Breaking the Divide

When Jesus instituted the Supper He was in the middle of the Passover Feast. Jesus was a Jew, His disciples were all Hebrews, and so they were observing a national event in Israel. Some twenty-five years later Paul wrote 1 Corinthians which included an extensive section about observing communion. By that time the Supper had clearly crossed national boundaries. Perhaps there were some Jewish members of the church in Corinth but many were Gentiles.

Jew/Gentile fellowship is a frequent issue from Acts into the Epistles. The apostle Paul famously wrote:

For I am not ashamed of the gospel, for it is the power of God for salvation to everyone who believes, to the Jew first and also to the Greek. (Romans 1:16)

Even to mention Jews and Gentiles together would have angered Jews and offended Gentiles. Read 1 Maccabees for some history of violence. Then read the Gospels for inspired accounts of hostility. For centuries there had been bitter fights, exile and captivity and death, if not of themselves, of their ancestors. The Passover itself was a deliverance from a brutal enemy. This was a relationship with very little peace.

Yet we can look back into the earlier chapters of the story (such as Genesis 10) to see how God’s power propelled man’s fruitfulness and then pushed man to the far corners of the earth. His power established boundaries, His power caused kingdoms to rise and fall, His power sent rain and sun to grow food, His power made hearts beat. We live in a world that runs on His power and for His purposes.

His purposes include a global kingdom for His Son. God’s power created nations and God’s gospel breaks down the dividing wall of hostility between the nations (see Ephesians 2:14). So we have no need to be ashamed of the gospel. Let us celebrate His sovereign grace and His international rule through Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Shooting Whales in a Barrel

We’ve been working through our church’s What We Believe statement on Sunday evenings and last Lord’s day Pastor Jim took us through the section on the Saving Work of the Holy Spirit. Our Life to Life small group had a spirited discussion about the function and fruit of the Spirit on Friday night.

Finding errors in the thinking and practice of pneumatologically challenged Christians may be easier than shooting whales in a barrel, and may excoriate a similar amount of blubber. But us “Bible” people are called to be “Spirit” people in the Bible, and how will we know if we are getting the Spirit right?

The list is long, even inspired, found in the New Testament regarding the Spirit’s effect; section eight in “What We Believe” hammers a good number of sentence nails into our mental walls in order to balance the picture. We must also look for evidence of the Spirit in our sanctification. The “Spirit of life” (Romans 8:2) makes killers out of us, that is, the Spirit causes us to put to death the deeds of the flesh. Paul wrote to the Romans:

For if you live according to the flesh you will die, but if by the Spirit you put to death the deeds of the body, you will live. (Romans 8:13)

Die now by the Spirit or die later without Him. For all those seeking the gifts of the Spirit, we must always make sure that our desire for the gift of mortification is near the top. Before seeking to speak in an unknown tongue, are we speaking with kindness in the tongue we know? The Spirit heals, and are we seeking the healing of broken relationships caused by sin? These are the sorts of behaviors that match the “holy” ones we should be with the Holy Spirit living inside of us.

An Airtight Case

The only thing required to be guilty before God is to do nothing. Men transgress God’s law on purpose more than the evening news has time to report. But they can and do sin before getting out of bed in the morning and when they crawl under the covers after a day of ignoring God.

One of the scariest paragraphs in the Bible covers a legal ramification of creation. While the author of Hebrews acknowledges that we only understand that God made the world by faith, Paul warns that every man who doesn’t praise God for making the world is guilty in his unbelief.

For what can be known about God is plain to them, because God has shown it to them. For his invisible attributes, namely, his eternal power and divine nature, have been clearly perceived, ever since the creation of the world, in the things that have been made. So they are without excuse. For although they knew God, they did not honor him as God or give thanks to him, but they became futile in their thinking, and their foolish hearts were darkened. (Romans 1:19–21)

God can be and is known by everyone at some level. His invisible attributes, at least in His power and divine personhood, have been clearly perceived in the visible world. Every man who breathes has an airtight case against him. All he has to do to deserve wrath is nothing, to fail to honor God or give Him thanks. Many men talk a good game about their earthly knowledge and give one another honorary PhDs, but “claiming to be wise, they become fools.”

How much more ought Christians, a people of faith, a people alive to God, a people who serve righteousness, to live godly and righteous in the present age by honoring and thanking God? This is part of what it means for us to live by faith. We cannot be satisfied doing nothing, and our confidence in six day creation and our apologetics against evolution will not please God if we don’t worship Him.