These posts are based on my commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, available from Zondervan Publishing.
Is persecution good for what ails the church? Here’s the word on the street:
Viewpoint A: Everyone knows that persecution purifies the church –
- Therefore, if revival is to come, it will be through suffering.
- Therefore, persecution is a good, a benefit.
- Therefore, the committed Christian should pray for persecution to fall on their country.
Now, I know of no verse where Christians should hope for or pray for persecution. Nor is there a passage that says, “If you pray for revival, you’d better duck, God will send you tribulation.” These viewpoints strikes me as two of these Bible interpretations which are, to use the British phrase, “too clever by half.” It’s similar to the one I’ve heard people say, that we shouldn’t pray for patience – after all, if we do, God will send trials on us! I’m stymied, how a Christian could balk at praying for a fruit of the Spirit, or imagine that God will use our sincere prayer in order to play a trick on us!
The Bible is clear, and 2000 years of history give the same message –
- Revival comes with or without persecution.
- That is, revival and persecution do not follow a strict cause and effect. Nor are they typically correlated.
- If there is correlation, it’s the question of the chicken and the egg – sometimes persecution comes because the church is growing and lively.
- Persecution does not necessarily result in purification or vitality.
- Persecution may be an impediment to church growth as much as it is a spur to growth.
- People who pray for, seek or volunteer for persecution are on thin ice.
The evidence: (more…)
The epistle was sent to a church stationed deep within pagan territory. In Corinth as in no other place to that date, the God of Jesus Christ was pitted against the god of this world. The church sprang up in a soil that was saturated with idolatry, philosophical posturing and social stratification, all driven by a service economy that provided opportunities for the clever and made many rich off the sweat of slaves and the poor. Here Christianity could show in stark relief how it might transform the arrogant, the oppressed, the hopeless, the corrupted and the dissipated.
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For a free pdf file click here – Shogren_1_Corinthians
It is also available on Logos Bible Software; it is fully integrated with other books and Bibles – http://www.logos.com/product/24079/first-corinthians-an-exegetical-pastoral-commentary
I also have a commentary that came out from Zondervan in November; you can order it here - http://www.amazon.com/Thessalonians-Zondervan-Exegetical-Commentary-Testament/dp/0310243963/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1343856671&sr=8-1&keywords=shogren
This is an article on these Pauline letters for a new Spanish-language Bible dictionary. The reader should note that a dictionary article is supposed to be ”descriptive,” that is, the author is expected to describe the state of the discussion, not argue for or against a particular viewpoint.
Zondervan will be publishing my exegetical-pastoral commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians in November, 2012.
Paul had a precise idea of how to serve God. He worked day and night with his own hands; he risked his life and his health; he “served” the churches and did not exploit them. As a teacher he acted with patience and consideration: when people wanted answers he gave them careful, detailed explanations. He communicated the gospel in a way that anyone could understand (1 Cor 9:20-22).
From what we can glean in 1 and 2 Corinthians, that church wanted a different breed of apostle:
Church at Corinth, Achaia
Wanted: an apostle with style
The church in Corinth is seeking applicants for the position of apostle. We wish to avoid leaders who do not measure up to the highest standards of Christian ministry. Hence we insist that all candidates fulfill the following conditions:
- We want a man who holds his head high, not one with a slavish attitude of “service.” We want to show the appeal of the gospel for people with ambition.
- He should own a vehicle; travel by foot gives the impression that one is a loser. (more…)
What comes before the Day of the Lord: the final “apostasy” or the “departure” of the church? [Studies in Thessalonians]
According to 2 Thessalonians, Timothy brought Paul a question from a panicky church: Has the Day of the Lord come? Paul ties together language of the return of Christ from his own oral teaching, the Matthean tradition, Daniel and 1 Thessalonians. No indeed! he says, and I can prove it. Has the Man of Lawlessness appeared? Then no, the Day of the Lord has not come (2 Thess 2:3).
The other marker is more controversial: an “apostasy” or “falling away” (apostasia, ἀποστασία). The word might denote a political rebellion. Nevertheless, “falling away” in Judeo-Christian contexts usually refers to a spiritual apostasy. In the Apocrypha, many Jews apostatized from Yahweh in 1 Macc 2:15 (NRSV) – “The king’s officers who were enforcing the apostasy came to the town of Modein to make them offer sacrifice” to Greek gods. Paul himself was accused of teaching Diaspora Jews “apostasy from Moses” (Acts 21:21). The verb form also appears in a warning against apostasy in Heb 3:12 and in the Lukan version of the Parable of the Sower to speak of those who fall away because of persecution (Luke 8:13). Paul uses the verb (aphistemi, ἀφίστημι) of the end-time falling away once in 1 Tim 4:1; he uses the noun form (apostasia, ἀποστασία) only here in 2 Thess 2:3. Most Bible versions render the term correctly: “falling away” (ASV, KJV, NKJV); rebel, rebellion (CEV, ESV, GNB, NIV, NLT, NRSV, RSV), revolt (GW, NJB), apostasy (HCSB, NASB).
But wait! A few Bible students have suggested that 2 Thess 2:3 should be translated not as the “apostasy” but as a “removal” or “departure.” That is, the church is taken away from the earth, with the rest of the population “left behind” for the tribulation.
Can this interpretation hold up? (more…)