My daily exploration of the Bible, taking it one chapter at a time. If I do it everyday, it'll take 1189 days.



Monday, December 31, 2007

Hebrews 7

Melchizedek = Jesus. Ish.

Summary:
I mean, this Melchizedek was freaken Jesus practically! Even Abraham gave him a tenth even before Levi was born out of his line!

Why did Melchizedek exist if the Levite line held salvation? We have a new line, with new rules. It's in the order of Melchizedek. It's Jesus. God promised not to take his mind. And because Jesus lives forever, he can save forever. He's perfect. His one sacrifice lasts forever like continuing sacrifices cannot!

Key verse:
27. He sacrificed for their sins once for all when he offered himself.

My thoughts:
I always get a bit confused about the relationship between Mechizedek and Jesus, but what's clear here is that Jesus is a new type of priest with different rules and he brings salvation in a way no other can. It's powerful stuff, and it's cool in that it absolutely affirms the unique saving power of Jesus' sacrifice.

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Hebrews 6

Paying the price

Summary:
So let's move on from the basics of being saved, faith, baptism and praying for each other. If you've tasted heaven, you can't leave and then come back. There's no passouts. You might as well kill Jesus all over again!

I'm confident that God appreciates what you've been doing, but remember that a bad field gets burnt.

God's made a clear certain promise of our ability to go right into his holiest place and that Abraham would have countless descendants.

Key verse:
1. Therefore let us leave the elementary teachings about Christ and go on to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death, and of faith in God

My thoughts:
Hmmm... the more mature teachings don't seem to be more complicated but seem to make demands of us. We are to be productive fields, and be clear about the ineffectiveness of the repentance of those who've left God. It's kinda scary! It's not like more complex theology, it's just more challenging!

I didn't really get the last bit about the promises... Twas a bit weird...

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Hebrews 5

Priscillicious

Summary:
High priests are made to represent, and that's what Jesus does. He is humble and understands other people's weaknesses. They are chosen by God, just as Jesus was, chosen to be in the order of Melchizedek. Jesus was always obedient, so he suffered and became our salvation for evermore.

It takes a while to learn all this. Like babies, you need milk and need time before you move onto solid food.

Key verse:
14. solid food is for the mature, who by constant use have trained themselves to distinguish good from evil.

My thoughts:
Melchizedek is a cool guy. It's interesting that Mr. Hebrews goes back to Melchizedek rather than to Aaron or Zadok or Joshua (the latter) or anyone else. I think that this isn't really an innovation as a lot of tradition and significance had built up around Melchizedek but it does align with the sense I get from the Pauline letters that he is appealing to truths from before Moses, back to Abraham.

If this is milk... then I wanna know what solid food is! 6-day creationism?

Anywho... for all my previous statements regarding Mr. Hebrews, I have discovered the wikiality* that some people consider the author of Hebrews to be Priscilla, which may be possible, but it appears that their main reason is because it is anonymous so those woman-hating fathers of our faith must've cut out the woman's name. That reason doesn't fly so well with me. But it could've been Priscilla.

*Wikiality is a registered trademark of Comedy Central and The Colbert Report.

Friday, December 28, 2007

Hebrews 4

Absolutely uncertain

Summary:
We have not only the gospel, but now we have faith, and can't enter God's ultimate Sabbath. He said we'd never enter this rest, but here we are! That later day God was waiting for.

God's word cuts like a knife. You can't hide.

Remember we can associate with our high priest, because he also suffered like us.

Key verse:
12. For the word of God is living and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart.

My thoughts:
This is just a cool key verse. The word of God is not simply the sum of it's ink and meaning.

But in the midst of this, we have a very interesting case of hermeneutics! Here is a quote from this chapter "in the passage above he says, 'They shall never enter my rest.' It still remains that some will enter that rest". I constantly find the Bible taking it's own absolutes as not quite absolutes. To me this indicates not that the Bible is just talking a bunch of crap but that many things which might appear as absolutes to our Western minds were not considered to be so at the time.

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Hebrews 3

Making change

Summary:
Moses was a good servant of God, but Jesus is God's Son. He beats him like rock beats scissors.

Don't harden your heart like in the desert! Don't sin, and encourage each other every day. Remember those who didn't enter the promised land because of their unbelief. Don't be like them!

Key verse:
13. encourage one another daily, as long as it is called Today, so that none of you may be hardened by sin's deceitfulness.

My thoughts:
Paul's letter are generally not apologetic or evangelistic. They are designed to encourage those already in faith. Mr. Hebrews, however, seems to be trying to woo a Jewish crowd into the cult of Jesus.

Saying that Jesus is better than Moses would've been pretty controversial. Coming to Jesus from Judaism is a big step of faith! Mr. Hebrews is appealing to the notion that those who are slow to accept change get left behind. Jesus is a big change, but if they don't believe then they are just like those in the desert who couldn't accept the switch from Egypt to Canaan. God had to wait for the next generation then.

Hebrews is, of course, full of Old Testament Scriptures. I generally don't really represent these in the summary, but rather just get their point across.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Hebrews 2

Democratic truth

Summary:
If we ignore this salvation, we simply have no chance. It has been proven by signs and miracles. We don't see the full glory, but we do see Jesus. It makes sense that perfection came through such suffering, so that we can all be siblings.

He became like us to defeat Satan and death which torment us. By being like us he could be our priest; giving us atonement.

Key verse:
17. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people.

My thoughts:
I imagine that this passage would hold some authority in the future debates of the church regarding the humanity and divinity of Jesus. This passage certainly seems to emphasise his humanity. I think modern scholars would be more interested in arguing against Jesus' divinity, but there were plently of people around during these debates, especially in the gnostic corner, who would utterly play down Jesus' physical humanity.

But here Mr. Hebrews (I would say Mr/Ms, but in all likelihood it was Mr...) is making the clear statement that Jesus' real and actual humanity is an essential part of his saving work. He could only be our priest (the one who mediates for our sin) because he was one of us. Elsewise, he couldn't have bridged that gap! In reality, this is all based on some logic that doesn't need to exist inherently, that sin needs a mediator for forgiveness and the mediator needs to identify with both sides. But it does have a sort of truthiness* about it.

If it wasn't before, elsewise is now officially a word!

The line "But we see Jesus, who was made a little lower than the angels, now crowned with glory and honor" might disturb some of our non-JW readers, but I think if you recognise that the word 'made' doesn't necessarily mean created, but could mean something more like 'became', making this simply aligned with kenotic theology. Because the Bible, of course, was written as is in English.

*'Truthiness' is a registered trademark of Comedy Central and The Colbert Report.

Tuesday, December 25, 2007

Hebrews 1

Jesus is better than anything you've ever known!

Summary:
At the end of time God chose his only Son over prophets to show himself. He is the perfect image of God, and came to bring salvation and has now gone to be top ranking in heaven.

God calls him Son, like he has called no other. There's heaps of our Jewish scripture which shows that God's Son is above and unlike the angels and other heavenly things.

Key verse:
3. The Son is the radiance of God's glory and the exact representation of his being, sustaining all things by his powerful word. After he had provided purification for sins, he sat down at the right hand of the Majesty in heaven.

My thoughts:
Okay, so first things first. Hebrews is written for Jews, and uses Hebrew scripture to back up massive claims about Jesus. The book is anonymous, but centuries after the book became popular amongst Christians it began to be known as Paul's Epistle to the Hebrews, an idea which has never had any actual basis. It is anonymous and there are no early traditions assigning it to another with any sort of confidence. It shares no real qualities of a Pauline letter.

Some say it was written by Apollos. Some say it is a transcript of a sermon from Apollos or Peter. Who knows!

Anyway, the point of this chapter is clear enough. Judaism has massive respects for prophets and angels, and the author is trying his hardest to make the case that a human, Jesus, is in fact better and more important than anything except God himself. It's a bold call, but it's one that can't be compromised.

Monday, December 24, 2007

Philemon 1

Puntastrophe

Summary:
Hi Philemon. I hear of your good faith, and I want you to share it more! I'm writing to lovingly ask that you accept your slave Onesimus back into your house. He has become my friend. I kinda wanted to keep him, but he's your slave, and also now your brother. I'll pay back anything wrong he has done.

Bye!

PS. I'm coming to visit soon. Be ready!

Key verse:
6. I pray that you may be active in sharing your faith, so that you will have a full understanding of every good thing we have in Christ.

My thoughts:
Against my will I have to give this chapter the title "Philemon 1" rather than just "Philemon". That's just so that computers don't get confused, as they are want to do.

So Paul has a bit of a puntasm with Onesimus's name. His name means useful, and Paul refers to him as useful. How witty.

So the story here appears to be that Philemon had Onesimus as a slave, who ran away, got picked up by Paul and helped Paul a lot. Somewhere along the line Onesimus became a Christian, though this might've been before he ran away. Paul wants to keep him, but he can't because that's Philemon's decision.

The key verse is a nice wee call to evangelism. These calls are clear and consistent, but are a little infrequent, so it's good to see them every now and then to remind oneself that sharing our faith truly is Biblical.

I've just developed an interest in the reoccurring character of Demas. Here he is a friend, but in 2 Timothy he has turned away from Paul. He's an early Christian who seems to have renounced this faith. Someone recently wrote a fictional account of his life, which would be a fun thing to do! I think I'd enjoy writing the stories of the New Testaments bystanders.

Anywho, that seems to presume that Philemon was written before 2 Timothy. The placing of Philemon where it is in the canon is an interesting choice. It's kinda, but not quite one of the Pastoral Epistles. The only reason I can think of as to why it is here is because it was written to a person rather than to a church. It's kinda the token miscellaneous letter of Paul.

Anywho, this ends the writings of Paul in the New Testament, unless by some perverse logic you say that Hebrews was written by Paul. Now we have Peter, James, and John to look forward to! Though the James is a different James than is usually referred to in that way. Oh, and we also have cameos from Anon and Jude.

Sunday, December 23, 2007

Titus 3

3rd strike, and you're out

Summary:
Tell people not to rebel against authority, and just generally be good in people's eyes. We used to be lost like the world, but now we've been set free by God's mercy through Jesus. Don't get caught up in squabbles and Jewish arguments. Give people two warnings, then leave them.

Ciao.

Key verse:
10. Warn a divisive person once, and then warn him a second time. After that, have nothing to do with him.

My thoughts:
So here we come back into the whole excommunication thing. The possibilities of what the Bible could mean if you truly take it literally are hilarious. For example here, the passage gives no indication that if they stop and repent after a warning that you should commune with them again. It says that if they're being divisive then warn them twice then ditch them, regardless of whether they repent.

But I don't think that's what Paul is meaning here though. The whole excommunication thing does make me a bit uncomfortable, but I guess here it's not just someone who you disagree with or who is sinning. It's someone who is actively causing splits and issues in the church community. Sometimes these types of people do exist, and I think that in reality the best way to deal with some of them is to get rid of them. So I agree with the Bible. Big surprise.

My current theory is that all New Testament books start with either J, P, or T (representing the streams of the Torah). No exceptions. John, 1 John, Philemon, Philippians, Timothy, Thessalonians, Jude, Peter, James, Titus, Paul. No exceptions. Job, Psalms, The exodus, The genesis, The Isaiah. No exceptions.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Titus 2

Kicking deaf kids when they ain't looking (they can't hear you coming...)

Summary:
Teach old men and women to be reverent and respectful. The older women should be able to teach the younger how to love. Teach young men to have some self-control, and to set and example. Teach slaves to avoid rebellion and to be trustworthy. All this is so that we are beyond repute and make Jesus attractive.

God's grace teaches us how to have self-control and how to say 'No'. We just wait for Jesus' return.

Key verse:
10. so that in every way they will make the teaching about God our Savior attractive.

My thoughts:
Some people would consider this 'making attractive' of Jesus as a form of deception. But unlike some other faiths ( Scientology ) which would actually allow or even encourage apparent compromise (or even lies) regarding their faith to make it more attractive, Christianity simply asks that we be absolutely reputable in our society.

Yea... that's right... I compared Christianity to Scientology to make it look good. Kinda like kicking a small disabled child to feel tough, but hey, that ain't below me.

Anywho... for me this sheds some extra light on the whole wife submission thing. Perhaps the Bible 'commands' it purely based on the expectations of society. Society considered it good for women to submit, and because I guess it wasn't a big enough deal, the church was told to do what was good in society's eyes on this point to be attractive to society. Imagine a man whose wife never does what he says, and he looks at somebody else's Christian wife who is submissive. Wouldn't you want to become a Christian? Of course, this is all only focussed on the man's opinion, which is probably it's flaw. Women might look at the Christian woman and see no personality and independence and the last thing they would want to do might be becoming a Christian.

Anyway, this chapter shows that doing things largely just for the opinion of society is not necessarily bad.

Friday, December 21, 2007

Titus 1

Paul writes letter; makes racist claims

Summary:
I send you this letter representing the awesome God who gives the promised eternal life.

I left you in Crete to choose elders. Choose good blameless ones with just one wife and who have good doctrine. Some Cretans still want to deceive by telling people they have to be circumcised amongst other things. Like they say, you can't trust a Cretan! Those 'teachers' have nothing pure about them.

Key verse:
12. Even one of their own prophets has said, "Cretans are always liars, evil brutes, lazy gluttons."

My thoughts:
Paul has no sons because he never married (or at least I assume that there is a casual link there...). So, with no respect for cultural traditions or context, I am going to outrageously claim that Paul calls people like Titus and Timothy his sons due to some sort of displaced emotions due to the lack of real sons.

So this chapter is pretty similar info to what Paul told Timothy about leader in the church. Paul seems to be saying that Cretans are more likely to be deceptive than other peoples, and uses an old Cretan quote to justify his outrageous generalisation. I don't think that Paul is truely trying to make a statement about the qualities of Cretans, but rather is just reminding Titus to be on his guard against people teaching bad doctrine. Bad doctrine, people!

Ja, so outrageous is my word of the moment.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

2 Timothy 4

Keeping the faith

Summary:
Keep teaching and preaching. Soon people will just listen to what they want to hear. You need to keep going with the truth, because my time is up, and I'm about to receive my reward.

I have no friends except Luke. Many have left me or hurt me. Come quick with my things and with Mark. Don't blame peopel for leaving me. God has strengthened me. Bye.

Key verse:
7. I have fought the good fight, I have finished the race, I have kept the faith.

My thoughts:
So this Luke is supposed to be the Luke who wrote the gospel as Paul's aide. I have a feeling that this Mark is perhaps the John Mark who was Peter's companion and is considered to have perhaps written the Gospel according to Mark. I find the key people of the early church who end up on the edges of scripture very interesting.

The key verse is cool. What an awesome thing to be able to say at the end of one's life. I made a commitment when I was 11 to follow Jesus for the rest of my life. Despite the fact that I really don't envision me leaving that promise, being able to look back and say that I have kept a promise I made 70 years ago will be quite an achievement given all the temptations and doubts this world throws at you.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

2 Timothy 3

Bloody liberals...

Summary:
It'll be bad towards the end. People will be arrogant, self-loving, and hedonistic. They act holy, but have no interest in God's power. They'll pick on the weak and guilt-ridden and deceive them to their view. They won't get far though.

But you, Tim, follow my example. You know my life and teaching. The truth is that if you follow God, you'll be persecuted, but the others will keep being deceived. Keep doing what you've been taught. Use the scripture which is all good.

Key verse:
16. All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness

My thoughts:
Today's key verse is widey loved by evangelicals like myself. The funny thing is, of course, that this verse is almost certainly referring to a bunch of non-canonical Jewish texts, and almost certainly does not refer to the New Testament of which the verse is a part. However, the concept of divine inspiration of scripture is there, and that's one concept us evangelicals love to affirm.

I have to say that there seem to be a lot of church people these days who fulfil verse 5 quite well. They have the form of godliness but deny its power. So many people happy to go through the motions, to do church, to do holiness but with no attempt or real desire to actually live in the power of God.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

2 Timothy 2

Heretical authorship

Summary:
Work hard on this. Endure the suffering. Live for the captain - Jesus - not for the people. Don't forget that it all comes down to Jesus, the risen one.

Suffering and perseverance will give us life in Jesus. Leave him, and he'll leave us, but he'll never be unfaithful.

Don't let people fight over definitions. Be a proven authority from God on these matters. False teachings, like that the mass resurrection has already happened, can spread like wildfire. Don't be a quarreler when discussing these things. Be humble and mature. Don't let immature passions get you.

Key verse:
13. if we are faithless,
he will remain faithful,
for he cannot disown himself.

My thoughts:
I've always liked this little hymn from verse 11-13. It shows the grace and faithfulness of God whilst making it clear that God isn't a pushover! If you disown him, he will disown you.

This chapter gives a bit of an insight into some different heresies that were working there way into the church by the time of Paul's death. People were cruising around declaring that the resurrection had already happened, which it clearly hadn't. From reading the New Testament you definitely get the impression that the early church was fraught with the feeling that pretty much anyone could go pretty much anywhere and say anything and cause a fuss. Thank God the Church got institutionalised.

Popular scholarly opinion would tell you pretty clearly that 2 Timothy wasn't written by Paul, and it may not be. I feel that modern evangelicals make more of a deal of this than the early church. As early as Origen there was doubt over the Petrine authorship of 2 Peter, yet modern evangelicals would want to say that Peter wrote 2 Peter. Having said all that, I am skeptical about the scholastic certainty that appears to exist surrounding apostolic authorship of some of these letters. The majority of the arguments I see against apostolic authorship have a massive 'so what?' factor in them. They just don't seem to be in any way definitive points. The vocab seems to be different, which is unsurprising given that Paul is talking about different things at different stages of his life to a different audience. He's talking about issues which became prevalent in the second century, but I struggle to see how anyone makes any sort of argument that similar issues didn't exist in the first-century, when the only strong evidence for the first-century church is the New Testament. The authorship of these letters is a legitimate question, but for the vast majority of them in the New Testament, I am yet to see any evidence which has made me feel that apostolic authorship is a unlikely position to hold.

Monday, December 17, 2007

2 Timothy 1

Case-based society

Summary:
You rock, Tim. I'm so thankful for you. You've got to turn the spark of a gift God gave you into a roaring fire. The Spirit God gave you is one of power.

Don't be scared to speak of Jesus or of me. By the power of God you will cope if you have to suffer like me. We are heralds of the grace of Jesus that has always been to destroy death. We suffer for this.

Keep doing what I told you. So many people have left me, but God bless those who haven't.

Key verse:
7. For God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but a spirit of power, of love and of self-discipline.

My thoughts:
I wonder on what basis was it chosen that this word 'spirit' be given a lower-case s. Of course it doesn't matter because we know that the original Greek this was written in didn't use case as a linguistic device at all, but the NIV translators chose to determine that this spirit is referring to Timothy's own personal spirit, rather than the gift of the Holy Spirit. At face value, I would assume that Paul is referring to the Spirit.

Fanning your gift into flame is an interesting concept. It brings up the idea that we can, in fact, increase our gifting by some sort of personal development programme. I feel that we don't really consider this or try to do this much as Christians.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

1 Timothy 6

The root

Summary:
Slaves should respect their masters whether they're brothers in faith or not. Some people aren't interesting in true teaching, but just in arguments and controversy. Or they love money, and see being godly as a route to money. We have to be godly but content with what we have. Wealth doesn't last. Love for money causes many people to sin and fall.

Choose a different path, Timothy. Keep your righteousness and godliness until Jesus comes back at that undetermined time. Fight the right fight. Teach the rich to be humble and submissive to God. Teach them to be rich in good deeds and generous. That stuff you can take with you.

Key verse:
7. For we brought nothing into the world, and we can take nothing out of it.
10. For the love of money is a root of all kinds of evil.

My thoughts:
How many churches teach faith and 'godliness' almost as if it is a way to become rich? It's quite disturbing really.

I definitely agree that some people seem more interested in causing a fuss then actually discovering truth. You don't get angry at other people's opinions and arguments if what you really want at heart is truth.

Of course, rich people will want to point out that money isn't the root of all kinds of evil, but rather the love thereof is.

Don't, for the love of God, get sidetracked by money.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

1 Timothy 5

Fathers be good to your daughters; daughters will love like you do. Girls become lovers who turn into mothers, so mothers be good to your daughters too.

Summary:
Treat all people of all ages as family. Don't feel you need to support all widows. Only do it if they're old don't have a family to support them, and only if they're known for doing good things. Young widows can often become lazy gossips, and forget their dedication to Jesus, so I encourage them to remarry.

Families should look after their widows, and not just simply assume the church will do it.

Have respect for your leaders and teachers. Don't let a single complain cause a fuss. If people have serious accusations, then there should be lots of witnesses. Don't ordain or anoint people willy-nilly. Drink a bit of wine to settle your stomach. Realise that the sin of some is instantly obvious, but the sin of others takes a while to become clear.

Key verse:
1-2. Do not rebuke an older man harshly, but exhort him as if he were your father. Treat younger men as brothers, older women as mothers, and younger women as sisters, with absolute purity.

My thoughts:
So in early churches there was a list of widows that the church supported. Even after Constantine we have records of such lists maintained by churches. A lot of this chapter is clarifying that women don't make the list just because their husband died. They may not really need support.

Paul seems to be big on generalisations... He seems to imply here that all young women who are widows become gossips. I find it hard to see that Paul genuinely believed the apparent full absolute meaning of what he's saying here, which perhaps sheds some light on Paul's other absolute statements. It's clear that he's not meaning something absolute here because he contradicts it in verse 14. Verse 14 also seems to contradict the sense of verses 11-12, which imply that by marrying after widowhood, women are sinning. I think that the overall reality is that widows should be free to remarry, but it's wrong for them to expect to be put on a list of continued support if they're just going to go and get remarried.

In some ways I think the heart of this all is summed up in the key verses. We're all supposed to be a big happy family!

The idea that a widow must prove herself by being known for good deeds seems to go against the notion of grace. Is it wrong to give nappies to a modern solo mother? I wouldn't've thought so. Maybe this is another areas where there are different standards for believers and non-believers. The implication seems to be that this chapter is referring only to believers, and that the list contains only believers, which raises other questions!

I hope verse 23 makes it clear to people that abstaining from alcohol is not the Biblical norm and is only done by people who have gone under a special oath or who are in special circumstances.

It'd be fair to say that 1 Timothy isn't my favourite book in the New Testament. It's challenging. I want things to be easy.

Friday, December 14, 2007

1 Timothy 4

But God made dope...

Summary:
We know that there will be false teachings towards the end. People have already started this. They've told people not to marry, or eat certain foods. God made both sex and food so enjoy them both with thanksgiving.

It's good to teach this to people because though training your body is good, training your spirit is better!

Read and teach the scripture. Don't let anyone dismiss you because you're young, but set an example for everyone else. Dedicate yourself to these things!

Key verse:
12. Don't let anyone look down on you because you are young, but set an example for the believers in speech, in life, in love, in faith and in purity.

My thoughts:
I've always considered this one of the coolest verses in the Bible, but it seems to have less and less relevance the older you get! I guess I'm still pretty young, but I'm still one day older than yesterday!

I don't know how Catholics deal with these two chapters, because they make it pretty darn clear that church leaders should have one wife, and that it's wrong to tell people not to marry. I think singleness is an absolutely appropriate way to live for your whole life, but I think it's wrong to create expectations of celibacy for any role. I would even disagree with that aspect of monkhood. It just seems a no-brainer to me. The Roman Catholics simply aren't following the Bible, and there's no serious contender in the rest of the Bible to support their expectations.

Thursday, December 13, 2007

1 Timothy 3

Just one?!?

Summary:
Leaders in a church must have only one wife, be calm, sober, gentle, and not in love with money. He must manage his family well, have been a believer for some time and be respected in the wider secular community. Servants must be similar. Their wives must be respectable.

So now you know how to act if I can't make it. Don't forget the sheer awesome mystery of that fact that Jesus came in a body, was given authority by the Spirit, and is now preached all over the world and lives in heaven.

Key verse:
2-3. Now the overseer must be above reproach, the husband of but one wife, temperate, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not given to drunkenness, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome, not a lover of money.

My thoughts:
I've always thought the Timothy books are good challenges for those who are secure in their faith and are willing to commit to real self-discipline in how they act out their faith. More than any other part of the New Testament, passages in Timothy can appear to be a long list of rules. These aren't for the increased understanding of salvation, but are for those for whom salvation is clearly understood, and are now trying to live the life worthy of the call and be examples and leaders to other Christians.

I don't know how the whole 'mystery' part fits with the topic, but it's cool none the less. So often we try to understand everything, but mystery is an important Bible word. We're not dealing with a functional religion, we're dealing with reality, and we can't expect to understand it all simply and clearly.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

1 Timothy 2

Good ol' fashioned Pauline woman bashing! Nothing quite like it to stir!

Summary:
Mostly we should pray for everyone, including anyone in authority. This pleases the God who wants us all to be saved, and pleases Jesus, our only stepping stone to God.

Women should dress modestly, and not cause a fuss when learning. She shouldn't have authority over a man. Man was made first. Woman was deceived first, though her painful childbearing makes up for that, aye fullas?

Key verses:
3-4. This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of the truth.

My thoughts:
The key verses were my favourite passage in the Bible for a bit because they unambiguously state that God wants everyone to be saved without exception. There aren't different classes of people in God's eye! He wants them all to be saved!

The last verse in this chapter has caused a bunch of fuss because it seems to imply that women's salvation coming through bearing children. This is obviously inconsistent with the rest of Paul's teaching, and I think the way I have put it above is an appropriate understanding of the text.

As for women being disallowed from having authority over men... um... I know plenty of young women who would swear by this, but then I know plenty would get all their hermeneutical machines running to show that Paul didn't really mean that. Because that's what hermeneutics is about...

I generally avoid the subject...

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

1 Timothy 1

Worst of all

Summary:
Hi Tim. Stay in Ephesus and show them that myths about ancestors etc. have little place in the Gospel. People are building a lot of pride on them and on trying to teach the law. The law is for lawbreakers, not for us.

I thank Jesus for saving me when I was a blasphemers. Jesus came for sinners, including me who's probably the worst! God did that to show that anyone can be saved.

Keep the faith, according to the prophecies about you. Some, as you know have become our enemies.

Key verse:
15. Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners—of whom I am the worst.

My thoughts:
It seems to me there that had grown almost a level of competition regarding great 'biblical' stories or genealogies one could recite. This 'teaching' of scripture seemed to have become such a big deal that Paul had to step in to correct is, as is was being done in a very wrong way and a lot of pride seemed to be involved.

This key verse is just cool. As I've been talking to people with Eastern beliefs I've come to realise how much humility follower of Jesus must have when they come to God. In Eastern spirituality, at the true and pure heart of yourself you find God. In Jesus, when you look at the true and unchanged heart of yourself you find sin, and then you must go to God. It's quite a fundamental difference.

Monday, December 10, 2007

2 Thessalonians 3

Idle freeloaders

Summary:
Pray that the gospel spreads.  Know that God will look after you.

Don't hang out with lazy believers who don't follow the teachings.  Remember the example we set.  You don't work, then you don' eat!  But don't consider them enemies though.  They're still brothers.

Ciao

Key verse:
6. we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us.

My thoughts:
Well, here's your Biblical mandate not to be a lazy freeloader!

It's cool that though you may dissociate with someone, they are still considered brothers being warned...

Why do people think that Paul didn't write this?  I'm very sceptical about such claims.  They just don't seem to have any definitive basis.


Sunday, December 09, 2007

2 Thessalonians 2

Eschatologically inclined

Summary:
Don't be tricked into thinking that the end has already been.  It won't happen until the antichrist sets himself up as god and after he has been revealed.  So don't stress.

The evil has started, but is being held back currently.  The evil will come with fake miracles, but Jesus will defeat it.  But many people will be destroyed.

But stand firm and be thankful, because God has chosen you to be spared and to know the truth through the gospel.

Key verse:
4. He will oppose and will exalt himself over everything that is called God or is worshiped, so that he sets himself up in God's temple, proclaiming himself to be God.

My thoughts:
Well, this is some fun eschatology.  It got some generally well understood aspects of Christian eschatology here, in that there will be some sort of antichrist who will set himself up to be worshipped as God.

But the point's still the same.  The end hasn't been.  It's coming.  Be ready, and live a good life.  Beyond that, I'm not too sure what actions we should take!  We dunno when it'll all happen!

Saturday, December 08, 2007

2 Thessalonians 1

Everlasting destruction

Summary:
You're getting better and better despite the persecution.  Know that everyone will get their just desserts when Jesus comes.  Some will be destroyed forever - separated from God - others will be glorified.  So we always pray for you.

Key verse:
9. They will be punished with everlasting destruction and shut out from the presence of the Lord and from the majesty of his power.

My thoughts:
The last few chapters may not have linked to the NIV, but TNIV (Today's NIV).  I apologise for any heretical crap you may have been subject to.  I have now rectified the problem.

So verse 9 refers to hell, but interestingly doesn't actually, despite how your conditioned mind might see it, refer to any sort of eternal punishment.  It refers to eternal destruction.  Something is destroyed and it never comes back.  In my mind, the jury is still out with regard to the whole annihilationism argument.

It also refers to hell as simply separation from God, which I like the idea of as it doesn't have God specifically torturing people, but rather just letting them get whatever they work for.  Ie. nothing.  We get nothing when we get what we deserve.

Friday, December 07, 2007

1 Thessalonians 5

Night-bound thieves

Summary:
We all know we don't have to worry about about when Jesus will come.  We know he'll surprise us, so we just have to be awake.  We have to live in the daytime, in the light, not doing the shameful things of night.  Always be ready.

Help people where they are.  Thank your helpers, warn the sinners, encourage the depressed.  Don't repay wrongs with wrongs.

Always pray, be thankful, and rejoice.  Test prophecies as good things.  Be complete people.

Bye

Key verse:
2. you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night.

My thoughts:
So Paul suddenly throw all of his actual content into the last chapter...

So yea... I would agree with Paul that postulating about the time of Jesus return is foolish, but we just have to live ready.  You can try to guess, but you'll be wrong, just like everyone else who've guessed.

This has the famous 'pray continually' verse.  What does this mean?  Does it mean we are consciously praying at every moment of the day?  I hope not.  If it is referring to a truly continual state of prayer, then it cannot be conscious, but rather, I dunno, as attitude.

I'd rather see this as more a statement to make sure that we are praying regularly and frequently.  We never somehow manage to forget about prayer in our Christian lives.  We never stop praying.  We always pray.  We pray continually.

Another clear mandate here to test prophecies, and also a statement of the tri-nature of our human existence; body, soul (mind), and spirit.

This chapter is very consistent with much of Jesus says.  Makes the concept of Paul being ignorant of Jesus' life and teachings seem quite unlikely.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

1 Thessalonians 4

Don't cause a fuss!

Summary:
Live to please God.  Control your lust and treat each other well.  If you reject these practices, you reject God, and he can punish you.

You're doing well already, but love each other, work hard, and don't cause a fuss, so that non-believers respect you.

Those who have died will rise at the end of time and be glorified with us.  So don't worry about them!

Key verse:
11.  make it your ambition to lead a quiet life: You should mind your own business and work with your hands

My thoughts:
This kinda implies that we should just sit down, shut up, and not cause a fuss.  Which seems somewhat different to the life Jesus led.  I think, rather, that it is referring to a certain sort of person; a nosey gossip who doesn't know how to work properly.  I would suggest that Paul is warning us against such a lifestyle.

How does God punish us for our sins?  Because this passage quite clearly says that God will punish you for your sin.  Does this happen on this world or on the next?  Thoughts?

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

1 Thessalonians 3

An early date for John

Summary:
Eventually we sent Timothy to you, to make sure that you were doing okay in the midst of your all-too-predictable trials. He's come back with a good report too! He told of your love for us. It's all very encouraging, and we thank God always for it. Pray that God makes a way for us to come to you! May God strengthen you.

Key verse:
12. May the Lord make your love increase and overflow for each other and for everyone else, just as ours does for you.

My thoughts:
Paul talks here about how as Christians we are destined for persecution. He is obviously referring to John's gospel where Jesus promises that his followers will be persecuted as he was. Therefore, John was written and was well-distributed before this letter was written. So probably about 45AD.

It's just logic. You wouldn't understand.

So far this is the letter with the least actual content of interest.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

1 Thessalonians 2

You're so good, you're almost Jewish.

Summary:
Though we faced strong opposition, coming to you was a success. We didn't come for bad reasons. We've been entrusted with God's gospel, so we don't need to use flattery or deception. We only want to please God. We weren't a burden to you. We shared our lives with you. We were blameless and helpful.

You accepted our words like the word of God. You're as onto it as the churches in Judaea. You have suffered persecution like them. The Jews have tried to stop them speaking to Gentiles. They have screwed up in a big way.

You're the apple of our eye, and we're gutted that Satan has stopped us from visiting you again.

Key verse:
13. when you received the word of God, which you heard from us, you accepted it not as the word of men, but as it actually is, the word of God, which is at work in you who believe.

My thoughts:
Because the jist of our New Testament is Paul's letters, we really only get a picture of what the Gentile churches were like. Paul, by comparing the Thessalonian Church to the churches in Judaea implies that they are somehow different. It seems that they are much more onto it, which perhaps isn't that surprising. He presents the persecuated Judean as a goal to attain.

We must remember that when Paul's letters are pretty much all speaking to what he views as 'maturing' churches. They have not reached maturity.

Because Thessalonica is so fantastic, Paul hasn't actually said much new or interesting yet.

Note how Paul talked of the struggles and failures at Philippi, yet they became a significant church. God often works in the areas of most opposition. Around 1900 missionaries bemoaned the failures of missionary attempts in China and Korea, yet were excited by the promise in Japan. Now China and Korea have the most Christians in all Asia, and Japan has none! God's funny like that.

When I say 'missionaries' I mean, "I saw a quote from a missionary once".

Paul could probably be consider anti-semitic if he wasn't Jewish, and if people didn't realise the difference between disagreeing with a religion with cultural practices and racism.

Monday, December 03, 2007

1 Thessalonians 1

Reputable

Summary:
Kia ora. We are alwasy reminded of how your faith makes you do what's right. You were filled with the Spirit when I came, and have become and example for your region. You have quite the reputation! You turn from your idols to the real God.

Key verse:
5. our gospel came to you not simply with words, but also with power, with the Holy Spirit and with deep conviction.

My thoughts:
In this passage, I like the concept of faith-produced work, showing the centrality and primacy of faith, but also the requirement for our lifestyles and actions to change. I also like the key verse, making it clear that power trumps so-called wisdom.

Fun thymes.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Colossians 4

Hound them at every opportunity

Summary:
Be good to slaves if you want God to be good to you.

Prayer lots. Pray that we will have opportunities to share the gospel clearly. Make the most of your opportunities, and always have a graceful answer for people. Tychicus and Onesimus are coming to let you know how we are.

Everyone, including Mark and Luke says hi. Say hi to the Laodiceans and the other churches around for me. Ciao.

Key verse:
5-6. Be wise in the way you act toward outsiders; make the most of every opportunity. Let your conversation be always full of grace, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how to answer everyone.

My thoughts:
Outsiders. What a word.

This is good confirmation that as Christians we should be strategic about evangelism. We should be sensible, and also deliberate and prepared. There is a mandate on us to utilised gospel-sharing opportunities. These are all things which I'm sometimes tempted to think of as Pentecostal hobby-horses, but they genuinely are part of how we should express our faith.

It's definitely possible that the Onesimus mentioned here is one and the same with the slave in Philemon. How exciting.

Does anyone know the relationship between the Colossians and the Laodiceans? Is there any chance that Paul's epistle to the Laodiceans is actually just this letter to the Colossians?

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Colossians 3

Children are evil

Summary:
Look at the world through heaven's eyes, not the world's. Your life only exists in Christ now, not in the world. Don't do sinful worldly things because the old self has gone, and the new self is here. In the new self there is no race or social standing. Jesus is all and in all.

Instead of sin, wear virtues of love, forgiveness, patience and kindness. May peace be the final decider. Let God's word live in you.

Wives should submit to husbands, and husbands love their wives. Children and slaves should obey their parents and masters. Parents should keep their kids happy. God has no favourism.

Key verse:
17. And whatever you do, whether in word or deed, do it all in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

My thoughts:
Paul loves juxtaposing a big list of sins with a big list of virtues. He does it so many times. The point is simple: Be good. Do it.

The list stating how different people should relate to each other is a summary of what Paul had said in that previous passage we looked at. Wherever it was. The biggest difference I can see, is this passage mentions how parents should treat their children. Children's rights! Woo! The standard modern liberal society goes to war holding high! In the Bible! Would something think of the children?! Would someone please think of the children?!?!?

Whilst we're on children... Modern liberal society has this notion that children are all innocent. They're not. The vast majority of them are evil.

The key verse is cool. Everything in our life should be designed to glorify God. w00t.