Saturday, December 26, 2009

Christianity, Judaism and the Marketplace of Religions

In the book Rediscovering Paul the authors explain why Christianity, although flowing from Judaism, broke away from it's "Jewish moorings".

"It should not surprise us that Judaism could not contain the splinter group whose members were known as Christians. Even though Jewish members of "the way" may have seen their zeal for the gospel as part and parcel of their Jewish heritage, eventually their kinsmen found their message and their ways blasphemous. The temple, the Torah, circumcision, the dietary code, even the sabbath-everything distinctively Jewish was compromised by early Christianity. It is no wonder, then, that the Jesus movement eventually broke away from its Jewish moorings (Paul made sure of that). So,with the influx of Gentile Christians and the steady eroision of Jewish traditions, imagine how hard it was for early Christians to distinguish themselves in the marketplace of religions. Christians had no temple, no sacred space. That must have put them at a disadvantage in attracting devotees. Where does one go to worship the Christian God? What are the holy days of sacrifice? Which animals must be slaughtered for divine purpose? Among pagans it was common for temples to host sacred meals. Christians had sacred meals without temples. Was it possible to have sacred meals in an ordinary house? Christians read Jewish Scripture but did not observe the Jewish law. They had no prayer houses, only house churches. In certain respects, these people had no definable, distinctive features other than the fact that they proclaimed the resurrection of their leader, baptized their novitiates in his name, shared a common table and gathered on the first day of the week to sing, pray, prophesy and occasionaly listen to the reading of letter written by a man whose name was Paul"(pgs. 52-53).

It is amazing that Christianity grew the way it did when one consideres the religious and political climate of the first century. The gospel truly "is the power of God for salvation to everyone who has faith" (Romans 1:16).

Thursday, December 24, 2009

Tullian on the Great Reversal

Tullian quotes C.S. Lewis on the 'reverse of the curse' in this post:

"All of Jesus’ ministry—the words he spoke, the miracles he performed—showed that there was a new order in town: God’s order. When Jesus healed the diseased, raised the dead, and forgave the desperate, he did so to show that with the arrival of God in the flesh came the restoration of the way God intended things to be. New life was given, health was restored; God was reversing the curse of death, disease, and discomfort. The incarnation of Christ began the “great reversal.”

Read the whole thing here.

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Dead and Alive in Christ

This past week I have trying to read through Paul's letter to the Colossians in one sitting once per day. I am looking forward to receiving Michael Bird's new commentary on the letter for Christmas so I am preparing myself beforehand.

In chapter 3 Paul uses the image of dying and rising with Christ in order to promote right living in relation to God, each other, and the world. This is a frequent theme outside this letter as well (i.e. Galatians). He tells the Christians to seek things that are above, where Christ is seated. This isn't simply a way of saying, "think nice thoughts about heaven and don't think about the world." It means that the Colossians are to live as new creations in a world that is hostile to God. They are being transformed into the image of their creator and they are to seek the things that promote growth in this direction. This means that they will have to consider certain things to be true. It is tempting for Christians to think that they have two natures battling within and sometimes the bad nature wins and sometimes the good nature wins. This isn't how Paul thinks. He teaches that Christians are already new men and women in Christ. They have been redeemed in Christ as a foretaste of the things to come. Therefore when temptation comes don't say things like, "I can't overcome this unless you do something God!" because God has already done something. He has made us new in Christ and given us his Spirit so that we can, unlike before, be obedient to him.