These posts are based on my commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, available from Zondervan Publishing.
These posts are adaptations of my commentary on 1 Corinthians, based on my own study of the critical Greek text, the early church fathers and the best of contemporary scholarship. It is available from Logos, and downloadable free from this blog: FREE Commentary on 1 Corinthians! by Gary Shogren
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…)
Chapter Seven – I teach in seminary
I’ve now been a professor, teaching in English and then in Spanish, for 25 years.
The first seminary where I taught put us through a sort of Professor Boot Camp. Our academic dean stressed: “Your students will remember only a portion of the content you teach; they will always remember your attitudes and values.
That principle has been true as far as my memories: I can remember a few professors who came across as, well, self-satisfied, distant, or lethargic; I hope my impressions were mistaken.
Other professors seemed to be hard workers, careful students of the Word, loving individuals and encouraging. (more…)
Paul was a traveling apostle, not the local pastor of Corinth. Nevertheless, he had to deal with the members of this flock in a pastoral way, teaching, encouraging and rebuking them.
I’ve spend some years studying 1 Corinthians, and I must admit honestly, that if I had been Paul, I would have been heavily tempted to abandon the Corinthian church, and that long before he wrote 1 Corinthians in AD 56. The fact that Paul did not do so is a testimony to what God was doing at Corinth. It is estimated that there were perhaps 60-100 Christians in Corinth, distributed among 3-4 congregations, which met in private homes. It took two years to plant that church; it had then received five years of further apostolic care from Paul, then Apollos, probably Cephas/Peter, not to mention Timothy, Titus and other team members. It carried on regular written correspondence with Paul. It was a church for which Paul (more…)
In my first days as a Christian, they filled me in that the Soviet Union was predicted in Ezekiel 38-39 and that Russia and the Warsaw Pact countries would attack Israel at any time. Hal Lindsey’s The Late Great Planet Earth was the #1 bestseller; it had a chapter called “Russia is a Gog,” and said it was clear as could be that the Bible foretold a Soviet invasion more than 2500 years ago. Google Magog and Russia and you will see how many “prophecy experts” take the Lindsey/Russia view as gospel, without ever checking on the basic facts. 
Where did this idea come from? From an amateurish reading of certain Hebrew terms.
Rosh – probably not in your Bible at Ezek 38:2 (unless you read the NKJV or the NASB), but the Hebrew word that is rendered “chief” or “prince” is Rosh = head. But others said, “Hey, think about it! Rosh…uh?? Roshuh? Russia, you see?”
Meshech – why, that must be Moscow!
Magog – was a Scythian city, and the Scythians later migrated into Russia, so Magog is Russia! (they did no such thing, I later found out, but that was the rumor at the time)
Tubal – this would have to be Tobolsk which, some speculated, was the eastern capital of Russia.
Gomer was East Germany.
To cap it all off, these enemies come “from the north,” and Russia, at least its extreme western frontier, lies due north from Israel.
This meant, then, that Russia and its Warsaw Pact allies would attack Israel, immediately before or after the rapture
of the church, and that Israel’s enemies would be totally eliminated, perhaps by nuclear weapons. Imagine the chills this gave me in October 1973, when the United States and Russia very nearly intervened with A-bombs in the Yom Kippur war between Israel and Egypt. (more…)
May Christians create holidays? The Bible gives us precedent to say Yes.
First, God’s people have always celebrated holidays that are not mandated in the Bible. To name two, the Feast of Purim was established in the 400s BC, when Esther and Mordecai saved the Jews from slaughter. The name Purim is the Hebrew form of a pagan, Babylonian word for “lots”. The feast began when “the Jews of the villages who dwelt in the unwalled towns celebrated the fourteenth day of the month of Adar with gladness and feasting, as a holiday, and for sending presents to one another.” Crucially for us, nowhere does God mandate it as a holy day, as he did Passover or Pentecost – it was a human decision.
Second, the Jews invented the holiday of Chanukah or Hanukkah (more…)
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Last month, Zondervan published my commentary on 1-2 Thessalonians, a volume I’ve been working on since 2005 (click HERE). When I saw it on display at the annual meeting of the Evangelical Theological Society, I heaved a sigh of relief, and not just because finishing a book, any book, lightens the spirit. (My 1 Corinthians commentary is available for free download HERE).
I was pleased because the whole production seemed like a gamble from the outset. I had to figure out how to write a commentary without a library. I felt like the first person to invent the flourless cake.
I teach at a Bible college and seminary located in Costa Rica. Most Americans know it as a land of natural wonders, with beaches, rafting, rainforests, volcanoes and of course, gold-standard coffee. We are located in San José, a city of a million: not exactly the “bush,” but I might as well be when I sit down to do my writing. (more…)