What is an Apostle and Why Does It Matter?

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

 

Luke 9:28-36

Have you ever tried to bargain with God?
Bargaining with God sounds a little bit like this: “God, if you reveal yourself to me by helping me get this promotion, I will know that you’re real and I’ll believe in you.”

Or: “God, if you’re real, then make her fall in love with me—then I’ll believe in you.”

Or even: “God, get me to work on time today, and I’ll believe in you.”

We have all tried to bargain with God at some point. What happened when you tried to do this? Probably one of two things: God was incredibly gracious and either (1) did what you asked (but you likely attributed this to luck or natural happenstance), or (2) chose not to give you what you asked for (and you were likely left to wonder if he actually existed).

Nevertheless, there is no reason for us to wonder whether he exists.
Scripture tells us that God has chosen to build his church on the eyewitness testimony of his apostles—not on the direct verification of his existence to bargaining human beings. This means that as we hear the testimony of the apostles—which, in written form, compose the New Testament—and this testimony is confirmed by the Holy Spirit that lives within us, we come to believe in the Triune God.

We might balk at this. “If God actually appeared to me or answered my specific prayer,” we might argue, “I would actually know that he was real—Holy Spirit or no Holy Spirit.”

If we think about this for a moment, however, we will find that this isn’t quite true. After all, Jesus appeared to some of the most religious, well educated, and well-meaning people, and was misunderstood (and mistreated) by all. Why should we think our response would be any different?

Furthermore, as many scholars have pointed out, one must understand the character of God before examining his existence. If you are going to argue for the existence of something, you must first understand what that something is. Without understanding that a unicorn is a horse with a horn, you cannot disprove (or prove) its existence.

Thankfully, the Bible overflows with descriptions of God’s character. In fact, God’s very choice to build his church on the testimony of the apostles says something about his character. To understand why this matters, however, we must first understand what an apostle is.

First, the word “apostle” is one of the most abused words in the contemporary Christian’s vocabulary.

“He’s a modern-day apostle,” we often say when referring to people whom we believe to have unique insights about the Christian life. The Bible, however, has a very different definition of “apostle”, which we can read in Acts 1:12-26.

During the time of his earthly ministry, Jesus called and commissioned twelve apostles. One of these apostles, as foretold by scripture, betrayed him and then committed suicide. So, also according to the scriptures, the remaining eleven apostles recognized that a new apostle needed to be appointed. Here are the criteria they list for the qualification of an apostle:

  • An apostle must be “one of the men who have accompanied [the apostles] during all the time the Lord Jesus went in and out among [them], beginning with the baptism of John until the day when he was taken up from [them]” and they must also be “a witness to his resurrection” (Acts 1:21-22).
  • An apostle must be chosen by Christ himself (hence the reason why the apostles pray for God to select this apostle in Acts 1:24-26).

Apart from these twelve, two other individuals are commonly referred to as apostles. The first is James, Jesus’ brother. During Jesus’ time on earth, James was not a believer. Though he was an eyewitness to all that Christ did, he, like the rest of his family, believed that Jesus must have been crazy (Mark 3:21). After Christ’s death, however, James became a firm believer, and apostle, of Christ.

Paul is also a unique case because it is doubtful that he had contact with Jesus during his time on earth. However, Paul is referred to as an apostle because Christ revealed himself to Paul on the road to Damascus (Acts 9:1-9). In Acts 9 we find that God has chosen Paul to be a vessel that will “bear [God’s] name before Gentiles, kings, and the children of Israel.” We also learn that God will “show [Paul] how many things he must suffer for [God’s] name’s sake” (Acts 9:15-16). So Paul, too, fits the bill of an apostle.

Through the Nicene Creed, we learn that “we believe in one, holy, catholic, and apostolic church.” This means that the length, breadth, height, and depth of our beliefs as Christians are circumscribed completely by the testimony of the apostles. We cannot add or subtract one thing from this testimony. If we do, our beliefs will no longer be Christian.

If you even hear a pastor, a teacher, a church, or any Christian authority claim that God has given them a special doctrinal teaching unique only to them, you should run. As the Christian church is an apostolic church, it means that everything that needs to be known about God has already been witnessed by the apostles, whose witness, in turn, has been recorded as the New Testament. Groups who claim to possess knowledge that no one else in the church knows are not Christian; they are a cult.

Peter testifies to this in 2 Peter 1:13-21, where he explains that the apostles do not “follow cleverly devised myths” but instead “were made eyewitnesses of his majesty.” In 2 Peter 1:20 he emphasizes that “no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation.” There is no such thing as secret teaching or post-biblical revelation when it comes to Christian doctrine.

This is because the apostles witnessed every aspect of Christ’s ministry. Peter, John, and James even traveled up the mountain with Christ in Luke 9:28-36. Here, they witnessed many things: Christ’s face was changed, and his clothes became dazzling white (it is interesting to note that the word used here for “dazzling” is the same word used of lightning). A cloud descended upon them, and they saw Moses and Elijah speaking with Jesus.

When we hear “Moses” and “cloud,” our minds should immediately think back to Exodus. During the Exodus, God led the Israelites through the desert—in the shape of a cloud. When we read that Moses appeared and the cloud descended on the apostles on the mountain, we know that the God of Israel was present.

Elijah, one of the first great prophets, was also present. During his lifetime, Elijah was led by the Spirit of God. Elijah’s appearance, then, indicated that the God of the prophets was present.

Most importantly, however, the apostles witnessed that Christ himself made the decision to go to Jerusalem, knowing that he would offer himself as a sacrifice. Through this experience, we learn that Jesus was not the victim of violence or circumstance; Jerusalem’s response to his presence does not take him by surprise. The crucifixion occurred by his own volition.

When we read the Bible, we find that the Old Testament is filled with prophesies about the coming Messiah, and that the New Testament is filled with the eyewitness testimonies of his followers. This is how the two connect and this is why in 2 Peter 1:19, Peter tells us, “The message of the prophets has been confirmed beyond a doubt.”

This is why we should not ask God to reveal himself to us in the way we want, confirming his existence through his willingness to submit to our selfish negotiations. This request limits our understanding of God to the idea of him that we like best, rather than allowing him to express his true character.

Does this mean that we should not ask God to reveal himself? Not at all! Even John the Baptist came to Jesus with his doubts (Matthew 11:2-6). The key is to respect God by accepting the way he has chosen to reveal himself. Instead of praying for the signs we want, we should pray to understand the signs he has given.
We should pray that God will reveal the truth of the apostles’ testimony to us—and we should continue to pray until he does. In fact, in 2 Peter 1:19, Peter refers to this testimony (and the testimony of the prophets) as “a lamp shining in dark places” and suggests that we would “do well to pay attention to [it].”

In other words, even if the truth of the testimony has not yet been confirmed to our hearts, we should believe it; it is a light in a dark world. We should believe this truth before the Holy Spirit verifies it. Then we should believe this truth because the Holy Spirit has verified it. Like Jesus told Thomas in John 20:29, those who believe without seeing (or without receiving verification from the Holy Spirit) are most blessed.

Posted in Lectionary Year A | Tagged , , , , , | 2 Comments

Why Doesn’t God Fix the World?

To watch other Voice of the Martyrs videos, visit the Voice of the Martyrs Video Page!

As humans, we find it difficult to reconcile the existence of an omnipotent (he is all-powerful), omniscient (he knows everything), omnipresent (he is present everywhere) and omnibenevolent (he only does things that are good) God with the existence of evil. On any given day, someone is shot down by a criminal, someone is (accidentally) maimed by a drunk driver, and someone is killed in a terrorist attack. Evil runs rampant in our world—but why?

Jesus addresses this question through this week’s parable.

Often, we try to simplify this parable into seven words: “the devil is responsible for all evil.” Not only does this conclusion attribute too much power to the devil, but also it keeps us from understanding the deeper meaning of this parable!

When you read the scripture today, focus first on the character of God. What does the sower see? What does the sower do? How does the sower react? Don’t let yourself be distracted by the workers or the enemy: focus on the character of the sower.

Matthew 13:24-30; 36-43

There are many interesting things going on in this parable—were you able to focus on the sower?

In this parable, the character of God is portrayed through a man who sows good seed (wheat seed) in his field. However, while his workers sleep, an enemy comes and sows weed amongst the good seeds. For a while, the workers are unable to tell the difference between this good seed and the weeds—why?

It turns out that the word Jesus uses for weed (in Greek, ζιζάνια) refers to darnel, a weed that looks exactly like wheat in the early stages of development. Even darnel seeds look identical to wheat seeds!

Today, we have developed machines that are able to distinguish the two. However, in Jesus’ time the only way to differentiate the two was to wait until harvest time. As wheat develops, it turns brown and its top folds over. However, darnel turns black and its tip stands straight up. As wheat and darnel develop, it becomes easier to tell the two apart.

Unlike crabgrass or dandelions, darnel is actually toxic to human beings. The word “darnel” actually comes from the French word for “drunkenness.” This is because poisoned individuals exhibit symptoms akin to drunkenness—they struggle to speak, walk, and think. They often throw up.

Unlike wheat, which sustains life, darnel has the potential to destroy life.

This is why the workers are so concerned.

“Didn’t you sow good seed in this field?” They ask their master.

Unlike the workers, however, the master knows exactly what happened.

“An enemy did this,” He tells the workers.

“Ah,” The workers say. They understand this situation and they think they know the next step. “So we’ll just pull the weeds, then.”

The sower stops them.

“Wait until harvest,” He orders.

Why?

Although it isn’t visible from the surface, the roots of the darnel become entwined with the roots of the wheat. The sower knows that if his workers pull out the darnel, they may uproot the wheat along with it. And the sower isn’t willing to take this risk.

So he instructs his workers to care for and harvest both the darnel and the wheat.

However, the sower does not plan to treat the darnel and wheat indiscriminately after the harvest.

“When harvest comes, gather the weeds, bind them, and burn them,” he instructs the workers.

What does this tell us about the character of God?

As we already know, Jesus has faced a great deal of rejection in the chapters before this passage. He was rejected by the religious leaders, by his hometown, and by his family. Even John found himself doubting Jesus.

Why did the people doubt?

People expected certain things of their Messiah. The prophets and the scriptures had taught that when the Messiah came, he would destroy the wicked and break the yoke of the oppressor. John even claimed that the coming Messiah would “baptize [people] with the Holy Spirit and with fire” (Matthew 3:11)!

However, when Jesus came, sinners continued to sin and oppressors continued to oppress. What’s more, Jesus didn’t strike down these sinners and oppressors—he spoke with them and ate at their houses! What kind of Messiah was this?

Like the workers in this parable, the Jewish people assumed that the Messiah would come and “de-weed” the fields. He would remove the noxious darnel and nourish only the life-giving wheat. However, Jesus seemed to be doing no such thing! In fact, according to the religious leaders, Jesus couldn’t even tell sinners apart from saints (Luke 7:39)!

Through this parable, then, Jesus is explaining to contemporary audiences (as well as to audiences throughout history) why it is that even after he—the all-knowing, all-powerful, and benevolent God—became manifest in human form, people continued to murder, perform acts of hedonistic negligence, and terrorize innocent human beings.

The first thing that Jesus makes clear in his parable is that God is much more aware of evil than we are. Although the servants are unaware that weed has been sown in their fields, the sower is fully aware. When the servants come to him, the sower not only knows that there is weed; he knows why the weed is there. Likewise, we might be completely unaware of the darkness that lies in the heart of another. When this darkness reveals itself, then, we may feel startled and betrayed. God, however, is neither; he knew that the darkness was there all along.

God knows the difference between the wheat and the weeds.

Why, then, doesn’t God step in and destroy the weeds? Why does he instead choose to treat the weeds like wheat (and instruct his workers to do the same)?

God knows that if the weeds are uprooted, the wheat will be damaged in the process. Of course, some wheat will be not be affected by the uprooting of the weeds. However, we know from Luke 15:3-7 and Luke 15:8-10 that God will not allow even one shaft of wheat to be lost. He loves his children. As Jesus says in John 6:39, “I shall lose none of those whom he has given me.”

For the sake of the wheat, then, God cares for the weed.

It is important to remember that we are not the sower. We don’t know whether a person is wheat or weed—and God does not invite us to make this judgement. Instead, we are commanded to follow Jesus’ example in showing God’s love to everyone—even to those whom we believe are weeds.

If our brothers and sisters throughout church history have taught us anything, it is that we will almost always judge others incorrectly. Sometimes those who we think are weeds actually turn out to be wheat and those whom we think are wheat are actually weeds. There have been accomplices to murder who, upon receiving Christ, became giants in the faith (Paul, for example.) In addition, there have been well respected Christians who have scandalized the world by using the faith to cover (or even advance) their own heinous desires.

“But if the weeds continue to grow among the wheat, then won’t the wheat suffer?” We may ask.

“Of course,” Jesus may then respond. “That’s what I’ve been trying to tell you.”

We spend all our time demanding that God pull out the weeds so that we may flourish—but if God were to pull out these weeds, we might find ourselves uprooted! Instead, we should give thanks in the midst of suffering, since we know that he allows this short period of suffering for the sake of our eternal flourishing.

One day, everything will be harvested and the weeds will be separated from the wheat. The Nicene Creed tells us that on this day, Jesus will return to earth and judge both the living and the dead. On this day, the weeds will be tossed into a fiery furnace filled with weeping and gashing of teeth (Matthew 13:42)—and the wheat will shine like the sun (Matthew 13:43).

Posted in Lectionary Year A | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment

Do Whatever He Tells You: An Excerpt from Living in the Underground Church

The command of God is only secondarily an address to us. It is first and foremost a statement of how God has acted and how he will act. What we are being told in the command is the only sensible reaction to what God has done and will do. In other words, God’s command is his gracious instruction showing us how he intends for us to move in coordination with his work so that we are not run over but instead redeemed as he sets the world right.

All God’s commands are of this character. We wrongly think of God as seated in heaven, watching human beings and judging their actions as good or evil; humans then earn condemnation or praise accordingly.

This understanding does not in any way accord with the character of God. The character of God is that he initiates all action. He himself is setting the world right. He does not intend for us to move on our own. Moving on our own is, in fact, the very definition of sin. Scripturally, true righteousness means right response to God’s initiatives. Without the Holy Spirit, this is impossible. But when we receive the Holy Spirit in baptism, it is possible.

In fact, it is the nature of the Holy Spirit to lead us into all truth.[6] The Holy Spirit opens the Scripture to us and guides us to where we should be and what we should do in order to stay “in line” with God’s work as he sets the world right. In fact, once we receive the Holy Spirit, failing to respond to God’s initiatives produces conviction of sin. The Holy Spirit lets us know that we are “out of line,” i.e., we are standing in the wrong place, moving in the wrong direction, and thus we will be run over as God sets the world right.

This is why works righteousness is not only repugnant to God; it is nonsensical. When we seek to initiate action, even if that action seems to us to be good or righteous, it is by definition problematic because only God initiates redemptive action. If we are initiating, we are failing to pay attention to him. We are misunderstanding the nature of human action. We are treating human action as if it were able to be complete in itself or able to initiate anything necessary for God’s work. As the Apostle Paul said, “[God] is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything. Rather, he himself gives everyone life and breath and everything else.”[7]

When we initiate action even in an effort to “be good”, this can only result in us and others being in the wrong place, moving in the wrong direction, and getting run over as God does his work. On the other hand, when our actions are responses to God’s initiatives as God intends, we are not “earning” salvation; we are experiencing it. To move in concert with God is to be saved. It is to experience salvation. It is to act as God created human beings to act: always in response to him, mirroring his character into the visible world.

This means that God intends for all human action to be incomprehensible and incomplete in and of itself. It is intended to always point beyond itself to God. It is embedded in God’s own action and thus must be wholly dependent upon God for meaning, power, and completion. The essence of sin is “acting sensibly,” that is, in ways that are comprehensible and complete in and of themselves, wholly dependent on ourselves and those in our sphere of influence for meaning, power, and fulfillment.

In other words, the nature of redeemed human life is that no one observing it should ever be able to understand it without their attention being redirected toward God. Further, the actions of redeemed human beings are always intended to be in concert with each other—not only in the present but across the ages; not only in our neighborhood but around the world. In fact, it is when the church in a given place or time cannot act in concert with the universal church that it must choose to go underground.[8] As we established last chapter, Christ commands his one, singular body as a body, not as discrete autonomous kingdom citizens.

Such a way of acting is impossible for fallen humanity to understand or practice. Even for the redeemed, we must rely on what Jesus shows in his time on earth about how to hear and do the commands of God. Jesus shows how to act always and only in concert with his Father. This is the meaning of John 5:18, where Jesus says, “Very truly I tell you, the Son can do nothing by himself; he can do only what he sees his Father doing, because whatever the Father does the Son also does.”[9] Just as the Son’s response to the Father’s commands redirects attention to the Father, our actions redirect the world’s attention to the Triune God.

Christ’s journey to the cross is completely incomprehensible to his disciples. Peter even rebukes him for explaining it. Jesus responds by noting what we have shared here: Peter is seeking actions that make sense in and of themselves to fallen humanity. He cannot imagine undertaking anything that will fail unless God intervenes:

From that time on Jesus began to explain to his disciples that he must go to Jerusalem and suffer many things at the hands of the elders, the chief priests and the teachers of the law, and that he must be killed and on the third day be raised to life.

Peter took him aside and began to rebuke him. “Never, Lord!” he said. “This shall never happen to you!”

Jesus turned and said to Peter, “Get behind me, Satan! You are a stumbling block to me; you do not have in mind the concerns of God, but merely human concerns.”[10]

Christ dies on the cross. His action is incomprehensible and incomplete in and of itself, as the disciples’ reactions to his death attest. But the Father raises Christ from the dead, by the power of the Holy Spirit, and Christ’s work is brought to glorious completion. In this we see how the Triune God intends for our actions to be embedded within and responsive to his. Without his prior action, our action is guaranteed to lead only to sin and death. But because we are assured that he will always honor his word and act according to his character, we are assured that all things—even death—will work together for good,[11] and that nothing we do at his command will be in vain. This is how we are to understand Jesus’ lesson to his disciples after his rebuke of Peter:

Then Jesus said to his disciples, “Whoever wants to be my disciple must deny themselves and take up their cross and follow me. For whoever wants to save their life will lose it, but whoever loses their life for me will find it.[12]

Jesus is saying that when we consider only our own action for Christ’s sake, we see only the loss of our life. But when we consider also the action of God that initiates, accompanies, and completes our own, we find life, even if we have necessarily had to lay our own life down along the way. Conversely, when we consider human action as complete and comprehensible in itself, saving our own life makes sense; however, when we widen the lens to include God’s own action, saving our own lives is revealed as foolish. The incomplete actions of the redeemed will be completed by God; the completed actions of the unredeemed will be undone by God.

So then, how do we act in concert and coordination with God and his people across time and space—the “whole Christ”—as we do the word commanded in a Scripture we are reading?

We must first submit to seeing the world as he tells us it is. We must renounce our sight and become blind men who are wholly reliant on the Holy Spirit for guidance. The Apostle Paul calls this living by faith, not by sight.[13] The mistake we typically make in responding to God’s command is to “triangulate” the command: We try to reconcile God’s word with the world as we understand it and with our lives as we understand them. In doing this we reduce what is possible to what we can understand, or what we believe can be reasonably expected of us, or what we believe other people will tolerate us doing. In this way, we domesticate, or tame, the word of God. We make it fit into our lives and into the world.

In order to prevent us from domesticating God’s commandments, we should instead take every command of Scripture as literally as God’s character permits. In other words, we should resolve to carry out every command we read exactly as written. We should carry it out in such a way that the fullness of God’s character as we are able to presently understand it shows through, i.e., as the Sermon on the Mount shows, our observance starts from the heart and proceeds outward; there can be no mere external observance. When doing a command exactly as written would clearly violate what God has revealed about himself in Scripture overall, we should use the other steps detailed in this book in order to understood more fully what he is asking of us.

For example, when Christ says, “If your right eye causes you to sin, gouge it out and throw it away,” we know not to fulfill this command literally. We know this not because we think gouging out our eye is not practical (though that is no doubt true), and not because others would be troubled if we gouged out our eye (though that is certainly true), but because we know that God’s character prevents us from treating our bodies as our own property to mutilate as we wish. His sacrifice for sin is his son, Jesus, not our gouged eyeball; presenting the latter as our atonement insults the former. So we know not to take this command literally but instead to use the Nicene Creed, contextual information about this Scripture, and insights into God’s character and actions in this and other Scriptures to understand what God is commanding us to do. For example, in this case in the immediately preceding verse, Matthew 5:28, Christ tells us that adultery occurs in the heart, not in the bed. Thus, we are to understand that it is not the right eye that causes sin, but the heart. The one who plucks out the right eye and even the left one will still be a slave to sin; the member that must be plucked out is the heart.

The mistake we make at this point is to assume that if Jesus is not speaking literally, he is not speaking seriously. In such cases, we wrongly think that instead of asking for any action, he is using colorful exaggeration to give us a simple moral lesson like, “Be careful what you look at.” But if we follow the principle noted above to take every command as literally as the character of God permits, then we should conclude that Jesus is indeed asking us to pluck out not our eyes but our hearts. This can only happen in baptism. Jesus is not simply urging us to be careful what we look at it. He is urging us to enter the waters of death and rebirth, where he will give us a new heart and a new spirit.[14]

Where there is no barrier to taking God’s commands literally, we should do so even when doing so does not seem practical to us, and even when doing so is likely to draw persecution from others. A somewhat controversial example is found in Matthew 5:33-37, where Jesus commands:

Again, you have heard that it was said to the people long ago, “Do not break your oath, but fulfill to the Lord the vows you have made.” But I tell you, do not swear an oath at all: either by heaven, for it is God’s throne; or by the earth, for it is his footstool; or by Jerusalem, for it is the city of the Great King. And do not swear by your head, for you cannot make even one hair white or black. All you need to say is simply “Yes” or “No”; anything beyond this comes from the evil one.[15]

The example is controversial because good Christians have disagreed on whether Christians should take oaths. But if we apply the principle given in this chapter (i.e., take God’s commands as literally unless doing so clearly violates God’s character), then the matter is resolved: There is nothing in the character of God that is compromised when we do not take oaths; therefore, Christians should not take oaths. In many cases the refusal to take oaths will indeed draw opposition and even persecution from the world; further, in our own judgment, we may think it impractical for us not to take an oath (e.g., we may worry that people think we are lying if we do not swear an oath). But neither of these reasons outweighs the overarching principle: Take the command as literally as possible without violating God’s character. Therefore, doing the word of Matthew 5:33-37 means swearing no oaths.

In some cases, we will not be certain whether to take a command literally or not; we may not know for sure whether a command even applies to us. A notable example is Jesus’ command to the rich young ruler in Mark 10:21: “Go, sell everything you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven. Then come, follow me.”[16] Should we do this word, or did Jesus intend it only for the rich young ruler?

Good Christians disagree on the answer to this question, as well as the interpretation of many other biblical commands. When difficulties of interpretation exist, we can use the principles from this chapter in order to determine what course of action is best. In the presence of the Holy Spirit and the church (typically in the form of accountability partners from our local church body, or through learning from faithful Christians across the ages), we can examine our hearts in order to find out the source of our discomfort about taking the command literally. If the source of the discomfort is our own judgment, or our concern about how others will respond, then we should submit to the commandment. If we sense the source of the discomfort is divine, then we should apply the tools in this book in order to situate the command more fully within the broader counsel of God’s word.

Acts 10:9-16 provides an example:

About noon the following day as [the servants of Cornelius] were on their journey and approaching the city, Peter went up on the roof to pray. He became hungry and wanted something to eat, and while the meal was being prepared, he fell into a trance. He saw heaven opened and something like a large sheet being let down to earth by its four corners. It contained all kinds of four-footed animals, as well as reptiles and birds. Then a voice told him, “Get up, Peter. Kill and eat.”

“Surely not, Lord!” Peter replied. “I have never eaten anything impure or unclean.”

The voice spoke to him a second time, “Do not call anything impure that God has made clean.”

This happened three times, and immediately the sheet was taken back to heaven.[17]

As the Holy Spirit continues to guide Peter, as he reflects further on the broader counsel of God, and as he hears the testimony of Cornelius, Peter comes to a new and deeper understanding of God’s command in the vision:

Then Peter began to speak: “I now realize how true it is that God does not show favoritism but accepts from every nation the one who fears him and does what is right.”[18]

Peter’s actions illustrate a recurring theme in the Scripture: We should not fail to do the word because we are worried that we may do it incorrectly. Scripture records God discipling us “in motion”—that is, as we are seeking with all of our hearts to act in concert with him in order to sincerely reflect his character by doing the word. We can be encouraged that the Lord disciples even wrong-headed, threat-breathing Saul when he is “in motion” on the way to Damascus to persecute Christians:

Then Saul, still breathing threats and murder against the disciples of the Lord, went to the high priest and asked letters from him to the synagogues of Damascus, so that if he found any who were of the Way, whether men or women, he might bring them bound to Jerusalem.

As he journeyed he came near Damascus, and suddenly a light shone around him from heaven. Then he fell to the ground, and heard a voice saying to him, “Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting Me?”

And he said, “Who are You, Lord?”

Then the Lord said, “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting. It is hard for you to kick against the goads.”

So he, trembling and astonished, said, “Lord, what do You want me to do?”

Then the Lord said to him, “Arise and go into the city, and you will be told what you must do.”[19]

It is not the incorrect that the Lord despises but the proud;[20] it is not the hot or the cold that the Lord spews out of his mouth but the lukewarm.[21] If he disciples us when we are in motion, then the only hopeless ones among us are those who are standing still. When we are standing still out of fear of being wrong, we will certainly be regarded by him as “wicked and slothful,” not cautiously prudent.[22] “For the eyes of the Lord range throughout the earth to strengthen those whose hearts are fully committed to him,” says the seer.[23] When our hearts are fully committed to him, when we are humbly seeking to coordinate our actions with his own, whether we are hot or cold, when we do the word as literally as God’s character permits, we can do so with the confidence that he himself will graciously guide us into all truth.[24]

[5] Acts 9:37, NIV.

[6] Cf. John 16:13.

[7] Acts 17:25, NIV.

[8] Cf. E. Foley, 2017. Planting the Underground Church. Seoul: Voice of the Martyrs, pp. 72-77.

[9] John 5:19, NIV.

[10] Matthew 16:21-23, NIV.

[11] Cf. Romans 8:28.

[12] Matthew 16:24-25, NIV.

[13] 2 Corinthians, 5:7, NIV.

[14] Cf. Ezekiel 36:26.ve

[15] Matthew 5:33-37, NIV.

[16] Mark 10:21, NIV.

[17] Acts 10:9-16, NIV.

[18] Acts 10:35, NIV.

[19] Acts 9:1-6, NIV.

[20] Cf. James 4:6.

[21] Cf. Rev. 3:16.

[22] Cf. Matthew 25:26, ESV.

[23] 2 Chronicles 16:9, NIV.

[24] Cf. John 16:13.

Posted in Living in the Underground Church | Tagged , , , , , , | Leave a comment