Day 360a (Dec. 26): Jude’s letter is similar to Peter’s second letter, beware of false teachers, remain strong in the faith as you did from the beginning, Jesus appears to John holding seven stars (angels of the seven churches) and standing amidst seven gold lampstands, church of Ephesus is told to return the strong faith they had in the beginning, church in Smyrna told of impending suffering but a reward comes afterward, Pergamum church is told to rid itself of evil teaching, and church of Thyatira is warned of Jezebel’s sexual promiscuity but tells others to hold true to their faith because they will get authority of the Father to rule

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

The letter from Jude addresses many of the same concerns as Peter’s second letter, which suggests that the two letters were written at about the same time and to the same churches.

Jude 1:1-25

We are here at the last book of the Bible.  You did it!  This is a book like no other book in the Bible which can be quite confusing, so Rob offered up an introduction to Revelations.  It’s the next blog dated Day 360b.  Thanks, Rob!

Revelation 1-2:29

John wrote Revelation from the Island of Patmos, where he was exiled “for preaching the word of God and for (his) testimony about Jesus” (1:9).  This occurred either during the mid-60s, during Nero’s reign and before the destruction of Jerusalem, or during the mid-90s, during the reign of Domitian.

Questions & Observations

Q. (Jude 1:1): Jude was Jesus’s brother too, right?

A. Jesus had a brother named Jude (also known as Judas, but not the fallen apostle), and tradition holds that this is the writer of this brief epistle.

Q. (Revelations 1:4): What is “sevenfold Spirit”?  What is the significance of seven spirits, seven stars, seven lampstands, and seven churches?

A. The number seven represents completeness, so the usage of seven is used here to have a double meaning.  It represents the presence of the seven churches — which they would have considered to each have a lampstand, a symbol of the power of God and a guardian angel — that the letter is written to, but also the seven represents the ENTIRE eternal Church body.  John is cleverly using a well-known image of the seven days taken to complete Creation (there are many similar OT images in Revelation, as we shall see) for his own purposes.  The more OT you know, the easier it is to unravel many of the mysteries of Revelation.

Q. (1:20): So, we have seen quite a change in God’s people.  The Israelite’s started out with Abraham, grew and grew to a large nation, then salvation was shared with the Gentiles and now God addresses the churches.  The “church” seems like an establishment that God wants us to make.  It’s a model of how we can all work as one for a greater good.

A. The local community church is, to mince no words, the center of God’s plan for the salvation of the ENTIRE WORLD!  So it is not really shocking that the Spirit, through John, writes to both encourage and correct congregations of this day.

Q. (2:13): Can you explain Satan’s “throne” being in Pergamum?

A. We don’t exactly know, but there are a few theories.  The most common theory is that it refers to one of the many pagan temples located in the city — most likely the massive temple to the God Jupiter/Zeus.  It was also a major “hub” of that portion of the Roman Empire, and many important rulings were issued from there, making it a “throne” area of this enemy of the Church, the Empire itself.  A throne would be a place of comfort for a “king,” in this case Satan, so another theory is that John is referring to the city being a place of comfort for the enemy king, Satan himself.  Any of those, or some combination of all of them, is probably what John has in mind.  It is a symbolic image, like many we will see in this text.  Keep reading this section for more!

Q. (2:17): What’s the white stone?

A. In the ancient world, a white stone was often “issued” as a ticket for an important event, such as a festival or wedding.  Thus, Jesus giving a person a stone with a name (likely engraved) on it should be understood as that person being invited to the ultimate celebration: His wedding (more to come on this).

Q. (2:20): Didn’t we read about another Jezebel who was a king’s wife in the OT?  Any similarities between her and this one?

A. Yes we did.  Jezebel was a great enemy of the true people of God in the OT, and so John is using her name symbolically — a running theme here — to describe a woman in the congregation who is leading people away from the true path, as Jezebel did centuries ago.  One of the recurring themes here is in this type of cryptic literature — the genre is called apocalyptic — is that the author wants to keep the true meaning of what he is saying hidden from outsiders.  So by repeatedly using names and symbols of the OT, which Jews and Christians would have been familiar with but most Greeks and Romans would not have, he can convey clear imagery to those in the “know,” but outsiders are not clear on the meaning.  It’s the ultimate in “insider” writing.

Q. (2:26): What is special about Thyatira?  Is it because those who are strong-willed enough to resist Jezebel deserve a reward?  I have thought a lot lately about how strong sexual desire is — I think probably more among men — and the reason for it.  Maybe a very hard test?  Manlihood, or to show one’s success, is a strong desire, so for men to give that up and submit to God would be a big obstacle to overcome and worth a reward?  (If you haven’t watched the movie Flywheel, it is a good movie about a man giving up his proudful manlihood and control and giving his life to God.)

A. The rewards that you see for each of the churches — there are four more to come — are speaking of the general “rewards” of being faithful to Christ, and I do not believe that there are particular rewards that will not be given to others.  It is simply a way to keep from repeating himself.

Day 359 (Dec. 25): John encourages us to love one another as God commanded, everyone who believes Jesus is God’s son will be children of God also, Jesus proved He was God’s son by being baptized with water and shedding His blood on the cross, Jesus protects believers from the devil, avoid anything that can take God’s place in your heart, be leary of deceivers, welcome the traveling teachers

Merry Merry Christmas!  The king is born!  Or, was He born on this day?  Read to the end for a discussion.

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

3 John 1:1-15

1 John 4:7-5:21

2 John 1:1-13

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 John 11-12): This verse reminds me of those people I meet that are just radiating with kindness.  I want to ask them if they are a Christian because I am very curious about that.  Is that OK to ask, or should I just assume they are Christian?

A. I can’t really see someone taking offense to the question, but I personally confess that I rarely ask people when I am similar circumstances.  Someone who is a true, confessing Christian should frankly be eager to tell you so.

Q. (5:6b): I am still foggy on what this means: “And the Spirit, who is truth, confirms it with his testimony.”  Does that just mean that we know that Jesus is God’s Son and, when we are baptized we get the gift of the Holy Spirit, which Jesus said we would.  Therefore, His promise came true.  And the Holy Spirit confirms Jesus’ teaching because the Spirit shows us the right way to live, the same as Jesus did.  Thus, the spirit of Jesus (who taught us to be godly) still resides in us.

A. One of the things we established in Ephesians 1 is that the presence of the Spirit is the “mark” of our salvation, so in a sense, it is His presence that serves as a “testimony” about our faith in Christ.  He would not be present within us if we did not believe in God’s work in Christ, so His very presence testifies about what we believe.

Q. (5:16b): The sin that leads to death is denying that Jesus is the Son of God?  And, talking about praying for sinners, my daughter has started praying for Satan.  What do you say to that?  It actually stemmed from me because God says we are to love our enemies.

A. John tends to describe things in very strong black and white terms: you are either with God, or an antichrist — that sort of thing.  So it is little surprise that he would say that denying Jesus was the Son of God is a sin that leads to death.  As to your daughter’s action, I love her vision for praying for her enemies!

Q. (2 John 1:1): Is John singling out women believers?

A. Not really.  There is some speculation that 2 John is written to a particular woman, but the scholarly consensus is that the “women” represents a congregation or a particular church.  Revelation will repeatedly refer to congregations using feminine imagery, so it is hardly an uncommon thing for the NT (watch for the bride of Christ imagery).

O. (3 John 1:1-4): Growing up, I remember taking care of visiting evangelists and musicians that came to our church for a revival.  I think they stayed with us some, we fed them, had church dinners.  But now that I belong to a megachurch, there isn’t that sense of close-knit community.  I miss it!  But, as my life has changed from going to a small community to a big metropolis, we can still carve out ways to help others.  And, our church definitely supports missionaries who must travel abroad.

Q. Rob, since this is Christmas Day, can you explain if Christmas was the actual day Jesus was born?  I have heard studies where He was born in January.  Regardless, it’s a very important event to celebrate!  I think it’s interesting to hear how dates get set or rearranged in history.

A. The word Christmas comes from the words “Christ” and “Mass,” or Christ’s coming or arrival.  In the old days, the celebrations were known as liturgical feasts or feast days, as they still are in the “high” churches.  The first indication of the Christ Mass in the Western Church dates to around 354 AD, but the Eastern Church (what we today call the big “o” Orthodox) had already tied the birth of Christ into one combined feast day known as Epiphany, which takes place on Jan 6th of each year.  The Western Church also recognizes Epiphany as the date of the Magi’s arrival (Matthew 2), obviously have a different date for Christmas.  (In passing reference, you get 12 days if you add the dates from Christmas, Dec 25th, to Epiphany, Jan 6th, which would be the 12 days of Christmas, in case you ever wondered).

Okay, now about that date.  Well, as you can clearly see from what we have already discussed, there was no consensus about the ACTUAL date of Jesus’ birth, because the Gospels do not tell us.  The OBSERVANCE of the birth is what takes place on Dec. 25, so it should not be understood that the liturgical churches have been saying Jesus was born on Dec. 25 for 1700 years … it hasn’t.  As to WHY Dec. 25 was selected, well, now we’re in deeper water.  There is some close proximity to what is called the Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and a major holiday for pagan culture, the dominant force in the world both Jesus and Christianity were “born” into.  So there is frequently discussed and “known” pseudo-knowledge that the 25th was selected to “replace” the feast of the Solstice, but I do not think this is actually what happened.  What caused it then?  Since that’s a long answer, I’m going to recommend you read an essay from a Catholic writer named Mark Shea (he’s a great writer and normally blogs here: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/markshea/) on that very topic here: http://pblosser.blogspot.com/2006/12/is-christmas-really-just-warmed-over.html

Hope you find it as interesting and thought provoking as I did.  Merry Christmas!

Day 357 (Dec. 23): Grow in your faith with “moral excellence” and the more productive you will be in the knowledge of Jesus, we need constant reminders of our faith in Jesus to stand firm with truth, false teachers are clever and crafty, the Day of the Lord will come as a surprise, God is patient in picking His day because He is wants to give people more time to be saved, Peter warns against becoming influenced by evil people

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Peter 5:12-14

Peter’s second letter addresses many of the same concerns as the letter of Jude — the two letters were probably written about the same time and to the same churches.

2 Peter 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. (2 Peter 2:9): If God rescues godly people, then why do bad things still happen to true Christians?

A.  I can give you lots of reasons: because we live in a fallen world, because sin still reigns, because God knows that He can bring good out of our darkness, because the faith of true Christians needs testing, and ultimately, because, as we have discussed, there are no “good” people, even true Christians.  Sin still holds sway in this world, but not forever.

Q. (3:7): I just noticed that “heavens” is plural.

A. There’s some theories about this, but the general consensus is that there is indication of “levels” of heaven — usually seven, with God’s throne being the seventh.  While there is some speculation, there is little concrete evidence in Scripture, so speculation seems a bit out of bounds.  Like the reality of hell, the reality of heaven is something the Bible merely casts fleeting glances at — it calls for our focus to be on God and His acts in the person of Jesus Christ.  Revelation will have another “glance” into the throne room, coming soon!

O. (3:8-9): This is so sweet.  It shows how much God loves us!

O. (3:14): Peaceful, I’m sure, means to not quarrel with people and love them as much as humanly possible.  I would think, though, that it would also mean being calm in yourself, which for me, I need to carve out a lot more quiet time where I can talk purposely and earnestly with God.  I also need to make sure I am ministering to people, helping anyone I can, being a great friend who listens, leading by example, etc; because I think this brings inner peace and purpose that we are fulfilling the instructions we have been given of spreading the Good News.

Day 347 (Dec. 13): Jealousy prevents close relationship with God, God has power to judge not humans, boasting is a sin, luxury is gained through suffering of others, patience in suffering, earnest prayer of a righteous person has power, believers should save wandering believers by bringing them back to the cross, Paul writes Timothy, Law of Moses teachers are good for teaching the lawless, Paul is thankful for God’s mercy after he blasphemed Jesus, Paul tells Timothy to cling to his faith, pray for everyone, Jesus is only one who can reconcile God and man

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

James 4-5:20

1 Timothy 1-2:15

Questions & Observations

Q. (James 4:2b-3): I must be guilty of this passage.  I do pray for God to bless us with more work.  He has but we could use more.  I want that so we don’t struggle to pay the bills and buy groceries.  I want it so I can buy a new computer and start another phase of this BibleBum journey which I am so looking forward to.  I want to not have to dip into our savings.  OK, that’s enough of that, you get the picture.  But, I also want to have some money to make repairs to the house and afford a nice, reasonable vacation.  Although spending quality time together with my family would give me “pleasure,” I think it’s also nice to strengthen our bond.  Families are so important!  Does pleasure here mean a mansion, a nice sports car, lavish trips, etc.?

A. I believe that James is talking about people who are not truly seeking God in the midst of their desire for riches and pleasure.  The standard is 10% to the church, be generous with what you have beyond the 10%, and you should be in good shape.  God is aware of obligations and the difficulty of certain seasons — we’ve been going through one at my house as well — but if you withhold from generosity for the purpose of gathering money above what you need, then that is when I feel we have slipped into greed, which is what James is speaking of.  We should always be listening to the conviction of the Holy Spirit to let us know when we have slipped away from what God desires — and remember that God WANTS us to repent and come back to Him, not to feel guilt for our failures.

Q. (4:9b): Can you explain, “Let there be sadness instead of laughter, and gloom instead of joy”?

A. He’s talking about repentance in this passage, not just in this verse.  Having a spirit of repentance for one’s sin makes one humble before God, and that is a spirit that God can use ­— or as James puts it, to “lift up in due time.”

Q. (4:11-12): What law are they talking about here?  I’m confused if it’s the NT or the OT.

A. James is referring to the OT law, but saying that Christians should not scorn it by slandering each other and violating what it instructs about loving each other.

Q. (4:17): This is so eye-opening.  Whenever I doubt what I believe God is directing me to, I get a bad feeling — one of self-doubt, weakness, etc.  But, when I talk about it with confidence, I get fulfilled like God is saying “yes!” and “you go, girl!”  I told my husband that our pastor, Zack, had said that it was a sin to worry too.  Is that right?  To me, that goes along the lines with me worrying about my salvation.  It certainly doesn’t do any good to worry about it and takes up brain time that could be used to serve God.

A. James is talking here about one category of sins — that of omission — knowing the right thing to do and NOT doing it is just as sinful as doing the wrong thing you know you shouldn’t.  Worry is one of those things, as we have discussed: it shows a lack of faith in a God who has proclaimed loud and clear that He will provide for our needs.  Just remember that removing sin of that sort is a process, and won’t happen overnight.

Q. (5:12): What does James mean by “never take an oath?”  Is it the same thing that we talked about way back when the Scripture said to not make promises?

A. It is very similar to what James’ half brother, Jesus, said in Matthew 5:33-37 about oaths: don’t flippantly use God’s name to get what you want.  Just speak the truth, and don’t swear by anything to do so.

Q. (1 Timothy 1:3-11): So these teachers are spending time preaching the Law of Moses when, although that’s good for the lawless to help set them straight, it does no good for those believers who should be hearing that Jesus will save them, not obeying laws.

A. My notes indicate that these false teachers were going well beyond the Law of Moses into endless speculation around things like obscure genealogies of the OT.  That’s what he means by endless speculation and talk, which was taking them away from being active servants of God.  They were missing the “boat,” so to speak.

Q. (1:20): I just wondered how the guy downstairs got two different names — the devil and Satan.  And, then there’s his given name of Lucifer, right?

A. Part of the issue is the difference of language between the OT and NT.  The words “Satan” (accuser) and “Lucifer” (light bringer, which occurs ONLY in Isaiah 14:12) are both OT/Hebrew words.  The word “devil” (slanderer) is a NT word, first used in Matthew 4 to refer to Jesus’ tempter, but it means the same thing as “Satan,” simply in Greek instead of Hebrew.

Q. (2:9-10): This Scripture has it’s roots in a situation Paul dealt with where women were distracting a worship service by having revealing clothes, right?  But, I would think this would apply today also.  I would say it would apply to men, but I never see them dressed inappropriately at church.  And, I have seen plenty of Christian women today who are not modest.

A. I agree: modesty and humility are often forsaken Christian values that it would do us a great deal of good to rediscover.

Q. (2:11-15): Here we go with the women’s rights questions.  Does this still apply today that women should not teach men?  And, would this be for anything, including business matters, or just matters of the Bible?  Also, Adam allowed himself was deceived by Eve.  What does “women will be saved through childbearing” mean?

A. Your answer to “does this apply today?” question is in the eye of the beholder: some modern denominations — Roman Catholics, Orthodox, and Southern Baptist are among them — see this verse as still being applicable today, but ONLY when in reference to preaching from the Word and specifically leading a congregation: this is why these groups do not ordain women.  Other denominations — United Methodists, Episcopalians, and the more frankly liberal denominations, argue that this is a relic verse that can be ignored.  I’ve heard good arguments for both, with the limits on women’s role in the church being traced back to different, God-given roles, but some of the best ministers I have personally heard preach were women, so I don’t have a strong opinion either way.  As to the “saved by childbearing” verse, I don’t really know what Paul is after here, but there is a lot of speculation that is not worth going into.  I wouldn’t sweat that verse too much.

Day 346 (Dec. 12): James (Jesus’s brother) writes 12 tribes, get rid of human anger and accept the word in your heart, show no favoritism, faith without good deeds is dead, control your Christian tongue, true wisdom comes from God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

James 1-3:18

Questions & Observations

Q. Just some background info, if it’s available: Do any of Jesus’s other brothers speak out for Him?  What were the “12 tribes” that James was talking about?  How did this letter get to them?

A. There is tradition, but not certainty, that the Epistle of Jude (coming soon!) is written by another of Jesus’ brothers — it’s the same name as Judas, so they changed it for obvious reasons.  James, the half brother of Jesus and Bishop of the church of Jerusalem (which will soon be destroyed), appears to be writing to Jewish believers, though it is possible he is using metaphor and refers to both Jews and Gentiles as being part of the “12 tribes”.  Jews of this era were spread over various cities, and any letter like this one would have been sent by messenger.  We do not know who the original readers were.

O. (James 1:2-4): James speaks the truth.  I think this means that the more we endure, the more spiritual we grow until we won’t need to improve much more, if any.

O. (1:14): I think it’s so interesting to point out that evil desires come from ourselves.  We must listen to the Spirit to guide us away from these thoughts or actions.

O. (James 2:10): So, I guess if we have one or two super small sinful issues, then we are not pure.  Purity is the whole shebang.

Q. (James 2:20): Also the other way around, right?  Good deeds without faith has no value to God, right?

A. James is talking about works that are of benefit to mankind, and a faith that is visible to others as a way of spreading the Gospel.  Only God can see our true faith, so in that sense, it does no good to those around us if only God can see it.

Day 345 (Dec. 11): Complaining and arguing leads to others criticism, Paul advocates Timothy and Epaphroditus, knowing Christ is priceless, stay true to the Lord ignoring enemies to the cross, don’t worry, just pray, a little sin is as big as lots of sins, faith without good deeds is dead, guard your tongue for it is a powerful tool, true wisdom comes from God

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

Philippians 2:12-4:23

Questions & Observations

Q. (Philippians 2:13): I never knew that God could give us the desire to please Him.  I thought that was a human ability.

A. All good things ultimately come from God, and the desire to please Him is a good thing.

O. (2:14): A hard one to do, but solid advice from Paul.  Bite your tongue has more uses than preventing you from saying something that might hurt someone, which I guess, in turn, ends up hurting you.  But also, complaining and criticizing damages character and people’s opinion of you.  When I go away from someone complaining, it leaves a bad taste in my mouth.  And, likewise, if I complain, I feel shame afterward.

Q. (4:3): What is the Book of Life?

A. The concept goes all the way back to Exodus 32 during Moses’ discussion with God after the golden calf incident.  Moses tells God that if He does not forgive the people’s sin, then he wants no part in God’s plan, and that God should blot him out of the “book” that God is writing.  God replies that it is not up to Moses who is included or not included in His book.  This exchange could mean several things, but the primary meaning that has come to be accepted is that it is the book of those who have a place in God’s Kingdom — the Book of Life.  We will see more references to this again, especially in Revelation, where it is referred to as the Lamb’s Book of Life in reference to Jesus.

O. (4:6-7): I wish I would always remember to ask for God’s help instead of stewing about issues.  It’s so wonderful to know that He truly wants to care for me.

Q. (4:12-13): Although I feel like Paul is boasting here, he always gives the glory to God, so it’s null and void.

A. He’s bragging about the one thing that he told others to boast about (1 Cor 1:31- let him who boasts boast about the Lord): his relationship with God, and how it provides him contentment even in the most dire of circumstances.  Don’t forget where Paul is when he writes this — under house arrest and expecting to be executed.  This is probably my favorite letter of Paul’s, because it creates such a contrast to the way that the world reacts to suffering and the way that Paul does. Paul says to take joy in suffering and to do so over and over (4:4)!  That is amazing to me.

Day 323 (Nov. 19): Paul tells church not to judge others, God’s apostles are not showy, Paul condemns spiritual pride, Christians should settle their own disputes, avoid sexual immorality, marriage instructions

Welcome to BibleBum where we are exploring the entire Bible in one year to better learn how to follow God’s instructions and discover the purpose for our lives.  The BibleBum blog uses The One Year Chronological Bible, the New Living Translation version.  At the end of each day’s reading, Rob, a cultural history aficionado and seminary graduate, answers questions from Leigh An, the blogger host, about the daily scripture.  To start from the beginning, click on “Index” and select Day 1.

1 Corinthians 4-7

Questions & Observations

Q. (1 Corinthians 4:9): I was almost going to say that God continues to use humble people to spread His word and now He has allowed them to be tattered, according to Paul’s letter.  However, it wasn’t really God who made them dirty, hungry, thirsty, tired, weak, bruised, etc., it was the people treating them that way.

A. That doesn’t make the people like Paul spreading the message of the Gospel less humble; if anything, through humility they are able to withstand the mistreatment of others.  I certainly think the things that Paul and his companions experienced — and will experience, including martyrdom — will only increase the power of their witness.

Q. (4:15): I don’t understand Paul saying that He became the church’s spiritual father.

A. He’s the one who founded the church at Corinth, so that makes him their spiritual father.  He’s not really bragging about this, but is rather attempting to get the Corinthians to follow his example the way that a child often tries to imitate their earthly father.

Q. (5:3-5): I don’t understand v. 5.  I think what Paul is trying to say here is that we want to save this man who is disrupting the church.

A. Paul’s order is to expel the man from the church — a form of church justice, something that is sadly rarely practiced today due to our “winking” attitude to sin.  So if the man is kicked out of “God’s” territory (the church), then he is given over to the realm that is not of God, or Satan.  This isn’t a literal punishment: Paul is not saying a demon will get him, but rather he is hoping that being expelled from the community by his friends will cause him such anguish that he will repent of his sin and return to the community a new man.

Q. (6:2): What does Paul mean by the believers will judge the world and the angels?

A. As those who will rule with Christ as heirs, we have the implication that we will have some role in judging (the Greek can also mean “rule” or “command”) the world and angels.  It is a unique passage, frankly, and Paul does not expand on what he means here, so we do not exactly know.  It is possible that Paul is sharing something that he assumes his audience will already be familiar with — i.e. something they understood in their culture that has been lost to history.  Ultimately, we don’t know for sure what he means, but I think it is safe to assume that our role in the next world will be as some sort of ruler or leader of some sort.  Interesting thought, isn’t it?

Q. (6:1-8): I think many people use the justice system to resolve disputes because it is easier than facing each other and figuring it out among themselves.  But, if believers are coming together to form the body of a church, they should be able to settle their own disputes, which I think would actually make them closer.

A. I couldn’t agree more, and I suspect that is what Paul has in mind.

Q. (6:9-11): One of my best friends growing up became gay after a couple years of college.  He has an awesome, but struggling, heart and considering what he has been through — a dad that beat and threatened him on a regular basis, a mom who also suffered physical and verbal abuse and dealt with her husband’s cheating, and had been molested by many men close to him.  With attention from these men, it’s no wonder that he leaned toward homosexuality.  I do wonder how his judgment will fair, but I know that God is God and He is the judge.  I just wish he could get pulled out of that lifestyle.  Pray, right?  I need to call him more often too.

A. There is nothing sinful about being attracted to people of the same gender, but I feel the Bible is pretty clear about sexual relationships among people of the same gender (though I am aware that not everyone feels that way).  We all have our temptations that we must face, and that honestly makes it hard for me to want to pass judgment on homosexuals as a person who has never experienced a sexual attraction to a man.  God knows our hearts, and also knows our past and difficulties, and will judge us accordingly.

Q. (7:8): By Paul saying that it’s better to stay single than married, it sounds so against the way God designed humans and the world.  He made man and woman so they could come together and create more humans.  If everyone were single, the world would die off, well … if they abstained from sex unless they were married.

A. It is interesting to me that Paul brings such a different mindset to the situation then we are used to, and that God — and the Bible — are big enough to handle multiple ideas in tension.  As you well say, without marriage and children, there is no future.  But Paul is probably looking at the situation as a man who wanted to fully devote himself to doing God’s will (as Jesus, who was also never married, did before him).  So it is certainly fascinating that the two men most responsible for the Christian faith were unmarried and celibate — a tradition that is carried to this day by priests, nuns, and monks all over the world.  God can make either way for us work, but I think that Paul at least makes it clear that there are pros and cons to being single or married.  And in a society that is literally OBSESSED with weddings (less so marriages, but anyway…), I bet there are some interesting insights about celibacy in the reading.

Q. (7:10): This verse just makes me think of the spiritual parallel that God created between man and woman should be like the relationship between God and believers, only even more devoted.

A. Yes, I would agree with that.

Q. (7:25-28): What is Paul talking about here?  Why is he advising everyone to stay single?  And, honestly, I feel that some of these letters sound like personal problems of the church way back then that isn’t really our business.  Maybe this is an example of how our secret desires and motivations will be revealed on judgment day?

A. Something I didn’t mention in my above responses was that the early church went through varying degrees of persecution, and that would certainly shade his thinking about being married and having a spouse depend on you.  Imagine the heartache of dying for your faith (or being thrown in jail or sold into slavery) with a wife, or husband, women were martyrs too, you can read about some 3rd Century women martyrs here: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Perpetua_and_Felicity)- or even children at home.  I could see why Paul would say, “that’s not a great idea.”

I would also point out, that as a married person, it would naturally be harder for you to see the benefits of being able to give every waking moment over to God as Paul was able to do — and I’m sure his being single shaded his thinking as well.  But note that even in the midst of his thoughts on staying single, he argues that there is no sin in being married (which I realize is a “duh” to us, but anyway).  As I mentioned above, I appreciate that the Bible presents a perspective so radically different than my own.

Q. (7:31b): There are several references we have seen that alludes me to the conclusion that judgment day should have been during these times.  Paul makes the end of days sound imminent.  Yet, we have also read where Jesus isn’t coming until the most evil person rises up.

A. It hasn’t happened yet is all I can tell you.  Paul goes back and forth on the matter- some places he makes it sound immenent, other places not so much, you’ll see.

Q. (7:40): Paul doesn’t sound 100 percent sure that his advice is coming from the Holy Spirit here … or God (not sure who he is referring to).

A. Same difference.  I think he is clearly stating that God has not told him explicitly either way, which is just fine with me.  If God desires to leave the matter open, and clearly He did, then Paul is willing to say so.  That sounds about right to me.