Individuals As Sinner Or Saint: Which One Do Communities Of Faith Produce?

➡ Average Reading Time: 17 minutes

This paper was presented at the Society of Vineyard Scholars. Seattle, WA in 2011.

© 2011. Winn Griffin, D.Min

Introduction

Individuals As Sinner Or SaintGood afternoon saints, good afternoon sinners. The premise of this paper asks a general question: do communities influence individuals? Second, if so, how might a church community influence its individual congregants to be sinner or saint in their pursuit of kingdom living?

I will consider five areas.

  1. Research on “community influence” from the social sciences and theology[ref]While it could be anathema to cite only a few sources per category as basis for the thesis, it should be remembered that the sources were themselves the product of the findings of a community of scholars in their own field struggling with data to offer some explanation for the community influence of individuals, in the first case the choice of a spouse, in the second to develop a theology for the community of God.[/ref]
  2. A quick scan of the biblical narrative with community in mind
  3. A whistle-stop tour of the Covenant
  4. A view of the Covenant Stipulations of the Decalogue through the lens of the indicative/imperative hermeneutic
  5. Some closing thoughts/questions

Community Influence On Individuals (Collective Influence)

Social Sciences

Does a community influence individuals? If this question is not answered with a “yes,” then the premise of this paper does not exist. Some basic information is warranted to suggest that the premise does exist. It comes from three sources. First, drawing on the social science perspective, Dr. Colter Mitchell, from Princeton University, in a paper: “Whose Will Dominates[ref]Colter Mitchell, “Whose Will Dominates: Individual, Family and Community Influences on Participation in Spouse Selection,” https://bit.ly/2GUfTat (accessed November 11, 2010). He also suggests that “The relationship between the individual and society is a foundational issue within the social sciences …. Social scholars … [looked at] how individuals … like family, church and community, express and enforce their will. Typically scholars view an individual’s sense of personal control, or one’s perception of their ability to exercise the influence of their life, as a reflection of the family and community-level opportunities given to, and restriction placed on, the individual. … People can vary tremendously in their sense of control of personal autonomy: including by gender, race, education, age, marital status and numerous other characteristics.” Dr. Mitchell poses three frameworks from which he draws his conclusions. First, the relationship between beliefs and actions. Second, the role of education in inducing changes. Third, a supposition that the first two frameworks will work at multiple levels to influence an individual’s behavior. He concludes that while the data may be inadequate because of lack of research that there is a “large body of literature [that] examines pieces of this … issue and … provides important insights into what we can expect by combining … ideational influences.[/ref] concludes” “even the extent to which [an] individual’s own ideas affect [his] behavior [they] are conditional on the local community’s ideation context.[ref]Ibid.[/ref]

Second, Robert Bellah, from a sociologist perspective, suggests that many of the ills of today’s society result from too great an emphasis on individualism and too weak a commitment to the community.[ref]All Academic Research, “From the Church Pew to the Community: The Influence of Religious Activities on Civic Engagement, ”https://bit.ly/2GXv3vL (accessed November 28, 2010). See also: Robert Bellah, Habits of the Heart (Ewing, NJ: University of California, 1985). [/ref] Is it possible that Bellah’s point is that the weakness of the individual is because of the weakness of the community?

Third, Mary Pipher, from a psychotherapist perspective, suggests that “Particular communities produce certain kinds of families.[ref] Mary Pipher, The Shelter of Each Other (New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1997), 71. In addition, Pipher says: “We hunger for values, community and something greater; (81) “As communities fell apart and organization lost its hold, therapy grew,” (110-111). She inquires about how do we hold together our long-held culturally derived ideas of personal/individual freedom and also acknowledge our culture’s desperate need for family loyalty and community values (127).[/ref] One might extrapolate from that, that particular communities produce certain kinds of individuals.

Theological

The late Stan Grenz suggests:

“Community” is important as an integrative motif for theology … it is central to the message of the Bible [and that] … community is integral to epistemology…. Central to the knowing process is a cognitive framework mediated to the individual by the community in which one participates. [ref]6 Stanley J. Grenz, Theology for the Community of God (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994), 23-24. Grenz says, “Similarly, community is crucial to identity formation. Our sense of personal identity develops through the telling of a personal narrative, which, communalists declare, is always embedded in the story of the communities in which we live. Traditions mediated by communities, and not individuals, … are the carriers of rationality. The community mediates to us the transcending story by means of which our personal narrative makes sense. From the narrative of the primordial garden which opens the curtain on the biblical story to the vision of white-robed multitudes inhabiting the new earth with which it concludes, the drama of the Scriptures speaks of community.” [/ref]

In Genesis 1, God’s story begins by suggesting that God created humankind to be a community (Gen 1.26),[ref]Winn Griffin, God’s EPIC Adventure (Woodinville, WA: Harmon Press, 2007), 72. [/ref] The story carries on this concept in the NT with metaphors like “church” and “body of Christ.” When John Donne wrote in Devotions, “No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent,” he may have caught a glimpse of the creative act of God to form community. [ref]Ibid., 62 [/ref]

So, if community is God’s provision for our journey and communities have influence in our decisions, can a community influence an individual to be sinner or saint? From the above brief, broad-brushed overview, I think it is fair to suggest that communities do have influence over individuals and we will suggest that its influence can be for good or bad.

While an individual may have the final word on his/her actions, the influence of a community is often overbearing enough that the choices she/he makes is the one the community is making. This concept could possibly explain such aberrations as drinking Kool-Aid with Jim Jones in Jonestown Guyana (guy-A-na), or with perishing in a fire with the Branch Davidians and David Koresh in Waco, TX.

A Quick Scan Of The Biblical Narrative

Is the concept of community at the root of the OT narrative? If the sacred text has individualism as its basic premise, then my premise of community influence of individuals is already mooted.

God’s Grand Narrative

Tom Wright in his book The New Testament and the People of God, [ref]N. T. Wright, The New Testament and the People of God. (Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1992), 140. [/ref] suggests that Scripture is like a five-act-play. [ref]In my book God’s EPIC Adventure, I focus on this way of thinking about Scripture and offer a breakdown of our sacred text into Acts and Scenes. [/ref] Since writing my own book with Wright’s five-act-play metaphor as its basis, I now think the storyline could be better seen as a six-act-play with the following acts: Creation, Chaos, Covenant, Christ, Church, and Consummation.

With the community in mind here is a brief scan of the storyline. In the Creation narrative, God created a couple, a community and the three were a community. Chaos ensued with the community deciding that they should be independent instead of interdependent with God. This first community was the seed for the larger community: Israel, whose story is told in the Covenant Act. The solving of the problem produced in the Chaos Act[ref]G. K. Chesterton, “Wisdom of Father Brown,” https://bit.ly/32nljD1 (accessed November 11, 2010). In Chapter 7: “The Purple Wig,” Finn says, “I know it is the practice of journalists to put the end of the story at the beginning and call it a headline.” [/ref] is carried out by this new community working within the framework built on a Covenant that they entered into with God. The purpose of Israel was to demonstrate to the world what living with the Creator God was like. They were supposed to demonstrate a lifestyle that others could follow thus bringing about a restoration of the good creation. When Israel failed to become the “light of the world,” the story moves to its crowned apex in the Christ Act, who with the interactive perichoresis (perichoresis) of God (think community) was the incarnate one who came to provide a model of what “true humanity” within a community was really like. Christ created a community of men and women who were learning what it meant to be the Church, the “body of Christ,” yes, a community. The Church’s mission was to deliver a message of restoration by works and words to the present damaged world caused by the Chaos Act. Finally, the Consummation of the story is the recreation of the solution found at the beginning Creation Act, a community in eternal fellowship with their Creator God. That future glimpse of Consummation draws us presently into the storyline to live now in this present age into what we will become then.

The Covenant: A Whistle Stop Tour

The third act of God’s Grand Narrative is the Covenant Act. [ref]Ex 19.2-Num 10.10.[/ref] The giving of the covenant to Israel provided a format for the community to have a relationship with God based on his act of mercy in their deliverance. The covenant was given to a redeemed people essentially in the form of an elaborate oath[ref]Delbert R. Hillers, Covenant: The History Of A Biblical Idea (Baltimore, MD and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969), 28 [/ref] often called a Lord-Servant (Suzerain-Vassal) Treaty. [ref]Ibid., 29-45. The Covenant section of the Pentateuch is self-contained and describes some of the teachings that Israel needed on their way to the Promised Land. It covers the period from Israel’s arrival at Mt. Sinai (Ex 19.2) to their departure (Num 10.10), about one year in the life of Israel. [/ref]

Redemption/Exodus came first, then the covenant (Law). The resulting covenant (Law) was not (as has been thought and taught) a way in which Israel could become God’s children. It was never intended to be a system of legal observances[ref]Luther’s own understanding of the Law has been under investigation under the rubric of The New Perspective. And it might be expedient to grasp if your own theology leans toward Luther or toward Dunn and Wright, or perhaps toward neither. [/ref] by which one could earn God’s acceptance if the stipulations were obeyed. The commandments are the stipulations of the covenant relationship which are rooted in grace! They are still the basic statements on the quality of life that must characterize those who belong to God. [ref]W. S. LaSor and others, Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament Second Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996), 72-75. God had demonstrated his salvation love to Israel in the historical act of her redemption from the hands of her Egyptian oppressors. God reveals his redemptive purpose always based on grace, not on man’s ability to obligate God to save him because he has kept the law. It was a covenant to assist them in being light-bearers to the world. In the scope of the overall storyline, as a newly formed community of the redeemed, they needed to comprehend relationship with their God which would lead them to worship of their God and relate to others in a new-human sort of way. The covenant was a way in which these redeemed people could relate to God and to each other and in those relationships demonstrate to the world what being the people of God was really like. All of Scripture knows only one way of salvation and that is the grace of God. [/ref]

To look at our premise, we are going to focus on the Decalogue. The Ten Commandments[ref]Exodus 20.1-17.[/ref] are some of the most famous words in the Old Testament. As stipulations of the covenant, they are significant because by obeying them, redeemed Israel (and by extension the church) will “remain the people of God.” [ref]Walter Brueggemann, An Introduction To The Old Testament: The Canon And Christian Imagination (Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003), 65.[/ref]

What if the form of the Decalogue helps us understand its content? The stipulations appear to be listed in two categories: the first four stipulations are directed relationally toward God while the last six are directed relationally toward humankind. [ref]Gordon Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 2003), 69. Paul R. House, Old Testament Theology (Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 1998), 111. [/ref] Living out the last six can occur by living into the first four[ref]Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 69. House, Old Testament Theology, 111. The first stipulation with its focus on the relationship they had with Yahweh must take priority over all other relationships.[/ref] thus, demonstrating how the relationship with God and humankind is played out. [ref]I like to think of these stipulations as “journeying toward God which enables journeying toward humankind.”[/ref]

My working presuppositions are threefold:

  1. The first four stipulations are netted together because they form the empowerment to accomplish the last six stipulations.
  2. The latter six stipulations are unlivable without living into the former four from which they flow.
  3. More time is spent on trying to fix the results of disobeying the latter six than on the ongoing lifestyle of the first four.

In short, the community not influenced by the first four stipulations will have difficulty, if not an impossibility, to enact the last six. Without the community involvement in the first four, I assert that the individuals within the community may be influenced to sinner not saint.

The Indicative and Imperative (Declaration And Exhortation)

In the NT there is believed to be a hermeneutical motif called “indicative and imperative.” [ref]George Eldon Ladd, A Theology of the New Testament, Revised Edition (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1993), 568-569. James D. G. Dunn, The Theology of Paul the Apostle (Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1998), 626-631.[/ref] While the overall pattern of Paul’s letters as written in two sections, first theological (often seen as the indicative) and then application (often seen as the imperative), has fallen into dispute, [ref]Ladd and Dunn, 626-631.[/ref] the indicative and imperative is still held by scholars like James D. G. Dunn who suggests the point of this framework is: “the indicative is the necessary presupposition and starting point for the imperative” and “the imperative must be the outworking of the indicative.” [ref]Ibid., 63.[/ref] This motif could also be called “declaration and exhortation.” The declaration is what God has done to inaugurate the new age in the present world. The exhortation is living out the reality of what God has done presently. The two-age structure is fundamental for understanding the NT and pervades it.

Living simultaneously in the two-age system, this age and the age to come, the indicative-imperative hermeneutic brings the future into the present. [ref]We are citizens of two worlds at the same time. We live in the present evil age, yet we are members of the age to come. The future has invaded the present in the life of Jesus so that we now live in the presence of the future. The old-age remains with all its evil and corruption, but the new has invaded the old.[/ref] Here is an illustration of the indicative and imperative structure from Romans 12.1-2:

Therefore, I urge you, brothers and sisters, in view of God’s mercy, to offer your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and pleasing to God—this is true worship. Do not conform to the pattern of this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your mind. Then you will be able to test and approve what God’s will is—his good, pleasing and perfect will (TNIV).

In this passage, God’s mercy is in the indicative. Mercy is something which God has given to the community of faith and based on that gift, the community of faith must respond to the imperative, “Do not conform [any longer] to the pattern of this world, but ….” [ref] The ultimate act of worship is for the community to offer itself to God. Paul wants his readers to understand that the mercy of the age to come has arrived. That is a fact! The part the community plays is to respond to the exhortation to live out this-age-to-come-mercy that is occurring in the present evil age thus influencing the individuals who make it up to follow suit. [/ref]

What if we applied the indicative and imperative motif of Pauline theology to the Decalogue? We have suggested that the latter six stipulations are dependent on the first four for adequate responses, i.e., the last six are the imperatives, which are to be lived out in this present world empowered by the first four, which are the indicatives that God wishes that a community of faith would live into. A novel hermeneutic for sure, but it might be functional. We should also remember that the stipulations are a community of stipulations given to a community, not a group of fragments to only be dealt with one-at-a-time in isolation.

The Covenant Stipulations

It is understood that the Decalogue (Ten Words) is set in Apodictic legal language which has caused a lot of grief to this section of the story because the language suggests what shouldn’t be done. What if we simply restated the stipulations into positive statements instead of Apodictic legal language? The indicatives and imperatives could be read something like this:

The Indicatives

  1. I am the only God you can have.
  2. You can only worship me, giving up all the idols of your own making.
  3. Use my name with the dignity and respect due the Creator of the universe.
  4. Set apart a Sabbath rest for the community.

The Imperatives

So, based on these indicatives, we respond to the following six imperatives:

  1. Honor parents
  2. Honor life as sacred
  3. Honor the spouse of another
  4. Honor the property of another
  5. Honor the reputation of another
  6. Enjoy what we have and honor what others have[ref]See Appendix 1.[/ref]

Here’s the sequence when the indicative-imperative motif is applied to the stipulations given to a community: the first four declarations are the empowerment by which the latter six are exhortations to be lived out based within the webbing of the first four. Thus, if the community does not live into the first four, the community will move to sinner status rather than saint status. Therefore, it is expedient that communities of faith discover how to impregnate their communities with the first four stipulations, so the community influences its individual congregants to move toward saint and not sinner status.

Said another way: the first four stipulations of the Decalogue serve as the gateway through which the last six stipulations have a chance for success. The community’s participation in the first four will influence individual congregants to saint while neglecting the first four stipulations will influence individual congregants to sinner. This seemed to be true of Israel, who was always on the ropes with God for breaking the first of the four stipulations, which seemed to make them venerable to hear the accusations of the prophets
about their adultery making.

Conclusion: The Most Blessed Word For A Group Of Hearers

Since it may be true that the community may influence individuals in the lifestyles they pursue: [ref]These beginning questions could be fleshed out in the five major areas of community life: spiritual, social, financial, physical, and yes, even sexual.[/ref]

  • Why not focus on the indicatives so as to influence the imperatives, using this hermeneutic to help our communities of faith influence individual congregants to live into being a saint?
  • Why not view all that we do as a community through the lens of the first four stipulations?

As the community goes, so goes the individual congregant. Don Williams has written, “An isolated Christian is a defeated Christian.[ref]Don Williams, Kingdom Essentials For New Christians (Ventura, CA: Regal, 2006), 72. [/ref] I think he is correct! As the community goes, so go to other communities that individual congregants live in.

Finally some thoughts on the participating with the first four stipulations:

  1. I am the only God you can have: What if we learned from other fields of study what they can teach us about relationship and then apply what we learn to our community’s relationship with God? Are we so afraid of what the social sciences can teach us? If all truth comes from God, is it possible that they may have “some truth” that might be useful for us as well as our “some truth” useful for them? Why not collaboration instead of confrontation?
  2. You can only worship me, giving up all the idols of your own making: What if we asked ourselves what church community concepts have become “graven images” that we worship? What if our pride about being “kingdom of God people,” or being a “healing” community, or being a “we serve the poor” community or being a “missional “ community, or that we have a heritage of “Vineyard worship music” are images that we now worship? How would we reimage these concepts to be helpers toward the worship of God and not gods that are themselves being worshiped?
  3. Use my name with the dignity and respect due the Creator of the universe: What if we discover how our church community defrauds God’s name in the way we talk about him in our programs, services, sermons, worship music, and the outcome of how we live for him for the sake of the world because of those activities? What if our own political persuasions simply co-opt God thus influencing others to believe that God belongs to a specific political party?
  4. Set apart a Sabbath rest for the community: What if we simply discover how much wasted time we spend in our worship services that needs to be redeemed? What if we gave the church community a Sabbath rest with a Sunday off once in a while, i.e., a day of rest from Sunday services? What if we gave the church community a Sabbath “week off” from all church activities once in a while? What if we just let the community of faith rest from the hyper amount of activity that is planned for them?

These first four stipulations are the empowerment to live into the last six stipulations. Focusing on them could help us toward saint status rather than sinner status. Lord, may we become more saint than sinner. Let it be so!

AfterWord

After I read this paper at the annual Society for Vineyard Scholars meeting, a friend and colleague, Dr. Marty Folsom, reminded me that the very first stipulation would probably serve as the indicative while the other stipulations would serve as the imperatives. I remembered from a previous study that the Lord-Servant Treaties were patterned with the first statement of the stipulations as to the foundation from which all of the other stipulations flowed. So, in future presentations, I will revise the sections above and substitute the one for the four as follows:

The Indicative

  1. I am the only God you can have.

The Imperatives

So, based on this indicative, we respond to the following nine imperatives in two categories:

Toward God

  1. You can only worship me, giving up all the idols of your own making.
  2. Use my name with the dignity and respect due the Creator of the universe.
  3. Set apart a Sabbath rest for the community.

Toward Humankind

  1. Honor parents
  2. Honor life as sacred
  3. Honor the spouse of another
  4. Honor the property of another
  5. Honor the reputation of another
  6. Enjoy what we have and honor what others have

Appendix 1: The Ten Words

The community is addressed to (Ex 19.25):

  1. Have no other gods: which may suggest God’s uniqueness and supremacy. “There is no room in biblical theology for any god but Yahweh, the one who creates, sustains, redeems, judges and calls.”[ref]House, Old Testament Theology, 112. [/ref]
  2. Have no graven images: Which may suggest God’s concern for proper worship. “It is forbidden to claim Yahweh is your supreme god and yet bow down to others. Sole allegiance to Yahweh is required. Nothing Less.”[ref]House, 112.[/ref] Wehman believes that prohibition relates to “the manufacturing of images with the intention of worshipping them” [ref]Wenham, Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch, 69[/ref]
  3. Not taking God’s name in vain: which may suggest the dignity/power of God’s name and being. Since there is only one God, his name, which represented the Hebrew conception of the divine nature or character, [ref]Jewish Encyclopedia.com, “Names of God,” 2010, https://bit.ly/2FnbWKX (November 13). [/ref] could not be used lightly. Using God’s name vainly could also mean “giving God a bad name,” by living an inappropriate lifestyle, or presenting teaching as “deriving from Yahweh” that does not, or using the name of Yahweh for selfish purposes. [ref]House, Old Testament Theology, 113. [/ref]
  4. Keep Sabbath holy: which may suggest God’s claim to his creatures’ time, his concern for re-creation. This stipulation draws on creation theology. Since Yahweh provides for all needs in six days, the community should not worry that resting one day in a week will bring sloth. Sabbath was one full day of unfettered time for the purpose of refreshment.
  5. Honor parents: which may suggest recognition of legitimate authority. The word translated “honor” frequently has God as its object, where it is translated “glorify.” It has been suggested that “To honor parents is to accord them a respect and importance reserved for the sacred.” [ref]House, OTT. 114.[/ref]
  6. Not murder: which may suggest a reverence for life; a human right to live with no unauthorized or premeditated killing. This stipulation and the following three are about taking elements of life from others. Beginning here with taking another’s life in a premeditated act.
  7. Not commit adultery: which may suggest the sanctity of marriage, the home, human sexuality. This stipulation is about the taking of another person’s spouse, remembering that Israel was accused of committing adultery as a community.
  8. Not steal: Which may suggest respect for property. This stipulation is about taking another’s property.
  9. Not false witness: which may suggest respect for reputation; good name; honesty. This stipulation is about taking another’s reputation. Since God is the giver of life, life partners, labor, and property (Gen. 1-2), to break these stipulations is a “blunt rejection” of God.[ref]House, 114.[/ref]
  10. Avoid coveting: which may suggest contentment and not wishing that others have what they have. This stipulation may be the specific attitude that causes the breaking of the previous five stipulations, which is acquired because the first four are ignored.

Works Cited

Bassler, Jouette M., David M. Hay, and E. Elizabeth Johnson. Pauline Theology. Atlanta, GA: Society of Biblical Literature, 2002.

All Academic Research, “From the Church Pew to the Community: The Influence of Religious Activities on Civic Engagement,” http://www.allacademic.com/meta/p_mla_apa_research_citation/1/7/7/2/6/pages177260/p177260-2.php (accessed November 28, 2010).

Bellah, Robert. Habits of the Heart. Ewing, NJ: University of California, 1985.

Brueggemann, Walter. An Introduction to the Old Testament: The Canon and Christian Imagination. Louisville, KY: Westminster John Knox Press, 2003.

Chesterton, G. K., “Wisdom of Father Brown,” http://www.ccel.org/c/chesterton/wisdom/prplewig.html (accessed November 11, 2010).

Dunn, James D. G. The Theology of Paul the Apostle. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1998.

Encyclopedia.com, Jewish, “Names of God,” 2010, http://www.jewishencyclopedia.com/view.jsp?artid=52&letter=N#ixzz15BOQHyHP (November 13).

Grenz, Stanley J. Theology for the Community of God. Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994.

Griffin, Winn. God’s EPIC Adventure. Woodinville, WA: Harmon Press, 2007.

Hillers, Delbert R. Covenant: The History of a Biblical Idea. Baltimore, MD and London: The Johns Hopkins University Press, 1969.

House, Paul R. Old Testament Theology. Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 1998.

Ladd, George Eldon. A Theology of the New Testament, Revised Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans Company, 1993.

LaSor, W. S., D. A. Hubbard, F. W. Bush, and L. C. Allen. Old Testament Survey: The Message, Form, and Background of the Old Testament Second Edition. Grand Rapids, MI: William B. Eerdmans, 1996.

Mitchell, Colter, “Whose Will Dominates: Individual, Family and Community Influences on Participation in Spouse Selection,” http://www.princeton.edu/~cmitchel/index_files/Arranged.pdf (accessed November 11, 2010).

Pipher, Mary. The Shelter of Each Other. New York, NY: Ballantine Books, 1997.

Wenham, Gordon. Exploring the Old Testament: A Guide to the Pentateuch. Grand Rapids, MI: InterVarsity Press, 2003.

Williams, Don. Kingdom Essentials for New Christians. Ventura, CA: : Regal, 2006.

Wright, N. T. The New Testament and the People of God. Minneapolis, MN: Augsburg Fortress Publishers, 1992.

End of Session
 

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Read Me First

 

Throughout these sessions, I have used the word ecclesia (singular) for the usual word church and ecclesiae (plural) to indicate a church in a particular geographic place, i.e., the ecclesiae at Corinth, meaning the whole of the many smaller ecclesia that met in homes in Corinth. This is to distinguish between the Institutional Church model (IC) and ecclesia that meet in cities and towns around the world. The ecclesiae written about by the authors of the Second Testament were not the same as what the “church” has become over the years of its existence. Usually, but not always, folks think of a church as a place where they go to a building and set in rows of pews and listen to music and sometimes sing and listen to sermons by a pastor or senior pastor. The ecclesiae of the Second Testament time did not invoke this model.

 

I have discovered over the years that if you want to try and change minds about something special, you have to venture out and reword it in order to grasp a foothold for a new refreshed understanding of the idea presented by the word. Such is the case between "church" and "ecclesia."

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Second

 

Referenced verses in the text of this study are not used to prove some point of view. They are merely markers where the subject matter is referenced by other books and authors. To gain a larger view of each quote, a serious student of the Holy Writ would take the time to view the reference and see what the background is. The background provides tracks on which the meaning of a text rides. So knowing the context of a referenced passage would help the reader to gain a more thorough understanding of an author than just the words quoted and marked by a verse number that was not a part of the original author's text, which as you might remember was performed on the text in a random fashion many years later.

 

Happy Reading!

Read Me Third

 

The verses that are referenced in these sessions are not meant to prove a point. They are simply pointers to where the idea being written about may have a correlation. In order to see if they accomplish the thesis presented by the original author, a student should read, at a minimum, the chapter in which the verse is found as well as trying to ascertain what the original author may have meant to say to the original audience.

 

Of course, this is a lot of work but it is beneficial work. If one does not understand what the author meant when it was written and the audience could not have understood by what was written, then the words on the page can mean anything that a present reader may assign as a meaning, thus distorting what God was inspiring for the original writer to write to the original audience to hear.

A great and recent book by N.T. Wright and Michael F. Bird entitled The New Testament in Its World would be a wonderful addition to your reading helps.

 

Happy Reading!

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)

Jesus Followers

 

There are many synonyms to use for the word believer, which is the most common word for a person who has "converted" to follow Jesus. I have chosen "Jesus follower(s) or follower(s) of Jesus instead of the word believer in these presentations to allow the reader an opportunity to move away from the idea of believer which conjures up the possible thought of "ascent" to a set of doctrines that have been assembled by different groups over the centuries and show up in this day and age as a set of statements posted on web sites and other written material. These sets of beliefs are suggested by many as the ones that one should ascent to so that upon death the one who assents can go to heaven, i.e., just believe and you are good to go. Jesus followers/followers of Jesus suggest an action that one should take. Remember, Jesus told his disciples to follow him. Yes, belief is important, but one must move beyond belief to action.

 

(See "Discipleship" Dictionary of Jesus and the Gospels. 182-188.)