Command Of The Lord

(1 Corinthians 14:36-40)

In these last few verses of this chapter of 1 Corinthians 14 we see Paul make a couple of fascinating statements. And these are statements we need to listen to carefully with respect to the contents of this chapter because Paul makes it clear that these words are not just his thoughts and ideas, but they are the commands from the Lord.Command Of The Lord

The essence of what is written in this chapter primarily deals with the gifts of the Holy Spirit, specifically relating to speaking in tongues and prophesying. He also speaks about running the church in an orderly fashion and provides a template for how a general worship meeting should be conducted. I covered all of these matters in some detail in my previous posts on this chapter, and you can flip back to those using the “previous” tags and keys at the top or bottom of this post.

But in summary here we should look at what Paul is emphasising as being of importance, not just from his words but by the command of the Lord.

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Apollos

(Acts18:24-28)

Apollos was a powerful teacher and preacher of the gospel. We don't know a lot about him but it is clear that he was held in high regard as a teacher of the gospel by the people and also by the disciples, especially Paul.

Apollos in the time warp
Apollos in the time warp

In this section of scripture Apollos first comes to the notice of the disciples when he is found speaking to the Jews in the synagogue. He is described as an eloquent speaker and teacher of the gospel, but his knowledge is still limited for although he speaks about the Christ, he only understands the coming of the Christ from the things that were taught by John the Baptist.

This is an interesting situation both for Apollos and also for us today. His situation in some ways parallels that of many Christians today and the solution to his situation is also significant for us today as well. Before we look at this, let us first have a look at Apollos. Who he was and what he did.

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Turning the World Upside Down

(Acts 17:1-9)

As Paul and Silas came to Thessalonica they went into the synagogue and over a period of several weeks they presented the gospel of Jesus Christ. There were quite a number of those who heard, both Jews and Gentiles who listened to them and believed the truth of the gospel.

Turning the world upside down
Turning the world upside down

But this annoyed and upset the Jewish leaders of the synagogue so much that they became jealous. They incited a mob led by some wicked men and set the city in uproar. They sought Paul and Silas but could not find them, so they took another man, Jason, and dragged him before the city authorities.

However what they said to the authorities as they made their accusations is an apt and accurate description of the truth of the gospel. They said in verse 6, “These men who have turned the world upside down…”

This is true in a number of ways. How did they turn the world upside down? What is the message that turns the world upside down? We will look at these things now.

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The Most Important Thing

(Acts 13:36-43)

There are a lot of really good scriptures in the Bible…well ALL of them are actually! But, every now and then you come across something so profound, yet so simple, that it will just blow your mind.

The most important thing. Priority number one.
The most important thing. Priority number one.

These few scriptures are one of those sections.

These few words include a statement that is so powerful it drives to the core of why Jesus came, what Christianity and the new covenant is all about. It tells us why he came, what the purpose of His coming was for and the promise that only He is able to deliver.

Get this and you get it all. Understand these most important words and everything in the bible falls into place.

And yet so few understand them, so let’s look at what is being said here and pass this post on to as many people as you can in the hope that they might “get it” too. Continue reading “The Most Important Thing”

Christian Giving

(Acts 11:27-30)

Throughout the development of the early Christian church the needs of the church were met by the giving of money or other things by the members of the church. All of the needs of those who had little or nothing were met by sharing from those who had an abundance.

Christian Giving
Christian Giving

We see discussions of Christian giving in various places in the New Testament and this section of Acts 11 gives us an insight into the state of mind of those who gave their goods, services and financial resources for the benefit of the church.

Unfortunately somewhere along the line these original concepts were lost in some churches (not all) and were replaced with a process of taxation in the church rather than voluntary giving. Tithing as it is practiced in the church today is NOT the true method of giving as practiced in the early Christian church because it is an exaction, not a gift. But the truth of raising funds for the benefit of the church and as it was practiced in the beginning was based on the principle of giving that The Lord taught.

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Gentiles Reconciled

(Acts 10:44-48)

Here we see the culmination of all the preparation work The Lord had been doing with both the Jews and the Gentiles to bring about the great reconciliation work of the new covenant. As Peter was preaching we see the final changes take place that forever levels the playing field between the Jews and the Gentiles.

Enemies Reconciled
Enemies Reconciled

The work of the reconciliation is completed once the Gentiles receive the same gifts and promises that he Jews received during and following Jesus’ work on earth. It was stated in prophecy that the Gentiles would be brought into the fold of the people of God through the blood and sacrifice of Jesus Christ. And now it was about to come to fruition as they received Gods gifts.

But we also see in these words some conditions that were laid down. We see Peter establish the importance of the order and process of things in the new covenant in this section which, we need to be aware of also. There is much to learn from this event.

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Peter First Speaks to the Gentiles

(Acts10:34-43)

The time had come! The Gentiles were about to receive the word of The Lord for the first time from the mouth of Peter. The household and friends of Cornelius the Roman centurion had come together as directed by the angel of The Lord and Peter had come to them also as directed by The Lord.

Peter in the house of Cornelius
Peter in the house of Cornelius

Now the time had come for the beginning of the fulfilment of the prophecies stating that Jesus was to be the light to the Gentiles and in Him they would finally have the hope of salvation. As Peter prepares to speak with them he opens their eyes to the first matter that we all need to learn. He addresses one of the great issues that had existed for centuries.

And it is a lesson that comes down to us today for it is still a major problem in the people’s of the world. Everywhere this particular matter has caused division and disruption. It has led to murder, deaths, insurrections, uprisings and more. It has fuelled hatred and dissension and torn apart the fabric of many societies.

And if people had only listened to the words that Peter spoke to the Gentiles on this day almost two thousand years ago, all of that pain and suffering could have been avoided. What was the issue? Read on…

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Proving Jesus Was The Christ

(Acts 9:19-25)

After the Damascus road experience Saul who became Paul was a changed man. Turned around 180 degrees from being the greatest opponent of Christianity to become one of the most fervent proponents of the faith.

Proof...it's all in the detail
Proof…it’s all in the detail

Those who saw him in those early days after his conversion were astounded. His fame had already spread far and wide amongst the early church and he was much feared because of the havoc he was wreaking amongst the early Christian community. But now those he sought to bind and imprison he was actively seeking and supporting as he grew in faith with The Lord.

And you could see the plan and the hand of God in Paul’s conversion for here was a man steeped in the religion of the Jews, one who understood the prophecies pointing to the coming Messiah and one who could teach, preach and proclaim the truth of the gospel without fear or favour. As he grew in strength in his understanding of the New Covenant and as he was led by the Holy Spirit to understand the mysteries of the new way in Jesus, he greatly helped the infant church to develop in Damascus.

And he went from being a friend of the Jews to an enemy whom they sought to kill as he bore witness to Christ. Let us look now at some of those early events.

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Fasting in the New Covenant

(Matthew 9:14-17)

Jesus is approached by the disciples of John the Baptist and asked why his disciples did not fast like they and the Pharisees did. Jesus then used this teaching to show that the New Covenant was a new teaching and fasting under the New Covenant was quite a different matter to the Old Covenant.

Fasting in the Old Covenant was a process employed for many reasons. There were four appointed fasts under the law of Moses that were strictly applied as well as a fifth fast that was less strictly applied. Typically fasting was a form of abstinence, usually from food or drink, for a period of time. Fasting was also not an end in itself, but was a purpose or means to an end. Often fasting was seen in the Old Testament as a mechanism for a person to draw near to God for a specific purpose. As an example we saw King David fast to come before God in the hope that God would heal his child and prevent his death. (2 Samuel 12:13-23) Esther also proclaimed a three day fast among the Jewish people to come before the Lord on her behalf before she went in to approach the King on behalf of the Jews. (Esther 4:10-17) There are other examples, but the key to these fasts, both individual and of the whole community, were that the fasts were targeted towards a specific purpose and to seek out God.

In addition to the appointed fasts, there was also a practice of personal fasting when an individual would abstain from food or some other pleasure so as to come before God. They would fast and bring their prayers to the Lord during the period of fasting. The practice of fasting twice a week arose and became a custom although there was no scriptural basis for this practice in either the Old or New Covenants.

Fasting in the New Covenant is only occasionally mentioned and does not appear to be a strict condition or requirement under the New Covenant, unlike the appointed fasts ordained in the law under the Old Covenant. A problem had arisen in the practice of fasting in the New Covenant period as Jesus mentioned this in several of his teachings. We see in Matthew 6:16-18 that some people would disfigure their faces and look dismal when they fasted so that people would see their situation and perhaps commend their abstinence or look upon them as being pious. Rather, Jesus counselled that they should clean themselves up when fasting so no-one knew of their fast so that when they brought their petition before God they would receive their commendation from Him and hopefully gain the answer to their prayers. We see Jesus also upbraided the Pharisees who saw themselves as better than other people for they fasted twice a week (Luke 18:9-14). But in this case the Pharisees were fasting as an end in itself. They fasted so that they could look good before others rather than trying to draw closer to God. Indeed the Pharisees on numerous occasions were upbraided by Jesus for doing the works of the law without applying the wisdom, justice, mercy and truth of the law. Their fasts were not to come closer to God but were done to look pious or religious in front of the people. It was a mark of their pride, arrogance and hypocrisy which Jesus disdained.

Now in this teaching back in Matthew 9:14-17 we see also that Jesus was showing that these were new teachings he was giving. Indeed he was teaching the New Covenant although at that time few would have been aware of this matter. And he showed that there was a challenge in giving this teaching for it involved a significant change. Humans as a species typically resist change because it requires effort and leads to the unknown. He gave two examples saying that you don’t put a new patch of unshrunk cloth into a garment that is already washed and old, and you don’t put new wine into old wineskins. In both cases if you do, more damage is done to both parts of the change. The wineskins are destroyed and the wine is lost and the patch shrinks and tears making a worse hole in the garment that was being repaired.

The old wineskins and the old garment in his examples are the people who have received the Old Covenant teachings. They are comfortable with the teachings and accepting of what they understand. The new wine and the new cloth patch represent the New Covenant teachings that Jesus was teaching the people. He was saying that to try and put these New Covenant teachings into the old people would be difficult and could even be damaging to them. The apostle Paul in his letters shows the anguish and heartache he went through in his walk as he had to reject the old Pharisee teachings he was steeped in from a young age, so that he could accept the New Covenant teaching he was receiving from Christ through the Holy Spirit. So it is possible to replace the old teachings, but Jesus was showing it would not be without difficulty and in some cases loss. In many cases it is better to leave the old people with their teachings and to seek new people to learn the new.

And so with fasting in the New Covenant, Jesus was saying that this is a new teaching too. Although it was mandated in the Old Covenant it is not as important in the New Covenant. The purpose of fasting in the Old Covenant was to come before God, but in the New Covenant we have direct access to God in Jesus Christ. Jesus himself said that he would be with us until the end of the age and we have access to him even today. The Holy Spirit he has given us has direct access to the Father to petition on our behalf, so we do not have the same need for fasting today as in former times.

The true fast that God sought from man was not an abstinence from food but rather to abstain from evil and to do good as shown in Isaiah 58:1-9. The fasts the Pharisees held were a sham but the true fast is consistent with the teachings that Jesus gave. There are times in the New Covenant where people did fast, however whether these are necessary now is questionable as we now have access to God through Jesus and the Holy Spirit directly. I would not suggest they either are or are not necessary and for the most part it is an individual matter. However they are not mandated in the New Covenant as they were under the Old Covenant.

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