Session 3: Breaking Out Of Confinement

➡ Average Reading Time: 18 minutes

Cultivating GenerosityWhen you finish this lesson you should be able to:

  • Comprehend that poverty is not the mindset or attitude of Scripture
  • Break out of your present attitudes of confinement

Session Preview

In this session, we will learn that poverty is not the mindset of Scripture. Then, we will tackle Scripture’s view of prosperity and success.

Where We Are Going

Poverty Not the Mindset or Attitude of Scripture
Breaking Out of Confinement
The First Psalms
The 112th Psalm
The 128th Psalm (1-2)
God Is Able
Where Have We Been and Where Are We Going

Poverty Not The Mindset Or Attitude Of Scripture

Through the centuries there have been churchmen who have taken vows of poverty. In “church history” you can read of such events. As an illustration: Anthony, whom many regards as the first monk, was born about A.D. 250. After reading the words of Jesus to the rich young ruler about selling all his possessions and giving to the poor, he, at the young age of twenty, gave away his wealth and took up a life of solitude in a tomb. Accounts of his life tell of his battles with temptations assailing him in visible forms such as devils, beasts, and women. In spite of such stress he apparently lived a full life and died when he was 105 years old.[ref](Bruce L. Shelley. Church History in Plain Language. Word. 1995. 118.[/ref] Still today some in the life of the ecclesiae will take a vow of poverty. This is not a problem. God may well call certain individuals to that lifestyle. However, the real problem is that the majority of believers are taken by poverty and held like a prisoner.

What is Poverty?

What is poverty? It is not simply the state of being poor. Poverty is the fear of not getting which causes us to hold on to what we have. It is not an issue of how much money we have. It is an issue of our state of mind that brings us fear and bondage. Poverty is like a little child who picks up his or her toy when other children are present and says, “That’s mine, don’t touch it.” Over a lifetime we learn to be closed and tight-fisted with what we believe to be ours. In parts of our life we have matured, while other parts are still controlled by childish behavior. The attitude of poverty is not content to dominate our finances, it wants to dominate our whole life. In time, this attitude will destroy every facet of our life. Attitudes lead to actions. The attitude of poverty leads to the action of withholding. The way you break the bondage brought by the attitude is by a reverse action.

Poverty in the ancient world was real. Today many are poor, but seldom to the extent of those who were poor in the ancient world. There are still places on the continent that suffer from extreme poverty. However, our society knows very little about that kind of poverty. Poverty was such a problem in the ancient world that there were associations among the Greeks set up to provide interest-free loans for people who could not meet their own needs. The Jews worked in a similar way through their synagogues where there were individuals who carried the responsibility of determining who would receive funds set aside for welfare. Meeting the needs of the poor was common to both Greeks and Jews.

The ecclesiae, having come from the loins of the Jewish community, also had a high priority for caring for the poor among them. This was demonstrated early on in the story of Acts when there was a quarrel between the Grecian Jews and the Hebraic Jews because the widows of the Hebraic Jews were being overlooked in the distribution of food (Acts 6.1). This story demonstrates that early on the ecclesiae followed in the footsteps of their Jewish roots to care for the poor.

Today we depend strongly on our government to provide welfare for the poor. Could it be that the ecclesiae has forfeited its duty and passively taken advantage of the government when, in fact, we should be meeting the need of the poor among us?

Scripture’s Thinking About Poverty

| Old Testament

Let’s take a quick excursion through the Old and New Testaments and grasp an overview of its thinking about poverty. We often believe, because of a text like Psalm 112.1-3 that God was purposeful to prosper those who were righteous with great material possessions. God did bless those who kept his covenant stipulations (Deut. 28.1-14.). However, there were great numbers of poor people who lived in Israel during every stage of its national history. Some have forwarded some reasons for this poverty: natural disasters which lead to bad harvest; enemy invasions which destroyed or took control of the harvest; and often through usury, which God forbid. Usury was the sum paid for the use of money, not exorbitant interest as it has come to mean in the modern world. The complaint was not excessive interest, but that brother was charging interest to brother (Lev. 25.35-38).

On one occasion many years ago, Donna and I were experiencing some financial difficulty. We had been abruptly rejected as pastors of a thriving local ecclesia. We were pregnant with our first child, Jason. A new kid, mortgage payments plus the cost of living, in general, were ongoing. A brother, I might add, who did not have the same theological mindset, asked me if there was anything that he could do for me. I told him about my financial need. He was a banker by trade and I somehow expected to get a lecture about having three months savings in the bank to keep finances together during hard times. Instead, he pulled out his checkbook and wrote me a check for the exact amount of money we needed. I asked him how I should pay him back and what interest he was going to charge me. He told me that what he had given me was God’s money not his and that when I was able, I should pass it on to some other member of the family of God. I was completely dumbfounded. Here was a person who had grasped the understanding of not loaning to a brother and expecting a payment plus interest in return, but one who knew the value of giving what God had given him as he saw a need. I should note that he did not give it to his local ecclesia so that they could disperse it to me. He simply gave as the need arrived before him. I should also note that several years later, I was able to pass those funds along to a member of the family. Guess who? To the very one who had given to me. He had lost his job at that juncture and needed help and I was in a position to respond. It always interests me how Scripture applied brings the blessings that accompany it.

Those who were the most likely to need help were the fatherless, the widows, and the landless aliens. The Law of Moses commanded provision for them (Deut. 24.19-22). Because of poverty, Hebrew men often sold themselves into poverty. When this occurred, they were to be treated differently from foreign slaves (Lev. 25.39-46).

The book of Psalms is replete with songs that raise the question about why the unrighteous prosper, why wealth comes into the wrong hands. The Psalm writers were even minced that it was vain to serve God (Ps. 73.12-14).

| New Testament

In the New Testament there were many heavy taxes which were imposed on the Jews. Some were in dire straights, while others became wealthy by collaborating with the Romans. The Sadducees and the tax collectors were wealthy.

Jesus was born to poor parents as denoted by the sacrifice they gave at the Temple for Mary’s purification (Luke 2.24; see Lev. 12.4-8).

However, there is no reason to assume that he lived in debasing poverty. Some of his disciples were well to do (Mark 1.20) and he also had some wealthy friends (John 12.3).

The teaching of Jesus about material possessions is not that they are evil, only dangerous. Those who are poor are often seen in Scripture as happy because they have to depend on God for their daily bread. It was to the poor that he came to deliver the rule of God (Luke 4.18). Jesus suggested that hospitality should be shown to the poor (Luke 14.12-14).

When he watched the poor widow give all she had, he taught that her offering was of greater value than those who were rich and gave large amounts (Mark 12.41-44). Jesus had cleansed the Temple the day before and had now returned. His debate with the leaders had produced more tension and he withdrew to sit quietly and observe. In the Court of the Women, there were thirteen collection boxes that were shaped like trumpets. People would come by and give so that the daily sacrifices and expenses of the Temple could be met. Jesus was sitting and watching this process in the story which Mark records. There is a point in this story that is often missed: even the poor have something to give. Those who consider themselves poor should not continue to feel that they have nothing to offer to their family, local ecclesia, or society. While they may have been reduced to being a taker, this story points toward breaking away from that attitude to becoming a giver.

Later in his Gospel, Mark has more to say about the teaching of Jesus regarding the poor (Mark 14.1-11). This is the story of the woman who washed the feet of Jesus with some very expensive perfume. Right in the middle of the story Jesus says, “the poor you will always have with you, and you can help them any time you want…” (v. 7). This saying is not just to fill space in the story. Jesus had something different in mind. His statement of fact was true, but it has often been misused to justify the social syndrome of poverty, that is, because Jesus said that the poor would always be here, then it is right for there to be poor people. This is a faulty way of thinking. The ecclesia and society have often taken the stance that it’s their own fault that they are poor. If they would just get up and exercise their energies and pull their own weight, they would not have to live off the hard work of others. Jesus was saying precisely the opposite. It is because the poor will always be, that we have the opportunity to demonstrate the heart of God toward them as a model of how God has moved toward us in our own spiritual poverty. Because the poor will always be, there is always an opportunity to help, anytime we decide to help. The giving of the expensive perfume was an illustration of the desire of Jesus for his disciples, hence his ecclesiae. When it comes to giving, he wants true self-abandonment, pure responsive giving. This was the action of the woman who anointed his feet. Jesus cared and ministry to the poor should be a high value to the ecclesiae he founded.

Early in the ecclesiae because of the communal holding of wealth (Acts 4.32) there was a short period of time in which poverty was eliminated (Acts 4.34-35). This passage was used by some during a time of crisis to suggest that this was the model for the ecclesiae of all ages. This was and still is an unfortunate interpretation of the book of Acts. The book of Acts does not give us one model to do everything that is needed to do. It rather shares with us the power which comes to the life of the ecclesiae when it decides to be Spirit-led in all of its activities. This is not an all-time model for the life of the ecclesiae any more than traveling to another city, with flashing light, a voice speaking, and being struck blind is the only model for becoming a believer.

Jerusalem at one time in its life was a rich and prosperous city under the rule of Solomon. But by the time Jesus came and the years of ministry by Paul in the early ecclesiae, it was poor. The city was grossly overpopulated because of religious travelers. It became extremely poor after the famine mentioned in Acts 11.28 to which the ecclesiae at Antioch provided help, each one according to his own ability, for the ecclesiae in Jerusalem. Barnabas and Paul delivered the gifts. Paul, subsequent to this encounter, spent time raising money in the Gentile ecclesiae to assist the poor believers in Jerusalem (Rom. 15.25; Gal. 2.10).

The most systematic exposition about wealth and poverty is found in the second letter of Paul to the Corinthians (2 Cor. 8-9) to which we give attention later.

While poverty was a reality in Scripture, Scripture does not take the position that poverty is a spiritual mindset to be sought after. Scripture also has some important things to say about wealth.

Both the testaments view wealth as a blessing from God. Abraham was a wealthy man (Gen. 13.2). The worship Psalms of Israel celebrate material blessings. Psalms 112.3 suggests that wealth and riches are in the house of the righteous. Material wealth is a benefit of the bountifulness of God who richly furnishes us with everything to enjoy (1 Tim. 6.17) as we put our hope and trust in him and not the uncertain wealth of this present age.

Those who possess wealth have the duty of being generous toward those in need (1 Tim. 6.17). Jesus is the ultimate model of this. He was rich, but for our sake, he became poor so that by his poverty we might become rich (2 Cor. 8.9). Scripture also recognizes that the possession of material wealth can be dangerous because of our tendency to trust in the riches instead of the giver of the riches. The disciples rightly concluded that it was difficult for a person with riches to enter into the rule of God (Matt. 19.23-25). Incidentally, the “eye of the needle” in this passage is not a gate in Jerusalem. There has never been such a gate. The “eye of a needle” refers to the eye of a sewing needle. Jesus drew a vivid and humorous picture of something that was impossible. Because the rich of the day who were highly respected could not be saved, then who could?

The love of money, not money itself which is amoral, is the root of all kinds of evil (1 Tim. 6.9-10). So wealth is not evil but can lead to evil, just as poverty is not spiritual and conversely does not lead to spirituality. Which position then is to be sought?

Breaking Out Of Confinement

Let’s turn then and tackle Scripture’s view of prosperity and success. There are those in the last century that continues into this century who have developed a doctrine that is foreign to Scripture while using Scripture to develop it. Go figure! We almost feel sinful to speak the words prosperity and success in the ecclesiae. Often we shun what is abused for fear of being aligned with it. Instead of allowing language to distract us, it would do us well to understand and define what Scripture may say about prosperity and success. In short, don’t throw these words away because they have gained such popularity because of the flood of folks on TV and online that are using them inappropriately.

This is the day the LORD has made (acted);
let us rejoice and be glad in it.
O LORD, save us;
O LORD, grant us success (Psalm 118.24-25).

The word success (Hebrew: tsalach (pronounced tsaw-lakh’) translated in NIV means “to advance, prosper, make progress, succeed, be profitable.” This Psalm is a prayer of thanksgiving offered at the Feast of Tabernacles or Booths. This feast was the third of the annual feasts of the Jews. On this occasion, Hebrews would dwell in booths as a reminder of the care and protection of God while they were journeying from Egypt to Canaan (Deut. 8.7-18). They saw in this feast a comparison with the bondage in which they lived in Egypt. Here in these booths they were free and happy. It was a reminder of God’s loving care and their dependence on him. “Grant us success,” is a command given by the community to God, a rather foreign idea to us. It is in the context of thanksgiving for the gracious acts of God that the children of Israel prayed and asked God for success. Just because there is an abuse of the attitude of success in American Christianity, it does not follow that the solution is to go to the very opposite extreme to feel spiritual.

What does this mean? The word success as it is used by the Psalmist here in Psalm 118.25 can be defined as to press through or to break out. It generally expresses the idea of a successful venture as contrasted to a failed one. The picture the word provides is to break out of containment. Containment is clearly the goal of Satan in the life of the ecclesiae as it was with the First Testament Jews as well in our individual lives. The enemy wants to contain us in all areas of our lives. God wants to free us in all those same areas.

You know the voices that tell you that you can’t accomplish your dreams, that you can’t be what God wants you to be, or that you can’t live an undefeated life. Satan has a plan for your life: destruction. God also has a plan for your life: success, which is to press through and break out of the confinements where Satan has chained us. That’s prosperity! Prosperity is related to every area of our lives.

The First Psalm

Happy are those
Who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
Or take the path that sinners tread,
Or sit in the seat of scoffers;
But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on his law they meditate day and night.
They are like trees
Planted by streams of water,
Which yield their fruit in its season,
And their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper.
The wicked are not so,
But are like chaff that the wind drives away
Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish (Psalm 1-1.6, NRSV)

The first psalm is an appropriate preface to the Psalter. This psalm puts into focus what is ultimately valuable in life—the need for godliness. It also demonstrates that we have moral choices to make in life between two opposing ways of life.

Psalm 1 is structured as a sequence of alternating positive and negative statements. The poet begins with a description of what the godly person does not do in four lines, which are synonymous parallelism.

Happy are those
Who do not follow the advice of the wicked,
Or take the path that sinners tread,
Or sit in the seat of scoffers;

This negative description is balanced by a positive description

But their delight is in the law of the Lord,
And on his law they meditate day and night.

Next is a positive statement balanced by a negative statement. The author uses a simile as he compares people with a tree. The point seems to be productiveness: a tree that is healthy and grows produces what it is intended to produce. In a land of drought, this illustrative choice makes a forceful point. One listening to it might say: Godliness is like a tree down by the river.

They are like trees
Planted by streams of water,
Which yield their fruit in its season,
And their leaves do not wither.
In all that they do, they prosper

The next two lines have a negative-positive pattern and are antithetic parallelism.

The wicked are not so,
But are like chaff that the wind drives away

The next two lines have a negative description and are delivered with a synonymous parallelism form.

Therefore the wicked will not stand in the judgment,

Nor sinners in the congregation of the righteous;

Finally, the last two lines provide alternating statements by describing the positive result of godliness and the negative result of wickedness.

For the Lord watches over the way of the righteous,
But the way of the wicked will perish

We might note that the poet progresses through the poem to demonstrate the basic condition of human existence. The first two sets of lines describe two kinds of persons. The next set of lines, through the use of two similes, describes what happens to the two persons. One attains fulfillment. The other does not. The last two sets of lines explain the verdict and end of the two persons. The verb tense shifts from present to future as future judgment is in mind. The poet had something to say and he decided to say it in an artistic form.

Rather than from an abstract point of view, the poet expresses this human experience concretely. From a Western point of view we could state the premises of the poem as follows:

  • Life presents people with a choice between two ways of life: godly and wicked.
  • The choice that a person makes is significant.
  • The ultimately valuable thing in life is godliness.

We should note that the Hebrew poet did not use analytical statements to discuss godliness. He does not give a theological definition of godliness. He does not describe godliness as a concept. He does describe how a godly person acts. It is interesting to note that the psalmist nowhere states abstractly, life presents us with a choice. Instead, he contrasts the two ways of life and indirectly conveys the idea that this is an option open to all people, while indirectly asserting that the godly life conflicts with the wicked life. The author does not tell us which choice to make. He only presents us with a choice. It is our choice to choose wisely!

If we decide to meditate on Scripture and let its teachings get into us, the result will be that we prosper, i.e., we will push forward and break out of the confinements in which we are living. It is good to remember that “bad theology is a cruel taskmaster.” To think in a wrongheaded, nonbiblical way about an issue is to be bound by its conclusions. God gave us his word to help us break out of these crippling ways of thinking and move toward his prosperity, freedom from the cruel lifestyle of this present evil age.

As a side note: We should note that this poem makes use of a different system of presentation. Learning the forms and thinking while reading will produce a great bounty of biblical instruction for our lives.

The 112th Psalm

Praise the LORD .
Blessed is the man who fears the LORD ,
who finds great delight in his commands.
His children will be mighty in the land;
the generation of the upright will be blessed.
Wealth and riches are in his house,
and his righteousness endures forever.
Even in darkness light dawns for the upright,
for the gracious and compassionate and righteous man.
Good will come to him who is generous and lends freely,
who conducts his affairs with justice.
Surely he will never be shaken;
a righteous man will be remembered forever.
He will have no fear of bad news;
his heart is steadfast, trusting in the LORD.
His heart is secure, he will have no fear;
in the end he will look in triumph on his foes.
He has scattered abroad his gifts to the poor,
his righteousness endures forever;
his horn will be lifted high in honor.
The wicked man will see and be vexed,
he will gnash his teeth and waste away;
the longings of the wicked will come to nothing (Psalm 112.1-10).

The Psalm sings about the reward of the Godly person. Let’s note some of the phrases.

  • Wealth and riches are synonymous: wealth sometimes stresses sufficiency while riches stresses abundance.
  • Who is generous and lends freely: This is a person who is not governed by the hope of gaining a profit.
  • His heart is secure: His total being is at rest.
  • He has scattered abroad his gifts: NRSV translates this as They have given freely. They have given to the poor, which is more in keeping with the Hebrew text. This verse is used by Paul in 2 Corinthians 9.9 as a description of the cheerful giver.
  • His horn is lifted high in honor: Horn is a symbol of strength and honor. To lift one’s own horn is to be proud and boastful. In this text it is God who is exalted as the giver.

One can see that the benefits of a Godly person include sufficiency and sometimes even abundance. Wealth and riches are tied to a person’s attitude toward giving. In this Psalm the person gave freely.

The 128th Psalm (1-2)

Blessed are all who fear the LORD,
who walk in his ways.
You will eat the fruit of your labor;
blessings and prosperity will be yours.

A blessing will be given by the Lord to those who walk in his ways. The benefit is that you will get to eat the fruit of your labor. All too often we work and then feel guilty in enjoying the fruit which the labor has produced. God enjoys us enjoying the fruit of our labor. The enemy brings guilt. God brings joy.

God Is Able

And God is able to bless you abundantly, so that in all things at all times, having all that you need, you will abound in every good work (2 Cor. 9.8).

The issue presented here by Paul is that God is able. Our math is limited. We think that 2 + 2 = 4, and that is true. But the real formula is 2 + 2 + God = MORE. Some of the things that Scripture teaches us as truth fly right in the face of natural thinking. Note that Paul says that God “is able to” make his grace overflow so that in everything and at all times you will have all that you need. It seems fair to say that a believer should never have to say, “I would like to give, but I don’t have anything to give.” We are going to come back to this passage later and attach it to its context. For now remember, God is able!

Donna and I traveled across the U.S. after I graduated from Bible college. During one of those trips we were in a small local ecclesia in a community of farmers whose habit of giving was once a year at harvest time. During the time that was allotted me to teach on a Sunday morning, I suggested that this small local ecclesia consider giving the Pastor and his family a trip to Kansas City for the annual meeting of their denominational group. This couple was serving this little community ecclesia and living in three rooms attached to the rear of the building facility. They had hardly any of the conveniences of those that attended the ecclesia the couple were functioning as pastors. I told the Pastor of my plan to request the group to send him to the annual conference. He was skeptical and even fearful of their response.

On that Sunday morning I shared on giving and then asked this small farming community to share with their Pastor and family for the stated purpose. I had made some tentative figures of what this little adventure would cost and suggested the amount to the congregation. To the delight of the Pastor, this small local community of faith dug into their once-a- year-income and gave above the amount that we had figured it would take. When the people of God see God’s heart about giving, somehow most folks want to be like him. However, this is not the end of the story.

Several months later when it was time to go to the annual convention in Kansas City, Donna and I did not have the funds to get there. We did, however, have the funds to get back to the small community where we had ministered and taken the offering for the Pastor to go to the convention. We had promised that we would return and travel with him and his family to this conference. We drove the first day, paid for our gas, lodging, and food, and arrived on a Saturday at this little farming community of faith.

The Pastor asked me to speak the following morning and told me that he had set up an afternoon meeting in which Donna and I would sing and speak. At the close of the day, God had prospered us with the funds to attend the conference.

It is true 2 + 2 = 4, but 2 + 2 + God = MORE!

Where Have We Been And Where Are We Going

We have seen an overview of Scripture’s attitude toward poverty and discovered by taking a quick tour through some First and Second Testament ideas that poverty is not Scripture’s attitude. In addition, we also looked at the position of Scripture on success and found out that it is God’s intent for us to break out of the confinement attitude that we have developed into his freedom.

In the next session, we will look at how God sees money by looking at six different areas: all money belongs to God; the ecclesiae should use God’s money to meet needs; God provides his children with ways to increase their wealth; God wants us to live without financial stress; we are often short of money for many reasons; and finally, some miscellaneous biblical thoughts about money from Proverbs.

Community Discussion Questions

➡ |CDQ Info|

  • How does the attitude of poverty overwhelm your ability to believe and act as a child of God?
  • Why do you believe the ungodly prosper and how does that affect your life?
  • If rich and poor can be happy, then why is money so important?
  • How does Scripture differ in its understanding of prosperity and success than the current cultural understanding of prosperity and success? Why do we let the cultural definition drive us rather than the definition of Scripture?
  • What does Psalm 1 teach you about godliness as the ultimate value in life?
  • How does your attitude about money affect the way you view life?
  • When was the last time you truly enjoyed the fruit of your labor with absolutely no guilt?
  • Why is “God is able!” so difficult to believe in the area of finances or any other area of our life?

End of Session
 

Take a moment to pitch in for Winn Griffin on Patreon!
■ First, click on the button below.
■ Second, on the Patreon page, click on Patreon button in upper right corner.
■ Finally, follow the instructions there.
{ 0 comments… add one }

Copy Protected by Chetan's WP-Copyprotect.

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.)

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.)