A podcast dedicated to sharing the audio files of Douglas Jacoby's International Teaching Ministry. Our goal is to help people "think about faith." Douglas Jacoby is an international Bible teacher. After serving as a minister on church staff for 20 years, he continues to work as a freelance teacher and consultant. With degrees from Drew, Harvard, and Duke, Douglas has written 35 books, recorded over 700 podcasts, and spoken in over 100 universities, and in over 500 cities, in 126 nations. He has engaged in a number of debates with well-known atheists, imams, and rabbis, and also serves as an adjunct professor of theology at Lincoln Christian University. Since the late '90s, Douglas has led annual tours to the biblical world. Audio recordings, videos, and articles from Douglas Jacoby's International Teaching Ministry are available online at an extensive website (10,000 pages), https://www.douglasjacoby.com.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website. The trials of chapter 1 probably refer to persecution.Don't give up! When we give up, we are letting our lives be defined by our particular temptations and sins.In Christ we can overcomeNote: temptations are not sins. The sin is what we decide to do about the temptation. As Martin Luther was fond of saying, “You can't stop a bird from flying over your head, but you can keep him from building a nest in your hair”!In ancient religions the gods were often blamed for human temptations. The Bible roundly rejects this notion.James likens the process of temptation to biological growth: conception, pregnancy, delivery, growth and maturity.Yes, life is messy (trials, suffering, perseverance), yet it is not so hard that we are without hope—provided we have the right perspective (not thinking too highly of ourselves, nor too lowly), relying on the one who fits us for the life to which he has called us.APPLICATION Don't cave in. Don't give in to temptation. Gen 4.We are all laden with different temptations (anger, temper; lust; alcoholism, other chem dependencies; envy, jealousy; gossip, slander; taking false credit; ungracious speech...) Let's not let these define us. Rather, through Christ we can rise above the fleshly (animal) level to the spiritual.Do I take responsibility when under pressure, or do I excuse myself? Is my tendency to look for someone else to blame, or do I own up to my own failures?Do I have the sense of God's guiding hand, his purifying presence, his wisdom as I go through my day? God is in control!God doesn't work in our lives (through testing) to ruin us, but to prove and improve us.Next: God's Perfect gifts
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Reflection 5, "God's Perfect Gifts," unpacks James 1:16-18.Don't be deceived. Don't crack and crumble under the pressure of trials – don't cave in!This requires us to think correctly about reality, about God.God is not fickle. He is good, and gives good gifts.He created the light(s), and he gave us new birth through the Word (see also 1 Pet 1:23; Eph 5:26).This birth contrasts with the “birth” of v.15!The life that we live requires sincere dedication to Him. Next: Listening & Looking
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.The next two sections in James (today's offering plus tomorrow's) introduce 5 key themes in swift succession:Restraint of hasty desirePractical obedience to God's WordReception of the Word with humilityConcern for defenseless members of the communityTurning from the ways of the world1:19-21“There are four types of disciples: swift to hear and swift to lose—his gain is canceled by his loss; slow to hear and slow to lose—his loss is canceled by his gain; swift to hear and slow to lose—this is a happy lot; slow to hear and swift to lose—this is an evil lot” ('Avot 5:12).Not seeking justice through politically motivated violence (v.20).“Impostors and demagogues, under the guise of divine inspiration, provoked revolutionary actions and impelled the masses to act like madmen” (Josephus, Jewish War 259).There were numerous first century revolutionaries, e.g. the Samaritan who led a band of followers up Mt. Gerizim; Theudas, who put himself forward as a second Moses; and the Jewish prophet who portrayed himself as a second Joshua, prophesying the collapse of Jerusalem's walls.Such revolutionaries, and those who sided with them, constituted an implicit threat to the Sadducees. (They would not have appreciated James.)“Put off” (v.21) – baptismal context (clothes).The implanted word – see Jer 31:33. God's word is powerful; it changes lives.1:22-25James is Wisdom Literature.Mirror analogy: Many do not spend time in the Scriptures because they don't like the image of themselves they see there. Of course the Word makes us look better—not in external appearance, but at the heart level.Perhaps the mirror is connected with seeing ourselves as the image of God. Our look into the mirror requires more than a cursory look. Slow down, let the truth sink in.Doers – this word appears several times in James. Obedience.He who knows not and knows not that he knows not—he is a fool; avoid him / He who knows not and knows that he knows not—he is simple; instruct him / He who knows and knows not that he knows—he is asleep; awaken him / He who knows and knows that he knows—he is wise; follow him (an old Arab proverb).Teleios 5x in James…. Suggests character, not mere actionsWhy the “perfect law that gives freedom” probably isn't the N.T.:See Ps 1:2; 19:7-11; 40:6-8; 119.Rebirth through the Word (1:18).The perfect law seems to be the same thing as “the implanted word” (v.21).In James, Gospel and "law" are more or less interchangeable.Perfect / mature – 1:4; 3:2, 17-18.2:8—Perfect law is recast as “the sovereign law” of love to one's neighbor.This is certainly not the New Testament—which wasn't even written yet. (James died in 62; by that time, the only parts of the NT already written would have been 15 or 18 of the epistles.)Thus there is no direct connection with 1 Cor 13 (“when the perfect comes”).FreedomNot political freedom, nor economic freedom, but spiritual freedom.God's perfect law brings freedom – obedience (think RR tracks).Next reflection: Pure Religion
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.There are five important themes in the latter part of James 1 (vs.19-27), the first three of which we examined in the previous reflection:Restraint of hasty desirePractical obedience to God's WordReception of the Word with humilityConcern for defenseless members of the communityTurning from the ways of the world1:26-27Profanity, gossip, slander, lying, perjury, babbling—and talking about obeying God but not actually doing it."Worthless" – 1:26 parallels 2:26.Religion is “the celebration of God and the discovery of his will for our lives” (Richard Holloway).Concern for defenseless members of the community connected with turning from the ways of the world, as in Ezekiel 16:49.Pollution.What is the evidence most churches ignore 1:26-27?The fellowship isn't stratified – we tend to be one social or economic class. We may help the needy, but how close are we to them?General apathy re: the vulnerable.Ignorance of the strong OT mandate to care for orphans and widows (Exod 22:21; Deut 10:18; 14:28; 16:11, 14; 24:17-21; 26:12-13; 27:19; Ps 68:5; Isa 1:17; Jer 5:28; Ezek 22:7; Zech 7:10)—plus aliens!General lack of compassion towards refugees.Aloofness from dire issues (human trafficking, famine, civil wars, poverty—the list is endless). We tend to give lip service rather than getting involved in a costly, relational, and meaningful way.We spend plenty of money on worldly purchases (homes, cars, vacations, nice clothes…), but nearly 0% to help the needy.We may donate for disaster relief, or support solid Christian charities, but are we bringing the poor into the fellowship?Most churches give a minuscule percentage of their budget to assist the weak and vulnerable—but spend large amounts on salaries and buildings.Do we realize that the poor / working class / slaves were the majority in the early church? The NT church collected money as necessary for the needy—this was by far the primary item in their "budget" (if they had one).I don't mean to paint every congregation with the same brush. Certainly there are numerous exemplary exceptions. But looking at Christendom worldwide, I think this is a fair criticism. (Do you?)Summary (Jas 1:19-25 and 1:26-27)Trust in God > the power of human will (anger)Let's look into the Word and be honest about what we seeLet's humbly receive the implanted word, which can save usGet rid of all moral filthCareless speech is not a matter of indifference to our GodNor is caring for the needy optionalMere talk about the needy makes our religion worthless.Let's be champions for the powerless, for the vulnerableThis will rewrite rejecting the world and its anti-God valuesFreedom comes with obedienceNext time: James 1-5 read in the RPM version
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Interesting facts about JamesJames appears immediately after Acts in many early NTs.Some scholars think James was the first NT document to be written (sometime in the 40s). (Many conservative scholars believe Galatians is the oldest, penned in 48.) Note: James the brother of the Lord was executed in 62.James has 108 verses—about the same length as Philippians, 1 Timothy, 1 Peter, and 1 John. (The Sermon on the Mount, by way of comparison, is 111 verses in length.)The first-century Jewish writer and statesman Josephus devotes more of his history to James than to Jesus.James eventually overtook Peter as the most influential leader in the Jerusalem church community (evident in Acts 15).The recording features the translation of British N.T. scholar Ralph P. Martin, as found in The Word Biblical Commentary 48: James (Nashville: Thomas Nelson, 1988), 3-217. (That's why I call this version "RPM.")Next in 40 Days in James: "The Chair and the Floor"
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Might we have a wrong view of religion – could our religion be “worthless” (Jas 1:26)? Do I excuse myself with the thought, "Perhaps I don't need to worry about orphans and widows. After all, I'm not that wealthy. I'm just middle class." James himself was not a wealthy man (the implication of 1 Cor 9:5). Nor was Jesus. Nor was the Lord's family well-to-do, even after his earthly ministry. (The story of Jude's grandsons, called to appear before the emperor Domitian [81-96 AD].) There was no elite "Jesus dynasty."James 2:1-4The meeting (v.2) may be a regular church gathering, or a special church "court" (see 1 Cor 6:1-8); it doesn't matter which is the case.Two men walk in at the same time, one obviously wealthy, the other dirt poor. The community is guilty of favoritism.James challenges snobbery and partiality—and as we will see in the next reflection, a few verses later, those showing this sort of favoritism are undermining their own best interests.How about us? Do we show special attention to the rich? Are we afraid to offend them?I have observed that church leaders often treat them deferentially, holding back from preaching the truth lest they be offended. Further, church leaders tend to treat them preferentially, esp. since they hope to benefit from their donations.Further, there are implications for servant leadership. Jesus criticized the Pharisees for always wanting the best seats (Matt 23:6). Many Christian leaders are the ones with the fine clothes. And in many churches the pastor is the wealthiest person in the entire congregation!Have we become judges with evil thoughts? Are we guilty of favoritism and elitism? Are some of our attitudes towards wealth and power identical to those of the world?Next: Oppressors & Oppressed
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.IntroWas Jesus a "carpenter" (Mark 6:3, Matt 13:55)? Tekton = builder. "Carpenter,” esp. in our culture, has a certain prestige. But not so much when someone tells you, “I'm in construction. I'm a manual laborer.”Jesus was more likely a stonemason. Wood is not the usual building material in Palestine – stone is much more common. As a builder he would have worked with others. He also may not have been as well-off as we might think. (After all, consider how few possessions he had at the end of his life.)He was not born into privilege; he had to work for a living. James wasn't wealthy, either. If anything, he stood on the side of the underprivileged.James 2:5-7James urges us not to privilege the rich. Often they are rich only because they are underpaying, entrapping, or otherwise exploiting the poor.Of course not all poor people will be saved, and not all rich people will be condemned.But the Scriptures heavily favor the needy, pity the plight of the poor, and call us all to take responsibility.Irony: cozying up to the very people who are exploiting you!The rich typically use the law to gain wealth, keep it, and make it grow—and keep it away from others.Further:Q&A 1616: “Are James's remains in the church of Santiago de Compostela in Spain?”N.T. Character Study on James, the brother of the Lord.A book on the ossuary of James, by Hershel Shanks and Ben Witherington III, The Brother of Jesus: The Dramatic Story and Meaning of the First Archaeological Link to Jesus and His Family (San Francisco: HarperCollins, 2003).Next: The Royal LawNote: For days 11-40 of the series, you will need to log in (with username and password), even if you are a paid subscriber. If you are not currently a subscriber, you can sign up here.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Why is this a “royal" law? It's the Law of the kingdom, law of king for his people.It's "Love your neighbor as yourself."James's readers / hearers are called to stop showing partiality.This is not mere suggestion, but a law! It's a law of love, the perfect law of freedom.It dictates the sort of people we are, and how we treat one another—not just outsiders, but fellow subjects of the king.Mercy flows out through us. We are embodying the attitudes / behaviors of Matt 5:21-48.Re: v.2:8:niversal human teaching? Usually it's the silver rule that prevails, not the golden rule. Rabbinic Judaism: “What you hate do not do to your neighbor. That is the essence of the Torah; the remainder is commentary” (Hillel, b. Shabbath 31a). Classical Buddhism: “Hurt not others in ways that you yourself would find hurtful.”— Udanavarga 5:18 [Silver Rule]. Confucius: “Never impose on others what you would not choose for yourself.” — Analects XV.24 [Silver Rule]. For more examples from among the religions and philosophies of the world, click here.Paul teaches the same in Gal 5:14 and Rom 13:8-10.Lev 19:18. Is this a uRe: v.9, the sin in question is favoritism.Re: vv.10-11:Deut 27:26.We are lawbreakers even if we break only one commandment. (Think of one crack/hole in the windshield.)Re Vv.12-13:Christians are judged by the supreme law, the law that sets us free: the law of love.A failure to love the poor makes us transgressors—showing favoritism to the rich—we are actively violating God's law.Here is an echo of Matt 5:7.Judgment without mercy!FinallyLooking into the mirror has not led to repentance—hence the severity of James's scathing rebuke. They have failed to live by the royal law in their Christian community.Nor was his rebuke given hypocritically. He was, after all, “James the Just” (widely respected by Jews and Christians alike for his compassionate care for the needy).Next: Cold Deeds with Warm Words
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Notes on James 2:14-26:The word “deeds” is more palatable for many religious people than “works,” with is association with trying to earn our salvation.Vs.14-16 seem to address a real situation among the believers to whom James is writing. See also 1 John 3:16-18, Matt 25:31-46, and Gal 6:10.Keep in mind also the likely famine conditions in Judea at the time of James's letter. 2 Cor 8-9 and Acts 11:28 refer to this hardship.I admit it's difficult to know who exactly is speaking in vs. 18, or the exact point (though I assume it's fully in line with the thought of vs.14-17 and 19-26).Demons have mere intellectual assent (v.19).The Shema‘ (Hear, O Israel...) is found in Deut 6:4.Were some wealthy persons allowed into the fellowship whose behavior did not match their profession of faith?Orthodoxy (right belief) isn't enough. Orthopraxy (right behavior) is essential; it completes and confirms orthopraxy.There is no such thing as faith in a vacuumBoth persons were proselytes to the faith.Both were commended for faith because faith was complemented by deeds.A widely twisted and ignored verse is 2:24Liberals often accept that this is a “contradiction”—that James and Paul are somehow at odds with each other.Evangelicals – ignore v.24, esp. when they hold to the “once saved, always saved” teaching. Many evangelicals and other Protestants hold to the slogan "faith alone," which does not appear in the N.T.Further: for "Why I am Not an Evangelical—Or Am I?" please click here. For "Why I am Not a Protestant," please click here.Re: v.17, see Titus 1:15-16.Next: “The Magic Wand & the Touch"James then offers two examples from the OT, from Genesis and Joshua, in vs. 21-27.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Further comments on Jas 2:14-26:Re: deeds (v.14):Jesus frequently emphasizes deeds, both in the gospels and in Revelation. For “I know your deeds,” see Rev 2:2, 19, 23; 3:1-2, 8, 15.We need to be comfortable talking about the way of Christ. It is not a good sign when we prefer vagueness in our conversation or fellowship to actual obedience.Re: being God's friend (v.23:Abraham (in Jewish tradition) was called God's friend.Keep in mind that this is the opposite of being the world's friend (4:4).See also John 15:15.Note also the parallel between James 2:26 and 1:26.Illustration: The Magic Wand & the Touch, by Dave Malutinok (adapted)Next: "The Epistle of Straw"
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Luther's translation of the N.T. (1522)Separated 4 books from the other books of the N.T.—almost an appendix.Other books he removed to the end were Heb, Jude, Rev—but at least he included them in the translation.He also made a tweak to Rom. 3:28 (allein durch den Glauben—adding the word "alone").He could not accept Jas 2:24. At least he was honest about this doubt.Why did Martin Luther have such a low opinion of James?He liked James in some ways: “I praise it and hold it a good book, because it sets up no doctrine of men and lays great stress on God's law.” After all, he did include it in his translation – just not with the 23 NT books he thought were inspired.Compared to the legitimate NT books, James is “an epistle of straw.”He said James contained nothing of the gospel.It is not of apostolic authorship. [All N.T. documents are apostolic, but many are not written by apostles: Mark, Luke, Acts, Hebrews, James, Jude.]James opposes Paul and mixes up law and works. It is erroneous vis-à-vis faith and works."Many sweat hard at reconciling James with Paul ... but unsuccessfully. `Faith justifies' [Paul's teaching] stands in flat contradiction to `Faith does not justify' [James 2:24]. If anyone can harmonize these sayings, I'll put my doctor's cap on him and let him call me a fool." [Yet Luther was reading his own theology into the text and thus finding a "contradiction."]There is no mention of the passion or resurrection.Jesus is mentioned only twice—but James “teaches nothing about him.” [Actually, as biblical scholar Rudolf Kittel (1853-1929) observed, “No writing in the NT outside the Gospels is so interlaced with reminiscences of the words of the Lord as [James].”Lessons to learn:Don't add or subtract to/from God's word.Be honest about the Bible, including the parts that trouble us. Many people aren't as honest as Luther. They leave James in the Bible, but still reject what Scripture says. Others claim that Paul and James are opposed. They may accept Hebrews as scripture, but rationalize away the 12 passages that refute "once saved always saved."Shouldn't we actually be surprised if we agreed with everything in God's Word? Isn't the one whose thoughts and ways are far, far above our own more likely to give us a revelation which sometimes diverges from our expectations and opinions?Let's not be too quick to judge—to be dismissive of biblical teachings, or even biblical books, where they rub us the wrong way.A key verse in regard to the faith/works/justification issue is James 2:22. (This is a good memory verse!)Next: Reading of James in The Message
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 3:1-2What is the context of James's warning?James is the most influential person in the Jerusalem church. 3:1 applies to him.What's the leadership model in the communities James is addressing? Teachers & elders (3:1; 5:16)—no mention in this epistle of prophets, evangelists, or other leadership roles involving speaking. Actually, there seem to be multiple models of church governance in the New Testament:Antioch – prophets, teachers, and probably elders (13:1; implied by 14:23).Corinth – teachers and prophets—apostles also mentioned, in the gift lists, though no evidence they were present in Corinth—(1 Cor 12:28).Ephesus – elders (shepherds), deacons (servants), teachers, evangelists (at least Timothy), and possiblyprophets (Eph 2:20; 3:5; 4:11). 1 Tim 3:1-7.Jerusalem – apostles, elders (Acts 15:22).Philippi – shepherds, deacons (servants) (Phil 1:1).Rome – teachers and prophets, a collaborative model (Rom 12:6-8).Evangelists show up only in the Ephesian "model," though I presume that they were mobile, planting churches, exposed to danger in a variety of situations. In Acts 20:17 Paul called for the elders, who appear to be the church leaders. No evangelist as "senior pastor" (as among many Protestant churches). Let's not get bogged down with titles and definitions. The N.T. seems to indicate that church governance is an area of freedom.In speaking of the tongue of the teachers, in other words, James is almost certainly referring to church leaders. To those who speak, teach, influence the body of Christ.Unfit teachers troubled many first-century churches (Acts, 2 Cor, Col, 1-2 Tim, Titus, 2 Peter, 1 John, 2 John, Jude).It seems unfit teachers were also a negative influence among the communities James oversaw.For suggested criteria for anyone serving as a congregational teacher, please click here.And so it is today.People want to be teachers but they don't know what they're talking about (1 Tim).People have wrong motives—e.g. seeking to undermine legitimate leadership (2 Cor; Phil 1).Their doctrines are spiritually unhealthy. (Ways of approaching spiritual life, as opposed to misinterpretations of isolated scriptures.)Some seek popularity / a following, or to be accepted by the world (thus giving in to liberal sexual ethics or worldly politics).Many presume to speak authoritatively in areas they have never properly studied. (I often ask, when people approach me with a new idea, what they have studied… and to cite their sources…)Some are attracted to novelty for the sake of novelty.Biblical integrity means:Respect context—not just choosing isolated words or phrases that seem to say what we want them to say, or what we expected. Reading the paragraph in which those words appear, in light of the entire book of the Bible in which they are found.Message preparation—starting with the text, not adding scriptures in at the end to fortify inspirational messages.Teaching or preaching Scripture's agenda, not our own.Learning and applying all of scripture: no mere lip-service to 2 Tim 3:16-17.Training‚ and continuing education for ministers of the gospel!This task requires prophetic courage.Jas 3:1-2 applies not only to leaders / speakers, however, but to us all.All of us sin with the tongue!The “perfect man” isn't sinless. Don't despair. Teleios = completeness and maturity. Holiness.All of Jas 3 is about the tongue, so let's seek connections with other passages throughout James. There are many!Next: The Rudder
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website..Review: "The Tongue of the Teacher: (no. 16)James 3:1 applies to all Christian leaders, at least those who speak, teach, preach—which is pretty much everybody.Reading between the lines, we realize that unspiritual teachers were a threat to the communities that James oversaw.As we will continue to see, it is broad applications for all followers of Christ, leaders or otherwise!James 3:3-5Illustrations of the impact of a careless tongue:Bits control horses, even though the bit itself is very small compared to the horse.Rudders are essential for steering ships, although in comparison with the entire vessel the rudder(s) may be minuscule. A small spark can still cause an enormous conflagration!There is a note of the diabolical, with the reference to hell. (Gehenna in Josh 15:8b; 18:16b; Neh 11:30 is the word for hell in the N.T., e.g. Mark 9:43, 47. See also Isa 66:23-24.)The danger is either potential or actual.The Christian community is susceptible, vulnerable to the predations or errors of ungodly teachers.James may be implying that some present teachers ought to step down.Or he may be asking some to reconsider their interest in teaching others.“Teachers who permit their tongues to get out of control are well on the way to becoming false teachers.”The solution isn't to get rid of the teachers (who would include, after all, all elders, preachers, and others who speak to the church), but to make sure of their character and biblical training.Our next reflection: “The Untamable”
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Reminders:All of chapter 3 addresses the tongue, and has special relevance for and application to church leaders.The influence of the tongue may be enormous, despite its minuscule size (like a rudder, bit, or spark). The body of Christ can be significantly influenced—for better or worse—through the words of a single person.James wants to ensure that his readers / audience appreciate the seriousness of the point, so he offers even more illustrations (two in vs. 7-8, and two more in vs. 9-12).Keep in mind that James is speaking into an already tense situation, both economically and politically.James 3:7-8Taming animals is a cinch compared to taming the tongue."Restless"—There's no end to the harm we can cause with our tongues, if we throw discretion to the winds and ignore what God's Word says.The impact of our words can be poisonous.Selected proverbs on the tongue (NRSV): 6:16-19; 10:19-20; 12:18; 15:1-2; 18:21; 21:23; 25:15; 26:28; 28:23; 31:26.Questions for self:In a conversation, do I usually dominate?Do others every tell me I talk too much?Am I typically the loudest voice in the room?Do I always have to have the last word?Do I make unfavorable comments about others (even if they're true)?Do I ever use profanity?Do I ever use coarse language?When others talk, do they feel that I am listening—or distracted? What do my children say? My spouse?Do I break confidences?Am I a flatterer?Am I tempted to answer tough questions dishonestly, or do I speak frankly and truthfully?Do I make promises that I fail to keep—or never intended to keep in the first place?Do I talk about others (without their permission) to third parties?Do I repeat third-hand information?Do I often say hurtful things—even unintentionally?Do I ever lie?(Teachers) When I'm speaking on a complex or sensitive subject, have I done the appropriate research, or do I tend to be careless with study, preparation, and attribution of sources?(Leaders) Do others feel I have heard them out, when they have criticisms, suggestions, or other things on their heart?(Speakers) Do I tend to go overtime?Things to work on immediatelyNotice when others gossip – and refuse to join in.Record myself—and listen. How is my tone?If I'm loquacious, count to 3 before speaking / answering.Ask my family / friends if they think I need to improve in my use of my tongue.Reread the Proverbs.Next: a passage most churches ignore.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 3:9-12So many images in this chapter: (tongue), bit, rudder, spark, taming (animals), poison, spring, fig tree… which bring to life the importance of the topic.Common illustrations from the ancient worldOr from Jesus, like Matt 7:15-20.The focus: the misuse of tongue in worship“The good set of mind does not talk from both sides of its mouth: praises and curses, abuse and honor, calm and strife, hypocrisy and truth, poverty and wealth, but it has one disposition, uncontaminated and pure, toward all men. There is no duplicity in its perception or its hearing” (T. Benj. 6.5, 6).ApplicationNegative words: Slander Gossip Hypercritical of church leadersMedia posts….Negative deeds:Punitive driving Punitive tipping Making a workmate's job more difficultFoot-dragging at work Getting back at an unpleasant bossVarious passive-aggressive behaviorsControlling the tongue is esp. important as all members are called to ministry of instruction, at least on some level (Col 3:16; Rom 15:14; Heb 5:12-14).“Set a watch, O Lord, over my mouth / Keep the door of my lips” (Ps 141:3).Next: Pseudo-Wisdom
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 3:13-16IntroIn our next 2 reflections, James considers two types of wisdom.The Greek of James is so fine that some scholars deny that he could have penned this letter!See Greek text below (Jas 3:13-16). See also papyrus copy of James 1 (below, R).Whether these are James' original words or they have been recorded by a scribe / improved is unknown!Either way, they are a pleasure to read. If you want to learn NT Greek, you will need to take a proper course in a college or university. Not realistic to become “self-taught.”The situation:Some people evidently viewed themselves as superior.Yet they are overflowing with negative feelings.Far from being wise, they are profoundly unspiritual.On pseudo-wisdom:Wisdom is a matter of character—not education.Wisdom is a matter of character—not intellect.Wisdom does not necessarily come with age.Rather, wisdom is knowledge used in a spiritually way.Pseudo-wisdom is characterized by bitter envy, selfish ambition, disorder, sin, and pride.Next: The final passage in ch 3, and a passage most churches ignore!3:13 τίς σοφὸς καὶ ἐπιστήμων ἐν ὑμῖν; δειξάτω ἐκ τῆς καλῆς ἀναστροφῆς τὰ ἔργα αὐτοῦ ἐν πραύ̈τητι σοφίας. 14 εἰ δὲ ζῆλον πικρὸν ἔχετε καὶ ἐριθείαν ἐν τῇ καρδίᾳ ὑμῶν, μὴ κατακαυχᾶσθε τῆς ἀληθείας καὶ ψεύδεσθε. 15 οὐκ ἔστιν αὕτη ἡ σοφία ἄνωθεν κατερχομένη, ἀλλὰ ἐπίγειος, ψυχική, δαιμονιώδης. 16 ὅπου γὰρ ζῆλος καὶ ἐριθεία, ἐκεῖ ἀκαταστασία καὶ πᾶν φαῦλον πρᾶγμα.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 3:17-19In 1st-century Palestine, James was a force for unity and peace.“James is burdened with a desire for communal unity, but unfortunately the inevitable result of unruly tongues, unholy zeal, and unchecked party spirit is chaos and division.”He had a sterling reputation (among the Jews and the Christians of his day). He was grieved by the many factions and frictions in Israel.Paul too had such a spirit (2 Cor 10:1ff), and taught this to others (Gal 5:23; 6:1). He trainedTimothy to pursue gentleness (1 Tim 6:11), and Titus as well (Titus 3:1ff).brother Jesus (Matt 11:28-29), who taught, "Blessed are the meek" (Matt 5:5).Yet the evangelical concept of manhood has changed greatly in the last half-century.Personality, including charisma, is more valued than character. A real man is a take-charge guy, and (in leadership) typically embraces with a "command and control" approach to the ministry.The "man's man" may be a bit rough around the edges. He enjoys (even needs) a good fight (or war). He is a hunter, an athlete, and a rugged outdoorsman. For sure he is no "sissy."He may be a chauvinist (no one's perfect). He may abuse others verbally or even sexually (though such peccadilloes are downplayed or covered up.) Also tolerated may be outbursts of shouting, anger, zeal (without knowledge), impulsivity, and insensitivity. Perhaps communication skills are suboptimal. But it's all good, because surely someone has to lead.Passages like Jas 3:17-18 are seen, or interpreted, as somehow “feminine."Mentioned during the reflection: Jesus & John Wayne.But surely the standard of manhood is Jesushimself, the perfect human!If you'd like more on these themes, please check out the Sermon on the Mount series (40 devotionals, recorded in 2020) here.Next: some brief background to James 4, then a reading of the entire letter (NASB).In teaching this sort of "wisdom" (Jas 3:17-18), James was only following the lead of his
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.To appreciate James and the logical flow of the letter, it is vital to understand the political background of Palestine in the New Testament period. These were troubled times: oppression under the Romans and those richer Jews who acted as their pawns, exorbitant taxes and food shortages and, with them, rioting and anti-Roman nationalistic fervor.Some landowners even hired to execute or at least threaten tenants who were falling behind in their payments. The politically active Zealots, to whom Simon the Zealot, one of Jesus' apostles, had belonged (Matthew 10:4), urged the nation to revolt. This pressing combination of factors climaxed in the Jewish War of 66-73 AD. In 70 AD Jerusalem and its temple were destroyed, never to be rebuilt.If the history seems tangled, let's simplify: Even in a time of social challenge and devastating famine, the rich were still oppressing the poor. This is why James addresses the pride of the rich (1:9-11; 2:1-9, 13-17), persecution by the rich (2:6-7; 5:6) and economic exploitation by the rich (5:4-6). Patient endurance, not violent retaliation, is enjoined upon the Christians. Without this perspective, the letter of James is difficult to appreciate and to understand.Next: Waging War
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 4:1-3Context: link with chapter 3 – peaceful vs. violent approaches to the problems in our world.The peace, shalom, of which James speaks is more than peace in our hearts, or harmony in the church. It's not difficult to imagine there were quarrels within the church—but killing?Some spiritualize the word – killing = hating (Matt 5). But this isn't persuasive.Is this referring to outsiders? Not all commentators take these words as literally applying to insiders. But it seems to me the passage makes more sense if James's words are directed at political violence on the part of insiders.After all, “Jesus, like James, confronted political and religious oppositions of his day, when Zealot militarism and Essene passivity stood at opposite ends of the spectrum.”Zealots (those favoring violence as a legitimate means of driving out the Romans, and damaging those who collaborated with them—the Sadducees).Essenes (the Dead Sea community that had withdrawn from the system, and were deeply critical of Jerusalem)Sadducees – arranged death of James 62, and with the Pharisees the death of Jesus in 30.An example of an intention of intramural murder is found in Acts 23:21-22.Isn't it also hard to believe that various Corinthians: Babbled like a kindergarten class in the belief God's Spirit was moving them? Looked down on the apostle Paul? Denied the literal resurrection of Christ? Were proud that they weren't disciplining a member in an immoral relationship with his stepmother? Were taking each other to court? Were getting drunk during the Lord's Supper?Is it so difficult to believe some Christians would support violent causes? Or perhaps better said, support causes that sometimes resort to violence? Just listen to what the, Americans, the Dutch, the French, the Russians, and many other national groups are advocating—just check the social media or watch the news!Our world: Nearly 200 nations, 40 major wars, 100s of minor wars. Civil unrest, domestic terrorism…. And much of this violence is justified as God's will. A good deal of the violence is carried out “in the name of Jesus.”Is there a contradiction with James 1, on prayer?We shouldn't expect the Lord to answer our prayers if they're in conflict with his will.Asking for something in Jesus' name is not a magic talisman. It's not a formula, either… (It's not how NT prayers end, anyway.) When we seek the Lord's will, as Christians, then all our prayers are already, automatically “in Jesus' name.”Just as there are two kinds of wisdom, there are two fundamental responses to our problems (personal, local, global):Patience. Be Peacemakers.Anger. Resort to violencePolitically motivated violence, revolution, and killing are forbidden. Further: Law, Allegiance, RevolutionThe next reflection in the series: The Worldly ChurchWhy is it so hard to believe any Christians would commit murder? (Why, because adultery, compared to murder, is relatively okay?)
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 4:4-6The adultery referred to in James 4:4 refers to the marriage between YHWH and his people (Isa 54:1-6; Jer 2:2).OT condemnations of spiritual infidelity: Isa 1:21; 50:1; 57:3; Jer 3:7-10, 20; 13:27; Ezek 16:23-26, 38; 23:45; Hos 1-3; 9:1.NT condemnations: Matt 12:39; 16:4; Mark 8:38; 2 Cor 11:1-2; Eph 5:22-23; Rev 19:7; 21:9.Abraham was not a friend of the world, but a friend of God (2:23).See also 1 John 2:15-17.Areas of worldliness:Worldly language, dress, entertainment…Worldly values: security, wealth, materialism, conspicuous consumption…Befriending the world by resorting to its methods in order to advance God's kingdom.Hyper-patriotism and nationalism. Waging war with the weapons of the world (2 Cor 10).Failing to care about those in the greatest need. Don't say, "My town is prosperous, and there are plenty of people better off than me." Let's lift our eyes and consider the entire world. Given the instant access nearly all of us have to information globally, we have no excuse for not being informed, and even less for not caring!V.5 is difficult, but however it is translated, or however we understand it, the passage points to our covenant relationship with the Lord, who is our husband. That is, we the church are the bride of Christ, and must not share our affections with another lover.V.6 is a strong biblical principle“The proud” are not merely those who don't take input well. The proud are those who side with the high and mighty and the powerful.James is spotlighting pride and confidence in our own abilities and policies, which are actually at odds with God's will, to achieve our own goals, like security, power, property, wealth, control.In James's day, final deliverance did not come from compromise with the Romans (Sadducees) or armed revolt against them (Zealots), but from trusting in the Lord. The political route led to physical and spiritual disaster.Next: Submit, resist, draw near, wash, and be purified
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 4:7-8Review: James 4:4 is a passage that most churches don't teach:Stepping on toes – consumerism..Challenging specific sins from the pulpitWarning members against the dangers / ugly side of politicsRejecting nationalism, thinking instead of our global communityCaring genuinely (and knowing about) the needs of the poor and oppressed globally.In light of these considerations, is it not fair to conclude that most churches are worldly?Some heart-searching questionsAre my spending patterns the same as my neighbors', or do I truly honor the Lord with my wealth?Do I lovingly confront others when I see sin in their lives? And do I welcome their input when they sin in mine?Do I have a high threshold for tolerating sex and violence in what I watch? How about “explicit-language” music?Am I informed about the world, and do I care about the plight of the oppressed?Are we really living as the holy people of God? Or have we accepted the values of our country / culture — which in most of the West means the pursuit of pleasure and a high standard of living—backed up by a strong military.Points from today's text:The devil is stronger than we may think, but he's also weaker than we may imagine. Resist him!How does the Lord wish us to renounce the ways of the world?It means relying on the Lord instead of our own power, wisdom, pundits...We must choose. We can't embrace God and the world.For every one of us, this has both personal and political implicationsAs the people of God, it's probable fair to conclude we have not been submissive, holy, pure, and focused.Further: Jesus & Politics (about 40 minutes; includes complete notes).Next: Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 4:9-10 We can't be merely academic or ethereal about our sin. An emotional response to God's Word and God's holiness is in order."Blessed are those who mourn" (Matt 5:4)—is a passage often interpreted in the early church as mourning for one's sins.Mourning and wailing are signs of repentance, not substitutes for it.“And he will lift you up….”Similar passages: Job 5:11; 22:29; Ps 149:4; Prov 29:25; Ezek 17:24; 21:31; Luke 18:14; 1 Pet 5:6PrayerI confess my iniquity; I am troubled by my sin. – Psalm 38:18Prayer makes godly persons, and puts within them the mind of Christ, the mind of humility, of self-surrender, of service, of pity, and of prayer. If we really pray, we will become more like God, or else we will quit praying. – E.M. Bounds (1835-1913)The neglected heart will soon be a heart overrun with worldly thoughts; the neglected life will soon become a moral chaos; the church that is not jealously protected by mighty intercession and sacrificial labors will before long become the abode of every evil bird and the hiding place for unsuspected corruption. The creeping wilderness will soon take over that church that trusts in its own strength and forgets to watch and pray. – A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)The Litany of Humility (included in Amen. Collected Prayers and Hymns for the Journey, 2022)NEXT: Only One Judge
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.."Humble Yourself in the Sight of the Lord" (our previous reflection)—great passage, and great song.True prayer is neither a mere mental exercise nor a vocal performance. It is far deeper than that—it is spiritual transaction with the Creator of Heaven and Earth. – Charles Spurgeon (1834-1892)It is because of the hasty and superficial conversation with God that the sense of sin is so weak and that no motives have power to help you to hate and flee from sin as you should. – A. W. Tozer (1897-1963)Historical background: In the three years before James died (59-62 AD) there were quarrels between the lower priests, who were aligned with the populace of Jerusalem, and the powerful Sadducean priests. They were at odds over social and economic issues. Josephus reports that the acrimonious debate was characterized by “name-calling.” He adds, “And when they clashed, they used abusive language and threw stones” (Ant. 20.180).James 4:11-12Notice that we are back to the topic of the tongue:Slander. The ancient rabbis said: “He who slanders another thereby slanders God” and “Whosoever speaks against the true Shepherd is like one who speaks against God.”Judging.Words intended to hurtIt is not in our power to save or to destroy.In the evangelical world. Matt 7:1 is now quoted more than John 3:16! To learn about the 12 types of judging in the Bible, please see Judge Not!Next: The (Wannabe) Rich Fool
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 4:13-17The brevity of life: we are mists.If it is the Lord's will – adding “we shall live…” This is much more than “inshállah.”Verse 17 is about how we go about making our plans. It's not simply a passage about acting against our conscience.We can identify several social groups in the community James addresses. The poor include subsistence farmers. There are rich landowners, and quite possibly absentee landlords. There are entrepreneurs—who hope to become wealthy.Entrepreneurs should not necessarily assume they will still be alive next year!An ancient prayer for Yom Kippur asked the Lord for a year of low prices, a year of plenty, and a year of business dealings (Yoma 5:2). But it's not commerce or even wealth that is condemned. It's the spiritually nonchalant desire to become rich. In their complacency their thinking was secular, not godly.That's the issue. Like the rich man in the Parable of the Rich Fool (Luke 12:13-21).Next: through the whole book of James in the CSBBoasting in our plans—failing to include God in our equation.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:1-6Last time: In "Wannabe Rich Fools," James speaks of entrepreneurs who fail to take God into account. This time: of actual rich fools who fail to take God into account.A prophetic woe!Their corrupt wealth will "testify" against them. That is, their unjust actions demand a verdict.The rich are hoarding grain, garments, gold.Last Days = time from Pentecost on, the last phase of human history before the second coming of the Lord.There was noalready in.It was not a promising system for the little guy! He loses out. The innocent poor not only didn't oppose the fat cats; they couldn't.Possible legal overtones: using the courts to their advantage. Who gets the better lawyer? Who's better connected?Murder, too.ZealotsEmulated Phinehas and ElijahAlong with the Pharisees, the Zealots were the radicals.More on this in reflection 31 (next talk)And some Christians, directly or indirectlyLuxury = a standard that applies to most of us hearing this talk. Ours is unbelievably higher than that of the medieval kings and queens of Europe.Rich people: Slaughter – the fat cats will be slaughtered!Luke 16:19-31James doesn't automatically condemn all rich Christians (ch 1). But these rich persons stand condemned.Next: "The Judge at the Door" excuse not to pay wages, as the harvest was
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:7-9More about the ZealotsIn the Jewish War, they took revenge on the rich, according to Josephus.Rooted in the 2nd century BC:Revolution (Judas Maccabaeus)The ensuing Hasmonean dynasty becomes corruptThe Zealots targeted corrupt Hasmoneans – even assassinating a high priest.Later they targeted Romans. = dagger-bearers.Herod the Great tries to extinguish the movement, forcing them to Galilee.Later history (the Jewish War, 66-73 AD):Wealthy priestly families attacked. (They enjoyed a very high standard of living.)The Roman Emperor, Nero, aware of the seriousness of the rebellion in Palestine, sent his best general Vespasian, with three legions, to quell the outbreak. Vespasian's troops easily penetrated Josephus' defences and dispersed the Galilean army.Gamla vanquished, 4000 Zealots killed, while 5000 hurled themselves over the cliff.Masada—another amazing story of resistance.Today's text urges patience. Recall the socioeconomic disparities / lack of love, as well as the real possibility of persecution.No grumbling or bad attitudes.We are reminded not to be judgmental (negativity)—harking back to 4:11-12.The rich will get what's coming to them: 1:10-11; 4:9-10; 5:1-6.Nearness of the Lord can be taken two ways.The Judge is standing at the door.Awareness of that fact should keep us humble.This should also prevent us from resorting to violence, or association with violent powers, when we feel desperate about the injustices in the world—or the wickedness of our enemies.Tomorrow: Hang in there!Sicarii
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:10-11Why patient endurance is neededSocioeconomic disparitiesOppressionAnd (maybe) because the Lord's return has not yet taken place.Regular opposition from the worldProphets—why they needed to be patientTo honor the covenantDidn't pile on new doctrines, or extra rules.Generally poor responseCalled people to TorahDiscouragementSome ministered for years, some for decadesThis was very tough work, emotionally. Recall Elijah, Ezekiel, Habakkuk, and (esp.) Hosea and Jeremiah.Greatly outnumberedState prophets, did not challenge corrupt leaders, and connived at unfaithful livingIt was dangerous to be a true prophetFate of the prophetsJeremiah – beating, stocks, prison, cisternIsaiah – sawn in twoElijah – Jezebel after him!Daniel – lion's denAmos – heavy opposition from rel estab in BethelEtc.JobA sort of drama…Job questioned God—but he did not give up.Hardship: Lost children, respect / honor, wealth—but he persevered.Compassion / mercy on Job? Far more at the end than the beginning.Tomorrow: Yes and No
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:12Not referring to profanitySimilar to 3rd commandment – context of oath-taking.Not that we should throw around the words Jesus or God carelessly.Note connection with the Sermon on the Mount (Matt 5). Frequent references to SOM material in James.Based on these passages, some Christians refuse to take oaths. Their word is their bond.Yet what about signing documents? I should not have to sign a mortgage statement, or work contract, because I honor my pledges. But in this fallen world few are totally reliable.Note that the Bible does allow us to go back on our word in certain situations. Balance these two passages:Ps 15: Lord, who may dwell in your sacred tent? Who may live on your holy mountain? The one whose way of life is blameless, who does what is righteous, who speaks the truth from their heart… who keeps an oath even when it hurts, and does not change their mind…Prov 6:1-5: If you… have been trapped by what you said, ensnared by the words of your mouth…Free yourself, like a gazelle from the hand of the hunter, like a bird from the snare of the fowler.Sometimes wisdom or love requires that we balance principles.In a more political /military context, unless the oath involves a false god – as soldiers might have to take (one of the 3 things new converts were forbidden to do).Zealot oaths would not have entailed idolatry (apart from the idolatry of power), but they would have entailed rash promises to courses of violence and coercion.Beware the dangers of political promises, oaths, alignments – Jesus & Politics.We should all be people of our word.Tomorrow: Pray x 7
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:13-18Prayer7x in this passage"You must pray with all your might. That does not mean saying your prayers, or sitting gazing about in church or chapel with eyes wide open while someone else says them for you. It means fervent, effectual, untiring wrestling with God. You can be sure that this kind of prayer the devil and the world and your own indolent, unbelieving nature will oppose. They will pour water on this flame." – William Booth (1829-1912)Singing—music is not only an important part of culture, but touches our very souls.Elders.It's assumed throughout the NT that churches are led by elders.What if you don't have elders? My opinion is that whoever functions in the oversight role is a person of prayer, and hence someone to be trusted to pray for you.AnointingWhat about the Roman Catholic interpretation? The person summoning the elders is ill / weak – not likely to need extreme unction. This is a promise about life/restoration, not a preparation for death.What about the charismatic / Pentecostal teaching about healing? This passage does not speak of anyone with a miraculous gift of healing.Probably this is a general principle, not an iron-clad promise.For more, see Q&A 752.ConfessionMost churches ignore this passage! One wonders whether this is because members refuse to be open, or because church leaders themselves have something to hide.Historically, the early church practiced a rather public confession. This eventually evolved into the confessional (in Catholicism). Then (in Protestantism) it virtually dropped out, or became confession only to God.How honest are we—really? “…. The Christian faith calls for an open and voluntary confession of our wrongs, whenever we are wrong. This… is challenging and it may certainly be embarrassing for anyone who has to do it, but it is in fact an act of moral courage. For in confession we are called to do what no human does naturally and easily: to go on record against ourselves.” (Os Guinness, in Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times. Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity, 2014), 80).Elijah: we can relate to him. Anyone can pray, not just apostles & prophets!Next: The Truth about Falling Away
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James 5:19-20Why does the letter end this way? It is likely people were leaving the fellowship—not persevering, or perhaps discouraged because of prejudice.Wandering "from the truth" us about lifestyle more than doctrinal confusion.A correction about "falling away" and "restoration."Unfortunate terminologyFalling away: Heb 6:4-6; Heb 10:26; 2 Pet 2:20-22Stumbling: Matt 13:21; 26:31; John 16:1; etc.RestorationGal 6:1-2; 2 Cor 13:9; 1 Pet 5:10This is for insiders, active members of the body, not those who have left.Ps 23:3—Don't we all need "restoring," refreshment, from time to time?ImplicationsLet's avoid unbiblical language, esp. when terms reinforce false understandings of God and his Word.Don't speak of former members as fallaways. Rather, how about "walkaways" or "wanderers"?There is no comeback from falling away. But only God knows with total certainty the point of no return. See also Prov 29:1.Yes, in a sense those who have quit need some form of “restoration,” yet this isn't biblical language and is also likely to reinforce the false notion that there can be only one institutional group on earth faithfully following the Lord.Sins covered over, or forgiveness? The latter is more likely.If the thoughts on falling away and restoration are new to you, I can assure you they are actually ancient!It's hard to fight against tradition, and traditional language. But let's strive to do so all the same.Next: James in the ISV
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James is a “pillar of the church” (Gal 2:9), brother of the Lord, and highly respected leader. But he also speaks prophetically—his tongue dipped in the white-hot fire of God's justice and righteous indignation.Try to feel the strength, the conviction, the vehemence of his words (ten selections from the NAB, adapted and abbreviated). Listen closely. Let these direct and challenging words sink in (1:6-8, 9-11, 22, 26; 2:19-20; 4:3-4, 8-9, 12, 14-16; 5:1-5).“No New Testament document… Has such a socially sensitized conscience and so explicitly champions the cause of the economically disadvantaged, the victims of oppression or unjust wage agreements, and the poor who are seen in the widows and orphans who have no legal defender to speak up for their rights. The rich merchants and luxury-loving agricultural magnates are held up to a withering and scornful reproach. Not only are their practices condemned as part of their profound attitude that forgets God and boasts in proud achievement. Their treatment of the workers and the needy is just as forthrightly exposed. And, to cap it all, James directs his shafts not simply at their amassing of wealth, nor even at the wealth itself – represented in the grain and the gold and the garments that were their trademark – which is doomed to be blighted. The rich people themselves will share the fate of their possessions. This indictment marks one of the Bible's most thoroughgoing judgments on wealth and its possessors.” (Ralph P. Martin, James in the WBC, lxvii).Questions for you and me:When do we get indignant? When our rights are infringed, or when we see the powerful taking advantage of the powerless?Are we regularly reading the prophetic portions of Scripture, or do we neglect them? (Highly recommended: Abraham Joshua Heschel, The Prophets.)Are we speaking up—in church, at work, wherever there is injustice—or holding silent?Are we sharing our wealth with the needy, or giving in order to alleviate their pain and suffering?Next: James the Peacemaker
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Acts 15Last time: James was a prophet (fiery hot). But he was also a peacemaker.The Jew-Gentile Controversy (Acts 15:1, 5) was the most contentious issue in the 1st century.The Judaizers held that to be truly spiritual—or (in this case) even to be saved—a man must be circumcised. Circumcision entailed following the terms of the old covenant / the Law of Moses.The apostles taught otherwise.The Council of Jerusalem (49 AD) focused on this serious issue.The apostles and elders discussed the matter. Probably Galatians was written in 48, before the Council—otherwise it would be odd that Paul didn't appeal to the decision made in Jerusalem.Peter takes a stand.Paul and Barnabas provide evidence.James guides the meeting towards a constructive conclusion. He frames the issue in light of scripture, and then suggests that a letter, personally delivered by respected leaders, is the best practical measure. His suggestion is followed.The result is edifying.It is clear from passages like this that James was a most respected leader in the Jerusalem church.For you and me: Aim to become good listeners, carefully hearing and evaluating both sides of any issue.Think theologically—scripturally—about spiritual issues and also about our world.Let's craft practical solutions to problems, and entrust them to others. Don't dominate.Be a team player.Remember Jesus' words, Blessed are the peacemakers… (Matt 5:9).Next: Jamesthe Martyr
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.James was martyred in AD 62.Prophet, Peacemaker, MartyrMartyrs and confessors in the early churchJames's executionThrown from pinnacle and beaten over the head (Jos. 2.23.12).“If a priest performed the temple service while unclean… the young priests take him out of the temple court and split his skull with clubs” (Sanh. 81b).Responses to James:The rich: Ananus II reacted violently to James' denunciations of the rich and influential, perhaps more than to his lack of patriotism and his following a false messiah.Yet James was highly respected among the Jews. Even the Pharisees defended him.Much in the epistle of James indirectly points to the danger James was in—James, the prophet and peacemaker who was executed early in his 4th decade as a follower of his brother (1:12; 2:6-7; 4:1-2; 4:13-14; 5:10-11; 5:6).Champions of righteousness and peace often meet violent deaths: Mahatma Gandhi; Martin Luther King; Oscar Romero… Jesus and James.“[Jesus] flatly refused the temptations of power and fame offered him by the Grand Inquisitor from hell. He was no Judas Maccabaeus redivivus [explain]. His conspiracy was not that of the Zealots of his day. His revolutionary manifesto was not a bloody call to arms like that of Marx and Engels, Hitler and Himmler, Mao Zedong and Pol Pot. His mission was not at the point of a sword like Muhammad's. In fact, Jesus was the unarmed prophet who renounced the sword, and seemed to turn away from the use of force that any civilization needs in order to build and sustain itself. And he appeared to show little or no interest in many of the burning issues that parade across our television screens, shout at us in the headlines of our newspapers, and rage like wildfire through our social media.” Os Guinness, Renaissance: The Power of the Gospel However Dark the Times (Downers Grove, IL: IVP, 2014), 95.James breathed and lived in that same spirit!Next / finally: My personal takeaways
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.108 power-packed verses!Chapter 1 introduces the 12 themes of chapters 2-5.James is practical. James covers a whole range of everyday life issues: how we respond to pain and suffering, dealing with conflict, how our speech can help or harm, dealing with poverty and wealth, even how we should think about planning for the future. We never struggle for application!James is direct. James moves quickly from issue to issue. Much of what he says is straightforward to understand. There is no chance for us to get bogged down.James is vivid. Throughout the letter James gives us pictures and illustrations to help his message hit home in a vivid way. He speaks of forest fires, fruit-bearing plants, sea ships, horses—and that's just one chapter! The preacher does not have to scratch his head trying to think up illustrations for the message!James is stretching. James assumes that the gospel touches every area of life. He does not let us off the hook in any of them! James likens God's word to a mirror, and studying his own letter certainly has the effect of revealing to us what our hearts and attitudes are truly like.James is encouraging. Underlying all that James says is a desire to magnify Jesus Christ. It is Christ's glory that drives everything. Along the way James gives us wonderful reminders of the grace and goodness of God. He can afford to be challenging because the grace of God is so compelling.Five verses that strike me personally are 1:19; 2:8; 3:1; 4:13; 5:20. What strikes you? How is God's Word speaking to you—not only in James, but in all 66 inspired books in Scripture?
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Here I share some of my own thoughts about elders (overseers) and church leadership. I do not speak for a congregation or denomination. These are simply my own reflections on this important subject.Passages considered in the lesson (28 minutes):Acts 13:1-4; 14:23; 15:1-35; 20:17-38.Soon after churches were intentionally planted, team leadership / oversight was established (Acts 14; in Acts 8:4 and 11:19, we see the incidental establishment of the Christian communities). Of course one-man leadership might typify a just-planted church, for whom the church planter was a type of "father" (1 Cor 4:15). Yet the N.T. does not envision a protracted autocratic church polity, nor is this healthy -- too much pressure on one man; too little teamwork.The congregation knows who its leaders are. It's probable that the overseers oversaw house churches. In either case, as shepherds they were personally involved with the flock (Acts 20:28; 1 Peter 5:1-5; John 10:2-3,11-13).Congregational autonomy does not mean that these leadership teams were isolated. When there was a need, they communicated (Acts 15).When the apostle needed to communicate with the Ephesian church leadership (Acts 20), he sent for the elders.1 Timothy 5:17; 4:12-16; 3:1-7Elders directed the churches. The buck stopped there (Acts 20:17-38; Philippians 1:1; etc).Some (all?) focused on teaching and preaching (5:17), which Timothy modeled for them (4:13).Paul provides a list of qualities, more than "qualifications."Character is key, and in the long term is far more valuable than charisma.Paul assumes that the overseers will be husbands and fathers. It's not so clear that he requires them to be, although a man's family certainly reflects his character and leadership ability. (Would Paul himself not be qualified to serve as an elder? How about Jesus?)Older men were presumably more available for the work of shepherding the flock, as their family responsibilities would be simpler (older or grown children), vocations well established, more flexible in their schedules.It seems hypocritical (to me) to hold overseers to a higher standard of integrity than the church leaders (evangelists or "pastors") to whom they are accountable.It's unhealthy to put the spotlight on the children (as in the strictest interpretation of Titus 1:6), instead of on the man. Throughout the Bible, it's the shepherds who are held to the highest standard (e.g. Ezekiel 34; John 10).The list in 1 Tim 3 is a description of a mature, male, Christian leader.Proverbs 31:10-31In some senses this woman is "super-mom." She embodies all the ideals and respected qualities of a spiritual woman. Does that mean that a lesser women isn't worthy of full respect?Could it not be that 1 Timothy 3 refers to the goal of church leaders, even though overseers may fall short? Or that these are qualities to be collectively embodied in the group?Ephesians 4:11Apostles were few in number, and persisted for a single generation (Acts 1:22; 1 Cor 9:1). Their purpose was to establish the church, as living links to the Lord Jesus, so that his message was understood and preserved.Prophets, whatever the exact nature of their work, were also part of the foundational level of the church (Ephesians 2:20).Evangelists were highly mobile bringers of good news. They established churches and were dynamos of inspiration, evangelism, and leadership (Acts 21:8; 2 Timothy 4:5).Although there has always been a need for evangelists -- and always will be -- they are not explicitly identified in church history. Rather, in the 2nd century each congregation was led by overseers. In time, an elaborate hierarchy was erected, yet this did not include evangelists, probably because they were not permanent fixtures in local church leadership.As to the question of whether women can serve as evangelists, consider what's involved in this role: Going alone, or with a partner, to a town or are in order to preach; facing opposition and perhaps even imprisonment; putting herself into a dangerous position (gender harassment); etc. As long as "evangelists" are really serving as "senior pastors" (inspirational speakers / administrators), it will be somewhat difficult to uphold the necessity of male leadership (evangelists).Teachers (assuming "teaching shepherds" isn't the way the phrase in this verse should be rendered) were explicitly present in some cities, like Antioch and Corinth (Acts 13:1; 1 Cor 12:28). In a more general sense, all should strive to be teachers (Hebrews 5:11-14), though with humility and caution (James 3:1).Shepherds (overseers, elders -- the three terms were used interchangeably; note: this word should not be translated into Latin [pastor] simply in order to preserve a much cherished term). This is the only position of the four or five that is normative for church leadership, and the earliest centuries of church history consistently follow the N.T. pattern.Suggested reading:Biblical Eldership (Strauch)The Equipping Pastor (Stevens)They Smell Like Sheep (Anderson)Brothers, We Are Not Professionals (Piper)Etc.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.The purpose of this podcast is to foster a Christian leadership culture. This is an important study for anyone in leadership, or considering it. Please listen to this podcast (18 minutes) and share it with others whom you may be able to influence.Key Greek verb: katakurieuein (to lord it over, dominate, domineer, wield authority, etc).Scriptures including the Greek word katakurieuein:Acts 19:161 Peter 5:1-3Mark 10:42-45 (Matthew 20:25-28)Genesis 1:28 (Greek O.T. only)ApplicationsBullying (not being pushy, forceful, or a poor listener)Personal exampleInput & feedback (welcoming it)Humility"Ministry" language (implying non-staff are not in the ministry)Local leadership (local decision making)The danger with hierarchies (misunderstanding, abuse, stunted growth)The need for vigilance--otherwise the ways of the Gentiles will take overQuestions for leaders (especially):Is my leadership style overpowering?Do I call others to go where I have not gone?Am I fond of position, prestige, perquisites, or priority?Do I see the danger of authority, hierarchy, and mandate?Am I known for welcoming diversity of opinion, or do I feel threatened by those who may question my judgment?Do I expect others to submit to the authority of God and his Word, or to me and my word?Great quotes:"The very first thing which needs to be said about Christian ministers of all kinds is that they are 'under' people (as their servants) rather than 'over' them (as their leaders, let alone their lords). Jesus made this absolutely plain. The chief characteristic of Christian leaders, he insisted, is humility not authority, and gentleness not power." -- John Stott, The Gospel and the End of TimeFor the opposite view, the words of Nietzsche are apropos: “A man who strives after great things, looks upon every one whom he encounters on his way either as a means of advance, or a delay and hindrance—or as a temporary resting-place. His peculiar lofty BOUNTY to his fellow-men is only possible when he attains his elevation and dominates..." (Beyond Good and Evil, 273). Notice the philosopher feels he is doing a favor to others by dominating them.One more quote, back on the believing side: "We would do well not to be enamored by the kind of leadership that is so prized by politicians and CEOs, the kind that is conspicuous and, as we say, 'effective.' Forget about charisma, go for character." -- Eugene Peterson, The Unnecessary Pastor
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Inappropriate forms of control, 1-3Jesus called them together and said, “You know that those who are regarded as rulers of the Gentiles lord it over them, and their high officials exercise authority over them. Not so with you. Instead, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, and whoever wants to be first must be slave of all. For even the Son of Man did not come to be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45)Big decisions require approval of church minister?Must trim vacation not to miss Sunday.Overweight people cannot be up front on Sunday.Send in stats Sunday night: visitors, missing members, etc.Threaten with disfellowship just because disagreed with the leader's decision.Removing people from the membership list for missing midweek.Can't come to leaders' meeting unless you had a visitor that week.Must provide (free) house-cleaning or babysitting services to leaders.Must attend all events—even if scheduled at the last minute.Control in other areas: relationships, finances, employment, domicile, marriage, family…Are the people serving the leader, or is the leader serving the people?1) Heavy loadsThey tie up heavy, cumbersome loads and put them on other people's shoulders, but they themselves are not willing to lift a finger to move them (Matt 23:4).“No physical food before spiritual food”—personal devotional rule.“One-a-day challenge”—and other evangelistic rules.Financial control—encouraging people to go into debt in order to make contribution. Or group leaders seeing what everyone has given (standing around in circle).*** Negative evangelistic impact“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people's faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to (Matt 23:13)—heavyhandedness can also prevent people from coming to Christ.2) Prohibitions with an appearance of wisdomSince you died with Christ to the elemental spiritual forces of this world, why, as though you still belonged to the world, do you submit to its rules:“Do not handle! Do not taste! Do not touch!”? These rules, which have to do with things that are all destined to perish with use, are based on merely human commands and teachings. Such regulations indeed have an appearance of wisdom, with their self-imposed worship, their false humility and their harsh treatment of the body, but they lack any value in restraining sensual indulgence (Col 2:20-23).Discipline for drinking alcohol—of course some people should never drink.Disfellowship for dating someone outside one's own fellowship—assuming you are the only Christians in town? Is this really an area in which elders / church leaders should be involvedDisfellowship for owning & watching TV.Forbidding films of a certain rating.Cards—because of the association with gambling.Dancing—a lot of it is worldly, but how do we monitor this?3) Mark 7—Manmade rules & traditionsHe replied, “Isaiah was right when he prophesied about you hypocrites; as it is written: “‘These people honor me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me. They worship me in vain; their teachings are merely human rules.' You have let go of the commands of God and are holding on to human traditions” (Mark 7:6-8).Every church inevitably needs some "rules" (not necessarily bad), like "Church starts at 9:00," or "Members need to participate in a small group."Still, these do not have divine authority.Yes, younger disciples often benefit from guidelines, yet even then these should be a matter of consent, not law. Legalism will shape their concept of God.Best practices ≠ commands of God.Distinguish church traditions.When we fail to make the distinction, then people stop obeying the start using external metrics: visitors, QTs, days without overeating, etc.Let's not go beyond what is written (Deut 4:2; Prov 30:5-6; 1 Cor 4:6; Rev 22:18-19).In Control, Part 2: Three more areas of inappropriate control.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Inappropriate control, 4-64) Abuse of authorityLeaders have authority, but not to create their own rules, or in the language of Jeremiah, “to rule by their own authority” (Jer 5:30-31)."Giving up everything" is not unlimited, but should be interpreted in the light of apostolic teaching, as found in the epistles and in Acts.Again, we mustn't fail to distinguish between principle and practical (implementation). These rules may only be called “guidelines,” but you can tell whether they have been elevated to near-biblical status by the reaction when they are violated.Violation of confidentialityDiscussing others' personal lives in a leadership or staff meetingManipulation in discipling based on a leader's knowledge of people's weaknesses / sins.Definition: "Spiritual abuse is the mistreatment of a person by someone in a position of spiritual authority, diminishing that person's spiritual vitality and growth. At the core of spiritual abuse is excessive control of others, such as religious leaders who use manipulation to compel attendance, use guilt to get people to give more money, take emotional or sexual advantage in the name of comfort or compassion, accuse those who disagree with them of being rebellious against God, or demand absolute, unquestioning obedience regardless of whether it is reasonable or biblical." (June Hunt, "Abuse," in Clinton & Hawkins, The Popular Encyclopedia of Christian Counseling, 177).5) Controlling words = abuse“It's God's will… that you move / stay / give up____ / etc.”“You need to obey me.”“I prayed about it and I sense God wants you to…”“Lord put this on my heart…” (no comeback)“You have a bad heart” or “You're proud” (in cases of disagreement) or “You're independent” (could that be a good thing?).“You are my disciples.” We are his disciples. Only once in the NT do we read of a person (other than Jesus) with personal disciples) — Acts 9:25. Yet even there, “his disciples” doesn't appear in all manuscripts.“You're being divisive.”6) Misused scriptures1 Cor 11:1—imitation in contextHeb 13:17—elders—What do elders do in the NT?What is emphasized in the letters (meeting the needs):Not about programs! About character.Luke 5:5—Because you say so—arbitrary!Exodus 18—discipling hierarchyLuke 14:33—give up everything—for Christ, not for another personPsalm 105:15—Don't “touch” (criticize) my “holy ones” (leaders).No one likes to be controlled, handled, managed, threatened, or manipulated.Relevant here in Atlanta as we discuss moving forward with one-another relationshipsWhat we do on the individual level, we may do on the political level. E.g., one nation invades in order to control—put its stamp on that country—the imperialistic “We know best.”Jesus is our Lord, no earthly human being or church leader.Yet there is a good sort of control often mentioned in scriptures: Self-control. internal, not external.Adults want to be trusted.I am grateful to be in a culture of “high trust, low control”—as opposed to “low trust, high control.”See1 Kings 12 for a study in leadership styles: harsh / controlling vs. permissive / ungodly.Of course, even if we've added no rules to those of Scripture, we may still promote / personally fall into legalism.Type 1 Legalism:Attempting to power one's way into God's grace by good works. These works don't necessarily mean requirements outside scripture. This may entail an unhealthy attitude towards obedience / acceptance by God, usually accompanied by anxiety over one's spiritual status before God.Type 2 Legalism: Following or enforcing extrabiblical rules — laws that, however well intended, are not explicitly found in Scripture. (Extra, Latin = outside; extrabiblical = outside Scripture.)Examples: evangelistic quotas; insistence on perfect living or perfect cognition before baptism; mandated minutes of prayer; compulsory attendance at various church events. Now these may be good things, in principle. We appreciate evangelism, knowledge, prayer, devotional strategy, and church attendance. The question is, what does the gospel require?Legalism is a universal human temptation.Spirituality—one's own and others'—is constantly monitored, evaluated by adherence to rule-keeping. This erodes the security + confidence we should have in the Lord (1 John 5:13; Matt 11:28-30). The need: mature leaders, not neophytes! Scope of ministry should be in proportion to the biological and spiritual maturity of the brother or sister in leadership.We may be critical of the Pharisees (Matt 15; 23) and the Circumcision Party (Ti 1; see Acts 15)—and rightly so -- but what about us?[Conclusion]We have covered a lot of ground:Burdensome requirementsProhibitions that go beyond the scripturesManmade rules and traditionsAbuse of authorityControlling wordsMisused scriptures.Have we added to the demands and commands of Scripture? How to tell? What gets people into trouble?Violating guidelines? – often for the sake of “unity”—or failing to building Christlike character?Integrity at work, or just earning money and giving a %age to the churchAre we reinforcing a culture of legalism?Some fear the gospel alone is too gracious and might tempt (or even empower) us to slack off. Yet grace is empowering, and those who don't experience it don't endure long in the marathon of faith.In Control part 3: 6 ways to eradicate a culture of control and build a culture of trust.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Six Ways to Build a Healthy Culture (15 minutes).TRUSTRom 15:14—confident in church to handle issues of church.I myself am convinced, my brothers and sisters, that you yourselves are full of goodness, filled with knowledge and competent to instruct one another.APPEALPhilemon 1-25—a study in gracious persuasionRESPECT (or “Stop pushing”)1 Cor 16:12—it's okay to say no.Now about our brother Apollos: I strongly urged him to go to you with the brothers. He was quite unwilling to go now, but he will go when he has the opportunity.STAY CONNECTED (UNITY)1 Cor 1:10—Unity despite differences of thought.I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.AGREE TO DISAGREEEven Acts 15 was okay—it worked out. Barnabas continued evangelizing his native Cyprus while Paul forged ahead into new territory.FOCUS ON CHRISTCol 1:28-2:1He is the one we proclaim, admonishing and teaching everyone with all wisdom, so that we may present everyone fully mature in Christ. To this end I strenuously contend with all the energy Christ so powerfully works in me. I want you to know how hard I am contending for you and for those at Laodicea, and for all who have not met me personally.MaturityPrinciples > practicalsInternalize Word of GodNo need to micromanage—that's not “discipling”Leaders, trust the people… Their intentions, their heart, is good.Further:Lording it Over Others (podcast)Steve Brown, A Scandalous Freedom: The Radical Nature of the Gospel (West Monroe, LA: Howard 2004).Larry Osborne, Accidental Pharisees: Avoiding Pride, Exclusivity, and the Other Dangers of Overzealous Faith (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 2012).Townsend & Cloud, Boundaries: When to Say Yes, How to Say No, to Take Control of Your Life (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1992, 2017).Safeguarding the Vulnerable (COE paper)iFaith video sermon Galatians A (“Another Gospel?”) and Galatians B, (“Gospel+”)Leadership category at my website
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.ExcerptYou are listening to just part of a book on evangelism. It's called Till the Nets are Full (formerly Shining Like Stars). This podcast is an adaptation of chapter 2, "The Mission." This may be found in Part I of the book, "Light of the World."Important note: When it comes to true Christians, we must distinguish mission and purpose.Our purpose is to know God, to enter into and enjoy an eternal relationship with Him. We are to love him with all our heart (Deuteronomy 6:5; Matthew 22:37). Purpose should not be confused with mission. (When this happens, the confusion will distort our spiritual lives.)Our mission is to bring God to the world: to serve the poor (Matthew 25) and to preach the word (Matthew 28). As someone once put it, we may be the only Jesus people will ever meet; the only Bible people ever read (2 Corinthians 2:14).If you were moved by this podcast...... may I suggest you read the entire book from which it has been taken, Till the Nets are Full (formerly Shining Like Stars).. This challenging yet practical volume contains over 60 studies for individuals and groups, along with loads of evangelistic direction so that your ministry may flourish.Also, please listen to the 2-podcast series Evangelism in the Early Church, 30-200 AD.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Scriptures cited in this podcast:Luke 23:39-43John 20:16-17Philippians 2:9-11John 14:1-3John 3:13Acts 2:34Further:The audio series, What Happens After We Die? contains 3 hours of material, comprising 4 lessons:After Death: Have We Got it all Wrong?In Their Own Words: What the Early Christians TaughtHow Can This Be? Problems and ObjectionsHeaven, Hell, Hauntings & Everything Else: Conclusion and PerspectivClick HERE to order this intriguing series.Read the article by New Testament professor N.T. Wright, asserting that Christians do not go to heaven when they die.The position taken in this podcast, that the dead are neither in heaven nor in hell, but in Hades, is supported by the writings of the early church. See, for example, A Dictionary of Early Christian Beliefs, by David Bercot.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Scriptures cited:Genesis 1:311 Corinthians 15:1-7, 47-52Philippians 3:20-211 John 3:2Luke 24:39John 21:12, 20:191 Corinthians 15:20, 35-37, 42-44, 58See also Acts 24:15Further study:Be sure to listen to the related podcasts in this series on The Rapture & the Tribulation, What Happens After We Die?, and Thoughts on Heaven & Hell.The audio series, What Happens After We Die, will also be useful (3 hours + notes)The audio series, Revelation & the End of the World, should also be stimulating, esp. the section on the Judgment, Heaven & Hell (3 hours + notes).See also Gordon Ferguson's article on this subject. Click here.For a brief article on cremation, click here.Click here for more on our heavenly body.Another article on Jesus' resurrection and ours is available here.Notice the prejudice against the physical body in passages like: "Methinks that what they call my shadow here on earth is my true substance…. Methinks my body is but the lees of my better being. In fact take my body who will, take it I say, it is not me." -- Herman Melville, Moby Dick 85-86.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Scriptures cited:1 Corinthians 3:15, Hebrews 9:27Luke 10:12, 12:281 Peter 3:22John 4:34Genesis 2:15, 1:16,28Hebrews 4:9Philippians 3:21Matthew 22:30Matt 19:21, Mark 10:21, Luke 12:33, 18:22Romans 14:10,12Matthew 25:21For further study:Here is the link to my paper on Terminal Punishment.For more about "levels" of reward, click here.You'll find a review of Alcorn's book Heaven here.Finally, in case you haven't heard the 4-part study on What Happens After We Die?, you can order it HERE.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Note: If you are not familiar with the early Christian doctrine of the intermediate state of the dead, please listen to the podcast "What Happens After We Die?" This podcast assumes some familiarity with the biblical teaching that the dead proceed to Hades, a sort of waiting place before the second coming, the general resurrection, and the Judgment Day.The Evolution of PurgatoryDoctrine of purgatory gradually evolved from the third century to the fifth. Although the idea was current among some Jews even in the time of Christ, it was slow to gain acceptance.By the 3rd century the church was already on the way to a doctrine of purgatory. Clement of Alexandria (c.150-215) and Origen (185-254) elaborated further. In the late 4th century, Gregory of Nyssa even spoke of universal salvation through purgatory: in the end all creatures will suffer temporarily, not (infinitely) forever -- until all things return to God (Life of Moses II, 82-84). By the 5th century -- as far as I can tell -- purgatory was a widespread belief in the Roman Catholic Church.As the centuries dragged on, the church began to slip into worldliness. By the 4th century, when church membership was standard in the Roman Empire, the majority were not living holy lives. How would their sin be dealt with? The necessary purging must take place in the afterlife, or so it was thought.Officially affirmed in the Second Council of Lyon (1274), the Council of Florence (1438–1445), and the Counter-Reformation Council of Trent (1545–63).In medieval church, it was thought baptism and penance pardon sins in this life; purgatory deals with sins in the next life -- a distinction seeming to find justification in Matthew 12:31.Dante Alighieri, who wrote more about purgatory than any other medieval writer, portrayed it as not only a state of suffering, but also as a state of joyous anticipation. Though painful, this "antechamber of heaven" enabled us to be transformed, to reach a state of holiness so that we would be prepared for the presence of God.From the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church (2005):What is purgatory? Purgatory is the state of those who die in God's friendship, assured of their eternal salvation, but who still have need of purification to enter into the happiness of heaven.How can we help the souls being purified in purgatory? Because of the communion of saints, the faithful who are still pilgrims on earth are able to help the souls in purgatory by offering prayers in suffrage for them, especially the Eucharistic sacrifice. They also help them by almsgiving, indulgences, and works of penance. Note: indulgences were the flash point for Protestant Reformation (1500s).Is there any biblical justification?Adam still had to pay for his sin – sweat of his brow. Moses forgiven but excluded from promised land. David was forgiven but still paid severe penalties for the incident with Uriah and Bathsheba. But of course all of these were consequences of sin in this life…In fact, if anything, the Bible teaches purgatory is now, not after we die, for it is in this life that we face fiery trials (1 Peter 4:12).Moreover, motives will come to light and be judged only after judgment day begins (1 Corinthians 4:5)--not before!There is one verse in the O.T. Apocrypha that seems to justify prayers for the dead.This implies that they may be suffering in purgatory -- and that is 2 Maccabees 12:42-46.Yet according to Catholic theology, mortal sins, like the idolatry in which these persons had engaged, cannot be forgiven through third-party prayer. (Only with confession and penance.) Thus this proof-text backfires.The verse commonly cited in support of purgatory is 1 Corinthians 3:13-15.Yet the context of 1 Corinthians 3:5-15 (the entire passage) is church building (church planting and ministry).The Catholic Encyclopedia admits "this passage presents considerable difficulty...", and several authors I've read who support purgatory admit that there is little if any biblical justification. The grounds for purgatory are thus more philosophical than biblical.There is nothing in this passage about the afterlife, and certainly no hint of a purgatory.What is burning is not the not-yet-holy sinner, but his sub-standard church building!ConclusionPurgatory is a man-made doctrine.It has a certain rationale -- that is, those who believe in it aren't necessarily selfish or stupid! -- yet there is no scriptural support.Jesus' death was enough to completely forgive our sins. We do not need to pay or them in the afterlife!This life is the time to strive for holiness, not the next!
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Hinduism has taught reincarnation for many thousands of years. Sikhism, which derives from Hinduism and Islam, also accepts reincarnation (many passages in the Granth teach this doctrine).The Chandogya Upanishad 5.10.8 reads, “... those who are of pleasant conduct here—the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter a pleasant womb, either the womb of a Brahman, or the womb of a Kshatriya, or the womb of a Vaisya. But those who are of a stinking conduct here—the prospect is, indeed, that they will enter a stinking womb of a dog, or the womb of a swine, or the womb of an outcast.”Kaushitaki Upanishad 12 teaches reincarnation "... either as a worm, or as a moth, or as a fish, or as a bird, or as a lion, or as a wild boar, or as a snake, or as a tiger, or as a person, or as some other in this or that condition, he is born again here according to his deeds, according to his knowledge."Status and the body you inhabit in the next life (canine, porcine, or “untouchable”) depend on your conduct in the present life. Karma (actions) determine the level at which you are reborn.Eventually all souls “graduate” until atman (soul) becomes one with paramatman (the world soul).Individual existence then disappears.And that means communal existence disappears, too. But we were created for community. Reincarnation ultimately negates the social dimension of humanity.John the Baptist reincarnated?In Matthew 17 Jesus says John the Baptist was the Elijah to come, yet in John 1:21 the Baptist denies it. Is this because Malachi only speaks of a prophet to come "in the spirit of Elijah," not Elijah himself?Was John's denial a way to steer his disciples away from the idea of an actual reincarnation? Yes, I think so. Many expected Elijah to return to the earth literally, and this notion persists in Jewish tradition even today, with the empty seat left for him at the Seder Supper. John does come in the spirit (and clothing) of Elijah, his ninth century BC counterpart (Malachi 3-4; Matthew 11, 16; see also 1 Kings 17-19), though he wasn't literally Elijah (John 1:21).Elijah appeared along with Moses at the Transfiguration (Matthew 17, Mark 9, Luke 9), so how could he have he been "reincarnated" as John the Baptist? Worse for those advocating reincarnation, the classic belief requires the rebirth of a dead person, yetElijah never died (2 Kings 2:1-11).Thus there is no biblical basis for importing the popular eastern idea of reincarnation into Christianity, at least not based on the case of John the Baptist.ConclusionThe scriptures do not allow reincarnation. See Hebrews 9:27, Job 7:9-10.Reincarnation does not take seriously the biblical view of humanity as "spirit, soul, and body" (1 Thessalonians 5:23).Eastern reincarnation is something to be escaped, not desired. In contrast, in the West, where it has become fashionable to espouse reincarnation, this is viewed as something positive: a chance to start over. Probably few westerners have any idea about the real source of the idea, or why no one would desire the doleful cycles of reincarnation who really comprehended the doctrine.Reincarnation it is ultimately part of an impersonal worldview.To be fair, "Contrary to the popular stereotype of past lives fostered by the tabloid press, the vast majority of past lives are not those of Egyptian princesses or wives of Henry VIII. Most of the lives that are reported are barely identifiable within the known framework of history. We encounter African tribesmen, nomadic hunters, nameless slaves, Middle Easter traders, anonymous medieval peasants, and so on, from all times and places; often they can barely name their chieftain or lord, let alone place themselves upon some totally irrelevant time map of European or ancient history." (Roger J. Woolger, Other Lives, Other Selves: A Jungian Psychotherapist Discovers Past Lives [New York: Doubleday, 1987], 37-38)
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Order of events, popular Christianity:Second comingRaptureTribulation (for unbelievers)Order of events in New Testament:Tribulation (throughout our lives as believers)Second comingGeneral resurrection + raptureJudgment DayEternal destiny: heaven or hellEtymologyRapture < Latin rapire, translating Greek harpadzomai (snatch) in 1 Thessalonians 4:17Tribulation < Latin tribulatio, translating Greek thlipsis (oppression, affliction)Scriptures cited1 Thessalonians 4:13-18 (see also 5:1-2)John 5:28-29Exodus 7-12Revelation 6-19Luke 9:52-56Jonah 3:10-4:5FurtherRevelation 7:14 actually says that the righteous experience the tribulation. I.e., they are delivered through it (not from it).Listen to the previous podcast in this series, 2010, 2012, & the End of the World.See the N.T. chapter notes, e.g. those on 1 Thessalonians 4, or any other chapters in the series.Listen to relevant O.T. lessons, e.g. the Jonah podcast.From Daniel deSilva's An Introduction to the New Testament, 2nd ed. (Downers Grove, IL: IVP Academic, 2018) 824n29: "... There is no place in Revelation for the 'rapture.' John calls Christians to arm themselves to die out of faithfulness to Jesus, and indeed the so-called tribulation descended on his hearers in earnest in but a few short decades. We also have to reckon with the peculiarity that Western Christians (especially from the United Kingdom and the United States), who invented the idea of a rapture, should be the only ones never to taste tribulation for their Lord. Even now sisters and brothers across the globe face marginalization, privation, and death for their testimony—but we will be spared any such tests of our faithfulness!... The common error of reading 1 Thess 4:13-18 together with Rev 4:1 in order to demonstrate a 'pretribulation rapture' is fundamentally flawed... There is no mention of resurrection in Revelation until Rev 20:4-6, which speaks of the 'first' of two resurrections, and so the resurrection of the saints in 1 Thess 4:16 cannot be prior to that and cannot refer to a 'pre-tribulation rapture.'"
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.What exactly is the battle of Armageddon? Is there going to be a literal battle, as Revelation 16 seems to indicate? And how can we prepare for this awful battle at the end of time?1. Around 95 AD, the clear and present challenge to the Christian faith is emperor worship. Domitian is the first emperor to demand it in his lifetime. The center of emperor worship was Asia Minor, esp. the province of Asia (where Ephesus is).2. Armageddon comes from the Hebrew har-Megiddo, hill/mountain of Megiddo, on the edge of the Valley of Jezreel.3. Revelation is a book rich with symbolism, including 100s of allusions to the Old Testament.4. The general environs of Megiddo was a frequent battleground. Here are 34:BC2350 Pepi I and the "Gazelle's Head" -- Jezreel Valley1479 Thutmose III v. Canaanites – Megiddo1430 Amenhotep II in the Valley -- Jezreel Valley1360-1350 Biridiya v. Labayu – Megiddo1125 Deborah & Barak v. Sisera -- Taanach & Mount Tabor1090 Gideon v. Midianites/Amalekites -- Hill of Moreh/Endor1016 Saul & Jonathan v. Philistines -- Mount Gilboa925 Shosenq I (Shishak) -- Megiddo841 Jehu v. Joram & Ahaziah –Jezreel609 Necho II v. Josiah -- Megiddo218 Antiochus III v. Ptolemy IV -- Mount Tabor55 Gabinius v. Alexander -- Mount TaborAD67 Vespasian v. Jewish rebels -- Mount Tabor940 Ikhshidids v. Abbasids – Lejjun946 Ikhshidids v. Hamdanids -- Lejjun/Aksal975 Byzantines v. Fatimids -- Mount Tabor1113 Maudud v. Crusaders -- Mount Tabor1182 Saladin v. Daburiyans – Daburiya1182 Saladin v. Crusaders – Forbelet1183 Saladin v. Crusaders -- Ayn Jalut1187 Saladin v. Crusaders -- Mount Tabor1217 Fifth Crusade v. Moslems -- Mount Tabor1247 Ayyubids v. Crusaders -- Mount Tabor1260 Mamlukes v. Mongols -- Ayn Jalut1263 Mamlukes v. Hospitallers -- Mount Tabor1264 Hospitallers/Templars v. Mamlukes -- Lejjun1735 Zahir al-'Umar v. Nablus-Saqr alliance -- al‐Rawdah1771-73 Zahir al-'Umar at Lejjun -- Lejjun1799 Napoleon v. Ottomans -- Mount Tabor1918 Allenby v. Ottomans -- Megiddo1948 Israelis v. Arabs Mishmar -- Haemek1948 Israelis v. Arabs -- Zarin, Megiddo, Lejjun1967 Israelis v. Arabs -- Ramat David Airfield1973 Israelis v. Syrians -- Ramat David AirfieldComments on Rev 16Background: Plagues on Egypt (Exodus 6-13)The plagues are not fulfilled literally.Rome will fall and this is just: Invasions, plagues, corruption, ultimate demise.Not only to show she will fall, but to show that she has fallen….She is nothing but a cheap harlot (Rev 17).Metaphors involving sun, moon, and stars are common in apocalyptic literature.The God whom the Romans are defying is in control of the sun (not Apollo); he's in charge of the entire universe!Refusal to repent, refusal to admit God is right.Natural disastersEconomic slumpsInept and pleasure-seeking leadershipStupid laws and brutality in the governmentInvasionsAll warning signs ignored! (Are we paying attention to the "warning signs" in our own day?Eastern kings the threat to Rome – never subdued the Parthians.Dragon (ch 12) – Satan – the true power behind Rome.Don't be impressed by her power, or her false wonders.She is directly opposed to the Lord God Almighty!Rev 16:16 refers to Megiddo, where Sisera thrashed Jabin, Judges 4; and Necho slew Josiah, 2 Chron 35.Next chapter describes the Great Harlot, and in chapter 18-19 we read of her fall--the battle has in effect already taken place. Revelation is filled with different ways of describing God's ultimate defeat of Satan.This is speaking about Rome, yet the cosmic truths behind the description could just as well refer to any enemy of God. He's got no chance.There are many obstacles to taking the language of Revelation literally; I am afraid the preachers on pop religious radio are misleading many. The earliest recorded "battle of Armageddon" took place nearly 4400 years ago, and there have been dozens -- perhaps scores -- of battles in the region of Megiddo since that time. In other words, "Armageddon" is an image of warfare, for it reminds us of the battles waged from time immemorial.What would Revelation 16:16 conjure up in the mind of the reader/listener familiar with O.T. history?What does Gettysburg signify to an American? Normandy to a European? How about Waterloo? Focus on theology, not literal history. What is God trying to tell his people?Warfare--a showdown. The forces of good will ultimately triumph over the forces of evil, for Rome is not ultimately sovereign. Only Jesus Christ is the true King of Kings and Lord of Lords. ConclusionsThere will be no literal "Battle of Armageddon," radio preachers notwithstanding! Yet through the millennia, there have been numerous literal battles in the vicinity of Armageddon.It's an encouraging image, an apt picture of the cosmic battle between God and Satan, indeed! God's word assures us, in the book of Revelation, that ultimately he will vanquish every cause that sets itself up against him, his Son, and his kingdom. And in order to walk the walk of disciples, we need that assurance!If this is not a literal battle, there is no way to prepare for it physically. And yet both testaments urge us always to be ready to meet God. So rather than stockpiling water, canned goods, and ammunition -- as some survivalist groups practice -- it is the Lord's will that we heap up righteousness and good deeds, sharing what we have (not hoarding it) with as many as possible.Revelation 12:11 is in many ways the key to understanding the central message of the book of Revelation.Further study Remember that detailed chapter notes are available for every chapter in Revelation in the NT series.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.For further study:Read the original two-article series I wrote in London (1986). Click on Armageddon!Read a paper on Matthew 24 and the Destruction of Jerusalem I wrote at Duke University (1980). Click here.See also John Clayton's article The 2012 Mayan Demise of Earth.If you'd like to learn a lot more, you might want to order Revelation and the End of the World. This audio series:Includes 4 lessons on audio CD (3 hours total).Also has the paper on The Destruction of Jerusalem.Contains further material (40 days of study) on every chapter of Revelation. (These notes are also available at the premium site, under N.T. Studies.)Some failed predictions & estimates:Rabbi Menachem Schneerson: “The Iraqi crisis may spark the terrible war that will herald Messiah's arrival.”Billy Graham: “There are spiritual forces at work in the Persian Gulf confrontation. History has gone full circle, and we are coming back to these [Bible] lands. This is not another Korea, it is not another Vietnam – it is something far more sinister and far more difficult."Jack Van Impe: “Four major prophecies in the Bible pinpoint Iraq and the Persian Gulf as the prelude to the Battle of Armageddon, a conflict that will begin at the Euphrates River in Iraq.”Lester Sumrall: “I predict the absolute fullness of [the] man's operation in planet earth by the year 2000 AD. Then Jesus Christ shall reign from Jerusalem for 1000 years.”Mary Stewart Relfe: “The second coming of Christ will occur in 1997.”Jerry Falwell: 2000.Hal Lindsey: 1987 or 1988Jehovah's Witness predictions: 1914, 1918. 1925, 1941, 1975, etc.Update: Interestingly, just days before 21 Dec 2012, the very moment my editor and I were exchanging emails and joking about the big day (he said I had just 9 days to get my corrections to him before it was "too late"), I received a warning from a fellow who wanted me to know that he had intelligence that am undetectable dwarf star was on a collision course with the earth. The date of impact: 21 Dec 2012.Related podcasts in the current series:What Happens After Death?The Rapture & the TribulationThoughts on Heaven & Hell
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.ScripturesWhere the word antichrist appears:1 John 2:181 John 2:221 John 4:32 John 7Passages that do not mention antichrist but which are popularly understood to refer to him:2 Thessalonians 2Appears to be a Roman emperor, one with the arrogance of Caligula, Nero, or Domitian.Stands as a warning for all generations.No mention of "antichrist."Revelation 13Whereas the "number" of the Beast is 666, the apocalypse never identifies the Beast (Rome the false religious power) with an antichrist.Applies in immediate context to the persecuting Roman Empire.That antichrist is a figure who would be worshipped is a second century construction. This notion was never part of the apostolic doctrine.The specific truth denied by the opponents of the faith is the incarnation.The heretics in view were Docetists, a variety of Gnostics who denied that Jesus (God) came in the flesh; rather, he appeared (Greek dokein = appear) to come in a body. These heretics were active in the late first century, at the time 1 and 2 John were written.They held that the physical world is evil, and therefore...They denied that God came to us in a body.ConclusionsAntichrist was already present even in the first century, although those rejecting the incarnation are still among us (e.g. theological liberals who deny Jesus was God, but rather a guru whose God-consciousness inspired others).The antichrist is not a single person; contradicts 1 John 2:18.Popular guesses: Hitler, Muhammad, the Pope.There have been, and presumably will be, many antichrists.Antichrist lives in those who have left the community.Joining the antichrist is more than a subtle doctrinal shift; it is to join the agents of evil, with seriously negative cosmic implications.It is unlikely an antichrist would come in a body, since incarnation is the very truth denied by the antichrist!Eventual triumph comes not by inflicting death on the followers of evil, but by words that engender faith (Revelation 12:11).We as readers of the Bible are called to distinguish truth from falsehood.Further study: Listen to all the podcasts in the Last Things series.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.This podcast is an adaption of a draft chapter from my book, What's the Truth about Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion about the Afterlife.The universally familiar NDE/OOB sequence:A sense of well-beingDisembodimentA tunnel leading to lightVisions of persons, events, and objectsInteractions with other beings, human or divineA new evaluation of one's lifeReturn to lifeMost of this can be explained by the drop in oxygen levels in the brain, the buildup of carbon dioxide, reduction in neural firing, shutdown of the visual cortex, and euphoria triggered by dopamine and endorphins in the brain).The five cases we discuss in this podcast: Case 1: Don Piper (90 Minutes in Heaven, 2004)Case 2: Choo Thomas (Heaven is So Real!, 2003)Case 3: Colton Burpo (Heaven is For Real, 2010)Case 4: Bill Wiese (23 Minutes in Hell, 2003)Case 5: Eben Alexander, MD (Proof of Heaven, 2012)Other recent New York Times bestsellers on heaven and hell: Richard Sigmund, My Time in Heaven (Whitaker House, 2009); Dennis and Nolene Prince, Nine Days in Heaven (Charisma House, 2011); Mark K. Baker, A Divine Revelation of Hell (Whitaker House, 1997); Kevin and Alex Malarkey, The Boy Who Came Back from Heaven: A Remarkable Account of Miracles, Angels, and Life beyond This World (Thomas Nelson, 2011).Scriptures referred to Revelation 21:1Mark 8:38; 2 Timothy 2:12Colossians 2:18-19John 3:13In brief:NDEs are universal, happening to members of every culture and religion.Experiences tend to reflect the faith background of those undergoing them.Many, but not all, can be rationalized in terms of physiology or psychology.NDEs are suggestive of a spiritual world and an afterlife. They strongly imply the former, though they do not prove the latter.Also recommended:Dinesh D'Souza, Life After Death: The Evidence (Washington DC: Regnery Publishing, 2009). Easy to read, written for general audience.Gary R. Habermas and J. P. Moreland, Immortality: The Other Side of Death (Nashville, Thomas Nelson, 1992).Michael A. Persinger, S. G. Tiller, and S. A. Koren, “Experimental Stimulation of a Haunt Experience and Elicitation of Paroxysmal Electroencephalographic Activity by Transcerebral Complex Magnetic Fields: Induction of a Synthetic “Ghost”? Journal of Perception and Motor Skills, 90:2 (2000), 659-674.Pim van Lommel, Ruud van Wees, Vincent Myers, and Ingrid Elfferich, “Near-Death Experience in Survivors of Cardiac Arrest,” The Lancet 358, issue 9298 (2001): 2039-45.For more about the case of Colton Burpo, you may listen to a podcast with notes: “Heaven is for Real—Or is It?”.Douglas Jacoby, What's the Truth about Heaven and Hell? Sorting Out the Confusion about the Afterlife (Eugene, Oregon: Harvest House, 2013), chapter 16.
For additional notes and resources check out Douglas' website.Harsh treatment of women, children, and the vulnerable in OT times: infanticide, abortion, disrespect of women.Divorce was easy and favored the man.Worse, abandoned women could be "reclaimed" by their husbands.In the Middle Assyrian laws, a woman abandoned could remarry, but only after a 5-year wait.The 1st century world of the Roman EmpireDivorce (divortium) = separationRemarriage was a duty / expectationRoman law, 18 BCAugustine's laws, the Lex Julia de Maritandis Ordinibus (i8 a.c.F..) and Lex Papia Poppaea Nuptialis (9 s.c.E.), which were later merged into a single text (Lex Julia et Papia).Made it a duty of all Roman men age 25-60 and Roman women age 20-50 to be married. Widows could remain unmarried for two years, and divorcees for 18 months, but then they were expected to remarry.Extent of enforcement outside of Rome, Italy, or Roman cities and colonies?Laws concerning remarriage were strikingly different in JudaismThere was is no time limit, making it far easier for the wife to find security in another husband.Jewish men write out a divorce certificate (Deut 24). This created greater rights for women with respect to marriage and remarriage, especially because of the clean break provided by the divorce certificate. The wording of this document ended: "You are now free to marry any man you wish."Note: The OT assumes polygamy and divorce, and neither is criticized.Four Jewish expectations that went beyond the demands of the TorahAll must marry.Marriages must result in offspring. If not, the man could divorce his wife and try to reach this end through a new wife.Those widowed or divorced had to remarry. As in the Roman world, except for the aged, remarriage was an expectation.Divorcing one's spouse was required if he or she was involved in sexual scandal.SourcesThe Bible3 or 4 OT passagesA handful of passages in the gospels, plus one chapter in 1 Cor.The Bible doesn't actually provide a comprehensive teaching on divorce and remarriage – nor on many topics we would be interested in better understanding.Extra-biblical sourcesOver 200 Aramaic, Greek, and Latin marriage and divorce papyri.Samaritan marriage contracts.Newly discovered divorce certificates—written by a Jewish man in Masada in 72 AD, and by a woman c.125 AD.Dead Sea Scroll fragments dealing with divorce.The publication of marriage and divorce documents from geniza of the Cairo Synagogue.Extensive rabbinic evidence from the 1st C.VowsMarriage historically understood as contractual. Failure to feed, clothe, love = unfaithfulness marriage vows.Expert Davis Instone-Brewer: “Marriage in the ancient Near East was contractual, involving payments, agreed stipulations, and penalties. If either partner broke the stipulations of the contract, the innocent partner could opt for a divorce and keep the dowry. Exact parallels to these practices are found in the Pentateuch."The vows are reflected in biblical passages, such as Eph 5 (Christ as groom, church as bride) and Ezek 16.Our English marriage vows have hardly changed for 1000 years. I, N, take you, N, to be my wife, to have and to hold from this day on, for better or for worse, for richer, for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish; until death do us part.”Broken vows are grounds for divorce.Most conservative Protestant churches: 2 grounds for divorce (adultery or desertion by nonbeliever)— otherwise no divorce and remarriage, except in the event of the death of the spouse.Catholicism: Millions are trapped in abusive or hopeless marriages. Augustine formulated the doctrine of annulment, 350 AD.Yet the strictest view isn't always the most holy view.Pharisees made it very hard on some peopleSince the 2nd century, in many parts of the Christian church extremely strict rules have been created.Jesus' yoke is easy, and his burden light (Matt 11:30).Exod 21 and Deut 24—four grounds for divorce, as we will see in our second talk.These grounds are reflected in wedding vows.God divorces Israel (Jer 3:8), 8th C. BC and Judah (Ezek 16), 6th C. BC.God kept all 4 of his marriage vows to Judah: love, food, clothing, faithfulness.Instone-Brewer: “In contrast, Judah broke all four of her vows: she did not return God's love; she committed adultery with idols; she presented idols with the food that God had given her; and she decorated idols with the clothing and jewels with which God had honored her” (Ezek 16, esp. vs.8-13, 15, 19, 16-18).Divorce wasn't immediate. Much grace was extended, but eventually enough was enough.When God divorces Israel, the sin isn't the divorce, but the covenant infidelity leading to divorce.Marriage: permanent and indissoluble?Matt 19:5-6: For this reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh.' So they are no longer two, but one flesh. Therefore what God has joined together, let no one separate.”Yet Jesus didn't say no one can break the marriage bond. Must not put asunder isn't the same as cannot.This commonly cited passage does not affirm that marriage necessarily obtains until the death of a spouse.Let's look at four more claims about the indissolubility of marriage.“Marriage not a contract, but a covenant.” Actually, it is both."One flesh" means lifelong marriage?Do you not know that your bodies are members of Christ? Should I therefore take the members of Christ and make them members of a prostitute? Never! Do you not know that whoever is united to a prostitute becomes one body with her? For it is said, “The two shall be one flesh” (1 Cor 6:15-16).Being “one flesh” doesn't mean the two spouses are inseparably connected, any more than prostitution creates a permanent one-flesh relationship.Rom 7:1-3: Do you not know, brothers and sisters—for I am speaking to those who know the law—that the law has authority over someone only as long as that person lives? For example, by law a married woman is bound to her husband as long as he is alive, but if her husband dies, she is released from the law that binds her to him. So then, if she has sexual relations with another man while her husband is still alive, she is called an adulteress. But if her husband dies, she is released from that law and is not an adulteress if she marries another man.The passage concerns our relationship to the Law, not marriage.Besides, Paul doesn't say she is no longer married to him only if her husband dies.He was keeping his illustration simple, not writing a full doctrine of remarriage.“Sacrament” as in CatholicismOrdination (priesthood). Even an immoral priest remains a priest (!).Marriage too—therefore no man or woman can dissolve it.None of these five claims about the permanence of marriage is biblical!ConclusionWe are not mystically or sacramentally married until death. Some marriages end before either spouse has died.Most marriages can be healed, if both partners are willing.But broken vows will eventually kill a marriage.Background information