Philippians

Philippians

PHILIPPI WAS A prosperous Roman colony in Thracia, at the northern end of the Aegean Sea. Here, the first congregation in Europe was established during Paul’s second missionary journey. Contrasting with the idea of a colony of Rome, the congregation of believers is seen as a ‘colony of heaven’, whose members are citizens of a heavenly kingdom (3:20). Paul’s visit to Philippi and the establishment of the congregation there is related in Acts 16. He was imprisoned by the authorities. As he writes this letter he is in prison again, in Rome. Yet he rejoices that his imprisonment has worked out ‘to advance the gospel’ (Philippians 1:12–18)— he has been able to preach to his guards. Unity in Christ Paul urges his readers to be ‘standing firm in one spirit, with one mind striving side by side for the faith of the gospel’ (1:27). If they are united in fellowship

Flesh and Spirit in Corinth

Flesh and Spirit in Corinth

THE NEWLY ESTABLISHED congregation of believers in the Greek city of Corinth faced many different spiritual challenges. The two letters which the Apostle Paul wrote to the Corinthians expose these challenges vividly. The most pressing concerned the ungodly behaviour of certain of the church’s members. There were also wrong teachings. It had got so bad that some brothers and sisters did not believe that Jesus Christ had risen from the dead! Despite this ‘perfect storm’ of moral and doctrinal difficulties, the Corinthian church was addressed by the Apostle Paul as ‘the church of God’ (1 Corinthians 1:2, 2 Corinthians 1:1). He did not distance himself from them, he appealed to them and set about correcting them. The Works of the Flesh Firstly, just how bad were the problems at Corinth? As a preamble to the answer, in Paul’s letter to the believers in Galatia we read: Now the works of

2 Corinthians

BETWEEN the two letters to Corinth we have in our Bibles, it seems there was another letter which has not been preserved—evidently even more severe in tone than the first letter (see 2 Corinthians 2:3–4). In 2 Corinthians the Apostle Paul admits his great relief that, according to news brought to him by Titus, the ‘in- between’ letter had been well received (see 7:6–15). Though Paul is reassured about the spiritual development of the Corinthian believers, there is still much for them to learn. They have to learn that discipleship of Christ is not easy, and that all true believers must expect opposition (4:7–18). Suffering for Christ In Corinth, opposition would mainly come from those who had leanings towards Judaism. The ‘Judaisers’ would insist that believers are bound by the rituals of the Law of Moses. Paul shows that the Law was only of a temporary nature, whereas those things

Saul on the Damascus Road

Saul on the Damascus Road

This must be one the most amazing and moving stories in the Bible—except for the life of the Lord Jesus. It is a story of power, zeal, religious passion and hatred, and it ends with humility, grace and love. You may be more familiar with Saul by his later name—the Apostle Paul. To fully appreciate the incident we need to examine his background, and very interesting it is. Saul was born in Tarsus in the province of Cilicia, said to be ‘no obscure city’ (Acts 21:39). By birth a Jew of impeccable pedigree, his father a Pharisee, a Roman citizen. He quoted this when arrested (Acts 16:37, 22:25–26). It was the Jewish custom to teach boys a manual trade, and Saul was a tent maker (Acts 18:3). He would have left his home as a young man and gone to Jerusalem, where he would be educated in the Jewish laws

Acts

Acts

THE WRITER IS Luke, who reminds us that he has previously written—in his Gospel— of ‘all that Jesus began to do and teach’ (Acts 1:1). The book of Acts starts with Jesus’ ascension to heaven (1:9), and shows how Jesus was still at work after his ascension in the spread of the Gospel by his followers. Chapters 2–12 show how, with God’s power (the Holy Spirit), Christ’s apostles preached the Gospel in Jerusalem, Judea and Samaria. The preaching was so effective that thousands believed and were baptized (2:41, 47; 5:14; 11:24). In Jesus’ name the apostles also performed miracles. Their message always concerned ‘the kingdom of God and the name of Jesus Christ’ (8:12; 19:8; 28:23, 31). It was a message rooted in Old Testament history and God’s promises to the fathers of Israel, but it was now based on the work of Jesus Christ and not the Law of

Different Points of View

Different Points of View

IT’S GOOD TO BE able to see other people’s points of view. If we all did this more often there would be more understanding and less confrontation in the world. People with strong opinions can be particularly bad at seeing different points of view. They can be intolerant of those who disagree with them. Perhaps, deep down, this is because they are afraid of having their beliefs challenged. Some of the most opinionated people you’ll meet are religious people. And as it happens, religious people can be some of the most intolerant. You only need to think of the brutalities of the Church Inquisitions over the last few centuries, or the so-called Islamic State in recent years. Reacting against the intolerance and bigotry that’s undoubtedly characterised many churches in the past, many modern Christians make a point of being nonconfrontational and inclusive—to the extent that it’s common to hear phrases