The Argument Jesus Lost

Maybe this marks me out as a shallow human being, but one of the things that I most enjoy about the gospel accounts of the Lord’s ministry is the rhetorical brilliance with which He dazzled His opponents.  I went to a Top 15 law school back in the day, so I’ve spent some time with people who are good with words, but I’ve never met anybody as quick-witted as Jesus was.

For instance, the story of Matthew 22:15-22 leaves me in awe.  I couldn’t have come up with such a crushing reply if you gave me 10 years, but Jesus did so instantaneously.  His enemies were subtle, intelligent people (just look at the way they manipulate Pilate in John 19:1-16), but Jesus repeatedly made them look stupid.  He truly had a superhuman intellect! Continue reading

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Outsourcing Discipleship

The English language changes more than just about any other language out there, and I’m old enough now that I have seen new words come into common use.  One of those words is “outsourcing”.  For those of you who aren’t up on business jargon, outsourcing is when a company decides to contract out services that it used to provide internally.  For instance, a small business might decide to shut down its marketing department and outsource that to a marketing firm.

In the business world, this can often make a lot of sense.  However, as always, we must be cautious with our applications of worldly wisdom to the spiritual realm.  In particular, we ought to be wary of the dangers of outsourcing our discipleship to the church. Continue reading

Let’s Suppose Peter Is the Rock

The other day in Bible class, we briefly went through the story of Peter’s confession in Matthew 16, and as I often do when presented with Matthew 16:18, I started considering the debate about whether the rock in the text is Peter.  The Catholic Church has argued for centuries that it is, that Jesus is making a wordplay between Petros/petra in Greek or Kepha/kepha in Aramaic (the likely original language).  Those who feel like breaking lances with the Catholics over the issue generally claim in response that the rock is not Peter, that based on the change in gender between Petros and petra, Jesus is changing subjects.

I don’t have the training to evaluate those linguistic arguments, though it has always seemed strained to me to argue that Jesus is discussing Peter-not Peter-Peter in Matthew 16:18-19 rather than Peter-Peter-Peter.  However, I do think that all of the back-and-forthing about Greek and Aramaic is irrelevant.

Here’s the deal.  The Catholic Church likes Matthew 16:18 because it thinks it can use the passage to establish the authority of the Pope.  This authority rests on two key doctrines:  Petrine supremacy (Peter was the chief of the apostles and the head of the church) and apostolic succession (Peter and the other apostles handed down their authority in the church to other men who stepped into their place).  Those doctrines would be significant if true, but I don’t think their truth can be established from the text even if Peter is the rock. Continue reading

What’s in a Name?

The Jackson Heights Church of Christ?

The Jackson Heights church of Christ?

The Church of Christ at Jackson Heights?

The Church of Christ That Meets at Jackson Heights?

The Building in Front of the Jackson Heights Subdivision Where a Congregation of the Lord’s People Assembles?

Depending on how persnickety the elders feel like being, the name that a church puts on the sign out front can reflect a nearly infinite degree of concern for using the correct nomenclature.  I don’t know this for certain, but I fear that sometime, somewhere, a church has split because of dissension about what verbiage to use (though hopefully not over the capital versus lower-case C!).

Even lesser disagreements on the subject still strike me as textbook examples of 2 Timothy 2:14.  If quarreling about the words on a sign isn’t “quarreling about words”, then what is?  Even beyond that, I’m generally suspicious of magic-word approaches to serving God.  Changing the name of a congregation doesn’t change its nature, and either that nature is pleasing to God or it isn’t, regardless of the name.  Why get all fussed about the part that doesn’t matter? Continue reading

Choosing a Reading Bible (Recommendations)

I want to wrap up my series on reading Bibles with a few recommendations for people who don’t want to be bothered with all the other stuff and just want to know what kind of Bible to get.  Here are some Bibles in various translations that I personally have used as reading Bibles and liked.  In fact, I still own most of them, so anybody who wants to try before buying is welcome to ask me for a look-see (if you live in the Columbia, TN area, at least!). Continue reading

Biblical Opposites That Aren’t

In my 13 years of preaching, I’ve seen a lot of different arguments made about the Bible, some that I think are valid, some that I think aren’t.  In the latter category, I have to put the arguments that try to pit the Bible against itself.  When this happens, somebody tries to deny Scripture A or Concept A by pointing to an apparently contradictory Scripture B or Concept B.  Their conclusion is that because B is true, they get to ignore A.

I have problems with that.  The Bible is, of course, the word of God.  It is inspired and inerrant.  As a result, it’s impossible for the Scripture to truly contradict itself.  Any contradictions that we think we run into, then, or any two Biblical concepts that we think are opposed to each other, are only that way in our own heads and not in reality.  This morning, then, I want to sort out some of the confusion.  I want to look at some supposed Biblical opposites that aren’t. Continue reading