this occasion for about a year and a half.

Sometime after this visit, Paul wrote what is known as “the lost early letter”. This early letter is assumed from I Corinthians 5:9 where Paul says, “I wrote you in my letter not to associate with immoral people”. Evidently the Corinthians misunderstood the intent of this lost early letter. They thought they were to disassociate with all immoral people. Paul explained to them that he was only referring to professing Christians who lived in persistent and continual sin.

Paul wrote First Corinthians while in his third missionary journey. Although named First Corinthians, it was probably the second letter written by Paul to the church in Corinth (the lost early letter would be the first). Paul wrote First Corinthians from Ephesus near the end of his stay there. This letter to the Corinthians was written to address a wide variety of problems in the church in Corinth.
Paul probably made a quick, “painful” side visit from Ephesus to Corinth after having written First Corinthians and discovering that this letter may not have been as effective as he desired. This visit indicated that his relationship with the Corinthians may have been strained at the time. It is theorized that Paul failed to accomplish his purpose for the quick, “painful” visit to Ephesus, which was to straighten out problems in the church.

Paul sent another lost letter to the Corinthians. This letter is called the “sorrowful letter”. This letter was written after Paul returned to Ephesus from his quick, “painful” visit to Corinth. It is fascinating to note that Second Corinthians 2:4 Paul regretted having to write this “sorrowful letter”. According to Second Corinthians 7:8, he even regretted having sent the letter. In this letter, he commands the church to discipline a man who was leading opposition against him. However, Paul does require the church to forgive and comfort even this man. He also urged them to confirm their love for him, even though he opposes Paul and has caused controversy in the church.

Titus carried this letter to Corinth after Paul wrote it. Paul left Ephesus and waited in Troas for Titus to arrive with a response to the “sorrowful letter” from the Corinthians. When Titus didn’t show up in Troas, Paul went on to Macedonia. Titus met him there. Upon Titus’ arrival, he delivered good news to Paul. The good news was that the church had disciplined Paul’s opponent and most of the Corinthians had submitted to and recognized Paul’s authority.

Paul’s sorrow quickly turns to joy upon such a favorable message from Titus. This favorable report, along with the inspiration of the Holy Spirit, compels Paul to write Second Corinthians. This epistle was written from Macedonia to not only express his relief and joy about the favorable response from Titus, but also to stress that he was taking up a collection for the Christians in Jerusalem. He also used the opportunity of Second Corinthians to defend and affirm his authority as an apostle of Jesus Christ.

Paul’s relationship to the Corinthian church was just as solid in the times of sorrow as it was in times of joy and peace. God used Paul to help disciple the church there through the good times and the bad times in the same way that Christ is there for His disciples during the bad times and good times. Though the relationship between Paul and the Corinthian church may have been strained from time to time, it was never broken – He always had a great love for this church, and he always held them near and dear to his heart!!

Likewise, due to our own fault or neglect, our relationship with Jesus might be strained from time to time; however, it is never broken.

Until the Lord calls us home to glory, we should continue to persevere, work, and serve!

Contrast the main problem addressed by Paul in 1 Thessalonians with the one addressed in 2 Thessalonians and Paul’s solutions to them.

First and Second Thessalonians both address the second coming of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. Although both letters were written by Paul to address issues of the second coming, both serve to correct different eschatological problems that gave rise. Paul, in divine revelation from the Holy Spirit, addresses both of these problems through encouragement, while at the same time giving specific correction.

First, in First Thessalonians, it is apparent that the Thessalonians began to focus so much on the second coming of Christ, the Parousia, that they failed to maintain the quiet, productive lives that they as Christians needed to maintain. The Thessalonians thought that since Christ’s return was imminent and immediate, they need not work. They also felt sorrow over the death of their fellow Christians; perhaps they thought they would not share in the joy of Christ’s return.

Paul addresses these problems with specific solutions. First, in regards to leading unproductive lives, he encouraged them to work with their own hands and to lead a quiet life. (I Thessalonians 4:11) He addressed their concerns about fellow Christians not being able to share in the joy of the return of Christ by explaining to them that Christians who have died will be resurrected at the rapture so they too will be taken up with the living Christians into heaven. (I Thessalonians 4:16)

In Second Thessalonians, Paul again addresses concerns stemming from the eschatological views of the Thessalonians. However, on this occasion the view of the Thessalonians is that Christ’s return was so immediate that it led to fanaticism. Their view of such an immediate coming of Christ may have been formed from a false message or letter from someone claiming to be Paul, or one of his disciples. Paul works toward a solution to the problems in Second Thessalonians in a couple of ways. First, he encourages them to continue to endure persecution, for at the second coming of Christ, God’s justices would be fulfilled. The faithful would enter eternal rest and their persecutors eternal destruction. Next, Paul warns the Thessalonians not to be deceived by false prophets or by oral or written reports by people that may claim to be him, and who were claiming the day of the Lord had already begun. (II Thessalonians 2:2) He instructed them regarding the events preceding the coming of the Lord, and he reminded them that in looking for the return of Christ, believers should not put asunder responsible daily living. Although he was excited about the arrival of Christ, just as they were, he urged them to live realistic and productive lives as they await the Messiah.

First and Second Thessalonians not only give us a glimpse into Paul’s eschatological theology, but also into how this eschatology should apply to our lives. First and Second Thessalonians reassures us as believers that should we die before the second coming of Christ, we can be confident in a resurrection of our physical bodies. However, until the Lord calls us home to glory, we should continue to persevere, work, and serve Him as we await the day in which Christ completes our salvation.

To whom was Galatians originally written?

What are the arguments for and against the North and South Galatian destination of Galatians. How does this relate to the decree of the Jerusalem Council in Acts 15?

Much debate has occurred over the years on to whom the book of Galatians was written. Although we can gather from the name, it was written to people of the region of Galatia, it is much harder to conclude who those people particularly were, or where they were geographically from. Two theories have been introduced to further specify to whom the book of Galatians was written. Those theories are, the North Galatia theory, and the more modern South Galatia theory.

Under the North Galatia theory, the book of Galatians would have been written by Paul to believers in geographically Northern Galatia. Paul did not visit this area until his second missionary journey on his way from Pisidian Antioch to Troas. Since, according to this theory, Paul would not have written Galatians until the middle of the second missionary journey, we can therefore conclude that Galatians would have been written after the Jerusalem Counsel in Acts chapter 15 (since the Jerusalem Counsel precedes the entire second missionary journey). This means that the reference in Galatians 2 to a visit in Jerusalem by Paul probably is referencing the Jerusalem Counsel.

Several arguments can be made against the North Galatia theory. One is that Luke nowhere suggests that Paul evangelized in the Northern region of Galatia. Secondly, Acts 16:6 says “The region of Phrygia and Galatia”, and that quote naturally makes reference to the Southern territory. Additionally, the idea that Paul would have traveled into North Galatia would have required him to take an unlikely wide detour that was off course from a strategically planned mission.

The South Galatia theory theorizes that Paul addressed his letter to the churches in South Galatia. According to this theory, Galatians would have been written right after his first missionary journey, but before the Jerusalem Counsel. Maintaining this theory forced the presupposition that Galatians 2 refers not to the Jerusalem Counsel, but rather to a famine relief trip mentioned in Acts Chapter 11.

The South Galatia theory is more widely accepted and more easily explained. First, if Paul had written Galatians after the landmark meeting of the Jerusalem Counsel, it stands to reason that he would have made mention of the events and outcome of the meeting in the book of Galatians, especially since freedom from the Mosaic Law was the main topic and purpose of his letter to the Galatians. From the perspective of a mission, we can conclude that the Jerusalem Counsel probably had not occurred when the Holy Spirit inspired the Apostle Paul to write the epistle to the Galatians.

A resolution to the disagreements between the theories of North Galatia and South Galatia may never be found. Being that the Jerusalem Counsel probably held the highest historical and theological stakes imaginable to the church, it is hard to fathom that Paul would have not capitalized on the Christian liberty established through the Jerusalem Counsel had it not occurred. Where was Galatia? Who were the Galatians? These questions need not be paralleled with the importance of Paul’s message in Galatians; Christians are free from the Mosaic Law, and Jesus Christ died to give them that freedom.

The key places and events of Paul’s three missionary journeys in the Book of Acts

The key places and events of Paul’s three missionary journeys in the Book of Acts.

During Paul’s missionary journeys throughout the book of Acts, the Holy Spirit can be seen manifesting Himself in Paul, and in his ministry. It is as if Paul had a copy of the book of Matthew and read from its verses,

“Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe everything I have commanded you.” (Matthew 28:19-20; Holman Christian Standard)
From around 47 A.D., until his death in 63 A.D., Paul did indeed fight the good fight. He also participated in many events that would lead to the founding of Christian churches throughout the Middle East, and subsequently the world.

Paul’s first missionary journey, although shortest in time and geographical distance, was nonetheless extremely significant in the development of the first Christian churches of his time and region. This journey started in Syrian Antioch, and ended in Syrian Antioch with more than ten stops along the way where he proclaimed the good news of the gospel of Jesus Christ. Some notable events in this first missionary journey begin with Barnabas and Paul’s stop in Cyprus. Bar-Jesus, or Elymas tries to convince the Roman Proconsul Sergius Paulus to not believe the story about Jesus Christ that Paul is teaching. These deceptive acts of Bar-Jesus are undoubtedly an attempt to keep people dependent upon his magical services. This magician does not want them believing in the only real power which exists, which is the Holy Spirit. It is also notable that within this time frame, Luke no longer refers to Paul as Saul, but begins calling him Paul (a more appropriate name for the Greco-Roman audience that Paul will be trying to reach) from this point on. From Cyprus, Paul and Barnabas head to Perga. It is at Perga that the cousin of Barnabas, John Mark (the author of the Gospel of Mark) decides to accompany them no longer. Many suggestions have been given as to the decision of John Mark; however, Luke, the writer of Acts, does not tell us why. From Perga, they travel to Pisidian, Antioch. Here Paul preaches in the synagogues about the fulfilled messianic promises of Jesus Christ and stressed to the people there that justification is found in Jesus and not the Law of Moses. From Pisidian, they traveled to Iconium, and Lystra. In Lystra, Paul heals a crippled man, and Barnabas and Paul were worshiped as the gods Zeus and Hermes. They, of course, refuse to accept this worship and try to tell the people there about Jesus Christ. It is here that Paul was stoned, but survived. Paul and Barnabas then traveled to Derbe, and back to Lystra, Iconium, Pisidian Antioch, and Perga. As they traveled through these cities, they focused on the appointment of elders to be in charge of the local churches. They did preach in Perga for a short time, however, because they passed through the city quickly the first time through. This trip ends in Syrian Antioch where it first began.

Paul’s second missionary journey began under unfortunate circumstances. Because John Mark had decided to split with them in Perga on their first journey, Paul did not want John Mark with them on the second journey. Barnabas did. According to Acts chapter 15, Barnabas and Paul had a sharp disagreement regarding whether or not John Mark should accompany them. Barnabas separated from Paul and sailed for Cyprus with John Mark. Paul chose Silas to accompany him. This trip started in Syrian Antioch and made many important stops before ending again back in Syrian Antioch. In Lystra, Paul and Silas picked up Timothy. In Troas, Paul saw the man of Macedonia in a vision. In Philippi, a woman named Lydia was converted, and a girl was delivered from demon possession. While imprisoned in Philippi, Paul and Silas converted a jailer to Christianity after an earthquake occurred. In Thessalonica, jealous unbelieving Jews form a mob and assault the house of Paul’s host, Jason. In Athens, Paul preached a sermon on Mars hill, before the Areopagus, which is the local city counsel that licenses teachers. In his sermon, he portrays God as the one creator and sustainer of humanity, and professes that all of humanity has its origin in God. In Corinth, Paul made tents with fellow believers, Pricilla and Aquila. Paul began preaching in the house of Titius Augustus as opposed to preaching in the synagogues. Important events that occur here are the conversion of Crispus, a synagogue ruler; a vision from Jesus where Jesus told Paul to stay in Corinth a little longer; the Roman proconsuls refuse to condemn Paul for preaching; and the writings of First and Second Thessalonians. After one and a half years in Corinth, Paul reaches Cenchrea, and then goes on to Ephesus. Having accompanied him so far, Pricilla and Aquila stay in Ephesus to help further the church there. From Ephesus, Paul goes to Caesarea, Jerusalem, and ends back in; you guessed it, Syrian Antioch.

On Paul’s third missionary journey, Paul set out to strengthen his disciples. This trip, like the others, starts in Syrian Antioch. First, he visits the regions of Galatia, and Phrygia and thus the churches of Derbe, Lystra, Iconium, and Pisidian Antioch. In Ephesus, the disciples of John the Baptist receive the Holy Spirit, Paul preaches in the schools of Tyrannus, and seven sons of Sceva tried to cast out demons in the name of Jesus unsuccessfully. It is here in Ephesus that Demetrius led a riot on behalf of the goddess Artemis against Paul and his message. The town clerk subsequently rebuked Demetrius and declared Paul to be neither a robber nor a blasphemer. From Ephesus Paul travels to the Macedonian areas of Philippi, Thessalonica, and Berea. It is here in Macedonia that Paul takes up a collection for the church in Jerusalem as mentioned in First Corinthians 16:1-5. From there, Paul goes to Athens and Corinth and back through Macedonia ending in Troas. It is here in Troas that Eutychus fell out of a window during one of Paul’s sermons. This was probably due to Paul’s long-winded preaching spells, for we see in Acts chapter 20:7 that he preached until midnight. When Eutychus fell from the window, he died. Paul went down, embraced him, and healed him. From Troas, Paul went to Miletus and Tyre, where he was warned that his life would be in danger upon entry to Jerusalem. Again, upon reaching Caesarea, Paul was warned about what would happen to him in Jerusalem. Nevertheless, Paul continued his third missionary journey into Jerusalem. Here in Jerusalem, Paul makes a report to the church about his accomplishments and events of his third journey. Paul was later seized in the temple for preaching about Christ, but was rescued by Roman soldiers. It is here in Jerusalem that Paul made his famous speech to the Jews about his conversion from the stairway of a castle. The Roman Tribune, Claudius Lysias, sends Paul to Caesarea where Paul stands trial before Felix, Festus, and Herod Agrippa. Paul eventually appeals his case to Caesar in an effort to reach Rome, unconcerned of the danger that lurked in the air of the Greco-Roman capital. Paul chose to minister in Rome at the expense of his physical life.

Paul traveled to many places over many miles to share the gospel of Jesus Christ. His passion and concern for the salvation of both Jews and Gentiles led him on three missionary journeys. These journeys will forever impact the history and development of the Christian church.

The Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts

What do we know about the activity of the Holy Spirit in the Book of Acts.

The book of Acts would be non-existent without the acts of the Holy Spirit. Within the book of Acts, the activity of the Holy Spirit is so prevalent that the book might also be entitled “The Diary of the Holy Spirit” or “The Acts of Christ and the Apostles by the Holy Spirit.” It is through the book of Acts that we gain our largest understanding of the extent to which the Holy Spirit can empower people if they are willing.

The first major activity in Acts comes on the day of Pentecost, where people are baptized in the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit fills people and empowers those that receive Him. The noise that is heard is like that of a violent blowing wind, a wind that signifies the power of the Spirit. Each disciple speaks in tongues, or a foreign language. Each person recognizes what is spoken in the language of their homeland. It is through this outpouring, as well as a sermon from Peter, that nearly three thousand people were baptized and added to the church.

In Acts chapter three, the Holy Spirit fills Peter. A lame man, which was at the temple gate called ‘Beautiful’, so he could beg from those entering the temple, asked Peter and John for help. Through the out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and the power of the name of Jesus Christ, Peter commanded the lame man to get up and walk. At once, this man was healed and he stood up and started to walk.

Acts chapter seven shows us the Holy Spirit again empowering someone to do the will of God. Here Stephen preaches the word of God and exposes the Sanhedrin for the liars they are. Stephen also tells the Sanhedrin and others who are listening that they are resisting the Holy Spirit just as their forefathers did. Stephen continued to preach because he was filled with the Holy Spirit, even as they gnashed their teeth at him. As they took him out of the city to stone him, the Holy Spirit gave him a glimpse of God’s glory, and allowed him to see Jesus standing at the right hand of God. The Holy Spirit allowed him to courageously proclaim, “Lord Jesus, receive my spirit”.”

It is through the power of Acts that we see that God is a person and not some abstract power. It is through the book of Acts that we see that the Holy Spirit is as much a part of Christ as He is of God. Additionally, we see that the Holy Spirit played a pivotal role in the church as we know it today which was initiated on the day of Pentecost. The book of Acts is filled with countless stories of the Holy Spirit empowering and uniting people to do the will of God and to expand the church. May we in the current age of the Christian church be as attentive to the empowerment and call of the Holy Spirit as we, too, seek to advance the church and the kingdom of God.

The Gentile Audience of the Book of Luke

Are there features of the Gospel of Luke that suggest that it was written to mostly a Greco-Roman audience?? Does the structure help determine that Luke was written mainly for Gentiles??

Many points of evidence indicate that the Gospel of Luke was written to a Greco-Roman audience. An overview of the style of writing in Luke gives the first indication of such a statement. Moreover, the structure, phraseology, and universality give way to the idea that such a statement is most likely true.

The style of Luke appears to be among the most refined in the New Testament, alongside the Epistle to the Hebrews. This book, written by Dr. Luke, as well as his other book – Acts, begins with a dedication to an unknown person named Theophilus. This was a common in Luke’s time. Greco-Roman writers often began with a dedication to someone of affluence.

Luke’s account of the gospel appears to be geared towards Gentiles. This can be seen in the manner in which the book makes attempts to appeal to proselytes, full converts to the Jewish faith, and to God-fearers who converted to Judaism, but would not observe the ritual of circumcision or other religious practices that they thought were too extreme. One such point of evidence lays in the repeated accounts of the Roman governor’s announcement that Jesus was guilty of no crime.

“So Pilate asked Him, “Are You the King of the Jews?” He answered him, “You have said it.” Pilate then told the chief priests and the crowds, “I find no grounds for charging this man.” (Luke 23:3-4 Holman Christian Standard Bible)

As Matthew’s account shows enormous emphasis on the fulfillment of Old Testament scriptures, Luke does not do this. He shows a broader interest in God’s historical plan of mankind, as revealed in the Old Testament. Luke also modifies expressions that would have had a Jewish connotation to them, and transfers them into words that have a broader, universal appeal to all people. One example of such a phrase transformation occurs in Luke 21:20 where Luke phrases the ‘Abomination of Desolation’ (see Mark 13:14) as an encircling of Jerusalem with armies.

More specific indications of a Greco-Roman audience can be seen, as well. For instance, Luke makes a special emphasis on secular dating to set the timeline for the events of Christ’s life (see Luke 1:5, 2:1, and 3:1-1). Moreover, Luke specifically calls Jesus ‘a light to the Gentiles’ in Luke 2. In chapter 3 Luke quotes Isaiah 40 by stating that ‘all flesh will see God’s salvation’.’ Luke, unlike other genealogical accounts of Jesus, traces Jesus to Adam, the father of the entire human race, as opposed to Abraham, the father of the Jewish nation.

Many signs and evidences tend to lean toward a Greco-Roman audience for the book of Luke. Referred to as Hellenistic universality in the text, the Gospel of Luke has wide spread appeal to the entire world, and does not give the ambiance of an account of Jesus written for Jews or by a Jew. Furthermore, upon comparison of the Gospel according to Luke with the other Gospels, it becomes evident that Luke was indeed written to a Greco-Roman/Gentile audience.