We discussed Ephesus 2 which led us on a wide range of discussion items. Early in the chapter, there is a discussion of the issues between the Jews and the Gentiles. In those days, it appears that Gentiles could come to Jewish services, but had to stay in an outer area or courtyard while the Jews would go into the inner area. Paul says in this chapter that Jesus in his death and ressurrection erased the distinction between Jew and Gentile and both should be allowed to worship together. This led to the conversation about circumcision. Many early Jewish converts to Christianity thought that all Christians needed to be circumsized just like the Jews were. Eldon raised the question about the conflicts between Peter and Paul and one issue between them seems to be circumcision. Galations 2:11-16 hightlights the conflict between Peter and Paul. Of course Peter was the earliest disciple and Paul had not even been on of the original 12, but was a sort of follower by way of his conversion on the road when he said he was called by Jesus in a conversion experience. Peter was the leader in Jerusalem and, of course, the primary members there were Jews. It is really a confilct of racial or belief purity and what that means. In Galations, Peter sat down with Gentiless, but then withdrew from further relationships with the Gentiles. There were sort of purity police, principally the men of James who were the vitilantes who were protecting the purity of the faith. These people, I gather, believed that for Gentiles to become Christians, they had to be circumsized. Thus Paul believing that Jesus had wiped out this distinction between Jews and Gentiles didn’t need the outward sign of circumcision, so rebuked Peter. It is this kind of issue that is presented here to the Ephesians and since this epistle was intended to be circulted to other early churches, was a matter of faith and doctirne for the eatly churches. It is very interesting how much of the early doctrine was specified by Paul in his epistle where he assembled the teachings of Jesus and drew out from them the principles of the church. Here is a link to a more detaild discussion of these ideas: Peter vs Paul There is also a continued discussion of Peter vs Paul. Remember that Peter was a humble fisherman whereas Paul was raised in the Greek culture and history and we see this in way he expresses himself frequently in a logical way. From the age of 10, Paul was sent to Jerusalem to attend the rabbinical school of Gamaliel, who was the son of Sieon, the son of Hillel. Gamaliel was a most eminent rabbi mendioned in both the Talmud and the New Testament. He composed a parayer against the Christian “heretics.” He lived and died a Jew. Here is a link to further information about Paul’s education.
This leads us to the other very important point in this chapter which not only applies to the early church but also is central in our beliefs as well, which begins in verse 8 and says “For by Grace you have been saved through faith. And this is not your own doing; it is the gift of God, not a result of works, so that one may boast. For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that w should walk in them.” This opens up the whole discussion about faith vs works as well as how faith comes to us. Is it a gift of God to us? Or do we have to do something like even accepting it before it is part of us. But does that undermine the nature of the gift of God originally to give us faith. Lots of issues, but if we but accept this as simple acceptance of the submission of our lives to carry out the works of Jesus. In Paul’s view, Jesus broke down the barriers of religious purity and admitted all peoples to the possibility of a fuller life through Christ. This also opens a further discussion of the conflict between Peter and Paul because of the Jewish reliance on obedince to laws. The Message interpretation of vs 14-15 says “He (sic Jesus) repealed the law code that had become so clogged with fine print and footnotes that it hindered more than it helped.” How many times during His ministry was Jesus asked about fine points of the law and how Jesus always reacted by a spirit of understanidng of the bigger picture of the law and more openness of the belief in God and the fullness that this brings to our everyday life. As Al says, we don’t have to wait until after death to realize the joy of being in the freedom of Christ.
There is some doubt that Paul actually wrote this letter to the Ephesians where he had served as their pastor for the previous 3 years. But he was certainly involved in its writing. It was written somewhere in the time span of 50-80 AD. Questions were raised as to why the church had spread north to Asia Minor in the way it did . It was probably because of the trade routes of that time. There is a reference in this blog to the missionary journeys of Paul and maps that delineate where he went.http://www.ccel.org/bible/phillips/CN092MAPS1.htm They no longer went south to Cairo, but rather went north and then East across the Bosporus into Greece. Paul appeared in his missionary journeys to travel from Jerusalem to cities in Greece, Syria, and Turkey. This letter was an encyclical that was perhaps re titled and sent to multiple churches. It started out with the idea baptism and this seems to emphasize the evangelism that Paul felt strongly about. The passages in the first few verses relate to Deuteronomy 2.
One of the big topics in this chapter is predestination. It is used in verse 5 and then the last section of the chapter as well. It appears to be saying that God had a plan for salvation of the people who believed in Him and that somehow, people had to be made aware of it and then the Holy Spirit would come to them and abide with him. Calvin saw it as deterministic predestination and fore ordination as the eternal decree of God by which God has determined the life of each and every individual before the world was created. This doesn’t fit with what I think I being said here. It may be referring more to the style of one’s life that fits with God’s plan. Those people that God chose were defined by holy characteristics, not individuals. An interpretation of this predestination is that of choosing where and to whom the gospel should be preached not a preselection of the saved and lost before the world was created. God loves every human and has acted to make it possible for the salvation of each one through the death and resurrection of Christ that made it possible for everyone to receive atonement for their sins. Election is conditioned by man’s response or failure to respond to God in faith and obedience. Robert Shank in his book called “Elect in the Son” affirmed that the salvation election comprehends all men potentially and that the salvation of grace can reach out to any person. There is a very strong statement that Jesus after his Resurrection was deep in the heavens directing the universe . This probably goes along with the Jewish belief in the levels of heaven as specified by the angels in terms of rule, authority, power, and domination. Paul said that through baptism there is a true organic unity between all believers and Christ that is nurtured by receiving his true body in the Lord’s Supper. I think this means that it is God’s plan is for us to live a full life in the manner that his plan specified for the life of his people before all worlds.
You can read about a number of views of predestination in Wikipedia, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Predestination
Today we read and discussed Acts 1. Paul starts out talking with Theophilus, whcih means God lover. We are then hear Jesus talking to the disciples about what they should do in this time after He was ressurrected. Then we read of Jesus’ ascension and hear the promise that they will go to heaven in the same as Jesus did. Then follows a discussion of the death of Judas followed by the election of an new disciple to take his place. We had a discussion about why there had to be 12 disciples which led to some comments about numerology in the Bible. There are 12 tribes, 12 foundation piers in the temple in Jerusalem, and there are multiples of 12 like the 72 apostles who were designated to carry the word and life of Jesus to others in the world of that day as well as the 144,000 who are mentioned in Revelations. It is interesting that when the disciples were choosing the successor to Judas, they had two candidates both of whom had been part of Jesus’ entourage and that seemed to be a requirement for being a disciple even though Paul did not fit that description. The two candidates were Joseph called Barsabbas, who was also called Justus and Matthias. It says they prayed and asked for the guidence of the Holy Spirit to guide them and then they drew straws and Matthias won. Interesting!!!
We talked about Church membership and whether it should be important at all. John said that we belong to Christ, but are member of the Zion church as an organization. I think we all wonder how to see the work of the Holy Spirit. Some thought that the guidence of the Holy Spirit is evidence in our history, and the choices we have made, while others don’t see any such evidence in their lives. It remains an issue of how we see discernment and how it can guide us. It may mean that we dedicate our lives to Christ and that becomes the guiding force. Mark talked about his times of renewal at the monk’s abbey where he goes to have a silent retreat. He doesn’t talk for 48-72 hours but listens to prayers, scripture and psalms read or sung by the monks. He finds it very useful for renewal.
Despite Bill wanting to add the first 12 verses of chapter 2 to our discussion today, we didn’t go there except for some comments about pentacost and what it meant and how it manifests today, possibly with the growth of pentacostal churches. Since we did the book of Acts as the first book done by Lost Boys, we elected to move on to do Ephesians next.
The first 11 chapters of Genesis may be stories that were finally written in order to describe the culture and how it got to be the way it was. The story of Babel may be interpreted in several ways. One is that God was upset that the people were trying to rival God by building the tower. In particular, verse 4 says that the people said, “Come, let’s build ourselves a city and a tower that reaches heaven. Let’s make ourselves famous so we won’t be scattered here and there across the earth.” (The Message Interpretation) This would suggest that God was upset about the pride of the people and their attempt to rival God with this fabulous tower and City. Here is a link to the model of the Tower of Babel in the Pergamon Museum in Berlin. Pergamon Museum – Tower of Babel Model
Another interpretation is of an angry God who was going to punish His people by separating them via language. This has created problems for all of us even to this day. There is an interesting counterpoint of reading this text about God making it more difficult to understand each other by confusing the languages and Pentecost where people seemingly are able to understand Paul no matter what language they spoke. Does this say something about the movement from the Old Testament Covenants God established with His people to the covenant that Jesus brought to all of us in the New Testament.
You can also see this chapter as a bridge chapter which provides a story to explain how there were so many different languages that divided the people from the time of Noah and then the genealogy which linked Noah through Shem to Abraham with the covenant that God was to make with Abram, or Abraham for the future. This would then allow us to follow the path of the people of God all the way to Jesus.
We also had a discussion about how this chapter can be seen as part of the inspired word of God. Is it a cultural story with a point that relies on our interpretation in order to find meaning for our lives? Bill asked, “Has God changed over time, or is our interpretation that has changed?” How is this explained by the concept of the inspired Word of God? Steve suggested that the Bible is a way for us to find a guide of how we as a people of God can interact and treat other people but then also as a way to personally connect with God through a devotional reading of the Word.
On to the book of Acts next week!!!
Genesis 10 contains the genealogy of the sons of Ham. At first glance, it appears to be just another listing of names that are difficult to pronounce, but looking at it further, you see the populating of the whole middle eastern area from the sons of Noah, namely, Shem, Japheth, and Ham. The names of many of the children are city and country names some of which exist yet today.
Here is a link to an article about the dispersion of people who are the descendants of Noah. http://www.bible-truth.org/GEN10.HTM I don’t know about all of the rest of the information here, but the table at the beginning is interesting. The article seems to do a good job of laying out some ideas about where the generations after Noah settled. I found it interesting reading.
There is an article in Wikipedia that is also interesting in terms of establishing the races of people based on this chapter in Genesis. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sons_of_Noah