Purging Prejudice

Prejudice, or pre-judging others on irresponsible bases, robs them and robs us. God hates it, but how can we minimize its impact?

On 31 October 2017 the world will remember one of the unlikeliest and yet most important events in human history, Martin Luther’s posting of his Ninety-Five Theses on the door of the All Saints Church in Wittenberg, Germany. Following the custom of the day, the young priest had written them in Latin to avoid bringing unnecessary controversy to the Church and he posted them in a public place to invite clerical discussion.  Luther never expected that his theses would be translated into German within days, printed on recently invented printing presses, and spread throughout Western Europe within weeks. The Protestant Reformation had begun.

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When a Christian Ends His Own Life

Will a genuine believer in Jesus Christ who kills himself still go to heaven?

My wife called me at work several weeks ago; the morning was good but the news was not. Our daughter had been perusing her friends’ posts on Facebook and saw some from one family that were unclear but disturbing. We called them, close personal friends for over 15 years, and learned that their oldest son had killed himself.

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Key Concepts of Paul in Salvation – Romans

The Apostle Paul emphasized righteousness, faith, redemption, and justification in his letter to the Romans.

The book of Romans has been described as the magnum opus of the Apostle Paul.  In it, Paul laid out his theology of Christ and salvation in his clearest, most concentrated style.  Scholars have labored to plumb the depths of Paul’s words and concepts for centuries, and much is still to be written.   Luther and the other Reformers found in the first five chapters of Romans their fundamental idea for the Reformation, justification by faith alone.

Righteousness (δικαιοσύνη dikaiosynē) to Paul was not a result of good works, earned by the person, as though he could gain a favorable account with God by his deeds.  Rather, righteousness is a standing imparted by God as a result of faith (Romans 4:3), which is itself a gift of God (Ephesians 2:8-9).  For centuries, Christian scholars have contrasted righteousness by faith, a Pauline Christian teaching, with righteousness by works, a Judaistic teaching.  E.P. Sanders work minimized “righteousness by works” in Judaistic teaching in the first century and emphasized “righteousness by covenant”.  This has significantly shaped the modern discussion, and borne some good fruit by improving Jewish-Christian understanding.  However, Sanders’ “covenantal nomism” has a serious flaw.  If the Jews are saved because they are God’s covenantal people, but must still perform good works to stay in that relationship, salvation still depends on works.

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Paul’s Life – Background and Chronology

The Pharisee Saul, better known as Paul, laid the foundation for the Church. What can we learn from him?

Paul, possibly the most famous of the apostles of Jesus Christ, was a scion of Jews of the Diaspora.  Until the Babylonian exile beginning in 605-586 BC, Israelites of the tribe of Judah were concentrated in Southern Palestine.  Afterwards, they were scattered all over the ancient Near East, with large communities thriving in Alexandria and Rome.  A sizeable community arose in Tarsus of Cilicia, a province in what is now southeastern Turkey close to the border of Syria.  Tarsus was a major Roman city of trade and learning, and Cilicia was famous for its cloth products.  Both influences can be clearly seen in Paul’s later life as an educated traveler and scholar who made tents to support himself.

Jews of the Diaspora formed communities wherever they lived and so were able to maintain much of their religion and culture, including attending synagogues and observing dietary laws.  Paul, the son of observant Jewish parents, was raised as a “Hebrews of Hebrews” in this environment.  Paul’s parents were also Roman citizens, a rare honor, and so Paul inherited citizenship, which greatly helped his ministry.   At some point in his childhood he traveled to Jerusalem and learned Judaism at the feet of Gamaliel, the famous 1st century Jewish teacher.  Passionate for his Hebrew faith, Paul became a Pharisee, and excelled among his peers in every way.

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